With consummated art, the author of the New York Herald‘s article about the death of Lord Carnavon manages to leave a doubt about the curse.  He cites a serious reference:

“The Conservator of the Louvre museum, Monsieur Benedite, while admitting that Carnavon’s death, provoked by a mosquito sting or by a fever contracted in the pharaoh’s tomb, can be considered as the effect of the poetic vengeance prophetised by the mystics, has declared that the digs must be continued, for, now, what is done, is done.”

In these conditions, how can it be expected that men with galloping imaginations, unencumbered by scientific preoccupations, do not let themselves be seduced by the most audacious theories?  For example, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the father of Sherlock Holmes, whose inspired comment is prominently published by the New York Herald:

“A supernatural illness, or a microbe, called down by the Egyptian priests, could have provoked the troubles which led to the death of Lord Carnavon.  Elsewhere, there have been numerous examples of warnings addressed to those who exhume mummies…”

And Sir Arthur cites the case “of the son of Sir William Ingram” who, having exhumed a mummy, had found on it an amulette with this inscription:

“The person who touches me will be condemned to an early death, and his bones will never be buried.”

Sir Arthur affirms:

“Shortly afterwards, Ingram was killed during a hunt in Somalia and his body was swept away in the sudden flooding of a river before there had been time to bury it.”

Another element of choice for amateurs of the fantastic:  the blackout which plunged the Continental Hotel into obscurity at the precise moment of Lord Carnavon’s death.  The very next day, Carnavon’s son, Lord Porchester – who is from then on known as the sixth Earl of Carnavon – goes to the Embassy of Great Britain to accomplish the administrative formalities of the death.  Lord Allenby reveals to him that the whole of Cairo had been victim of this bizarre electrical failure.  Bizarre is the word:  an enquiry, led by the English Director of the Cairo Electrical Services, gives no result.  No-one was ever able to find any satisfactory technical explanation.  However, the reality of this failure is indisputable.  It is not possible to doubt the word of Lord Porchester and Lord Allenby.  We know, today, that electrical supply to a big city can be subject to these sorts of caprices.  Like the famous New York blackout, one evening in 1965, whose causes were never elucidated, either.  In the absence of pharaohs, the Americans incriminated, according to their temperaments, or their political convictions, the Russians, the Chinese, the African Americans… or the Martians.

From this moment, the “mystics”, to quote the New York Herald, let themselves go.  A thousand little incidents, which had gone unnoticed, resurge and are interpreted as destiny’s warnings.

There’s the story of Carter’s canary.  It was his only companion, apart from the searchers who were helping him at the digs.  He had brought it with him from a trip to England.  When the tomb was opened and he spent days working underground, Carter installed the canary’s cage at the top of the staircase.  One day, a cobra passed its head through the bars and swallowed the canary.  A cobra again…  The sacred serpent that had been found everywhere inside the tomb, on the headdresses of the statues and even on the gilded wooden chest containing Tutankhamun’s internal organs…  Doesn’t it symbolise the Pharaoh’s “guardian spirit” which has always had the mission of destroying his enemies?  There can be no doubt:  Carter’s canary had been the first victim of Tutankhamun’s vengeance!

After Carter’s canary, Carnavon’s dog…  It had remained in England after its master’s trip to London and Brussels, in December 1922.  On the night of Lord Carnavon’s death – it’s Lord Porchester who affirms it – the dog starts to howl.  Then it collapses, as if struck by lightning.

We can only report this fact, generally considered true, without being able to explain it.  However, it should be pointed out that stories of this kind abound in literature consecrated to relations between men and their closest domestic animals, dogs in particular.  It cannot be denied that there are sometimes, even between humans, strange cases of telepathy.  Who hasn’t heard of a mother suddenly waking up in the middle of the night because she has dreamed that her son is in danger, and learning the next day that he has indeed had an accident at that precise moment?  The most serious scholars hesitate to definitively class these bizarre episodes in the category of pseudo-scientific nonsense.  The domain of the spirit and its eventual influence on matter is still filled with unknown, without it being necessary, to try to explain it, to call upon supernatural influences, either beneficial or malevolent.  The day after Lord Carnavon’s death, it was of course very tempting and easy to attribute the death of the dog to the curse of the pharaohs.

Lord Carnavon

In accordance with his wishes, Lord Carnavon is buried at Bacon Hill, in the family domain of Highclere, in the middle of a lawn planted with Lebanon cedars.  In a tomb of white marble, at the top of a hill where he had undertaken digs.  The Carnavon manor, of neo-gothic style, like hundreds of others in the English countryside, contains no souvenir of the Egyptian adventure crowned by the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb.  Did his wife, Lady Carnavon, fear to conserve some malevolent relic?  She has not left the slightest Egyptian souvenir.  The collections, the photographs of Lord Carnavon were rapidly dispersed to the winds by auctions throughout the United States.

***

Completely unworried, Howard Carter shrugs his shoulders when the curse is evoked in front of him.  In any case, he is in perfect health.

However, the archaeologist Lafleur, who arrives in April 1923, succumbs to a mysterious illness, a few weeks later.

To be continued.

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