Moresby, Louis. The Glory of Egypt. London: Thomas Nelson & Sons, Ltd., 1926, pp. 281.
Christopher (Kit) Ross, our narrator, is a cog in the Indian Civil Service. He has quarrelled with his girl-friend, Joan Boston, and now finds himself wishing to escape society. His friend, Soames, proposes an expedition into the north of India and to Tibet. The two of them have recently heard of a hidden kingdom that contains something described as “The Glory of Egypt.” Fame, and for Soames, fortune await. (Ross has an independent income and works pretty much just for the fun of it and because it is what is done.)
The proper authorities are duly soothed and permissions are obtained, for as far as they can go. Tibet is a closed country into which no foreigners are permitted to travel, under pain of death. The intrepid duo intend to ignore such trivialities. They are careful to not let anyone know of the true purpose of their expedition, yet a number of people seem to know or guess at their purpose.
The Glory of Egypt is a great jewel, held by the ruling family of a hidden civilization. Three thousand years ago this family was ousted from power in Egypt. The deposed ruler and his followers fled the country and eventually settled in a hidden valley in Tibet. There they have waited for the day they would return to retake power in Egypt. They have not just plotted and hid, but have kept up on what is happening in the outside world. Emissaries are regularly sent into the greater world to gather information and children of the rulers are actually sent out of the valley to be educated in the outer world.
Nephthys, the King’s daughter has been living in India but is summoned back to her home. Along the way she sees Ross and falls madly in love with him. One should be so lucky to have an exotic and mysterious princess fall madly in love with you with just a glance of your face. As it happens, this passion will prove to be very convenient for Ross, although Soames disapproves, “I know these Eastern women and their volcanic fancies that generally end in a knife between your ribs.” (136)
The expedition does manage to penetrate into the hidden valley and encounters a temple on the outskirts. They also encounter the temple guardians, the Things that run in the night. “A swift shambling body on bent legs, grotesque, horrible…It seemed an insect rather than an animal, a gigantic insect, large as a mastiff, and as it passed it swayed a huge head and stared at us with dead, unseeing eyes that were the source of the dim phosphorescence that lit its way…The running died down and the night was silent. Only the carrion smell remained.” (163-4)
Alas, the story does not deliver. The peril is only ever implied and never manifests. In fact, the duo never penetrate beyond the outer edges of the hidden valley and, aside from Nephthys, see only one other inhabitant of the valley. We never meet the residents of the valley, nor is there much information provided about the kind of society they have constructed. Any possible fusion of Tibetan Buddhism and ancient Egyptian beliefs never comes about. (Adams Beck was a committed Buddhist, although, in her defence, not a whole lot was know about Tibetan Buddhism in the 1920’s. It wasn’t until after the Chinese invaded Tibet in 1950 that knowledge of the practices and philosophy of Tibetan Buddhism became generally known to the greater world. The forced exile of many Tibetans has spread Tibetan Buddhist thought throughout the world.)
Things don’t go well between Ross and Soames. Soames resents Nephthys and resents Ross’s easy wealth. Ross is rather a toxic character. He is the privileged man, with money and influential friends. He has never had to earn anything in his life. Even exotic foreign princesses seem to be throwing themselves under his feet. Soames needs Ross to have any chance at getting the expedition of the ground. Ross has no need of Soames. As it happens, those who put their trust in Ross come to a bad end. So, perhaps, Moresby does play with the reader’s expectations somewhat, for in the end, for the modern reader, Ross is not all that heroic.
The Glory of Egypt was the first of three novels written under the Louis Moresby pseudonym, with Rubies and Captain Java being the other two. Moresby was L. Adams Beck, a prolific B.C. writer in her day. Of the three Moresby stories that Ms. Beck penned, The Glory of Egypt is her weakest. No further printings were ever made.