A Roman Resurrection can be found in




ISFDB.org Magazine Entry



Famous FANTASTIC Mysteries

AUGUST, 1942

By LEE MERIWETHER

As the steam issued from the engine's exhaust, Flaccus sprang back, unmanned by fright

A Roman Resurrection

ON THE 3rd of June Professor Horace D. Jones, of Yates University, made a discovery which not only caused him to abandon his trip to Switzerland, but determined him to wire his nephew, Mr. Jack Hornsby, to join him in Pompeii.

Now Jack Hornsby, although as enthusiastic about antiquities as his uncle, did not relish the idea of going to Pompeii.

In the first place, the dead Roman city is decidedly hot in summer; in the second place, Jack was having the pleasantest sort of time in Switzerland. The Countess Julia Stefani was there, and during his two winters in Rome young Hornsby had come to think the Countess Julia the loveliest woman he had ever seen.

She had a curious hobby; she pored over the writings of Pythagoras and declared implicit belief in that old philosopher's theory of reincarnation and multiple lives. Indeed, Julia asserted that she herself had lived previously, and professed to have vague recollections of ancient Rome and of the court of the Emperor Nero.

But all this Jack Hornsby put down as a girlish fancy and did not allow it to lessen his admiration or alter his determination to make her his wife. Consequently Professor Jones' telegram did not please him. He wired his uncle to know if Pompeii could not wait until fall, but received the following reply:

Don't delay coming by a single day. Have made marvelous discovery. Want you to assist in experiment

Jones.

Jack knew his uncle would not send such a wire unless the matter were urgent, so bidding the Countess Julia goodby, he took the night express for Naples, and thirty-six hours later was on the station platform at Pompeii, where his uncle greeted him with:

"Hello, Jack. You don't know how glad I am to see you. I've made a find that will set the whole world talking. Give your grip to Luigi. He will take it up to the villa."

"What villa, Uncle Horace? Aren't you stopping at the hotel?"

"No, my boy. By special license I am staying inside the walls of Pompeii, which is how I came to make my discovery. Frank Carroll says when Rutherford Cox learns of it he will turn green with envy."

Frank Carroll was Professor Jones' secretary, and Rutherford Cox was connected with Lorrimore College, a rival of Yates University. Mr. Cox shared in the prejudice of his college against anything and everybody connected with Yates, and was much given to scoffing at Professor Jones and to belittling his pretentions to antiquarian learning.

"I hope Carroll is right," laughed Jack. "What is the discovery, Uncle Horace? If it will really silence old Rutherford Cox I'll not begrudge coming here in this beastly hot weather."

"Well, Cox will be silenced all right," returned the professor with a satisfied smile. "The thing seems incredible, yet I have faith in Pliny's word and am confidently expecting within the next few hours to hold converse with a gentleman who lived in the time of Nero."

Jack Hornsby stared at his uncle and the thought came to him that the old man's mind had been turned by overmuch delving in Pompeii's hot, mouldy ruins. But Professor Jones smiled cheerily and continued:

"Jack, I don't blame you for thinking me out of my senses; the proposition does seem preposterous, but, as Hamlet says, heaven and earth have more things than are dreamt of in philosophy. You admit, do you not, that the ancient Egyptians were skilled chemists?"

"Yes, but what have the Egyptians to do with your experiment? What are you driving at, Uncle Horace?"

"At this," replied the professor. "According to a manuscript signed by the celebrated historian Pliny which I dug up a few weeks ago an Egyptian named Cambaces succeeded in the year 69 A.D. in brewing a liquid that possessed the property of suspending the body's physical functions. These once suspended, would not all wear and tear on the human system cease? The workings of the heart, lungs, pulse, etc., once stopped, would not waste of tissue stop?

"That, my boy, is the theory upon which Pliny and Cambaces proceeded, and I am free to say that under such conditions it seems logical to me to conclude that the body would remain unchanged, and that renewed life would be merely a matter of finding an antidote to the liquid that put at rest the physical organism. Pliny's manuscript says that Cambaces brewed such drops, together with their antidote, and that he, Pliny, conducted an experiment upon a certain nobleman who was condemned bv Nero to cut himself off from fire and water. You know, that was the Roman way of telling a man to die."

"Well, did the Roman nobleman prove himself an obedient subject and obey Nero's command?" asked Jack.

"No. He only pretended to obey. Plim says Cambaces gave him the drops of 'Eternal Life,' and after his apparent death the nobleman was put in the Pliny tomb near Pompeii's western gate."

"Surely, uncle, you don't take this seriously?" said Jack.

"But I do," returned the professor. "And so will you when you see the nobleman's body."

THEY were entering the inclined tunnel which forms the main entrance to Pom peii; a few yards to their right was the museum filled with curious specimens excavated from the ruins of the buried city during the past hundred years. One of these relics is the image of a beautiful girl, an image made by the volcano's ashes, which covered the girl's face and figure, making a perfect mold and preserving the graceful curves and lines of her body for the admiration of posterity.

"That girl was considered a wonderful find," continued the professor, "but she is nothing compared with what I have dis covered."

"Do you mean to say you have found the nobleman's body?"

"I have indeed. On coming here I established myself in the ruins of a villa which from inscriptions on the walls and from manuscripts in the basement I feel certain once belonged to Pliny. Apart from the fact that the roof is gone (a defect easily reme died by stretching a canvas across between the tops of the walls), the villa is perfecth preserved, and I have been quite as com fortable as was its former master before the great eruption.

"The manuscript was found the first week after my arrival, and the search for the sleep ing Roman three days ago when the iron pick of one of my workmen broke through a crust of lava and revealed the pallid face of a handsome voung fellow apparently not over twenty-four years old.

"His features were finely chiseled and his flesh was as firm to the touch as the flesh of a living man. The wooden sarcophagus contained a parchment wrapped around a vial filled with amber drops. This parchment gave directions how to administer the drops, and I could have performed the experiment without delay had I not wished to have you present. That is why I wired you to leave Switzerland and the Countess Stefani and come here at once."

In spite of the extravagance of this story Jack was deeply interested.

"Uncle Horace," he said, "if one hall you tell me is true I'll never be able to thank you enough for wiring me to come. I would leave Switzerland and a dozen sweethearts to take part in such an experiment. But tell me, are you sure this body and parchment were not planted' by a practical joker? Rutherford Cox is capable of anything to injure you. Think how humiliating it would be were you to make a report to the Antiquarian Society about this wonderful discovery, and then have it turn out all a fake."

"I have thought of that, but the circumstances utterly preclude such an hypothesis." answered the professor.

"Why?" insisted Jack.

"Because, while it might have been pos sible for Cox to plant the manuscript which I found in the villa, it was not possible for him or for anyone else to plant the body which I found in the Pliny tomb. The sarcophagus was so deeply embedded undei the lava that I am willing to swear it was put in that tomb before Pompeii was destroyed by Vesuvius."

A quarter of an hour's walk through the dead city's desolate streets brought the two Americans to Pliny's villa, and there, propped up against the wall in a wooden sarcophagus, Jack saw the face of the sleeping Roman.

So wonderful and interesting was the sight he could hardly take his eyes off it, and Professor Jones had to pluck him bv the sleeve three times before he could se cure his attention.

"Come, Jack," he said. "We ...

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