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Authors: Elizabeth Peters

Tags: #Mystery & Detective, #Fiction, #Suspense, #General, #Mystery, #Detective, #Fiction - Mystery, #Detective and mystery stories, #Large Type Books, #Women Sleuths, #Mystery & Detective - Women Sleuths, #Historical, #Mystery & Detective - Historical, #Women detectives, #Mystery & Detective - Series, #english, #Egypt, #Peabody, #Amelia (Fictitious character), #Women archaeologists

The Ape Who Guards the Balance

BOOK: The Ape Who Guards the Balance
13.94Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

The Ape

Who Guards



Elizabeth Peters

Book 10


tudents of the life and works of Mrs. Amelia P. Emerson will be pleased to learn that the present Editor’s tireless research on the recently discovered collection of Emerson papers has yielded additional fruit. Certain excerpts from Manuscript H were included in the most recent volume of Mrs. Emerson’s memoirs, and other excerpts appear here. The authorship of this manuscript has been determined; it was written by “Ramses” Emerson, but additions in various hands suggest that it was read and commented upon by other members of the family. The collection of letters herein designated “B” are signed by Nefret Forth, as she then was. Since the recipient of them is addressed only as “Dear” or “Darling,” the Editor was originally in some doubt as to this individual’s identity. She has decided to leave the Reader in doubt as well. Speculation is the spice of life, as Mrs. Emerson might say.

Newspaper clippings and miscellaneous letters are contained in a separate file (F).

The present Editor feels obliged to add, in her own defense, that the journals themselves present a number of inconsistencies. Mrs. Emerson began them as private diaries. At a later time she determined to edit them for future publication, but (as was typical of her) she went about it in a somewhat slapdash fashion and over a long period of time. Her methodology, if it can be called that, explains the anomalies, errors, and anachronisms in the urtext itself. Eventually the Editor hopes to produce a d e finitive, thoroughly annotated edition, in which these inconsistencies will be explained (insofar as it is possible to explain the way in which Mrs. Emerson’s agile mind operated).

Of particular interest to Egyptologists will be Mrs. Emerson’s description of the discovery of KV55, as the tomb found by Ayrton in January 1907 is now called. No proper excavation report was ever published, and the descriptions of the participants disagree in so many particulars that one cannot help suspecting the accuracy of all of them. It is not surprising that none of them mentions the presence of Professor Emerson and his associates. Mrs. Emerson’s version, though certainly not free of bias, makes it clear that the Professor’s suggestions and advice were deeply resented by the excavators.

Being only too aware of Mrs. Emerson’s biases, the Editor has gone to the trouble of comparing her version with those of others. She is indebted to Jim and Susan Allen, of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, for making the unpublished manuscript of Mrs. Andrew’s diary available to her; to Dennis Forbes, editor of KMT, for allowing her to peruse the galleys of his chapter on KV55 from his forthcoming book,
Tombs. Treasures. Mummies
; to Mr. John Larson of the Oriental Institute for answering innumerable questions about Theodore Davis and the storage jars; and to Lila Pinch Brock, the most recent excavator of KV55, for getting her into the place and telling her all about it.

She (the Editor) has also read practically every book and article written about the tomb. The (extremely impressive) bibliography will be sent to Readers upon receipt of a SASE. She (the Editor) has come to the conclusion that Mrs. Emerson’s description is the most accurate, and that she was, as she always was, right.





Let my mouth be given to me.
Let my mouth be opened by Ptah with the
instrument of iron with which he opens
the mouths of the gods.


was inserting an additional pin into my hat when the library door opened and Emerson put his head out.

“There is a matter on which I would like to consult you, Peabody,” he began.

He had obviously been working on his book, for his thick black hair was disheveled, his shirt gaped open, and his sleeves had been rolled above the elbows. Emerson claims that his mental processes are inhibited by the constriction of collars, cuffs and cravats. It may be so. I certainly did not object, for my husband’s muscular frame and sunbronzed skin are displayed to best advantage in such a state of dishabille. On this occasion, however, I was forced to repress the emotion the sight of Emerson always arouses in me, since Gargery, our butler, was present.

“Pray do not detain me, my dear Emerson,” I replied. “I am on my way to chain myself to the railings at Number Ten Downing Street, and I am already late.”

“Chain yourself,” Emerson repeated. “May I ask why?”

“It was my idea,” I explained modestly. “During some earlier demonstrations, the lady suffragists have been picked up and carried away by large policemen, thus effectively ending the demonstration. This will not be easily accomplished if the ladies are firmly fastened to an immovable object such as an iron railing.”

“I see.” Opening the door wider, he emerged. “Would you like me to accompany you, Peabody? I could drive you in the motorcar.”

It would have been difficult to say which suggestion horrified me more—that he should go with me, or that he should drive the motorcar.

Emerson had been wanting for several years to acquire one of the horrid machines, but I had put him off by one pretext or another until that summer. I had taken all the precautions I could, promoting one of the stablemen to the post of chauffeur and making certain he was properly trained; I had insisted that if the children were determined to drive the nasty thing (which they were), they should also take lessons. David and Ramses had become as competent as male individuals of their age could be expected to be, and in my opinion Nefret was even better, though the men in the family denied it.

None of these sensible measures succeeded in fending off the dreaded results. Emerson, of course, refused to be driven by the chauffeur or the younger members of the family. It had not taken long for the word to get round the village and its environs. One glimpse of Emerson crouched over the wheel, his teeth bared in a delighted grin, his blue eyes sparkling behind his goggles, was enough to strike terror into the heart of pedestrian or driver. The hooting of the horn (which Emerson liked very much and employed incessantly) had the same effect as a fire siren; everyone within earshot immediately cleared off the road, into a ditch or a hedgerow, if necessary. He had insisted on bringing the confounded thing with us to London, but thus far we had managed to keep him from operating it in the city.

Many years of happy marriage had taught me that there are certain subjects about which husbands are strangely sensitive. Any challenge to their masculinity should be avoided at all costs. For some reason that eludes me, the ability to drive a motorcar appears to be a symbol of masculinity. I therefore sought another excuse for refusing his offer.

“No, my dear Emerson, it would not be advisable for you to go with me. In the first place, you have a great deal of work to do on the final volume of your
History of Ancient Egypt
. In the second place, the last time you accompanied me on such an expedition you knocked down two policemen.”

“And so I will do again if they have the audacity to lay hands on you,” Emerson exclaimed. As I had hoped, this comment distracted him from the subject of the motorcar. His blue eyes blazed with sapphirine fire, and the cleft, or dimple, in his chin quivered. “Good Gad, Peabody, you don’t expect me to stand idly by while vulgar police officers manhandle my wife!”

“No, my dear, I don’t, which is why you cannot come along. The whole point of the enterprise is forME to be arrested—yes, and manhandled as well. HavingYOU taken in charge for assaulting a police officer distracts the public from the fight for women’s suffrage we ladies are endeavoring—”

“Damnation, Peabody!” Emerson stamped his foot. He is given to such childish demonstrations at times.

“Will you please stop interrupting me, Emerson? I was about to—”

“You never let me finish a sentence!” Emerson shouted.

I turned to our butler, who was waiting to open the door for me. “My parasol, Gargery, if you please.”

“Certainly, madam,” said Gargery. His plain but affable features were wreathed in a smile. Gargery greatly enjoys the affectionate little exchanges between me and Emerson. “If I may say so, madam,” he went on, “that hat is very becoming.”

I turned back to the mirror. The hat was a new one, and I rather thought it did suit me. I had caused it to be trimmed with crimson roses and green silk leaves; the subdued colors considered appropriate for mature married ladies have an unfortunate effect on my sallow complexion and jetty-black hair, and I see no reason for a slavish adherence to fashion when the result does not become the wearer. Besides, crimson is Emerson’s favorite color. As I inserted the final pin, his face appeared in the mirror next to mine. He had to bend over, since he is six feet in height and I am a good many inches shorter. Taking advantage of our relative positions (and the position of Gargery, behind him) he gave me a surreptitious pat and said amiably, “So it is. Well, well, my dear, enjoy yourself. If you aren’t back by teatime I will just run down to the police station and bail you out.”

“Don’t come round before seven,” I said. “I am hoping to be thrown into the Black Maria and perhaps handcuffed.”

Not quite sotto voce, Gargery remarked, “I’d like to see the chap who could do it.”

“So would I,” said my husband.

It was a typical November day in dear old London—gloomy, gray, and damp. We had come up from Kent only the previous week so that Emerson could consult certain references in the British Museum. Our temporary abode was Chalfont House, the city mansion belonging to Emerson’s brother Walter and his wife Evelyn, who had inherited the property from her grandfather. The younger Emersons preferred their country estates in Yorkshire, but they always opened Chalfont House for us when we were obliged to stay in London.

Although I enjoy the bustle and busyness of the metropolis, Egypt is my spiritual home, and as I breathed in the insalubrious mixture of coal smoke and moisture I thought nostalgically of clear blue skies, hot dry air, the thrill of another season of excavation. We were a trifle later than usual in getting off this year, but the delay, occasioned principally by Emerson’s tardiness in completing his long-awaited
had given me the opportunity to participate in a cause dear to my heart, and my spirits soared as I strode briskly along, my indispensable parasol in one hand, my chains in the other.

Though I had always been a strong supporter of votes for women, professional commitments had prevented me from taking an active part in the suffragist movement. Not that the movement itself had been particularly active or effective. Almost every year a Women’s Suffrage Bill had been presented to Parliament, only to be talked down or ignored. Politicians and statesmen had made promises of support and broken them.

Recently, however, a breath of fresh northern air had blown into London. The Women’s Social and Political Union had been founded in Manchester by a Mrs. Emmeline Pankhurst and her two daughters. Early in the present year they had decided—quite sensibly, in my opinion—to transfer their headquarters to the center of political action. I had met Mrs. Pankhurst on several occasions, but I had not made up my mind about her or the organization until the shocking events of October 23 had aroused my wholehearted indignation. Meeting peacefully to press their views and hopes upon Parliament, women had been forcibly ejected from that bastion of male superiority—bullied, pushed, flung to the ground, and arrested! Even now Miss Sylvia Pankhurst languished in prison, along with others of her sisters in the cause. When I got wind of the present demonstration I determined to show my support for the prisoners and the movement.

In fact, I had been guilty of some slight misdirection when I told Emerson my destination was Downing Street. I feared he might become bored or apprehensive for my safety, and follow after me. The WSPU had decided instead to demonstrate in front of the home of Mr. Geoffrey Romer, in Charles Street near Berkeley Square.

Next to Mr. Asquith, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, this individual was our most vehement and effective opponent in the House of Commons; he was an elegant and eloquent speaker, with an excellent classical education and considerable private wealth. Emerson and I had once been privileged to examine his superb collection of Egyptian antiquities. I had, as I felt obliged to do, made one or two pointed remarks on the subject of female suffrage, but it may have been Emerson’s even more pointed comments about the iniquities of private collectors that irritated Mr. Romer. We had not been asked to come again. I quite looked forward to chaining myself to his railings.

I had feared I might be late, but when I arrived on the scene I found matters in a shocking state of disorganization. No one was chained to the railings. People were standing about looking confused; at the other end of the street a number of ladies were huddled together, deep in conversation. Evidently it was a conference of the leaders, for I heard the familiar voice of Mrs. Pankhurst.

I was about to join them when I beheld a familiar form. It was that of a tall young man impeccably attired in striped trousers, frock coat and top hat. His deeply tanned complexion and heavy dark brows resembled those of an Arab or Indian, but he was neither. He was my son, Walter Peabody Emerson, better known to the world at large by his soubriquet of Ramses.

Seeing me, he broke off his conversation with the young woman next to him and greeted me in the annoying drawl he had acquired when he had spent a term at Oxford reading classics with Professor Wilson, at the latter’s invitation. “Good afternoon, Mother. May I have the honor of presenting Miss Christabel Pankhurst, with whom I believe you are not acquainted?”

She was younger than I had expected—in her early twenties, as I later learned—and not unattractive. Firm lips and a direct gaze gave distinction to her rounded face and dark hair. As we shook hands, with the conventional murmurs of greeting, I wondered how Ramses had got acquainted with her—and when. She had been smiling and rolling her eyes at him in a manner that suggested this was not their first meeting. Ramses has an unfortunate habit of being attractive to women, especially strong-minded women.

“What are you doing here?” I inquired. “And where is Nefret?”

“I don’t know where she is,” said Ramses. “My ‘sister,’ to give her the courtesy title you insist upon, though it is not justified by legal proceedings or blood relationship—”

“Ramses,” I said sternly. “Get to the point.”

“Yes, Mother. Finding myself unexpectedly at liberty this afternoon, I determined to attend the present demonstration. You know my sympathy for the cause of—”

“Yes, my dear.” Interrupting others is very rude, but it is sometimes necessary to interrupt Ramses. He was not as perniciously long-winded as he once had been, but he had occasional lapses, especially when he was trying to conceal something from me. I abandoned that line of inquiry for the moment and asked another question.

“What is going on?”

“You can put your chains away, Mother,” Ramses replied. “The ladies have decided we will picket, and deliver a petition to Mr. Romer. Miss Pankhurst tells me they will be distributing the placards shortly.”

“Nonsense,” I exclaimed. “What makes them suppose he will receive a delegation? He has never done so before.”

“We have had recently a new recruit to the cause who is an old acquaintance of his,” Miss Christabel explained. “Mrs. Markham assures us that he will respond to her request.”

“If she is an old friend, why did she not request an interview through normal channels instead of instigating this . . . Ramses, don’t slouch against that railing. You will get rust on your coat.”

“Yes, Mother.” Ramses straightened to his full height of six feet. The top hat added another twelve inches, and I was forced to admit that he lent a certain air of distinction to the gathering, which consisted almost entirely of ladies. The only other male person present was an eccentrically garbed individual who stood watching the discussion of the leaders. His long, rather shabby velvet cloak and broad-brimmed hat reminded me of a character from one of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas—the one that satirized the aesthetic movement and its languid poets. As my curious gaze came to rest on him, he turned and addressed the ladies in an affected, high-pitched voice.

“Who is that fellow?” I asked. “I have never seen him before.”

Ramses, who sometimes demonstrates an uncanny ability to read my mind, began to sing softly. I recognized one of the songs from the opera in question. “ ‘A most intense young man, A soulful eyed young man, An ultra-poetical, super-aesthetical, out-of-the-way young man.’ ”

I could not help laughing. Miss Christabel gave me a look of freezing disapproval. “He is Mrs. Markham’s brother, and a sturdy defender of the cause. If you had deigned to attend our earlier meetings, Mrs. Emerson, you would be aware of these facts.”

She did not give me time to reply that I had not been invited to attend their earlier meetings, but marched off with her nose in the air. I had heard the young lady praised for her wit and sense of humor. The latter appeared to be in abeyance at the moment.

BOOK: The Ape Who Guards the Balance
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