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The Da Vinci Code (chapter 78)

2006-07-07 18:05

  CHAPTER 78

  Sophie felt a wild excitement as she cradled the cryptex and began dialing in the letters. An ancient word of wisdom frees this scroll. Langdon and Teabing seemed to have stopped breathing as they looked on.

  S…… O…… F……

  “Carefully,” Teabing urged. “Ever so carefully.”

  ……I…… A.

  Sophie aligned the final dial. “Okay,” she whispered, glancing up at the others. “I'm going to pull it apart.”

  “Remember the vinegar,” Langdon whispered with fearful exhilaration. “Be careful.”

  Sophie knew that if this cryptex were like those she had opened in her youth, all she would need to do is grip the cylinder at both ends, just beyond the dials, and pull, applying slow, steady pressure in opposite directions. If the dials were properly aligned with the password, then one of the ends would slide off, much like a lens cap, and she could reach inside and remove the rolled papyrus document, which would be wrapped around the vial of vinegar. However, if the password they had

  entered were incorrect, Sophie's outward force on the ends would be transferred to a hinged lever inside, which would pivot downward into the cavity and apply pressure to the glass vial, eventually shattering it if she pulled too hard.

  Pull gently, she told herself.

  Teabing and Langdon both leaned in as Sophie wrapped her palms around the ends of the cylinder. In the excitement of deciphering the code word, Sophie had almost forgotten what they expected to find inside. This is the Priory keystone. According to Teabing, it contained a map to the Holy Grail, unveiling the tomb of Mary Magdalene and the Sangreal treasure…… the ultimate treasure trove of secret truth.

  Now gripping the stone tube, Sophie double-checked that all of the letters were properly aligned with the indicator. Then, slowly, she pulled. Nothing happened. She applied a little more force. Suddenly, the stone slid apart like a well-crafted telescope. The heavy end piece detached in her hand. Langdon and Teabing almost jumped to their feet. Sophie's heart rate climbed as she set the end cap on the table and tipped the cylinder to peer inside.

  A scroll!

  Peering down the hollow of the rolled paper, Sophie could see it had been wrapped around a cylindrical object-the vial of vinegar, she assumed. Strangely, though, the paper around the vinegar was not the customary delicate papyrus but rather, vellum. That's odd, she thought, vinegar can't dissolve a lambskin vellum. She looked again down the hollow of the scroll and realized the object in the center was not a vial of vinegar after all. It was something else entirely.

  “What's wrong?” Teabing asked. “Pull out the scroll.”

  Frowning, Sophie grabbed the rolled vellum and the object around which it was wrapped, pulling them both out of the container.

  “That's not papyrus,” Teabing said. “It's too heavy.”

  “I know. It's padding.”

  “For what? The vial of vinegar?”

  “No.” Sophie unrolled the scroll and revealed what was wrapped inside. “For this.”

  When Langdon saw the object inside the sheet of vellum, his heart sank.

  “God help us,” Teabing said, slumping. “Your grandfather was a pitiless architect.”

  Langdon stared in amazement. I see Saunière has no intention of making this easy.

  On the table sat a second cryptex. Smaller. Made of black onyx. It had been nested within the first. Saunière's passion for dualism. Two cryptexes. Everything in pairs. Double entendres. Male female. Black nested within white. Langdon felt the web of symbolism stretching onward. White gives birth to black.

  Every man sprang from woman.

  White-female.

  Black-male.

  Reaching over, Langdon lifted the smaller cryptex. It looked identical to the first, except half the size and black. He heard the familiar gurgle. Apparently, the vial of vinegar they had heard earlier was inside this smaller cryptex.

  “Well, Robert,” Teabing said, sliding the page of vellum over to him.

  “You'll be pleased to hear that at least we're flying in the right direction.”

  Langdon examined the thick vellum sheet. Written in ornate penmanship was another four-line verse. Again, in iambic pentameter. The verse was cryptic, but Langdon needed to read only as far as the first line to realize that Teabing's plan to come to Britain was going to pay off.

  IN LONDON LIES A KNIGHT A POPE INTERRED.

  The remainder of the poem clearly implied that the password for opening the second cryptex could be found by visiting this knight's tomb, somewhere in the city.

  Langdon turned excitedly to Teabing. “Do you have any idea what knight this poem is referring to?”

  Teabing grinned. “Not the foggiest. But I know in precisely which crypt we should look.”

  At that moment, fifteen miles ahead of them, six Kent police cars streaked down rain-soaked streets toward Biggin Hill Executive Airport.

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