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She by H. Rider Haggard

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Etext prepared by John Bickers, jbickers@ihug.co.nz
and Dagny, dagnyj@hotmail.com

By H. Rider Haggard

First Published 1886.

Doggerel couplet from the
Sherd of Amenartas

I inscribe this history to


in token of personal regard
and of
my sincere admiration for his learning and his works


This text was prepared from an 1888 edition published by Longmans,
Green, and Co., London. A number of fragments of Greek text, and
sketches, have been omitted due to the difficulty of representing
them as plain text. However, small fragments of Greek have been
transcribed in brackets "{}" using an Oxford English Dictionary
alphabet table, without diacritical marks.



In giving to the world the record of what, looked at as an adventure
only, is I suppose one of the most wonderful and mysterious
experiences ever undergone by mortal men, I feel it incumbent on me to
explain what my exact connection with it is. And so I may as well say
at once that I am not the narrator but only the editor of this
extraordinary history, and then go on to tell how it found its way
into my hands.

Some years ago I, the editor, was stopping with a friend, "/vir
doctissimus et amicus neus/," at a certain University, which for the
purposes of this history we will call Cambridge, and was one day much
struck with the appearance of two persons whom I saw going arm-in-arm
down the street. One of these gentlemen was I think, without
exception, the handsomest young fellow I have ever seen. He was very
tall, very broad, and had a look of power and a grace of bearing that
seemed as native to him as it is to a wild stag. In addition his face
was almost without flaw--a good face as well as a beautiful one, and
when he lifted his hat, which he did just then to a passing lady, I
saw that his head was covered with little golden curls growing close
to the scalp.

"Good gracious!" I said to my friend, with whom I was walking, "why,
that fellow looks like a statue of Apollo come to life. What a
splendid man he is!"

"Yes," he answered, "he is the handsomest man in the University, and
one of the nicest too. They call him 'the Greek god'; but look at the
other one, he's Vincey's (that's the god's name) guardian, and
supposed to be full of every kind of information. They call him
'Charon.'" I looked, and found the older man quite as interesting in
his way as the glorified specimen of humanity at his side. He appeared
to be about forty years of age, and was I think as ugly as his
companion was handsome. To begin with, he was shortish, rather bow-
legged, very deep chested, and with unusually long arms. He had dark
hair and small eyes, and the hair grew right down on his forehead, and
his whiskers grew right up to his hair, so that there was uncommonly
little of his countenance to be seen. Altogether he reminded me
forcibly of a gorilla, and yet there was something very pleasing and
genial about the man's eye. I remember saying that I should like to
know him.

"All right," answered my friend, "nothing easier. I know Vincey; I'll
introduce you," and he did, and for some minutes we stood chatting--
about the Zulu people, I think, for I had just returned from the Cape
at the time. Presently, however, a stoutish lady, whose name I do not
remember, came along the pavement, accompanied by a pretty fair-haired
girl, and these two Mr. Vincey, who clearly knew them well, at once
joined, walking off in their company. I remember being rather amused
because of the change in the expression of the elder man, whose name I
discovered was Holly, when he saw the ladies advancing. He suddenly
stopped short in his talk, cast a reproachful look at his companion,
and, with an abrupt nod to myself, turned and marched off alone across
the street. I heard afterwards that he was popularly supposed to be as
much afraid of a woman as most people are of a mad dog, which
accounted for his precipitate retreat. I cannot say, however, that
young Vincey showed much aversion to feminine society on this
occasion. Indeed I remember laughing, and remarking to my friend at
the time that he was not the sort of man whom it would be desirable to
introduce to the lady one was going to marry, since it was exceedingly
probable that the acquaintance would end in a transfer of her
affections. He was altogether too good-looking, and, what is more, he
had none of that consciousness and conceit about him which usually
afflicts handsome men, and makes them deservedly disliked by their

That same evening my visit came to an end, and this was the last I saw
or heard of "Charon" and "the Greek god" for many a long day. Indeed,
I have never seen either of them from that hour to this, and do not
think it probable that I shall. But a month ago I received a letter
and two packets, one of manuscript, and on opening the first found
that it was signed by "Horace Holly," a name that at the moment was
not familiar to me. It ran as follows:--

"---- College, Cambridge, May 1, 18--

"My dear Sir,--You will be surprised, considering the very slight
nature of our acquaintance, to get a letter from me. Indeed, I
think I had better begin by reminding you that we once met, now
some five years ago, when I and my ward Leo Vincey were introduced
to you in the street at Cambridge. To be brief and come to my
business. I have recently read with much interest a book of yours
describing a Central African adventure. I take it that this book
is partly true, and partly an effort of the imagination. However
this may be, it has given me an idea. It happens, how you will see
in the accompanying manuscript (which together with the Scarab,
the 'Royal Son of the Sun,' and the original sherd, I am sending
to you by hand), that my ward, or rather my adopted son Leo Vincey
and myself have recently passed through a real African adventure,
of a nature so much more marvellous than the one which you
describe, that to tell the truth I am almost ashamed to submit it
to you lest you should disbelieve my tale. You will see it stated
in this manuscript that I, or rather we, had made up our minds not
to make this history public during our joint lives. Nor should we
alter our determination were it not for a circumstance which has
recently arisen. We are for reasons that, after perusing this
manuscript, you may be able to guess, going away again this time
to Central Asia where, if anywhere upon this earth, wisdom is to
be found, and we anticipate that our sojourn there will be a long
one. Possibly we shall not return. Under these altered conditions
it has become a question whether we are justified in withholding
from the world an account of a phenomenon which we believe to be
of unparalleled interest, merely because our private life is
involved, or because we are afraid of ridicule and doubt being
cast upon our statements. I hold one view about this matter, and
Leo holds another, and finally, after much discussion, we have
come to a compromise, namely, to send the history to you, giving
you full leave to publish it if you think fit, the only
stipulation being that you shall disguise our real names, and as
much concerning our personal identity as is consistent with the
maintenance of the /bona fides/ of the narrative.

"And now what am I to say further? I really do not know beyond once
more repeating that everything is described in the accompanying
manuscript exactly as it happened. As regards /She/ herself I have
nothing to add. Day by day we gave greater occasion to regret that
we did not better avail ourselves of our opportunities to obtain
more information from that marvellous woman. Who was she? How did
she first come to the Caves of Kr, and what was her real
religion? We never ascertained, and now, alas! we never shall, at
least not yet. These and many other questions arise in my mind,
but what is the good of asking them now?

"Will you undertake the task? We give you complete freedom, and as
a reward you will, we believe, have the credit of presenting to
the world the most wonderful history, as distinguished from
romance, that its records can show. Read the manuscript (which I
have copied out fairly for your benefit), and let me know.

"Believe me, very truly yours,
"L. Horace Holly.[*]

"P.S.--Of course, if any profit results from the sale of the
writing should you care to undertake its publication, you can do
what you like with it, but if there is a loss I will leave
instructions with my lawyers, Messrs. Geoffrey and Jordan, to
meet it. We entrust the sherd, the scarab, and the parchments to
your keeping, till such time as we demand them back again.
--L. H. H."

[*] This name is varied throughout in accordance with the writer's

This letter, as may be imagined, astonished me considerably, but when
I came to look at the MS., which the pressure of other work prevented
me from doing for a fortnight, I was still more astonished, as I think
the reader will be also, and at once made up my mind to press on with
the matter. I wrote to this effect to Mr. Holly, but a week afterwards
received a letter from that gentleman's lawyers, returning my own,
with the information that their client and Mr. Leo Vincey had already
left this country for Thibet, and they did not at present know their

Well, that is all I have to say. Of the history itself the reader must
judge. I give it him, with the exception of a very few alterations,
made with the object of concealing the identity of the actors from the
general public, exactly as it came to me. Personally I have made up my
mind to refrain from comments. At first I was inclined to believe that
this history of a woman on whom, clothed in the majesty of her almost
endless years, the shadow of Eternity itself lay like the dark wing of
Night, was some gigantic allegory of which I could not catch the
meaning. Then I thought that it might be a bold attempt to portray the
possible results of practical immortality, informing the substance of
a mortal who yet drew her strength from Earth, and in whose human
bosom passions yet rose and fell and beat as in the undying world
around her the winds and the tides rise and fall and beat unceasingly.
But as I went on I abandoned that idea also. To me the story seems to
bear the stamp of truth upon its face. Its explanation I must leave to
others, and with this slight preface, which circumstances make
necessary, I introduce the world to Ayesha and the Caves of Kr.--The

P.S.--There is on consideration one circumstance that, after a
reperusal of this history, struck me with so much force that I cannot
resist calling the attention of the reader to it. He will observe that
so far as we are made acquainted with him there appears to be nothing
in the character of Leo Vincey which in the opinion of most people
would have been likely to attract an intellect so powerful as that of
Ayesha. He is not even, at any rate to my view, particularly
interesting. Indeed, one might imagine that Mr. Holly would under
ordinary circumstances have easily outstripped him in the favour of
/She/. Can it be that extremes meet, and that the very excess and
splendour of her mind led her by means of some strange physical
reaction to worship at the shrine of matter? Was that ancient
Kallikrates nothing but a splendid animal loved for his hereditary
Greek beauty? Or is the true explanation what I believe it to be--
namely, that Ayesha, seeing further than we can see, perceived the
germ and smouldering spark of greatness which lay hid within her
lover's soul, and well knew that under the influence of her gift of
life, watered by her wisdom, and shone upon with the sunshine of her
presence, it would bloom like a flower and flash out like a star,
filling the world with light and fragrance?

Here also I am not able to answer, but must leave the reader to form
his own judgment on the facts before him, as detailed by Mr. Holly in
the following pages.



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 thought it had
happened but 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 burnt away till it scorched my fingers,
forcing me to drop it; but still I stood and stared at myself in the
glass, 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 grey 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, it is 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

"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 whisky
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 me."

"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 have 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 guardian."

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 realised 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 or great-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 learn, 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 honour and power. From
that time to 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 by 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 travelled 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."

[*] The Strong and Beautiful, or, more accurately, the Beautiful in

[+] The Kallikrates here referred to by my friend was a Spartan,
spoken of by Herodotus (Herod. ix. 72) as being remarkable for his
beauty. He fell at the glorious battle of Plata (September 22,
B.C. 479), when the Lacedmonians and Athenians under Pausanias
routed the Persians, putting nearly 300,000 of them to the sword.
The following is a translation of the passage, "For Kallikrates
died out of the battle, he came to the army the most beautiful man
of the Greeks of that day--not only of the Lacedmonians
themselves, but of the other Greeks also. He when Pausanias was
sacrificing was wounded in the side by an arrow; and then they
fought, but on being carried off he regretted his death, and said
to Arimnestus, a Platan, that he did not grieve at dying for
Greece, but at not having struck a blow, or, although he desired
so to do, performed any deed worthy of himself." This Kallikrates,
who appears to have been as brave as he was beautiful, is
subsequently mentioned by Herodotus as having been buried among
the {irenes} (young commanders), apart from the other Spartans and
the Helots.--L. H. H.

He paused a while, his head sunk 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 emphasise his
words he burst into another terrible fit of coughing.

I gave him some more whisky, 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 entrust it to a stranger. Once more, will you
undertake it?"

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

"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 no 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 spoke."

"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 I shall 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 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 speak.

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
access of tenderness he flung his arm about me and kissed me on the
forehead, and then turned to go.

"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 common sense 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

"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 dead!"



As might be expected, 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, because of the
scandal. Under all these circumstances, being asked no questions, I
did not feel called upon to volunteer any information about our
interview on 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 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 nothing
to do with them. How much more do I wish it now, over twenty years

As I sat and thought, there came 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 thus:--

"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. Under 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 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,
"Geoffrey and Jordan.

"Horace L. Holly, Esq."

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 Vincey 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 Vincey had left with the chest. I fetched
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 end 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 was I to 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 entering on the task I had
promised my dead friend to undertake, there was only one course open
to me--namely, to write to Messrs. Geoffrey and Jordan, and express my
acceptance of the trust, stating that I should be willing to commence
my guardianship of Leo in ten days' time. This done I went 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 grey, his forehead was 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
colour 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 over one eye,
whilst 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
backwards and forwards 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 that we had read, and
forbade it.

In a very little while (for, as I expected, I got my fellowship) the
boy became the favourite 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 favour all rules were
relaxed. The offerings made at his shrine were simply without number,
and I had 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 look-out, 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 row.

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, while 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 found 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 dulness necessary
for that result. We followed out his father's instructions as regards
his education strictly enough, and on the whole the results,
especially in the matters of Greek and Arabic, were satisfactory. I
learnt 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 learnt to excel me.

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 journeyed 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 Svres 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

"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

Job touched his head, not having a hat on.

"Lock the door, Job," I said, "and bring me my despatch-box."

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 leaving some nicks cut in the edge of the bar. It was more like a
model of an 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, forced 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

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 in
parts actually commencing to crumble 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, 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, and 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

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 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

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, which at the first glance
from the style and character appeared to me 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 colour! 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 presently.

"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-coloured composition
/scarabus/, marked thus:--

[sketch 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

"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 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 in my imagination. When I was only nineteen years of age I
determined, as, to his misfortune, did one of our 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 learnt 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
learnt also that the people there speak a dialect of Arabic, and
are ruled over by a /beautiful white woman/ 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 as
soon as I had made sufficient preparations. On my way I stopped in
Greece, and there, for 'Omnia vincit amor,' 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 labour, 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 no 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 re-discovered 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 for ever. 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 because 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

"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 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."

[*] Nekht-nebf, or Nectanebo II., the last native Pharaoh of Egypt,
fled from Ochus to Ethiopia, B.C. 339.--Editor.

"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. Here is an exact transcript of it:--


The general convenience in reading, I have here accurately transcribed
this inscription into the cursive character.


The English translation was, as I discovered on further investigation,
and as the reader may easily see by comparison, both accurate and

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 /scarabus/, 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.

[*] The cartouche, if it be a true cartouche, cannot have been that of
Kallikrates, as Mr. Holly suggests. Kallikrates was a priest and
not entitled to a cartouche, which was the prerogative of Egyptian
royalty, though he might have inscribed his name or title upon an

Also on the right-hand side of this surface of the sherd, painted
obliquely in red on the space not covered by the uncial characters,
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." Here it is in fac-simile with its cursive equivalent:--


{ouk an dunaimen poreuesthai.
Tisisthenes Kallikratei to paidi.}

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. Kallikrates to his
son." Here it is also:--


{ton Theon antistanton epausamen tes poreias.
Kallikrates to paidi.}

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, "tate 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 paidi} (to my son), showing
that the relic was religiously passed on from generation to

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 (evi)
the date of their settlement there is for ever lost, for just where it
had been placed a piece of the potsherd is broken away.

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 Greek "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
who lived 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,




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

The following list, however, comprises all the Latin names upon the


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
colouring 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 doggrel
couplet. To the left of this, inscribed in faint blue, were the
initials A. V., and after them a date, 1800.

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 fac-simile, together with the
original Latin without the contractions, from which it will be seen
that the writer was a fair medival 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 medival Latin translation of the
uncial Greek of which I shall speak presently. This I also give in

Fac-simile of Black-Letter Inscription on the Sherd of Amenartas.


Expanded Version of the above Black-Letter Inscription.

"Ista reliquia est valde misticum et myrificum opus, quod majores
mei ex Armorica, scilicet Britannia Minore, secum convehebant; et
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 meus
confregit illud in duas partes, quas quidem ego Johannes de
Vinceto salvas servavi et adaptavi sicut apparet die lune proximo
post festum beate Marie Virginis anni gratie MCCCCXLV."

Fac-simile of the Old English Black-Letter Translation of the
above Latin Inscription from the Sherd of Amenartas found
inscribed upon a parchment.


Modernised Version of the above 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
conflatyed of Sathanas hym selfe by arte magike and dyvellysshe
wherefore my fadir dyd take ye same and tobrast yt yn tweyne, 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 followynge after ye feeste of Seynte Marye ye Blessed Vyrgyne
yn ye yeere of Salvacioun fowertene hundreth and fyve and

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 pinnance
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."[*]

[*] Another thing that makes me fix the date of this entry at the
middle of the eighteenth century is that, curiously enough, I have
an acting copy of "Hamlet," written about 1740, in which these two
lines are misquoted almost exactly in the same way, and I have
little doubt but that the Vincey who wrote them on the potsherd
heard them so misquoted at that date. Of course, the lines really

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.--L. H. H.

And now there remained but one more document to be examined--namely,
the ancient black-letter transcription into medival 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 dissolve
the secret of the mysterious inscription. Nor was he disappointed, for
the learned Edmundus was equal to the task. Indeed his rendering is so
excellent an example of medival learning and latinity that, even at
the risk of sating the learned reader with too many antiquities, I
have made up my mind to give it in fac-simile, together with an
expanded version for the benefit of those who find the contractions
troublesome. The translation has several peculiarities on which this
is not the place to dwell, but I would in passing call the attention
of scholars to the passage "duxerunt autem nos ad reginam
/advenaslasaniscoronantium/," which strikes me as a delightful
rendering of the original, {egegon de os Basileian ten ton Xenous
Khutrais stephanounton}.

[*] Grocyn, the instructor of Erasmus, studied Greek under
Chalcondylas the Byzantine at Florence, and first lectured in the
Hall of Exeter College, Oxford, in 1491.--Editor.

Medival Black-Letter Latin Translation of the Uncial
Inscription on the Sherd of Amenartas


Expanded Version of the above Medival Latin Translation

Amenartas, e genere regio Egyptii, uxor Callicratis, sacerdotis
Isidis, quam dei fovent demonia attendunt, filiolo suo Tisistheni
jam moribunda ita mandat: Effugi quodam ex Egypto, regnante
Nectanebo, cum 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 magic utebatur et periti 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 voluntantis, 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 vero nichil hujus generis malebat, manibus ante
oculos passis, ne mulieris formositatem adspiceret: postea illum
magica percussit arte, at mortuum efferebat inde cum fletibus et
vagitibus, et 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, quautum in te est, patrem tuum
Callieratem in regine morte. Sin timore sue aliqua causa rem
reliquis 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

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

"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 it?" 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

"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 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 that 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 you."

"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 to 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 Zanzibar.



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, the 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 sail of our dhow, and
draws us through the water that ripples musically against her 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 North East Monsoon, between the mainland and
the reef that for hundreds of miles fringes this 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 land.

The Arab at the tiller holds up his hand, and says one word:--"/Simba/

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 returned.

"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 water-tight 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, whilst 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 haulyards and
lower the sail, but the parrel 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, ay, swept straight out from it like a flag in a

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 tow-rope to bring the boat alongside. Wildly I sprang
also, Job caught me by the 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 vice. I 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 might either have let go or gone with it. But it passed,
leaving us up to our knees in water.

"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 founder."

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 open-mouthed
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 likewise.

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 cap 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, 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,
whilst I dragged and laboured at my oar. She answered now, and none
too soon.

Heavens, we were in them! And then followed a couple of minutes of
heart-breaking excitement such as I cannot hope to describe. All that
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 comparative smooth
water of the mouth of sea between the teeth-like lines of gnashing

But we were nearly 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 an ever-increasing force.

But now again we were 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, with 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

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 splendour in the east, and then the
quivering footsteps of the dawn came rushing across the new-born blue,
and shook the high stars 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
coastline, and the swamps beyond, and the mountains above them; over
those who slept in peace and those who woke in sorrow; over the evil
and the good; over the living and the 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 everlastingly for
eighteen whom we knew!

The dhow had gone down with them, they were tossing about 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, had caused them to flee away.
Then up he came in glory from his ocean-bed, and flooded the earth
with warmth and light. 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, however, to stare at the rock, 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
feet 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 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
harbour. 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 waterside, 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

"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 demonical head.

"Oh Lord, sir," answered Job, who now perceived the object for the
first time, "I think that the old geneleman 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, please."

"You may be thankful that you are not stiffer, my boy," I answered.
"The dhow is sunk, everybody on board her is drowned with the
exception of us four, and your own life was only saved by a miracle";
and whilst 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

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

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

"I don't see at all 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 sandbank 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 measure. 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 boat 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 harbour. 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-coloured and not white,[*] which
hung over the water, we disembarked. This done we undressed, washed
ourselves, and spread our clothes, together with 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, 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.

[*] There is a known species of magnolia with pink flowers. It is

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