Inspired by the real life adventures of the intrepid Gertrude Margaret Lowthian Bell in the Middle East, Euphemia dreamed of becoming an adventurer herself.
Euphemia reasoned, unreasonably since she was a “Bright Young Thing”, that if she stayed in England she would probably become yet another, dreary, surplus woman3 – and women were simply not her forte.
3 Three quarters of a million British soldiers were killed during the Great War. This resulted in the Surplus Two Million – women for whom marriage, children and socially acceptable sexual outlet died alongside their men.
Euphemia strongly believed that not living beyond your means was inexcusably unimaginative – and she had significant means. Thus, she saw it as her economic and social duty to begin to dip into the rather large sum of money at her disposal, and go on an extended Grand Tour. She spent two years traveling through Europe, the Middle East and North Africa under the premise of completing her education, sans chaperone, sans servants, and despite her father’s protestations.
During her travels to exotic locales Euphemia discovered that she had a way with tongues, including languages, and rapidly became a polyglot who never ended a sentence with a preposition nor a diaeresis (just too fussy), which in turn opened many intriguing doors. She also discovered that she was easily satisfied with the best in all things. When she visited Egypt, a couple of tumultuous years before Egyptian independence from Great Britain, she felt for the first time in her life that she was home and decided to stay for a while.
Euphemia moved into a private apartment on the top floor of the Winter Palace in Luxor, located on the banks of the River Nile. The Palace was already legendary as the archaeological excavation headquarters for the world’s largest open-air museum, and the place to see and be seen within the U-nous-crowd, and luckily it was beyond the simple means of most of the non-U-les-crowd. The Winter Palace proved to be the ideal location to establish and diversify her business portfolio.
In addition to significant wealth, Euphemia had also inherited a peculiar legacy from her maternal grandmother. She had an extreme passion for collecting amorous rendez-vous with antiquarian benefits. To be discerning, Euphemia limited her collection to archaeologists who insisted on providing her with valuable momentos that had to be at least a thousand years old. Anything younger was just not worth it. Her collection started back in London during the Great War, when her natural hourglass figure had personified the ideal Gibson Girl in the society pages (although she was an old Bloomsbury Girl, devoted to “love, the creation and enjoyment of aesthetic experience and the pursuit of knowledge”) when one of her collectibles in a state of deshabille and languorous post-coital glow presented her with a Mycenian clay tablet from Knossos inscribed with Linear B.
One of her many beaus, a Middle Kingdom Egyptian epigrapher, who had all the seductively charming vices that Euphemia admired, was on his first expedition with the newly founded Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. The dashing young Montagu (a.k.a. Monty) McNaughty, Ph.D., taught her the sublime art of the ancient tongue in return for her confectionery smooches, and, more and more frequently, a moderate handful of firm breast. In time, with the help of the most agreeable Mr. McNaughty, Euphemia possessed a rather decent grasp of hieroglyphs.
On a particularly quiet evening, when the dry and dusty low pressure harmattan trade winds had died down, Euphemia and Mr. McNaughty walked hand in hand up the escarpment which surrounded the desolate Valley of the Queens in search of a quite spot to engage in some whoopie.
Out of breath after their evening constitutional, the two sat in contented silence, drinking British gin with quinine, as an anti-malarial precaution bien sur, from the silver flask Euphemia always wore, held in place by her outer left thigh garter belt. They watched the full moon rise from behind a prominent sandblasted fairy chimney hoodoo rock formation that looked like a champagne bottle just about to pop. Using the long, slender, red lacquer-tipped pointer finger on her left hand, Euphemia drew a hieroglyph in the iron-stained pink sand.
“Says you! No, my love, you have it wrong,” Mr. McNaughty gently cooed in a mildly condescending professorial voice that Euphemia, ever the modernist, registered and tucked away for future reference.
“That’s a ‘glyph depicting a combination of the symbols of a sinfully bestial joining of the god Thoth and his sometimes reputed, but still not proven, consort Hathor, the goddess of beauty. No such cartouche is noted in my Penultimate Guide to Translating Hieroglyphs, which, as I have told you before, is perhaps the most exciting scholarly contribution in the highly competitive world of epigraphy since Jean-François Champollion and Thomas Young translated parts of the Classical Egyptian hieroglyphs from the Classical Greek and Demotic Egyptian on the Rosetta Stone a hundred years ago.”
“Are you quite certain? I am sure I have seen it,” said Euphemia, pouting prettily with her slightly smeared painted blood red lips like a currently vogue vamp in heat.
“You most likely saw it on one of those fraudulent antiquities being sold in Cairo by the basketful. Mr. Carter and Earl Carnarvon’s most recent discovery seems to have created quite a market for them – even though the tomb has yet to be officially opened,” declared Mr. McNaughty.
Euphemia paused. Could this man be trusted? Which did not mean was he an honest man; the lovely Madame Tula would have nothing to do with the utterly scrupulous! The real question was – would he help her? She deliberated for a moment and then decided that he might be of some non-carnal use to her.
“Monty dearest, while I may be a professional charlatan – oh, don’t pretend to look so shocked – I have a particular passion for which I need advice.” Euphemia then proceeded to tell him of her rapidly accumulating collection.
In the end, the congenial Mr. McNaughty proved himself most worthy of her confidence and the warmth between her thighs.