Project Gutenberg Australia
a treasure-trove of literature
treasure found hidden with no evidence of ownership

Title: My New Year's Eve Among the Mummies
Author: Grant Allen
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0602441.txt
Edition: 1
Language: English
Character set encoding: Latin-1(ISO-8859-1)--8 bit
Date first posted: July 2006
Date most recently updated: July 2006

This eBook was produced by: Richard Scott

Project Gutenberg of Australia eBooks are created from printed editions
which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice
is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular
paper edition.

Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the
copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this

This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions
whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms
of the Project Gutenberg of Australia License which may be viewed online at

To contact Project Gutenberg of Australia go to

Grant Allen
(pseudonym orf J. Arbuthnot Wilson)

I have been a wanderer and a vagabond on the face of the earth for a
good many years now, and I have certainly had some odd adventures in
my time; but I can assure you, I never spent twenty-four queerer hours
than those which I passed some twelve months since in the great
unopened Pyramid of Abu Yilla.

The way I got there was itself a very strange one. I had come to
Egypt for a winter tour with the Fitz-Simkinses, to whose daughter
Editha I was at that precise moment engaged. You will probably
remember that old Fitz-Simkins belonged originally to the wealthy firm
of Simkinson and Stokoe, worshipful vintners; but when the senior
partner retired from the business and got his knighthood, the College
of Heralds opportunely discovered that his ancestors had changed their
fine old Norman name for its English equivalent some time about the
reign of King Richard I; and they immediately authorized the old
gentleman to resume the patronymic and the armorial bearings of his
distinguished forefathers. It's really quite astonishing how often
these curious coincidences crop up at the College of Heralds.

Of course it was a great catch for a landless and briefless
barrister like myself? dependent on a small fortune in South American
securities, and my precarious earnings as a writer of burlesque? to
secure such a valuable prospective property as Editha Fitz-Simkins. To
be sure, the girl was undeniably plain; but I have known plainer girls
than she was, whom forty thousand pounds converted into My Ladies: and
if Editha hadn't really fallen over head and ears in love with me, I
suppose old Fitz-Simkins would never have consented to such a match.
As it was, however, we had flirted so openly and so desperately during
the Scarborough season, that it would have been difficult for Sir
Peter to break it off: and so I had come to Egypt on a tour of
insurance to secure my prize, following in the wake of my future
mother-in-law, whose lungs were supposed to require a genial climate
though in my private opinion they were really as creditable a pair of
pulmonary appendages as ever drew breath.

Nevertheless, the course of true love did not run so smoothly as
might have been expected. Editha found me less ardent than a devoted
squire should be; and on the very last night of the old year she got
up a regulation lovers' quarrel, because I had sneaked away from the
boat that afternoon under the guidance of our dragoman, to witness the
seductive performances of some fair Ghaw zi, the dancing girls of a
neighbouring town. How she found it out heaven only knows, for I gave
that rascal Dimitri five piastres to hold his tongue: but she did find
it out somehow, and chose to regard it as an offence of the first
magnitude: a mortal sin only to be expiated by three days of penance
and humiliation.

I went to bed that night, in my hammock on deck, with feelings far
from satisfactory. We were moored against the bank at Abu Yilla, the
most pestiferous hole between the cataracts and the Delta. The
mosquitoes were worse than the ordinary mosquitoes of Egypt, and that
is saying a great deal. The heat was oppressive even at night, and the
malaria from the lotus beds rose like a palpable mist before my eyes.
Above all, I was getting doubtful whether Editha Fitz-Simkins might
not after all slip between my fingers. I felt wretched and feverish:
and yet I had delightful interlusive recollections, in between, of
that lovely little Gh ziyah, who danced that exquisite, marvellous,
entrancing, delicious, and awfully oriental dance that I saw in the

By Jove, she was a beautiful creature. Eyes like two full moons;
hair like Milton's Penseroso; movements like a poem of Swinburne's set
to action. If Editha was only a faint picture of that girl now! Upon
my word, I was falling in love with a Gh ziyah!

Then the mosquitoes came again. Buzz? buzz? buzz. I make a lunge at
the loudest and biggest, a sort of prima donna in their infernal
opera. I kill the prima donna, but ten more shrill performers come in
its place. The frogs croak dismally in the reedy shallows. The night
grows hotter and hotter still. At last, I can stand it no longer. I
rise up, dress myself lightly, and jump ashore to find some way of
passing the time.

Yonder, across the flat, lies the great unopened Pyramid of Abu
Yilla. We are going to-morrow to climb to the top; but I will take a
turn to reconnoitre in that direction now. I walk across the moonlit
fields, my soul still divided between Editha and the Gh ziyah, and
approach the solemn mass of huge, antiquated granite blocks standing
out so grimly against the pale horizon. I feel half awake, half
asleep, and altogether feverish: but I poke about the base in an
aimless sort of way, with a vague idea that I may perhaps discover by
chance the secret of its sealed entrance, which has ere now baffled so
many pertinacious explorers and learned Egyptologists.

As I walk along the base, I remember old Herodotus's story, like a
page from the 'Arabian Nights', of how King Rhampsinitus built himself
a treasury, wherein one stone turned on a pivot like a door; and how
the builder availed himself of this his cunning device to steal gold
from the king's storehouse. Suppose the entrance to the unopened
Pyramid should be by such a door. It would be curious if I should
chance to light upon the very spot.

I stood in the broad moonlight, near the north-east angle of the
great pile, at the twelfth stone from the corner. A random fancy
struck me, that I might turn this stone by pushing it inward on the
left side. I leant against it with all my weight, and tried to move it
on the imaginary pivot. Did it give way a fraction of an inch? No, it
must have been mere fancy. Let me try again. Surely it is yielding!
Gracious Osiris, it has moved an inch or more! My heart beats fast,
either with fever or excitement, and I try a third time. The rust of
centuries on the pivot wears slowly off, and the stone turned
ponderously round, giving access to a low dark passage.

It must have been madness which led me to enter the forgotten
corridor, alone, without torch or match, at that hour of the evening;
but at any rate I entered. The passage was tall enough for a man to
walk erect, and I could feel, as I groped slowly along, that the wall
was composed of smooth polished granite, while the floor sloped away
downward with a slight but regular descent. I walked with trembling
heart and faltering feet for some forty or fifty yards down the
mysterious vestibule: and then I felt myself brought suddenly to a
standstill by a block of stone placed right across the pathway. I had
had nearly enough for one evening, and I was preparing to return to
the boat, agog with my new discovery, when my attention was suddenly
arrested by an incredible, a perfectly miraculous fact.

The block of stone which barred the passage was faintly visible as a
square, by means of a struggling belt of light streaming through the
seams. There must be a lamp or other flame burning within. What if
this were a door like the outer one, leading into a chamber perhaps
inhabited by some dangerous band of outcasts? The light was a sure
evidence of human occupation: and yet the outer door swung rustily on
its pivot as though it had never been opened for ages. I paused a
moment in fear before I ventured to try the stone: and then, urged on
once more by some insane impulse, I turned the massive block with all
my might to the left. It gave way slowly like its neighbour, and
finally opened into the central hall.

Never as long as I live shall I forget the ecstasy of terror,
astonishment, and blank dismay which seized upon me when I stepped
into that seemingly enchanted chamber. A blaze of light first burst
upon my eyes, from jets of gas arranged in regular rows tier above
tier, upon the columns and walls of the vast apartment. Huge pillars,
richly painted with red, yellow, blue and green decorations, stretched
in endless succession down the dazzling aisles. A floor of polished
syenite reflected the splendour of the lamps, and afforded a base for
red granite sphinxes and dark purple images in porphyry of the cat-
faced goddess Pasht, whose form I knew so well at the Louvre and the
British Museum. But I had no eyes for any of these lesser marvels,
being wholly absorbed in the greatest marvel of all: for there, in
royal state and with mitred head, a living Egyptian king, surrounded
by his coiffured court, was banqueting in the flesh upon a real
throne, before a table laden with Memphian delicacies!

I stood transfixed with awe and amazement, my tongue and my feet
alike forgetting their office, and my brain whirling round and round,
as I remember it used to whirl when my health broke down utterly at
Cambridge after the Classical Tripos. I gazed fixedly at the strange
picture before me, taking in all its details in a confused way, yet
quite incapable of understanding or realizing any part of its true
import. I saw the king in the centre of the hall, raised on a throne
of granite inlaid with gold and ivory; his head crowned with the
peaked cap of Rameses, and his curled hair flowing down his shoulders
in a set and formal frizz. I saw priests and warriors on either side,
dressed in the costumes which I had often carefully noted in our great
collections; while bronze-skinned maids, with light garments round
their waists, and limbs displayed in graceful picturesqueness, waited
upon them, half nude, as in the wall paintings which we had lately
examined at Karnak and Syene. I saw the ladies, clothed from head to
foot in dyed linen garments, sitting apart in the background,
banqueting by themselves at a separate table; while dancing girls,
like older representatives of my yesternoon friends, the Ghaw zi,
tumbled before them in strange attitudes, to the music of four-
stringed harps and long straight pipes. In short, I beheld as in a
dream the whole drama of everyday Egyptian royal life, playing itself
out anew under my eyes, in its real original properties and

Gradually, as I looked, I became aware that my hosts were no less
surprised at the appearance of their anachronistic guest than was the
guest himself at the strange living panorama which met his eyes. In a
moment music and dancing ceased; the banquet paused in its course, and
the king and his nobles stood up in undisguised astonishment to survey
the strange intruder.

Some minutes passed before any one moved forward on either side. At
last a young girl of royal appearance, yet strangely resembling the Gh
ziyah of Abu Yilla, and recalling in part the laughing maiden in the
foreground of Mr Long's great canvas at the previous Academy, stepped
out before the throng.

'May I ask you,' she said in Ancient Egyptian, 'who you are, and why
you come hither to disturb us?'

I was never aware before that I spoke or understood the language of
the hieroglyphics: yet I found I had not the slightest difficulty in
comprehending or answering her question. To say the truth, Ancient
Egyptian, though an extremely tough tongue to decipher in its written
form, becomes as easy as love-making when spoken by a pair of lips
like that Pharaonic princess's. It is really very much the same as
English, pronounced in a rapid and somewhat indefinite whisper, and
with all the vowels left out.

'I beg ten thousand pardons for my intrusion,' I answered
apologetically: 'but I did not know that this Pyramid was inhabited,
or I should not have entered your residence so rudely. As for the
points you wish to know, I am an English tourist, and you will find my
name upon this card;' saying which I handed her one from the case
which I had fortunately put into my pocket, with conciliatory
politeness. The princess examined it closely, but evidently did not
understand its import.

'In return,' I continued, 'may I ask you in what august presence I
now find myself by accident?'

A court official stood forth from the throng, and answered in a set
heraldic tone: 'In the presence of the illustrious monarch, Brother of
the Sun, Thothmes the Twenty-seventh, king of the Eighteenth Dynasty.'

'Salute the Lord of the World,' put in another official in the same
regulation drone.

I bowed low to his Majesty, and stepped out into the hall.
Apparently my obeisance did not come up to Egyptian standards of
courtesy, for a suppressed titter broke audibly from the ranks of
bronze-skinned waiting-women. But the king graciously smiled at my
attempt, and turning to the nearest nobleman, observed in a voice of
great sweetness and self-contained majesty: 'This stranger, Ombos, is
certainly a very curious person. His appearance does not at all
resemble that of an Ethiopian or other savage, nor does he look like
the pale-faced sailors who come to us from the Achaian land beyond the
sea. His features, to be sure, are not very different from theirs; but
his extraordinary and singularly inartistic dress shows him to belong
to some other barbaric race.'

I glanced down at my waistcoat, and saw that I was wearing my
tourist's check suit, of grey and mud colour, with which a Bond Street
tailor had supplied me just before leaving town, as the latest thing
out in fancy tweeds. Evidently these Egyptians must have a very
curious standard of taste not to admire our pretty and graceful style
of male attire.

'If the dust beneath your Majesty's feet may venture upon a
suggestion,' put in the officer whom the king had addressed, 'I would
hint that this young man is probably a stray visitor from the utterly
uncivilized lands of the North. The headgear which he carries in his
hand obviously betrays an Arctic habitat.'

I had instinctively taken off my round felt hat in the first moment
of surprise, when I found myself in the midst of this strange throng,
and I was standing now in a somewhat embarrassed posture, holding it
awkwardly before me like a shield to protect my chest.

'Let the stranger cover himself,' said the king.

'Barbarian intruder, cover yourself,' cried the herald. I noticed
throughout that the king never directly addressed anybody save the
higher officials around him.

I put on my hat as desired. 'A most uncomfortable and silly form of
tiara indeed,' said the great Thothmes.

'Very unlike your noble and awe-spiring mitre, Lion of Egypt,'
answered Ombos.

'Ask the stranger his name,' the king continued.

It was useless to offer another card, so I mentioned it in a clear

'An uncouth and almost unpronounceable designation truly,' commented
his Majesty to the Grand Chamberlain beside him. 'These savages speak
strange languages, widely different from the flowing tongue of Memnon
and Sesostris.'

The chamberlain bowed his assent with three low genuflexions. I
began to feel a little abashed at these personal remarks, and I almost
think (though I shouldn't like it to be mentioned in the Temple) that
a blush rose to my cheek.

The beautiful princess, who had been standing near me meanwhile in
an attitude of statuesque repose, now appeared anxious to change the
current of the conversation. 'Dear father,' she said with a respectful
inclination, 'surely the stranger, barbarian though he be, cannot
relish such pointed allusions to his person and costume. We must let
him feel the grace and delicacy of Egyptian refinement. Then he may
perhaps carry back with him some faint echo of its cultured beauty to
his northern wilds.'

'Nonsense, Hatasou,' replied Thothmes XXVII testily. 'Savages have
no feelings, and they are as incapable of appreciating Egyptian
sensibility as the chattering crow is incapable of attaining the
dignified reserve of the sacred crocodile.'

'Your Majesty is mistaken,' I said, recovering my self-possession
gradually and realizing my position as a freeborn Englishman before
the court of a foreign despot? though I must allow that I felt rather
less confident than usual, owing to the fact that we were not
represented in the Pyramid by a British Consul? 'I am an English
tourist, a visitor from a modern land whose civilization far surpasses
the rude culture of early Egypt; and I am accustomed to respectful
treatment from all other nationalities, as becomes a citizen of the
First Naval Power in the World.'

My answer created a profound impression. 'He has spoken to the
Brother of the Sun,' cried Ombos in evident perturbation. 'He must be
of the Blood Royal in his own tribe, or he would never have dared to
do so!'

'Otherwise,' added a person whose dress I recognized as that of a
priest, 'he must be offered up in expiation to Amon-Ra immediately.'

As a rule I am a decent truthful person, but under these alarming
circumstances I ventured to tell a slight fib with an air of
nonchalant boldness. 'I am a younger brother of our reigning king,' I
said without a moment's hesitation; for there was nobody present to
gainsay me, and I tried to salve my conscience by reflecting that at
any rate I was only claiming consanguinity with an imaginary

'In that case,' said King Thothmes, with more geniality in his tone,
'there can be no impropriety in my addressing you personally. Will you
take a place at our table next to myself, and we can converse together
without interrupting a banquet which must be brief enough in any
circumstances? Hatasou, my dear, you may seat yourself next to the
barbarian prince.'

I felt a visible swelling to the proper dimensions of a Royal
Highness as I sat down by the king's right hand. The nobles resumed
their places, the bronze-skinned waitresses left off standing like
soldiers in a row and staring straight at my humble self, the goblets
went round once more, and a comely maid soon brought me meat, bread,
fruits and date wine.

All this time I was naturally burning with curiosity to inquire who
my strange host might be, and how they had preserved their existence
for so many centuries in this undiscovered hall; but I was obliged to
wait until I had satisfied his Majesty of my own nationality, the
means by which I had entered the Pyramid, the general state of affairs
throughout the world at the present moment, and fifty thousand other
matters of a similar sort. Thothmes utterly refused to believe my
reiterated assertion that our existing civilization was far superior
to the Egyptian; 'because,' he said, 'I see from your dress that your
nation is utterly devoid of taste or invention;' but he listened with
great interest to my account of modern society, the steam-engine, the
Permissive Prohibitory Bill, the telegraph, the House of Commons, Home
Rule, and other blessings of our advanced era, as well as to a brief
resume of European history from the rise of the Greek culture to the
Russo-Turkish war. At last his questions were nearly exhausted, and I
got a chance of making a few counter inquiries on my own account.

'And now,' I said, turning to the charming Hatasou, whom I thought a
more pleasing informant than her august papa, 'I should like to know
who you are.'

'What, don't you know?' she cried with unaffected surprise. 'Why,
we're mummies.'

She made this astonishing statement with just the same quiet
unconsciousness as if she had said, 'we're French,' or 'we're
Americans.' I glanced round the walls, and observed behind the
columns, what I had not noticed till then? a large number of empty
mummy-cases, with their lids placed carelessly by their sides.

'But what are you doing here?' I asked in a bewildered way.

'Is it possible,' said Hatasou, 'that you don't really know the
object of embalming? Though your manners show you to be an agreeable
and well-bred young man, you must excuse my saying that you are
shockingly ignorant. We are made into mummies in order to preserve our
immortality. Once in every thousand years we wake up for twenty-four
hours, recover our flesh and blood, and banquet once more upon the
mummied dishes and other good things laid by for us in the Pyramid.
To-day is the first day of a millennium, and so we have waked up for
the sixth time since we were first embalmed.'

'The sixth time?' I inquired incredulously. 'Then you must have been
dead six thousand years.'

'Exactly so.'

'But the world has not yet existed so long,' I cried, in a fervour
of orthodox horror.

'Excuse me, barbarian prince. This is the first day of the three
hundred and twenty-seven thousandth millennium.'

My orthodoxy received a severe shock. However, I had been accustomed
to geological calculations, and was somewhat inclined to accept the
antiquity of man; so I swallowed the statement without more ado.
Besides, if such a charming girl as Hatasou had asked me at that
moment to turn Mohammedan, or to worship Oysteries, I believe I should
incontinently have done so.

'You wake up only for a single day and night, then?' I said.

'Only for a single day and night. After that, we go to sleep for
another millennium.'

'Unless you are meanwhile burned as fuel on the Cairo Railway,' I
added mentally. 'But how,' I continued aloud, 'do you get these

'The Pyramid is built above a spring of inflammable gas. We have a
reservoir in one of the side chambers in which it collects during the
thousand years. As soon as we awake, we turn it on at once from the
tap, and light it with a lucifer match.'

'Upon my word,' I interposed, 'I had no notion you Ancient Egyptians
were acquainted with the use of matches.'

'Very likely not. "There are more things in heaven and earth,
Cephrenes, than are dreamt of in your philosophy," as the bard of
Philae puts it.'

Further inquiries brought out all the secrets of that strange tomb-
house, and kept me fully interested till the close of the banquet.
Then the chief priest solemnly rose, offered a small fragment of meat
to a deified crocodile, who sat in a meditative manner by the side of
his deserted mummy-case, and declared the feast concluded for the
night. All rose from their places, wandered away into the long
corridors or side-aisles, and formed little groups of talkers under
the brilliant gas-lamps.

For my part, I strolled off with Hatasou down the least illuminated
of the colonnades, and took my seat beside a marble fountain, where
several fish (gods of great sanctity, Hatasou assured me) were
disporting themselves in a porphyry basin. How long we sat there I
cannot tell, but I know that we talked a good deal about fish, and
gods, and Egyptian habits, and Egyptian philosophy, and, above all,
Egyptian love-making. The last-named subject we found very
interesting, and when once we got fully started upon it, no diversion
afterwards occurred to break the even tenour of the conversation.
Hatasou was a lovely figure, tall, queenly, with smooth dark arms and
neck of polished bronze: her big black eyes full of tenderness, and
her long hair bound up into a bright Egyptian headdress, that
harmonized to a tone with her complexion and her robe. The more we
talked, the more desperately did I fall in love, and the more utterly
oblivious did I become of my duty to Editha Fitz-Simkins. The mere
ugly daughter of a rich and vulgar brand-new knight, forsooth, to show
off her airs before me, when here was a Princess of the Blood Royal of
Egypt, obviously sensible to the attentions which I was paying her,
and not unwilling to receive them with a coy and modest grace.

Well, I went on saying pretty things to Hatasou, and Hatasou went on
deprecating them in a pretty little way, as who should say, 'I don't
mean what I pretend to mean one bit;' until at last I may confess that
we were both evidently as far gone in the disease of the heart called
love as it is possible for two young people on first acquaintance to
become. Therefore, when Hatasou pulled forth her watch? another piece
of mechanism with which antiquaries used never to credit the Egyptian
people? and declared that she had only three more hours to live, at
least for the next thousand years, I fairly broke down, took out my
handkerchief, and began to sob like a child of five years old.

Hatasou was deeply moved. Decorum forbade that she should console me
with too much empressement; but she ventured to remove the
handkerchief gently from my face, and suggested that there was yet one
course open by which we might enjoy a little more of one another's
society. 'Suppose,' she said quietly, 'you were to become a mummy. You
would then wake up, as we do, every thousand years; and after you have
tried it once, you will find it just as natural to sleep for a
millennium as for eight hours. Of course,' she added with a slight
blush, 'during the next three or four solar cycles there would be
plenty of time to conclude any other arrangements you might possibly
contemplate, before the occurrence of another glacial epoch.'

This mode of regarding time was certainly novel and somewhat
bewildering to people who ordinarily reckon its lapse by weeks and
months; and I had a vague consciousness that my relations with Editha
imposed upon me a moral necessity of returning to the outer world,
instead of becoming a millennial mummy. Besides, there was the awkward
chance of being converted into fuel and dissipated into space before
the arrival of the next waking day. But I took one look at Hatasou,
whose eyes were filling in turn with sympathetic tears, and that look
decided me. I flung Editha, life, and duty to the dogs, and resolved
at once to become a mummy.

There was no time to be lost. Only three hours remained to us, and
the process of embalming, even in the most hasty manner, would take up
fully two. We rushed off to the chief priest, who had charge of the
particular department in question. He at once acceded to my wishes,
and briefly explained the mode in which they usually treated the

That word suddenly aroused me. 'The corpse!' I cried; 'but I am
alive. You can't embalm me living.'

'We can,' replied the priest, 'under chloroform.'

'Chloroform!' I echoed, growing more and more astonished: 'I had no
idea you Egyptians knew anything about it.'

'Ignorant barbarian!' he answered with a curl of the lip; 'you
imagine yourself much wiser than the teachers of the world. If you
were versed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, you would know that
chloroform is one of our simplest and commonest anaesthetics.'

I put myself at once under the hands of the priest. He brought out
the chloroform, and placed it beneath my nostrils, as I lay on a soft
couch under the central court. Hatasou held my hand in hers, and
watched my breathing with an anxious eye. I saw the priest leaning
over me, with a clouded phial in his hand, and I experienced a vague
sensation of smelling myrrh and spikenard. Next, I lost myself for a
few moments, and when I again recovered my senses in a temporary
break, the priest was holding a small greenstone knife, dabbled with
blood, and I felt that a gash had been made across my breast. Then
they applied the chloroform once more; I felt Hatasou give my hand a
gentle squeeze; the whole panorama faded finally from my view; and I
went to sleep for a seemingly endless time.

When I awoke again, my first impression led me to believe that the
thousand years were over, and that I had come to life once more to
feast with Hatasou and Thothmes in the Pyramid of Abu Yilla. But
second thoughts, combined with closer observation of the surroundings,
convinced me that I was really lying in a bedroom of Shepheard's Hotel
at Cairo. An hospital nurse leant over me, instead of a chief priest;
and I noticed no tokens of Editha Fitz-Simkins's presence. But when I
endeavoured to make inquiries upon the subject of my whereabouts, I
was peremptorily informed that I mustn't speak, as I was only just
recovering from a severe fever, and might endanger my life by talking.

Some weeks later I learned the sequel of my night's adventure. The
Fitz-Simkinses, missing me from the boat in the morning, at first
imagined that I might have gone ashore for an early stroll. But after
breakfast time, lunch time, and dinner time had gone past, they began
to grow alarmed, and sent to look for me in all directions. One of
their scouts, happening to pass the Pyramid, noticed that one of the
stones near the north-east angle had been displaced, so as to give
access to a dark passage, hitherto unknown. Calling several of his
friends, for he was afraid to venture in alone, he passed down the
corridor, and through a second gateway into the central hall. There
the Fellahin found me, lying on the ground, bleeding profusely from a
wound on the breast, and in an advanced stage of malarious fever. They
brought me back to the boat, and the Fitz-Simkinses conveyed me at
once to Cairo, for medical attendance and proper nursing.

Editha was at first convinced that I had attempted to commit suicide
because I could not endure having caused her pain, and she accordingly
resolved to tend me with the utmost care through my illness. But she
found that my delirious remarks, besides bearing frequent reference to
a princess, with whom I appeared to have been on unexpectedly intimate
terms, also related very largely to our casus belli itself, the
dancing girls of Abu Yilla. Even this trial she might have borne,
setting down the moral degeneracy which led me to patronize so
degrading an exhibition as a first symptom of my approaching malady:
but certain unfortunate observations, containing pointed and by no
means flattering allusions to her personal appearance? which I
contrasted, much to her disadvantage, with that of the unknown
princess? these, I say, were things which she could not forgive; and
she left Cairo abruptly with her parents for the Riviera, leaving
behind a stinging note, in which she denounced my perfidy and empty-
heartedness with all the flowers of feminine eloquence. From that day
to this I have never seen her.

When I returned to London and proposed to lay this account before
the Society of Antiquaries, all my friends dissuaded me on the grounds
of its apparent incredibility. They declare that I must have gone to
the Pyramid already in a state of delirium, discovered the entrance by
accident, and sunk exhausted when I reached the inner chamber. In
answer, I would point out three facts. In the first place, I
undoubtedly found my way into the unknown passage--for which
achievement I afterwards received the gold medal of the Societe
Khediviale, and of which I retain a clear recollection, differing in
no way from my recollection of the subsequent events. In the second
place, I had in my pocket, when found, a ring of Hatasou's, which I
drew from her finger just before I took the chloroform, and put into
my pocket as a keepsake. And in the third place, I had on my breast
the wound which I saw the priest inflict with a knife of greenstone,
and the scar may be seen on the spot to the present day. The absurd
hypothesis of my medical friends, that I was wounded by falling
against a sharp edge of rock, I must at once reject as unworthy of a
moment's consideration.

My own theory is either that the priest had not time to complete the
operation, or else that the arrival of the Fitz-Simkins' scouts
frightened back the mummies to their cases an hour or so too soon. At
any rate, there they all were, ranged around the walls undisturbed,
the moment the Fellahin entered.

Unfortunately, the truth of my account cannot be tested for another
thousand years. But as a copy of this book will be preserved for the
benefit of posterity in the British Museum, I hereby solemnly call
upon Collective Humanity to try the veracity of this history by
sending a deputation of archaeologists to the Pyramid of Abu Yilla, on
the last day of December, Two thousand eight hundred and seventy-
seven. If they do not then find Thothmes and Hatasou feasting in the
central hall exactly as I have described, I shall willingly admit that
the story of my New Year's Eve among the Mummies is a vain
hallucination, unworthy of credence at the hands of the scientific


This site is full of FREE ebooks - Project Gutenberg Australia