Part 6 out of 8
Instantly I was certain that what he hoped had not happened, was indeed
the thing that had happened. I seemed to see Rechid stirring up a crowd
of his fellow Mussulmans, telling them that dogs of Christians had
robbed him of his foreign wife, who was on the point of accepting
Islam. Nothing easier than for Rechid to find us. All Luxor knew we
were in the Temple of M�t. These men of Luxor and other Nile towns of
Upper Egypt, had not yet settled down after the outburst against
Christian insults which had alarmed the authorities in Cairo. In three
days Anthony Fenton had discovered the dregs at the bottom of the
teapot and had doubtless done something toward calming the tempest in
it, but the troubled water had not time to cool. It could easily be
brought to the boil again; and the despoiling of a harem by Europeans
--the harem of an important man--would be oil thrown onto the dying fire
under the tempestuous teapot.
The furious voices grew louder. From the wave of sound words spattered
out and up like spray. Perhaps in all that astonished crowd gathered in
the Temple of M�t, Bronson and I were the only ones who knew enough
Arabic to catch their meaning. His question was answered. And this was
not a stage. Those shouting men were not supers in the wings. They were
in earnest. Foolish and dreamlike and utterly unreal as it seemed,
their hearts were hot with savage anger against men and women of an
alien race: and though what they might do to us would be visited on
their own heads to-morrow, they were not thinking of to-morrow now. As
for us--it was just possible that owing to this silly dream we were
having about a mob of common, uneducated Arabs, for some of us there
might not be any to-morrow.
"Is there a back door where we can dash out and give them the slip?"
I was thinking hard. Mine was the responsibility for my charges, these
rich, comfortable tourists from London and New York, Birmingham and
Manchester, Chicago and St Louis. None of them knew yet that they were
in danger. They were thinking about their dinner, and their pleasant,
lighted cabins on board the _Enchantress Isis_, waiting for them not
far away. They realized that something was the matter out there, that a
lot of Arabs were making a row; but it interested and amused them
impersonally. If somebody had robbed or murdered somebody else, morally
it was a pity, of course: but it added to the picturesqueness of the
scene, and would be nice to tell about at home. I felt myself
overflowing with a sudden, new tenderness for the Set, so often
troublesome. This that was going to happen--unless we could stop it
--was in truth the affair of Monny and Brigit, Mabella H�nem and the
Bronsons, Anthony Fenton and me; but all would be involved, the
innocent with the guilty, unless very quickly the duffer of the company
could think of some way out.
"No," I heard myself say with decision, "we mustn't leave the temple.
They're superstitious about it. Few, if any, will venture in. What they
want is to lure us into the open. And there must be no panic. Certainly
my friend, unless he's been hurt, is working for us--somewhere. It's
only a question of minutes. He borrowed my Browning to-day. I wish--" I
glanced toward Brigit and Monny. They stood at a little distance, with
Mrs. Bronson and Mabel, but the faces of both were turned toward us. I
saw that they guessed the meaning of the uproar outside. Biddy's great
soft eyes spoke to mine, spoke, and told me all the truth about myself.
How I loved her, Biddy O'Brien, and no one else on earth! How I would
die for her, and let all the rest die, if need be, yes, even Monny
Gilder, to whom I had been idiot enough to write that letter! If I
could save Biddy, what did anything beside matter? But--yes, it did
matter. I must save them all. And the light that had lit up my dim soul
gave me inspiration. Because I loved Biddy, I knew what to do.
"I've got a little surprise for every one!" I yelled, to be heard over
the noise outside, where Rechid Bey's mob was now probably trying to
make our donkey-boys and arabeah-men join in the fight or the siege.
"Mr. Neill Sheridan will kindly lead the whole party to the sanctuary,
which his knowledge of architecture will enable him to find, on the
axis of the temple. Down that passage, please! In fifteen minutes the
surprise will be ready, and you will receive the signal to return, from
Mr. Bronson, American Consul at Asiut--no time for introductions now."
Sheridan, amazed, but perhaps not displeased, emerged from the dark
corner where, until the row began, he had been examining a half-erased
wall-carving. "Come along, then, everybody!" he shouted good-naturedly;
and as the procession formed--discussing the "surprise" and the noise,
now mysteriously linked together in the minds of my charges--I saw the
veiled and hooded Mabel shyly try to pull Mrs. Bronson into place with
her, as near as possible to Sheridan. She must have suspected that
there was trouble brewing, and guessed the cause. Her timid,
self-centred little soul instinctively sought shelter in the neighbourhood
of a friend, who would perhaps have been more than a friend, if he
could. So she followed him, he not knowing what eyes the gray veil hid:
but Mrs. Bronson broke away from the small hand and hurried back to her
"What am I to do?" she asked.
"Go with the others," he said, quietly. "Take care of the girl. Lord
Ernest has some plan."
She went reluctantly; but Brigit and Monny and Mrs. East lingered at
the tail of the procession, returning to us as the others vanished down
the passage that led toward the sanctuary. I motioned them away, but
Monny ran forward, while Biddy kept Cleopatra from following. They
talked together and argued, Biddy's arm round the taller woman's waist,
as Monny came straight to me, and put into my hand Anthony Fenton's
"I didn't have to use it," she said. "It's all loaded and ready. And
I'm going to stay here with you and Mr. Bronson, to help. What are you
planning to do?"
"Please run away," I said, "and take Biddy and your aunt. You must.
That's the only help we want--"
"Not till you tell me what you mean to do."
"Oh, only to try a trick to frighten those Arab sheep out there. They
funk this temple at night anyhow. And I've just remembered that I
brought some Bengal fire to light the place up and amuse the crowd. I
thought if a red blaze suddenly burst out it would give those fellows a
scare--and the police are on the way--"
"But the Arabs will see that you're only two!"
"They shan't see us at all. We'll hide behind those statues and pot at
them if they do come in, which I doubt. Now, off with the three of
you!" And I was getting my illumination ready.
To my surprise and relief, Monny obeyed without further argument. Dimly
it passed through my mind that she had been profiting by her lessons
lately. I threw one glance over my shoulder, more, I'm afraid, to see
whether my dear Brigit were on her way to safety than through anxiety
for Miss Gilder. The three figures had already disappeared in the
darkness, and Bronson and I gave ourselves to the work of lighting up.
An ocean-roar of voices surged round the temple entrance now; but the
red light flamed like the fires of hell, and I, peeping from behind a
statue, revolver in hand, saw that the temple itself had not been
invaded. The flare lit the foreground of the darkness outside, and the
columns of the front court. I could see a moving throng of white and
black clad figures, gesticulating, running to and fro, seeming to urge
each other to some action, yet none coming forward. I sprinkled on more
powder, and up blazed the Bengal fire again. Now somebody was taking
the lead. A tall man was pushing through the crowd. Would they follow
this brave one? My fingers closed round the Browning. He was between
the columns at last, but the light was dying down. I threw on all I had
of the powder, and stared through the red dazzle to make certain what
was happening--since this might decide our fate. The tall man's back
was turned to us. He seemed to be motioning the crowd away instead of
urging them on. How to make sure, in the blood-coloured glare, whether
a man's turban was white or green or crimson? But that gesture--that
lift of the head! No mistaking that. The man was Antoun--Ahmed Antoun,
the worshipful Hadji, haranguing the mob.
Hardly would they let him speak at first. Those on the outskirts tried
to yell him down. I heard the word "traitor!" and before the light
ebbed I thought I caught sight of Rechid's pale face under the red
tarboosh, Rechid's broad shoulders in European coat, edging past
jebbahs and galabeahs, toward the columns. Then, just as the light
died, from behind us in the temple came a cry. Above the shouting of
the Hadji, who was beginning to make himself heard by the crowd, it
rang out shrill and clear--a woman's voice: Monny Gilder's. She called
on the name of Antoun, and then was silent.
I lifted my candle-lantern--all that was left to illumine the darkness,
and saw at the far end of the court shadowy figures struggling
together. It seemed to me that there were not two, but four or five. I
ran toward them, and Bronson ran, but some one bounded past us both--a
tall man in a green turban. A shot was fired after him, and hit a
statue. I heard subconsciously a miniature crash of chipped granite,
but I don't think Anthony heard, or had heard anything since that call
He had dashed ahead, though we had had the start and were running fast.
Rounding a group of statues, erect and fallen, I saw a candle-lantern
on the floor, and knew that Monny--and perhaps Biddy--had not
obediently followed the procession to the sanctuary, after all. They
had waited to watch and listen, hiding behind the black statues of
Sekhet, and men who had crept in by another way--doubtless by the small
Ptolemaic gate opening on the lake--had taken them by surprise.
Anthony had got to the shadowy mass, which, moved like black, wind-blown
clouds, vague and shapeless, before Bronson and I were near
enough to distinguish one form from another. As for our eyes, his tall
figure blended with the waving shadows; two revolver shots exploded
with thunderous reverberations. We did not know if he, or another, had
fired; but almost simultaneously with the second shot two black shapes
separated themselves from the rest, fleeing into darkness. They took
the way by which they must have come, the way leading toward the gate
on the lake.
Three seconds later we were on the spot; and the only shadows left
resolved themselves under my candle light into the forms of Brigit
O'Neill, Monny Gilder, Anthony Fenton, and Mrs. East somewhat in the
Monny's hat was off, and Biddy's was apparently hanging by a hatpin.
Their hair was in disorder, a rope of Biddy's falling over one
shoulder, a shining braid of Monny's hanging down her back. Monny
seemed to be more or less in the arms of Antoun, but only vaguely and
by accident. Dimly I gathered that she had stumbled, and he had saved
her from falling. Biddy was fastening up the front of her gray chiffon
blouse, which was open, and torn. Her hands trembled and I could see
that her breast rose and fell convulsively; for, though the light was
dim, I was looking at her, while I merely glanced at the others. Mrs.
East was crying. But Brigit and Monny had smiles for Bronson and me as
we came blundering along, stumbling over unseen obstacles.
"Some one stole up behind with an electric torch, and tried to drag me
away," said Monny, in a weak little voice, scarcely at all like her
own. It sounded as if a ventriloquist were imitating her. "Some one
called me Esm� O'Brien--whispered right in my ear. And I screamed, and
fought, and Antoun came. I think then the man pushed me down as he ran
away. Anyhow I fell, and Antoun picked me up. Oh, Biddy, are you safe?
Why, your dress is torn!"
"Yes, but I'm safe," answered another small, weak voice. "I fought,
too. I--I think they wanted to rob me. Thank goodness, I didn't have it
"The bag, dearest?"
"Yes, darling, the bag. I thought I wouldn't wear it to-day."
Out in the night the yells had subsided since the Hadji's harangue, if
not wholly because of it.
"The police have come," said Anthony. "It occurred to me that Rechid
and some friends of his were cooking up a plan, and while I was getting
into my clothes in the village it jumped into my head what it might be.
So on my way out to the temple I stopped and left a warning. We're all
right now. And I don't think the Arab lot would have dared venture in
anyhow. These chaps who sneaked in at the back and attacked the ladies
were dressed like the rest, but I doubt they were Arabs."
He would have doubted still more, if he had known all that I knew. But
the one secret I'd kept from him was Biddy's secret. The words "Esm�
O'Brien" whispered to Monny, as yet meant nothing save bewilderment to
"The fifteen minutes are up, and no signal yet for your famous
surprise," called out Sir John Biddell's complaining voice, from the
end of a dark passage. "Has anything gone wrong?"
"Oh, I was going to give you a Bengal fire illumination of the temple,
for a climax," I explained, coming suavely forward to meet him with my
candle. "But the beastly stuff--er--sort of went off by itself, and
it's all used up. I was--er--just going to call you."
"Well, not much harm done," said Sir John. "We've seen the sanctuary,
such as it is. A little disappointing, perhaps, especially as Mr.
Sheridan found a friend with Mrs. Bronson, the Consul's wife, and
preferred talking with her to giving out information to us, from his
stores of knowledge. But luckily not more than twenty minutes wasted.
By the way, what's become of the row outside? Seems to have fizzled
down while we were away, like your red fire."
"Yes, a great man of some sort was addressing the crowd. But the police
came along and made it move on. There's been a bit of native grumbling
in these Nile towns lately--you may have read some paragraph about it
in the Cairo papers? So the police are rather quick to break up
"Why should men meet near the Temple of M�t?" inquired Sir John. "_I_
shouldn't think of doing it."
"Perhaps in the beginning they hoped to get something out of the
Europeans," said I lightly. "But they've given that up, evidently."
"I hope they haven't seduced our donkey-boys and arabeah drivers!"
exclaimed Sir John. "I'm hungry. And I'm in a hurry to get home."
"Not they. Donkey-boys and arabeah-men aren't easily seduced when
there's a question of baksheesh. _They're_ all right! I'm only sorry
about the Bengal fire."
"Well, it was a good idea, anyhow," Sir John patronized me.
"_C'est vrai_," I heard murmur in his chosen language, the Hadji, who
had saved the situation. "_C'etait une id�e tr�s bien pour
PLAYING HEAVY FATHER TO RACHEL
Never had the _Enchantress Isis_ looked so enchanting to my eyes as she
looked that night. I felt, as the Set trooped on board, like an anxious
hen-mother who, contrary to her fears, has safely returned a brood of
ducklings to the home chicken-coop after a swim out to sea. I valued
each duckling, even the least downy, far more than I had dreamed it
would be possible. But there was one duckling valued so much more than
all the rest (how much more I had realized only when, cackling on the
bank, I saw it on the wave)--that knowing it was safe made me
hysterical with joy. I could have kissed its napkin when it slid off
its lap and I picked it up--the napkin, not the duck--at dinner. The
drawback was that I had not saved it, as Anthony had saved Monny. It
had no reason to be grateful to me, or care more than it had always
cared, for a friend. And still another drawback presented itself when
the confusion of dressing in haste and dining, as the _Enchantress
Isis_ steamed out of Luxor, gave me time to think. The duckling was not
my duckling: and considering that it had calmly laid plans for me to
capture an heiress, considering also that it had not yet abandoned
these plans, I saw little reason to hope that, now I had come to a few
--just a few--of my senses--it would ever take the idea seriously, of
To abandon once and forever the duckling simile, the first thing I did
on board the boat, after recovering from the excitement of seeing Mabel
off by train with the Bronsons, was to wonder how I could make up for
all this hideous waste of time when I might have been making love to
Biddy. But there was no chance to say anything personal to her that
night. I had to hear--and wanted to hear--the story of all that had
happened from the moment she and Monny entered Rechid Bey's gate, to
the moment they came out. Then there was Antoun's story to follow; and
after that we had to compare notes: how everybody had felt, what
everybody had thought, what everybody had done. This subject was
inexhaustible, and kept cropping up in the midst of others; but that of
Mabella H�nem, her escape from bondage and from "conversion" to Islam,
and what revenge Rechid was likely to take, was almost as engrossing.
When at last, late that evening, I managed to get Biddy alone for a
moment, she could no more be induced to talk of herself than if she had
been a ghost without visible existence, a mere voice, to speak of
others, Monny by preference. What a heroine Monny had been from first
to last! And what did I think _now_ about the foolishness of that
theory--the theory that Bedr was a spy, and had led his employers to
believe that "Mrs. Jones" was travelling with her stepdaughter
concealed under an impeccably important _nom de guerre_?
What I thought was, that we must get hold of Miss Rachel Guest, and
question her as to her whole acquaintance with the Armenian learning
how, by all that was incredible, the double mystery of mixed names had
originated. "Monny knows only that Rachel was supposed to be the
heiress, testing her personal attractions by pretending to be the poor
school teacher," said Brigit. "The child's been wildly enjoying the
situation, for she was tired of young men. Rachel wasn't! And Rachel's
been profiting by it--far more wickedly. As for Esm�, I'm sure no
thought of her name coming into this business, ever entered Monny's
head. We must try to find out what Bedr said to Rachel at the
beginning, as you advise, Duffer--and all about it. After what I told
you that I heard from Esm� about an exciting love romance, any mistake
of _this_ sort might be particularly dangerous. The Organization might
think it had more right than ever to be bitter against us. And now, I
don't mind your confiding in your friend Captain Fenton. I think I'd
like him to know my story."
What Biddy had told me about Esm� was, that the girl had confessed, in
a letter, having been made love to (during a summer holiday in the
mountains with friends) by the son of a man her father had deeply
injured. The accidental meeting had been a real romance: the girl and
the young man thought that no one, save themselves, shared their
secret. But who could tell, when Fate itself stood between them with a
drawn sword? The love of Romeo for Juliet was a safe and simple affair
compared with the merest flirtation between the daughter of Richard
O'Brien and the son of John Halloran, whom O'Brien's testimony had sent
to prison for life.
Sometimes I thought, as the days went on, that Biddy guessed--not my
change of heart, but my new understanding of it: and that she wanted
quietly and gently to show me, according to Bill Bailey's pet
expression, there was "nothing doing." Her expressed wish that Fenton
should hear her story, looked to my suddenly suspicious mind as if his
strong personality and his extremely picturesque position had made an
appeal to the romance in her, as it had in the case of Mrs. East and
perhaps Monny Gilder. Always interested in "Mrs. Jones," from first
sight, when he had laughingly said that the "little sprite of a woman"
would be almost too alluring if surrounded by an atmosphere of mystery
and intrigue, Anthony was now frankly preoccupied with her affairs. He
was not even annoyed that, unaided by me, her quick mind had grasped
the secret of his identity. "It was like her to spring on to it by
instinct," he said, smiling that thoughtful smile of his, which was
more than ever effective in his Arab get up. "And like her not to give
anybody else a hint, except you, of course--though she must have been
tempted sometimes. I suppose"--and he looked up quickly--"she _hasn't_
given any one else a hint?"
"I'd swear she hasn't."
"Miss Gilder--you're sure she hasn't the slightest suspicion?"
"As sure as a man can be of anything about a woman."
"You aren't trying to evade the question, Duffer?"
"On my word, I'm not. I feel morally certain Miss Gilder labours under
the impression that you're as brown as you're painted. That somehow or
other you can't be Moslem because she's seen you without a turban, and
you've got the hair of a Christian. Maybe she thinks you're a Copt. I
heard her learnedly arguing the other day that the Copts are the only
_real_ Egyptians. She has the air of studying you, sometimes: but with
all her study, she sees you only as an Egyptian of high birth and
attainments, with a few drops of European blood in your veins, perhaps
just enough to make things aggravating, and a vague right to a princely
position if you chose to overlook something or other, and claim it.
There you have her conception of you, in a nutshell."
There would still have been room in that nutshell for Cleopatra's ideas
concerning her niece's feelings. But if she were right, it was
Anthony's business to discover those feelings for himself, provided he
cared to do so. And of this I was not sure. There was the doubt that it
might be Biddy, even though he appeared to attach some unexplained
importance to Miss Gilder's continued ignorance about himself.
The day after leaving Luxor, there was no time for the heart to heart
talk I planned with Rachel Guest. Each hour, each minute almost, was
taken up with my duties as Conductor, which I was obliged to regard
seriously, whether I liked them or not. If I did not, the Set growled,
snapped or clamoured; which gave me even more trouble than doing my
For some reason best known to herself (but suspected by me) Mrs. East
kept to her suite, nursing a grievance and the Siberian lap-dog from
Asiut. This saved me a certain amount of brain strain, for among other
places of interest we had to pass near was ancient Hermonthis, where in
her Cleopatra incarnation she had built a temple with a portrait of
herself adoring the patron Bull of the city. If she had known how easy
it would be to visit the ruins, she would have been capable of desiring
the boat to stop, or telegraphing complaints to Sir Marcus if it
The two excitements of the day were passing through a huge lock (with
sides like those of a canyon, and scarlet doors such as might adorn the
house of an ogre) in which we nearly stuck, and were saved by Antoun
seizing the pole from the inferior hands of a Nubian boatman; also a
visit to Esneh, a very Coptic town, starred with convents built by the
ever-present Saint Helena, sacred once to the Latos fish, now sacred to
gorgeous baskets of every size and colour, also somewhat over-beaded,
and over-scarabed. A ruined quay jutted into the wine-brown water,
where Roman inscriptions could have been spied out, if any one had had
eyes to spare from the basket sellers, the sellers of grape-fruit, and
all the other shouting merchants who flocked to head us off on our way
to the temple, despite a flurry of rain that freckled the deep sand of
the landing hill. But nobody did have eyes for anything Roman, now that
Cleopatra sulked in her throne-room, and our only archeologist was as
absent-minded as if he had been his own astral body. He had seen the
wisdom of "sticking to the trip," and not turning back by train with
the Bronsons and Somebody Else, as he may have yearned to do (if Monny
were right): but History had suddenly become as dry husks to Sheridan.
His soul was no longer with us, journeying up the Nile; and I suspected
his body of packing to join it, as soon as things had been arranged to
un-H�nem Mabel, and send her, freed from a marriage which was not
marriage, freed from this fear or forcible conversion, home to the
It was just on the cards, Anthony and I thought, that there might be
another "demonstration" at Esneh, that unruly town where Mohammed Ali
banished the superfluous dancing girls of Cairo in the eighteen
forties. If Rechid Bey had not discovered the truth about that hurried
departure from Luxor for Asiut (as a matter of fact, Mabel and her
guardians were almost thrown on board as the train began to move) he
might have sent emissaries, or come himself to Esneh, where he must
have known the _Enchantress Isis_ would land. As for Bedr and his
employers, Anthony (who now knew Biddy's suspicions) was inclined to
think that, even if she were right, we had seen the last of them. After
such a setback as that in the Temple of M�t, he thought they would not
only be discouraged but frightened. They had run away from us, in the
temple; and despite the proverb concerning those who fight and run, to
fight another day, it was probable that men of their calibre would see
the wisdom of abandoning the chase. They had shown themselves cowards,
Anthony thought, whatever their object had been in attacking Miss
O'Brien and Miss Gilder: and though we must be on the watch during the
rest of the trip, his idea was that the men had retreated in fear of
In any case, we had no trouble at Esneh, and saw no sinister faces
peering out of low doorways in the bazaars, or over the heads of the
pretty (sometimes fair and blue-eyed) dancing girls' descendants.
Buried in the heart of the village we came upon the temple. Only the
portico was visible under piled houses and a triumphant mosque; but
once we were down in the entombed temple itself, it gave a sense of
secrecy, and mystic rites, to look up from under the dark roof of heavy
stone with its painted zodiac, out from hidden halls of carving and
colour, to the clustered houses of dried brick built before the temple
was uncovered. There was a sense of tragedy and failure, too, toiling
up the steep slope to the town level, and passing, on the half-buried
walls, gigantic carved figures making thwarted gestures, in
commemoration of kingly triumphs forgotten hundreds upon hundreds of
At night there was _fantasia_ on board, with our boatmen dancing each
other down, like Highlanders, and the next day brought us to Edfu,
which all the women were wild to see because Robert Hichens had called
its green-blue the "true colour of love": an adorable temple sacred to
Horus, as there he conquered and killed Set.
It was only after we had passed Sir Ernest Cassell's red house, with
the smoky irrigation works where fourteen hundred Arabs have chased the
desert into the background, and after we had visited the splendid twin
temples of Light and Darkness at Kom Ombo, towering majestically above
the Nile bank, that I found time to catechize and lecture Miss Guest. I
contrived to separate her from her sculptor, and lure her to a part of
the deck unfrequented because it was windy. Rachel was looking happy,
young and prosperous, in one of Monny's most becoming (and expensive)
At first, I think she felt inclined to be flattered by my desire for
her society, for I had never yet wished her joy, or formally
congratulated Bailey. One look into my eyes, with those clever,
slanting green orbs of hers, however, and instinct must have told her
that my intention was different. She glanced round for an excuse to
escape, but found none, for I hedged her in from all her friends. Then
she quickly decided to shunt me off on an emergency track laid by
"What a wonderful day it's been!" she remarked. And Kom Ombo is one of
the best temples. The only thing I didn't like was those mummied
crocodiles. Their smiles look so hypocritical, and to think they've
been smiling them for thousands of years--"
"It must be unpleasant to smile the smile of a hypocrite, even for a
few weeks," I seized the chance to work up to business.
"Yes, indeed," agreed Miss Guest a slight colour staining her cheeks.
"And didn't you notice several new sorts of wall-inscriptions?"
"Yes," I admitted. "But if you don't mind, I'd like to skip sixteen or
seventeen centuries and come down to you. I've been wanting a chat--"
"Why, I'm delighted!" she exclaimed, frightened, but all the more
ingratiating. "Oh, isn't the Nile beautiful as we come toward Nubia?
And aren't the sakkiyehs more interesting than the shadoofs, which they
use mostly when the river is low? Willis said quite a lovely thing,
about the sakkiyehs: that their chains of great water cups, going up
and down, look like enormous strings of red and green prayer-beads,
being 'told' by unseen hands. He ought to be a poet, he's so romantic."
"No doubt everything about you, Miss Guest, must make an appeal to his
romantic side," I cut in, while she was forced to pause for breath.
"I hope I do appeal to him," she said, meekly, "I never thought to be
so happy." This was a direct appeal to _me_; and it hit the mark. I
didn't care a rap about Willis Bailey, or his sketches or the wooden
statues with crystal eyes which he was going to make the fashion. If
Miss Guest chose to hook her shining fish with a false fly it wasn't my
business. It was hers and his, and perhaps Monny's, for Monny had
backed Rachel up in creating a wrong impression, as if they two had
been playing together, like children, to trick the grown-ups. But I had
to find out what had started the ball rolling, because it looked as if
that ball had come out of the pocket of Bedr.
"I'm glad you're happy," I said, "and my hope is that you'll remain so.
I wish you so well, that perhaps you'll give me the right to ask a few
questions. You see, I'm one of your oldest friends in Egypt, after Miss
Gilder and her aunt--and Mrs. Jones. You met Miss Gilder and Mrs. East
travelling in France, they've told me--"
"Yes, in a dining-car. We were put at the same table, and got talking.
I just loved Monny at first sight, and she's been heavenly to me. What
fun we've had! I never had _any_ fun before. I hardly knew the meaning
of the word."
"I suppose it must have amused you and Miss Gilder," I planted my arrow
at last, though not remorselessly, "this quaint idea that's got round,
about your having changed places."
Rachel's face crimsoned. "Oh, Lord Ernest!" she sighed in an explosive
whisper, with a glance round to see if any one were near. But we were
alone with the beginnings of a sunset, that flushed the dun hills as
unripe peaches are flushed on a garden wall. "I've promised Monny not
to say a word and spoil her fun, as long as the trip lasts. She's
finding out, you see, which people are really attracted to her, for
herself. She says it's a wonderful experience--and it's given her such
a rest from men: the silly ones, you know. It isn't _my_ fault. I'd
tell in a _minute_ if she'd let me."
"Was it she who began the game?" I dared to inquire. "Or was it Bedr?
Now, this is a question I really _have_ a right to ask. I'll tell you
why afterward, if you don't know already from Monny."
"No, I don't think Monny's said anything to make me understand that,"
Rachel answered, stammering a little, and trying pathetically not to
look anxious. "But I'll answer you, of course. There's nothing to hide
from _you_--now--that I can see. It _was_ Bedr who began. He was the
most intelligent, extraordinary person! I don't believe any one fully
realized it, except me. But from that first night at Alexandria, he
seemed to feel that I saw something of value behind his poor face. He
was _very_ sensitive. And he attached himself to me in the most
beautiful, faithful way. Really and truly, if there hadn't come that
trouble about the hasheesh place (which _wasn't_ his fault, because
Monny wanted to go, and when she wants things she wants them very much)
I believe I could have made a Christian of him. He would have been a
wonderful convert! We talked more about religion than anything else,
but he used to like to chat about America, because he'd been there, and
hoped to go again. _That_ was the way the joke about Monny and me
started. He _did_ ask me not to speak of it, but it can't matter now.
He told me when he was in New York, with a family who took him from
Egypt, one day the great Mr. Gilder's daughter was pointed out to him
in the street. She was with her father, in an automobile, but there was
a block in the traffic: a policeman was keeping it back, so he saw her
distinctly for several minutes, and he was interested, because his
employers told him how important the Gilders were, and how Mr. Gilder
used to have his daughter guarded every minute for fear she might be
kidnapped for ransom, as several rich people's children had been. Monny
couldn't have been more than fourteen then, as it's seven years ago;
and Bedr said that the little girl he saw in the automobile was exactly
like _me_--hardly at all like what Monny is now. He wanted me to tell
him, for a reason which he vowed and swore was _very_ important,
whether I wasn't really Miss Gilder, and _she_ Miss Guest."
"Well, I thought the idea so funny, so thoroughly _quaint_, you know,
and like something in a book, that just for fun I answered that I
couldn't tell him anything until I'd consulted my friend. Monny nearly
went wild about it. She said she'd come to Egypt to have adventures and
she was going to _have_ them, no matter whether 'school kept or not'.
That's just a little slang expression, people use at home, sometimes. I
daresay you've heard her say much the same thing. She said this idea of
Bedr's was too good to miss, and we'd get bushels of fun out of it. So
we have--in different ways. And she's been lovely, about giving me
dresses and things. When she and I talked the matter over, she
understood why Bedr should have thought she was more like me, at the
age of fourteen, than like her present self. She'd had typhoid fever
just before the time she must have been pointed out to him, and it had
left her thin as a rail, and as pale as a ghost. Her hair was short,
too, and some of the colour had been burnt out of it by the fever. Now,
you know, she has a brilliant complexion, and her face is much rounder
than mine, as well as more pink and white. Compared to her, I am
_sallow_, I'm afraid, and lanky: and when she and I stand together, her
hair looks bright gold, and mine light brown in comparison.
"Monny wouldn't let me tell Bedr right out that he was mistaken about
us. She said we wouldn't fib, but we'd act self-conscious, as if we had
a secret, and he'd stumbled on it. He must have started the story--oh,
if you could call it a story! I don't believe anything has ever been
put into words. It was in the air. People got the idea. But Bedr must
have put it into their heads. Neither Monny nor I did more than smile
and look away, and change the subject if any one hinted. We said, 'You
mustn't breathe such things to Mrs. East or Mrs. Jones, or they'll be
angry.' Apparently nobody ever did dare to breathe it to them. And I
think Monny mentioned you, too, Lord Ernest. She didn't want you to
know. She was afraid you'd say that the whole thing was nonsense. I
suppose it was Enid Biddell who came to you? She was afraid Mr. Snell
--but it isn't worth talking about, now. Only she is a cat."
Miss Biddell had said exactly the same of Miss Guest. Naturally,
however, I did not mention the coincidence.
"Now I've told you everything you wanted to know, haven't I?" Rachel
went on. "Or were there any more questions you'd like to ask--I mean,
"Only one more, I think. Did it ever strike you that he was curious
about you--or rather, about Miss Gilder who, you both let him suppose,
was really Miss Guest? Anything about your name?"
"Why, yes, he was curious. They say Arabs always are, if you let them
be. Not that he is exactly an Arab. But I suppose Armenians are the
same. He seemed to want to know things about me--what I'd done, where
I'd lived, and--oh, lots of little questions he would ask. Monny and I
made up our minds from the first, as I told you, that there mustn't be
any fibs. I simply put him off. He never got anything out of me at
"I see," I said; and let myself drift away from her into
"Is that all, then?"
"Yes, that is all, thank you."
Her tone sounded as if she were relieved of a mental weight, and would
like to go. I expected her to make some excuse: it would soon be time
to dress for dinner: or she had a letter to write. But no, she
lingered. She was trying to bring herself to say something. I waited,
in silence, my eyes on the shining river, looking back at the golden
trail of the sun that was like a rich mantle draping a gondola on a
f�te day in Venice.
"I suppose you think," she forced the words out at last, "that Willis
Bailey wouldn't have--fallen in love--or proposed--if he hadn't thought
like the rest, that I--I--" "I don't see why he shouldn't, Miss
"He--really does seem to care for me--as I _am_, you know. And I've
never told him a single untruth. I've _nothing_ to blame myself for."
"I'm sure of that."
"Yet you don't approve of me--one bit. You think I'm a--kind of
adventuress. So does Mrs. Jones. _Me_! Why, what would the people at
home in Salem say if any one suggested such a thing? You don't know the
life I've led, Lord Ernest."
"I can imagine. You don't want to go back to it again, do you?"
"It does seem as if I _couldn't_, now. It's seemed so, even before
Willis--oh, I'm sure you think I _never_ meant to go back, once I'd
broken free from the dull grind."
"No harm in that!"
"I'm glad you say so. I took all my legacy to see the world a little
--well, nearly all, not quite, perhaps, to tell the truth. And being
brave has brought me this reward: the love of a man who can give me
everything worth having. I shan't be _outside_ life any more. And
Willis won't have any reason to blame me when he--when he--"
"No reason, of course," I fitted into her long pause. "But men as well
as women are unreasonable, sometimes, you know. And if he should be so
--er--wrong-headed as to think you'd deceived him about yourself--"
"Then he ought to blame Monny, not me!"
"He ought, perhaps. But the question is, what he will do. And you can't
like having a sword hanging over your head? Supposing he should be
unjust, and refuse to carry out--"
"Oh, Lord Ernest, you don't think he will, after he's sworn that I'm
the only woman in the world he could ever have loved? He thinks me
_much_ better looking than Monny. He says she hasn't got a _soul_, yet.
He doubts if she ever will have one."
I didn't doubt it. I thought I had heard it stirring in the throes of
birth, a soul such as would blind the eyes of a Rachel Guest, with its
white shining. Monny had said that she would "find her soul in Egypt."
But the mention of this was not indicated just then.
"I haven't the courage to tell him, even if there were really anything
definite enough to tell," Rachel went on. "It would be insulting a man
like Willis to suggest that he'd been influenced--you know what I mean.
But--now we're talking of it--oh, do advise me! We're planning to be
married in Egypt, at the end of this trip, and then settle down in
Cairo, for Mr. Bailey's studies at the museum. He came up the Nile only
for me, you see! And he says I shall be his first model for the new
style--my eyes are _just_ right, as if they'd been made on purpose to
help him. I lie awake nights wondering what if, before the wedding,
when he finds out for certain that my name is really only Rachel Guest,
and that I'm I--oh, I daren't _think_ of it!"
"Then, if you want me to advise, why don't you in some tactful, perhaps
joking way, speak of the story Bedr started, and--"
"I can't--I simply can't."
"Yet you feel it would be better?"
"Yes--sometimes I feel it. _You_ help me, Lord Ernest. _You_ tell him.
And then, if you see any signs--you'll make him understand how dreadful
it would be to throw me over because I'm poor and have been a nobody
"I'll do my best," I heard myself weakly promising.
No wonder I have earned the nickname of Duffer!
Had any human fly ever buzzed himself so fatally into the spider-webs
of other people's love affairs? I asked myself sternly. As soon as
Providence plucked me out of one web, back I would bumble into another,
though I had no time for a love affair of my own.
When the _Enchantress Isis_ had slipped past many miles of desert
shore, black-striped and tawny as a leopard's skin, and other desert
shores so fiercely yellow as to create an effect of sunshine under gray
skies, we arrived at Assuan. I had not yet kept my promise to Rachel,
though whether from lack of opportunity or courage I was not sure.
Here we were at historic Assuan; and nothing had happened, nothing
which could be written down in black and white, since the excitements
at Luxor. Nevertheless, some of us were different within, and the
differences were due, directly or indirectly, to those excitements.
Now we were nearing Ethiopia, alias the Land of Cush, though Monny said
she could not bear to have it called by that name, except, of course,
in the Bible, where it couldn't be helped. How would any of us like to
"register" at an hotel as Mr. or Miss So-and-So, of Cush? Oshkosh
sounded more romantic.
No land, however, could look more romantic than Assuan, City of the
Cataracts, Greek Syene, that granite quarry whose red syenite made
obelisks and sarcophagi for kings of countless dynasties. "Suan," as
the Copts renamed it (a frontier town of Egypt since the days of
Ezekiel the prophet), now appeared a gay place, made for
Sky and river were dazzling blue, and the sea of sand was a sea of
gold, the dark rocks lying like tamed monsters at the feet of Khnum,
god of the Cataract, glittered bright as jet, over which a libation of
red wine had gushed. The river-front of the town, with its hotels and
shops, was brightly coloured as a row of shining shells from a southern
sea; tints of pink and blue and amber, translucently clear in contrast
with the dark green of lebbek trees and palms, in whose shadow flowers
burned, like rainbow-tinted flames of driftwood. Between our eyes and
the brilliant picture, a network of thin dark lines was tangled, as if
an artist had defaced his canvas with scratches of a drying brush.
These scratches were in reality the masts of moored feluccas, bristling
close to the shore like a high hedge of flower stems, stripped of
blossoms and bent by driving wind.
On the opposite side of the river, the desert crouched like a lion who
flings back his head with a shake of yellow mane, before he stoops to
drink. And in the midst of the stream rose Elephantine Island, with its
crown of feathery palms, its breastwork of Roman ruins (a medal of fame
for the kings it gave to Egypt) and its undying lullaby sung by the
cataract, among surrounding rocks.
Very strange rocks they were, black as wet onyx, though for thousands
of years they had been painted rose by sunrise and sunset; shapes of
animal gods, shapes of negro slaves, shapes of broken obelisks and
fallen temples; shapes of elephants like those seen first by Egyptians
on this island; shapes which one felt could never have taken form
except in Egypt.
Over our heads armies of migrating birds made a network like a great
floating scarf of beads, each bead a bird: and the blue water round the
slow-gliding _Enchantress_ was crowded with boats of so many hitherto
unknown sorts, that they might have been visiting craft from another
world: feluccas with sails red or white, or painted in strange
patterns, or awninged; some with rails like open trellis work of many
colours, over which dark faces shone like copper in the sunshine;
rowing boats, "galleys" with fluttering flags, and old soap-boxes
roughly lined with tin, in which naked imps of boys perilously paddled.
Out from the boats rushed music in clouds like incense; wild, African
music of chanting voices, beating tom-toms, or clapping hands that
clacked together like castanets. Very old men and very young youths
thumped furiously on earthen drums shaped like the jars of Elephantine,
once so famous that they travelled the length of Egypt filled with
wine. The breeze that fanned to us from beyond the palms and lebbeks,
the roses and azaleas, was soft and flower-laden. There was a scent in
it, too, as of ripe grapes, as if a fragrance lingered from vanished
days when wine for the gods was made from Elephantine vineyards, and
fig-trees never lost their leaves. We ourselves, and our big three-decked
boat were alone in our modernity, if one forgot the line of gay
buildings on the shore. Everything else might have been of the time
when the world supposed Elephantine to be placed directly on the Tropic
of Cancer, and believed in the magic lamp which lit the unfathomable
well; the time when quarries of red and yellow clay gave riches to the
island, and all Egypt thanked its gods when Elephantine's Nilemeter
showed that the Two Lands would be plentifully watered.
Most of us were going to live on board the _Enchantress_ for our three
days at Assuan; but, hearing that lords and ladies of high degrees
swarmed at the Cataract Hotel with its wild, watery view of tumbled
rocks, and at the Savoy in its flowery gardens, some went where they
might hope to cross the path of dukes and duchesses.
The Monny-ites were not "wild" about the aristocracy, nor would royalty
(of later date than the Ptolemies) have lured Cleopatra from her suite
on the boat. But the whole party was eager for shore, and no sooner had
the _Enchantress_ put her foot on the yellow sands than she was
deserted by her passengers. The bazaars were the first attractions, for
"everybody said" that they were as fine in their way as the bazaars of
Cairo; so very soon we were all buying silver, ivory, stuffed
crocodiles and ostrich feathers from the Sudan, which now opened its
gates not far ahead: the Sudan, mysterious, unknown, and vast.
Cleopatra clung to me, with a certain wistfulness, as if in this
incarnation she were not so intimately at home in Upper Egypt as she
had hoped to be. Perhaps this loneliness of her soul was due to the
fact that instead of seeking her society, "Anthony with an H" seldom
came near her now. Something had warned him off. He would never tell me
or any one on earth: but, unused to the ways of women as he was, I felt
sure that he had been uncomfortably enlightened as to Cleopatra's
feelings. The cure, according to his prescription, was evidently to be
"absent treatment." But there was another which I fancied might be
efficacious; the sudden arrival on the scene of Marcus Antonius Lark.
I happened to know that he proposed a dash from Cairo to Assuan by
train, for I had received two telegrams at the moment of walking off
the boat. The first message announced his almost immediate advent; the
second regretted unavoidable delay, but expressed an intention not to
let us steam away for Wady Halfa without seeing him. The excuse alleged
was business, but I thought I saw through it, and sympathized; for he
whom I had once cursed as a brutal tyrant of money-bags now loomed
large as a pathetic figure.
Despite the lesson of the lotuses, I believed that his motive was to
try his chance with Mrs. East; that life had become intolerable, unless
"Lark's Luck" might hold again; and that he could not wait till the
cruel lady returned to Cairo. It was a toss-up, as we walked side by
side to the incense-laden bazaar, whether I told her the news or left
her to be surprised by the unexpected visitor. Eventually I decided
that silence would help the cause; and in thus making up my mind I was
far from guessing that my own fate and Monny's and Anthony's and
Brigit's hung also on that insignificant decision. I was thankful that
Mrs. East said no more of bringing her niece and me together, and that,
on the contrary, she dropped dark hints about "everything in life which
she had wanted" being now "too late, and useless to hope for" in this
incarnation. Why she had changed her plans for Monny I could not be
sure; enough for me that she apparently had changed them.
Sir Marcus did not appear the next day or the next, and I heard no
more. Indeed, between dread of breaking the truth to Bill Bailey, and
self-reproach at letting time pass without breaking it, I almost forgot
Lark's love affair. I salved my conscience by working unnecessarily
hard, and even helping Kruger with his accounts, when Anthony too
generously relieved me of other duties.
How I envied Fenton at this time, because no girls asked him what men
they ought to marry; or implored him to prevent men from jilting them;
or urged him to enlighten handsome sculptors with wavy, soft hair, and
hard eyes resembling the crystal orbs which were to become fashionable
in Society! Anthony loved Assuan, and apparently enjoyed displaying its
beauties. Not knowing that I hid a fox under my mantle, he meant to be
kind in "taking people off my hands," giving them tea on the Cataract
Hotel veranda; escorting them to the ruined Saracen Castle which, with
Elephantine opposite, barred the river and made a noble gateway;
leading them at sunset to the Arab cemetery in the desert, and to the
Bisharin village where wild, dark creatures (whose hair was pinned with
arrows and whose ancestors were mentioned in the Bible) sold baskets
and bracelets and what not. There were really, as Sir John Biddell
remarked, a "plethora of sights," not counting the magnificent Rock
Tombs, since the Set had definitely "struck" against tombs of all
descriptions. But even with an excursion to the ancient quarries, for a
look at half-finished obelisks, for once I had not enough to do. And
Fenton had snatched Biddy from me as well as Monny. Mercilessly he had
them sightseeing every moment. And I could no longer scold Rachel for
"letting things slide." To blame her would be for the pot to call the
It was on the day of the Great Dam that I screwed my courage to the
sticking-place, and made Bailey understand that his fianc�e was nobody
but Rachel Guest; that she would be Rachel Guest all her life until she
became Mrs. Some One-or-Other: preferably Mrs. Willis Bailey. Somehow
it seemed appropriate to do the deed at the Dam. And always in future,
when people ask what impression the eighth wonder of the world made
upon me, I shall doubt for an instant whether they refer to the
American sculptor, or to the Barrage.
The way in which we went was so impressive that it was comparatively
easy to be keyed up to anything.
Most travellers make the trip on donkey back; or else, as far as
Shellal, in a white, blue-eyed desert train, where violet window-glass
soothes their eyes and prepares their minds for a future journey to
Khartum. After Shellal they go on in small boats to the wide, still
lake which the Great Dam has stored up for the supply of Egypt. But we
of the _Enchantress Isis_ were super-travellers. Our boat being of less
bulk than her new rivals, she was able to reach the Barrage by passing
up through its many locks and proceed calmly along the Upper Nile,
between the golden shores of Nubia, to Wady Haifa. We remained on board
for the experience; and though I had the task of telling Bailey, still
before me, I would not have changed places with a king, as standing on
deck, with Biddy by my side, I felt myself ascending the once
impassable Cataracts of the god Khnum.
If Biddy had been the only person by my side, I should have risked
telling her the secret she ought always to have known. But there were
as many others as could crowd along the rail. For once they were
reflective, not inclined to chatter. Perhaps the same thought took
different forms, according as it fitted itself into different heads;
the thought of that marvellous campaign of the boats which fought their
way past these cataracts to relieve Gordon. The ascent was a pageant
for us. For them it had meant strife and disaster and death. We admired
the glimpses of yellow desert: we exclaimed joyously at the mad turmoil
of green water, the blood-red and jet-black rocks, below the Dam. For
us it was a scene of unforgettable majesty. For those others, the waste
of stone-choked river must have yawned like a wicked mouth, full of
water and jagged black teeth, which opened to gulp down boats and men.
It was on the brink of the Barrage itself that I spoke to Bailey. And
there, looking down over the immense granite parapet, upon line after
line of tamed cataracts breathing rainbows, we were so small, so
insignificant, that surely it could not matter to a man whether the
girl of his heart were an heiress or a beggar maid! There was room in
the world only for the mighty organ-music of these waters, and the ever
underlying song of love.
I saw by the look in Bailey's eyes, however, as he gazed away from me
to the long-necked dragon form of a huge derrick, that it _did_ matter.
I had been tactful. I had mentioned the mistake in identity as if it
were a silly game played by children, a game which neither he nor I nor
any one could ever have regarded seriously. He controlled himself, and
took it well, so far as outward appearance went: but soon he made an
excuse to escape: and presently I saw him strolling off alone, head
down, hands in pockets. Luncheon was being prepared on the veranda of a
house belonging to the chief engineer of the Dam. Its owner was a
friend of Sir Marcus Lark, and, being away, had agreed to lend his
place to our party, Kruger having done no end of writing and
telegraphing to secure it. Many of our people had got off the
_Enchantress Isis_ in one of the locks, and had walked up the steps to
the summit-level of the Barrage, Brigit and I among others. And as we
assembled for lunch it was an odd sight to see our white, floating home
rising higher and higher, until at last she rode out on the surface of
the broad sea of Nile which is held up by the granite wall of the
Barrage. She was to be moored by the Dam, and to wait for us there
until evening, when we should have exhausted the Barrage and ourselves;
and have visited Philae.
By and by luncheon was ready, served by our white-robed, red-sashed
waiters from the _Isis_, but Bailey did not return. Rachel begged that
our table might wait for a few minutes. Perhaps he had gone the length
of the Dam in one of those handcars, on which some of our people had
dashed up and down the famous granite mile, their little vehicles
pushed by Arabs. He might be back in a few minutes. But the minutes
passed and he did not come. The dragon-derrick stretched its neck from
far away, as if to peer curiously at Rachel. The black and red and
purple monsters disguised as rocks for this wild, masquerade ball of
the Nile, foamed at the mouth with watery mirth at the trouble these
silly things called girls had always been bringing on themselves, since
Earth and Egypt were young together. The look of the forsaken, the
jilted, was already stamped upon Rachel's face. She tried to eat: when
the picnic meal could be put off no longer, but could scarcely swallow.
Monny glanced at her anxiously from time to time, perhaps suspecting
something of the truth. And the eyes of both, girls turned to me now
and then with an appeal which made unpalatable my well-earned
hard-boiled eggs, and drumsticks. Bother the whole blamed business!
thought I. Hadn't I done all I could? Wasn't I practically running the
lives of these tiresome tourists, as well as their tour? What did that
adventuress out of a New England schoolroom want of me now, when I'd
washed my hands of her and her affairs?
But all through, there was no real use in asking myself these
questions. I knew what Rachel wanted, and that I should have to do it,
if only to please Biddy, who would be broken-hearted if Monny's
indiscretions should wreck the happiness of even the most undeserving
young female. Darling Monny must be saved from remorse at all costs!
One of the costs to me was luncheon as well as peace of mind. I excused
myself from the table. I pretended to have forgotten some business of
importance. I whispered to the _Enchantress_ dining-room steward, who
had come to look after the waiters, that the meal must be served as
slowly as possible. "Drag out the courses," said I. "Make 'em eat salad
by itself, and everything separate, except bread and butter." Having
given these last instructions, I was off like an arrow shot from the
bow, a reluctant arrow sulking at its own impetus. Instinct was the
hand that aimed me; the _Enchantress Isis_ was the target; and deck
cabin No. 36 was the bull's-eye. As I expected, Bailey was in his
stateroom. I had not far to go; only to hurry from the engineer's
house, along the riverbank to the landing place, where a number of
native boats were lying; jump into one, and row out a few yards. But
the heat of noon, after the cool shade of the veranda, was terrific. I
arrived out of breath, my brow richly embroidered with crystal beads,
just in time to find Bailey squeezing his bath sponge preparatory to
packing it, in a yawning kitbag already full. At such a moment he could
squeeze a sponge! I hated him for this, as though the sponge had been
On his berth lay a letter addressed to her, and another to me. No doubt
he told us both that he had received an urgent telegram. He was so
taken aback at sight of the task master that he let me withdraw the
sponge from his pulseless fingers. I laid it reverently on the
washhand-stand, as a heart should be laid on an altar.
"My dear fellow," I began. (Yes, to my credit be it spoken, I said
"dear fellow!") "You don't know what you are doing. I speak for your
own sake. Think what people will say! Everyone will see why you left
her. And you don't _want_ to leave her, you know! Of course you don't!
You love Miss Guest. She loves you. Not all the crystal eyes in the
world can make you the fashion, if the eyes of your fianc�e are red
with tears because you jilted her, when you found out she was--only
herself! People don't like such things. They won't have their artists
cold and calculating. It isn't done. You can't afford to squeeze a
sp--I mean, break a heart in this fashion. It will ruin your reputation."
So I argued with a certain eloquence, forcing conviction until with a
fierce gesture Bailey snatched six collars from his bag and flung them
on the bed. Seeing thus clearly what I thought showed him what others
were sure to think: and the world's opinion was life itself to Bailey.
He was cowed, then conquered. At last I dared to say: "May I?"
Instantly I tore the letters into as many pieces as there were collars.
Afterward, when we walked off the boat, arm in arm, I dropped them into
We got back to the engineer's before the picnickers had finished their
belated Turkish coffee. Bailey took the vacant chair between Rachel
Guest and Monny Gilder. Biddy said that she had asked to have some
coffee kept hot for me. I needed it!
* * * * *
That is what delayed our start for Philae and is, I suppose, why
everything that took place there afterward happened exactly as it did.
If we had left the Dam an hour earlier, there would have been no excuse
to stop for sunset at the temple which those who love it call the
"Pearl of Egypt." As it was--but that comes afterward.
When Strabo went from Syene to Philae, he drove in a chariot with the
prefect of that place, "through a very flat plain," and on both sides
of their road (I fear, for their bones, it was a rough one!) rose
"blocks of dark, hard rock resembling Hermes-towers." Nearly two
thousand years later we were rowed to the same temple, across an
immensely deep, vast sheet of shining crystal. We lolled (I am fond of
that word, though aware that it's reserved for villainesses) in
"galleys" painted in colours so violent that they looked like tropical
birds. They were awninged, and convulsively propelled by Nubians whose
veins swelled in their full black throats, and whose ebony faces were
plastered with a grayish froth of sweat. Each pressed a great toe, like
a dark-skinned potato, on the seat in front of him for support in the
fierce effort of rowing. Turbans were torn off shaved, perspiring
heads, and even skull-caps went in the last extreme. Wild appeals were
chanted to all the handiest saints to grant aid in the terrible
undertaking. An eagle-eyed child at the steering wheel gazed pityingly
at his agonized elders. And then, just as you expected the whole crew
to fall dead from heart failure, they chuckled with glee at some joke
of their own. There was always breath and energy enough to spare when
they wanted it. But what would you? The labourer must be worthy of his
hire, and a little something over. When Strabo saw Philae, she was a
distant neighbour of the mighty Cataracts. Now, the waters which once
rushed down are prisoned by the Great Dam, and stand enslaved, to wall
the temple round like a great pearl in a crystal case. She is the true
Bride of the Nile; for, as long ago the fairest of maidens gave herself
to the water as a sacrifice, so Philae gives herself for the life of
the people. She drowns, but in death she is more beautiful than when
the eyes of the old historian beheld her, glowing with the colours of
her youth, yet already old, deserted by gods and priests and
worshippers. Now she has worshippers from the four ends of the earth,
and the greatest singers of the world chant her funeral hymn. For in
all Egypt, with its many temples of supreme magnificence, there is
nothing like Philae. None can forget her. None can confuse her identity
for a moment with that of any other monument of a dead religion. And if
she were the only temple in Egypt, Egypt would be worth crossing the
ocean to see, because of this dying pearl in its crystal case.
Venus rose from the sea. Philae, the Marriage Temple of Osiris and
Isis--Venus of Egypt--sinks into the sea of waters poured over her by
Khnum, god of the Cataracts. Thus the great enchantress sings her
swan-song to touch the heart of the world, her fair head afloat like a
sacred lotus on the gleaming water. I think there were few among us who
did not fancy they heard that song, as our Nubian men rowed across the
sea stored up by the great Barrage. From far away we saw a strange
apparition, as of a temple rising from the waters. It seemed unreal at
first, a mere mirage of a temple. Then it took solid outline; darkly
cut in silver; a low, column-supported roof; a pylon towering high; and
to the south, separated from both these, a thing that might have been a
huge wreath of purple flowers. We knew, however, from too many
photographs and postcards, that this was "Pharaoh's Bed," the
unfinished temple of Augustus and Trajan, standing on a flooded island.
Our boat glided close to the flower-like stems of the columns
supporting the low roof. Far down in the clear depths we could see the
roots of the pillars, or their phantom reflections. And in the light of
afternoon, the water was so vivid a green that the colour of it seemed
to have washed off from the painted stones. Onto this roof we
scrambled, up a flight of steps, and found that we were not to have
Philae to ourselves. There were other boats, other tourists; but we
pretended that they were invisible, and they played the same game with
us. Ignoring one another, the rival bands wandered about, wondered what
the place would be like with the water "down," quoted poetry and
guide-books, and climbed the pylon. From that height the kiosk called
"Pharaoh's Bed" showed a mirrored double, like an old ivory casket with
jewelled sides, piled full of a queen's emeralds. We loitered; we
explored; and having descended sat down to rest, dangling irreverent
feet over beryl depths, splashed with gold. Thus we whiled away an
hour, perhaps. Then the Set, impressed at first, had had enough of the
mermaid temple's tragic beauty. Sir John Biddell reminded me that it
had been a long day for the ladies, and very hot. Hadn't we better get
back to the _Enchantress_ before sunset? But that was exactly what some
of us did not want to do.
The matter was finally settled by retaining our one small boat, with
two rowers, and sending off the two larger "galleys" with their full
complement of passengers, excepting only "Mrs. Jones," Miss Gilder,
Antoun Effendi, the melancholy Cleopatra, and the guilty shepherd of
the flock, who knew he had no business to desert his sheep. He did
nevertheless feel, poor brute, that after such a day he had earned a
little pleasure, and, accordingly proceeded to snatch it from Fate,
despite disapproving glances. Punishment, however, fell as soon as it
was due. I had stayed behind with the intention of amusing Brigit. But
Monny took her from me, as if she had bought the right to use my
childhood's friend whenever it suddenly occurred to her to want a
chaperon. Instead of Biddy, I got Cleopatra. And by this time, so far
as we knew, all tourists save ourselves had gone.
I knew in my heart that, in accusing Monny Gilder of claiming Brigit
O'Neill because she was paying her expenses, I did the girl an
injustice. Monny was afraid of herself with Anthony. I saw that
plainly, since the fact had been laid under my nose by Mrs. East. She
feared the glamour of this magical place, perhaps, and felt the need of
Biddy's companionship to keep her strong, not realizing that any one
else was yearning for the lady. This was the whole front of her
offending; yet I was so disappointed that I wanted to be brutal.
Without Biddy, I should wish but to howl at the sunset, as a dog bays
the moon. And feeling thus I may not have made myself too agreeable to
Cleopatra. In any case, after we had sat in silence for a while,
waiting for a sunset not yet ready to arrive, she turned reproachful
eyes upon me. "Lord Ernest," she said, "I think you had better go and
"Why?" I surlily inquired. "I thought _you_ thought that idea of yours
was too late to be of any use now?"
"I do think so," she replied. "_Everything_ interesting is too late
now. Still, you'd better go."
"Are you tired of me?" I stupidly catechised her.
"Well, I feel as if I should like to be alone in this wonderful place.
_I want to think back._"
"I see," said I, scrambling up from my seat on the edge of the temple
roof, and trying not to show by my expression that I was pleased, or
that both my feet had gone to sleep. "In that case, I'll leave you to
the spooks. May none but the right ones come!"
"Thank you," she returned dryly; and I limped off, walking on air,
tempered with pins and needles. Joy! my luck had turned! At the top of
the worn stone stairway, cut in the pylon, I met Biddy. She was dim as
one of Cleopatra's Ptolemaic ghosts, in the darkness of the passage;
but to me that darkness was brighter than the best thing in sunsets.
"Salutation to Caesar from one about to die!" I ejaculated.
"What _do_ you mean?" she asked.
"I mean that both my feet are fast asleep, and I shall certainly fall
and kill myself if I try to go one step further, up or down."
"You, the climber of impossible cliffs after sea-birds' nests!" she
laughed. But she stood still.
"I'm after something better than sea-birds' nests now," said I. "The
question is, whether it's not still more inaccessible?"
"Are you talking about--Monny?" she wanted to know, in a whisper.
"Sit down and I'll tell you," was my answer.
"Oh, not here at the top of the steps, if it's anything as private as
_that_," Biddy objected, all excitement in an instant. "Let's come into
a tiny room off the stairway, which the guardian showed me a few
minutes ago. There's a bench in it. You see, he's up there on the pylon
roof now with Monny and Captain Fenton (I _can't_ call him Antoun when
I talk to you; its _too_ silly!) and he'll probably be coming down in a
minute. Then, if we stop where we are, we'll have to jump up and get
out of the way, to let him pass. And he's sure to linger and work off
his English on us. I don't think we'll want to be interrupted that way,
"No, nor any other way," I agreed.
"Oh, but what about the sunset? We may miss it."
"Hang the sunset! Let it slide--down behind the Dam if it likes!"
"I don't wonder you feel so, you poor dear," Biddy sympathized, "when
it's a question of Monny, and all our hopes going to pieces the way
they are doing, every minute. There isn't a second to lose."
So we went into the little room in the tower, which was lit only by a
small square opening over our heads. We sat down on the bench. It was
beautifully dark. I began to talk to Biddy. We had forgotten my feet;
and I forgot Mrs. East. But I must tell what was happening to her at
the time (as I learned afterward, through the confession of an
impenitent), before I begin to tell what happened to us. Otherwise the
situation which developed can't be made clear.
I left Cleopatra calling spirits from the vasty deep, or rather one
spirit; the spirit of Antony. I am morally sure that any other would
have been _de trop_. And sailing to her across the wide water from
Shellal came Marcus Antonius Lark.
I can't say whether she considered him an answer to her prayer, or a
denial of it. Anyhow, there he was; better, perhaps, than nobody, until
she learned from his own lips--tactless though ardent lips--that he had
come from Cairo to Assuan, from Assuan to Philae, to see her. Then she
took alarm, and remarked in the old, conventional way of women, that
they'd "better go look for the others." But Sir Marcus hadn't spent his
money, time, and gray matter in hurrying to Philae from Shellal, for
nothing. Finding himself too late to catch us at Assuan, he had paid
for a special train in order to follow his "Enchantress" (the lady and
Taking a felucca with a fine spread of canvas and many rowers, which
(characteristically) he bargained for at the Shellal landing-place, he
sailed across to the moored steamer, only to learn from Kruger that we
had gone on our expedition to Philae. That meant a long sail and row
for the impatient lover. For us, the longer it was, the better: one of
the chief charms of our best day. But for him it must have been
tedious, despite a good breeze that filled the sails and helped the
On his way to the temple, he met the galleys going "home" to the
_Enchantress Isis_. An instant's shock of disappointment, and then the
glad relief of realizing that the one he sought was still at the place
where he wished to find her. There were only four Obstacles which might
prevent an ideal meeting. The names of these Obstacles, in his mind
were: Jones, Gilder, Fenton, and Borrow; and being an expert in
abolishing Obstacles, the great Sir Marcus began to map out a plan of
Luckily for him, our small boat had moved out of Cleopatra's sight, as
she sat and dreamed on the low temple-roof, while we four Obstacles
disported ourselves on different parts of the high pylon. The two
Nubians wished to play a betting game with a kind of Egyptian
Jack-stones, and it was not desirable that the pensive lady should behold
them doing it. Observing the graceful figure of Mrs. East silhouetted
against the sky's eternal flame of blue, and at the same time noticing
that she could not see the waiting boat, Sir Marcus got his
inspiration. He knew that the four Obstacles were somewhere about the
temple. Now was his great chance, while they were out of the way! And
if he resolved to play them a trick, perhaps he salved his conscience
by telling it that the Obstacles, male and female, ought to thank him.
Cleopatra probably thought, if she glanced up to see his boat: "Oh
dear, another load of tourists!" and promptly looked down to avoid the
horrid vision. By the time Sir Marcus came within "How do you do?"
distance, he had bribed our waiting boatmen to row away. This in order
not to be caught in a lie.
With our Nubians and their craft out of his watery way, he was free to
fib when the time came. "Go look for the others?" he echoed Mrs. East's
proposal. "Why, they've gone. I met them."
"Gone! And left me behind when they knew I was here?" she exclaimed.
"They can't have done such a thing."
"I'm afraid there's been a mistake," replied Sir Marcus presently.
"They certainly _have_ gone. I met the boat. Borrow was expecting me
to-day, you know--or maybe you don't know. And when he saw me in my
felucca, he stopped his to explain that evidently there'd been a
_contretemps_." (I'm sure Lark mispronounced that word!) "The temple
guardian said a gentleman had arrived and taken the lady who was
waiting, off in a boat. Of course Borrow thought I had come along, and
persuaded you to go with me, after telling the guardian to let him
know. I expect the guardian's got mighty little English: and they say
white ladies all look alike to blacks. He must have mixed you up with
some other lady. I suppose my folks haven't been the only people at
Philae since you came?"
Mrs. East admitted that a number of "creatures" had come and gone. But
she thought all had vanished before the departure of the galleys.
"You see you thought wrong. That's all there is to it," Sir Marcus
assured her. And having taken these elaborate measures to secure the
lady's society for himself alone (Nubian rowers don't count) he
proceeded to lure her hastily into his own boat, lest any or all of the
Obstacles should arrive to spoil his _coup_.
That was the manner of our marooning.
At the time, we were ignorant of what was happening behind our backs;
the sunset for instance, and the only available boat calmly rowing away
from the drowned Temple of Philae.
We were thinking of something else; and so was Sir Marcus, or he would
not have forgotten the repentant promise he made himself, soon to send
back a boat and take us off. We were, therefore, in the position of
unrehearsed actors in a play who don't know what awaits them in the
next act: while those who may read this can see the whole situation
from above, below, and on both sides. Four of us, marooned at Philae,
not knowing it, and night coming on.
WHAT WE SAID: WHAT WE HEARD
"Biddy, you were never wiser in your life," I exploded as I got her on
the bench. "You warned me there wasn't a second to lose. I've lost
years already, and I can't stand it the sixtieth part of a minute
longer, without telling you how I love you!"
"My goodness!" gasped Biddy. "Do be serious for once, Duffer. This is
no time for jokes. Don't you know you've delayed and delayed in spite
of my advice, till you've practically lost that girl? And if there's
any chance left--"
"The only chance I want is with you," I said. "Darling, I want you with
my heart and soul, and all there is of me. _Have_ I any chance?"
"And how long since were you taken this way?" demanded Biddy, at her
most Irish, staring at me through the darkness of the little dim room
in the pylon.
"Ever since you were an adorable darling of four years," I assured her.
"Only I was interrupted by going to Eton and Oxford, and your being
married. But the love has always been there, in a deep undertone. The
music's never stopped once. It never could. And when I saw you on the
"You fell in love with Monny!" breathlessly she cut me short.
"Nothing of the kind," I contradicted her fiercely. "You _ordered_ me
to fall in love with Miss Gilder. I objected politely. You overruled my
objections, or tried to. I let you think you had. And for a while after
that, you know perfectly well, Biddy, the Set gave me no time to think
any thoughts _at all_, connected with myself."
"You poor fellow, you have been a slave!" The soft-hearted angel was
caught in the trap set for her pity.
"And a martyr. A double-dyed martyr. I deserve a reward. Give it to me,
Biddy. Promise, here in this beautiful Marriage Temple, to marry me.
Let me take care of you all the rest of your life."
"My patience, a nice reward for you!" she snapped. "Let you be hoist by
the same petard that's always lying around to hoist me! What do you
_think_ of me, Duffer--and after all the proofs we've just had of the
dangerous creature I am? Why, the whole trouble at Luxor was on my
account. Even you must see that. Monny and I wouldn't have been let
into Rechid's house if those secret men hadn't persuaded him to play
into their hands, and revenge himself on you men as well as on us, for
interfering with Mabel. It was _their_ plot, not Rechid's, we escaped
from! And it was theirs at the Temple of M�t, too. Rechid was only
their cat's-paw, thinking he played his own hand. _Just_ what they
wanted to do I can't tell, but I can tell from what one of them said to
Monny in the temple, that they took her for Richard O'Brien's daughter.
Poor child, her love for me and all her affectionate treatment of me,
must have made it seem likely enough to them that she was Esm�, safely
disguised as an important young personage, to travel with her
stepmother. Bedr must have assured his employers that he was certain
the pale girl was really Miss Gilder; so they thought the other one
with me must be Esm�. You can't laugh at my fears any more! And I ask
you again, what _do_ you think of me, to believe I'd mix you up in my
"I think you're the darling of the world," said I. "And my one talent,
as you must have noticed, is getting people out of scrapes. It'll be
wasted if I can't have you. Besides, under the wing of an Embassy no
one will dare to try and steal you, or blow you up. We'll be diplomats
together, Biddy. Come! You say I've 'duffed' all my life, to get what I
wanted. Certainly I've done a lot of genuine duffing in love; but do
bear out your own expressed opinion of the work by saving it from
failure. Couldn't you try and like me a little, if only for that? You
were always so unselfish."
"Hush!" said Biddy, suddenly, "Hush!"
"Do you hate me, then? Is it by any chance, Anthony, you love?"
"No--no! Hold your tongue, Duffer."
"'No' to _both_ questions? I shan't stop till you answer."
"No, to both, then! _Now_ will you be silent?"
"Not unless you say you do care for me."
"Yes--yes, I do care. But, Sh! Don't you hear, they're talking just
outside that window in the wall? If you can't keep a still tongue in
your head, then for all the saints whisper!"
Her brogue was exquisite, and so was she. I worshipped her. When I
slipped my arm round her waist, she dared not cry out. The same when I
clasped her hand. Things were coming my way at last. And if I put my
lips close against her ear I could whisper as low as she liked. I liked
it too. And I _loved_ the ear.
She was right. They were indeed talking just outside the window, Monny
Gilder and Anthony Fenton. The prologue was evidently over, and the
first act was on. It began well, with a touch of human interest certain
to please an audience. But unfortunately for every one concerned, this
was a private rehearsal for actors only, not a public performance.
Biddy and I had no business in the dark auditorium. We were deadheads.
We had sneaked in without paying. The situation was one for a
"For heaven's sake, let me cough, or knock something over!" I implored
Biddy's ear, which (it struck me at the moment) was more like a flower
than an unsympathetic shell, best similes to the contrary. Who could
have imagined that it would be so heavenly a sensation to have your
nose tickled by a woman's hair?
"There's nothing you can knock over, but me," Biddy retorted, as
fiercely as she could in a voice no louder than a mosquito's. "And if
you cough, I'll know you're a dog-in-the-manger."
"Why?" curiosity forced me to pursue.
"Because, you donkey, ye say ye don't want her yourself, yet ye won't
give yer best friend a chance!"
"Can't be a dog and a donkey at the same time," I murmured. "Choose
which, and stick to it, if ye want me to know what ye mean."
"Why, you--you Man, don't ye see, if we interrupt at such a minute, and
such a conversation, they can _never_ begin again where they left off?
If _you'd_ wanted her, I'd have tried to save her for ye, at any cost.
But as ye don't, for goodness' sake give the two their chance to come
to an understanding. Now be still, I tell ye, or they may hear us."
"We can't just sit and eavesdrop."
"Stop yer ears then. It'll take both hands."
It would; which is the reason I didn't do it. That would have been
asking too much, of the most honourable man, in the circumstances.
Meanwhile, the two outside went on talking. Believing themselves to be
alone with the sunset, there was no reason to lower their voices. They
spoke in ordinary tones, though what they said was not ordinary; and we
on the other side of the little unglazed window could not help hearing
"I've been wanting to say it for a long time," in a voice like that of
a penitent child Monny was following up something we had (fortunately)
lost. "Only how could I begin it? I don't see even now how I did begin,
exactly. It's almost easy though, since I have begun. I was horrid
--horrid. I can't forgive myself, yet I want you to forgive me for doing
your whole race a shameful injustice, for not understanding it, or you,
or--or anything. You've shown me what a modern Egyptian man can be, in
spite of things I've read and heard, and been silly enough to believe.
Oh, it isn't just that you come from some great family, and that you
could call yourself a prince if you liked, as Lord Ernest says. He's
told me how you could have a fortune, and a great place in your country
if you'd reconcile yourself with your grandfather in Constantinople;
but that you won't, because it would mean going against England. It
isn't your position, but what you _are_, that has made me see how small
and ridiculous I've been, Antoun Effendi. Can you possibly forgive me
for the way I treated you at first, now I've confessed and told you I'm
very, very sorry and ashamed?"
"I would forgive you, if there were anything to forgive," Anthony
answered. And it must have taken pretty well all his immense
self-control to go on speaking to the girl in French--an alien language
"Perhaps there would be something to forgive, if I weren't on my side a
great deal more to blame than you. Will you let _me_ confess?"
"If you wish. Otherwise, you needn't. For I've deserved--"
"I do wish. But first, will you answer me a question?"
"I'm sure you wouldn't ask me a question I oughtn't to answer."
"It's only this: Did Ernest Borrow tell you anything else about me?"
"Nothing, except his opinion of you. And you must know that, by this
"I think I do. Or Mrs. Jones--or Mrs. East? Neither have--for any
reason--_advised_ you to apologize to me for what you very nobly felt
was wrong in your conduct?"
"No. Not a soul has advised me. If they _had_--"
She didn't finish, but Biddy and I both knew the Monny-habit of
conscientiously going against advice.
"Thank you. You've changed your opinion of me, then, without urging
"It has all come from _inside_. From recognition of--of what you are,
and what you've done for--for us all. You've been a hero. And you've
been kind as well as brave. Antoun Effendi, I think you are a very
great gentleman, and I respect Egyptians for your sake."
"Wait!" said Anthony. "You haven't heard my confession. When I first
saw you on the terrace at Shepheard's, I willed you to look at me, and
you did look."
"How strange! Yes, I felt it. Something made me look. Why did you will
me, Antoun Effendi?" Monny's voice was soft. But it was not like a
child's now. It was a woman's voice.
Listening with tingling ears, I knew what she wanted him to answer.
Perhaps he also knew, but he boldly told the truth. "It was a kind of
wager I made with myself. There was some troublesome business I had to
carry out in Cairo. A good deal hung upon it. I saw your profile. You
didn't turn my way, and I said to myself: 'If by willing I can make
that girl look at me, I'll take it for a sign that I shall succeed in
"Oh! It was nothing to do with _me_?"
"Not then. Afterward I knew that, while I thought my own free will
suggested my influencing you, it was destiny that influenced me.
Kismet! It had to happen so. But you punished me for my presumption.
You treated me as if I were a slave, a Thing that hardly had a place in
"I know! That's what I've asked you to forgive me for."
"And because you've asked me to forgive, I'm telling you this. I was
furious; and I said, 'She shall be sorry. I will make her sorry.' My
whole wish was to humble you. I wanted to conquer, and though you
classed me with servants, to be your master."
"I don't blame you, Antoun Effendi! And you _have_ conquered, in a
better way than you meant when you were angry and hating me. You've
conquered by showing your true self. You are my friend. That's what you
want, isn't it?--Not to be my master, when you don't hate me any
"No, that is not what I want. I still want to be your master."
"Then you _do_ hate me, even now?"
"No, I don't hate you, Mademoiselle Gilder, although you've punished me
over and over again for being the brute I was at first. You have
conquered me, not I you. But I don't want to be your friend. If you
didn't look at me as being a man beyond the pale, you would understand
very well what I want."
"Don't say that!" cried Monny, quickly. "Don't say that you're a man
beyond the pale. I can't stand it. Oh! I _do_ know what you want. I do
understand. I think I should have died if you hadn't wanted it. And
yet--I could almost die because you do."
"You could die because I love you?"
"Yes, of joy--and--"
"You _care_ for me?"
"Wait! I could die of joy, and sorrow too. Joy, because I do care, and
my heart longs for you to care. Sorrow, because--oh, it's the saddest
thing in the world, but we can never be any more to each other than we
are now." "You say that so firmly, because you think of me in your
heart as a man of Egypt. Dearest and most beautiful, you are great
enough if you choose, to mount to your happiness over your prejudice.
If you can love me in spite of what I am--"
"I love you in spite of it, and because of it, too; and for every
reason, and for no reason."
"Thank God for that! You've said this to me against your convictions. I
"No, for it's all I can ever say. There can be no more between us."
"You couldn't love me enough to be my wife, though I tell you now that
you're the star of my soul? Never till I saw you, have I loved a woman
or spoken a word of love to one, except my beautiful mother. I've kept
all for you, more than I dreamed I had to give. And it's yours for ever
and ever. But just because you've said to yourself that we're of
stranger races, who mustn't meet in love, you raise a barrier between
us. Are our souls of stranger races?"
"No. Sometimes it almost seems as if our souls were one. You have waked
mine with a spark from your own. I think I was fast asleep. I didn't
know I had a soul--scarcely even a heart. But now I know! Learning to
know you has taught me to know myself. And if I'm kinder to everybody,
all the rest of my life--even silly rich people I used to think didn't
need kindness--it will be through loving you. I'm not afraid to tell
you that, and though I _used_ to be afraid I might love you, I'm glad I
do, now--glad! I shall never regret anything, even when I suffer. And I
shall suffer, when we're parted."
"You're sure we must part?"
"Sure, because there's no other way, being what we are, and life being
what it is. Always I've thought since my father died, that he was near
me, watching to see what I did with my life. For he loved me dearly,
and I loved him. We were everything to each other. Even if that were
the only reason, I couldn't do a thing that would have broken his
heart. It would be treacherous, now that he's helpless to forbid me.
Don't you see?"
"I see. And if it were not for that reason?"
"If it were not for that--oh, I don't know, I don't know! But yes, I do
know. The truth comes to me. It speaks out of my heart. If it were only
for myself if I felt free from a vow, nothing could make me say to you,
'Go out of my life!'"
"That's what I wanted to be sure of. I could thank you on my knees for
those words. For I, too, have made a vow which I won't break. And if I
were free of it, I might tell you a thing now which would beat down the
barrier. Well! We will keep our vows, both of us, my Queen."
"Yes, we must keep them. But oh, how are we to bear it? Fate has
brought us together, and it's going to part us. We love each other, and
we must go out of one another's lives. What shall we do when we can't
see each other any more--ever any more?"
"That time shall not come."
"But it must--soon."
"Will you trust me, till Khartum?"
"I'll trust you always."
"I mean for a special thing--just till Khartum. In the foolish days
when I wished to conquer you, and make you humble yourself to me, I
vowed by my mother's love that I'd not tell you, or let Borrow tell, a
fact about myself which might win your favour. It was a bad vow to
make: a stupid vow. But a vow by my mother's love I could not break,
any more than you can break one to your father's memory. I'll abide by
it: but trust me till Khartum, and there you shall know what I can't
tell you now. I always hoped you would find out there--if we went as
far as Khartum together. Then I hoped, because I was a conceited fool.
Now I hope this thing--and all it means--because I am your lover."
"Ah, dear Antoun, don't hope. Because it seems to me that nothing
nearer than Heaven can bring us the kind of happiness you want."
"If you hadn't told me you cared, nothing that may come at Khartum
could have brought any happiness to me at all. For it would have been
too late after that, for you to say you cared--and for the word to have
the value it has now. You've said it--in spite of yourself. Trust me
for the rest. Will you?"
"If you ask me like that--yes. I trust you. Though I don't understand."
"That's what I want. Say this. 'I believe that we shall be happy; and I
trust without understanding, that it will be proved at Khartum.'"
Monny repeated the words after him. And although I was that vile worm,
an eavesdropper, I was so happy that I could have picked Biddy up in my
arms, and waved her like a flag. Anthony was going to be happy, and
that ought to be a good omen that I should be happy too.
"I am almost happy now," Monny went on. "Happier than I thought I could
be, with things as they are. I used to be miserable, partly about
myself, partly because I thought you were in love with Biddy (you were
so much nicer to her than me!), and partly because I believed, till I
knew you well, that you wanted to marry Aunt Clara for money, though
you cared for someone else. I even told Lord Ernest that about you. I
had to tell somebody! And besides, I felt it would be good for him to
think you cared for Biddy. Being jealous might wake him up to see that
he was in love with her himself. He really is rather a duffer, at
times! And oh, talking of him and Biddy reminds me of them! Where can
they be, all this time?"
"Heaven alone knows--or cares," replied Anthony. And I realized the
truth of the proverb about listeners, even where their best friends are
concerned. I was obliged to kiss Biddy to keep from laughing out loud.
And she couldn't scream or box my ears, or all our dreadful precautions
would have been vain.
"We must find them," said Monny.
"Oh, if we don't, they might find us."
Anthony laughed--a give-away, English-sounding laugh. But Monny did not
recognize its birthplace. Her own laugh interrupted it too soon,
ringing out so happily, it probably surprised herself.
"_If_ they find us here!" quavered Biddy, clinging to me.
"They can't, if only you'll let me hold you tight enough," I whispered.
"If they look in, they'll just take us for a black spot in the dark!"
But they didn't look in. They went downstairs. And then was the time to
get in the rest of my deadly work with Biddy. We _must_ wait a few
minutes, or they couldn't help knowing we'd been near them: and I made
the best use of those few minutes. Biddy wouldn't promise anything, but
said that she would think it over, and let me know the result of her
thinking in a day or two.
To our great surprise, on arriving in open air at the level of the roof
below, we saw that the sun was gone, and a slim young moon was sliding
down the rose-red trail. It is indeed wonderful, say prophets of the
obvious, how quickly time passes when your attention is engaged! And
one comfort of being obvious is, that you are generally right.
We tried to flit forth from the dark recess of the pylon stairway
without being seen or heard; but as luck would have it, Monny and
Fenton had had just time to discover that our boat was gone. The girl
was hunting for us, to see if we were "anywhere," or if in some mad
freak we could have gone off and left them to their fate. As we sneaked
guiltily out, she caught us.
"Biddy! Lord Ernest!" she exclaimed. "Why--why--you have been
A good rule for diplomats, duffers, and others, is never to tell a
falsehood when there is no hope that any one will believe it.
"We--er--yes," we both mumbled.
"But--there isn't any upstairs except--where we were."
"Yes there is," Biddy assured her hastily--too hastily. "You were on
the roof. We were in the little room of the guardian."
"He showed it to us. There's a window. Oh, we were _under_ it! You must
both have heard."
"Murder will out," I said, with the calmness of despair. But then it
occurred to me that there was a way of using the weapon which
threatened, as a boomerang.
"Dearest," Biddy adjured her beloved, humbly, "you wouldn't have had us
spoil everything by moving, would you? I said to the Duffer when he
wanted to do something desperate, 'If we interrupt them, nothing will
ever come right--'"
"Besides, we were too busy getting engaged ourselves," said I, "to
bother for long about what anybody else was saying or doing."
"You _were_! Oh, Biddy, that's what I've prayed for."
"Nothing of the sort!" began Mrs. O'Brien, ferociously. But the
boomerang had come to my hand, and I'd caught it on the fly. Before she
could go on contradicting me, Anthony, followed by the guardian of the
temple, had mounted the steps from the lower ledge of the roof, where
we had landed in the afternoon.
"It wasn't you who took the boat, then, for a joke!" said Fenton, at
sight of us. And the mystery of our felucca's disappearance had to be
discussed. Biddy saw to it that Monny couldn't edge in a word on the
forbidden subject. How those two would talk later, in Miss Gilder's
Nobody could explain what had happened, not even the guardian. He, it
seemed, spent his night at the siren temple in the water, sleeping in
the cell where I had blackmailed Biddy, and not even appearing to know
that the custom scintillated with romance. By and by his companion who
joined him for night work, would arrive in a small boat, bringing food;
but this man rowed himself, and neither could leave the temple again
"You will lend the boat to us," said Anthony. "We'll row, and send it
back to you here by some one who is trustworthy."
"We have no right to lend the boat," returned the Nubian.
"Then I will steal it," replied the Hadji.
But none of us cared how long a time might pass before deliverance
came. The _Enchantress Isis_ couldn't steam away and leave her
Conductor behind. As Mrs. East had disappeared, I vaguely associated
the puzzle of our missing craft with Sir Marcus; and anyhow, curiosity
wasn't the strongest emotion in my being just then. I thought that
perhaps never in my life again would love and romance and beauty all
blend together in one, as here at Philae in the moonlight. The sharp
sickle of the young moon cut a silver edge on each tiny wave, that
murmured against the submerged pillars like a chanting of priests under
the sea. The temple commemorating love triumphant was carved in silver,
and drowned in a silver flood. The flowering capitals of the columns as
they showed above the water, blossomed white as lilies bound together
in sheaves with silver cords, and placed before an altar.
Yes, Egypt was giving us what we asked. But would she give us all we
asked? Just as there might have been a renewed chance of getting an
answer to this question, black men in a black boat hailed us. Sir
Marcus had deigned at last to remember our plight.
THE INNER SANCTUARY
We made a sensation when we returned to the fold. Everybody wondered so
much that they gave us no time to answer their questions, even if we
would. But somehow it seemed to be taken for granted that the whole
thing was my fault. Perhaps Mrs. East or Sir Marcus had spread the
report. I let it pass.
As for Sir Marcus, he stayed only long enough for a talk with me. It
began with trumped-up business, and ended in a confession. She had
snubbed him, it seemed. Snubs being new to Sir Marcus, he had been
dazed, and had forgotten for a while to send us a boat. I assured him
that we bore no grudge, really none whatever. It had been quite an
adventure. And I tried to cheer him up. Better luck next time! Why
wouldn't he go on with us? Fenton and I could chum together, to give
him cabin-room. And Neill Sheridan, the American Egyptologist, had let
me know that he was obliged to leave us at Wady Haifa. There would be
an empty cabin, going down again. But no, the "Boss" refused his
Conductor's hospitality. "I think the less she sees of me, the better
she likes me," he said dismally. "She was civil enough until I--but no
matter. I suppose a man can't expect his luck to always hold."
"Don't split your infinitives till things get desperate," I begged. "It
hasn't come to that yet. If you must go back, I'll take it on my
shoulders to watch your private interests a bit, as well as the rest.
Look out for a telegram one of these fine days, saying 'Come at once.'
You'll know what it means."
"I will, bless you, my boy," he said heartily. "Though I am hanged if I
know what you mean by a split infinitive. I hope if its improper, I've
never inadvertently done it before a lady."
There seemed to be an atmosphere of suspense for everybody who
mattered, as we steamed on between strange black mountainettes, and
tiger-golden sands toward Wady Halfa. Anthony was in suspense about the
way his fate might arrange itself at Khartum. I was in suspense as to
Biddy's decision, which nothing I was able to say could wheedle or
browbeat out of her. He and I were both in suspense together, about the
Mountain of the Golden Pyramid. It would be ours now, we knew that. But
what would be in it? Would it be full of treasure, or full of nothing
but mountain, just as a crusty baked pudding is full of pudding? The
doubt was harder to bear, now that Anthony was in love with a very rich
girl, and desired something from the mountain more substantial than the
adventure which would once have contented him. Harder to bear for me,
too, wanting Biddy and wanting to give her luxury as well as peace,
such as she had never known in her life of tragedy and brave laughter.
Monny was in suspense quite equal to Anthony's about Khartum, and what
could possibly happen there to give her happiness. Brigit was in
suspense about the two men who had so strangely and secretly worked
with their spy, Bedr, and whom she expected to meet again later. Rachel
was in suspense about Bailey, although I had told her it was "going to
be all right," and he had said not a word of the business to her. What
she wanted, was to make sure of him, and there was the difficulty at
present, since we had failed to arrange for a registry-office or a
clergyman on board. Other hearts were no doubt throbbing with the same
emotions, but they were of comparatively small importance to me.
Our feelings were all so different and so much more intense than they
had been, that the extraordinary difference in the scenery gave us a
vague sense of satisfaction. We were in another world, now that we had
heard the first cataract's roar, and left it behind; a world utterly
unlike any conceptions we had formed of Egypt. But we did not for a
long time leave the influence of the Barrage. Black rocks ringed in a
blue basin so lake-like that it was hard to realize it as the Nile. Now
and then a yellow river of sand poured down to the sapphire sea, and
where its bright waves were reflected, the water became liquid gold
under a surface of blue glass. The sky was overcast, and through a
thick silver veil, the sun shone with a mystic light as of a lamp
burning in an alabaster globe; yet the flaming gold of the sand created
an illusion as of sunshine. It was as if the treasure of all the lost
mines of Nub had been flung out on the black rocks, and lay in a
glittering carpet there.
We passed small, submerged temples, with their foreheads just above
water; drowning palm groves whose plumes trailed sadly on the blue
expanse, and deserted mud-villages where the high Nile looked in at
open doors to say, "This is for Egypt's good!"
Then there was the little Temple of Dendur, whose patron goddess was
prayed to spit if rain were needed; and so many other ruined temples
that we lost count (though one was the largest in Nubia) until we came
to Wadi-es-Sabu�, "the Valley of the Lions." This we remembered, not
because it was imposing, or because it had a dromos of noble-faced
sphinxes--the only hawk-faced ones in Egypt--or because of its
prehistoric writings, on dark boulders; or because it had been used as
a Christian Church: but owing to the fact that the ladies bought rag
dolls from little Nubian girls, who wore their hair in a million
greased braids. Here the influence of the Dam faded out of sight.
Forlorn trees and houses no longer crawled half out of water. Mountains
crowded down to the shore, wild and dark and stately as Nubian warriors
of ancient days. Then came Korosko, point of departure for the old
caravan route, where kings of forgotten Egyptian dynasties sent for
acacia wood, and Englishmen in the Campaign of the Cataracts fought and
died; deserted now, with houses dead and decayed, their windows staring
like the eye-sockets of skulls; and the black, tortured mountain-shapes
behind, lurking in the background as hyenas lurk to prey. More temples,
and many sakkeyehs (no shadoofs here, on the Upper Nile) but few boats.
The spacious times were past, when loads of pink granite,
honey-coloured sandstone, fragrant woods, and spices from the Land of
Punt, went floating down the stream!
There were tombs as well as temples which we might have seen, savage
gorges and mild green hills. There was the great grim fort of Kasr
Ibrim; and at last--there was Abu Simbel.
Somehow I knew that things were bound to happen at Abu Simbel. I didn't
know what they would be, but they hovered invisible at my berth-side in
the night, and whispered to warn me that I might expect them.
A few people rose stealthily before dawn to prepare for Abu Simbel,
because it had been hammered into their intellects by me that this
Rock-Temple was the Great Thing of the Upper Nile. Also that every he,
she, or it, who did not behold the place at sunrise would be as mean a
worm as one who had not read the "Arabian Nights."
Not everybody heeded the advice, though at bedtime most had resolved to
do so. We had anchored for the night not far off, in order to have the
mysterious light before sun-up, to go on again, and see the grand
approach to the grandest temple of the Old World. But after all, most
of the cabin eyelids were still down when we arrived before dawn at our
journey's end, and only a few intrepid ghosts flitted out on deck;
elderly male ghosts in thick dressing-gowns: youthful ghosts of the
same sex, fully clothed and decently groomed because of cloaked
girl-ghosts, with floating hair (if there were enough to float
effectively: others made a virtue of having it put up): and middle-aged
female ghosts, with transformations apparently hind-side in front.
No ghost's looks mattered much, however, for good or ill, once the
slowly moving _Enchantress_ had swept aside a purple curtain of
distance and shown us such a stagesetting as only Nature's stupendous
theatre can give.
It was a stage still dimly, but most effectively revealed: lights down:
pale blue, lilac and cold green; a thrilling, almost sinister
combination: no gold or rose switched on yet. Turned obliquely toward
the river, facing slightly northward, four figures sat on thrones,
super-giants, immobile, incredible, against a background of rock whence
they had been released by forgotten sculptors--released to live while
the world lasted. These seated kings gave the first shock of awed
admiration; then lesser marvels detached themselves in detail from the
shadows of the vast fa�ade; the frieze, the cornice, the sun-god in his
niche over the door of the Great Temple: the smaller Temple of Hathor,
divided from her huge brother by a cataract of sand, whose piled gold-dust
already called the sun, as a magnet calls iron.
The stage-lights were still down when the _Enchantress_ moored by the
river bank, within a comparatively short walk of the mountain which
Rameses II had turned into a temple, as usual glorifying himself. But
though the walk was comparatively short, on second thoughts elderly
ghosts already chilled to the bone, funked it on empty stomachs. They
made various excuses for putting off the excursion (the boat was to
remain till late afternoon), until finally the sun-worshippers were
reduced to a party of ten.
Since Philae, Biddy had kept out of my way when she could do so without
being actually rude; but as our small, shivering procession formed, she
suddenly appeared at my side. Thus we two headed the band, save for a
sleepy dragoman who knew the rather intricate paths through scaly dried
mud, sand, and vegetation.
"I want to say something to you, Duffer," she murmured; and the
roughness of the way excused me for slipping her arm through mine.
"Not as much as I want to say something to you," I retorted fervently.