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She - Chapter III - THE SHERD OF AMENARTAS Post by :johnjg Category :Long Stories Author :H. Rider Haggard Date :May 2011 Read :925

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She - Chapter III - THE SHERD OF AMENARTAS

On the day preceding Leo's twenty-fifth birthday we both journeyed to
London, and extracted the mysterious chest from the bank where I had
deposited it twenty years before. It was, I remember, brought up by
the same clerk who had taken it down. He perfectly remembered having
hidden it away. Had he not done so, he said, he should have had
difficulty in finding it, it was so covered up with cobwebs.

In the evening we returned with our precious burden to Cambridge, and
I think that we might both of us have given away all the sleep we got
that night and not have been much the poorer. At daybreak Leo arrived
in my room in a dressing-gown, and suggested that we should at once
proceed to business. I scouted the idea as showing an unworthy
curiosity. The chest had waited twenty years, I said, so it could very
well continue to wait until after breakfast. Accordingly at nine--an
unusually sharp nine--we breakfasted; and so occupied was I with my
own thoughts that I regret to state that I put a piece of bacon into
Leo's tea in mistake for a lump of sugar. Job, too, to whom the
contagion of excitement had, of course, spread, managed to break the
handle off my Sèvres china tea-cup, the identical one I believe that
Marat had been drinking from just before he was stabbed in his bath.

At last, however, breakfast was cleared away, and Job, at my request,
fetched the chest, and placed it upon the table in a somewhat gingerly
fashion, as though he mistrusted it. Then he prepared to leave the
room.

"Stop a moment, Job," I said. "If Mr. Leo has no objection, I should
prefer to have an independent witness to this business, who can be
relied upon to hold his tongue unless he is asked to speak."

"Certainly, Uncle Horace," answered Leo; for I had brought him up to
call me uncle--though he varied the appellation somewhat
disrespectfully by calling me "old fellow," or even "my avuncular
relative."

Job touched his head, not having a hat on.

"Lock the door, Job," I said, "and bring me my despatch-box."

He obeyed, and from the box I took the keys that poor Vincey, Leo's
father, had given me on the night of his death. There were three of
them; the largest a comparatively modern key, the second an
exceedingly ancient one, and the third entirely unlike anything of the
sort that we had ever seen before, being fashioned apparently from a
strip of solid silver, with a bar placed across to serve as a handle,
and leaving some nicks cut in the edge of the bar. It was more like a
model of an antediluvian railway key than anything else.

"Now are you both ready?" I said, as people do when they are going to
fire a mine. There was no answer, so I took the big key, rubbed some
salad oil into the wards, and after one or two bad shots, for my hands
were shaking, managed to fit it, and shoot the lock. Leo bent over and
caught the massive lid in both his hands, and with an effort, for the
hinges had rusted, forced it back. Its removal revealed another case
covered with dust. This we extracted from the iron chest without any
difficulty, and removed the accumulated filth of years from it with a
clothes-brush.

It was, or appeared to be, of ebony, or some such close-grained black
wood, and was bound in every direction with flat bands of iron. Its
antiquity must have been extreme, for the dense heavy wood was in
parts actually commencing to crumble from age.

"Now for it," I said, inserting the second key.

Job and Leo bent forward in breathless silence. The key turned, and I
flung back the lid, and uttered an exclamation, and no wonder, for
inside the ebony case was a magnificent silver casket, about twelve
inches square by eight high. It appeared to be of Egyptian
workmanship, and the four legs were formed of Sphinxes, and the dome-
shaped cover was also surmounted by a Sphinx. The casket was of course
much tarnished and dinted with age, but otherwise in fairly sound
condition.

I drew it out and set it on the table, and then, in the midst of the
most perfect silence, I inserted the strange-looking silver key, and
pressed this way and that until at last the lock yielded, and the
casket stood before us. It was filled to the brim with some brown
shredded material, more like vegetable fibre than paper, the nature of
which I have never been able to discover. This I carefully removed to
the depth of some three inches, when I came to a letter enclosed in an
ordinary modern-looking envelope, and addressed in the handwriting of
my dead friend Vincey.

"To my son Leo, should he live to open this casket."

I handed the letter to Leo, who glanced at the envelope, and then put
it down upon the table, making a motion to me to go on emptying the
casket.

The next thing that I found was a parchment carefully rolled up. I
unrolled it, and seeing that it was also in Vincey's handwriting, and
headed, "Translation of the Uncial Greek Writing on the Potsherd," put
it down by the letter. Then followed another ancient roll of
parchment, that had become yellow and crinkled with the passage of
years. This I also unrolled. It was likewise a translation of the same
Greek original, but into black-letter Latin, which at the first glance
from the style and character appeared to me to date from somewhere
about the beginning of the sixteenth century. Immediately beneath this
roll was something hard and heavy, wrapped up in yellow linen, and
reposing upon another layer of the fibrous material. Slowly and
carefully we unrolled the linen, exposing to view a very large but
undoubtedly ancient potsherd of a dirty yellow colour! This potsherd
had in my judgment, once been a part of an ordinary amphora of medium
size. For the rest, it measured ten and a half inches in length by
seven in width, was about a quarter of an inch thick, and densely
covered on the convex side that lay towards the bottom of the box with
writing in the later uncial Greek character, faded here and there, but
for the most part perfectly legible, the inscription having evidently
been executed with the greatest care, and by means of a reed pen, such
as the ancients often used. I must not forget to mention that in some
remote age this wonderful fragment had been broken in two, and
rejoined by means of cement and eight long rivets. Also there were
numerous inscriptions on the inner side, but these were of the most
erratic character, and had clearly been made by different hands and in
many different ages, and of them, together with the writings on the
parchments, I shall have to speak presently.

"Is there anything more?" asked Leo, in a kind of excited whisper.

I groped about, and produced something hard, done up in a little linen
bag. Out of the bag we took first a very beautiful miniature done upon
ivory, and secondly, a small chocolate-coloured composition
/scarabæus/, marked thus:--

(sketch omitted)

symbols which, we have since ascertained, mean "Suten se Ra," which is
being translated the "Royal Son of Ra or the Sun." The miniature was a
picture of Leo's Greek mother--a lovely, dark-eyed creature. On the
back of it was written, in poor Vincey's handwriting, "My beloved
wife."

"That is all," I said.

"Very well," answered Leo, putting down the miniature, at which he had
been gazing affectionately; "and now let us read the letter," and
without further ado he broke the seal, and read aloud as follows:--

"My Son Leo,--When you open this, if you ever live to do so, you
will have attained to manhood, and I shall have been long enough
dead to be absolutely forgotten by nearly all who knew me. Yet in
reading it remember that I have been, and for anything you know
may still be, and that in it, through this link of pen and paper,
I stretch out my hand to you across the gulf of death, and my
voice speaks to you from the silence of the grave. Though I am
dead, and no memory of me remains in your mind, yet am I with you
in this hour that you read. Since your birth to this day I have
scarcely seen your face. Forgive me this. Your life supplanted the
life of one whom I loved better than women are often loved, and
the bitterness of it endureth yet. Had I lived I should in time
have conquered this foolish feeling, but I am not destined to
live. My sufferings, physical and mental, are more than I can
bear, and when such small arrangements as I have to make for your
future well-being are completed it is my intention to put a period
to them. May God forgive me if I do wrong. At the best I could not
live more than another year."

"So he killed himself," I exclaimed. "I thought so."

"And now," Leo went on, without replying, "enough of myself. What
has to be said belongs to you who live, not to me, who am dead,
and almost as much forgotten as though I had never been. Holly, my
friend (to whom, if he will accept the trust, it is my intention
to confide you), will have told you something of the extraordinary
antiquity of your race. In the contents of this casket you will
find sufficient to prove it. The strange legend that you will find
inscribed by your remote ancestress upon the potsherd was
communicated to me by my father on his deathbed, and took a strong
hold in my imagination. When I was only nineteen years of age I
determined, as, to his misfortune, did one of our ancestors about
the time of Elizabeth, to investigate its truth. Into all that
befell me I cannot enter now. But this I saw with my own eyes. On
the coast of Africa, in a hitherto unexplored region, some
distance to the north of where the Zambesi falls into the sea,
there is a headland, at the extremity of which a peak towers up,
shaped like the head of a negro, similar to that of which the
writing speaks. I landed there, and learnt from a wandering
native, who had been cast out by his people because of some crime
which he had committed, that far inland are great mountains,
shaped like cups, and caves surrounded by measureless swamps. I
learnt also that the people there speak a dialect of Arabic, and
are ruled over by a /beautiful white woman/ who is seldom seen by
them, but who is reported to have power over all things living and
dead. Two days after I had ascertained this the man died of fever
contracted in crossing the swamps, and I was forced by want of
provisions and by symptoms of an illness which afterwards
prostrated me to take to my dhow again.

"Of the adventures that befell me after this I need not now speak.
I was wrecked upon the coast of Madagascar, and rescued some
months afterwards by an English ship that brought me to Aden,
whence I started for England, intending to prosecute my search as
soon as I had made sufficient preparations. On my way I stopped in
Greece, and there, for 'Omnia vincit amor,' I met your beloved
mother, and married her, and there you were born and she died.
Then it was that my last illness seized me, and I returned hither
to die. But still I hoped against hope, and set myself to work to
learn Arabic, with the intention, should I ever get better, of
returning to the coast of Africa, and solving the mystery of which
the tradition has lived so many centuries in our family. But I
have not got better, and, so far as I am concerned, the story is
at an end.

"For you, however, my son, it is not at an end, and to you I hand
on these the results of my labour, together with the hereditary
proofs of its origin. It is my intention to provide that they
shall not be put into your hands until you have reached an age
when you will be able to judge for yourself whether or no you will
choose to investigate what, if it is true, must be the greatest
mystery in the world, or to put it by as an idle fable,
originating in the first place in a woman's disordered brain.

"I do not believe that it is a fable; I believe that if it can only
be re-discovered there is a spot where the vital forces of the
world visibly exist. Life exists; why therefore should not the
means of preserving it indefinitely exist also? But I have no wish
to prejudice your mind about the matter. Read and judge for
yourself. If you are inclined to undertake the search, I have so
provided that you will not lack for means. If, on the other hand,
you are satisfied that the whole thing is a chimera, then, I
adjure you, destroy the potsherd and the writings, and let a cause
of troubling be removed from our race for ever. Perhaps that will
be wisest. The unknown is generally taken to be terrible, not as
the proverb would infer, from the inherent superstition of man,
but because it so often /is/ terrible. He who would tamper with
the vast and secret forces that animate the world may well fall a
victim to them. And if the end were attained, if at last you
emerged from the trial ever beautiful and ever young, defying time
and evil, and lifted above the natural decay of flesh and
intellect, who shall say that the awesome change would prove a
happy one? Choose, my son, and may the Power who rules all things,
and who says 'thus far shalt thou go, and thus much shalt thou
learn,' direct the choice to your own happiness and the happiness
of the world, which, in the event of your success, you would one
day certainly rule by the pure force of accumulated experience.--
Farewell!"

Thus the letter, which was unsigned and undated, abruptly ended.

"What do you make of that, Uncle Holly," said Leo, with a sort of
gasp, as he replaced it on the table. "We have been looking for a
mystery, and we certainly seem to have found one."

"What do I make of it? Why, that your poor dear father was off his
head, of course," I answered, testily. "I guessed as much that night,
twenty years ago, when he came into my room. You see he evidently
hurried his own end, poor man. It is absolute balderdash."

"That's it, sir!" said Job, solemnly. Job was a most matter-of-fact
specimen of a matter-of-fact class.

"Well, let's see what the potsherd has to say, at any rate," said Leo,
taking up the translation in his father's writing, and commencing to
read:--

"I, Amenartas, of the Royal House of the Pharaohs of Egypt, wife of
Kallikrates (the Beautiful in Strength), a Priest of Isis whom the
gods cherish and the demons obey, being about to die, to my little
son Tisisthenes (the Mighty Avenger). I fled with thy father from
Egypt in the days of Nectanebes,(*) causing him through love to
break the vows that he had vowed. We fled southward, across the
waters, and we wandered for twice twelve moons on the coast of
Libya (Africa) that looks towards the rising sun, where by a river
is a great rock carven like the head of an Ethiopian. Four days on
the water from the mouth of a mighty river were we cast away, and
some were drowned and some died of sickness. But us wild men took
through wastes and marshes, where the sea fowl hid the sky,
bearing us ten days' journey till we came to a hollow mountain,
where a great city had been and fallen, and where there are caves
of which no man hath seen the end; and they brought us to the
Queen of the people who place pots upon the heads of strangers,
who is a magician having a knowledge of all things, and life and
loveliness that does not die. And she cast eyes of love upon thy
father, Kallikrates, and would have slain me, and taken him to
husband, but he loved me and feared her, and would not. Then did
she take us, and lead us by terrible ways, by means of dark magic,
to where the great pit is, in the mouth of which the old
philosopher lay dead, and showed to us the rolling Pillar of Life
that dies not, whereof the voice is as the voice of thunder; and
she did stand in the flames, and come forth unharmed, and yet more
beautiful. Then did she swear to make thy father undying even as
she is, if he would but slay me, and give himself to her, for me
she could not slay because of the magic of my own people that I
have, and that prevailed thus far against her. And he held his
hand before his eyes to hide her beauty, and would not. Then in
her rage did she smite him by her magic, and he died; but she wept
over him, and bore him thence with lamentations: and being afraid,
me she sent to the mouth of the great river where the ships come,
and I was carried far away on the ships where I gave thee birth,
and hither to Athens I came at last after many wanderings. Now I
say to thee, my son, Tisisthenes, seek out the woman, and learn
the secret of Life, and if thou mayest find a way slay her,
because of thy father Kallikrates; and if thou dost fear or fail,
this I say to all thy seed who come after thee, till at last a
brave man be found among them who shall bathe in the fire and sit
in the place of the Pharaohs. I speak of those things, that though
they be past belief, yet I have known, and I lie not."

(*) Nekht-nebf, or Nectanebo II., the last native Pharaoh of Egypt,
fled from Ochus to Ethiopia, B.C. 339.--Editor.

"May the Lord forgive her for that," groaned Job, who had been
listening to this marvellous composition with his mouth open.

As for myself, I said nothing: my first idea being that my poor
friend, being demented, had composed the whole thing, though it
scarcely seemed likely that such a story could have been invented by
anybody. It was too original. To solve my doubts I took up the
potsherd and began to read the close uncial Greek writing on it; and
very good Greek of the period it is, considering that it came from the
pen of an Egyptian born. Here is an exact transcript of it:--

(omitted)

The general convenience in reading, I have here accurately transcribed
this inscription into the cursive character.

(omitted)

The English translation was, as I discovered on further investigation,
and as the reader may easily see by comparison, both accurate and
elegant.

Besides the uncial writing on the convex side of the sherd at the top,
painted in dull red, on what had once been the lip of the amphora, was
the cartouche already mentioned as being on the /scarabæus/, which we
had also found in the casket. The hieroglyphics or symbols, however,
were reversed, just as though they had been pressed on wax. Whether
this was the cartouche of the original Kallikrates,(*) or of some
Prince or Pharaoh from whom his wife Amenartas was descended, I am not
sure, nor can I tell if it was drawn upon the sherd at the same time
that the uncial Greek was inscribed, or copied on more recently from
the Scarab by some other member of the family. Nor was this all. At
the foot of the writing, painted in the same dull red, was the faint
outline of a somewhat rude drawing of the head and shoulders of a
Sphinx wearing two feathers, symbols of majesty, which, though common
enough upon the effigies of sacred bulls and gods, I have never before
met with on a Sphinx.

(*) The cartouche, if it be a true cartouche, cannot have been that of
Kallikrates, as Mr. Holly suggests. Kallikrates was a priest and
not entitled to a cartouche, which was the prerogative of Egyptian
royalty, though he might have inscribed his name or title upon an
/oval/.--Editor.

Also on the right-hand side of this surface of the sherd, painted
obliquely in red on the space not covered by the uncial characters,
and signed in blue paint, was the following quaint inscription:--

IN EARTH AND SKIE AND SEA
STRANGE THYNGES THER BE.
HOC FECIT
DOROTHEA VINCEY.

Perfectly bewildered, I turned the relic over. It was covered from top
to bottom with notes and signatures in Greek, Latin, and English. The
first in uncial Greek was by Tisisthenes, the son to whom the writing
was addressed. It was, "I could not go. Tisisthenes to his son,
Kallikrates." Here it is in fac-simile with its cursive equivalent:--

(omitted)

{ouk an dunaimen poreuesthai.
Tisisthenes Kallikratei to paidi.}

This Kallikrates (probably, in the Greek fashion, so named after his
grandfather) evidently made some attempt to start on the quest, for
his entry written in very faint and almost illegible uncial is, "I
ceased from my going, the gods being against me. Kallikrates to his
son." Here it is also:--

(omitted)

{ton Theon antistanton epausamen tes poreias.
Kallikrates to paidi.}

Between these two ancient writings, the second of which was inscribed
upside down and was so faint and worn that, had it not been for the
transcript of it executed by Vincey, I should scarcely have been able
to read it, since, owing to its having been written on that portion of
the tile which had, in the course of ages, undergone the most
handling, it was nearly rubbed out--was the bold, modern-looking
signature of one Lionel Vincey, "Ætate sua 17," which was written
thereon, I think, by Leo's grandfather. To the right of this were the
initials "J. B. V.," and below came a variety of Greek signatures, in
uncial and cursive character, and what appeared to be some carelessly
executed repetitions of the sentence {to paidi} (to my son), showing
that the relic was religiously passed on from generation to
generation.

The next legible thing after the Greek signatures was the word "Romae,
A.U.C.," showing that the family had now migrated to Rome.
Unfortunately, however, with the exception of its termination (evi)
the date of their settlement there is for ever lost, for just where it
had been placed a piece of the potsherd is broken away.

Then followed twelve Latin signatures, jotted about here and there,
wherever there was a space upon the tile suitable to their
inscription. These signatures, with three exceptions only, ended with
the name "Vindex" or "the Avenger," which seems to have been adopted
by the family after its migration to Rome as a kind of equivalent to
the Greek "Tisisthenes," which also means an avenger. Ultimately, as
might be expected, this Latin cognomen of Vindex was transformed first
into De Vincey, and then into the plain, modern Vincey. It is very
curious to observe how the idea of revenge, inspired by an Egyptian
who lived before the time of Christ, is thus, as it were, embalmed in
an English family name.

A few of the Roman names inscribed upon the sherd I have actually
since found mentioned in history and other records. They were, if I
remember right,

MVSSIVS. VINDEX
SEX. VARIVS MARVLLVS
C. FVFIDIVS. C. F. VINDEX

and

LABERIA POMPEIANA. CONIVX. MACRINI. VINDICIS

this last being, of course, the name of a Roman lady.

The following list, however, comprises all the Latin names upon the
sherd:--

C. CAECILIVS VINDEX
M. AIMILIVS VINDEX
SEX. VARIVS. MARVLLVS
Q. SOSIVS PRISCVS SENECIO VINDEX
L. VALERIVS COMINIVS VINDEX
SEX. OTACILIVS. M. F.
L. ATTIVS. VINDEX
MVSSIVS VINDEX
C. FVFIDIVS. C. F. VINDEX
LICINIVS FAVSTVS
LABERIA POMPEIANA CONIVX MACRINI VINDICIS
MANILIA LVCILLA CONIVX MARVLLI VINDICIS

After the Roman names there is evidently a gap of very many centuries.
Nobody will ever know now what was the history of the relic during
those dark ages, or how it came to have been preserved in the family.
My poor friend Vincey had, it will be remembered, told me that his
Roman ancestors finally settled in Lombardy, and when Charlemagne
invaded it, returned with him across the Alps, and made their home in
Brittany, whence they crossed to England in the reign of Edward the
Confessor. How he knew this I am not aware, for there is no reference
to Lombardy or Charlemagne upon the tile, though, as will presently be
seen, there is a reference to Brittany. To continue: the next entries
on the sherd, if I may except a long splash either of blood or red
colouring matter of some sort, consist of two crosses drawn in red
pigment, and probably representing Crusaders' swords, and a rather
neat monogram ("D. V.") in scarlet and blue, perhaps executed by that
same Dorothea Vincey who wrote, or rather painted, the doggrel
couplet. To the left of this, inscribed in faint blue, were the
initials A. V., and after them a date, 1800.

Then came what was perhaps as curious an entry as anything upon this
extraordinary relic of the past. It is executed in black letter,
written over the crosses or Crusaders' swords, and dated fourteen
hundred and forty-five. As the best plan will be to allow it to speak
for itself, I here give the black-letter fac-simile, together with the
original Latin without the contractions, from which it will be seen
that the writer was a fair mediæval Latinist. Also we discovered what
is still more curious, an English version of the black-letter Latin.
This, also written in black letter, we found inscribed on a second
parchment that was in the coffer, apparently somewhat older in date
than that on which was inscribed the mediæval Latin translation of the
uncial Greek of which I shall speak presently. This I also give in
full.

Fac-simile of Black-Letter Inscription on the Sherd of Amenartas.

(omitted)

Expanded Version of the above Black-Letter Inscription.

"Ista reliquia est valde misticum et myrificum opus, quod majores
mei ex Armorica, scilicet Britannia Minore, secum convehebant; et
et quidam sanctus clericus semper patri meo in manu ferebat quod
penitus illud destrueret, affirmans quod esset ab ipso Sathana
conflatum prestigiosa et dyabolica arte, quare pater meus
confregit illud in duas partes, quas quidem ego Johannes de
Vinceto salvas servavi et adaptavi sicut apparet die lune proximo
post festum beate Marie Virginis anni gratie MCCCCXLV."

Fac-simile of the Old English Black-Letter Translation of the
above Latin Inscription from the Sherd of Amenartas found
inscribed upon a parchment.

(omitted)

Modernised Version of the above Black-Letter Translation.

"Thys rellike ys a ryghte mistycall worke and a marvaylous, ye
whyche myne aunceteres aforetyme dyd conveigh hider with them from
Armoryke which ys to seien Britaine ye Lesse and a certayne holye
clerke should allweyes beare my fadir on honde that he owghte
uttirly for to frusshe ye same, affyrmynge that yt was fourmed and
conflatyed of Sathanas hym selfe by arte magike and dyvellysshe
wherefore my fadir dyd take ye same and tobrast yt yn tweyne, but
I, John de Vincey, dyd save whool ye tweye partes therof and
topeecyd them togydder agayne soe as yee se, on this daye mondaye
next followynge after ye feeste of Seynte Marye ye Blessed Vyrgyne
yn ye yeere of Salvacioun fowertene hundreth and fyve and
fowerti."

The next and, save one, last entry was Elizabethan, and dated 1564. "A
most strange historie, and one that did cost my father his life; for
in seekynge for the place upon the east coast of Africa, his pinnance
was sunk by a Portuguese galleon off Lorenzo Marquez, and he himself
perished.--John Vincey."

Then came the last entry, apparently, to judge by the style of
writing, made by some representative of the family in the middle of
the eighteenth century. It was a misquotation of the well-known lines
in Hamlet, and ran thus: "There are more things in Heaven and earth
than are dreamt of in your philosophy, Horatio."(*)

(*) Another thing that makes me fix the date of this entry at the
middle of the eighteenth century is that, curiously enough, I have
an acting copy of "Hamlet," written about 1740, in which these two
lines are misquoted almost exactly in the same way, and I have
little doubt but that the Vincey who wrote them on the potsherd
heard them so misquoted at that date. Of course, the lines really
run:--

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.--L. H. H.

And now there remained but one more document to be examined--namely,
the ancient black-letter transcription into mediæval Latin of the
uncial inscription on the sherd. As will be seen, this translation was
executed and subscribed in the year 1495, by a certain "learned man,"
Edmundus de Prato (Edmund Pratt) by name, licentiate in Canon Law, of
Exeter College, Oxford, who had actually been a pupil of Grocyn, the
first scholar who taught Greek in England.(*) No doubt, on the fame of
this new learning reaching his ears, the Vincey of the day, perhaps
that same John de Vincey who years before had saved the relic from
destruction and made the black-letter entry on the sherd in 1445,
hurried off to Oxford to see if perchance it might avail to dissolve
the secret of the mysterious inscription. Nor was he disappointed, for
the learned Edmundus was equal to the task. Indeed his rendering is so
excellent an example of mediæval learning and latinity that, even at
the risk of sating the learned reader with too many antiquities, I
have made up my mind to give it in fac-simile, together with an
expanded version for the benefit of those who find the contractions
troublesome. The translation has several peculiarities on which this
is not the place to dwell, but I would in passing call the attention
of scholars to the passage "duxerunt autem nos ad reginam
/advenaslasaniscoronantium/," which strikes me as a delightful
rendering of the original, {egegon de os Basileian ten ton Xenous
Khutrais stephanounton}.

(*) Grocyn, the instructor of Erasmus, studied Greek under
Chalcondylas the Byzantine at Florence, and first lectured in the
Hall of Exeter College, Oxford, in 1491.--Editor.

Mediæval Black-Letter Latin Translation of the Uncial
Inscription on the Sherd of Amenartas

(omitted)

Expanded Version of the above Mediæval Latin Translation

Amenartas, e genere regio Egyptii, uxor Callicratis, sacerdotis
Isidis, quam dei fovent demonia attendunt, filiolo suo Tisistheni
jam moribunda ita mandat: Effugi quodam ex Egypto, regnante
Nectanebo, cum patre tuo, propter mei amorem pejerato. Fugientes
autem versus Notum trans mare, et viginti quatuor menses per
litora Libye versus Orientem errantes, ubi est petra quedam magna
sculpta instar Ethiopis capitis, deinde dies quatuor ab ostio
fluminis magni ejecti partim submersi sumus partim morbo mortui
sumus: in fine autem a feris hominibus portabamur per paludes et
vada, ubi avium multitudo celum obumbrat, dies decem, donec
advenimus ad cavum quendam montem, ubi olim magna urbs erat,
caverne quoque immense; duxerunt autem nos ad reginam
Advenaslasaniscoronantium, que magicâ utebatur et peritiá omnium
rerum, et saltem pulcritudine et vigore insenescibilis erat. Hec
magno patris tui amore perculsa, primum quidem ei connubium michi
mortem parabat; postea vero, recusante Callicrate, amore mei et
timore regine affecto, nos per magicam abduxit per vias horribiles
ubi est puteus ille profundus, cujus juxta aditum jacebat senioris
philosophi cadaver, et advenientibus monstravit flammam Vite
erectam, instar columne voluntantis, voces emittentem quasi
tonitrus: tunc per ignem impetu nocivo expers transiit et jam ipsa
sese formosior visa est.

Quibus factis juravit se patrem tuum quoque immortalem ostensuram
esse, si me prius occisa regine contubernium mallet; neque enim
ipsa me occidere valuit, propter nostratum magicam cujus egomet
partem habeo. Ille vero nichil hujus generis malebat, manibus ante
oculos passis, ne mulieris formositatem adspiceret: postea illum
magica percussit arte, at mortuum efferebat inde cum fletibus et
vagitibus, et me per timorem expulit ad ostium magni fluminis,
velivoli, porro in nave, in qua te peperi, vix post dies huc
Athenas vecta sum. At tu, O Tisisthenes, ne quid quorum mando
nauci fac: necesse enim est mulierem exquirere si qua Vite
mysterium impetres et vindicare, quautum in te est, patrem tuum
Callieratem in regine morte. Sin timore sue aliqua causa rem
reliquis infectam, hoc ipsum omnibus posteris mando, dum bonus
quis inveniatur qui ignis lavacrum non perhorrescet, et potentia
dignus dominabitur hominum.

Talia dico incredibilia quidem at minime ficta de rebus michi
cognitis.

Hec Grece scripta Latine reddidit vir doctus Edmundus de Prato, in
Descretis Licenciatus, e Collegio Exoniensi Oxoniensi doctissimi
Grocyni quondam e pupillis, Idibus Aprilis Anno Domini
MCCCCLXXXXV°.

"Well," I said, when at length I had read out and carefully examined
these writings and paragraphs, at least those of them that were still
easily legible, "that is the conclusion of the whole matter, Leo, and
now you can form your own opinion on it. I have already formed mine."

"And what is it?" he asked, in his quick way.

"It is this. I believe that potsherd to be perfectly genuine, and
that, wonderful as it may seem, it has come down in your family from
since the fourth century before Christ. The entries absolutely prove
it, and therefore, however improbable it may seem, it must be
accepted. But there I stop. That your remote ancestress, the Egyptian
princess, or some scribe under her direction, wrote that which we see
on the sherd I have no doubt, nor have I the slightest doubt but that
her sufferings and the loss of her husband had turned her head, and
that she was not right in her mind when she did write it."

"How do you account for what my father saw and heard there?" asked
Leo.

"Coincidence. No doubt there are bluffs on the coast of Africa that
look something like a man's head, and plenty of people who speak
bastard Arabic. Also, I believe that there are lots of swamps. Another
thing is, Leo, and I am sorry to say it, but I do not believe that
your poor father was quite right when he wrote that letter. He had met
with a great trouble, and also he had allowed this story to prey on
his imagination, and he was a very imaginative man. Anyway, I believe
that the whole thing is the most unmitigated rubbish. I know that
there are curious things and forces in nature which we rarely meet
with, and, when we do meet them, cannot understand. But until I see it
with my own eyes, which I am not likely to, I never will believe that
there is any means of avoiding death, even for a time, or that there
is or was a white sorceress living in the heart of an African swamp.
It is bosh, my boy, all bosh!--What do you say, Job?"

"I say, sir, that it is a lie, and, if it is true, I hope Mr. Leo
won't meddle with no such things, for no good can't come of it."

"Perhaps you are both right," said Leo, very quietly. "I express no
opinion. But I say this. I am going to set the matter at rest once and
for all, and if you won't come with me I will go by myself."

I looked at the young man, and saw that he meant what he said. When
Leo means what he says he always puts on a curious look about the
mouth. It has been a trick of his from a child. Now, as a matter of
fact, I had no intention of allowing Leo to go anywhere by himself,
for my own sake, if not for his. I was far too attached to him for
that. I am not a man of many ties or affections. Circumstances have
been against me in this respect, and men and women shrink from me, or
at least, I fancy that they do, which comes to the same thing,
thinking, perhaps, that my somewhat forbidding exterior is a key to my
character. Rather than endure this, I have, to a great extent,
secluded myself from the world, and cut myself off from those
opportunities which with most men result in the formation of relations
more or less intimate. Therefore Leo was all the world to me--brother,
child, and friend--and until he wearied of me, where he went there I
should go too. But, of course, it would not do to let him see how
great a hold he had over me; so I cast about for some means whereby I
might let myself down easy.

"Yes, I shall go, Uncle; and if I don't find the 'rolling Pillar of
Life,' at any rate I shall get some first-class shooting."

Here was my opportunity, and I took it.

"Shooting?" I said. "Ah! yes; I never thought of that. It must be a
very wild stretch of country, and full of big game. I have always
wanted to kill a buffalo before I die. Do you know, my boy, I don't
believe in the quest, but I do believe in big game, and really on the
whole, if, after thinking it over, you make up your mind to go, I will
take a holiday, and come with you."

"Ah," said Leo, "I thought that you would not lose such a chance. But
how about money? We shall want a good lot."

"You need not trouble about that," I answered. "There is all your
income that has been accumulating for years, and besides that I have
saved two-thirds of what your father left to me, as I consider, in
trust for you. There is plenty of cash."

"Very well, then, we may as well stow these things away and go up to
town to see about our guns. By the way, Job, are you coming too? It's
time you began to see the world."

"Well, sir," answered Job, stolidly, "I don't hold much with foreign
parts, but if both you gentlemen are going you will want somebody to
look after you, and I am not the man to stop behind after serving you
for twenty years."

"That's right, Job," said I. "You won't find out anything wonderful,
but you will get some good shooting. And now look here, both of you. I
won't have a word said to a living soul about this nonsense," and I
pointed to the potsherd. "If it got out, and anything happened to me,
my next of kin would dispute my will on the ground of insanity, and I
should become the laughing stock of Cambridge."

That day three months we were on the ocean, bound for Zanzibar.

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