The Jewel of Seven Stars - Page 24

"The end of the wrist was covered with dried blood! It was as thoughthe body had bled after death! The jagged ends of the broken wristwere rough with the clotted blood; through this the white bone,sticking out, looked like the matrix of opal. The blood had streameddown and stained the brown wrappings as with rust. Here, then, wasfull confirmation of the narrative. With such evidence of thenarrator's truth before us, we could not doubt the other matters whichhe had told, such as the blood on the mummy hand, or marks of the sevenfingers on the throat of the strangled Sheik.

"I shall not trouble you with details of all we saw, or how we learnedall we knew. Part of it was from knowledge common to scholars; part weread on the Stele in the tomb, and in the sculptures and hieroglyphicpaintings on the walls.

"Queen Tera was of the Eleventh, or Theban Dynasty of Egyptian Kingswhich held sway between the twenty-ninth and twenty-fifth centuriesbefore Christ. She succeeded as the only child of her father, Antef.She must have been a girl of extraordinary character as well asability, for she was but a young girl when her father died. Her youthand sex encouraged the ambitious priesthood, which had then achievedimmense power. By their wealth and numbers and learning they dominatedall Egypt, more especially the Upper portion. They were then secretlyready to make an effort for the achievement of their bold andlong-considered design, that of transferring the governing power from aKingship to a Hierarchy. But King Antef had suspected some suchmovement, and had taken the precaution of securing to his daughter theallegiance of the army. He had also had her taught statecraft, and hadeven made her learned in the lore of the very priests themselves. Hehad used those of one cult against the other; each being hopeful ofsome present gain on its own part by the influence of the King, or ofsome ultimate gain from its own influence over his daughter. Thus, thePrincess had been brought up amongst scribes, and was herself no meanartist. Many of these things were told on the walls in pictures or inhieroglyphic writing of great beauty; and we came to the conclusionthat not a few of them had been done by the Princess herself. It wasnot without cause that she was inscribed on the Stele as 'Protector ofthe Arts'.

"But the King had gone to further lengths, and had had his daughtertaught magic, by which she had power over Sleep and Will. This wasreal magic--"black" magic; not the magic of the temples, which, I mayexplain, was of the harmless or "white" order, and was intended toimpress rather than to effect. She had been an apt pupil; and had gonefurther than her teachers. Her power and her resources had given hergreat opportunities, of which she had availed herself to the full. Shehad won secrets from nature in strange ways; and had even gone to thelength of going down into the tomb herself, having been swathed andcoffined and left as dead for a whole month. The priests had tried tomake out that the real Princess Tera had died in the experiment, andthat another girl had been substituted; but she had conclusively provedtheir error. All this was told in pictures of great merit. It wasprobably in her time that the impulse was given in the restoring theartistic greatness of the Fourth Dynasty which had found its perfectionin the days of Chufu.

"In the Chamber of the sarcophagus were pictures and writings to showthat she had achieved victory over Sleep. Indeed, there was everywherea symbolism, wonderful even in a land and an age of symbolism.Prominence was given to the fact that she, though a Queen, claimed allthe privileges of kingship and masculinity. In one place she waspictured in man's dress, and wearing the White and Red Crowns. In thefollowing picture she was in female dress, but still wearing the Crownsof Upper and Lower Egypt, while the discarded male raiment lay at herfeet. In every picture where hope, or aim, of resurrection wasexpressed there was the added symbol of the North; and in manyplaces--always in representations of important events, past, present,or future--was a grouping of the stars of the Plough. She evidentlyregarded this constellation as in some way peculiarly associated withherself.

"Perhaps the most remarkable statement in the records, both on theStele and in the mural writings, was that Queen Tera had power tocompel the Gods. This, by the way, was not an isolated belief inEgyptian history; but was different in its cause. She had engraved ona 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 UnderWorlds.

"In the statement it was plainly set forth that the hatred of thepriests was, she knew, stored up for her, and that they would after herdeath try to suppress her name. This was a terrible revenge, I maytell you, in Egyptian mythology; for without a name no one can afterdeath be introduced to the Gods, or have prayers said for him.Therefore, she had intended her resurrection to be after a long timeand in a more northern land, under the constellation whose seven starshad ruled her birth. To this end, her hand was to be in theair--'unwrapped'--and in it the Jewel of Seven Stars, so that whereverthere was air she might move even as her Ka could move! This, afterthinking it over, Mr. Trelawny and I agreed meant that her body couldbecome astral at command, and so move, particle by particle, and becomewhole again when and where required. Then there was a piece of writingin which allusion was made to a chest or casket in which were containedall the Gods, and Will, and Sleep, the two latter being personified bysymbols. The box was mentioned as with seven sides. It was not much ofa surprise to us when, underneath the feet of the mummy, we found theseven-sided casket, which you have also seen in Mr. Trelawny's room.On the underneath part of the wrapping--linen of the left foot waspainted, in the same vermilion colour as that used in the Stele, thehieroglyphic symbol for much water, and underneath the right foot thesymbol of the earth. We made out the symbolism to be that her body,immortal and transferable at will, ruled both the land and water, airand 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 sidesthe strange protuberances which you have already seen; but we wereunable at the time to account for them. There were a few amulets inthe sarcophagus, but none of any special worth or significance. Wetook it that if there were such, they were within the wrappings; ormore 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. Thefine line, a little way from the top, appeared to be where the coverwas fixed; but it was made with such exquisite fineness and finish thatthe 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 youall this in order that you may understand things with which you may bein contact later. You must suspend your judgment entirely. Suchstrange things have happened regarding this mummy and all around it,that there is a necessity for new belief somewhere. It is absolutelyimpossible to reconcile certain things which have happened with

theordinary currents of life or knowledge.

"We stayed around the Valley of the Sorcerer, till we had copiedroughly all the drawings and writings on the walls, ceiling and floor.We took with us the Stele of lapis lazuli, whose graven record wascoloured with vermilion pigment. We took the sarcophagus and themummy; the stone chest with the alabaster jars; the tables ofbloodstone and alabaster and onyx and carnelian; and the ivory pillowwhose arch rested on 'buckles', round each of which was twisted anuraeus wrought in gold. We took all the articles which lay in theChapel, and the Mummy Pit; the wooden boats with crews and the ushaptiufigures, and the symbolic amulets.

"When coming away we took down the ladders, and at a distance buriedthem in the sand under a cliff, which we noted so that if necessary wemight find them again. Then with our heavy baggage, we set out on ourlaborious journey back to the Nile. It was no easy task, I tell you, tobring the case with that great sarcophagus over the desert. We had arough cart and sufficient men to draw it; but the progress seemedterribly slow, for we were anxious to get our treasures into a place ofsafety. The night was an anxious time with us, for we feared attackfrom some marauding band. But more still we feared some of those withus. They were, after all, but predatory, unscrupulous men; and we hadwith us a considerable bulk of precious things. They, or at least thedangerous ones amongst them, did not know why it was so precious; theytook it for granted that it was material treasure of some kind that wecarried. We had taken the mummy from the sarcophagus, and packed itfor safety of travel in a separate case. During the first night twoattempts were made to steal things from the cart; and two men werefound dead in the morning.

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

"'We must go back to the tomb in the Valley of the Sorcerer. Show nohesitation in the morning when I give the orders! If you ask anyquestions as to where we are going it will create suspicion, and willdefeat our purpose."

"'All right!" I answered. "But why shall we go there?' His answerseemed to thrill through me as though it had struck some chord readytuned within:

"'We shall find the mummy there! I am sure of it!' Then anticipatingdoubt 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 themwere not satisfied. There was a good deal of friction, and there wereseveral desertions; so that it was with a diminished following that wetook our way eastward again. At first the Sheik did not manifest anycuriosity as to our definite destination; but when it became apparentthat we were again making for the Valley of the Sorcerer, he too showedconcern. This grew as we drew near; till finally at the entrance ofthe valley he halted and refused to go further. He said he would awaitour 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 ofmoney would tempt him to depart from this resolution. The onlyconcession he would make was that he would find the ladders and bringthem near the cliff. This he did; and then, with the rest of thetroop, he went back to wait at the entrance of the valley.

"Mr. Trelawny and I took ropes and torches, and again ascended to thetomb. It was evident that someone had been there in our absence, forthe stone slab which protected the entrance to the tomb was lying flatinside, and a rope was dangling from the cliff summit. Within, therewas another rope hanging into the shaft of the Mummy Pit. We looked ateach other; but neither said a word. We fixed our own rope, and asarranged Trelawny descended first, I following at once. It was nottill we stood together at the foot of the shaft that the thoughtflashed across me that we might be in some sort of a trap; that someonemight descend the rope from the cliff, and by cutting the rope by whichwe had lowered ourselves into the Pit, bury us there alive. Thethought was horrifying; but it was too late to do anything. I remainedsilent. We both had torches, so that there was ample light as wepassed through the passage and entered the Chamber where thesarcophagus had stood. The first thing noticeable was the emptiness ofthe place. Despite all its magnificent adornment, the tomb was made adesolation by the absence of the great sarcophagus, to hold which itwas hewn in the rock; of the chest with the alabaster jars; of thetables 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 ofthe mummy of Queen Tera which lay on the floor where the greatsarcophagus had stood! Beside it lay, in the strange contortedattitudes of violent death, three of the Arabs who had deserted fromour party. Their faces were black, and their hands and necks weresmeared with blood which had burst from mouth and nose and eyes.

"On the throat of each were the marks, now blackening, of a hand ofseven fingers.

"Trelawny and I drew close, and clutched each other in awe and fear aswe looked.

"For, most wonderful of all, across the breast of the mummied Queen laya hand of seven fingers, ivory white, the wrist only showing a scarlike 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, wedid not lose any time carrying the mummy through the passage, andhoisting 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 itin his breast, manifestly to save it from being injured or lost. Weleft the dead Arabs where they lay. With our ropes we lowered ourprecious burden to the ground; and then took it to the entrance of thevalley where our escort was to wait. To our astonishment we found themon the move. When we remonstrated with the Sheik, he answered that hehad fulfilled his contract to the letter; he had waited the three daysas arranged. I thought that he was lying to cover up his baseintention of deserting us; and I found when we compared notes thatTrelawny had the same suspicion. It was not till we arrived at Cairothat we found he was correct. It was the 3rd of November 1884 when weentered the Mummy Pit for the second time; we had reason to rememberthe date.

"We had lost three whole days of our reckoning--out of ourlives--whilst we had stood wondering in that chamber of the dead. Wasit strange, then, that we had a superstitious feeling with regard tothe dead Queen Tera and all belonging to her? Is it any wonder that itrests with us now, with a bewildering sense of some power outsideourselves or our comprehension? Will it be any wonder if it go down tothe grave with us at the appointed time? If, indeed, there be anygraves for us who have robbed the dead!" He was silent for quite aminute before he went on:

"We got to Cairo all right, and from there to Alexandria, where we wereto take ship by the Messagerie service to Marseilles, and go thence byexpress 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 Ihad to bring the treasure alone to the desolate house. I got to Londonall 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 childhad been put out to nurse, and Mr. Trelawny had so far recovered fromthe shock of his loss that he had set himself to take up again thebroken threads of his life and his work. That he had had a shock, anda bad one, was apparent. The sudden grey in his black hair was proofenough in itself; but in addition, the strong cast of his features hadbecome set and stern. Since he received that cable in the shippingoffice at Alexandria I have never seen a happy smile on his face.

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