“To wash up the things, I suppose,” said Bickley with a sniff; “or perhaps to eat the tea-leaves.”
“Well, as a matter of fact, I have noticed that these natives have a peculiar taste for tea-leaves. I think they believe them to be a medicine, but I don’t suppose they would come so far for them, though perhaps they might in the hope of getting the head of Oro. Anyhow, I am going to stop here.”
“Pray do,” said Bickley. “Are you ready, Humphrey?”
I nodded, and he handed to me a felt-covered flask of the non-conducting kind, filled with boiling water, a tin of preserved milk, and a little bottle of meat extract of a most concentrated sort. Then, having lit two of the hurricane lamps and seen that they were full of oil, we started back up the cave.
We reached the sepulchre without stopping to look at the parked machines or even the marvelous statue that stood above it, for what did we care about machines or statues now? As we approached we were astonished to hear low and cavernous growlings.
“There is some wild beast in there,” said Bickley, halting. “No, by George! it’s Tommy. What can the dog be after?”
We peeped in, and there sure enough was Tommy lying on the top of the Glittering Lady’s coffin and growling his very best with the hair standing up upon his back. When he saw who it was, however, he jumped off and frisked round, licking my hand.
“That’s very strange,” I exclaimed.
“Not stranger than everything else,” said Bickley.
“What are you going to do?” I asked.
“Open these coffins,” he answered, “beginning with that of the old god, since I would rather experiment on him. I expect he will crumble into dust. But if by chance he doesn’t I’ll jam a little strychnine, mixed with some other drugs, of which you don’t know the names, into one of his veins and see if anything happens. If it doesn’t, it won’t hurt him, and if it does—well, who knows? Now give me a hand.”
We went to the left-hand coffin and by inserting the hook on the back of my knife, of which the real use is to pick stones out of horses’ hoofs, into one of the little air-holes I have described, managed to raise the heavy crystal lid sufficiently to enable us to force a piece of wood between it and the top. The rest was easy, for the hinges being of crystal had not corroded. In two minutes it was open.
From the chest came an overpowering spicy odour, and with it a veritable breath of warm air before which we recoiled a little. Bickley took a pocket thermometer which he had at hand and glanced at it. It marked a temperature of 82 degrees in the sepulchre. Having noted this, he thrust it into the coffin between the crystal wall and its occupant. Then we went out and waited a little while to give the odours time to dissipate, for they made the head reel.