“Hum,” he said, “whatever it is, this is not a copy of the ’Book of the Dead.’ By George, what’s this? Cle—Cleo—Cleopatra——Why, my dear Sirs, as I am a living man, this is the history of somebody who lived in the days of Cleopatra, the Cleopatra, for here’s Antony’s name with hers! Well, there’s six months’ work before me here—six months, at the very least!” And in that joyful prospect he fairly lost control of himself, and skipped about the room, shaking hands with us at intervals, and saying “I’ll translate—I’ll translate it if it kills me, and we will publish it; and, by the living Osiris, it shall drive every Egyptologist in Europe mad with envy! Oh, what a find! what a most glorious find!”
And O you whose eyes fall upon these pages, see, they have been translated, and they have been printed, and here they lie before you—an undiscovered land wherein you are free to travel!
Harmachis speaks to you from his forgotten tomb. The walls of Time fall down, and, as at the lightning’s leap, a picture from the past starts upon your view, framed in the darkness of the ages.
He shows you those two Egypts which the silent pyramids looked down upon long centuries ago—the Egypt of the Greek, the Roman, and the Ptolemy, and that other outworn Egypt of the Hierophant, hoary with years, heavy with the legends of antiquity and the memory of long-lost honours.
He tells you how the smouldering loyalty of the land of Khem blazed up before it died, and how fiercely the old Time-consecrated Faith struggled against the conquering tide of Change that rose, like Nile at flood, and drowned the ancient Gods of Egypt.
Here, in his pages, you shall learn the glory of Isis the Many-shaped, the Executrix of Decrees. Here you shall make acquaintance with the shade of Cleopatra, that “Thing of Flame,” whose passion-breathing beauty shaped the destiny of Empires. Here you shall read how the soul of Charmion was slain of the sword her vengeance smithied.
Here Harmachis, the doomed Egyptian, being about to die, salutes you who follow on the path he trod. In the story of his broken years he shows to you what may in its degree be the story of your own. Crying aloud from that dim Amenti[*] where to-day he wears out his long atoning time, he tells, in the history of his fall, the fate of him who, however sorely tried, forgets his God, his Honour, and his Country.
[*] The Egyptian Hades or Purgatory.—Editor.
BOOK I—THE PREPARATION OF HARMACHIS
Of the birth of Harmachis; the prophecy of the Hathors; and the slaying of the innocent child
By Osiris who sleeps at Abouthis, I write the truth.