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IT HAPPENED IN EGYPT
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IT HAPPENED IN EGYPT

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IT HAPPENED IN EGYPT

C. N. WILLIAMSON

Produced by Suzanne Shell David Gundry Michael Lockey
Martin Agren Tonya Allen and PG Distributed Proofreaders

IT HAPPENED

IN

EGYPT

by

C.N. & A.M. Williamson

_Authors of_

"The Port of Adventure"

"The Heathen Moon" Etc.

1914

TO

D.D. AND F.C.J.

WHO WERE THERE WHEN

IT HAPPENED

[Illustration: "A man with a green turban?" I repeated. "Well I'll
take him."]

WE DEDICATE THIS STORY OF ADVENTURES GRAVE AND GAY IN EGYPT

CONTENTS

CHAPTER

I. The Secret and the Girl

II. Cleopatra and the Ship's Mystery

III. A Disappointment and a Dragoman

IV. A Man in a Green Turban

V. The Caf? of Abdullahi

VI. The Great Sir Marcus

VII. The Revelations of a Retired Colonel

VIII. Foxy Duffing

IX. What Happened When My Back Was Turned

X. The Secret Monny Kept

XI. The House of the Crocodile

XII. The Night of the Full Moon

XIII. An Underground Proposal

XIV. The Desert Diary Begun

XV. The Desert Diary to Its Bitter End

XVI. An Oiled Hand

XVII. The Ship's Mystery Again

XVIII. The Asiut Affair

XIX. "If at First You Don't Succeed"

XX. The Zone of Fire

XXI. The Opening Door

XXII. The Driver of an Arabeah

XXIII. Bengal Fire

XXIV. Playing Heavy Father to Rachel

XXV. Marooned

XXVI. What We Said: What We Heard

XXVII. The Inner Sanctuary

XXVIII. Worth Paying For

XXIX. Exit Antoun

XXX. The Sirdar's Ball

XXXI. The Mountain of the Golden Pyramid

XXXII. The Secret

IT HAPPENED IN EGYPT

CHAPTER I

THE SECRET AND THE GIRL

The exciting part began in Cairo; but perhaps I ought to go back to
what happened on the _Laconia_ between Naples and Alexandria. Luckily
no one can expect a man who actually rejoices in his nickname of
"Duffer" to know how or where a true story should begin.

The huge ship was passing swiftly out of the Bay of Naples and already
we were in the strait between Capri and the mainland. I had come on
deck from the smoking-room for a last look at poor Vesuvius who lost
her lovely head in the last eruption. I paced up and down acutely
conscious of my great secret the secret inspiring my voyage to Egypt.
For months it had been the hidden romance of life; now it began to seem
real. This is not the moment to tell how I got the papers that revealed
the secret before I passed them on to Anthony Fenton at Khartum for
him to say whether or not the notes were of real importance. But the
papers had been left in Rome by Ferlini the Italian Egyptologist
seventy years ago when he gave to the museum at Berlin the treasures
he had unearthed. It was Ferlini who ransacked the pyramids all about
Mero? that so-called island in the desert where in its days of
splendour reigned the queens Candace. Fenton stationed at Khartum an
eager dabbler in the old lore of Egypt sent me an enthusiastic
telegram the moment he read the documents. They confirmed legends of
the Sudan in which he had been interested. Putting two and two
together--the legends and Ferlini's notes--Anthony was convinced that
we had the clue to fortune. At once he applied for permission to
excavate under the little outlying mountain named by the desert folk
"the Mountain of the Golden Pyramid." At first the spot was thought to
fall within the province given up to Garstang digging for Liverpool
University. Later however the _Service des Antiquit?s_ pronounced the
place to be outside Garstang's borders and it seemed that luck was
coming our way. No one but we two--Fenton and I--had any inkling of
what might lie hidden in the Mountain of the Golden Pyramid. That was
the great secret! Then Fenton had gone to the Balkans on a flying trip
in every sense of the word. It was only a fortnight ago--I being then
in Rome--that I had had a wire from him in Salonica saying "Friends at
work to promote our scheme. Meet me on my return to Egypt." After that
several telegrams had been exchanged; and here I was on the _Laconia_
bound for the land of my birth full of hope and dreams.

For some moments distant Vesuvius had beguiled my thoughts from the
still more distant mountain of the secret when suddenly a white girl
in a white hood and a long white cloak passed me on the white deck:
whereupon I forgot mountains of reality and dreams. She was one of
those tall slim long-limbed dryad-sort of girls they are running up
nowadays in England and America with much success; and besides all
that she was an amazing symphony in white and gold against an azure
Italian sea and sky the two last being breezily jumbled together at
the moment for us on shipboard. She walked well in spite of the blue
turmoil; and if a fair girl with golden-brown hair gets herself up in
satiny white fur from head to foot she is evidently meant to be looked
at. Others were looking: also they were whispering after she went by:
and her serene air of being alone in a world made entirely for her
caused me to wonder if she were not Some One in Particular.

Just then a sweet soft voice said close to my ear:

"Why Duffer dear it can't possibly be you!"

I gave a jump for I hadn't heard that voice for many a year and
between the ages of four and fourteen I had been in love with it.

"Brigit O'Brien!" said I. Then I grabbed her two hands and shook them
as if her arms had been branches of a young cherry tree dropping
fruit.

"Why not Biddy?" she asked. "Or are ye wanting me to call ye Lord
Ernest?"

"Good heavens no! Once a Duffer always a Duffer" I assured her. "And
I've been thinking of you as Biddy from then till now. Only--"

"'Twas as clever a thing as a boy ever did" she broke in with one of
her smiles that no man ever forgets "to begin duffing at an early age
in order to escape all the professions and businesses your pastors and
masters proposed and go your own way. Are ye at it still?"

"Rather! But you? I want to talk to you."

"Then don't do it in a loud voice if you please because as you must
have realized if you've taken time to think I'm Mrs. Jones at
present."

"Why Jones?"

"Because Smith is engaged beforehand by too many people. Honestly
without joking I'm in danger here and everywhere and it's a wicked
selfish thing for me to come the way I have; but Rosamond Gilder is the
hardest girl to resist you ever saw so I'm with her; and it's a long
history."

"Rosamond Gilder? What--the Cannon Princess the Bertha Krupp of
America?"

"Yes the 'Gilded Babe' that used to be wheeled about in a caged
perambulator guarded by detectives: the 'Gilded Bud' whose coming out
in society was called the Million Dollar D?but: now she's just had her
twenty-first birthday and the Sunday Supplements have promoted her to
be the Golden Girl alternating with the Gilded Rose although she's
the simplest creature really with a tremendous sense of the
responsibility of her riches. Poor child! There she is walking toward
us now with those two young men. Of course young men! Droves of young
men! She can't get away from them any more than she can from her money.
No she's stopped to talk to Cleopatra."

"That tall white girl Rosamond Gilder! Just before you came I was
wondering who she was; and when you smiled at each other across the
deck it sprang into my mind that--that--"

"That what?"

"Oh it seems stupid now."

"Give me a chance to judge dear Duffer."

"Well seeing you and knowing--that is it occurred to me you might be
travelling with--the daughter of--your late--"

"Good heavens don't say any more! I've been frightened to death
somebody would get that brilliant notion in his head especially as
Monny and her aunt came on board the _Laconia_ only at Monaco. Esm?
O'Brien is in a convent school not thirty miles from there. But that's
the _deepest_ secret. Poor Peter Gilder's fears for his millionaire
girl would be child's play to what might happen before such a mistake
was found out if once it was made. That's just one of the hundred
reasons why it would be as safe for Monny Gilder to travel with a bomb
in her dressing-bag as to have me in her train of dependants. She
telegraphed to New York for me because of a stupid thing I said in a
letter about being lonely: though she pretends it would be too dull
journeying to such a romantic country alone with a mere aunt. And she
thinks I 'attract adventures.' It's only too true. But I couldn't
resist her. Nobody can. Why the first time I ever saw Monny she'd cast
herself down in a mud-puddle and was screaming and kicking because she
wanted to walk while one adoring father one sycophantic governess and
two trained nurses wanted her to get into an automobile. That was on my
honeymoon--heaven save the mark--! and Monny was nine. She has other
ways now of getting what she wants but they're even more effective. I
laughed at her that first time and she was so surprised at my
impudence she took a violent fancy to me. But I don't always laugh at
her now. Oh she's a perfect terror I assure you--and a still more
perfect darling! Such an angel of charity to the poor such a demon of
obstinacy with the rich! I worship her. So does Cleopatra. So does
everybody who doesn't hate her. So will you the minute you've been
introduced. And by the way why not? Why shouldn't I make myself useful
for once by arranging a match between Rosamond Gilder the prettiest
heiress in America and Lord Ernest Borrow of the oldest family in
Ireland?"

"And the poorest."

"All the more reason why. Don't you _see?_"

"She mightn't."

"Well what's the good of her having all that money if she doesn't get
hold of a really grand title to hang it on? I shall tell her that
Borrow comes down from Boru Brian Boru the rightful King of Ireland:
and when your brother dies you'll be Marquis of Killeena."

"He'll not die for thirty or forty years let's hope."

"Why hope it when he likes nobody and nobody likes him and everybody
likes you? He can't be happy. And anyhow isn't it worth a few millions
to be Lady Ernest Borrow and have the privilege of restoring the most
beautiful old castle in Ireland? I'm sure Killeena would let her."

"He would out of sheer weak kindness of heart! But she's far too
thickly gilded an heiress for me to aspire to. A few thousands a year
is my most ambitious figure for a wife. Look at the men collecting
around her and the wonderful lady you call Cleopatra. Why Cleopatra?
Did sponsors in baptism--"

"No they didn't. _Why_ she's Cleopatra is as weird a history as why
I'm Mrs. Jones. But she's Monny's aunt--at least she's a half-sister
of Peter Gilder and as his only living relative his will makes her
Monny's guardian till the girl marries or reaches twenty-five. A
strange guardian! But he didn't know she was going to turn into
Cleopatra. She wisely waited to do that until he was dead; so it came
on only a year ago. It was a Bond Street crystal-gazer transplanted to
Fifth Avenue told her who she really was: you know Sayda Sabri the
woman who has the illuminated mummy? It's Cleopatra's idea that Monny's
second mourning for Peter should be white nothing but white."

"Her idea! But I thought Miss Monny as you call her adopted only her
own ideas. How can a mere half-aunt labouring under the name of
Cleopatra force her--"

"Well you see white's very becoming; and as for the Cleopatra part
it pleases our princess to tolerate that. It's part of the queer
history that's mixing me up with the family. We've come to spend the
season in Egypt because Cleopatra thinks she's Cleopatra; also because
Monny (that's what she's chosen to call herself since she tried to lisp
'Resamond' and couldn't) because Monny has read 'The Garden of Allah'
and wants the 'desert to take her.' That book had nothing to do with
Egyptian deserts; but any desert will do for Monny. What she expects it
to do with her exactly when it has taken her on the strength of a Cook
ticket I don't quite know; but I may later because she vows she'll
keep me at her side with hooks of steel all through the tour--unless
something worse happens to me or to some of us _because_ of me."
"Biddy dear don't be morbid. Nothing bad will happen" I tried to
reassure her.

"Thank you for saying so. It cheers me up. We women folk are so in the
habit of believing anything you men folk tell us. It's really quaint!"

"Stop rotting and tell me about yourself; and a truce to heiresses and
Cleopatras. You know I'm dying to hear."

"Not a syllable until you've told me about _your_self. Where you're
going and what the dickens for!"

We laughed into each other's eyes. To do so I had to look a long way
down and she a long way up. This in itself is a pleasantly Victorian
thing for a man to do in these days of Jerrybuilt girls on the same
level or a story or two higher than himself. I'm not a tall man: just
the dull average five foot ten or eleven that appears taller while it
keeps lean--so naturally I have a hopeless yearning for nymph-like
creatures who pretend to be engaged when I ask them to dance. Still
there's consolation and homely comfort in talking with a little woman
who makes you feel the next best thing to a giant. Biddy is an
old-fashioned five foot four in her highest heels; and as she smiled up at
me I saw that she hadn't changed a jot in the last ten years despite
the tragedy that had involved her. Not a silver thread in the black
hair not a line on the creamy round face.

"You're just yourself" I said.

"I oughtn't to be. I know that very well. I ought to be a Dido and
Niobe and Cassandra rolled into one. I'm a brute not to be dead or look
a hag. I've gone through horrors and the secrets I know could put
dozens of people in prison if not electrocute them. But you see I'm
not the right type of person for the kind of life I've had as I should
be if I were in a story book and the author had created me to suit my
background. I can't help flapping up out of my own ashes before they're
cold. I can't help laughing in the face of fate."

"And looking a girl of twenty-three at most while you do it!"

"If I look a girl I must be a phenomenon as well as a phoenix for
nobody knows better than you that my Bible age is thirty-one if it's a
day. And I think Burke and Debrett have got the same tale to tell about
you eh?"

"They have. I was always delighted to share something with you."

"You can have the whole share of my age over twenty-six. There's one
advantage 'Mrs. Jones' has. She can if her looking-glass doesn't
forbid go back to that classic age dear to all sensible adventuresses.
I'm afraid I come under the head of adventuress with my alias and
travelling as companion to the rich Miss Gilder."

"You're the last person on earth for the part! Your fate was thrust on
you. You've thrust yourself on no one. Miss Gilder 'achieved' you."

"Collected me rather as one of her 'specimens.' She has a noble
weakness for lame ducks and though she fails sometimes in trying to
strengthen their game legs she tries gloriously. She and her aunt have
been travelling in France and Italy guided by instinct and French
maids and already Monny has picked up two weird _prot?g?es_ sure to
bring her to grief. The most exciting and deadly specimen is a
perfectly beautiful American girl just married to a Turkish Bey who met
her in Paris and is taking her home to Egypt. I haven't even seen the
unfortunate houri because the Turk has shut her up in their cabin and
pretends she's seasick. Monny doesn't believe in the seasickness and
sends secret notes in presents of flowers and boxes of chocolate. But I
have seen the Turk. He's pink and white and looks angelic except for a
gleam deep down in his eyes if Monny inquires after his wife when any
of her best young men are hanging about. Especially when there's Neill
Sheridan a young Egyptologist from Harvard Monny met in Paris or
Willis Bailey a fascinating sculptor who wants to study the crystal
eyes of wooden statues in the Museum at Cairo. He is going to make them
the fashion in America next year. Yes Madame Rechid Bey is a most
explosive _prot?g?e_ for a girl to have on her way to Egypt. I'm not
sure even I am not innocuous by comparison; though I do wish you hadn't
reminded me of my poor little step-daughter Esm? in her convent-school.
If any one should get the idea that Monny--but I won't put it
in words! Besides me and the brand-new bride of Rechid Bey ('Wretched
Bey' is our name for him) there's one more _prot?g?e_ a Miss Rachel
Guest from Salem Massachusetts a school-teacher taking her first
holiday. That _sounds_ harmless and it looks harmless to an amateur;
but wait till _you_ meet her and see what instinct tells you about her
eyes. Oh we shall have ructions! But that reminds me. You haven't told
me where you're bound--or anything."

"Thanks for putting me among the 'specimens.' But this sample hasn't
yet been collected by Miss Gilder."

"You might be her salvation and keep her out of mischief. She's quite
wild now with sheer joy because she's going to Egypt. But do be
serious and tell me all I pine to know if you want me to do the same
by you."

"Well--though it's unimportant compared to what you have to tell! I'm
an insignificant second secretary to Sir Raymond Ronalds the British
Ambassador at Rome. I've got four months' leave----"

"Ah _that's_ what comes of duffing so skilfully and avoiding all the
things you didn't want to do till you got exactly what you did want! I
remember when we were small boy and girl and you used to walk down to
the vicarage every day to talk Greek or Latin or something with
father----"

"No to see you!"

"Well you used to tell me if you couldn't be the greatest
prize-fighter or the greatest opera-singer in the world you thought
you'd like to be a diplomat.

"I haven't become a diplomat yet in spite of Foreign Office grubbing.
But I've been enjoying life pretty well fagging up Arabic and modern
Greek and playing about with pleasant people while pretending to do
my duty. Now I've got leave on account of a mild fever which turned out
a blessing in disguise. I could have found no other excuse for Egypt
this winter."

"You speak as if you had some special reason for going to Egypt."

"I've been wishing to go more or less for years because you know--if
you haven't forgotten--I was accidentally born in Cairo while my father
was fighting in Alexandria. My earliest recollections are of Egypt for
we lived there till I was four--about the time I met and fell in love
with you. I've always thought I'd like to polish up old memories. But
...



 

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