Spring 1987, Volume 4.1
In Search of Pharaoh's Chariots
Don McDermott is completing his Ph.D. in creative writing and literature at Oklahoma State University. He has published fiction in The Midland Review, George Washington Review, and others.
The clay banks of the Reed Sea are almost flesh. Indeed, some shorelines are as coral pink as blush. Gently bathed in the morning tide, the afternoon shore bubbles and winkles today as in the Second Millennium. By day the white ibis digs for water bugs in the mud quaggy enough to trap a crocodile or swallow a man, while in the shallows, snakes snag and devour the silver and green fish that make their houses under rushes of papyri. At night the purple sky still arches like a smooth speckled canopy, the virtual god on all fours over a sleeping lover.
Hamilton Beck did as he bad done for nearly three weeks. Before the others woke, he put on his khaki walking shorts and linen shirt, covered his head with a wide-brimmed Stetson, and climbed with pilgrim resolution the cliffs that still sheltered their camp with maw shadow. For protection against vipers he carried a Tyrolian walking stick he had purchased in Oberammergau. Against the failures of his life, ameliorated only by a momentary parting he had made in the sea of scholarship, he carried a Masoretic text of the Old Testament. "O Lord, the clay of the earth which Thou hast formed calls up to Thee. O Lord, I who am not worthy...."
Meanwhile, those who had come with him were in their tents sleeping under bug nets or already making the morning coffee with mineral water imported from France.
Professor Hamilton Beck had for a number of years been sitting on the laurels of a distinguished series of publications. His analysis of Linear B tablets from Knossos had reopened a long-moribund avenue of scholarship into the ciphering of early Minoan manuscripts. But this was not enough. His later discovery of and report on the tomb of Philip of Macedonia had represented the first contribution by any non-Soviet to the prestigious Journal of the Academy of Russian Archaeology. But the pinnacle of his success, thus far, had come with his discovery at Masada of the esoteric Temple Scroll, which exposed for the first time to modem and secular eyes the sacred rituals of the radical priests of Zadok.
Then there was a hiatus of some years during which archaeological circles waited anxiously for some word or rumor of )me Beck's next achievement. That he had declined invitations to chair various conferences, that he even refused interviews in the Chicago Review of Oriental Studies only fed the speculation that he was on to something big. His second divorce in as many years was the regrettable evidence of his all-consuming project at hand. Then nine that years went by. The world of biblical scholarship no longer waited sky for Professor Beck. Man's time is not God's time.
all 'I hate to cast suspicion on any race, Doctor Beck," Amos Spelling confided to him upon his return to the camp, 'but we may very well reed to get a new diving crew. These Egyptians . . he said, glancing about him to insure their confidentiality, "aren't really with us if you get my drift. . . ." Beck always listened to Spelling only because it had been Spelling's support that had made the financing of the project possible.
Beck nodded politely. "I hadn't considered that, but you might have something there. But how can we get someone else-this being a restricted military zone and all?" Spelling didn't know either, but he knew that there was a small American contingent-a peacekeeping force stationed farther down in the gulf, somewhere along the banks of the Red Sea to which the Reed Sea, or Gulf of Suez as it is modernly called, was merely a finger lake. Almost a month and no results from their divings, Beck was beginning to get a little nervous too, but he had not yet begun to look for conspiracies set against him.
"But your daughter will be joining us soon, right?"
Beck had forgotten. Yes, his first-born was arriving-today? Tomorrow?--Beck had lost track of time 'in the endless desert, beside the timeless waters,' but what Spelling wanted Beck's wandering mind to understand was that they needed an entirely new crew. "Yes, yes, of course." Beck knew Moslems held nothing against Moses Moslems accepted the Five Books of Moses and would have nothing against establishing their validity with archaeological evidence. What Beck was not sure about was if he wanted his daughter diving with these sons of Ishmael.
"Even so, Amos," Beck said defensively, "one diver among seven certainly wouldn't discover anything if the others were dead set against it." He had seen the shoddy Egyptian diving gear, the second-hand Soviet equipment, the way they left their gear in the sun to rot.
The Beck expedition consisted of Beck, Amos Spelling-the Dean of the College of Religious Study at the Kansas Baptist Institute which funded the endeavor-Spellings prematurely fat wife Jerusha, three anthropology or seminary students from KBI, six divers supplied by the Egyptian Ministry of Archaeological Study, and nine support personnel-cooks, drivers, boatmen, and mechanics, all still in uniform to the resurrected Egyptian Sixth Army. In the three weeks they had been dredging narrow strips in the gulf, there had been few problems. The Egyptians were glad to be on leave from the army and making a little extra spending money for their trips to Mama, a small Egyptian resort several miles away. Still, Beck saw them as slackers, and he didn't trust their swarthy skins, their fast Arabic, the way they seemed to always be fiddling around but never quite fixing the excavation equipment.
"Can you imagine these camel jockeys trying to move a column of heavy armor across the desert in a blitz?" Beck had cracked earlier to Spelling. To Spelling Beck was a sort of hero-or at least a link with the last heroic age. Beck had been with Patton and crossed the Sigried line into the heart of Nazi Germany. He had done his time in the old Pershing tanks-"sluggish, but dependable, heavily armored but profiled like a giant duck"
"Y'see, armored warfare," Beck said, casting disparaging glances at the Egyptians, "required precision, discipline and a cool head." Beck, indeed all of them including the Egyptian soldiers, well remembered the Six-Day and Yom Kippur wars, and all but Beck I had been dumbstruck to see the endless rows of Egyptian tanks and half-tracks dismembered and cremated along the military highway leading across the Sinai. Like Dante on the edge of the first ring, or Isaiah in the Valley of Bones, they had not believed that death had undone so many.
Beck, Spelling, and the other Americans ate a large breakfast together while the Arabs said their morning orisons, and bathed. They discussed the ten tons of silt they had processed, and one of the junior members of the group wondered if they weren't going about the dredging in the wrong way.
"Instead of criss-crossing the gulf with the strips of shallow samples, wouldn't it be better to just go to the center of the gulf and take one deep sample?"
Spelling's first response had been to remind the seminary student that on his (Spellings) first dig in the Negev, he had been content to learn as much as he could-by implication he meant to say "kept his mouth shut."
But that was an interesting idea, Beck conceded. "Yes, that was a brilliant observation." For a moment Beck looked at the student as though he had seen him touched by God. "Of course, in three thousand years there would be considerable movement of debris to the center of the gulf!"
The Pentateuch had numbered the fleeing Israelites in the hundreds of thousands. Certainly Pharaoh would not have pursued such a number-with less than a thousand or more chariots? All they would need to find was one chariot or horse in livery, one charioteer anchored down with ancient armor. But they must go deeper now, he realized, dig into the grave of so many followers of Pharaoh, into its clay bottom, as this young fellow had suggested.
The day's light was heavy upon them now, and they could feel the heat seeping up through the soles of their shoes. They knew their duties. The students under the supervision of Spelling would begin their screening of the previous day's barge load of mud. The divers would get their scuba gear and dredging equipment into the launch that had been provided. Beck would speak to Mohammed Abdulhafid, foreman of the Egyptian contingent.
"Straight down, Mr. Beck?" His black hand motioned, circling down in the air like a drill.
"Yes, how far can you go?"
Mohammed scratched the side of his cheek and watched a hawk circle overhead as he formulated his answer. "Not easy going down dangerous too."
'Mud slides underwater too."
He had heard everything now. "If you can't do it Beck said finally, rolling up his surface map of the gulf.
"Oh, I did not say 'can't do,' but it's dangerous and the divers will need to be persuaded." He meant more money, Beck thought. Where was Spelling? He would have to sign for any overdraft.
"If money is a problem," Mohammed asked jutting out his lower lip in a poor- man expression.
Beck wanted to sack them all on the spot. But he needed them like he needed Spelling and his Free-will Baptists. A man of Becks reputation should not have had to rely on the financing of the Baptist Union of Churches. But everyone else-the respectable academic world-had respectfully ignored his proposal. They did not appreciate the magnitude of his last quest. But what could they understand of the sulking deity of Sinai on the fashionable North Shore of Chicago. Jehovah was just a habiru god who had "done well for himself' as far as the higher critics were concerned, and they traced the evolution of jehovah from local hunting totem to god of war, from mighty lord of hosts to the benign scorekeeper of Christian thought. Beck himself had taught this himself years before. Had Yahweh opened the Gulf of Suez-made dry twenty eight miles of sea lane?
"Come, Dr. Beck, you must be kidding?" the Director of Oriental Studies had asked him over the phone. Beck knew the arguments from both sides: the undoubting literalists and the cynical grand masters of scientific seek-and-destroy. He even knew the position of 'millions' on the subject, the pseudonewtonian theologians who argued God by natural science.
"Quite possibly the volcano Thera had exploded sometime in the fourteenth century BC, and the aftershock might momentarily have displaced large bodies of water as far away as the Red Sea, coincidentally enough at the exact moment (give or take a century) that the Israelites were fleeing from Pharoah's army," Beck had said to the incredulous nonbeliever. Certainly all these probably's and might-have's were no mere coincidence. "Deus ex volcano," he concluded simply and said nothing to the higher critic about his new faith.
Finally Beck had had to swallow sand in seeking the backing of religious fundamentalists. As he was fond of saying, 'When Science climbs that last mountain, it might just find Religion sitting there all along." What else-not science surely-could explain Beck's thirst after knowledge of the Highest Good? Science could not explain the pain he felt. Even so, Beck did not suffer gladly the company of religious zealots when they were also ignoramuses. Even so, one could be in the right camp for many a wrong reason, and vice versa. Beck had been in both camps, but Beck had never beer confused-never been an ignoramus. When the extremes met, a final push had landed Beck where he had begun Beck had grown Immeasurably in going full circle. Even so, as everyone knows, it was hard to share the true faith.
When Zina arrived, she found her father in the middle of a small enclave ankle deep in water, excitedly examining a metal fragment that had been caught in one of their larger filters which passed the mud samples on in even smaller gradations.
"Hammy," she called from the edge of the bank as she shimmied out of the shoulder straps of her backpack. Zina was in her late twenties, and her face had sunk a little over the years, her youthful skin had lost its softness. Beck had warned her that too much tanning would make it like leather, and in truth, it had. But her figure was still sharp and sinewy, her legs athletic and well oiled, No one noticed her as she drew off her desert boots and waded into the midst. She wasn't Beck's only child. Still, he had doted on her as though she were and favored her till she herself had begged him to stop. He had told her that she was more than the apple of his eye-she was the tree and garden itself. He alone heard her voice as she tried to squeeze in among the others.
"Hey, dammit!" she shouted finally, trying to get in, and he lei drop to the pallet the molded metal fragment which tapered to a dull point.
Beck called her name and reached through the others to draw he in. He kissed and hugged her mightily, and over his shoulder she could see everyone's eyes wild with excitement. This was a great moment. Someone should take photos. There was some back slapping as Rev. Spelling now picked up the item of curiosity and displayed it
"Gentlemen, I submit for your consideration item lot number one Egyptian spearhead, circa 145O BC, Mosaic period." There were more selfcongratulations, more backslapping and splashing in the ruddy waters. Zina pulled back and saw tears flooding her father's sad hollow eyes.
She kissed him on both cheeks like a French general and declared, I 'Well Hammy, I bring you good luck, eh?"
That night he took her to the place on the rocky mount above their camp. Hamilton had located the camp near this spot as this point commanded a vista of the surrounding desert and gulf. Not far distant from this roundtop, he had already shown her a burned-out rnissile launcher. But she hadn't marveled at it. 'What was it, a junk yard?" she asked, pointing at the missile trailer. To her it was all bleak and useless.
Farther up he told her how Pharaohs, Romans, Pashas, Nazis, and most recently, the Egyptian Army had obviously used this mount for reconnaissance. "And perhaps Moses too," he told his daughter and thought she gave him an indulgent if not a patronizing smile. "Perhaps-perhaps not," he conceded. Then they sat cross-legged and quietly on the plateau for several moments and gazed east over the shimmering gulf bordered on the far side by a short row of vague purple cliffs.
"Ham," she said at last, leaning close to him, perching her chin on his shoulder and giving him a peck on the ear. 'What is it makes you chase these things?''
"You mean, I suppose, that I haven't settled down like you have to a life of vagabonding." He still had not forgiven her for having left Smith College before taking her degree. "You were only 12 credits short," he wanted to say again, as he had said on numerous occasions, but he didn't remembering other arguments and injuries.
"Hammy, I do think I'm going to settle down-going to get married."
"As soon as the dig here is over, I suppose. I want you to give me away."
He tried for a moment to picture the wedding, his standing next to his daughter, the look on his face when he saw again his former wife. But somehow the picture was impossible. "You must be kidding!" he replied. She shook her head. He knew that he would not attend his daughter's wedding, for some reason which seemed akin to the psychic-he couldn't imagine why, he sensed it like a band tightening about his heart. He turned away from the vision in his mind and back to her. It hurt him a bit to have to ask "her." 'Does she, your mother, know?"
"Of course-she's so excited. I left her all the arrangements flowers, dresses, bridesmaids, reception. I have to make sure of only one thing .... ',
Beck swallowed more sand and was alarmed almost to see a meteorite flare-out in the infinite space just above his daughter's forehead, as though it would have landed like a cinder in her curly red hair. Another portent? He no longer discounted anything.
His colleagues had always remarked on how, as a child, she alone took after him, the short straight nose and small flaring nostrils, the low curly hair line and thick eyebrows. But now, especially in the dim light of the moon, he could see his wife's imprint clearly on his first-born as she spoke and gestured, and he was almost moved to interrupt, to confess his insane lovesickness, to share the inexpressible with her.
"And how is she-your mother?" he said in a low careful monotone.
"Mom? Oh, fine. She sends her love-if you know what I mean. She'll be impressed to hear about your finding."
He forced a smile and squeezed her right shoulder. "Today's finding? You mustn't mention that it's nothing.
Despite the hoopla, Beck had not been impressed with the spearhead from the moment he had seen it. It was grimy and corroded, but it had not been of the right stuff-bronze, brass, or primitive iron. It was an alloy, like black steel or tungsten. Not old enough by a long way, he thought.
Spelling, however, had begged to differ. It was clearly a spearhead, and he intended to display it at the seminary as such. Hamilton did not doubt it. One of the Egyptians figured it later for what it was, to the amusement of the other Arabs: a detonating tip for an old floating sea-mine.
Beck had not explained to his daughter the rules of the dig. She was an unregenerate flower-child, a ripened dandelion dissipating in the whirlwind. Hitchhiking, nude bathing, and traveling with strangers were her mainstays as she criss-crossed the old and new world. He had noticed Jerusha's sidelong glance, scrutinizing his Zina's braless look at dinner that first evening. In the morning she had gone to bathe and, knowing nothing of the Moslem customs, she had, simply by her bikini-clad presence, driven the scantily dad Egyptians from the water.
"You can't bathe while the men are bathing he explained later.
"I wasn't bathing but going for a swim," she said.
"Nevertheless, they were."
"Bathing? They were all wearing speedos!"
"Yes, they bathe like that."
"They bathe in speedos?" she asked in grinning amazement.
"A good Moslem is never naked in public, some are never naked-in public or otherwise."
"Otherwise? What's their problem?" Beck understood about their world. He would have told her about the genie who sat upon their shoulders and recorded their deeds, both good and bad. But there was no telling when she would turn her scorn at their superstitions on him and his. Still he loved to see her eyes sparkle when she thought she was on to something or otherwise teasing God about his rules.
'What about when they have sex?"
Beck smiled and threw his hands up in exasperation like an Old Testament prophet. He blamed himself. He had raised her without religion during his own period of doubt. His free thinking had resulted in her irreverence. It had been like this with both his wives. But his intellectual liberation had really only been a truancy. He had cut himself off from all religious dogma, told himself man was the center of the universe. He had broken the bonds and speculated on things beyond the veil. His mind had seemed irreverently unbounded, but looking down, years later, his smugness had turned to bitterness and he saw hairline fissures in his feet of day. Perhaps this is what frightened him most-not ordinary death, he had seen that many times at the age of twenty as a tank commander. Something more than death rattled him now-not losing his life, but having lost at life swallowed him in panic.
Close to an entire week was lost while the diving crew reequipped themselves for the new task of going vertical into the gulf floor. And with only two weeks left to their excavation permit, Spelling became increasingly agitated and obnoxious. He began to express misgivings about their goals. He would need to explain this to the church. Wasn't certainty an enemy of faith? he asked. Would God allow his book to be proven? And he dogged Beck. He would ask 'What exactly do you have planned for today?" knowing full well the schedule. Yes, he had made three significant discoveries, but Beck wasn't a magician; he didn't pull rabbits out of his hat. Beck thought that perhaps it had been Spellings initial embarrassment about the mis-identification of the sea-mine device that had turned his attitude against Beck and his handling of the dig. Or perhaps it was the business of Zina's bathing with the divers that bothered him. There was no telling. Now Spelling was on Hamilton to have his daughter dive with the Egyptians or else what was she here for?
"She can tell us whether they are really working down there or just ...."
"You want my daughter to spy on the divers, then?" he interrupted.
"Wouldn't you like to know what is really going on down there? We see a trail of bubbles and get a ton of shit and that's all we know. Besides, Hamilton, she wants to dive!"
Beck, too, had been uneasy about trusting such a crucial part of the operation to the Egyptians. The possibility of the entire crew being controlled by the Ministry of Archaeology concerned him now. They might be sitting on top of the biggest discovery of the last skeptical century, waiting for his digging permit to run out so that an Egyptian archaeologist could come in and make the discovery. He imagined the divers swimming among the gleaming chariots, stripping the armor from ancient ancestral skeletons, making neat little golden Beck had no intention of letting her dive. That night he borrowed piles while a nearby drill and vacuum churned on unattended.
Beck had no intention of letting her dive. That night he borrowed one of the jeeps and took Zina into Mama for conscious at a cafe Chat served as an officers! club for the nearby American detachment. Zina wore her only dress, an Indian wrap-around skirt or sarong of sheer pleated cotton and a bare-midriff blouse embroidered with exotic birds of paradise.
"Hey pop, who's your sugar?" one of the GI's at the bar had cracked as they entered-somewhat under his breath, but Hamilton had heard it. He squared his shoulders and glared back. Hell, he wouldn't take that, he thought, but felt undermined the moment he looked round and caught Zina smiling and trading a wink with the stranger.
"He's just a boy, Dad," she said easily.
Hamilton had been in the service-he knew what he was. 'Don't let me get in the way if you want to join him," he replied curtly. Why was she taking the soldier's side against him?
She read his brows and answered back. "You never have gotten in the way, Hammy, and that's why I love you." Zina. always found a way of making him feel all right about his stuffiness. She leaned across the table, kissing him long and fully on the mouth. She was not easily offended, was in fact too easy with her forgiveness. No sense of the appropriate, of the just. Had she created mankind, she had told him once, it would not have been from dust or clay, but goose down and rose petals. More teasing, he thought. Now she would probably tell him that original sin would not have been grounds for eviction from the Garden. Beck looked again at the bronze Marine with two chevrons. He softened. He realized that the soldier was no threat and certainly no rival. How silly he had been, he thought, and tilted in the opposite direction. Why shouldn't a soldier notice an attractive girl? He asked whether he shouldn't go over and invite the young American to join them for a drink-a fellow American after all.
"Maybe later," she said and put her hand in his. "For an after dinner drink-if he's still there, that is, and if this wine makes me forget I'm engaged."
Arab waiters in white pajamas served a large terrine of stew and rice, and Beek said he enjoyed this meal more than any he could remember.
"C'mon, Dad, surely one of your dinners on one of your many honeymoons," she mused and thus opened the door to the topic that he generally refused to think about.
"I don't remember those moments," he confessed curtly. What moments did he remember? The opening of Philip's tomb-the first moment he had shined the incandescent lamps down into the beehive-vaulted tomb of Alexander's father. He had felt like a hero and burglar at the same time, a Hermes transgressing the underworld with impunity. And there had been the time he rappelled by rope down the side of Masada, attached like a spider over a chasm, and discovered the bat-infested cave that yielded up the Temple Scroll. Nothing is ever really lost, and somehow he felt a part of this history. He felt as though he had come on the heels of great events. The last man to have set foot in this tomb was no doubt the grieving Alexander. The last person to touch this scroll, to roll it up and hide it in a clay jar, had been some rebel priest moments before his own suicide. He sensed the timeless pathos of this history now and then as he stood on the bluff and looked out over the gulf. As for the marriages, he must have blocked them out.
"But tell me, Zina, you must have talked to your mother about our marriage." He settled his eyes heavily on her, but his heart skittered like a pigeon. "My did she really leave? You must know."
Zina only leaned her head on one palm and looked so sorrowful that he thought for a moment they would cry together. "Did she have so little respect for me that she could just he said swallowing the last words.
"Oh Hammy, there's no one that respects or admires you more. She's told me a thousand times what a brilliant mind you have."
'Why then? It was the religion then?" He held on to his emotions and pressed her again. He felt an ominous urgency to pursue this issue. Who could tell when if ever he would have the chance to speak with her again so frankly? He felt for a moment as though he were on the heels of something, as though he were about to break a plaster seal into a tomb-perhaps his own.
She would not look him in the eye now. She looked down upon the table, at the soiled cloth and half-finished plates of food. She dipped her fingers into her water glass and swirled the ice. After a moment he concluded she had no intention of telling him now or ever. He wasn't asking for a miracle, a restitution of all things; all he wanted was an answer to his question. It was wrong of her to keep the secret from him. But right or wrong, women stick together in these things. As much as he loved Zina, her femaleness, her perfidy set his heart with evil fire.
He summoned up now a stronger, more objective voice from deep in his gut. "I always tried to do what's right," he confessed. "Maybe that's boxing to some people, but. ..."
"Dad, you said the other day that man does not live by bread alone." He didn't remember, but it was the sort of thing he actually found himself saying now and again. 'When you said that, I thought, 'No, not by bread, not even by the word of God, but with I something else.' Don't you see? Even I have to wonder sometimes, if there is any room in that mind of ciphers for anything else." Her eyes were pleading, but her biblical allusion had offended him. After the way she lived, she had no right to quote from the Bible.
Besides, he knew all this; what's more he had never pretended to be anything but what he was. If she had wanted a frivolous man....
'Would you like to know what Mom said when I told her you were I trying to prove that God had parted the Red Sea? She said, Well, if that makes him happy."'
"Not the Red Sea, Zina," he lectured irritably. "The Red Sea is 'at one point 287 miles wide and 7,OOO feet deep. But the Reed Sea, as it was anciently called, that is another thing entirely; that is a real possibility, being shallow and less than fourteen miles across at one point." God could perform this lesser sort of miracle, he argued.
"I scarcely think Mother will appreciate the difference," she said uncomfortably, leaning back, wrapping herself with her arms.
"Yes, well, there you have it," he shot back and grabbed the corners of the table. He well understood the difference between the two miracles. "How could I love a woman who couldn't possibly understand the difference between parting the Red Sea and the Reed Sea, let alone the importance of the discovery that I am trying to make? Zina, you realize--don't you? If Pharaoh;s chariots are at the bottom of that gulf, you see what that means?"
"Dad, you haven't even asked the name of the man I am going to marry."
"Yes," he said in momentary confusion, "I'm sorry." But he did not intend to let her change the subject. "Did she ,m or did she not realize the importance of this discovery?"
She folded her napkin into a simple hat and put it on her plate. "I guess it means the fun's over--that I'd better mend my ways and become a serious character." Wasn't happy to hear that she was finally getting married--becoming an honest woman? Why couldn't they have a pleasant dinner and talk about her engagement and the man she was to marry?
This had nothing to do with her; this excavation had to do with God, he told her. If the chariots are there, it's because God trapped them there! He exists. That is the important thing. Chasing after the Great I AM is no frivolous or empty pursuit after hap-pee-ness! he said, mocking the whole concept.
"Let's forget God for a minute," she said finally, coolly, impudently. "Let's talk about reality."
That didn't make any sense to him. She was just smarting off. No, she was absolutely serious, she said. He was stunned by her admission. Doubt--that was reasonable--even necessary for faith, but absolute defiance of God, even if he didn't exist--that was an entirely different thing. His mind was spinning, and he thought that she had to at least hope God was there. What kind of world did she live in? He wanted to know.
"The chariots-you don't even hope they're there, do you?"
She shook her head. If this wasn't important, he had no idea what was. Angry and overheated, he wiped his face with the napkin and demanded to know. 'Then why in the hell did you come all this way--just to dive?"
In the morning she apologized off-handedly, and he said he had already forgotten it. Then he told himself that he didn't care what she did-dive or not-and he took little interest in her the two days she worked with the other divers, checking out shoddy aqualung gear, goofing around with and flattering the Arabs while she acquainted herself with the underwater mining procedure. They would be diving to more than 2OO feet. She had never been down more than eighty.
He despaired. How could any discovery be made with such a group? Spelling was just a rabid fanatic who Beck could see was only interested in hawking Egyptian artifacts in lecture tours from one end of the Bible Belt to the other. And, of course, there were the Egyptians, illiterate, superstitious, and lazy in this as well; not one of them had been to Mecca to press his lips to the holy meteor that Allah had given to Mohammed. Why, they were no better O~ the charioteers of Pharaoh and his false god. And last of all, there was Hamilton Beck, the higher critic turned agnostic, reborn Christian.
"O Lord, I am not worthy," he prayed again from atop his stone redoubt. Down in the gulf he watched momentarily and then turned away as the divers prepared to descend. Zina, like the Egyptians, pressed her mask securely to her face and fell backwards, head first and feet up, off the skirt of the launch and sank unnoticed into the sea.