Come with me, History Channel buffs, on an utterly fictitious but chronologically inaccurate adventure!
…and so at last, after incredible effort, we have the map. Yellowed with age, torn and stained along the folds, but we have it, just as the late Professor Ozymandias intended. Quite an honor, his trusting this to me. Course he might still be alive; can’t tell about these rumors the natives spread. They call the old man Professor because he’s wily, knows what’s what even though of course he’s basically ignorant, leaves it all up to Mohammed. Looked me in the eye and asked me what I was searching for? So I told him, for science, man! Has to be done, you see. Knowledge is power. The problem now is how we’re to interpret his confounding scratches. Dammit, why couldn’t the man be more clear? These childish drawing of mountains and rivers can’t be too far from his village, but where exactly? Suppose that one’s the Nile, but what’s the other, then? Can’t even tell which way is north.
Right then, we’d best to proceed cautiously. A visit to the British Museum (Department of Egyptian and Assyrian antiquities), to get an expert opinion. Sounds like the best plan, get a solid foundation for the enterprise, put it on a proper scientific footing.
Look out, man, there’s Percy, Percy Fawcett that is, loitering about the entrance. I wonder who he’s waiting for? I hear some Amazon chieftain spun him a story about a lost city deep in the Brazilian forest, and now he’s obsessed. Gold a foot deep, you know the kind of legends they have. Best keep our distance; I understand the man’s gone half-mad, chasing his South American chimera. Him and that Hiram Bingham, there’s another one for buying into fables. Lost jungle civilizations! Of course there were some cities once, decent kinds of places those Indians built. Bloody-minded savages, but they knew how to use stone, can’t deny it, but naturally they couldn’t keep it going, Nothing but ruins out there now.
Oh, here come those Emersons; avoid them, too. They’re always panting to find out what everyone else is up to, sticking their noses up at your dig and reading you a lecture. That Amelia woman with her umbrellas! And that dark-eyed son of theirs, always creeping about! Paranoid, the whole pack of them, although to be fair that little blond beauty is worth keeping an eye on. Worse, though, I hear they brought a native back home with them and insist on treating the boy like family! Can’t have that; sets a bad precedent. People need to stay where they’re put. Ah, Budge, there you are old chap. That’s Mr. A.E. Wallis Budge to you, yes, this is my assistant, very pleased and all that. Here we are then, we’ve found it, you see, and we await your expertise to confirm what we’re pretty sure we know, what? The true destination, Egypt herself, mother of civilizations, answer to all the great riddles.
What do mean, Greece?! Impossible!
Yes, I know Evan’s aiming for Crete, got some idea of a lost Atlantis there, just befuddled romancing! But that’s Arthur for you, looking to upset the history books. Can’t just accept what’s right in front of his face, rather believe in fairy tales! It’s the Professor’s question popping up again, isn’t it? What are you searching for? Well, what’s the point of more little stone goddesses? Comely things, I have to say, big rounds tits, but no real value. But now the Ark, there’s answers there. Establishes the facts, ya see? Important to stay on top of these discoveries.
What’s that? Oh, that’s how it is, is it? Troy? You can’t be serious! I’m looking for history, not mythology! It’s outrageous how this rubbish persists. The Greeks have enough to be proud of, don’t they, always rubbing our noses in it? Anyway that’s over in Turkey. I hear things, you see, I know all about this German fellow, this grocer Schliemann. Not even a gentleman! And proving my point, he went and stole that site right out from under poor Calvert. Thinks he’ll find Priam’s treasure, I suppose? Well, let them fight over the rubble at Hisarlik, we have better things to do. Everything Greek worth having is already in Europe. I’d as soon embark for Jerusalem and deal with the locals there. Bless its hallowed ground, but there’s never been anything there but Roman rubbish.
No, Africa’s the place! Wait till you see the Sphinx! Looks at you from eternity, she does. And the pyramids! Unbelievable! Makes you appreciate those ancients; they knew a thing or two. A tremendous loss, mysterious ancient people. But then Africa itself! Solomon’s mines! And the Ark! I know as sure as I’m looking at you it rests in Africa, and with this map I’ll prove it! Find this secret oasis the Professor talks about, lost out in the Sahara. He knew all about the Ark, described it to me perfectly, like he was reading the description straight out of the Bible! I tell you, he’s a smart one. You should have seen him, a face like a dried walnut but eyes that saw inside your soul. Gave me the creeps sometimes. And this strange little laugh, more like a cough: heh, heh, heh. What do you suppose he’s there himself, alive after all? Either way, I’ll bring the Ark to England. Teach that cheap showman Belzoni a thing or two.
Ah hah! I knew it! Of course it’s Egypt. Off we go, then! Come along. We can take ship at Portsmouth, be there in no time. Then the Cairo Museum for a start; they know me well there. Just you see to our supplies. And let me have that map.
Mind you, it’s Howard Carter we’ll need to watch out for, once we arrive, him and that patron of his, Carnarvon, always urging him on. Dogged, determined fellow, Carter. None too scrupulous, either. Curse the pair of them! Lucky for us, they’re wasting their time this season, out in the Valley of the Kings where everything’s been looted eons ago. Can’t imagine what they’re thinking.
Ah, the adventuring life! What could be better? And the ladies love it, too. You know my reputation there, I expect, white or native. They all love an explorer, hey? My late partner’s sister, now she was a beauty! Married some minor baronet, I think. She always said a strong nose was a sign of a strong character. Liked the trim figure, too. She asked me the same: What are you searching for? So I told her, Maybe for you, my dear. That was pretty good, wasn’t it?
Well, this will entail some heavy expense, I’m afraid: supplies, camels, and porters. The Professor estimates five weeks’ journey. Thank God for the locals, what? They’ll get us properly on our way. The only difficulty I can foresee is them running off in fright, but I think we can bribe them to continue on, if necessary. Don’t think it will occur, in any event. They trust their Professor, and they’ll follow his advice. They like me well enough, too. It’s because I treat them fair, man to man.
Ah, a message? Thank you, boy. Now, what’s this? From Mrs. Amelia Peabody Emerson. How very formal! And what does she have to say? “I wish you good luck on your journey, Colonel Brexit.” Now that was decent of her. Well done.
NOTE: The Reader Alert for Worthy of This Great City remains up on the Home page, so check it out, along with the Prologue on the Excerpts page. The Kindle sale, alas, has ended.
Photo credits: Adam Woodrow, CIMG3481 (CC BY 2.0) / Carlo Raso, The Ark of the Covenant, Sanctuary of Holy House at Loreto / Keith Yahl, The Great Pyramid of Giza (CC BY 2.0)