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Title:      A Professor of Egyptology
Author:     Guy Boothby
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eBook No.:  0601581.txt
Edition:    1
Language:   English
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Date first posted:          June 2006
Date most recently updated: June 2006

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A Professor of Egyptology
Guy Boothby



From seven o'clock in the evening until half past, that is to say for
the half-hour preceding dinner, the Grand Hall of the Hotel Occidental,
throughout the season, is practically a lounge, and is crowded with the
most fashionable folk wintering in Cairo. The evening I am anxious to
describe was certainly no exception to the rule. At the foot of the fine
marble staircase--the pride of its owner--a well-known member of the
French Ministry was chatting with an English Duchess whose pretty, but
somewhat delicate, daughter was flirting mildly with one of the Sirdar's
Bimbashis, on leave from the Soudan. On the right-hand lounge of the
Hall an Italian Countess, whose antecedents were as doubtful as her
diamonds, was apparently listening to a story a handsome Greek attaché
was telling her; in reality, however, she was endeavouring to catch
scraps of a conversation being carried on, a few feet away, between a
witty Russian and an equally clever daughter of the United States.
Almost every nationality was represented there, but unfortunately for
our prestige, the majority were English. The scene was a brilliant one,
and the sprinkling of military and diplomatic uniforms (there was a
Reception at the Khedivial Palace later) lent an additional touch of
colour to the picture. Taken altogether, and regarded from a political
point of view, the gathering had a significance of its own.

At the end of the Hall, near the large glass doors, a handsome, elderly
lady, with grey hair, was conversing with one of the leading English
doctors of the place--a grey-haired, clever-looking man, who possessed
the happy faculty of being able to impress everyone with whom he talked
with the idea that he infinitely preferred his or her society to that of
any other member of the world's population. They were discussing the
question of the most suitable clothing for a Nile voyage, and as the
lady's daughter, who was seated next her, had been conversant with her
mother's ideas on the subject ever since their first visit to Egypt (as
indeed had been the Doctor), she preferred to lie back on the divan and
watch the people about her. She had large, dark, contemplative eyes.
Like her mother she took life seriously, but in a somewhat different
fashion.

One who has been bracketed third in the Mathematical Tripos can scarcely
be expected to bestow very much thought on the comparative merits of
Jger, as opposed to dresses of the Common or Garden flannel. From this,
however, it must not be inferred that she was in any way a blue
stocking, that is, of course, in the vulgar acceptation of the word. She
was thorough in all she undertook, and for the reason that mathematics
interested her very much the same way that Wagner, chess, and, shall we
say, croquet, interest other people, she made it her hobby, and it must
be confessed she certainly succeeded in it. At other times she rode,
drove, played tennis and hockey, and looked upon her world with calm,
observant eyes that were more disposed to find good than evil in it.
Contradictions that we are, even to ourselves, it was only those who
knew her intimately, and they were few and far between, who realised
that, under that apparently sober, matter-of-fact personality, there
existed a strong leaning towards the mysterious, or, more properly
speaking, the occult. Possibly she herself would have been the first to
deny this--but that I am right in my surmise this story will surely be
sufficient proof.

Mrs Westmoreland and her daughter had left their comfortable Yorkshire
home in September, and, after a little dawdling on the Continent, had
reached Cairo in November--the best month to arrive, in my opinion, for
then the rush has not set in, the hotel servants have not had sufficient
time to become weary of their duties, and what is better still, all the
best rooms have not been bespoken. It was now the middle of December,
and the fashionable caravanserai, upon which they had for many years
bestowed their patronage, was crowded from roof to cellar. Every day
people were being turned away, and the manager's continual lament was
that he had not another hundred rooms wherein to place more guests. He
was a Swiss, and for that reason regarded hotel-keeping in the light of
a profession.

On this particular evening Mrs Westmoreland and her daughter Cecilia had
arranged to dine with Dr Forsyth--that is to say, they were to eat their
meal at his table in order that they might meet a man of whom they had
heard much, but whose acquaintance they had not as yet made.

The individual in question was a certain Professor Constanides--reputed
one of the most advanced Egyptologists, and the author of several
well-known works. Mrs Westmoreland was not of an exacting nature, and so
long as she dined in agreeable company did not trouble herself very much
whether it was with an English earl or a distinguished foreign savant.

'It really does not matter, my dear,' she was wont to observe to her
daughter. 'So long as the cooking is good and the wine above reproach,
there is absolutely nothing to choose between them. A Prime Minister and
a country vicar are, after all, only men. Feed them well and they'll lie
down and purr like tame cats. They don't want conversation.' From this
it will be seen that Mrs Westmoreland was well acquainted with her
world. Whether Miss Cecilia shared her opinions is another matter. At
any rate, she had been looking forward for nearly a fortnight to meeting
Constanides, who was popularly supposed to possess an extraordinary
intuitive knowledge--instinct, perhaps, it should be called--concerning
the localities of tombs of the Pharaohs of the Eleventh, Twelfth and
Thirteenth Dynasties.

'I am afraid Constanides is going to be late,' said the Doctor, who had
consulted his watch more than once. 'I hope, in that case, as his friend
and your host, you will permit me to offer you my apologies.'

The Doctor at no time objected to the sound of his own voice, and on
this occasion he was even less inclined to do so. Mrs Westmoreland was a
widow with an ample income, and Cecilia, he felt sure, would marry ere
long.

'He has still three minutes in which to put in an appearance,' observed
that young lady, quietly.

And then she added in the same tone, 'Perhaps we ought to be thankful if
he comes at all.'

Both Mrs Westmoreland and her friend the Doctor regarded her with mildly
reproachful eyes.

The former could not understand anyone refusing a dinner such as she
felt sure the Doctor had arranged for them; while the latter found it
impossible to imagine a man who would dare to disappoint the famous Dr
Forsyth, who, having failed in Harley Street, was nevertheless coining a
fortune in the land of the Pharaohs.

'My good friend Constanides will not disappoint us, I feel sure,' he
said, consulting his watch for the fourth time. 'Possibly I am a little
fast, at any rate I have never known him to be unpunctual. A
remarkable--a very remarkable man is Constanides. I cannot remember ever
to have met another like him. And such a scholar!'

Having thus bestowed his approval upon him the worthy Doctor pulled down
his cuffs, straightened his tie, adjusted his pince-nez in his best
professional manner, and looked round the hall as if searching for
someone bold enough to contradict the assertion he had just made.

'You have, of course, read his Mythological Egypt,' observed Miss
Cecilia, demurely, speaking as if the matter were beyond doubt.

The Doctor looked a little confused.

'Ahem! Well, let me see,' he stammered, trying to find a way out of the
difficulty. 'Well, to tell the truth, my dear young lady, I'm not quite
sure that I have studied that particular work. As a matter of fact, you
see, I have so little leisure at my disposal for any reading that is not
intimately connected with my profession. That, of course, must
necessarily come before everything else.'

Miss Cecilia's mouth twitched as if she were endeavouring to keep back a
smile. At the same moment the glass doors of the vestibule opened and a
man entered. So remarkable was he that everyone turned to look at him--a
fact which did not appear to disconcert him in the least.

He was tall, well shaped, and carried himself with the air of one
accustomed to command. His face was oval, his eyes large and set
somewhat wide apart. It was only when they were directed fairly at one
that one became aware of the power they possessed. The cheek bones were
a trifle high, and the forehead possibly retreated towards the jet-black
hair more than is customary in Greeks. He wore neither beard nor
moustache, thus enabling one to see the wide, firm mouth, the
compression of the lips which spoke for the determination of their
possessor. Those who had an eye for such things noted the fact that he
was faultlessly dressed, while Miss Cecilia, who had the precious gift of
observation largely developed, noted that, with the exception of a
single ring and a magnificent pearl stud, the latter strangely set, he
wore no jewellery of any sort. He looked about him for Dr Forsyth, and,
when he had located him, hastened forward. 'My dear friend,' he said in
English, which he spoke with scarcely a trace of foreign accent, 'I must
crave your pardon a thousand times if I have kept you waiting.' 'On the
contrary,' replied the Doctor, effusively, 'you are punctuality itself.
Permit me to have the pleasure--the very great pleasure--of introducing
you to my friends, Mrs Westmoreland and her daughter, Miss Cecilia, of
whom you have often heard me speak.' Professor Constanides bowed and
expressed the pleasure he experienced in making their acquaintance.
Though she could not have told you why, Miss Cecilia found herself
undergoing very much the same sensation as she had done when she had
passed up the Throne Room at her presentation. A moment later the gong
sounded, and, with much rustling of skirts and fluttering of fans, a
general movement was made towards the dining-room.

As host, Dr Forsyth gave his arm to Mrs Westmoreland, Constanides
following with Miss Cecilia. The latter was conscious of a vague feeling
of irritation; she admired the man and his work, but she wished his name
had been anything rather than what it was. (It should be here remarked
that the last Constanides she had encountered had swindled her
abominably in the matter of a turquoise brooch, and in consequence the
name had been an offence to her ever since.) Dr Forsyth's table was
situated at the further end, in the window, and from it a good view of
the room could be obtained. The scene was an animated one, and one of
the party, at least, I fancy, will never forget it--try how she may.

During the first two or three courses the conversation was practically
limited to Cecilia and Constanides; the Doctor and Mrs Westmoreland
being too busy to waste time on idle chatter.

Later, they became more amenable to the discipline of the table--or, in
other words, they found time to pay attention to their neighbours.

Since then I have often wondered with what feelings Cecilia looks back
upon that evening. In order, perhaps, to punish me for my curiosity, she
has admitted to me since that she had never known, up to that time, what
it was to converse with a really clever man. I submitted to the
humiliation for the reason that we are, if not lovers, at least old
friends, and, after all, Mrs Westmoreland's cook is one in a thousand.

From that evening forward, scarcely a day passed in which Constanides
did not enjoy some portion of Miss Westmoreland's society. They met at
the polo ground, drove in the Gezireh, shopped in the Muski, or listened
to the band, over afternoon tea, on the balcony of Shepheard's Hotel.
Constanides was always unobtrusive, always picturesque and invariably
interesting. What was more to the point, he never failed to command
attention whenever or wherever he might appear. In the Native Quarter he
was apparently better known than in the European. Cecilia noticed that
there he was treated with a deference such as one would only expect to
be shown to a king. She marvelled, but said nothing. Personally, I can
only wonder that her mother did not caution her before it was too late.
Surely she must have seen how dangerous the intimacy was likely to
become. It was old Colonel Bettenham who sounded the first note of
warning. In some fashion or another he was connected with the
Westmorelands, and therefore had more or less right to speak his mind.

'Who the man is, I am not in a position to say,' he remarked to the
mother; 'but if I were in your place I should be very careful. Cairo at
this time of year is full of adventurers.'

'But, my dear Colonel,' answered Mrs Westmoreland, 'you surely do not
mean to insinuate that the Professor is an adventurer. He was introduced
to us by Dr Forsyth, and he has written so many clever books.'

'Books, my dear madam, are not everything,' the other replied
judicially, and with that fine impartiality which marks a man who does
not read. 'As a matter of fact I am bound to confess that Phipps--one of
my captains--wrote a novel some years ago, but only one. The mess
pointed out to him that it wasn't good form, don't you know, so he never
tried the experiment again. But as for this man, Constanides, as they
call him, I should certainly be more than careful.' I have been told
since that this conversation worried poor Mrs Westmoreland more than she
cared to admit, even to herself. To a very large extent she, like her
daughter, had fallen under the spell of the Professor's fascination. Had
she been asked, point blank, she would doubtless have declared that she
preferred the Greek to the Englishman--though, of course, it would have
seemed flat heresy to say so. And yet--well, doubtless you can
understand what I mean without my explaining further. I am inclined to
believe that I was the first to notice that there was serious trouble
brewing. I could see a strained look in the girl's eyes for which I
found if difficult to account. Then the truth dawned upon me, and I am
ashamed to say that I began to watch her systematically. We have few
secrets from each other now, and she has told me a good deal of what
happened during that extraordinary time--for extraordinary it certainly
was. Perhaps none of us realised what a unique drama we were
watching--one of the strangest, I am tempted to believe, that this world
of ours has ever seen. Christmas was just past and the New Year was
fairly under way when the beginning of the end came. I think by that
time even Mrs Westmoreland had arrived at some sort of knowledge of the
case. But it was then too late to interfere. I am as sure that Cecilia
was not in love with Constanides as I am of anything. She was merely
fascinated by him, and to a degree that, happily for the peace of the
world, is as rare as the reason for it is perplexing. To be precise, it
was on Tuesday, January the 3rd, that the crisis came. On the evening of
that day, accompanied by her daughter and escorted by Dr Forsyth, Mrs
Westmoreland attended a reception at the palace of a certain Pasha,
whose name I am obviously compelled to keep to myself. For the purposes
of my story it is sufficient, however, that he is a man who prides
himself on being up-to-date in most things, and for that and other
reasons invitations to his receptions are eagerly sought after. In his
drawing-room one may meet some of the most distinguished men in Europe,
and on occasion it is even possible to obtain an insight into certain
political intrigues that, to put it mildly, afford one an opportunity of
reflecting on the instability of mundane affairs and of politics in
particular.

The evening was well advanced before Constanides made his appearance.
When he did, it was observed that he was more than usually quiet. Later,
Cecilia permitted him to conduct her into the balcony, whence, since it
was a perfect moonlight night, a fine view of the Nile could be
obtained. Exactly what he said to her I have never been able to
discover; I have, however, her mother's assurance that she was visibly
agitated when she rejoined her. As a matter of fact, they returned to
the hotel almost immediately, when Cecilia, pleading weariness, retired
to her room.

And now this is the part of the story you will find as difficult to
believe as I did. Yet I have indisputable evidence that it is true. It
was nearly midnight and the large hotel was enjoying the only quiet it
knows in the twenty-four hours. I have just said that Cecilia had
retired, but in making that assertion I am not telling the exact truth,
for though she had bade mother 'Goodnight' and had gone to her room, it
was not to rest. Regardless of the cold night air she had thrown open
the window, and was standing looking out into the moonlit street. Of
what she was thinking I do not know, nor can she remember. For my own
part, however, I incline to the belief that she was in a semi-hypnotic
condition and that for the time being her mind was a blank.

From this point I will let Cecilia tell the story herself.

How long I stood at the window I cannot say; it may have been only five
minutes, it might have been an hour. Then, suddenly, an extraordinary
thing happened. I knew that it was imprudent, I was aware that it was
even wrong, but an overwhelming craving to go out seized me. I felt as
if the house were stifling me and that if I did not get out into the
cool night air, and within a few minutes, I should die. Stranger still,
I felt no desire to battle with the temptation. It was as if a will
infinitely stronger than my own was dominating me and that I was
powerless to resist. Scarcely conscious of what I was doing I changed my
dress, and then, throwing on a cloak, switched off the electric light
and stepped out into the corridor. The white-robed Arab servants were
lying about on the floor as is their custom; they were all asleep. On
the thick carpet of the great staircase my steps made no sound. The hall
was in semi-darkness and the watchman must have been absent on his
rounds, for there was no one there to spy upon me. Passing through the
vestibule I turned the key of the front door. Still success attended me,
for the lock shot back with scarcely a sound and I found myself in the
street. Even then I had no thought of the folly of this escapade. I was
merely conscious of the mysterious power that was dragging me on.
Without hesitation I turned to the right and hastened along the
pavement, faster I think than I had ever walked in my life. Under the
trees it was comparatively dark, but out in the roadway it was well-nigh
as bright as day. Once a carriage passed me and I could hear its
occupants, who were French, conversing merrily--otherwise I seemed to
have the city to myself. Later I heard a muezzin chanting his call to
prayer from the minaret of some mosque in the neighbourhood, the cry
being taken up and repeated from other mosques. Then at the corner of a
street I stopped as if in obedience to a command. I can recall the fact
that I was trembling, but for what reason I could not tell. I say this
to show that while I was incapable of returning to the hotel, or of
exercising my normal will power, I still possessed the faculty of
observation.

I had scarcely reached the corner referred to, which, as a matter of
fact, I believe I should recognise if I saw it again, when the door of a
house opened and a man emerged. It was Professor Constanides, but his
appearance at such a place and at such an hour, like everything else
that happened that night, did not strike me as being in any way
extraordinary.

'You have obeyed me,' he said by way of greeting. 'That is well. Now let
us be going--the hour is late.'

As he said it there came the rattle of wheels and a carriage drove
swiftly round the corner and pulled up before us. My companion helped me
into it and took his place beside me. Even then, unheard-of as my action
was, I had no thought of resisting.

'What does it mean?' I asked. 'Oh, tell me what it means? Why am I
here?'

'You will soon know,' was his reply, and his voice took a tone I had
never noticed in it before. We had driven some considerable distance, in
fact, I believe we had crossed the river, before either of us spoke
again.

'Think,' said my companion, 'and tell me whether you can remember ever
having driven with me before?'

'We have driven together many times lately,' I replied. 'Yesterday to
the polo, and the day before to the Pyramids.'

'Think again,' he said, and as he did so he placed his hand on mine. It
was as cold as ice.

However, I only shook my head.

'I cannot remember,' I answered, and yet I seemed to be dimly conscious
of something that was too intangible to be a recollection. He uttered a
little sigh and once more we were silent. The horses must have been good
ones for they whirled us along at a fast pace. I did not take much
interest in the route we followed, but at last something attracted my
attention and I knew that we were on the road to Gizeh. A few moments
later the famous Museum, once the palace of the ex-Khedive Ismail, came
into view. Almost immediately the carriage pulled up in the shadow of
the Lebbek trees and my companion begged me to alight. I did so,
whereupon he said something, in what I can only suppose was Arabic, to
his coachman, who whipped up his horses and drove swiftly away.

'Come,' he said, in the same tone of command as before, and then led the
way towards the gates of the old palace. Dominated as my will was by his
I could still notice how beautiful the building looked in the moonlight.
In the daytime it presents a faded and unsubstantial appearance, but
now, with its Oriental tracery, it was almost fairylike. The Professor
halted at the gates and unlocked them. How he had admitted us, I cannot
say. It suffices that, almost before I was aware of it, we had passed
through the garden and were ascending the steps to the main entrance.
The doors behind us, we entered the first room. It is only another point
in this extraordinary adventure when I declare that even now I was not
afraid; and yet to find oneself in such a place and at such an hour at
any other time would probably have driven me beside myself with terror.

The moonlight streamed in upon us, revealing the ancient monuments and
the other indescribable memorials of those long-dead ages. Once more my
conductor uttered his command and we went on through the second room,
passed the Skekh-El-Beled and the Seated Scribe. Room after room we
traversed, and to do so it seemed to me that we ascended stairs
innumerable. At last we came to one in which Constanides paused. It
contained numerous mummy cases and was lighted by a skylight through
which the rays of the moon streamed in. We were standing before one
which I remembered to have remarked on the occasion of our last visit. I
could distinguish the paintings upon it distinctly. Professor
Constanides, with the deftness which showed his familiarity with the
work, removed the lid and revealed to me the swathed-up figure within.
The face was uncovered and was strangely well-preserved. I gazed down on
it, and as I did so a sensation that I had never known before passed
over me. My body seemed to be shrinking, my blood to be turning to ice.

For the first time I endeavoured to exert myself, to tear myself from
the bonds that were holding me. But it was in vain. I was
sinking--sinking--sinking--into I knew not what. Then the voice of the
man who had brought me to the place sounded in my ears as if he were
speaking from a long way off. After that a great light burst upon me,
and it was as if I were walking in a dream; yet I knew it was too real,
too true to life to be a mere creation of my fancy.

It was night and the heavens were studded with stars. In the distance a
great army was encamped and at intervals the calls of the sentries
reached me. Somehow I seemed to feel no wonderment at my position. Even
my dress caused me no surprise. To my left, as I looked towards the
river, was a large tent, before which armed men paced continually. I
looked about me as if I expected to see someone, but there was no one.

'It is for the last time,' I told myself. 'Come what may, it shall be
the last time!'

Still I waited, and as I did so I could hear the night wind sighing
through the rushes on the river's bank. From the tent near me--for
Usirtasen, son of Amenemhait--was then fighting against the Libyans and
was commanding his army in person--came the sound of revelry. The air
blew cold from the desert and I shivered, for I was but thinly clad.
Then I hid myself in the shadow of a great rock that was near at hand.
Presently I caught the sound of a footstep, and there came into view a
tall man, walking carefully, as though he had no desire that the
sentries on guard before the Royal tent should become aware of his
presence in the neighbourhood. As I saw him I moved from where I was
standing to meet him. He was none other than Sinfihit--younger son of
Amenemhait and brother of Usirtasen--who was at that moment conferring
with his generals in the tent.

I can see him now as he came towards me, tall, handsome, and defiant in
his bearing as a man should be. He walked with the assured step of one
who has been a soldier and trained to warlike exercises from his youth
up. For a moment I regretted the news I had to tell him--but only for a
moment. I could hear the voice of Usirtasen in the tent, and after that
I had no thought for anyone else.

'Is it thou, Nofrit?' he asked as soon as he saw me.

'It is I!' I replied. 'You are late, Sinfihit. You tarry too long over
the wine cups.'

'You wrong me, Nofrit,' he answered, with all the fierceness for which
he was celebrated. 'I have drunk no wine this night. Had I not been kept
by the Captain of the Guard I should have been here sooner. Thou art not
angry with me, Nofrit?'

'Nay, that were presumption on my part, my lord,' I answered. 'Art thou
not the King's son, Sinfihit?'

'And by the Holy Ones I swear that it were better for me if I were not,'
he replied. 'Usirtasen, my brother, takes all and I am but the jackal
that gathers up the scraps wheresoever he may find them.' He paused for
a moment. 'However, all goes well with our plot. Let me but have time
and I will yet be ruler of this land and of all the Land of Khem
beside.' He drew himself up to his full height and looked towards the
sleeping camp. It was well known that between the brothers there was but
little love, and still less trust.

'Peace, peace,' I whispered, fearing lest his words might be overheard.
'You must not talk so, my lord. Should you by chance be heard you know
what the punishment would be!'

He laughed a short and bitter laugh. He was well aware that Usirtasen
would show him no mercy. It was not the first time he had been
suspected, and he was playing a desperate game. He came a step closer to
me and took my hand in his. I would have withdrawn it--but he gave me no
opportunity. Never was a man more in earnest than he was then.

'Nofrit,' he said, and I could feel his breath upon my cheek, 'what is
my answer to be? The time for talking is past; now we must act. As thou
knowest, I prefer deeds to words, and to-morrow my brother Usirtasen
shall learn that I am as powerful as he.'

Knowing what I knew I could have laughed him to scorn for his boastful
speech. The time, however, was not yet ripe, so I held my peace. He was
plotting against his brother, whom I loved, and it was his desire that I
should help him. That, however, I would not do. 'Listen,' he said,
drawing even closer to me, and speaking in a voice that showed me
plainly how much in earnest he was, 'thou knowest how much I love thee.
Thou knowest that there is nought I would not do for thee or for thy
sake. Be but faithful to me now and there is nothing thou shalt ask in
vain of me hereafter. All is prepared, and ere the moon is gone I shall
be Pharaoh and reign beside Amenemhait, my father.' 'Are you so sure
that your plans will not miscarry?' I asked, with what was almost a
sneer at his recklessness--for recklessness it surely was to think that
he could induce an army that had been admittedly successful to swerve in
its allegiance to the general who had won its battles for it, and to
desert in the face of the enemy. Moreover, I knew that he was wrong in
believing that his father cared more for him than for Usirtasen, who had
done so much for the kingdom, and who was beloved by high and low alike.
But it was not in Sinfihit's nature to look upon the dark side of
things. He had complete confidence in himself and in his power to bring
his conspiracy against his father and brother to a successful issue. He
revealed to me his plans, and, bold though they were, I could see that
it was impossible that they could succeed. And in the event of his
failing, what mercy could he hope to receive? I knew Usirtasen too well
to think that he would show any. With all the eloquence I could command
I implored him to abandon the attempt, or at least to delay it for a
time. He seized my wrist and pulled me to him, peering fiercely into my
face.

'Art playing me false?' he asked. 'If it is so it were better that you
should drown yourself in yonder river. Betray me and nothing shall save
you--not even Pharaoh himself.'

That he meant what he said I felt convinced. The man was desperate; he
was staking all he had in the world upon the issue of his venture. I can
say with truth that it was not my fault that we had been drawn together,
and yet on this night of all others it seemed as if there were nothing
left for me but to side with him or to bring about his downfall.

'Nofrit,' he said, after a short pause, 'is it nothing, thinkest thou,
to be the wife of a Pharaoh? Is it not worth striving for, particularly
when it can be so easily accomplished?'

I knew, however, that he was deluding himself with false hopes. What he
had in his mind could never come to pass. I was like dry grass between
two fires. All that was required was one small spark to bring about a
conflagration in which I should be consumed.

'Harken to me, Nofrit,' he continued. 'You have means of learning
Usirtasen's plans. Send me word to-morrow as to what is in his mind and
the rest will be easy. Your reward shall be greater than you dream of.'

Though I had no intention of doing what he asked, I knew that in his
present humour it would be little short of madness to thwart him. I
therefore temporised with him, and allowed him to suppose that I would
do as he wished, and then, bidding him good-night, I sped away towards
the hut where I was lodged. I had not been there many minutes when a
messenger came to me from Usirtasen, summoning me to his presence.
Though I could not understand what it meant I hastened to obey.

On arrival there I found him surrounded by the chief officers of his
army. One glance at his face was sufficient to tell me that he was
violently angry with someone, and I had the best of reasons for
believing that that someone was myself. Alas! it was as I had expected.

Sinfihit's plot had been discovered; he had been followed and watched,
and my meeting with him that evening was known. I protested my innocence
in vain. The evidence was too strong against me.

'Speak, girl, and tell what thou knowest,' said Usirtasen, in a voice I
had never heard him use before. 'It is the only way by which thou canst
save thyself. Look to it that thy story tallies with the tales of
others!'

I trembled in every limb as I answered the questions he put to me. It
was plain that he no longer trusted me, and that the favour I had once
found in his eyes was gone, never to return. 'It is well,' he said when
I had finished my story. 'And now we will see thy partner--the man who
would have put me--the Pharaoh who is to be--to the sword had I not been
warned in time.'

He made a sign to one of the officers who stood by, whereupon the latter
left the tent, to return a few moments later with Sinfihit.

'Hail, brother!' said Usirtasen, mockingly, as he leaned back in his
chair and looked at him through half-shut eyes. 'You tarried but a short
time over the wine cup this night. I fear it pleased thee but little.
Forgive me; on another occasion better shall be found for thee lest thou
shouldst deem us lacking in our hospitality.'

'There were matters that needed my attention and I could not stay,'
Sinfihit replied, looking his brother in the face. 'Thou wouldst not
have me neglect my duties.'

'Nay! nay! Maybe they were matters that concerned our personal safety?'
Usirtasen continued, still with the same gentleness. 'Maybe you heard
that there were those in our army who were not well disposed towards us?
Give me their names, my brother, that due punishment may be meted out to
them.'

Before Sinfihit could reply, Usirtasen had sprung to his feet.

'Dog!' he cried, 'darest thou prate to me of matters of importance when
thou knowest thou hast been plotting against me and my father's throne.
I have doubted thee these many months and now all is made clear. By the
Gods, the Holy Ones, I swear that thou shalt die for this ere cock-crow.

It was at this moment that Sinfihit became aware of my presence. A
little cry escaped him, and his face told me as plainly as any words
could speak that he believed that I had betrayed him. He was about to
speak, probably to denounce me, when the sound of voices reached us from
outside.

Usirtasen bade the guards to ascertain what it meant, and presently a
messenger entered the tent.

He was travel-stained and weary. Advancing towards where Usirtasen was
seated, he knelt before him.

'Hail, Pharaoh,' he said. 'I come to three from the Palace of Titoui.'

An anxious expression came over Usirtasen's face as he heard this. I
also detected beads of perspiration on the brow of Sinfihit. A moment
latter it was known to us that Amenemhait was dead, and, therefore,
Usirtasen reigned in his stead. The news was so sudden, and the
consequences so vast, that it was impossible to realise quite what it
meant. I looked across at Sinfihit and his eyes met mine. He seemed to
be making up his mind about something. Then with lightning speed he
sprang upon me; a dagger gleamed in the air; I felt as if a hot iron had
been thrust into my breast, and after that I remember no more.

As I felt myself falling I seemed to wake from my dream--if dream it
were--to find myself standing in the Museum by the mummy case, and with
Professor Constanides by my side.

'You have seen,' he said. 'You have looked back across the centuries to
that day when, as Nofrit, I believed you had betrayed me, and killed
you. After that I escaped from the camp and fled into Kaduma. There I
died; but it was decreed that my soul should never know peace till we
had met again and you had forgiven me. I have waited all these years,
and see--we meet at last.'

Strange to say, even then the situation did not strike me as being in
any way improbable. Yet now, when I see it set down in black and white,
I find myself wondering that I dare to ask anyone in their sober senses
to believe it to be true. Was I in truth that same Nofrit who, four
thousand years before, had been killed by Sinfihit, son of Amenemhait,
because he believed that I had betrayed him? It seemed incredible, and
yet, if it were a creation of my imagination, what did the dream mean? I
fear it is a riddle of which I shall probably never know the answer. My
failure to reply to his question seemed to cause him pain.

'Nofrit,' he said, and his voice shook with emotion, 'think what your
forgiveness means to me. Without it I am lost both here and hereafter.'

His voice was low and pleading and his face in the moonlight was like
that of a man who knew the uttermost depths of despair.

'Forgive--forgive,' he cried again, holding out his hands to me. 'If you
do not, I must go back to the sufferings which have been my portion
since I did the deed which wrought my ruin.'

I felt myself trembling like a leaf.

'If it is as you say, though I cannot believe it, I forgive you freely,'
I answered, in a voice that I scarcely recognised as my own.

For some moments he was silent, then he knelt before me and took my
hand, which he raised to his lips. After that, rising, he laid his head
upon the breast of the mummy before which we were standing. Looking down
at it he addressed it thus:

'Rest, Sinfihit, son of Amenemhait--for that which was foretold for thee
is now accomplished, and the punishment which was decreed is at an end.
Henceforth thou mayest sleep in peace.'

After that he replaced the lid of the coffin, and when this was done he
turned to me.

'Let us be going,' he said, and we went together through the rooms by
the way we had come.

Together we left the building and passed through the gardens out into
the road beyond. There we found the carriage waiting for us, and we took
our places in it. Once more the horses sped along the silent road,
carrying us swiftly back to Cairo. During the drive not a word was
spoken by either of us. The only desire I had left was to get back to
the hotel and lay my aching head upon my pillow. We crossed the bridge
and entered the city. What the time was I had no idea, but I was
conscious that the wind blew chill as if in anticipation of the dawn. At
the same corner whence we had started, the coachman stopped his horses
and I alighted, after which he drove away as if he had received his
orders before-hand.

'Will you permit me to walk with you as far as your hotel?' said
Constanides, with his customary politeness.

I tried to say something in reply, but my voice failed me. I would much
rather have been alone, but as he would not allow this we set off
together. At the corner of the street in which the hotel is situated we
stopped.

'Here we must part,' he said. Then, after a pause, he added, 'And for
ever. From this moment I shall never see your face again.'

'You are leaving Cairo?' was the only thing I could say.

'Yes, I am leaving Cairo,' he replied with peculiar emphasis. 'My errand
here is accomplished. You need have no fear that I shall ever trouble
you again.'

'I have no fear,' I answered, though I am afraid it was only a half
truth.

He looked earnestly into my face.

'Nofrit,' he said, 'for, say what you will, you are the Nofrit I would
have made my Queen and have loved beyond all other women, never again
will it be permitted you to look into the past as you did to-night. Had
things been ordained otherwise we might have done great things together,
but the gods willed that it should not be. Let it rest therefore. And
now--farewell! To-night I go to the rest for which I have so long been
seeking.'

Without another word he turned and left me. Then I went on to the hotel.
How it came about I cannot say, but the door was open and I passed
quickly in. Once more, to my joy, I found the watchman was absent from
the hall. Trembling lest anyone might see me, I sped up the stairs and
along the corridor, where the servants lay sleeping just as I had left
them, and so to my room. Everything was exactly as I had left it, and
there was nothing to show that my absence had been suspected. Again I
went to the window, and, in a feeling of extraordinary agitation, looked
out. Already there were signs of dawn in the sky. I sat down and tried
to think over all that had happened to me that evening, endeavouring to
convince myself, in the face of indisputable evidence, that it was not
real and that I had only dreamt it. Yet it would not do! At last, worn
out, I retired to rest. As a rule I sleep soundly; it is scarcely,
however, a matter for wonderment that I did not do so on this occasion.

Hour after hour I tumbled and tossed--thinking--thinking--thinking. When
I rose and looked into the glass I scarcely recognised myself. Indeed,
my mother commented on my fagged appearance when we met at the breakfast
table.

'My dear child, you look as if you had been up all night,' she said, and
little did she guess, as she nibbled her toast, that there was a
considerable amount of truth in her remark.

Later she went shopping with a lady staying in the hotel, while I went
to my room to lie down.

When we met again at lunch it was easy to see that she had some news of
importance to communicate.

'My dear Cecilia,' she said, 'I have just seen Dr Forsyth, and he has
given me a terrible shock.

I don't want to frighten you, my girl, but have you heard that Professor
Constanides was found dead in bed this morning? It is a most terrible
affair! He must have died during the night!'

I am not going to pretend that I had any reply ready to offer her at
that moment.

THE END




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