The guard who has brought us hither shouts in his Bedouin falsetto, in order to get the light switched on again, but the infinite thickness of the walls, instead of prolonging the vibrations, seems to deaden them; and besides, who could hear us, in the depths where we now are? Then, groping in the absolute darkness, he makes his way up the sloping passage. The hurried patter of his sandals and the flapping of his burnous grow faint in the distance, and the cries that he continues to utter sound so smothered to us soon that we might ourselves be buried. And meanwhile we do not move. But how comes it that it is so hot amongst these mummies? It seems as if there were fires burning in some oven close by. And above all there is a want of air. Perhaps the corridors, after our passage, have contracted, as happens sometimes in the anguish of dreams. Perhaps the long fissure by which we have crawled hither, perhaps it has closed in upon us.
But at length the cries of alarm are heard and the light is turned on again. The three corpses have not profited by the unguarded moments to attempt any aggressive movement. Their positions, their expressions have not changed: the queen calm and beautiful as ever; the man eating still the corner of his rags to stifle the mad laughter of thirty-three centuries.
The Bedouin is now returned, breathless from his journey. He urges us to come to see the king before the electric light is again extinguished, and this time for good and all. Behold us now at the end of the hall, on the edge of a dark crypt, leaning over and peering within. It is a place oval in form, with a vault of a funereal black, relieved by frescoes, either white or of the colour of ashes. They represent, these frescoes, a whole new register of gods and demons, some slim and sheathed narrowly like mummies, others with big heads and big bellies like hippopotami. Placed on the ground and watched from above by all these figures is an enormous sarcophagus of stone, wide open; and in it we can distinguish vaguely the outline of a human body: the Pharaoh!
At least we should have liked to see him better. The necessary light is forthcoming at once: the Bedouin Grand Master of Ceremonies touches an electric button and a powerful lamp illumines the face of Amenophis, detailing with a clearness that almost frightens you the closed eyes, the grimacing countenance, and the whole of the sad mummy. This theatrical effect took us by surprise; we were not prepared for it.
He was buried in magnificence, but the pillagers have stripped him of everything, even of his beautiful breastplate of tortoiseshell, which came to him from a far-off Oriental country, and for many centuries now he has slept half naked on his rags. But his poor bouquet is there still—of mimosa, recognisable even now, and who will ever tell what pious or perhaps amorous hand it was that gathered these flowers for him more than three thousand years ago.