The Ship of Ishtar, by Abraham Merritt

PART VI

31 The Ship Goes

KENTON stood there, half in stupor seeing less the room than swift fleeting pictures of that last battle. A bell struck three times.

Three o’clock! Of course . . . this was a world of time . . . not like the world of the ship . . .

The ship!

He staggered over to the shining mystery that had given him everything he had desired of life — and at the end had taken everything away.

Sharane!

There she lay . . . on the ivory deck . . . close to the rowers’ pit . . . a gleaming toy, a jeweled puppet with hilt of tiny dagger in breast . . .

Sharane who had held for him all joy, all sweetnesses, all desirable delicious things.

The headless manikin so close to her —

Klaneth!

He looked upon the black deck — why, where were all the dead? There on the rubber platform lay only three puppets, one with yellow hair and battered armor. Sigurd and the two warrior maids who had fought beside him! But where were the soldiers they had slain?

And there beyond the headless body of the black priest . . . was Gigi! Gigi with his great arms a-sprawl and his dwarf legs doubled under him! His dead — they too were gone!

Gigi! Kenton’s hand left Sharane, caressed him.

An agony bit deep into his side. It brought him to his knees. He thrust down his hand and clutched a feathered shaft. The arrow! Suddenly he knew that life was ebbing fast.

Beneath the other hand he felt the ship tremble. He stared at it, bewildered. In that brief moment of agony its bow had vanished, melted away — and with it the rosy cabin!

The ship lurched. As cabin had gone, so went the ivory deck almost up to the rowers’ pit and with it — Gigi!

“Sharane!” he sobbed and gripped the puppet tight. “Beloved!”

The ship crumbled to within an inch of where the toy lay.

“Sharane!” wailed Kenton — and above him the servants wakened to that heartbroken cry and came hurrying to his door.

He threw the last of his strength into his fingers, wrenched at the toy . . . it was loose . . . in his hand . . . he raised it to his lips . . .

And now where the ship had been was nothing but the oblong base of pearl-crested, lapis lazuli waves!

He knew what that meant. Down into the depths of the strange sea of that other world had gone the bireme, dragging with it as it went the Ship of Ishtar. As fared the symbol, so must fare the ship — and as the ship fared, so must fare the symbol. And had so fared!

There was a hammering at the door, and cries. He gave them no heed.

“Sharane!” they heard him cry, but now with voice that sang with joy.

Kenton fell forward, the toy woman at his lips, gripped tight in stiffening hand.

The base of little waves dissolved. Where ship and it had been something stirred and took form — a shadowy great bird with silver wings and breast and feet and bill of scarlet. It arose. It hovered over Kenton.

A dove of Ishtar.

It hovered — and was gone.

In crashed the door; the servants clustered at the threshold, peering into the darkened room.

“Mr. John!” quavered old Jevins. There was no answer.

“There’s something there — on the floor! Turn on the light!” whispered one.

The electrics gleamed upon a body stretched face down upon a bloodstained rug; a body in cut and torn mail dyed crimson; in its side the shaft of a black arrow; on one strong arm a wide bracelet of gold. Back from that body they shrank, looking at each other with fearful wondering eyes.

One bolder than the others advanced, turned the still form over.

Kenton’s dead face smiled up at them, peace upon it and a great happiness.

“Mr. John!” wept old Jevins, and kneeling lifted the head in his arms.

“What’s he got in his hand?” whispered a servant. The hand was at Kenton’s lips, clenched. They pried open the stubborn fingers.

But Kenton’s hand was —

Empty!

This web edition published by:

eBooks@Adelaide
The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/m/merritt/abraham/ship/chapter6.html

Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 23:09