The Way of the Spirit - Henry Rider Haggard - ebook
Kategoria: Obyczajowe i romanse Język: angielski Rok wydania: 1905

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Henry Rider Haggard

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About

DEDICATION
AUTHOR'S NOTE
PROLOGUE
Chapter 1 - THE VOICE OF THE SINGING SAND

About Haggard:

Henry Rider Haggard was born at Bradenham, Norfolk, to Sir William Meybohm Rider Haggard, a barrister, and Ella Doveton, an author and poet. He was the eighth of ten children. He was initially sent to Garsington Rectory in Oxfordshire to study under the Reverend H.J. Graham but, unlike his older brothers who graduated from various Public Schools, he ended up attending Ipswich Grammar School. This was because his father, who regarded him as somebody who was not going to amount to much, could no longer afford to maintain his expensive private education. After failing his army entrance exam he was sent to a private ‘crammer’ in London to prepare for the entrance exam for the British Foreign Office, which in the end he never sat. Instead Haggard’s father sent him to Africa in an unpaid position as assistant to the secretary to the Lieutenant-Governor of Natal, Sir Henry Bulwer. It was in this role that Haggard was present in Pretoria for the official announcement of the British annexation of the Boer Republic of the Transvaal. In fact, Haggard raised the Union Flag and was forced to read out much of the proclamation following the loss of voice of the official originally entrusted with the duty. As a young man, Haggard fell deeply in love with Lilith Jackson, whom he intended to marry once he obtained paid employment in South Africa. In 1878 he became Registrar of the High Court in the Transvaal, but when he sent his father a letter telling him that he intended to return to England in order to marry Lilith Jackson his father replied that he forbade it until he had made a career for himself. In 1879 he heard that Lilith had married someone else. When he eventually returned to England he married a friend of his sister, Mariana Louisa Margitson and brought her back to Africa. Later they had a son named Jock (who died of measles at the age of 10) and three daughters. Returning again to England in 1882, the couple settled in Ditchingham, Norfolk. Later he lived in Kessingland and had connections with the church in Bungay, Suffolk. He turned to the study of law and was called to the bar in 1884. His practice of law was somewhat desultory, and much of his time was taken up by the writing of novels. Heavily influenced by the larger-than-life adventurers he met in Colonial Africa, most notably Frederick Selous and Frederick Russell Burnham, the great mineral wealth discovered in Africa, and the ruins of ancient lost civilizations in Africa such as Great Zimbabwe, Haggard created his Allan Quatermain adventures. Three of his books, The Wizard (1896), Elissa; the doom of Zimbabwe (1899), and Black Heart and White Heart; a Zulu idyll (1900) are dedicated to Burnham's daughter, Nada, the first white child born in Bulawayo, herself named after Haggard's 1892 book: Nada the Lily. Years later, when Haggard was a successful novelist, he was contacted by his former love, Lilith Jackson. She had been deserted by her husband, who had left her penniless and infected her with syphilis, from which she eventually died. It was Haggard who paid her medical bills. These details were not generally known until the publication of Haggard's 1983 biography by D. S. Higgins. Haggard was heavily involved in agricultural reform and was a member of many Commissions on land use and related affairs, work that involved several trips to the Colonies and Dominions. He was made a Knight Bachelor in 1912, and a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1919. He stood unsuccessfully for parliament as a candidate for the Conservative Party. Source: Wikipedia

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"Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth… and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes; but know thou that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment."

"To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life which is in the midst of the paradise of God."


DEDICATION

My dear Kipling,—Both of us believe that there are higher aims in life than the weaving of stories well or ill, and according to our separate occasions strive to fulfil this faith.

Still, when we talked together of the plan of this tale, and when you read the written book, your judgment thereof was such as all of us hope for from an honest and instructed friend—generally in vain.

So, as you found interest in it, I offer it to you, in token of much I cannot write. But you will understand.—

Ever sincerely yours,

H. Rider Haggard.

To Rudyard Kipling, Esq.

Ditchingham, 14th August, 1905.


AUTHOR'S NOTE

This tale was written two years ago as the result of reflections which occurred to me among the Egyptian sands and the empty cells of long-departed anchorites.

Perhaps in printing it I should ask forgiveness for my deviation from the familiar, trodden pathway of adventure, since in the course of a literary experience extending now, I regret to say, over more than a quarter of a century, often I have seen that he who attempts to step off the line chalked out for him by custom or opinion is apt to be driven back with stones and shoutings. Indeed, there are some who seem to think it very improper that an author should seek, however rarely, to address himself to a new line of thought or group of readers. As he began so he must go on, they say. Yet I have ventured on the history of Rupert Ullershaw's great, and to all appearance successful Platonic experiment, chiefly because this problem interested me: Under the conditions in which fortune placed him in the East, was he right or wrong in clinging to an iron interpretation of a vow of his youth and to the strict letter of his Western Law? And was he bound to return to the English wife who had treated him so ill, as, in the end, he made up his mind to do? In short, should or should not circumstances be allowed to alter moral cases?

The question is solved in one way in this book, but although she herself was a party to that solution, looking at the matter with Mea's eyes it seems capable of a different reading. Still, given a sufficiency of faith, I believe that set down here to be the true answer. Also, whatever its exact cause and nature, there must be something satisfying and noble in utter Renunciation for Conscience' sake, even when surrounding and popular judgment demands no such sacrifice. At least this is one view of Life, its aspirations and possibilities; that which wearies of its native soil, that which lifts its face toward the Stars.

Otherwise, why did those old anchorites wear the stone beds of their cells so thin? Why, in this fashion or in that, do their successors still wear them thin everywhere in the wide earth, especially in the wise and ancient East? I think the reply is Faith: that Faith which bore Rupert and Mea to what they held to be a glorious issue of their long probation—that Faith in personal survival and reunion, without the support of which in one form or another, faint and flickering as it may be, the happiness or even the continuance of our human world is so difficult to imagine.

H. R. H.


PROLOGUE

The last pitiful shifts of shame, the last agonised doublings of despair when the net is about the head and the victor's trident at the throat—who can enjoy the story of such things as these? Yet because they rough-hewed the character of Rupert Ullershaw, because from his part in them he fashioned the steps whereby he climbed to that height of renunciation which was the only throne he ever knew, something of it must be told. A very little will suffice; the barest facts are all we need.

Upon a certain July evening, Lord and Lady Devene sat at dinner alone in a very fine room of a very fine house in Portland Place. They were a striking couple, the husband much older than the wife; indeed, he was fifty years of age, and she in the prime of womanhood. The face of Lord Devene, neutral tinted, almost colourless, was full of strength and of a certain sardonic ability. His small grey eyes, set beneath shaggy, overhanging eyebrows that were sandy-coloured like his straight hair, seemed to pierce to the heart of men and things, and his talk, when he had anything to say upon a matter that moved him, was keen and uncompromising. It was a very bitter face, and his words were often very bitter words, which seems curious, as this man enjoyed good health, was rich, powerful, and set by birth and fortune far above the vast majority of other men.

Yet there were flies in his silver spoon of honey. For instance, he hated his wife, as from the first she hated him; for instance, he who greatly desired sons to carry on his wealth and line had no children; for instance, his sharp, acrimonious intellect had broken through all beliefs and overthrown all conventions, yet the ghost of dead belief still haunted him, and convention still shackled his hands and feet. For he could find no other rocks whereon to rest or cling as he was borne forward by the universal tide which at last rips over the rough edges of the world.

The woman, Clara, Lady Devene, was physically magnificent; tall, with a regal-looking head, richly coloured, ivory-skinned, perfectly developed in every part, except perhaps her brain. Good-natured, courageous after a fashion, well-meaning, affectionate, tenacious of what she had learned in youth, but impulsive and quite elementary in her tendencies and outlook; one who would have wished to live her own life and go her own way like an amiable, high-class savage, worshipping the sun and stars, the thunder and the rain, principally because she could not understand them, and at times they frightened her. Such was Clara, Lady Devene. She was not imaginative, she lived in the present for the present. She never heard the roll of the wheels of Fate echoing, solemn and ceaseless, through the thin, fitful turmoil of our lives, like the boom of distant battle-guns that shape the destinies of empires discerned through the bray of brass bands upon an esplanade.

No; Clara was not imaginative, although she had a heart, although, for example, from year to year she could grieve over the man whom once she had jilted or been forced to jilt (and who afterwards died of drink), in order to take her "chance in life" and marry Lord Devene whom she cordially disliked; whom she knew, moreover, to be self-seeking and cross-souled, as each in his or her degree were all his race from the first remembered Ullershaw down to himself and his collaterals. Ultimately, such primitive and unhappy women are apt to find some lover, especially if he reminds them of their first. Lady Devene had done so at any rate, and that lover, as it chanced, was scarcely more than a lad, her husband's heir and cousin, a well-meaning but hot-hearted youth, whom she had befooled with her flatteries and her beauty, and now doted on in a fashion common enough under such circumstances. Moreover, she had been found out, as she was bound to be, and the thing had come to its inevitable issue. The birds were blind, and Lord Devene was no man in spread his nets in vain.

Lady Devene was not imaginative—it has been said. Yet when her husband, lifting a large glass of claret to his lips, suddenly let it fall, so that the red wine ran over the white table-cloth like new-shed blood upon snow, and the delicate glass was shattered, she shivered, she knew not why; perhaps because instinct told her that this was no accident, but a symbol of something which was to come. For once she heard the boom of those battle-guns of Fate above the braying of the brass band on her life's tawny esplanade. There rose in her mind, indeed, the words of an old song that she used to sing—for she had a beautiful voice, everything about her was beautiful—a melancholy old song, which began:

"Broken is the bowl of life, spilled is its ruby wine; Behind us lie the sins of earth, before, the doom Divine!"

It was a great favourite with that unlucky dead lover of hers who had taken to drink, and whom she had jilted—before he took to drink. The memory disturbed her. She rose from the table, saying that she was going to her own sitting-room. Lord Devene answered that he would come too, and she stared at him, for he was not in the habit of visiting her apartments. In practice they had lived separate for years.

 

Husband and wife stood face to face in that darkened room, for the lamps were not lit, and a cloud obscured the moon which till now had shone through the open windows.

The truth was out. She knew the worst, and it was very bad.

"Do you mean to murder me?" she asked, in a hoarse voice, for the deadly hate in the man's every word and movement suggested nothing less to her mind.

"No," he answered; "only to divorce you. I mean to be rid of you—at last. I mean to marry again. I wish to leave heirs behind me. Your young friend shall not have my wealth and title if I can help it."

"Divorce me? You? You?"

"You can prove nothing against me, Clara, and I shall deny everything, whereas I can prove all against you. This poor lad will have to marry you. Really I am sorry for him, for what chance had he against you? I do not like to see one of my name made ridiculous, and it will ruin him."

"He shall not marry me," she answered fiercely. "I love him too well."

"You can settle that as you like between you. Go back to your reverend parent's house if you choose, and take to religion. You will be an ornament to any Deanery. Or if you do not choose—" and with a dim, expressive gesture, he waved his hand towards the countless lights of London that glimmered beneath them.

She thought a while, leaning on the back of a chair and breathing heavily. Then that elementary courage of hers flared up, and she said:

"George, you want to be free from me. You noticed the beginning of my folly and sent us abroad together; it was all another plot—I quite understand. Now, life is uncertain, and you have made mine very miserable. If anything should chance to happen to me—soon, would there be any scandal? I ask it, not for my own sake, but for that of my old father, and my sisters and their children."

"No," he replied slowly. "In that sad and improbable event there would be no scandal. Only foolish birds foul their own nests unless they are driven to it."

Again she was silent, then drew back from him and said:

"Thank you, I do not think there is anything to add. Go away, please."

"Clara," he answered, in his cold, deliberate voice, "you are worn out—naturally. Well, you want sleep, it will be a good friend to you to-night. But remember, that chloral you are so fond of is dangerous stuff; take enough if you like, but not too much!"

"Yes," she replied heavily, "I know. I will take enough—but not too much."

For a moment there was deep silence between them in that dark room. Then suddenly the great moon appeared again above the clouds, revealing their living faces to each other for the last time. That of the woman was tragic and dreadful; already death seemed to stare from her wide eyes, and that of the man somewhat frightened, yet remorseless. He was not one of those who recoil from their Rubicon.

"Good-bye," he said quickly; "I am going down to Devene by the late train, but I shall be back in town to-morrow morning—to see my lawyer."

With a white and ghost-like arm she pointed first to the door, then through the window-place upwards towards the ominous, brooding sky, and spoke in a solemn whisper:

"George," she said, "you know that you are a hundred times worse than I, and whatever I am, you have made me, who first forced me to marry you because I was beautiful, and then when you wearied of me, treated me as you have done for years. God judge between us, for I say that as you have had no pity, so you shall find none. It is not I who speak to you from the brink of my grave, but something within me."

 

It was morning, and Rupert Ullershaw stood at the door of the Portland Place house, whither he had come to call upon Lady Devene, to whom he brought a birthday gift which he had saved for months to buy. He was a somewhat rugged-faced lad, with frank grey eyes; finely built also, broad-shouldered, long-armed, athletic, though in movement slow and deliberate. There was trouble in those eyes of his, who already had found out thus early in his youth that though "bread of deceit is sweet to a man, afterwards his mouth shall be filled with gravel." Also, he had other anxieties who was the only son and hope of his widowed mother, and of a father, Captain Ullershaw, Devene's relation, whose conduct had broken her heart and beggared her of the great fortune for which she had been married. Now Rupert, the son, had just passed out of Woolwich, where, when his feet fell into this bitter snare, he had been studying in the hope of making a career for himself in the army.

Presently the butler, a dark, melancholy-looking person, opened the door, and Rupert saw at once that the man was strangely disturbed; indeed, he looked as though he had been crying.

"Is Lady Devene in?" Rupert asked as a matter of form.

"In, sir, yes; she'll never go out no more, except once," answered the butler, speaking with a gulp in his throat. "Haven't you heard, sir, haven't you heard?" he went on wildly.

"Heard what?" gasped Rupert, clutching at the door frame.

"Dead, Mr. Ullershaw, dead—accident—overdose of chloral they say! His lordship found her an hour ago, and the doctors have just left."

 

Meanwhile, in the room above, Lord Devene stood alone, contemplating the still and awful beauty of the dead. Then rousing himself, he took the hearth-brush, and with it swept certain frail ashes of burnt paper down between the bars of the low grate so that they crumbled up and were no more seen.

"I never believed that she would dare to do it," he thought to himself. "After all, she had courage, and she was right, I am worse than she was—as she would judge. Well, I have won the game and am rid of her at last, and without scandal. So—let the dead bury their dead!"

 

When Rupert, who had come up from Woolwich that morning, reached the little house in Regent's Park, which was his mother's home, he found a letter awaiting him. It had been posted late on the previous night, and was unsigned and undated, but in Clara's hand, being written on a plain sheet, and enclosed, as a blind, in a conventional note asking him to luncheon. Its piteous, its terrible contents need not be described; suffice to say that from them he learned all the truth. He read it twice, then had the wit to destroy it by fire. In that awful hour of shock and remorse the glamour and the madness departed from him, and he, who at heart was good enough, understood whither they had led his feet.

After this Rupert Ullershaw was very ill, so ill that he lay in bed a long time, wandered in his mind, and was like to die. But his powerful constitution carried his young body through the effects of a blow from which inwardly he never really quite recovered. In the end, when he was getting better, he told his mother everything. Mrs. Ullershaw was a strong, reserved woman, with a broad, patient face and smooth, iron-grey hair; one who had endured much and through it kept her simple faith and trust in Providence—yes, even when she thought that the evil in her son's blood was mastering him, that evil from which no Ullershaw was altogether free, and that he was beginning to walk in the footsteps of his father and of that ill guide and tempter, his cousin, Lord Devene. She heard him out, her quiet eyes fixed upon his face that was altered almost into age by passion, illness and repentance—heard him without a word.

Then she made one of the great efforts of her life, and in the stress of her appeal even became eloquent. She told Rupert all she knew of those brilliant, erratic, unprincipled Ullershaws from whom he sprang, and counted before his eyes the harvest of Dead Sea apples that they had gathered. She showed him how great was his own wrong-doing, and how imminent the doom from which he had but just escaped—that doom which had destroyed the unhappy Clara after she was meshed in the Ullershaw net, and corrupted by their example and philosophy which put the pride of life and gratification of self above obedience to law human or Divine. She pointed out to him that he had received his warning, that he stood at the parting of the ways, that his happiness and welfare for all time depended upon the path he chose. She, who rarely spoke of herself, even appealed to him to remember his mother, who had endured so much at the hands of his family, and not to bring her grey hairs with sorrow to the grave; to live for work and not for pleasure; to shun the society of idle folk who can be happy in the midst of corruption, and who are rich in everything except good deeds.

"Set another ideal before your eyes, my son," she said, "that of renunciation, and learn that when you seem to renounce you really gain. Follow the way of the Spirit, not that of the Flesh. Conquer yourself and the weakness which comes of your blood, however hard that may be. Self-denial is not really difficult, and its fruits are beautiful, in them you will find peace. Life is not long, my boy, but remorse may be a perpetual agony. So live, then, that having obtained forgiveness for what you have done amiss, it may not be there to torment you when you come to die."

As it chanced, her words fell in a fruitful soil well prepared to receive them—a strong soil, also—one which could grow corn as well as weeds.

"Mother," Rupert answered simply, "I will. I swear to you that whatever it costs me I will," and stretching out his wasted arms he drew down her grey head and kissed her on the brow.

This history will show how he kept that sick-bed promise under circumstances when few would have blamed him for its breach. Romantic as Rupert Ullershaw's life was destined to be, thenceforward it was quite unstained.


Chapter 1 THE VOICE OF THE SINGING SAND

More than eleven years have gone by, and the scene upon which our curtain rises again is different indeed to that upon which it fell. In place of that little London house where Rupert had lain sick, behold the mouth of a cliff-hewn temple, and on the face of it, cut from the solid rock, four colossal statues of an Egyptian king, nearly seventeen feet high each of them, that gaze for ever across the waters of the Nile and the desert beyond—that unchanging desert whence for three thousand five hundred years, dawn by dawn, they have greeted the newly-risen sun. For this place is the temple of Abu-Simbel below the Second Cataract of the Nile in the Soudan.

It is afternoon in the month of September, of the year 1889, and beneath one of the colossi near to the entrance of the temple is seated a British officer in uniform—a big, bearded observer as remarkable for intensity and power. Indeed, in this respect it was not unlike that stamped upon the stone countenances of the mighty statues above him. There was in it something of the same calm, patient strength—something of that air of contemptuous expectancy with which the old Egyptian sculptors had the art of clothing those effigies of their gods and kings.

It would have been hard to recognise in this man the lad whom we left recovering from a sore sickness, for some twelve years of work, thought, struggle, and self-control—chisels, all of them, that cut deeply—had made their marks upon him. Yet it was Rupert Ullershaw and no other.

The history of that period of his life can be given in few words. He had entered the army and gone to India, and there done very well. Having been fortunate enough to be employed in two of our little frontier wars, attention had been called to his conspicuous professional abilities. As it chanced also he was a studious man, and the fact that he devoted himself but little to amusements—save to big-game shooting when it came in his way—left him plenty of time for study. A chance conversation with a friend who had travelled much in the East, and who pointed out to him how advantageous it might be for his future to have a knowledge of Arabic, with which very few English officers were acquainted at the time, caused him to turn his attention to that language. These labours of his becoming known to those in authority, the Indian Government appointed him upon some sudden need to a semi-diplomatic office on the Persian Gulf. Here he did well, and although he never got the full public credit of it, was fortunate enough to avert a serious trouble that might have grown to large proportions and involved a naval demonstration. In recognition of his services he was advanced in rank and made a C.B. at a very early age, with the result that, had he wished it, he might have entered on a diplomatic career with every hope of distinction.

But Rupert was, above all things, a soldier, so turning his back upon these pleasant prospects, he applied to be allowed to serve in Egypt, a request that was readily granted on account of his knowledge of Arabic. Here in one capacity or another he took part in various campaigns, being present at the battles of El-Teb and Tamai, in the latter of which he was wounded. Afterwards he marched with Sir Herbert Stewart from Dongola and fought with him at Abu Klea. Returning to Egypt after the death of Gordon, he was employed as an Intelligence officer at Cairo, and finally made a lieutenant-colonel in the Egyptian army. In this capacity he accompanied General Grenfell up the Nile, and took part in the battle of Toski, where the Dervishes were routed on 3rd August, 1889. Then he was stationed at Abu-Simbel, a few miles away, to make arrangements as to the disposal of prisoners, and subsequently to carry on negotiations with certain Arab chiefs whose loyalty remained doubtful.

Such is a brief record of those years of the life of Rupert Ullershaw, with which, eventful as they were, our story has nothing to do. He had done exceedingly well; indeed, there were few officers of his standing who could look to the future with greater confidence, for although he appeared older than his years, he was still a young man; moreover, he was liked and respected by all who knew him, and notwithstanding his success, almost without enemies. It only remains to add that he kept the promise which he made to his mother upon his sick-bed to the very letter. Ever since that sad first entanglement, Rupert's life had been spotless.

The sun was beginning to sink, and its rays made red pathways on the flooded Nile, and bathed the desert beyond with a tremulous, rosy light, in which isolated mountains, that in shape exactly resembled pyramids, stood up here and there like the monuments of kings. The scene was extraordinarily beautiful; silent, also, for Rupert had pitched his camp, and that of his small escort, half a mile away further up the river. As he watched, the solemnities of the time and place sank into his heart, stilling the transient emotions of the moment, and tuning his mind until it was in key with its surroundings, an instrument open to the subtle influences of the past and future.

Here in the shadow of the mighty works of men who had been dead for a hundred generations, and looking out upon the river, the desert, and the mountains, which to them must have seemed as unutterably ancient as they did to him this day, his own absolute insignificance came home to Rupert as perhaps it had never done before. He thought of his petty strivings for personal advancement, and a smile grew upon his face like the smile upon that of the god-king above him. Through the waste of all the weary ages, how many men, he wondered, even in this desolate spot, had brooded on the hope of such advantage, and gone forth, but few to triumph, the most to fail, and all of them to learn within some short years that failure and success are one when forgetfulness has covered them. Thus the warning of the past laid its heavy hand upon him and pressed his spirit down, and the sound of the Nile flowing on, flowing ever from the far-off mountains of its birth through the desert to the sea, murmured in his ear that like those of Job, his days were "swifter than a post," sung in his ear the song of Koholeth: Vanity of vanities: all is vanity.

Rupert grew sad as the shadow of the hills which gathered deep about him, empty and desolate of mind as the vast, deserted temple at whose mouth he sat, the fane of a faith that was more dead than were its worshippers. Then suddenly he remembered how that morning at the dawn he had seen those cups of shadow filled with overflowing light, and how by it on the walls of that very temple he had read prayers of faith and affirmations strangely certain, of the eternity of all good works and the resurrection of all good men, in which they who carved them five-and-thirty centuries before, believed as firmly as he believed to-day.

Now it was the future that spoke to him as his heart took hope once more. Oh! he knew full surely—it came upon him with a strange conviction—that though many troubles and much bitterness might await him, though he might be born to sorrows as the sparks fly upwards, yet he should not live uselessly, or endure death in vain, that no life, not even that of the ant which toiled ceaselessly at his side in the yellow sand, was devoid of purpose or barren of result; that chance and accident did not exist; that every riddle had its answer, and every pang its issue in some new birth; that of the cloth of thoughts and deeds which he wove now would be fashioned the garment that he must wear hereafter.

Thus brooded Rupert Ullershaw after his fashion when alone, as indeed he loved to be, for he was a man who faced things and found truth oftenest in solitude.

Tired of these reflections, natural as they might be in such a time and spot, at length he rose, went a few paces to look at the lonely grave of a comrade whose working day was over, then with a sigh bethought him that now the afternoon was cooler, he would take some exercise before the darkness fell. Rupert loved all the sights and sounds of Nature, and remembering that the sunset would be fine seen from the top of a cliff behind him, he set to work to toil up the steep slope of sand, following a little track made by the jackals from the river-bank to their holes in the rocks, for he knew that these cunning animals would choose the easiest path.

Reaching the crest at length, he paused a while to look at the endless desert and the fiery ball of the sun sinking towards it so swiftly that he could almost see it move, as it does, or seems to do, in Egypt. It was going down behind two distant, solitary mountains; indeed, for a few seconds, perhaps a minute, its great red globe seemed to rest upon the very point of one of these mountains. Contemplating it and them, he recalled a legend which an old Arab had told him, that beyond those mountains was a temple larger and finer than Abu-Simbel. He had asked how far it was away and why no one went there, and learned that it was a great distance off, deep in the desert, and that if anyone looked upon it he died, for it was the home of magicians who did not call on Allah and rejected his prophet. Therefore no one did look, only the legend remained, which, the Arab had added, without doubt was true.

Forgetting the tale of this fabled temple, Rupert pursued his walk past the graves of some of the Khalifa's emirs who had been wounded in the battle of Toski, a few miles away, and when they succumbed, hastily buried where they died by their retreating comrades. He knew the man who lay beneath one of those rough piles of stones—a brave Dervish of high rank, who had very nearly put an end to himself and his earthly adventures. He could see the fellow coming at him now, yelling his war-cry and shaking his great spear. Luckily he had his revolver in his hand and was able to shoot before that spear fell. The bullet struck his enemy somewhere in the head, for he saw the blood appear and the man reel off from him as though he were drunk. Then he lost sight of him in the turmoil and slaughter, but afterwards was told that he died upon the retreat, and was shown his grave by a prisoner who had helped to bury him.

Whilst he was regarding it with the respect that one brave man has for another, even though that other be a cruel and fanatical heathen, Rupert became aware of a shadow falling upon him, which, from its long, ugly shape, he knew must be cast by a camel. Turning, he perceived a white dromedary bearing down upon him swiftly, its soft, sponge-like hoofs making so little noise upon the sand that he had never heard it coming. On the back of the camel sat an Arab sheik, who held three spears in his hand, one large and two small. Suspecting a sudden attack, as well might happen to him in that lonely place at the hands of a fanatic, he sprang back behind the grave and drew his pistol, whereon the man called out to him to put it up in the name of God as he came in peace, not war.

"Dismount," answered Rupert sternly, "and thrown down your spears."

The Arab stopped his dromedary, commanded it to kneel, and slipping from the saddle, laid down the spears and bowed himself humbly.

"What are your name and business," asked Rupert, "and why do you come on me thus alone?"

"Bey," he answered, "I am Ibrahim, the Sheik of the Land of the Sweet Wells out yonder. I came to your camp with my attendants, and being told that you were here upon the hill-top, followed to speak with you, if it pleases you to open your ears to me."

Rupert studied his visitor. He was a very handsome but cruel-looking man of about forty years of age, with flashing black eyes, a hooked nose, and a short, pointed beard which had begun to turn grey.

"I know you," he said. "You are a traitor to the Government of Egypt, from which you have taken many benefits. You received the Khalifa's General, Wad en-Negumi, and supplied him with food, water, and camels. Had it not been for you, perhaps he could not have advanced, and had it not been for you, many more of his people must have been captured. How dare you show your face to me?"

"Bey," said the Sheik humbly, "that story is not true. What I did for Abdullahi's soldiers, I did because I must, or die. May his name be accursed!" and he spat upon the ground. "Now I come to seek justice from you, who have power here."

"Go on," said Rupert; "you shall have justice, I promise you—if I can give it."

"Bey, a detachment of the Egyptian troops mounted upon camels have swept down upon me and robbed me. They have taken away all my sheep and most of the dromedaries, and killed three of my people who strove to protect them. More, they have insulted my women—yes, they, those dogs of Fellaheen. In the name of Allah, I pray you order that my property should be restored, or if you cannot do so, write to Cairo on my behalf, for I am a true man, and the Khedive is my lord and no other."

"Yet," answered Rupert, "yet, Sheik Ibrahim, I have seen a certain letter written by you to the impostor, Abdullahi, the Khalifa, in which you offer him assistance, should he invade Egypt and take the road that runs past the Sweet Wells."

Ibrahim's face fell. "That letter was forged," he said sullenly.

"Then, friend, how comes it that you know anything about it?" asked Rupert. "Get you back to your tribe, and be thankful that, now the Khedive is victorious, his soldiers did not take you as well as your sheep. Know that you are a man with a mark against his name, and bear yourself more faithfully, lest this should be your lot"—and with his foot he touched the grave of the emir across which they talked.

The Sheik made no answer. Going to his dromedary, he climbed into the saddle, bade the beast rise, and rode off a little way. At a distance of about forty yards, which doubtless he judged to be out of revolver shot, he halted and began a furious tirade of abuse.

"Infidel dog!" he shouted, with some added insults directed against Rupert's forbears; "you who stand there with your defiling foot upon the grave of the true believer whom you killed, hear me. You refuse me justice and accuse me of having helped the Khalifa. Be careful lest I should help him, I who am the Sheik of the Territories of the Sweet Wells, the road whereby he will come to take Egypt with fifty thousand dervishes at his back, who will not be fool enough to march down the river-bank and be shelled by your guns from steam-boats. My tribe is a strong one, and we live in a mountainous country whence we cannot be hunted, though your hounds of Fellaheen took us unawares the other day. Oh! be careful lest I should catch you, white Bey, whose face I shall not forget. If ever I do, I will pay you back for the affront you put upon me, a true man. I swear it by my father's head. Yes, then you shall choose between the faith and death; then you shall acknowledge that Mahomet is the prophet of Allah, you Cross-worshipping infidel, and that he whom you name an impostor shall drive you and all your foul race into the sea."

"You forget yourself, Sheik of the Sweet Wells," answered Rupert quietly, "and forget also that the future is the gift of God and not shaped by man. Begone, now! Begone at once, lest I, too, grow angry and summon my soldiers to take you and throw you in prison where you deserve to be. Off, and let me see your face no more, you who dare to threaten your sovereign, for I think that when we meet again it will be the herald of your death."

Ibrahim sat up upon his camel and opened his mouth to answer, but there was something in the stern, fateful bearing of the Englishman which seemed to quiet him. At any rate, he turned the beast and urging it to a trot, departed swiftly across the desert.

"A very dangerous man," reflected Rupert. "I will report the matter at once and have him looked after. I wish they had left his sheep and taken him, as no doubt he knows I said that they ought to do. Somehow, I don't feel as though I had seen the last of that fellow." Then dismissing the matter of this rebel sheik from his mind, he continued his walk and crossed the mountain plateau.

Presently Rupert came to the path by which he intended to descend. It was a strange one, none other than a perfect waterfall of golden and set at so steep an angle that the descent of it appeared dangerous, if not impossible, as would doubtless be the case had that slope been of rock. Being of sand, however, the feet of the traveller sink into it and so keep him from slipping. Then, if he is fortunate, for this thing does not always happen, he may enjoy a curious experience. As he moves transversely to and fro across the face of the slide, all about him the sand begins to flow like water, till at length it pours itself into the Nile below and is swept away. More, as it flows it sings, a very wild song, a moaning, melancholy noise that cannot be described on paper, which is caused, they say, by the vibration of the mountain rocks beneath the weight of the rolling sand. From time to time Rupert paused in his descent and listened to this strange, thrilling sound until it died away altogether, when wearying of the amusement, he scrambled down the rest of the hill-side and reached the bank of the Nile.

Here his reflections were again broken in upon, this time by a woman. Indeed he had seen her as he descended, and knew her at once for the old gipsy who for the past year or two had lived in a hovel close by, and earned, or appeared to earn her living by cultivating a strip of land upon the borders of the Nile. As it chanced, Rupert had been able a month or so before to secure repayment to her of the value of her little crop which had been eaten up by the transport animals, and the restoration of her milch goats that the soldiers had seized. From that moment the old woman had been his devoted friend, and often he would spend a pleasant hour in talking to her in her hut, or while she laboured in her garden.

To look at, Bakhita, for so she was named, was a curious person, quite distinct from the Egyptian and Soudanese women, being tall, thin, very light-coloured for an Eastern, with well-cut features and a bush of snow-white hair which hung down upon her shoulders. Indeed she was so different from themselves that she was known as the Gipsy by all the natives in the district, and consequently, of course, credited with various magical powers and much secret knowledge—with truth in the latter case.

Rupert greeted her in Arabic, which by now he spoke extraordinarily well, and held out his hand for her to shake. She took it, and bending down touched it with her lips.

"I was waiting for you, my father," she said.

"Supposing you call me 'your son,'" he answered, laughing, with a glance at her white locks.

"Oh!" she replied, "some of us have fathers that are not of the flesh. I am old, but perhaps your spirit is older than mine."

"All things are possible," said Rupert gravely. "But now, what is the business?"

"I fear I am too late with my business," she answered. "I came to warn you against the Sheik Ibrahim, who passed my hut a little while ago on his way to visit you at your camp. But you have already seen him, have you not?"

"Yes, Bakhita; but how do you know that?"

"Oh!" she replied evasively; "I heard his angry voice coming down the wind from the top of yonder hill. I think that he was threatening and cursing you."

Rupert nodded.

"I am sorry. I have known this man from childhood and his father before him, for he has done much hurt to my people, and would do more. That is why I live here; to watch him. He is a very evil man, cruel and full of the spirit of revenge. Also, it would have been well to speak him soft, for his tribe is strong and he may give trouble to the Government. It is true, as he says, that the soldiers did handle him with roughness, for one of them had grudges against him."

"What is said, is said," answered Rupert indifferently. "But tell me, mother, how do you come to know so much—about many things?"

"I? Oh! I sit by the river and listen, and the river tells me its tidings—tidings from the north, tidings from the south; the river tells me all. Although you white men cannot hear it, that old river has a voice for those whose ears are opened."

"And how about tidings from east and west where the river does not run?" asked Rupert, smiling.

"Tidings from the east and west? Oh! thence and thither blow the winds, and those whose eyes are opened, see more in them than dust. They have their voices too, those old, old winds, and they tell me tales of the kings of my people who are dead, and of the loves and wars of long ago."

Rupert laughed outright.

"You are a very clever woman, mother," he said; "but be careful that they don't arrest you as a Mahdist spy, for you won't be able to call the Nile and the Campsine wind as witnesses."

"Ah! you laugh at me," she answered, shaking her old head; "but you wonderful white folk have still much to learn from the East that was grey with time when the first of your forefathers yet lay within the womb. I tell you, Rupert Bey, that all Nature has its voices, and that some of them speak of the past, some of the present, and some of the future. Yes; even that moving sand down which you climbed but now has its own voice."

"I know that well enough, for I heard it, but I can't explain to you the reason in Arabic."

"You heard it; yes, and you would tell me that it is caused by sand rubbing up against rocks, or by rocks singing to the sound of the sand like a harp to the wind, and so, without doubt, it is. You heard the voice, wise white father, but tell me, did you understand its talk? Listen!" she went on, without waiting for an answer. "I, seated here watching you as you climbed, I heard what the sand said about you and others with whom your life has to do. Oh, no; I am not a common fortune-teller. I do not look at hands and make squares in the dust, or throw bones and pebbles, or gaze into pools of ink. Yet sometimes when the voice speaks to me, then I know, and never so well as of him whose feet are set upon the Singing Sand."

"Indeed, mother; and what was its song of me?"

"I shall not tell you," she answered, shaking her head. "It is not lawful that I should tell you, and if I did, you would only set me down as a common cheat—of whom there are many."

"What had the song of the sand to say of me?" he repeated carelessly, for he was only half-listening to her talk.

"Much, Rupert Bey," she answered; "much that is sad and more that is noble."

"Noble! That should mean the peerage at least. Well, everything considered, it is a pretty safe prophecy," he muttered to himself, with a laugh, and turned to leave her, then checked himself and asked; "Tell me, Bakhita, what do you know of the lost temple in the desert yonder?"

Instantly she became very attentive, and answered him with another question:

"How can I know anything of it, if it is lost? But what do you know?"

"I, mother? Nothing; I am interested by the story and in old temples, that is all, and I was certain that a person who can interpret the voices of the river, the winds, and the sands, must know all about it."

"Well, perhaps I do," she answered coolly. "Perhaps I would tell you also to whom I am so grateful. Come to my hut and we will see."

"No," he said, "not to-night. I must go back to my camp; I have letters to write. Another time, Bakhita."

"Very well, another time, and afterwards perhaps we may visit that temple together. Who can say? But I think that you will have letters to read as well as to write this evening. Listen!" and she held up her hand and bent her head towards the river.

"I hear nothing except a jackal howling," he answered.

"Don't you? I hear the beat of a steamer's paddles. She will be moored by Abu-Simbel in just three hours."

"Nonsense!" said Rupert. "I don't expect her for a week."

"People often get what they don't expect," she answered. "Good-night, Rupert Bey! All the gods that ever were in Egypt have you in their keeping till we meet again."

Then she turned without more words, and by the light of the risen moon began to pick her way swiftly among the rocks fallen from the cliff face, that lay on the brink of the flooded Nile, till half a mile or so further north she passed through the fence of her garden and came to her own mud hut.

Here Bakhita sat down on the ground by its door, and was very thoughtful whilst she awaited the coming of the steamer, of which either her own ears or perhaps some traveller had warned her. For Bakhita also expected a letter, or, at any rate, a message, and she was thinking of the writer or the sender.

"A mad whim," she said to herself. "Had not Tama wisdom enough of her own, which comes to her with her blood, that she needs must go to learn that of these white people, and to do so, leave her high place to mix even with the daughters of Fellaheen, and hide her beauty behind the yashmak of a worshipper of the false Prophet? Surely the god of our fathers must have struck her mad, and now she is in great danger at the hands of that dog Ibrahim. Yet, who knows? This madness may be true wisdom. Oh! there are things too high for me, nor can my skill read all her fate. So here at my post I bide to watch and learn as I was bidden."