Frank Harris.

The veils of Isis, and other stories online

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Author of "The Bomb," "Montes, the Matador,"
"Unpath'd Waters," etc.


Copyright, 1915,
By George H. Doran Company



The Veils of Isis 9

The Yellow Ticket 27

The Ugly Duckling 49

A Daughter of Eve 79

Isaac and Rebecca 149

A French Artist 185

A Fool's Paradise 217

Within the Shadow 241

A Miracle and No Wonder 267

A Prostitute .......... 285

The Kiss" ... k .... 301


. .JO

The Veils of Isis

The Veils of Isis

TOWARD the end of the second dynasty a
youth whom his father and mother had
named Amanthes came to manhood near the village
of Assouan on the Nile. From childhood on he had
been self-willed and passionate beyond the ordi-
nary, and growing in boldness and intelligence he
took the lead of the other young men. Because of
his superiority his father and mother, though poor
cultivators, were persuaded to devote him to the
priesthood. And as the young man was nothing loath
they took him one day to the Temple of Osiris. The
Chief Priest received them with kindness, for the
youth's promise had been noised abroad and he
spoke to them warmly in favor of the God whom
he worshiped and His divine mission: he told them
how Osiris had come down from Heaven to help
men and had suffered Death for their sakes through
the Powers of Darkness. With tears in his eyes he
told of the resurrection of the God and how at the
last He should judge the dead.


The Veils of Isis

Scarcely had he finished when Amanthes cried :

"Can a God be defeated? Why didn't Osiris
conquer the Darkness?" and other such things.

And when his father and mother, terrified by his
boldness, tried to restrain him, for the Chief Priest
held up his hands in deprecation, Amanthes went
on stoutly:

"I can't adore a God who accepts defeat; and I
don't fear judge or judgment. I want to worship
Isis, the woman-goddess, the giver of life, for her
creed of joy and hope and love must last as long
as the earth lasts and the sun gives light."

The Chief Priest pointed out that the temples to
Osiris were larger and more important than any
other, and the service of the God was nobler and
more highly rewarded, but Amanthes would not be
persuaded, insisting that the only divinity he could
worship was Isis, to whose service he was willing
to devote himself night and day with all his heart.

Impressed by his earnestness and enthusiasm, the
Chief Priest at length decided that it might be as
well if Amanthes went down the river to Memphis
to the great Temple of Isis, and as the young man
took fire at the suggestion he offered to give him
letters to the High Priest which would insure his
being accepted, and he excused himself afterward

The Veils of Isis

for this weakness by saying that he had never met
so eloquent a youth or so sincere a calling. Aman-
thes, he said, seemed careless about everything else,
but the moment the name of Isis was mentioned his
eyes glowed, his face became intense, and it really
looked as if the youth were inspired.

Ten days later Amanthes journeyed down the
river to Memphis, and presented himself before
the authorities of the Temple of Isis. But here his
passion carried little persuasion, and at first it
seemed as if his desire would be thwarted. The
High Priest read the letter of his colleague and,
after one glance at Amanthes, proposed to engage
him as a servitor in the Temple, but thought it
right, at the same time, to warn him that only the
best and noblest were selected to wait on the God-
dess herself, and that before one could hope to enter
her immediate Presence one must have spent half
a lifetime in the temple.

"It took me," he said, "nearly five years to learn
the routine of the service."

Amanthes listened with wide eyes and bowed in
silence to the High Priest's decision, but from the
very day he entered the temple he set himself to
learn all the ritual and ceremonial forms, and de-
voted himself with such passion to whatever was


The Veils of Isis

given to him to do that he became a marked man
among the younger priests.

Though he held himself aloof from all his com-
rades, he was not much disliked by them, for when-
ever his father and mother sent him presents of
dates or dainties he shared them out among the
others, contenting himself always with the simple
sustenance provided in the Temple.

To his father and mother he wrote but once, tell-
ing them to look upon him as dead, for he had given
himself to the service of the Goddess with heart
and life and for him there was no looking back.

A few months after his admission to the Temple,
Amanthes took a chance opportunity and begged the
High Priest to enroll him among the immediate
servants of the Goddess.

"I know all the forms and ceremonies by heart,"
he said, "and am eager now to learn the will of the
Goddess herself."

The High Priest was greatly astonished; but
though he found by examining the young man that
he was indeed a master of all the services, he would
not grant his request.

"You have still much to learn," he said, "before
you can hope for such honor, and the next test is
difficult," and on that he took Amanthes to the

The Veils of Isis

library of the Temple and showed him a room filled
with great rolls of papyrus, and priests studying

"They are all at work," he explained, "inter-
preting the divine Oracles."

"But where are the Sayings of the Goddess?"
cried Amanthes, as if nothing else mattered.

"Here," said the High Priest, turning over one
small yellow roll, "are the sacred words of the Di-
vine One, the words which have been commented
upon by wise men for thousands of years, and be-
fore we can believe that anyone is worthy to enter
the shrine of the Goddess he must first show his fit-
ness by interpreting her Oracles, or correcting some
of the commentators who have gone before."

"Let me first see the Goddess and learn her will,"
argued the young man; "when I know her I shall be
able to interpret her words."

"Presumption!" cried the High Priest, "mortals
can only get glimpses of the Divine, and can never
know the divine Will completely, any more than they
can see the Goddess unveiled."

All the young man's pleading was met with a
steady refusal: it was unheard of that any priest
should be admitted to the Shrine of the Deity before
he had passed at least ten years in the Temple.


The Veils of Isis

"I myself," said the High Priest at length, "knew
all the Oracles and had written two great books
upon them before I was admitted in my twelfth year
of service, and even then I only served at the door,
and never entered the Shrine but with eyes bound so
that I might not look upon the naked beauty of the

Amanthes pleaded with him as one pleads for
life; but still the High Priest remained obdurate.

"There are the Oracles," he said, pointing to the
books; "distinguish yourself and I will shorten the
time of your probation as much as I dare, or as cus-
tom will allow."

Amanthes once more bowed his head and took
his place among the students.

In the seventh month of the same year Amanthes
interpreted a saying of the Goddess with such free-
dom that all the readers cried blasphemy against
him, and brought him before the High Priest to an-
swer for the crime. Amanthes defended himself
with much boldness and many good reasons, till the
High Priest cried :

"You read the Oracles as if the Goddess were a
woman and nothing more, and that is wrong."

"How else can they be read?" retorted Amanthes.
"If she is not a woman one can never understand


The Veils of Isis

her, and if she is more than a woman we men can
only get to the divine through the human."

The High Priest himself was shaken, and hesi-
tated to decide, for in the course of the argument
he had found that the young man had read the
sacred Roll from beginning to end, and knew every
word of the Goddess by heart.

"How did you learn it," he couldn't help asking,
"in so short a time?"

Amanthes only looked at him smiling, by way of
answer, and again begged the Chief Priest to admit
him now to the service of the Goddess, for he had
surely proved himself and been patient. There was
nothing to gain by waiting.

But immemorial custom was against him and the
High Priest resented his insistence.

"You are too daring," he said at length; "it may
be well to use boldness to a woman, but to a Goddess
you must show reverence."

"No, no," cried Amanthes, "reverence to the
woman, who doesn't expect it and will be won by it,
boldness to the Goddess."

"Blasphemy," cried the High Priest; "you are on
a dangerous way and I must not encourage you,"
and motioning to the great bronze door, behind
them, he added: "Go on diligently as you have be-


The Veils of Isis

gun and it will be open to you perhaps after five

"Five years!" repeated Amanthes sadly; "five
years of life and youth lost: five years!"

"That door has never opened in less," replied the
High Priest solemnly, but as he spoke Amanthes
gripped his arm, crying:

"Look, look!" and when the High Priest turned
he found the door of the Shrine standing open.

"Strange," said the old man; "it must be some
accident; I will shut it," and he seized the handle,
but the door would not be moved; and as he stood
there all shaken and hesitating, Amanthes with eyes
aflame cried out:

"See, Isis the Beloved, Isis herself has answered
my prayer."

And Amanthes moved as if to enter the sacred
place, but the High Priest held him back, warning:

"If you enter without reverence and bound eyes
you will die on the threshold."

Amanthes laughed aloud, and strode past him
into the Shrine, and as the High Priest held up his
hands in fear and horror, the bronze door drew to
of itself and closed between them.

From this time on Amanthes was constantly in
the Shrine of the Goddess. Indeed, he scarcely gave

The Veils of Isis

himself time to eat or sleep, and everyone remarked
how thin he grew and haggard with the constant
service. And when, after some months, the High
Priest warned him that his health would break
down, and told him that he must not forget that the
chief thing was the interpretation of the Oracles,
Amanthes answered impatiently:

"I know nothing yet: the Goddess vouchsafes no
answer to my entreaties! How can one interpret
without knowledge?"

Now there was a tradition that in the first dynasty
a young priest had been consumed in the service of
Isis, and had wasted away before the Goddess, till
one day he was translated into flame and disap-
peared in a moment, and it crossed the High Priest's
mind that Amanthes was on the same road, and
likely to meet the same fate, and he desisted from
admonishing him, fearing to make bad worse. He
left the young man to his own devices, till strange
tales came to him from the other priests that set
all the Temple whispering.

It was put about that at night Amanthes used to
speak to the Goddess as if she were a woman, and
touch her statue as if the limbs were flesh. He had
been overheard entreating her as a lover entreats his
mistress, telling over her beauties adoringly, and


The Veils of Isis

begging her to lift the veil that prevented him en-
joying her divine loveliness. While all the priests
were muttering, and wondering how the impious
boldness would be punished, one came to them with
ashen face and a stranger tale.

"The Goddess has answered Amanthes," he
gasped; "Isis asked him why he wanted the veil
lifted, and he stretched forth his arms and cried:
'For Love's sake,' and as he spoke the Goddess
trembled, and I fled, for indeed the sacred veil had
begun to fall away "

The priests wouldn't credit the tidings. But when
Amanthes came forth from the Shrine some be-
lieved, for he was as one transfigured. He spoke to
no man, but went straight to his cell, and from this
time on he was continually heard praising the God-
dess in song and glorifying her Service.

A little later Amanthes went to the High Priest
and asked him to be allowed to write an interpreta-
tion of the Oracles, and his interpretation was so
bold at once and simple that the High Priest was
amazed by it and frightened, and asked him how he
dared to treat the divine words so boldly, and the
young man answered quietly now and in all humility:

"Love is my only guide, and the boldness of love
is reverence."

The Veils of Isis

The High Priest bowed his head, for in spite of
himself he was moved by the young man's tone and
unaccustomed humbleness. And when the servitors
came to the High Priest and demanded that Aman-
thes should be punished for insolent boldness he
shook his head and rebuked them impatiently. And
when they persisted, declaring that the worship of
Amanthes for the Goddess was an outrage and in-
sult to her, he answered simply:

"The Goddess can protect herself."

It was evident to all that he did not believe the
slanders. And indeed such portions of the interpre-
tations of Amanthes as the High Priest thought fit
to publish were so astonishingly simple and con-
vincing that they won many to admiration, and his
fame was noised abroad throughout all the land of
Egypt, and people came from afar to hear his words
and to listen to his interpretation of the divine

And his humility now was as evident as his bold-
ness had been aforetime.

"I know nothing," he said: "I am but a reed
through which the Goddess speaks : of myself noth-

His modesty impressed the people more than any
assurance would have done, and when he served Isis


The Veils of Isis

in public the great Temple was thronged and all
the people stirred by the fervor of the ritual, and
when at the end he knelt before the Goddess, to re-
cite the formal benediction, he prayed with such
passion that everyone was affected, and the worship
of the Goddess, the Giver of Life, spread on all
sides and grew mightily.

The success of Amanthes made many of the
priests envious, and sharpened the jealousy of those
who had been against him from the beginning. And
of these one of the chief was that servitor who had
already spied upon him, and reported his entreaties
of the Goddess to the High Priest. This man had
been one of the most learned of the commentators
before Amanthes had appeared. He did not know
all the words of the Goddess like Amanthes, but he
knew by heart all the comments that had been made
on them and all the interpretations for a thousand
years, which were indeed in themselves a library of
dead men's words. He had been supplanted by the
coming of Amanthes, and now lived for nothing but
his undoing. One day he came to the High Priest
with a mysterious air and a slander which he would
not tell, and when the High Priest pressed him to
say what it was, he withstood him.

"I will not repeat what I have heard," he said,

The Veils of Isis

"nor soil my lips with the blasphemy. Come and
hear for yourself."

And when the High Priest refused to come, for
he was very old and fearful of shocks, the slanderer

"You will see Amanthes," he said, "at his foul
work; and you will see Her too, and you shall judge
whether such things are to be permitted."

He spoke with such horror and hinted at such
practices that the High Priest at length consented to
go to his cell with him and spy upon Amanthes ; for
his cell joined the Shrine itself, and was only sepa-
rated from it by one wall. And he showed the High
Priest that, when his cell was darkened, they could
see between two layers of the stone everything that
went on in the Shrine of the Goddess and hear every
word as distinctly as if they had been within the
sacred place.

And while the High Priest and servitor were lis-
tening, Amanthes entered the Shrine and stood be-
fore the Goddess. And they saw that he had come
as from the bath, for his neck shone and his linen
had been bleached by the Nile water. For some
time he stood in dumb entreaty with hands out-
stretched, and the High Priest thought that the
Goddess trembled before the dumb intensity of the


The Veils of Isis

appeal, and he turned his head aside for he would
not trust his eyes.

At length Amanthes spoke, and the High Priest
scarcely recognized his voice:

"How long?" he cried. "How long?"

And his arms fell as if in despair, and he sighed
heavily as one in pain. And suddenly he went over
to the Goddess, and put his hands upon her hips,
and the Chief Priest turned aside breathless, for he
would not look, though the servitor with sharp-set
eyes nudged him. But he heard Amanthes speak-
ing, and as he spoke he turned again to the Shrine,
and this was what he heard:

"How long am I to wait, O Queen; how long?
Before I knew you I worshiped you, and every fa-
vor you have accorded me has fed my passion.
When you removed the first veil you showed me a
new Isis, even lovelier than my imagining, and I
stood entranced; and every veil you have taken off
since has revealed some new perfection hitherto un-
dreamed. Am I then unworthy to have the last
veil lifted? Unworthy, though consumed with

And as his hands touched the Goddess, the High
Priest saw that she trembled as if she had been flesh

The Veils of Isis

and blood, and his breath caught, for the Goddess

"If I refuse," said Isis, "it is for your sake,
Amanthes," and her hand touched his hair.

And Amanthes cried aloud:

"To refuse one thing is to refuse all : love knows
no denials : I would see you as you are, as the Gods
see you face to face."

And the High Priest shuddered in fear, for the
grave voice of the Goddess was heard again:

"No woman's soul can resist love: to-morrow it
shall be as you desire."

And they saw Amanthes twine his arms round the
Goddess and kiss her limbs, and with the last look
the High Priest saw that he was prone before the
Shrine with his lips pressed against the feet of Isis.

And the High Priest as he went would not even
speak with the servitor, for he was full of appre-
hension, and torn in many ways, partly by affection
for Amanthes, partly by curiosity, and most of all
for fear of what would happen on the morrow.

In the morning he gave orders that the servitor
should be in close attendance upon himself, and that
his cell, from which one could look into the Shrine,
should be closed, and he ordained twenty-four hours


The Veils of Isis

of solemn fasting and prayer for all the priests, and
decreed that the Temple should be shut.

In the second hour, after the orders had been
given, Amanthes came to him, and the High Priest
hardly dared to look on him, for his face was as
the face of one who had talked to the Divine and
won his soul's desire.

But Amanthes stretched out his strong hands and
caught the old man by the shoulders, and said in his
rich voice: "I thank you. You have done what I
would have ordered in your place."

And the High Priest gasped:

"Are you not afraid?"

"Afraid?" he cried. "To-night is the night for
which I was born," and as he turned and went the
High Priest saw his shining eyes and felt a little


The morning after the great fast the High Priest
went himself to the Shrine with all his attendants
robed and in order as to solemn service. And after
the three prayers the bronze doors were opened;
and there, stretched before the Goddess, lying prone,
was Amanthes. And the moment the High Priest
saw him he knew that the youth was dead, and when
he looked up at the Goddess he saw she was veiled
as usual, and her hands were by her side.


The Yellow Ticket: Jiolte Bilet

The Yellow Ticket: Jiolte Bilet

THE scene is in Moscow, just where the wide
Boulevard meets the TVerskaia. In the mid-
dle of the way is the statue to Puschkin; on the right
hand, walling the street, the great monastery to the
Passion of Christ. This is the favorite promenade
of the gay-plumaged night-birds of Moscow. They
walk up and down the street in the glare of the
shops, and then cross and go down the Boulevard,
shadows drifting from darkness into the light, and
again from the light into darkness.

One night in the early winter of 19 12 a young
girl was among them, warmly but dowdily dressed,
like a well-to-do provincial; yet she scanned the
passers-by as the professionals scan them, and
walked slowly as they walk, though it was no time
for loitering. The winter had set in early, and
already in November the air was keen with frost,
and the stars glittered like diamonds.

A young man came hurrying by: as he passed he
caught sight of the girl's profile and eyes as she lin-


The Veils of Isis

gered before a shop window. He stopped at once
and went over to her.

"Are you waiting for anyone?" he asked.

The girl replied quite quietly:

"No one in particular."

"Willi do?" he asked gaily.

She threw a quick glance at him and nodded.

His manner changed with her acceptance. For a
moment he put out his hand as if to take her by the
arm, and then drew back.

"I'm so sorry, but I have to dine to-night with
some relatives; I'm late already," he hurried on,
"but I must know you; I never saw anyone so pretty.
I can't stay to-night; I must go now; I can't get out
of it. You'll meet me to-morrow night, won't you?"

The girl shook her head.

"But why not?" he exclaimed. "It's absurd. I
want you; you have taken my fancy, and I want to
know all about you. Do promise me you will go
home now and be here to-morrow at the same time."

The girl shook her head again: "I can't prom-

"But why not?" he insisted. "It's absurd. Sup-
pose I pay you for the evening?"

He threw open his fur coat and took some notes
out of his waistcoat pocket.

The Yellow Ticket: Jiolte Bilet

"No, no !" cried the girl, shrinking away; "I don't
want money."

"Don't want money?" he said. "Don't be silly.
What else are you here for? Now look," he went
on imperiously, "here are ten roubles. Now go
home, and I'll meet you here to-morrow night at
half-past seven exactly. Will you promise?"

She shook her head; but he seized her hand and
shut the note in the palm.

"I must go," he cried hurriedly; "but I'm sure
you'll be here to-morrow; you're too young to
cheat." And he hurried away.

The girl didn't turn to look after him, but stood
for a moment undecided, then took out a little purse
and pushed in the banknote and resumed her casual
walk, now glancing at the passers-by, now with ap-
parent coquetry stopping in the full glare of some
shop window, loitering.

A little while later another man accosted her.

"What are you doing?" he asked.

She looked up as the strong voice reached her.


"And your name?" he went on, drawing her
nearer still to the glaring light in the window.

"Rebecca," she said, looking up at him.

"A Jewess!" he cried. "I might have known it


The Veils of Isis

with that coloring and those great eyes. But you
don't look Jewish, you know, with that little straight
nose; and you are new at this game, aren't you?"

The girl's eyes met his for a moment.

"Yes," she replied.

"Will you come and dine?" he asked.

The girl nodded.

"Are you free for the night?"

She paused as if swallowing something before she

"Come on, then," he said; "we'll go and have
some dinner and a talk."

The next moment he had stopped a droschky that
was swinging by behind a black Orloff, and had
helped the girl to a seat.

"To the Hermitage," he said, and the little car
whirled away down the street.

The Hermitage in Moscow is a very convenient
establishment. It has over two hundred suites of
rooms, from five roubles for the night to fifty; from
one room with a bed in it and the ordinary exiguous
toilet requirements, to a suite of sitting-room, bed-
room, and a bathroom so large that a couple may
swim about in it. It has sixteen entrances, too, and
as many exits, so there is small chance of meeting
anyone you don't want to meet.


The Yellow Ticket: Jiolte Bilet

The man, evidently a well-to-do merchant, se-
lected a good number, and as they followed the
waiter into the corridor a little bell tinkled, and con-
tinued to tinkle till they got into the sitting-room and
the closed door shut out its ringing.

"What's that bell for?" asked the girl.

"Oh, that is one of the customs of the place," said
the man, taking off his gloves and laughing to the
waiter; "isn't it, Ivan? The bell rings just to warn

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Online LibraryFrank HarrisThe veils of Isis, and other stories → online text (page 1 of 14)