Dennis Wheatley

                        "The Devil Rides Out"

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                                  *

                         First published by
                Hutchinson & Co (Publishers) Ltd 1934
                      First Arrow edition 1954
                       Second impression 1958
                        Third impression 1958
                       Fourth impression 1959
                        Fifth impression 1963
                        Sixth impression 1964
                       Seventh impression 1965
                       Eighth impression 1966
                        Ninth impression 1968
                     This new edition June 1969
                       Reprinted November 1969
                      Reprinted September 1970


              This book is published at a net price and
           supplied subject to the Publishers Association
             Standard Condition of Sale registered under
              The Restrictive Trade Practices Act 1956


                      Made and printed in Great
                             Britain by
                     Hunt Barnard Printing Ltd.,
                          Aylesbury, Bucks
                         THE DEVIL RIDES OUT

                                  *

                    The  Devil  Rides  Out  is  a
                    Black  Magic story by  Dennis
                    Wheatley,  who  writes:   'I,
                    personally,    have     never
                    assisted  at, or participated
                    in,  any  ceremony  connected
                    with  Magic-Black  or  White.
                    Should   any  of  my  readers
                    incline to a serious study of
                    the  subject  and  thus  come
                    into  contact with a  man  or
                    woman  of Power, I feel  that
                    it  is  only  right  to  urge
                    them,   most   strongly,   to
                    refrain from being drawn info
                    the  practice of  the  Secret
                    Art   in  any  way.  My   own
                    observations have led  me  to
                    an  absolute conviction  that
                    to  do  so  would bring  them
                    into  dangers of a very  real
                    and concrete nature.'




                              Contents

1.  The Incomplete Reunion
2.  The Curious Guests of Mr. Simon Aron
3.  The Esoteric Doctrine
4.  The Silent House
5.  Embodied Evil
6.  The Secret Art
7.  De Richleau Plans a Campaign
8.  Rex Van Ryn Opens the Attack
9.  The Countess D'Urfe Talks of Many Curious Things
10. Tanith Proves Stubborn
11. The Truth Will Always Out
12. The Grim Prophecy
13. The Defeat of Rex Van Ryn
14. The Duke de Richleau Takes the Field
15. The Road to the Sabbat
16. The Sabbat
17. Evil Triumphant
18. The Power of Light
19. The Ancient Sanctuary
20. The Four Horsemen
21. Cardinals Folly
22. The Satanist
23. The Pride of Peacocks
24. The Scepticism of Richard Eaton
25. The Talisman of Set
26. Rex Learns of the Undead
27. Within the Pentacle
28. Necromancy
29. Simon Aron Takes a View
30. Out Into the Fog
31. The Man With the Jagged Ear
32. The Gateway of the Pit
33. Death of a Man Unknown, From Natural Causes



                          To my old friend

                            MERVYN BARON

                  of  whom, in these days, I see
                  far   too  little  but   whose
                  companionship,  both  in  good
                  times and in bad, has been  to
                  me a never-failing joy.
                                            D.W.

                            Author's Note

    I  desire  to state that I, personally, have never assisted  at,
or  participated  in,  any ceremony connected  with  Magic-Black  or
White.
    The   literature   of   occultism  is  so   immense   that   any
conscientious  writer can obtain from it abundant material  for  the
background of a romance such as this.
    In  the  present case I have spared no pains to secure  accuracy
of  detail from existing accounts when describing magical  rites  or
formulas  for protection against evil, and these have been  verified
in  conversation with certain persons, sought out for  that  purpose
who are actual practitioners of the Art.
    All  the  characters and situations in this  book  are  entirely
imaginary  but,  in the inquiry necessary to the writing  of  it,  I
found  ample evidence that Black Magic is still practised in London,
and other cities, at the present day.
  Should  any  of  my  readers incline to a  serious  study  of  the
subject, and thus come into contact with a man or woman of Power,  I
feel  that it is only right to urge them, most strongly, to  refrain
from being drawn into the practice of the Secret Art in any way.  My
own observations have led me to an absolute conviction that to do so
would bring them into dangers of a very real and concrete nature.

                                                    Dennis Wheatley

                                  1

                       The Incomplete Reunion

  The  Duke  de Richleau and Rex Van had gone in to dinner at  eight
o'clock, but coffee was not served tilt after ten.
  An  appetite in keeping with his mighty frame had enabled Van  Ryn
to  do  ample  justice to each well-chosen course and,  as  was  his
custom each time the young American arrived in England, the Duke had
produced  his  finest wines for this, their reunion  dinner  at  his
flat.
  A  casual  observer  might  well  have  considered  it  a  strange
friendship, but despite their difference in age and race, appearance
and tradition, a real devotion existed between the two.
  Some  few  years earlier Rex's foolhardiness had landed him  in  a
Soviet  prison,  and  the elderly French exile  had  put  aside  his
peaceful  existence as art connoisseur and dilettante to search  for
him  in  Russia. Together they had learned the dangerous  secret  of
'The  Forbidden Territory' and travelled many thousand verts pursued
by the merciless agents of the Ogpu.
     There  had  been  others too in that strange adventure;  young
Richard  Eaton,  and  the little Princess Marie  Lou  whom  he  had
brought out of Russia as his bride; but as Rex accepted a long Hoyo
de  Monterrey from the cedar cabinet which the Duke's man presented
to  him  his thoughts were not of the Eatons, living now so happily
with  their little daughter Fleur in their lovely old country  home
near  Kidderminster. He was thinking of that third companion  whose
subtle  brain and shy, nervous courage had proved so great  an  aid
when they were hunted like hares through the length and breadth  of
Russia, the frail narrow-shouldered English Jew-Simon Aron.
  'What  could  possibly  have  kept  Simon  from  being  with  them
tonight,'  Rex was wondering. He had never failed before to  make  a
third  at these reunion dinners, and why had the Duke brushed  aside
his  inquiries  about  him  in such an  offhand  manner.  There  was
something  queer  behind  De Richleau's reticence,  and  Rex  had  a
feeling  that  for  all  his  host's easy  charm  and  bland,  witty
conversation something had gone seriously wrong.
  He  slowly revolved some of the Duke's wonderful old brandy  in  a
bowl-shaped glass, while he watched the servant preparing  to  leave
the room. Then, as the door closed, he set it down and addressed  De
Richleau almost abruptly.
  'Well, I'm thinking it's about time for you to spill the beans.'
  The  Duke  inhaled the first cloud of fragrant smoke from  another
of  those  long  Hoyos which were his especial pride,  and  answered
guardedly. 'Had you not better tell me Rex, to what particular beans
you refer?'
  'Simon  of  course!  For  years now the three  of  us  have  dined
together on my first night, each time I've come across, and you were
too  mighty  casual  to  be natural when I asked  about  him  before
dinner. Why isn't he here?'
  'Why,  indeed, my friend?' the Duke repeated, running the tips  of
his  fingers down his lean handsome face. 'I asked him, and told him
that  your  ship docked this morning, but he declined to  honour  us
tonight.'
  'Is he ill then?'
  'No, as far as I know he's perfectly well-at all events he was  at
his office today.'
  'He  must  have  had a date then that he couldn't scrap,  or  some
mighty urgent work. Nothing less could induce him to let us down  on
one of these occasions. They've become-well, in a way, almost sacred
to our friendship.'
  'On  the  contrary  he  is  at home alone  tonight.  He  made  his
apologies of course, something about resting for a Bridge Tournament
that starts:'
  'Bridge  Tournament my foot!' exclaimed Rex angrily.  'He'd  never
let  that interfere between us three-it sounds mighty fishy  to  me.
When did you see him last?'
  'About three months ago.'
  'What! But that's incredible. Now look here!' Rex thrust the  onyx
ash-tray  from  in front of him, and leaned across the  table.  'You
haven't quarrelled-have you?'
  De  Richleau shook his head. 'If you were my age, Rex, and had  no
children, then met two younger men who gave you their affection, and
had all the attributes you could wish for in your sons, how would it
be possible for you to quarrel with either of them?'
  'That's  so,  but three months is a whale of a while  for  friends
who  are accustomed to meet two or three times a week. I just  don't
get  this thing at all, and you're being a sight too reticent  about
it. Come on now-what do you know?'
  The  grey  eyes  of  almost piercing brilliance  which  gave  such
character  to  De Richleau's face, lit up. That,' he said  suddenly,
'is just the trouble. I don't know anything.'
  'But  you fear that, to use his own phrase, Simon's "in a muddle-a
really  nasty  muddle" eh? And you're a little hurt that  he  hasn't
brought his worry to you.'
  'To  whom else should he turn if not to one of us-and you were  in
the States.'
  'Richard  maybe,  he's an even older friend  of  Simon's  than  we
are.'
  'No.  I spent last week-end at Cardinals Folly and neither Richard
nor Marie Lou could tell me anything. They haven't seen him since he
went down to stay last Christmas and arrived with a dozen crates  of
toys for Fleur.'
  'How  like him!' Rex's gargantuan laugh rang suddenly through  the
room. 'I might have known the trunkful I brought over would be small
fry if you and Simon have been busy on that child.'
  'Well I can only conclude that poor Simon is "in a muddle" as  you
say, or he would never treat us all like this.'
  'But  what  sort of a muddle?' Rex brought his leg-of mutton  fist
crashing down on the table angrily. 'I can't think of a thing  where
he wouldn't turn to us.'
  'Money,'  suggested  the Duke, 'is the one  thing  that  with  his
queer  sensitive nature he might not care to discuss with  even  his
closest friends.'
     'I doubt it being that. My old man has a wonderful opinion  of
Simon's  financial  ability and he handles a  big  portion  of  our
interests on this side. I'm pretty sure we'd be wise to it if  he'd
burned  his fingers on the market. It sounds as if he'd  gone  bats
about some woman to me.'
     De Richleau's face was lit by his faintly cynical smile for  a
moment. 'No,' he said slowly. 'A man in love turns naturally to his
friends for congratulation or sympathy as his fortune with a  woman
proves good or ill. It can't be that.'
  For  a little the two friends sat staring at each other in silence
across  the low jade bowl with its trailing sprays of orchids:  Rex,
giant   shouldered,  virile  and  powerful,  his  ugly,  attractive,
humorous young face clouded with anxiety, the Duke, a slim, delicate-
looking  man,  somewhat about middle height, with  slender,  fragile
hands  and greying hair, but with no trace of weakness in his  fine,
distinguished  face.  His  aquiline nose, broad  forehead  and  grey
'devil's' eyebrows might well have replaced those of the cavalier in
the  Van Dyck that gazed down from the opposite wall. Instead of the
conventional  black, he wore a claret coloured vicuna smoking  suit,
with  silk  lapels  and  braided fastenings; this  touch  of  colour
increased  his  likeness  to  the portrait.  He  broke  the  silence
suddenly.
  'Have you by any chance ever heard of a Mr. Mocata, Rex?'
  'Nope. Who is he anyway?'
  'A  new friend of Simon's who has been staying with him these last
few months.'
  'What-at his Club?'
  'No-no, Simon no longer lives at his Club. I thought you knew.  He
bought a house last February, a big, rambling old place tucked  away
at  the  end  of  a  cul-de-sac off one of those  quiet  residential
streets in St. John's Wood.'
  'Why,  that's  right out past Regent's Park-isn't  it?  What's  he
want with a place out there when there are any number of nice little
houses to let in Mayfair?'
  'Another mystery, my friend.' The Duke's thin lips creased into  a
smile. 'He said he wanted a garden, that's all I can tell you.'
  'Simon!  A  garden!' Rex chuckled. 'That's a good story I'll  say.
Simon  doesn't know a geranium from a fuchsia. His botany is limited
to  an  outsized florist's bill for bunching his women friends  from
shops,  and  why should a bachelor like Simon start  running  a  big
house at all?'
  'Perhaps Mr. Mocata could tell you,' murmured De Richleau  mildly,
'or the queer servant that he has imported,'
  'Have you ever seen this bird-Mocata I mean?'
  'Yes,  I called one evening about six weeks ago. Simon was out  so
Mocata received me.'
  'And what did you make of him?'
  'I  disliked him intensely. He's a pot-bellied, bald-headed person
of about sixty, with large, protuberant, fishy eyes, limp hands, and
a most unattractive lisp. He reminded me of a large white slug.'
  'What about this servant that you mention?'
  'I  only  saw  him for a moment when he crossed the hall,  but  he
reminded  me in a most unpleasant way of the Bogey Man with  whom  I
used to be threatened in my infancy.'
  'Why, is he a black?'
  'Yes. A Malagasy I should think.'
  Rex frowned. 'Now what in heck is that?'
  'A  native  of  Madagascar. They are a curious people,  half-Negro
and  half-Polynesian. This great brute stands about six foot  eight,
and  the one glimpse I had of his eyes made me want to shoot him  on
sight. He's a "bad black" if ever I saw one, and I've travelled,  as
you know, in my time.'
  'Do you know any more about these people?' asked Rex grimly.
  'Not a thing.'
  'Well, I'm not given to worry, but I've heard quite enough to  get
me  scared  for  Simon. He's in some jam or he'd  never  be  housing
people like that.'
  The  Duke gently laid the long, blue-grey ash of his cigar in  the
onyx  ash-tray. 'There is not a doubt,' he said slowly, 'that  Simon
is involved in some very queer business, but I have been stifling my
anxiety  until  your arrival. You see I wanted to  hear  your  views
before  taking the very exceptional step of -yes butting  in-is  the
expression, on the private affairs of even so intimate a friend. The
question is now-what are we to do?'
  'Do!'  Rex thrust back his chair and drew himself up to  his  full
magnificent height. 'We're going up to that house to have  a  little
heart-to-heart talk with Simon-right now!'
     'I'm glad,' said De Richleau quietly, 'you feel like that,  be
cause I ordered the car for half past ten. Shall we go?'


                                  2

                The Curious Guests of Mr. Simon Aron

  As  De Richleau's Hispano drew up at the dead end of the dark cul-
de-sac  in  St. John's Wood, Rex slipped out of the car  and  looked
about  him.  They  were  shut in by the high walls  of  neighbouring
gardens  and,  above  a blank expanse of brick in  which  a  single,
narrow  door  was visible, the upper stones of Simon's house  showed
vague and mysterious among whispering trees.
  'Ugh!'  he exclaimed with a little shudder as a few drops splashed
upon  his  face  from  the dark branches overhead.  'What  a  dismal
hole-we might be in a graveyard.'
  The  Duke pressed the bell, and turning up the sable collar of his
coat  against a slight drizzle which made the April night seem chill
and  friendless, stepped back to get a better view of the  premises.
'Hello!  Simon's  got an observatory here,' he remarked.  'I  didn't
notice that on my previous visit.'
  'So  he  has.' Rex followed De Richleau's glance to  a  dome  that
crowned  the  house, but at that moment an electric  globe  suddenly
flared  into life about their heads, and the door in the wall  swung
open disclosing a sallow-faced manservant in dark livery.
  'Mr.  Simon  Aron?' inquired De Richleau, but the man was  already
motioning  them  to enter, so they followed him up a  short  covered
path and the door in the wall clanged to behind them,
  The  vestibule of the house was dimly lit, but Rex, who never wore
a  coat  or  hat  in the evening, noticed that two sets  of  outdoor
apparel  lay, neatly folded, on a long console table as  the  silent
footman  relieved De Richleau of his wraps. Evidently  friend  Simon
had other visitors.
  'Maybe  Mr.  Aron's in conference and won't want to be disturbed,'
he  said to the sallow-faced servant with a sudden feeling of  guilt
at  their intrusion. Perhaps, after all, their fears for Simon  were
quite  groundless and his neglect only due to a prolonged period  of
intense activity on the markets, but the man only bowed and led them
across the hall.
  'The  fellow's  a mute,' whispered the Duke. 'Deaf  and  dumb  I'm
certain,'  As  he  spoke the servant flung open a  couple  of  large
double doors and stood waiting for them to enter.
  A  long, narrow room, opening into a wide salon, stretched  before
them.  Both were decorated in the lavish magnificence of  the  Louis
Seize  period,  but  for the moment the dazzling brilliance  of  the
lighting prevented them taking in the details of the parquet floors,
the  crystal  mirrors, the gilded furniture and beautifully  wrought
tapestries.
  Rex was the first to recover and with a quick intake of breath  he
clutched De Richleau's arm. 'By Jove she's here!' he muttered almost
inaudibly, his eyes riveted on a tall, graceful girl who stood  some
yards away at tbe entrance of the salon talking to Simon.
  Three  times in the last eighteen months he had chanced upon  that
strange, wise, beautiful face, with the deep eyes beneath heavy lids
that  seemed so full of secrets and gave the lovely face a curiously
ageless  look-so  that despite her apparent youth  she  was  as  old
as-'Yes, as old as sin,' Rex caught himself thinking.
  He  had  seen her first in a restaurant in Budapest; months  later
again,  in a traffic jam when his car was wedged beside hers in  New
York,  and  then, strangely enough, riding along a road  with  three
men,   in   the  country  ten  miles  outside  Buenos   Aires.   How
extraordinary that he should find her here-and what luck. He  smiled
quickly at the thought that Simon could not fail to introduce him.
  De  Richleau's  glance  was riveted upon  their  friend.  With  an
abrupt  movement Simon turned towards them. For a second  he  seemed
completely at a loss, his full, sensual mouth hung open to twice its
normal  extent  and his receding jaw almost disappeared  behind  his
white  tie,  while  his  dark eyes were filled  with  amazement  and
something  suspiciously like fear, but he recovered almost instantly
and his old smile flashed out as he came forward to greet them.
  'My  dear Simon,' the Duke's voice was a silken purr. 'How can  we
apologise for breaking in on you like this?'
     'Sure,  we hadn't a notion you were throwing a party,'  boomed
Rex,  his  glance  following the girl who had  moved  off  to  join
another woman and three men who were talking together in the  inner
room.
  'But  I'm delighted,' murmured Simon genially. 'Delighted  to  see
you both-only got a few friends-meeting of a little society I belong
to-that's all.'
  Then  we  couldn't dream of interrupting you, could  we  Rex?'  De
Richleau demurred with well-assumed innocence.
  'Why,  certainly  not,  we wouldn't even  have  come  in  if  that
servant  of  yours  hadn't  taken us for  some  other  folks  you're
expecting.'  But  despite their apparent unwillingness  to  intrude,
neither of the two made any gesture of withdrawal and, mentally,  De
Richleau  gave  Simon full marks for the way in  which  he  accepted
their obviously unwelcome presence.
  'I'm  most  terribly  sorry about dinner  to-night,'  he  was  pro
claiming earnestly. 'Meant to rest for my bridge, I simply  have  to
these  days, to be any good-even forgot till six o'clock that I  had
these people coming.'
  'How  fortunate  for  you  Simon  that  your  larder  is  so  well
stocked.'  The  Duke could not resist the gentle dig as  his  glance
fell  on  a  long  buffet spread with a collation which  would  have
rivalled the cold table in any great hotel.
  'I  'phoned  Ferraro,' parried Simon glibly. "The  Berkeley  never
lets  me  down.  Would have asked you to drop in, but  er-with  this
meeting on I felt you'd be bored.'
  'Bored!  Not  a  bit,  but  we are keeping  you  from  your  other
guests.'  With  an airy gesture De Richleau waved his  hand  in  the
direction of the inner room.
  'Sure,'  agreed Rex heartily, as he laid a large hand  on  Simon's
arm  and  gently propelled him towards the salon. 'Don't  you  worry
about  us,  we'll just take a glass of wine off you and fade  away.'
His eyes were fixed again on the pale oval face of the girl.
  Simon's  glance flickered swiftly towards the Duke,  who  ignored,
with a guileless smile, his obvious reluctance for them to meet  his
other  friends, and noted with amusement that he avoided any  proper
introduction.
  'Er-er-two  very  old friends of mine,' he said, with  his  little
nervous  cough as he interchanged a swift look with a fleshy,  moon-
faced man whom De Richleau knew to be Mocata.
  'Well,  well, how nice,' the bald man lisped with unsmiling  eyes.
'It is a pleasure always to welcome any friends of Simon's.'
  De  Richleau  gave him a frigid bow and thought of  reminding  him
coldly that Simon's welcome was sufficient in his own house, but for
the  moment  it  was  policy to hide his antagonism  so  he  replied
politely  that  Mocata  was most kind, then,  with  the  ease  which
characterised  all  his movements, he turned  his  attention  to  an
elderly lady who was seated near by.
  She  was a woman of advanced age but fine presence, richly dressed
and  almost  weighed down with heavy jewellery. Between her  fingers
she  held  the  stub  of  a  fat cigar  at  which  she  was  puffing
vigorously.
  'Madame.' The Duke drew a case containing the long Hoyos from  his
pocket  and bent towards her. 'Your cigar is almost finished, permit
me to offer you one of mine.'
  She  regarded him for a moment with piercingly bright  eyes,  then
stretched out a fat, beringed hand. 'Sank you, Monsieur, I  see  you
are  a connoisseur.' With her beaked, parrot nose she sniffed at the
cigar  appreciatively.  'But  I have  not  seen  you  at  our  other
meetings, what ees your name?'
  'De Richleau, Madame, and yours?'
  'De  Richleau  I a maestro indeed.' She nodded heavily.  'Je  suis
Madame D'Urfe, you will 'ave heard of me.'
  'But  certainly.'  The Duke bowed again. 'Do you  think  we  shall
have a good meeting tonight?'
  'If  the  sky clears we should learn much,' answered the old  lady
cryptically.
  'Ho!  Ho!' thought the Duke. 'We are about to make use of  Simon's
observatory it seems. Good, let us learn more.' But before he  could
pump  the elderly Frenchwoman further, Simon deftly interrupted  the
conversation and drew him away.
  'So  you  have  taken  up  the study of  the  stars,  my  friend,'
remarked the Duke as his host led him to the buffet.
  'Oh,  er-yes. Find astronomy very interesting, you know. Have some
caviare?' Simon's eyes flickered anxiously towards Rex, who was deep
in conversation with the girl.
  As  he admired her burnished hair and slumbrous eyes, for a moment
the Duke was reminded of a Botticelli painting. She had, he thought,
that  angel look with nothing Christian in it peculiar to women born
out  of their time, the golden virgin to the outward eye whose veins
were filled with unlit fire. A rare cinquecento type who should have
lived  in  the Italy of the Borgias. Then he turned again to  Simon.
'It  was  because  of the observatory then that  you  acquired  this
house, I suppose?'
  'Yes.  You  must  come up one night and we'll watch  a  few  stars
together.'  Something of the old warmth had crept into Simon's  tone
and  he  was obviously in earnest as he offered the invitation,  but
the  Duke was not deceived into believing that he was welcome on the
present occasion.
  'Thank  you,  I should enjoy that,' he said promptly,  while  over
Simon's shoulder he studied the other two men who made up the party.
One,  a tall, fair fellow, stood talking to Mocata. His thin, flaxen
hair brushed flatly back, and whose queer, light eyes proclaimed him
an  Albino;  the  other, a stout man dressed in a  green  plaid  and
ginger  kilt, was walking softly up and down with his hands  clasped
behind  his back, muttering to himself inaudibly. His wild,  flowing
white hair and curious costume suggested an Irish bard.
  'Altogether  a  most unprepossessing lot,' thought the  Duke,  and
his  opinion  was not improved by three new arrivals. A  grave-faced
Chinaman wearing the robes of a Mandarin, whose slit eyes betrayed a
cold, merciless nature: a Eurasian with only one arm, the left,  and
a tall, thin woman with a scraggy throat and beetling eyebrows which
met across the bridge of her nose.
  Mocata  received them as though he were the host, but as the  tall
woman bore down on Simon he promptly left the Duke, who guessed that
the move was to get out of earshot. However, the lady's greeting  in
a high-pitched Middle Western accent came clearly to him.
  'Waal,  Simon, all excitement about what we'll learn  tonight?  It
should help a heap, this being your natal conjunction.'
  'Ha!  Ha!' said De Richleau to himself. 'Now I begin to understand
a  little and I like this party even less,' Then, with the  idea  of
trying  to  verify  his  surmise, he turned  towards  the  one-armed
Eurasian,   but   Simon-apparently  guessing  his  intention-quickly
excused  himself  to  the American woman, and  cut  off  the  Duke's
advance.
  'So,  my  young friend,' thought De Richleau, 'you mean to prevent
me  from  obtaining  any  further  information  about  this  strange
gathering, do you? Ail right! I'll twist your tail a little,' and he
remarked sweetly:
  'Did  you  say that you were interested in Astronomy or Astrology,
Simon? There is a distinct difference you know.'
  'Oh,  Astronomy,  of course.' Simon ran a finger  down  his  long,
beak-like  nose.  'It  is  nice  to see  you  again-have  some  more
champagne?'
  'Thank you, no, later perhaps.' The Duke smothered a smile  as  he
caught  Mocata,  who had overheard him, exchange a quick  look  with
Simon.
  'Wish  this were an ordinary meeting,' Simon said, a moment later,
with  an  uneasy  frown. Then I'd ask you to stay, but  we're  going
through the Society's annual balance-sheet tonight -and you and  Rex
not being members you know . . .'
  'Quite,  quite,  my  dear fellow, of course,' De  Richleau  agreed
amicably,  while to himself he thought, That's a nasty  fence  young
sly-boots  has put up for me, but I'll be damned if I  go  before  I
find  out  for certain what I came for.' Then he added in a cheerful
whisper:  'I should have gone before but Rex seems so interested  in
the young woman in green, I want to give him as long as possible.'
  'My  dear chap,' Simon protested, 'I feel horribly embarrassed  at
having to ask you to go at all.'
  A  fat,  oily-looking Babu in a salmon-pink turban  and  gown  had
just  arrived and was shaking hands with Mocata; behind him  came  a
red-faced Teuton, who suffered the deformity of a hare lip.
  Simon  stepped quickly forward again as the two advanced,  but  De
Richleau once more caught the first words which were snuffled out by
the hare-lipped man.
  'Well,  Abraham, wie geht es?' then there came the fulsome chuckle
of  the fleshy Indian. 'You must not call him that, it is unlucky to
do so before the great night.'
  The  devil  it  is!' muttered the Duke to himself, but  Simon  had
left  the  other two with almost indecent haste in order  to  rejoin
him,  so  he  said with a smile: 'I gather you are about to  execute
Deed Poll, my friend?'
  'Eh!' Simon exclaimed with a slight start.
  To change your name,' De Richleau supplemented.
  'Ner.'  He  shook  his  head rapidly as  he  uttered  the  curious
negative  that  he  often used. It came of his saying  'No'  without
troubling  to close the lips of his full mouth. 'Ner-that's  only  a
sort  of  joke  we have between us-a sort of initiation ceremony-I'm
not a full member yet.'
  'I  see, then you have ceremonies in your Astronomical Society-how
interesting!'
  As  he spoke De Richleau, out of the corner of his eye, saw Mocata
make  a  quick sign to Simon and then glance at the ormolu clock  on
the  mantelpiece;  so  to save his host the  awkwardness  of  having
actually  to request his departure, he exclaimed: 'Dear  mel  Twenty
past eleven, I had no idea it was so late. I must drag Rex away from
that lovely lady after all, I fear.'
  'Well, if you must go.' Simon looked embarrassed and worried,  but
catching  Mocata's eye again, he promptly led the way  over  to  his
other unwelcome guest.
  Rex  gave a happy grin as they came up. This is marvellous  Simon.
I've  been  getting  glimpses of this lady in  different  continents
these  two years past, and she seems to recall having seen  me  too.
It's  just  great that we should become acquainted at  last  through
you.'  Then he smiled quickly at the girl: 'May I present my  friend
De Richfeau? Duke, this is Miss Tanith.'
  De  Richleau  bent  over  her long, almost  transparent  hand  and
raised  it  to his lips. 'How unfortunate I am,' he said  with  old-
fashioned  gallantry, 'to be presented to you only in  time  to  say
good-bye,  and  perhaps gain your displeasure  by  taking  your  new
friend with me as well.'
  'But,' she regarded him steadily out of large, clear, amber  eyes.
Surely you do not depart before the ceremony?'
  'I  fear  we must. We are not members of your er-Circle  you  see,
only old friends of Simon's.'
  A  strange  look  of  annoyance and  uncertainty  crept  into  her
glance, and the Duke guessed that she was searching her mind for any
indiscretions she might have committed in her conversation with Rex.
Then  she shrugged lightly and, with a brief inclination of the head
which dismissed them both, turned coldly away.
  The  Duke  took  Simon's arm affectionately, as the three  friends
left  the  salon. 'I wonder,' he said persuasively,  'if  you  could
spare me just two minutes before we go-no more I promise you.'
  'Rather,  of  course.' Simon seemed now to have regained  his  old
joviality.  'I'll  never  forgive myself  for  missing  your  dinner
tonight-this  wretched  meeting-and I've seen  nothing  of  you  for
weeks. Now Rex is over we must throw a party together.'
  'We  will, we will,' De Richleau agreed heartily, 'but listen;  is
not Mars in conjunction with Venus tonight?'
  'Ner,'  Simon replied promptly. 'With Saturn, that's what  they've
all come to see.'
  'Ah,  Saturn! My Astronomy is so rusty, but I saw some mention  of
it  in the paper yesterday, and at one time I was a keen student  of
the  Stars. Would it be asking too much my dear fellow, to have just
one  peep at it through your telescope? We should hardly delay  your
meeting for five minutes.'
  Simon's  hesitation was barely perceptible before  he  nodded  his
bird-like  head  with vigorous assent. 'Um, that's all  right-  they
haven't  all  arrived yet-let's go up.' Then, with his hands  thrust
deep  in the trouser pockets of his exceedingly well-cut dress suit,
he  led  them  hurriedly through the hall and up  three  flights  of
stairs.'
  De  Richleau followed more slowly. Stairs were the one thing which
ruffled his otherwise equable temper and he had no desire to lose it
now.  By  the time he arrived in the lofty chamber, with Rex  behind
him, Simon had all the lights switched on.
  'Well  you've certainly gone in for it properly,' Rex remarked  as
he  surveyed the powerful telescope slanting to the roof and a whole
arsenal  of  sextants,  spheres and other  astrological  impedimenta
ranged about the room.
  'It's rather an exact science you see,' Simon volunteered.
  'Quite,'  agreed the Duke briefly. 'But I wonder, a  little,  that
you  should  consider  charts  of the Macrocosm  necessary  to  your
studies.
  'Oh,  those!'  Simon shrugged his narrow shoulders as  he  glanced
around  the  walls. 'They're only for fun-relics of the  Alchemistic
nonsense in the Middle Ages, but quite suitable for decoration.'
  'How  clever of you to carry out your scheme of decoration on  the
floor  as  well.' The Duke was thoughtfully regarding a five-pointed
star  enclosed  within  two circles between  which  numerous  mystic
characters in Greek and Hebrew had been carefully drawn.
  'Yes, good idea, wasn't it?' Simon tittered into his hand. It  was
the  familiar  gesture  which both his friends  knew  so  well,  yet
somehow his chuckle had not quite its usual ring.
  The  silence  that followed was a little awkward and  in  it,  all
three  plainly heard a muffled scratching noise that seemed to  come
from a large wicker basket placed against the wall.
  'You've  got mice here, Simon,' said Rex casually, but De Richleau
had  stiffened where he stood. Then, before Simon could bar his way,
he leapt towards the hamper and ripped open the lid.
  'Stop  that!' cried Simon angrily, and dashing forward  he  forced
it shut again, but too late, for within the basket the Duke had seen
two living pinioned fowls-a black cock and a white hen.
  With  a  sudden  access  of bitter fury he turned  on  Simon,  and
seizing him by his silk lapels, shook him as a terrier shakes a rat.
'You  fool,'  he thundered. 'I'd rather see you dead than  monkeying
with Black Magic.'


                                  3

                        The Esoteric Doctrine

  'Take-take your hands off me,' Simon gasped.
  His  dark  eyes blazed in a face that had gone deathly  white  and
only  a  superhuman  effort enabled him to keep his  clenched  fists
pressed to his sides.
  In  another  second he would have hit the Duke, but  Rex,  a  head
taller  than  either of them, laid a mighty hand on the shoulder  of
each and forced them apart.
  'Have  a  heart  now, just what is all this?' His quiet,  familiar
voice,  with  its  faint  American intonation,  sobered  the  others
immediately  and De Richleau, swinging on his heel,  strode  to  the
other side of the observatory, where he stood for a moment, with his
back towards them, regaining control of his emotions.
  Simon,  panting  a little, gave a quick, nervous  wriggle  of  his
bird-like head and smoothed out the lapels of his evening coat.
  'Now-I'll  tell  you,' he said jerkily, 'I never asked  either  of
you  to come here tonight, and even my oldest friends have no  right
to butt in on my private-affairs. I think you'd better go.'
  The  Duke  turned,  passing one hand over his  greying  hair.  All
trace  of  his astonishing outburst had disappeared and he was  once
more the handsome, distinguished figure that they knew so well.
  'I'm  sorry,  Simon,' he said gravely. 'But I  felt  as  a  father
might who sees his child trying to pick live coals out of the fire.'
  'I'm not a child,' muttered Simon, sullenly.
  'No,  but  I  could not have more affection for you  if  you  were
actually my son, and it is useless now to deny that you are  playing
the  most  dangerous  game  which has ever  been  known  to  mankind
throughout the ages.'
  'Oh,  come,'  a  quick  smile spread over Rex's  ugly,  attractive
face.  'That's a gross exaggeration. What's the harm if Simon  wants
to try out a few old parlour games?'
  'Parlour games!' De Richleau took him up sharply. 'My dear Rex,  I
fear your prowess in aeroplanes and racing cars hardly qualifies you
to judge the soul destroying powers of these ancient cults.'
  'Thanks.  I'm  not quite a half-wit, and plenty of  spiritualistic
seances take place in the States, but I've never heard of anyone  as
sane as Simon going bats because of them yet.'
  Simon  nodded  his narrow head slowly up and down. 'Of  course-Rex
is right, and you're only making a mountain out of a molehill.'
  'As  you  like,'  De  Richleau shrugged. 'In that  case  will  you
permit us to stay and participate in your operations tonight?'
  'Ner-I'm sorry, but you're not a member of our Circle.'
  'No  matter.  We have already met most of your friends downstairs,
surely  they  will  not  object to our presence  on  just  this  one
occasion?'
  'Ner.' Simon shook his head again. 'Our number is made up.'
  'I  see, you are already thirteen, is that it? Now listen, Simon.'
The Duke laid his hands gently on the young Jew's shoulders. 'One of
the  reasons  why my friendship with Rex and yourself has  developed
into  such  a splendid intimacy, is because I have always  refrained
from  stressing my age and greater experience, but tonight  I  break
the  rule.  My  conscious life, since we both left our schools,  has
been  nearly three times as long as yours and, in addition, although
I  have  never told you of it, I made a deep study of these esoteric
doctrines  years ago when I lived in the East. I beg of  you,  as  I
have  never  begged for anything in my life before, that you  should
give  up  whatever quest you are engaged upon and leave  this  house
with us immediately.'
  For  a  moment  Simon  seemed  to  waver.  All  his  faith  in  De
Richleau's  judgment,  knowledge, and love for  him,  urged  him  to
agree, but at that moment Mocata's musical lisping voice cut in upon
the silence, calling from the landing just below:
  'Simon, the others have come. It is time.'
  'Coming,'  called  Simon, then he looked at the two  friends  with
whom he had risked his life in the 'Forbidden Territory.' 'I can't,'
he said with an effort, 'You heard-it's too late to back out now.'
  'Then let us remain-please,' begged the Duke.
  'No,  I'm sorry.' A new firmness had crept into Simon's tone, 'but
I must ask you to go now.'
  'Very well.'
  De  Richleau stepped forward as though to shake hands  then,  with
almost  incredible swiftness, his arm flew back and next second  his
fist caught Simon a smashing blow full beneath the jaw.
  The  action  was so sudden, so unexpected, that Simon  was  caught
completely off his guard. For a fraction of time he was lifted  from
his  feet,  then he crashed senseless on his back and  slid  spread-
eagled across the polished floor.
  'Have you gone crazy?' ejaculated Rex.
  'No-we've  got  to get him out of here-save him from himself-don't
argue! Quick!' Already De Richleau was kneeling by the crumpled body
of his friend.
  Rex  needed  no  further urging. He had been  in  too  many  tight
corners  with the Duke to doubt the wisdom of his decisions  however
strange  his  actions might appear. In one quick  heave  he  dragged
Simon's limp form across his shoulders arid started for the stairs.
  'Steady!'  ordered the Duke. 'I'll go first and tackle anyone  who
tries to stop us. You get him to the car-Understoood?'
  'What if they raise the house? You'll never be able to tackle  the
whole bunch on your own?'
  'In  that  case  drop  him, I'll get him out  somehow,  while  you
protect my rear. Come on!'
  With  De  Richleau  leading they crept down the  first  flight  of
stairs.  On  the  landing he paused and peered cautiously  over  the
banisters. No sound came from below. 'Rex,' he whispered.
  'Yep.'
  'If  that  black  servant I told you of appears,  for  God's  sake
don't look at his eyes. Watch his hands and hit him in the belly.'
  'O.K.'
  A moment later they were down the second flight. The hall
  was  empty  and only a vague murmur of conversation came  to  them
from behind the double doors that led to the salon.
  'Quick!' urged the Duke. 'Mocata may come out to look for him  any
moment,'
  'Right.'  Rex,  bent double beneath his burden, plunged  down  the
last  stairs,  and De Richleau was already halfway across  the  half
when the dumb servant suddenly appeared from the vestibule.
  For  a  second  he stood there, his sallow face a  mask  of  blank
surprise  then, side-stepping the Duke with the agility of  a  rugby
forward,  he  lowered his bullet head and charged  Rex  with  silent
animal ferocity.
  'Got  you,'  snapped De Richleau, for although the man had  dodged
with  lightning  speed  he had caught his  wrist  in  passing.  Then
flinging his whole weight upon it as he turned, he jerked the fellow
clean  off his feet and sent him spinning head foremost against  the
wall.
  As  his head hit the panelling the mute gave an uncouth grunt, and
rolled  over  on  the floor, but he staggered up  again  and  dashed
towards  the salon. Rex and the Duke were already pounding down  the
tiled path and in another second they had flung themselves into  the
lane through the entrance in the garden wall.
  'Thank  God,' gasped the Duke as he wrenched open the door of  the
Hispano.  'I believe that hellish crew would have killed  us  rather
than let us get Simon out of there alive.'
  'Well, I suppose you do know what you're at,' Rex muttered  as  he
propped  Simon up on the back seat of the car. 'But I'm not  certain
you're safe to be with.'
  'Home,' ordered De Richleau curtly to the footman, who was  hiding
his  astonishment at their sudden exit by hastily  tucking  the  rug
over  their knees. Then he smiled at Rex a trifle grimly. 'I suppose
I do seem a little mad to you, but you can't possibly be expected to
appreciate  what a horribly serious business this is.  I'll  explain
later.'
  In  a  few  moments they had left the gloom of the  quiet  streets
behind  and  were  once more running through well-lit  ways  towards
Mayfair,  but  Simon was still unconscious when they  pulled  up  in
Curzon Street before Errol House.
  'I'll  take him,' volunteered Rex. The less the servants  have  to
do with this the better,' and picking up Simon in his strong arms as
though  he had been a baby, he carried him straight upstairs to  the
first floor where De Richleau's flat was situated.
  'Put  him in the library,' said the Duke, who had paused to murmur
something  about a sudden illness to the porter, when he arrived  on
the  landing a moment later. 'I'll get something to bring him  round
from the bathroom.'
  Rex  nodded  obediently, and carried Simon into that room  in  the
Curzon  Street fiat which was so memorable for those  who  had  been
privileged  to  visit it, not so much on account  of  its  size  and
decorations,  but  for the unique collection of rare  and  beautiful
objects which it contained. A Tibetan Buddha seated upon the  Lotus;
bronze figurines from ancient Greece; beautifully chased rapiers  of
Toledo  steel, and Moorish pistols inlaid with turquoise  and  gold;
ikons  from Holy Russia set with semi-precious stones and  curiously
carved ivories from the East.
  As  Rex laid Simon upon the wide sofa he glanced round him with an
interest unappeased by a hundred visits, at the walls lined shoulder
high  with  beautifully bound books, and at the  lovely  old  colour
prints,  interspersed with priceless historical documents and  maps,
which hung above them.
  De  Richleau, when he joined him, produced a small crystal  bottle
which  he  held beneath Simon's beak-like nose. 'No good  trying  to
talk  to  him tonight,' he remarked, 'but I want to bring him  round
sufficiently to put him to sleep again.
  Rex grunted. That sounds like double-dutch to me.'
  'No.  I mean to fight these devils with their own weapons, as  you
will see.'
  Simon  groaned a little, and as his eyes flickered open  the  Duke
took  a small round mirror from his pocket. 'Simon,' he said softly,
moving the lamp a little nearer, 'look upward at my hand.'
  As  he  spoke  De  Richleau held the mirror about eighteen  inches
from  Simon's forehead and a little above the level of his eyes,  so
that it caught and reflected the light of the lamp on to his lids.
  'Hold  it  lower,' suggested Rex. 'He'll strain his  eyes  turning
them upwards like that.'
  'Quiet,' said the Duke sharply. 'Simon, look up and listen to  me.
You  have  been hurt and have a troubled mind, but your friends  are
with you and you have no need to worry any more.'
  Simon  opened  his  eyes  again and turned  them  upwards  to  the
mirror, where they remained fixed.
  'I  am  going  to send you to sleep, Simon,' De Richleau  went  on
softly.  'You  need rest and you will awake free  from  pain.  In  a
moment your eyes will close and then your head will feel better.'
  For  another  half-minute he held the mirror  steadily  reflecting
the  light upon Simon's retina, then he placed the first and  second
fingers of his free hand upon the glass with his palm turned outward
and  made a slow pass from it towards the staring eyes, which closed
at once before he touched them.
  'You  will  sleep now,' he continued quietly, 'and  you  will  not
wake until ten o'clock tomorrow morning. Directly you awake you will
come  straight to me either here or in my bedroom and you will speak
to  no  one,  nor will you open any letter or message which  may  be
brought to you, until you have seen me.'
  De  Richleau paused for a moment, put down the mirror  and  lifted
one of Simon's arms until it stood straight above his head. When  he
released it the arm did not drop but remained stiff and rigid in the
air.
  'Most satisfactory,' he murmured cheerfully to Rex. 'He is in  the
second  stage  of hypnosis already and will do exactly  what  he  is
told.  The  induction was amazingly easy, but of course,  his  half-
conscious state simplified it a lot.'
  Rex  shook  his  head in disapproval. 'I don't  like  to  see  you
monkey with him like this. I wouldn't allow it if it was anyone  but
you.'
  'A   prejudice  based  upon  lack  of  understanding,  my  friend.
Hypnotism  in  proper  hands is the greatest healing  power  in  the
world.'  With  a quick shrug the Duke moved over to  his  desk  and,
unlocking one of the lower drawers, took something from it, then  he
returned to Simon and addressed him in the same low voice.
  'Open your eyes now and sit up.'
  Simon  obeyed at once and Rex was surprised to see that he  looked
quite wide awake and normal. Only a certain blankness about the face
betrayed  his  abnormal state, and he displayed no  aversion  as  De
Richleau extended the thing he had taken from the drawer. It  was  a
small  golden  swastika set with precious stones and threaded  on  a
silken ribbon.
  'Simon  Aron,' the Duke spoke again. 'With this symbol I am  about
to place you under the protection of the power of Light. No being or
force  of  Earth, or Air, of Fire, or Water can harm you  while  you
wear it.'
  With quick fingers he knotted the talisman round Simon's neck  and
went  on evenly: 'Now you will go to the spare bedroom. Ring for  my
man  Max  and  tell him that you are staying here tonight.  He  will
provide  you with everything you need and, if your throat is parched
from  your recent coma, ask him for any soft drink you wish, but  no
alcohol remember' Peace be upon you and about you. Now go.'
  Simon  stood up at once and looked from one to the other of  them.
'Good night,' he said cheerfully, with his quick natural smile. 'See
you both in the morning,' then he promptly walked out of the room.
  'He-he's  not  really asleep is he?' asked Rex, looking  a  little
scared.
  'Certainly,  but he will remember everything that has taken  place
tomorrow because he is not in the deep somnambulistic state where  I
could  order him to forget. To achieve that usually takes  a  little
practice with a new subject.'
  'Then  he'll  be  pretty livid I'll promise you. Fancy  hanging  a
Nazi swastika round the neck of a professing Jew.'
  'My  dear  Rex! Do please try and broaden your outlook  a  little.
The  swastika is the oldest symbol of wisdom and right  thinking  in
the  world.  It has been used by every race and in every country  at
some  time  or  other. You might just as well regard  the  Cross  as
purely  Christian, when we all know it was venerated in early Egypt,
thousands  of years before the birth of Christ. The Nazis have  only
adopted  the  swastika because it is supposed to be of Aryan  origin
and part of their programme aims at welding together a large section
of  the Aryan race. The vast majority of them have no conception  of
its  esoteric significance and even if they bring discredit upon it,
as  the  Spanish Inquisition did upon the Cross, that could have  no
effect upon its true meaning.'
  'Yes,  I get that, though I doubt if it'll make any difference  to
Simon's resentment when he finds it round his neck tomorrow.  Still,
that's  a  minor point. What worries me is this whole box of  tricks
this  evening.  I've  got a feeling you ought to  be  locked  up  as
downright insane, unless it's me.'
  De  Richleau smiled. 'A strange business to be happening in modern
London, isn't it? But let's mix a drink and talk it over quietly.'
  'Strange! Why, if it were true it would be utterly fantastic,  but
it's  not.  All this hooha about Black Magic and talking hocus-pocus
while you hang silly charms round Simon's neck is utter bunk.'
  'It  is?'  The Duke smiled again as he tipped a lump of  ice  into
Rex's glass and handed it to him. 'Well, let's hear your explanation
of  Simon's  queer behaviour. I suppose you do consider that  it  is
queer by the way?'
  'Of  course,  but nothing like as queer as you're trying  to  make
out.  As I see it Simon's taken up spiritualism or something of  the
kind  and plenty of normal earnest people believe in that,  but  you
know  what he is when he gets keen on a thing, everything else  goes
to,, the wall and that's why he has neglected you a bit.
  'Then  this  evening  he was probably sick  as  mud  to  miss  our
dinner,  but had a seance all fixed that he couldn't shelve  at  the
last  moment. We butt in on his party, and naturally he doesn't care
to  admit  what he's up to entertaining all those queer, odd-looking
women  and  men,  so he spins a yarn about it being an  astronomical
society. So you-who've read a sight too many books-and seem to  have
stored  up  all  the old wives' tales your nurse told  you  in  your
cradle-get  a  bee in your bonnet and slog the poor  mut  under  the
jaw.'
  De  Richleau nodded. 'I can hardly expect you to see it any  other
way  at  the moment, but let's start at the beginning. Do you  agree
that  after knocking him out I called into play a supernormal  power
in  order  to  send  him  cheerfully off to  bed  without  a  single
protest?'
  'Yes,  even  the doctors admit hypnotic influence now,  and  Simon
would never have stood for you tying that swastika under his chin if
he'd been conscious.'
  'Good.  Then  at  least  we are at one on the  fact  that  certain
forces  can  be called into play which the average person  does  not
understand. Now, if instead of practising that comparatively  simple
exercise in front of you, I had done it before ignorant natives, who
had  never heard of hypnotism, they would terra it magic, would they
not?'
  'Sure.'
  Then  to go a step further. If, by a greater exertion of the  same
power,  I  levitated, that is to say, lifted myself to a  height  of
several inches from this floor, you might not use the word magic but
you  would  class  that feat in the same category  as  the  ignorant
native would place the easier one, because it is something which you
have always thought impossible.'
  That's true.'
  'Well,  I  am not sufficient of an adept to perform the feat,  but
will you accept my assurances that I've seen it done, not once,  but
a number of times?'
  'If  you  say  so, but from all I've heard about such things,  the
fellows  you  saw didn't leave the ground at all. It  is  just  mass
hypnotism exercised upon the whole audience-like the rope trick.'
  'As  you  wish, but that explanation does not rob me of my  point.
If  you admit that I can tap an unknown power to make Simon obey  my
will,  and  that  an Eastern mystic can tap that power  to  the  far
greater  extent of making a hundred people's eyes deceive them  into
believing that he is standing on thin air, you admit that there is a
power and that it can be tapped in greater degrees according to  the
knowledge and proficiency of the man who uses it.'
  'Yes, within limits.'
  'Why   within  limits?  You  apparently  consider  levitation   im
possible,  but  wouldn't you have considered wireless impossible  if
you had been living fifty years ago and somebody had endeavoured  to
convince you of it?'
  'Maybe.'  Rex sat forward suddenly. 'But I don't get  what  you're
driving  at. Hypnotism is only a demonstration of the power  of  the
human will.'
  'Ah!  There  you have it. The will to good and the will  to  evil.
That  is  the whole matter in a nutshell. The human will is  like  a
wireless  set and properly adjusted-trained that is-it can  tune  in
with the invisible influence which is all about us.'
  'The   Invisible  Influence.  I've  certainly  heard  that  phrase
somewhere before.'
  'No  doubt.  A  very eminent mental specialist who  holds  a  high
position in our asylums wrote a book with that title and I have  not
yet asked you to believe one tenth of what he vouches for.'
  'Then I wonder they haven't locked him up.'
  'Rex!  Rex!' De Richleau smiled a little sadly. Try and open  your
mind,  my friend. Do you believe in the miracles performed by  Jesus
Christ?'
  'Yes.'
  'And of His Disciples and certain of the Saints?'
  'Sure,  but  they had some special power granted to them  from  on
high.'
  'Exactly!  Some Special Power. But I suppose you would  deny  that
Gautama  Buddha and his disciples performed miracles  of  a  similar
nature?'
  'Not  at  all.  Most people agree now that Buddha was  a  sort  of
Indian  Christ, a Holy Man, and no doubt he had some sort  of  power
granted to him too.'
  The  Duke sat back with a heavy sigh. 'At last my friend  we  seem
to  be  getting somewhere. If you admit that miracles, as  you  call
them  although you object to the word magic, have been performed  by
two  men living in different countries hundreds of years apart,  and
that  even their disciples were able to tap a similar power  through
their  holiness, you cannot reasonably deny that other mystics  have
also  performed  similar  acts in many  portions  of  the  globe-and
therefore,  that there is a power existing outside us which  is  not
peculiar  to any religion, but can be utilised if one can  get  into
communication with it,'
  Rex laughed. That's so, I can't deny it.'
  'Thank  God! Let's mix ourselves another drink shall  we,  I  need
it?'
  'Don't  move,  I'll fix it.' Rex good-naturedly scrambled  to  his
feet.  'All  the  same,' he added slowly, 'it  doesn't  follow  that
because  a number of good men have been granted supernatural  powers
that there is anything in Black Magic.'
  'Then you do not believe in Witchcraft?'
  'Of course not, nobody does in these days.'
  'Really!  How  long do you think it is since the  last  trial  for
Witchcraft took place?'
  'I'll say it was all of a hundred and fifty years ago.'
  'No, it was in January, 1926, at Melun near Paris.'
  'Oh! You're fooling!' Rex exclaimed angrily.
  'I'm  not,' De Richleau assured him solemnly. The records  of  the
court  will  prove my statement, so you see you are hardly  accurate
when  you say that nobody believes in Witchcraft in these days,  and
many many thousands still believe in a personal devil.'
  'Yes, simple folk maybe, but not educated people.'
  'Possibly  not, yet every thinking man must admit  that  there  is
still such a thing as the power of Evil.'
  'Why?'
  'My  dear  fellow, all qualities have their opposites,  like  love
and  hate, pleasure and pain, generosity and avarice. How  could  we
recognise  the  goodness of Jesus Christ, Lao  Tze,  Ashoka,  Marcus
Aurelius,  Francis of Assisi, Florence Nightingale  and  a  thousand
others  if  it were not for the evil lives of Herod, Caesar  Borgia,
Rasputin, Landru, Ivan Kreuger and the rest?'
  That's true,' Rex admitted slowly.
  'Then  if  an  intensive  cultivation of good  can  beget  strange
powers  is  there  any reason why an intensive cultivation  of  evil
should not beget them also?'
  'I think I begin to get what you're driving at.'
  'Good!  Now listen, Rex.' The Duke leaned forward earnestly.  'And
I  will  try and expound what little I know of the Esoteric Doctrine
which  has come down to us through the ages. You will have heard  of
the Persian myth of Ozamund and Ahriman, the eternal powers of Light
and  Darkness, said to be co-equal and warring without cessation for
the   good   or  ill  of  mankind.  All  ancient  sun   and   nature
worship-festivals  of  spring  and  so  on,  were  only  an  outward
expression  of  that  myth, for Light typifies  Health  and  Wisdom,
Growth  and Life; while Darkness means Disease and Ignorance,  Decay
and Death.
  'In  its  highest sense Light symbolises the growth of the  Spirit
towards  that  perfection in which it can throw  off  the  body  and
become light itself; but the road to perfection is long and arduous,
too  much  to hope for in one short human life, hence the widespread
belief in re-incarnation; that we are born again and again until  we
begin to despise the pleasures of the flesh. This doctrine is so old
that  no man can trace its origin, yet it is the inner core of truth
common to all religions at their inception. Consider the teaching of
Jesus Christ with that in mind and you will be amazed that you  have
not  realised before the true purport of His message. Did He not say
that  the  'Kingdom of God was within us,' and, when He walked  upon
the  waters declared: 'These things that I do ye shall do also;  and
greater things than these shall ye do, for I go unto my Father which
is   in  Heaven,'  meaning  most  certainly  that  He  had  achieved
perfection  but that others had the same power within  each  one  of
them to do likewise.'
  De  Richleau  paused for a moment and then went  on  more  slowly.
'Unfortunately the hours of the night are still equal to  the  hours
of the day, and so the power of Darkness is no less active than when
the  world  was young, and no sooner does a fresh Master  appear  to
reveal the light than ignorance, greed, and lust for power cloud the
minds  of  his  followers.  The message becomes  distorted  and  the
simplicity  of  the truth submerged and forgotten  in  the  pomp  of
ceremonies and the meticulous performance of rituals which have lost
their  meaning.  Yet  the  real truth is never  entirely  lost,  and
through the centuries new Masters are continually arising either  to
proclaim  it  or, if the time is not propitious, to pass  it  on  in
secret to the chosen few.
  'Apollonius  of  Tyana  learned it  in  the  East.  The  so-called
Heretics  whom we know as the Albigenses preached it in the  twelfth
century  through  Southern  France  until  they  were  exterminated.
Christian  Rosenkreutz  had  it in  the  Middle  Ages.  It  was  the
innermost  secret of the Order of the Templars who  were  suppressed
because  of it by the Church of Rome. The Alchemists, too,  searched
for  and  practised  it.  Only  the ignorant  take  literally  their
struggle  to find the Elixir of Life. Behind such phrases,  designed
to  protect them from the persecution of their enemies, they  sought
Eternal  Life, and their efforts to transmute base metals into  gold
were only symbolical of their transfusion of matter into light.  And
still  to-day while the night life of London goes on about us  there
are  mystics  and  adepts  who  are seeking  the  Eightfold  Way  to
perfection in many corners of the Earth.'
  'You really believe that?' asked Rex seriously.
  'I  do.' De Richleau's answer held no trace of doubt. 'I give  you
my  word  Rex,  that I have talked with men whose sanity  you  would
never question, an Englishman, an Italian, and a Hindu, all three of
whom  have  been taken by guides sent to fetch them  to  the  hidden
valley in the uplands of Tibet, where some of the Lamas have reached
such  a  high  degree of enlightenment that they can  prolong  their
lives  at  will, and perform today all the miracles which  you  have
read of in the Bible. It is there that the sacred fire of truth  has
been  preserved for centuries, safe from the brutal mercenary  folly
of our modern world.'
  That  sounds  a  pretty tall story to me, but  granted  there  are
mystics who have achieved such amazing powers through their holiness
I still don't see where your Black Magic comes in?'
  'Let's  not  talk  of  Black Magic, which is associated  with  the
preposterous  in  our day, but of the order of the Left  Hand  Path.
That,  too,  has its adepts and, just as the Yoga of Tibet  are  the
preservers  of the Way of Light, the Way of Darkness is  exemplified
in  the horrible Voodoo cult which had its origin in Madagascar  and
has  held Africa in its grip for centuries, spreading even with  the
slave trade to the West Indies and your own country.'
  'Yes, I know quite a piece about that, the Negroes monkey with  it
still  back  home  in  the Southern States, despite  their  apparent
Christianity.  Still I can't think that an educated man  like  Simon
would take serious notice of that Mumbo Jumbo stuff.'
  'Not  in  its  crude form perhaps, but others have cultivated  the
power  of  Evil,  and among whites it is generally the  wealthy  and
intellectual,  who are avaricious for greater riches  or  power,  to
whom  it  appeals. In the Paris of Louis XIV, long after the  Middle
Ages  were  forgotten,  it  was  still  particularly  rampant.   The
poisoner,  La  Voisin,  was  proved to have  procured  over  fifteen
hundred  children  for the infamous Abbe Guibourg  to  sacrifice  at
Black  Masses. He used to cut their throats, drain the blood into  a
chalice,  and  then pour it over the naked body of the inquirer  who
lay  stretched upon the altar. I speak of actual history,  Rex,  and
you  can  read the records of the trial that followed in  which  two
hundred  and forty-six men and women were indicted for these hellish
practices.'
  'Maybe.  It  sounds ghastly enough but that's a mighty  long  time
ago.'
  'Then,  if you need more modern evidence of its continuance hidden
in  our  midst  there  is  the  well authenticated  case  of  Prince
Borghese.  He let his Venetian Palazzo on a long lease, expiring  as
late  as  1895. The tenants had not realised that the lease had  run
out  until  he notified them of his intention to resume  possession.
They  protested, but Borghese's agents forced an entry. What do  you
think they found?'
  'Lord knows.' Rex shook his head.
  'That  the  principal salon had been redecorated at enormous  cost
and  converted  into  a  Satanic Temple. The walls  were  hung  from
ceiling  to  floor with heavy curtains of silk damask,  scarlet  and
black  to  exclude the light; at the farther end there  stretched  a
large  tapestry  upon which was woven a colossal figure  of  Lucifer
dominating  the  whole. Beneath, an altar had been built  and  amply
furnished  with  the whole liturgy of Hell; black candles,  vessels,
rituals,  nothing  was lacking. Cushioned prie-dieus  and  luxurious
chairs, crimson and gold, were set in order for the assistants,  and
the  chamber lit with electricity fantastically arranged so that  it
should glare through an enormous human eye.'
  De  Richleau hammered the desk with his clenched fist. 'These  are
facts  I'm giving you Rex-facts, d'you hear, things I can  prove  by
eye-witnesses still living. Despite our electricity, our aeroplanes,
our  modern  scepticism, the power of Darkness  is  still  a  living
force, worshipped by depraved human beings for their unholy ends  in
the great cities of Europe and America to this very day.'
  Rex's  face  had  suddenly paled under its tan.  'And  you  really
think poor Simon has got mixed up in this beastliness?'
  'I  know  it man! Could you have been so intrigued with  the  girl
that you did not notice the rest of that foul crew? The Albino,  the
man  with the hare-lip, the Eurasian who only possessed a left  arm.
They're Devil Worshippers all of them.'
  'Not  the  girl! Not Tanith!' cried Rex, springing  to  his  feet.
'She must have been drawn into it like Simon.'
  'Perhaps, but the final proof lay in that basket. They were  about
to  practise the age-old sacrifice to their infernal master just  as
your  Voodoo-ridden Negroes do. The slaughter of a black cock and  a
white  hen-Yes. What is it?' De Richleau swung round as a soft knock
came on the door.
  'Excellency.' His man Max stood bowing in the doorway, 'I  thought
I  had better bring this to you.' In his open palm he displayed  the
jewelled swastika.
  With  one  panther-like  spring the  Duke  thrust  him  aside  and
bounded  from  the room. 'Simon,' he shouted as he dashed  down  the
corridor. 'Simon! I command you to stay still.' But when he  reached
the  bedroom the only signs that Simon had ever occupied it were the
tumbled bed and his underclothes left scattered on the floor.


                                  4

                          The Silent House

  De  Richleau  strode  back into the sitting-room.  His  grey  eyes
glittered  dangerously but his voice was gentle  as  he  picked  the
jewelled swastika from his servant's palm. 'How did you come by this
Max?'
  'I removed it from Mr. Aron's neck Excellency.'
  'What!'
  'He  rang for me Excellency and said that he would like a  cup  of
bouillon  and  when  I  returned with it he  was  sleeping,  but  so
strangely that I was alarmed. His tongue was protruding from between
his  teeth and his face was nearly black; then I saw that  his  neck
was  terribly swollen and that a ribbon was cutting deeply into  his
flesh.  I  cut  the  ribbon, fearing that he would  choke-the  jewel
dropped off, so I brought it straight to you.'
  'All right! you may go-and it is unnecessary to wait up- I may  be
late.'  As the door closed the Duke swung round towards Rex.  'Simon
must  have woken the moment Max's back was turned, pulled on  a  few
clothes, then slipped out of the window and down the fire-escape.
  'Sure,' Rex agreed. 'He's well on his way back to St. John's  Wood
by now.;
  'Come  on-we'll  follow. We've got to save him from  those  devils
somehow. I don't know what they're after but there must be something
pretty  big and very nasty behind all this. It can't have been  easy
to  involve a man like Simon to the extent they obviously have,  and
they  would  never  have  gone to all that  trouble  to  recruit  an
ordinary dabbler in the occult. They are after really big stakes  of
some kind, and they need him as a pawn in their devilish game.'
  'Think  we  can beat him to it?' Rex asked as they  ran  down  the
staircase of the block and out into Curzon Street.
  'I doubt it-Hi, taxi!' De Richleau waved an arm.
  'He can't have more than five minutes' start.'
  'Too  much in a fifteen minutes' run.' The Duke's voice  was  grim
as they climbed into the cab.
  'What d'you figure went amiss?'
  'I  don't  know for certain, but there is no doubt that  our  poor
friend is completely under Mocata's influence-has been for months  I
expect. In such a case Mocata's power over him would be far stronger
than my own which was only exercised, in the hope of protecting him,
for  the  first  time tonight. It was because I feared  that  Mocata
might  countermand my orders, even from a distance, and compel Simon
to return that I placed the symbol of Light round his neck.'
  'And when Max took it off Mocata got busy on him eh?'
  'I  think  Mocata  was at work before that. He probably  witnessed
everything  that  took place in a crystal or through  a  medium  and
exerted all his powers to cause Simon's neck to swell the moment  he
got into bed, hoping to break the ribbon that held the charm.'
  Rex  had  not yet quite recovered from the shock of learning  that
so  sane  a man as De Richleau could seriously believe in  all  this
gibberish  about  the Occult. He was very far from  being  convinced
himself, but he refrained from airing his scepticism and instead, as
the  taxi  rattled north through Baker Street, he began to  consider
the practical side of their expedition. There had been eight men  at
least  in  Simon's house when they left it. He glanced  towards  the
Duke. 'Are you carrying a gun?'
  'No, and if I were it would be useless.'
  'Holy  Smoke! You are bats or else I am.' Rex shrugged  his  broad
shoulders  and  began  to wonder if he was not living  through  some
particularly  vivid and horrible dream. Soon he would wake  perhaps;
sweating  a little from the nightmare picture which De Richleau  had
drawn  for him of age-old evil, tireless and vigilant, cloaked  from
the  masses  by modern scepticism yet still a potent force  stalking
the  dark  ways  of  the night, conjured into new  life  by  strange
delvers into ancient secrets for their unhallowed ends; but wake  he
must, to the bright, clear day and Simon's chuckle-over a tankard of
Pim's  cup  at  luncheon-that such fantastic nonsense should  centre
about him even in a dream. Yet there was Tanith, so strange and wise
and  beautiful,  looking as though she had just  stepped  out  of  a
painting by some great master of the Italian Renaissance. It was  no
dream  that  he  had at last actually met and spoken with  her  that
evening at Simon's house, among all those queer people whom the Duke
declared so positively to be Satan worshippers; and if she was flesh
and blood they must be too.
  On  the  north side of Lord's cricket ground, De Richleau  stopped
the  taxi. 'Better walk the rest of the way,' he murmured as he paid
off the man. 'Simon's arrived by now and it would be foolish to warn
them of our coming.'
  'Thought  you said Mocata was overlooking us with the  evil  eye?'
Rex replied as they hurried along Circus Road.
  'He  may  be.  I can't say, but possibly he thinks we would  never
dare  risk a second visit to the house tonight. If we exercise every
precaution  we may catch him off his guard. He's just as  vulnerable
as  any  other human being except when he is actually employing  his
special powers.'
  Side  by side they passed through two streets where the low  roofs
of  the  old-fashioned houses were only faintly  visible  above  the
walls that kept them immune from the eyes of the curious, each  set,
silent and vaguely mysterious, among its whispering trees; then they
entered the narrow, unlit cul-de-sac.
  Treading carefully now, they covered the two hundred yards to  its
end  and halted, gazing up at the darkened mass of the upper stories
which loomed above the high wall. Not a chink of light betrayed that
the  house  was  tenanted, although they knew that, apart  from  the
servants,  thirteen  people had congregated there  to  perform  some
strange midnight ceremony little over an hour before.
  'Think they've cleared out?' Rex whispered.
  'I  doubt it.' The Duke stepped forward and tried the narrow door.
It was fast locked.
  'Can't we call the police in to raid the place?'
  De  Richleau shrugged impatiently. 'What could we charge them with
that a modem station-sergeant would understand?'
  'Kidnapping!  ' Rex urged below his breath, 'If I were  back  home
I'd  have the strong arm squad here in under half an hour.  Get  the
whole  bunch pinched and gaoled pending trial. They'd be out of  the
way  then  for  a  bit,  even  if I had  to  pay  up  heavy  damages
afterwards-and meantime we'd pop Simon in a mental home till he  got
his wits back.'
  'Rex!  Rex!'  The  Duke gave a low, delighted  chuckle.  'It's  an
enchanting  idea, and if we were in the States I really  believe  we
might pull it off-but here it's impossible.'
  'What do you figure to do then?'
  'Go in and see if Simon has returned.'
  'I'm game, but the odds are pretty heavy.'
  'If we're caught we must run for it.'
  'O.K.,  but  if  we  fail to make our get-away  they'll  call  the
police and have us gaoled for housebreaking.'
  'No-no,'  De  Richleau  muttered. They  won't  want  to  draw  the
attention of the police to then- activities, and the one thing  that
matters is to get Simon out of here.'
  'All  right.' Rex placed his hands on his knees, and stooping  his
great shoulders, leaned his head against the wall. 'Up you go.'
  The  Duke  bent towards him. 'Listen!' he whispered.  'Once  we're
inside we've got to stick together whatever happens. God knows  what
they've used this house of Simon's for, but the whole place reeks of
evil.'
  'Oh shucks!' Rex muttered contemptuously.
  'I  mean it,' De Richleau insisted. 'If you take that attitude I'd
rather  go  in alone. This is the most dangerous business I've  ever
been  up  against, and if it wasn't for the thought of Simon nothing
on  earth would tempt me to go over this wall in the middle  of  the
night.'
  'Oh-all right. Have it your own way.'
  'You'll obey me implicitly-every word I say?'
  'Yes, don't fret yourself ...'
  'Good, and remember you are to bolt for it the instant I give  the
word,  because the little knowledge that I possess may only  protect
us  for  a  very fleeting space of time.' The Duke clambered  on  to
Rex's  shoulders and heaved himself up on to the coping. Rex stepped
back  a  few  yards  and  took a flying leap;  next  second  he  had
scrambled up beside De Richleau. For a moment they both sat  astride
the  wall  peering  down into the shadows of the garden,  then  they
dropped silently into a flower-border on the other side.
  'The  first  thing is to find a good line of retreat  in  case  we
have to get out in a hurry,' breathed the Duke.
  'What  about this?' Rex whispered back, slapping the  trunk  of  a
well-grown laburnum tree.
  De  Richleau nodded silently. One glance assured him that with the
aid of the lower branches two springs would bring them to the top of
the wall. Then he moved at a quick, stealthy run across a small open
space of lawn to the shelter of some bushes that ran round the  side
of the house.
  From their new cover Rex surveyed the side windows. No glimmer  of
light  broke  the expanse of the rambling old mansion. As  the  Duke
moved on, he followed, until the bushes ended at the entrance  of  a
back yard, evidently giving on to the kitchen quarters.
  'Have  a care,' he whispered, jerking De Richleau's sleeve.  'They
may have a dog.'
  'They  couldn't,' replied the Duke positively. 'Dogs  are  simple,
friendly  creatures but highly psychic. The vibrations  in  a  place
where  Black Magic was practised would cause any dog to bolt  for  a
certainty.' With light, quick, padding steps he crossed the yard and
came 'out into the garden on the far side of the house.
  Here  too  every  window was shrouded in darkness and  an  uncanny
stillness brooded over the place.
  'I  don't like it,' whispered De Richleau. 'Simon can't have  been
back  more  than a quarter of an hour at the outside-so there  ought
still  to be lights in the upper rooms. Anyhow, it looks at  if  the
others  have  gone  home,  which is something-  we  must  chance  an
ambush.'
  He  pointed to a narrow, ground floor window. 'That's probably the
lavatory,   and   most  people  forget  to  close   their   lavatory
windows-come on!'
  Silently Rex followed him across the grass, then gripping  him  by
the  knees, heaved him up until he was well above the level  of  the
sill.
  The  sash creaked, the upper half of the window slid down, and the
Duke's head and shoulders disappeared inside.
  For  a  moment  Rex  watched his wriggling  legs,  heard  a  bump,
followed by a muffled oath, and then clambered up on to the sill.
  'Hurt  yourself?' he whispered, as De Richleau's face appeared,  a
pale blot in the darkness.
  'Not  much-though this sort of thing is not amusing for a  man  of
my age. The door here is unlocked, thank goodness.'
  Immediately Rex was inside, the Duke squatted down on  the  floor.
Take off your shoes,' he ordered. 'And your socks.'
  'Shoes  if  you  like, though we'll hurt our feet if  we  have  to
run-but why the socks?'
  'Don't argue-we waste time.'
  'Well-what now?' Rex muttered after a moment.
  'Put your shoes on again and the socks over them-then you can  run
as fast as you like.' As Rex obeyed the Duke went on in a low voice.
'Not  a  sound  now. I really believe the others have gone,  and  if
Mocata  is not lying in wait for us, we may be able to get  hold  of
Simon.  If  we  come up against that black servant, for  God's  sake
remember not to look at his eyes.'
  With  infinite  care he opened the door and peered  out  into  the
darkened hall. A faint light from an upper window showed the  double
doors that led to the salon standing wide open. He listened intently
for  a moment, then slipping out stood aside for Rex to follow,  and
gently closed the door behind them.
  Their footsteps, now muffled by the socks, were barely audible  as
they  stole  across the stretch of parquet. When  they  reached  the
salon  De  Richleau carefully drew aside a blind. The dim  starlight
was  just  sufficient to show the outlines of the gilded  furniture,
and  they could make out plates and glasses left scattered upon  the
buhl and marquetry tables.
  Rex  picked up a goblet two-thirds full of champagne and  held  it
so that the Duke could see the wine still in it.
  De  Richleau  nodded.  The Irish Bard, the Albino,  the  one-armed
Eurasian, the hare-lipped man and the rest of that devilish  company
must  have taken fright when he and Rex had forcibly abducted Simon,
and  fled,  abandoning their unholy operations  for  the  night.  He
gently replaced the blind and they crept back into the hall.
  One  other  door  opened  off it besides those  to  the  servants'
quarters  and the vestibule. De Richleau slowly turned the knob  and
pressed. The room was a small library, and at the far end a pair  of
uncurtained french-windows showed the garden, ghostly and mysterious
in  the  starlight. Leaving Rex by the door, the Duke tiptoed across
the  room, drew the bolts, opened the windows and propped them wide.
>From where he stood he could just make out the laburnum by the wall.
A  clear retreat was open to them now. He turned, then halted with a
sharp intake of breath. Rex had disappeared.
  'Rex!' he hissed in a loud whisper, gripped by a sudden nameless
fear. 'Rex!' But there was no reply.


                                  5

                            Embodied Evil

  De  Richleau  had been involved in so many strange  adventures  in
his  long and chequered career, that instinctively his hand flew  to
the  pocket  where he kept his automatic at such times, but  it  was
flat-and in a fraction of time it had come back to him that this was
no  affair of shootings and escapes, but a grim struggle against the
Power  of  Darkness-in which their only protection must be an  utter
faith  in  the ultimate triumph of good, and the use of such  little
power  as  he possessed to bring into play the great forces  of  the
Power of Light.
  In  two  strides  he  had reached the door, grabbed  the  electric
switch,  and  pressed it as he cried in ringing  tones:  'Fundamenta
ejus in montibus sanctis!'
  'What the hell!' exclaimed Rex as the light flashed on. He was  at
the  far  side of the hall, carefully constructing a booby  trap  of
chairs  and  china  in front of the door that led to  the  servants'
quarters.
  'You've  done  it now,' he added, with his eyes riveted  upon  the
upper landing, but nothing stirred and the pall of silence descended
upon  the  place again until they could hear each other's  quickened
breathing.
  'The  house is empty,' Rex declared after a moment. 'If there were
anyone here they'd have been bound to hear you about. It echoed from
the cellars to the attics.'
  De  Richleau was regarding him with an angry stare. 'You  madman,'
he snapped. 'Don't you understand what we're up against? We must not
separate  for  an  instant in this unholy place-even  now  that  the
lights are on.'
  Rex  smiled.  He  had  always considered  the  Duke  as  the  most
fearless man he knew, and to see him in such a state of nerves was a
revelation.  'I'm not scared of bogeys, but I am of  being  shot  up
from  behind,' he said simply. 'I was fixing this so we'd  hear  the
servants  if  there was trouble upstairs and they came  up  to  help
Mocata.'
  'Yes,  but honestly, Rex, it is imperative that we should keep  as
near  each other as possible every second we remain in this  ghastly
house.  It  may sound childish, but I ought to have told you  before
that if anything queer does happen we must actually hold hands. That
will  quadruple  our resistance to evil by attuning  our  vibrations
towards  good.  Now let's go upstairs and see if  they  have  really
gone-though I can hardly doubt it.'
  Rex  followed marvelling. This man who was frightened  of  shadows
and  talked  of  holding hands at a time of danger  was  so  utterly
different  to  the De Richleau that he knew. Yet as he  watched  the
Duke  mounting the stairs in swift, panther-like, noiseless  strides
he  felt that since he was so scared this midnight visitation was  a
fresh demonstration of his courage.
  On  the floor above they made a quick examination of the bedrooms,
but  all of them were unoccupied and none of the beds had been slept
in.
  'Mocata  must  have sent the rest of them away  and  been  waiting
here  with  a  car to whisk Simon off immediately he got  back,'  De
Richleau declared as they came out of the last room.
  'That's  about  it,  so we may as well clear  out.'  Rex  shivered
slightly as he added: 'It's beastly cold up here.'
  'I  was  wondering whether you'd notice that, but we're not  going
home yet. This is a God-given opportunity to search the house at our
leisure. We may discover all sorts of interesting things. Leave  all
the lights on here, the more the better, and come downstairs.'
  In  the  salon  the great buffet table still lay spread  with  the
excellent collation which they had seen there on their first  visit.
The  Duke  walked over to it and poured himself a glass of wine.  'I
see  Simon  has taken to Cliquot again,' he observed. 'He alternates
between  that and Bollinger with remarkable consistency,  though  in
certain years I prefer Pol Roger to either when it has a little  age
on it.'
  As  Rex  spooned a slab of Duck & la Montmorency on  to  a  plate,
helping  himself liberally in the foie gras mousse and cherries,  he
wondered  if De Richleau had really recovered from the extraordinary
agitation that he had displayed a quarter of an hour before,  or  if
he  was  talking  so casually to cover his secret apprehensions.  He
hated  to  admit  it even to himself, but there was something  queer
about  the  house, a chill seemed to be spreading up his  legs  from
beneath  the  heavily-laden  table, and the  silence  was  strangely
oppressive. Anxious to get on with the business and out of the place
now,  he  said quickly. 'I don't give two hoots what he drinks,  but
where has Mocata gone-and why?'
  'The last question is simple.' De Richleau set down his glass  and
drew  out the case containing the famous Hoyo de Monterrey's. 'There
are  virtually no laws against the practice of Black Magic  in  this
country now. Only that of 1842, called the Rogues and Vagabonds Act,
under which a person may be prosecuted for 'pretending or professing
to  tell Fortunes, by using any subtle Craft, Means or Device!"  But
since  the  practitioners  of  it are  universally  evil,  the  Drug
Traffic, Blackmail, Criminal Assault and even Murder are often mixed
up  with it, and for one of those reasons Mocata, having learnt that
we  were  on our way here through his occult powers, feared a  brawl
might  attract  the  attention  of the  police  to  his  activities.
Evidently he considered discretion the better part of valour on this
occasion  and  temporarily abandoned the place to us-  taking  Simon
with him.'
  'Not  very logical-are you?' Rex commented. 'One moment  it's  you
who're scared that he may do all sorts of strange things to us,  and
the  next  you  tell me that he's bolted for fear of  being  slogged
under the jaw.'
  'My  dear fellow, I can only theorise. I'm completely in the  dark
myself.  Some  of  these followers of the Left Hand  Path  are  mere
neophytes who can do little more than wish evil in minor matters  on
people  they  dislike. Others are adepts and can set in  motion  the
most violent destructive forces which are not yet even suspected  by
our modern scientists.
  'If  Mocata only occupies a low place in the hierarchy we can deal
with him as we would any other crook with little risk of any serious
danger  to ourselves, but if he is a Master he may be able to strike
us  blind  or  dead.  Unfortunately I know  little  enough  of  this
horrible business, only the minor rituals of the Right Hand Path, or
White Magic as people call it, which may protect us hi an emergency.
If  only I knew more I might be able to find out where he has  taken
Simon.'
  'Cheer  up-we'll find him.' Rex laughed as he set down his  plate,
but  the sound echoed eerily through the deserted house, causing him
to  glance  swiftly over his shoulder in the direction of the  still
darkened inner room. 'What's the next move?' he asked more soberly.
  'We've  got to try and find Simon's papers. If we can, we  may  be
able to get the real names and addresses of some of those people who
were here tonight. Let's try the Library first-bring the bottle with
you. I'll take the glasses.'
  'What  d'you  mean-real names?' Rex questioned as he  followed  De
Richleau across the hall.
  'Why,  you don't suppose that incredible old woman with the parrot
beak  was really called Madame D'Urfe-do you? That's only a  nom-du-
Diable,  taken  when  she  was re-baptised,  and  adopted  from  the
Countess of that name, who was a notorious witch in Louis XV's time.
All  the others are the same. Didn't you realise the meaning of  the
name your lovely lady calls herself by-Tanith?'
  'No.'  Rex hesitated. 'I thought she was just a foreigner-  that's
all.'
  'Dear  me. Well, Tanith was the Moon Goddess of the Carthaginians.
Thousands of years earlier the Egyptians called her Isis, and in the
intervening  stage  she  was known to the Phoenicians  as  the  Lady
Astoroth.  They  worshipped her in sacred groves  where  doves  were
sacrificed  and unmentionable scenes of licentiousness  took  place.
The  God  Adonis was her lover, and the people wept for his mythical
death  each  year, believing upon him as a Redeemer of  Mankind.  As
they went in processions to her shrines they wrought themselves into
the wildest frenzy, and to slake the thwarted passion of the widowed
goddess,  gashed themselves with knives. Sir George Frazer's  Golden
Bough  will tell you all about it, but the blood that was shed still
lives,  Rex,  and  she  has  been thirsty  through  these  Christian
centuries  for  more.  Eleven words of  power,  each  having  eleven
letters,  twice  pronounced in a fitting time and  place  after  due
preparation, and she would stand before you, terrible in her beauty,
demanding a new sacrifice.'
  Even  Rex's  gay  modernity was not proof  against  that  sinister
declaration.  De  Richleau's  voice held  no  trace  of  the  gentle
cynicism which was so characteristic of him, but seemed to ring with
the  positiveness  of  some  horrible  secret  truth.  He  shuddered
slightly as the Duke began to pull open the drawers of Simon's desk.
  All  except one, which was locked, held letter files, and a  brief
examination  of  these  showed  that  they  contained  nothing   but
accounts,  receipts,  and correspondence of  a  normal  nature.  Rex
forced  the remaining drawer with a heavy steel paper knife, but  it
only held cheque book counterfoils and bundles of dividend warrants,
so  they turned their attention to the long shelves of books. It was
possible  that  Simon  might have concealed certain  private  papers
behind his treasured collection of modern first editions, but  after
ten minutes' careful search they assured themselves that nothing  of
interest was hidden at the back of the neat rows of volumes.
  Having drawn a blank in the library, they proceeded to the other
downstairs rooms, going systematically through every drawer and
cabinet, but without result. Then they moved upstairs and tried the
bedrooms, yet here again they could discover nothing which might not
have been found in any normal house, nor was there any safe in which
important documents might have been placed.
  During the search De Richleau kept Rex constantly beside him, and
Rex was not altogether sorry. Little by little the atmosphere of the
place was getting him down, and more than once he had the unpleasant
sensation that somebody was watching him covertly from behind,
although he told himself that it was pure imagination, due entirely
to De Richleau's evident belief in the supernatural, of which they
had been talking all the evening.
  'These people must, have left traces of their doings in this
house somewhere," declared the Duke angrily as they came out of the
last bedroom on to the landing, 'and I'm determined to find them.'
  'We haven't done the Observatory yet, and I'd say that's the most
likely spot of all,' Rex suggested.
  'Yes-let's do that next.' De Richleau turned towards the upper
flight of stairs.
  The  great  domed room was just as they had left it  a  few  hours
before.  The  big  telescope pointing in  the  same  direction,  the
astrolabes  and sextants still in the same places. The  five-pointed
pentacle  enclosed in the double circle with its Cabalistic  figures
stood out white and clear on the polished floor in the glare of  the
electric  lights. Evidently no ceremony had taken place after  their
departure. To verify his impression the Duke threw up the lid of the
wicker hamper that stood beside the wall.
  A  scraping sound came from the basket, and he nodded.  'See  Rex!
The  Black  Cock  and the White Hen destined for sacrifice,  but  we
spoilt  their game for tonight at all events. We'll take  them  down
and free them in the garden when we go.'
  'What did they really mean to do-d'you think?' Rex asked gravely.
  'Utilise  the  conjunction  of certain  stars  which  occurred  at
Simon's  birth,  and again tonight, to work some invocation  through
him.  To  raise  some  dark familiar perhaps,  an  elemental  or  an
earthbound  spirit-or even some terrible intelligence from  what  we
know  as  Hell, in order to obtain certain information they  require
from it.'
  'Oh,  nuts!'  Rex  exclaimed impatiently. 'I  don't  believe  such
things.  Simon's  been  got  hold  of  by  a  gang  of  blackmailing
kidnappers  and hypnotised if you like. They've probably  used  this
Black Magic stuff to impose on him just as it imposes on you-but  in
every other way it's sheer, preposterous nonsense.'
  'I  only hope that you may continue to think so, Rex, but  I  fear
you  may have reason to alter your views before we're through. Let's
continue our search-shall we?'
  'Fine-though I've a hunch it's a pity we didn't call hi  the  cops
at the beginning.'
  They  examined  the  instruments, but  all  of  them  were  beyond
suspicion  of  any  secret  purpose, and  then  a  square  revolving
bookcase,  but  it held only trigonometry tables and charts  of  the
heavens,
  'Damn  it,  there  must be something hi this place!'  De  Richleau
muttered,  'Swords or cups or devils' bibles. They couldn't  perform
their rituals without them.'
  'Maybe they took their impedimenta with them when they quit.'
  'Perhaps,  but I'd like even to see the place in which  they  kept
it.  You never know what they may have left behind. Try tapping  all
round  the walls, Rex, and I'll do the floor. There's almost certain
to be a secret cache somewhere.'
  For  some minutes they pursued their search in silence, only their
repeated  knockings breaking the stillness of the empty house.  Then
Rex  gave  a  sudden joyful shout.  'Here, quick-it's  hollow  under
here!'
  Together  they pulled aside an early seventeenth-century chart  of
the Macrocosm by Robert Fludd, and after fumbling for a moment found
the secret spring. The panel slid back with a click.
  In  the recess some four feet deep reposed a strange collection of
articles: a wand of hazelwood, a crystal set in gold, a torch with a
pointed end so that it could be stuck upright in the ground, candle-
sticks, a short sword, two great books, a dagger with a blade curved
like a sickle moon, a ring, a chalice and an old bronze lamp, formed
out  of  twisted  human  figures, which  had  nine  wicks.  All  had
pentacles, planetary signs, and other strange symbols engraved  upon
them,  and each had the polish which is a sign of great age  coupled
with frequent usage.
  'Got  them!' snapped the Duke. 'By Jove, I'm glad we stayed,  Rex!
These things are incredibly rare, and each a power in itself through
association  with past mysteries. It is a thousand  to  one  against
their  having others, and without them their claws will  be  clipped
from working any serious evil against us.'
  As  he  spoke De Richleau Lifted out the two ancient volumes.  One
had  a  binding  of worked copper on which were chased  designs  and
characters.  Its  leaves, which were made from  the  bark  of  young
trees, were covered with very clear writing done with an iron point.
The  text  of the other was painted on vellum yellowed by time,  and
its binding supported by great scrolled silver clasps.
  'Wonderful copies,' the Duke murmured, with all the enthusiasm  of
a  bibliophile. 'The Clavicule of Solomon and The Grimoire  of  Pope
Honorius.  They  are  not  the  muddled  recast  versions   of   the
seventeenth  century either, but far, far older. This  Clavicule  on
cork  may  be  of almost any age, and is to the Black Art  what  the
Codex Sinaiticus and such early versions are to Christianity.'
  'Well,  maybe Mocata didn't figure we'd stay to search this  place
when we found Simon wasn't here, but it doesn't say much for all his
clairvoyant powers you make such a song about for him to let us  get
away  with  his  whole magician's box of tricks. Say!  where's  that
draught coming from?' Rex suddenly clapped a hand on the back of his
neck.
  The  Duke thrust the two books back and swung round as if  he  had
been  stung. He had felt it at the same instant-a sudden chill  wind
which  increased to a rushing icy blast, so cold that it  stung  his
hands and face like burning fire. The electric lights flickered  and
went dim, so that only the faint red glow of the wires showed in the
globes. The great room was plunged in shadow and a violet mist began
to  rise out of the middle of the pentacle, swirling with incredible
rapidity like some dust devil of the desert., It gathered height and
bulk, spread and took form.
  The  lights flickered again and then went out, but the violet mist
had a queer phosphorescent glow of its own. By it they could see the
cabalistic  bookcase,  like a dark shadow  beyond  it,  through  the
luminous  mist.  An awful stench of decay, which yet  had  something
sweet  and  cloying about it, filled their nostrils as  they  gazed,
sick  and  almost retching with repulsion, at a grey face  that  was
taking  shape about seven feet from the floor. The eyes  were  fixed
upon  them, malicious and intent? The eyeballs whitened but the face
went  dark.  Under it the mist was gathering into shoulders,  torso,
hips.
  Before  they  could  choke  for  breath  the  materialisation  had
completed.  Clad in flowing robes of white, Mocata's  black  servant
towered above them. His astral body was just as the Duke had seen it
in  the flesh, from tip to toe a full six foot eight, and the  eyes,
slanting inward, burned upon them like live coals of fire.


                                  6

                           The Secret Art

  Rex  was  not frightened in the ordinary meaning of the  word.  He
was  past  the state in which he could have ducked, or screamed,  or
run.  He  stood there rigid, numbered by the icy chill that radiated
from  the  figure  in the pentagram, a tiny pulse  throbbed  in  his
forehead,  and his knees seemed to grow weak beneath him.  A  clear,
silvery  voice  beat in his ears: 'Do not look at his  eyes!-do  not
look at his eyes I-do not look at his eyes!'-an urgent repetition of
De Richleau's warning to him, but try as he would, he could not drag
his  gaze from the malignant yellow pupils which burned in the black
face.
  Unable to stir, hand or foot, he watched the ab-human figure  grow
in  breadth and height, its white draperies billowing with a strange
silent  motion as they rose from the violet mist that  obscured  the
feet, until it overflowed the circles that ringed the pentagram  and
seemed  to  fill the lofty chamber like a veritable Djin.  The  room
reeked  with  the sickly, cloying stench which he had heard  of  but
never thought to know-the abominable affluvium of embodied evil.
  Suddenly  red rays began to glint from the baleful slanting  eyes,
and  Rex  found  himself  quivering from  head  to  foot.  He  tried
desperately   to   pray:   'Our  Father   which   art   in   Heaven-
hallowed-hallowed-hallowed . . .' but the words  which  he  had  not
used for so long would not come; the vibrations, surging through his
body, as though he were holding the terminals of a powerful electric
battery,  seemed to cut them off. His left knee began to  jerk.  His
foot lifted. He strove to raise his arms to cover his face, but they
remained fixed to his sides as though held by invisible steel bands.
He  tried to cry out, to throw himself backwards, but, despite every
atom  of  will which he could muster, a relentless force was drawing
him  towards the silent, menacing figure. Almost before he  realised
it he had taken a pace forward.
  Through  that  timeless interval of seconds, days or weeks,  after
the  violet mist first appeared, De Richleau stood within a foot  of
Rex,  his  eyes  riveted upon the ground. He would  not  even  allow
himself  to  ascertain in what form the apparition had taken  shape.
The  sudden deathly cold, the flicker of the lights as the room  was
plunged in darkness, the noisome odour, were enough to tell him that
an entity of supreme evil was abroad.
  With   racing  thoughts,  he  cursed  his  foolhardiness  in  ever
entering  the  accursed house without doing all  things  proper  for
their protection. It was so many years since he had had any dealings
with  the occult that his acute anxiety for Simon had caused him  to
minimise  the appalling risk they would run. What folly  could  have
possessed  him, he wondered miserably, to allow Rex, whose ignorance
and  scepticism would make him doubly vulnerable, to accompany  him.
Despite  his advancing age, the Duke would have given five  precious
years  of  his  life for an assurance that Rex was  staring  at  the
parquet  floor, momentarily riveted by fear perhaps, yet still  free
from  the malevolent influence which was streaming in pulsing  waves
from the circle; but Rex was not-instinctively De Richleau knew that
his  eyes were fixed on the Thing-and a ghastly dread caused  little
beads of icy perspiration to break out on his forehead.
  Then he felt, rather than saw, Rex move. Next second he heard  his
footfall  and  knew that he was walking towards the pentagram.  With
trembling  lips  he  began to mutter strange sentences  of  Persian,
Greek  and  Hebrew,  dimly  remembered  from  his  studies  of   the
past-calling-calling-urgently- imperatively, upon the Power of Light
for guidance and protection. Almost instantly the memory that he had
slipped  the  jewelled swastika into his waistcoat pocket  when  Max
returned  it, flashed into his mind-and he knew that his prayer  was
answered.  His fingers closed on the jewel. His arms  shot  out.  It
glittered for a second in the violet light, then came to rest in the
centre of the circle.
  A  piercing  scream, desperate with anger, fear,  and  pain,  like
that  of  a beast seared with a white-hot iron, blasted the silence.
The lights flickered again so that the wires showed red-came on-went
out-and  flickered  once  more, as though  two  mighty  forces  were
struggling for possession of the current.
  The chill wind died so suddenly that it seemed as if a blanket  of
warm  air  had descended on their faces-but even while that  hideous
screech  was  still ringing through the chamber De Richleau  grabbed
Rex  by  the  arm and dragged him towards the door. Next second  the
control  of both had snapped and they were plunging down the  stairs
with an utter recklessness born of sheer terror.
  Rex  slipped  on  the  lower landing and sprawled  down  the  last
flight  on his back. The Duke came bounding after, six stairs  at  a
time,  and  fell  beside  him.  Together  they  scrambled  to  their
feet-dashed through the library-out of the french-windows-and across
the lawn.
  With  the  agility  of lemurs they swung up the  branches  of  the
laburnum-on  to  the  wall-and dropped to the far  side.  Then  they
pelted down the lane as fast as their legs could carry them, and  on
until  a  full street away they paused, breathless and  panting,  to
face each other under the friendly glow of a street lamp.
  De  Richleau's breath came in choking gasps. It was years since he
had  subjected himself to such physical exertion, and his  face  was
grey  from  the  strain which it had put upon  him.  Rex  found  his
evening  collar limp from the sweat which had streamed from  him  in
his  terror, but his lungs were easing rapidly, and he was the first
to recover.
  'God! we're mighty lucky to be out of that!'
  The Duke nodded, still unable to speak.
  'I  take back every word I said,' Rex went on hurriedly. 'I  don't
think  I've  ever been real scared of anything in my life before-but
that was hellish!'
  'I  panicked  too-towards the end-couldn't help it, but  I  should
never  have taken you into that place-never,' De Rich-leau  muttered
repentantly as they set off down the street.
  'Since  we've got out safe it's all to the good. I've a real  idea
what we're up against now.'
  The  Duke  drew Rex's arm through his own with a friendly gesture.
Far from desiring to say 'I told you so!' he was regretting that  he
had  been so impatient with Rex's previous unbelief, Most people  he
knew regarded devil worship and the cultivation of mystic powers  as
sheer superstitions due to the ignorance of the Middle Ages. It  had
been too much to expect Rex to accept his contention that their sane
and  sober friend Simon was mixed up in such practices, but  now  he
had  actually witnessed a true instance of Saiitii De Richleau  felt
that his co-operation would be ten times as valuable as before.
  In  the St. John's Wood Road they picked up a belated taxi, and on
the  way back to Curzon Street he questioned Rex carefully as to the
form  the  Thing  had  taken. When he had heard the  description  he
nodded, 'It was Mocata's black servant, undoubtedly.'
  'What did you say he was?'
  'A  Malagasy.  They  are a strange people.  Half  Negro  and  half
Polynesian. A great migration took place many centuries ago from the
South  Seas to the East African Coast by way of the Malay  Peninsula
and  Ceylon.  Incredible though it may seem,  they  covered  fifteen
thousand  miles  of open ocean in their canoes,  and  most  of  them
settled  in  Madagascar, where they intermarried with the aborigines
and  produced  this  half-breed type,  which  often  has  the  worst
characteristics of both races.'
  'And Madagascar is the home of Voodoo-isn't it?'
  'Yes.  Perhaps he is a Witch doctor himself . . , and yet I wonder
. . .'The Duke broke off as the taxi drew up before Errol House.
  As  they entered the big library Rex glanced at the clock and  saw
that  it was a Little after three. Not a particularly late hour  for
him, since he often danced until the night clubs emptied, nor for De
Richleau, who believed that the one time when men opened their minds
and  conversation became really interesting was in the  quiet  hours
before  the  dawn. Yet both were so exhausted by their  ordeal  that
they  felt  as  though a month had passed since  they  sat  down  to
dinner.
  Rex  remade  the  remnants of the fire while the  Duke  mixed  the
drinks  and uncovered the sandwiches which Max always left for  him.
Then  they both sank into armchairs and renewed the discussion,  for
despite  their weariness, neither had any thought of bed. The  peril
in which Simon stood was far too urgent.
  'You  were  postulating  that  he  might  be  a  Madagascar  Witch
doctor,' Rex began. 'But I've a hunch I've read some place that such
fellows  have no power over whites, and surely that is so, else  how
could settlers in Africa and places keep the blacks under?'
  'Broadly  speaking, you are right, and the explanation is  simple.
What  we call Magic-Black or White-is the Science and Art of Causing
Change to occur in conformity with Will, Any required Change may  be
effected  by the application of the proper kind and degree of  Force
in  the proper manner and through the proper medium. Naturally,  for
causing any Change it is requisite to have the practical ability  to
set  the  necessary  Forces in right motion, but  it  is  even  more
important   to   have  a  thorough  qualitative   and   quantitative
understanding of the conditions. Very few white men can  really  get
inside a Negro's mind and know exactly what he is thinking-and  even
fewer blacks can appreciate a white's mentality. In consequence,  it
is  infinitely harder for the Wills of either to work on  the  other
than on men of their own kind.
  'Another  factor  which adds to the difficulty  of  a  Negroid  or
Mongolian  Sorcerer  working  his spells  upon  a  European  is  the
question  of vibrations. Their variation in human beings is governed
largely  by  the  part of the earth's surface in  which  birth  took
place.  To  use a simple analogy, some races have long wave  lengths
and others short-and the greater the variation the more difficult it
is  for  a  malignant will to influence that of an intended  victim.
Were it otherwise, you may be certain that the white races, who have
neglected  spiritual  growth for material achievement,  would  never
have come to dominate the world as they do today.'
  'Yet  that  devil  of Mocata's got me down all  right.  Ugh!'  Rex
shuddered slightly at the recollection.
  True-but I was only speaking generally. There are exceptions,  and
in  the  highest grades-the Ipsissimus, the Magus and  the  Magister
Templi-those  who have passed the Abyss, colour and race  no  longer
remain  a  bar, so such Masters can work their will upon any  lesser
human  unless  he  is protected by a power of equal  strength.  This
associate  of Mocata's may be one of the great Adepts  of  the  Left
Hand  Path. However, what I was really wondering was-is he  a  human
being at all?'
  'But  you said you saw him yourself-when you paid a call on  Simon
weeks back.'
  'I  thought I saw him-so at first I assumed that the Thing you saw
tonight  was his astral body, sent by Mocata to prevent our removing
his  collection of Devil's baubles; but perhaps what we both saw was
a  disembodied entity, an actual Satanic power which is not governed
by  Mocata,  but has gained entry to our world from the  other  side
through his evil practices,'
  'Oh  Lord!'  Rex groaned. 'All this stuff is so new, so fantastic,
so  utterly  impossible to me-I just can't grasp  it;  though  don't
think  I'm doubting now. Whether it was an astral body or  what  you
say,  I saw it all right, and it wasn't a case of any stupid parlour
tricks-I'll swear to that. It was so evil that my bones just  turned
to  water on me in sheer blue funk-and there's poor Simon all  mixed
up in this. Say, now-what the hell are we to do?'
  De  Richleau sat forward suddenly. 'I wish to God I knew what  was
at  the  bottom of this business. I am certain that it is  something
pretty foul for them to have gone to the lengths of getting hold  of
a  normal  man like Simon but, if it is the last thing we  ever  do,
we've got to find him and get him away from these people.'
  'But  how?' Rex flung wide his arms. 'Where can we even  start  in
on  the hope of picking up the trail? Simon's a lone wolf-always has
been.  He's got no father; his mother lives abroad; unlike  so  many
Jews, he hasn't even got a heap of relatives who we can dig out  and
question?'
  'Yes,  that is the trouble. Of course he is almost certain  to  be
with  Mocata,  but  I  don't see how we are  to  set  about  finding
somebody who knows Mocata either. If only we had the address of  any
of those people who were there this evening we might...'
  'I've  got  it!' cried Rex, leaping to his feet. 'We'll trace  him
through Tanith.'


                                  7

                    De Richleau Plans a Campaign

  'Tanith,' the Duke repeated; 'but you don't know where she is,  do
you?'
  'Sure.'  Rex laughed, for the first time in several hours. 'Having
got  acquainted with her after all this while, I wouldn't be such  a
fool as to quit that party without nailing her address.'
  'I must confess that I'm surprised she gave it to you.'
  'She  hadn't  fallen to it that I wasn't one of their  bunch-then!
She's staying at Claridges.'
  'Do you think you can get hold of her?'
  'Don't you worry-I meant to, anyhow.'
  'You  must be careful, Rex. This woman is very lovely, I  know-but
she's probably damnably dangerous.'
  'I've  never been scared of a female yet, and surely these  people
can't do me much harm in broad daylight?'
  'No,  except for ordinary human trickery they are almost powerless
between sunrise and sunset.'
  Tine.  Then  I'll go right round to Claridges as soon  as  she  is
likely to be awake tomorrow-today, rather.'
  'You don't know her real name though, do you?'
  'I  should  worry.  There aren't two girls  like  her  staying  at
Claridges-there aren't two like her in all London.'
  De  Richleau stood up and began to pace the floor like  some  huge
cat. 'What do you intend to say to her?' he asked at length.
  'Why,  that  we're  just worried stiff about Simon-and  that  it's
absolutely imperative that she should help us out. I'll give  her  a
frank  undertaking not to do anything against Mocata or any  of  her
pals  if she'll come clean with me-though Heaven knows I can't think
she's got any real friends in a crowd like that.'
  'Rex!  Rex!' The Duke smiled affectionately down into  the  honest
attractive, ugly face of the young giant stretched in the  armchair.
'And  what,  may I ask, do you intend to do should this lovely  lady
refuse to tell you anything?'
  'I  can  threaten to call in the cops, I suppose, though I'd  just
hate to do anything like that on her.'
  De  Richleau gave his eloquent expressive shrug. 'My dear  fellow,
unless  we  can  get  some  actual  evidence  of  ordinary  criminal
activities against Mocata and his friends, the police are absolutely
ruled out of this affair-and she would know it.'
  'I  don't  see why,' Rex protested stubbornly. 'These people  have
kidnapped Simon, that's what it boils down to, and that's as much  a
crime as running a dope joint or white slaving.'
  'Perhaps,  and  if they had hit him on the head our problem  would
be  easy. The difficulty is that to all outward appearances  he  has
joined them willingly and in his right mind. Only we know that he is
acting under some powerful and evil influence which has been brought
to  bear on him, and how in the world are you going to charge anyone
with raising the devil-or its equivalent-in a modern police court?'
  'Well, what do you suggest?'
  'Listen.'  The  Duke perched himself on the arm  of  Rex's  chair.
'Even  if  this girl is an innocent party like Simon, she  will  not
tell  you anything willingly-she will be too frightened. As a matter
of  fact,  now that she knows you are not a member of their infernal
circle  it  is  doubtful  if  she will even  see  you,  but  if  she
does-well, you've got to get hold of her somehow.'
  'I'll  certainly have a try-but it's not all that easy  to  kidnap
people in a city Like London.'
  'I  don't  mean  that exactly, but rather that you  should  induce
her,  by fair means or foul, to accompany you to some place where  I
can  talk  to  her at my leisure. If she is only a neophyte  I  know
enough  of this dangerous business to frighten her out of her  wits.
If  she is something more there will be a mental tussle, and  I  may
learn  something from the cards which she is forced to throw on  the
table.'
  'O.K. I'll pull every gun I know to persuade her into coming  here
with me for a cocktail.'
  De  Richleau  shook  his  head. 'No, I'm  afraid  that  won't  do,
immediately  she realised the reason she had been brought  here  she
would  insist on leaving, and we couldn't stop her. If we tried  she
would  break a window and yell Murder! We have got to get her  to  a
place where she will see at once the futility of trying to call  for
outside  help.  I have itl Do you think you could get  her  down  to
Pangbourne?'
  'What? To that river place of yours?'
  'Yes; I haven't been down there yet this year, but I can send  Max
down  first  thing  in the morning to open it  up  and  give  it  an
airing.'
  'You  talk  as though I were falling off a log to get  a  girl  to
come  boating  on  the  Thames at what's practically  a  first  meet
ing-can't you weigh in and lend a hand yourself?'
  'No.  I shall be at the British Museum most of the day. It  is  so
many  years  since I studied the occult that there  are  a  thousand
things  I have forgotten. It is absolutely imperative that I  should
immerse myself in some of the old key works for a few hours and  rub
up  my  knowledge of protective measures. I must leave you to handle
the  girl,  Rex,  and  remember, Simon's safety will  depend  almost
wholly on your success. Get her there somehow, and I'll join you  in
the late afternoon-say about six.'
  Rex  grinned. 'It's about as stiff a proposition as sending me  in
your place to study the Cabbala, but I'll do rny best.'
  'Of  course  you  will.' The Duke began to pace hurriedly  up  and
down  again. 'But go gently with her-I beg you. Avoid any  questions
about  this  horrible  business as you would the  plague.  Play  the
lover.  Be  just the nice young man who has fallen in  love  with  a
beautiful girl. If she asks you about our having abducted Simon from
the  party, say you were completely in the dark about it.  That  you
have  known me for years-and that I sprung some story on  you  about
his  having fallen into the hands of a gang of blackmailers, so  you
just  blindly followed my lead without a second thought. Not a  word
to  her about the supernatural-you know nothing of that. You must be
as incredulous as you were with me when I first talked to you of it.
And,  above  all, if you can get her to Pang-bourne, don't  let  her
know that I am coming down.'
  'Surely-I get the line you want me to play all right.'
  'Good. You see, if I can only squeeze some information out of  her
which will enable us to find out where Mocata is living, we will  go
down  and keep the place under observation for a day or two.  He  is
almost  certain to have Simon with him. We will note the times  that
Mocata leaves the house and plan our raid accordingly. If we can get
Simon  into  our hands again I swear Mocata shan't get  him  back  a
second time.'
  That's certainly the idea.'
  'There  is  only  one thing I am really frightened  of.'   'What's
that?'
  De  Richleau  paused  opposite Rex's chair.  'What  I  heard  this
evening  of  Simon's  approaching change  of  name-to  Abraham,  you
remember.  That, of course, would be after Abraham the Jew,  a  very
famous  and learned mystic of the early centuries. He wrote  a  book
which  is  said to be the most informative ever compiled  concerning
the  Great Work. It was lost sight of for several hundred years, but
early  in  the  fifteenth  century came into  the  possession  of  a
Parisian  bookseller named Nicolas Flamel who, by its aid, performed
many  curious rites. Flamel was buried in some magnificence,  and  a
few  years  later  certain persons who were anxious  to  obtain  his
secrets opened his grave to find the book which was supposed to have
been  buried  with him. Neither Flamel nor the book was  there,  and
there  is  even  some evidence to show that he was  still  living  a
hundred years later in Turkey, which is by no means unbelievable  to
those who have any real knowledge of the strange powers acquired  by
the  true  initiate such as those in the higher orders of  the  Yoga
sects. That is the last we know of the Book of Abraham the Jew,  but
it  seems that Simon is about to take his name in the service of the
Invisible.'
  'Well-what'll happen then?'
  'That  he  will be given over entirely to the Power  of  Evil,  be
cause he will renounce his early teaching and receive his re-baptism
at  the  hands of a high adept of the Left Hand Path. Until that  is
done we can still save him, because all the invisible powers of Good
will be fighting on our side, but after-they will withdraw, and what
we call the Soul of Simon Aron will be dragged down into the Pit.'
  'Are  you  sure of that? Baptism into the Christian Faith  doesn't
ensure  one going to Heaven, why should this other sprinkling  be  a
guarantee of anyone going to Hell?'
  'It's  such  a  big question, Rex, but briefly it  is  like  this.
Heaven  and  Hell  are  only  symbolical  of  growth  to  Light   or
disintegration to Darkness. By Christian-or any other true religious
baptism, we renounce the Devil and all his Works, thereby erecting a
barrier  which  it  is difficult for Evil forces  to  surmount,  but
anyone  who  accepts Satanic baptism does exactly the reverse.  They
wilfully  destroy the barrier of astral Light which is  our  natural
protection and offer themselves as a medium through which the powers
of Darkness may operate on mankind.
  'They  are  tempted to it, of course, by the belief that  it  will
give them supernatural powers over their fellow-men, but few of them
realise the appalling danger. There is no such person as the  Devil,
but  there  are vast numbers of Earthbound spirits, Elementals,  and
Evil Intelligences of the Outer Circle floating in our midst. Nobody
who  has even the most elementary knowledge of the Occult can  doubt
that.  They  are blind and ignorant, and except for the last,  under
comparatively rare circumstances, not in the least dangerous to  any
normal  man or woman who leads a reasonably upright life,  but  they
never  cease to search in a fumbling way for some gateway back  into
existence  as we know it. The surrender of one's own volition  gives
it  to them, and, if you need an example, you only have to think  of
the  many terrible crimes which are perpetrated when reason and will
are  entirely absent owing to excess of alcohol. An Elemental seizes
upon  the unresisting intelligence of the human and forces  them  to
some   appalling  deed  which  is  utterly  against  their   natural
instincts.
  'That,  then, is the danger. While apparently only passing through
an  ancient  barbarous  and  disgusting  ritual,  the  Satanist,  by
accepting  baptism, surrenders his will to the domination of  powers
which  he believes he will be able to use for his own ends,  but  in
actual fact he becomes the spiritual slave of an Elemental, and  for
ever after is nothing but the instrument of its evil purposes.'
  'When do you figure they'll try to do this thing?'
  'Not  for  a week or so, I trust. It is essential that  it  should
take place at a real Sabbat, when at least one Coven of thirteen  is
present,  and after our having broken up their gathering  tonight  I
hardly  think  they  will risk meeting again for some  little  time,
unless there is some extraordinary reason why they should.'
  'That  gives us a breathing space then; but what's worrying me  is
that it's so early in the year to ask a young woman to go picnicking
on the river.'
  'Why? The sunshine for the last few days has been magnificent.'
  'Still, it's only April 29th-the 30th, I mean.'
  'What!'  De  Richleau stood there with a new and terrible  anxiety
burning in his eyes. 'Good God! I never realised!'
  'What's the trouble?'
  'Why,  that  was  only  one Coven we saw tonight,  and  there  are
probably a dozen scattered over England. The whole pack are probably
on  their way by now to the great annual gathering. It's a certainty
they  will  take Simon with them. They'd never miss  the  chance  of
giving him his Devil's Christening at the Grand Sabbat of the year.'
  'What  in  the  world are you talking about?' Rex hoisted  himself
swiftly out of his chair.
  'Don't  you  understand,  man?' De Richleau  gripped  him  by  the
shoulder. 'On the last night of April every peasant in Europe  still
double-locks his doors. Every latent force for Evil in the world  is
abroad.  We've  got to get hold of Simon in the next  twenty  hours.
This coming night-April 30th-is Saint Walburga's Eve.'


                                  8

                    Rex Van Ryn Opens the Attack

  Six  hours  later, Rex, still drowsy with sleep,  lowered  himself
into  the  Duke's sunken bath. It was a very handsome bathroom  some
fifteen  feet by twelve; black glass, crystal mirrors, and chromium-
plated fittings made up the scheme of decoration.
  Some  people might have considered it a little too striking to  be
in  perfect  taste, but De Richleau did not subscribe to  the  canon
which  has  branded  ostentation  as  vulgarity  in  the  last   few
generations, and robbed nobility of any glamour which  it  may  have
possessed in more spacious days.
  His  forbears had ridden with thirty-two footmen before them,  and
it  caused  him considerable regret that modern conditions  made  it
impossible  for him to drive in his Hispano with no  more  than  one
seated  beside  his chauffeur on the box. Fortunately his  resources
were considerable and his brain sufficiently astute to make good, in
most  years,  the  inroads which the tax gatherers made  upon  them.
'After him,' of course 'the Deluge' as he very fully recognised, but
with  reasonable  good fortune he considered that private  ownership
would  last out his time, at least in England where he had made  his
home; and so he continued to do all things on a scale suitable to  a
De  Richleau, with the additional lavishness of one who  had  had  a
Russian  mother,  as  far as the restrictions  of  twentieth-century
democracy would allow.
  Rex,  however,  had used the Duke's ?1,000 bathroom  a  number  of
times  before,  and  his only concern at the moment  was  to  wonder
vaguely what he was doing there on this occasion and why he had such
an appalling hangover. Never, since he had been given two glasses of
bad  liquor  in  the  old  days  when  his  country  laboured  under
prohibition, had he felt so desperately ill.
  A  giant  sponge placed on the top of his curly head  brought  him
temporary  relief  and full consciousness of the  events  which  had
taken  place  the  night  before. Of  course  it  was  that  ghastly
experience  he  had  been through in Simon's empty  house  that  had
sapped  him of his vitality and left him in this wretched state.  He
remembered  that  he had kept up all right until they  got  back  to
Curzon  Street, and even after, during a long conversation with  the
Duke; then, he supposed, he must have petered out from sheer nervous
exhaustion.
  He  lay  back in the warm, faintly scented water, and gave himself
a  mental shaking. The thought that he must have fainted shocked him
profoundly. He had driven racing cars at 200 miles an hour, had  his
colours for the Cresta run, had flown a plane 1,500 miles, right out
of  the Forbidden Territory down to Kiev in one hop. He had shot men
and  been shot at in return both in Russia and in Cuba, where he had
found himself mixed up with the Revolution, but never before had  he
been in a real funk about anything, much less collapsed like a spine
less fool.
  He  recalled  with  sickening vividness, that loathsome,  striking
manifestation  of  embodied evil that had come upon  them-  and  his
thoughts flew to Simon. How could their shy nervous, charming friend
have got himself mixed up in all this devilry? For Rex had no doubts
now that, incredible as it might seem, the Duke was right, and Satan
worship  still a living force in modern cities, just as the infernal
Voodoo  cult  was  still secretly practised by the  Negroes  in  the
Southern States of his own country. He thought again of their  first
visit to Simon's house as unwelcome guests at that strange party. Of
the Albino, the old Countess D'Urfe, the sinister Chinaman, and then
of Tanith, except for Simon the only normal person present, and felt
convinced  that,  but  for  the intervention  of  De  Richleau  some
abominable  ceremony would certainly have taken place,  although  he
had laughed at the suggestion at the time.
  Sitting  up he began to soap himself vigorously while he  restated
the  situation briefly in his mind. One: Mocata was an adept of what
De  Richleau called the Left Hand Path, and for some reason  unknown
he  had  gained control over Simon. Two: owing to their intervention
the  Satanists  had abandoned Simon's house-taking  him  with  them.
Three:  Simon was shortly to be baptised into the Black Brotherhood,
after which, according to the Duke, he would be past all help. Four:
today  was May Day Eve when, according to the Duke, the Grind Sabbat
of  the year took place. Five: following from four, it was almost  a
certainty  that Mocata would seize this opportunity of the Walpurgis
Nacht  celebrations to have Simon re-christened. Six:  in  the  next
twelve hours therefore, Mocata had to be traced and Simon taken from
him. Seven: the only possibility of getting on Mocata's trail lay in
obtaining information by prayers, cajolery, or threats from Tanith.
  Rex  stopped soaping and groaned aloud at the thought that the one
woman  he had been wanting to meet for years should be mixed  up  in
this  revolting  business.  He loathed deception  in  any  form  and
resented  intensely the necessity for practising it on her,  but  De
Richleau's  last instructions to him were still clear in  his  mind,
and the one thing which stood out above all others, was the fact  of
his  old  and  clear  friend being in some intangible  but  terrible
peril.
  Feeling slightly better by the time he had shaved and dressed,  he
noted  from  the  windows of the flat that at least  they  had  been
blessed with a glorious day. Summer was in the air and there  seemed
a promise of that lovely fortnight which sometimes graces England in
early May.
  To  his surprise he found that De Richleau, who habitually was not
visible  before  twelve,  had  left the  fiat  at  half-past  eight.
Evidently  he  meant  to  put  in  a  long  day  among  the  ancient
manuscripts  at  the  British Museum, rubbing up  his  knowledge  of
strange cults and protective measures against what he termed the Ab-
human monsters of the Outer Circle.
  Max  proffered breakfast, but Rex declined it until, with  a  hurt
expression, the servant produced his favourite omelet.
  'The chef will be so disappointed, sir,' he said.
  Reluctantly  Rex sat down to eat while Max, busy with the  coffee-
pot,  permitted himself a hidden smile. He had had orders  from  the
Duke, and His Excellency was a wily man. None knew that better  than
his personal servitor, the faithful Max.
  Noting  that  Rex had finished, he produced a wine-glass  full  of
some  frothy  mixture on a salver. 'His Excellency  said,  sir.'  he
stated blandly, 'that he finds this uncommon good for his neuralgia.
I  was distressed to hear that you are sometimes a sufferer too, and
if   you'd   try   it  the  taste  is,  if  I  may   say   so,   not
unpleasant-somewhat resembling that of granadillas I believe.'
  With  a suspicious look Rex drank the quite palatable potion while
Max added suavely: 'Some gentleman prefer prairie-oysters I am told,
but I've a feeling, sir, that His Excellency knows best.'
  'You  old  humbug.' Rex grinned as he replaced the glass.  'Anyhow
last  night wasn't the sort of party you think-I wish to God it  had
been.'
  'No,  sir!  Well, that's most regrettable I'm sure, but  I  had  a
feeling that Mr. Aron was not quite in his usual form, if I  may  so
express it-when he er-joined us after dinner.'
  'Yes-of course you put Simon to bed-I'd forgotten that.'
  Max  quickly  lowered  his eyes. He was  quite  certain  that  his
innocent action the night before had been connected in some way with
Simon  Aron's sudden disappearance from the bedroom later, and  felt
that  for once he had done the wrong thing, so he deftly turned  the
conversation. 'His Excellency instructed me to tell you,  sir,  that
the  touring  Rolls  is  entirely at your disposal  and  the  second
chauffeur if you wish to use him.'
  'No-I'll  drive  myself; have it brought round  right  away-  will
you?'
  'Very  good,  sir, and now if you will excuse me I must  leave  at
once  in  order to get down to Pangbourne and prepare the house  for
your reception.'
  'O.K.,  Max-See-yer-later-I hope.' Rex picked up a  cigarette.  He
was feeling better already. 'A whole heap better,' he thought, as he
wondered what potent corpse-reviver lay hidden in the creamy  depths
of De Richleau's so-called neuralgia tonic. Then he sat down to plan
out his line of attack on the lady at Claridges.
  If  he  could only talk to her he felt that he would  be  able  to
intrigue  her into a friendly attitude. He could, of course,  easily
find  out  her real name from the bureau of the hotel, but the  snag
was  that  if  he sent up his name and asked to see her the  chances
were  all  against  her  granting him an interview.  After  all,  by
kidnapping  Simon, he and the Duke had wrecked the  meeting  of  her
Circle the night before, and if she was at all intimately associated
with  Mocata, she probably regarded him with considerable hostility.
Only  personal contact could overcome that, so he must not risk  any
rebuff through the medium of bell-hops, but accept it only if  given
by her after he had managed to see her face to face.
  His  plan,  therefore,  eventually  boiled  down  to  marching  on
Claridges,  planting himself in a comfortable chair within  view  of
the  lifts  and  sitting there until Tanith made her appearance.  He
admitted  to  himself that his proposed campaign  was  conspicuously
lacking in brilliance but, he argued, few women staying in a  London
hotel  would remain in their rooms all day, so if he sat there  long
enough it was almost certain that an opportunity would occur for him
to  tackle  her direct. If she did turn him down-well,  De  Richleau
wasn't  the only person in the world who had ideas-and Rex flattered
himself that he would think of something.
  Immediately the Rolls was reported at the door, he left  the  flat
and  drove  round  to Claridges in it. A short conversation  with  a
friendly  commissionaire ensured that there would be no  trouble  if
the  car was left parked outside, even for a considerable time,  for
Rex  thought  it necessary to have it close at hand since  he  might
need it at any moment.
  As  he  entered the hotel from the Davies Street entrance he noted
with  relief  that it was only a little after ten. It  was  unlikely
that Tanith would have gone out for the day so early, and he settled
himself  to wait for an indefinite period with cheerful optimism  in
the  almost  empty lounge. After a moment it occurred  to  him  that
somebody  might come up to him and inquire his business  if  he  was
forced  to  stay  there for any length of time, but an  underporter,
passing  at  the moment, gave him a swift smile and  little  bow  of
recognition,  so  he  trusted  that having  been  identified  as  an
occasional client of the place he would not be unduly molested.
  He  began  to  consider what words he should  use  if,  and  when,
Tanith  did step out of the lifts, and had just decided on a formula
which   contained  the  requisite  proportions  of  respect,  subtle
admiration,  and  gaiety when a small boy in buttons  came  marching
with a carefree swing down the corridor.
  'Mister  Vine  Rine-Mister Vine Rine,' he chanted in a  monotonous
treble.
  Rex  looked  at  the  boy  suspiciously. The  sound  had  a  queer
resemblance to the parody of his own name as he had often  heard  it
shrilled  out by bell-hops in clubs and hotel lounges.  Yet  no  one
could   possibly  be  aware  of  his  presence  at  Claridges   that
morning-except, of course, the Duke. At the thought that De Richleau
might  be  endeavouring to get in touch with  him  for  some  urgent
reason  he  turned,  and  at the same moment  the  page  sidetracked
towards him.
  'Mr. Van Ryn, sir?' he inquired, dropping into normal speech.
  'Yes.' Rex nodded.
  Then  to  his  utter  astonishment the boy  announced:  'The  lady
you've  called  to  see sent down to say she's  sorry  to  keep  you
waiting, but she'll join you in about fifteen minutes.'
  With  his  mouth  slightly open Rex stared stupidly  at  the  page
until  that  infant turned and strutted away. He did not doubt  that
the  message came from Tanith-who else could have sent it,  yet  how
the  deuce did she know that he was there? Perhaps she had seen  him
drive   up   from  her  window  -that  seemed  the  only  reasonable
explanation. Anyhow that 'she was sorry to keep him waiting' sounded
almost too good to be true.
  Recovering  a  little he stood up, marched out into  Brook  Street
and  purchased a great sheaf of lilac from a florist's a  few  doors
down.  Returning with it to the hotel he suddenly realised  that  he
still did not know Tanith's real name, but catching sight of the boy
who had paged him, he beckoned him over.
  'Here  boy-take  these up to the lady's room with  Mr.  Van  Ryn's
compliments.'  Then  he resumed his seat near the  lift  with  happy
confidence.
  Five  minutes later the lift opened. An elderly woman leaning upon
a  tall  ebony cane stepped out. At the first glance Rex  recognised
the  parrot-peaked nose, the nut-cracker chin and the piercing black
eyes  of the old Countess D'Urfe. Before he had time to collect  his
wits she had advanced upon him and extended a plump, beringed hand.
  'Monsieur  Van Ryn,' she croaked. 'It is charming that you  should
call upon me-sank you a thousand times for those lovely flowers.'


                                  9

          The Countess D'Urfe Talks of Many Curious Things

  'Ha! ha!-not a bit of it-it's great to see you again.'
  Rex  gave a weak imitation of a laugh. He had only spoken  to  the
old crone for two minutes on the previous evening and that, when  he
had  first  arrived at Simon's party, for the purpose  of  detaching
Tanith from her. Even if she had seen him drive up to Claridges what
in  the world could have made her imagine that he had come to  visit
herl  If  only  he hadn't sent up that lilac he might have  politely
excused  himself-but he could hardly tell her now that he had  meant
it for someone else.
  'And  how  is  Monseigneur  le Due this  morning?'  the  old  lady
inquired, sinking into a chair he placed for her.
  'He  asked  me  to present his homage, Madame,' Rex lied  quickly,
instinctively  picking a phrase which De Richleau  might  have  used
himself.
  'Ca,  c'est  tres gentille.'E is a charming man-charming  an'  'is
cigars they are superb,' The Countess D'Urfe' produced a square case
from her bag and drew out a fat, dark Havana. As Rex applied a match
she  went  on  slowly: 'But it ees not right that one Circle  should
make  interference with the operations of another. What 'ave you  to
say of your be'aviour lars' night my young frien'?'
  'My  hat,' thought Rex, 'the old beldame fancies we're an opposing
faction  in  the same line of business-I'll have to use  this  if  I
can;'  so  he answered slowly: 'We were mighty sorry to have  to  do
what we did, but we needed Simon Aron for our own purposes.'
  'So!-you also make search for the Talisman then?'
  'Sure-that is, the Duke's taking a big interest in it.'
  'Which  of us are not-and 'oo but le petit Juif shall lead  us  to
it.'
  'That's true.'
  'Ave you yet attempted the Rite to Saturn?'
  'Yes,  but things didn't pan out quite as we thought they  would,'
Rex replied cautiously, -not having the faintest idea what they were
talking about.
  'You  'ave  satisfy  yourselves that the  aloes  and  mastic  were
fresh, eh?' The wicked old eyes bored into his.
  'Yes, I'm certain of that,' he assured her.
  'You  choose a time when the planet was in the 'ouse of Capricorn,
of course?'
  'Oh, surely!'
  'An'  you  'ave not neglect to make Libation to Our  Lady  Babalon
before'and?'
  'Oh, no, we wouldn't do that!'
  'Then per'aps your periods of silence were not long enough?'
  'Maybe  that's  so,' he admitted hurriedly, hoping to  close  this
madhatter's conversation before he completely put his foot into it.
  Countess  D'Urfe  nodded, then after drawing thoughtfully  at  her
cigar she looked at him intently. 'Silence,' she murmured. 'Silence,
that  ees always essential in the Ritual of Saturn-but you 'ave much
courage to thwart Mocata-'e is powerful, that one.'
  'Oh,  we're  not afraid of him,' Rex declared and,  recalling  the
highest grade of operator from his conversation with De Richleau, he
added:  'You  see  the  Duke  knows all  about  this  thing-he's  an
Ipsissimus.'
  The  old  lady's eyes almost popped out of their sockets  at  this
announcement,  and  Rex feared that he had gone  too  far,  but  she
leaned  forward and placed one of her jewelled claws upon  his  arm.
'An  Ipsissimus!-an' I 'av studied the Great Work for  forty  years,
yet  I  'ave reached only the degree of Practicus. But no, 'e cannot
be, or 'ow could 'e fail with the Rite to Saturn?'
  'I  only  said  that it didn't pan out quite as we expected,'  Rex
hastened  to remind her, 'and for the full dress business he'd  need
Simon Aron anyway.'
  'Of  course,'  she  nodded  again and continued  in  an  awestruck
whisper,  'an' De Richleau is then a real Master. You  must  be  far
advanced for one so young-that 'e allow you to work with 'im.'
  He  flicked  the ash off his cigarette but maintained  a  cautious
silence.
  'I  am  not-'ow you say-associated with Mocata long-since  I  'ave
arrive only recently in England, but De Richleau will cast 'im  down
into  the Abyss-for 'ow shall 'e prevail against one who is  of  ten
circles and a single square?'
  Rex nodded gravely.
  'Could  I not-' her dark eyes filled with a new eagerness,  'would
it  not  be possible for me to prostrate before your frien'? If  you
spoke  for  me also, per'aps 'e would allow that I should  occupy  a
minor place when 'e proceeds again to the invocation?'
  'Ho!  Ho!'  said Rex to himself, 'so the old rat wants to  scuttle
from the sinking ship, does she. I ought to be able to turn this  to
our  advantage,' while aloud he said with a lordly air: 'All  things
are possible-but there would be certain conditions.'
  'Tell me,' she muttered swiftly.
  'Well, there is this question of Simon Aron.'
  'What  question?-Now that you 'ave 'im with you-you  can  do  with
'im as you will.'
  Rex  quickly  averted  his  gaze from  the  piercing  black  eyes.
Evidently Mocata had turned the whole party out after they  had  got
away with Simon. The old witch obviously had no idea that Mocata had
regained  possession of him later. In another second he  would  have
given  away  their whole position by demanding Simon's  whereabouts.
Instead-searching  his  mind  desperately  for  the  right  bits  of
gibberish  he  said:  'When  De  Richleau  again  proceeds  to   the
invocation it is necessary that the vibrations of all present should
be attuned to those of Simon Aron.'
  'No  matter-willingly  I  will place  myself  in  your  'ands  for
preparation.'
  'Then  I'll put it up to him, but first I must obey his order  and
say  a  word  to  the  lady who was with you at  Aron's  house  last
night-Tanith.'  Having at last manoeuvred the conversation  to  this
critical  point, Rex mentally crossed his thumbs and  offered  up  a
prayer  that he was right in assuming that they were staying at  the
hotel together.
  She  smiled,  showing two rows of white false teeth. 'I  know  it,
and you must pardon, I beg, that we 'ave our little joke with you.'
  'Oh, don't worry about that,' he shrugged, wondering anxiously  to
what new mystery she was alluding, but to his relief she hurried on.
  'Each  morning we look into the crystal an' when she see you  walk
into  the  'otel  she  exclaim, 'It is  for  me  'e  comes-the  tall
American,"  but  we  'ave no knowledge that  you  are  more  than  a
Neophyte  or a Zelator at the most, so when you send up the  flowers
she  say to me, "You shall go down to 'im instead an' after we  will
laugh at the discomfiture of this would-be lover."'
  The  smile  broadened on Rex's full mouth as he  listened  to  the
explanation  of much that had been troubling him in the  last  hour,
but  it  faded  suddenly as he realised that, natural as  it  seemed
compared to all this meaningless drivel which he had been exchanging
with the old woman, it was in reality one more demonstration of  the
occult.  These two women had actually seen him walk into  the  hotel
lounge when they were sitting upstairs in their room peering into  a
piece of glass.
  'In  some ways I suffer the disappointment,' said the old Countess
suddenly,   and  Rex  found  her  studying  turn  with  a   strange,
disconcerting  look. 'I know well that promiscuity  gives  a  greaty
power  for  all 'oo follow the Path an' that 'uman love 'inders  our
development, but nevair 'ave I been able to free myself  from  a  so
stupid sentimentality-an' you would, I think, 'ave made a good lover
for 'er.'
  Rex  stared  in astonished silence, then looked quickly  away,  as
she  added: 'No matter-the other ees of real importance. I will send
for 'er that you may give your message.'
  With  a  little  jerk  she stood up and gripping  her  ebony  cane
stumped  across  to  the hall porter's desk  while  he  relaxed,  un
utterably glad that this extraordinary interview was over.
  However,  he  felt a glow of satisfaction in the thought  that  he
kad duped her into the belief that De Richleau and himself were even
more  powerful  adepts than Mocata, and at having played  his  cards
sufficiently  well  to  secure  a meeting  with  Tanith  under  such
favourable circumstances. If only he could get into his car, he  was
determined  to  inveigle  her into giving him  any  information  she
possessed  which might lead to the discovery of Simon's whereabouts,
although, since Madame D'Urfe was ignorant of the fact that  he  was
no  longer  with  the Duke, it was hardly likely that  Tanith  would
actually be able to take them to him.
  With  new anxiety Rex realised the gravity of the check. They  had
practically  counted on Tanith having the knowledge,  if  only  they
could  get it out of her, and even if he could persuade her to  talk
about Mocata the man might have a dozen haunts. If so it would be no
easy  task to visit all before sundown and the urgency of the Duke's
instructions still rang in his ears.
  Today was May Day Eve. The Great Sabbat of the year would be  held
tonight.  It  was absolutely imperative that they should  trace  and
secure Simon before dusk or else, under the evil influence which now
dominated his mentality, he would be taken to participate  in  those
unholy  rites and jeopardise for ever the flame of goodness,  wisdom
and right thinking which men term the soul.
  After  a  moment  Madame  D'Urfe rejoined  him.  'For  tonight  at
least,'  she whispered, 'things in dispute between the followers  of
the  Path  will  be in abeyance-is it not?-for all must  make  their
'omage to the One.'
  He  nodded  and  she bent towards him, lowering  her  voice  still
further:  'If  I  could  but  see De Richleau  for  one  moment-  as
Ipsissinus 'e must possess the unguent?'
  That's  so,'  Rex  agreed, but he was horribly  uncertain  of  his
ground again as he added cryptically: 'But what of the Moon?'
  'Ah,  fatality,' she sighed. 'I 'ad forgotten that we are  in  the
dark quarter.'
  He  blessed the providence which had guided his tongue as she went
on sadly: 'I 'ave try so often but nevair yet 'ave I
  succeeded.  I  know all things necessary to its  preparation,  an'
'ave  gathered every 'erb at the right period. I 'ave even  rendered
down  the fat, but they must 'ave cheated me. It was from a mortuary
per'aps-but not from a graveyard as it should 'ave been.'
  Rex  felt  the hair bristle on the back of his neck and his  whole
body stiffened slightly as he heard this gruesome confession. Surely
it  was  inconceivable  that people still practised  these  medieval
barbarities-yet he recalled the terrible manifestation that  he  had
witnessed with the Duke on the previous night. After that  he  could
no  longer  employ  modern standards of belief or  unbelief  to  the
possibilities  which  might result from  the  strange  and  horrible
doings  of  these  people who had given themselves over  to  ancient
cults.
  The   old  Countess  was  regarding  him  again  with  that  queer
disconcerting  look. 'It matters not,' she murmured. 'We  shall  get
there  just  the same, Tanith and I-an' it should be interesting-for
nevair before 'as she attended the Great Sabbat.'
  The  lift gates clicked at that moment and Tanith stepped out into
the  corridor.  For a fleeting instant Rex caught a glimpse  of  her
wise,  beautiful  face,  over  the old  woman's  shoulder,  but  the
Countess was speaking again in a husky whisper, so he was forced  to
look back at her.
  'Nevair  before,' she repeated with unholy glee,  'and  after  the
One 'as done that which there is to do, 'oo knows but you may be the
next-if you are quick.'
  Forcing  himself  out  of  his chair Rex  shut  his  ears  to  the
infernal implication. His general reading had been enough for him to
be aware that in the old. days the most incredible orgies took place
as  the  climax  to every Sabbat, and his whole body  crept  at  the
thought  of Tanith being subjected to such abominations. His impulse
was  to seize this iniquitous old woman by the throat and choke  the
bestial  life  out  of her fat body, but with a  supreme  effort  he
schooled himself to remain outwardly normal.
  As  Tanith  approached, and taking his hand smiled into his  eyes,
he  knew  that she, as well as Simon, must be saved before nightfall
from-yes, the old biblical quotation leapt to his mind-'The Power of
the Dog,' that was strong upon them.


                                 10

                       Tanith Proves Stubborn

  After  the  muttering of the old Countess and her veiled allusions
to  unspeakable  depravities Rex felt that even the  air  had  grown
stale and heavy, as though charged with some subtle quality of evil,
but  on  the coming of Tanith the atmosphere seemed to lighten.  The
morning  sunshine  was  lending a pale golden  glow  to  the  street
outside and in her hand she held one of the sprays of lilac which he
had  sent  up  to her. She lifted it to her face as he returned  her
smile.  'So  I' she said in a low clear voice, her eyes mocking  him
above the fragrant bloom: 'You insisted then that Madame should  let
you see me?'
  'I'd  have  sat  around this place all day  if  she  hadn't,'  Rex
confessed frankly, 'because now we've met at last I'm hoping  you'll
let me see something of you.'
  'Perhaps-but not today. I have many things to do and already I  am
late for the dressmaker.'
  Rex  thanked  his  stars that the old woman had unwittingly  given
him  a lever in assuming the Duke to be an Adept of great power, and
himself  his  envoy. 'It's mighty important that I  should  see  you
today,'  he  insisted. There are certain things we've  got  to  talk
about.'
  'Got  to!'  A  quick  frown  clouded  Tanith's  face.  'I  do  not
understand!'
  'Ma  petite, it is you 'oo do not understan',' Madame D'Urfe broke
in  hastily. Then she launched into a torrent of low speech in  some
foreign  language, but Rex caught De Richleau's name  and  the  word
Ipsissimus, so he guessed that she was giving Tanith some version of
the  events which had taken place the night before, based on his own
misleading statements, and wondered miserably how long he  would  be
able to keep up the impersonation which had been thrust upon him.
  Tanith  nodded several times and studied him with a  new  interest
as she nibbled a small piece of the lilac blossom between her teeth.
Then she said with charming frankness: 'You must forgive me-I had no
idea you were such an important member of the Order.'
  'Forget it please,' he begged, 'but if you're free I'd be glad  if
you could join me for lunch.'
  'That  puts  me  in  a  difficulty because I  am  supposed  to  be
lunching with the wife of the Roumanian Minister.'
  'How about this afternoon then?'
  Her  eyes showed quick surprise. 'But we shall have to leave  here
by  four o'clock if we are to get down by dusk-and I have my packing
to do yet.'
  He  realised that she was referring to the meeting and covered his
blunder  swiftly.  'Of  course-I'm  always  forgetting  that   these
twisting English roads don't permit of the fast driving I'm used  to
back  home.  How would it be if I run you along to your dress  place
now and then we took'a turn round the Park after?'
  'Yes-if you will have lots of patience with me, because I take  an
almost idiotic interest in my clothes.'
  'You're telling me! He murmured to himself as he admired the  slim
graceful  lines of her figure clad so unostentatiously  and  yet  so
suitably for the sunshine of the bright spring day. He picked up his
hat and beamed at her. 'Let's go-shall we?'
  To  his  amazement  he  found himself  taking  leave  of  the  old
Countess  just as though she were a nice, normal, elderly  lady  who
was  chaperoning  some  young woman to whom  he  had  been  formally
introduced  at  a  highly respectable dance.  And  indeed,  as  they
departed, her dark eyes had precisely the same look which had  often
scared  him in mothers who possessed marriageable daughters. Had  he
not  known  that such thoughts were anathema to her creed  he  would
have  sworn that she was praying that they would be quick about  it,
so  that  she could book a day before the end of the season  at  St.
George's,  Hanover Square, and was already listing in her  mind  the
guests who should be asked to the reception.
  'Where  does  the great artist hang out?' he asked  as  he  helped
Tanith into the car.
  'I  have two,' she told him. 'Schiaparelli just across the square,
where  I shall be for some twenty minutes, and after I have also  to
visit  Artelle in Knightsbridge- Are you sure that you do  not  mind
waiting for me?'
  'Why, no! we've a whole heap of time before us.'
  'And  tonight as well,' she added slowly. 'I am glad that you will
be there because I am just a little nervous.'
  'You  needn't be!' he said with a sudden tightening of his  mouth,
but  she  seemed satisfied with his assurance and had no inkling  of
his real meaning.
  As  she  alighted in Upper Grosvenor Street he called gaily  after
her: 'Twenty minutes mind, and not one fraction over,' then he drove
across the road and pulled up at the International Sportsman's  Club
of which he was a member.
  The  telephone  exchange put him through  to  the  British  Museum
quickly enough, but the operator there nearly drove him frantic.  It
seemed  that it was not part of the Museum staff's duties to  search
for  visitors  in the Reading Room, but after urgent  prayers  about
imaginary  dead and dying they at last consented to  have  the  Duke
hunted  out.  The  wait  that followed seemed  interminable  but  at
last'De Richleau came to the line.
  'I've  got  the girl,' Rex told him hurriedly, 'but how long  I'll
be  able  to keep her I don't know. I've had a long talk, too,  with
the  incredible old woman who smokes cigars-you know the  one-Madame
D'Urfe.  They're staying at Claridges together and both of them  are
going  to  the party you spoke of tonight. Where it's to be  held  I
don't  know,  but they're leaving London by car at four o'clock  and
hope  to  make  the place by nightfall. I've spun 'em  a  yarn  that
you're  the high and mighty Hoodoo in the you-know-what-a fat bigger
bug than Mocata ever was-so the old lady's all for giving him the go-
by  and sitting in round about your feet, but neither of them  knows
where  Simon is-I'm certain. In fact they've no idea that he made  a
getaway last night after we got him to your flat-so what's the drill
now?'
  'I  see-well,  in  that case you must. . .' but Rex  never  learnt
what De Richleau intended him to do for at that moment they were cut
off. When he got through to the Museum again it was to break in on a
learned  conversation about South American antiques which was  being
conducted  on  another  line  and, realising  that  he  had  already
exceeded  his twenty minutes, he had no option but to  hang  up  the
receiver and dash out into the street.
  Tanith  was  just  coming down the steps of Schiaparelli's  as  he
turned  the  car  to meet her. 'Where now?' he asked  when  she  had
settled herself beside him.
  'To Artelle. It is just opposite the barracks in Knightsbridge.  I
will not be more than five minutes this time, but she has a new idea
for  me. She is really a very clever woman, so I am anxious to  hear
what she has thought of.'
  It  was the longest speech he had so far heard her make, as  their
conversation  the  night  before  had  been  brief  and   frequently
interrupted by Mocata. Her idiom was perfect, but the way  in  which
she  selected her words and the care with which she pronounced  them
made him ask suddenly. 'You're not English-are you?'
  'Yes,'  she smiled as they turned into Hyde Park, 'but  my  mother
was  Hungarian  and I have lived abroad nearly all my  life.  Is  my
accent very noticeable?'
  'Well-in  a  way, but it sounds just marvellous to me. Your  voice
has  got that deep caressing note about it which reminds me of-well,
if you want the truth, it's like Marlene Dietrich on the talkies.'
  She  threw back her head and gave a low laugh. 'If I believed that
I  should be tempted to keep it, and as it is I have been working so
hard  to  get  rid of it ever since I have been in  England.  It  is
absurd  that  I  should  not  be  able  to  speak  my  own  language
perfectly-yet  I  have talked English so little, except  to  foreign
governesses when I was a young girl.'
  'And how old are you now, or is that a piece of rudeness?'
  'How old do you think?'
  'From  your  eyes you might be any age, but I've  a  feeling  that
you're not much over twenty-two.'
  'If I were to live I should be twenty-four next January.'
  'Come  now,' he protested, laughing, 'what a way to put it, that's
only  a  matter of nine months and no one could say you  don't  look
healthy.'
  'I  am,'  she assured him gravely, 'but let us not talk of  death.
Look at the colour of those rhododendrons. They are so lovely.'
  'Yes,  they've jerked this Park up no end since I first saw it  as
a  boy.'  As the traffic opened he turned the car into Knightsbridge
and  two  minutes later Tanith got out at the discreet door  of  her
French dressmaker.
  While  she  was  inside  Rex considered the position  afresh,  and
endeavoured to concoct some cryptic message purporting to come  from
the Duke, to the effect that she was not to attend the Sabbat but to
remain in his care until it was all over, Yet he felt that she would
never believe him. It was quite evident that she meant to be present
at  this  unholy Walpurgis-Nacht gathering, and from  what  the  old
woman  had said all Satanists regarded it with such importance  that
even warring factions among them sank their differences-for this one
night of the year-in order to attend.
  Obviously  she  could have no conception of what she  was  letting
herself  in for, but the very idea of her being mishandled  by  that
ungodly crew made his big biceps tighten with the desire to lash out
at  someone.  He  had  got to keep her with him  somehow,  that  was
clear-but how?
  He  racked  his  mind in vain for a plausible story  but,  to  his
dismay,  she rejoined him almost immediately and he had  thought  of
nothing by the time they had turned into the Park again.
  'Well-tell me,' she said softly.
  Tell you what?' he fenced. 'That I think you're very lovely?'
  'No,  no. It is nice that you should have troubled to make  pretty
speeches  about my accent and Marlene Dietrich, but it is  time  for
you  to tell me now of the real reason that brought you to Claridges
this morning.'
  'Can't you guess?'
  'No.'
  'I wanted to take you out to lunch.'
  'Oh, please! Be serious-you have a message forme?'
  'Maybe,  but even if I hadn't, I'd have been right on the  mat  at
your hotel just the same.'
  She  frowned slightly. 'I don't understand. Neither of us is  free
to give our time to that sort of thing.'
  'I've  reached  a  stage where I'm the best  judge  of  that,'  he
announced,  with the idea of trying to recover some of the  prestige
which seemed to be slipping from him.
  'Have  you  then crowned yourself with the Dispersion of Choronzon
already?'
  Rex  suppressed  a groan. Here they were off on  the  Mumbo  Jumbo
stuff  again. He felt that he would never be able to keep it up,  so
instead of answering he turned the car with sudden determination out
into the Kensington Road and headed towards Hammersmith.
  'Where are you taking me?' she asked quickly.
  To  lunch with De Richleau,' he lied. 'I've got no message for you
but  the Duke sent me to fetch you because he wants to talk  to  you
himself.'  It was the only story he could think of which just  might
get over.
  'I see-where is he?'
  'At Pangbourne.'
  'Where is that?'
  'Little place down the Thames-just past Reading.'
  'But that is miles away!'
  'Only about fifty.'
  'Surely he could have seen me before he left London.'
  He  caught  her  eyes, quick with suspicion, on his  face,  so  he
answered  boldly: 'I know nothing of that, but he sent me  to  fetch
you-and what the Duke says goes.'
  'I  don't believe you!' she exclaimed angrily. 'Stop this  car  at
once! -I am going to get out.'


                                 11

                      The Truth Will Always Out

  For  a second Rex thought of ignoring her protest and jamming  his
foot  on the accelerator, but the traffic in Kensington High  Street
was thick, and to try to abduct her in broad daylight would be sheer
madness.  She  could signal a policeman and have him stopped  before
he'd gone two hundred yards.
  Reluctantly  he drew hi to the side of the road, but he  stretched
his long arm in front of her and gripped the door of the car so that
she could not force it open.
  Tanith  stared  at him with angry eyes: 'You are lying  to  me  -I
will not go with you.'
  'Wait  a  moment.'  He thrust out his chin pugnaciously  while  he
mustered  all his resources to reason with her. If he once  let  her
leave  the  car  the  chances were all against  his  having  another
opportunity  to  prevent  her reaching the secret  rendezvous  where
those  horrible Walpurgis ceremonies would take place in the  coming
night.  His  determination  to prevent her  participating  in  those
barbaric rites, of which he was certain she could not know the  real
nature,  quickened his brain to an unusual cunning: 'You  know  what
happened to Simon Aron?' he said.
  'Yes, you kidnapped him from his own home last night.'
  'That's so-but do you know why?'
  'Madame  D'Urfe said that it was because the Duke is also  seeking
for the Talisman of Set. You needed him for your own invocations.'
  'Exactly.'  Rex  paused for a moment to wonder what  the  Talisman
could  be. This was the second time he had heard it mentioned.  Then
he  went  on slowly: 'It's him being born under certain stars  makes
his  presence essential. We'd hunt for years before we found  anyone
else who's suitable to do the business and born in the same hour  of
the same day and year. Well, we need you too.'
  'But my number is not eight!'
  'That  doesn't  matter-you're under  the  Moon,  aren't  you?'  He
risked  the shot on what he remembered of De Richleau's words  about
her name.
  'Yes,' she admitted. 'But what has that to do with it?'
  'A  whole heap-believe you me. But naturally you'd know nothing of
that. Even Mocata doesn't realise the importance of the Moon in this
thing and that's why he's failed to make much headway up to date.'
  'Mocata  would be furious if I left his Circle-you see  I  am  his
favourite medium-so attuned to his vibrations that he would have the
very  greatest difficulty in replacing me. Perhaps -perhaps he would
punish me in some terrible manner.' Tanith's face had gone white and
her  eyes were staring slightly at the thought of some nameless evil
which might befall her.
  'Don't  worry. De Richleau will protect you-and he's an Ipsissimus
remember.  If you don't come right along, now he wants to  see  you,
maybe  he'll do something to you that'll be far worse.' As Rex  lied
and threatened he hated himself for it, but the girl had just got to
be  saved from herself and this form of blackmail was the only  line
that offered.
  'How  am I to know? How am I to know?' she repeated quickly.  'You
may  be  lying. Think what might happen to me if Mocata  proved  the
stronger.'
  'You  had the proof last night. We got Simon Aron away from  under
his very nose-didn't we?'
  'Yes, but will you be able to keep him?'
  'Sure,'  Rex declared firmly, but he felt sick with misery  as  he
remembered  that  by Mocata's power Simon had been taken  from  them
under  the hour. And where was Simon now? The day was passing, their
hope  of  Tanith being able to put them on his track  had  proved  a
failure.  How would they find him in time to save him too  from  the
abominations of the coming night?
  'Oh,  what shall I do?' Tanith gave a little nervous sob.  'It  is
the first tune I have heard of any feud in our Order. I thought that
if  I  only  followed the Path I should acquire power and  now  this
hideously dangerous decision is thrust on me.'
  Rex  saw  that  she was weakening so he pressed the  self-starter.
'You're  coming  with me and you're not going to  be  frightened  of
anything. Get that now-I mean it.'
  She  nodded. 'All right. I win trust you then,' and the  car  slid
into motion.
  For  a  few  moments they sat in silence, then as the car  entered
Hammersmith Broadway he turned and smiled at her. 'Now let's cut out
all  talk  about  this business till we see the  Duke  and  just  be
normal-shall we?'
  'If you wish-tell me about yourself?'
  He  smothered a sigh of relief at her acquiescence.  At  least  he
would  be  free  for an hour or so from the agonising  necessity  of
skating  on thin ice of grim parables which had no meaning for  him.
With all his natural gaiety restored he launched into an account  of
his  life  at home in the States, his frequent journeys abroad,  and
his love of speed in cars and boats and planes and bob-sleighs.
  As  they  sped through Brentford and on to Slough he  got  her  to
talk  a  little about herself. Her English father had died when  she
was  still a baby and the Hungarian mother had brought her  up.  All
her childhood had been spent in an old manor house, dignified by the
name  of Castle, in a remote village on the southern slopes  of  the
Carpathians, shut in so completely from the world by steep mountains
on  every  side that even the War had passed it by almost unnoticed.
After  the  peace  and the disintegration of the  Austrian-Hungarian
Empire  their lands had become part of the new state of Jugo-Slavia,
but  her  life had gone on much the same for, although the  War  had
cost  them a portion of their fortune, the bulk of it had been  left
safe  by  her father in English Trustee securities. Her  mother  had
died three years before and it was then, having no personal ties and
ample  money,  that  she  had  decided to  travel.  'Isn't  it  just
marvellous that I should have seen you such
  different places about the world,' he laughed.
  'The  first time that you speak of in Budapest I do not remember,'
she  replied, 'but I recall the day outside Buenos Aires  well.  You
were  in  a long red car and I was riding a roan mare. As  you  drew
into the side of the track to let us pass I wondered why I knew your
face,  and  then I remembered quite clearly that our cars  had  been
locked side by side in a traffic jam, months before, in New York.'
  'Seems as if we were just fated to meet sometime-doesn't it?'
  'We  both  know that there is no such thing as Chance,'  she  said
slowly.  'I  believe you have a wax image of me somewhere  and  have
worked upon it to bring today about.'
  The  day  before he would have instantly assumed her to be joking,
despite her apparent seriousness, but now, he realised with a little
shock,  he  no longer considered it beyond the bounds of possibility
that  actual  results  might be procured by  doing  certain  curious
things to a little waxen doll, so greatly had his recent experiences
altered  his outlook. He hesitated, unable to confess his  ignorance
of  such practices, and unwilling to admit that he had not done  his
best  to  bring about a meeting, but he was saved from the necessity
of a reply by Tanith suddenly exclaiming:
  'I had forgotten!-luncheon-I shall never be back in time.'
  'Easy, put through a call and say you've suddenly been called  out
of  Town,' he told her, and a few miles farther on he pulled  up  at
Skindles Hotel in Maidenhead.
  While  Tanith  was telephoning he stood contemplating  the  river.
Although  it  was early in the year a period of drought had  already
checked  the  spate  of  the current sufficiently  to  make  boating
pleasureable, and he noted that in the gardens of the Hungaria River
Club,  on  the  opposite  bank, they  were  setting  out  their  gay
paraphernalia  preparatory to opening for  the  Season.  Immediately
Tanith rejoined him they set off again.
  The  straggling  suburbs of Greater London had already  been  left
behind  them before Slough and now, after Maidenhead, the  scattered
clusters of red-roofed dwellings on the new building estates,  which
have  spread  so far afield, also disappeared, giving place  to  the
real  country. On certain portions of the road, the fresh  green  of
the  beech  trees formed a spring canopy overhead and between  their
trunks,  dappled with sunlight, patches of bluebells gave  glory  to
the  silent  woods;  at others they ran between meadows  where  lazy
cattle nibbled the new grass, or fields where the young corn, strong
with life, stretched its vivid green shoots upwards to the sun.
  The  sight  and  smell  of the countryside,  unmarred  by  man  or
carefully  tended in his interests, windswept and  clean,  gave  Rex
fresh confidence. He banished his anxiety about Simon for the moment
and,  thrusting from his mind all thoughts of this gruesome business
into which he had been drawn, began to talk all the gay nonsense  to
Tanith  which  he  would have aired to any other girl  whom  he  had
induced  to  steal a day out of London in which to see  the  country
preparing its May Day garb.
  Before  they reached Reading he had her laughing, and by the  time
they  entered the little riverside village of Pangbourne,  her  pale
face was flushed with colour and her eyes dancing with new light.
  They  crossed to the Whitchurch side where the Duke's house stood,
some  way  back  from  the river, its lawns sloping  gently  to  the
water's edge.
  Max  received them, and while a maid took Tanith upstairs to wash,
Rex had a chance to whisper quick instructions to him.
  When  she  entered  the low, old-fashioned lounge  with  its  wide
windows  looking out over the tulip beds to the trees on the further
bank  she  found  Rex  whistling  gaily.  He  was  shooting  varying
proportions  of  liquor  out of different bottles  into  a  cocktail
shaker. Max stood beside him holding a bowl of ice.
  'Where  is  the  Duke?'  she asked, with a new  soberness  in  her
voice.
  He  had  been  waiting  for the question,  and  keeping  his  face
averted answered cheerfully: 'He's not made it yet-what time are you
expecting him, Max?'
  'I  should  have  told you before, sir. His Excellency  telephoned
that I was to present his excuses to the lady, and ask you, sir,  to
act  as  host  in his stead. He has been unavoidably  detained,  but
hopes to be able to join you for tea.'
  'Well,   now,  if  that  isn't  real  bad  luck!'  Rex   exclaimed
feelingly.  'Never mind, we'll go right in to lunch the moment  it's
ready.' He tasted the concoction which he had been beating up with a
large spoon and added: 'My! that's good!'
  'Yes,  sir-in  about  five minutes, sir,' Max  bowed  gravely  and
withdrew.
  Rex  knew that there was trouble corning but he presented a  glass
of  the  frothing liquid with a steady hand. 'Never give  a  girl  a
large cocktail,' he cried gaily, 'but plenty of 'em. Make 'em strong
and  drink  'em  quick-come on now! It takes a  fourth  to  make  an
appetite- Here's to crime!'
  But  Tanith  set  down the glass untasted. All the  merriment  had
died  out  of her eyes and her voice was full of a fresh anxiety  as
she  said  urgently:  'I can't stay here till  tea-time-  don't  you
realise that I must leave London by four o'clock.'
  It  was  on  the  tip of his tongue to say, 'Where is  this  place
you're  going  to?' but he caught himself in time  and  substituted:
'Why  not  go  from here direct?' Then he prayed silently  that  the
secret meeting place might not be on the other side of London.
  Her  face  lightened for a moment. 'Of course, I forgot  that  you
were  going  yourself, and the journey must be so much shorter  from
here. If you could take me it seems stupid to go all the way back to
London-but what of Madame D'Urfe- she expects me to motor down  with
her-and I must have my clothes.'
  'Why  not call her on the phone. Ask her to have your stuff packed
up  and  say we'll meet her there. You've got to see the  Duke,  and
whatever happens he'll turn up here because he and I are going  down
together.'
  She  nodded. 'If I am to place myself under his protection  it  is
vital that I should see him before the meeting, for Mocata has  eyes
hi the ether and will know that I am here by now.'
  'Come  on  then!'  He took her hand and pulled her  to  her  feet.
'Well get through to Claridges right away.'
  Tanith  allowed him to lead-her out into the hall and when he  had
got the number he left her at the telephone. Then he returned to the
lounge, poured himself another cocktail and began to do a gay little
dance  to  celebrate his victory. He felt that he had got  her  now,
safe  for  the day, until the Duke turned up. Then trust De Richleau
to  get  something  out of her which would enable  them  to  get  on
Simon's track after all.
  At  his  sixth pirouette he stopped suddenly. Tanith was  standing
in  the doorway, her face ashen, her big eyes blazing with a mixture
of anger and fear.
  'You  have  lied to me,' she stammered out, 'Mocata  is  with  the
Countess at this moment-he got Simon Aron away from you last  night.
You  and  your precious Duke are impostors- charlatans- You  haven't
even the power to protect yourselves, and for this Mocata may tie me
to the Wheel of Ptah- oh, I must get back!' Before he could stop her
she had turned and fled out of the house.


                                 12

                          The Grim Prophecy

  In  one spring Rex was across the room, another and he had reached
the  garden.  Against those long legs of his Tanith had  no  chance.
Before she had covered twenty yards he caught her arm and jerked her
round to face him.
  'Let  me  go!' she panted. 'Haven't you endangered me enough  with
your lies and interference.'
  He  smiled  down into her frightened face but made  no  motion  to
release  her.  'I'm  awfully  sorry I had  to  tell  you  all  those
tarradiddles  to  get you to this place-but now you're  here  you're
going to stay-understand?'
  'It  is  you  who don't understand,' she flashed.  'You  and  your
friend,  the  Duke,  are like a couple of children  playing  with  a
dynamite bomb. You haven't a chance against Mocata. He will loose  a
power on you that will simply blot you out.'
  'I  wouldn't be too certain of that. Maybe I know nothing of  this
occult business myself and if anyone had suggested to me that  there
were  practising Satanists wandering around London  this  time  last
week,  I'd  have  said they had bats in the belfry. But  the  Duke's
different-and, believe you me, he's a holy terror when he once  gets
his teeth into a thing. Best save your pity for Mocata-he'll need it
before De Richleau's through with him.'
  'Is he-is he really an Ipsissimus then?' she hesitated.
  'Lord  knows-I  don't. That's just a word I  picked  out  of  some
jargon he was talking last night that I thought might impress  you.'
Rex  grinned broadly. All the lying and trickery which he  had  been
forced  to practise during the morning had taxed him to the  utmost,
but now that he was able to face the situation openly he felt at the
top of his form again.
  'I  daren't  stay  then-I daren't!' She tried  to  wrench  herself
free. 'Don't you see that if he is only some sort of dabbler he will
never be able to protect me.'
  'Don't  fret your sweet self. No one shall lay a finger on you  as
long as I'm around.'
  'But,  you great fool, you don't understand,' she waved miserably.
"The  Power of Darkness cannot be turned aside by bruisers  or  iron
bars.  If I don't appear at the meeting tonight, the moment  I  fall
asleep Mocata will set the Ab-humans on to me. In the morning I  may
be dead or possessed-a raving lunatic.'
  Rex did not laugh. He knew that she was genuinely terrified of  an
appalling  possibility. Instead he turned her towards the house  and
said   gently:  'Now  please  don't  worry  so.  De  Rich-leau  does
understand  just how dangerous monkeying with this business  is.  He
spent half the night trying to convince me of it, and like a fool  I
wouldn't believe him until I saw a thing I don't care to talk about,
but  I'm  dead  certain he'd never allow you to run  any  risk  like
that.'
  'Then let me go back to London!'
  'No.  He asked me to get you here so as he could have a word  with
you-and  I've done it. We'll have a quiet little lunch together  now
and  talk  this  thing  over when the Duke  turns  up.  Hell  either
guarantee to protect you or let you go.'
  'He  can't protect me I tell you-and in any case I wish to  attend
this meeting tonight.'
  'You  wish  to!' he echoed with a shake of the head.  'Well,  that
gets  me  beat,  but  you  can't even guess what  you'd  be  letting
yourself in for. Anyhow I don't mean to let you-so now you know.'
  'You mean to keep me here against my will?'
  'Yes!'
  'What is to stop me screaming for help?'
  'Nix,  but  since  the Duke's not here the servants  know  I'm  in
charge,  so they won't bat an eyelid if you start to yell the  house
down-and there's no one else about.'
  Tanith  glanced swiftly down the drive. Except at the white  gates
tall banks of rhododendrons, heavy with bloom, obscured the lane. No
rumble of passing traffic broke the stillness that brooded upon  the
well-kept garden. The house lay silent in the early summer sunshine.
The inhabitants of the village were busy over the midday meal.
  She  was  caught and knew it. Only her wits could get her  out  of
this, and her fear of Mocata was so great that she was determined to
use any chance that offered to free herself from this nice, meddling
fool.
  'You'll  not try to prevent me leaving if De Richleau says  I  may
when he arrives?' she asked,
  'No. I'll abide by his decision,' he agreed.
  'Then for the time being I will do as you wish.'
  'Fine-come  on.' He led her back to the house and  rang  for  Max,
who appeared immediately from the doorway of the dining-room.
  'We've  decided to lunch on the river,' Rex told him. 'Make  up  a
basket  and  have  it put in the electric canoe.' He  had  made  the
prompt  decision directly he sensed that Tanith meant to  escape  if
she  could.  Once  she was alone in a boat with him  he  felt  that,
unless  she was prepared to jump out and swim for it, he could  hold
her without any risk of a scene just as long as he wanted to.
  'Very good, sir-I'll see to it at once.' Max disappeared into  the
domain  of which he was lord and master, while Rex shepherded Tanith
back to the neglected cocktails.
  He  refreshed  the  shaker while she sat on the  sofa  eyeing  him
curiously, but he persuaded her to have one, and when he pressed her
she  had another. Then Max appeared to announce that his orders  had
been carried out.
  'Let's  go-shall  we?'  Rex  held  open  the  french-windows   and
together they crossed the sunlit lawn, gay with its beds of  tulips,
polyanthus,  wallflowers and forget-me-nots. At  the  river's  edge,
upon  a  neat, white painted landing-stage, a boatman held the  long
electric canoe ready for them.
  Tanith  settled  herself on the cushions and Rex  took  the  small
perpendicular  wheel. In a few moments they were chugging  out  into
midstream and up the river towards Goring, but he preferred  not  to
give  her  the  opportunity of appealing to the lock-keeper,  so  he
turned  the boat and headed it towards a small backwater  below  the
weir.
  Having  tied  up  beneath some willows, he began passing  packages
and  parcels out of the stern. 'Come on,' he admonished  her.  'It's
the  girl's  job to see to the commissariat. Just forget yourself  a
moment and see what they've given us to eat.'
  She  smiled  a little ruefully. 'If I really thought you  realised
what  you  were doing I should look on you as the bravest  man  I've
ever known.'
  He  turned  suddenly, still kneeling at the end of the  boat.  'Go
on-say it again. I love the sound of your voice.'
  'You  fool!' She coloured, laughing as she unwrapped the  napkins.
'There's  some  cheese here-and ham and tongue-and  brown  bread-and
salad-and a lobster. We shall never be able to eat all this  and-oh,
look,' she held out a small wicker basket, 'fraises des bois.'
  'Marvellous.  I  haven't  tasted a wood strawberry  since  I  last
lunched  at Fontainbleau. Anyhow, it's said the British Army  fights
on  its stomach, so I'm electing myself an honorary member of it for
the  day. Fling me that corkscrew-will you, and I'll deal with  this
bottle of Moselle.'
  Soon  they  were seated face to face propped against the cushions,
a little sticky about the mouth, but enjoying themselves just as any
nice  normal couple would in such circumstances; but when  the  meal
was  finished he felt that, much as he would have liked to laze away
the afternoon, he ought, now the cards were upon the table, to learn
what  he could of this grim business without waiting for the  coming
of  the Duke. He unwrapped another packet which he had found in  the
stern of the boat, and passing it over asked half humorously:
  Tell  me,  does a witch ever finish up her lunch with  chocolates?
I'd be interested to know on scientific grounds.'
  'Oh,  why  did  you bring me back-I have been enjoying  myself  so
much,'  her  face was drawn and miserable as she buried  it  in  her
hands.
  'I'm  sorry!'  He  put down the chocolates and bent  towards  her.
'But  we're both in this thing, so we've got to talk of it,  haven't
we,  and though you don't look the part, you're just as much a witch
as  any  old woman who ever soured the neighbour's cream-else  you'd
never  have  seen me in that crystal this morning as I  sat  in  the
lounge of your hotel.'
  'Of  course  I  am if you care to use such a stupid  old-fashioned
term.  She drew her hands away and tossed back her fair hair as  she
stared at him defiantly. 'That was only child's play-just to keep my
hand in-a discipline to make me fit to wield a higher power.'
  "For good?' he questioned laconically.
  'It  is  necessary  to pass through many stages before  having  to
choose whether one will take the Right or Left Hand Path.'
  'So  I  gather. But how about this unholy business in which you've
a wish to take part tonight?'
  'If  I  submit  to  the ordeal I shall pass the Abyss.'  The  low,
caressing voice lifted to a higher note, and the wise eyes  suddenly
took on a fanatic gleam.
  'You  can't  have a notion what they mean to do to  you  or  you'd
never even dream of it,' he insisted.
  'I  have,  but  you know nothing of these things so naturally  you
consider  me  utterly shameless or completely mad. You are  used  to
nice English and American girls who haven't a thought in their heads
except  to  get  you  to  marry them-if  you  have  any  money-which
apparently you have, but that sort of thing does not interest me.  I
have  worked  and  studied  to gain power  -real  power  over  other
people's  lives and destinies-and I know now that the  only  way  to
acquire it is by complete surrender of self. I don't expect  you  to
understand my motives but that is why I mean to go tonight.'
  He  studied her curiously for a moment, still convinced  that  she
could  not be fully aware of the abominations that would take  place
at  the  Sabbat. Then he broke out: 'How long is it since you became
involved in this sort of thing?'
  'I  was  psychic even as a child,' she told him slowly. 'My mother
encouraged me to use my gifts. Then when she died I joined a society
in Budapest. I loved her. I wanted to keep in touch with her still.'
  'What  proof have you got it was her?' he demanded with  a  sudden
renewal of scepticism as he recalled the many newspaper exposures of
spiritualistic seances.
  'I  had very little then, but since, I have been convinced  of  it
beyond all doubt.'
  'And  is  she-your  own  mother, still-yes, your  guide-I  suppose
you'd call it?'
  Tanith  shook her head. 'No, she has gone on, and it was  not  for
me to seek to detain her, but others have followed, and every day my
knowledge of the worlds which lie beyond this grows greater.'
  'But  it's extraordinary that a young girl like you should  devote
yourself  to  this  sort of thing. You ought to be dancing,  dining,
playing golf, going places-you're so lovely you could take your pick
among the men.'
  She  shrugged  a  little  disdainfully.  'Such  a  life  is  dull-
ordinary-after  a  year  I  tired of it, and  few  women  can  climb
mountains or shoot big game, but the conquest of the unknown  offers
the greatest adventure of all.'
  Again  her voice altered suddenly, and the inscrutable eyes  which
gave  her  a strange, serious beauty, so fitting for a lady  of  the
Italian Renaissance, gleamed as before.
  'Religions  and  moralities are man-made, fleeting  and  local;  a
scandalous  lapse  from virtue in London may be  a  matter  for  the
highest  praise  in Hong Kong, and the present Archbishop  of  Paris
would  be  shocked beyond measure if it was suggested  that  he  had
anything  in  common, beyond his religious office, with  a  Medieval
Cardinal.  One  thing  and  one  thing  only  remains  constant  and
unchanging, the secret doctrine of the way to power. That is a thing
to  work for, and if need be cast aside all inherent scruples for-as
I shall tonight.'
  'Aren't you-just a bit afraid?' He stared at her solemnly.
  'No, provided I follow the path which is set, no harm can come  to
me.'
  'But  it  is an evil path,' he insisted, marvelling at the  change
which  had come over her. It almost seemed as if it were a different
woman  speaking  or  one  who repeated a recitation,  learned  in  a
foreign  language,  with  all  the appropriate  expression  yet  not
understanding its true meaning, as she replied with a cynical little
smile.
  'Unfortunately  the  followers  of  the  Right  Hand  Path  obsess
themselves  only  with the well-being of the Universe  as  a  whole,
whereas  those of the Left exercise their power upon living  humans.
To bend people to your will, to cause them to fall or rise, to place
unaccountable obstacles in their path at every turn or smooth  their
way  to  a  glorious  success-that is more than  riches,  more  than
fame-the supreme pinnacle to which any man or woman can rise, and  I
wish to reach it before I die.'
  'Maybe-maybe.'  Rex  shook his head with  a  worried  frown,  'But
you're  young  and  beautiful-just breaking in on  all  the  fun  of
life-why not think it over for a year or two? It's horrible to  hear
you talk as though you were a disillusioned old woman.'
  Her  mouth  tightened still further. 'In a way I  am-and  for  me,
waiting is impossible because, although in your ignorance I  do  not
expect  you to believe it, as surely as the sun will set  tonight  I
shall be dead before the year is out.'


                                 13

                      The Defeat of Rex Van Ryn

  For  a moment they sat in silence. The river flowed gently on; the
sun  still dappled the lower branches of the willows and flecked the
water with points of light.
  Gradually  the  fire died out of Tanith's eyes and she  sank  back
against   the   cushions  of  the  canoe  as  Rex  stared   at   her
incredulously. It seemed utterly impossible that there could be  any
real  foundation for her grim prophecy, yet her voice had held  such
fatal certainty.
  'It isn't true!' Rex seized her hand and gripped it as though,  by
his  own  vitality, he would imbue her with continued life.  'You're
good  for  fifty  years to come. That's only some criminal  nonsense
this devil Mocata's got you to swallow.'
  'Oh,  you  dear  fool!' She took his other  hand  and  pressed  it
while,  for  a  moment, it seemed as if tears were starting  to  her
eyes. 'If things were different I think I might like you enormously,
but  I knew the number of my days long before I ever met Mocata, and
there  is  nothing which can be done to lengthen them  by  a  single
hour.'
  'Show me your hand,' he said suddenly. It was the only thing  even
remotely  connected with the occult of which Rex had any  knowledge.
The  year before he had ricked an ankle, while after Grizzly in  the
Rockies,  and had had to lie up for a week at a tiny inn  where  the
library  consisted of less than a dozen battered volumes. A book  on
Palmistry,  which he had discovered among them, had  proved  a  real
windfall  and  the  study of it had whiled away many  hours  of  his
enforced idleness.
  As  Tanith  held out her hand he saw at once that it  was  of  the
unusual  psychic  type.  Very long, narrow and  fragile,  the  wrist
small,  the  fingers smooth and tapering, ending  in  long,  almond-
shaped  nails.  The  length of the first, second and  third  fingers
exceeded  that  of the palm by nearly an inch, giving  the  whole  a
beautiful but useless appearance. The top phalange of the thumb,  he
noted,  was  slim  and pointed, another sign of lack  of  desire  to
grapple with material things.
  'You  see?'  she turned it over showing him the palm.  'The  Arabs
say  that "the fate of every man is bound about his brow," and  mine
is written here, for all who can, to read.'
  Rex's knowledge of the subject was too limited for him to do  much
but  read character and general tendencies by the various shapes  of
hands,  but  even  he was startled by the unusual  markings  on  the
narrow palm.
  On  the  cushion of the hand the Mount of the Moon stood out  firm
and  strong, seeming to spread over and dominate the rest,  a  clear
sign  of  an exceedingly strong imagination, refinement and love  of
beauty;  but  it  was  tinged with that rare  symbol,  the  Line  of
Intuition,  giving,  in connection with such a hand,  great  psychic
powers and a leaning towards mysticism of a highly dangerous kind. A
small star below the second finger, upon the Mount of Saturn, caused
him  additional uneasiness and he looked in vain for  squares  which
might  indicate preservation at a critical period. Yet worst of  all
the  Line  of Life, more clearly marked than he would have expected,
stopped short with a horrifying suddenness at only a little  over  a
third  of  the way from its commencement, where it was tied  to  the
Line of Head.
  He  stared  at  it in silence, not knowing what  to  say  to  such
sinister portents, but she smiled lightly as she withdrew her  hand.
'Don't worry please, but there is no appeal from the verdict of  the
Stars  and  you will understand now why marriage -children-a  lovely
home-all things connected with the future just mean nothing to me.'
  'So  that's  the  reason you let yourself get  mixed  up  in  this
horrible business?'
  'Yes.  Since I am to die so soon no ordinary emotion can  stir  me
any  more. I look as though I were already a great way from it,  and
what  happens  to  my physical body matters to me not  at  all.  Ten
months  ago  I began seriously to cultivate my psychic  sense  under
real  instruction,  and the voyages which I can make  now  into  the
immensity  of  the void are the only things left to me  which  still
have power to thrill.'
  'But, why in heaven's name involve yourself with Black Magic  when
you might practise White?'
  'Have  I  not told you? The adepts of the Right Hand Path  concern
themselves  only with the Great Work; the blending of the  Microcosm
with  the  Macrocosm; a vague philosophic entity in  which  one  can
witness  no  tangible results. Whereas, those of the  Left  practise
their  Art  upon human beings and can actually watch the working  of
their spells.'
  'I  can't  get  over your wanting to attend this Satanic  festival
tonight all the same.'
  'It should be an extraordinary experience.'
  'Any normal person would be terrified at what might happen.'
  'Well,  if  you  like,  I  will admit that  I  am  just  a  little
frightened  but  that is only because it is rny first participation.
By  surrendering myself I shall only suffer or enjoy, as most  other
women  do, under slightly different circumstances at some period  of
then- life.'
  'Slightly  different!'  he  exclaimed,  noting  again  the  sudden
change  of  eyes  and voice, as though she were  possessed  by  some
sinister  dual personality which appeared every time  she  spoke  of
these  horrible  mysteries,  and blotted  out  the  frank,  charming
individuality  which was natural to her. 'This  thing  seems  worlds
apart to me from picking a man you like and taking a sporting chance
about the rest.'
  'No,  in  ancient  Egypt every woman surrendered  herself  at  the
temple  before she married, in order that she might acquire  virtue,
and  sacred  prostitution is still practised in many  parts  of  the
world-for  that is what this amounts to. Regarded from the  personal
point  of view, of course, it is loathsome. If I thought of it  that
way  I should never be able to go through with it at all, but I have
trained  myself not to, and only think of it now as a  ritual  which
has to be gone through in order to acquire fresh powers.'
  'It's  mightly difficult for any ordinary person to  see  it  that
way-though I suppose the human brain can shut out certain aspects of
a  thing.' Rex paused, frowning: 'Still I was really speaking of the
hideous  danger you will incur from placing yourself  in  the  hands
of-well, the Devil if you like.'
  She  smiled.  'The  Devil is only a bogey invented  by  the  Early
Church to scare fools.'
  'Let's say the Power of Darkness then.'
  'You mean by receiving re-Baptism?'
  'By  attending  this Sabbat at all. I imagined from  your  strange
name you had received re-Baptism already.'
  'No,  Tanith  is  the name by which I was Christened.  It  was  my
mother's choice.'
  Rex  sat  forward  suddenly.  'Then you haven't-er-given  yourself
over completely yet?'
  'No,  but I shall tonight, for if De Richleau has a tenth  of  the
knowledge which you say he has he will realise the appalling  danger
to  which I should be exposed if he detained me here, so he will let
me  go immediately he arrives-and remember, you have promised not to
interfere with my freedom once he has seen me.'
  'But  listen,' he caught her hands again. 'It was bad enough  that
you  should  have  been  going to take a  part  in  this  abominable
business  as a graduate-it's a thousand times worse that you  should
do it while there's still time to back out.'
  'Mocata  would not allow me to now, even if I had the inclination,
but  you  are so nice it really distresses me that you should  worry
so.  The  Satanic  Baptism  is  only  an  old-fashioned  and  rather
barbarous ritual, but it will give me real status among adepts,  and
no possible harm can come to me as long as I do not deviate from the
Path which must be followed by all members of the Order.'
  'You're wrong-wrong-wrong,' Rex insisted boldly. 'De Richleau  was
explaining  the  real horror of this thing to me  last  night.  This
promise  of  strange  powers is only a filthy trap.  At  your  first
Christening  your Godparents revoked the Devil and  all  his  Works.
Once  you willingly rescind that protection, as you'll have  to  do,
something awful will take possession of you and force you into doing
its  will,  an Earthbound Spirit or an Elemental I think  he  called
it.'
  She  shrugged.  There are ways of dealing with  Elementals.'  'Aw,
hell.  Why can't I make you understand!' He wrung his hands together
desperately. 'It's easy to see they haven't called on you to do  any
real  devilry  yet. They've just led you on by a few  demonstrations
and  encouraging  your crystal gazing, but they will-once  you're  a
full  member-and then you'll be more scared than ever to refuse,  or
find  "it's  just impossible under the influence of this thing  that
will get hold of you.'
  'I'm sorry, but I don't believe you. It is I who will make use  of
them-not they of me, and quite obviously you don't know what you are
talking about.'
  'The Duke does,' he insisted, 'and he says that you can still  get
free  as  long as you haven't been actually re-baptised,  but  after
that all holy protection is taken from you. Why else d'you think  we
took  a  chance of breaking up that party last night -if not to  try
and save Simon from the self-same thing.'
  A  queer light came into Tanith's eyes. 'Yet Mocata willed him  to
return so he will receive his nom-du-Diable after all tonight.'
  'Don't  you be too certain. I've a hunch we'll save him yet.'  Rex
spoke with a confidence he was very far from feeling.
  'And  how do you propose to set about it?' she asked with a  quick
intuition  that  by  some  means she might utilise  this  factor  to
facilitate her own escape.
  'Ah!  that's just the rub,' he admitted. 'You see we thought maybe
you'd  know  his whereabouts and I'll be frank about it. That's  the
reason  I went round to Claridges this morning, to see if I couldn't
get  you  down  here some way so as De Richleau could  question  you
although  I  should have called on you anyway for a  very  different
reason.  Still you didn't even know Mocata had taken  Simon  off  us
till  you spoke to the old woman on the wire, so it's pretty obvious
you  don't know where he is. I believe you could give us a  line  on
Mocata though-if you choose to.'
  'I  was  under  the impression that it was at his house  that  the
party where we met was given.'
  'No,  that was Simon's place, though I gather Mocata's been living
there  with him for some little time. He must have a hideout of  his
own somewhere though and that's what we want to get at.'
  'I  know  nothing of his ordinary life, and if I  did,  I  do  not
think  I  should be inclined to tell you of it, but why are  you  so
interested  in this Mr. Aron? That was a lie you told me about  your
needing him because you are also searching for the Talisman of Set.'
  'He's  my  very greatest friend, and more than that he risked  his
life to come out to Soviet Russia and look for me, when I was gaoled
for poking my nose into the "Forbidden Territory," a few years back.
The Duke came too, and he looks on Simon almost as a son.'
  'That  does  not give you any right to interfere if, like  myself,
he elects to devote himseif to the occult.'
  'Maybe,  as long as he confines himself to the harmless side,  but
De  Richleau says the game that you and he are playing is  the  most
hideously  dangerous that's ever been known to  mankind,  and  after
what I saw last night I certainly believe him.'
  'Simon  Aron did not strike me as a fool. He must be aware of  the
risks  which  he  is  running and prepared  to  face  them  for  the
attainment of his desires.'
  'I  doubt  it-I  doubt if you do either. Anyhow, for  the  moment,
we're  regarding  him  as a person who's not quite  all  there,  and
nothing  you  can name is going to stop the Duke and me from  saving
him from himself if we get half a chance.'
  Tanith  felt  that now was the time to show the bait in  the  trap
which she had been preparing. So she leant forward and said, slowly:
'If  you really are so mad as to wish for a chance to pit yourselves
against Mocata, I think I could give it to you.'
  'Could  you?' Rex jerked himself upright and the water  gurgled  a
little at the sides of the canoe.
  'Yes,  I don't know if he has a house of his own anywhere,  but  I
do  know where he will be this evening-and your friend Simon will be
with him.'
  'You  mean the Sabbat eh? And you'll give me the name of the place
where it's being held?'
  'Oh,  no.'  The sunlight gleamed golden on her hair as  she  shook
her head. 'But I'll let you take me to it, if you agree to let me go
free once we are there.'
  'Nothing doing,' he said bluntly.
  'I  see,'  she smiled, 'you are afraid of Mocata after all.  Well,
that  doesn't  surprise me because he has ample means of  protecting
himself against anything you could attempt against him. That is why,
of  course,  I  feel  that, providing the place is  not  given  away
beforehand,  he  would prefer me to let you know it than  detain  me
here-I'm  quite  honest  you  see, but  evidently  you  are  not  so
confident of yourself or interested in your friend as I thought.'
  Rex  was  thinking quickly. Nothing but an actual order  from  the
Duke, based on his assurance that Mocata might punish Tanith in some
terrible manner if she failed to appear, would have induced  him  to
let  her  go  to the Sabbat, but on the other hand this was  a  real
chance  to reach Simon, in fact, the only one that offered. 'Do  you
require that I should actually hand you over to Mocata when  we  get
there?' he asked at length.
  'No.  If  you  take me to the place that will be  sufficient,  but
there must be no question of gagging me or tying me up.'
  In  an agony of indecision he pondered the problem again. Dare  he
risk  taking Tanith within the actual sphere of Mocata's  influence?
Yet  he  would have the Duke with him, so surely between  them  they
would  be able to restrain her from taking any part in the ceremony,
and it was impossible to throw away such a chance of saving Simon.
  'I'm  not giving any promise to let you join the party,' Rex  said
firmly.
  'Well, I intend to do so.'
  'That  remains  to  be seen-but I'll accept your  offer  on  those
conditions.'
  She   nodded,   confident  now  that  once  they   reached   their
destination  Mocata  would exercise his powers  to  relieve  her  of
restraint.
  'The  place must be about seventy miles from here,' she told  him,
'and I should like to be there by sundown, so we ought to leave here
by six.'
  'Wouldn't it be possible to start later?' A worried frown  clouded
Rex's face. 'The truth is, that message Max gave us before lunch was
phony-just a part of my plan for keeping you here. I never did count
on  De  Richleau arriving much before the tune you say we  ought  to
start-and I'd just hate to leave without him.'
  Tanith  smiled to herself. This was an unexpected piece  of  luck.
She  had  only met the Duke for a moment the night before,  but  his
lean,  cultured  face and shrewd, grey eyes had impressed  her.  She
felt  that  he would prove a far more difficult opponent  that  this
nice,  bronzed young giant, and if she could get away without having
to  face him after all, it would be a real relief, so she made a wry
face and proceeded to elaborate her story.
  'I'm  sorry, but there are certain preparations which have  to  be
made  before  the  gathering. They begin at sunset,  so  J  must  be
at-well, the place to which we are going by a quarter past eight. If
I  arrive later I shall not be eligible to participate-so I will not
go at all.'
  'In  that  case  I  guess  I'm in your hands.  Anyhow,  now  we've
settled  things, let's get back to the house.' Rex untied the  canoe
and, setting the motor in motion, steered back to the landing stage.
  His  first  thought was to inform De Richleau of the bargain  that
he  had made, but after pleading once more with the officials at the
British Museum to have the Duke sought for, he learned that  he  was
no  longer there, and when he got through to the Curzon Street  flat
the servants could tell him nothing of De Richleau's whereabouts, so
it was impossible to expedite his arrival.
  For  a  time  Rex strolled up and down the lawn with Tanith,  then
round  the  lovely garden, while he talked again of the places  that
they had both visited abroad and tried to recapture something of the
gaiety which had marked their drive down from London in the morning.
  Max  brought  them tea out onto the terrace, and  afterwards  they
played the electric gramophone, but even that failed to relieve  Rex
of  a  steadily deepening anxiety that the Duke might not arrive  in
time.
  The  shadows of the lilacs and laburnums began to lengthen on  the
grass. Tanith went upstairs to tidy herself, and when she came  down
asked  if he could find her a road map. He produced a set and for  a
time she studied two of them in silence, then she refolded them  and
said  quietly: 'I know so little of the- English country  but  I  am
certain now that I can find it. We must be leaving soon.'
  It  was already six o'clock, and he had put off shaking a cocktail
until  the last moment in order to delay their departure as long  as
possible.  Now,  he rang for ice as he said casually;  'Don't  fuss,
I'll get you there by a quarter after eight.'
  'I'll give you five miniutes-no more.
  'Well,  listen  now. Say De Richleau fails to make it.  Won't  you
give me a break? Let me know the name of the place so as I can leave
word for him to follow?'
  She  considered  for a moment. 'I will give  you  the  name  of  a
village five miles from it where he can meet you on one condition.'
  'Let's hear it.'
  'That  neither of you seek to restrain me in any way once we reach
our destination.'
  'No. I'll not agree to that.'
  'Then  I  certainly will not give you any information  which  will
enable your friend to appear on the scene and help you.'
  'I'll get him there some way-don't you worry.'
  'That leaves me a free hand to prevent you if I can-doesn't it?'
  As  he swallowed his cocktail she glanced at the clock. 'It's  ten
past now, so unless you prefer not to go we must start at once.'
  Consoling  himself  with the thought that De Richleau  could  have
got  no  more out of her even if he had questioned her himself,  Rex
led  her  out and settled her in the Rolls then, before starting  up
the  engine, he listened intently for a moment, hoping that even yet
he  might catch the low, steady purr of the big Hispano which  would
herald  the  Duke's eleventh hour arrival, but the  evening  silence
brooded unbroken over the trees and lane. Reluctantly he set the car
in  motion  and  as  they  ran down the gravel  sweep,  Tanith  said
quietly, 'Please drive to New-bury.'
  'But that's no more than twenty miles from here!'
  'Oh,  I  will give you further directions when we reach  it,'  she
smiled,  and  for  a little time they drove in silence  through  the
quiet byways until they entered the main Bath Road at Theale.
  At  Newbury, she gave fresh instructions. 'To Hungerford now,' and
the  fast, low touring Rolls sped out of the town eating up  another
ten miles of the highway to the west.
  'Where  next?'  he asked, scanning the houses of the  market  town
for  its  most  prosperous-looking inn and mentally registering  The
Bear. It was just seven o'clock-another few miles and they would  be
about half-way to the secret rendezvous. He did not dare to stop  in
the town in case she gave him the slip and hired another car or went
on  by  train, but when they were well out in the country  again  he
meant to telephone the Duke, who must have arrived at Pangbourne  by
this  time, and urge him to follow as far as Hungerford at once-then
sit tight at The Bear until he received further information.
  Tanith  was studying the map. 'There are two ways from here,'  she
said, 'but I think it would be best to keep to the main road as  far
as Maryborough.'
  A  few  miles  out of Hungerford the country became less  populous
with  only a solitary farmhouse here and there, peaceful and  placid
in  the  evening light. Then these, too, were left behind  and  they
entered  a long stretch of darkening woodlands, the northern  fringe
of Savernake Forest.
  Both  were silent, thinking of the night to come which was now  so
close upon them and the struggle of wills that must soon take place.
Rex  brought the car down to a gentle cruising speed and watched the
road-sides  intently.  At a deserted hairpin  bend,  where  a  byway
doubled  back  to the south-east, he found just what  he  wanted,  a
telephone call-box.
  Turning  the  car off the main road he pulled up, and  noted  with
quick  appreciation that they had entered one of the most  beautiful
avenues  he had even seen. As far as the eye could see it cut  clean
through  the  forest,  the great branches meeting  overhead  in  the
sombre  gloom of the falling night, it looked like the nave of  some
titanic  cathedral  deserted by mankind; but he had  no  leisure  to
admire  it to the full, and stepping out, called to Tanith over  his
shoulder: 'Won't be a minute-just want to put through'a call.'
  She  smiled,  but the queer look that he had seen earlier  in  the
day  came into her eyes again. 'So you mean to trick me and  let  De
Richleau know the direction we have taken?'
  'I  wouldn't  call it that,' he protested. 'In  order  to  get  in
touch  with  Simon I bargained to take you to this place  you're  so
keen to get to, but I reserved the right to stop you taking any part
yourself, and I need the Duke to help me.'
  'And  I  agreed, because it was the only way in which I could  get
away from Pangbourne, but I reserved the right to do all in my power
to  attend the meeting. However,' she shrugged lightly, 'do  as  you
will.'
  'Thanks.'  Rex entered the box, spoke to the operator, and  having
inserted the necessary coins, secured his number. Next minute he was
speaking  to  De Richleau. 'Hello! Rex here. I've got the  girl  and
she's agreed- Oh, Hell!'
  He  dropped the receiver and leapt out of the box. While his  back
was  turned  Tanith  had moved into the driver's  seat.  The  engine
purred, the Rolls slid forward. He clutched frantically at the  rear
mudguard but his fingers slipped and he fell sprawling in the  road.
When he scrambled to his feet the long blue car was almost hidden by
a trail of dust as it roared down the avenue, and while he was still
cursing  his  stupidity,  it disappeared into  the  shadows  of  the
forest.


                                 14

                The Duke de Richleau Takes the Field

  At  7.20.  Rex  was  through again to the Duke, gabbling  out  the
idiotic way in which he had allowed Tanith to fool him and leave him
stranded in Savernake Forest.
  At  7.22.  De  Richleau  had heard all he  had  to  tell  and  was
ordering  him  to  return to Hungerford as best he could,  there  to
await instructions at The Bear.
  At  7.25.  Tanith was out of the Forest and on a good road  again,
some  five miles south-east of Marlborough, slowing down to  consult
her map.
  At 7.26. The Duke was through to Scotland Yard.
  At  7.28.  Rex  was  loping  along at a steady  trot  through  the
gathering  darkness, praying that a car would appear from  which  he
could ask a lift.
  At  7.30.  De  Richleau was speaking to the Assistant Commissioner
at  the Metropolitan Police, a personal friend of his. 'It's not the
car  that  matters,' he said, 'but the documents which  are  in  it.
Their  immediate recovery is of vital importance to me and I  should
consider it a great personal favour if any reports which come in may
be sent at once to the Police Station at Newbury.'
  At  7.32.  Tanith  was  speeding south  towards  Tidworth,  having
decided that to go round Salisbury Plain via Amesbury would save her
time on account of the better roads.
  At  7.38.  Scotland Yard was issuing the following  communique  by
wireless:  'All stations. Stolen. A blue touring Rolls, 1934  model.
Number  OA  1217.  Owner, Duke de Richleau. Last seen  in  Savernake
Forest  going  south-east at 19 hours 15, but  reported  making  for
Marlborough.    Driven   by   woman.   Age   twenty-three-attractive
appearance-tall,  slim,  fair hair, pale  face,  large  hazel  eyes,
wearing  light  green  summer  costume and  small  hat.  Particulars
required by Special Department. Urgent. Reports to Newbury,'
  At  7.42.  De  Richleau received a telephone call at  Pang-bourne.
'Speakin'  fer Mister Clutterbuck,' said the voice, 'bin tryin'  ter
get  yer  this lars' arf hour, sir. The green Daimler passed through
Camberley goin' south just arter seven o'clock.'
  At  7.44.  Tanith was running past the military camp at  Tid-worth
still going south.
  At  7.45.  Rex was buying a second-hand bicycle for cash at  three
times its value from a belated farm-labourer.
  At  7.48.  The Duke received another call. 'I have a special  from
Mr.  Clutterbuck,'  said  a new voice. 'The  Yellow  Sports  Sunbeam
passed Devizes going south at 7.42.'
  At  7.49. Tanith reached the Andover-Amesbury road and turned west
along it.
  At   7.54.  De  Richleau  climbed  Into  his  Hispano.  'My  night
glasses-thank  you,' he said as he took a heavy pair  of  binoculars
from  Max.  'Any messages which come in for me up to 8.25 are  to.be
relayed to the police at Newbury, after that to Mr. Van Ryn  at  the
Bear  Inn, Hungerford, up till 8.40, and from then on to the  police
at Newbury again.'
  At  7.55.  Tanith  was  approaching a  small  cross-roads  on  the
outskirts  of Amesbury. A Police-Sergeant who had left  the  station
ten  minutes earlier spotted the number of her car, and stepping out
into  the road called on her to halt. She swerved violently, missing
him by inches, but managed to swing the car into the by-road leading
north.
  At  7.56. Rex was pedalling furiously along the road to Hungerford
with all the strength of his muscular legs.
  At  7.58.  Tanith, livid with rage that Rex should  have  put  the
police  on to her as though she were a common car thief, had spotted
another policeman near the bridge in Bulford village. Not daring  to
risk  his  holding  her  up in the narrow street,  she  switched  up
another side-road leading north-east
  At  7.59. The Amesbury Police-Sergeant dropped off a lorry  beside
the constable on duty at the main cross-roads of the town and warned
him to watch out for a Blue Rolls, number
  OA  1217, recklessly driven by a young woman who was wanted by the
Yard.
  At  8.1.  Tanith had slowed down and was wondering desperately  if
she  dared  risk another attempt to pass through Amesbury.  Deciding
against it she ran on, winding in and out through the narrow  lanes,
to the north-eastward.
  At  8.2. Rex had abandoned his bicycle outside the old Alms-houses
at Froxfield and was begging a lift from the owner of a rickety Ford
who was starting into Hungerford.
  At  8.3. The Amesbury Police-Sergeant was reporting to Newbury the
appearance of the 'wanted' Rolls.
  At  8.4. Tanith pulled up, hopelessly lost in a tangle of twisting
lanes.
  At  8.6,  De Richleau swung the Hispano on to the main Bath  Road.
His  cigar  tip glowed red in the twilight as he sank his chin  into
the  collar of his coat and settled down to draw every ounce out  of
the great powerful car.
  At  8.8.  Tanith  had discovered her whereabouts on  the  map  and
found that she had been heading back towards the And-over Road.
  At  8.5.  The Amesbury Police-Sergeant was warning the authorities
at  Andover to keep a look-out for the stolen car in case it  headed
back in that direction.
  At  8.10. Tanith had turned up a rough track leading north through
some  woods  in the hope that it would enable her to  get  past  the
Military Camp at Tidworth without going through it.
  At 8.12. Rex was hurrying into The Bear Inn at Hungerford.
  At  8.14.  Tanith  was stuck again, the track having  come  to  an
abrupt end at a group of farm buildings.
  At  8.17.  The  Duke was hurtling along the straight,  about  five
miles east of Newbury.
  At  8.19. Tanith was back at the entrance of the track and turning
into a lane that led due east.
  At  8.20. The Amesbury Police-Sergeant left the station again.  He
had completed his work of warning Salisbury, Devizes, Warminster and
Winchester to watch for the stolen Rolls.
  At  8.21, Tanith came out on the main Salisbury-Marl -borough road
and,  realising  that there was nothing for it but to  chance  being
held up at Tidworth, turned north.
  At  8.22.  Rex  had sunk his second tankard of good Berkshire  ale
and took up his position in the doorway of The Bear to watch for the
Duke.
  At  8.23. Tanith, possessed now, it seemed, by some inhuman  glee,
chortled  with laughter as a Military Policeman leapt from the  road
to let her flash past the entrance of Tidworth Camp.
  At  8.24.  De Richleau entered Newbury Police Station and  learned
that  the  Blue  Rolls  had been sighted in Amesbury  half  an  hour
earlier.
  At  8.25. Tanith had pulled up, a mile north of Tidworth, and  was
studying  her map again. She decided that her only hope bf  reaching
the  secret  rendezvous now lay in taking the  by-roads  across  the
northern end of Salisbury Plain.
  At  8.26. The Duke was reading two messages which had been  handed
to  him  by  the  Newbury  Police. One said: 'Green  Daimler  passed
through  Basingstoke going west at 7.25. Max per  Clutterbuck,'  and
the  other, 'Green Daimler passed through Andover going west at 8.0.
Max per Clutterbuck.' He nodded, quickly summing up the position  to
himself.  'Green is heading west through Amesbury by now,  and  Blue
was  seen making in the same direction, while Yellow took the  other
route and is coming south from Devizes-most satisfactory so far.' He
then  turned to the Station Sergeant: 'I should be most grateful  if
you would have any further messages which may come for me relayed to
Amesbury. Thank you-Good night.'
  At  8.27.  Tanith  had reached a cross-road  two  miles  north  of
Tidworth  and  turning  west  took a dreary  wind-swept  road  which
crosses  one of the most desolate parts of the Plain. Dusk had  come
and  with it an overwhelming feeling that whatever happened she must
be  present  at  the meeting. The fact that she was about  seventeen
miles farther from her destination than she had been at Amesbury did
not depress her, for she had misled Rex as to the vital necessity of
her being there by sunset, and the actual Sabbat did not begin until
midnight.
  At  8.32. Rex was taking a message over the telephone of The  Bear
at Hungerford.
  At  8.35.  Tanith was passing the Aerodrome at Upavon, and  forced
to slow down owing to the curving nature of the road
  At  8.37.  De Richleau's Hispano roared into Hungerford, and  Rex,
who had resumed his position in the doorway of The Bear, ran out  to
meet it. 'Any messages?' the Duke asked as he scrambled in.
  'Yep-Max  called  me.  A  bird named  Clutterbuck  says  a  Yellow
Sunbeam  passed through Westbury heading south at five minutes  past
eight.'
  'Good,' nodded the Duke, who already had the car in motion again.
  At  8.38. Tanith was free of the twisting patch of road by  Upavon
and  out  on the straight across the naked Plain once more. If  only
she  could keep clear of the police, she felt that she would be able
to  reach the meeting-place in another forty-five minutes.  A  wild,
unnatural exaltation drove her on as the Blue Rolls ate up the miles
towards the west.
  At  8.39. Rex was asking; 'What is all this about a Yellow Sunbeam
anyway?  It was a Blue Rolls I got stung for,' And the Duke replied,
with  his  grey  eyes twinkling: 'Don't worry about the  Rolls.  The
police  saw  your young friend with it in Amesbury  a  little  after
eight. They will catch her for us you may be certain.'
  At  8.40.  The police at Newbury were relaying a message from  Max
for the Duke to their colleagues at Amesbury.
  At  8.41,  De Richleau was saying: 'Don't be a fool, Rex.  I  only
said  that  I  could  not  call in the police  unless  these  people
committed some definite breach of the law. Car stealing is a  crime,
so  I  have  been able to utilise them in this one instance  -that's
all.'
  At  8.44.  Two  traffic  policemen on a  motor-cycle  combination,
which  had set out from Devizes a quarter of an hour before, spotted
the back number-plate of Blue Roils number OA 1217 as it switched to
the  left  at a fork road where they were stationed, but Tanith  had
caught  sight of them, and her headlights streaked away,  cutting  a
lane through the darkness to the south-westward.
  At  8.45.  The Hispano was rocking from side to side  as  it  flew
round  the bends of the twisting road south-west of Hungerford.  The
Duke  had heard Rex's account of the way Tanith had tricked him  but
refused to enlighten him about the Yellow Sunbeam. 'No, no,' he said
impatiently. 'I want to hear every single thing you learned from the
girl-I'll tell you my end later.'
  At  8.46.  The traffic policemen had their machine going  all  out
and were in full cry after the recklessly driven Rolls,
  At  8.47,  The  Police at Newbury were relaying a  second  message
from Max for the Duke to their colleagues at Ames-bury.
  At  8.48, Tanith saw the lights of Easterton village looming up in
the  distance  across the'treeless grassland as she  hurtled  south-
westward in the Rolls.
  At  8.49.  The  traffic policeman in the side-car  said:  'Steady,
Bill-we'll get her in a minute.'
  At  8.50. The Hispano had passed the cross-roads nine miles south-
west of Hungerford and come out on to the straight. De Richleau  had
now heard everything of importance which Rex had to tell and replied
abruptly to his renewed questioning: 'For God's sake don't pester me
now.  It's no easy matter to keep this thing on the road when  we're
doing eighty most of the time.'
  At  8.51. Tanith clutched desperately at the wheel of the Rolls as
with  screaming tyres it shot round the comer of the village street.
The  police siren in her ears shrilled insistently for her to  halt.
She  took  another  bend  practically on two  wheels,  glimpsed  the
darkness  of  the  open  country again for a  second  then,  with  a
rending,  splintering  crash, the off-side  mudguards  tore  down  a
length  of  wooden palings. The car swerved violently, dashed  up  a
steep  bank then down again, rocking and plunging, until it came  to
rest, with a sickening thud, against the back of a big barn.
  At  9.8.  The  Duke, with Rex beside him, entered Amesbury  Police
Station  and  the two messages which had been 'phoned  through  from
Newbury  were  handed to him. The first read: 'Green Daimler  passed
through  Amesbury  going  west at 8.15,'  and  the  second,  'Yellow
Sunbeam   halted   Chilbury  8.22.'  Both  were  signed   'Max   per
Clutterbuck.'
  As  De Richleau slipped them into his pocket an Inspector came out
of  an  inner  room. 'We've got your car, sir,' he said  cheerfully.
'Heard  the  news only this minute. Two officers spotted  the  young
woman  at  the  roads south of Devizes and gave chase.  She  made  a
mucker  of  that  bad bend in Easterton village. Ran  it  through  a
garden and up a steep bank.'
  'Is she hurt?' asked Rex anxiously.
  'No,  sir-can't  be.  Not enough to prevent her  hopping  out  and
running for it. I reckon it was that bank that saved her and the car
too-for I gather it's not damaged anything to speak of.'
  'Has she been caught?' inquired the Duke.
  'Not yet, sir, but I expect she will be before morning.'
  As  De  Richleau nodded his thanks, and spread out a map  to  find
the  village of Chilbury, the desk telephone shrilled. The constable
who answered it scribbled rapidly on a pad and then passed the paper
over to him. 'Here's another message for you, sir.'
  Rex  glanced  over  the Duke's shoulder and read,  'Green  Daimler
halted  Chilbury  8.30.  Other  cars parked  in  vicinity  and  more
arriving.  Will await you cross-roads half a mile south of  village.
Clutterbuck.'
  De  Richleau  looked  up and gave a low chuckle.  'Got  them!'  he
exclaimed. 'Now we can talk.'
  At 9.14. They were back in the car.


                                 15

                       The Road to the Sabbat

  The  big Hispano left the last houses of Amesbury behind and  took
the  long,  curving road across the Plain to the west. De  Richleau,
driving  now  at a moderate pace, was at last able to satisfy  Rex's
curiosity.
  'It  is  quite simple, my dear fellow. Immediately I learned  from
you  that Madame D'Urfe was leaving Claridges for the Sabbat at four
o'clock,  I  realised that in her we had a second line  of  inquiry.
Having  promised  to  meet you at Pangbourne, I couldn't  very  well
follow  her  myself, so I got in touch with an ex-superintendent  of
Scotland Yard named Clutterbuck, who runs a Private Inquiry Agency.'
  'But  I thought you said we must handle this business on our own,'
Rex protested.
  That  is  so, and Clutterbuck has no idea of the devilry  that  we
are up against. I only called him in for the purpose of tracing cars
and  watching  people,  which is his normal business.  After  I  had
explained  what  I wanted to him he arranged for are  highly  potent
against  evil my friend, and if we can only secure Simon  they  will
prove a fine protection for him. Here, take this crucifix.'
  'What'll  I  do  with it?' Rex asked, admiring for  a  moment  the
beautiful carving on the sacred symbol.
  'Hold  it  in your hand from the moment we go over this wall,  and
before your face if we come upon any of these devilish people.'
  While  De  Richleau was speaking, he had taken a little plush  box
from  the  suitcase,  and out of it a rosary from  which  dangled  a
small,  gold  cross.  Reaching up, he  hung  it  about  Rex's  neck,
explaining as he did so: 'Should you drop the big one, or if  it  is
knocked  from  your  hand by some accident, this  will  serve  as  a
reserve  defence.  In addition, I want you to set  another  above  a
horse-shoe in your aura.'
  'How d'you mean?' Rex frowned, obviously puzzled.
  'Just  imagine if you can that you are actually wearing  a  horse-
shoe  surmounted  by a crucifix on your forehead.  Think  of  it  as
glowing there in the darkness an inch or so above your eyes. That is
an  even better protection than any ordinary material symbol, but it
is  difficult  to concentrate sufficiently to keep it there  without
long practice, so we must wear the sign as well.' The Duke placed  a
similar rosary round his own neck and took two small phials from the
open  case. 'Mercury and Salt,' he added. 'Place one in each of your
breast pockets!'
  Rex  did  as  he was bid. 'But why are we wearing crucifixes  when
you put a swastika on Simon before?' he asked.
  'I  was  wrong. That is the symbol of Light in the East,  where  I
learned what little I know of the Esoteric Doctrine. There, it would
have  proved an adequate barrier, but here, where Christian thoughts
have been centred on the Cross for many centuries, the crucifix  has
far more potent vibrations.'
  He  took  up  the  bottJe and went on: 'This is  holy  water  from
Lourdes,  and  with it I shall seal the nine openings of  your  body
that  no evil may enter it at any one of them. Then you must do  the
same for me.'
  With  swift gestures, the Duke made the sign of the cross in  holy
water  upon Rex's eyes, nostrils, lips, etc., and then Rex performed
a similar service for him.
  De  Richleau picked up the other crucifix and shut the case.  'Now
we  can start,' he said. 'I only wish that we had a fragment of  the
Host  apiece. That is the most powerful defence of all, and with  it
we might walk unafraid into hell itself. But it can only be obtained
by a layman after a special dispensation, and I had no time to plead
my case for that today.'
  The  night was fine and clear, but only a faint starlight lit  the
surrounding  country,  and they felt rather  than  saw  the  rolling
slopes of the Plain which hemmed in the village and the house, where
they were set in a sheltered dip. The whole length of the high stone
wall  was  fringed, as far as they could see, by the belt of  trees,
and  through their thick, early-summer foliage no glimpse  of  light
penetrated to show the exact position of the house.
  Since no sound broke the stillness-although a hundred people  were
reported  to be gathered there-they judged the place to be somewhere
in  the  depths  of the wood at a good distance from the  wall;  yet
despite  that, as they walked quickly side by side down  the  chalky
lane,  they  spoke only in whispers, lest they disturb  the  strange
stillness that brooded over that night-darkened valley.
  At  length  they found the thing that they were seeking,  a  place
where  the  old wall had crumbled and broken at the top. A  pile  of
masonry had fallen into the lane, making a natural step a couple  of
feet  in  height, and from it they found no difficulty  in  hoisting
themselves up into the small breach from which it had tumbled.
  As  they  slipped down the other side, they paused for  a  moment,
peering through the great tree-trunks, but here on the inside of the
wall  beneath  the wide-spreading branches of century-old  oaks  and
chestnuts  they were in pitch darkness, and could see nothing  ahead
other than the vague outline of the
  trees.
  'In  manus  tuas,  domine,' murmured the Duke,  crossing  himself;
then  holding  their  crucifixes  before  them  they  moved  forward
stealthily, their feet crackling the dry twigs with a faint snapping
as they advanced.
  After  a few moments the darkness lightened and they came  out  on
the edge of a wide lawn. To their left, two hundred yards away, they
saw  the  dim, shadowy bulk of a rambling old house, and  through  a
shrubbery which separated them from it, faint chinks of light coming
from  the  ground  floor  windows. Now,  too,  they  could  hear  an
indistinct murmur, which betrayed the presence of many people.
  Keeping   well  within  the  shadow  of  the  trees,  they   moved
cautiously along until they had passed the shrubbery and could get a
clear  view of the low, old-fashioned mansion. Only the ground-floor
windows  showed lights and these were practically obscured by  heavy
curtains. The upper stories were dark and lifeless.
  Still   in   silence,  and  instinctively  agreeing   upon   their
movements, the two friends advanced again and began to make a circle
of  the  house. On the far side they found the cars parked  just  as
Clutterbuck  had described, upon a gravel sweep, and counted  up  to
fifty-seven of them.
  'By  Jove,'  Rex breathed. 'This lot would rejoice  an  automobile
salesman's heart.'
  The  Duke  nodded.  Not more than half a dozen out  of  the  whole
collection were ordinary, moderately-priced machines. The rest  bore
out  De Richleau's statement that the practitioners of the Black Art
in  modern  times were almost exclusively people of great wealth.  A
big  silver Rolls stood nearest to them; beyond it a golden Bugatti.
Then  a  supercharged Mercedes, another Rolls, an  Isotta  Fraschini
whose bonnet alone looked as big as an Austin Seven, and so the line
continued with Alfa Romeos, Daimlers, Hispanos and Bentleys,  nearly
every one distinctive of its kind. At a low estimate there must have
been ?100,000 worth of motor-cars parked in that small area.
  As  they paused there for a moment a mutter of voices and a sudden
burst  of  laughter  came from a ground-floor window.  Rex  tip-toed
softly  forward  across  the  gravel.  De  Richleau  followed   and,
crouching  down with their heads on a level with the low sill,  they
were able to see through a chink in the curtains into the room.
  It  was a long, low billiards-room with two tables, and the  usual
settees ranged along the walls. Both tables were covered with  white
cloths  upon  which were piles of plates, glasses, and  an  abundant
supply  of cold food. About the room, laughing, smoking and talking,
were some thirty chauffeurs who, having delivered their employers at
the rendezvous, were being provided with an excellent spread to keep
them busy and out of the way.
  The Duke touched Rex on the shoulder, and they tiptoed
  quietly  back to the shelter of the bushes. Then, making a  circle
of  the drive, they passed round the other side of the house,  which
was  dark and deserted, until they came again to the lighted windows
at the back which they had first seen.
  The curtains of these had been more carefully drawn than those  of
the  billiards-room where the chauffeurs were supping,  and  it  was
only after some difficulty that they found a place at one where they
were  able to observe a small portion of the room. From what  little
they  could see, the place seemed to be a large reception-room, with
parquet floor, painted walls and Italian furniture.
  The  head  of  a man, who was seated with his back to the  window,
added  to  their difficulty in seeing into the room but the  glimpse
they  could get was sufficient to show that all the occupants of  it
were  masked  and their clothes hidden under black dominoes,  giving
them all a strangely funereal appearance.
  As  the  man  by the window turned his head De Richleau,  who  was
occupying  their vantage point at the time, observed that  his  hah-
was  grey and curly and that he had lost the top portion of his left
ear,  which  ended in a jagged piece of flesh. The  Duke  felt  that
there was something strangely familiar in that mutilated ear, but he
could  not for the life of him recall exactly where he had seen  it.
Not  at  Simon's party, he was certain but, although he watched  the
man intently, no memory came to aid his recognition.
  The  others  appeared to be about equal numbers of both  sexes  as
far as the Duke could judge from the glimpses he got of them as they
passed  and  repassed the narrow orbit of his line  of  vision.  The
masks  and dominoes made it particularly difficult for him  to  pick
out any of the Satanists whom he had seen at the previous party but,
after  a  little, he noticed a man with a dark-skinned, fleshy  neck
and thin, black hair whom he felt certain was the Babu, and a little
later  a  tall,  lank,  fair-haired figure who was  undoubtedly  the
Albino.
  After  a  time  Rex  took his place at their observation  post.  A
short, fat man was standing now in the narrow line of sight. A black
mask  separated his pink, bald head from the powerful fleshy chin-it
could  only  be Mocata. As he watched, another domino came  up,  the
beaky  nose,  the bird-like head, the narrow, stooping shoulders  of
which must surely belong to Simon Aron.
  'He's here,' whispered Rex.
  'Who-Simon?'
  'Yes.  But  how  we're going to get at him in this crush  is  more
than I can figure out.'
  That  has  been  worrying me a lot,' De Richleau  whispered  back.
'You see, I have had no time to plan any attempt at rescue. My whole
day has been taken up with working at the Museum and then organising
the discovery of this rendezvous, I had to leave the rest to chance,
trusting  that an opportunity might arise where we could find  Simon
on  his own if they had locked him up, or at least with only  a  few
people,  when there would be some hope of our getting him away.  All
we can do for the moment is to bide our time. Are there any signs of
them starting their infernal ritual?'
  'None  that  I  can  see.  It's only  a  "conversation  piece"  in
progress at the moment.'
  De  Richleau glanced at his watch. 'Just on eleven,' he  murmured,
'and  they  won't  get going until midnight, so we have  ample  time
before we need try anything desperate. Something may happen to  give
us a better chance before that.'
  For  another ten minutes they watched the strange assembly.  There
was  no  laughter  but, even from outside the window,  the  watchers
could  sense  a  tenseness in theatmosphereanda  strange  suppressed
excitement.  De  Richleau  managed to  identify  the  Eurasian,  the
Chinaman and old Madame D'Urfe with her parrot beak. Then it  seemed
to  him  that  the  room was gradually emptying. The  man  with  the
mutilated  ear,  whose head had obscured their view,  stood  up  and
moved away and the low purr of a motor-car engine came to them  from
the far side of the house.
  'It  looks as if they're leaving,' muttered the Duke; 'perhaps the
Sabbat  is not to be held here after all. In any case, this  may  be
the chance we're looking for. Come on.'
  Stepping  as  lightly as possible to avoid the  crunching  of  the
gravel, they stole back to the shrubbery and round the house to  the
place where the cars were parked. As they arrived a big car full  of
people  was  already  running down the drive.  Another  was  in  the
process  of  being  loaded up with a number of hampers  and  folding
tables. Then that also set off with two men on the front seat.
  Rex  and De Richleau, crouching in the bushes, spent the best part
of half an hour watching the departure of the assembly.
  Every  moment they hoped to see Simon. If they could only identify
him  among those dark shapes that moved between the cars they  meant
to  dash  in  and attempt to carry him off. If would be a  desperate
business  but  there  was no time left in which  to  make  elaborate
plans;  under cover of darkness and the ensuing confusion there  was
just a chance that they might get away with it.
  No  chauffeurs were taken and a little less than ha!f  the  number
of  cars  utilised. Where me guests had presumably arrived in  ones,
twos,  and threes, they now departed crowded five and six apiece  in
the largest of the cars.
  When  only  a  dozen  or so of the Satanists were  left  the  Duke
jogged  Rex's arm. 'We've missed him I'm afraid. We had better  make
for  our own car now or we may lose track of them,' and, filled with
growing  concern  at the difficulties which stood between  them  and
Simon's rescue, they turned and set off at a quick pace through  the
trees to the broken place in the wall.
  Scrambling  over, they ran at a trot down the lane.  Once  in  the
car,  De Richleau drove it back on to the main road and then  pulled
up  as far as possible in the shadow of the overhanging trees. A big
Delage came out of the park gates a hundred yards farther along  the
road and turning east sped away through the village.
  'Wonder if that's the last,' Rex said softly.
  'I  hope  not,' De Richleau replied. They have been going  off  at
about two-minute intervals, so as not to crowd the road and make too
much of a procession of it. If it is the last, they would be certain
to see our lights and become suspicious. With any luck the people in
the Delage will take us for the following car if we can slip in now,
and the next to follow will believe our rear light to be that of the
Delage.' He released his brake, and the Hispano slid forward.
  On  the  far side of the village they picked up the rear light  of
the  Delage  moving at an easy pace and followed to the  cross-roads
where they had met Clutterbuck an hour and a half earlier. Here  the
car  turned north along a by-road, and they followed for a few miles
upward  on  to  the higher level of the desolate rolling  grassland,
unbroken  by house or farmstead, and treeless except for,  here  and
there, a coppice set upon a gently sloping hillside.
  Rex  was  watching out of the back window and had assured  himself
that  another  car was following in their rear, for upon  that  open
road motor headlights were easily visible for miles.
  They  passed through the village of Chitterne St. Mary, then round
the  steep  curve to the entrance of its twin parish, Chitterne  All
Saints.  At  the  latter the car which they were following  switched
into  a  track runinng steeply uphill to the northeast, then swiftly
down  again into a long valley bottom and up the other side on to  a
higher  crest.  They came to a crossroads where four tracks  met  in
another  valley and turned east to run on for another mile,  bumping
and  skidding  on  the little-used, pathlike way.  After  winding  a
little, the car ahead suddenly left the track altogether and ran  on
to the smooth short turf.
  After  following the Delage for a mile or more across  the  grass,
De Richleau saw it pull up on the slope of the downs where the score
or  so  of  cars which had brought the Satanists to this  rendezvous
were parked in a ragged line. He swiftly dimmed his lights, and  ran
slowly  forward, giving the occupants of the Delage  time  to  leave
their car before he pulled up the Hispano as far from it as he dared
without  arousing suspicion in the others. The car following,  which
seemed to be the last in the procession, passed quite close to  them
and  halted ten yards ahead, also disgorging its passengers, Rex and
the  Duke waited for a moment, still seated in the darkness  of  the
Hispano, then after a muttered conference, Rex got out to go forward
and investigate.
  He  returned after about ten minutes to say that the Satanists had
gone  over the crest of the hill into the dip beyond, carrying their
hampers and their gear with them.
  'We  had  better drive on then,' said the Duke, 'and park our  car
with theirs. It's likely to be noticed if the moon gets up.'
  'There  isn't a rnoonfl Rex told him. 'We're in the dark  quarter.
But it would be best to have it handy all the same.'
  They  drove  on until they reached the other cars,  all  of  whose
lights  had  been put out, then, getting out, set off at a  stealthy
trot in the direction the Satanists had taken.
  Within  a  few moments, they arrived at the brow of the  hill  and
saw  that  spread  below  them lay a natural  amphitheatre.  At  the
bottom,  glistening  faintly, lay a  small  tarn  or  lake,  and  De
Richleau nodded understandingly.
  This  is the place where the devilry will actually be done without
a  doubt. No Sabbat can be held except in a place which is near open
water.'  Then  the two friends lay down in the grass  to  watch  for
Simon  among  the  dark group of figures who were moving  about  the
water's edge.
  Some  were  busy  unpacking the hampers, and  erecting  the  small
folding-tables which they had brought. The light was just sufficient
for  Rex  to see that they were spreading upon them a lavish supper.
As he watched, he saw a group of about a dozen move over to the left
towards  a  pile  of ancient stones which, in the  uncertain  light,
seemed to form a rugged, natural throne.
  De  Richleau's eyes were also riveted upon the spot  and,  to  his
straining  gaze,  it  seemed that there was  a  sudden  stirring  of
movement  in the shadows there. The whole body of masked, black-clad
figures  left the lake and joined those near the stones, who  seemed
to  be  their leaders. After a moment the watchers could  discern  a
tall, dark form materialising on the throne and, as they gazed  with
tense  expectancy,  a faint shimmer of pale violet  light  began  to
radiate from it.
  Even  at  that distance, this solitary illumination  of  the  dark
hollow was sufficient for the two friends to realise that the  thing
which  had  appeared out of the darkness, seated upon those  age-old
rocks, was the same evil entity that De Richleau had once taken  for
Mocata's black servant, and which had manifested itself to Rex  with
such  ghastly clarity in Simon's silent house. The Sabbat was  about
to commence.


                                 16

                             The Sabbat

  Straining  their eyes and ears for every sound and  movement  from
the assembly in the dark shadows below, Rex and the Duke lay side by
side on the rim of the saucer-shaped depression in the downland.
  As  far  as  they could judge, they were somewhere about  half-way
between  the  two hamlets of Imber and Tilshead, with Chitterne  All
Saints in their rear and the village of Easterton, where Tanith  had
crashed, about five miles to the north. The country round about  was
desolate  and  remote. Once in a while some belated Wiltshire  yokel
might  cross  the  plain by night upon a special errand  created  by
emergency;  but even if such a one had chanced to pass that  way  on
this  Walpurgis-Nacht,  the  hidden  meeting-place-guarded  by   its
surrounding  hills-was  far  from the nearest  track,  and  at  that
midnight  hour no living soul seemed to be stirring within miles  of
the  spot  which the Satanists had chosen for the worship  of  their
Infernal Master.
  In  the  faint starlight they could see that the tables  were  now
heaped with an abundance of food and wine, and that the whole  crowd
had  moved  over towards the throne round which they formed  a  wide
circle,  so that the nearest came some little way up the  slope  and
were  no  more  than fifty yards from where the  Duke  and  Rex  lay
crouched in the grass.
  'How  long does it last?' Rex asked, beneath his breath, a  little
nervously.
  'Until  cock-crow, which I suppose would be at about four  o'clock
at  this  time  of  the year. It is a very ancient belief  that  the
crowing of a cock has power to break spells, so these ceremonies, in
which  the power to cast spells is given, never last longer. Keep  a
sharp look out for Simon.'
  'I am, but what will they be doing all that time?'
  First,  they will make their homage to the Devil. Then  they  will
gorge themselves on the food that they have brought and get drunk on
the  wine;  the idea being that everything must be done contrary  to
the  Christian ritual. They will feast to excess as opposed  to  the
fasting which religious people undergo before their services.  Look!
There are the leaders before the altar now.'
  Rex  followed the Duke's glance, and saw that half a  dozen  black
figures were placing tall candles-eleven of them in a circle and the
twelfth inside it-at the foot of the throne.
  As  they  were lighted the twelve candles burned steadily  in  the
windless  night with a strong blue flame, illuminating a  circle  of
fifty  feet radius including the tables where the feast was  spread.
Outside this ring the valley seemed darker than before, filled  with
pitch-black  shadows so that the figures in the area of light  stood
out clearly as though upon a bright
  circular stage.
  'Those  things  they  have lighted are the special  black  candles
made of pitch and sulphur,' muttered the Duke. 'You will be able  to
smell  them in a minute. But look at the priests: didn't I tell  you
that  there  is little difference between this modern  Satanism  and
Voodoo?  We might almost be witnessing some heathen ceremony  in  an
African jungle!'
  While  the  crowd had been busy at the tables, their  leaders  had
donned fantastic costumes. One had a huge cat mask over his head and
a  furry  cloak, the tail of which dangled behind him on the ground;
another wore the headdress of a repellent toad; the face of a third,
still  masked, gleamed bluish for a moment in the candle-light  from
between  the distended jaws of a wolf, and Mocata, whom  they  could
still recognise by his squat obesity, now had webbed wings sprouting
from his shoulders which gave him the appearance of a giant bat.
  Rex  shivered. 'It's that infernal cold again rising up the hill,'
he  said  half-apologetically. 'Say-look at the thing on the throne.
It's changing shape.'
  Until  the  candles  had  been lit, the  pale  violet  halo  which
emanated  from the figure had been enough to show that it was  human
and the face undoubtedly black. But, as they watched, it changed  to
a  greyish  colour, and something was happening to the formation  of
the head.
  'It  is  the  Goat of Mendes, Rex!' whispered the Duke.  'My  God!
this is horrible!' And even as he spoke, the manifestation took on a
clearer  shape;  the hands, held forward almost in  an  attitude  of
prayer but turned downward, became transformed into two great cloven
hoofs.  Above  rose the monstrous bearded head of a  gigantic  goat,
appearing  to  be at least three times the size of any  other  which
they  had  ever seen. The two slit-eyes, slanting inwards and  down,
gave  out a red baleful light. Long pointed ears cocked upwards from
the  sides of the shaggy head, and from the bald, horrible unnatural
bony  skull,  which  was caught by the light of  the  candles,  four
enormous curved horns spread out-sideways and up.
  Before  the  apparition  the  priests,  grotesque  and  terrifying
beneath  their beast-head masks and furry mantles, were now swinging
lighted  censers, and after a little a breath of the noisome incense
was wafted up the slope.
  Rex  choked  into  his hand as the fumes caught his  throat,  then
whispered: 'What is that filth they're burning?'
  'Thorn,  apple leaves, rue, henbane, dried nightshade, myrtle  and
other  herbs,' De Richleau answered. 'Some are harmless  apart  from
their stench, but others drug the brain and excite the senses to  an
animal  fury of lust and eroticism as you will see soon  enough.  If
only we could catch sight of Simon,' he added desperately.
  'Look, there he is!' Rex exclaimed. 'Just to the left of the toad-
headed brute.'
  The  goat  rose, towering above the puny figures of its unhallowed
priests,  and  turned  its  back on them;  upon  which  one  stooped
slightly  to  give  the osculam-infame as his mark  of  homage.  The
others  followed  suit, then the whole circle of Satanists  drew  in
towards  the throne and, in solemn silence, followed their  example,
each  bending to salute his master in an obscene parody of the  holy
kiss which is given to the Bishop's ring.
  Simon  was  among the last, and as he approached the  throne,  Rex
grabbed  De Richleau's arm. 'It's now or never,' he grunted.  'We've
got to make some effort. We can't let this thing go through.'
  'Hush,' De Richleau whispered back. This is not the baptism.  That
will not be until after they have feasted-just before the orgy.  Our
chance must come.'
  As  the two lay there in the rough grass, each knew that the  time
was  close  at  hand  when they must act if they  meant  to  attempt
Simon's  rescue. Yet, despite the fact that neither of  them  lacked
courage,  both realised with crushing despondency how slender  their
chances  of success would be if they ran down the slope and  charged
that multitude immersed in their ghoulish rites. There were at least
a  hundred people in that black-robed crowd and it seemed  an  utter
impossibility to overcome such odds.
  Rex  leaned  over towards the Duke and voiced his thoughts  aloud,
'We're  right  up  against it this time unless  you  can  produce  a
brainwave. We'd be captured in ten seconds if we tried getting Simon
away from this bunch of maniacs.'
  'I  know,'  De Richleau agreed miserably. 'I did not  bargain  for
them  all being shut up together in one room in that house or coming
on  to  this place in a solid crowd. If only they would split  up  a
little  we might isolate Simon with just two or three of them,  down
the  rest,  and  get him away before the main party  knew  what  was
happening;  but  as things are I am worried out of my  wits.  If  we
charge in, and they catch us, I have not a single doubt but that  we
should never be allowed to come up out of this hollow alive. We know
too  much,  and  they would kill us for a certainty. In  fact,  they
would probably welcome the chance on a night like this to perform  a
little  human sacrifice in front of that ghastly thing on the stones
there.'
  'Surely  they wouldn't go in for murder even if they  do  practise
this filthy parody of religion?' whispered Rex incredulously.
  De  Richleau shook his head. 'The Bloody Sacrifice is  the  oldest
magical  rite  in the world. The slaying of Osiris and  Adonis,  the
mutilation  of  Attis and the cults of Mexico  and  Peru,  were  all
connected  with  it. Even in the Old Testament  you  read  that  the
sacrifice  which was most acceptable to God the Father  was  one  of
blood,  and  St. Paul tells us that "Without the shedding  of  blood
there is no remission".'
  'That was just ancient heathen cruelty.'
  'Not  altogether.  The  blood  is  the  Life.  When  it  is  shed,
energy-animal  or  human  as the case may be-is  released  into  the
atmosphere.  If it is shed within a specially prepared circle,  that
energy can be caught and stored or redirected in precisely the  same
way  as  electric  energy  is  caught and  utilised  by  our  modern
scientists.'
  'But they wouldn't dare to sacrifice a human being?'
  'It  all depends upon the form of evil they wish to bring upon the
world.  If it is war they will seek to propitiate Mars with a virgin
ram; if they desire the spread of unbridled lust-a goat, and so  on.
But  the  human sacrifice is more potent for all purposes  than  any
other,  and  these wretched people are hardly human at  the  moment.
Their  brains are diseased and their mentality is that of  the  hags
and warlocks of the Dark Ages.'
  'Oh,  Hell!'  Rex groaned, 'we've simply got to get Simon  out  of
this some way.'
  The  Goat  turned  round  again after  receiving  the  last  kiss,
holding  between its hoofs a wooden cross about four feet in length.
With  a  sudden  violent motion it dashed the crucifix  against  the
stone,  breaking  it into two pieces. Then the cat-headed  man,  who
seemed  to  be acting the part of Chief Priest, picked them  up.  He
threw  the  broken  end of the shaft towards a  waiting  group,  who
pounced  upon it and smashed it into matchwood with silent ferocity,
while  he planted the crucifix end upside down in the ground  before
the  Goat.  This  apparently concluded  the  first  portion  of  the
ceremony.
  The  Satanists  now hurried over to the tables where  the  banquet
was  spread  out.  No  knives, forks,  spoons  or  glasses  were  in
evidence. But this strange party, governed apparently by a desire to
throw  themselves back into a state of bestiality, grabbed  handfuls
of  food  out of the silver dishes and, seizing the bottles,  tilted
them  to drink from the necks, gurgling and spitting as they did  so
and  spilling the wine down their dominoes. Not one of them spoke  a
word,  and  the  whole macabre scene was carried out in  a  terrible
unnatural silence, as though it were a picture by Goya come to life.
  'Let's,  creep down nearer,' whispered the Duke. 'While  they  are
gorging  themselves an opportunity may come for us to  get  hold  of
Simon.  If  he moves a few paces away from them for a moment,  don't
try to argue with him, but knock him out.'
  At  a  stealthy crawl, the two friends moved down the hillside  to
within  twenty yards of the little lake, at the side  of  which  the
tables were set. The throne still occupied by the monstrous goat was
only a further fifteen yards away from them, and by the light of the
twelve  black candles burning with an unnaturally steady flame  even
in  that  protected  hollow  among the hills,  they  could  see  the
clustered  figures sufficiently well to recognise  those  whom  they
knew among them despite their masks and dominoes.
  Simon, like the rest, was gnawing at a chunk of food as though  he
had  suddenly  turned  into  an animal, and,  as  they  watched,  he
snatched  a  bottle  of  wine from a masked woman  standing  nearby,
spilling  a good portion of its contents over her and himself;  then
he gulped down the rest.
  For a few moments Rex felt again that he must be suffering from  a
nightmare. It seemed utterly beyond understanding that any  cultured
man  like  Simon,  or  other civilised people  such  as  these  must
normally be, could behave with such appalling bestiality. But it was
no  nightmare.  In  that  strange,  horrid  silence,  the  Satanists
continued for more than half an hour to fight and tumble like a pack
of  wolfish dogs until the tables had been overthrown and the ground
about  the  lakeside was filthy with the remaining scraps  of  food,
gnawed bones and empty bottles.
  At  last  Simon, apparently three parts drunk, lurched  away  from
the  crash  and flung himself down on the grass a little apart  from
the rest, burying his head between his hands.
  'Now!' whispered the Duke. 'We've got to get him.'
  With  Rex beside him, he half rose to his feet, but a tall  figure
had  broken from the mass and reached Simon before they could  move.
It was the man with the mutilated ear, and in another second a group
of  two  women  and. three more men had followed  him.  De  Richleau
gritted his teeth to suppress an oath and placed a restraining  hand
on Rex's shoulder.
  'It's  no  good,'  he  muttered savagely. 'We  must  wait  a  bit.
Another chance may come.' And they sank down again into the shadows.
  The  group  about the tables was now reeling drunk, and the  whole
party  in  a body surged back towards the Goat upon its throne.  Rex
and  De Richleau had been watching Simon so intently they had failed
to notice until then that Mocata and the half dozen other masters of
the  Left Hand Path had erected a special table before the Goat, and
were  feeding  from it. Yet they appeared strangely  sober  compared
with the majority of the crowd who had fed beside the lake.
  'So the Devil feeds, too,' Rex murmured.
  'Yes,'  agreed the Duke, 'or at least the heads of his priesthood,
and  a  gruesome meal it is if I know anything about  it.  A  little
cannibalism,  my friend. It may be a stillborn baby or perhaps  some
unfortunate  child that they have stolen and murdered, but  I  would
stake anything that it is human flesh they are eating.'
  As  he spoke, a big cauldron was brought forward and placed before
the  throne. Then Mocata and the others with him each took a portion
of  the  food which they had been eating from the table and cast  it
into the great iron pot. One of them threw in a round ball which met
the iron with a dull thud.
  Rex  shuddered as he realised that the Duke was right.  The  round
object was a human skull.
  'They're  going to boil up the remains with various other things,'
murmured  the  Duke, 'and then each of them will be given  a  little
flask of that awful brew at the conclusion of the ceremony, together
with a pile of ashes from the wood fire they are lighting under  the
cauldron  now.  They  will be able to use them  for  their  infamous
purposes  throughout  the  year until the next  Great  Sabbat  takes
place.'
  'Oh,  Hell!'  Rex protested. 'I can't believe that they  can  work
any  harm with that human mess, however horrid it may be. It's  just
not reasonable.'
  'Yet  you believe that the Blessed Sacrament has power for  good,'
De  Richleau whispered. 'This is the antithesis of the Body  of  Our
Lord,  and  I  assure  you,  Rex, that,  while  countless  wonderful
miracles have been performed by the aid of the Host, terrible things
can be accomplished by this blasphemous decoction.'
  Rex  had  no  deep  religious feeling,  but  he  was  shocked  and
horrified to the depths of his being by this frightful parody of the
things he had been taught to hold sacred in his childhood.
  'Dear God,' muttered the Duke, 'they are about to commit the  most
appalling sacrilege. Don't look, Rex-don't look.' He buried his face
in  his  hands and began to pray, but Rex continued to watch despite
himself, his gaze held by some terrible fascination.
  A  great  silver chalice was being passed from hand to  hand,  and
very  soon  he realised the purpose to which it was being  put,  but
could  not guess the intention until it was handed back to the  cat-
headed  man.  One  of the other officiating priests  at  the  infamy
produced  some  round white discs which Rex recognised  at  once  as
Communion Wafers-evidently stolen from some church.
  In  numbed horror he watched the Devil's acolytes break these into
pieces  and  throw  them into the brimming chalice,  then  stir  the
mixture with the broken crucifix and hand the resulting compound  to
the  Goat, who, clasping it between its great cloven hoofs, suddenly
tipped it up so that the whole contents was spilled upon the ground.
  Suddenly, at last, the horrid silence was rent, for the whole  mob
surged  forward  shouting  and screaming as  though  they  had  gone
insane, to dance and stamp the fragments of the Holy Wafers into the
sodden earth.
  'Phew!'   Rex  choked  out,  wiping  the  perspiration  from   his
forehead.  'This is a ghastly business. I can't stand much  more  of
it. They're mad, stark crazy, every mother's son of them.'
  'Yes,  temporarily.'The  Duke looked up again.'Some  of  them  are
probably epileptics, and nearly all must be abnormal. This revolting
spectacle  represents  a release of all their pent-up  emotions  and
suppressed   complexes,   engendered  by  brooding   over   imagined
injustice, lust for power, bitter hatred of rivals in love  or  some
other type of success and good fortune. That is the only explanation
for  this  terrible  exhibition  of human  depravity  which  we  are
witnessing.'
  'Thank  God, Tanith's not here. She couldn't have stood it.  She'd
have  gone  mad,  I  know, or tried to run  away.  And  then  they'd
probably  have  murdered her. But what are  we  going  to  do  about
Simon?'
  De  Richleau groaned. 'God only knows. If I thought there were the
least hope, we'd charge into this rabble and try to drag him out  of
it, but the second they saw us they would tear us limb from limb.'
  The  fire  under  the cauldron was burning brightly,  and  as  the
crowd  moved  apart  Rex  saw that a dozen women  had  now  stripped
themselves  of their dominoes and stood stark naked in  the  candle-
light.  They formed a circle round the cauldron, and holding  hands,
with  their  backs turned to the inside of the ring,  began  a  wild
dance around it anti-clockwise towards the Devil's left.
  In  a  few  moments  the  whole company  had  stripped  off  their
dominoes  and  joined  in the dance, tumbling  and  clawing  at  one
another  before the throne, with the exception of half a  dozen  who
sat a little on one side, each with a musical instrument, forming  a
small band. But the music which they made was like no other that Rex
had  ever  heard before, and he prayed that he might never hear  the
like again. Instead of melody, it was a harsh, discordant jumble  of
notes  and  broken chords which beat into the head with  a  horrible
nerve-racking intensity and set the teeth continually on edge.
  To  this  agonising cacophony of sound the dancers, still  masked,
quite  naked and utterly silent but for the swift movement of  their
feet,  continued their wild, untimed gyrations, so that rather  than
the  changing pattern of an ordered ballet the scene was  one  of  a
trampling mass of bestial animal figures.
  Drunk  with  an  inverted  spiritual  exaltation  and  excess   of
alcohol-wild-eyed and apparently hardly conscious of each  other-the
hair  of  the  women streaming disordered as they pranced,  and  the
panting  breath of the men coming in laboured gasps-they rolled  and
lurched,  spun  and  gyrated, toppled, fell,  picked  themselves  up
again,  and leaped with renewed frenzy in one revolting carnival  of
mad  disorder. Then, with a final wailing screech from  the  violin,
the  band  ceased and the whole party flung themselves  panting  and
exhausted  upon the ground, while the huge Goat rattled and  clacked
its  monstrous cloven hoofs together and gave a weird laughing neigh
in a mockery of applause.
  De  Richleau sat up quickly. 'God help us, Rex, but we've  got  to
do  something  now. When these swine have recovered their  wind  the
next  act  of  this horror will be the baptism of the Neophytes  and
after  that the foulest orgy, with every perversion which the  human
mind  is  capable  of conceiving. We daren't wait any  longer.  Once
Simon is baptised, we shall have lost our last chance ot saving  him
from permanent and literal Hell in this life and the next.'
  'I  suppose  it's  just possible we'll pull  it  off  now  they've
worked themselves into this state?' Rex hazarded doubtfully.
  'Yes,  they're  looking  pretty done  at  the  moment,'  the  Duke
agreed,  striving to bolster up his waning courage for the desperate
attempt.
  'Shall  we-shall we chance it?' Rex hesitated. He too  was  filled
with  a horrible fear as to the fate which might overtake them  once
they  left the friendly shadows to dash into that ring of evil  blue
light.  In an effort to steady his frayed nerves, he gave a travesty
of  a  laugh, and added: 'The odds aren't quite so heavy against  us
now they've lost their trousers. No one fights his best like that.'
  'It's  not  the pack that I'm so frightened of, but  that  ghastly
thing  sitting  on the rocks.' De Richleau's voice  was  hoarse  and
desperate.  'The  protections I have utilised may not  prove  strong
enough to save us from the evil which is radiating from it.'
  'If we have faith,' gasped Rex, 'won't that be enough?'
  De  Richleau shivered. The numbing cold which lapped up out of the
hollow in icy waves seemed to sap all his strength and courage.
  'It  would,' he muttered. 'It would if we were both in a state  of
grace.'
  At  that pronouncement Rex's heart sank. He had no terrible secret
crime  with which to charge himself, but although circumstances  had
appeared  to justify it at the time, both he and the Duke had  taken
human  life,  and who, faced with the actual doorway  of  the  other
world, can say that they are utterly without sin?
  Desperately  now  he fought to regain his normal courage.  In  the
dell the Satanists had recovered their wind and were forming in  the
great semi-circle again about the throne. The chance to rescue Simon
was  passing  with  the fleeting seconds, while  his  friends  stood
crouched  and tongue-tied, their minds bemused by the  reek  of  the
noxious  incense  which  floated up from the  hollow,  their  bodies
chained by an awful, overwhelming fear.
  Three  figures now moved out into the open space before the  Goat.
Upon  the left the beast-like, cat-headed high priest of Evil;  upon
the  right Mocata, his gruesome bat's wings fluttering a little from
his  hunched-up  shoulders; between them, naked,  trembling,  almost
apparently in a state of collapse, they supported Simon.
  'It's now or never!' Rex choked out.
  'No-I  can't  do  it,' moaned the Duke, burying his  face  in  his
hands  and sinking to the ground. 'I'm afraid, Rex. God forgive  me,
I'm afraid.'


                                 17

                           Evil Triumphant

  As  the  blue Rolls, number OA 1217, came to rest with a sickening
thud  against  the back of the big barn outside Easter-ton  Village,
Tanith  was  flung forward against the windscreen.  Fortunately  the
Duke's  cars  were  equipped with splinter-proof glass  and  so  the
windows remained intact, but for the moment she was half-stunned  by
the  blow  on  her head and painfully 'winded' by the  wheel,  which
caught her in the stomach.
  For  a  few  sickening seconds she remained dazed and gasping  for
breath.  Then she realised that she had escaped serious injury,  and
that  the  police would be on her at any moment. Her head  whirling,
her  breath stabbing painfully, she threw open the door of the Rolls
and staggered out on to the grass.
  In  a  last desperate effort to evade capture, she lurched  at  an
unsteady  run across the coarse tussocks and just as the torches  of
the police appeared over the same hillock, which had slowed down the
wild career of the car, she flung herself down in a ditch, sheltered
by a low hedge, some thirty yards from the scene of the accident.
  She  paused there only long enough to regain her breath, and  then
began  to  crawl away along the runnel until it ended  on  the  open
plain.  Taking a stealthy look over the hedge, she saw her  pursuers
were still busy examining the car, so she took a chance and ran  for
it, trusting in the darkness of the night to hide her from them.
  After  she had covered a mile she flopped exhausted to the ground,
drawing  short gulping breaths into her straining lungs  -her  heart
thudding like a hammer. When she had recovered a little, she  looked
back  to  find that the village and the searching officers were  now
hidden from her by a sloping crest of down-land. It seemed that  she
had escaped-at least for the time being-and she began to wonder what
she had better do.
  From  what she remembered of the map, the house at Chil-bury where
the Satanists were gathering preparatory to holding the Great Sabbat
was  at least a dozen miles away. It would be impossible for her  to
cover  that  distance  on  foot even if  she  were  certain  of  the
direction in which it lay, and the fact that she was wanted  by  the
police  debarred her from trying to seek a lift in a passing car  if
she were able to find the main road again. In spite of her desperate
attempt to reach the rendezvous in the stolen Rolls, and the frantic
excitement of her escape from the police, she found to her  surprise
that  a  sudden  reaction had set in, and she no  longer  felt  that
terrible driving urge to be present at the Sabbat.
  Her  anger against Rex had subsided. She had tricked him over  the
car,  and he had retaliated by putting the police on her track.  She
realised  now  that  he could only have done it on  account  of  his
overwhelming anxiety to prevent her from joining Mocata, and  smiled
to  herself  in  the darkness as she thought again of  his  anxious,
worried face as he had tried so hard that afternoon on the river  to
dissuade her from what she had only considered, till then, to  be  a
logical step in her progress towards gaining supernatural powers.
  She  began  to wonder seriously for the first time if he  was  not
right,  and  that during these last months which she had spent  with
Madame  D'Urfe her brain had become clouded almost to the  point  of
mania  by  this  obsession  to  the exclusion  of  all  natural  and
reasonable  thoughts. She recalled those queer companions  who  were
travelling  the  same  path as herself, most  of  them  far  further
advanced upon it, of whom she had seen so much hi recent times.  The
man  with the hare-lip, the one-armed Eurasian, the Albino  and  the
Babu.  They  were  not  normal any one of  them  and,  while  living
outwardly  the ordinary life of monied people, dwelt secretly  in  a
strange sinister world of their own, flattering themselves and  each
other  upon their superiority to normal men and women on account  of
the  strange powers that they possessed, yet egotistical  and  hard-
hearted to the last degree.
  This  day spent with the buoyant, virile Rex among the fresh green
of  the countryside and the shimmering sunlight of the river's bank,
had  altered  Tanith's view of them entirely; and now,  in  a  great
revulsion  of  feeling, she could only wonder that her  longing  for
power and forgetfulness of her foreordained death had blinded her to
their cruel way of life for so long.
  She  stood up and, smoothing down her crumpled green linen  frock,
did  her  best to tidy herself. But she had lost her bag in the  car
smash,  so not only was she moneyless but had no comb with which  to
do  her  hair.  However,  feeling that  now  Rex  had  succeeded  in
preventing  her reaching the meeting-place he would  be  certain  to
call off the police, she set out at a brisk pace away from Easterton
towards  where she believed the main Salisbury-Devizes road to  lie;
hoping  to find a temporary shelter for the night and then make  her
way back to London in the morning.
  Before  she had gone two hundred yards, her way was blocked  by  a
tail, barbed-wire fence shutting in some military enclosure, so  she
turned  left along it. Two hundred yards farther on the fence ended,
but she was again brought up by another fence and above it the steep
embankment  of  a railway line. She hesitated then, not  wishing  to
turn back in the direction of Easter-ton, and was wondering what  it
would be best to do, when a dark, hunched figure seemed to form  out
of  the  shadows beside her. She started back, but recovered herself
at once on realising that it was only a bent old woman.
  'You've lost your way, dearie?' croaked the old crone.
  'Yes,'  Tanith  admitted. 'Can you show me how I  get  on  to  the
Devizes road?'
  'Come  with me, my pretty.. I am going that way myself,' said  the
old  woman in a husky voice, which seemed to Tanith in some  strange
way vaguely familiar.
  'Thank  you.'  She  turned and walked along the  bridle-path  that
followed the embankment to the west, searching her mind as to  where
she could have heard that husky voice before.
  'Give  me  your hand, dearie. The way is rough for my  old  feet,'
croaked  the  ancient crone; and Tanith willingly offered  her  arm.
Then,  as  the old woman rested a claw upon it, a sudden  memory  of
long ago flooded her mind.
  It  was of the days when, as a little girl living in the foothills
of  the Carpathians, she had made a friend of an old gypsy-woman who
used  to  come  to the village for the fair and local Saints'  Days,
with  her  band  of Ziganes. It was from her that Tanith  had  first
learned her strange powers of clairvoyance and second sight. Many  a
time she had scrambled down from the rocky mount upon which her home
was  set  to the gypsy encampment outside the village to  gaze  with
marvelling eyes at old Mizka who knew so many wonderful things,  and
could  tell of the past and of the future by gazing into a glass  of
water or consulting her grimy pack of Tarot cards.
  Tanith   could  still  see  those  pasteboards  which   had   such
fascinating  pictures upon them. The twenty-two cards of  the  Major
Arcana,  said  by some to be copies of the original Book  of  Thoth,
which  contained all wisdom and was given to mankind by the  ancient
ibis-headed Egyptian god. For thousands of years such packs had been
treasured and reproduced from one end of the world to the other  and
were  treasured still, from the boudoirs of modern Paris to the tea-
houses of Shanghai, wherever people came secretly in the quiet hours
to learn, from those who could read them, the secrets of the future.
  As  she  walked  on  half  unconscious of her  strange  companion,
Tanith  recalled them in their right and fateful order. The  Juggler
with  his table-meaning mental rectitude; the High Priestess like  a
female   Pope-wisdom;   the   Empress-night   and   darkness;    the
Emperor-support  and protection; the Pope-reunion and  society;  the
Lovers-marriage; iheChariot-triumph and despotism; Justice, a winged
figure  with sword and scales-the law, the Hermit with his lantern-a
pointer  towards good; the Wheel of Fortune carrying  a  cat  and  a
demon  round with it-success and wealth; Strength, a woman wrenching
open the jaws of a lion-power and sovereignty; the Hanged Man lashed
by  his right ankle tp a beam and dangling upside down while holding
two money bags-warning to be prudent; Death with his scythe-ruin and
destruction;  Temperance, a woman pouring liquid from  one  vase  to
another-moderation; the Devil, batwinged, goatfaced,  with  a  human
head  protruding from his belly-force and blindness; the  Lightning-
struck   Tower  with  people  falling  from  it-want,  poverty   and
imprisonment;   the  Star-disinterestedness;  the  Moon~speech   and
lunacy; the Sun-light and science; the Judgement-typifying will; the
World, a naked woman with goat and ram below-travel and possessions;
then  last  but  not  least the card that has no number,  the  Fool,
foretelling dementia, rapture and extravagance.
  Old  Mizka  had been a willing teacher, and Tanith, the child,  an
eager  pupil, for she had spent a lonely girlhood in that castle  on
the  hill separated by miles of jagged valleys difficult to traverse
from  other children of her own postion, and debarred by custom from
adopting the children of the villagers as her playmates. Long before
her time she had learned all the secrets of life from the old gipsy,
who  talked for hours in her husky voice of lovers and marriage  and
lovers again, and potions to bring sleep to suspicious husbands  and
philtres  which could warm the heart of the coldest  man  towards  a
woman who desired his caresses.
  'Mizka," Tanith whispered suddenly. 'It is you-isn't it?'
  'Yes,  dearie.  Yes-old Mizka has come a long way tonight  to  set
her pretty one upon the road.'
  'But how did you ever come to England?'
  'No  matter,  dearie. Don't trouble your golden head  about  that,
Old  Mizka started you upon the road, and she has been sent to guide
your feet tonight.'
  Tanith  hung back for a second in sudden alarm, but the claw  upon
her  arm  urged  her  forward  again with  gentle  strength  as  she
protested.
  'But I don't want to go! Not... not to the .,.'
  The  old crone chuckled. 'What foolishness is this? It is the road
that  you have taken all your life, ever since Mizka told you of  it
as  a little girl. Tonight is the night that old Mizka has seen  for
so  many  years  in  her dreams-the night when you  shall  know  all
things,  and be granted powers which come to few. How fortunate  you
are to have this opportunity when you are yet so young.'
  At  the  old  woman's  silken words,  a  new  feeling  crept  into
Tanith's heart. She had been dwelling upon Rex's face as she crossed
the  plain,  and all the health-giving freshness of  his  gay  clean
modernity, but now she was drawn back into another world; the one of
which  she  had  thought so long, in which a very few chosen  people
could  perform  the  seemingly  impossible  -bend  others  to  their
will-cause  them  to fall or rise-place unaccountable  obstacles  in
their path at every turn, or smooth their way to a glorious success.
That  was more than riches, more than fame; the supreme pinnacle  to
which  any  man  or woman could rise, and all her longing  to  reach
those  heights before she died came back to her. Rex was a pleasant,
stupid  child; De Richleau a meddlesome fool, who did not understand
the  danger  of  the things with which he was trying  to  interfere.
Mocata  was  a  Prince  in  power  and  knowledge.  She  should   be
unutterably grateful that he had considered her worthy of the honour
which she was about to receive.
  'It  is not far, dearie. Not so far as you have thought. The great
Festival does not take place in the house at Chilbury. That was only
a  meeting place, and the Sabbat is to be held upon these downs only
a  few  miles  from  here. Come with me, and you shall  receive  the
knowledge and the power that you seek.'
  A  curtain  of  forgetfuiness seemed to be falling  over  Tanith's
mind-a  feeling of intoxication-mental and physical, flooded through
her.  She  felt her eyes closing . . . closing ... as she  muttered:
'Yes.  Knowledge and Power. Hurry, Mizka! Hurry, or we shall be  too
late,'
  All  her  previous  hesitations had  now  been  blotted  out,  and
although they were walking over coarse grass, it seemed to her  that
they  trod  a smooth and even way. Her mind was obsessed again  with
the sole thought of reaching the Sabbat in time.
  'That  is  my  own  beautiful one talking now,'  crooned  the  old
beldame  in a honeyed voice. 'But have no fear, the night is  young,
and  we shall reach the meeting-place of the Covens before the  hour
when our Master will appear.'
  Tanith was holding herself stiffly as she walked. Her golden  head
thrown back, her eyes dilated to an enormous size-the muscles at the
sides  of  her mouth twitched incessantly as the old woman's  smooth
babble flowed on.
  They crossed the road, although Tanith was hardly conscious of  it
as,  with Mizka beside her, she stepped out, a new strength  surging
through her despite her long and tiring day. Then as she mounted  an
earthy bank a dark and furry presence brushed against her legs,  and
looking down she saw the golden eyes of a great black cat.
  For  a moment she was startled, but the old woman chuckled in  the
darkness. 'It is only Nebiros,' she muttered. 'You have played  with
him often as a child, dearie, and he is so pleased to see you now.'
  The  cat  mewed with pleasure as Tanith stooped for  a  moment  to
stroke its furry back. Then they hastened on again.
  For  hours  it  seemed they tramped over the grassy  tussocks,  up
gently-sloping  hills and down again into lonesome valleys  unbroken
by  trees  or  cottages or farmsteads, ever on to the  secret  place
where the Satanists would be gathering now, until old Mizka, walking
at  Tanith's left, suddenly pulled up-clutching at her arm with  her
bony hand.
  'Shut  your  eyes, dearie,' she hissed in a sharp  whisper.  'Shut
your  eyes. There is something here that it is not good for  you  to
see. I will guide you.'
  Tanith did as she was bid mechanically, and although she could  no
longer  see the rough ground over which they were passing,  she  did
not stumble but continued to step forward evenly at a good pace. Yet
she  had a feeling that she was no longer alone with the old  woman,
but that a third person was now walking with them at her right hand.
Then, a low voice, bell-like and clear, sounded in her ears.
  'Tanith, my darling. Look at me, I implore you.'
  At  the shock of hearing that well-loved voice, the curtain lifted
for a moment and Tanith opened her eyes again. To her right, she saw
the  figure of her mother dressed in white as she had last seen  her
before she had set out to some great party where she had died  of  a
sudden  heart attack. Round her neck hung a rope of pearls, and  her
head was adorned with a half-hoop of diamond stars. The figure shone
by some strange unnatural light in the surrounding darkness, seeming
as pure and translucent as carved crystal.
  'My  dear  one,' the voice went on, 'my folly of encouraging  your
gift  of second sight has led you into terrible peril. I beg you  by
all that is good and holy to draw back while there is yet time.'
  Despite  the  urging  hand  which  clawed  upon  her  arm,  Tanith
stumbled for the first time in the long grass and, wrenching her arm
away,  stood  still. In a flash of insight which seared through  her
drugged brain, she knew then that old Mizka was not a living  being,
but a Dark Angel sent to lead her to the Sabbat, and that her mother
had  come at this moment from the world beyond as an Angel of  Light
to  draw  her  back  again into the safety and  protection  of  holy
things.
  Mizka  was  babbling and crowing upon her left, urging her  onward
with  a  terrible force and intensity. The words 'power'  -'crowning
your  life'-'mastery  of  all' came again and  again  in  her  rapid
speech,  and  Tanith  moved a few steps forward.  But  her  mother's
voice, imploring again, came clearly in her ears.
  Tanith, my darling, I am only allowed to appear to you because  of
your  great  danger, and for the briefest space. I  am  called  back
already, but I beg you in the name of the love that we had for  each
other, not to go. There is a better influence in your life. Trust in
it  while  there is still time, otherwise you will be  dragged  down
into  the  pit  and we shall never meet again.' Suddenly  the  voice
changed, becoming cold and commanding, 'Back, Mizka-back whence  you
came.  I  order you by the names of Isis, mother of Horus, Kwan-Yin,
mother of Hau-Ki, and Mary, mother of Our Lord.'
  The  voice  ceased on a thin wall as though, all unwillingly,  the
spirit  had  been drawn back while its abjuration to the  demon  was
only  half completed. With a wild cry and arms outstretched,  Tanith
dashed forward to the place where that nebulous moon-white being had
floated,  but where the apparition of her mother had been  a  second
before, only a little breeze ruffled the long grasses. A feeling  of
immense fatigue bowed her shoulders as she turned towards old  Mizka
and the cat. But they too had vanished.
  She  sank  upon her knees and began to pray, feverishly  at  first
and  then less strongly, until her tongue tripped upon the words and
at  last she fell silent. Almost unconsciously she rose to her  feet
and  found  herself,  the night wind playing  gently  in  her  hair,
standing upon a hilltop gazing down into a shallow
  valley.
  A  new  and terrible fear gripped at her heart, for she saw  below
her,  by the strange unearthly light of a ring of blue candles,  the
Satanists  gathering for their unholy ceremony, and knew  that  evil
powers  had led her feet by devious paths to the place of the  Great
Sabbat that she might participate after all.
  She  stood  for a moment, the blood draining from her face,  quick
tremors of horror and apprehension running down her body. She wanted
to turn and flee into the dark, protective shadows of the night, but
she  could  not tear her eyes away from that terrible figure  seated
upon  the rocky throne, before which the Satanists were making their
obscene obeisance. Some terrible uncanny power kept her feet  rooted
to  the  spot, and although her mother's warning still rang  in  her
ears, she could not drag her gaze away from that blasphemous mockery
of God proceeding in a horrid silence a hundred yards down the slope
from where she stood.
  Time  ceased  to exist for Tanith then. An unearthly chill  seemed
to  creep up out of the valley, swirling and eddying about her  legs
as  a cold current suddenly strikes a bather in a warm patch of sea.
The  chill  crept  upward to the level of her breasts,  numbing  her
limbs and dulling her faculties until she could have cried out  with
the  pain.  She  watched  the  gruesome banquet  with  loathing  and
repulsion,  but  as  she saw those ghoul-like  figures  tilting  the
bottles  to  their  mouths she was suddenly beset  by  an  appalling
desire to drink.
  Although  her  limbs  were  cold, her mouth  seemed  parched;  her
throat  swollen  and  burning. She was seized  with  an  unutterable
longing  to  rush  forward, down the slope, and grab  one  of  those
bottles  with  which  to  slake her all-consuming  thirst.  Yet  she
remained  rooted, held back by her higher consciousness; the  vision
of  her mother no longer before her physical eyes, but clear in  her
mentality  just  as she had seen it, tall, slender  and  white-clad,
with  a  sparkling hoop of star-like diamonds glistening  above  the
hair drawn back from the high, broad forehead.
  At  the  defamation of the Host, she was seized  by  a  shuddering
rigor in all her limbs. She tried to shut her eyes but they remained
fixed  and  staring while silent tears welled from them  and  gushed
down  her  cheeks. She endeavoured to cross herself, but  her  hand,
numb  with  that awful cold, refused to do the bidding of her  brain
and remained hanging limp and frozen at her side. She endeavoured to
pray, but her swollen tongue refused its office, and her mind seemed
to  have  gone utterly blank so that she could not recall  even  the
opening  words  of the Paternoster or Ave Maria.  She  knew  with  a
sudden  appalling clarity that having even been the witness of  this
blasphemous  sacrilege was enough to damn her for all eternity,  and
that  her  own  wish  to attend this devilish  saturnalia  had  been
engendered  only  by  a  stark madness  caught  like  some  terrible
contagious  disease from her association with these other  unnatural
beings who were the victims of a ghastly lunacy;
  In  vain she attempted to cast herself upon her knees, to struggle
back  from  this horror, but she seemed to be caught in an invisible
vice  and could not lift her glance for one single second from  that
small  lighted circle which stood out so clearly in the  surrounding
darkness of the mysterious valley.
  She  saw  the  Satanists  strip off their dominoes  and  shuddered
afresh-almost retching-as she watched them tumbling upon each  other
in  the  disgusting nudity of their ritual dance. Old Madame D'Urfe,
huge-buttocked and swollen, prancing by some satanic power with  all
the  vigour of a young girl who had only just reached maturity;  the
Babu,  dark-skinned, fleshy, hideous; the American  woman,  scraggy,
lean-flanked and hag-like with empty, hanging breasts; the Eurasian,
waving the severed stump of his arm in the air as he gavotted beside
the  unwieldy figure of the Irish bard, whose paunch stood out  like
the grotesque belly of a Chinese god.
  'They  are mad, mad, mad,' she found herself saying over and  over
again,  as  she rocked to and fro where she stood, weeping bitterly,
beating her hands together and her teeth chattering in the icy wind.
  The  dance  ceased on a high wail of those discordant  instruments
and  then  the  whole  of  that ghastly ghoul-like  crew  sank  down
together  in  a  tangled  heap  before the  Satanic  throne.  Tanith
wondered  for a second what was about to happen next,  even  as  she
made  a  fresh effort to drag herself away. Then Simon was  led  out
from  among  the  rest and she knew all too soon that  the  time  of
baptism was at hand. As she realised it, a new menace came upon her.
Without her own volition, her feet began to move.
  In  a panic of fear she found herself setting one before the other
and  advancing  slowly down the hill. She tried to scream,  but  her
voice  would not come. She tried to throw herself backward, but  her
body was held rigid, and an irresistible suction dragged at each  of
her  feet  in  turn,  lifting it a few inches from  the  ground  and
pulling it forward, so that, despite her uttermost effort of will to
resist  the  evil force, she was being drawn slowly  but  surely  to
receive her own baptism.
  The  weird unearthly music had ceased. An utter silence filled the
valley.  She  was no more than ten yards from the nearest  of  those
debased  creatures who hovered gibbering about the throne.  Suddenly
she  whimpered with fright for although she was still hidden by  the
darkness,  the  great horned head of the Goat turned and  its  fiery
eyes became fixed upon her.
  She  knew then that there was no escape. The warnings from Rex and
her  mother had come too late. Those powers which she had sought  to
suborne  now  held  her in their grip and she must  submit  to  this
loathsome  ritual despite the shrinking of her body  and  her  soul,
with all the added horror of full knowledge that it meant final  and
utter condemnation to the bottomless pit.


                                 18

                         The Power of Light

  At  the  sight of De Richleau's breakdown Rex almost gave in  too.
The cold sweat of terror had broken out on his own forehead, yet  he
was  still fighting down his fear and, after a moment, the  collapse
of  that indomitable leader to whom he had looked so often and  with
such  certain  faith  in the worst emergencies  brought  him  a  new
feeling  of responsibility. His generous nature was great enough  to
realise that the Duke's courage had only proved less than his own on
this occasion because of his greater understanding of the peril they
were  called upon to face. Now, it was as though the elder  man  had
been  wounded and put out of action, so Rex felt that it was  up  to
him to take command.
  'We  can't  Jet  this  thing be,' he said  with  sudden  firmness,
stooping to place an arm round De Richleau's shaking shoulders. 'You
stay here. I'm going down to face the music.'
  'No-no,  Rex.' The Duke grabbed at his coat. 'They'll  murder  you
without a second thought.'
  'Will  they? We'll see!' Rex gave a grating laugh. 'Well, if  they
do  you'll  have something you can fix on them that the police  will
understand. It'll be some consolation to think you'll see to it that
these devils swing for my murder if they do me in.'
  'Wait  I I won't let you go alone,' the Duke stumbled to his feet.
'Don't  you realise that death is the least thing I fear.  One  look
from  die eyes of the Goat could send you mad-then where is the case
to  put  before  the police? Half the people in our asylums  may  be
suffering  from  a physical lesion of the brain but the  others  are
unaccountably insane. The real reason is demoniac possession brought
about by looking upon terrible things that they were never meant  to
see.'
  'I'll  risk  it.' Rex was desperate now. He held up the  crucifix.
This is going to protect me, because I've got faith that it will.'
  'All  right then-but even madness isn't the worst that can  happen
to  us.  This life is nothing-I'm thinking of the next. Oh, God,  if
only  dawn  would come or we had some form of Light  that  we  could
bring to bear on these worshippers of Darkness.'
  Rex  took a pace forward. 'If we'd known what we were going to  be
up  against  we'd have brought a searchlight on a truck. That  would
have  given  this bunch something to think about if  light  has  the
power  you say. But it's no good worrying about that now. We've  got
to hurry.'
  'No-wait!'  the Duke exclaimed with sudden excitement.  'I've  got
it.  This way-quick!' He turned and set off up the hill at  a  swift
crouching run.
  Rex  followed, and when they reached the brow easily overtook him.
'What's  the idea,' he cried, using his normal voice for  the  first
time for hours.
  'The  car!' De Richleau panted, as he pelted over the rough  grass
to  the place where they had left the Hispano. To attack them  is  a
ghastly risk in any case, but this will give us a sporting chance.'
  Rex reached it first and flung open the door. The Duke tumbled  in
and  got  the  engine going. It purred on a low note as they  bumped
forward in the darkness to the brow of the hill.
  'Out  on the running-board, Rex,' snapped De Richleau as he thrust
out the clutch. He seemed in those few moments to have recovered all
his  old  steel-like indomitable purpose. 'It's  a  madman's  chance
because  it's ten to one we'll get stuck going up the  hill  on  the
other side, but we must risk that. When I use the engine again, snap
on  the  lights. As we go past, throw your crucifix straight at  the
thing on the throne. Then try and grab Simon by the neck.'
  'Fine!'  Rex  laughed suddenly, all his tension gone now  that  he
was at last going into action. 'Go to it!'
  The  car  slid forward, silently gathering momentum as  it  rushed
down  the steep slope. Next second they were almost upon the nearest
of the Satanists. The Duke let in the clutch and Rex switched on the
powerful headlights of the Hispano.
  With  the suddenness of a thunderclap a shattering roar burst upon
the  silence of the valley-as though some monster plane  was  diving
full  upon that loathsome company from the cloudy sky. At  the  same
instant,  the  whole  scene was lit in all  its  ghast-liness  by  a
blinding  glare  which swept towards them at terrifying  speed.  The
great  car  bounded  forward, the dazzling beams  threw  into  sharp
relief  the  naked forms gathered in the hollow. De Richleau  jammed
his foot down on the accelerator and, calling with all his will upon
the  higher  powers for their protection, charged straight  for  the
Goat of Mendes upon his Satanic throne.
  At  the  first  flash of those blinding lights which  struck  full
upon  them,  the  Satanists rushed screaming for cover.  It  was  as
though  two giant eyes of some nightmare monster leapt at them  from
the  surrounding darkness and the effect was as that of a  fire-hose
turned suddenly upon an angry threatening mob.
  Then-  maniacal  exaltation died away. The false  exhilaration  of
the alcohol, the pungent herbal incense and the drug-laden ointments
which  they  had smeared upon their bodies, drained from them.  They
woke  as  from an intoxicated nightmare to the realisation of  their
nakedness and helplessness.
  For  a moment some of them thought that the end had come and  that
the  Power of Darkness had cashed in their bond, claiming  them  for
its  own upon this last Walpurgis-Nacht. Others, less deeply  imbued
with  the  mysteries  of the Evil cult, forgot the  terrible  entity
whose  powers they had come to beg in return for their  homage  and,
reverting to their normal thoughts, saw themselves caught and ruined
in  some  ghastly scandal, believing those blinding shafts of  light
from the great Hispano to herald the coming of the police.
  As  the  grotesque nude figures scattered with shrieks  of  terror
the  car  bounded  from  ridge to ridge  heading  straight  for  the
monstrous  Goat.  When the lights fell upon it  Rex  feared  for  an
instant  that the malefic rays which streamed from its baleful  eyes
would  overcome the headlights of the car. The lamps  flickered  and
dimmed, but as the Duke clung to the wheel he was concentrating with
all  the power of his mind upon visualising the horseshoe surmounted
by  a  cross in silver light just above the centre of his  forehead,
setting the symbol in his aura and, at the same time, repeating  the
lines  of the Ninety-first Psalm which is immensely powerful against
all evil manifestations.
  '  "Whoso dwelleth under the defence of the most High: shall abide
under the shadow of the Almighty.
  I   will  say  unto the Lord, Thou are my hope, and my stronghold:
my God, in Him will I trust.
  For  He shall deliver thee from the snare of the hunter: and  from
the noisome pestilence." '
  From  the  time  Rex switched on the headlights,  it  was  only  a
matter  of seconds before the big car hurtled forward like a  living
thing right on to the ground where the Sabbat was being held.
  Rex,  clinging to the coachwork, and also visualising that  symbol
which  De  Richleau had impressed so strongly upon him, leaned  from
the  step  of  the  car  and, with all his force,  threw  the  ivory
crucifix straight in the terrible face of the monstrous beast.
  The  Duke swerved the car to avoid the throne and Simon who, alone
of  all  the  Satanists,  remained standing but  apparently  utterly
unconscious of what was happening.
  The  blue  flames of the black candles set upon the hellish  altar
went  out  as though quenched by some invisible hand. The lights  of
the  car  regained their full brilliance, and once again they  heard
the  terrible screaming neigh which seemed to echo over the desolate
Plain for miles around as the crucifix, shining white in the glow of
the headlights, passed through the face of the Goat.
  A  horrible stench of burning flesh mingled with the choking odour
from  the  sulphur candles, filled the air like some poisonous  gas,
but  there  was no time to think or analyse sensations.  After  that
piercing screech, the brute upon the rocks disappeared. At the  same
instant  Rex grabbed Simon by the neck and hauled him bodily  on  to
the step of the car as it charged the farther slope of the hollow. '
  Jolting  and  bouncing it breasted the rise,  hesitating  for  the
fraction  of a second upon the brink as though some awful power  was
striving  to  draw it backwards. But the Duke threw the  gear  lever
into low, and they lurched forward again on to level ground,
  Rex,  meanwhile, had flung open the door at the back  and  dragged
Simon  inside  where he collapsed on the floor in a senseless  heap.
Instinctively, although De Richleau had warned him not to do so,  he
glanced  out of the back window down into the valley where they  had
witnessed  such  terrible  things, but  it  lay  dark,  silent,  and
seemingly deserted.
  The  car was travelling now at a better pace, although De Richleau
did  not dare to use the full power of his engine for fear that they
should strike a sudden dip or turn over in some hidden gully.
  For  a mile they raced north-eastward while, without ceasing,  the
Duke muttered to himself those protective lines:
  '  "He  shall defend thee under his wings, and thou shall be  safe
under  his feathers: his faithfulness and truth shall be thy  shield
and buckler.
  Thou  shalt  not be afraid for any terror by night:  nor  for  the
arrow that flieth by day;
  For  the pestilence that walketh in darkness: nor for the sickness
that destroyeth in the noon-day."'

  Then to his joy, they struck a track at right-angles, and he
turned along it to the north-westward, slipping into top gear. The
car bounded forward and seemed to fly as though in truth all the
devils of Hell were unleashed behind it in pursuit. Swerving,
jolting, and bounding across the grassy ruts, they covered five
miles in twice as many minutes until they came upon the Lavington-
Westbury road.
  Even then De Richleau would not slow down but, turning in the
direction of London, roared on, swerving from bend to bend with
utter disregard for danger in his fear of the greater danger that
lay behind.
  They flashed through Earlstoke, Market Lavington and then
Easterton, where, unseen by them, the Blue Rolls lay just off the
road in a ditch where Tanith had crashed it a few hours before; then
Bushall, Upavon, Ludgershall and so to Andover, having practically
completed a circuit of the Plain. Here at last, at the entrance of
the town, the Duke brought the car to a halt and turned in his seat
to look at Rex,
  'How is he?' he asked.
  'About all-in I reckon. He is as cold as blazes, and he hasn't
fluttered an eyelid since I hauled him into the car. My God I what a
ghastly business.'
  'Grim, wasn't it!' De Richleau for once was looking more than his
age. His grey face was lined and heavy pouches seemed to have
developed beneath his piercing eyes. His shoulders were hunched as
he leaned for a moment apparently exhausted over the wheel. Then he
pulled himself together with a jerk and thrusting his hand in his
pocket, took out a flask which he passed to Rex.
  'Give him some of this-as much as you can get him to swallow. It
may help to pull him round.'
  Rex turned to where Simon lay hunched up beneath the car rugs on
the back seat beside him and forcing open his mouth poured a good
portion of the old brandy into it.
  Simon choked suddenly, gasped, and jerked up his head. His eyes
flickered open and he stared at Rex, but there was no recognition in
them. Then his lids closed again and his head fell backwards on the
seat.
  'Well, he's alive, thank God,' murmured Rex. 'While you've been
driving like a maniac I've been scared that we had lost poor Simon
for good and all. But now we'd best get him back to London or to the
nearest doctor just as soon as we can.'
  'I daren't.' De Richleau's eyes were full of a desperate anxiety.
That devilish mob will have recovered themselves and are probably
back at the house near Chilbury by now. They will be plotting
something against us you may be certain.'
  'You mean that as Mocata knows your flat he will concentrate on
it to get Simon back-just as he did before?' 'Worse, I doubt if
they'd ever let us reach it.' 'Oh, shucks!' Rex frowned impatiently,
'How're they going to stop us?'
  'They can control all the meaner things-bats, snakes, rats,
foxes, owls-as well as cats and certain breeds of dog like the
Wolfhound and Alsatian. If one of those dashed beneath the wheels of
the car when we were going at any speed it might turn over. Besides,
within certain limits, they can control the elements, so they could
ensure a dense local fog surrounding us the whole way, and every
mile of it we'd be facing the risk of another car that hadn't seen
our lights smashing into us head on at full speed. If they combine
the whole of their strength for ill it's a certainty they'll be able
to bring about some terrible accident before we can cover the
seventy miles to London. Remember too, this is still Walpurgis-Nacht
and every force of evil that is abroad will be leagued against us.
For every moment until dawn we three remain in the direst peril.'


                                 19

                        The Ancient Sanctuary

  'Well, we can't stay here,' Rex protested.
  'I  know,  and we've got to find some sanctuary where we can  keep
Simon safe until morning.'
  'How about a church?'
  'Yes,  if  we  could find one that is open. But they will  all  be
locked up at this hour.'
  'Couldn't we get some local parson out of bed?'
  'If  I  knew one anywhere near here I'd chance it, but how can  we
possibly expect a stranger to believe the story that we should  have
to tell? He would think us madmen, or probably that it was a plot to
rob  his church. But wait a moment! By Jove, I've got it! We'll take
him  to the oldest cathedral in Britain and one that is open to  the
skies.' With a sudden chuckle of relief, De Richleau set the car  in
motion again and began to reverse it.
  'Surely you're not going back?' Rex asked anxiously.
  'Only  three  miles  to the fork-roads at Weyhill,  then  down  to
Amesbury.'
  'Well, don't you call that going back?'
  'Perhaps,  but I mean to take him to Stonehenge. If we  can  reach
it,  we  shall be in safety, even though it is no more than a  dozen
miles from Chilbury.'
  Once  more  the  car rocketed along the road across those  grassy,
barren  slopes, cleaving the silent darkness of the night  with  its
great arced headlights.
  Twenty  minutes  later  they  passed again  through  the  twisting
streets  of Amesbury, now silent and shuttered while its inhabitants
slept,  not  even  dreaming of the terrible battle which  was  being
fought  out that night between the Power of Light and the  Power  of
Darkness,  so  near to them in actuality and yet so  remote  to  the
teeming life of everyday modern England.
  A  mile outside the town, they ran up the slope to the wire  fence
which  rings in the Neolithic monument, Stonehenge. The  Duke  drove
the  car  into the deserted car park beside the road and there  they
left it. Rex carried Simon, wrapped in De Richleau's great-coat  and
the  car rug, while the Duke followed him through the wire with  the
suitcase containing his protective impedimenta.
  As  they  staggered  over the grass, the  vast  monoliths  of  the
ancient  place of worship stood out against the skyline-the timeless
symbols  of  a forgotten cult that ruled Britain, before the  Romans
came to bring more decorative and more human gods.
  They passed the outer circle of great stone uprights upon some  of
which  the lintels forming them into a ring of arches still  remain.
Then  De  Richleau led the way between the mighty chunks  of  fallen
masonry  to  where, beside the two great trili-thons, the  sandstone
altar  slab  lies half buried beneath the remnants  of  the  central
arch.
  At  a  gesture  from the Duke, Rex laid Simon, still  unconscious,
upon  it.  Then  he looked up doubtfully. 'I suppose you  know  what
you're doing, but I've always heard that the Druids, who built  this
place, were a pretty grim lot. Didn't they sacrifice virgins on this
stone  and practise all sorts of pagan rites? I should have  thought
this  place would be more sacred to the Power of Evil than the Power
of Good.'
  'Don't  worry,  Rex,' De Richleau smiled in the darkness.  'It  is
true  that  the  Druids performed sacrifices,  but  they  were  sun-
worshippers. At the summer solstice, the sun rises over the  hilltop
there, shedding its first beam of light directly through the arch on
to this altar stone. This place is one of the most hallowed spots in
all  Europe because countless thousands of long-dead men  and  women
have worshipped here-calling upon the Power of Light to protect them
from the evil things that go in darkness-and the vibrations of their
souls  are about us now making a sure buttress and protection  until
the coming of the dawn.'
  With  gentle  hands, they set about a more careful examination  of
Simon.  His body was still terribly cold but they found that, except
for  where  Rex had clawed at his neck, he had suffered no  physical
injury.
  'What  do you figure to do now?' Rex asked as the Duke opened  his
suitcasej
  'Exorcise him in due form, in order to try and drive out any  evil
spirit by which he may be possessed.'
  'Like the Roman Catholic priests used to do in the Middle Ages.'
  'As they still do,' De Richleau answered soberly,
  'What-in these days?'
  'Yes. Don't you remember the case of Helene Poirier who died  only
in  1914. She suffered from such terrible demoniacal possession that
many  of  the  most learned priests in France, including Monsiegneur
Dupanloup, Bishop of Orleans, and Monsieur Mallet, Superior  of  the
Grand  Seminary, had to be called in before, with God's  grace,  she
could be freed from the evil spirit which controlled her.'
  'I  didn't think the Church admitted the existence of such  things
as witchcraft and black magic.'
  'Then  you  are  very  ignorant, my friend.  I  do  not  know  the
official  views  of  others, but the Roman Church,  whose  authority
comes  unbroken over nineteen centuries from the time when Our  Lord
made  St.  Peter  his  viceregent on earth, has  ever  admitted  the
existence  of  the evil power. Why else should they have  issued  so
many ordinances against it, or at the present time so unhesitatingly
condemn all spiritualistic practices which they regard as the modern
counterparts of necromancy, by which Hell's emissaries seek to  lure
weak, foolish and trusting people into their net?'
  'I  can't  agree  to  that,' Rex demurred. 'I  know  a  number  of
Spiritualists, men and women of the utmost rectitude.'
  'Perhaps.' De Richleau was arranging Simon's limp body.  They  are
entitled  to their opinion and he who thinks rightly lives  rightly.
No  doubt their high principles act as a protective barrier  between
them  and  the more dangerous entities of the spirit world. However,
for  the  weak-minded  and mentally frail such  practices  hold  the
gravest peril. Look at that Bavarian family of eleven people, all of
whom  went out of their minds after a Spiritualistic seance in 1921.
The  case  was fully reported by the Press at the time and  I  could
give  you  a  dozen similar examples, all attributable  to  Diabolic
possession, of course. In fact, according to the Roman Church, there
is  no  phenomenon of modem Spiritism which cannot be paralleled  in
the records of old witch trials.'
  'According to them, maybe, but Simon's not a Catholic.'
  'No  matter,  there is nothing to prevent a member  of  the  Roman
Church  asking  Divine aid for any man whatever his race  or  creed.
Fortunately I was baptised a Catholic and, although I may not  be  a
good  one,  I  believe that with the grace of  God,  power  will  be
granted to me this night to help our poor friend.
  'Kneel  down  now and pray silently, for all prayers are  good  if
the heart is earnest and perhaps those of the Church of England more
efficacious than others since we are now in the English countryside.
It  is  for  that reason I recite certain psalms from  the  book  of
Common Prayer. But be ready to hold him if he leaps up for, if he is
possessed, the Demon within him will fight like a maniac.'
  De  Richleau took up the holy water and sprinkled a few  drops  on
Simon's  forehead.  They remained there a moment and  then  trickled
slowly  down  his drawn, furrowed face. But he remained  corpse-like
and still.
  'May the Lord be praised,' murmured the Duke.
  'What is it?' breathed Rex.
  'He  is  not  actually possessed. If he were the holy water  would
have  scalded him like boiling oil, and at its touch the Demon would
have screamed like a hell cat.'
  'What now then?'
  'He  still reeks of evil so I must employ the banishing ritual  to
purge the atmosphere about him and do all things possible to protect
him from Mocata's influence. Then we will see if this coma shows any
signs of lifting.'
  The  Duke  produced  a  crutch of Rowan  wood  then  proceeded  to
certain  curious  and  complicated  rites;  consisting  largely   in
stroking Simon's limbs with a brushing motion towards the feet;  the
repetition of many Latin formulas with long intervals in which,  led
by the Duke, the two men knelt to pray beside their friend.
  Simon  was anointed with holy water and with holy oil. The gesture
of Horus was made to the north, to the south, to the east and to the
west.  The  palms of his hands were sprinkled and the soles  of  his
feet. Asafoetida grass was tied round his wrists and his ankles.  An
orb with the cross upon it was placed in his right hand, and a phial
of  quicksilver between his lips. A chain of garlic flowers was hung
about  his  neck,  and the sacred oil placed in  a  cross  upon  his
forehead. Each action upon him was preceded by prayer, concentration
of  thought,  and invocation to the archangels, the high  beings  of
Light, and to his own higher consciousness.
  At  last,  after an hour, all had been accomplished in  accordance
with  the ancient lore and De Richleau examined Simon again. He  was
warmer now and the ugly lines of distress and terror had faded  from
his  face.  He  seemed to have passed out of his dead faint  into  a
natural sleep and was breathing regularly.
  'I  think  that with God's help we have saved him,'  declared  the
Duke.  'He  looks almost normal now, but we had best wait  until  he
wakes  of  his own accord; I can do no more, so we will rest  for  a
little.'
  Rex  passed  his  hand across his eyes as De  Richleau  sank  down
beside  him.  'I'll  say I need it. Would  it  be  .  .  .  er  .  .
sacrilegious or anything if I had a smoke?'
  'Of  course not.' De Richleau drew out his cigars. 'Have  a  Hoyo.
It is thoughts, not formalities, which make an atmosphere of good or
evil.'
  For  a  little  while the two friends sat silent,  the  points  of
their  cigars glowing faintly in the darkness until a pale  greyness
in  the  eastern sky made clearer the ghostly outlines of the  great
oblong stones towering at varying angles to twenty feet about  their
heads.
  'What  a  strange place this is,' Rex murmured. 'How  old  do  you
suppose it to be?'
  'About four thousand years.'
  'As old as that, eh?'
  'Yes,  but  that is young compared with the Pyramids  and,  beside
them,  for  architecture and scientific alignment, this thing  is  a
primitive toy.'
  'Those  ancient Britons must have been a whole heap cleverer  than
we  give them credit for all the same, to get these great blocks  of
stone  set  up.  It  would  tax  all the  resources  of  our  modern
engineers, I reckon. Some of them must weigh a hundred tons apiece.'
  De  Richleau  nodded.  'Only the piety of  many  thousand  willing
hands,  hauling on skin ropes, and manipulating vast  levers,  could
have  accomplished it, but what is even more remarkable is that  the
foreign  stones  were transported from a quarry nearly  two  hundred
miles from here.'
  'What do you mean by "foreign stones"?'
  The  stones which form the inner ring and the inner horseshoe  are
called so because they were brought from a great distance-a place in
Pembrokeshire, I think.'
  'Horseshoe,' Rex repeated with a puzzled look. 'I thought all  the
stones were placed in rings.'
  'It  is  hardly discernible in the ruins now, but originally  this
great temple consisted of an outer ring formed of big arches, then a
concentric  circle  of  smaller uprights. Inside  that,  five  great
separate  trilithons  of  arches, two of which  you  can  see  still
standing,  set in the form of a horseshoe and then another horseshoe
of the smaller stones,'
  The Druids used the horseshoe, too, then?'
  'Certainly.  As  I  have  told you, it is  a  most  potent  symbol
indissolubly connected with the Power of Light. Hence my use  of  it
in connection with the swastika and the cross.'
  They  fell  silent again for some time, then Simon stirred  beside
them  and they both stood up. He slowly turned over and looked about
him  with duil eyes until he recognised his friends, and asked in  a
stifled voice where he was.
  Without  answering,  De Richleau drew him  down  between  Rex  and
himself  on  to  his  knees, and proceeded to give  thanks  for  his
restoration.  'Repeat after me,' he said, 'the words of  the  fifty-
first Psalm.
  '  "Have mercy upon me, O God, after thy great goodness: according
to the multitude of thy mercies do away mine offences.
  Wash  me  thoroughly from my wickedness: and cleanse  me  from  my
sin,
  For I  acknowledge my faults and my sin is ever before me." '
  To  the  end of the beautiful penitent appeal the Duke read  in  a
solemn voice from the Prayer Book by the aid of a little torch while
the  others repeated verse by verse after him. Then all three  stood
up and began at last to talk in their normal voices.
  De  Richleau  explained what had taken place, and Simon  sat  upon
the altar-stone weeping like a child as now, with a clear brain,  he
began  at  last  to  understand the terrible peril  from  which  his
friends had rescued him.
  He  remembered  the party which had been given at  his  house  and
that   the   Duke  had  hypnotised  him  in  Curzon  Street.   After
that-nothing, until he found himself present in the Sabbat which had
been held that night, and even then he could only see vague pictures
of  it, as though he had not participated in it himself, but watched
the  whole of the ghastly proceedings from a distance; horrified  to
the  last  degree to see a figure that seemed to be  himself  taking
part  in  those  abominable  ceremonies, yet  mentally  chained  and
powerless to intervene or stop that body, so curiously like his own,
participating in that godless scene of debauchery.
  Dawn  was  now breaking in the eastern sky. as De Richleau  placed
his  arm affectionately round Simon's shoulders. 'Don't take  it  to
heart  so, my friend,' he said kindly. 'For the moment at least  you
have been spared, and praise be to God you are still sane, which  is
more than I dared to hope for when we got you here.'
  Simon  nodded. 'I know-I've been lucky,' he said soberly. 'But  am
I  really free-for good? I'm afraid Mocata will try and get me  back
somehow.'
  'Now  we're  together again you needn't worry,' Rex  grinned.  'If
the  three of us can't fight this horror and win out we're  not  the
men I always thought we were.'
  'Yes,'  Simon  agreed, a little doubtfully. 'But  the  trouble  is
that I was born at a time when certain stars were in conjunction, so
in  a  way  I'm the key to a ritual which Mocata's set his heart  on
performing.'
  The invocation to Saturn coupled with Mars,' the Duke put in.
  'I'm  scared he'll exercise every incantation in the book to  drag
me back to him despite myself,'
  'Isn't  that  danger  over? Surely it should have  been  done  two
nights ago, but we managed to prevent it then.'
  'Ner,' Simon used his favourite negative with a little wriggle  of
his bird-like head. 'That would have been the most suitable time  of
all,  but the ritual can be performed with a reasonable prospect  of
success any night while the two planets remain in the same house  of
the Zodiac.'
  'Then  the  longer we can keep you out of Mocata's  clutches,  the
less  chance  he  stands of pulling it off as the  two  planets  get
farther apart,' Rex commented.
  De  Richleau sighed. His face looked grey and haggard in the early
morning  light. 'In that case,' he said slowly, 'Mocata  will  exert
his  whole strength when twilight comes again, and we shall have  to
fight with our backs to the wall throughout this coming night.'


                                 20

                          The Four Horsemen

  Now  that the sun was up Rex's resilient spirit reasserted itself.
'Time  enough to worry about tonight when we are through today,'  he
declared  cheerfully. 'What we need most just  now  is  a  good  hot
breakfast.'
  The  Duke  smiled. 'I thoroughly agree, and in any case  we  can't
stay  here much longer. While we feed we'll discuss the safest place
to which we can take Simon.'
  'We  can't take him anywhere at the moment,' Rex grinned. 'Not  as
he  is-with  only  the  car  rug and your great-coat  to  cover  his
birthday suit.'
  Simon  tittered into his hand. It was the gesture which  both  his
friends  knew so well, and which it delighted them to see again.  'I
must  look pretty comic as I am,' he chuckled. 'And it's chilly too.
One of you had better try and raise me a suit of clothes.'
  'You  take  the  car, Rex,' said the Duke, 'and drive  into  Ames-
bury. Knock up the first clothes dealer you can find and buy him  an
outfit. Have you enough money?'
  'Plenty. I was going down to Derby yesterday for the first  Spring
Race  Meeting if this business hadn't cropped up overnight.  So  I'd
drawn fifty the day before.'
  'Good,'  the  Duke  nodded. 'We shan't move from  here  until  you
return.'  Then, as Rex strode away across the grass to the  Hispano,
which  was  now visible where they had left it in the  car-park,  he
turned to Simon:
  'Tell  me,'  he  said, 'while Rex is gone. How did  you  ever  get
drawn into this terrible business?'
  Simon  smiled. 'Well,' he said hesitantly, 'it may  seem  a  queer
thing to say, but you are partly responsible yourself.'
  'I!' exclaimed the Duke. 'What the deuce do you mean?'
  'I'm  not  blaming  you,  of course, in  the  least,  but  do  you
remember  that long chat we had when we were both down at  Cardinals
Folly  for  Christmas? It started by your telling us about  the  old
Alchemists and how they used to make gold out of base metals.'
  De  Richleau  nodded. 'Yes, and you threw doubt upon my  statement
that  the feat had actually been performed. I cited the case of  the
scientist  Helvetius, I remember, who was bitterly  opposed  to  the
pretentions of the Alchemists, but who, when he was visited  by  one
at  the Hague in December, 1666, managed to secrete a little of  the
reddish  powder which the man showed him under his finger-nail,  and
afterwards succeeded in transmuting a small amount of lead into gold
with  it. But you would not believe me, although I assured you, that
no less a person than Sponoza verified the experiment at the time.'
  'That's   right,'   said  Simon.  'Well,  I  was   sceptical   but
interested, so I took the trouble to check up as far as possible  on
all you'd said. It was Spinoza's testimony that impressed
  me because he was so very sane and unbiased.'
  'So was Helvetius himself for that matter.'
  'I  know.  Anyhow,  I  dug up the fact that  Povelius,  the  chief
tester of the Dutch Mint, assayed the metal seven times with all the
leading  goldsmiths at the Hague and they unanimously pronounced  it
to  be  pure gold. Of course there was a possibility that  Helvetius
deceived  them  by submitting a piece of gold obtained  through  the
ordinary  channels, but it hardly seemed likely  that  he  practised
deliberate  fraud, because he had no motive. He had always  declared
his  disbelief in alchemy and he couldn't make any more  because  he
hadn't  got  the powder -so there was no question of his  trying  to
float a bogus company on the experiment. He couldn't even claim  any
scientific kudos from it either because he frankly admitted that  he
had  stolen the powder from the stranger who showed it to him. After
that  I  went  into  the  experiment of Berigord  de  Pisa  and  Van
Helmont.'
  'And  what did you think of those?' asked the Duke, his lined face
showing quick interest in the early morning light.
  'They  shook  my  unbelief  a lot. Van Helmont  was  the  greatest
chemist  of his time, and like Helvetius, he'd always said the  idea
of  transmitting  base metals into gold was sheer nonsense  until  a
stranger gave him a little of that mysterious powder with which  he,
too,  performed  the experiment successfully; and he  again  had  no
personal axe to grind,'
  'There  are  plenty  of other cases as well,' remarked  the  Duke;
'Raymond Lully made gold for King Edward III of England, and  George
Ripley  gave ?100,000 of alchemical gold to the Knights  of  Rhodes.
The  Emperor Augustus of Saxony left 17,000,000 Rix dollars and Pope
John  XXII of Avignon 25,000,000 florins, sums which were positively
gigantic  for  those days. Both were poor men with slender  revenues
which could not have accounted in a hundred years for such fortunes.
But  both  were  alchemists, and transmutation is the only  possible
explanation of the almost fabulous treasure which was actually found
in their coffers after their deaths.'
  Simon  nodded. 'I know. And if one rejects the sworn  evidence  of
men  like Spinoza and Van Helmont, why should one believe the people
who  say  they  can  measure  the distance  to  the  stars,  or  the
scientists of the last century who produced electrical phenomena?'
  The  difference  is that the mass mind will not accept  scientific
truths  unless they can be demonstrated freely and harnessed to  the
public  good.  Everyone  accepts the miracle  that  sulphur  can  be
converted  into fire because they see it happen twenty times  a  day
and we all carry a box of matches in our pockets, but if it had been
kept  as  a jealously guarded secret by a small number of initiates,
the  public would still regard it as impossible. And that, you  see,
is precisely the position of the alchemist.
  'He  stands  apart  from the world and is indifferent  to  it.  To
succeed  in the Great Work he must be absolutely pure, and  to  such
men  gold is dross. In most cases he makes only sufficient to supply
his  modest needs and refuses to pass on his secret to the  profane;
but  that does not necessarily mean that he is a fraud and  a  liar.
The  theory  that  all  matter is composed of atoms,  molecules  and
electrons in varying states is generally accepted now. Milk  can  be
made  as hard as concrete by the new scientific process, glass  into
women's  dresses,  wood and human flesh decay into  a  very  similar
dust,  iron  turns to rust, and crystals are known to grow  although
they are a type of stone. Even diamonds can be made synthetically.'
  'Of  course,'  Simon agreed, with his old eagerness,  so  absorbed
now  in  the  discussion  as  to  be  apparently  oblivious  of  his
surroundings.  'And  as far as metals are concerned,  they  are  all
composed of sulphur and mercury and can be condensed or materialised
by  means  of  a salt. Only the varying proportions of  those  three
Principals account for the difference between them. Metals  are  the
fruits  of  mineral  nature, and the baser  ones  are  still  unripe
because the sulphur and mercury had no time to combine in the  right
proportions   before   they  solidified.   This   powder,   or   the
Philosophers' Stone as they call it, is a ferment that forces on the
original process of Nature and ripens the base metals into gold.'
  'That  is  so.  But  do you mean to tell me  that  you  have  been
experimenting yourself?'
  'Ner,' Simon shook his narrow head. 'I soon found out that  to  do
so  would  mean a lifetime of restheticism and then perhaps  failure
after  all.  It  is hardly in my line to become a "Puffer."  Besides
it's  obvious that transmutation in its higher sense is the  supreme
mystery of turning Matter into Light. Metals are like men, the baser
corresponding   to   the  once  born,  and  both  gradually   become
purified-metals   by  geological  upheavals-   men   by   successive
reincarnations,  and  the  part piayed by  the  secret  agent  which
hurries lead to gold is the counterpart of esoteric initiation which
lifts the spirit towards light.'
  'Was that your aim then?'
  To  some  extent.  You  know how one thing  leads  to  another.  I
discovered that the whole business is bound up with the Quabalah so,
being  a  Jew,  I  began to study the esoteric doctrine  of  my  own
people.'
  De  Richleau nodded. 'And very interesting you found it.  I  don't
doubt.'
  'Yes,  it  took  a bit of getting into, but after  I'd  tackled  a
certain amount of the profane literature to get a grounding, I  read
the Sepher Ha Zoher, the Sepher Jetyirah and some of the Midraschim.
Then I began to see a Little daylight.'
  'In  fact  you began to believe, lake most people who have  really
read  considerably  and  had a wide experience  of  life,  that  our
western  scientists have only been advancing in  one  direction  and
that  we have even lost the knowledge of many things with which  the
wise men of ancient times were well acquainted.'
  'That's  so,'  Simon smiled again. 'I've always  been  a  complete
sceptic. But once I began to burrow beneath the surface I found such
a  mass  of  evidence that I could no longer doubt the existence  of
strange hidden forces which can be chained and untilised if one only
knows the way.'
  'Yes.  And  plenty  of people still interest themselves  in  these
questions  and use the Quabalah to promote their own well-being  and
the general good. But where does Mocata come into all this?'
  Simon  shuddered slightly at the name and drew the  car  rug  more
closely about his shoulders. 'I met him in Paris,' he said, 'at  the
house of a French banker with whom I've sometimes done business.'
  'Castelnau!' exclaimed the Duke. 'The man with the jagged  ear.  I
knew  last night that I had seen that ear somewhere before, but  for
the life of me I couldn't recall where.'
  Simon  nodded quickly. That's right-Castelnau. Well, I met  Mocata
at  his  place,  and  I  don't quite know how it  started,  but  the
conversation  drifted  round to the Quabalah  and,  as  I  had  been
soaking  myself in it at the time, I was naturally in- terested.  He
said  he had a lot of books upon it and suggested that I might  like
to  visit  the  house where he was staying and have a  look  through
them.  Of  course I did. Then he told me that he was  conducting  an
experiment  in Magic the following night, and asked if I would  care
to be present.'
  'I see. That's how the trouble started.'
  'Yes.  The experiment was quite a harmless affair. He made certain
ritual  conjurations with the four elements, Fire,  Air,  Water  and
Earth,  then told me to look into a mirror with him. It was  an  old
Venetian  piece,  a  bit  spotted at the back  but  otherwise  quite
ordinary  you  know. As I watched, it clouded over with  a  sort  of
mist, then when it cleared again I could no longer see my reflection
in  it, but a sheet of newspaper instead. It was the financial  page
of  Le  Temps  giving all the quotations of the Paris Bourse,  which
sounds  pretty prosaic I suppose, but the queer part  is  that  this
issue was dated three days ahead.'
  De  Richleau  stroked his lean face with his slender  fingers.  'I
saw  a  similar demonstration in Cairo once,' he commented  gravely.
'But on that occasion it was the name of the new Commander-in-Chief,
who  had  only  been  appointed by the War  Office  in  London  that
afternoon, which appeared in the mirror. You took a note of some  of
the Bourse quotations I suppose?'
  'Urn.  The list wasn't visible for more than ten seconds then  the
mirror  clouded  over again and went back to its normal  state,  but
that  was  quite  long enough for me to memorise the  stocks  I  was
interested in, and when I checked up afterwards they were right to a
fraction.'
  'What happened then?'
  'Mocata  offered to instruct me in the attainment of the knowledge
and  conversation of my Holy Guardian Angel as the first step on the
road to obtaining similar powers myself.'
  'My  poor Simon!' The Duke made an unhappy grimace. 'You  are  not
the  first to be trapped by a Brother of the Left Hand Path  who  is
recruiting for the Devil by such a promise. If you had known more of
Magic you would have realised that it is proper to pass through  the
six stages of Probationer, Neophyte, Zelator, Practicus, Philosophus
and  Dominus Liminis before, as an Adeptus Inferior after many years
of  study and experience, you would be qualified to take the risk of
attempting  to  pass the Abyss. Besides, there are no precise  rules
for  attaining the knowledge and conversation of one's Holy Guardian
Angel. It is a thing which each man must work out for himself and no
other can help one to it. Mocata invoked your Evil Angel, of course,
to  act  a  blasphemous impersonation while your Holy Guardian  wept
impotent tears to see the terrible danger into which you were  being
drawn.'
  'I  suppose so, although, of course, I couldn't know that  at  the
time. Anyhow, I had to go back to London a few days later, and I was
so  impressed  by  that  time that I asked Mocata  to  let  me  know
directly he arrived, because he spoke of coming over. He turned up a
fortnight later and rang me up at once to urge me to unload a lot of
stock  that he knew I was carrying. I had faith in it myself but  in
view  of what I'd seen in his mirror I took his tip and saved myself
quite a packet, because the market broke almost immediately after.'
  'Was  that  when you asked him to go and live with you?'  inquired
the Duke.
  'Yes.  I  suggested that he should stay with me while  he  was  in
London  because  he had no suitable place in which to  practise  his
evocations at his hotel. He moved over to St. John's Wood  then  and
after that we used to sit up together in the observatory pretty well
every night. That's why I saw so little of you during that time. But
the results were extraordinary-utterly amazing.'
  'He  gave  you  more  information which  governed  your  financial
transactions, I suppose.'
  'Yes,  but more than that. He foretold the whole of the Stravinsky
scandal.  I'm  not  a poor man as you know, but  if  I  hadn't  been
forewarned about that, it would have darn nearly broken  me.  As  it
was,  I  cleared every single share in the dud companies before  the
storm broke and got out with an immense profit.'
  'By that time you had begun to dabble in Black Magic I imagine?'
  Simon's  dark  eyes flickered away from the Duke's for  a  moment,
then he nodded. 'Just a bit. He asked me to recite the Lord's Prayer
backwards  one night, and I was a bit unhappy about it  but  .  .  .
well, I did. He said that since I wasn't a Christian anyhow no  harm
could come to me from it.'
  'It is horribly potent all the same,' the Duke commented.
  'Perhaps,'   agreed   Simon   miserably.   'But   Mocata  is    so
devilish  glib and according to him there is no such thing as  Black
Magic anyhow. The harnessing of supernatural powers to one's will is
just Magic-neither black nor white, and that's all there is to it.'
  'Tell me about this man.'
  'Oh,  he's about fifty, I suppose, bald-headed, with curious light
blue eyes and a paunch that would rival Dorn Goren-fiot's.'
  'I  know,'  agreed the Duke impatiently. 'I've  seen  him.  But  I
meant his personality, not his appearance.'
  'Of  course, I forgot,' Simon apologised. 'You know for weeks  now
I hardly know what I've been doing. It's almost as though I had been
dreaming   the   whole   time.  But  about  Mocata:   he   possesses
extraordinary  force of character, and he can be the  most  charming
person when he likes. He's clever of course-amazingly so, and  seems
to  have  read  pretty well every book that one can think  of.  It's
extraordinary, too, what a fascination he can exercise over women. I
know half a dozen who are simply "bats" about him.'
  'What can you tell me of his history?'
  'Not  much, I'm afraid. His Christian name is Damien and he  is  a
Frenchman by nationality, but his mother was Irish. He was  educated
for  the  Church. In fact, he actually took Orders, but finding  the
life of a priest did not suit him, he chucked it up.'
  De  Richleau  nodded. 'I thought as much. Only an ordained  priest
can practise the Black Mass, and since he is so powerful an adept of
the  Left  Hand Path, it was pretty certain that he was  a  renegade
priest  of  the Roman Church. But what more can you tell  me?  Every
scrap  of  information  which you have may help  us  in  our  fight,
because you must remember, Simon, that you have only achieved a very
temporary  security. The battle will begin again when  he  exercises
his dominance over you to call you back.'
  Simon  shifted  his  position  on  the  stones  and  then  replied
thoughtfully. 'He does the most lovely needlework, petit  point  and
that  sort  of  thing you know, and he's terribly  fastidious  about
keeping his plump little hands scrupulously clean. As a companion he
is  delightful  to  be with except that he will smother  himself  in
expensive perfumes and is as greedy as a schoolboy about sweets.  He
had  huge boxes of fondants, crystallised fruits, and marzipan  sent
over from Paris twice a week when he was at St. John's Wood.
  'Ordinarily   he  was  perfectly  normal  and  his  manners   were
charming, but now and again he used to get irritable fits. They came
on  about once a month and after he had been boiling up for  twenty-
four  hours, he use to clear out for a couple of days and nights.  I
don't know where he used to go to at those times, but I ran into him
one  morning  early, when he had just returned  from  one  of  these
bouts,  and  he was in a shocking state: filthy dirty, a  two  days'
growth  of  beard on his chin, his clothes all torn  and  absolutely
stinking  of drink. It looked to me as if he hadn't been to  bed  at
all  the  whole  time  but  had  been wallowing  in  every  sort  of
debauchery down in the slums of the East End.
  'He  is  quite  an  exceptional hypnotist, of  course,  and  keeps
himself  in touch with what is going on in Paris, Berlin,  New  York
and a dozen other places by throwing various women, who used to come
and  visit  him  regularly, into a trance. One of them  was  a  girl
called Tanith, a perfectly lovely creature. You may have seen her at
the  party, and he says she is by far the best medium he's ever had.
He  can  use her almost like a telephone and plug in right  away  to
whatever  he wants to know about. Whereas with the others there  are
very often hitches and delays.'
  'You let him hypnotise you, too, of course?'
  'Yes, hi order to get these financial results.'
  'I  thought  as  much,' De Richleau nodded.  'And  after  you  had
allowed  him to do it willingly for some little time he was able  to
block out your own mentality entirely and govern your every thought.
That's why you've failed to realise what's been going on. It is just
as though he'd been keeping you drugged the whole time.'
  'Um,'  Simon  agreed  miserably. 'It makes me positively  sick  to
think  of it, but I suppose he has been gradually preparing  me  for
this  Ritual to Saturn which he meant to perform two nights ago  and
...'  He broke off suddenly as Rex appeared between two of the great
monoliths.
  Grinning  from ear to ear, Rex displayed his purchases  for  their
inspection. A pair of grey flannel shorts, a khaki shirt, black  and
white check worsted stockings, a gaudy tie of revolting magenta hue,
a  pair  of  waders, a cricket cap quartered in alternate triangular
sections  of  orange and mauve, and a short, dark  blue  bicyclist's
cape.
  'Only things I could get,' he volunteered cheerfully. 'The
  people  who run the local Co-op don't live on the premises,  so  I
had to knock up a sports outfitter.'
  De  Richleau  sat  back  and  roared  with  laughter  while  Simon
fingered the queer assortment of garments doubtfully. 'You're joking
Rex,'  he protested with a sheepish grin. 'I can't return to  London
in this get-up.'
  'We're  not  going  to  London,'  the  Duke  announced.  'But   to
Cardinals Folly.'
  'What-to  Marie Lou's?' Rex looked at him sharply.  'How  did  you
come to get that idea ...'
  'Something that Simon said just after you left us.'
  Simon  shook his head jerkily. 'I don't like it-not a little  bit.
I'd never forgive myself if I brought danger into their home.'
  'You  will  do  as  you're told my friend,'  De  Richleau's  voice
brooked  no  further argument. 'Richard and Marie Lou are  the  most
mentally  healthy couple that I know. The atmosphere of  their  sane
and  happy household will be the very best protection we could  find
for  you  and all of us are certain of a warm welcome. No harm  will
come to them if we exercise reasonable precautions, and the help  of
their  right-thinking minds will give us the extra strength we need.
Besides,  they are about the only people to whom we can explain  the
whole  situation without being taken for madmen. Now  hurry  up  and
array yourself like the champion of next year's Olympic games.'
  With a shrug of his narrow shoulders Simon disappeared behind  the
stones while Rex added: 'That's right. I ordered ham and eggs to  be
got  ready  at the local inn and I'm mighty anxious to start  in  on
them.'
  'Eggs  and fruit,' cut in the Duke, 'but no ham for any of us.  It
is  essential that we should avoid meat for the moment. If we are to
retain our astral strength our physical bodies must undergo a  semi-
fast at least.'
  Rex  groaned.  'Why, oh, why dear Simon, did you ever  go  hunting
Talisman  and  let your friends in for this? When I went  to  Russia
after the Shulimoff jewels and you came to get me out of trouble, at
least  it  didn't  prevent your feeding decently when  you  had  the
chance.'
  'That  reminds  me,' De Richleau threw over his  shoulder  in  the
direction where Simon was struggling into his queer garments.  'What
is this Talisman? Rex mentioned it last night.'
  'It's  the  reason why Mocata is certain to make every  effort  to
get  possession of me again,' Simon's voice came back. 'It is buried
somewhere, and adepts of the Left Hand Path have been seeking it for
centuries. It conveys almost limitless powers upon its possessor and
Mocata  has discovered that its whereabouts will be revealed  if  he
can  practise  the ritual to Saturn in conjunction  with  Mars  with
someone  who  was  born  in  a certain  year  at  the  hour  of  the
conjunction. There can't be many such, but for my sins I  happen  to
be  one,  and even if he can find others they might not be  suitable
for various reasons.'
  'Yes, I realise that. But what is the Talisman?'
  'I  don't  really know. Except for conducting my business  on  the
lines  suggested  by  Mocata,  I  don't  think  my  brain  has  been
functioning  at  all  in the last two months. But  it's  called  the
Talisman of Set.'
  'What!'  The Duke sprang to his feet as Simon appeared grotesquely
attired  in  his incongruous new clothes, his long knees  protruding
beneath the shorts, the absurd cricket cap set at a rakish angle  on
his head, and the cycling cloak flapping about his shoulders.
  Rex  dissolved  into tears of laughter, but the Duke's  grim  face
quickly sobered his mirth.
  'The Talisman of Set,' De Richleau repeated almost in a whisper.
  'Yes, it has something to do with four horsemen I think- but  what
on earth's the matter?' Simon's big mouth fell open in dismay at the
sight of the Duke's horror-stricken eyes.
  'It  has indeed! The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,' De Richleau
grated  out.  'War,  Plague, Famine and  Death.  We  all  know  what
happened  the last time those four terrible entities were  unleashed
to cloud the brains of statesmen and rulers.'
  'You're referring to the Great War I take it.' Rex said soberly.
  'Of  course, and every adept knows that it started because one  of
the  most terrible Satanists who ever lived found one of the  secret
gateways through which to release the four horsemen.'
  'I  thought the Germans got a bit above themselves,' Rex hazarded,
'although it seems that lots of other folks were pretty well as much
to blame.'
  'You fool!' De Richleau suddenly swung upon him. 'Germany did  not
make  the  War. It came out of Russia. It was Russia who  instigated
the murder at Sarajevo, Russia who backed Serbia to resist Austria's
demands,  Russia who mobilised first and Russia who invaded Germany.
The  monk  Rasputin was the Evil genius behind it all.  He  was  the
greatest  Black Magician that the world has known for centuries.  It
was  he who found one of the gateways through which to let forth the
four horsemen that they might wallow in blood and destruction-and  I
know  the Talisman of Set to be another. Europe is ripe now for  any
trouble and if they are loosened again, it will be final Armageddon.
This  is no longer a personal matter of protecting Simon. We've  got
to  kill  Mocata before he can secure the Talisman and  prevent  his
plunging the world into another war.'


                                 21

                           Cardinals Folly

  Richard Eaton read the telegram a second time:
  'Eat  no lunch this vitally important Simon ill Rex and I bringing
him  down to you this afternoon Marie Lou must stop eating too  kiss
Fleur love all.-De Richleau,'
  He  passed one hand over the smooth brown hair which grew from his
broad forehead in an attractive widow's peak, and handed the wire to
his wife with a puzzled smile.
  'This is from the Duke. Do you think he has gone crazy- or what?'
  'What, darling,' said Marie Lou promptly. 'Definitely what. If  he
stood on his handsome head in Piccadilly and the whole world told me
he  was  crazy  I should still maintain that dear old  Greyeyes  was
quite sane.'
  'But  really,' Richard protested. 'No lunch-and you told  me  that
the  shrimps from Morecambe Bay came in this morning. I was  looking
forward ...'
  'My  sweet!' Marie Lou gave a delicious gurgle of laughter as  she
flung one arm round his neck and drew him down on to the sofa beside
her. 'What a glutton you are. You simply live for your tummy.'
  He nuzzled his head against her thick chestnut curls. 'I don't.  I
eat only in order to maintain sufficient strength to deal with you.'
  'Liar,'  she pushed him away suddenly. 'There must be some  reason
for  this  extraordinary wire, and poor Simon ill tool What  can  it
mean?'
  'God  knows! Anyhow it seems that virtuous and upright wife orders
preparations  of rooms for guests while miserable worm husband  goes
down  into dark, dirty cellar to select liquid sustenance for same.'
Richard paused for a moment. A wicked little smile hovered round his
lips  as he looked at Marie Lou curled up on the sofa with her  slim
legs  tucked  under her like a very lovely Persian kitten,  then  he
added  thoughtfully: 'I think tonight perhaps we might give  them  a
Little of the Chateau Lafite '99.'
  'Don't  you  dare,' she cried, springing to her  feet.  'You  know
that it's my favourit.,'
  'Got  you-got  you,'  chanted Richard merrily.  'Who's  a  glutton
now?'
  'You  beast,' she pouted deliciously, and for the thousandth  time
since he had brought her out of Russia her husband felt himself go a
little  giddy  as his eyes rested on the perfection  of  her  heart-
shaped face, the delicately flushed cheeks and the heavy-lidded blue
eyes, With a sudden movement, he jerked her to him and swinging  her
off her feet, picked her up in his arms.
  'Richard-put  me down-stop.' Her slightly husky voice  rose  to  a
higher note in a breathless gasp of protest.
  'Not until you kiss me.'
  'All right.'
  He  let her slide down to her feet, and although he was not a tall
man,  she was so diminutive that she had to stand on tiptoe to reach
her arms round his neck.
  'There,'  she  declared,  a  trifle  breathlessly,  after  he  had
crushed her soft lips under his. 'Now go and play with your bottles,
but  spare the Lafite, beloved. That's our own special wine, and you
mustn't  even give it to our dearest friends- unless it's for  Simon
and he's really ill.
  'I  won't,' he promised. 'But whatever I give them, we  shall  all
be  tight  if  we're not to be allowed to eat anything.  I  wish  to
goodness I knew what De Richleau is driving at.'
  'Something  it is worth our while to take notice of,  you  may  be
certain. Greyeyes never does anything without a purpose. He's a wily
old fox if ever there was one in this world.'
  'Yes-wily's  the  word,' Richard agreed. 'But it's  nearly  lunch-
time  now,  and I'm hungry. Surely we're not going to  take  serious
notice of this absurd telegram?'
  'Richard!' Marie Lou had curled herself up on the sofa again.  But
now she sat forward suddenly, almost closing her big eyes with their
long curved lashes. 'I do think we ought to do as he says, but I was
looking round the strawberry house this morning.'
  'Oh  were you!' He suppressed a smile. 'And picking a few  just'to
see how they were getting on, I don't mind betting.'
  'Three,'   she   answered   gravely.  'And   they   are   ripening
beautifully.  Now if we took a little cream and a little  sugar,  it
wouldn't  be  cheating really to go and have another  look  at  them
instead of having lunch-would it?'
  'No,'  said  Richard with equal gravity. 'But we have  an  ancient
custom  in  England  when  a girl takes a  man  to  pick  the  first
strawberries,'
  'But,  darling, you have so many ancient customs and  they  nearly
always end in kissing.'
  'Do you dislike them on that account?'
  'No.'  She  smiled, extending a small, strong  hand  by  which  he
pulled  her to her feet. 'I think that is one of the reasons  why  I
enjoy so much having become an Englishwoman.'
  They   left  Marie  Lou's  comfortable  little  sitting-room  and,
pausing  for  a moment for her to pull on a pair of gum-boots  which
came  almost  up  to her knees while Richard gave orders  cancelling
their luncheon, went out into the garden through the great octagonal
Library.
  The  house  was a rambling old mansion, parts of which dated  back
to  the thirteenth century, and the Library, being one of the oldest
portions of it, was sunk into the ground so that they had to  go  up
half  a  dozen steps from its french windows on to the long  terrace
which ran the whole length of the
  southern side of the house.
  A  grey  stone balustrade patched with moss and lichens  separated
the  terrace from the garden, and from the former two sets of  steps
led  down  to  a  broad, velvety lawn. An ancient cedar  graced  the
greensward  towards the east end of the mansion  where  the  kitchen
quarters  lay, hiding the roofs of the glass-houses and  the  walled
garden with its espaliered peach and nectarine trees.
  At  the  bottom  of  the lawn tall yew hedges shut  in  the  outer
circle  of  the  maze,  beyond which lay the  rose  garden  and  the
swimming-pool. To the right, just visible from the library  windows,
a  gravel walk separated the lawn from a gently sloping bank, called
the  Botticelli Garden. It was so named because in spring it had all
the  beauty of the Italian master's paintings. Dwarf trees of apple,
plum,  and cherry, standing no more than six feet high and separated
by  ten yards or more from each other, stood covered with white  and
pink  blossom  while, rising from the grass up  the  shelving  bank,
clumps  of polyanthus, pheasant's-eye narcissus, forget-me-nots  and
daffodils were planted one to the square yard.
  This  spring  garden was in full bloom now and the effect  of  the
bright  colours  against the delicate green of the young  grass  was
almost incredibly lovely. To walk up and down that two hundred  yard
stretch  of  green starred by its rnany-hued clumps of flowers  with
Richard  beside her was, Marie Lou thought -sometimes with a  little
feeling  of  anxiety that her present happiness  was  too  great  to
last-as  near  to Heaven as she would ever get. Yet she  spent  even
more time in the long walk that lay beyond it, for that was her own,
in  which  the  head  gardener was never allowed  to  interfere.  It
consisted of two glorious herbaceous borders rising to steep  hedges
on  either side, and ending at an old sun-dial beyond which lay  the
pond  garden,  modelled  from  that at  Hampton  Court,  sinking  in
rectangular  stages to a pool where, later in the year,  blue  lotus
flowers and white water-lilies floated serenely in the sunshine.
  As  they  came  out  on  to the terrace,  there  were  shrieks  of
'Mummy-Mummy,'  and a diminutive copy of Marie  Lou,  dressed  in  a
Russian  peasant  costume with wide puffed sleeves  of  lawn  and  a
slashed  vest  of  colourful embroidery  threaded  with  gold,  came
hurtling across the grass. Her mother and father went down the steps
of  the  terrace  to  meet  her, and as she  arrived  like  a  small
whirlwind Richard swung her up shoulder high in his arms.
  'What  is  it  Fleur  d'amour?' he asked, with simulated  concern,
calling her by the nick-name that he had invented for her. 'Have you
crashed  the scooter again or is it that Nanny's been a wicked  girl
today?'
  'No-no,' the child cried, her blue eyes, seeming enormous in  that
tiny face, opened wide with concern. 'Jim's hurted his-self.'
  'Has  he?'  Richard  put her down. 'Poor Jim. We  must  see  about
this.
  'He's  hurted  bad,'  Fleur went on, tugging  impulsively  at  her
mother's skirt. 'He's cutted hisself on his magic sword.'
  'Dear  me,' Marie Lou ran her ringers through Fleur's dark  curls.
She  knew  that by 'magic sword' Fleur meant the gardener's  scythe,
for Richard always insisted that the lawn at Cardinals Folly was too
old  and  too fine to be ruined by a mowing machine, and  maintained
the  ancient practice of having it scythe-cut. 'Where is he now,  my
sweet?'
  'Nanny  binded  him up and I helped a lot. Then he went  wound  to
the kitchen.'
  'And  you  weren't  frightened of the blood?' Richard  asked  with
interest.
  Fleur  shook her curly head. 'No. Fleur's not to be frightened  of
anyfink, Mummy says. Why would I be frightened of theblug?'
  'Silly  people are sometimes,' her father replied. 'But not people
who know things like Mummy and you and I.'
  At  that moment Fleur's nurse joined them. She had heard the  last
part of the conversation. 'It's nothing serious, madam,' she assured
Marie Lou. 'Jim was sharpening his scythe and the hone slipped,  but
he only cut his finger.'
  'But fink if he can't work,' Fleur interjected in a high treble.
  'Why?' asked her father gravely.
  'He's poor,' announced the child after a solemn interval for  deep
thought. 'He-has-to-work-to-keep-his-children. So if he can't  work,
he'll be in a muddle-won't he?'
  Richard   and   Marie Lou exchanged a  smiling glance  as  Simon's
expression  for  any sort of trouble came so glibly to  the  child's
lips.
  'Yes,  that's a serious matter,' her father agreed gravely.  'What
are we going to do about it?'
  'We mus' all give him somefink,' Fleur announced breathlessly.
  'Well, say I give him half-a-crown,' Richard suggested. 'How  much
do you think you can afford?'
  Til give half-a-cwown too.' Fleur was nothing if not generous.
  'But have you got it, Batuskha?' inquired her mother?
  Fleur  thought  for  a bit, and then said doubtfully:  'P'r'aps  I
haven't. So I'll give him a ha'-penny instead.'
  'That's splendid, darling, and I'll contribute a shilling,'  Marie
Lou  declared.  That  makes three shillings and  sixpence  halfpenny
altogether, doesn't it?'
  'But  Nanny  must give somefink,' declared Fleur suddenly  turning
on  her  nurse, who smiling said that she thought she  could  manage
fourpence.
  'There,' laughed Richard. 'Three and tenpence halfpenny! He'll  be
a  rich  man  for life, won't he? Now you had better  toddle  in  to
lunch.'
  This  domestic crisis having been satisfactorily settled,  Richard
and  Marie Lou strolled along beneath the balustraded terrace,  past
the  low branches of the old cedar, and so to the hot-houses.  Their
butler, Malin, had just arrived with sugar and fresh cream, and  for
half an hour they made a merry meal of the early strawberries.
  They  had  hardly finished when, to their surprise, since  it  was
barely two o'clock, Malin returned to announce the arrival of  their
guests. So they hurried back to the house.
  'There  they are,' cried Marie Lou as the three friends  came  out
from  the tall windows of the drawing-room on to the terrace.  'But,
darling, look at Simon-they have gone mad.'
  Well  might  the Batons think so from Simon's grotesque appearance
in  shorts,  cycling cape and the absurd mauve and orange cricketing
cap.  Hurried greetings were soon exchanged and the whole party went
back into the drawing-room.
  'Greyeyes,  darling,' Marie Lou exclaimed as she stood  on  tiptoe
again to kiss De Richleau's lean cheek. 'We had your telegram and we
are  dying  to know what it's all about. Have our servants conspired
to poison us or what?'
  'What,' smiled De Richleau. 'Definitely what, Princess. We have  a
very  strange story to tell you, and I was most anxious  you  should
avoid eating any meat for today at all events.'
  Richard moved towards the bell. 'Well, we're not debarred  from  a
glass of your favourite sherry, I trust.'
  The  Duke held up a restraining hand. 'I'm afraid we are. None  of
us must touch alcohol under any circumstances at present.'
  'Good  God!' Richard exclaimed. 'You don't mean that-  you  can't.
You have gone crazy!'
  'I do,' the Duke assured him with a smile. 'Quite seriously.'
  'We're  in  a muddle-a nasty muddle,' Simon added with  a  twisted
grin.
  'So  it appears,' Richard laughed, a trifle uneasily. He was quite
staggered  by  the  strange appearance of  his  friends,  the  tense
electric atmosphere which they had brought into the house with them,
and  the  unnatural way in which they stood about-speaking  only  in
short jerky, sentences.
  He  glanced  at  Rex,  usually so full of gaiety,  standing  huge,
gloomy and silent near the door, then he turned suddenly back to the
Duke and demanded: 'What is Simon doing in that absurd get-up? If it
was  the  right season for it I should imagine that he was competing
for the fool's prize at the Three Arts' Ball.'
  'I   can  quite  understand  your  amazement,'  the  Duke  replied
quietly,  'but  the  truth  is that Simon has  been  very  seriously
bewitched.'
  'It  is  obvious that something's happened to him,' agreed Richard
curtly. 'But don't you think it would be better to stop fooling  and
tell us just what all this nonsense is about?'
  'I  mean  it,' the Duke insisted. 'He was sufficiently ill advised
to  start dabbling in Black Magic a few months ago, and it's only by
the mercy of Providence that Rex and I were enabled to step in at  a
critical juncture with some hope of arresting the evil effects.'
  Richard's  brown  eyes held the Duke's grey ones  steadily.  'Look
here,'  he  said,  'I  am  far too fond  of  you  ever  to  be  rude
intentionally, but hasn't this joke gone far enough? To  talk  about
magic in the twentieth century is absurd.'
  'All  right. Call it natural science then.' De Richleau  leaned  a
little  wearily against the mantelpiece. 'Magic is only a  name  for
the sciences of causing change to occur in conformity with will.'
  'Or  by setting natural laws in action quite inadvertently,' added
Marie Lou, to everyone's surprise.
  'Certainly,'  the  Duke agreed after a moment,  'and  Richard  has
practised that type of magic himself.'
  'What on earth are you talking about?' Richard exclaimed.
  De  Richleau shrugged. 'Didn't you tell me that you got a  Diviner
down  from London when you were so terribly short of water here last
summer, and that when you took his hazel twig from him you found out
quite by accident that you could locate an underground spring in the
garden without his help?'
  'Yes,'  Richard hesitated. That's true, and as a matter  of  fact,
I've been successful in finding places where people could sink wells
on  several estates in the neighbourhood since. But surely that  has
something to do with electricity? It's not magic.'
  'If you were to say vibrations, you would be nearer the mark,'  De
Richleau replied seriously. 'It is an attunement of certain  little-
understood  vibrations  between  the  water  under  the  ground  and
something  in  yourself which makes the forked hazel  twig  suddenly
begin  to jump and revolve in your hands when you walk over a hidden
spring.  That is undoubtedly a demonstration of the lesser  kind  of
magic.'
  'The  miracle of Moses striking the rock in the desert from  which
the  waters gushed forth is only another example of the same thing,'
Simon cut in.
  Marie  Lou  was  watching  the Duke's face  with  grave  interest.
'Everyone knows there is such a thing as magic,' she declared,  'and
witchcraft. During those years that I lived in a little  village  on
the  borders  of the Siberian Forest I saw many strange things,  and
the  peasants went in fear and trembling of one old woman who  lived
in  a cottage ail alone outside the village. But what do you mean by
lesser magic?'
  'There  are two kinds,' De Richleau informed her. 'The  lesser  is
performing certain operations which you believe will bring  about  a
certain  result without knowing why it should be so. If you chalk  a
line on the floor and take an ordinary hen, hold its beak down for a
little  time on to the line and then release it, the hen will remain
there  motionless  with  its  head  bent  down  to  the  floor.  The
assumption  is that, being such a stupid creature, it believes  that
it  has  been tied down to the line and it is therefore  useless  to
endeavour to escape. But nobody knows for certain. All we do know is
that  it  happens. That is a fair example of an operation  in  minor
magic.  The great majority of the lesser witches and wizards in  the
part  had  no  conception  as to why their spells  worked,  but  had
learned  from  their  predecessors that if they  performed  a  given
operation a certain result was almost sure to follow it.'
  Rex  looked  up  suddenly and spoke for the first time.  'I'd  say
they were pretty expert at playing on the belief of the credulous by
peddling  a  sort  of  inverted Christian  Science,  faith  healing,
Coueism and all that as well.'
  'Of  course,' De Richleau smiled faintly. 'But they were  far  too
clever  to  tell  a  customer straight out that if  he  concentrated
sufficiently on his objective he would probably achieve it- even  if
they  realised  that  themselves. Instead,  they  followed  the  old
formulas which compelled him to develop his will power. If a man  is
in  love  with a girl and is told that he will get her if  he  rises
from  his  bed  at seven minutes past two every night for  a  month,
gathers  half  a dozen flowers from a new-made grave  in  the  local
churchyard and places them in a spot where the girl will  walk  over
them  the  following day, he does not get much chance to slacken  in
his desire and we all know that persistence can often work wonders.'
  'Perhaps,' Richard agreed with mild cynicism. 'But would you  have
us  believe that Simon is seeking the favour of a lady by  wandering
about in this lunatic get-up?'
  'No,  there  is also the greater magic which is only practised  by
learned  students  of  the  Art  who  go  through  long  courses  of
preparation  and  initiation, after which they understand  not  only
that certain apparently inexplicable results are brought about by  a
given  series of actions, but the actual reason why this  should  be
so. Such people are powerful and dangerous in the extreme, and it is
into the hands of one of these that our poor friend has fallen.'
  Richard  nodded,  realising at last that the  Duke  was  perfectly
serious  in his statement. 'This seems a most extraordinary affair,'
he  commented.  'I think you'd better start from the  beginning  and
give us the whole story.'
  'All  right.  Let's sit down. If you doubt any of  the  statements
that I am about to make, Rex will guarantee the facts and vouch  for
my sanity.'
  'I certainly will,' Rex agreed with a sombre smile.
  De  Richleau then told the Batons all that had taken place in  the
last  forty-eight  hours,  and asked quite  solemnly  if  they  were
prepared to receive Simon, Rex and himself under their roof in spite
of the fact that it might involve some risk to themselves.
  'Of  course,' Marie Lou said at once. 'We would not dream of  your
going away. You must stay just as long as you like and until you are
quite certain that Simon is absolutely out of danger.'
  Richard,  sceptical  still, but devoted to  his  friends  whatever
their  apparent  folly, nodded his agreement as he  slipped  an  arm
through  his  wife's.  'Certainly you  must  stay.  And,'  he  added
generously  without the shadow of a smile, 'tell us exactly  how  we
can help you best.'
  'It's  awfully  decent  of  you,' Simon hazarded  with  a  ghostly
flicker of his old wide-mouthed grin. 'But I'll never forgive myself
if any harm comes to you from it.'
  'Don't let's have that all over again,' Rex begged. 'We argued  it
long  enough in the car on the way here, and De Rich-leau's  assured
you  time and again that no harm will come to Richard and Marie  Lou
providing we take reasonable precautions.'
  'That  is so,' the Duke nodded. 'And your help will be invaluable.
You  see, Simon's resistance is practically nill owing to his having
been  under Mocata's influence for so long, and Rex and I are  at  a
pretty  low  ebb  after last night. We need every atom  of  vitality
which  we  can  get to protect him, and your coming fresh  into  the
battle should turn the scale in our favour. What we should have done
if  you  had thrown us out I can't think, because I know of  no  one
else who wouldn't have considered us all to be raving lunatics.'
  Richard laughed. 'My dear fellow, how can you even suggest such  a
thing? You would still be welcome here if you'd committed murder.'
  !I  may have to before long,' De Richleau commented soberly.  'The
risk  to  myself  is a bagatelle compared to the horrors  which  may
overwhelm the world if Mocata succeeds in getting possession of  the
Talisman-but I won't involve you in that of course.'
  This  Sabbat you saw ...' Richard hazarded after a moment.  'Don't
think  I'm  doubting your account of it, but isn't it just  possible
that  your  eyes  deceived you in the darkness?  I  mean  about  the
Satanic  part.  Everyone  knows that Sabbats  took  place  all  over
England  in  the  sixteenth and seventeenth  centuries.  But  it  is
generally accepted now that they were only an excuse for a bit of  a
blind and a sexual orgy. Country people had no motor bikes and buses
to take them in to local cinemas then, and the Church frowned on all
but the mildest forms of amusement, so the bad hats of the community
used  to  sneak off to some quiet spot every now and again  to  give
their repressed complexes an airing. Are you sure that it was not  a
revival  of  that  sort  of  thing staged  by  a  group  of  wealthy
decadents?'
  'Not  on  your  life,'  Rex declared with a sudden  shiver.  'I've
never  been scared all that bad before and, believe you me,  it  was
the real business.'
  'What  do  you wish us to do, Greyeyes dear?' Marie Lou asked  the
Duke.
  He  hoisted  himself slowly out of the chair  into  which  he  had
sunk.  'I must drive to Oxford. An old Catholic priest whom  I  know
lives  there  and I am going to try and persuade him to  entrust  me
with  a  portion of the Blessed Host. If he will, that is  the  most
perfect  of  all  protections which we could have to  keep  with  us
through  the night. In the meantime, I want the rest of you to  look
after  Simon.'  He smiled affectionately in Simon's direction.  'You
must  forgive me treating you like a child for the moment,  my  dear
boy, but I don't want the others to let you out of their sight until
I return.'
  'That's  all right,' Simon agreed cheerfully. 'But are you certain
that I'm not-er-carrying harmful things about with me still?'
  'Absolutely. The purification ceremonies which I practised on  you
last night have banished all traces of the evil. Our business now is
to  keep you free of it and get on Mocata's trail as quickly  as  we
can.'
  'Then  I  think I'll rest for a bit.' Simon glanced at Richard  as
he  followed the Duke towards the door. The nap we had at the  hotel
in  Amesbury after breakfast wasn't long enough to put me  right-and
afterwards perhaps you could lend me a decent suit of clothes?'
  'Of  course,' Richard smiled, 'Let's see Greyeyes off,  then  I'll
make you comfortable upstairs.'
  The  whole party filed into the hall and, crowding about  the  low
nail-studded  oaken door, watched De Richleau, who  promised  to  be
back  before dark, drive off. Then Richard, taking Simon by the arm,
led  him  up the broad Jacobean stairway, while Marie Lou turned  to
Rex.
  'What  do  you  really think of all this?' she asked gravely,  the
usual  merriment  of her deep blue eyes clouded by a  foreboding  of
coming trouble.
  He  stared  down at her upturned heart-shaped face from his  great
height  and  answered soberly. 'We've struck a gateway of  Hell  all
right,  my  dear, and I'm just worried out of my wits.  De  Richleau
didn't  give  you  the  whole story. There's a  girl  in  this  that
I'm-well-that I'm crazy about.'
  'Rex!'  Marie  Lou  laid her small strong hand on  his  arm.  'How
awful for you. Come into my room and tell me everything.'
  He  followed  her to her sitting-room and for half an hour  poured
into her sympathetic ears the strange tale of his three glimpses  of
Tanith  at  different times abroad, and then his unexpected  meeting
with  her  at Simon's party. Afterwards he related with more  detail
than the Duke had done their terrible experiences on Salisbury Plain
and was just beginning his anxious speculation as to what could have
happened to Tanith when Malin, the butler, softly opened the door.
  'Someone is asking for you on the telephone, Mr. Van Ryn, sir.'
  'For  me!'  Rex  stood  up and, excusing  himself  to  Marie  Lou,
hurried  out,  wondering who in the world it could be since  no  one
knew  his  whereabouts. He was soon enlightened.  A  lilting  voice,
which  had  a  strong resemblance to that of Marlene Dietrich,  came
over the wire as he placed the receiver to his ear.
  'Is  that you, Rex? Oh, I am so glad I have found you. I must  see
you at once-quickly-without a moment's delay.'
  'Tanith!'  he  exclaimed. 'How did you tumble to  it  that  I  was
here?'
  'Oh,  never mind that! I will tell you when I see you. But  hurry,
please.'
  'Where are you then?'
  'At  the  village inn, no more than a mile from you.  Do  come  at
once. It is very urgent.'
  For a second Rex hesitated, but only for a second. Simon would  be
safe enough in the care of Richard and Marie Lou, and Tanith's voice
had  all the urgency and agitation of extreme fear. Anxiety for  her
had  been gnawing at his heart ever since he had heard of her  crash
the  previous  evening.  He knew that he  loved  her  now-loved  her
desperately.
  'All  right,'  he  answered, his voice shaking a  little.  Til  be
right over.'
  Running  back across the hall, he explained breathlessly to  Marie
Lou what had happened.
  'You  must  go  of course,' she said evenly. 'But you'll  be  back
before nightfall won't you, Rex?'
  'Sure.' All his animation seemed suddenly to have returned to  him
as,  with  a  quick grin, he hurried out, snatched up his  hat  and,
leaving  the house, set off at a long easy loping trot by the  short
cut across the meadows to the village.
  Unnoticed  by  him, a short figure entered the drive  just  as  he
disappeared  beyond the boundary of the garden. A few moments  later
the  newcomer was in conversation with Malin. The butler  knew  that
his  master was upstairs sitting with his friend Mr. Aron while  the
latter rested, and had given orders that he was not to be disturbed,
so leaving the visitor in the hall he crossed to Marie Lou's sitting-
room.
  'There  is a gentleman to see you, madam,' he announced quietly.'A
Mr. Mocata.'


                                 22

                            The Satanist

  For  a  moment Marie Lou hesitated, her eyes round with  surprise,
staring at the butler. In the last hour she had heard so much  about
this strange and terrifying visitor, but it had not occurred to  her
for  one  instant that she might be called upon to face him  in  the
flesh so soon.
  Her  first impulse was to send upstairs for Richard, but like many
people   who   possess  extremely  small  bodies,  her   brain   was
exceptionally quick. Rex and the Duke were both absent, and, if  she
sent  for Richard, Simon would be left alone-the one thing  that  De
Richleau  had  been  so insistent should not be allowed  to  happen.
True,   she  and  Richard  would  have  the  principal  enemy  under
observation themselves, but he had allies. It flashed upon her  that
this  girl Tanith was one perhaps and had purposely decoyed Rex away
to  the inn. Mocata might have others already waiting to lure  Simon
out  of  the  house  while  they were busy talking  to  him.  Almost
instantly her mind was made up. Richard must not leave Simon, so she
would have to interview Mocata on her own.
  'Show him in,' she told the butler evenly. 'But if I ring you  are
to come at once-immediately, you understand?'
  'Certainly, madam.' Malin softly withdrew, while Marie Lou  seated
herself  in  an armchair with her back to the light and within  easy
reach of the bell-push.
  Mocata  was  shown  in,  and she studied  him  curiously.  He  was
dressed  in  a suit of grey tweeds and wore a black stock  tie.  His
head,  large, bald and shiny, reminded her of an enormous  egg,  and
the  several  folds  of  his heavy chin protruded  above  his  stiff
collar.
  'I  do  hope you'll forgive me, Mrs. Eaton,' he began in  a  voice
that  was  musical  and charming, 'for calling on  you  without  any
invitation. But you may perhaps have heard my name.'
  She  nodded  slightly, carefully ignoring the hand which  he  half
extended as she motioned him to the armchair on the opposite side of
the  fireplace.  Marie Lou knew nothing of Esoteric  Doctrines,  but
quite enough from the peasants' superstitions which had been rife in
the  little  village where she had lived, an outcast of the  Russian
Revolution, to be aware that she must not touch this man, not  offer
him any form of refreshment while he was in her house.
  The  afternoon  sunshine played full upon  Mocata's  pink,  fleshy
countenance  as  he went on, 'I thought perhaps that  would  be  the
case.  Whether  the facts have been rightly represented  to  you,  I
don't know, but Simon Aron is a very dear friend of mine, and during
his recent illness I have been taking care of him.'
  'I  see,' she answered guardedly. 'Well, it was hardly put  to  me
in that way, but what is the purpose of your visit?'
  'I understand that Simon is with you now?'
  'Yes,' she replied briefly, feeling that it was senseless to  deny
it, 'and his visit to us will continue for some little time.'
  He smiled then, and with a little shock Marie Lou suddenly
  caught  herself  thinking that he was really quite  an  attractive
person. His strange light-coloured eyes showed a strong intelligence
and,  to  her  surprise, a glint of the most friendly humour,  which
almost  suggested  that he was about to conspire with  her  in  some
amusing  undertaking. His lisping voice, too, was strangely pleasant
and  restful  to  listen  to as he spoke again  in  perfect  English
periods,  only  a curious intonation of the vowel sounds  indicating
his French extraction.
  'The  country air would no doubt be excellent for him,  and  I  am
certain  that  nothing  could be more charming  for  him  than  your
hospitality. Unfortunately there are certain matters, of  which  you
naturally  know nothing, but which make it quite imperative  that  I
should take him back to London tonight.'
  'I am afraid that is quite impossible.'
  'I  see,'  Mocata looked thoughtfully for a moment  at  his  large
elastic-sided boots. 'I feared that you might take this attitude  to
begin  with,  because  I imagine our friend De  Rich-leau  has  been
filling  the  heads  of  your husband and  yourself  with  the  most
preposterous nonsense. I don't propose to go into that  now  or  his
reason  for it, but I do ask you to believe me, Mrs. Eaton,  when  I
say  that  Simon will be in very considerable danger if you  do  not
allow me to take him back into my care.'
  'No  danger  will come to him as long as he is in my house,'  said
Marie Lou firmly.
  'Ah,  my  dear young lady,' he sighed a little wistfully.  'I  can
hardly expect anyone like yourself to understand precisely what will
happen  to  our poor Simon if he remains here, but his mental  state
has  been unsatisfactory for some little time, and I alone can  cure
him  of his lamentable condition. Chocolates!' he added suddenly and
irrelevantly as his eyes rested upon a large box on a nearby  table.
'You'll  think  me  terribly  rude,  but  may  I?  I  simply   adore
chocolates.'
  'I'm  so  sorry,'  Marie Lou replied without  the  flicker  of  an
eyelash, 'but that box is empty. Do go on with what you were  saying
about Simon.'
  Mocata withdrew his hand, feeling himself unable to challenge  her
statement  by  opening  the  box to see,  and  Marie  Lou  found  it
difficult to repress a smile as he made a comically rueful face like
some greedy schoolboy who has been disappointed of a slice of cake.
  'Really!'  he exclaimed. 'What a pity. May I put it in the  waste-
paper  basket  for you then? To leave it about is  such  a  terrible
temptation for people like myself.' Before she could stop him he had
reached  out  again and picked up the box, realising immediately  by
its weight that she had lied to him.
  'No,  please,'  she put out her hand and almost snatched  the  box
from  his  pudgy fingers. 'I gave it to my little girl  to  put  her
marbles in-we mustn't throw it away.' The box gave a faint rustle as
she  laid  it down beside her, so she added swiftly: 'She puts  each
one  in the little paper cups that the chocolates are packed in  and
arranges them in rows. She would be terribly distressed if they were
upset.'
  Mocata  was not deceived by that ingenious fiction. He guessed  at
once her true reason for denying him the chocolates and was quick to
realise that in this lovely young woman, who stood no taller than  a
well-grown  child, he was up against a far cleverer antagonist  than
he  had at first supposed. However, he was amply satisfied with  the
progress  he had made so far, sensing that her first antagonism  had
already  given  way to a guarded interest. He must  talk  to  her  a
little,  his  eyes and voice would do the rest. For  a  moment  they
stared at each other in silence. Then he opened his attack in a  new
direction.
  'Mrs.  Eaton, it is quite obvious to me that you distrust me  and,
after what your friends have told you, I am not surprised. But  your
intelligence  emboldens me to think that I am  likely  to  serve  my
purpose  better  by putting my cards on the table  than  by  beating
about the bush.'
  'It will make no difference what you do,' said Marie Lou quietly.
  He  ignored  the  remark and went on in his low, slightly  lisping
voice. 'I do not propose to discuss with you the rights or wrongs of
practising the Magic Art. I will confine myself to saying that I  am
a  practitioner  of  some experience and Simon, who  has  interested
himself in these things for the past few months, shows great promise
of  one day achieving considerable powers. Monsieur De Richleau  has
probably  led  you to suppose that I am a most evil person.  But  in
fairness  to myself I must protest that such a view of me  is  quite
untrue.  In  magic, there is neither good nor evil. It is  only  the
science  of  causing change to occur by means of  will.  The  rather
sinister reputation attaching to it is easily accounted for  by  the
fact  that it had to be practised in secret for many centuries owing
to  the ban placed upon it by the Church. Anything which is done  in
secret naturally begets a reputation for mystery and, since it  dare
not  face  the  light  of  day,  the reverse  of  good.  Few  people
understand anything of these mysteries, and I can hardly assume that
you  have  more than vague impressions gathered from casual reading;
but  at  least I imagine you will have heard that genuine adepts  in
the  secret Art have the power to call certain entities,  which  are
not understood or admitted by the profane, into actual being.
  'Now  these are perfectly harmless as long as they are  under  the
control of the practitioner, just as a qualified electrician  stands
no risk in adjusting a powerful electric battery from which a child,
who  played foolishly with it, might receive a serious shock or even
death.  This  analogy applies to the work Simon and  I  are  engaged
upon. We have called a certain entity into being just as workers  in
another  sphere  might  have constructed an electrical  machine.  It
needs both of us to operate this thing with skill and safety, but if
I  am  to  be  left  to handle it alone, the forces  which  we  have
engendered will undoubtedly escape and do the very gravest harm both
to Simon and myself. Have I made the position clear?'
  'Yes,' murmured Marie Lou. During that long explanatory speech  he
had  been regarding her with a steady stare, and as she Listened  to
his  quiet,  cultured  voice expressing  what  seemed  such  obvious
truths, she felt her whole reaction to his personality changing.  It
suddenly seemed to her absurd that this nice, charming gentleman  in
the neat grey suit could be dangerous to anyone. His face seemed  to
have  lost its puffy appearance even while he was speaking, and  now
her  eyes  beheld it as only hairless, pink and clean like  that  of
some elderly divine.
  'I  am so glad,' he went on in his even, silky tone. 'I felt quite
sure  that  if  you allowed me a few moments I could clear  up  this
misunderstanding which has only arisen through the over-eagerness of
your  old  friend  the Duke, and that charming  young  American,  to
protect  Simon from some purely imaginary danger. If I had only  had
the  opportunity to explain to them personally I am quite  convinced
that I should have been able to save them a great deal of worry, but
I  only met them for a few moments one evening at Simon's house.  It
is  a  charming little place that, and he very kindly permits me  to
share it with him while I am in England. If you are in London during
the  next few weeks, I do hope that you will come and see us  there.
We  both know without asking that Simon would be delighted,  and  it
would  give  me the very greatest pleasure to show you my collection
of perfumes, which I always take with me when I travel.
  'As  a  matter  of  fact, I am rather an  expert  in  the  art  of
blending  perfumes,  and quite a number of  my  women  friends  have
allowed  me to make a special scent for them. It is a delicate  art,
and interesting, because each woman should have her own perfume made
to  conform  to  her aura and personality. You have  an  outstanding
individuality, Mrs. Eaton, and it would be a very great pleasure  if
you  would  allow  me  some  time to see if  I  could  not  compound
something really distinctive in that way for you.'
  'It  sounds  most  interesting,' Marie Lou's  voice  was  low  and
Mocata's  eyes still held hers. Really, she felt, despite his  bulk,
he was a most attractive person, and she had been quite stupid to be
a  little frightened of him when he first entered the room. The  May
sunshine came in gently-moving shafts through the foliage of a  tree
outside the window, so that the dappled light played upon his  face,
and  it was that, she thought, which gave her the illusion that  his
unblinking  eyes  were larger than when she had  first  looked  into
them.
  'When will the Duke be back?' he asked softly. 'Unfortunately,  my
visit today must be a brief one, but I should so much have liked  to
talk this matter over quietly with him before I go.'
  'I  don't  know,'  Marie  Lou found herself  answering.  'But  I'm
afraid he won't be back before six.'
  'And our American friend-the young giant,' he prompted her.
  "I've no idea. He has gone down to the village.'
  'I  see.  What  a  pity,  but  of  course  your  husband  is  here
entertaining Simon, is he not?'
  'Yes, they are upstairs together.'
  'Well,  presently I should like to explain to your  husband,  just
as  I have to you, how very important it is that I should take Simon
back  with me tonight, but I wonder first if I might beg a glass  of
water. Walking from the village has given me quite a thirst.'
  'Of  course,' Marie Lou rose to her feet automatically and pressed
the  bell. 'Wouldn't you prefer a cup of tea or a glass of wine  and
some   biscuits?'  she  added,  completely  now  under  the  strange
influence that radiated from hirn.
  'You  are most kind, but just a glass of water and a biscuit if  I
may.'
  Malin  already stood in the doorway and Marie Lou gave orders  for
these  slender refreshments. Then she sat down again,  and  Mocata's
talk  flowed  on easily and glibly, while her ears became  more  and
more attuned to that faint musical lisping intonation.
  The  butler  appeared with water and biscuits on a  tray  and  set
them down beside Mocata, but for the moment he took no notice of it.
Instead  he  looked again at Marie Lou, and said: 'I do hope  you'll
forgive  me asking, but have you recently been ill? You are  looking
as though you were terribly run down and very, very tired.'
  'No,'  said  Marie Lou slowly. 'I haven't been ill.' But  at  that
moment her limbs seemed to relax where she was sitting and her heavy
eyelids  weighed upon her eyes. For some unaccountable  reason,  she
felt an intense longing to shut them altogether and fall asleep.
  Mocata  watched her with a faint smile curving his full mouth.  He
had  her under his dominance now and knew it. Another moment and she
would  be  asleep. It would be easy to carry her into the next  room
and  leave  her  there, ring for the servant, ask him  to  find  his
master and when Richard arrived, say that she had gone out into  the
garden  to find him. Then another of those quiet little talks  which
he  knew  so  well  how  to  handle, even when  people  were  openly
antagonistic to him to begin with, and the master of the house would
also  pass Into a quiet, untroubled sleep. Then he would simply call
Simon by his will and they would leave the house together.
  Marie Lou's eyes flickered and shut. With a shake of her head  she
jerked them open again. 'I'm so sorry,' she said sleepily. 'But I am
tired, most awfully tired. What was it that you were talking about?'
  Mocata's  eyes seemed enormous to her now, as they  held  her  own
with  a solemn, dreamy look. 'We shall not talk any more,' he  said.
'You  will sleep, and at four o'clock on the afternoon of  7th  May,
you will call on me at Simon's house in St. John's Wood.'
  Marie  Lou's  heavy lashes fell on her rounded cheeks  again,  but
next second her eyes were wide open, for the door was flung back and
Fleur came scampering into the room.
  'Darling,  what is it?' Marie Lou struggled wide awake and  Mocata
snapped his plump fingers with a little angry, disappointed gesture.
The  sudden entrance of the child had broken the current of delicate
vibrations.
  'Mummy-mummy,'  Fleur  panted.  'Daddy-sent-me-to-find-you.  We'se
playing  hosses in the garden, an' Uncle Simon says he's  a  dwagon,
an'  not  a  boss  at all. Daddy says you're to come  and  tell  him
diffwent.'
  'So  tbis  is  your little daughter? What a lovely child,'  Mocata
said amiably, stretching out a hand to Fleur. 'Come here, my ...'
  But  Marie Lou cut short his sentence as full realisation  of  the
danger to which she had exposed herself flooded her mind. 'Don't you
touch  her!'  she cried, snatching up the child with  blazing  eyes.
'Don't you dare! '
  'Really,  Mrs.  Eaton,' he raised his eyebrows  in  mild  protest.
'Surely  you cannot think that I meant to hurt the child? I  thought
too, that we were beginning to understand each other so well.'
  'You  beast,' Marie Lou cried angrily as she jabbed her finger  on
the bell. 'You tried to hypnotise me.'
  'What  nonsense,' he smiled good-humouredly. 'You  were  a  little
tired, but I fear I bored you rather with a long dissertation-  upon
things  which can hardly interest a woman so young and  charming  as
yourself.  It  was most stupid of me, and I hardly wonder  that  you
nearly fell asleep.'
  As   Malin  arrived  on  the  scene  she  thrust  Fleur  into  the
astonished  butler's arms and gasped: 'Fetch Mr. Eaton-he's  in  the
garden- quickly-at once.'
  The  butler hurried off with Fleur and Mocata turned on  her.  His
eyes  had gone cold and steely. 'It is vital that I should at  least
see Simon before I leave this house.'
  'You  shan't,' she stormed. 'You had better go before  my  husband
comes. D'you hear?' Then she found herself looking at him again, and
quickly  jerked her head away so that she should not see  his  eyes,
yet  she  caught his gesture as he stooped to pick up the  glass  of
water from the table.
  Furious now at the way she had been tricked into ordering
  it  for  him, and determining that he should not drink, she sprang
forward  and, before he could stop her, dashed the little  table  to
the  ground. The plate caught the carafe as it fell and  smashed  it
into a dozen pieces, the biscuits scattered and the water spread  in
a shallow, widening lake upon the carpet. Mocata swung round with an
angry snarl. This small, sensuous, catlike creature had cheated  him
at  the  last, and the placid, kindly expression of his face changed
to  one  of hideous demoniacal fury. His eyes, muddled now with  all
the   foulness  of  his  true  nature,  stripped  and  flayed   her,
threatening  a thousand unspeakable abominations in their  unwinking
stare as she-faced him across the fallen table.
  Suddenly,  with a fresh access of terror, Marie Lou cowered  back,
bringing  up  her  hands  to shield her face  from  those  revolting
eyeballs. Then a quick voice in the doorway exclaimed: 'Hello!  What
is all this?'
  'Richard,' she gasped. 'Richard, it's Mocata! I saw him because  I
thought you'd better stay with Simon, but he tried to hypnotise  me.
Have him thrown out. Oh, have him thrown out.'
  The  muscles  in Richard's lean face tightened as  he  caught  the
look of terror in his wife's eyes and thrusting her aside he took  a
quick  step towards Mocata. 'If you weren't twice my age and  in  my
house,  I'd  smash your face in,' he said savagely. 'And that  won't
stop me either unless you get out thundering quick.'
  With  almost  incredible  swiftness Mocata  had  his  anger  under
control.  His face was benign and smiling once more, as he shrugged,
showing no trace of panic. 'I'm afraid your wife is a little upset,'
he  said  mildly.  'It is this spring weather,  and  while  we  were
talking together, she nearly fell asleep. Having heard all sorts  of
extraordinary things about me from your friends, she scared  herself
into  thinking that I tried to hypnotise her. I apologise profoundly
for having caused her one moment's distress.'
  'I  don't believe one word of that,' replied Richard. 'Now  kindly
leave the house.'
  Mocata  shrugged  again.  'You are being  very  unreasonable,  Mr.
Eaton.  I called this afternoon in order to take Simon Aron back  to
London.'
  'Well, you're not going to.'
  'Please,' Mocata held up his protesting hand. 'Hear me for
  one   moment.   The   whole  situation  has  been   most   gravely
misrepresented  to  you, as I explained to your  wife,  and  if  she
hadn't suddenly started to imagine things we should be discussing it
quite  amicably now. In fact, I even asked her to send for  you,  as
she will tell you herself.'
  'It  was  a  trick,' cried Marie Lou angrily. 'Don't look  at  his
eyes, Richard, and for God's sake turn him out!'
  'You  hear,' Richard's voice held a threatening note and his  face
was white. 'You had better go-before I lose my temper.'
  'It's  a pity that you are so pig-headed, my young friend,' Mocata
snapped  icily.  'By retaining Simon here, you are bringing  extreme
peril  both  on  him and on yourself. But since  you  refuse  to  be
reasonable  and let me take him with me, let me at least  have  five
minutes' conversation with him alone.'
  'Not  five  seconds,'  Richard  stood  aside  from  the  door  and
motioned through it for Mocata to pass into the hall.
  'All  right! If that is your final word!' Mocata drew himself  up.
He  seemed  to grow in size and strength even as he stood  there.  A
terrible  force and energy suddenly began to shake his  obese  body.
They felt it radiating from him as his words came low and clear like
the  whispering splash of death-cold drops falling from icicles upon
a frozen lake.
  'Then  I  will  send the Messenger to your house  tonight  and  he
shall take Simon from you ah've-or dead!'
  'Get  out,'  gritted  Richard between his teeth,  'Damn  you-  get
out!'
  Without  another word Mocata left them. Marie Lou crossed herself,
and  with Richard's arm about her shoulder they followed him to  the
door.
  He  did  not turn or once look back, but plodded heavily,  a  very
ordinary figure now, down the long, sunlit drive.
  Richard suddenly felt Marie Lou's small body tremble against  him,
and with a little cry of fright she buried her head on his shoulder.
'Oh,  darling,'  she wailed. 'I'm frightened of that man-frightened.
Did you see?'
  'See what, my sweet?' he asked, a little puzzled.
    'Why!' sobbed Marie Lou. 'He is walking in the sunshine -but  he
has no shadow!'


                                 23

                        The Pride of Peacocks

  The  inn which served the village near Cardinals Folly was  almost
as  old  as the house. At one period it had been a hostelry of  some
importance,  but the changing system of highways in  the  eighteenth
century had left it denuded of the coaching traffic and doomed  from
then  on  to  cater  only for the modest wants of  the  small  local
population.  It  had been added to and altered many times;  for  one
long  period falling almost wholly into disrepair, since its revenue
was  insufficient for its upkeep, and so it had remained until a few
years  earlier upon the retirement of Mr. Jeremiah Wilkes,  the  ex-
valet of a wealthy peer who lived not far distant.
  Only  the  fact  that Mr. Wilkes suffered from  chronic  sciatica,
which rendered it impossible for him to travel any more with his old
master,  had made his retirement necessary, and through  those  long
years  of  packing just the right garments that his  lordship  might
need  for  Cowes, Scotland or the French Riviera and exercising  his
incomparable facility for obtaining the most comfortable seats  upon
trains which were already full, he had always had it in the back  of
his  mind  that he would like to be the proprietor of a  gentlemanly
'house.'
  When  the  question  of  his retirement had  been  discussed,  and
Jeremiah had named the ambition of his old age, his master had  most
generously  suggested the purchase and restoration of the  old  inn,
but  voiced his doubts of Jeremiah's ability to run it at a  profit;
stating  that  capital  was very necessary to  the  success  of  any
business, and adding in his innocence that he did not feel  Jeremiah
could  have  saved a sufficient sum despite the long period  in  his
employment.
  In  this,  of course, his lordship was entirely wrong.  Jeremiah's
wage  might have been a modest one but, while protecting his  master
from many generations of minor thieves, he had gathered in the time-
honoured  perquisites which were his due and, since he  had  stoutly
resisted the efforts of his fellow servants to interest him in  'the
horses,'   he  owned  investments  in  property  which  would   have
considerably amazed his master.
  Mr.  Wilkes,  therefore, had modestly stated that  he  thought  he
might  manage  providing that his lordship would be good  enough  to
send   him  such  friends  or  their  retainers  as  could  not   be
accommodated at the Court when shooting parties and such  like  were
in  progress. This having been arranged satisfactorily,  Mr.  Wilkes
underwent the metamorphosis from a gentleman's gentleman to host  of
'The Pride of Peacocks.'
  Very  soon the old inn began to thrive again; quietly, of  course,
since  it was no road-house for noisy motorists. But it became  well
known  among a certain select few who enjoyed a peaceful weekend  in
lovely  scenery,  and  Mr.  Wilkes' admirable  attention  to  these,
together with his wife's considerable knowledge of the culinary art,
never caused them to question their Monday morning bill.
  Jeremiah  had  further added to the attraction  of  the  place  by
stocking a cellar with variety and taste from his lordship's  London
wine  merchant  on  terms  extremely advantageous  to  himself,  and
moreover  to the added well-being of the neighbourhood. The  hideous
and  childish tyranny of licensing hours never affected him  in  the
least  for  the  simple reason that all his customers were  personal
friends, including, of course, the magistrates upon the local bench,
and  had some officious policeman from the town ever questioned  the
fact  that gentlemen were to be found there quite frequently in  the
middle  of  the  afternoon taking a little modest refreshment,  they
would  have quailed under the astonished and supercilious glance  of
the  good Mr. Wilkes, together with the freezing statement that this
was  no monetary transaction, but the gentlemen concerned were doing
him the honour to give him their opinion upon his latest purchase in
the way ot port.
  In  short,  it  will be gathered that this ancient hostelry  could
provide  all  the comfort which any reasonable person might  demand,
and  was  something a little out of the ordinary for a village  inn.
Rex,  of  course,  knew the place well from his previous  visits  to
Cardinals Folly and, a little out of breath from the pace  at  which
he had come, hurried into the low, comfortably furnished lounge, the
old oak beams of which almost came down to his head,
  Tanith  was  there alone. Immediately she saw him  she  jumped  up
from  her chair and ran to meet him, gripping both his hands in hers
with a strength surprising for her slender fingers.
  She  was  pale  and weary. Her green linen dress was  stained  and
mired  from  her  terrible journey on the previous  night,  although
obviously  she  had  done her best to tidy herself.  Her  eyes  were
shadowed  from strain and lack of sleep, seeming unnaturally  large,
and she trembled slightly as she clutched at him.
  'Oh, thank God you've come!' she cried.
  'But  how  did  you know I was at Cardinals Folly?' he  asked  her
quickly.
  'My  dear,'  she  sank down in the chair again, drawing  her  hand
wearily  across her eyes. 'I am terribly sorry about last  night.  I
think  I  was  mad when I stole your car and tried  to  get  to  the
Sabbat. I crashed of course, but I expect you will have heard  about
that-and then I did the last five miles on foot.'
  'Good God! Do you mean to say you got there after all?'
  She  nodded and told him of that nightmare walk from Easterton  to
the  Satanic  Festival. As she came to the part in her story  where,
against her will, she had been drawn down into the valley, her  eyes
once more expressed the hideous terror which she had felt.
  'I  could not help myself,' she said. 'I tried to resist with  all
my  mind  but  my  feet simply moved against my will.  Then,  for  a
moment,  I thought that the heavens had opened and an angry God  had
suddenly decided to strike those blasphemous people dead. There  was
a noise like thunder and two giant eyes like those of some nightmare
monster  seemed to leap out of the darkness right at me. I screamed,
I  think,  and  jumped aside. I remember falling  and  springing  up
again.  The power that had held my feet seemed to have been suddenly
released and I fled up the hill in absolute panic. When I got to the
top I tripped over something and then I must have fainted.'
  Rex  smiled.  That was us in the car,' he said. 'But how  did  you
know where to find me?'
  'It  was not very difficult,' she told him. 'When I came to, I was
lying on the grass and there wasn't a sound to show that there was a
living  soul within miles of me. I started off at a run without  the
faintest  idea where I was going-my only thought being to  get  away
from  that  terrible valley. Then when I was absolutely exhausted  I
fell  again,  and I must have been so done in that  I  slept  for  a
little in a ditch.
  'When I woke up, it was morning and I found that I was quite  near
a main road. I limped along it not knowing what I should come to and
then  I  saw houses and a straggling street and, after a  little,  I
discovered that I had walked into Devizes.
  'I  went  into the centre of the town and was about to go into  an
hotel when I realised that I had no money; but I had a brooch, so  I
found  a  jeweller's and sold it to them-or rather, they  agreed  to
advance me twenty pounds, because I didn't want to part with it  and
it  must be worth at least a hundred. An awfully nice old man  there
agreed  to keep it as security until I could send him the  money  on
from  London. Then I did go to the hotel, took a room and  tried  to
think things over.
  'Such an extraordinary lot seemed to have happened since you  took
me  off  in your car from Claridges yesterday that at first I  could
not  get  things straight at ail, but one thing stood out absolutely
clearly.  Whether  it was you or the vision of my  mother,  I  don't
know, but my whole outlook had changed completely. How I could  ever
have  allowed  myself to listen to Madame D'Urfe and do  the  things
I've  done I just can't think. But I know now that I've been in  the
most  awful  danger,  and that I must try and  get  free  of  Mocata
somehow.  Anyone would think me mad, and possibly I am, to  come  to
you  like this when I hardly know you, but the whole thing has  been
absolutely  outside all ordinary experiences. I am  terribly  alone,
Rex, and you are the only person in the world that I can turn to.'
  She  sank  back in her chair almost exhausted with the  effort  of
endeavouring to impress him with her feelings, but he leant  forward
and,  taking  one  of  her  hands in his great  leg-of-mutton  fist,
squeezed it gently.
  'There,  there,  my sweet.' Speaking from his heart  he  used  the
endearment  quite naturally and unconsciously. 'You  did  the  right
thing every time. Don't you worry any more. Nobody is going to  hurt
a hair of your head now you've got here safely. But how in the world
did you do it?'
  Her  eyes  opened again and she smiled faintly. 'My only hope  was
to throw myself on your protection, so I had to find you somehow and
that part wasn't difficult. All systems of divination are merely  so
many  methods of obscuring the outer vision, in order that the inner
may  become clear. Tea-leaves, crystals, melting wax, lees of  wine,
cards, water, entrails, birds, sieve-turning, sand and all the rest.
  'I  wanted sleep terribly when I got to that hotel bedroom, but  I
knew  that I mustn't allow myself to, so I took some paper from  the
lounge,  and  borrowed a pencil. Then I threw myself into  a  trance
with the paper before me and the pencil in my hand. When I looked at
it  again I had quite enough information scribbled down to enable me
to follow you here.'
  Rex  accepted this amazing explanation quite calmly. Had  he  been
told  such  a  thing a few days before he would have  considered  it
fantastic, but now it never even occurred to him that it was in  any
way  extraordinary  that a woman desiring to  know  his  whereabouts
should throw herself into a trance and employ automatic writing.
  She  glanced at the old grandfather clock which stood ticking away
in  a  corner  of the low-raftered room. Half an hour  had  sped  by
already and he was feeling guilty now at having left Simon. He would
never be able to forgive himself if, in his absence, any harm befell
his  friend.  Now that he knew Tanith was safe he must get  back  to
Cardinals  Folly, so he announced abruptly: 'I'm mighty  sorry,  but
I've got Simon to look after so I can't stay here much longer.'
  'Oh,  Rex,'  her eyes held his imploringly. 'You must  not  unless
you  take me with you. If you leave me alone, Mocata will be certain
to get me.'
  For  a moment Rex hesitated miserably, wrestling with the quandary
that  faced  him.  If  Tanith was telling  the  truth,  he  couldn't
possibly leave her to be drawn back by that terrible power of  evil.
But was she? So far she had been Mocata's puppet. How much truth was
there  in  this  pretended change of heart? Had Mocata  planted  her
there in order to lure him deliberately away from Simon's side?
  It  occurred  to  him  that he might take her  back  with  him  to
Cardinals  Folly, for if she was speaking the truth she was  in  the
same  case  as  Simon. They could keep the two of them together  and
concentrate  their  forces  against  the  black  magician.  But   he
dismissed the idea almost as soon as it entered his mind. To  do  so
would  be  playing Mocata's game with a vengeance.  If  Tanith  were
acting  consciously or unconsciously under his influence, God  alone
knew  what  powers  she might possess to aid her  master  once  they
accepted  her  as a friend in their midst. If he took her  there  it
would  be  like  introducing one of the  enemy  into  a  beleaguered
fortress.
  'What  are  you  afraid  might happen if I leave  you?'  he  asked
suddenly.
  'You can't-you mustn't,' her eyes pleaded with him, 'Not only  for
my  own sake, but your friends' as well. Mocata has a hundred  means
of  knowing where Simon is and where I am too. He may arrive here at
any  moment. It's no good pretending Rex. I know beyond any question
that I cannot resist him and he'll work through me, however much  my
will is set against it. He's told me a dozen times that he has never
met  a  woman who is such a successful medium for him as myself.  So
you can be certain that he is on his way here now.'
  'What d'you think he'll do when he turns up?'
  'He  will  throw me into a trance and call Simon to him.  Then  if
Simon fails to come Mocata may curse him through me.'
  Rex  shrugged. 'Don't worry. De Richleau's a wily old bird.  He'll
turn the curse aside some way.'
  'But  you  don't seem to understand,' she sobbed. 'If a  curse  is
sent  out  it  must lodge somewhere, and if it fails  to  reach  its
objective  because  there  is an equally  strong  influence  working
against it, the vibrations recoil and impinge upon the sender.'
  'Steady now.' He took her hands and tried to soothe her. 'If  that
is so I guess we couldn't find a better way to tickle up Mocata.'
  'No-no!! He never does things himself-at least I have never  known
him  to-just in case he fails, because then he would have to pay the
penalty.  Instead, he uses other people -hypnotises them  and  makes
them  throw out the thought or the wish. That is what he will do  to
me. If he succeeds, you will no longer be able to protect Simon, and
if he fails, it is I who will pay the price. That is why you've just
got to stay with me and prevent him using me as his instrument.'
  'Holy  smoke! Then we're in a proper jam!' Rex's brain was working
swiftly.  If she were telling the truth, she was in real danger.  If
not, at least Simon still had Richard and Marie Lou to take care  of
him until the Duke's return.
  All  his  chivalry  and  his love for her  which  seemed  to  have
blossomed  overnight welled up and told him that he must chance  her
honesty and remain there to protect her. 'All right, I'll stay,'  he
said after a moment.
  'Oh, thank God!' she sighed. 'Thank God!'
  'But  tell me,' he went on, 'just why is it you're such a  kingpin
medium to this man? What about old Madame D'Urfe and the rest? Can't
he do his stuff through them?'
  Tanith looked at him through tear-dimmed eyes and shook her  head.
'Not  in  the  same  way. You see there is rather  an  unusual  link
between us. My number is twenty and so is his.'
  Rex  frowned. 'What exactly do you mean by that?' he  asked  in  a
puzzled voice.
  'I mean our astrological number,' she replied quietly. 'Give me  a
piece of paper, and I will show you.'
  Rex  handed her a few sheets from a nearby table and a pencil from
his  waistcoat  pocket, then she quickly drew  out  a  list  of  the
numerical values to the letters of the alphabet: -

         A=1           K=2           S=3
         B=2           L=3           T=4
         C=3           M=4           U=6
         D=4           N=5           V=6
         E=5           O=7           W=6
         F=5           P=8           X=5
         G=3           Q=1           Y=1
         H=5           R=2           Z=7
         I or J=1

  'There!'  she  went on. 'By substituting numbers  for  letters  in
anyone's  name and adding them up you get their occult number  which
indicates  the  planet that influences them most  in  all  spiritual
affairs.  It  must  be  the name by which they  are  most  generally
known-even if it is a pet name. Now look!'

         M=4                   T=4
         O=7                   A=1
         C=3                   N=5
         A=1                   I=1
         T=4                   T=4
         A=1                   H=5
         ____                  ____
             20   2+0=2            20
                           2+0=2

  'You  see how closely our vibrations are attuned. Two is the value
of  the  Moon,  to which both he and I are subject,  and  any  names
having   a  total  numerical  value  which  reduce  by  progresssive
additions  to two, such as eleven or twenty-nine or thirty-eight  or
forty-seven, would give us some affinity, but that they actually add
up  to the same compound number shows that we are attuned to a  very
remarkable  degree. That is why I have proved such an  exceptionally
good medium for him to work through.'
  'But you are utterly different from him,' Rex protested,
  'Of  course,'  she  nodded gravely. 'One's birth  date  gives  the
material  number,  which is generally that  of  another  planet  and
modifies the influence of the spiritual number considerably.  As  it
happens mine is May 2nd-again a two you see, so I am an almost  pure
type.  Moon  people  are intensely imaginative, artistic,  romantic,
gentle  by  nature and not very strong physically. They  are  rather
over-sensitive  and lacking in self-confidence, unsettled  too,  and
liable to be continually changing their plans, but most of them,  of
course,  have some balancing factor. Mocata gets all his imaginative
and  psychic qualities from the Moon, but his birthday is April 24th
which adds up to six, and six being the number of Venus, he is  very
strongly  influenced by that planet. Venus people are extremely  mag
netic.  They  attract  others  easily  and  are  usually  loved  and
worshipped  by  those under them, but very often they are  obstinate
and unyielding. It is that in his nature which balances the weakness
of the Moon and makes him so determined in carrying out his plans.'
  'What  do  I  come  under?" Rex asked with sudden  curiosity.  'My
names are so short that I'm generally known by all three.'
  Again  Tanith took the paper and quickly worked out the equivalent
of his name.

	R=2
	E=5
	X=5
	--- = 12
	V=6
	A=1
	N=5
	--- = 12
	R=2
	Y=1
	N=5
     --- = 8
          ---
           32 and 3+2=5

  She  looked at him sharply. 'Yes, I am not surprised.  Five  is  a
fortunate  and magic number which comes under Mercury.  Such  people
are  versatile  and  mercurial,  quick  in  thought  and  decisions,
impulsive  in  action and detest plodding work.  They  make  friends
easily  with every type and have a wonderful elasticity of character
which  can recover at once from any setback. Even though  I  do  not
know  you well, I am certain that all this is true of you. I  expect
you  are  a born speculator as well and every type of risk  attracts
you.'
  'That  certainly is so,' Rex grinned as she went on  thoughtfully:
'But  I  should have thought that there was a good bit  of  the  Sun
about you because you have such strong individuality and you are  so
definite in your views.'
  'I was born on the 19th of August if that gives you a line.'
  She  smiled.  'Yes, 19 is 1+9 which equals ten and 1+0  equals  1,
the  number of the Sun. So I was right, and it is that part  of  you
which I think attracts me so much. Sun and Moon people always get on
well together.'
  'I  don't  know  anything about that,' Rex said softly.  'But  I'm
dead sure I could never see too much of you.'
  She  lifted her eyes from his quickly as though almost  in  fright
and to break the pause that followed he asked: 'What number is Simon
associated with?'
  'He  was  born  under Saturn as we know only  too  well,  and  his
occult  number is certain to be the Saturrdan eight,' Tanith replied
promptly, scribbling the name and numbers on the paper.


           S=3
           I=1
           M=4
           O=7
           N=5
           --- = 20
           A=1
           R=2
           O=7
           N=5
           --- = 15
                 --
                 35 and 3+5=8

    'By  Jove!  That's queer,' Rex murmured as he saw  the  name
worked out quite simple to the number she had predicted.
    'He  is  a  typical number eight person too,' she  went  on.
'They  have deep, intense natures and are often lonely at  heart
because they are frequently misunderstood. Sometimes they play a
most  important  part  on  life's  stage  and  nearly  always  a
fatalistic  one.  They are almost fanatically loyal  to  persons
they  are  fond  of  or causes they take up,  and  carry  things
through  regardless  of making enemies. It is  not  a  fortunate
number  to  be  born  under as a rule, and such  people  usually
become great successes or great failures.'
    Rex  drew the paper towards him, and taking the pencil  from
her  began to work out for himself the numerical symbols  of  De
Richleau, Richard Eaton and Marie Lou.

                 R=2
                 I=1
  D=4            C=3
  E=5            H=5
  --- = 9        A=1            M=4
  R=2            R=2            A=1
  I=1            D=4            R=2
  C=3            --- = 18       I=1
  H=5            E=5            E=5
  L=3            A=1            --- = 13
  E=5            T=4            L=3
  A=1            O=7            O=7
  U=6            N=5            U=6
  --- = 26       --- = 22       --- = 16
        --            --              --
        35 = 8         40 = 4         29 = 11 = 2

  'This is amazing,' Tanith exclaimed when he had finished.  The
Duke  not  only  comes  under the eight like  Simon,  but  their
compound number-thirty-five-is the same as well. He should  have
immence  influence  with Simon through that  affinity,  just  as
Mocata  has  over  me, and the nine in his name  gives  him  the
additional qualities of the born leader, independence,  success,
courage and determination. If anyone in the world can save  your
friend,  that extraordinary combination of trength and  sympathy
will enable De Richleau to do so.'
  'But  d'you see that the names Richleau and Ryn boil  down  to
eight as well, linking us both with Simon. That's strange, isn't
it?'
  'Not altogether. Any numerologist who knew of your devotion to
each  other  would  expect to find some such  affinity  in  your
numbers.  You  will  see, too, that your other  friend,  Richard
Eaton, is a four person, which accounts for his sympathy towards
you.  The  eight  is formed by two halves or circles  and,  four
being  the half of eight, persons with those numbers will always
incline towards each other. Then his wife, like myself, is a two
which is again linked to all four of you because it is divisible
into eight.'
  Rex  nodded. 'It's the strangest mystery I've met up  with  in
the  whale  of a while. There isn't a single odd number  in  the
whole series, but tell me, would this combination of eights be a
good thing d'you reckon-or no?'
  'It is very, very potent,' she said slowly. '888 is the number
given to Our Lord by students of Occultism in his aspect as  the
Redeemer. Add them together and you get twenty-four. 2+4=6 which
is  the number of Venus, the representative of Love. That is the
complete opposite of 666 which Revelations give as the number of
the  Beast.  The  three sixes add to eighteen,  and  1+8-9,  the
symbol of Mars-De Richleau's secondary quality which makes him a
great  leader  and  fighter, but in its  pure  state  represents
Destruction, Force and War.'
  At  the  mention of War, Rex's whole mind was jerked from  the
quiet,  comfortable,  old-fashioned  inn  parlour  to  a  mental
picture  of De Richleau as he had stood only a few hours  before
with  the  light of dawn breaking over Stonehenge. He saw  again
the Duke's grey face and unnaturally bright eyes as he spoke  of
the  Talisman of Set; that terrible gateway out of Hell  through
which, if Mocata found it, those dread four horsemen would  come
riding,  invisible but all-powerful, to poison the  thoughts  of
peace-loving  people  and  manipulate  unscrupulous   statesmen,
influencing them to plunge Europe into fresh calamity.
  Not  only  had  they  to fight Mocata for Simon's  safety  and
Tanith's  as well but, murder though it might be to people  lack
ing  in  understanding, they had to kill him even if  they  were
forced to sacrifice themselves.
  With  sudden clarity Rex saw that Tanith's appeal  for  protec
tion  offered  a golden, opportunity to carry the war  into  the
enemy's  camp.  She was so certain that Mocata would  appear  to
claim  her,  and  De Richleau had stated positively  that  while
daylight lasted the Satanist was no more powerful than any other
thug.
  'Why,'  Rex  thought,  with a quick tightening  of  his  great
muscles,  'should he not seize Mocata by force when he  arrived;
then send for the Duke to decide what they should do with him.'
  Only  one  difficulty seemed to stand in  the  way.  He  could
hardly  attack a visitor and hold him prisoner in The  Pride  of
Peacocks.'  Mr.  Wilkes  might object to  that.  But  apparently
Mocata  could find Tanith with equal ease wherever she  was,  so
she  must be got out of the inn to some place where the business
could be done without interference.
  For  a moment the thought of Cardinals Folly entered his  mind
again, but if he once took Tanith there, they could hardly  turn
her  out later on, and she might become a highly dangerous focus
in  the  coming night; besides, Mocata might not care to risk  a
visit  to the house in daylight with the odds so heavily against
him, and that would ruin the whole plan. Then he remembered  the
woods  at  the bottom of the garden behind the inn. If  he  took
Tanith  there and Mocata did turn up he would have  a  perfectly
free  hand in dealing with him. He glanced across at Tanith  and
suggested casually: 'What about a little stroll?'
  She shook her fair head, and lay back with half-closed eyes in
the  arm-chair. 'I would love to, but I am so terribly tired.  I
had no proper sleep you know last night.'
  He  nodded. 'We didn't get much either. We were sitting around
Stonehenge  the best part of the time till dawn. After  that  we
went  into Amesbury where the Duke took a room. The people there
must have thought us a queer party-one room for three people and
beds  being specially shifted into it at half-past seven in  the
morning, but he was insistent that we shouldn't leave Simon  for
a  second.  So we had about four hours' shut-eye on those  three
beds,  all  tied together by our wrists and ankles; but  it's  a
glorious afternoon and the woods round here are just lovely  now
it's  May.' 'If you like,' She rose sleepily. 'I dare not.go  to
sleep  in  anycase. You mustn't let me until to-morrow  morning.
After midnight it will be May 2nd, the mystic two again you see,
and  my  birthday. So during the dark hours tonight I  shall  be
passing  into my fatal day. It may be good or evil, but in  such
circumstances it is almost certain to bring some crisis  in  rny
life, and I'm afraid, Rex, terribly afraid.'
  He  drew  her  arm protectively through his and  led  her  out
through the back door into the pleasant garden which boasted two
large,  gay archery targets, a pastime that Jeremiah Wilkes  had
seen  fit  to  institute for the amusement of the local  gentry,
deriving considerable profit therefrom when they bet each  other
numerous  rounds of drinks upon their prowess with the  six-foot
bow.
  A  deep border of dark wallflowers sent out their heady  scent
at the farther end of the lawn and beyond them the garden opened
on to a natural wooded glade. A small stream marked the boundary
of  Mr. Wilkes' domain and when they reached it, Rex passed  his
arm  round  Tanith's body, lifted her before she could  protest,
and  with one spring of his long legs cleared the brook. She did
not  struggle from his grasp, but looked up at him curiously  as
she lay placid in his arms.
  'You  must  be very strong,' she said. 'Most men  can  lift  a
woman, but it can't be easy to jump a five-foot brook with one.'
  'I'm  strong enough,' he smiled into her face, not  attempting
to  put  her  down. 'Strong enough for both of us.  You  needn't
worry,' Then, still carrying her in his arms, he walked on  into
the  depths of the wood until the fresh, green beech  trees  hid
them from the windows of the inn.
  'You will get awfully tired,' she said lazily.
  'Not me,' he declared, shaking his head. 'You may be tall, but
you're  only  a featherweight. I could carry you  a  mile  if  I
wanted, and it wouldn't hurt me any.'
  'You needn't,' she smiled up at him. 'You can put me down  now
and  we'll sit under the trees. It's lovely here. You were quite
right-much nicer than the inn.'
  He laid her down very gently on a sloping bank, but instead of
rising,  knelt above her with one arm still about her  shoulders
and  looked down into her eyes. 'You love me,' he said suddenly.
'Don't you?'
  'Yes,'  she  confessed with troubled shadows brooding  in  her
golden eyes. 'I do. But you mustn't love me, Rex. You know  what
I  told  you  yesterday.  I'm going to die.  I'm  going  to  die
soon-before the year is out.'
  'You're  not,'  he  said, almost fiercely. 'We'll  break  this
devil Mocata-De Richleau will. I'm certain.'
  'But,  my  dear, it's nothing to do with him,'  she  protested
sadly.  'It's just Fate, and you haven't known me long, so  it's
not too late yet for you to keep a hold on yourself, You mustn't
love  me,  because if you do, it will make you terribly  unhappy
when I die.'
  'You're  not going to die,' he repeated, and then  he  laughed
suddenly,  boyishly, ail his mercurial nature rising  to  dispel
such  gloomy  thoughts.  'If  we both  die  tomorrow,'  he  said
suddenly, 'we've still got today, and I love you, Tanith. That's
all there is to it.'
  Her  arms crept up about his neck and with sudden strength she
kissed him on his mouth.
  He  grabbed  her then, his lips seeking hers again and  again,
while he muttered little phrases of endearment, pouring out  all
the  agony of anxiety that he had felt for her during  the  past
night  and the long run from Amesbury in the morning. She  clung
to  him, laughing a little hysterically although she was not far
from  tears. This strange new happiness was overwhelming to her,
flooding her whole being now with a desperate desire to live; to
put  behind her those nightmare dreams from which she had  woken
shuddering  in  the past months at visions of herself  torn  and
bleeding,  the  victim  of some horrible  railway  accident,  or
trapped  upon  the  top  storey of a blazing  building  with  no
alternative but to leap into the street below. For a  moment  it
almost  seemed  to her that no real foundation existed  for  the
dread  which  had haunted her since childhood.  She  was  young,
healthy  and full of life. Why should she not enjoy to the  full
all  the  normal pleasures of life with this strong,  merry-eyed
man-who had come so suddenly into her existence.
  Again  and  again  he assured her that all those  thoughts  of
fatality being certain to overtake her were absurd. He told  her
that   once  she  was  out  of  Europe  she  would  see   things
differently; the menace of the old superstition-ridden countries
would drop away and that, in his lovely old home in the southern
states, they would be able to laugh at Fate together.
  Tanith did not really believe him. Her habit of mind had grown
so  strongly upon her; but she could not bring herself to  argue
against  his happy auguries, or spoil those moments of  glorious
delight as they both confessed their passion for each other.
  As he held her in his arms a marvellous languor began to steal
through all her limbs. 'Rex,' she said softly. 'I'm utterly done
in  with this on top of all the rest. I haven't slept for nearly
thirty-six hours. I ought not to now, but I'll never be able  to
stay  awake  tonight unless I do. No harm can come to  me  while
you're with me, can it?'
  'No,'  he said huskily. 'Neither man nor devil shall harm  you
while I'm around. You poor sweet, you must be just about at  the
end. of your tether. Go to sleep now-just as you are.'
  With  a  little sigh she turned over, nestling her  fair  head
into the crook of his arm, where he sat with his back propped up
against a tree-trunk. In another moment she was sound asleep.
  The afternoon drew into evening. Rex's arms and legs were cold
and  stiff, but he would not move for fear of waking her. A  new
anxiety began to trouble him. Mocata had not appeared, and  what
would they think had become of him at Cardinals Folly? Marie Lou
knew  he had gone to the inn, and they would probably have  rung
up  by  now.  But, like a fool, he had neglected  to  leave  any
message for them.
  The shadows fell, but still there was no sign of Mocata, and
the imps of doubt once more began to fill Rex's mind with
horrible speculations as to the truth of Tanith's story. Had she
consciously or unconsciously lured him from Simon's side on
purpose? Simon would be safe enough with Richard and Marie Lou,
and De Richleau had promised to rejoin them before dusk-but
perhaps Mocata was plotting some evil to prevent the Duke's
return. If that were so-Rex shivered slightly at the
thought-Richard knew nothing of those mysterious protective
barriers with which it would be so necessary to surround Simon
in the coming night-and he, who at least knew what had been done
the night before-would be absent. By his desertion of his post
poor Simon might fall an easy prey to the malefic influence of
the Satanist.
  He thought more than once of rousing Tanith, but she looked so
peaceful,  so  happy,  so  lovely there,  breathing  gently  and
resting  in his strong arms with all her limbs relaxed  that  he
could  not bring himself to do it. The shadows lengthened, night
drew  on,  and at last darkness fell with Tanith still sleeping.
The  night  of  the ordeal had come and they were alone  in  the
forest.


                               24

                 The Scepticism of Richard Eaton

  At  a  quarter  to six, De Richleau arrived back at  Cardinals
Folly and Richard, meeting him in the hall, told him of Mocata's
visit.
  'I  am  not altogether surprised,' the Duke admitted sombrely.
'He  must  be pretty desperate to come here in daylight  on  the
chance  of  seeing Simon, but of course, he is  working  against
time-now. Did he threaten to return?'
  'Yes.'   Richard  launched  into  full  particulars   of   the
Satanist's  attempt on Marie Lou and the conversation  that  had
followed. As he talked he studied De Richleau's face, struck  by
his anxious harassed expression. Never before had he thought  of
the  Duke as old, but now for the first time it was brought home
to  him that De Richleau must be nearly double his own age.  And
this  evening he showed it. He seemed somehow to have shrunk  in
stature, but perhaps that was because he was standing with  bent
shoulders  as  though some invisible load was borne  upon  them.
Richard was so impressed by that tired, lined face that he found
himself ending quite seriously: 'Do you really think he can work
some devilry tonight?'
  De  Richleau  nodded.  'I am certain of it,  and  I'm  worried
Richard. My luck was out today. Father Brandon, whom I  went  to
see,  was unfortunately away. He has a great knowledge  of  this
terrible  "other world" that we are up against, and  knowing  me
well,  would have helped us, but the young priest I saw  in  his
place  would not entrust me with the Host, nor could I  persuade
him  to  come  with  it himself, and that is  the  only  certain
protection  against the sort of thing Mocata  may  send  against
us.'
  'We'll manage somehow,' Richard smiled, trying to cheer him.
  'Yes, we've got to.' A note of the old determination came into
De  Richleau's voice. 'Since the Church cannot help us  we  must
rely upon my knowledge of Esoteric formulas. Fortunately, I have
the most important aids with me already, but I should be glad if
you  would  se-rad  down  to  the village  blacksmith  for  five
horseshoes.  Tell  whoever you send, that  they  must  be  brand
new-that is essential.'
  At   this  apparently  childish  request  for  horseshoes  all
Richard's  scepticism welled up with renewed force, but  he  con
cealed  it with his usual tact and agreed readily enough.  Then,
the  mention of the village having reminded him of Rex, he  told
the Duke how their friend had been called away to the inn.
  De  Richleau's  face fell suddenly. 'I thought  Rex  had  more
sense!' he exclaimed bitterly. 'We must telephone at once.'
  Richard got on to Mr. Wilkes, but the landlord could give them
little  information. A lady had arrived at about three, and  the
American  gentleman had joined her shortly after. Then they  had
gone out into the garden and he had seen nothing of them since.
  De  Richleau shrugged angrily. 'The young fool! I should  have
thought that he would have'seen enough of this horror by now  to
realise  the danger of going off with that young woman.  It's  a
hundred  to one that she is Mocata's puppet if nothing  else.  I
only  pray to God that he turns up again before nightfall. Where
is Simon now?'
  'With  Marie  Lou. They are upstairs in the nursery  I  think-
watching Fleur bathed and put to bed.'
  'Good.  Let  us go up then. Fleur can help us very greatly  in
protecting him tonight.'
  'Fleur!' exclaimed Richard in amazement.
  The  Duke nodded. 'The prayers of a virgin woman are amazingly
powerful  in such instances, and the younger she is the stronger
her  vibrations. You see, a little child like Fleur who  is  old
enough  to  pray,  but absolutely unsoiled in any  way,  is  the
nearest  that  any human being can get to absolute  purity.  You
will remember the words of Our Lord: "Except ye become as little
children  ye  shall not enter into the Kingdom of  Heaven."  You
have no objection I take it?'
  'None,'  agreed  Richard quickly. 'Saying a prayer  for  Simon
cannot  possibly harm the child in any way. We'll go up  through
the library.'
  Seven  sides of the great octagonal room were covered  ceiling
high  with books and the eighth consisted of wide trench windows
through  which  half-a-dozen stone  steps,  leading  up  to  the
terrace, could be seen and beyond, a portion of the garden.
  Richard led the way to one of the book-lined walls and pressed
the gilded cardinal's hat upon a morocco binding. A low doorway,
masked by dummy bookbacks, swung open disclosing a narrow spiral
stairway  hewn  out of the solid wall. They ascended  the  stone
steps  and  a moment later entered Fleur's nursery on the  floor
above, through a sliding panel in the wall.
  When  they arrived the nursery was empty, but in the  bathroom
beyond  they  found  Simon, with Nanny's apron  tied  about  his
waist,  quite solemnly bathing Fleur while Marie Lou sat on  the
edge of the bath and chortled with laughter.
  It  was an operation which Simon performed on every visit that
he had made to Cardinals Folly so Fleur was used to the business
and  regarded  it as a definite treat; but this tubbing  of  his
friend's  child  was  a privilege which De  Richleau  had  never
claimed,  and  as he entered Fleur suddenly exhibited  signs  of
maidenly modesty surprising in one so young.
  'Oh,  Mummy,'  she  exclaimed. 'He mussent see  me,  muss  he,
'cause he's a man.' On which the whole party gave way to  a  fit
of laughter.
  'Sen'  him  away!' yelled the excited Fleur, standing  up  and
clutching an enormous bath sponge to her chest.
  De  Richleau's firm mouth twitched with his old humour, as  he
apologised  most  gravely  and backed into  the  nursery  beside
Richard.  A  few minutes later the others joined them,  and  the
Duke held a hurried conversation in whispers with Marie Lou.
  'Of  course,'  she said. 'If it will help, do  just  what  you
think. I will get rid of Nanny for a few minutes.'
  Walking  over, he smiled down at Fleur. 'Does Mummy watch  you
say your prayers every night?' he asked gently.
  'Oh, yes,' she lisped. 'And you shall all hear me now.'
  He smiled again. 'Have you ever heard her say hers?'
  Fleur thought hard for a moment. 'No,' she shook her dark head
and  the  big blue eyes looked up at him seriously. 'Mummy  says
her prayers to Daddy when I'se asleep.'
  He  noddedy  quietly. 'Well, we're all going to  say  them  to
gether tonight.'
  'Ooo,'  cooed  Fleur. 'Lovely. It'll be just as  though  we'se
playing a new game, won't it?'
  'Not a game, dearest,' interjected Marie Lou quietly, 'Because
prayers are serious, and we mean them.'
  'Yes,  we mean them very much tonight, but we could all  kneel
down in a circle couldn't we and put Uncle Simon in the middle?'
  'Jus' like kiss-in-the-ring,' added Fleur.
  'That's right,' the Duke agreed, 'or Postman's Knock. And  you
shall  be the postman. But this is very serious, and instead  of
touching  him  on  the shoulder, you must  hold  his  hand  very
tight.'
  They all knelt down then and Fleur extended her pudgy palm  to
Simon, but the Duke gently laid his hand on her shoulder.  'No,'
he whispered. 'Your left hand, my angel, in Uncle Simon's right.
You  shall  say your prayers first, just as you always  do,  and
then I shall say one for all of us afterwards.'
  The  first few lines of the Our Father came tumbling out  from
the child's lips in a little breathless spate as they knelt with
bowed  heads and closed eyes. Then there was a short hesitation,
a  prompting  whisper from Marie Lou, and an equally  breathless
ending.  After that, the little personal supplication for  Mummy
and  Daddy and Uncle Simon and Uncle Rex and Uncle Greyeyes  and
dear Nanny were hurried through with considerably more gusto.
  'Now,' whispered De Richleau. 'I want you to repeat everything
I  say  word  for word after me,' and in a low, clear  voice  he
offered up an entreaty that the Father of All would forgive  His
servants  their  sins and strengthen them to resist  temptation,
keeping  at  bay  by His limitless power all  evil  things  that
walked  in  darkness, and bringing them safely by  His  especial
mercy to see again the glory of the morning light.
  When  all  was done and Fleur, tucked up and kissed,  left  be
tween  Mr. Edward Bear and Golliwog, the others filed downstairs
to Marie Lou's cosy sitting-room.
  De  Richleau was worried about Rex, but a further 'phone  call
to  the  inn failed to elicit any later information. He had  not
returned,  and  they  sat  round  silently,  a  little  subdued.
Richard,  vaguely miserable because it was sherry time  and  the
Duke  had  once  again  firmly prohibited the  drinking  of  any
alcohol, asked at length: 'Well, what do you wish us to do now?'
  'We  should  have  a light supper fairly early,'  De  Richleau
announced. 'And after, I should like you to make it quite  clear
to Malin that none of the servants are to come into this wing of
the  house until tomorrow morning. Say, if you like, that  I  am
going  to conduct some all-night experiments with a new wireless
or  television  apparatus, but in no circumstances  must  we  be
disturbed or any doors opened and shut.'
  'Hadn't  we . . . er . . . better disconnect the telephone  as
well?'  Simon  hazarded. 'In case it rings after  we've  settled
down.'
  'Yes, with Richard's permission I will attend to that myself.'
  'Do,  if  you  like,  and I'll see to the  servants,'  Richard
agreed placidly. 'But what do you call a light supper?'
  'Just  enough to keep up our strength. A little  fish  if  you
have  it.  If not eggs will do, with vegetables or a  salad  and
some fruit, but no meat or game and, of course, no wine.'
  Richard  grunted. 'That sounds a jolly dinner I  must  say.  I
suppose  you wouldn't like to shave my head as well, or  get  us
all  to don hair shirts if we could find them. I'm hungry  as  a
hunter, and owing to your telegram, we had no lunch.'
  The  Duke  smiled tolerantly. 'I am sorry, Richard,  but  this
thing  is deadly serious. I am afraid you haven't realised quite
how  serious yet. If you had seen what Rex and I did last night,
I'm  certain  that you wouldn't breathe a word of protest  about
these  small discomforts, and realise at once that I  am  acting
for the best.'
  'No,'  Richard confessed. 'Quite frankly, I find it very diffi
cult  to  believe that we haven't all gone bug-house  with  this
talk  of  witches  and  wizards and magic and  what-not  at  the
present day.'
  'Yet you saw Mocata yourself this afternoon.'
  'I  saw  an  unpleasant pasty-faced intruder I agree,  but  to
credit  him with all the powers that you suggest is rather  more
than I can stomach at the moment.'
  'Oh,  Richard!' Marie Lou broke in. 'Greyeyes is  right.  That
man  is  horrible.  And to say that people  do  not  believe  in
witches at the present day is absurd. Everybody knows that there
are witches just as there have always been.'
  'Eh!' Richard looked at his lovely wife in quick surprise.
  'Have  you caught this nonsense from the others already?  I've
never heard you air this belief before.'
  'Of course not,' she said a little sharply. 'It is unlucky  to
talk  of such things, but one knows about them all the same.  Of
witches in Siberia I could tell you much-things that I have seen
with my own eyes.'
  'Tell  us, Marie Lou,' urged the Duke. He felt that  in  their
present  situation scepticism might prove highly  dangerous.  If
Richard  did not believe in the powers that threatened them,  he
might  relax  in following out the instructions  for  their  pro
tection and commit some casual carelessness, bringing, possibly,
a terrible danger upon them all. He knew how very highly Richard
esteemed his wife's sound common sense. It was far better to let
her convince him than to press arguments on Richard himself.
  'There was a witch in Romanovsk,' Marie Lou proceeded. 'An old
woman  who  lived alone in a house just outside the village.  No
one,  not  even  the  Red Guards, with all their  bluster  about
having  liquidated  God and the Devil, would  pass  her  cottage
alone  at night. In Russia there are many such and one in nearly
every  village. You would call her a wise woman as well perhaps,
for she could cure people of many sicknesses and I have seen her
stop  the  flow of blood from a bad wound almost instantly.  The
village girls used to go to her to have their fortunes told and,
when they could afford it, to buy charms of philtres to make the
young  men  they liked fall in love with them. Often, too,  they
would go back again afterwards when they became pregnant and buy
the  drugs  which would secure their release from  that  unhappy
situation.  But she was greatly feared, for everyone  knew  that
she  could also put a blight on crops and send a murrain on  the
cattle  of those who displeased her. It was even whispered  that
she  could  cause men and women to sicken and die if  any  enemy
paid her a high enough price to make it worth her while.'
  'If  that is so I wonder they didn't lynch her,' said  Richard
quietly.
  'They  did in the end. They would not have dared to  do.  that
themselves. But a farmer whom she had inflicted with a plague of
lice appealed to the local commissar and he went with twenty men
to  her house one day. All the villagers and I among them-for  I
was only a little giri then and naturally curious-went with them
in  a frightened crowd hanging well behind. They brought the old
woman  out and examined her, and having proved she was a  witch,
the commissar had her shot against the cottage wall.'
  'How did they prove it?' Richard asked sceptically
  'Why-because she had the marks of course.'
  'What marks?'
  'When  they stripped her they found that she had a teat  under
her left arm, and that is a certain sign.'
  De  Richleau nodded. To feed her familiar with, of course. Was
it a cat?'
  Marie  Lou shook her head. 'No. In this case, it was  a  great
big fat toad that she used to keep in a little cage.'
  'Oh,  come!'  Richard  protested.  'This  is  fantastic.  They
slaughtered the poor old woman because she had some malformation
and kept an unusual pet.'
  'No,  no,' Marie Lou assured him. 'They found the Devil's mark
on  her thigh and they swam her in the village pond. It was very
horrible, but it was all quite conclusive.'
  The  Devil's  mark!' interjected Simon suddenly,  'I've  never
heard of that,' and the Duke answered promptly:
  'It  is  believed that the Devil or his representative touches
these people at their baptism during some Satanic orgy and  that
spot  is  for ever afterwards free from pain. In the  old  witch
trials,  they  used  to hunt for it by sticking  pins  into  the
suspected person because the place does not differ in appearance
from any other portion of the body.'
  Marie  Lou nodded her curly head. That's right. They  bandaged
this old woman's eyes so that she could not see what part of her
they were sticking the pin into and then they began to prick her
gently in first one place and then another. Of course she  cried
out each time the pin went in, but after about twenty cries, the
head  man of the village pushed the pin into her left thigh  and
she  didn't  make a sound. He took it out then and stuck  it  in
again, but still she did not cry out at all so he pushed  it  in
right up to the head, and she didn't know he'd even touched her.
So  you  see, everyone was quite satisfied then that she  was  a
witch.'
  'Well,  you may have been,' Richard said slowly. 'It  seems  a
horribly barbarous affair in any case. I dare say the old  woman
deserved  all she got, but it's pretty queer evidence  to  shoot
anyone on.'
  'Er  .  . . Richard . . .' Simon leaned forward suddenly.  'Do
you believe in curses?'
  'What-the old bell and book business! Not much. Why? '
  'Because  the  actual working of a curse is  evidence  of  the
supernatural.'
  They're mostly old wives' tales of coincidences I think.'
  'How about the Mackintosh of Moy?'
  'Oh, Scotland is riddled with that sort of thing. But what  is
supposed to have happened to the Mackintosh?'
  'Well, this was in seventeen something,' Simon replied slowly.
They story goes that he was present at a witch burning or jilted
one-I forget exactly. Anyhow she put a curse on him and it  went
like this:
  "Mackintosh, Mackintosh, Mackintosh of Moy If you ever have  a
son he shall never have a boy." '
  Richard smiled. 'And what happened then?'
  'Well, whether the story's true or not I can't say, but it's a
fact  that the Chieftainship of the Clan has gone all  over  the
shop ever since. Look it up in the records of the Clans if.  you
doubt me.'
  'My  dear  chap,  you'll have to produce  something  far  more
concrete than that to convince me.'
  'All  right,' Marie Lou gazed at him steadily out of her large
blue eyes. 'You know very little about such things, Richard, but
in  Russia  people are much closer to nature and everyone  there
still  accepts the supernatural and diabolic possession as  part
of  ordinary  life. Only about a year before you brought  me  to
England  they  caught a were-wolf in a village less  than  fifty
miles from where I lived.
  He  moved  over  to the sofa and, taking her hand,  patted  it
gently.  'Surely, darling, you don't really ask  me  to  believe
that  a man can actually turn into a beast-leave his bed in  the
middle of the night to go out hunting-then return and go to  his
work in the morning as a normal man again?'
  'Certainly,' Marie Lou nodded solemnly. 'Wolves, as you  know,
nearly  always hunt in packs, but that part of the  country  had
been  troubled for months by a lone wolf which seemed  possessed
of  far  more than normal cunning. It killed sheep and dogs  and
two young children. Then it killed an old woman.
  She  was  found with her throat bitten out, but she  had  been
ravished  too, so that's how they knew that it must  be  a  were
wolf.  At  last it attacked a woodman and he wounded it  in  the
shoulder  with  his axe. Next day a wretched half-imbecile  crea
ture, a sort of village idiot, died suddenly, and when the women
went  to prepare his body for burial they found that he had died
from loss of blood and that there was a great wound in his right
shoulder just where the woodman had struck the wolf. After  that
there  were no other cases of slaughtered sheep or people  being
done to death. So it was quite clear that he was the were-wolf.'
  Richard  looked  thoughtful  for a  moment.  'Of  course,'  he
remarked,  'the  man  may have done all  that  without  actually
changing his shape at all. If anyone is bitten by a mad dog  and
gets  hydrophobia, they bark, howl, gnash their teeth and behave
just  as though they were dogs and certainly believe at the time
that  they are. Lycanthropy, of which this poor devil  seems  to
have  been  the  victim, may be some rare disease  of  the  same
kind.'
  Marie  Lou shrugged lightly and stood up. 'Well, if you  won't
believe  me-there it is. I don't know enough to argue with  you,
only what I believe myself, so I shall go and order supper.'
  As the door closed behind her the Duke said quietly: 'That may
be  a  possible explanation, Richard, but there is  an  enormous
mass  of  evidence  in  the jurisprudence of  every  country  to
suggest that actual shape shifting does occur at times. The form
varies  of  course. In Greece it is often of the were-boar  that
one  hears. In Africa of the were-hyena and were-leopard.  China
has  the  were-fox; India the were-tiger; and  Egypt  the  were-
jackal. But even as near home as Surrey I could introduce you to
a  friend  of  mine,  a doctor who practices among  the  country
people, who will vouch for it that the older cottagers are still
unshakable  in their beliefs that certain people are were-hares,
and have power to change their shape at particular phases of the
moon.'
  'If  you  really  believe  these fantastic  stories,'  Richard
smiled a little grimly, 'perhaps you can give me some reasonable
explanation as to what makes such things possible.'
  'By  all means.' De Richleau hoisted himself out of his  chair
and  began  to  pace softly up and down the fine,  silk  Persian
prayer  rug  before the fireplace while he expounded  again  the
Esoteric doctrine just as he had to Rex two nights before.
  Simon and Richard listened in silence until the Duke spoke  of
the  eternal fight which, hidden from human eyes, has been waged
from  time immemorial between the Powers of Light and the Powers
of  Darkness.  Then  the  latter, his  serious  interest  really
aroused for the first time, exclaimed:
  'Surely  you  are  proclaiming  the  Manichaean  heresy?   The
Manichees  believed in the Two Principals, Light  and  Darkness,
and  the  Three Moments, Past, Present and Future.  They  taught
that in the Past Light and Darkness had been separate; then that
Darkness invaded Light and became mingled with it, creating  the
Present  and this world in which evil is mixed with  good.  They
preached the practice of astheticism as the means of freeing the
light  imprisoned in human clay so that in some  distant  Future
Light and Darkness might be completely separated again.'
  The  Duke's  lean  face lit with a quick smile.  'Exactly,  my
friend I The Manichees had a credo to that effect.
  "Day  by  day diminishes The number of Soul below As they  are
distilled and mount above"
  The  basis  of  the belief is far, far older of  course,  pre-
Egyptian  at  the  least, but where before it  was  a  jealously
guarded mystery the Persian Mani proclaimed it to the world.'
  'It became a serious rival to Christianity at one time, didn't
it?'
  'Um,' Simon took up the argument. 'And it survived despite the
most  terrible persecution by the Christians. Mani was crucified
in  the third century after Christ and, by their own creed,  his
followers  were not allowed to enlist converts. Yet  somehow  it
spread  in secret. The Albigenses followed it in Southern France
in  the twelfth century until they were stamped out. Then in the
thirteenth,  a  thousand  years after  Mani's  death,  it  swept
Bohemia. A form of it was still practised there by certain sects
as  late  as  the  1840's and even today  many  thinking  people
scattered all over the world believe that it holds the  core  of
the only true religion.'
  'Yes,  I  can  understand that,' Richard agreed,  'Brahminism,
Budism,  Taoism,  all the great philosophers which  have  passed
beyond  the ordinary limited religions with a personal  God  are
connected  up  with  the Prana, Light, and  the  Universal  Life
Stream,  but  that is a very different matter to  asking  me  to
believe in were-wolves and witches.'
  They  only  came  into the discussion because they  illustrate
certain  manifestations of supernatural Evil,' De  Richleau  pro
tested;  'just as the appearance of wounds similar to  those  of
Christ upon the Cross in the flesh of exceptionally pious people
may be taken as evidence for the existence of supernatural Good.
Ernminent surgeons have testified again and again that  stigmata
are  not due to trickery. It is a changing of the material  body
by  the  holy  saints in their endeavour to approximate  to  its
highest  form,  that of Our Lord, so, I contend,  base  natures,
with  the  assistance  of the Power of Darkness,  may  at  times
succeed  in altering their form to that of were-beasts.  Whether
they change their shape entirely it is impossible to say because
at  death  they always revert to human form, but the  belief  is
world-wide  and the evidence so abundant that it cannot  lightly
be  put  aside. In any case what you call madness is actually  a
very  definite  form of diabolic possession  which  seizes  upon
these  people and causes them to act with the same  savagery  as
the  animal they believe themselves for the time to be.  Of  its
existence, no one who has read the immense literature  upon  it,
can possibly doubt.'
  'Perhaps,' Richard admitted grudgingly. 'But apart from  Marie
Lou's story, all the evidence is centuries old and mixed up with
every sort of superstition and fairy story. In the depths of the
Siberian forests or the Indian jungle the belief in such  things
may perhaps stimulate some poor benighted wretch to act the part
now  and again and so perpetuate the legend. But you cannot cite
me  a  case  in  which  a number of people have  sworn  to  such
happenings in a really civilised country in modern times!'
  'Can't  I?' De Richleau laughed grimly. 'What about the affair
at Uttenheim near Strasbourg. The farms in the neighbourhood had
been troubled by a lone wolf for weeks. The Garde-Chainpetre was
sent  out to get it. He tracked it down. It attacked him and  he
fired-killing  it dead. Then he found himself bending  over  the
body  of  a  local youth. That unfortunate rural  policeman  was
tried for murder, but he swore by all that was holy that it  was
a  wolf  at which he had shot, and the entire population of  the
village  came  forward to give evidence on his  behalf-that  the
dead  man had boasted time and again of his power to change  his
shape.'
  'Is  that  a  fifteenth or sixteenth century story?'  murmured
Richard,
  'Neither. It occurred in November, 1925.'


                               25

                       The Talisman of Set

  For  a  while longer De Richleau strode up and down, patiently
answering Richard's questions and ramming home his arguments for
a  belief  in  the power of the supernatural to  affect  mankind
until,  when  Marie Lou rejoined them, Richard's brown  eyes  no
longer  held the half-mocking humour which had twinkled in  them
an hour before.
  The  Duke's  explanation  had been so  clear  and  lucid,  his
earnestness  so  compelling that the younger man  was  at  least
forced  to suspend judgment, and even found himself toying  with
the  idea  that Simon might really be threatened  by  some  very
dangerous and potent force which it would need all their courage
to resist during the dark hours that lay ahead.
  It was eight o'clock now. Twilight had fallen and the trees at
the bottom of the garden were already merged in shadow. Yet with
the  coming  of  darkness they were not filled  with  any  fresh
access  of  fear. It seemed that their long talk had  elucidated
the  position and even strengthened the bond between them.  Like
men  who  are about to go into physical battle, they were  alert
and  expectant  but  a little subdued, and realised  that  their
strongest  hope  lay  in putting their absolute  trust  in  each
other.
  At  Marie Lou's suggestion they went into the dining-room  and
sat  down  to  a  cold supper which had already been  laid  out.
Having  eaten  so lightly during the day, their natural  inclina
tion  was to make a heavy meal but, without any further  caution
from  De  Richleau, they all appreciated now that the  situation
was sufficiently serious to make restraint imperative.
  Even  Richard denied himself a second helping of his favourite
Morecambe Bay shrimps which had arrived that morning.
  When  they had finished the Duke leant over him. 'I think  the
library would be the best place to conduct my experiments, and I
shall require the largest jug you have full of fresh water, some
glasses and it would be best to leave the fruit.'
  'By  all  means,' Richard agreed, glancing towards his butler.
'See  to  that please, Maim-will you.' He then went on  to  give
clear  and  definite instructions that they were not to  be  dis
turbed  on any pretext until the morning, and concluded with  an
order that the table should be cleared right away.
  With  a  bland,  unruffled countenance the man  signified  his
understanding and motioned to his footman to begin clearing  the
table.  So  bland in fact was the expression that it would  have
been  difficult for them to visualise him half an hour later  in
the  privacy of the housekeeper's room declaring with a  knowing
wink:
  'In my opinion it's spooks they're after-the old chap's got no
television set. And behaving like a lot of heathens with  not  a
drop  of  drink to their dinner. Think of that with young  Simon
there   who's   so  mighty  particular  about  his   hock.   But
spiritualists always is that way. I only hope it doesn't get 'em
bad  or  what's  going to happen to the wine bill  I'd  like  to
know?'
  When  Richard  had  very pointedly wished his  henchman  'good
night,'  they moved into the library and De Richleau,  who  knew
the room well, surveyed it with fresh interest.
  Comfortable sofas and large arm-chairs stood about the  uneven
polished oak of the floor. A pair of globes occupied two  angles
of the book-lined walls, and a great oval mahogany writing-table
of Chippendale design stood before the wide french window. Owing
to its sunken position in the old wing of the house the lighting
of  the  room was dim even on a summer's day. Yet its atmosphere
was  by  no means gloomy. A log fire upon a twelve-inch pile  of
ashes  was  kept burning in the wide fireplace all  through  the
year,  and at night, when the curtains were drawn and  the  room
lit  with  the  soft radiance of the concealed  ceiling  lights,
which  Richard  had installed, it was a friendly, restful  place
well suited for quiet work or idle conversation.
  'We must strip the room-furniture, curtains, everything!' said
the  Duke.  'And  I shall need brooms and a mop  to  polish  the
floor.'
  The  three  men then began moving the furniture out  into  the
hall while Marie Lou fetched a selection of implements from  the
house-maid's closet.
  For  a quarter of an hour they worked in silence until nothing
remained  in  the big library except the serried rows  of  gilt-
tooled books.
  'My apologies for even doubting the efficiency of your staff!'
the  Duke  smiled at Marie Lou. 'But I would like the room  gone
over  thoroughly, particularly the floor, since evil  emanations
can   fasten  on  the  least  trace  of  dust  to  assist  their
materialisation.  Would  you  see  to  it,  Princess,  while   I
telephone the inn again to find out if Rex has returned.'
  'Of   course,  Greyeyes,  dear,'  said  Marie  Lou  and,  with
Richard's and Simon's help, she set about dusting, sweeping  and
polishing until when De Richleau rejoined them, the boards  were
so scrupulously clean that they could have eaten from them.
  'No  news of Rex, worse luck,' he announced with a frown. 'And
I've  had  to disconnect the telephone now in case a call  makes
Malm  think it necessary to disregard his instructions.. We  had
better go upstairs and change next.'
  'What into?' Richard inquired.
  'Pyjamas.  I hope you have a good supply. You see none  of  us
tonight  must  wear  any garment which has  been  even  slightly
soiled.  Human  impurities are bound to linger in one's  clothes
even if they have only been worn for a few hours, and it is just
upon such things that elementals fasten most readily.'
  'Shan't  we  be awfully cold?' hazarded Simon with an  unhappy
look;
  'I'll  fit  you out with shooting stockings and an  overcoat,'
Richard volunteered.
  'Stockings if you like, providing that they are fresh from the
wash-but no overcoats, dressing-gowns or shoes,' said the  Duke.
'However, there is no reason why we should not wear a couple  of
suits apiece of Richard's underclothes, beneath the pyjamas,  to
keep  us  warm. The essential paint is that everything  must  be
absolutely clean.'
  The  whole  party then migrated upstairs, the men congregating
in  Richard's  dressing-room where they ransacked his  ward-robe
for  suitable  attire.  Marie Lou joined  them  a  little  later
looking divinely pretty in peach silk pyjamas and silk stockings
into  the  tops  of which, above the knees, the bottoms  of  her
pyjamas were neatly tucked.
  'Now  for  a  raid on the linen cupboard,' said  De  Richleau.
'Cushions,  being soiled already, are useless to us,  but  I  am
dreading that hard floor so we will take down as many sheets  as
we  can carry, clean bath towls and blankets too. Then we  shall
have some sort of couch to sit on.'
  In  the library once more, they set down their bundles and  De
Richleau produced his suitcase, taking from it a piece of chalk,
a length of string, and a footrule. Marking a spot in the centre
of the room, he asked Marie Lou to hold the end of the string to
it,  measuring off exactly seven feet and then, using her  as  a
pivot, he drew a large circle in chalk upon the floor.
  Next,  the  string was lengthened and an outer  circle  drawn.
Then  the  most difficult part of the operation began.  A  five-
rayed  star  had to be made with its points touching  the  outer
circle and its valleys resting upon the inner. But, as the  Duke
explained, while such a defence can be highly potent  if  it  is
constructed with geometrical accuracy, should the angles vary to
any marked degree or the distance of the apexes from the central
point differ more than a fraction, the pentacle would prove  not
only useless but even dangerous.
  For  half  an hour they measured and checked with  string  and
rule and marking chalk; but Richard proved useful here, for  all
his  life he had been an expert with maps and plans and was even
something  of amateur architect. At last the broad  chalk  lines
were  drawn to the Duke's satisfaction, forming the magical five
pointed  star,  in which it was his intention that  they  should
remain while darkness lasted.
  He then chalked in, with careful spacing round the rim of the
inner circle, the powerful exorcism: -
  In nomina Pa + tris et Fi + lii et Spiritus + Sancti! + El +
Elohym + Sother + Emmanuel + Sabaoth + Agia + Tetragammaton +
Agyos + Otheos + Ischiros + - and, after reference to an old
book which he had brought with him, drew certain curious and
ancient symbols in the valleys and the mounts of the microcosmic
star.
  Simon,  whose  recent experience had taught him  something  of
pentacles,  recognised  ten of them as Cabbalistic  signs  taken
from  the Sephirotic Tree; Kether, Binah, Ceburah, Hod,  Malchut
and  the  rest.  But  others, like the Eye  of  Horus,  were  of
Egyptian  origin, and others again in some ancient Aryan  script
which he did not understand.
  When  the skeleton of this astra! fortress was completed,  the
clean  bedding was laid out inside it for them to rest upon  and
De Richleau produced further impedimenta from his case.
  With  lengths of asafretida grass and blue wax he  sealed  the
windows, the door leading to the hall, and that concealed in the
bookshelves which led to the nursery above, each at  both  sides
and at the tops and at the bottoms, making the sign of the Cross
in holy water over every seal as he completed it.
  Then  he ordered the others inside the pentacle, examined  the
switches by the door to assure himself that every light  in  the
room  was on, made up the fire with a great pile of logs so that
it would last well through the night and there be no question of
their  having  to leave the circle to replenish it and,  joining
them  where they had squatted down on the thick mat of blankets,
produced five little silver cups, which he proceeded to fill two-
thirds full with Holy water. These he placed, one in each valley
of the pentacle.
  Then,  taking five long white tapering candles,  such  as  are
offered by devotees to the Saints in Catholic Churches,  he  lit
them from an old-fashioned tinder-box and set them upright,  one
at  each apex of the five-pointed star. In their rear he  placed
the five brand new horseshoes which Richard had secured from the
village with their horns pointing outward, and beyond each  vase
of  holy  water  he set a dried mandrake, four females  and  one
male, the male being in the valley to the north.
  These   complicated  formulas  for  the  erection  of  outward
barriers  being at last finished, the Duke turned his  attention
to  the  individual protection of his friends and himself.  Four
long wreaths of garlic flowers were strung together and each  of
the  party  placed  one  about his neck. Rosaries,  with  little
golden  crucifixes attached, were distributed, medals  of  Saint
Benedict  holding the Cross in his right hand and the Holy  Rule
in  his  left,  and phials of salt and mercury; lengths  of  the
asafcetida  grass  were  again tied  round  Simon's  wrists  and
ankles,  and  he  was placed in their midst facing  towards  the
north.  The  Duke then performed the final rites of sealing  the
nine openings of each of their bodies.
  All  this  performance had entirely failed to impress Richard.
In  fact, it tended to revive his earlier scepticism. It was his
private belief that a blackmailing gang were playing tricks upon
Simon and the Duke so, before coming downstairs, he had tucked a
loaded automatic comfortably away beneath his pyjama jacket.  In
deference  to De Richleau's obvious concern that nothing  soiled
should  be  brought  within  the  circle  he  had  first,  half-
ashamedly, cleansed the weapon in a bath of spirit but,  if  Mr.
Mocata was so ill-advised as to break into his house that  night
with  the  intention of staging any funny business, he meant  to
use  it. After a little pause he looked cheerfully round at  the
others. 'Well-here we are! What happens now?'
  'We  have ample room here,' replied De Richleau. 'So there  is
no  reason why we should not lie down with our feet towards  the
rim  of  the  circle and try to get some sleep,  but  there  are
certain  instructions I would like to give you before we  settle
down.'
  'I never felt less like sleep in my life,' remarked Simon.
  'Nor I,' agreed Richard. 'It's early yet and if only Marie Lou
weren't here I'd tell you some bawdy stories to keep you gay.'
  'Don't mind me, darling,' cooed Marie Lou. 'I'm human- even if
you are right about my having an angelic face.'
  'No!'  He shook his head quickly. 'Somehow they fail to  amuse
me  when you're about. That's why I never tell you any. It needs
men  on their own sitting round a bottle of something to get the
best  out  of a bawdy jest. My God! I wish we'd got a bottle  of
brandy with us now!'
  'Mean  pig,'  she murmured amiably, snuggling up against  him.
'If  Greyeyes and Simon didn't know you so well they would think
you  nothing  but an awful little drunk from the way  you  talk,
whereas you're a nice person really.'
  'Am  I?  Well, anyway it's fine that you should think so.'  He
fondled  her short curly hair with his long fingers. 'My present
lust-for  liquor is only because I've been done out of  my  fair
ration  today.  But  what  shall we  talk  about?  Greyeyes-this
Talisman that all the bother centres on-tell us about it  before
you give us your final orders for the night.'
  'You know the legend of Isis and Osiris?' the Duke asked.
  'Yes-vaguely,' Richard replied. 'They were the King and  Queen
of  Heaven  who  came  to earth in human  form  and  taught  the
Egyptians  all  they knew weren't they? The old  business  of  a
fairhaired  god arriving among a dusky people and importing  all
sorts  of  new  ideas  about agriculture  and  architecture  and
justice-in fact-what we call civilisation.'
  De  Richleau nodded. 'That is so. But I mean the story of  how
Osiris came to die?'
  'He  was  murdered  wasn't he?' volunteered Simon.  'But  I've
forgotten how.'
  'Well,  this is the account which has been handed down  to  us
through  many  thousands of years. Osiris  was,  apparently,  as
Richard  says, a fair-haired, light-skinned man,  alien  to  the
Egyptian race, who became their King and, ruling them with great
intelligence, brought them many blessings. But he had a  brother
named Set-and here again you get the two principals of Good  and
Evil, Light and Darkness-for Set was a dark man. The legend  is,
of course, apocryphal up to a point but, eliminating the overlay
of  myth with which the priests later embroidered it, the  whole
story  had such a genuine ring of human tragedy that it is  very
difficult  to  doubt  that these two  men  and  the  woman  Isis
actually  lived, as the progenitors of a Royal dynasty,  in  the
Nile valley long before the Pyramids were built.
  'It  always  amazes me, whenever I re-read the  story  in  the
Greek  Classics, how Set, particularly, stands out as a definite
and  living  figure after all these countless  generations.  The
characters  in our seventeenth century plays even are  quite  un
real  to'  us  now-with a very few exceptions; but Set  remains,
timeless and unchanging, the charming but unscrupulous rogue who
might have entertained you with lavish hospitality and brilliant
conversation yesterday-yet would do you down without  the  least
compunction if he met you in the street tomorrow.
  "He  was  tall and slim and dark and handsome; a fine  athlete
and  a  great hunter, but a cultured, amusing person too, and  a
boon companion who knew how to carry his wine at table. The type
whose lapses men are always ready to condone on account of their
delightful  personality,  and whose  wickedness  women  persuade
themselves  is only waywardness-while they succumb almost  at  a
glance to that dark, male virility.
  'Set was younger than Osiris and jealous of his authority.
  Then  he  fell in love with Isis, his brother's wife. The  old
story of the human triangle you see, or rather the original, for
all  others in the whole literature of the world which deal with
the  same subject are plagiarisms. Set conspired, therefore,  to
slay the King and seize his wife and power for himself.
  'To  assassinate  Osiris openly would have  been  a  difficult
matter because he was always surrounded by the older nobles, who
loved  him  and  knew  that he kept the  peace  while  the  land
flourished and grew prosperous. Set knew that they would  defend
the  King's  person  with their lives, and  he  was  faced  with
another problem too. Osiris was a god, and even if he could lure
him  to a place where the deed could be done in secret, he dared
not spill one drop of the divine blood.
  'He  planned then a superlatively clever murder. You all  know
that  the Egyptians considered this present life to be  only  an
interlude and that almost from the age at which they could think
at  all their thoughts were largely focused on the life to come.
Many  of  them  spent their entire fortune upon  preparing  some
magnificent  place  of  burial  for  themselves,  and  at  every
banquet, when the slaves served the dessert, thehead wine butler
carried  round a miniature coffin with a skeleton inside  to  re
mind the guests that death was waiting round the corner for them
all.
  'With  diabolical cunning, Set utilised the national preoccupa
tion  with  death and ceremonial burial to ensnare his  brother.
First,  by  a clever piece of trickery he secured Osiris'  exact
measurements.  Then  he had made the most beautiful  sarcophagus
that  had  ever  been seen. It was a great heavy chest  of  fine
cedar  wood with the figures of the forty-two assessors  of  the
dead, who form the jury of the gods, painted in lapis blue,  and
the  minutest hieroglyphics in black and red; line upon line  of
them  reciting  the  most  effective protections  against  black
magic, and every requisite line of ritual from the great Book of
the Dead.
  'As  soon as this wonderful coffin was completed, Set prepared
a  great  banquet to which he invited Osiris and seventy-two  of
the  younger nobles, all of whom he had corrupted and drawn  one
by one into his conspiracy.
  'Then  on the night of the feast he had the beautiful sarcopha
gus placed in a small anteroom through which every guest had  to
pass on his arrival.
  'You  can imagine how envious they were when they saw it,  and
how  each commented on the workmanship and the artistry  of  the
designs-Osiris no less than the others.
  'They  dined,  drank  heavily of wine,  watched  the  Egyptian
dancing girls, saw Ethiopian contortionists, and listened to the
best  stringed music of the day. Then as a final hospitality  to
his guests, the Prince Set rose from his couch and proclaimed:
  '  "You  have  all seen the sarcophagus which  stands  in  the
little  anteroom,  and  it is my wish that  one  of  you  should
receive it as a gift. He whom it fits may take it with my  bless
ing."
  'Picture  to yourselves the nobles as they scrambled  up  from
their  couches, thrusting the dancing girls aside, and  elbowing
their  way out into the anteroom, each hoping that the  princely
gift might fall to him.
  'One  after another they got inside and lay down, but not  one
of them fitted it exactly. Then Set led Osiris into the anteroom
and,  waving  his hand towards the handsome chest  said  with  a
little laugh: "Why don't you try it brother. It is worthy  of  a
King. Even of the Lord of the Two Lands, the Upper and the Lower
Nile."
  'With a smile Osiris lowered himself into the masterpiece. And
behold,  it fitted his tall, broad-shouldered body to  a  hair's
breadth.  No  sooner  was he inside than the principal  conspira
tors,  who  were in the secret, rushed forward with the  weighty
lid. In frantic haste they nailed it down and poured molten lead
upon  it, so that Osiris may have survived an hour in agony  but
died at last of suffocation.
  'Set  thus succeeded in his treacherous design of killing  his
brother  without  spilling one drop of his  blood.  He  and  his
turbulent followers then hastened to their chariots, rode forth,
and  seized the Kingdom. But Isis was warned in time and managed
to escape.
  'The  coffer had been left with Osiris in it and, the Egyptian
religion  being  so strongly bound up with the  worship  of  the
dead, it was vital to Set's newly established authority that the
body  should  be  disposed of at the earliest  possible  moment.
Otherwise, if the priests got hold of it, they would bury it  in
state  and erect a mighty shrine to the dead King's memory which
would  form  a rallying point for all the best elements  in  the
Kingdom where they would league themselves against the murderer.
  'Next morning, therefore, immediately he got home, Set had the
chest  cast  into  the Nile. But Isis recovered  it,  and  after
certain magical ceremonies, succeeded in impregnating herself by
means  of her husband's dead body. Then she fled to the  papyrus
marshes of the Delta, taking Osiris' body with her in the  chest
since there was no time to give it proper burial.
  'When  Set learned what had happened, he swore that  he  would
hunt Isis down and kill her, and that he would find Osiris' body
and destroy it for ever.
  'Again now, in the story, we get one of those strange glimpses
of  happenings many thousands of years ago which we can see more
clearly than the things of yesterday.
  'In  a few phrases it is recounted how Set searched for months
in  vain, and then one night, the pregnant ex-Queen Isis, now  a
destitute  refugee  alone and unattended, is  seated  beneath  a
cluster of palm trees in the desert. Her husband's body, roughly
embalmed, is in the wooden chest beside her and she is conscious
of  the movements of the child she bears. Suddenly her sorrowful
meditations  are  disturbed  by a distant  rumble  breaking  the
stillness  of  the  night.  The noise increases  to  a  drumming
thunder  as a party of horsemen come galloping across the  sand.
Isis runs for cover to a nearby papyrus swamp and crouches waist
high  in  the  water watching from amidst the reeds.  The  dusky
riders  come  thundering past. She sees that it is Set  and  his
dissolute nobles hunting by the brilliant light of the  Egyptian
moon.  One  of them recognises the chest. With cries of  triumph
they fling themselves from their saddles, break it to pieces and
drag  out  the  body  of  Osiris.  Hidden  there,  fearful   and
trembling, Isis watches Set's dark, proud profile as  he  orders
the  body  to  be  torn  into  fourteen  pieces  and  the  parts
distributed throughout the length and breadth of the Kingdom  so
that they might never be brought together again.
  'Years later, Horus, the son of Isis, the Great God, the  Hawk
of Light, who restored its blessings to mankind and lifted again
the veil of darkness that Set's treachery had brought to dim the
world,  became  master  of the Kingdom.  Then  Isis  roamed  the
country seeking for the dismembered portions of her husband. She
did  not attempt to assemble them again, but wherever she  found
one  she  erected  a  great temple to his memory.  In  all,  she
succeeded  in  finding  thirteen pieces of  the  body,  but  the
fourteenth she never found. That Set had carefully embalmed  and
kept  himself.  It  was  for this reason  that,  although  Horus
defeated  Set  three times in battle he was never able  to  slay
him.  The portion that Set retained was the most potent  of  all
charms-the phallus of the dead god, his brother.
  'In the secret histories of esoterism it is stated that it has
since  been  heard of many times. For long periods  through  the
ages  it  has been completely lost. But whenever it is fouad  it
brings  calamity upon the world, and that is the thing which  we
have  to prevent Mocata securing at all costs today-the Talisman
of Set.'
  When  De Richleau had ceased speaking, they sat silent  for  a
while  until  Marie Lou said softly: 'I am feeling rather  tired
now, Greyeyes, dear, and I think I'd like to rest, even if it is
impossible to sleep with all these lights.'
  'All right. Then I'll say what I have to Princess. But please,
all  of  you'-the Duke paused to look at each of  them  in  turn
-'listen carefully, because this is vitally serious.
  'What  may happen I have no idea. Perhaps nothing at  all  and
the  worst  we'll  have to face is an uncomfortable  night.  But
Mocata threatened to get Simon away from us by hook or by crook,
and I feel certain that he meant it. I cannot tell you what form
his attack is likely to take, but I am sure he will literally do
his  damnedest  to break us up and get Simon  out  of  our  care
tonight.
  'He may send the most terrible powers against us, but there is
one  thing above all others that I want you to remember. As long
as  we stay inside this pentacle we shall be safe, but if any of
us sets one foot outside it we risk eternal damnation.
  'We may be called upon to witness the sort of horrors which it
is  difficult for you to conceive. I mean visions  such  as  you
have  read of in Gustave Flaubert's Temptation of Saint Anthony,
or seen in pictures by the old Flemish masters such as Brueghel.
But  they cannot do us the least harm as long as we remain where
we are.
  'Again,  we may see nothing, but the attack may develop  in  a
far more subtle form. That is to say, inside ourselves. Any,  or
all  of  us,  may find our reason being undermined by  insidious
argument  so that we may start telling each other that there  is
nothing  in the world to be frightened of and that we are  utter
fools to spend a miserable night sitting here when we might  all
be  comfortably in bed upstairs. If that happens, it is  a  lie.
Even  if  I  appear to change my mind and tell you that  I  have
thought  of new arrangements which would be safer, you must  not
believe me because it will not be my true self speaking. It  may
be  that an awful thirst will come upon us. That is why  I  have
had  this  big  jug of'water brought in. We may be  assailed  by
hunger, but to meet that we have the fruit. It is possible  that
we  may  be  afflicted with earache or some  other  bodily  pain
which,  ordinarily, would make us want to go  upstairs  to  seek
relief.  If  that happens we've just got to stick  it  till  the
morning.
  'Poor  old  Simon is likely to be afflicted worst because  the
campaign will centre on an attempt to make him break out of  the
circle.  But we've got to stop him-by force, if need  be.  There
are  two  main  defences which we can bring  into  play  if  any
manifestations do take place, as I fear they may.
  'One is the Blue vibration. Shut your eyes and try to think of
yourselves  as standing in an oval of blue light.  The  oval  is
your  aura, and the colour blue exceedingly potent in all things
pertaining to the spirit; the other is prayer. Do not  endeavour
to  make up complicated prayers or your words may become muddled
and  you  will find yourself saying something that  you  do  not
mean.  Confine  yourselves to saying over and over  again:  "Oh,
Lord, protect me! Oh, Lord, protect me!" and not only say it but
think  it with all the power of your will, visualising,  if  you
can, Our Lord upon the Cross with blue light streaming from  His
body  towards yourselves; but if you think you see  Him  outside
this  pentacle beckoning you to safety while some terrible thing
threatens  you  from  the  other side,  still  you  must  remain
within.'
  As  De  Richleau finished there was a murmur of  assent.  Then
Richard,  with an arm about Marie Lou's shoulders said  quietly:
'I understand, and we'll do everything you say.'
  'Thank you. Now, Sirnon,' the Duke went on. 'I want you to say
clearly and distinctly seven times, "Om meni gadme aum." That is
the invocation to manathaer-your higher self.'
  Simon  did  as he was bid, then they knelt together  and  each
offered a silent prayer that the Power of Light might guard  and
protect  them  from  all uncleanness, and  that  each  might  be
granted strength to aid the others should they be faced with any
peril.
  They  lay  down  then  and tried to rest despite  the  burning
candles  and  the  soft glow of the electric  Light.  Sleep  was
utterly  impossible to them in such circumstances.  Yet  no  one
there had more to say upon any point that mattered and, after  a
little time, no one felt that they could break the stillness  by
endeavouring to make ordinary conversation.
  The  steady ticking of a clock came faintly from somewhere  in
the  depths  of the house. Occasionally a log fell with  a  loud
plop  and hissed for a moment in the fire grate. Then the little
noises  of the night were hushed, and an immense silence,  brood
ing  and  mysterious, seemed to have fallen upon them.  In  some
strange  way it did not seem as though the quite octagonal  room
was any longer a portion of the house or that outside the window
lay  the friendly, well-cared-for garden that they knew so well.
Watchful,  listening, intent, they lay silent,  waiting  to  see
what the night would bring,


                               26

                    Rex Learns of the Undead

  Tanith  slept peacefully, curled up in Rex's arms, her  golden
head pillowed upon his chest. For a little time anxious thoughts
occupied his mind. He reproached himself for having left Sirnon,
and  the  gnawing worm of doubt raised its head again to whisper
that  Tanith  had planned to lure him away from  protecting  his
friend, but he dismissed such thoughts almost immediately. Simon
would  be  safe  enough in the care of Richard  and  Marie  Lou.
Tanith  was alone and needed him, and he soon convinced  himself
that  in  remaining  there he was breaking a lance  against  the
enemy as well, by preventing Mocata securing her again to assist
him, all unwillingly, in his hostilities.
  The shadows lengthened and the patches of sunligbt dimmed, yet
still  Tanith  slept  on-the sleep of utter exhaustion-  brought
about  by  the  terrible nervous crisis through  which  she  had
passed  from  hour  to hour during the previous  day,  the  past
night, and that morning, in her attempt to seek safety with him.
  With  infinite precaution not to disturb her he looked at  his
watch  and  found  that the time was nearly  eight  o'clock.  De
Richleau  should  be back by now and after all it  was  unlikely
that Mocata could prevent his return before sundown. De Richleau
might  have  lost his nerve for a few moments the night  before,
but he had retrieved it brilliantly in that headlong dash at the
wheel  of  the  Hispano down into the hellish valley  where  the
Satanists practised their grim rites. Now that they had  secured
Simon  safe and sound once more, Rex had an utter faith that  De
Richleau  would fight to the last ditch, with all the skill  and
cunning  of  his  subtle  brain, and  that  stubborn,  tenacious
courage  that Rex knew so well, before he would surrender  their
friend to the evi! powers again,
  It  was  dark  now; even the afterglow had faded, leaving  the
trees  as  vague, dark sentinels in that silent wood. The  under
growth was massed in bulky shadows and the colour had faded from
the  grasses and wild-flowers on the green, mossy bank where  he
lay with Tanith breathing so evenly in his embrace.
  His  back and arms were aching from his strained position  but
he  sat  on  while  the moments fled, sleepy  himself  now,  yet
determined not to give way to the temptation, even to doze, lest
silent evil should steal upon them where they lay.
  Another  hour  crept  by  and then  Tanith  stirred  slightly.
Another moment, and she had raised her head, shaking the tumbled
golden  hair back from her face and blinking up at him a  little
out of sleepy eyes.
  'Rex,  where  are  we?' she murmured indistinctly.  'What  has
happened? I've had an awful dream.'
  He smiled down at her and kissed her full on the lips.
  'Together,' he said. 'That's all that matters, isn't  it?  But
if you must know, we're in the wood behind the road-house.'
  'Of  course,' she gave a little gasp, and hurriedly  began  to
tidy herself. 'But we can't stay here all night.'
  The thought of taking her back to Cardinals Folly occurred  to
him  again, but in these timeless hours he had witnessed so many
things  he would have thought impossible a few days before  that
he  dismissed  the idea at once. Tanith, he felt convinced,  was
not  lying to him. She was genuinely repentant and terrified  of
Mocata. But who could say what strange powers that sinister  man
might  not be able to exercise over her at a distance. He  dared
not  risk  it. However, she was certainly right in  saying  that
they could not stay where they were all night,
  We'd  best go back to the road-house,' he suggested. They will
be  able to knock us up a meal, and after, it'll be time  enough
to figure out what we mean to do.'
  'Yes,'  she sighed a little. 'I am hungry now-terribly hungry.
Do let us go back and see if they can find us something to eat.'
  Her arm through his, their fingers laced together, they walked
back  the quarter of a mile to the little stream which separated
the  wood  from the inn garden. He lifted her over it again  and
when  they  reached'the lounge of the 'Pride of  Peacocks'  they
found that it was already half-past nine.
  Knowing that his friends would be anxious about him, Rex tried
to  telephone  immediately he got in, but the  village  exchange
told him that the line to Cardinals Folly was out of order, Then
he  sent  the  trim  maid for Mr. Wilkes, and when  that  worthy
arrived  on the scene, inquired if it was too late for  them  to
have a hot meal.
  'Not at all, sir,' Mr. Wilkes bent, quiet-voiced, deferential,
priestlike, benign. 'My wife will be very happy to  cook  you  a
little  dinner. What would you care for now? Fish  is  a  little
difficult in these parts, except when I know that I have  guests
staying  and  can order in advance, and game, of course,  is  un
fortunately out of season. But a nice young duckling perhaps, or
a  chicken?  My wife, if I may say so, does a very good  Chicken
Maryland,  sir,  of which our American visitors have  been  kind
enough to express their approval from time to time.'
  'Chicken Maryland,' exclaimed Rex. 'That sounds grand  to  me.
How about you, honey?'
  Tanith  nodded. 'Lovely, if only it is not going to  take  too
long.'
  'Some twenty minutes, madam. Not more. Mrs. Wilkes will see to
it right away, and in the meantime, I've just had in a very nice
piece of smoked salmon, which comes to me from a London house. I
could  recommend  that if you would like to  start  your  dinner
fairly soon.'
  Rex  nodded,  and  the aged Wilkes went on amiably:  'And  now
sir-to  drink? Red wine, if I might make so bold would  be  best
with  the grill, perhaps. I have a little of the Clos de Vougoet
1920 left, which Mr. Richard Eaton was good enough to compliment
me on when he dined here last, and his Lordship, my late master,
always  used  to  say  that  he found  a  glass  of  Justerini's
Amontillado before a meal lent an edge to the appetite.'
  For  a  second  Rex  wavered. He recalled  De  Richleau's  pro
hibition against alcohol, but he had been far from satisfied  by
the  brief  rest  which  he had snatched that  morning  and  was
feeling  all the strain now of the events which had taken  place
in the last forty-eight hours. Tanith, too, was looking pate and
drawn, despite her sleep. A bottle of good burgundy was the very
thing  they  needed to give them fresh strength and courage.  He
could  have  sunk half a dozen cocktails with the greatest  ease
and  pleasure, but by denying himself spirits, he felt  that  he
was at least carrying out the kernel of the Duke's instructions.
Good wine could surely harm no one-so he acquiesced.
  A  quarter of an hour later, he was seated opposite to  Tanith
at  a  little  corner table in the dining-room, munching  fresh,
warm  toast and the smoked salmon with hungry relish, while  the
neat  little maid ministered to their wants, and the  pontifical
Mr. Wilkes hovered eagle-eyed in the background. The chicken was
admirably cooked, and the wine lent an additional flavour by the
fact  that his palate was unusually clean and fresh from  having
denied himself those cocktails before the meal.
  When  the  chicken  was served, Mr. Wilkes murmured  something
about  a sweet and Rex, gazing entranced into Tanith's big eyes,
nodded  vaguely. Which sign of assent resulted, a little  later,
in  the  production of a flaming omelette au kirsch. Then Wilkes
came forward once more, with a suggestion that the dinner should
be  rounded  off  by  allowing him to decant  a  bottle  of  his
Cockburn's '08. But here, Rex was firm. The burgundy had  served
its  purpose, stimulated his brain and put fresh life  into  his
body.  To drink a vintage port after it would have been pleasant
he knew, but certain to destroy the good effect and cause him to
feel sleepy. So he resisted Mr. Wilkes' blandishments.
  After  the  meal Rex tried to get on to Cardinals Folly  again
but the line was still reported out of order, so he scribbled  a
note to Richard, saying that he was safe and well and would ring
them in the morning, then asked Wilkes to have it sent up to the
house by hand.
  When  the  landlord had left them, they moved  back  into  the
lounge and discussed how they should pass the night. Tanith  was
as  insistent  as  ever that under no circumstances  should  Rex
leave  her to herself, even if she asked him later on to do  so.
She  felt that her only hope of safety lay in remaining with him
beside her until the morning, so it was decided that they  spend
the night together in the empty lounge.
  Tanith  had  already booked a room and so, to make all  things
orderly  in the mind of the good Mr. Wilkes, Rex booked another,
but  told  the landlord that, as Tanith suffered from  insomnia,
they would probably remain in the lounge until very late, and so
he  was not to bother about them when he locked up. As a gesture
he  also borrowed from Wilkes a pack of cards, saying that  they
meant to pass an hour or two playing nap.
  The  fire was made up and they settled down comfortably  under
the  shelter  of the big mantel in the inglenook with  a  little
table  before  them  upon which they spread out  the  cards  for
appearance sake. But no sooner had the maid withdrawn than  they
had  their  arms  about  each other  once  more  and  blissfully
oblivious  of  their surroundings, began that  delightful  first
exchange  of  confidences about their previous lives,  which  is
such a blissful hour for all lovers.
  Rex  would have been in the seventh heaven but for the thought
of  this  terrible  business in which  Tanith  had  got  herself
involved and the threat of Mocata's power hanging like  a  sword
of Damocles above her head.
  Again  and  again, from a variety of subjects and  experiences
ranging  the world over, and from their childhood to the present
day,  they found themselves continually and inexplicably  caught
back  to that macabre subject which both were seeking to  avoid.
In  the  end,  both surrendered to it and allowed  the  thoughts
which  were uppermost in their minds to enter their conversation
freely.
  'I'm  still  hopelessly  at  sea  about  this  business,'  Rex
confessed. 'It's all so alien, so bizarre, so utterly fantastic.
I  know I wasn't dreaming last night or the night before. I know
that  if  Simon  hadn't got himself into trouble I  wouldn't  be
holding your loveliness in my arms right now. Yet, every time  I
think of it, I feel that I must have been imagining things,  and
that it just simply can't be true.'
  'It  is,  my dear,' she pressed his hand gently; That is  just
the  horror  of it. If it were any ordinary tangible  peril,  it
wouldn't  be  quite so terrifying. It wouldn't be quite  so  bad
even  if  we  were living in the middle ages. Then at  least,  I
could  seek  sanctuary  in some convent  where  the  nuns  would
understand
  and  the priests who were learned in such matters, exert  them
selves  to  protect  me. But in these days of modern  scepticism
there  is no one I can turn to; police and clergymen and doctors
would  all think me insane. I only have you and after last night
I'm  frightened, Rex, frightened.' A sudden flush mounted to her
cheeks again.
  'I  know,  I know,' Rex soothed her gently. 'But you must  try
all  you know not to be. I've a feeling that you're scaring your
self more than is really necessary. I'll agree that Mocata might
hypnotise you if he got you on your own again, and maybe use you
in  some way to get poor Simon back into his net, but what could
he  actually  do to you beyond that? He's not going  to  take  a
chance  on  murdering anybody, so that the police could  take  a
hand, even if he had sufficient motive to want to try."
  'I  am  afraid  you don't understand, dearest,'  she  murmured
gently. 'A Satanist who is as far along the Path as Mocata  does
not  need  a motive to do murder, unless you can call  malicious
pleasure in the deed a motive in itself, and my having left  him
in  the  lurch  at such a critical time is quite  sufficient  to
anger him into bringing about my death.'
  'I  tell  you, sweet, he'll never risk doing murder.  In  this
country it is far too dangerous a game.'
  'But  his  murders are not like ordinary murders. He can  kill
from a distance if he likes.'
  'What-by  sticking pins in a little wax figure with your  name
scratched  on it, or letting it melt away before the fire  until
you pine and die?'
  That  is  one way, but he is more likely to use the  blood  of
white mice.'
  'How in the world do you mean?'
  'I  don't know very much about it except what I have picked up
from Madame D'Urfe and a few other people. They say that when  a
very  advanced  adept wishes to kill someone, he feeds  a  white
mouse  on  some  of the holy wafers that they compel  people  to
steal  from  churches for them. The sacrilegious aspect  of  the
thing is very important, you see. Then they perform the Catholic
ceremony of baptism over the mouse, christening it with the same
name  as that of their intended victim. That creates an affinity
between the mouse and the person far stronger than carving their
name on any image.'
  Then they kill the mouse, eh?'
  'No,  I  don't  think  so. They draw off some  of  its  blood,
impregnate that with their malefic will, vaporise it,  and  call
up  an  elemental to feed upon its essence. Then they perform  a
mystic transfusion in their victim's veins causing the elemental
to poison them. But, Rex--'
  'Yes, my sweet.'
  'It  is  not that I am afraid to die. In any case, as  I  have
told  you, there is no hope of my living out the year, but  that
has  not  troubled me for a long time now. It is what  may  come
after that terrifies me so.'
  'Surely  he  can't harm anybody once they're  dead,'  Rex  pro
tested.
  'But  he  can,' Tanith burst out with a little cry of distress
and  fear,; 'If he kills me that way, he can make me dead to the
world,  but  I  shall live on as an undead, and  that  would  be
horrible.'
  Rex  passed his hand wearily across his eyes. 'Don't speak  in
riddles, treasure. What is this thing you're frightened of? Just
tell me now in ordinary, plain English.'
  'All right. I suppose you have heard of a vampire.'
  'Why,  yes. I've read of them in fiction. They're supposed  to
come  out  of  their graves every night and drink the  blood  of
human  beings, aren't they? Until they're found out, then  their
graves  are  opened up for a priest to cut off  their  head  and
drive  stakes  through their hearts. Is that what  you  call  an
undead?'
  Tanith  nodded  slowly. 'Yes, that is  an  undead-a  foul,  re
volting  thing,  a living corpse that creeps through  the  night
like  a  great  white  slug, and a body  bloated  from  drinking
people's  blood. But have you never read of them in other  books
beside nightmare fiction?'
  'No,  I  wouldn't exactly say I have as far as I can remember.
The  Duke would know all about them for a certainty -and Richard
Eaton too, I expect-because they're both great readers. But  I'm
just an ordinary chap who's content to take his reading from the
popular novelists who can turn out a good, interesting story. Do
you  mean  to  tell me seriously that such creatures  have  ever
existed outside the thriller writer's imagination?'
  'I  do.  In  the  Carpathians, where I come  from,  the  whole
countryside is riddled with vampire stories from real life.  You
hear  of  them  in  Poland and Hungary and  Roumania,  too.  All
through  Middle Europe and right down into the Balkan  countries
there   have  been  endless  cases  of  such  revolting  Satanic
manifestations. Anyone there will tell you that time and  again,
when  graves  have  been  opened on suspicion,  the  corpses  of
vampires  have  been  found, months after  burial,  without  the
slightest  sign  of decay, their flesh pink and  flushed,  their
eyes wide-open, bright and staring. The only difference to their
previous appearance is the way in which their canine teeth  have
grown  long and pointed. Often, even, they have been found  with
fresh blood trickling out of the sides of then-mouths.'
  'Say,  that sounds pretty grim,' Rex exclaimed with  a  little
shudder.' I reckon De Richleau would explain that by saying that
the person was possessed before he died and that after, although
the  actual soul passed on, the evil spirit continued to make  a
doss-house of its borrowed body. But I can't think that anything
so awful would ever happen to you,'
  'It  might, my dear. That is what scares me so. And if  Mocata
did  get  hold  of me again he would not need to  perform  those
ghastly  rites  with impregnated blood. He could just  throw  me
into  the  hypnotic state and, after he had made me  do  all  he
wished,  allow some terrible thing to take possession of  me  at
once. The elemental would still remain in my body when he killed
me,  and  I  should become one of those loathsome  creatures-the
undead, if that happened, this very night.'
  'Stop!   I can't bear to think of it,' Rex drew her quickly-to
him  again. 'But he shan't get hold of you. We'll fight him till
all's  blue, and I'm going to marry you to-morrow so that I  can
be  with you constantly. We'll apply for a special licence first
thing in the morning.
  She  nodded, and a new light of hope came into her  eyes.  'If
you wish it, Rex,' she whispered, 'and I do believe that by your
love and strength, you can save me. But you mustn't leave me for
a single second tonight, and we mustn't sleep a wink. Listen!'
  She  paused a moment as the bell in the village steeple chimed
the  twelve  strokes of midnight, which came to them clearly  in
the stillness of the quiet room. 'It is the second of May now
  -my fatal day.'
  He  smiled indulgently. 'Sure, I won't leave you, and we won't
sleep either. One of us might drop off if we were all alone, but
together we'll prod each other into keeping awake. Though I just
can't  think  that'll be necessary, with all the million  things
I've got to tell you about your sweet self.'
  She  stood up then, raising her arms to smooth back her  hair,
and making a graceful, slender silhouette against the flickering
flames of the heaped-up fire.
  'No.  The night will slip away before we know it,' she  agreed
more cheerfully. 'Because I've got a thousand things to tell you
too. I must just slip upstairs to powder my nose now, and when I
come  back, we'll settle down in earnest to make a night  of  it
together.'
  A  quick frown crossed his face. 'I thought you said I  wasn't
to  let you leave me even for a second. I don't like your  going
upstairs alone at all.'
  'But, my dear!' Tanith gave a little laugh. 'I can hardly take
you with me, and I shan't be more than a few moments.'
  Rex  nodded,  reassured as he saw her standing there,  smiling
down  at him in the firelight so happy and normal in every  way.
He  felt certain that he would know at once if Mocata was trying
to  exert his power on her from a distance, by that strange far-
away  look  which had come into her eyes and the fanatical  note
that  had raised the pitch of her voice each time she had spoken
of  the  imperative necessity of her reaching the  meeting-place
for  the  Sabbat on the previous day. There was not the faintest
suggestion of that other will, imposed upon her own, in her face
or  voice  now,  and obviously it would have  been  childish  to
attempt  to  prevent her carrying out so sensible  a  suggestion
before  settling  down. The best part of six hours  must  elapse
before daylight began to filter greyly through the old-fashioned
bow window at the far end of the room.
  'All  right,'  he laughed. Til give you five minutes  by  that
clock-but  no more, remember, and if you're not down then,  I'll
come up and get you.'
  'Dear  lover!'  she  stooped suddenly  and  kissed  him,  then
slipped out of the room closing the door softly behind her.
  Rex lay back, spreading his great limbs now in the comfortable
corner of the inglenook, and stretching out his long legs to the
glow of the log fire. He wasn't sleepy, which amazed him when he
thought how little sleep he had had since he woke in his  state-
room  on the giant Cunarder the morning of the day that he dined
with  De  Richleau.  That seemed ages ago  now,  weeks,  months,
years.  So  many things had happened, so many new and staggering
thoughts  come to seethe and ferment in his brain,  yet  Simon's
party had been held only a bare two nights before.
  His  hand  moved lazily to his hip pocket to get a  cigarette,
but half way to it he abandoned the attempt as too much trouble,
wriggling down instead more comfortably about the cushions.
  He  wasn't  sleepy-not a bit. His brain had  never  been  more
active  and  his thoughts turned for a moment to his friends  at
Cardinals  Folly.  They, too, would be wide  awake,  braced,  no
doubt,  under De Richleau's determined leadership,  to  face  an
attack  from  the  powers of evil. De Richleau must  be  feeling
pretty  sleepy  he thought. Neither of them had  had  more  than
three  hours  that  morning after their exhausting  night.  They
hadn't got to bed much before dawn the night before either,  and
the Duke had been up, according to Max, at seven in order to  be
at  the  British  Museum directly it opened. Say  six  hours  in
sixty.  That wasn't much, but De Richleau was an old  campaigner
and he would stick it all right, Rex had no doubt.
  He  glanced at the clock, thinking it almost time that  Tanith
should  rejoin him, but saw that the slow-moving hand  had  only
advanced  two  minutes.  'Amazing how time  drags  when  one  is
watching  it,'  he  thought, and his mind  wandered  on  to  the
reflection  that he had been mighty wise not to  drink  anything
but  that  one glass of sherry and the burgundy for  dinner.  He
would  probably have been horribly drowsy by now if he had  been
fool enough to fall for the cocktails or the port. But he wasn't
sleepy-not a bit.
  His mind began to form little mental pictures of some of those
strange  episodes which he had lived through  in  the  last  two
days-old  Madame D'Urfe smoking her cigar and then  Tanith;  Max
arranging  the  cushions  in  De Richleau's  electric  canoe  at
Pangbourne,  and  then Tanith again. That plausible  old  humbug
Wilkes serving the Clos de Vougoet with meticulous care-a mighty
fine  thing  he made out of this pub no doubt -and  then  Tanith
once more, sitting opposite him at table, with the soft glow  of
the  shaded  electric lamp lighting her oval face  and  throwing
strange shadows in the silken web of her golden hair.
  He  glanced at the clock again-another minute had crawled  by,
and  then  he  pictured Tanith as he had seen  her  only  a  few
moments  before, bending to kiss him, her face warm and  flushed
by  the firelight, and those strange, deep, age-old eyes of hers
smiling tenderly into his beneath their heavy half-lowered lids.
It  must  be  this strange wonderful love for her,  he  thought,
which  kept  him so alive and alert, for ordinarily his  healthy
body  demanded  its fair share of sleep and he would  have  been
nodding  his  head off by this time. He could  still  see  those
glorious  golden eyes of hers smiling into his. The  face  above
them  was  indistinct  and vague, but they  remained  clear  and
shining  in  the  shadows on the far side of the fireplace.  The
eyes  were changing now a little-losing their colour and  fading
from  gold  to grey and then to a palish blue. Yet their  bright
ness  seemed  to increase and they grew bigger as he  held  them
with his mental gaze.
  He  thought  for a second of glancing at the clock  again.  It
seemed that Tanith had left him ages ago now, but judging by the
time  it  had  taken for that long hand to crawl  through  three
minutes' space he felt that it could hardly yet have covered the
other  two. Besides, he did not want to lose the focus of  those
strange, bright eyes which he could see so plainly when he  half
closed his own.
  Rex  wasn't sleepy-not a bit. But time is an illusion, and Rex
never  afterwards knew how long he sat awake there in the  semi-
darkness.  Perhaps during the first portion of  his  watch  some
strange  power deluded his vision and the clock had  in  reality
moved  on  while  he  only thought that the minutes  dragged  so
heavily.  In  any  case, those eyes that watched  him  from  the
shadows were his last conscious thought, and next moment Rex was
sound asleep.


                               27

                       Within the Pentacle

  While  Rex  slumbered evenly and peacefully before  the  dying
fire  in  the lounge of the 'Pride of Peacocks,' Richard,  Marie
Lou, the Duke and Simon waited in the pentacle, on the floor  of
the library at Cardinals Folly, for the dreary hours of night to
drag their way to morning.
  They lay with their heads towards the centre of the circle and
their  feet towards the rim, forming a human cross, but although
they  did not speak for a long time after they had settled down,
none of them managed to drop off to sleep.
  The  layer  of  clean  sheets and blankets  beneath  them  was
pleasant enough to rest on for a while, but the hard, unyielding
floorboards  under it soon began to cause them  discomfort.  The
bright flames of the burning candles and the steady glow of  the
electric light showed pink through their closed eyelids,  making
repose  difficult, and they were all keyed up to varying degrees
of anxious expectancy.
  Marie Lou was restless and miserable. Nothing but her fondness
for  Simon, and the Duke's plea that the presence of Richard and
herself  would  help  enormously in his protection,  would  have
induced  her  to  play  any part in such proceedings.  Her  firm
belief in the supernatural filled her with grim forebodings, and
she  tried in vain to shut out her fears by sleep. Every  little
noise that broke the brooding stillness, the creaking of a  beam
as  the  old  house  eased itself upon its foundations,  or  the
whisper  of the breeze as it rustled the leaves of the trees  hi
the  garden,  caused her to start-wide awake again, her  muscles
taut with alarm and apprehension.
  Richard did not attempt to sleep. He lay revolving a number of
problems  in his mind. Fleur d'amour's birthday was in a  couple
of  weeks' tune. The child was easy, but a present for Marie Lou
was  a  different question. It must be something that she wanted
and  yet  a  surprise. A difficult matter when she  already  had
everything  with  which his fine fortune could  endow  her,  and
jewellery was not only banal but absurd. The sale of the  lesser
stones among the Shulimoff treasure, which they had brought  out
of  Russia,  had realised enough to provide her with a  handsome
independent  income and her retention of the  finer  gems  alone
equipped her magnificently in that direction. He toyed with  the
idea  of buying her a two-year-old. He was not a racing man  but
she  was  fond of horses and it would be fun for her to see  her
own run at the lesser meetings.
  After  a while he turned restlessly on to his tummy, and began
to ponder this wretched muddle into which Simon had got himself.
The  more he thought about it the less he could subscribe to the
Duke's  obvious  beliefs. That so-called Black Magic  was  still
practised  in most of the Continental capitals and many  of  the
great  cities in America, he knew. He had even met a man, a  few
years  before,  who  had  told  him  that  he  had  attended   a
celebration  of  the Black Mass at a house in  the  Earls  Court
district  of  London, yet he could not credit that it  had  been
anything  more than a flimsy excuse for a crowd of  intellectual
decadents  to  get  disgustingly  drunk  and  participate  in  a
wholesale  sexual  orgy. Simon was not  that  sort,  or  a  fool
either,  so  it  was  certainly queer that he  should  have  got
himself mixed up with such beastliness.
  Richard turned over again, yawned, glanced at his friend whom,
he decided, he had never seen look more normal, and wondered if,
out  of courtesy to the Duke, he could possibly continue to play
his part in this tedious farce until morning.
  The  banishing  rituals which De Richleau had  performed  upon
Simon  the  previous  night at Stonehenge had  certainly  proved
successful,  and  he  had had a good sleep that  afternoon.  His
brain  was  now quick and clear as it had been in the  old  days
and, although Mocata's threats were principally directed against
himself,  he was by far the most cheerful of the party.  Despite
his  recent  experiences, his natural humour  bubbling  up  very
nearly  caused him to laugh at the thought of them all lying  on
that  hard  floor because he had made an idiot of  himself,  and
Richard's obvious disgust at the discomforts imposed by the Duke
caused him much amusement. Nevertheless, he recognised that  his
desire  to laugh was mainly due to nervous tension, and accepted
with   full  understanding  the  necessity  for  these   extreme
precautions.  To  think, for only a second, of  how  narrow  his
escape  had  been was enough to sober instantly any tendency  to
mirth  and send a quick shudder through his limbs. He  was  only
anxious  now,  having  dragged his friends  into  this  horrible
affair,  to cause them as little further trouble as possible  by
following the Duke's leadership without question. With  resolute
determination he kept his thoughts away from any of his dealings
with Mocata and set himself to endure his comfortless couch with
philosophic patience.
  To  outward  appearances De Richleau slept. He  lay  perfectly
still on his back breathing evenly and almost imperceptibly, but
he  had  always been able to do with very little sleep. Actually
he  was  recruiting his forces in a manner that was not possible
to  the  others. That gentle rhythmic breathing,  perfectly  but
unconsciously timed from long practice, was the way of the  Raja
Yoga  which  he  had  learnt when young, and  all  the  time  he
visualised   himself,   the   others,   the   whole   room    as
blue-blue-blue,  the  colour  vibration  which  gives  love  and
sympathy and spiritual attainment. Yet he was conscious of every
tiny  movement  made by the others; the gentle  sighing  of  the
breeze outside, and the occasional plop of burning logs as  they
fell  into  the  embers. For over two hours he  barely  moved  a
muscle but all his senses remained watchful and alert.
  The night seemed never-ending. Outside the wind dropped and  a
steady  rain began to fall, dripping with monotonous  regularity
from  the eaves on to the terrace. Richard became more and  more
sore  from  the hard floor. He was tired now and bored  by  this
apparently  senseless vigil. He thought that it  must  be  about
half  past one, and daylight would not come to release them from
their  voluntary prison before half past five or six. That meant
another  four  hours  of  this acute and momentarily  increasing
discomfort. As he tossed and turned it grew upon him with  ever-
increasing force how stupid and futile this whole affair  seemed
to  be.  De  Richleau was so obviously the victim of a  gang  of
clever tricksters, and his wide reading on obscure subjects  had
caused  his imagination to run away with him. To pander to  such
folly any longer simply was not good enough. With these thoughts
now dominating his mind Richard suddenly sat up.
  'Look here,' he said. 'I'm sick of this. A joke's a joke,  but
we've had no lunch and precious little dinner, and I haven't had
a  drink  all  day.  Some  of you have got  far  too  lively  an
imagination, and we are making utter fools of ourselves. We  had
better  go  upstairs.  If you're really frightened  of  anything
happening to Simon we could easily shift four beds into one room
and  all sleep within a hand's reach of each other. Nobody  will
be  able to get at him then. But frankly, at the moment, I think
we're behaving like a lot of lunatics.'
  De  Richleau rose with a jerk and gave him a sharp  look  from
beneath   his   grey  slanting  devil's  eyebrows.  'Something's
beginning to happen,' he told himself swiftly. 'They're  working
upon Richard, because he's the most sceptical amongst us, to try
and  make him break up the pentacle.' Aloud he said quietly: 'So
you're still unconvinced that Simon is in real danger, Richard?'
  'Yes,  I  am.'  Richard's voice held an angry aggressive  note
quite  foreign to his normal manner. 'I regard this Black  Magic
business as stupid nonsense. If you could cite me a single  case
where  so-called magicians have actually done their stuff before
sane people it would be different. But they're charlatans- every
one  of  them. Take Cagliostro-he was supposed to make gold  but
nobody ever saw any of it, and when the Inquisition got hold  of
him  they  bunged him in a dungeon in Rome and he died there  in
abject misery. His Black Magic couldn't even procure him a  hunk
of  bread. Look at Catherine de Medici. She was a witch  on  the
grand  scale  if  ever there was one- built a special  tower  at
Vincennes for Cosimo Ruggeri, an Italian sorcerer. They used  to
slit  up  babies  and  practise all sorts of abominations  there
together  night  after night to ensure the  death  of  Henry  of
Navarre and the birth of children to her own sons. But it didn't
do  her  a ha'porth of good. All four died childless so that  at
last, despite all her bloody sacrifices, the House of Valois was
extinct,  and Henry, the hated Bear-nais, became King of  France
after  all. Come nearer home if you like. Take that absurd  fool
Elipas  Levi  who was supposed to be the Grand High  Whatnot  in
Victorian  times. Did you ever read his book, The  Doctrine  and
Ritual  of  Magic! In his introduction he professes that  he  is
going  to  tell you all about the game and that he's  written  a
really practical book, by the aid of which anybody who likes can
raise  the  devil,  and perform all sorts of monkey  tricks.  He
drools  on  for  hundreds  of  pages  about  fiery  swords   and
tetragrams and the terrible aqua poffana, but does he  tell  you
anything?  Not a blessed thing. Once it comes to a  showdown  he
hedges  like the crook he was and tells you that such  mysteries
are  far  too  terrible and dangerous to  be  entrusted  to  the
profane.  Mysterious balderdash my friend. I'm going to  have  a
good strong nightcap and go to bed.'
  Marie  Lou  looked at him in amazement. Never before  had  she
heard  Richard denounce any subject with such passion and venom.
Ordinarily,  he  possessed an extremely open  mind  and,  if  he
doubted any statement, confined himself to a kindly but slightly
cynical  expression of disbelief. It was extraordinary  that  he
should  suddenly  forget  even  his  admirable  manners  and  be
downright rude to one of his greatest friends.
  De  Richleau studied his face with quiet understanding and  as
Richard  stood  up  he stood up too, laying his  hand  upon  the
younger  man's shoulder. 'Richard,' he said. 'You  think  I'm  a
superstitious fool, don't you?'
  'No.'  Richard shrugged uncomfortably. 'OnIy that you've  been
through  a  pretty difficult time and, quite frankly, that  your
imagination is a bit overstrained at the moment.'
  The  Duke smiled. 'All right, perhaps you are correct, but  we
have  been friends for a long time now and this business tonight
has not interfered with our friendship in any way, has it?'
  'Why, of course not. You know that.'
  'Then,  if  I begged of you to do something for my sake,  just
because of that friendship, you would do it, wouldn't you?'
  'Certainly  I  would,' Richard's hesitation was hardly  percep
tible and the Duke cut in quickly, taking him at his word.
  'Good! Then we will agree that Black Magic may be nothing  but
a childish superstition. Yet I happen to be frightened of it, so
I  ask  you,  my  friend, who is not bothered with  such  stupid
fears,  to  stay  with  me tonight-and  not  move  outside  this
pentacle.'
  Richard shrugged again, and then smiled ruefully. . . .
  'You've caught me properly now so I must make the best of  it;
quite  obviously  if you say that, it is impossible  for  me  to
refuse.'
  Thank  you,' De Richleau murmured as they both sat down again,
and to himself he thought: 'That's the first move in the game to
me.'  Then as a fresh silence fell upon the party, he  began  to
ruminate  upon the strangeness of the fact that elemen-tals  and
malicious spirits may be very powerful, but their nature  is  so
low  and  their  intelligence so limited that  they  can  nearly
always  be  trapped by the divine spark of reason which  is  the
salvation of mankind. The snare was such an obvious one and  yet
Richard's true nature had reasserted itself so rapidly that  the
force, which had moved him to try and break up their circle  for
its benefit, had been scotched almost before it had had a chance
to operate.
  They  settled down again but in some subtle way the atmosphere
had changed. The fire glowed red on its great pile of ashes, the
candles  burned unflickeringly in the five points of  the  star,
and the electric globes above the cornices still lit every comer
of  the room with a soft diffused radiance, yet the four friends
made  no  further pretence of trying to sleep. Instead they  sat
back  to  back, while the moments passed, creeping  with  leaden
feet towards the dawn.
  Marie Lou was perplexed and worried by Richard's outburst,  De
Richleau  tense with a new expectancy, now he felt that  psychic
forces   were   actually  moving  within  the   room.   Stealthy
-invisible-but  powerful; he knew them to be feeling  their  way
from bay to bay of the pentacle, seeking for any imperfection in
the  barrier he had erected, just as a strong current swirls and
eddies  about  the  jagged fissures of a reef searching  for  an
entrance into a lagoon.
  Simon  sat  crouched,  his  hands  clasped  round  has  knees,
staring,  apparently with unseeing eyes, at the  long  lines  of
books.  It  seemed that he was listening intently and  the  Duke
watched him with special care, knowing that he was the weak spot
of  their  defence. Presently, his voice a little hoarse,  Simon
spoke:
  'I'm awfully thirsty. I wish we'd got a drink.'
  De  Richleau  smiled, a little grimly. Another  of  the  minor
manifestations-the evil was working upon Simon now but  only  to
give  another  instance of its brutish stupidity. It  overlooked
the  fact  that he had provided for such an emergency with  that
big carafe of water in the centre of the pentacle. The fact that
it had caused Simon to forget its presence was of little moment.
'Here  you  are, my friend,' he said, pouring out a glass.  This
will quench your thirst.'
  Simon  sipped it and put it aside with a shake of  his  narrow
head.  'Do you use well-water, Richard?' he asked jerkily.  This
stuff tastes beastly to me-brackish and stale.'
  'Ah!'  thought De Richleau. 'That's the line they are  trying,
is  it? Well, I can defeat them there,' and taking Simon's glass
he  poured the contents back into the carafe. Then he picked  up
his bottle of Lourdes water. There was very little in it now for
the  bulk of it had been used to fill the five cups which  stood
in  the vales of the pentagram-but enough-and he sprinkled a few
drops into the water in the carafe.
  Richard  was  speaking-instinctively now in  a  lowered  voice
-assuring  Simon  that  they always  used  Burrows  Malvern  for
drinking  purposes,  when the Duke filled the  glass  again  and
handed it back to Simon. 'Now try that.'
  Simon  sipped again and nodded quickly. 'Urn, that seems quite
different. I think it must have been my imagination before,' and
he drank off the contents of the glass.
  Again for a long period no one spoke. Only the scraping  of  a
mouse behind the wainscot, sounding abnormally loud, jarred upon
the stillness. That frantic insistent gnawing frayed Marie Lou's
nerves  to such a pitch that she wanted to scream, but  after  a
while  that,  too, ceased and the heavy silence,  pregnant  with
suspense,  enveloped them once more. Even the gentle  patter  on
the  window-panes was no longer there to remind them of healthy,
normal  things, for the rain had stopped, and in that  soundless
room  the only movement was the soft flicker of the logs,  piled
high in the wide fireplace.
  It  seemed  that they had been crouching in that pentacle  for
nights on end and that their frugal dinner lay days away.  Their
discomfort had been dulled into a miserable apathy and they were
drowsy  now  after these hours of strained uneventful  watching.
Richard  lay  down again to try and snatch a little  sleep.  The
Duke  alone  remained alert. He knew that this long interval  of
inactivity  on the part of the malefic powers was only  a  snare
designed to give a false sense of security before the renewal of
the attack. At length he shifted his position slightly and as he
did so he chanced to glance upwards at the ceiling. Suddenly  it
seemed  to him that the Lights were not quite so bright as  they
had  been. It might be his imagination, due to the fact that  he
was  anticipating trouble, but somehow he felt certain that  the
ceiling  had been brighter when he had looked at it  before.  In
quick alarm he roused the others.
  Simon nodded, realising why De Richleau had touched him on the
shoulder and confirming his suspicion. Then with straining eyes,
they  all  watched the cornice, where the concealed  lights  ran
round the wall above the top of the bookshelves.
  The action was so slow, that each of them felt their eyes must
be deceiving them, and yet an inner conviction told them that it
was  true.  Shadows had appeared where no shadows  were  before.
Slowly but surely the current was failing and the lights dimming
as they watched.
  There  was something strangely terrifying now about that quiet
room.  It was orderly and peaceful, just as Richard knew it  day
by  day,  except for the abseace of the furniture.  No  nebulous
ghost-like figure had risen up to confront them, but  there,  as
the  minutes  passed,  they  were faced  with  an  unaccountable
phenomenon-those bright electric globes hidden from their  sight
were gradually but unquestionably being dimmed.
  The  shadows from the bookcases lengthened. The centre  of  me
ceiling  became  a  dusky patch. Gradually, gradually,  as  with
caught  breath  they  watched, the room  was  being  plunged  in
darkness.  Soundless and stealthy, that black  shadow  upon  the
ceiling grew in size and the binding of the books became obscure
where  they had before been bright until, after what  seemed  an
eternity of time, no light remained save only the faintest  line
just  above  the  rim  of the top bookshelf,  the  five  candles
burning  steadily  in the points of the five-starred  pentagram,
and the dying fire.
  Richard shuddered suddenly. 'My God! It's cold,' he exclaimed,
drawing  Marie  Lou  towards him. The Duke  nodded,  silent  and
watchful. He felt that sinister chill draught beginning to  flow
upon  the  back of his neck, and his scalp prickled as he  swung
round with a sudden jerk to face it.
  There  was  nothing to be seen-only the vague outline  of  the
bookcases  rising high and stark towards the ceiling  where  the
dull  ribbon  of light still glowed. The flames of  the  candles
were  bent now at an angle under the increasing strength of  the
cold invisible air current that pressed steadily upon them.
  De  Richleau  began  to intone a prayer. The  wind  ceased  as
suddenly  as it had begun, but a moment later it began  to  play
upon them again-this time from a different quarter.
  The  Duke  resumed his prayer-the wind checked-and  then  came
with  renewed force from another angle. He swung to meet it  but
it was at his back again.
  A  faint,  low moaning became perceptible as the unholy  blast
began to circle round the pentacle. Round and round it
  swirled with ever-increasing strength and violence, beating up
out  of the shadows in sudden wild gusts of arctic iciness,  and
tearing  at  them with chill, invisible, clutching  fingers,  so
that it seemed as if they were standing in the very vortex of  a
cyclone. The candles flickered wildly-and went out.
  Richard, his scepticism badly shaken, quickly pushed Marie Lou
to  one side and whipped out his matches. He struck one, and got
the  nearest candle alight again but, as he turned to the  next,
that   cold  damp  evil  wind  came  once  more,  chilling   the
perspiration that had broken out upon his forehead, snuffing the
candle  that  he  had re-lit and the half-burnt match  which  he
still held between his fingers,
  He  lit  another and it spluttered out almost before the  wood
had caught-another-and another, but they would not burn.
  He  glimpsed Simon's face for an instant, white, set, ghastly,
the eyeballs protruding unnaturally as he knelt staring out into
the  shadows-then the whole centre of the room  was  plunged  in
blackness.
  'We  must  hold  hands,' whispered the Duke. 'Quick,  it  will
strengthen  our  resistance,' and in the murk they  fumbled  for
each  other's fingers, all standing up now, until they formed  a
little ring in the very centre of the pentagram, hand clasped in
hand and bodies back to back.
  The  whirling hurricane ceased as suddenly as it had begun.  A
unnatural  stillness descended on the room again.  Then  without
warning,  an uncontrollable fit of trembling took possession  of
Marie Lou.
  'Steady, my sweet,' breathed Richard, gripping her 'hand  more
tightly, 'you'll be all right in a minute.' He thought that  she
was  suffering  from  the effect of that awful  cold  which  had
penetrated  the thin garments of them all, but she was  standing
facing  the grate and her knees shook under her as she stammered
out:
  'But look-the fire.'
  Simon  was  behind her but the Duke and Richard, who  were  on
either  side,  turned their heads and saw  the  thing  that  had
caused  her such excess of terror. The piled-up logs had  flared
into  fresh life as that strange rushing wind had circled  round
the  room,  but now the flames had died down and, as their  eyes
rested  upon  it, they saw that the red hot embers were  turning
black.  It  was  as  though some monstrous  invisible  hand  was
dabbing at it, then almost in a second, every spark of light  in
that great, glowing fire was quenched.
  'Pray,' urged the Duke, 'for God's sake, pray.'
  After  a  little their eyes grew accustomed to this  new  dark
ness.  The  electric globes hidden behind the cornice  were  not
quite  dead.  They flickered and seemed about to  fail  entirely
every  few  moments, yet always the power exerted  against  them
seemed  just  not quite enough, for their area  of  light  would
increase again, so that the shadows across the ceiling and below
the  books  were  driven  back. The  four  friends  waited  with
pounding  hearts  as they watched that silent  struggle  between
light and darkness and the swaying of the shadows backwards  and
forwards, that ringed them in.
  For  what  seemed  an immeasurable time they stood  in  silent
apprehension,  praying that the last gleam of light  would  hold
out,  then, shattering that eerie silence like the sound of guns
there came three swift, loud knocks upon the window-pane.
  'What's that?' snapped Richard.
  'Stay still,' hissed the Duke.
  A voice came suddenly from outside in the garden. It was clear
and  unmistakable. Each one of them recognised it  instantly  as
that of Rex.
  'Say, I saw your light burning. Come on and let me in.'
  With  a  little sigh of relief at the breaking of the tension,
Richard let go Marie Lou's hand and took a step forward. But the
Duke grabbed his shoulder and jerked him back:
  'Don't be a fool,' he rasped. 'It's a trap.'
  'Come  on  now.  What  in  heck is  keeping  you?'  the  voice
demanded. 'It's mighty cold out here, let me in quick.'
  Richard alone remained momentarily unconvinced that it  was  a
superhuman  agency at work. The others felt a shiver  of  horror
run through their limbs at the perfect imitation of Rex's voice,
which  they were convinced was a manifestation of some  terrible
entity  endeavouring to trick them into leaving their  carefully
constructed defence.
  'Richard,' the voice came again, angrily now. 'It's Rex I tell
you-Rex.  Stop all this fooling and get this door  undone.'  But
the  four figures in the pentacle now remained tense, silent and
unresponsive.
  The  voice  spoke  no more and once again  there  was  a  long
interval of silence.
  De Richleau feared that the Adversary was gathering his forces
for  a  direct  attack and it was that, above all other  things,
which  filled  him with dread. He was reasonably confident  that
his  own  intelligence would serve to sense out  and  avoid  any
fresh  pitfalls which might be set, providing the  others  would
obey his bidding and remain steadfast in their determination not
to  leave  the  pentacle, but he had failed in  his  attempt  to
secure  the holy wafers of the Blessed Sacrament that afternoon,
the  lights were all but overcome, the sacred candles  had  been
snuffed out. The holy water, horseshoes, garlic and the pentacle
itself  might only prove a partial defence if the dark  entities
which were about them made an open and determined assault,
  'What's  that!' exclaimed Simon, and they swung round to  face
the  new  danger. The shadows were massing into deeper blackness
in one corner of the room. Something was moving there.
  A  dim  phosphorescent  blob began to glow  in  the  darkness;
shimmering  and  spreading  into a great  hummock,  its  outline
gradually  became  clearer. It was not a man  form  nor  yet  an
animal, but heaved there on the floor like some monstrous living
sack.  It  had  no  eyes or face but from it  there  radiated  a
terrible malefic intelligence.
  Suddenly there ceased to be anything ghostlike about  it.  The
Thing had a whitish pimply skin, leprous and unclean, like  some
huge  silver  slug. Waves of satanic power rippled  through  its
spineless body, causing it to throb and work continually like  a
great  mass  of new-made dough. A horrible stench of  decay  and
corruption filled the room; for as it writhed it exuded a  slimy
poisonous moisture which trickled in little rivulets across  the
polished  floor.  It was solid, terribly real, a  living  thing.
They  could even see long, single, golden hairs, separated  from
each other by ulcerous patches of skin, quivering and waving  as
they  rose on end from its flabby body-and suddenly it began  to
laugh at them, a low, horrid, chuckling laugh.
  Marie  Lou  reeled against Richard, pressing the back  of  her
hand against her mouth and biting into it to prevent a scream.
  His  eyes were staring, a cold perspiration broke out upon his
face.
  De  Richleau knew that it was a Saiitii manifestation  of  the
most  powerful and dangerous kind. His nails bit into the  palms
of his hands as he watched that shapeless mass, silver white and
putrescent, heave and ferment.
  Suddenly it moved, with the rapidity of a cat, yet they  heard
the  squelching sound as it leapt along the floor, leaving a wet
slimy  trail in its wake, that poisoned the air like foul  gases
given off by animal remains.
  They  spun  round to face it, then it laughed  again,  mocking
them  with that quiet, diabolical chuckle that had the power  to
fill them with such utter dread.
  It  lay  for a moment near the window pulsating with  demoniac
energy like some enormous livid heart. Then it leapt again  back
to the place where it had been before.
  Shuddering  at the thought of that ghastliness springing  upon
then- backs they turned with lightning speed to meet it, but  it
only lay there wobbling and crepitating with unholy glee.
  'Oh, God!' gasped Richard.
  The  masked  door  which  led up to  the  nursery  was  slowly
opening. A line of white appeared in the gap from near the floor
to  about  three feet in height. It broadened as the door  swung
back poiselessly upon its hinges, and Marie Lou gave a terrified
cry.
  'It's Fleur!'
  The  men,  too, instantly recognised the little body,  in  the
white  nightgown, vaguely outlined against the blackness of  the
shadows,  as the face with its dark aureole of curling  hair  be
came clear.
  The  Thing  was  only two yards from the child.  With  hideous
merriment it chuckled evilly and flopping forward, decreased the
distance by a half.
  With  one swift movement, De Richleau Sung his arm about Marie
Lou's  neck and jerked her backwards, her chin gripped  fast  in
the  crook of his elbow. 'It's not Fleur,' he cried desperately.
'Only  some  awful  thing which has taken her shape  to  deceive
you.'
  'Of  course  it's  Fleur-she walking in  her  sleep!'  Richard
started  forward  to spring towards the child, but  De  Richleau
grapped his arm with his free hand and wrenched him back.
  'It's  not,'  he insisted in an agonised whisper. 'Richard,  I
beg  you! Have a little faith in me! Look at her face-it's blue!
Oh, Lord protect us!'
  At  that positive suggestion, thrown out with such vital force
at  a moment of supreme emotional tension, it did appear to them
for  an  instant that the child's face had a corpse-like  bluish
tinge then, upon the swift plea for Divine aid, the lines of the
figure  seemed to blur and tremble. The Thing laughed, but  this
time  with thwarted malice, a high-pitched, angry, furious note.
Then  both  the child and that nameless Thing became transparent
and  faded. The silent heavy darkness, undisturbed by  sound  or
movement, settled all about them once again.
  With  a  gasp  of relief the straining Duke released  his  pri
soners. 'Now do you believe me?' he muttered hoarsely, but there
was not time for them to reply. The next attack developed almost
instantly.
  Simon  was  crouching in the middle of the circle.  Marie  Lou
felt  his body trembling against her thigh. She put her hand  on
his shoulder to steady him and found that he was shaking like an
epileptic in a fit.
  He  began to gibber. Great shudders shook his frame from  head
to toe and suddenly he burst into heart-rending sobs.
  'What is it, Simon,' she bent towards him quickly, but he took
no  notice  of her and crouched there on all fours  like  a  dog
until,  with a sudden jerk, he pulled himself upright and  began
to mutter:
  'I  won't-I won't I say-I won't. D'you hear-- You mustn't make
me-no-no-- No!' Then with a reeling, drunken motion he staggered
forward  in the direction of the window. But Marie Lou  was  too
quick for him and Sung both arms about his neck.
  'Simon darling-Simon,' she panted. 'You mustn't leave us.'
  For  a  moment  he  remained still,  then,  his  body  twisted
violently  as  though his limbs were animated by  some  terrible
inhuman  force, and he flung her from him. The mild good-natured
smile  had left his face and it seemed, in the faint light which
still  glowed  from the cornice, that he had become  an  utterly
changed personality-his mouth hung open showing the bared  teeth
in  a snarl of ferocious rage-his eyes glinted hot and dangerous
with  the glare of insanity-a little dribble of saliva ran  down
his chin.
  'Quick,  Richard,' cried the Duke. 'They've got him-for  God's
sake pull him down!'
  Richard  had  seen  enough now to destroy his  scepticism  for
life. He followed De Richleau's lead, grappling frantically with
Simon, and all three of them crashed struggling to the floor,
  'Oh, God,' sobbed Marie Lou. 'Oh, God, dear God!'
  Simon's  breath came in great gasps as though his chest  would
burst.  He  fought  and  struggled like a maniac,  but  Richard,
desperate  now, kneed him in the stomach and between  them  they
managed  to hold him down. Then De Rich-leau, who, fearing  such
an  attack,  had  had  the forethought to provide  himself  with
cords, succeeded in tying his wrists and ankles.
  Richard rose panting from the struggle, smoothed back his dark
hair,  and  said huskily to the Duke. 'I take it all  back.  I'm
sorry if I've been an extra nuisance to you.'
  De  Richleau patted him on the elbow. He could not  smile  for
his eyes were flickering, even as Richard spoke, from corner  to
corner of that grim, darkened room, seeking, yet dreading,  some
new form in which the Adversary might attempt their undoing.
  All  three linked their arms together and stood, with  Simon's
body  squirming at their feet, jerking their heads from side  to
side  in  nervous expectancy. They had not long to  wait.  Indis
tinct at first, but certain after a moment, there was a stirring
in  the blackness near the door. Some new horror was forming out
there in the shadows beyond the pointers of the pentacle-just on
a level with their heads.
  Their  grip  upon  each other tightened  as  they  fought  des
perately  to recruit their courage. Marie Lou stood between  the
others,  her eyes wide and distended, as she watched this  fresh
manifestation gradually take shape and gain solidity.
  Her  scalp  began to prickle beneath her chestnut  curls.  The
Thing  was forming into a long, dark, beast-like face. Two  tiny
points of light appeared in it just above the level of her eyes.
She  felt the short hairs at the back of her skull lift of their
own volition like the hackles of a dog.
  The  points  of  light grew in size and intensity.  They  were
eyes.  Round,  protuberant and burning with a fiery  glow,  they
bored into hers, watching her with a horrible unwinking stare.
  She  wanted desperately to break away and run, but  her  knees
sagged  beneath her. The head of the Beast merged into  powerful
shoulders  and the blackness below solidified into strong  thick
legs.
  'It's a horse!' gasped Richard. 'A riderless horse.'
  De  Richleau  groaned. It was a horse indeed.  A  great  black
stallion  and it had no rider that was visible to them,  but  he
knew  its terrible significance. Mocata, grown desperate by  his
failures  to  wrest Simon from their keeping, had abandoned  the
attempt  and,  in savage revenge, now sent the  Angel  of  Death
himself to claim them.
  A  saddle  of crimson leather was strapped upon the stallion's
back,  the  pressure  of invisible feet held  the  long  stirrup
leathers  rigid to its flanks, and unseen hands held  the  reins
taut  a  few inches above its withers. The Duke knew well enough
that  no human who has beheld that dread rider in all his sombre
glory  has ever lived to tell of it. If that dark Presence broke
into  the pentacle they would see him all too certainly, but  at
the price of death.
  The  sweat  streaming down his face, Richard held his  ground,
staring  with fascinated horror at the muzzle of the beast,  The
fleshy  nose wrinkled, the lips drew back, barring two  rows  of
yellowish  teeth.  It champed its silver bit.  Flecks  of  foam,
white and real, dripped from its loose mouth.
  It  snorted  violently  and its heated breath  came  like  two
clouds of steam from its quivering nostrils warm and damp on his
face.  He  heard De Richleau praying, frantically,  unceasingly,
and tried to follow suit.
  The  stallion  whinnied, tossed its head and backed  into  the
bookcases  drawn by the power of those unseen hands, its  mighty
hoofs  ringing loud on the boards. Then, as though  rowelled  by
knife-edged spurs, it was launched upon them.
  Marie  Lou  screamed and tried to tear herself from  De  Rich-
leau's  grip, but his slim fingers were like a steel  vice  upon
her  arm. He remained there, ashen-faced but rigid, fronting the
huge beast which seemed about to trample all three of them under
foot.
  As  it  plunged  forward  the only  thought  which  penetrated
Richard's  brain  was to protect Marie Lou, Instead  of  leaping
back, he sprang in front of her with his automatic levelled  and
pressed the trigger.
  The crash of the explosion sounded like a thunder-clap in that
confined  space.  Again-again-again,  he  fired  while  blinding
flashes lit the room as though with streaks of lighting.  For  a
succession of seconds the whole library was as bright as day and
the gilded bookbacks stood out so clearly that De Richleau could
even  read  the titles across the empty space where, so  lately,
the great horse had been.
  The  silence  that descended on them when Richard ceased  fire
was  so  intense that they could hear each other breathing,  and
for the moment they were plunged in utter darkness.
  After  that glaring succession of flashes from the shots,  the
little  rivers of light around the cornice seemed to have shrunk
to  the  glimmer of night lights coming beneath heavy  curtains.
They  could  no  longer even see each other's  figures  as  they
crouched together in the ring.
  The  thought  of  the  servants  flashed  for  a  second  into
Richard's mind. The shooting was bound to have fetched them  out
of  bed.  If they came down their presence might put an  end  to
this  ghastly business. But the minutes passed. No welcome sound
of  running  feet came to break that horrid stillness  that  had
closed  in upon them once more. With damp hands be fingered  his
automatic and found that the magazine was empty. In his  frantic
terror he had loosed off every one of the eight shots.
  How long they remained there, tense with horror, peering again
into  those  awful  shadows, they never knew,  yet  each  became
suddenly  aware that the steed of the Dark Angel, who  had  been
sent  out  from the underworld to bring about their destruction,
was steadily re-forming.
  The  red  eyes began to glow in the long dark face.  The  body
lengthened. The stallion's hoof-beats rang upon the floor as  it
stamped with impatience to be unleashed. The very smell  of  the
stable  was in the room. That gleaming harness stood  out  plain
and  clear. The reins rose sharply from its polished bit to bend
uncannily in that invisible grip above its saddle bow. The black
beast snorted, reared high in to the air, and then the crouching
humans faced that terrifying charge again.
  The  Duke  felt  Marie Lou sway against  him,  clutch  at  his
shoulder, and slip to the floor. The strain had proved too great
and  she had fainted. He could do nothing for her-the beast  was
actually upon them.
  It baulked, upon the very edge of the pentacle, its fore hoofs
slithering upon the polished floor, its back legs crashing under
it as though faced with some invisible barrier.
  With  a neigh of fright and pain it flung up its powerful head
as  though its face had been brought into contact with a red-hot
bar.  It  backed away champing and whinnying until its  steaming
hindquarters pressed against the book-lined wall.
  Richard stooped to clasp Marie Lou's limp body. In their  fear
they had all unconsciously retreated from the middle to the edge
of  the  circle. As he knelt his foot caught one of the cups  of
Holy  Water  set in the vales of the pentacle. It toppled  over.
The water spilled and ran to waste upon the floor.
  Instantly  a  roar of savage triumph filled the  room,  coming
from  beneath  their feet. The ab-human monster from  the  outer
circle-that  obscene sack-like Thing-appeared  again.  Its  body
vibrated  with  tremendous rapidity. It screamed  at  them  with
positively frantic glee. With incredible speed the stallion  was
swung  by  its  invisible rider at the  gap  in  the  protective
barrier. The black beast plunged, scattering the gutted  candles
and  dried  mandrake, then reared above them,  its  great,  dark
belly on a level with their heads, its enormous hoofs poised  in
mid-air about to batter out their brains.
  For  one  awful second it hovered there while Richard crouched
gazing upward, his arms locked tight round the unconscious Marie
Lou,  De  Richleau stood his ground above them both,  the  sweat
pouring in great rivulets down his lean face.
  Almost,  it  seemed, the end had come. The the Duke  used  his
final  resources,  and did a thing which  shall  never  be  done
except in the direst emergency when the very soul is in peril of
destruction. In a clear sharp voice he pronounced the  last  two
lines of the dread Sussamma Ritual.
  A  streak  of  light  seemed to curl for a  second  round  the
stallion's body, as though it had been struck with unerring aim,
caught in the toils of some gigantic whip-lash and hurled  back.
The   Thing  disintegrated  instantly  in  sizzling   atoms   of
opalescent light. The horse dissolved into the silent shadows.
  Those  mysterious and unconquerable powers, the Lord of Light,
the Timeless Ones, had answered; compelied by those mystic words
to leave their eternal contemplation of Supreme Beatitude for  a
fraction  of  earthly time, to intervene for  the  salvation  of
those   four  small  flickering  flames  that  burned   in   the
beleaguered humans.
  An utter silence descended upon the room. It was so still that
De  Richleau could hear Richard's heart pounding in his  breast.
Yet  he  knew  that  by that extreme invocation  they  had  been
carried  out of their bodies on to the fifth. Astral plane.  His
conscious brain told him that it was improbable that they  would
ever  get  back. To call upon the very essence of light requires
almost  superhuman courage, for Prana possesses  an  energy  and
force utterly beyond the understanding of the human mind. As  it
can  shatter darkness in a manner beside which a million  candle
power  searchlight becomes a pallid beam, so it can attract  all
lesser  light to itself and carry it to realms undreamed  of  by
infinitesimal man.
  For a moment it seemed that they had been ripped right out  of
the  room and were looking down into it. The pentacle had become
a  flaming star. Their bodies were dark shadows grouped  in  its
centre. The peace and silence of death surged over them in great
saturating  waves.  They were above the house.  Cardinals  Folly
became a black speck in the distance. Then everything faded.
  Time  ceased, and it seemed that for a thousand thousand years
they floated, atoms of radiant matter in an immense immeasurable
void-circling for ever in the soundless stratosphere-being  shut
off  from every feeling and sensation, as though travelling with
effortless  impulse five hundred fathoms deep below the  current
levels of some uncharted sea.
  Then, after a passage of eons in human time they saw the house
again,  infinitely far beneath them, their bodies lying  in  the
pentacle  and that darkened room. In an utter eerie silence  the
dust of centuries was falling . . . falling. Softly, impalpably,
like  infinitely tiny particles of swansdown, it seemed to cover
them, the room, and all that was in it, with a fine grey powder.
  De Richleau raised his head. It seemed to him that he had been
on  a  long journey and then slept for many days. He passed  his
hand  across  his eyes and saw the familiar bookshelves  in  the
semi-darkened library. The bulbs above the cornice flickered and
the light came full on.
  Marie  Lou  had come to and was struggling to her knees  while
Richard  fondled her with trembling hands, and murmured;  'We're
safe, darling-safe.'
  Simon's eyes were free now from that terrible maniacal  glare.
The  Duke  had no memory of having unloosened his bonds  but  he
knelt  beside  them looking as normal as he had  when  they  had
first entered upon that terrible weaponless battle.
  'Yes, we're safe-and Mocata is finished,' De Richleau passed a
hand over his eyes as if they were still clouded. 'The Angel  of
Death was sent against us tonight, but he failed to get us,  and
he  will  never return empty-handed to his dark Kingdom.  Mocata
summoned him so Mocata must pay the penalty.'
  'Are-are you sure of that?' Simon's jaw dropped suddenly.
  'Certain.  The  age-old  law  of retaliation  cannot  fail  to
operate. He will be dead before the morning.'
  'But-but,'  Simon  stammered. 'Don't you realise  that  Mocata
never  does these things himself. He throws other people into  a
hypnotic trance and makes them do his devilish business for him.
One  of the poor wretches who are in his power will have to  pay
for this night's work.'
  Even  as  he  spoke there came the sound of running  footsteps
along  the flagstones of the terrace. A rending crash as a heavy
boot landed violently on the woodwork of the french-windows.
  They  burst open, and framed in them stood no vision  but  Rex
himself.  Haggard, dishevelled, hollow-eyed, his face a  ghastly
mask of panic, fear and fury.
  He  stood  there for a moment staring at them as  though  they
were  ghosts. In his arms he held the body of a woman; her  fair
hair  tumbled across his right arm, and her long silk-stockinged
legs dangled limply from the other.
  Suddenly  two great tears welled up into his eyes and trickled
slowly down his furrowed cheeks. Then as he laid the body gently
on  the  floor  they saw that it was Tanith, and  knew,  by  her
strange unnatural stillness, that she was dead.


                               28

                           Necromancy

  'Oh,  Rex!'  Marie  Lou  dropped to her knees  beside  Tanith,
knowing that this must be the girl of whom he had raved  to  her
that afternoon. 'How awful for you!'
  'How  did  this happen?' the Duke demanded. It was  imperative
that he should know at once every move in the enemy's game,  and
the urgent note in his voice helped to pull Rex together.
  'I  hardly know,' he gasped out. 'She got me along because she
was  scared stiff of that swine Mocata. I couldn't call  you  up
this afternoon and later when I tried your line was blocked, but
I had to stay with her. We were going to pass the night together
in  the  parlour, but around midnight she left me  and  then-oh,
God! I fell asleep.'
  'How long did you sleep for?' asked Richard quickly.
  'Several  hours, I reckon. I was about all in after yesterday,
but  the  second  I woke I dashed up to her room  and  she  was,
dressed as she is now-lying asleep, I figured-in an armchair.  I
tried  to  wake  her  but I couldn't. Then I  got  real  scared-
grabbed hold of her-and beat it down those stairs six at a time.
You've just no notion how frantic I was to get out of that place
and  next  thing  I knew-I saw your light and came  bursting  in
here. She-she's not dead, is she?'
  'Oh, Rex, you poor darling,' Marie Lou stammered as she chafed
Tanith's cold hands. 'I-I'm afraid--'
  'She  isn't-she can't be!' he protested wildly. 'That  fiend's
only thrown her into a trance or something.'
  Richard  had  taken a little mirror from Marie Lou's  bag.  He
held  it  against Tanith's bloodless lips. No trace of  moisture
marred its surface. Then he pressed his hand beneath her breast.
  'Her  heart's  stopped beating,' he said after a moment.  'I'm
sorry, old chap, but-well, I'm afraid you've got to face it.'
  'The  old-fashioned tests of death are not conclusive,'  Simon
whispered  to  the Duke. 'Scientists say now that even  arteries
can  be  cut  and fail to bleed, but life still remains  in  the
body.
  They've all come round to the belief that we're animated by  a
sort of atomic energy-call it the soul if you like-and that  the
body  may retain that vital spark without showing the least sign
of life. Mightn't it be some form of catalepsy like that?'
  'Of  course,' De Richleau agreed. 'It has been proved time and
again  that the senses are only imperfect vessels for collecting
impressions. There is something else which can see when the eyes
are  closed and hear while the body is being painlessly  cut  to
ribbons under an anaesthetic. All the modern experimenters agree
that there are many states in which the body is not wholly alive
or  wholly  dead, but I fear there is little hope in this  case.
You see we know that Mocata used her as his catspaw, so the poor
girl  has  been forced to pay the price of failure. I haven't  a
single doubt that she is dead.'
  Rex  caught  his  last words and swung upon  him  frantically.
'God!  this is frightful. I-I tried to kid myself but I think  I
knew  it  the moment I picked her up. Her prophecy's  come  true
then.' He passed his hand over his eyes. 'I can't quite take  it
in  yet-this  and  all of you seem terribly  unreal-but  is  she
really  dead?  She was so mighty scared that if  she  died  some
awful thing might remain to animate her body.'
  'She  is dead as we know death,' said Richard softly. 'So what
could remain?'
  'I  know  what he means,' the Duke remarked abruptly.  'He  is
afraid  that  an  elemental may have  taken  possession  of  her
corpse. If so drastic measures will be necessary.'
  'No!'  Rex  shook his head violently. 'If you're  thinking  of
cutting  off her head and driving a stake through her  heart,  I
won't have it. She's mine, I tell you-mine!'
  'Better  that  than the poor soul should suffer the  agony  of
seeing  its body come out of the grave at night to fatten itself
on  human  blood,' De Richleau murmured. 'But there are  certain
tests, and we can soon find out. Bring her over here.'
  Simon  and Richard lifted the body and carried it over to  the
mat  of sheets and blankets in the centre of the pentacle, while
De Richleau fiddled for a moment among his impedimenta.
  'The  Undead,' he said slowly, 'have certain inhibitions. They
can  pass  as  human, but they cannot eat human  food  and  they
cannot  cross running water except at sunset and sunrise. Garlic
is  a  most fearsome thing to them, so that they scream if  only
touched by it, and the Cross, of course, is anathema. We will
  see if she reacts to them.'
  As  he  spoke he took the wreath of garlic flowers from  round
his neck and placed it about Tanith's. Then he made the sign  of
the  Cross above her and laid his little gold crucifix upon  her
lips.
  The  others  stood  round, watching the scene  with  horrified
fascination.  Tanith lay there, calm and still,  her  pale  face
shadowed by the golden hair, her tawny eyes now closed under the
heavy, blue-veined lids, the long, curved eyelashes falling upon
her  cheeks.  She had the look of death and yet, as De  Richleau
set  about  his  grim task, it seemed to them that  her  eyelids
might  flicker open at any moment. Yet, when the garlic  flowers
were draped upon her, she remained there cold and immobile,  and
when  the  little crucifix was laid upon her lips she showed  no
consciousness  of  it,  even by the  twitching  of  the  tiniest
muscle.
  'She's dead, Rex, absolutely dead, De Richleau stood up again.
'So,  my  poor  boy,  at  least your worst  fears  will  not  be
realised.  Her  soul has left her body but no  evil  entity  has
taken possession of it, I am certain of that now.'
  A  new  hush  fell upon the room. Tanith looked, if  possible,
even  more beautiful in death that she had in life, so that they
marvelled  at  her loveliness. Rex crouched beside her,  utterly
stricken  by this tragic ending to all the wonderful  hopes  and
plans which had seethed in his mind the previous afternoon after
she  had told him that she loved him. He had known her by  sight
for so long, dreamed of her so often, yet having gained her love
a  merciless fate had deprived him of it after only a few  hours
of  happiness. It was unfair-unfair. Suddenly he buried his face
in  his hands, his great shoulders shook, and for the first time
in his life he gave way to a passion of bitter tears.
  The  rest  stood by him in silent sympathy. There was  nothing
which  they  could say or do. Marie Lou attempted to soothe  his
anguish by stroking his rebellious hair, but he jerked his  head
away  with  a quick angry movement. Only a few hours before,  in
those sunlit woods, Tanith had run her fingers through his curls
again  and  again  during the ecstasy of the  dawning  of  their
passion for each other, and the thought that she would never  do
so  any  more  filled him with the almost unbearable  grief  and
misery.
  After  a  while  the Duke turned helplessly  away  and  Simon,
catching his eye, beckoned him over towards the open window  out
of  earshot  from the others. The seemingly endless night  still
lay  upon the garden, and now a light mist had arisen. Wisps  of
it  were  creeping down the steps from the terrace  and  curling
into  the room. De Richleau shivered and refastened the  windows
to shut them out.
  'What is it?' he asked quickly.
  'I-er-suppose  there is no chance of her  being  made  animate
again?' hazarded Simon.
  'None.  If  there had been anything there it would never  have
been  able  to  bear the garlic and the crucifix without  giving
some indication of its presence.'
  'I wasn't thinking of that. The vital organs aren't injured in
any  way as far as we know, and rigor mortis has not set in yet.
I  felt  her  hand just now and the fingers are as  flexible  as
mine.'
  De  Richleau shrugged. 'That makes no difference. Rigor mortis
may  have been delayed for a variety of reasons but she will  be
'as  stiff  as  a board in a few hours' time just the  same.  Of
course  her  state does resemble that of a person who  has  been
drowned,  in  a  way, but only superficially;  and  if  you  are
thinking  that  we  might bring her back to life  by  artificial
respiration  I  can assure you that there is not  a  chance.  It
would only be a terrible unkindness to hold out such false hopes
to poor Rex.'
  'Ner-you  don't  see what I'm driving at.' Simon's  dark  eyes
flickered quickly from De Richleau's face to the silent group in
the  centre  of the pentagram and then back again. 'No  ordinary
doctor  could do anything for her, I know that well enough;  but
since  her body is still in the intermediate stage there  are  a
few  people  in  this world who could, and I  was  wondering  if
you--'
  'What!'  The Duke started suddenly then went on in a  whisper:
'Do you mean that I should try and bring her back?'
  'Urn,' Simon nodded his head jerkily up and down. 'If you know
the  drill-and you seem to know so much about the great secrets,
I thought it just on the cards you might?'
  De  Richleau looked thoughtful for a moment. 'I know something
of  the ritual,' he confessed at length, 'but I have never  seen
it done, and in any case it's a terrible responsibility.'
  At that moment there was a faint sighing as the breeze
  rippled  the leaves of the trees out in the garden.  Both  men
heard it and they looked at each other questioningly,
  'Her soul can't be very far away yet,' whispered Simon.
  'No,'  the  Duke  agreed reluctantly. 'But I  don't  like  it,
Simon.  The  dead are not meant to be called back. They  do  not
come  willingly. If I attempt this and succeed it would only  be
by  the force of incredibly powerful conjurations which the soul
dare not disobey, and we are not justified in taking such steps.
Besides, what good could it do? At best, I should not be able to
bring her back for more than a few moments.'
  'Of  course, I know that; but you still don't seem to  get  my
idea,'  Simon  went on hurriedly. 'As far as Rex  is  concerned,
poor  chap,  she's gone for good and all, but I was thinking  of
Mocata.  You  were hammering it into us last night for  all  you
were  worth that it's up to us to destroy him before he has  the
chance  to  secure the Talisman. Surely this is our opportunity.
In  Tanith's present physical state her spirit can't  have  gone
far from her body. If you could bring it back for a few moments,
or  even  get her to talk, don't you see that she'll be able  to
tell  us  how  best to try and scotch Mocata.  From  the  astral
plane,  where she is now, her vision and insight are  limitless,
so  she'll be able to help us in a way that she never could have
done before.'
  'That's  different,' De Richleau's pale face  lit  up  with  a
tired smile. 'And you're right, Simon. I have been under such  a
strain  for  the past few hours that I had forgotten  the  thing
that  matters most of all. I would never consent to  attempt  it
for any other purpose, but to prevent suffering and death coming
to  countless  millions of people we are justified in  anything.
I'll speak-to Rex.'
  Rex  nodded despondently, numb now with misery, when the  Duke
had explained what he meant to try to do. 'Just as you like,' he
said  slowly.  'It  won't hurt in any way, though-  I  mean  her
soul-will it?'
  'No,'  De Richleau assured him. 'In the ordinary way it might.
To  recall the soul of a dead person is to risk interfering with
their  karma,  but  Tanith  has  virtually  been  murdered  and,
although it is not the way of the spirit to seek revenge against
people  for things which may have happened in this life,  it  is
almost a certainty that she is actually wanting to come back for
just long enough to tell us how to defeat Mocata, because of her
love for you.'
  'All  right then,' Rex muttered, 'only let's get over with  it
as quickly as we can.'
  'I'm  afraid it will take some time,' De Richleau warned  him,
'and even then it may not be successful, but the issues at stake
are so vital, you must try and put aside your personal grief for
a bit.'
  He  began to clear the pentacle of all the things which he had
used  the previous evening to form protective barriers, the holy
water,  the little cups, the horseshoes, placing them  with  the
garlic  and  dried mandrake back in the suitcase. He  then  took
from it seven small metal trays, a wooden platter, and a box  of
powered incense; and pouring a little heap of the dark powder on
the platter went up to Rex.
  'I'm afraid I've got to trouble you if we're going to see this
through.'
  Trouble  away,'  said Rex grimly, with  a  flash  of  his  old
spirit.  'You know I'm with you in anything which is  likely  to
let me get my hands on that devil's throat.'
  'Good.' The Duke took out his pocket knife and held the  blade
for  a  moment in the flame of a match. 'You've seen  enough  of
this  business  now to know that I don't do anything  without  a
purpose, and I want a little of your blood. I will use my own if
you  like  but  yours  is far more likely to  have  the  desired
effect,  since you felt so strongly for this poor girl and  she,
apparently, for you.'
  'Go  ahead.' Rex pulled up his cuff and bared his forearm, but
De Richleau shook his head.
  'No.  Your finger will do, and it will hardly be more  than  a
pin-prick. I only need a few drops.'
  With  a  swift movement he took Rex's hand and, having made  a
slight  incision in the little finger, squeezed out seven  drops
of blood on to the incense.
  Then  he walked over to Tanith and, kneeling down, took  seven
long  golden hairs from her head. Next he proceeded to form  the
mixture  of incense and blood into a paste out of which he  made
seven  cones,  in each of which was coiled one of Tanith's  long
golden hairs.
  With  Richard's assistance he carefully oriented the  body  so
that  her feet were pointing towards the north and drew a  fresh
chalk  circle, just large enough to contain her and the bedding,
seven feet in diameter.
  'Now  if you will turn your backs, please,' he told them  all,
'I will proceed with the preparation.'
  For  a  few  moments they gazed obediently at  the  book-lined
walls while he did certain curious things, and when he bade them
turn  again  he  was placing the seven cones of incense  on  the
seven  little  metal  trays,  each engraved  with  the  Seal  of
Solomon, in various positions round the body.
  'We  shall remain outside the circle this time,' he explained,
'so that the spirit, if it comes, is contained within it. Should
some  evil entity endeavour to impersonate her soul it will thus
be confined within the circle and unable to get at us.'
  He lit the seven cones of incense, completed the barrier round
about the body with numerous fresh signs, and then, walking over
to the doorway, switched out the lights.
  The fire was quite dead now, and the candles had never been re-
lit,  but  after a moment greyness began to filter  through  the
french-windows. The light was just sufficient for  them  to  see
each  other as ghostly forms moving in the darkness,  while  the
body,  lying  in  the circle, was barely visible,  its  position
being indicated by the seven tiny points of light from the cones
of incense burning round it.
  Simon  laid  an unsteady hand on the Duke's arm.  'Is  it-  is
it-quite  safe to do this? I mean, mightn't Mocata have  another
cut  at  us  now  we're  in  the dark and  no  longer  have  the
protection of the pentacle?'
  'No,'  De  Richleau answered decisively. 'He played  his  last
card  tonight when he sent the Dark Angel against us and  caused
Tanith's  death. That stupendous operation will  have  exhausted
his magical powers for the time at least. Come over here, all of
you, and sit down on the floor in a circle.'
  Leading  them over to Tanith's feet he arranged them  so  that
Rex and Marie Lou both had their backs to the body and would  be
spared  the  sight of any manifestations which might take  place
about  it.  He  sat  facing it himself, with Richard  and  Simon
either side of him; all five of them clasped hands.
  Then  he told them that they must preserve complete quiet  and
under  no  circumstances break the circle they  had  formed.  He
warned  them too, that if they felt a sudden cold they were  not
to  be  frightened by it as they had been of the  horrible  wind
which  had swirled so uncannily in that room a few hours before.
It  would  be caused by the ectoplasm which might be drawn  from
Tanith's body and, he went on to add, if a voice addressed  them
they  were  not  to  answer. He would do any talking  which  was
necessary and they were to remain absolutely still until he gave
orders that the circle should be broken up.
  They sat there, hand in hand, in silence, while it seemed that
an  age  was  passing. The square frame of the window  gradually
lightened but so very slowly that it was barely perceptible, and
if  dawn  was breaking at last upon the countryside it was  shut
out from them by the grey, ghostly fog.
  The  cones  of incense burned siowly, giving a strange,  acrid
smell,  mixed  with some queer and sickly eastern perfume.  From
their  position in the circle Richard and Simon  could  see  the
faint  wreaths  of smoke curling up for a few inches  above  the
tiny  points of light to disappear above, lost in the  darkness.
Tanith's  body lay still and motionless, a shadowy outline  upon
the thin mat of makeshift bedding.
  De  Richleau had closed his eyes and bowed his head  upon  his
chest. Once more he was practising that rhythmic, inaudible Raja
Yoga  breathing, which has such power to recruit strength or  to
send it forth, and he was using it now while he concentrated  on
calling the spirit of Tanith to him.
  Richard   watched  the  body  with  curious  expectancy.   His
experience of the last few hours had been too recent for him  to
collate his thoughts, and while he had so sturdily rejected  the
idea  of Black Magic the night before he would more or less have
accepted  the  fact of Spiritualism. It was a much more  general
modern  belief, and this business as far as he could see, except
in  a  few minor particulars such as the incense compounded with
blood,  was very similar to the spiritualistic seances of  which
he had often heard. The only real difference being that, in this
instance, they had a newly dead body to operate on and therefore
were  far  more likely to get results. As time wore on, however,
he  became  doubtful, for if their vigil had lasted  many  hours
this  one,  now  that  he  was  utterly  weary,  seemed  like  a
succession of nights.
  It  was  Simon  who  first  became aware  that  something  was
happening. He was watching the seven cones of incense  intently,
and  it seemed to him that the one which was farthest from  him,
set  at  Tanith's head, gave out a greater amount of smoke  than
the  rest.  Then  he realised that he could see  the  cone  more
clearly  and the eddying curls of aromatic vapour which it  sent
up had taken on a bluish hue which the rest had not.
  He  pressed De Richleau's hand and the Duke raised  his  head.
Richard too had seen it, and as they watched, a faint blue light
became definitely perceptible.
  It  gradually  solidified  into a ball  about  two  inches  in
diameter and moved slowly forward from the head until it reached
the  centre  of Tanith's body. There it remained  for  a  while,
growing in brightness and intensity until it had became a strong
blue  light. Then it rose a little and hovered in the air  above
her,  so  that by its glow they could clearly see the curves  of
her  figure  and her pale, beautiful face, lit by  that  strange
radiance.
  Intensely  alert now, they sat still and watchful,  until  the
ball  of  light began to lose colour and diffuse itself  over  a
wider area. The smoke of the incense wreathed up towards it from
the  seven  metal  platters, and it seemed to gather  this  into
itself,  forming from it the vague outline of a head  and  shoul
ders,  still  cloudy  and  transparent but,  after  another  few
moments,  definitely recognisable as an outline of the  bust  of
the figure which lay motionless beneath it.
  With  pounding  hearts they watched for new developments,  and
now  it  seemed  that  the whole process of materialisation  was
hurried  forward  in a few seconds. The bust joined  itself,  by
throwing out a shadowy torso, to the hips of the dead body,  the
face  and shoulders solidified until the features were distinct,
and the whole became surrounded by an aureole of light.
  Upon the strained silence there came the faintest whisper of a
voice:
  'You called me. I am here.'
  'Are you in truth, Tanith?' De Richleau asked softly.
  'I am.'
  'Do you acknowledge our Lord Jesus Christ?'
  'I do.'
  A  sigh  of  relief escaped De Richleau, for he knew  that  no
impersonating  elemental would ever dare to testify  in  such  a
manner, and he proceeded quietly:
  'Do  you  come here of your own free will, or do you  wish  to
depart?'
  'I come because you called, but I am glad to come.'
  'There is one here whose grief for your passing is very great.
He  does not seek to draw you back, but he wishes to know if  it
is  your desire to help him in the protection of his friends and
the destruction of evil for the well-being of the world.'
  'It is my desire.'
  "Will you tell us all that you can of the man Mocata which may
prove of help?'
  'I  cannot, for I am circumscribed by the Law, but you may ask
me  what you will and, because you have summoned me, I am  bound
by your command to answer,'
  'What is he doing now?'
  'Plotting fresh evil against you.'
  'Where is he now?'
  'He is quite near you.'
  'Can you not tell me where?'
  'I do not know. I cannot see distinctly, for he covers himself
with   a   cloak   of  darkness,  but  he  is  still   in   your
neighbourhood.'
  'In the village?'
  'Perhaps.'
  'Where will he be this time tomorrow? '
  'In Paris.'
  'What do you see him doing in Paris?'
  'I  see  him talking with a man who has lost a portion of  his
left ear. It is a tall building. They are both very angry.'
  'Will he stay in Paris for long?'
  'No. I see him moving at great speed towards the rising sun.'
  'Where do you see him next?'
  'Under the earth.'
  'Do you mean that he is dead-to us?'
  'No,  He is in a stone-flagged vault beneath a building  which
is  very  very old. The place radiates evil. The red  vibrations
are  so powerful that I cannot see what he does there. The light
which surrounds me now protects me from such sights.'
  'What is he planning now?'
  To draw me back.'
  'Do  you mean that he is endeavouring to restore your soul  to
your body?'
  'Yes.  He  is already bitterly regretting  that in his   anger
against  you he risked the severance of the two. He could  force
me  to be of great service to him on your plane but he cannot do
so on this.'
  'But is it possible for him to bring you back-permanently?'
  'Yes. If he acts at once. While the moon is still in her  dark
quarter.'
  'Is it your wish to return?'
  'No,  unless I were free of him-but I have no choice. My  soul
is  in pawn until the coming of the new moon. After that I shall
pass on unless he has succeeded.'
  'How will he set about this thing?'
  'There  is  only one way. The full performance  of  the  Black
Mass.'
  'You mean with sacrifice of a Christian child?'
  'Yes.  It is the age-old law, a soul for a soul. That  is  the
only  way  and the soul of a baptised child will be accepted  in
exchange for mine. Then if my body remains uninjured I shall  be
compelled to return to it.'
  'What are--'
  The Duke's next question was cut short by Rex, who could stand
the  strain no longer. He did not know that De Richleau was only
conversing  with Tanith's astral body and thought  that  he  had
succeeded in restoring the corpse which lay behind him, at least
to temporary lif e again.
  'Tanith,'  he cried, breaking the circle and flinging  himself
round. Tanith!'
  In  a  fraction  of  time  the vision  disintegrated  and  dis
appeared. His eyes blazing with anger, De Richleau sprang to his
feet.
  'You fool!' he thundered. 'You stupid fool.' In the pale light
of dawn which was now at last just filtering through the fog, he
glared  at  Rex. Then, as they stood there, angry recriminations
about to burst from their lips, the whole party were arrested in
their every movement and remained transfixed.
  A  shrill,  clear  cry had cut like a knife  into  the  heavy,
incense-laden atmosphere, coming from the room above.
  'That's Fleur,' gasped Marie Lou. 'My precious, what is it?'
  In  an  instant, she was dashing across the room to the little
door  in  the bookshelves which led to the staircase up to  -the
nursery. Yet Richard was before her.
  In two bounds he had reached the door and was fumbling for the
catch.  His trembling fingers found it. He gave a violent  jerk.
The  little metal ring which served to open it came away in  his
hand.
  Precious moments were lost as they clawed at the bookbacks. At
last  it  swung free. Richard pushed Marie Lou through ahead  of
him and followed, pressing at her heels. The others stumbled  up
the old stone stairs in frantic haste behind them.
  They reached the night nursery. Rex ran to the window. It  was
wide open. The grey mist blanketed the garden outside. Marie Lou
dashed  to  the cot. The sheets were tumbled. The imprint  of  a
little body lay there fresh and warm-but Fleur was gone.


                               29

                     Simon Aron Takes a View

  'Here's the way they went,' cried Rex. 'There's a ladder under
this window.'
  'Then  for God's sake get after him,' Richard shouted,  racing
across  the  room.  'If that damn door hadn't  stuck  we'd  have
caught him red-handed-he can't have got far.'
  Rex  was already on the terrace below, Simon shinned down  the
ladder and Richard flung his leg over the sill of the window  to
follow.
  Marie Lou was left alone with De Richleau in the nursery.  She
stared  at  him with round, tearless eyes, utterly  overcome  by
this  new  calamity. The Duke stared back, shaken  to  the  very
depths  by  this appalling thing which he had brought  upon  his
friends. He wanted most desperately to comfort and console  her,
but  realised how hopelessly inadequate anything that  he  could
say  would  be. The thought of that child having been seized  by
the  Satanist  to be offered up in some ghastly  sacrifice,  was
utterly unbearable.
  'Princess,'  he  managed to stammer, 'Princess.'  But  further
words  would not come, and for once in his life he found himself
powerless to deal with a situation.
  Marie  Lou just stood there motionless and staring, held rigid
by  such  extreme  distress  that  she  could  no  longer  think
coherently.
  With  a tremendous effort De Richleau pulled himself together.
He  knew  that he had earned any opprobrium that she and Richard
might choose to heap upon him for having used their house  as  a
refuge,  stated that no harm could befall them if they  followed
his  instructions, and yet been the means of perhaps causing the
death  of the child whom they both idolised. But it was no  time
to  offer himself for the whipping-post now. They must  act  and
quickly.
  'Where is nurse?' he shot out hoarsely.
  'In-in her bedroom.' Marie Lou turned to a door at the end  of
the room which stood ajar.
  'It's  extraordinary that she should not have woken  with  all
this noise,' De Richleau strode over and thrust it open.
  In  Fleur's  nursery a greyness blurred the  outlines  of  the
furniture  and  shadowed the corners of the  room,  but  in  the
nurse's  bedroom,  the curtains being drawn, it  was  still  com
pletely dark.
  The  Duke  jerked on the electric light and saw at  once  that
Fleur's  nannie  was lying peacefully asleep in bed.  He  walked
over  and  touched her swiftly on the shoulder.  'Wake  up,'  he
said, 'wake up!'
  She did not stir, and Marie Lou, who had followed him into the
room,  peered  at the woman's face anxiously, then  cried  on  a
louder note: 'Wake up, nannie! Wake up!'
  De  Richleau shook the nurse roughly now, but her head  rolled
helplessly  upon  her  shoulders and her eyes  remained  tightly
shut.
  'She's been drugged, I suppose,' Marie Lou said miserably.
  'I  don't think so.' The Duke bent over and sniffed. 'There is
no  smell of chloroform or anything here. It's more likely  that
Mocata  plunged  her  into  a deep hypnotic  sleep  directly  he
arrived. Best leave her,' he added after a moment. 'She'll  wake
in  due course, and obviously she cannot tell us anything if she
has been in a heavy induced sleep all the time.'
  They  returned  to the nursery and the Duke  switched  on  the
lights there to make a thorough examination. Almost at once  his
eye  fell on a paper which lay at the foot of Fleur's empty cot.
He  snatched  it  up and quickly scanned the close,  typewritten
lines.
  Please  do  not  worry  about the little  girl.  She  will  be
returned   to  you  tomorrow  morning  providing  that   certain
conditions are complied with. These are as follows:
  In  this  exceptional case I have been compelled to resort  to
unusual  methods which bring me within the scope of the  law.  I
have  no  doubt, therefore, that one of you will suggest calling
in  the  police  to  trace  the child.  Any  such  action  might
embarrass  my  operations and therefore  you  are  not  to  even
consider such a proceeding. You cannot doubt by now that I  have
ways  and  means of informing myself regarding all your  actions
and,  in  the  event  of your disobeying my injunction  in  this
respect,  I shall immediately take steps which will ensure  that
you never recover the child alive.
  My failure last night was regrettable, since it has caused the
death  of  a  young  woman  recently  discovered  by  me  as  an
exceptional medium, for whom I might have had some further  use.
Mr. Van Ryn removed her body while I slept and it is now in your
keeping; I am anxious that every care should be taken of it. You
will  leave the body just as it is in your library until further
instructions  and  refrain  from  taking  any  steps  towards  a
coroner's examination or its burial. If you disobey me  in  this
matter, I shall command certain forces at my disposal, of  which
Monsieur Le Duc de Richleau may be able to inform you,  to  take
possession of it.
  All  of  you will confine yourselves in the libary during  the
coming  day, giving such reasons as you choose to your  servants
that you are not to be disturbed.
  Lastly,  my  friend Simon Aron is to rejoin  me  for  the  con
tinuance of those experiments in which we are engaged.  He  will
leave  the  house alone at mid-day and proceed on  foot  to  the
cross-roads  which  lie a mile and a half to the  south-west  of
Cardinals  Folly, where I shall arrange for him to be  met  and,
having  surrendered himself to my representative, he must  agree
to  give  me  his  willing co-operation in the ritual  to  Satan
tonight,  which is necessary for the rediscovery of the Talisman
of Set.
  If  any  of  these injunctions are disregarded  in  the  least
degree,  you  already know the penalty, but if they are  carried
out  to  my entire satisfaction, Simon Aron shall return to  you
sane  and well after I have carried out my operations,  and  the
child  shall  be  restored as innocent  and  happy  as  she  was
yesterday.
  Marie Lou read the document over De Richleau's shoulder.
  'Oh, what are we to do?' she wailed, wringing her hands to-
  gether.  'Greyeyes, this is too awful. What are  we  going  to
do?'
  'God  knows,' De Richleau muttered miserably. 'He has the whip
hand of us now with a vengeance. The devil of it is that I don't
trust  his promise to return the child even if Simon is game  to
sacrifice himself.'
  At  that  moment Simon's head appeared above the window  sill,
and he scrambled up the last rungs of the ladder into the room.
  'Well!' the Duke shot at him, but Simon shook his head.
  "The  three  of  us have been round the grounds  but  in  this
filthy  fog it's impossible to see any distance. He's got  clean
away by now.'
  'I feared as much,' the Duke murmured despondently, and with a
new  access  of miserable unhappiness, he watched Richard  climb
into the room.
  'Not a trace,' Richard exclaimed hoarsely. 'No footmarks, even
on the flower beds, to show which way he went. Where the hell is
nurse? I'll sack the woman for her damned incompetence, With her
door  ajar, there's no excuse for her not having heard Flew  cry
out.'
  'It was not her fault,' said De Richleau mildly. 'Mocata threw
her  into a deep sleep and she is sleeping still. Until the time
he has set it will be impossible to rouse her.'
  Rex followed the others through the window, muttering angrily:
'This  filthy mist! A dozen toughs might be racketing round  the
garden, but we'd never get a sight of them. Is it supposed to be
daylight yet, or isn't it?'
  Simon  glanced  at  the  clock  on  the  nursery  mantelpiece.
'According  to  this it's only ten to five. Surely  it  must  be
later than that.'
  'It's stopped,' announced Richard, 'but it can't be much after
half  past six, or the servants would be getting up, and when  I
ran  round  the  far side of the house just now, there  were  no
lights in their windows.'
  'All  the  better,' said the Duke abruptly. 'Mocata's  left  a
letter, Richard, with certain instructions which he orders us to
carry out if Fleur is tp remain unharmed.'
  'Let's see it.' Richard held out his hand.
  De  Richleau  hesitated. 'I'd rather you read it when  we  are
downstairs again, if you don't mind. It doesn't help us for  the
present  and  there are certain things which  we  should  do  at
once-before the servants start moving about.'
  'Good  Lord, man! I mean to have the lot of them  out  o?  bed
inside ten minutes. We shall need their help.'
  'I wish, instead, that while I connect the telephone again and
see  if I can find out anything from the inn, you would write  a
brief  note  to Malm saying that our experiments  are  still  in
progress and that we are to be left undisturbed in this wing  of
the house for the whole day.'
  'If you think I'm going to stay here twiddling my thumbs while
Fleur's in danger-you're crazy!' cried Richard indignantly.
  The Duke knew that his suggestion of continued inactivity must
make  his apparent negligence seem even worse, but he had  never
yet  been  known to lose his head in a crisis and he managed  to
keep his voice quiet and even.
  'I  would like you to see this letter first and talk  it  over
with  Marie  Lou before you do anything reckless.  In  any  case
Tanith's body is still downstairs. It must remain there for  the
moment  and that is quite sufficient reason for the servants  to
be  kept  away  from  the library. You, Rex,  go  along  to  the
kitchen, take Simon with you, and between you bring us back  the
best  cold  meal  that you can muster. We're half  starved,  and
fasting  has  its limits of usefulness, even in an  affair  like
this.'
  Marie Lou stood there listening to the argument. She could not
really  believe that this awful thing had actually  happened  to
her.  If  she  had lost Fleur she would die. Even Richard  would
never  be able to console her. It simply could not be true.  The
four  men were phantoms-talking-, yet she could see every object
in the room with a curious supernormal clarity. Strange that she
had  never noticed one handle on the old walnut chest of drawers
to  be  odd  before, or that one of the wires in  the  fireguard
protruded a little. Fleur might cut herself if she fell  against
it.  She  must tell nannie to have it seen to tomorrow. Yet  all
the  time these thoughts were drifting through her mind she  was
conscious  of what the others were saying and of an urgent  need
to   comfort  De  Richleau.  Her  poor  'Greyeyes'  was  feeling
desperately  unhappy,  she  knew,  and  held  himself   entirely
responsible  for the terrible thing which could not possibly  be
true.  When he mentioned breakfast she said at once: 'I will  go
down and cook you some eggs or something.'
  'No,  no, my dear,' De Richleau looked round and then  lowered
his eyes quickly, his heart wrung at the sight of her dead-white
face.  'Please  go down to the library and read this  letter  of
Mocata's  through again quietly with Richard. Then you can  talk
it over together and will have made up your minds what you think
best by the time the rest of us get back.'
  Richard gave in to the Duke's wishes for the moment. They  all
descended  to the ground floor again and, when the  other  three
had gone off to the kitchen quarters, he remained with Marie Lou
and read Mocata's letter quickly.
  As  he  finished he looked up at her in miserable  indecision.
'My poor sweet. This is ghastly for you.'
  'It's  just  as bad for you,' she said softly.  Then,  with  a
little  cry,  she flung her arms round his neck.  'Oh,  Richard,
darling, what are we to do? '
  'Dearest.' He hugged her to him, soothing her gently  as  best
he  could  now that the storm had broken. Her small body  heaved
with  desperate sobbing, while great tears ran down her  cheeks,
falling in large, damp splashes upon his hands and neck.
  As  he  held  her, murmuring little phrases of endearment  and
optimistic  comfort, he thought her weeping would  never  cease.
Her  body trembled as it was swept with terrible emotion at  the
loss of her cherished Fleur.
  'Marie  Lou,  my angel,' he whispered softly,  'try  and  pull
yourself together, do, or else you'll have me breaking  down  as
well  in a minute. No harm can have happened to her yet, and  it
isn't  likely to until tonight at the earliest. Even then, he'll
think  twice  before  he carries out his  threat.  Only  a  fool
destroys  his  hostage to spite his enemy. Mocata may  be  every
sort  of  rogue, but he's a civilised one at least, so he  won't
maltreat her in any way, you can be sure of that, and if we only
play  our cards properly, we'll get her back before it comes  to
any question of his carrying out this appalling threat.'
  'But  what  can  we do, Richard? What can we do?'  she  cried,
looking at him wildly from large, tear-dimmed eyes.
  'Get  after  him  the  second the others come  back,'  Richard
declared promptly. 'He's human, isn't he? He had to use a ladder
to  get up to the nursery just like any other thug. If we act at
once we'll have him under lock and key by nightfall.'
  De Richleau's quiet voice broke in from behind them, 'You have
decided, then, to call in the police?'
  'Of  course.' Richard turned to stare at him. 'This is totally
different  from last night's affair. It is a case of kidnapping,
pure  and simple, and I'm going to pull every gun I know to  get
the police of the whole country after him in the next half hour.
If  you've  reconnected that line, I'll get straight through  to
Scotland Yard-now.'
  'Yes, the telephone is all right. I've been through to the inn
and  had  old  Wilkes out of bed. He remembers  Rex  and  Tanith
dining  there last night, of course, but when I described Mocata
to  him,  he  said  he hadn't seen anyone who  answers  to  that
description there at all, either yesterday or this morning. Have
you written that letter for the servants?'
  'Not yet. I will.' Richard left the library just as Simon  and
Rex  came in, carrying a collection of plates and dishes on  two
trays,  prominent upon which were a large China teapot  and  the
half of a York ham.
  'Please don't phone Scotland Yard just yet,' Marie Lou  called
after  Richard. 'I simply must talk to you again before we  burn
our boats.'
  'The  Duke  gave  her  a  sharp glance  from  under  his  grey
eyebrows. 'You are not then in favour of calling in the police?'
  'I  don't  know what to do,' she confessed miserably. 'Richard
is so sane and practical that I suppose he's right, but you read
the  letter and I should never forgive myself if our calling  in
the police forced Mocata's hand. Do you-do you really think that
he has the power to find out if we go against his instructions?'
  De  Richleau  nodded. 'I'm afraid so. But Simon can  tell  you
more of his capabilities in that direction than I can.'
  Simon  and  Rex  had  put down their trays  and  were  reading
Mocata's letter together. The former looked up swiftly.
  'Um.  He can see things when he wants to in that mirror I told
you  of,  and  once  he gets to London he'll  have  half-a-dozen
mediums  that he can throw into a trance to pick us up. It  will
be  child's play for a man of his powers to find out if we leave
this room.'
  'That's my view,' the Duke agreed. 'And if we once turn to the
police,  we  have either to go to them or else bring them  here.
Telephoning  won't be sufficient. They will want photographs  of
Fleur  and to question every one concerned, so Mocata  stands  a
pretty good chance of seeing us in conference with them,  if  he
keeps  us  under psychic observation, whichever way  we  set  to
work.'
  'We  should  be mad to even think of it,' said Simon  jerkily.
'It's pretty useless for me to say I'm sorry, but I brought this
whole trouble on you all and there's only one thing to do,  that
obvious.'
  'For us to sit here like a lot of dummies while you go off  to
give yourself up at twelve o'clock, I suppose?' Richard, who had
just rejoined them, cut in acidly.
  'I   have  been  expecting  that,  knowing  Simon,'  the  Duke
observed.  'Terrible as the consequences  may  be  for  him  and
although  the  idea  of surrender makes my  blood  boil  I  must
confess that I think he's right, with certain modifications!
  'Oh,   isn't  there  some  other  way?'  Marie  Lou  exclaimed
desperately,  catching at Simon's hand.  'It's  too  awful  that
because  of  our own trouble we-should even talk of  sacrificing
you.'
  One  of  those rare smiles that made him such a lovable person
lit  Simon's face. 'Ner,' he said softly, 'it's been  my  muddle
from  the beginning. I'm terribly grateful to you all for trying
to  get me out of it, but Mocata's been too much for us,  and  I
must throw my hand in now. It's the only thing to do.'
  'It  is  my damned incompetence which has let us in for this,'
grunted  the Duke. 'I deserve to take your place, Simon,  and  I
would-you know that-if it were the least use. The devil of it is
that it's you he wants, not me.'
  Rex  had been cutting thin slices from the ham and pouring out
the  tea.  Richard  took a welcome cup of his  favourite  Orange
Pekoe from him and said firmly:
  'Stop talking nonsense, for God's sake I Neither of you is  to
blame.  After what we've all been through together in  the  past
you  did quite rightly to come here. Who should we look  to  for
help  in'times of trouble if not each other? If I was in a  real
tight corner I shouldn't hesitate to involve either of you-and I
know  that Marie Lou feels the same. This blow couldn't possibly
have  been  foreseen by anyone. It was just- well,  call  it  an
accident, and the responsibility for protecting Fleur  was  ours
every  bit as much as yours. Now let's get down to what we  mean
to do.'
  'That's  decent of you, Richard.' De Richleau tried to  smile,
knowing  what it must have cost his friend to ease their feeling
of guilt when he must be so desperately anxious about his child.
  'Damned decent,' Simon echoed. 'But all the same I'm going  to
keep  the  appointment Mocata's made for me. It's the only  hope
we've got.'
  Richard stuck out his chin. 'You're not, old chap. You  placed
yourself  in my hands by coming to rny house, and I  won't  have
it. The business we went through last night scared me as much as
anyone, I admit it; but because Greyeyes has proved right  about
Satanic  manifestations, there is no reason for you all to  lose
your sense of proportion about what the evil powers can do. They
have  their  limitations,  just  like  anything  else.  Greyeyes
admitted  last night that they were based on natural  laws,  and
this  swine's gone outside them. He's operating now  in  country
that is strange to him. He confesses as much in his letter.  You
can  see  he is scared of calling in the police, and that's  the
very  way  we're going to get him. You people seem to have  lost
your nerve.'
  'No,' the Duke said sadly. 'I haven't lost my nerve, but  look
at  it if you like on the basis which you suggest, Richard- that
this is a perfectly normal kidnapping. Say Fleur were being held
to  ransom by a group of unscrupulous gangsters, such as operate
in  the States, the gang being in a position to to know what  is
going  on  in your house. They have threatened to kill Fleur  if
you  bring  the  police into the business.  Now,  would  you  be
prepared to risk that in such circumstances?'
  'No, I should pay up, as most wretched parents seem to, on the
off-chance  that the gang gave me a square deal and  I  got  the
child  back unharmed. But this is different. I'll stake my  oath
that  Mocata  means to double-cross us anyhow. If it  were  only
Simon  that he wanted he might be prepared to let us have  Fleur
back  in  exchange. You seem to forget what Tanith told you.  He
doesn't know that we know his intentions, but she was absolutely
definite  on three points. One, he means to do his damnedest  to
bring her back. Two, he will fail unless he makes the attempt in
the  next few days. Three, the only way that can be done  is  by
performing  a  full  Black Mass, including the  sacrifice  of  a
baptised  child. Kidnappings take time to plan  in  a  civilised
country  unless  you want the police on your track.  Mocata  has
succeeded  in  one  where he thinks there is a  fair  chance  of
keeping  the police out of it, and no one in their senses  could
suggest  that  he's the sort of man who would run  the  risk  of
doing another just for the joy of keeping his word with us. It's
as  clear as daylight that he is using Fleur as bait to get hold
of  Simon and then he'll do us down by killing the child in  the
end.'
  De Richleau slit open a roll and slipped a slice of ham inside
it. 'Well,' he said as he began to trim the ragged edges neatly,
'it  is for you and Marie Lou to decide. The prospect of sitting
in  this  room for hours on end doing nothing is about the  grim
mest I've ever had to face in a pretty crowded lifetime. I would
give most things I really value for a chance to have another cut
at him. The only thing that deters me for one moment is the risk
to Fleur.'
  'I  know  that well enough,' Richard acknowledged, 'but  I  am
convinced our only chance of seeing her alive again is  to  call
in  the  police,  and  trust  to running  him  to  earth  before
nightfall.'
  'I  wouldn't,'  Simon  shook his head, 'I  wouldn't  honestly,
Richard. He's certain to find out if we take steps against  him.
We shall waste hours here being questioned by the local bigwigs,
and it's a hundred to one against their being able to corner him
in  a  single day. Fleur is safe for the moment-for  God's  sake
don't  make things worse than they are. I know the man and  he's
as  heartless as a snake. It's signing Fleur's death warrant  to
try and tackle him like this.'
  Marie Lou listened to these conflicting arguments in miserable
indecision. She was torn violently from side to side by each  in
turn.  Simon spoke with such absolute conviction that it  seemed
certain  Richard's suggested intervention would precipitate  her
child's death, and yet she felt, too, how right Richard  was  in
his  belief  that Mocata was certain to double-cross  them,  and
having  trapped them into surrendering Simon, retain  Fleur  for
this  abominable sacrifice which Tanith had told them he was  so
anxious  to  make. The horns of the dilemma seemed to  join  and
form  a  vicious circle which went round and round in her aching
head.
  The  others  fell  silent and Richard looked  across  at  her.
'Well, dearest, which is it to be?'
  'Oh, I don't know,' she moaned. 'Both sides seem right and yet
the risk is so appalling either way.'
  He  laid his hand gently on her hair. 'It's beastly having  to
make  such  a decision, and if we were alone in this I  wouldn't
dream  of  asking you. I'd do what I thought best myself  unless
you were dead against it, but as the others disagree with me  so
strongly what can I do but ask you to decide?'
  Wringing  her  hands  together in agonised  distress  at  this
horrible  problem  with which she was faced,  Marie  Lou  looked
desperately from side to side, then her glance fell on  Rex.  He
was sitting hunched up in a dejected attitude on the far side of
Tanith's  body, his eyes fixed in hopeless misery  on  the  dead
girl's face.
  'Rex,'  she  said hoarsely, 'you haven't said what  you  think
yet. Both these alternatives seem equally ghastly to me. What do
you advise?'
  'Eh?'  He looked up quickly 'It's mighty difficult and  I  was
just  trying  to  figure it out. I hate  the  thought  of  doing
nothing,  waiting about when you've got a packet of  trouble  is
just real hell to me, and I'd like to get after this bird with a
gun. But Simon's so certain that if we did it would be fatal  to
Fleur,  and I guess the Duke thinks that way to. They both  know
him, you must remember, and Richard doesn't, which is a point to
them,  but  I've got a hunch that we are barking  up  the  wrong
tree,  and  that  this  is a case for what  Greyeyes  calls  his
masterly policy of inactivity. The old game of giving the  enemy
enough rope so he'll hang himself in the end.
  'Any sort of compromise is all against my nature, but I reckon
it's  the only policy that offers now. If we stay put here  and-
carry out Mocata's instructions to the letter, we'll at least be
satisfied in our minds that we are not bringing any fresh danger
on  Fleur.  But let's go that far and no farther.  We  all  know
Simon is willing enough to cash in his checks, but I don't think
we ought to let him. Instead, we'll keep him here. That is going
to  force Mocata to scratch his head a whole heap. He'll not  do
Fleur  in before he's had another cut at getting hold of  Simon,
so  it will be up to him to make the next move in the game,  and
that  may give us a fresh opening. The situation can't be  worse
than it is at present, and when he shows his hand again, given a
spot of luck, we might be able to ring the changes on him yet.'
  De Richleau smiled, for the first time in days, it seemed. 'My
friend, I salute you,' he said, with real feeling in his  voice.
'I  am  growing old, I think, or I should have thought  of  that
myself.  It is by far and away the most sensible thing that  any
of us have suggested yet.'
  With  a  sigh  of relief, Marie Lou moved over  and,  stooping
down, kissed Rex on the cheek. 'Rex, darling, bless you. In  our
trouble  we've  been forgetting yours, and it is very  wonderful
that  you  should have thought of a real way out for us  in  the
midst  of  your  sorrow. I dreaded having to make that  decision
just  now  more than anything that I have had to do in my  whole
life.'
  He  smiled  rather wanly. "That's all right, darling.  There's
nothing so mighty clever about it, but it gives us time, and you
must try and comfort yourself with the thought that time and the
angels are on our side.'
  Even  Richard's  frantic  anxiety to set  out  immediately  in
search  of his Fleur d'amour was overcome for the time being  by
Rex's so obviously sensible suggestion. In his agitation he  had
eaten  nothing yet, but now he sat down to cut some  sandwiches,
and  set about persuading Marie Lou that she must eat the  first
of them in order to keep up her strength. Then he looked over at
the Duke.
  'I  left  that  note for Malin where he's  bound  to  see  it-
slipped  it  under his bedroom door, so we shan't  be  disturbed
here. Is there anything at all that we can do?'
  'Nothing, I fear, only possess ourselves with such patience as
we  can,  but  we're all at about the end of our tether,  so  we
ought to try and get some sleep. If Mocata makes some fresh move
this  evening  it's on the cards that we shall be up  again  all
night.'
  'I'll  get  some  cushions,'  Simon  volunteered.  'I  suppose
there's no harm in bringing used articles into this room now?'
  'None. You had better collect all the stuff you can and  we'll
make up some temporary beds on the floor.'
  Simon,  Richard  and  Rex left the room  and  returned  a  few
moments later with piles of cushions and all the rugs that  they
could find. They placed some fresh logs on the smouldering ashes
of the fire and then set about laying out five makeshift resting-
places.
  When they had finished, Marie Leu allowed Richard to lead  her
over  to  one  of them and tuck her up, although  she  protested
that,  exhausted  though she was, she would  never  be  able  to
sleep.  The  rest  lay down, and then Richard switched  out  the
light.
  Full  day had come at last, but it was of little use, for  the
range  of  vision was limited to about fifteen yards.  The  mist
outside the windows seemed, if anything, denser than before, and
it  swirled and eddied in curling wreaths above the damp  stones
of  the  terrace,  muffling the noises of  the  countryside  and
shutting out the light.
  None  of  them  felt that they would be able to  sleep.  Rex's
gnawing  sorrow  for Tanith preyed upon his  mind.  The  others,
racked  with  anxiety  for Fleur, turned restlessly  upon  their
cushions.  Every now and then they heard Marie Lou give  way  to
fits  of sobbing as though her heart would break. But the stress
of  those terrible night hours and the emotions they had  passed
through since had exhausted them completely. Marie Lou's  bursts
of  sobbing became quieter and then ceased. Richard fell into an
uneasy  doze. De Richleau and Rex breathed evenly, sunk at  last
in a heavy sleep.
  Hours  later Marie Lou was dreaming that she was seated in  an
ancient library reading a big, old-fashioned book, the cover  of
which  was  soft and hairy like a wolf's skin, and that  as  she
read  it  a  circle of iron was bound about her head.  Then  the
scene changed. She was in the pentacle again, and that loathsome
sack-like Thing was attacking Fleur. She awoke -started up  with
a sudden scream of fear.
  Her  waking  was little better than the nightmare when  memory
flooded  back  into her mind. Yet that too and the present  only
seemed  other  phases  of the frightful dream;  the  comfortable
library  denuded of its furniture; Tanith's dead body  lying  in
the  centre of the floor and the dimness of the room from  those
horrible  fog  banks shutting out the sunshine. They  could  not
possibly be anything but figments of the imagination.
  The  men  had  roused at once, and crowded round her,  shadowy
figures in the uncertain light. De Richleau pressed the electric
switch.  They  blinked  a  little,  and  looked  at  each  other
sleepily,  then their eyes turned to the place where  Simon  had
lain. With one thought their glances shifted to the window and
  they  knew  that while they slept their friend had  gone  out,
into that ghostly unnatural night, to keep his grim appointment.


                               30

                        Out Into the Fog

  It  was  Rex  who  noticed the chalk marks on  the  floor.  He
stepped  over and saw that Simon, lacking pencil and paper,  had
used  these  means  to  leave them a short  message.  Slowly  he
deciphered the scribbled words and read them out:

          'Please don't fuss or try to come after me. This is my
          muddle,  so  am keeping appointment. Do as Mocata  has
          ordered.  Am  certain that is only  chance  of  saving
          Fleur.
                                      Love to all.       Simon.'

  'Aw,  Hell!'  exclaimed Rex as he finished. 'The  dear  heroic
little sap has gone and put paid to my big idea. Mocata has  got
him and Fleur now on top of having killed Tanith. If you ask  me
we're properly sunk.'
  De  Richleau groaned. 'It is just like him. We ought  to  have
guessed that he would do this.'
  'You're  right there,' Richard agreed sadly. 'I've  known  him
longer  than  any of you, and I did my damnedest to prevent  him
sacrificing  himself for nothing, but it seems to me  he's  only
done the very thing you said he should.'
  'That's  not quite fair,' the Duke protested mildly.  'I  only
said   I   thought  it  right  that  he  should   with   certain
modifications. I had it in my mind that we might follow him at a
distance. We should have arrived at the rendezvous before Mocata
could have known that we had left this place, and we might  have
pulled  something off. As it was, I thought Rex's idea  so  much
better that I abandoned mine.'
  'I'm  sorry,'  Richard  apologised huskily.  'But  Simon's  my
oldest friend you know, and this on top of all the rest:'
  'Do  you-do  you think the poor sweet is right, and  that  his
having  given  himself up will be of any use?'  whispered  Marie
Lou.
  Richard shrugged despondently. 'Not the least, dearest. I hate
to  seem ungracious, and you all know how devoted I am to  Simon
but  in his anxiety to do the right thing he's handed Mocata our
only decent card. We can sit here till Doomsday, but there's  no
chance  now of making any fresh move which might give us  a  new
opening.  We've  wasted the Lord knows how many precious  hours,
and  we're  in  a worse hole than we were before. I'm  going  to
carry out my original intention and get on to the police.'
  'I  wouldn't do that,' Rex caught him by the arm. 'It'll  only
mean our wasting further time in spilling long dispositions to a
bunch  of  cops, and you're all wrong about our not having  made
anything  on  the  new deal. We've had a sleep which  we  needed
mighty  badly,  and we've lulled Mocata into a  false  sense  of
security. Just because we've remained put here all morning  like
he  said and Simon's come over with the goods, he'll think  he's
sitting  pretty  now and maybe let up on his supervision  stunt.
Let's  cut  out  bothering with the police  and  get  after  him
ourselves this minute.'
  Marie  Lou  shivered slightly and then nodded. 'Rex is  right,
you  know.  Mocata  has got what he wants now,  so  it  is  very
unlikely  that he is troubling to keep us under observation  any
more, but how do you propose to try to find him?'
  'We will go straight to Paris,' De Richleau announced, with  a
display  of his old form. 'You remember Tanith told us  that  by
tonight he would be there holding a conversation with a man  who
had  lost  the upper portion of his left ear. That is Castelnau,
the  banker, I am certain, so the thing for us to do is to  make
for Paris and hunt him out.'
  'How do you figure on getting there?' asked the practical Rex.
  'By  plane, of course. Mocata is obviously travelling that way
or  he could never get there by tonight. Richard must take us in
his  four-seater,  and if Mocata has to motor  all  the  way  to
Croydon  before he can make a start, we'll be there before  him.
Is your plane hi commission, Richard?'
  'Yes,  the plane's all right. It's in the hangar at the bottom
of  the  meadow, and when I took her out three days ago she  was
running  perfectly.  I don't much like the  look  of  this  fog,
though, although, of course, it's probably only a ground mist.'
  They  all glanced out of the window again. The grey murk still
hung  over  the terrace, shutting out the view of the Botticelli
garden  where,  on  this early May morning, the  polyanthus  and
forget-me-nots and daffodils, shedding their green cocoons, were
bursting into colourful life.
  'Let's  go,'  said  Rex,  impatiently. 'De  Richleau's  right.
'You'd  best get some clothes on, then we'll beat it  for  Paris
the second you're fit.'
  The  rest followed him out into the hall and upstairs  to  the
rooms  above.  The house was silent and seemingly deserted.  The
servants  were obviously taking Richard's orders in  their  most
literal  sense  and, released for once from their  daily  tasks,
enjoying an unexpected holiday in their own quarters.
  Marie  Lou looked into the nursery and almost broke down again
for a moment as she once more saw the empty cot, but she hurried
past  it  to  the  nurse's bedroom and  found  the  woman  still
sleeping soundly.
  In  Richard's  dressing-room the men made hasty  preparations,
Rex  was clad in the easy lounge suit which he had put on in  De
Richleau's flat, but Richard and the Duke were still in pyjamas.
When they were dressed Richard fitted the others out as well  as
he  could with top clothes for their journey. The Duke was easy,
being  only  a  little taller than himself,  and  a  big  double
overcoat  was found for Rex, into which he managed  to  scramble
despite the breadth of his enormous shoulders. Marie Lou  joined
them  a  few  moments  later, clad in her breeches  and  leather
flying  coat,  which she always used whenever she went  up  with
Richard.
  Downstairs  again, they paused in the library to make  another
hurried meal. Then the door was locked, and after casting a last
unhappy  glance  at Tanith's body, which remained  unaltered  in
appearance, Rex led the way out on the terrace.
  They walked quickly down the gravel path beside the Botticelli
border,  the  sound  of  their footsteps  muffled  by  the  all-
pervading  mist-through Marie Lou's own garden,  with  its  long
herbaceous   borders,  and  past  the  old   sundial-round   the
quadrangles  of tessellated pavement which fell in a  succession
of  little  terraces to the pond garden, with its water  lilies,
and so to the meadow beyond.
  When they reached the hangar Richard and Rex ran out the plane
and  got  it in order for the flight. De Richleau stood watching
their  operations  with  Marie Lou  beside  him,  both  of  them
fretting  a  little at the necessary delay, since now  that  the
vital  decision  had been taken every member of  the  party  was
impatient to set out,
  They  settled  themselves in the comfortable four-seater.  Rex
swung  the propeller, well accustomed to the ways of aeroplanes,
and  the engine purred upon a low steady note. He watched it for
a  second, and then, as he scrambled aboard, there came the long
conventional cry: 'All set.'
  The  plane moved slowly forward into the dank mist. The hedges
and  trees  on either side were shut out by banks  of  fog,  but
Richard  knew  the  ground so well that  he  felt  confident  of
judging  his  distance and direction. He taxied  over  the  even
grass  of the long field, and turned to rise. The plane  lifted,
touched ground again gently twice, and they were off.
  As they left the earth a new feeling came over Richard. He was
passionately  fond  of  flying, and it always  filled  him  with
exhilaration,  but this was different. It was as though  he  had
suddenly  come out into the daylight after having  been  walking
down  a  long,  dark,  smoky tunnel  for  many  hours.  At  long
intervals there had been brightly lit recesses in the  sides  of
it  where  figures stood like tableaux at a waxworks  show.  The
slug-like  Thing  and Fleur; Rex standing  at  the  window  with
Tanith  in  his arms; Simon whispering something  to  the  Duke;
Marie Lou's face as she stood with her hand resting on the  rail
of  Fleur's  empty  cot, and a dozen others. The  rest  of  that
strange  journey  he  seemed to have  made,  consisted  of  long
periods of blankness only punctuated by little cries of fear and
scraps of reiterated argument, the purpose of which he could  no
longer  remember. Now-his brain was clear again, and he  settled
himself with new purpose to handle the plane with all his skill.
  In  those few moments they had risen clear of the ground  mist
and  were  soaring upwards into the blue above. As  De  Richleau
looked  down he saw a very curious thing. Not only was  the  fog
that  had hemmed them in local, but it seemed to be concentrated
entirely  upon  Cardinals  Folly. He could  just  make  out  the
chimneys of the house rising in its centre, as from a grey  sea,
and from the buildings it spread out in a circular formation for
half  a  mile or so on every side, hiding the gardens  from  his
view  and  obscuring  the  meadows between  the  house  and  the
village, but beyond, all was clear in the brilliant sunshine  of
the earfy summer afternoon.
  Rex  was beside Richard in the cockpit. Automatically  he  had
taken  on  the  job of navigator, and, like Richard,  his  brain
numbed  before  with  misery, had started to  function  properly
again  directly  he  set to busying himself with  the  maps  and
scales.
  The  Duke, sitting in the body of the machine with Marie  Lou,
felt that there was nothing he could say to comfort her, but  he
took her hand in his and held it between his own. From his quick
gesture she felt again his intense distress that he should  ever
have  been  the means of bringing her this terrible unhappiness,
so, to distract his thoughts, she put her mouth right up against
his ear and told him of the odd dream she had had; about reading
the  old  book. He gave her a curious glance and began to  shout
back at her.
  She  could  not catch all he said owing to the  noise  of  the
engine, but enough to tell that he was intensely interested.  He
seemed  to  think that she had been dreaming of the  famous  Red
Book  of  Appin,  a  wonderful treatise on Magic  owned  by  the
Stewards of Invernahyle, who were now extinct. The book had been
lost  and  not heard of for more than a hundred years,  but  her
description  of it, and the legend that it might  only  be  read
with  understanding by those who wore a circlet  of  iron  above
their brow made him insistent that it must be this which she had
seen in her dream. He pressed her to try and remember if she had
understood any portion of it.
  After  some trouble she managed to convey to him that she  had
read one sentence on a faded vellum page, and that although  the
lettering was quite different from anything which she  had  ever
seen before, she understood it at the time, but could not recall
the  meaning now. Then, as talking was so difficult,  they  fell
silent.
  At  a hundred miles an hour the plane soared above the English
counties,  but they took little heed of the fields  and  hedges,
woods  and  hills,  which  fled so swiftly  from  beneath  them.
Somehow  they  seemed  to have stepped out  of  their  old  life
altogether.  Time no longer existed for them, only the  will  to
arrive  at  their destination in order to be active once  again.
All  their thoughts were concentrated now upon Paris and the man
who  had  lost half his ear. Would he be there? Could they  find
him if he was? And would they arrive before Mocata?
  They  passed  over  the Northern end of  the  English  Channel
almost  without noticing it; Marie Lou felt a little shock  when
the plane banked steeply and Richard brought it circling down.
  The  sun was sinking behind great banks of cloud and,  as  the
plane  tilted, she saw that a thick mist lay below them in which
glowed dull patches of half-obscured light. Richard and Rex knew
them,  however,  to  be  fog flares of the  Le  Bourget  lauding
ground.
  A few seconds more and they had seen the last of the sunset. A
thin  greyness  closed  about them. One  of  the  flares  showed
bright,  and  the  plane bounded along the earth  until  Richard
brought it to a standstill.
  Almost  in a daze they answered the questions of the  officers
at  the  airport and passed the Customs, secured a  fast-looking
taxi  and,  packed  inside it, were heading for  the  centre  of
Paris.
  As  they  ran  through the streets, with  the  familiar  high-
pitched  note  of the taxi's horn continually sounding  and  the
subtle  smell of the epiceries in their nostrils-the very  scent
of  Paris-they noticed half-unconsciously that night had  fallen
once more.
  Here  and  there the electric sky-signs on the tall buildings,
advertising Savan Cadum or Byrrh, glowed dully through the murk,
and  the  lights of the cafes illuminated little spaces  of  the
boulevards  through which they passed, throwing up  the  figures
that sat sipping their aperitifs at the marble-topped tables and
dappling  the  young green of the stunted trees that  lined  the
pavements.
  None  of  them  spoke as the taxi swerved and rushed,  seeking
every opportunity to nose its way through the traffic. Only  Rex
leant  forward  once, soon after they left  the  aerodrome,  and
murmured:  'I told him the Ritz. We'll be able to hunt  up  this
bird's address when we get there.'
  They  ran  past the Opera, down the Boulevard de la Madeleine,
and turned left into the Place Vendome. The cab pulled up with a
jerk.  A liveried porter hurried forward to fling open the door,
and they scrambled out.
  'Pay him off, with a good tip,' Rex ordered the hotel servant.
'I' see-yer-later, inside.' Then he led the way into the hotel.
  One  of  the under-managers at the bureau recognised  him  and
came forward with a welcoming smile.
  'Monsieur  Van Ryn, what a pleasure! You require accomo-dation
for  your  party? How many rooms do you desire? I hope that  you
will stay with us some time.'
  Two single rooms and one double, with bathrooms, and we'd best
have a sitting-room on the same floor,' replied Rex curtly. 'How
long  we'll be staying I can't say. I've got urgent business  to
attend  to  this  trip. Do you happen to  know  a  banker  named
Castelnau-elderly man, grey-haired, with a hatchet  face,  who's
had a slice taken out of his left ear?'
  'Mais oui, monsieur. He lunches here frequently.'
  'Good. D'you know where he lives?'
  "For  the  moment, no, but I will ascertain. You permit?'  The
manager  moved briskly away and disappeared into the  office.  A
few  moments later he returned with a Paris telephone  directory
open in his hand.
  'This  will be it, monsieur, I think. Monsieur Laurent  Castel
nau,  72,  Maison Rambouillet, Pare Monceau. That is a block  of
flats. Do you wish to telephone his apartment?'
  'Sure,'  Rex nodded, 'Call him right away, please.'  Then,  as
the  Frenchman hurried off, he nodded quietly to the Duke: 'Best
leave this to me. I've got a hunch how to fix him.'
  'Go  ahead,' the Duke acquiesced. He had been keeping well  in
the  background, and now he smiled a little unhappily as he went
on in a low voice:
  'How  I  love Paris. The smell and the sight and the sound  of
it.  I have not been back here for fifteen years. The Government
have  never  forgiven  me for the part  that  I  played  in  the
Royalist rising which took place in the 90's. I was young  then.
How  long ago it all seems now. But never since have I dared  to
venture back to France, except a few times, secretly on the most
urgent  business. I believe the authorities would, still put  me
into  some  miserable fortress if they discovered me  on  French
soil.'
  'Oh, Greyeyes, dear! You ought never to have come.' Marie  Lou
turned   to  him  impulsively.  'With  all  these  awful  things
happening I had forgotten. Somehow I always think of.you  really
as  an Englishman, not as a French exile who lives in England as
the  next  best thing. It would be terrible if you were arrested
and tried as a political offender after all these years.'
  He  shrugged  and  smiled again. 'Don't worry,  Princess.  The
authorities  have almost forgotten my existence, I  expect,  and
the  only risk I run is in knowing so many people who constantly
travel  through France. If someone recognised me  and  spoke  my
name  too loud it is just possible that it might strike a  chord
in  some  police  spy's memory, but beyond that  there  is  very
little danger.
  They  sat down at a little table in the lounge while  Rex  was
telephoning. When he rejoined them he nodded cheerfully.
  'We're  in  luck,  and  Lord knows we  need  it.  I  spoke  to
Castelnau  himself,  used  the name of  my  old  man's  firm-The
Chesapeake Banking and Trust Corporation-and spun a yarn that he
had  sent me over on a special mission to Europe connected  with
the franc. Told him the whole thing was far too hush-hush for me
to  make a date to see him at his office tomorrow morning, where
his  clerks  might  recognise me as  the  representative  of  an
American  banking  house,  and  that  I  must  see  him  tonight
privately.  He  hedged a bit until I put it to him  that  I  had
power  to deal in real big figures, and he fell for that like  a
sucker. He couldn't see me yet though, because he's busy putting
on  his  party frock for some official banquet, but  he  figures
he'll  be  back at the apartment round about ten o'clock,  so  I
said I'd be along to state my business then.'
  To fill in time we might go upstairs and have a bath, remarked
Richard, feeling his bristly chin. 'Then we'd better go out  and
dine somewhere, though God knows, I've never felt less like food
in my life.'
  'All  right,'  De Richleau agreed, 'only let us  go  somewhere
quiet  for dinner. If we go to one of the smart places  it  will
add to the chance of my running into somebody that I know.'
  'What  about Le Vert Galant?' Richard suggested. 'It's on  the
right  bank down by La Cite, old-fashioned, quiet, but excellent
food, and you're unlikely to see the sort of people that we know
there in the evening.'
  'Is  that still running?' De Richleau smiled. 'Then let us  go
there  by  all means. It's just the place.' And they moved  over
towards the lift.
  Upstairs  they bathed and tidied themselves, but  almost  auto
matically,  for their uneasy sleep that morning seemed  to  have
done little to recruit their lowered energy. As though still  in
a  bad  dream,  Marie Lou undressed,' and dressed  again,  while
Richard moved about the room, for once apparently unconscious of
her  presence, silently and mechanically eliminating the  traces
of  the  journey. Then he submitted to the ministrations of  the
hotel barber with one curt order, that the man was to shave  him
and not to talk.
  Rex  finished first and wandered into their room, where he sat
uncomfortably perched upon a corner of the bed, but he stared at
his large feet the whole time that he sat there and did not make
any effort whatever at conversation.
  De  Richleau  joined them shortly afterwards, and  Marie  Lou,
rousing for a moment from her abject misery, noted with a little
start  how  spick  and  span  he had  become  again,  after  the
attentions  of the barber and his bath. He had produced  one  of
his  long  Hoyos,  and  appeared to be  smoking  it  with  quiet
enjoyment.  Richard  and  Rex,  despite  the  removal  of  their
incipient beards, still looked woebegone and haggard, as  though
they  had  not  slept  for days, and were  almost  contemplating
suicide,  but  the Duke still maintained his air  of  the  great
gentleman  for  whose  pleasure  and  satisfaction  this   whole
existence is ordered.
  Actually  his  appearance was no more than a mask  with  which
long  habit had accustomed him to disguise his emotions, and  at
heart  he was racked by an anxiety equal to that of any  of  the
others.  He  was  suppressing his  impatience  to  get  hold  of
Castelnau only by a supreme effort; his feet itched to be on the
move, and his fingers to be on the throat of the adversary;  but
as  he  came into the room he smiled round at them, kissed Marie
Lou's  hand with his usual gallantry, and presented a huge bunch
of white violets to her.
  'A few flowers, Princess, for your room.'
  Marie Lou took them without a word; the tears brimming in  her
eyes  spoke  her thanks that he should have thought  of  such  a
thing  at  such  a time, and his perfect naturalness  served  to
steady  them  all a little as they went down afterwards  in  the
lift.  Rex changed some money at the caisse, and they  went  out
into the night again.
  'Queer-isn't  it,' remarked Richard as he looked  out  of  the
taxi window at the fog-bound streets. 'I've always said what fun
it  is  to make a surprise visit for a couple of nights to Paris
-in  May. It's like stealing in on summer in advance-tea in  the
open  at Arrnenonville-a drive to Fontamebleau, with the  forest
at  its very best-and all that. 'I never thought I might come to
Paris one May like this.'
  'I've a feeling there's something wrong about it-or us,'  said
Rex  slowly. 'Those servants in the hotel back there didn't seem
any  more natural than the weather to me. It was as though I was
watching them act in some kind of play.'
  De  Richleau  nodded.  'Yes, I felt the same,  and  I  believe
Mocata  is  responsible. Perhaps he surrounded  Cardinals  Folly
with  a  strong  atmospheric force,  and  we  have  brought  the
vibrations  of  it  with us, or he may be interfering  with  our
auras  in  some  way. I'm only guessing, of  course,  and  can't
possibly explain it.'
  At   the  Vert  Galant  De  Richleau  ordered  dinner  without
reference to any of them. He was a great gourmet, and knew  from
past experience the dishes that pleased them best, but as a meal
it  was  one of the most dismal failures which it had ever  been
his misfortune to witness.
  He  knew  and  they knew that his apparent preoccupation  with
food  and  wine was nothing but a bluff; an attempt  to  smother
their anxiety and occupy their thoughts until the time to go  to
Castelnau's apartment should arrive, The cooking was  excellent,
the service everything that one could desire, and the cellar  of
Le  Vert  Galant  provided  wines to which  even  De  Richleau's
critical taste gave full approval, but their hearts were not  in
the business.
  They  toyed with the Lobster Cardinal, sent away the  Paujllac
Lamb untasted, and drank the wines as a beverage to steady their
nerves  rather  than with the consideration and  pleasure  which
they deserved.
  The  fat maiire d'hotel supervised the service of each  course
himself, and it passed his understanding how these three men and
the  beautiful  little  lady could show so little  appreciation.
With  hands  clasped upon a large stomach, he stood  before  the
Duke  and murmured his distress that the dishes they had ordered
should  not appear to please them, but the Duke waved him  away,
even  summoning up a little smile to assure him that it  was  no
fault  of  the  restaurant and only their  unfortunate  lack  of
appetite.
  Throughout the meal De Richleau talked unceasingly. He  was  a
born  raconteur, and ordinarily, with his charm and  wit,  could
hold  any audience enthralled. Tonight, despite his own anxiety,
he  made a supreme attempt to lift the burden from the shoulders
of   his  friends  by  exploiting  every  venue  of  memory  and
conversation,  but never in his life had his  efforts  met  with
such  a  cold  reception. In vain he attempted to  divert  their
thoughts,  laughing  a  little to himself,  as  he  reached  the
denouement in each of his stories, and hoping against hope  that
he  might raise a smile in those three anxious faces that  faced
him across the table.
  For Marie Lou the meal was just another phase of that horrible
nightmare  through which she had been passing  since  the  early
hours  of the morning. Mechanically she sampled the dishes which
were put before her, but each one seemed to taste the same,  and
after  a  few  mouthfuls  she  laid down  her  fork,  submitting
miserably  to  the frantic, gnawing thoughts which pervaded  her
whole being.
  Richard said nothing, ate little, and drank heavily. He was in
that  state  when he knew quite well that it was impossible  for
him  to  drink  too much. Great happiness or great distress  has
that  effect  upon certain men, and he was one  of  them.  Every
other  minute he glanced at the clock on the wall, as it  slowly
registered  the passage of time until they could set forth  once
more on their attempt to save his daughter.
  There  was still half an hour to go when the fruit and  brandy
were  placed  upon  the  table, and then  at  last  De  Richleau
surrendered.
  'I've  been  talking  utter nonsense all through  dinner,'  he
confessed  gravely; 'only to keep my thoughts off this  wretched
business, you understand. But now the time has come when we  can
speak of it again with some advantage. What do you intend to do,
Rex, when you see this man?'
  Marie  Lou lifted her eyes from the untasted grapes which  lay
upon her plate. 'You've been splendid, Greyeyes, dear. I haven't
been listening to you really, but a sentence here and there  has
been just enough to take my mind off a picture of the worst that
may happen, which keeps on haunting me.'
  He  smiled  across at her gratefully. 'I'm glad of that.  It's
the  least that I could try to do. But come now, Rex, let's hear
your plan.'
  'I've  hardly  got  one,' Rex confessed, shrugging  his  great
shoulders. 'We know he'll see me, and that's as far  as  I  have
figured it out. I presume it'll boil down to my jumping  on  him
after a pretty short discussion and threatening to gouge out his
eyeballs  with my hands unless he's prepared to come clean  with
everything he knows about Mocata.'
  De  Richleau  shook  his head. That is roughly  the  idea,  of
course, but there are certain to be servants in the flat, and we
must arrange it that you have a free field for your party.'
  'Can't  you  take us along with you?' Richard suggested.  'Say
that we're privately interested in this deal you're putting  up.
If  only  the  three  of us can get inside that  flat  God  help
anybody who tries to stop us forcing him to talk.'
  'Sure,'  Rex agreed. 'I see no sort of objection to  that.  We
can park Marie Lou at the Ritz again, on our way, before we beat
this fellow up.'
  'No!' Marie Lou gave a sudden dogged shake of her head. 'I  am
coming with you. I'm quite capable of taking care of myself, and
I  will  keep out of the way if there is any trouble. You cannot
ask me to go back to the hotel and sit there on my own while you
are  trying to obtain news of Fleur. I should go mad  and  fling
myself  out  of  the window. I've got to come, so  please  don't
argue about it.'
  Richard  took her hand and caressed it softly. 'Of course  you
shall, my sweet. It would be better, perhaps, for you not to  be
with  us  when we see Castelnau, but there's no reason  why  you
shouldn't wait for us in his hall.'
  De  Richleau  nodded.  "Yes, in the  circumstances  it  is  im
possible  to  leave Marie Lou behind, but about  these  servants
-did you bring that gun that you had last night with you?'
  'Yes,  I brought it through the Customs in my hip pocket,  and
it's fully loaded.'
  'Right.  Then  if necessary you can use it to  intimidate  the
servants  while Rex and I tackle Castelnau. It is a quarter  to.
Shall we go?'
  Rex sent for the bill and paid it, leaving a liberal tip which
soothed  the  dignity of the injured maitre d'hotel,  then  they
filed out of the restaurant.
  'Maison  Rambouillet,  Pare Monceau,'  De  Richleau  told  the
driver sharply as they climbed into the taxi, and not a word was
spoken  until the cab drew up before a palatial block of  modern
flats, facing on to the little green park where the children  of
the rich in Paris take their morning airing.
  'Monsieur Castelnau?' the Duke inquired of the concierge.
  This way, monsieur'; the man led them through a spacious stone
faced hall to the lift.
  It  shot up to the fifth floor and as he opened the gates, the
concierge pointed to a door upon the right.
  'Number  Seventy-two,'  he  said quietly.  'I  think  Monsieur
Castelnau has just come in.'
  The  gates clanged behind them, and the lift flashed  silently
down  again  to the ground floor. De Richleau gave Rex  a  swift
glance  and,  stepping towards the door of  Number  Seventy-two,
pressed the bell.


                               31

                   The Man With the Jagged Ear

  The  tall,  elaborately  carved door was  opened  by  a  bald,
elderly  man-servant in a black alpaca coat. Rex gave his  name,
and the servant looked past him with dark, inquiring eyes at the
others.
  'These are friends of mine who're seeing Monsieur Castelnau on
the  same business,' Rex said abruptly, stepping into the  long,
narrow hall. 'Is he in?'
  'Yes,  monsieur,  and he is expecting you. This  way,  if  you
please.'
  Marie  Lou perched herself on a high couch of Cordova leather,
while  the  other three followed the back of the  alpaca  jacket
down  the  corridor. Another tall, carved door was thrown  open,
and  they entered a wide, dimly-lit salon, furnished in the  old
style  of French elegance: gilt ormolu, tapestries, bric-a-brac,
and  a  painted ceiling where cupids disported themselves  among
roseate flowers.
  Castelnau  stood, cold, thin, angular and hatchet-faced,  with
his  back  to  a  large porcelain stove. He was dressed  in  the
clothes which he had worn at the banquet. The wide, watered silk
ribbon  with the garish colours of some foreign order cut across
his  shirt front and a number of decorations were pinned to  the
lapel of his evening coat.
  'Monsieur Van Ryn.' He barely touched Rex's hand with his cold
fingers  and  went on in his own language. 'It is a pleasure  to
receive you. I know your house well by reputation, and from time
to  time  in  the  past my own firm has had some  dealings  with
yours.'  Then he glanced at the others sharply. These  gentlemen
are, I assume, associated with you in this business?'
  'They  are.'  Rex  introduced  them  briefly.  'The  Duke   de
Richleau-Mr. Richard Eaton.'
  Castelnau's  eyebrows  lifted a fraction  as  he  studied  the
Duke's  face  with  new  interest.  'Of  course,'  he  murmured.
'Monsieur  le Due must pardon me if I did not recognise  him  at
first.  It is many years since we have met, and I was under  the
impression  that he had never found the air of  Paris  good  for
him;  but perhaps I am indiscreet to make any reference to  that
old trouble.'
  'The  business  which has brought me is urgent, monsieur,'  De
Richleau replied suavely. "Therefore I elected to ignore the ban
which a Government of bourgeois and socialists placed upon me.'
  'A  grave  step, monsieur, since the police of France  have  a
notoriously long memory. Particularly at the present  time  when
the Government has cause to regard all politicals who are not of
its  party  with suspicion. However,' the banker bowed slightly,
'that,  of  course,  is  your own affair  entirely.  Be  seated,
gentlemen. I am at your service.'
  None  of the three accepted the proffered invitation, and  Rex
said abruptly: 'The bullion deal I spoke of when I called you on
the  telephone was only an excuse to secure this interview.  The
three of us have come here tonight because we know that you  are
associated with Mocata.'
  The  Frenchman stared at him in blank surprise  and  was  just
about  to  burst into angry protest when Rex hurried on.  'It'll
cut  no ice to deny it. We know too much. The night before  last
we  saw  you at that joint in Chilbury, and afterwards with  the
rest  of  those  filthy  swine doing  the  devil's  business  on
Salisbury Plain. You're a Satanist, and you're going to tell  us
all you know about your leader.'
  Castelnau's dark eyes glittered dangerously in his long, white
face. They shifted with a sudden furtive glance towards an  open
escritoire.
  Before  he could move, Richard's voice came quiet but  steely.
'Stay  where you are. I've got you covered, and I'll  shoot  you
like a dog if you flicker an eyelid.'
  De  Richleau caught the banker's glance, and with  his  quick,
cat-like step had reached the ornate desk. He pulled out  a  few
drawers, and then found the weapon that he felt certain must  be
there.  It  was  a  tiny  .2 pistol, but deadly  enough.  Having
assured  himself  that  it was loaded,  he  pointed  it  at  the
Satanist. 'Now,' he said, icily, 'are you prepared to  talk,  or
must I make you?
  Castelnau shrugged, then looked down at his feet. 'You  cannot
make  me,' he replied with a quiet confidence, 'but if you  tell
me  what  you  wish  to  know,  I  may  possibly  give  you  the
information you require in order to get rid of you.'
  'First, what do you know of Mocata's history?'
  'Very  little, but sufficient to assure you that  you  are  ex
ceedingly  ill-advised  if, as it appears,  you  intend  to  pit
yourself against him.'
  To  hell  with that!' Rex snapped angrily; 'get  on  with  the
story.'
  'Just as you wish. It is the Canon Darnien Mocata to whom  you
refer,  of  course.  When he was younger he was  an  officiating
priest  at  some  church in Lyons, I believe. He  was  always  a
difficult person, and his intellectual gifts made a thorn in the
sides of his superiors. Then there was some scandal and he  left
the  Church;  but long before that he had become an occulist  of
exceptional  powers.  I  met  him  some  years  ago  and  became
interested in his operations. Your apparent disapproval of  them
does  not  distress  me  in the least. I find  their  theory  an
exceptionally  interesting  study, and  their  practice  of  the
greatest  assistance  in  governing  my  business  transactions.
Mocata lives in Paris for a good portion of the year, and I  see
him  from time to time socially in addition to our meetings  for
esoteric purposes. I think that is all that I can tell you.'
  'When did you see him last?' asked the Duke.
  'At  Chilbury two nights ago, when we gathered again after the
break-up  of  our  meeting, I suppose you were  responsible  for
that?' Castelnau's thin lips broke into a ghost of a smile,  'If
so, believe me, you will pay for it.'
  'You have not seen him then today-this evening?'
  'No, I did not even know that he had returned to Paris.' There
was a ring in the banker's voice which made it difficult for his
questioners to doubt that he was telling them the truth.
  'Where does he live when he is in Paris?' the Duke enquired.
  'I  do  not know. I have visited him at many places. Often  he
stays  with  various  friends, who are also  interested  in  his
practices, but he has no permanent address. The people with whom
he  was  staying  last  left  Paris  some  months  ago  for  the
Argentine,  so I have no idea where you are likely to  find  him
now.'
  'Where  do  you  meet him when these Satanic  gatherings  take
place?'
  'I  am sorry but I can't tell you.' The Frenchman's voice  was
firm.
  De  Richleau padded softly forward and thrust the little Mstol
into Castefnau's ribs, just under his heart. 'I am afraid 'ou've
got to,' he purred silkily. 'The matter that we are engaged upon
is urgent.'
  ,  The  banker  held  his ground, and to  outward  appearances
remained  unruffled  at the threat. 'It is  no  good,'  he  said
quietly,  I cannot do it, even if you intend to murder me.  Each
one  of  us  goes  into  a self-induced hypnotic  trance  before
proceeding to these meetings, and wakes upon his arrival. In  my
conscious  state I have no idea how I get there; so this  apache
attitude of yours is completely useless.'
  'I see.' De Richleau nodded slowly and withdrew the automatic.
'However,  you  are going to tell me just the same,  because  it
happens  that  I am something of a hypnotist. I  shall  put  you
under now, and we shall proceed to follow all the stages of your
unconscious journey.'
  For the first time Castelnau's face showed a trace of fear.
  'You can't,' he muttered quickly. 'I won't let you.'
  De  Richleau shrugged. 'Your opposition will make it  slightly
more difficult, but I shall do it, nevertheless. However, as  it
may take some time, we will make fresh arrangements in order  to
ensure that we are not disturbed. Press the bell, and when  your
servant  comes, give him definite instructions that as we  shall
be  engaged in a long conference, upon no pretext whatsoever are
you to be disturbed.'
  'And  if  I  refuse?' Castelnau's dark eyes  suddenly  flashed
rebellion.
  'Then you will never live to give another order. The affair we
are engaged upon is desperate, and whatever the consequences may
be,  I  shall  shoot  you like the rat you are.  Now  ring.'  De
Richleau put the pistol in his pocket but still held the  banker
covered,  and after a moment's hesitation Castelnau pressed  the
bell.
  'You,  Richard,' the Duke said in a sharp whisper, 'will leave
us when the servant has taken his instructions. Wait for us with
Marie  Lou  in  the  entrance hall. You have your  gun.  Prevent
anyone  leaving the apartment until we have finished.  Open  the
door to anyone who rings yourself, and if Mocata arrives, as  he
may   at   any   moment,   don't   argue-shoot.   I   take   all
responsibility.'
  'I  am only waiting for the chance,' said Richard grimly, just
as the servant entered.
  Castelnau gave his orders in an even voice, with one eye  upon
the  Duke's pocket, then Richard, in his normal voice,  remarked
casually:
  'Well,  since  the matter is confidential, I had  better  wait
outside  with rny wife until you are through,' and followed  the
elderly alpaca-coated man out into the hall.
  'Rex,'  De  Richleau lost not an instant  once  the  door  was
closed.  Take that telephone receiver off its stand so  that  we
are  not  interrupted by any calls. And you,' he turned  to  the
banker, 'sit down in that chair.'
  'I won't!' exclaimed Castelnau furiously. 'This is abominable.
You   invade  my  apartment  like  brigands.  I  give  you  such
information as I can, but what you are about to do will bring me
into danger, and I refuse-I refuse, I tell you.'
  'I  shall  neither argue with you nor kill you,'  De  Richleau
answered frigidly, 'You are too valuable to me alive. Rex, knock
him out!'
  Castelnau  swung round and threw up his arms in a  gesture  of
defence,  but Rex broke through his guard. The young  American's
mighty  fist  caught him on the side of the jaw and he  crumpled
up, a still heap on his own hearth-rug.
  When the banker came to he found himself sitting in a straight
chair;  his hands were lashed to the back and his ankles to  the
legs  with the curtain cords. His head ached abominably  and  he
saw  De  Richleau standing opposite to him, smiling relentlessly
down into his face.
  'Now,'  said the Duke, 'look into my eyes. The sooner  we  get
this business over the sooner you will be able to get to bed and
nurse your sore head. I am about to place you under, and you are
going  to  tell  us  what you do when you go  to  these  satanic
meetings.'
  For  answer Castelnau quickly closed his eyes and lowered  his
head   on   to  his  chest,  resisting  De  Richleau's  powerful
suggestion with all the force of his will.
  This  doesn't look to me as though it's going to  be  any  too
easy,' Rex muttered dubiously. 'I've always thought that it  was
impossible  to  hypnotise people if they were  unwilling.  You'd
better  let me put the half-Nelson on him until he becomes  more
amenable and sees reason.'
  'That  might  make  him agree verbally,' De Richleau  replied,
'but  it won't stop him lying to us afterwards, and it is  quite
possible  to  hypnotise people against their will. It  is  often
done  to lunatics in asylums. Get behind him now, hold back  his
head  and  lift his eyelids with your fingers so that he  cannot
close  them. We've got to find out about this place. It  is  our
only hope of geting on to Mocata.'
  Rex  did  as he was bid. The Duke stood before the chair,  his
steel-grey  eyes fastened without a flicker upon  those  of  the
unwilling Satanist.
  Time  passed, and every now and then De Richleau's voice broke
the  silence of the quiet, dimly-lit room. 'You are  tired  now,
you  will  sleep.  I  command you.' But  all  his  efforts  were
unavailing. The Satanist sat there rigid and determined  not  to
succumb.
  The  ormolu clock upon the mantelpiece ticked with  a  steady,
monotonous  note, until Rex was filled with the  mad  desire  to
throw  something  at  it.  The hands  crawled  round  the  white
enamelled  dial; its silvery chime rang out, marking  the  hours
eleven,  twelve, one. Still the Frenchman endured De  Richleau's
steady  gaze. He knew that they were expecting Mocata to  arrive
at  his  apartment. Mocata was immensely powerful.  If  only  he
could  hold  out until then the whole position might  be  saved.
With a fixed determination not to give in, his eyelids held back
by Rex's forefingers, he stared blankly at De Richleau's chin.
  Outside, on the sofa of Cordova leather, Richard and Marie Lou
sat  side  by  side. It seemed to her again  that  she  must  be
dreaming. The whole fantastic business of this flight  to  Paris
and their dinner at the Vert Galant had been utterly unreal.  It
could  not  be real now that Mocata was somewhere in  this  city
preparing to kill her darling Fleur in some ungodly rite,  while
she sat there with Richard in that strange, silent apartment and
the night hours laboured on.
  She  thought that she slept a little, but she was not certain.
Ever since she had fainted in the pentacle and come to with  the
sensation  that she was above Cardinals Folly, floating  in  the
soundless  ether, all her movements had been automatic  and  her
vision of their doings distorted, so that whole sections of time
were  blotted  out  from her mind, and only  these  glimpses  of
strange places and faces seemed to register.
  The  black-coated servant appeared once at the far end of  the
corridor, but seeing them still there, disappeared again.
  Almost  the whole of that long wait Richard sat with his  eyes
glued to the front door, his hand clasped ready on the pistol in
his  pocket,  expecting  the ring that would  announce  Mocata's
arrival.
  He  too felt that somehow this person, grown desperate from an
unbearable  injury  and  lusting with the  desire  to  kill,  re
gardless  of  laws  and  consequences,  could  not  possibly  be
himself.  With every movement that he made he expected  to  wake
and  find  himself safely in bed at Cardinals Foily, with  Marie
Lou  snuggled down close against him and Fleur peacefully asleep
only a few doors away.
  Had  he wholly believed that Fleur had been taken from him and
that  he was never to see her again, he could not possibly  have
endured  those dreary hours of enforced idleness while the  Duke
battled  with Castelnau. He would have been forced to  interrupt
them or at least leave his post to watch their proceedings,  for
his inactivity would have become unbearable.
  In  the  richly  furnished salon, Rex and the  Duke  continued
their long-sustained effort without a second's intermission. The
clock struck two, and as Rex stood behind the Frenchman's chair,
shifting his weight from foot to foot now and then, he seemed at
times to drop off into a sort of half-sleep where he stood.
  At  last,  a  little  after two, he  was  roused  to  a  fresh
attention  by  a sudden sob breaking from the dry  lips  of  the
banker.
  'I  will not let you, I will not,' he cried hysterically,  and
then  began  to struggle violently with the curtain  cords  that
tied him to the chair.
  'You  will,'  De Richleau told him firmly, the pupils  of  his
grey eyes now distended and gleaming with an unnatural light.
  Castelnau suddenly ceased to struggle; a cold sweat broke  out
on  his bony forehead, and his head sagged on his neck, but  Rex
held  it firmly and continued to press back his eyelids so  that
it was impossible for him to escape the Duke's relentless stare.
  He began to sob then, like a child who is being beaten, and at
last  De Richleau knew that he had broken the Frenchman's  will.
In  another ten minutes Rex was able to remove his fingers  from
the  banker's  eyelids for he no longer had the power  to  close
them,  but  sat  there gazing at De Richleau  with  an  imbecile
glare.
  In  a low voice the Duke began to question him and, after  one
last  feeble effort at resistance, it all came out. The  meeting
place was in a cellar below a deserted warehouse on the banks of
the Seme at Ashieres. They secured full directions as to the way
to reach it and how to get into it when they arrived.
  As  Castelnau answered the last question, De Richleau  glanced
at the clock. Three and a quarter hours,' he said with a sigh of
weariness.  'Still, it might well have taken longer  in  a  case
like this.'
  'What'll  we do with him?' Rex motioned towards the  Frenchman
who,  with  his head fallen forward on his chest, was now  sound
asleep.
  'Leave  him  there,' answered the Duke abruptly. The  servants
will find him in the morning, and he's so exhausted that he will
sleep until then. But stuff your handkerchief in his mouth  just
in  case  he  wakes  and tries to make any trouble  for  us.  Be
quick!'
  Castelnau did not even blink an eyelid as Rex gagged him. They
left him there and hurried out to the others.
  'Come on!' cried the Duke.
  'What about Mocata?' Richard asked. 'If we leave here we
  may  miss him.' 'We must chance that.' De Richleau pulled open
the door and
  made for the stairs.
  As  they  dashed  down  the long flights  he  flung  over  his
shoulder:  Tanith may have been wrong. Messages from the  astral
plane  are  often unreliable about time. As it  does  not  exist
there, they have difficulty in judging it. She may have seen him
here  a week hence or in the past even. It's so late now that  I
doubt  if  he  will  turn  up tonight. Anyhow,  we  got  out  of
Castelnau  the place where he's most likely to be-and God  knows
what  he may be doing if he is there. We've got to hurry!'  They
fled after him out of the silent building.
  Round  the corner they managed to pick up a taxi and,  at  the
promise of a big tip, the man got every ounce out of his  engine
as  he whirled the four harassed-looking people away through the
murky  streets up towards the Boulevard de Clichy.  Topping  the
hill,  they descended again towards the Seine, crossed the river
and entered Asnieres.
  In  that  outlying  slum of Paris with its  wharves  and  ware
houses,  narrow, sordid-looking streets and dimly-lit  passages,
there was little movement at that hour of the morning. They paid
off  the  taxi outside a closed cafe which faced upon  a  dirty-
looking  square.  A market wagon rumbled past  with  its  driver
huddled  on the seat above the horses, his cape drawn  close  to
protect  him  from  the damp mist rising  from  the  river.  The
bedraggled  figure of a woman was huddled upon the  steps  of  a
shop  with  Tabac' in faded blue letters above it, but otherwise
there was no sign of life.
  Turning  up  the  collars of their coats and shivering  afresh
from  the  damp  chill of the drifting fog,  they  followed  the
Duke's  lead along an evil-looking street of tumbledown dwelling
houses.  Then,  between two high walls, along a  narrow  passage
where  the  rays  of a solitary lamp, struggling  through  grimy
glass, were barely sufficient to dispel a small circle of  gloom
in  its own area. When they had passed it the rest was darkness,
foul  smells, greasy mud squishing from beneath their feet,  and
wisps of mist curling cold about their faces.
  At  the  end of that long dark alley-way they came out upon  a
deserted  wharf. De Richleau turned to the left and  the  others
followed.  To  one side of them the steep face of a  tall  brick
building,  from which chains and pulleys hung in slack festoons,
towered up into the darkness. On the other, a few feet away, the
river surged, oily, turgid, yellow and horrible as it hurried to
the sea.
  As  if  in  a  fresh phase of their nightmare,  they  stumbled
forward  over  planks,  hawsers and  pieces  of  old  iron,  the
neglected debris of the riverside, until fifty yards farther  on
De Richleau halted.
  'This  is  it,'  he announced, fumbling with a rusty  padlock.
'Castelnau  hadn't  got a key and so we'll have  to  break  this
thing. Hunt around, and see if you can find a piece of iron that
we  can  use as a jemmy. The longer the better. It will give  us
more purchase.'
  They  rummaged round in the semi-darkness, broken  only  by  a
riverside  light  some distance away along  the  wharf  and  the
masthead  lanterns  of a few long barges  anchored  out  on  the
swiftly flowing waters.
  This  do?'  Richard  pulled a rusty lever from  a  winch  and,
grabbing  it from him, the Duke thrust the narrow end  into  the
hoop of the padlock.
  'Now  then,'  he  said, as he gripped the  cold,  moist  iron,
'steady  pressure  isn't any good. It needs a violent  jerk,  so
when  I  say  "go!"  we must all throw our  weight  on  the  bar
together. Ready? Go!'
  They heaved downwards. There was a sudden snap. The tongue  of
the  padlock  had  been wrenched out of the  lock.  De  Richleau
removed  it  from the chain and in another moment they  had  the
tall wooden door open.
  Once  inside, De Richleau struck a match, and while he  shaded
it with his hands the others looked about them. From what little
they  could  see,  the place appeared to be  empty.  They  moved
quickly  forward,  striking more matches as they  went,  in  the
direction where Castelnau had told them they would find a  trap-
door leading to the cellars.
  In  a  far  corner they halted. 'Stand back all of you.'  whis
pered  Rex, and while the Duke held up a light he pulled at  the
second in a row of upright iron girders, apparently built in  to
strengthen the wall. As Castelnau had said in his trance, it was
a  secret lever to operate the trap. The girder came forward and
a  large  square  of flooring lifted noiselessly  on  well-oiled
hinges.
  De  Richleau  blew  out  his  match  and  produced  the  small
automatic which he had taken from the banker. 'I will go first,'
he  said, 'and you, Rex, follow me. Richard, you have the  other
gun  so  you had better come last. You can look after Marie  Lou
and  protect our rear. No noise now, because if we're lucky  our
man is here.'
  Feeling  about with his foot he ascertained that a  flight  of
stairs  led  downwards. His shoes made  no  noise,  and  it  was
evident .that they were covered with a thick carpet. Swiftly but
cautiously  he  began to descend the flight and the  others  fol
lowed him down into the pitchy darkness.
  At  the  bottom of the stairs they groped their  way  along  a
tunnel  until  the  Duke  was brought up  sharply  by  a  wooden
partition at which it seemed to end. He fumbled for the  handle,
thinking  that  it  was a door. The sides  were  as  smooth  and
polished as the centre, yet it moved gently under his touch, and
after  a  moment  he found it to be a sliding  panel.  With  the
faintest click of ball bearings it slid back on its runners.
  Straining their eyes they peered into the great apartment upon
which  it opened. A hundred feet long at least and thirty  wide,
it stretched out before them. Two lines of thick pillars, acting
as  supporters to the roof above, and rows of chairs divided  in
the centre by an aisle which led up to a distant altar, gave  it
the  appearance  of  a big private chapel. It  was  lit  by  one
solitary  lamp which hung suspended before the altar,  and  that
distant  beacon did not penetrate to the shadows in  which  they
stood.
  On  tiptoe  and  with their weapons ready they  moved  forward
along  the  wail. De Richleau peered from side  to  side  as  he
advanced, his pistol levelled. Rex crept along beside  him,  the
iron  winch  lever  which they had used  to  smash  the  padlock
gripped tight in his big fist. At any moment they expected their
presence to be discovered.
  As  they  crept nearer to the hanging lamp, they saw that  the
place had been furnished with the utmost luxury and elegance for
those  unholy  meetings.  It was, indeed,  a  superbly  equipped
temple for the worship of the Devil. Above the altar a great and
horrible  representation of the Goat of Mendes,  worked  in  the
loveliest coloured silks, leered down at them; its eyes were two
red  stones which had been inset in the tapestry. They flickered
with dull malevolence in the dim light of the solitary lamp.
  On  the  side  walls were pictures of men,  women  and  beasts
practising obscenities only possible of conception in the  brain
of  a rnad artist. Below the enormous central figure, which  had
hideous,  distorted,  human faces protruding  from  its  elbows,
knees  and  belly,  was a great altar of glistening  red  stone,
worked  and  inlaid with other coloured metals  in  the  Italian
fashion. Upon it reposed the ancient 'devil's bibles' containing
all liturgies of hell; broken crucifixes and desecrated chalices
stolen  from churches and profaned here at the meetings  of  the
Satanists.
  Luxurious  armchairs upholstered in red velvet and  gold  with
eleborate canopies of Jace above, such as High Prelates  use  in
cathedrals  when assisting at important ceremonies, flanked  the
altar on either side. Below the steps to the short chancel, on a
level  with  where they stood, were arranged rows  and  rows  of
cushioned prie-dieux for the accommodation of the worshippers.
  No  sound  or  movement disturbed the stillness of  the  heavy
incense  laden air and with a sinking of the heart  De  Richleau
knew  that they had lost their man. He had gambled blindly  upon
Tanith's  message and she had proved wrong as  to  time.  Mocata
might  not be in Paris for days to come; perhaps he had  divined
their  journey  and, knowing that he would be  unmolested  while
they were abroad, returned to Simon's house where, even now,  he
might  be  foully murdering poor little Fleur.  It  seemed  that
their last hope had gone.
  Then  as they stepped from the side aisle they suddenly saw  a
thing  that  had  been hidden from them by  the  rows  of  chair
backs-a  body,  clad  in  a long white robe  with  mystic  signs
embroidered  on  it  in  black and red, lay  spreadeagled,  face
downwards on the floor, at the bottom of the chancel steps,
  'It's Simon!' breathed the Duke.
  'Oh,  hell,  they've killed him!' Rex ran  forward  and  knelt
beside  the body of their friend. They turned him over and  felt
his  heart.  It  was beating slowly but rhythmically.  The  Duke
pulled  out  of  his waistcoat pocket a little  bottle,  without
which  he never travelled, and held it beneath Simon's nose.  He
shuddered suddenly and his eyes opened, staring up at them.
  'Simon, darling, Simon. It's us-we're here.' Marie Lou grasped
his limp hands between her own.
  He  shuddered  again  and struggled into a  sitting  position.
'What-what's happened?' he murmured, but his voice was normal.
  'You  left  us, you dear, pig-headed ass!' exclaimed  Richard.
'Gave  yourself up and ruined our whole plan of campaign. What's
happened to you! That's what we want to know.'
  'Well,  I met him.' Simon gave the ghost of a smile.  'And  he
took  me to Paris in his plane. Then to some place down  on  the
riverside.' He gazed round and added quickly: 'But this  is  it.
How did you get here?'
  'Never  mind  that,'  De Richleau urged him.  'Have  you  seen
Fleur?'
  'Yes.  He sent a car for me, and when I reached the plane  she
was already in it. We had an argument and he swore he'd keep his
word unless I went through with this.'
  The ritual to Saturn?' asked De Richleau.
  'Um.  He  said that if I'd do it without making any fuss  he'd
let me take Fleur out of here immediately afterwards and back to
England.'
  'He's  double-crossed  you,  as we  thought  he.  would,'  Rex
grunted. 'There's not a soul in this place. He's quit, and taken
Fleur  with  him. Can't you say where he'll be  likely  to  make
for?'
  'Ner.'  Simon  shook his head. 'Directly  we  started  on  the
ritual  he put me under. I let him, but of course he would  have
done  that anyway. The last I saw of Fleur' she was sound asleep
in  that armchair and the next thing I knew you were all staring
down at me just now.'
  'If  you  completed  the ritual, Mocata knows  now  where  the
Talisman is,' De Richleau said abruptly.
  'Yes,' Simon nodded.
  'Then he will have gone to wherever it is-from here.'
  'Of  course,'  Richard cut in. 'That's his main objective.  He
wouldn't lose a second.'
  Then Simon must know the place to which he's gone.'
  'How's  that? I don't quite get you.' Rex looked at  the  Duke
with a puzzled frown.
  'In  his subconscious, I mean. Our only hope now is for me  to
put  Simon  under again and make him repeat every word  that  he
said when the ritual was performed. That will give us the hiding-
place of the Talisman and the place to which I'll stake my  life
Mocata is heading at the present moment. Are you game, Simon?'
  'Yes, of course. You know that I would do anything to help.'
  'Right.'  The Duke took him by the arm and pushed him  gently.
'Sit  down in that chair to the right of the altar and we'll  go
ahead.'
  Simon  settled  himself  and leaned back  on  the  comfortable
cushions, his white robe with its esoteric designs in black  and
red settling about his feet like the long skirts of a woman.  De
Richleau made a few swift passes. 'Sleep, Simon,' he commanded.
  Simon's  eyelids trembled and closed. After a moment he  began
to  breathe deeply and regularly. The Duke went on: 'You are  in
this temple with Mocata. The ritual to Saturn is about to begin.
Repeat the words that he made you speak then.'
  Dreamily but easily, Simon spoke the words of power which were
utterly meaningless to Richard, -Rex and Marie Lou, who stood, a
tensely anxious audience, at the bottom of the chancel steps.
  'On,'  commanded  De Richleau. 'Jump a quarter  of  an  hour.'
Simon  spoke  again,  more  sentences  incomprehensible  to  the
uninitiate.
  'On again,' commanded De Richleau. 'Another quarter of an hour
has passed.'
  '--was  built above the place where the Talisman  is  buried,'
said  Simon.  'It will be found in the earth beneath  the  right
hand stone of the altar.'
  'Go  back  one minute,' ordered De Richleau, and  Simon  spoke
once more.
  '--Attila's death the Greek secreted it and took it to his own
country.  In  the  city of Yanina, upon his  return,  he  became
possessed of devils and was handed over to the brethren  at  the
monastery  above  Metsovo, which stands in the mountains  twenty
miles  east  of  the city. They failed to cast out  the  spirits
which inhabited his body and so imprisoned him in an underground
cell  and  there, before he died, he buried the Talisman.  Seven
years later the dungeons were demolished and the crypt built  in
their  place on the same site, with the great church  above  it.
The  Talisman remained undisturbed in its original hiding place.
Its  power  gradually  pervaded the whole  of  the  Brotherhood,
filling it with lechery and greed, so that it disintegrated  and
was  finally  disbanded before the invasion by the  Turks-.  The
chapel to the left in the crypt was built above the place  where
the Talisman is buried.'
  'Stop,' ordered the Duke. 'Awake now.'
  'By  Jove,  we've got it!' exclaimed Rex. But as  he  spoke  a
slight noise behind them made him swing upon his heel.
  Four  figures stood there in the shadows. The tallest suddenly
stepped forward.
  Richard's  hand  leapt to his gun but the  tall  man  snapped:
'Stand still, man vieux, I have you covered,' and they saw  that
he held an automatic.
  The   other  two  strangers  came  forward.  The  fourth   was
Castelnau.
  The  leader of the party turned to a little old man, who stood
beside  him  wearing an out-of-date bowler hat that came  almost
down to his ears, then nodded towards the Duke.
  'Is that De Richleau, Verrier? You should be able to recognise
him, since he was in your time.'
  'Oui  monsieur,'  declared the little old man.  'That  is  the
famous  Royalist who caused us so much trouble when I was young.
I would know his face again anywhere.'
  'Son!  All this is very interesting.' The tall, hard-eyed  man
glanced  from  the  obscene pictures on the  walls  to  the  mag
nificent  appurtenances of Satanic worship upon the  altar,  and
went  on in a silky tone: 'I have had an idea for some time that
a  secret society has been practising devil worship in Paris and
is responsible for certain disappearances, but I could never lay
my hands on them before. Now I have got five of you red-handed.'
  He  paused for a moment then gave a jerky little bow.  'Madame
et  Messieurs, permit me to introduce myself. I am le Chef de la
Surete, Daudet. Monsieur le Due, I arrest you as an enemy of the
Government  upon the old charge. The rest of you  I  shall  hold
with  him, as persons suspected of kidnapping and the murder  of
young children at the practice of infamous rites.'


                               32

                     The Gateway of the Pit

  For  ten  seconds the friends stood there staring  at  the  de
tective.  Castelnau's presence gave them the key to this  grotes
que  but  highly dangerous situation. Mocata must have left  the
warehouse  at  almost the same time they had left  the  banker's
apartment. Perhaps their taxis had even passed within a few feet
of  each other, racing in opposite directions. Tanith had proved
right after all when she had told them that she could see Mocata
talking with Castelnau that night in his flat.
  Mocata  had found the banker there, released and revived  him,
and then listened to his story; realising at once that, since it
was  possible for De Richleau to hypnotise Castelnau against his
will,  it  would be easy for him to do the same to Simon,  learn
the hiding place of the Talisman, and follow him to it.
  Now  that they had discovered the secret Satanic temple  which
was his headquarters in Paris, the place would be useless to him
and  only  a  source of danger. Unmentionable  crimes  had  been
committed there, and it would be far too great a risk  for  him,
ever  to visit it again. Then the brilliant decision that, since
the  place  had  to be abandoned, he could at least  use  it  to
destroy his enemies.
  The  whole thing flashed through De Richleau's brain in  those
few  seconds. Mocata's first idea that, if only he could get the
police  to  the  warehouse before they left it,  he  would  have
involved them in all the crimes associated with such a place and
thrown  them  off his trail for good. Next, the vital  question,
how  to get the police there in time. Would they act at once  if
Castelnau were sent to tell them a tale about Satanic orgies  or
only  laugh  at him? What practical crime could his  enemies  be
charged  with? Then the perfect inspiration. If the  authorities
were  told that De Richleau, the Royalist exile, was a party  to
the business they would not lose a second, but seize on it as  a
heaven-sent opportunity to throw discredit upon their  political
opponents.  What a magnificent scandal for the Government  Press
to    handle.   'Secret   Royalist   Society   practises   Black
Art'-'Satanic  Temple  raided  at  Asnieres'-  'Notorious  exile
arrested while performing Blasphemous Rites.' The Duke could see
the scurrilous headlines and hear the newsboy's cry.
  And the trick had worked. They had actually been discovered in
that  house  of  hell with Simon in the tell-tale robes,  seated
before  the  altar, while he performed what must certainly  have
appeared to the police as some evil ceremony and the other three
had stood there, forming a small congregation.
  How could they possibly hope to persuade the tall, suspicious-
eyed  Monsier  le  Chef de la Surete Daudet of their  innocence,
much  less get him to agree to their immediate release? Yet,  as
they  stood there, Mocata was on his way to the place  where  he
kept  his special plane, if not already aboard it. Night  flying
would  have  no terrors for him who, if he wished, could  invoke
the elements to his aid. Fleur would be with him and he meant to
murder  her  as certainly as they stood there. His determination
to  secure the return of Tanith made the sacrifice of a baptised
child imperative, and before another twenty-four hours had  gone
he  would be in possession of the Talisman of Set, bringing upon
the   world  God  alone  knew  what  horrors  of  war,   famine,
disablement and death.
  De  Richleau knew that there was only one thing for it-even if
he  was shot down there and then-he sprang like a panther at the
Chef de la Surete's throat.
  The  detective  fired from his hip. Flame  stabbed  the  semi-
darkness  of  the vault. The crash hit their eardrums  like  the
explosion of a slab of gelignite. The bullet seared through  the
Duke's  left arm, but his attack hurled the Police-Chief to  the
ground.
  Simon  and Marie Lou flung themselves simultaneously upon  the
old detective Verrier. The thoughts which had passed through  De
Richleau's  mind  in  those breathless seconds  had  also  raced
through hers. If they submitted to arrest their last hope  would
be gone of saving her beloved Fleur.
  Richard  had  no  chance to pull his gun. The  third  man  had
grabbed him round the body but Rex rapped the policeman  on  the
back  of the head with his iron bar. The man grunted and toppled
on the the chancel steps.
  Rex  leapt  over the body straight for Castelnau. Quick  as  a
flash,  the  banker turned and ran, his long legs flicking  past
each  other  as he bounded down the empty aisle, but Rex's  legs
were even longer. He caught the Satanist at the entrance of  the
passage and grabbed him by the back of the neck. Castelnau  tore
himself away and stood panting for a second, half crouching with
bared teeth, his back against the wall. Then for the second time
that night Rex's leg-of-mutton fist took him on the chin and  he
slid to the ground like a pole-axed ox.
  De Richleau, his wounded arm hanging limp and useless, writhed
beneath the Chef de la Surete who had one hand on his throat and
with the other was groping for his fallen gun.
  His  fingers  closed upon it. He jerked it  up  and  fired  at
Richard,  who was dashing to De Richleau's help. The  shot  went
thudding  into  the belly of the Satanic Goat above  the  altar.
Next  second  the heavy prie-dieu which Richard had swung  aloft
came crashing down upon the Police-Chief's head.
  Rex  only paused to see that the banker was completely knocked
out, then rushed back to the struggling mass of bodies below the
altar steps.
  Simon  and Marie Lou had managed the little man between  them.
Almost insane with worry for her child, her thumb nails were dug
into  his  neck  and, while he screeched with  pain,  Simon  was
lashing his hands behind his back.
  Richard  was pulling the Duke out from beneath the unconscious
Chef  de  la  Surete's  body. Rex lent a ready  hand  and  then,
panting  with their exertions, they surveyed the scene of  their
short but desperate encounter.
  'Holy smoke! That's done me a whole heap of good,' Rex grinned
at Richard. 'I'm almost feeling like my normal self again.'
  'The  odds  were  with us but we owe our escape  to  Greyeyes'
pluck.'  Richard  looked swiftly at the Duke.  'Let's  see  that
wound,  old  chap.  I hope to God the bullet  didn't  smash  the
bone.'
  'I  don't  think  so-grazed it though, and the muscle's  badly
torn.'  De  Richleau closed his eyes and his face twisted  at  a
stab of pain as they lifted his arm to cut the coat sleeve away.
  'I  know  what  you  must be feeling,' Simon sympathised.  Til
never  forget  the  pain of the wound I got that  night  we  dis
covered the secret of the Forbidden Territory.'
  'Don't fuss round me,' muttered the Duke, 'but get that damned
priest's  robe off. If these people don't return to  the  Surete
more police will come to look for them. We've got to get out  of
here-quick.'
  In  frantic  haste Marie Lou bandaged the wound while  Richard
made  a sling and the other two wrenched off the clothes of  the
detective  that Rex had knocked out. Simon scrambled  into  them
and,  as  he  snatched up the man's overcoat,  the  others  were
already hurrying towards the entrance to the passage at the  far
end'of the temple.
  Richard  rushed  Marie Lou along the dark  corridor  and  they
tumbled up the flight of steps. Everything seemed to fade  again
after those awful moments when they had been so near arrest. She
felt  the  cold air of the wharf-side damp upon her  cheeks-they
were  running  down the narrow passage between  the  high  brick
walls-back  in the gloomy square where the old woman  still  sat
crouched upon the steps near the squalid cafe. Rex had taken her
other  arm  and,  her feet treading the pavements automatically,
they  were hastening through endless, sordid, fog-bound streets.
They  crossed the bridge over the Seine and, at last, under  the
railway  arches at Courcel-les, found a taxi. When next she  was
conscious of her surroundings they were in a little room at  the
airport and the four men were poring over maps. Snatches of  the
conversation came to her vaguely.
  Twelve  hundred miles-more. Northern Greece. You cannot  cross
the  Alps-make  for Vienna, then south to Trieste-  no,  Vienna-
Agram-Fiume. From Agram we can fly down the valley of the  River
Save;  otherwise  we should have to cross the Dolomites.  That's
right!  Then  follow  the coastline of  the  Adriatic  for  five
hundred  miles south-east to Corfu. Yanina is about fifty  miles
inland  from  there.  You can follow the  course  of  the  river
Kalamans  through  the mountains-Shall we be  able  to  land  at
Yanina, though-yes, look, the map shows that it's on a big lake.
The  circuit  of the shore must be fifteen miles  at  least.  It
can't all be precipitous-certain to be sandy stretches along  it
somewhere-how  far do you make it to Metsovo from  there?-twenty
miles  as the crow flies. That means thirty at least in  such  a
mountainous  district. The monastery is a few miles  beyond,  on
Mount Peristeri-pretty useful mountain-look. The map gives it as
seven  thousand five hundred feet-we must abandon the  plane  at
Yanina.  If  we're lucky we'll get a car as far  as  Metsova-God
knows  what the roads will be like-after that we'll have to  use
horses  in  any case. How soon do you reckon you  can  make  it,
Richard?'
  'Fourteen  hundred  miles. We should be in Vienna  by  midday.
Fiume,  say,  half-past two. I ought to  make  Vanina  by  eight
o'clock  with Rex taking turn and turn about flying  the  plane.
After that it depends on what fresh transport we can get.'
  Next,  they  were in the plane again-lifting out of  fog-bound
Paris to a marvellous dawn, which gilded the edges of the clouds
and streaked the sky with rose and purple and lemon.
  Richard  was flying the plane in a kind of trance,  yet  never
for a moment losing sight of important landmarks or the dials by
which he adjusted his controls. The others slept.
  When  Marie Lou roused, the plane was at rest near a long line
of  hangars dimly glimpsed through another ghostly fog.  Someone
said  'Stuttgart' and then she saw Simon standing on the  ground
below her, conversing in German with an airport official.
  'A  big,  grey,  private plane,' he was saying urgently.  'The
pilot  is  a  short, square-shouldered fellow; the passengers  a
big, fat, baldheaded man and a little girl.'
  Marie  Lou  leaned forward eagerly but she did not  catch  the
airport man's reply. A moment later Simon was climbing into  the
plane and saying to the Duke:
  'He must be taking the same route, but he's an hour and a half
ahead  of  us. I expect he had his own car in Paris. That  would
have  saved  him  time while we were hunting for  that  wretched
taxi.'
  Rex  had taken over the controls and they were in the air once
more.  Richard was sitting next to Marie Lou, sound asleep.  For
an  endless time they seemed to soar through a cloudless sky  of
pale,  translucent blue. She, too, must have dropped off  again,
for sl.e was not conscious of their landing at Vienna, only when
she woke in the early afternoon that the pilots had changed over
and Richard was back at the controls.
  'Yet, in some curious way, although she had not actually  been
aware  of  their  landing, fragments of their conversation  must
have  penetrated her sleep at the time. She knew that there  had
also  been  fog at Vienna, and that Mocata had left the  airport
there  only  an hour before them, so in the journey  from  Paris
they had managed to gain half an hour on him.
  The  engine  droned  on, its deep note soothing  their  frayed
nerves. Richard hardly knew that he was flying, although he used
all  the  skill at his command. It seemed as though  some  other
force  was  driving the aeroplane on and that  he  was  standing
outside it as a spectator. All his faculties were numbed and his
anxiety  for  Fleur deadened by an intense absorption  with  the
question of speed-speed-speed.
  At  Fiume  there was no trace of fog. Glorious sunshine,  warm
and  lifegiving,  flooded  the  aerodrome,  making  the  hangars
shimmer in the distance. The Duke crawled out from the couch  of
rugs and cushions that had been made up in the back of the cabin
to  accommodate  a fifth passenger, and chosen by  him  as  more
comfortable  for  his  wounded arm. He questioned  the  landing-
ground officials in fluent Italian, but without success.
  'From  Vienna Mocata must have taken another route,'  he  told
Richard  as  he  climbed back. 'Perhaps a  short  cut  over  the
Dinarie Alps or by way of Sarajevo. If so he will have more than
made  up his half hour lead again. I feared as much when  I  saw
that  there was no fog here. I can't explain it but  I  have  an
idea  that he is able to surround us with it, yet only  when  we
follow him to places where he has been quite recently himself.'
  Rex  took over for the long lap down the Dalmatian coast above
the  countless islands that fringe the Yugoslavian mainland  and
lay beneath them in the sparkling Adriatic Sea.
  They  slept again, all except Rex who, a crack pilot, was  now
handling the machine with superb skill.
  As  he  flew  the plane half his thoughts were  centred  about
Tanith.  He  could see her there, lying cold and  dead,  in  the
library a thousand miles away at Cardinals Folly. That dream  of
happiness had been so brief. Never again would he see the sudden
smile  break  out  like sunshine rising over mountains  on  that
beautiful,  calm  face. Never again hear  the  husky,  melodious
voice  whispering terms of endearment. Never again -never again!
But he was on the trail of her murderer and if he died for it he
meant to make that inhuman monster pay.
  The  Adriatic  merged Into the Ionian Sea. The endless  rugged
coastline  rushed past below them on their left;  its  mountains
rising  steeply  to  the  interior of  Albania,  and  its  vales
breaking them here and there to run down to little white fishing
villages on the seashore. Villages that in Roman times had  been
great centres of population through the constant passage of  mer
chandise, soldiers, scholars, travellers between Brindisi,  upon
the heel of Italy, and the Peninsula of Greece.
  Then they were over Corfu. Banking steeply, he headed for  the
mainland  and picked up the northern mouth of the River Kalamas.
The  deep  blue  of  the sea flecked by its  tiny  white  crests
vanished  behind  them. Twisting and turning,  the  plane  drove
upwards  above  desolate valleys where  the  river  trickled,  a
streak of silver in the evening light. The sun sank behind  them
into  the  distant sea. They were heading for the huge chain  of
mountains, which forms the backbone of Greece.
  A  mist was rising which obscured the long, empty patches  and
rare cultivated fields below. The Sight faded, its last rays lit
a great distant snow-capped crest which crowned the watershed.
  A  lake  lay below them, placid and calm in the evening  light
but glimpsed only through the banks of fog. At its south-western
end  the white buildings of a town were vaguely discernible  now
and  then  as Rex circled slowly, searching for a landing-place.
Suddenly, through a gap in the billowing whitish-grey,  his  eye
caught a big plane standing in a level field.
  'That's Mocata's machine,' yelled Simon who was in the cockpit
beside him.
  Rex  banked again and, coming into the wind, brought  them  to
earth  within fifty yards of it. The others roused and scrambled
out.
  The  mist which Rex had first perceived, a quarter of an  hour
before,  from his great altitude, now hemmed them  in  on  every
side.
  A  man  came forward from a low, solitary hangar as the  plane
landed.  De  Richleau saw him, a vague figure, half obscured  by
the  tenuous veils of mist; went over to him and said,  when  he
rejoined them:
  'That  fellow is a French mechanic. He tells me Mocata  landed
only  half an hour ago. He came in from Monastir but had trouble
in  the mountains, which delayed him; nobody but a maniac  or  a
superman would try and get through that way at all. This  fellow
thinks that he cah get us a car; he runs the airport, such as it
is, and we're darned lucky to find any facilities here at all.'
  Richard had just woken from a long sleep. Before he knew  what
was happening he found that they were all packed into an ancient
open Ford with a tattered hood. Simon was on one side of him and
Marie Lou on the other. Rex squatted on the floor of the car  at
their feet and De Richleau was in front beside the driver.
  They  could  not see more than twenty yards ahead.  The  lamps
made little impression upon the gloom before them. The road  was
a  sandy  track,  fringed at the sides  with  coarse  grass  and
boulders. No houses, cottages or white-walled gardens broke  the
monotony  of  the  way  as  they rattled  and  bumped,  mounting
continuously up long, curved gradients.
  De  Richleau peered ahead into the murk. Occasional rifts gave
him glimpses of the rocky mountains round which they climbed or,
upon the other side, a cliff edge falling sheer to a mist-filled
valley.
  He,  too, could only remember episodes from that wild journey;
an  unendurable  weariness had pressed upon him  once  they  had
boarded  the plane and left Paris. Even his powers of  endurance
had  failed at last and he had slept during the greater part  of
their fourteen hundred mile flight. He was still sleepy now  and
only  half  awake as that unknown demon driver, who had  hurried
them  with  few words into the rickety Ford, crouched  over  his
wheel  and  pressed  the car, rocketing  from  hairpin  bend  to
hairpin bend, onwards and upwards.
  The  last  light  had  been shut out by the  lower  ranges  of
mountains  behind  them  as they wound  their  way  through  the
valleys  to  the  greater peaks which, unseen in  the  mist  and
darkness, they knew lay towering to the skies towards the  east.
Deep  ruts in the track, where mountain torrents cut it  in  the
winter  cascading downwards to the lower levels,  made  the  way
hideously uneven. The car jolted and bounded, skidding violently
from  time to time, loose shale and pebbles rocketing  from  its
back tyres as it took the dangerous bends.
  In  the back Richard, Marie Lou and Simon lurched, swayed, and
bumped each other as they crouched in silent misery, their teeth
chattering with the cold of the chill night that was  now  about
them in those lofty regions...
  They  were in a room, a strange, low-ceilinged, eastern  room,
with a great, heavy, wooden door, under which they could see the
fog  wreathing upwards in the light of a solitary oil  lamp  set
upon  a rough-hewn table. Bunches of onions and strips of  dried
meat  hung from the low rafters. The earthen floor of the  place
was  cold  underfoot. On a deep window recess in  a  thick  wall
stood  a  crude earthenware jug, and a platter with  a  loaf  of
coarse bread upon it, which was covered by a bead-edged piece of
muslin.
  Marie Lou roused to find herself drinking coarse, red wine out
of a thick, glass tumbler. She saw Rex sitting on a wooden bench
against the wall, staring before him with unseeing eyes  at  the
grimy window. The others stood talking round the lopsided table.
A  peasant  woman, with a scarf about her head, whose  face  she
could  not see, appeared to be arguing with them. Marie Lou  had
an  idea that it was about money, since De Richleau held a small
pile  of notes in his hand. Then the peasant woman was gone  and
the  others were talking together again. She caught a few  words
here and there,
  'I  thought it was a ruin . . . inhabited still . . . they beg
us not to go there . . . not of an official order or anything to
do with the Greek Church. They look on them as heathens here . .
. associates of Mocata's?-- No, more like a community of outlaws
who  have  taken refuge there under the disguise of a  religious
brotherhood . . . Talisman has affected them, perhaps. Forty  or
fifty  of  them.  The people here shun the  place  even  in  the
daytime, and at night none of them would venture near it at  any
price.  .  . . You managed to get a driver?-- Yes, of  a  kind--
What's wrong with him?-- I don't know. The woman didn't seem  to
trust  him, but I had great difficulty in understanding  her  at
all--  Sort of bad man of the village, eh? . . . Have  to  trust
him if no one else will take us.'
  De  Richleau passed his hand across his eyes. What was it that
they had been talking about? He was so tired, so terribly tired.
There  had been a peasant woman, with whom he had talked of  the
ruined  monastery up in the mountains. She seemed to  be  filled
with  horror of the place and had implored him again  and  again
not  to go. He began to wonder how they had conversed. He  could
make  himself understood in most European languages, but he  had
very  little knowledge of modern Greek; but that did not  matter
they must get on- get on...
  The others were standing round him like a lot of ghosts in the
narrow,  fog-filled  village street.  A  little  hunchback  with
bright,  sharp eyes was peering at him. The fellow wore  a  dark
sombrero,  and  a  black  cloak, covering  his  malformed  body,
dangled to his feet; the light from the semi-circular window  of
the inn was just sufficient to illuminate his face. A great, old-
fashioned  carriage, with two lean, ill-matched horses harnessed
to it, stood waiting.
  They  piled  into  it.  The musty smell  of  the  straw-filled
cushions  came  strongly to their nostrils. The  hunchback  gave
them one curious, cunning look from his bright eyes, and climbed
upon  the box. The lumberiag vehicle began to rock from side  to
side.  The  one-storeyed,  flat-topped  houses  in  the  village
disappeared behind them and were swallowed up in the mist.
  They  forded  a swift but shallow river outside  the  village,
then  the  roadway  gave place to a stony track.  Ghostlike  and
silent,  walls  of  rock loomed up on either  side.  The  horses
ceased  trotting and fell into a steady, laboured walk,  hauling
the  great,  unwieldy barouche from bend to bend  up  the  rock-
strewn way into the fastness of the mountains.
  Simon's  teeth  were chattering. That damp, clinging  greyness
seemed  to enter into his very bones. He tried to remember  what
day  it  was and at what hour they had left Paris. Was  it  last
night or the night before or the night before that? He could not
remember and gave it up.
  The way seemed interminable. No one spoke. The carriage jolted
on,  the  hunchback  crouched upon his  seat,  the  lean  horses
pulling gallantly. The curve of the road ahead was always hidden
from  them and no sooner had they passed it than they lost sight
of the curve behind.
  At  last the carriage halted. The driver climbed down off  his
box  and pointed upwards, as they stumbled out on the track.  De
Richleau  was  thrusting money into his hand. He  and  his  aged
vehicle disappeared in the shadows. Richard looked back to catch
a  last glimpse of it and it suddenly struck him then how  queer
it was that the carriage had no lamps.
  The  rest were pressing on, stumbling and slithering  as  they
followed  the way which had now become no more than  a  footpath
leading upwards between the huge rocks.
  After a little, the gloom seemed to lighten and they perceived
stars  above  their  heads. Then, Founding a rugged  promontory,
they  saw  the age-old monastery standing out against the  night
sky upon the mountain slope above.
  It  was  huge and dark and silent, with steep walls rising  on
two sides from a precipice. A great dome, like an inverted bowl,
rose  in  its centre, but a portion of it had fallen in and  the
jagged edges showed plainly against the deep blue of the starlit
night beyond.
  With  renewed  courage they staggered on  up  the  steep  rise
toward  the great semi-circular arch of the entrance. The  gates
stood open wide, rotted and fallen from their hinges. No sign of
life  greeted  their  appearance  as  they  passed  through  the
spacious courtyard.
  Instinctively  they  made for the main  building  above  which
curved the broken arc of the ruined Byzantine dome. That must be
the Church, and the crypt would lie below it.
  They  crossed the broken pavements of the forecourt, the  Duke
leaning  heavily  on Rex's arm. He nodded towards  a  few  faint
lights  which came from a row of outbuildings. Rex followed  his
glance  in  silence and they hurried on. That was evidently  the
best-preserved  portion of the ruin, in  which  these  so-called
monks  resided. A gross laugh, followed by the sound of smashing
glass and then a hoarse voice cursing, came from that direction,
confirming their thought.
  All  the  way  up  from  the inn half-formed  fears  had  been
troubling  De  Richleau that they might fall foul of  this  ill-
omened  brotherhood.  He assumed them to  be  little  less  than
robbers under a thin disguise, who probably eked out a miserable
existence  by levying toll in corn and oil and goats' milk  upon
the  neighbouring peasantry, but this great pile upon the slopes
of  Mount Peristeri was so much more vast than anything that  he
had  imagined. A matter of fifty men might easily be lost  among
its rambling courts and buildings.
  They  advanced through another great courtyard, surrounded  by
ruined colonnades which were visible only by the faint starlight
from  above. Built by some early Christian saint, when Byzantium
was  still  an Empire and Western Europe labouring  through  the
semi-barbarous  night of the Dark Ages, the colossal  ruin  must
once  have housed thousands of earnest men, all engaged  day  by
day  in pious study, or various active tasks to provide for that
great  community.  Now it was as dead as those  African  temples
which have been overgrown by jungle, only a small fragment of it
occupied by a small band of dissolute uncultured rogues.
  In  wonder  and awe they passed up the broad flight of  steps,
through  the vast portico on which the elaborate carvings,  worn
and disfigured by time, were just discernible, into the body  of
the Church.
  The  starlight, filtering dimly through the great rent in  the
dome a hundred feet above their heads, was barely sufficient  to
light  their way as they scrambled over broken pillars and heaps
of  debris round the walls until they found a low door. From it,
a  flight  of steps led down into the Stygian blackness  of  the
volts below.
  Marie  Lou,  stumbling along half-bemused  between  Simon  and
Richard,  found herself wondering what they could  be  doing  in
this  ancient ruin, then memory flooded back. It was here, below
them, that the Talisman of Set was buried. There had been no fog
in  the  courtyard  outside so they must have got  there  before
Mocata  after all-but where was Fleur? She was going to  die-she
felt that she was dying-but first she must find Fleur.
  The  others  had  halted  and Richard  noticed  then  that  De
Richleau  was  carrying  an  old-fashioned  lantern,  which   he
supposed  he had borrowed at the inn. The Duke lit the stump  of
candle  that was inside it and led the way down those  time-worn
stairs.  The  others,  treading  instinctively  on  tiptoe,  now
followed him into the stale, musty darkness.
  At  the  bottom of the steps they came out into a low, vaulted
crypt which, by the faint light of the lantern, seemed to spread
interminably under the flagstones of the Church;
  De Richleau turned to the east, judging the altar of the crypt
to  be  situated below the one in the Church above, but when  he
had  traversed twenty yards he halted suddenly. A  black,  solid
mass blocked their path in the centre of the vault.
  'Of  course,' Marie Lou heard him murmur. 'I forgot that  this
place  was built such centuries ago. Altars were placed  in  the
centre of churches then. This must be it.'
  'We've beaten him to it, then,' Rex's voice came with a little
note of triumph.
  'Perhaps  he couldn't get anyone to drive him up from  Metsovo
at this hour of night,' Richard suggested. 'Our man was supposed
to  be  mad, or something, and they said that no one else  would
go.'
  'Those  stones are going to take some shifting.' Rex took  the
lantern and bent to examine the black slabs of the solid, oblong
altar,
  'Are  you certain that this is the right one?' Richard  asked.
'My  brain  seems to be going. I can't remember things  properly
any more but I thought when we got the information from Simon in
his trance he said something about a side-chapel in the crypt.'
  No  one answered. While his words were still ringing in  their
ears each one of them suddenly felt that he was being overlooked
from behind.
  Rex  dropped the lantern, De Richleau swung round,  Marie  Lou
gave  a  faint cry. A dull light had appeared only ten paces  in
their  rear.  Leading to it they saw a short  flight  of  steps.
Beyond, a chapel with a smaller altar, from which the right-hand
stone  had  been  wrenched. And there, standing before  it,  was
Mocata.
  With  a  bellow of fury, Rex started forward, but the Satanist
suddenly raised his left hand. In it he held a small black cigar-
shaped  thing, which was slightly curved. About it there  was  a
phosphorescent  glow,  so that, despite the  semi-darkness,  the
very  blackness  of the thing itself stood out clear  and  sharp
against  its surrounding aura of misty light. The rays  from  it
seemed  to  impinge upon then' bodies, instantly checking  their
advance.   They   found  themselves  transfixed-brought   to   a
standstill in a running group-half-way between the central altar
and the chapel steps.
  Without uttering a word, Mocata came down the steps and slowly
walked round them, carrying the thing which they now guessed  to
be the Talisman aloft in his left hand. A glowing phosphorescent
circle appeared on the damp stone flags in his tracks and, as he
completed the circuit, they felt their limbs relax.
  Again they rushed at him, but were brought up with a jerk.  It
was impossible to break out of that magic circle in which he had
confined them.
  With  slow  steps,  the Satanist returned to  the  chapel  and
proceeded to light a row of black candles upon the broken  altar
there.  Then, with a little gasp of unutterable fear, Marie  Lou
saw  that Fleur was crouching in a dark corner near the upturned
earth from which the Talisman had been recovered.
  'Fleur-darling!'  she cried imploringly,  stretching  out  her
arms,  but the child did not seem to hear. With round  eyes  she
knelt  there near the altar, staring out towards the crypt,  but
apparently seeing nothing.
  Mocata  lit some incense in a censer and swung it rhythmically
before the broken altar,murmuring strange invocations.
  He  moved so smoothly and silently that he might have  been  a
phantom but for the lisping intonation of his low musical voice.
Then  Fleur  began to cry, and the sobbing of the child  had  an
unmistakable  reality  which tore at the  very  fibre  of  their
hearts.
  Again and again they tried to break out of the circle, but  at
last,  forced  to give up their frantic attempts, they  crouched
together straining against the invisible barrier, watching  with
fear-distended eyes as a gradual materialisation began  to  form
in the clouds of incense above the altar stone.
  At  first  it seemed to be the face of Mocata's black familiar
that  Rex  had  seen  in  Simon's  house,  but  it  changed  and
lengthened. A pointed beard appeared on the chin and four  great
curved  horns  sprouted from the head. Soon it became  definite,
clear  and  solid. That monstrous, shaggy beast  that  had  held
court  on Salisbury Plain, the veritable Goat of Mendes,  glared
at  them  with  its  red, baleful, slanting  eyes,  and  belched
foetid, deathly breaths from its cavernous nostrils.
  Mocata raised the Talisman and set it upon the forehead of the
Beast,  laying  it lengthwise upon the flat, bald,  bony  skull,
where  it blazed like some magnificent jewel which had a strange
black centre. Then he stooped, seized the child and, tearing off
her  clothes,  flung her naked body full length upon  the  altar
beneath the raised fore-hooves of the Goat.
  Sick   with  apprehension  and  frantic  with  distress,   the
prisoners  in the circle heard the sorcerer begin to intone  the
terrible lines of the Black Mass.
  Horrified  but  powerless, they watched the  swinging  of  the
censer,  the  chanting  of  the  blasphemous  prayers,  and  the
blessing  of  the dagger by the Goat, knowing that  at  the  con
clusion of the awful ceremony, the perverted maniac playing  the
part  of the devil's priest would rip the child open from throat
to groin while offering her soul to Hell.
  Half  crazy with fear, they saw Mocata pick up the  knife  and
raise his arm above the little body, about to strike.


                               33

                     Death of a Man Unknown,
                       From Natural Causes

  Rex stood with the sweat pouring down his face. The muscles of
his arms jerked convulsively. His whole will was concentrated in
an  effort  to fling himself forward, up the steps; yet,  except
for  the tremors which ran through his body, the invisible power
held him motionless in its grip.
  De  Richleau prayed. Silent but inceasing, his soundless words
vibrated  on the ether. He knew the futility of any  attempt  at
physical  intervention,  and doubted now  if  his  supplications
could avail when pitted against such a terrible manifestation of
evil as the Goat of Mendes.
  Richard  crouched near him, his face white and bloodless,  his
eyes  staring. His arms were stretched out, as though to  snatch
Fleur  away  or  in an appeal for mercy, but he could  not  move
them.
  Marie  Lou had one hand resting on his shoulder. She was  past
fear  for  herself, past all thought of that terrible end  which
might  come  to them in a few moments, past even the  horror  of
losing  Richard  should they all be blotted out  in  some  awful
final darkness.
  She  did  not  pray or strive to dash towards her  child.  The
pulsing  of  her  heart seemed to be temporarily suspended.  Her
brain  was  working with that strange clarity which  only  comes
upon  those  rare occasions when danger appears to  be  so  over
whelming  that there is no possible escape. Into her mind  there
came  a  clear-cut picture of herself as she  had  been  in  her
dream,  holding what De Richleau said was the great Red Book  of
Appin. Her fingers could feel the very cover again with its soft
hairy skin.
  Simon  dropped to his knees between the Duke and Rex. He  made
an  effort to cast himself forward but rocked very slightly from
side  to side, stricken with an agony of misery and remorse.  It
was  his folly which had led his friends into this terrible pass
and  now  he did the only thing he could to make atonement.  His
brain no longer clouded, but with full knowledge of the enormity
of  the  thing,  he offered himself silently  to  the  Power  of
Darkness if Fleur might be spared.
  Mocata  paused for a moment, the knife still poised above  the
body  of  the  child,  to  turn and look  at  him.  The  thought
vibration had been so strong that he had caught it, but  he  had
already  drawn all that he needed out of Simon. Slowly his  pale
lips  crumpled in a cruel smile. He shook his head in  rejection
of the offer and raised the knife again.
  The Duke's hand jerked up in a frantic effort to stay the blow
by  the sign of the cross, but it was struck down to his side by
one  of the rays from the Talisman, just as though some powerful
physical force had hit it.
  Richard's  jaws opened as though about to shout but  no  sound
issued from them.
  With a supreme effort Rex lowered his head to charge, but  the
invisible  weight  of  twenty  men  seemed  to  force  back  his
shoulders.
  Before the mental eyes of Marie Lou the Red Book of Appin  lay
open.  Again  she  saw the stained vellum  page  and  the  faded
writing in strange characters upon it. And once more as  in  her
drearn  she  could understand the one sentence: 'They  only  who
Love  without  Desire shall have power granted to  them  in  the
Darkest Hour.'
  Then her lips opened. With no knowledge of its meaning, and  a
certainty  that  she  had  never seen it  written  or  heard  it
pronounced   before,  she  spoke  a  strange  word-having   five
syllables.
  The  effect  was  instantaneous. The whole chamber  rocked  as
though  shaken  by an earthquake. The walls receded,  the  floor
began to spin. The crypt gyrated with such terrifying speed that
the  occupants of the circle clutched frantically at each  other
to  save  themselves from falling. The altar candles swayed  and
danced  before  their distended eyes. The Talisman  of  Set  was
swept from between the horns of the monstrous Goat, and bouncing
down the steps of the chapel, came to rest on the stone flags at
De Richleau's feet.
  Mocata  staggered back. The Goat reared up on  its  hind  legs
above him. A terrible neighing sound came from its nostrils  and
the  slanting  eyes  swivelled in their sockets;  their  baleful
light  flashing round the chamber. The Beast seemed to grow  and
expand  until  it was towering above them all as they  crouched,
petrified with fear. The stench of its foetid breath poured from
between  the  bared teeth until they were retching with  nausea.
Mocata's  knife clattered upon the stones as he raised his  arms
in  frantic terror to defend himself. The awful thing  which  he
had  called up out of the Pit gave a final screaming  neigh  and
struck  with  one of its great fore-hooves. He was  thrown  with
frightful  force  to  the  floor, where  he  lay  sprawled  head
downmost on the chapel steps.
  There  was  a  thunderous  crash as though  the  heavens  were
opening.  The crypt ceased to rock and spin. The Satanic  figure
dissolved in upon itself. For a fraction of time the watchers in
the  circle saw the black human face of the Malagasy,  distorted
with pain and rage, where that of the Goat had been before. Then
that too disappeared behind a veil of curling smoke.
  The  black  candles on the altar flickered and went  out.  The
chamber  remained lit only by the phosphorescent glow  from  the
Talisman. De Richleau had snatched it from the floor and held it
in  his open hand. By its faint light they saw Fleur sit up. She
gave  a  little wail and slid from the low altar  stone  to  the
ground;  then she stood gaping towards her mother, yet her  eyes
were  round  and sightless like those of one who  walks  in  her
sleep.
  Suddenly an utter silence beyond human understanding descended
like  a cloak and closed in from the shadows that were all about
them.
  Almost imperceptibly a faint unearthly music, coming from some
immense  distance, reached their ears. At first it sounded  like
the  splashing  of  spring  water  in  a  rock-bound  cave,  but
gradually  it  grew in volume, and swelled into a strange  chant
rendered  by boys' voices of unimaginable purity. All  fear  had
gone  from  them as, one by one, they fell upon their knees  and
listened  entranced to the wonder and the beauty of that  litany
of praise. Yet all their eyes were riveted on Fleur.
  The  child  walked very slowly forward but, as  she  advanced,
some extraordinary change was taking place about her. The little
body,  naked  a moment before, became clothed in a golden  mist.
Her  shoulders  broadened and she grew in height.  Her  features
became partially obscured, then they lost their infant roundness
and took on the bony structure of an adult. The diaphanous cloud
of  light  gradually materialised into the graceful folds  of  a
long,   yellow,  silken  robe.  The  dark  curls  on  the   head
disappeared leaving a high, beautifully proportioned skull.
  As  the  chant  ceased on a great note of exultation  all  sem
blance to the child had vanished. In her place a full-grown  man
stood  before  them. From his dress he had the appearance  of  a
Thibetan  Lama,  but  his esthetic face was  as  much  Aryan  as
Mongolian, blending the highest characteristics of the two;  and
just as it seemed that he had passed the barriers of race, so he
also appeared to have cast off the shackles of worldly time. His
countenance  showed all the health and vigour of a  man  in  the
great  years when he has come to full physical development,  and
yet  it  had the added beauty which is only seen in  that  of  a
frail, scholarly divine who has devoted a whole lifetime to  the
search for wisdom. The grave eyes which were bent upon them held
Strength,  Knowledge,  and  Power,  together  with  an  infinite
tenderness and angelic compassion unknown to mortal man.
  The apparition did not speak by word of mouth. Yet each one of
the  kneeling group heard the low, silver, bell-like voice  with
perfect clearness.
  'I  am a Lord of Light nearing perfection after many lives, It
is  wrong  that  you should draw me from my meditations  in  the
Hidden Valley-yet I pardon you because your need was great.  One
here  has imperilled the flame of Life by seeking to use  hidden
mysteries for an evil purpose; another also, who lies beyond the
waters,  has  been stricken in her earthly body  for  that  same
reason.  The  love you bear each other has been  a  barrier  and
protection,  yet would it have availed you nothing  had  it  not
been  for She who is the Mother. The Preserver barkens  ever  to
the  prayer which goes forth innocent of all self-desire and so,
for  a  moment,  I  am permitted to appear 'to you  through  the
medium  of  this  child  whose thoughts know  no  impurity.  The
Adversary has been driven back to the dark Halls of Shaitan  and
shall  trouble  you no more. Live out the days of your  allotted
span. Peace be upon you and about you. Sleep and Return.'
  For a moment it seemed that they had been ripped right out  of
the crypt and were looking down into it. The circle had become a
flaming  sun.  Their  bodies were dark shadows  grouped  in  its
centre. The peace and silence of death surged over them in great
saturating waves. They were above the monastery. The great  ruin
became a black speck in the distance. Then everything faded.
  Time  ceased, and it seemed that for a thousand thousand years
they floated, atoms of radiant matter in an immense immeasurable
void-circling,    for   ever   circling   in    the    soundless
stratosphere-beings shut off from every feeling  and  sensation,
as  though  travelling  with  effortless  impulse  five  hundred
fathoms deep, below the current levels of some uncharted sea.
  Then, after a passage of eons in human time they saw Cardinals
Folly  again infinitely far beneath them, their bodies lying  in
the  pentacle-and that darkened room. In an utter eerie  silence
the  dust  of  centuries  was falling .  .  .  falling.  Softly,
impalpably,  like  infinitely tiny  particles  of  swansdown  it
seemed  to cover them, the room, and all that was in it, with  a
fine grey powder.

                        *   *   *   *   *

  De Richleau raised his head. It seemed to him that he had been
on  a  long journey and then slept for many days. He passed  his
hand  across  his eyes and saw the familiar bookshelves  in  the
semi-darkened library. The bulbs above the cornice flickered and
the lights came full on.
  He saw that Simon's eyes were free from that terrible maniacal
glare,  but  that  he  still lay bound  in  the  centre  of  the
pentacle.
  As  he bent forward and hastily began to untie Simon's turning
they  saw him. Tall-haggard-distraught-a dark fondling  her  and
murmuring. 'We're safe, darling-safe.'
  'She-she's  not dead-is she?' It was Rex's voice, and  turning
they  saw him. Tall-haggard-distraught-a dark silhouette against
the  early  morning light which filtered in through the  french-
windows-bearing Tanith's body in his arms.
  Marie  Lou  sprang up with a little wailing cry. With  Richard
behind her she raced across the room and through the door in the
wall which concealed the staircase to the nursery.
  The  Duke hurried over to Rex. Simon kicked his feet free  and
stood up, exclaiming: 'I"ve had a most extraordinary dream.'
  'About  all of us going to Paris?' asked De Richleau,  as  the
three  of them lowered Tanith's body to the floor, 'and then  on
to a ruined monastery in northern Greece?'
  'That's it-but how-did you know?'
  'Because I had the same myself-if it was a dream!'
  An  hysterical  laugh came from the stairway and  next  moment
Marie  Lou was beside them, great tears streaming down her face,
but Fleur clutched safely in her arms.
  The  child, freshly woken from her sleep, gazed at  them  with
wide,  blue  eyes,  and then she said: 'Fleur  wants  to  go  to
Simon.'
  The Duke was examining Tanith. Simon rose from beside him. His
eyes held all the love that surged in the great heart which beat
between his narrow shoulders. He covered his short-sighted  eyes
with  his  hands  for  a second then backed  away.  'No,  Fleur,
darling-I've been-I'm still ill you know.'
  'Nonsense-that's all over,' Richard cried quickly, 'go on- for
God's sake take her-Marie Lou's going to faint.'
  'Oh, Richard! Richard!' As Simon grabbed the child, Marie  Lou
swayed  towards her husband, and leaning on him drew her fingers
softly  down his face. 'I will be all right in a moment -but  it
was a dream-wasn't it?'
  'She's  alive!' exclaimed the Duke suddenly, his hand  pressed
below Tanith's heart. 'Quick, Rex-some brandy.'
  'Of course, dearest,' Richard was comforting Marie Lou. 'We've
never  been out of this room-look, except Rex, we are  still  in
pyjamas.'
  'Why,  yes-I  thought-- Oh, but look at this poor  girl!'  She
slipped from his arms and knelt beside Tanith.
  Rex  came  crashing  back  with a decanter  and  a  glass.  De
Richleau  snatched  the  brandy from  him.  Marie  Lou  piliowed
Tanith's head upon her knees and Richard held her chin.  Between
them they succeeded in getting a little of the spirit down  her
throat; a spasm crossed her face and then her eyes opened.
  'Thank God!' breathed Rex. 'Thank God.'
  She  smiled  and  whispered his name, as  the  natural  colour
flooded back into her face.
  'Never-never have I had such a terrible nightmare!'  exclaimed
Marie  Lou.  'We were in a crypt-and that awful man  was  there.
He...'
  'So you dreamed it too!' Simon interrupted. 'About you finding
me at that warehouse in Asnieres and the Paris police?'
  'That's  it,' said Richard. 'It's amazing that we  should  all
have dreamed the same thing but there's no other explanation for
it.  None  of  us  can possibly have left this  house  since  we
settled down in the pentacle-- Yes, last night!'
  'Then  I've certainly been dreaming too.' Rex lifted his  eyes
for  a moment from Tanith's face. 'It must have started with  me
when I fell asleep at the inn-or earlier, for I'd have sworn  De
Richleau  and  I were out all the night before careering  around
half of England to stop some devilry.'
  'We  were,'  said  the  Duke slowly. 'Tanith's  presence  here
proves  that,  but she was never dead except in our  dream,  and
that  started when you arrived here with her in your  arms.  The
Satanists at Simon's house, our visit there afterwards, and  the
Sabbat  were all facts. It was only last night, while our bodies
slept,  that our subconscious selves were drawn out of  them  to
continue the struggle with Mocata on another plane.'
  'Mocata!' Simon echoed. 'But-but if we've been dreaming he  is
still alive.'
  'No,  he is dead.' The quiet, sure statement came from  Tanith
as she sat up, and taking Rex's hand scrambled to her feet.
  'How is it you're so certain?' he asked huskily.
  'I  can  see him. He is not far from here-lying head downwards
on some steps.'
  That's  how  we saw him in the dream,' said Richard,  but  she
shook her head.
  'No,  I. had no dream, I remember nothing after Mocata entered
my  room  at  the inn and forced me to sleep-but you  will  find
him-somewhere quite near the house-out there.'
  'The  age-old law,' De Richfeau murmured. 'A life for  a  life
and a soul for a soul. Yes, since you have been restored to us I
am quite certain that he will have paid the penalty.'
  Simon  nodded.  'Then we're really free of this  nightmare  at
last?'
  'Yes. Dream or no dream, the Lord of Light who appeared to  us
drove  back the Power of Darkness, and promised that  we  should
all live unmolested by it to the end of our allotted span. Come,
Richard,'  the Duke took his host's arm, 'let us find our  coats
and  take  a look round the garden-then we shall have done  with
this horrible business.'
  As  they  moved away Tanith smiled up at Rex. 'Did you  really
mean what you said last night?'
  'Did  I mean it!' he cried, seizing both her hands. 'Just  you
let me show you how!'
  'Simon,' said Marie Lou pointedly, 'that child will catch  her
death of cold in nothing but her nightie-do take her back to the
nursery  while  I get the servants to hurry forward  breakfast.'
And  the old familiar happy smile parted his wide mouth as Fleur
took a flying leap into his arms.
  Tanith's  face grew a little wistful as Rex drew her  to  him.
'My  darling,' she hesitated, 'you know that it will be only for
a little time, about eight months-no more.'
  'Nonsense!' he laughed. 'You were certainly dead to all of  us
last  night,  so  your prophecy's been fulfilled  and  the  evil
lifted-we're both going to live together for a hundred years.'
  She  hid  her  face against his shoulder, not quite  believing
yet,  but  a  new hope dawning in her heart, from his  certainty
that  she  had passed through the Valley of the Shadow and  come
out  again upon the other side. Her happiness, and his, demanded
that she accept his view and act henceforth as though the danger
to her life was past.
  'Then  if  you  want them, my days are yours,'  she  murmured,
'whatever their number may be.'
  There  was no trace of fog and a fair, true dawn was  breaking
when, outside the library windows, De Richleau and Richard found
Mocata's  body. It lay on the stone steps which fed  up  to  the
terrace, sprawling head downwards, in the early light of the May
morning.
  The coroner will find no difficulty in bringing in a verdict,'
the Duke observed after one glance at the face. 'They'll say  it
is heart, of course. It is best not to touch the body, presently
we  will telephone the police. None of us need say we have  ever
seen  him before if you tell Malin to keep quiet about his visit
yesterday  afternoon. You may be certain that his  friends  will
not  come forward to mention his acquaintance with Simon or  the
girl.'
  Richard  nodded. 'Yes. "Death of a Man Unknown,  from  Natural
Causes," will be the only epilogue to this strange story.'
  'Not  quite,  but this must be between us, Richard.  I  prefer
that the others should not know. Take me to your boiler-house.'
  'The boiier-house-whatever for?'
  Til tell you in a minute,'
  'Alt  right!' With a puzzled look Richard led the  Duke  along
the  terrace,  round by the kitchen quarters and  into  a  small
building where a furnace gave a subdued roar.
  De  Richleau  lifted  the  latch  and  the  door  swung  back,
disclosing the glowing coke within. Then he extended  his  right
fist and slowly opened it.
  'Good God!' exclaimed Richard, 'However did you come by that?'
  In  De  Richleau's  palm  lay a shrunken,  mummified  phallus,
measuring no more than the length of a little finger, hard, dry,
and  almost black with age. It was the Talisman of Set, just  as
they had seen it in their recent dream adorning the brow of  the
monstrous Goat.
  'I  found  myself  clutching it when  I  awoke,'  he  answered
softly.
  'But-but that thing must have come from somewhere!'
  'Perhaps  it  is a concrete symbol of the evil  that  we  have
fought,  which  has been given over into our hands  for  destruc
tion.'
  As  the  Duke finished speaking he cast the Talisman into  the
glowing  furnace  where they watched it  until  it  was  utterly
consumed.
  'If  we  were only dreaming how can you possibly explain  it?'
Richard insisted.
'I cannot.' De Richleau shrugged a little wearily. 'Even the
greatest seekers after Truth have done little more than lift the
corner of the veil which hides the vast Unknown, but it is my
belief that during the period of our dream journey we have been
living in what the moderns call the fourth dimension- divorced
from time.'

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