absolutely and utterly impossible. It must be
a hoax, and yet, if it were a hoax, what was I to
make of it? What, too, was to be said of the
figures on the water, of the woman’s extraordinary
acquaintance with the remote past, and her ignorance,
or apparent ignorance, of any subsequent history?
What, too, of her wonderful and awful loveliness?
This, at any rate, was a patent fact, and beyond the
experience of the world. No merely mortal woman
could shine with such a supernatural radiance.
About that she had, at any rate, been in the right—it
was not safe for any man to look upon such beauty.
I was a hardened vessel in such matters, having, with
the exception of one painful experience of my green
and tender youth, put the softer sex (I sometimes
think that this is a misnomer) almost entirely out
of my thoughts. But now, to my intense horror,
that I could never put away the vision
of those glorious eyes; and alas! the very diablerie
of the woman, whilst it horrified and repelled, attracted
in even a greater degree. A person with the experience
of two thousand years at her back, with the command
of such tremendous powers, and the knowledge of a
mystery that could hold off death, was certainly worth
falling in love with, if ever woman was. But,
alas! it was not a question of whether or no she was
worth it, for so far as I could judge, not being versed
in such matters, I, a fellow of my college, noted for
what my acquaintances are pleased to call my misogyny,
and a respectable man now well on in middle life,
had fallen absolutely and hopelessly in love with
this white sorceress. Nonsense; it must be nonsense!
She had warned me fairly, and I had refused to take
the warning. Curses on the fatal curiosity that
is ever prompting man to draw the veil from woman,
and curses on the natural impulse that begets it!
It is the cause of half—ay, and more than
half—of our misfortunes. Why cannot
man be content to live alone and be happy, and let
the women live alone and be happy too? But perhaps
they would not be happy, and I am not sure that we
should either. Here is a nice state of affairs.
I, at my age, to fall a victim to this modern Circe!
But then she was not modern, at least she said not.
She was almost as ancient as the original Circe.
I tore my hair, and jumped up from my couch, feeling
that if I did not do something I should go off my
head. What did she mean about the scarabaeus
too? It was Leo’s scarabaeus, and had come
out of the old coffer that Vincey had left in my rooms
nearly one-and-twenty years before. Could it
be, after all, that the whole story was true, and
the writing on the sherd was not a forgery,
or the invention of some crack-brained, long-forgotten
individual? And if so, could it be that Leo
was the man that She was waiting for—the
dead man who was to be born again! Impossible!
The whole thing was gibberish! Who ever heard
of a man being born again?