Beginning, Section II
Posted on Wednesday, 3 May 2000
As the hour had become very late, the gentlemen took their leave, as Mr. Darcy was determined to return to Amarna, (Of which My Dear Readers will eventually hear more. ) where the gentlemen had their dig. I had heard much of the city of the heretic pharaoh Khuenaten (Ahkanaten) from my Father, and I had definitely put it on our itinerary, though I did not inform the gentlemen of this. Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley bade us both a reluctant good night and left us.
After the gentlemen had gone, I turned to observe Jane, who suddenly sat down on her bed. I quickly came to her side. "Are you truly recovered Dearest?" I asked in a very concerned tone.
"Yes I feel a strange sense of relief, as if I have exorcised some evil spirit." replied Jane, in a quiet tone.
"It was Giorgio you saw in the lounge, when you fainted, was it not?" I asked.
"Yes. You will not believe me Lizzie; but when I saw him standing there, watching me with that insolent, sneering smile, I thought him a demon of the mind, conjured up to remind me of my past. I was so happy just then with--with--"
"With Charles. Why do you shrink from speaking his name? You did not reject his attentions just now. Do you love him?"
"I cannot use that word, not after..... But yes; I could love him, if I had the right to love any decent man." replied Jane, in a sob tinged tone.
"Oh come, you are being melodramatic! We are almost in the twentieth century; abandon your old-fashioned morality." I lectured, even though I knew that my friend would not, for I knew this was part of her character.
"Do you think Lizzie, do you truly think Charles would wish to marry me, let alone ask me to marry him if he knew about my past?" asked Jane matter-of-factly.
"Well......." I shrugged uncomfortably." He seems a nice young man, but he is a man after all. But why should he ever know."
There was no need for Jane to answer. He would know because she would tell him. Candor was an integral part of her nature. She smiled at me sadly.
"Let us change the subject, Lizzie. All I meant to say was that I was foolishly relieved to find Giorgio mere flesh and blood. We have finished with him; but how amazing that he should actually follow me here and was able to discover us so easily!"
"Yes. I wonder........"
"If perhaps your grandfather had not recovered after all."
Jane gasped." Heavens, Lizzie how cynical! And how clever of you. Oh, I do hope it may be so."
"Do not hope too much. I dare say there other cynical reasons for Giorgio's appearance here in Cairo, and besides Dearest Jane, you cannot deny that Signor Giorgio's veracity must questioned. I will take steps tomorrow, to see what I can find out. I must also go to Boulaq and hurry Reis Hassan. The sooner we leave Cairo, the better for us."
"Yes," Jane said, smiling wistfully." It is becoming crowded with people whom I do not wish to see. But Mr. Bingley will not be here much longer. He and Mr. Darcy will be leaving for Amarna in two days, and that is several hundreds of miles to the south.
"Perhaps we may eventually go there. I have always wished to observe an archaeological excavation." I said, smiling at somewhat unladylike thoughts of Mr. Darcy's reaction to the arrival of a "rampageous British female" in the midst of his dig. (At this point, My Dear, Kind, Indulgent Reader, my ever present Self Appointed Critic protests that he was in no condition to react in any way to our arrival at Amarna, and I must have enjoyed that fact, and the fact that I had him completely in my power. I counter that was not a good patient then, nor is he now. )
Noticing the yawns that Jane had been trying to hide, I suggested that we ready ourselves for bed, as it had been an extremely tiring day.
Posted on Thursday, 11 May 2000
Jane fell asleep the instant her head touched her pillow, she was so exhausted from all the emotional experiences of the day. I could hear her quiet breathing from across the room, I on the other hand, who has never had trouble sleeping lay sleepless upon my bed, under my canopy of white netting. My bed stood near the window. There was a small balcony just outside. I had left the shutters open as I always did, the netting protected us from insects, and the night air was particularly sweet and cool. (I would just like to inform My Dear Readers, even in light of what happened next, I have never subscribed to the notion that night air was in anyway unhealthy for one.) As I lay strangely sleepless upon my bed, my thoughts first went to my encounters with Mr. Darcy, and his strange, but fascinating notions of how one should properly conduct the study of Egyptology. I had so enjoyed sparring with him, yet my main thoughts were for Jane and Mr. Bingley. If she were just who she was a gentlewoman of straitened circumstances, she would have been an eligible match for him, as it was, and from what Jane had told me both gentlemen shared in the expenses of the excavations, and then there was my Dear Friend's tendency towards being honest to a fault, yet I had a premonition that, all would be worked out between them in the end.
Posted on Wednesday, 24 May 2000
I tossed about restlessly upon my bed. The springs squeaked and an insect or a bird squeaked as if in answer. I turned over on my side, with my back to the moonlight in hopes this would hasten sleep. Instead, for the oddest reason, my thoughts returned to Signor Giorgio, and I began to speculate about his motives for following Jane. I knew that the creature had not the slightest degree of altruism or love; he must have another reason for pursuing her. I thought of several possible answers, and I kept returning to my feeling that there was someone else who was a greater danger to my Dear, Sweet Jane. Someone who may have assisted Giorgio financially in his journey to Cairo. Just who that someone might be, I had not the least idea, but I had my suspicions as to who he could be. I did not like to think of my Sweet Jane, someone whom I looked upon as an older sister as being in great peril, and I swore that I would make sure that she was not going to be hurt by anyone, even if it meant removing to the most farthest point from Cairo, for that much I was sure of, Jane's greatest danger was in Cairo.
All these thoughts and I was no closer to sleep. As I rolled to my other side in hopes that I would be in a position more conducive to sleep, I became aware of a sound in the room. I immediately recognised that sound, as that of a loose floorboard that was between my bed and the window. I had accidentally stepped upon it more than once. When I first heard the sound, I thought that it was Jane getting up in the night, but as my eyes searched the room, I found that I was mistaken, for I saw a sight so surprising, that an involuntary gasp escaped my lips. I beheld a figure that was right out of the Main Hall of M. Maspero's museum at Boulaq.
Posted on Tuesday, 30 May 2000
In the silvery moonlight, the figure appeared to be swathed in a white mist. Like M. Maspero's prized life sized statues, the apparition wore the hues of life, though they were faded by the cold moonlight. The bronzed body, bare to the waist; the broad collar of orange and blue beads; the folded linen headdress, striped in red and white.
I was thunderstruck. But not by fear--no, never suppose for a moment, Dear Reader, that I was afraid. I was simply paralysed by surprise. The figure stood absolutely motionless. I could not even detect the rise and fall of its breast. It lifted an arm then, in a gesture of unmistakable menace.
I sat up and with a shout, reached out for the thing. I do not now, nor have I ever believed in apparitions. I wanted to get my hands on it, to feel the warmth and solidity of human flesh. Unfortunately, I had forgotten the confounded mosquito netting.
(At this point, I once again must beg My Dear Gentle Reader's indulgence, to point out that My Ever Present Critic reminds me that "confounded" is not a word that a lady should use. I reply that some strong expression is called for, and I have avoided others far stronger. He then informs me that that he is surprised to discover that I knew any stronger terms, I say that in a certain person's presence, I could not help but learn stronger terms. My Critic just growls in the face of such perfect logic. )
It was the netting that had given the apparition its ghostly aura, and it fit so well with the presumed supernatural appearance of the thing, that I had forgotten its existence. I plunged head first into a muffling cloud of fabric; the bed sheet and the skirts of my nightgown wound around my limbs. By the time I fought my way out of these encumbrances, I was gasping for breath--and the room was empty once more. I had succeeded only in waking Jane, who was calling out agitatedly and trying to escape her own netting.
We met at the window; Jane caught me by the shoulders and tried to shake me. I must have looked like a wild woman with my hair breaking loose from its night braids and streaming over my shoulders. My determined rush toward the window had persuaded Jane, as she later confessed that I was bent on self-destruction.
After I had assured myself that there was no trace of the visitant on the balcony, or in the garden below, I explained to Jane what had happened. She lighted a candle. By its flame I saw her expression, and knew exactly just what she was about to say.
"It was no dream, Jane," I insisted." It would not be surprising that I should dream of Egyptian ghosts; but I believe I am quite capable of discerning the difference between reality and sleep."
"Did you pinch yourself, Lizzie?" Jane inquired in all seriousness.
"I had not time to pinch myself," I replied, pacing angrily up and down. "You see the torn netting--"
"I believe you fought a gallant fight with the bed sheets and the netting," Jane said. "Real objects and those seen in dreams can sometimes blend into one another--"
At this point I let out a loud exclamation, and I am afraid that it was not an extremely ladylike one. Jane looked alarmed, fearing she had offended me; but it was not her disbelief that had prompted my cry. Bending over, I picked up from the floor the hard object that my bare instep had painfully pressed upon. In silence, I held it out for Jane's inspection.
It was a small ornament about an inch long, made of blue-green faience, in the shape of the hawk god Horus--the kind of ornament that often hangs on necklaces worn by the ancient Egyptian dead.
I was more determined than ever to leave Cairo. Of course I did not believe in ghosts. No; some malignant human agent had been at work in the moonlit room, and that worried me a good deal more than ghosts. I thought immediately of that rascal Giorgio as a possible culprit, but there really seemed no reason why he should undertake such a bizarre trick, not on his own initiative. (My Self Appointed Critic laughs now, but I still had had the strange feeling that Signor Giorgio was acting on another's behalf. A person who was an even greater danger to my now Dearest Friend, Jane. )He was not the type of the murderer; he was vicious, but weak. And what would it profit him to murder either Jane or myself. I have said that my despicable half-brothers had tried unsuccessfully to overturn our Papa's will, but they had used the usual complaints of diminished capacity and undue influence, my despicable male half-siblings were too stupid to try to murder me for my money.
A criminal of another kind might hope to profit, however, and I came to the conclusion that my visitor had been a would-be thief, a little more imaginative than his fellows, who hoped by his imitation of an ancient Egyptian, to confound a wakeful victim long enough to effect his escape. It was a rather ingenious idea, really; I almost wished I could meet the inventive burglar. (My Critic insists that he wished he could have met him too, he quickly mumbles something about "tearing out his liver", or something to that effect. )There was only one thing that made me wonder about my enigmatic nighttime visitor, and the theory of his being just a would be thief, was that nothing of value was taken from either myself or Jane. Jane, the sweet optimist that she was, was of the belief that I had surprised the creature before he had a chance to rifle our room. I had my own opinion on that score.
Posted on Thursday, 8 June 2000
I decided not to summon the police. I had been told that the Egyptian police are perfectly useless, but that is not why I decided not to summon them. As I had not seen the man's face close enough to identify him. Even supposing that the authorities were able to track one man through the teeming streets of Cairo. The man would not dare to return; he found me wakeful and threatening, and so he would look for easier prey.
Trusting in my feelings that Signor Giorgio was lying, I decided to pay a call at the British Consulate, my Father had many acquaintances there, and I was positive that they would not hesitate to assist me.
Having come to this conclusion, I was somewhat easier in my mind, so I explained it all to Jane, hoping to calm her nerves. Jane readily agreed with my deductions, but I think she still half-believed that I had been dreaming.
I did take the precaution of investigating Giorgio's activities. I was unable to discover where he had been staying. There are hundreds of small inns in Cairo, and presumably he had used one of these, for certainly he had not been observed in any of the European hotels. (My Critic tells me, that for a cad, he was very perceptive. I tell him that is because he hates to go to Shepheard's. He just growls, and goes off to oversee the latest excavation.) I did learn, however, that a man of his description had taken a ticket on the morning train to Alexandria, yet that seemed way too convenient for my tastes, but in justice to Jane, I decided to keep my suspicion to myself.
Posted on Saturday, 10 June 2000
Mr. Bingley was not so easy to dismiss. He called the next morning, as early as was decently possible. Jane refused to see him. I understood, and commended her motives; the less she saw of him, the easier the eventual parting would be. Not knowing her true feelings, he naturally misunderstood. I assured him that physically, Jane was fully recovered, but she just could not receive visitors at this time. What else could he assume but that she did not want to see him? He even went so far as to ask whether it had been some act of his that had brought on her fainting fit the night before. I did my best to assure him that this was not so, but the poor lad was unconvinced. Looking like a wan Byronic hero, he asked me to say goodbye to Jane for him. He and Mr. Darcy were to leave for Amarna on the morrow.
I felt so sorry for the young fellow I almost blurted out part of the truth, but I knew that I had no right to violate Jane's confidence. So I went upstairs to console the other half of the pair of heartbroken lovers, and a tedious business it was too, when a little common sense on both parts would have settled the matter to the satisfaction of all.
With Michael's assistance I contrived to hurry the boat crew. Michael's newborn devotion was complete; he did everything he could to assist us, although at times I think he shared the opinion of the men--that I was an interfering, illogical female. (My Critic claims that there was some truth to that. I tell him to keep his opinions to himself, and besides, I ask him did he not leave his hat in the tomb, and that he should fetch it. My Critic just growls.)
One of my acquaintances at Shepheards had informed me that I had made an error in selecting a Christian as my dragoman, for the Copts are not accepted as readily as coreligionists by Moslem crewmen and captains. (Once again I must inform My Dear Kind Indulgent Readers that , these are not my opinion, and have never been my opinions.) However, Reis Hassan and Michael got on extremely well and preparations proceeded apace. The piano was moved into the saloon, and the new curtains were hung; they looked very handsome. The crew began to straggle in from their home villages. I sent Hill off to England, and saw her go with no regrets.
Posted on Wednesday, 14 June 2000
We were very bust during those days, shopping for more supplies and visiting Michael, where we played with his little girl, whose name we discovered was Miriam(Mary) and practiced our Arabic on the ladies of the household; having the piano tuned, paying final, reluctant visits to Gizeh,(I went into the Great Pyramid once more, but Jane would not.) going to the museum several more times,(I was still convinced that the place needed better organization, and who better to organize such a place than an English gentlewoman. My Critic laughs at this.)and making calls on the British authorities. I found another of my father's old friends in the finance ministry, he scolded me for not calling earlier so that he could have had the opportunity of entertaining myself and Jane. He was very kind; so much so that I began to feel uncomfortable at the way his eyes examined me. (My Critic tells me that he would have made Mr. Phillips feel very uncomfortable indeed. I inform him that the gentleman is old enough to be my Father, and the idea that he could possibly be interested in me in any way is absolutely ludicrous. Once again I remind him of his hat.)
Finally he burst out,
"My dear Miss Elizabeth, you really have changed; are you aware of how much you have changed? The air of Egypt must agree with you; you seemed changed a great deal since I had the pleasure of seeing you in Sussex last."
I was wearing one of the dresses that Jane selected for me, an emerald satin trimmed with a lighter green, with draped skirts.
"Fine feathers, Mr. Phillips," I said briskly. "They are becoming to even the plainest of hens. Now I wonder if you could help me--"
I had come of course to find out about Jane's grandfather. I could see that my Father's friend was surprised at my interest, but he was too much of a gentleman to ask the cause. He informed me that news of the Marquess' death had reached him within the past fortnight. He knew no details, only the bare fact; it was not a subject of consuming interest to him. I was inhibited because I could not ask the questions I needed to ask without betraying Jane's secret. I did not want her identity to become known in Egypt since we proposed to spend the rest of the winter there. I had to go away with my curiosity partially unsatisfied.
However, I was able to meet Major-now Sir Evelyn Baring, the consul general and British agent, who came into the office as we were leaving it. He reminded me of my half-brothers. Solid British respectability lay upon him like a coating of dust. His neat mustache, his gold-rimmed pince-nez, the rounded configuration of his impeccably garbed form, all spoke of his reliability, capability, and dullness. However, he had done an admirable job of trying to restore financial stability to a country heavily in debt, and even when I met him he was known as the chief power in Egypt. He was faultlessly courteous to me and Jane, assuring me of his willingness to be of assistance in any possible way. He had known my father, he said, by reputation. I was beginning to get an image of my Dear Papa sitting quietly in the center of a web whose strands extended all over the earth.
Posted on Saturday, 17 June 2000
We planned to leave on the Friday. It was on the Thursday evening that our visitor arrived and conversation with him made clear several points that had hitherto been cloudy--and raised new problems not so easily solved, or so I thought at the time.
We were in the lounge; I insisted we go down. Jane had been pensive and sad all day, brooding about her grandfather and I suspected, about the thought of Mr. Bingley speeding southward away from her. Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley did not hire even a small dahabeeyah; Mr. Bingley had explained that they rented space on a steamer which carried their supplies, and that they slept on deck with the crew, rolled up in their blankets. I thought of my delicate Jane living in such conditions and almost could not wholly regret the loss of Walter.
We were both tired, having been occupied all day with such last-minute details as always occur when one prepares for a journey; and I believe I was dozing just a little, when an exclamation from Jane aroused me. For a moment I thought we were about to have a repetition of the evening of Giorgio's appearance. Jane had risen to her feet and was staring toward the door. Her expression was not so much of alarm, however, as of disbelief; and when I turned to see the cause of her amazement, I beheld a young gentleman coming quickly toward us, a broad smile on his face and his hand extended in greeting.
He seemed for a moment as if he would embrace Jane. Propriety prevailed; but he took her limp hand in both his big brown ones and wrung it enthusiastically,
"Jane! My dear girl! You cannot imagine the relief, the pleasure......... How could you frighten me so?"
"And you cannot imagine my surprise," Jane exclaimed. "What on earth are you doing here!?"
"Following you of course, what other reason could I have? ("What other reason could he have indeed?" is the question I asked myself for his surprise was much too convenient for my tastes.) I could rest while I was in doubt as to your safety. But we forget ourselves Jane." He turned to me with the same broad smile, "I need not ask; this must be Miss Bennet. The kindly, noble, the greathearted Miss Bennet, to whom I owe my dear cousin's recovery. Oh yes I know all! ("I just bet you do." I thought to myself, as once again his sentiments and his accents did ring true, but I did not wish to bring up my suspicions as yet, for I did not wish to upset Jane.) I visited the British consul in Rome; that is how I traced you here to Cairo. And knowing what that gentleman did not, of the circumstances that brought Jane to Rome--no Cousin, we will not speak of them, not now or ever again; but knowing of them, I am able to give Miss Bennet's conduct the credit it deserves. My dear Miss Bennet! Excuse me, but I cannot restrain my enthusiasm; I am an enthusiastic fellow!"
At this point My Dear Readers, I must say the strange young man's manner almost, I say, almost overwhelmed me. Yet, in spite of his seeming-concern for Jane, there was just something about the man I did not trust. "Was this the person who had given Giorgio the financial assistance that had brought him to Cairo?" I asked myself. Little did I know, that in a few short weeks I would receive my answer in a most surprising manner.
Posted on Tuesday, 20 June 2000
Seizing my hand, he wrung it as thoroughly as he had wrung Jane's, beaming like a younger edition of the immortal Mr. Pickwick all the while.
"Really sir," I said somewhat untruthfully, in light of the above statements." I am quite overwhelmed--"
"I know I know." Dropping my hand, the young man, who appeared to be a year or two older than Jane, burst into the jolliest peal of laughter imaginable. "I do overwhelm people. I cannot help it. Please sit down ladies, so that I may do so; then we will have a pleasant talk.
"Perhaps you might even consider introducing yourself," I suggested, tenderly massaging my fingers.
"Forgive me Elizabeth," Jane exclaimed. "Let me present my cousin, Mr. William Collins-Baines."
"I will let you; whether he will be silent long enough to be presented, I do not know." I looked keenly at the young man, who was still smiling broadly, undisturbed by my sharpness. "But I fancy it is no longer Mr. Collins Baines. Should I not say 'your lordship?'"
A shadow passed over Jane's face. The Marquess leaned over and patted her hand.
"You will say William, I hope Miss Bennet. I feel I know you so well! And it may be painful for Jane to be reminded of her loss. I see the news has reached you."
"We only learned of it a few days ago," Jane said. "I had tried to prepare myself, but......... Please tell me about it, William. I want to hear everything."
"You are sure you wish to?" he asked, in a tone that appeared to question as to whether this was a prudent thing.
"Oh yes. I must hear every detail, even if it is painful to me; and although I know I should not, I cannot help hoping that he forgave me, at the end...... that he had time for one kind word, one message..........."
"Jane, I am sure he felt kindness even though...... But I will tell you all. Only let me marshal my thoughts."
While he marshaled them, I had leisure to study him with a curiosity I made no attempt to conceal. He was a short chap, who dressed with an elegance that verged on foppishness. His patent leather boots shone like glass; his waistcoat was embroidered with rosebuds. A huge diamond glittered in the midst of an immense expanse of snowy shirt front, and his trousers were so close-fitting that when he sat down I expected something to rip. The candid cheerfulness of his face was very English, but his swarthy complexion and large dark eyes betrayed his father's nationality. I looked then at his hands. They were well shaped if rather large and brown, and were as well tended as a woman's. I always think that hands were so expressive of character. I had noticed that Mr. Darcy's were heavy with calluses and disfigured with the scars and scratches of manual labour.
There is no use in trying to conceal from the reader that I found myself illogically prejudiced against Jane's cousin. I say illogically, because his manner thus far had been irreproachable, if ebullient. His subsequent speeches proved him to be or, so we thought at the time, a man of honour and of heart. Still, I did not like him. There was something about the man, after so short an acquaintance, that said he could not be trusted. (My Critic agrees with me, that there is something to be said for feelings of foreboding, and premonitions, of not quite trusting such ebullient manners. Though I tell my Critic that it was tact that kept me from relaying to Jane, my feelings, however prejudicial regarding her cousin.)
Posted on Saturday, 5 August 2000
After having had taken time to marshal his thoughts, William began his explanation.
"You know, I imagine that after your-your departure, our revered progenitor fell into such a rage that he suffered a stroke. We did not expect that he would recover from it, (At this point, Dear readers, I began to suspect that when Jane's cousin said "we", he was not referring to family members, but I did not mention this to Jane, but I did at a later moment mention it to My Self Appointed Critic, who agreed with me.) but the old gentleman had amazing powers of recuperation; I have noted that a vicious temper does seem to give its possessors unusual strength.......Now Jane you mustn't look at me so reproachfully. I had some affection for our grandfather, but I cannot overlook his treatment of you.(I at this wondered why. He was almost trying to as it is said, "rub it in".) You must allow me an occasional word of criticism.
"When I heard of what transpired, I went at once to Heathstone Castle. I was the first and only to respond; you who know our family, can imagine the scene of pandemonium I found on my arrival. Aunts and uncles and cousins of every degree had descended like the scavengers they are--eating and drinking as hard as they could, and try their d------est to gain entrée to the sickroom, where the sufferer lay like a man in a beleaguered fort. Our second cousin Oliver tried to bribe the nurse; Aunt Dorothea sat in a chair outside the door and had to be pushed back whenever it was opened; young Basil Collins-Hurst, at his own mother's instigation climbed the ivy outside the window of the sickroom and was only repelled by the footman and your humble servant."
The waiter coming by at the moment, William ordered coffee. He caught my eye and burst into another of those hearty, but insincere to my ears, peals of laughter.
(Now, I would not hurt my dear Jane for all the world, but I can understand why My Self Appointed Critic's opinion that perhaps it was best if she disowned the rest of her family, vulgar as they were. These Gardiners obviously had raised my dear Jane to be a Lady, not her Father's family.)
Posted on Saturday, 24 March 2001
"My dear Miss Bennet, you have a countenance as an open book. You are thinking? You are thinking that I am the pot that calls the kettle black--that I am as thorough a scavenger as the rest. And of course you are absolutely correct. I respected our Grandfather for his good qualities. He had a few; if I has more time, I might be able to recall one of them. . . . . . No dear Miss Bennet, frankness is my worst failing. (Ha! was both my own reaction and My Self Appointed Critic, and of course we were correct on that score. )I cannot pretend to emotions I do not feel, even to improve my position in the world, and I will not be such a hypocrite as to pretend that I loved our Grandfather. Jane is a saint; she would find excuse for a man who knocked her down and trampled on her. . . . . . . . ."
He broke off as I made a warning gesture. Jane's face was flushed, her eyes fixed on her hands, folded tightly in her lap.
"Jane is a saint," William repeated emphatically." Only a saint could have loved Grandfather. But I could not help feeling sorry for the old. . . . . . . . . . ah. . . . . . . . . . gentleman just then. (At this point Dear Reader, I began to suspect just who it was that provided Signor Giorgio with the wherewithal to travel to Cairo in order to follow us more easily. For there something about Jane's cousin's story did not ring true to me. Though I would not let on to my Dearest Jane my feelings for all the world. Perhaps it was just how Jane's cousin had presented himself. His sudden appearance shortly after Signor Giorgio's "disappearance", I just could not trust this man, friendly though he seemed, I was sure that he was the larger danger to Jane, for she had already been used abominably by one lying Male Person, I would not allow it to happen again. Jane's cousin wanted something, but I could not quite figure what it was at the moment. Though I began to suspect later. )It is pitiable to lie dying and have no one there who loves you."
"As heir, I was in a stronger position than my fellow scavengers. I did my best to keep them away from Grandfather. I believe that this caused him to rally for a bit, and he even was able to get up from his bed. It was then that it happened. I happened to be away from the house for the day, and in a fit of . . . . . . . . . . I do not know, anger and rage I suppose, but with the help of some the servants, he managed to have anything and everything that might remind him of you thrown into packing boxes and sent off by the carters. It was after this incident that I returned to the house, to find that Grandfather had suffered a relapse, and it was not too many days afterward that he expired, though I cannot say that it was done quietly." William finished.
Now I was almost positive about who posed a danger to Dearest Jane, but I pretended to trust the man. I was not going to inform Jane of any of my suspicions, as I did wish to hurt my Dear Friend's feelings.
Posted on Thursday, 10 May 2001
As I sat and listened to Jane's cousin, as I mentioned before, I was aware that he was after something. I was determined to find out just what that was, as I also suspected the gentleman, and use that term loosely of something more sinister. I, as I have been reminded by many of my acquaintances, including my now ever present Self Appointed Critic, have never been one for beating around the bush. When the situation calls for it, plain speaking is best. So I decided to use all within my power to discover just what Jane's cousin wanted.
"Just what is it you want, your Lordshi. . . . . forgive me, William? It is obvious that you did not follow your cousin here because you were on holiday." I asked in as civil manner as possible.
"Why, I am here to take my Dearest Cousin Jane back to England, where I intend to present her with half of what should have been her fortune anyway. I mean to make Jane my wife, my Marchioness, it is the least I can do to repair the damage done to her by our shared progenitor." replied William, in a manner I found to be much to cut and dry. I was going to put a spike in his guns. But Jane, Dearest Jane spoke up first.
"I cannot accept this. My position makes it impossible to marry you. I do not deserve the money. Please William, do not put me into such a position. My mind is made up. There is an image that is now engraved upon my heart, and I cannot be true to that image and marry you." replied Jane, in an earnest tone.
"Surely you do not refer to that scoundrel who. . . . . ." began William.
"No, I refer to a worthy man, a kind man, who if I were not in the position I am in I would marry him, if were able." replied Jane, in a somewhat outraged tone.
"I will make you change your mind, Dearest Cousin. I will return in the morning to begin my courtship in earnest." stated William, in a determined tone.
"You will need to arrive very early in the morning, William, for Jane and I will be leaving Cairo for an extended sail up the Nile in my dahahbeeyah. So you have not long to press your suit, your Lordship," I announced." I hired your cousin as my companion, and we are determined to travel up the Nile together."
I immediately noted the look on Jane's cousin's face. It clearly read," I will follow you." That caused another feeling of great foreboding, yet I knew that it would take his lordship some time before he had a fully equipped dahahbeeyah, crew and dragoman, or so I thought at the time. I did not even listen to Michael, our dragoman, who declared Jane's cousin as an "evil man".
The following morning, we left Shepheards for the last time, after making one last visit to the British Consulate. It was here, that we discovered that someone had tried to break into the offices of my Papa's good friend Sir Evelyn Baring, who informed me quietly that some trunks had arrived just the day before, addressed to Jane, in my name. I requested that Sir Evelyn to have them put in the Consulate's vault until the day we returned from our sail up the Nile. We arrived at Boulaq at half-past ten, and Reis Hassan welcomed us aboard, and at eleven o'clock, we cast off. We were on our way to Amarna. I was sure that Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy would be surprised indeed.
Posted on Saturday, 12 May 2001
Our cruise up the Nile was not without incident. I had thought to avoid Lord Heathstone, by rising early that morning to make our way to Boulaq, unfortunately, I had underestimated the man, for we found him waiting in the lobby with flowers for Jane and a rather insincere smile for me. He insisted that he escort us to Boulaq, I declined the offer, as I have already mentioned other business to conclude before we made our way to Boulaq, but I was not surprised to find him there to watch us depart. Waving wildly at the Philae and still smiling in that insincere fashion. Our disembarkation was impressive, with much bustle and a babble of cheerful voices the men took their places. The mooring ropes were loosed; the oarsmen pushed off from the bank; the great sail swelled as it took the wind; and we were off, with a six-gun salute from our crew, answered by other boats along the bank.
One of the more practical ideas I had when Jane and I were decorating our dahahbeeyah, was to turn the high upper deck into a kind of outdoor drawing room, with a large awning to protect us from the sun. We had furnished our little room with : rugs, lounge chairs, and tables. The rugs lent colour to the deck. I had chosen especially bright coloured rugs for our little room. As the Philae made its way up the Nile, our young waiter Habib brought us cakes and mint tea. Jane lost her thoughtful look and sat up, pointing and exclaiming at the sights. The worst pessimist in the world must have responded to the happiness of such an excursion on such a day. The sun was well up, beaming down from a cloudless sky. The gentle breeze fanned our cheeks.
The palaces and gardens on the riverbank glided by as smoothly as in a dream, and with every passing minute new beauties of scenery and architecture were displayed to our eager eyes. In the distance the shape of the pyramids were etched against the sky; the air was so clear that they seemed like miniature monuments, only yards away.
We sat on the deck for the whole of that day; the experience was so new and so enchanting it was impossible to tear ourselves away. At dinner time delectable smells wafted up from the kitchen near the prow. Jane ate with a better appetite than I had seen her display for days; I was sure this was due to the fact that we had removed ourselves from Cairo and any possible run-ins with certain male persons; and when evening fell, she performed Chopin beautifully on the pianoforte. I sat by the window listening to the tender strains; it is a moment that will always remain in my memory.
We had many such moments as the days went on; but I must curtail my enthusiasm, for I was in danger of making this my little journal sound more like one of those bothersome travel books that all sound alike--the eerie singing of the crew as we lay moored at night; the exchanges of salutes with the Cook's steamers plying the river; the visits to the monuments of Dashoor (pyramids)and Abusir (more pyramids).
Posted on Friday, 22 March 2002
I have observed that most travelers hurry up river as fast as possible, planning to stop at various historic sites on the return voyage. The voyage upstream is a difficult one, against the current, which, the reader knows, flows from south to north; one is dependent on the northerly wind, and, when this fails as it often does, on the brawny arms of the men. After we watched them tow the heavy boat through an area of sandbanks in a dead calm, we could not bear to inflict this labour on them any more than was absolutely necessary. To see the poor fellows, harnessed to a rope, like ancient slaves, was positively painful.
I had private reasons for wishing to push on as quickly as possible. The energetic Lord Heathstone would surely have difficulties in hiring a dahahbeeyah, as quickly as he had hoped he would, if he had any hope of catching us up, but I was not so stupid as to underestimate his stubbornness and I fancied at least some weeks of peace and quiet before he did catch us up.
However, my study of the history of the sites had told me that the common mode of travel along the Nile was the wrong way to go about it. The monuments near Cairo are among the oldest; in order to see Egyptian history unroll before us in the proper sequence, we must stop on our way south, instead of waiting until our return voyage. I wanted to see Twelfth Dynasty tombs and Eighteenth Dynasty temples before viewing the remains of the later Greek and Roman periods. I had therefore made an itinerary before we left Cairo and presented it to Reis Hassan.
You would have thought I had suggested a revolution, the way that man carried on. I was informed, through Michael, that we must take advantage of the wind, and sail where, and as, it permitted.
I was beginning to understand a little Arabic by then, and I comprehended a few of the comments that Michael had failed to translate. According to the reis, I was a woman, and therefore no better than a fool. I knew nothing about boats, or wind, or sailing, or the Nile; who was I to tell an experienced captain how to run his boat/
I was the one who had hired the boat, I pointed this out to Reis Hassan. I hope I need not say who won the argument. Like all men, of all colours and all nations, he was unable to accept an unpalatable fact, however, and I had to argue with him every time I proposed to make a stop.