The Jewel of Seven Stars - Page 33

"Now comes the crown of my argument. The purpose of the attack on mewas to get the safe open, so that the sacred Jewel of Seven Stars couldbe extracted. That immense door of the safe could not keep out herastral body, which, or any part of it, could gather itself as wellwithin as without the safe. And I doubt not that in the darkness ofthe night that mummied hand sought often the Talisman Jewel, and drewnew inspiration from its touch. But despite all its power, the astralbody could not remove the Jewel through the chinks of the safe. TheRuby is not astral; and it could only be moved in the ordinary way bythe opening of the doors. To this end, the Queen used her astral bodyand the fierce force of her Familiar, to bring to the keyhole of thesafe the master key which debarred her wish. For years I havesuspected, nay, have believed as much; and I, too, guarded myselfagainst powers of the Nether World. I, too, waited in patience till Ishould have gathered together all the factors required for the openingof the Magic Coffer and the resurrection of the mummied Queen!" Hepaused, and his daughter's voice came out sweet and clear, and full ofintense feeling:

"Father, in the Egyptian belief, was the power of resurrection of amummied body a general one, or was it limited? That is: could itachieve 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 whobelieved that this was to be a definite resurrection of the body intothe real world. But in the common belief, the Spirit found joy in theElysian Fields, where there was plenty of food and no fear of famine.Where there was moisture and deep-rooted reeds, and all the joys thatare to be expected by the people of an arid land and burning clime."

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

"To me, then, it is given to understand what was the dream of thisgreat and far-thinking and high-souled lady of old; the dream that heldher soul in patient waiting for its realisation through the passing ofall those tens of centuries. The dream of a love that might be; a lovethat she felt she might, even under new conditions, herself evoke. Thelove that is the dream of every woman's life; of the Old and of theNew; Pagan or Christian; under whatever sun; in whatever rank orcalling; however may have been the joy or pain of her life in otherways. Oh! I know it! I know it! I am a woman, and I know a woman'sheart. What were the lack of food or the plenitude of it; what werefeast or famine to this woman, born in a palace, with the shadow of theCrown of the Two Egypts on her brows! What were reedy morasses or thetinkle of running water to her whose barges could sweep the great Nilefrom the mountains to the sea. What were petty joys and absence ofpetty fears to her, the raising of whose hand could hurl armies, ordraw to the water-stairs of her palaces the commerce of the world! Atwhose word rose temples filled with all the artistic beauty of theTimes of Old which it was her aim and pleasure to restore! Under whoseguidance the solid rock yawned into the sepulchre that she designed!

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

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

"I can see her in her loneliness and in the silence of her mightypride, dreaming her own dream of things far different from those aroundher. Of some other land, far, far away under the canopy of the silentnight, lit by the cool, beautiful light of the stars. A land underthat Northern star, whence blew the sweet winds that cooled thefeverish desert air. A land of wholesome greenery, far, far away.Where were no scheming and malignant priesthood; whose ideas were tolead to power through gloomy temples and more gloomy caverns of thedead, through an endless ritual of death! A land where love was notbase, but a divine possession of the soul! Where there might be someone kindred spirit which could speak to hers through mortal lips likeher own; whose being could merge with hers in a sweet communion of soulto soul, even as their breaths could mingle in the ambient air! I knowthe feeling, for I have shared it myself. I may speak of it now, sincethe blessing has come into my own life. I may speak of it since itenables me to interpret the feelings, the very longing soul, of thatsweet and lovely Queen, so different from her surroundings, so highabove her time! Whose nature, put into a word, could control the forcesof the Under World; and the name of whose aspiration, though but gravenon a star-lit jewel, could command all the powers in the Pantheon ofthe High Gods.

"And in the realisation of that dream she will surely be content torest!"

We men sat silent, as the young girl gave her powerful interpretationof the design or purpose of the woman of old. Her every word and tonecarried with it the conviction of her own belief. The loftiness of herthoughts seemed to uplift us all as we listened. Her noble words,flowing in musical cadence and vibrant with internal force, seemed toissue from some great instrument of elemental power. Even her tone wasnew to us all; so that we listened as to some new and strange beingfrom 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 intohis life, on his return to the world that he knew, from that prolongedsojourn in the world of dreams. To find in his daughter, whose naturehe had never till now known, such a wealth of affection, such asplendour 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 hisdreaming; for the other, his dreams were to come.

For myself, I was like one in a trance. Who was this new, radiantbeing who had won to existence out of the mist and darkness of ourfears? Love has divine possibilities for the lover's heart! The wingsof 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'snature were divine possibilities of many kinds. When under the shadeof the overhanging willow-tree on the river, I had gazed into thedepths of her beautiful eyes, I had thenceforth a strict belief in themanifold beauties and excellences of her nature; but this soaring andunderstanding spirit was, indeed, a revelation. My pride, like herfather's, was outside myself; my joy and rapture were complete andsupreme!

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 hisdiscourse:

"Now, as to the time at which Queen Tera intended her resurrection totake place! We are in contact with some of the higher astronomicalcalculations in connection with true orientation. As you know, thestars shift their relative positions in the heavens; but though thereal distances traversed are beyond all ordinary comprehension, theeffects as we see them are small. Nevertheless, they are susceptibleof measurement, not by years, indeed, but by centuries. It was by thismeans that Sir John Herschel arrived at the date of the building of theGreat Pyramid--a date fixed by the time necessary to change the star ofthe true north from Draconis to the Pole Star, and since then verifiedby later discoveries. From the above there can be no doubt whateverthat astronomy was an exact science with the Egyptians at least athousand years before the time of Queen Tera. Now, the stars that goto make up a constellation change in process of time their relativepositions, and the Plough is a notable example. The changes in theposition of stars in even forty centuries is so small as to be hardlynoticeable by an eye not trained to minute observances, but they can bemeasured and verified. Did you, or any of you, notice how exactly thestars in the Ruby correspond to the position of the stars in thePlough; or how the same holds with regard to the translucent places inthe Magic Coffer?"

We all assented. He went on:

"You are quite correct. They correspond exactly. And yet when QueenTera was laid in her tomb, neither the stars in the Jewel nor thetranslucent places in the Coffer corresponded to the position of thestars in the Constel

lation as they then were!"

We looked at each other as he paused: a new light was breaking uponus. 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 theintention of the Queen? She, who was guided by augury, and magic, andsuperstition, naturally chose a time for her resurrection which seemedto have been pointed out by the High Gods themselves, who had senttheir message on a thunderbolt from other worlds. When such a time wasfixed by supernal wisdom, would it not be the height of human wisdom toavail itself of it? Thus it is"--here his voice deepened and trembledwith the intensity of his feeling--"that to us and our time is giventhe opportunity of this wondrous peep into the old world, such as hasbeen the privilege of none other of our time; which may never be again.

"From first to last the cryptic writing and symbolism of that wondroustomb of that wondrous woman is full of guiding light; and the key ofthe many mysteries lies in that most wondrous Jewel which she held inher dead hand over the dead heart, which she hoped and believed wouldbeat again in a newer and nobler world!

"There are only loose ends now to consider. Margaret has given us thetrue inwardness of the feeling of the other Queen!" He looked at herfondly, and stroked her hand as he said it. "For my own part Isincerely hope she is right; for in such case it will be a joy, I amsure, to all of us to assist at such a realisation of hope. But wemust not go too fast, or believe too much in our present state ofknowledge. The voice that we hearken for comes out of times strangelyother than our own; when human life counted for little, and when themorality of the time made little account of the removing of obstaclesin the way to achievement of desire. We must keep our eyes fixed onthe 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 havesaid, I am convinced that it opens only in obedience to some principleof light, or the exercise of some of its forces at present unknown tous. There is here much ground for conjecture and for experiment; foras yet the scientists have not thoroughly differentiated the kinds, andpowers, and degrees of light. Without analysing various rays we may, Ithink, take it for granted that there are different qualities andpowers of light; and this great field of scientific investigation isalmost virgin soil. We know as yet so little of natural forces, thatimagination need set no bounds to its flights in considering thepossibilities of the future. Within but a few years we have made suchdiscoveries as two centuries ago would have sent the discoverer's tothe flames. The liquefaction of oxygen; the existence of radium, ofhelium, of polonium, of argon; the different powers of Roentgen andCathode and Bequerel rays. And as we may finally prove that there aredifferent kinds and qualities of light, so we may find that combustionmay have its own powers of differentiation; that there are qualities insome flames non-existent in others. It may be that some of theessential conditions of substance are continuous, even in thedestruction of their bases. Last night I was thinking of this, andreasoning that as there are certain qualities in some oils which arenot in others, so there may be certain similar or correspondingqualities or powers in the combinations of each. I suppose we have allnoticed some time or other that the light of colza oil is not quite thesame as that of paraffin, or that the flames of coal gas and whale oilare different. They find it so in the light-houses! All at once itoccurred to me that there might be some special virtue in the oil whichhad been found in the jars when Queen Tera's tomb was opened. Thesehad not been used to preserve the intestines as usual, so they musthave been placed there for some other purpose. I remembered that inVan Huyn's narrative he had commented on the way the jars were sealed.This was lightly, though effectually; they could be opened withoutforce. The jars were themselves preserved in a sarcophagus which,though of immense strength and hermetically sealed, could be openedeasily. Accordingly, I went at once to examine the jars. A little--avery little of the oil still remained, but it had grown thick in thetwo and a half centuries in which the jars had been open. Still, itwas not rancid; and on examining it I found it was cedar oil, and thatit still exhaled something of its original aroma. This gave me the ideathat it was to be used to fill the lamps. Whoever had placed the oilin the jars, and the jars in the sarcophagus, knew that there might beshrinkage in process of time, even in vases of alabaster, and fullyallowed for it; for each of the jars would have filled the lamps half adozen times. With part of the oil remaining I made some experiments,therefore, which may give useful results. You know, Doctor, that cedaroil, which was much used in the preparation and ceremonials of theEgyptian dead, has a certain refractive power which we do not find inother oils. For instance, we use it on the lenses of our microscopesto give additional clearness of vision. Last night I put some in oneof the lamps, and placed it near a translucent part of the MagicCoffer. The effect was very great; the glow of light within was fullerand more intense than I could have imagined, where an electric lightsimilarly placed had little, if any, effect. I should have triedothers 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 cedaroil, and expect to have before long an ample supply. Whatever mayhappen from other causes, our experiment shall not, at all events, failfrom this. We shall see! We shall see!"

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

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

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

Chapter XVI

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 whatwe will call our Great Experiment we must have absolute and completeisolation. Isolation not merely for a day or two, but for as long aswe may require. Here such a thing would be impossible; the needs andhabits of a great city with its ingrained possibilities ofinterruption, would, or might, quite upset us. Telegrams, registeredletters, or express messengers would alone be sufficient; but the greatarmy of those who want to get something would make disaster certain.In addition, the occurrences of the last week have drawn policeattention to this house. Even if special instructions to keep an eyeon it have not been issued from Scotland Yard or the District Station,you may be sure that the individual policeman on his rounds will keepit well under observation. Besides, the servants who have dischargedthemselves will before long begin to talk. They must; for they have,for the sake of their own characters, to give some reason for thetermination of a service which has I should say a position in theneighbourhood. The servants of the neighbours will begin to talk, and,perhaps the neighbours themselves. Then the active and intelligentPress will, with its usual zeal for the enlightenment of the public andits eye to increase of circulation, get hold of the matter. When thereporter is after us we shall not have much chance of privacy. Even ifwe were to bar ourselves in, we should not be free from interruption,possibly from intrusion. Either would ruin our plans, and so we musttake measures to effect a retreat, carrying all our impedimenta withus. For this I am prepared. For a long time past I have foreseen sucha possibility, and have made preparation for it. Of course, I had noforeknowledge of what has happened; but I knew something would, ormight, happen. For more than two years past my house in Cornwall hasbeen 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 houseat Kyllion made ready; it is fitted with electric light all over, andall the appliances for manufacture of the light are complete. I hadperhaps better tell you, for none of you, not even Margaret, knowsanything of it, that the house is absolutely shut out from publicaccess or even from view. It stands on a little rocky promontorybehind a steep hill, and except from the sea cannot be seen. Of old itwas fenced in by a high stone wall, for the house which it succeededwas built by an ancestor of mine in the days when a great house faraway from a centre had to be prepared to defend itself. Here, then, isa place so well adapted to our needs that it might have been preparedon purpose. I shall explain it to you when we are all there. Thiswill not be long, for already our movement is in train. I have sentword to Marvin to have all preparation for our transport ready. He isto have a special train, which is to run at night so as to avoidnotice. Also a number of carts and stone-wagons, with sufficient menand appliances to take all our packing-cases to Paddington. We shallbe away before the Argus-eyed Pressman is on the watch. We shall todaybegin our packing up; and I dare say that by tomorrow night we shall beready. In the outhouses I have all the packing-cases which were usedfor bringing the things from Egypt, and I am satisfied that as theywere sufficient for the journey across the desert and down the Nile toAlexandria and thence on to London, they will serve without failbetween here and Kyllion. We four men, with Margaret to hand us suchthings 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 sucharrangements as may be required. She will take a stock of necessarieswith her, so that we will not attract local attention by our dailyneeds; and will keep us supplied with perishable food from London.Thanks to Margaret's wise and generous treatment of the servants whodecided to remain, we have got a staff on which we can depend. Theyhave been already cautioned to secrecy, so that we need not fear gossipfrom within. Indeed, as the servants will be in London after theirpreparations at Kyllion are complete, there will not be much subjectfor gossip, in detail at any rate.

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