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Authors: Elizabeth Peters

Tags: #Mystery Fiction, #Fiction, #General, #Mystery & Detective, #Women Sleuths, #Historical, #Suspense, #Crime & mystery, #Crime & Thriller, #Peabody, #Amelia (Fictitious character), #Mystery, #Detective, #Mystery & Detective - Women Sleuths, #Egypt, #Fiction - Mystery, #Women archaeologists, #Mystery & Detective - Series, #Mystery & Detective - Historical, #Detective and mystery stories, #American, #Art

Lion in the Valley

BOOK: Lion in the Valley
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LION IN

THE

VALLEY

 

Elizabeth Peters

Amelia Peabody

Book 4

 

 

 

                              
Lord of fear,
great of fame,

                              
In the hearts of
all the lands.

                              
Great of awe,
rich in glory,

                              
As is Set upon
his mountain....

                              
Like a wild lion
in a valley of goats.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Foreword

I
n this,
the fourth volume of the memoirs of Amelia Peabody Emerson (Mrs. Radcliffe
Emerson), the editor once again deems it expedient to explain certain anomalies
and obscurities in the text. Mrs. Emerson was not as careful as she might have
been about noting the dates of her entries. She seems to have picked up the
current volume of her journal and scribbled away until something happened to
distract her. However, from certain internal evidence, it seems likely that the
current volume concerns events of the 1895-96 season. (Egyptologists tend to
use this method of dating, since the archaeological "year" runs from
late fall until early spring, the climate of Egypt making summer excavations
extremely difficult.)

As
the editor has had occasion to mention, the names of most of the persons
involved have been changed, in order to spare the feelings of descendants of
said individuals. The informed reader will recognize some names as those of
well-known archaeologists, who appear only peripherally. Mrs. Emerson seems to
have been fairly accurate in describing their activities; however, it would be
a serious error to assume that she was equally accurate in reporting their
conversations with her, for, like her distinguished husband, she had a decided
tendency to attribute to other people opinions of her own.

Another
obscurity in the ur-text (if the editor may so describe the journals
themselves) arises from the fact that at some point Mrs. Emerson apparently
decided to edit them for eventual publication. (See her remarks on p. 73) Since
she was as inconsistent about her revision as she was about dating her pages,
the result is sometimes a peculiar blend of journalistic and novelistic styles.

In
other words, none of the eccentricities of the present volume are the responsibility
of the editor. She has done the best she could and would suggest that
complaints, criticisms, and other pejorative comments be addressed to the heirs
of Professor and Mrs. Emerson, not to her.

 

One

“M
y dear
Peabody," said Emerson, "pray correct me if I am mistaken; but I
sense a diminution of that restless ardor for living that is so noted a
characteristic of yours, particularly upon occasions such as this. Since that
happy day that saw us united, never a cloud has dimmed the beaming orb of
matrimonial bliss; and that remarkable circumstance derives, I am certain, from
the perfect communion that marks our union. Confide, I implore, in the
fortunate man whose designated role is to support and shelter you, and whose
greatest happiness is to share your own."

I
felt certain Emerson must have worked this speech out in advance. No one talks
like that in the course of ordinary conversation.

I
knew, however, that the formality of his speech failed adequately to express
the sincere devotion that had inspired it. My dear Emerson and I have been of
one
mind and one heart ever since the day we met in the Egyptian Museum of Boulaq.
(In actual fact, our first meeting was distinctly acrimonious. I was a mere
tourist at that time, on my maiden visit to the land of the pharaohs; and yet,
scarcely had I set foot on that fabled soil than the bright flame of
Egyptological fervor was kindled in my bosom, a flame that soon became a
roaring conflagration. Little did I suspect, that day in the museum, as I
energetically defended myself against the unwarranted criticisms hurled at me
by the fascinating stranger, that we would soon meet again, under even more romantic
circumstances, in an abandoned tomb at El Amarna. The setting, at least, was
romantic. Emerson, I confess, was not. However, a subtle instinct told me that
beneath Emerson's caustic remarks and black scowls his heart beat only for me,
and, as events proved, I was correct.)

His
tender discernment was not at fault. A dark foreboding did indeed shadow the
joy that would normally have flooded my being at such a time. We stood on the
deck of the vessel that had borne us swiftly across the broad Mediterranean;
the breeze of its passage across the blue waters ruffled our hair and tugged at
our garments. Ahead we could see the Egyptian coast, where we would land before
the day was over. We were about to enter upon another season of archaeological
investigation, the most recent of many we had shared. Soon we would be
exploring the stifling, bat-infested corridors of one pyramid and the muddy,
flooded burial chamber of another—scenes that would under ordinary
circumstances have inspired in me a shiver of rapturous anticipation. How many
other women—particularly in that final decade of the nineteenth century—had so
many reasons to rejoice?

Emerson—who
prefers to be addressed by his surname, since he considers
"Radcliffe" affected and effeminate (his very words)—had chosen me as
his equal partner, not only in marriage, but in the profession we both have the
honor to adorn. Emerson is the finest excavator of Egyptian antiquities the
world has seen. I do not doubt his name will be revered as "The Father of
Scientific Excavation" as long as civilization endures upon this troubled
globe. And my name—the name of Amelia Peabody Emerson—will be enshrined
alongside his.

Forgive
my enthusiasm, dear Reader. The contemplation of Emerson's excellent qualities
never fails to arouse emotion. Nor is his excellence restricted to his
intellectual qualities. I feel no shame in confessing that his physical
attributes were not the least of the elements that made me decide to accept his
proposal of marriage. From the raven hair upon his broad brow to the dimple
(which he prefers to call a cleft) in his chin, he is a model of masculine
strength and good looks.

Emerson
appears to be equally appreciative of my physical attributes. Candidly, I have
never fully understood this attitude. Mine is not a type of beauty I admire.
Features rather less pronounced, eyes of a softer and paler hue, a figure
greater in stature and more restrained in the region above the waist, locks of
sunny gold instead of jetty black—these are my ideals of female loveliness.
Luckily for me, Emerson does not share them.

His
large brown hand lay next to mine on the rail of the vessel. It was not the
hand of a gentleman; but to me the callouses and scars that marked those tanned
and stalwart members were badges of honor. I remembered the occasions on which
they had wielded weapons or tools in the course of his labors; and other
occasions on which they had demonstrated a delicacy of touch that
induced
the most remarkable of sensations.

Emerson
has many admirable qualities, but patience is not one of them. Lost in my
reveries, I failed to respond at once to his question. He seized me by the
shoulders and spun me around to face him. His blue eyes blazed like sapphires,
his lips curled back from his white teeth, and the dimple in his chin quivered
ominously.

"Why
the devil don't you answer me?" he shouted. "How can you remain
unmoved by such an appeal? What ails you, Peabody? I will be cursed if I can
understand women. You ought to be on your knees thanking heaven—and
ME
—for
the happiness in store for you. It wasn't easy, you know, persuading de Morgan
to give up the site to us; it required all the subtle tact of which I am
capable. No one but I could have done it. No one but I
would
have done
it. And how do you repay me? By sighing and moping!"

It
would have been immediately apparent, to anyone familiar with the circumstances
he described, that Emerson was again engaging in his endearing habit of
self-deception. The Director of the Antiquities Service, M. de Morgan,
had
yielded
to us the archaeological site at which he himself had worked the previous year,
and which had already produced a number of remarkable discoveries. However,
Emerson's subtle tact, a quality that exists only in his imagination, had
nothing to do with it. I was not precisely sure what had produced M. de
Morgan's change of heart. Or, to be more exact, I had certain suspicions I
preferred not to think about. It was a natural progression from those
suspicions to the excuse I now uttered to account for my somber mood.

"I
am distressed about Ramses, Emerson. To have our son misbehave so badly, just
when I had hoped we might get through one voyage without incident....

How
many boys of eight, I wonder, have been threatened with keelhauling by the
captain of a British merchant vessel?"

"That
was merely the captain's bluff, maritime exaggeration," Emerson replied
impatiently. "He would not dare do such a thing. You are not concerned
about Ramses, Peabody; he does this sort of thing all the time, and you ought
to be accustomed to it."

"This
sort of thing, Emerson? Ramses has done a number of unspeakable things, but to
the best of my knowledge this is the first time he has instigated a
mutiny."

"Nonsense!
Simply because a few ignorant seamen misunderstood his lectures on the theories
of that fellow Marx—"

'
'He had no business lecturing the crew—or being in their quarters in the first
place. They gave him spirits, Emerson, I know they did. Even Ramses would not
have spoken back to the captain in such terms had he not been
intoxicated."

Emerson
looked as if he wanted to protest, but since he obviously shared my opinion he
found himself with nothing to say. I went on, "What is even more
incomprehensible is why the crewmen should endure Ramses' presence, much less
share their cherished grog, as I believe it is called. What possible pleasure
could they find in his company?"

"One
of them told me they enjoyed hearing him talk. 'Wot a mouth that nipper 'as'
was the exact phrase."

A
reluctant smile touched his lips as he spoke. Emerson's lips are among his most
admirable features, chiseled and flexible, shaped with precise delicacy and yet
not lacking in fullness. I felt my own lips respond with an answering smile.
The untutored sailor had hit the nail on the head, so to speak.

"Forget
Ramses," Emerson said. "I insist, Amelia, that you tell me what is
worrying you."

Despite
his smile he was not in good temper with me; his use of my proper name
indicated as much. "Peabody," my maiden name, is the one he uses in
moments of marital or professional approbation. With a sigh, I yielded.

"A
strange foreboding has come over me, Emerson." Emerson's eyes narrowed.
"Indeed, Amelia?" "I am only surprised you do not share
it." "I do not. At this moment my heart is suffused with the most
agreeable sensations. Not a cloud—"

"You
have made your point, Emerson. And if you will forgive my mentioning it, that
particular metaphor—" "Are you criticizing my rhetorical style,
Amelia?" "If you are going to take offense at the least little thing
I say, Emerson, I cannot confide in you. I didn't want to cloud your happiness
with my worries. Are you certain you want me to tell you?"

His
head on one side, Emerson considered the question. "No," he said.

"You
mean you are not certain, or—" "I mean I don't want you to tell me. I
don't want to hear about your foreboding." "But you asked—"
"I have changed my mind." "Then you share the sense of
impending—" "I didn't until
 
this moment,"
 
Emerson
 
snarled. "Curse it, Amelia—"

"How
strange. I was certain the sympathy between us was complete."

The
expression on Emerson's handsome countenance might have led an observer to
suppose it was not sympathy but rising fury that caused his brows to lower and
his
eyes to snap. Since I had a few doubts on that subject myself, I hastened to
satisfy the curiosity he had expressed some minutes earlier.

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