Since it is the season for deliciously chilling ghost stories by the fire-side, Mrs Daffodil presents this thrilling tale of a necklace from the neck of an Egyptian mummy.
[Lady Arabella Romilly wishes it to be understood that this is the true story of an actual experience to herself.]
The mummy necklace was a quaint, rough thing, more quaint than beautiful, yet with a certain picturesqueness, and an undeniable fascination, alternate beads of cornelian and gold, and two tiny hearts hanging from the three central beads.
My father gave it me one day, knowing I had a fancy for these out-of the-way jewels. I do not know its history, but was told it had been taken off the neck of a mummy.
From the moment it was given me its curious fascination overcame me. I wore it day and night. I fancied it would bring me luck. I certainly felt tiny soft pinches on my neck made by the beads. This I wondered at for a time, but afterwards grew too accustomed to them to wonder. There were curious marks on the beads; they were chipped off or indented. Here and there were dark stains.
From the moment I began to wear the necklace, my health failed. I grew weaker and weaker, and at last fell seriously ill. Naturally I did not dream of connecting my illness in any way with the influence of my mummy necklace. On the contrary, I clung to it more and more, believing it to be a talisman.
I was lying on my sofa one day, when a friend, who had observed my necklace then for the first time, said, “Why do you wear that? It isn’t very pretty. Let me look at it.”
She held it a moment and shivered.
“Oh, it’s a horrible thing! Don’t wear it. It will bring you dreadful ill-luck. I believe those are the marks of teeth, and the stains of blood!”
I said, “It bewitches me. I can’t bear to part with it, and I wear it day and night.”
Another friend of mine took a dislike to it. She was a believer in magic of all sorts, and was persuaded that the necklace had made me ill, and was preventing my recovery.
“Yes,” she said, “it has an influence—that I believe—but for evil.”
At last she persuaded me to let her take it to a clairvoyant. A certain cobbler in a suburb of London was the clairvoyant we chose. He and I had had strange experiences some time before this, but, as Rudyard Kipling says, “that is another story.”
I parted with the necklace very reluctantly. My friend promised to arrange an interview with the cobbler the next day, if possible.
That night I fastened my pearl necklace on, missing the feeling of the mummy chain.
I lay awake all night. I was not allowed a sleeping draught, and I had coughed till I was exhausted, but not sleepy.
Towards dawn my nurse shut the door between her room and mine. I remember observing the light coming through the empty keyhole of her door, and each side of my dark blinds. The rain beat loudly on the windows. I lay listening to the weary sound.
Suddenly my wrist was seized and violently shaken; the bangles I wore, hung with talismans, rattled and jingled together. Another moment and my throat was seized by tightly clutching, strong hands.
I said to myself, “This is death, and it is terrible.”
Still the clutch tightened. My pearl necklace was shaken. Even then I thought, “The pearls will be scattered.” Then the thought came swift and horrible,—
“He has come for his necklace. The next flash of thought was, “This is a struggle of thousands of years ago being re-enacted. Death is terrible. If only I could call for help I If only I could speak!” But the fingers clutched my throat too tightly.
And then I opened my eyes and saw a great grey formless Thing. It lay stretched out on my bed, and through it I saw the light shining through the empty keyhole.
Even then, through my terror, I thought, “Shall I be believed when I tell them tomorrow? Yes, it must be true, because I hear the rain beating on the window-pane all the time.”
And all the time the clutching and the struggling never ceased upon my throat. I seemed to be so near to death that struggling on my part was useless. It was at that supreme moment I realised most distinctly the horror of the great, grey, transparent Thing. All my soul went out into a cry for help to Someone stronger than the Thing; and then it moved, it lifted, melted away into a grey mist—disappeared.
Then I sat up in bed; lit a candle, which I never dared put out again; observed the hour by my watch—between four and five; and lay back, stricken, exhausted, trembling, longing for something human to come and draw up the blinds, and let in even the wet, dismal daylight, rather than lie alone with the memory of my midnight horror.
Two days after this, my friend who had taken the necklace to the clairvoyant came, bringing it back with her in a sealed envelope, begging me not to touch it.
She gave me an account of her interview before I told her my experience.
The clairvoyant, in his trance, had become unusually excited when she placed the necklace in his hands. He paced about the room, then flung himself on the floor, saying, “Dying, dying! I see autumn leaves everywhere—that is death. Oh, tell her never to touch it again. It is an accursed thing. It belonged to an Egyptian king, thousands of years ago. Blood and warfare followed his footsteps. He wore it. It has never been on a woman’s neck before. He knew she wore it, and when he missed it from her neck he was angry. He wants his necklace again. She must not wear it. It will be death to her. But even now she may be saved, if she never wears it, or even touches it again.”
I left off wearing that necklace, and finally parted with it, for ill-luck was my lot as long as it was in my possession.
That is the true story of the mummy necklace as far as I am concerned. I have never seen my terrible visitor again. Will he come again some day, and ask what I have done with his necklace?
Lady’s Realm: An Illustrated Monthly Magazine, Volume 5, February 1899
Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Even before the discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922, the fashionable world was fascinated by the artifacts of ancient Egypt. We have previously read of the fad for taking photographic “mummy portraits.” British tourists brought back mummies (often publically unwrapped before enthusiastic crowds) as well as statues, obelisks, and smaller trinkets such as mummy beads. One can still purchase “mummy beads” at auction sites, although caveat emptor is the rule.
Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,”where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes.