Although it had evidently been treated with some preservative, this head now was little more than a skull still covered with dark hair, but set upon its brow appeared an object that Alan recognized at once, a simple band of plain gold, and rising from it the head of an asp. Without doubt it was the uraeus, that symbol which only the royalties of Old Egypt dared to wear. Without doubt also either this man had brought it with him from the Nile, or in memory of his rank and home he had fashioned it of the gold that was so plentiful in the place of his captivity. So this woman’s story was true, an ancient Egyptian had once been husband to the Asika of his day.
Meanwhile his guide had passed a long way down the line and halting in front of another gold-wrapped figure, opened its mask.
“This is that man,” she said, “who told us he came from a land called Roma. Look, the helmet still rests upon his head, though time has eaten into it, and that ring upon your hand was taken from his finger. I have a head-dress made upon the model of that helmet which I wear sometimes in memory of this man who, my soul remembers, was brave and pleasant and a gallant lover.”
“Indeed,” answered Alan, looking at the sunken face above which a rim of curls appeared beneath the rusting helmet. “Well, he doesn’t look very gallant now, does he?” Then he peered down between the body and its gold casing and saw that in his body hand the man still held a short Roman sword, lifted as though in salute. So she had not lied in this matter either.
Meanwhile the Asika had glided on to the end of the hall behind the heaps of treasure.
“There is one more white man,” she said, “though we know little of him, for he was fierce and barbarous and died without learning our tongue, after killing a great number of the priests of that day because they would not let him go; yes, died cutting them down with a battle-axe and singing some wild song of his own country. Come hither, slave, and bend yourself so, resting your hands upon the ground.”
Jeekie obeyed, and actively as a cat the priestess leaped on to his back, and reaching up opened the mask of a corpse in the second row and held her lamp before its face.
It was better preserved than the others, so that its features remained comparatively perfect, and about them hung a tangle of golden hair. Moreover, a broad battle-axe appeared resting on the shoulder.
“A viking,” thought Alan. “I wonder how he came here.”
When he had looked the Asika leaped from Jeekie’s back to the ground and waving her arm around her, began to talk so rapidly that Alan could understand nothing of her words, and asked Jeekie to translate them.