THE GOLDEN SCARAB
HERBERT HOPKINS MOORHOUSE
MR. RICHARD MALABAR, late of the London Daily World, had not dallied with hazards in the ports of the Seven Seas without learning to be discreet. He was well aware that in all metropolitan centres are certain districts where at times the passing stranger does well to hold steadfastly upon his way; where blindness and deafness may be even imperative if one is to continue the enjoyment of fine music and beautiful sunsets. New York’s polyglot East Side was hardly the place for experimental interference, if simple kindness could be so misconstrued.
Nevertheless, in the early evening of this day in late summer—
A curt command brought the taxi to a sudden stop at the curb. Richard Malabar stepped out, his polished malacca cane hanging from his lef t forearm as he smoothed the yellow gloves on his sinewy hands and strode around the corner into the nearest side street.
“Good evening, officer. What seems to be the matter?’’ The Italian owner of the fruitcart stopped gesticulating. The ragged urchin whom he held by the collar ceased squirming. The little girl with the Cinderella hair and the comically smudged face allowed one big, gray eye to peek over a grimy fist while her sobs became less demonstrative and she held closer to the policeman’s coat-tail.
Patrolman Tierney turned a quizzical Irish eye upon the newcomer in the sudden lull that had come upon the noisy group.
“Tony says thim two kids has tuk foive oranges and t’ree bananas widout payin’ fer thim,” he explained. “He’s afther wantin’ me to put in a gin’ral alar-rm to Headquarters to call out the reserves an’ pinch the little divils as dangerous characters!”
Malabar looked at the “dangerous characters” with a twinkle in his eye.
“Desperate thieves, eh? What did you steal them for, son?”
“Please, mister, we didn’t steal ’em,” piped the thin-faced boy hopefully. “We jist took ’em. Me kid sister was hungry, see? We hadda git eats!”
“A case of economic pressure, officer,” smiled Malabar. “With your permission, I shall proceed to dispose of the case against the prisoners by settlement out of court. How much do five oranges and three bananas come to, Tony? Well, here is your money.”
He called the newsboy over to him and pressed a bill into his hand.
“You and your sister go and dine at the Waldorf, old chap. What did you say your name was? Spud? Well, away you go, now!”
He shook hands with Patrolman Tierney, cleverly parting with another bill in so doing, and in a moment had vanished around the corner into his taxi.
To Richard Malabar, much-traveled cosmopolite, the incident but served as an after-dinner mint to the excellent meal he had just enjoyed at a little Hungarian restaurant. He liked to dine in odd corners and he
Buried deep under the unchanging sands of Egypt lie the ancient dead of a forgotten civilization. What comes of disturbing their tranquil rest and tarn perm g
with the secrets of the ages, and :what the in present-day life, form the basis of this Moorhouse — one of the most thrilling
consequences serial by Mr. and intricate
mystery stories this magazine has published
leaned back in his seat, well content. For the sight of Spud and his sister had brought back a vision of his own childhood woes. Poor little beggars! The smile which banished the haunting melancholy from his clean-cut face unlocked for a moment the golden personality that underlay the habitual mask behind which he was accustomed to retire from the world. Before he was more than a few blocks away his mind was back among the problems
that obsessed him—problems gray-cloaked in gravity.
At last, with a shouldershrug of impatience, he dismissed them and directed his thoughts to the evening before him. The taxi was speeding for the comfortable quarters of Addison Kent, popular novelist and young man of good looks, health, wealth and fame, who lived in Minaki Annex, just off Riverside Drive. During the past two weeks Dick Malabar and Addison Kent had grown very close to that deep sort of friendship which transcends the mere companionship of kindred, bachelor spirits. And to-night they were to spend the evening together out in Westchester.
Malabar had first met the novelist some years ago at the Press Club in Wine Court Alley, London. Then the stories and articles of this hard-working Canadian newspaper youth were just beginning to attract attention in various magazines. The mutual liking between the two young men might have ripened rapidly into friendship if the journalist had not been called away on one of those over-night commissions for his paper which frequently took him on long and difficult journeys. Now, meeting Kent again in New York after the lapse of the years, Dick Malabar had found him riding the crests of the literary seas with a success which would have upset any young man not well ballasted with a sense of humor.1 And as their friendship grew, Malabar had been delighted to find that his own hobby, criminology, was likewise Kent’s; to find the author’s bookcases filled with rare books and his filing cabinets stored with a more complete collection of newspaper and magazine clippings than was available in any newspaper “morgue” or even at Police Headquarters; to find in Addison Kent’s keenly trained mind a match for his own upon almost any subject.
THE novelist greeted him jovially when at last Malabar opened the door of the apartment. Kent had dined with his misguided publisher, he said, had delivered the new manuscript and his worries were over for awhile.
“Are one’s worries ever over?” “Well, if that’s how you are feeling, you need a tonic, my boy,” laughed Kent. “I wish we were going out for a livelier evening than we are likely ' to have with the worthy professor; but I guess we are in for it, Dick. Caron has been ’phoning again to make sure we would be on hand and that—” He broke off abruptly. “Anything gone wrong, old man? You appear to possess all the expensive merriment of a conscientious undertaker at a rich man’s funeral!”
The gravity upon Malabar’s face remained unrelieved for a moment as he stood regarding the novelist intently. Then a slow smile dispelled it.
“A bit of a wash and I am ready
for the worst your professorial friend can do to us.”
“That’s George, signal-honking out front now. It will take us about an hour to run out.”
Professor Emil Caron, the noted Egyptologist and archaeologist with various letters after his name, had arrived in New York just two days ago. Because he was a close personal friend of Mr. Armaund Lamont, the well known Fifth Avenue jeweller, silversmith and collector of antiques, and because Addison Kent had received a special request from Mr. Lamont that he look after the French savant upon arrival, Kent had met the liner at the dock. It was fortunate for Professor Caron’s peace of mind that the novelist was there to ease through the Customs the cherished possessions of the excited little Frenchman, or he would have gone to an asylum for the insane direct from the boat instead of to the Westchester mansion of his friend, Lamont. Even as it was, there was enough fuss over certain odd-shaped cases and boxes to make Kent heave a breath of relief when the ordeal was over.
Professor Caron was by way of being something of an authority in archaeological circles. He was bringing with him to America quite a collection of antiquities for distribution among various museums. Most of these had been consigned direct; but not all. The careful transfer of the “luggage” had required the personal supervision of the gesticulating owner, whose English failed him utterly under stress and whose French was so voluble that at times it outran even Kent, who prided himself on his proficiency in that language. However, the novelist had done everything possible to facilitate the professor’s adjustment to his new surroundings and was rewarded by the genuine gratitude of the little man.
It would take a day or two to get unpacked and settled, he had explained, but the very first guest to be invited to this most magnificent home must be Mr. Addison Kent. Had he not had warm eulogy from his great friend, Lamont?—the very warmest praise of Mr. Kent and his very great abilities? Nothing must interfere. He must come, and Professor Caron would be honored to show him things he would be interested to see and to tell him things that would amaze him—some very great secrets which on no account must he repeat.
“You have been so very good, Mr. Kent, to help me like this. I may have still greater need of your help and it is well to prepare, is it not? You will come?”
EVEN had Kent not been interested in the subjects encompassed by Professor Caron’s special hobby, he would have found it difficult to refuse. But he was greatly interested in such subjects and a little intrigued by the Frenchman’s manner. He knew, too, that Dick Malabar had been in Egypt and the mention of the fact brought an immediate invitation from the professor for Malabar to come also. A friend for whom Mr. Kent could vouch— what could be more pleasurable?
Following a double wedding, Armaund Lamont and his bride, accompanied by Thomas Traynor and his bride had gone abroad on an extended honeymoon tour. It would be some time yet before they returned, Kent knew; but the letter he had received from Lamont spoke in highest terms of Professor Emil Caron. Indeed, Lamont’s confidence was best expressed in the fact that he had placed his newly acquired palatial home in Westchester at the disposal of the professor for whatever length of time he chose to stay in New York. The place had been closed for the summer after the decorators had completed their work and had been left in charge of Mokra, Lamont’s Algerian butler, with the gardener to look after the grounds. This visit of a guest meant the hiring of a chef and kitchen help; but these details had been arranged by Lamont’s office manager.
“I wonder what the little professor has in store for us this evening,” Kent remarked as they neared their destination. “He spoke as if he had some surprise or other up his sleeve. Aside from that, I must warn you, Dick, that Lamont’s house is full of queer and rare things, picked up in odd corners of the earth. I think some of them will interest you. Lamont’s confidential man is an Algerian—quite a character in his way. And Caron has brought with him a Nubian servant whom he picked up somewhere ‘east of Suez’—a big, brown animal of a man who could draw good money as a Silent Slave in a leopard girdle in one of these Western stage spectacles of the Very Far East. He’d look great, posed on the marble steps of the Caliph’s palace against a Maxfield Parish ultramarine sky, arms folded to bulge the biceps, a figure in bronze with a spot-light playing—Why, say, the fellow must be fully seven feet tall!”
“Oh, come now! come now!” chuckled Malabar.
They presently rolled in between the huge stone gate-
posts of the Lamont estate and curved up the avenue between trees and shrubs that circled the lawns to the great, brown stone house, perched high above the Hudson. Evidently the sound of their car had apprized the Algerian servant of their approach; for the great irongrilled glass doors swung open to them before they could press the electric bell. Mokra himself stood there —a tall, dignified figure in immaculate black and white —and welcomed Addison
w TORIES correctly picturing — and burlesquing—the youth of to-day are of fascinating interest. Several writers have held up the mirror of truth — or exaggeration—to the younger generation of England and of the States—but Canadian flapperdom has never been adequately depicted. So read with a thrill of reality a story of to-day’s youth by a Canadian girl in her early twenties—“It’s All Bunk,” a realistic satire, by Dorothy Fairweather, in the February MacLean s. Then I think you’ll agree that Nina Wilcox Putnam will have to look to her laurels.—J.V.M.
Kent with a smile of recognition which seemed to consist largely of perfect teeth, startlingly white in contrast to his swarthy skin.
As he took their hats, gloves, canes and light overcoats, close to his heels stood the finest Persian cat Malabar had ever seen—a big, coal-black one, whose great, golden eyes regarded the visitors with a calm stare of indifference. A regular snob of a cat! He seemed to know that his fur was long and silky, that the red ribbon around his neck was very becoming to him and that he belonged to the aristocracy of Catdom. As Mokra preceded them down the wide hallway, so did the cat, hugging close and picking steps with infinite grace across the polished floor.
“What a beauty!” Malabar admired.
“Lamont thinks a lot of him,” Kent smiled. “He’s captured no end of ribbons. Name’s Aristophanes— ‘Toph’ for short.”
“Ah, a humorist! That accounts for his solemnity!”
T N THE passage beyond the great staircase suddenly 'A they were confronted by a giant figure. He appeared before the heavy velvet hangings that curtained the archway towards which the butler was leading them. His advent was so unexpected and he was of such startling physique that both guests halted involuntarily. Recalling Kent’s description, Malabar identified him at once as the Nubian who acted as servant or bodyguard, or both, for Professor Emil Caron; while he may not have been seven feet tall, his bulk seemed to tower over them—almost to threaten as he stood with folded arms, frowning at the Algerian in silent disapproval. In very truth all he needed was a leopard skin about his loins, gold hoops on his ears and a drawn scimitar to complete the impression of Arabian Nights theatricality!
In the fleeting tableau Kent and Malabar were aware of Mokra drawing back, half in fear, half in resentment; of domineering contempt that crossed the brown face of the Nubian like the shadow of a sneer; of the black cat with back arched! Then the Nubian was bowing and holding aside the curtain for them to pass while Mokra was smiling and politely assuring Mr. Kent that their host would be found in the library beyond.
pROFESSOR CARON was half-way across the big T room, eagerly greeting them even before he was close enough to shake hands. He had awaited their arrival with the impatience of an enthusiast who requires only an intelligent audience to make him happy. A little man with spectacles and the stooping neck of a student, as if he had spent many years in peering and prying for Knowledge in a never-ending game of Hideand-Go-Seek. And like so many men who devote their lives to restricted fields of intensive investigation, he lacked complexities; to a degree, the world even ceased
to exist for him outside of his own particular orbit. He knew that Addison Kent, being a literary man, was a fellow student and he soon sensed the fact that Kent’s friend belonged in the same category. It pleased him greatly to be able to converse with them freely in his own language about his work and to feel that their interest was genuine, their minds competent. He beamed upon them, therefore, with an enthusiasm so unaffected that it was almost childlike.
The great room in which they lounged, comfortably ensconced in deep, leather chairs, was a harmony in luxury. The walls were lined with bookcases and various antiques with here and there a valuable painting. The floor rugs were costly. The furniture was massive, particularly the round library table in the centre; it must have been eight feet in diameter and was curiously carved and inlaid. As his glance roved the room Dick Malabar’s face showed approval of the artistic taste with which Mr. Armaund Lamont had: arranged everything.
Noticing this interest, Professor Caron graciously suggested that presently they would make a tour of inspection. In addition to Mr. Lamont’s most interesting pieces, there were some things of his own which they might like to see. He had assembled them on an upper floor—in his own most beautiful bedroom, to be exact. It was there that he had unpacked his treasures, including the mummies.
“Mummies!” echoed Malabar, amused. “Hardly bedroom companions, Frofessor!”
“I sleep with them around me; for then I know that they are safe,” he explained ingenuously.
“There’s an idea for you, Kent. Write a story about the theft of a mummy, though I’m blest if I know how you would go about stealing one or what you’d do with it after you got away with it!”
“It is not the mummies, Mr. Malabar, but the things that are buried with them. Some of these antiques are very beautiful and very valuable. In this great city are many wealthy people who would pay big sums— collectors, you understand.” Professor Caron smiled a little uncertainly in mild reproof. “Robbery of the royal sepulchres was common in ancient Thebes; for, as you know, it was the Egyptian custom to bury with the dead much jewellery and great wealth in gold, silver, bronze and precious stones.”
“Desecration of a tomb, I understand, was a very serious offence,” prompted Kent.
It was. Professor Caron explained at some length just why it was so serious. To begin with, the ancient Egyptians believed in a life hereafter and that to obtain everlasting life it was necessary to preserve the embalmed body. They believed that the spirit dwelt in the tomb with the body for some three thousand years before it was summoned to the Judgment Hall of Osiris, the God of the Dead; there the heart was weighed in the balances along with the Symbol of Truth and so found wanting, or vindicated. They believed that the spirit required food and comforts and that is why embalmed food was placed in the tomb, along with many objects used by the deceased in his daily life. After three thousand years the jackal-headed Anubis came to carry the soul to judgment, and great pains were taken to make a comfortable and happy home. Certain things were inscribed on papyri to assist the deceased in repelling the attacks of demons. Hunting scenes and other activities in this life were faithfully depicted in the tomb in order that these decorations might remind him of his past exploits on earth and his ka, or genius, thereby be maintained. Many ceremonies were performed and services recited and mortuary temples were built near the tomb where the spirit could go, after coming out on the east side to greet the sun, and where the friends of the dead could offer their devotions.
“So, you see, the safety of the tomb was a serious matter,” concluded Professor Caron, “and was the subject of much thought by the Egyptian kings and their great men. It was the despoiling of tombs that led to the abandonment of the pyramid idea in favor of rock-hewn sepulchres, and it took many years, thousands of workers and great wealth to prepare some of the great tombs of the Pharaohs. Every precaution was taken to house the dead securely and secretly and to preserve the funeral furniture and other comforts for the spirit. If a mummy were disturbed and its tomb destroyed, it would be both without name and homeless.
Sometimes terrible curses were inscribed to frighten away robbers; for some thieves are very bold indeed.”
ALAS, yes! Nothing was safe from a bold thief.
Professor Caron went on to describe some of the known tombs of the Pharaohs. Five hundred feet into the hillside, then down into the bowels of the earth for one hundred and fifty feet or more these ghouls who pillaged the tombs had to go. In the tomb of Sety I, they first went far down a long flight of steps; then came a passage to another flight of steps; then another passage to another flight of steps; then another passage into a room that expanded into a large hall with four huge columns supporting the roof. With echoing footsteps, the thieves had to cross this hall to more steps, leading downward still into another long passage. This in turn revealed more steps down into two more passages, ending in a large hall of columns with four rooms opening off it. Then down more steps they came at last to where the mummy lay in its sarcophagus.
“A regular palace underground, through which the spirit was thought to be roving loose, mind you! And, all the way down, the walls covered with sculptured and painted gods and demons of the Underworld and the figure of the king stirring up the wrath of the deities! Nothing but silence and mystery in that deep place, gentlemen, and your thieves coming along with flickering ■oil lamps, casting dancing shadows—bold, is it not? No, nothing is sacred to bold thieves! Nothing is safe!” “These curses you refer to, Professor Caron—the stories one hears about the revenge of ancient spirits upon those who disturbed them—put any stock in that sort of thing?” asked Kent with interest.
“There are many strange things that man does not ■understand,” mused the little Frenchman, stroking his gray goatee reflectively. “It is well to keep an open
mind on all things, my young friend. But these curses are not very plentiful and were for frightening away robbers.”
“But the curse of the Pharaohs has come to be known all over the world from actual cases where harm has followed the meddlers.”
“Why should harm come to anyone who entered ancient sepulchres to preserve the dead, not to destroy? —to renew their memory for posterity?” argued the Professor. “Even taking them seriously, they refer to robbers; but these actual occurrences of which you speak—usually there is a rational explanation for whatever happened.”
“Not always,” contradicted Malabar. “I know a man who came into possession of a little bronze lamp—”
“Aladdin had one like it and it brought him great wealth and happiness when he scratched it.”
“The man I knew took sick—and died,” declared Malabar solemnly.
“Pooh! Pooh! Come, gentlemen, we must not grow sombre. I could recite many such stories; but let us go upstairs and I will show you one of these famous curses, inscribed upon a scarab.”
AS PROFESSOR CARON had intimated, his bedroom was commodious and elegantly furnished in keeping with all the other appointments in this house of luxury. A small sitting-room opened off it. Alongside the entrance to this room two cases stood on end, enclosing figures swathed in bandages; the mummies were not exposed to view, but the shape of the ancient bodies immediately identified them. Upon entering the room, however, the gaze of the visitors became focused almost involuntarily upon the startling wooden figure of a large black cat, which sat near the window.
“That case has never been opened yet; but it contains
the embalmed body of a cat, wrapped in bandages like these other mummies. The Egyptians, as you know, regarded the cat as part household pet and part deity; it was a very sacred animal and, of course, poor pussy had to go along with his master! Now here, gentlemen—” “Sacred to Bast, the Lady of Bubastes, wasn’t it, Professor?” Malabar tapped the wooden figure with his finger-nails; it was hollow. He stood regarding the
sombre image with interest. The light shone on the smooth, thick coating of pitch with which it was painted.
“Yes, yes—sacred to Bast,” nodded Professor Caron. “Now if you will come over here to the table, Mr. Malabar—”
“What’s this stuff that makes its eyes glare so? By Jove, Kent, look at the way those yellow whiskers bristle!”
“They used obsidian, rock crystal or colored paste for the eyes,” supplied Professor Caron a little impatiently. “Now, here I will show you—”
“I remember reading something to the effect that when a cat died the whole household went into mourning and shaved off their eyebrows,” volunteered Addison Kent. “I think it was Diodorus—”
“Yes, yes—Diodorus,” agreed the Professor. “The same writer records a case where the Egyptians slew a Roman who had accidentally killed a cat—Now here, gentlemen, is the scarab I mentioned; it was found on the breast of the mummy on the right over there and this is how the so-called curse reads: ‘Who trespasses upon mt) property the Sun God shall punish him. I will leap upon him as a wild beast upon his prey.’ " He chuckled. “Doesn’t look as if there was much leap left in him at this late date, eh?”
They examined the large scarab with interest while Professor Caron rattled on. Nothing was more highly revered by the Egyptians of old than the sacred beetle—■
scarabaeus sacer. “Khepera” (he who turns) they called it in ancient days, symbolizing the return of the sun each day and representing the everlasting progress of life. The likeness of the beetle was made into amulets and placed upon the mummies to ward off evil. It was made into signet rings and worn by the living, being prepared as a talisman by the priests of the different temples. This sign of immortality was constantly before the people and was used in the Government offices, bearing the Pharaoh’s cartouche—the oval in which his name was inscribed—and was worn by soldiers going into battle and, in fact, by the people at large for good luck.
“That hole you see was where the gold wire passed through—to hang it around the neck of the mummy over there. I have seen many finer scarabs than this; the colors have faded badly. Scarabs were not in general use before the middle of the 12th dynasty, but they were quite plentiful by the time of Amemhot III, perhaps most plentiful in the reigns of Thotmes III and Rameses II, because these were the longest reigns. This one belongs to the eighteenth dynasty; it is interesting and valuable on account of the curse—”
“And it was worn by that mummy against the wall there, you say?” The eyes of all three sought the silent figure as Kent spoke. “Who was he, professor?”
“He’s a long way from home,” commented Malabar.
“Yes, gentlemen, and a long time dead,” smiled Professor Caron. “His name was Sethutnakt and he appears to have been the High Priest of Amon-Ra. See, here’s his photo; it will not be necessary tc*unwrap him to give you a look at him. In the reign of Rameses II—”
An exclamation from Richard Malabar interrupted him. The journalist was pointing to another photo which Professor Caron held in his hand. It was also the photo of an exposed mummy—the most sinister of grinning faces; the mouth was open, revealing gleaming teeth; the hollow eyesockets stared.
“An ugly customer, eh, my friend?” Professor Caron smiled with a hint of condescension at their evident repulsion. “That is the other one, over there by the door. I cannot tell you much about him, as he is one of the Nameless who lost his tomb or, rather, he never had a tomb because he died with his sandals on, out in the desert somewhere on some expedition to the breccia quarries. It is my opinion that he came to his end by foul play.
His body was dug up from the sand by accident, mummified by the sand and sun in the Nubian desert; in that dry air exposure will mummify naturally.”
“But he is all bandaged up—”
“The same as Seth? Quite so.
We wrapped him up very carefully, for he is an odd, and valuable specimen and will be welcome in one of your American medical colleges. A vicious looking person,
I admit. But he has not bitten anything for some thousands of years!”
“You do not know who or what he was, then?” asked Kent.
“No. He may have been a great noble in his day in the palace of the king. He may have strutted in gorgeous raiment with all the pride of a peacock.
But his day is long since done and I sometimes think he is laughing at himself! That is what I call him—‘The Laugher’.”
Professor Caron had stepped half-way across the room towards the mummies while talking and now he turned and started back to the table, chuckling to himself.
From the high ceiling of the room there suddenly fell a large segment of plaster. It landed on
the floor with a heavy thud—in the exact spot where he had been standing as he spoke!
THROUGH the thinning dust Kent and Malabar exchanged quick glances; but Professor Caron continued to smile. He merely raised his eyebrows and shrugged his shoulders, remarking that it looked as if Friend Lamont would require to see to his plumbing somewhere.
“Then you do not believe—?”
“The fall of plaster is undoubtedly due to some such simple thing as a bathroom leak or, perhaps, a seepage from the roof at some time or other. Come, come, gentlemen! Association of ideas—that merely. We have been discussing this matter of ancient spirits exerting malevolent influence and what more natural than that you should attach special significance to this simple incident? You must remember, however, that we are not robbers of tombs and if one is reverent—”
“But you did not speak reverently a few moments ago, professor, and look at that plaster!” pursued Addison Kent quizzically. “That might have injured you severely; perhaps it would have killed you! Why should it fall just when it did and just where you had been standing?”
“Pooh! Coincidence!” and again the little professor shrugged shoulders with an air of indifference which, Kent fancied, was not quite genuine; in spite of himself, the Frenchman was disturbed and was trying hard to conceal the fact. “You cannot frighten me, my friend. We archaeologists could tell of many strange coincidences; but we have not time for foolish superstitions in the great work we are doing.”
“Yet I know of instances where these ‘coincidences’ brought sickness and death,” chimed in Malabar, ráster enjoying the situation.
“So? Well, maybe, my friend. But I am not afraid. L have told you that these curses were but to frighten robbers from the tomb in order to preserve the mummy and the tomb from desecration. The threat of dire calamity meant only additional protection and we do not believe the things the ancients believed. You see how it is? We—Ah, Kellani! Just some plaster that has fallen from the ceiling. Everything is all right. We
shall be going back to the library directly and you may have this mess cleaned up then.”
Kent turned to find the silent Nubian in the doorway, regarding them with strange steadfastness. His tumid lips seemed to be muttering some voiceless prayer while his large, black eyes, half shuttered by bronze eyelids, were fastened unwaveringly upon Professor Emil Caron. His scant beard, worn underneath the chin like that of the Wawa sculptured on Egyptian temples, disappeared among the powerful muscles of his neck and throat as he^ lowered his great, frizzle-haired head in obeisance.
“Allah is great! A command has been given to be obeyed, Sidi. Another long look and abruptly he backed out of the doorway and was gone.
The sudden appearance of the huge, brown servant on the threshold, following the thud of the fading plaster, was entirely logical; but something in the tone of the Nubian’s solemn voice, something in his look—Kent glanced sharply at his host änd was startled at the sudden change that seemed to have come over the savant. His face showed pallor—or was it plaster dust? He was running one hand nervously through his scanty white hair while the hand that rested on the edge of the table Kent thought that it trembled slightly.
“I say, professor, can you open this thing for us?” Dick Malabar was standing once more in front of the figure of the black cat, passing tentative fingers over the smooth surface, looking in vain for some indication of an opening. He half turned in surprise at a sharp ejaculation of annoyance from Professor Caron, who hurriedly crossed the room.
No, no! came his petulant refusal. “Away from there, monsieur! You must not touch that! Come away, please! I cannot open it yet. It has never been opened and there are many photographs to take of the different stages of the unwrapping—for the official records, you understand. Please, you must not touch it.”
TTIS agitation seemed out of -*■ proportion to the simple cause. The journalist stole a look at Addison Kent behind the professor’s back and grinned cheerfully. It seemed to Kent that Malabar was taking a satisfaction in provoking their host that almost approached discourtesy and he frowned and shook his head.
“We will go back down to the library, gentlemen, if you please. But first— ”
He ran ahead of them to the doorway and looked out. Then, unexpectedly, he drew the door shut carefully and placed a finger on his lips for silence. He crossed the room quickly and, from the entrance to the bathroom, beckoned them mysteriously.
“Whisky and soda, if yob -have it, professor,” grinned Malabar.
But when they had followed him into the bathroom and this door also hacl been closed carefully, they were astonished to find Professor Emil Caron extending for their inspection a large leather traveling-case in which were disclosed his safety razor and other toilet articles. Re picked out a fat silver-plated case which he proceeded to open; it contained a large round cake of pink soap, perhaps six inches wide and three inches thick.
“Is this part of the exhibit—?” Malabar looked at Addison Kent quickly; for Kent had pinched his arm sharply and there was an intentness in the novelist’s face that commanded silence.
“It is my special bath soap, scented with jasmine from the Souk-el-Attarine at Tunis.” Professor Caron spoke in a voice that was scarcely above a whisper. “I want you to note it carefully. See, I have divided it in the middle and hollowed out a cavity. Presently I will show you what I intend to hide in this simple cake of soap and then you will understand. Please, I am not crazy! I did not bring you here to-night, Mr. Kent, just to show you mummies and discuss matters of antiquity. I am in grave trouble and I need your help.
“We will go downstairs now, gentlemen, and when you have had some cakes and wine you must make your excuses and leave this house as soon as possible. Continued on page 52
Continued, from, page 12
No matter how greatly you are astonished, please control yourselves and do not speak loudly. You think me a very strange host, no doubt; but it is best to be careful when danger lurks, is it not? What I show you must not be seen except by you and what I tell you is for your ears alone. Come, time passes too quickly.”
Without waiting for comment he led them out to the landing and as they descended the stairs, the little Frenchman was chatting animatedly of his belief that the much-discussed Land of Ophir, mentioned in the Bible, was located at the southern end of the Eastern Egyptian Desert and why he thought the old gold workings there must be identified with “King Solomon’s Mines.”
IT HAD been partly for the purpose of discovering proof of his theory regarding the location of the Biblical Ophir that Professor Emil Caron had penetrated deeply into the unknown wastes of the Upper Egyptian Desert. The great silver Nile, with its narrow strip of fertility on either side, was known to the tourist; but the hills of granite, sandstone or limestone that for the most part walled it in were bare and few there were who had dared the arid steppes that stretch endlessly beyond to the shores of the Red Sea. A few foreign Egyptologists had ventured along some of the known ancient routes in search of buried records—Lepsius, the German, and Golenischieff, the Russian, for instance. The explorer, Sweinfurth, and Bellefonds Bey, Director-General of Public Works in Egypt under Mohammed Ali—these had surveyed and mapped certain sections, while a few prospectors had gone hither and yon. But, for the most part, it was a Lost Land, peopled with ghosts of ancient and forgotten days, given over to the sovereignty of the desert sun which glared upon endless sands that forever shifted under hot desert winds—a land of slinking jackal and circling buzzard.
Into this trackless region of hazards and uncertainties had the camels of Professor Emil Caron rocked away, daily plodding deeper towards the miragehaunted horizon and daily leaving farther behind them the security of Law and Order and human habitation. But with his mind upon hieroglyphics and his soul expanding with absorbing enthusiasm for the life of other times and peoples, the little savant had concerned himself but slightly with the desert dangers of his day and generation. So that presently he had awakened to find himself in the midst of an adventure which very nearly had cost him his life.
Seated once more in the library—beside wine and cakes upon a silver salver from the grand mosque at Kairouan—he held the undivided, attention of both his guests. After serving the refreshments, Kellani, the Nubian servant, had been dismissed for the night. Nevertheless, Professor Caron continued to speak in lowered tones and with suppressed excitement.
“You will find it hard to believe what I have to tell you, gentlemen; but 1 assure you that every word of it is true. Strange indeed are some of the secrets that lie buried in the sands of that great land of mysticism and ancient traditions. If only I might persuade myself that it was all just a dream! Alas! that I cannot do.”
He passed his hand nervously through his thin hair and glanced furtively about the room before proceeding. He would not weary them, he promised, with the details of his search among the rock inscriptions at the breccia quarries of Wady Hammamat, nor discuss the white granite of Um Etgal or the alabaster quarries or the mountains of Gebel Dukhan where the Romans quarried the famous imperial porphyry. At Rizk Allah in the Wady Khashab topaz mines were worked under the Ptolemies and, until the conquest of Peru, the only emerald mines known were located in the hilly Zabara district in the Wady Sikait. Enough just to say that the country was known as a land of riches in olden days, and many expeditions at one time and another had sought its treasure; inscribed upon the rocks were the records of chief architects, master
builders, artisans, scribes, ship-captains, etc., of the ancient dynasties. He had found much to interest him and had made voluminous notes of ancient activities as he studied the rocks. Time ceased to exist for him and he was content to wander about indefinitely.
NOT so the cameleers he had hired, however. They grew anxious to get back to the Nile country and began to give trouble. All arrangements for the caravan had been looked after by Kellani, the professor’s newly acquired bodyservant, and it was the Nubian who undertook to pacify them from time to time by promises of doubled rewards. Professor Caron paid little heed to the discontent of the guides or to the heated arguments that took place around the camp-fires at night; all Arabs were great liars and these thieving rascals had been utterly spoiled by tourist bakshish and were never satisfied. Then one fine morning he and the Nubian awoke to find themselves alone in the desert, and with the men had gone the best part of their supplies, camels and equipment.
It was little use to rage up and down. There they were! It was not long before their predicament became so apparent that they grew very serious over it. They conned their supplies anxiously; the deserters had left them two camels, two small tents and barely enough food to last them for a week. But it was the water problem that worried them. Professor Caron was helpless and forced to rely upon the Nubian; Kellani did not profess to be a desert guide. The only thing they could do was to follow the tracks of the fleeing deserters and to pray that these would not be obliterated by the shifting sands before they reached a well.
After journeying for a day without catching sight of anybody, they pitched camp despondently. Even the Nubian failed to hide his worry as he hobbled the camels with thongs so that they could not get up and wander away. For during the day they had somehow missed the tracks they had been following and Kellani confessed that they were lost. However, he proceeded cheerfully enough to knead dough upon his burnous, spread in front of the fire, and to bake it on the embers. Allah willing, they would find water to-morrow if it were so written.
But they did not find water the next day, or the next, or the next. Their camels surged onward, ever onward under the hot sun over sand marked only by desert creatures—the wiggly line where a lizard had made passage, the four prongs of a wagtail or a vulture’s footprint, the short jumps of the jerboa, the light padding of jackal or fox and, once or twice, the heavier trail of a hyena crossing the tracks of a gazelle. The diminishing water in the goatskins grew gray and warm; it acquired the flavor of goat and tar. They drank sparingly in spite of the glutinous condition of their mouths and throats, hoarding every drop, more precious than diamonds.
It was Kellani’s idea to give the camels their heads in the hope that instinct would lead them towards water. Their general direction appeared to be south and east towards distant hills. In time they came in under the shadow of these hills and about sundown found themselves in a strange valley where the wind indulged in antics among the rocks, causing mysterious whisperings to waft about as the drooping travelers penetrated the dry water-course.
A sudden cry from the Nubian startled Professor Caron out of the stupor into which he had slumped and he found Kellani pointing excitedly to sheep tracks. It was the first sight they had had of any sign of human beings; for where sheep were would be at least a solitary and ragged Bedouin—and water somewhere near! Even the camels, ordinarily impervious to hastening influences, seemed to arouse themselves to the excitement of the moment and followed the sheeptracks willingly.
THEN, without warning of any kind, a sharp command to halt rang out and in the wink of an eye the two camels were surrounded by a band of swarthy
and rough-looking Arabs, brandishing guns. They seemed to rise from the very ground. It was evident to Professor Caron that the ambuscade had been planned deliberately and that from the moment the travelers had entered the valley they had been watched. Forbidding as these men were and threatening though their attitude seemed to be, both the professor and his servant welcomed the capture; for they were exhausted and their tongues were swollen with thirst. Any relief was better than none.
They were led triumphantly into camp. When they had been given water to drink and had recovered sufficiently to take stock of their surroundings and their captors, Professor Caron realized that he had stumbled upon what appeared to be the secret retreat of a band of brigands. Although mostly garbed like Bedouins, he saw that this cut-throat aggregation comprised several nationalities and he might have trembled for his immediate safety but for the fact that their leader was a man of some education, who spoke French with a slight German accent. This man assured the little professor that no harm would befall him if orders were obeyed.
He even appeared to know something of Egyptology. At any rate, he was greatly interested in the Frenchman’s notebooks and asked many questions—■ in fact, became enthusiastic. He introduced himself as Ludwig Von Strom and appeared to welcome the opportunity of discussing these things with Professor Caron; long after his men were wrapped in slumber they had sat, conversing in the archaeologist’s jargon.
THE next day the discussion had been renewed and finally Von Strom had brought out from his personal effects for Professor Carson’s inspection a roll of discolored papyrus and asked him if he could decipher it. To his utter amazement Professor Caron discovered it to be, apparently, the inscription of a scribe of the Temple in the reign of Rameses IX, about B.C. 1124, dealing with the systematic robbery of the royal sepulchres by an organized gang of thieves. It appeared that this scribe had been the only one to escape the wrath of the ruling Pharaoh, all the other members of the conspiracy having been discovered, brought to trial and put to death. He alone, Horishere, through false testimony, had escaped and later had found his way to the secret place where the ghouls had buried their ungodly treasure. There he had gloated over his wealth, only to find that a wall of the unused tomb in which the treasure was hidden, had collapsed and sealed him in beyond hope of escape. He had spent the interval, while awaiting death by starvation, in writing this, his confession. It was, the victim believed, the vengeance of Osiris, the God of the Dead!
Amazed, excited, puzzled, Professor Caron had questioned the German closely as to where this document had been found and how it had come into his possession. At first Von Strom was reticent, but finally he claimed to know where the tomb was located and the treasure of Osiris buried. He had guarded his secret jealously against the day that it might be shared safely with some man of great learning in these matters, some Egyptologist of established reputation. Perhaps this meeting was “Kismet!” as the Arabs say. Perhaps Professor Emil Caron was the very man, sent to him across the desert to this out-of-the-way valley by the gods themselves! If certain conditions were complied with, he might decide to take Professor Caron to the lost tomb and show him this treasure of Osiris that had lain buried deep beneath the sands for thousands of years. Then Professor Emil Caron could give the discovery to the world and win fame as well as fortune.
“Gentlemen, what was I to do?” Professor Caron paused in his recital and looked at them eagerly. Red spots burned in his cheeks and his eyes were glittering with excitement. “These very tombrobbers’ trials, mentioned in this papyrus, already are known to us in fragmentary fashion—from the Abbott Papyrus which was discovered in 1857 at Thebes; from the Meyer Papyrus in the Liverpool Museum; from another fragment in the museum at Turin and so on. When I tell you that they make mention of this very scribe of the Temple, Horishere, do you notsee, gentlemen, how important
this document might be? Do you not see that with it I should be able to amaze not only America but the whole world? Would you have investigated it further if you had been me?—at any cost?”
Professor Caron relaxed in his chair and eyed first Addison Kent, then Richard Malabar, as if for traces of skepticism.
“A fine story, my friends, eh?” he chortled. “A clever tale, is it not? You do not believe, perhaps? You do not—”
He sat up in his chair with a start, a finger upraised for silence. Into his eyes leapt a sudden look of fear.
“Hush! What was that sound? Did you hear nothing?”
' I 'HE1 shook their heads. NevertheA less, Professor Caron got up quickly and went to the library windows, examining them one by one and carefully drawing still closer together the heavy windowdrapes. He came back to them on tip-toe, leaning towards them eagerly.
“A fine story, gentlemen—if it were only true!” he whispered.
“You mean—?” comprehended Kent.
“This papyrus of Horishere—I soon recognized it to be a clever fake!”
“And the buried treasure?” suggested Malabar.
“Ah yes, the treasure! That is different.”
' A ou,have seen it? Personally?”
“Yes!” he whispered, again glancing nervously about the room. “That is why I am in such trouble now. Wait! I will show you something.”
In silence they watched him go straight to the fine safe which Armaund Lamont had installed in his library behind a panel of wainscotting. Although nothing of great value was kept outside of the burglar-proof vaults down town, the fact that Lamont had entrusted the combination of this library safe to his temporary guest was yet another proof of his complete confidence in the French savant. They watched with interest the process of opening the safe. Professor Caron finally accomplished it after many references to a little black notebook which he carried on bis person.
He lifted out and transferred to the library table an oblong parcel, neatly wrapped in stiff, brown paper. It was well tied with heavy twine and generously daubed upon the folds at each end with blue sealing-wax. Carefully the professor got one of these ends open and drew off the outer wrapper like a glove. Working more rapidly now, he unfolded the inner layers of paper, revealing at last a sandalwood box. Producing a small key from his pocket, he unlocked the box and took out the contents, wrapped in white tissue paper. When this was removed an oblong case of purple velvet was in his hand. Under their noses he finally snapped it open with a dramatic gesture.
“V oila!” he exclaimed with the pride of a connoisseur.
Kent and Malabar both started back in astonishment, then bent eagerly forward with subdued cries of admiration. Lying on its satin cushion was a beautiful scarab of pure gold, so exquisitely wrought in delicate design as quite conceivably to belong to an age of lost arts. Neither of the two marvelling guests had ever beheld anything like it before.
With a hand that shook in eagerness while his eyes shone with excitement, Professor Caron picked it carefully from its resting place and turned the beautiful gold beetle over on its back.
They gasped. Speechless, they stared. Imbedded in a cunning setting lay a magnificent ruby, so large and pure it was breath-taking. _ It was carmine red with a slight bluish tinge—the color which the Burmese compare to the blood of a freshly killed pigeon—“pigeon’s blood red.” The great stone caught the rays of the light; it lay shining and palpitating like a pool of blood! They could not take their eyes off it!
At last Addison Kent freed from the spell and stared at the smiling Frenchman with a sober face.
“Priceless!” he murmured. “And it is this which you are proposing to hide in your—upstairs?” He pointed to the
“Assuredly. See, I shall remove it now and put back the empty case, re-sealing the outer wrapping. A burning match or
two should soften the wax sufficiently.”
“Professor Caron, it is not safe,” protested Kent. “You must not risk such a gem as that here—not even for a single night.” It was Kent’s glance now which roved anxiously about the room. “I want you to let me telephone and provide for its safe removal to a deposit box—now, to-night. I can arrange it.”
But Professor Caron demurred. He had a reason for wanting it beside him for a little while. It was quite safe because nobody knew that he had it— except them; he had taken them intohis confidence as an additional precaution. If by any remote chance his plans were interfered with, they—his friends—would know where to find the ruby and would be able to take charge of it according to his direction. They were alone, were they not? And Monsieur Lamont had provided this room with excellent blinds and drapes—
Addison Kent rose and stepped quickly across to the portieres which screened the archway. His movement was sudden and silent. When he thrust bis head into the hall he was relieved to find it empty; for he had fancied a movement of the heavy curtain. It must be just that his imagination had been keyed to special activity by the evening’s surprises, he thought.
Turning back into the room, his glance fell upon Richard Malabar. The journalist was passing the scarab to Professor Caron with a hand that trembled visibly. All levity was gone now from Malabar’s demeanor. Kent saw that he looked strangely excited.
PROFESSOR, this so-cailed ‘Treasure of Osiris’ you have been telling us about”—Malabar cleared his throat, a trifle impatient of his huskiness. “You say you have actually seen it?”
“Yes, I said that.”
“This German, Von Strom, took you
“To one of the unused tombs of the Pharaohs, where it was buried?”
“To an old and hitherto undiscovered sepulchre—yes. It was completely covered by the sand—deep down under the sands —hewn in the living rock.”
“Was it located where the other discoveries have been made—in the Valley of the Tombs of The Kings or the Valley of the Queens?—somewhere in the ancient Theban necropolis? Where was it located, Professor?”
“That I cannot tell you, Mr. Malabar. The secret of its location was carefully preserved by the German. I was blindfolded. We traveled for a great distance. But I do not think it was anywhere near other discoveries. It was not as elaborate as a royal tomb and had been intended for some lesser personage.”
“Blindfolded! Hm-lim! Did this bandaging of your eyes take place when you set out from this valley where the wind whispered among the rocks and where you encountered these brigands or was it later in the journey that such care was taken?”
“From the first, Mr. Malabar, I was blindfolded.”
“Then you do not even know where this wonderful valley is to be found, let alone the tomb where the treasure is buried?” __
“Alas! That is so, gentlemen. You must accept my statements.” He looked appealingly at Addison Kent.
“Of course,” nodded Kent.
“And are we to understand that this narkable scarab you have just shown —?” Malabar hesitated. “I am not ring these questions idly, Professor ron. I am tremendously interested d only want to clear the air, as it were, what appears a little confusing to me. iis scarab, now—Are we to understand it it was a part of this ancient, buried asure, taken from tombs of old by cient robbers? Or did you purchase it im somebody? If so, what fabulous ice did you pay for it? Just how did it me into your possession, Professor?”
It was their host’s turn to hesitate. He ired at his inquisitor dubiously. He it his lips, shrugged his shoulders. _
“It was part of this treasure, was it? rsisted Malabar. “You found it at is lost tomb?”
** Y es.”
“I have been in Egypt, Professor Caron, know a little about Egyptology—not at I have given it the study you have, course; but I know a little.” Dick alabar smiled modestly. “I know a
great deal more, however, about precious stones. You surely are not asking me to believe that this beautiful ruby in its unique golden scarab setting is an antique, Professor!”
“No, no, Mr. Malabar—not an antique, of course. It is a cut gem of a much later period.”
“Exactly. Yet you say you found it! Professor, do you realize that that ruby is almost the size of a pigeon’s egg? Do you know that such large stones are very scarce? Even a fine, deeply colored ruby of three carats is a rarity. One of nine carats is worth over £6,000. Do you realize the weight and value of that scarab stone? Rubies of that size are not left lying around carelessly. They are known—and traced!”
“Yes, yes, that is so, Mr. Malabar. The King of Ava was said to have a ruby, mounted as an ear-pendant, the size of a hen’s egg!”
“The largest ruby found in Burma weighed 1,184 carats. Gustavus III, of Sweden, had a ruby as big as this one you have just shown us; he presented to Catherine II, of Russia.”
“That was in 1777. Yes, I know about that.”
“That ruby disappeared, Professor, long ago, and its present whereabouts is unknown. It has never been seen since.”
KENT tapped Malabar’s arm.
“Is it possible that this scarab stone—?”
“It may be the identical gem. Who knows? But whether it is or not, its discovery by Professor Caron as part of this so-called ‘Treasure of Osiris’ proves that this buried treasure is not the loot of ancient ghouls but of modern thieves! He admits that the papyrus shown him by this German was a fake—”
“I think, Dick, if you will just hold your horses a bit, the professor can explain everything,” remonstrated Kent gently. “Am I right, Professor, in surmising that you merely have been leading up to the things you really wish to confide to us?”
Professor Caron, who had been fidgeting in his chair for some time, nodded and threw a grateful glance. His face was flushed with excitement and it was evident that he was in an extremely nervous state. He was breathing rapidly. His hands fluttered uncertainly from his knees to the arms of his chair and back again. He dropped his voice so low that they had to lean forward to catch what he said.
“Not a word must you breathe of what I have to say,” he whispered hoarsely. “You have seen me close the safe on that empty package, after heating the sealingwax upon the broken end; it is as if it had never been touched. This jewel in my waistcoat I shall hide as soon as you leave this house. I am in much trouble, Mr. Kent, and I seek your help because' Mr. Lamont told me all about your great abilities in the detection of crime. He told me of your dangerous encounter with that most dangerous of all—that gentleman thief of thieves. You, at least, understand and bear with me because you know that it is not possible to be too careful where Alceste is concerned and I—” “What!” exclaimed Malabar sharply. “Alceste? Where does he come in?” “Hush! Hush! Not so loud, Mr. Malabar, I beseech you!”
“But Alceste is dead!”
“That is correct, professor. He was cornered in England by the police and committed suicide,” nodded Kent as Professor Caron turned to him in surprise. “Rather a tame ending for such a clever international thief; but it is the only sort of finish to the kind of game he played. His capture was bound to come sooner or later. The official record of his death is on file at Police Headquarters. There is no question about it.”
“Suicide!” murmured Malabar thoughtfully. “He was not the sort to be taken alive. He would at least have the satisfaction of turning out his own light.” “Well, well,” pondered Professor Caron. Then his face renewed its former expression. “Dead he may be—then I am very glad of that—but, gentlemen, his evil lives after him! Of that I can assure you. He has left a legacy of evil—” A shudder seized him and he dropped his voice still lower. “Have you ever heard of a strange, secret organization in the East, called the ‘Order of The Golden Scarab”!” he breathed anxiously.
Addison Kent doubtfully shook his head. Dick Malabar leaned closer, his
keen, intelligent face full of eagerness.
“Go on, Professor. Tell us about it,” he urged.
“I will tell you. Yes. I—I—”
“Go on, then! Tell it! Tell it!” Malabar reached out and grabbed him by the shoulder. “In Heaven’s name, what’s the matter with you? Tell it!”
But Professor Emil Caron’s tongue seemed to be sticking in his throat. His eyes opened wide in sudden fear. His face went as white as chalk.
“Mon Dieu!” he gasped. “Look! Look!” He pointed shakily. “Take it away! Quick!” He shrank, cowering, in his chair.
Both Addison Kent and Malabar sprang to their feet and turned in alarm.
Across the broad expanse of the huge, round library table there crawled slowly, steadily, a great, ugly, black beetle!
WITH curiosity they leaned over the insect. Kent finally captured it and held it in the air with its legs clawing.
“I say, how do you suppose that thing got in here?—on that table?”
“Flew in through an open window probably,” smiled Kent, amused. He stepped across the room, opened one of the French doors and tossed the beetle outside. “Or, if you think it is getting rather late in the season for June bugs, Dick, and if you note further that not a single window in this room is open, let me suggest this explanation: It flew in
through an open window during June or July when the decorators were at work and was a prisoner here ever since.” “And has been sitting up on yon curtain-pole till, becoming dizzy from the fumes of that pipe of yours, it fell from its perch and landed upon said table.” Malabar chuckled. “How about it, Professor? Why all the excitement?” But Professor Caron’s chair was empty. He had slipped from the room and even then was coming in from the hall, carry ing their hats, coats, gloves and walking sticks.
“You must go at once!” he decreed anxiously. “Please do not think me discourteous. 1 feel that it is best, gentlemen.”
“But you did not finish telling us—” began Malabar in protest.
“No, no! Not to-night, please. Not in this house! Not now!”
“But you were going to tell us, were you not?—until this harmless bug—Why did it frighten you so?”
Professor Caron drew himself erect with some dignity.
“You ask too many questions, Mr. Malabar. It is the failing of the journalist, is it not? I shall answer nothing. It is enough for me to express the desire that we defer all further conversation upon these matters.”
“Certainly, Professor, if you wish it,” apologized Malabar quickly. “I can not tell you how much I have enjoyed this interesting evening and I only'hope that I may have the privilege of meeting you again soon—”
“By all means—to-morrow. Perhaps, Mr. Kent, we might take that drive you were good enough to suggest the other day. If you will call for me, we can spin away somewhere in quiet places and then 1 promise to reveal to you everything that is on my mind.”
So it was arranged. Professor Caron himself escorted them to the door. There was nothing for them to do but to take their sudden dismissal in good grace. They might smile at the whims of their host; but there was no question that he had been greatly upset by something. Keen as their curiosity was to know what lay back of the savant’s strange fear, they forebore to question him further, especially as he promised to gratify their curiosity the next afternoon when they went motoring.
“I want you to feel that you can call upon me at any time for any help I can give, Professor Caron,” assured Addison Kent as he shook hands warmly. _ “You have given us an interesting evening, for which both of us are very grateful. I would be remiss in my duty if I did not ask you once more to let me provide a place of safety for that wonderful ruby. Will you not change your mind and let me arrange it—to-night?”
“No, no! Everything is all right. There is no hurry. It will be safe, never fear.”
“I am well acquainted at police headquarters, Professor. If you are at all
nervous, it would be a simple matter for me to have a couple of good plainclothes men stationed—”
“The police! Oh, no, no, no! Please, Mr. Kent, do not worry and do not tell anyone what I have shown you or told you. To-morrow afternoon I shall explain everything. Thank you all the same. And now, gentlemen, au revoir—until to-morrow.”
With iron-grilled finality the great glass doors of the Lamont mansion forthwith closed behind them.
ONCE away from the big house and its grounds, both occupants of the car drew in the fresh night air with relish and relaxed upon the cushions. Neither was inclined to talk at first; each was busy with his own thoughts.
“Well, how do you feel now?” ventured Kent at last.
“As if I’d been down the rabbit hole!” growled Malabat.
“To Wonderland with Alice?”
“No. To the cave of the Forty Thieves with the evil spirit of Alceste!—a cave, littered with dead man’s bones! Damn Caron and his mummies!”
“Careful, Dick! We don’t want to run into an accident before we get home!” warned Kent cheerfully. “Personally, I enjoyed it. The professor interests me. Strikes me you are on the trail of a devilishly good story for your paper when you get back into harness.”
“Your choice of adjectives is admirable.”
“Hellish, perhaps, when we get to the facts You don’t suppose he was just frightened Py that bug, do you? It’s what lies beneath. That thing carried some warning to him by suggestion. The man was in positive terror. I tell you, Kent, I don’t like it!”
“This ‘Order of The Golden Scarab’— is that what you are thinking of?” “Yes—and thinking hard! The East is the home of the secret society and the birthplace of more intrigue, more devilment—! It would be meat and drink to Alceste! ‘His evil lives after him.’ ” quoted Malabar.
He gave Addison Kent a strange look, as if his mind were busy with halfforgotten horrors, and as they passed a street light the novelist noted how pale he was.
“Pshaw! Dick, you take it too seriously. Funny, though, that Alceste’s trail should cross in such an unexpected quarter. I wonder how Caron—that ruby—it’s the most beautiful stone I ever looked at, I think.”
“Deadliest poison plants often bear the most vivid flowers,” remarked the journalist sententiously. “Entrancingly beautiful women*sometimes prove most dangerous.”
“Another way of saying that the golden scarab is at the bottom of Caron’s trouble?”
“In what way?”
“God knows!” replied Malabar in a low, tense voice.
“Well, there’s no use in idle speculation when we’ll know all about it to-morrow afternoon. Let’s forget it until tomorrow.”
As they turned through Times Square on the way to Richard Malabar’s hotel the two metal dwarfs on the clock were swinging their mallets, pounding out the midnight hour.
THE first rays of the morning sun were warming the closed window-blinds of Minaki Annex when Addison Kent was awakened by the jangling of the telephone beside his bed. Responding
sleepily, he was surprised to recognize the voice of his old friend, DetectiveLieutenant Donovan, of the Bureau. At first he did not grasp what the voice was saying; but presently he was very wide awake indeed. For Lieutenant Donovan’s calm matter-of-fact tones were entirely out of step with the startling nature of his words.
“It’s a queer lay-out, Mr. Kent, and I thought it was something that would interest you. The police were called in an hour ago. The place is out in Westchester—Lamont’s new residence. The servants are frightened half out of their wits; I can’t make head or tail of it. There’s a friend of Lamont’s, a Frenchman by the name of Caron, stopping there. He has died very suddenly in the night!”
To be Continued