Weird Tales/Volume 36/Issue 2/The Book of the Dead
|He was conjured back to life, this man, by magic half as old as Time, by a secret formula buried deep in the dusty pages of—||The||Book of the Dead||
"I, and I alone, can invoke the spirits of the Dead; after that, I shall go out once more into the darkness!"
When Eric Hanley left his coupé and started toward the house, Susan Blythe stepped out from the vine-covered arbor and called to him.
He turned. "Yes, Miss Blythe?"
"Would you mind?" she asked, motioning toward the arbor. "I want to talk to you about father—"
Hanley hesitated. His eyes went from the girl's face to the castle-like English house. She noted his hesitation and came a step closer.
"Please! I know he summoned you and it's that I want to talk to you about. I'm afraid—"
Yes, she was afraid. Everything about her told Hanley that. Her wide eyes, the tautness of her face and the stiffness of her slender body. He moved toward the arbor.
"What is it? I know your father's been overworking, but—"
"It's not the overwork; well, perhaps it is. You were with him in Egypt. I—I want you to tell me what you found there, what it is that has changed him so."
"Hasn't he told you? Of his discovery?"
She shook her head. "No, but I know it's something important. He's locked himself in his work room for more than two weeks now. He won't let anyone in—and he won't come out. Martha has to leave his food at the door and when he does think to eat it, he sets the dishes outside the door again. He won't even let me talk to him. He won't see anyone, except Professor Shepard."
"Shepard!" exclaimed Hanley. "I didn't think he would have anything to do with Shepard."
A little shiver seemd to ripple through Susan Blythe. "I don't like Professor Shepard. His eyes—"
Hanley's face hardened, but he withheld his opinion of Professor Martin Shepard.
It would only have worried Susan Blythe more, for Hanley had been quite sure the last time he had seen Professor Shepard that the man was mad. That had been three years ago.
He said: "I'm surprised your father's taken up with Professor Shepard." Yet the moment the words were out, he realized that he wasn't surprised at all. Two weeks ago, he had quarreled with Professor Blythe. "All right," Blythe had snapped at him, "if you won't help me, I'll get someone who will."
A frown creased Hanley's forehead and Susan Blythe saw it. "It's true, then, what I've suspected. He's engaged in an experiment. Something—evil—?"
The girl's guess caused Hanley to blink in surprise. His difference with Professor Blythe had been because of something that might be construed by an outsider as—evil!
He took a step away from the arbor. "Perhaps I'd better talk to your father—"
"I want you to, but I want you to promise that you'll tell me what he's doing when you come out. Will you do that?"
Hanley bit his lower lip, uneasily, "I may be forced to give my word to him, in which case—"
"Don't promise him!" exclaimed Susan Blythe. "If it's unreasonable, don't promise anything. Please—!" Her eyes were bright with tears that threatened to cascade down her face.
"I'll try—" Hanley mumbled and then backed hurriedly away from her. He almost ran to the big English house.
Old Martha, grown gray in the service of the Blythes let him into the house. "Professor Blythe telephoned me to come and see him, Martha," Hanley told the housekeeper.
"Thank the lord!" breathed Martha. "Maybe you can make him stop that awful work he's doing."
The housekeeper shuddered. "The smells that come from the lab'ratory. You'd think he was embalming some—"
Hanley left her in the hall. He hurried through the house to the door of the laboratory at the rear. When he reached it, he raised his fist and knocked loudly. He had to repeat the knock before an irascible voice inside, snapped: "What the devil do you want? I told you not to disturb me."
"It's Eric Hanley, Professor!"
Hanley heard an exclamation inside the laboratory, then after a moment the door was pulled inward.
The overpowering smell that struck Hanley caused him to reel back. Professor Blythe's lean hand reached through the aperture and catching Hanley's wrist pulled him into the room.
"Come in, come in," he snarled. "We haven't got all day."
"Ah," said another voice, "the brilliant young Egyptologist, Mr. Hanley!"
Hanley glowered at Professor Shepard, under whom he had studied twelve years before. Even then, Shepard had been eccentric. It was, in fact, but a year after Hanley's graduation from the university that Shepard himself had resigned—at the insistence of the university board, it was rumored at the time.
Behind Hanley, Professor Blythe was bolting the laboratory door.
Hanley, turning, said: "You went on, Professor Blythe. Why did you call me then? You know what I said—"
"I know what you said," Blythe said, harshly. "I know what I said, too. That I was on the verge of a discovery that would rock the world and I would be false to my calling if I did not pursue it to the ultimate conclusion. Well—I have, Hanley."
A cold wind seemed to blow against Eric Hanley's spine. His eyes went to the sarcophagus that stood upright against the far wall. The hinged top was open and the sarcophagus was empty. His head swiveled automatically to the table that stood just behind Professor Shepard. There was a long, large object on the table and although it was covered with a sheet, Hanley knew what the object was.
Muscles stood out in bunches on his jaws. He shook his head, slowly. "It's impossible."
"Impossible?" cried Professor Shepard. "Why should it be impossible? Everyone knows that the ancient Egyptians knew more about embalming and preservation than the moderns. Witness the sarcophagi of—"
"Wait a minute, Shepard," Professor Blythe cut in. He came toward Hanley and the latter looking into his eyes, thought for a moment that Blythe was going to take up where they had let off several weeks ago. But after a moment, Professor Blythe's eyes hardened again.
He said, "Eric, you had no faith in the papyrus. You gave it up because it was unintelligible."
"It was mere gibberish and you know it," Hanley declared. "I've studied the 18th Dynasty papyri in the Egyptian Museum at Cairo and I know that this one we found is either a forgery of a later period, or the work of a maniac or fool of the 18th Dynasty. There were both in that period, you know," he finished with a note of irony.
Professor Blythe inhaled deeply. "And there are fools, today. You're one, Hanley. And I'll admit that I was, too, for awhile. Just because we found the papyrus in an 18th Dynasty tomb we took it for granted that it had to be of that period. That's where we were wrong, Hanley. We should have known from the accoutrements of the tomb that it had been prepared for a savant of that day—a great savant. His colleagues wanted to do him an especial honor. Perhaps—not an honor. An experiment. They buried with him—the original Book of the Dead!"
Hanley gasped. "What are you talking about? The Book of the Dead goes back to the 14th— "
"Farther than that, Eric; to the 4th Dynasty. Eighteen hundred years before Christ. That's why you thought the papyrus unintelligible. Well, I've read it—at last. And I give you my word that the text of it is entirely different from the later Book of the Dead, which deals mainly with instructions for the soul of the dead in its journeys. This papyrus, my papyrus tells—"
"Don't!" cried Professor Shepard. "Don't tell him, Blythe. He's a scoffing upstart, who wouldn't believe even if he saw it."
Eric Hanley's eyes glinted. "Let me see it; I'll believe my own eyes—"
Professor Blythe led him to a desk on which was spread out, held down at strategic points with weights, an ancient, brittle strip of papyrus.
Hanley leaned over the hieroglyphics and the smudged finger of Professor Blythe pointed out symbols to him. "That's where you made your mistake, Hanley. There were fifteen hundred years between those dynasties. Recall how much the medieval and modern languages changed in that many years. Compare your Latin of today with that of the time of the Roman empire. Compare your Chaucerian English with the English of today—"
"You have a translation of this papyrus?" Hanley asked, bluntly.
Professor Blythe hesitated, then reached under his tan smock and brought forth a folded sheet of paper. He handed it to Hanley, who opened it and glanced at the typed transcript. He had read less than a paragraph when he exclaimed in amazement. "This is absurd. Surely, you're not—"
Behind him Professor Shepard chuckled and Hanley whirled in time to see the former let fall the edge of the sheet covering the long object on the table.
Hanley was conscious again of the acrid smells in the room and as the significance of it all struck him his face blanched.
"You're not contemplating—" He stared in bewilderment at Professor Shepard's evil face, then continued, "on bringing back to life the mummy?"
Professor Blythe came up beside him and gripped his arm. "You saw the sarcophagus, Eric. In fact, you helped me smuggle it out of Egypt. You knew that it was in an unusually splendid state of preservation. You attributed that to the dry locale in which we found the tomb. You didn't know about—the Book of the Dead."
"Let me have it straight," Hanley said, slowly. "I can't grasp it—"
"All right, my boy," said Professor Blythe in a more composed tone. "You've already guessed, but I'll verify your guess. The sarcophagi contained the mummy of an unusual person. A distinctive one for the 18th Dynasty. We knew that from the hieroglyphics and the accoutrements of the tomb. A king or noble, we thought at first. We were wrong. The mummy is the mortal remains of a much more important person—Ramahadin!"
"Ramahadin, the last of the great high-priests?"
Blythe nodded. "When he died, the decline of Egypt began. There was never another great savant of whom there is record. We knew that, and let it go at that. We didn't try to determine the cause. Well, we found it—when we opened the sarcophagus. We thought it was so large because there were other, fitted casings inside. There weren't. There was just the mummy and a mass of papyri, which it will take years to study. So far we've studied only the one, the Book of the Dead, which was buried with Ramahadin. The reason—because Ramahadin's followers in their despair decided to bury all knowledge with the master. And the greatest of all that knowledge is the Book of the Dead, the translation of which you hold in your hand!"
"But this—this purports to tell how to bring Ramahadin back to life, when the world again needs this knowledge."
"That time is now!" cried Professor Shepard, "and—behold...!"
He suddenly caught hold of the sheet on the table and with a violent jerk swept it off, revealing the object on the table. Eric Hanley uttered a low cry and then reeled back.
On the table, clad in yellow, musty robes lay the body of a man. Hanley took a step forward, stared down at the olive-colored skin, the firm flesh; cold perspiration broke out on his body.
"I—don't—believe—it—!" he said.
"Neither did I, at first," cried Professor Blythe. "No mummy was ever found in such a state of preservation, after twenty-four centuries. But—the papyrus tells the secret. The embalming of the dead was a closely-guarded secret even in the 18th Dynasty. The art died out completely just a few centuries later and even in the 18th Dynasty it was not what it was a thousand years prior—fifteen hundred. The instructions of the original Book were not carried out. The only explanation is that the Book of the Dead was lost even then, for centuries. Ramahadin probably discovered it, deciphered it and entrusted the translation to one or two of his disciples, who followed its secrets in the preparation of Ramahadin's body—then in honor to him, or tribute, buried the Book with him."
Eric Hanley blinked and gazed in awe at the immobile features of the man on the table. "He looks as if he were only sleeping."
"He is sleeping," said Professor Shepard, "now—"
Hanley looked up sharply. "What do you mean?"
"I mean, we brought him to life. What do you think we've done here these last two weeks? Read the Book of the Dead?"
Hanley put his face down to the head of the man on the table. Yes, he was breathing, slow measured breaths. A frown creased Hanley's forehead. This man was alive. But he couldn't be—unless they were playing a trick on him, perpetrating a hoax.
He looked again at the faces of the two scientists. And slowly he shook his head. Then he inhaled deeply and appealed to Professor Blythe.
"You can't do this, Professor. You can't bring a man dead for twenty-four centuries to life, to face the modern world. You don't know what will happen! And you'll be responsible!"
"Bah!" snorted Professor Shepard. "I don't know why the devil Blythe asked you here, anyway. The responsibility's ours—and so is the credit. Remember that, Hanley!"
He caught up a small copper cylinder. "All right, Blythe!"
"Wait!" cried Professor Blythe. "Perhaps we'd better strap him down. You can't tell—"
"Nonsense," retorted Shepard. "There are three of us here. We've dilly-dallied long enough. Here—"
He held the copper cylinder to the nostrils of the sleeping man, twisted it and removed the cap. A thin stream of bluish vapor curled out of it.
Hanley felt the short hair on the back of his neck stand up. He wanted more than anything in the world to run out of that room—but couldn't. He was a scientist as well as Blythe and Shepard.
He remained, his feet rooted to the floor, head craned forward, his eyes intent on the man on the table.
For a moment nothing happened and Professor Shepard exclaimed sharply.
And then... then the body twitched and moved. The eyelids flickered up, exposing eyes as black as obsidian. They stared straight at the ceiling for a moment, then rolled sideways and fastened themselves upon Eric Hanley.
The full lips parted and air was sucked into the mouth. The mouth opened and a single word came out—a sharp, guttural word:
Professor Blythe took a step forward. "Dolmachin!" he cried.
The black eyes left Hanley's face and fixed themselves upon Professor Blythe's taut, white face.
"Dolmachin—sidi!" he said.
Professor Blythe whirled upon Eric Hanley and exclaimed. "He understands our debased Egyptian." He turned back to the ancient Egyptian. "Ramahadin, sidi?"
"Ramahadin, yes! Who are you? Where am I?" The Egyptian sat up suddenly and his eyes shot wildly about the laboratory. Then a groan escaped his lips. "I do not understand," he said in his harsh, ancient Egyptian tongue. "My servants—where are they?"
"Dead!" said Professor Shepard. "They have been dead for twenty-four centuries. And you have been dead. We've just brought you back to life."
For a long moment the Egyptian stared at Professor Shepard, his eyes gradually dulling. "It must be so," he finally conceded, "you would not dare, otherwise. Not to Ramahadin. The experiment—succeeded?"
"Yes," said Professor Shepard. "You did not die at all. You were merely placed in a state of suspended animation. Your savants prepared your body for death—and you were dead—for twenty-four hundred years, And now you are alive!"
Ramahadin's eyes continued to roam about the laboratory. "What is all this? Who are you strange-looking creatures? Who is the Pharoah?"
"A boy is king of Egypt," Professor Blythe said. "A boy named Farouk. This is not Egypt, however. This is America, a land beyond the sea."
"The barbaric country beyond Sicily?"
"Rome? No, Ramahadin. Rome is alive—but almost dead. I forgot. You do not know.
"The glory that was Greece faded shortly after you died. The Romans became the greatest people of the earth. They conquered Egypt and sent their legions to all parts of the known world. They crushed Carthage and the land of the Jews. And then, in their turn, they were defeated. The Teutonic tribes of the north over-ran Europe—"
"And who defeated them?" asked Ramahadin.
"They were assimilated. War has ruled the earth ever since you were buried. The world is at war today, the greatest war of all time. Men fly through the skies—"
"That is a lie!" cried Ramahadin. "Men cannot fly, because they cannot grow wings."
"They built machines. One machine can carry fifty people for five thousand miles."
Ramahadin stared at Professor Blythe, then his eyes shifted to the face of Professor Shepard and in turn to Eric Hanley. All nodded.
"Men learned to fly," said Eric Hanley. "So they could drop bombs upon other men—terrible bombs that destroy entire cities. Man conquered the earth, the sky and the water. But he could not conquer man himself."
"I am hungry!" declared Ramahadin. "Bring me food."
Professor Blythe went to the house telephone. "Martha," he ordered. "Bring a tray of food to the door. Set it down outside and then leave—no, only for one."
He hung up and turned back, just as Ramahadin put his feet upon the floor. "America," he said, "this must then be the country of Atlantis—the unknown land."
"Yes, I guess you could call it Atlantis," Hanley said. "But it is today the greatest country in the world. The richest and the most powerful—"
"And it is at war?"
"No. But we are aiding the Britons in their war against the Teutons and the Romans. We are sending them ships and airplanes—"
"The Romans, bah!" snapped Ramahadin. "They have always been at war. One tribe always fought the other and when neither had anything to fight about they went to sea in their galleys and became pirates. There is no civilization but Egypt's. Greece is too young—ah, but I forget! What kind of civilization do you have in this America?"
"The greatest the world has even known," said Hanley. "We have conquered disease and pestilence. We have built machines that fly through the air. We have invented instruments by which we can talk to men in Egypt five thousand miles away. We can talk through the very air itself—thousands of miles!"
"But you are still fighting other men? Bah!"
There was a knock at the door and Professor Blythe opened it cautiously. He reached out and, bringing in a tray, closed the door again.
The Egyptian came forward eagerly. He looked at the food upon the tray, grunted and reached for it with both hands. He ate ravenously. When he had finished he belched.
"Now, I would see your world."
Hanky's lips tightened. He looked at Professor Blythe. The scientist's mouth twitched. "I am afraid—"
"Why not?" interrupted Professor Shepard. "Didn't we bring him back to life to see how he would react to our modern civilization...?"
"No!" cried Hanley. "Not yet. He must see it gradually—"
"Pah!" snorted Ramahadin. "I will see it all, at once. Lead the way."
"You can't," protested Hanley.
Ramahadin gave him a cold look. "Who is this stripling?" he demanded. "Who is this youngster who dares to question Ramahadin?"
"He is a very able scientist," Professor Blythe said. "He is—"
"I am Ramahadin!" declared the Egyptian. "All scientists bow to me—"
Professor Shepard snickered. "You're a mummy, Ramahadin, a mummy we brought to life. The world doesn't even know you exist."
"You dog!" cried Ramahadin. "Down on your knees." He scooped up an empty plate and suddenly hurled it at Shepard. The professor ducked and the plate missed him by less than an inch.
Ramahadin snarled and picked up a chair. Hanley stepped forward and caught his arm. Ramahadin jerked himself free and whirled upon Hanley with the raised chair.
Hanley sidestepped and smashed his fist against the Egyptian's jaw. Ramahadin reeled back. The chair crashed to the floor and he stared at Hanley.
"You dare to strike Ramahadin?" he cried in a tone of awe. "You dog, you dare—"
"Please!" interrupted Professor Blythe. "Listen to me. Ramahadin, it is true. This is a new world. You have been dead twenty-four hundred years. Things have changed. We don't want to shock you by showing you too much at once!"
"I am Ramahadin," the Egyptian said, persistently. "I have the knowledge of the ages. There is nothing you could show me or tell me, that would shock me. I have meditated on it all. Your flying machines—pah! They do not frighten me. Your clothing is bizarre, that is all—"
"And speaking of clothes," said Hanley. "You've got to put some on. You can no longer go in public without suitable apparel."
"Fetch me clothing then. I will make that concession."
Professor Blythe, frowning, went to a closet. He brought out one of his own suits, a somewhat soiled shirt and socks and shoes. With his assistance, Ramahadin was able to dress. He looked then like any swarthy man, whose counterpart could have been seen by the hundreds in any large city.
"New, show me your America, Ramahadin said, when he was dressed.
"I wouldn't," Hanley said, quickly.
"You can't keep him in here, a prisoner!" Professor Shepard exclaimed.
Blythe's forehead creased. Then he shrugged and moved to the door. Ramahadin brushed past him. Hanley overtook him in the hall, leading to the living room.
He was too late, however. Susan Blythe rose from an armchair and looked in surprise at Ramahadin. Hanley said, quickly: "Susan, this is an acquaintance of your father's. He speaks only Egyptian. His name is Ramahadin."
Susan bowed to the Egyptian. She said to Hanley. "When did he get here? I didn't see anyone come up today—"
"He was here all night," Professor Blythe said, hurriedly. "He arrived last night after you had retired. He's—an Egyptian scientist. Professor Shepard and I are consulting with him."
"Whose woman is this?" Ramahadin said suddenly, in Egyptian.
"She is my daughter," Professor Blythe said.
"What strange clothes she wears." Ramahadin grunted. "She is too thin, but I will accept her."
Cold wind seemed to blow upon the back of Eric Hanley's neck. He saw the glitter in the ancient Egyptian's eyes and he said, softly, "This is a different civilization, Ramahadin. Women are no longer sold—or given away—by their fathers."
"Pah!" snorted Ramahadin. "Women are cheap."
"Not in this world," chuckled Professor Shepard. "I was married to one—once. She kept me poor, buying clothes for her."
"Then you were a fool. A purple Phoenician robe is the best any woman can want. How do men acquire women in this new world?"
"They marry them, with the woman's consent," Hanley replied, curtly.
"Very well, then, tell this woman I will marry her.
Eric Hanley started to speak, but Professor Blythe was ahead of him.
"That, too, must wait until you know more of the world you've come into," he said, and it was very apparent that his words carried weight with the Egyptian; possibly Ramahadin recognized knowledge as power, one scholar to another.
"Anyway," went on Susan's father—who was blessed with a sense of humor, which was beginning to assert itself now that the first shock of the success of his experiment was wearing off—"I can't imagine where one would shop for a Phoenician robe, purple or otherwise."
This last remark being in English puzzled Susan, but, being a scientist's daughter, she shrugged her shoulders, and gave Eric a look as if to say that she had told him she feared for her father's sanity in the midst of such extraordinary experiments.
Later it was all explained to her, and although Eric had expected her to view the whole miracle with horror, she seemed to take it in her stride—although both she and Hanley regarded Professor Shepard's association with her father as one of evil. Blythe seemed to have forgotten his disagreement with Eric Hanley and accepted him as one of the circle responsible for the bringing of Ramahadin into a modern world.
The scientists contended that their primary interest was in seeing how the ancient Egyptian reacted to that world—once they had satisfied themselves that the unholy formula from the Book of the Dead would actually work. Also, its possibilities were boundless. Professor Shepard would have started for Egypt at once to unearth, steal, borrow or buy other sarcophagi to experiment with their contents, but world conditions forbade. Men seemed intent on destroying civilization, not on studying the secrets of its origins.
There remained to them Ramahadin himself, and the Egyptian presented a phenomenon extraordinary past all telling. He went about the modern world with a sort of calm superciliousness which pleased Shepard, but annoyed Blythe, and they all were startled when some three days after his resuscitation—or reincarnation—he appeared able to speak perfect English.
"Of course," he said when Professor Blythe's astounded comments on this was made, "have I not the knowledge of all the ages—including yours?"
Susan, he still regarded as about to become his property, but the girl's way of meeting this astonished and amused both her father and Eric. She treated the powerful High Priest of All Knowledge as a callow youth who might make love to her, but who couldn't possibly be old enough to know his own mind. This attitude at once puzzled and annoyed Ramahadin, but served its purpose—that of keeping the Egyptian at the distance Susan desired.
They all treated him as a guest and took, turns showing him the world to which he had returned after twenty-four hundred years. Eric Hanley had some fears of government intervention—a check up of all aliens in the country was being made—but Professor Shepard poo-poohed this. "He is a visitor staying with us," he said, "and that will be enough in the meantime. We can certainly fix it up with the authorities later."
"One thing I have already observed in this country," said Ramahadin, "is that you go to a great deal of trouble to enact laws, then to just as much trouble to ignore them, or get around them or to know some way of fixing the authorities."
"Of course," said Professor Shepard, "that's the way we get along."
"I don't agree," replied Professor Blythe. "Some of our citizens may get along that way, but it's not the way a democracy such as ours has become great."
"Wait till you understand us a bit better," said Eric Hanley.
That understanding in itself was interesting, since two distinct forces were at work promoting it. Shepard's idea was to use the Egyptian's great powers to bring to culmination vast schemes of his own; to help him gain fame, money and authority. This authority was to be in the world of science, but was to dominate—as the others soon realized—the underworld. He and Ramahadin spent many hours in a laboratory which Shepard maintained in a secret place away from the Blythes, and he tried more and more to disassociate himself from the older man. One result of this was to restore Eric Hanley entirely to Blythe's good graces, and fear for the future of Ramahadin and their astounding experiment with the Book of the Dead made this bond even tighter. It included Susan, who wasn't a scientist's daughter for nothing and who realized the profound effect Ramahadin's appearance might have on the world.
Professor Blythe tried to remonstrate with Shepard.
"You must not seek from Ramahadin secrets not shared by all of us," he said. "Our knowledge of the forgotten lore of ancient peoples must be pooled; it must be given out by us gradually and—yes, reverently."
Shepard only laughed; "I know much now," he said, "that could control the fate of our country and the world."
As Shepherd seemed able to win more and more of Ramahadin's confidence Eric Hanley began to have profound fears, and he and Susan formed a dangerous plan. It was to attract Ramahadin to their way of thinking, to keep him more and more in their company, to show him more and more of the every day vital life of the great new world around him. And to do this they both realized it would be Susan who must pit herself against Shepard's influence. She would have to put aside her distaste for the swarthy stranger—and the risk was great that the price she would have to pay would be high.
Susan it was who persuaded Ramahadin to spend long hours with the Blythes. Here he held many discussions with her father about social progress through the ages, analyzed the history of many peoples who had risen and fallen during the long years since Ramahadin had lived upon the earth.
"History has followed a pattern," the Egyptian expounded to them. "Peoples have succeeded or failed, as the gods willed, but also according to the might of their minds. This is a good world here in Atlantis."
"Among themselves Ramahadinto the country of his emergence from the past as Atlantis, although his miraculous mastering of English and his fantastic ability to absorb facts made it possible for him to talk glibly to others of "the Middle West" the "mental processes of the Deep South," etc. That his mind held just as detailed and intricate knowledge of world-shaping events of the past was apparent. How this vast wealth of learning was to be infiltrated into modern America was the problem before them. Ramahadin's own scholarly mind seemed to be winning the ascendant over his domineering spirit, and his interest in the news of the new world war was unceasing. He would compare Hitler with other dictators of eight hundred, a thousand years ago. He realized and comprehended the modern mechanical means of slaughter, but maintained that now, as always—it would be man's spirit that would win.
A certain slyness returned to his manner when he realized how keenly Susan was feeling the effect of the war. She became tense with anxiety when more and more of Europe was overcome, and the growing war spirit of America caused her many sleepless nights.
"You would have this stopped?" he asked. "I could conjure up spirits who would combat the essence of evil abroad on this planet," he said, "but"—and the tone of this voice stopped her eagerness—"my price is one only you can pay."
The conversation ended there with the entry of Professor Shepard, but Susan turned it over and over in her mind. Was it to be given to her to pay a price that would save humanity; was she, Susan Blythe, modern young America in person, to be a sacrifice to Ancient Egypt?
Her association with Eric Hanley had generated a feeling not only of mutual interests with the brilliant young scientist, but of a growing love, and her heart was his—yet both realized they must keep the High Priest on the side of humanity, not of the forces of evil.
Shepard they saw more rarely as time went on, and Ramahadin and he worked together less often. With this arrangement Shepard was keenly dissatisfied, and he and Professor Blythe had a violent disagreement over the custody of both the translation and original papyrus of the Book of the Dead.
"It is ours jointly, of course," said the older man, "but it shall remain in my safe until I am satisfied that spread of its knowledge is warranted."
"The formulae I need," said Shepard, "and I mean to have. You must allow me access to the safe."
"All in good time," said Professor Blythe, and stood his ground in spite of Shepard's threat of violence.
Their altercation was interrupted by the entrance of Susan, Eric and Ramahadin who had been on a visit to one of the great new industries manufacturing war implements.
"I cannot but grieve," said the Egyptian, "that the vast knowledge that man has achieved since I last was on earth is still turned to the art of waging war. It should not be."
"Conquest is power, and power is what we all crave," said Professor Shepard. "I want Professor Blythe to use the power given him by the knowledge contained in the Book of the Dead, but he refuses."
"The Book of the Dead no longer exists save in my mind," replied Ramahadin calmly. "I destroyed it—its translation and its secret formulae."
"You what?" gasped Professor Blythe, and his eyes turned toward the safe.
"That was only too easy to open," said the Egyptian. "I felt that you men were not great enough, not worthy enough, if you will, to have such a secret in your possession."
"Other secrets of yours I have," shouted Professor Shepard whose anger had prevented his speaking at the Egyptian's portentous announcement. "I shall use them as I will—to destroy or save mankind as I decide."
"One great secret of my knowledge you can never possess," announced Ramahadin, "because it is of the spirit, not of the intellect."
"I know the Law of Taxeticon," said Shepard. "That will neutralize the power of high explosive."
"You know only a part of it," replied Ramahadin.
"You instructed me in the theories of harnessing the pull of gravity," retorted Shepard. "That will govern all airship construction."
"Such knowledge must be shared, Shepard, such was our agreement," broke in Professor Blythe.
"It is mine, and mine alone now," cried Shepard. "I can use it as I will. Ramahadin has shared with me the hypnotic powers of his cult of High Priests; I can rule men's minds. He has given me the secret formula by which Gravitas and his medieval college of mind doctors changed human brains; I can mold men's very souls. He has shown me the secrets of the power of the stars over the movements of vessels upon the sea.
"From here in America I shall rule the world; I, Emory Shepard, shall be more powerful than Hitler, wiser than—"
"It is true," broke in Ramahadin, "I have told you much—too much, I realize—but from it all you have not learned the greatest lesson of all, that it is not wise to shout aloud your knowledge. We realize the danger of your power my friend, and that in itself reduces much of its value.
"Let me tell you that since I have gone about this country of yours, I have become convinced that in it is the spirit which will save the world of the future—and nothing as puny as you will stand between it and its purpose. I have spoken!"
Even as his voice faded out, Ramahadin seemed to take on the stature of the priest of old and his listeners were as awed and incapable of speech or action as were his satellites of untold centuries before.
When the spell was broken, Shepard lay on the sofa in a coma and his breathing was scarcely perceptible.
"When he wakes up," said Ramahadin, "his mind will be a blank. He should not have challenged the lore of all the ages. It is too bad I had to destroy all his present knowledge, but he was too weak a man to possess mine—which unfortunately I did not at first realize."
And with a shrug he dismissed the whole matter from his mind.
Susan was sitting on the hotel porch high on the mountain side. Opposite her was Eric Hanley and the man whose powers of wizardry had been demonstrated to them only a few days before. Susan herself could hardly believe that the swarthy gentleman in impeccable evening dress whose figure she could just make out in the gathering dusk, could be the same creature that her father and Professor Shepard had conjured from the past.
They had come to this mountain resort to escape the city's heat. And now in the clear air were sitting in front of the hotel watching the daylight fade. Far below them they could see the headlights of cars as they followed the winding road through the dense forests and along the cliffs where roadways had been cut. They would see a light at one point, watch it vanish, then reappear at the next bend or opening farther on.
"Like the souls of men," said Ramahadin. "They pass through one existence, go out into infinity and return again where men may see them."
"Not quite," came the voice of Professor Blythe, who had slipped into a chair beside them. "For if we were to cut away the trees and level the intervening hills we should be able to see the lights continuously—men's naked souls would continue on unceasingly."
"And that," said the voice of Ramahadin from the darkness, "is the power I can sway; and you two men and one woman—alone of all the world—will know the truth of the phenomenon which will soon shake the earth."
His voice seemed all pervading, yet must have reached their ears alone, for groups of people further along the hotel porch seemed oblivious of its portent.
Susan's hand found Eric's in the darkness—was her hour of decision at hand?
But reassurance came from the darkness.
"From you, Susan, I ask nothing further than you have given me," went on the High Priest. "You have shown me that a woman who is true and steadfast can be worthy of her place in this world of America. You I leave to Eric—and with you both the knowledge that faith in ideals such as yours will survive.
"Tonight I leave you; I go high into the mountains—and for me there will be no return, no second conjuring up by the Book of the Dead. I was brought back to show the world the way out of oppression; and after that I shall go out once more into darkness. For I, and I alone, can invoke the spirits of the dead to save the living. Against the forces of evil rampant in the world I shall conjure up the spirits of the oppressed from all ages and generations. The shades of the martyrs, the ghosts of all men who died for freedom, the spirits of those who perished in every righteous cause since the dawn of time shall come trooping at my call to force back the power for evil that threatens the free men on the earth today.
"For I am Ramahadin, Ramahadin the great, Ramahadin the keeper of the secrets of all the ages and my will shall prevail—keep your faith, you men of science, for faith and knowledge alone will save the world."
Susan felt again the enormous power she had sensed the day that Professor Shepard had defied Ramahadin, and heard herself murmuring words she scarcely knew she remembered:
"Keep ye the faith, the faith our fathers sealed us,
Whoring not with visions over-wise and over stale...."
Eric and Susan were listening to the radio—it was weeks, months later; sometimes it seemed as if time itself had ceased altogether. Over the air was coming a dramatic account of the final battle which settled the world conflict; an eye witness, an intrepid correspondent for the powerful press of America was telling of what he had seen that climactic day when right at last triumphed.
"It seemed as if superhuman strength were given the defenders of our way of life," the voice proclaimed. "Nothing daunted them, nothing stopped them... it was as if the spirits of their fathers returned again and led their sons to victory!"
Eric and Susan looked at each other, and remembered that the High Priest had said that they alone of all the world would recognize the truth.