The gentlemen are gathering in the front hall, putting on their winter coats and hats. It is not very far to the chapel, perhaps a quarter of a mile down the main driveway, but the air is cold. Gabriela can feel it bite at her skin when the front door is opened. She puts on her own coat and gloves. The riding boots seem to be a good idea and they do indeed make her look smart and vaguely dangerous.
“At least one lady is up,” says Sir Brian. “Perhaps the others will rally.”
He waves her ahead of him as they leave the house and then walks alongside her as they make their way down the snow drifted driveway. Perhaps six inches of snow have fallen during the night, coating the trees and countryside in a glorious blanket of sparkling white. Somewhere in the distance she can see the smoke from chimneys on cottages and hear the faint sounds of children laughing.
“The village is over there,” says Sir Brian. “I expect the school is closed today. Tomorrow is the last day of school for the year. There is an awards ceremony. I will be presiding. Might I ask you to attend? My wife was to be giving away the prizes for the best pupils, but I’m sure they will be much honored to have a published author give out their awards. Jane is not well, you see.”
It takes only a few minutes to reach the deserted chapel which has a faintly sinister air about even in the snow. The entrance is dark and shadowy, almost like entering a cave. Fortunately, Angus McPherson and Professor Thorn have brought lanterns with them and they light the way inside. The pews are dusty and cobwebbed with disuse, The stained glass windows are filthy with bird droppings and let in very little light.
“It’s a gloomy place, isn’t it?” says Dr. McWhirter. “And they’ve set up shop down in the crypt, which is even darker and more depressing. But I suppose it is an appropriate place to store the coffins of these ancient Egyptians. Sacred ground and what have you.”
One by one they descend through a low archway beyond the tumble-down pulpit. A stone stair way curves round through a full turn and then opens out into a vaulted crypt that contains the ancient burial sites on the Leatherbys and now the plundered remains of a foreign tomb. There are more lanterns down her, left from their previous day’s work and the men set to, illuminating the space with glowing yellow light. A musky smell permeates the underground space, but at least it is not as cold down here as it was above.
Gabriela watches with fascination as the archeologists begin their scholarly process of cataloging the finds. Professor Thorn has already produced a list that he summarized at the dinner table last night. He now begins to add details as they look more closely at each object.
Their immediate attention is on the sarcophagi: Two fairly plain, one much decorated and painted with hieroglyphs that have faded to faint stains with time. Thorn and McPherson spend a great deal of time trying to decipher the sense of the glyphs.
“Would you mind sketching things for us?” ask Sir Brian. “There’s an interesting cabinet over here that I find much more fascinating than those old bone boxes.”
He directs her attention to a tall cabinet made of black wood much inlaid with ivory and silver.
“I’m waiting for our learned friends to open it,” he says. “I think it may contain the real treasures of this trove. Something about it calls to me.”
Indeed, Gabriela can feel a fascination about the object as well. In the soft illumination from the lanterns the silver runes inscribed upon it almost seem to glow with a faint bluish light.
I walk down the stairs behind the men: Sir Brian, Agnus and Dr. Throm. I crouch down to avoid the low ceiling as I step off the final stair and enter the Leatherby family crypt. I stand quietly alone to the side of the stairs and watch the men enter the room and light the other lanterns. Seeing the room for the first time, it takes me a moment to get familiar with things. A sense of awe comes over me as I see the Egyptian items. A cold draft finds a way beneath my coat and under my sweater. I feel a shiver go across my chest and around my back, triggering goose bumps everywhere. A cold draft must have crept down the staircase to find me. It causes me to step into the room as if obeying a summon to enter. I flip the collar on my wool coat up over the back of my neck and hold the front of my coat tighter to me. I think to myself how I wish for longer hair as I step towards the items.
I walk to the main sarcophagus in the middle of the room and stand next to it. I see the detail on the surface. I run my left hand across the top feeling the carvings. My black leather glove masking my touch. I slide my gloves off, crouch down eye level to the surface and feel the carvings with my fingers. “It’s simply beautiful.” I whisper to myself. After my close inspection, I walk along its side running my bare hand down the case while Iooking at the smaller items around me. At Sir Brian’s direction, I see the black cabinet. It stands alone against the far wall. Im not sure what to make of it. But something familiar about it strikes me. I move closer and feel it’s surface. Maybe dark wood? Im not quite sure. Then I notice it. Small inscriptions set on the surface. They almost glow with a soft blue hue. Could this be what I remember! The other night. From the window. But how? This was under the chapel and well out of my view. It does cause me to stir.
Sir Brian calls for my attention again asking me to sketch. I unbutton my coat and set it aside since it is warmer down here away from the outside elements. I sit against a wooden crate and open my leather satchel removing my sketch book and pencils. I hop up onto the crate, cross my legs as a proper lady should, flip to a blank page, and quickly find a subject. Everything! I begin to sketch the items in the room as they sit. Leaving no detail out. I sketch quickly as if under some unknown haste. Once complete, I quickly turn the page and start anew. This time I sketch each of the men as they work. A few times I witness Angus and even Dr. Throm distracted at my knee caps. Typical men, a woman’s bare knees gets their attention even during the most exciting of times. However the old Professor seemed to stare the longest. Maybe he’s not so absent minded. The old pervert. But I didnt mind. Let him look, it was quite charming knowing a man of his age still has eyes for a young lady.
Before long, I had 6 to 10 sketches and decide to set my book down and walk to Sir Brian. He sits on a stood looking over hieroglyphs on a tablet. I move up behind him resting my hand on the back of his shoulder. “I’ve documented everything as you’ve asked.” Not hearing a reply, I continue. “What do you make of all this? Can you read the writings? And that dark cabinet. What do you think is inside?”