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

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

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s