Bram Stoker ~ The Jewel of Seven Stars {Part Two}

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Chapter XI
A Queen’s Tomb

“Mr. Trelawny’s hope was at least as great as my own. He is not so
volatile a man as I am, prone to ups and downs of hope and despair; but
he has a fixed purpose which crystallises hope into belief. At times I
had feared that there might have been two such stones, or that the
adventures of Van Huyn were traveller’s fictions, based on some ordinary
acquisition of the curio in Alexandria or Cairo, or London or Amsterdam.
But Mr. Trelawny never faltered in his belief. We had many things to
distract our minds from belief or disbelief. This was soon after Arabi
Pasha, and Egypt was so safe place for travellers, especially if they
were English. But Mr. Trelawny is a fearless man; and I almost come to
think at times that I am not a coward myself. We got together a band of
Arabs whom one or other of us had known in former trips to the desert,
and whom we could trust; that is, we did not distrust them as much as
others. We were numerous enough to protect ourselves from chance
marauding bands, and we took with us large impedimenta. We had secured
the consent and passive co-operation of the officials still friendly to
Britain; in the acquiring of which consent I need hardly say that Mr.
Trelawny’s riches were of chief importance. We found our way in
dhahabiyehs to Aswan; whence, having got some Arabs from the Sheik and
having given our usual backsheesh, we set out on our journey through the
desert.

“Well, after much wandering and trying every winding in the interminable
jumble of hills, we came at last at nightfall on just such a valley as
Van Huyn had described. A valley with high, steep cliffs; narrowing in
the centre, and widening out to the eastern and western ends. At
daylight we were opposite the cliff and could easily note the opening
high up in the rock, and the hieroglyphic figures which were evidently
intended originally to conceal it.

“But the signs which had baffled Van Huyn and those of his time–and
later, were no secrets to us. The host of scholars who have given their
brains and their lives to this work, had wrested open the mysterious
prison-house of Egyptian language. On the hewn face of the rocky cliff
we, who had learned the secrets, could read what the Theban priesthood
had had there inscribed nearly fifty centuries before.

“For that the external inscription was the work of the priesthood–and a
hostile priesthood at that–there could be no living doubt. The
inscription on the rock, written in hieroglyphic, ran thus:

“‘Hither the Gods come not at any summons. The “Nameless One” has
insulted them and is for ever alone. Go not nigh, lest their vengeance
wither you away!’

“The warning must have been a terribly potent one at the time it was
written and for thousands of years afterwards; even when the language in
which it was given had become a dead mystery to the people of the land.
The tradition of such a terror lasts longer than its cause. Even in the
symbols used there was an added significance of alliteration. ‘For
ever’ is given in the hieroglyphics as ‘millions of years’. This symbol
was repeated nine times, in three groups of three; and after each group
a symbol of the Upper World, the Under World, and the Sky. So that for
this Lonely One there could be, through the vengeance of all the Gods,
resurrection in neither the World of Sunlight, in the World of the Dead,
or for the soul in the region of the Gods.

“Neither Mr. Trelawny nor I dared to tell any of our people what the
writing meant. For though they did not believe in the religion whence
the curse came, or in the Gods whose vengeance was threatened, yet they
were so superstitious that they would probably, had they known of it,
have thrown up the whole task and run away.

“Their ignorance, however, and our discretion preserved us. We made an
encampment close at hand, but behind a jutting rock a little further
along the valley, so that they might not have the inscription always
before them. For even that traditional name of the place: ‘The Valley
of the Sorcerer’, had a fear for them; and for us through them. With
the timber which we had brought, we made a ladder up the face of the
rock. We hung a pulley on a beam fixed to project from the top of the
cliff. We found the great slab of rock, which formed the door, placed
clumsily in its place and secured by a few stones. Its own weight kept
it in safe position. In order to enter, we had to push it in; and we
passed over it. We found the great coil of chain which Van Huyn had
described fastened into the rock. There were, however, abundant
evidences amid the wreckage of the great stone door, which had revolved
on iron hinges at top and bottom, that ample provision had been
originally made for closing and fastening it from within.

“Mr. Trelawny and I went alone into the tomb. We had brought plenty of
lights with us; and we fixed them as we went along. We wished to get a
complete survey at first, and then make examination of all in detail.
As we went on, we were filled with ever-increasing wonder and delight.
The tomb was one of the most magnificent and beautiful which either of
us had ever seen. From the elaborate nature of the sculpture and
painting, and the perfection of the workmanship, it was evident that the
tomb was prepared during the lifetime of her for whose resting-place it
was intended. The drawing of the hieroglyphic pictures was fine, and
the colouring superb; and in that high cavern, far away from even the
damp of the Nile-flood, all was as fresh as when the artists had laid
down their palettes. There was one thing which we could not avoid
seeing. That although the cutting on the outside rock was the work of
the priesthood, the smoothing of the cliff face was probably a part of
the tomb-builder’s original design. The symbolism of the painting and
cutting within all gave the same idea. The outer cavern, partly natural
and partly hewn, was regarded architecturally as only an ante-chamber.
At the end of it, so that it would face the east, was a pillared
portico, hewn out of the solid rock. The pillars were massive and were
seven-sided, a thing which we had not come across in any other tomb.
Sculptured on the architrave was the Boat of the Moon, containing
Hathor, cow-headed and bearing the disk and plumes, and the dog-headed
Hapi, the God of the North. It was steered by Harpocrates towards the
north, represented by the Pole Star surrounded by Draco and Ursa Major.
In the latter the stars that form what we call the ‘Plough’ were cut
larger than any of the other stars; and were filled with gold so that,
in the light of torches, they seemed to flame with a special
significance. Passing within the portico, we found two of the
architectural features of a rock tomb, the Chamber, or Chapel, and the
Pit, all complete as Van Huyn had noticed, though in his day the names
given to these parts by the Egyptians of old were unknown.

“The Stele, or record, which had its place low down on the western wall,
was so remarkable that we examined it minutely, even before going on our
way to find the mummy which was the object of our search. This Stele
was a great slab of lapis lazuli, cut all over with hieroglyphic figures
of small size and of much beauty. The cutting was filled in with some
cement of exceeding fineness, and of the colour of pure vermilion. The
inscription began:

“‘Tera, Queen of the Egypts, daughter of Antef, Monarch of the North and
the South.’ ‘Daughter of the Sun,’ ‘Queen of the Diadems’.

“It then set out, in full record, the history of her life and reign.

“The signs of sovereignty were given with a truly feminine profusion of
adornment. The united Crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt were, in especial,
cut with exquisite precision. It was new to us both to find the Hejet
and the Desher–the White and the Red crowns of Upper and Lower
Egypt–on the Stele of a queen; for it was a rule, without exception in
the records, that in ancient Egypt either crown was worn only by a king;
though they are to be found on goddesses. Later on we found an
explanation, of which I shall say more presently.

“Such an inscription was in itself a matter so startling as to arrest
attention from anyone anywhere at any time; but you can have no
conception of the effect which it had upon us. Though our eyes were not
the first which had seen it, they were the first which could see it with
understanding since first the slab of rock was fixed in the cliff
opening nearly five thousand years before. To us was given to read this
message from the dead. This message of one who had warred against the
Gods of Old, and claimed to have controlled them at a time when the
hierarchy professed to be the only means of exciting their fears or
gaining their good will.

“The walls of the upper chamber of the Pit and the sarcophagus Chamber
were profusely inscribed; all the inscriptions, except that on the
Stele, being coloured with bluish-green pigment. The effect when seen
sideways as the eye caught the green facets, was that of an old,
discoloured Indian turquoise.

“We descended the Pit by the aid of the tackle we had brought with us.
Trelawny went first. It was a deep pit, more than seventy feet; but it
had never been filled up. The passage at the bottom sloped up to the
sarcophagus Chamber, and was longer than is usually found. It had not
been walled up.

“Within, we found a great sarcophagus of yellow stone. But that I need
not describe; you have seen it in Mr. Trelawny’s chamber. The cover of
it lay on the ground; it had not been cemented, and was just as Van Huyn
had described it. Needless to say, we were excited as we looked within.
There must, however, be one sense of disappointment. I could not help
feeling how different must have been the sight which met the Dutch
traveller’s eyes when he looked within and found that white hand lying
lifelike above the shrouding mummy cloths. It is true that a part of
the arm was there, white and ivory like.

“But there was a thrill to us which came not to Van Huyn!

“The end of the wrist was covered with dried blood! It was as though
the body had bled after death! The jagged ends of the broken wrist were
rough with the clotted blood; through this the white bone, sticking out,
looked like the matrix of opal. The blood had streamed down and stained
the brown wrappings as with rust. Here, then, was full confirmation of
the narrative. With such evidence of the narrator’s truth before us, we
could not doubt the other matters which he had told, such as the blood
on the mummy hand, or marks of the seven fingers on the throat of the
strangled Sheik.

“I shall not trouble you with details of all we saw, or how we learned
all we knew. Part of it was from knowledge common to scholars; part we
read on the Stele in the tomb, and in the sculptures and hieroglyphic
paintings on the walls.

“Queen Tera was of the Eleventh, or Theban Dynasty of Egyptian Kings
which held sway between the twenty-ninth and twenty-fifth centuries
before Christ. She succeeded as the only child of her father, Antef.
She must have been a girl of extraordinary character as well as ability,
for she was but a young girl when her father died. Her youth and sex
encouraged the ambitious priesthood, which had then achieved immense
power. By their wealth and numbers and learning they dominated all
Egypt, more especially the Upper portion. They were then secretly ready
to make an effort for the achievement of their bold and long-considered
design, that of transferring the governing power from a Kingship to a
Hierarchy. But King Antef had suspected some such movement, and had
taken the precaution of securing to his daughter the allegiance of the
army. He had also had her taught statecraft, and had even made her
learned in the lore of the very priests themselves. He had used those of
one cult against the other; each being hopeful of some present gain on
its own part by the influence of the King, or of some ultimate gain from
its own influence over his daughter. Thus, the Princess had been
brought up amongst scribes, and was herself no mean artist. Many of
these things were told on the walls in pictures or in hieroglyphic
writing of great beauty; and we came to the conclusion that not a few of
them had been done by the Princess herself. It was not without cause
that she was inscribed on the Stele as ‘Protector of the Arts’.

“But the King had gone to further lengths, and had had his daughter
taught magic, by which she had power over Sleep and Will. This was real
magic–“black” magic; not the magic of the temples, which, I may explain,
was of the harmless or “white” order, and was intended to impress rather
than to effect. She had been an apt pupil; and had gone further than
her teachers. Her power and her resources had given her great
opportunities, of which she had availed herself to the full. She had
won secrets from nature in strange ways; and had even gone to the length
of going down into the tomb herself, having been swathed and coffined
and left as dead for a whole month. The priests had tried to make out
that the real Princess Tera had died in the experiment, and that another
girl had been substituted; but she had conclusively proved their error.
All this was told in pictures of great merit. It was probably in her
time that the impulse was given in the restoring the artistic greatness
of the Fourth Dynasty which had found its perfection in the days of
Chufu.

“In the Chamber of the sarcophagus were pictures and writings to show
that she had achieved victory over Sleep. Indeed, there was everywhere
a symbolism, wonderful even in a land and an age of symbolism.
Prominence was given to the fact that she, though a Queen, claimed all
the privileges of kingship and masculinity. In one place she was
pictured in man’s dress, and wearing the White and Red Crowns. In the
following picture she was in female dress, but still wearing the Crowns
of Upper and Lower Egypt, while the discarded male raiment lay at her
feet. In every picture where hope, or aim, of resurrection was
expressed there was the added symbol of the North; and in many places–
always in representations of important events, past, present, or
future–was a grouping of the stars of the Plough. She evidently
regarded this constellation as in some way peculiarly associated with
herself.

“Perhaps the most remarkable statement in the records, both on the STele
and in the mural writings, was that Queen Tera had power to compel the
Gods. This, by the way, was not an isolated belief in Egyptian history;
but was different in its cause. She had engraved on a ruby, carved like
a scarab, and having seven stars of seven points, Master Words to compel
all the Gods, both of the Upper and the Under Worlds.

“In the statement it was plainly set forth that the hatred of the
priests was, she knew, stored up for her, and that they would after her
death try to suppress her name. This was a terrible revenge, I may tell
you, in Egyptian mythology; for without a name no one can after death be
introduced to the Gods, or have prayers said for him. Therefore, she had
intended her resurrection to be after a long time and in a more northern
land, under the constellation whose seven stars had ruled her birth. To
this end, her hand was to be in the air–‘unwrapped’–and in it the Jewel
of Seven Stars, so that wherever there was air she might move even as
her Ka could move! This, after thinking it over, Mr. Trelawny and I
agreed meant that her body could become astral at command, and so move,
particle by particle, and become whole again when and where required.
Then there was a piece of writing in which allusion was made to a chest
or casket in which were contained all the Gods, and Will, and Sleep, the
two latter being personified by symbols. The box was mentioned as with
seven sides. It was not much of a surprise to us when, underneath the
feet of the mummy, we found the seven-sided casket, which you have also
seen in Mr. Trelawny’s room. On the underneath part of the wrapping–
linen of the left foot was painted, in the same vermilion colour as that
used in the Stele, the hieroglyphic symbol for much water, and
underneath the right foot the symbol of the earth. We made out the
symbolism to be that her body, immortal and transferable at will, ruled
both the land and water, air and fire–the latter being exemplified by
the light of the Jewel Stone, and further by the flint and iron which
lay outside the mummy wrappings.

“As we lifted the casket from the sarcophagus, we noticed on its sides
the strange protuberances which you have already seen; but we were
unable at the time to account for them. There were a few amulets in the
sarcophagus, but none of any special worth or significance. We took it
that if there were such, they were within the wrappings; or more
probably in the strange casket underneath the mummy’s feet. This,
however, we could not open. There were signs of there being a cover;
certainly the upper portion and the lower were each in one piece. The
fine line, a little way from the top, appeared to be where the cover was
fixed; but it was made with such exquisite fineness and finish that the
joining could hardly be seen. Certainly the top could not be moved. We
took it, that it was in some way fastened from within. I tell you all
this in order that you may understand things with which you may be in
contact later. You must suspend your judgment entirely. Such strange
things have happened regarding this mummy and all around it, that there
is a necessity for new belief somewhere. It is absolutely impossible to
reconcile certain things which have happened with the ordinary currents
of life or knowledge.

“We stayed around the Valley of the Sorcerer, till we had copied roughly
all the drawings and writings on the walls, ceiling and floor. We took
with us the Stele of lapis lazuli, whose graven record was coloured with
vermilion pigment. We took the sarcophagus and the mummy; the stone
chest with the alabaster jars; the tables of bloodstone and alabaster
and onyx and carnelian; and the ivory pillow whose arch rested on
‘buckles’, round each of which was twisted an uraeus wrought in gold.
We took all the articles which lay in the Chapel, and the Mummy Pit; the
wooden boats with crews and the ushaptiu figures, and the symbolic
amulets.

“When coming away we took down the ladders, and at a distance buried
them in the sand under a cliff, which we noted so that if necessary we
might find them again. Then with our heavy baggage, we set out on our
laborious journey back to the Nile. It was no easy task, I tell you, to
bring the case with that great sarcophagus over the desert. We had a
rough cart and sufficient men to draw it; but the progress seemed
terribly slow, for we were anxious to get our treasures into a place of
safety. The night was an anxious time with us, for we feared attack
from some marauding band. But more still we feared some of those with
us. They were, after all, but predatory, unscrupulous men; and we had
with us a considerable bulk of precious things. They, or at least the
dangerous ones amongst them, did not know why it was so precious; they
took it for granted that it was material treasure of some kind that we
carried. We had taken the mummy from the sarcophagus, and packed it for
safety of travel in a separate case. During the first night two
attempts were made to steal things from the cart; and two men were found
dead in the morning.

“On the second night there came on a violent storm, one of those
terrible simooms of the desert which makes one feel his helplessness.
We were overwhelmed with drifting sand. Some of our Bedouins had fled
before the storm, hoping to find shelter; the rest of us, wrapped in our
bournous, endured with what patience we could. In the morning, when the
storm had passed, we recovered from under the piles of sand what we
could of our impedimenta. We found the case in which the mummy had been
packed all broken, but the mummy itself could nowhere be found. We
searched everywhere around, and dug up the sand which had piled around
us; but in vain. We did not know what to do, for Trelawny had his heart
set on taking home that mummy. We waited a whole day in hopes that the
Bedouins, who had fled, would return; we had a blind hope that they
might have in some way removed the mummy from the cart, and would
restore it. That night, just before dawn, Mr. Trelawny woke me up and
whispered in my ear:

“‘We must go back to the tomb in the Valley of the Sorcerer. Show no
hesitation in the morning when I give the orders! If you ask any
questions as to where we are going it will create suspicion, and will
defeat our purpose.”

“‘All right!” I answered. “But why shall we go there?’ His answer
seemed to thrill through me as though it had struck some chord ready
tuned within:

“‘We shall find the mummy there! I am sure of it!’ Then anticipating
doubt or argument he added:

“‘Wait, and you shall see!’ and he sank back into his blanket again.

“The Arabs were surprised when we retraced our steps; and some of them
were not satisfied. There was a good deal of friction, and there were
several desertions; so that it was with a diminished following that we
took our way eastward again. At first the Sheik did not manifest any
curiosity as to our definite destination; but when it became apparent
that we were again making for the Valley of the Sorcerer, he too showed
concern. This grew as we drew near; till finally at the entrance of the
valley he halted and refused to go further. He said he would await our
return if we chose to go on alone. That he would wait three days; but
if by that time we had not returned he would leave. No offer of money
would tempt him to depart from this resolution. The only concession he
would make was that he would find the ladders and bring them near the
cliff. This he did; and then, with the rest of the troop, he went back
to wait at the entrance of the valley.

“Mr. Trelawny and I took ropes and torches, and again ascended to the
tomb. It was evident that someone had been there in our absence, for
the stone slab which protected the entrance to the tomb was lying flat
inside, and a rope was dangling from the cliff summit. Within, there
was another rope hanging into the shaft of the Mummy Pit. We looked at
each other; but neither said a word. We fixed our own rope, and as
arranged Trelawny descended first, I following at once. It was not till
we stood together at the foot of the shaft that the thought flashed
across me that we might be in some sort of a trap; that someone might
descend the rope from the cliff, and by cutting the rope by which we had
lowered ourselves into the Pit, bury us there alive. The thought was
horrifying; but it was too late to do anything. I remained silent. We
both had torches, so that there was ample light as we passed through the
passage and entered the Chamber where the sarcophagus had stood. The
first thing noticeable was the emptiness of the place. Despite all its
magnificent adornment, the tomb was made a desolation by the absence of
the great sarcophagus, to hold which it was hewn in the rock; of the
chest with the alabaster jars; of the tables which had held the
implements and food for the use of the dead, and the ushaptiu figures.

“It was made more infinitely desolate still by the shrouded figure of
the mummy of Queen Tera which lay on the floor where the great
sarcophagus had stood! Beside it lay, in the strange contorted
attitudes of violent death, three of the Arabs who had deserted from our
party. Their faces were black, and their hands and necks were smeared
with blood which had burst from mouth and nose and eyes.

“On the throat of each were the marks, now blackening, of a hand of
seven fingers.

“Trelawny and I drew close, and clutched each other in awe and fear as
we looked.

“For, most wonderful of all, across the breast of the mummied Queen lay
a hand of seven fingers, ivory white, the wrist only showing a scar like
a jagged red line, from which seemed to depend drops of blood.”

Chapter XII
The Magic Coffer

“When we recovered our amazement, which seemed to last unduly long, we
did not lose any time carrying the mummy through the passage, and
hoisting it up the Pit shaft. I went first, to receive it at the top.
As I looked down, I saw Mr. Trelawny lift the severed hand and put it in
his breast, manifestly to save it from being injured or lost. We left
the dead Arabs where they lay. With our ropes we lowered our precious
burden to the ground; and then took it to the entrance of the valley
where our escort was to wait. To our astonishment we found them on the
move. When we remonstrated with the Sheik, he answered that he had
fulfilled his contract to the letter; he had waited the three days as
arranged. I thought that he was lying to cover up his base intention of
deserting us; and I found when we compared notes that Trelawny had the
same suspicion. It was not till we arrived at Cairo that we found he
was correct. It was the 3rd of November 1884 when we entered the Mummy
Pit for the second time; we had reason to remember the date.

“We had lost three whole days of our reckoning–out of our lives–whilst
we had stood wondering in that chamber of the dead. Was it strange,
then, that we had a superstitious feeling with regard to the dead Queen
Tera and all belonging to her? Is it any wonder that it rests with us
now, with a bewildering sense of some power outside ourselves or our
comprehension? Will it be any wonder if it go down to the grave with us
at the appointed time? If, indeed, there be any graves for us who have
robbed the dead!” He was silent for quite a minute before he went on:

“We got to Cairo all right, and from there to Alexandria, where we were
to take ship by the Messagerie service to Marseilles, and go thence by
express to London. But

‘The best-laid schemes o’ mice and men Gang aft agley.’

At Alexandria, Trelawny found waiting a cable stating that Mrs. Trelawny
had died in giving birth to a daughter.

“Her stricken husband hurried off at once by the Orient Express; and I
had to bring the treasure alone to the desolate house. I got to London
all safe; there seemed to be some special good fortune to our journey.
When I got to this house, the funeral had long been over. The child had
been put out to nurse, and Mr. Trelawny had so far recovered from the
shock of his loss that he had set himself to take up again the broken
threads of his life and his work. That he had had a shock, and a bad
one, was apparent. The sudden grey in his black hair was proof enough
in itself; but in addition, the strong cast of his features had become
set and stern. Since he received that cable in the shipping office at
Alexandria I have never seen a happy smile on his face.

“Work is the best thing in such a case; and to his work he devoted
himself heart and soul. The strange tragedy of his loss and gain–for
the child was born after the mother’s death–took place during the time
that we stood in that trance in the Mummy Pit of Queen Tera. It seemed
to have become in some way associated with his Egyptian studies, and
more especially with the mysteries connected with the Queen. He told me
very little about his daughter; but that two forces struggled in his
mind regarding her was apparent. I could see that he loved, almost
idolised her. Yet he could never forget that her birth had cost her
mother’s life. Also, there was something whose existence seemed to
wring his father’s heart, though he would never tell me what it was.
Again, he once said in a moment of relaxation of his purpose of silence:

“‘She is unlike her mother; but in both feature and colour she has a
marvellous resemblance to the pictures of Queen Tera.’

“He said that he had sent her away to people who would care for her as
he could not; and that till she became a woman she should have all the
simple pleasures that a young girl might have, and that were best for
her. I would often have talked with him about her; but he would never
say much. Once he said to me: ‘There are reasons why I should not
speak more than is necessary. Some day you will know–and understand!’
I respected his reticence; and beyond asking after her on my return
after a journey, I have never spoken of her again. I had never seen her
till I did so in your presence.

“Well, when the treasures which we had–ah!–taken from the tomb had
been brought here, Mr. Trelawny arranged their disposition himself. The
mummy, all except the severed hand, he placed in the great ironstone
sarcophagus in the hall. This was wrought for the Theban High Priest
Uni, and is, as you may have remarked, all inscribed with wonderful
invocations to the old Gods of Egypt. The rest of the things from the
tomb he disposed about his own room, as you have seen. Amongst them he
placed, for special reasons of his own, the mummy hand. I think he
regards this as the most sacred of his possessions, with perhaps one
exception. That is the carven ruby which he calls the ‘Jewel of Seven
Stars’, which he keeps in that great safe which is locked and guarded by
various devices, as you know.

“I dare say you find this tedious; but I have had to explain it, so that
you should understand all up to the present. It was a long time after
my return with the mummy of Queen Tera when Mr. Trelawny re-opened the
subject with me. He had been several times to Egypt, sometimes with me
and sometimes alone; and I had been several trips, on my own account or
for him. But in all that time, nearly sixteen years, he never mentioned
the subject, unless when some pressing occasion suggested, if it did not
necessitate, a reference.

“One morning early he sent for me in a hurry; I was then studying in the
British Museum, and had rooms in Hart Street. When I came, he was all
on fire with excitement. I had not seen him in such a glow since before
the news of his wife’s death. He took me at once into his room. The
window blinds were down and the shutters closed; not a ray of daylight
came in. The ordinary lights in the room were not lit, but there were a
lot of powerful electric lamps, fifty candle-power at least, arranged on
one side of the room. The little bloodstone table on which the
heptagonal coffer stands was drawn to the centre of the room. The
coffer looked exquisite in the glare of light which shone on it. It
actually seemed to glow as if lit in some way from within.

“‘What do you think of it?’ he asked.

“‘It is like a jewel,’ I answered. ‘You may well call it the
‘sorcerer’s Magic Coffer”, if it often looks like that. It almost seems
to be alive.’

“‘Do you know why it seems so?’

“‘From the glare of the light, I suppose?’

“‘Light of course,’ he answered, ‘but it is rather the disposition of
light.’ As he spoke he turned up the ordinary lights of the room and
switched off the special ones. The effect on the stone box was
surprising; in a second it lost all its glowing effect. It was still a
very beautiful stone, as always; but it was stone and no more.

“‘Do you notice anything about the arrangement of the lamps?’ he asked.

“‘No!’

“‘They were in the shape of the stars in the Plough, as the stars are in
the ruby!’ The statement came to me with a certain sense of conviction.
I do not know why, except that there had been so many mysterious
associations with the mummy and all belonging to it that any new one
seemed enlightening. I listened as Trelawny went on to explain:

“‘For sixteen years I have never ceased to think of that adventure, or
to try to find a clue to the mysteries which came before us; but never
until last night did I seem to find a solution. I think I must have
dreamed of it, for I woke all on fire about it. I jumped out of bed
with a determination of doing something, before I quite knew what it was
that I wished to do. Then, all at once, the purpose was clear before
me. There were allusions in the writing on the walls of the tomb to the
seven stars of the Great Bear that go to make up the Plough; and the
North was again and again emphasized. The same symbols were repeated
with regard to the “Magic Box”, as we called it. We had already noticed
those peculiar translucent spaces in the stone of the box. You remember
the hieroglyphic writing had told that the jewel came from the heart of
an aerolite, and that the coffer was cut from it also. It might be, I
thought, that the light of the seven stars, shining in the right
direction, might have some effect on the box, or something within it. I
raised the blind and looked out. The Plough was high in the heavens, and
both its stars and the Pole Star were straight opposite the window. I
pulled the table with the coffer out into the light, and shifted it
until the translucent patches were in the direction of the stars.
Instantly the box began to glow, as you saw it under the lamps, though
but slightly. I waited and waited; but the sky clouded over, and the
light died away. So I got wires and lamps–you know how often I use them
in experiments–and tried the effect of electric light. It took me some
time to get the lamps properly placed, so that they would correspond to
the parts of the stone, but the moment I got them right the whole thing
began to glow as you have seen it.

“‘I could get no further, however. There was evidently something
wanting. All at once it came to me that if light could have some effect
there should be in the tomb some means of producing light, for there
could not be starlight in the Mummy Pit in the cavern. Then the whole
thing seemed to become clear. On the bloodstone table, which has a
hollow carved in its top, into which the bottom of the coffer fits, I
laid the Magic Coffer; and I at once saw that the odd protuberances so
carefully wrought in the substance of the stone corresponded in a way to
the stars in the constellation. These, then, were to hold lights.

“‘Eureka!’ I cried. ‘All we want now is the lamps.'” I tried placing
the electric lights on, or close to, the protuberances. But the glow
never came to the stone. So the conviction grew on me that there were
special lamps made for the purpose. If we could find them, a step on the
road to solving the mystery should be gained.

“‘But what about the lamps?’ I asked. ‘Where are they? When are we to
discover them? How are we to know them if we do find them? What–”

“He stopped me at once:

“‘One thing at a time!’ he said quietly. ‘Your first question contains
all the rest. Where are these lamps? I shall tell you: In the tomb!’

“‘In the tomb!’ I repeated in surprise. ‘Why you and I searched the
place ourselves from end to end; and there was not a sign of a lamp.
Not a sign of anything remaining when we came away the first time; or on
the second, except the bodies of the Arabs.’

“Whilst I was speaking, he had uncoiled some large sheets of paper which
he had brought in his hand from his own room. These he spread out on
the great table, keeping their edges down with books and weights. I
knew them at a glance; they were the careful copies which he had made of
our first transcripts from the writing in the tomb. When he had all
ready, he turned to me and said slowly:

“‘Do you remember wondering, when we examined the tomb, at the lack of
one thing which is usually found in such a tomb?’

“‘Yes! There was no serdab.’

“The Serdab, I may perhaps explain,” said Mr. Corbeck to me, “is a sort
of niche built or hewn in the wall of a tomb. Those which have as yet
been examined bear no inscriptions, and contain only effigies of the
dead for whom the tomb was made.” Then he went on with his narrative:

“Trelawny, when he saw that I had caught his meaning, went on speaking
with something of his old enthusiasm:

“‘I have come to the conclusion that there must be a serdab–a secret
one. We were dull not to have thought of it before. We might have
known that the maker of such a tomb–a woman, who had shown in other ways
such a sense of beauty and completeness, and who had finished every
detail with a feminine richness of elaboration–would not have neglected
such an architectural feature. Even if it had not its own special
significance in ritual, she would have had it as an adornment. Others
had had it, and she liked her own work to be complete. Depend upon it,
there was–there is–a serdab; and that in it, when it is discovered, we
shall find the lamps. Of course, had we known then what we now know or
at all events surmise, that there were lamps, we might have suspected
some hidden spot, some cachet. I am going to ask you to go out to Egypt
again; to seek the tomb; to find the serdab; and to bring back the
lamps!'”

“‘And if I find there is no serdab; or if discovering it I find no lamps
in it, what then?’ He smiled grimly with that saturnine smile of his, so
rarely seen for years past, as he spoke slowly:

“‘Then you will have to hustle till you find them!’

“‘Good!’ I said. He pointed to one of the sheets.

“‘Here are the transcripts from the Chapel at the south and the east. I
have been looking over the writings again; and I find that in seven
places round this corner are the symbols of the constellation which we
call the Plough, which Queen Tera held to rule her birth and her
destiny. I have examined them carefully, and I notice that they are all
representations of the grouping of the stars, as the constellation
appears in different parts of the heavens. They are all astronomically
correct; and as in the real sky the Pointers indicate the Pole Star, so
these all point to one spot in the wall where usually the serdab is to
be found!’

“‘Bravo!’ I shouted, for such a piece of reasoning demanded applause.
He seemed pleased as he went on:

“‘When you are in the tomb, examine this spot. There is probably some
spring or mechanical contrivance for opening the receptacle. What it
may be, there is no use guessing. You will know what best to do, when
you are on the spot.’

“I started the next week for Egypt; and never rested till I stood again
in the tomb. I had found some of our old following; and was fairly well
provided with help. The country was now in a condition very different
to that in which it had been sixteen years before; there was no need for
troops or armed men.

“I climbed the rock face alone. There was no difficulty, for in that
fine climate the woodwork of the ladder was still dependable. It was
easy to see that in the years that had elapsed there had been other
visitors to the tomb; and my heart sank within me when I thought that
some of them might by chance have come across the secret place. It
would be a bitter discovery indeed to find that they had forestalled me;
and that my journey had been in vain.

“The bitterness was realised when I lit my torches, and passed between
the seven-sided columns to the Chapel of the tomb.

“There, in the very spot where I had expected to find it, was the
opening of a serdab. And the serdab was empty.

“But the Chapel was not empty; for the dried-up body of a man in Arab
dress lay close under the opening, as though he had been stricken down.
I examined all round the walls to see if Trelawny’s surmise was correct;
and I found that in all the positions of the stars as given, the
Pointers of the Plough indicated a spot to the left hand, or south side,
of the opening of the serdab, where was a single star in gold.

“I pressed this, and it gave way. The stone which had marked the front
of the serdab, and which lay back against the wall within, moved
slightly. On further examining the other side of the opening, I found a
similar spot, indicated by other representations of the constellation;
but this was itself a figure of the seven stars, and each was wrought in
burnished gold. I pressed each star in turn; but without result. Then
it struck me that if the opening spring was on the left, this on the
right might have been intended for the simultaneous pressure of all the
stars by one hand of seven fingers. By using both my hands, I managed
to effect this.

“With a loud click, a metal figure seemed to dart from close to the
opening of the serdab; the stone slowly swung back to its place, and
shut with a click. The glimpse which I had of the descending figure
appalled me for the moment. It was like that grim guardian which,
according to the Arabian historian Ibn Abd Alhokin, the builder of the
Pyramids, King Saurid Ibn Salhouk placed in the Western Pyramid to
defend its treasure: ‘A marble figure, upright, with lance in hand;
with on his head a serpent wreathed. When any approached, the serpent
would bite him on one side, and twining about his throat and killing
him, would return again to his place.’

“I knew well that such a figure was not wrought to pleasantry; and that
to brave it was no child’s play. The dead Arab at my feet was proof of
what could be done! So I examined again along the wall; and found here
and there chippings as if someone had been tapping with a heavy hammer.
This then had been what happened: The grave-robber, more expert at his
work than we had been, and suspecting the presence of a hidden serdab,
had made essay to find it. He had struck the spring by chance; had
released the avenging ‘Treasurer’, as the Arabian writer designated him.
The issue spoke for itself. I got a piece of wood, and, standing at a
safe distance, pressed with the end of it upon the star.

“Instantly the stone flew back. The hidden figure within darted forward
and thrust out its lance. Then it rose up and disappeared. I thought I
might now safely press on the seven stars; and did so. Again the stone
rolled back; and the ‘Treasurer’ flashed by to his hidden lair.

“I repeated both experiments several times; with always the same result.
I should have liked to examine the mechanism of that figure of such
malignant mobility; but it was not possible without such tools as could
not easily be had. It might be necessary to cut into a whole section of
the rock. Some day I hope to go back, properly equipped, and attempt
it.

“Perhaps you do not know that the entrance to a serdab is almost always
very narrow; sometimes a hand can hardly be inserted. Two things I
learned from this serdab. The first was that the lamps, if lamps at all
there had been, could not have been of large size; and secondly, that
they would be in some way associated with Hathor, whose symbol, the hawk
in a square with the right top corner forming a smaller square, was cut
in relief on the wall within, and coloured the bright vermilion which we
had found on the Stele. Hathor is the goddess who in Egyptian mythology
answers to Venus of the Greeks, in as far as she is the presiding deity
of beauty and pleasure. In the Egyptian mythology, however, each God
has many forms; and in some aspects Hathor has to do with the idea of
resurrection. There are seven forms or variants of the Goddess; why
should not these correspond in some way to the seven lamps! That there
had been such lamps, I was convinced. The first grave-robber had met
his death; the second had found the contents of the serdab. The first
attempt had been made years since; the state of the body proved this. I
had no clue to the second attempt. It might have been long ago; or it
might have been recently. If, however, others had been to the tomb, it
was probable that the lamps had been taken long ago. Well! all the more
difficult would be my search; for undertaken it must be!

“That was nearly three years ago; and for all that time I have been like
the man in the Arabian Nights, seeking old lamps, not for new, but for
cash. I dared not say what I was looking for, or attempt to give any
description; for such would have defeated my purpose. But I had in my
own mind at the start a vague idea of what I must find. In process of
time this grew more and more clear; till at last I almost overshot my
mark by searching for something which might have been wrong.

“The disappointments I suffered, and the wild-goose chases I made, would
fill a volume; but I persevered. At last, not two months ago, I was
shown by an old dealer in Mossul one lamp such as I had looked for. I
had been tracing it for nearly a year, always suffering disappointment,
but always buoyed up to further endeavour by a growing hope that I was
on the track.

“I do not know how I restrained myself when I realised that, at last, I
was at least close to success. I was skilled, however, in the finesse
of Eastern trade; and the Jew-Arab-Portugee trader met his match. I
wanted to see all his stock before buying; and one by one he produced,
amongst masses of rubbish, seven different lamps. Each of them had a
distinguishing mark; and each and all was some form of the symbol of
Hathor. I think I shook the imperturbability of my swarthy friend by
the magnitude of my purchases; for in order to prevent him guessing what
form of goods I sought, I nearly cleared out his shop. At the end he
nearly wept, and said I had ruined him; for now he had nothing to sell.
He would have torn his hair had he known what price I should ultimately
have given for some of his stock, that perhaps he valued least.

“I parted with most of my merchandise at normal price as I hurried home.
I did not dare to give it away, or even lose it, lest I should incur
suspicion. My burden was far too precious to be risked by any
foolishness now. I got on as fast as it is possible to travel in such
countries; and arrived in London with only the lamps and certain
portable curios and papyri which I had picked up on my travels.

“Now, Mr. Ross, you know all I know; and I leave it to your discretion
how much, if any of it, you will tell Miss Trelawny.”

As he finished a clear young voice said behind us:

“What about Miss Trelawny? She is here!”

We turned, startled; and looked at each other inquiringly. Miss
Trelawny stood in the doorway. We did not know how long she had been
present, or how much she had heard.

Chapter XIII
Awaking From the Trance

The first unexpected words may always startle a hearer; but when the
shock is over, the listener’s reason has asserted itself, and he can
judge of the manner, as well as of the matter, of speech. Thus it was
on this occasion. With intelligence now alert, I could not doubt of the
simple sincerity of Margaret’s next question.

“What have you two men been talking about all this time, Mr. Ross? I
suppose, Mr. Corbeck has been telling you all his adventures in finding
the lamps. I hope you will tell me too, some day, Mr. Corbeck; but that
must not be till my poor Father is better. He would like, I am sure, to
tell me all about these things himself; or to be present when I heard
them.” She glanced sharply from one to the other. “Oh, that was what
you were saying as I came in? All right! I shall wait; but I hope it
won’t be long. The continuance of Father’s condition is, I feel,
breaking me down. A little while ago I felt that my nerves were giving
out; so I determined to go out for a walk in the Park. I am sure it
will do me good. I want you, if you will, Mr. Ross, to be with Father
whilst I am away. I shall feel secure then.”

I rose with alacrity, rejoicing that the poor girl was going out, even
for half an hour. She was looking terribly wearied and haggard; and the
sight of her pale cheeks made my heart ache. I went to the sick-room;
and sat down in my usual place. Mrs. Grant was then on duty; we had not
found it necessary to have more than one person in the room during the
day. When I came in, she took occasion to go about some household duty.
The blinds were up, but the north aspect of the room softened the hot
glare of the sunlight without.

I sat for a long time thinking over all that Mr. Corbeck had told me;
and weaving its wonders into the tissue of strange things which had come
to pass since I had entered the house. At times I was inclined to
doubt; to doubt everything and every one; to doubt even the evidences of
my own five senses. The warnings of the skilled detective kept coming
back to my mind. He had put down Mr. Corbeck as a clever liar, and a
confederate of Miss Trelawny. Of Margaret! That settled it! Face to
face with such a proposition as that, doubt vanished. Each time when
her image, her name, the merest thought of her, came before my mind,
each event stood out stark as a living fact. My life upon her faith!

I was recalled from my reverie, which was fast becoming a dream of love,
in a startling manner. A voice came from the bed; a deep, strong,
masterful voice. The first note of it called up like a clarion my eyes
and my ears. The sick man was awake and speaking!

“Who are you? What are you doing here?”

Whatever ideas any of us had ever formed of his waking, I am quite sure
that none of us expected to see him start up all awake and full master
of himself. I was so surprised that I answered almost mechanically:

“Ross is my name. I have been watching by you!” He looked surprised
for an instant, and then I could see that his habit of judging for
himself came into play.

“Watching by me! How do you mean? Why watching by me?” His eye had
now lit on his heavily bandaged wrist. He went on in a different tone;
less aggressive, more genial, as of one accepting facts:

“Are you a doctor?” I felt myself almost smiling as I answered; the
relief from the long pressure of anxiety regarding his life was
beginning to tell:

“No, sir!”

“Then why are you here? If you are not a doctor, what are you?” His
tone was again more dictatorial. Thought is quick; the whole train of
reasoning on which my answer must be based flooded through my brain
before the words could leave my lips. Margaret! I must think of
Margaret! This was her father, who as yet knew nothing of me; even of
my very existence. He would be naturally curious, if not anxious, to
know why I amongst men had been chosen as his daughter’s friend on the
occasion of his illness. Fathers are naturally a little jealous in such
matters as a daughter’s choice, and in the undeclared state of my love
for Margaret I must do nothing which could ultimately embarrass her.

“I am a Barrister. It is not, however, in that capacity I am here; but
simply as a friend of your daughter. It was probably her knowledge of
my being a lawyer which first determined her to ask me to come when she
thought you had been murdered. Afterwards she was good enough to
consider me to be a friend, and to allow me to remain in accordance with
your expressed wish that someone should remain to watch.”

Mr. Trelawny was manifestly a man of quick thought, and of few words.
He gazed at me keenly as I spoke, and his piercing eyes seemed to read
my thought. To my relief he said no more on the subject just then,
seeming to accept my words in simple faith. There was evidently in his
own mind some cause for the acceptance deeper than my own knowledge.
His eyes flashed, and there was an unconscious movement of the mouth–it
could hardly be called a twitch–which betokened satisfaction. He was
following out some train of reasoning in his own mind. Suddenly he
said:

“She thought I had been murdered! Was that last night?”

“No! four days ago.” He seemed surprised. Whilst he had been speaking
the first time he had sat up in bed; now he made a movement as though he
would jump out. With an effort, however, he restrained himself; leaning
back on his pillows he said quietly:

“Tell me all about it! All you know! Every detail! Omit nothing! But
stay; first lock the door! I want to know, before I see anyone, exactly
how things stand.”

Somehow his last words made my heart leap. “Anyone!” He evidently
accepted me, then, as an exception. In my present state of feeling for
his daughter, this was a comforting thought. I felt exultant as I went
over to the door and softly turned the key. When I came back I found
him sitting up again. He said:

“Go on!”

Accordingly, I told him every detail, even of the slightest which I
could remember, of what had happened from the moment of my arrival at
the house. Of course I said nothing of my feeling towards Margaret, and
spoke only concerning those things already within his own knowledge.
With regard to Corbeck, I simply said that he had brought back some
lamps of which he had been in quest. Then I proceeded to tell him fully
of their loss, and of their re-discovery in the house.

He listened with a self-control which, under the circumstances, was to
me little less than marvellous. It was impassiveness, for at times his
eyes would flash or blaze, and the strong fingers of his uninjured hand
would grip the sheet, pulling it into far-extending wrinkles. This was
most noticeable when I told him of the return of Corbeck, and the
finding of the lamps in the boudoir. At times he spoke, but only a few
words, and as if unconsciously in emotional comment. The mysterious
parts, those which had most puzzled us, seemed to have no special
interest for him; he seemed to know them already. The utmost concern he
showed was when I told him of Daw’s shooting. His muttered comment:
‘stupid ass!” together with a quick glance across the room at the
injured cabinet, marked the measure of his disgust. As I told him of
his daughter’s harrowing anxiety for him, of her unending care and
devotion, of the tender love which she had shown, he seemed much moved.
There was a sort of veiled surprise in his unconscious whisper:

“Margaret! Margaret!”

When I had finished my narration, bringing matters up to the moment when
Miss Trelawny had gone out for her walk–I thought of her as “Miss
Trelawny’, not as “Margaret’ now, in the presence of her father–he
remained silent for quite a long time. It was probably two or three
minutes; but it seemed interminable. All at once he turned and said to
me briskly:

“Now tell me all about yourself!” This was something of a floorer; I
felt myself grow red-hot. Mr. Trelawny’s eyes were upon me; they were
now calm and inquiring, but never ceasing in their soul-searching
scrutiny. There was just a suspicion of a smile on the mouth which,
though it added to my embarrassment, gave me a certain measure of
relief. I was, however, face to face with difficulty; and the habit of
my life stood me in good stead. I looked him straight in the eyes as I
spoke:

“My name, as I told you, is Ross, Malcolm Ross. I am by profession a
Barrister. I was made a Q.C. in the last year of the Queen’s reign. I
have been fairly successful in my work.” To my relief he said:

“Yes, I know. I have always heard well of you! Where and when did you
meet Margaret?”

“First at the Hay’s in Belgrave Square, ten days ago. Then at a picnic
up the river with Lady Strathconnell. We went from Windsor to Cookham.
Mar–Miss Trelawny was in my boat. I scull a little, and I had my own
boat at Windsor. We had a good deal of conversation–naturally.”

“Naturally!” there was just a suspicion of something sardonic in the
tone of acquiescence; but there was no other intimation of his feeling.
I began to think that as I was in the presence of a strong man, I should
show something of my own strength. My friends, and sometimes my
opponents, say that I am a strong man. In my present circumstances, not
to be absolutely truthful would be to be weak. So I stood up to the
difficulty before me; always bearing in mind, however, that my words
might affect Margaret’s happiness through her love for her father. I
went on:

“In conversation at a place and time and amid surroundings so pleasing,
and in a solitude inviting to confidence, I got a glimpse of her inner
life. Such a glimpse as a man of my years and experience may get from a
young girl!” The father’s face grew graver as I went on; but he said
nothing. I was committed now to a definite line of speech, and went on
with such mastery of my mind as I could exercise. The occasion might be
fraught with serious consequences to me too.

“I could not but see that there was over her spirit a sense of
loneliness which was habitual to her. I thought I understood it; I am
myself an only child. I ventured to encourage her to speak to me
freely; and was happy enough to succeed. A sort of confidence became
established between us.” There was something in the father’s face which
made me add hurriedly:

“Nothing was said by her, sir, as you can well imagine, which was not
right and proper. She only told me in the impulsive way of one longing
to give voice to thoughts long carefully concealed, of her yearning to
be closer to the father whom she loved; more en rapport with him; more
in his confidence; closer within the circle of his sympathies. Oh,
believe me, sir, that it was all good! All that a father’s heart could
hope or wish for! It was all loyal! That she spoke it to me was
perhaps because I was almost a stranger with whom there was no previous
barrier to confidence.”

Here I paused. It was hard to go on; and I feared lest I might, in my
zeal, do Margaret a disservice. The relief of the strain came from her
father.

“And you?”

“Sir, Miss Trelawny is very sweet and beautiful! She is young; and her
mind is like crystal! Her sympathy is a joy! I am not an old man, and
my affections were not engaged. They never had been till then. I hope
I may say as much, even to a father!” My eyes involuntarily dropped.
When I raised them again Mr. Trelawny was still gazing at me keenly.
All the kindliness of his nature seemed to wreath itself in a smile as
he held out his hand and said:

“Malcolm Ross, I have always heard of you as a fearless and honourable
gentleman. I am glad my girl has such a friend! Go on!”

My heart leaped. The first step to the winning of Margaret’s father was
gained. I dare say I was somewhat more effusive in my words and my
manner as I went on. I certainly felt that way.

“One thing we gain as we grow older: to use our age judiciously! I
have had much experience. I have fought for it and worked for it all my
life; and I felt that I was justified in using it. I ventured to ask
Miss Trelawny to count on me as a friend; to let me serve her should
occasion arise. She promised me that she would. I had little idea that
my chance of serving her should come so soon or in such a way; but that
very night you were stricken down. In her desolation and anxiety she
sent for me!” I paused. He continued to look at me as I went on:

“When your letter of instructions was found, I offered my services.
They were accepted, as you know.”

“And these days, how did they pass for you?” The question startled me.
There was in it something of Margaret’s own voice and manner; something
so greatly resembling her lighter moments that it brought out all the
masculinity in me. I felt more sure of my ground now as I said:

“These days, sir, despite all their harrowing anxiety, despite all the
pain they held for the girl whom I grew to love more and more with each
passing hour, have been the happiest of my life!” He kept silence for a
long time; so long that, as I waited for him to speak, with my heart
beating, I began to wonder if my frankness had been too effusive. At
last he said:

“I suppose it is hard to say so much vicariously. Her poor mother
should have heard you; it would have made her heart glad!” Then a
shadow swept across his face; and he went on more hurriedly.

“But are you quite sure of all this?”

“I know my own heart, sir; or, at least, I think I do!”

“No! no!” he answered, “I don’t mean you. That is all right! But you
spoke of my girl’s affection for me . . . and yet . . . ! And yet she
has been living here, in my house, a whole year. . . Still, she spoke
to you of her loneliness–her desolation. I never–it grieves me to say
it, but it is true–I never saw sign of such affection towards myself in
all the year! . . .” His voice trembled away into sad, reminiscent
introspection.

“Then, sir,” I said, “I have been privileged to see more in a few days
than you in her whole lifetime!” My words seemed to call him up from
himself; and I thought that it was with pleasure as well as surprise
that he said:

“I had no idea of it. I thought that she was indifferent to me. That
what seemed like the neglect of her youth was revenging itself on me.
That she was cold of heart. . . . It is a joy unspeakable to me that her
mother’s daughter loves me too!” Unconsciously he sank back upon his
pillow, lost in memories of the past.

How he must have loved her mother! It was the love of her mother’s
child, rather than the love of his own daughter, that appealed to him.
My heart went out to him in a great wave of sympathy and kindliness. I
began to understand. To understand the passion of these two great,
silent, reserved natures, that successfully concealed the burning hunger
for the other’s love! It did not surprise me when presently he murmured
to himself:

“Margaret, my child! Tender, and thoughtful, and strong, and true, and
brave! Like her dear mother! like her dear mother!”

And then to the very depths of my heart I rejoiced that I had spoken so
frankly.

Presently Mr. Trelawny said:

“Four days! The sixteenth! Then this is the twentieth of July?” I
nodded affirmation; he went on:

“So I have been lying in a trance for four days. It is not the first
time. I was in a trance once under strange conditions for three days;
and never even suspected it till I was told of the lapse of time. I
shall tell you all about it some day, if you care to hear.”

That made me thrill with pleasure. That he, Margaret’s father, would so
take me into his confidence made it possible. . . .The business-like,
every-day alertness of his voice as he spoke next quite recalled me:

“I had better get up now. When Margaret comes in, tell her yourself
that I am all right. It will avoid any shock! And will you tell
Corbeck that I would like to see him as soon as I can. I want to see
those lamps, and hear all about them!”

His attitude towards me filled me with delight. There was a possible
father-in-law aspect that would have raised me from a death-bed. I was
hurrying away to carry out his wishes; when, however, my hand was on the
key of the door, his voice recalled me:

“Mr. Ross!”

I did not like to hear him say “Mr.” After he knew of my friendship
with his daughter he had called me Malcolm Ross; and this obvious return
to formality not only pained, but filled me with apprehension. It must
be something about Margaret. I thought of her as “Margaret” and not as
“Miss Trelawny”, now that there was danger of losing her. I know now
what I felt then: that I was determined to fight for her rather than
lose her. I came back, unconsciously holding myself erect. Mr.
Trelawny, the keen observer of men, seemed to read my thought; his face,
which was set in a new anxiety, relaxed as he said:

“Sit down a minute; it is better that we speak now than later. We are
both men, and men of the world. All this about my daughter is very new
to me, and very sudden; and I want to know exactly how and where I
stand. Mind, I am making no objection; but as a father I have duties
which are grave, and may prove to be painful. I–I”–he seemed slightly
at a loss how to begin, and this gave me hope–“I suppose I am to take
it, from what you have said to me of your feelings towards my girl, that
it is in your mind to be a suitor for her hand, later on?” I answered
at once:

“Absolutely! Firm and fixed; it was my intention the evening after I
had been with her on the river, to seek you, of course after a proper
and respectful interval, and to ask you if I might approach her on the
subject. Events forced me into closer relationship more quickly than I
had to hope would be possible; but that first purpose has remained fresh
in my heart, and has grown in intensity, and multiplied itself with
every hour which has passed since then.” His face seemed to soften as
he looked at me; the memory of his own youth was coming back to him
instinctively. After a pause he said:

“I suppose I may take it, too, Malcolm Ross”–the return to the
familiarity of address swept through me with a glorious thrill–“that as
yet you have not made any protestation to my daughter?”

“Not in words, sir.” The arriere pensee of my phrase struck me, not by
its own humour, but through the grave, kindly smile on the father’s
face. There was a pleasant sarcasm in his comment:

“Not in words! That is dangerous! She might have doubted words, or
even disbelieved them.”

“I felt myself blushing to the roots of my hair as I went on:

“The duty of delicacy in her defenceless position; my respect for her
father–I did not know you then, sir, as yourself, but only as her
father–restrained me. But even had not these barriers existed, I should
not have dared in the presence of such grief and anxiety to have
declared myself. Mr. Trelawny, I assure you on my word of honour that
your daughter and I are as yet, on her part, but friends and nothing
more!” Once again he held out his hands, and we clasped each other
warmly. Then he said heartily:

“I am satisfied, Malcolm Ross. Of course, I take it that until I have
seen her and have given you permission, you will not make any
declaration to my daughter–in words,” he added, with an indulgent smile.
But his face became stern again as he went on:

“Time presses; and I have to think of some matters so urgent and so
strange that I dare not lose an hour. Otherwise I should not have been
prepared to enter, at so short a notice and to so new a friend, on the
subject of my daughter’s settlement in life, and of her future
happiness.” There was a dignity and a certain proudness in his manner
which impressed me much.

“I shall respect your wishes, sir!” I said as I went back and opened the
door. I heard him lock it behind me.

When I told Mr. Corbeck that Mr. Trelawny had quite recovered, he began
to dance about like a wild man. But he suddenly stopped, and asked me
to be careful not to draw any inferences, at all events at first, when
in the future speaking of the finding of the lamps, or of the first
visits to the tomb. This was in case Mr. Trelawny should speak to me on
the subject; “as, of course, he will,” he added, with a sidelong look at
me which meant knowledge of the affairs of my heart. I agreed to this,
feeling that it was quite right. I did not quite understand why; but I
knew that Mr. Trelawny was a peculiar man. In no case could one make a
mistake by being reticent. Reticence is a quality which a strong man
always respects.

The manner in which the others of the house took the news of the
recovery varied much. Mrs. Grant wept with emotion; then she hurried
off to see if she could do anything personally, and to set the house in
order for “Master”, as she always called him. The Nurse’s face fell:
she was deprived of an interesting case. But the disappointment was
only momentary; and she rejoiced that the trouble was over. She was
ready to come to the patient the moment she should be wanted; but in the
meantime she occupied herself in packing her portmanteau.

I took Sergeant Daw into the study, so that we should be alone when I
told him the news. It surprised even his iron self-control when I told
him the method of the waking. I was myself surprised in turn by his
first words:

“And how did he explain the first attack? He was unconscious when the
second was made.”

Up to that moment the nature of the attack, which was the cause of my
coming to the house, had never even crossed my mind, except when I had
simply narrated the various occurrences in sequence to Mr. Trelawny.
The Detective did not seem to think much of my answer:

“Do you know, it never occurred to me to ask him!” The professional
instinct was strong in the man, and seemed to supersede everything else.

“That is why so few cases are ever followed out,” he said, “unless our
people are in them. Your amateur detective neer hunts down to the
death. As for ordinary people, the moment things begin to mend, and the
strain of suspense is off them, they drop the matter in hand. It is
like sea-sickness,” he added philosophically after a pause; “the moment
you touch the shore you never give it a thought, but run off to the
buffet to feed! Well, Mr. Ross, I’m glad the case is over; for over it
is, so far as I am concerned. I suppose that Mr. Trelawny knows his own
business; and that now he is well again, he will take it up himself.
Perhaps, however, he will not do anything. As he seemed to expect
something to happen, but did not ask for protection from the police in
any way, I take it that he don’t want them to interfere with an eye to
punishment. we’ll be told officially, I suppose, that it was an
accident, or sleep-walking, or something of the kind, to satisfy the
conscience of our Record Department; and that will be the end. As for
me, I tell you frankly, sir, that it will be the saving of me. I verily
believe I was beginning to get dotty over it all. There were too many
mysteries, that aren’t in my line, for me to be really satisfied as to
either facts or the causes of them. Now I’ll be able to wash my hands
of it, and get back to clean, wholesome, criminal work. Of course, sir,
I’ll be glad to know if you ever do light on a cause of any kind. And
I’ll be grateful if you can ever tell me how the man was dragged out of
bed when the cat bit him, and who used the knife the second time. For
master Silvio could never have done it by himself. But there! I keep
thinking of it still. I must look out and keep a check on myself, or I
shall think of it when I have to keep my mind on other things!”

When Margaret returned from her walk, I met her in the hall. She was
still pale and sad; somehow, I had expected to see her radiant after her
walk. The moment she saw me her eyes brightened, and she looked at me
keenly.

“You have some good news for me?” she said. “Is Father better?”

“He is! Why did you think so?”

“I saw it in your face. I must go to him at once.” She was hurrying
away when I stopped her.

“He said he would send for you the moment he was dressed.”

“He said he would send for me!” she repeated in amazement. “Then he is
awake again, and conscious? I had no idea he was so well as that! O
Malcolm!”

She sat down on the nearest chair and began to cry. I felt overcome
myself. The sight of her joy and emotion, the mention of my own name in
such a way and at such a time, the rush of glorious possibilities all
coming together, quite unmanned me. She saw my emotion, and seemed to
understand. She put out her hand. I held it hard, and kissed it. Such
moments as these, the opportunities of lovers, are gifts of the gods! Up
to this instant, though I knew I loved her, and though I believed she
returned my affection, I had had only hope. Now, however, the
self-surrender manifest in her willingness to let me squeeze her hand,
the ardour of her pressure in return, and the glorious flush of love in
her beautiful, deep, dark eyes as she lifted them to mine, were all the
eloquences which the most impatient or exacting lover could expect or
demand.

No word was spoken; none was needed. Even had I not been pledged to
verbal silence, words would have been poor and dull to express what we
felt. Hand in hand, like two little children, we went up the staircase
and waited on the landing, till the summons from Mr. Trelawny should
come.

I whispered in her ear–it was nicer than speaking aloud and at a greater
distance–how her father had awakened, and what he had said; and all
that had passed between us, except when she herself had been the subject
of conversation.

Presently a bell rang from the room. Margaret slipped from me, and
looked back with warning finger on lip. She went over to her father’s
door and knocked softly.

“Come in!” said the strong voice.

“It is I, Father!” The voice was tremulous with love and hope.

There was a quick step inside the room; the door was hurriedly thrown
open, and in an instant Margaret, who had sprung forward, was clasped in
her father’s arms. There was little speech; only a few broken phrases.

“Father! Dear, dear Father!”

“My child! Margaret! My dear, dear child!”

“O Father, Father! At last! At last!”

Here the father and daughter went into the room together, and the door
closed.

Chapter XIV
The Birth-Mark

During my waiting for the summons to Mr. Trelawny’s room, which I knew
would come, the time was long and lonely. After the first few moments
of emotional happiness at Margaret’s joy, I somehow felt apart and
alone; and for a little time the selfishness of a lover possessed me.
But it was not for long. Margaret’s happiness was all to me; and in the
conscious sense of it I lost my baser self. Margaret’s last words as
the door closed on them gave the key to the whole situation, as it had
been and as it was. These two proud, strong people, though father and
daughter, had only come to know each other when the girl was grown up.
Margaret’s nature was of that kind which matures early.

The pride and strength of each, and the reticence which was their
corollary, made a barrier at the beginning. Each had respected the
other’s reticence too much thereafter; and the misunderstanding grew to
habit. And so these two loving hearts, each of which yearned for
sympathy from the other, were kept apart. But now all was well, and in
my heart of hearts I rejoiced that at last Margaret was happy. Whilst I
was still musing on the subject, and dreaming dreams of a personal
nature, the door was opened, and Mr. Trelawny beckoned to me.

“Come in, Mr. Ross!” he said cordially, but with a certain formality
which I dreaded. I entered the room, and he closed the door again. He
held out his hand, and I put mine in it. He did not let it go, but
still held it as he drew me over toward his daughter. Margaret looked
from me to him, and back again; and her eyes fell. When I was close to
her, Mr. Trelawny let go my hand, and, looking his daughter straight in
the face, said:

“If things are as I fancy, we shall not have any secrets between us.
Malcolm Ross knows so much of my affairs already, that I take it he must
either let matters stop where they are and go away in silence, or else
he must know more. Margaret! are you willing to let Mr. Ross see your
wrist?”

She threw one swift look of appeal in his eyes; but even as she did so
she seemed to make up her mind. Without a word she raised her right
hand, so that the bracelet of spreading wings which covered the wrist
fell back, leaving the flesh bare. Then an icy chill shot through me.

On her wrist was a thin red jagged line, from which seemed to hang red
stains like drops of blood!

She stood there, a veritable figure of patient pride.

Oh! but she looked proud! Through all her sweetness, all her dignity,
all her high-souled negation of self which I had known, and which never
seemed more marked than now–through all the fire that seemed to shine
from the dark depths of her eyes into my very soul, pride shone
conspicuously. The pride that has faith; the pride that is born of
conscious purity; the pride of a veritable queen of Old Time, when to be
royal was to be the first and greatest and bravest in all high things.
As we stood thus for some seconds, the deep, grave voice of her father
seemed to sound a challenge in my ears:

“What do you say now?”

My answer was not in words. I caught Margaret’s right hand in mine as
it fell, and, holding it tight, whilst with the other I pushed back the
golden cincture, stooped and kissed the wrist. As I looked up at her,
but never letting go her hand, there was a look of joy on her face such
as I dream of when I think of heaven. Then I faced her father.

“You have my answer, sir!” His strong face looked gravely sweet. He
only said one word as he laid his hand on our clasped ones, whilst he
bent over and kissed his daughter:

“Good!”

We were interrupted by a knock at the door. In answer to an impatient
“Come in!” from Mr. Trelawny, Mr. Corbeck entered. When he saw us
grouped he would have drawn back; but in an instant Mr. Trelawny had
sprung forth and dragged him forward. As he shook him by both hands, he
seemed a transformed man. All the enthusiasm of his youth, of which Mr.
Corbeck had told us, seemed to have come back to him in an instant.

“So you have got the lamps!” he almost shouted. “My reasoning was right
after all. Come to the library, where we will be alone, and tell me all
about it! And while he does it, Ross,” said he, turning to me, “do you,
like a good fellow, get the key from the safe deposit, so that I may
have a look at the lamps!”

Then the three of them, the daughter lovingly holding her father’s arm,
went into the library, whilst I hurried off to Chancery Lane.

When I returned with the key, I found them still engaged in the
narrative; but Doctor Winchester, who had arrived soon after I left, was
with them. Mr. Trelawny, on hearing from Margaret of his great
attention and kindness, and how he had, under much pressure to the
contrary, steadfastly obeyed his written wishes, had asked him to remain
and listen. “It will interest you, perhaps,” he said, “to learn the end
of the story!”

We all had an early dinner together. We sat after it a good while, and
then Mr. Trelawny said:

“Now, I think we had all better separate and go quietly to bed early.
We may have much to talk about tomorrow; and tonight I want to think.”

Doctor Winchester went away, taking, with a courteous forethought, Mr.
Corbeck with him, and leaving me behind. When the others had gone Mr.
Trelawny said:

“I think it will be well if you, too, will go home for tonight. I want
to be quite alone with my daughter; there are many things I wish to
speak of to her, and to her alone. Perhaps, even tomorrow, I will be
able to tell you also of them; but in the meantime there will be less
distraction to us both if we are alone in the house.” I quite
understood and sympathised with his feelings; but the experiences of the
last few days were strong on me, and with some hesitation I said:

“But may it not be dangerous? If you knew as we do–” To my surprise
Margaret interrupted me:

“There will be no danger, Malcolm. I shall be with Father!” As she
spoke she clung to him in a protective way. I said no more, but stood
up to go at once. Mr. Trelawny said heartily:

“Come as early as you please, Ross. Come to breakfast. After it, you
and I will want to have a word together.” He went out of the room
quietly, leaving us together. I clasped and kissed Margaret’s hands,
which she held out to me, and then drew her close to me, and our lips
met for the first time.

I did not sleep much that night. Happiness on the one side of my bed
and Anxiety on the other kept sleep away. But if I had anxious care, I
had also happiness which had not equal in my life–or ever can have. The
night went by so quickly that the dawn seemed to rush on me, not
stealing as is its wont.

Before nine o’clock I was at Kensington. All anxiety seemed to float
away like a cloud as I met Margaret, and saw that already the pallor of
her face had given to the rich bloom which I knew. She told me that her
father had slept well, and that he would be with us soon.

“I do believe,” she whispered, “that my dear and thoughtful Father has
kept back on purpose, so that I might meet you first, and alone!”

After breakfast Mr. Trelawny took us into the study, saying as he passed
in:

“I have asked Margaret to come too.” When we were seated, he said
gravely:

“I told you last night that we might have something to say to each
other. I dare say that you may have thought that it was about Margaret
and yourself. Isn’t that so?”

“I thought so.”

“Well, my boy, that is all right. Margaret and I have been talking, and
I know her wishes.” He held out his hand. When I wrung it, and had
kissed Margaret, who drew her chair close to mine, so that we could hold
hands as we listened, he went on, but with a certain hesitation–it could
hardly be called nervousness–which was new to me.

“You know a good deal of my hunt after this mummy and her belongings;
and I dare say you have guessed a good deal of my theories. But these
at any rate I shall explain later, concisely and categorically, if it be
necessary. What I want to consult you about now is this: Margaret and
I disagree on one point. I am about to make an experiment; the
experiment which is to crown all that I have devoted twenty years of
research, and danger, and labour to prepare for. Through it we may
learn things that have been hidden from the eyes and the knowledge of
men for centuries; for scores of centuries. I do not want my daughter
to be present; for I cannot blind myself to the fact that there may be
danger in it–great danger, and of an unknown kind. I have, however,
already faced very great dangers, and of an unknown kind; and so has
that brave scholar who has helped me in the work. As to myself, I am
willing to run any risk. For science, and history, and philosophy may
benefit; and we may turn one old page of a wisdom unknown in this
prosaic age. But for my daughter to run such a risk I am loth. Her
young bright life is too precious to throw lightly away; now especially
when she is on the very threshold of new happiness. I do not wish to
see her life given, as her dear mother’s was–”

He broke down for a moment, and covered his eyes with his hands. In an
instant Margaret was beside him, clasping him close, and kissing him,
and comforting him with loving words. Then, standing erect, with one
hand on his head, she said:

“Father! mother did not bid you stay beside her, even when you wanted to
go on that journey of unknown danger to Egypt; though that country was
then upset from end to end with war and the dangers that follow war.
You have told me how she left you free to go as you wished; though that
she thought of danger for you and and feared it for you, is proved by
this!” She held up her wrist with the scar that seemed to run blood.
“Now, mother’s daughter does as mother would have done herself!” Then
she turned to me:

“Malcolm, you know I love you! But love is trust; and you must trust me
in danger as well as in joy. You and I must stand beside Father in this
unknown peril. Together we shall come through it; or together we shall
fail; together we shall die. That is my wish; my first wish to my
husband that is to be! Do you not think that, as a daughter, I am
right? Tell my Father what you think!”

She looked like a Queen stooping to plead. My love for her grew and
grew. I stood up beside her; and took her hand and said:

“Mr. Trelawny! in this Margaret and I are one!”

He took both our hands and held them hard. Presently he said with deep
emotion:

“It is as her mother would have done!”

Mr. Corbeck and Doctor Winchester came exactly at the time appointed,
and joined us in the library. Despite my great happiness I felt our
meeting to be a very solemn function. For I could never forget the
strange things that had been; and the idea of the strange things which
might be, was with me like a cloud, pressing down on us all. From the
gravity of my companions I gathered that each of them also was ruled by
some such dominating thought.

Instinctively we gathered our chairs into a circle round Mr. Trelawny,
who had taken the great armchair near the window. Margaret sat by him
on his right, and I was next to her. Mr. Corbeck was on his left, with
Doctor Winchester on the other side. After a few seconds of silence Mr.
Trelawny said to Mr. Corbeck:

“You have told Doctor Winchester all up to the present, as we arranged?

“Yes,” he answered; so Mr. Trelawny said:

“And I have told Margaret, so we all know!” Then, turning to the
Doctor, he asked:

“And am I to take it that you, knowing all as we know it who have
followed the matter for years, wish to share in the experiment which we
hope to make?” His answer was direct and uncompromising:

“Certainly! Why, when this matter was fresh to me, I offered to go on
with it to the end. Now that it is of such strange interest, I would
not miss it for anything which you could name. Be quite easy in your
mind, Mr. Trelawny. I am a scientist and an investigator of phenomena.
I have no one belonging to me or dependent on me. I am quite alone, and
free to do what I like with my own–including my life!” Mr. Trelawny
bowed gravely, and turning to Mr. Corbeck said:

“I have known your ideas for many years past, old friend; so I need ask
you nothing. As to Margaret and Malcolm Ross, they have already told me
their wishes in no uncertain way.” He paused a few seconds, as though
to put his thoughts or his words in order; then he began to explain his
views and intentions. He spoke very carefully, seeming always to bear
in mind that some of us who listened were ignorant of the very root and
nature of some things touched upon, and explaining them to us as he went
on:

“The experiment which is before us is to try whether or no there is any
force, any reality, in the old Magic. There could not possibly be more
favourable conditions for the test; and it is my own desire to do all
that is possible to make the original design effective. That there is
some such existing power I firmly believe. It might not be possible to
create, or arrange, or organise such a power in our own time; but I take
it that if in Old Time such a power existed, it may have some
exceptional survival. After all, the Bible is not a myth; and we read
there that the sun stood still at a man’s command, and that an ass–not
a human one–spoke. And if the Witch at Endor could call up to Saul the
spirit of Samuel, why may not there have been others with equal powers;
and why may not one among them survive? Indeed, we are told in the Book
of Samuel that the Witch of Endor was only one of many, and her being
consulted by Saul was a matter of chance. He only sought one among the
many whom he had driven out of Israel; ‘all those that had Familiar
Spirits, and the Wizards.’ This Egyptian Queen, Tera, who reigned
nearly two thousand years before Saul, had a Familiar, and was a Wizard
too. See how the priests of her time, and those after it tried to wipe
out her name from the face of the earth, and put a curse over the very
door of her tomb so that none might ever discover the lost name. Ay,
and they succeeded so well that even Manetho, the historian of the
Egyptian Kings, writing in the tenth century before Christ, with all the
lore of the priesthood for forty centuries behind him, and with
possibility of access to every existing record, could not even find her
name. Did it strike any of you, in thinking of the late events, who or
what her Familiar was?” There was an interruption, for Doctor
Winchester struck one hand loudly on the other as he ejaculated:

“The cat! The mummy cat! I knew it!” Mr. Trelawny smiled over at him.

“You are right! There is every indication that the Familiar of the
Wizard Queen was that cat which was mummied when she was, and was not
only placed in her tomb, but was laid in the sarcophagus with her. That
was what bit into my wrist, what cut me with sharp claws.” He paused.
Margaret’s comment was a purely girlish one:

“Then my poor Silvio is acquitted! I am glad!” Her father stroked her
hair and went on:

“This woman seems to have had an extraordinary foresight. Foresight
far, far beyond her age and the philosophy of her time. She seems to
have seen through the weakness of her own religion, and even prepared
for emergence into a different world. All her aspirations were for the
North, the point of the compass whence blew the cool invigorating
breezes that make life a joy. From the first, her eyes seem to have
been attracted to the seven stars of the Plough from the fact, as
recorded in the hieroglyphics in her tomb, that at her birth a great
aerolite fell, from whose heart was finally extracted that Jewel of
Seven Stars which she regarded as the talisman of her life. It seems to
have so far ruled her destiny that all her thought and care circled
round it. The Magic Coffer, so wondrously wrought with seven sides, we
learn from the same source, came from the aerolite. Seven was to her a
magic number; and no wonder. With seven fingers on one hand, and seven
toes on one foot. With a talisman of a rare ruby with seven stars in
the same position as in that constellation which ruled her birth, each
star of the seven having seven points–in itself a geological wonder–it
would have been odd if she had not been attracted by it. Again, she was
born, we learn in the Stele of her tomb, in the seventh month of the
year–the month beginning with the Inundation of the Nile. Of which
month the presiding Goddess was Hathor, the Goddess of her own house, of
the Antefs of the Theban line–the Goddess who in various forms
symbolises beauty, and pleasure, and resurrection. Again, in this
seventh month–which, by later Egyptian astronomy began on Octorber 28th,
and ran to the 27th of our November–on the seventh day the Pointer of
the Plough just rises above the horizon of the sky at Thebes.

“In a marvellously strange way, therefore, are grouped into this woman’s
life these various things. The number seven; the Pole Star, with the
constellation of seven stars; the God of the month, Hathor, who was her
own particular God, the God of her family, the Antefs of the Theban
Dynasty, whose Kings” symbol it was, and whose seven forms ruled love
and the delights of life and resurrection. If ever there was ground for
magic; for the power of symbolism carried into mystic use; for a belief
in finites spirits in an age which knew not the Living God, it is here.

“Remember, too, that this woman was skilled in all the science of her
time. Her wise and cautious father took care of that, knowing that by
her own wisdom she must ultimately combat the intrigues of the
Hierarchy. Bear in mind that in old Egypt the science of Astronomy
began and was developed to an extraordinary height; and that Astrology
followed Astronomy in its progress. And it is possible that in the
later developments of science with regard to light rays, we may yet find
that Astrology is on a scientific basis. Our next wave of scientific
thought may deal with this. I shall have something special to call your
minds to on this point presently. Bear in mind also that the Egyptians
knew sciences, of which today, despite all our advantages, we are
profoundly ignorant. Acoustics, for instance, an exact science with the
builders of the temples of Karnak, of Luxor, of the Pyramids, is today
a mystery to Bell, and Kelvin, and Edison, and Marconi. Again, these
old miracle-workers probably understood some practical way of using
other forces, and amongst them the forces of light that at present we do
not dream of. But of this matter I shall speak later. That Magic
Coffer of Queen Tera is probably a magic box in more ways than one. It
may–possibly it does–contain forces that we wot not of. We cannot open
it; it must be closed from within. How then was it closed? It is a
coffer of solid stone, of amazing hardness, more like a jewel than an
ordinary marble, with a lid equally solid; and yet all is so finely
wrought that the finest tool made today cannot be inserted under the
flange. How was it wrought to such perfection? How was the stone so
chosen that those translucent patches match the relations of the seven
stars of the constellation? How is it, or from what cause, that when
the starlight shines on it, it glows from within–that when I fix the
lamps in similar form the glow grows greater still; and yet the box is
irresponsive to ordinary light however great? I tell you that that box
hides some great mystery of science. We shall find that the light will
open it in some way: either by striking on some substance, sensitive in
a peculiar way to its effect, or in releasing some greater power. I
only trust that in our ignorance we may not so bungle things as to do
harm to its mechanism; and so deprive the knowledge of our time of a
lesson handed down, as by a miracle, through nearly five thousand years.

“In another way, too, there may be hidden in that box secrets which, for
good or ill, may enlighten the world. We know from their records, and
inferentially also, that the Egyptians studied the properties of herbs
and minerals for magic purposes–white magic as well as black. We know
that some of the wizards of old could induce from sleep dreams of any
given kind. That this purpose was mainly effected by hypnotism, which
was another art or science of Old Nile, I have little doubt. But still,
they must have had a mastery of drugs that is far beyond anything we
know. With our own pharmacopoeia we can, to a certain extent, induce
dreams. We may even differentiate between good and bad-dreams of
pleasure, or disturbing and harrowing dreams. But these old
practitioners seemed to have been able to command at will any form or
colour of dreaming; could work round any given subject or thought in
almost any was required. In that coffer, which you have seen, may rest
a very armoury of dreams. Indeed, some of the forces that lie within it
may have been already used in my household.” Again there was an
interruption from Doctor Winchester.

“But if in your case some of these imprisoned forces were used, what set
them free at the opportune time, or how? Besides, you and Mr. Corbeck
were once before put into a trance for three whole days, when you were
in the Queen’s tomb for the second time. And then, as I gathered from
Mr. Corbeck’s story, the coffer was not back in the tomb, though the
mummy was. Surely in both these cases there must have been some active
intelligence awake, and with some other power to wield.” Mr. Trelawny’s
answer was equally to the point:

“There was some active intelligence awake. I am convinced of it. And
it wielded a power which it never lacks. I believe that on both those
occasions hypnotism was the power wielded.”

“And wherein is that power contained? What view do you hold on the
subject?” Doctor Winchester’s voice vibrated with the intensity of his
excitement as he leaned forward, breathing hard, and with eyes staring.
Mr. Trelawny said solemnly:

“In the mummy of the Queen Tera! I was coming to that presently.
Perhaps we had better wait till I clear the ground a little. What I
hold is, that the preparation of that box was made for a special
occasion; as indeed were all the preparations of the tomb and all
belonging to it. Queen Tera did not trouble herself to guard against
snakes and scorpions, in that rocky tomb cut in the sheer cliff face a
hundred feet above the level of the valley, and fifty down from the
summit. Her precautions were against the disturbances of human hands;
against the jealousy and hatred of the priests, who, had they known of
her real aims, would have tried to baffle them. From her point of view,
she made all ready for the time of resurrection, whenever that might be.
I gather from the symbolic pictures in the tomb that she so far differed
from the belief of her time that she looked for a resurrection in the
flesh. It was doubtless this that intensified the hatred of the
priesthood, and gave them an acceptable cause for obliterating the very
existence, present and future, of one who had outrage their theories and
blasphemed their gods. All that she might require, either in the
accomplishment of the resurrection or after it, were contained in that
almost hermetically sealed suite of chambers in the rock. In the great
sarcophagus, which as you know is of a size quite unusual even for
kings, was the mummy of her Familiar, the cat, which from its great size
I take to be a sort of tiger-cat. In the tomb, also in a strong
receptacle, were the canopic jars usually containing those internal
organs which are separately embalmed, but which in this case had no such
contents. So that, I take it, there was in her case a departure in
embalming; and that the organs were restored to the body, each in its
proper place–if, indeed, they had ever been removed. If this surmise be
true, we shall find that the brain of the Queen either was never
extracted in the usual way, or, if so taken out, that it was duly
replaced, instead of being enclosed within the mummy wrappings.
Finally, in the sarcophagus there was the Magic Coffer on which her feet
rested. Mark you also, the care taken in the preservance of her power
to control the elements. According to her belief, the open hand outside
the wrappings controlled the Air, and the strange Jewel Stone with the
shining stars controlled Fire. The symbolism inscribed on the soles of
her feet gave sway over Land and Water. About the Star Stone I shall
tell you later; but whilst we are speaking of the sarcophagus, mark how
she guarded her secret in case of grave-wrecking or intrusion. None
could open her Magic Coffer without the lamps, for we know now that
ordinary light will not be effective. The great lid of the sarcophagus
was not sealed down as usual, because she wished to control the air. But
she hid the lamps, which in structure belong to the Magic Coffer, in a
place where none could find them, except by following the secret
guidance which she had prepared for only the eyes of wisdom. And even
here she had guarded against chance discovery, by preparing a bolt of
death for the unwary discoverer. To do this she had applied the lesson
of the tradition of the avenging guard of the treasures of the pyramid,
built by her great predecessor of the Fourth Dynasty of the throne of
Egypt.

“You have noted, I suppose, how there were, in the case of her tomb,
certain deviations from the usual rules. For instance, the shaft of the
Mummy Pit, which is usually filled up solid with stones and rubbish, was
left open. Why was this? I take it that she had made arrangements for
leaving the tomb when, after her resurrection, she should be a new
woman, with a different personality, and less inured to the hardships
that in her first existence she had suffered. So far as we can judge of
her intent, all things needful for her exit into the world had been
thought of, even to the iron chain, described by Van Huyn, close to the
door in the rock, by which she might be able to lower herself to the
ground. That she expected a long period to elapse was shown in the
choice of material. An ordinary rope would be rendered weaker or unsafe
in process of time, but she imagined, and rightly, that the iron would
endure.

“What her intentions were when once she trod the open earth afresh we do
not know, and we never shall, unless her own dead lips can soften and
speak.”

Chapter XV
The Purpose of Queen Tera

“Now, as to the Star Jewel! This she manifestly regarded as the
greatest of her treasures. On it she had engraven words which none of
her time dared to speak.

“In the old Egyptian belief it was held that there were words, which, if
used properly–for the method of speaking them was as important as the
words themselves–could command the Lords of the Upper and the Lower
Worlds. The ‘hekau’, or word of power, was all-important in certain
ritual. On the Jewel of Seven Stars, which, as you know, is carved into
the image of a scarab, are graven in hieroglyphic two such hekau, one
above, the other underneath. But you will understand better when you
see it! Wait here! Do not stir!”

As he spoke, he rose and left the room. A great fear for him came over
me; but I was in some strange way relieved when I looked at Margaret.
Whenever there had been any possibility of danger to her father, she had
shown great fear for him; now she was calm and placid. I said nothing,
but waited.

In two or three minutes, Mr. Trelawny returned. He held in his hand a
little golden box. This, as he resumed his seat, he placed before him
on the table. We all leaned forward as he opened it.

On a lining of white satin lay a wondrous ruby of immense size, almost
as big as the top joint of Margaret’s little finger. It was carven–it
could not possibly have been its natural shape, but jewels do not show
the working of the tool–into the shape of a scarab, with its wings
folded, and its legs and feelers pressed back to its sides. Shining
through its wondrous “pigeon’s blood” colour were seven different stars,
each of seven points, in such position that they reproduced exactly the
figure of the Plough. There could be no possible mistake as to this in
the mind of anyone who had ever noted the constellation. On it were
some hieroglyphic figures, cut with the most exquisite precision, as I
could see when it came to my turn to use the magnifying-glass, which Mr.
Trelawny took from his pocket and handed to us.

When we all had seen it fully, Mr. Trelawny turned it over so that it
rested on its back in a cavity made to hold it in the upper half of the
box. The reverse was no less wonderful than the upper, being carved to
resemble the under side of the beetle. It, too, had some hieroglyphic
figures cut on it. Mr. Trelawny resumed his lecture as we all sat with
our heads close to this wonderful jewel:

“As you see, there are two words, one on the top, the other underneath.
The symbols on the top represent a single word, composed of one syllable
prolonged, with its determinatives. You know, all of you, I suppose,
that the Egyptian language was phonetic, and that the hieroglyphic
symbol represented the sound. The first symbol here, the hoe, means
‘mer’, and the two pointed ellipses the prolongation of the final r:
mer-r-r. The sitting figure with the hand to its face is what we call
the ‘determinative’ of ‘thought'; and the roll of papyrus that of
‘abstraction’. Thus we get the word ‘mer’, love, in its abstract,
general, and fullest sense. This is the hekau which can command the
Upper World.”

Margaret’s face was a glory as she said in a deep, low, ringing tone:

“Oh, but it is true. How the old wonder-workers guessed at almighty
Truth!” Then a hot blush swept her face, and her eyes fell. Her father
smiled at her lovingly as he resumed:

“The symbolisation of the word on the reverse is simpler, though the
meaning is more abstruse. The first symbol means ‘men’, ‘abiding’, and
the second, ‘ab’, ‘the heart’. So that we get ‘abiding of heart’, or in
our own language ‘patience’. And this is the hekau to control the Lower
World!”

He closed the box, and motioning us to remain as we were, he went back
to his room to replace the Jewel in the safe. When he had returned and
resumed his seat, he went on:

“That Jewel, with its mystic words, and which Queen Tera held under her
hand in the sarcophagus, was to be an important factor–probably the most
important–in the working out of the act of her resurrection. From the
first I seemed by a sort of instinct to realise this. I kept the Jewel
within my great safe, whence none could extract it; not even Queen Tera
herself with her astral body.”

“Her ‘astral body’? What is that, Father? What does that mean?”
There was a keenness in Margaret’s voice as she asked the question which
surprised me a little; but Trelawny smiled a sort of indulgent parental
smile, which came through his grim solemnity like sunshine through a
rifted cloud, as he spoke:

“The astral body, which is a part of Buddhist belief, long subsequent to
the time I speak of, and which is an accepted fact of modern mysticism,
had its rise in Ancient Egypt; at least, so far as we know. It is that
the gifted individual can at will, quick as thought itself, transfer his
body whithersoever he chooses, by the dissolution and reincarnation of
particles. In the ancient belief there were several parts of a human
being. You may as well know them; so that you will understand matters
relative to them or dependent on them as they occur.

“First there is the ‘Ka’, or ‘Double’, which, as Doctor Budge explains,
may be defined as ‘an abstract individuality of personality’ which was
imbued with all the characteristic attributes of the individual it
represented, and possessed an absolutely independent existence. It was
free to move from place to place on earth at will; and it could enter
into heaven and hold converse with the gods. Then there was the ‘Ba’,
or ‘soul’, which dwelt in the ‘Ka’, and had the power of becoming
corporeal or incorporeal at will; ‘it had both substance and form. . . .
It had power to leave the tomb . . .It could revisit the body in the
tomb . . . and could reincarnate it and hold converse with it.’ Again
there was the ‘Khu’, the ‘spiritual intelligence’, or spirit. It took
the form of ‘a shining, luminous, intangible shape of the body.’. . .
Then, again, there was the ‘Sekhem’, or ‘power’ of a man, his strength
or vital force personified. These were the ‘Khaibit’, or ‘shadow’, the
‘Ren’, or ‘name’, the ‘Khat’, or ‘physical body’, and ‘Ab’, the ‘heart’,
in which life was seated, went to the full making up of a man.

“Thus you will see, that if this division of functions, spiritual and
bodily, ethereal and corporeal, ideal and actual, be accepted as exact,
there are all the possibilities and capabilities of corporeal
transference, guided always by an unimprisonable will or intelligence.”
As he paused I murmured the lines from Shelley’s “Prometheus Unbound”:

“‘The Magnus Zoroaster . . .
Met his own image walking in the garden.'”

Mr. Trelawny was not displeased. “Quite so!” he said, in his quiet way.
“Shelley had a better conception of ancient beliefs than any of our
poets.” With a voice changed again he resumed his lecture, for so it
was to some of us:

“There is another belief of the ancient Egyptian which you must bear in
mind; that regarding the ushaptiu figures of Osiris, which were placed
with the dead to its work in the Under World. The enlargement of this
idea came to a belief that it was possible to transmit, by magical
formulae, the soul and qualities of any living creature to a figure made
in its image. This would give a terrible extension of power to one who
held the gift of magic.

“It is from a union of these various beliefs, and their natural
corollaries, that I have come to the conclusion that Queen Tera expected
to be able to effect her own resurrection, when, and where, and how, she
would. That she may have held before her a definite time for making her
effort is not only possible but likely. I shall not stop now to explain
it, but shall enter upon the subject later on. With a soul with the
Gods, a spirit which could wander the earth at will, and a power of
corporeal transference, or an astral body, there need be no bounds or
limits to her ambition. The belief is forced upon us that for these
forty or fifty centuries she lay dormant in her tomb-waiting. Waiting
with that ‘patience’ which could rule the Gods of the Under World, for
that ‘love’ which could command those of the Upper World. What she may
have dreamt we know not; but her dream must have been broken when the
Dutch explorer entered her sculptured cavern, and his follower violated
the sacred privacy of her tomb by his rude outrage in the theft of her
hand.

“That theft, with all that followed, proved to us one thing, however:
that each part of her body, though separated from the rest, can be a
central point or rallying place for the items or particles of her astral
body. That hand in my room could ensure her instantaneous presence in
the flesh, and its equally rapid dissolution.

“Now comes the crown of my argument. The purpose of the attack on me
was to get the safe open, so that the sacred Jewel of Seven Stars could
be extracted. That immense door of the safe could not keep out her
astral body, which, or any part of it, could gather itself as well
within as without the safe. And I doubt not that in the darkness of the
night that mummied hand sought often the Talisman Jewel, and drew new
inspiration from its touch. But despite all its power, the astral body
could not remove the Jewel through the chinks of the safe. The Ruby is
not astral; and it could only be moved in the ordinary way by the
opening of the doors. To this end, the Queen used her astral body and
the fierce force of her Familiar, to bring to the keyhole of the safe
the master key which debarred her wish. For years I have suspected,
nay, have believed as much; and I, too, guarded myself against powers of
the Nether World. I, too, waited in patience till I should have
gathered together all the factors required for the opening of the Magic
Coffer and the resurrection of the mummied Queen!” He paused, and his
daughter’s voice came out sweet and clear, and full of intense feeling:

“Father, in the Egyptian belief, was the power of resurrection of a
mummied body a general one, or was it limited? That is: could it
achieve resurrection many times in the course of ages; or only once, and
that one final?”

“There was but one resurrection,” he answered. “There were some who
believed that this was to be a definite resurrection of the body into
the real world. But in the common belief, the Spirit found joy in the
Elysian Fields, where there was plenty of food and no fear of famine.
Where there was moisture and deep-rooted reeds, and all the joys that
are to be expected by the people of an arid land and burning clime.”

Then Margaret spoke with an earnestness which showed the conviction of
her inmost soul:

“To me, then, it is given to understand what was the dream of this great
and far-thinking and high-souled lady of old; the dream that held her
soul in patient waiting for its realisation through the passing of all
those tens of centuries. The dream of a love that might be; a love that
she felt she might, even under new conditions, herself evoke. The love
that is the dream of every woman’s life; of the Old and of the New;
Pagan or Christian; under whatever sun; in whatever rank or calling;
however may have been the joy or pain of her life in other ways. Oh! I
know it! I know it! I am a woman, and I know a woman’s heart. What
were the lack of food or the plenitude of it; what were feast or famine
to this woman, born in a palace, with the shadow of the Crown of the Two
Egypts on her brows! What were reedy morasses or the tinkle of running
water to her whose barges could sweep the great Nile from the mountains
to the sea. What were petty joys and absence of petty fears to her, the
raising of whose hand could hurl armies, or draw to the water-stairs of
her palaces the commerce of the world! At whose word rose temples
filled with all the artistic beauty of the Times of Old which it was her
aim and pleasure to restore! Under whose guidance the solid rock yawned
into the sepulchre that she designed!

“Surely, surely, such a one had nobler dreams! I can feel them in my
heart; I can see them with my sleeping eyes!”

As she spoke she seemed to be inspired; and her eyes had a far-away look
as though they saw something beyond mortal sight. And then the deep
eyes filled up with unshed tears of great emotion. The very soul of the
woman seemed to speak in her voice; whilst we who listened sat
entranced.

“I can see her in her loneliness and in the silence of her mighty pride,
dreaming her own dream of things far different from those around her.
Of some other land, far, far away under the canopy of the silent night,
lit by the cool, beautiful light of the stars. A land under that
Northern star, whence blew the sweet winds that cooled the feverish
desert air. A land of wholesome greenery, far, far away. Where were no
scheming and malignant priesthood; whose ideas were to lead to power
through gloomy temples and more gloomy caverns of the dead, through an
endless ritual of death! A land where love was not base, but a divine
possession of the soul! Where there might be some one kindred spirit
which could speak to hers through mortal lips like her own; whose being
could merge with hers in a sweet communion of soul to soul, even as
their breaths could mingle in the ambient air! I know the feeling, for
I have shared it myself. I may speak of it now, since the blessing has
come into my own life. I may speak of it since it enables me to
interpret the feelings, the very longing soul, of that sweet and lovely
Queen, so different from her surroundings, so high above her time!
Whose nature, put into a word, could control the forces of the Under
World; and the name of whose aspiration, though but graven on a star-lit
jewel, could command all the powers in the Pantheon of the High Gods.

“And in the realisation of that dream she will surely be content to
rest!”

We men sat silent, as the young girl gave her powerful interpretation of
the design or purpose of the woman of old. Her every word and tone
carried with it the conviction of her own belief. The loftiness of her
thoughts seemed to uplift us all as we listened. Her noble words,
flowing in musical cadence and vibrant with internal force, seemed to
issue from some great instrument of elemental power. Even her tone was
new to us all; so that we listened as to some new and strange being from
a new and strange world. Her father’s face was full of delight. I knew
now its cause. I understood the happiness that had come into his life,
on his return to the world that he knew, from that prolonged sojourn in
the world of dreams. To find in his daughter, whose nature he had never
till now known, such a wealth of affection, such a splendour of
spiritual insight, such a scholarly imagination, such . . . The rest of
his feeling was of hope!

The two other men were silent unconsciously. One man had had his
dreaming; for the other, his dreams were to come.

For myself, I was like one in a trance. Who was this new, radiant being
who had won to existence out of the mist and darkness of our fears?
Love has divine possibilities for the lover’s heart! The wings of the
soul may expand at any time from the shoulders of the loved one, who
then may sweep into angel form. I knew that in my Margaret’s nature
were divine possibilities of many kinds. When under the shade of the
overhanging willow-tree on the river, I had gazed into the depths of her
beautiful eyes, I had thenceforth a strict belief in the manifold
beauties and excellences of her nature; but this soaring and
understanding spirit was, indeed, a revelation. My pride, like her
father’s, was outside myself; my joy and rapture were complete and
supreme!

When we had all got back to earth again in our various ways, Mr.
Trelawny, holding his daughter’s hand in his, went on with his
discourse:

“Now, as to the time at which Queen Tera intended her resurrection to
take place! We are in contact with some of the higher astronomical
calculations in connection with true orientation. As you know, the
stars shift their relative positions in the heavens; but though the real
distances traversed are beyond all ordinary comprehension, the effects
as we see them are small. Nevertheless, they are susceptible of
measurement, not by years, indeed, but by centuries. It was by this
means that Sir John Herschel arrived at the date of the building of the
Great Pyramid–a date fixed by the time necessary to change the star of
the true north from Draconis to the Pole Star, and since then verified
by later discoveries. From the above there can be no doubt whatever
that astronomy was an exact science with the Egyptians at least a
thousand years before the time of Queen Tera. Now, the stars that go to
make up a constellation change in process of time their relative
positions, and the Plough is a notable example. The changes in the
position of stars in even forty centuries is so small as to be hardly
noticeable by an eye not trained to minute observances, but they can be
measured and verified. Did you, or any of you, notice how exactly the
stars in the Ruby correspond to the position of the stars in the Plough;
or how the same holds with regard to the translucent places in the Magic
Coffer?”

We all assented. He went on:

“You are quite correct. They correspond exactly. And yet when Queen
Tera was laid in her tomb, neither the stars in the Jewel nor the
translucent places in the Coffer corresponded to the position of the
stars in the Constellation as they then were!”

We looked at each other as he paused: a new light was breaking upon us.
With a ring of mastery in his voice he went on:

“Do you not see the meaning of this? Does it not throw a light on the
intention of the Queen? She, who was guided by augury, and magic, and
superstition, naturally chose a time for her resurrection which seemed
to have been pointed out by the High Gods themselves, who had seent
their message on a thunderbolt from other worlds. When such a time was
fixed by supernal wisdom, would it not be the height of human wisdom to
avail itself of it? Thus it is”–here his voice deepened and trembled
with the intensity of his feeling–“that to us and our time is given the
opportunity of this wondrous peep into the old world, such as has been
the privilege of none other of our time; which may never be again.

“From first to last the cryptic writing and symbolism of that wondrous
tomb of that wondrous woman is fullof guiding light; and the key of the
many mysteries lies in that most wondrous Jewel which she held in her
dead hand over the dead heart, which she hoped and believed would beat
again in a newer and nobler world!

“There are only loose ends now to consider. Margaret has given us the
true inwardness of the feeling of the other Queen!” He looked at her
fondly, and stroked her hand as he said it. “For my own part I
sincerely hope she is right; for in such case it will be a joy, I am
sure, to all of us to assist at such a realisation of hope. But we must
not go too fast, or believe too much in our present state of knowledge.
The voice that we hearken for comes out of times strangely other than
our own; when human life counted for little, and when the morality of
the time made little account of the removing of obstacles in the way to
achievement of desire. We must keep our eyes fixed on the scientific
side, and wait for the developments on the psychic side.

“Now, as to this stone box, which we call the Magic Coffer. As I have
said, I am convinced that it opens only in obedience to some principle
of light, or the exercise of some of its forces at present unknown to
us. There is here much ground for conjecture and for experiment; for as
yet the scientists have not thoroughly differentiated the kinds, and
powers, and degrees of light. Without analysing various rays we may, I
think, take it for granted that there are different qualities and powers
of light; and this great field of scientific investigation is almost
virgin soil. We know as yet so little of natural forces, that
imagination need set no bounds to its flights in considering the
possibilities of the future. Within but a few years we have made such
discoveries as two centuries ago would have sent the discoverer’s to the
flames. The liquefaction of oxygen; the existence of radium, of helium,
of polonium, of argon; the different powers of Rontgen and Cathode and
Bequerel rays. And as we may finally prove that there are different
kinds and qualities of light, so we may find tht combustion may have its
own powers of differentiation; that there are qualities in some flames
non-existent in others. It may be that some of the essential conditions
of substance are continuous, even in the destruction of their bases.
Last night I was thinking of this, and reasoning that as there are
certain qualities in some oils which are not in others, so there may be
certain similar or corresponding qualities or powers in the combinations
of each. I suppose we have all noticed some time or other that the
light of colza oil is not quite the same as that of paraffin, or that
the flames of coal gas and whale oil are different. They find it so in
the light-houses! All at once it occurred to me that there might be some
special virtue in the oil which had been found in the jars when Queen
Tera’s tomb was opened. These had not been used to preserve the
intestines as usual, so they must have been placed there for some other
purpose. I remembered that in Van Huyn’s narrative he had commented on
the way the jars were sealed. This was lightly, though effectually;
they could be opened without force. The jars were themselves preserved
in a sarcophagus which, though of immense strength and hermetically
sealed, could be opened easily. Accordingly, I went at once to examine
the jars. A little–a very little of the oil still remained, but it had
grown thick in the two and a half centuries in which the jars had been
open. Still, it was not rancid; and on examining it I found it was
cedar oil, and that it still exhaled something of its original aroma.
This gave me the idea that it was to be used to fill the lamps. Whoever
had placed the oil in the jars, and the jars in the sarcophagus, knew
that there might be shrinkage in process of time, even in vases of
alabaster, and fully allowed for it; for each of the jars would have
filled the lamps half a dozen times. With part of the oil remaining I
made some experiments, therefore, which may give useful results. You
know, Doctor, that cedar oil, which was much used in the preparation and
ceremonials of the Egyptian dead, has a certain refractive power which
we do not find in other oils. For instance, we use it on the lenses of
our microscopes to give additional clearness of vision. Last night I
put some in one of the lamps, and placed it near a translucent part of
the Magic Coffer. The effect was very great; the glow of light within
was fuller and more intense than I could have imagined, where an
electric light similarly placed had little, if any, effect. I should
have tried others of the seven lamps, but that my supply of oil ran out.
This, however, is on the road to rectification. I have sent for more
cedar oil, and expect to have before long an ample supply. Whatever may
happen from other causes, our experiment shall not, at all events, fail
from this. We shall see! We shall see!”

Doctor Winchester had evidently been following the logical process of
the other’s mind, for his comment was:

“I do hope that when the light is effective in opening the box, the
mechanism will not be impaired or destroyed.”

His doubt as to this gave anxious thought to some of us.

Chapter XVI
Powers–Old and New

The time wore away, wondrous slowly in some ways, wonderfully quickly
in others. To-day, in the new-found joyous certainty of the return of
my love, I should have liked to have had Margaret all to myself. But
this day was not for love or for love-making. The shadow of fearful
expectation was over it. The more I thought over the coming experiment,
the more strange it all seemed; and the more foolish were we who were
deliberately entering upon it. It was all so stupendous, so mysterious,
so unnecessary! The issues were so vast; the danger so strange, so
unknown. Even if it should be successful, what new difficulties would
it not raise. What changes might happen, did men know that the portals
of the House of Death were not in very truth eternally fixed; and that
the Dead could come forth again! Could we realize what it was for us
modern mortals to be arrayed against the Gods of Old, with their
mysterious powers gotten from natural forces, or begotten of them when
the world was young. When land and water were forming themselves from
out the primeval slime. When the very air was purifying itself from
elemental dross. When the “dragons of the prime” were changing their
forms and their powers, made only to combat with geologic forces, to
grow in accord with the new vegetable life which was springing up
around them. When animals, when even man himself and man’s advance
were growths as natural as the planetary movements, growths as
natural as the planetary movements, or the shining of the stars.
Ay! and further back still, when as yet the Spirit which moved on
the face of the waters had not spoken the words commanding to come
into existence Light and the Life which followed it.

Nay, even beyond this was a still more overwhelming conjecture. The
whole possibility of the Great Experiment to which we were now pledged
was based on the reality of the existence of the Old Forces which seemed
to be coming in contact with the New Civilization. That there were, and
are, such cosmic forces we cannot doubt, and that the Intelligence,
which is behind them, was and is. Were those primal and elemental forces
controlled at any time by other than that Final Cause which Christendom
holds as its very essence? If there were truth at all in the belief of
Ancient Egypt then their Gods had real existence, real power, real force.
Godhead is not a quality subject to the ills of mortals: as in its
essence it is creative and recreative, it cannot die. Any belief to the
contrary would be antagonistic to reason; for it would hold that a part
is greater than the whole. If then the Old Gods held their forces, wherein
was the supremacy of the new? Of course, if the Old Gods had lost their
power, or if they never had any, the Experiment could not succeed. But
if it should indeed succeed, or if there were a possibility of success,
then we should be face to face with an inference so overwhelming that
one hardly dared to follow it to its conclusion. This would be: that the
struggle between Life and Death would no longer be a matter of the
earth, earthy; that the war of supra-elemental forces would be moved
from the tangible world of facts to the Mid-Region, wherever it may be,
which is the home of the Gods. Did such a region exist? What was it that
Milton saw with his blind eyes in the rays of poetic light falling
between him and Heaven? Whence came that stupendous vision of the
Evangelist which has for eighteen centuries held spellbound the intelligence
of Christendom? Was there room in the Universe for opposing Gods; or if
such there were, would the stronger allow manifestations of power on the
part of the opposing Force which would tend to the weakening of His own
teaching and designs? Surely, surely if this supposition were correct
there would be some strange and awful development–something unexpected
and unpredictable–before the end should be allowed to come. . . !

The subject was too vast and, under the present conditions, too full of
strange surmises. I dared not follow it! I set myself to wait in patience
till the time should come.

Margaret remained divinely calm. I think I envied her, even whilst I
admired and loved her for it. Mr Trelawny was nervously anxious, as
indeed were the other men. With him it took the form of movement;
movement both of body and mind. In both respects he was restless, going
from one place to another with or without a cause, or even a pretext;
and changing from one subject of thought to another. Now and again he
would show glimpses of the harrowing anxiety which filled him, by his
manifest expectation of finding a similar condition in myself. He would
be ever explaining things. And in his explanations I could see the way
in which he was turning over in his mind all the phenomena; all the
possible causes; all the possible results. Once, in the midst of a most
learned dissertation on the growth of Egyptian Astrology, he broke out
on a different subject, or rather a branch or corollary of the same:

“I do not see why starlight may not have some subtle quality of its own!
We know that other lights have special forces. The Rontgen Ray is not
the only discovery to be made in the world of light. Sunlight has its
own forces, that are not given to other lights. It warms wine; it quickens
fungoid growth. Men are often moonstruck. Why not, then, a more subtle,
if less active or powerful, force in the light of the stars. It should
be a pure light coming through such vastness of space, and may have a
quality which a pure, unimpulsive force may have. The time may not be
far off when Astrology shall be accepted on a scientific basis. In the
recrudescence of the art, many new experiences will be brought to bear;
many new phases of old wisdom will appear in the light of fresh discovery,
and afford bases for new reasoning. Men may find that what seemed empiric
deductions were in reality the results of a loftier intelligence and a
learning greater than our own. We know already that the whole of the
living world is full of microbes of varying powers and of methods of
working quite antagonistic. We do not know yet whether they can lie latent
until quickened by some ray of light as yet unidentified as a separate
and peculiar force. As yet we know nothing of what goes to create or
evoke the active spark of life. We have no knowledge of the methods of
conception; of the laws which govern molecular or foetal growth, of the
final influences which attend birth. Year by year, day by day, hour by
hour, we are learning; but the end is far, far off. It seems to me that
we are now in that stage of intellectual progress in which the rough
machinery for making discovery is being invented. Later on, we shall have
enough of first principles to help us in the development of equipment
for the true study of the inwardness of things. Then we may perhaps arrive
at the perfection of means to an end which the scholars of Old Nile
achieved at a time when Methuselah was beginning to brag about the number
of his years, perhaps even when the great grandchildren of Adam were
coming to regard the old man as what our Transatlantic friends call a
‘back number.’ Is it possible, for instance, that the people who invented
Astronomy did not finally use instruments of extraordinary precision;
that applied optics was not a cult of some of the specialists in the
Colleges of the Theban priesthood. The Egyptians were essentially
specialists. It is true that, in so far as we can judge, the range of
their study was limited to subjects connected with their aims of government
on earth by controlling all that bore on the life to follow it. But can
anyone imagine that by the eyes of men, unaided by lenses of wondrous
excellence, Astronomy was brought to such a pitch that the true orientation
of temples and pyramids and tombs followed for four thousand years the
wanderings of the planetary systems in space. If an instance of their
knowledge of microscopy is wanted let me hazard a conjecture. How was
it that in their hieroglyphic writing they took as the symbol or
determinative of ‘flesh’ the very form which the science of to-day,
relying on the revelations of a microscope of a thousand powers, gives
to protoplasm–that unit of living organism which has been differentiated
as Flagellula. If they could make analysis like this, why may they not
have gone further? In that wonderful atmosphere of theirs, where sunlight
fierce and clear is perpetually co-existent with day, where the dryness
of earth and air gives perfect refraction, why may they not have learned
secrets of light hidden from us in the density of our northern mists?
May it not have been possible that they learned to store light, just as
we have learned to store electricity. Nay more, is it not even possible
that they did so. They must have had some form of artificial light which
they used in the construction and adornment of those vast caverns hewn
in the solid rock which became whole cemeteries of the dead. Why, some
of these caverns, with their labyrinthine windings and endless passages
and chambers, all sculptured and graven and painted with an elaboration
of detail which absolutely bewilders one, must have taken years and years
to complete. And yet in them is no mark of smoke, such as lamps or torches
would have left behind them. Again, if they knew how to store light, is
it not possible that they had learned to understand and separate its
component elements? And if these men of old arrived at such a point,
may not we too in the fullness of time? We shall see! We shall see!

“There is another matter, too, on which recent discoveries in science
throw a light. It is only a glimmer at present; a glimmer sufficient to
illuminate probabilities, rather than actualities, or even possibilities.
The discoveries of the Curies and Laborde, of Sir William Crooks and
Becquerel, may have far-reaching results on Egyptian investigation. This
new metal, radium–or rather this old metal of which our knowledge is
new–may have been known to the ancients. Indeed it may have been used
thousands of years ago in greater degree than seems possible to-day. As
yet Egypt has not been named as a place where the discovery of pitchblende,
in which only as far as is known yet radium is contained, may be made.
And yet it is more than probable that radium exists in Egypt. That country
has perhaps the greatest masses of granite to be found in the world; and
pitchblende is found as a vein in granitic rocks. In no place, at no
time, has granite ever been quarried in such proportions as in Egypt
during the earlier dynasties. Who may say what great veins of pitchblende
may not have been found in the gigantic operations of hewing out columns
for the temples, or great stones for the pyramids. Why, veins of pitchblende,
of a richness unknown in our recent mines in Cornwall, or Bohemia, or
Saxony, or Hungary, or Turkey, or Colorado, may have been found by these
old quarrymen of Aswan, or Turra, or Mokattam, or Elephantine.

“Beyond this again, it is possible that here and there amongst these vast
granite quarries may have been found not merely veins but masses or
pockets of pitchblende. In such case the power at the disposal of those
who knew how to use it must have been wonderful. The learning of Egypt
was kept amongst its priests, and in their vast colleges must have been
men of great learning; men who knew well how to exercise to the best
advantage, and in the direction they wished, the terrific forces at their
command. And if pitchblende did and does exist in Egypt, do you not
think that much of it must have been freed by the gradual attrition and
wearing down of the granitic rocks? Time and weather bring in time all
rocks to dust; the very sands of the desert, which in centuries have
buried in this very land some of the greatest monuments of man’s
achievement, are the evidences of the fact. If, then, radium is divisible
into such minute particles as the scientists tell us, it too must have
been freed in time from its granite prison and left to work in the air.
One might almost hazard a suggestion that the taking the scarab as the
symbol of life may not have been without an empiric basis. Might it not
be possible that Coprophagi have power or instinct to seize upon the
minute particles of heat-giving, light-giving–perhaps life-giving–
radium, and enclosing them with their ova in those globes of matter
which they roll so assiduously, and from which they take their early
name, Pilulariae. In the billions of tons of the desert waste there is
surely mingled some proportion of each of the earths and rocks and metals
of their zone; and, each to each, nature forms her living entities to
flourish on those without life.

“Travellers tell us that glass left in tropic deserts changes colour,
and darkens in the fierce sunlight, just as it does under the influence
of the rays of radium. Does not this imply some sort of similarity
between the two forces yet to be identified!”

These scientific, or quasi-scientific discussions soothed me. They took
my mind from brooding on the mysteries of the occult, by attracting it
to the wonders of nature.

Chapter XVII
The Cavern

In the evening Mr. Trelawny took again the whole party into the study.
When we were all attention he began to unfold his plans:

“I have come to the conclusion that for the proper carrying out of what
we will call our Great Experiment we must have absolute and complete
isolation. Isolation not merely for a day or two, but for as long as we
may require. Here such a thing would be impossible; the needs and
habits of a great city with its ingrained possibilities of interruption,
would, or might, quite upset us. Telegrams, registered letters, or
express messengers would alone be sufficient; but the great army of
those who want to get something would make disaster certain. In
addition, the occurrences of the last week have drawn police attention
to this house. Even if special instructions to keep an eye on it have
not been issued from Scotland Yard or the District Station, you may be
sure that the individual policeman on his rounds will keep it well under
observation. Besides, the servants who have discharged themselves will
before long begin to talk. They must; for they have, for the sake of
their own characters, to give some reason for the termination of a
service which has I should say a position in the neighbourhood. The
servants of the neighbours will begin to talk, and, perhaps the
neighbours themselves. Then the active and intelligent Press will, with
its usual zeal for the enlightenment of the public and its eye to
increase of circulation, get hold of the matter. When the reporter is
after us we shall not have much chance of privacy. Even if we were to
bar ourselves in, we should not be free from interruption, possibly from
intrusion. Either would ruin our plans, and so we must take measures to
effect a retreat, carrying all our impedimenta with us. For this I am
prepared. For a long time past I have foreseen such a possibility, and
have made preparation for it. Of course, I had no foreknowledge of what
has happened; but I knew something would, or might, happen. For more
than two years past my house in Cornwall has been made ready to receive
all the curios which are preserved here. When Corbeck went off on his
search for the lamps I had the old house at Kyllion made ready; it is
fitted with electric light all over, and all the appliances for
manufacture of the light are complete. I had perhaps better tell you,
for none of you, not even Margaret, knows anything of it, that the house
is absolutely shut out from public access or even from view. It stands
on a little rocky promontory behind a steep hill, and except from the
sea cannot be seen. Of old it was fenced in by a high stone wall, for
the house which it succeeded was built by an ancestor of mine in the
days when a great house far away from a centre had to be prepared to
defend itself. Here, then, is a place so well adapted to our needs that
it might have been prepared on purpose. I shall explain it to you when
we are all there. This will not be long, for already our movement is in
train. I have sent word to Marvin to have all preparation for our
transport ready. He is to have a special train, which is to run at
night so as to avoid notice. Also a number of carts and stone-wagons,
with sufficient men and appliances to take all our packing-cases to
Paddington. We shall be away before the Argus-eyed Pressman is on the
watch. We shall today begin our packing up; and I dare say that by
tomorrow night we shall be ready. In the outhouses I have all the
packing-cases which were used for bringing the things from Egypt, and I
am satisfied that as they were sufficient for the journey across the
desert and down the Nile to Alexandria and thence on to London, they
will serve without fail between here and Kyllion. We four men, with
Margaret to hand us such things as we may require, will be able to get
the things packed safely; and the carrier’s men will take them to the
trucks.

“today the servants go to Kyllion, and Mrs. Grant will make such
arrangements as may be required. She will take a stock of necessaries
with her, so that we will not attract local attention by our daily
needs; and will keep us supplied with perishable food from London.
Thanks to Margaret’s wise and generous treatment of the servants who
decided to remain, we have got a staff on which we can depend. They
have been already cautioned to secrecy, so that we need not fear gossip
from within. Indeed, as the servants will be in London after their
preparations at Kyllion are complete, there will not be much subject for
gossip, in detail at any rate.

“As, however, we should commence the immediate work of packing at once,
we will leave over the after proceedings till later when we have
leisure.”

Accordingly we set about our work. Under Mr. Trelawny’s guidance, and
aided by the servants, we took from the outhouses great packing-cases.
Some of these were of enormous strength, fortified by many thicknesses
of wood, and by iron bands and rods with screw-ends and nuts. We placed
them throughout the house, each close to the object which it was to
contain. When this preliminary work had been effected, and there had
been placed in each room and in the hall great masses of new hay,
cotton-waste and paper, the servants were sent away. Then we set about
packing.

No one, not accustomed to packing, could have the slightest idea of the
amount of the amount of work involved in such a task as that in which in
we were engaged. For my own part I had had a vague idea that there were
a large number of Egyptian objects in Mr. Trelawny’s house; but until I
came to deal with them seriatim I had little idea of either their
importance, the size of some of them, or of their endless number. Far
into the night we worked. At times we used all the strength which we
could muster on a single object; again we worked separately, but always
under Mr. Trelawny’s immediate direction. He himself, assisted by
Margaret, kept an exact tall of each piece.

It was only when we sat down, utterly wearied, to a long-delayed supper
that we began to realised that a large part of the work was done. Only
a few of the packing-cases, however, were closed; for a vast amount of
work still remained. We had finished some of the cases, each of which
held only one of the great sarcophagi. The cases which held many objects
could not be closed till all had been differentiated and packed.

I slept that night without movement or without dreams; and on our
comparing notes in the morning, I found that each of the others had had
the same experience.

By dinner-time next evening the whole work was complete, and all was
ready for the carriers who were to come at midnight. A little before
the appointed time we heard the rumble of carts; then we were shortly
invaded by an army of workmen, who seemed by sheer force of numbers to
move without effort, in an endless procession, all our prepared
packages. A little over an hour sufficed them, and when the carts had
rumbled away, we all got ready to follow them to Paddington. Silvio was
of course to be taken as one of our party.

Before leaving we went in a body over the house, which looked desolate
indeed. As the servants had all gone to Cornwall there had been no
attempt at tidying-up; every room and passage in which we had worked,
and all the stairways, were strewn with paper and waste, and marked with
dirty feet.

The last thing which Mr. Trelawny did before coming away was to take
from the great safe the Ruby with the Seven Stars. As he put it safely
into his pocket-book, Margaret, who had all at once seemed to grow
deadly tired and stood beside her father pale and rigid, suddenly became
all aglow, as though the sight of the Jewel had inspired her. She
smiled at her father approvingly as she said:

“You are right, Father. There will not be any more trouble tonight.
She will not wreck your arrangements for any cause. I would stake my
life upon it.”

“She–or something–wrecked us in the desert when we had come from the
tomb in the Valley of the Sorcerer!” was the grim comment of Corbeck,
who was standing by. Margaret answered him like a flash:

“Ah! she was then near her tomb from which for thousands of years her
body had not been moved. She must know that things are different now.”

“How must she know?” asked Corbeck keenly.

“If she has that astral body that Father spoke of, surely she must know!
How can she fail to, with an invisible presence and an intellect that
can roam abroad even to the stars and the worlds beyond us!” She
paused, and her father said solemnly:

“It is on that supposition that we are proceeding. We must have the
courage of our convictions, and act on them–to the last!”

Margaret took his hand and held it in a dreamy kind of way as we filed
out of the house. She was holding it still when he locked the hall
door, and when we moved up the road to the gateway, whence we took a cab
to Paddington.

When all the goods were loaded at the station, the whole of the workmen
went on to the train; this took also some of the stone-wagons used for
carrying the cases with the great sarcophagi. Ordinary carts and plenty
of horses were to be found at Westerton, which was our station for
Kyllion. Mr. Trelawny had ordered a sleeping-carriage for our party;
as soon as the train had started we all turned into our cubicles.

That night I slept sound. There was over me a conviction of security
which was absolute and supreme. Margaret’s definite announcement:
“There will not be any trouble tonight!” seemed to carry assurance with
it. I did not question it; nor did anyone else. It was only afterwards
that I began to think as to how she was so sure. The train was a slow
one, stopping many times and for considerable intervals. As Mr.
Trelawny did not wish to arrive at Westerton before dark, there was no
need to hurry; and arrangements had been made to feed the workmen at
certain places on the journey. We had our own hamper with us in the
private car.

All that afternoon we talked over the Great Experiment, which seemed to
have become a definite entity in our thoughts. Mr. Trelawny became more
and more enthusiastic as the time wore on; hope was with him becoming
certainty. Doctor Winchester seemed to become imbued with some of his
spirit, though at times he would throw out some scientific fact which
would either make an impasse to the other’s line of argument, or would
come as an arresting shock. Mr. Corbeck, on the other hand, seemed
slightly antagonistic to the theory. It may have been that whilst the
opinions of the others advanced, his own stood still; but the effect was
an attitude which appeared negative, if not wholly one of negation.

As for Margaret, she seemed to be in some way overcome. Either it was
some new phase of feeling with her, or else she was taking the issue
more seriously than she had yet done. She was generally more or less
distraite, as though sunk in a brown study; from this she would recover
herself with a start. This was usually when there occurred some marked
episode in the journey, such as stopping at a station, or when the
thunderous rumble of crossing a viaduct woke the echoes of the hills or
cliffs around us. On each such occasion she would plunge into the
conversation, taking such a part in it as to show that, whatever had
been her abstracted thought, her senses had taken in fully all that had
gone on around her. Towards myself her manner was strange. Sometimes
it was marked by a distance, half shy, half haughty, which was new to
me. At other times there were moments of passion in look and gesture
which almost made me dizzy with delight. Little, however, of a marked
nature transpired during the journey. There was but one episode which
had in it any element of alarm, but as we were all asleep at the time it
did not disturb us. We only learned it from a communicative guard in the
morning. Whilst running between Dawlish and Teignmouth the train was
stopped by a warning given by someone who moved a torch to and fro right
on the very track. The driver had found on pulling up that just ahead
of the train a small landslip had taken place, some of the red earth
from the high bank having fallen away. It did not however reach to the
metals; and the driver had resumed his way, none too well pleased at the
delay. To use his own words, the guard thought “there was too much
bally caution on this ‘ere line!'”

We arrived at Westerton about nine o’clock in the evening. Carts and
horses were in waiting, and the work of unloading the train began at
once. Our own party did not wait to see the work done, as it was in the
hands of competent people. We took the carriage which was in waiting,
and through the darkness of the night sped on to Kyllion.

We were all impressed by the house as it appeared in the bright
moonlight. A great grey stone mansion of the Jacobean period; vast and
spacious, standing high over the sea on the very verge of a high cliff.
When we had swept round the curve of the avenue cut through the rock,
and come out on the high plateau on which the house stood, the crash and
murmur of waves breaking against rock far below us came with an
invigorating breath of moist sea air. We understood then in an instant
how well we were shut out from the world on that rocky shelf above the
sea.

Within the house we found all ready. Mrs. Grant and her staff had
worked well, and all was bright and fresh and clean. We took a brief
survey of the chief rooms and then separated to have a wash and to
change our clothes after our long journey of more than four-and-twenty
hours.

We had supper in the great dining-room on the south side, the walls of
which actually hung over the sea. The murmur came up muffled, but it
never ceased. As the little promontory stood well out into the sea, the
northern side of the house was open; and the due north was in no way
shut out by the great mass of rock, which, reared high above us, shut
out the rest of the world. Far off across the bay we could see the
trembling lights of the castle, and here and there along the shore the
faint light of a fisher’s window. For the rest the sea was a dark blue
plain with an occasional flicker of light as the gleam of starlight fell
on the slope of a swelling wave.

When supper was over we all adjourned to the room which Mr. Trelawny had
set aside as his study, his bedroom being close to it. As we entered,
the first thing I noticed was a great safe, somewhat similar to that
which stood in his room in London. When we were in the room Mr.
Trelawny went over to the table, and, taking out his pocket-book, laid
it on the table. As he did so he pressed down on it with the palm of
his hand. A strange pallor came over his face. With fingers that
trembled he opened the book, saying as he did so:

“Its bulk does not seem the same; I hope nothing has happened!”

All three of us men crowded round close. Margaret alone remained calm;
she stood erect and silent, and still as a statue. She had a far-away
look in her eyes, as though she did not either know or care what was
going on around her.

With a despairing gesture Trelawny threw open the pouch of the
pocket-book wherein he had placed the Jewel of Seven Stars. As he sank
down on the chair which stood close to him, he said in a hoarse voice:

“My God! it is gone. Without it the Great Experiment can come to
nothing!”

His words seemed to wake Margaret from her introspective mood. An
agonised spasm swept her face; but almost on the instant she was calm.
She almost smiled as she said:

“You may have left it in your room, Father. Perhaps it has fallen out
of the pocket-book whilst you were changing.” Without a word we all
hurried into the next room through the open door between the study and
the bedroom. And then a sudden calm fell on us like a cloud of fear.

There! on the table, lay the Jewel of Seven Stars, shining and sparkling
with lurid light, as though each of the seven points of each the seven
stars gleamed through blood!

Timidly we each looked behind us, and then at each other. Margaret was
now like the rest of us. She had lost her statuesque calm. All the
introspective rigidity had gone from her; and she clasped her hands
together till the knuckles were white.

Without a word Mr. Trelawny raised the Jewel, and hurried with it into
the next room. As quietly as he could he opened the door of the safe
with the key fastened to his wrist and placed the Jewel within. When
the heavy doors were closed and locked he seemed to breathe more freely.

Somehow this episode, though a disturbing one in many ways, seemed to
bring us back to our old selves. Since we had left London we had all
been overstrained; and this was a sort of relief. Another step in our
strange enterprise had been effected.

The change back was more marked in Margaret than in any of us. Perhaps
it was that she was a woman, whilst we were men; perhaps it was that she
was younger than the rest; perhaps both reasons were effective, each in
its own way. At any rate the change was there, and I was happier than I
had been through the long journey. All her buoyancy, her tenderness,
her deep feeling seemed to shine forth once more; now and again as her
father’s eyes rested on her, his face seemed to light up.

Whilst we waited for the carts to arrive, Mr. Trelawny took us through
the house, pointing out and explaining where the objects which we had
brought with us were to be placed. In one respect only did he withhold
confidence. The positions of all those things which had connection with
the Great Experiment were not indicated. The cases containing them were
to be left in the outer hall, for the present.

By the time we had made the survey, the carts began to arrive; and the
stir and bustle of the previous night were renewed. Mr. Trelawny stood
in the hall beside the massive ironbound door, and gave directions as to
the placing of each of the great packing-cases. Those containing many
items were placed in the inner hall where they were to be unpacked.

In an incredibly short time the whole consignment was delivered; and the
m en departed with a douceur for each, given through their foreman,
which made them effusive in their thanks. Then we all went to our own
rooms. There was a strange confidence over us all. I do not think that
any one of us had a doubt as the the quiet passing of the remainder of
the night.

The faith was justified, for on our re-assembling in the morning we
found that all had slept well and peaceably.

During that day all the curios, except those required for the Great
Experiment, were put into the places designed for them. Then it was
arranged that all the servants should go back with Mrs. Grant to London
on the next morning.

When they had all gone Mr. Trelawny, having seen the doors locked, took
us into the study.

“Now,” said he when we were seated, “I have a secret to impart; but,
according to an old promise which does not leave me free, I must ask you
each to give me a solemn promise not to reveal it. For three hundred
years at least such a promise has been exacted from everyone to whom it
ws told, and more than once life and safety were secured through loyal
observance of the promise. Even as it is, I am breaking the letter, if
not the spirit of the tradition; for I should only tell it to the
immediate members of my family.”

We all gave the promise required. Then he went on:

“There is a secret place in this house, a cave, natural originally but
finished by labour, underneath this house. I will not undertake to say
that it has always been used according to the law. During the Bloody
Assize more than a few Cornishmen found refuge in it; and later, and
earlier, it formed, I have no doubt whatever, a useful place for storing
contraband goods. ‘Tre Pol and Pen’, I suppose you know, have always
been smugglers; and their relations and friends and neighbours have not
held back from the enterprise. For all such reasons a safe hiding-place
was always considered a valuable possession; and as the heads of our
House have always insisted on preserving the secret, I am in honour
bound to it. Later on, if all be well, I shall of course tell you,
Margaret, and you too, Ross, under the conditions that I am bound to
make.”

He rose up, and we all followed him. Leaving us in the outer hall, he
went away alone for a few minutes; and returning, beckoned us to follow
him.

In the inside hall we found a whole section of an outstanding angle
moved away, and from the cavity saw a great hole dimly dark, and the
beginning of a rough staircase cut in the rock. As it was not pitch
dark there was manifestly some means of lighting it naturally, so
without pause we followed our host as he descended. After some forty or
fifty steps cut in a winding passage, we came to a great cave whose
further end tapered away into blackness. It was a huge place, dimly lit
by a few irregular slits of eccentric shape. Manifestly these were
faults in the rock which would readily allow the windows be disguised.
Close to each of them was a hanging shutter which could be easily swung
across by means of a dangling rope. The sound of the ceaseless beat of
the waves came up muffled from far below. Mr. Trelawny at once began to
speak:

“This is the spot which I have chosen, as the best I know, for the scene
of our Great Experiment. In a hundred different ways it fulfils the
conditions which I am led to believe are primary with regard to success.
Here, we are, and shall be, as isolated as Queen Tera herself would have
been in her rocky tomb in the Valley of the Sorcerer, and still in a
rocky cavern. For good or ill we must here stand by our chances, and
abide by results. If we are successful we shall be able to let in on
the world of modern science such a flood of light from the Old World as
will change every condition of thought and experiment and practice. If
we fail, then even the knowledge of our attempt will die with us. For
this, and all else which may come, I believe we are prepared!” He
paused. No one spoke, but we all bowed our heads gravely in
acquiescence. He resumed, but with a certain hesitancy:

“It is not yet too late! If any of you have a doubt or misgiving, for
God’s speak it now! Whoever it may be, can go hence without let or
hindrance. The rest of us can go on our way alone!”

Again he paused, and looked keenly at us in turn. We looked at each
other; but no one quailed. For my own part, if I had had any doubt as
to going on, the look on Margaret’s face would have reassured me. It
was fearless; it was intense; it was full of a divine calm.

Mr. Trelawny took a long breath, and in a more cheerful, as well as in a
more decided tone, went on:

“As we are all of one mind, the sooner we get the necessary matters in
train the better. Let me tell you that this place, like all the rest of
the house, can be lit with electricity. We could not join the wires to
the mains lest our secret should become known, but I have a cable her
which we can attach in the hall and complete the circuit!” As he was
speaking, he began to ascend the steps. From close to the entrance he
took the end of a cable; this he drew forward and attached to a switch
in the wall. Then, turning on a tap, he flooded the whole vault and
staircase below with light. I could now see from the volume of light
streaming up into the hallway that the hole beside the staircase went
direct into the cave. Above it was a pulley and a mass of strong tackle
with multiplying blocks of the Smeaton order. Mr. Trelawny, seeing me
looking at this, said, correctly interpreting my thoughts:

“Yes! it is new. I hung it there myself on purpose. I knew we should
have to lower great weights; and as I did not wish to take too many into
my confidence, I arranged a tackle which I could work alone if
necessary.”

We set to work at once; and before nightfall had lowered, unhooked, and
placed in the positions designated for each by Trelawny, all the great
sarcophagi and all the curios and other matters which we had taken with
us.

It was a strange and weird proceeding, the placing of those wonderful
monuments of a bygone age in that green cavern, which represented in its
cutting and purpose and up-to-date mechanism and electric lights both
the old world and the new. But as time went on I grew more and more to
recognise the wisdom and correctness of Mr. Trelawny’s choice. I was
much disturbed when Silvio, who had been brought into the cave in the
arms of his mistress, and who was lying asleep on my coat which I had
taken off, sprang up when the cat mummy had been unpacked, and flew at
it with the same ferocity which he had previously exhibited. The
incident showed Margaret in a new phase, and one which gave my heart a
pang. She had been standing quite still at one side of the cave leaning
on a sarcophagus, in one of those fits of abstraction which had of late
come upon her; but on hearing the sound, and seeing Silvio’s violent
onslaught, she seemed to fall into a positive fury of passion. Her eyes
blazed, and her mouth took a hard, cruel tension which was new to me.
Instinctively she stepped towards Silvio as if to interfere in the
attack. But I too had stepped forward; and as she caught my eye a
strange spasm came upon her, and she stopped. Its intensity made me
hold my breath; and I put up my hand to clear your eyes. When I had
done this, she had on the instant recovered her calm, and there was a
look of brief wonder on her face. With all her old grace and sweetness
she swept over and lifted Silvio, just as she had done on former
occasions, and held him in her arms, petting him and treating him as
though he were a little child who had erred.

As I looked a strange fear came over me. The Margaret that I knew
seemed to be changing; and in my inmost heart I prayed that the
disturbing cause might soon come to an end. More than ever I longed at
that moment that our terrible Experiment should come to a prosperous
termination.

When all had been arranged in the room as Mr. Trelawny wished he turned
to us, one after another, till he had concentrated the intelligence of
us all upon him. Then he said:

“All is now ready in this place. We must only await the proper time to
begin.”

We were silent for a while. Doctor Winchester was the first to speak:

“What is the proper time? Have you any approximation, even if you are
not satisfied as to the exact day?” He answered at once:

“After the most anxious thought I have fixed on July 31!”

“May I ask why that date?” He spoke his answer slowly:

“Queen Tera was ruled in great degree by mysticism, and there are so
many evidences that she looked for resurrection that naturally she would
choose a period ruled over by a God specialised to such a purpose. Now,
the fourth month of the season of Inundation was ruled by Harmachis,
this being the name for ‘Ra’, the Sun-God, at his rising in the morning,
and therefore typifying the awakening or arising. This arising is
manifestly to physical life, since it is of the mid-world of human daily
life. Now as this month begins on our 25th July, the seventh day would
be July 31st, for you may be sure that the mystic Queen would not have
chosen any day but the seventh or some power of seven.

“I dare say that some of you have womdered why our preparations have
been so deliberately undertaken. This is why! We must be ready in
every possible way when the time comes; but there was no use in having
to wait round for a needless number of days.”

And so we waited only for the 31st of July, the next day but one, when
the Great Experiment would be made.

Chapter XVIII
Doubts and Fears

We learn of great things by little experiences. The history of ages is
but an indefinite repetition of the history of hours. The record of a
soul is but a multiple of the story of a moment. The Recording Angel
writes in the Great Book in no rainbow tints; his pen is dipped in no
colours but light and darkness. For the eye of infinite wisdom there is
no need of shading. All things, all thoughts, all emotions, all
experiences, all doubts and hopes and fears, all intentions, all wishes
seen down to the lower strata of their concrete and multitudinous
elements, are finally resolved into direct opposites.

Did any human being wish for the epitome of a life wherein were gathered
and grouped all the experiences that a child of Adam could have, the
history, fully and frankly written, of my own mind during the next
forty-eight hours would afford him all that could be wanted. And the
Recorder could have wrought as usual in sunlight and shadow, which may
be taken to represent the final expressions of Heaven and Hell. For in
the highest Heaven is Faith; and Doubt hangs over the yawning blackness
of Hell.

There were of course times of sunshine in those two days; moments when,
in the realisation of Margaret’s sweetness and her love for me, all
doubts were dissipated like morning mist before the sun. But the
balance of the time-and an overwhelming balance it was-gloom hung over
me like a pall. The hour, in whose coming I had acquiesced, was
approaching so quickly and was already so near that the sense of
finality was bearing upon me! The issue was perhaps life or death to
any of us; but for this we were all prepared. Margaret and I were one
as to the risk. The question of the moral aspect of the case, which
involved the religious belief in which I had been reared, was not one to
trouble me; for the issues, and the causes that lay behind them, were
not within my power even to comprehend. The doubt of the success of the
Great Experiment was such a doubt as exists in all enterprises which
have great possibilities. To me, whose life was passed in a series of
intellectual struggles, this form of doubt was a stimulus, rather than
deterrent. What then was it that made for me a trouble, which became an
anguish when my thoughts dwelt long on it?

I was beginning to doubt Margaret!

What it was that I doubted I knew not. It was not her love, or her
honour, or her truth, or her kindness, or her zeal. What then was it?

It was herself!

Margaret was changing! At times during the past few days I had hardly
known her as the same girl whom I had met at the picnic, and whose
vigils I had shared in the sick-room of her father. Then, even in her
moments of greatest sorrow or fright or anxiety, she was all life and
thought and keenness. Now she was generally distraite, and at times in
a sort of negative condition as though her mind–her very being–was not
present. At such moments she would have full possession of observation
and memory. She would know and remember all that was going on, and had
gone on around her; but her coming back to her old self had to me
something the sensation of a new person coming into the room. Up to the
time of leaving London I had been content whenever she was present. I
had over me that delicious sense of security which comes with the
consciousness that love is mutual. But now doubt had taken its place.
I never knew whether the personality present was my Margaret–the old
Margaret whom I had loved at the first glance–or the other new Margaret,
whom I hardly understood, and whose intellectual aloofness made an
impalpable barrier between us. Sometimes she would become, as it were,
awake all at once. At such times, though she would say to me sweet and
pleasant things which she had often said before, she would seem most
unlike herself. It was almost as if she was speaking parrot-like or at
dictation of one who could read words or acts, but not thoughts. After
one or two experiences of this kind, my own doubting began to make a
barrier; for I could not speak with the ease and freedom which were
usual to me. And so hour by hour we drifted apart. Were it not for the
few odd moments when the old Margaret was back with me full of her charm
I do not know what would have happened. As it was, each such moment
gave me a fresh start and kept my love from changing.

I would have given the world for a confidant; but this was impossible.
How could I speak a doubt of Margaret to anyone, even her father! How
could I speak a doubt to Margaret, when Margaret herself was the theme!
I could only endure–and hope. And of the two the endurance was the
lesser pain.

I think that Margaret must have at times felt that there was some cloud
between us, for towards the end of the first day she began to shun me a
little; or perhaps it was that she had become more diffident that usual
about me. Hitherto she had sought every opportunity of being with me,
just as I had tried to be with her; so that now any avoidance, one of
the other, made a new pain to us both.

On this day the household seemed very still. Each one of us was about
his own work, or occupied with his own thoughts. We only met at meal
times; and then, though we talked, all seemed more or less preoccupied.
There was not in the house even the stir of the routine of service. The
precaution of Mr. Trelawny in having three rooms prepared for each of us
had rendered servants unnecessary. The dining-room was solidly prepared
with cooked provisions for several days. Towards evening I went out by
myself for a stroll. I had looked for Margaret to ask her to come with
me; but when I found her, she was in one of her apathetic moods, and the
charm of her presence seemed lost to me. Angry with myself, but unable
to quell my own spirit of discontent, I went out alone over the rocky
headland.

On the cliff, with the wide expanse of wonderful sea before me, and no
sound but the dash of waves below and the harsh screams of the seagulls
above, my thoughts ran free. Do what I would, they returned
continuously to one subject, the solving of the doubt that was upon me.
Here in the solitude, amid the wide circle of Nature’s foce and strife,
my mind began to work truly. Unconsciously I found myself asking a
question which I would not allow myself to answer. At last the
persistence of a mind working truly prevailed; I found myself face to
face with my doubt. The habit of my life began to assert itself, and I
analysed the evidence before me.

It was so startling that I had to force myself into obedience to logical
effort. My starting-place was this: Margaret was changed–in what way,
and by what means? Was it her character, or her mind, or her nature? for
her physical appearance remained the same. I began to group all that I
had ever heard of her, beginning at her birth.

It was strange at the very first. She had been, according to Corbeck’s
statement, born of a dead mother during the time that her father and his
friend were in a trance in the tomb at Aswan. That trance was
presumably effected by a woman; a woman mummied, yet preserving as we
had every reason to believe from after experience, an astral body
subject to a free will and an active intelligence. With that astral
body, space ceased to exist. The vast distance between London and Aswan
became as naught; and whatever power of necromancy the Sorceress had
might have been exercised over the dead mother, and possibly the dead
child.

The dead child! Was it possible that the child was dead and was made
alive again? Whence then came the animating spirit–the soul? Logic was
pointing the way to me now with a vengeance!

If the Egyptian belief was true for Egyptians, then the “Ka” of the dead
Queen and her “Khu” could animate what she might choose. In such case
Margaret would not be an individual at all, but simply a phase of Queen
Tera herself; an astral body obedient to her will!

Here I revolted against logic. Every fibre of my being resented such a
conclusion. How could I believe that there was no Margaret at all; but
just an animated image, used by the Double of a woman of forty centuries
ago to its own ends . . . ! Somehow, the outlook was brighter to me now,
despite the new doubts.

At least I had Margaret!

Back swung the logical pendulum again. The child then was not dead. If
so, had the Sorceress had anything to do with her birth at all? It was
evident–so I took it again from Corbeck–that there was a strange
likeness between Margaret and the pictures of Queen Tera. How could
this be? It could not be any birth-mark reproducing what had been in
the mother’s mind; for Mrs. Trelawny had never seen the pictures. Nay,
even her father had not seen them till he had found his way into the
tomb only a few days before her birth. This phase I could not get rid
of so easily as the last; the fibres of my being remained quiet. There
remained to me the horror of doubt. And even then, so strange is the
mind of man, Doubt itself took a concrete image; a vast and impenetrable
gloom, through which flickered irregularly and spasmodically tiny points
of evanescent light, which seemed to quicken the darkness into a
positive existence.

The remaining possibility of relations between Margaret and the mummied
Queen was, that in some occult way the Sorceress had power to change
places with the other. This view of things could not be so lightly
thrown aside. There were too many suspicious circumstances to warrant
this, now that my attention was fixed on it and my intelligence
recognised the possibility. Hereupon there began to come into my mind
all the strange incomprehensible matters which had whirled through our
lives in the last few days. At first they all crowded in upon me in a
jumbled mass; but again the habit of mind of my working life prevailed,
and they took order. I found it now easier to control myself; for there
was something to grasp, some work to be done; though it was of a sorry
kind, for it was or might be antagonistic to Margaret. But Margaret was
herself at stake! I was thinking of her and fighting for her; and yet
if I were to work in the dark, I might be even harmful to her. My first
weapon in her defence was truth. I must know and understand; I might
then be able to act. Certainly, I could not act beneficently without a
just conception and recognition of the facts. Arranged in order these
were as follows:

Firstly: the strange likeness of Queen Tera to Margaret who had been
born in another country a thousand miles away, where her mother could
not possibly have had even a passing knowledge of her appearance.

Secondly: the disappearance of Van Huyn’s book when I had read up to
the description of the Star Ruby.

Thirdly: the finding of the lamps in the boudoir. Tera with her astral
body could have unlocked the door of Corbeck’s room in the hotel, and
have locked it again after her exit with the lamps. She could in the
same way have opened the window, and put the lamps in the boudoir. It
need not have been that Margaret in her own person should have had any
hand in this; but–but it was at least strange.

Fourthly: here the suspicions of the Detective and the Doctor came back
to me with renewed force, and with a larger understanding.

Fifthly: there were the occasions on which Margaret foretold with
accuracy the coming occasions of quietude, as though she had some
conviction or knowledge of the intentions of the astral-bodied Queen.

Sixthly: there was her suggestion of the finding of the Ruby which her
father had lost. As I thought now afresh over this episode in the light
of suspicion in which her own powers were involved, the only conclusion
I could come to was–always supposing that the theory of the Queen’s
astral power was correct–that Queen Tera being anxious that all should
go well in the movement from London to Kyllion had in her own way taken
the Jewel from Mr. Trelawny’s pocket-book, finding it of some use in her
supernatural guardianship of the journey. Then in some mysterious way
she had, through Margaret, made the suggestion of its loss and finding.

Seventhly, and lastly, was the strange dual existence which Margaret
seemed of late to be leading; and which in some way seemed a consequence
or corollary of all that had gone before.

The dual existence! This was indeed the conclusion which overcame all
difficulties and reconciled opposites. If indeed Margaret were not in
all ways a free agent, but could be compelled to speak or act as she
might be instructed; or if her whole being could be changed for another
without the possibility of any one noticing the doing of it, then all
things were possible. All would depend on the spirit of the
individuality by which she could be so compelled. If this individuality
were just and kind and clean, all might be well. But if not! . . . The
thought was too awful for words. I ground my teeth with futile rage, as
the ideas of horrible possibilities swept through me.

Up to this morning Margaret’s lapses into her new self had been few and
hardly noticeable, save when once or twice her attitude towards myself
had been marked by a bearing strange to me. But today the contrary was
the case; and the change presaged badly. It might be that that other
individuality was of the lower, not of the better sort! Now that I
thought of it I had reason to fear. In the history of the mummy, from
the time of Van Huyn’s breaking into the tomb, the record of deaths that
we knew of, presumably effected by her will and agency, was a startling
one. The Arab who had stolen the hand from the mummy; and the one who
had taken it from his body. The Arab chief who had tried to steal the
Jewel from Van Huyn, and whose throat bore the marks of seven fingers.
The two men found dead on the first night of Trelawny’s taking away the
sarcophagus; and the three on the return to the tomb. The Arab who had
opened the secret serdab. Nine dead men, one of them slain manifestly
by the Queen’s own hand! And beyond this again the several savage
attacks on Mr. Trelawny in his own room, in which, aided by her
Familiar, she had tried to open the safe and to extract the Talisman
jewel. His device of fastening the key to his wrist by a steel bangle,
though successful in the end, had wellnigh cost him his life.

If then the Queen, intent on her resurrection under her own conditions
had, so to speak, waded to it through blood, what might she not do were
her purpose thwarted? What terrible step might she not take to effect
her wishes? Nay, what were her wishes; what was her ultimate purpose?
As yet we had had only Margaret’s statement of them, given in all the
glorious enthusiasm of her lofty soul. In her record there was no
expression of love to be sought or found. All we knew for certain was
that she had set before her the object of resurrection, and that in it
the North which she had manifestly loved was to have a special part.
But that the resurrection was to be accomplished in the lonely tomb in
the Valley of the Sorcerer was apparent. All preparations had been
carefully made for accomplishment from within, and for her ultimate exit
in her new and living form. The sarcophagus was unlidded. The oil jars,
though hermetically sealed, were to be easily opened by hand; and in
them provision was made for shrinkage through a vast period of time.
Even flint and steel were provided for the production of flame. The
Mummy Pit was left open in violation of usage; and beside the stone door
on the cliff side was fixed an imperishable chain by which she might in
safety descend to earth. But as to what her after intentions were we had
no clue. If it was that she meant to begin life again as a humble
individual, there was something so noble in the thought that it even
warmed my heart to her and turned my wishes to her success.

The very idea seemed to endorse Margaret’s magnificent tribute to her
purpose, and helped to calm my troubled spirit.

Then and there, with this feeling strong upon me, I determined to warn
Margaret and her father of dire possibilities; and to await, as well
content as I could in my ignorance, the development of things over which
I had no power.

I returned to the house in a different frame of mind to that in which I
had left it; and was enchanted to find Margaret–the old Margaret–
waiting for me.

After dinner, when I was alone for a time with the father and daughter,
I opened the subject, though with considerable hesitation:

“Would it not be well to take every possible precaution, in case the
Queen may not wish what we are doing, with regard to what may occur
before the Experiment; and at or after her waking, if it comes off?”
Margaret’s answer came back quickly; so quickly that I was convinced she
must have had it ready for some one:

“But she does approve! Surely it cannot be otherwise. Father is doing,
with all his brains and all his energy and all his great courage, just
exactly what the great Queen had arranged!”

“But,” I answered, “that can hardly be. All that she arranged was in a
tomb high up in a rock, in a desert solitude, shut away from the world
by every conceivable means. She seems to have depended on this isolation
to insure against accident. Surely, here in another country and age,
with quite different conditions, she may in her anxiety make mistakes
and treat any of you–of us–as she did those others in times gone past.
Nine men that we know of have been slain by her own hand or by her
instigation. She can be remorseless if she will.” It did not strike me
till afterwards when I was thinking over this conversation, how
thoroughly I had accepted the living and conscious condition of Queen
Tera as a fact. Before I spoke, I had feared I might offend Mr.
Trelawny; but to my pleasant surprise he smiled quite genially as he
answered me:

“My dear fellow, in a way you are quite right. The Queen did
undoubtedly intend isolation; and, all told, it would be best that her
experiment should be made as she arranged it. But just think, that
became impossible when once the Dutch explorer had broken into her tomb.
That was not my doing. I am innocent of it, though it was the cause of
my setting out to rediscover the sepulchre. Mind, I do not say for a
moment that I would not have done just the same as Van Huyn. I went
into the tomb from curiosity; and I took away what I did, being fired
with the zeal of acquisitiveness which animates the collector. But,
remember also, that at this time I did not know of the Queen’s intention
of resurrection; I had no idea of the completeness of her preparations.
All that came long afterwards. But when it did come, I have done all
that I could to carry out her wishes to the full. My only fear is that
I may have misinterpreted some of her cryptic instructions, or have
omitted or overlooked something. But of this I am certain; I have left
undone nothing that I can imagine right to be done; and I have done
nothing that I know of to clash with Queen Tera’s arrangement. I want
her Great Experiment to succeed. To this end I have not spared labour
or time or money–or myself. I have endured hardship, and braved danger.
All my brains; all my knowledge and learning, such as they are; all my
endeavours such as they can be, have been, are, and shall be devoted to
this end, till we either win or lose the great stake that we play for.”

“The great stake?” I repeated; “the resurrection of the woman, and the
woman’s life? The proof that resurrection can be accomplished; by
magical powers; by scientific knowledge; or by use of some force which
at present the world does not know?”

Then Mr. Trelawny spoke out the hopes of his heart which up to now he
had indicated rather than expressed. Once or twice I had heard Corbeck
speak of the fiery energy of his youth; but, save for the noble words of
Margaret when she had spoken of Queen Tera’s hope–which coming from his
daughter made possible a belief that her power was in some sense due to
heredity–I had seen no marked sign of it. But now his words, sweeping
before them like a torrent all antagonistic thought, gave me a new idea
of the man.

“‘A woman’s life!’ What is a woman’s life in the scale with what we
hope for! Why, we are risking already a woman’s life; the dearest life
to me in all the world, and that grows more dear with every hour that
passes. We are risking as well the lives of four men; yours and my own,
as well as those two others who have been won to our confidence. ‘The
proof that resurrection can be accomplished!’ That is much. A
marvellous thing in this age of science, and the scepticism that
knowledge makes. But life and resurrection are themselves but items in
what may be won by the accomplishment of this Great Experiment. Imagine
what it will be for the world of thought–the true world of human
progress–the veritable road to the Stars, the itur ad astra of the
Ancients–if there can come back to us out of the unknown past one who
can yield to us the lore stored in the great Library of Alexandria, and
lost in its consuming flames. Not only history can be set right, and
the teachings of science made veritable from their beginnings; but we
can be placed on the road to the knowledge of lost arts, lost learning,
lost sciences, so that our feet may tread on the indicated path to their
ultimate and complete restoration. Why, this woman can tell us what the
world was like before what is called ‘the Flood'; can give us the origin
of that vast astounding myth; can set the mind back to the consideration
of things which to us now seem primeval, but which were old stories
before the days of the Patriarchs. But this is not the end! No, not
even the beginning! If the story of this woman be all that we think–
which some of us most firmly believe; if her powers and the restoration
of them prove to be what we expect, why, then we may yet achieve a
knowledge beyond what our age has ever known–beyond what is believed
today possible for the children of men. If indeed this resurrection can
be accomplished, how can we doubt the old knowledge, the old magic, the
old belief! And if this be so, we must take it that the ‘Ka’ of this
great and learned Queen has won secrets of more than mortal worth from
her surroundings amongst the stars. This woman in her life voluntarily
went down living to the grave, and came back again, as we learn from the
records in her tomb; she chose to die her mortal death whilst young, so
that at her resurrection in another age, beyond a trance of countless
magnitude, she might emerge from her tomb in all the fulness and
splendour of her youth and power. Already we have evidence that though
her body slept in patience through those many centuries, her
intelligence never passed away, that her resolution never flagged, that
her will remained supreme; and, most important of all, that her memory
was unimpaired. Oh, what possibilities are there in the coming of such
a being into our midst! One whose history began before the concrete
teaching of our Bible; whose experiences were antecedent to the
formulation of the Gods of Greece; who can link together the Old and the
New, Earth and Heaven, and yield to the known worlds of thought and
physical existence the mystery of the Unknown–of the Old World in its
youth, and of Worlds beyond our ken!”

He paused, almost overcome. Margaret had taken his hand when he spoke
of her being so dear to him, and held it hard. As he spoke she
continued to hold it. But there came over her face that change which I
had so often seen of late; that mysterious veiling of her own
personality which gave me the subtle sense of separation from her. In
his impassioned vehemence her father did not notice; but when he stopped
she seemed all at once to be herself again. In her glorious eyes came
the added brightness of unshed tears; and with a gesture of passionate
love and admiration, she stooped and kissed her father’s hand. Then,
turning to me, she too spoke:

“Malcolm, you have spoken of the deaths that came from the poor Queen;
or rather that justly came from meddling with her arrangements and
thwarting her purpose. Do you not think that, in putting it as you have
done, you have been unjust? Who would not have done just as she did?
Remember she was fighting for her life! Ay, and for more than her life!
For life, and love, and all the glorious possibilities of that dim
future in the unknown world of the North which had such enchanting hopes
for her! Do you not think that she, with all the learning of her time,
and with all the great and resistless force of her mighty nature, had
hopes of spreading in a wider way the lofty aspirations of her soul!
That she hoped to bring to the conquering of unknown worlds, and using
to the advantage of her people, all that she had won from sleep and
death and time; all of which might and could have been frustrated by the
ruthless hand of an assassin or a thief. Were it you, in such case
would you not struggle by all means to achieve the object of your life
and hope; whose possibilities grew and grew in the passing of those
endless years? Can you think that that active brain was at rest during
all those weary centuries, whilst her free soul was flitting from world
to world amongst the boundless regions of the stars? Had these stars in
their myriad and varied life no lessons for her; as they have had for us
since we followed the glorious path which she and her people marked for
us, when they sent their winged imaginations circling amongst the lamps
of the night!”

Here she paused. She too was overcome, and the welling tears ran down
her cheeks. I was myself more moved than I can say. This was indeed my
Margaret; and in the consciousness of her presence my heart leapt. Out
of my happiness came boldness, and I dared to say now what I had feared
would be impossible: something which would call the attention of Mr.
Trelawny to what I imagined was the dual existence of his daughter. As
I took Margaret’s hand in mine and kissed it, I said to her father:

“Why, sir! she couldn’t speak more eloquently if the very spirit of
Queen Tera was with her to animate her and suggest thoughts!”

Mr. Trelawny’s answer simply overwhelmed me with surprise. It
manifested to me that he too had gone through just such a process of
thought as my own.

“And what if it was; if it is! I know well that the spirit of her
mother is within her. If in addition there be the spirit of that great
and wondrous Queen, then she would be no less dear to me, but doubly
dear! Do not have fear for her, Malcolm Ross; at least have no more
fear than you may have for the rest of us!” Margaret took up the theme,
speaking so quickly that her words seemed a continuation of her
father’s, rather than an interruption of them.

“Have no special fear for me, Malcolm. Queen Tera knows, and will offer
us no harm. I know it! I know it, as surely as I am lost in the depth
of my own love for you!”

There was something in her voice so strange to me that I looked quickly
into her eyes. They were bright as ever, but veiled to my seeing the
inward thought behind them as are the eyes of a caged lion.

Then the two other men came in, and the subject changed.

Chapter XIX
The Lesson of the “Ka”

That night we all went to bed early. The next night would be an anxious
one, and Mr. Trelawny thought that we should all be fortified with what
sleep we could get. The day, too, would be full of work. Everything in
connection with the Great Experiment would have to be gone over, so that
at the last we might not fail from any unthought-of flaw in our working.
We made, of course, arrangements for summoning aid in case such should
be needed; but I do not think that any of us had any real apprehension
of danger. Certainly we had no fear of such danger from violence as we
had had to guard against in London during Mr. Trelawny’s long trance.

For my own part I felt a strange sense of relief in the matter. I had
accepted Mr. Trelawny’s reasoning that if the Queen were indeed such as
we surmised–such as indeed we now took for granted–there would not be
any opposition on her part; for we were carrying out her own wishes to
the very last. So far I was at ease–far more at ease than earlier in
the day I should have thought possible; but there were other sources of
trouble which I could not blot out from my mind. Chief amongst them was
Margaret’s strange condition. If it was indeed that she had in her own
person a dual existence, what might happen when the two existences
became one? Again, and again, and again I turned this matter over in my
mind, till I could have shrieked out in nervous anxiety. It was no
consolation to me to remember that Margaret was herself satisfied, and
her father acquiescent. Love is, after all, a selfish thing; and it
throws a black shadow on anything between which and the light it stands.
I seemed to hear the hands go round the dial of the clock; I saw
darkness turn to gloom, and gloom to grey, and grey to light without
pause or hindrance to the succession of my miserable feelings. At last,
when it was decently possible without the fear of disturbing others, I
got up. I crept along the passage to find if all was well with the
others; for we had arranged that the door of each of our rooms should be
left slightly open so that any sound of disturbance would be easily and
distinctly heard.

One and all slept; I could hear the regular breathing of each, and my
heart rejoiced that this miserable night of anxiety was safely passed.
As I knelt in my own room in a burst of thankful prayer, I knew in the
depths of my own heart the measure of my fear. I found my way out of
the house, and went down to the water by the long stairway cut in the
rock. A swim in the cool bright sea braced my nerves and made me my old
self again.

As I came back to the top of the steps I could see the bright sunlight,
rising from behind me, turning the rocks across the bay to glittering
gold. And yet I felt somehow disturbed. It was all too bright; as it
sometimes is before the coming of a storm. As I paused to watch it, I
felt a soft hand on my shoulder; and, turning, found Margaret close to
me; Margaret as bright and radiant as the morning glory of the sun! It
was my own Margaret this time! My old Margaret, without alloy of any
other; and I felt that, at least, this last and fatal day was well
begun.

But alas! the joy did not last. When we got back to the house from a
stroll around the cliffs, the same old routine of yesterday was resumed:
gloom and anxiety, hope, high spirits, deep depression, and apathetic
aloofness.

But it was to be a day of work; and we all braced ourselves to it with
an energy which wrought its own salvation.

After breakfast we all adjourned to the cave, where Mr. Trelawny went
over, point by point, the position of each item of our paraphernalia.
He explained as he went on why each piece was so placed. He had with
him the great rools of paper with the measured plans and the signs and
drawings which he had had made from his own and Corbeck’s rough notes.
As he had told us, these contained the whole of the hieroglyphics on
walls and ceilings and floor of the tomb in the Valley of the Sorcerer.
Even had not the measurements, made to scale, recorded the position of
each piece of furniture, we could have eventually placed them by a study
of the cryptic writings and symbols.

Mr. Trelawny explained to us certain other things, not laid down on the
chart. Such as, for instance, that the hollowed part of the table was
exactly fitted to the bottom of the Magic Coffer, which was therefore
intended to be placed on it. The respective legs of this table were
indicated by differently shaped uraei outlined on the floor, the head of
each being extended in the direction of the similar uraeus twined round
the Also that the mummy, when laid on the raised portion in the bottom
of the sarcophagus, seemingly made to fit the form, would lie head to
the West and feet to the East, thus receiving the natural earth
currents. “If this be intended,” he said, “as I presume it is, I gather
that the force to be used has something to do with magnetism or
electricity, or both. It may be, of course, that some other force,
such, for instance, as that emanating from radium, is to be employed. I
have experimented with the latter, but only in such small quantity as I
could obtain; but so far as I can ascertain the stone of the Coffer is
absolutely impervious to its influence. There must be some such
unsusceptible substances in nature. Radium does not seemingly manifest
itself when distributed through pitchblende; and there are doubtless
other such substances in which it can be imprisoned. Possibly these may
belong to that class of “inert” elements discovered or isolated by Sir
William Ramsay. It is therefore possible that in this Coffer, made from
an aerolite and therefore perhaps containing some element unknown in our
world, may be imprisoned some mighty power which is to be released on
its opening.”

This appeared to be an end of this branch of the subject; but as he
still kept the fixed look of one who is engaged in a theme we all waited
in silence. After a pause he went on:

“There is one thing which has up to now, I confess, puzzled me. It may
not be of prime importance; but in a matter like this, where all is
unknown, we must take it that everything is important. I cannot think
that in a matter worked out with such extraordinary scrupulosity such a
thing should be overlooked. As you may see by the ground-plan of the
tomb the sarcophagus stands near the north wall, with the Magic Coffer
to the south of it. The space covered by the former is left quite bare
of symbol or ornamentation of any kind. At the first glance this would
seem to imply that the drawings had been made after the sarcophagus had
been put into its place. But a more minute examination will show that
the symbolisation on the floor is so arranged that a definite effect is
produced. See, here the writings run in correct order as though they
had jumped across the gap. It is only from certain effects that it
becomes clear that there is a meaning of some kind. What that meaning
may be is what we want to know. Look at the top and bottom of the
vacant space, which lies West and East corresponding to the head and
foot of the sarcophagus. In both are duplications of the same
symbolisation, but so arranged that the parts of each one of them are
integral portions of some other writing running crosswise. It is only
when we get a coup d’oeil from either the head or the foot that you
recognise that there are symbolisations. See! they are in triplicate at
the corners and the centre of both top and bottom. In every case there
is a sun cut in half by the line of the sarcophagus, as by the horizon.
Close behind each of these and faced away from it, as though in some way
dependent on it, is the vase which in hieroglyphic writing symbolises
the heart–‘Ab’ the Egyptians called it. Beyond each of these again is
the figure of a pair of widespread arms turned upwards from the elbow;
this is the determinative of the ‘Ka’ or ‘Double’. But its relative
position is different at top and bottom. At the head of the sarcophagus
the top of the ‘Ka’ is turned towards the mouth of the vase, but at the
foot the extended arms point away from it.

“The symbolisation seems to mean that during the passing of the Sun from
West to East–from sunset to sunrise, or through the Under World,
otherwise night–the Heart, which is material even in the tomb and cannot
leave it, simply revolves, so that it can always rest on ‘Ra’ the
Sun-God, the origin of all good; but that the Double, which represents
the active principle, goes whither it will, the same by night as by day.
If this be correct it is a warning–a caution–a reminder that the
consciousness of the mummy does not rest but is to be reckoned with.

“Or it may be intended to convey that after the particular night of the
resurrection, the ‘Ka’ would leave the heart altogether, thus typifying
that in her resurrection the Queen would be restored to a lower and
purely physical existence. In such case what would become of her memory
and the experiences of her wide-wandering soul? The chiefest value of
her resurrection would be lost to the world! This, however, does not
alarm me. It is only guess-work after all, and is contradictory to the
intellectual belief of the Egyptian theology, that the ‘Ka’ is an
essential portion of humanity.” He paused and we all waited. The
silence was broken by Doctor Winchester:

“But would not all this imply that the Queen feared intrusion of her
tomb?” Mr. Trelawny smiled as he answered:

“My dear sir, she was prepared for it. The grave robber is no modern
application of endeavour; he was probably known in the Queen’s own
dynasty. Not only was she prepared for intrusion, but, as shown in
several ways, she expected it. The hiding of the lamps in the serdab,
and the institution of the avenging ‘treasurer’ shows that there was
defence, positive as well as negative. Indeed, from the many
indications afforded in the clues laid out with the most consummated
thought, we may almost gather that she entertained it as a possibility
that others–like ourselves, for instance–might in all seriousness
undertake the work which she had made ready for her own hands when the
time should have come. This very matter that I have been speaking of is
an instance. The clue is intended for seeing eyes!”

Again we were silent. It was Margaret who spoke:

“Father, may I have that chart? I should like to study it during the
day!”

“Certainly, my dear!” answered Mr. Trelawny heartily, as he handed it to
her. He resumed his instructions in a different tone, a more matter-of-
fact one suitable to a practical theme which had no mystery about it:

“I think you had better all understand the working of the electric light
in case any sudden contingency should arise. I dare say you have
noticed that we have a complete supply in every part of the house, so
that there need not be a dark corner anywhere. This I had specially
arranged. It is worked by a set of turbines moved by the flowing and
ebbing tide, after the manner of the turbines at Niagara. I hope by
this means to nullify accident and to have without fail a full supply
ready at any time. Come with me and I will explain the system of
circuits, and point out to you the taps and the fuses.” I could not but
notice, as we went with him all over the house, how absolutely complete
the system was, and how he had guarded himself against any disaster that
human thought could foresee.

But out of the very completeness came a fear! In such an enterprise as
ours the bounds of human thought were but narrow. Beyond it lay the
vast of Divine wisdom, and Divine power!

When we came back to the cave, Mr. Trelawny took up another theme:

“We have now to settle definitely the exact hour at which the Great
Experiment is to be made. So far as science and mechanism go, if the
preparations are complete, all hours are the same. But as we have to
deal with preparations made by a woman of extraordinarily subtle mind,
and who had full belief in magic and had a cryptic meaning in
everything, we should place ourselves in her position before deciding.
It is now manifest that the sunset has an important place in the
arrangements. As those suns, cut so mathematically by the edge of the
sarcophagus, were arranged of full design, we must take our cue from
this. Again, we find all along that the number seven has had an
important bearing on every phase of the Queen’s thought and reasoning
and action. The logical result is that the seventh hour after sunset
was the time fixed on. This is borne out by the fact that on each of
the occasions when action was taken in my house, this was the time
chosen. As the sun sets tonight in Cornwall at eight, our hour is to
be three in the morning!” He spoke in a matter-of-fact way, though
with great gravity; but there was nothing of mystery in his word or
manner. Still, we were all impressed to a remarkable degree. I could
see this in the other men by the pallor that came on some of their
faces, and by the stillness and unquestioning silence with which the
decision was received. The only one who remained in any way at ease was
Margaret, who had lapsed into one of her moods of abstraction, but who
seemed to wake up to a note of gladness. Her father, who was watching
her intently, smiled; her mood was to him a direct confirmation of his
theory.

For myself I was almost overcome. The definite fixing of the hour
seemed like the voice of Doom. When I think of it now, I can realise
how a condemned man feels at his sentence, or at the sounding of the
last hour he is to hear.

There could be no going back now! We were in the hands of God!

The hands of God . . . ! And yet . . . ! What other forces were
arrayed? . . . What would become of us all, poor atoms of earthly dust
whirled in the wind which comesth whence and goeth whither no man may
know. It was not for myself . . . Margaret . . . !

I was recalled by Mr. Trelawny’s firm voice:

“Now we shall see to the lamps and finish our preparations.”
Accordingly we set to work, and under his supervision made ready the
Egyptian lamps, seeing that they were well filled with the cedar oil,
and that the wicks were adjusted and in good order. We lighted and
tested them one by one, and left them ready so that they would light at
once and evenly. When this was done we had a general look round; and
fixed all in readiness for our work at night.

All this had taken time, and we were I think all surprised when as we
emerged from the cave we heard the great clock in the hall chime four.

We had a late lunch, a thing possible without trouble in the present
state of our commissariat arrangements. Afte it, by Mr. Trelawny’s
advice, we separated; each to prepare in our own way for the strain of
the coming night. Margaret looked pale and somewhat overwrought, so I
advised her to lie down and try to sleep. She promised that she would.
The abstraction which had been upon her fitfully all day lifted for the
time; with all her old sweetness and loving delicacy she kissed me
good-bye for the present! With the sense of happiness which this gave
me I went out for a walk on the cliffs. I did not want to think; and I
had an instinctive feeling that fresh air and God’s sunlight, and the
myriad beauties of the works of His hand would be the best preparation
of fortitude for what was to come.

When I got back, all the party were assembling for a late tea. Coming
fresh from the exhilaration of nature, it struck me as almost comic that
we, who were nearing the end of so strange–almost monstrous–an
undertaking, should be yet bound by the needs and habits of our lives.

All the men of the party were grave; the time of seclusion, even if it
had given them rest, had also given opportunity for thought. Margaret
was bright, almost buoyant; but I missed about her something of her
usual spontaneity. Towards myself there was a shadowy air of reserve,
which brought back something of my suspicion. When tea was over, she
went out of the room; but returned in a minute with the roll of drawing
which she had taken with her earlier in the day. Coming close to Mr.
Trelawny, she said:

“Father, I have been carefully considering what you said today about
the hidden meaning of those suns and hearts and ‘Ka’s’, and I have been
examining the drawings again.”

“And with what result, my child?” asked Mr. Trelawny eagerly.

“There is another reading possible!”

“And that?” His voice was now tremulous with anxiety. Margaret spoke
with a strange ring in her voice; a ring that cannot be, unless there is
the consciousness of truth behind it:

“It means that at the sunset the ‘Ka’ is to enter the ‘Ab'; and it is
only at the sunrise that it will leave it!”

“Go on!” said her father hoarsely.

“It means that for this night the Queen’s Double, which is otherwise
free, will remain in her heart, which is mortal and cannot leave its
prison-place in the mummy-shrouding. It means that when the sun has
dropped into the sea, Queen Tera will cease to exist as a conscious
power, till sunrise; unless the Great Experiment can recall her to
waking life. It means that there will be nothing whatever for you or
others to fear from her in such way as we have all cause to remember.
Whatever change may come from the working of the Great Experiment, there
can come none from the poor, helpless, dead woman who has waited all
those centuries for this night; who has given up to the coming hour all
the freedom of eternity, won in the old way, in hope of a new life in a
new world such as she longed for . . . !” She stopped suddenly. As she
had gone on speaking there had come with her words a strange pathetic,
almost pleading, tone which touched me to the quick. As she stopped, I
could see, before she turned away her head, that her eyes were full of
tears.

For once the heart of her father did not respond to her feeling. He
looked exultant, but with a grim masterfulness which reminded me of the
set look of his stern face as he had lain in the trance. He did not
offer any consolation to his daughter in her sympathetic pain. He only
said:

“We may test the accuracy of your surmise, and of her feeling, when the
time comes!” Having said so, he went up the stone stairway and into his
own room. Margaret’s face had a troubled look as she gazed after him.

Strangely enough her trouble did not as usual touch me to the quick.

When Mr. Trelawny had gone, silence reigned. I do not think that any of
us wanted to talk. Presently Margaret went to her room, and I went out
on the terrace over the sea. The fresh air and the beauty of all before
helped to restore the good spirits which I had known earlier in the day.
Presently i felt myself actually rejoicing in the belief that the danger
which I had feared from the Queen’s violence on the coming night was
obviated. I believed in Margaret’s belief so thoroughly that it did not
occur to me to dispute her reasoning. In a lofty frame of mind, and
with less anxiety than I had felt for days, I went to my room and lay
down on the sofa.

I was awaked by Corbeck calling to me, hurriedly:

“Come down to the cave as quickly as you can. Mr. Trelawny wants to see
us all there at once. Hurry!”

I jumped up and ran down to the cave. All were there except Margaret,
who came immediately after me carrying Silvio in her arms. When the cat
saw his old enemy he struggled to get down; but Margaret held him fast
and soothed him. I looked at my watch. It was close to eight.

When Margaret was with us her father said directly, with a quiet
insistence which was new to me:

“You believe, Margaret, that Queen Tera has voluntarily undertaken to
give up her freedom for this night? To become a mummy and nothing more,
till the Experiment has been completed? To be content that she shall be
powerless under all and any circumstances until after all is over and
the act of resurrection has been accomplished, or the effort has
failed?” After a pause Margaret answered in a low voice:

“Yes!”

In the pause her whole being, appearance, expression, voice, manner had
changed. Even Silvio noticed it, and with a violent effort wriggled away
from her arms; she did not seem to notice the act. I expected that the
cat, when he had achieved his freedom, would have attacked the mummy;
but on this occasion he did not. He seemed too cowed to approach it.
He shrunk away, and with a piteous “miaou” came over and rubbed himself
against my ankles. I took him up in my arms, and he nestled there
content. Mr. Trelawny spoke again:

“You are sure of what you say! You believe it with all your soul?”
Margaret’s face had lost the abstracted look; it now seemed illuminated
with the devotion of one to whom is given to speak of great things. She
answered in a voice which, though quiet, vibrated with conviction:

“I know it! My knowledge is beyond belief!” Mr. Trelawny spoke again:

“Then you are so sure, that were you Queen Tera herself, you would be
willing to prove it in any way that I might suggest?”

“Yes, any way!” the answer rang out fearlessly. He spoke again, in a
voice in which was no note of doubt:

“Even in the abandonment of your Familiar to death–to annihilation.”

She paused, and I could see that she suffered–suffered horribly. There
was in her eyes a hunted look, which no man can, unmoved, see in the
eyes of his beloved. I was about to interrupt, when her father’s eyes,
glancing round with a fierce determination, met mine. I stood silent,
almost spellbound; so also the other men. Something was going on before
us which we did not understand!

With a few long strides Mr. Trelawny went to the west side of the cave
and tore back the shutter which obscured the window. The cool air blew
in, and the sunlight streamed over them both, for Margaret was now by
his side. He pointed to where the sun was sinking into the sea in a
halo of golden fire, and his face was as set as flint. In a voice whose
absolute uncompromising hardness I shall hear in my ears at times till
my dying day, he said:

“Choose! Speak! When the sun has dipped below the sea, it will be too
late!” The glory of the dying sun seemed to light up Margaret’s face,
till it shone as if lit from within by a noble light, as she answered:

“Even that!”

Then stepping over to where the mummy cat stood on the little table, she
placed her hand on it. She had now left the sunlight, and the shadows
looked dark and deep over her. In a clear voice she said:

“Were I Tera, I would say ‘Take all I have! This night is for the Gods
alone!'”

As she spoke the sun dipped, and the cold shadow suddenly fell on us.
We all stood still for a while. Silvio jumped from my arms and ran over
to his mistress, rearing himself up against her dress as if asking to be
lifted. He took no notice whatever of the mummy now.

Margaret was glorious with all her wonted sweetness as she said sadly:

“The sun is down, Father! Shall any of us see it again? The night of
nights is come!”

Chapter XX
The Great Experiment

If any evidence had been wanted of how absolutely one and all of us had
come to believe in the spiritual existence of the Egyptian Queen, it
would have been found in the change which n a few minutes had been
effected in us by the statement of voluntary negation made, we all
believed, through Margaret. Despite the coming of the fearful ordeal,
the sense of which it was impossible to forget, we looked and acted as
though a great relief had come to us. We had indeed lived in such a
state of terrorism during the days when Mr. Trelawny was lying in a
trance that the feeling had bitten deeply into us. No one knows till he
has experienced it, what it is to be in constant dreadof some unknown
danger which may come at any time and in any form.

The change was manifested in different ways, according to each nature.
Margaret was sad. Doctor Winchester was in high spirits, and keenly
observant; the process of thought which had served as an antidote to
fear, being now relieved from this duty, added to his intellectual
enthusiasm. Mr. Corbeck seemed to be in a retrospective rather than a
speculative mood. I was myself rather inclined to be gay; the relief
from certain anxiety regarding Margaret was sufficient for me for the
time.

As to Mr. Trelawny he seemed less changed than any. Perhaps this was
only natural, as he had had in his mind the intention for so many years
of doing that in which we were tonight engaged, that any event
connected with it could only seem to him as an episode, a step to the
end. His was that commanding nature which looks so to the end of an
undertaking that all else is of secondary importance. Even now, though
his terrible sternness relaxed under the relief from the strain, he
never flagged nor faltered for a moment in his purpose. He asked us men
to come with him; and going to the hall we presently managed to lower
into the cave an oak table, fairly long and not too wide, which stood
against the wall in the hall. This we placed under the strong cluster
of electric lights in the middle of the cave. Margaret looked on for a
while; then all at once her face blanched, and in an agitated voice she
said:

“What are you going to do, Father?”

“To unroll the mummy of the cat! Queen Tera will not need her Familiar
tonight. If she should want him, it might be dangerous to us; so we
shall make him safe. You are not alarmed, dear?”

“Oh no!” she answered quickly. “But I was thinking of my Silvio, and
how I should feel if he had been the mummy that was to be unswathed!”

Mr. Trelawny got knives and scissors ready, and placed the cat on the
table. It was a grim beginning to our work; and it made my heart sink
when I thought of what might happen in that lonely house in the
mid-gloom of the night. The sense of loneliness and isolation from the
world was increased by the moaning of the wind which had now risen
ominously, and by the beating of waves on the rocks below. But we had
too grave a task before us to be swayed by external manifestations: the
unrolling of the mummy began.

There was an incredible number of bandages; and the tearing sound–they
being stuck fast to each other by bitumen and gums and spices–and the
little cloud of red pungent dust that arose, pressed on the senses of
all of us. As the last wrappings came away, we saw the animal seated
before us. He was all hunkered up; his hair and teeth and claws were
complete. The eyes were closed, but the eyelids had not the fierce look
which I expected. The whiskers had been pressed down on the side of the
face by the bandaging; but when the pressure ws taken away they stood
out, just as they would have done in life. He was a magnificent
creature, a tiger-cat of great size. But as we looked at him, our first
glance of admiration changed to one of fear, and a shudder ran through
each one of us; for here was a confirmation of the fears which we had
endured.

His mouth and his claws were smeared with the dry, red stains of recent
blood!

Doctor Winchester was the first to recover; blood in itself had small
disturbing quality for him. He had taken out his magnifying-glass and
was examining the stains on the cat’s mouth. Mr. Trelawny breathed
loudly, as though a strain had been taken from him.

“It is as I expected,” he said. “This promises well for what is to
follow.”

By this time Doctor Winchester was looking at the red stained paws. “As
I expected!” he said. “He has seven claws, too!” Opening his
pocket-book, he took out the piece of blotting-paper marked by Silvio’s
claws, on which was also marked in pencil a diagram of the cuts made on
Mr. Trelawny’s wrist. He placed the paper under the mummy cat’s paw.
The marks fitted exactly.

When we had carefully examined the cat, finding, however, nothing
strange about it but its wonderful preservation, Mr. Trelawny lifted it
from the table. Margaret started forward, crying out:

“Take care, Father! Take care! He may injure you!”

“Not now, my dear!” he answered as he moved towards the stairway. Her
face fell. “Where are you going?” she asked in a faint voice.

“To the kitchen,” he answered. “Fire will take away all danger for the
future; even an astral body cannot materialise from ashes!” He signed
to us to follow him. Margaret turned away with a sob. I went to her;
but she motioned me back and whispered:

“No, no! Go with the others. Father may want you. Oh! it seems like
murder! The poor Queen’s pet . . . !” The tears were dropping from
under the fingers that covered her eyes.

In the kitchen was a fire of wood ready laid. To this Mr. Trelawny
applied a match; in a few seconds the kindling had caught and the flames
leaped. When the fire was solidly ablaze, he threw the body of the cat
into it. For a few seconds it lay a dark mass amidst the flames, and
the room was rank with the smell of burning hair. Then the dry body
caught fire too. The inflammable substances used in embalming became
new fuel, and the flames roared. A few minutes of fierce conflagration;
and then we breathed freely. Queen Tera’s Familiar was no more!

When we went back to the cave we found Margaret sitting in the dark.
She had switched off the electric light, and only a faint glow of the
evening light came through the narrow openings. Her father went quickly
over to her and put his arms round her in a loving protective way. She
laid her head on his shoulder for a minute and seemed comforted.
Presently she called to me:

“Malcolm, turn up the light!” I carried out her orders, and could see
that, though she had been crying, her eyes were now dry. Her father saw
it too and looked glad. He said to us in a grave tone:

“Now we had better prepare for our great work. It will not do to leave
anything to the last!” Margaret must have had a suspicion of what was
coming, for it was with a sinking voice that she asked:

“What are you going to do now?” Mr. Trelawny too must have had a
suspicion of her feelings, for he answered in a low tone:

“To unroll the mummy of Queen Tera!” She came close to him and said
pleadingly in a whisper:

“Father, you are not going to unswathe her! All you men . . . ! And in
the glare of light!”

“But why not, my dear?”

“Just think, Father, a woman! All alone! In such a way! In such a
place! Oh! it’s cruel, cruel!” She was manifestly much overcome. Her
cheeks were flaming red, and her eyes were full of indignant tears. Her
father saw her distress; and, sympathising with it, began to comfort
her. I was moving off; but he signed to me to stay. I took it that
after the usual manner of men he wanted help on such an occasion, and
man-like wished to throw on someone else the task of dealing with a
woman in indignant distress. However, he began to appeal first to her
reason:

“Not a woman, dear; a mummy! She has been dead nearly five thousand
years!”

“What does that matter? Sex is not a matter of years! A woman is a
woman, if she had been dead five thousand centuries! And you expect her
to arise out of that long sleep! It could not be real death, if she is
to rise out of it! You have led me to believe that she will come alive
when the Coffer is opened!”

“I did, my dear; and I believe it! But if it isn’t death that has been
the matter with her all these years, it is something uncommonly like it.
Then again, just think; it was men who embalmed her. They didn’t have
women’s rights or lady doctors in ancient Egypt, my dear! And besides,”
he went on more freely, seeing that she was accepting his argument, if
not yielding to it, “we men are accustomed to such things. Corbeck and
I have unrolled a hundred mummies; and there were as many women as men
amongst them. Doctor Winchester in his work has had to deal with women
as well of men, till custome has made him think nothing of sex. Even
Ross has in his work as a barrister . . .” He stopped suddenly.

“You were going to help too!” she said to me, with an indignant look.

I said nothing; I thought silence was best. Mr. Trelawny went on
hurriedly; I could see that he was glad of interruption, for the part of
his argument concerning a barrister’s work was becoming decidedly weak:

“My child, you will be with us yourself. Would we do anything which
would hurt or offend you? Come now! be reasonable! We are not at a
pleasure party. We are all grave men, entering gravely on an experiment
which may unfold the wisdom of old times, and enlarge human knowledge
indefinitely; which may put the minds of men on new tracks of thought
and research. An experiment,” as he went on his voice deepened, “which
may be fraught with death to any one of us–to us all! We know from what
has been, that there are, or may be, vast and unknown dangers ahead of
us, of which none in the house today may ever see the end. Take it, my
child, that we are not acting lightly; but with all the gravity of
deeply earnest men! Besides, my dear, whatever feelings you or any of
us may have on the subject, it is necessary for the success of the
experiment to unswathe her. I think that under any circumstances it
would be necessary to remove the wrappings before she became again a
live human being instead of a spiritualised corpse with an astral body.
Were her original intention carried out, and did she come to new life
within her mummy wrappings, it might be to exchange a coffin for a
grave! She would die the death of the buried alive! But now, when she
has voluntarily abandoned for the time her astral power, there can be no
doubt on the subject.”

Margaret’s face cleared. “All right, Father!” she said as she kissed
him. “But oh! it seems a horrible indignity to a Queen, and a woman.”

I was moving away to the staircase when she called me:

“Where are you going?” I came back and took her hand and stroked it as
I answered:

“I shall come back when the unrolling is over!” She looked at me long,
and a faint suggestion of a smile came over her face as she said:

“Perhaps you had better stay, too! It may be useful to you in your work
as a barrister!” She smiled out as she met my eyes: but in an instant
she changed. Her face grew grave, and deadly white. In a far away
voice she said:

“Father is right! It is a terrible occasion; we need all to be serious
over it. But all the same–nay, for that very reason you had better
stay, Malcolm! You may be glad, later on, that you were present
tonight!”

My heart sank down, down, at her words; but I thought it better to say
nothing. Fear was stalking openly enough amongst us already!

By this time Mr. Trelawny, assisted by Mr. Corbeck and Doctor
Winchester, had raised the lid of the ironstone sarcophagus which
contained the mummy of the Queen. It was a large one; but it was none
too big. The mummy was both long and broad and high; and was of such
weight that it was no easy task, even for the four of us, to lift it
out. Under Mr. Trelawny’s direction we laid it out on the table
prepared for it.

Then, and then only, did the full horror of the whole thing burst upon
me! There, in the full glare of the light, the whole material and
sordid side of death seemed staringly real. The outer wrappings, torn
and loosened by rude touch, and with the colour either darkened by dust
or worn light by friction, seemed creased as by rough treatment; the
jagged edges of the wrapping-cloths looked fringed; the painting was
patchy, and the varnish chipped. The coverings were evidently many, for
the bulk was great. But through all, showed that unhidable human
figure, which seems to look more horrible when partially concealed than
at any other time. What was before us was Death, and nothing else. All
the romance and sentiment of fancy had disappeared. The two elder men,
enthusiasts who had often done such work, were not disconcerted; and
Doctor Winchester seemed to hold himself in a business-like attitude, as
if before the operating-table. But I felt low-spirited, and miserable,
and ashamed; and besides I was pained and alarmed by Margaret’s ghastly
pallor.

Then the work began. The unrolling of the mummy cat had prepared me
somewhat for it; but this was so much larger, and so infinitely more
elaborate, that it seemed a different thing. Moreover, in addition to
the ever present sense of death and humanity, there was a feeling of
something finer in all this. The cat had been embalmed with coarser
materials; here, all, when once the outer coverings were removed, was
more delicately done. It seemed as if only the finest gums and spices
had been used in this embalming. But there were the same surroundings,
the same attendant red dust and pungent presence of bitumen; there was
the same sound of rending which marked the tearing away of the bandages.
There were an enormous number of these, and their bulk when opened was
great. As the men unrolled them, I grew more and more excited. I did
not take a part in it myself; Margaret had looked at me gratefully as I
drew back. We clasped hands, and held each other hard. As the
unrolling went on, the wrappings became finer, and the smell less laden
with bitumen, but more pungent. We all, I think, began to feel it as
though it caught or touched us in some special way. This, however, did
not interfere with the work; it went on uninterruptedly. Some of the
inner wrappings bore symbols or pictures. These were done sometimes
wholly in pale green colour, sometimes in many colours; but always with
a prevalence of green. Now and again Mr. Trelawny or Mr. Corbeck would
point out some special drawing before laying the bandage on the pile
behind them, which kept growing to a monstrous height.

At last we knew that the wrappings were coming to an end. Already the
proportions were reduced to those of a normal figure of the manifest
height of the Queen, who was more than average height. And as the end
drew nearer, so Margaret’s pallor grew; and her heart beat more and more
wildly, till her breast heaved in a way that frightened me.

Just as her father was taking away the last of the bandages, he happened
to look up and caught the pained and anxious look of her pale face. He
paused, and taking her concern to be as to the outrage on modesty, said
in a comforting way:

“Do not be uneasy, dear! See! there is nothing to harm you. The Queen
has on a robe.–Ay, and a royal robe, too!”

The wrapping was a wide piece the whole length of the body. It being
removed, a profusely full robe of white linen had appeared, covering the
body from the throat to the feet.

And such linen! We all bent over to look at it.

Margaret lost her concern, in her woman’s interest in fine stuff. Then
the rest of us looked with admiration; for surely such linen was never
seen by the eyes of our age. It was as fine as the finest silk. But
never was spun or woven silk which lay in such gracious folds, constrict
though they were by the close wrappings of the mummy cloth, and fixed
into hardness by the passing of thousands of years.

Round the neck it was delicately embroidered in pure gold with tiny
sprays of sycamore; and round the feet, similarly worked, was an endless
line of lotus plants of unequal height, and with all the graceful
abandon of natural growth.

Across the body, but manifestly not surrounding it, was a girdle of
jewels. A wondrous girdle, which shone and glowed with all the forms
and phases and colours of the sky!

The buckle was a great yellow stone, round of outline, deep and curved,
as if a yielding globe had been pressed down. It shone and glowed, as
though a veritable sun lay within; the rays of its light seemed to
strike out and illumine all round. Flanking it were two great moonstones
of lesser size, whose glowing, beside the glory of the sunstone, was
like the silvery sheen of moonlight.

And then on either side, linked by golden clasps of exquisite shape, was
a line of flaming jewels, of which the colours seemed to glow. Each of
these stones seemed to hold a living star, which twinkled in every phase
of changing light.

Margaret raised her hands in ecstasy. She bent over to examine more
closely; but suddenly drew back and stood fully erect at her grand
height. She seemed to speak with the conviction of absolute knowledge
as she said:

“That is no cerement! It was no meant for the clothing of death! It is
a marriage robe!”

Mr. Trelawny leaned over and touched the linen robe. He lifted a fold
at the neck, and I knew from the quick intake of his breath that
something had surprised him. He lifted yet a little more; and then he,
too, stood back and pointed, saying:

“Margaret is right! That dress is not intended to be worn by the dead!
See! her figure is not robed in it. It is but laid upon her.” He
lifted the zone of jewels and handed it to Margaret. Then with both
hands he raised the ample robe, and laid it across the arms which she
extended in a natural impulse. Things of such beauty were too precious
to be handled with any but the greatest care.

We all stood awed at the beauty of the figure which, save for the face
cloth, now lay completely nude before us. Mr. Trelawny bent over, and
with hands that trembled slightly, raised this linen cloth which was of
the same fineness as the robe. As he stood back and the whole glorious
beauty of the Queen was revealed, I felt a rush of shame sweep over me.
It was not right that we should be there, gazing with irreverent eyes on
such unclad beauty: it was indecent; it was almost sacrilegious! And
yet the white wonder of that beautiful form was something to dream of.
It was not like death at all; it was like a statue carven in ivory by
the hand of a Praxiteles. There was nothing of that horrible shrinkage
which death seems to effect in a moment. There was none of the wrinkled
toughness which seems to be a leading characteristic of most mummies.
There was not the shrunken attenuation of a body dried in the sand, as I
had seen before in museums. All the pores of the body seemed to have
been preserved in some wonderful way. The flesh was full and round, as
in a living person; and the skin was as smooth as satin. The colour
seemed extraordinary. It was like ivory, new ivory; except where the
right arm, with shattered, bloodstained wrist and missing hand had lain
bare to exposure in the sarcophagus for so many tens of centuries.

With a womanly impulse; with a mouth that drooped with pity, with eyes
that flashed with anger, and cheeks that flamed, Margaret threw over the
body the beautiful robe which lay across her arm. Only the face was
then to be seen. This was more startling even than the body, for it
seemed not dead, but alive. The eyelids were closed; but the long,
black, curling lashes lay over on the cheeks. The nostrils, set in
grave pride, seemed to have the repose which, when it is seen in life,
is greater than the repose of death. The full, red lips, though the
mouth was not open, showed the tiniest white line of pearly teeth
within. Her hair, glorious in quantity and glossy black as the raven’s
wing, was piled in great masses over the white forehead, on which a few
curling tresses strayed like tendrils. I was amazed at the likeness to
Margaret, though I had had my mind prepared for this by Mr. Corbeck’s
quotation of her father’s statement. This woman–I could not think of
her as a mummy or a corpse–was the image of Margaret as my eyes had
first lit on her. The likeness was increased by the jewelled ornament
which she wore in her hair, the “Disk and Plumes”, such as Margaret,
too, had worn. It, too, was a glorious jewel; one noble pearl of
moonlight lustre, flanked by carven pieces of moonstone.

Mr. Trelawny was overcome as he looked. He quite broke down; and when
Margaret flew to him and held him close in her arms and comforted him, I
heard him murmur brokenly:

“It looks as if you were dead, my child!”

There was a long silence. I could hear without the roar of the wind,
which was now risen to a tempest, and the furius dashing of the waves
far below. Mr. Trelawny’s voice broke the spell:

“Later on we must try and find out the process of embalming. It is not
like any that I know. There does not seem to have been any opening cut
for the withdrawing of the viscera and organs, which apparently remain
intact within the body. Then, again, there is no moisture in the flesh;
but its place is supplied with something else, as though wax or stearine
had been conveyed into the veins by some subtle process. I wonder could
it be possible that at that time they could have used paraffin. It
might have been, by some process that we know not, pumped into the
veins, where it hardened!”

Margaret, having thrown a white sheet over the Queen’s body, asked us to
bring it to her own room, where we laid it on her bed. Then she sent us
away, saying:

“Leave her alone with me. There are still many hours to pass, and I do
not like to leave her lying there, all stark in the glare of light.
This may be the Bridal she prepared for–the Bridal of Death; and at
least she shall wear her pretty robes.”

When presently she brought me back to her room, the dead Queen was
dressed in the robe of fine linen with the embroidery of gold; and all
her beautiful jewels were in place. Candles were lit around her, and
white flowers lay upon her breast.

Hand in hand we stood looking at her for a while. Then with a sigh,
Margaret covered her with one of her own snowy sheets. She turned away;
and after softly closing the door of the room, went back with me to the
others who had now come into the dining room. Here we all began to talk
over the things that had been, and that were to be.

Now and again I could feel that one or other of us was forcing
conversation, as if we were not sure of ourselves. The long wait was
beginning to tell on our nerves. It was apparent to me that Mr.
Trelawny had suffered in that strange trance more than we suspected, or
than he cared to show. True, his will and his determination were as
strong as ever; but the purely physical side of him had been weakened
somewhat. It was indeed only natural that it should be. No man can go
through a period of four days of absolute negation of life without being
weakened by it somehow.

As the hours crept by, the time passed more and more slowly. The other
men seemed to get unconsciously a little drowsy. I wondered if in the
case of Mr. Trelawny and Mr. Corbeck, who had already been under the
hypnotic influence of the Queen, the same dormance was manifesting
itself. Doctor Winchester had periods of distraction which grew longer
and more frequent as the time wore on.

As to Margaret, the suspense told on her exceedingly, as might have been
expected in the case of a woman. She grew paler and paler still; till
at last about midnight, I began to be seriously alarmed about her. I
got her to come into the library with me, and tried to make her lie down
on a sofa for a little while. As Mr. Trelawny had decided that the
experiment was to be made exactly at the seventh hour after sunset, it
would be as nearly as possible three o’clock in the morning when the
great trial should be made. Even allowing a whole hour for the final
preparations, we had still two hours of waiting to go through, and I
promised faithfully to watch her and to awake her at any time she might
name. She would not hear of it, however. She thanked me sweetly and
smiled at me as she did so; but she assured me that she was not sleepy,
and that she was quite able to bear up. That it was only the suspense
and excitement of waiting that made her pale. I agreed perforce; but I
kept her talking of many things in the library for more than an hour; so
that at last, when she insisted on going back to her father’s room I
felt that I had at least done something to help her pass the time.

We found the three men sitting patiently in silence. With manlike
fortitude they were content to be still when they felt they had done
all in their power.

And so we waited.

The striking of two o’clock seemed to freshen us all up. Whatever
shadows had been settling over us during the long hours preceding
seemed to lift at once, and we all went about our separate duties
alert and with alacrity. We looked first to the windows to see that
they were closed; for now the storm raged so fiercely that we feared
it might upset our plans which, after all, were based on perfect
stillness. Then we got ready our respirators to put them on when
the time should be close at hand. We had from the first arranged to
use them, for we did not know whether some noxious fume might not
come from the Magic Coffer when it should be opened. Somehow it
never seemed to occur to any of us that there was any doubt as to
its opening.

Then, under Margaret’s guidance, we carried the body of Queen Tera,
still clad in her Bridal robes, from her room into the cavern.

It was a strange sight, and a strange experience. The group of grave
silent men carrying away from the lighted candles and the white flowers
the white still figure, which looked like an ivory statue when through
our moving the robe fell back.

We laid her in the sarcophagus, and placed the severed hand in its true
position on her breast. Under it was laid the Jewel of Seven Stars,
which Mr Trelawny had taken from the safe. It seemed to flash and blaze
as he put it in its place. The glare of the electric lights shone cold
on the great sarcophagus fixed ready for the final experiment–the Great
Experiment, consequent on the researches during a lifetime of these two
travelled scholars. Again, the startling likeness between Margaret and
the mummy, intensified by her own extraordinary pallor, heightened
the strangeness of it all.

When all was finally fixed, three-quarters of an hour had gone; for we
were deliberate in all our doings. Margaret beckoned me, and I went
with her to her room. There she did a thing which moved me strangely,
and brought home to me keenly the desperate nature of the enterprise
on which we were embarked. One by one, she blew out the candles
carefully, and placed them back in their usual places. When she had
finished she said to me:

“They are done with! Whatever comes–Life or Death–there will be no
purpose in their using now!”

We returned to the cavern with a strange thrill as of finality. There
was to be no going back now!

We put on our respirators, and took our places as had been arranged. I
was to stand by the taps of the electric lights, ready to turn them off
or on as Mr Trelawny should direct. His last caution to me to carry out
his instructions exactly was almost like a menace; for he warned me that
death to any or all of us might come from any error or neglect on my part.
Margaret and Doctor Winchester were to stand between the sarcophagus
and the wall, so that they would not be between the mummy and the Magic
Coffer. They were to note accurately all that should happen with regard
to the Queen.

Mr Trelawny and Mr Corbeck were to see the lamps lighted: and then to
take their places, the former at the foot, the latter at the head, of
the sarcophagus.

When the hands of the clock were close to the hour, they stood ready
with their lit tapers, like gunners in old days with their linstocks.

For the few minutes that followed, the passing of time was a slow horror.
Mr Trelawny stood with his watch in his hand, ready to give the signal.

The time approached with inconceivable slowness; but at last came the
whirring of wheels which warns that the hour is at hand. The striking of
the silver bell of the clock seemed to smite on our hearts like the knell
of doom. One! Two! Three!

The wicks of the lamps caught, and I turned out the electric light.
In the dimness of the struggling lamps, and after the bright glow of
the electric light, the room and all within it took weird shape, and
everything seemed in an instant to change. We waited, with our hearts
beating. I know mine did; and I fancied I could hear the pulsation
of the others. Without, the storm raged; the shutters of the narrow
windows shook and strained and rattled, as though something was
striving for entrance.

The seconds seemed to pass with leaden wings; it was as though all the
world were standing still. The figures of the others stood out dimly,
Margaret’s white dress alone showing clearly in the gloom. The thick
respirators, which we all wore, added to the strange appearance. The
thin light of the lamps, as the two men bent over the Coffer, showed Mr
Trelawny’s square jaw and strong mouth, and the brown, wrinkled face of
Mr Corbeck. Their eyes seemed to glare in the light. Across the room
Doctor Winchester’s eyes twinkled like stars, and Margaret’s blazed
like black suns.

Would the lamps never burn up!

It was only a few seconds in all till they did blaze up. A slow, steady
light, growing more and more bright; and changing in colour from blue
to crystal white. So they stayed for a couple of minutes, without any
change in the Coffer being noticeable. At last there began to appear
all over it a delicate glow. This grew and grew, till it became like a
blazing jewel; and then like a living thing, whose essence was light.
Mr Trelawny and Mr Corbeck moved silently to their places beside the
sarcophagus.

We waited and waited, our hearts seeming to stand still.

All at once there was a sound like a tiny muffled explosion, and the
cover of the Coffer lifted right up on a level plane a few inches;
there was no mistaking anything now, for the whole cavern was full of
light. Then the cover, staying fast at one side, rose slowly up on the
other, as though yielding to some pressure of balance. I could not see
what was within, for the risen cover stood between. The Coffer still
continued to glow; from it began to steal a faint greenish vapour which
floated in the direction of the sarcophagus as though impelled or drawn
towards it. I could not smell it fully on account of the respirator;
but, even through that, I was conscious of a strange, pungent odour.
The vapour got somewhat denser after a few seconds, and began to pass
directly into the open sarcophagus. It was evident now that the mummied
body had some attraction for it; and also that it had some effect on
the body, for the sarcophagus slowly became illumined as though the
body had begun to glow. I could not see within from where I stood, but
I gathered from the faces of all the four watchers that something
strange was happening.

I longed to run over and take a look for myself; but I remembered Mr
Trelawny’s solemn warning, and remained at my post.

The storm still thundered round the house, and I could feel the rock on
which it was built tremble under the furious onslaught of the waves.
The shutters strained as though the screaming wind without would in very
anger have forced an entrance. In that dread hour of expectancy, when
the forces of Life and Death were struggling for the mastery, imagination
was awake. I almost fancied that the storm was a living thing, and
animated with the wrath of the quick!

All at once the eager faces round the sarcophagus were bent forward.
The look of speechless wonder in the eyes, lit by that supernatural glow
from within the sarcophagus, had a more than mortal brilliance.

My own eyes were nearly blinded by the awful, paralysing light, so that
I could hardly trust them. I saw something white rising up from the open
sarcophagus. Something which appeared to my tortured eyes to be filmy,
like a white mist. In the heart of this mist, which was cloudy and opaque
like an opal, was something like a hand holding a fiery jewel flaming
with many lights. As the fierce glow of the Coffer met this new living
light, the green vapour floating between them seemed like a cascade of
brilliant points–a miracle of light!

But at that very moment there came a change. The fierce storm, battling
with the shutters of the narrow openings, won victory. With the sound
of a pistol shot, one of the heavy shutters broke its fastening and was
hurled on its hinges back against the wall. In rushed a fierce blast
which blew the flames of the lamps to and fro, and drifted the green
vapour from its course.

On the very instant came a change in the outcome from the Coffer. There
was a moment’s quick flame and a muffled explosion; and black smoke
began to pour out. This got thicker and thicker with frightful rapidity,
in volumes of ever-increasing density; till the whole cavern began to
get obscure, and its outlines were lost. The screaming wind tore in and
whirled it about. At a sign from Mr Trelawny Mr Corbeck went and closed
the shutter and jammed it fast with a wedge.

I should have liked to help; but I had to wait directions from Mr Trelawny,
who inflexibly held his post at the head of the sarcophagus. I signed to
him with my hand, but he motioned me back. Gradually the figures of all
close to the sarcophagus became indistinct in the smoke which rolled round
them in thick billowy clouds. Finally, I lost sight of them altogether.
I had a terrible desire to rush over so as to be near Margaret; but again
I restrained myself. If the Stygian gloom continued, light would be a
necessity of safety; and I was the guardian of the light! My anguish of
anxiety as I stood to my post was almost unendurable.

The Coffer was now but a dull colour; and the lamps were growing dim,
as though they were being overpowered by the thick smoke. Absolute
darkness would soon be upon us.

I waited and waited, expecting every instant to hear the command to turn
up the light; but none came. I waited still, and looked with harrowing
intensity at the rolling billows of smoke still pouring out of the casket
whose glow was fading. The lamps sank down, and went out; one by one.

Finally, there was but one lamp alight, and that was dimly blue and
flickering. I kept my eyes fixed towards Margaret, in the hope that I
might see her in some lifting of the gloom; it was for her now that all
my anxiety was claimed. I could just see her white frock beyond the
dim outline of the sarcophagus.

Deeper and deeper grew the black mist, and its pungency began to assail
my nostrils as well as my eyes. Now the volume of smoke coming from the
Coffer seemed to lessen, and the smoke itself to be less dense. Across
the room I saw a movement of something white where the sarcophagus was.
There were several such movements. I could just catch the quick glint
of white through the dense smoke in the fading light; for now even the
last lamp began to flicker with the quick leaps before extinction.

Then the last glow disappeared. I felt that the time had come to speak;
so I pulled off my respirator and called out:

“Shall I turn on the light?” There was no answer. Before the thick smoke
choked me, I called again, but more loudly:

“Mr Trelawny, shall I turn on the light? Answer me! If you do not forbid
me, I shall turn it on!”

As there was no reply, I turned the tap. To my horror there was no response;
something had gone wrong with the electric light! I moved, intending to
run up the staircase to seek the cause, but I could now see nothing, all was
pitch dark.

I groped my way across the room to where I thought Margaret was. As
I went I stumbled across a body. I could feel by her dress that it was
a woman. My heart sank; Margaret was unconscious, or perhaps dead. I
lifted the body in my arms, and went straight forward till I touched a wall.
Following it round I came to the stairway, and hurried up the steps with
what haste I could make, hampered as I was with my dear burden. It may
have been that hope lightened my task; but as I went the weight that I
bore seemed to grow less as I ascended from the cavern.

I laid the body in the hall, and groped my way to Margaret’s room, where
I knew there were matches, and the candies which she had placed beside
the Queen. I struck a match; and oh! it was good to see the light. I lit
two candies, and taking one in each hand, hurried back to the hall where
I had left, as I had supposed, Margaret.

Her body was not there. But on the spot where I had laid her was Queen
Tera’s Bridal robe, and surrounding it the girdle of wondrous gems. Where
the heart had been, lay the Jewel of Seven Stars.

Sick at heart, and with a terror which has no name, I went down into the
cavern. My two candles were like mere points of light in the black,
impenetrable smoke. I put up again to my mouth the respirator which
hung round my neck, and went to look for my companions.

I found them all where they had stood. They had sunk down on the floor,
and were gazing upward with fixed eyes of unspeakable terror. Margaret
had put her hands before her face, but the glassy stare of her eyes through
her fingers was more terrible than an open glare.

I pulled back the shutters of all the windows to let in what air I could.
The storm was dying away as quickly as it had risen, and now it only
came in desultory puffs. It might well be quiescent; its work was done!

I did what I could for my companions; but there was nothing that could
avail. There, in that lonely house, far away from aid of man, naught
could avail.

It was merciful that I was spared the pain of hoping.

THE END

Blood-Mummy-Tomb-2

Bram Stoker ~ The Jewel of Seven Stars {Part One}

Standard
(1903 Edition)

Chapter I
A Summons in the Night

It all seemed so real that I could hardly imagine that it had ever
occurred before; and yet each episode came, not as a fresh step in the
logic of things, but as something expected. It is in such a wise that
memory plays its pranks for good or ill; for pleasure or pain; for weal
or woe. It is thus that life is bittersweet, and that which has been
done becomes eternal.

Again, the light skiff, ceasing to shoot through the lazy water as when
the oars flashed and dripped, glided out of the fierce July sunlight
into the cool shade of the great drooping willow branches–I standing up
in the swaying boat, she sitting still and with deft fingers guarding
herself from stray twigs or the freedom of the resilience of moving
boughs. Again, the water looked golden-brown under the canopy of
translucent green; and the grassy bank was of emerald hue. Again, we
sat in the cool shade, with the myriad noises of nature both without and
within our bower merging into that drowsy hum in whose sufficing
environment the great world with its disturbing trouble, and its more
disturbing joys, can be effectually forgotten. Again, in that blissful
solitude the young girl lost the convention of her prim, narrow
upbringing, and told me in a natural, dreamy way of the loneliness of
her new life. With an undertone of sadness she made m e feel how in that
spacious home each one of the household was isolated by the personal
magnificence of her father and herself; that there confidence had no
altar, and sympathy no shrine; and that there even her father’s face was
as distant as the old country life seemed now. Once more, the wisdom of
my manhood and the experience of my years laid themselves at the girl’s
feet. It was seemingly their own doing; for the individual “I” had no
say in the matter, but only just obeyed imperative orders. And once
again the flying seconds multiplied themselves endlessly. For it is in
the arcana of dreams that existences merge and renew themselves, change
and yet keep the same–like the soul of a musician in a fugue. And so
memory swooned, again and again, in sleep.

It seems that there is never to be any perfect rest. Even in Eden the
snake rears its head among the laden boughs of the Tree of Knowledge.
The silence of the dreamless night is broken by the roar of the
avalanche; the hissing of sudden floods; the clanging of the engine bell
marking its sweep through a sleeping American town; the clanking of
distant paddles over the sea…. Whatever it is, it is breaking the
charm of my Eden. The canopy of greenery above us, starred with
diamond-points of light, seems to quiver in the ceaseless beat of
paddles; and the restless bell seems as though it would never cease….

All at once the gates of Sleep were thrown wide open, and my waking ears
took in the cause of the disturbing sounds. Waking existence is prosaic
enough–there was somebody knocking and ringing at someone’s street door.

I was pretty well accustomed in my Jermyn Street chambers to passing
sounds; usually I did not concern myself, sleeping or waking, with the
doings, however noisy, of my neighbours. But this noise was too
continuous, too insistent, too imperative to be ignored. There was some
active intelligence behind that ceaseless sound; and some stress or need
behind the intelligence. I was not altogether selfish, and at the
thought of someone’s need I was, without premeditation, out of bed.
Instinctively I looked at my watch. It was just three o’clock; there
was a faint edging of grey round the green blind which darkened my room.
It was evident that the knocking and ringing were at the door of our own
house; and it was evident, too, that there was no one awake to answer
the call. I slipped on my dressing-gown and slippers, and went down to
the hall door. When I opened it there stood a dapper groom, with one
hand pressed unflinchingly on the electric bell whilst with the other he
raised a ceaseless clangour with the knocker. The instant he saw me the
noise ceased; one hand went up instinctively to the brim of his hat, and
the other produced a letter from his pocket. A neat brougham was
opposite the door, the horses were breathing heavily as though they had
come fast. A policeman, with his night lantern still alight at his
belt, stood by, attracted to the spot by the noise.

“Beg pardon, sir, I’m sorry for disturbing you, but my orders was
imperative; I was not to lose a moment, but to knock and ring till
someone came. May I ask you, sir, if Mr. Malcolm Ross lives here?”

“I am Mr. Malcolm Ross.”

“Then this letter is for you, sir, and the bro’am is for you too, sir!”

I took, with a strange curiosity, the letter which he handed to me. As
a barrister I had had, of course, odd experiences now and then,
including sudden demands upon my time; but never anything like this. I
stepped back into the hall, closing the door to, but leaving it ajar;
then I switched on the electric light. The letter was directed in a
strange hand, a woman’s. It began at once without “dear sir” or any
such address:

“You said you would like to help me if I needed it; and I believe you
meant what you said. The time has come sooner than I expected. I am in
dreadful trouble, and do not know where to turn, or to whom to apply. An
attempt has, I fear, been made to murder my Father; though, thank God,
he still lives. But he is quite unconscious. The doctors and police
have been sent for; but there is no one here whom I can depend on. Come
at once if you are able to; and forgive me if you can. I suppose I
shall realise later what I have done in asking such a favour; but at
present I cannot think. Come! Come at once! MARGARET TRELAWNY.”

Pain and exultation struggled in my mind as I read; but the mastering
thought was that she was in trouble and had called on me–me! My
dreaming of her, then, was not altogether without a cause. I called out
to the groom:

“Wait! I shall be with you in a minute!” Then I flew upstairs.

A very few minutes sufficed to wash and dress; and we were soon driving
through the streets as fast as the horses could go. It was market
morning, and when we got out on Picadilly there was an endless stream of
carts coming from the west; but for the rest the roadway was clear, and
we went quickly. I had told the groom to come into the brougham with me
so that he could tell me what had happened as we went along. He sat
awkwardly, with his hat on his knees as he spoke.

“Miss Trelawny, sir, sent a man to tell us to get out a carriage at
once; and when we was ready she come herself and gave me the letter and
told Morgan–the coachman, sir–to fly. She said as I was to lose not a
second, but to keep knocking till someone come.”

“Yes, I know, I know–you told me! What I want to know is, why she sent
for me. What happened in the house?”

“I don’t quite know myself, sir; except that master was found in his
room senseless, with the sheets all bloody, and a wound on his head. He
couldn’t be waked nohow. “Twas Miss Trelawny herself as found him.”

“How did she come to find him at such an hour? It was late in the
night, I suppose?”

“I don’t know, sir; I didn’t hear nothing at all of the details.”

As he could tell me no more, I stopped the carriage for a moment to let
him get out on the box; then I turned the matter over in my mind as I
sat alone. There were many things which I could have asked the servant;
and for a few moments after he had gone I was angry with myself for not
having used my opportunity. On second thought, however, I was glad the
temptation was gone. I felt that it would be more delicate to learn
what I wanted to know of Miss Trelawny’s surroundings from herself,
rather than from her servants.

We bowled swiftly along Knightsbridge, the small noise of our well-
appointed vehicle sounding hollowly in the morning air. We turned up
the Kensington Palace Road and presently stopped opposite a great house
on the left-hand side, nearer, so far as I could judge, the Notting Hill
than the Kensington end of the avenue. It was a truly fine house, not
only with regard to size but to architecture. Even in the dim grey
light of the morning, which tends to diminish the size of things, it
looked big.

Miss Trelawny met me in the hall. She was not in any way shy. She
seemed to rule all around her with a sort of high-bred dominance, all
the more remarkable as she was greatly agitated and as pale as snow. In
the great hall were several servants, the men standing together near the
hall door, and the women clinging together in the further corners and
doorways. A police superintendent had been talking to Miss Trelawny;
two men in uniform and one plain-clothes man stood near him. As she
took my hand impulsively there was a look of relief in her eyes, and she
gave a gentle sigh of relief. Her salutation was simple.

“I knew you would come!”

The clasp of the hand can mean a great deal, even when it is not
intended to mean anything especially. Miss Trelawny’s hand somehow
became lost in my own. It was not that it was a small hand; it was fine
and flexible, with long delicate fingers–a rare and beautiful hand; it
was the unconscious self-surrender. And though at the moment I could
not dwell on the cause of the thrill which swept me, it came back to me
later.

She turned and said to the police superintendent:

“This is Mr. Malcolm Ross.” The police officer saluted as he answered:

“I know Mr. Malcolm Ross, miss. Perhaps he will rem ember I had the
honour of working with him in the Brixton Coining case.” I had not at
first glance noticed who it was, my whole attention having been taken
with Miss Trelawny.

“Of course, Superintendent Dolan, I remember very well!” I said as we
shook hands. I could not but note that the acquaintanceship seemed a
relief to Miss Trelawny. There was a certain vague uneasiness in her
manner which took my attention; instinctively I felt that it would be
less embarrassing for her to speak with me alone. So I said to the
Superintendent:

“Perhaps it will be better if Miss Trelawny will see me alone for a few
minutes. You, of course, have already heard all she knows; and I shall
understand better how things are if I may ask some questions. I will
then talk the matter over with you if I may.”

“I shall be glad to be of what service I can, sir,” he answered
heartily.

Following Miss Trelawny, I moved over to a dainty room which opened from
the hall and looked out on the garden at the back of the house. When we
had entered and I had closed the door she said:

“I will thank you later for your goodness in coming to me in my trouble;
but at present you can best help me when you know the facts.”

“Go on,” I said. “Tell me all you know and spare no detail, however
trivial it may at the present time seem to be.” She went on at once:

“I was awakened by some sound; I do not know what. I only know that it
came through my sleep; for all at once I found myself awake, with my
heart beating wildly, listening anxiously for some sound from my
Father’s room. My room is next Father’s, and I can often hear him
moving about before I fall asleep. He works late at night, sometimes
very late indeed; so that when I wake early, as I do occasionally, or in
the grey of the dawn, I hear him still moving. I tried once to
remonstrate with him about staying up so late, as it cannot be good for
him; but I never ventured to repeat the experiment. You know how stern
and cold he can be–at least you may remember what I told you about him;
and when he is polite in this mood he is dreadful. When he is angry I
can bear it much better; but when he is slow and deliberate, and the
side of his mouth lifts up to show the sharp teeth, I think I feel–well,
I don’t know how! Last night I got up softly and stole to the door, for
I really feared to disturb him. There was not any noise of moving, and
no kind of cry at all; but there was a queer kind of dragging sound, and
a slow, heavy breathing. Oh! it was dreadful, waiting there in the dark
and the silence, and fearing–fearing I did not know what!

“At last I took my courage a deux mains, and turning the handle as
softly as I could, I opened the door a tiny bit. It was quite dark
within; I could just see the outline of the windows. But in the
darkness the sound of breathing, becoming more distinct, was appalling.
As I listened, this continued; but there was no other sound. I pushed
the door open all at once. I was afraid to open it slowly; I felt as if
there might be some dreadful thing behind it ready to pounce out on me!
Then I switched on the electric light, and stepped into the room. I
looked first at the bed. The sheets were all crumpled up, so that I
knew Father had been in bed; but there was a great dark red patch in the
centre of the bed, and spreading to the edge of it, that made my heart
stand still. As I was gazing at it the sound of the breathing came
across the room, and my eyes followed to it. There was Father on his
right side with the other arm under him, just as if his dead body had
been thrown there all in a heap. The track of blood went across the
room up to the bed, and there was a pool all around him which looked
terribly red and glittering as I bent over to examine him. The place
where he lay was right in front of the big safe. He was in his pyjamas.
The left sleeve was torn, showing his bare arm, and stretched out toward
the safe. It looked–oh! so terrible, patched all with blood, and with
the flesh torn or cut all around a gold chain bangle on his wrist. I
did not know he wore such a thing, and it seemed to give me a new shock
of surprise.”

She paused a moment; and as I wished to relieve her by a moment’s
divergence of thought, I said:

“Oh, that need not surprise you. You will see the most unlikely men
wearing bangles. I have seen a judge condemn a man to death, and the
wrist of the hand he held up had a gold bangle.” She did not seem to
heed much the words or the idea; the pause, however, relieved her
somewhat, and she went on in a steadier voice:

“I did not lose a moment in summoning aid, for I feared he might bleed
to death. I rang the bell, and then went out and called for help as
loudly as I could. In what must have been a very short time–though it
seemed an incredibly long one to me–some of the servants came running
up; and then others, till the room seemed full of staring eyes, and
dishevelled hair, and night clothes of all sorts.

“We lifted Father on a sofa; and the housekeeper, Mrs. Grant, who seemed
to have her wits about her more than any of us, began to look where the
flow of blood came from. In a few seconds it became apparent that it
came from the arm which was bare. There was a deep wound–not clean-cut
as with a knife, but like a jagged rent or tear–close to the wrist,
which seemed to have cut into the vein. Mrs. Grant tied a handkerchief
round the cut, and screwed it up tight with a silver paper-cutter; and
the flow of blood seemed to be checked at once. By this time I had come
to my senses–or such of them as remained; and I sent off one man for the
doctor and another for the police. When they had gone, I felt that,
except for the servants, I was all alone in the house, and that I knew
nothing–of my Father or anything else; and a great longing came to me to
have someone with me who could help me. Then I thought of you and your
kind offer in the boat under the willow-tree; and, without waiting to
think, I told the men to get a carriage ready at once, and I scribbled a
note and sent it on to you.”

She paused. I did not like to say just then anything of how I felt. I
looked at her; I think she understood, for her eyes were raised to mine
for a moment and then fell, leaving her cheeks as red as peony roses.
With a manifest effort she went on with her story:

“The Doctor was with us in an incredibly short time. The groom had met
him letting himself into his house with his latchkey, and he came here
running. He made a proper tourniquet for poor Father’s arm, and then
went home to get some appliances. I dare say he will be back almost
immediately. Then a policeman came, and sent a message to the station;
and very soon the Superintendent was here. Then you came.”

There was a long pause, and I ventured to take her hand for an instant.
Without a word more we opened the door, and joined the Superintendent in
the hall. He hurried up to us, saying as he came:

“I have been examining everything myself, and have sent off a message to
Scotland Yard. You see, Mr. Ross, there seemed so much that was odd
about the case that I thought we had better have the best man of the
Criminal Investigation Department that we could get. So I sent a note
asking to have Sergeant Daw sent at once. You remember him, sir, in
that American poisoning case at Hoxton.”

“Oh yes,” I said, “I remember him well; in that and other cases, for I
have benefited several times by his skill and acumen. He has a mind
that works as truly as any that I know. When I have been for the
defence, and believed my man was innocent, I was glad to have him
against us!”

“That is high praise, sir!” said the Superintendent gratified: “I am
glad you approve of my choice; that I did well in sending for him.”

I answered heartily:

“Could not be better. I do not doubt that between you we shall get at
the facts–and what lies behind them!”

We ascended to Mr. Trelawny’s room, where we found everything exactly as
his daughter had described.

There came a ring at the house bell, and a minute later a man was shown
into the room. A young man with aquiline features, keen grey eyes, and
a forehead that stood out square and broad as that of a thinker. In his
hand he had a black bag which he at once opened. Miss Trelawny
introduced us: “Doctor Winchester, Mr. Ross, Superintendent Dolan.” We
bowed mutually, and he, without a moment’s delay, began his work. We
all waited, and eagerly watched him as he proceeded to dress the wound.
As he went on he turned now and again to call the Superintendent’s
attention to some point about the wound, the latter proceeding to enter
the fact at once in his notebook.

“See! several parallel cuts or scratches beginning on the left side of
the wrist and in some places endangering the radial artery.

“These small wounds here, deep and jagged, seem as if made with a blunt
instrument. This in particular would seem as if made with some kind of
sharp wedge; the flesh round it seems torn as if with lateral pressure.”

Turning to Miss Trelawny he said presently:

“Do you think we might remove this bangle? It is not absolutely
necessary, as it will fall lower on the wrist where it can hang loosely;
but it might add to the patient’s comfort later on.” The poor girl
flushed deeply as she answered in a low voice:

“I do not know. I–I have only recently come to live with my Father; and
I know so little of his life or his ideas that I fear i can hardly judge
in such a matter. The Doctor, after a keen glance at her, said in a
very kindly way:

“Forgive me! I did not know. But in any case you need not be
distressed. It is not required at present to move it. Were it so I
should do so at once on my own responsibility. If it be necessary later
on, we can easily remove it with a file. Your Father doubtless has some
object in keeping it as it is. See! there is a tiny key attached to it.
. . .” As he was speaking he stopped and bent lower, taking from my
hand the candle which I held and lowering it till its light fell on the
bangle. Then motioning me to hold the candle in the same position, he
took from his pocket a magnifying-glass which he adjusted. When he had
made a careful examination he stood up and handed the magnifying-glass
to Dolan, saying as he did so:

“You had better examine it yourself. That is no ordinary bangle. The
gold is wrought over triple steel links; see where it is worn away. It
is manifestly not meant to be removed lightly; and it would need more
than an ordinary file to do it.”

The Superintendent bent his great body; but not getting close enough
that way knelt down by the sofa as the Doctor had done. He examined the
bangle minutely, turning it slowly round so that no particle of it
escaped observation. Then he stood up and handed the magnifying-glass to
me. “When you have examined it yourself,” he said, “let the lady look
at it if she will,” and she commenced to write at length in his
notebook.

I made a simple alteration in his suggestion. I held out the glass
toward Miss Trelawny, saying:

“Had you not better examine it first?” She drew back, slightly raising
her hand in disclaimer, as she said impulsively:

“Oh no! Father would doubtless have shown it to me had he wished me to
see it. I would not like to without his consent.” Then she added,
doubtless fearing lest her delicacy of view should give offence to the
rest of us:

“Of course it is right that you should see it. You have to examine and
consider everything; and indeed–indeed I am grateful to you. . .”

She turned away; I could see that she was crying quietly. It was
evident to me that even in the midst of her trouble and anxiety there
was a chagrin that she knew so little of her father; and that her
ignorance had to be shown at such a time and amongst so many strangers.
That they were all men did not make the shame more easy to bear, though
there was a certain relief in it. Trying to interpret her feelings I
could not but think that she must have been glad that no woman’s eyes–of
understanding greater than man’s–were upon her in that hour.

When I stood up from my examination, which verified to me that of the
Doctor, the latter resumed his place beside the couch and went on with
his ministrations. Superintendent Dolan said to me in a whisper:

“I think we are fortunate in our doctor!” I nodded, and was about to add
something in praise of his acumen, when there came a low tapping at the
door.

Chapter II
Strange Instructions

Superintendent Dolan went quietly to the door; by a sort of natural
understanding he had taken possession of affairs in the room. The rest
of us waited. He opened the door a little way; and then with a gesture
of manifest relief threw it wide, and a young man stepped in. A young
man clean-shaven, tall and slight; with an eagle face and bright, quick
eyes that seemed to take in everything around him at a glance. As he
came in, the Superintendent held out his hand; the two men shook hands
warmly.

“I came at once, sir, the moment I got your message. I am glad I still
have your confidence.”

“That you’ll always have,” said the Superintendent heartily. “I have
not forgotten our old Bow Street days, and I never shall!” Then,
without a word of preliminary, he began to tell everything he knew up to
the moment of the newcomer’s entry. Sergeant Daw asked a few questions–a
very few–when it was necessary for his understanding of circumstances or
the relative positions of persons; but as a rule Dolan, who knew his
work thoroughly, forestalled every query, and explained all necessary
matters as he went on. Sergeant Daw threw occasionally swift glances
round him; now at one of us; now at the room or some part of it; now at
the wounded man lying senseless on the sofa.

When the Superintendent had finished, the Sergeant turned to me and
said:

“Perhaps you remember me, sir. I was with you in that Hoxton case.”

“I remember you very well,” I said as I held out my hand. The
Superintendent spoke again:

“You understand, Sergeant Daw, that you are put in full charge of this
case.”

“Under you I hope, sir,” he interrupted. The other shook his head and
smiled as he said:

“It seems to me that this is a case that will take all a man’s time and
his brains. I have other work to do; but I shall be more than
interested, and if I can help in any possible way I shall be glad to do
so!”

“All right, sir,” said the other, accepting his responsibility with a
sort of modified salute; straightway he began his investigation.

First he came over to the Doctor and, having learned his name and
address, asked him to write a full report which he could use, and which
he could refer to headquarters if necessary. Doctor Winchester bowed
gravely as he promised. Then the Sergeant approached me and said sotto
voce:

“I like the look of your doctor. I think we can work together!”
Turning to Miss Trelawny he asked:

“Please let me know what you can of your Father; his ways of life, his
history–in fact of anything of whatsoever kind which interests him, or
in which he may be concerned.” I was about to interrupt to tell him
what she had already said of her ignorance in all matters of her father
and his ways, but her warning hand was raised to me pointedly and she
spoke herself.

“Alas! I know little or nothing. Superintendent Dolan and Mr. Ross
know already all I can say.”

“Well, ma’am, we must be content to do what we can,” said the officer
genially. “I’ll begin by making a minute examination. You say that you
were outside the door when you heard the noise?”

“I was in my room when I heard the queer sound–indeed it must have been
the early part of whatever it was which woke me. I came out of my room
at once. Father’s door was shut, and I could see the whole landing and
the upper slopes of the staircase. No one could have left by the door
unknown to me, if that is what you mean!”

“That is just what I do mean, miss. If every one who knows anything
will tell me as well as that, we shall soon get to the bottom of this.”

He then went over to the bed, looked at it carefully, and asked:

“Has the bed been touched?”

“Not to my knowledge,” said Miss Trelawny, “but I shall ask Mrs. Grant–
the housekeeper,” she added as she rang the bell. Mrs. Grant answered
it in person. “Come in,” said Miss Trelawny. “These gentlemen want to
know, Mrs. Grant, if the bed has been touched.”

“Not by me, ma’am.”

“Then,” said Miss Trelawny, turning to Sergeant Daw, “it cannot have
been touched by any one. Either Mrs. Grant or I myself was here all the
time, and I do not think any of the servants who came when I gave the
alarm were near the bed at all. You see, Father lay here just under the
great safe, and every one crowded round him. We sent them all away in a
very short time.” Daw, with a motion of his hand, asked us all to stay
at the other side of the room whilst with a magnifying-glass he examined
the bed, taking care as he moved each fold of the bed-clothes to replace
it in exact position. Then he examined with his magnifying-glass the
floor beside it, taking especial pains where the blood had trickled over
the side of the bed, which was of heavy red wood handsomely carved.
Inch by inch, down on his knees, carefully avoiding any touch with the
stains on the floor, he followed the blood-marks over to the spot, close
under the great safe, where the body had lain. All around and about
this spot he went for a radius of some yards; but seemingly did not meet
with anything to arrest special attention. Then he examined the front
of the safe; round the lock, and along the bottom and top of the double
doors, more especially at the places of their touching in front.

Next he went to the windows, which were fastened down with the hasps.

“Were the shutters closed?” he asked Miss Trelawny in a casual way as
though he expected the negative answer, which came.

All this time Doctor Winchester was attending to his patient; now
dressing the wounds in the wrist or making minute examination all over
the head and throat, and over the heart. More than once he put his nose
to the mouth of the senseless man and sniffed. Each time he did so he
finished up by unconsciously looking round the room, as though in search
of something.

Then we heard the deep strong voice of the Detective:

“So far as I can see, the object was to bring that key to the lock of
the safe. There seems to be some secret in the mechanism that I am
unable to guess at, though I served a year in Chubb’s before I joined
the police. It is a combination lock of seven letters; but there seems
to be a way of locking even the combination. It is one of Chatwood’s; I
shall call at their place and find out something about it.” Then
turning to the Doctor, as though his own work were for the present done,
he said:

“Have you anything you can tell me at once, Doctor, which will not
interfere with your full report? If there is any doubt I can wait, but
the sooner I know something definite the better.” Doctor Winchester
answered at once:

“For my own part I see no reason in waiting. I shall make a full report
of course. But in the meantime I shall tell you all I know–which is
after all not very much, and all I think–which is less definite. There
is no wound on the head which could account for the state of stupor in
which the patient continues. I must, therefore, take it that either he
has been drugged or is under some hypnotic influence. So far as I can
judge, he has not been drugged–at least by means of any drug of whose
qualities I am aware. Of course, there is ordinarily in this room so
much of a mummy smell that it is difficult to be certain about anything
having a delicate aroma. I dare say that you have noticed the peculiar
Egyptians scents, bitumen, nard, aromatic gums and spices, and so forth.
It is quite possible that somewhere in this room, amongst the curios and
hidden by stronger scents, is some substance or liquid which may have
the effect we see. It is possible that the patient has taken some drug,
and that he may in some sleeping phase have injured himself. I do not
think this is likely; and circumstances, other than those which I have
myself been investigating, may prove that this surmise is not correct.
But in the meantime it is possible; and must, till it be disproved, be
kept within our purview.” Here Sergeant Daw interrupted:

“That may be, but if so, we should be able to find the instrument with
which the wrist was injured. There would be marks of blood somewhere.”

“Exactly so!” said the Doctor, fixing his glasses as though preparing
for an argument. “But if it be that the patient has used some strange
drug, it may be one that does not take effect at once. As we are as yet
ignorant of its potentialities–if, indeed, the whole surmise is correct
at all–we must be prepared at all points.”

Here Miss Trelawny joined in the conversation:

“That would be quite right, so far as the action of the drug was
concerned; but according to the second part of your surmise the wound
may have been self-inflicted, and this after the drug had taken
effect.”

“True!” said the Detective and the Doctor simultaneously. She went on:

“As however, Doctor, your guess does not exhaust the possibilities, we
must bear in mind that some other variant of the same root-idea may be
correct. I take it, therefore, that our first search, to be made on
this assumption, must be for the weapon with which the injury was done
to my Father’s wrist.”

“Perhaps he put the weapon in the safe before he became quite
unconscious,” said I, giving voice foolishly to a half-formed thought.

“That could not be,” said the Doctor quickly. “At least I think it
could hardly be,” he added cautiously, with a brief bow to me. “You
see, the left hand is covered with blood; but there is no blood mark
whatever on the safe.”

“Quite right!” I said, and there was a long pause.

The first to break the silence was the Doctor.

“We shall want a nurse here as soon as possible; and I know the very one
to suit. I shall go at once to get her if I can. I must ask that till
I return some of you will remain constantly with the patient. It may be
necessary to remove him to another room later on; but in the meantime he
is best left here. Miss Trelawny, may I take it that either you or Mrs.
Grant will remain her–not merely in the room, but close to the patient
and watchful of him–till I return?”

She bowed in reply, and took a seat beside the sofa. The Doctor gave
her some directions as to what she should do in case her father should
become conscious before his return.

The next to move was Superintendent Dolan, who came close to Sergeant
Daw as he said:

“I had better return now to the station–unless, of course, you should
wish me to remain for a while.”

He answered, “Is Johnny Wright still in your division?”

“Yes! Would you like him to be with you?” The other nodded reply.
“Then I will send him on to you as soon as can be arranged. He shall
then stay with you as long as you wish. I will tell him that he is to
take his instructions entirely from you.”

The Sergeant accompanied him to the door, saying as he went:

“Thank you, sir; you are always thoughtful for men who are working with
you. It is a pleasure to me to be with you again. I shall go back to
Scotland Yard and report to my chief. Then I shall call at Chatwood’s;
and I shall return here as soon as possible. I suppose I may take it,
miss, that I may put up here for a day or two, if required. It may be
some help, or possibly some comfort to you, if I am about, until we
unravel this mystery.”

“I shall be very grateful to you.” He looked keenly at her for a few
seconds before he spoke again.

“Before I go have I permission to look about your Father’s table and
desk? There might be something which would give us a clue–or a lead at
all events.” Her answer was so unequivocal as almost to surprise him.

“You have the fullest possible permission to do anything which may help
us in this dreadful trouble–to discover what it is that is wrong with my
Father, or which may shield him in the future!”

He began at once a systematic search of the dressing-table, and after
that of the writing-table in the room. In one of the drawers he found a
letter sealed; this he brought at once across the room and handed to
Miss Trelawny.

“A letter–directed to me–and in my Father’s hand!” she said as she
eagerly opened it. I watched her face as she began to read; but seeing
at once that Sergeant Daw kept his keen eyes on her face, unflinchingly
watching every flitting expression, I kept my eyes henceforth fixed on
his. When Miss Trelawny had read her letter through, I had in my mind a
conviction, which, however, I kept locked in my own heart. Amongst the
suspicions in the mind of the Detective was one, rather perhaps
potential than definite, of Miss Trelawny herself.

For several minutes Miss Trelawny held the letter in her hand with her
eyes downcast, thinking. Then she read it carefully again; this time
the varying expressions were intensified, and I thought I could easily
follow them. When she had finished the second reading, she paused
again. Then, though with some reluctance, she handed the letter to the
Detective. He read it eagerly but with unchanging face; read it a
second time, and then handed it back with a bow. She paused a little
again, and then handed it to me. As she did so she raised her eyes to
mine for a single moment appealingly; a swift blush spread over her pale
cheeks and forehead.

With mingled feelings I took it, but, all said, I was glad. She did not
show any perturbation in giving the letter to the Detective–she might
not have shown any to anyone else. But to me. . .I feared to follow the
thought further; but read on, conscious that the eyes of both Miss
Trelawny and the Detective were fixed on me.

“MY DEAR DAUGHTER, I want you to take this letter as an instruction–
absolute and imperative, and admitting of no deviation whatever–in case
anything untoward or unexpected by you or by others should happen to me.
If I should be suddenly and mysteriously stricken down–either by
sickness, accident or attack–you must follow these directions
implicitly. If I am not already in my bedroom when you are made
cognisant of my state, I am to be brought there as quickly as possible.
Even should I be dead, my body is to be brought there. Thenceforth,
until I am either conscious and able to give instructions on my own
account, or buried, I am never to be left alone–not for a single
instant. From nightfall to sunrise at least two persons must remain in
the room. It will be well that a trained nurse be in the room from time
to time, and will note any symptoms, either permanent or changing, which
may strike her. My solicitors, Marvin & Jewkes, of 27B Lincoln’s Inn,
have full instructions in case of my death; and Mr. Marvin has himself
undertaken to see personally my wishes carried out. I should advise
you, my dear Daughter, seeing that you have no relative to apply to, to
get some friend whom you can trust to either remain within the house
where instant communication can be made, or to come nightly to aid in
the watching, or to be within call. Such friend may be either male or
female; but, whichever it may be, there should be added one other
watcher or attendant at hand of the opposite sex. Understand, that it
is of the very essence of my wish that there should be, awake and
exercising themselves to my purposes, both masculine and feminine
intelligences. Once more, my dear Margaret, let me impress on you the
need for observation and just reasoning to conclusions, howsoever
strange. If I am taken ill or injured, this will be no ordinary
occasion; and I wish to warn you, so that your guarding may be complete.

“Nothing in my room–I speak of the curios–must be removed or displaced
in any way, or for any cause whatever. I have a special reason and a
special purpose in the placing of each; so that any moving of them would
thwart my plans.

“Should you want money or counsel in anything, Mr. Marvin will carry out
your wishes; to the which he has my full instructions.”

“ABEL TRELAWNY.”

I read the letter a second time before speaking, for I feared to betray
myself. The choice of a friend might be a momentous occasion for me. I
had already ground for hope, that she had asked me to help her in the
first throe of her trouble; but love makes its own doubtings, and I
feared. My thoughts seemed to whirl with lightning rapidity, and in a
few seconds a whole process of reasoning became formulated. I must not
volunteer to be the friend that the father advised his daughter to have
to aid her in her vigil; and yet that one glance had a lesson which I
must not ignore. Also, did not she, when she wanted help, send to me–to
me a stranger, except for one meeting at a dance and one brief afternoon
of companionship on the river? Would it not humiliate her to make her
ask me twice? Humiliate her! No! that pain I could at all events save
her; it is not humiliation to refuse. So, as I handed her back the
letter, I said:

“I know you will forgive me, Miss Trelawny, if I presume too much; but
if you will permit me to aid in the watching I shall be proud. Though
the occasion is a sad one, I shall be so far happy to be allowed the
privilege.”

Despite her manifest and painful effort at self-control, the red tide
swept her face and neck. Even her eyes seemed suffused, and in stern
contrast with her pale cheeks when the tide had rolled back. She
answered in a low voice:

“I shall be very grateful for your help!” Then in an afterthought she
added:

“But you must not let me be selfish in my need! I know you have many
duties to engage you; and though I shall value your help highly–most
highly–it would not be fair to monopolise your time.”

“As to that,” I answered at once, “my time is yours. I can for today
easily arrange my work so that I can come here in the afternoon and stay
till morning. After that, if the occasion still demands it, I can so
arrange my work that I shall have more time still at my disposal.”

She was much moved. I could see the tears gather in her eyes, and she
turned away her head. The Detective spoke:

“I am glad you will be here, Mr. Ross. I shall be in the house myself,
as Miss Trelawny will allow me, if my people in Scotland Yard will
permit. That letter seems to put a different complexion on everything;
though the mystery remains greater than ever. If you can wait here an
hour or two I shall go to headquarters, and then to the safe-makers.
After that I shall return; and you can go away easier in your mind, for
I shall be here.”

When he had gone, we two, Miss Trelawny and I, remained in silence. At
last she raised her eyes and looked at me for a moment; after that I
would not have exchanged places with a king. For a while she busied
herself round the extemporised bedside of her father. Then, asking me
to be sure not to take my eyes off him till she returned, she hurried
out.

In a few minutes she came back with Mrs. Grant and two maids and a
couple of men, who bore the entire frame and furniture of a light iron
bed. This they proceeded to put together and to make. When the work
was completed, and the servants had withdrawn, she said to me:

“It will be well to be all ready when the Doctor returns. He will
surely want to have Father put to bed; and a proper bed will be better
for him than the sofa.” She then got a chair close beside her father,
and sat down watching him.

I went about the room, taking accurate note of all i saw. And truly
there were enough things in the room to evoke the curiosity of any man–
even though the attendant circumstances were less strange. The whole
place, excepting those articles of furniture necessary to a
well-furnished bedroom, was filled with magnificent curios, chiefly
Egyptian. As the room was of immense size there was opportunity for the
placing of a large number of them, even if, as with these, they were of
huge proportions.

Whilst I was still investigating the room there came the sound of wheels
on the gravel outside the house. There was a ring at the hall door, and
a few minutes later, after a preliminary tap at the door and an
answering “Come in!” Doctor Winchester entered, followed by a young
woman in the dark dress of a nurse.

“I have been fortunate!” he said as he came in. “I found her at once
and free. Miss Trelawny, this is Nurse Kennedy!”

Chapter III
The Watchers

I was struck by the way the two young women looked at each other. I
suppose I have been so much in the habit of weighing up in my own mind
the personality of witnesses and of forming judgment by their
unconscious action and mode of bearing themselves, that the habit
extends to my life outside as well as within the court-house. At this
moment of my life anything that interested Miss Trelawny interested me;
and as she had been struck by the newcomer I instinctively weighed her
up also. By comparison of the two I seemed somehow to gain a new
knowledge of Miss Trelawny. Certainly, the two women made a good
contrast. Miss Trelawny was of fine figure; dark, straight-featured.
She had marvellous eyes; great, wide-open, and as black and soft as
velvet, with a mysterious depth. To look in them was like gazing at a
black mirror such as Doctor Dee used in his wizard rites. I heard an
old gentleman at the picnic, a great oriental traveller, describe the
effect of her eyes “as looking at night at the great distant lamps of a
mosque through the open door.” The eyebrows were typical. Finely
arched and rich in long curling hair, they seemed like the proper
architectural environment of the deep, splendid eyes. Her hair was
black also, but was as fine as silk. Generally black hair is a type of
animal strength and seems as if some strong expression of the forces of
a strong nature; but in this case there could be no such thought. There
were refinement and high breeding; and though there was no suggestion of
weakness, any sense of power there was, was rather spiritual than
animal. The whole harmony of her being seemed complete. Carriage,
figure, hair, eyes; the mobile, full mouth, whose scarlet lips and white
teeth seemed to light up the lower part of the face–as the eyes did the
upper; the wide sweep of the jaw from chin to ear; the long, fine
fingers; the hand which seemed to move from the wrist as though it had a
sentience of its own. All these perfections went to make up a
personality that dominated either by its grace, its sweetness, its
beauty, or its charm.

Nurse Kennedy, on the other hand, was rather under than over a woman’s
average height. She was firm and thickset, with full limbs and broad,
strong, capable hands. Her colour was in the general effect that of an
autumn leaf. The yellow-brown hair was thick and long, and the
golden-brown eyes sparkled from the freckled, sunburnt skin. Her rosy
cheeks gave a general idea of rich brown. The red lips and white teeth
did not alter the colour scheme, but only emphasized it. She had a snub
nose–there was no possible doubt about it; but like such noses in
general it showed a nature generous, untiring, and full of good-nature.
Her broad white forehead, which even the freckles had spared, was full
of forceful thought and reason.

Doctor Winchester had on their journey from the hospital, coached her in
the necessary particulars, and without a word she took charge of the
patient and set to work. Having examined the new-made bed and shaken
the pillows, she spoke to the Doctor, who gave instructions; presently
we all four, stepping together, lifted the unconscious man from the
sofa.

Early in the afternoon, when Sergeant Daw had returned, I called at my
rooms in Jermyn Street, and sent out such clothes, books and papers as I
should be likely to want within a few days. Then I went on to keep my
legal engagements.

The Court sat late that day as an important case was ending; it was
striking six as I drove in at the gate of the Kensington Palace Road. I
found myself installed in a large room close to the sick chamber.

That night we were not yet regularly organised for watching, so that the
early part of the evening showed an unevenly balanced guard. Nurse
Kennedy, who had been on duty all day, was lying down, as she had
arranged to come on again by twelve o’clock. Doctor Winchester, who was
dining in the house, remained in the room until dinner was announced;
and went back at once when it was over. During dinner Mrs. Grant
remained in the room, and with her Sergeant Daw, who wished to complete
a minute examination which he had undertaken of everything in the room
and near it. At nine o’clock Miss Trelawny and I went in to relieve the
Doctor. She had lain down for a few hours in the afternoon so as to be
refreshed for her work at night. She told me that she had determined
that for this night at least she would sit up and watch. I did not try
to dissuade her, for I knew that her mind was made up. Then and there I
made up my mind that I would watch with her–unless, of course, I should
see that she really did not wish it. I said nothing of my intentions
for the present. We came in on tiptoe, so silently that the Doctor, who
was bending over the bed, did not hear us, and seemed a little startled
when suddenly looking up he saw our eyes upon him. I felt that the
mystery of the whole thing was getting on his nerves, as it had already
got on the nerves of some others of us. He was, I fancied, a little
annoyed with himself for having been so startled, and at once began to
talk in a hurried manner as though to get over our idea of his
embarrassment:

“I am really and absolutely at my wits” end to find any fit cause for
this stupor. I have made again as accurate an examination as I know
how, and I am satisfied that there is no injury to the brain, that is,
no external injury. Indeed, all his vital organs seem unimpaired. I
have given him, as you know, food several times and it has manifestly
done him good. His breathing is strong and regular, and his pulse is
slower and stronger than it was this morning. I cannot find evidence of
any known drug, and his unconsciousness does not resemble any of the
many cases of hypnotic sleep which I saw in the Charcot Hospital in
Paris. And as to these wounds”–he laid his finger gently on the
bandaged wrist which lay outside the coverlet as he spoke, “I do not
know what to make of them. They might have been made by a
carding-machine; but that supposition is untenable. It is within the
bounds of possibility that they might have been made by a wild animal if
it had taken care to sharpen its claws. That too is, I take it,
impossible. By the way, have you any strange pets here in the house;
anything of an exceptional kind, such as a tiger-cat or anything out of
the common?” Miss Trelawny smiled a sad smile which made my heart ache,
as she made answer:

“Oh no! Father does not like animals about the house, unless they are
dead and mummied.” This was said with a touch of bitterness–or
jealousy, I could hardly tell which. “Even my poor kitten was only
allowed in the house on sufferance; and though he is the dearest and
best-conducted cat in the world, he is now on a sort of parole, and is
not allowed into this room.”

As she was speaking a faint rattling of the door handle was heard.
Instantly Miss Trelawny’s face brightened. She sprang up and went over
to the door, saying as she went:

“There he is! That is my Silvio. He stands on his hind legs and
rattles the door handle when he wants to come into a room.” She opened
the door, speaking to the cat as though he were a baby: “Did him want
his movver? Come then; but he must stay with her!” She lifted the cat,
and came back with him in her arms. He was certainly a magnificent
animal. A chinchilla grey Persian with long silky hair; a really lordly
animal with a haughty bearing despite his gentleness; and with great
paws which spread out as he placed them on the ground. Whilst she was
fondling him, he suddenly gave a wriggle like an eel and slipped out of
her arms. He ran across the room and stood opposite a low table on
which stood the mummy of an animal, and began to mew and snarl. Miss
Trelawny was after him in an instant and lifted him in her arms, kicking
and struggling and wriggling to get away; but not biting or scratching,
for evidently he loved his beautiful mistress. He ceased to make a
noise the moment he was in her arms; in a whisper she admonished him:

“O you naughty Silvio! You have broken your parole that mother gave for
you. Now, say goodnight to the gentlemen, and come away to mother’s
room!” As she was speaking she held out the cat’s paw to me to shake.
As I did so I could not but admire its size and beauty. “Why,” said I,
“his paw seems like a little boxing-glove full of claws.” She smiled:

“So it ought to. Don’t you notice that my Silvio has seven toes, see!”
she opened the paw; and surely enough there were seven separate claws,
each of them sheathed in a delicate, fine, shell-like case. As I gently
stroked the foot the claws emerged and one of them accidentally–there
was no anger now and the cat was purring–stuck into my hand.
Instinctively I said as I drew back:

“Why, his claws are like razors!”

Doctor Winchester had come close to us and was bending over looking at
the cat’s claws; as I spoke he said in a quick, sharp way:

“Eh!” I could hear the quick intake of his breath. Whilst I was
stroking the now quiescent cat, the Doctor went to the table and tore
off a piece of blotting-paper from the writing-pad and came back. He
laid the paper on his palm and, with a simple “pardon me!” to Miss
Trelawny, placed the cat’s paw on it and pressed it down with his other
hand. The haughty cat seemed to resent somewhat the familiarity, and
tried to draw its foot away. This was plainly what the Doctor wanted,
for in the act the cat opened the sheaths of its claws and and made
several reefs in the soft paper. Then Miss Trelawny took her pet away.
She returned in a couple of minutes; as she came in she said:

“It is most odd about that mummy! When Silvio came into the room
first–indeed I took him in as a kitten to show to Father–he went on
just the same way. He jumped up on the table, and tried to scratch and
bite the mummy. That was what made Father so angry, and brought the
decree of banishment on poor Silvio. Only his parole, given through me,
kept him in the house.”

Whilst she had been gone, Doctor Winchester had taken the bandage from
her father’s wrist. The wound was now quite clear, as the separate cuts
showed out in fierce red lines. The Doctor folded the blotting-paper
across the line of punctures made by the cat’s claws, and held it down
close to the wound. As he did so, he looked up triumphantly and
beckoned us over to him.

The cuts in the paper corresponded with the wounds in the wrist! No
explanation was needed, as he said;

“It would have been better if master Silvio had not broken his parole!”

We were all silent for a little while. Suddenly Miss Trelawny said:

“But Silvio was not in here last night!”

“Are you sure? Could you prove that is necessary?” She hesitated
before replying:

“I am certain of it; but I fear it would be difficult to prove. Silvio
sleeps in a basket in my room. I certainly put him to bed last night; I
remember distinctly laying his little blanket over him, and tucking him
in. This morning I took him out of the basket myself. I certainly
never noticed him in here; though, of course, that would not mean much,
for I was too concerned about poor father, and too much occupied with
him, to notice even Silvio.”

The Doctor shook his head as he said with a certain sadness:

“Well, at any rate it is no use trying to prove anything now. Any cat
in the world would have cleaned blood-marks–did any exist–from his paws
in a hundredth part of the time that has elapsed.”

Again we were all silent; and again the silence was broken by Miss
Trelawny:

“But now that I think of it, it could not have been poor Silvio that
injured Father. My door was shut when I first heard the sound; and
Father’s was shut when I listened at it. When I went in, the injury had
been done; so that it must have been before Silvio could possibly have
got in.” This reasoning commended itself, especially to me as a
barrister, for it was proof to satisfy a jury. It gave me a distinct
pleasure to have Silvio acquitted of the crime–possibly because he was
Miss Trelawny’s cat and was loved by her. Happy cat! Silvio’s mistress
was manifestly pleased as I said:

“Verdict, ‘not guilty!'” Doctor Winchester after a pause observed:

“My apologies to master Silvio on this occasion; but I am still puzzled
to know why he is so keen against that mummy. Is he the same toward the
other mummies in the house? There are, I suppose, a lot of them. I saw
three in the hall as I came in.”

“There are lots of them,” she answered. “I sometimes don’t know whether
I am in a private house or the British Museum. But Silvio never
concerns himself about any of them except that particular one. I
suppose it must be because it is of an animal, not a man or a woman.”

“Perhaps it is of a cat!” said the Doctor as he started up and went
across the room to look at the mummy more closely. “Yes,” he went on,
“it is the mummy of a cat; and a very fine one, too. If it hadn’t been
a special favourite of some very special person it would never have
received so much honour. See! A painted case and obsidian eyes-just
like a human mummy. It is an extraordinary thing, that knowledge of
kind to kind. Here is a dead cat–that is all; it is perhaps four or
five thousand years old–and another cat of another breed, in what is
practically another world, is ready to fly at it, just as it would if it
were not dead. I should like to experiment a bit about that cat if you
don’t mind, Miss Trelawny.” She hesitated before replying:

“Of course, do anything you may think necessary or wise; but I hope it
will not be anything to hurt or worry my poor Silvio.” The Doctor
smiled as he answered:

“Oh, Silvio would be all right: it is the other one that my sympathies
would be reserved for.”

“How do you mean?”

“Master Silvio will do the attacking; the other one will do the
suffering.”

“Suffering?” There was a note of pain in her voice. The Doctor smiled
more broadly:

“Oh, please make your mind easy as to that. The other won’t suffer as
we understand it; except perhaps in his structure and outfit.”

“What on earth do you mean?”

“Simply this, my dear young lady, that the antagonist will be a mummy
cat like this one. There are, I take it, plenty of them to be had in
Museum Street. I shall get one and place it here instead of that one–
you won’t think that a temporary exchange will violate your Father’s
instructions, I hope. We shall then find out, to begin with, whether
Silvio objects to all mummy cats, or only to this one in particular.”

“I don’t know,” she said doubtfully. “Father’s instructions seem very
uncompromising.” Then after a pause she went on: “But of course under
the circumstances anything that is to be ultimately for his good must be
done. I suppose there can’t be anything very particular about the mummy
of a cat.”

Doctor Winchester said nothing. He sat rigid, with so grave a look on
his face that his extra gravity passed on to me; and in its enlightening
perturbation I began to realise more than I had yet done the strangeness
of the case in which I was now so deeply concerned. When once this
thought had begun there was no end to it. Indeed it grew, and
blossomed, and reproduced itself in a thousand different ways. The room
and all in it gave grounds for strange thoughts. There were so many
ancient relics that unconsciously one was taken back to strange lands
and strange times. There were so many mummies or mummy objects, round
which there seemed to cling for ever the penetrating odours of bitumen,
and spices and gums–“Nard and Circassia’s balmy smells”–that one was
unable to forget the past. Of course, there was but little light in the
room, and that carefully shaded; so that there was no glare anywhere.
None of that direct light which can manifest itself as a power or an
entity, and so make for companionship. The room was a large one, and
lofty in proportion to its size. In its vastness was place for a
multitude of things not often found in a bedchamber. In far corners
of the room were shadows of uncanny shape. More than once as I thought,
the multitudinous presence of the dead and the past took such hold on me
that I caught myself looking round fearfully as though some strange
personality or influence was present. Even the manifest presence of
Doctor Winchester and Miss Trelawny could not altogether comfort or
satisfy me at such moments. It was with a distinct sense of relief that
I saw a new personality in the room in the shape of Nurse Kennedy.
There was no doubt that that business-like, self-reliant, capable young
woman added an element of security to such wild imaginings as my own.
She had a quality of common sense that seemed to pervade everything
around her, as though it were some kind of emanation. Up to that moment
I had been building fancies around the sick man; so that finally all
about him, including myself, had become involved in them, or enmeshed,
or saturated, or. . .But now that she had come, he relapsed into his
proper perspective as a patient; the room was a sick-room, and the
shadows lost their fearsome quality. The only thing which it could not
altogether abrogate was the strange Egyptian smell. You may put a mummy
in a glass case and hermetically seal it so that no corroding air can
get within; but all the same it will exhale its odour. One might think
that four or five thousand years would exhaust the olfactory qualities
of anything; but experience teaches us that these smells remain, and
that their secrets are unknown to us. Today they are as much mysteries
as they were when the embalmers put the body in the bath of natron. . .

All at once I sat up. I had become lost in an absorbing reverie. The
Egyptian smell had seemed to get on my nerves–on my memory–on my very
will.

At that moment I had a thought which was like an inspiration. If I was
influenced in such a manner by the smell, might it not be that the sick
man, who lived half his life or more in the atmosphere, had gradually
and by slow but sure process taken into his system something which had
permeated him to such degree that it had a new power derived from
quantity–or strength–or. . .

I was becoming lost again in a reverie. This would not do. I must take
such precaution that I could remain awake, or free from such entrancing
thought. I had had but half a night’s sleep last night; and this night
I must remain awake. Without stating my intention, for I feared that I
might add to the trouble and uneasiness of Miss Trelawny, I went
downstairs and out of the house. I soon found a chemist’s shop, and
came away with a respirator. When I got back, it was ten o’clock; the
Doctor was going for the night. The Nurse came with him to the door of
the sick-room, taking her last instructions. Miss Trelawny sat still
beside the bed. Sergeant Daw, who had entered as the Doctor went out,
was some little distance off.

When Nurse Kennedy joined us, we arranged that she should sit up till
two o’clock, when Miss Trelawny would relieve her. Thus, in accordance
with Mr. Trelawny’s instructions, there would always be a man and a
woman in the room; and each one of us would overlap, so that at no time
would a new set of watchers come on duty without some one to tell of
what–if anything–had occurred. I lay down on a sofa in my own room,
having arranged that one of the servants should call me a little before
twelve. In a few moments I was asleep.

When I was waked, it took me several seconds to get back my thoughts so
as to recognise my own identity and surroundings. The short sleep had,
however, done me good, and I could look on things around me in a more
practical light than I had been able to do earlier in the evening. I
bathed my face, and thus refreshed went into the sick-room. I moved
very softly. The Nurse was sitting by the bed, quiet and alert; the
Detective sat in an arm-chair across the room in deep shadow. He did
not move when I crossed, until I got close to him, when he said in a
dull whisper:

“It is all right; I have not been asleep!” An unnecessary thing to say,
I thought–it always is, unless it be untrue in spirit. When I told him
that his watch was over; that he might go to bed till I should call him
at six o’clock, he seemed relieved and went with alacrity. At the door
he turned and, coming back to me, said in a whisper:

“I sleep lightly and I shall have my pistols with me. I won’t feel so
heavy-headed when I get out of this mummy smell.”

He too, then, had shared my experience of drowsiness!

I asked the Nurse if she wanted anything. I noticed that she had a
vinaigrette in her lap. Doubtless she, too, had felt some of the
influence which had so affected me. She said that she had all she
required, but that if she should want anything she would at once let me
know. I wished to keep her from noticing my respirator, so I went to
the chair in the shadow where her back was toward me. Here I quietly
put it on, and made myself comfortable.

For what seemed a long time, I sat and thought and though. It was a
wild medley of thoughts, as might have been expected from the
experiences of the previous day and night. Again I found myself
thinking of the Egyptian smell; and I remember that I felt a delicious
satisfaction that I did not experience it as I had done. The respirator
was doing its work.

It must have been that the passing of this disturbing thought made for
repose of mind, which is the corollary of bodily rest, for, though I
really cannot remember being asleep or waking from it, I saw a vision–I
dreamed a dream, I scarcely know which.

I was still in the room, seated in the chair. I had on my respirator
and knew that I breathed freely. The Nurse sat in her chair with her
back toward me. She sat quite still. The sick man lay as still as the
dead. It was rather like the picture of a scene than the reality; all
were still and silent; and the stillness and silence were continuous.
Outside, in the distance I could hear the sounds of a city, the
occasional roll of wheels, the shout of a reveller, the far-away echo of
whistles and the rumbling of trains. The light was very, very low; the
reflection of it under the green-shaded lamp was a dim relief to the
darkness, rather than light. The green silk fringe of the lamp had
merely the colour of an emerald seen in the moonlight. The room, for all
its darkness, was full of shadows. It seemed in my whirling thoughts as
though all the real things had become shadows–shadows which moved, for
they passed the dim outline of the high windows. Shadows which had
sentience. I even thought there was sound, a faint sound as of the mew
of a cat–the rustle of drapery and a metallic clink as of metal faintly
touching metal. I sat as one entranced. At last I felt, as in
nightmare, that this was sleep, and that in the passing of its portals
all my will had gone.

All at once my senses were full awake. A shriek rang in my ears. The
room was filled suddenly with a blaze of light. There was the sound of
pistol shots–one, two; and a haze of white smoke in the room. When my
waking eyes regained their power, I could have shrieked with horror
myself at what I saw before me.

Chapter IV
The Second Attempt

The sight which met my eyes had the horror of a dream within a dream,
with the certainty of reality added. The room was as I had seen it
last; except that the shadowy look had gone in the glare of the many
lights, and every article in it stood stark and solidly real.

By the empty bed sat Nurse Kennedy, as my eyes had last seen her,
sitting bolt upright in the arm-chair beside the bed. She had placed a
pillow behind her, so that her back might be erect; but her neck was
fixed as that of one in a cataleptic trance. She was, to all intents
and purposes, turned into stone. There was no special expression on her
face–no fear, no horror; nothing such as might be expected of one in
such a condition. Her open eyes showed neither wonder nor interest.
She was simply a negative existence, warm, breathing, placid; but
absolutely unconscious of the world around her. The bedclothes were
disarranged, as though the patient had been drawn from under them
without throwing them back. The corner of the upper sheet hung upon the
floor; close by it lay one of the bandages with which the Doctor had
dressed the wounded wrist. Another and another lay further along the
floor, as though forming a clue to where the sick man now lay. This was
almost exactly where he had been found on the previous night, under the
great safe. Again, the left arm lay toward the safe. But there had
been a new outrage, an attempt had been made to sever the arm close to
the bangle which held the tiny key. A heavy “kukri” knife–one of the
leaf-shaped knives which the Gurkhas and others of the hill tribes of
India use with such effect–had been taken from its place on the wall,
and with it the attempt had been made. It was manifest that just at the
moment of striking, the blow had been arrested, for only the point of
the knife and not the edge of the blade had struck the flesh. As it
was, the outer side of the arm had been cut to the bone and the blood
was pouring out. In addition, the former wound in front of the arm had
been cut or torn about terribly, one of the cuts seemed to jet out blood
as if with each pulsation of the heart. By the side of her father knelt
Miss Trelawny, her white nightdress stained with the blood in which she
knelt. In the middle of the room Sergeant Daw, in his shirt and
trousers and stocking feet, was putting fresh cartridges into his
revolver in a dazed mechanical kind of way. His eyes were red and
heavy, and he seemed only half awake, and less than half conscious of
what was going on around him. Several servants, bearing lights of
various kinds, were clustered round the doorway.

As I rose from my chair and came forward, Miss Trelawny raised her eyes
toward me. When she saw me she shrieked and started to her feet,
pointing towards me. Never shall I forget the strange picture she made,
with her white drapery all smeared with blood which, as she rose from
the pool, ran in streaks toward her bare feet. I believe that I had
only been asleep; that whatever influence had worked on Mr. Trelawny and
Nurse Kennedy–and in less degree on Sergeant Daw–had not touched me.
The respirator had been of some service, though it had not kept off the
tragedy whose dire evidences were before me. I can understand now–I
could understand even then–the fright, added to that which had gone
before, which my appearance must have evoked. I had still on the
respirator, which covered mouth and nose; my hair had been tossed in my
sleep. Coming suddenly forward, thus enwrapped and dishevelled, in that
horrified crowd, I must have had, in the strange mixture of lights, an
extraordinary and terrifying appearance. It was well that I recognised
all this in time to avert another catastrophe; for the half-dazed,
mechanically-acting Detective put in the cartridges and had raised his
revolver to shoot at me when I succeeded in wrenching off the respirator
and shouting to him to hold his hand. In this also he acted
mechanically; the red, half-awake eyes had not in them even then the
intention of conscious action. The danger, however, was averted. The
relief of the situation, strangely enough, came in a simple fashion.
Mrs. Grant, seeing that her young mistress had on only her nightdress,
had gone to fetch a dressing-gown, which she now threw over her. This
simple act brought us all back to the region of fact. With a long
breath, one and all seemed to devote themselves to the most pressing
matter before us, that of staunching the flow of blood from the arm of
the wounded man. Even as the thought of action came, I rejoiced; for
the bleeding was very proof that Mr. Trelawny still lived.

Last night’s lesson was not thrown away. More than one of those present
knew now what to do in such an emergency, and within a few seconds
willing hands were at work on a tourniquet. A man was at once
despatched for the doctor, and several of the servants disappeared to
make themselves respectable. We lifted Mr. Trelawny on to the sofa
where he had lain yesterday; and, having done what we could for him,
turned our attention to the Nurse. In all the turmoil she had not
stirred; she sat there as before, erect and rigid, breathing softly and
naturally and with a placid smile. As it was manifestly of no use to
attempt anything with her till the doctor had come, we began to think of
the general situation.

Mrs. Grant had by this time taken her mistress away and changed her
clothes; for she was back presently in a dressing-gown and slippers, and
with the traces of blood removed from her hands. She was now much
calmer, though she trembled sadly; and her face was ghastly white. When
she had looked at her father’s wrist, I holding the tourniquet, she
turned her eyes round the room, resting them now and again on each one
of us present in turn, but seeming to find no comfort. It was so
apparent to me that she did not know where to begin or whom to trust
that, to reassure her, I said:

“I am all right now; I was only asleep.” Her voice had a gulp in it as
she said in a low voice:

“Asleep! You! and my Father in danger! I thought you were on the
watch!” I felt the sting of justice in the reproach; but I really
wanted to help her, so I answered:

“Only asleep. It is bad enough, I know; but there is something more
than an “only” round us here. Had it not been that I took a definite
precaution I might have been like the Nurse there.” She turned her eyes
swiftly on the weird figure, sitting grimly upright like a painted
statue; and then her face softened. With the action of habitual
courtesy she said:

“Forgive me! I did not mean to be rude. But I am in such distress and
fear that I hardly know what I am saying. Oh, it is dreadful! I fear
for fresh trouble and horror and mystery every moment.” This cut me to
the very heart, and out of the heart’s fulness I spoke:

“Don’t give me a thought! I don’t deserve it. I was on guard, and yet
I slept. All that I can say is that I didn’t mean to, and I tried to
avoid it; but it was over me before I knew it. Anyhow, it is done now;
and can’t be undone. Probably some day we may understand it all; but
now let us try to get at some idea of what has happened. Tell me what
you remember!” The effort to recollect seemed to stimulate her; she
became calmer as she spoke:

“I was asleep, and woke suddenly with the same horrible feeling on me
that Father was in great and immediate danger. I jumped up and ran,
just as I was, into his room. It was nearly pitch dark, but as I opened
the door there was light enough to see Father’s nightdress as he lay on
the floor under the safe, just as on that first awful night. Then I
think I must have gone mad for a moment.” She stopped and shuddered.
My eyes lit on Sergeant Daw, still fiddling in an aimless way with the
revolver. Mindful of my work with the tourniquet, I said calmly:

“Now tell us, Sergeant Daw, what did you fire at?” The policeman seemed
to pull himself together with the habit of obedience. Looking around at
the servants remaining in the room, he said with that air of importance
which, I take it, is the regulation attitude of an official of the law
before strangers:

“Don’t you think, sir, that we can allow the servants to go away? We
can then better go into the matter.” I nodded approval; the servants
took the hint and withdrew, though unwillingly, the last one closing the
door behind him. Then the Detective went on:

“I think I had better tell you my impressions, sir, rather than recount
my actions. That is, so far as I remember them.” There was a mortified
deference now in his manner, which probably arose from his consciousness
of the awkward position in which he found himself. “I went to sleep
half-dressed–as I am now, with a revolver under my pillow. It was the
last thing I remember thinking of. I do not know how long I slept. I
had turned off the electric light, and it was quite dark. I thought I
heard a scream; but I can’t be sure, for I felt thick-headed as a man
does when he is called too soon after an extra long stretch of work.
Not that such was the case this time. Anyhow my thoughts flew to the
pistol. I took it out, and ran on to the landing. Then I heard a sort
of scream, or rather a call for help, and ran into this room. The room
was dark, for the lamp beside the Nurse was out, and the only light was
that from the landing, coming through the open door. Miss Trelawny was
kneeling on the floor beside her father, and was screaming. I thought I
saw something move between me and the window; so, without thinking, and
being half dazed and only half awake, I shot at it. It moved a little
more to the right between the windows, and I shot again. Then you came
up out of the big chair with all that muffling on your face. It seemed
to me, being as I say half dazed and half awake–I know, sir, you will
take this into account–as if it had been you, being in the same
direction as the thing I had fired at. And so I was about to fire again
when you pulled off the wrap.” Here I asked him–I was cross-examining
now and felt at home:

“You say you thought I was the thing you fired at. What thing?” The
man scratched his head, but made no reply.

“Come, sir,” I said, “what thing; what was it like?” The answer came in
a low voice:

“I don’t know, sir. I thought there was something; but what it was, or
what it was like, I haven’t the faintest notion. I suppose it was
because I had been thinking of the pistol before I went to sleep, and
because when I came in here I was half dazed and only half awake–which I
hope you will in future, sir, always remember.” He clung to that
formula of excuse as though it were his sheet-anchor. I did not want to
antagonise the man; on the contrary I wanted to have him with us.
Besides, I had on me at that time myself the shadow of my own default;
so I said as kindly as I knew how:

“Quite right! Sergeant. Your impulse was correct; though of course in
the half-somnolent condition in which you were, and perhaps partly
affected by the same influence–whatever it may be–which made me sleep
and which has put the Nurse in that cataleptic trance, it could not be
expected that you would paused to weigh matters. But now, whilst the
matter is fresh, let me see exactly where you stood and where I sat. We
shall be able to trace the course of your bullets.” The prospect of
action and the exercise of his habitual skill seemed to brace him at
once; he seemed a different man as he set about his work. I asked Mrs.
Grant to hold the tourniquet, and went and stood where he had stood and
looked where, in the darkness, he had pointed. I could not but notice
the mechanical exactness of his mind, as when he showed me where he had
stood, or drew, as a matter of course, the revolver from his pistol
pocket, and pointed with it. The chair from which I had risen still
stood in its place. Then I asked him to point with his hand only, as I
wished to move in the track of his shot.

Just behind my chair, and a little back of it, stood a high buhl
cabinet. The glass door was shattered. I asked:

“Was this the direction of your first shot or your second?” The answer
came promptly.

“The second; the first was over there!”

He turned a little to the left, more toward the wall where the great
safe stood, and pointed. I followed the direction of his hand and came
to the low table whereon rested, amongst other curios, the mummy of the
cat which had raised Silvio’s ire. I got a candle and easily found the
mark of the bullet. It had broken a little glass vase and a tazza of
black basalt, exquisitely engraved with hieroglyphics, the graven lines
being filled with some faint green cement and the whole thing being
polished to an equal surface. The bullet, flattened against the wall,
lay on the table.

I then went to the broken cabinet. It was evidently a receptacle for
valuable curios; for in it were some great scarabs of gold, agate, green
jasper, amethyst, lapis lazuli, opal, granit, and blue-green china.
None of these things happily were touched. The bullet had gone through
the back of the cabinet; but no other damage, save the shattering of the
glass, had been done. I could not but notice the strange arrangement of
the curios on the shelf of the cabinet. All the scarabs, rings,
amulets, &c. were arranged in an uneven oval round an exquisitely-carved
golden miniature figure of a hawk-headed God crowned with a disk and
plumes. I did not wait to look further at present, for my attention was
demanded by more pressing things; but I determined to make a more minute
examination when I should have time. It was evident that some of the
strange Egyptian smell clung to these old curios; through the broken
glass came an added whiff of spice and gum and bitumen, almost stronger
than those I had already noticed as coming from others in the room.

All this had really taken but a few minutes. I was surprised when my
eye met, through the chinks between the dark window blinds and the
window cases, the brighter light of the coming dawn. When I went back
to the sofa and took the tourniquet from Mrs. Grant, she went over and
pulled up the blinds.

It would be hard to imagine anything more ghastly than the appearance of
the room with the faint grey light of early morning coming in upon it.
As the windows faced north, any light that came was a fixed grey light
without any of the rosy possibility of dawn which comes in the eastern
quarter of heaven. The electric lights seemed dull and yet glaring; and
every shadow was of a hard intensity. There was nothing of morning
freshness; nothing of the softness of night. All was hard and cold and
inexpressibly dreary. The face of the senseless man on the sofa seemed
of a ghastly yellow; and the Nurse’s face had taken a suggestion of
green from the shade of the lamp near her. Only Miss Trelawny’s face
looked white; and it was of a pallor which made my heart ache. It
looked as if nothing on God’s earth could ever again bring back to it
the colour of life and happiness.

It was a relief to us all when Doctor Winchester came in, breathless
with running. He only asked one question:

“Can anyone tell me anything of how this wound was gotten?” On seeing
the headshake which went round us under his glance, he said no more, but
applied himself to his surgical work. For an instant he looked up at
the Nurse sitting so still; but then bent himself to his task, a grave
frown contracting his brows. It was not till the arteries were tied and
the wounds completely dressed that he spoke again, except, of course,
when he had asked for anything to be handed to him or to be done for
him. When Mr. Trelawny’s wounds had been thoroughly cared for, he said
to Miss Trelawny:

“What about Nurse Kennedy?” She answered at once:

“I really do not know. I found her when I came into the room at
half-past two o’clock, sitting exactly as she does now. We have not
moved her, or changed her position. She has not wakened since. Even
Sergeant Daw’s pistol-shots did not disturb her.”

“Pistol-shots? Have you then discovered any cause for this new
outrage?” The rest were silent, so I answered:

“We have discovered nothing. I was in the room watching with the Nurse.
Earlier in the evening I fancied that the mummy smells were making me
drowsy, so I went out and got a respirator. I had it on when I came on
duty; but it did not keep me from going to sleep. I awoke to see the
room full of people; that is, Miss Trelawny and Sergeant Daw, being only
half awake and still stupefied by the same scent or influence which had
affected us, fancied that he saw something moving through the shadowy
darkness of the room, and fired twice. When I rose out of my chair,
with my face swathed in the respirator, he took me for the cause of the
trouble. Naturally enough, he was about to fire again, when I was
fortunately in time to manifest my identity. Mr. Trelawny was lying
beside the safe, just as he was found last night; and was bleeding
profusely from the new wound in his wrist. We lifted him on the sofa,
and made a tourniquet. That is, literally and absolutely, all that any
of us know as yet. We have not touched the knife, which you see lies
close by the pool of blood. Look!” I said, going over and lifting it.
“The point is red with the blood which has dried.”

Doctor Winchester stood quite still a few minutes before speaking:

“Then the doings of this night are quite as mysterious as those of last
night?”

“Quite!” I answered. He said nothing in reply, but turning to Miss
Trelawny said:

“We had better take Nurse Kennedy into another room. I suppose there is
nothing to prevent it?”

“Nothing! Please, Mrs. Grant, see that Nurse Kennedy’s room is ready;
and ask two of the men to come and carry her in.” Mrs. Grant went out
immediately; and in a few minutes came back saying:

“The room is quite ready; and the men are here.” By her direction two
footmen came into the room and, lifting up the rigid body of Nurse
Kennedy under the supervision of the Doctor, carried her out of the
room. Miss Trelawny remained with me in the sick chamber, and Mrs.
Grant went with the Doctor into the Nurse’s room.

When we were alone Miss Trelawny came over to me, and taking both my
hands in hers, said:

“I hope you won’t remember what i said. I did not mean it, and I was
distraught.” I did not make reply; but I held her hands and kissed
them. There are different ways of kissing a lady’s hands. This way was
intended as homage and respect; and it was accepted as such in the
high-bred, dignified way which marked Miss Trelawny’s bearing and every
movement. I went over to the sofa and looked down at the senseless man.
The dawn had come much nearer in the last few minutes, and there was
something of the clearness of day in the light. As I looked at the
stern, cold, set face, now as white as a marble monument in the pale
grey light, i could not but feel that there was some deep mystery beyond
all that had happened within the last twenty-six hours. Those beetling
brows screened some massive purpose; that high, broad forehead held some
finished train of reasoning, which the broad chin and massive jaw would
help to carry into effect. As I looked and wondered, there began to
steal over me again that phase of wandering thought which had last night
heralded the approach of sleep. I resisted it, and held myself sternly
to the present. This was easier to do when Miss Trelawny came close to
me, and, leaning her forehead against my shoulder, began to cry
silently. Then all the manhood in me woke, and to present purpose. It
was of little use trying to speak; words were inadequate to thought. But
we understood each other; she did not draw away when I put arm
protectingly over her shoulder as I used to do with my little sister
long ago when in her childish trouble she would come to her big brother
to be comforted. That very act or attitude of protection made me more
resolute in my purpose, and seemed to clear my brain of idle, dreamy
wandering in thought. With an instinct of greater protection, however,
I took away my arm as I heard the Doctor’s footstep outside the door.

When Doctor Winchester came in he looked intently at the patient before
speaking. His brows were set, and his mouth was a thin, hard line.
Presently he said:

“There is much in common between the sleep of your Father and Nurse
Kennedy. Whatever influence has brought it about has probably worked the
same way in both cases. In Kennedy’s case the coma is less marked. I
cannot but feel, however, that with her we may be able to do more and
more quickly than with this patient, as our hands are not tied. I have
placed her in a draught; and already she shows some signs, though very
faint ones, of ordinary unconsciousness. The rigidity of her limbs is
less, and her skin seems more sensitive–or perhaps I should say less
insensitive–to pain.”

“How is it, then,” I asked, “that Mr. Trelawny is still in this state of
insensibility; and yet, so far as we know, his body has not had such
rigidity at all?”

“That I cannot answer. The problem is one which we may solve in a few
hours; or it may need a few days. But it will be a useful lesson in
diagnosis to us all; and perhaps to many and many others after us, who
knows!” he added, with the genuine fire of an enthusiast.

As the morning wore on, he flitted perpetually between the two rooms,
watching anxiously over both patients. He made Mrs. Grant remain with
the Nurse, but either Miss Trelawny or I, generally both of us, remained
with the wounded man. We each managed, however, to get bathed and
dressed; the Doctor and Mrs. Grant remained with Mr. Trelawny whilst we
had breakfast.

Sergeant Daw went off to report at Scotland Yard the progress of the
night; and then to the local station to arrange for the coming of his
comrade, Wright, as fixed with Superintendent Dolan. When he returned I
could not but think that he had been hauled over the coals for shooting
in a sick-room; or perhaps for shooting at all without certain and
proper cause. His remark to me enlightened me in the matter:

“A good character is worth something, sir, in spite of what some of them
say. See! I’ve still got leave to carry my revolver.”

That day was a long and anxious one. Toward nightfall Nurse Kennedy so
far improved that the rigidity of her limbs entirely disappeared. She
still breathed quietly and regularly; but the fixed expression of her
face, though it was a calm enough expression, gave place to fallen
eyelids and the negative look of sleep. Doctor Winchester had, towards
evening, brought two more nurses, one of whom was to remain with Nurse
Kennedy and the other to share in the watching with Miss Trelawny, who
had insisted on remaining up herself. She had, in order to prepare for
the duty, slept for several hours in the afternoon. We had all taken
counsel together, and had arranged thus for the watching in Mr.
Trelawny’s room. Mrs. Grant was to remain beside the patient till
twelve, when Miss Trelawny would relieve her. The new nurse was to sit
in Miss Trelawny’s room, and to visit the sick chamber each quarter of
an hour. The Doctor would remain till twelve; when I was to relieve
him. One or other of the detectives was to remain within hail of the
room all night; and to pay periodical visits to see that all was well.
Thus, the watchers would be watched; and the possibility of such events
as last night, when the watchers were both overcome, would be avoided.

When the sun set, a strange and grave anxiety fell on all of us; and in
our separate ways we prepared for the vigil. Doctor Winchester had
evidently been thinking of my respirator, for he told me he would go out
and get one. Indeed, he took to the idea so kindly that I persuaded
Miss Trelawny also to have one which she could put on when her time for
watching came.

And so the night drew on.

Chapter V
More Strange Instructions

When I came from my room at half-past eleven o’clock I found all well in
the sick-room. The new nurse, prim, neat, and watchfull, sat in the
chair by the bedside where Nurse Kennedy had sat last night. A little
way off, between the bed and the safe, sat Dr. Winchester alert and
wakeful, but looking strange and almost comic with the respirator over
mouth and nose. As I stood in the doorway looking at them I heard a
slight sound; turning round I saw the new detective, who nodded, held up
the finger of silence and withdrew quietly. Hitherto no one of the
watchers was overcome by sleep.

I took a chair outside the door. As yet there was no need for me to
risk coming again under the subtle influence of last night. Naturally
my thoughts went revolving round the main incidents of the last day and
night, and I found myself arriving at strange conclusions, doubts,
conjectures; but I did not lose myself, as on last night, in trains of
thought. The sense of the present was ever with me, and I really felt
as should a sentry on guard. Thinking is not a slow process; and when
it is earnest the time can pass quickly. It seemed a very short time
indeed till the door, usually left ajar, was pulled open and Dr.
Winchester emerged, taking off his respirator as he came. His act, when
he had it off, was demostrative of his keenness. He turned up the
outside of the wrap and smelled it carefully.

“I am going now,” he said. “I shall come early in the morning; unless,
of course, I am sent for before. But all seems well tonight.”

The next to appear was Sergeant Daw, who went quietly into the room and
took the seat vacated by the Doctor. I still remained outside; but
every few minutes looked into the room. This was rather a form than a
matter of utility, for the room was so dark that coming even from the
dimly-lighted corridor it was hard to distinguish anything.

A little before twelve o’clock Miss Trelawny came from her room. Before
coming to her father’s she went into that occupied by Nurse Kennedy.
After a couple of minutes she came out, looking, I thought, a trifle
more cheerful. She had her respirator in her hand, but before putting
it on, asked me if anything special had occurred since she had gone to
lie down. I answered in a whisper–there was no loud talking in the
house tonight–that all was safe, was well. She then put on her
respirator, and I mine; and we entered the room. The Detective and the
Nurse rose up, and we took their places. Sergeant Daw was the last to
go out; he closed the door behind him as we had arranged.

For a while I sat quiet, my heart beating. The place was grimly dark.
The only light was a faint one from the top of the lamp which threw a
white circle on the high ceiling, except the emerald sheen of the shade
as the light took its under edges. Even the light only seemed to
emphasize the blackness of the shadows. These presently began to seem,
as on last night, to have a sentience of their own. I did not myself
feel in the least sleepy; and each time I went softly over to look at
the patient, which I did about every ten minutes, I could see that Miss
Trelawny was keenly alert. Every quarter of an hour one or other of the
policemen looked in through the partly opened door. Each time both Miss
Trelawny and I said through our mufflers, “all right,” and the door was
closed again.

As the time wore on, the silence and the darkness seemed to increase.
The circle of light on the ceiling was still there, but it seemed less
brilliant than at first. The green edging of the lamp-shade became like
Maori greenstone rather than emerald. The sounds of the night without
the house, and the starlight spreading pale lines along the edges of the
window-cases, made the pall of black within more solemn and more
mysterious.

We heard the clock in the corridor chiming the quarters with its silver
bell till two o’clock; and then a strange feeling came over me. I could
see from Miss Trelawny’s movement as she looked round, that she also had
some new sensation. The new detective had just looked in; we two were
alone with the unconscious patient for another quarter of an hour.

My heart began to beat wildly. There was a sense of fear over me. Not
for myself; my fear was impersonal. It seemed as though some new person
had entered the room, and that a strong intelligence was awake close to
me. Something brushed against my leg. I put my hand down hastily and
touched the furry coat of Silvio. With a very faint far-away sound of a
snarl he turned and scratched at me. I felt blood on my hand. I rose
gently and came over to the bedside. Miss Trelawny, too, had stood up
and was looking behind her, as though there was something close to her.
Her eyes were wild, and her breast rose and fell as though she were
fighting for air. When I touched her she did not seem to feel me; she
worked her hands in front of her, as though she was fending off
something.

There was not an instant to lose. I seized her in my arms and rushed
over to the door, threw it open, and strode into the passage, calling
loudly:

“Help! Help!”

In an instant the two Detectives, Mrs. Grant, and the Nurse appeared on
the scene. Close on their heels came several of the servants, both men
and women. Immediately Mrs. Grant came near enough, I placed Miss
Trelawny in her arms, and rushed back into the room, turning up the
electric light as soon as I could lay my hand on it. Sergeant Daw and
the Nurse followed me.

We were just in time. Close under the great safe, where on the two
succesive nights he had been found, lay Mr. Trelawny with his left arm,
bare save for the bandages, stretched out. Close by his side was a
leaf-shaped Egyptian knife which had lain amongst the curios on the
shelf of the broken cabinet. Its point was stuck in the parquet floor,
whence had been removed the blood-stained rug.

But there was no sign of disturbance anywhere; nor any sign of any one
or anything unusual. The Policemen and I searched the room accurately,
whilst the Nurse and two of the servants lifted the wounded man back to
bed; but no sign or clue could we get. Very soon Miss Trelawny returned
to the room. She was pale but collected. When she came close to me she
said in a low voice:

“I felt myself fainting. I did not know why; but I was afraid!”

The only other shock I had was when Miss Trelawny cried out to me, as I
placed my hand on the bed to lean over and look carefully at her father:

“You are wounded. Look! look! your hand is bloody. There is blood on
the sheets!” I had, in the excitement, quite forgotten Silvio’s scratch.
As I looked at it, the recollection came back to me; but before I could
say a word Miss Trelawny had caught hold of my hand and lifted it up.
When she saw the parallel lines of the cuts she cried out again:

“It is the same wound as Father’s!” Then she laid my hand down gently
but quickly, and said to me and to Sergeant Daw:

“Come to my room! Silvio is there in his basket.” We followed her, and
found Silvio sitting in his basket awake. He was licking his paws. The
Detective said:

“He is there sure enough; but why licking his paws?”

Margaret–Miss Trelawny–gave a moan as she bent over and took one of
the forepaws in her hand; but the cat seemed to resent it and snarled.
At that Mrs. Grant came into the room. When she saw that we were
looking at the cat she said:

“The Nurse tells me that Silvio was asleep on Nurse Kennedy’s bed ever
since you went to your Father’s room until a while ago. He came there
just after you had gone to master’s room. Nurse says that Nurse Kennedy
is moaning and muttering in her sleep as though she had a nightmare. I
think we should send for Dr. Winchester.”

“Do so at once, please!” said Miss Trelawny; and we went back to the
room.

For a while Miss Trelawny stood looking at her father, with her brows
wrinkled. Then, turning to me, as though her mind were made up, she
said:

“Don’t you think we should have a consultation on Father? Of course I
have every confidence in Doctor Winchester; he seems an immensely clever
young man. But he is a young man; and there must be men who have
devoted themselves to this branch of science. Such a man would have
more knowledge and more experience; and his knowledge and experience
might help to throw light on poor Father’s case. As it is, Doctor
Winchester seems to be quite in the dark. Oh! I don’t know what to do.
It is all so terrible!” Here she broke down a little and cried; and I
tried to comfort her.

Doctor Winchester arrived quickly. His first thought was for his
patient; but when he found him without further harm, he visited Nurse
Kennedy. When he saw her, a hopeful look came into his eyes. Taking a
towel, he dipped a corner of it in cold water and flicked on the face.
The skin coloured, and she stirred slightly. He said to the new nurse–
Sister Doris he called her:

“She is all right. She will wake in a few hours at latest. She may be
dizzy and distraught at first, or perhaps hysterical. If so, you know
how to treat her.”

“Yes, sir!” answered Sister Doris demurely; and we went back to Mr.
Trelawny’s room. As soon as we had entered, Mrs. Grant and the Nurse
went out so that only Doctor Winchester, Miss Trelawny, and myself
remained in the room. When the door had been closed Doctor Winchester
asked me as to what had occurred. I told him fully, giving exactly
every detail so far as I could remember. Throughout my narrative, which
did not take long, however, he kept asking me questions as to who had
been present and the order in which each one had come into the room. He
asked other things, but nothing of any importance; these were all that
took my attention, or remained in my memory. When our conversation was
finished, he said in a very decided way indeed, to Miss Trelawny:

“I think, Miss Trelawny, that we had better have a consultation on this
case.” She answered at once, seemingly a little to his surprise:

“I am glad you have mentioned it. I quite agree. Who would you
suggest?”

“Have you any choice yourself?” he asked. “Any one to whom your Father
is known? Has he ever consulted any one?”

“Not to my knowledge. But I hope you will choose whoever you think
would be best. My dear Father should have all the help that can be had;
and I shall be deeply obliged by your choosing. Who is the best man in
London–anywhere else–in such a case?”

“There are several good men; but they are scattered all over the world.
Somehow, the brain specialist is born, not made; though a lot of hard
work goes to the completing of him and fitting him for his work. He
comes from no country. The most daring investigator up to the present
is Chiuni, the Japanese; but he is rather a surgical experimentalist
than a practitioner. Then there is Zammerfest of Uppsala, and Fenelon
of the University of Paris, and Morfessi of Naples. These, of course,
are in addition to our own men, Morrison of Aberdeen and Richardson of
Birmingham. But before them all I would put Frere of King’s College. Of
all that I have named he best unites theory and practice. He has no
hobbies–that have been discovered at all events; and his experience is
immense. It is the regret of all of us who admire him that the nerve so
firm and the hand so dexterous must yield to time. For my own part I
would rather have Frere than any one living.”

“Then,” said Miss Trelawny decisively, “let us have Doctor Frere–by the
way, is he ‘Doctor’ or ‘Mister’?–as early as we can get him in the
morning!”

A weight seemed removed from him, and he spoke with greater ease and
geniality than he had yet shown:

“He is Sir James Frere. I shall go to him myself as early as it is
possibly to see him, and shall ask him to come here at once.” Then
turning to me he said:

“You had better let me dress your hand.”

“It is nothing,” I said.

“Nevertheless it should be seen to. A scratch from any animal might
turn out dangerous; there is nothing like being safe.” I submitted;
forthwith he began to dress my hand. He examined with a
magnifying-glass the several parallel wounds, and compared them with the
slip of blotting-paper, marked with Silvio’s claws, which he took from
his pocket-book. He put back the paper, simply remarking:

“It’s a pity that Silvio slips in–and out–just when he shouldn’t.”

The morning wore slowly on. By ten o’clock Nurse Kennedy had so far
recovered that she was able to sit up and talk intelligibly. But she
was still hazy in her thoughts; and could not remember anything that had
happened on the previous night, after her taking her place by the
sick-bed. As yet she seemed neither to know nor care what had happened.

It was nearly eleven o’clock when Doctor Winchester returned with Sir
James Frere. Somehow I felt my heart sink when from the landing I saw
them in the hall below; I knew that Miss Trelawny was to have the pain
of telling yet another stranger of her ignorance of her father’s life.

Sir James Frere was a man who commanded attention followed by respect.
He knew so thoroughly what he wanted himself, that he placed at once on
one side all wishes and ideas of less definite persons. The mere flash
of his piercing eyes, or the set of his resolute mouth, or the lowering
of his great eyebrows, seemed to compel immediate and willing obedience
to his wishes. Somehow, when we had all been introduced and he was well
amongst us, all sense of mystery seemed to melt away. It was with a
hopeful spirit that I saw him pass into the sick-room with Doctor
Winchester.

They remained in the room a long time; once they sent for the Nurse, the
new one, Sister Doris, but she did not remain long. Again they both
went into Nurse Kennedy’s room. He sent out the nurse attendant on her.
Doctor Winchester told me afterward that Nurse Kennedy, though she was
ignorant of later matters, gave full and satisfactory answers to all
Doctor Frere’s questions relating to her patient up to the time she
became unconscious. Then they went to the study, where they remained so
long, and their voices raised in heated discussion seemed in such
determined opposition, that I began to feel uneasy. As for Miss
Trelawny, she was almost in a state of collapse from nervousness before
they joined us. Poor girl! she had had a sadly anxious time of it, and
her nervous strength had almost broken down.

They came out at last, Sir James first, his grave face looking as
unenlightening as that of the sphinx. Doctor Winchester followed him
closely; his face was pale, but with that kind of pallor which looked
like a reaction. It gave me the idea that it had been red not long
before. Sir James asked that Miss Trelawny would come into the study.
He suggested that I should come also. When we had enterd, Sir James
turned to me and said:

“I understand from Doctor Winchester that you are a friend of Miss
Trelawny, and that you have already considerable knowledge of this case.
Perhaps it will be well that you should be with us. I know you already
as a keen lawyer, Mr. Ross, though I never had the pleasure of meeting
you. As Doctor Winchester tells me that there are some strange matters
outside this case which seem to puzzle him–and others–and in which he
thinks you may yet be specially interested, it might be as well that you
should know every phase of the case. For myself I do not take much
account of mysteries–except those of science; and as there seems to be
some idea of an attempt at assassination or robbery, all I can say is
that if assassins were at work they ought to take some elementary
lessons in anatomy before their next job, for they seem thoroughly
ignorant. If robbery were their purpose, they seem to have worked with
marvellous inefficiency. That, however, is not my business.” Here he
took a big pinch of snuff, and turning to to Miss Trelawny, went on:
“Now as to the patient. Leaving out the cause of his illness, all we can
say at present is that he appears to be suffering from a marked attack
of catalepsy. At present nothing can be done, except to sustain his
strength. The treatment of my friend Doctor Winchester is mainly such
as I approve of; and I am confident that should any slight change arise
he will be able to deal with it satisfactorily. It is an interesting
case–most interesting; and should any new or abnormal development arise
I shall be happy to come at any time. There is just one thing to which
I wish to call your attention; and I put it to you, Miss Trelawny,
directly, since it is your responsibility. Doctor Winchester informs me
that you are not yourself free in the matter, but are bound by an
instruction given by your Father in case just such a condition of things
should arise. I would strongly advise that the patient be removed to
another room; or, as an alternative, that those mummies and all such
things should be removed from his chamber. Why, it’s enough to put any
man into an abnormal condition, to have such an assemblage of horrors
round him, and to breathe the atmosphere which they exhale. You have
evidence already of how such mephitic odour may act. That nurse–
Kennedy, I think you said, Doctor–isn’t yet out of her state of
catalepsy; and you, Mr. Ross, have, I am told, experienced something of
the same effects. I know this”–here his eyebrows came down more than
ever, and his mouth hardened–“if I were in charge here I should insist
on the patient having a different atmosphere; or I would throw up the
case. Doctor Winchester already knows that I can only be again
consulted on this condition being fulfilled. But I trust that you will
see your way, as a good daughter to my mind should, to looking to your
Father’s health and sanity rather than to any whim of his–whether
supported or not by a foregoing fear, or by any number of “penny
dreadful” mysteries. The day has hardly come yet, I am glad to say,
when the British Museum and St. Thomas’s Hospital have exchanged their
normal functions. Good-day, Miss Trelawny. I earnestly hope that I may
soon see your Father restored. Remember, that should you fulfil the
elementary condition which I have laid down, I am at your service day or
night. Good-morning, Mr. Ross. I hope you will be able to report to me
soon, Doctor Winchester.”

When he had gone we stood silent, till the rumble of his carriage wheels
died away. The first to speak was Doctor Winchester:

“I think it well to say that to my mind, speaking purely as a physician,
he is quite right. I feel as if I could have assaulted him when he made
it a condition of not giving up the case; but all the same he is right
as to treatment. He does not understand that there is something odd
about this special case; and he will not realise knot that we are all
tied up in by Mr. Trelawny’s instructions. Of course–” He was
interrupted by Miss Trelawny:

“Doctor Winchester, do you, too, wish to give up the case; or are you
willing to continue it under the conditions you know?”

“Give it up! Less now than ever. Miss Trelawny, I shall never give it
up, so long as life is left to him or any of us!” She said nothing, but
held out her hand, which he took warmly.

“Now,” said she, “if Sir James Frere is a type of the cult of
Specialists, I want no more of them. To start with, he does not seem to
know any more than you do about my Father’s condition; and if he were a
hundredth part as much interested in it as you are, he would not stand
on such punctilio. Of course, I am only too anxious about my poor
Father; and if I can see a way to meet either of Sir James Frere’s
conditions, I shall do so. I shall ask Mr. Marvin to come here today,
and advise me as to the limit of Father’s wishes. If he thinks I am
free to act in any way on my own responsibility, I shall not hesitate to
do so.” Then Doctor Winchester took his leave.

Miss Trelawny sat down and wrote a letter to Mr. Marvin, telling him of
the state of affairs, and asking him to come and see her and to bring
with him any papers which might throw any light on the subject. She
sent the letter off with a carriage to bring back the solicitor; we
waited with what patience we could for his coming.

It is not a very long journey for oneself from Kensington Palace Gardens
to Lincoln’s Inn Fields; but it seemed endlessly long when waiting for
someone else to take it. All things, however, are amenable to Time; it
was less than an hour all told when Mr. Marvin was with us.

He recognised Miss Trelawny’s impatience, and when he had learned
sufficient of her father’s illness, he said to her:

“Whenever you are ready I can go with you into particulars regarding
your Father’s wishes.”

“Whenever you like,” she said, with an evident ignorance of his meaning.
“Why not now?” He looked at me, as to a fellow man of business, and
stammered out:

“We are not alone.”

“I have brought Mr. Ross here on purpose,” she answered. “He knows so
much at present, that I want him to know more.” The solicitor was a
little disconcerted, a thing which those knowing him only in courts
would hardly have believed. He answered, however, with some hesitation:

“But, my dear young lady–Your Father’s wishes!–Confidence between father
and child–”

Here she interrupted him; there was a tinge of red in her pale cheeks as
she did so:

“Do you really think that applies to the present circumstances, Mr.
Marvin? My Father never told me anything of his affairs; and I can now,
in this sad extremity, only learn his wishes through a gentleman who is
a stranger to me and of whom I never even heard till I got my Father’s
letter, written to be shown to me only in extremity. Mr. Ross is a new
friend; but he has all my confidence, and I should like him to be
present. Unless, of course,” she added, ‘such a thing is forbidden by
my Father. Oh! forgive me, Mr. Marvin, if I seem rude; but I have been
in such dreadful trouble and anxiety lately, that I have hardly command
of myself.” She covered her eyes with her hand for a few seconds; we
two men looked at each other and waited, trying to appear unmoved. She
went on more firmly; she had recovered herself:

“Please! please do not think I am ungrateful to you for your kindness in
coming here and so quickly. I really am grateful; and I have every
confidence in your judgment. If you wish, or think it best, we can be
alone.” I stood up; but Mr. Marvin made a dissentient gesture. He was
evidently pleased with her attitude; there was geniality in his voice
and manner as he spoke:

“Not at all! Not at all! There is no restriction on your Father’s
part; and on my own I am quite willing. Indeed, all told, it may be
better. From what you have said of Mr. Trelawny’s illness, and the
other–incidental–matters, it will be well in case of any grave
eventuality, that it was understood from the first, that circumstances
were ruled by your Father’s own imperative instructions. For, please
understand me, his instructions are imperative–most imperative. They
are so unyielding that he has given me a Power of Attorney, under which
I have undertaken to act, authorising me to see his written wishes
carried out. Please believe me once for all, that he intended fully
everything mentioned in that letter to you! Whilst he is alive he is to
remain in his own room; and none of his property is to be removed from
it under any circumstances whatever. He has even given an inventory of
the articles which are not to be displaced.”

Miss Trelawny was silent. She looked somewhat distressed; so, thinking
that I understood the immediate cause, I asked:

“May we see the list?” Miss Trelawny’s face at once brightened; but it
fell again as the lawyer answered promptly–he was evidently prepared for
the question:

“Not unless I am compelled to take action on the Power of Attorney. I
have brought that instrument with me. You will recognise, Mr. Ross”–he
said this with a sort of business conviction which I had noticed in his
professional work, as he handed me the deed–“how strongly it is worded,
and how the grantor made his wishes apparent in such a way as to leave
no loophole. It is his own wording, except for certain legal
formalities; and I assure you I have seldom seen a more iron-clad
document. Even I myself have no power to make the slightest relaxation
of the instructions, without committing a distinct breach of faith. And
that, I need not tell you, is impossible.” He evidently added the last
words in order to prevent an appeal to his personal consideration. He
did not like the seeming harshness of his words, however, for he added:

“I do hope, Miss Trelawny, that you understand that I am willing–
frankly and unequivocally willing–to do anything I can, within the
limits of my power, to relieve your distress. But your Father had, in
all his doings, some purpose of his own which he did not disclose to me.
So far as I can see, there is not a word of his instructions that he had
not thought over fully. Whatever idea he had in his mind was the idea
of a lifetime; he had studied it in every possible phase, and was
prepared to guard it at every point.

“Now I fear I have distressed you, and I am truly sorry for it; for I
see you have much–too much–to bear already. But I have no alternative.
If you want to consult me at any time about anything, I promise you I
will come without a moment’s delay, at any hour of the day or night.
There is my private address,” he scribbled in his pocket-book as he
spoke, “and under it the address of my club, where I am generally to be
found in the evening.” He tore out the paper and handed it to her. She
thanked him. He shook hands with her and with me and withdrew.

As soon as the hall door was shut on him, Mrs. Grant tapped at the door
and came in. There was such a look of distress in her face that Miss
Trelawny stood up, deadly white, and asked her:

“What is it, Mrs. Grant? What is it? Any new trouble?”

“I grieve to say, miss, that the servants, all but two, have given
notice and want to leave the house today. They have talked the matter
over among themselves; the butler has spoken for the rest. He says as
how they are willing to forego their wages, and even to pay their legal
obligations instead of notice; but that go today they must.”

“What reason do they give?”

“None, miss. They say as how they’re sorry, but that they’ve nothing to
say. I asked Jane, the upper housemaid, miss, who is not with the rest
but stops on; and she tells me confidential that they’ve got some notion
in their silly heads that the house is haunted!”

We ought to have laughed, but we didn’t. I could not look in Miss
Trelawny’s face and laugh. The pain and horror there showed no sudden
paroxysm of fear; there was a fixed idea of which this was a
confirmation. For myself, it seemed as if my brain had found a voice.
But the voice was not complete; there was some other thought, darker and
deeper, which lay behind it, whose voice had not sounded as yet.

Chapter VI
Suspicions

The first to get full self-command was Miss Trelawny. There was a
haughty dignity in her bearing as she said:

“Very well, Mrs. Grant; let them go! Pay them up to today, and a
month’s wages. They have hitherto been very good servants; and the
occasion of their leaving is not an ordinary one. We must not expect
much faithfulness from any one who is beset with fears. Those who
remain are to have in future double wages; and please send these to me
presently when I send word.” Mrs. Grant bristled with smothered
indignation; all the housekeeper in her was outraged by such generous
treatment of servants who had combined to give notice:

“They don’t deserve it, miss; them to go on so, after the way they have
been treated here. Never in my life have I seen servants so well
treated or anyone so good to them and gracious to them as you have been.
They might be in the household of a King for treatment. And now, just
as there is trouble, to go and act like this. It’s abominable, that’s
what it is!”

Miss Trelawny was very gentle with her, and smothered her ruffled
dignity; so that presently she went away with, in her manner, a lesser
measure of hostility to the undeserving. In quite a different frame of
mind she returned presently to ask if her mistress would like her to
engage a full staff of other servants, or at any rate try to do so.
“For you know, ma’am,” she went on, “when once a scare has been
established in the servants” hall, it’s wellnigh impossible to get rid
of it. Servants may come; but they go away just as quick. There’s no
holding them. They simply won’t stay; or even if they work out their
month’s notice, they lead you that life that you wish every hour of the
day that you hadn’t kept them. The women are bad enough, the huzzies;
but the men are worse!” There was neither anxiety nor indignation in
Miss Trelawny’s voice or manner as she said:

“I think, Mrs. Grant, we had better try to do with those we have.
Whilst my dear Father is ill we shall not be having any company, so that
there will be only three now in the house to attend to. If those
servants who are willing to stay are not enough, I should only get
sufficient to help them to do the work. It will not, I should think, be
difficult to get a few maids; perhaps some that you know already. And
please bear in mind, that those whom you get, and who are suitable and
will stay, are henceforth to have the same wages as those who are
remaining. Of course, Mrs. Grant, you well enough understand that
though I do not group you in any way with the servants, the rule of
double salary applies to you too.” As she spoke she extended her long,
fine-shaped hand, which the other took and then, raising it to her lips,
kissed it impressively with the freedom of an elder woman to a younger.
I could not but admire the generosity of her treatment of her servants.
In my mind I endorsed Mrs. Grant’s sotto voce remark as she left the
room:

“No wonder the house is like a King’s house, when the mistress is a
Princess!”

“A Princess!” That was it. The idea seemed to satisfy my mind, and to
bring back in a wave of light the first moment when she swept across my
vision at the ball in Belgrave Square. A queenly figure! tall and slim,
bending, swaying, undulating as the lily or the lotos. Clad in a
flowing gown of some filmy black material shot with gold. For ornament
in her hair she wore an old Egyptian jewel, a tiny crystal disk, set
between rising plumes carved in lapis lazuli. On her wrist was a broad
bangle or bracelet of antique work, in the shape of a pair of spreading
wings wrought in gold, with the feathers made of coloured gems. For all
her gracious bearing toward me, when our hostess introduced me, I was
then afraid of her. It was only when later, at the picnic on the river,
I had come to realise her sweet and gentle, that my awe changed to
something else.

For a while she sat, making some notes or memoranda. Then putting them
away, she sent for the faithful servants. I thought that she had better
have this interview alone, and so left her. When I came back there were
traces of tears in her eyes.

The next phase in which I had a part was even more disturbing, and
infinitely more painful. Late in the afternoon Sergeant Daw came into
the study where I was sitting. After closing the door carefully and
looking all round the room to make certain that we were alone, he came
close to me.

“What is it?” I asked him. “I see you wish to speak to me privately.”

“Quite so, sir! May I speak in absolute confidence?”

“Of course you may. In anything that is for the good of Miss Trelawny–
and of course Mr. Trelawny–you may be perfectly frank. I take it that
we both want to serve them to the best of our powers.” He hesitated
before replying:

“Of course you know that I have my duty to do; and I think you know me
well enough to know that I will do it. I am a policeman–a detective;
and it is my duty to find out the facts of any case I am put on, without
fear or favour to anyone. I would rather speak to you alone, in
confidence if I may, without reference to any duty of anyone to anyone,
except mine to Scotland Yard.”

“Of course! of course!” I answered mechanically, my heart sinking, I did
not know why. “Be quite frank with me. I assure you of my confidence.”

“Thank you, sir. I take it that what I say is not to pass beyond you–
not to anyone. Not to Miss Trelawny herself, or even to Mr. Trelawny
when he becomes well again.”

“Certainly, if you make it a condition!” I said a little more stiffly.
The man recognised the change in my voice or manner, and said
apologetically:

“Excuse me, sir, but I am going outside my duty in speaking to you at
all on the subject. I know you, however, of old; and I feel that I can
trust you. Not your word, sir, that is all right; but your discretion!”

I bowed. “Go on!” I said. He began at once:

“I have gone over this case, sir, till my brain begins to reel; but I
can’t find any ordinary solution of it. At the time of each attempt no
one has seemingly come into the house; and certainly no one has got out.
What does it strike you is the inference?”

“That the somebody–or the something–was in the house already,” I
answered, smiling in spite of myself.

“That’s just what I think,” he said, with a manifest sigh of relief.
“Very well! Who can be that someone?”

“‘Someone, or something,’ was what I said,” I answered.

“Let us make it ‘someone,’ Mr. Ross! That cat, though he might have
scratched or bit, never pulled the old gentleman out of bed, and tried
to get the bangle with the key off his arm. Such things are all very
well in books where your amateur detectives, who know everything before
it’s done, can fit them into theories; but in Scotland Yard, where the
men aren’t all idiots either, we generally find that when crime is done,
or attempted, it’s people, not things, that are at the bottom of it.”

“Then make it ‘people’ by all means, Sergeant.”

“We were speaking of ‘someone,’ sir.”

“Quite right. Someone, be it!”

“Did it ever strike you, sir, that on each of the three separate
occasions where outrage was effected, or attempted, there was one person
who was the first to be present and to give the alarm?”

“Let me see! Miss Trelawny, I believe, gave the alarm on the first
occasion. I was present myself, if fast asleep, on the second; and so
was Nurse Kennedy. When I woke there were several people in the room;
you were one of them. I understand that on that occasion also Miss
Trelawny was before you. At the last attempt I was Miss Trelawny
fainted. I carried her out and went back. In returning, I was first;
and I think you were close behind me.”

Sergeant Daw thought for a moment before replying:

“She was present, or first, in the room on all the occasions; there was
only damage done in the first and second!”

The inference was one which I, as a lawyer, could not mistake. I
thought the best thing to do was to meet it half-way. I have always
found that the best way to encounter an inference is to cause it to be
turned into a statement.

“You mean,” I said, “that as on the only occasions when actual harm was
done, Miss Trelawny’s being the first to discover it is a proof that she
did it; or was in some way connected with the attempt, as well as the
discovery?”

“I didn’t venture to put it as clear as that; but that is where the
doubt which I had leads.” Sergeant Daw was a man of courage; he
evidently did not shrink from any conclusion of his reasoning on facts.

We were both silent for a while. Fears began crowding in on my own
mind. Not doubts of Miss Trelawny, or of any act of hers; but fears
lest such acts should be misunderstood. There was evidently a mystery
somewhere; and if no solution to it could be found, the doubt would be
cast on someone. In such cases the guesses of the majority are bound to
follow the line of least resistance; and if it could be proved that any
personal gain to anyone could follow Mr. Trelawny’s death, should such
ensue, it might prove a difficult task for anyone to prove innocence in
the face of suspicious facts. I found myself instinctively taking that
deferential course which, until the plan of battle of the prosecution is
unfolded, is so safe an attitude for the defence. It would never do for
me, at this stage, to combar any theories which a detective might form.
I could best help Miss Trelawny by listening and understanding. When
the time should come for the dissipation and obliteration of the
theories, I should be quite willing to use all my militant ardour, and
all the weapons at my command.

“You will of course do your duty, I know,” I said, “and without fear.
What course do you intend to take?”

“I don’t know as yet, sir. You see, up to now it isn’t with me even a
suspicion. If any one else told me that that sweet young lady had a
hand in such a matter, I would think him a fool; but I am bound to
follow my own conclusions. I know well that just as unlikely persons
have been proved guilty, when a whole court–all except the prosecution
who knew the facts, and the judge who had taught his mind to wait–would
have sworn to innocence. I wouldn’t, for all the world, wrong such a
young lady; more especial when she has such a cruel weight to bear. And
you will be sure that I won’t say a word that’ll prompt anyone else to
make such a charge. That’s why I speak to you in confidence, man to
man. You are skilled in proofs; that is your profession. Mine only
gets so far as suspicions, and what we call our own proofs–which are
nothing but ex parte evidence after all. You know Miss Trelawny better
than I do; and though I watch round the sick-room, and go where I like
about the house and in and out of it, I haven’t the same opportunities
as you have of knowing the lady and what her life is, or her means are;
or of anything else which might give me a clue to her actions. If I
were to try to find out from her, it would at once arouse her
suspicions. Then, if she were guilty, all possibility of ultimate proof
would go; for she would easily find a way to baffle discovery. But if
she be innocent, as I hope she is, it would be doing a cruel wrong to
accuse her. I have thought the matter over according to my lights
before I spoke to you; and if I have taken a liberty, sir, I am truly
sorry.”

“No liberty in the world, Daw,” I said warmly, for the man’s courage and
honesty and consideration compelled respect. “I am glad you have spoken
to me so frankly. We both want to find out the truth; and there is so
much about this case that is strange–so strange as to go beyond all
experiences–that to aim at truth is our only chance of making anything
clear in the long-run–no matter what our views are, or what object we
wish to achieve ultimately!” The Sergeant looked pleased as he went on:

“I thought, therefore, that if you had it once in your mind that
somebody else held to such a possibility, you would by degrees get
proof; or at any rate such ideas as would convince yourself, either for
or against it. Then we would come to some conclusion; or at any rate we
should so exhaust all other possibilities that the most likely one would
remain as the nearest thing to proof, or strong suspicion, that we could
get. After that we should have to–”

Just at this moment the door opened and Miss Trelawny entered the room.
The moment she saw us she drew back quickly, saying:

“Oh, I beg pardon! I did not know you were here, and engaged.” By the
time I had stood up, she was about to go back.

“Do come in,” I said; “Sergeant Daw and I were only talking matters
over.”

Whilst she was hesitating, Mrs. Grant appeared, saying as she entered
the room: “Doctor Winchester is come, miss, and is asking for you.”

I obeyed Miss Trelawny’s look; together we left the room.

When the Doctor had made his examination, he told us that there was
seemingly no change. He added that nevertheless he would like to stay
in the house that night is he might. Miss Trelawny looked glad, and
sent word to Mrs. Grant to get a room ready for him. Later in the day,
when he and I happened to be alone together, he said suddenly:

“I have arranged to stay here tonight because I want to have a talk
with you. And as I wish it to be quite private, I thought the least
suspicious way would be to have a cigar together late in the evening
when Miss Trelawny is watching her father.” We still kept to our
arrangement that either the sick man’s daughter or I should be on watch
all night. We were to share the duty at the early hours of the morning.
I was anxious about this, for I knew from our conversation that the
Detective would watch in secret himself, and would be particularly alert
about that time.

The day passed uneventfully. Miss Trelawny slept in the afternoon; and
after dinner went to relieve the Nurse. Mrs. Grant remained with her,
Sergeant Daw being on duty in the corridor. Doctor Winchester and I
took our coffee in the library. When we had lit our cigars he said
quietly:

“Now that we are alone I want to have a confidential talk. We are
’tiled,’ of course; for the present at all events?”

“Quite so!” I said, my heart sinking as I thought of my conversation
with Sergeant Daw in the morning, and of the disturbing and harrowing
fears which it had left in my mind. He went on:

“This case is enough to try the sanity of all of us concerned in it.
The more I think of it, the madder I seem to get; and the two lines,
each continually strengthened, seem to pull harder in opposite
directions.”

“What two lines?” He looked at me keenly for a moment before replying.
Doctor Winchester’s look at such moments was apt to be disconcerting.
It would have been so to me had I had a personal part, other than my
interest in Miss Trelawny, in the matter. As it was, however, I stood
it unruffled. I was now an attorney in the case; an amicus curiae in
one sense, in another retained for the defence. The mere thought that
in this clever man’s mind were two lines, equally strong and opposite,
was in itself so consoling as to neutralise my anxiety as to a new
attack. As he began to speak, the Doctor’s face wore an inscrutable
smile; this, however, gave place to a stern gravity as he proceeded:

“Two lines: Fact and–Fancy! In the first there is this whole thing;
attacks, attempts at robbery and murder; stupefyings; organised
catalepsy which points to either criminal hypnotism and thought
suggestion, or some simple form of poisoning unclassified yet in our
toxicology. In the other there is some influence at work which is not
classified in any book that I know–outside the pages of romance. I
never felt in my life so strongly the truth of Hamlet’s words:

‘There are more things in Heaven and earth…
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’

“Let us take the ‘Fact’ side first. Here we have a man in his home;
amidst his own household; plenty of servants of different classes in the
house, which forbids the possibility of an organised attempt made from
the servants” hall. He is wealthy, learned, clever. From his
physiognomy there is no doubting that he is a man of iron will and
determined purpose. His daughter–his only child, I take it, a young
girl bright and clever–is sleeping in the very next room to his. There
is seemingly no possible reason for expecting any attack or disturbance
of any kind; and no reasonable opportunity for any outsider to effect
it. And yet we have an attack made; a brutal and remorseless attack,
made in the middle of the night. Discovery is made quickly; made with
that rapidity which in criminal cases generally is found to be not
accidental, but of premeditated intent. The attacker, or attackers, are
manifestly disturbed before the completion of their work, whatever their
ultimate intent may have been. And yet there is no possible sign of
their escape; no clue, no disturbance of anything; no open door or
window; no sound. Nothing whatever to show who had done the deed, or
even that a deed has been done; except the victim, and his surroundings
incidental to the deed!

“The next night a similar attempt is made, though the house is full of
wakeful people; and though there are on watch in the room and around it
a detective officer, a trained nurse, an earnest friend, and the man’s
own daughter. The nurse is thrown into a catalepsy, and the watching
friend–though protected by a respirator–into a deep sleep. Even the
detective is so far overcome with some phase of stupor that he fires off
his pistol in the sick-room, and can’t even tell what he thought he was
firing at. That respirator of yours is the only thing that seems to
have a bearing on the ‘fact’ side of the affair. That you did not lose
your head as the others did–the effect in such case being in proportion
to the amount of time each remained in the room–points to the
probability that the stupefying medium was not hypnotic, whatever else
it may have been. But again, there is a fact which is contradictory.
Miss Trelawny, who was in the room more than any of you–for she was in
and out all the time and did her share of permanent watching also–did
not seem to be affected at all. This would show that the influence,
whatever it is, does not affect generally–unless, of course, it was that
she was in some way inured to it. If it should turn out that it be some
strange exhalation from some of those Egyptian curios, that might
account for it; only, we are then face to face with the fact that Mr.
Trelawny, who was most of all in the room–who, in fact, lived more than
half his life in it–was affected worst of all. What kind of influence
could it be which would account for all these different and
contradictory effects? No! the more I think of this form of the
dilemma, the more I am bewildered! Why, even if it were that the
attack, the physical attack, on Mr. Trelawny had been made by some one
residing in the house and not within the sphere of suspicion, the
oddness of the stupefyings would still remain a mystery. It is not easy
to put anyone into a catalepsy. Indeed, so far as is known yet in
science, there is no way to achieve such an object at will. The crux of
the whole matter is Miss Trelawny, who seems to be subject to none of
the influences, or possibly of the variants of the same influence at
work. Through all she goes unscathed, except for that one slight
semi-faint. It is most strange!”

I listened with a sinking heart; for, though his manner was not
illuminative of distrust, his argument was disturbing. Although it was
not so direct as the suspicion of the Detective, it seemed to single out
Miss Trelawny as different from all others concerned; and in a mystery
to be alone is to be suspected, ultimately if not immediately. I
thought it better not to say anything. In such a case silence is indeed
golden; and if I said nothing now I might have less to defend, or
explain, or take back later. I was, therefore, secretly glad that his
form of putting his argument did not require any answer from me–for the
present, at all events. Doctor Winchester did not seem to expect any
answer–a fact which, when I recognised it, gave my pleasure, I hardly
knew why. He paused for a while, sitting with his chin in his hand, his
eyes staring at vacancy, whilst his brows were fixed. His cigar was
held limp between his fingers; he had apparently forgotten it. In an
even voice, as though commencing exactly where he had left off, he
resumed his argument:

“The other horn of the dilemma is a different affair altogether; and if
we once enter on it we must leave everything in the shape of science and
experience behind us. I confess that it has its fascinations for me;
though at every new thought I find myself romancing in a way that makes
me pull up suddenly and look facts resolutely in the face. I sometimes
wonder whether the influence or emanation from the sick-room at times
affects me as it did the others–the Detective, for instance. Of course
it may be that if it is anything chemical, any drug, for example, in
vaporeal form, its effects may be cumulative. But then, what could
there be that could produce such an effect? The room is, I know, full
of mummy smell; and no wonder, with so many relics from the tomb, let
alone the actual mummy of that animal which Silvio attacked. By the
way, I am going to test him tomorrow; I have been on the trace of a
mummy cat, and am to get possession of it in the morning. Wnen I bring
it here we shall find out if it be a fact that racial instinct can
survive a few thousand years in the grave. However, to get back to the
subject in hand. These very mummy smells arise from the presence of
substances, and combinations of substances, which the Egyptian priests,
who were the learned men and scientists of their time, found by the
experience of centuries to be strong enough to arrest the natural forces
of decay. There must be powerful agencies at work to effect such a
purpose; and it is possible that we may have here some rare substance or
combination whose qualities and powers are not understood in this later
and more prosaic age. I wonder if Mr. Trelawny has any knowledge, or
even suspicion, of such a kind? I only know this for certain, that a
worse atmosphere for a sick chamber could not possibly be imagined; and
I admire the courage of Sir James Frere in refusing to have anything to
do with a case under such conditions. These instructions of Mr.
Trelawny to his daughter, and from what you have told me, the care with
which he has protected his wishes through his solicitor, show that he
suspected something, at any rate. Indeed, it would almost seem as if he
expected something to happen. . . .I wonder if it would be possible to
learn anything about that! Surely his papers would show or suggest
something. . . .It is a difficult matter to tackle; but it might have to
be done. His present condition cannot go on for ever; and if anything
should happen there would have to be an inquest. In such case full
examination would have to be made into everything. . . .As it stands,
the police evidence would show a murderous attack more than once
repeated. As no clue is apparent, it would be necessary to seek one in
a motive.”

He was silent. The last words seemed to come in a lower and lower tone
as he went on. It had the effect of hopelessness. It came to me as a
conviction that now was my time to find out if he had any definite
suspicion; and as if in obedience to some command, I asked:

“Do you suspect anyone?” He seemed in a way startled rather than
surprised as he turned his eyes on me:

“Suspect anyone? Any thing, you mean. I certainly suspect that there
is some influence; but at present my suspicion is held within such
limit. Later on, if there be any sufficiently definite conclusion to my
reasoning, or my thinking-for there are not proper data for reasoning-I
may suspect; at present however-”

He stopped suddenly and looked at the door. There was a faint sound as
the handle turned. My own heart seemed to stand still. There was over
me some grim, vague apprehension. The interruption in the morning, when
I was talking with the Detective, came back upon me with a rush.

The door opened, and Miss Trelawny entered the room.

When she saw us, she started back; and a deep flush swept her face. For
a few seconds she paused; at such a time a few succeeding seconds seem
to lengthen in geometrical progression. The strain upon me, and, as I
could easily see, on the Doctor also, relaxed as she spoke:

“Oh, forgive me, I did not know that you were engaged. I was looking
for you, Doctor Winchester, to ask you if I might go to bed tonight
with safety, as you will be here. I feel so tired and worn-out that I
fear I may break down; and tonight I would certainly not be of any
use.” Doctor Winchester answered heartily:

“Do! Do go to bed by all means, and get a good night’s sleep. God
knows! you want it. I am more than glad you have made the suggestion,
for I feared when I saw you tonight that I might have you on my hands a
patient next.”

She gave a sigh of relief, and the tired look seemed to melt from her
face. Never shall I forget the deep, earnest look in her great,
beautiful black eyes as she said to me:

“You will guard Father tonight, won’t you, with Doctor Winchester? I
am so anxious about him that every second brings new fears. But I am
really worn-out; and if I don’t get a good sleep, I think I shall go
mad. I will change my room for tonight. I’m afraid that if I stay so
close to Father’s room I shall multiply every sound into a new terror.
But, of course, you will have m e waked if there be any cause. I shall
be in the bedroom of the little suite next the boudoir off the hall. I
had those rooms when first I came to live with Father, and I had no care
then. . . .It will be easier to rest there; and perhaps for a few hours
I may forget. I shall be all right in the morning. Good-night!”

When I had closed the door behind her and come back to the little table
at which we had been sitting, Doctor Winchester said:

“That poor girl is overwrought to a terrible degree. I am delighted
that she is to get a rest. It will be life to her; and in the morning
she will be all right. Her nervous system is on the verge of a
breakdown. Did you notice how fearfully disturbed she was, and how red
she got when she came in and found us talking? An ordinary thing like
that, in her own house with her own guests, wouldn’t under normal
circumstances disturb her!”

I was about to tell him, as an explanation in her defence, how her
entrance was a repetition of her finding the Detective and myself alone
together earlier in the day, when I remembered that that conversation
was so private that even an allusion to it might be awkward in evoking
curiosity. So I remained silent.

We stood up to go to the sick-room; but as we took our way through the
dimly-lighted corridor I could not help thinking, again and again, and
again–ay, and for many a day after–how strange it was that she had
interrupted me on two such occasions when touching on such a theme.

There was certainly some strange web of accidents, in whose meshes we
were all involved.

Chapter VII
The Traveller’s Loss

That night everything went well. Knowing that Miss Trelawny herself was
not on guard, Doctor Winchester and I doubled our vigilance. The Nurses
and Mrs. Grant kept watch, and the Detectives made their visit each
quarter of an hour. All night the patient remained in his trance. He
looked healthy, and his chest rose and fell with the easy breathing of a
child. But he never stirred; only for his breathing he might have been
of marble. Doctor Winchester and I wore our respirators, and irksome
they were on that intolerably hot night. Between midnight and three
o’clock I felt anxious, and had once more that creepy feeling to which
these last few nights had accustome me; but the grey of the dawn,
stealing round the edges of the blinds, came with inexpressible relief,
followed by restfulness, went through the household. During the hot
night my ears, strained to every sound, had been almost painfully
troubled; as though my brain or sensoriea were in anxious touch with
them. Every breath of the Nurse or the rustle of her dress; every soft
pat of slippered feet, as the Policeman went his rounds; every moment of
watching life, seemed to be a new impetus to guardianship. Something of
the same feeling must have been abroad in the house; now and again I
could hear upstairs the sound of restless feet, and more than once
downstairs the opening of a window. With the coming of the dawn,
however, all this ceased, and the whole household seemed to rest.
Doctor Winchester went home when Sister Doris came to relieve Mrs.
Grant. He was, I think, a little disappointed or chagrined that nothing
of an exceptional nature had happened during his long night vigil.

At eight o’clock Miss Trelawny joined us, and I was amazed as well as
delighted to see how much good her night’s sleep had done her. She was
fairly radiant; just as I had seen her at our first meeting and at the
picnic. There was even a suggestion of colour in her cheeks, which,
however, looked startlingly white in contrast with her black brows and
scarlet lips. With her restored strength, there seemed to have come a
tenderness even exceeding that which she had at first shown to her sick
father. I could not but be moved by the loving touches as she fixed his
pillows and brushed the hair from his forehead.

I was wearied out myself with my long spell of watching; and now that
she was on guard I started off to be, blinking my tired eyes in the full
light and feeling the weariness of a sleepless night on me all at once.

I had a good sleep, and after lunch I was about to start out to walk to
Jermyn Street, when I noticed an importunate man at the hall door. The
servant in charge was the one called Morris, formerly the “odd man,” but
since the exodus of the servants promoted to be butler pro tem. The
stranger was speaking rather loudly, so that there was no difficulty in
understanding his grievance. The servant man was respectful in both
words and demeanour; but he stood squarely in front of the great double
door, so that the other could not enter. The first words which I heard
from the visitor sufficiently explained the situation:

“That’s all very well, but I tell you I must see Mr. Trelawny! What is
the use of your saying I can’t, when I tell you I must. You put me off,
and off, and off! I came here at nine; you said then tha he was not up,
and that as he was not well he could not be disturbed. I came at
twelve; and you told me again he was not up. I asked then to see any of
his household; you told me that Miss Trelawny was not up. Now I come
again at three, and you tell me he is still in bed, and is not awake
yet. Where is Miss Trelawny? ‘She is occupied and must not be
disturbed!’ Well, she must be disturbed! Or some one must. I am here
about Mr. Trelawny’s special business; and I have come from a place
where servants always begin by saying No. ‘No’ isn’t good enough for me
this time! I’ve had three years of it, waiting outside doors and tents
when it took longer to get in than it did into the tombs; and then you
would think, too, the men inside were as dead as the mummies. I’ve had
about enough of it, I tell you. And when I come home, and find the door
of the man I’ve been working for barred, in just the same way and with
the same old answers, it stirs me up the wrong way. Did Mr. Trelawny
leave orders that he would not see me when I should come?”

He paused and excitedly mopped his forehead. The servant answered very
respectfully:

“I am very sorry, sir, if in doing my duty I have given any offence.
But I have my orders, and must obey them. If you would like to leave
any message, I will give it to Miss Trelawny; and if you will leave your
address, she can communicate with you if she wishes.” The answer came
in such a way that it was easy to see that the speaker was a kind-
hearted man, and a just one.

“My good fellow, I have no fault to find with you personally; and I am
sorry if I have hurt your feelings. I must be just, even if I am angry.
But it is enough to anger any man to find himself in the position I am.
Time is pressing. There is not an hour–not a minute–to lose! And yet
here I am, kicking my heels for six hours; knowing all the time that
your master will be a hundred times angrier than I am, when he hears how
the time has been fooled away. He would rather be waked out of a
thousand sleeps than not see me just at present-and before it is too
late. My God! it’s simply dreadful, after all I’ve gone through, to
have my work spoiled at the last and be foiled in the very doorway by a
stupid flunkey! Is there no one with sense in the house; or with
authority, even if he hasn’t got sense? I could mighty soon convince
him that your master must be awakened; even if he sleeps like the Seven
Sleepers-”

There was no mistaking the man’s sincerity, or the urgency and
importance of his business; from his point of view at any rate. I
stepped forward.

“Morris,” I said, “you had better tell Miss Trelawny that this gentleman
wants to see her particularly. If she is busy, ask Mrs. Grant to tell
her.”

“Very good, sir!” he answered in a tone of relief, and hurried away.

I took the stranger into the little boudoir across the hall. As we went
he asked me:

“Are you the secretary?”

“No! I am a friend of Miss Trelawny’s. My name is Ross.”

“Thank you very much, Mr. Ross, for your kindness!” he said. “My name
is Corbeck. I would give you my card, but they don’t use cards where
I’ve come from. And if I had had any, I suppose they, too, would have
gone last night-”

He stopped suddenly, as though conscious that he had said too much. We
both remained silent; as we waited I took stock of him. A short, sturdy
man, brown as a coffee-berry; possibly inclined to be fat, but now lean
exceedingly. The deep wrinkles in his face and neck were not merely
from time and exposure; there were those unmistakable signs where flesh
or fat has fallen away, and the skin has become loose. The neck was
simply an intricate surface of seams and wrinkles, and sun-scarred with
the burning of the Desert. The Far East, the Tropic Seasons, and the
Desert–each can have its colour mark. But all three are quite
different; and an eye which has once known, can thenceforth easily
distinguish them. The dusky pallor of one; the fierce red-brown of the
other; and of the third, the dark, ingrained burning, as though it had
become a permanent colour. Mr. Corbeck had a big head, massive and
full; with shaggy, dark red-brown hair, but bald on the temples. His
forehead was a fine one, high and broad; with, to use the terms of
physiognomy, the frontal sinus boldly marked. The squareness of it
showed “ratiocination”; and the fulness under the eyes “language”. He
had the short, broad nose that marks energy; the square chin-marked
despite a thick, unkempt beard-and massive jaw that showed great
resolution.

“No bad man for the Desert!” I thought as I looked.

Miss Trelawny came very quickly. When Mr. Corbeck saw her, he seemed
somewhat surprised. But his annoyance and excitement had not
disappeared; quite enough remained to cover up any such secondary and
purely exoteric feeling as surprise. But as she spoke he never took his
eyes off her; and I made a mental note that I would find some early
opportunity of investigating the cause of his surprise. She began with
an apology which quite smoothed down his ruffled feelings:

“Of course, had my Father been well you would not have been kept
waiting. Indeed, had not I been on duty in the sick-room when you
called the first time, I should have seen you at once. Now will you
kindly tell me what is the matter which so presses?” He looked at me and
hesitated. She spoke at once:

“You may say before Mr. Ross anything which you can tell me. He has my
fullest confidence, and is helping me in my trouble. I do not think you
quite understand how serious my Father’s condition is. For three days
he has not waked, or given any sign of consciousness; and I am in
terrible trouble about him. Unhappily I am in great ignorance of my
Father and his life. I only came to live with him a year ago; and I
know nothing whatever of his affairs. I do not even know who you are,
or in what way your business is associated with him.” She said this
with a little deprecating smile, all conventional and altogether
graceful; as though to express in the most genuine way her absurd
ignorance.

He looked steadily at her for perhaps a quarter of a minute; then he
spoke, beginning at once as though his mind were made up and his
confidence established:

“My name is Eugene Corbeck. I am a Master of Arts and Doctor of Laws
and Master of Surgery of Cambridge; Doctor of Letters of Oxford; Doctor
of Science and Doctor of Languages of London University; Doctor of
Philosophy of Berlin; Doctor of Oriental Languages of Paris. I have
some other degrees, honorary and otherwise, but I need not trouble you
with them. Those I have name will show you that I am sufficiently
feathered with diplomas to fly into even a sick-room. Early in life-
fortunately for my interests and pleasures, but unfortunately for my
pocket-I fell in with Egyptology. I must have been bitten by some
powerful scarab, for I took it bad. I went out tomb-hunting; and
managed to get a living of a sort, and to learn some things that you
can’t get out of books. I was in pretty low water when I met your
Father, who was doing some explorations on his own account; and since
then I haven’t found that I have many unsatisfied wants. He is a real
patron of the arts; no mad Egyptologist can ever hope for a better
chief!”

He spoke with feeling; and I was glad to see that Miss Trelawny coloured
up with pleasure at the praise of her father. I could not help
noticing, however, that Mr. Corbeck was, in a measure, speaking as if
against time. I took it that he wished, while speaking, to study his
ground; to see how far he would be justified in taking into confidence
the two strangers before him. As he went on, I could see that his
confidence kept increasing. When I thought of it afterward, and
remembered what he had said, I realised that the measure of the
information which he gave us marked his growing trust.

“i have been several times out on expeditions in Egypt for your Father;
and I have always found it a delight to work for him. Many of his
treasures-and he has some rare ones, I tell you-he has procured through
me, either by my exploration or by purchase-or-or-otherwise. Your
Father, Miss Trelawny, has a rare knowledge. He sometimes makes up his
mind that he wants to find a particular thing, of whose existence-if it
still exists-he has become aware; and he will follow it all over the
world till he gets it. I’ve been on just such a chase now.”

He stopped suddenly, as suddenly as thought his mouth had been shut by
the jerk of a string. We waited; when he went on he spoke with a
caution that was new to him, as though he wished to forestall our asking
any questions:

“I am not at liberty to mentions anything of my mission; where it was
to, what it was for, or anything at all about it. Such matters are in
confidence between Mr. Trelawny and myself; I am pledged to absolute
secrecy.”

He paused, and an embarrassed look crept over his face. Suddenly he
said:

“You are sure, Miss Trelawny, your Father is not well enough to see me
today?”

A look of wonderment was on her face in turn. But it cleared at once;–
she stood up, saying in a tone in which dignity and graciousness were
blended:

“Come and see for yourself!” She moved toward her father’s room; he
followed, and I brought up the rear.

Mr. Corbeck entered the sick-room as though he knew it. There is an
unconscious attitude or bearing to persons in new surroundings which
there is no mistaking. Even in his anxiety to see his powerful friend,
he glanced for a moment round the room, as at a familiar place. Then
all his attention became fixed on the bed. I watched him narrowly, for
somehow I felt that on this man depended much of our enlightenment
regarding the strange matter in which we were involved.

It was not that I doubted him. The man was of transparent honesty; it
was this very quality which we had to dread. He was of that courageous,
fixed trueness to his undertaking, that if he should deem it his duty to
guard a secret he would do it to the last. The case before us was, at
least, an unusual one; and it would, consequently, require more liberal
recognition of bounds of the duty of secrecy than would hold under
ordinary conditions. To us, ignorance was helplessness. If we could
learn anything of the past we might at least form some idea of the
conditions antecedent to the attack; and might, so, achieve some means
of helping the patient to recovery. There were curios whish might be
removed. . . .My thoughts were beginning to whirl once again; I pulled
myself up sharply and watched. There was a look of infinite pity on the
sun-stained, rugged face as he gazed at his friend, lying so helpless.
The sternness of Mr. Trelawny’s face had not relaxed in sleep; but
somehow it made the helplessness more marked. It would not have
troubled one to see a weak or an ordinary face under such conditions;
but this purposeful, masterful man, lying before us wrapped in
impenetrable sleep, had all the pathos of a great ruin. The sight was
not a new one to us; but I could see that Miss Trelawny, like myself,
was moved afresh by it in the presence of the stranger. Mr. Corbeck’s
face grew stern. All the pity died away; and in its stead came a grim,
hard look which boded ill for whoever had been the cause of this mighty
downfall. This look in turn gave place to one of decision; the volcanic
energy of the man was working to some definite purpose. He glanced
around at us; and as his eyes lighted on Nurse Kennedy his eyebrows went
up a trifle. She noted the look, and glanced interrogatively at Miss
Trelawny, who flashed back a reply with a glance. She went quietly from
the room, closing the door behind her. Mr. Corbeck looked first at me,
with a strong man’s natural impulse to learn from a man rather than a
woman; then at Miss Trelawny, with a remembrance of the duty of
courtesy, and said:

“Tell me all about it. How it began and when!” Miss Trelawny looked at
me appeallingly; and forthwith I told him all that I knew. He seemed to
make no motion during the whole time; but insensibly the bronze face
became steel. When, at the end, I told him of Mr. Marvin’s visit and of
the Power of Attorney, his look began to brighten. And when, seeing his
interest in the matter, I went more into detail as to its terms, he
spoke:

“Good! Now I know where my duty lies!”

With a sinking heart I heard him. Such a phrase, coming at such a time,
seemed to close the door to my hopes of enlightenment.

“What do you mean?” I asked, feeling that my question was a feeble one.

His answer emphasized my fears:

“Trelawny knows what he is doing. He had some definite purpose in all
that he did; and we must not thwart him. He evidently expected
something to happen, and guarded himself at all points.”

“Not at all points!” I said impulsively. “There must have been a weak
spot somewhere, or he wouldn’t be lying here like that!” Somehow his
impassiveness surprised me. I had expected that he would find a valid
argument in my phrase; but it did not move him, at least not in the way
I thought. Something like a smile flickered over his swarthy face as he
answered me:

“This is not the end! Trelawny did not guard himself to no purpose.
Doubtless, he expected this too; or at any rate the possibility of it.”

“Do you know what he expected, or from what source?” The questioner was
Miss Trelawny.

The answer came at once: “No! I know nothing of either. I can
guess. . .” He stopped suddenly.

“Guess what?” The suppressed excitement in the girl’s voice was akin to
anguish. The steely look came over the swarthy face again; but there was
tenderness and courtesy in both voice and manner as he replied:

“Believe me, I would do anything I honestly could to relieve you
anxiety. But in this I have a higher duty.”

“What duty?”

“Silence!” As he spoke the word, the strong mouth closed like a steel
trap.

We all remained silent for a few minutes. In the intensity of our
thinking, the silence became a positive thing; the small sounds of life
within and without the house seemed intrusive. The first to break it
was Miss Trelawny. I had seen an idea-a hope-flash in her eyes; but she
steadied herself before speaking:

“What was the urgent subject on which you wanted to see me, knowing that
my Father was-not available?” The pause showed her mastery of her
thoughts.

The instantaneous change in Mr. Corbeck was almost ludicrous. His start
of surprise, coming close upon his iron-clad impassiveness, was like a
pantomimic change. But all idea of comedy was swept away by the tragic
earnestness with which he remembered his original purpose.

“My God!” he said, as he raised his hand from the chair back on which it
rested, and beat it down with a violence which would in itself have
arrested attention. His brows corrugated as he went on: “I quite
forgot! What a loss! Now of all times! Just at the moment of success!
He lying there helpless, and my tongue tied! Not able to raise hand or
foot in my ignorance of his wishes!”

“What is it? Oh, do tell us! I am so anxious about my dear Father! Is
it any new trouble? I hope not! oh, I hope not! I have had such
anxiety and trouble already! It alarms me afresh to hear you speak so!
Won’t you tell me something to allay this terrible anxiety and
uncertainty?”

He drew his sturdy form up to his full height as he said:

“Alas! I cannot, may not, tell you anything. It is his secret.” He
pointed to the bed. “And yet-and yet I came here for his advice, his
counsel, his assistance. And he lies there helpless. . . .And time is
flying by us! It may soon be too late!”

“What is it? what is it?” broke in Miss Trelawny in a sort of passion of
anxiety, her face drawn with pain. “Oh, speak! Say something! This
anxiety, and horror, and mystery are killing me!” Mr. Corbeck calmed
himself by a great effort.

“I may not tell you details; but I have had a great loss. My mission,
in which I have spent three years, was successful. I discovered all
that I sought-and more; and brought them home with me safely.
Treasures, priceless in themselves, but doubly precious to him by whose
wishes and instructions I sought them. I arrived in London only last
night, and when I woke this morning my precious charge was stolen.
Stolen in some mysterious way. Not a soul in London knew that I was
arriving. No one but myself knew what was in the shabby portmanteau
that I carried. My room had but one door, and that I locked and bolted.
The room was high in the house, five stories up, so that no entrance
could have been obtained by the window. Indeed, I had closed the window
myself and shut the hasp, for I wished to be secure in every way. This
morning the hasp was untouched. . . .And yet my portmanteau was empty.
The lamps were gone! . . .There! it is out. I went to Egypt to search
for a set of antique lamps which Mr. Trelawny wished to trace. With
incredible labour, and through many dangers, I followed them. I brought
them safe home. . . .And now!” He turned away much moved. Even his
iron nature was breaking down under the sense of loss.

Miss Trelawny stepped over and laid her hand on his arm. I looked at
her in amazement. All the passion and pain which had so moved her
seemed to have taken the form of resolution. Her form was erect, her
eyes blazed; energy was manifest in every nerve and fibre of her being.
Even her voice was full of nervous power as she spoke. It was apparent
that she was a marvellously strong woman, and that her strength could
answer when called upon.

“We must act at once! My Father’s wishes must be carried out if it is
possible to us. Mr. Ross, you are a lawyer. We have actually in the
house a man whom you consider one of the best detectives in London.
Surely we can do something. We can begin at once!” Mr. Corbeck took
new life from her enthusiasm.

“Good! You are your Father’s daughter!” was all he said. But his
admiration for her energy was manifested by the impulsive way in which
he took her hand. I moved over to the door. I was going to bring
Sergeant Daw; and from her look of approval, I knew that Margaret-Miss
Trelawny-understood. I was at the door when Mr. Corbeck called me back.

“One moment,” he said, “before we bring a stranger on the scene. It
must be borne in mind that he is not to know what you know now, that the
lamps were the objects of a prolonged and difficult and dangerous
search. All I can tell him, all that he must know from any source, is
that some of my property has been stolen. I must describe some of the
lamps, especially one, for it is of gold; and my fear is lest the thief,
ignorant of its historic worth, may, in order to cover up his crime,
have it melted. I would willingly pay ten, twenty, a hundred, a
thousand times its intrinsic value rather than have it destroyed. I
shall tell him only what is necessary. So, please, let me answer any
questions he may ask; unless, of course, I ask you or refer to either of
you for the answer.” We both nodded acquiescence. Then a thought
struck me and I said:

“By the way, if it be necessary to keep this matter quiet it will be
better to have it if possible a private job for the Detective. If once
a thing gets to Scotland Yard it is out of our power to keep it quiet,
and further secrecy may be impossible. I shall sound Sergeant Daw
before he comes up. If I say nothing, it will mean that he accepts the
task and will deal with it privately.” Mr. Corbeck answered at once:

“Secrecy is everything. The one thing I dread is that the lamps, or
some of them, may be destroyed at once.” To my intense astonishment
Miss Trelawny spoke out at once, but quietly, in a decided voice:

“They will not be destroyed; nor any of them!” Mr. Corbeck actually
smiled in amazement.

“How on earth do you know?” he asked. Her answer was still more
incomprehensible:

“I don’t know how I know it; but know it I do. I feel it all through
me; as though it were a conviction which has been with me all my life!”

Chapter VIII
The Finding of the Lamps

Sergeant Daw at first made some demur; but finally agreed to advise
privately on a matter which might be suggested to him. He added that I
was to remember that he only undertook to advise; for if action were
required he might have to refer the matter to headquarters. With this
understanding I left him in the study, and brought Miss Trelawny and Mr.
Corbeck to him. Nurse Kennedy resumed her place at the bedside before
we left the room.

I could not but admire the cautious, cool-headed precision with which
the traveller stated his case. He did not seem to conceal anything, and
yet he gave the least possible description of the objects missing. He
did not enlarge on the mystery of the case; he seemed to look on it as
an ordinary hotel theft. Knowing, as I did, that his one object was to
recover the articles before their identity could be obliterated, I could
see the rare intellectual skill with which he gave the necessary matter
and held back all else, though without seeming to do so. “Truly,”
thought I, “this man has learned the lesson of the Eastern bazaars; and
with Western intellect has improved upon his masters!” He quite
conveyed his idea to the Detective, who, after thinking the matter over
for a few moments, said:

“Pot or scale? that is the question.”

“What does that mean?” asked the other, keenly alert.

“An old thieves phrase from Birmingham. I thought that in these days of
slang everyone knew that. In old times at Brum, which had a lot of
small metal industries, the gold- and silver-smiths used to buy metal
from almost anyone who came along. And as metal in small quantities
could generally be had cheap when they didn’t ask where it came from, it
got to be a custom to ask only one thing-whether the customer wanted the
goods melted, in which case the buyer made the price, and the melting-
pot was always on the fire. If it was to be preserved in its present
state at the buyer’s option, it went into the scale and fetched standard
price for old metal.

“There is a good deal of such work done still, and in other places than
Brum. When we’re looking for stolen watches we often come across the
works, and it’s not possible to identify wheels and springs out of a
heap; but it’s not often that we come across cases that are wanted.
Now, in the present instance much will depend on whether the thief is a
good man-that’s what they call a man who knows his work. A first-class
crook will know whether a thing is of more value than merely the metal
in it; and in such case he would put it with someone who could place it
later on-in America or France, perhaps. By the way, do you think anyone
but yourself could identify your lamps?”

“No one but myself!”

“Are there others like them?”

“Not that I know of,” answered Mr. Corbeck; “though there may be others
that resemble them in many particulars.” The Detective paused before
asking again: “Would any other skilled person-at the British Museum, for
instance, or a dealer, or a collector like Mr. Trelawny, know the value-
the artistic value-of the lamps?”

“Certainly! Anyone with a head on his houlders would see at a glance
that the things were valuable.”

The Detective’s face brightened. “Then there is a chance. If your door
was locked and the window shut, the goods were not stolen by the chance
of a chambermaid or a boots coming along. Whoever did the job went
after it special; and he ain’t going to part with his swag without his
price. This must be a case of notice to the pawnbrokers. There’s one
good thing about it, anyhow, that the hue and cry needn’t be given. We
needn’t tell Scotland Yard unless you like; we can work the thing
privately. If you wish to keep the thing dark, as you told me at the
first, that is our chance.” Mr. Corbeck, after a pause, said quietly:

“I suppose you couldn’t hazard a suggestion as to how the robbery was
effected?” The Policeman smiled the smile of knowledge and experience.

“In a very simple way, I have no doubt, sir. That is how all these
mysterious crimes turn out in the long-run. The criminal knows his work
and all the tricks of it; and he is always on the watch for chances.
Moreover, he knows by experience what these chances are likely to be,
and how they usually come. The other person is only careful; he doesn’t
know all the tricks and pits that may be made for him, and by some
little oversight or other he falls into the trap. When we know all
about this case, you will wonder that you did not see the method of it
all along!” This seemed to annoy Mr. Corbeck a little; there was
decided heat in his manner as he answered:

“Look here, my good friend, there is not anything simple about this
case-except that the things were taken. The window was closed; the
fireplace was bricked up. There is only one door to the room, and that
I locked and bolted. There is no transom; I have heard all about hotel
robberies through the transom. I never left my room in the night. I
looked at the things before going to bed; and I went to look at them
again when I woke up. If you can rig up any kind of simple robbery out
of these facts you are a clever man. That’s all I say; clever enough to
go right away and get my things back.” Miss Trelawny laid her hand upon
his arm in a soothing way, and said quietly:

“Do not distress yourself unnecessarily. I am sure they will turn up.”
Sergeant Daw turned to her so quickly that I could not help remembering
vividly his suspicions of her, already formed, as he said:

“May I ask, miss, on what you base that opinion?”

I dreaded to hear her answer, given to ears already awake to supicion;
but it came to me as a new pain or shock all the same:

“I cannot tell you how I know. But I am sure of it!” The Detective
looked at her for some seconds in silence, and then threw a quick glance
at me.

Presently he had a little more conversation with Mr. Corbeck as to his
own movements, the details of the hotel and the room, and the means of
identifying the goods. Then he went away to commence his inquiries, Mr.
Corbeck impressing on him the necessity for secrecy lest the thief
should get wind of his danger and destroy the lamps. Mr. Corbeck
promised, when going away to attend to various matters of his own
business, to return early in the evening, and to stay in the house.

All that day Miss Trelawny was in better spirits and looked in better
strength than she had yet been, despite the new shock and annoyance of
the theft which must ultimately bring so much disappointment to her
father.

We spent most of the day looking over the curio treasures of Mr.
Trelawny. From what I had heard from Mr. Corbeck I began to have some
idea of the vastness of his enterprise in the world of Egyptian
research; and with this light everything around me began to have a new
interest. As I went on, the interest grew; any lingering doubts which I
might have had changed to wonder and admiration. The house seemed to be
a veritable storehouse of marvels of antique art. In addition to the
curios, big and little, in Mr. Trelawny’s own room-from the great
sarcophagi down to the scarabs of all kinds in the cabinets-the great
hall, the staircase landings, the study, and even the boudoir were full
of antique pieces which would have made a collector’s mouth water.

Miss Trelawny from the first came with me, and looked with growing
interest at everything. After having examined some cabinets of
exquisite amulets she said to me in quite a naive way:

“You will hardly believe that I have of late seldom even looked at any
of these things. It is only since Father has been ill that I seem to
have even any curiosity about them. But now, they grow and grow on me to
quite an absorbing degree. I wonder if it is that the collector’s blood
which I have in my veins is beginning to manifest itself. If so, the
strange thing is that I have not felt the call of it before. Of course
I know most of the big things, and have examined them more or less; but
really, in a sort of way I have always taken them for granted, as though
they had always been there. I have noticed the same thing now and again
with family pictures, and the way they are taken for granted by the
family. If you will let me examine them with you it will be
delightful!”

It was a joy to me to hear her talk in such a way; and her last
suggestion quite thrilled me. Together we went round the various rooms
and passages, examining and admiring the magnificent curios. There was
such a bewildering amount and variety of objects that we could only
glance at most of them; but as we went along we arranged that we should
take them seriatim, day by day, and examine them more closely. In the
hall was a sort of big frame of floriated steel work which Margaret said
her father used for lifting the heavy stone lids of the sarcophagi. It
was not heavy and could be moved about easily enough. By aid of this we
raised the covers in turn and looked at the endless series of
hieroglyphic pictures cut in most of them. In spite of her profession
of ignorance Margaret knew a good deal about them; her year of life with
her father had had unconsciously its daily and hourly lesson. She was a
remarkably clever and acute-minded girl, and with a prodigious memory;
so that her store of knowledge, gathered unthinkingly bit by bit, had
grown to proportions that many a scholar might have envied.

And yet it was all so naive and unconscious; so girlish and simple. She
was so fresh in her views and ideas, and had so little thought of self,
that in her companionship I forgot for the time all the troubles and
mysteries which enmeshed the house; and I felt like a boy again. . . .

The most interesting of the sarcophagi were undoubtedly the three in Mr.
Trelawny’s room. Of these, two were of dark stone, one of porphyry and
the other of a sort of ironstone. These were wrought with some
hieroglyphs. But the third was strikingly different. It was of some
yellow-brown substance of the dominating colour effect of Mexican onyx,
which it resembled in many ways, excepting that the natural pattern of
its convolutions was less marked. Here and there were patches almost
transparent-certainly translucent. The whole chest, cover and all, was
wrought with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of minute hieroglyphics,
seemingly in an endless series. Back, front, sides, edges, bottom, all
had their quota of the dainty pictures, the deep blue of their colouring
showing up fresh and sharply edge in the yellow stone. It was very
long, nearly nine feet; and perhaps a yard wide. The sides undulated,
so that there was no hard line. Even the corners took such excellent
curves that they pleased the eye. “Truly,” I said, “this must have been
made for a giant!”

“Or for a giantess!” said Margaret.

This sarcophagus stood near to one of the windows. It was in one
respect different from all the other sarcophagi in the place. All the
others in the house, of whatever material-granite, porphyry, ironstone,
basalt, slate, or wood-were quite simple in form within. Some of them
were plain of interior surface; others were engraved, in whole or part,
with hieroglyphics. But each and all of them had no protuberances or
uneven surface anywhere. They might have been used for baths; indeed,
they resembled in many ways Roman baths of stone or marble which I had
seen. Inside this, however, was a raised space, outlined like a human
figure. I asked Margaret if she could explain it in any way. For
answer she said:

“Father never wished to speak about this. It attracted my attention
from the first; but when I asked him about it he said: ‘I shall tell
you all about it some day, little girl-if I live! But not yet! The
story is not yet told, as I hope to tell it to you! Some day, perhaps
soon, I shall know all; and then we shall go over it together. And a
mighty interesting story you will find it-from first to last!’ Once
afterward I said, rather lightly I am afraid: ‘Is that story of the
sarcophagus told yet, Father?’ He shook his head, and looked at me
gravely as he said: ‘Not yet, little girl; but it will be-if I live-if
I live!’ His repeating that phrase about his living rather frightened
me; I never ventured to ask him again.”

Somehow this thrilled me. I could not exactly say how or why; but it
seemed like a gleam of light at last. There are, I think, moments when
the mind accepts something as true; though it can account for neither
the course of the thought, nor, if there be more than one thought, the
connection between them. Hitherto we had been in such outer darkness
regarding Mr. Trelawny, and the strange visitation which had fallen on
him, that anything which afforded a clue, even of the faintest and most
shadowy kind, had at the outset the enlightening satisfaction of a
certainty. Here were two lights of our puzzle. The first that Mr.
Trelawny associated with this particular curio a doubt of his own
living. The second that he had some purpose or expectation with regard
to it, which he would not disclose, even to his daughter, till complete.
Again it was to be borne in mind that this sarcophagus differed
internally from all the others. What meant that odd raised place? I
said nothing to Miss Trelawny, for I feared lest I should either
frighten her or buoy her up with future hopes; but I made up my mind
that I would take an early opportunity for further investigation.

Close beside the sarcophagus was a low table of green stone with red
veins in it, like bloodstone. The feet were fashioned like the paws of
a jackal, and round each leg was twined a full-throated snake wrought
exquisitely in pure gold. On it rested a strange and very beautiful
coffer or casket of stone of a peculiar shape. It was something like a
small coffin, except that the longer sides, instead of being cut off
square like the upper or level part were continued to a point. Thus it
was an irregular septahedron, there being two planes on each of the two
sides, one end and a top and bottom. The stone, of one piece of which
it was wrought, was such as I had never seen before. At the base it was
of a full green, the colour of emerald without, of course, its gleam.
It was not by any means dull, however, either in colour or substance,
and was of infinite hardness and fineness of texture. The surface was
almost that of a jewel. The colour grew lighter as it rose, with
gradation so fine as to be imperceptible, changing to a fine yellow
almost of the colour of “mandarin” china. It was quite unlike anything
I had ever seen, and did not resemble any stone or gem that I knew. I
took it to be some unique mother-stone, or matrix of some gem. It was
wrought all over, except in a few spots, with fine hieroglyphics,
exquisitely done and coloured with the same blue-green cement or pigment
that appeared on the sarcophagus. In length it was about two feet and a
half; in breadth about half this, and was nearly a foot high. The
vacant spaces were irregularly distributed about the top running to the
pointed end. These places seemed less opaque than the rest of the
stone. I tried to lift up the lid so that I might see if they were
translucent; but it was securely fixed. It fitted so exactly that the
whole coffer seemed like a single piece of stone mysteriously hollowed
from within. On the sides and edges were some odd-looking protuberances
wrought just as finely as any other portion of the coffer which had been
sculptured by manifest design in the cutting of the stone. They had
queer-shaped holes or hollows, different in each; and, like the rest,
were covered with the hieroglyphic figures, cut finely and filled in
with the same blue-green cement.

On the other side of the great sarcophagus stood another small table of
alabaster, exquisitely chased with symbolic figures of gods and the
signs of the zodiac. On this table stood a case of about a foot square
composed of slabs of rock crystal set in a skeleton of bands of red
gold, beautifully engraved with hieroglyphics, and coloured with a blue
green, very much the tint of the figures on the sarcophagus and the
coffer. The whole work was quite modern.

But if the case was modern what it held was not. Within, on a cushion
of cloth of gold as fine as silk, and with the peculiar softness of old
gold, rested a mummy hand, so perfect that it startled one to see it. A
woman’s hand, fine and long, with slim tapering fingers and nearly as
perfect as when it was given to the embalmer thousands of years before.
In the embalming it had lost nothing of its beautiful shape; even the
wrist seemed to maintain its pliability as the gentle curve lay on the
cushion. The skin was of a rich creamy or old ivory colour; a dusky
fair skin which suggested heat, but heat in shadow. The great
peculiarity of it, as a hand, was that it had in all seven fingers,
there being two middle and two index fingers. The upper end of the
wrist was jagged, as though it had been broken off, and was stained with
a red-brown stain. On the cushion near the hand was a small scarab,
exquisitely wrought of emerald.

“That is another of Father’s mysteries. When I asked him about it he
said that it was perhaps the most valuable thing he had, except one.
When I asked him what that one was, he refused to tell me, and forbade
me to ask him anything concerning it. ‘I will tell you,’ he said, ‘all
about it, too, in good time-if I live!'”

“If I live!” the phrase again. These three things grouped together, the
Sarcophagus, the Coffer, and the Hand, seemed to make a trilogy of
mystery indeed!

At this time Miss Trelawny was sent for on some domestic matter. I
looked at the other curios in the room; but they did not seem to have
anything like the same charm for me, now that she was away. Later on in
the day I was sent for to the boudoir where she was consulting with Mrs.
Grant as to the lodgment of Mr. Corbeck. They were in doubt as to
whether he should have a room close to Mr. Trelawny’s or quite away from
it, and had thought it well to ask my advice on the subject. I came to
the conclusion that he had better not be too near; for the first at all
events, he could easily be moved closer if necessary. When Mrs. Grant
had gone, I asked Miss Trelawny how it came that the furniture of this
room, the boudoir in which we were, was so different from the other
rooms of the house.

“Father’s forethought!” she answered. “When I first came, he thought,
and rightly enough, that I might get frightened with so many records of
death and the tomb everywhere. So he had this room and the little suite
off it-that door opens into the sitting-room-where I slept last night,
furnished with pretty things. You see, they are all beautiful. That
cabinet belonged to the great Napoleon.”

“There is nothing Egyptian in these rooms at all then?” I asked, rather
to show interest in what she had said than anything else, for the
furnishing of the room was apparent. “What a lovely cabinet! May I
look at it?”

“Of course! with the greatest pleasure!” she answered, with a smile.
“Its finishing, within and without, Father says, is absolutely
complete.” I stepped over and looked at it closely. It was made of
tulip wood, inlaid in patterns; and was mounted in ormolu. I pulled
open one of the drawers, a deep one where I could see the work to great
advantage. As I pulled it, something rattled inside as though rolling;
there was a tinkle as of metal on metal.

“Hullo!” I said. “There is something in here. Perhaps I had better not
open it.”

“There is nothing that I know of,” she answered. “Some of the
housemaids may have used it to put something by for the time and
forgotten it. Open it by all means!”

I pulled open the drawer; as I did so, both Miss Trelawny and I started
back in amazement.

There before our eyes lay a number of ancient Egyptian lamps, of various
sizes and of strangely varied shapes.

We leaned over them and looked closely. My own heart was beating like a
trip-hammer; and I could see by the heaving of Margaret’s bosom that
she was strangely excited.

Whilst we looked, afraid to touch and almost afraid to think, there was
a ring at the front door; immediately afterwards Mr. Corbeck, followed
by Sergeant Daw, came into the hall. The door of the boudoir was open,
and when they saw us Mr. Corbeck came running in, followed more slowly
by the Detective. There was a sort of chastened joy in his face and
manner as he said impulsively:

“Rejoice with me, my dear Miss Trelawny, my luggage has come and all my
things are intact!” Then his face fell as he added, “Except the lamps.
The lamps that were worth all the rest a thousand times. . . .” He
stopped, struck by the strange pallor of her face. Then his eyes,
following her look and mine, lit on the cluster of lamps in the drawer.
He gave a sort of cry of surprise and joy as he bent over and touched
them:

“My lamps! My lamps! Then they are safe-safe-safe! . . . But how, in
the name of God-of all the Gods-did they come here?”

We all stood silent. The Detective made a deep sound of in-taking
breath. I looked at him, and as he caught my glance he turned his eyes
on Miss Trelawny whose back was toward him.

There was in them the same look of suspicion which had been there when
he had spoken to me of her being the first to find her father on the
occasions of the attacks.

Chapter IX
The Need of Knowledge

Mr. Corbeck seemed to go almost off his head at the recovery of the
lamps. He took them up one by one and looked them all over tenderly, as
though they were things that he loved. In his delight and excitement he
breathed so hard that it seemed almost like a cat purring. Sergeant Daw
said quietly, his voice breaking the silence like a discord in a melody:

“Are you quite sure those lamps are the ones you had, and that were
stolen?”

His answer was in an indignant tone: “Sure! Of course I’m sure. There
isn’t another set of lamps like these in the world!”

“So far as you know!” The Detective’s words were smooth enough, but his
manner was so exasperating that I was sure he had some motive in it; so
I waited in silence. He went on:

“Of course there may be some in the British Museum; or Mr. Trelawny may
have had these already. There’s nothing new under the sun, you know,
Mr. Corbeck; not even in Egypt. These may be the originals, and yours
may have been the copies. Are there any points by which you can
identify these as yours?”

Mr. Corbeck was really angry by this time. He forgot his reserve; and
in his indignation poured forth a torrent of almost incoherent, but
enlightening, broken sentences:

“Identify! Copies of them! British Museum! Rot! Perhaps they keep a
set in Scotland Yard for teaching idiot policemen Egyptology! Do I know
them? When I have carried them about my body, in the desert, for three
months; and lay awake night after night to watch them! When I have
looked them over with a magnifying-glass, hour after hour, till my eyes
ached; till every tiny blotch, and chip, and dinge became as familiar to
me as his chart to a captain; as familiar as they doubtless have been
all the time to every thick-headed area-prowler within the bounds of
mortality. See here, young man, look at these!” He ranged the lamps in
a row on the top of the cabinet. “Did you ever see a set of lamps of
these shapes-of any one of these shapes? Look at these dominant figures
on them! Did you ever see so complete a set-even in Scotland Yard; even
in Bow Street? Look! one on each, the seven forms of Hathor. Look at
that figure of the Ka of a Princess of the Two Egypts, standing between
Ra and Osiris in the Boat of the Dead, with the Eye of Sleep, supported
on legs, bending before her; and Harmochis rising in the north. Will
you find that in the British Museum-or Bow Street? Or perhaps your
studies in the Gizeh Museum, or the Fitzwilliam, or Paris, or Leyden, or
Berlin, have shown you that the episode is common in hieroglyphics; and
that this is only a copy. Perhaps you can tell me what that figure of
Ptah-Seker-Ausar holding the Tet wrapped in the Sceptre of Papyrus
means? Did you ever see it before; even in the British Museum, or
Gizeh, or Scotland Yard?”

He broke off suddenly; and then went on in quite a different way:

“Look here! it seems to me that the thick-headed idiot is myself! I beg
your pardon, old fellow, for my rudeness. I quite lost my temper at the
suggestion that I do not know these lamps. You don’t mind, do you?”
The Detective answered heartily:

“Lord, sir, not I. I like to see folks angry when I am dealing with
them, whether they are on my side or the other. It is when people are
angry that you learn the truth from them. I keep cool; that is my
trade! Do you know, you have told me more about those lamps in the past
two minutes than when you filled me up with details of how to identify
them.”

Mr. Corbeck grunted; he was not pleased at having given himself away.
All at once he turned to me and said in his natural way:

“Now tell me how you got them back?” I was so surprised that I said
without thinking:

“We didn’t get them back!” The traveller laughed openly.

“What on earth do you mean?” he asked. “You didn’t get them back! Why,
there they are before your eyes! We found you looking at them when we
came in.” By this time I had recovered my surprise and had my wits
about me.

“Why, that’s just it,” I said. “We had only come across them, by
accident, that very moment!”

Mr. Corbeck drew back and looked hard at Miss Trelawny and myself;
turning his eyes from one to the other as he asked:

“Do you mean to tell me that no one brought them here; that you found
them in that drawer? That, so to speak, no one at all brought them
back?”

“I suppose someone must have brought them here; they couldn’t have come
of their own accord. But who it was, or when, or how, neither of us
knows. We shall have to make inquiry, and see if any of the servants
know anything of it.”

We all stood silent for several seconds. It seemed a long time. The
first to speak was the Detective, who said in an unconscious way:

“Well, I’m damned! I beg your pardon, miss!” Then his mouth shut like
a steel trap.

We called up the servants, one by one, and asked them if they knew
anything of some articles placed in a drawer in the boudoir; but none of
them could throw any light on the circumstance. We did not tell them
what the articles were; or let them see them.

Mr. Corbeck packed the lamps in cotton wool, and placed them in a tin
box. This, I may mention incidentally, was then brought up to the
detectives’ room, where one of the men stood guard over them with a
revolver the whole night. Next day we got a small safe into the house,
and placed them in it. There were two different keys. One of them I
kept myself; the other I placed in my drawer in the Safe Deposit vault.
We were all determined that the lamps should not be lost again.

About an hour after we had found the lamps, Doctor Winchester arrived.
He had a large parcel with him, which, when unwrapped, proved to be the
mummy of a cat. With Miss Trelawny’s permission he placed this in the
boudoir; and Silvio was brought close to it. To the surprise of us all,
however, except perhaps Doctor Winchester, he did not manifest the least
annoyance; he took no notice of it whatever. He stood on the table
close beside it, purring loudly. Then, following out his plan, the
Doctor brought him into Mr. Trelawny’s room, we all following. Doctor
Winchester was excited; Miss Trelawny anxious. I was more than
interested myself, for I began to have a glimmering of the Doctor’s
idea. The Detective was calmly and coldly superior; but Mr. Corbeck,
who was an enthusiast, was full of eager curiosity.

The moment Doctor Winchester got into the room, Silvio began to mew and
wriggle; and jumping out of his arms, ran over to the cat mummy and
began to scratch angrily at it. Miss Trelawny had some difficulty in
taking him away; but so soon as he was out of the room he became quiet.
When she came back there was a clamour of comments:

“I thought so!” from the Doctor.

“What can it mean?” from Miss Trelawny.

“That’s a very strange thing!” from Mr. Corbeck.

“Odd! but it doesn’t prove anything!” from the Detective.

“I suspend my judgment!” from myself, thinking it advisable to say
something.

Then by common consent we dropped the theme–for the present.

In my room that evening I was making some notes of what had happened,
when there came a low tap on the door. In obedience to my summons
Sergeant Daw came in, carefully closing the door behind him.

“Well, Sergeant,” said I, ‘sit down. What is it?”

“I wanted to speak to you, sir, about those lamps.” I nodded and
waited: he went on: “You know that that room where they were found
opens directly into the room where Miss Trelawny slept last night?”

“Yes.”

“During the night a window somewhere in that part of the house was
opened, and shut again. I heard it, and took a look round; but I could
see no sign of anything.”

“Yes, I know that!” I said; “I heard a window moved myself.”

“Does nothing strike you as strange about it, sir?”

“Strange!” I said; “Strange! why it’s all the most bewildering,
maddening thing I have ever encountered. It is all so strange that one
seems to wonder, and simply waits for what will happen next. But what
do you mean by strange?”

The Detective paused, as if choosing his words to begin; and then said
deliberately:

“You see, I am not one who believes in magic and such things. I am for
facts all the time; and I always find in the long-run that there is a
reason and a cause for everything. This new gentleman says these things
were stolen out of his room in the hotel. The lamps, I take it from
some things he has said, really belong to Mr. Trelawny. His daughter,
the lady of the house, having left the room she usually occupies, sleeps
that night on the ground floor. A window is heard to open and shut
during the night. When we, who have been during the day trying to find
a clue to the robbery, come to the house, we find the stolen goods in a
room close to where she slept, and opening out of it!”

He stopped. I felt that same sense of pain and apprehension, which I
had experienced when he had spoken to me before, creeping, or rather
rushing, over me again. I had to face the matter out, however. My
relations with her, and the feeling toward her which I now knew full
well meant a very deep love and devotion, demanded so much. I said as
calmly as I could, for I knew the keen eyes of the skilful investigator
were on me:

“And the inference?”

He answered with the cool audacity of conviction:

“The inference to me is that there was no robbery at all. The goods
were taken by someone to this house, where they were received through a
window on the ground floor. They were placed in the cabinet, ready to
be discovered when the proper time should come!”

Somehow I felt relieved; the assumption was too monstrous. I did not
want, however, my relief to be apparent, so I answered as gravely as I
could:

“And who do you suppose brought them to the house?”

“I keep my mind open as to that. Possibly Mr. Corbeck himself; the
matter might be too risky to trust to a third party.”

“Then the natural extension of your inference is that Mr. Corbeck is a
liar and a fraud; and that he is in conspiracy with Miss Trelawny to
deceive someone or other about those lamps.”

“Those are harsh words, Mr. Ross. They’re so plain-spoken that they
bring a man up standing, and make new doubts for him. But I have to go
where my reason points. It may be that there is another party than Miss
Trelawny in it. Indeed, if it hadn’t been for the other matter that set
me thinking and bred doubts of its own about her, I wouldn’t dream of
mixing her up in this. But I’m safe on Corbeck. Whoever else is in it,
he is! The things couldn’t have been taken without his connivance-if
what he says is true. If it isn’t-well! he is a liar anyhow. I would
think it a bad job to have him stay in the house with so many valuables,
only that it will give me and my mate a chance of watching him. we’ll
keep a pretty good look-out, too, I tell you. He’s up in my room now,
guarding those lamps; but Johnny Wright is there too. I go on before he
comes off; so there won’t be much chance of another house-breaking. Of
course, Mr. Ross, all this, too, is between you and me.”

“Quite so! You may depend on my silence!” I said; and he went away to
keep a close eye on the Egyptologist.

It seemed as though all my painful experiences were to go in pairs, and
that the sequence of the previous day was to be repeated; for before
long I had another private visit from Doctor Winchester who had now paid
his nightly visit to his patient and was on his way home. He took the
seat which I proffered and began at once:

“This is a strange affair altogether. Miss Trelawny has just been
telling me about the stolen lamps, and of the finding of them in the
Napoleon cabinet. It would seem to be another complication of the
mystery; and yet, do you know, it is a relief to me. I have exhausted
all human and natural possibilities of the case, and am beginning to
fall back on superhuman and supernatural possibilities. Here are such
strange things that, if I am not going mad, I think we must have a
solution before long. I wonder if I might ask some questions and some
help from Mr. Corbeck, without making further complications and
embarrassing us. He seems to know an amazing amount regarding Egypt and
all relating to it. Perhaps he wouldn’t mind translating a little bit
of hieroglyphic. It is child’s play to him. What do you think?”

When I had thought the matter over a few seconds I spoke. We wanted all
the help we could get. For myself, I had perfect confidence in both
men; and any comparing notes, or mutual assistance, might bring good
results. Such could hardly bring evil.

“By all means I should ask him. He seems an extraordinarily learned man
in Egyptology; and he seems to me a good fellow as well as an
enthusiast. By the way, it will be necessary to be a little guarded as
to whom you speak regarding any information which he may give you.”

“Of course!” he answered. “Indeed I should not dream of saying anything
to anybody, excepting yourself. We have to remember that when Mr.
Trelawny recovers he may not like to think that we have been chattering
unduly over his affairs.”

“Look here!” I said, “why not stay for a while: and I shall ask him to
come and have a pipe with us. We can then talk over things.”

He acquiesced: so I went to the room where Mr. Corbeck was, and brought
him back with me. I thought the detectives were pleased at his going.
On the way to my room he said:

“I don’t half like leaving those things there, with only those men to
guard them. They’re a deal sight too precious to be left to the police!”

From which it would appear that suspicion was not confined to Sergeant
Daw.

Mr. Corbeck and Doctor Winchester, after a quick glance at each other,
became at once on most friendly terms. The traveller professed his
willingness to be of any assistance which he could, provided, he added,
that it was anything about which he was free to speak. This was not
very promising; but Doctor Winchester began at once:

“I want you, if you will, to translate some hieroglyphic for me.”

“Certainly, with the greatest pleasure, so far as I can. For I may tell
you that hieroglyphic writing is not quite mastered yet; though we are
getting at it! We are getting at it! What is the inscription?”

“There are two,” he answered. “One of them I shall bring here.”

He went out, and returned in a minute with the mummy cat which he had
that evening introduced to Silvio. The scholar took it; and, after a
short examination, said:

“There is nothing especial in this. It is an appeal to Bast, the Lady
of Bubastis, to give her good bread and milk in the Elysian Fields.
There may be more inside; and if you will care to unroll it, I will do
my best. I do not think, however, that there is anything special. From
the method of wrapping I should say it is from the Delta; and of a late
period, when such mummy work was common and cheap. What is the other
inscription you wish me to see?”

“The inscription on the mummy cat in Mr. Trelawny’s room.”

Mr. Corbeck’s face fell. “No!” he said, “I cannot do that! I am, for
the present at all events, practically bound to secrecy regarding any of
the things in Mr. Trelawny’s room.”

Doctor Winchester’s comment and my own were made at the same moment. I
said only the one word “Checkmate!” from which I think he may have
gathered that I guessed more of his idea and purpose than perhaps I had
intentionally conveyed to him. He murmured:

“Practically bound to secrecy?”

Mr. Corbeck at once took up the challenge conveyed:

“Do not misunderstand me! I am not bound by any definite pledge of
secrecy; but I am bound in honour to respect Mr. Trelawny’s confidence,
given to me, I may tell you, in a very large measure. Regarding many of
the objects in his room he has a definite purpose in view; and it would
not be either right or becoming for me, his trusted friend and
confidant, to forestall that purpose. Mr. Trelawny, you may know–or
rather you do not know or you would not have so construed my remark–is
a scholar, a very great scholar. He has worked for years toward a
certain end. For this he has spared no labour, no expense, no personal
danger or self-denial. He is on the line of a result which will place
him amongst the foremost discoverers or investigators of his age. And
now, just at the time when any hour might bring him success, he is
stricken down!”

He stopped, seemingly overcome with emotion. After a time he recovered
himself and went on:

“Again, do not misunderstand me as to another point. I have said that
Mr. Trelawny has made much confidence with me; but I do not mean to lead
you to believe that I know all his plans, or his aims or objects. I
know the period which he has been studying; and the definite historical
individual whose life he has been investigating, and whose records he
has been following up one by one with infinite patience. But beyond
this I know nothing. That he has some aim or object in the completion
of this knowledge I am convinced. What it is I may guess; but I must
say nothing. Please to remember, gentlemen, that I have voluntarily
accepted the position of recipient of a partial confidence. I have
respected that; and I must ask any of my friends to do the same.”

He spoke with great dignity; and he grew, moment by moment, in the
respect and esteem of both Doctor Winchester and myself. We understood
that he had not done speaking; so we waited in silence till he
continued:

“I have spoken this much, although I know well that even such a hint as
either of you might gather from my words might jeopardise the success of
his work. But I am convinced that you both wish to help him–and his
daughter,” he said this looking me fairly between the eyes, “to the best
of your power, honestly and unselfishly. He is so stricken down, and
the manner of it is so mysterious that I cannot but think that it is in
some way a result of his own work. That he calculated on some set-back
is manifest to us all. God knows! I am willing to do what I can, and to
use any knowledge I have in his behalf. I arrived in England full of
exultation at the thought that I had fulfilled the mission with which he
had trusted me. I had got what he said were the last objects of his
search; and I felt assured that he would now be able to begin the
experiment of which he had often hinted to me. It is too dreadful that
at just such a time such a calamity should have fallen on him. Doctor
Winchester, you are a physician; and, if your face does not belie you,
you are a clever and a bold one. Is there no way which you can devise
to wake this man from his unnatural stupor?”

There was a pause; then the answer came slowly and deliberately:

“There is no ordinary remedy that I know of. There might possibly be
some extraordinary one. But there would be no use in trying to find it,
except on one condition.”

“And that?”

“Knowledge! I am completely ignorant of Egyptian matters, language,
writing, history, secrets, medicines, poisons, occult powers–all that go
to make up the mystery of that mysterious land. This disease, or
condition, or whatever it may be called, from which Mr. Trelawny is
suffering, is in some way connected with Egypt. I have had a suspicion
of this from the first; and later it grew into a certainty, though
without proof. What you have said tonight confirms my conjecture, and
makes me believe that a proof is to be had. I do not think that you
quite know all that has gone on in this house since the night of the
attack–of the finding of Mr. Trelawny’s body. Now I propose that we
confide in you. If Mr. Ross agrees, I shall ask him to tell you. He is
more skilled than I am in putting facts before other people. He can
speak by his brief; and in this case he has the best of all briefs, the
experience of his own eyes and ears, and the evidence that he has
himself taken on the spot from participators in, or spectators of, what
has happened. When you know all, you will, I hope, be in a position to
judge as to whether you can best help Mr. Trelawny, and further his
secret wishes, by your silence or your speech.”

I nodded approval. Mr. Corbeck jumped up, and in his impulsive way held
out a hand to each.

“Done!” he said. “I acknowledge the honour of your confidence; and on
my part I pledge myself that if I find my duty to Mr. Trelawny’s wishes
will, in his own interest, allow my lips to open on his affairs, I shall
speak so freely as I may.”

Accordingly I began, and told him, as exactly as I could, everything
that had happened from the moment of my waking at the knocking on the
door in Jermyn Street. The only reservations I made were as to my own
feeling toward Miss Trelawny and the matters of small import to the main
subject which followed it; and my conversations with Sergeant Daw, which
were in themselves private, and which would have demanded discretionary
silence in any case. As I spoke, Mr. Corbeck followed with breathless
interest. Sometimes he would stand up and pace about the room in
uncontrollable excitement; and then recover himself suddenly, and sit
down again. Sometimes he would be about to speak, but would, with an
effort, restrain himself. I think the narration helped me to make up my
own mind; for even as I talked, things seemed to appear in a clearer
light. Things big and little, in relation of their importance to the
case, fell into proper perspective. The story up to date became
coherent, except as to its cause, which seemed a greater mystery than
ever. This is the merit of entire, or collected, narrative. Isolated
facts, doubts, suspicions, conjectures, give way to a homogeneity which
is convincing.

That Mr. Corbeck was convinced was evident. He did not go through any
process of explanation or limitation, but spoke right out at once to the
point, and fearlessly like a man:

“That settles me! There is in activity some Force that needs special
care. If we all go on working in the dark we shall get in one another’s
way, and by hampering each other, undo the good that any or each of us,
working in different directions, might do. It seems to me that the
first thing we have to accomplish is to get Mr. Trelawny waked out of
that unnatural sleep. That he can be waked is apparent from the way the
Nurse has recovered; though what additional harm may have been done to
him in the time he has been lying in that room I suppose no one can
tell. We must chance that, however. He has lain there, and whatever
the effect might be, it is there now; and we have, and shall have, to
deal with it as a fact. A day more or less won’t hurt in the long-run.
It is late now; and we shall probably have tomorrow a task before us
that will require our energies afresh. You, Doctor, will want to get to
your sleep; for I suppose you have other work as well as this to do
tomorrow. As for you, Mr. Ross, I understand that you are to have a
spell of watching in the sick-room tonight. I shall get you a book
which will help to pass the time for you. I shall go and look for it in
the library. I know where it was when I was here last; and I don’t
suppose Mr. Trelawny has used it since. He knew long ago all that was
in it which was or might be of interest to him. But it will be
necessary, or at least helpful, to understand other things which I shall
tell you later. You will be able to tell Doctor Winchester all that
would aid him. For I take it that our work will branch out pretty soon.
We shall each have our own end to hold up; and it will take each of us
all our time and understanding to get through his own tasks. It will
not be necessary for you to read the whole book. All that will interest
you–with regard to our matter I mean of course, for the whole book is
interesting as a record of travel in a country then quite unknown–is the
preface, and two or three chapters which I shall mark for you.”

He shook hands warmly with Doctor Winchester who had stood up to go.

Whilst he was away I sat lonely, thinking. As I thought, the world
around me seemed to be illimitably great. The only little spot in which
I was interested seemed like a tiny speck in the midst of a wilderness.
Without and around it were darkness and unknown danger, pressing in from
every side. And the central figure in our little oasis was one of
sweetness and beauty. A figure one could love; could work for; could
die for . . . !

Mr. Corbeck came back in a very short time with the book; he had found
it at once in the spot where he had seen it three years before. Having
placed in it several slips of paper, marking the places where I was to
read, he put it into my hands, saying:

“That is what started Mr. Trelawny; what started me when I read it; and
which will, I have no doubt, be to you an interesting beginning to a
special study–whatever the end may be. If, indeed, any of us here may
ever see the end.”

At the door he paused and said:

“I want to take back one thing. That Detective is a good fellow. What
you have told me of him puts him in a new light. The best proof of it
is that I can go quietly to sleep tonight, and leave the lamps in his
care!”

When he had gone I took the book with me, put on my respirator, and went
to my spell of duty in the sick-room!

Chapter X
The Valley of the Sorcerer

I placed the book on the little table on which the shaded lamp rested
and moved the screen to one side. Thus I could have the light on my
book; and by looking up, see the bed, and the Nurse, and the door. I
cannot say that the conditions were enjoyable, or calculated to allow of
that absorption in the subject which is advisable for effective study.
However, I composed myself to the work as well as I could. The book was
one which, on the very face of it, required special attention. It was a
folio in Dutch, printed in Amsterdam in 1650. Some one had made a
literal translation, writing generally the English word under the Dutch,
so that the grammatical differences between the two tongues made even
the reading of the translation a difficult matter. One had to dodge
backward and forward among the words. This was in addition to the
difficulty of deciphering a strange handwriting of two hundred years
ago. I found, however, that after a short time I got into the habit of
following in conventional English the Dutch construction; and, as I
became more familiar with the writing, my task became easier.

At first the circumstances of the room, and the fear lest Miss Trelawny
should return unexpectedly and find me reading the book, disturbed me
somewhat. For we had arranged amongst us, before Doctor Winchester had
gone home, that she was not to be brought into the range of the coming
investigation. We considered that there might be some shock to a
woman’s mind in matters of apparent mystery; and further, that she,
being Mr. Trelawny’s daughter, might be placed in a difficult position
with him afterward if she took part in, or even had a personal knowledge
of, the disregarding of his expressed wishes. But when I remembered
that she did not come on nursing duty till two o’clock, the fear of
interruption passed away. I had still nearly three house before me.
Nurse Kennedy sat in her chair by the bedside, patient and alert. A
clock ticked on the landing; other clocks in the house ticked; the life
of the city without manifested itself in the distant hum, now and again
swelling into a roar as a breeze floating westward took the concourse of
sounds with it. But still the dominant idea was of silence. The light
on my book, and the soothing fringe of green silk round the shade
intensified, whenever I looked up, the gloom of the sick-room. With
every line I read, this seemed to grow deeper and deeper; so that when
my eyes came back to the page the light seemed to dazzle me. I stuck to
my work, however, and presently began to get sufficiently into the
subject to become interested in it.

The book was by one Nicholas van Huyn of Hoorn. In the preface he told
how, attracted by the work of John Greaves of Merton College,
Pyramidographia, he himself visited Egypt, where he became so interested
in its wonders that he devoted some years of his life to visiting
strange places, and exploring the ruins of many temples and tombs. He
had come across many variants of the story of the building of the
Pyramids as told by the Arabian historian, Ibn Abd Alhokin, some of
which he set down. These I did not stop to read, but went on to the
marked pages.

As soon as I began to read these, however, there grew on me some sense
of a disturbing influence. Once or twice I looked to see if the Nurse
had moved, for there was a feeling as though some one were near me.
Nurse Kennedy sat in her place, as steady and alert as ever; and I came
back to my book again.

The narrative went on to tell how, after passing for several days
through the mountains to the east of Aswan, the explorer came to a
certain place. Here I give his own words, simply putting the
translation into modern English:

“Toward evening we came to the entrance of a narrow, deep valley,
running east and west. I wished to proceed through this; for the sun,
now nearly down on the horizon, showed a wide opening beyond the
narrowing of the cliffs. But the fellaheen absolutely refused to enter
the valley at such a time, alleging that they might be caught by the
night before they could emerge from the other end. At first they would
give no reason for their fear. They had hitherto gone anywhere I
wished, and at any time, without demur. On being pressed, however, they
said that the place was the Valley of the Sorcerer, where none might
come in the night. On being asked to tell of the Sorcerer, they
refused, saying that there was no name, and that they knew nothing. On
the next morning, however, when the sun was up and shining down the
valley, their fears had somewhat passed away. Then they told me that a
great Sorcerer in ancient days–‘millions of millions of years’ was the
term they used–a King or a Queen, they could not say which, was buried
there. They could not give the name, persisting to the last that there
was no name; and that anyone who should name it would waste away in life
so that at death nothing of him would remain to be raised again in the
Other World. In passing through the valley they kept together in a
cluster, hurrying on in front of me. None dared to remain behind. They
gave, as their reason for so proceeding, that the arms of the Sorcerer
were long, and that it was dangerous to be the last. The which was of
little comfort to me who of this necessity took that honourable post.
In the narrowest part of the valley, on the south side, was a great
cliff of rock, rising sheer, of smooth and even surface. Hereon were
graven certain cabalistic signs, and many figures of men and animals,
fishes, reptiles and birds; suns and stars; and many quaint symbols.
Some of these latter were disjointed limbs and features, such as arms
and legs, fingers, eyes, noses, ears, and lips. Mysterious symbols
which will puzzle the Recording Angel to interpret at the Judgment Day.
The cliff faced exactly north. There was something about it so strange,
and so different from the other carved rocks which I had visited, that I
called a halt and spent the day in examining the rock front as well as I
could with my telescope. The Egyptians of my company were terribly
afraid, and used every kind of persuasion to induce me to pass on. I
stayed till late in the afternoon, by which time I had failed to make
out aright the entry of any tomb, for I suspected that such was the
purpose of the sculpture of the rock. By this time the men were
rebellious; and I had to leave the valley if I did not wish my whole
retinue to desert. But I secretly made up my mind to discover the tomb,
and explore it. To this end I went further into the mountains, where I
met with an Arab Sheik who was willing to take service with me. The
Arabs were not bound by the same superstitious fears as the Egyptians;
Sheik Abu Some and his following were willing to take a part in the
explorations.

“When I returned to the valley with these Bedouins, I made effort to
climb the face of the rock, but failed, it being of one impenetrable
smoothness. The stone, generally flat and smooth by nature, had been
chiselled to completeness. That there had been projecting steps was
manifest, for there remained, untouched by the wondrous climate of that
strange land, the marks of saw and chisel and mallet where the steps had
been cut or broken away.

“Being thus baffled of winning the tomb from below, and being unprovided
with ladders to scale, I found a way by much circuitous journeying to
the top of the cliff. Thence I caused myself to be lowered by ropes,
till I had investigated that portion of the rock face wherein I expected
to find the opening. I found that there was an entrance, closed however
by a great stone slab. This was cut in the rock more than a hundred
feet up, being two-thirds the height of the cliff. The hieroglyphic and
cabalistic symbols cut in the rock were so managed as to disguise it.
The cutting was deep, and was continued through the rock and the portals
of the doorway, and through the great slab which formed the door itself.
This was fixed in place with such incredible exactness that no stone
chisel or cutting implement which I had with me could find a lodgment in
the interstices. I used much force, however; and by many heavy strokes
won a way into the tomb, for such I found it to be. The stone door
having fallen into the entrance I passed over it into the tomb, noting
as I went a long iron chain which hung coiled on a bracket close to the
doorway.

“The tomb I found to be complete, after the manner of the finest
Egyptian tombs, with chamber and shaft leading down to the corridor,
ending in the Mummy Pit. It had the table of pictures, which seems some
kind of record–whose meaning is now for ever lost–graven in a wondrous
colour on a wondrous stone.

“All the walls of the chamber and the passage were carved with strange
writings in the uncanny form mentioned. The huge stone coffin or
sarcophagus in the deep pit was marvellously graven throughout with
signs. The Arab chief and two others who ventured into the tomb with
me, and who were evidently used to such grim explorations, managed to
take the cover from the sarcophagus without breaking it. At which they
wondered; for such good fortune, they said, did not usually attend such
efforst. Indeed they seemed not over careful; and did handle the
various furniture of the tomb with such little concern that, only for
its great strength and thickness, even the coffin itself might have been
injured. Which gave me much concern, for it was very beautifully
wrought of rare stone, such as I had no knowledge of. Much I grieved
that it were not possible to carry it away. But time and desert
journeyings forbade such; I could only take with me such small matters
as could be carried on the person.

“Within the sarcophagus was a body, manifestly of a woman, swathed with
many wrappings of linen, as is usual with all mummies. From certain
embroiderings thereon, I gathered that she was of high rank. Across the
breast was one hand, unwrapped. In the mummies which I had seen, the
arms and hands are within the wrappings, and certain adornments of wood,
shaped and painted to resemble arms and hands, lie outside the enwrapped
body.

“But this hand was strange to see, for it was the real hand of her who
lay enwrapped there; the arm projecting from the cerements being of
flesh, seemingly made as like marble in the process of embalming. Arm
and hand were of dusky white, being of the hue of ivory that hath lain
long in air. The skin and the nails were complete and whole, as though
the body had been placed for burial over night. I touched the hand and
moved it, the arm being something flexible as a live arm; though stiff
with long disuse, as are the arms of those faqueers which I have seen in
the Indees. There was, too, an added wonder that on this ancient hand
were no less than seven fingers, the same all being fine and long, and
of great beauty. Sooth to say, it made me shudder and my flesh creep to
touch that hand that had lain there undisturbed for so many thousands of
years, and yet was like unto living flesh. Underneath the hand, as
though guarded by it, lay a huge jewel of ruby; a great stone of
wondrous bigness, for the ruby is in the main a small jewel. This one
was of wondrous colour, being as of fine blood whereon the light
shineth. But its wonder lay not in its size or colour, though these
were, as I have said, of priceless rarity; but in that the light of it
shone from seven stars, each of seven points, as clearly as though the
stars were in reality there imprisoned. When that the hand was lifted,
the sight of that wondrous stone lying there struck me with a shock
almost to momentary paralysis. I stood gazing on it, as did those with
me, as though it were that faded head of the Gorgon Medusa with the
snakes in her hair, whose sight struck into stone those who beheld. So
strong was the feeling that I wanted to hurry away from the place. So,
too, those with me; therefore, taking this rare jewel, together with
certain amulets of strangeness and richness being wrought of
jewel-stones, I made haste to depart. I would have remained longer, and
made further research in the wrappings of the mummy, but that I feared
so to do. For it came to me all at once that I was in a desert place,
with strange men who were with me because they were not over-scrupulous.
That we were in a lone cavern of the dead, an hundred feet above the
ground, where none could find me were ill done to me, nor would any ever
seek. But in secret I determined that I would come again, though with
more secure following. Moreover, was I tempted to seek further, as in
examining the wrappings I saw many things of strange import in that
wondrous tomb; including a casket of eccentric shape made of some
strange stone, which methought might have contained other jewels,
inasmuch as it had secure lodgment in the great sarcophagus itself.
There was in the tomb also another coffer which, though of rare
proportion and adornment, was more simply shaped. It was of ironstone
of great thickness; but the cover was lightly cemented down with what
seemed gum and Paris plaster, as though to insure that no air could
penetrate. The Arabs with me so insisted in its opening, thinking that
from its thickness much treasure was stored therein, that I consented
thereto. But their hope was a false one, as it proved. Within, closely
packed, stood four jars finely wrought and carved with various
adornments. Of these one was the head of a man, another of a dog,
another of a jackal, and another of a hawk. I had before known that
such burial urns as these were used to contain the entrails and other
organs of the mummied dead; but on opening these, for the fastening of
wax, though complete, was thin, and yielded easily, we found that they
held but oil. The Bedouins, spilling most of the oil in the process,
groped with their hands in the jars lest treasure should have been there
concealed. But their searching was of no avail; no treasure was there.
I was warned of my danger by seeing in the eyes of the Arabs certain
covetous glances. Whereon, in order to hasten their departure, I
wrought upon those fears of superstition which even in these callous men
were apparent. The chief of the Bedouins ascended from the Pit to give
the signal to those above to raise us; and I, not caring to remain with
the men whom I mistrusted, followed him immediately. The others did not
come at once; from which I feared that they were rifling the tomb afresh
on their own account. I refrained to speak of it, however, lest worse
should befall. At last they came. One of them, who ascended first, in
landing at the top of the cliff lost his foothold and fell below. He
was instantly killed. The other followed, but in safety. The chief came
next, and I came last. Before coming away I pulled into its place
again, as well as I could, the slab of stone that covered the entrance
to the tomb. I wished, if possible, to preserve it for my own
examination should I come again.

“When we all stood on the hill above the cliff, the burning sun that was
bright and full of glory was good to see after the darkness and strange
mystery of the tomb. Even was I glad that the poor Arab who fell down
the cliff and lay dead below, lay in the sunlight and not in that gloomy
cavern. I would fain have gone with my companions to seek him and give
him sepulture of some kind; but the Sheik made light of it, and sent two
of his men to see to it whilst we went on our way.

“That night as we camped, one of the men only returned, saying that a
lion of the desert had killed his companion after that they had buried
the dead man in a deep sand without the valley, and had covered the spot
where he lay with many great rocks, so that jackals or other preying
beasts might not dig him up again as is their wont.

“Later, in the light of the fire round which the men sat or lay, I saw
him exhibit to his fellows something white which they seemed to regard
with special awe and reverence. So I drew near silently, and saw that
it was none other than the white hand of the mummy which had lain
protecting the Jewel in the great sarcophagus. I heard the Bedouin tell
how he had found it on the body of him who had fallen from the cliff.
There was no mistaking it, for there were the seven fingers which I had
noted before. This man must have wrenched it off the dead body whilst
his chief and I were otherwise engaged; and from the awe of the others I
doubted not that he had hoped to use it as an Amulet, or charm. Whereas
if powers it had, they were not for him who had taken it from the dead;
since his death followed hard upon his theft. Already his Amulet had
had an awesome baptism; for the wrist of the dead hand was stained with
red as though it had been dipped in recent blood.

“That night I was in certain fear lest there should be some violence
done to me; for if the poor dead hand was so valued as a charm, what
must be the worth in such wise of the rare Jewel which it had guarded.
Though only the chief knew of it, my doubt was perhaps even greater; for
he could so order matters as to have me at his mercy when he would. I
guarded myself, therefore, with wakefulness so well as I could,
determined that at my earliest opportunity I should leave this party,
and complete my journeying home, first to the Nile bank, and then down
its course to Alexandria; with other guides who knew not what strange
matters I had with me.

“At last there came over me a disposition of sleep, so potent that I
felt it would be resistless. Fearing attack, or that being searched in
my sleep the Bedouin might find the Star Jewel which he had seen me
place with others in my dress, I took it out unobserved and held it in
my hand. It seemed to give back the light of the flickering fire and
the light of the stars–for there was no moon–with equal fidelity; and I
could note that on its reverse it was graven deeply with certain signs
such as I had seen in the tomb. As I sank into the unconsciousness of
sleep, the graven Star Jewel was hidden in the hollow of my clenched
hand.

“I waked out of sleep with the light of the morning sun on my face. I
sat up and looked around me. The fire was out, and the camp was
desolate; save for one figure which lay prone close to me. It was that
of the Arab chief, who lay on his back, dead. His face was almost
black; and his eyes were open, and staring horribly up at the sky, as
though he saw there some dreadful vision. He had evidently been
strangled; for on looking, I found on his throat the red marks where
fingers had pressed. There seemed so many of these marks that I counted
them. There were seven; and all parallel, except the thumb mark, as
though made with one hand. This thrilled me as I thought of the mummy
hand with the seven fingers.

“Even there, in the open desert, it seemed as if there could be
enchantments!

“In my surprise, as I bent over him, I opened my right hand, which up to
now I had held shut with the feeling, instinctive even in sleep, of
keeping safe that which it held. As I did so, the Star Jewel held there
fell out and struck the dead man on the mouth. Mirabile dictu there
came forth at once from the dead mouth a great gush of blood, in which
the red jewel was for the moment lost. I turned the dead man over to
look for it, and found that he lay with his right hand bent under him as
though he had fallen on it; and in it he held a great knife, keen of
point and edge, such as Arabs carry at the belt. It may have been that
he was about to murder me when vengeance came on him, whether from man
or God, or the Gods of Old, I know not. Suffice it, that when I found
my Ruby Jewel, which shone up as a living star from the mess of blood
wherein it lay, I paused not, but fled from the place. I journeyed on
alone through the hot desert, till, by God’s grace, I came upon an Arab
tribe camping by a well, who gave me salt. With them I rested till they
had set me on my way.

“I know not what became of the mummy hand, or of those who had it. What
strife, or suspicion, or disaster, or greed went with it I know not; but
some such cause there must have been, since those who had it fled with
it. It doubtless is used as a charm of potence by some desert tribe.

“At the earliest opportunity I made examination of the Star Ruby, as I
wished to try to understand what was graven on it. The symbols–whose
meaning, however, I could not understand–were as follows . . .”

Twice, whilst I had been reading this engrossing narrative, I had
thought that I had seen across the page streaks of shade, which the
weirdness of the subject had made to seem like the shadow of a hand. On
the first of these occasions I found that the illusion came from the
fringe of green silk around the lamp; but on the second I had looked up,
and my eyes had lit on the mummy hand across the room on which the
starlight was falling under the edge of the blind. It was of little
wonder that I had connected it with such a narrative; for if my eyes
told me truly, here, in this room with me, was the very hand of which
the traveller Van Huyn had written. I looked over at the bed; and it
comforted me to think that the Nurse still sat there, calm and wakeful.
At such a time, with such surrounds, during such a narrative, it was
well to have assurance of the presence of some living person.

I sat looking at the book on the table before me; and so many strange
thoughts crowded on me that my mind began to whirl. It was almost as if
the light on the white fingers in front of me was beginning to have some
hypnotic effect. All at once, all thoughts seemed to stop; and for an
instant the world and time stood still.

There lay a real hand across the book! What was there to so overcome
me, as was the case? I knew the hand that I saw on the book–and loved
it. Margaret Trelawny’s hand was a joy to me to see–to touch; and yet
at that moment, coming after other marvellous things, it had a strangely
moving effect on me. It was but momentary, however, and had passed even
before her voice had reached me.

“What disturbs you? What are you staring at the book for? I thought
for an instant that you must have been overcome again!” I jumped up.

“I was reading,” I said, “an old book from the library.” As I spoke I
closed it and put it under my arm. “I shall now put it back, as I
understand that your Father wishes all things, especially books, kept in
their proper places.” My words were intentionally misleading; for I did
not wish her to know what I was reading, and thought it best not to wake
her curiosity by leaving the book about. I went away, but not to the
library; I left the book in my room where I could get it when I had had
my sleep in the day. When I returned Nurse Kennedy was ready to go to
bed; so Miss Trelawny watched with me in the room. I did not want any
book whilst she was present. We sat close together and talked in a
whisper whilst the moments flew by. It was with surprise that I noted
the edge of the curtains changing from grey to yellow light. What we
talked of had nothing to do with the sick man, except in so far that all
which concerned his daughter must ultimately concern him. But it had
nothing to say to Egypt, or mummies, or the dead, or caves, or Bedouin
chiefs. I could well take note in the growing light that Margaret’s
hand had not seven fingers, but five; for it lay in mine.

When Doctor Winchester arrived in the morning and had made his visit to
his patient, he came to see me as I sat in the dining-room having a
little meal–breakfast or supper, I hardly knew which it was–before I
went to lie down. Mr. Corbeck came in at the same time; and we resumed
out conversation where we had left it the night before. I told Mr.
Corbeck that I had read the chapter about the finding of the tomb, and
that I thought Doctor Winchester should read it, too. The latter said
that, if he might, he would take it with him; he had that morning to
make a railway journey to Ipswich, and would read it on the train. He
said he would bring it back with him when he came again in the evening.
I went up to my room to bring it down; but I could not find it anywhere.
I had a distinct recollection of having left it on the little table
beside my bed, when I had come up after Miss Trelawny’s going on duty
into the sick-room. It was very strange; for the book was not of a kind
that any of the servants would be likely to take. I had to come back
and explain to the others that I could not find it.

When Doctor Winchester had gone, Mr. Corbeck, who seemed to know the
Dutchman’s work by heart, talked the whole matter over with me. I told
him that I was interrupted by a change of nurses, just as I had come to
the description of the ring. He smiled as he said:

“So far as that is concerned, you need not be disappointed. Not in Van
Huyn’s time, nor for nearly two centuries later, could the meaning of
that engraving have been understood. It was only when the work was
taken up and followed by Young and Champollion, by Birch and Lepsius and
Rosellini and Salvolini, by Mariette Bey and by Wallis Budge and
Flinders Petrie and the other scholars of their times that great results
ensued, and that the true meaning of hieroglyphic was known.

“Later, I shall explain to you, if Mr. Trelawny does not explain it
himself, or if he does not forbid me to, what it means in that
particular place. I think it will be better for you to know what
followed Van Huyn’s narrative; for with the description of the stone,
and the account of his bringing it to Holland at the termination of his
travels, the episode ends. Ends so far as his book is concerned. The
chief thing about the book is that it sets others thinking–and acting.
Amongst them were Mr. Trelawny and myself. Mr. Trelawny is a good
linguist of the Orient, but he does not know Northern tongues. As for
me I have a faculty for learning languages; and when I was pursuing my
studies in Leyden I leaned Dutch so that I might more easily make
references in the library there. Thus it was, that at the very time
when Mr. Trelawny, who, in making his great collection of works on
Egypt, had, through a booksellers’ catalogue, acquired this volume with
the manuscript translation, was studying it, I was reading another copy,
in original Dutch, in Leyden. We were both struck by the description of
the lonely tomb in the rock; cut so high up as to be inaccessible to
ordinary seekers: with all means of reaching it carefully obliterated;
and yet with such an elaborate ornamentation of the smoothed surface of
the cliff as Van Huyn has described. It also struck us both as an odd
thing–for in the years between Van Huyn’s time and our own the general
knowledge of Egyptian curios and records has increased marvellously–that
in the case of such a tomb, made in such a place, and which must have
cost an immense sum of money, there was no seeming record or effigy to
point out who lay within. Moreover, the very name of the place, ‘the
Valley of the Sorcerer’, had, in a prosaid age, attractions of its own.
When we met, which we did through his seeking the assistance of other
Egyptologists in his work, we talked over this as we did over many other
things; and we determined to make search for the mysterious valley.
Whilst we were waiting to start on the travel, for many things were
required which Mr. Trelawny undertook to see to himself, I went to
Holland to try if I could by any traces verify Van Huyn’s narrative. I
went straight to Hoorn, and set patiently to work to find the house of
the traveller and his descendants, if any. I need not trouble you with
details of my seeking–and finding. Hoorn is a place that has not changed
much since Van Huyn’s time, except that it has lost the place which it
held amongst commercial cities. Its externals are such as they had been
then; in such a sleepy old place a century or two does not count for
much. I found the house, and discovered that none of the descendants
were alive. I searched records; but only to one end–death and
extinction. Then I set me to work to find what had become of his
treasures; for that such a traveller must have had great treasures was
apparent. I traced a good many to museums in Leyden, Utrecht, and
Amsterdam; and some few to the private houses of rich collectors. At
last, in the shop of an old watchmaker and jeweller at Hoorn, I found
what he considered his chiefest treasure; a great ruby, carven like a
scarab, with seven stars, and engraven with hieroglyphics. The old man
did not know hieroglyphic character, and in his old-world, sleepy life,
the philological discoveries of recent years had not reached him. He
did not know anything of Van Huyn, except that such a person had been,
and that his name was, during two centuries, venerated in the town as a
great traveller. He valued the jewel as only a rare stone, spoiled in
part by the cutting; and though he was at first loth to part with such
an unique gem, he became amenable ultimately to commercial reason. I
had a full purse, since I bought for Mr. Trelawny, who is, as I suppose
you know, immensely wealthy. I was shortly on my way back to London,
with the Star Ruby safe in my pocket-book; and in my heart a joy and
exultation which knew no bounds.

“For here we were with proof of Van Huyn’s wonderful story. The jewel
was put in security in Mr. Trelawny’s great safe; and we started out on
our journey of exploration in full hope.

“Mr. Trelawny was, at the last, loth to leave his young wife whom he
dearly loved; but she, who loved him equally, knew his longing to
prosecute the search. So keeping to herself, as all good women do, all
her anxieties–which in her case were special–she bade him follow out
his bent.”

 

Tune in tomorrow for the second half of Bram Stoker’s Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb, er, The Jewel of Seven Stars in DM du Jour, your home for classic macabrely from beyond the grave.

blood_from_mummys_tomb

Algernon Blackwell ~ The Insanity of Jones

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(A Study in Reincarnation)

I

Adventures come to the adventurous, and mysterious things fall in the way of those who, with wonder and imagination, are on the watch for them; but the majority of people go past the doors that are half ajar, thinking them closed, and fail to notice the faint stirrings of the great curtain that hangs ever in the form of appearances between them and the world of causes behind.

For only to the few whose inner senses have been quickened, perchance by some strange suffering in the depths, or by a natural temperament bequeathed from a remote past, comes the knowledge, not too welcome, that this greater world lies ever at their elbow, and that any moment a chance combination of moods and forces may invite them to cross the shifting frontier.

Some, however, are born with this awful certainty in their hearts, and are called to no apprenticeship, and to this select company Jones undoubtedly belonged.

All his life he had realised that his senses brought to him merely a more or less interesting set of sham appearances; that space, as men measure it, was utterly misleading; that time, as the clock ticked it in a succession of minutes, was arbitrary nonsense; and, in fact, that all his sensory perceptions were but a clumsy representation of real things behind the curtain—things he was for ever trying to get at, and that sometimes he actually did get at.

He had always been tremblingly aware that he stood on the borderland of another region, a region where time and space were merely forms of thought, where ancient memories lay open to the sight, and where the forces behind each human life stood plainly revealed and he could see the hidden springs at the very heart of the world. Moreover, the fact that he was a clerk in a fire insurance office, and did his work with strict attention, never allowed him to forget for one moment that, just beyond the dingy brick walls where the hundred men scribbled with pointed pens beneath the electric lamps, there existed this glorious region where the important part of himself dwelt and moved and had its being. For in this region he pictured himself playing the part of a spectator to his ordinary workaday life, watching, like a king, the stream of events, but untouched in his own soul by the dirt, the noise, and the vulgar commotion of the outer world.

And this was no poetic dream merely. Jones was not playing prettily with idealism to amuse himself. It was a living, working belief. So convinced was he that the external world was the result of a vast deception practised upon him by the gross senses, that when he stared at a great building like St. Paul’s he felt it would not very much surprise him to see it suddenly quiver like a shape of jelly and then melt utterly away, while in its place stood all at once revealed the mass of colour, or the great intricate vibrations, or the splendid sound—the spiritual idea—which it represented in stone.

For something in this way it was that his mind worked.

Yet, to all appearances, and in the satisfaction of all business claims, Jones was normal and unenterprising. He felt nothing but contempt for the wave of modern psychism. He hardly knew the meaning of such words as “clairvoyance” and “clairaudience.” He had never felt the least desire to join the Theosophical Society and to speculate in theories of astral-plane life, or elementals. He attended no meetings of the Psychical Research Society, and knew no anxiety as to whether his “aura” was black or blue; nor was he conscious of the slightest wish to mix in with the revival of cheap occultism which proves so attractive to weak minds of mystical tendencies and unleashed imaginations.

There were certain things he knew, but none he cared to argue about; and he shrank instinctively from attempting to put names to the contents of this other region, knowing well that such names could only limit and define things that, according to any standards in use in the ordinary world, were simply undefinable and illusive.

So that, although this was the way his mind worked, there was clearly a very strong leaven of common sense in Jones. In a word, the man the world and the office knew as Jones was Jones. The name summed him up and labelled him correctly—John Enderby Jones.

Among the things that he knew, and therefore never cared to speak or speculate about, one was that he plainly saw himself as the inheritor of a long series of past lives, the net result of painful evolution, always as himself, of course, but in numerous different bodies each determined by the behaviour of the preceding one. The present John Jones was the last result to date of all the previous thinking, feeling, and doing of John Jones in earlier bodies and in other centuries. He pretended to no details, nor claimed distinguished ancestry, for he realised his past must have been utterly commonplace and insignificant to have produced his present; but he was just as sure he had been at this weary game for ages as that he breathed, and it never occurred to him to argue, to doubt, or to ask questions. And one result of this belief was that his thoughts dwelt upon the past rather than upon the future; that he read much history, and felt specially drawn to certain periods whose spirit he understood instinctively as though he had lived in them; and that he found all religions uninteresting because, almost without exception, they start from the present and speculate ahead as to what men shall become, instead of looking back and speculating why men have got here as they are.

In the insurance office he did his work exceedingly well, but without much personal ambition. Men and women he regarded as the impersonal instruments for inflicting upon him the pain or pleasure he had earned by his past workings, for chance had no place in his scheme of things at all; and while he recognised that the practical world could not get along unless every man did his work thoroughly and conscientiously, he took no interest in the accumulation of fame or money for himself, and simply, therefore, did his plain duty, with indifference as to results.

In common with others who lead a strictly impersonal life, he possessed the quality of utter bravery, and was always ready to face any combination of circumstances, no matter how terrible, because he saw in them the just working-out of past causes he had himself set in motion which could not be dodged or modified. And whereas the majority of people had little meaning for him, either by way of attraction or repulsion, the moment he met some one with whom he felt his past had been vitally interwoven his whole inner being leapt up instantly and shouted the fact in his face, and he regulated his life with the utmost skill and caution, like a sentry on watch for an enemy whose feet could already be heard approaching.

Thus, while the great majority of men and women left him uninfluenced—since he regarded them as so many souls merely passing with him along the great stream of evolution—there were, here and there, individuals with whom he recognised that his smallest intercourse was of the gravest importance. These were persons with whom he knew in every fibre of his being he had accounts to settle, pleasant or otherwise, arising out of dealings in past lives; and into his relations with these few, therefore, he concentrated as it were the efforts that most people spread over their intercourse with a far greater number. By what means he picked out these few individuals only those conversant with the startling processes of the subconscious memory may say, but the point was that Jones believed the main purpose, if not quite the entire purpose, of his present incarnation lay in his faithful and thorough settling of these accounts, and that if he sought to evade the least detail of such settling, no matter how unpleasant, he would have lived in vain, and would return to his next incarnation with this added duty to perform. For according to his beliefs there was no Chance, and could be no ultimate shirking, and to avoid a problem was merely to waste time and lose opportunities for development.

And there was one individual with whom Jones had long understood clearly he had a very large account to settle, and towards the accomplishment of which all the main currents of his being seemed to bear him with unswerving purpose. For, when he first entered the insurance office as a junior clerk ten years before, and through a glass door had caught sight of this man seated in an inner room, one of his sudden overwhelming flashes of intuitive memory had burst up into him from the depths, and he had seen, as in a flame of blinding light, a symbolical picture of the future rising out of a dreadful past, and he had, without any act of definite volition, marked down this man for a real account to be settled.

“With that man I shall have much to do,” he said to himself, as he noted the big face look up and meet his eye through the glass. “There is something I cannot shirk—a vital relation out of the past of both of us.”

And he went to his desk trembling a little, and with shaking knees, as though the memory of some terrible pain had suddenly laid its icy hand upon his heart and touched the scar of a great horror. It was a moment of genuine terror when their eyes had met through the glass door, and he was conscious of an inward shrinking and loathing that seized upon him with great violence and convinced him in a single second that the settling of this account would be almost, perhaps, more than he could manage.

The vision passed as swiftly as it came, dropping back again into the submerged region of his consciousness; but he never forgot it, and the whole of his life thereafter became a sort of natural though undeliberate preparation for the fulfilment of the great duty when the time should be ripe.

In those days—ten years ago—this man was the Assistant Manager, but had since been promoted as Manager to one of the company’s local branches; and soon afterwards Jones had likewise found himself transferred to this same branch. A little later, again, the branch at Liverpool, one of the most important, had been in peril owing to mismanagement and defalcation, and the man had gone to take charge of it, and again, by mere chance apparently, Jones had been promoted to the same place. And this pursuit of the Assistant Manager had continued for several years, often, too, in the most curious fashion; and though Jones had never exchanged a single word with him, or been so much as noticed indeed by the great man, the clerk understood perfectly well that these moves in the game were all part of a definite purpose. Never for one moment did he doubt that the Invisibles behind the veil were slowly and surely arranging the details of it all so as to lead up suitably to the climax demanded by justice, a climax in which himself and the Manager would play the leading rôles.

“It is inevitable,” he said to himself, “and I feel it may be terrible; but when the moment comes I shall be ready, and I pray God that I may face it properly and act like a man.”

Moreover, as the years passed, and nothing happened, he felt the horror closing in upon him with steady increase, for the fact was Jones hated and loathed the Manager with an intensity of feeling he had never before experienced towards any human being. He shrank from his presence, and from the glance of his eyes, as though he remembered to have suffered nameless cruelties at his hands; and he slowly began to realise, moreover, that the matter to be settled between them was one of very ancient standing, and that the nature of the settlement was a discharge of accumulated punishment which would probably be very dreadful in the manner of its fulfilment.

When, therefore, the chief cashier one day informed him that the man was to be in London again—this time as General Manager of the head office—and said that he was charged to find a private secretary for him from among the best clerks, and further intimated that the selection had fallen upon himself, Jones accepted the promotion quietly, fatalistically, yet with a degree of inward loathing hardly to be described. For he saw in this merely another move in the evolution of the inevitable Nemesis which he simply dared not seek to frustrate by any personal consideration; and at the same time he was conscious of a certain feeling of relief that the suspense of waiting might soon be mitigated. A secret sense of satisfaction, therefore, accompanied the unpleasant change, and Jones was able to hold himself perfectly well in hand when it was carried into effect and he was formally introduced as private secretary to the General Manager.

Now the Manager was a large, fat man, with a very red face and bags beneath his eyes. Being short-sighted, he wore glasses that seemed to magnify his eyes, which were always a little bloodshot. In hot weather a sort of thin slime covered his cheeks, for he perspired easily. His head was almost entirely bald, and over his turn-down collar his great neck folded in two distinct reddish collops of flesh. His hands were big and his fingers almost massive in thickness.

He was an excellent business man, of sane judgment and firm will, without enough imagination to confuse his course of action by showing him possible alternatives; and his integrity and ability caused him to be held in universal respect by the world of business and finance. In the important regions of a man’s character, however, and at heart, he was coarse, brutal almost to savagery, without consideration for others, and as a result often cruelly unjust to his helpless subordinates.

In moments of temper, which were not infrequent, his face turned a dull purple, while the top of his bald head shone by contrast like white marble, and the bags under his eyes swelled till it seemed they would presently explode with a pop. And at these times he presented a distinctly repulsive appearance.

But to a private secretary like Jones, who did his duty regardless of whether his employer was beast or angel, and whose mainspring was principle and not emotion, this made little difference. Within the narrow limits in which any one could satisfy such a man, he pleased the General Manager; and more than once his piercing intuitive faculty, amounting almost to clairvoyance, assisted the chief in a fashion that served to bring the two closer together than might otherwise have been the case, and caused the man to respect in his assistant a power of which he possessed not even the germ himself. It was a curious relationship that grew up between the two, and the cashier, who enjoyed the credit of having made the selection, profited by it indirectly as much as any one else.

So for some time the work of the office continued normally and very prosperously. John Enderby Jones received a good salary, and in the outward appearance of the two chief characters in this history there was little change noticeable, except that the Manager grew fatter and redder, and the secretary observed that his own hair was beginning to show rather greyish at the temples.

There were, however, two changes in progress, and they both had to do with Jones, and are important to mention.

One was that he began to dream evilly. In the region of deep sleep, where the possibility of significant dreaming first develops itself, he was tormented more and more with vivid scenes and pictures in which a tall thin man, dark and sinister of countenance, and with bad eyes, was closely associated with himself. Only the setting was that of a past age, with costumes of centuries gone by, and the scenes had to do with dreadful cruelties that could not belong to modern life as he knew it.

The other change was also significant, but is not so easy to describe, for he had in fact become aware that some new portion of himself, hitherto unawakened, had stirred slowly into life out of the very depths of his consciousness. This new part of himself amounted almost to another personality, and he never observed its least manifestation without a strange thrill at his heart.

For he understood that it had begun to watch the Manager!
II

It was the habit of Jones, since he was compelled to work among conditions that were utterly distasteful, to withdraw his mind wholly from business once the day was over. During office hours he kept the strictest possible watch upon himself, and turned the key on all inner dreams, lest any sudden uprush from the deeps should interfere with his duty. But, once the working day was over, the gates flew open, and he began to enjoy himself.

He read no modern books on the subjects that interested him, and, as already said, he followed no course of training, nor belonged to any society that dabbled with half-told mysteries; but, once released from the office desk in the Manager’s room, he simply and naturally entered the other region, because he was an old inhabitant, a rightful denizen, and because he belonged there. It was, in fact, really a case of dual personality; and a carefully drawn agreement existed between Jones-of-the-fire-insurance-office and Jones-of-the-mysteries, by the terms of which, under heavy penalties, neither region claimed him out of hours.

For the moment he reached his rooms under the roof in Bloomsbury, and had changed his city coat to another, the iron doors of the office clanged far behind him, and in front, before his very eyes, rolled up the beautiful gates of ivory, and he entered into the places of flowers and singing and wonderful veiled forms. Sometimes he quite lost touch with the outer world, forgetting to eat his dinner or go to bed, and lay in a state of trance, his consciousness working far out of the body. And on other occasions he walked the streets on air, half-way between the two regions, unable to distinguish between incarnate and discarnate forms, and not very far, probably, beyond the strata where poets, saints, and the greatest artists have moved and thought and found their inspiration. But this was only when some insistent bodily claim prevented his full release, and more often than not he was entirely independent of his physical portion and free of the real region, without let or hindrance.

One evening he reached home utterly exhausted after the burden of the day’s work. The Manager had been more than usually brutal, unjust, ill-tempered, and Jones had been almost persuaded out of his settled policy of contempt into answering back. Everything seemed to have gone amiss, and the man’s coarse, underbred nature had been in the ascendant all day long: he had thumped the desk with his great fists, abused, found fault unreasonably, uttered outrageous things, and behaved generally as he actually was—beneath the thin veneer of acquired business varnish. He had done and said everything to wound all that was woundable in an ordinary secretary, and though Jones fortunately dwelt in a region from which he looked down upon such a man as he might look down on the blundering of a savage animal, the strain had nevertheless told severely upon him, and he reached home wondering for the first time in his life whether there was perhaps a point beyond which he would be unable to restrain himself any longer.

For something out of the usual had happened. At the close of a passage of great stress between the two, every nerve in the secretary’s body tingling from undeserved abuse, the Manager had suddenly turned full upon him, in the corner of the private room where the safes stood, in such a way that the glare of his red eyes, magnified by the glasses, looked straight into his own. And at this very second that other personality in Jones—the one that was ever watching—rose up swiftly from the deeps within and held a mirror to his face.

A moment of flame and vision rushed over him, and for one single second—one merciless second of clear sight—he saw the Manager as the tall dark man of his evil dreams, and the knowledge that he had suffered at his hands some awful injury in the past crashed through his mind like the report of a cannon.

It all flashed upon him and was gone, changing him from fire to ice, and then back again to fire; and he left the office with the certain conviction in his heart that the time for his final settlement with the man, the time for the inevitable retribution, was at last drawing very near.

According to his invariable custom, however, he succeeded in putting the memory of all this unpleasantness out of his mind with the changing of his office coat, and after dozing a little in his leather chair before the fire, he started out as usual for dinner in the Soho French restaurant, and began to dream himself away into the region of flowers and singing, and to commune with the Invisibles that were the very sources of his real life and being.

For it was in this way that his mind worked, and the habits of years had crystallised into rigid lines along which it was now necessary and inevitable for him to act.

At the door of the little restaurant he stopped short, a half-remembered appointment in his mind. He had made an engagement with some one, but where, or with whom, had entirely slipped his memory. He thought it was for dinner, or else to meet just after dinner, and for a second it came back to him that it had something to do with the office, but, whatever it was, he was quite unable to recall it, and a reference to his pocket engagement book showed only a blank page. Evidently he had even omitted to enter it; and after standing a moment vainly trying to recall either the time, place, or person, he went in and sat down.

But though the details had escaped him, his subconscious memory seemed to know all about it, for he experienced a sudden sinking of the heart, accompanied by a sense of foreboding anticipation, and felt that beneath his exhaustion there lay a centre of tremendous excitement. The emotion caused by the engagement was at work, and would presently cause the actual details of the appointment to reappear.

Inside the restaurant the feeling increased, instead of passing: some one was waiting for him somewhere—some one whom he had definitely arranged to meet. He was expected by a person that very night and just about that very time. But by whom? Where? A curious inner trembling came over him, and he made a strong effort to hold himself in hand and to be ready for anything that might come.

And then suddenly came the knowledge that the place of appointment was this very restaurant, and, further, that the person he had promised to meet was already here, waiting somewhere quite close beside him.

He looked up nervously and began to examine the faces round him. The majority of the diners were Frenchmen, chattering loudly with much gesticulation and laughter; and there was a fair sprinkling of clerks like himself who came because the prices were low and the food good, but there was no single face that he recognised until his glance fell upon the occupant of the corner seat opposite, generally filled by himself.

“There’s the man who’s waiting for me!” thought Jones instantly.

He knew it at once. The man, he saw, was sitting well back into the corner, with a thick overcoat buttoned tightly up to the chin. His skin was very white, and a heavy black beard grew far up over his cheeks. At first the secretary took him for a stranger, but when he looked up and their eyes met, a sense of familiarity flashed across him, and for a second or two Jones imagined he was staring at a man he had known years before. For, barring the beard, it was the face of an elderly clerk who had occupied the next desk to his own when he first entered the service of the insurance company, and had shown him the most painstaking kindness and sympathy in the early difficulties of his work. But a moment later the illusion passed, for he remembered that Thorpe had been dead at least five years. The similarity of the eyes was obviously a mere suggestive trick of memory.

The two men stared at one another for several seconds, and then Jones began to act instinctively, and because he had to. He crossed over and took the vacant seat at the other’s table, facing him; for he felt it was somehow imperative to explain why he was late, and how it was he had almost forgotten the engagement altogether.

No honest excuse, however, came to his assistance, though his mind had begun to work furiously.

“Yes, you are late,” said the man quietly, before he could find a single word to utter. “But it doesn’t matter. Also, you had forgotten the appointment, but that makes no difference either.”

“I knew—that there was an engagement,” Jones stammered, passing his hand over his forehead; “but somehow—”

“You will recall it presently,” continued the other in a gentle voice, and smiling a little. “It was in deep sleep last night we arranged this, and the unpleasant occurrences of to-day have for the moment obliterated it.”

A faint memory stirred within him as the man spoke, and a grove of trees with moving forms hovered before his eyes and then vanished again, while for an instant the stranger seemed to be capable of self-distortion and to have assumed vast proportions, with wonderful flaming eyes.

“Oh!” he gasped. “It was there—in the other region?”

“Of course,” said the other, with a smile that illumined his whole face. “You will remember presently, all in good time, and meanwhile you have no cause to feel afraid.”

There was a wonderful soothing quality in the man’s voice, like the whispering of a great wind, and the clerk felt calmer at once. They sat a little while longer, but he could not remember that they talked much or ate anything. He only recalled afterwards that the head waiter came up and whispered something in his ear, and that he glanced round and saw the other people were looking at him curiously, some of them laughing, and that his companion then got up and led the way out of the restaurant.

They walked hurriedly through the streets, neither of them speaking; and Jones was so intent upon getting back the whole history of the affair from the region of deep sleep, that he barely noticed the way they took. Yet it was clear he knew where they were bound for just as well as his companion, for he crossed the streets often ahead of him, diving down alleys without hesitation, and the other followed always without correction.

The pavements were very full, and the usual night crowds of London were surging to and fro in the glare of the shop lights, but somehow no one impeded their rapid movements, and they seemed to pass through the people as if they were smoke. And, as they went, the pedestrians and traffic grew less and less, and they soon passed the Mansion House and the deserted space in front of the Royal Exchange, and so on down Fenchurch Street and within sight of the Tower of London, rising dim and shadowy in the smoky air.

Jones remembered all this perfectly well, and thought it was his intense preoccupation that made the distance seem so short. But it was when the Tower was left behind and they turned northwards that he began to notice how altered everything was, and saw that they were in a neighbourhood where houses were suddenly scarce, and lanes and fields beginning, and that their only light was the stars overhead. And, as the deeper consciousness more and more asserted itself to the exclusion of the surface happenings of his mere body during the day, the sense of exhaustion vanished, and he realised that he was moving somewhere in the region of causes behind the veil, beyond the gross deceptions of the senses, and released from the clumsy spell of space and time.

Without great surprise, therefore, he turned and saw that his companion had altered, had shed his overcoat and black hat, and was moving beside him absolutely without sound. For a brief second he saw him, tall as a tree, extending through space like a great shadow, misty and wavering of outline, followed by a sound like wings in the darkness; but, when he stopped, fear clutching at his heart, the other resumed his former proportions, and Jones could plainly see his normal outline against the green field behind.

Then the secretary saw him fumbling at his neck, and at the same moment the black beard came away from the face in his hand.

“Then you are Thorpe!” he gasped, yet somehow without overwhelming surprise.

They stood facing one another in the lonely lane, trees meeting overhead and hiding the stars, and a sound of mournful sighing among the branches.

“I am Thorpe,” was the answer in a voice that almost seemed part of the wind. “And I have come out of our far past to help you, for my debt to you is large, and in this life I had but small opportunity to repay.”

Jones thought quickly of the man’s kindness to him in the office, and a great wave of feeling surged through him as he began to remember dimly the friend by whose side he had already climbed, perhaps through vast ages of his soul’s evolution.

“To help me now?” he whispered.

“You will understand me when you enter into your real memory and recall how great a debt I have to pay for old faithful kindnesses of long ago,” sighed the other in a voice like falling wind.

“Between us, though, there can be no question of debt,” Jones heard himself saying, and remembered the reply that floated to him on the air and the smile that lightened for a moment the stern eyes facing him.

“Not of debt, indeed, but of privilege.”

Jones felt his heart leap out towards this man, this old friend, tried by centuries and still faithful. He made a movement to seize his hand. But the other shifted like a thing of mist, and for a moment the clerk’s head swam and his eyes seemed to fail.

“Then you are dead?” he said under his breath with a slight shiver.

“Five years ago I left the body you knew,” replied Thorpe. “I tried to help you then instinctively, not fully recognising you. But now I can accomplish far more.”

With an awful sense of foreboding and dread in his heart, the secretary was beginning to understand.

“It has to do with—with—?”

“Your past dealings with the Manager,” came the answer, as the wind rose louder among the branches overhead and carried off the remainder of the sentence into the air.

Jones’s memory, which was just beginning to stir among the deepest layers of all, shut down suddenly with a snap, and he followed his companion over fields and down sweet-smelling lanes where the air was fragrant and cool, till they came to a large house, standing gaunt and lonely in the shadows at the edge of a wood. It was wrapped in utter stillness, with windows heavily draped in black, and the clerk, as he looked, felt such an overpowering wave of sadness invade him that his eyes began to burn and smart, and he was conscious of a desire to shed tears.

The key made a harsh noise as it turned in the lock, and when the door swung open into a lofty hall they heard a confused sound of rustling and whispering, as of a great throng of people pressing forward to meet them. The air seemed full of swaying movement, and Jones was certain he saw hands held aloft and dim faces claiming recognition, while in his heart, already oppressed by the approaching burden of vast accumulated memories, he was aware of the uncoiling of something that had been asleep for ages.

As they advanced he heard the doors close with a muffled thunder behind them, and saw that the shadows seemed to retreat and shrink away towards the interior of the house, carrying the hands and faces with them. He heard the wind singing round the walls and over the roof, and its wailing voice mingled with the sound of deep, collective breathing that filled the house like the murmur of a sea; and as they walked up the broad staircase and through the vaulted rooms, where pillars rose like the stems of trees, he knew that the building was crowded, row upon row, with the thronging memories of his own long past.

“This is the House of the Past,” whispered Thorpe beside him, as they moved silently from room to room; “the house of your past. It is full from cellar to roof with the memories of what you have done, thought, and felt from the earliest stages of your evolution until now.

“The house climbs up almost to the clouds, and stretches back into the heart of the wood you saw outside, but the remoter halls are filled with the ghosts of ages ago too many to count, and even if we were able to waken them you could not remember them now. Some day, though, they will come and claim you, and you must know them, and answer their questions, for they can never rest till they have exhausted themselves again through you, and justice has been perfectly worked out.

“But now follow me closely, and you shall see the particular memory for which I am permitted to be your guide, so that you may know and understand a great force in your present life, and may use the sword of justice, or rise to the level of a great forgiveness, according to your degree of power.”

Icy thrills ran through the trembling clerk, and as he walked slowly beside his companion he heard from the vaults below, as well as from more distant regions of the vast building, the stirring and sighing of the serried ranks of sleepers, sounding in the still air like a chord swept from unseen strings stretched somewhere among the very foundations of the house.

Stealthily, picking their way among the great pillars, they moved up the sweeping staircase and through several dark corridors and halls, and presently stopped outside a small door in an archway where the shadows were very deep.

“Remain close by my side, and remember to utter no cry,” whispered the voice of his guide, and as the clerk turned to reply he saw his face was stern to whiteness and even shone a little in the darkness.

The room they entered seemed at first to be pitchy black, but gradually the secretary perceived a faint reddish glow against the farther end, and thought he saw figures moving silently to and fro.

“Now watch!” whispered Thorpe, as they pressed close to the wall near the door and waited. “But remember to keep absolute silence. It is a torture scene.”

Jones felt utterly afraid, and would have turned to fly if he dared, for an indescribable terror seized him and his knees shook; but some power that made escape impossible held him remorselessly there, and with eyes glued on the spots of light he crouched against the wall and waited.

The figures began to move more swiftly, each in its own dim light that shed no radiance beyond itself, and he heard a soft clanking of chains and the voice of a man groaning in pain. Then came the sound of a door closing, and thereafter Jones saw but one figure, the figure of an old man, naked entirely, and fastened with chains to an iron framework on the floor. His memory gave a sudden leap of fear as he looked, for the features and white beard were familiar, and he recalled them as though of yesterday.

The other figures had disappeared, and the old man became the centre of the terrible picture. Slowly, with ghastly groans; as the heat below him increased into a steady glow, the aged body rose in a curve of agony, resting on the iron frame only where the chains held wrists and ankles fast. Cries and gasps filled the air, and Jones felt exactly as though they came from his own throat, and as if the chains were burning into his own wrists and ankles, and the heat scorching the skin and flesh upon his own back. He began to writhe and twist himself.

“Spain!” whispered the voice at his side, “and four hundred years ago.”

“And the purpose?” gasped the perspiring clerk, though he knew quite well what the answer must be.

“To extort the name of a friend, to his death and betrayal,” came the reply through the darkness.

A sliding panel opened with a little rattle in the wall immediately above the rack, and a face, framed in the same red glow, appeared and looked down upon the dying victim. Jones was only just able to choke a scream, for he recognised the tall dark man of his dreams. With horrible, gloating eyes he gazed down upon the writhing form of the old man, and his lips moved as in speaking, though no words were actually audible.

“He asks again for the name,” explained the other, as the clerk struggled with the intense hatred and loathing that threatened every moment to result in screams and action. His ankles and wrists pained him so that he could scarcely keep still, but a merciless power held him to the scene.

He saw the old man, with a fierce cry, raise his tortured head and spit up into the face at the panel, and then the shutter slid back again, and a moment later the increased glow beneath the body, accompanied by awful writhing, told of the application of further heat. There came the odour of burning flesh; the white beard curled and burned to a crisp; the body fell back limp upon the red-hot iron, and then shot up again in fresh agony; cry after cry, the most awful in the world, rang out with deadened sound between the four walls; and again the panel slid back creaking, and revealed the dreadful face of the torturer.

Again the name was asked for, and again it was refused; and this time, after the closing of the panel, a door opened, and the tall thin man with the evil face came slowly into the chamber. His features were savage with rage and disappointment, and in the dull red glow that fell upon them he looked like a very prince of devils. In his hand he held a pointed iron at white heat.

“Now the murder!” came from Thorpe in a whisper that sounded as if it was outside the building and far away.

Jones knew quite well what was coming, but was unable even to close his eyes. He felt all the fearful pains himself just as though he were actually the sufferer; but now, as he stared, he felt something more besides; and when the tall man deliberately approached the rack and plunged the heated iron first into one eye and then into the other, he heard the faint fizzing of it, and felt his own eyes burst in frightful pain from his head. At the same moment, unable longer to control himself, he uttered a wild shriek and dashed forward to seize the torturer and tear him to a thousand pieces. Instantly, in a flash, the entire scene vanished; darkness rushed in to fill the room, and he felt himself lifted off his feet by some force like a great wind and borne swiftly away into space.

When he recovered his senses he was standing just outside the house and the figure of Thorpe was beside him in the gloom. The great doors were in the act of closing behind him, but before they shut he fancied he caught a glimpse of an immense veiled figure standing upon the threshold, with flaming eyes, and in his hand a bright weapon like a shining sword of fire.

“Come quickly now—all is over!” Thorpe whispered.

“And the dark man—?” gasped the clerk, as he moved swiftly by the other’s side.

“In this present life is the Manager of the company.”

“And the victim?”

“Was yourself!”

“And the friend he—I refused to betray?”

“I was that friend,” answered Thorpe, his voice with every moment sounding more and more like the cry of the wind. “You gave your life in agony to save mine.”

“And again, in this life, we have all three been together?”

“Yes. Such forces are not soon or easily exhausted, and justice is not satisfied till all have reaped what they sowed.”

Jones had an odd feeling that he was slipping away into some other state of consciousness. Thorpe began to seem unreal. Presently he would be unable to ask more questions. He felt utterly sick and faint with it all, and his strength was ebbing.

“Oh, quick!” he cried, “now tell me more. Why did I see this? What must I do?”

The wind swept across the field on their right and entered the wood beyond with a great roar, and the air round him seemed filled with voices and the rushing of hurried movement.

“To the ends of justice,” answered the other, as though speaking out of the centre of the wind and from a distance, “which sometimes is entrusted to the hands of those who suffered and were strong. One wrong cannot be put right by another wrong, but your life has been so worthy that the opportunity is given to—”

The voice grew fainter and fainter, already it was far overhead with the rushing wind.

“You may punish or—” Here Jones lost sight of Thorpe’s figure altogether, for he seemed to have vanished and melted away into the wood behind him. His voice sounded far across the trees, very weak, and ever rising.

“Or if you can rise to the level of a great forgiveness—”

The voice became inaudible…. The wind came crying out of the wood again.

Jones shivered and stared about him. He shook himself violently and rubbed his eyes. The room was dark, the fire was out; he felt cold and stiff. He got up out of his armchair, still trembling, and lit the gas. Outside the wind was howling, and when he looked at his watch he saw that it was very late and he must go to bed.

He had not even changed his office coat; he must have fallen asleep in the chair as soon as he came in, and he had slept for several hours. Certainly he had eaten no dinner, for he felt ravenous.
III

Next day, and for several weeks thereafter, the business of the office went on as usual, and Jones did his work well and behaved outwardly with perfect propriety. No more visions troubled him, and his relations with the Manager became, if anything, somewhat smoother and easier.

True, the man looked a little different, because the clerk kept seeing him with his inner and outer eye promiscuously, so that one moment he was broad and red-faced, and the next he was tall, thin, and dark, enveloped, as it were, in a sort of black atmosphere tinged with red. While at times a confusion of the two sights took place, and Jones saw the two faces mingled in a composite countenance that was very horrible indeed to contemplate. But, beyond this occasional change in the outward appearance of the Manager, there was nothing that the secretary noticed as the result of his vision, and business went on more or less as before, and perhaps even with a little less friction.

But in the rooms under the roof in Bloomsbury it was different, for there it was perfectly clear to Jones that Thorpe had come to take up his abode with him. He never saw him, but he knew all the time he was there. Every night on returning from his work he was greeted by the well-known whisper, “Be ready when I give the sign!” and often in the night he woke up suddenly out of deep sleep and was aware that Thorpe had that minute moved away from his bed and was standing waiting and watching somewhere in the darkness of the room. Often he followed him down the stairs, though the dim gas jet on the landings never revealed his outline; and sometimes he did not come into the room at all, but hovered outside the window, peering through the dirty panes, or sending his whisper into the chamber in the whistling of the wind.

For Thorpe had come to stay, and Jones knew that he would not get rid of him until he had fulfilled the ends of justice and accomplished the purpose for which he was waiting.

Meanwhile, as the days passed, he went through a tremendous struggle with himself, and came to the perfectly honest decision that the “level of a great forgiveness” was impossible for him, and that he must therefore accept the alternative and use the secret knowledge placed in his hands—and execute justice. And once this decision was arrived at, he noticed that Thorpe no longer left him alone during the day as before, but now accompanied him to the office and stayed more or less at his side all through business hours as well. His whisper made itself heard in the streets and in the train, and even in the Manager’s room where he worked; sometimes warning, sometimes urging, but never for a moment suggesting the abandonment of the main purpose, and more than once so plainly audible that the clerk felt certain others must have heard it as well as himself.

The obsession was complete. He felt he was always under Thorpe’s eye day and night, and he knew he must acquit himself like a man when the moment came, or prove a failure in his own sight as well in the sight of the other.

And now that his mind was made up, nothing could prevent the carrying out of the sentence. He bought a pistol, and spent his Saturday afternoons practising at a target in lonely places along the Essex shore, marking out in the sand the exact measurements of the Manager’s room. Sundays he occupied in like fashion, putting up at an inn overnight for the purpose, spending the money that usually went into the savings bank on travelling expenses and cartridges. Everything was done very thoroughly, for there must be no possibility of failure; and at the end of several weeks he had become so expert with his six-shooter that at a distance of 25 feet, which was the greatest length of the Manager’s room, he could pick the inside out of a halfpenny nine times out of a dozen, and leave a clean, unbroken rim.

There was not the slightest desire to delay. He had thought the matter over from every point of view his mind could reach, and his purpose was inflexible. Indeed, he felt proud to think that he had been chosen as the instrument of justice in the infliction of so well-deserved and so terrible a punishment. Vengeance may have had some part in his decision, but he could not help that, for he still felt at times the hot chains burning his wrists and ankles with fierce agony through to the bone. He remembered the hideous pain of his slowly roasting back, and the point when he thought death must intervene to end his suffering, but instead new powers of endurance had surged up in him, and awful further stretches of pain had opened up, and unconsciousness seemed farther off than ever. Then at last the hot irons in his eyes…. It all came back to him, and caused him to break out in icy perspiration at the mere thought of it … the vile face at the panel … the expression of the dark face…. His fingers worked. His blood boiled. It was utterly impossible to keep the idea of vengeance altogether out of his mind.

Several times he was temporarily baulked of his prey. Odd things happened to stop him when he was on the point of action. The first day, for instance, the Manager fainted from the heat. Another time when he had decided to do the deed, the Manager did not come down to the office at all. And a third time, when his hand was actually in his hip pocket, he suddenly heard Thorpe’s horrid whisper telling him to wait, and turning, he saw that the head cashier had entered the room noiselessly without his noticing it. Thorpe evidently knew what he was about, and did not intend to let the clerk bungle the matter.

He fancied, moreover, that the head cashier was watching him. He was always meeting him in unexpected corners and places, and the cashier never seemed to have an adequate excuse for being there. His movements seemed suddenly of particular interest to others in the office as well, for clerks were always being sent to ask him unnecessary questions, and there was apparently a general design to keep him under a sort of surveillance, so that he was never much alone with the Manager in the private room where they worked. And once the cashier had even gone so far as to suggest that he could take his holiday earlier than usual if he liked, as the work had been very arduous of late and the heat exceedingly trying.

He noticed, too, that he was sometimes followed by a certain individual in the streets, a careless-looking sort of man, who never came face to face with him, or actually ran into him, but who was always in his train or omnibus, and whose eye he often caught observing him over the top of his newspaper, and who on one occasion was even waiting at the door of his lodgings when he came out to dine.

There were other indications too, of various sorts, that led him to think something was at work to defeat his purpose, and that he must act at once before these hostile forces could prevent.

And so the end came very swiftly, and was thoroughly approved by Thorpe.

It was towards the close of July, and one of the hottest days London had ever known, for the City was like an oven, and the particles of dust seemed to burn the throats of the unfortunate toilers in street and office. The portly Manager, who suffered cruelly owing to his size, came down perspiring and gasping with the heat. He carried a light-coloured umbrella to protect his head.

“He’ll want something more than that, though!” Jones laughed quietly to himself when he saw him enter.

The pistol was safely in his hip pocket, every one of its six chambers loaded.

The Manager saw the smile on his face, and gave him a long steady look as he sat down to his desk in the corner. A few minutes later he touched the bell for the head cashier—a single ring—and then asked Jones to fetch some papers from another safe in the room upstairs.

A deep inner trembling seized the secretary as he noticed these precautions, for he saw that the hostile forces were at work against him, and yet he felt he could delay no longer and must act that very morning, interference or no interference. However, he went obediently up in the lift to the next floor, and while fumbling with the combination of the safe, known only to himself, the cashier, and the Manager, he again heard Thorpe’s horrid whisper just behind him:

“You must do it to-day! You must do it to-day!”

He came down again with the papers, and found the Manager alone. The room was like a furnace, and a wave of dead heated air met him in the face as he went in. The moment he passed the doorway he realised that he had been the subject of conversation between the head cashier and his enemy. They had been discussing him. Perhaps an inkling of his secret had somehow got into their minds. They had been watching him for days past. They had become suspicious.

Clearly, he must act now, or let the opportunity slip by perhaps for ever. He heard Thorpe’s voice in his ear, but this time it was no mere whisper, but a plain human voice, speaking out loud.

“Now!” it said. “Do it now!”

The room was empty. Only the Manager and himself were in it.

Jones turned from his desk where he had been standing, and locked the door leading into the main office. He saw the army of clerks scribbling in their shirt-sleeves, for the upper half of the door was of glass. He had perfect control of himself, and his heart was beating steadily.

The Manager, hearing the key turn in the lock, looked up sharply.

“What’s that you’re doing?” he asked quickly.

“Only locking the door, sir,” replied the secretary in a quite even voice.

“Why? Who told you to—?”

“The voice of Justice, sir,” replied Jones, looking steadily into the hated face.

The Manager looked black for a moment, and stared angrily across the room at him. Then suddenly his expression changed as he stared, and he tried to smile. It was meant to be a kind smile evidently, but it only succeeded in being frightened.

“That is a good idea in this weather,” he said lightly, “but it would be much better to lock it on the outside, wouldn’t it, Mr. Jones?”

“I think not, sir. You might escape me then. Now you can’t.”

Jones took his pistol out and pointed it at the other’s face. Down the barrel he saw the features of the tall dark man, evil and sinister. Then the outline trembled a little and the face of the Manager slipped back into its place. It was white as death, and shining with perspiration.

“You tortured me to death four hundred years ago,” said the clerk in the same steady voice, “and now the dispensers of justice have chosen me to punish you.”

The Manager’s face turned to flame, and then back to chalk again. He made a quick movement towards the telephone bell, stretching out a hand to reach it, but at the same moment Jones pulled the trigger and the wrist was shattered, splashing the wall behind with blood.

“That’s one place where the chains burnt,” he said quietly to himself. His hand was absolutely steady, and he felt that he was a hero.

The Manager was on his feet, with a scream of pain, supporting himself with his right hand on the desk in front of him, but Jones pressed the trigger again, and a bullet flew into the other wrist, so that the big man, deprived of support, fell forward with a crash on to the desk.

“You damned madman!” shrieked the Manager. “Drop that pistol!”

“That’s another place,” was all Jones said, still taking careful aim for another shot.

The big man, screaming and blundering, scrambled beneath the desk, making frantic efforts to hide, but the secretary took a step forward and fired two shots in quick succession into his projecting legs, hitting first one ankle and then the other, and smashing them horribly.

“Two more places where the chains burnt,” he said, going a little nearer.

The Manager, still shrieking, tried desperately to squeeze his bulk behind the shelter of the opening beneath the desk, but he was far too large, and his bald head protruded through on the other side. Jones caught him by the scruff of his great neck and dragged him yelping out on to the carpet. He was covered with blood, and flopped helplessly upon his broken wrists.

“Be quick now!” cried the voice of Thorpe.

There was a tremendous commotion and banging at the door, and Jones gripped his pistol tightly. Something seemed to crash through his brain, clearing it for a second, so that he thought he saw beside him a great veiled figure, with drawn sword and flaming eyes, and sternly approving attitude.

“Remember the eyes! Remember the eyes!” hissed Thorpe in the air above him.

Jones felt like a god, with a god’s power. Vengeance disappeared from his mind. He was acting impersonally as an instrument in the hands of the Invisibles who dispense justice and balance accounts. He bent down and put the barrel close into the other’s face, smiling a little as he saw the childish efforts of the arms to cover his head. Then he pulled the trigger, and a bullet went straight into the right eye, blackening the skin. Moving the pistol two inches the other way, he sent another bullet crashing into the left eye. Then he stood upright over his victim with a deep sigh of satisfaction.

The Manager wriggled convulsively for the space of a single second, and then lay still in death.

There was not a moment to lose, for the door was already broken in and violent hands were at his neck. Jones put the pistol to his temple and once more pressed the trigger with his finger.

But this time there was no report. Only a little dead click answered the pressure, for the secretary had forgotten that the pistol had only six chambers, and that he had used them all. He threw the useless weapon on to the floor, laughing a little out loud, and turned, without a struggle, to give himself up.

“I had to do it,” he said quietly, while they tied him. “It was simply my duty! And now I am ready to face the consequences, and Thorpe will be proud of me. For justice has been done and the gods are satisfied.”

He made not the slightest resistance, and when the two policemen marched him off through the crowd of shuddering little clerks in the office, he again saw the veiled figure moving majestically in front of him, making slow sweeping circles with the flaming sword, to keep back the host of faces that were thronging in upon him from the Other Region.

dm49

Alan Semrow ~ Players of the Game

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They’ve got us all lined up at these tiny card tables in this cold Catholic high school auditorium. I had to pay fifteen dollars for this. They told us it was for charity. We even get complimentary off-brand Oreos and fruit punch. I’m sitting with my plastic Dixie cup, looking at this woman. She’s got short brown hair—a yellow bow in it. A little weight on her, but nothing bad. She’s wearing a red blouse, sprinkled with rhinestones. She’s cute, though. Smiling at me. Her name tag reads, “Deb.”

She puts her hand out. We both know we’ve got about six minutes of absolute bliss. My effin’ friends told me this would be fun, a way to get out of the house. She says, “Deb.”

And I reply, “Patrick.”

She winks and it’s almost off-putting. I’ve met women like this before.

Deb says, “Tell me about yourself, Patrick.”

“You first.” I put my hand to my mouth, as if to say, Oh no, I didn’t.

I win a chuckle out of her. She tells me, “I just was at the Y. I swim after work every day. I’m looking for nothing in particular. My fricken friends told me this would be fun, a way to get out of the house. God help us all.”

I nod. “Sounds pretty familiar. Where are you from?”

“Chicago. The suburbs. I know someone who hates it when I say I’m from Chicago, because I’m not actually from Chicago. But I’m from near Chicago. I live around here now, though. I work in customer service.”

“That sounds fulfilling.”

Deb shakes her head and digs her hands into her parted hair. She mutters, “It’s fucking glorious.”

I nod again. “Understandable.”

“Where’d you come from?” Deb asks.

“A kilt fitting. I’ve been wanting to get back into my heritage. An homage of sorts to my ancestors.”

She starts to laugh uproariously. A huge laugh. One of those laughs that must cause everyone around to her flare up with her in laughter. I can tell from her laugh that she smokes. I can tell she probably laughs at her own jokes often, hasn’t been laid in a while, is probably lonely. “You’re kidding, right?” she asks.

“No,” I reply.

“You went to a kilt fitting? Is that even a thing?”

“I’ve decided I want to start wearing them more often. Get back into my Scottish heritage.”

“You’re Scottish. Like super Scottish? What’s your last name, Patrick?”

“You can’t ask me that.”

“I can ask whatever I want. That’s the rule.”

I put both hands in the air, as if to say I’m so really very super confused. “Did I miss something? They give a guidebook?”

“What is your last name?”

“Rudolph.”

Once again, Deb starts to laugh. “You are so full of shit. That’s not Scottish.”

“My great grandmother’s last name was McLain.”

She slaps her hand down on her knee, smiles up at me. I’ve seen looks like hers before. All the sweet girls who loved me. Angels, flowers, pearls. I broke a lot of fragile hearts back then. I really did. Deb says, “You did not just come from a fucking kilt fitting, you doof!”

I grin. “You’re right. You got me.”

“You didn’t have me.” She kicks her leg out at mine and starts playing with my feet.

I pull mine away. “Tell me about your j…”

“Tell me about the best sex you’ve ever had.”

“What?”

Deb throws her hands out for mine across the table, touches them. I remove mine instantly. She eyes me, grins real sexy. “Aw. You’re the timid type, aren’t you?”

“I’m just simple.”

“Tell me!”

“No way. Not appropriate.”

“Say it.”

I roll my eyes, succumb. “The sex with the girlfriend I had before my wife. That was the best. We were both such feckless little creatures, begging for the world to take us on.”

Deb’s tongue scoots out of her mouth and traces her lips. “What did you do to her?”

“What do you mean?”

“How. Did. It. Make. You. Feel?”

“Happy. Usually pretty happy.”

“She let you cum on her face?”

I bite my lower lip, look around the gymnasium. The streamers falling from the beams on the ceiling, the posters on the wall. I look at the couples—all short-lived. Just a bunch of insta-relationships. Some are smiling. Some wear no expression at all. I look back at Deb and tell her, “Yes.”

“How did you fuck her?” she asks, running her yellow-painted fingernails along the outer edge of one of her arms. She’s got a rose tattoo on her wrist.

I cross my arms in my chest. I tell her, “Every way you could ever imagine.”

“Mmm. You on top? Her on top?”

I raise my eyes brows, sighing briefly. “It was a real good thing.”

“You liked the way she gulped your cock down, didn’t you?”

“Yes.”

“Let you cum on her face. Fuck her tight pussy.”

“Yes.”

“Sounds marvelous, Pat. Good for you.”

Nancy had really been a sweet, wild child. She was my spring awakening right after a bitter winter. She liked old seventies music. She read a lot of books. She talked a lot. And she laughed real nice, real quiet. We had a good thing, me and Nancy. A real good thing. I used to call her my lady giraffe. And she called me her rabbit. We bought a goldfish once and we named her Billie Bob. She cried the day the fish died. We both fucked it up. We fucked it up real good.

“You want to ask me now?” Deb says.

“What are you doing after this?”

Deb turns from me and pays some attention to the rest of the auditorium. I watch while she checks out the other guys, looks to the top of the stage where the crucifix hangs. She makes a ducky face with her lips—seemingly unconvinced, not confident. She looks back into my eyes, “You loved her, didn’t you?”

I nod my head at Deb and I feel bad for her. I reply, “I did. I really did.”

Deb spins both legs to the side of the chair and stands up from her spot in the seat. She says, “I imagine it’s time to switch soon. I should be going, though.” She puts her hand out. I shake.

Deb says, “It was really very nice to meet you, Mr. McLain.” And then she grabs her purse.

 

Alan Semrow lives in Wisconsin and is a graduate of English from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. His poetry and fiction have been featured in multiple publications, including BlazeVOX14, Red Fez, The Bicycle Review, Earl of Plaid Lit Journal, Potluck Magazine, Blotterature Lit Mag; The Rain, Party, & Disaster Society; The Commonline Journal, Crack the Spine, Indiana Voice Journal, EAP: The Magazine, Former People: A Journal of Bangs and Whimpers, Golden Walkman Magazine, Barney Street, and Wordplay, and he won the Essayist Award from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point English Department for his nonfiction work. In 2015, his stories are set to be featured in several journals, including TWJ Magazine, The Biscuit, DoveTales Lit Journal, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, The Chaffey Review, and The Radvocate. Semrow spends the majority of his free time with his boyfriend, friends, family, and Shih Tzu, Remy.
You can read more of Alan’s fiction in DM 91 ~ Kinderszenen.
AF 7

Joel Sattler ~ Don Juan in Hell

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[based on “Don Juan aux Enfers”
from FLEURS DU MAL by Charles Baudelaire]

when Don Juan went down to the River Styx
and paid his alms to Charon the ferryman
like the cynical prophet Antisthenes, the pupil of old Socrates
a beggar grabbed the oars and sneered again

under the black and dusky roof
sad fat women writhed and ripped their clothes
and a herd of victims trailed behind
and from them wails and moans arose

Sganarelle, Don Juan’s valet
laughed and laughed demanding more
Don pointed to the mocking son
while all the dead walked on the shore

Don Juan
Don Juan
Don Juan
in Hell !

Elvira shivered under grief
chaste and lean in disbelief
to see the treacherous husband cheat
in memory of first love so brief

the situation seemed to demand
a certain sweetness smile supreme
for all the ardor that once was
or might have been as in a dream

a man of stone stood in his armor
and at the helm cut waters free
and leaning on his sword of valor
pretended that he didn’t see

Don Juan
Don Juan
Don Juan
in Hell !

 

Joel Sattler is a bookseller, and has been published in a number of different places. This poem has previously appeared on the songwriting site kompoz.com. Read more of Joel’s poetry in DM 91 ~ Kinderszenen.

AF 3

Scarlett R. Algee ~ UNTO US A SON IS GIVEN

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I would like to say I do not remember clearly. I am an old man and that was more than thirty years ago. But the teachers call it sin to lie and so I will say: I remember.

When we saw the flare of light we were in the hills above Bethlehem, Micah and Ishmael and I; it was early autumn, the air just becoming crisp, and the ewes we tended were fat and tempting. Micah had killed a wolf with a stone from his sling; I stood watch while he and Ishmael skinned it.

And the sky caught fire.

I can call it nothing else. A great curtain of green light, bright as the sun, licked up from horizon to zenith in an instant; and in the same instant it coalesced to a single point, sickly and flickering, hovering over the mouth of a cave. We stared, bloody wolf forgotten. Ishmael was young then, and trembled. I trembled; I will not lie.

Then we heard the wings.

There were hundreds of them, perhaps thousands, lanky black things with great tattered bat-like wings that blotted out the stars and the strange green light. They hovered over us, and spoke; and their speech was not the speech of men, but a low evil buzz that twisted up words in my mind.
The one you were promised has come. Come. See. We take you.

One of the creatures snatched me up in thin cold hands; it had claws that pierced my robe and pricked my flesh. Then I was lifted; and if others seized Micah and Ishmael I did not see. I saw the ground rush under me, and closed my eyes against the nausea of movement, against the sight of my bearer’s shallow, featureless face.

Then I was set down.

I opened my eyes. I was at the mouth of the cave. The pale green light streamed down, hanging over the opening like a door, made my skin appear leprous in its wake. Then the creature shoved my shoulder with one clawed freezing hand and pushed me through.

Passing through that green glow was like passing through stagnant water: I gagged and retched at its stinking viscosity, and stumbled beyond feeling coated with contagion. Inside was dark except for a far dimmer light; my eyes took a long moment to adjust to the simple oil lamps. I smelled copper, sweat, decay.

And I saw the woman and her child.

She was a young thing, at a closer look, and panting still; the straw between her feet was clotted with copious blood, as though her labor had been precipitous and difficult. An older man, perhaps her husband or her father, stood well back from her and raised wild eyes to me, his chin dripping saliva beneath his slack, working mouth. She had the glazed look of the exhausted unto death, and in the whiteness of her face I saw the clean stark lines of the skull beneath, yet through some strength she held the child to her.

Then the woman took the child and laid it in the manger: but the stone trough was lined with raw meat instead of clean straw, and flies buzzed over a butchered lamb in an empty stall. I saw then that the skin of her breast was flayed into fine strands, showing glistening red flesh underneath, and the liquid that dripped from her suckled nipple was not milk but blood.

She spoke in a croaky, breathless whisper: “Behold the son of God.”

Then the child moved: and for the first time I saw its slick black skin, tiny claw-tipped limbs, thin bat wings beginning to unfurl and fan. It gurgled, and its infant mouth showed needle teeth, ringed with tendrils like the barbels of a catfish. They spread out, twisting, tasting the air, perhaps sensing me, and I knew this was not my promised one.

Someone else came into the cave then, slipping effortlessly through the barrier of sick green light and wearing the shape of a man, if a man could be soot black and spider-thin. He was arrayed in tawny silks and bedecked in gold, his face covered below onyx eyes, and he trailed the fragrance of myrrh from the tips of long writhing fingers. He knelt: and as he knelt, his yellow silk veil slipped, and when I saw what lay beneath I ran from the cave screaming.

I screamed until I reached the top of the hill, and there I fell, breathing the sweet cool air, clutching fistfuls of long wholesome grass. Only when I came to myself did I see that the flock had scattered, and that of Ishmael and Micah and the dead wolf there was no sign, save a few tufts of gray fur and a patch of sticky crimson across the grass.

I left the hill country that night, and have not returned. In the thirty years since I have heard that the peculiar babe grew to manhood of a sort, gathered followers and wandered the countryside, preaching a new kingdom and performing strange miracles: giving the lame to walk on ropy tentacle legs, restoring sight to the blind to show them things no man should bear, raising men from the grave to show them crueler forms of death.

I was glad when I heard he had been crucified in Jerusalem. Such a blasphemy should only be put to death. But then I heard the tomb had been found empty three days later, its Roman guards devoured, and I could not be glad for that.

Those who followed him walk still, and they are much changed from men. One I met yesterday, on the road to Beersheba: he said his master had gone to his kingdom, under stone, under sea, to dream a new world and wait for stars to turn. The madman said his king will return to bring his glory.

May it be a glory I do not live to see.

 

Scarlett R. Algee‘s publication credits include pieces in the anthologies Cthulhu Haiku and Cthulhu Haiku II, as well as Sanitarium Magazine (#29) and the forthcoming issue (#26) of Morpheus Tales. She lives in the wilds of Tennessee and blogs at sralgee.wordpress.com.

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John Kearns ~ Without Purpose

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Driving nowhere in particular,

The warm breeze
The sweet smooth smoke
Of the laughter
Of friends.

I smiled.

“Tomorrow I’ll think this is a dream,” I thought.

On the sidewalks
Lines in sad cement
Read that she had walked there

But now jokes and giggles.

Tomorrow I’ll think this is a dream

Limbs hollowed
Eyes frozen with wonder
We gazed
Through the fence
At lost summer

Afterwards
Sleeping rows of houses
Silence
Neglected moon
Broken radio

And the car sailed around
Without purpose: fun.

 

John Kearns writes from Ireland. Read more of John’s poetry in DM 91 ~ Kinderszenen.

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