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SATAN'S DAUGHTER

By E. HOFFMANN PRICE

WHEN Morton Reed, unaided except for a leather-faced, white-bearded Arab servant, began to dig in an unpromising spot half a dozen miles from Koyunjik, his fellow archeologists devoted their spare moments to helpful mockery; but they remained to marvel when Reed uncovered a buried city where every tradition claimed there should be nothing of the kind.

And inevitably the big American universities chiseled in on the discovery; which perhaps was no great imposition, as Reed's only resources were his lean, bronzed hands, and enthusiasm that gleamed from his deep-set, dark eyes to relieve the grimness of his gaunt, angular face. One man can't excavate an entire city.

STANDING on the crest of a mound near the now crowded excavations, Reed watched a hundred sweating natives dragging a monstrous winged and human-headed bull from the oblivion of forty centuries. He smiled ironically, nestled in the crook of his arm a small parcel wrapped in a grimy turban cloth, spat contemptuously, and turned his back on the diggers.

"Let them have that rubbish," he muttered, striding toward his shabby tent at the further crest of the mound. "I've got mine."

A necromancer is one whose magic art makes the dead speak. An archeologist is one whose spade uncovers forgotten centuries. Sometimes the distinction between the two becomes dismayingly thin.

Once in his tent, Reed examined his prize. It was a green basalt image of a woman standing on the back of a lion. She wore a tall tiara, and her delicately aquiline Semitic features were sweetened by the shadow of a smile that lurked at the corners of her sensuous mouth. That vague, disquieting smile made Reed feel as though he had exhumed some living thing.

Her body was a suave succession of curves, and about her waist was a broad girdle from which trailed carved pendants reaching well past her hips.

On the foot of the pedestal was a cuneiform inscription; but a wrathful muttering from the rear distracted Reed's pondering on the text.

"I betake me to Allah for refuge against Satan," growled old Habeeb, Reed's Arab servant. He fingered the blue amulet that he had worn suspended about his neck ever since they had begun excavating.

Reed recognized the symptoms of superstitious terror.

"What's the trouble now?" he brusquely demanded.

"Throw the accursed thing away, sahib," muttered the Arab. "That is the image of Bint el Hareth."

That meant, literally, Daughter of Satan—El Hareth was the name by which the angels called their renegade brother.

"Cousin of a jackass," retorted Reed in Arabic, "that is only the lady they used to call Anaitis, a couple of thousand years before Mohammad made the world safe for the one true God."

But old Habeeb muttered and cursed as he, collected dry camel dung for the evening's fire.

Master and servant ate in silence.

Habeeb was thinking of Bint el Hareth, the queen of demons, who rode by moonlight attended by myriads of seductive, night-prowling lilin, whose whisperings lure solitary travelers into the trackless desert to their doom. Reed was equally perturbed, but for another reason: he would have to guard his treasure day and night, lest the otherwise faithful and devoted Arab destroy it.

AS SOON as he had swallowed the last savory morsel of pilau, Reed stretched his weary length on the thick-napped Mosul rug spread on the dirt floor of his tent. He watched Habeeb descending the slope toward the campfires of the archeologists' native workmen. From afar came the mutter of a drum, and the monotonous reiteration of the old song about what happens to the wandering dervish when he met the sultan's forty daughters...

But that, reflected Reed as he again regarded his green basalt treasure, would be nothing to a meeting with the model who centuries ago had posed for this image of Bint el Hareth—

Then he cursed that chanting in the distance. They had changed to a new song. One that Reed had never before heard in all his wanderings. A sensuous, seductive rhythm, for all the crudity of the hoarse voices that blended to produce it. Reed caught himself nodding to that disturbing cadence. It reminded him of silk and white flesh and all that an archeologist abandons—

It seemed finally as though something age-old and evil and alluring had begun to whisper to him in the undertones of that barbarous melody.

Then, suddenly, he realized that he was listening to music that could come from no group of Arab laborers. He sensed that he was no longer alone.

The full moon was rising over the low-lying knolls beyond the Tigris. Something was advancing through the moon glamor toward the entrance of his tent. A woman wearing a tall, glistening tiara. Her shapely body was a succession of fluent, rippling curves that smiled through a gown that left him wondering whether its fragile fabric could endure even a breath of evening breeze.

A native girl. Her flesh was a warm, rosy amber, and he caught the glint of moonlight in her incredibly large, dark eyes. They were dark and sombre, and the fascinating sweetness of her face was subdued by the wistful, almost melancholy mouth.

Reed's eyes strayed down the gracious lines of her throat, and the firm, full blossoming breasts and inward sweep of her waist. He caught his breath, and for an instant cold thrills overwhelmed the warmth that had surged through his veins.

Beneath the gossamer that rippled with the sway of h...

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