H. Ryder Haggard



THERE are some events of which each circumstance and 
surrounding detail seems to be graven on the memory in 
such fashion that we cannot forget it, and so it is 
with the scene that I am about to describe. It rises 
as clearly before my mind at this moment as though it 
had happened yesterday.

It was in this very month something over twenty years 
ago that I, Ludwig Horace Holly, was sitting one night 
in my rooms at Cambridge, grinding away at some 
mathematical work, I forget what. I was to go up for 
my fellowship within a week, and was expected by my 
tutor and my college generally to distinguish myself. 
At last, wearied out, I flung my book down, and, going 
to the mantelpiece, took down a pipe and filled it. 
There was a candle burning on the mantelpiece, and a 
long, narrow glass at the back of it; and as I was in 
the act of lighting the pipe I caught sight of my own 
countenance in the glass and paused to reflect. The 
lighted match burned away till it scorched my fingers 
forcing me to drop it; but still stood and I stared at 
myself in the and reflected.

"Well," I said aloud, at last, "it is to be hoped that 
I shall be able to do something with the inside of my 
head, for I shall certainly never do anything by the 
help of the outside."

This remark will doubtless strike anybody who reads it 
as being slightly obscure, but I was in reality 
alluding to my physical deficiencies. Most men of 
twenty-two are endowed at any rate with some share of 
the comeliness of youth, but to me even this was 
denied. Short, thick-set, and deep-chested almost to 
deformity, with long, sinewy arms, heavy features, 
deep-set gray eyes, a low brow half overgrown with a 
mop of thick black hair, like a deserted clearing on 
which the forest had once more begun to encroach; such 
was my appearance nearly a quarter of a century ago, 
and such, with some modification, is it to this day. 
Like Cain, I was branded--branded by nature with the 
stamp of abnormal ugliness, as I was gifted by nature 
with iron and abnormal strength and considerable 
intellectual powers. So ugly was I that the spruce 
young men of my college, though they were proud enough 
of my feats of endurance and physical prowess, did not 
even care to be seen walking with me. Was it wonderful 
that I was misanthropic and sullen? Was it wonderful 
that I brooded and worked alone, and had no friends--
at least, only one? I was set apart by Nature to live 
alone, and draw comfort from her breast, and hers 
only. Women hated the sight of me. Only a week before 
I had heard one call me a "monster" when she thought I 
was out of hearing, and say that I had converted her 
to the monkey theory. Once, indeed, a woman pretended 
to care for me, and I lavished all the pent-up 
affection of my nature upon her. Then money that was 
to have come to me went elsewhere, and she discarded 
me. I pleaded with her as I have never pleaded with 
any living creature before or since, for I was caught 
by her sweet face, and loved her; and in the end by 
way of answer she took me to the glass, and stood side 
by side with me, and looked into it.

"Now," she said, "if I am Beauty, who are you?" That 
was when I was only twenty.

And so I stood and stared, and felt a sort of grim 
satisfaction in the sense of my own loneliness; for I 
had neither father, nor mother, nor brother; and as I 
did so there came a knock at my door.

I listened before I went to open it, for it was nearly 
twelve o'clock at night, and I was in no mood to admit 
any stranger. I had but one friend in the college, or, 
indeed, in the world-perhaps it was he.

Just then the person outside the door coughed, and I 
hastened to open it, for I knew the cough.

A tall man of about thirty, with the remains of great 
personal beauty, came hurrying in, staggering beneath 
the weight of a massive iron box which he carried by a 
handle with his right hand. He placed the box upon the 
table, and then fell into an awful fit. of coughing. 
He coughed and coughed till his face became quite 
purple, and at last he sank into a chair and began to 
spit up blood. I poured out some whiskey into a 
tumbler, and gave it to him. He drank it, and seemed 
better; though his better was very bad indeed.

"Why did you keep me standing there in the cold?" he 
asked, pettishly. "You know the draughts are death to 

"I did not know who it was," I answered. "You are a 
late visitor."

"Yes; and I verily believe it is my last visit," he 
answered, with a ghastly attempt at a smile. "I am 
done for, Holly, I am done for. I do not believe that 
I shall see to-morrow!"

"Nonsense!" I said. "Let me go for a doctor."

He waved me back imperiously with his hand. "It is 
sober sense; but I want no doctors. I have studied 
medicine, and I know all about it. No doctors can help 
me. My last hour has come! For a year past I have only 
lived by a miracle. Now listen to me as you never 
listened to anybody before; for you will not have the 
opportunity of getting me to repeat my words. We have 
been friends for two years; now tell me how much do 
you know about me?"

"I know that you are rich, and have had a fancy to 
come to college long after the age that most men leave 
it. I know that you have been married, and that your 
wife died; and that you have been the best, indeed 
almost the only friend I ever had."

"Did you know that I have a son?" 


"I have. He is five years old. He cost me his mother's 
life, and I have never been able to bear to look upon 
his face in consequence. Holly, if you will accept the 
trust, I am going to leave you that boy's sole 

I sprang almost out of my chair. 

"Me!" I said.

"Yes, you. I have not studied you for two years for 
nothing. I have known for some time that I could not 
last, and since I realized the fact I have been 
searching for some one to whom I could confide the boy 
and this," and he tapped the iron box. "You are the 
man, Holly; for, like a rugged tree, you are hard and 
sound at core. Listen; the boy will be the only 
representative of one of the most ancient families in 
the world, that is, so far as families can be traced. 
You will laugh at me when I say it, but one day it 
will be proved to you beyond a doubt, that my sixty-
fifth or sixty-sixth lineal ancestor was an Egyptian 
priest of Isis, though he was himself of Grecian 
extraction, and was called Kallikrates. His father was 
one of the Greek mercenaries raised by Hak-Hor, a 
Mendesian Pharaoh of the twenty-ninth dynasty, and his 
grandfather, I believe, was that very Kallikrates 
mentioned by Herodotus. In or about the year 339 
before Christ, just at the time of the final fall of 
the Pharaohs, this Kallikrates (the priest) broke his 
vows of celibacy and fled from Egypt with a princess 
of royal blood who had fallen in love with him, and 
was finally wrecked upon the coast of Africa, 
somewhere, as I believe, in the neighbourhood of where 
Delagoa Bay now is, or rather to the north of it, he 
and his wife being saved, and all the remainder of 
their company destroyed in one way or another. Here 
they endured great hardships, but were at last 
entertained by the mighty queen of a savage people, a 
white woman of peculiar loveliness, who, under 
circumstances which I cannot enter into, but which you 
will one day learnt if you live, from the contents of 
the box, finally murdered my ancestor, Kallikrates. 
His wife, however, escaped, how I know not, to Athens, 
bearing a child with her, whom she named Tisisthenes, 
or the Mighty Avenger. Five hundred years or more 
afterwards the family migrated to Rome under 
circumstances of which no trace remains, and here, 
probably with the idea of preserving the idea of 
vengeance which we find set out in the name of 
Tisisthenes, they appear to have pretty regularly 
assumed the cognomen of Vindex, or Avenger. Here, too, 
they remained for another five centuries or more, till 
about 770 A.D., when Charlemagne invaded Lombardy, 
where they were then settled, whereon the head of the 
family seems to have attached himself to the great 
Emperor, and to have returned with him across the 
Alps, and finally to have settled in Brittany. Eight 
generations later his lineal representative crossed to 
England in the reign of Edward the Confessor, and in 
the time of William the Conqueror was advanced to 
great honor and power. From that time till the present 
day I can trace my descent without a break. Not that 
the Vinceys--for that was the final corruption of the 
name after its bearers took root in English soil--have 
been particularly distinguished--they never came much 
to the fore. Sometimes they were soldiers, sometimes 
merchants, but on the whole they have preserved a dead 
level of respectability, and a still deader level of 
mediocrity. From the time of Charles II. till the 
beginning of the present century they were merchants. 
About 1790 my grandfather made a considerable fortune 
out of brewing, and retired. In 1821 he died, and my 
father succeeded him, and dissipated most of the 
money. Ten years ago he died also, leaving me a net 
income of about two thousand a year. Then it was that 
I undertook an expedition in connection with that," 
and he pointed to the iron chest, "which ended 
disastrously enough. On my way back I traveled in the 
South of Europe, and finally reached Athens. There I 
met my beloved wife, who might well also have been 
called the 'Beautiful', like my old Greek ancestor. 
There I married her, and there, a year afterwards, 
when my boy was born, she died."

He paused awhile, his head sank upon his hand, and 
then continued,

"My marriage had diverted me from a project which I 
cannot enter into now. I have no time, Holly--I have 
no time! One day, if you accept my trust, you will 
learn all about it. After my wife's death I turned my 
mind to it again. But first it was necessary, or, at 
least, I conceived that it was necessary, that I 
should attain to a perfect knowledge of Eastern 
dialects, especially Arabic. It was to facilitate my 
studies that I came here. Very soon, however, my 
disease developed itself, and now there is an end of 
me." And, as though to emphasize his words, he burst 
into another terrible fit of coughing.

I gave him some more whiskey, and after resting he 
went on,

"I have never seen my boy, Leo, since he was a tiny 
baby. I never could bear to see him, but they tell me 
that he is a quick and handsome child. In this 
envelope," and he produced a letter from his pocket 
addressed to myself, "I have jotted down the course I 
wish followed in the boy's education. It is a somewhat 
peculiar one. At any rate, I could not intrust it to a 
stranger. Once more, will you undertake it?"

"I must first know what I am to undertake," I 

"You are to undertake to have the boy, Leo, to live 
with you till he is twenty-five years of age--not to 
send him to school, remember. On his twenty-fifth 
birthday your guardianship will end, and you will 
then, with the keys that I give you now" (and he 
placed them on the table), "open the iron box, and let 
him see and read the contents, and say whether or not 
he is willing to undertake the quest. There is no 
obligation on him to do so. Now, as regards terms. My 
present income is two thousand two hundred a year. 
Half of that income I have secured to you by will for 
life contingently on your undertaking the 
guardianship--that is, one thousand a year 
remuneration to yourself, for you will have to give up 
your life to it, and one hundred a year to pay for the 
board of the boy. The rest is to accumulate till Leo 
is twenty-five, so that there may be a sum in hand 
should he wish to undertake the quest of which I 

"And suppose I were to die?" I asked. 

"Then the boy must become a ward of Chancery and take 
his chance. Only be careful that the iron chest is 
passed on to him by your will. Listen, Holly, don't 
refuse me. Believe me, this is to your advantage. You 
are not fit to mix with the world--it would only 
embitter you. In a few weeks you will become a Fellow 
of your College, and the income that you will derive 
from that combined with what I have left you will 
enable you to live a life of learned leisure, 
alternated with the sport of which you are so fond, 
such as will exactly suit you."

He paused and looked at me anxiously, but I still 
hesitated. The charge seemed so very strange.

"For my sake, Holly. We have been good friends, and I 
have no time to make other arrangements."

"Very well," I said, "I will do it, provided there is 
nothing in this paper to make me change my mind," and 
I touched the envelope he had put upon the table by 
the keys.

"Thank you, Holly, thank you. There is nothing at all. 
Swear to me by God that you will be a father to the 
boy, and follow my directions to the letter." 

"I swear it," I answered, solemnly. 

"Very well, remember that perhaps one day I shall ask 
for the account of your oath, for though I am dead and 
forgotten, yet shall I live. There is no such thing as 
death, Holly, only a change, and, as you may perhaps 
learn in time to come, I believe that even here that 
change could under certain circumstances be 
indefinitely postponed," and again he broke into one 
of his dreadful fits of coughing.

"There," he said, "I must go; you have the chest, and 
my will will be found among my papers, under the 
authority of which the child will be handed over to 
you. You will be well paid, Holly, and I know that you 
are honest, but if you betray my trust, by Heaven, I 
will haunt you!"

I said nothing, being, indeed, too bewildered to 

He held up the candle, and looked at his own face in 
the glass, It had been a beautiful face, but disease 
had wrecked it. "Food for the worms," he said. 
"Curious to think that in a few hours I shall be stiff 
and cold--the journey done, the little game played 
out. Ah me, Holly! life is not worth the trouble of 
life, except when one is in love--at least, mine has 
not been; but the boy Leo's may be if he has the 
courage and the faith. Good-bye, my friend!" and with 
a sudden excess of tenderness he flung his arm about 
me and kissed me on the forehead, and then turned to 

"Look here, Vincey," I said, "if you are as ill as you 
think, you had better let me fetch a doctor."

"No, no," he said, earnestly. "Promise me that you 
won't. I am going to die, and, like a poisoned rat, I 
wish to die alone."

"I don't believe that you are going to do anything of 
the sort," I answered. He smiled, and, with the word 
"Remember" on his lips, was gone. As for myself, I sat 
down and rubbed my eyes, wondering if I had been 
asleep. As this supposition would not bear 
investigation, I gave it up, and began to think that 
Vincey must have been drinking. I knew that he was, 
and had been, very ill, but still it seemed impossible 
that he could be in such a condition as to be able to 
know for certain that he would not outlive the night. 
Had he been so near dissolution surely he would 
scarcely have been able to walk, and carry a heavy 
iron box with him. The whole story, on reflection, 
seemed to me utterly incredible, for I was not then 
old enough to be aware how many things happen in this 
world that the commonsense of the average man would 
set down as so improbable as to be absolutely 
impossible. This is a fact that I have only recently 
mastered. Was it likely that a man would have a son 
five years of age whom he had never seen since he was 
a tiny infant? No. Was it likely that he could 
foretell his own death so accurately? No. Was it 
likely that he could trace his pedigree for more than 
three centuries before Christ or that he would 
suddenly confide the absolute guardianship of his 
child, and leave half his fortune, to a college 
friend? Most certainly not. Clearly Vincey was either 
drunk or mad. That being so, what did it mean? and 
what was in the sealed iron chest?

The whole thing baffled and puzzled me to such an 
extent that at last I could stand it no longer, and 
determined to sleep over it, So I jumped up, and 
having put the keys and the letter that Vincey had 
left away into my despatch-box, and stowed the iron 
chest in a large portmanteau, I turned in, and was 
soon fast asleep.

As it seemed to me, I had only been asleep for a few 
minutes when I was awakened by somebody calling me. I 
sat up and rubbed my eyes; it was broad daylight--
eight o'clock, in fact.

"Why, what is the matter with you, John?" I asked of 
the gyp who waited on Vincey and myself. "You look as 
though you had seen a ghost!"'

"Yes, sir, and so I have," he answered, "leastways 
I've seen a corpse, which is worse. I've been in to 
call Mr. Vincey, as usual, and there he lies stark and 



OF course, poor Vincey's sudden death created a great 
stir in the college; but, as he was known to be very 
ill, and a satisfactory doctor's certificate was 
forthcoming, there was no inquest. They were not so 
particular about inquests in those days as they are 
now; indeed, they were generally disliked, as causing 
a scandal. Under all these circumstances, as I was 
asked no questions, I did not feel called upon to 
volunteer any information about our interview of the 
night of Vincey's decease, beyond saying that he had 
come into my rooms to see me, as he often did. On the 
day of the funeral a lawyer came down from London and 
followed my poor friend's remains to the grave, and 
then went back with his papers and effects, except, of 
course, the iron chest which had been left in my 
keeping. For a week after this I heard no more of the 
matter, and, indeed, my attention was amply occupied 
in other ways, for I was up for my Fellowship, a fact 
that had prevented me from attending the funeral or 
seeing the lawyer. At last, however, the examination 
was over, and I came back to my rooms and sank into an 
easy-chair with a happy consciousness that I had got 
through it very fairly.

Soon, however, my thoughts, relieved of the pressure 
that had crushed them into a single groove during the 
last few days, turned to the events of the night of 
poor Vincey's death, and again I asked myself what it 
all meant, and wondered if I should hear anything more 
of the matter, and if I did not, what it would be my 
duty to do with the curious iron chest. I sat there 
and thought and thought till I began to grow quite 
disturbed over the whole occurrence: the mysterious 
midnight visit, the prophecy of death so shortly to be 
fulfilled, the solemn oath that I had taken, and which 
Vincey had called on me to answer to in another world 
than this. Had the man committed suicide? It looked 
like it. And what was the quest of which he spoke? The 
circumstances were almost uncanny, so much so that, 
though I am by no means nervous, or apt to be alarmed 
at anything that may seem to cross the bounds of the 
natural, I grew afraid, and began to wish I had had 
nothing to do with it. How much more do I wish it now, 
over twenty years afterwards!

As I sat and thought, there was a knock at the door, 
and a letter, in a big blue envelope, was brought in 
to me. I saw at a glance that it was a lawyer's 
letter, and an instinct told me that it was connected 
with my trust. The letter, which, I still have, runs 

"Sir,--Our client, the late M. L. Vincey, Esq., who 
died on the 9th instant in --- College, Cambridge, has 
left behind him a will, of which you will please find 
copy enclosed, and of which we are the executors. By 
this will you will perceive that you take a life-
interest in about half of the late Mr. Vincey's 
property, now invested in consols, subject to your 
acceptance of the guardianship of his only son, Leo 
Vincey, at present an infant, aged five. Had we not 
ourselves drawn up the document in question in 
obedience to Mr. Vincey's clear and precise 
instructions, both personal and written, and had he 
not then assured us that he had very good reasons for 
what he was doing, we are bound to tell you that its 
provisions seem to us of so unusual a nature that we 
should have felt bound to call the attention of the 
Court of Chancery to them, in order that such steps 
might be taken as seemed desirable to it, either by 
contesting the capacity of the testator or otherwise, 
to safeguard the interests of the infant. As it is, 
knowing that the testator was a gentleman of the 
highest intelligence and acumen, and that he has 
absolutely no relations living to whom he could have 
confided the guardianship of the child, we do not feel 
justified in taking this course.

"Awaiting such instructions as you please to send us 
as regards the delivery of the infant and the payment 
of the proportion of the dividends due to you,

"We remain, sir, faithfully yours,


I put down the letter, and ran my eye through the 
will, which appeared, from its utter 
unintelligibility, to have been drawn on the strictest 
legal principles. So far as I could discover, however, 
it exactly bore out what my friend had told me on the 
night of his death. So it was true after all. I must 
take the boy. Suddenly I remembered the letter which 
he had left with the chest. I fetched it and opened 
it. It only contained such directions as he had 
already given to me as to opening the chest on Leo's 
twenty-fifth birthday, and laid down the outlines of 
the boy's education, which was to include Greek, the 
higher mathematics, and Arabic. At the bottom there 
was a postscript to the effect that if the boy died 
under the age of twenty-five, which, however, he did 
not believe would be the case, I was to open the 
chest, and act on the information I obtained if I saw 
fit. If I did not see fit, I was to destroy all the 
contents. On no account pass them on to a stranger. 

As this letter added nothing material to my knowledge, 
and certainly raised no further objection in my mind 
to undertaking the task I had promised my dead friend 
to undertake, there was only one course open to me--
namely, to write to Messrs. Geoffrey & Jordan, and 
express my readiness to enter on the trust, stating 
that I should be willing to commence my guardianship 
of Leo in ten days' time. This done I proceeded to the 
authorities of my college, and, having told them as 
much of the story as I considered desirable, which was 
not very much, after considerable difficulty succeeded 
in persuading them to stretch a point, and, in the 
event of my having obtained a fellowship, which I was 
pretty certain I had done, allow me to have the child 
to live with me. Their consent, however, was only 
granted on the condition that I vacated my rooms in 
college and took lodgings. This I did, and with some 
difficulty succeeded in obtaining very good apartments 
quite close to the college gates. The next thing was 
to find a nurse. And on this point I came to a 
determination. I would have no woman to lord it over 
me about the child, and steal his affections from me. 
The boy was old enough to do without female 
assistance, so I set to work to hunt up a suitable 
male attendant. With some difficulty I succeeded in 
hiring a most respectable round-faced young man, who 
had been a helper in a hunting-stable, but who said 
that he was one of a family of seventeen and well 
accustomed to the ways of children, and professed 
himself quite willing to undertake the charge of 
Master Leo when he arrived. Then, having taken the 
iron box to town, and with my own hands deposited it 
at my banker's, I bought some books upon the health 
and management of children, and read them, first to 
myself, and then aloud to Job--that was the young 
man's name--and waited.

At length the child arrived in the charge of an 
elderly person, who wept bitterly at parting with him, 
and a beautiful boy he was. Indeed, I do not think 
that I ever saw such a perfect child before or since. 
His eyes were gray, his forehead broad, and his face, 
even at that early age, clean cut as a cameo, without 
being pinched or thin. But perhaps his most attractive 
point was his hair, which was pure gold in color and 
tightly curled over his shapely head. He cried a 
little when his nurse finally tore herself away and 
left him with us. Never shall I forget the scene. 
There he stood, with the sunlight from the window 
playing upon his golden curls, his fist screwed in one 
eye, while he took us in with the other. I was seated 
in a chair, and stretched out my hand to him to induce 
him to come to me, while Job, in the corner, was 
making a sort of clucking noise, which, arguing from 
his previous experience, or from the analogy of the 
hen, he judged would have a soothing effect, and 
inspire confidence in the youthful mind, and running a 
wooden horse of peculiar hideousness backward and 
forward in a way that was little short of inane. This 
went on for some minutes, and then all of a sudden the 
lad stretched out both his little arms and ran to me.

"I like you," he said; "you is ugly, but you is good."

Ten minutes afterwards he was eating large slices of 
bread-and-butter, with every sign of satisfaction; Job 
wanted to put jam on to them, but I sternly reminded 
him of the excellent works we had read, and forbade 

In a very little while (for, as I expected, I got my 
fellowship) the boy became the favorite of the whole 
college--where, all orders and regulations to the 
contrary notwithstanding, he was continually in and 
out--a sort of chartered libertine, in whose favor all 
rules were relaxed. The offerings made at his shrine 
were simply without number, and I had a serious 
difference of opinion with one old resident Fellow, 
now long dead, who was usually supposed to be the 
crustiest man in the university, and to abhor the 
sight of a child. And yet I discovered, when a 
frequently recurring fit of sickness had forced Job to 
keep a strict lookout, that this unprincipled old man 
was in the habit of enticing the boy to his rooms and 
there feeding him upon unlimited quantities of brandy-
balls, and making him promise to say nothing about it. 
Job told him that he ought to be ashamed of himself, 
"at his age, too, when he might have been a 
grandfather if he had done what was right," by which 
Job understood had got married, and thence arose the 

But I have no space to dwell upon those delightful 
years, around which memory still fondly hovers. One by 
one they went by, and as they passed we two grew 
dearer and yet more dear to each other. Few sons have 
been loved as I love Leo, and few fathers know the 
deep and continuous affection that Leo bears to me.

The child grew into the boy, and the boy into the 
young man, as one by one the remorseless years flew 
by, and as he grew and increased, so did his beauty 
and the beauty of his mind grow with him. When he was 
about fifteen they used to call him Beauty about the 
college, and me they nicknamed the Beast. Beauty and 
the Beast was what they called us when we went out 
walking together, as we used to do every day. Once Leo 
attacked a great strapping butcher's man, twice his 
size, because he sang it out after us, and thrashed 
him, too--thrashed him fairly. I walked on and 
pretended not to see, till the combat got too 
exciting, when I turned round and cheered him on to 
victory. It was the chaff of the college at the time, 
but I could not help it. Then when he was a little 
older the undergraduates got fresh names for us. They 
called me Charon and Leo the Greek god! I will pass 
over my own appellation with the humble remark that I 
was never handsome, and did not grow more so as I grew 
older. As for his, there was no doubt about its 
fitness. Leo at twenty-one might have stood for a 
statue of the youthful Apollo. I never saw anybody to 
touch him in looks, or anybody so absolutely 
unconscious of them. As for his mind, he was brilliant 
and keen witted, but not a scholar. He had not the 
dullness necessary for that result. We followed out 
his father's instructions as regards his education 
strictly enough, and on the whole the results, 
especially so far as the Greek and Arabic went, were 
satisfactory. I learned the latter language in order 
to help to teach it to him, but after five years of it 
he knew it as well as I did--almost as well as the 
professor who instructed us both. I always was a great 
sportsman--it is my one passion--and every autumn we 
went away somewhere shooting or fishing, sometimes to 
Scotland, sometimes to Norway, once even to Russia. I 
am a good shot, but even in this he learned to excel 

When Leo was eighteen I moved back into my rooms, and 
entered him at my own college, and at twenty-one he 
took his degree--a respectable degree, but not a very 
high one. Then it was that I, for the first time, told 
him something of his own story, and of the mystery 
that loomed ahead. Of course he was very curious about 
it, and of course I explained to him that his 
curiosity could not be gratified at present. After 
that, to pass the time away, I suggested that he 
should get himself called to the bar; and this he did, 
reading at Cambridge, and only going up to London to 
eat his dinners.

I had only one trouble about him, and that was that 
every young woman who came across him, or, if not 
every one, nearly so, would insist on falling in love 
with him. Hence arose difficulties which I need not 
enter into here, though they were troublesome enough 
at the time. On the whole, he behaved fairly well; I 
cannot say more than that.

And so the time went by till at last he reached his 
twenty-fifth birthday, at which date this strange and, 
in some ways, awful history really begins.



ON the day preceding Leo's twenty-fifth birthday we 
both proceeded to London, and extracted the mysterious 
chest from the bank where I had deposited it twenty 
years before. It was, I remember, brought up by the 
same clerk who had taken it down. He perfectly 
remembered having hidden it away. Had he not done so, 
he said, he should have had difficulty in finding it, 
it was so covered up with cobwebs.

In the evening we returned with our precious burden to 
Cambridge, and I think that we might both of us have 
given away all the sleep we got that night and not 
have been much the poorer. At daybreak Leo arrived in 
my room in a dressing-gown, and suggested that we 
should at once proceed to business. I scouted the idea 
as showing an unworthy curiosity. The chest had waited 
twenty years, I said, so it could very well continue 
to wait until after breakfast. Accordingly at nine--an 
unusually sharp nine--we breakfasted; and so occupied 
was I with my own thoughts that I regret to state that 
I put a piece of bacon into Leo's tea in mistake for a 
lump of sugar. Job, too, to whom the contagion of 
excitement had, of course, spread, managed to break 
the handle off my Se`vres china tea-cup, the identical 
one I believe that Marat had been drinking from just 
before he was stabbed in his bath.

At last, however, breakfast was cleared away, and Job, 
at my request, fetched the chest, and placed it upon 
the table in a somewhat gingerly fashion, as though he 
mistrusted it. Then he prepared to leave the room.

"Stop a moment, Job," I said. "If Mr. Leo has no 
objection, I should prefer to have an independent 
witness to this business, who can be relied upon to 
hold his tongue unless he is asked to speak."

"Certainly, Uncle Horace," answered Leo; for I had 
brought him up to call me uncle--though he varied the 
appellation somewhat disrespectfully by calling me 
"old fellow," or even "my avuncular relative."

Job touched his head, not having a hat on.

"Lock the door, Job," I said, "and bring me my 

He obeyed, and from the box I took the keys that poor 
Vincey, Leo's father, had given me on the night of his 
death. There were three of them; the largest a 
comparatively modern key, the second an exceedingly 
ancient one, and the third entirely unlike anything of 
the sort that we had ever seen before, being fashioned 
apparently from a strip of solid silver, with a bar 
placed across to serve as a handle, and some nicks cut 
in the edge of the bar. It was more like a model of 
some antediluvian railway key than anything else.

"Now, are you both ready?" I said, as people do when 
they are going to fire a mine. There was no answer, so 
I took the big key, rubbed some salad oil into the 
wards, and after one or two bad shots, for my hands 
were shaking, managed to fit it, and shoot the lock. 
Leo bent over and caught the massive lid in both his 
hands, and with an effort, for the hinges had rusted, 
leaned it back. Its removal revealed another case 
covered with dust. This we extracted from the iron 
chest without any difficulty, and removed the 
accumulated filth of years from it with a clothes-

It was, or appeared to be, of ebony, or some such 
close-grained black wood, and was bound in every 
direction with flat bands of iron. Its antiquity must 
have been extreme, for the dense, heavy wood was 
actually in parts commencing to crumble away from age.

"Now for it," I said, inserting the second key.

Job and Leo bent forward in breathless silence. The 
key turned, and I flung back the lid, and uttered an 
exclamation, as did the others; and no wonder, for 
inside the ebony case was a magnificent silver casket, 
about twelve inches square by eight high. It appeared 
to be of Egyptian workmanship, for the four legs were 
formed of Sphinxes, and the dome-shaped cover was also 
surmounted by a Sphinx. The casket was of course much 
tarnished and dinted with age, but otherwise in fairly 
sound condition.

I drew it out and set it on the table, and then, in 
the midst of the most perfect silence, I inserted the 
strange-looking silver key, and pressed this way and 
that until at last the lock yielded, and the casket 
stood open before us. It was filled to the brim with 
some brown shredded material, more like vegetable 
fibre than paper, the nature of which I have never 
been able to discover. This I carefully removed to the 
depth of some three inches, when I came to a letter 
enclosed in an ordinary modern looking envelope, and 
addressed in the handwriting of my dead friend Vincey-

"To my son Leo, should he live to open this casket."

I handed the letter to Leo, who glanced at the 
envelope, and then put it down upon the table, making 
a motion to me to go on emptying the casket.

The next thing that I found was a parchment carefully 
rolled up. I unrolled it, and seeing that it was also 
in Vincey's handwriting, and headed "Translation of 
the Uncial Greek writing on the Potsherd," put it down 
by the letter. Then followed another ancient roll of 
parchment, that had become yellow and crinkled with 
the passage of years. This I also unrolled. It was 
likewise a translation of the same Greek original, but 
into black-letter Latin this time, which at the first 
glance appeared to me from the style and character to 
date from somewhere about the beginning of the 
sixteenth century. Immediately beneath this roll was 
something hard and heavy, wrapped up in yellow linen, 
and reposing upon another. layer of the fibrous 
material. Slowly and carefully we unrolled the linen, 
exposing to view a very large but undoubtedly ancient 
potsherd of a dirty yellow color! This potsherd had, 
in my judgment, once been a part of an ordinary 
amphora of medium size. For the rest, it measured ten 
and a half inches in length by seven in width, was 
about a quarter of an inch thick, and densely covered 
on the convex side that lay towards the bottom of the 
box with writing in the later uncial Greek character, 
faded here and there, but for the most part perfectly 
legible, the inscription having evidently been 
executed with the greatest care, and by means of a 
reed pen, such as the ancients often used. I must not 
forget to mention that in some remote age this 
wonderful fragment had been broken in two, and 
rejoined by means of cement and eight long rivets. 
Also there were numerous inscriptions on the inner 
side, but these were of the most erratic character, 
and had clearly been made by different hands and in 
many different ages, and of them, together with the 
writings on the parchments, I shall have to speak 

"Is there anything more?" asked Leo, in a kind of 
excited whisper.

I groped about, and produced something hard, done up 
in a little linen bag. Out of the bag we took first a 
very beautiful miniature done upon ivory, and, 
secondly, a small chocolate colored composition 
scarabaeus, marked thus:

[graphic omitted]

symbols which, we have since ascertained, mean "Suten 
se Ra^," which is, being translated, the "Royal Son of 
Ra^ or the Sun." The miniature was a picture of Leo's 
Greek mother, a lovely, dark-eyed creature. On the 
back of it was written in poor Vincey's handwriting, 
"My beloved wife." 

"That is all," I said.

"Very well," answered Leo, putting down the miniature, 
at which he had been gazing affectionately; "and now 
let us read the letter," and without further ado he 
broke the seal, and read aloud as follows:

"MY SON LEO--When you open this, if you ever live to 
do so, you will have attained to manhood, and I shall 
have been long enough dead to be absolutely forgotten 
by nearly all who knew me. Yet in reading it remember 
that I have been, and for anything you know may still 
be, and that in it, through this link of pen and 
paper, I stretch out my hand to you across the gulf of 
death, and my voice speaks to you from the unutterable 
silence of the grave. Though I am dead, and no memory 
of me remains in your mind, yet am I with you in this 
hour that you read. Since your birth to this day I 
have scarcely seen your face. Forgive me this. Your 
life supplanted the life of one whom I loved better 
than women are often loved, and the bitterness of it 
endureth yet. Had I lived I should in time have 
conquered this foolish feeling, but I am not destined 
to live. My sufferings, physical and mental, are more 
than I can bear, and when such small arrangements as I 
have to make for your future well-being are completed 
it is my intention to put a period to them. May God 
forgive me if I do wrong. At the best I could not live 
more than another year."

"So he killed himself," I exclaimed. "I thought so."

"And now," Leo went on, without replying, "enough of 
myself. What has to be said belongs to you who live, 
not to me, who am dead, and almost as much forgotten 
as though I had never been. Holly, my friend (to whom, 
if he will accept the trust, it is my intention to 
confide you), will have told you something of the 
extraordinary antiquity of your race. In the contents 
of this casket you will find sufficient to prove it. 
The strange legend that you will find inscribed by 
your remote ancestress upon the potsherd was 
communicated to me by my father on his deathbed, and 
took a strong hold upon-my imagination. When I was 
only nineteen years of age I determined, as, to his 
misfortune, did one of ancestors about the time of 
Elizabeth, to investigate its truth. Into all that 
befell me I cannot enter now.

But this I saw with my own eyes. On the coast of 
Africa, in a hitherto unexplored region, some distance 
to the north of where the Zambesi falls into the sea, 
there is a headland, at the extremity of which a peak 
towers up, shaped like the head of a negro, similar to 
that of which the writing speaks. I landed there, and 
learned from a wandering native, who had been cast out 
by his people because of some crime which he had 
committed, that far inland are great mountains, shaped 
like cups, and caves surrounded by measureless swamps. 
I learned also that the people there speak a dialect 
of Arabic, and are ruled over by a _i_ beautiful white 
woman _i_ who is seldom seen by them, but who is 
reported to have power over all things living and 
dead. Two days after I had ascertained this the man 
died of fever contracted in crossing the swamps, and I 
was forced, by want of provisions and by symptoms of 
an illness which afterwards prostrated me, to take to 
my dhow again.

"Of the adventures that befell me after this I need 
not now speak. I was wrecked upon the coast of 
Madagascar, and rescued some months afterwards by an 
English ship that brought me to Aden, whence I started 
for England, intending to prosecute my search us soon 
as I had made sufficient preparations. On my way I 
stopped in Greece, and there, for ' _i_ Omnia vincit 
amor _i_ ,' I met your beloved mother, and married 
her, and there you were born and she died. Then it was 
that my last illness seized me, and I returned hither 
to die. But still I hoped against hope, and set myself 
to work to learn Arabic, with the intention, should I 
ever get better, of returning to the coast of Africa, 
and solving the mystery of which the tradition has 
lived so many centuries in our family. But I have not 
got better, and, so far as I am concerned, the story 
is at an end.

"For you, however, my son, it is not at an end, and to 
you I hand on these the results, of my labor, together 
with the hereditary proofs of its origin. It is my 
intention to provide that they shall not be put into 
your hands until you have reached an age when you will 
be able to judge for yourself whether or not you will 
choose to investigate what, if it is true, must be the 
greatest mystery in the world, or to put it by as an 
idle fable, originating in the first place in a 
woman's disordered brain.

"I do not believe that it is a fable; I believe that 
if it can only be rediscovered there is a spot where 
the vital forces of the world visibly exist. Life 
exists; why therefore should not the means of 
preserving it indefinitely exist also? But I have no 
wish to prejudice your mind about the matter. Read and 
judge for yourself. If you are inclined to undertake 
the search, I have so provided that you will not lack 
for means. If, on the other hand, you are satisfied 
that the whole thing is a chimera, then, I adjure you, 
destroy the potsherd and the writings, and let a cause 
of troubling be removed from our race forever. Perhaps 
that will be wisest. The unknown is generally taken to 
be terrible, not as the proverb would infer, from the 
inherent superstition of man, but became it so often 
is terrible. He who would tamper with the vast and 
secret forces that animate the world may well fall a 
victim to them. And if the end were attained, if at 
last you emerged from the trial ever beautiful and 
ever young, defying time and evil, and lifted above 
the natural decay of flesh and intellect, who shall 
say that the awesome change would prove a happy one? 
Choose, my son, and may the Power who rules all 
things, and who says 'thus far shalt thou go, and thus 
much shalt thou learn', direct the choice to your own 
happiness and the happiness of the world, which, in 
the event of your success, you would one day certainly 
rule by the pure force of accumulated experience.--

Thus the letter, which was unsigned and undated, 
abruptly ended.

"What do you make of that, Uncle Holly?" said Leo, 
with a sort of gasp, as he replaced it on the table. 
"We have been looking for a mystery, and we certainly 
seem to have found one."

"What do I make of it? Why, that your poor dear father 
was off his head, of course," I answered, testily. "I 
guessed as much that night, twenty years ago, when he 
came into my room. You see he evidently hurried his 
own end, poor man. It is absolute balderdash."

"That's it, sir!" said Job, solemnly. Job was a most 
matter-of-fact specimen of a matter-of-fact class.

"Well, let's see what the potsherd has to say, at any 
rate," said Leo, taking up the translation in his 
father's writing, and commencing to read:

'I, Amenartas, of the Royal House of the Pharaohs of 
Egypt, wife of Kallikrates (the Beautiful in 
Strength), a Priest of Isis whom the gods cherish and 
the demons obey, being about to die, to my little son 
Tisisthenes (the Mighty Avenger). I fled with thy 
father from Egypt in the days of Nectanebes, causing 
him through love to break the vows that he had vowed. 
We fled southward, across the waters, and we wandered 
for twice twelve moons on the coast of Libya (Africa) 
that looks towards the rising sun, where by a river is 
a great rock carven like the head of an Ethiopian. 
Four days on the water from the mouth of a mighty 
river were we cast away, and some were drowned and 
some died of sickness. But us wild men took through 
wastes and marshes, where the sea-fowl hid the sky, 
bearing us ten days' journey till we came to a hollow 
mountain, where a great city had been and fallen, and 
where there are caves of which no man hath seen the 
end; and they brought us to the Queen of the people 
who place pots upon the heads of strangers, who is a 
magician having a knowledge of all things, and life 
and loveliness that does not die. And she cast eyes of 
love upon thy father, Kallikrates, and would have 
slain me, and taken him to husband, but he loved me 
and feared her, and would not. Then did she take us, 
and lead us by terrible ways, by means of dark magic, 
to where the great pit is, in the mouth of which the 
old philosopher lay dead, and showed to us the rolling 
Pillar of Life that dies not, whereof the voice is as 
the voice of thunder; and she did stand in the flames, 
and come forth unharmed, and yet more beautiful. Then 
did she swear to make thy father undying even as she 
is, if he would but slay me, and give himself to her, 
for me she could not slay because of the magic of my 
own people that I have, and that prevailed thus far 
against her. And he held his hand before his eyes to 
hide her beauty, and would not. Then in her rage did 
she smite him by her magic, and he died; but she wept 
over him, and bore him thence with lamentations: and 
being afraid, me she sent to the mouth of the great 
river where the ships come, and I was carried far away 
on the ships where I gave thee birth, and hither to 
Athens I came at last after many wanderings. Now I say 
to thee, my son, Tisisthenes, seek out the woman, and 
learn the secret of Life, and if thou mayest find a 
way slay her, because of thy father Kallikrates; and 
if thou dost fear or fail, this I say to all of thy 
seed who come after thee, till at last a brave man be 
found among them who shall bathe in the fire and sit 
in the place of the Pharaohs. I speak of those things, 
that though they be past belief, yet I have known, and 
I lie not."

"May the Lord forgive her for that," groaned Job, who 
had been listening to this marvellous composition with 
his mouth open.

As for myself, I said nothing: my first idea being 
that my poor friend, being demented, had composed the 
whole thing, though it scarcely seemed likely that 
such a story could have been invented by anybody. It 
was too original. To solve my doubts I took up the 
potsherd and began to read the close uncial Greek 
writing on it; and very good Greek of the period it 
is, considering that it came from the pen of an 
Egyptian born.

Besides the uncial writing on the convex side of the 
sherd at the top, painted in dull red, on what had 
once been the lip of the amphora, was the cartouche 
already mentioned as being on the _i_ scarabaeus _i_ , 
which we had also found in the casket. The 
hieroglyphics or symbols, however, were reversed, just 
as though they had been pressed on wax. Whether this 
was the cartouche of the original Kallikrates, or of 
some prince or Pharaoh from whom his wife Amenartas 
was descended, I am not sure, nor can I tell if it was 
drawn upon the sherd at the same time that the uncial 
Greek was inscribed, or, copied on more recently from 
the Scarab by some other member of the family. Nor was 
this all. At the foot of the writing, painted in the 
same dull red, was the faint outline of a somewhat 
rude drawing of the head and shoulders of a sphinx 
wearing two feathers, symbols of majesty, which, 
though common enough upon the effigies of sacred bulls 
and gods, I have never before met with on a sphinx.

Also on the right-hand side of this surface of the 
sherd, painted obliquely in red on the space not 
covered by the uncial, and signed in blue paint, was 
the following quaint inscription:





Perfectly bewildered, I turned the relic over. It was 
covered from top to bottom with notes and signatures 
in Greek, Latin, and English. The first in Uncial 
Greek was by Tisisthenes, the son to whom the writing 
was addressed. It was, "I could not go. Tisisthenes to 
his son, Kallikrates."

This Kallikrates (probably, in the Greek fashion, so 
named after his grandfather) evidently made some 
attempt to start on the quest, for his entry, written 
in very faint and almost illegible uncial, is, "I 
ceased from my going, the gods being against me. 
KaIlikrates to his son."

Between these two ancient writings--the second of 
which was inscribed upside down and was so faint and 
worn that, had it not been for the transcript of it 
executed by Vincey, I should scarcely have been able 
to read it, since, owing to its having been written on 
that portion of the tile which had, in the course of 
ages, undergone the most handling, it was nearly 
rubbed out--was the bold, modern-looking signature of 
one Lionel Vincey, "AEtate sua 17," which was written 
thereon, I think, by Leo's grandfather. To the right 
of this were the initials "J. B. V.," and below came a 
variety of Greek signatures, in uncial and cursive 
character, and what appeared to be some carelessly 
executed repetitions of the sentence "to my son," 
showing that the relic was religiously passed on from 
generation to generation.

The next legible thing after the Greek signatures was 
the word "ROMAE, A.U.C.," showing-that the family had 
now migrated to Rome. Unfortunately, however, with the 
exception of its termination (cvi) the date of their 
settlement there is forever lost, for just where it 
had been placed a piece of the potsherd is broken 

Then followed twelve Latin signatures, jotted about 
here and there, wherever there was a space upon the 
tile suitable to their inscription. These signatures, 
with three exceptions only, ended with the name 
"Vindex" or "the Avenger," which seems to have been 
adopted by the family after its migration to Rome as a 
kind of equivalent to the Grecian "Tisisthenes," which 
also means an avenger. Ultimately, as might be 
expected, this Latin cognomen of Vindex was 
transformed first into De Vincey, and then into the 
plain, modern Vincey. It is very curious to observe 
how the idea of revenge, inspired by an Egyptian 
before the time of Christ, is thus, as it were, 
embalmed in an English family name.

A few of the Roman names inscribed upon the sherd I 
have actually since found mentioned in history and 
other records. They were, if I remember right,






the last being, of course, the name of a Roman lady.

The following list, however, comprises all the Latin 
names upon. the sherd:













After the Roman names there is evidently a gap of very 
many centuries. Nobody will ever know now what was the 
history of the relic during those dark ages, or how it 
came to have been preserved in the family. My poor 
friend Vincey had, it will be remembered, told me that 
his Roman ancestors finally settled in Lombardy, and, 
when Charlemagne invaded it, returned with him across 
the Alps, and made their home in Brittany, whence they 
crossed to England in the reign of Edward the 
Confessor. How he knew this I am not aware, for there 
is no reference to Lombardy or Charlemagne upon the 
tile, though, as will presently be seen, there is a 
reference to Brittany. To continue: the next entries 
on the sherd, if I may except a long splash either of 
blood or red coloring matter of some sort, consist of 
two crosses drawn in red pigment, and probably 
representing Crusaders' swords, and a rather neat 
monogram ("D. V.") in scarlet and blue, perhaps 
executed by that same Dorothea Vincey who wrote, or 
rather painted, the doggerel couplet. To the left of 
this, scribed in faint blue, were the initials A.V., 
and after them a date, 1300.

Then came what was perhaps as curious an entry as 
anything upon this extraordinary relic of the past. It 
is executed in black-letter, written over-the crosses 
or Crusaders' swords, and dated fourteen hundred and 
forty-five. As the best plan will be to allow it to 
speak for itself, I here give the black-letter 
facsimile, together with the original Latin without 
the contractions, from which it will be seen that the 
writer was a fair medieval Latinist. Also we 
discovered what is still more curious, an English 
version of the black-letter Latin. This, also written 
in black-letter, we found inscribed on a second 
parchment that was in the coffer, apparently somewhat 
older in date than that on which was inscribed the 
mediaeval Latin translation of the uncial Greek.

Expanded Version of the Black-Letter Inscription.

"ISTA reliquia est valde misticum et myrificum opus, 
quod majores mei ex Armorica, scilicet Britannia 
Minore, secum convehebant; et quidam sanctus clericus 
semper patri meo in manu ferebat quod penitus illud 
destrueret, affirmans quod esset ab ipso Sathana 
conflatum prestigiosa et dyabolica arte, quare pater 
mens confregit illud in duos partes, quas quidem ego 
Johannes de Vinceto salvas servavi et adaptavi sicut 
apparet die lune proximo post festum beate Marie 
Virginis anni gratie MCCCCXLV."

Modernized Version of the Black-Letter Translation.

"THYS rellike ys a ryghte mistycall worke and a 
marvaylous, ye whyche myne aunceteres aforetyme dyd 
conveigh hider with them from Armoryke which ys to 
seien Britaine ye Lesse and a certayne holye clerke 
should allweyes beare my fadir on honde that he owghte 
uttirly for to frusshe ye same, affyrmynge that yt was 
fourmed and conflatyd of Sathanas hym selfe by arte 
magike and dyvellysshe wherefore my fadir dyd take ye 
same and tobrast yt yn tweye, but I, John de Vincey, 
dyd save whool ye tweye partes therof and topeecyd 
them togydder agayne soe as yee se, on this daye 
mondaye next folIowynge after ye feeste of Seynte 
Marye ye Blessed Vyrgyne yn ye yeere of Salvacioun 
fowertene hundreth and fyve and fowerti."

The next and, save one, last entry was Elizabethan, 
and dated 1564, "A most strange historie, and one that 
did cost my father his life; for in seekynge for the 
place upon the east coast of Africa, his pinnace was 
sunk by a Portuguese galleon off Lorenzo Marquez, and 
he himself perished.--John Vincey."

Then came the last entry, apparently, to judge by the 
style of writing, made by some representative of the 
family in the middle of the eighteenth century. It was 
a misquotation of the well-known lines in Hamlet, and 
ran thus: "There are more things in Heaven and earth 
than are dreamt of in your philosophy, Horatio."

And now there remained but one more document to be 
examined--namely, the ancient black-letter translation 
into mediaeval Latin of the uncial inscription on the 
sherd. As will be seen, this translation was executed 
and subscribed in the year 1495, by a certain "learned 
man," Edmundus de Prato (Edmund Pratt) by name, 
licentiate in Canon Law, of Exeter College, Oxford, 
who had actually been a pupil of Grocyn, the first 
scholar who taught Greek in England. No doubt on the 
fame of this new learning reaching his ears, the 
Vincey of the day, perhaps that same John de Vincey 
who years before had saved the relic from destruction 
and made the black-letter entry on the sherd in 1445 
hurried off to Oxford to see if perchance it might 
avail to solve the secret of the mysterious 
inscription. Nor was he disappointed, for the learned 
Edmundus was equal to the task.

Expanded Version of the Mediaeval Latin Translation. 

AMENARTAS, e genere regio Egyptii, uxor Callicratis, 
sacerdotis Isidis, quam dei fovent demonia attendunt, 
filiolo suo Tisistheni jam moribunda ita rnandat:

Effugi quondam ex Egypto, regnante Nectanebo, cure 
patre tuo, propter mei amorem pejerato. Fugientes 
autem versus Notum trans mare, et viginti quatuor 
menses per litora Libye versus Orientem errantes, ubi 
est petra quedam magna sculpta instar Ethiopis 
capitis, deinde dies quatuor ab ostio fluminis magni 
ejecti partim submersi sumus partim morbo mortui 
sumus: in fine autem a feris hominibus portabamur per 
paludes et vada, ubi avium multitudo celum obumbrat, 
dies decem, donec advenimus ad cavum quendam montem, 
ubi olim magna urbs erat, caverne quoque immense; 
duxerunt autem nos ad reginam 
Advenaslasaniscoronantium, que magica^ utebatur et 
peritia omnium rerum, et saltem pulcritudine et vigore 
insenescibilis erat. Hec magno patris tui amore 
perculsa, primum quidem ei connubium michi mortem 
parabat; postea vero, recusante Callicrate, amore mei 
et timore regine affecto nos per magicam abduxit per 
vias horribiles ubi est puteus ille profundus, cujus 
juxta aditum jacebat senioris philosophi cadaver, et 
advenientibus monstravit flammam Vite erectam, instar 
columne volutantis, voces emittentem quasi tonitrus: 
tunc per ignem impetu nocivo expers transiit et jam 
ipsa sese formosior visa est.

Quibus factis juravit se patrem tuum quoque immortalem 
ostensuram esse, si me prius occisa regine 
contubernium mallet; neque enim ipsa me occidere 
valuit, propter nostratum magicam cujus egomet partem 
habeo. Ille veto nichil hujus generis malebat, manibus 
ante oculos passis, ne mulieris formositatena 
adspiceret: postea illum magica percussit arte, at 
mortuum efferebat inde cum fletibus et vagitibus, at 
me per timorem expulit ad ostium magni fluminis, 
velivoli, porro in nave, in qua te peperi, vix post 
dies huc Athenas vecta sum. At tu, O Tisisthenes, ne 
quid quorum mando nauci fac: necesse enim est mulierem 
exquirere si qua Vite mysterium impetres et vindicare, 
quantum in te est, patrem tuum Callicratem in regine 
morte. Sin timore sen aliqua causa rem relinquis 
infectam, hoc ipsum omnibus posteris mando, dum bonus 
quis inveniatur qui ignis lavacrum non perhorrescet, 
et potentia dignus dominabitur hominum.

Talia dico incredibilia quidem at minime ficta de 
rebus michi cognitis.

Hec Grece scripta Latine reddidit vir doctus Edmundus 
de Prato, in Decretis Licenciatus, e Collegio 
Exoniensi Oxoniensi doctissimi Grocyni quondam e 
pupillis, Idibus Aprills Anno Domini MCCCCLXXXXV.

"Well," I said, when at length I had read out and 
carefully examined these writings and paragraphs, at 
least those of them that were still easily legible, 
"that is the conclusion of the whole matter, Leo, and 
now you can form your own opinion on it. I have 
already formed mine."

"And what is?" he asked, in his quick way.

"It is this. I believe that potsherd to be perfectly 
genuine, and that, wonderful as it may seem, it has 
come down in your family from since the fourth century 
before Christ. The entries absolutely prove it, and 
therefore, however improbable it may seem, it must be 
accepted. But there I stop. That your remote 
ancestress, the Egyptian princess, or some scribe 
under her direction, wrote that which we see on the 
sherd I have no doubt, nor have I the slightest doubt 
but that her sufferings and the loss of her husband 
had turned her head, and that she was not right in her 
mind when she did write it."

"How do you account for what my father saw and heard 
there?" asked Leo.

"Coincidence. No doubt there are bluffs on the coast 
of Africa that look something like a man's head, and 
plenty of people who speak bastard Arabic. Also, I 
believe that there are lots of swamps. Another thing 
is, Leo, and I am sorry to say it, but I do not 
believe that your poor father was quite right when he 
wrote that letter. He had met with a great trouble, 
and also he had allowed this story to prey on his 
imagination, and he was a very imaginative man. 
Anyway, I believe that the whole thing is the most 
unmitigated rubbish. I know that there are curious 
things and forces in nature which we rarely meet with, 
and, when we do meet them, cannot understand. But 
until I see it with my own eyes, which I am not likely 
to, I never will believe that there is any means of 
avoiding death, even for a time, or that there is or 
was a white sorceress living in the heart of an 
African swamp! It is bosh, my boy, all bosh!--What do 
you say, Job?"

"I say, sir, that it is a lie, and, if it is true, I 
hope Mr. Leo won't meddle with no such things, for no 
good can't come of it."

"Perhaps you are both right," said Leo, very quietly. 
"I express no opinion. But I say this. I am going to 
set the matter at rest once and for all, and if you 
won't come with me I will go by myself."

I looked at the young man, and saw that he meant what 
he said. When Leo means what he says he always puts on 
a curious look about the mouth. It has been a trick of 
his from a child. Now, as a matter of fact, I had no 
intention of allowing Leo to go anywhere by himself, 
for my own sake, if not for his. I was far too much 
attached to him for that. I am not a man of many ties 
or affections. Circumstances have been against me in 
this respect, and men and women shrink from me, or, at 
least, I fancy they do, which comes to the same thing, 
thinking, perhaps, that my somewhat forbidding 
exterior is a key to my character. Rather than endure 
this, I have, to a great extent, secluded myself from 
the world, and cut myself off from those opportunities 
which with most men result in the formation of 
relations more or less intimate. Therefore Leo was all 
the world to me--brother, child, and friend--and until 
he wearied of me, where he went there I should go too. 
But, of course, it would not do to let him see how 
great a hold he had over me; so I cast about for some 
means whereby I might let myself down easy. 

"Yes, I shall go, uncle; and if I don't find the 
'rolling Pillar of Life,' at any rate I shall get some 
first-class shooting."

Here was my opportunity, and I took it.

"Shooting?" I said. "Ah! yes; I never thought of that. 
It must be a very wild stretch of country, and full of 
big game. I have always wanted to kill a buffalo 
before I die. Do you know, my boy, I don't believe in 
the quest, but I do believe in big game, and really, 
on the whole, if, after thinking it over, you make up 
your mind to go, I will take a holiday, and come with 

"Ah," said Leo, "I thought that you would not lose 
such a chance. But how about money? We shall want a 
good lot."

"You need not trouble about that," I answered. "There 
is all your income that has been accumulating for 
years, and besides that I have saved two thirds of 
what your father left me, as I consider, in trust for 
you. There is plenty of cash."

"Very well, then, we may as well stow these things 
away and go up to town to see about our guns. By the 
way, Job, are you coming too? It's time you began to 
see the world."

"Well, sir," answered Job, stolidly, "I don't hold 
much with foreign parts, but if both you gentlemen are 
going you will want somebody to look after you, and I 
am not the man to stop behind after serving you for 
twenty years."

"That's right, Job," said I. "You won't find out 
anything wonderful, but you will get some good 
shooting. And now look here, both of you. I won't have 
a word said to a living soul about this nonsense," and 
I pointed to the potsherd. "If it got out, and 
anything happened to me, my next of kin would dispute 
my will on the ground of insanity, and I should become 
the laughing-stock of Cambridge."

That day three months we were on the ocean, bound for 



How different is the scene that I have now to tell 
from that which has just been told! Gone are the quiet 
college rooms, gone the wind-swayed English elms and 
cawing rooks, and the familiar volumes on the shelves, 
and in their place there rises a vision of the great 
calm ocean gleaming in shaded silver lights beneath 
the beams of the full African moon. A gentle breeze 
fills the huge sails of our dhow, and draws us through 
the water that ripples musically against our sides. 
Most of the men are sleeping forward, for it is near 
midnight, but a stout, swarthy Arab, Mahomed by name, 
stands at the tiller, lazily steering by the stars. 
Three miles or more to our starboard is a low dim 
line. It is the eastern shore of Central Africa. We 
are running to the southward, before the northeast 
monsoon, between the mainland and the reef that for 
hundreds of miles fringes that perilous coast. The 
night is quiet, so quiet that a whisper can be heard 
fore and aft the dhow; so quiet that a faint booming 
sound rolls across the water to us from the distant 

The Arab at the tiller holds up his hand, and says one 
word: "Simba (lion)!"

We all sit up and listen. Then it comes again, a slow, 
majestic sound, that thrills us to the marrow.

"To-morrow by ten o'clock," I say, "we ought, if the 
captain is not out in his reckoning, which I think 
very probable, to make this mysterious rock with a 
man's head, and begin our shooting."

"And begin our search for the ruined city and the Fire 
of Life," corrected Leo, taking his pipe from his 
mouth, and laughing a little.

"Nonsense!" I answered. "You were airing your Arabic 
with that man at the tiller this afternoon. What did 
he tell you? He has been trading (slave-trading 
probably) up and down these latitudes for half of his 
iniquitous life, and once landed on this very 'man' 
rock. Did he ever hear anything of the ruined city or 
the caves?"

"No," answered Leo. "He says that the country is all 
swamp behind, and full of snakes, especially pythons, 
and game, and that no man lives there. But then there 
is a belt of swamp all along the East African coast, 
so that does not go for much."

"Yes," I said, "it does--it goes for malaria. You see 
what sort of an opinion these gentry have of the 
country. Not one of them will go with us. They think 
that we are mad, and upon my word I believe that they 
are right. If ever we see old England again I shall be 
astonished. However, it does not greatly matter to me 
at my age, but I am anxious for you, Leo, and for Job. 
It's a Tom Fool's business, my boy."

"All right, Uncle Horace. So far as I am concerned, I 
am willing to take my chance. Look! What is that 
cloud?" and he pointed to a dark blotch upon the 
starry sky, some miles astern of us.

"Go and ask the man at the tiller," I said.

He rose, stretched his arms, and went. Presently he 

"He says it is a squall, but it will pass far on one 
side of us."

Just then Job came up, looking very stout and English 
in his shooting-suit of brown flannel, and with a sort 
of perplexed appearance upon his honest round face 
that had been very common with him since he got into 
these strange waters.

"Please, sir," he said, touching his sun hat, which 
was stuck on to the back of his head in a somewhat 
ludicrous fashion, "as we have got all those guns and 
things in the whale-boat astern, to say nothing of the 
provisions in the lockers, I think it would be best if 
I got down and slept in her. I don't like the looks" 
(here he dropped his voice to a portentous whisper) 
"of these black gentry; they have such a wonderful 
thievish way about them. Supposing now that some of 
them were to slip into the boat at night and cut the 
cable, and make off with her! That would be a pretty 
go, that would."

The whale-boat, I may explain, was one specially built 
for us at Dundee, in Scotland. We had brought it with 
us, as we knew that this coast was a network of 
creeks, and that we might require something to 
navigate them with. She was a beautiful boat, thirty 
feet in length, with a centre-board for sailing, 
copper-bottomed to keep the worm out of her, and full 
of watertight compartments. The captain of the dhow 
had told us that when we reached the rock, which he 
knew, and which appeared to be identical with the one 
described upon the sherd and by Leo's father, he would 
probably not be able to run up to it on account of the 
shallows and breakers. Therefore we had employed three 
hours that very morning, while we were totally 
becalmed, the wind having dropped at sunrise, in 
transferring most of our goods and chattels to the 
whale-boat, and placing the guns, ammunition, and 
preserved provisions in the water-tight lockers 
specially prepared for them, so that when we did sight 
the fabled rock we should have nothing to do but step 
into the boat and run her ashore. Another reason that 
induced us to take this precautionary step was that 
Arab captains are apt to run past the point that they 
are making, either from carelessness or owing to a 
mistake in its identity. Now, as sailors know, it is 
quite impossible for a dhow which is only rigged to 
run before the monsoon to beat back against it. 
Therefore we got our boat ready to row for the rock at 
any moment.

"Well, Job," I said, "perhaps it would be as well. 
There are lots of blankets there, only be careful to 
keep out of the moon, or it may turn your head or 
blind you."

"Lord, sir! I don't think it would much matter if it 
did; it is that turned already with the sight of these 
blackamoors and their filthy, thieving ways. They are 
only fit for muck, they are; and they smell bad enough 
for it already."

Job, it will be perceived, was no admirer of the 
manners and customs of our dark-skinned brothers.

Accordingly we hauled up the boat by the tow-rope till 
it was right under the stern of the dhow, and Job 
bundled into her with all the grace of a falling sack 
of potatoes. Then we returned and sat down on the deck 
again, and smoked and talked in little gusts and 
jerks. The night was so lovely, and our brains were so 
full of suppressed excitement of one sort and another, 
that we did not feel inclined to turn in. For nearly 
an hour we sat thus, and then, I think, we both dozed 
off. At least I have a faint recollection of Leo 
sleepily explaining that the head was not a bad place 
to hit a buffalo, if you could catch him exactly 
between the horns, or send your bullet down his 
throat, or some nonsense of the sort.

Then I remember no more; till suddenly--a frightful 
roar of wind, a shriek of terror from the awakening 
crew, and a whip like sting of water in our faces. 
Some of the men ran to let go the halyards and lower 
the sail, but the parral jammed and the yard would not 
come down. I sprang to my feet and hung on to a rope. 
The sky aft was dark as pitch, but the moon still 
shone brightly ahead of us and lit up the blackness. 
Beneath its sheen a huge white-topped breaker, twenty 
feet high or more, was rushing on to us. It was on the 
break--the moon shone on its crest and tipped its foam 
with light. On it rushed beneath the inky sky, driven 
by the awful squall behind it. Suddenly, in the 
twinkling of an eye, I saw the black shape of the 
whale-boat cast high into the air on the crest of the 
breaking wave. Then--a shock of water, a wild rush of 
boiling foam, and I was clinging for my life to the 
shroud, aye, swept straight out from it like a flag in 
a gale.

We were pooped.

The wave passed. It seemed to me that I was under 
water for minutes--really it was seconds. I looked 
forward. The blast had torn out the great sail, and 
high in the air it was fluttering away to leeward like 
a huge wounded bird. Then for a moment there was 
comparative calm, and in it I heard Job's voice 
yelling wildly, "Come here to the boat."

Bewildered and half drowned as I was, I had the sense 
to rush aft. I felt the dhow sinking under me she was 
full of water. Under her counter the whale-boat was 
tossing furiously, and I saw the Arab Mahomed, who had 
been steering, leap into her. I gave one desperate 
pull at the towrope to bring the boat alongside. 
Wildly I sprang also, and Job caught me by one arm and 
I rolled into the bottom of the boat. Down went the 
dhow bodily, and as she did so Mahomed drew his curved 
knife and severed the fibre-rope by which we were fast 
to her, and in another second we were driving before 
the storm over the place where the dhow had been.

"Great God!" I shrieked, "where is Leo? Leo! Leo!"

"He's gone, sir, God help him!" roared Job into my 
ear; and such was the fury of the squall that his 
voice sounded like a whisper.

I wrung my hands in agony. Leo was drowned, and I was 
left alive to mourn him.

"Look out;" yelled Job, "here comes another."

I turned; a second huge wave was overtaking us. I half 
hoped that it would drown me. With a curious 
fascination I watched its awful advent. The moon was 
nearly hidden now by the wreaths of the rushing storm, 
but a little light still caught the crest of the 
devouring breaker. There was something dark on it--a 
piece of wreckage. It was on us now, and the boat was 
nearly full of water. But she was built in air-tight 
compartments--Heaven bless the man who invented them! 
and lifted up through it like a swan. Through the foam 
and turmoil I saw the black thing on the wave hurrying 
right at me. I put out my right arm to ward it from 
me, and my hand closed on another arm, the wrist of 
which my fingers gripped like a vise. l am a very 
strong man, and had something to hold to, but my arm 
was nearly torn from its socket by the strain and 
weight of the floating body. Had the rush lasted 
another two seconds I must either have let go or gone 
with it. But it passed, leaving us up to our knees in 

"Bail out! bail out!" shouted Job, suiting the action 
to the word.

But I could not bail just then, for as the moon went 
out and left us in total darkness, one faint, flying 
ray of light lit upon the face of the man I had 
gripped, who was now half lying, half floating in the 
bottom of the boat.

It was Leo. Leo brought back by the wave--back, dead 
or alive, from the very jaws of Death.

"Bail out! bail out!" yelled Job, "or we shall 

I seized a large tin bowl with a handle to it, which 
was fixed under one of the seats, and the three of us 
bailed away for dear life. The furious tempest drove 
over and round us, flinging the boat this way and 
that, the wind and the storm wreaths and the sheets of 
stinging spray blinded and bewildered us, but through 
it all we worked like demons with the wild 
exhilaration of despair, for even despair can 
exhilarate. One minute! three minutes! six minutes! 
The boat began to lighten, and no fresh wave swamped 
us. Five minutes more, and she was fairly clear. Then, 
suddenly, above the awful shriekings of the hurricane 
came a duller, deeper roar. Great heavens! It was the 
voice of breakers!

At that moment the moon began to shine forth again--
this time behind the path of the squall. Out far 
across the torn bosom of the ocean shot the ragged 
arrows of her light, and there, half a mile ahead of 
us, was a white line of foam, then a little space of 
openmouthed blackness, and then another line of white. 
It was the breakers, and their roar grew clearer and 
yet more clear as we sped down upon them like a 
swallow. There they were, boiling up in snowy spouts 
of spray, smiting and gnashing together like the 
gleaming teeth of hell.

"Take the tiller, Mahomed!" I roared in Arabic. "We 
must try and shoot them." At the same moment I seized 
an oar, and got it out, motioning to Job to do 

Mahomed clambered aft, and got hold of the tiller, and 
with some difficulty Job, who had sometimes pulled a 
tub upon the homely Cam, got out his oar. In another 
minute the boat's head was straight on to the ever-
nearing foam, towards which she plunged and tore with 
the speed of a racehorse. Just in front of us the 
first line of breakers seemed a little thinner than to 
the right or left--there was a gap of rather deeper 
water. I turned and pointed to it.

"Steer for your life, Mahomed!" I yelled. He was a 
skilful steersman, and well acquainted with the 
dangers of this most perilous coast, and I saw him 
grip the tiller and bend his heavy frame forward, and 
stare at the foaming terror till his big round eyes 
looked as though they would start out of his head. The 
send of the sea was driving the boat's head round to 
starboard. If we struck the line of breakers fifty 
yards to starboard of the gap we must sink. It was a 
great field of twisting, spouting waves. Mahomed 
planted his foot against the seat before him, and, 
glancing at him I saw his brown toes spread out like a 
hand with the weight he put upon them as he took the 
strain of the tiller. She came round a bit, but not 
enough. I roared to Job to back water, while I dragged 
and labored at my oar. She answered now, and none too 

Heavens, we were in them! And then followed a couple 
of minutes of heartbreaking excitement such as I 
cannot hope to describe. All I remember is a shrieking 
sea of foam, out of which the billows rose here, 
there, and everywhere, like avenging ghosts from their 
ocean grave. Once we were turned right round, but 
either by chance, or through Mahomed's skilful 
steering, the boat's head came straight again before a 
breaker filled us. One more--a monster. We were 
through it or over it--more through than over--and 
then, with a wild yell of exultation from the Arab, we 
shot out into the comparatively smooth water of the 
mouth of sea between the teeth like lines of gnashing 

But we were half full of water again, and not more 
than half a mile ahead was the second line of 
breakers. Again we set to and bailed furiously. 
Fortunately the storm had now quite gone by, and the 
moon shone brightly, revealing a rocky headland 
running half a mile or more out into the sea, of which 
this second line of breakers appeared to be a 
continuation. At any rate, they boiled around its 
foot. Probably the ridge that formed the headland ran 
out into the ocean, only at a lower level, and made 
the reef also. This headland was terminated by a 
curious peak that seemed not to be more than a mile 
away from us. Just as we got the boat pretty clear for 
the second time, Leo, to my immense relief, opened his 
eyes and remarked that the clothes had tumbled off the 
bed, and that he supposed it was time to get up for 
chapel. I told him to shut his eyes and keep quiet, 
which he did without in the slightest degree realizing 
the position. As for myself, his reference to chapel 
made me reflect, with a sort of sick longing, on my 
comfortable rooms at Cambridge. Why had I been such a 
fool as to leave them? This is a reflection that has 
several times recurred to me since, and with ever-
increasing force.

But now again we are drifting down on the breakers, 
though with lessened speed, for the wind had fallen, 
and only the current or the tide (it afterwards turned 
out to be the tide) was driving us.

Another minute, and with a sort of howl to Allah from 
the Arab, a pious ejaculation from myself, and 
something that was not pious from Job, we were in 
them. And then the whole scene, down to our final 
escape, repeated itself, only not quite so violently. 
Mahomed's skilful steering and the air-tight 
compartments saved our lives. In five minutes we were 
through, and drifting--for we were too exhausted to do 
anything to help ourselves except keep her head 
straight--with the most startling rapidity round the 
headland which I have described.

Round we went with the tide, until we got well under 
the lee of the point, and then suddenly the speed 
slackened, we ceased to make way, and finally appeared 
to be in dead water. The storm had entirely passed, 
leaving a clean-washed sky behind it; the headland 
intercepted the heavy sea that had been occasioned by 
the squall, and the tide, which had been running so 
fiercely up the river (for we were now in the mouth of 
a river), was sluggish before it turned, so we floated 
quietly, and before the moon went down managed to bail 
out the boat thoroughly and get her a little ship-
shape. Leo was sleeping profoundly, and on the whole I 
thought it wise not to wake him. It was true he was 
sleeping in wet clothes, but the night was now so warm 
that I thought (and so did Job) that they were not 
likely to injure a man of his unusually vigorous 
constitution. Besides, we had no dry ones at hand.

Presently the moon went down, and left us floating on 
the waters, now only heaving like some troubled 
woman's breast, giving us leisure to reflect upon all 
that we had gone through and all that we had escaped. 
Job stationed himself at the bow, Mahomed kept his 
post at the tiller, and I sat on a seat in the middle 
of the boat close to where Leo was lying.

The moon went slowly down in chastened loveliness; she 
departed like some sweet bride into her chamber, and 
long, veil-like shadows crept up the sky through which 
the stars peeped shyly out. Soon, however, they too 
began to pale before a splendor in the east, and then 
the quivering footsteps of the dawn came rushing 
across the new-born blue, and shook the planets from 
their places. Quieter and yet more quiet grew the sea, 
quiet as the soft mist that brooded on her bosom, and 
covered up her troubling, as the illusive wreaths of 
sleep brood upon a pain-racked mind, causing it to 
forget its sorrow. From the east to the west sped the 
angels of the dawn, from sea to sea, from mountain-top 
to mountain-top, scattering light with both their 
hands. On they sped out of the darkness, perfect, 
glorious, like spirits of the just breaking from the 
tomb; on, over the quiet sea, over the low coast-line, 
and the swamps beyond, and the mountains beyond them; 
over those who slept in peace, and those who woke in 
sorrow; over the evil and the good; over the living 
and dead; over the wide world and all that breathes or 
has breathed thereon.

It was a wonderfully beautiful sight, and yet sad, 
perhaps from the very excess of its beauty. The 
arising sun; the setting sun! There we have the symbol 
and the type of humanity, and all things with which 
humanity has to do. The symbol and the type, yes, and 
the earthly beginning, and the end also.

And on that morning this came home to me with a 
peculiar force. The sun that rose to-day for us had 
set last night for eighteen of our fellow voyagers!--
had set forever for eighteen whom we knew!

The dhow had gone down with them, they were tossing 
about now among the rocks and seaweed, so much human 
drift on the great ocean of death! And we four were 
saved. But one day a sunrise will come when we shall 
be among those who are lost, and then others will 
watch those glorious rays, and grow sad in the midst 
of beauty, and dream of Death in the full glow of 
arising Life!

For this is the lot of man.



AT length the heralds and forerunners of the royal sun 
had done their work, and, searching out the shadows, 
caused them to flee away. Then up he came in glory 
from his ocean-bed, and flooded the earth with warmth 
and I sat there in the boat listening to the gentle 
lapping of the water and watched him rise, till 
presently the slight drift of the boat brought the odd 
shaped rock, or peak, at the end of the promontory 
which we had weathered with so much peril, between me 
and the majestic sight, and blotted it from my view. I 
still continued to stare at the rock, however, 
absently enough, till presently it became edged with 
the fire of the growing light behind it, and then I 
started, as well I might, for I perceived that the top 
of the peak, which was about eighty feet high by one 
hundred and fifty thick at its base, was shaped like a 
negro's head and face, whereon was stamped a most 
fiendish and terrifying expression. There was no doubt 
about it; there were the thick lips, the fat cheeks, 
and the squat nose standing out with startling 
clearness against the flaming background. There, too, 
was the round skull, washed into shape perhaps by 
thousands of years of wind and weather, and, to 
complete the resemblance, there was a scrubby growth 
of weeds or lichen upon it, which against the sun 
looked for all the world like the wool on a colossal 
negro's head. It certainly was very odd; so odd that 
now I believe that it is not a mere freak of nature, 
but a gigantic monument fashioned, like the well-known 
Egyptian Sphinx, by a forgotten people out of a pile 
of rock that lent itself to their design, perhaps as 
an emblem of warning and defiance to any enemies who 
approached the harbor. Unfortunately we were never 
able to ascertain whether or not this was the case, 
inasmuch as the rock was difficult of access both from 
the land and the water-side, and we had other things 
to attend to. Myself, considering the matter by the 
light of what we afterwards saw, I believe that it was 
fashioned by man; but whether or not this is so, there 
it stands, and sullenly stares from age to age out 
across the changing sea--there it stood two thousand 
years and more ago, when Amenartas, the Egyptian 
princess, and the wife of Leo's remote ancestor 
Kallikrates, gazed upon its devilish face--and there I 
have no doubt it will still stand when as many 
centuries as are numbered between her day and our own 
are added to the year that bore us to oblivion.

"What do you think of that, Job?" I asked of our 
retainer, who was sitting on the edge of the boat, 
trying to get as much sunshine as possible, and 
generally looking uncommonly wretched, and I pointed 
to the fiery and demoniacal head.

"Oh Lord, sir," answered Job, who now perceived the 
object for the first time, "I think that the old 
gentleman must have been sitting for his portrait, on 
them rocks."

I laughed, and the laugh woke up Leo.

"Hullo," he said, "What's the matter with me? I am all 
stiff--where is the dhow? Give me some brandy, 

"You may be thankful that you are not stiffer, my 
boy," I answered. "The dhow is sunk, and everybody on 
board her is drowned, with the exception of us four, 
and your own life was only saved by a miracle;" and 
while Job, now that it was light enough, searched 
about in a locker for the brandy for which Leo asked, 
I told him the history of our night's adventure.

"Great heavens!" he said, faintly; "and to think that 
we should have been chosen to live through it!"

By this time the brandy was forthcoming, and we all 
had a good pull at it, and thankful enough we were for 
it. Also the sun was beginning to get strength, and 
warm our chilled bones, for we had been wet through 
for five hours or more.

"Why," said Leo, with a gasp as he put down the brandy 
bottle, "there is the head the writing talks of, the 
'rock carven like the head of an Ethiopian.'"

"Yes," I said, "there it is."

"Well, then," he answered, "the whole thing is true."

"I don't at all see that that follows," I answered. 
"We knew this head was here, your father saw it. Very 
likely it is not the same head that the writing talks 
of; or if it is, it proves nothing."

Leo smiled at me in a superior way. "You are an 
unbelieving Jew, Uncle Horace," he said. "Those who 
live will see."

"Exactly so," I answered, "and now perhaps you will 
observe that we are drifting across a sand bank into 
the mouth of the river. Get hold of your oar, Job, and 
we will row in and see if we can find a place to 

The river-mouth which we were entering did not appear 
to be a very wide one, though as yet the long banks of 
steaming mist that clung about its shores had not 
lifted sufficiently to enable us to see its exact 
width. There was, as is the case with nearly every 
East African river, a considerable bar at the mouth, 
which, no doubt, when the wind was on shore and the 
tide running out, was absolutely impassable even for a 
beat drawing only a few inches. But as things were it 
was manageable enough, and we did not ship a cupful of 
water. In twenty minutes we were well across it, with 
but slight assistance from ourselves, and being 
carried by a strong though somewhat variable breeze 
well up the harbor. By this time the mist was being 
sucked up by the sun, which was getting uncomfortably 
hot, and we saw that the mouth of the little estuary 
was here about half a mile across, and that the banks 
were very marshy, and crowded with crocodiles lying 
about on the mud like logs. About a mile ahead of us, 
however, was what appeared to be a strip of firm land, 
and for this we steered. In another quarter of an hour 
we were there, and, making the boat fast to a 
beautiful tree with broad, shining leaves, and flowers 
of the magnolia species, only they were rose-colored 
and not white, which hung over the water, we 
disembarked. This done, we undressed, washed 
ourselves, and spread our clothes and the contents of 
the boat in the sun to dry, which they very quickly 
did. Then, taking shelter from the sun under some 
trees, we made a hearty breakfast off a "Paysandu" 
potted tongue, of which we had brought a good quantity 
with us from the Army and Navy Stores, congratulating 
ourselves loudly on our good fortune in having loaded 
and provisioned the boat on the previous day, before 
the hurricane destroyed the dhow. By the time that we 
had finished our meal our clothes were quite dry, and 
we hastened to get into them, feeling not a little 
refreshed. Indeed, with the exception of weariness and 
a few bruises, none of us were the worse for the 
terrifying adventure which had been fatal to all our 
companions. Leo, it is true, had been half drowned, 
but that is no great matter to a vigorous young 
athlete of five-and-twenty.

After breakfast we started to look about us. We were 
on a strip of dry land about two hundred yards broad 
by five hundred long, bordered on one side by the 
river, and on the other three by endless desolate 
swamps, that stretched as far as the eye could reach. 
This strip of land was raised about twenty-five feet 
above the plain of the surrounding swamps and the 
river level; indeed, it had every appearance of having 
been made by the hand of man.

"This place has been a wharf," said Leo, dogmatically.

"Nonsense," I answered. "Who would be stupid enough to 
build a wharf in the middle of these dreadful marshes 
in a country inhabited by savages, that is if it is 
inhabited at all?"

"Perhaps it was not always marsh, and perhaps the 
people were not always savage," he said, dryly, 
looking down the steep bank for we were standing by 
the river. "Look there," he went on, pointing to a 
spot where the hurricane of the previous night had 
torn up one of the magnolia-trees, which had grown on 
the extreme edge of the bank just where it sloped down 
to the water, by the roots, and lifted a large cake of 
earth with them. "Is not that stonework? If not, it is 
very like it."

"Nonsense," I said, again, and we clambered down to 
the spot, and got between the upturned roots and the 

"Well?" he said.

But I did not answer this time. I only whistled. For 
there, laid bare by the removal of the earth, was an 
undoubted facing of solid stone laid in large blocks 
and bound together with brown cement, so hard that I 
could make no impression on it with the file in my 
shooting-knife. Nor was this all; seeing something 
projecting through the soil at the bottom of the bared 
patch of walling, I removed the loose earth with my 
hands, and revealed a huge stone ring, a foot or more 
in diameter, and about three inches thick. This fairly 
staggered me.

"Looks rather like a wharf where good-sized vessels 
have been moored, does it not, Uncle Horace?" said 
Leo, with an excited grin.

I tried to say "Nonsense" again, but the word stuck in 
my throat--the ring spoke for itself. In some past age 
vessels _i_ had _i_ been moored there, and this stone 
wall was undoubtedly the remnant of a solidly 
constructed wharf. Probably the city to which it had 
belonged lay buried beneath the swamp behind it.

"Begins to look as though there were something in the 
story after all, Uncle Horace," said the exultant Leo; 
and, reflecting on the mysterious negro's head and the 
equally mysterious stonework, I made no direct reply.

"A country like Africa," I said, "is sure to be full 
of the relics of long dead and forgotten 
civilizations. Nobody knows the age of the Egyptian 
civilization, and very likely it had offshoots. Then 
there were the Babylonians and the Phoenicians, and 
the Persians, and all manner of people, all more or 
less civilized, to say nothing of the Jews, whom 
everybody 'wants' nowadays. It is possible that they, 
or any one of them, may have had colonies or trading-
stations about here. Remember those buried Persian 
cities that the consul showed us at Kilwa."

"Quite so," said Leo, "but that is not what you said 

"Well, what is to be done now?" I asked, turning the 

As no answer was forthcoming we proceeded to the edge 
of the swamp, and looked over it. It was apparently 
boundless, and vast flocks of every sort of waterfowl 
came flying from its recesses, till it was sometimes 
difficult to see the sky. Now that the sun was getting 
high it drew thin, sickly looking clouds of poisonous 
vapor from the surface of the marsh and from the 
scummy pools of stagnant water.

"Two things are clear to me," I said, addressing my 
three companions, who stared at this spectacle in 
dismay: "first, that we can't go across there" (I 
pointed to the swamp), "and, secondly, that if we stop 
here we shall certainly die of fever."

"That's as clear as a haystack, sir," said Job.

"Very well, then; there are two alternatives before 
us. One is to 'bout ship, and try and run for some 
port in the whale-boat, which would be a sufficiently 
risky proceeding, and the other to sail or row on up 
the river, and see where we come to."

"I don't know what you are going to do," said Leo, 
setting his mouth, "but I am going up that river."

Job turned up the whites of his eyes and groaned, and 
the Arab murmured "Allah," and groaned also. As for 
me, I remarked sweetly that as we seemed to be between 
the devil and the deep sea, it did not much matter 
where we went. But in reality I was as anxious to 
proceed as Leo. The colossal negro's head and the 
stone wharf had excited my curiosity to an extent of 
which I was secretly ashamed, and I was prepared to 
gratify it at any cost. Accordingly, having carefully 
fitted the mast, restowed the boat, and got out our 
rifles, we embarked. Fortunately the wind was blowing 
on shore from the ocean, so we were able to hoist the 
sail. Indeed, we afterwards found out that as a 
general rule the wind set on shore from daybreak for 
some hours, and off shore again at sunset, and the 
explanation that I offer of this is, that when the 
earth is cooled by the dew and the night the hot air 
rises, and the draught rushes in from the sea till the 
sun has once more heated it through. At least that 
appeared to be the rule here.

Taking advantage of this favoring wind, we sailed 
merrily up the river for three or four hours. Once we 
came across a school of hippopotami, which rose, and 
bellowed dreadfully at us within ten or a dozen 
fathoms of the boat, much to Job's alarm, and, I will 
confess, to my own. These were the first hippopotami 
that we had ever seen, and, to judge by their 
insatiable curiosity, I should judge that we were the 
first white men that they had ever seen. Upon my word 
l once or twice thought that they were coming into the 
boat to gratify it. Leo wanted to fire at them, but I 
dissuaded him, fearing the consequences. Also we saw 
hundreds of crocodiles basking on the muddy banks, and 
thousands upon thousands of waterfowl. Some of these 
we shot, and among them was a wild goose, which, in 
addition to the sharp curved spurs on its wings, had a 
spur about three quarters of an inch long growing from 
the skull just between the eyes. We never shot another 
like it, so I do not know if it was a "sport" or a 
distinct species. In the latter case this incident may 
interest naturalists. Job named it the Unicorn Goose.

About midday the sun grew intensely hot, and the 
stench drawn up by it from the marshes which the river 
drains was something too awful, and caused us 
instantly to swallow precautionary doses of quinine. 
Shortly afterwards the breeze died away altogether, 
and, as rowing our heavy boat against stream in the 
heat was out of the question, we were thankful enough 
to get under the shade of a group of trees--a species 
of willow--that grew by the edge of the river, and lie 
there and gasp till at length the approach of sunset 
put a period to our miseries. Seeing what appeared to 
be an open space of water straight ahead of us, we 
determined to row there before settling what to do for 
the night. Just as we were about to loosen the boat, 
however, a beautiful water-buck, with great horns 
curving forward, and a white stripe across the rump, 
came down to the river to drink, without perceiving us 
hidden away within fifty yards under the willows. Leo 
was the first to catch sight of it, and being an 
ardent sportsman, thirsting for the blood of big game, 
about which he had been dreaming for months, he 
instantly stiffened all over, and pointed like a 
setter dog. Seeing what was the matter, I handed him 
his express rifle, at the same time taking my own.

"Now then," I whispered, "mind you don't miss."

"Miss!" he whispered back, contemptuously; "I could 
not miss it if I tried."

He lifted the rifle, and the roan-colored buck, having 
drunk his fill, raised his head and looked out across 
the river. He was standing right against the sunset 
sky on a little eminence; or ridge of ground, which 
ran across the swamp, evidently a favorite path for 
game, and there was something very beautiful about 
him. Indeed, I do not think that if I live to a 
hundred I shall ever forget that desolate and yet most 
fascinating scene; it is stamped upon my memory. To 
the right and left were wide stretches of lonely, 
death-breeding swamp, unbroken and unrelieved so far 
as the eye could reach, except here and there by ponds 
of black and peaty water that, mirror-like, flashed up 
the red rays of the setting sun. Behind us and before 
stretched the vista of the sluggish river, ending in 
glimpses of a reed-fringed lagoon, on the surface of 
which the long lights of the evening played as the 
faint breeze stirred the shadows. To the west loomed 
the huge red ball of the sinking sun, now vanishing 
down the vapory horizon, and filling the great heaven, 
high across whose arch the cranes and wild fowl 
streamed in line, square, and triangle, with flashes 
of flying gold and the lurid stain of blood. And then 
ourselves--three modern Englishmen in a modern English 
boat--seeming to jar upon and looking out of tone with 
that measureless desolation; and in front of us the 
noble buck limned out upon a background of ruddy sky.

_i_ Bang! _i_ Away he goes with a mighty bound. Leo 
has missed him. _i_ Bang! _i_ right under him again. 
Now for a shot. I must have one, though he is going 
like an arrow, and a hundred yards away and more. By 
Jove! over and over and over! "Well, I think I've 
wiped your eye there, Master Leo," I say, struggling 
against the ungenerous exultation that in such a 
supreme moment of one's existence will rise in the 
best-mannered sportsman's breast.

"Confound you, yes," growled Leo; and then, with that 
quick smile that is one of his charms lighting up his 
handsome face with a ray of light, "I beg your pardon, 
old fellow. I congratulate you; it was a lovely shot, 
and mine were vile."

We got out of the boat and ran to the buck, which was 
shot through the spine and stone dead. It took us a 
quarter of an hour or more to clean it and cut off as 
much of the best meat as we could carry, and, having 
packed this away, we had barely light enough to row up 
into the lagoon-like space, into which, there being a 
hollow in the swamp, the river here expanded. Just as 
the light vanished we cast anchor about thirty fathoms 
from the edge of the lake. We did not dare to go 
ashore, not knowing if we should find dry ground to 
camp on, and greatly fearing the poisonous exhalations 
from the marsh, from which we thought we should be 
freer on the water. So we lighted a lantern, and made 
our evening meal off another potted tongue in the best 
fashion that we could, and then prepared to go to 
sleep, only, however, to find that sleep was 
impossible. For, whether they were attracted by the 
lantern, or by the unaccustomed smell of a white man, 
for which they had been waiting for the last thousand 
years or so, I know not; but certainly we were 
presently attacked by tens of thousands of the most 
bloodthirsty, pertinacious, and huge mosquitoes that I 
ever saw or read of. In clouds they came, and pinged 
and buzzed and bit till we were nearly mad. Tobacco 
smoke only seemed to stir them into a merrier and more 
active life, till at length we were driven to covering 
ourselves with blankets, head and all, and sitting to 
slowly stew and continually scratch and swear beneath 
them. And as we sat, suddenly rolling out like thunder 
through the silence came the deep roar of a lion, and 
then of a second lion, moving among the reeds within 
sixty yards of us.

"I say," said Leo, sticking his head out from under 
his blanket, "lucky we ain't on the bank, eh, 
avuncular?" (Leo sometimes addressed me in this 
disrespectful way.) "Curse it! a mosquito has bitten 
me on the nose," and the head vanished again.

Shortly, after this the moon came up, and 
notwithstanding every variety of roar that echoed over 
the water to us from the lions on the banks, we began, 
thinking ourselves perfectly secure, to gradually doze 

I do not quite know what it was that made me poke my 
head out of the friendly shelter of the blanket, 
perhaps because I found that the mosquitoes were 
biting right through it. Anyhow, as I did so I heard 
Job whisper, a frightened voice--

"Oh, my stars, look there!" 

Instantly we all of us looked, and this was what we 
saw in the moonlight. Near the shore were two wide and 
ever-widening circles of concentric rings rippling 
away across the surface of the water, and in the heart 
and centre of the circles were two dark moving 

"What is it?" asked I.

"It is those damned lions, sir," answered Job, in a 
tone which was an odd mixture of a sense of personal 
injury, habitual respect, and acknowledged fear, "and 
they are swimming here to heat us," he added, 
nervously picking up an "h" in his agitation.

I looked again, there was no doubt about it; I could 
catch the glare of their ferocious eyes. Attracted 
either by the smell of the newly killed water buck 
meat or of ourselves, the hungry beasts were actually 
storming our position.

Leo already had his rifle in his hand. I called to him 
to wait till they were nearer, and meanwhile grabbed 
my own. Some fifteen feet from us the water shallowed 
on a bank to the depth of about fifteen inches, and 
presently the first of them--it was the lioness--got 
on to it and shook herself and roared. At that moment 
Leo fired, and the bullet went right down her open 
mouth and out at the back of her neck, and down she 
dropped, with a splash, dead. The other lion--a full-
grown male--was some two paces behind her. At this 
second he got his forepaws on to the bank, when a 
strange thing happened. There was a rush and 
disturbance of the water, such as one sees in a pond 
in England when a pike takes a little fish, only a 
thousand times fiercer and larger, and suddenly the 
lion gave a most terrific snarling roar and sprang 
forward on to the bank, dragging something black with 

"Allah!" shouted Mahomed, "a crocodile has got him by 
the leg!" and sure enough he had. We could see the 
long snout with its gleaming lines of teeth and the 
reptile body behind it.

And then followed an extraordinary scene, indeed. The 
lion managed to get well on to the bank, the crocodile 
half standing and half swimming, still nipping his 
hind-leg. He roared till the air quivered with the 
sound, and then, with a savage, shrieking snarl, 
turned round and clawed hold of the crocodile's head. 
The crocodile shifted his grip, having, as we 
afterwards discovered, had one of his eyes torn out, 
and slightly turned over, and instantly the lion got 
him by the throat and held on, and then over and over 
they rolled upon the bank, struggling hideously. It 
was impossible to follow their movements, but when 
next we got a clear view the tables had turned, for 
the crocodile, whose head seemed to be a mass of gore, 
had got the lion's body in his iron jaws just above 
the hips, and was squeezing him and shaking him to and 
fro. For his part the tortured brute, roaring in 
agony, was clawing and biting madly at his enemy's 
scaly head, and fixing his great hind claws in the 
crocodile's, comparatively speaking, soft throat, 
ripping it open as one would rip a glove.

Then, all of a sudden, the end came. The lion's head 
fell forward on the crocodile's back, and with an 
awful groan he died, and the crocodile, after standing 
for a minute motionless, slowly rolled over on to his 
side, his jaws still fixed across the carcass of the 
lion, which we afterwards found he had bitten almost 
in halves.

This duel to the death was a wonderful and a shocking 
sight, and one that I suppose few men have seen--and 
thus it ended.

When it was all over, leaving Mahomed to keep a 
lookout, we managed to spend the rest of the night as 
quietly as the mosquitoes would allow.



Next morning, at the earliest blush of dawn, we rose, 
performed such ablutions as circumstances would allow, 
and generally made ready to start. I am bound to say 
that when there was sufficient light to enable us to 
see each other's faces I, for one, burst out into a 
roar of laughter. Job's fat and comfortable 
countenance was swollen out to nearly twice its normal 
size from mosquito bites, and Leo's condition was not 
much better. Indeed, of the three I had come off much 
the best, probably owing to the toughness of my dark 
skin, and to the fact that a good deal of it was 
covered by hair, for since we started from England I 
had allowed my naturally luxuriant beard to grow at 
its own sweet will. But the other two were, 
comparatively speaking, clean shaved, which of course 
gave the enemy a larger extent of open country to 
operate on, though as for Mahomed, the mosquitoes, 
recognizing the taste of a true believer, would not 
touch him at any price. How often, I wonder, during 
the next week or so did we wish that we were flavored 
like an Arab!

By the time that we had done laughing as heartily as 
our swollen lips would allow, it was daylight, and the 
morning breeze was coming up from the sea, cutting 
lanes through the dense marsh mists, and here and 
there rolling them before it in great balls of fleecy 
vapor. So we set our sail, and having first taken a 
look at the two dead lions and the dead alligator, 
which we were of course unable to skin, being 
destitute of means of curing the pelts, we started, 
and, sailing through the lagoon, followed the course 
of the river on the farther side. At midday, when the 
breeze dropped, we were fortunate enough to find a 
convenient piece of dry land on which to camp and 
light a fire, and here we cooked two wild duck and 
some of the water buck's flesh--not in a very 
appetizing way, it is true, but still sufficiently. 
The rest of the buck's flesh we cut into strips and 
hung in the sun to dry into "biltong," as I believe 
South African Dutch call flesh thus prepared. On this 
welcome patch of dry land we stopped until the 
following dawn, and, as before, spent the night in 
warfare with the mosquitoes, but without other 
troubles. The next day or two passed in similar 
fashion, and without noticeable adventures, except 
that we shot a specimen of a peculiarly graceful 
hornless buck, and saw many varieties of water-lilies 
in full bloom, some of them blue and of exquisite 
beauty, though few of the flowers were perfect, owing 
to the prevalence of a white water-maggot with a green 
head that fed upon them.

It was on the fifth day of our journey, when we had 
travelled, so far as we could reckon, about one 
hundred and thirty-five to a hundred and forty miles 
westward from the coast, that the first event of any 
real importance occurred. On that morning the usual 
wind failed us about eleven o'clock, and after pulling 
a little way we were forced to halt more or less 
exhausted at what appeared to be the junction of our 
stream with another of a uniform width of about fifty 
feet. Some trees grew near at hand--the only trees in 
all this country were along the banks of the river--
and under these we rested, and then, the land being 
fairly dry just here, walked a little way along the 
edge of the river to prospect, and shoot a few 
waterfowl for food. Before we had gone fifty yards we 
perceived that all hopes of getting farther up the 
stream in the whale-boat were at an end, for not two 
hundred yards above where we had stopped were a 
succession of shallows and mud-banks, with not six 
inches of water over them. It was a watery _i_ cul-de-
sac _i_ .

Turning back, we walked some way along the banks of 
the other river, and soon came to the conclusion, from 
various indications, that it was not a river at all, 
but an ancient canal, like the one which is to be seen 
above Mombasa, on the Zanzibar coast, connecting the 
Tana River with the Ozy, in such a way as to enable 
the shipping coming down the Tana to cross to the Ozy, 
and reach the sea by it, and thus avoid the very 
dangerous bar that blocks the mouth of the Tuna. The 
canal before us had evidently been dug out by man at 
some remote period of the world's history, and the 
results of his digging still remained in the shape of 
the raised banks that had no doubt once formed towing-
paths. Except here and there, where they had been 
hollowed out or fallen in, these banks of stiff, 
binding clay were at a uniform distance from each 
other, and the depth of the water also appeared to be 
uniform. Current there was little or none, and, as a 
consequence, the surface of the canal was choked with 
vegetable growth, intersected by little paths of clear 
water, made, I suppose, by the constant passage of 
waterfowl, iguanas, and other vermin. Now, as it was 
evident that we could not proceed up the river, it 
became equally evident that we must either try the 
canal or else return to the sea. We could not stop 
where we were, to be baked by the sun and eaten up by 
the mosquitoes, till we died of fever in. that dreary 

"Well, I suppose that we most try it," I said; and the 
others assented in their various ways--Leo, as though 
it were the best joke in the world; Job, in respectful 
disgust; and Mahomed, with an invocation to the 
Prophet, and a comprehensive curse upon all 
unbelievers and their ways of thought and travel.

Accordingly, as soon as the sun got low, having little 
or nothing more to hope for-from our friendly wind, we 
stared. For the first hour or so we managed to row the 
boat, though with great labor; but after that the 
weeds got too thick to allow of it, and we were, 
obliged to resort to the primitive and most exhausting 
resource of towing her. For two hours we labored, 
Mahomed, Job, and I, who was supposed to be strong 
enough to pull against the two of them, on the bank, 
while Leo sat in the bow of the boat, and brushed away 
the weeds which collected round the cutwater with 
Mahomed's sword. At dark we halted for some hours to 
rest and enjoy the mosquitoes, but about midnight we 
went on again, taking advantage of the comparative 
cool of the night. At dawn we rested for three hours, 
and then started once more, and labored on till about 
ten o'clock, when a thunderstorm, accompanied by a 
deluge of rain, overtook us, and we spent the next six 
hours practically under water.

I do not know that there is any necessity for me to 
describe the next four days of our voyage in detail, 
further than to say that they were, on the whole, the 
most miserable that I ever spent in my life, forming 
one monotonous record of heavy labor, heat, misery, 
and mosquitoes. All the way we passed through a region 
of almost endless swamp, and I can only attribute our 
escape from fever and death to the constant doses of 
quinine and purgatives which we took, and the 
unceasing toil which we were forced to undergo. On the 
third day of our journey up the canal we had sighted a 
round hill that loomed dimly through the vapors of the 
marsh, and on the evening of the fourth night, when we 
camped, this hill seemed to be within five-and-twenty 
or thirty miles of us. We were by now utterly 
exhausted, and felt as though our blistered hands 
could not pull the boat a yard farther, and that the 
best thing that we could do would be to lie down and. 
die in that dreadful wilderness of swamp. It was an 
awful position, and one in. which I trust no other 
white man will ever be placed; and as I threw myself 
down in the boat to sleep the sleep of utter 
exhaustion, I bitterly cursed my folly in ever having 
been a party to such a mad undertaking, which could, I 
saw, only end in our death in this ghastly land. I 
thought, I remember, as I slowly sank into a doze, of 
what the appearance of the boat and her unhappy crew 
would be in two or three months' time from that night. 
There she would lie, with gaping seams and half filled 
with fetid water, which, when the mist-laden wind 
stirred her, would wash backward and forward through 
our mouldering bones, and that would be the end of 
her, and of those in her who would follow after myths 
and seek out the secrets of nature.

Already I seemed to hear the water rippling against 
the desiccated bones and rattling them together, 
rolling my skull against Mahomed's, and his against 
mine, till at last Mahomed's stood straight up upon 
its vertebrae, and glared at me through its empty eye 
holes, and cursed me with its grinning jaws, because 
I, a dog of a Christian, disturbed the last sleep of a 
true believer. I opened my eyes, and shuddered at the 
horrid dream, and then shuddered again at something 
that was not a dream, for two great eyes were gleaming 
down at me through the misty darkness. I struggled up, 
and in my terror and confosion shrieked, and shrieked 
again, so that the others sprang up too, reeling, and 
drunken with sleep and fear. And then all of a sudden 
there was a flash of cold steel, and a great spear was 
held against my throat, and behind it other spears 
gleamed cruelly.

"Peace," said a voice, speaking in Arabic, or rather 
in some dialect into which Arabic entered very 
largely; "who are ye who come hither swimming on the 
water? Speak or ye die," and the steel pressed sharply 
against my throat, sending a cold chili through me.

"We are travellers, and have come hither by chance," I 
answered in my best Arabic, which appeared to be 
understood, for the man turned his head and, 
addressing a tall form that towered up in the 
background, said, "Father, shall we slay?"

"What is the color of the men?" said a deep voice in 

"White is their color."

"Slay not," was the reply. "Four suns since was the 
word brought to me from _i_ She-who-must-be-obeyed _i_ 
, 'White men come; if white men come, slay them not. 
Let them be brought to the land of _i_ She-who-must-
be-obeyed _i_ .' Bring forth the men, and let that 
which they have with them be brought forth also."

"Come," said the man, half leading and half dragging 
me from the boat, and as he did so I perceived other 
men doing the same kind office to my companions.

On the bank were gathered a company of some fifty men. 
In that light all I could make out was that they were 
armed with huge spears were very tall, and strongly 
built, comparatively light in color, and nude, save 
for a leopard skin tied round the middle.

Presently Leo and Job were bundled out and placed 
beside me.

"What on earth is up?" said Leo, rubbing his eyes.

"Oh, Lord! sir, here's a rum go," ejaculated Job; and 
just at that moment a disturbance ensued, and Mahomed 
came tumbling between us, followed by a shadowy form 
with an up-lifted spear.

"Allah! Allah!" howled Mahomed, feeling that he had 
little to hope from man, "protect me! protect me!"

"Father, it is a black one," said a voice. "What said 
'She-who-must-be-obeyed' about the black one?"

"She said naught; but slay him not. Come hither, my 

The man advanced, and the tail, shadowy form bent 
forward and whispered something.

"Yes, yes," said the other, and chuckled in a rather 
blood-curdling tone.

"Are the three white men there?" asked the form.

"Yes, they are there."

"Then bring up that which is made ready for them, and 
let the men take all that can be brought from the 
thing which floats."

Hardly had he spoken when men came running up, 
carrying on their shoulders neither more nor less than 
palanquins--four bearers and two spare men to a 
palanquin--and in these it was promptly indicated we 
were expected to stow ourselves.

"Well!" said Leo, "it is a blessing to find anybody to 
carry us after having to carry ourselves so long."'

Leo always takes a cheerful view of things.

There being no help for it, after seeing the others 
into theirs I tumbled into my own litter, and very 
comfortable I found it. It appeared to be manufactured 
of cloth woven from grass fibre, which stretched and 
yielded to every motion after the body, and, being 
bound top and bottom to the bearing pole, gave a 
grateful support to the head and neck.

Scarcely had I settled myself when, accompanying their 
steps with a monotonous song, the bearers started at a 
swinging trot. For half an hour or so I lay still, 
reflecting on the very remarkable experiences that we 
were going through, and wondering if any of my 
eminently respectable fossil friends down at Cambridge 
would believe me if I were to be miraculously set at 
the familiar dinner-table for the purpose of relating 
them. I don't want to convey any disrespectful notion 
or slight when I call those good and learned men 
fossils, but my experience is that people are apt to 
fossilize even at a university if they follow the same 
paths too persistently. I was getting fossilized 
myself, but of late my stock of ideas has been very 
much enlarged. Well, I lay and reflected, and wondered 
what on earth would be the end of it all, till at last 
l ceased to wonder, and went to sleep.

I suppose I must have slept for seven or eight hours, 
getting the first real rest that I had had since the 
night before the loss of the dhow, for when I woke the 
sun was high in the heavens. We were still journeying 
on at a pace of about four miles an hour. Peeping out 
through the mistlike curtains of the litter, which 
were ingeniously fixed to the bearing pole, I 
perceived to my infinite relief that we had passed out 
of the region of eternal swamp, and were now 
travelling over swelling grassy plains towards a cup-
shaped hill. Whether or not it was the same hill that 
we had seen from the canal I do not know, and have 
never since been able to discover, for, as we 
afterwards found out, these people will give little 
information upon such points. Next I glanced at the 
men who were bearing me. They were of a magnificent 
build, few of them being under six feet in height, and 
yellowish in color. Generally their appearance had a 
good deal in common with that of the East African 
Somali, only their hair was not frizzed up, and hung 
in thick black locks upon their shoulders. Their 
features were aquiline, and in many cases exceedingly 
handsome, the teeth being especially regular and 
beautiful. But notwithstanding their beauty, it struck 
me that, on the whole, I had never seen a more evil 
looking set of faces. There was an aspect of cold and 
sullen cruelty stamped upon them that revolted me, and 
which in some cases was almost uncanny in its 

Another thing which struck me about them was that they 
never seemed to smile. Sometimes they sang the 
monotonous song of which I have spoken, but when they 
were not singing they remained almost perfectly 
silent, and the light of a laugh never came to 
brighten their sombre and evil countenances. Of what 
race could these people be? Their language was a 
bastard Arabic, and yet they were not Arabs; I was 
quite sure of that. For one thing they were too dark, 
or, rather, yellow. I could not say why, but I know 
that their appearance filled me with a sick fear of 
which I felt ashamed. While I was still wondering 
another litter came up alongside of mine. In it--for 
the curtains were drawn--sat an old man, clothed in a 
whitish robe, made apparently from coarse linen, that 
hung loosely about him, who, I at once jumped to the 
conclusion, was the shadowy figure who had stood on 
the bank and been addressed as "Father."

He was a wonderful-looking old man, with a snowy 
beard, so long that the ends of it hung over the sides 
of the litter, and he had a hooked nose, above which 
flashed out a pair of eyes as keen as a snake's, while 
his whole countenance was instinct with a look of wise 
and sardonic humor impossible to describe on paper.

"Art thou awake, stranger?" he said, in a deep and low 

"Surely, my father," I answered, courteously, feeling 
certain that I should do well to conciliate this 
ancient Mammon of Unrighteousness.

He stroked his beautiful white beard, and smiled 

"From whatever country thou camest," he said, "and, by 
the way, it must be from one where somewhat of our 
language is known, they teach their children courtesy 
there, my stranger son. And now, wherefore comest thou 
unto this land, which scarce an alien foot has pressed 
from the time that man knoweth? Art thou and those 
with thee weary of life?"

"'We came to find new things," I answered boldly. "We 
are tired of the old things; we have come up out of 
the sea to know that which is unknown. We are of a 
brave race who fear not death, my very much respected 
father--that is, if we can get a little fresh 
information before we die."

"Humph!" said the old gentleman, "that may be true; it 
is rash to contradict, otherwise I should say that 
thou wast lying, my son. However, I dare say that _i_ 
She-who-must-be-obeyed _i_ will meet thy wishes in the 

"Who is ' _i_ She-who-must-be-obeyed _i_ '?" I asked, 

The old man glanced at the bearers, and then answered, 
with a little smile that somehow sent my blood to my 

"Surely, my stranger son, thou wilt learn soon enough, 
if it be her pleasure to see thee at all in the 

"In the flesh?" I answered. "What may my father wish 
to convey?"

But the old man only laughed a dreadful laugh, and 
made no reply.

"What is the name of my father's people?" I asked.

"The name of my people is Amahagger" (the People of 
the Rocks).

"And, if. a son might ask, what is the name of my 

"My name is Billali."

"And whither go we, my father?" 

"That shalt thou see," and at a sign from him his 
bearers stared forward at a run till they reached the 
litter in which Job was reposing (with one leg hanging 
over the side). Apparently, however, he could not make 
much out of Job, for presently I saw his bearers trot 
forward to Leo's litter.

And after that, as nothing fresh occurred, I yielded 
to the pleasant swaying motion of the litter, and went 
to sleep again. I was dreadfully tired. When I woke I 
found that we were passing through a rocky defile of a 
lava formation with precipitous sides, in which grew 
many beautiful trees and flowering shrubs.

Presently this defile took a turn, and a lovely sight 
unfolded itself to my eyes. Before us was a vast cup 
of green from four to six miles in extent, of the 
shape of a Roman amphitheatre. The sides of this great 
cup were rocky, and clothed with bush, but the centre 
was of the richest meadow land, studded with single 
trees of magnificent growth, and watered by meandering 
brooks. On this rich plain grazed herds of goats and 
cattle, but I saw no sheep. At first I could not 
imagine what this strange spot could be, but presently 
it flashed upon me that it must represent the crater 
of some long-extinct volcano, which had afterwards 
been a lake, and was ultimately drained in some 
unexplained way. And here I may state that from my 
subsequent experience of this and a much larger, but 
otherwise similar spot, which I shall have occasion to 
describe by and by, I have every reason to believe 
that this conclusion was correct. What puzzled me, 
however, was that, although there were people moving 
about herding the goats and cattle, I saw no signs of 
any human habitation. Where did they all live? I 
wondered. My curiosity was soon destined to be 
gratified. Turning to the left, the string of litters 
followed the cliffy sides of the crater for a distance 
of about half a mile, or perhaps a little less, and 
then halted. Seeing the old gentleman, my adopted 
"father," Billali, emerge from his litter, I did the 
same, and so did Leo and Job. The first thing I saw 
was our wretched Arab companion, Mahomed, lying 
exhausted on the ground. It appeared that he had not 
been provided with a litter, but had been forced to 
run the entire distance, and, as he was already quite 
worn out when we started, his condition now was one of 
great prostration.

On looking round we discovered that the place where we 
had halted was a platform in front of the mouth of a 
great cave, and piled upon this platform were the 
entire contents of the whaleboat, even down to the 
oars and sail. Round the cave stood groups of the men 
who had escorted us, and other men of a similar stamp. 
They were all tall and all handsome, though they 
varied in their degree of darkness of skin, some being 
as dark as Mahomed, and some as yellow as a Chinese. 
They were naked, except for the leopard-skin round the 
waist, and each of them carried a huge spear.

There were also some women among them, who, instead of 
the leopard-skin, wore a tanned hide of a small red 
buck, something like that of the oribe', only rather 
darker in color. These women were, as a class, 
exceedingly good-looking, with large, dark eyes, well-
cut features, and a thick bush of curling hair--not 
crisped like a negro's--ranging from black to chestnut 
in hue, with all shades of intermediate color. Some, 
but very few of them, wore a yellowish linen garment, 
such as I have described as worn by Billali, but this, 
as we afterwards discovered, was a mark of rank, 
rather than an attempt at clothing. For the rest, 
their appearance was not quite so terrifying as that 
of the men, and they sometimes, though rarely, smiled. 
As soon as we had alighted they gathered round us and 
examined us with curiosity, but without excitement. 
Leo's tall, athletic form and clear-cut Grecian face, 
however, evidently excited their attention, and when 
he politely lifted his hat to them, and showed his 
curling yellow hair, there was a slight murmur of 
admiration. Nor did it stop there; for, after 
regarding him critically from head to foot, the 
handsomest of the young women--one wearing a robe, and 
with hair of a shade between brown and chestnut--
deliberately advanced to him, and in a way that would 
have been winning had it not been so determined, 
quietly put her arm round his neck, bent forward, and 
kissed him on the lips.

I gave a gasp, expecting to see Leo instantly speared; 
and Job ejaculated, "The hussy--well, I never!" As for 
Leo, he looked slightly astonished; and then, 
remarking that we had got into a country where they 
clearly followed the customs of the early Christians, 
deliberately returned the embrace.

Again I gasped, thinking that something would happen; 
but. to my surprise, though some of the young women 
showed traces of vexation, the older ones and the men 
only smiled slightly. When we came to understand the 
customs of this extraordinary people the mystery was 
explained. It then appeared that, in direct opposition 
to the habits of almost every other savage race in the 
world, women among the Amahagger are not only upon 
terms of perfect equality with the men, but are not 
held to them by any binding ties. Descent is traced 
only through the line of the mother, and while 
individuals are as proud of a long and superior female 
ancestry as we are of our families in Europe, they 
never pay attention to, or even acknowledge, any man 
as their father, even when their male parentage is 
perfectly well known. There is but one titular male 
parent of each tribe, or, as they call it, 
"household," and he is its elected and immediate 
ruler, with the title of "Father." For instance, the 
man Billali was the father of this "household," which 
consisted of about seven thousand individuals all 
told, and no other man was ever called by that name. 
When a woman took a fancy to a man she signified her 
preference by advancing and embracing him publicly, in 
the same way that this handsome and exceedingly prompt 
young lady, who was called Ustane, had embraced Leo. 
If he kissed her in return it was a token that he 
accepted her, and the arrangement continued till one 
of them wearied of it. I am bound, however, to say 
that the change of husbands was not nearly so frequent 
as might have been expected. Nor did quarrels arise 
out of it, at least among the men, who, when their 
wives deserted them in favor of a rival, accepted the 
whole thing much as we accept the income-tax or our 
marriage laws, as something not to be disputed, and as 
tending to the good of the community, however 
disagreeable they may in particular instances prove to 
the individual.

It is very curious to observe how the customs of 
mankind on this matter vary in different countries, 
making morality an affair of latitude, and what is 
right and proper in one place wrong and improper in 
another. It must, however, be understood that, as all 
civilized nations appear to accept it as an axiom that 
ceremony is the touchstone of morality, there is, even 
according to our canons, nothing immoral about this 
Amahagger custom, seeing that the interchange of the 
embrace answers to our ceremony of marriage, which, as 
we know, justifies most things.



When the kissing operation was finished--by the way, 
none of the young ladies offered to pet me in this 
fashion, though I saw one hovering round Job, to that 
respectable individual's evident alarm--the old man 
Billali advanced, and graciously waved us into the 
cave, whither we went, followed by Ustane, who did not 
seem inclined to take the hints I gave her that we 
liked privacy.

Before we had gone five paces it struck me that the 
cave that we were entering was none of Nature's 
handiwork, but, on the contrary, had been hollowed by 
the hand of man. So far as we could judge it appeared 
to be about one hundred feet in length by fifty wide, 
and very lofty, resembling a cathedral aisle more than 
anything else. From this main aisle opened passages at 
a distance of every twelve or fifteen feet, leading, I 
supposed, to smaller chambers. About fifty feet from 
the entrance of the cave, just where the light began 
to get dim, a fire was burning, which threw huge 
shadows upon the gloomy walls around. Here Billali 
halted, and asked us to be seated, saying that the 
people would bring us food, and accordingly we 
squatted ourselves down upon the rugs of skins which 
were spread for us, and waited. Presently the food, 
consisting of goat's flesh boiled, fresh milk in an 
earthenware pot, and boiled cobs of Indian corn, was 
brought by young girls. We were almost starving, and I 
do not think that I ever in my life ate with such 
satisfaction. Indeed, before we had finished we 
literally ate up everything that was set before us.

When we had done, our somewhat saturnine host, 
Billali, who had been watching us in perfect silence, 
rose and addressed us. He said that it was a wonderful 
thing that had happened. No man had ever known or 
heard of white strangers arriving in the country of 
the People of the Rocks. Sometimes, though rarely, 
black men had come here, and from them they had heard 
of the existence of men much whiter than themselves, 
who sailed on the sea in ships, but for the arrival of 
such there was no precedent. We had, however, been 
seen dragging the boat up the canal, and he told us 
frankly that he had at once given orders for our 
destruction, seeing that it was unlawful for any 
stranger to enter here, when a message had come from " 
_i_ She-who-must-be-obeyed _i_ ," saying that our 
lives were to be spared, and that we were to be 
brought hither.

"Pardon me, my father," I interrupted at this point; 
"but if, as I understand, _i_ She-who-must-be-obeyed 
_i_ lives yet farther off, how could she have known of 
our approach?"

Billali turned, and seeing that we were alone--for the 
young lady, Ustane, had withdrawn when he had begun to 
speak--said, with a curious little laugh--

"Are there none in your land who can see without eyes 
and hear without ears? Ask no questions; _i_ She _i_ 

I shrugged my shoulders at this, and he proceeded to 
say that no further instructions had been received on 
the subject of our disposal, and this being so he was 
about to start to interview " _i_ She-who-must-be-
obeyed _i_ ," generally spoken of, for the sake of 
brevity, as "Hiya" or _i_ She _i_ simply, who he gave 
us to understand was the Queen of the Amahagger, and 
learn her wishes.

I asked him how long he proposed to be away, and he 
said that by travelling hard he might be back on the 
fifth day, but there were many miles of marsh to cross 
before he came to where _i_ She _i_ was. He then said 
that every arrangement would be made for our comfort 
during his absence, and that, as he personally had 
taken a fancy to us, he sincerely trusted that the 
answer he should bring from _i_ She _i_ would be one 
favorable to the continuation of our existence, but at 
the same time he did not wish to conceal from us that 
he thought this doubtful, as every stranger who had 
ever come into the country during his grandmother's 
life, his mother's life, and his own life, had been 
put to death without mercy, and in a way that he would 
not harrow our feelings by describing; and this had 
been done by the order of _i_ She _i_ herself, at 
least he supposed it was by her order. At any rate, 
she never interfered to save them.

"Why," I said, "but how can that be? You are an old 
man, and the time you talk of must reach back three 
men's lives. How, therefore, could _i_ She _i_ have 
ordered the death of anybody at the beginning of the 
life of your grandmother, seeing that she herself 
would not have been born?"

Again he smiled--that same faint, peculiar smile, and 
with a deep bow departed, without making any answer; 
nor did we see him again for five days.

When he had gone we discussed the situation, which 
filled me with alarm. I did not at all like the 
accounts of this mysterious queen, " _i_ She-who-must-
be-obeyed _i_ ," or more shortly _i_ She _i_ , who 
apparently ordered the execution of any unfortunate 
stranger in a fashion so unmerciful. Leo, too, was 
depressed about it, but proceeded to console himself 
by triumphantly pointing out that this _i_ She _i_ was 
undoubtedly the person referred to in the writing on 
the potsherd and in his father's letter, in proof of 
which he advanced Billali's allusions to her age and 
power. I was by this time so overwhelmed with the 
whole course of events that I had not even got the 
heart left to dispute a proposition so absurd, so I 
suggested that we should try and go out and get a 
bath, of which we all stood sadly in need.

Accordingly, having indicated our wish to a middle-
aged individual of an unusually saturnine cast of 
countenance, even among this saturnine people, who 
appeared to be deputed to look after us now that the 
Father of the hamlet had departed, we started in a 
body--having first lit our pipes. Outside the cave we 
found quite a crowd of people evidently watching for 
our appearance, but when they saw us come out smoking 
they vanished this way and that, calling out that we 
were great magicians. Indeed, nothing about us created 
so great a sensation as our tobacco smoke--not even 
our firearms. After this we succeeded in reaching a 
stream that had its source in a strong ground spring, 
and taking our bath in peace, though some of the 
women, not excepting Ustane, showed a decided 
inclination to follow us even there.

By the time that we had finished this most refreshing 
bath the sun was setting; indeed, when we got back to 
the big cave it had already set. The cave itself was 
full of people gathered round fires--for several more 
had now been lighted--and eating their evening meal by 
their lurid light, and by that of various lamps which 
were set about or hung upon the walls. These lamps 
were of a rude manufacture of baked earthenware, and 
of all shapes, some of them graceful enough. The 
larger ones were formed of big red earthenware pots, 
filled with clarified melted fat, and having a reed 
wick stuck through a wooden disk which filled the top 
of the pot, and this sort of lamp required the most 
constant attention to prevent its going out whenever 
the wick burned down, as there were no means of 
turning it up. The smaller hand-lamps, however, which 
were also made of baked clay, were fitted with wicks 
manufactured from the pith of a palm-tree, or 
sometimes from the stem of a very handsome variety of 
fern. This kind of wick was passed through a round 
hole at the end of the lamp, to which a sharp piece of 
hard wood was attached wherewith to pierce and draw it 
up whenever it showed signs of burning low.

For a while we sat down and watched this grim people 
eating their evening meal in silence as grim as 
themselves, till at length, getting tired of 
contemplating them and the huge moving shadows on the 
rocky walls, I suggested to our new keeper that we 
should like to go to bed.

Without a word, he rose, and, taking me politely by 
the hand, advanced with a lamp to one of the small 
passages that I had noticed opening out of the central 
cave. This we followed for about five paces, when it 
suddenly widened out into a small chamber, about eight 
feet square, and hewn out of the living rock. On one 
side of this chamber was a stone slab, about three 
feet from the ground, and running its entire length 
like a bunk in a cabin, and on this slab he intimated 
that I was to sleep. There was no window or air-hole 
to the chamber, and no furniture; and, on looking at 
it more closely, I came to the disturbing conclusion 
(in which, as I afterwards discovered, I was quite 
right) that it had originally served for a sepulchre 
for the dead rather than a sleeping-place for the 
living, the slab being designed to receive the corpse 
of the departed. The thought made me shudder in spite 
of myself; but, seeing that I must sleep somewhere, I 
got over the feeling as best I might, and returned to 
the cavern to get my blanket, which had been brought 
up from the boat with the other things. There I met 
Job, who, having been inducted to a similar apartment, 
had flatly declined to stop in it, saying that the 
look of the place gave him the horrors, and that he 
might as well be dead and buried in his grandfather's 
brick grave at once, and expressed his determination 
of sleeping with me if I would allow him. This, of 
course, I was only too glad to do.

The night passed very comfortably on the whole. I say 
on the whole, for personally I went through a most 
horrible nightmare of being buried alive, induced, no 
doubt, by the sepulchral nature of my surroundings. At 
dawn we were aroused by a loud trumpeting sound, 
produced, as we afterwards discovered, by a young 
Amahagger blowing, through a hole bored in its side, 
into a hollowed elephant tusk, which was kept for the 

Taking the hint, we got up and went down to the stream 
to wash, after which the morning meal was served. At 
breakfast one of the women, no longer quite young, 
advanced, and publicly kissed Job. I think it was in 
its way the most delightful thing (putting its 
impropriety aside for a moment) that I ever saw. Never 
shall I forget the respectable Job's abject terror and 
disgust. Job, like myself, is a bit of a misogynist--I 
fancy chiefly owing to the fact of his having been one 
of a family of seventeen--and the feelings expressed 
upon his countenance when he realized that he was not 
only being embraced publicly, and without 
authorization on his own part, but also in the 
presence of his masters, were too mixed and painful to 
admit of accurate description. He sprang to his feet, 
and pushed the woman, a buxom person of about thirty, 
from him.

"Well, I never!" he gasped, whereupon, probably 
thinking that he was only coy, she embraced him again.

"Be off with you! Get away, you minx!" he shouted, 
waving the wooden spoon, with which he was eating his 
breakfast, up and down before the lady's face. "Beg 
your pardon, gentlemen, I am sure I. haven't 
encouraged her. Oh, Lord! she's coming for me again. 
Hold her, Mr. Holly! please hold her! I can't stand 
it; I can't, indeed. This has never happened to me 
before, gentlemen, never. There's nothing against my 
character," and here he broke off, and ran as hard as 
he could go down the cave, and for once I saw the 
Amahagger laugh. As for the woman, however, she did 
not laugh. On the contrary, she seemed to bristle with 
fury, which the mockery of the other women about only 
served to intensify. She stood there literally 
snarling and shaking with indignation, and, seeing 
her, I wished Job's scruples had been at Jericho, 
forming a shrewd guess that his admirable behavior had 
endangered our throats. Nor, as the sequel shows, was 
I wrong.

The lady having retreated, Job returned in a great 
state of nervousness, and keeping his weather eye 
fixed upon every woman who came near him. I took an 
opportunity to explain to our hosts that Job was a 
married man, and had had very unhappy experiences in 
his domestic relations, which accounted for his 
presence here and his terror at the sight of women, 
but my remarks were received in grim silence, it being 
evident that our retainer's behavior was considered as 
a slight to the "household" at large, although the 
women, after the manner of some of their more 
civilized sisters, made merry at the rebuff of their 

After breakfast we took a walk and inspected the 
Amahagger herds, and also their cultivated lands. They 
have two breeds of cattle, one large and angular, with 
no horns, but yielding beautiful milk; and the other, 
a red breed, very small and fat, excellent for meat, 
but of no value for milking purposes. This last breed 
closely resembles the Norfolk red-pole strain, only it 
has horns which generally curve forward over the head, 
sometimes to such an extent that they have to be cut 
to prevent them from growing into the bones of the 
skull, The goats are long-haired, and are used for 
eating only, at least I never saw them milked. As for 
the Amahagger cultivation, it is primitive in the 
extreme, being all done by means of a spade made of 
iron, for these people smelt and work iron. This spade 
is shaped more like a big spearshead than anything 
else, and has no shoulder to it on which the foot can 
be set. As a consequence, the labor of digging is very 
great. It is, however, all done by the men, the women, 
contrary to the habits of most savage races, being 
entirely exempt from manual toil. But then, as I think 
I have said elsewhere, among the Amahagger the weaker 
sex has established its rights.

At first we were much puzzled as to the origin and 
constitution of this extraordinary race, points upon 
which they were singularly uucommunicative. As the 
time went on for the next four days passed without any 
striking event--we learned something from Leo's lady 
friend Ustane, who, by the way, stuck to that young 
gentleman like his own shadow. As to origin, they had 
none, at least, so far as she was aware. There were, 
however, she informed us, mounds of masonry and many 
pillars near the place where _i_ She _i_ lived, which 
was called Ko^r, and which the wise said had once been 
houses wherein men lived, and it was suggested that 
they were descended from these men. No one, however, 
dared go near these great ruins because they were 
haunted: they only looked on them from a distance. 
Other similar ruins were to be seen, she had heard, in 
various parts of the country, that is, wherever one of 
the mountains rose above the level of the swamp. Also 
the caves in which they lived had been hollowed out of 
the rocks by men, perhaps the same who built the 
cities. They themselves had no written laws, only 
custom, which was, however, quite as binding as law. 
If any man offended against the custom, he was put to 
death by order of the Father of the "household." I 
asked how he was put to death, and she only smiled, 
and said that I might see one day soon.

They had a queen, however. _i_ She _i_ was their 
queen, but she was very rarely seen, perhaps once in 
two or three years, when she came forth to pass 
sentence on some offenders, and when seen was muffled 
up in a big cloak, so that nobody could look upon her 
face. Those who waited upon her were deaf and dumb, 
and therefore could tell no tales, but it was reported 
that she was lovely as no other woman was lovely, or 
ever had been. It was rumored also that she was 
immortal, and had power. over all things, but she, 
Ustane, could say nothing of all that. What she 
believed was that the queen chose a husband from time 
to time, and as soon as a female child was born this 
husband, who was never again seen, was put to death. 
Then the female child grew up and took the place of 
the queen when its mother died and had been buried in 
the great caves. But of these matters none could speak 
for certain. Only _i_ She _i_ was obeyed throughout 
the length and breadth of the land, and to question 
her command was certain death. _i_ She _i_ kept a 
guard, but had no regular army, and to disobey her was 
to die.

I asked what size the land was, and how many people 
lived in it. She answered that there were ten 
"households," like this that she knew of, including 
the big "household," where the queen was; that all the 
"households" lived in caves, in places resembling this 
stretch of raised country, dotted about in a vast 
extent of swamp, which was only to be threaded by 
secret paths. Often the "households" made war on each 
other until _i_ She _i_ sent word that it was to stop, 
and then they instantly ceased. That and the fever 
which they caught in crossing the swamps prevented 
their numbers from increasing too much. They had no 
connection with any other race, indeed none lived near 
them, or were able to thread the vast swamps. Once an 
army from the direction of the great river (presumably 
the Zambesi) had attempted to attack them, but they 
got lost in the marshes, and at night, seeing the 
great balls of fire that move about there, tried to 
come to them, thinking that they marked the enemy's 
camp, and half of them were drowned. As for the rest, 
they soon died of fever and starvation, not a blow 
being struck at them. The marshes, she told us, were 
absolutely impassable except to those who knew the 
paths, adding, what I could well believe, that we 
should never have reached this place where we then 
were had we not been brought thither.

These and many other things we learned from Ustane 
during the four days pause before our real adventures 
began gave us considerable cause for thought. The 
whole thing was exceedingly remarkable, almost 
incredibly so, indeed, and the oddest part of it was 
that so far it did more or less correspond to the 
ancient writing on the sherd. And now it appeared that 
there was a mysterious queen clothed by rumor with 
dread and wonderful attributes, and commonly known by 
the impersonal but, to my mind, rather awesome title 
of _i_ She _i_ . Altogether, I could not make it out, 
nor could Leo, though of course he was exceedingly 
triumphant over me because I had persistently mocked 
at the whole thing. As for Job, he had long since 
abandoned any attempt to call his reason his own, and 
left it to drift on the sea of circumstance. Mahomed, 
the Arab, who was, by the way, treated civilly indeed, 
but with chilling contempt, by the Amahagger, was, I 
discovered, in a great fright, though I could not 
quite make out what he was frightened about. He would 
sit crouched in a corner of the cave all day long, 
calling upon Allah and the Prophet to protect him. 
When I pressed him about it, he said that he was 
afraid because these people were not men and women at 
all, but devils, and that this was an enchanted land; 
and, upon my word, once or twice since then I have 
been inclined to agree with him. And so the time went 
on, till the night of the fourth day after Billali had 
left, when something happened.

We three and Ustane were sitting round a fire in the 
cave just before bedtime, when suddenly the woman, who 
had been brooding in silence, rose, and laid her hand 
upon Leo's golden curls, and addressed him. Even now, 
when I shut my eyes, I can see her proud, imperial 
form, clothed alternately in dense shadow and the red 
flickering of the fire, as she stood, the wild centre 
of as weird a scene as I ever witnessed, and delivered 
herself of the burden of her thoughts and forebodings 
in a kind of rhythmical speech that ran something 

[poem in italics]

"Thou art my chosen--I have waited 

for thee from the beginning!

Thou art very beautiful. Who hath 
 hair like unto thee, or skin so 

Who hath so strong an arm, who is 
 so much a man. 

Thine eyes are the sky, and the light 

in them is the stars. 

Thou art perfect and of a happy face,

and my heart turned itself towards thee. 

Ay, when mine eyes fell on thee I did 
 desire thee--

Then did I take thee to me--thou, my 

And hold thee fast, lest harm should 
 come unto thee. 

Ay, I did cover thine head with mine
 hair, lest the sun should strike it; 

And altogether was I thine, and thou

wast altogether mine. 

And so it went for a little space, till

Time was in labor with an evil


And then what befell on that day?

Alas! my Beloved, I know not! 

But I, I saw thee no more--I, I was

lost in the blackness. 

And she who is stronger did take thee;

ay, she who is fairer than Ustane.

Yet didst thou turn and call upon me, 
 and let thine eyes wander in the

But, nevertheless, she prevailed by 
 Beauty, and led thee down horrible
 places, And then, ah! then my Beloved--"

Here this extraordinary woman broke off her speech, or 
chant, which was so much musical gibberish to us, for 
all that we understood of what she was talking about, 
and seemed to fix her flashing eyes upon the deep 
shadow before her. Then in a moment they acquired a 
vacant, terrified stare, as though they were striving 
to realize some half seen horror. She lifted her hand 
from Leo's head, and pointed into the darkness. We all 
looked, and could see nothing; but she saw something, 
or thought she did, and something evidently that 
affected even her iron nerves, for, without another 
sound, down she fell senseless between us.

Leo, who was growing really attached to this 
remarkable young person, was in a great state of alarm 
and distress, and I, to be perfectly candid, was in a 
condition not far removed from superstitious fear. The 
whole scene was an uncanny one.

Presently, however, she recovered, and sat up with an 
extraordinary convulsive shudder.

"What didst thou mean, Ustane?" asked Leo, who, thanks 
to years of tuition, spoke Arabic very prettily.

"Nay, my chosen," she answered, with a little forced 
laugh, "I did but sing unto thee after the fashion of 
my people. Surely, I meant nothing. How could I speak 
of that which is not yet?"

"And what didst thou see, Ustane?" I asked, looking 
her sharply in the face.

"Nay," she answered again; "I saw naught. Ask me not 
what I saw. Why should I fright ye?" And then, turning 
to Leo with a look of the most utter tenderness that I 
ever saw upon the face of a woman, civilized or 
savage, she took his head between her hands, and 
kissed him on the forehead as a mother might. "When I 
am gone from thee, my chosen; when at night thou 
stretchest out: thy hand and canst not find me, then 
shouldst thou think at times of me, for of a truth I 
love thee well, though I be not fit to wash thy feet. 
And now let us love and take that which is given us, 
and be happy; for in the grave there is no love and no 
warmth, nor any touching of the lips. Nothing 
perchance, or perchance but bitter memories of what 
might have been. To-night the hours are our own, how 
know we to whom they shall belong to-morrow?"



On the day following this remarkable scene--a scene 
calculated to make a deep impression upon anybody who 
beheld it, more because of what it suggested and 
seemed to foreshadow than of what it revealed--it was 
announced to us that a feast would be held that 
evening in our honor. I did my best to get out of it, 
saying that we were modest people, and cared little 
for feasts but my remarks being received with the 
silence of displeasure, I thought it wisest to hold my 

Accordingly, just before sundown, I was informed that 
everything was ready, and, accompanied by Job, went 
into the cave, where I met Leo, who was, as usual, 
followed by Ustane. These two had been out walking 
somewhere, and knew nothing of the projected festivity 
till that moment. When Ustane heard of it I saw an 
expression of horror spring up upon her handsome 
features. Turning, she caught a man who was passing up 
the cave by the arm, and asked him something in an 
imperious tone. His answer seemed to reassure her a 
little, for she, looked relieved, though far from 
satisfied. Next she appeared to attempt some 
remonstrance with the man, who was a person in 
authority, but he spoke angrily to her, and shook her 
off, and then, changing his mind, led her by the arm, 
and sat her down between himself and another man in 
the circle round the fire, and I perceived that for 
some reason of her own she thought it best to submit.

The fire in the cave was an unusually big one that 
night, and in a large circle round it were gathered 
about thirty-five men and two women, Ustane and the 
woman to avoid whom Job had played the role of another 
Scriptural character. The men were sitting in perfect 
silence, as was their custom, each with his great 
spear stuck upright behind him, in a socket cut in the 
rock for that purpose. Only one or two wore the 
yellowish linen garment of which I have spoken, the 
rest had nothing on except the leopard's skin about 
the middle.

"What's up now, sir?" said Job, doubtfully. "Bless us 
and save us, there's that woman again. Now, surely, 
she can't be after me, seeing that I have given her no 
encouragement. They give me the creeps, the whole lot 
of them, and that's a fact. Why, look, they have asked 
Mahomed to dine, too. There, that lady of mine is 
talking to him in as nice and civil a way as possible. 
Well, I'm glad it isn't me, that's all."

We looked up, and sure enough the woman in question 
had risen, and was escorting the wretched Mahomed from 
the corner, where, overcome by some acute prescience 
of horror, he had been seated, shivering and calling 
on Allah. He appeared unwilling enough to come, if for 
no other reason perhaps because it was an unaccustomed 
honor, for hitherto his food had been given to him 
apart. Anyway I could see that he was in a state of 
great terror, for his tottering legs would scarcely 
support his stout, bulky form, and I think it was 
rather owing to the resources of barbarism behind him, 
in the shape of a huge Amahagger with a 
proportionately huge spear, than to the seduction of 
the lady who led him by the hand, that he consented to 
come at all.

"Well," I said to the others, "I don't at all like the 
look of things, but I suppose that we must face it 
out. Have you fellows got your revolvers on because, 
if so, you had better see that they're loaded."

"I have, sir," said Job, tapping his Colt, "but Mr. 
Leo has only got his hunting-knife, though that is big 
enough, surely."

Feeling that it would not do to wait while the missing 
weapon was fetched, we advanced boldly, and seated 
ourselves in a line, with our backs against the side 
of the cave.

As soon as we were seated, an earthenware jar was 
passed round containing a fermented fluid, of by no 
means unpleasant taste, though apt to turn upon the 
stomach, made of crushed grain--not Indian corn, but a 
small brown grain that grows upon the stem in 
clusters, not unlike that which in the southern part 
of Africa is known by the name of Kaffir corn. The 
vase in which this liquid was handed round was very 
curious, and as it more or less resembled many 
hundreds of others in use among the Amahagger I may as 
well describe it. These vases are of a very ancient 
manufacture, and of all sizes. None such can have been 
made in the country for hundreds, or rather thousands, 
of years. They are found in the rock tombs, of which I 
shall give a description in their proper place, and my 
own belief is that, after the fashion of the 
Egyptians, with whom the former inhabitants of this 
country may have had some connection, they were used 
to receive the viscera of the dead. Leo, however, is 
of opinion that, as in the case of Etruscan amphorae, 
they were placed there for the spiritual use of the 
deceased. They are mostly two-handled, and of all 
sizes, some being nearly three feet in height, and 
running from that down to as many inches. In shape 
they vary, but are all exceedingly beautiful and 
graceful, being made of a very fine black ware, not 
lustrous, but slightly rough. On this groundwork were 
inlaid figures much more graceful and lifelike than 
any others I have seen on antique vases. Some of these 
inlaid pictures represented love-scenes with a child-
like simplicity and freedom of manner which would not 
commend itself to the taste of the present day. Others 
again were pictures of maidens dancing, and yet others 
of hunting-scenes. For instance, the very vase from 
which we were then drinking had on one side a most 
spirited drawing of men, apparently white in color, 
attacking a bull-elephant with spears, while on the 
reverse was a picture not quite so well done, of a 
hunter shooting an arrow at a running antelope, I 
should say, from the look of it, either an eland or a 

This is a digression at a critical point but it is not 
too long for the occasion itself was very long. With 
the exception of the periodical passing of the vase, 
and the movement necessary to throw fuel on to the 
fire, nothing happened for the best part of a whole 
hour. Nobody spoke a word. There we all sat in perfect 
silence, staring at the glare and glow of the large 
fire, and at the shadows thrown by the flickering 
earthenware lamps (which, by the way, were not 
ancient). On the open space between us and the fire 
lay a large wooden tray, with four short handles to 
it, exactly like a butcher's tray, only not hollowed 
out. By the side of the tray was a great pair of long-
handled iron pincers, and on the other side of the 
fire was a similar pair. Somehow I did not at all like 
the appearance of this tray and the accompanying 
pincers. There I sat and stared at them and at the 
silent circle of the fierce, moody faces of the men, 
and reflected that it was all very awful, and that we 
were absolutely in the power of this alarming people, 
who, to me at any rate, were all the more formidable 
because their true character was still very much of a 
mystery to us. They might be better than I thought 
them, or they might be worse. I feared that they were 
worse, and I was not wrong. It was a curious sort of a 
feast, I reflected, in appearance, indeed, an 
entertainment of the Barmecide stamp, for there was 
absolutely nothing to eat.

At last, just as I was beginning to feel as though I 
were being mesmerized, a move was made. Without the 
slightest warning, a man from the other side of the 
circle called out in a loud voice,

"Where is the flesh that we shall eat?"

Thereon everybody in the circle answered in a deep, 
measured tone, and stretching out the right arm 
towards the fire as he spoke--

"The flesh will come."

"Is it a goat?" said the same man.

"It is a goat without horns, and more than a goat, and 
we shall slay it," they answered, with one voice, and 
turning half round they one and all grasped the 
handles of their spears with the right hand, and then 
simultaneously let them go.

"Is it an ox?" said the man again. 

"It is an ox without horns, and more than an ox, and 
we shall slay it," was the answer, and again the 
spears were grasped, and again let go.

Then came a pause, and I noticed, with horror and a 
rising of the hair, that the woman next to Mahomed 
began to fondle him, patting his cheeks, and calling 
him by names of endearment, while her fierce eyes 
played up and down his trembling form. I do not know 
why the sight frightened me so, but it did frighten us 
all dreadfully, especially Leo. The caressing was so 
snakelike, and so evidently a part of some ghastly 
formula that had to be gone through. I saw Mahomed 
turn white under his brown skin, sickly white with 

"Is the meat ready to be cooked?" asked the voice, 
more rapidly. 

"It is ready; it is ready."

"Is the pot hot to cook it?" it continued, in a sort 
of scream that echoed painfully down the great 
recesses of the cave.

"It is hot; it is hot."

"Great heavens!" roared Leo, "remember the writing, 
'The people who place pots upon the heads of 

As he said the words, before we could stir, or even 
take the matter in, two great ruffians jumped up, and, 
seizing the long pincers, plunged them into the heart 
of the fire, and the woman who had been caressing 
Mahomed suddenly produced a fibre noose from under her 
girdle or moocha, and, slipping it over his shoulders, 
ran it tight, while the men next him seized him by the 
legs. The two men with the pincers gave a heave, and, 
scattering the fire this way and that upon the rocky 
floor, lifted from it a large earthenware pot, heated 
to a white heat. In an instant, almost with a single 
movement, they had reached the spot where Mahomed was 
struggling. He fought like a fiend, shrieking in the 
abandonment of his despair, and, notwithstanding the 
noose round him, and the efforts of the men who held 
his legs, the advancing wretches were for the moment 
unable to accomplish their purpose, which, horrible 
and incredible as it seems, was to put the red-hot pot 
upon his head.

I sprang to my feet with a yell of horror, and drawing 
my revolver fired it by a sort of instinct straight at 
the diabolical woman who had been caressing Mahomed, 
and was now gripping him in her arms. The bullet 
struck her in the back and killed her, and to this day 
I am glad that it did, for, as it afterwards 
transpired, she had availed herself of the 
anthropophagous customs of the Amahagger to organize 
the whole thing in revenge of the slight put upon her 
by Job. She sank down dead, and as she did so, to my 
terror and dismay, Mahomed, by a superhuman effort, 
burst from his tormentors, and, springing high into 
the air, fell dying upon her corpse. The heavy bullet 
from my pistol had driven through the bodies of both, 
at once striking down the murderess, and saving her 
victim from a death a hundred times more horrible. It 
was an awful and yet a most merciful accident.

For a moment there was a silence of astonishment. The 
Amahagger had never heard the report of a firearm 
before, and its effects dismayed them. But the next a 
man close to us recovered himself, and seized his 
spear preparatory to making a lunge with it at Leo, 
who was the nearest to him.

"Run for it!" I shouted, setting the example by 
starting up the cave as hard as my legs would carry 
me. I would have made for the open air if it had been 
possible, but there were men in the way, and, besides, 
I had caught sight of the forms of a crowd of people 
standing out clear against the skyline beyond the 
entrance to the cave. Up the cave I went, and after me 
came the others, and after them thundered the whole 
crowd of cannibals, mad with fury at the death of the 
woman. With a bound I cleared the prostrate form of 
Mahomed. As I flew over him I felt the heat from the 
red-hot pot, which was lying close by, strike upon my 
legs, and by its glow saw his hands--for he was not 
quite dead--still feebly moving. At the top of the 
cave was a little platform of rock three feet or so 
high by about eight deep, on which two large lamps 
were placed at night. Whether this platform had been 
left as a seat, or as a raised point afterwards to be 
cut away when it had served its purpose as a standing-
place from which to carry on the excavations, I do not 
know--at least, I did not then. At any rate, we all 
three reached it, and, jumping on it, prepared to sell 
our lives as dearly as we could. For a few seconds the 
crowd that was pressing on our heels hung back when 
they saw us face round upon them. Job was on one side 
of the rock to the left, Leo in the centre, and I to 
the right. Behind us were the lamps. Leo bent forward 
and looked down the long lane of shadows, terminated 
in the fire and lighted lamps, through which the quiet 
forms of our would-be murderers flitted to and fro 
with the faint light glinting on their spears, for 
even their fury was silent as a bulldog's. The only 
other thing visible was the red-hot pot still glowing 
angrily in the gloom. There was a curious light in 
Leo's eyes, and his handsome face was set like a 
stone. In his right hand was his heavy hunting-knife. 
He shifted its thong a little up his wrist, and then 
put his arm round me and gave me a good hug.

"Good-bye, old fellow," he said, "my dear friend--my 
more than father. We have no chance against those 
scoundrels; they will finish us in a few minutes, and 
eat us afterwards, I suppose. Good-bye. I led you into 
this. I hope you will forgive me. Good-bye, Job."

"God's will be done," I said, setting my teeth, as I 
prepared for the end. At that moment, with an 
exclamation, Job lifted his revolver and fired, and 
hit a man--not the man he had aimed at, by the way; 
anything that Job shot at was perfectly safe.

On they came with a rush, and I fired too as fast as I 
could, and checked them--between us, Job and I, 
besides the woman, killed or mortally wounded five men 
with our pistols before they were emptied. But we had 
no time to reload, and they still came on in a way 
that was almost splendid in its recklessness, seeing 
that they did not know but that we could go on firing 

A great fellow bounded up upon the platform, and Leo 
struck him dead with one blow of his powerful arm, 
sending the knife right through him. I did the same by 
another, but Job missed his stroke, and I saw a brawny 
Amahagger grip him by the middle and whirl him off the 
rock. The knife, not being secured by a thong, fell 
from Job's hand as he did so, and, by a most happy 
accident for him lit upon its handle on the rock, just 
as the body of the Amahagger, being undermost, hit 
upon its point and was transfixed upon it. What 
happened to Job after that I am sure I do not know, 
but my own impression is that he lay still upon the 
corpse of his deceased assailant, "playing possum," as 
the Americans say. As for myself, I was soon involved 
in a desperate encounter with two ruffians who, 
luckily for me, had left their spears behind them; and 
for the first time in my life the great physical power 
with which nature has endowed me stood me in good 
stead. I had hacked at the head of one man with my 
hunting-knife, which was almost as big and heavy as a 
short sword, with such vigor that the sharp steel had 
split his skull down to the eyes, and was held so fast 
by it that as he suddenly fell sideways the knife was 
twisted right out of my hand.

Then it was that the two others sprang upon me. I saw 
them coming, and got an arm round the waist of each, 
and down we all fell upon the floor of the cave 
together, rolling over and over. They were strong men, 
but I was mad with rage, and that awful lust for 
slaughter which will creep into the hearts of the most 
civilized of us when blows are flying, and life and 
death tremble on the turn. My arms were round the two 
swarthy demons, and I hugged them till I heard their 
ribs crack and crunch up beneath my grip. They twisted 
and writhed like snakes, and clawed and battered at me 
with their fists, but I held on. Lying on my back 
there, so that their bodies might protect me from 
spear thrusts from above, I slowly crushed the life 
out of them, and as I did so, strange as it may seem, 
I thought of what the amiable head of my college at 
Cambridge (who is a member of the Peace Society) and 
my brother fellows would say if by clairvoyance they 
could see me, of all men, playing such a bloody game. 
Soon my assailants grew faint, and almost ceased to 
struggle, their breath had failed them, and they were 
dying, but still I dared not leave them, for they died 
very slowly. I knew that if I relaxed my grip they 
would revive. The other ruffians probably thought--for 
we were all three lying in the shadow of the ledge--
that we were all dead together, at any rate they did 
not interfere with our little tragedy.

I turned my head, and as I lay gasping in the throes 
of that awful struggle I could see that Leo was off 
the rock now, for the lamplight fell full upon him. He 
was still on his feet, but in the centre of a surging 
mass of struggling men, who were striving to pull him 
down as wolves pull down a stag. Up above them towered 
his beautiful pale face crowned with its bright curls 
(for Leo is six feet two high), and I saw that he was 
fighting with a desperate abandonment and energy that 
was at once splendid and hideous to behold. He drove 
his knife through one man--they were so close to him 
and mixed up with him that they could not get at him 
to kill him with their big spears, and they had no 
knives or sticks. The man fell, and then somehow the 
knife was wrenched from his hand, leaving him 
defenceless, and I thought the end had come. But no; 
with a desperate effort he broke loose from them, 
seized the body of the man he had just slain, and 
lifting it high in the air hurled it right at the mob 
of his assailants, so that the shock and weight of it 
swept some five or six of them to the earth. But in a 
minute they were all up again, except one, whose skull 
was smashed, and had once more fastened upon him. And 
then slowly, and with infinite labor and struggling, 
the wolves bore the lion down. Once even then he 
recovered himself, and felled an Amahagger with his 
fist, but it was more than man could do to hold his 
own for long against so many, and at last he came 
crashing down upon the rock floor, falling as an oak 
falls, and bearing with him to the earth all those who 
clung about him. They gripped him by his arms and 
legs, and then cleared off his body.

"A spear," cried a voice; "a spear to cut his throat, 
and a vessel to catch his blood."

I shut my eyes, for I saw the man coming with a spear, 
and myself, I could not stir to Leo's help, for I was 
growing weak, and the two men on me were not yet dead, 
and a deadly sickness overcame me.

Then suddenly there was a disturbance, and 
involuntarily I opened my eyes again, and looked 
towards the scene of murder. The girl Ustane had 
thrown herself on Leo's prostrate form, covering his 
body with her body, and fastening her arms about his 
neck. They tried to drag her from him, but she twisted 
her legs round his, and hung on like a bulldog, or 
rather like a creeper to a tree, and they could not. 
Then they tried to stab him in the side without 
hurting her, but somehow she shielded him, and he was 
only wounded.

At last they lost patience.

"Drive the spear through the man and the woman 
together," said a voice, the same voice that had asked 
the questions at that ghastly feast, "so of a verity 
shall they be wed."

Then I saw the man with the weapon straighten himself 
for the effort. I saw the cold steel gleam on high, 
and once more I shut my eyes.

As I did so I heard the voice of a man thunder out in 
tones that rang and echoed down the rocky ways--

" _i_ Cease! _i_ "

Then I fainted, and as I did so it flashed through my 
darkening mind that I was passing down into the last 
oblivion of death.



WHEN I opened my eyes again I found myself lying on a 
skin mat not far from the fire round which we had been 
gathered for that dreadful feast.

Near me lay Leo, still apparently in a swoon, and over 
him was bending the tall form of the girl Ustane, who 
was washing a deep spear wound in his side with cold 
water preparatory to binding it up with linen. Leaning 
against the wall of the cave behind her was Job, 
apparently uninjured, but bruised and trembling. On 
the other side of the fire, tossed about this way and 
that, as though they had thrown themselves down to 
sleep in some moment of absolute exhaustion, were the 
bodies of those whom we had killed in our frightful 
struggle for life. I counted them; there were twelve, 
besides the woman and the corpse of poor Mahomed, who 
had died by my hand, which, the fire-stained pot at 
its side, was placed at the end of the irregular line. 
To the left a body of men were engaged in binding the 
arms of the survivors of the cannibals behind them, 
and then fastening them two and two. The villains were 
submitting with a look of sulky indifference upon 
their faces which accorded ill with the baffled fury 
that gleamed in their sombre eyes. In front of these 
men, directing the operations, stood no-other than our 
friend Billali, looking rather tired, but particularly 
patriarchal with his flowing beard, and as cool and 
unconcerned as though he were superintending the 
cutting-up of an ox.

Presently he turned, and, perceiving that I was 
sitting up, advanced to me, and with the utmost 
courtesy said that he trusted that I felt better. I 
answered that at present I scarcely knew how I felt, 
except that I ached all over.

Then he bent down and examined Leo's wound.

"It is a nasty cut," he said, "but the spear has not 
pierced the entrails. He will recover."

"Thanks to thy arrival, my father," I answered. "In 
another minute we should all have been beyond the 
reach of recovery, for those devils of thine would 
have slain us as they would have slain our servant," 
and I pointed towards Mahomed.

The old man ground his teeth, and I saw an 
extraordinary expression of malignity light up his 

"Fear not, my son," he answered. "Vengeance shall be 
taken on them such as would make the flesh twist upon 
the bones merely to hear of it. To _i_ She _i_ shall 
they go, and her vengeance shall be worthy of her 
greatness. That man," pointing to Mahomed, "I tell 
thee that man would have died a merciful death to the 
death these hyena-men shall die. Tell me, I pray of 
thee, how it came about."

In a few words I sketched what had happened.

"Ah, so," he answered. "Thou seest, my son, here there 
is a custom that if a stranger comes into this country 
he may be slain by 'the pot,' and eaten."

"It is hospitality turned upside down," I answered, 
feebly. "In our country we entertain a stranger, and 
give him food to eat. Here ye eat him, and are 

"It is a custom," he answered, with a shrug. "Myself I 
think it an evil one; but then," he added, by an 
afterthought, "I do not like the taste of strangers, 
especially after they have wandered through the swamps 
and lived on wild fowl. When _i_ She-who-must-be-
obeyed _i_ sent orders that ye were to be saved alive 
she said naught of the black man, therefore, being 
hyenas, these men lusted after his flesh, and the 
woman it was, whom thou didst rightly slay, who put it 
into their evil hearts to hot-pot him. Well, they will 
have their reward. Better for them would it be if they 
had never seen the light than that they should stand 
before _i_ She _i_ in her terrible anger. Happy are 
those of them who died by your hands."

"Ah," he went on, "it was a gallant fight that ye 
fought. Knowest thou, that thou, long-armed old baboon 
that thou art, hast crushed in the ribs of those two 
who are laid out there as though they were but as the 
shell on an egg? And the young one, the lion, it was a 
beautiful stand that he made--one against so many--
three did he slay outright, and that one there"--and 
he pointed to a body that was still moving a little--
"will die anon, for his head is cracked across, and 
others of those who are bound are hurt. It was a 
gallant fight, and thou and he have made a friend of 
me by it, for I love to see a well-fought fray. But 
tell me, my son, the Baboon--and now I think of it thy 
face, too, is hairy, and altogether like a baboon's--
how was it that ye slew those with a hole in them? Ye 
made a noise, they say, and slew them--they fell down 
on their faces at the noise?"

I explained to him as well as I could, but very 
shortly--I was terribly wearied, and only persuaded to 
talk at all through of offending one so powerful if I 
refused to do so--what were the properties of 
gunpowder, and he instantly suggested that I should 
illustrate what I said by operating on the person of 
the prisoners. One, he said, never would be counted, 
and it would not only very interesting to him, but 
would give me an opportunity of an instalment of 
revenge. He was greatly astonished when I told him 
that it was not our custom to avenge ourselves in cold 
blood and that we left vengeance to the law and a 
higher power, of which he knew nothing. I added, 
however, that when I recovered I would take him out 
shooting with us, and he should kill an animal for 
himself, and at this he was as pleased. as a child at 
the promise of a new toy.

Just then Leo opened his eyes beneath the stimulus of 
some brandy (of which we still had a little) that Job 
had poured down his throat, and our conversation came 
to an end.

After this we managed to get Leo, who was in a very 
poor way indeed, and only half-conscious, safely off 
to bed, supported by Job and that brave girl Ustane, 
to whom, had I not been afraid she might resent it, I 
would certainly have given a kiss for her splendid 
behavior in saving my dear boy's life at the risk of 
her own. But Ustane was not the sort of young person 
with whom one would care to take liberties unless one 
were perfectly certain that they would not be 
misunderstood, so I repressed my inclinations. Then, 
bruised and battered, but with a sense of safety in my 
breast to which I had for some days been a stranger, I 
crept off to my own little sepulchre, not forgetting 
before I laid down in it to thank Providence from the 
bottom of my heart that it was not a sepulchre indeed, 
as, were it not for a merciful combination of events 
that I can only attribute to its protection, it would 
certainly have been for me that night. Few men have 
been nearer their end and yet escaped it than we were 
on that dreadful day.

I am a bad sleeper at the best of times, and my dreams 
that night, when at last I got to rest, were not of 
the pleasantest. The awful vision of poor Mahomed 
struggling to escape the red-hot pot would haunt them, 
and then in the background, as it were, a veiled form 
was always hovering, which, from time to time, seemed 
to draw the coverings from its body, revealing now the 
perfect shape of a lovely blooming woman, and now 
again the white bones of a grinning skeleton, and 
which, as it veiled and unveiled, uttered the 
mysterious and apparently meaningless sentence:

"That which is alive hath known death, and that which 
is dead yet can never die, for in the Circle of the 
Spirit life is naught and death is naught. Yea, all 
things live forever, though at times they sleep and 
are forgotten."

The morning came at last, but when it came I found 
that I was too stiff and sore to rise. About seven Job 
arrived, limping terribly, and with his face the color 
of a rotten apple, and told me that Leo had slept 
fairly, but was very weak. Two hours afterwards 
Billali (Job called him "Billy-goat," to which indeed 
his white beard gave him some resemblance, or more 
familiarly "Billy") came too, bearing a lamp in his 
hand, his towering form reaching nearly to the roof of 
the little chamber. I pretended to be asleep, and 
through the cracks of my eyelids watched his sardonic 
but handsome old face. He fixed his hawk-like eyes 
upon me, and stroked his glorious white beard, which, 
by the way, would have been worth a hundred a year to 
any London barber as an advertisement.

"Ah!" I heard him mutter (Billali had a habit of 
muttering to himself), "he is ugly--ugly as the other 
is beautiful--a very Baboon; it was a good name. But I 
like the man. Strange now, at my age, that I should 
like a man. What says the proverb--'Mistrust all men, 
and slay him whom thou mistrustest overmuch; and as 
for women, flee from them, for they are evil, and in 
the end will destroy thee.' It is a good proverb, 
especially the last part of it; I think it must have 
come down from the ancients. Nevertheless I like this 
Baboon, and I wonder where they taught him his tricks, 
and I trust that _i_ She _i_ will not bewitch him. 
Poor Baboon! he must be wearied after that fight. I 
will go, lest I should awake him."

I waited till he had turned and was nearly through the 
entrance, walking softly on tiptoe, and then I called 
after him.

"My father," I said, "is it thou?" 

"Yes, my son, it is I; but let me not disturb thee. I 
did but come to see how thou didst fare, and to tell 
thee that those who, would have slain thee, my Baboon, 
are by now well on their road to _i_ She _i_ . _i_ She 
_i_ said that ye also were to come at once, but I fear 
ye cannot yet."

"Nay," I said, "not till we have recovered a little; 
but have me borne out into the daylight, I pray thee, 
my father. I love not this place."

"Ah, no," he answered, "it hath a sad air. I remember 
when I was a boy I found the body of a fair woman 
lying where thou liest now, yes, on that very bench. 
She was so beautiful that I was wont to creep in 
hither with a lamp and gaze upon her. Had it not been 
for her cold hands, almost could I think that she 
slept and would one day awake, so fair and peaceful 
was she in her robes of white. White was she, too, and 
her hair was yellow and lay down her almost to the 
feet. There are many such still in the tombs at the 
place where _i_ She _i_ is for those who set them 
there had a way I know naught of, whereby to keep 
their beloved out of the crumbling hand of Decay, even 
when Death had slain them. Ay, day by day I came 
hither, and gazed on her till at last, laugh not at 
me, stranger, for I was but a silly lad, I learned to 
love that dead form, that shell which once had held a 
life that no more is. I would creep up to her and kiss 
her cold face, and wonder how many men had lived and 
died since she was, and who had loved her and embraced 
her in the days that long had passed away. And, my 
Baboon, I think I learned wisdom from that dead one, 
for of a truth it taught me of the littleness of life, 
and the length of death, and how all things that are 
under the sun go down one path, and are forever 
forgotten. And so I mused, and it seemed to me that 
wisdom flowed into me from the dead, till one day my 
mother, a watchful woman, but hasty minded, seeing I 
was changed, followed me, and saw the beautiful white 
one, and feared that I was bewitched, as, indeed, I 
was. So half in dread, and half in anger, she took the 
lamp, and, standing the dead woman up against the wall 
there, set fire to her hair, and she burned fiercely, 
even down to the feet, for those who are thus kept 
burn excellently well. 

"See, my son, there on the roof is yet the smoke of 
her burning."

I looked up doubtfully, and there, sure enough, on the 
roof of the sepulchre was a peculiarly unctuous and 
sooty mark, three feet or more across. Doubtless it 
had in the course of years been rubbed off the sides 
of the little cave, but on the roof it remained, and 
there was no mistaking its appearance. 

"She burned," he went on in a meditative way, "even to 
the feet, but the feet I came back and saved, cutting 
the burned bone from them, and hid them under the 
stone bench there, wrapped up in a piece of linen. 
Surely, I remember it as though it were but yesterday. 
Perchance they are there if none have found them, even 
to this hour. Of truth I have not entered this chamber 
from that time to this very day. Stay, I will look, 
and, kneeling down, he groped about with his long arm 
in the recess under the. stone bench. Presently his 
face brightened, and with an exclamation he pulled 
something forth that was caked in dust, which he shook 
on to the floor. It was covered with the remains of a 
rotting rag, which he undid, and revealed to my 
astonished gaze a beautifully shaped and almost white 
woman's foot, looking as fresh and firm as though it 
had but now been placed there.

"Thou seest, my son, the Baboon," he said, in a sad 
voice; "I spake the truth to thee, for here is yet one 
foot remaining. Take it, my son, and gaze upon it."

I took this cold fragment of-mortality in my hand and 
looked at it in the light of the lamp with feelings 
which I cannot describe, so mixed up were they between 
astonishment, fear, and fascination. It was light, 
much lighter I should say than it had been in the 
living state, and the flesh to all appearance was 
still flesh, though about it there clung a faintly 
aromatic odor. For the rest it was not shrunk or 
shriveled, or even black and unsightly, like the flesh 
of Egyptian mummies, but plump and fair, and, except 
where it had been slightly burned, perfect as on the 
day of death--a very triumph of embalming.

Poor little foot! I set it down upon the stone bench 
where it had lain for so many thousand years, and 
wondered whose was the beauty that it had upborne 
through the pomp and pageantry of a forgotten 
civilization--first as a merry child's, then as a 
blushing maid's, and lastly as a perfect woman's. 
Through what halls of Life had its soft step echoed, 
and in the end, with what courage had it trodden down 
the dusty ways of Death! To whose side had it stolen 
in the hush of night when the black slave slept upon 
the marble floor, and who had listened for its 
stealing? Shapely little foot! Well might it have been 
set upon the proud neck of a conqueror bent at last to 
woman's beauty, and well might the lips of nobles and 
of kings have been pressed upon its jewelled 

I wrapped up this relic of the past in the remnants of 
the old linen rag which had evidently formed a portion 
of its owner's grave-clothes, for it was partially 
burned, and put it away in my Gladstone bag, which I 
had bought at the Army and Navy Stores--a strange 
combination, I thought. Then with Billali's help I 
staggered off to see Leo. I found him dreadfully 
bruised, worse even than myself, perhaps owing to the 
excessive whiteness of his skin, and faint and weak 
with the loss of blood from the flesh wound in his 
side, but for all that cheerful as a cricket, and 
asking for some breakfast. Job and Ustane got him on 
to the bottom, or rather the sacking of a litter, 
which was removed from its pole for that purpose, and 
with the aid of old Billali carried him out into the 
shade at the mouth of the cave, from which, by the 
way, every trace of the slaughter of the previous 
night had now been removed, and there we all 
breakfasted, and indeed spent that day, and most of 
the two following ones.

On the third morning Job and myself were practically 
recovered. Leo also was so much better that I yielded 
to Billali's often expressed entreaty, and agreed to 
start at once upon our journey to Ko^r, which we were 
told was the name of the place where the mysterious 
_i_ She _i_ lived, though I still feared for its 
effects upon Leo, and especially lest the motion 
should cause his wound, which was scarcely skinned 
over, to break open again. Indeed, had it not been for 
Billali's evident anxiety to get off, which led us to 
suspect that some difficulty or danger might threaten 
us if we did not comply with it, I would not have 
consented to go.



WITHIN an hour of our finally deciding to start, five 
litters were brought up to the door of the cave, each 
accompanied by four regular bearers and two spare 
hands, also a band of about fifty armed Amahagger, who 
were to form the escort and carry the baggage. Three 
of these litters, of course, were for us, and one for 
Billali, who, I was immensely relieved to hear, was to 
be our companion, while the fifth I presumed was for 
the use of Ustane.

"Does the lady go with us, my father?" I asked of 
Billali, as he stood superintending things generally.

He shrugged his shoulders as he answered,

"If she wills. In this country the women do what they 
please. We worship them, and give them their way, 
because without them the world could not go on; they 
are the source of life."

"Ah," I said, the matter never having struck me quite 
in that light before.

"We worship them," he went on, "up to a certain point, 
till at last they get unbearable, which," he added, 
"they do about every second generation."

"And then what do you do?" I asked, with curiosity.

"Then," he answered, with a faint smile, "we rise, and 
kill the old ones as an example to the young ones, and 
to show them that we are the strongest. My poor wife 
was killed in that way three years ago. It was very 
sad, but, to tell thee the truth, my son, life has 
been happier since, for my age protects me from the 
young ones."

"In short," I replied, quoting the saying of a great 
man whose wisdom has not yet lightened the darkness of 
the Amahagger, "thou hast found thy position one of 
greater freedom and less responsibility."

This phrase puzzled him a little at first from its 
vagueness, though I think my translation hit off its 
sense very well, but at last he saw it, and 
appreciated it.

"Yes, yes, my Baboon," he said, "I see it now, but all 
the 'responsibilities' are killed, at least some of 
them are, and that is why there are so few old women 
about just now. Well, they brought it on themselves. 
As for this girl," he went on, in a graver tone, "I 
know not what to say. She is a brave girl, and she 
loves the Lion (Leo); thou sawest how she clung to 
him, and saved his life. Also, she is, according to 
our custom, wed to him, and has a right to go where he 
goes, unless," he added, significantly, " _i_ She _i_ 
would say her no, for her word overrides all rights."

"And if _i_ She _i_ bade her leave him; and the girl 
refused? What then?"

"If," he said, with a shrug, "the hurricane bids the 
tree to bend, and it will not; what happens?"

And then, without waiting for an answer, he turned and 
walked to his litter, and in ten minutes from that 
time we were all well under way.

It took us an hour and more to cross the cup of the 
volcanic plain, and another half-hour or so to climb 
the edge on the farther side. Once there, however, the 
view was a very fine one. Before us was a long steep 
slope of grassy plain, broken here and there by clumps 
of trees mostly of the thorn tribe. At the bottom of 
this gentle slope, some nine or ten miles away, we 
could make out a dim sea of marsh, over which the foul 
vapors hung like smoke about a city. It was easy going 
for the bearers down the slopes, and by midday we had 
reached the borders of the dismal swamp. Here we 
halted to eat our midday meal, and then, following a 
winding and devious path, plunged into the morass. 
Presently the path, at any rate to our unaccustomed 
eyes, grew so faint as to be almost indistinguishable 
from those made by the aquatic beasts and birds, and 
it is to this day a mystery to me how our bearers 
found their way across the marshes. Ahead of the 
cavalcade marched two men with long poles, which they 
now and again plunged into the ground before them, the 
reason of this being that the nature of the soil 
frequently changed from causes with which I am not 
acquainted, so that places which might be safe enough 
to cross one month would certainly swallow the 
wayfarer the next. Never did I see a more dreary and 
depressing scene. Miles on miles of quagmire, varied 
only by bright green strips of comparatively solid 
ground, and by deep and sullen pools fringed with tall 
rushes, in which the bitterns boomed and the frogs 
croaked incessantly; miles on miles of it without a 
break, unless the fever fog can be called a break. The 
only life in this great morass was that of the aquatic 
birds, and the animals that fed on them, of both of 
which there were vast numbers. Geese, cranes, ducks, 
teal, coot, snipe, and plover swarmed all around us, 
many being of varieties that were quite new to me, and 
all so tame that one could almost have knocked them 
over with a stick. Among these birds I especially 
noticed a very beautiful variety of painted snipe, 
almost the size of woodcock, and with a flight more 
resembling that bird's than an English snipe's. In the 
pools, too, was a species of small alligator or 
enormous iguana, I do not know which, that fed, 
Billali told me, upon the waterfowl; also large 
quantities of a hideous black water snake, of which 
the bite is very dangerous, though not, I gathered, so 
deadly as a cobra's or a puff adder's. The bullfrogs 
were also very large, and with voices proportionate to 
their size; and as for the mosquitoes--the 
"musqueteers," as Job called them--they were, if 
possible, even worse than they had been on the river, 
and tormented us greatly. Undoubtedly, however, the 
worst feature of the swamp was the awful smell of 
rotting vegetation that hung about it, which was at 
times positively overpowering, and the malarious 
exhalations that accompanied it, which we were of 
course obliged to breathe.

On we went through it all, till at last the sun sank 
in sullen splendor just as we reached a spot of rising 
ground about two acres in extent--a little oasis of 
dry in the midst of the miry wilderness--where Billali 
announced that we were to camp. The camping, however, 
turned out to be a very simple process, and consisted, 
in fact, in sitting down on the ground round a scanty 
fire made of dry reeds and some wood that had been 
brought with us. However, we made the best we could of 
it, and smoked and ate with such appetite as the smell 
of damp, stifling heat would allow, for it was very 
hot on this low land, and yet, oddly enough, chilly at 
times. But, however hot it was, we were glad enough to 
keep near the fire, because we found that the 
mosquitoes did not like the smoke. Presently we rolled 
ourselves up in our blankets and tried to go to sleep, 
but so far as I was concerned the bullfrogs, and the 
extraordinary roaring and alarming sound produced by 
hundreds of snipe hovering high in the air, made sleep 
an impossibility, to say nothing of our other 
discomforts. I turned and looked at Leo, who was next 
to me; he was dozing, but his face had a flushed 
appearance that I did not like, and by the flickering 
firelight I saw Ustane, who was lying on the other 
side of him, raise herself from time to time upon her 
elbow, and look at him anxiously enough, However, I 
could do nothing for him for we had all already taken 
a good dose of quinine, which was the only preventive 
we had; so I lay and watched the stars come out by 
thousands, till all the immense arch of heaven was 
sewn with glittering points, and every point a world! 
Here was a glorious sight by which man might well 
measure his own insignificance! Soon I gave up 
thinking about it, for the mind wearies easily when it 
strives to grapple with the Infinite, and to trace the 
footsteps of the Almighty as he strides from sphere to 
sphere, or deduce his purpose from his works. Such 
things are not for us to know. Knowledge is to the 
strong, and we are weak. Too much wisdom would 
perchance blind our imperfect sight, and too much 
strength would make us drunk, and overweight our 
feeble reason till it fell, and we were drowned in the 
depths of our own vanity. For what is the first result 
of man's increased knowledge interpreted from Nature's 
book by the persistent effort of his purblind 
observation? Is it not but too often to make him 
question the existence of his Maker, or indeed of any 
intelligent purpose beyond his own? The truth is 
veiled, because we could no more look upon her glory 
than we can upon the sun. It would destroy us. Full 
knowledge is not for man as man is here, for his 
capacities, which he is apt to think so great, are 
indeed but small. The vessel is soon filled, and, were 
one thousandth part of the unutterable and silent 
wisdom that directs the rolling of those shining 
spheres, and the force which makes them roll, pressed 
into it, it would be shattered into fragments. Perhaps 
in some other place and time it may be otherwise, who 
can tell? Herethe lot of man born of the flesh is but 
to endure midst toil and tribulation, to catch at the 
bubbles blown by Fate, which he calls pleasures, 
thankful if before they burst they rest a moment in 
his hand, and when the tragedy is played out, and his 
hour comes to perish, to pass humbly whither he knows 

Above me, as I lay, shone the eternal stars, and there 
at my feet the impish marsh-born balls of fire rolled 
this way and that, vapor-tossed and earth-desiring, 
and methought that in the two I saw a type and image 
of what man is, and what perchance man may one day be, 
if the living Force who ordained him and them should 
so ordain this also. Oh, that it might be ours to rest 
year by year upon that high level of the heart to 
which at times we momentarily attain! Oh, that we 
could shake loose the prisoned pinions of the soul and 
soar to that superior point, whence, like to some 
traveller looking out through space from Darien's 
giddiest peak, we might gaze with the spiritual eyes 
of noble thoughts deep into Infinity!

What would it be to cast off this earthy robe, to have 
done forever with these earthy thoughts and miserable 
desires; no longer, like those corpse candles, to be 
tossed this way and that, by forces beyond our 
control; or which, if we can theoretically control 
them, we are at times driven by the exigencies of our 
nature to obey! Yes, to cast them off, to have done 
with the foul and thorny places of the world; and, 
like to those glittering points above me, to rest on 
high wrapped forever in the brightness of our better 
selves, that even now shines in us as fire faintly 
shines within those lurid balls, and lay down our 
littleness in that wide glory of our dreams, that 
invisible but surrounding good, from which all truth 
and beauty comes!

These and many such thoughts passed through my mind 
that night. They come to torment us all at times. I 
say to torment, for, alas! thinking can only serve to 
measure out the helplessness of thought. What is the 
use of our feeble crying in the awful silences of 
space! Can our dim intelligence read the secrets of 
that star-strewn sky? Does any answer come out of it? 
Never any at all, nothing but echoes and fantastic 
visions. And yet we believe that there is an answer, 
and that upon a time a new Dawn will come blushing 
down the ways of our enduring night. We believe it, 
for its reflected beauty even now shines up 
continually in our hearts from beneath the horizon of 
the grave, and we call it Hope. Without Hope we should 
suffer moral death, and by the help of Hope we yet may 
climb to heaven, or at the worst, if she also prove 
but a kindly mockery given to hold us from despair, be 
gently lowered into the abysses of eternal sleep.

Then I fell to reflecting upon the undertaking on 
which we were bent, and what a wild one it was, and 
yet how strangely the story seemed to fit in with what 
had been written centuries ago upon the sherd. Who was 
this extraordinary woman, queen over a people 
apparently as extraordinary as herself, and reigning 
amidst the vestiges of a lost civilization? And what 
was the meaning of this story of the Fire that gave 
unending life? Could it be possible that any fluid or 
essence should exist which might so fortify these 
fleshy walls that they should from age to age resist 
the mines and batterings of decay? It was possible, 
though not probable. The indefinite continuation of 
life would not, as poor Vincey said, be so marvellous 
a thing as the production of life and its temporary 
endurance. And if it were true, what then? The person 
who found it could no doubt rule the world. He could 
accumulate all the wealth in the world, and all the 
power, and all the wisdom that is power. He might give 
a lifetime to the study of each art or science. Well, 
if that were so, and this _i_ She _i_ were practically 
immortal, which I did not for one moment believe, how 
was it that, with all these things at her feet, she 
preferred to remain in a cave among a society of 
cannibals? This surely settled the question. The whole 
story was monstrous, and only worthy of the 
superstitious days in which it was written. At any 
rate I was very sure that I would not attempt to 
attain unending life. I had had far too many worries 
and disappointments and secret bitternesses during my 
forty odd years of existence to wish that this state 
of affairs should be continued indefinitely. And yet I 
suppose that my life has been, comparatively speaking, 
a happy one.

And then, reflecting that at the present moment there 
was far more likelihood of our earthly careers being 
cut exceedingly short than of their being unduly 
prolonged, I at last managed to get to sleep, a fact 
for which anybody who reads this narrative, if anybody 
ever does, may very probably be thankful.

When I woke again it was just dawning, and the guard 
and bearers were moving about like ghosts through the 
dense morning mists, getting ready for our start. The 
fire had died quite down, and I rose and stretched 
myself, shivering in every limb from the damp cold of 
the dawn. Then I looked at Leo. He was sitting up, 
holding his hands to his head, and I saw that his face 
was flushed and his eye bright, and yet yellow round 
the pupil.

"Well, Leo," I said, "how do you feel?"

"I feel as though I were going to die," he answered, 
hoarsely. "My head is splitting, my body is trembling, 
and I am as sick as a cat."

I whistled, or if I did not whistle I felt inclined 
to--Leo had got a sharp attack of fever. I went to 
Job, and asked him for the quinine, of which 
fortunately we had still a good supply, only to find 
that Job himself was not much better. He complained of 
pains across the back, and dizziness, and was almost 
incapable of helping himself. Then I did the only 
thing it was possible to do under the circumstances--
gave them both about ten grains of quinine, and took a 
slightly smaller dose myself as a matter of 
precaution. After that I found Billali, and explained 
to him how matters stood, asking at the same time what 
he thought had best be done. He came with me, and 
looked at Leo and Job (whom, by the way, he had named 
the Pig, on account of his fatness, round face, and 
small eyes).

"Ah," he said, when we were out of earshot, "the 
fever! I thought so. The Lion has it badly, but he is 
young, and he may live. As for the Pig, his attack is 
not so bad; it is the little fever which he has; that 
always begins with pains across the back; it will 
spend itself upon his fat."

"Can they go on, my father?" I asked. 

"Nay, my son, they must go on. If they stop here they 
will certainly die; also, they will be better in the 
litters than on the ground. By to-night, if all goes 
well, we shall be across the marsh and in good air. 
Come, let us lift them into the litters and start, for 
it is very bad to stand still in this morning fog. We 
can eat our meal as we go."

This we accordingly did, and with a heavy heart I once 
more set out upon our strange journey. For the first 
three hours all went as well as could be expected, and 
then an accident happened that nearly lost us the 
pleasure of the company of our venerable friend 
Billali, whose litter was leading the cavalcade. We 
were going through a particularly dangerous stretch of 
quagmire, in which the bearers sometimes sank up to 
their knees. Indeed, it was a mystery to me how they 
contrived to carry the heavy litters at all over such 
ground as that which we were traversing, though the 
two spare hands, as well as the four regular ones, had 
of course to put their shoulders to the pole.

Presently, as we blundered and floundered along, there 
was a sharp cry, then a storm of exclamations, and, 
last of all, a most tremendous splash, and the whole 
caravan halted.

I jumped out of my litter and ran forward. About 
twenty yards ahead was the edge of one of those sullen 
peaty pools of which I have spoken, the path we were 
following running along the top of its bank, that, as 
it happened, was a steep one. Looking towards this 
pool, to my horror I saw that Billali's litter was 
floating on it, and as for Billali himself, he was 
nowhere to be seen. To make matters clear I may as 
well explain at once what had happened. One of. 
Billali's bearers had unfortunately trodden on a 
basking snake, which had bitten him in the leg, 
whereon he had, not unnaturally, let go of the pole, 
and then, finding that he was tumbling down the bank, 
grasped at the litter to save himself. The result of 
this was what might have been expected. The litter was 
pulled over the edge of the bank, the bearers let go, 
and the whole thing, including Billali and the man who 
had been bitten, rolled into the slimy pool. When I 
got to the edge of the water neither of them were to 
be seen, and, indeed, the unfortunate bearer never was 
seen again. Either he struck his head against 
something, or got wedged in the mud, or possibly the 
snake-bite paralyzed him. At any rate, he vanished. 
But though Billali was not to be seen, his whereabouts 
was clear enough from the agitation of the floating 
litter, in the bearing cloth and curtains of which he 
was entangled.

"He is there! Our father is there!" said one of the 
men, but he did not stir a finger to help him, nor did 
any of the others. They simply stood and stared at the 

"Out of the way, you brutes," I shouted in English, 
and throwing off my hat I took a run and sprang well 
out into the horrid, slimy-looking pool. A couple of 
strokes took me to where Billali was struggling 
beneath the cloth.

Somehow, I do not quite know how, I managed to push 
this free of him, and his venerable head, all covered 
with green slime, like that of a yellowish Bacchus 
with ivy leaves, emerged upon the surface of the 
water. The rest was easy, for Billali was an eminently 
practical individual, and had the commonsense not to 
grasp hold of me as drowning people often do, so I got 
him by the arm, and towed him to the bank, through the 
mud of which we were with difficulty dragged. Such a 
filthy spectacle as we presented I have never seen 
before or since, and it will perhaps give some idea of 
the almost superhuman dignity of Billali's appearance 
when I say that, coughing, half-drowned, and covered 
with mud and green slime as he was, with his beautiful 
beard coming to a dripping point, like a Chinaman's 
freshly oiled pigtail, he still looked venerable and 

"Ye dogs," he said, addressing the bearers, as soon as 
he had sufficiently recovered to speak, "ye left me, 
your father, to drown. Had it not been for this 
stranger, my son the Baboon, assuredly I should have 
drowned. Well, I will remember it," and he fixed them 
with his gleaming though slightly watery eye, in a way 
I saw they did not like, though they tried to appear 
sulkily indifferent.

'As for thee, my son," the old man went on, turning 
towards me and grasping my hand, "rest assured that I 
am thy friend through good and evil. Thou hast saved 
my life: perchance a day may come when I shall save 

After that we cleaned ourselves as best we could, 
fished out the litter, and went on, minus the man who 
had been drowned. I do not know if it was owing to his 
being an unpopular character, or from native 
indifference and selfishness of temperament, but I am 
bound to say that nobody seemed to grieve much over 
his sudden and final disappearance, unless, perhaps, 
it was the men who had to do his share of the work.



ABOUT an hour before sundown we at last, to my 
unbounded gratitude, emerged from the great belt of 
marsh on to land that swelled upward in a succession 
of rolling waves, Just on the hither side of the crest 
of the first wave we halted for the night. My first 
act was to examine Leo's condition. It was, if 
anything, worse than in the morning, and a new and 
very distressing feature, vomiting, set in, and 
continued till dawn. Not one wink of sleep did I get 
that night, for I passed it in assisting Ustane, who 
was one of the most gentle and indefatigable nurses I 
ever saw, to wait upon Leo and Job. However, the air 
here was warm and genial without being too hot, and 
there were no mosquitoes to speak of. Also we were 
above the level of the marsh mist, which lay stretched 
beneath us like the dim smoke-pall over a city, lit up 
here and there by the wandering globes of fen fire. 
Thus it will be seen that we were, speaking 
comparatively, in clover.

By dawn on the following morning Leo was quite light-
headed, and fancied that he was divided into halves. I 
was dreadfully distressed, and began to wonder with a 
sort of sick fear what the termination of the attack 
would be. Alas! I had heard but too much of how these 
attacks generally terminate. As I was doing so Billali 
came up and said that we must be getting on, more 
especially as, in his opinion, if Leo did not reach 
some spot where he could be quiet, and have proper 
nursing, within the next twelve hours, his life would 
only be a matter of a day or two. I could not but 
agree with him, so we got him into the litter, and 
started on, Ustane walking by Leo's side to keep the 
flies off him, and see that he did not throw himself 
out on to the ground.

Within half an hour of sunrise we had reached the top 
of the rise of which I have spoken, and a most 
beautiful view broke upon our gaze. Beneath us was a 
rich stretch of country, verdant with grass and lovely 
with foliage and flowers. In the background, at a 
distance, so far as I could judge, of some eighteen 
miles from where we then stood, a huge and 
extraordinary mountain rose abruptly from the plain. 
The base of this great mountain appeared to consist of 
a grassy slope, but rising from this, I should say, 
from subsequent observation, at a height of about five 
hundred feet above the level of the plain, was a most 
tremendous and absolutely precipitous wall of bare 
rock, quite twelve or fifteen hundred feet in height. 
The shape of the mountain, which was undoubtedly of 
volcanic origin, was round, and of course, as only a 
segment of its circle was visible, it was difficult to 
estimate its exact size, which was enormous. I 
afterwards discovered that it could not cover less 
than fifty square miles of ground. Anything more grand 
and imposing than the sight presented by this great 
natural castle, starting in solitary grandeur from the 
level of the plain, I never saw, and I suppose I never 
shall. Its very solitude added to its majesty, and its 
towering cliffs seemed to kiss the sky. Indeed, 
generally speaking, they were clothed in clouds that 
lay in fleecy masses upon their broad and level 

I sat up in my hammock and gazed out across the plain 
at this thrilling and majestic sight, and I suppose 
that Billali noticed it, for he brought his litter 

"Behold the House of ' _i_ She-who-must-be-obeyed _i_ 
!'" he said. "Had ever a queen such a throne before?"

"It is wonderful, my father," I answered. "But how do 
we enter? Those cliffs look hard to climb."

"Thou shalt see, my Baboon. Look now at the plain 
below us. What thinkest thou that it is? Thou art a 
wise man. Come, tell me." 

I looked, and saw what appeared to be the line of 
roadway running straight towards the base of the 
mountain, though it was covered with turf. There were 
high banks on each side of it, broken here and there, 
but fairly continuous on the whole, the meaning of 
which I did not understand. It seemed so very odd that 
anybody should embank a roadway.

"Well, my father," I answered, "I suppose that it is a 
road, otherwise I should have been inclined to say 
that it was the bed of a river, or, rather," I added, 
observing the extraordinary directness of the cutting, 
"of a canal." 

Billali--who, by the way, was none the worse for his 
immersion of the day before--nodded his head sagely as 
he replied,

"Thou art right, my son. It is a channel cut out by 
those who were before us in this place, to carry away 
water. Of this am I sure: within the rocky circle of 
the great mountain whither we journey was once a great 
lake. But those who were before us, by wonderful arts 
of which I know naught, hewed a path for the water 
through the solid rock of the mountain, piercing even 
to the bed of the lake. But first they cut the channel 
that thou seest across the plain. Then, when at last 
the water burst out, it rushed down the channel that 
had been made to receive it, and crossed this plain 
till it reached the low land behind the rise, and 
there, perchance, it made the swamp through which we 
have come. Then, when the lake was drained dry, the 
people whereof I speak built a mighty city, whereof 
naught but ruins and the name of Ko^r yet remaineth, 
on its bed, and from age to age hewed the caves and 
passages that thou wilt see." 

"It may be," I answered; "but if so, how is it that 
the lake does not fill up again with the rains and the 
water of the springs?" 

"Nay, my son, the people were a wise people, and they 
left a drain to keep it clear. Seest thou the river to 
the right?" and he pointed to a fair-sized stream that 
wound away across the plain, some four miles from us. 

"That is the drain, and it comes out through the 
mountain wall where this cutting goes in. At first, 
perhaps, the water ran down this canal, but afterwards 
the people turned it, and used the cutting for a 

"And is there then no other place where one may enter 
into the great mountain," I asked, "except through the 

"There is a place," he answered, "where cattle and men 
on foot may cross with much labor, but it is a secret. 
A year mightest thou search and shouldst never find 
it. It is only used once a year, when the herds of 
cattle that have been fattening on the slopes of the 
mountain, and on this plain, are driven into the space 

"And does _i_ She _i_ live there always?" I asked, "or 
does she come at times without the mountain?"

"Nay, my son, where she is, there she is!"

By now we were well on to the great plain, and I was 
examining with delight the varied beauty of its semi-
tropical flowers and trees, the latter of which grew 
singly, or at most in clumps of three or four, much of 
the timber being of large size, and belonging 
apparently to a variety of evergreen oak. There were 
also many palms, some of them more than one hundred 
feet high, and the largest and most beautiful tree-
ferns that I ever saw, about which hung clouds of 
jewelled honey-suckers and great-winged butterflies. 
Wandering about among the trees or crouching in the 
long and leathered grass were all varieties of game, 
from rhinoceroses down. I saw rhinoceros, buffalo (a 
large herd), eland, quagga, and sable antelope, the 
most beautiful of all the bucks, not to mention many 
smaller varieties of game, and three ostriches which 
scudded away at our approach like white drift before a 
gale. So plentiful was the game that at last I could 
stand it no longer. I had a single-barrel sporting 
Martini with me in the litter, the "Express" being too 
cumbersome, and, espying a beautiful fat eland rubbing 
himself under one of the oak like trees, I jumped out 
of the litter and proceeded to creep as near to him as 
I could. He let me come within eighty yards, and then 
turned his head and stared at me, preparatory to 
running away. I lifted and taking him about midway 
down the shoulder, for he was side on to me, fired. I 
never made a cleaner shot or a better kill in all my 
small experience, for the great buck sprang right up 
into the air and fell dead. The bearers, who had all 
halted to see the performance, gave a murmur of 
surprise, an unwonted compliment from these sullen 
people, who never appear to be surprised at anything, 
and a party of the guard at once ran off to cut the 
animal up. As for myself, though I was longing to have 
a look at him, I sauntered back to my litter as though 
I had been in the habit of killing eland all my life, 
feeling that I had gone up several degrees in the 
estimation of the Amahagger, who looked on the whole 
thing as a very high-class manifestation of 
witchcraft. As a matter of fact, however, I had never 
seen an eland in a wild state before. Billali received 
me with enthusiasm.

"It is wonderful, my son the Baboon," he cried; 
"wonderful! Thou art a very great man, though so ugly. 
Had I not seen, surely I would never have believed. 
And thou sayest that thou wilt teach me to slay in 
this fashion?"

"Certainly, my father," I said, airily; "it is 

But all the same I firmly made up my mind that when 
"my father" Billali began to fire I would without fall 
lie down or take refuge behind a tree.

After this little incident nothing happened of any 
note till about an hour and a half before sundown, 
when we arrived beneath the shadow of the towering 
volcanic mass that I have already described. It is 
quite impossible for me to describe its grim grandeur 
as it appeared to me while my patient bearers toiled 
along the bed of the ancient watercourse towards the 
spot where the rich brown clad cliff shot up from 
precipice to precipice till its crown lost itself in 
cloud. All I can say is that it almost awed me by the 
intensity of its lonesome and most solemn greatness. 
On we went up the bright and sunny slope, till at last 
the creeping shadows from above swallowed up its 
brightness, and presently we began to pass through a 
cutting hewn in the living rock. Deeper and deeper 
grew this marvellous work, which must, I should say, 
have employed thousands of men for many years. Indeed, 
how it was ever executed at all without the aid of 
blasting powder or dynamite I cannot to this day 
imagine. It is and must remain one of the mysteries of 
that wild land. I can only suppose that these cuttings 
and the vast caves that had been hollowed out of the 
rocks they pierced were the State undertakings of the 
people of Ko^r, who lived here in the dim lost ages of 
the world, and, as in the case of the Egyptian 
monuments, were executed by the forced labor of tens 
of thousands of captives, carried on through an 
indefinite number of centuries. But who were the 

At last we reached the face of the precipice itself, 
and found ourselves looking into the mouth of a dark 
tunnel that forcibly reminded me of those undertaken 
by our nineteenth-century engineers in the 
construction of railway lines. Out of this tunnel 
flowed a considerable stream of water. Indeed, though 
I do not think that I have mentioned it, we had 
followed this stream, which ultimately developed into 
the river I have already described as winding away to 
the right, from the spot where the cutting in the 
solid rock commenced. Half of this cutting formed a 
channel for the stream, and half, which was placed on 
a slightly higher level--eight feet perhaps--was 
devoted to the purposes of a roadway. At the 
termination of the cutting, however, the stream turned 
off across the plain and followed a channel of its 
own. At the mouth of the cave the cavalcade was 
halted, and, while the men employed themselves in 
lighting some earthenware lamps they had brought with 
them, Billali, descending from his litter, informed me 
politely but firmly that the orders of _i_ She _i_ 
were that we were now to be blindfolded, so that we 
should not learn the secret of the paths through the 
bowels of the mountains. To this I, of course, 
assented cheerfully enough, but Job, who was now very 
much better, notwithstanding the journey, did not like 
it at all, fancying, I believe, that it was but a 
preliminary step to being hot-potted. He was, however, 
a little consoled when I pointed out to him that there 
were no hot pots at hand, and, so far as I. knew, no 
fire to heat them in. As for poor Leo, after turning 
restlessly for hours, he had, to my deep thankfulness, 
at last dropped off into a sleep or stupor, I do not 
know which, so there was no need to blindfold him. The 
blindfolding was performed by binding a piece of the 
yellowish linen whereof those of the Amahagger who 
condescended to wear anything in particular made their 
dresses tightly round the eyes. This linen, I 
afterwards discovered, was taken from the tombs, and 
was not, as I had at first supposed, of native 
manufacture. The bandage was then knotted at the back 
of the head, and finally brought down again and the 
ends bound under the chin to prevent its slipping. 
Ustane was, by the way, also blindfolded, I do not 
know why, unless it was from fear that she should 
impart the secrets of the route to us.

This operation performed we started on once more, and 
soon, by the echoing sound of the footsteps of the 
bearers and the increased noise of the water caused by 
reverberation in a confined space, I knew that we were 
entering into the bowels of the great mountain. It was 
an eerie sensation, being borne along into the dead 
heart of the rock we knew not whither, but I was 
getting used to eerie sensations by this time, and by 
now was pretty well prepared for anything. So I lay 
still, and listened to the tramp, tramp of the bearers 
and the rushing of the water, and tried to believe 
that I was enjoying myself. Presently the men set up 
the melancholy little chant that I had heard on the 
first night when we were captured in the whale-boat, 
and the effect produced by their voices was very 
curious, and quite indescribable on paper. After a 
while the air began to get exceedingly thick and 
heavy, so much so, indeed, that I felt as though I 
were going to choke, till at length the litter took a 
sharp turn, then another and another, and the sound of 
the running water ceased. After this the air got 
fresher again, but the turns were continuous, and to 
me, blindfolded as I was, most bewildering. I tried to 
keep a map of them in my mind in case it might ever be 
necessary for us to try and escape by this route, but, 
needless to say, failed utterly. Another half-hour or 
so passed, and then suddenly I became aware that we 
were once more in the open air. I could see the light 
through my bandage and feel freshness on my face. A 
few more and the caravan halted, and I heard Billali 
order Ustane to remove her bandage and undo ours. 
Without waiting for her attentions I got the knot of 
mine loose, and looked out.

As I anticipated, we had passed right through the 
precipice, and were now on the farther side, and 
immediately beneath its beetling face. The first thing 
I noticed was that the cliff was not nearly so high 
here, not so high I should say by five hundred feet, 
which proved that the bed of the lake, or rather of 
the vast ancient crater in which we stood, was much 
above the level of the surrounding plain. For the 
rest, we found ourselves in a huge rock-surrounded 
cup, not unlike that of the first place where we had 
sojourned, only ten times the size. Indeed, I could 
only just make out the frowning line of the opposite 
cliffs. A great portion of the plain thus enclosed by 
nature was cultivated, and fenced in with walls of 
stone placed there to keep the cattle and goats, of 
which there were large herds about, from breaking into 
the gardens. Here and there rose great grass mounds, 
and some miles away towards the centre I thought that 
I could see the outline of colossal ruins. I had no 
time to observe anything more at the moment, for we 
were instantly surrounded by crowds of Amahagger, 
similar in every particular to those with whom we were 
already familiar, who, though they spoke little, 
pressed round us so closely as to obscure the view to 
a person lying in a hammock. Then all of a sudden a 
number of armed men arranged in companies, and 
marshalled by officers who held ivory wands in their 
hands, came running swiftly towards us, having, so far 
as I could make out, emerged from the face of the 
precipice like ants from their burrows. These men, as 
well as their officers, were all robed in addition to 
the usual leopard skin, and, as I gathered, formed the 
bodyguard of _i_ She _i_ herself.

Their leader advanced to Billali, saluted him by 
placing his ivory wand transversely across his 
forehead, and then asked some question which I could 
not catch, and Billali having answered him, the whole 
regiment turned and marched along the side of the 
cliff, our cavalcade of litters following in their 
track. After going thus for about half a mile we 
halted once more in front of the mouth of a tremendous 
cave, measuring about sixty feet in height by eighty 
wide, and here Billali descended finally, and 
requested Job and myself to do the same. Leo, of 
course, was far too ill to do anything of the sort. I 
did so, and we entered the great cave, into which the 
light of the setting sun penetrated for some distance, 
while beyond the reach of the light it was faintly 
illuminated with lamps which seemed to me to stretch 
away for an almost immeasurable distance, like the 
gaslights of an empty London street. The first thing 
that I noticed was that the walls were covered with 
sculptures in bas-relief, of a sort, pictorially 
speaking, similar to those that I have described upon 
the vases--love-scenes principally, then hunting-
pictures, pictures of executions, and the torture of 
criminals by the placing of a presumably red-hot pot 
upon the head, showing whence our hosts had derived 
this pleasant practice. There were very few battle-
pieces, though many of duels, and men running and 
wrestling, and from this fact I am led to believe that 
this people was not much subject to attack by exterior 
foes, either on account of the isolation of their 
position or because of their great strength. Between 
the pictures were columns of stone characters of a 
formation absolutely new to me: at any rate, they were 
neither Greek, nor Egyptian, nor Hebrew, nor Assyrian-
-that I am sure of. They looked more like Chinese 
writings than any other that I am acquainted with. 
Near to the entrance of the cave both pictures and 
writings were worn away, but farther in they were in 
many cases absolutely fresh and perfect as the day on 
which the sculptor had ceased work upon them.

The regiment of guards did not come farther than the 
entrance to the cave, where they formed up to let us 
pass through. On entering the place itself we were, 
however, met by a man robed in white, who bowed 
humbly, but said nothing, which, as it afterwards 
appeared that he was a deaf mute, was not very 

Running at right angles to the great cave, at a 
distance of some twenty feet from the entrance, was a 
smaller cave or wide gallery, that was pierced into 
the rock both to the right and to the left of the main 
cavern. In front of the gallery to our left stood two 
guards, from which circumstance I argued that it was 
the entrance to the apartments of _i_ She _i_ herself. 
The mouth of the right-hand gallery was unguarded, and 
along it the mute indicated that we were to proceed. 
Walking a few yards down this passage, which was 
lighted with lamps, we came to the entrance to a 
chamber having a curtain made of some grass material, 
not unlike a Zanzibar mat in appearance, hung over the 

This the mute drew back with another profound 
obeisance, and led the way into a good-sized 
apartment, hewn, of course, out of the solid rock, 
but, to my great delight, lighted by means of a shaft 
pierced in the face of the precipice. In this room was 
a stone bedstead, pots full of water for washing, and 
beautifully tanned leopard skins to serve as blankets.

Here we left Leo, who was still sleeping heavily, and 
with him stopped Ustane. I noticed that the mute gave 
her a very sharp look, as much as to say, "Who are 
you, and by whose orders do you come here?" Then he 
conducted us to another similar room which Job took, 
and then to two more that were respectively occupied 
by Billali and myself.



THE first care of Job and myself, after seeing to Leo, 
was to wash ourselves and put on clean clothing, for 
what we were wearing had not been changed since the 
loss of the dhow. Fortunately, as I think that I have 
said, by far the greater part of our personal baggage 
had been packed into the whaleboat, and was therefore 
saved--and brought hither by the bearers--although all 
the stores laid in by us for barter and presents to 
the natives were lost. Nearly all our clothing was 
made of a well-shrunk and very strong gray flannel, 
and excellent I found it for travelling in these 
places, because though a Norfolk jacket, shirt, and 
pair of trousers of it only weighed about four pounds, 
a great consideration in a tropical country, where 
every extra ounce tells on the wearer, it was warm, 
and offered a good resistance to the rays of the sun, 
and, best of all, to chills, which are so apt to 
result from sudden changes of temperature.

Never shall I forget the comfort of the "wash and 
brush-up," and of those clean flannels. The only thing 
that was wanting to complete my joy was a cake of 
soap, of which we had none.

Afterwards I discovered that the Amahagger, who do not 
reckon dirt among their many disagreeable qualities, 
use a kind of burned earth for washing purposes, 
which, though unpleasant to the touch till one gets 
accustomed to it, forms a very fair substitute for 

By the time that I was dressed, and had combed and 
trimmed my black beard, the previous condition of 
which was certainly sufficiently unkempt to give 
weight to Billali's appellation for me, the "Baboon," 
I began to feel most uncommonly hungry. Therefore I 
was by no means sorry when, without the slightest 
preparatory sound or warning, the curtain over the 
entrance to my cave was flung aside, and another mute, 
a young girl this time, announced to me by signs that 
I could not misunderstand--that is, by opening her 
mouth and pointing down it--that there was something 
ready to eat. Accordingly I followed her into the next 
chamber, which we had not yet entered, where I found 
Job, who had also, to his great embarrassment, been 
conducted thither by a fair mute. Job had never got 
over the advances the former lady had made towards 
him, and suspected every girl who came near to him of 
similar designs.

"These young parties have a way of looking at one, 
sir," he would say, apologetically, "which I don't 
call respectable."

This chamber was twice the size of the sleeping-caves, 
and I saw at once that it had originally served as a 
refectory, and also probably as an embalming-room for 
the Priests of the Dead; for I may as well say at once 
that these hollowed-out caves were nothing more nor 
less than vast catacombs, in which for tens of ages 
the mortal remains of the great extinct race whose 
monuments surrounded us had been first preserved, with 
an art and a completeness that has never since been 
equalled, and then hidden away for all time. On each 
side of this particular rock-chamber was a long and 
solid stone table, about three feet wide by three feet 
six in height, hewn out of the living rock, of which 
it had formed part, and was still attached to at the 
base. These tables were slightly hollowed out or 
curved inward, to give room for the knees of any one 
sitting on the stone ledge that had been cut for a 
bench along the side of the cave at a distance of 
about two feet from them. Each of them, also, was so 
arranged that it ended right under a shaft pierced in 
the rock for the admission of light and air. On 
examining them carefully, however, I saw that there 
was a difference between them that had at first 
escaped my attention; viz., that one of the tables, 
that to the left as we entered the cave, had evidently 
been used, not to eat upon, but for the purposes of 
embalming. That this was beyond all question the case 
was clear from five shallow depressions in the stone 
of the table, all shaped like a human form, with a 
separate place for the head to lie in, and a little 
bridge to support the neck, each depression being of a 
different size, so as to fit bodies varying in stature 
from a full-grown man's to a small child's, and with 
little holes bored at intervals to carry off fluid. 
And, indeed, if any further confirmation were 
required, we had but to look at the wall of the cave 
above to find it. For there, sculptured all round the 
apartment, and looking nearly as fresh as the day it 
was done, was the pictorial representation of the 
death, embalming, and burial of an old man with a long 
beard, probably an ancient king or grandee of this 

The first picture represented his death. He was lying 
upon a couch which had four short curved posts at the 
corners coming to a knob at the end, in appearance 
something like a written note of music, and was 
evidently in the very act of expiring. Gathered round 
the couch were women and children weeping, the former 
with their hair hanging down their backs. The next 
scene represented the embalmment of the body, which 
lay nude upon a table with depressions in it, similar 
to the one before us; probably, indeed, it was a 
picture of the same table. Three men were employed at 
the work--one superintending, one holding a funnel 
shaped exactly like a port-wine strainer, of which the 
narrow end was fixed in an incision in the breast, no 
doubt in the great pectoral artery; while the third, 
who was depicted as standing straddle legged over the 
corpse, held a kind of large jug high in his hand, and 
poured from it some steaming fluid which fell 
accurately into the funnel. The most curious part of 
this sculpture is that both the man with the funnel 
and the man who poured the fluid are drawn holding 
their noses, either I suppose because of the stench 
arising from the body, or more probably to keep out 
the aromatic fumes of the hot fluid which was being 
forced into the dead man's veins. Another curious 
thing which I am unable to explain is that all three 
men were represented as having a band of linen tied 
round the face with holes in it for the eyes.

The third sculpture was a picture of the burial of the 
deceased. There he was, stiff and cold, clothed in a 
linen robe, and laid out on a stone slab such as I had 
slept upon at our first sojourning-place. At his head 
and feet burned lamps, and by his side were placed 
several of the beautiful painted vases that I have 
described, which were perhaps supposed to be full of 
provisions. The little chamber was crowded with 
mourners, and with musicians playing on an instrument 
resembling a lyre, while near the foot of the corpse 
stood a man with a sheet, with which he was preparing 
to cover it from view.

These sculptures, looked at merely as works of art, 
were so remarkable that I make no apology for 
describing them rather fully. They struck me also as 
being of surpassing interest as representing, probably 
with studious accuracy, the last rites of the dead as 
practised among an utterly lost people, and even then 
I thought how envious some antiquarian friends of my 
own at Cambridge would be if ever I got an opportunity 
of describing these wonderful remains to them. 
Probably they would say that I was exaggerating, 
notwithstanding that every page of this history must 
bear so much internal evidence of its truth that it 
would obviously have been quite impossible for me to 
have invented it.

To return. As soon as I had hastily examined these 
sculptures, which I think I omitted to mention were 
executed in relief, we sat down to a very excellent 
meal of boiled goat's-flesh, fresh milk, and cakes 
made of meal, the whole being served upon clean wooden 

When we had eaten we returned to see how poor Leo was 
getting on, Billali saying that he must now wait upon 
_i_ She _i_ , and hear her commands. On reaching Leo's 
room we found the poor boy in a very bad way. He had 
woke up from his torpor, and was altogether off his 
head, babbling about some boat-race on the Cam, and 
was inclined to be violent. Indeed, when we entered 
the room Ustane was holding him down. I spoke to him, 
and my voice seemed to soothe him; at any rate he grew 
much quieter, and was persuaded to swallow a dose of 

I had been sitting with him for an hour, perhaps--at 
any rate I know that it was getting so dark that I 
could only just make out his head lying like a gleam 
of gold upon the pillow we had extemporized out of a 
bag covered with a blanket--when suddenly Billali 
arrived with an air of great importance, and informed 
me that _i_ She _i_ herself had deigned to express a 
wish to see me--an honor, he added, accorded to but 
very few. I think that he was a little horrified at my 
cool way of taking the honor, but the fact was that I 
did not feel overwhelmed with gratitude at the 
prospect of seeing some savage, dusky queen, however 
absolute and mysterious she might be, more especially 
as my mind was full of dear Leo, for whose life I 
began to have great fears. However, I rose to follow 
him, and as I did so I caught sight of something 
bright lying on the floor, which I picked up. Perhaps 
the reader will remember that with the potsherd in the 
casket was a composition scarabaeus marked with a 
round O, a goose, and another curious hieroglyphic, 
the meaning of which signs is "Suten se Ra^," or 
"Royal Son of the Sun." This scarab, which is a very 
small one, Leo had insisted upon having set in a 
massive gold ring, such as is generally used for 
signets, and it was this very ring that I now picked 
up. He had pulled it off in the paroxysm of his fever, 
at least I suppose so, and flung it down upon the 
rock-floor. Thinking that if I left it about it might 
get lost, I slipped it on to my own little finger, and 
then followed Billali, leaving Job and Ustane with 

We passed down the passage, crossed the great aisle-
like cave, and came to the corresponding passage on 
the other side, at the mouth of which the guards stood 
like two statues. As we came they bowed their heads in 
salutation, and then lifting their long spears placed 
them transversely across their foreheads, as the 
leaders of the troop that had met us had done with. 
their ivory wands. We stepped between them, and found 
ourselves in an exactly similar gallery to that which 
led to our own apartments, only this passage was, 
comparatively speaking, brilliantly lighted. A few 
paces down it we were met by four mutes--two men and 
two women--who bowed low and then arranged themselves, 
the women in front and the men behind us, and in this 
order we continued our procession past several 
doorways hung with curtains resembling those leading 
to our own quarters, and which I afterwards found 
opened out into chambers occupied by the mutes who 
attended on _i_ She _i_ . A few paces more and we came 
to another doorway facing us, and not to our left like 
the others, which seemed to mark the termination of 
the passage. Here two more white, or rather yellow, 
robed guards were standing, and they too bowed, 
saluted, and let us pass through heavy curtains into a 
great ante-chamber, quite forty feet long by as many 
wide, in which some eight or ten women, most of them 
young and handsome, with yellowish hair, sat on 
cushions working with ivory needles at what had the 
appearance of being embroidery-frames. These women 
were also deaf and dumb. At the farther end of this 
great lamp lit apartment was another doorway closed in 
with heavy Oriental-looking curtains, quite unlike 
those that hung before the doors of our own rooms, and 
here stood two particularly handsome girl mutes, their 
heads bowed upon their bosoms and their hands crossed 
in an attitude of the humblest submission. As we 
advanced they each stretched out an arm and drew back 
the curtains. Thereupon Billali did a curious thing. 
Down he went, that venerable-looking old gentleman--
for Billali is a gentleman at the bottom--down on to 
his hands and knees, and in this undignified position, 
with his long white beard trailing on the ground, he 
began to creep into the apartment beyond. I followed 
him, standing on my feet in the usual fashion. Looking 
over his shoulder, he perceived it.

"Down, my son; down, my Baboon; down on to thy hands 
and knees. We enter the presence of _i_ She _i_ , and, 
if thou art not humble, of a surety she will blast 
thee where thou standest."

I halted, and felt scared. Indeed, my knees began to 
give way of their own mere motion; but reflection came 
to my aid. I was an Englishman, and why, I asked 
myself, should I creep into the presence of some 
savage woman as though I were a monkey in fact as well 
as in name? I would not and could not do it, that is, 
unless I was absolutely sure that my life or comfort 
depended upon it. If once I began to creep upon my 
knees I should always have to do so, and it would be a 
patent acknowledgment of inferiority. So, fortified by 
an insular prejudice against "kootooing," which has, 
like most of our so-called prejudices, a good deal of 
common-sense to recommend it, I marched in boldly 
after Billali. I found myself in another apartment, 
considerably smaller than the ante-room, of which the 
walls were entirely hung with rich-looking curtains of 
the same make as those over the door, the work, as I 
subsequently discovered, of the mutes who sat in the 
ante-chamber and wove them in strips, which were 
afterwards sewn together. Also, here and there about 
the room, were settees of a beautiful black wood of 
the ebony tribe, inlaid with ivory, and all over the 
floor were other tapestries, or rather rugs. At the 
top end of this apartment was what appeared to be a 
recess, also draped with curtains, through which shone 
rays of light. There was nobody in the place except 

Painfully and slowly old Billali crept up the length 
of the cave, and with the most dignified stride that I 
could command I followed after him. But I felt that it 
was more or less of a failure. To begin with, it is 
not possible to look dignified when you are following 
in the wake of an old man writhing along on his 
stomach like a snake, and then, in order to go 
sufficiently slowly, either I had to keep my leg some 
seconds in the air at every step, or else to advance 
with a full stop between each stride, like Mary Queen 
of Scots going to execution in a play. Billali was not 
good at crawling, I suppose his years stood in the 
way, and our progress up that apartment was a very 
long affair. I was immediately behind him, and several 
times I was sorely tempted to help him on with a good 
kick. It is so absurd to advance into the presence of 
savage royalty after the fashion of an Irishman 
driving a pig to market, for that is what we looked 
like, and the idea nearly made me burst out laughing 
then and there. I had to work off my dangerous 
tendency to unseemly merriment by blowing my nose, a 
proceeding which filled old Billali with horror, for 
he looked over his shoulder and made a ghastly face at 
me, and I heard him murmur, "Oh, my poor Baboon!"

At last we reached the curtains, and here Billali 
collapsed flat on to his stomach, with his hands 
stretched out before him as though he were dead, and 
I, not knowing what to do, began to stare about the 
place. But presently I dearly felt that somebody was 
looking at me from behind the curtains. I could not 
see the person, but I could distinctly feel his or her 
gaze, and, what is more, it produced a very odd effect 
upon my nerves. I was frightened, I do not know why. 
The place was a strange one, it is true, and looked 
lonely, notwithstanding its rich hangings and the soft 
glow of the lamps--indeed, these accessories added to, 
rather than detracted from its loneliness, just as a 
lighted street at night has always a more solitary 
appearance than a dark one. It was so silent in the 
place, and there lay Billali like one dead before the 
heavy curtains, through which the odor of perfume 
seemed to float up towards the gloom of the arched 
roof above. Minute grew into minute, and still there 
was no sign of life, nor did the curtain move; but I 
felt the gaze of the unknown being sinking through and 
through me, and filling me with a nameless terror, 
till the perspiration stood in beads upon my brow.

At length the curtain began to move. Who could be 
behind it?--some naked savage queen, a languishing 
Oriental beauty, or a nineteenth-century young lady, 
drinking afternoon tea. I had not the slightest idea, 
and should not have been astonished at seeing any of 
the three. I was getting beyond astonishment. The 
curtain agitated itself a little, then suddenly 
between its folds there appeared a most beautiful 
white hand (white as snow), and with long, tapering 
fingers, ending in the pinkest nails. The hand grasped 
the curtain and drew it aside, and as it did so I 
heard a voice, I think the softest and yet most 
silvery voice I ever heard. It reminded me of the 
murmur of a brook.

"Stranger," said the voice in Arabic, but much purer 
and more classical Arabic than the Amahagger talk--
"stranger, wherefore art thou so much afraid?"

Now I flattered myself that in spite of my inward 
terrors I had kept a very fair command of my 
countenance, and was, therefore, a little astonished 
at this question. Before I had made up my mind how to 
answer it, however, the curtain was drawn, and a tall 
figure stood before us. I say a figure, for not only 
the body, but also the face was wrapped up in soft, 
white, gauzy material in such a way as at first sight 
to remind me most forcibly of a corpse in its grave-
clothes. And yet I do not know why it should have 
given me that idea, seeing that the wrappings were so 
thin that one could distinctly see the gleam of the 
pink flesh beneath them. I suppose it was owing to the 
way in which they were arranged, either accidentally, 
or more probably by design. Anyhow, I felt more 
frightened than ever at this ghostlike apparition, and 
my hair began to rise upon my head as the feeling 
crept over me that I was in the presence of something 
that was not canny. I could, however, clearly 
distinguish that the swathed, mummy-like form before 
me was that of a tall and lovely woman, instinct with 
beauty in every part, and also with a certain 
snakelike grace which I had never seen anything to 
equal before. When she moved a hand or foot her entire 
frame seemed to undulate, and the neck did not bend, 
it curved.

"Why art thou so frightened, stranger?" asked the 
sweet voice again--a voice which seemed to draw the 
heart out of me, like the strains of softest music. 
"Is there that about me that should affright a man? 
Then surely are men changed from what they used to 
be!" And with a little coquettish movement she turned 
herself, and held up one arm, so as to show all her 
loveliness and the rich hair of raven blackness that 
streamed in soft ripples down her snowy robes, almost 
to her sandalled feet.

"It is. thy beauty that makes me fear, oh, queen," I 
answered, humbly, scarcely knowing what to say, and I 
thought that as I did so I heard old Billali, who was 
still lying prostrate on the floor, mutter, "Good, my 
Baboon, good."

"I see that men still know how to beguile us women 
with false words. Ah, stranger," she answered, with a 
laugh that sounded like distant silver bells, "thou 
wast afraid because mine eyes were searching out thine 
heart, therefore wast thou afraid. But, being but a 
woman, I forgive thee for the lie, for it was 
courteously said. And now tell me, how came ye hither 
to this land of the dwellers among caves--a land of 
swamps and evil things and dead old shadows of the 
dead? What came ye for to see? How is it that ye hold 
your lives so cheap as to place them in the hollow of 
the hand of _i_ Hiya, _i_ into the hand of ' _i_ She-
who-must-be obeyed _i_ '? Tell me also how come ye to 
know the tongue I talk. It is an ancient tongue, that 
sweet child of the old Syriac. Liveth it yet in the 
world? Thou seest I dwell among the caves and the 
dead, and nought know I of the affairs of men, nor 
have I cared to know. I have lived, O stranger, with 
my memories, and my memories are in a grave that mine 
own hands hollowed, for truly hath it been said that 
the child of man maketh his own path evil"; and her 
beautiful voice quivered, and broke in a note as soft 
as any wood-bird's. Suddenly her eye fell upon the 
sprawling frame of Billali, and she seemed to 
recollect herself.

"Ah! thou art there, old man. Tell me how it is that 
things have gone wrong in thy household. Forsooth, it 
seems that these my guests were set upon. Ay, and one 
was nigh to being slain by the hot pot to be eaten of 
those brutes, thy children, and had not the others 
fought gallantly they too had been slain, and not even 
I could have called back the life which had been 
loosed from the body. What means it, old man? What 
hast thou to say that I should not give thee over to 
those who execute my vengeance?"

Her voice had risen in her anger, and it rang clear 
and cold against the rocky walls. Also I thought I 
could see her eyes flash through the gauze that hid 
them. I saw poor Billali, whom I had believed to be a 
very fearless person, positively quiver with terror at 
her words.

"O 'Hiya'! O _i_ She _i_ !" he said, without lifting 
his white head from the floor. "O _i_ She _i_ , as 
thou art great, be merciful, for I am now as ever thy 
servant to obey. It was no plan or fault of mine, O 
_i_ She _i_ , it was those wicked ones who are called 
my children. Led on by a woman whom thy guest the Pig 
had scorned, they would have followed the ancient 
custom of the land, and eaten the fat black stranger 
who came hither with these thy guests the Baboon, and 
the Lion who is sick, thinking that no word had come 
from thee about the black one. But when the Baboon and 
the Lion saw what they would do, they slew the woman, 
and slew also their servant to save him from the 
horror of the pot. Then those evil ones, ay, those 
children of the Wicked One who lives in the Pit, they 
went mad with the lust of blood, and flew at the 
throats of the Lion and the Baboon and the Pig. But 
gallantly they fought. O _i_ Hiya! _i_ they fought 
like very men, and slew many, and held their own, and 
then I came and saved them, and the evil-doers have I 
sent on hither to Ko^r to be judged of thy greatness, 
O _i_ She! _i_ and here they are."

"Ay, old man, I know it, and tomorrow will I sit in 
the great hall and do justice upon them, fear not. And 
for thee, I forgive thee, though hardly. See that thou 
dost keep thine household better. Go."

Billali rose upon his knees with astonishing alacrity, 
bowed his head thrice, and his white beard sweeping 
the ground, crawled down the apartment as he had 
crawled up it, till he finally vanished through the 
curtains, leaving me, not a little to my alarm, alone 
with this terrible but most fascinating person.



"There," said _i_ She _i_ , "he has gone, the white-
bearded old fool! Ah, how little knowledge does a man 
acquire in his life. He gathereth it up like water, 
but like water it runneth through his fingers, and 
yet, if his hands be but wet as though with dew, 
behold a generation of fools call out, 'See, he is a 
wise man!' Is it not so? But how call they thee? 
'Baboon,' he says," and she laughed; "but that is the 
fashion of these savages who lack imagination, and fly 
to the beasts they resemble for a name. How do they 
call thee in thine own country, stranger?"

"They call me Holly, O queen," I answered.

"Holly," she answered, speaking the word with 
difficulty, and yet with a most charming accent; "and 
what is Holly?"

"'Holly' is a prickly tree," I said.

"So. Well, thou hast a prickly and yet a treelike 
look. Strong art thou, and ugly, but, if my wisdom be 
not at fault, honest at the core, and a staff to lean 
on. Also one who thinks. But stay, O Holly, stand not 
there, enter with me and be seated by me. I would not 
see thee crawl before me like those slaves. I am weary 
of their worship and their terror; sometimes when they 
vex me I could blast them for very sport, and to see 
the rest turn white, even to the heart." And she held 
the curtain aside with her ivory hand to let me pass 

I entered, shuddering. This woman was very terrible. 
Within the curtains was a recess, about twelve feet by 
ten, and in the recess was a couch and a table whereon 
stood fruit and sparkling water. By it, at its end, 
was a vessel like a font cut in carved stone, also 
full of pure water. The place was softly lit with 
lamps formed out of the beautiful vessels of which I 
have spoken, and the air and curtains were laden with 
a subtle perfume. Perfume too seemed to emanate from 
the glorious hair and white, clinging vestments of _i_ 
She _i_ herself. I entered the little room, and there 
stood uncertain.

"Sit," said _i_ She _i_ , pointing to the couch. "As 
yet thou hast no cause to fear me. If thou hast cause, 
thou shalt not fear for long, for I shall slay thee. 
Therefore let thy heart be light."

I sat down on the end of the couch near to the font 
like basin of water, and _i_ She _i_ sank down softly 
on to the other end.

"Now, Holly," she said, "how comest thou to speak 
Arabic ? It is my own dear tongue, for Arabian am I by 
birth, even ' _i_ al Arab al Ariba _i_ '" (an Arab of 
the Arabs), "and of the race of our father Yara`b, the 
son of Ka^htan, for in that fair and ancient city Ozal 
was I born, in the province of Yaman the Happy. Yet 
dost thou not speak it as we used to speak. Thy talk 
doth lack the music of the sweet tongue of the tribes 
of Hamyar which I was wont to hear. Some of the words 
too seem changed, even as among these Amahagger, who 
have debased and defiled its purity, so that I must 
speak with them in what is to to me another tongue."

"I have studied it," I answered, "for many years. Also 
the language is spoken in Egypt and elsewhere."

"So it is still spoken, and there is yet an Egypt? And 
what Pharaoh sits upon the throne? Still one of the 
spawn of the Persian Ochus, or are the Achaemenians 
gone, for so far is it to the days of Ochus?"

"The Persians have been gone from Egypt for nigh two 
thousand years, and since then the Ptolemies, the 
Romans, and many others have flourished and held sway 
upon the Nile, and fallen when their time was ripe," I 
said, aghast. "What canst thou know of the Persian 
 _i_ She _i_ laughed, and made no answer, and again a 
cold chill went through me. "And Greece," she said; 
"is there still a Greece? Ah, I loved the Greeks. 
Beautiful were they as the day, and clever, but fierce 
at heart and fickle, notwithstanding."

"Yes," I said, "there is a Greece; and, just now, it 
is once more a people. Yet the Greeks of to-day are 
not what the Greeks of the old time were, and Greece 
herself is but a mockery of the Greece that was."

"So! The Hebrews, are they yet at Jerusalem? And does 
the Temple that the wise king built stand? and if so, 
what God do they worship therein? Is their Messiah 
come, of whom they preached so much and prophesied so 
loudly, and doth he rule the earth?"

"The Jews are broken and gone, and the fragments of 
their people strew the world, and Jerusalem is no 
more. As for the temple that Herod built--"

"Herod!" she said. "I know not Herod. But go on."

"The Romans burned it, and the Roman eagles flew 
across its ruins, arid now Judaea is a desert."

"So, so! They were a great people, those Romans, and 
went straight to their end--ay, they sped to it like 
Fate, or like their own eagles on their prey!--and 
left peace behind them."

"Solitudinera faciunt, pacem appellant," I suggested.

"Ah, thou canst speak the Latin tongue, too!" she 
said; in surprise. "It hath a strange ring in my ears 
after all these days, and it seems to me that thy 
accent does not fall as the Romans put it. Who was it 
wrote that? I know not the saying, but it is a true 
one of that great people. It seems that I have found a 
learned man--one whose hands have held the water of 
the world's knowledge. Knowest thou Greek also?"

"Yes, O queen, and something of Hebrew, but not to 
speak them well. They are all dead languages now."
 _i_ She _i_ clapped her hands in childish glee. "Of a 
truth, ugly tree that thou art, thou growest the 
fruits of wisdom, O Holly," she said; "but of those 
Jews whom I hated--for they called me 'heathen' when I 
would have taught them my philosophy--did their 
Messiah come, and doth he rule the world?"

"Their Messiah came," I answered, with reverence; "but 
he came poor and lowly, and they would have none of 
him. They scourged him, and crucified him upon a tree, 
but yet his words and his works live on, for he was 
the Son of God, and now of a truth he doth rule half 
the world, but not with an empire of the world."

"Ah, the fierce-hearted wolves," she said, "the 
followers of Sense and of many gods--greedy of gain 
and faction torn. I can see their dark faces yet. So 
they crucified their Messiah? Well can I believe it. 
That he was a Son of the Living Spirit would be naught 
to them, if indeed he was so, and of that we will talk 
afterwards. They would care naught for any God if he 
came not with pomp and power. They, a chosen people, a 
vessel of him they call Jehovah! ay, and a vessel of 
Baal, and a vessel of Astoreth, and a vessel of the 
gods of the Egyptians--a high-stomached people, greedy 
of aught that brought them wealth and power. So they 
crucified their Messiah because he came in lowly 
guise--and now are they scattered about the earth. 
Why, if I remember, so said one of their prophets that 
it should be. Well, let them go; they broke my heart, 
those Jews, and made me look with evil eyes across the 
world, ay, and drove me to this wilderness, this place 
of a people that was before them. When I would have 
taught them wisdom in Jerusalem they stoned me, ay, at 
the gate of the Temple those white-bearded hypocrites 
and rabbis hounded the people on to stone me! See, 
here is the mark of it to this day!" and with a sudden 
move she pulled up the gauzy wrapping on her rounded 
arm, and pointed to a little scar that showed red 
against its milky beauty. I shrank back horrified.

"Pardon me, O queen," I said, "but I am bewildered. 
Nigh upon two thousand years have rolled across the 
earth since the Jewish Messiah hung upon his cross at 
Golgotha. How then canst thou have taught thy 
philosophy to the Jews before he was? Thou art a 
woman, and no spirit. How can a woman live two 
thousand years? Why dost thou befool me, O queen?"
 _i_ She _i_ leaned back on the couch, and once more I 
felt the hidden eyes playing upon me and searching out 
my heart.

"O man!" she said at last, speaking very slowly and 
deliberately, "it seems that there are still things 
upon the earth of which thou knowest naught. Dost thou 
still believe that all things die, even as those very 
Jews believed? I tell thee that naught really dies. 
There is no such thing as Death, though there be a 
thing called Change. See," and she pointed to some 
sculptures on the rocky wall. "Three times two 
thousand years have passed since the last of the great 
race that hewed those pictures fell before the breath 
of the pestilence which destroyed them, yet they are 
not dead. E'en now they live; perchance their spirits 
are drawn towards us at this very hour," and she 
glanced round. "Of a surety it sometimes seems to me 
that my eyes can see them."

"Yes, but to the world they are dead." 

"Ay, for a time; but even to the world they are born 
again and again. I, yes I, Ayesha--for that is my 
name, stranger--I say to thee that I wait now for one 
I loved to be born again, and here I tarry till he 
finds me, knowing of a surety that hither he will 
come, and that here, and here only, shall he greet me. 
Why, dost thou suppose that I, who am all powerful, I, 
whose loveliness is more than the loveliness of the 
Grecian Helen, of whom they used to sing, and whose 
wisdom is wider, ay, far more wide and deep than the 
wisdom of Solomon the Wise--I, who know the secrets of 
the earth and its riches, and can turn all things to 
my uses--I, who have even for a while overcome Change, 
that ye call Death--why, I say, O stranger, dost thou 
think that I herd here with barbarians lower than the 

"I know not," I said, humbly. 

"Because I wait for him I love. My life has perchance 
been evil, I know not--for who can say what is evil 
and what good?--so I fear to die even if I could die, 
which I cannot until mine hour comes, to go and seek 
him where he is; for between us there might rise a 
wall I could not climb; at least, I dread it. Surely 
easy would it be also to lose the way in seeking in 
those great spaces wherein the planets wander on 
forever. But the day will come, it may be when five 
thousand more years have passed, and are lost and 
melted into the vault of Time, even as the little 
clouds melt into the gloom of night, or it may be to-
morrow, when he, my love, shall be born again, and 
then, following a law that is stronger than any human 
plan, he shall find me here, where once he knew me, 
and of a surety his heart will soften towards me 
though I sinned against him; ay, even though he know 
me not again, yet will he love me, if only for my 
beauty's sake."

For a moment I was dumbfounded, and could not answer. 
The matter. was too overpowering for my intellect to 

"But even so, O queen," I said at last, "even if we 
men be born again and again, that is not so with thee, 
if thou speakest truly." Here she looked up sharply, 
and once more I caught the flash of those hidden eyes; 
"thou," I went on, hurriedly, "who hast never died?"

"That is so," she said; "and it is so because I have, 
half by chance and half by learning, solved one of the 
great secrets of the world. Tell me, stranger: life 
is--why therefore should not life be lengthened for a 
while? What are ten or twenty or fifty thousand years 
in the history of life? Why in ten thousand years 
scarce will the rain and storms lessen a mountain-top 
by a span in thickness? In two thousand years these 
caves have not changed, nothing has changed, but the 
beasts and man, who is as the beasts. There is naught 
that is wonderful about the matter, couldst thou but 
understand. Life is wonderful, ay, but that it should 
be a little lengthened is not wonderful. Nature hath 
her animating spirit as well as man, who is Nature's 
child, and he who can find that spirit, and let it 
breathe upon him, shall live with her life. He shall 
not live eternally, for Nature is not eternal, and she 
herself must die, even as the nature of the moon hath 
died. _i_ She _i_ herself must die, I say, or rather 
change and sleep till it be time for her to live 
again. But when shall she die? Not yet, I ween, and 
while she lives, so shall he who hath all her secret 
live with her. All I have it not, yet have I some, 
more perchance than any who were before me. Now, to 
thee I doubt not that this thing is a great mystery, 
therefore I will not overcome thee with it now. 
Another time will I tell thee more if the mood be on 
me, though perchance I shall never speak thereof 
again. Dost thou wonder how I knew that ye were coming 
to this land, and so saved your heads from the hot 

"Ay, O queen," I answered, feebly. 

"Then gaze upon that water," and she pointed to the 
font like vessel, and then, bending forward, held her 
hand over it.

I rose and gazed, and instantly the water darkened. 
Then it cleared and I saw as distinctly as I ever saw 
anything in my life--I saw, I say, our boat upon that 
horrible canal. There was Leo lying at the bottom 
asleep in it, with a coat thrown over him to keep off 
the mosquitoes, in such a fashion as to hide his face, 
and myself, Job, and Mahomed towing on the bank.

I stared back aghast, and cried out that it was magic, 
for I recognized the whole scene; it was one which had 
actually occurred,

"Nay, nay, O Holly," she answered, "it is no magic; 
that is a fiction of ignorance. There is no such thing 
as magic, though there is such a thing as knowledge of 
the secrets of Nature. That water is my glass; in it I 
see what passes if I care to summon up the pictures, 
which is not often. Therein I can show thee what thou 
wilt of the past, if it be anything to do with this 
country and with what I have known, or anything that 
thou, the gazer, hast known. Think of a face if thou 
wilt, and it shall be reflected from thy mind upon the 
water. I know not all the secret yet--I can read 
nothing in the future. But it is an old secret; I did 
not find it. In Arabia and in Egypt the sorcerers knew 
it centuries ago. So one day I chanced to bethink me 
of that old canal--some twenty centuries ago I sailed 
upon it, and I was minded to look thereon again. And 
so I looked, and there I saw the boat and three men 
walking, and one, whose face I could not see, but a 
youth of a noble form, sleeping in the boat, and so I 
sent and saved ye. And now, farewell. But stay, tell 
me of this youth--the Lion, as the old man calls him. 
I would look upon him, but he is sick, thou sayest--
sick with the fever, and also wounded in the fray."

"He is very sick," I answered, sadly; "canst thou do 
nothing for him, O queen! who knowest so much?"

"Of a surety I can. I can cure him; but why speakest 
thou so sadly? Doth thou love the youth? Is he 
perchance thy son?"

"He is my adopted son, O queen! Shall he be brought in 
before thee?" 

"Nay. How long hath the fever taken him?"

"This is the third day."

"Good; then let him lie another day. Then will he 
perchance throw it off by his own strength, and that 
is better than that I should cure him, for my medicine 
is of a sort to shake the life in its very citadel. 
If, however, by tomorrow night, at that hour when the 
fever first took him, he doth not begin to mend, then 
will I come to him and cure him. Stay, who nurses 

"Our white servant, him whom Billali names the Pig; 
also," and here I spoke with some little hesitation, 
"a woman named Ustane, a very handsome woman of this 
country, who came and embraced him when first she saw 
him, and hath stayed by him ever since, as I 
understand is the fashion of thy people, O queen."

"My people! speak not to me of my people," she 
answered, hastily;-"these slaves are no people of 
mine, they are but dogs to do my bidding till the day 
of my deliverance comes; and, as for their customs, 
naught have I to do with them. Also, call me not 
queen--I am sick of flattery and titles--call me 
Ayesha, the name hath a sweet sound in mine ears, it 
is an echo from the past. As for this Ustane, I know 
not. I wonder if it be she against whom I was warned, 
and whom I in turn did warn? Hath she--stay, I will 
see"; and, bending forward, she passed her hand over 
the font of water and gazed intently into it. "See," 
she said, quietly, "is that the woman?"

I looked into the water, and there, mirrored upon its 
placid surface, was the silhouette of Ustane's stately 
face. She was bending forward, with a look of infinite 
tenderness upon her features, watching something 
beneath her, and with her chestnut locks falling on to 
her right shoulder.

"It is she," I said, in a low voice, for once more I 
felt much disturbed at this most uncommon sight. "She 
watches Leo asleep."

"Leo!" said Ayesha, in an absent voice; "why, that is 
'lion'. in the Latin tongue. The old man hath named 
happily for once. It is very strange," she went on, 
speaking to herself, "very. So like--but it is not 
possible!" With an impatient gesture she passed her 
hand over the water once more. It darkened, and the 
image vanished silently and mysteriously as it had 
risen, and once more the lamplight, and the lamplight 
only, shone on the placid surface of that limpid, 
living mirror.

"Hast thou aught to ask me before thou goest, O 
Holly?" she said, after a few moments' reflection. "It 
is but a rude life that thou must live here, for these 
people are savages, and know not the ways of 
cultivated man. Not that I am troubled thereby, for, 
behold my food," and she pointed to the fruit upon the 
little table. "Naught but fruit doth ever pass my 
lips--fruit and cakes of flour, and a little water. I 
have bidden my girls to wait upon thee. They are 
mutes, thou knowest, deaf are they and dumb, and 
therefore the safest of servants; save to those who 
can read their faces and their signs. I bred them so--
it hath taken many centuries and much trouble; but 
last I have triumphed. Once I succeeded before, but 
the race was too ugly, so I let it die away; but now, 
as thou seest, they are otherwise. Once, too, I reared 
a race of giants, but after a while Nature would no 
more of it, and it died away. Hast thou aught to ask 
of me?" 

"Ay, one thing, O Ayesha," I said, boldly; but feeling 
by no means as bold as I trust I looked. "I would gaze 
upon thy face."

She laughed out in her bell-like notes. "Bethink thee, 
Holly," she answered; "bethink thee. It seems that 
thou knowest the old myths of the gods of Greece. Was 
there not one Actaeon who perished miserably because 
he looked on too much beauty? If I show thee my face, 
perchance thou wouldst perish miserably also; 
perchance thou wouldst eat out thy heart in impotent 
desire; for know I am not for thee--I am for no man, 
save one, who hath been, but is not yet."

"As thou wilt, Ayesha," I said. "I fear not thy 
beauty. I have put my heart away from such vanity as 
woman's loveliness, that passes like a flower."

"Nay, thou errest," she said; "that does not pass. My 
beauty endures even as I endure; still if thou wilt, O 
rash man, have thy will; but blame not me if passion 
mount thy reason, as the Egyptian breakers used to 
mount a colt, and guide it whither thou wilt not. 
Never may the man to whom my beauty hath been unveiled 
put it from his mind, and therefore even with these 
savages do I go veiled, lest they vex me, and I should 
slay them. Say, wilt thou see?"

"I will," I answered, my curiosity overpowering me.

She lifted her white and rounded arms--never had I 
seen such arms before-and slowly, very slowly, 
withdrew some fastening beneath her hair. Then all of 
a sudden the long, corpse-like wrappings fell from her 
to the ground, and my eyes travelled up her form, now 
only robed in a garb of clinging white that did but 
serve to show its perfect and imperial shape, instinct 
with a life that was more than life, and with a 
certain serpent-like grace that was more than human. 
On her little feet were sandals, fastened with studs 
of gold. Then came ankles more perfect than ever 
sculptor dreamed of. About the waist her white kirtle 
was fastened by a double-headed snake of solid gold, 
above which her gracious form swelled up in lines as 
pure as they were lovely, till the kirtle ended on the 
snowy argent of her breast, whereon her arms were 
folded. I gazed above them at her face, and--I do not 
exaggerate shrank back blinded and amazed. I have 
heard of the beauty of celestial beings, now I saw it; 
only this beauty, with all its awful loveliness and 
purity, was evil--at least, at the time, it struck me 
as evil. How am I to describe it? I cannot--simply, I 
cannot! The man does not live whose pen could convey a 
sense of what I saw. I might talk of the great 
changing eyes of deepest, softest black, of the tinted 
face, of the broad and noble brow; on which the hair 
grew low, and delicate, straight features. But, 
beautiful, surpassingly beautiful as they all were, 
her loveliness did not lie in them. It lay rather, if 
it can be said to have had any fixed abiding-place, in 
a visible majesty, in an imperial grace, in a godlike 
stamp of softened power, which shone upon that radiant 
countenance like a living halo. Never before had I 
guessed what beauty made sublime could be, and yet the 
sublimity was a dark one; the glory was not all of 
heaven, though none the less was it glorious. Though 
the face before me was that of a young woman of 
certainly not more than thirty years, in perfect 
health, and the first flush of ripened beauty, yet it 
had stamped upon it a look of unutterable experience, 
and of deep acquaintance with grief and passion. Not 
even the lovely smile that crept about the dimples of 
her mouth could hide this shadow of sin and sorrow. It 
shone even in the light of the glorious eyes, it was 
present in the air of majesty, and it seemed to say: 
"Behold me, lovely as no woman was or is, undying and 
half divine; memory haunts me from age to age, and 
passion leads me by the hand; evil have I done, and 
with sorrow have I made acquaintance from age to age, 
and from age to age evil I shall do, and sorrow shall 
I know till my redemption comes."

Drawn by some magnetic force which I could not resist, 
I let my eyes rest upon her shining orbs, and felt a 
current pass from them to me that bewildered and half 
blinded me.

She laughed--ah, how musically! and nodded her little 
head at me with an air of sublimated coquetry that 
would have done credit to a Venus Victrix.

"Rash man!" she said; "like Actaeon, thou hast had thy 
will; be careful lest, like Actaeon, thou too dost 
perish miserably, torn to pieces by the ban-hounds of 
thine own passions. I too, O Holly, am a virgin 
goddess, not to be moved of any man, save one, and it 
is not thou. Say, hast thou seen enough?"

"I have looked on beauty, and I am blinded," I said, 
hoarsely, lifting my hand to cover up my eyes.

"So! what did I tell thee? Beauty is like the 
lightning; it is lovely, but it destroys--specially 
trees, O Holly!" And again she nodded and laughed.

Suddenly she paused, and through my fingers I saw an 
awful change come over her countenance. Her great eyes 
suddenly fixed themselves into an expression in which 
horror seemed to struggle with some tremendous hope 
arising through the depths of her dark soul. The 
lovely face grew rigid, and the gracious, willowy form 
seemed to erect itself.

"Man," she half whispered, half hissed, throwing back 
her head like a snake about to strike--"man, where 
didst thou get that scarab on thy hand? Speak, or by 
the Spirit of Life I will blast thee where thou 
standest!" and she took one light step towards me, and 
from her eyes there shone such an awful light--to me 
it seemed almost like a flame--that I fell, then and 
there, on the ground before her, babbling confusedly 
in my terror.

"Peace," she said, with a sudden change of manner, and 
speaking in her former soft voice, "I did affright 
thee! Forgive me! But at times, O Holly, the almost 
infinite mind grows impatient of the slowness of the 
very finite, and I am tempted to use my power out of 
pure vexation--very nearly wast thou dead, but I 
remembered--But the scarab--about the scarabaeus!"

"I picked it up," I gurgled feebly, as I got on to my 
feet again, and it is a solemn fact that my mind was 
so disturbed that at the moment I could remember 
nothing else about the ring except that I had picked 
it up in Leo's cave.

"It is very strange," she said, with a sudden access 
of woman-like trembling and agitation which seemed out 
of place in this awful woman--"but once I knew a 
scarab like that. It--hung round the neck--of one I 
loved," and she gave a little sob, and I saw that 
after all she was only a woman, although she might be 
a very old one. "There," she went on, "it must be one 
like it, and yet never did I see one like it, for 
thereto hung a history, and he who wrote it prized it 
much. But the scarab that I knew was not set thus in 
the bezel of a ring. Go now, Holly, go, and, if thou 
canst, try to forget that thou hast looked upon 
Ayesha's beauty," and, turning from me, she flung 
herself on her couch, and buried her face in the 

As for me, I stumbled from her presence, and I do not 
remember how I reached my own cave.



It was nearly ten o'clock at night when I cast myself 
down upon my bed, and began to gather my scattered 
wits, and reflect upon what I had seen and heard. But 
the more I reflected the less I could make of it. Was 
I mad, or drunk, or dreaming, or was I merely the 
victim of a gigantic and most elaborate hoax? How was 
it possible that I, a rational man, not unacquainted 
with the leading scientific facts of our history, and 
hitherto an absolute and utter disbeliever in all the 
hocus-pocus that in Europe goes by the name of the 
supernatural, could believe that I had, within the 
last few minutes, been engaged in conversation with a 
woman two thousand and odd years old? The thing was 
contrary to the experience of human nature, and 
absolutely and utterly impossible. It must be a hoax; 
and yet, if it were a hoax, what was I to make of it? 
What, too, was to be said of the figures on the water, 
of the woman's extraordinary acquaintance with the 
remote past, and, her ignorance, or apparent 
ignorance, of any subsequent history? What, too, of 
her wonderful and awful loveliness? This, at any rate, 
was a patent fact, and beyond the experience of the 
world. No merely mortal woman could shine with such a 
supernatural radiance. About that she had, at any 
rate, been in the right--it was not safe for any man 
to look upon such beauty. I was a hardened vessel in 
such matters, having, with the exception of one 
painful experience of my green and tender youth, put 
the softer sex (I sometimes think that this is a 
misnomer) almost entirely out of my thoughts. But now, 
to my intense horror, I _i_ knew _i_ that I could 
never put away the vision of those glorious eyes; and, 
alas! the very _i_ diablerie _i_ of the woman, while 
it horrified and repelled, attracted in even a greater 
degree. A person with the experience of two thousand 
years at her back, with the command of such tremendous 
powers and the knowledge of a mystery that could hold 
off death, was certainly worth falling in love with, 
if ever woman was. But, alas! it was not a question of 
whether or not she was worth it, for, so far as I 
could judge, not being versed in such matters, I, a 
fellow of my college, noted for what my acquaintances 
are pleased to call my misogyny, and a respectable man 
now well on in middle life, had fallen absolutely and 
hopelessly in love with this white sorceress. 
Nonsense; it must be nonsense! She had warned me 
fairly, and I had refused to take the warning. Curses 
on the fatal curiosity that is ever prompting man to 
draw the veil from woman, and curses on the natural 
impulse that begets it! It is the cause of half--ay, 
and more than half, of our misfortunes. Why cannot man 
be content to live alone and be happy, and let the 
women live alone and be happy too? but perhaps they 
would not be happy, and I am not sure that we should 
either. Here was a nice state of affairs. I, at my 
age, to fall a victim to this modern Circe! But then 
she was not modern, at least she said not. She was 
almost as ancient as the original Circe.

I tore my hair, and jumped up from my couch, feeling 
that if I did not do something I should go off my 
head. What did she mean about the scarabaeus too? It 
was Leo's scarabaeus, and had come out of the old 
coffer that Vincey had left in my rooms nearly one-
and-twenty years before. Could it be, after all, that 
the whole story was true, and the writing on the sherd 
was not a forgery, or the invention of some crack 
brained, long-forgotten individual? And if so, could 
it be that _i_ Leo _i_ was the man that _i_ She _i_ 
was waiting for--the dead man who was to be born 
again? Impossible again! The whole thing was 
gibberish! Who ever heard of a man being born again?

But if it were possible that a woman could exist for 
two thousand years, this might be possible also--
anything might be possible. I myself might, for aught 
I knew, be a reincarnation of some other forgotten 
self, or perhaps the last of a long line of ancestral 
selves. Well, _i_ vive la guerre! _i_ why not? Only, 
unfortunately, I had no recollection of these previous 
conditions. The idea was so absurd to me that I burst 
out laughing, and, addressing the sculptured picture 
of a grim-looking warrior on the cave wall, called out 
to him aloud, "Who knows, Old fellow?--perhaps I was 
your contemporary. By Jove! perhaps I was you and you 
are I," and then I laughed again at my own folly, and 
the sound of my laughter rang dismally along the 
vaulted roof, as though the ghost of the warrior had 
uttered the ghost of a laugh.

Next I bethought me that I had not been to see how Leo 
was, so, taking up one of the lamps which was burning 
at my bedside, I slipped off my shoes and crept down 
the passage to the entrance of his sleeping-cave. The 
draught of the night air was lifting his curtain to 
and fro gently, as though spirit hands were drawing 
and redrawing it. I slid into the vault like 
apartment, and looked round. There was a light by 
which I could see that Leo was lying on the couch, 
tossing restlessly in his fever, but asleep. At his 
side, half-lying on the floor, half-leaning against 
the stone couch, was Ustane. She held his hand in one 
of hers, but she too was dozing, and the two made a 
pretty, or rather a pathetic, picture. Poor Leo! his 
cheek was burning red, there were dark shadows beneath 
his eyes, and his breath came heavily. He was very, 
very ill; and again the horrible fear seized me that 
he might die, and I be left alone in the world. And 
yet if he lived he would perhaps be my rival with 
Ayesha; even if he were not the man, what chance 
should I, middle-aged and hideous, have against his 
bright youth and beauty? Well, thank Heaven! my sense 
of right was not dead. _i_ She _i_ had not killed that 
yet; and, as I stood there, I prayed to the Almighty 
in my heart that my boy, my more than son, might live-
-ay, even if he proved to be the man.

Then I went back as softly as I had come, but still I 
could not sleep; the sight and thought of dear Leo 
lying there so ill had but added fuel to the fire of 
my unrest. My wearied body and overstrained mind 
awakened all my imagination into preternatural 
activity. Ideas, visions, almost inspirations, floated 
before it with startling vividness. Most of them were 
grotesque enough, some were ghastly, some recalled 
thoughts and sensations that had for years been buried 
in the _i_ de'bris _i_ of my past life. But behind and 
above them all hovered the shape of that awful woman, 
and through them gleamed the memory of her entrancing 
loveliness. Up and down the cave I strode--up and 

Suddenly I observed, what I had not noticed before, 
that there was a narrow aperture in the rocky wall. I 
took up the lamp and examined it; the aperture led to 
a passage. Now, I was still sufficiently sensible to 
remember that it is not pleasant, in such a situation 
as ours was, to have passages running into one's bed-
chamber from no one knows where. If there are 
passages, people can come up them; they can come up 
when one is asleep. Partly to see where it went to, 
and partly from a restless desire to be doing 
something, I followed the passage. It led to a stone 
stair, which I descended; the stair ended in another 
passage, or rather tunnel, also hewn out of the bed-
rock, and running, so far as I could judge, exactly 
beneath the gallery that led to the entrance of our 
rooms, and across the great central cave. I went on 
down it: it was as silent as the grave, but still, 
drawn by some sensation or attraction that I cannot 
describe, I followed on, my stockinged feet falling 
without noise on the smooth and rocky floor. When I 
had traversed some fifty yards of space, I came to 
another passage running at right angles, and here an 
awful thing happened to me: the sharp draught caught 
my lamp and extinguished it, leaving me in utter 
darkness in the bowels of that mysterious place. I 
took a couple of strides forward so as to clear the 
bisecting tunnel, being terribly afraid lest I should 
turn up it in the dark if once I got confused as to 
the direction, and then paused to think. What was I to 
do? I had no match; it seemed awful to attempt that 
long journey back through the utter gloom, and yet I 
could not stand there all night, and, if I did, 
probably it would not help me much, for in the bowels 
of the rock it would be as dark at midday as at 
midnight. I looked back over my shoulder--not a sight 
or a sound. I peered forward down the darkness: 
surely, far away, I saw something like the faint glow 
of fire. Perhaps it was a cave where I could get a 
light--at any rate, it was worth investigating. Slowly 
and painfully I crept along the tunnel, keeping my 
hand against its wall, and feeling at every step with 
my foot before I put it down, fearing lest I should 
fall into some pit. Thirty paces--there was a light, a 
broad light that came and went, shining through 
curtains! Fifty paces--it was close at hand! Sixty--
oh, great heaven! 

I was at the curtains, and they did not hang close, so 
I could see clearly into the little cavern beyond 
them. It had all the appearance of being a tomb, and 
was lit up by a fire that burned in its centre with a 
whitish flame and without smoke. Indeed, there, to the 
left, was a stone shelf with a little ledge to it 
three inches or so high, and on the shelf lay what I 
took to be a corpse; at any rate, it looked like one, 
with something white thrown over it. To the right was 
a similar shelf, on which lay some broidered 
coverings. Over the fire bent the figure of a woman; 
she was sideways to me and facing the corpse, wrapped 
in a dark mantle that hid her like a nun's cloak. She 
seemed to be staring at the flickering flame. 
Suddenly, as I was trying to make up my mind what to 
do, with a convulsive movement that somehow gave an 
impression of despairing energy, the woman rose to her 
feet and cast the dark cloak from her. 

It was _i_ She _i_ herself!

She was clothed, as I had seen her when she unveiled, 
in the kirtle of clinging white, cut low upon her 
bosom, and bound in at the waist with the barbaric 
double-headed snake, and, as before, her rippling 
black hair fell in heavy masses down her back. But her 
face was what caught my eye, and held me as in a vise, 
not this time by the force of its beauty, but by the 
power of fascinated terror. The beauty was still 
there, indeed, but the agony, the blind passion, and 
the awful vindictiveness displayed upon those 
quivering features, and in the tortured look of the 
upturned eyes, were such as surpass my powers of 

For a moment she stood still, her hands raised high 
above her head, and as she did so the white robe 
slipped from her down to her golden girdle, baring the 
blinding loveliness of her form. She stood there, her 
fingers clenched, and the awful look of malevolence 
gathered and deepened on her face.

Suddenly, I thought of what would happen if she 
discovered me, and the reflection made me turn sick 
and faint. But even if I had known that I must die if 
I stopped, I do not believe that I could have moved, 
for I was absolutely fascinated. But still I knew my 
danger. Supposing she should hear me, or see me 
through the curtain, supposing I even sneezed, or that 
her magic told her that she was being watched--swift 
indeed would be my doom.

Down came the clinched hands to her sides, then up 
again above her head, and, as I am a living and 
honorable man, the white flame of the fire leaped up 
after them, almost to the roof, throwing a fierce and 
ghastly glare upon _i_ She _i_ herself, upon the white 
figure beneath the covering, and every scroll and 
detail of the rock work.

Down came the ivory arms again, and as they did so she 
spoke, or rather hissed, in Arabic, in a note that 
curdled my blood, and for a second stopped my heart,

"Curse her, may she be everlastingly accursed."

The arms fell and the flame sank. Up they went again, 
and the broad tongue of fire shot up after them; then 
again they fell.

"Curse her memory--accursed be the memory of the 

Up again, and again down.

"Curse her, the fair daughter of the Nile, because of 
her beauty.

"Curse her, because her magic hath prevailed against 

"Curse her, because she kept my beloved from me."

And again the flame dwindled and shrank.

She put her hands before her eyes, and, abandoning the 
hissing tone, cried aloud:

"What is the use of cursing?--she prevailed, and she 
is gone."

Then she commenced with an even more frightful energy:

"Curse her where she is. Let my curses reach her where 
she is and disturb her rest.

"Curse her through the starry spaces. Let her shadow 
be accursed.

"Let my power find her even there.

"Let her hear me even there, Let her hide herself in 
the blackness.

"Let her go down into the pit of despair, because I 
shall one day find her."

Again the flame fell, and again she covered her eyes 
with her hands.

"It is no use--no use," she wailed; "who can reach 
those who sleep? Not even I can reach them."

Then once more she began her unholy rites.

"Curse her when she shall be born again. Let her be 
born accursed.

"Let her be utterly accursed from the hour of her 
birth until sleep finds her.

"Yea, then, let her be accursed; for then shall I 
overtake her with my vengeance, and utterly destroy 

And so on. The flame rose and fell, reflecting itself 
in her agonized eyes; the hissing sound of her 
terrible maledictions, and no words of mine, 
especially on paper, can convey how terrible they 
were, ran round the walls and died away in little 
echoes, and the fierce light and deep gloom alternated 
themselves on the white and dreadful form stretched 
upon that bier of stone.

But at length she seemed to wear herself out, and 
ceased. She sat herself down upon the rocky floor, and 
shook the dense cloud of her beautiful hair over her 
face and breast, and began to sob terribly in the 
torture of a heart-rending despair.

"Two thousand years," she moaned, "two thousand years 
have I waited and endured; but though century doth 
still creep on to century, and time give place to 
time, the sting of memory hath not lessened, the light 
of hope doth not shine more bright. Oh! to have lived 
two thousand years, with my passion eating at my 
heart, and with my sin ever before me. Oh, that for me 
life cannot bring forgetfulness! Oh, for the weary 
years that have. been and are yet to come, and 
evermore to come, endless and without end!

"My love! my love! my love! Why did that stranger 
bring thee back to me after this sort? For five 
hundred years I have not suffered thus. Oh, if I 
sinned against thee, have I not wiped away the sin? 
When wilt thou come back to me who have all, and yet 
without thee have naught? What is there that I can do? 
What? What? What? And perchance she--perchance that 
Egyptian doth abide with thee where thou art, and mock 
my memory. Oh, why could I not die with thee, I who 
slew thee? Alas, that I cannot die! Alas! Alas!" and 
she flung herself prone upon the ground, and sobbed 
and wept until I thought her heart must burst.

Suddenly she ceased, raised herself to her feet, 
rearranged her robe, and, tossing back her long locks 
impatiently, swept across to where the figure lay upon 
the stone.

"Oh, Kallikrates,". she cried, and I trembled at the 
name, "I must look upon thy face again, though it be 
agony. It is a generation since I looked upon thee 
whom I slew--slew with mine own hand," and with 
trembling fingers she seized the corner of the 
sheetlike wrapping that covered the form upon the 
stone bier, and then paused. When she spoke again, it 
was in a kind of awed whisper, as though her idea were 
terrible even to herself.

"Shall I raise thee," she said, apparently addressing 
the corpse, "so that thou standest there before me, as 
of old? I can do it." and she held out her hands over 
the sheeted dead, while her whole frame became rigid 
and terrible to see, and her eyes grew fixed and dull. 
I shrank in horror behind the curtain, my hair stood 
up upon my head, and--whether it was my imagination or 
a fact I am unable to say, but I thought that the 
quiet form beneath the covering began to quiver, and 
the winding sheet to lift as though it lay on the 
breast of one who slept. Suddenly she withdrew her 
hands, and the motion of the corpse seemed to me to 

"What is the use?" she said, gloomily. "Of what use is 
it to recall the semblance of life if I cannot recall 
the spirit. Even if thou stoodest before me thou 
wouldst not know me, and couldst but do what I bid 
thee. The life in thee would be my life, and not thy 
life, Kallikrates."

For a moment she stood there brooding, and then cast 
herself down on her knees beside the form, and began 
to press her lips against the sheet, and weep. There 
was something so horrible about the sight of this awe-
inspiring woman letting loose her passion on the dead-
-so much more horrible even than anything that had 
gone before, that I could no longer bear to look at it 
and, turning, began to creep, shaking as I was in 
every limb, slowly along the pitch-dark passage, 
feeling in my trembling heart that I had had a vision 
of a soul in Hell.

On I stumbled, I scarcely know how. Twice I fell, once 
I turned up the bisecting passage, but fortunately 
found out my mistake in time. For twenty minutes or 
more I crept along, till at last it occurred to me 
that I must have passed the little stair by which I 
descended. So, utterly exhausted, and nearly 
frightened to death, I sank down at length there on 
the stone flooring, and passed into oblivion.

When I came to I noticed a faint ray of light in the 
passage just behind me. I crept to it, and found it 
was the little stair down which the weak dawn was 
stealing. Passing up it, I gained my chamber in 
safety, and, flinging myself on the couch, was soon 
lost in slumber, or rather stupor.



THE next thing that I remember was opening my eyes and 
perceiving the form of Job, who had now practically 
recovered from his attack of fever. He was standing in 
the ray of light that pierced into the cave from the 
outer air, shaking out my clothes as a makeshift for 
brushing them, which he could not do because there was 
no brush, and then folding them up neatly and laying 
them on the foot of the stone couch. This done, he got 
my travelling dressing-case out of the Gladstone bag, 
and opened it ready for my use. First, he stood it on 
the foot of the couch also, then, being afraid, I 
suppose, that I should kick it off, he placed it on a 
leopard skin on the floor, and stood back a step or 
two to observe the effect. It was not satisfactory, so 
he shut up the bag, turned it on end, and, having 
rested it against the foot of the conch, placed the 
dressing-case on it. Next, he looked at the pots full 
of water, which constituted our washing apparatus. 
"Ah!" I heard him murmur, "no hot water in this 
beastly place. I suppose these poor creatures only use 
it to boil each other in," and he sighed deeply.

"What is the matter, Job?" I said. 

"Beg pardon, sir," he said, touching his hair. "I 
thought you were asleep, sir; and I am sure you look 
as though you want it. One might think from the look 
of you that you had been having a night of it."

I only groaned by way of answer. I had, indeed, been 
having a night of it, such as I hope never to have 

"How is Mr. Leo, Job?"

"Much the same, sir. If he don't soon mend, he'll end, 
sir; and that's all about it; though I must say that 
that there savage, Ustane, do do her best for him; 
almost like a baptized Christian. She is always 
hanging round and looking after him, and if I ventures 
to interfere, it's awful to see her; her hair seems to 
stand on end, and she curses and swears away in her 
heathen talk--at least I fancy she must be cursing 
from the look of her."

"And what do you do then?"

"I make her a perlite bow, and I say, 'Young woman, 
your position is one that I don't quite understand, 
and can't recognize. Let me tell you that I has a duty 
to perform to my master as is incapacitated by 
illness, and that I am going to perform it until I am 
incapacitated too ; but she don't take no heed, not 
she--only curses and swears away worse than ever. Last 
night she put her hand under that sort of nightshirt 
she wears and whips out a knife with a kind of a curl 
in the blade, so I whips out my revolver, and we walks 
round and round each other till at last she bursts out 
laughing. It isn't nice treatment for a Christian man 
to have to put up with from a savage, however handsome 
she may be, but it is what people must expect as is 
fools enough" (Job laid great emphasis on the "fools") 
"to come to such a place to look for things no man is 
meant to find. It's a judgment on us, sir--that's my 
opinion; and I, for one, is of opinion that the 
judgment isn't half done yet, and when it is done, we 
shall be done too, and just stop in these beastly 
caves with the ghosts and the corpses for once and 
all. And now, sir, I must be seeing about Mr. Leo's 
broth, if that wild-cat will let me; and perhaps you 
would like to get up, sir, because it's past nine 

Job's remarks were not of an exactly cheering order to 
a man who had passed such a night as I had; and, what 
is more, they had the weight of truth. Taking one 
thing with another, it appeared to me to be an utter 
impossibility that we should escape from the place 
where we were. Supposing that Leo recovered, and 
supposing that _i_ She _i_ would let us go, which was 
exceedingly doubtful, and that she did not "blast" us 
in some moment of vexation, and that we were not hot-
potted by the Amahagger, it would be quite impossible 
for us to find our way across the network of marshes 
which, stretching for scores and scores of miles, 
formed a stronger and more impassable fortification 
round the various Amahagger households than any that 
could be built or designed by man. No, there was but 
one thing to do--face it out; and, speaking for my own 
part, I was so intensely interested in the whole weird 
story that, so far as I was concerned, notwithstanding 
the shattered state of my nerves, I asked nothing 
better, even if my life paid forfeit to my curiosity. 
What man for whom psychology has charms could forbear 
to study such a character as that of this Ayesha when 
the opportunity of doing so presented itself? The very 
terror of the pursuit added to its fascination, and 
besides, as I as forced to own to myself even now in 
the sober light of day, she herself had attractions 
that I could not forget. Not even the dreadful sight 
which I had witnessed during the night could drive the 
folly from my mind; and alas! that I should have to 
admit it, it has not been driven thence to this hour.

After I had dressed myself I passed into the eating, 
or, rather, embalming chamber, and had some food, 
which was, as before, brought to me by the girl mutes. 
When I had finished. I went and saw poor Leo, who was 
quite off his head, and did not even know me. I asked 
Ustane how she thought he was; but she only shook her 
head and began to cry a little. Evidently her hopes 
were small; and I then and there made up my mind that, 
if it were in any way possible, I would get _i_ She 
_i_ to come and see him. Surely she could cure him if 
she chose--at any rate, she said she could. While I 
was in the room, Billali entered, and also shook his 

"He will die at night," he said.

"God forbid, my father," I answered, and turned away 
with a heavy heart.

" _i_ She-who-must-be-obeyed _i_ commands thy 
presence, my Baboon," said the old man as soon as we 
got to the curtain; "but, O my dear son, be more 
careful. Yesterday I made sure in my heart that _i_ 
She _i_ would blast thee when thou didst not crawl 
upon thy stomach before her. _i_ She _i_ is sitting in 
the great hall even now to do justice upon those who 
would have smitten thee and the Lion. Come on, my son; 
come swiftly."

I turned, and followed him down the passage, and when 
we reached the great central cave saw that many 
Amahagger, some robed, and some merely clad in the 
sweet simplicity of a leopard skin, were hurrying up 
it. We mingled with the throng, and walked up the 
enormous and, indeed, almost interminable cave. All 
the way its walls were elaborately sculptured, and 
every twenty paces or so passages opened out of it at 
right angles, leading, Billali told me, to tombs, 
hollowed in the rock by "the people who were before." 
Nobody visited those tombs now, he said; and I must 
say that my heart rejoiced when I thought of the 
opportunities of antiquarian research which opened out 
before me.

At last we came to the head of the cave, where there 
was a rock dais almost exactly similar to the one on 
which we had been so furiously attacked, a fact that 
proved to me that these daises must have been used as 
altars, probably for the celebration of religious 
ceremonies, and more especially of rites connected 
with the interment of the dead. On either side of this 
dais were passages leading, Billali informed me, to 
other caves full of dead bodies. "Indeed," he added, 
"the whole mountain is full of dead, and nearly all of 
them are perfect."

In front of the dais were gathered a great number of 
people of both sexes, who stood staring about in their 
peculiar gloomy fashion, which would have reduced Mark 
Tapley himself to misery in about five minutes. On the 
dais was a rude chair of black wood inlaid with ivory, 
having a seat made of grass fibre, and a footstool 
formed of a wooden slab attached to the framework of 
the chair.

Suddenly there was a cry of " _i_ Hiya! Hiya! _i_ " (" 
_i_ She _i_ ! _i_ She _i_ !"), and thereupon the 
entire crowd of spectators instantly precipitated 
itself upon the ground, and lay still as though it 
were individually and collectively stricken dead, 
leaving me standing there like some solitary survivor 
of a massacre. As it did so a long string of guards 
began to defile from a passage to the left, and ranged 
themselves on either side of the dais. Then followed 
about a score of male mutes, then as many women mutes 
bearing lamps, and then a tall, white figure, swatbed 
from head to foot, in whom I recognized _i_ She _i_ 
herself. _i_ She _i_ mounted the dais and sat-down 
upon the chair, and spoke to me in Greek. I suppose 
because she did not wish those present to understand 
what she said.

"Come hither, O Holly," she said, "and sit thou at my 
feet, and see me do justice on those who would have 
slain thee. Forgive me if my Greek doth halt like a 
lame man; it is so long since I have heard the sound 
of it that my tongue is stiff, and will not bend 
rightly to the words."

I bowed, and, mounting the dais, sat down at her feet.

"How didst thou sleep, my Holly?" she asked.

"I slept not well, O Ayesha!" I answered with perfect 
truth, and with an inward fear that perhaps she knew 
how I had passed the heart of the night.

"So," she said, with a little laugh, "I, too, have. 
not slept well. Lest night I had dreams, and, methinks 
that thou didst call them to me, O Holly."

"Of what didst thou dream, Ayesha?" I asked, 

"I dreamed," she answered, quickly, "of one I hate and 
one I love," and then, as though to turn the 
conversation, she addressed the captain of her guard 
in Arabic: "Let the men be brought before me."

The captain bowed low, for the guard and her 
attendants did not prostrate themselves, but had 
remained standing, and departed with his underlings 
down a passage to the right.

Then came a silence. _i_ She _i_ leaned her swathed 
head upon her hand and appeared to be lost in thought, 
while the multitude before her continued to grovel 
upon their stomachs, only screwing their heads round a 
little so as to get a view of us with one eye. It 
seemed that their queen so rarely appeared in public 
that they were willing to undergo this inconvenience, 
and even graver risks, to have the opportunity of 
looking on her, or rather on her garments, for no 
living man there except myself had ever seen her face. 
At last we caught sight of the waving of lights, and 
heard the tramp of men coming along the passage, and 
in filed the guard, and with them the survivors of our 
would-be murderers to the number of twenty or more, on 
whose countenances the natural expression of 
sullenness struggled with the terror that evidently 
filled their savage hearts. They were ranged in front 
of the dais, and would have cast themselves down on 
the floor of the cave like the spectators, but _i_ She 
_i_ stopped them.

"Nay," she said, in her softest voice, I pray you 
stand. Perchance time will soon be when ye shall weary 
of being stretched out," she laughed, melodiously. I 
saw a cringe of terror run along the of the poor, 
doomed wretches, wicked villains as they were, I felt 
for them. Some minutes, perhaps two or three, passed 
before anything occurred, during which _i_ She _i_ 
apppeared from the movement of her head, of course, we 
could not see her face, to be slowly and carefully 
examining each delinquent. At last she spoke, 
addressing herself to me, in a quiet and deliberate 

"Dost thou, O my guest, who art known in thine own 
country by the name of the Prickly Tree, recognize 
these men?"

"Ay, O queen, nearly all of them," I said, and I saw 
them glower at me as I said it.

"Then tell to me, and this great company, the tale 
whereof I have heard."

Thus adjured, I, in as few words as I could, related 
the history of the cannibal feast, and of the 
attempted torture of our poor servant. The narrative 
was received in perfect silence, both by the accused 
and by the audience, and also by _i_ She _i_ herself. 
When I had done, Ayesha called upon Billali by name, 
and, lifting his head from the ground, but without 
rising, the old man confirmed my story. No further 
evidence was taken.

"Ye have heard," said _i_ She _i_ , at length, in a 
cold, clear voice, very different from her usual 
tones--indeed, it was one of the most remarkable 
things about this extraordinary creature that her 
voice had the power of suiting itself in a wonderful 
manner to the mood of the moment. "What have ye to 
say, ye rebellions children, why vengeance should not 
be done upon you?"

For some time there was no answer, but at last one of 
the men, a fine, broad-chested fellow, well on in 
middle life, with deep-graven features and an eye like 
a hawk's, spoke, and said that the orders that they 
had received were not to harm the white men; nothing 
was said of their black servant, so, egged on thereto 
by a woman who was now dead, they proceeded to try to 
hot-pot him after the ancient and honorable custom of 
their country, with a view of eating him in due 
course. As for the attack upon ourselves, it was made 
in an access of sudden fury, and they deeply regretted 
it. He ended by humbly praying that mercy might be 
extended to them; or, at least, that they might be 
banished into the swamps, to live or die as it might 
chance; but I saw it written on his face that he had 
but little hope of mercy.

Then came a pause, and the most intense silence 
reigned over the whole scene, which, illuminated as it 
was by the flicker of the lamps striking out broad 
patterns of light and shadow upon the rocky walls, was 
as strange as any I ever saw, even in that unholy 
land. Upon the ground before the dais were stretched 
scores of the corpselike forms of the spectators, till 
at last the long lines of them were lost in the gloomy 
background. Before this outstretched audience were the 
knots of evil-doers, trying to cover up their natural 
terrors with a brave appearance of unconcern. On the 
right and left stood the silent guards, robed in white 
and armed with great spears and daggers, and men and 
women mutes watching with hard, curious eyes. Then, 
seated in her barbaric chair above them all, with 
myself at her feet, was the veiled white woman, whose 
loveliness and awesome power seemed to visibly shine 
about her like a halo, or rather like the glow from 
some unseen light. Never have I seen her veiled shape 
look more terrible than it did in that space, while 
she gathered herself up for vengeance.

At last it came.

"Dogs and serpents," _i_ She _i_ began, in a low voice 
that gradually gathered power as she went on till the 
place rang with it. "Eaters of human flesh, two things 
have ye done. First, ye have attacked these strangers, 
being white men, and would have slain their servant, 
and for that alone death is your reward. But that is 
not all. Ye have dared to disobey me. Did I not send 
my word unto you by Billali, my servant, and the 
father of your household? Did I not bid you to 
hospitably entertain these strangers, whom now ye have 
striven to slay, and whom, had not they been brave and 
strong beyond the strength of men, ye would cruelly 
have murdered? Hath it not been taught to you from 
childhood that the law of _i_ She _i_ is an ever-fixed 
law, and that he who breaketh it by so much as one jot 
or tittle shall perish? And is not my lightest word a 
law? Have not your fathers taught you this, I say, 
while as yet ye were but children? Do ye not know that 
as well might ye bid these great caves to fall upon 
you, or the sun to cease its journeying, as to hope to 
turn me from my courses, or make my word light or 
heavy, according to your minds? Well do ye know it, ye 
wicked ones. But ye are all evil--evil to the core--
the wickedness bubbles up in you like a fountain in 
the spring-time. Were it not for me, generations since 
had ye ceased to be, for of your own evil way had ye 
destroyed each other. And now, because ye have done 
this thing, because ye have striven to put these men, 
my guests, to death, and yet more because ye have 
dared to disobey my word, this is the doom that I doom 
you to. That ye be taken to the cave of torture, and 
given over to the tormentors, and that on the going 
down of to-morrow's sun those of you who yet remain 
alive be slain, even as ye would have slain the 
servant of this my guest."
_i_ She _i_ ceased, and a faint murmur of horror ran 
round the cave. As for the victims, as soon as they 
realized the full hideousness of their doom, their 
stoicism forsook them, and they flung themselves down 
upon the ground, and wept and implored for mercy in a 
way that was dreadful to behold. I, too, turned to 
Ayesha, and begged her to spare them, or at least to 
mete out their fate in some less awful way. But she 
was hard as adamant about it.

"My Holly," she said, again speaking in Greek, which, 
to tell the truth, although I have always been 
considered a better scholar of that language than most 
men, I found it rather difficult to follow, chiefly 
because of the change in the fall of the accent. 
Ayesha, of course, talked with the accent of her 
contemporaries, whereas we have only tradition and the 
modern accent to guide us as to the exact 
pronunciation--"My Holly, it cannot be. Were I to show 
mercy to those wolves, your lives would not be safe 
among this people for a day. Thou knowest them not. 
They are tigers to lap blood, and even now they hunger 
for your lives. How thinkest thou that I rule this 
people? I have but a regiment of guards to do my 
bidding, therefore it is not by force. It is by 
terror. My empire is of the imagination. Once in a 
generation mayhap I do as I have done but now, and 
slay a score by torture. Believe not that I would be 
cruel, or take vengeance on anything so low. What can 
it profit me to be avenged on such as these? Those who 
live long, my Holly, have no passions, save where they 
have interests. Though I may seem to slay in wrath, or 
because my mood is crossed, it is not so. Thou hast 
seen how in the heavens the little clouds blow this 
way and that without a cause, yet behind them is the 
great wind sweeping on its path whither it listeth. So 
is it with me, O Holly. My moods and changes are the 
little clouds, and fitfully these seem. to turn; but 
behind them ever blows the great wind of my purpose. 
Nay, the men must die; and die as I have said." Then, 
suddenly turning to the captain of the guard-"As my 
word is, so be it!"



AFTER the prisoners had been removed, Ayesha waved her 
hand, and the spectators turned round, and began to 
crawl off down the cave like a scattered flock of 
sheep. When they were a fair distance from the dais, 
however, they rose and walked away, leaving the queen 
and myself alone, with the exception of the mutes and 
the few remaining guards, most of whom had departed 
with the doomed men. Thinking this a good opportunity, 
I asked _i_ She _i_ to come and see Leo, telling her 
of his serious condition; but she would not, saying 
that he certainly would not die before the night, as 
people never died of that sort of fever except at 
nightfall or dawn. Also she said that it would be 
better to let the sickness spend its course as much as 
possible before she cured it. Accordingly, I was 
rising to leave, when she bade me follow her, as she 
would talk with me, and show me the wonders of the 

I was too much involved in the web of her fatal 
fascinations to say her no, even if I had wished, 
which I did not. _i_ She _i_ rose from her chair, and, 
making some signs to the mutes, descended from the 
dais. Thereon four of the girls took lamps, and ranged 
themselves two in front and two behind us, but the 
others went away, as also did the guards.

"Now," she said, "wouldst thou see some of the wonders 
of this place, O Holly? Look upon this great cave. 
Sawest thou ever the like? Yet was it, and many more 
like it, hollowed by the hands of the dead race that 
once lived here in the city on the plain. A great and 
a wonderful people must? they have been, those men of 
Ko^r, but, like the Egyptians, they thought more of 
the dead than of the living. How many men, thinkest 
thou, working for how many years, did it need to the 
hollowing out this cave and all the. galleries 

"Tens of thousands," I answered.

"So, O Holly. This people was an old people before the 
Egyptians were. A little can I read of their 
inscriptions, having found the key thereto--and, see 
thou here, this was one of the last of the caves that 
they hollowed," and, turning to the rock behind her, 
she motioned the mutes to hold up the lamps. Carven 
over the dais was the figure of an old man seated in a 
chair, with an ivory rod in his hand. It struck me at 
once that his features were exceedingly like those of 
the man who was represented as being embalmed in the 
chamber where we took our meals. Beneath the chair, 
which, by the way, was shaped exactly like the one in 
which Ayesha had sat to give judgment, was a short 
inscription in the extraordinary characters of which I 
have already spoken, but which I do not remember 
sufficient of to illustrate. It looked more like 
Chinese writing than any other that I am acquainted 
with. This inscription Ayesha proceeded, with some 
difficulty and hesitation, to read aloud and 
translate. It ran as follows:

"In the year four thousand two hundred and ninety-nine 
from the founding of the City of imperial Ko^r was 
this cave (or burial-place) completed by Tisno, King 
of Kar, the people thereoy and their slaves having 
labored thereat for three generations, to be a tomb 
for their citizens of rank who shall come after. May 
the blessing of the heaven above the heaven rest upon 
their work, and make the sleep of Tisno, the mighty 
monarch, the likeness of whose features is graven 
above, a sound and happy sleep till the day of 
awakening, and also the sleep o! his servants, and of 
those of his race who, rising up after him, shall yet 
lay their heads as low."

"'Thou seest, O Holly," she said, "this people founded 
the city, of which the ruins yet cumber the plain 
yonder, four thousand years before this cave was 
finished. Yet, when first mine eyes be held it two 
thousand years ago, was it even as it is now. Judge, 
therefore, how old must that city have been! And now, 
follow thou me, and I will show thee after what 
fashion this great people fell when the time was come 
for it to fall," and she led the way down to the 
centre of the cave, stopping at a spot where a round 
rock had been let into a kind of large manhole in the 
flooring, accurately filling it just as the iron 
plates fill the spaces in the London pavements down 
which the coals are thrown. "Thou seest," she said. 
"Tell me, what is it?"

"Nay, I know not," I answered; whereon she crossed to 
the left-hand side of the cave (looking towards the 
entrance) and signed to the mutes to hold up the 
lamps. On the wall was something painted with a red 
pigment in similar characters to those hewn beneath 
the sculpture of Tisno, King of Ko^r. This inscription 
she proceeded to translate to me, the pigment still 
being quite fresh enough to show the form of the 
letters. It ran as follows:

"'I, Junis, a priest of the Great Temple of Ko^r, 
write this upon the rock of the burying-place in the 
year four thousand eight hundred and three from the 
founding of Ko^r. Ko^r is fallen! No more shall the 
mighty feast in her halls, no more shall she rule the 
world, and her navies go out to commerce with the 
world. Ko^r is fallen! and her mighty works and all 
the cities of Ko^r, and all the harbors that she built 
and the canals that she made, are for the wolf and the 
owl and the wild swan, and the barbarian who comes 
after. Twenty and five moons ago did a cloud settle 
upon Ko^r, and the hundred cities of Ko^r, and out of 
the cloud came a pestilence that slew people, old and 
young, one with another. One with another turned black 
and died--the young the old, the rich and the poor, 
the the woman, the prince and the the pestilence slew 
and slew, and not by day or by night, and those who 
escaped from the pestilence were slain of the famine. 
No longer could the bodies of the children of Ko^r be 
preserved according to the ancient rites, because of 
the number of the dead, therefore were they hurled 
into the great pit beneath the cave through the hole 
in the floor of the cave. Then at last, a remnant of 
this the great people, the light of the whole world, 
went down to the coast and took ship and sailed 
northwards; and now am I, the Priest Junis, who write 
this, the last man left alive of this great city of 
men, but whether there be any yet left in the other 
cities I know not. This do I write in misery of heart 
before I die, because Ko^r the Imperial is no more, 
and because there are none to worship in her temple, 
and all her palaces are empty, and her princes and her 
captains and her traders and her fair women have 
passed off the face of the earth."

I gave a sigh of astonishment--the utter desolation 
depicted in this rude scrawl was so overpowering. It 
was terrible to think of this solitary survivor of a 
mighty people recording its fate before he too went 
down into darkness. What must the old man have felt 
as, in ghastly, terrifying solitude, by the light of 
one lamp feebly illumining a little space of gloom, he 
in a few brief lines daubed the history of his 
nation's death upon the cavern wall? What a subject 
for the moralist, or the painter, or indeed for any 
one who can think!

"Doth it not occur to thee, O Holly," said Ayesha, 
laying her hand upon my shoulder, "that those men who 
sailed north may have been the fathers of the first 

"Nay, I know not," I said; "it seems that the world is 
very old."

"Old? Yes, it is old. indeed. Time after time have 
nations, ay, and rich and strong nations, learned in 
the arts, been and passed away and been forgotten, so 
that no memory of them remains. This is but one of 
several; for Time eats up the works of man, unless, 
indeed, he digs in caves like the people of Ko^r, and 
then mayhap the sea swallows them, or the earthquake 
shakes them in. Who knows what hath been on the earth, 
or what shall be? There is no new thing under the sun, 
as the wise Hebrew wrote long ago. Yet were not these 
people utterly destroyed, as I think. Some few 
remained in the other cities, for their cities were 
many. But the barbarians from the south, or perchance 
my people, the Arabs, came down upon them, and took 
their women to wife, and the race of the Amahagger 
that is now is a bastard brood of the mighty sons of 
Ko^r, and behold it dwelleth in the tombs with its 
fathers' bones. But I know not: who can know? My arts 
cannot pierce so far into the blackness of Time's 
night. A great people were they. They conquered till 
none were left to conquer, and then they dwelt at ease 
within their rocky mountain walls, with their 
manservants and their maid-servants, their minstrels, 
their sculptors, and their concubines, and traded and 
quarrelled, and ate and hunted and slept and made 
merry till their time came. But come, I will show thee 
the great pit beneath the cave whereof the writing 
speaks. Never shall thine eyes witness such another 

Accordingly I followed her to a side passage opening 
out of the main cave, then down a great number of 
steps, and along an underground shaft which cannot 
have been less than sixty feet beneath the surface of 
the rock, and was ventilated by curious borings that 
ran upward, I do not know where. Suddenly the passage 
ended, and she halted and bade the mutes hold up the 
lamps, and, as she had prophesied, I saw a scene such 
as I was not likely to see again. We were standing in 
an enormous pit, or rather on the edge of it, for it 
went down deeper--I do not know how much--than the 
level on which we stood, and was edged in with a low 
wall of rock. So far as I could judge, this pit was 
about the size of the space beneath the dome of St. 
Paul's in London, and when the lamps were held up I 
saw that it was nothing but one vast charnelhouse, 
being literally full of thousands of human skeletons, 
which lay piled up in an enormous gleaming pyramid, 
formed by the slipping down of the bodies at the apex 
as fresh ones were dropped in from above. Anything 
more appalling than this jumbled mass of the remains 
of a departed race I cannot imagine, and what made it 
even more dreadful was that in this dry air a 
considerable number of the bodies had simply become 
desiccated with the skin on them, and now, fixed in 
every conceivable position, stared at us out of the 
mountain of white bones, grotesquely horrible 
caricatures of humanity. In my astonishment I uttered 
an ejaculation, and the echoes of my voice ringing in 
the vaulted space disturbed a skull that had been 
accurately balanced for many thousands of years near 
the apex of the pile. Down it came with a run, 
hounding along merrily towards us, and of course 
bringing an avalanche of other bones after it, till at 
last the whole pit rattled with their movement, even 
as though the skeletons were getting up to greet us.

"Come," I said, "I have seen enough. These are the 
bodies of those who died of the great sickness, is it 
not so?" I added, as we turned away.

"Yes. The people of Ko^r ever embalmed their dead, as 
did the Egyptians, but their art was greater than the 
art of the Egyptians, for whereas the Egyptians 
disembowelled and drew the brain, the people of Ko^r 
injected fluid into the veins, and thus reached every 
part. But stay, thou shalt see," and she halted at 
haphazard at one of the little doorways opening out of 
the passage along which we were walking, and motioned 
to the mutes to light us in. We entered into a small 
chamber similar to the one in which I had slept at our 
first stopping-place, only instead of one there were 
two stone benches or beds in it. On the benches lay 
figures covered with yellow linen, on which a fine and 
impalpable dust had gathered in the course of ages, 
but nothing like to the extent that one would have 
anticipated, for in these deep-hewn caves there is no 
material to turn to dust. About the bodies on the 
stone shelves and floor of the tomb were many painted 
vases, but I saw very few ornaments or weapons in any 
of the vaults.

"Uplift the cloths, O Holly," said Ayesha, but when I 
put out my hand to do so I drew it back again. It 
seemed like sacrilege, and to speak the truth I was 
awed by the dread solemnity of the place, and of the 
presences before us. Then, with a little laugh at my 
fears, she drew them herself, only to discover other 
and yet finer cloths lying over the forms upon the 
stone bench. These also she withdrew, and then for the 
first time for thousands upon thousands of years of 
did living eyes look upon the face of that chilly 
dead. It was a woman; she might have been thirty-five 
years of age, or perhaps a little less, and had 
certainly been beautiful. Even now her calm, clear-cut 
features, marked out with delicate eyebrows and long 
eyelashes which threw little lines of the shadow of 
the lamplight upon the ivory face, were wonderfully 
beautiful. There, robed in white, down which her blue 
black hair was streaming, she slept her last long 
sleep, and on her arm, its face pressed against her 
breast, there lay a little babe. So sweet was the 
sight, although so awful, that--I confess it without 
shame--I could scarcely withhold my tears. It took me 
back across the dim gulf of the ages to some happy 
home in dead Imperial Ko^r, where this winsome lady 
girt about with beauty had lived and died, and dying 
taken her last-born with her to the tomb. There they 
were before us, mother and babe, the white memories of 
a forgotten human history speaking more eloquently to 
the heart than could any written record of their 
lives. Reverently I replaced the grave-cloths, and, 
with a sigh that flowers so fair should, in the 
purpose of the Everlasting, have only bloomed to be 
gathered to the grave, I turned to the body on the 
opposite shelf, and gently unveiled it. It was that of 
a man in advanced life, with a long, grizzled beard, 
and also robed in white, probably the husband of the 
lady, who, after surviving her many years, came at 
last to sleep once more for good and all beside her.

We left the place and entered others, It would be too 
long to describe the many things I saw in them. Each 
one had its occupants, for the fice hundred and odd 
years that elapsed between the completion of the cave 
and the destruction of the race had evidently sufficed 
to fill these catacombs, numberless as they were, and 
all appeared to have been undisturbed since the day 
when they were placed there. I could fill a book with 
the description of them, but to do so would only be to 
repeat what I have said, with variations.

Nearly all the bodies, so masterly was the art with 
which they had been treated, were as perfect as on the 
day of death thousands of years before. Nothing came 
to injure them in the deep silence of the living rock; 
they were beyond the reach of heat and cold and damp, 
and the aromatic drugs with which they had been 
saturated were evidently practically everlasting in 
their effect. Here and there, however, we saw an 
exception, and in these cases, although the flesh 
looked sound enough externally, if one touched it it 
fell in, and revealed the fact that the figure was but 
a pile of dust. This arose, Ayesha told me, from these 
particular bodies having, either owing to haste in the 
burial or other causes, been soaked in the 
preservative, instead of its being injected into the 
substance of the flesh.

About the last tomb we visited I must, however, say 
one word, for its contents spoke even more eloquently 
to the human sympathies than those of the first. It 
had but two occupants, and they lay together on a 
single shelf. I withdrew the grave-cloths, and there, 
clasped heart to heart, were a young man and a 
blooming girl. Her head rested on his arm, and his 
lips were pressed against her brow. I opened the man's 
linen robe, and there over his heart was a dagger-
wound, and beneath the girl's fair breast was a like 
cruel stab, through which her life had ebbed away. On 
the rock above was an inscription in three words. 
Ayesha translated it. It was "Wedded in Death."

What was the life-history of these two, who, of a 
truth, were beautiful in their lives, and in their 
death were not divided?

I closed my eyelids, and imagination taking up the 
thread of thought shot its swift shuttle back across 
the ages, weaving a picture on their blackness so real 
and vivid in its detail that I could almost for a 
moment think that I had triumphed o'er the Past, and 
that my spirit's eyes had pierced the mystery of Time.

I seemed to see this fair girl-form--the yellow hair 
streaming down her, glittering against her garments 
snowy-white, and the bosom that was whiter than the 
robes, even dimming with its lustre her ornaments of 
burnished gold. I seemed to see the great cave filled 
with warriors, bearded and clad in mail, and, on the 
lighted dais where Ayesha had given judgment, a man 
standing, robed, and surrounded by the symbols of his 
priestly office. And up the cave there came one clad 
in purple, and before him and behind him came 
minstrels and fait maidens, chanting a wedding song. 
White stood the maid against the altar, fairer than 
the fairest there--purer than a lily, and more cold 
than the dew that glistens in its heart. But as the 
man drew near she shuddered. Then out of the press and 
throng there sprang a dark-haired youth, and put his 
arm about this long-forgotten maid, and kissed her 
pale face in which the blood shot up like lights of 
the red dawn across the silent sky. And next there was 
turmoil and uproar, and a flashing of swords, and they 
tore the youth from her arms, and stabbed him, but 
with a cry she snatched the dagger from his belt, and 
drove it into her snowy breast, home to the heart, and 
down she fell, and then, with cries and wailing, and 
every sound of lamentation, the pageant rolled away 
from the arena of my vision, and once more the Past 
shut to its book.

Let him who reads forgive the intrusion of a dream 
into a history of fact. But it come so home to me--I 
saw it all so clear in a moment, as it were; and, 
besides, who shall say what proportion of fact--past, 
present, or to come, may lie in the imagination? What 
is imagination? Perhaps it is the shadow of the 
intangible truth, perhaps it is the soul's thought.

In an instant the whole thing had passed through my 
brain, and _i_ She _i_ was addressing me.

"Behold the lot of man," said the veiled Ayesha, as 
she drew the winding sheets back over the dead lovers, 
speaking in a solemn, thrilling voice, which accorded 
well with the dream that I had dreamed: "to the tomb, 
and to the forgetfulness that hides the tomb, must we 
all come at last! Ay, even I who live so long. Even 
for me, O Holly, thousands upon thousands of years 
hence; thousands of years after thou hast gone through 
the gate and been lost in the mists, a day will dawn 
whereon I shall die, and be even as thou and these 
are. And then what will avail that I have lived a 
little longer, holding off death by the knowledge I 
have wrung from nature, since at last I too must die? 
What is a span of ten thousand years, or ten times ten 
thousand years, in the history of time? It is as 
naught--it is as the mists that roll up in the 
sunlight; it fleeth away like an hour of sleep or a 
breath of the Eternal Spirit. Behold the lot of man! 
Certainly it shall overtake us, and we shall sleep. 
Certainly, too, we shall awake, and live again and 
again shall sleep, and so on and on, through periods, 
spaces, and times, from aeon unto aeon, till the world 
is dead, and the worlds beyond the world are dead, and 
naught liveth save the Spirit that is Life. But for us 
twain and for these dead ones shall the end of ends be 
Life, or shall it be Death? As yet Death is but Life's 
Night, but out of the Night is the Morrow born again, 
and both again beget the Night. Only when Day and 
Night, and Life and Death, are ended and swallowed up 
in that from which they came, what shall be our fate, 
O Holly? Who can see so far? Not even I!"

And then, with a sudden change of tone and manner--

"Hast thou seen enough, my stranger guest, or shall I 
show thee more of the wonders of these tombs that are 
my palace halls? If thou wilt, I can lead thee to 
where Tisno, the mightiest and most valorous King of 
Ko^r, in whose day these caves were ended, lies in a 
pomp that seems to mock at nothingness, and bid the 
empty shadows of the past do homage to his sculptured 

"I have seen enough, O queen," I answered. "My heart 
is overwhelmed by the power of the present Death. 
Mortality is weak, and easily broken down by a sense 
of the companionship that waits upon its end. Take me 
hence, O Ayesha!"



IN a few minutes, following the lamps of the mutes, 
which, held out from the body as a bearer holds water 
in a vessel, had the appearance of floating down the 
darkness by themselves, we came to a stair which led 
us to _i_ She _i_ 's anteroom, the same that Billali 
had crept up upon all fours on the previous day. Here 
I would have bid the queen adieu, but she would not.

"Nay," she said, "enter with me, O Holly, for of a 
truth thy conversation pleaseth me. Think, O Holly: 
for two thousand years have I had none to converse 
with save slaves and my own thoughts, and though of 
all this thinking hath much wisdom come, and many 
secrets been made plain, yet am I weary of my 
thoughts, and have come to loathe mine own society, 
for surely the food that memory gives to eat is bitter 
to the taste, and it is only with the teeth of hope 
that we can bear to bite it. Now though thy thoughts 
are green and tender, as becometh one so young, yet 
are they those of a thinking brain, and in truth thou 
dost bring back to my mind certain of those old 
philosophers with whom in days bygone I have disputed 
at Athens, and at Becca in Arabia, for thou hast the 
same crabbed air and dusty look, as though thou hadst 
passed thy days in reading ill-writ Greek, and been 
stained dark with the grime of manuscripts. So draw 
the curtain, and sit here by my side, and we will eat 
fruit, and talk of pleasant things. See, I will again 
unveil to thee. Thou hast brought it on thyself, O 
Holly; fairly have I warned thee--and thou shalt call 
me beautiful as even those old philosophers were wont 
to do. Fie upon them, forgetting their philosophy!"

And without more ado she stood up and shook the white 
wrappings from her, and came forth shining and 
splendid like some glittering snake when she has cast 
her slough; ay, and fixed her wonderful eyes upon me--
more deadly than any basilisk's--and pierced me 
through and through with their beauty, and sent her 
light laugh ringing through the air like chimes of 
silver bells.

A new mood was on her, and the very color of her mind 
seemed to change beneath it. It was no longer torture-
torn and hateful, as I had seen it when she was 
cursing her dead rival by the leaping flames, no 
longer icily terrible as in the judgment-hall, no 
longer rich and sombre and splendid, like a Tyrian 
cloth, as in the dwellings of the dead. No, her mood 
now was that of Aphrodite triumphing. Life--radiant, 
ecstatic, wonderful--seemed to flow from her and 
around her. Softly she laughed and sighed, and swift 
her glances flew. _i_ She _i_ shook her heavy tresses, 
and their perfume filled the place; she struck her 
little sandalled foot upon the floor, and hummed a 
snatch of some old Greek epithalamium. All the majesty 
was gone, or did but lurk and faintly flicker through 
her laughing eyes, like lightning seen through 
sunlight. _i_ She _i_ had cast off the terror of the 
leaping flame, the cold power of judgment that was 
even now being done, and the wise sadness of the 
tombs--cast them off and put them behind her, like the 
white shroud she wore, and now stood out the 
incarnation of lovely, tempting womanhood, made more 
perfect--and in a way more spiritual--than ever woman 
was before.

"There, my Holly, sit there where thou canst see me. 
It is by thine own wish, remember--again I say, blame 
me not if thou dost spend the rest of thy little span 
with such a sick pain at the heart that thou wouldst 
fain have died before ever thy curious eyes were set 
upon me. There, sit so, and tell me, for in truth I am 
inclined for praises--tell me, am I not beautiful? 
Nay, speak not so hastily; consider well the point; 
take me feature by feature, forgetting not my form, 
and my hands and feet, and my hair, and the whiteness 
of my skin, and then tell me truly hast thou ever 
known a woman who in aught, ay, in one little portion 
of her beauty, in the curve of an eyelash even, or the 
modelling of a shell-Iike ear, is justified to hold a 
light before my loveliness? Now, my waist! Perchance 
thou thinkest it too large, but of a truth it is not 
so; it is this golden snake that is too large, and 
doth not bind it as it should. It is a wise snake, and 
knoweth that it is ill to tie in the waist. But see, 
give me thy hands--so--now press them round me, there, 
with but a little force, thy fingers touch, O Holly."

I could bear it no longer. I am but a man, and she was 
more than a woman. Heaven knows what she was--l do 
not! But then and there I fell upon my knees before 
her, and told her in a sad mixture of languages--for 
such moments confuse the thoughts--that I worshipped 
her as never woman was worshipped, and that I would 
give my immortal soul to marry her, which at that time 
I certainly would have done, and so, indeed, would any 
other man, or all the race of men rolled into one. For 
a moment she looked a little surprised, and then she 
began to laugh, and clap her hands in glee.

"Oh, so soon, O Holly!" she said. "I wondered how many 
minutes it would need to bring thee to thy knees. I 
have not seen a man kneel before me for so many days, 
and, believe me, to a woman's heart the sight is 
sweet; ay, wisdom and length of days take not from 
that dear pleasure which is our sex's only right.

"What wouldst thou?--what wouldst thou? Thou dost not 
know what thou doest. Have I not told thee that I am 
not for thee? I love but one, and thou art not the 
man. Ah, Holly, for all thy wisdom-and in a way thou 
art wise--thou art but a fool running after folly. 
Thou wouldst look into mine eyes--thou wouldst kiss 
me! Well, if it pleaseth thee, look," and she bent 
herself towards me, and fixed her dark and thrilling 
orbs upon my own; "ay, and kiss too, if thou wilt, 
for, thanks be given to the scheme of things, kisses 
leave no marks, except upon the heart. But if thou 
dost kiss, I tell thee of a surety wilt thou eat out 
thy breast with love of me, and die!" and she bent yet 
farther towards me till her soft hair brushed my brow, 
and her fragrant breath played upon my face, and made 
me faint and weak. Then of a sudden, even as I 
stretched out my arms to clasp, she straightened 
herself, and a quick change passed over her. Reaching 
out her hand, she held it over my head, and it seemed 
to me that something flowed from it that chilled me 
back to common-sense, and a knowledge of propriety and 
the domestic virtues.

"Enough of this wanton play," she said, with a touch 
of sternness. "Listen, Holly. Thou art a good and 
honest man, and I fain would spare thee; but, oh! it 
is so hard for a woman to be merciful. I have said I 
am not for thee, therefore let thy thoughts pass by me 
like an idle wind, and the dust of thy imagination 
sink again into the depths--well, of despair, if thou 
wilt. Thou dost not know me, Holly. Hadst thou seen me 
but ten hours past when my passion seized me, thou 
hadst shrunk from me in fear and trembling. I am a 
woman of many moods, and, like the water in that 
vessel, I reflect many things; but they pass, my 
Holly; they pass, and are forgotten. Only the water is 
the water still, and I still am I, and that which 
maketh the water maketh it, and that which maketh me 
maketh me, nor can my quality be altered. Therefore, 
pay no heed to what I seem, seeing that thou canst not 
know what I am. If thou troublest me again I will veil 
myself, and thou shalt behold my face no more."

I rose, and sank on the cushioned couch beside her, 
yet quivering with emotion, though for a moment my mad 
passion had left me, as the leaves of a tree quiver 
still, although the gust begone that stirred them. I 
did not dare to tell her that I had seen her in that 
deep and hellish mood, muttering incantations to the 
fire in the tomb.

"So," she went on, "now eat some fruit; believe me, it 
is the only true food for man. Oh, tell me of the 
philosophy of that Hebrew Messiah, who came after me, 
and whom thou sayest doth now rule Rome and Greece and 
Egypt and the barbarians beyond. It must have been a 
strange philosophy that he taught, for in my day the 
peoples would have naught of our philosophies. Revel 
and lust and drink, blood and cold steel, and the 
shock of men gathered in the battle--these were the 
canons of their creeds."

I had recovered myself a little by now, and feeling 
bitterly ashamed of the weakness into which I had been 
betrayed, I did my best to expound to her the 
doctrines of Christianity, to which, however, with the 
single exception of our conception of heaven and hell, 
I found that she paid but faint attention, her 
interest being all directed towards the Man who taught 
them. Also I told her that among her own people, the 
Arabs, another prophet, one Mohammed, had arisen and 
preached a new faith to which many millions of mankind 
now adhered.

"Ah!" she said; "I see--two new religions! I have 
known so many, and doubtless there have been many more 
since I knew aught beyond these caves of Ko^r. Mankind 
asks ever of the skies to vision out what lies behind 
them. It is terror for the end, and but a subtler form 
of selfishness--this it is that breeds religions. 
Mark, my Holly, each religion claims the future for 
its followers; or, at the least, the good thereof. The 
evil is for those benighted ones who will have none of 
it; seeing the light the true believers worship, as 
the fishes see the stars, but dimly. The religions 
come and the religions pass, and the civilizations 
come and pass, and naught endures but the world and 
human nature. Ah! if man would but see that hope is 
from within and not from without--that he himself must 
work out his own salvation! He is there, and within 
him is the breath of life and a knowledge of good and 
evil as good and evil is to him. Thereon let him build 
and stand erect, and not cast himself before the image 
of some unknown God, modelled like his poor self, but 
with a bigger brain to think the evil thing; and a 
longer arm to do it."

I thought to myself, which shows how old such 
reasoning is, being, indeed, one of the recurring 
quantities of theological discussion, that her 
argument sounded very like some that I have heard in 
the nineteenth century, and in other places than the 
caves of Ko^r, and with which, by the way, I totally 
disagree, but I did not care to try and discuss the 
question with her. To begin with, my mind was too 
weary with all the emotions through which I had 
passed, and, in the second place, I knew that I should 
get the worst of it, It is weary work enough to argue 
with an ordinary materialist, who hurls statistics and 
whole strata of geological facts at your head, while 
you can only buffet him with deductions and instincts 
and the snowflakes of faith, that are, alas! so apt to 
melt in the hot embers of our troubles. How little 
chance, then, should I have against one whose brain 
was supernatural sharpened, and who had two thousand 
years of experience, besides all manner of knowledge 
of the secrets of Nature at her command! Feeling that 
she would be more likely to convert me than I should 
to convert her, I thought it best to leave the matter 
alone, and so sat silent. Many a time since then have 
I bitterly regretted that I did so; for thereby I lost 
the only opportunity I can remember having had of 
ascertaining what Ayesha really believed, and what her 
"philosophy" was.

"Well, my Holly," she continued, "and so those people 
of mine have also found a prophet, a false prophet 
thou sayest, for he is not thine own, and, indeed, I 
doubt it not. Yet in my day was it otherwise, for then 
we Arabs had many gods. Alla^t there was, and Saba, 
the Host of Heaven, AI Uzza, and Manah the stony one, 
for whom the blood of victims flowed, and Wadd and 
Sawa^, and Yaghuth the Lion of the dwellers in Yaman, 
and Yauk the Horse of Morad, and Nasr the Eagle of 
Hamyar; ay, and many more. Oh, the folly of it all, 
the shame and the pitiful folly! Yet when I rose in 
wisdom and spoke thereof, surely they would have slain 
me in the name of their outraged gods. Well, so hath 
it ever been; but, my Holly, art thou weary of me 
already, that thou dost sit so silent? Or dost thou 
fear lest I should teach thee my philosophy? for know 
I have a philosophy. What would a teacher be without 
her own philosophy? and if thou dost vex me overmuch, 
beware! for I will have thee learn it, and thou shalt 
be my disciple, and we twain will found a faith that 
shall swallow up all others. Faithless man! And but 
half an hour since thou wast upon thy knees--the 
posture does not suit thee, Holly--swearing that thou 
didst love me. What shall we do? Nay, I have it. I 
will come and see this youth, the Lion, as the old 
man. Billali calls him, who came with thee, and who is 
so sick. The fever must have run its course by now, 
and if he is about to die I will recover him. Fear 
not, my Holly, I shall use no magic. Have I not told 
thee that there is no such thing as magic, though 
there is such a thing as understanding and applying 
the forces which are in Nature? Go now; and presently 
when I have made the drug ready I will follow thee."

Accordingly I went, only to find Job and Ustane in a 
great state of grief, declaring that Leo was in the 
throes of death, and that they had been searching for 
me everywhere. I rushed to the couch, and glanced at 
him: clearly he was dying. He was senseless, and 
breathing heavily, but his lips were quivering, and 
every now and again a little shudder ran down his 
frame. I knew enough of doctoring to see that in 
another hour he would be beyond the reach of earthly 
help--perhaps in another five minutes. How I cursed my 
selfishness and the folly that had kept me lingering 
by Ayesha's side while my dear boy lay dying! Alas and 
alas! how easily the best of us are lighted down to 
evil by the gleam of a woman's eyes! What a wicked 
wretch was I! Actually, for the last half-hour I had 
scarcely thought of Leo, and this, be it remembered, 
of the man who for twenty years had been my dearest 
companion, and the chief interest of my existence. And 
now, perhaps, it was too late!

I wrung my hands, and glanced round. Ustane was 
sitting by the couch, and in her eyes burned the dull 
light of despair. Job was blubbering--I am sorry I 
cannot name his distress by any more delicate word--
audibly in the corner. Seeing my eye fixed upon him he 
went outside to give way to his grief in the passage. 
Obviously the only hope lay in Ayesha. _i_ She _i_ , 
and she alone--unless, indeed, she was an impostor, 
which I could not believe--could save him. I would go 
and implore her to come. As I stared to do so, 
however, Job came flying into the room, his hair 
literally standing on end with terror.

"Oh, God help us, sir!" he ejaculated, in a frightened 
whisper, "here's a corpse a-coming sliding down the 

For a moment I was puzzled, but presently, of course, 
it struck me that he must have seen Ayesha, wrapped in 
her grave like garment, and been deceived by the 
extraordinary undulating smoothness of her walk into a 
belief that she was a white ghost gliding towards him. 
Indeed, at that very moment the question was settled, 
for Ayesha herself was in the apartment, or rather 
cave. Job turned, and saw her sheeted form, and then, 
with a convulsive howl of "Here it comes!" sprang into 
a corner, and jammed his face against the wall, and 
Ustane, guessing whose the dread presence must be, 
prostrated herself upon her face.

"Thou comest in a good time, Ayesha," I said, "for my 
boy lies at the point of death."

"So," she said, softly; "provided he be not dead, it 
is no matter, for I can bring him back to life, my 
Holly. Is that man there thy servant, and is that the 
method wherewith thy servants greet strangers in thy 

"He is frightened of thy garb--it hath a deathlike 
air," I answered. _i_ She _i_ laughed.

"And the girl? Ah, I see now. It is her of whom thou 
didst speak to me. Well, bid them both to leave us, 
and we will see to this sick Lion of thine. I love not 
that underlings should perceive my wisdom."

Thereon I told Ustane in Arabic and Job in English 
both to leave the room; an order which the latter 
obeyed readily enough, and was glad to obey, for he 
could not in any way subdue his fear. But it was 
otherwise with Ustane.

"What does _i_ She _i_ want?" she whispered, divided 
between her fear of the terrible queen and her anxiety 
to remain near Leo. "It is surely the right of a wife 
to be near her husband when he dieth. Nay, I will not 
go, my lord, the Baboon."

"Why doth not that woman leave us, my Holly?" asked 
Ayesha, from the other end of the cave, where she was 
engaged in carelessly examining some of the sculptures 
on the wall.

" _i_ She _i_ is not willing to leave Leo," I 
answered, not knowing what to say. Ayesha wheeled 
round, and, pointing to the girl Ustane, said one 
word, and one only, but it was quite enough, for the 
tone in which it was said meant volumes.


And then Ustane crept past her on her hands and knees, 
and went.

"Thou seest, my Holly," said Ayesha, with a little 
laugh, "it was needful that I should give these people 
a lesson in obedience. That girl went nigh to 
disobeying me, but then she did not learn this morn 
how I treat the disobedient. Well, she has gone; and 
now let me see the youth," and she glided towards the 
couch on which Leo lay, with his face h the shadow and 
turned towards the wall.

"He hath a noble shape," she said, as she bent over 
him to look upon his face.

Next second her tall and willowy form was staggering 
back across the room, as though she had been shot or 
stabbed, staggering back till at last she struck the 
cavern wall and then there burst from her lips the 
most awful and unearthly scream that I ever heard in 
all my life.

"What is it, Ayesha?" I cried. "Is he dead?"
_i_ She _i_ turned, and sprang towards me like a 
tigress. "Thou dog!" she said, in her terrible 
whisper, which sounded like the hiss of a snake, "why 
didst thou hide this from me?" And she stretched out 
her arm, and I thought that she was about to slay me.

"What?" I ejaculated, in the most lively terror; 

"Ah!" she said, "perchance thou didst not know. Learn, 
my Holly, learn: there lies--there lies my lost 
Kallikrates. Kallikrates, who has come back to me at 
last, as I knew he would, as I knew he would;" and she 
began to sob and to laugh, and generally to conduct 
herself like any other lady who is a little upset, 
murmuring "Kallikrates, Kallikrates!"

"Nonsense," thought I to myself, but I did not like to 
say it; and, indeed, at that moment I was thinking of 
Leo's life, having forgotten everything else in that 
terrible anxiety. What I feared now was that he should 
die while she was "carrying on."

"Unless thou art able to help him, Ayesha," I put in, 
by way of a reminder, "thy Kallikrates will soon be 
far beyond thy calling. Surely he dieth even now."

"True," she said, with a start. "Oh, why did I not 
come before! I am unnerved--my hand trembles, even 
mine--and yet it is very easy. Here, thou Holly, take 
this phial," and she produced a tiny jar of pottery 
from the folds of her garment, "and pour the liquid in 
it down his throat. It will cure him if he be not 
dead. Swift, now! Swift! The man dies!"

I glanced towards him; it was true enough, Leo was in 
his death-struggle. I saw his poor face turning ashen, 
and heard the breath begin to rattle in his throat. 
The phial was stoppered with a little piece of wood. I 
drew it with my teeth, and a drop of the fluid within 
flew out upon my tongue. It had a sweet flavor, and 
for a second made my head swim, and a mist gather 
before my eyes, but happily the effect passed away as 
swiftly as it had arisen.

When I reached Leo's side he was plainly expiring--his 
golden head was slowly turning from side to side, and 
his mouth was slightly open. I called to Ayesha to 
hold his head, and this she managed to do, though the 
woman was quivering from head to foot, like an aspen-
leaf or a startled horse. Then, forcing the jaw a 
little more open, I poured the contents of the phial 
into his mouth. Instantly a little vapor arose from 
it, as happens when one disturbs nitric acid, and this 
sight did not increase my hopes, already faint enough, 
of the efficacy of the treatment.

One thing, however, was certain, the death-throes 
ceased--at first I thought because he had got beyond 
them, and crossed the awful river. His face turned to 
a livid pallor, and his heart-beats, which had been 
feeble enough before, seemed to die away altogether--
only the eyelid still twitched a little. In my doubt I 
looked up at Ayesha, whose head wrapping had slipped 
back in her excitement when she went reeling across 
the room. _i_ She _i_ was still holding Leo's head, 
and, with a face as pale as his own, watching his 
countenance with such an expression of agonized 
anxiety as I have never seen before. Clearly she did 
not know if he would live or die. Five minutes slowly 
passed, and I saw that she was abandoning hope; her 
lovely oval face seemed to fall in and grow visibly 
thinner beneath the pressure of a mental agony whose 
pencil drew black lines about the hollows of her eyes. 
The coral faded even from her lips, till they were as 
white as Leo's face, and quivering pitifully. It was 
shocking to see her: even in my own grief I felt for 

"Is it too late?" I gasped.
_i_ She _i_ hid her face in her hands and made no 
answer, and I too turned away. But as I did so I heard 
a deep-drawn breath, and looking down perceived a line 
of color creeping up Leo's face, then another and 
another, and then, wonder of wonders, the man we had 
thought dead turned-over on his side.

"Thou seest," I said, in a whisper. 

"I see," she answered, hoarsely. "He is saved. I 
thought we were too late--another moment--one little 
moment more--and he had been gone!" and she burst into 
an awful flood of tears, sobbing as though her heart 
would break, and yet looking lovelier than ever as she 
did it. At last she ceased.

"Forgive me, my Holly--forgive me for my weakness," 
she said. "Thou seest after all I am a very woman. 
Think--now think of it! This morning didst thou speak 
of the place of torment appointed by this new religion 
of thine. Hell or Hades thou didst call it--a place 
where the vital essence lives and retains an 
individual memory, and where all the errors and faults 
of judgment, and unsatisfied passions and the 
unsubstantial terrors of the mind wherewith it hath at 
any time had to do, come to mock and haunt and gibe 
and wring the heart forever and forever with the 
vision of its own hopelessness. Thus, even thus, have 
I lived for full two thousand years--for some six-and-
sixty generations, as ye reckon time--in a Hell, as 
thou callest it--tormented by the memory of a crime, 
tortured day and night with an unfulfilled desire--
without companionship, without comfort, without death, 
and led on only down my dreary road by the marsh 
lights of Hope, which, though they flickered here and 
there, and now glowed strong, and now were not, yet, 
as my skill told me, would one day lead unto my 

"And then--think of it still, O Holly, for never shalt 
thou hear such another tale, or see such another 
scene, nay, not even if I give thee ten thousand years 
of life--and thou shalt have it in payment if thou 
wilt--think: at last my deliverer came--he for whom I 
had watched and waited through the generations--at the 
appointed time he came to seek me, as I knew that he 
must come, for my wisdom could not err, though I knew 
not when or how. Yet see how ignorant I was! See how 
small my knowledge, and how faint my strength! For 
hours he lay here sick unto death, and I felt it not--
I who had waited for him for two thousand years--I 
knew it not. And then at last I see him, and behold, 
my chance is gone but by a hair's-breadth even before 
I have it, for he is in the very jaws of death; whence 
no power of mine can draw him. And if he die, surely 
must the Hell be lived through once more--once more 
must I face the weary centuries, and wait, and wait 
till the time in its fulness shall bring my beloved 
back to me. And then thou gavest him the medicine, and 
that five minutes dragged along before I knew if he 
would live or die, and I tell thee that all the sixty 
generations that are gone were not so long as that 
five minutes. But they passed at length, and still he 
showed no sign, and I knew that if the drug works not 
then, so far as I have had knowledge, it works not at 
all. Then thought I that he was once more dead, and 
all the tortures of all the years gathered themselves 
into a single venomed spear, and pierced me through 
and through, because once again I had lost 
Kallikrates! And then, when all was done, behold! he 
sighed; behold! he lived, and I knew that he would 
live, for none die on whom the drug takes hold. Think 
of it now, my Holly--think of the wonder of it! He 
will sleep for twelve hours, and then the fever will 
have left him!"

 _i_ She _i_ stopped, and laid her hand upon the 
golden head, and then bent down and kissed the brow 
with a chastened abandonment of tenderness that would 
have been beautiful to behold had not the sight cut me 
to the heart--for I was jealous!



THEN followed a silence of a minute or so, during 
which _i_ She _i_ appeared, if one might judge from 
the almost angelic rapture of her face--for she looked 
angelic sometimes--to be plunged in a happy ecstasy. 
Suddenly, however, a new thought struck her, and her 
expression became the very reverse of angelic.

"Almost had I forgotten," she said, "that woman, 
Ustane. What is she to Kallikrates--his servant, or--" 
and she paused, and her voice trembled.

I shrugged my shoulders. "I understand that she is wed 
to him according to the custom of the Amahagger," I 
answered; "but I know not."

Her face grew dark as a thundercloud. Old as she was, 
Ayesha had not outlived jealousy.

"Then there is an end," she said; "she must die, even 

"For what crime?" I asked, horrified. "She is guilty 
of naught that thou art not guilty of thyself, O 
Ayesha. She loves the man, and he has been pleased to 
accept her love: where, then, is her Sin?"

"Truly, O Holly, thou art foolish," she answered, 
almost petulantly. "Where is her sin? Her sin is that 
she stands between me and my desire. Well I know that 
I can take him from her--for dwells there a man upon 
this earth, O Holly, who could resist me if I put out 
my strength? Men are faithful for so long only as 
temptations pass them by. If the temptation be but 
strong enough, then will the man yield, for every man, 
like every rope, hath his breaking strain, and passion 
is to men what gold and power are to women--the weight 
upon their weakness. Believe me, ill will it go with 
mortal women in that heaven of which thou speakest, if 
only the spirits be more fair, for their lords will 
never turn to look upon them, and their heaven will 
become their hell. For man can be bought with woman's 
beauty, if it be but beautiful enough; and woman's 
beauty can be ever bought with gold, if only there be 
gold enough. So was it in my day, and so it will be to 
the end of time. The world is a great mart, my Holly, 
where all things are for sale to him who bids the 
highest in the currency of our desires."

These remarks, which were as cynical as might have 
been expected from a woman of Ayesha's age and 
experience, jarred upon me, and I answered, testily, 
that in our heaven there was no marriage or giving in 

"Else would it not be heaven, dost thou mean?" she put 
in. "Fie upon thee, Holly, to think so ill of us poor 
women! Is it, then, marriage that marks the line 
between thy heaven and thy hell? But enough of this. 
This is no time for disputing and the challenge of our 
wits. Why dost thou always dispute? Art thou also a 
philosopher of these latter days? As for this woman, 
she must die; for though I can take her lover from 
her, yet, while she lived, might he think tenderly of 
her, and that I cannot away with. No other woman shall 
dwell in my lord's thoughts; my empire shall be all my 
own. She hath had her day, let her be content; for 
better is an hour with love than a century of 
loneliness--now the night shall swallow her."

"Nay, nay," I cried, "it would be a wicked crime; and 
from a crime naught comes but what is evil. For thine 
own sake do not this deed."

"Is it, then, a crime, O foolish man, to put away that 
which stands between us and our ends? Then is our life 
one long crime, my Holly; for day by day we destroy 
that we may live, since in this world none save the 
strongest can endure. Those who are weak must perish; 
the earth is to the strong, and the fruits thereof. 
For every tree that grows, a score shall wither, that 
the strong ones may take their share. We run to place 
and power over the dead bodies of those who fail and 
fall; ay, we win the food we eat from out the mouths 
of starving babes. It is the scheme of things. Thou 
sayest, too, that a crime breeds evil, but therein 
thou dost lack experience; for out of crimes come many 
good things, and out of good grows much evil. The 
cruel rage of the tyrant may prove a blessing to 
thousands who come after him, and the sweet-
heartedness of a holy man may make a nation slaves. 
Man doeth this and doeth that from the good or evil of 
his heart; but he knoweth not to what end his moral 
sense doth prompt him; for when he striketh he is 
blind to where the blow shall fall, nor can he count 
the airy threads that weave the web of circumstance. 
Good and evil, love and hate, night and day, sweet and 
bitter, man and woman, heaven above and earth beneath-
-all these things are necessary one to the other, and 
who knows the end of each? I tell thee that there is a 
hand of Fate that twines them up to bear the burden of 
its purpose, and all things are gathered in that great 
rope to which all things are needful. Therefore doth 
it not become us to say this thing is evil and this 
good, or the dark is hateful and the light lovely; for 
to other eyes than ours the evil may be the good and 
the darkness more beautiful than the day, or all alike 
be fair. Hearest thou, my Holly?"

I felt it was hopeless to argue against casuistry of 
this nature, which, if it were carried to its logical 
conclusion, would absolutely destroy all morality, as 
we understand it. But her talk gave me a fresh thrill 
of fear; for what may not be possible to a being who, 
unconstrained by human law, is also absolutely 
unshackled by a moral sense of right and wrong, which, 
however partial and conventional it may be, is yet 
based, as our conscience tells us, upon the great wall 
of individual responsibility that marks off mankind 
from the beasts.

But I was deeply anxious to save Ustane, whom I liked 
and respected, from the dire fate that overshadowed 
her at the hands of her mighty rival. So I made one 
more appeal.

"Ayesha," I said, "thou art too subtle for me; but 
thou thyself hast told me that each man should be a 
law unto himself, and follow the teaching of his 
heart. Hath thy heart no mercy towards her whose place 
thou wouldst take? Bethink thee, as thou sayest--
though to me the thing is incredible--him whom thou 
desirest has returned to thee after many ages, and but 
now thou hast, as thou sayest also, wrung him from the 
jaws of death. Wilt thou celebrate his coming by the 
murder of one who loved him, and whom perchance he 
loved--one, at the least who saved his life for thee 
when the spears of thy slaves would have made an end 
thereof? Thou sayest also that in past days thou didst 
grievously wrong this man, that with thine own hand 
thou didst slay him because of the Egyptian Amenartas 
whom he loved."

"How knowest thou that, O stranger? How knowest thou 
that name? I spoke it not to thee," she broke in with 
a cry, catching at my arm.

"Perchance I dreamed it," I answered; "strange dreams 
do hover about these caves of Ko^r. It seems that the 
dream was, indeed, a shadow of the truth. What came to 
thee of thy mad crime?--two thousand years of waiting, 
was it not? And now wouldst thou repeat the history? 
Say what thou wilt, I tell thee that evil will come of 
it; for to him who doeth, at the least, good breeds 
good and evil evil, even though in after-days out of 
evil cometh good. Offences must needs come; but woe to 
him by whom the offence cometh. So said that Messiah 
of whom I spoke to thee, and it was truly said. If 
thou slayest this innocent woman, I say unto thee that 
thou shalt be accursed, and pluck no fruit from thine 
ancient tree of love. Also, what thinkest thou? How 
will this man take thee redhanded from the slaughter 
of her who loved and tended him?''

"As to that," she answered, "I have already answered 
thee. Had I slain thee as well as her, yet should he 
love me, Holly, because he could not save himself 
therefrom any more than thou couldst save thyself from 
dying, if by chance I slew thee, O Holly. And yet, 
maybe there is truth in what thou dost say; for in 
some way it presseth on my mind. If it may be I will 
spare this woman; for have I not told thee that I am 
not cruel for the sake of cruelty? I love not to see 
suffering or to cause it. Let her come before me--
quick, now, before my mood changes," and she hastily 
covered her face with its gauzy wrapping.

Well pleased to have succeeded even to this extent, I 
passed out into the passage and called to Ustane, 
whose white garment I caught sight of some yards away, 
huddled up against one of the earthenware lamps that 
were placed at intervals along the tunnel. She rose, 
and ran towards me.

"Is my lord dead? Oh, say not he is dead," she cried, 
lifting her noble-looking face, all stained as it was 
with tears, up to me with an air of infinite 
beseeching that went straight to my heart.

"Nay, he lives," I answered. " _i_ She _i_ hath saved 
him. Enter."

She sighed deeply, entered, and fell upon her hands 
and knees, after the custom of the Amahagger people, 
in the presence of the dread _i_ She _i_.

"Stand," said Ayesha, in her coldest voice, "and come 

Ustane obeyed, standing before her with bowed head.

Then came a pause, which Ayesha broke.

"Who is this man?" she said, pointing to the sleeping 
form of Leo.

"The man is my husband," she answered in a low voice.

"Who gave him to thee for a husband?"

"I took him according to the custom of our country, O 
_i_ She _i_ ."

"Thou hast done evil, woman, in taking this man, who 
is a stranger. He is not a man of thine own race, and 
the custom fails. Listen: perchance thou didst this 
thing through ignorance, therefore, woman, do I spare 
thee; otherwise hadst thou died. Listen again. Go from 
hence back to thine own place, and never dare to speak 
to or set thine eyes upon this man again. He is not 
for thee. Listen a third time. If thou breakest this 
my law, that moment thou diest. Go." 

But Ustane did not move. 

"Go, woman!"

Then she looked up, and I saw that her face was torn 
with passion.

"Nay, O _i_ She _i_ , I will not go," she answered, in 
a choked voice: "the man is my husband, and I love 
him--I love him, and I will not leave him. What right 
hast thou to command me to leave my husband?"

I saw a little quiver pass down Ayesha's frame, and 
shuddered myself, fearing the worst.

"Be pitiful," I said in Latin; "it is but Nature 

"I am pitiful," she answered, coldly, in the same 
language; "had I not been pitiful she had been dead 
even now." Then addressing Ustane: "Woman, I say to 
thee, go before I destroy thee where thou art!"

"I will not go! He is mine--mine!" she cried, in 
anguish. "I took him, and I saved his life! Destroy 
me, then, if thou hast the power! I will not give thee 
my husband--never--never!"

Ayesha made a movement so swift that I could scarcely 
follow it, but it seemed to me that she lightly struck 
the poor girl upon the head with her hand. I looked at 
Ustane, and then staggered back in horror, for there 
upon her hair, right across her bronze-like tresses, 
were three finger-marks white as snow. As for the girl 
herself, she had put her hands to her head, and was 
looking dazed.

"Great heavens!" I said, perfectly aghast at this 
dreadful manifestation of inhuman power; but _i_ She 
_i_ did but laugh a little.

"Thou thinkest, poor, ignorant fool," she said to the 
bewildered woman, "that I have not power to slay. 
Stay, there lies a mirror," and she pointed to Leo's 
round shaving-glass that had been arranged by Job with 
other things upon his portmanteau; "give it to this 
woman, my Holly, and let her see that which lies 
across her hair, and whether or not I have power to 

I picked up the glass, and held it before Ustane's 
eyes. She gazed, then felt at her hair, then gazed 
again, and then sank upon the ground with a sort of 

"Now, wilt thou go, or must I strike a second time?" 
asked Ayesha, in mockery. "Look, I have set my seal 
upon thee so that I may know thee till thy hair is all 
as white as it. If I see thy face here again, be sure 
too, that thy bones shall soon be whiter than my mark 
upon thy hair."

Utterly awed and broken down, the poor creature rose 
and, marked with that awful mark, crept from the room 
sobbing bitterly.

"Look not so frighted, my Holly," said Ayesha, when 
She had gone. "I tell thee I deal not in magic--there 
is no such thing. 'Tis only a force that thou dost not 
understand. I marked her to strike terror to her 
heart, else must I have slain her. And now I will bid 
my servants bear my Lord Kallikrates to a chamber near 
mine own, that I may watch over him, and be ready to 
greet him when he wakes; and thither, too, shalt thou 
come, my Holly, and the white man, thy servant. But 
one thing remember at thy peril. Naught shalt thou say 
to Kallikrates as to how this woman went, and as 
little as may be of me. Now, I have warned thee!" and 
she slid away to give her orders, leaving me more 
absolutely confounded than ever. Indeed, so bewildered 
was I, and racked and torn with such a succession of 
various emotions, that I began to think that I must be 
going mad. However, perhaps fortunately, I had but 
little time to reflect, for presently the mutes 
arrived to carry the sleeping Leo and our possessions 
across the central cave, so for a while all was 
bustle. Our new rooms were situated immediately behind 
what we used to call Ayesha's boudoir--the curtained 
space where I had first seen her. Where she herself 
slept I did not then know, but it was somewhere quite 

That night I passed in Leo's room, but he slept 
through it like the dead, never once stirring. I also 
slept fairly well, as, indeed, I needed to do, but my 
sleep was full of dreams of all the horrors and 
wonders I had undergone. Chiefly, however, I was 
haunted by that frightful piece of _i_ diablerie _i_ 
by which Ayesha left her finger-marks upon her rival's 
hair. There was something so terrible about the swift, 
snakelike movement, and the instantaneous blanching of 
that threefold line, that, if the results to Ustane 
had been much more tremendous, I doubt if they would 
have impressed me so deeply. To this day I often dream 
of that awful scene, and see the weeping woman, 
bereaved, and marked like Cain, cast a last look at 
her lover, and creep from the presence of her dread 

Another dream that troubled me originated in the huge 
pyramid of bones. I dreamed that they all stood up and 
marched past me in thousands and tens of thousands--in 
squadrons, companies, and armies--with the sunlight 
shining through their hollow ribs. On they rushed 
across the plain to Ko^r, their imperial home; I saw 
the drawbridges fall before them, and heard their 
bones clank through the brazen gates. On they went, up 
the splendid streets, on past fountains, palaces, and 
temples such as the eye of man never saw. But there 
was no man to greet them in the market-place, and no 
woman's face appeared at the windows--only a bodiless 
voice went before them, calling: "Fallen is Imperial 
Ko^r--fallen!--fallen!--fallen!" On, right through the 
city, marched those gleaming phalanxes, and the rattle 
of their bony tread echoed through the silent air as 
they pressed grimly on. They passed through the city 
and climbed the wall, and marched along the great 
roadway that was made upon the wall, till at length 
they once more reached the drawbridge. Then, as the 
sun was sinking, they returned again towards their 
sepulchre, and luridly his light shone in the sockets 
of their empty eyes, throwing gigantic shadows of 
their bones, that stretched away, and crept and crept 
like huge spider's legs as their armies wound across 
the plain. Then they came to the cave, and once more 
one by one flung themselves in unending files through 
the hole into the pit of bones, and I awoke, 
shuddering, to see _i_ She _i_ , who had evidently 
been standing between my couch and Leo's, glide like a 
shadow from the room.

After this I slept again, soundly this time, till 
morning, when I awoke much refreshed, and got up. At 
last the hour drew near at which, according to Ayesha, 
Leo was to awake, and with it came _i_ She _i_ 
herself, as usual, veiled.

"Thou shalt see, O Holly," she said; "presently shall 
he awake in his right mind, the fever having left 

Hardly were the words out of her mouth, when Leo 
turned round and stretched out his arms, yawned, 
opened his eyes, and, perceiving a female form bending 
over him, threw his arms round her and kissed her, 
mistaking her, perhaps, for Ustane. At any rate, he 
said, in Arabic, "Hullo! Ustane, why have you tied 
your head up like that? Have you got the toothache?" 
and then, in English, "I say, I'm awfully hungry. Why, 
Job, you old son-of-a-gun, where the deuce have we got 
to now--eh?"

"I am sure I wish I knew, Mr. Leo," said Job, edging 
suspiciously past Ayesha, whom he still regarded with 
the utmost disgust and horror, being by no means sure 
that she was not an animated corpse; "but you mustn't 
talk, Mr. Leo, you've been very ill, and given us a 
great deal of hanxiety, and, if this lady," looking at 
Ayesha, "would be so kind as to move, I'll bring you 
your soup."

This turned Leo's attention to the "lady," who was 
standing by in perfect silence. "Hullo!" he said; 
"that is not Ustane--where is Ustane?"

Then, for the first time, Ayesha spoke to him, and her 
first words were a lie. "She has gone from hence upon 
a visit," she said; "and, behold, in her place am I 
here as thine handmaid."

Ayesha's silver notes seemed to puzzle Leo's half-
awakened intellect, as also I did her corpselike 
wrappings. However, he said nothing at the time, but 
drank off his soup greedily enough, and then turned 
over and slept again till the evening. When he woke 
for the second time he saw me, and began to question 
me as to what had happened, but I had to put him off 
as best I could till the morrow, when he awoke almost 
miraculously better. Then I told him something of his 
illness and of my doings, but as Ayesha was present I 
could not tell him much except that she was the queen 
of the country, and well disposed towards us, and that 
it was her pleasure to go veiled; for, though of 
course I spoke in English, I was afraid that she might 
understand what we were saying from the expression of 
our faces, and, besides, I remembered her warning.

On the following day Leo got up almost entirely 
recovered. The flesh wound in his side was healed, and 
his constitution, naturally a vigorous one, had shaken 
off the exhaustion consequent on his terrible fever 
with a rapidity that I can only attribute to the 
effects of the wonderful drug which Ayesha had given 
to him, and also to the fact that his illness had been 
too short to reduce him very much. With his returning 
health came back full recollection of all his 
adventures up to the time when he had lost 
consciousness in the marsh, and of course of Ustane 
also, to whom I had discovered he had grown 
considerably attached. Indeed, he overwhelmed me with 
questions about the poor girl, which I did not dare to 
answer, for after Leo's first wakening _i_ She _i_ had 
sent for me, and again warned me solemnly that I was 
to reveal nothing of the story to him, delicately 
hinting that if I did it would be the worse for me. 
_i_ She _i_ also, for the second time, cautioned me 
not to tell Leo anything more than I was obliged about 
herself, saying that she would reveal herself to him 
in her own time.

Indeed, her whole manner changed. After all that I had 
seen I had expected that she would take the earliest 
opportunity of claiming the man she believed to be her 
old-world lover, but this, for some reason of her own, 
which was at the time quite inscrutable to me, she did 
not do. All that she did was to attend to his wants 
quietly, and with a humility which was in striking 
contrast with her former imperious bearing, addressing 
him always in a tone of something very like respect, 
and keeping him with her as much as possible. Of 
course his curiosity was as much excited about this 
mysterious woman as my own had been, and he was 
particularly anxious to see her face, which I had, 
without entering into particulars, told him was as 
lovely as her form and voice. This in itself was 
enough to raise the expectations of any young man to a 
dangerous pitch, and had it not been that he had not 
as yet completely shaken off the effects of illness, 
and was much troubled in his mind about Ustane, of 
whose affection and brave devotion he spoke in 
touching terms, I have no doubt that he would have 
entered into her plans, and fallen in love with her by 
anticipation. As it was, however, he was simply wildly 
curious, and also, like myself, considerably awed, for 
though no hint had been given to him by Ayesha of her 
extraordinary age, he not unnaturally came to identify 
her with the woman spoken of on the potsherd. At last, 
quite driven into a corner by his continual questions, 
which he showered on me while he was dressing on this 
third morning, I referred him to Ayesha, saying, with 
perfect truth, that I did not know where Ustane was. 
Accordingly, after Leo had eaten a hearty breakfast, 
we adjourned into _i_ She _i_ 's presence, for her 
mutes had orders to admit us at all hours.
 _i_ She _i_ was, as usual, seated in what, for want 
of a better term, we called her boudoir, and on the 
curtains being drawn she rose from her couch and, 
stretching out both hands, came forward to greet us, 
or rather Leo; for I, as may be imagined, was now 
quite left in the cold. It was a pretty sight to see 
her veiled form gliding towards the sturdy young 
Englishman, dressed in his gray-flannel suit; for 
though he is half a Greek in blood, Leo is, with the 
exception of his hair, one of the most English-looking 
men I ever saw. He has nothing of the supple form or 
slippery manner of the modern Greek about him, though 
I presume that he got his remarkable personal beauty 
from his foreign mother, whose portrait he resembles 
not a little. He is very tall and big-chested, and yet 
not awkward, as so many big men are, and his head is 
set upon him in such a fashion as to give him a proud 
and vigorous air, which was well translated in his 
Amahagger name of the "Lion."

"Greeting to thee, my young stranger lord," she said, 
in her softest voice. "Right glad am I to see thee 
upon thy feet. Believe me, had I not saved thee at the 
last, never wouldst thou have stood upon those feet 
again. But the danger is done, and it shall be my 
care"--and she flung a world of meaning into the 
words--"that it doth return no more."

Leo bowed to her, and then, in his best Arabic, 
thanked her for all her kindness and courtesy in 
caring for one unknown to her.

"Nay," she answered, softly, "ill could the world 
spare such a man. Beauty is too rare upon it. Give me 
no thanks, who am made happy by thy coming."

"Humph! old fellow," said Leo aside to me, in English, 
"the lady is very civil. We seem to have tumbled into 
clover. I hope that you have made the most of your 
opportunities. By Jove! what a pair of arms she has 

I nudged him in the ribs to make him keep quiet, for I 
caught sight of a gleam from Ayesha's veiled eyes, 
which were regarding me curiously.

"I trust," went on Ayesha, "that my servants have 
attended well upon thee; if there can be comfort in 
this poor place, be sure it waits on thee. Is there 
aught that I can do for thee more?"

"Yes, O _i_ She _i_ ," answered Leo, hastily. "I would 
fain know whither the young lady who was looking after 
me has gone to."

"Ah," said Ayesha: "the girl---yes, I saw her. Nay, I 
know not; she said that she would go, I know not 
whither. Perchance she will return, perchance not. It 
is wearisome waiting on the sick, and these savage 
women are fickle."

Leo looked both sulky and distressed at this 

"It's very odd," he said to me, in English; and then 
addressing _i_ She _i_ , "I cannot understand," he 
said; "the young lady and I--well, in short, we had a 
regard for each other."

Ayesha laughed a little very musically, and then 
turned the subject.



THE, conversation after this was of such a desultory 
order that I do not quite recollect it. For some 
reason, perhaps from a desire to keep her identity and 
character in reserve, Ayesha did not talk freely, as 
she usually did. Presently, however, she informed Leo 
that she had arranged a dance that night for our 
amusement. I was astonished to hear this, as: I 
fancied that the Amahagger were much too gloomy a folk 
to indulge in any such frivolity; but, as will 
presently more clearly appear, it turned out an 
Amahagger dance has little in common with such 
fantastic festivities in other countries, savage or 
civilized. Then, as we were about to withdraw, she 
suggested that Leo might like to see some of the 
wonders of the caves, and, as he gladly assented, 
thither we departed, accompanied by Job and Billali. 
To describe our visit would only be to repeat a great 
deal of what I have already said. The tombs we entered 
were indeed. different, for the whole rock was a 
honeycomb of sepulchres, but the contents were nearly 
always similar. Afterwards we visited the pyramid of 
bones that had haunted my dreams on the previous 
night, and from thence went down a long passage to one 
of the great vaults occupied by the bodies of the 
poorer citizens of Imperial Ko^r. These bodies were 
not nearly so well preserved as were those of the 
wealthier classes. Many of them had no linen covering 
on them, also they were buried from five hundred to 
one thousand in a single large vault, the corpses in 
some instances being thickly piled one upon another, 
like a heap of slain.

Leo was of course intensely interested in this 
stupendous and unequalled sight, which was, indeed, 
enough to awaken all the imagination a man had in him 
into the most active life. But to poor Job it did not 
prove attractive. His nerves--already seriously shaken 
by what he had undergone since we had arrived in this 
terrible country--were, as may be imagined, still 
further disturbed by the spectacle of these masses of 
departed humanity, whereof the forms still remained 
perfect before his eyes, though their voices were 
forever lost in the eternal silence of the tomb. Nor 
was he comforted when old Billali, by way of soothing 
his evident agitation, informed him that he should not 
be frightened at these dead things, as he would soon 
be like them himself.

"There's a nice thing to say of a man, sir," he 
ejaculated, when I translated this little remark; "but 
there, what can one expect of an old man-eating 
savage? Not but what I dare say he's right," and Job 

When we had finished inspecting the caves we returned 
and had our meal, for it was now past four in the 
afternoon, and we all--specially Leo--needed some food 
and rest. At six o'clock we, together with Job, waited 
on Ayesha, who set to work to terrify our poor servant 
still further by showing him pictures on the pool of 
water in the font like vessel. _i_ She _i_ learned 
from me that he was one of seventeen children, and 
then bid him think of all his brothers and sisters, or 
as many of them as he could, gathered together in his 
father's cottage. Then she told him to look in the 
water, and there, reflected from its stilly surface, 
was that dead scene of many years gone by, as it was 
recalled to our retainer's brain. Some of the faces 
were clear enough, but some were mere blurs and 
splotches, or with one feature grossly exaggerated; 
the fact being that, in these instances, Job had been 
unable to recall the exact appearances of the 
individuals, or remembered them only by a peculiarity 
of his tribe, and the water could only reflect what he 
saw with his mind's eye. For it must be remembered 
that _i_ She _i_ 's power in this matter was strictly 
limited; she could, apparently, except in very rare 
instances, only photograph upon the water what was 
actually in the mind of some one present, and then 
only by his will. But if she was personally acquainted 
with a locality she could, as in the case of ourselves 
and the whale-boat, throw its reflection upon the 
water, and also it seems the reflection of anything 
extraneous that was passing there at the time. This 
power, however, did not extend to the minds of others. 
For instance, she could show me the interior of my 
college chapel, as I remembered it, but not as it was 
at the moment of reflection; for, where other people 
were concerned, her art was strictly limited to the 
facts or memories present to their consciousness at 
the moment. So much was this so that, when we tried, 
for her amusement, to show her pictures of noted 
buildings, such as St. Paul's or the Houses of 
Parliament, the result was most imperfect; for, of 
course, though we had a good general idea of their 
appearance, we could not recall all the architectural 
details, and therefore the minutiae necessary to a 
perfect reflection were wanting. But Job could not be 
got to understand this, and so far from accepting a 
natural explanation of the matter, which was, after 
all, though strange enough in all conscience, nothing 
more than an instance of glorified and perfected 
telepathy, he set the whole thing down as a 
manifestation of the blackest magic. I shall never 
forget the howl of terror which he uttered when he saw 
the more or less perfect portraits of his long-
scattered brethren staring at him from the quiet 
water, or the merry peal of laughter with which Ayesha 
greeted his consternation. As for Leo, he did not 
altogether like it either, but ran his fingers through 
his yellow curls, and remarked that it gave him the 

After about an hour of this amusement, in the latter 
part of which Job did not participate, the mutes by 
signs indicated that Billali was waiting for an 
audience. Accordingly he was told to "crawl up," which 
he did as awkwardly as usual, and announced that the 
dance was ready to begin if She and the white 
strangers would be pleased to attend. Shortly 
afterwards we all rose, and Ayesha having thrown a 
dark cloak (the same, by the way, that she had worn 
when I saw her cursing by the fire) over her white 
wrappings, we started. The dance was to be held in the 
open air, on the smooth rocky plateau in front of the 
great cave, and thither we made our way. About fifteen 
paces from the mouth of the cave we found three chairs 
placed, and here we sat and waited, for as yet no 
dancers were to be seen. The night was almost, but not 
quite, dark, the moon not having risen as yet, which 
made us wonder how we should be able to see the 

"Thou wilt presently understand," said Ayesha, with a 
little laugh, when Leo asked her; and we certainly 
did. Scarcely were the words out of her mouth when 
from every point we saw dark forms rushing up, each 
bearing with him what we at first took to be an 
enormous flaming torch. Whatever they were they were 
burning furiously, for the flames stood out a yard or 
more behind each bearer. On they came, fifty or more 
of them, carrying their flaming burdens and looking 
like so many devils from hell. Leo was the first to 
discover what these burdens were.

"Great heaven!" he said, "they are corpses on fire!"

I stared and stared again--he was perfectly right--the 
torches that were to light our entertainment were 
human mummies from the caves!

On rushed the bearers of the flaming corpses, and, 
meeting at a spot about twenty paces in front of us, 
built their ghastly burdens crossways into a huge 
bonfire. Heavens! how they roared and flared! No tar 
barrel could have burned as those mummies did: Nor was 
this all. Suddenly I saw one great fellow seize a 
flaming human arm that had fallen from its parent 
frame; and rush off into the darkness. Presently he 
stopped, and a tall streak of fire shot up into the 
air, illumining the gloom, and also the lamp from 
which it sprang. That lamp was the mummy of a woman 
tied to a stout stake let into the rock, and he had 
fired her hair. On he went a few paces and touched a 
second, then a third, and a fourth, till at last we 
were surrounded on all three sides by a great ring of 
bodies flaring furiously, the material with which they 
were preserved having rendered them so inflammable 
that the flames would literally spout out of the ears 
and mouth in tongues of fire a foot or more in length.

Nero illuminated his gardens with live Christians 
soaked in tar, and we were now treated to a similar 
spectacle, probably for the first time since his day, 
only happily our lamps were not living ones.

But although this element of horror was fortunately 
wanting, to describe the awful and hideous grandeur of 
the spectacle thus presented to us is, I feel, so 
absolutely beyond my poor powers, that I scarcely dare 
attempt it. To begin with, it appealed to the moral as 
well as the physical susceptibilities. There was 
something very terrible, and yet very fascinating, 
about the employment of the remote dead to illumine 
the orgies of the living; in itself the thing was a 
satire, both on the living and the dead. Caesar's 
dust--or is it Alexander's? may stop a bunghole, but 
the functions of these dead Caesars of the past was to 
light up a savage fetish dance. To such base uses may 
we come, of so little account may we be in the minds 
of the eager multitudes that we shall breed, many of 
whom, so far from revering our memory, will live to 
curse us for begetting them into such a world of woe.

Then there was the physical side of the spectacle, and 
a weird and splendid one it was. Those old citizens of 
Ko^r burned as, to judge from their sculptures and 
inscriptions, they had lived, very fast, and with the 
utmost liberality. What is more, there were plenty of 
them. As soon as ever a mummy had burned down to the 
ankles, which it did in about twenty minutes, the feet 
were kicked away, and another one put in its place. 
The bonfire was kept going on the same generous scale, 
and its flames shot up, with a hiss and a crackle, 
twenty or thirty feet into the air, throwing great 
flashes of light far out into the gloom, through which 
the dark forms of the Amahagger flitted to and fro 
like devils replenishing the infernal fires. We all 
stood and stared aghast--shocked, and yet fascinated 
at so strange a spectacle, and half expecting to see 
the spirits those flaming forms had once enclosed come 
creeping from the shadows to work vengeance on their 

"I promised thee a strange sight, my Holly," laughed 
Ayesha, whose nerves alone did not seem to be 
affected; "and, behold, I have not failed thee. Also, 
it hath its lesson. Trust not to the future, for who 
knows what the future may bring! Therefore, live for 
the day, and endeavor not to escape the dust which 
seems to be man's end. What thinkest thou those long-
forgotten nobles and ladies would have felt had they 
known that they should one day flare to light the 
dance or boil the pot of savages? But see, here come 
the dancers; a merry crew--are they not? The stage is 
lit--now for the play."

As she spoke, we perceived two lines of figures, one 
male and the other female, to the number of about a 
hundred, each advancing round the human bonfire, 
arrayed only in the usual leopard and buck skins. They 
formed up, in perfect silence, in two lines, facing 
each other, between us and the fire, and then the 
dance--a sort of infernal and fiendish cancan--began. 
To describe it is quite impossible, but, though there 
was a good deal of tossing of legs and double-
shuffling, it seemed to our untutored minds to be more 
of a play than a dance, and, as usual with this 
dreadful people, whose minds seem to have taken their 
color from the caves in which they live, and whose 
jokes and amusements are drawn from the inexhaustible 
stores of preserved mortality with which they share 
their homes, the subject appeared to be a most ghastly 
one. I know that it represented an attempted murder 
first of all, and then the burial alive of the victim 
and his struggling from the grave; each act of the 
abominable drama, which was carried on in perfect 
silence, being rounded off and finished with a furious 
and most revolting dance round the supposed victim, 
who writhed upon the ground in the red light of the 

Presently, however, this pleasing piece was 
interrupted. Suddenly there was a slight commotion, 
and a large, powerful woman, whom I had noticed as one 
of the most vigorous of the dancers, came, made mad 
and drunken with unholy excitement, bounding and 
staggering towards us, shrieking out as she came:

"I want a black goat, I must have a black goat, bring 
me a black goat!" and down she fell upon the rocky 
floor foaming and writhing and shrieking for a black 
goat, about as hideous a spectacle as can well be 

Instantly most of the dancers came up and got round 
her, though some still continued their capers in the 

"She has got a Devil," called out one of them. "Run 
and get a black goat. There, Devil, keep quiet! keep 
quiet! You shall have the goat presently. They have 
gone to fetch it, Devil."

"I want a black goat, I must have a black goat!" 
shrieked the foaming, rolling creature again.

"All right, Devil, the goat will be here presently; 
keep quiet, there's a good Devil!"

And so on till the goat, taken from a neighboring 
kraal, did at last arrive, being dragged bleating on 
to the scene by its horns.

"Is it a black one, is it a black one?" shrieked the 

"Yes, yes, Devil, as black as night;" then aside, 
"keep it behind thee, don't let the Devil see that it 
has got a white spot on its rump and another on its 
belly. In one minute, Devil. There, cut his throat 
quick. Where is the saucer?"

"The goat! the goat! the goat! Give me the blood of my 
black goat! I must have it, don't you see I must have 
it? Oh! oh! oh! give me the blood of the goat."

At this moment a terrified _i_ bah! _i_ announced that 
the poor goat had been sacrificed, and the next minute 
a woman ran up with a saucer full of the blood. This 
the possessed creature, who was then raving and 
foaming her wildest, seized and drank, and was 
instantly recovered, and without a trace of hysteria, 
or fits, or being possessed, or whatever dreadful 
thing it was she was suffering from. She stretched her 
arms, smiled faintly, and walked quietly back to the 
dancers, who presently withdrew in a double line as 
they had come, leaving the space between us and the 
bonfire deserted.

I thought that the entertainment was now over, and, 
feeling rather queer, was about to ask _i_ She _i_ if 
we could rise, when suddenly what at first I took to 
be a baboon came hopping round the fire, and was 
instantly met upon the other side by a lion, or rather 
a human being dressed in a lion's skin. Then came a 
goat, then a man wrapped in an ox's hide, with the 
horns wobbling about in a ludicrous way. After him 
followed a blesbok, then an impala, then a koodoo, 
then more goats, and many other animals, including a 
girl sewn up in the shining scaly hide of a boa 
constrictor, several yards of which trailed along the 
ground behind her. When all the beasts had collected 
they began to dance about in a lumbering, unnatural 
fashion, and to imitate the sounds produced by the 
respective animals they represented, till the whole 
air was alive with roars and bleating and the hissing 
of snakes. This went on for a long time, till, getting 
tired of the pantomime, I asked Ayesha if there would 
be any objection to Leo and myself walking round to 
inspect the human torches, and as she had nothing to 
say against it, we started, striking round to the 
left. After looking at one or two of the flaming 
bodies, we were about to return, thoroughly disgusted 
with the grotesque weirdness of the spectacle, when 
our attention was attracted by one of the dancers, a 
particularly active leopard, that had separated itself 
from its fellow-beasts, and was whisking about in our 
immediate neighborhood, but gradually drawing into a 
spot where the shadow was darkest, equidistant between 
two of the flaming mummies. Drawn by curiosity, we 
followed it, when suddenly it darted past us into the 
shadows beyond, and as it did so erected itself and 
whispered, "Come," in a voice that we both recognized 
as that of Ustane. Without waiting to consult me Leo 
turned and followed her into the outer darkness, and 
I, feeling sick enough at heart, went after them. The 
leopard crawled on for about fifty paces--a sufficient 
distance to be quite beyond the light of the fire and 
torches--and then Leo came up with it, or, rather, 
with Ustane.

"O my lord," I heard her whisper, "so I have found 
thee! Listen, I am in peril of my life from _i_ She 
_i_ -who-must-be-obeyed.' Surely the Baboon has told 
thee how she drove me from thee? I love thee, my lord, 
and thou art mine according to the custom of the 
country. I saved thy life! My Lion, wilt thou cast me 
off now?"

"Of course not," ejaculated Leo; "I have been 
wondering whither thou hadst gone. Let us go and 
explain matters to the queen."

"Nay, nay; she would slay us. Thou knowest not her 
power--the Baboon there, he knoweth, for he saw. Nay; 
there is but one way: if thou wilt cleave to me, thou 
must flee with me across the marshes even now, and 
then perchance we may escape."

"For Heaven's sake, Leo," I began, but she broke in--

"Nay, listen not to him. Swift--be swift--death is in 
the air we breathe. Even now, mayhap, _i_ She _i_ 
heareth us," and without more ado she proceeded to 
back her arguments by throwing herself into his arms. 
As she did so the leopard's head slipped from her 
hair, and I saw the three white finger-marks upon it 
gleaming faintly in the starlight. Once more realizing 
the desperate nature of the position, I was about to 
interpose, for I knew that Leo was not too strong-
minded where women were concerned, when--oh! horror!--
I heard a little silvery laugh behind me. I turned 
round, and there was _i_ She _i_ herself, and with her 
Billali and two male mutes. I gasped and nearly sank 
to the ground, for I knew that such a situation must 
result in some dreadful tragedy, of which it seemed 
exceedingly probable to me that I should be the first 

As for Ustane, she untwined her arms and covered her 
eyes with her hands, while Leo, not knowing the full 
terror of the position, merely colored up, and looked 
as foolish as a man caught in such a trap would 
naturally do.



THEN followed a moment of the most painful silence 
that I ever endured. It was broken by Ayesha, who 
addressed herself to Leo.

"Nay, now my lord and guest," she said, in her softest 
tones, which yet had the ring of steel about them, 
"look not so bashful. Surely the sight was a pretty 
one--the leopard and the lion!"

"Oh, hang it all!" said Leo, in English.

"And thou, Ustane," she went on, "surely I should have 
passed thee by had not the light fallen on the white 
across thy hair," and she pointed to the bright edge 
of the rising moon which was now appearing above the 
horizon. "Well! well! the dance is done--see, the 
tapers have burned down, and all things end in silence 
and in ashes. So thou thoughtest it a fit time for 
love, Ustane, my servant--and I, dreaming not that I 
could be disobeyed, thought thee already far away."

"Play not with me," moaned the wretched woman; "slay 
me, and let be an end."

"Nay, why? It is not well to go so swift from the hot 
lips of love down to the cold mouth of the grave," and 
she made a motion to the mutes, who instantly stepped 
up and caught the girl by either arm. With an oath Leo 
sprang upon the nearest, and hurled him to the ground, 
and then stood over him with his face set, and his 
fist ready.

Again Ayesha laughed. "It was well thrown, my guest; 
thou hast a strong arm for one who so late was sick. 
But now out of thy courtesy I pray thee let that man 
live and do my bidding. He shall not harm the girl; 
the night air grows chill, and I would welcome her in 
mine own place. Surely she whom thou dost favor shall 
be favored of me also."

I took Leo by the arm, and pulled him from the 
prostrate mute, and he, half bewildered, obeyed the 
pressure. Then we all set out for the cave across the 
plateau, where a pile of white human ashes was all 
that remained of the fire that had lit the dancing, 
for the dancers had vanished.

In due course we gained Ayesha's boudoir--all too soon 
it seemed to me, having a sad presage of what was to 
come lying heavy on my heart.

Ayesha seated herself upon her cushions, and, having 
dismissed Job and Billali, by signs bade the mutes 
tend the lamps and retire. all save one girl, who was 
her favorite personal attendant. We three remained 
standing, the unfortunate Ustane a little to the left 
of the rest of us.

"Now, O Holly," Ayesha began, "how came it that thou, 
who didst hear my words bidding this evil-doer"--and 
she pointed to Ustane--"to go from hence-thou at whose 
prayer I did weakly spare her life-how came it, I say, 
that thou wast a sharer in what I saw to-night? 
Answer, and for thine own sake, I say, speak all the 
truth, for I am not minded to hear lies upon this 

"It was by accident, O queen," I answered. "I knew 
naught of it."

"I do believe thee, O Holly," she answered, coolly, 
"and well it is for thee that I do--then does the 
whole guilt rest upon her."

"I do not find any guilt therein," broke in Leo. "She 
is not another man's wife, and it appears that she has 
married me according to the custom of this awful 
place, so who is the worse? Any way, madam," he went 
on, "whatever she has done I have done too, so if she 
is to be punished let me be punished also; and I tell 
thee," he went on, working himself up into a fury, 
"that if thou biddest one of those deaf-and-dumb 
villains to touch her again, I will tear him to 
pieces!" And he looked as though he meant it.

Ayesha listened in icy silence, and made no remark. 
When he had finished, however, she addressed Ustane.

"Hast thou aught to say, woman? Thou silly straw, thou 
feather, who didst think to float towards thy 
passion's petty ends, even against the great wind of 
my will! Tell me, for I fain would understand. Why 
didst thou this thing?" 

And then I think I saw the most tremendous exhibition 
of moral courage and intrepidity that it is possible 
to conceive. For the poor, doomed girl, knowing what 
she had to expect at the hands of her terrible queen, 
knowing, too, from bitter experience how great was her 
adversary's power, yet gathered herself together, and 
out of the very depths of her despair drew materials 
to defy her.

"I did it, O _i_ She _i_ ," she answered, drawing 
herself up to the full of her stately height, and 
throwing back the leopard skin from her head, "because 
my love is stronger than the grave. I did it because 
my life without this man whom my heart chose would be 
but a living death. Therefore did I risk my life, and 
now that I know that it is forfeit to thine anger, yet 
am I glad that I did risk it, and pay it away in the 
risking, ay, because he embraced me once, and told me 
that he loved me yet."

Here Ayesha half rose from her couch, and then sank 
down again.

"I have no magic," went on Ustane, her rich voice 
ringing strong and full, "and I am not a queen, nor do 
I live forever, but a woman's heart is heavy to sink 
through waters, however deep, O queen! and a woman's 
eyes are quick to see, even through thy veil, O queen!

"Listen: I know it; thou dost love this man thyself, 
and therefore wouldst thou destroy me who stand across 
thy path. Ay, I die--I die, and go into the darkness, 
nor know I whither I go. But this I know. There is a 
light shining in my breast, and by that light, as by a 
lamp, I see the truth, and the future that I shall not 
share unroll itself before me like a scroll. When 
first I knew my lord," and she pointed to Leo, "I knew 
also that death would be the bridal gift he gave me--
it rushed upon me of a sudden, but I turned not back, 
being ready to pay the price, and, behold, death is 
here! And now, even as I knew that, so do I, standing 
on the steps of doom, know that thou shalt not reap 
the profits of thy crime. Mine he is, and, though thy 
beauty shine like a sun among the stars, mine shall he 
remain for thee. Never here in this life shall he look 
thee in the eyes and call thee spouse. Thou too art 
doomed, I see--" and her voice rang like the cry of an 
inspired prophetess; "ah, I see--"

Then came an answering cry of mingled rage and terror. 
I turned my head. Ayesha had risen, and was standing 
with her outstretched hand pointing at Ustane, who had 
suddenly stopped speaking. I gazed at the poor woman, 
and as I gazed there came upon her face that same 
woeful, fixed expression of terror that I had seen 
once before when she had broken out into her wild 
chant. Her eyes grew large, her nostrils dilated, and 
her lips blanched.

Ayesha said nothing, she made no sound she only drew 
herself up, stretched out her arm, and, her tall, 
veiled frame quivering like an aspen leaf, appeared to 
look fixedly at her victim. Even as she did so Ustane 
put her hands to her head, uttered one piercing 
scream, turned round twice, and then fell backward 
with a thud--prone upon the floor. Both Leo and myself 
rushed to her--she was stone dead--blasted into death 
by some mysterious electric agency or overwhelming 
will-force whereof the dread _i_ She _i_ had command.

For a moment Leo did not quite realize what had 
happened. But when he did his face was awful to see. 
With a savage oath he rose from beside the corpse and, 
turning, literally sprang at Ayesha. But she was 
watching, and, seeing him come, stretched out her hand 
again, and he went staggering back towards me, and 
would have fallen, had I not caught him. Afterwards he 
told me that he felt as though he had suddenly 
received a violent blow in the chest, and, what is 
more, utterly cowed, as if all the manhood had been 
taken out of him.

Then Ayesha spoke. "Forgive me, my guest," she said, 
softly, addressing him, "if I have shocked thee with 
my justice."

"Forgive thee, thou fiend!" roared poor Leo, wringing 
his hands in his rage and grief. "Forgive thee, thou 
murderess! By Heaven I will kill thee if I can! '

"Nay, nay," she answered, in the same soft voice, 
"thou dost not understand--the time has come for thee 
to learn. Thou art my love, my Kallikrates, my 
Beautiful, my Strong! For two thousand years, 
Kallikrates, have I waited for thee, and now at length 
thou hast come back to me; and as for this woman," 
pointing to the corpse, "she stood between me and 
thee, and therefore have I removed her, Kallikrates."

"It is an accursed lie!" said Leo. "My name is not 
Kallikrates! I am Leo Vincey; my ancestor was 
Kallikrates--at least, I believe he was."

"Ah, thou sayest it--thine ancestor was Kallikrates, 
and thou, even thou, art Kallikrates reborn, come 
back--and mine own dear lord!"

"I am not Kallikrates, and as for being thy lord, or 
having aught to do with thee, I had sooner be the lord 
of a fiend from hell, for she would be better than 

"Sayest thou so--sayest thou so, Kallikrates? Nay, but 
thou hast not seen me for so long a time that no 
memory remains. Yet I am very fair, Kallikrates!"

"I hate thee, murderess, and I have no wish to see 
thee. What is it to me how fair thou art? I hate thee, 
I say."

"Yet within a very little space shalt thou creep to my 
knee, and swear that thou dost love me," answered 
Ayesha, with a sweet, mocking laugh. "Come, there is 
no time like the present time; here, before this dead 
girl who loved thee, let us put it to the proof.

"Look now on me, Kallikrates!" and with a sudden 
motion she shook her gauzy covering from her, and 
stood forth in her low kirtle and her snaky zone, in 
her glorious, radiant beauty and her imperial grace, 
rising from her wrappings, as it were, like Venus from 
the wave, or Galatea from her marble, or a beatified 
spirit from the tomb, _i_ She _i_ stood forth, and 
fixed her deep and glowing eyes upon Leo's eyes, and I 
saw his clenched fists unclasp, and his set and 
quivering features relax beneath her gaze. I saw his 
wonder and astonishment grow into admiration, and then 
into fascination, and the more he struggled the more I 
saw the power of her dread beauty fasten on him and 
take possession of his senses, drugging them, and 
drawing the hear out of him. Did I not know the 
process? Had not I, who was twice his age, gone 
through it myself? Was I not going through it afresh 
even then, although her sweet and passionate gaze was 
not for me? Yes, alas, I was! Alas, that I should have 
to confess that at that very moment I was rent by mad 
and furious jealousy. I could have flown at him, shame 
upon me! The woman had confounded and almost destroyed 
my moral sense, as she was bound to confound all who 
looked upon her superhuman loveliness. But--I do not 
quite know how I got the better of myself, and once 
more turned to see the climax of the tragedy.

"Oh, great Heaven!" gasped Leo, "art thou a woman?"

"A woman in truth--in very truth-and thine own spouse, 
Kallikrates!" she answered, stretching out her rounded 
ivory arms towards him, and smiling, ah, so sweetly!

He looked and looked, and slowly I perceived that he 
was drawing nearer to her. Suddenly his eye fell upon 
the corpse of poor Ustane, and he shuddered and 

"How can I?" he said, hoarsely. "Thou art a murderess; 
she loved me."

Observe, he was already forgetting that he had loved 

"It is naught," she murmured, and her voice sounded 
sweet as the night wind passing through the trees. "It 
is naught at all. If I have sinned, let my beauty 
answer for my sin. If I have sinned, it is for love of 
thee; let my sin, therefore, be put away and 
forgotten;" and once more she stretched out her arms 
and whispered "Come," and then in another few seconds 
it was over. I saw him struggle--I saw him even turn 
to fly; but her eyes drew him more strongly than iron 
bonds, and the magic of her beauty and concentrated 
will and passion entered into him and overpowered him-
-ay, even there, in the presence of the body of the 
woman who had loved him well enough to die for him. It 
sounds horrible and wicked enough, but he cannot be 
blamed too much, and be sure his sin will find him 
out. The temptress who drew him into evil was more 
than human, and her beauty was greater than the 
loveliness of the daughters of men.

I looked up again, and now her perfect form lay in his 
arms, and her lips were pressed against his own; and 
thus, with the corpse of his dead love for an altar, 
did Leo Vincey plight his troth to her red-handed 
murderess--plight it forever and a day. For those who 
sell themselves into a like dominion, paying down the 
price of their own honor, and throwing their soul into 
the balance to sink the scale to the level of their 
lusts, can hope for no deliverance here or hereafter. 
As they have sown, so shall they reap and reap, even 
when the poppy flowers of passion have withered in 
their hands, and their harvest is but bitter tares, 
garnered in satiety.

Suddenly, with a snakelike motion, she seemed to slip 
from his embrace, and then again broke out into her 
low laugh of triumphant mockery.

"Did I not tell thee that within a little space thou 
wouldst creep to my knee, oh Kallikrates? And surely 
the space has not been a great one!"

Leo groaned in shame and misery, for though he was 
overcome and stricken down he was not so lost as to be 
unaware of the depth of the degradation to which he 
had sunk. On the contrary, his better nature rose up 
in arms against his fallen self, as I saw clearly 
enough later on.

Ayesha laughed again, and then quickly veiled herself, 
and made a sign to the girl mute, who had been 
watching the whole scene with curious, startled eyes. 
The girl left, and presently returned, followed by two 
male mutes, to whom the queen made another sign. 
Thereon they all three seized the body of poor Ustane 
by the arms, and dragged it heavily down the cavern 
and away through the curtains at the end. Leo watched 
it for a little while, and then covered his eyes with 
his hand, and it too, to my excited fancy, seemed to 
watch us as it went.

"There passes the dead past," said Ayesha, solemnly, 
as the curtains shook and fell back into their places, 
when the ghastly procession had vanished behind them. 
And then, with one of those extraordinary transitions 
of which I have already spoken, she again threw off 
her veil, and broke out, after the ancient and poetic 
fashion of the dwellers in Arabia, into a paean of 
triumph, or epithalamium, which, wild and beautiful as 
it was, is exceedingly difficult to render into 
English, and ought by rights to be sung to the music 
of a cantata, rather than written and read. It was 
divided into two parts-one descriptive or definitive, 
and the other personal; and, as nearly as I can 
remember, ran as follows:

"Love is like a flower in the desert. 

It is like the aloe of Arabia that blooms but once and 
dies; it blooms in the salt emptiness of Life, and the 
brightness of its beauty is set upon the waste as a 
star is set upon a storm. 

It hath the sun above that is the spirit, and above it 
blows the air of its divinity. 

At the echoing of a step, Love blooms, I say; I say 
Love blooms, and bends her beauty down to him who 
passeth by.

He plucketh it, yea, he plucketh the red cup that is 
lull of honey, and beareth it away; away across the 
desert, away till the flower be withered, away till 
the desert be done. 

There is only one perfect flower in the wilderness of 

That flower is Love!

There is only one fixed star in the mists of our 

That star is Love!

There is only one hope in our despairing night. 

That hope is Love!

All else is false. All else is shadow moving upon 
water. All else is wind and vanity. 

Who shall say what is the weight or the measure of 

It is born of the flesh, it dwelleth in the spirit. 
From each doth it draw its comfort.

For beauty it is as a star.

Many are its shapes, but all are beautiful, and none 
know where the star rose, or the horizon where it 
shall set."

Then, turning to Leo, and laying her hand upon his 
shoulder, she went on in a fuller and more triumphant 
tone, speaking in balanced sentences that gradually 
grew and swelled from idealized prose into pure and 
majestic verse:

"Long have I loved thee, O my love; yet has my love 
not lessened.

Long have I waited for thee, and behold my reward is 
at hand--is here!

Far away I saw thee once, and thou wast taken from me.

Then in a grave sowed I the seed of patience, and 
shone upon it with the sun of hope, and watered it 
with tears of repentance, and breathed on it with the 
breath of my knowledge. And now lo! it hath sprung up, 
and borne fruit. Lo! out of the grave hath it sprung. 
Yea, from among the dry bones and ashes of the dead. 

I have waited and my reward is with me.

I have overcome Death, and Death brought back to me 
him that was dead.

Therefore do I rejoice, for fair is the future. 

Green are the paths that we shall tread across the 
everlasting meadows. 

The hour is at hand. Night hath fled away into the 

The dawn kisseth the mountain-tops. 

Soft shall we lie, my love, and easy shall we go. 

Crowned shall we be with the diadem of Kings. 

Worshipping and wonderstruck all peoples of the world, 

Blinded, shall fall before our beauty and our might.

From time unto times shall our greatness thunder on, 

Rolling like a chariot through the dust of endless 

Laughing shall we speed in our victory and pomp, 

Laughing like the Daylight as he leaps along the 

Onward, still triumphant to a triumph ever new! 

Onward, in our power to a power unattained!

Onward, never weary, clad with splendor for a robe! 

Till accomplished be our late, and the night is 
rushing down."
 _i_ She _i_ paused in her strange and most thrilling 
allegorical chant, of which I am, unfortunately, only 
able to give the burden, and that feebly enough, and 
then said,

"Perchance thou dost not believe my word, Kallikrates-
-perchance thou thinkest that I do delude thee, and 
that I have not lived these many years, and that thou 
hast not been born again to me. Nay, look not so--put 
away that pale cast of doubt, for oh, be sure herein 
can error find no foothold! Sooner shall the suns 
forget their course and the swallow miss her nest, 
than my soul shall swear a lie and be led astray from 
thee, Kallikrates. Blind me, take away mine eyes, and 
let the darkness utterly fence me in, and still mine 
ears would catch the tone of thine unforgotten voice, 
striking more loud against the portals of my sense 
than can the call of brazen-throated clarions--stop up 
mine hearing also, and let a thousand touch me on the 
brow, and I would name thee out of all--yea, rob me of 
every sense, and see me stand deaf and blind and dumb, 
and with nerves that cannot weigh the value of a 
touch, yet would my spirit leap within me like a 
quickening child and cry unto my heart, behold 
Kallikrates! behold, thou watcher, the watches of thy 
night are ended! behold, thou who seekest in the night 
season, thy morning Star ariseth."

_i_ She _i_ paused awhile and then continued,

"But stay, if thy heart is yet hardened against the 
mighty truth and thou dost require a further pledge of 
that which thou dost find too deep to understand, 
even: now shall it be given to thee, and to thee also, 
O my Holly. Bear each one of you a lamp, and follow 
after me whither I shall lead you."

Without stopping to think--indeed, speaking for 
myself, I had almost abandoned the function in 
circumstances under which to think seemed to be 
absolutely useless, since thought fell, hourly, 
helpless against a black wall of wonder--we took the 
lamps and followed her. Going to the end of her 
"boudoir," she raised a curtain and revealed a little 
stair of the sort that was so common in these dim 
caves of Ko^r. As we hurried down the stair I observed 
that the steps were worn in the centre to such an 
extent that some of them had been reduced from seven 
and a half inches, at which I guessed their original 
height, to about three and a halt. Now, all the other 
steps that I had seen in the caves had been 
practically unworn, as was to be expected, seeing that 
the only traffic which ever passed upon them was that 
of those who bore a fresh burden to the tomb. 
Therefore this fact struck my notice with that curious 
force with which little things do strike us when our 
minds are absolutely overwhelmed by a sudden rush of 
powerful sensations; beaten flat, as it were, like a 
sea beneath the first burst of a hurricane, so that 
every little object on the surface starts into an 
unnatural prominence.

At the bottom of the staircase I stood and stared at 
the worn steps, and Ayesha, turning, saw me.

"Wonders thou whose are the feet that have worn away 
the rock, my Holly?" she asked. "They are mine--even 
mine own light feet! I can remember when these stairs 
were fresh and level, but for two thousand years and 
more have I gone down hither day by day, and see, my 
sandals have worn out the solid rock!"

I made no answer, but I do not think that anything 
that I had heard or seen brought home to my limited 
understanding so clear a sense of this being's 
overwhelming antiquity as that hard rock hollowed out 
by her soft, white feet. How many millions of times 
must she have passed up and down that stair to bring 
about such a result?

The stair led to a tunnel, and a few paces down the 
tunnel was one of the usual curtain-hung doorways, a 
glance at which told me that it was the same where I 
had been a witness of that terrible scene by the 
leaping flame. I recognized the pattern of the 
curtain, and the sight of it brought the whole event 
vividly before my eyes, and made me tremble even at 
its memory. Ayesha entered the tomb (for it was a 
tomb), and we followed her--I, for one, rejoicing that 
the mystery of the place was about to be cleared up, 
and yet afraid to face its solution.



"SEE now the place where I have slept for these two 
thousand years," said Ayesha, taking the lamp from 
Leo's hand and holding it above her head. Its rays 
fell upon a little hollow in the floor, where I had 
seen the leaping flame, but the fire was out now. They 
fell upon the white form stretched there beneath its 
wrappings upon its bed of stone, upon the fretted 
carving of the tomb, and upon another shelf of stone 
opposite the one on which the body lay, and separated 
from it by the breadth of the cave.

"Here," went on Ayesha, laying her hand upon the rock-
-"here have I slept night by night for all these 
generations, with but a cloak to cover me. It did not 
become me that I should lie soft when my spouse 
yonder," and she pointed to the rigid form, "lay stiff 
in death. Here night by night have I slept in his cold 
company--till, thou seest, this thick slab, like the 
stairs down which we passed, has worn thin with the 
tossing of my form--so faithful have I been to thee 
even in thy space of sleep, Kallikrates. And now, mine 
own, thou shalt see a wonderful thing--living, thou 
shalt behold thyself dead--for well have I tended thee 
during all these years, Kallikrates. Art thou 

We made no answer, but gazed at each other with 
frightened eyes, the whole scene was so dreadful and 
so solemn. Ayesha advanced, and laid her hand upon the 
corner of the shroud, and once more spoke.

"Be not affrighted," she said; "though the thing seem 
wonderful to thee--all we who live have thus lived 
before; nor is the very shape that holds us a stranger 
to the sun! Only we know it not, because memory writes 
no record, and earth hath gathered in the earth she 
lent us, for none have saved our glory from the grave. 
But I, by my arts and by the arts of those dead men of 
Ko^r which I have learned, have held thee back, O 
Kallikrates, from the dust, that the waxen stamp of 
beauty on thy face should ever rest before mine eye. 
'Twas a mask that memory might fill, serving to 
fashion out thy presence from the past, and give it 
strength to wander in the habitations of my thought, 
clad in a mummery of life that stayed my appetite with 
visions of dead days.

"Behold now, let the Dead and Living meet! Across the 
gulf of Time they still are one. Time hath no power 
against identity, though sleep the merciful hath 
blotted out the tablets of our mind, and with oblivion 
sealed the sorrows that else would hound us from life 
to life, stuffing the brain with gathered griefs till 
it burst in the madness of uttermost despair. Still 
are they one, for the wrappings of our sleep shall 
roll away as thunder-clouds before the wind; the 
frozen voices of the past shall melt in music like 
mountain snows beneath the sun; and the weeping and 
the laughter of the lost hours shall be heard once 
more most sweetly echoing up the cliffs of 
immeasurable time.

"Ay, the sleep shall roll away, and the voices shall 
be heard, when down the completed chain, whereof our 
each existence is a link, the lightning of the Spirit 
hath passed to work out the purpose of our being; 
quickening and fusing those separated days of life, 
and shaping them to a staff whereon we may safely lean 
as we wend to our appointed fate.

"Therefore, have no fear, Kallikrates, when thou--
living, and but lately born--shalt look upon thine own 
departed self, who breathed and died so long ago. I do 
but turn one page in thy Book of Being, and show thee 
what is writ thereon.

" _i_ Behold _i_ "

With a sudden motion she drew the shroud from the cold 
form, and let the lamplight play upon it. I looked, 
and then shrank back terrified; since, say what she 
might in explanation, the sight was an uncanny one--
for her explanations were beyond the grasp of our 
finite minds, and when they were stripped from the 
mists of vague esoteric philosophy, and brought into 
conflict with the cold and horrifying fact, did not do 
much to break its force. For there, stretched upon the 
stone bier before us, robed in white and perfectly 
preserved, was what appeared to be the body of Leo 
Vincey. I stared from Leo, standing there alive, to 
Leo lying there dead, and could see no difference; 
except, perhaps, that the body on the bier looked 
older. Feature for feature they were the same, even 
down to the crop of little golden curls, which was 
Leo's most uncommon beauty. It even seemed to me, as I 
looked, that the expression on the dead man's face 
resembled that which I had sometimes seen upon Leo's 
when he was plunged into profound sleep. I can only 
sum up the closeness of the resemblance by saying that 
I never saw twins so exactly similar as that dead and 
living pair.

I turned to see what effect was produced upon Leo by 
this sight of his dead self, and found it to be one of 
partial stupefaction. He stood for two or three 
minutes staring and said nothing, and when at last he 
spoke it was only to ejaculate--

"Cover it up and take me away." 

"Nay, wait, Kallikrates," said Ayesha, who, standing 
with the lamp raised above her head, flooding with its 
light her own rich beauty and the cold wonder of the 
death-clothed form upon the bier, resembled an 
inspired Sibyl rather than a woman, as she rolled out 
her majestic sentences with a grandeur and a freedom 
of utterance which I am, alas! quite unable to 

"Wait; I would show thee something, that no tittle of 
my crime may. be hidden from thee. Do thou, O Holly, 
open the garment on the breast of the dead 
Kallikrates, for perchance my lord may fear to touch 

I obeyed with trembling hands. It seemed a desecration 
and an unhallowed thing to touch that sleeping image 
of the live man by my side. Presently his broad chest 
was bare, and there upon it, right over the heart, was 
a wound, evidently inflicted with a spear.

"Thou seest, Kallikrates," she said. "Know then that 
it was I who slew thee; in the Place of Life I gave 
thee death. I slew thee because of the Egyptian 
Amenartas, whom thou didst love, for by her wiles she 
held thy heart, and her I could not smite as but now I 
smote the woman, for she was too strong for me. In my 
haste and bitter anger I slew thee, and now for all 
these days have I lamented thee, and waited for thy 
coming. And thou hast come, and none can stand between 
thee and me, and of a truth now for death I will give 
thee life--not life eternal, for that none can give, 
but life and youth that shall endure for thousands 
upon thousands of years, and with it pomp and power 
and wealth, and all things that are good and 
beautiful, such as have been to no man before thee, 
nor shall be to any man who comes after. And now one 
thing more, and thou shalt rest and make ready for the 
day of thy new birth. Thou seest this body, which was 
thine own. For all these centuries it hath been my 
cold comfort and my companion, but now I need it no 
more, for I have thy living presence, and it can but 
serve to stir up memories of that which I would fain 
forget. Let it therefore go back to the dust from 
which I held it.

"Behold! I have prepared against this happy hour!" and 
going to the other shelf or stone ledge, which, she 
said, had served her for a bed, she took from it a 
large vitrified double-handed vase, the mouth of which 
was tied up with a bladder. This she loosed, and then, 
having bent down and gently kissed the white forehead 
of the dead man, she undid the vase, and sprinkled its 
contents carefully over the form, taking, I observed, 
the greatest precautions against any drop of it 
touching us or herself, and then poured out what 
remained of the liquid upon the chest and head. 
Instantly a dense vapor arose, and the cave was filled 
with choking fumes that prevented us from seeing 
anything while the deadly acid (for I presume it was 
some tremendous preparation of that sort) did its 
work. From the spot where the body lay came a fierce 
fizzing and cracking sound, which ceased, however, 
before the fumes had cleared away. At last they were 
all gone, except a little cloud that still hung over 
the corpse. In a couple of minutes more this too had 
vanished, and, wonderful as it may seem, it is a fact 
that on the stone bench that had supported the mortal 
remains of the ancient Kallikrates for so many 
centuries there was now nothing to be seen but a few 
handfuls of smoking white powder. The acid had utterly 
destroyed the body, and even in places eaten into the 
stone. Ayesha stooped down, and, taking a handful of 
this powder in her grasp, threw it into the air, 
saying at the same time, in a voice of calm solemnity-

"Dust to dust! the past to the past! the dead to the 
dead! Kallikrates is dead, and is born again!"

The ashes floated noiselessly to the rocky floor, and 
we stood in awed silence and watched them fall, too 
overcome for words.

"Now leave me," she said, "and sleep if ye may. I must 
watch and think, for to-morrow night we go hence, and 
the time is long since I trod the path that we must 

Accordingly we bowed, and left her. As we passed to 
our own apartment I peeped into Job's sleeping-place 
to see how he fared, for he had gone away just before 
our interview with the murdered Ustane, quite 
prostrated by the terrors of the Amahagger festivity. 
He as sleeping soundly, good honest fellow that he 
was, and I rejoiced to think that his nerves, which, 
like those of most uneducated people, were far from 
strong, had been spared the closing scenes of this 
dreadful day. Then. we entered our own chamber, and 
here at last poor Leo, who, ever since he had looked 
upon that frozen image of his living self, had been in 
a state not far removed from stupefaction, burst out 
into a torrent of grief. Now that he was no longer in 
the presence of the dread _i_ She _i_ , his sense of 
the awfulness of all that had happened, and more 
especially of the wicked murder of Ustane, who was 
bound to him by ties so close, broke upon him like a 
storm, and lashed him into an agony of remorse and 
terror which was painful to witness. He cursed 
himself--he cursed the hour when we had first seen the 
writing on the sherd, which was being so mysteriously 
verified, and bitterly he cursed his own weakness. 
Ayesha he dared not curse--who dared speak evil of 
such a woman, whose consciousness, for aught we knew, 
was watching us at the very moment?

"What am I to do, old fellow?" he groaned, resting his 
head against my shoulder in the extremity of his 
grief. "I let her be killed--not that I could help 
that, but within five minutes I was kissing her 
murderess over her body. I am a degraded brute, but I 
cannot resist that" (and here his voice sank)--"that 
awful sorceress. I know I shall do it again to-morrow; 
I know that I am in her power for always; if I never 
saw her again I should never think of anybody else 
during all my life; I must follow her as a needle 
follows a magnet; I would not go away now if I could; 
I could not leave her, my legs would not carry me, but 
my mind is still clear enough, and in my mind I hate 
her--at least, I think so. It is all so horrible; and 
that--that body! What can I make of it? It was me! I 
am sold into bondage, old fellow, and she will take my 
soul as the price of herself."

Then, for the first time, I told him that I was in a 
but very little better position; and I am bound to say 
that, notwithstanding his own infatuation, he had the 
decency to sympathize with me. Perhaps he did not 
think it worth while being jealous, realizing that he 
had no cause so far as the lady was concerned. I went 
on to suggest that we should try to run away, but we 
soon rejected the project as futile, and, to be 
perfectly honest, I do not believe that either of us 
would really have left Ayesha even if some superior 
power had suddenly offered to convey us from these 
gloomy caves and set us down in Cambridge. We could no 
more have left her than a moth can leave the light 
that destroys it. We were like confirmed opium eaters; 
in our moments of reason we well knew the deadly 
nature of our pursuit, but we certainly were not 
prepared to abandon its terrible delights.

No man who once had seen _i_ She _i_ unveiled, and 
heard the music of her voice, and drunk in the bitter 
wisdom of her words, would willingly give up the sight 
for a whole sea of placid joys. How much more then was 
this likely to be so when, as in Leo's case, to put 
myself out of the question, this extraordinary 
creature declared her utter and absolute devotion, and 
gave what appeared to be proofs of its having lasted 
for some two thousand years?

No doubt she was a wicked person, and no doubt she had 
murdered Ustane when she stood in her path, but then 
she was very faithful, and by a law of nature man is 
apt to think but lightly of a woman's crimes, 
especially if that woman be beautiful, and the crime 
be committed for the love of him.

And then for the rest, when had such a chance ever 
come to a man before as that which now lay in Leo's 
hand? True, in uniting himself to this dread woman, he 
would place his life under the influence of a 
mysterious creature of evil tendencies, but then that 
would be likely enough to happen to him in any 
ordinary marriage. On the other hand, however, no 
ordinary marriage could bring him such awful beauty--
for awful is the only word that can describe it--such 
divine devotion, such wisdom, and command over the 
secrets of nature, and the place and power that they 
must win, or, lastly, the royal crown of unending 
youth, if indeed she could give that. No, on the 
whole, it is not wonderful that though Leo was plunged 
in bitter shame and grief, such as any gentleman would 
have felt under the circumstances, he was not ready to 
entertain the idea of running away from his 
extraordinary fortune.

My own opinion is that he would have been mad if he 
had done so. But then I confess that my statement on 
the matter must be accepted with qualifications. I am 
in love with Ayesha myself to this day, and I would 
rather have been the object of her affection for one 
short week than that of any other woman in the world 
for a whole lifetime. And let me add that if anybody 
who doubts this statement, and thinks me foolish for 
making it, could have seen Ayesha draw her veil and 
flash out in beauty on his gaze, his view would 
exactly coincide with my own. Of course I am speaking 
of any man. We never had the advantage of a lady's 
opinion of Ayesha, but I think it quite possible that 
she would have regarded the queen with dislike, would 
have expressed her disapproval in some more or less 
pointed manner, and ultimately have got herself 

For two hours or more Leo and I sat with shaken nerves 
and frightened eyes, and talked over the miraculous 
events through which we were passing. It seemed like a 
dream or a fairy tale, instead of the solemn, sober 
fact. Who would have believed that the writing on the 
potsherd was not only true, but that we should live to 
verify its truth, and that we two seekers should find 
her who was sought, patiently awaiting our coming in 
the tombs of Ko^r? Who would have thought that in the 
person of Leo this mysterious woman should, as she 
believed, discover the being whom she awaited from 
century to century, and whose former earthly 
habitation she had till this very night preserved? But 
so it was. In the face of all we had seen it was 
difficult for us as ordinary reasoning men any longer 
to doubt its truth, and therefore at last, with humble 
hearts and a deep sense of the impotence of human 
knowledge, and the insolence of its assumption that 
denies that which it has no experience of to be 
possible, we laid ourselves down to sleep, leaving our 
fates in the hands of that watching Providence which 
had thus chosen to allow us to draw the veil of human 
ignorance, and reveal to us for good or evil some 
glimpse of the possibilities of life.



IT was nine o'clock on the following morning when Job, 
who still looked scared and frightened, came in to 
call me, and at the same time breathe his gratitude at 
finding us alive in our beds, which it appeared was 
more than he had expected. When I told him of the 
awful end of poor Ustane he was even more grateful at 
our survival, and much shocked, though Ustane had been 
no favorite of his, or he of hers, for the matter of 
that. She called him "pig" in bastard Arabic, and he 
called her "hussy" in good English, but these 
amenities were forgotten in the face of the 
catastrophe that had overwhelmed her at the hands of 
her queen.

"I don't want to say anything as mayn't be agreeable, 
sir," said Job, when he had finished exclaiming at my 
tale, "but it's my opinion that that there _i_ She _i_ 
is the old gentleman himself, or perhaps his wife, if 
he has one, which I suppose he has, for he couldn't be 
so wicked all by himself. The Witch of Endor was a 
fool to her, sir; bless you, she would make no more of 
raising every gentleman in the Bible out of these here 
beastly tombs than I should of growing cress on an old 
flannel. It's a country of devils, this is, sir, and 
she's the master one of the lot; and if ever we get 
out of it it will be more than I expect to do. I don't 
see no way out of it. That witch isn't likely to let a 
fine young man like Mr. Leo go."

"Come," I said, "at any rate she saved his life."'

"Yes, and she'll take his soul to pay for it. _i_ She 
_i_ 'll make him a witch, like herself. I say it's 
wicked to have anything to do with those sort of 
people. Last night, sir, I lay awake and read in my 
little Bible that my poor old mother gave me about 
what is going to happen to sorceresses and them sort 
till my hair stood on end. Lord, how the old lady 
would stare if she saw where her Job had got to!"

"Yes, it's a queer country, and a queer people too, 
Job," I answered, with a sigh, for, though I am not 
superstitious like Job, I admit to a natural shrinking 
(which will not bear investigation) from the things 
that are above Nature.

"You are right, sir," he answered, "and if you won't 
think me very foolish, I should like to say something 
to you now that Mr. Leo is out of the way"--(Leo had 
got up early and gone for a stroll)--"and that is that 
I know it is the last country as ever I shall see in 
this world. I had a dream last night, and I dreamed 
that I saw my old father with a kind of night-shirt on 
him, something like these folks wear when they want to 
be in particular full-dress, and a bit of that 
feathery grass in his hand, which he may have gathered 
on the way, for I saw lots of it yesterday about three 
hundred yards from the mouth of this beastly cave.

"'Job,' he said to me, solemn-like, and yet with a 
kind of satisfaction shining through him, more like a 
Methody parson when he has sold a neighbor a marked 
horse for a sound one and cleared twenty pounds by the 
job than anything I can think on--'Job, time's up, 
Job; but I never did expect to have to come and hunt 
you out in this 'ere place, Job. Such ado as I have 
had to nose you up; it wasn't friendly to give your 
poor old father such a run, let alone that a wonderful 
lot of bad characters hail from this place Ko^r.'" 

"Regular cautions," I suggested.

"Yes, sir--of course, sir, that's just what he said 
they was--'cautions, downright scorchers'--sir, and 
I'm sure I don't doubt it, seeing what I know of them 
and their hot-potting ways," went on Job, sadly. 
"Anyway, he was sure that time was up, and went away 
saying that we should see more than we cared for of 
each other soon, and I suppose he was a-thinking of 
the fact that father and I never could hit it off 
together for longer nor three days, and I dare say 
that things will be similar when we meet again."

"Surely," I said, "you don't think that you are going 
to die because you dreamed you saw your old father; if 
one dies because one dreams of one's father, what 
happens to a man who dreams of his mother-in-law?"

"Ah, sir, you're laughing at me," said Job; "but, you 
see, you didn't know my old father. If it had been 
anybody else--my Aunt Mary, for instance, who never 
made much of a job--I should not have thought so much 
of it; but my father was that idle, which he shouldn't 
have been with seventeen children, that he would never 
have put himself out to come here just to see the 
place. No, sir; I know that he meant business. Well, 
sir, I can't help it; I suppose every man must go some 
time or other, though it is a hard thing to die in a 
place like this, where Christian burial isn't to be 
had for its weight in gold. I've tried to be a good 
man, sir, and do my duty honest, and if it wasn't for 
the supercilus kind of way in which father carried on 
last night--a sort of sniffing at me, as it were, as 
though he hadn't no opinion of my references and 
testimonials--I should feel easy enough in my mind. 
Any way, sir, I've been a good servant to you and Mr. 
Leo, bless him! Why, it seems but the other day that I 
used to lead him about the streets with a penny whip; 
and if ever you get out of this place--which, as 
father didn't allude to you, perhaps you may--I hope 
you will think kindly of my whitened bones, and never 
have anything more to do with Greek writing on flower-
pots, sir, if I may make so bold as to say so."

"Come, come, Job," I said, seriously, "this is all 
nonsense, you know. You mustn't be silly enough to go 
getting such ideas into your head. We've lived through 
some queer things, and I hope that we may go on doing 

"No, sir," answered Job, in a tone of conviction that 
jarred on me unpleasantly, "it isn't nonsense. I'm a 
doomed man, and I feel it, and a wonderful 
uncomfortable feeling it is, sir, for one can't help 
wondering how it's going to come about. If you are 
eating your dinner you think of poison and it goes 
against your stomach, and if you are walking along 
these dark rabbit burrows you think of knives, and 
Lord, don't you just shiver about the back! I ain't 
particular, sir, provided it's sharp, like that poor 
girl, who, now that she's gone, I am sorry to have 
spoke hard on, though I don't approve of her morals in 
getting married, which I consider too quick to be 
decent. Still, sir," and poor Job turned a shade paler 
as he said it, "I do hope it won't be that hot-pot 

"Nonsense," I broke in, angrily, "nonsense."

"Very well, sir," said Job, "it isn't my place to 
differ from you, sir, but if you happen to be going 
anywhere, sir, I should be obliged if you could manage 
to take me with you, seeing that I shall be glad to 
have a friendly face to look at when the time comes, 
just to help one through, as it were. And now, sir, 
I'll be getting the breakfast," and he went, leaving 
me in a very uncomfortable state of mind. I was deeply 
attached to old Job, who was one of the best and 
honestest men I have ever had to do with in any class 
of life, and really more of a friend than a servant, 
and the mere idea of anything happening to him brought 
a lump into my throat. Beneath all his ludicrous talk 
I could see that he himself was quite convinced that 
something was going to happen, and though in most 
cases these convictions turn out to be utter 
moonshine--and this particular one especially was to 
be amply accounted for by the gloomy and unaccustomed 
surroundings in which its victim was placed--still it 
did more or less carry a chill to my heart, as any 
dread that is obviously a genuine object of belief is 
apt to do, however absurd the belief may be. Presently 
the breakfast arrived, and with it Leo, who had been 
taking a walk outside the cave--to clear his mind, he 
said--and very glad I was to see both, for they gave 
me a respite from my gloomy thoughts. After breakfast 
we went for another walk, and watched some of the 
Amahagger sowing a plot of ground with the grain from 
which they make their beer. This they did in 
scriptural fashion--a man with a bag made of goat's-
hide fastened round his waist walking up and down the 
plot and scattering the seed as he went. It was a 
positive relief to see one of these dreadful people do 
anything so homely and pleasant as sow a field, 
perhaps because it seemed to link them, as it were, 
with the rest of humanity.

As we were returning Billali met us, and informed us 
that it was _i_ She _i_ 's pleasure that we should 
wait upon her, and accordingly we entered her 
presence, not without trepidation, for Ayesha was 
certainly an exception to the rule. Familiarity with 
her might and did breed passion and wonder and horror, 
but it certainly did not breed contempt.

We were as usual shown in by the mutes, and after 
these had retired Ayesha unveiled, and once more bade 
Leo embrace her, which, notwithstanding his heart-
searchings of the previous night, he did with more 
alacrity and fervor than strict courtesy required.
_i_ She _i_ laid her white hand on his head, and 
looked him fondly in the eyes. "Dost thou wonder, my 
Kallikrates," she said, "when thou shalt call me all 
thine own, and when we shall of a truth be for one 
another and to one another? I will tell thee. First, 
must thou be even as I am, not immortal indeed, for 
that I am not, but so cased and hardened against the 
attacks of Time that his arrows shall glance from the 
armor of thy vigorous life as the sunbeams glance from 
water. As yet I may not mate with thee, for thou and I 
are different, and the very brightness of my being 
would burn thee up, and perchance destroy thee. Thou 
couldst not even endure to look upon me for too long a 
time lest thine eyes should ache; and thy senses swim, 
and therefore (with a little coquettish nod) shall I 
presently veil myself again." (This, by the way, she 
did not do.) "No: listen, thou shalt not be tried 
beyond endurance, for this very evening, an hour 
before the sun goes down, shall we start hence, and by 
to-morrow's dark, if all goes well, and the road is 
not lost to me, which I pray it may not be, shall we 
stand in the Place of Life, and thou shalt bathe in 
the fire, and come forth glorified, as no man ever was 
before thee, and then, Kallikrates, shalt thou call me 
wife, and I will call thee husband."

Leo muttered something in answer to this astonishing 
statement, I do not know what, and she laughed a 
little at his confusion, and went on.

"And thou, too, O Holly; on thee also will I confer 
this boon, and then of a truth shalt thou be an 
evergreen tree, and this will I do--well, because thou 
hast pleased me, Holly, for thou art not altogether a 
fool, like most of the sons of men, and because, 
though thou hast a school of philosophy as full of 
nonsense as those of the old days, yet hast thou not 
forgotten how to turn a pretty phrase about a lady's 

"Hullo, old fellow!" whispered Leo, with a return of 
his old cheerfulness, "have you been paying 
compliments? I should never have thought it of you!"

"I thank thee, O Ayesha," I replied, with as much 
dignity as I could command, "but if there be such a 
place as thou dost describe, and if in this strange 
place there may be found a fiery virtue that can hold 
off Death when he comes to pluck us by the hand, yet 
would I none of it. For me, O Ayesha, the world has 
not proved so soft a nest that I would lie in it 
forever. A stony-hearted mother is our earth, and 
stones are the bread she gives her children for their 
daily food. Stones to eat and bitter water for their 
thirst, and stripes for tender nurture. Who would 
endure this for many lives? Who would so load up his 
back with memories of lost hours and loves, and of his 
neighbor's sorrows that he cannot lessen, and wisdom 
that brings not consolation? Hard is it to die, 
because our delicate flesh doth shrink back from the 
worm it will not feel, and from that unknown which the 
winding-sheet doth curtain from our view. But harder 
still, to my fancy, would it be to live on, green in 
the leaf and fair, but dead and rotten at the core, 
and feel that other secret worm of recollection 
gnawing ever at the heart."

"Bethink thee, Holly," she said; "yet doth long life 
and strength and beauty beyond measure mean power and 
all things that are dear to man."

"And what O queen," I answered, "are those things that 
are dear to man? Are they not bubbles? Is not ambition 
but an endless ladder by which no height is ever 
climbed till the last unreachable rung is mounted? For 
height leads on to height, and there is no resting-
place upon them, and rung doth grow upon rung, and 
there is no limit to the number. Doth not wealth 
satiate and become nauseous, and no longer serve to 
satisfy or pleasure, or to buy an hour's ease of mind? 
And is there any end to wisdom that we may hope to 
reach it? Rather, the more we learn shall we not 
thereby be able only to better compass out our 
ignorance? Did we live ten thousand years could we 
hope to solve the secrets of the suns, and of the 
space beyond the suns, and of the Hand that hung them 
in the heavens? Would not our wisdom be but as a 
gnawing hunger calling our consciousness day by day to 
a knowledge. of the empty craving of our souls? Would 
it not be but as a light in one of these great 
caverns, that though bright it burn, and brighter yet, 
doth but the more serve to show the depths of the 
gloom around it? And what good thing is there beyond 
that we may gain by length of days?"

"Nay, my Holly, there is love--love which makes all 
things beautiful, and doth breathe divinity into the 
very dust we tread. With love shall life roll 
gloriously on from year to year, like the voice of 
some great music that hath power to hold the hearer's 
heart poised on eagle's wings above the sordid shame 
and folly of the earth."

"It may be so," I answered; "but if the loved one 
prove a broken reed to pierce us, or if the love be 
loved in vain--what then? Shall a man grave his 
sorrows upon a stone when he hath but need to write 
them on the water? Nay, O _i_ She _i_ , I will live my 
day and grow old with my generation, and die my 
appointed death, and be forgotten. For I do hope for 
an immortality to which the little span that perchance 
thou canst confer will be but as a finger's length 
laid against the measure of the great world; and, mark 
this! the immortality to which I look, and which my 
faith doth promise to me, shall be free from the bonds 
that here must tie my spirit down. For, while the 
flesh endures, sorrow and evil and the scorpion whips 
of sin must endure also; but when the flesh hath 
fallen from us, then shall the spirit shine forth clad 
in the brightness of eternal good, and for its common 
air shall breathe so rare an ether of most noble 
thoughts that the highest aspiration of our manhood, 
or the purest incense of a maiden's prayer, would 
prove too earthly gross to float therein."

"Thou lookest high," answered Ayesha, with a little 
laugh, "and speakest clearly as a trumpet and with no 
uncertain sound. And yet methinks that but now didst 
thou talk of that Unknown from which the winding-sheet 
doth curtain us. But perchance thou seest with the 
eye, of Faith, gazing on this brightness that is to 
be, through the painted glass of thy imagination. 
Strange are the pictures of the future that mankind 
can thus draw with this brush of faith and this many-
colored pigment of imagination! Strange, too, that no 
one of them doth agree with another! I could tell 
thee--but there, what is the use? why rob a fool of 
his bauble? Let it pass, and I pray, O Holly, that 
when thou dost feel old age creeping slowly towards 
thyself, and the confusion of senility making havoc in 
thy brain, thou mayest not bitterly regret that thou 
didst cast away the imperial boon I would have given 
to thee. But so it hath ever been; man can never be 
content with that which his hand can pluck. If a lamp 
be in his reach to light him through the darkness, he 
must needs cast it down because it is no star. 
Happiness danceth ever a pace before him, like the 
marsh-fires in the swamps, and he must catch the fire, 
and he must hold the star! Beauty is naught to him, 
because there are lips more honey-sweet; and wealth is 
naught, because others can weigh him down with heavier 
shekels; and fame is naught, because there have been 
greater men than he. Thyself thou saidst it, and I 
turn thy words against thee. Well, thou dreamest that 
thou shalt pluck the star. I believe it not, and I 
think thee a fool, my Holly, to throw away the lamp."

I made no answer, for I could not--especially before 
Leo--tell her that since I had seen her face I knew 
that it would always be before my eyes, and that I had 
no wish to prolong an existence which must always be 
haunted and tortured by her memory, and by the last 
bitterness of unsatisfied love. But so it was, and so, 
alas, is it to this hour!

"And now," went on _i_ She _i_ , changing her tone and 
the subject together, "tell me, my Kallikrates, for as 
yet I know it not, how came ye to seek me here? 
Yesternight thou didst say that Kallikrates--him whom 
thou sawest--was thine ancestor. How was it? Tell me--
thou dost not speak overmuch!"

Thus adjured, Leo told her the wonderful story of the 
casket and of the potsherd that, written on by his 
ancestress, the Egyptian Amenartas, had been the means 
of guiding us to her. Ayesha listened intently, and, 
when he had finished; spoke to me.

"Did I not tell thee one day, when we did talk of good 
and evil, O Holly--it was when my beloved lay so ill--
that out of good came evil, and out of evil good--that 
they who sowed knew not what the crop should be, nor 
he who struck where the blow should fall? See, now: 
this Egyptian Amenartas, this royal child of the Nile 
who hated me, and whom even now I hate, for in a way 
she did prevail against me--see, now, she herself hath 
been the very means to bring her lover to mine arms! 
For her sake I slew him, and now, behold, through her 
he hath come back to me! She would have done me evil, 
and sowed her seeds that I might reap tares, and 
behold she hath given me more than all the world can 
give, and there is a strange square for thee to fit 
into thy circle of good and evil, O Holly!

"And so," she went on, after a pause--"and so she bade 
her son destroy me if he might, because I slew his 
father. And thou, my Kallikrates, art the father, and 
in a sense thou art likewise the son; and wouldst thou 
avenge thy wrong, and the wrong of that far-off mother 
of thine upon me, O Kallikrates? See," and she slid to 
her knees, and drew the white corsage still farther 
down her ivory bosom--"see, here beats my heart, and 
there by thy side is a knife, heavy and long and 
sharp, the very knife to slay an erring woman with. 
Take it now, and be avenged. Strike, and strike home!-
-so shalt thou be satisfied, Kallikrates, and go 
through life a happy man, because thou hast paid back 
the wrong, and obeyed the mandate of the past."

He looked at her, and then stretched out his hand and 
lifted her to her feet.

"Rise, Ayesha," he said, sadly; "well thou knowest 
that I cannot strike thee, no, not even for the sake 
of her whom thou slewest but last night. I am in thy 
power, and a very slave to thee. How can I kill thee?-
-sooner should I slay myself."

"Almost dost thou begin to love me, Kallikrates," she 
answered, smiling. "And now tell me of thy country--
'tis a great people, is it not? with an empire like 
that of Rome! Surely thou wouldst return thither, and 
it is well, for I mean not that thou shouldst dwell in 
these caves of Ko^r. Nay, when once thou art even as I 
am, we will go hence--fear not but that I shall find a 
path--and then shall we cross to this England of 
thine, and live as it becometh us to live. Two 
thousand years have I waited for the day when I should 
see the last of these hateful caves and this gloomy-
visaged folk, and now it is at hand, and my heart 
bounds up to meet it like a child's towards its 
holiday. For thou shalt rule this England--"

"But we have a queen already," broke in Leo, hastily.

"It is naught, it is naught," said Ayesha, "she can be 
overthrown." At this we both broke out into an 
exclamation of dismay, and explained that we should as 
soon think of overthrowing ourselves.

"But here is a strange thing," said Ayesha, in 
astonishment; "a queen whom her people love! Surely 
the world must have changed since I dwelt in Ko^r."

Again we explained that it was the character of 
monarchs that had changed, and that the one under whom 
we lived was venerated and beloved by all right-
thinking people in her vast realms. Also, we told her 
that real power in our country rested in the hands of 
the people, and that we were in fact ruled by the 
votes of the lower and least educated classes of the 

"Ah," she said, "a democracy--then surely there is a 
tyrant, for I have long since seen that democracies, 
having no clear will of their own, in the end set up a 
tyrant, and worship him."

"Yes," I said, "we have our tyrants." 

"Well," she answered, resignedly, "we can at any rate 
destroy these tyrants, and Kallikrates shall rule the 

I instantly informed Ayesha that in England "blasting" 
was not an amusement that could be indulged in with 
impunity, and that any such attempt would meet with 
the consideration of the law and probably end upon a 

"The law," she laughed, with scorn-"the law! Canst 
thou not understand, O Holly, that I am above the law, 
and so shall my Kallikrates be also? All human law 
will be to us as the north wind to a mountain. Does 
the wind bend the mountain, or the mountain the wind?

"And now leave me, I pray thee, and thou too, my own 
Kallikrates, for I would get me ready against our 
journey, and so must ye both, and your servant also. 
But bring no great quantity of things with. thee, for 
I trust that we shall be but three days gone. Then 
shall we return hither, and I will make a plan whereby 
we can bid farewell forever to these sepulchres of 
Ko^r. Yes, surely thou mayst kiss my hand!"

So we went, I, for one, meditating deeply on the awful 
nature of the problem that now opened out before us. 
The terrible _i_ She _i_ had evidently made up her 
mind to go to England, and it made me absolutely 
shudder to think what would be the result of her 
arrival there. What her powers were I knew, and I 
could not doubt but that she would exercise them to 
the full. It might be possible to control her for a 
while, but her proud, ambitious spirit would be 
certain to break loose and avenge itself for the long 
centuries of its solitude. _i_ She _i_ would, if 
necessary, and if the power of her beauty did not 
unaided prove equal to the occasion, blast her way to 
any end she set before her, and, as she could not die, 
and for aught I knew could not even be killed, what 
was there to stop her? In the end she would, I had 
little doubt, assume absolute rule over the British 
dominions, and probably over the whole earth, and, 
though I was sure that she would speedily make ours 
the most glorious and prosperous empire that the world 
has ever seen, it would be at the cost of a terrible 
sacrifice of life.

The whole thing sounded like a dream or some 
extraordinary invention of a speculative brain, and 
yet it was a fact--a wonderful fact--which the whole 
world would soon be called on to take notice. What was 
the meaning of it all? After much thinking I could 
only conclude that this wonderful creature, whose 
passion had kept her for so many centuries chained, as 
it were, and comparatively harmless, was now about to 
be used by Providence as a means to change the order 
of the world, and possibly, by the building up of a 
power that could no more be rebelled against or 
questioned than the decrees of Fate, to change it 
materially for the better.



Our preparations did not take us very long. We put a 
change of clothing apiece and some spare boots into my 
Gladstone bag, also we took our revolvers and an 
express rifle each, together with a good supply of 
ammunition, a precaution to which, under Providence, 
we subsequently owed our lives over and over again. 
The rest of our gear, together with our heavy rifles, 
we left behind us.

A few minutes before the appointed time we once more 
attended in Ayesha's boudoir, and found her also 
ready, her dark cloak thrown over her winding sheet-
like wrappings.

"Are ye prepared for the great venture?" she said. 

"We are," I answered, "though for my part, Ayesha, I 
have no faith in it."

"Ah, my Holly," she said, "thou art of a truth like 
those old Jews--of whom the memory vexes me so sorely-
-unbelieving, and hard to accept that which they have 
not known. But thou shalt see; for unless my mirror 
yonder lies," and she pointed to the font of crystal 
water, "the path is yet open as it was of old time. 
And now let us start upon the new life which shall 
end--who knoweth where?"

"Ah," I echoed, "who knoweth where?" and we passed 
down into the great central cave, and out into the 
light of day. At the mouth of the cave we found a 
single litter with six bearers, all of them mutes, 
waiting, and with them I was relieved to see our old 
friend Billali, for whom I had conceived a sort of 
affection. It appeared that, for reasons not necessary 
to explain at length, Ayesha had thought it best that, 
with the exception of herself, we should proceed on 
foot, and this we were nothing loath to do, after our 
long confinement in these caves, which, however 
suitable they might be for sarcophagi--a singularly 
inappropriate word, by the way, for these particular 
tombs, which certainly did not consume the bodies 
given to their keeping--were depressing habitations 
for breathing mortals like ourselves. Either by 
accident or by the orders of _i_ She _i_ , the space 
in front of the cave where we had beheld that awful 
dance was perfectly clear of spectators. Not a soul 
was to be seen, and consequently I do not believe that 
our departure was known to anybody, except perhaps the 
mutes who waited on _i_ She _i_ , and they were, of 
course, in the habit of keeping what they saw to 

In a few minutes' time we were stepping out sharply 
across the great cultivated plain or lake bed, framed 
like a vast emerald in its setting of frowning cliff, 
and had another opportunity of wondering at the 
extraordinary nature of the site chosen by these old 
people of Ko^r for their capital, and at the 
marvellous amount of labor, ingenuity, and engineering 
skill that must have been brought into requisition by 
the founders of the city to drain so huge a sheet of 
water, and to keep it clear of subsequent 
accumulations. It is, indeed, so far as my experience 
goes, an unequalled instance of what man can do in the 
face of nature, for in my opinion such achievements as 
the Suez Canal or even the Mont Cenis Tunnel do not 
approach this ancient undertaking in magnitude and 
grandeur of conception.

When we had been walking for about half an hour, 
enjoying ourselves exceedingly in the delightful cool 
which about this time of the day always appeared to 
descend upon the great plain of Ko^r, and which in 
some degree atoned for the want of any kind or sea 
breeze--for all wind was kept off by the rocky 
mountain wall--we began to get a clear view of what 
Billali had informed us were the ruins of the great 
city. And even from that distance we could see how 
wonderful those ruins were, a fact which with every 
step we took became more evident. The city was not 
very large if compared to Babylon or Thebes, or other 
cities of remote antiquity; perhaps its outer wall 
contained some twelve square miles of ground, or a 
little more. Nor had the walls, so far as we could 
judge when we reached them, been very high, probably 
not more than forty feet, which was about their 
present height where they had not, through the sinking 
of the ground or some such cause, fallen into ruin. 
The reason of this, no doubt, was that the people of 
Ko^r, being protected from any outside attack by far 
more tremendous ramparts than any that the hand of man 
could rear, only required them for show and to guard 
against civil discord. But, on the other hand, they 
were as broad as they were high, built entirely of 
dressed stone, hewn, no doubt, from the vast caves, 
and surrounded by a great moat about sixty feet in 
width, some reaches of which were still filled with 
water. About ten minutes before the sun finally sank 
we reached this moat, and passed down and through it, 
clambering across what evidently were the piled-up 
fragments of a great bridge in order to do so, and 
then with some little difficulty up the slope of the 
wall to its summit. I wish that it lay within the 
power of my pen to give some idea of the grandeur of 
the sight that then met our view. There, all bathed in 
the red glow of the sinking sun, were miles upon miles 
of ruins--columns, temples, shrines, and the palaces 
of kings, varied with patches of green bush. Of 
course, the roofs of these buildings had long since 
fallen into decay and vanished, but owing to the 
extreme massiveness of the style of building, and to 
the hardness and durability of the rock employed, most 
of the party walls and great columns still remained 

Straight before us stretched away what had evidently 
been the main thoroughfare of the city, for it was 
very wide, wider than the Thames Embankment, and 
regular. Being, as we afterwards discovered, paved, or 
rather built, throughout of blocks of dressed stone, 
such as were employed in the walls, it was but little 
overgrown even now with grass and shrubs, that could 
get no depth of soil to live in. What had been the 
parks and gardens, on the contrary, were now dense 
jungle. Indeed, it was easy even from a distance to 
trace the course of the various roads by the burned-up 
appearance of the scanty grass that grew upon them. On 
either side of this great thoroughfare were vast 
blocks of ruins, each block, generally speaking, being 
separated. from its neighbor by a space of what had 
once, I suppose, been garden-ground, but was now dense 
and tangled bush. They were all built of the same 
colored stone, and most of them had pillars, which was 
as much as we could make out in the fading light as we 
passed swiftly up the main road, that I believe I am 
right in saying no living foot had pressed for 
thousands of years.

Presently we came to an enormous pile, which we 
rightly took to be a temple covering at least four 
acres of ground, and apparently arranged in a series 
of courts, each one enclosing another of smaller size, 
on a principle of a Chinese nest of boxes, which were 
separated one from the other by rows of huge columns. 
And, while I think of it, I may as well state a 
remarkable thing about the shape of these columns, 
which resembled none that I have ever seen or heard 
of, being fashioned with a kind of waist in the 
centre, and swelling out above and below. At first we 
thought that this shape was meant to roughly symbolize 
or suggest the female form, as was a common habit 
among the ancient religious architects of many creeds. 
On the following day, however, as we went up the 
slopes of the mountain, we discovered a large quantity 
of the most stately looking palms, of which the trunks 
grew exactly in this shape, and I have now no doubt 
but that the first designer of those columns drew his 
inspiration from the graceful bends of those very 
palms, or rather of their ancestors, which then, some 
eight or ten thousand years ago, as now, beautified 
the slopes of the mountain that had once formed the 
shores of the volcanic lake.

At the facade of this huge temple, which, I should 
imagine, is almost as large as that of El-Karnac, at 
Thebes, some of the largest columns, which I measured, 
being between eighteen to twenty feet in diameter at 
the base, by about seventy feet in height, our little 
procession was halted, and Ayesha descended from her 

"There used to be a spot here, Kallikrates," she said 
to Leo, who had run up to help her down, "where one 
might sleep. Two thousand years ago did thou and I and 
that Egyptian asp rest therein, but since then have I 
not set foot here, nor any man, and perchance it has 
fallen," and. followed by the rest of us, she passed 
up a vast flight of broken and ruined steps into the 
outer court, and looked round into the gloom, 
Presently she seemed to recollect, and, walking a few 
paces along the wall to the left, halted.

"It is here," she said, and at the same time beckoned 
to the two mutes, who were loaded with provisions and 
our little belongings, to advance. One of them came 
forward, and, producing a lamp, lit it from his 
brazier (for the Amahagger when on a journey nearly 
always carried with them a little lighted brazier from 
which to provide fire). The tinder of this brazier was 
made of broken fragments of mummy carefully damped, 
and, if the admixture of moisture was properly 
managed, this unholy compound would smoulder away for 
hours. As soon as the lamp was lit we entered the 
place before which Ayesha had halted. It turned out to 
be a chamber hollowed in the thickness of the wall, 
and, from the fact of there still being a massive 
stone table in it, I should think that it had probably 
served as a living-room, perhaps for one of the door-
keepers of the great temple.

Here we stopped, and after cleaning the place out and 
making it as comfortable as circumstances and the 
darkness would permit, we ate some cold meat, at least 
Leo, Job, and I did, for Ayesha, as I think I have 
said elsewhere, never touched anything except cakes of 
flour, fruit, and water. While we were still eating, 
the moon, which was at her full, rose above the 
mountain-wall, and began to flood the place with 

"Wot ye why I have brought you here to-night, my 
Holly?" said Ayesha, leaning her head upon her hand 
and watching the great orb as she rose, like some 
heavenly queen, above the solemn pillars of the 
temple. "I brought you--nay, it is strange, but 
knowest thou, Kallikrates, that thou liest at this 
moment upon the very spot where thy dead body lay when 
I bore thee back to those caves of Ko^r so many years 
ago? It all returns to my mind now. I can see it, and 
horrible is it to my sight!" and she shuddered.

Here Leo jumped up and hastily changed his seat. 
However the reminiscence might affect Ayesha, it 
clearly had few charms for him.

"I brought you," went on Ayesha, presently, "that ye 
might look upon the most wonderful sight that ever the 
eye of man beheld--the full moon shining over ruined 
Ko^r. When ye have done your eating--I would that I 
could teach thee to eat naught but fruit, Kallikrates, 
but that will come after thou hast laved in the fire. 
Once I, too, ate flesh like a brute beast. When ye 
have done we will go out, and I will show you this 
great temple and the god whom men once worshipped 

Of course we got up at once, and started. And here 
again my pen fails me. To give a string of 
measurements and details of the various courts of the 
temple would only be wearisome, supposing that I had 
them, and yet I know not how I am to describe what we 
saw, magnificent as it was even in its ruin, almost 
beyond the power of realization. Court upon dim court, 
row upon row of mighty pillars--some of them 
(especially at the gateways) sculptured from pedestal 
to capital--space upon space of empty chambers that 
spoke more eloquently to the imagination than any 
crowded streets. And over all, the dead silence of the 
dead, the sense of utter loneliness, and the brooding 
spirit of the Past! How beautiful it was, and yet how 
drear! We did not dare to speak aloud. Ayesha herself 
was awed in the presence of an antiquity compared to 
which even her length of days was but a little thing; 
we only whispered, and our whispers seemed to run from 
column to column, till they were lost in the quiet 
air. Bright fell the moonlight on pillar and court and 
shattered wall, hiding all their rents and 
imperfections in its silver garment, and clothing 
their hoar majesty with the peculiar glory of the 
night. It was a wonderful sight to see the full moon 
looking down on the ruined fane of Ko^r. It was a 
wonderful thing to think for how many thousands of 
years the dead orb above and the dead city below had 
gazed thus upon each other, and in the utter solitude 
of space poured forth each to each the tale of their 
lost life and long-departed glory. The white light 
fell, and minute by minute the quiet shadows crept 
across the grassgrown courts like the spirits of old 
priests haunting the habitations of their worship--the 
white light fell, and the long shadows grew till the 
beauty and grandeur of the scene and the untamed 
majesty of its present death seemed to sink into our 
very souls, and speak more loudly than the shouts of 
armies concerning the pomp and splendor that the grave 
had swallowed, and even memory had forgotten.

"Come," said Ayesha, after we had gazed and gazed, I 
know not for how long, "and I will show you the stony 
flower of Loveliness and Wonder's very crown, if yet 
it stands to mock time with its beauty and fill the 
heart of man with longing for that which is behind the 
veil," and, without waiting for an answer, she led us 
through two more pillared courts into the inner shrine 
of the old fane.

And there, in the centre of the inmost court, that 
might have been some fifty yards square, or a little 
more, we stood face to face with what is perhaps the 
grandest allegorical work of art that the genius of 
her children has ever given to the world. For in the 
exact centre of the court, placed upon a thick, square 
slab of rock, was a huge round ball of dark stone, 
some forty feet in diameter, and standing on the ball 
was a colossal winged figure of a beauty so entrancing 
and divine that when I first gazed upon it, 
illuminated and shadowed as it was by the soft light 
of the moon, my breath stood still, and for an instant 
my heart ceased its beating.

The statue was hewn from marble so pure and white that 
even now, after all those ages, it shone as the 
moonbeams danced upon it, and its height was, I should 
say, a trifle under twenty feet. It was the winged 
figure of a woman of such marvellous loveliness and 
delicacy of. form that the size seemed rather to add 
to than to detract from its so human and yet more 
spiritual beauty. She was bending forward and poising 
herself upon her half-spread wings as though to 
preserve her balance as she leaned. Her arms were 
outstretched like those of some woman about to embrace 
one she dearly loved, while her whole attitude gave an 
impression of the tenderest beseeching. Her perfect 
and most gracious form was naked, save--and here came 
the extraordinary thing--the face, which was thinly 
veiled, so that we could only trace the marking of her 
features. A gauzy veil was thrown round and about the 
head, and of its two ends one fell down across her 
left breast, which was outlined beneath it, and one, 
now broken, streamed away upon the air behind her.

"Who is she?" I asked, as soon as I could take my eyes 
off the statue.

"Canst thou not guess, O Holly?" answered Ayesha. 
"Where then is thy imagination? It is Truth standing 
on the World, and calling to its children to veil her 
face. See what is writ upon the pedestal. Without 
doubt it is taken from the book of the Scriptures of 
these men of Ko^r," and she led the way to the foot of 
the statue, where an inscription of the usual Chinese-
looking hieroglyphics was so deeply graven as to be 
still quite legible, at least to Ayesha. According to 
her translation it ran thus:

"'Is there no man that will draw my veil and look upon 
my face, lo! it is very fair? Unto him who draws my 
veil shall I be, and peace will I give him, and sweet 
children of knowledge and good works.'

"And a voice cried, 'Though all those who seek alter 
thee desire thee, behold! Virgin art thou, and Virgin 
shalt thou go till Time be done. No man is there born 
of woman who may draw thy veil and live, nor shall be. 
By Death only can thy veil be drawn, oh Truth!'

"And Truth stretched out her arms and wept, because 
those who sought her might not find her, nor look upon 
her face to face."

"Thou seest," said Ayesha, when she had finished 
translating, "Truth was the Goddess of the people of 
old Ko^r, and to her they built their shrines, and her 
they sought; knowing that they should never find, 
still sought they."

"And so," I added, sadly, "do men seek to this very 
hour, but they find not; and, as this scripture saith, 
nor shall they; for in Death only is Truth found."

Then, with one more look at this veiled and 
spiritualized loveliness--which was so perfect and so 
pure that one might almost fancy that the light of a 
living spirit shone through the marble prison to lead 
man on to high and ethereal thoughts--this poet's 
dream of beauty frozen into stone, which I never shall 
forget while I live, though I find myself so helpless 
when I attempt to describe it, we turned and went back 
through the vast moonlit courts to the spot whence we 
had started. I never saw the statue again, which I the 
more regret, because on the great ball of stone 
representing the World whereon the figure stood, lines 
were drawn, that probably, had there been light 
enough, we should have discovered to be a map of the 
Universe as it was known to the people of Ko^r. It is, 
at any rate, suggestive of some scientific knowledge 
that these long-dead worshippets of Truth had 
recognized the fact that the globe is round.



NEXT day the mutes woke us before the dawn; and by the 
time that we had got the sleep out of our eyes, and 
gone through a perfunctory wash at a spring which 
still welled up into the remains of a marble basin in 
the centre of the north quadrangle of the vast outer 
court, we found _i_ She _i_ standing by the litter 
ready to start, while old Billali and the two bearer 
mutes were busy collecting the baggage. As usual, 
Ayesha was veiled like the marble Truth (by the way, I 
wonder if she originally got the idea of covering up 
her beauty from that statue?). I noticed, however, 
that she seemed very depressed, and had none of that 
proud and buoyant bearing which would have betrayed 
her among a thousand women of the same stature, even 
if they had been veiled like herself. She looked up as 
we came--for her head was bowed--and greeted us. Leo 
asked her how she had slept.

"Ill, my Kallikrates," she answered, "ill. This night 
have strange and hideous dreams come creeping through 
my brain, and I know not what they may portend. Almost 
do I feel as though some evil overshadowed me; and yet 
how can evil touch me? I wonder," she went on, with a 
sudden outbreak of womanly tenderness, "I wonder if, 
should aught happen to me, so that I slept awhile and 
left thee waking, wouldst thou think gently of me? I 
wonder, my Kallikrates, if thou wouldst tarry till I 
came again, as for so many centuries I have tarried 
for thy coming?"

Then, without waiting for an answer, she went on: 
"Come, let us be setting forth, for we have far to go, 
and before another day is born in yonder blue should 
we stand in the Place of Life."

In another five minutes we were once more on our way 
through the vast ruined city, which loomed at us on 
either side in the gray dawning in a way that was at 
once grand and oppressive. Just as the first ray of 
the rising sun shot like a golden arrow athwart this 
storied desolation we gained the farther gateway of 
the outer wall, and having given one more glance at 
the hoar and pillared majesty through which we had 
passed, and (with the exception of Job, for whom ruins 
had no charms) breathed a sigh of regret that we had 
not had more time to explore it, passed through the 
great moat, and on to the plain beyond.

As the sun rose so did Ayesha's spirits, till by 
breakfast-time they had regained their normal level, 
and she laughingly set down her previous depression to 
the associations of the spot where she had slept.

"These barbarians declare that Ko^r is haunted," she 
said, "and of a truth I do believe their saying, for 
never did I know so ill a night save once. I remember 
it now. It was on that very spot when thou didst lie 
dead at my feet, Kallikrates. Never will I visit it 
again; it is a place of evil omen."

After a very brief halt for breakfast we pressed on 
with such good will that by two o'clock in the 
afternoon we were at the foot of the vast wall of rock 
that formed the lip of the volcano, and which at this 
point towered up precipitously above us for fifteen 
hundred or two thousand feet. Here we halted, 
certainly not to my astonishment, for I did not see 
how it was possible that we should go any farther.

"Now," said Ayesha, as she descended from her litter, 
"doth our labor but commence, for here do we part with 
these men, and henceforward must we bear ourselves;" 
and then, addressing Billali, "do thou and these 
slaves remain here, and abide our coming. By to-morrow 
at the midday shall we be with thee--if not, wait."

Billali bowed humbly, and said that her august bidding 
should be obeyed if they stopped there till they grew 

"And this man, O Holly," said _i_ She _i_ , pointing 
to Job; "best is it that he should tarry also, for if 
his heart be not high and his courage great, perchance 
some evil might overtake him. Also, the secrets of the 
place whither we go are not fit for common eyes."

I translated this to Job, who instantly and earnestly 
entreated me, almost with tears in his eyes, not to 
leave him behind. He said he was sure that he could 
see nothing worse than he had already seen, and that 
he was terrified to death at the idea of being left 
alone with those "dumb folk," who, he thought, would 
probably take the opportunity to hot-pot him.

I translated what he said to Ayesha, who shrugged her 
shoulders, and answered, "Well, let him come, it is 
naught to me; on his own head be it, and he will serve 
to bear the lamp and this," and she pointed to a 
narrow plank, some sixteen feet in length, which had 
been bound above the long bearing-pole of her hammock, 
as I had thought to make the curtains spread out 
better, but, as it now appeared, for some unknown 
purpose connected with our extraordinary undertaking.

Accordingly, the plank, which, though tough, was very 
light, was given to Job to carry, and also one of the 
lamps. I slung the other on to my back, together with 
a spare jar of oil, while Leo loaded himself with the 
provisions and some water in a kid's skin. When this 
was done _i_ She _i_ bade Billali and the six bearer 
mutes to retreat behind a grove of flowering magnolias 
about a hundred yards away, and remain there under 
pain of death till we had vanished. They bowed humbly, 
and went, and, as he departed, old Billali gave me a 
friendly shake of the hand, and whispered that he had 
rather that it was I than he who was going on this 
wonderful expedition with " _i_ She _i_ -who-must-be-
obeyed," and upon my word I felt inclined to agree 
with him. In another minute they were gone, and then, 
having briefly asked us if we were ready, Ayesha 
turned, and gazed up the towering cliff.

"Goodness me, Leo," I said, "surely we are not going 
to climb that precipice!"

Leo shrugged his shoulders, being in a condition of 
half-fascinated, half-expectant mystification, and as 
he did so Ayesha with a sudden move began to climb the 
cliff, and of course we had to follow her. It was 
perfectly marvellous to see the ease and grace with 
which she sprang from rock to rock, and swung herself 
along the ledges. The ascent was not, however, so 
difficult as it seemed, although there were one or two 
nasty places where it did not do to look behind you, 
the fact being that the rock still sloped here, and 
was not absolutely precipitous, as it was higher up. 
In this way we, with no great labor, mounted to the 
height of some fifty feet above our last standing-
place, the only really troublesome thing to manage 
being Job's board, and in doing so drew some fifty or 
sixty paces to the left of our starting-point, for we 
went up like a crab, sideways. Presently we reached a 
ledge, narrow enough at first, but which widened as we 
followed it, and moreover sloped inward like the petal 
of a flower, So that as we followed it we gradually 
got into a kind of rut or fold of rock that grew 
deeper and deeper, till at last it resembled a 
Devonshire lane in stone, and hid us perfectly from 
the gaze of anybody on the slope below, if there had 
been anybody to gaze. This lane (which appeared to be 
a natural formation) continued for some fifty or sixty 
paces, and then suddenly ended in a cave, also 
natural, running at right angles to it. I am sure that 
it was a natural cave, and not hollowed by the hand of 
man, because of its irregular and contorted shape and 
course, which gave it the appearance of having been 
blown bodily in the mountain by some frightful 
eruption of gas following the line of least 
resistance. All the caves hollowed by the ancients of 
Ko^r, on the contrary, were cut out with the most 
perfect regularity and symmetry. At the mouth of this 
cave Ayesha halted, and bade us light the two lamps, 
which I did, giving one to her and keeping the other 
myself. Then, taking the lead, she advanced down the 
cavern, picking her way with great care, as indeed it 
was necessary to do, for the floor was most irregular-
-strewn with boulders like the bed of a stream, and in 
some places pitted with deep holes, in which it would 
have been easy to break one's leg.

This cavern we pursued for twenty minutes or more; it 
being, so far as I could form a judgment--owing to its 
numerous twists and turns no easy task--about a 
quarter of a mile long.

At last, however, we halted at its farther end, and 
while I was still trying to pierce the gloom a great 
gust of air came tearing down it, and extinguished 
both the lamps.

Ayesha called to us, and we crept up to her, for she 
was a little in front, and were rewarded with a view 
that was positively appalling in its gloom and 
grandeur. Before us was a mighty chasm in the black 
rock, jagged and torn and splintered through it in a 
far-past age by some awful convulsion of nature, as 
though it had been cleft by stroke upon stroke of the 
lightning. This chasm, which was bounded by a 
precipice on the hither, and presumably, though we 
could not see it, on the farther side also, may have 
measured any width across, but from its darkness I do 
not think that it can have been very broad. It was 
impossible to make out much of its outline, or how far 
it ran, for the simple reason that the point where we 
were standing was so far from the upper surface of the 
cliff, at least fifteen hundred or two thousand feet, 
that only a very dim light struggled down to us from 
above. The mouth of the cavern that we had been 
following gave on to a most curious and tremendous 
spur of rock, which jutted out in mid-air into the 
gulf before us for a distance of some fifty yards, 
coming to a sharp point at its termination, and 
resembling nothing that I can think of so much as the 
spur upon the leg of a cock in shape. This huge spur 
was attached only to the parent precipice at its base, 
which was, of course, enormous, just as the cock's 
spur is attached to its leg. Otherwise it was utterly 

"Here we must pass," said Ayesha. "Be careful lest 
giddiness overcome you, or the wind sweep you into the 
gulf beneath, for of a truth it hath no bottom;" and, 
without giving us any further time to get scared, she 
started walking along the spur, leaving us to follow 
her as best we might. I was next to her, then came 
Job, painfully dragging his plank, while Leo brought 
up the rear. It was a wonderful sight to see this 
intrepid woman gliding fearlessly along that dreadful 
place. For my part, when I had gone but a very few 
yards, what between the pressure of the air and the 
awful sense of the consequences that a slip would 
entail, I found it necessary to go down on my hands 
and knees and crawl, and so did the other two.

But Ayesha never condescended to this. On she went, 
leaning her body against the gusts of wind, and never 
seeming to lose her head or her balance.

In a few minutes we had crossed some twenty paces of 
this awful bridge, which got narrower at every step, 
and then all of a sudden a great gust came tearing 
along the gorge. I saw Ayesha lean herself against it, 
but the strong draught got under her dark cloak, and 
tore it from her, and away it went down the wind 
flapping like a wounded bird. It was dreadful to see 
it go till it was lost in the blackness. I clung to 
the saddle of rock and looked round, while the great 
spur vibrated with a humming sound beneath us, like a 
living thing. The sight was a truly awesome one. There 
we were poised in the gloom between earth and heaven. 
Beneath us were hundreds upon hundreds of feet of 
emptiness that gradually grew darker, till at last it 
was absolutely black, and at what depth it ended is 
more than I can guess. Above were space upon space of 
giddy air, and far, far away a line of blue sky. And 
down this vast gulf upon which we were pinnacled the 
great draught dashed and roared, driving clouds and 
misty wreaths of vapor before it, till we were nearly 
blinded and utterly confused.

The whole position was so tremendous and so absolutely 
unearthly that I believe it actually lulled our sense 
of terror, but to this hour I often see it in my 
dreams, and wake up covered with cold perspiration at 
its mere fantasy.

"On! on!" cried the white form before us, for now the 
cloak had gone _i_ She _i_ was robed in white, and 
looked more like a spirit riding down the gale than a 
woman; "On, or ye will fall and be dashed to pieces. 
Keep your eyes fixed upon the ground, and closely hug 
the rock."

We obeyed her, and crept painfully along the quivering 
path, against which the wind shrieked and wailed as it 
shook it, causing it to murmur like a vast tuning-
fork. On we went, I do not know for how long, only 
gazing round now and again, when it was absolutely 
necessary, until at last we saw that we were on the 
very tip of the spur, a slab of rock little larger 
than an ordinary table, and that throbbed and jumped 
like any over-engined steamer. There we lay on our 
stomachs, clinging to the ground, and looked about us, 
while Ayesha stood leaning out against the wind, down 
which her long hair streamed, and, absolutely heedless 
of the hideous depth that yawned beneath, pointed 
before her. Then we saw why the narrow plank, which 
Job and I had painfully dragged along between us, had 
been provided. Before us was an empty space, on the 
other side of which was something, as yet we could not 
see what, for here either owing to the shadow of the 
opposite cliff, or from some other cause-the gloom was 
that of night.

"We must wait awhile," called Ayesha; "soon there will 
be light."

At the moment I could not imagine what she meant. How 
could more light than there was ever come to this 
dreadful spot? While I was still debating in my mind, 
suddenly, like a great sword of flame, a beam from the 
setting sun pierced the Stygian gloom, and smote upon 
the point of rock whereon we lay illumining Ayesha's 
lovely form with an unearthly splendor. I only wish 
that I could describe the wild and marvellous beauty 
of that sword of fire, laid across the darkness and 
rushing mist-wreaths of the gulf. How it got there I 
do not to this moment know, but I presume that there 
was some cleft or hole in the opposing cliff, through 
which it. pierced when the setting orb was in a direct 
line therewith. All I say is, that the effect was the 
most wonderful that I ever saw. Right through the 
heart of the darkness that flaming sword was stabbed, 
and where it lay there was the most surpassingly vivid 
light, so vivid that even at a distance one could see 
the grain of the rock, while, outside of it--yes, 
within a few inches of its keen edge--was naught but 
clustering shadows.

And now, by this ray of light, for which _i_ She _i_ 
had been waiting, and timed our arrival to meet, 
knowing that at this season for thousands of years it 
had always struck thus at sunset, we saw what was 
before us. Within eleven or twelve feet of the very 
tip of the tongue-like rock whereon we stood there 
arose, presumably from the far bottom of the gulf, a 
sugar loaf-shaped cone, of which the summit was 
exactly opposite to us. But had there been a summit 
only it would not have helped us much, for the nearest 
point of its circumference was some forty feet from 
where we were. On the lip of this summit, however, 
which was circular and hollow, rested a tremendous 
flat stone, something like a glacier stone--perhaps it 
was one, for all I know to the contrary--and the end 
of this stone approached to within twelve feet or so 
of us. This huge boulder was nothing more or less than 
a gigantic rocking-stone, accurately balanced upon the 
edge of the cone or miniature crater, like a half 
crown on the rim of a wineglass; for, in the fierce 
light that played upon it and us, we could see it 
oscillating in the gusts of wind.

"Quick!" said Ayesha; "the plank--we must cross while 
the light endures; presently it will be gone."

"Oh, Lord, sir!" groaned Job, "surely she don't mean 
us to walk across that there place on that there 
thing," as in obedience to my direction he pushed the 
long board towards me.

"That's it, Job," I halloaed, in ghastly merriment, 
though the idea of walking the plank was no pleasanter 
to me than to him.

I pushed the board on to Ayesha, who deftly ran it 
across the gulf so that one end of it rested on the 
rocking-stone, the other remaining on the extremity of 
the trembling spur. Then, placing her foot upon it to 
prevent it from being blown away, she turned to me.

"Since last I was here, O Holly," she called, "the 
support of the moving stone hath lessened somewhat, so 
that I am not sure if it will bear our weight and fall 
or not. Therefore will I cross first, because no harm 
will come unto me," and, without further ado, she trod 
lightly but firmly across the frail bridge, and in 
another second was standing safe upon the heaving 

"It is safe," she called. "See, hold thou the plank! I 
will stand on the farther side of the stone so that it 
may not overbalance with your greater weights. Now 
come, O Holly, for presently the light will fail us."

I struggled to my knees, and if ever I felt sick in my 
life I felt sick then, and I am not ashamed to say 
that I hesitated and hung back.

"Surely thou art not afraid," called this strange 
creature in a lull of the gale, from where she stood, 
poised like a bird on the highest point of the rocking 
stone. "Make then way for Kallikrates."

This settled me; it is better to fall down a precipice 
and die than to be laughed at by such a woman; so I 
clinched my teeth, and in another instant I was on 
that horrible, narrow, bending plank, with bottomless 
space beneath and around me. I have always hated a 
great height, but never before did I realize the full 
horrors of which such a position is capable. Oh, the 
sickening sensation of that yielding board resting on 
the two moving supports. I grew dizzy, and thought 
that I must fall; my spine crept; it seemed to me that 
I was falling, and my delight at finding myself 
sprawling upon that stone, which rose and fell beneath 
me like a boat in a swell, cannot be expressed in 
words. All I know is that briefly, but earnestly 
enough, I thanked Providence for preserving me so far.

Then came Leo's turn, and, though he looked rather 
queer, he came across like a rope-dancer. Ayesha 
stretched out her hand to clasp his own, and I heard 
her say, "Bravely done, my love--bravely done! The old 
Greek spirit lives in thee yet!"

And now only poor Job remained on the farther side of 
the gulf. He crept up to the plank, and yelled out, "I 
can't do it, sir. I shall fall into that beastly 

"You must," I remember saying with inappropriate 
facetiousness--"you must, Job, it's as easy as 
catching flies." I suppose that I said it to satisfy 
my conscience, because although the expression conveys 
a wonderful idea of facility, as a matter of fact I 
know no more difficult operation in the whole world 
than catching flies--that is, in warm weather, unless, 
indeed, it is catching mosquitoes.

"I can't, sir--I can't, indeed.

"Let the man come, or let him stop and perish there. 
See, the light is dying! In a moment it will be gone!" 
said Ayesha.

I looked. _i_ She _i_ was right. The sun was passing 
below the level of the hole or cleft in the precipice 
through which the ray reached us.

"If you stop there, Job, you will die alone," I 
called; "the light is going."

"Come, be a man, Job," roared Leo; "it's quite easy."

Thus adjured, the miserable Job, with a most awful 
yell, precipitated himself face downwards on the 
plank--he did not dare, small blame to him, to try to 
walk it, and commenced to draw himself across in 
little jerks, his poor legs hanging down on either 
side into the nothingness beneath.

His violent jerks at the frail board made the great 
stone, which was only balanced on a few inches of 
rock, oscillate in a most sickening manner, and, to 
make matters worse, when he was half-way across the 
flying ray of lurid light suddenly went out, just as 
though a lamp had been extinguished in a curtained 
room, leaving the whole howling wilderness of air 
black with darkness.

"Come on, Job, for God's sake!" I shouted, in an agony 
of fear, while the stone, gathering motion with every 
swing, rocked so violently that it was difficult to 
hang on to it. It was a truly awful position.

"Lord have mercy on me!" cried poor Job from the 
darkness. "Oh, the plank's slipping!" and I heard a 
violent struggle, and thought that he was gone.

But at that moment his outstretched hand, clasping in 
agony at the air, met my own, and I hauled--ah, how I 
did haul, putting out all the strength that it has 
pleased Providence to give me in such abundance--and, 
to my joy, in another minute Job was gasping on the 
rock beside me. But the plank! I felt it slip, and 
heard it knock against a projecting knob of rock, and 
it was gone.

"Great heavens!" I exclaimed. "How are we going to get 

"I don't. know," answered Leo, out of the gloom. 
"'Sufficient to the day is the evil thereof'. I am 
thankful enough to be here."

But Ayesha merely called to me to take her hand and 
creep after her.



I DID as I was bid, and in fear and trembling felt 
myself guided over the edge of the stone. I sprawled 
my legs out, but could touch nothing.

"I am going to fall!" I gasped.

"Nay, let thyself go, and trust to me," answered 

Now, if the position is considered, it will be easily 
understood that this was a greater demand upon my 
confidence than was justified by my knowledge of 
Ayesha's character. For all I knew she might be in the 
very act of consigning me to a horrible doom. But in 
life we sometimes have to lay our faith upon strange 
altars, and so it was now.

"Let thyself got" she cried, and, having no choice, I 

I felt myself slide a pace or two down the sloping 
surface of the rock, and then pass into the air, and 
the thought flashed through my brain that I was lost. 
But no! In another instant my feet struck against a 
rocky floor, and I felt that I was standing on 
something solid, and out of reach of the wind, which I 
could hear singing away overhead. As I stood there 
thanking Heaven for these small mercies, there was a 
slip and a scuffle, and down came Leo alongside of me.

"Hullo, old fellow!" he called out, "are you there? 
This is getting interesting, is it not?"

Just then, with a terrific yell, Job arrived right on 
the top of us, knocking us both down. By the time that 
we had struggled to our feet again Ayesha was standing 
among us, and bidding us light the lamps, which 
fortunately remained uninjured, as also did the spare 
jar of oil.

I got out my box of Bryant and May's wax matches, and 
they struck as merrily there, in that awful place, as 
they could have done in a London drawing-room.

In a couple of minutes both the lamps were alight; and 
a curious scene they revealed. We were huddled 
together in a rocky chamber, some ten feet square, and 
scared enough we looked; that is, except Ayesha, who 
was standing calmly with her arms folded, and waiting 
for the lamps to burn up. The chamber appeared to be 
partly natural, and partly hollowed out of the top of 
the cone. The roof of the natural part was formed of 
the swinging stone, and that of the back part of the 
chamber, which sloped downward, was hewn from the live 
rock. For the rest, the place was warm and dry--a 
perfect haven of rest compared to the giddy pinnacle 
above, and the quivering spur that shot out to meet it 
in mid-air.

"So!" said _i_ She _i_ , "safely have we come, though 
once I feared that the rocking stone would fall with 
you, and precipitate you into the bottomless depths 
beneath, for I do believe that the cleft goeth down to 
the very womb of the world. The rock whereon the stone 
resteth hath crumbled beneath the swinging weight. And 
now that he," nodding towards Job, who was sitting on 
the floor, feebly wiping his forehead with a red 
cotton pocket-handkerchief, "whom they rightly call 
the 'Pig' for as a pig is he stupid, hath let fall the 
plank, it will not be easy to return across the gulf, 
and to that end must I make a plan. But now rest 
awhile, and look upon this place. What think ye that 
it is?"

"We know not," I answered. 

"Wouldst thou believe, O Holly, that once a man did 
choose this airy nest for a daily habitation, and did 
here endure for many years; leaving it only but one 
day in every twelve to seek food and water and oil 
that the people brought, more than he could carry, and 
laid as an offering in the mouth of the tunnel through 
which we passed hither?"

We looked up wonderingly. and she continued--

"Yet so it was. There was a man--Noot, he named 
himself--who, though he lived in the latter days, had 
of the wisdom of the sons of Ko^r. A hermit was he, 
and a philosopher, and skilled in the secrets of 
Nature, and he it was who discovered the Fire that I 
shall show you, which is Nature's blood and life, and 
also that he who bathed therein, and breathed thereof, 
should live while Nature lives. But like unto thee, O 
Holly, this man, Noot, would not turn his knowledge to 
account. 'Ill,' he said, 'was it for man to live, for 
man was born to die.' Therefore did he tell his secret 
to none, and therefore did he come and live here, 
where the seeker after Life must pass, and was revered 
of the Amahagger of the day as holy, and a hermit. And 
when first I came to this country--knowest thou how I 
came, Kallikrates? Another time will I tell thee, it 
is a strange tale--I heard of this philosopher, and 
waited for him when he came to fetch his food, and 
returned with him hither, though greatly did I fear to 
tread the gulf. Then did I beguile him with my beauty 
and my wit, and flatter him with my tongue, so that he 
led me down and showed me the Fire, and told me the 
secrets of the Fire, but he would not suffer me to 
step therein, and, fearing lest he should slay me, I 
refrained, knowing that the man was very old, and soon 
would die. And I returned, having learned from him all 
that he knew of the wonderful Spirit of the World, and 
that was much, the man was wise and very ancient, and 
by purity and abstinence, and the contemplations of 
his innocent mind, had worn thin the veil between that 
which we see and the great invisible truths, the 
whisper of whose wings at times we hear as they sweep 
through the gross air of the world. Then--it was but a 
very few days after, I met thee, my Kallikrates, who 
hadst wandered hither with the beautiful Egyptian 
Amenartas, and I learned to love for the first and 
last time, once and forever, so that it entered into 
my mind to come hither with thee, and receive the gift 
of Life for thee and me. Therefore came we, with that 
Egyptian who would not be left behind, and, behold, we 
found the old man Noot lying but newly dead. There he 
lay, and his white beard covered him like a garment," 
and she pointed to a spot near where I was sitting; 
"but surely he hath long since crumbled into dust, and 
the wind hath borne his ashes hence."

Here I put out my hand and felt in the dust, and 
presently my fingers touched something. It was a human 
tooth, very yellow, but sound. I held it up and showed 
it to Ayesha, who laughed.

"Yes," she said, "it is his without a doubt. Behold 
what remaineth of Noot and the wisdom of Noot--one 
little tooth! And yet that man had all life at his 
command, and for his conscience sake would have none 
of it. Well, he lay there newly dead, and we descended 
whither I shall lead you, and then, gathering up all 
my courage, and courting death that I might perchance 
win so glorious a crown of life, I stepped into the 
flames, and behold! life such as ye can never know 
until ye feel it also, flowed into me, and I came 
forth undying, and lovely beyond imagining. Then did I 
stretch out mine arms to thee, Kallikrates, and bid 
thee take thine immortal bride, and behold, as I 
spoke, thou, blinded by my beauty, didst turn from me 
and throw thine arms about the neck of Amenartas. And 
then a great fury filled me, and made me mad, and I 
seized the javelin that thou didst bear, and stabbed 
thee, so that there, at my very feet, in the Place of 
Life, thou didst groan and go down into death. I knew 
not then that I had strength to slay with mine eyes 
and by the power of my will, therefore in my madness 
slew I with the javelin.

"And when thou wast dead, ah! I wept, because I was 
undying and thou wast dead. I wept there in the Place 
of Life, so that had I been mortal any more my heart 
had surely broken. And she, the swart Egyptian--she 
cursed me by her gods. By Osiris did she curse me, and 
by Isis, by Nephthys and by Hekt, by Sekhet, the lion-
headed, and by Set, calling down evil on me, evil and 
everlasting desolation. Ah! I can see her dark face 
now lowering o'er me like a storm, but she could not 
hurt me, and I--I know not if I could hurt her. I did 
not try; it was naught to me then; so together we bore 
thee hence. And afterwards I sent her--the Egyptian--
away through the swamps, and it seems that she lived 
to bear a son and to write the tale that should lead 
thee, her husband, back to me, her rival and thy 

"Such is the tale, my love, and now is the hour at 
hand that shall set a crown upon it. Like all things 
on the earth, it is compounded of evil and good--more 
of evil than of good, perchance; and writ in letters 
of blood. It is the truth; naught have I hidden from 
thee, Kallikrates. And now one thing before the final 
moment of thy trial. We go down into the presence of 
Death, for Life and Death are very near together, and-
-who knoweth?--that might happen which should separate 
us for another space of waiting. I am but a woman, and 
no prophetess, and I cannot read the future. But this 
I know--for I learned it from the lips of the wise man 
Noot--that my life is but prolonged and made more 
bright. I cannot live for aye. Therefore, before we 
go, tell me, O Kallikrates, that 	of a truth thou 
dost forgive me, and dost love me from thy heart. See, 
Kallikrates: much evil have I done--perchance it was 
evil but two nights gone to strike that girl who loved 
thee cold in death--but she disobeyed me and angered 
me, prophesying misfortune to me, and I smote. Be 
careful when power comes to thee also, lest thou too 
shouldst smite in thine anger or thy jealousy, for 
unconquerable strength is a sore weapon in the hands 
of erring man. Yea, I have sinned--out of the 
bitterness born of a great love have I sinned--but yet 
do I know the good from the evil, nor is my heart 
altogether hardened. Thy love, O Kallikrates, shall be 
the gate of my redemption, even as aforetime my 
passion was the path down which I ran to evil. For 
deep love unsatisfied is the hell of noble hearts and 
a portion for the accursed, but love that is mirrored 
back more perfect from the soul of our desired doth 
fashion wings to lift us above ourselves, and make us 
what we might be. Therefore, Kallikrates, take me by 
the hand, and lift my veil with no more fear than 
though I were some peasant girl, and not the wisest 
and most beauteous woman in this wide world, and look 
me in the eyes, and tell me that thou dost forgive me 
with all thine heart, and that with all thine heart 
thou dost worship me."

 _i_ She _i_ paused, and the strange tenderness in her 
voice seemed to hover round us like a memory. I know 
that the sound of it moved me more even than her 
words, it was so very human--so very womanly. Leo, 
too, was strangely touched. Hitherto he had been 
fascinated against his better judgment, something as a 
bird is fascinated by a snake, but now I think that 
all this passed away, and he realized that he really 
loved this strange and glorious creature, as, alas! I 
loved her also. At any rate, I saw his eyes fill with 
tears, and he stepped swiftly to her and undid the 
gauzy veil, and then took her by the hand, and, gazing 
into her deep eyes, said aloud,

"Ayesha, I love thee with all my heart, and so far as 
forgiveness is possible I forgive thee the death of 
Ustane. For the rest, it is between thee and thy 
Maker; I know naught of it. I only know that I love 
thee as I never loved before, and that I will cleave 
to thee to the end."

"Now," answered Ayesha, with proud humility--"now when 
my lord doth speak thus royally and give with so free 
a hand, it cannot become me to lag behind in words, 
and be beggared of my generosity. Behold!" and she 
took his hand and placed it upon her shapely head, and 
then bent herself slowly down till one knee for an 
instant touched the ground--"Behold! in token of 
submission do I bow me to my lord! Behold!" and she 
kissed him on the lips, "in token of my wifely love do 
I kiss my lord. Behold!" and she laid her hand upon 
his heart, "by the sin I sinned, by my lonely 
centuries of waiting wherewith it was wiped out, by 
the great love wherewith I love, and by the Spirit--
the Eternal Thing that doth beget all life, from whom 
it ebbs, to whom it doth return again--I swear:

"I swear, even in this first most holy hour of 
completed womanhood, that I will abandon Evil and 
cherish Good. I swear that I will be ever guided by 
thy voice in the straightest path of Duty. I swear 
that I will eschew Ambition, and through all my length 
of endless days set Wisdom over me as a guiding star 
to lead me unto Truth and a knowledge of the Right. I 
swear also that I will honor and will cherish thee, 
Kallikrates, who hast been swept by the wave of time 
back into my arms, ay, till the very end, come it soon 
or late. I swear--nay, I will swear no more, for what 
are words? Yet shalt thou learn that Ayesha hath no 
false tongue.

"So I have sworn, and thou, my Holly, art witness to 
my oath. Here, too, are we wed, my husband, with the 
gloom for bridal canopy--wed till the end of all 
things; here do we write our marriage vows upon the 
rushing winds which shall bear them up to heaven, and 
round and continually round this rolling world.

"And for a bridal gift I crown thee with my beauty's 
starry crown, and enduring life, and wisdom without 
measure, and wealth that none can count. Behold! the 
great ones of the earth shall creep about thy feet, 
and their fair women shall cover up their eyes because 
of the shining glory of thy countenance, and their 
wise ones shall be abased before thee. Thou shalt read 
the hearts of men as an open writing, and hither and 
thither shalt thou lead them as thy pleasure listeth. 
Like that old Sphinx of Egypt shalt thou sit aloft 
from age to age, and ever shall they cry to thee to 
solve the riddle of thy greatness that doth not pass 
away, and ever shalt thou mock them with thy silence!

"Behold! once more I kiss thee, and by that kiss I 
give to thee dominion over sea and earth, over the 
peasant in his hovel, over the monarch in his palace 
halls, and cities crowned with towers, and those who 
breathe therein. Whate'er the sun shakes out his 
spears, and the lonesome waters mirror up the moon, 
whate'er storms roll, and heaven's painted bows arch 
in the sky--from the pure North clad in snows, across 
the middle spaces of the world, to where the amorous 
South, lying like a bride upon her blue couch of seas, 
breathes in sighs made sweet with the odor of myrtles-
-there shall thy power pass and thy dominion find a 
home. Nor sickness, nor icy-fingered fear, nor sorrow, 
and pale waste of form and mind hovering ever o'er 
humanity, shall so much as shadow thee with the shadow 
of their wings. As a god shalt thou be, holding good 
and evil in the hollow of thy hand, and I, even I, I 
humble myself before thee. Such is the power of Love, 
and such is the bridal gift I give unto thee, 
Kallikrates, beloved of Ra, my Lord and Lord of All.

"And now it is done, and, come storm, come shine, come 
good, come evil, come life, come death, it never, 
never can be undone. For, of a truth, that which is, 
is, and being done, is done for aye, and cannot be 
altered. I have said--Let us hence, that all things 
may be accomplished in their order;" and, taking one 
of the lamps, she advanced towards the end of the 
chamber that was roofed in by the swaying stone, where 
she halted.

We followed her, and perceived that in the wall of the 
cone there was a stair, or, to be more accurate, that 
some projecting knobs of rock had been so shaped as to 
form a good imitation of a stair. Down this Ayesha 
began to climb, springing from step to step, like a 
chamois, and after her we followed with less grace. 
When we had descended some fifteen or sixteen steps we 
found that they ended in a tremendous rocky slope, 
running first outward and then inward--like the slope 
of an inverted cone, or tunnel. The slope was very 
steep, and often precipitous, but it was nowhere 
impassable, and by the light of the lamps we went down 
it with no great difficulty, though it was gloomy work 
enough travelling on thus, no one of us knew whither, 
into the dead heart of a volcano. As we went, however, 
I took the precaution of noting our route as well as I 
could; and this was not difficult, owing to the 
extraordinary and most fantastic shape of the rocks 
that were strewn about, many of which, in that dim 
light, looked more like the grim faces carven upon 
mediaeval gargoyles than ordinary boulders.

For a long period we travelled on thus, half an hour I 
should say, till, after we had descended for many 
hundreds of feet, I perceived that we were reaching 
the point of the inverted cone. In another minute we 
were there, and found that at the very apex of the 
funnel was a passage, so low and narrow that we had to 
stoop as we crept along it in Indian file. After some 
fifty yards of this creeping, the passage suddenly 
widened into a cave, so huge that we could see neither 
the roof nor the sides. We only knew that it was a 
cave by the echo of our tread and the perfect quiet of 
the heavy air. On we went for many minutes in absolute 
awed silence, like lost souls in the depths of Hades, 
Ayesha's white and ghostlike form flitting in front of 
us, till once more the cavern ended in a passage which 
opened into a second cavern much smaller than the 
first. Indeed, we could clearly make out the arch and 
stony banks of this second cave, and, from their rent 
and jagged appearance, discovered that, like the first 
long passage down which we had passed through the 
cliff before we reached the quivering spur, it had to 
all appearance been torn in the bowels of the rock by 
the terrific force of some explosive gas. At length 
this cave ended in a third passage, through which 
gleamed a faint glow of light.

I heard Ayesha give a sigh of relief as this light 
dawned upon us.

"It is well," she said; "prepare to enter the very 
womb of the Earth, wherein she doth conceive the Life 
that ye see brought forth in man and beast--ay, and in 
every tree and flower."

Swiftly she sped along, and after her we stumbled as 
best we might, our hearts filled like a cup with 
mingled dread and curiosity. What were we about to 
see? We passed down the tunnel; stronger and stronger 
the light beamed, reaching us in great flashes like 
the rays from a lighthouse, as one by one they are 
thrown wide upon the darkness of the waters. Nor was 
this all, for with the flashes came a soul-shaking 
sound like that of thunder and of crashing trees. Now 
we were through it, and--oh, heavens!

We stood in a third cavern, some fifty feet in length 
by perhaps as great a height, and thirty wide. It was 
carpeted with fine white sand, and its walls had been 
worn smooth by the action of I know not what. The 
cavern was not dark like the others, it was filled 
with a soft glow of rose-colored light, more beautiful 
to look on than anything that can be conceived. But at 
first we saw no flashes, and heard no more of the 
thunderous sound. Presently, however, as we stood in 
amaze, gazing at the wonderful sight, and wondering 
whence the rosy radiance flowed, a dread and beautiful 
thing happened. Across the far end of the cavern, with 
a grinding and crashing noise--a noise so dreadful and 
awe-inspiring that we all trembled, and Job actually 
sank to his knees--there flamed out an awful cloud or 
pillar of fire, like a rainbow many-colored, and like 
the lightning bright. For a space, perhaps forty 
seconds, it flamed and roared thus, turning slowly 
round and round, and then by degrees the terrible 
noise ceased, and with the fire it passed away--I know 
not where--leaving behind it the same rosy glow that 
we had first seen.

"Draw near, draw near!" cried Ayesha, with a voice of 
thrilling exultation. "Behold the very Fountain and 
Heart of Life as it beats in the bosom of the great 
world. Behold the substance from which all things draw 
their energy, the bright Spirit of the Globe, without 
which it cannot live, but must grow cold and dead as 
the dead moon. Draw near, and wash you in the living 
flames, and take their virtue into your poor frames in 
all its virgin strength--not as it now feebly glows 
within your bosoms, filtered thereto through all the 
fine strainers of a thousand intermediate lives, but 
as it is here in the very fount and seat of earthly 

We followed her through the rosy glow up to the head 
of the cave, till at last we stood before the spot 
where the great pulse beat and the great flame passed. 
And as we went we became sensible of a wild and 
splendid exhilaration, of a glorious sense of such a 
fierce intensity of Life that the most buoyant moments 
of our strength seemed flat and tame and feeble beside 
it. It was the mere effluvium of the flame, the subtle 
ether that it cast off as it passed, working on us, 
and making us feel strong as giants and swift as 
eagles. We reached the head of the cave, and gazed at 
each other in the glorious glow, and laughed aloud--
even Job laughed, and he had not laughed for a week--
in the lightness of our hearts and the divine 
intoxication of our brains. I know that I felt as 
though all the varied genius of which the human 
intellect is capable had descended upon me. I could 
have spoken in blank verse of Shakespearian beauty, 
all sorts of great ideas flashed through my mind; it 
was as though the bonds of my flesh had been loosened, 
and left the spirit free to soar to the empyrean of 
its native power. The sensations that poured in upon 
me are indescribable. I seemed to live more keenly, to 
reach to a higher joy, and sip the goblet of a subtler 
thought than ever it had been my lot to do before. I 
was another and most glorified self, and all the 
avenues of the Possible were for a space laid open to 
the footsteps of the Real. Then, suddenly, while I 
rejoiced in this splendid vigor of a new-found self, 
from far, far away there came a dreadful muttering 
noise, that grew and grew to a crash and a roar, which 
combined in itself all that is terrible and yet 
splendid in the possibilities of sound. Nearer it 
came, and nearer yet, till it was close upon us, 
rolling down like all the thunder-wheels of heaven 
behind the horses of the lightning. On it came, and 
with it came the glorious blinding cloud of many-
colored light, and stood before us for a space, 
turning, as it seemed to us, slowly round and round, 
and then, accompanied by its attendant pomp of sound, 
passed away I know not whither.

So astonishing was the wondrous sight that one and all 
of us, save _i_ She _i_ , who stood up and stretched 
her hands towards the fire, sank down before it, and 
hid our faces in the sand.

When it was gone, Ayesha spoke. "Now, Kallikrates," 
she said, "the mighty moment is at hand. When the 
great flame comes again thou must stand in it. First 
throw aside thy garments, for it will burn them, 
though thee it will not hurt. Thou must stand in the 
flame while thy senses will endure, and when it 
embraces thee suck the fire down into thy very heart, 
and let it leap and play around thy every part, so 
that thou lose no moiety of its virtue. Hearest thou 
me, Kallikrates?"

"I hear thee, Ayesha," answered Leo, "but, of a truth-
-I am no coward--but I doubt me of that raging flame. 
How know I that it will not utterly destroy me, so 
that I lose myself and lose thee also? Nevertheless 
will I do it," he added.

Ayesha thought for a minute, and then said,

"It is not wonderful that thou shouldst doubt. Tell 
me, Kallikrates, if thou seest me stand in the flame 
and come forth unharmed, wilt thou enter also?'

"Yes," he answered, "I will enter, even if it slay me. 
I have said that I will enter now."

"And that will I also," I cried. 

"What, my Holly!" she laughed aloud; "methought that 
thou wouldst naught of length of days. Why, how is 

"Nay, I know not," I answered, "but there is that in 
my heart that calleth to me to taste of the flame, and 

"It is well," she said. "Thou art not altogether lost 
in folly. See now; I will for the second time bathe me 
in this living bath. Fain would I add to my beauty and 
my length of days if that be possible. If it be not 
possible, at the least it cannot harm me.

"Also," she continued, after a momentary pause, "is 
there another and a deeper cause why I would once 
again dip me in the flame. When first I tasted of its 
virtue full was my heart of passion and of hatred of 
that Egyptian Amenartas, and therefore, despite my 
strivings to be rid thereof, have passion and hatred 
been stamped upon my soul from that sad hour to this. 
But now it is otherwise. Now is my mood a happy mood, 
and filled am I with the purest part of thought, and 
so would I ever be. Therefore, Kallikrates, will I 
once more wash and make me pure and clean, and yet 
more fit for thee. Therefore also, when thou dost in 
turn stand in the fire, empty all thy heart of evil, 
and let sweet contentment hold the balance of thy 
mind. Shake loose thy spirit's wings, and take thy 
stand upon the utter verge of holy contemplation; ay, 
dream upon thy mother's kiss, and turn thee towards 
the vision of the highest good that hath ever swept on 
silver wings across the silence of thy dreams. For 
from the germ of what thou art in that dread moment 
shall grow the fruit of what thou shalt be for all 
unreckoned time.

"Now prepare thee, prepare! even as though thy last 
hour were at hand, and thou wast about to cross to the 
land of shadows, and not through the gates of glory 
into the realms of Life made beautiful. Prepare, I 



THEN came a few moments' pause, during which Ayesha 
seemed to be gathering up her strength for the fiery 
trial, while we clung to each other, and waited in 
utter silence.

At last, from far, far away, came the first murmur of 
sound, that grew and grew till it began to crash and 
bellow in the distance. As she heard it, Ayesha 
swiftly threw off her gauzy wrapping, loosened the 
golden snake from her kirtle, and then, shaking her 
lovely hair about her like a garment, beneath its 
cover slipped the kirtle off and replaced the snaky 
belt around her and outside the masses of falling 
hair. There she stood before us as Eve might have 
stood before Adam, clad in nothing but her abundant 
locks, held round her by the golden band; and no words 
of mine can tell how sweet she looked--and yet how 
divine. Nearer and nearer came the thunder wheels of 
fire, and as they came she pushed one ivory arm 
through the dark masses of her hair and flung it round 
Leo's neck.

"Oh, my love, my love!" she murmured, "wilt thou ever 
know how I have loved thee?" and she kissed him on the 
forehead, and then went and stood in the pathway of 
the flame of Life.

There was, I remember, to my mind something very 
touching about her words and that embrace upon the 
forehead. It was like a mother's kiss, and seemed to 
convey a benediction with it.

On came the crashing, rolling noise, and the sound 
thereof was as the sound of a forest being swept flat 
by a mighty wind, and then tossed up by it like so 
much grass, and thundered down a mountain-side. Nearer 
and nearer it came; now flashes of light, forerunners 
of the revolving pillar of flame, were passing like 
arrows through the rosy air; and now the edge of the 
pillar itself appeared. Ayesha turned towards it, and 
stretched out her arms to greet it. On it came very 
slowly, and lapped her round with flame. I saw the 
fire run up her form. I saw her lift it with both 
hands as though it were water, and pour it over her 
head. I even saw her open her mouth and draw it down 
into her lungs, and a dread and wonderful sight it 

Then she paused, and stretched out her arms, and stood 
there quite still, with a heavenly smile upon her 
face, as though she were the very Spirit of the Flame.

The mysterious fire played up and down her dark and 
rolling locks, twining and twisting itself through and 
around them like threads of golden lace; it gleamed 
upon her ivory breast and shoulder, from which the 
hair had slipped aside; it slid along her pillared 
throat and delicate features, and seemed to find a 
home in the glorious eyes that shone and shone, more 
brightly even than the spiritual essence.

Oh, how beautiful she looked there in the flame! No 
angel out of heaven could have worn a greater 
loveliness. Even now my heart faints before the 
recollection of it, as she stood and smiled at our 
awed faces, and I would give half my remaining time 
upon this earth to see her once like that again.

But suddenly--more suddenly than I can describe--a 
kind of change came over her face, a change which I 
could not define or explain on paper, but none the 
less a change. The smile vanished, and in its place 
there came a dry, hard look; the rounded face seemed 
to grow pinched, as though some great anxiety were 
leaving its impress upon it. The glorious eyes, too, 
lost their light, and, as I thought, the form its 
perfect shape and erectness.

I rubbed my eyes, thinking that I was the victim of 
some hallucination, or that the refraction from the 
intense light produced an optical delusion; and, as I 
did so, the flaming pillar slowly twisted and 
thundered off whithersoever it passes to in the bowels 
of the great earth, leaving Ayesha standing where it 
had been.

As soon as it was gone, she stepped forward to Leo's 
side--it seemed to me that there was no spring in her 
step and stretched out her hand to lay it on his 
shoulder. I gazed at her arm. Where was its wonderful 
roundness and beauty? It was getting thin and angular. 
And her face--by Heaven!-- _i_ her face was growing 
old before my eyes! _i_ I suppose that Leo saw it 
also--certainly he recoiled a step or two.

"What is it, my Kallikrates?" she said, and her voice-
-what was the matter with those deep and thrilling 
notes? They were quite high and cracked.

"Why, what is it--what is it?" she said, confusedly. 
"I feel dazed. Surely the quality of the fire hath not 
altered. Can the principle of Life alter? Tell me, 
Kallikrates, is there aught wrong with my eyes? I see 
not clear," and she put her hand to her head and 
touched her hair--and oh, _i_ horror of horrors! _i_ 
it all fell upon the floor.

"Oh, _i_ look!--look!--look! _i_ " shrieked Job, in a 
shrill falsetto of terror, his eyes nearly dropping 
out of his head, and foam upon his lips. " _i_ Look!--
look!--look! _i_ she's shrivelling up! she's turning 
into a monkey;" and down he fell upon the ground, 
foaming and gnashing in a fit.

True enough--I faint even as I write it in the living 
presence of that terrible recollection--she was 
shrivelling up; the golden snake that had encircled 
her gracious form slipped over her hips and to the 
ground; smaller and smaller she grew; her skin changed 
color, and in place of the perfect whiteness of its 
lustre it turned dirty brown and yellow, like an old 
piece of withered parchment. _i_ She _i_ felt at her 
head: the delicate hand was nothing but a claw now, a 
human talon like that of a badly preserved Egyptian 
mummy, and then she seemed to realize what kind of 
change was passing over her, and she shrieked--ah, she 
shrieked!--she rolled upon the floor and shrieked!

Smaller she grew, and smaller yet, till she was no 
larger than a baboon. Now the skin was puckered into a 
million wrinkles, and on the shapeless face was the 
stamp of unutterable age. I never saw anything like 
it; nobody ever saw anything like the frightful age 
that was graven on that fearful countenance, no bigger 
now than that of a two months' child, though the skull 
remained the same size, or nearly so, and let all men 
pray to God they never may, if they wish to keep their 

At last she lay still, or only feebly moving. _i_ She 
_i_ , who but two minutes before had gazed upon us the 
loveliest, noblest, most splendid woman the world has 
ever seen, she lay still before us, near the masses of 
her own dark hair, no larger than a big monkey, and 
hideous--ah, too hideous for words. And yet, think of 
this--at that very moment I thought of it--it was the 
same woman!
 _i_ She _i_ was dying: we saw it, and thanked God--
for while she lived she could feel, and what must she 
have felt? _i_ She _i_ raised herself upon her bony 
hands, and blindly gazed around her, swaying her head 
slowly from side to side, as a tortoise does. _i_ She 
_i_ could not see, for her whitish eyes were covered 
with a horny film. Oh, the horrible pathos of the 
sight! But she could still speak.

"Kallikrates," she said, in husky, trembling notes. 
"Forget me not, Kallikrates. Have pity on my shame; I 
shall come again, and shall once more be beautiful, I 
swear it--it is true! _i_ Oh--h--h-- _i_ " and she 
fell upon her face, and was still.

On the very spot where more than twenty centuries 
before she had slain Kallikrates the priest, she 
herself fell down and died.

Overcome with the extremity of horror, we too fell on 
the sandy floor of that dread place, and swooned away.

I know not how long we remained thus. Many hours, I 
suppose. When at last I opened my eyes, the other two 
were still outstretched upon the floor. The rosy light 
yet beamed like a celestial dawn, and the thunder-
wheels of the Spirit of Life yet rolled upon their 
accustomed track, for as I awoke the great pillar was 
passing away. There, too, lay the hideous little 
monkey frame, covered with crinkled yellow parchment, 
that once had been the glorious _i_ She _i_ . Alas! it 
was no hideous dream--it was an awful and unparalleled 

What had happened to bring this shocking change about? 
Had the nature of the life-giving Fire changed! Did 
it, perhaps, from time to time send forth an essence 
of Death instead of an essence of Life? Or was it that 
the frame once charged with its marvellous virtue 
could bear no more, so that were the process repeated-
-it mattered not at what lapse of time--the two 
impregnations neutralized each other, and left the 
body on which they acted as it was before it ever came 
into contact with the very essence of life? This, and 
this alone, would account for the sudden and terrible 
aging of Ayesha, as the whole length of her two 
thousand years took effect upon her. I have not the 
slightest doubt myself but that the frame now lying 
before me was just what the frame of a woman would be 
by any extraordinary means life could preserved in her 
till at length she died at the age of two-and-twenty 

But who can tell what had happened? There was the 
fact. Often since that awful hour I have reflected 
that it requires no great stretch of imagination to 
see the finger of Providence in the matter.

Ayesha locked up in her living tomb, waiting from age 
to age for the coming of her lover, worked but a small 
change in the order of the World. But Ayesha strong 
and happy in her love, clothed in immortal youth and 
godlike beauty, and the wisdom of the centuries, would 
have revolutionized society, and even perchance have 
changed the destiny of mankind. Thus she opposed 
herself against the eternal Law, and, strong though 
she was, by it was swept back to nothingness--swept 
back with shame and hideous mockery!

For some minutes I lay faintly turning these terrors 
over in my mind, while my physical strength came back 
to me, which it quickly did in that buoyant 
atmosphere. Then I bethought me of the others, and 
staggered to my feet, to see if I could arouse them. 
But first I took up Ayesha's kirtle and the gauzy 
scarf with which she had been wont to hide her 
dazzling loveliness from the eyes of men, and, 
averting my head so that I might not look upon it, 
covered up that dreadful relic of the glorious dead, 
that shocking epitome of human beauty and human life. 
I did this hurriedly, fearing lest Leo should recover, 
and see it again.

Then, stepping over the perfumed masses of dark hair 
that lay I upon the sand, I stooped down by Job, who 
was lying upon his face, and turned him over. As I did 
so his arm fell back in a way that I did not like, and 
which sent a chill through me, and I glanced sharply 
at him. One look was enough. Our old and faithful 
servant was dead. His nerves, already shattered by all 
he had seen and undergone, had utterly broken down 
beneath this last dire sight, and he had died of 
terror, or in a fit brought on by terror. One had only 
to look at his face to see it.

It was another blow; but perhaps it may help people to 
understand how overwhelmingly awful was the experience 
through which we had passed--we didn't feel it much at 
the time. It seemed quite natural that the poor old 
fellow should be dead. When Leo came to himself, which 
he did with a groan and trembling of the limbs about 
ten minutes afterwards, and I told him that job was 
dead, he merely said, "Oh!" And, mind you, this was 
from no heartlessness, for he and Job were much 
attached to each other; and he often talks of him now 
with the deepest regret and affection. It was only 
that his nerves would bear no more. A harp can give 
out but a certain quantity of sound, however heavily 
it is smitten.

Well, I set myself to recovering Leo, who, to my 
infinite relief, I found was not dead, but only 
fainting, and in the end I succeeded, as I have said, 
and he sat up; and then I saw another dreadful thing. 
When we entered that awful place his curling hair had 
been of the ruddiest gold, now it was turning gray, 
and by the time we gained the outer air it was snow 
white. Besides, he looked twenty years older.

"What is to be done, old fellow?" he said, in a 
hollow, dead sort of voice, when his mind had cleared 
a little, and a recollection of what had happened 
forced itself upon it.

"Try and get out, I suppose," I answered; "that is, 
unless you would like to go in there," and I pointed 
to the column of fire that was once more rolling by.

"I would go in if I were sure that it would kill me," 
he said, with a little laugh. "It was my cursed 
hesitation that did this. If I had not been doubtful 
she might never have tried to show me the road. But I 
am not sure. The fire might have the opposite effect 
upon me. It might make me immortal; and, old fellow, I 
have not the patience to wait a couple of thousand 
years for her to come back again as she did for me. I 
had rather die when my hour comes--and I should fancy 
that it isn't far off either--and go my ways to look 
for her. Do you go in if you like."

But I merely shook my head; my excitement was as dead 
as ditch-water, and my distaste for the prolongation 
of my mortal span had come back upon me more strongly 
than ever. Besides, we neither of us knew what the 
effects of the fire might be. The result upon _i_ She 
_i_ had not been of an encouraging nature, and of the 
exact causes that produced that result we were, of 
course, ignorant.

"Well, my boy," I said, "we cannot stop here till we 
go the way of those two," and I pointed to the little 
heap under the white garment and to the stiffening 
corpse of poor Job. "If we are going we had better go. 
But, by the way, I expect that the lamps have burned 
out," and I took one up and looked at it, and sure 
enough it had.

"There is some more oil in the vase," said Leo, 
indifferently--"if it is not broken, at least."

I examined the vessel in question--it was intact. With 
a trembling hand I filled the lamps--luckily there was 
still some of the linen wick unburned. Then I lit them 
with one of our wax matches. While I did so we heard 
the pillar of fire approaching once more as it went on 
its never-ending journey, if, indeed, it was the same 
pillar that passed and repassed in a circle.

"Let's see it come once more," said Leo; "we shall 
never look upon its like again in this world."

It seemed a bit of idle curiosity, but somehow I 
shared it, and we so waited till, turning slowly round 
upon its own axis, it had flamed and thundered by; and 
I remember wondering for how many thousands of years 
this same phenomenon had been taking place in the 
bowels of the earth, and for how many more thousands 
it would continue to take place. I wondered also if 
any mortal eyes would ever again mark its passage, or 
any mortal ears be thrilled and fascinated by the 
swelling volume of its majestic sound. I do not think 
that they will. I believe that we are the last human 
beings who will ever see that unearthly sight. 
Presently it had gone, and we too turned to go.

But before we did so we each took Job's cold hand in 
ours and shook it. It was a rather ghastly ceremony, 
but it was the only means in our power of showing our 
respect to the faithful dead and of celebrating his 
obsequies. The heap beneath the white garment we did 
not uncover. We had no wish to look upon that terrible 
sight again. But we went to the pile of rippling hair 
that had fallen from her in the agony of that hideous 
change which was worse than a thousand natural deaths, 
and each of us drew from it a shining lock, and these 
locks we still have, the sole memento that is left to 
us of Ayesha as we knew her in the fulness of her 
grace and glory. Leo pressed the perfumed hair to his 

" _i_ She _i_ called to me not to forget her," he 
said, hoarsely, "and swore that we should meet again. 
By Heaven! I never will forget her. Here I swear that, 
if we live to get out of this, I will not for all my 
days have anything to say to another living woman, and 
that wherever I go I will wait for her as faithfully 
as she waited for me."

"Yes," I thought to myself, "if she comes back as 
beautiful as we knew her. But supposing she came back 
like that!"

Well, and then we went. We went, and left those two in 
the presence of the very well and spring of Life, but 
gathered to the cold company of Death. How lonely they 
looked as they lay there, and how ill-assorted! That 
little heap had been for two thousand years the 
wisest, loveliest, proudest creature--I can hardly 
call her woman--in the whole universe. _i_ She _i_ had 
been wicked, too, in her way; but, oh! such is the 
frailty of the human heart, her wickedness had not 
detracted from her charm. Indeed, I am by no means 
certain that it did not add to it. It was, after all, 
of a grand order; there was nothing mean or small 
about Ayesha.

And poor Job, too! His presentiment had come true, and 
there was an end of him. Well, he has a strange burial 
place--no Norfolk hind ever had a stranger, or ever 
will--and it is something to lie in the same sepulchre 
with the poor remains of the imperial _i_ She _i_ .

We looked our last upon them and the indescribable 
rosy glow in which they lay, and then with hearts far 
too heavy for words we left them, and crept thence 
broken-down men--so broken down that we even renounced 
the chance of practically immortal life, because all 
that made life valuable had gone from us, and we knew 
even then that to prolong our days indefinitely would 
only be to prolong our sufferings. For we felt--yes, 
both of us--that, having once looked Ayesha in the 
eyes, we could not forget her forever and ever while 
memory and identity remained. We both loved her now 
and for always; she was stamped and carven on our 
hears, and no other woman or interest could ever raze 
that splendid die. And I--there lies the sting--I had 
and have no right to think thus of her. As she told 
me, I was naught to her, and never shall be through 
the unfathomed depth of Time, unless, indeed, 
conditions alter, and a day comes at last when two men 
may love one woman, and all three be happy in the 
fact. It is the only hope of my broken-heartedness, 
and a rather faint one. Beyond it I have nothing. I 
have paid down this heavy price, all that I am worth 
here and hereafter, and that is my sole reward. With 
Leo it is different, and often and often I bitterly 
envy him. his happy lot, for if _i_ She _i_ was right, 
and her wisdom and knowledge did not fail her at the 
last, which, arguing from the precedent of her own 
case, I think most unlikely, he has some future to 
look forward to. But I have none, and yet--mark the 
folly and the weakness of the human heart, and let him 
who is wise learn wisdom from it--yet I would not have 
it otherwise. I mean that I am content to give what I 
have given and must always give, and take in payment 
those crumbs that fall from my mistress's table, the 
memory of a few kind words, the hope one day in the 
far undreamed future of a sweet smile or two of 
recognition, a little gentle friendship, and a little 
show of thanks for my devotion to her--and Leo.

If that does not constitute true love, I do not know 
what does, and all I have to say is that it is a very 
bad state of mind for a man on the wrong side of 
middle age to fall into.



WE passed through the caves without trouble, but when 
we came to the slope of the inverted cone two 
difficulties stared us in the face. The first of these 
was the laborious nature of the ascent, and the next 
the extreme difficulty of finding our way. Indeed, had 
it not been for the mental notes that I had 
fortunately taken of the shape of various rocks, etc., 
I am sure that we never should have managed it at all, 
but have wandered about in the dreadful womb of the 
volcano--for I suppose it must once have been 
something of the sort--until we died of exhaustion and 
despair. As it was we went wrong several times, and 
once nearly fell into a huge crack or crevasse. It was 
terrible work creeping about in the dense gloom and 
awful stillness from boulder to boulder, and examining 
it by the feeble light of the lamps to see if I could 
recognize its shape. We rarely spoke, our hearts were 
too heavy for speech, we simply stumbled about falling 
sometimes and cutting ourselves, in a rather dogged 
sort of way. The fact was that our spirits were 
utterly crushed, and we did not greatly care what 
happened to us. Only we felt bound to try and save our 
lives while we could, and, indeed, a natural instinct 
prompted us to it. So for some three or four hours, I 
should think--I cannot tell exactly how long, for we 
had no watch left that would go--we blundered on. 
During the last two hours we were completely lost, and 
I began to fear that we had got into the funnel of 
some subsidiary cone, when at last I suddenly 
recognized a very large rock which we had passed in 
descending but a little way from the top. It is a 
marvel that I should have recognized it, and, indeed, 
we had already passed it going at right angles to the 
proper path, when something about it struck me, and I 
turned back and examined it in an idle sort of way, 
and, as it happened, this proved our salvation.

After this we gained the rocky natural stair without 
much further trouble, and in due course found 
ourselves back in the little chamber where the 
benighted Noot had lived and died

But now--a fresh terror stared us in the face. It will 
be remembered that, owing to Job's fear and 
awkwardness, the plank upon which we had crossed from 
the huge spur to the rocking-stone had been whirled 
off into the tremendous gulf below.

How were we to cross without the plank?

There was only one answer--we must try and _i_ jump 
_i_ it, or else stop there till we starved. The 
distance in itself was not so very great, between 
eleven and twelve feet I should think, and I have seen 
Leo jump over twenty when he was a young fellow at 
college; but, then, think of the conditions. Two 
weary, worn-out men, one of them on the wrong side of 
forty, a rocking-stone to take off from, a trembling 
point of rock some few feet across to land upon, and a 
bottomless gulf to be cleared in a raging gale! It was 
bad enough, God knows, but when I pointed out these 
things to Leo, he put the whole matter in a nutshell 
by replying that, merciless as the choice was, we must 
choose between the certainty of a lingering death in 
the chamber and the risk of a swift one in the air. Of 
course, there was no arguing against this, but one 
thing was clear, we could not attempt that leap in the 
dark; the only thing to do was to wait for the ray of 
light which pierced through the gulf at sunset. How 
near to or how far from sunset we might be, neither of 
us had the faintest notion; all we did know was, that 
when at last the light came it would not endure more 
than a couple of minutes at the outside, so that we 
must be prepared to meet it. Accordingly, we made up 
our minds to creep on to the top of the rocking-stone 
and lie there in readiness. We were the more easily 
reconciled to this course by the fact that our lamps 
were once more nearly exhausted--indeed, one had gone 
out bodily and the other was jumping up and down as 
the flame of a lamp does when the oil is done. So, by 
the aid of its dying light, we hastened to crawl out 
of the little chamber and clamber up the side of the 
great stone.

As we did so the light went out. The difference in our 
position was a sufficiently remarkable one. Below, in 
the little chamber, we had only heard the roaring of 
the gale overhead--here, lying on our faces on the 
swinging stone, we were exposed to its full force and 
fury, as the great draught drew first from this 
direction and then from that, howling against the 
mighty precipice and through the rocky cliffs like ten 
thousand despairing souls. We lay there hour after 
hour in terror and misery of mind so deep that I will 
not attempt to describe it, and listened to the wild 
storm-voices of that Tartarus, as, set to the deep 
undertone of the spur opposite, against which the wind 
hummed like some awful harp, they called to each other 
from precipice to precipice. No nightmare dreamed by 
man, no wild invention of the romancer, can ever equal 
the living horror of that place, and the weird crying 
of those voices of the night, as we clung like 
shipwrecked mariners to a raft, and tossed on the 
black, unfathomed wilderness of air. Fortunately the 
temperature was not a low one; indeed, the wind was 
warm, or we should have perished. So we clung and 
listened, and while we were stretched out upon the 
rock a thing happened which was so curious and 
suggestive in itself, though doubtless a mere 
coincidence, that, if anything, it added to, rather 
than deducted from, the burden on our nerves.

It will be remembered that when Ayesha was standing on 
the spur, before we crossed to the stone, the wind 
tore her cloak from her, and whirled it away into the 
darkness of the gulf, we could not see whither. Well--
I hardly like to tell the story; it is so strange. As 
we lay there upon the rocking-stone, this very cloak 
came floating out of the black space, like a memory 
from the dead, and fell on Leo--so that it covered him 
nearly from head to foot: We could not at first make 
out what it was, but soon discovered by its feel, and 
then poor Leo, for the first time, gave way, and I 
heard him sobbing there upon the stone. No doubt the 
cloak had been caught upon some pinnacle of the cliff, 
and was thence blown hither by a chance gust; but 
still, it was a most curious and touching incident.

Shortly after this, suddenly, without the slightest 
previous warning, the great red knife of light came 
stabbing the darkness through and through--struck the 
swaying stone on which we were, and rested its sharp 
point upon the spur opposite.

"Now for it," said Leo, "now or never."

We rose and stretched ourselves, and looked at the 
cloud-wreaths stained the color of blood by that red 
ray as they tore through the sickening depths beneath; 
and then at the empty space between the swaying stone 
and the quivering rock, and, in our hearts, despaired, 
and prepared for death. Surely we could not clear it--
desperate though we were. 

"Who is to go first?" said I.

"Do you, old fellow," answered Leo. "I will sit upon 
the other side of the stone to steady it. You must 
take as much run as you can, and jump high; and God 
have mercy on us, say I."

I acquiesced with a nod, and then I did a thing I had 
never done since Leo was a little boy. I turned and 
put my arm round him, and kissed him on the forehead. 
It sounds rather French, but as a fact I was taking my 
last farewell of a man whom I could not have loved 
more if he had been my own son twice over.

"Good-bye, my boy," I said, "I hope that we shall meet 
again, wherever it is that we go to."

The fact was I did not expect to live another two 

Next I retreated to the far side of the rock, and 
waited till one of the chopping gusts of wind got 
behind me, and then, commending my soul to God, I ran 
the length of the huge stone, some three or four and 
thirty feet, and sprang wildly out into the dizzy air. 
Oh! the sickening terrors that I felt as I launched 
myself at that little point of rock, and the horrible 
sense of despair that shot through my brain as I 
realized that I had _i_ jumped short _i_ . But so it 
was, my feet never touched the point, they went down 
into space, only my hands and body came in contact 
with it. I gripped at it with a yell, but one hand 
slipped, and I swung right round, holding by the 
other, so that I faced the stone from which I had 
sprung. Wildly I stretched up with my left hand, and 
this time managed to grasp a hob of rock, and there I 
hung in the fierce red light, with thousands of feet 
of empty air beneath me. My hands were holding to 
either side of the under part of the spur, so that its 
point was touching my head. Therefore, even if I could 
have found the strength, I could not pull myself up. 
The most that I could do would be to hang for about a 
minute, and then drop down, down into the bottomless 
pit. If any man can imagine a more hideous position, 
let him speak! All I know is that the torture of that 
half-minute nearly turned my brain.

I heard Leo give a cry, and then suddenly saw him in 
mid-air springing up and out like a chamois. It was a 
splendid leap that he took under the influence of his 
terror and despair, clearing the horrible gulf as 
though it were nothing, and, landing well on to the 
rocky point, he threw himself upon his face, to 
prevent his pitching off into the depths. I felt the 
spur above me shake beneath the shock of his impact, 
and as it did so I saw the huge rocking-stone, that 
had been violently depressed by him as he sprang, fly 
back when relieved of his weight till, for the first 
time during all these centuries, it got beyond its 
balance, and fell with a most awful crash right into 
the rocky chamber which had once served the 
philosopher Noot for a hermitage, as I have no doubt 
forever hermetically sealing the passage that leads to 
the Place of Life with some hundreds of tons of rock.

All this happened in a second, and curiously enough, 
notwithstanding my terrible position, I noted it 
involuntarily, as it were. I even remember thinking 
that no human being would go down that dread path 

Next instant I felt Leo seize me by the right wrist 
with both hands. By lying flat on the point of rock he 
could just reach me.

"You must let go and swing yourself clear," he said, 
in a calm and collected voice, "and then I will try 
and pull you up, or we will both go together. Are you 

By way of answer I let go, first with my left hand and 
then with the right, and swayed out as a consequence 
clear of the overshadowing rock, my weight hanging 
upon Leo's arms. It was a dreadful moment. He was a 
very powerful man, I knew, but would his strength be 
equal to lifting me up till I could get a hold on the 
top of the spur, when owing to his position he had so 
little purchase?

For a few seconds I swung to and fro, while he 
gathered himself for the effort, and then I heard his 
sinews cracking above me, and felt myself lifted up as 
though I were a little child, till I got my left arm 
around the rock, and my chest was resting on it. The 
rest was easy; in two or three more seconds I was up, 
and we were lying panting side by side, trembling like 
leaves, and with the cold perspiration of terror 
pouring from our skins.

And then, as before, the light went out like a lamp.

For some half-hour we lay thus without speaking a 
word, and then at length began to creep along the 
great spur as best we might in the dense gloom. As we 
drew towards the face of the cliff, however, from 
which the spur sprang out like a spike from a wall, 
the light increased, though only a very little, for it 
was night overhead. After that the gusts of wind 
decreased, and we got along rather better, and at last 
reached the mouth of the first cave or tunnel. But now 
a fresh trouble stared us in the face: our oil was 
gone, and the lamps were, no doubt, crushed to powder 
beneath the fallen rocking-stone. We were even without 
a drop of water to stay our thirst, for we had drunk 
the last in the chamber of Noot. How were we to see to 
make our way through this last boulder-strewn tunnel?

Clearly all that we could do was to trust to our sense 
of feeling, and attempt the passage in the dark; so in 
we crept, fearing that if we delayed to do so our 
exhaustion would overcome us, and we should probably 
lie down and die where we were.

Oh, the horrors of that last tunnel! The place was 
strewn with rocks, and we fell over them, and knocked 
ourselves up against them till we were bleeding from a 
score of wounds. Our only guide was the side of the 
cavern, which we kept touching, and so bewildered did 
we grow in the darkness that we were several times 
seized with the terrifying thought that we had turned, 
and were travelling the wrong way. On we went, feebly, 
and still more feebly, for hour after hour, stopping 
every few minutes to rest, for our strength was spent. 
Once we fell asleep, and, I think, must have slept for 
some hours, for, when we woke, our limbs were quite 
stiff, and the blood from our blows and scratches had 
caked, and was hard and dry upon our skin. Then we 
dragged ourselves on again, till at last, when despair 
was entering into our hears, we once more saw the 
light of day, and found ourselves outside the tunnel 
in the rocky fold on the outer surface of the cliff 
that, it will be remembered, led into it.

It was early morning--that we could tell by the feel 
of the sweet air and the look of the blessed sky, 
which we had never hoped to see again. It was, so near 
as we knew, an hour after sunset when we entered the 
tunnel, so it followed that it had taken us the entire 
night to crawl through that dreadful place.

"One more effort, Leo," I gasped, "and we shall reach 
the slope where Billali is, if he hasn't gone. Come, 
don't give way," for he had cast himself upon his 
face. He got up, and, leaning on each other, we got 
down that fifty feet or so of cliff--somehow, I have 
not the least notion how. I only remember that we 
found ourselves lying in a heap at the bottom, and 
then once more began to drag ourselves along on our 
hands and knees towards the grove where _i_ She _i_ 
had told Billali to wait her rearrival, for we could 
not walk another foot. We had not gone fifty yards in 
this fashion when suddenly one of the mutes emerged 
from some trees on our left, through which, I presume, 
he had been taking a morning stroll, and came running 
up to see what sort of strange animals we were. He 
stared and stared, and then held up his hands in 
horror, and nearly fell to the ground. Next, he 
started off as hard as he could for the grove, some 
two hundred yards away. No wonder that he was 
horrified at our appearance, for we must have been a 
shocking sight. To begin, Leo, with his golden curls 
turned a snowy white, his clothes nearly rent from his 
body, his worn face and his hands a mass of bruises, 
cuts, and blood-encrusted filth, was a sufficiently 
alarming spectacle, as he painfully dragged himself 
along the ground, and I have no doubt that I was 
little better to look on. I know that two days 
afterwards when I looked at my face in some water I 
scarcely recognized myself. I have never been famous 
for beauty, but there was something besides ugliness 
stamped upon my features that I have never got rid of 
until this day, something resembling that wild look 
with which a startled person wakes from deep sleep 
more than anything else that I can think of. And 
really it is not to be wondered at. What I do wonder 
at is that we escaped at all with our reason.

Presently, to my intense relief, I saw old Billali 
hurrying towards us, and even then I could scarcely 
help smiling at the expression of consternation on his 
dignified countenance.

"Oh, my Baboon; my Baboon!" he cried, "my dear son, is 
it indeed thee and the Lion? Why, his mane that was 
ripe as corn is white like the snow. Whence come ye? 
and where is the Pig and where too _i_ She _i_ -who-

"Dead, both dead," I answered; "but ask no questions; 
help us, and give us food and water, or we too shall 
die before thine eyes. Seest thou not that our tongues 
are black for want of water? How can we talk then?"

"Dead!" he gasped. "impossible. _i_ She _i_ who never 
dies--dead, how can it be?" and then, perceiving, I 
think, that his face was being watched by the mutes 
who had come running up, he checked himself, and 
motioned to them to carry us to the camp, which they 

Fortunately when we arrived some broth was boiling on 
the fire, and with this Billali fed us, for we were 
too weak to feed ourselves, thereby, I firmly believe, 
saving us from death by exhaustion. Then he bade the 
mutes wash the blood and grime from us with wet 
cloths, and after that we were laid down upon piles of 
aromatic grass, and instantly fell into the dead sleep 
of absolute exhaustion of mind and body.



THE next thing I recollect is a feeling of the most 
dreadful stiffness, and a sort of vague idea passing 
through my half-awakened brain that I was a carpet 
that had just been beaten. I opened my eyes, and the 
first thing they fell on was the venerable countenance 
of our old friend Billali, who was seated by the side 
of the improvised bed upon which I was sleeping, and 
thoughtfully stroking his long beard. The sight of him 
at once brought back to my mind a recollection of all 
that we had recently passed through, which was 
accentuated by the vision of poor Leo lying opposite 
to me, his face knocked almost to a jelly, and his 
beautiful crown of curls turned from yellow to white, 
and I shut my eyes again and groaned.

"Thou hast slept long, my Baboon," said old Billali.

"How long, my father?" I asked.

"A round of the sun and a round of the moon, a day and 
a night hast thou slept, and the Lion also. See, he 
sleepeth yet."

"Blessed is sleep," I answered, "for it swallows up 

"Tell me," he said, "what hath befallen ye, and what 
is this strange story of the death of her who dieth 
not. Bethink thee, my son: if this be true, then is 
thy danger and the danger of the Lion very great--nay, 
almost is the pot red wherewith ye shall be potted, 
and the stomachs of those who shall eat ye are already 
hungry for the feast. Knowest thou not that these 
Amahagger, my children, these dwellers in the caves, 
hate ye? They hate ye as strangers, they hate ye more 
because of their brethren whom _i_ She _i_ put to the 
torment for your sake. Assuredly, if once they learn 
that there is naught to fear from Hiya, from the 
terrible _i_ One-who-must-be-obeyed _i_ , they will 
slay ye by the pot. But let me hear thy tale, my poor 

Thus adjured, I set to work and told him--not 
everything, indeed, for I did not think it desirable 
to do so, but sufficient for my purpose, which was to 
make him understand that _i_ She _i_ was really no 
more, having fallen into some fire, and, as I put it--
for the real thing would have been incomprehensible to 
him--been burned up. I also told him some of the 
horrors we had undergone in effecting our escape, and 
these produced a great impression on him. But I 
clearly saw that he did not believe in the report of 
Ayesha's death. He believed, indeed, that we thought 
that she was dead, but his explanation was that it had 
suited her to disappear for a while. Once, he said, in 
his father's time, she had done so for twelve years, 
and there was a tradition in the country that many 
centuries back no one had seen her for a whole 
generation, when she suddenly reappeared, and 
destroyed a woman who had assumed the position of 
queen. I said nothing to this, but only shook my head 
sadly. Alas! I knew too well that Ayesha would appear 
no more, or, at any rate, that Billali would see her 

"And now," concluded Billali, "what wouldst thou do, 
my Baboon?"

"Nay," I said, "I know not, my father. Can we not 
escape from this country?" 

He shook his head. "It is very difficult. By Ko^r ye 
cannot pass, for ye would be seen, and as soon as 
those fierce ones found that ye were alone, well," and 
he smiled significantly, and made a movement as though 
he were placing a hat on his head. "But there is a way 
over the cliff whereof I once spake to thee, where 
they drive the cattle out to pasture. Then beyond the 
pastures are three days journey through the marshes, 
and after that I know not, but I have heard that seven 
days' journey from thence is a mighty river, which 
floweth to the black water. If ye could come thither, 
perchance ye might escape, but how can ye come 

"Billali," I said, "once, thou knowest, I did save thy 
life. Now pay back the debt, my father, and save me 
mine and my friend's, the Lion's. It shall be a 
pleasant thing for thee to think of when thine hour 
comes, and something to set in the scale against the 
evil doing of thy days, if perchance thou hast done 
any evil. Also, if thou be right, and if _i_ She _i_ 
doth but hide herself, surely when she comes again she 
shall reward thee." 

"My son the Baboon," answered the old man, "think not 
that I have an ungrateful heart. Well do I remember 
how thou didst rescue me when those dogs stood by to 
see me drown. Measure for measure will I give thee, 
and if thou canst be saved, surely I will save thee. 
listen: by dawn to-morrow be prepared, for litters 
shall be here to bear ye away across the mountains, 
and through the marshes beyond. This will I do, saying 
that it is the word of _i_ She _i_ that it be done, 
and he who obeyeth not the word of _i_ She _i_ food is 
he for the hyenas. Then when ye have crossed the 
marshes, ye must strike with your own hands, so that 
perchance, if good fortune go with you, ye may live to 
come to that black water whereof ye told me. And now, 
see, the Lion wakes, and ye must eat the food I have 
made ready for you."

Leo's condition, when once he was fairly aroused, 
proved not to be so bad as might have been expected 
from his appearance, and we both of us managed to eat 
a hearty meal, which, indeed, we needed sadly enough. 
After this we limped down to the spring and bathed, 
and then came back and slept again till evening, when 
we once more ate enough for five. Billali was away all 
that day, no doubt making arrangements about litters 
and bearers, for we were awakened in the middle of the 
night by the arrival of a considerable number of men 
in the little camp.

At dawn the old man himself appeared, and told us that 
he had, by using _i_ She _i_ 's dreaded name, though 
with some difficulty, succeeded in getting the 
necessary men and two guides to conduct us across the 
swamps, and that he urged us to start at once, at the 
same time announcing his intention of accompanying us 
so as to protect us against treachery. I was much 
touched by this act of kindness on the part of that 
wily old barbarian towards two utterly defenceless 
strangers. A three--or in his case, for he would have 
to return, six--days' journey through those deadly 
swamps was no light undertaking for a man of his age, 
but he consented to do it cheerfully in order to 
promote our safety. It shows that even among those 
dreadful Amahagger--who are certainly, with their 
gloom and their devilish and ferocious rites, by far 
the most terrible savages that I ever heard of--there 
are people with kindly hearts. Of course self-interest 
may have had something to do with it. He may have 
thought that _i_ She _i_ would suddenly reappear and 
demand an account of us at his hands, but still, 
allowing for all deductions, it was a great deal more 
than we could expect under the circumstances, and I 
can only say that I shall, for as long as I live, 
cherish a most affectionate remembrance of my nominal 
parent, old Billali.

Accordingly, after swallowing some food, we started in 
the litters, feeling, so far as our bodies went, 
wonderfully like our old selves after our long rest 
and sleep. I must leave the condition of our minds to 
the imagination.

Then came a terrible pull up the cliff. Sometimes the 
ascent was natural, more often it was a zigzag roadway 
cut, no doubt, in the first instance by the old 
inhabitants of Ko^r. The Amahagger say they drive 
their spare cattle over it once a year to pasture 
outside; all I know is that those cattle must be 
uncommonly active on their feet. Of course the litters 
were useless here, so we had to walk.

By midday, however, we reached the great flat top of 
that mighty wail of rock, and grand enough the view 
was from it, with the plain of Ko^r, in the centre of 
which we could clearly make out the pillared ruins of 
the Temple of Truth to the one side, and the boundless 
and melancholy marsh on the other. This wall of rock, 
which had no doubt once formed the lip of the crater, 
was about a mile and a half thick, and still covered 
with clinker. Nothing grew there, and the only thing 
to relieve our eyes were occasional pools of rain-
water (for rain had lately fallen) wherever there was 
a little hollow. Over the flat crest of this mighty 
rampart we went, and then came the descent, which, if 
not so difficult a matter as the getting up, was still 
sufficiently break-neck, and took us till sunset. That 
night, however, we camped in safety upon the mighty 
slopes that roiled away to the marsh beneath.

On the following morning, about eleven o'clock, began 
our dreary journey across those awful seas of swamps 
which I have already described.

For three whole days, through stench and mire, and the 
all-prevailing flavor of fever, did our bearers 
struggle along, till at length we came to open, 
roiling ground, quite uncultivated and mostly 
treeless, but covered with game of all sorts, which 
lies beyond that most desolate, and without guides, 
utterly impracticable, district. And here on the 
following morning we bade farewell, not without some 
regret, to old Billali, who stroked his white beard 
and solemnly blessed us.

"Farewell, my son the Baboon," he said, "and farewell 
to thee too, O Lion. I can do no more to help you. But 
if ever ye come to your country, be advised, and 
venture no more into lands that ye know not, lest ye 
come back no more, but leave your white bones to mark 
the limit of your journeyings. Farewell once more; 
often shall I think of you, nor wilt thou forget me, 
my Baboon, for though thy face is ugly thy heart is 
true." And then he turned and went, and with him went 
the tall and sullen-looking bearers, and that was the 
last that we saw of the Amahagger. We watched them 
winding away with the empty litters like a procession 
bearing dead men from a battle, till the mists from 
the marsh gathered round them and hid them, and then, 
left utterly desolate in the vast wilderness, we 
turned and gazed around us and at each other.

Three weeks or so before four men had entered the 
marshes of Ko^r, and now two of us were dead, and the 
other two had gone through adventures and experiences 
so strange and terrible that Death himself hath not a 
more fearful countenance. Three weeks--and only three 
weeks! Truly time should be measured by events, and 
not by the lapse of hours. It seemed like thirty years 
since we saw the last of our whaleboat.

"We must strike out for the Zambesi, Leo," I said, 
"but God knows if we shall ever get there."

Leo nodded. He had become very silent of late, and we 
started with nothing but the clothes we stood in, a 
compass, our revolvers and express rifles, and about 
two hundred rounds of ammunition, and so ended the 
history of our visit to the ancient ruins of mighty 
and imperial Ko^r.

As for the adventures that subsequently befell us, 
strange and varied as they were, I have, after 
deliberation, determined not to record them here. In 
these pages I have only tried to give a short and 
clear account of an occurrence which I believe to be 
unprecedented, and this I have done, not with a view 
to immediate publication, but merely to put on paper 
while they are yet fresh in our memories the details 
of our journey and its result, which will, I believe, 
prove interesting to the world if ever we determine to 
make them public. This, as at present advised, we do 
not intend should be done during our joint lives.

For the rest, it is of no public interest, resembling 
as it does the experience of more than one Central 
African traveller. Suffice it to say, that we did, 
after incredible hardships and privations, reach the 
Zambesi, which proved to be about a hundred and 
seventy miles south of where Billali left us. There we 
were for six months imprisoned by a savage tribe, who 
believed us to be supernatural beings, chiefly on 
account of Leo's youthful face and snow-white hair. 
From these people we ultimately escaped, and, crossing 
the Zambesi, wandered off southward, where, when on 
the point of starvation, we were sufficiently 
fortunate to fall in with a half-caste Portuguese 
elephant-hunter who had followed a troop of elephants 
farther inland than he had ever been before. This man 
treated us most hospitably, and ultimately through his 
assistance we, after innumerable sufferings and 
adventures, reached Delagoa Bay, more than eighteen 
months from the time when we emerged from the marshes 
of Ko^r, and the very next day managed to catch one of 
the steamboats that run round the Cape to England. Our 
journey home was a prosperous one, and we set our foot 
on the quay at Southampton exactly two years from the 
date of our departure upon our wild and seemingly 
ridiculous quest, and I now write these last words 
with Leo leaning over my shoulder in my old room in my 
college, the very same into which, some two-and-twenty 
years ago, my poor friend Vincey came stumbling on the 
memorable night of his death, bearing the iron chest 
with him.

And that is the end of this history so far as it 
concerns science and the outside world. What its end 
will be as regards Leo and myself is more than I can 
guess at. But we feel that it is not reached yet. A 
story that began more than two thousand years ago may 
stretch a long way into the dim and distant future.

Is Leo really a reincarnation of the ancient 
Kallikrates of whom the inscription tells? Or was 
Ayesha deceived by some strange hereditary 
resemblance? The reader must form his own opinion on 
this as on many other matters. I have mine, which is 
that she made no such mistake.

Often I sit alone at night, staring with, the eyes of 
the mind into the blackness of unborn time, and 
wondering in what shape and form the great drama will 
be finally developed, and where the scene of its next 
act will be laid. And when that final development 
ultimately occurs, as I have no doubt it must and will 
occur, in obedience to a fate that never swerves and a 
purpose that cannot be altered, what will be the part 
played therein by that beautiful Egyptian Amenartas, 
the princess of the royal race of the Pharaohs, for 
the love of whom the Priest Kallikrates broke his vows 
to Isis, and, pursued by the inexorable vengeance of 
the outraged goddess, fled down the coast of Libya to 
meet his doom at Ko^r?