Home > The Mummy(15)

The Mummy(15)
Author: Anne Rice

Then and only then did she look up. He stood in the door, watching her. The robe was open now to his waist; surely there was something profoundly primitive in the way he stood there, arms folded, feet apart, yet it seemed at the moment the very height of decorous sophistication.

He moved into the room now, surveying it with the same curiosity with which he approached everything else. He saw the photographs of her father, along with Randolph and Elliott at Oxford. He turned to look at the clothing laid out on the bed. Clearly he was comparing the clothes with that of the men in the pictures.

"Yes,"  she said," you should dress like that."

His eyes darted to the Archaeology Journal on the dressing table. He picked it up and leafed through it, stopping at a full engraving of the great pyramid at Giza which contained also the Mena Hotel. What in the world was he thinking? He closed it.

"RRRRR ... kay ... ology,"  he said. With the utter guile-lessness of a child, he smiled.

His eyes positively glittered as he looked at her. There was a scant bit of hair on his massive chest. She must get out of here now.

"You dress, Ramses. Like the pictures. I'll help you later if you make any mistakes."

"Very well, Julie Stratford,"  he said in that paralyzingly perfect British accent." I dress alone. I have done this before."

Of course. Slaves. He had always had them, hadn't he? Probably by the dozens. Well, there was nothing to be done about it. She could not start removing that robe with her own hands. Her cheeks were burning. She could feel it. She hurried out, and quietly shut the door.

HENRY WAS now as drunk as he had ever been in his life. He had finished the bottle of Scotch which he had taken without permission from Elliott, and the r'" ' brandy was going down like water. But it did not help.

He was smoking one Egyptian cheroot after another, filling Daisy's flat with the pungent fragrance he had grown accustomed to in Cairo, And all it did was make him think of Malenka, and how he wished he was with Malenka, though he also wished he had never set foot in Egypt, that he had never entered that chamber in the side of the mountain where his uncle Lawrence had been poring over a stack of ancient scrolls.

That thing had been alive! That thing had seen him slip the poison into Lawrence's cup. No mistaking now the memory of those eyes open under the bandages; no mistaking that the thing had come out of its coffin in Julie's house and clamped its filthy hand on his neck.

No one understood the danger he was in. No one understood because no one knew the thing's motive! Never mind the reason for its filthy existence! The thing knew what he had done. And that Reginald Ramsey - though he could not entirely associate the man with the filthy creature that had tried to strangle him -  he knew intellectually they were one and the same. Would the man disappear into the rotted linen bandages again when it came to get him?

God! He shuddered all over. He heard Daisy say something,

and when he looked up he saw her standing by the mantel shelf, posing, as it were, in her corset and silk stockings, her br**sts pouring over the lace cups of the corset, her blond ringlets tumbling onto her shoulders. Ought to be quite something to look at, to touch. It meant nothing.

"And you're telling me a bloomin' mummy came right out of the mummy case and put its bloomin' hands around your throat! And you're telling me it's got on a bloomin' robe and slippers and is walking around the bloomin1 house!"

Go away, Daisy. In his mind's eye, he saw himself taking the knife out of his pocket, the knife with which he'd killed Sharpies, and he saw himself stabbing Daisy with it, in the throat.

The bell sounded. She wasn't going to the door in that getup, was she? Perfect idiot. What the devil did he care! The door. He shrank back in the chair, fumbling in his pocket for the knife.

Flowers. She came back with a big bouquet of flowers, babbling about an admirer. He slumped back in the chair. What was she doing? Staring at him like that?

"I need a pistol,"  he said without looking at her." Surely one of your guttersnipe friends can get me a pistol?"

"I'll have nothing to do with it!"

"You'll do as I tell you!"  he said. If only she knew; he had killed two men. He had almost killed a woman. Almost. And the thing was, he would have liked to hurt Daisy, he would have liked to see the expression on her face when the knife went into her throat." Now get on the telephone,"  he said to her." Call that worthless brother of yours. I need a pistol small enough to keep under my coat."

Was she going to cry?

"Do as I tell you,"  he said." Now, I'm going to my club to get some of my clothing. If anyone calls here for me, you're to say I'm staying there, do you hear?"

"You're in no condition to go anywhere!"

He struggled out of the chair, and towards the door. The floor was tilting. He steadied himself on the frame. For a long moment he rested his forehead against it. He could not remember a time when he wasn't tired, desperate, angry. He looked back at her.

"If I come back here and you haven't done what I said ..."

"I'll do it,"  she whimpered. She threw the flowers down and folded her arms and turned her back to him and bowed her head.

Some instinct, upon which he had always relied without question, told him to temper it now. This was the moment to appear gentle, almost affectionate, though the very sight of her bent back infuriated him, though her sobs made him grit his teeth.

"You like this flat well enough, don't you, darling?"  he said." And you like the champagne you're drinking and the furs you're wearing. And you'll like the motor car well enough as soon as I get it. But what I need right now is a little loyalty and time."

He saw her nod. She was turning around to come to him. He went down the hall and out the door.

Henry's trunk had just been taken away.

Julie stood at the window watching the awkward, noisy German motorcar move out of sight down the street. In her heart of hearts, she did not know what to do about Henry.

To call the authorities at this point was unthinkable. Not only was there no explainable witness to what Henry had done, but the thought of wounding Randolph was more than Julie could bear.

Randolph was innocent. She knew it instinctively. And she knew as well that knowledge of Henry's guilt would be the final blow for Randolph. She would lose her uncle as she had lost her father. And though her uncle had never been the man her father was, he was her flesh and blood, and she loved him very much.

Dimly, she remembered Henry's words to her this morning." We are all you have."  She found herself paralysed with hurt, on the verge of tears again.

A footstep on the stairs interrupted her. She turned. And she saw the one person in the world who could sweep away this burden, even for a little while.

She had dressed very carefully for this moment. Telling herself that everything she did was an education for her honoured guest, she had chosen the most exquisite suit she owned; her best black-brimmed hat with silk flowers; and gloves, of course; all this to acquaint him with the fashions of the time.

But she had also wanted to look beautiful for him, And she knew that the burgundy wool flattered her. Her heart was knocking again as she saw him come down the stairs.

In fact, her breath left her altogether as he stepped into the front hall and looked down at her, coming perilously close to her as if he meant to kiss her.

She did not step back.

He had done well with her father's wardrobe. Dark socks and shoes perfect. Shirt buttoned properly. Silk tie knotted rather eccentrically but quite beautiful. Even the cuff links were properly done. In fact, he was disturbingly handsome in the silk waistcoat, sleek black frock coat and gray wool flannel trousers he wore. Only the cashmere scarf was all wrong. He had tied it as a sash about his waist as an old-fashioned soldier might have done.

"May I?"  she asked as she removed it, and then slipped it over his head and around his neck, inside the coat. She smoothed it carefully, trying not to be overpowered by him, by his blue eyes looking down at her intently, and that strange philosophical smile.

Now came the big adventure. They were going out together. She was going to show Ramses the Great the twentieth century. This was the most exciting moment she had ever known.

He caught her hand as she opened the door. He drew her to him swiftly. Again, it was as if he were going to kiss her, and her excitement turned suddenly to fear.

He felt it; he stopped, holding her hand a little more loosely, a little more gently. And then he bent and kissed it reverently. And gave her a very mischievous little smile.

How in God's name was she going to resist him!

"Come, let's go. The world waits!"  she said. There was a hansom coming along right now. She waved quickly, and men gave him a little tug.

He had stopped. He was looking up and down the broad expanse of street at all the many houses with their iron railings and massive doors, and lace curtains; and the chimney pots smoking above.

How vital, how passionate, how full of sheer lust for it all he appeared. With a spring in his step he came after her, and climbed into the back of the little cab.

It occurred to her that never in her life had she seen even a smattering of that passion in her beloved Alex. It made her sad for an instant, not because she was really thinking about Alex, but because she had the first inkling of how her old world was fading, of how things were never, never going to be the same.

Samir's office at the British Museum was small, packed with books, and overcrowded perhaps by the large desk and the two leather chairs. But Elliott found it comfortable enough. And thank God the little coal fire kept it very warm.

"Well, I'm not sure that I can tell you that much,"  Samir said." Lawrence had only translated a fragment: the Pharaoh claimed to be immortal. He had roamed the world, it seems, since the end of his official reign. He'd lived among peoples the ancient Egyptians didn't know existed. He claimed to have been in Athens for two centuries, to have lived in Rome. Finally he retreated to a tomb from which only the royal families of Egypt could call him. Certain priests knew the secret. It had become a legend by Cleopatra's time. But apparently the young Queen believed."

"And she did whatever was necessary to awaken him."

"So he wrote. And he fell deeply in love with her, approving her liaison with Caesar in the name of necessity and experience, but not with Mark Antony. This embittered him, Lawrence said. There was nothing there to contradict our history. He condemned Antony and Cleopatra for their excesses and their bad judgment just as we have done."

"Did Lawrence believe the story? Did he have any theory - "

"Lawrence was deliriously happy with the mystery. Such an incomprehensible combination of artifacts. Lawrence would have spent the rest of his life trying to solve it. I 'm not sure what he really believed."

Elliott reflected. '"The mummy, Samir. You examined it. You were with Lawrence when he first opened the case."

"Yes."

"Did you detect anything out of the ordinary?"

"My Lord, you've seen a thousand such mummies. The baffling part was the writing, the command of languages, and, of course, the mummy case."

"Well, I have a little story to tell you,"  Elliott said." According to our mutual friend and acquaintance Henry Stratford, the mummy is quite alive. This very morning he stepped out of his coffin, crossed Lawrence's library and tried to strangle Henry in the drawing room. Henry was lucky to escape with his life."

For a moment Samir didn't respond at all. It was as if he hadn't heard. Then softly," You are joking with me, Lord Rutherford?"

Elliott laughed." No. I am not joking, Mr. Ibrahaim. And I am willing to wager that Henry Stratford wasn't joking when he told me the story this very morning. In fact, I'm certain he wasn't joking. He was badly shaken; damn near hysterical. But joking, no."

Silence. This is what it means to be speechless, Elliott thought as he looked at Samir.

"You don't have a cigarette, do you, Samir?"  he asked.

Without taking his eyes off Elliott, Samir opened a small delicately carved ivory box. Egyptian cigarettes. Perfectly delicious. Samir lifted the gold lighter and handed it to Elliott.

"Thank you. I might add ... for I suppose you are wondering ... this mummy did not hurt Julie at all. And has become in fact her honoured guest-' *

"Lord Rutherford ..."

"I'm perfectly serious. My son, Alex, went there immediately. As a matter of fact, there were police on the scene even before that. It seems an Egyptologist is staying at the Stratford house, a Mr. Reginald Ramsey, and that Julie is being quite emphatic that she must take her guest about London. She has no time to discuss Henry's inane hallucinations. And Henry, who had seen this Egyptologist, maintains that he is in fact the mummy, walking about in Lawrence's clothes."

Elliott lit the cigarette and inhaled deeply.

"You're going to hear about all this soon enough from others,"  he said casually." The reporters were there in force. 'Mummy Walks in Mayfair.'" He shrugged.

Samir was clearly more stunned than amused. He appeared positively distressed.

"You'll forgive me,"  he said," but I don't have a very high opinion of Lawrence's nephew, Henry."

"Of course not, how could you?"

"This Egyptologist. You said that his name was Reginald Ramsey. I have never heard of an Egyptologist by that name."

"Of course you haven't. And you know them all, don't you? From Cairo to London or Manchester, or Berlin or New York."

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