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Показать все книги автора/авторов: Peters Elizabeth
 

«The Golden One», Elizabeth Peters

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TO TRACEY

We praise the Golden One, the Lady of Heaven, Lady of Fragrance, Eye of the Sun, the Great Goddess, Mistress of All the Gods,Lady of Turquoise, Mistress of Joy, Mistress of Music…that she may give us fine children, happiness, and a good husband.

– Epithets of Hathor, compiled from various sources

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

To err is human, and I am and I do, despite the fact that I go to considerable effort to get even small details right. I do not scruple to make use of my friends in this endeavor; several of them have read all or part of the manuscript and made suggestions. I am particularly indebted to Tim Hardman and Ann Crispin, for setting me straight on the (to me) esoteric subject of horses and cavalry. Catharine Roehrig, one of the few Egyptologists who have visited the area of the southwest wadis, was good enough to tell me where I went wrong in my initial description. Donald Ryan, one of the few others, also corrected mistakes in his usual tactful manner. Dennis Forbes, George Johnson, and Kristen Whitbread read the entire bulky manuscript and offered advice. If errors remain, they are mine, and not those of my advisers.

PREFACE

The Editor is pleased to present another of the journals of Mrs. Amelia Peabody Emerson, Egyptologist, adventurer, wife, and mother. (She would, the Editor believes, approve that order.) Editing her prose is no easy task, for the original text contains some misinformation, a great deal of repetition, and certain omissions. In order to repair the latter fault, the Editor has, as before, inserted sections from Manuscript H, begun by Ramses Emerson at approximately the age of sixteen, and continued by him and his wife after their marriage. This manuscript describes events at which Mrs. Emerson was not present, and gives a viewpoint differing in significant ways from hers. She was an extremely opinionated lady.

The rest of the Emerson papers are still being studied, collated, and edited. Material from these sources has appeared in earlier volumes (and may appear in the future), but none of it adds anything relevant to the present volume.

PART ONE. The Cemeteryof the Monkeys

1

When I am in one of my philosophical moods, I am inclined to wonder whether all families are as difficult as mine.

I was in such a mood as I dressed for dinner on the penultimate evening of our voyage. We would dock at Alexandria in two days, unless, of course, the ship was sunk by a German torpedo. A winter voyage from England to Egypt is never comfortable; but in that fateful December of 1916, after more than two years of war, the possibility of submarine attack had been added to the perils of rough seas and stormy weather.

I was not thinking of that danger – for I make it a habit never to worry about matters that are beyond my control – nor of the difficulty of trying to keep my footing while the floor of the cabin rose and fell and the oil lamps swung wildly on their brackets – for mine is the sort of mind that rises above such things – but perhaps these considerations did affect me more than I realized, giving a pessimistic cast to my normally cheerful reflections.

Mind you, I had no legitimate grounds for complaint about my immediate family. My husband, Radcliffe Emerson, is the most distinguished Egyptologist of this or any other era. His sapphirine-blue eyes, the cleft, or dimple, in his strong chin, his thick sable hair, and muscular but symmetrical frame are additional attractions to me and, I regret to say, to innumerable other females.

He has a few minor eccentricities: his command of invective, which has earned him the Egyptian sobriquet of Father of Curses, his explosive temper, his autocratic, arbitrary method of dealing with the authorities of the Service des Antiquités, which had led in the past to our being barred from most of the interesting sites in Egypt…

Well, but no proud mother could have asked for a better son than mine. Ramses had been named for his Uncle Walter, but everyone called him by the nickname given him by his father in infancy. He was as handsome and intellectually gifted as his father, idealistic, kind, and courageous… A little too courageous, perhaps? He had been one of the most infuriating children I have ever had the misfortune to encounter, and his reckless disregard for danger, when he believed the cause he supported to be morally right, was one trait that I had been unable to eradicate. The most terrifying of his adventures had occurred during the winter of 1914-15, when he had taken on a secret assignment for the War Office. He and his best friend, David, had completed their mission successfully, but both had been seriously injured, and Ramses’s true identity had been exposed to agents of the Central Powers. I had hoped his marriage would sober him, but although he was as passionately attached to his beautiful wife as Emerson was to my humble self, Nefret had not been the calming influence for which I had hoped. She would have thrown herself in front of a charging lion if Ramses were its destined prey, but what I wanted was someone who would prevent him from provoking lions in the first place.

Nefret had been our ward, dear as a daughter, before she married our son. As a firm believer in the equality of the female gender, I could only approve the determination with which she had achieved against considerable odds her goal of qualifying as a surgeon. As a person of high moral principles I could only commend her for spending part of her large fortune in establishing in Cairo a hospital for women that served even the lowest and most despised members of that sex. If only she would consent to settle down – devote her ardent energies to medicine and to archaeology, and to Ramses – and perhaps…

The boat gave a great lurch and I dropped the earring I was endeavoring to insert. With a muttered “Curse it” I lowered myself to hands and knees and began feeling about on the floor – without, I hardly need say, losing the track of my mental musing.

Honesty compels me to admit that the propensity of my son and daughter to become engaged with individuals who desired to wreak grave bodily harm upon them was not entirely their fault. Emerson and I tended to attract such individuals too. Over the years we had dealt – effectively, I hardly need add – with murderers, forgers, tomb robbers, and criminals of various sorts. Several of them had been related to us.


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