Egypt (La Mort de Philae) eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 193 pages of information about Egypt (La Mort de Philae).

In the next coffin lies his father, Seti I., who reigned for a much shorter period, and died much younger than he.  This youthfulness is apparent still in the features of the mummy, which are impressed besides with a persistent beauty.  Indeed this good King Seti looks the picture of calm and serene reverie.  There is nothing shocking in his dead face, with its long closed eyes, its delicate lips, its noble chin and unblemished profile.  It is soothing and pleasant even to see him sleeping there with his hands crossed upon his breast.  And it seems strange, that he, who looks so young, should have for son the old man, almost a centenarian, who lies beside him.

In our passage we have gazed on many other royal mummies, some tranquil and some grimacing.  But, to finish, there is one of them (the third coffin there, in the row in front of us), a certain Queen Nsitanebashru, whom I approach with fear, albeit it is mainly on her account that I have ventured to make this fantastical round.  Even in the daytime she attains to the maximum of horror that a spectral figure can evoke.  What will she be like to-night in the uncertain light of our little lantern?

There she is indeed, the dishevelled vampire in her place right enough, stretched at full length, but looking always as if she were about to leap up; and straightway I meet the sidelong glance of her enamelled pupils, shining out of half-closed eyelids, with lashes that are still almost perfect.  Oh! the terrifying person!  Not that she is ugly, on the contrary we can see that she was rather pretty and was mummied young.  What distinguishes her from the others is her air of thwarted anger, of fury, as it were, at being dead.  The embalmers have coloured her very religiously, but the pink, under the action of the salts of the skin, has become decomposed here and there and given place to a number of green spots.  Her naked shoulders, the height of the arms above the rags which were once her splendid shroud, have still a certain sleek roundness, but they, too, are stained with greenish and black splotches, such as may be seen on the skins of snakes.  Assuredly no corpse, either here or elsewhere, has ever preserved such an expression of intense life, of ironical, implacable ferocity.  Her mouth is twisted in a little smile of defiance; her nostrils pinched like those of a ghoul on the scent of blood, and her eyes seem to say to each one who approaches:  “Yes, I am laid in my coffin; but you will very soon see I can get out of it.”  There is something confusing in the thought that the menace of this terrible expression, and this appearance of ill-restrained ferocity had endured for some hundreds of years before the commencement of our era, and endured to no purpose in the secret darkness of a closed coffin at the bottom of some doorless vault.

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Egypt (La Mort de Philae) from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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