Read an Excerpt
Lion in the Valley LP
My 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 inthe 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'scaustic 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 fore-boding 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 thebroad 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 somany 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 is.
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 at 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 Emersonwas again engaging in his endearing habit of selfdeception. 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. Lion in the Valley LP. Copyright © by Elizabeth Peters. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.