Pharos the Egyptian

Guy Newell Booth

Pharos The Egyptian
By Guy Boothby.
Illustrated by JOHN H. BACON
From The Windsor Magazine, June-December 1898

Never in my life have I been placed in such an awkward, not to say invidious, position. I am, as you know, a plain man, fond of a plain life and plain speaking, and yet I am about to imperil that reputation by communicating to you what I fancy you will consider the most extraordinary and unbelievable intelligence you have ever received in your life. For my own part I do not know what to think. I have puzzled over the matter until I am not in a position to judge fairly. You must, therefore, weigh the evidence for us both. For pity's sake, however, do not decide hastily. In dubiis benigniora semper sunt praeferenda, as they used to say in our schooldays, must be our motto, and by it we must abide at any hazards. As far as I can see, we are confronted with one of the saddest, and at the same time one of the most inexplicable cases ever yet recorded on paper.
Reduced to its proper factors it stands as follows: Either Forrester has gone mad and dreamed it all, or he is sane and has suffered as few others have done in this world. In either case he is deserving of our deepest pity. In one way only are we fortunate. Knowing the man as we do, we are in a position to estimate the value of the accusations he brings against himself. Of one thing I am convinced--a more honourable being does not walk this earth. Our acquaintance with him is of equal length. We were introduced to him, and to each other, on one and the same occasion, upwards of twelve years ago; and during that time, I know I am right in saying, neither of us ever had reason to doubt his word, or the honour of a single action. Indeed, to my mind he had but one fault, a not uncommon one in these latter days of the nineteenth century. I refer to his somewhat morbid temperament and the consequent leaning towards the supernatural it produced in him.
"As the world has good reason to remember, his father was perhaps the most eminent Egyptologist our century has seen; a man whose whole mind and being was impregnated with a love for that ancient country and its mystic past. Small wonder, therefore, that the son should have inherited his tastes, and that his life should have been influenced by the same peculiar partiality. While saying, however, that he had a weakness for the supernatural, I am by no means admitting that he was what is vulgarly termed a spiritualist. I do not believe for an instant that he ever declared himself so openly. His mind was too evenly balanced, and at the same time too healthy, to permit such an enthusiastic declaration of his interest. For my part, I believe he simply inquired into the matter as he would have done into, shall we say, the Kinetic theory of gases, or the history of the ruined cities of Mashona-land, for the purpose of satisfying his curiosity and of perfecting his education on the subject. Having thus made my own feelings known to you, I will leave the matter in your hands, confident that you will do him justice, and will proceed to describe how the pathetic record of our friend's experiences came into my possession.
"I had been hunting all day, and did not reach home until between half-past six and seven o'clock. We had a house full of visitors at the time, I remember, some of whom had been riding with me, and the dressing-gong sounded as we dismounted from our horses at the steps. It was plain that if we wished to change our attire and join the ladies in the drawing-room before dinner was announced, we had no time to lose. Accordingly we departed to our various rooms with all possible speed.
"There is nothing pleasanter or more refreshing after a long day in the saddle than a warm bath. On this particular occasion I was in the full enjoyment of this luxury when a knocking sounded at the door. I inquired who was there.
"'Me, sir--Jenkins,' replied my servant. 'There is a person downstairs, sir, who desires to see you.'
"'To see me at this hour,' I answered. 'What is his name, and what does he want?'
"'His name is Silver, sir,' the man replied; and then, as if the information might be put forward as some excuse for such a late visit, he continued, 'I believe he is a kind of a foreigner, sir. Leastways, he's very dark, and don't
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