October, 1903 -- Letter From Pierre Farquell
back to: Jonathan Riswold October 1903
Sent from Cairo, Egypt to Whispers Estate, Chalon-sur-Saone, France
October 16, 1903
It has been bad, worse than we thought. Had it not been for Khalil’s (*1) knowledge of this place and the skill of his men, we might have missed them altogether.
Even so, we are now hours too late. The area is again a sheet of smooth sand. Nothing remains to show of the people that were here, or the City (*2) – Especially the City.
Alysworth (*3) has begun to do what he can. Again and again, I thank your forethought and his unselfishness in coming. I do not know now if anything may be accomplished here, but anything we do may help.
We have found the two survivors I expected Jon. Just two out of all those who where here. Men, animals, equipment, all gone as if they never existed at all. The Loss! The ruinous, ruinous loss!! It weighs heavy on me. I should have come sooner, or tried harder Jon to convince Colbert(*4) that his search was folly. As an “official” of the French Government here, I should have revoked his permit on some pretext or other. Perhaps that would have prevented him from reaching the City until the danger was past. Perhaps that would not have been dismissed the way Khalil’s people were. Perhaps if we had arrived here sooner. They are all . . . all gone . . . except two.
Colbert is one of the survivors, I was uncertain if he would be. Khalil and Alysworth are both as astonished as I. By some miracle we may never understand he lives, and looks still – on the outside – to be wholly human. He has not regained consciousness since we found him six hours ago. A broken bone or two and a nasty cut above the eyebrow that will no doubt leave a scar, and a few superficial wounds – as one would expect him to have – appears all to be wrong with him.
I say appear, for he is yet too weak to attempt to look at him deeply. Alysworth fears the slightest touch may kill him – or worse yet – lead the City to our presence here. It is a foregone conclusion Jon, that the City has done some working upon him. Why else should he be left alive? The only real questions are what has been done? How much has he been altered? Most importantly how much of the man has been left behind for us to find?
The other survivor is the young woman that I wrote to you about earlier. The one that Khalil has been so protective of. Miss Durrell(*5), the illustrator from the University of Chicago. She too has been badly battered by the City’s force. . . but like Colbert . . alive.
How we found the both of them suggests a closeness between them that was never apparent on the surface in my dealings with them. Khalil has tended her with a calm anger that does not bode well for the fieldwork he and Colbert are now meant to do.
It must be – I am afraid Jon – another month at least before your self-imposed exile at Whispers may end. We must wait until the newspapers have had their day with this. Until the furor is over the disappearance has died down – else risk them being recognized. Colbert and Miss Durrell’s photographs will be on every front page in Europe I fear.
It is still very dangerous for us, even in this “safe place” provided by Khalil. One of Khalil’s folk has been force to kill a man not three miles from here. Alysworth was able to see that this stranger bore the Enemy’s (*6) mark in him. Over my objections the body has been taken some miles away and left for the animals.
Khalil’s explanation is that the death will look natural once the animals have done their work. Because of that, if there be others out there, no suspicion will fall on us. I do not like this new hardness in him, Jon, it is unlike him. I am watchful – saying nothing. . .. but I have many half-formed fears. I expect savagery from his Bedu warriors, but not from the ibn Serji who we have both known so long and so well.
They were not aware that I over heard what their original intentions were for the body. If Miss Durrell had not lived, Khalil would have condoned what they wanted to do. His concern for what would happen to her if we are discovered – has given the desert beasts their meal, instead of satiating the two-legged ones around us.
Indeed, had she not lived, and they being found as entangled as they were . . . Colbert might not have survived either.
I am weary Jon, long hours in the saddle are not conducive to high spirits. I find that the cold here bites deeper into my bones that every before. Age . . I feel my years. When I return to Whispers there are plans that must be made. I see you shaking your head as you read this. I would argue with you more here – for old times sake – but the small fire is to fitful to let me write much more.
I must close now, to put out the fire, and check yet again on our two survivors. We must move soon, whether or no they are strong enough to travel. Where there have been one of the Enemy’s men, there will soon be more.
On the edge of camp the courier waits to take away this letter to Cairo for posting, stands like s silent, dusky ghost. There is nothing beyond but the darkness, the wind and the ever-present hiss of sand.
Keep my people safe Jon, so that we may all soon lift glasses together in the great library.
- (*1) Khalil Ibn Serji - leader of an Egyptian Bedouin tribe,and member of Farquell's organization
- (*2) The city of Abydos in Egpyt
- (*3) Peter Alysworth, member of Farquell's organiztion
- (*4) Nolan Colbert - archeologist
- (*5) Alexandria Durrell - illustrator
- (*6) Thought to be a reference to Goddard Islie