I have always considered that one of the most thrilling and dramatic of the many adventures I have shared with Poirot was that of our investigation into the strange series of deaths which followed upon the discovery and opening of the Tomb of King Men-her-Ra.
Hard upon the discovery of the Tomb of Tutankh-Amen by Lord Carnarvon, Sir John Willard and Mr Bleibner of New York, pursuing their excavations not far from Cairo, in the vicinity of the Pyramids of Gizeh, came unexpectedly on a series of funeral chambers. The greatest interest was aroused by their discovery. The Tomb appeared to be that of King Men-her-Ra, one of those shadowy kings of the Eighth Dynasty, when the Old Kingdom was falling to decay. Little was known about this period, and the discoveries were fully reported in the newspapers.
An event soon occurred which took a profound hold on the public mind. Sir John Willard died quite suddenly of heart failure.
The more sensational newspapers immediately took the opportunity of reviving all the old superstitious stories connected with the ill luck of certain Egyptian treasures. The unlucky Mummy at the British Museum, that hoary old chestnut, was dragged out with fresh zest, was quietly denied by the Museum, but nevertheless enjoyed all its usual vogue.
A fortnight later Mr Bleibner died of acute blood poisoning, and a few days afterwards a nephew of his shot himself in New York. The ‘Curse of Men-her-Ra’ was the talk of the day, and the magic power of dead-and-gone Egypt was exalted to a fetish point.
It was then that Poirot received a brief note from Lady Willard, widow of the dead archaeologist, asking him to go and see her at her house in Kensington Square. I accompanied him.
Lady Willard was a tall, thin woman, dressed in deep mourning. Her haggard face bore eloquent testimony to her recent grief.
‘It is kind of you to have come so promptly, Monsieur Poirot.’
‘I am at your service, Lady Willard. You wished to consult me?’
‘You are, I am aware, a detective, but it is not only as a detective that I wish to consult you. You are a man of original views, I know, you have imagination, experience of the world, tell me, Monsieur Poirot, what are your views on the supernatural?’
Poirot hesitated for a moment before he replied. He seemed to be considering. Finally he said:
‘Let us not misunderstand each other, Lady Willard. It is not a general question that you are asking me there. It has a personal application, has it not? You are referring obliquely to the death of your late husband?’
‘That is so,’ she admitted.
‘You want me to investigate the circumstances of his death?’
‘I want you to ascertain for me exactly how much is newspaper chatter, and how much may be said to be founded on fact? Three deaths, Monsieur Poirot—each one explicable taken by itself, but taken together surely an almost unbelievable coincidence, and all within a month of the opening of the tomb! It may be mere superstition, it may be some potent curse from the past that operates in ways undreamed of by modern science. The fact remains—three deaths! And I am afraid, Monsieur Poirot, horribly afraid. It may not yet be the end.’
‘For whom do you fear?’
‘For my son. When the news of my husband’s death came I was ill. My son, who has just come down from Oxford, went out there. He brought the—the body home, but now he has gone out again, in spite of my prayers and entreaties. He is so fascinated by the work that he intends to take his father’s place and carry on the system of excavations. You may think me a foolish, credulous woman, but, Monsieur Poirot, I am afraid. Supposing that the spirit of the dead King is not yet appeased? Perhaps to you I seem to be talking nonsense—’
‘No, indeed, Lady Willard,’ said Poirot quickly. ‘I, too, believe in the force of superstition, one of the greatest forces the world has ever known.’
I looked at him in surprise. I should never have credited Poirot with being superstitious. But the little man was obviously in earnest.
‘What you really demand is that I shall protect your son? I will do my utmost to keep him from harm.’
‘Yes, in the ordinary way, but against an occult influence?’
‘In volumes of the Middle Ages, Lady Willard, you will find many ways of counteracting black magic. Perhaps they knew more than we moderns with all our boasted science. Now let us come to facts, that I may have guidance. Your husband had always been a devoted Egyptologist, hadn’t he?’
‘Yes, from his youth upwards. He was one of the greatest living authorities upon the subject.’
‘But Mr Bleibner, I understand, was more or less of an amateur?’
‘Oh, quite. He was a very wealthy man who dabbled freely in any subject that happened to take his fancy. My husband managed to interest him in Egyptology, and it was his money that was so useful in financing the expedition.’
‘And the nephew? What do you know of his tastes? Was he with the party at all?’
‘I do not think so. In fact I never knew of his existence till I read of his death in the paper. I do not think he and Mr Bleibner can have been at all intimate. He never spoke of having any relations.’
‘Who are the other members of the party?’
‘Well, there’s Dr Tosswill, a minor official connected with the British Museum; Mr Schneider of the Metropolitan Museum in New York; a young American secretary; Dr Ames, who accompanies the expedition in his professional capacity; and Hassan, my husband’s devoted native servant.’
‘Do you remember the name of the American secretary?’
‘Harper, I think, but I cannot be sure. He had not been with Mr Bleibner very long, I know. He was a very pleasant young fellow.’
‘Thank you, Lady Willard.’
‘If there is anything else—’
‘For the moment, nothing. Leave it now in my hands, and be assured that I will do all that is humanly possible to protect your son.’
They were not exactly reassuring words, and I observed Lady Willard wince as he uttered them. Yet, at the same time, the fact that he had not pooh-poohed her fears seemed in itself to be a relief to her.
For my part I had never before suspected that Poirot had so deep a vein of superstition in his nature. I tackled him on the subject as we went homewards. His manner was grave and earnest.
‘But yes, Hastings. I believe in these things. You must not underrate the force of superstition.’
‘What are we going to do about it?’
‘Toujours pratique, the good Hastings! Eh bien, to begin with we are going to cable to New York for fuller details of young Mr Bleibner’s death.’
He duly sent off his cable. The reply was full and precise. Young Rupert Bleibner had been in low water for several years. He had been a beach-comber and a remittance man in several South Sea islands, but had returned to New York two years ago, where he had rapidly sunk lower and lower. The most significant thing, to my mind, was that he had recently managed to borrow enough money to take him to Egypt. ‘I’ve a good friend there I can borrow from,’ he had declared. Here, however, his plans had gone awry. He had returned to New York cursing his skinflint of an uncle who cared more for the bones of dead and gone kings than his own flesh and blood. It was during his sojourn in Egypt that the death of Sir John Willard had occurred. Rupert had plunged once more into his life of dissipation in New York, and then, without warning, he had committed suicide, leaving behind him a letter which contained some curious phrases. It seemed written in a sudden fit of remorse. He referred to himself as a leper and an outcast, and the letter ended by declaring that such as he were better dead.
A shadowy theory leapt into my brain. I had never really believed in the vengeance of a long dead Egyptian king. I saw here a more modern crime. Supposing this young man had decided to do away with his uncle—preferably by poison. By mistake, Sir John Willard receives the fatal dose. The young man returns to New York, haunted by his crime. The news of his uncle’s death reaches him. He realizes how unnecessary his crime has been, and stricken with remorse takes his own life.
I outlined my solution to Poirot. He was interested.
‘It is ingenious what you have thought of there—decidedly it is ingenious. It may even be true. But you leave out of count the fatal influence of the Tomb.’
I shrugged my shoulders.
‘You still think that has something to do with it?’
‘So much so, mon ami, that we start for Egypt tomorrow.’
‘What?’ I cried, astonished.
‘I have said it.’ An expression of conscious heroism spread over Poirot’s face. Then he groaned. ‘But oh,’ he lamented, ‘the sea! The hateful sea!’
It was a week later. Beneath our feet was the golden sand of the desert. The hot sun poured down overhead. Poirot, the picture of misery, wilted by my side. The little man was not a good traveller. Our four days’ voyage from Marseilles had been one long agony to him. He had landed at Alexandria the wraith of his former self, even his usual neatness had deserted him. We had arrived in Cairo and had driven out at once to the Mena House Hotel, right in the shadow of the Pyramids.
The charm of Egypt had laid hold of me. Not so Poirot. Dressed precisely the same as in London, he carried a small clothes-brush in his pocket and waged an unceasing war on the dust which accumulated on his dark apparel.
‘And my boots,’ he wailed. ‘Regard them, Hastings. My boots, of the neat patent leather, usually so smart and shining. See, the sand is inside them, which is painful, and outside them, which outrages the eyesight. Also the heat, it causes my moustaches to become limp—but limp!’
‘Look at the Sphinx,’ I urged. ‘Even I can feel the mystery and the charm it exhales.’
Poirot looked at it discontentedly.
‘It has not the air happy,’ he declared. ‘How could it, half-buried in sand in that untidy fashion. Ah, this cursed sand!’
‘Come, now, there’s a lot of sand in Belgium,’ I reminded him, mindful of a holiday spent at Knocke-sur-mer in the midst of ‘Les dunes impeccables’ as the guide-book had phrased it.
‘Not in Brussels,’ declared Poirot. He gazed at the Pyramids thoughtfully. ‘It is true that they, at least, are of a shape solid and geometrical, but their surface is of an unevenness most unpleasing. And the palm-trees I like them not. Not even do they plant them in rows!’
I cut short his lamentations, by suggesting that we should start for the camp. We were to ride there on camels, and the beasts were patiently kneeling, waiting for us to mount, in charge of several picturesque boys headed by a voluble dragoman.
I pass over the spectacle of Poirot on a camel. He started by groans and lamentations and ended by shrieks, gesticulations and invocations to the Virgin Mary and every Saint in the calendar. In the end, he descended ignominiously and finished the journey on a diminutive donkey. I must admit that a trotting camel is no joke for the amateur. I was stiff for several days.
At last we neared the scene of the excavations. A sunburnt man with a grey beard, in white clothes and wearing a helmet, came to meet us.
‘Monsieur Poirot and Captain Hastings? We received your cable. I’m sorry that there was no one to meet you in Cairo. An unforeseen event occurred which completely disorganized our plans.’
Poirot paled. His hand, which had stolen to his clothes-brush, stayed its course.
‘Not another death?’ he breathed.
‘Sir Guy Willard?’ I cried.
‘No, Captain Hastings. My American colleague, Mr Schneider.’
‘And the cause?’ demanded Poirot.
I blanched. All around me I seemed to feel an atmosphere of evil, subtle and menacing. A horrible thought flashed across me. Supposing I were next?
‘Mon Dieu,’ said Poirot, in a very low voice, ‘I do not understand this. It is horrible. Tell me, monsieur, there is no doubt that it was tetanus?’
‘I believe not. But Dr Ames will tell you more than I can do.’
‘Ah, of course, you are not the doctor.’
‘My name is Tosswill.’
This, then, was the British expert described by Lady Willard as being a minor official at the British Museum. There was something at once grave and steadfast about him that took my fancy.
‘If you will come with me,’ continued Dr Tosswill. ‘I will take you to Sir Guy Willard. He was most anxious to be informed as soon as you should arrive.’
We were taken across the camp to a large tent. Dr Tosswill lifted up the flap and we entered. Three men were sitting inside.
‘Monsieur Poirot and Captain Hastings have arrived, Sir Guy,’ said Tosswill.
The youngest of the three men jumped up and came forward to greet us. There was a certain impulsiveness in his manner which reminded me of his mother. He was not nearly so sunburnt as the others, and that fact, coupled with a certain haggardness round the eyes, made him look older than his twenty-two years. He was clearly endeavouring to bear up under a severe mental strain.
He introduced his two companions, Dr Ames, a capable-looking man of thirty-odd, with a touch of greying hair at the temples, and Mr Harper, the secretary, a pleasant lean young man wearing the national insignia of horn-rimmed spectacles.
After a few minutes’ desultory conversation the latter went out, and Dr Tosswill followed him. We were left alone with Sir Guy and Dr Ames.
‘Please ask any questions you want to ask, Monsieur Poirot,’ said Willard. ‘We are utterly dumbfounded at this strange series of disasters, but it isn’t—it can’t be, anything but coincidence.’
There was a nervousness about his manner which rather belied the words. I saw that Poirot was studying him keenly.
‘Your heart is really in this work, Sir Guy?’
‘Rather. No matter what happens, or what comes of it, the work is going on. Make up your mind to that.’
Poirot wheeled round on the other.
‘What have you to say to that, monsieur le docteur?’
‘Well,’ drawled the doctor, ‘I’m not for quitting myself.’
Poirot made one of those expressive grimaces of his.
‘Then, évidemment, we must find out just how we stand. When did Mr Schneider’s death take place?’
‘Three days ago.’
‘You are sure it was tetanus?’
‘It couldn’t have been a case of strychnine poisoning, for instance?’
‘No, Monsieur Poirot, I see what you’re getting at. But it was a clear case of tetanus.’
‘Did you not inject anti-serum?’
‘Certainly we did,’ said the doctor drily. ‘Every conceivable thing that could be done was tried.’
‘Had you the anti-serum with you?’
‘No. We procured it from Cairo.’
‘Have there been any other cases of tetanus in the camp?’
‘No, not one.’
‘Are you certain that the death of Mr Bleibner was not due to tetanus?’
‘Absolutely plumb certain. He had a scratch upon his thumb which became poisoned, and septicaemia set in. It sounds pretty much the same to a layman, I dare say, but the two things are entirely different.’
‘Then we have four deaths—all totally dissimilar, one heart failure, one blood poisoning, one suicide and one tetanus.’
‘Exactly, Monsieur Poirot.’
‘Are you certain that there is nothing which might link the four together?’
‘I don’t quite understand you?’
‘I will put it plainly. Was any act committed by those four men which might seem to denote disrespect to the spirit of Men-her-Ra?’
The doctor gazed at Poirot in astonishment.
‘You’re talking through your hat, Monsieur Poirot. Surely you’ve not been guyed into believing all that fool talk?’
‘Absolute nonsense,’ muttered Willard angrily.
Poirot remained placidly immovable, blinking a little out of his green cat’s eyes.
‘So you do not believe it, monsieur le docteur?’
‘No, sir, I do not,’ declared the doctor emphatically. ‘I am a scientific man, and I believe only what science teaches.’
‘Was there no science then in Ancient Egypt?’ asked Poirot softly. He did not wait for a reply, and indeed Dr Ames seemed rather at a loss for the moment. ‘No, no, do not answer me, but tell me this. What do the native workmen think?’
‘I guess,’ said Dr Ames, ‘that, where white folk lose their heads, natives aren’t going to be far behind. I’ll admit that they’re getting what you might call scared—but they’ve no cause to be.’
‘I wonder,’ said Poirot non-committally.
Sir Guy leant forward.
‘Surely,’ he cried incredulously, ‘you cannot believe in—oh, but the thing’s absurd! You can know nothing of Ancient Egypt if you think that.’
For answer Poirot produced a little book from his pocket—an ancient tattered volume. As he held it out I saw its title, The Magic of the Egyptians and Chaldeans. Then, wheeling round, he strode out of the tent. The doctor stared at me.
‘What is his little idea?’
The phrase, so familiar on Poirot’s lips, made me smile as it came from another.
‘I don’t know exactly,’ I confessed. ‘He’s got some plan of exorcizing the evil spirits, I believe.’
I went in search of Poirot, and found him talking to the lean-faced young man who had been the late Mr Bleibner’s secretary.
‘No,’ Mr Harper was saying, ‘I’ve only been six months with the expedition. Yes, I knew Mr Bleibner’s affairs pretty well.’
‘Can you recount to me anything concerning his nephew?’
‘He turned up here one day, not a bad-looking fellow. I’d never met him before, but some of the others had—Ames, I think, and Schneider. The old man wasn’t at all pleased to see him. They were at it in no time, hammer and tongs. “Not a cent,” the old man shouted. “Not one cent now or when I’m dead. I intend to leave my money to the furtherance of my life’s work. I’ve been talking it over with Mr Schneider today.” And a bit more of the same. Young Bleibner lit out for Cairo right away.’
‘Was he in perfectly good health at the time?’
‘The old man?’
‘No, the young one.’
‘I believe he did mention there was something wrong with him. But it couldn’t have been anything serious, or I should have remembered.’
‘One thing more, has Mr Bleibner left a will?’
‘So far as we know, he has not.’
‘Are you remaining with the expedition, Mr Harper?’
‘No, sir, I am not. I’m for New York as soon as I can square up things here. You may laugh if you like, but I’m not going to be this blasted Men-her-Ra’s next victim. He’ll get me if I stop here.’
The young man wiped the perspiration from his brow.
Poirot turned away. Over his shoulder he said with a peculiar smile:
‘Remember, he got one of his victims in New York.’
‘Oh, hell!’ said Mr Harper forcibly.
‘That young man is nervous,’ said Poirot thoughtfully. ‘He is on the edge, but absolutely on the edge.’
I glanced at Poirot curiously, but his enigmatical smile told me nothing. In company with Sir Guy Willard and Dr Tosswill we were taken round the excavations. The principal finds had been removed to Cairo, but some of the tomb furniture was extremely interesting. The enthusiasm of the young baronet was obvious, but I fancied that I detected a shade of nervousness in his manner as though he could not quite escape from the feeling of menace in the air. As we entered the tent which had been assigned to us, for a wash before joining the evening meal, a tall dark figure in white robes stood aside to let us pass with a graceful gesture and a murmured greeting in Arabic. Poirot stopped.
‘You are Hassan, the late Sir John Willard’s servant?’
‘I served my Lord Sir John, now I serve his son.’ He took a step nearer to us and lowered his voice. ‘You are a wise one, they say, learned in dealing with evil spirits. Let the young master depart from here. There is evil in the air around us.’
And with an abrupt gesture, not waiting for a reply, he strode away.
‘Evil in the air,’ muttered Poirot. ‘Yes, I feel it.’
Our meal was hardly a cheerful one. The floor was left to Dr Tosswill, who discoursed at length upon Egyptian antiquities. Just as we were preparing to retire to rest, Sir Guy caught Poirot by the arm and pointed. A shadowy figure was moving amidst the tents. It was no human one: I recognized distinctly the dog-headed figure I had seen carved on the walls of the tomb.
My blood froze at the sight.
‘Mon Dieu!’ murmured Poirot, crossing himself vigorously. ‘Anubis, the jackal-headed, the god of departing souls.’
‘Someone is hoaxing us,’ cried Dr Tosswill, rising indignantly to his feet.
‘It went into your tent, Harper,’ muttered Sir Guy, his face dreadfully pale.
‘No,’ said Poirot, shaking his head, ‘into that of the Dr Ames.’
The doctor stared at him incredulously; then, repeating Dr Tosswill’s words, he cried:
‘Someone is hoaxing us. Come, we’ll soon catch the fellow.’
He dashed energetically in pursuit of the shadowy apparition. I followed him, but, search as we would, we could find no trace of any living soul having passed that way. We returned, somewhat disturbed in mind, to find Poirot taking energetic measures, in his own way, to ensure his personal safety. He was busily surrounding our tent with various diagrams and inscriptions which he was drawing in the sand. I recognized the five-pointed star or Pentagon many times repeated. As was his wont, Poirot was at the same time delivering an impromptu lecture on witchcraft and magic in general, White magic as opposed to Black, with various references to the Ka and the Book of the Dead thrown in.
It appeared to excite the liveliest contempt in Dr Tosswill, who drew me aside, literally snorting with rage.
‘Balderdash, sir,’ he exclaimed angrily. ‘Pure balderdash. The man’s an imposter. He doesn’t know the difference between the superstitions of the Middle Ages and the beliefs of Ancient Egypt. Never have I heard such a hotch-potch of ignorance and credulity.’
I calmed the excited expert, and joined Poirot in the tent. My little friend was beaming cheerfully.
‘We can now sleep in peace,’ he declared happily. ‘And I can do with some sleep. My head, it aches abominably. Ah, for a good tisane!’
As though in answer to prayer, the flap of the tent was lifted and Hassan appeared, bearing a steaming cup which he offered to Poirot. It proved to be camomile tea, a beverage of which he is inordinately fond. Having thanked Hassan and refused his offer of another cup for myself, we were left alone once more. I stood at the door of the tent some time after undressing, looking out over the desert.
‘A wonderful place,’ I said aloud, ‘and a wonderful work. I can feel the fascination. This desert life, this probing into the heart of a vanished civilization. Surely, Poirot, you, too, must feel the charm?’
I got no answer, and I turned, a little annoyed. My annoyance was quickly changed to concern. Poirot was lying back across the rude couch, his face horribly convulsed. Beside him was the empty cup. I rushed to his side, then dashed out and across the camp to Dr Ames’s tent.
‘Dr Ames!’ I cried. ‘Come at once.’
‘What’s the matter?’ said the doctor, appearing in pyjamas.
‘My friend. He’s ill. Dying. The camomile tea. Don’t let Hassan leave the camp.’
Like a flash the doctor ran to our tent. Poirot was lying as I left him.
‘Extraordinary,’ cried Ames. ‘Looks like a seizure—or—what did you say about something he drank?’ He picked up the empty cup.
‘Only I did not drink it!’ said a placid voice.
We turned in amazement. Poirot was sitting up on the bed. He was smiling.
‘No,’ he said gently. ‘I did not drink it. While my good friend Hastings was apostrophizing the night, I took the opportunity of pouring it, not down my throat, but into a little bottle. That little bottle will go to the analytical chemist. No’—as the doctor made a sudden movement—’as a sensible man, you will understand that violence will be of no avail. During Hastings’ absence to fetch you, I have had time to put the bottle in safe keeping. Ah, quick, Hastings, hold him!’
I misunderstood Poirot’s anxiety. Eager to save my friend, I flung myself in front of him. But the doctor’s swift movement had another meaning. His hand went to his mouth, a smell of bitter almonds filled the air, and he swayed forward and fell.
‘Another victim,’ said Poirot gravely, ‘but the last. Perhaps it is the best way. He has three deaths on his head.’
‘Dr Ames?’ I cried, stupefied. ‘But I thought you believed in some occult influence?’
‘You misunderstood me, Hastings. What I meant was that I believe in the terrific force of superstition. Once get it firmly established that a series of deaths are supernatural, and you might almost stab a man in broad daylight, and it would still be put down to the curse, so strongly is the instinct of the supernatural implanted in the human race. I suspected from the first that a man was taking advantage of that instinct. The idea came to him, I imagine, with the death of Sir John Willard. A fury of superstition arose at once. As far as I could see, nobody could derive any particular profit from Sir John’s death. Mr Bleibner was a different case. He was a man of great wealth. The information I received from New York contained several suggestive points. To begin with, young Bleibner was reported to have said he had a good friend in Egypt from whom he could borrow. It was tacitly understood that he meant his uncle, but it seemed to me that in that case he would have said so outright. The words suggest some boon companion of his own. Another thing, he scraped up enough money to take him to Egypt, his uncle refused outright to advance him a penny, yet he was able to pay the return passage to New York. Someone must have lent him the money.’
‘All that was very thin,’ I objected.
‘But there was more. Hastings, there occur often enough words spoken metaphorically which are taken literally. The opposite can happen too. In this case, words which were meant literally were taken metaphorically. Young Bleibner wrote plainly enough: “I am a leper”, but nobody realized that he shot himself because he believed that he contracted the dread disease of leprosy.’
‘What?’ I ejaculated.
‘It was the clever invention of a diabolical mind. Young Bleibner was suffering from some minor skin trouble; he had lived in the South Sea Islands, where the disease is common enough. Ames was a former friend of his, and a well-known medical man, he would never dream of doubting his word. When I arrived here, my suspicions were divided between Harper and Dr Ames, but I soon realized that only the doctor could have perpetrated and concealed the crimes, and I learnt from Harper that he was previously acquainted with young Bleibner. Doubtless the latter at some time or another had made a will or had insured his life in favour of the doctor. The latter saw his chance of acquiring wealth. It was easy for him to inoculate Mr Bleibner with the deadly germs. Then the nephew, overcome with despair at the dread news his friend had conveyed to him, shot himself. Mr Bleibner, whatever his intentions, had made no will. His fortune would pass to his nephew and from him to the doctor.’
‘And Mr Schneider?’
‘We cannot be sure. He knew young Bleibner too, remember, and may have suspected something, or, again, the doctor may have thought that a further death motiveless and purposeless would strengthen the coils of superstition. Furthermore, I will tell you an interesting psychological fact, Hastings. A murderer has always a strong desire to repeat his successful crime, the performance of it grows upon him. Hence my fears for young Willard. The figure of Anubis you saw tonight was Hassan dressed up by my orders. I wanted to see if I could frighten the doctor. But it would take more than the supernatural to frighten him. I could see that he was not entirely taken in by my pretences of belief in the occult. The little comedy I played for him did not deceive him. I suspected that he would endeavour to make me the next victim. Ah, but in spite of la mer maudite, the heat abominable, and the annoyances of the sand, the little grey cells still functioned!’
Poirot proved to be perfectly right in his premises. Young Bleibner, some years ago, in a fit of drunken merriment, had made a jocular will, leaving ‘my cigarette-case you admire so much and everything else of which I die possessed which will be principally debts to my good friend Robert Ames who once saved my life from drowning’.
The case was hushed up as far as possible, and, to this day, people talk of the remarkable series of deaths in connection with the Tomb of Men-her-Ra as a triumphal proof of the vengeance of a bygone king upon the desecrators of his tomb—a belief which, as Poirot pointed out to me, is contrary to all Egyptian belief and thought.