“You must be our dragoman, Mr. Hill; I understand you are up on all this,” said the lady, adhering closely to his side. “Where are we now?”
“Temple of Khonsu,” said Billy with bitter brevity. Ahead of them Arlee’s blonde head was uptilted toward Falconer’s remarks.
“Khonsu? I never heard of him! Or is it her?” Lady Claire laughingly demanded.
“Khonsu is the son of the god, Amon, or Amon-Ra, and the goddess, Mut, and so is the third person of the trinity of Thebes,” Billy pedagogically recited, his eyes on the little white shoes ahead picking their delicate way over the fallen stones. “This temple at Karnak is the temple of the god Amon, and so it was natural for old Rameses the third to put the temple to Khonsu under the father’s wing like this—but it spoils the effect of the entrance from this pylon. You don’t get Karnak’s bigness at a burst—but wait till you reach the court ahead. Then you’ll see Karnak.”
And then they did see it—as much as one view can give of that vast desolation. Ahead of them, shadowy and mysterious in the velvet dark and silver pallor of the stars, loomed the columns of the great court, huge monoliths that dwarfed to pigmies the tiny groups of people dotting the ground about them, trying to say something appropriate.
The place had been made for dead and gone gods, giants of gods, and their spirits stalked now through its waste spaces, dominating and ironic. There was an air about the place that seemed to scorn the facile awe it woke in the breasts of the beholders and that fleered at the human banalities upon their lips.
“There are no words for a spot like this,” said a voice near them.
“Silence is fittest,” corroborated a second voice.
“Thomas Hardy once said, speaking of the heavens,” said the first voice again, “’There is a size at which dignity begins; farther on there is a size at which grandeur begins; farther on there is a size at which solemnity begins; farther on a size at which awfulness begins; farther on a size at which ghastliness begins.’ Surely that was written unknowingly for this temple of Karnak?”
A fluttering murmur from the group confirmed this thought.
“Nice little speech,” said Falconer in an undertone.
The second voice was raised a trifle resentfully. “Yet was not the very pith of it spoken by Ruskin when he stood upon this identical spot? His words were these, ‘At last size tells!’”
Another murmur agreed that it was indeed the pith.
“That’s Clara Eversham,” said Arlee under her breath. “They came over early with some people from the boat.”
“She must be frightfully up on the guide books,” muttered Falconer.
“She’s a miner in them,” Arlee laughed, as they made their way over the rubbishy ground where great beams of stone and fallen statues lay half-buried in the sands.
“They must be very glad to have you back again with them,” Falconer told her, trying hard to keep their progress ahead of the others.