The Jewel of Seven Stars - Page 38

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

Chapter XVIII

The Lesson of the "Ka"

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

For my own part I felt a strange sense of relief in the matter. I hadaccepted Mr. Trelawny's reasoning that if the Queen were indeed such aswe surmised--such as indeed we now took for granted--there would not beany opposition on her part; for we were carrying out her own wishes tothe very last. So far I was at ease--far more at ease than earlier inthe day I should have thought possible; but there were other sources oftrouble which I could not blot out from my mind. Chief amongst themwas Margaret's strange condition. If it was indeed that she had in herown person a dual existence, what might happen when the two existencesbecame one? Again, and again, and again I turned this matter over in mymind, till I could have shrieked out in nervous anxiety. It was noconsolation to me to remember that Margaret was herself satisfied, andher father acquiescent. Love is, after all, a selfish thing; and itthrows a black shadow on anything between which and the light itstands. I seemed to hear the hands go round the dial of the clock; Isaw darkness turn to gloom, and gloom to grey, and grey to lightwithout pause or hindrance to the succession of my miserable feelings.At last, when it was decently possible without the fear of disturbingothers, I got up. I crept along the passage to find if all was wellwith the others; for we had arranged that the door of each of our roomsshould be left slightly open so that any sound of disturbance would beeasily and distinctly heard.

One and all slept; I could hear the regular breathing of each, and myheart 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 thedepths of my own heart the measure of my fear. I found my way out ofthe house, and went down to the water by the long stairway cut in therock. A swim in the cool bright sea braced my nerves and made me myold 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 glitteringgold. And yet I felt somehow disturbed. It was all too bright; as itsometimes is before the coming of a storm. As I paused to watch it, Ifelt a soft hand on my shoulder; and, turning, found Margaret close tome; Margaret as bright and radiant as the morning glory of the sun! Itwas my own Margaret this time! My old Margaret, without alloy of anyother; and I felt that, at least, this last and fatal day was wellbegun.

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

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

After breakfast we all adjourned to the cave, where Mr. Trelawny wentover, 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 withhim the great rolls of paper with the measured plans and the signs anddrawings 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 onwalls and ceilings and floor of the tomb in the Valley of the Sorcerer.Even had not the measurements, made to scale, recorded the position ofeach piece of furniture, we could have eventually placed them by astudy of the cryptic writings and symbols.

Mr. Trelawny explained to us certain other things, not laid down on thechart. Such as, for instance, that the hollowed part of the table wasexactly fitted to the bottom of the Magic Coffer, which was thereforeintended to be placed on it. The respective legs of this table wereindicated by differently shaped uraei outlined on the floor, the headof each being extended in the direction of the similar uraeus twinedround the leg. Also that the mummy, when laid on the raised portion inthe bottom of the sarcophagus, seemingly made to fit the form, wouldlie head to the West and feet to the East, thus receiving the naturalearth currents. "If this be intended," he said, "as I presume it is, Igather that the force to be used has something to do with magnetism orelectricity, 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 asI could obtain; but so far as I can ascertain the stone of the Cofferis absolutely impervious to its influence. There must be some suchunsusceptible substances in nature. Radium does not seemingly manifestitself when distributed through pitchblende; and there are doubtlessother such substances in which it can be imprisoned. Possibly thesemay belong to that class of "inert" elements discovered or isolated bySir William Ramsay. It is therefore possible that in this Coffer, madefrom an aerolite and therefore perhaps containing some element unknownin our world, may be imprisoned some mighty power which is to bereleased on its opening."

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

"There is one thing which has up to now, I confess, puzzled me. It maynot be of prime importance; but in a matter like this, where all isunknown, we must take it that everything is important. I cannot thinkthat in a matter worked out with such extraordinary scrupulosity such athing should be overlooked. As you may see by the ground-plan of thetomb the sarcophagus stands near the north wall, with the Magic Cofferto the south of it. The space covered by the former is left quite bareof symbol or ornamentation of any kind. At the first glance this wouldseem to imply that the drawings had been made after the sarcophagus hadbeen put into its place. But a more minute examination will show thatthe symbolisation on the floor is so arranged that a definite effect isproduced. See, here the writings run in correct order as though theyhad jumped across the gap. It is only from certain effects that itbecomes clear that there is a meaning of some kind. What that meaningmay be is what we want to know. Look at the top and bottom of thevacant space, which lies West and East corresponding to the head andfoot of the sarcophagus. In both are duplications of the samesymbolisation, but so arranged that the parts of each one of them areintegral portions of some other writing running crosswise. It is onlywhen we get a coup d'oeil from either the head or the foot that yourecognise that there are symbolisations. See! they are in triplicateat the corners and the centre of both top and bottom. In every casethere is a sun cut in half by the line of the sarcophagus, as by thehorizon. Close behind each of these and faced away from it, as thoughin some way dependent on it, is the vase which in hieroglyphic writingsymbolises the heart--'Ab' the Egyptians called it. Beyond each ofthese again is the figure of a pair of widespread arms turned upwardsfrom the elbow; this is the determinative of the 'Ka' or 'Double'. Butits relative position is different at top and bottom. At the head ofthe sarcophagus the top of the 'Ka' is turned towards the mouth of thevase, but at the foot the extended arms point away from it.

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

"Or it may be intended to convey that after the particular night of theresurrection, the 'Ka' would leave the hea

rt altogether, thus typifyingthat in her resurrection the Queen would be restored to a lower andpurely physical existence. In such case what would become of hermemory and the experiences of her wide-wandering soul? The chiefestvalue of her resurrection would be lost to the world! This, however,does not alarm me. It is only guess-work after all, and iscontradictory to the intellectual belief of the Egyptian theology, thatthe 'Ka' is an essential portion of humanity." He paused and we allwaited. The silence was broken by Doctor Winchester:

"But would not all this imply that the Queen feared intrusion of hertomb?" Mr. Trelawny smiled as he answered:

"My dear sir, she was prepared for it. The grave robber is no modernapplication of endeavour; he was probably known in the Queen's owndynasty. Not only was she prepared for intrusion, but, as shown inseveral ways, she expected it. The hiding of the lamps in the serdab,and the institution of the avenging 'treasurer' shows that there wasdefence, positive as well as negative. Indeed, from the manyindications afforded in the clues laid out with the most consummatedthought, we may almost gather that she entertained it as a possibilitythat others--like ourselves, for instance--might in all seriousnessundertake the work which she had made ready for her own hands when thetime should have come. This very matter that I have been speaking ofis 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 theday!"

"Certainly, my dear!" answered Mr. Trelawny heartily, as he handed itto her. He resumed his instructions in a different tone, a morematter-of-fact one suitable to a practical theme which had no mysteryabout it:

"I think you had better all understand the working of the electriclight in case any sudden contingency should arise. I dare say you havenoticed that we have a complete supply in every part of the house, sothat there need not be a dark corner anywhere. This I had speciallyarranged. It is worked by a set of turbines moved by the flowing andebbing tide, after the manner of the turbines at Niagara. I hope bythis means to nullify accident and to have without fail a full supplyready at any time. Come with me and I will explain the system ofcircuits, and point out to you the taps and the fuses." I could notbut notice, as we went with him all over the house, how absolutelycomplete the system was, and how he had guarded himself against anydisaster that human thought could foresee.

But out of the very completeness came a fear! In such an enterprise asours the bounds of human thought were but narrow. Beyond it lay thevast 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 GreatExperiment is to be made. So far as science and mechanism go, if thepreparations are complete, all hours are the same. But as we have todeal with preparations made by a woman of extraordinarily subtle mind,and who had full belief in magic and had a cryptic meaning ineverything, we should place ourselves in her position before deciding.It is now manifest that the sunset has an important place in thearrangements. As those suns, cut so mathematically by the edge of thesarcophagus, were arranged of full design, we must take our cue fromthis. Again, we find all along that the number seven has had animportant bearing on every phase of the Queen's thought and reasoningand action. The logical result is that the seventh hour after sunsetwas the time fixed on. This is borne out by the fact that on each ofthe occasions when action was taken in my house, this was the timechosen. As the sun sets tonight in Cornwall at eight, our hour is tobe three in the morning!" He spoke in a matter-of-fact way, thoughwith great gravity; but there was nothing of mystery in his word ormanner. Still, we were all impressed to a remarkable degree. I couldsee this in the other men by the pallor that came on some of theirfaces, and by the stillness and unquestioning silence with which thedecision was received. The only one who remained in any way at easewas Margaret, who had lapsed into one of her moods of abstraction, butwho seemed to wake up to a note of gladness. Her father, who waswatching her intently, smiled; her mood was to him a directconfirmation of his theory.

For myself I was almost overcome. The definite fixing of the hourseemed like the voice of Doom. When I think of it now, I can realisehow a condemned man feels at his sentence, or at the sounding of thelast 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 thewind which cometh whence and goeth whither no man may know. It was notfor 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 theEgyptian lamps, seeing that they were well filled with the cedar oil,and that the wicks were adjusted and in good order. We lighted andtested them one by one, and left them ready so that they would light atonce and evenly. When this was done we had a general look round; andfixed all in readiness for our work at night.

Tags: Bram Stoker Horror
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