As I drew slowly nearer and nearer to the home of "the great Enchantress," or, as Isis was also called in bygone days, "the Lady of Philae," the land began to change in character, to be full of a new and barbaric meaning. In recent years I have paid many visits to northern Africa, but only to Tunisia and Algeria, countries that are wilder looking, and much wilder seeming than Egypt. Now, as I approached Assuan, I seemed at last to be also approaching the real, the intense Africa that I had known in the Sahara, the enigmatic siren, savage and strange and wonderful, whom the typical Ouled Nail, crowned with gold, and tufted with ostrich plumes, painted with kohl, tattooed, and perfumed, hung with golden coins and amulets, and framed in plaits of coarse, false hair, represents indifferently to the eyes of the travelling stranger. For at last I saw the sands that I love creeping down to the banks of the Nile. And they brought with them that wonderful air which belongs only to them - the air that dwells among the dunes in the solitary places, that is like the cool touch of Liberty upon the face of a man, that makes the brown child of the nomad as lithe, tireless, and fierce-spirited as a young panther, and sets flame in the eyes of the Arab horse, and gives speed of the wind to the Sloughi. The true lover of the desert can never rid his soul of its passion for the sands, and now my heart leaped as I stole into their pure embraces, as I saw to right and left amber curves and sheeny recesses, shining ridges and bloomy clefts. The clean delicacy of those sands that, in long and glowing hills, stretched out from Nubia to meet me, who could ever describe them? Who could ever describe their soft and enticing shapes, their exquisite gradations of color, the little shadows in their hollows, the fiery beauty of their crests, the patterns the cool winds make upon them? It is an enchanted /royaume/ of the sands through which one approaches Isis.

Isis and engineers! We English people have effected that curious introduction, and we greatly pride ourselves upon it. We have presented Sir William Garstin, and Mr. John Blue, and Mr. Fitz Maurice, and other clever, hard-working men to the fabled Lady of Philae, and they have given her a gift: a dam two thousand yards in length, upon which tourists go smiling on trolleys. Isis has her expensive tribute - it cost about a million and a half pounds - and no doubt she ought to be gratified.

Yet I think Isis mourns on altered Philae, as she mourns with her sister, Nepthys, at the heads of so many mummies of Osirians upon the walls of Egyptian tombs. And though the fellaheen very rightly rejoice, there are some unpractical sentimentalists who form a company about her, and make their plaint with hers - their plaint for the peace that is gone, for the lost calm, the departed poetry, that once hung, like a delicious, like an inimitable, atmosphere, about the palms of the "Holy Island."

I confess that I dreaded to revisit Philae. I had sweet memories of the island that had been with me for many years - memories of still mornings under the palm-trees, watching the gliding waters of the river, or gazing across them to the long sweep of the empty sands; memories of drowsy, golden noons, when the bright world seemed softly sleeping, and the almost daffodil-colored temple dreamed under the quivering canopy of blue; memories of evenings when a benediction from the lifted hands of Romance surely fell upon the temple and the island and the river; memories of moonlit nights, when the spirits of the old gods to whom the temples were reared surely held converse with the spirits of the desert, with Mirage and her pale and evading sisters of the great spaces, under the brilliant stars. I was afraid, because I could not believe the asservations of certain practical persons, full of the hard and almost angry desire of "Progress," that no harm had been done by the creation of the reservoir, but that, on the contrary, it had benefited the temple. The action of the water upon the stone, they said with vehement voices, instead of loosening it and causing it to crumble untimely away, had tended to harden and consolidate it. Here I should like to lie, but I resist the temptation. Monsieur Naville has stated that possibly the English engineers have helped to prolong the lives of the buildings of Philae, and Monsieur Maspero has declared that "the state of the temple of Philae becomes continually more satisfactory." So be it! Longevity has been, by a happy chance, secured. But what of beauty? What of the beauty of the past, and what of the schemes for the future? Is Philae even to be left as it is, or are the waters of the Nile to be artificially raised still higher, until Philae ceases to be? Soon, no doubt, an answer will be given.

Meanwhile, instead of the little island that I knew, and thought a little paradise breathing out enchantment in the midst of titanic sterility, I found a something diseased. Philae now, when out of the water, as it was all the time when I was last in Egypt, looks like a thing stricken with some creeping malady - one of those maladies which begin in the lower members of a body, and work their way gradually but inexorably upward to the trunk, until they attain the heart.

I came to it by the desert, and descended to Shellal - Shellal with its railway-station, its workmen's buildings, its tents, its dozens of screens to protect the hewers of stone from the burning rays of the sun, its bustle of people, of overseers, engineers, and workmen, Egyptian, Nubian, Italian, and Greek. The silence I had known was gone, though the desert lay all around - the great sands, the great masses of granite that look as if patiently waiting to be fashioned into obelisks, and sarcophagi, and statues. But away there across the bend of the river, dominating the ugly rummage of this intrusive beehive of human bees, sheer grace overcoming strength both of nature and human nature, rose the fabled "Pharaoh's Bed"; gracious, tender, from Shellal most delicately perfect, and glowing with pale gold against the grim background of the hills on the western shore. It seemed to plead for mercy, like something feminine threatened with outrage, to protest through its mere beauty, as a woman might protest by an attitude, against further desecration.

And in the distance the Nile roared through the many gates of the dam, making answer to the protest.

What irony was in this scene! In the old days of Egypt Philae was sacred ground, was the Nile-protected home of sacerdotal mysteries, was a veritable Mecca to the believers in Osiris, to which it was forbidden even to draw near without permission. The ancient Egyptians swore solemnly "By him who sleeps in Philae." Now they sometimes swear angrily at him who wakes in, or at least by, Philae, and keeps them steadily going at their appointed tasks. And instead of it being forbidden to draw near to a sacred spot, needy men from foreign countries flock thither in eager crowds, not to worship in beauty, but to earn a living wage.

And "Pharaoh's Bed" looks out over the water and seems to wonder what will be the end.

I was glad to escape from Shellal, pursued by the shriek of an engine announcing its departure from the station, glad to be on the quiet water, to put it between me and that crowd of busy workers. Before me I saw a vast lake, not unlovely, where once the Nile flowed swiftly, far off a grey smudge - the very damnable dam. All around me was a grim and cruel world of rocks, and of hills that look almost like heaps of rubbish, some of them grey, some of them in color so dark that they resemble the lava torrents petrified near Catania, or the "Black Country" in England through which one rushes on one's way to the north. Just here and there, sweetly almost as the pink blossoms of the wild oleander, which I have seen from Sicilian seas lifting their heads from the crevices of sea rocks, the amber and rosy sands of Nubia smiled down over grit, stone, and granite.

The setting of Philae is severe. Even in bright sunshine it has an iron look. On a grey or stormy day it would be forbidding or even terrible. In the old winters and springs one loved Philae the more because of the contrast of its setting with its own lyrical beauty, its curious tenderness of charm - a charm in which the isle itself was mingled with its buildings. But now, and before my boat had touched the quay, I saw that the island must be ignored - if possible.

The water with which it is entirely covered during a great part of the year seems to have cast a blight upon it. The very few palms have a drooping and tragic air. The ground has a gangrened appearance, and much of it shows a crawling mass of unwholesome-looking plants, which seem crouching down as if ashamed of their brutal exposure by the receded river, and of harsh and yellow-green grass, unattractive to the eyes. As I stepped on shore I felt as if I were stepping on disease. But at least there were the buildings undisturbed by any outrage. Again I turned toward "Pharaoh's Bed," toward the temple standing apart from it, which already I had seen from the desert, near Shellal, gleaming with its gracious sand-yellow, lifting its series of straight lines of masonry above the river and the rocks, looking, from a distance, very simple, with a simplicity like that of clear water, but as enticing as the light on the first real day of spring.

I went first to "Pharaoh's Bed."

Imagine a woman with a perfectly lovely face, with features as exquisitely proportioned as those, say, of Praxiteles's statue of the Cnidian Aphrodite, for which King Nicomedes was willing to remit the entire national debt of Cnidus, and with a warmly white rose-leaf complexion - one of those complexions one sometimes sees in Italian women, colorless, yet suggestive almost of glow, of purity, with the flame of passion behind it. Imagine that woman attacked by a malady which leaves her features exactly as they were, but which changes the color of her face - from the throat upward to just beneath the nose - from the warm white to a mottled, greyish hue. Imagine the line that would seem to be traced between the two complexions - the mottled grey below the warm white still glowing above. Imagine this, and you have "Pharaoh's Bed" and the temple of Philae as they are to-day.