The Jewel of Seven Stars - Page 25

"Work is the best thing in such a case; and to his work he devotedhimself heart and soul. The strange tragedy of his loss and gain--forthe child was born after the mother's death--took place during the timethat we stood in that trance in the Mummy Pit of Queen Tera. It seemedto have become in some way associated with his Egyptian studies, andmore especially with the mysteries connected with the Queen. He toldme very little about his daughter; but that two forces struggled in hismind regarding her was apparent. I could see that he loved, almostidolised her. Yet he could never forget that her birth had cost hermother's life. Also, there was something whose existence seemed towring 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 amarvellous resemblance to the pictures of Queen Tera.'

"He said that he had sent her away to people who would care for her ashe could not; and that till she became a woman she should have all thesimple pleasures that a young girl might have, and that were best forher. I would often have talked with him about her; but he would neversay much. Once he said to me: 'There are reasons why I should notspeak more than is necessary. Some day you will know--and understand!'I respected his reticence; and beyond asking after her on my returnafter a journey, I have never spoken of her again. I had never seenher till I did so in your presence.

"Well, when the treasures which we had--ah!--taken from the tomb hadbeen brought here, Mr. Trelawny arranged their disposition himself.The mummy, all except the severed hand, he placed in the greatironstone sarcophagus in the hall. This was wrought for the ThebanHigh Priest Uni, and is, as you may have remarked, all inscribed withwonderful invocations to the old Gods of Egypt. The rest of the thingsfrom 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, withperhaps one exception. That is the carven ruby which he calls the'Jewel of Seven Stars', which he keeps in that great safe which islocked and guarded by various devices, as you know.

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

"One morning early he sent for me in a hurry; I was then studying inthe British Museum, and had rooms in Hart Street. When I came, he wasall on fire with excitement. I had not seen him in such a glow sincebefore 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 ofdaylight came in. The ordinary lights in the room were not lit, butthere were a lot of powerful electric lamps, fifty candle-power atleast, arranged on one side of the room. The little bloodstone tableon which the heptagonal coffer stands was drawn to the centre of theroom. The coffer looked exquisite in the glare of light which shone onit. 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 almostseems 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 oflight.' As he spoke he turned up the ordinary lights of the room andswitched off the special ones. The effect on the stone box wassurprising; in a second it lost all its glowing effect. It was still avery beautiful stone, as always; but it was stone and no more.

"'Do you notice anything about the arrangement of the lamps?' he asked.


"'They were in the shape of the stars in the Plough, as the stars arein the ruby!' The statement came to me with a certain sense ofconviction. I do not know why, except that there had been so manymysterious associations with the mummy and all belonging to it that anynew one seemed enlightening. I listened as Trelawny went on to explain:

"'For sixteen years I have never ceased to think of that adventure, orto try to find a clue to the mysteries which came before us; but neveruntil last night did I seem to find a solution. I think I must havedreamed of it, for I woke all on fire about it. I jumped out of bedwith a determination of doing something, before I quite knew what itwas that I wished to do. Then, all at once, the purpose was clearbefore me. There were allusions in the writing on the walls of the tombto the seven stars of the Great Bear that go to make up the Plough; andthe North was again and again emphasized. The same symbols wererepeated with regard to the "Magic Box", as we called it. We hadalready noticed those peculiar translucent spaces in the stone of thebox. You remember the hieroglyphic writing had told that the jewelcame from the heart of an aerolite, and that the coffer was cut from italso. It might be, I thought, that the light of the seven stars,shining in the right direction, might have some effect on the box, orsomething within it. I raised the blind and looked out. The Plough washigh in the heavens, and both its stars and the Pole Star were straightopposite the window. I pulled the table with the coffer out

into thelight, and shifted it until the translucent patches were in thedirection of the stars. Instantly the box began to glow, as you saw itunder the lamps, though but slightly. I waited and waited; but the skyclouded over, and the light died away. So I got wires and lamps--youknow how often I use them in experiments--and tried the effect ofelectric 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 momentI got them right the whole thing began to glow as you have seen it.

"'I could get no further, however. There was evidently somethingwanting. All at once it came to me that if light could have someeffect there should be in the tomb some means of producing light, forthere could not be starlight in the Mummy Pit in the cavern. Then thewhole thing seemed to become clear. On the bloodstone table, which hasa hollow carved in its top, into which the bottom of the coffer fits, Ilaid the Magic Coffer; and I at once saw that the odd protuberances socarefully wrought in the substance of the stone corresponded in a wayto the stars in the constellation. These, then, were to hold lights.

"'Eureka!' I cried. 'All we want now is the lamps.'" I tried placingthe electric lights on, or close to, the protuberances. But the glownever came to the stone. So the conviction grew on me that there werespecial lamps made for the purpose. If we could find them, a step onthe road to solving the mystery should be gained.

"'But what about the lamps?' I asked. 'Where are they? When are we todiscover 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 containsall 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 theplace 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; oron the second, except the bodies of the Arabs.'

"Whilst I was speaking, he had uncoiled some large sheets of paperwhich he had brought in his hand from his own room. These he spreadout on the great table, keeping their edges down with books andweights. I knew them at a glance; they were the careful copies whichhe 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 ofone 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 sortof niche built or hewn in the wall of a tomb. Those which have as yetbeen examined bear no inscriptions, and contain only effigies of thedead 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 speakingwith something of his old enthusiasm:

"'I have come to the conclusion that there must be a serdab--a secretone. We were dull not to have thought of it before. We might haveknown that the maker of such a tomb--a woman, who had shown in otherways such a sense of beauty and completeness, and who had finishedevery detail with a feminine richness of elaboration--would not haveneglected such an architectural feature. Even if it had not its ownspecial significance in ritual, she would have had it as an adornment.Others had had it, and she liked her own work to be complete. Dependupon it, there was--there is--a serdab; and that in it, when it isdiscovered, we shall find the lamps. Of course, had we known then whatwe now know or at all events surmise, that there were lamps, we mighthave suspected some hidden spot, some cachet. I am going to ask you togo out to Egypt again; to seek the tomb; to find the serdab; and tobring back the lamps!'"

"'And if I find there is no serdab; or if discovering it I find nolamps in it, what then?' He smiled grimly with that saturnine smile ofhis, so rarely seen for years past, as he spoke slowly:

"'Then you will have to hustle till you find them!'

Tags: Bram Stoker Horror
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