"As, however, we should commence the immediate work of packing at once,we will leave over the after proceedings till later when we haveleisure."
Accordingly we set about our work. Under Mr. Trelawny's guidance, andaided by the servants, we took from the outhouses great packing-cases.Some of these were of enormous strength, fortified by many thicknessesof wood, and by iron bands and rods with screw-ends and nuts. Weplaced them throughout the house, each close to the object which it wasto contain. When this preliminary work had been effected, and therehad been placed in each room and in the hall great masses of new hay,cotton-waste and paper, the servants were sent away. Then we set aboutpacking.
No one, not accustomed to packing, could have the slightest idea of theamount of the amount of work involved in such a task as that in whichin we were engaged. For my own part I had had a vague idea that therewere a large number of Egyptian objects in Mr. Trelawny's house; butuntil I came to deal with them seriatim I had little idea of eithertheir importance, the size of some of them, or of their endless number.Far into the night we worked. At times we used all the strength whichwe could muster on a single object; again we worked separately, butalways under Mr. Trelawny's immediate direction. He himself, assistedby Margaret, kept an exact tall of each piece.
It was only when we sat down, utterly wearied, to a long-delayed supperthat we began to realised that a large part of the work was done. Onlya few of the packing-cases, however, were closed; for a vast amount ofwork still remained. We had finished some of the cases, each of whichheld only one of the great sarcophagi. The cases which held manyobjects could not be closed till all had been differentiated and packed.
I slept that night without movement or without dreams; and on ourcomparing notes in the morning, I found that each of the others had hadthe same experience.
By dinner-time next evening the whole work was complete, and all wasready for the carriers who were to come at midnight. A little beforethe appointed time we heard the rumble of carts; then we were shortlyinvaded by an army of workmen, who seemed by sheer force of numbers tomove without effort, in an endless procession, all our preparedpackages. A little over an hour sufficed them, and when the carts hadrumbled away, we all got ready to follow them to Paddington. Silviowas of course to be taken as one of our party.
Before leaving we went in a body over the house, which looked desolateindeed. As the servants had all gone to Cornwall there had been noattempt at tidying-up; every room and passage in which we had worked,and all the stairways, were strewn with paper and waste, and markedwith dirty feet.
The last thing which Mr. Trelawny did before coming away was to takefrom the great safe the Ruby with the Seven Stars. As he put it safelyinto his pocket-book, Margaret, who had all at once seemed to growdeadly tired and stood beside her father pale and rigid, suddenlybecame all aglow, as though the sight of the Jewel had inspired her.She smiled at her father approvingly as she said:
"You are right, Father. There will not be any more trouble tonight.She will not wreck your arrangements for any cause. I would stake mylife upon it."
"She--or something--wrecked us in the desert when we had come from thetomb in the Valley of the Sorcerer!" was the grim comment of Corbeck,who was standing by. Margaret answered him like a flash:
"Ah! she was then near her tomb from which for thousands of years herbody had not been moved. She must know that things are different now."
"How must she know?" asked Corbeck keenly.
"If she has that astral body that Father spoke of, surely she mustknow! How can she fail to, with an invisible presence and an intellectthat can roam abroad even to the stars and the worlds beyond us!" Shepaused, and her father said solemnly:
"It is on that supposition that we are proceeding. We must have thecourage of our convictions, and act on them--to the last!"
Margaret took his hand and held
it in a dreamy kind of way as we filedout of the house. She was holding it still when he locked the halldoor, and when we moved up the road to the gateway, whence we took acab to Paddington.
When all the goods were loaded at the station, the whole of the workmenwent on to the train; this took also some of the stone-wagons used forcarrying the cases with the great sarcophagi. Ordinary carts andplenty of horses were to be found at Westerton, which was our stationfor Kyllion. Mr. Trelawny had ordered a sleeping-carriage for ourparty; as soon as the train had started we all turned into our cubicles.
That night I slept sound. There was over me a conviction of securitywhich was absolute and supreme. Margaret's definite announcement:"There will not be any trouble tonight!" seemed to carry assurance withit. I did not question it; nor did anyone else. It was onlyafterwards that I began to think as to how she was so sure. The trainwas a slow one, stopping many times and for considerable intervals. AsMr. Trelawny did not wish to arrive at Westerton before dark, there wasno need to hurry; and arrangements had been made to feed the workmen atcertain places on the journey. We had our own hamper with us in theprivate car.
All that afternoon we talked over the Great Experiment, which seemed tohave become a definite entity in our thoughts. Mr. Trelawny becamemore and more enthusiastic as the time wore on; hope was with himbecoming certainty. Doctor Winchester seemed to become imbued withsome of his spirit, though at times he would throw out some scientificfact which would either make an impasse to the other's line ofargument, or would come as an arresting shock. Mr. Corbeck, on theother hand, seemed slightly antagonistic to the theory. It may havebeen that whilst the opinions of the others advanced, his own stoodstill; but the effect was an attitude which appeared negative, if notwholly one of negation.
As for Margaret, she seemed to be in some way overcome. Either it wassome new phase of feeling with her, or else she was taking the issuemore seriously than she had yet done. She was generally more or lessdistraite, as though sunk in a brown study; from this she would recoverherself with a start. This was usually when there occurred some markedepisode in the journey, such as stopping at a station, or when thethunderous rumble of crossing a viaduct woke the echoes of the hills orcliffs around us. On each such occasion she would plunge into theconversation, taking such a part in it as to show that, whatever hadbeen her abstracted thought, her senses had taken in fully all that hadgone on around her. Towards myself her manner was strange. Sometimesit was marked by a distance, half shy, half haughty, which was new tome. At other times there were moments of passion in look and gesturewhich almost made me dizzy with delight. Little, however, of a markednature transpired during the journey. There was but one episode whichhad in it any element of alarm, but as we were all asleep at the timeit did not disturb us. We only learned it from a communicative guard inthe morning. Whilst running between Dawlish and Teignmouth the trainwas stopped by a warning given by someone who moved a torch to and froright on the very track. The driver had found on pulling up that justahead of the train a small landslip had taken place, some of the redearth from the high bank having fallen away. It did not however reachto the metals; and the driver had resumed his way, none too wellpleased at the delay. To use his own words, the guard thought "therewas too much bally caution on this 'ere line!'"
We arrived at Westerton about nine o'clock in the evening. Carts andhorses were in waiting, and the work of unloading the train began atonce. Our own party did not wait to see the work done, as it was inthe hands of competent people. We took the carriage which was inwaiting, and through the darkness of the night sped on to Kyllion.
We were all impressed by the house as it appeared in the brightmoonlight. A great grey stone mansion of the Jacobean period; vast andspacious, standing high over the sea on the very verge of a high cliff.When we had swept round the curve of the avenue cut through the rock,and come out on the high plateau on which the house stood, the crashand murmur of waves breaking against rock far below us came with aninvigorating breath of moist sea air. We understood then in an instanthow well we were shut out from the world on that rocky shelf above thesea.
Within the house we found all ready. Mrs. Grant and her staff hadworked well, and all was bright and fresh and clean. We took a briefsurvey of the chief rooms and then separated to have a wash and tochange our clothes after our long journey of more than four-and-twentyhours.
We had supper in the great dining-room on the south side, the walls ofwhich actually hung over the sea. The murmur came up muffled, but itnever ceased. As the little promontory stood well out into the sea,the northern side of the house was open; and the due north was in noway shut out by the great mass of rock, which, reared high above us,shut out the rest of the world. Far off across the bay we could seethe trembling lights of the castle, and here and there along the shorethe faint light of a fisher's window. For the rest the sea was a darkblue plain with an occasional flicker of light as the gleam ofstarlight fell on the slope of a swelling wave.
When supper was over we all adjourned to the room which Mr. Trelawnyhad set aside as his study, his bedroom being close to it. As weentered, the first thing I noticed was a great safe, somewhat similarto that which stood in his room in London. When we were in the roomMr. Trelawny went over to the table, and, taking out his pocket-book,laid it on the table. As he did so he pressed down on it with the palmof his hand. A strange pallor came over his face. With fingers thattrembled he opened the book, saying as he did so:
"Its bulk does not seem the same; I hope nothing has happened!"
All three of us men crowded round close. Margaret alone remained calm;she stood erect and silent, and still as a statue. She had a far-awaylook in her eyes, as though she did not either know or care what wasgoing on around her.
With a despairing gesture Trelawny threw open the pouch of thepocket-book wherein he had placed the Jewel of Seven Stars. As he sankdown on the chair which stood close to him, he said in a hoarse voice:
"My God! it is gone. Without it the Great Experiment can come tonothing!"
His words seemed to wake Margaret from her introspective mood. Anagonised spasm swept her face; but almost on the instant she was calm.She almost smiled as she said: