Chapter XVIII: 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
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
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
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
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 rolls 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 leg. 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
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
"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
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 cometh 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. After 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
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
"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:
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:
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
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!"