Tales of Terror and Mystery HTML version

The New Catacomb
"Look here, Burger," said Kennedy, "I do wish that you would confide in me."
The two famous students of Roman remains sat together in Kennedy's comfortable room
overlooking the Corso. The night was cold, and they had both pulled up their chairs to the
unsatisfactory Italian stove which threw out a zone of stuffiness rather than of warmth.
Outside under the bright winter stars lay the modern Rome, the long, double chain of the
electric lamps, the brilliantly lighted cafes, the rushing carriages, and the dense throng
upon the footpaths. But inside, in the sumptuous chamber of the rich young English
archaelogist, there was only old Rome to be seen. Cracked and timeworn friezes hung
upon the walls, grey old busts of senators and soldiers with their fighting heads and their
hard, cruel faces peered out from the corners. On the centre table, amidst a litter of
inscriptions, fragments, and ornaments, there stood the famous reconstruction by
Kennedy of the Baths of Caracalla, which excited such interest and admiration when it
was exhibited in Berlin. Amphorae hung from the ceiling, and a litter of curiosities
strewed the rich red Turkey carpet. And of them all there was not one which was not of
the most unimpeachable authenticity, and of the utmost rarity and value; for Kennedy,
though little more than thirty, had a European reputation in this particular branch of
research, and was, moreover, provided with that long purse which either proves to be a
fatal handicap to the student's energies, or, if his mind is still true to its purpose, gives
him an enormous advantage in the race for fame. Kennedy had often been seduced by
whim and pleasure from his studies, but his mind was an incisive one, capable of long
and concentrated efforts which ended in sharp reactions of sensuous languor. His
handsome face, with its high, white forehead, its aggressive nose, and its somewhat loose
and sensual mouth, was a fair index of the compromise between strength and weakness in
his nature.
Of a very different type was his companion, Julius Burger. He came of a curious blend, a
German father and an Italian mother, with the robust qualities of the North mingling
strangely with the softer graces of the South. Blue Teutonic eyes lightened his sun-
browned face, and above them rose a square, massive forehead, with a fringe of close
yellow curls lying round it. His strong, firm jaw was clean-shaven, and his companion
had frequently remarked how much it suggested those old Roman busts which peered out
from the shadows in the corners of his chamber. Under its bluff German strength there
lay always a suggestion of Italian subtlety, but the smile was so honest, and the eyes so
frank, that one understood that this was only an indication of his ancestry, with no actual
bearing upon his character. In age and in reputation, he was on the same level as his
English companion, but his life and his work had both been far more arduous. Twelve
years before, he had come as a poor student to Rome, and had lived ever since upon some
small endowment for research which had been awarded to him by the University of
Bonn. Painfully, slowly, and doggedly, with extraordinary tenacity and single-
mindedness, he had climbed from rung to rung of the ladder of fame, until now he was a
member of the Berlin Academy, and there was every reason to believe that he would