Fortunately, its own lustre makes it visible in every part; the minuteness of our scrutiny need be limited only by our power of eye. It is cut with many facets,—twenty-seven, if you choose to count them; perhaps (though we little credit such fantasies) some mystic significance may be intended in this number. Concentrating now our attention upon any single facet, we see—either inscribed upon its surface, or showing through from the interior of the stone—a sort of monogram, or intricately designed character, not unlike the mysterious Chinese letters on tea-chests. Every facet has a similar figure, though no two are identical. But the central, the twenty-seventh facet, which is larger than the others, has an important peculiarity. Looking upon it, we find therein, concentrated and commingled, the other twenty-six characters; which, separately unintelligible, form, when thus united, a simple and consistent narrative, equivalent in extent to many hundred printed pages, and having for subject nothing less than the complete history of the ring itself.
Some small portion of this narrative—that, namely, which relates more particularly to the present wearer of the ring—we will glance at; the rest must be silence, although, going back as it does to the earliest records of the human race, many an interesting page must be skipped perforce.
The advantages to a historian of a medium such as this are too patent to need pointing out. Pretension and conjecture will be avoided, because unnecessary. The most trifling thought or deed of any person connected with the history of the ring is laid open to direct inspection. Were there more such talismans as this, the profession of authorship would become no less easy than delightful, and criticism would sting itself to death, in despair of better prey. So far as is known, however, the enchanted ring is unique of its kind, and, such as it is, is not likely to become common property.
Out of Egypt.
But the small hours of the morning are slipping away; we must construe our hieroglyphics without further palaver. The sleeper lies upon his side, his left hand resting near his face upon the pillow. Were he to move it ever so little during our examination, the history of years might be thrown into confusion. Nevertheless, we shall hope to touch upon all the more important points, and in some cases to go into details.
Concentrating our attention upon the central facet, its clear ray strikes the imagination, and forthwith transports us to a distant age and climate. The air is full of lazy warmth. A full-fed river, glassing the hot blue sky, slides in long curves through a low-lying, illimitable plain. The rich earth, green with mighty crops, everywhere exhales upward the quivering heat of her breath. An indolent, dark-skinned race, turbaned and scantly clothed, move through the meadows, splash in the river, and rest beneath the palm-trees, which meet in graceful clusters here and there, as if striving to get beneath one another’s shadow. Dirty villages swarm and babble on the river’s brink.