E-text prepared by Al Haines
THERE WAS A KING IN EGYPT
Author of "Catherine Sterling," "By the Waters of Germany," "By the Waters of Sicily," "The Second Woman," "The Gods' Carnival," "A Wife Out of Egypt" "On Desert Altars," "On Etna," Etc. Etc.
London Stanley Paul & Co 31 Essex Street, Strand, W.C.2
First published in 1918
The monarch indicated in There was a King in Egypt is Akhnaton, the heretic Pharaoh, first brought home to the English reader by the well known Egyptian archaeologist, Mr. Arthur Weigall. Akhnaton, or Amenhotep IV., has an interest for the whole world as the first Messiah. Like Our Lord, he was of Syrian parentage—on the mother's side. Interest in him is undying, because underlying his Sun-symbolism we have the first foreshadowings of the altruism of Christianity.
The book is not directly devoted to Akhnaton. It is about a young English Egyptologist, who is excavating the tomb of Akhnaton's mother, in which the Pharaoh's exhumed body found its final repose; his sister; and an Irish mystic, who copies the tomb-paintings excavated before their freshness fades. Aton-worship and Mohammedanism have an almost equal fascination for this Irishman, and the romance is permeated with their mysticism. The prophecies of a Mohammedan saint who has attained the light by a life of abstinence and self-discipline, influence the current of the romance no less than the visions of the Pharaoh Messiah, whose pure religion threatened his country with disasters like the Russian revolution.
For the historical facts I am indebted to the brilliant Akhnaton, Pharaoh of Egypt, of Mr. Weigall, late Chief Inspector of Monuments in Upper Egypt. The character of the Egyptian Messiah has fascinated me ever since I began to read Egyptian history, and Mr. Weigall writes with the grace and colour of a Pierre Loti. I have always used his translations of Akhnaton's words, and very often his own words in describing Akhnaton.
I take this opportunity of thanking Mr. Weigall for his ungrudging permission to quote from him, and I should like him to know that his book was the inspiration of There was a King in Egypt.
I must also acknowledge my indebtedness to Mr. Walter Tyndall's fine volume, Below the Cataracts,—he is equally successful as author and artist—for my description of the tomb of Queen Thiy.
The teachings of the reformed Mohammedanism scattered through my book are derived from the propaganda works of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, especially his Teachings of Islam.
I trust that my readers will find the mysticism of the book not a clog upon the wheels of the romance of Excavation in Egypt, but Virgil's "vital breeze."
NORMA LORIMER. 7, PITCULLEN TERRACE, PERTH, SCOTLAND.
 Published by Wm. Blackwood & Sons.
 Published by Heinemann.
 Published by Dulau.
THERE WAS A KING IN EGYPT
Dawn held the world in stillness. In the vast stretches of barren hills and soft sands there was nothing living or stirring but the figure of an Englishman, standing at the door of his tent.
At the hour of sunrise and sunset the East is its own. Every suggestion of Western influence and foreign invasion is wiped out. The going and the coming of the sun throws the land of the Pharaohs, the kingdom of Ra, the great Sun God, whose cradle was at Heliopolis, back to the days when Egypt was the world; to the days when the sun governed the religion of her people; to the days when civilization had barely touched the Mediterranean and the world knew not Rome; back again to the days when the Nile, the Mother of Life, bordered by bands of fertile, food-giving land, had not as yet sheltered the infant Moses in her reeds. Dawn in Egypt is the dawn of civilization.
Each dawn saw Michael Amory, wrapped in his thickest coat, standing outside his tent, watching and waiting for the glory of Egypt, for Ra, the Sun God, to appear above the horizon of the desert.
To stand alone, nerve-tense and oppressed by the soundless sands, and surrounded by the Theban Hills, in whose bosoms lie the eternal remains of the world's first kings, drew him so strongly that, tired as he might be with his previous day's work, he seldom slept later than the hour which links us with the day that is past and the morrow which holds the magic of the future.
For that half-hour only his higher self was conscious of existence, and it was infinitely nearer to God than he was aware of. The silence of the desert and its simplicity, which to the complex mind of Western man is so mysterious, banished all material thoughts and even the consciousness of his own body, and left him a naked soul, alone in the world, encompassed with Divinity, a world whose hills and rolling sands had known neither labour nor strife, nor the despotism of kings.
For the dead Pharaohs, lying in their tombs under the hills, in the grandest monuments ever wrought by the vanity of man, were forgotten. His long days of labour in their depths might never have been. Man and his place in the universe were wiped out.
The cold was intense. Michael shivered and turned up the collar of his coat. A faint light had appeared on the horizon, a pale streak like a silver thread, which widened and widened until it spread into the higher heavens; with its spreading the indefinite forms of moving figures appeared—ghostly figures of dawn.
Michael knew that they would appear; he knew that, just as soon as the streak of light grew in width from a faint thread to a wider band, he would see them, dignified, stately figures, like white-robed priests, walking desertwards from the horizon to his tent.
Although he had seen the same figures every morning for some months, he was not tired of watching them. It always gave him pleasure to recall how vividly they had at first reminded him of the pictures, familiar to him as a boy, of the Wise Men following the star in the east. But these were not wise men coming to pay homage or bring presents to the Galilean Babe who came to be called the Prince of Peace; they were the Mohammedan workmen who were employed by the Exploration School to which Michael Amory had attached himself; their labour was confined to the rougher preliminary digging and the clearing away of the accumulation of sand and debris on sites which had been selected for excavation.
As the dawn slipped back and counted itself with the years that are spent and the first yellow gleam appeared in the sky, Michael saw the tall figures go down on their knees and press their foreheads to the sand. It was their third prayer of the day: devout Mohammedans begin their new day at sunset; their second prayer is at nightfall, when it is quite dark; their third is at daybreak.
Michael knew that the moment el isfirar, or the first yellow glow, appeared in the heavens, the white figures would turn to the east and perform their subh, or daybreak devotion. He knew that it would be finished before the golden globe appeared above the rim of the desert, for did not the Prophet counsel his people not to pray exactly at sunrise or sunset or at noon, because they might be confounded with the infidels who worshipped the sun? Yet it gave him a fresh thrill each morning to watch these desert worshippers prostrate themselves in undoubting faith before their omnipotent God. In the untrodden desert, with its mingling of sky and sand, their perfect trust and faith in Allah seemed a convincing and evident belief. At such times he forgot that these same men were the children of Superstition and that one and all of them were held in the bondage of genii. He also forgot that their performance of five prayers a day, which is the number prescribed for the devout, did not necessarily make them men of honour. A perfect trust in Allah gives a bad man a long rope.
As the figures drew nearer and the golden globe rested for one moment on the sands of the desert, for that one brief moment before its rays broke into the amazing splendour which is Egypt's, the world became less mysterious, more familiar. Things relating to the day's work forced themselves upon Michael's mind. His bath and breakfast and many other practical things began to usurp his thoughts, while the barking of dogs, the movement in the hut of the "boys," brought him back to the common, everyday life of the excavating camp.
While he was dressing he remembered that Freddy Lampton's sister was to arrive that day. For a moment or two his mind was completely usurped with a vision of what the girl would be like. Subconsciously his manhood quickened.
Yet the very idea of a woman intruding herself upon their strange and exquisitely-intellectual life—a life made healthy by the long hours of physical labour in the various portions of the excavation—slightly annoyed him.
Fleeting pictures of Lampton as a girl rose and faded before his eyes as he hurriedly shaved himself, slipped into his flannels and adjusted his necktie as punctiliously as though he were going to a tennis-party at Mena House Hotel. It is typical of Englishmen in the East that the young men in the excavating camps, and especially in the one to which Michael belonged, showed as much regard for their personal appearance and nicety of dress, even when their day's work was to be done in the bowels of the earth, down a shaft as deep as a mine, as they did in the golden days of their life at Oxford or Cambridge. Michael Amory was perhaps as a rule the least careful of the digging party, because he was by temperament a dreamer; and his friend, Freddy Lampton, knew that if he was not careful and on his guard he would become "a slacker." Freddy, in spite of his acknowledged ability as a scholar and Egyptologist, was practical and conventional in his methods and mode of living. Michael Amory had fits of exactness and fits of what he considered conventionality; he had also his fits of slackness, days in which Freddy Lampton would let his blue eyes rest on his carelessly-tied necktie, or on his shoelaces, which were an offence to his eyes. Freddy's exquisite delicacy of touch and his eyes, which were trained to a fine pitch of exactitude for minute detail, two characteristics essential for his work as an excavator, made it painful for him to be in the company of anyone who offended his sense of personal nicety.
But visions of Lampton's sister were to be dismissed. She would be good-looking, of course, because Freddy's sister could scarcely be anything else; his blue eyes, clear colouring and sunlit hair would be beautiful in a girl. But Michael Amory had no desire to encourage any thoughts which gave woman a place in his mind. The very visualizing of Lampton as a girl, comical as it had been, had forced before his eyes another face and another form which he had been striving to forget. Whenever he was idle, and too often when he was busy over some piece of work which ought to have engrossed his entire thoughts, her haunting charm and beauty would suddenly become more real and vivid than the bright blues and greens and reds of the pigments on the white walls of the tomb upon which he was at work. With well-practised mind-control he had learned to pull down a blind on her vision, to blot it out from his thoughts. On this morning, when he was hurrying through his dressing so as to be in time for breakfast, always a matter of difficulty with him, even though he had many hours in which to put on his few clothes, he shrank from thinking about the arrival of the girl who was coming to live with her brother in this strange valley, which had been the underground cemetery for countless centuries of the tomb-builders of Egypt.
When he was almost dressed and the sun was high in the heavens and its power was beginning to warm the night-chilled valley, a stone was flung into his tent. "Come out, you lazy beggar! The coffee's getting cold."
It was Lampton's voice and Lampton's nicety of aim. He had not been up since dawn; his boy had only brought him his cup of early tea half an hour ago, yet he was bathed and shaved and as neatly dressed as the most fastidious woman could desire.
"Right-ho!" Michael shouted back. "Don't wait for me."
"I should jolly well think I won't! Who'd be such an ass?" There was the best of human fellowship in Freddy's voice, but he knew his friend too well to risk the chance of spoiling his coffee by waiting for him.
After stretching out his arms and opening his lungs to the fresh dry air of the newborn day, Freddy turned into the dining-room. The mess-room and common sitting-room of the camp was in a wooden hut. Lampton's bedroom was at the back of it, as was also the one which had been set apart for his sister; it by right belonged to the Overseer-General and Controller of the Excavations and Monuments of Upper Egypt. Margaret Lampton was to use it and her brother was to evacuate his room when the overseer announced that he was coming to pay one of his visits of inspection to the camp.
Michael Amory lived in a tent, as did one or two other Englishmen who in busy and prosperous years helped in the work of excavating. At the present moment they were slack, which meant that funds were low and there was no fine work to be done which necessitated the individual spade and pick work of European Egyptologists. A new site was being cleared, so that the work had consisted for some time of the first clearing away of sand and stones and the debris which had collected during the thousands of years that had passed since the tomb which Freddy hoped to discover had been carved in the bowels of the earth, and the Pharaoh had been laid to rest in it. At such times there was little work for experts to do, so the camp shrank and left Lampton, who was the head of it, and one of England's finest Egyptologists, alone with his native workmen.
He had allowed his old Oxford chum, Michael Amory, to join him on condition that he put in so many hours' work every day in connection with the excavations. Michael's stipulated work, the work which he had undertaken to do, was the making of exact copies of the mural paintings and decorations, such as Lampton required, and to help in the evenings to clean and sort and arrange the small objects which the workmen found each day. In the debris they often found amulets and small earthenware vases and minute pieces of broken pottery, the very smallest of which suggested theories as regards the period and history of the monument. The texture of the glaze used, or the nature of the pottery itself, the small remnant of decoration on them, or the trademark on the broken base of a vase, all were valuable links in the chain of history which is unfolding itself to the eager eyes of Egyptian exploration schools.
When Michael at last appeared, Freddy looked up from his bacon and eggs. "I say, Margaret comes to-night."
"Yes, I know."
Freddy raised his blue eyes and gave Michael one of his quick glances. "Remembered, did you?"
"Yes—the fact suddenly came into my head when I was shaving. I say, what are you going to do with her? Won't she be awfully bored?"
"Margaret doesn't know what the word bored means. Give her enough freedom and lots of sunshine—that's all she wants."
"Sounds the right sort."'
"One of the best—old Margaret's all right!"
"Is she like you in appearance?"
"Good Lord, no!"
Michael's enthusiasm was damped. He wanted her to be like Freddy, to have his short, straight nose and his strong rounded chin and beautiful mouth. For his looks were wasted on a man; Michael wanted to see them repeated and softened in a girl. As his eyes rested contemplatingly on his companion's bent head and youthfully-lean figure, he began to visualize a very plain, dowdy sister. The "Good Lord, no!" probably meant that although Freddy was not the least vain of his own extraordinary good looks, he could not help exclaiming at the idea of his dowdy sister being considered like him.
Michael had never seen her, because Freddy and Margaret had been left orphans when they were little children. They had been adopted by different relatives, so that Michael had never had the opportunity of meeting his friend's sister while they were together at Oxford or when he visited Freddy in his uncle's home.
"Pass the marmalade!" said Freddy. "And I say, old chap, I wish you'd go and meet Margaret!"
Their eyes met as Michael handed him the marmalade, which was the one thing in the world which Lampton said he could not live without.
"Meet your sister?" Michael said. "I will, if you can't, but where?—and won't she expect you?"
"She ought to be on the ferry at five o'clock—I've made all the other arrangements, but I do wish you would meet her there and bring her up the valley. I simply can't, and Margaret knows that she is only allowed to come here on condition that her visit makes no earthly difference to my work. I daren't leave the men alone to-day—there's too much lying about. We are getting pretty 'hot' and they know it."
Michael looked up eagerly. "By Jove, is that so?"
"Getting hot" was expressive of getting close to a find. It was the old saying which they had used as children when they played hide-and-seek.
"Yes, I think we are on the right track and I want to get ahead, so if you will go down to the ferry and fetch her up here I'll be awfully obliged to you."
"Right you are, old chap. I'll be there at five o'clock, and if she's not punctual I'll do a bit of sketching. You're sure everything else will be all right?"
"I don't think she'll be late, because she is to be in Luxor by eleven o'clock. She is to rest there until it gets cooler and Abdul is to bring her over the river from the hotel. The donkeys will be at the ferry to meet her. Mohammed is very anxious for her to ride his camel" (Mohammed was the sheikh of the district); "he thinks it more proper and fitting for my sister to make her entry into his district on a camel, but I don't feel certain that Margaret would appreciate the honour. He is keen to 'do her proud.'"
"Good old Mohammed!" Michael said. "He has a great sense of dignity and convention."
"And of hospitality," Lampton said. "He never forgets that as the sheikh of the district he is its host as well."
That was all that was said about Margaret's arrival. The two men lapsed into silence until breakfast was over. If they had been two women discussing the coming of a man in their midst, there might have been more to say on the subject. In silence Freddy lit his cigarette and wandered into Margaret's room. It was as bare and plainly furnished as a convent cell or a room in a small log-hut in a frontier-camp in Canada—just the necessary bed and table, a washstand and one chair. It was scrupulously clean, and the white mosquito-curtain, which was suspended from the roof and dropped over the little iron bed like a bride's veil, gave the room a pleasant virginal atmosphere.
Freddy came back to the sitting-room, evidently satisfied. His quick eye had noticed that the "boy" had carried out his orders.
"Meg's an awful girl for books," he said, as he carried off a bundle of yellow-paper-bound French novels and one or two volumes of the Temple Classics to her room.
"She'd better begin on this," he said, as he returned in search of still more. "She can't do better"—he lifted up the weighty tome of Maspero's Dawn of Civilization.
"A bit dry, isn't it, for a beginner?"
"Not for Meg," Freddy said. "She can tackle pretty stiff stuff. At college she used to suck the guts out of a book like a weasel sucking blood from a rabbit."
"Blue stocking!" Michael said to himself. He abhorred the type of ardent, eager, studious woman with whom he had come in contact during his university life. "Able and abominable" he called them.
In less than ten minutes the two companions had separated; the one, with his paint-box and camp-stool in his hand, made his way to the tomb where he was copying with delicate and extraordinary exactitude the exquisite figures and heads painted on the walls and pillars of the vast building; the other directed his steps to the site where the band of native excavators was already at work.
What a strange sight it presented in the brilliant morning sunshine! To the untutored eye nothing more or less than a vast rubbish-heap of sand and stones and broken rocks, with here and there patches of sparsely-clad natives working away with pickaxes and the tall figure of a white-robed gaphir, standing on a hillock of sand, watching them with unremitting care. On the sides of the vast ashpits long lines of "boys," toiling like ants up steep inclines, were carrying rush-baskets full of rubbish on their shoulders.
Yet these ignorant fellahin were playing their part, and an indispensable one, in laying bare to modern eyes the history of the world's first civilization. This vast rubbish-heap, where men with pickaxes and boys with baskets, full of the dust and sand of ages, toiled from dawn until sunset, would in the course of time yield perhaps to the Egyptologist one of the long-looked-for links in the lost centuries of Egypt's story, or be transformed into a wonderful picture-gallery of Egyptian art.
Nothing could look less inviting, less interesting, as Freddy approached it, for as yet there was little or nothing for the untutored eye to see but the debris of familiar desert rubbish. But Freddy Lampton knew otherwise. Only yesterday the most experienced of the workmen had struck something hard, something which told him that they had finished with loose sand and broken rocks and had struck the ancient handiwork of man.
The site chosen had been a mere conjecture on Freddy Lampton's part, a conjecture guided by scientific knowledge and careful research. He felt convinced that the tomb which they were looking for was close to the spot where they were working. Indications such as the excavator looks for had decided him to begin work on the site. The discovery yesterday had been nothing more or less than the first indication of a narrow flight of steps, cut in the virgin desert rock, a stairway probably built by the tomb-builders for the use of the workmen, in order to carry away baskets of sand and rubbish without slipping.
The moment that the expert workman had come across this staircase, they had suspended work until "Effendi" had been sent for and found. Under his eye and partly by his own pickaxe, the little flight of embryo steps, with a very steep gradient, had been laid bare. In the vast expanse which the work covered, it seemed a very small thing, but the greatest underground temples—for the tombs are veritable temples—of Egypt, and some of the most wonderful of her monuments, have been discovered by far fainter clues. The little staircase, about twenty feet below the surface of the sand, was enough to fill the young Englishman's heart with hope. He had come upon man's handiwork—no doubt they would soon come upon more important masonry.
When all the workmen had saluted the Effendi with respectful salaams and returned to their common toil, Freddy Lampton addressed the native overseer. He was enveloped in a white woollen hooded cloak, for the heat of the day had not yet begun; he also wore a fine turban; while the fellahin who did the roughest work wore only white skull-caps and cotton drawers to their knees and full shirts of blue or white cotton, open from the neck to the waist. A few of the better-paid older men wore turbans of cheap white muslin, wrapped round brown felt skull-caps, or fezes. The carriers of rubbish, who received the smallest pay of any, dispensed with the drawers as well as with the turban. In the sunlight their one garment, a blue or white shirt, stood out against the yellow sand as they wound their way in Indian file from the low level of the excavation to the place in the desert where they threw down their burdens.
The gaphir led his master a few steps from where the staircase had been excavated the day before and then bade him look own. Freddy's quick eye detected a horizontal line of masonry, the beginning of a strongly-built wall. The men had earthed it that morning, it was only a narrow strip, but it would have been against the strictest rules to have excavated more without informing the "Effendi."
The gaphir, a splendid man and very reliable, adored his enthusiastic English master, whose good looks and well-bred, unfailing courtesy of speech alone would have made his personality irresistible to the Arab. Added to his good looks and to his manner of "one who is born to be obeyed," Freddy had courage and great ability and—best of all in the gaphir's eyes—a silent respect for the teachings of the Prophet.
After an inspection of the various points of excavation and a word of greeting here and there had been passed with upper workmen, those who had showed an intelligent interest in their work, Freddy returned to the exciting spot and with two or three men who had "fingers" and a "sense" of things, began his morning's picking.
While he worked away with youthful energy and an almost inspired intelligence, he could hear the toilers with the rubbish-baskets singing their monotonous chants. The word "Allah, Allah" came repeatedly to his ears. He had grown so accustomed to the words of their chants that he followed them subconsciously; the words "Allah, Lord of Kindness, Giver of Ease," rang out with monotonous persistence. Allah was to ease their burdens; Allah was to moisten their dry lips; the "Lord of the Worlds" was to hasten the time when the poor man might sit in the shade and smell the sweet scents of paradise and listen to the sound of running waters.
They chanted verses from the Koran as Jack Tars sing sea songs. In Mohammedan lands the song of Allah never dies.
Only occasionally Freddy heard the quaint words of some popular love-song, coming from the lips of one of the higher-class Arab workmen, a song as old as their tales of The Thousand and One Nights. One was drifting to his half-conscious ears at the moment; he was familiar with every word of it.
"A lover says to his dove, 'Send me your wings for a day.' The dove replied, 'The affair is vain.' I said, 'Some other day, that I may soar through the sky and see the face of the beloved; I shall obtain love enough for a year and will return, O dove, in a day.' The night! The night! O those sweet hands! Gather of the dewy peach! Whence were ye, and whence were we, when ye ensnared us?"
The Arab who was singing it was considered quite a musician amongst his fellow-workmen. He had earned his living for some years by singing love-songs on the small boats which drift up and down the Nile and in the cafes in Luxor. To English ears his talents as a singer would not have been recognized; the particular qualities which ensured the approval of his native audience would have caused much laughter in an English music-hall. Freddy Lampton, who knew something of Arab music, was able to recognize the singer's talents, but he was not near enough to hear the grunts of intense satisfaction and longing which the song was calling forth from the blue-shirted fellahin.
And so the hours of the morning wore on, until the sun was too powerful to allow even the natives to work, and Freddy Lampton wandered off to the tomb in which his friend was painting. The fellahin instantly untied the bundles which held their simple food and began their midday meal. Many of them prayed before eating; many of them did not.
When the meal was eaten, each man sought some vestige of shade, behind a mound of rock or an ash-heap of debris, or in the excavated channels of the site; there with full stomach and contented mind he would lay himself down to sleep, amid the heap of ruins which thousands of years ago had been the field of vast numbers of toilers, such as were he and his fellow-toilers, slaving for the glorification of an absolute monarch, whose kingdom was the civilized world. He cared not one jot nor tittle for what he had uncovered or what secrets the valley or hills had hidden from men for countless centuries. Filling baskets full of rubbish was his work, his method of earning a living, and it mattered nothing to him whether the rubbish was culled from the golden sand of the most wonderful valley in the world, or thrown out of the filthy ashbins in the native city of Cairo. Toil was all one thing to him; it had no interest, it suggested no varieties. Allah had willed it. The clear blue sky and the sunlit hills, with their tombs and tombs and endless tombs stretching further and further into the western valley, they, too, were Allah's will, as were the dark, evil-smelling streets of the city, with their noise and the crowding of human and animal beasts of burden.
As Freddy approached Michael Amory a look of satisfaction spread over his face. "Mike," as he called him, was so busily engrossed in his work that he did not look up. He was making a delicate and extraordinarily exact reproduction on paper of a figure of an Egyptian King making offerings to an enthroned Osiris. No other artist had ever done the same work with his delicacy of touch and exactness of detail. The picture on his easel looked as if he had cut a square block out of the polished limestone which held the tinted relief of the King making the offering to the god, and set it upon his easel.
Freddy was proud of Michael and not a little surprised at the rapidity with which he had grasped the nature of his excavation work, which was not only the opening up of fresh monuments for the pleasure of the public, but the search after missing links and the verifying of well-founded conjectures. He knew that Michael had read a fair amount of Egyptian history, that he had specialized in one period, and that he had studied, in his own fashion, something of the mythology of ancient Egypt, but he was quite unprepared for the "sense" of the more serious part of the work which he had shown.
Besides which, Freddy knew more than Michael thought he did of the new distraction which had disturbed his mind.
About once in ten days Freddy found it almost necessary to go to Assuan or Luxor and there throw himself heart and soul into the festivities of the foreign hotel society. For one night and half a day he played tennis and danced and was young again. These periodical outings and his private hobbies kept his mind and nerves well balanced. At his age it was scarcely healthy for a sport-loving, normal Englishman to spend his days and nights all alone, in the silent valley in the hills, his only companions the mummies of Pharaohs and the bones unearthed from subterranean tombs. But Freddy slept as happily and as soundly with mummies in his room and ancient skulls below his bed as he did in the modern, conventional bedroom of the big hotel at Assuan.
Michael had accompanied him to these dances, and Freddy had noticed that on each occasion he was very much engrossed by the company of an Englishwoman of whom he had heard a good deal that was ugly and unpleasant. He had long ago ceased to pay any attention to the scandals which were related to him each season about the English and American women who came to Egypt for the sake of the climate and for its hotel-society—ugly stories, generally greatly exaggerated, but often with a foundation of unsavoury truth in them. The sands of Egypt breed scandals as quickly as the climate degenerates the morals of shallow-minded tourists. But this woman Freddy knew to be as dangerous as she was charming; and he also knew the enthusiastic nature of Michael and how it was temperamental with him to place all women on pedestals and worship them as pure, high beings, far above mere men. Fallen idols never shattered his belief; they were simply forgotten.
Since Michael had met the beautiful Mrs. Mervill, Freddy had noticed that he had fits of abstraction, and that instead of working overtime, as was his habit, he was now as prompt as the fellahin to "down tools" at the precise moment.
Freddy "had no use" for the woman. His practical mind had summed her up at a glance. But he was afraid that his friend might drift into a very undesirable friendship with her. She would enjoy his simplicity, for he seemed to have been born without guile, while his intellectual fascination was not to be denied. Michael was generous, impetuous and reckless.
"I'm not going to disturb you," Freddy said. "We'll meet at lunch."
"Right-ho!" Michael said. "I've almost finished."
"Looks as if you'd blown the thing on to the paper this time," Freddy said. "Gad, it's topping!"
Michael said nothing, but he glowed inwardly. A word of enthusiastic praise from Freddy was worth all his morning's toil in the breathless, stuffy tomb-chamber of the Pharaoh whose embalmed remains it contained.
Freddy returned to his hut and flung himself down in a cane lounge-chair in as cool a spot as he could find. He picked up a French novel and lit a cigarette.
Lying there, in his white flannels, reading Marie Claire, who would have thought that he was one of the most able Egyptologists of the day, of the younger school, or that he controlled so important a section of the English School of Archaeology in Egypt?
Meanwhile the simple meal was being laid with a neatness and convention which was a striking contrast to the wooden hut and scarcity of furniture in the room. The Arab who was setting the table was a perfect parlourmaid, a product of Freddy's teaching. The only thing Freddy was proud of was his ability to train and make good servants. Mohammed Ali's table-waiting really pleased him. He thought Meg would approve of him. He was an intelligent lad and proud of his English master, who seemed to think that telling a lie for the sake of being polite or kind was really a sin. In fact, the Effendi was very rarely cross, except when Mohammed forgot and told a lie. Sometimes it was very hard to tell the truth when a lie would, he knew, make his master happy. While he set the table he felt his master's eyes were on him, even though he was reading a love story which was so beautiful that he had seen, or thought he had seen, tears in the eyes of Effendi Amory, when he was reading it the night before.
Teddy was not finding the beautiful story of the Frenchwoman go interesting as Mohammed Ali imagined. He had allowed the days to pass, with all their engrossing interest, without giving much thought to Margaret's coming or what she would do with herself, or how her presence would affect their daily life.
Now in a few hours she would be with them. This was, in fact, his last meal alone with Mike. He had never bothered about the matter because Meg was such a good sort and so jolly well able to amuse and look after herself. The days had just passed, and now she was coming, Meg, who was his best friend in the whole world, Meg who in his eyes had the mind of a boy and the sympathy of a woman.
At five o'clock Michael Amory, true to his word, was down at the ferry, awaiting the arrival of Margaret Lampton. The ferry-boat was pulling across the Nile; he would soon be able to distinguish her. In all probability no other Englishwoman would be crossing to the western bank of the river at so late an hour. Tourists who came to visit the Colossi of Memnon, whose song to the dawn never dies, or to "do" the ruins of the Hundred-Gated city of Thebes, came much earlier in the day.
While the boat was drifting slowly across, Michael's eyes rested lovingly on his surroundings. If the girl was appreciative of Nile scenery, how greatly it must be impressing her!
Boats, like white birds with big crossed wings, flew past him on the pale blue river. Heavy, flat-bottomed barges, coming up from the pottery factories, laden with jars which were to be used for the building of native houses, drifted past, with their well-stacked, squarely-built cargoes piled high like stacks of grain. One barge, with a wide brown sail, was full of fresh green melons. Across the river, on the opposite bank, bands of women, enveloped in black and walking in Indian file on the yellow sands, carrying water-jars on their heads, were wending their way to their mud villages. The gleam of their metal anklets caught the sunlight.
But the ferry-boat was drawing close to the bank; the next minute he would be able to distinguish Freddy's sister, with Abdul in attendance. The other passengers, with native politeness, were already making way for the English Sitt and her servant to go ashore.
Michael hurried forward to greet her. Margaret's blue veil hid her features until he was quite close to her.
"I'm Michael Amory, I live with your brother," Michael said. "I have come to bring you to his camp. He was too busy, or he would have been here himself—he asked me to apologize to you."
Margaret's long firm fingers gave Michael's outstretched hand a grateful grasp. Michael, whose sensibilities were very near the surface, lost nothing of the girl's meaning. A feeling of relief soothed his anxiety.
"How awfully kind of you to come!" she said. "I knew Freddy would be busy, digging up something that was once somebody, four thousand years ago."
"That's about it," Michael said. "As I could be spared and he couldn't, he asked me to look to your arrival and bring you to the camp."
Abdul had hurried on to see that the donkeys were properly harnessed and all in good order for the long ride across the plain and through the immortal valley.
"Are you excavating too?" Margaret asked.
"I'm allowed to do a little 'picking' under your brother's eyes, but my real job is painting. I'm only dabbling in archaeology as yet."
"Painting in connection with his School of Excavation?"
"Yes. Sometimes it is necessary to make almost instant copies of the excavated paintings, while the colours are fresh and the text legible."
"Isn't it all awfully interesting?" the girl asked. "I feel almost afraid to come in amongst you, for I know literally nothing about Egyptology. I've only once been in the Egyptian section of the British Museum, and that's the sum total of my knowledge."
"You will have to learn. Your brother put a huge tome of Maspero's The Dawn of Civilization in your room this morning; he means you to start right away."
"Good old Freddy!" Margaret said, and as she smiled, Michael for the first time saw her likeness to her brother; it had escaped him before, because Freddy was very fair and Margaret was duskily dark. He could see that even through her blue veil. When she smiled and showed the same sharp-looking, well-formed teeth, as white as porcelain, Michael knew that if the girl had only been fair instead of dark, she would be almost the exact duplicate of her brother. But the expression of her grey-brown eyes was different; they were steadfast, calm eyes, which moved more slowly; they were softer than her brother's.
This Michael could scarcely see, screened as she was by her veil. But her firm handshake and the long unflinching gaze of her "How do you do?" told him why Freddy always spoke of his sister in tones which implied that she was as reliable as a man and a "topping pal."
They had reached the spot where the donkeys were waiting for them. Margaret's was a fine, well-bred animal, called Sappho, with a skin as smooth as a white suede glove; it stood almost as high as a mule. Her saddle, too, was a new one, and well-fitting—Freddy had seen to that. The old Sheikh, who was turbanned and robed after the manner of Moses or Aaron, was presented to her. His pale grey camel was waiting for him at a little distance from the donkeys. It looked very dignified, with its white sheepskin flung over the saddle and its fine assortment of charms. Little tufts of thick hair had been left on its thighs and at its knees and neck; the artist who had clipped it had evidently admired the fancy shaving of some resplendent French poodle.
Margaret felt oddly important and very shy. Such a cavalcade seemed to have come to meet her. Her attempt at polite rejoinders to the old Sheikh's graceful and flattering speeches of welcome had all to be passed through Abdul, and probably delivered them in a more gracious form than Margaret was capable of expressing them. Abdul was quite accustomed to the abrupt and mannerless ways of the foreigners and to their crude speech; he knew that it meant no offence nor indicated any lack of gratitude or graciousness.
The Sheikh expressed his willingness to put his camel at Margaret's disposal, but as her brother had told him that the honourable Sitt would probably prefer to ride a donkey, all he could do was to again assure her that it would bestow honour on him if she would ride it, or in the future make use of it whenever she felt disposed. That is what Margaret made out of the endless, elaborate speeches which were translated to her.
At last they were all mounted and on their way. Margaret found it very difficult to keep up any sort of conversation with her companions, for her boy, anxious to do honour to his mistress's donkey, kept Sappho well ahead of Michael Amory's mule. She had only been one week in Egypt, so everything which she passed was still an object of interest and curiosity, but fortunately almost everything explained itself to her, like the illustrations of a book of the Old Testament.
They had turned their backs on the river, with its boats and birds and beasts and drum-beating and yelling fellahin, and were now in the silence of the green plain, where the blue-shirted fellahin were working knee-deep in the new crops. The inundation was just over, and the banks of the Nile were as bright as two long velvet ribbons of emerald green.
And now they were off the plain and had passed the Temple of Kurneh and the little Coptic village, which was the last link with civilization until their long ride up the valley terminated in the Excavation Camp.
In the valley they rode side by side, for the donkey-boy's enthusiasm had distinctly abated. Margaret did not know anything about the valley, beyond the fact that it was called the Valley of the Tombs of the Kings. She had not yet "done" any tombs, as she had not come up the Nile by boat—it was cheaper and quicker for her to do the journey from Cairo to Luxor by train. So far she had not been in the hands of Cook. Freddy had told her that the money she would have to spend on the steamer she could spend better later on, and she would be more able to appreciate the tombs and temples, which most tourists see when they know too little about things Egyptian to appreciate them.
Knowing nothing of the story of the great valley, it was interesting to Michael to watch the effect it had on the girl—an extraordinary silence and its atmosphere of profound mystery. Their attempt to talk to each other soon failed, for Margaret was no good at either banter or small talk.
For the time being the valley, with its barren cliffs rising higher and higher on each side of her, and its world of soft pink light, held her. The wide cliff-bound road, which wound its way like a white thread through a maze of light and sun-pink hills, seemed to be leading her further and further into the heart of Egypt, to the very bosom of her children's ancient kingdom.
Margaret was totally ignorant of the fact that the tombs which give the valley its modern name lay in all their desolate splendour in the bowels of the earth, under the cliffs on either side of her. Her sense of the valley was not mental, it was not derived from books or a knowledge of Egypt's history.
Why it so affected her she could not imagine. It did not depress her so much as it awed her. The light on the hills was the light of happiness, and the blueness of the clear sky banished all idea of sadness which a valley called the Valley of Tombs might have suggested. Yet it did affect her so profoundly that she accepted the idea that in entering this valley of desolation she was entering on a new phase of her existence. She felt suddenly older and wiser and strangely apprehensive.
The Sheikh, on his swaying camel, riding on ahead, the donkey-boys, with their fleet limbs and blue shirts clinging to them as they ran, were becoming immortal in her memory. Years would never efface the picture. Only Michael Amory and herself, in their European clothes, had no place in it. They were intruders.
Not a bird crossed their path, not a falcon circled over the tops of the cliffs. On the Nile thousands of birds had looked black against the sunlight as they came to the great river to drink.
"Why does this valley, with its pink sunlight, make talking out of the question?" Margaret at last said. "Please forgive me if I am a very poor companion."
Michael, who had been glad that she had not spoken—he would not have liked her so well if she had—said, "Please don't feel compelled to talk. I came to help you if you needed help, not to bother you or spoil your enjoyment."
"Thank you," she said. "I simply couldn't talk. Does one enjoy Egypt?" she asked the question pertinently.
They rode on in silence again and Michael was pleased that temperamentally she seemed to "feel" Egypt. There had been no suggestion of psychic influence in her very evident acceptance of the power of Egypt—just a simple awe, which was to Michael absolutely natural.
Presently she said, "Does my brother live all alone in this valley?"
"Practically alone, for some months in each year. I am with him just now, and in the daytime there are the workmen. At night he is alone with his two Sudanese house-servants; but he is well protected—his watch-dogs sit round his hut and nothing human would dare venture near them after dark."
Margaret tried to laugh. "Dogs!" she said. "Dogs couldn't keep off this"—she indicated the valley.
Michael knew what she meant. Not a green blade of grass, not the smallest patch of herb was visible. To Margaret they seemed to be floating rather than riding through the pink light of another world.
"No, not this," Michael said. "But your brother's a marvel. I couldn't do it. Yet even he has to leave it now and then; sometimes he spends a night in frivolling in Luxor or Assuan."
As the vision of Luxor hotels, with their company of fashionably-clothed and overfed tourists, rose up before the girl, she laughed more naturally. But in the valley her laughter sounded wrong; she quickly hushed it.
"Fancy Luxor hotels after this! It certainly is going to extremes—personally, their society would bore me, but I should think that it was good for Freddy."
"Quite necessary," Michael said. "And he's awfully popular at the dances. I often wonder what some of his partners would say if they could see him as I do, pick in hand, down in the bowels of the earth or under the blazing sun of the desert, for days and days on end! Your brother's quite wonderful."
"I'm longing to see him at work," Margaret said. "I think his life sounds most exciting and interesting."
"Don't expect too much—it is amazingly interesting, but we don't open a tomb of Queen Thi every day."
"What tomb was that? Something very special?"
"Yes, very." Michael said the words very simply, but it struck him as odd that Freddy's sister should never have even heard of the tomb of Queen Thi. "At the present time he has just unearthed a small staircase in the sand and a bit of a brick wall, which may lead to the tomb he is looking for, or they may end in nothing, for sometimes the ancient tomb-builders began to dig and work upon a tomb and eventually abandoned the site as hopeless—the sand was too soft, which meant the constant falling of sand before they struck a foundation of rock, or for some other reason—so after days and days of excavating we find that the whole thing is a fraud, just the mere beginning of a tomb which was never finished. Then other times he finds a tomb and after endless work at it—you can't imagine how much work it entails—he discovers that it was robbed of every single thing of value, probably by the sexton who was in charge of it when it was first built—all the jewels and scarabs and things had been looted; probably they were stolen only a few weeks after the mummy was laid in it."
Margaret remained silent. She was thinking and thinking, new and bewildering thoughts were rushing through her mind Before she could in the least appreciate this new life what a lot she had to learn!
"An excavator's life isn't a bed of roses—it doesn't consist picking up jewels and mummy-beads and beautiful amulets and rare scarabs and valuable parchments in every tomb which is opened. It's hard, hard work, with any amount of boring, minute detail and scientific work attached to it."
Margaret thought for a moment. To speak at all upon a subject of which she knew absolutely nothing was not in her nature.
"Shall we pass any tombs? Where are they?" She had expected to see some ruins of fallen buildings, or monuments which resembled the tombs in "The Street of Tombs" at Athens—these were familiar to her from photographs. Here there was absolutely nothing, nothing to suggest that great tombs had ever been there.
"They are below us," Michael said, "and all around us, under these pink rocks, buried like coal-mines. Where your brother is digging just now the site is rather different—it is flatter and less beautiful; it is in a small side valley. They were terribly anxious to hide themselves, poor things, to get away from robbers."
"Oh, I'm so glad I came!" Margaret said, irrelevantly, and the deep sigh she gave terminated their conversation.
Michael knew quite well the nature of her thoughts and the turbulent fight for expression which they must be causing her. No creature as sensitively attuned as he judged her to be could journey for the first time unmoved through the valley which to him summed up the word Egypt. He allowed her to ride a few paces ahead, just behind the Sheikh. The camel's arrogant head, with its supercilious gaze, towered above them. To Margaret, Michael Amory and herself were still an offence in the valley. The camel, with the high-seated, turbaned Sheikh, seemed a part of the whole. The animal, with its prehistoric loneliness of expression, the Sheikh, with his splendid deportment and benign loftiness of manner, suited the dignity of their surroundings. The camel's gaze, as its head reached up higher and higher to view some object which interested its supercilious mind, made Margaret feel very small and vulgarly modern. She was glad that she was riding a humble ass. The way the Sheikh rode his haughty animal provoked her admiration; it was to her after the manner in which the British aristocracy treat their powdered and silk-stockinged menservants.
Margaret felt more at ease on her white donkey, just as she felt more at ease with pleasant English maidservants than with pompous powdered footmen. It was a ridiculous simile, but it is the ridiculous which invades the mind in sublime moments.
While Margaret was finding pleasure in watching the camel and the Sheikh, or rather, while they were taking their place in her mind with the air and the sky and the hills and the valley, Michael was certainly enjoying himself in a more definite criticism of Freddy's sister. He remembered his friend's remark, "Oh, Meg's all right," and he knew what he meant.
Her long limbs and boyish figure delighted his artistic eye, while the white topee hat, with the long blue veil, failed to hide the attractive carriage of her head. He felt impatient to see her unhatted and unveiled. Certainly she was not dowdy, nor had she any aggressive cleverness about her. Indeed, there was something which suggested a man's directness of mind and a simplicity which was quite unusual and fascinating. He could almost have laughed aloud when he thought of the picture which he had conjured up to himself of the Meg who could "tackle pretty stiff stuff and suck the guts out of a book like a weasel sucking the blood out of a rabbit."
The dowdy "blue stocking" had vanished, and in her place was a girl as attractive in her darkness as Freddy was in his fairness.
And so they rode on and on through the Theban hills, bathed in pink sunlight. The donkey-boys had fallen behind. Their first enthusiastic effort to show off before the honourable Sitt had quite subsided. They were discussing her now, in none too delicate a fashion. The elder of the two boys, who was the son of a dragoman, and hoped one day to develop into as resplendent a being as his father, was in his way a great reader. He had just finished an Arabic translation of a French novel and he was picturing to his friends Margaret as the heroine of the obscene romance. Poor Margaret!
In Egypt the Arabic translations of low-class French romances, rendered even more unclean by their translation, have a poisonous effect upon the minds of the youths who devour them. Margaret, who had admired the boy's brilliant smiles and beautiful features and teeth, which were even whiter and more attractive than her brother's, little dreamed, as they tell behind and talked together, of the nature of their conversation.
Their blue shirts looked like turquoise in the sunlight, and their little white crochet skull-caps showed to advantage the fine outline of their dark heads. They were certainly handsome young rascals, with an inherited grace of manner.
How her clean, healthy mind would have abhorred and hated them if she had understood their ceaseless chatter! It was like the noise of starlings on a spring morning. In Egypt, where ignorance is bliss, it is certainly folly to be wise. In the East, the inquiring mind, especially in domestic matters, is often its own enemy.
To Margaret, Egypt held for the time being nothing which was unclean or unlovely, nothing which was bettered by ignorance. She was lost in its light and mystery. In the Theban valley it seemed as if she would live on light, that it would supply food for both soul and body. In Egypt God is made manifest in the sun.
Margaret had been shown over the "estate"; her modest luggage had been deposited in her bedroom, in which she was now standing, with her arm linked in her brother's.
When she had approved of everything and had told him about her journey, she gave his arm a little hug.
"Oh, Freddy, it's good to be with you again! You were a brick to let me come."
Freddy slid his arm round her shoulders and pressed her closer to him.
"It's topping having you, old girl, but you mustn't mind if I leave you an awful lot alone—I can't help it."
"I know you can't, and if I stew up a bit, you may find work which I can do. I'd love to help."
"Oh, don't fear—I'll find lots for you to do."
She looked at him eagerly, with a touching humility. "What sort of work?"
"Cleaning and sorting out the small finds which the workmen bring in each night, and you could help Mike to do some copying—it's not difficult, and sometimes the colours vanish when they are exposed to the light. He can't get the things done all at one time."
"I see," Margaret said, but in her mind there was a horrible jumble.
"Sometimes I want Mike to help me—we're awfully short of hands just now—I mean, for hands that you can absolutely trust, so if you get into the thing you could do some of Mike's work and let him off."
"I'd love to, and you know my capability as well as anyone, so if you think I could I'll do my best."
"You'll soon know as much as Mike did when he came here, and your painting's all right."
"How nice Mike is!" she said simply.
"He's one of the best."
"Is he going to make Egyptology his profession?"
"I don't know—I don't think so. I'm afraid it's just another bit of Mike's drifting."
"What a pity!" Margaret was practical.
"I tell him it's time lost—at his age he ought to be at the job he means to succeed in."
"Isn't he taking this up in earnest? He seems to love the life."
"He does love the thing, but the detail of the work, with all its exactitude and rules and regulations, bores him. You'll understand better later on." Freddy opened a copy of the annual report of the British School of Archaeology in Egypt and pointed to pages and pages of written records, outline drawings, measurements and diagrams and plans of tombs and excavations, even accurate copies of small pieces of broken vases and plates and jars—almost everything which had been dug up was carefully recorded; nothing seemed too small or incomplete to be of value.
Margaret looked at it wonderingly. What was all the labour for? Some day would she, too, understand the meaning of it and the use of such scraps and atoms of ancient pottery? Freddy digging out beautiful objects for the British Museum, statues and scarabs, wonderful jewels and necklaces of mummy-beads, was what she had visualized, but of all this she had never dreamed.
She put her finger on the outline drawing of a small fragment of pottery with the tracing of a tiny sprig of some plant on it. Her eyes said "What good can that be?"
Freddy read her meaning. "That small piece of pottery may have shown that foreign vegetation was introduced into the district. It is a new leaf, not met with before. It was probably sent for identification to the Botanical Department of University College in London. Sometimes little things like that give rise to heated discussions and theories. Some excavators won't draw on their imagination—they will have nothing but hard facts; others start a theory which sounds far-fetched—often it comes out correct."
"Realistic and Imaginative Schools!"
"That's about it. The middle way is generally the soundest. The excavator without imagination never gets very far, whereas the man who is apt to let his imagination run wild gets on the wrong track and it's hard to get him off; he overlooks things that won't fit in with his theory."
"I had no idea archaeology involved all this—you're awfully clever, old boy."
"It's unending work and extraordinarily far-reaching, as it's done to-day. In the early days the horrors that were committed in the way of excavating were too awful."
"You work like detectives now, it seems to me, following up the smallest threads and links."
"That's it," Freddy said. "We are just a body of intellectual detectives, running to earth the history of Egypt and the story of the ancient world. We're really far more interested in finding connecting links and establishing disputed facts, than in unearthing statues and figures which please the public. Egyptologists have unearthed the private lives of Egypt's kings and queens."
"I suppose your friend Mike only enters into the artistic side of it?"
"Not altogether—he's awfully keen about Egyptian history and mythology, but he hates detail too much to give his mind and time to all the hard grind of the thing—he likes to study the history we unearth."
"I'm afraid I shall be like him. I want to enjoy the results without the dull labour of digging."
"It's a sort of thing that's born in you, I think."
"You love it, Freddy?"
"Rather! I couldn't stick any other work now."
"You're looking awfully well."
"Never felt fitter."
"The skulls and mummies under your bed haven't done you any harm. Poor aunt Anna, how she dreads them! She always imagines that everything Egyptian has the most malign powers. She's sure some mummy will take its revenge on you for disturbing it."
"Poor old Anna! I suppose she thinks we are the first people who ever thought of disturbing these tombs! She little knows how rare a thing it is to come across one which was not robbed thousands of years ago of all that was worth having. If Egyptian amulets and mummies had such terrible powers, you may be very sure that the modern Arabs, who are the most superstitious people in the world, would not touch the work, and the ancient sextons or guardians of the tombs, who were even more superstitious, wouldn't have dared to disturb the last slumber of a lately-buried Pharaoh. They plundered and sacked the tomb just as soon as ever they could. The tombs were first built up in this valley with the hopes of hiding them; they were built here to get away from the wretches who plundered the cemeteries on the plains. I suppose the Pharaohs who were having their tombs built hadn't discovered that the other tombs had been robbed by the very guardians who were set to watch them. It was left for us to discover that."
"Was that so? It certainly does not look like a valley of tombs."
"They were hidden with all the cunning which the Eastern mind could devise, and yet most of them have been robbed."
They had left the house and were sitting on lounge chairs in the front of the hut. There was a beautiful moon and a sky full of stars, such as Margaret had never seen before.
"Come on, Mike!" Freddy called out. "Don't make yourself scarce. Meg and I don't want to discuss family secrets. Her first night in the valley is going to be the real thing—no intrusion of family skeletons—they can wait."
"Our family skeletons would feel themselves very out of place here," Margaret said as Michael Amory appeared.
Michael sat down beside her and very soon all three were talking about topics of general interest. Meg gave them the latest London gossip, which at the time was very dominated by the unrest in Ireland and the Ulster scandals.
Michael, who had on one side of his family Irish blood and strong Irish sentiments, did not voice his opinions. He listened to all that Margaret had to tell her brother, news principally gathered from friends living in Ulster and from the violently anti-Nationalist press. There certainly seemed exciting times in Ireland and Margaret's talk was unprejudiced and interesting.
While they were talking Mike was able to enjoy the girl's beauty and study her individuality. Pretty as she was—and more than pretty—it was her personality which pleased him—the bigness of her nature, the evidence of her wide-mindedness and her quick grasp of fresh subjects, and above all, in her, as in Freddy, there was the ring of unquestionable honour and clean-mindedness.
Margaret under the Eastern moonlight was charming. Her brown hair was so soft and thick that Mike would have liked to put his hand through it, as he saw her do every now and then. Most women, he knew, were shy of disturbing their hair, however naturally arranged it might seem. Margaret, when anything excited her, had a trick of putting her long fingers through her hair, upwards from her forehead, and letting it fall down again as it felt inclined. Her nicety of dress, too, pleased her critical inspector. It was fastidiously simple and fastidiously worn. In this again she was one with her brother.
When English news had been discussed, their talk turned again to Egypt. Margaret greatly desired to study Arabic; but although her brother could speak it extremely well, she knew that he had no time to teach her. It amazed her how much he had had to learn and had learned during his years in Egypt. It was after twelve o'clock when the trio parted for the night.
When Meg was alone in her room, a certain reaction set in; she felt tired and just a little depressed. She wanted to do so much and she knew so little. Beyond the name Rameses she had not recognized the name of one of the kings her brother had mentioned during their conversation that evening—indeed, she had failed to grasp the meaning of almost everything he had said, and yet she knew that he was talking down to her level, or thought he was.
Bewildered with the sense of Egypt, she fell asleep and dreamed of the valley and her wonderful ride.
Margaret had lived in the valley for a little over three weeks, immortal weeks of intense interest and new impressions. She had fitted herself into the atmosphere with a charm and adaptability which left Michael and Freddy wondering how they had ever got on without her. A woman in the hut made all the difference; a feeling of "homeness" now pervaded the camp. Margaret had found so much to do in the way of adding obvious touches of comfort and convenience to the hut and to the tents that she had found little or no time to start upon her studies of Egyptology.
The moonlight nights she had spent either in the company of her brother or Michael, wandering about the valley, or sitting alone outside their primitive home, absorbing the spirit of the desert. She had not felt ready for book-learning.
One evening, after dinner, Michael and she had ridden down the valley and back again, repeating her first journey, so that she might enjoy it by moonlight.
The three weeks had done a great deal to help her to distinguish some of the periods and terms in connection with her brother's work. The word Coptic, for instance, had now its proper significance in her mind, and the terms dynasty and century were no longer jumbled hopelessly together. She also realized that Egypt had been governed by kings and queens with strong individualities of their own; they were not all spoken of by Egyptologists as "Pharaohs," a word which hitherto had suggested to Margaret the title given to the hosts of nameless and half legendary monarchs who ruled over a semi-Biblical kingdom.
Thus far and no further had she gone in the story of the world's first civilization; but she had gone further in her friendship with Michael Amory and in her knowledge of things Mohammedan. He had helped her to unravel the skein of difficulties which Egypt's three distinct and widely-different civilizations had presented to her—the period of ancient Egypt, the period which we now call Coptic or Early Christian and the period of the Arab invasion, with its importation of a Mohammedan civilization. Traces of all these distinct civilizations and religions perpetually come to light in the work of excavation. Nothing puzzled the girl more than the fact that while digging on an ancient Egyptian site, her brother seemed to find Christian and Mohammedan relics. But even when he was speaking of interesting events in comparatively modern Egyptian history, which he took for granted she would appreciate and understand, Margaret felt disgracefully ignorant.
So Michael took her in hand and he thoroughly enjoyed the work of helping her to grasp some of the essential points which would clear her mind before she started upon her serious reading. She had begun taking lessons in Arabic with Michael who could speak it fluently but could neither read nor write it, the written and spoken language being entirely different.
Margaret's quickness astonished him. He was ignorant of her record at college.
He was now having an example of her capacity for learning which she did at a pace which rather unnerved him. Margaret learnt a language as she learned the geography of a city. She would quietly and composedly study a map until the "sense" of the city was in her brain. In beginning her study of Arabic she explained to her brother that she must first of all try to grasp the "sense" of the language.
"I want a map of it, Freddy—you know what I mean."
And Freddy did know. The Lampton type of brain was familiar to him, and his own method of absorbing languages, or any of the subjects which he had had to study for his examinations, was exactly similar to Margaret's, so he set Michael and their Arabic master on the right track.
As a rule, the Arabic alphabet takes a student about three weeks to learn. Margaret, with apparently very little trouble, mastered it in one; it took Michael almost a month. Yet Margaret knew that she was not grasping things with any ease or quickness; she felt too unsettled and impatient. She was "dying," as she expressed it, to push on with Arabic so as to be able to talk to the natives and understand things Mohammedan, but the very fact that Arabic was not going to help her to read Egyptian hieroglyphics, or understand anything at all about ancient Egypt, acted as an irritant to her brain, and retarded her working powers.
"And when my brain is annoyed, or it feels impatient," she said, "bang goes my poor intelligence—it simply won't be hurried; it will only work in its own deliberate way."
Michael declared that the way it was working was good enough for him—rather too good, in fact.
Under such circumstances, the intimacy between Margaret and her brother's best friend naturally ripened very quickly. Margaret felt as though she had known him for months instead of weeks, and more than once she had wondered what life would be like without him. He was much more imaginative than Freddy and more intellectually excitable and curious. He theorized and perhaps romanced where Freddy was apt to accept only proven facts. Michael's temperament was the exact stimulant which Margaret's brain required.
That Michael did his share of hard work Margaret had realized when she accompanied him one day to the scene of his labours. She had had to bend almost double and crawl down a steep shaft, of slippery, sliding debris, to what she thought must be halfway through the world, and pick her way over the rubbish in a semi-excavated chamber in the vast tomb. Some of the chambers were full of huge stones, which had fallen in with the roof. It was in a smaller chamber, where the heat was so great that she could scarcely breathe, that Michael spent his mornings and the greater part of his afternoons.
The heat of Egypt, concentrated for centuries and centuries, seemed to scorch Margaret's face when she entered it. The building was like a temple with side chapels. In one side chapel Michael sat himself down to copy a wide band of gaily-painted decorations, which formed a dado round its three walls.
* * * * * *
On this particular night Margaret had returned from a long walk with Michael. They had left the low level of the valley and its winding white road and had climbed up on to the heights of the Sahara. It had pleased Margaret to feel that her feet were pressing the sands of the great African desert. She had never dreamed that their valley was actually a rift in the rocks of the Sahara, that ocean of sand which travels on and on to infinity.
They had stood side by side on its high ridge, with their eyes looking towards the plain below, the historic plain which once held the capital of the world. The plain of Thebes reached to the river, and across the river lay gay Luxor, with its lights and the luxuries of modern civilization.
Their walk was finished. It had drawn them still closer together. The solitude of the Sahara, with its sense of Divinity, had established a new link in their sympathies; it had created a feeling between them similar to that which is the outcome of two people having been together through strenuous and trying circumstances. They had, as usual, spoken very little; yet they were conscious of having enjoyed each other's society intensely and in the best possible manner, the enjoyment of complete understanding.
Earlier in the evening, when Michael asked her to go for a walk, because Freddy was absorbed in some business letters, he had made the proposal in his habitual way.
"May I come and keep silence with you to-night in the great Sahara?"
And Meg had said, "Yes, do. You know, we really talk to each other all the time—my mind has so much more the gift of speech than my tongue."
And so their silence had been as golden as the sand at their feet, which under Egypt's moon never pales.
Freddy was only too glad that Michael had "cottoned on to Meg," as he expressed it—in fact, he was extremely pleased, for Meg would drive "the other woman" out of his thoughts, and if anything should come of it—well, Mike was one of the very best; Meg could not have a better husband.
But so far no such thought had entered Mike's head, nor yet Margaret's. She was too interested and busy in her new life to think of love; she was only conscious of living as she had never lived before, and as she would have asked to live if she had possessed a wishing-ring. Every hour and minute of her days were a delight. To be with her best "pal" Freddy in Egypt seemed too good to be true, and added to that, there was this unexpected pleasure, the friendship and companionship of the nicest man she had ever met. His rather "drifting" temperament and nature appealed to her as it appealed to Freddy, for the very reason, perhaps, that keenly sensitive as she was and susceptible to her surroundings, her nature and brains were of a practical order. She was not imaginative or moody.
She loved to listen to Michael's vivid, unpractical, Utopian theories and to follow him to where his flashes of brilliance carried him. His dream cities and dream people delighted Margaret. He told her stories as she had never been told stories before, invented as he went along, stories which kept her one minute fighting against tears and the next in delicious laughter.
Margaret never could tell stories, not even to little children; she was not gifted with a creative brain or ingenuity.
On the heights of the Sahara they, had not broken the silence; it was only on their return journey, under a canopy of southern stars, that Margaret had said:
"A short story, please."
And Michael had told her a story about a certain king of Egypt who had a beautiful slave, who had such power over him that she could make him do anything she liked. The things she liked were more fantastic than anything Margaret had ever read in The Arabian Nights.
Now, on her lounge-chair in front of the hut, Margaret was resting after their walk. Freddy and Michael were both indoors.
Half an hour or perhaps more might have passed, when suddenly a luminous figure stood in front of her. She had not seen its approach; it was simply there before her, just as if it had taken form out of the desert air.
She recognized that it was the figure of an Egyptian Pharaoh or a high priest—she could not tell which. It wore the short kilt-like garment and the high head-dress, with a serpent's head sticking out from the front of it (the double crown of North and South Egypt, though Margaret did not know it at the time) which had become familiar to her in the pictures of ancient Egyptian kings. She had seen many such figures in her brother's books and in the mural paintings of the tombs.
As Margaret looked with amazement—certainly not fear—at the face of the strange apparition in front of her, she thought that it was the saddest she had ever seen. In the eyes there was a world of suffering and sorrow.
She felt conscious of being awake; the moon and the stars were above her; they surrounded the luminous figure. Her brain struggled for intelligence. Was this the spirit of some great king of Egypt, or of a high priest, or what was it? Was it an optical delusion? If it was a spirit, why had it come to her?
"Tell me who you are," she said. "Do you want anything?" She spoke nervously, not expecting an answer.
"I once ruled over Egypt, and I return to see what my people are doing, if the seed I sowed has borne fruit."
"In this, valley there are no people—it is a valley of the dead."
"My body was brought to my mother's tomb in this valley."
The voice was so sad that Margaret said:
"You are in trouble? You cannot rest? Is that why your spirit has returned to earth?"
"My spirit is with Aton, the master of that which is ordained. I have come to deliver a message; it is for you."
"For me?" Margaret said. "I know nothing at all about Egypt."
"That is not necessary. Aton's love is great and large. It filled the two lands of Egypt; it fills the world to-day."
"But I am ignorant. You think I understand—I don't. . . . I can do nothing."
The sad eyes in the emaciated face, the face of a saint and fanatic, smiled at her fears so tenderly that Margaret's heart was less troubled.
"You can tell the one who is to do my work, the one who knows and loves Aton, Aton—the compassionate, the all-Merciful. Tell him that I bid him take up my work."
"Your work?" Margaret said. "You were a king of ancient Egypt. . . . You speak as if you had worshipped our God . . . there is no one who can do your work . . ." She paused, and then said nervously, "Egypt is different now—it cannot go back."
"Egypt must go on, not back. Nothing is different in the heart of man; your soul is as my soul. Aton liveth for ever in his children. He filleth the two lands of Egypt with his love. I was his messenger."
"But who was Aton?" Margaret said. In her mind she was striving to recall if she had ever heard any references to the worship of one god in Egypt, except by the children of Israel.
"The one who is to do my work will tell you. He has studied my teachings, he understands the love of Aton, whose rays encompass the world."
"Thank you," Margaret said. "I will tell him." She knew instinctively that it was Michael who "understood."
"He knows my work and my desire for the people of Egypt. He knows that my people worship one God, but that they have no love of God in their hearts."
As the figure moved, it became less distinct. Margaret said: "Is that all I am to tell him? Are you going away?" She felt distressed; she knew not why.
"I will return. Give him my message."
"That he is to continue your work in Egypt?"
"That he is to teach my people the love and the goodness of Aton, that his mercy is everlasting."
"Tell me, before you go, who is Aton?"
"You ask, as people asked of a Messenger of God who followed after me in my distant kingdom of Syria. Did He not answer them: 'Who are those that draw us to the Kingdom of Heaven? The fowls of the air, and all the beasts that are under the earth and upon the earth, and the fishes in the sea, these are they which draw you, and the Kingdom of Heaven is within you.'"
"And will he understand if I tell him your words? I am quite ignorant of your teachings."
"He will understand because he has studied my teachings. He knows how fair of form was the formless Aton, how radiant of colour. He knows that the Kingdom which is Heaven is within us. In loving the world and the beauty of the world which is Aton's he knows my commandments."
As Margaret was about to ask why he had not appeared to Michael himself, for she had no doubt that it was upon him that the mission was laid, the vision disappeared and she was left alone, under the clear skies, gazing out over the valley which lay spread before her, in its eternal stillness. She could hear the sound of her last words vibrating in the air. There was not a sign of any living thing near her; only in the distance she could hear the barking of the jackals, a desert sound to which she had already grown so accustomed as to scarcely notice it.
That she had been wide awake she was convinced; she did not feel as though she had been asleep. As she tried to visualize the vanished figure and to repeat to herself the words, which she must either have imagined or heard, Michael came out and offered her a cigarette.
"Who were you talking to?" he said. "Freddy and I thought we heard your voice."
"Michael," she said eagerly, "what time is it? Have I been asleep? Have I been here long?"
She spoke anxiously, impatiently.
"How can I tell if you have been asleep?" he said, laughingly. "As to the time, it's about eleven o'clock. Do you often talk in your sleep?"
"Sit down beside me," she said urgently, "and let me tell you what has happened. If I have been asleep, I have dreamed it; if I was awake, I have experienced a very extraordinary thing, the moat extraordinary thing you can imagine!"
Michael threw himself down on the ground at her feet.
"While I was sitting here, and, as I thought, wide awake, thinking over our walk in the Sahara and about your story and enjoying the moon and the stars, quite suddenly a figure appeared. I was awfully startled, and yet not frightened."
"What sort of a figure? One of the house-boys pretending to be a spook?"
"No, no house-boy. If I tell you, don't laugh, for even if it was only a dream—which, of course, it must have been—it was very beautiful and solemn."
Now that Margaret was talking to someone about it, the incredibility of the incident seemed much stronger. "It was probably a dream," she said humbly. "All the same, don't make fun of it."
"I won't laugh," he said. "You know I never laugh at such things. I believe in visions—if you like to call these visitations visions."
"But the odd thing is that the figure was exactly like the picture of an Egyptian Pharaoh—that's why it now seems absurd—only his face was not like the proud, arrogant faces of the Egyptian kings one sees in pictures—fighting kings. It was more like the face of a suffering Christ, the saddest face I ever saw, or ever will see again. Oh, those eyes!" Margaret shivered, and paused.
"Please go on," Michael said. His voice encouraged her.
"I can't remember exactly what he said . . . it's all slipping away. He spoke of some character of which I never heard; he said beautiful things—I wish I could recollect the exact words he used."
"Then he spoke to you?" Michael's voice was low, intense.
"Yes, he spoke. He gave me a message for you."
"For me?" Michael said passionately. "For me? How do you know it was for me?"
Margaret trembled as she spoke. "How do I know it was for you?" She paused. "I do know—or, at least, I never doubted while the figure was here. Now it seems foolish—it must all have been a dream."
"No, go on. I want to hear everything."
"He said I was to tell you that you were to carry on his work in the world, he said that you would understand." She paused. "If it was you, you will understand, because he said you had read his teachings and believed in them. Does that convey anything?"
"Yes, yes. Go on—what else?" Michael's voice trembled with impatience.
"There was one word he used which I have forgotten . . . and it meant everything. I wish I could remember it! It's a name I never heard before."
"Think," Michael said, "do try to think—it may come to you." Margaret noticed that he was trying to hide his excitement; he was more nervous than she was.
"He spoke of someone as God, and said beautiful things about Him . . . this God, of everlasting mercy . . . those were his words. . . . Oh, I remember the name!" she cried. "It was Aton—it seemed to be the name of his God. He spoke of Aton as St. Francis spoke of Christ. Aton was in the birds and fishes and flowers and in the cool streams."
Michael turned round and grasped Margaret's hand. He was trembling with excitement; he could hide it no longer.
"It was Akhnaton! Oh, Meg, how wonderful! Tell me everything . . . the spirit of Akhnaton!"
"But who was Akhnaton? I am in the dark. He said he was Aton's messenger."
"First tell me all you can remember."
Margaret tried to recall everything that the Pharaoh had said to her. His exact words she could not repeat, but their essence she contrived to convey quite clearly to the listening Michael.
"Akhnaton," he kept murmuring. "It must be Akhnaton . . . a message to me through you!"
One sentence she was able to repeat almost word for word. "Who are those that draw us to the Kingdom of Heaven? The fowls of the air and all the beasts that are under the earth and upon the earth, and fishes in the sea, these are they which draw you, and the Kingdom of Heaven is within you."
Michael had unconsciously drawn closer to her as she spoke. She heard him say, with a sigh of intense satisfaction, "His very teachings, Christ's own words!"
"Tell me as exactly as you can what he was like."
Margaret closed her eyes to bring back a picture of the vision, the wonderful figure, luminous and bright.
"His sadness is what I remember most plainly. I had thought that all the Pharaohs were proud, hard warrior kings, with no pity in their hearts. This king's face spoke of the suffering of Christ, of a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. His sorrow seemed to be for humanity, for our sins, not the sorrow of a man who had known only personal unhappiness."
Michael said nothing; he was too deeply moved.
"As I told you," Margaret continued, "he had a very strangely-shaped head, more curiously-shaped than I can describe—very long and sloping upwards to the back. He wore a high head-dress which seemed too heavy for his slender neck. Coming from behind it there were bright rays, just like rays of the sun—I have never seen anything like them in any picture . . . oh, it must have been a dream! It all sounds quite absurd." Margaret's trembling voice belied her words.
"Akhnaton!" Michael cried excitedly. "Now there can be no doubt. Oh, Meg!" He had unconsciously been using Freddy's pet-name for her, his hand sought hers sympathetically.
Margaret prized the word "Meg" as it came affectionately from his lips.
"Meg, it is all too wonderful!"
Michael said no more; he had buried his face in his two hands. He would have given his youth to have seen what Margaret had seen.
"Then you don't think it was a dream?"
"How could you have dreamed the very appearance of Akhnaton, or dreamed his personality, when you have never heard of him?"
"I suppose I couldn't," she said. "But was Akhnaton unlike any other Pharaoh of Egypt?"
"As unlike as St. Francis was to Nero."
A sudden idea came to Margaret. "But," she said, "he spoke to me in English, in my own language. If it was really the spirit of Akhnaton, how could he?"
"Dear Meg, there are more things in divine philosophy than are dreamed of by you or me. In what language did Our Saviour speak to St. Francis, who was an Italian, and to St. Catherine?"
"That is true," Margaret said, in a changed tone. "Will you tell me all about this Pharaoh?"
Michael thought before answering her question, and then he said, "I'd rather not, not yet."
"Because I don't want to put any ideas into your head. All this has come perfectly naturally, and through a modern who was totally ignorant of the message she was conveying. If you were to receive another message, if you ever were to see Akhnaton again, and you knew all about him, it would not be the same thing."
"Oh," Margaret said quickly, "I forgot—he said as he disappeared, 'I will return.'" She gave a deep-drawn sigh and said nervously, "Do you think he will?"
"Will you be afraid? Were you afraid?" Michael's arm had slipped almost round her shoulders. It was a moment when close human contact came very graciously to the girl.
"Afraid? No, he was too gentle, too sad—there was absolutely nothing to be afraid of. I didn't stop to think of the supernaturalness of the vision—I was much too interested. If it was a ghost, I shall never be afraid of ghosts again."
Meg looked at him. She had hurt him; she felt a slight shrinking in his sympathy.
"Don't speak of ghosts, Meg—I hate the term, with all its cheapness and irreverence!"
"Then you believe in visions? You are convinced that I have not dreamed all this?"
"If it had been Freddy who had told me, I should have said that he had been asleep and dreamed it, because he knows all about Akhnaton. We are constantly discussing his character, a character I admire much more than he does. But as it was you who saw him and you who have described him as accurately as if you had his portrait in front of you, I feel certain it was not a dream."
Meg remained silent, while her thoughts worked with a new and amazing rapidity. In Egypt she felt that anything was possible; the supernatural might very soon become natural. And certainly the face which she had seen was so unlike the types of the conventional figures of the Egyptian kings she would have visualized if she had tried her best to picture one from imagination, that she began to wonder if Michael was right in his assumption that she had actually seen and been in communication with the spirit of Akhnaton.
"But why should he have chosen me, this great Pharaoh?" she said. "Modern me, with no knowledge whatsoever of his kingdom or his beliefs!"
"Ah, why?" Michael said. "Have we ever been told why Mary was chosen to be the Mother of Jesus, the Divine Man Who taught the world what Akhnaton tried to teach his people thirteen hundred years before His coming—that the Kingdom of God is within us? Who can tell the manner or the means by which God works? Not half, or a quarter, of the Christian world knows, Meg, how often God speaks to them through mysterious channels—through spirits, if you like. When people are inspired to do good works, to lead what the material world calls holy lives, God has spoken to them, the God Who is within them, the God Who brought you and me together, Meg, to enjoy this valley. Its emptiness and stillness is full of God. Don't you feel that its beauty and solitude are due to His presence?"
Meg shivered. "I know what you mean."
"Don't be nervous. It is a great privilege, this sense of the divine, this beautiful closeness to God, this cutting off of our material selves, this knowledge of our Kingdom of Heaven within us."
"I am far more earth-tied than you, Mike. I do feel these things, but more feebly, less convincingly. I have never thought much about them. We Lamptons are very practical; all our men have led good, clean, straightforward lives, and our women have not made bad wives and mothers, but I don't think we have been idealists, or very religious. Our sense of honour more than our beliefs has kept us straight."
"Poor, poor Akhnaton!" Michael said. His thoughts had strayed while Margaret spoke.
"Why do you say 'Poor Akhnaton?' Why was he so sad?"
Michael evaded the question by saying, "We won't speak of this to anyone, if you don't mind. Let it be just between you and me."
Margaret hesitated for a moment. There was something stirring and pleasurable to her emotions in the idea of having a secret with Michael; it was like possessing a part of him all to herself; yet she shrank from keeping back anything from Freddy. Even this dream—if it was only a dream—she would naturally have told to him, because it held such a wonderful idea; it would have interested him. It was interesting from the scientific point of view, the fact that she should have been able to project her unconscious brain into the history which she was going to study and accurately visualize and create for herself the personality and teachings of a Pharaoh of whom she had never heard. If it had been the great Rameses, or any Biblical character who in later years entered into Egyptian history, it would have meant less, for already the personality of the great builder-king of Egypt was known to her, by the frequency with which she had heard the expression "Rameses the Great." But of the heretic Pharaoh she had never heard.
"Do you mind not mentioning it even to your brother?" Mike said. "If he was not in sympathy with my belief that it was not a dream, he might unconsciously affect you—he would probably tell you much that I would rather you didn't know until we find out more."
Margaret gave her promise willingly. Michael's reason seemed to her such a justifiable one that their secret might be kept even from Freddy.
Presently Freddy shouted out, "I'm off to bed, Meg—kick Mike out and go to yours—you've had a long day."
As Mike said good-night, Margaret noticed how strained and grave he was. "Don't look so serious!" She tried to speak lightly. "To-morrow we shall both say that it was all a dream. Fancy an Egyptian Pharaoh rising out of his tomb below the hills to speak to me! I'm not going to think of it any more—I'll send myself to sleep by trying to say the Arabic alphabet backwards."
Michael did not look any the less grave. "He was brought to the valley," he said, "to his mother's tomb, and I don't suppose that I am the first person to receive a message from him—perhaps the first European, but then, I love his teachings. They have not been known very long."
"He said he had come to see what his people were doing. Do you really think he has given this message to others?"
"Why not?—in another manner. These holy men in Egypt who feel compelled to give up their lives to preaching and praying, and who travel from desert-town to desert-town, calling on the people to worship the one and only God—who knows what the manner of their call was, or how God came to them?"
"Then you think that God came to-night, in this valley, in the form of Akhnaton, to you through me?"
"I certainly do. Akhnaton, like Christ, became divine. We could all be divine if we allowed ourselves to be."
"Good-night," Meg said, for Freddy was shouting again. "It's late, and I'm afraid I am too matter-of-fact and far too materialistic to follow your ideas and beliefs."
"I wish I followed what I believe," Mike said. "On a night like this you can't help believing that God is in the yellow sand and in the blue sky and in the beautiful stillness. He is in you and me and around us. The hills look very holy, don't they? But to-morrow it will be so easy to forget, to take everything for granted, or to behave as if chance had produced God's world." He held her hand for one moment longer than was necessary. "One is so closely in touch with the beauty of God here, Meg. In busy Luxor or Cairo, or in any city, material things are the things that matter. God is forgotten, set aside . . . man's ingenuity is so much more obvious."
"I know," Meg said. "Do you wonder at hermits and saints?" She smiled a beautiful "Good-night."
When she was alone in her room, she opened Maspero's Dawn of Civilization, which Freddy had placed there for her. She turned over its pages idly. "I wonder if I should find anything about Akhnaton here," she said, "or if this is too early history?"
Suddenly she closed the book. "No, I won't—I will keep my promise. I won't read anything about him."
She paused and thought for a few moments: her brain was too active for sleep, her nerves too much on edge, so instead of reading about Akhnaton, who is known in history as Amenhotep IV., the heretic Pharaoh, she knelt down and prayed to his God, beginning with the old familiar words, "Our Father, which art in heaven," for He is the same God yesterday, to-day and for ever, the God of whom Akhnaton said, "He makes the young sheep to dance upon their hind legs, and the birds to flutter in the marshes," and as a modern writer said of Him, "The God of the simple pleasures of life, Whose symbol was the sun's disc, just as it was the symbol of Christianity. There dropped not a sigh from the lips of a babe that the intangible Aton did not hear; no lamb bleated for its mother but the remote Aton hastened to soothe it. He was the living father and mother of all that He had made. He was the Lord of Love. He was the tender nurse who creates the man-child in woman, and soothes him that he may not weep."