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CHAPTER VI.

DOUBTS.

ALL search after the Arab chief proved fruitless. The attendants of Edmond, whom he had left about the encampment at some little distance from the scene. of his strange interview with the Kabyl, had noticed neither the approach nor the departure of that mysterious visitant. On the morrow careful inquiries were instituted by order of the count throughout the surrounding villages. Without result, however. Far and wide, for many weeks past, no trace had been seen, no news had been heard, of any Kabyl troop. Those formidable marauders had been probably kept at a respectful distance by the numerous and wellarmed escort of Count R

His interview with the Arab appeared more and more mysterious the more he considered it. No third person had been present on the spot, or even within. sight of the speakers. The monuments and the dead were witnesses that could not be called into court. To increase his perplexity. Nature herself seemed to have entered into conspiracy with Circumstance, by refusing all testimony to the fact. The fine, smooth sand which overlies those ruins showed nowhere, either on the spot where the Kabyl had been standing, or along those places over which he must have passed when he disappeared into the temple of Am.

mon Chnouphis, the trace of any footsteps which could reasonably be attributed to him. Had the night wind, itself a phantom, jealous of any other spectral presence on its own domain, been careful to cancel before dawn all record of that apparition? Anyhow, no proof of the supposed interview could be educed from the count's knowledge of the story of Amasis. The images on the papyrus were sufficiently unusual to have stimulated his imagination, and sufficiently suggestive of such a story to have enabled him to construct it unconsciously from the supplementary materials of his own fancy. There rested the interpretation of the ring. But what proved that interpretation to be the right one? Those characters, even according to the hypothesis of which he could not feel quite sure that he was not the unconscious author, must have been enigmatical to the science of the Egyptians themselves. Nay, even the amethyst was a stone not common (perhaps unknown) to that people. Every thing in the character of the story seemed to indicate a theology anterior even to that of Egypt. But how, then, did the ring come into the count's hand? Had he himself drawn it from the finger of the mummy? If so, why had he no recollection of that act? Was it possible that, in the act of possessing himself of the ring, the consciousness of the action, which had a real existence, had been, as it were, submerged and obliterated in the superimposed consciousness of something which had only an ideal existence?

Whichever way he turned it, the mystery remained. Finally, he accustomed himself to look back at it

through the chiar' oscuro of doubt; and, thus viewed, amid many conflicting and equally unsatisfactory conjectures, the supposition that the whole occurrence had been a sort of waking dream (the effects of watching and the distemperature of an overlabored brain), although not entirely nor permanently accepted by the count (for what man in possession of his senses will willingly reject their evidence ?), yet, on the whole, assumed the most prominent and the most durable place in his mind. Thus, in proportion as the mysterious image of the Arab was driven from the domain of external fact, and ceased to represent a reality, retreating into the recesses of internal consciousness, imperceptibly it assumed possession of an idea. An idea which I can only indicate by this question:

With the bodily eye Edmond had not looked on the face of the Kabyl chief? Perhaps. But had his spiritual eye been resting on the soul of Sethos the Egyptian?

A fanciful inquiry this, which I seize as it rises in my own mind, and throw out at random.

CHAPTER VII
WESTWARD HO!

THE approach of that season which is the most important of all to the inhabitants of Egypt, who still take for the bases of their calendar those three phenomena of the Egyptian year, the overflow of the Nile, the maturity of crops, and the season of dryness, now barely left time to Count Edmond, before the rising of the waters, to regain Cairo, the starting-point of his expedition.

There, having safely confided to the care of trustworthy agents, to be shipped for Europe, the rich result of his recent researches, he set out without farther delay upon his homeward journey.

And here the golden-gated Orient fades out of the foreground of this narrow stage, whereon is to be rehearsed the tragedy of a life; fades, dream-like, into Dream; yet in the far background still, incongruous and strange, some faintest ghostly shadow of its "gorgeous palaces, its solemn temples," may haply linger, even as the memory of a dream will sometimes linger, out of place, amid the business of waking life, leaving, of all its "insubstantial pageant," yet "a wrack behind."

If we are, indeed, no more than "such stuff as dreams are made of," what function, amid the brief activities of this "little life" that is "rounded with a sleep," may the Maker of it have assigned to the mem. ory of a dream?

BOOK I I.

The Sowing of the Seed.

Our acts our angels are, or good or ill,
The haunting shadows that walk by us still.

FORD.

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