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Title: The Mummy and Miss Nitocris - A Phantasy of the Fourth Dimension
Author: Griffith, George Chetwynd, 1857-1906
Language: English
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  Supernatural & Occult Fiction

  This is a volume in the Arno Press collection

  Supernatural & Occult Fiction

  Advisory Editors

  R. Reginald
  Douglas Menville

  See last pages of this volume
  for a complete list of titles.



  THE MUMMY AND
  MISS NITOCRIS

  _A PHANTASY
  OF THE FOURTH DIMENSION_

  GEORGE GRIFFITH

  ARNO PRESS
  A New York Times Company
  1976



  Editorial Supervision: MARIE STARECK

  Reprint Edition 1976 by Arno Press Inc.

  Reprinted from a copy in The Library of the
  University of California, Riverside

  SUPERNATURAL AND OCCULT FICTION

  ISBN for complete set: O-405-08107-3

  See last pages of this volume for titles.

  Manufactured in the United States of America

  ~Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data~
  Griffith, George Chetwynd.
  The mummy and Miss Nitocris.

  (Supernatural and occult fiction)
  Reprint of the 1906? ed. published by T. W. Laurie, London.

  I. Title. II. Series.
  PZ3.G88Mu7 [PR4728.083] 823'.8   75-46273
  ISBN 0-405-08131-6



  THE MUMMY AND
  MISS NITOCRIS

  [Illustration]


  _A PHANTASY
  OF THE FOURTH DIMENSION_

  BY

  GEORGE GRIFFITH

  AUTHOR OF "THE ANGEL OF THE REVOLUTION," "A HONEYMOON
  IN SPACE," "AN ISLAND LOVE STORY,"
  "A MAYFAIR MAGICIAN," ETC., ETC.

  T. WERNER LAURIE
  CLIFFORD'S INN, FLEET STREET
  LONDON



FOREWORD


Certain it should be that, beyond and about this World of Length, and
Breadth, and Thickness, there is another World, or State of Existence,
consisting of these and another dimension of which only those beings who
are privileged to enter or dwell in it can have any conception. Now, if
this postulate be granted, it follows that a dweller in this State would
be freed from those conditions of Time and Space which bind those beings
who are confined within the limits of Tri-Dimensional Space, or
Existence. For example, he would be able to make himself visible or
invisible to us at will by entering into or withdrawing himself from
this State, and returning into that of Four Dimensions, whither our eyes
could not follow him--even though he might be close to us in our sense
of nearness. Moreover, he could be in two or more places at once, and
cause two bodies to occupy the same space--which to us is
inconceivable. Stranger still, he might be both alive and dead at the
same time--since Past, Present, and Future would be all one to him; the
world without beginning or end ...--From the "Geometrical
Possibilities," of Abd'el Kasir, of Cordoba, circa. 1050 A.D.



CONTENTS


    CHAP.                                        PAGE

      I.  INTRODUCES THE MUMMY                                         1

     II.  BACK TO THE PAST                                            15

    III.  THE DEATH-BRIDAL OF NITOCRIS                                27

     IV.  THIEVES IN THE NIGHT                                        36

      V.  ACROSS THE THRESHOLD                                        47

     VI.  THE LAW OF SELECTION                                        60

    VII.  MOSTLY POSSIBILITIES                                        70

   VIII.  MISS BRENDA ARRIVES, AND PHADRIG THE
          EGYPTIAN PROPHESIES                                         79

     IX.  "THE WILDERNESS," WIMBLEDON COMMON                          95

      X.  THE STAGE FILLS                                            101

     XI.  THE MARVELS OF PHADRIG                                     115

    XII.  CONTROVERSY AND CONFIDENCES                                138

   XIII.  OVER THE TEA AND THE TOAST                                 157

    XIV.  "SUPPOSED IMPOSSIBILITIES"                                 164

     XV.  THE ADVANCEMENT OF NITOCRIS--THE
          RESOLVE OF OSCAROVITCH                                     176

    XVI.  THE MYSTERY OF PRINCE ZASTROW                              185

   XVII.  M. NICOL HENDRY                                            199

  XVIII.  MURDER BY SUGGESTION                                       210

    XIX.  THE HORUS STONE                                            220

     XX.  THROUGH THE CENTURIES                                      237

    XXI.  WHAT HAPPENED AT TRELITZ                                   251

   XXII.  A TRIP ON THE SOUND                                        260

  XXIII.  THE DISAPPEARANCE OF THE PROFESSOR                         274

   XXIV.  THE LUST THAT WAS--AND IS                                  281

    XXV.  THE PASSING OF PHADRIG                                     290

   XXVI.  CAPTAIN MERILL'S COMMISSION                                304

  XXVII.  THE BRIDAL OF OSCAROVITCH                                  307

          EPILOGUE                                                   312



THE MUMMY AND MISS NITOCRIS


CHAPTER I

INTRODUCES THE MUMMY


"Oh, what a perfectly lovely mummy! Just fancy!--the poor thing--dead
how many years? Something like five thousand, isn't it? And doesn't she
look just like me! I mean, wouldn't she, if we had both been dead as
long?"

As she said this, Miss Nitocris Marmion, the golden-haired, black-eyed
daughter of one of the most celebrated mathematicians and physicists in
Europe, stood herself up beside the mummy-case which her father had
received that morning from Memphis.

"Look!" she continued. "I am almost the same height. Just a little
taller, perhaps, but you see her hair is nearly as fair as mine. Of
course, you don't know what colour her eyes are--just fancy, Dad! they
have been shut for nearly five thousand years, perhaps a little
more--because I think they counted by dynasties then--and yet look at
the features! Just imagine me dead!"

"Just imagine yourself shutting the door on the other side, my dear
Niti," said the Professor, who had risen from the chair, and was facing
his daughter and the Mummy. "I don't want to banish you too
unceremoniously, but I really have a lot of work to do to-night, and, as
you might know, Bachelor of Science of London as you are, I have got to
worry out as best I can, if I can do it at all, this problem that
Hartley sent me about the Forty-seventh Proposition of the first book of
Euclid."

"Oh yes," she said, going to his side and putting her hand on to his
shoulder as he stood facing the Mummy; "I have reason enough to remember
that. And what does Professor Hartley say about it?"

"He says, my dear Niti," said the Professor, in a voice which had
something like a note of awe in it, "that when Pythagoras thought out
that problem--which, of course, is not Euclid's at all--he almost saw
across the horizon of the world that we live in."

"But that," she interrupted, "would be something like looking across the
edge of time into eternity, and that--well, of course, that is quite
impossible, even to you, Dad, or Mr Hartley. What does he mean?"

"He doesn't quite mean that, dear," replied the Professor, still staring
straight at the motionless Mummy as though he half expected the lips
which had not spoken for fifty centuries to answer the question that was
shaping itself in his mind. "What Hartley means, dear, is this--that
when Pythagoras thought out that proposition he had almost reached the
border which divides the world of three dimensions from the world of
four."

"Which, as our dear old friend Euclid would say, is impossible; because
you know, Dad, if that were possible, everything else would be. Come,
now, Annie is bringing up your whisky and soda. Put away your problems
and take your night-cap, and do get to bed in something like respectable
time. Don't worry your dear old head about forty-seventh propositions
and fourth dimensions and mummies and that sort of thing, even if this
Mummy does happen to look a bit like me. Now, good night, and remember
that the night-cap _is_ to be a night-cap, and when you've put it on you
really must go to bed. You've been thinking a great deal too much this
week. Good-night, Dad."

"Good-night, Niti, dear. Don't trouble your head about my thinking.
Sufficient unto the brain are the thoughts thereof. Sometimes they are
more than sufficient. Good-night. Sleep well and don't dream, if you can
help it."

"And don't _you_ dream, Dad, especially about that wretched proposition.
Just have another pipe, and drink your whisky and go to bed. There's
something in your eyes that says you want a long night's rest.
Good-night now, and sleep well."

She pulled his head down and kissed him twice on his grey, thin cheek,
and then, with a wave of her hand and a laughing nod towards the Mummy,
vanished through the closing study door to go and dream her dreams,
which were not very likely to be of mummies and fourth dimensional
problems, and left her father to dream his.

Then a couple of lines from one of "B.V.'s" poems, which had been
running in his head all the evening, came back to him, and he murmured
half-unconsciously:

  "'Was it hundreds of years ago, my love,
  Was it thousands of miles away...?'"

"And why should it not be? Why should you, who were once Ma-Rim[=o]n,
priest of Amen-Ra, in the City of Memphis--you who almost stood upon the
threshold of the Inmost Sanctuary of Knowledge: you who, if your
footsteps had not turned aside into the way of temptation and trodden
the black path of Sin, might even now be dwelling on the Shores of
Everlasting Peace in the Land of Amenti--dost _thou_ dare to ask such a
question?"

The sudden change of the pronoun seemed to him to put the Clock of Time
back indefinitely.

He was standing by his desk still facing the Mummy just as his daughter
had left him after saying "good-night." He was not a man to be easily
astonished. Not only was he one of the best-read amateur Egyptologists
in Europe, but he was also an ex-President of the Royal Society, a
Member of the Psychical Research Society, and, moreover, Chairman of a
recently appointed Commission on Comparative Insanity, the object of
whose labours was to determine, if possible, what proportion of people
outside asylums were mad or sane according to a standard which, somehow,
no one had thought of inventing before--the standard of common-sense.

The voice, strangely like his daughter's and his dead wife's also,
appeared to come from nowhere and yet from everywhere, and it had a
faint and far-away echo in it which harmonised most marvellously with
other echoes which seemed to come up out of the depths of his own soul.

Where had he heard it before? Somewhere, certainly. There was no
possibility of mistaking tones which were so irresistibly familiar, and,
moreover, why did they bring back to him such distinct memories of
tragedies long forgotten, even by him? Why did they instantly draw
before the windows of his soul a long panorama of vast cities, splendid
palaces, sombre temples, and towering tombs, in which he saw all these
and more with an infinitely greater vividness of form and light and
colour than he had ever been able to do in his most inspired hours of
dream or study?

Had the voice really come from those long-silenced lips of the Mummy of
Nitocris, that daughter of the Pharaohs who had so terribly avenged her
outraged love, and after whom he had named the only child of his
marriage?

"It is certainly very strange," he said, going to his writing-table and
taking up his pipe. "I know that voice, or at least I seem to know it,
and it is very like Niti's and her mother's; but where can it have come
from? Hardly from your lips, my long-dead Royal Egypt," he went on,
going up to the mummy-case and peering through his spectacles into the
rigid features. He put up his hand and tapped the tightly-drawn lips
very gently, then turned away with a smile, saying aloud to himself:
"No, no, I must have been allowing what they call my scientific
imagination to play tricks with me. Perhaps I have been worrying a
little too much about this confounded fourth dimension problem,--and yet
the thing is exceedingly fascinating. If the hand of Science could only
reach across the frontier line! If we could only see out of the world of
length and breadth and thickness into that other world of these and
something else, how many puzzles would be solved, how many
impossibilities would become possible, and how many of the miracles
which those old Egyptian adepts so seriously claimed to work would look
like the merest commonplaces! Ah well, now for the realities. I suppose
that's Annie with the whisky."

As he turned round the door opened, and he beheld a very strange sight,
one which, to a man who had had a less stern mental training than he had
had, would have been nothing less than terrifying. His daughter came in
with a little silver tray on which there was a small decanter of whisky,
a glass, and a syphon of soda-water.

"Annie has gone to the post, and I thought I might as well bring this
myself," said Miss Nitocris, walking to the table and putting the tray
down on the corner of it.

Beside her stood another figure as familiar now to his eyes as her's
was, dressed and tired and jewelled in a fashion equally familiar. Save
for the difference in dress, Nitocris, the daughter of Rameses, was the
exact counterpart in feature, stature, and colouring of Nitocris, the
daughter of Professor Marmion. In her hands she carried a slender,
long-necked jar of brilliantly enamelled earthenware and a golden flagon
richly chased, and glittering with jewels, and these she put down on the
table in exactly the same place as the other Nitocris had put her tray
on, and as she did so he heard the voice again, saying:

"Time was, is now, and ever shall be to those for whom Time has ceased
to be--which is a riddle that Ma-Rim[=o]n may even now learn, since his
soul has been purified and his spirit strengthened by earnest devotion
through many lives to the search for the True Knowledge."

Both voices had spoken together, the one in English and the other in the
ancient tongue of Khem, yet he had heard each syllable separately and
comprehended both utterances perfectly. He felt a cold grip of fear at
his heart as he looked towards the mummy-case, and, as his fear had
warned him, it was empty. Then he looked at his daughter, and as their
eyes met, she said in the most commonplace tones:

"My dear Dad, what _is_ the matter with you? If advanced people like
ourselves believed in any such nonsense, I should be inclined to say
that you had seen a ghost; but I suppose it's only that silly fourth
dimension puzzle that's worrying you. Now, look here, you must really
take your whisky and go to bed. If you go on bothering any longer about
'N to the fourth,' you will have one of your bad headaches to-morrow and
won't be able to finish your address for the Institute."

She put her hand out and took up the decanter. It passed without any
apparent resistance through the jar. She lifted it from the same place,
and poured out the usual modicum of whisky into the glass, which was
standing just where the flagon was. Then she pressed the trigger of the
syphon, and the familiar hiss of the soda-water brought the Professor,
as he thought, back to his senses.

But no! There could be no doubt about it. There in material form on the
corner of his table was a point-blank, tangible contradiction of the
universally accepted axiom that two bodies cannot occupy the same space,
and that, come from somewhere or nowhere, there were two plainly
material objects through which his daughter's hand, without her even
knowing it, had passed as easily as it would have done through a little
cloud of steam. Happily she had no idea of what he had seen and heard,
and so for her sake he made a strong effort to control himself, and said
as steadily as he could:

"Thank you, Niti, it is very good of you. Yes, I think I am a little
tired to-night. Good-night now, and I promise you that I will be off
very soon; I will just have one more pipe, and drink my whisky, and then
I really will go. Good-night, little woman. We'll have a talk about the
Mummy in the morning."

As soon as his daughter had closed the door, Professor Marmion returned
to his writing-table. The decanter of whisky, the tumbler, and the
syphon of soda-water were still standing on the corner of the table,
occupying the same space as the enamelled flagon of wine and the
drinking goblet which the long-dead other-self of Miss Nitocris had
placed on the little silver salver.

He looked about the room anxiously, with a feeling nearer akin to
physical dread than he had ever experienced before; but his worst fears
were not fulfilled. Nitocris the Queen had vanished and the Mummy was
back in its case, blind, rigid, and silent, as it had been for fifty
centuries.

For several moments he looked at the hard, grey, fixed features of the
woman who had once been Nitocris, Queen of Middle Egypt, half expecting,
after what he had seen, or thought he had seen, that the soul would
return, that the long-closed eyes would open again, and that the
long-silent lips would speak to him. But no! For all the answer that he
got he might as well have been looking upon the granite features of the
Sphinx itself. He turned away again towards the table, and murmured:

"Ah well! I suppose it was only an hallucination, after all. One of
these strange pranks that the over-strained intellect sometimes plays
with us. Perhaps I have been thinking too much lately. And now I really
think I had better follow Niti's advice, and take my night-cap and go to
bed."

But as he put out his hand to take the whisky decanter he stopped and
pulled it back.

"What on earth is the matter with me?" he said, putting his hand to his
head. "That decanter is mine--it is the same, and yet it is standing in
just the same place as that other thing--and I remember that, too. Look
here, Franklin Marmion, my friend, if you were not a rather over-worked
man I should think you had had a good deal too much to drink. Two bodies
_cannot_ occupy the same space. It is ridiculous, impossible!"

As he said the last word, his voice rose a little, and, as it seemed, an
echo came back from one of the corners of the room:

"Impossible, impossible?"

There seemed to be a sarcastic note of interrogation after the last
word.

"Eh? What was that?" and he looked round at the mummy-case. Her
long-dead Majesty was still reclining in it, silent and impassive.

"Oh, this won't do at all! Hartley and the fourth dimension be hanged!
It strikes me that this way madness lies if you only go far enough. I'll
have that night-cap at once and go to bed."

He put out his hand, took hold of the whisky decanter, and as he drew
back his arm he saw that instead he held the enamelled flagon in his
grasp.

"Well, well," he said, looking at it half-angrily, "if it is to be, it
must be."

He put out his left hand and took hold of the goblet, tilted the flagon,
and out of the curved lip there fell a thin stream of wine, which
glittered with a pale ruby radiance in the light of the electric cluster
that hung above his writing-desk. He set the flagon down, and as he
raised the goblet to his lips, he heard his own voice saying in the
ancient language of Khem:

"As was, and is, and ever shall be; ever, yet never--never, yet ever.
Nitocris the Queen, in the name of Nebzec I greet thee! From thy hands I
take the gift of the Perfect Knowledge!"

As he drained the goblet he turned towards the mummy-case. It might have
been fancy, it might have been the effect of that miraculous old wine of
Cos which, if he had really drunk it, must now be more than thirty
centuries old: it might have been the result of the hard thinking that
he had been doing now for several days and half-nights; but he certainly
thought that the Queen's head suddenly became endowed with life, that
the eyes opened, and the grey of the parchment skin softened into a
delicate olive tinge with a faint rosy blush showing through it. The
brown, shrivelled lips seemed to fill out, grow red, and smile. The
eyelids lifted, and the eyes of the Nitocris of old looked down on him
for a moment. He shook his head and looked, and there was the Mummy just
as it had been when he opened the case.

"Really, this is strange, almost to the point of bewilderment," he went
on. "I wonder if there is any more of that wine left?"

He took up the flagon and poured out another goblet, filled and drank
it.

"Yes," he continued, speaking as though under some strange exultation of
the mind rather than of the senses, "yes, that is the wine of Cos. I
drank it. I, Ma-Rim[=o]n, the priest-student of the Higher Mysteries; I,
whose feet faltered on the threshold of the Place of the Elect, and
whose heart failed him at the portal of the Sanctuary, even though
Amen-Ra was beckoning me to cross it."

"Good heavens, what nonsense I am talking! Whatever there was in that
wine or wherever it came from, I think it is quite time I was off, not
to old Egypt, but the Land of Nod. It seems to--no, it has not got into
my head; in fact I am beginning to see that, after all, Hartley might
very possibly be right about that forty-seventh proposition. Well, I
will do as the Russians say, take my thoughts to bed with me, since the
morning is wiser than the evening. It is all very mysterious. I
certainly hope that Annie won't find these things here in the morning
when she comes to clear up. I wonder what the Museum would give me for
them if they were not, as I think they are, the unsubstantial fabric of
a vision?"

When he got into his room and turned the electric light on, he stood
under the cluster and held up his closed hand so that the light fell
upon a curiously engraved scarab set in a heavy gold ring which had been
given to him on his last birthday by Lord Lester Leighton, a wealthy and
accomplished young nobleman who had devoted his learned leisure to
Egyptian exploration and research. It was he who had sent the Mummy of
Queen Nitocris to the house on Wimbledon Common instead of adding it to
his own collection--not altogether unselfishly, it must be confessed,
for he was very much in love with the other Nitocris who was still in
the flesh.

"Now," he said, fingering the scarab, "if I was not dreaming, and if by
some mysterious means Her Highness's promise is to be actually
fulfilled, I ought to be able to take this ring off without opening my
hand. Certainly, any fourth dimensional being could do it."

As he spoke he pulled at the setting of the scarab--and, to his
amazement, the ring came off whole. There was no scar on his finger--no
break in the ring.

"Good heavens!" he exclaimed, staring with something like fear in his
eyes, first at his hand, and then at the ring. "Then it _is_ true!" He
was silent for a full minute; then he put the ring down on the
dressing-table and whispered: "What a terrible power--and what an awful
responsibility! Well, thank God, I am a fairly honest man!"

As he undressed he was conscious of a curious sense of reminiscence
which he had never experienced before. His brain was not only perfectly
clear, but almost abnormally active, and yet the current of his thoughts
appeared to be turned backward instead of forward. The things of his own
life, the life that he was then living, seemed to drift behind him. The
facts which he had learned in his long and minute study of Egyptian
history came up in his mind, no longer as facts learned from books and
monuments, wall-paintings, and hieroglyphics, but as living entities. He
seemed to know, not by memory, but of immediate knowledge. It was the
difference between the reading of the story, say, of a battle, and
actually taking part in it. He got into bed, and turned over on his
right side, saying:

"Well, this is all very extraordinary. I wonder what it all means? Thank
goodness, I am sleepy enough, and sleep is the best of all medicines. I
should not wonder if I were to dream of Memphis again to-night. A
wonderfully beautiful mummy that, quite unique--and Nitocris, too.
Good-night, Nitocris, my royal mistress that might have been!
Good-night!"



CHAPTER II

BACK TO THE PAST


The City of a Hundred Kings, vast and sombre, stretched away into the
dim, soft distance of the moonlit night to right and left and far behind
him. In front lay the broad, smooth, silver-gleaming Nile, then
approaching its full flood-time, and looking like a wide, shining road
out of the shadows through the light and into the shadows again--symbol
of the visible present coming invisibly out of the domains of the past,
and fading away into the still more hazy domain of the unknown future.
Symbol, too, in its countless ripples under the fresh north wind, of the
generations of Man drifting endlessly down the Stream of Time.

He was standing in the dark shadows of a huge pylon at one end of the
broad white terrace of the palace of Pepi in Memphis--he, Ma-Rim[=o]n,
Priest of Amen-Ra and Initiate of the Higher Mysteries.

Nitocris was standing beside him with her hands clasped behind her and
her head slightly thrown back, and as she gazed out over the river the
moonlight fell full on the white loveliness of her face and into the
dark depths of her eyes, where it seemed to lose itself in the dusk that
lay deep down in them, a dusk like the shadow of a soul in sorrow.

He looked upon her face, and saw in it a beauty and a mystery deeper
even than the beauty and the mystery of the Egyptian night as it was in
those old days--the face of a fair woman, a riddle of the gods which men
might go mad in seeking to read aright, and yet never learn the true
meaning of it.

The silence between them had been long and yet so solemn in its wordless
meaning that he had not dared to break it. Then at length she spoke,
moving only her lips, her body still motionless and her eyes still
gazing at the stars, or into the depths beyond them.

"Can it be true, Ma-Rim[=o]n? Can the gods indeed have permitted such a
thing to be? Can the All-Father have given His Chief Minister to be the
instrument of such a foul crime and monstrous impiety as this?"

And he replied, slowly and sadly:

"Yes, it is true, Nitocris, true that thou art now Queen in the land by
the will of the great Rameses; and true also it is that the shade of
Nefer is now waiting in the halls of Amenti till his murderers shall be
sent by the hand of a just vengeance into the presence of the Divine
Assessors."

"Ah yes, vengeance," she replied, turning towards him with a gasp in her
voice, "that must come; but whose hand shall cast the spear or draw the
bow? We claim kinship with the gods, but we are not the gods, and what
mortal hand could avenge a crime like this?"

"A woman's hand is soft and a woman's lips are sweet, yet what so cruel
or so merciless in all the world as a woman? As there is nothing liker
Heaven than a woman's love, so there is nothing liker Hell than a
woman's hate. So saith the Ancient Wisdom, O Nitocris; and therefore, as
thou hast loved Nefer the Prince, so shalt thou also hate Menkau-Ra and
Anemen-Ha, his murderers and the destroyers of his promised happiness."

She shivered as he spoke, not with cold, for the breath of that perfect
night was well nigh as soft as her touch and as warm as her own breath.
She turned swiftly and laid her hand on his shoulder. Her touch was as
light as the falling of the rose-leaves in the gardens of Sais, yet he
trembled under it, and his face, which had been as pale as her own
before, flushed darkly red as she looked into his eyes.

"You--yes, you, Ma-Rim[=o]n, you too love me, do you not--truly? The
stars are the eyes of the gods: they are looking on you. Tell me, do you
love me? Does your blood throb in your veins when I touch you? Does your
heart beat quicker when you come near me? Are your ears keener for my
voice than for that of any other woman--tell me?"

His hands went up and clasped hers as they lay on his shoulders. He took
her right hand and pressed it to his heart, and laid her left hand on
his cheek. Then he let them fall. He stepped back, bowed his head, and
said:

"The Queen is answered!"

"Not the Queen, but the woman, Ma-Rim[=o]n, and as a woman loves to be
answered. And now the woman shall speak. Nefer is dead, yet is not Nefer
re-incarnated in another form, another man of another build, but yet
Nefer that was--and is beside me now?"

She whispered these words very softly and very distinctly, and as the
words came rippling out from between her half-smiling lips, she took
half a pace forward and looked up into his face.

"Not dead--Nefer--I!" he exclaimed, starting back. "Have not the
Paraschites done their work on his body? Is not his mummy even now
resting in the City of the Dead? How can it be? Surely, Nitocris, thou
art dreaming."

"And hast thou, a priest and sage, standing on the threshold of the Holy
Mysteries, hast thou not learned the law which tells thee how, with the
permission of the Divine Assessors, the souls of the dead may come back
from the halls of Amenti to do their bidding in other mortal shapes? And
what if they should have ordained that his soul should have thus
returned?

"Thou, who art so like him that while he was yet alive mortal eyes could
scarce distinguish the one from the other. May it not be that the gods,
who foresee all things, made thee in the same image, perchance to this
very end?"

"No, the riddle is too deep for me, even as that other riddle which I
read in thy eyes, O Queen!"

"Let thy love help thee to read it, then!" she replied, coming to him
and putting her hands on his shoulders again. "Tell me now, Ma-Rim[=o]n,
what wouldst thou do if thy soul were now waiting in the land of Aalu
and the soul of Nefer was listening to me with thine ears, and looking
at me with thine eyes?"

"And if thou----"

"Yes, and if I too believed that this were so?"

He saw the sweet, red, smiling lips coming nearer to him, and felt the
soft breath on his bare throat. He saw the deep eyes melting into
tenderness as the moonlight shone upon them, and in the pale olive
cheeks a faint flush swiftly deepened.

"Nefer or Ma-Rim[=o]n, I am mortal," he said, swiftly catching her
wrists and drawing her towards him. "I am flesh and blood. I am man, and
thou art woman--and I love thee! I love thee! Ah, how sweet thy kisses
are! Now let the gods bless or curse, for never could they take away
what thou hast given--and for it I will give thee all. All that has
been, and is, and might have been! Priest and sage, Initiate of the
Mysteries, what are they to me now! O Nitocris, my queen and my love!
Sooner would I live through one year of bliss with thee than an
eternity in the Peace of the Gods itself!"

The words of blasphemy came hot and fast between his kisses, and she
heard them unresisting in his arms, giving him back kiss for kiss, and
looking into his eyes under the dark lashes which half-hid hers; and so
Ma-Rim[=o]n, the youthful Initiate of the Holy Mysteries, became in that
moment a man, and so he began to learn the long lesson which teaches to
what heights and depths a woman who has loved and hated can rise and
fall for the sake of her love and her hate.

"And now, my Nefer," she went on, throwing her clinging arms round his
neck again, "now, good-night! Go and dream of me as I will dream of
thee, and remember that, though mortals may plan, the gods decide. We
may try to paint the picture, but the outline is drawn by their hands
and may not be changed by ours. But, so far as this matter is concerned,
I swear by the Veil of Isis, by these sacred kisses of ours, and by the
Uraeus Crown of the Three Kingdoms, that, rather than be sold as a
priceless chattel to grace the triumph of Menkau-Ra, I will give myself,
as others did in the old days, to be the bride of Father Nile. Remember
that, and remember, too, that, whatever the outward seeming of things
may be, I am thine and thou art mine, as it was, and is, and shall be,
until the Peace of all Things shall come."

       *       *       *       *       *

Then the dream-vision changed from moonlight to sunlight, from night to
morning; for it was the dawn of the day that was to see, as all men
believed, the gorgeous ceremony of the nuptials of the daughter of
Rameses with Menkau-Ra, the Mohar, chief of the House of War and
mightiest of all the warriors of the Land of Khem, now that Rameses had
passed from the black banks of the Nile to the shores of Amenti, and his
mummy was waiting the summons of the High Gods which should recall it to
life in the fulness of time and the dawn of the Everlasting Peace.

Never had even the Land of Khem seen a fairer dawn. The East shone in
silver, blushed into amethyst, and flamed in gold as the Restorer of all
things rose bright and glorious in sudden splendour over the City of the
White Wall. Standing on the flat roof of the temple of Ptah, he looked
about him in the first flush of this morning which had just dawned, big
with fate, not only for him and his beloved, but also for the Land of
Khem, and perchance for the world.

The great river was spreading its annual blessings over the land. The
waters were broadening out into wide shining sheets, and the slow, soft
music of their rippling was stealing along the great water-walls of the
temples and palaces which formed the river-front of Memphis. Only a week
ago the victorious armies of Khem had brought their spoils and their
prisoners across the eastern frontier. There had been fruit, bread, and
flesh, and wine for the poor, and banquets of royal lavishness for
those who could claim right of entry into the sacred circle which
enclosed the Throne, the Temple, and the camp of the victorious warrior.

For days he had heard the name of Menkau-Ra the Conqueror shouted up to
the heavens by the crowds that had thronged the streets and the
market-places, and, mingled with it, he had also heard the name of the
girl-queen whose arms had been about his neck, and whose lips he had
kissed the night before, and he knew that even now the people were
asking why the Conqueror should not wed the daughter of Rameses, and
become the father of a line of even greater and yet mightier Pharaohs.

He had heard their cries calmly and without anger, for he knew that that
one stolen hour of sweet intercourse with her meant much more than the
Conqueror himself could win--something that could not be taken by force,
or even through the will of the dead king. Her soul was his, and he knew
well that the man to whom she had not given her soul would never be
permitted to lay a loving hand on her body.

"Ah yes, there he comes, I suppose," he went on, still talking aloud to
himself, as a shrill musical peal of silver trumpets broke out from the
direction of the barracks to the north of the palace. "Alas! were I but
truly Nefer! That golden-crowned murderer--for sure I am that he killed
him--he would not now be making ready for his triumph at the head of
his victorious troops through the streets and squares of Memphis. If
that were so, how glad a day this would be for Egypt and for us!"

But, as the Divine Assessors willed it, there was no triumph that day in
Memphis. The sun had hardly risen to a level with the topmost wall of
the Rameseum before messengers were sent out from the palace bearing the
tidings that Nitocris the Queen had been stricken with a sudden malady,
and that all festivities were to be deferred till the next day at the
earliest.

That night, when the moon was sinking low down in the west towards the
dark hills of the Libyan Desert, and the Isis Star was glowing palely
like an expiring lamp hung high above the brightening eastern
earth-line, he saw her muffled form gliding ghost-like towards him as he
stood waiting for her on the terrace. She was clad like the meanest of
her serving-maids, just as a common slave-wench who had stolen out to
meet a lover of her own sort might have been. When she came within a
pace of him, he held his arms out. She put hers out too, and for a
moment they looked in silence into each other's eyes, and then she,
seeing that the kiss which she expected did not come, parted her lips
and said smilingly:

"You need not fear to kiss them, dearest, they have not yet been
polluted by the lips of Menkau-Ra, although all the city has been
hailing him as the betrothed of Nitocris."

Then he smiled too, and their lips met in such a long, silent kiss as
only lovers give and take.

"Thy words are almost as sweet as thy kisses are, O Nitocris!" he said,
"for I would sooner see thee--yes, I would sooner see thee in the hands
of the Paraschites--this lovely body of thine dead--knowing that thy
soul was waiting for mine on the shores of Amenti, than I would know
that those sweet lips had been defiled by the touch of such as he; and
yet surely thou hast spoken with him. Did he not claim the fulfilment of
the promise of the great king?"

"Ah yes," she replied softly, as she slipped out of his arms, "but it is
one thing to claim and another to get. Yes, I have spoken with him. I
have promised all, and given nothing. I have not even yielded my hand to
his lips, for I told him in answer to all the entreaties of his
love--and of a truth I tell thee that he loves me very dearly, for that
great, strong frame of his shook like a bulrush in the wind under the
breath of my lightest words--that, until the last vows had made us man
and wife, I would be his queen and he should be my subject and my slave,
even as he was of the great Rameses; and with this he was fain to be
content, thinking, no doubt, how soon he would be my lord and master,
and I his--his queen and plaything, bound by the law that may not be
broken, to submit to every varying whim and humour of his passion."

"Thy master, Nitocris! Thine! Such shame could never be. Rather would
the High Gods permit Death to be the Master of Life, or Night to be Lord
of Day. Is there no other way?"

"Yes, there is another way, and only one to save me, Nefer--if truly the
soul of my beloved is looking out of thine eyes into mine," she
whispered, coming close to him and laying her hands lightly upon his
shoulders, "there is another way, but it is the way that leads through
the mystery of the things that are into the deeper mystery of the things
that are to be--the way of death and vengeance. Tell me, my beloved,
hast thou the courage to tread it with me?"

The lovely face, the pleading lips, the searching eyes were close to
his. He could feel the soft contact of her body, even her fluttering
heartbeats answering his. It was the moment of the supreme test, the
parting of the ways--to the heights whose pinnacles reach to the heaven
of Perfect Knowledge, or to the abysses whose lowest depths are the roof
of hell; for there is but one heaven and one hell, and their names are
Knowledge and Ignorance.

There lay the fulfilment of his vows, the renunciation of the lower life
with all its potent witcheries of the senses, with all its exquisite
delights and glittering prizes, fame and honours, power and wealth,
and, dearest of all, the love of woman.

Here, clasped in his arms, stood Nitocris, her hands still resting
lightly on his shoulders, her head lying on his breast, her eyes
upturned, the star-beams swimming in their luminous depths.

"Nefer, beloved, answer me!"

The stars grew dim, and the solid floor of the terrace shook under his
feet. He bent his head and laid his lips upon hers.

"Thou art answered, O Nitocris--even unto death and the life beyond!"

Her lips returned his kisses--kisses that were curses--and then for many
minutes they conversed in hurried whispers. At last she slipped out of
his arms and left him, his lips burning from the clinging touch of hers,
and his heart cold with a fear that was greater than the fear of death.

He clasped his hands to his temples and looked up at the coldly shining
Isis Star, and through the silence there came to his soul in the speech
that is never heard by the ears of flesh the fateful words:

"Once only is it given to mortals to look into the eyes of Isis. He who
looks and turns his gaze aside has found and lost."



CHAPTER III

THE DEATH-BRIDAL OF NITOCRIS


The day of the bridal of Nitocris the Queen with Menkau-Ra the Conqueror
had come and gone in a blaze of golden splendour. In all the Upper and
Lower Lands no head was held so proudly as the head of Menkau-Ra, no
heart beat so high as his that day, nor did any cheek bloom so sweetly,
or any eyes shine so brightly as the cheeks and the eyes of Nitocris--so
strange are the workings of a woman's heart, and so far are its
mysteries past finding out.

And now the bridal feast was spread in the great banqueting hall which
Pepi the Wise had made deep down in the foundations of his palace below
the waters of the Nile at flood-time, and at midnight the waters would
be at the full. It was here that Nitocris had sat at the betrothal feast
with Nefer but a few hours before his death, for here he had drunk from
the poisoned cup which Anemen-Ha the High Priest had prepared, and here
only would Nitocris meet her guests.

The great hall shone with the light of a thousand golden lamps, which
shed their radiance and the perfume from the scented oils in which were
dissolved the most precious gums of the distant East.

The long tables, spread with snowy linen and loaded with vessels of gold
and silver and glass of many hues and curious forms, flashed and
glittered in the glow of the thousand flames. The vineyards of Cos and
Sais had yielded their oldest and sweetest wines, red and purple and
golden. The choicest meats and the rarest fruits that ripened under the
glowing suns of Khem--all was there that could make glad the heart of
man and fill his soul with contentment.

At the centre of the table, which stood on a raised platform in front of
the great black pedestal of the Colossus of Pepi, Nitocris the Queen sat
in her chair of ivory and gold, clad in almost transparent robes of the
finest silk of Cos, shining with gems, and crowned with the Uraeus
Snake, and the double diadem of the Two Lands.

On her right sat Menkau-Ra, crowned and robed in royal vesture, and on
her left Anemen-Ha in his priestly garments of snowy linen. At the other
tables sat their friends and kindred, the families of the Mohar and the
High Priest, the chief officers of the victorious army and all the proud
hierarchy of the Temple of Ptah, for was not this the triumph of
Anemen-Ha no less than of Menkau-Ra?

Only Ma-Rim[=o]n was absent. He had disappeared from the temple early
in the morning, and no one had given a thought to his going, for one
base-born, even though of royal blood, had no place at the bridal feast
of the Queen and her chosen consort.

The libations had been poured out to the Lords and Ladies of Heaven--to
Ptah the Beginner, and Ra the Lord of Day, to Sechet the Lady of Love
and War, and Necheb the Bringer of Victory; and when the slaves had
carried round the viands till all were satisfied, the guests were
crowned with garlands, and the jars of the oldest and choicest wines
were broached. The feast was ended, and the revel was about to begin.

The last half of the last hour of the night was well-nigh spent, and
while the guests were waiting for the signal from the royal table, the
Queen rose in her place, and, in the silence that greeted her, her voice
sounded sweetly as she spoke and said:

"O my guests--ye who are the holiest and the bravest in the Land of
Khem, though our hearts are joyful, and our souls refreshed with wine
and good cheer, let us not forget the pious customs and wise ways of our
ancestors, for it is fitting that in such hours as this our hearts
should be turned from pride by the remembrance that we live ever in the
presence of death, and that this world is but the threshold of the next.
Ill, too, would it become me to forget, in the midst of my present
happiness, to pay the honour due to him who might have shared this crown
with me; wherefore let the noble dead be brought into our midst, so
that the soul of Nefer, looking down from the flowery fields of Aalu,
may see that in the hour of our joy we do not forget the sorrow of his
untimely death."

Then she clapped her hands, and Menkau-Ra and Anemen-Ha shifted in their
seats, and looked at each other with eyes of evil meaning as six slaves
appeared at the lower end of the hall, bearing upon their shoulders the
mummy-case of Nefer, the dead Prince, beloved of Nitocris. Now low, sad
music sounded from a hidden source, and to the cadence of this the
slaves marched slowly round the tables, followed by the eyes of the
silenced and sobered guests. Then they stopped in front of the Queen's
seat, and she said:

"Let the case be set up against the central pillar yonder, and let the
face of the Prince be uncovered, that I may look upon him who was to
have been my lord."

"But if I may speak, Royal Egypt," said Anemen-Ha, the chief of the
House of Ptah, leaning towards her, "that would be beyond the law of the
gods and the customs of the land. To look on the face of the dead were
defilement for thee and us."

"Yet this once it shall be done, O Priest of the Father of the Gods,"
answered Nitocris, turning and looking into his eyes, "for last night I
had a vision, and I saw the soul of Nefer come back to his mummy, here
in this hall, at my bridal feast, and his eyes opened, and his lips
spoke, and made plain to me many things that I greatly longed to know.
But why shouldst thou turn pale and tremble, thou the holiest man in the
land? What hast thou to fear, even if my vision came true? And thou,
too, Menkau-Ra the Mighty, hast thou slain thy thousands, and yet
fearest to look upon the face of one dead man? See, see!" and she
pointed her finger at the face of the mummy. "By the power of the just
and merciful gods, my vision shall be made very truth indeed! Look,
Anemen-Ha, Priest of the God who is King of Gods! Look, Menkau-Ra, thou
who wouldst reign in the place of Nefer. Behold, he has come back from
the bosom of Osiris to greet thee!"

With eyes fixed and ears sharpened by such terror as only the
sin-steeped soul can know, they saw the waxen eyelids of the mummy
slowly rise, the dim, glazed eyes look out from underneath them, the
dry, black lips move, and heard a thin, harsh voice say through the
awful silence:

"Greeting, Nitocris, my Queen--greeting from the gloom of Amenthes,
where I have waited too long for those who ere now should have stood
with me in the Halls of Doom and the presence of the Assessors! Say now,
thou who sittest feasting between my murderers, how much longer must I
wait for thee and them?"

Not long, O Nefer, my beloved, not long! Tarry yet a little while, O
outraged soul, in the shape that once was thine, and thou shalt see
thyself avenged. Lo, I hear the wings of Kefa, Goddess of the
Flood-time, rustling in the silence of the midnight skies. She herself
shall pour out a libation to thine injured shade! "Nay, nay, my lords,
and you good friends of those who did my own true lord to death, sit
still, and drain a farewell cup with me, your Queen. It is too late to
fly, for every way is closed. The High Gods have spoken, and I will do
their bidding!" Then, extending her white, jewelled arms toward the
mummy, she cried in a deeper, harsher tone: "O Nefer, my Prince and my
love! There lives no man in Khem who shall take thy place beside me, or
usurp the throne that should have been thine. I have sinned, but I
repent me of the wrong. Lo, now I come and bring thee a goodly sacrifice
to cheer thine angry heart--my lord, my love, I come!"

Held by the triple spell of guilt and fear and wonder, they listened to
these terrible words in silence, white horror sitting on their blanching
cheeks and brows.

As she ceased she raised her arms above her head, a golden cup
full-crowned between her glittering hands. A moment she held it aloft,
then dashed it to the floor, and cried in a voice that rang like the
laughter of devils through the awful silence:

"Come, Kefa, come, and bear me to my lord!"

The goddess answered in a mighty rush and roar of waters, long pent and
swiftly loosed. Then above the tumult rose the hoarse shouts of men and
the shrill screams of women, and the crash and clash of tables
overturned; then came the swirl and bubbling hiss of a flood that
gleamed darkly under the golden lamps and swiftly rose towards them,
bearing upon its surface white arms with outstretched hands gripping at
the empty air, and gauzy robes which half hid gleaming limbs, white
faces with wildly-staring eyes, and teeth that grinned between
tight-drawn lips so lately smiling; strong swimmers fighting for another
moment's breath, and one by one dragged down by many hidden hands: then
the sharp hiss of swift-quenched flames, then darkness, and the stifling
of sobbing groans into silence, and after that only the sibilant
undertone of waters rushing swiftly past smooth walls through utter
night.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Dear me!" the Professor heard himself say as he sat up and rubbed his
eyes, "what on earth can be the matter with me? Egypt--the Queen--Palace
of Pepi--bridal feast of Nitocris and Menkau-Ra--yes, yes, of course I
remember it all now. She made me impersonate Nefer in the mummy-case,
and then, when she had frightened her guests half out of their wits, she
avenged her lover by opening the sluice-gates and drowning the lot,
herself included. A rare device, that of old Pepi's, for getting rid of
hospitably entertained enemies. Not quite in accordance with our modern
ideas of sport, I'm afraid, but in those days we thought a good deal
more of effectiveness than sport. Good heavens! What sort of nonsense am
I talking? Dreaming, I suppose."

He stopped as the reflection of a brilliant flash of lightning lit up
his window, and bursts of rain dashed upon the panes.

"Ah yes, of course, that's it! Quite in accordance with the theory of
dreams. It's only the difference between a thunder-shower and the Nile
flood. The Genius of Dreams could easily account for the rest. Certainly
this apparatus that we call our brain plays some very curious tricks
with us sometimes. I suppose this is one of them. And yet if ever there
was a dream that seemed like reality that one did. The Mummy and the
long-dead Nitocris back to life! By the way, I wonder whether that
flagon was really there, and whether there _was_ any wine in it? If
there was, perhaps I took too much of it. Ah, there's the rain again!

"By the way now, suppose that this fourth dimension that has puzzled so
many of us is, after all, duration? If so, it would solve a great many
problems, because it would be possible to be and not to be at the same
time, and, therefore, for two bodies to occupy the same space. That
would be perfectly easy of supposition to the being to whom time and
eternity were one. Yes, I believe that when the great problem is solved,
it will be found that the fourth dimension _is_ duration, extending in
all directions like the circumference of a circle, the edges of a cube,
and the curves of the conic sections.

"Yes, I really do think I have got it at last, and that confounded Mummy
has taught it me. Still, I don't think I ought to speak as
disrespectfully as that of a young lady who has been dead for the last
fifty centuries or so and has come back. Yes, that is it. It _is_
duration."

Perfectly satisfied for the time being with this solution, he turned
over on to his right side--for, to his disgust, he found that he had
been lying on his back, a most pernicious position where dreaming is
concerned--and went to sleep. Half an hour later he was awakened by
another heaven-shaking crash of thunder.



CHAPTER IV

THIEVES IN THE NIGHT


This time he was very much awake. In fact, his sense of wakefulness
seemed almost superhuman. His faculties were preternaturally alert, and
he had a feeling of what might properly be called mental extension--it
was not exaltation--- which seemed to widen his mental vision
enormously. Problems which had puzzled him to desperation suddenly
became as obvious as the first axioms of geometry. In short, he felt as
though he had become a new man, re-born, or re-incarnated, into another
world which contained the one he had so far lived in, but which was
infinitely vaster in some undefined way which was not yet plain to him.

He lay for some time thinking over the extraordinary happenings of the
evening and his dream, which he remembered with astonishing exactness of
detail. Then a sudden turn of thought carried his mind to the subject of
miracles, apparitions, ghosts, and mathematical impossibilities such as
squaring the circle and doubling the cube--and to his amazement he found
that the impossible of yesterday had become the possible--nay, the
almost absurdly obvious of to-night.

He went on thinking and wondering until he began to half-believe that he
was dreaming again, so he got up and switched on the electric light.
Then he turned involuntarily towards the wardrobe, which, as usual, had
a long mirror running down the middle of it. To his amazement he did not
see himself reflected in it. The mirror seemed to have vanished, and in
its place was a window looking into his study.

He saw the mummy-case leaning up against the wall, but it was empty. In
front of it stood a man and a woman. Both were plainly, almost meanly,
dressed; the man in a tightly-buttoned black frock-coat and baggy grey
trousers; the woman in a plain gown of dark stuff, and a shawl which was
draped round her head and shoulders in somewhat Eastern fashion.

He could see their faces distinctly in profile. They were of the classic
Coptic type which so persistently reproduces the features of the old
Egyptians as we see them outlined in the wall-paintings of the temples
and the half-mutilated carvings and statues. The window of the study was
open, but the door was shut; so was the door of his own room, but for
all that he distinctly heard the man say to the woman in Coptic, which,
curiously enough, sounded as familiar to his ears as the faces seemed to
his eyes:

"Neb-Anat, it is gone! These heathen ravishers have not been content
with stealing the body of our Queen from its sacred resting-place and
bringing it here, whither we have traced it with so much labour. See, it
has been stolen again; hidden, no doubt, so that the servants of the
King could not find it. It may be that even we have been suspected and
watched, in spite of all our care. Yet it must be found, or the doom
that may not be revoked will be ours."

"Even so, Pent-Ah," replied the woman in a soft, musical voice which
well suited the comeliness of her face; "but though the priceless
treasure has been taken from its casket, it cannot have been carried out
of the house, for you know that every approach has been watched closely
since it was brought here. Come, in this house it must be, and to find
it is our task. Every one is asleep; take off thy shoes and let us
search."

She took off her own shoes as she spoke, and he saw the man do the same.
Then, as the man opened the door and they passed out of the study, the
picture vanished from the mirror.

Amazement at what he had seen and heard--the disappearance of the Mummy,
the presence of the man and woman, evidently charged with what they
believed to be the sacred mission of stealing it back again, and their
evident purpose of searching the house for it--instantly gave place to a
quick thrill of fear.

His daughter's bedroom was on the same floor as the study, only a
couple of doors away round the corner of the landing. These people would
search every room. What if she had not locked her door securely, or if
they had some means of opening it? She was the living image of the dead
Nitocris. He did not dare to think of what might happen to her. Would
these new-found, strangely-given powers of his suffice to protect her?
If not, he would have but little use for them, since she was his nearest
and dearest on earth.

He pulled his stockings over the pants of his pyjamas and put on his
velvet working jacket, forgetting for the moment that, if these things
were true, it would be perfectly easy for him to make himself invisible
to beings in the ordinary world of three dimensions. Then he turned out
the light, opened the door very softly, and crept downstairs.

Yes, what he had seen was true. He heard the soft, shuffling patter of
stockinged feet along the landing, though he could see nothing in the
dark. A door opened gently. His sense of location told him that it was
the door of the spare bedroom next but one to the study. He felt his way
silently and softly along the wall, and as he did so his hand touched
the electric switch. Should he turn the light on and alarm the house?
Whoever was there had "broken and entered" after midnight, and was
therefore outside the law. No, he would not do that. If what he had
seen was true, the intruders believed that their mission was a sacred
one. No doubt the man was armed, and perhaps the woman also, and what
would a knife-stab mean to them on such a desperate quest?

As these thoughts ran at lightning speed through his mind, he saw a
faint glow inside the room. He crept forward and looked round the side
of the doorway. The man had a little electric lamp in his hand and was
flashing the slender rays all over the room. He drew his head back
quickly as he heard him say:

"There is nothing here, Anat. Come, let us try the next room. Neither
lock nor bolt nor even human life must stand in the way of our search
now that we have begun it!"

He heard them coming towards the door. Instinctively he shrank back, and
his heart stood still as he thought of what would happen if the man
chanced to turn the little ray of his lamp on him. Almost involuntarily
his thoughts went back to the promise of Queen Nitocris, and something
like a prayer that it might be kept rose to his lips.

They came out, and the man flashed the thin electric ray up and down the
passage. It wavered hither and thither, and at last fell directly on his
face. He was anything but a coward, but he was thinking of Niti--and
what if a knife-stab left her undefended? But to his amazement, although
they were both looking straight at him, the expression of neither face
changed in the slightest. They had not seen him. The Queen had answered
his prayer. He was no longer in the world of three dimensions, and so he
was invisible to all dwellers in it. For him, then, there was evidently
no danger--but Niti----?

They moved along to the next door. That was hers. The woman put her hand
on the knob and turned it. To his horror, the door opened. She had
forgotten to lock it. They both crept in, and he followed them boldly
enough now, knowing what he did. The ray leapt rapidly about the room
till it fell on the bed with its pale blue silken coverlet, and then on
the pillow, on which rested the head of the sleeping, breathing image of
the long-dead Queen.

With a half-stifled gasp the man shrank back and dropped the lamp, and
the Professor heard him say to the woman in a shuddering whisper:

"By the High Gods, Neb-Anat, it is a miracle! Do you not see her? It is
she--the Queen--alive again, as the ancient prophecy said she should be.
What magic have these heathens used?"

"Yes," replied the woman, whispering lower, "truly it is the Queen, and
she is alive and sleeping--no doubt passing from the sleep of death
through the sleep of life to life again. Now, O Pent-Ah, is our task
much harder, yet will its accomplishment be all the more glorious for
you and me, and greatly will our Lord reward us if we can restore to his
keeping, not the ravished mummy of Nitocris, but the Queen herself,
warm and breathing and beautiful, as she was in the ancient days of the
great Rameses."

"I'll be hanged if you do!" said the Professor to himself, "not, at
least, if Her Majesty's legacy to me is worth anything. Abduct my
daughter at the dead of night, would you, you scoundrels? We'll see
about that. If you don't leave this house as thoroughly frightened as
ever you were in your lives, I know nothing about the fourth dimension."

Meanwhile he heard them both groping about the floor after the lamp. The
woman found it, and pressed the button. The ray fell on the man's face,
and he saw that the olive of his skin had turned to a ghastly grey. His
eyes were wide open, and his mouth and nostrils were working with
intense excitement. Then the woman turned the ray on Niti's face again.

"They will wake her if this goes on much longer," said the Professor to
himself again. "I had better stop this little comedy before it becomes a
tragedy. Poor Niti would go half mad if she found these two scoundrels
by her bedside--and yet if I do anything out of the way they will yell.
Ah, I think I have it!"

He walked softly out of the room, and when he got into the passage he
whispered in the tongue that had become so strangely familiar to him:

"Pent-Ah, Neb-Anat, come hither instantly! Who are you that you should
disturb the slumbers of your Lady the Queen!"

He saw them stare at each other with eyes wide with fear and wonder.

"It is the command of the Mighty One," whispered the woman, taking hold
of the man's hand and drawing him towards the door.

"And He must be obeyed," said he in reply, bowing his head and following
her.

They closed the door very softly behind them.

The Professor could not repress a sigh of thankfulness for Niti's escape
from what, at best, would have been a very terrible fright.

"And now, my friends," he went on to himself, "I think I can teach you
not to come into an English gentleman's house again with an idea of
stealing his property, to say nothing of abducting his daughter."

The man and woman were still staring at each other by the light of the
lamp, each holding each other's trembling hand, when the lamp was
suddenly snatched away from the woman and went out. Then, to their
horror, the ray shot out again in front of them as though the lamp were
floating by itself in the air. It flashed from face to face, both
ghastly with fear. Then an invisible hand gripped the man's, and drew
him with irresistible force along the passage. The woman grasped his
coat, and followed with shuffling feet and shaking limbs, dumb with
wonder and fear. The hand led them down the passage, round the corner,
and into the study. Then it released them. They heard the door shut and
the key turn in the lock. Then there was a click, and the electric
cluster above the writing-table shone out, apparently of its own
volition. The woman uttered a low scream, and cowered down in a corner
of a big sofa that stood by the bay-window. The man, after one terrified
glance round the room, began to creep towards the open sash; but the
invisible hand gripped him by the collar and pulled him back. His
trembling knees gave way under him, and he rolled in a heap on the
floor.

Then, to his wondering horror, he saw a stout blackthorn stick which was
standing in a corner of the room, jump up into the air and leap towards
him. He put his head down on to the carpet, covered his eyes with his
hands, and began to moan with terror. The stick came down with what
seemed to him superhuman force again and again on his back and
shoulders. He whimpered and moaned, and at last howled with pain. He
rolled over and looked up, and there was the stick hanging in the air
above him. He put up his hands clasped as though in prayer, and down it
came on his knuckles. He did not howl this time. His hands unclasped and
dropped beside him; his head went back, and he fainted in sheer terror.

"There, my friend," said the Professor aloud, forgetting the presence of
the woman for the moment; "mummy or no mummy, I don't think you will
come into this house again. And as for you, madam," he went on, "of
course, I can't give you a hiding, so the sight of his punishment will
have to be enough for you. Still, I think you have had enough of
attempted mummy-stealing to last you some time."

The woman stared up into the vacancy out of which the voice came, her
eyes dilated, and her lips trembling with the movement of her lower jaw.
She saw a jug of water get up off the table and empty itself over her
companion's face. Then she fainted, too.

When Pent-Ah came to himself and sat up, he saw an elderly gentleman,
tall and erect as a man in the prime of life, standing over him with the
blackthorn in one hand and the water-jug in the other.

"I am not going to ask what you two are doing here," he said sternly,
"because I know already. If I called the police I could send you both to
prison for house-breaking and attempted robbery; but I don't want any
fuss, and perhaps you have been punished enough for the present. Ah, I
see your accomplice is coming round. You came in by the window, I
suppose. Now get out by it as quick as you can, and mind you keep your
mouths shut as to what has happened to-night. If you don't," he went on,
suddenly changing into Coptic, "beware of the anger of your Lord--of Him
who never forgives!"

The man scrambled to his feet, whimpering:

"I go, Lord, I go, and my lips shall be silent as the lips of----"

He cast a frightened glance towards the mummy-case, and then, grasping
the woman roughly by the arm, he dragged her towards the open window,
saying:

"Come, Neb-Anat, come ere the wrath of our Lord consumes us!"

       *       *       *       *       *

"Why, where's the Mummy, Dad?" said Miss Nitocris, as she came into her
father's study just before breakfast the next morning, and looked in
amazement at the empty case.

"Stolen, my dear, I am sorry to say," replied the Professor gravely.
"Did you hear any noises in the house last night, or were you sleeping
too soundly?"

"I seem to have an idea that I did," she said, "but only a dim one; I
thought I only dreamt it. But did you, Dad? Do tell me all about it.
What a horrible shame to steal that lovely Mummy! And it was so like me,
too. I believe I should have got quite fond of it."

"Yes, dear," continued the Professor, speaking, as she thought, a little
nervously. "There was a noise, and I heard it. I came down here and
turned the light on. I found the window open and the Mummy gone--and
that is all I can tell you about it."



CHAPTER V

ACROSS THE THRESHOLD


After breakfast Professor Marmion, according to his practice on fine
days, lit his pipe, and went out for a stroll on the Common to put in a
little hard thinking, while Miss Nitocris, after seeing to certain
household matters, sat down in his study and read the papers, in order
that she might be able to give him a synopsis of the world's news at
lunch. He did not read the newspapers himself, except, perhaps, in the
train, when he had nothing better to do. He took no interest in
politics, for one thing, and he had still less interest in professional
cricket and football, racing, and what is generally called sport. He had
a fixed opinion that all the events happening in the world which really
mattered, not even excepting the proceedings of learned societies and
the criminal and civil Law Courts, could be adequately recorded on a
couple of sheets of notepaper. In other words, he had an absolute
contempt for everything that makes a newspaper sell, and therefore his
daughter had very soon learnt to omit these fascinating items entirely.

Curiously enough, his mind seemed to be running on this subject of all
things that morning. He had been reading an article in the _Fortnightly_
on the growing sensationalism, and therefore the general decadence of
the English Press a day or two before, and this had got connected up in
his thoughts with the amazing happenings of the last twelve hours, and
he asked himself what would happen if he were to give the narrative of
his experiences in a letter to the _Times_, supported by the authority
of his own distinguished and irreproachable name.

Certainly it would be the most sensational communication that had ever
appeared in a newspaper. In a day or two, granted always that the
_Times_ had no doubts as to his sanity and printed the letter, the whole
Press would be ablaze with it; Wimbledon would be besieged by reporters
eager to see miracles; and then they would go away and write lurid
articles, some about the miracles, if they saw them, and some about an
absolutely new form of conjuring that he had invented. Then the
scientific Press would take it up, and a very merry battle of wits would
begin. He smiled gravely as he thought of the inkshed that would come to
pass in a _combat à l'outrance_ between the Three Dimensionists and the
Four Dimensionists, and how the distinguished scientists on each side
would hurl their ponderous thunderbolts of wisdom against each other.

Then there would be the religious folk to deal with, for naturally no
theologian of any enterprise or self-respect could see a fight like that
going on without taking a hand in it. The Churches, of course, had a
monopoly of miracles, or at least the traditions of them. The Christian
Scientists, blatantly, claimed to work them now, but their subjects died
with disgusting regularity. So he quickly came to the conclusion that,
if he were once to state in plain English that he could accomplish the
seemingly impossible; that he, a mere mortal, could make himself
independent of the ordinary conditions of time and space and break with
impunity all the laws which govern the physical universe, he would
simply make himself the centre of a vortex of frenzied disputation which
would shake the social, religious, and scientific worlds to their
foundations, and that would certainly not be a pleasant position for an
eminent and respected scientist, who was already a certain number of
years past middle age--to say nothing of the very real harm that might
be done.

Of course, he could settle all the disputes instantly, and dazzle the
whole world into the bargain by simply delivering a lecture, say, before
the Royal Society, on the existence of a world of four dimensions, and
then proving by ocular demonstration that it does exist; but what would
happen then? Simply intellectual anarchy.

Every belief that man had held for ages would be negatived. For
instance, if there is one dogma to which humanity has clung with
unanimous consistency, it is to the dogma that two and two make four.
What if he were to prove--as, of course, he could do now that this
mysterious hand, outstretched through the mists of the far past, had led
him across the horizon which divides the two states of Existence--that,
under certain circumstances, they would also make three or five? What if
he demonstrated that even the axioms of Euclid could, under different
conditions, be both true and false at the same time?

No, the thought of overthrowing such a venerable authority and plunging
the scientific world into a hopeless state of intellectual chaos sent a
shudder through his nerves. He could not do it.

And yet it was only the bare, solid truth that he did possess these
powers. The dream of the death-bridal of Nitocris might possibly have
been nothing more than just a dream, or possibly the revival of an
episode in a past existence; but the other experiences certainly were
not. He had taken off his ring without unbending his finger. Yes, he
could do it again now; it was just as easy as taking it off in the
ordinary way. He certainly had not been dreaming when the Mummy had
become Queen Nitocris and given him the wine. He could not have been mad
or dreaming, because his daughter was there. The episode of the strange
stealers who had come into his house--that too was real, for they had
left their lamp and the man's shoes behind them, and the Mummy was gone!

He took a piece of string out of his pocket, tied the two ends, and then
with the greatest ease tied another knot in the string without undoing
the first.

A motor-car came humming along the road towards him, and he began to
think what this place was like a thousand years before motors were heard
of. That instant the motor vanished, and he found himself standing in a
little glade surrounded by huge forest trees with not so much as a
foot-track in sight. He made his way through the trees in what he
remembered to be the direction of the road, and presently, through an
opening avenue, he saw the sun glittering upon something moving, and
heard voices; and then past the end of the avenue half a dozen armoured
knights, followed by their squires and a string of men-at-arms guarding
a covered waggon, and after these came a motley little crowd of
travellers, some on horseback and some on foot, evidently taking
advantage of the escort to protect them from robbers.

"Dear me!" said the Professor to himself, not without a little shiver of
apprehension, "this is very interesting. I seem to have put myself back
into the tenth century. Yes, that is certainly tenth-century armour that
they're wearing. I mustn't let them see me, or there's no telling what
they'd think of an elderly gentleman in a soft hat and a
twentieth-century morning suit. But perhaps," he went on with his
reasoning, "they can't see me at all. My condition is N to the fourth
now. There's a thousand years between us; I forgot that. At any rate,
I'll try it."

He walked quickly down the avenue, and stood by the side of the rugged
path looking at the strange spectacle. No one took the slightest notice
of him. And then a chill of awful loneliness struck him. Although he
could see and move and hear, and, no doubt, eat and drink in this world,
he was unexistent as regards the inhabitants of it, and yet he knew
perfectly well he was standing by the side of the road where the
motor-car ought to be, and over there, a few hundred yards away, Niti
would be sitting in her room or walking in the garden--and she wouldn't
be born for nearly a thousand years yet.

It was certainly somewhat disquieting, this power of living in two
existences and different ages, but it was a matter that would take some
little time to get accustomed to.

The next instant the cavalcade and the forest had vanished, and there
was the motor-car, just spinning past him. He was on the Wimbledon
Common of the twentieth century once more. He stroked his clean-shaven
chin with his finger and thumb, and walked slowly along the path by the
side of the road, and then across the grass towards the flagstaff.

"I think I begin to see it now," he murmured. "Of course, life, that is
to say real, intellectual, or, as some would say, spiritual life, is,
after all, the coefficient of that totally unexplainable thing called
thought which enables us to explain most things except itself. Time and
space and location are only realities to us in so far that we can see
them. A human being born blind, dumb, deaf, and without feeling would
still, I suppose, be a human being, because it would be conscious of
existence; it would breathe and know that its heart was beating, but
without sight or sensation there could be no idea of space--time, to it,
would be a meaningless series of breaths or heartbeats. Without touch or
sight it could have no idea of form or size, which are merely conditions
of space, and both the past and the future would be absolutely
non-existent for it."

He paused, and walked on a little way in silence, arguing silently with
himself as to the correctness of these premises. Then he began aloud
again:

"Yes, I think that's about right. And now, suppose that such a being
became endowed with the natural senses, one by one. It would go through
all the processes of the physical and mental evolution of humanity until
it reached the highest of human attributes--the ability to think, and
therefore to reason. In other words, from a merely living organism it
would, in the old Scriptural language, have become a living soul. That
is, obviously, what the words in Genesis were really intended to mean.
It would then become capable of development, of proceeding from the
partly-known to the more fully known, until, granted perfect physical
and mental health, it reached what are generally called the limits of
human knowledge."

The Professor's thumb and finger went up to his chin again. He walked
another two or three hundred yards in silence; then he recommenced his
spoken argument with himself:

"Limits of human knowledge? Yes, that sounds all very well in ordinary
language, but are there any? Who was it said that a man trying to reach
those limits was like the child who saw a rainbow for the first time,
and started out to find the place where it rested? The simile is not
bad, not by any means. Just in the same way, we try to imagine the
limits of time and space, and we can't do it. Only infinity of space and
duration are possible, and yet we can't grasp them; still, they are the
only possible states in which we can exist. And now, as I have had a
glimpse of the past, I wonder what this place would be like in ten
thousand years?

"Good heavens, how cold it is!" He shivered, and buttoned up his coat,
and continued, looking about him on the vast snow-field dotted with
hummocks of ice which lay bleak and lifeless about him: "Ah, I suppose
either the Gulf Stream has got diverted, or the earth's axis has shifted
and we are in another glacial epoch.

"WE!"

Again the shock of utter isolation struck him, but it seemed to hit him
harder this time. The world that he had been born in lay ten thousand
years behind him. For all he knew, he might be standing upon what was
now the earth's North Pole. Civilisation, as he had known it, might have
been wiped off the face of the earth, and the remnants of humanity flung
back into savagery. He looked up at the sun, and saw that it was almost
exactly where it had been, and that it had not perceptibly diminished in
power.

The idea was not at all pleasant to him, and very naturally his thoughts
turned back once more to his cosy home that had been on the edge of
Wimbledon Common ten thousand years ago. He remembered, with a curious
sort of thrill, some notes which he had to complete that morning for his
lecture--and in the same instant he was walking back across the turf
towards his house through the warm May sunshine.

"Yes," he said to himself, as he drew a deep breath of the sweet spring
air. "I was right; that's it. The fourth dimension is a form of duration
in some way correlated with space. I shall have to work that out in the
light of the greater knowledge, which Her vanished Majesty has given me,
and which I almost attained to in Egypt. Wherefore, existence in a state
of four dimensions, or the world of N4, as I have always called it, is,
roughly speaking, one. Time and space are, as it were, two sides of the
same shield, and a person living in that world can see both of them at
once. Wherefore, past, present, future, length, breadth, thickness, here
and there are all the same thing to him. It's a great pity there isn't a
fourth dimensional language as well, so that one could state these
things a little more precisely. But that, of course, is out of the
question.

"Really, I can hardly make myself understand it as far as words and
phrases are concerned; still, there it is; and now the question arises:
Having got this power, as I certainly have, of transferring myself from
one existence to another by a mere effort of thought, because it is very
evident that this power is really only an extension or an
exaltation--confound the language of the third dimension--I can't say
it! Although I understand what it is, it won't go into words. What am I
to do with it? Its possibilities are, of course, a little
appalling--that is to say, from the point of view of N3. I have not the
slightest desire to shake the fabric of Society to pieces, as I could
do, and still less have I taste for spending the rest of my scientific
career in what the world would very easily believe to be conjuring
tricks. I hope I am not going to be another of the unnumbered proofs of
Solomon's wisdom when he said, 'Whoso getteth knowledge, getteth
sorrow.' I wonder what sort of advice Her late Majesty of Egypt----

"Dear me, what nonsense I am talking! Her late Majesty? That won't do at
all--she has reached the Higher Plane too, so, of course, she can't be
dead----"

And then with the force of a powerful electric shock, the terrible fact
struck him that, for those who had reached that plane, there was no
death! Here was a new light on the weird problem which he had somehow
been called upon to deal with.

"I wonder what Her Majesty would really think of it?" he murmured, after
a few moments of mental bewilderment. "Dear me, who's that?"

He looked up, and, to his utter amazement, he saw Queen Nitocris,
arrayed exactly as she had been on that terrible night of her bridal
with Menkau-Ra, walking towards him; a perfect incarnation of beauty,
but----

"Oh dear me!" said the Professor, "this will never do. Good heavens!
everybody in Wimbledon knows me, and--well, of course, Her Majesty is
very lovely and all that; but what on earth would people think if any
one saw me strolling across the Common in company with an Egyptian
Queen--to say nothing of the costume--and the image of my own daughter,
too!"

The figure approached, and the Queen, dazzlingly and bewilderingly
beautiful, held out her hands to him, and their eyes met and they looked
at each other across the gulf of fifty centuries. Impelled by an
irresistible impulse coming from whence he knew not, he clasped them in
his, and said, apparently by no volition of his own, in the Ancient
Tongue:

"Ma-Rim[=o]n greets Nitocris, the Queen! What hath he done that he
should be once more so highly honoured?"

At that moment a carriage came by along the road quite close to them.
Two of its occupants were looking straight towards them. They passed
without taking the slightest notice, as they must have done had they
seen such a marvellous figure as that of the Queen. And then he
remembered that, unless she willed it, no one in the world of N3 could
see her, since it was for her, as it was for him now, to make herself
visible or invisible as she chose to pass on to or beyond the lower
Plane of Existence. These things were quickly becoming more plain to his
comprehension, although, as will be readily understood, it was not a
lesson to be learnt very easily.

"Welcome, Ma-Rim[=o]n," replied the Queen, in a voice which filled him
with many distant and strange memories, "but let there be no talk
between us of honour, for in this state there is neither honour nor
dishonour, neither ruler nor subject, neither good nor evil, since all
these are absorbed in the Perfect Knowledge. Yet it is the will of the
High Gods that I should help thee and guide thee in that new world whose
threshold thou hast so lately crossed. It was my hand led thee from the
path of Light to the path of Darkness, and for that I have paid the
penalty as well as thou.

"For many ages, as time is counted in that other world, we have toiled,
sometimes together, sometimes apart, sometimes in honour, sometimes in
dishonour, yet ever struggling on to regain the heights which then we
had so nearly won. The High Gods permitted me to reach them first, and
therefore it was my hand which was stretched out to lead thee across the
Border.

"Now, my message to thee is this: Thou hast powers which no other man
living in that lower state possesses; see to it that they be used
rightly. Forget not that in that other world sin and shame, oppression
and misery, are as rife as, within the limits of time, they have ever
been. Make it thy concern that the forces of evil shall be weaker and
not stronger for the use of these powers to which thou hast attained.

"We shall meet often in that other world, and that living other-self of
mine, thy daughter in the flesh and bearer of my name, through every
moment of her time-life, I shall watch and guard her, for she,
too--although she knows it not--is approaching the light never seen by
the Eye of Flesh, and, though strange things should befall her, it will
be for thee in that other state, knowing what thou dost in the Higher
Life, to help me in this task as in others. Now, farewell, Ma-Rim[=o]n,"
she said, holding out her hands again.

As he took them, they melted in his grasp, two lustrous eyes looked at
him for a moment and grew dim, and he was once more alone on Wimbledon
Common.

"I think I'll be getting home," he said, looking at his watch, and he
turned and walked slowly with bent head and hands clasped behind his
back to the house.



CHAPTER VI

THE LAW OF SELECTION


In actual mundane time, to use a somewhat halting expression, Professor
Marmion's walk had occupied about a couple of hours. His strange
experiences had, of course, occupied none, since they had taken place
beyond the bounds of Time.

Meanwhile, Miss Nitocris had finished her digest of the morning papers,
given the cook a few directions, and then gone out on the lawn at the
back of the house to have a quiet read and enjoy the soft air and
sunshine of that lovely May morning. She lay down in a hammock chair in
the shade of a fine old cedar at the bottom of the lawn, and began to
read, and soon she began to dream. The news in the papers, even the most
responsible of them, had been very serious. The shadow of war was once
more rising in the East--war which, if it came, England could scarcely
escape, and if it did Someone would have to go and fight in that most
perilous of all forms of battle, torpedo attack.

The book she had taken with her was one of exceedingly clever verse
written years before by just such another as herself; a girl, beautiful,
learned, and yet absolutely womanly, and endowed, moreover, with that
gift so rare among learned women, the gift of humour. Long ago, this
girl had taken the fever in Egypt, and died of it; but before she died
she wrote a book of poems and verses, which, though long forgotten--if
ever known--by the multitude, is still treasured and re-read by some,
and of these Miss Nitocris was one. Just now the book was open at the
hundred and forty-third page, on which there is a portion of a poem
entitled _Natural Selection_.

Miss Nitocris' eyes alternately rested on the page for a few moments and
then lifted and looked over the lawn towards the open French windows.
The verses ran thus:

  _"But there comes an idealless lad,
  With a strut, and a stare, and a smirk;
  And I watch, scientific though sad,
  The Law of Selection at work._

  _"Of Science he hasn't a trace,
  He seeks not the How and the Why,
  But he sings with an amateur's grace
  And he dances much better than I._

  _"And we know the more dandified males
  By dance and by song win their wives--
  'Tis a law that with_ Aves _prevails,
  And even in_ Homo _survives."_

"Just my precious papa's ideas!" she murmured, with a toss of her head,
and something like a little sniff. "What a nuisance it all is!
Aristocracy of intellect, indeed! Just as if any of us, even my dear
Dad, if he _is_ considered one of the cleverest and most learned men in
Europe, were anything more than what Newton called himself--a little
child picking up pebbles and grains of sand on the shore of a boundless
and fathomless ocean, and calling them knowledge. I'm not quite sure
that that's correct, but it's something like it. Still, that's not the
question. How on earth am I to tell poor Mark? Oh dear! he'll have to be
'Mr Merrill' now, I suppose. What a shame! I've half a mind to rebel,
and vindicate the Law of Selection at any price. Ah, there he is. Well,
I suppose I've got to get through it somehow."

As she spoke, one of the French windows under the verandah opened, and a
man in a panama hat, Norfolk jacket and knickerbockers, came out and
raised his hat as he stepped off the verandah.

With a sigh and a frown she closed the book sharply, got up and tossed
it into the chair. No daintier or more desirable incarnation of the
eternal feminine could have been imagined than she presented as she
walked slowly across the lawn to meet the man whom the Law of Selection
had designated as her natural mate, and whom her father, for reasons
presently to be made plain, had forbidden her to marry on pain of exile
from his affections for ever.

The face he turned towards her as she approached was not exactly
handsome as an artist or some women would have defined the word, but it
was strong, honest, and open--just the sort of face, in short, to match
the broad shoulders, the long, cleanly-shaped, athletic limbs, and the
five feet eleven of young, healthy manhood with which Nature had
associated it.

A glance at his face and another one at him generally would, in spite of
the costume, have convinced any one who knows the genus that Mark
Merrill was a naval officer. He had that quiet air of restrained
strength, of the instinctive habit of command which somehow or other
does not distinguish any other fighting man in the world in quite the
same degree. His name and title were Lieutenant-Commander Mark Gwynne
Merrill, of His Majesty's Destroyer _Blazer_, one of the coolest-headed
and yet most judiciously reckless officers in the Service.

There was a light in his wide-set, blue-grey eyes, and a smile on his
strong, well-cut lips which were absolutely boyish in their anticipation
of sheer delight as she approached; and then, after one glance at her
face, his own changed with a suddenness, which, to a disinterested
observer, would have been almost comic.

"I'm awfully sorry, Mark," she began, in a tone which literally sent a
shiver--a real physical shiver--through him, for he was very, very much
in love with her.

"What on earth is the matter, Niti?" he said, looking at the fair face
and downcast eyes which, for the first time since he had asked the
eternal question and she had answered it according to his heart's
desire, had refused to meet his. "Let's have it out at once. It's a lot
better to be shot through the heart than starved to death, you know. I
suppose it's something pretty bad, or you wouldn't be looking down at
the grass like that," he continued.

"Oh, it's--it's--it's a _beastly_ shame, that's what it is, so there!"
And as she said this Miss Nitocris Marmion, B.Sc., stamped her foot on
the turf and felt inclined to burst out crying, just as a milkmaid might
have done.

"Which means," said Mark, pulling himself up, as a man about to face a
mortal enemy would do, "that the Professor has said 'No.' In other
words, he has decided that his learned and lovely daughter shall not, as
I suppose he would put it, mate with an animal of a lower order--a mere
fighting-man. Well, Miss Marmion----"

"Oh, don't; _please_ don't!" she exclaimed, almost piteously, dropping
into a big wicker armchair by the verandah and putting her hands over
her eyes.

He had an awful fear that she was going to cry, and, as the Easterns
say, he felt his heart turning to water within him. But her highly
trained intellect came to her aid. She swallowed the sob, and looked up
at him with clear, dry eyes.

"It isn't quite that, Mark," she continued. "You know I wouldn't stand
anything like that even from the dear old Dad. Much as I love him, and
even, as you know, in some senses almost worship him, it isn't that.
It's this theory of heredity of his--this scientific faith--bigotry, I
call it, for it is just the same to him as Catholicism was to the
Spaniards in the sixteenth century. In fact, I told him the other night
that he reminded me of the Spanish grandee whose daughters were
convicted of heresy by the Inquisition, and who showed his devotion to
the Church by lighting the faggots which burned them with his own
hands."

"And what did he say to that?" said the sailor, not because he wanted to
know, but because there was an awkward pause that needed filling.

"I would rather not tell you, Mark, if you don't mind," she said slowly
and looking very straightly and steadily at him. "You know--well, I
needn't tell you again what I've told you already. You know I care for
you, and I always shall, but I cannot--I dare not--disobey my father. I
owe all that I ever had to him. He has been father, mother, teacher,
friend, companion--everything to me. We are absolutely alone in the
world. If I could leave him for anybody, I'd leave him for you, but I
won't disobey him and break his heart, as I believe I should, even for
you."

"You're perfectly right, Niti, perfectly," said Commander Merrill, in a
tone of steady conviction which inspired her with an almost irresistible
impulse to get up and kiss him. "You couldn't honestly do anything else,
and I know the shortest way to make you hate me would be to ask you to
do that something else. But still," he went on, thrusting his hands into
the pockets of his Norfolk jacket, "I do think I have a sort of right
to have some sort of explanation, and with your permission I shall just
ask him for one."

"For goodness' sake, don't do that, Mark--don't!" she pleaded. "You
might as well go and ask a Jewish Rabbi why he wouldn't let his daughter
marry a Christian. Wise and clever as he is in other things, poor Dad is
simply a fanatic in this, and--well, if he did condescend to explain,
I'm afraid you might mistake what he would think the correct scientific
way of putting it, for an insult, and I couldn't bear to think of you
quarrelling. You know you're the only two people in the world I--I--Oh
dear, what _shall_ I do!"

It was at this point that the Law of Natural Selection stepped in.
Natural laws of any sort have very little respect for the refinements of
what mortals are pleased to call their philosophy. Professor Marmion was
a very great man--some men said he was the greatest scientist of his
age--but at this moment he was but as a grain of sand among the wheels
of the mighty machine which grinds out human and other destinies.

Commander Merrill took a couple of long, swift strides towards the chair
in which Nitocris was leaning back with her hands pressed to her eyes.
He picked her up bodily, as he might have picked a child of seven up,
put her protesting hands aside, and slowly and deliberately kissed her
three times squarely on the lips as if he meant it; and the third time
her lips moved too. Then he whispered:

"Good-bye, dear, for the present, at any rate!"

After which he deposited her tenderly in the chair again, and, with just
one last look, turned and walked with quick, angry strides across the
lawn and round the semi-circular carriage-drive, saying some things to
himself between his clenched teeth, and thinking many more.

A few yards outside the gate he came face to face with the Professor.

"Good-morning, sir," said Merrill, with a motion of his hand towards his
hat.

"Oh, good-morning, Mr Merrill," replied the Professor a little stiffly,
for relations between them had been strained for some considerable time
now. "I presume you have been to the house. I am sorry that you did not
find me at home, but if it is anything urgent and you have half an hour
to spare----"

He stopped in his speech, silenced by a shock of something like shame.
He was prevaricating. He knew perfectly well that "it" was the most
urgent errand a man could have, next to his duty to his country, that
had brought the young sailor to his house. Twenty-four hours ago he
would not have noticed such a trifle: but it was no trifle now; for to
his clearer vision it was a sin, an evasion of the immutable laws of
Truth, utterly unworthy of the companion of Nitocris the Queen in that
other existence which he had just left.

"You have seen Niti, I suppose?" he continued, with singular directness.

"Yes," replied Merrill. "You will remember that the week was up this
morning, and so I called to learn my fate, and your daughter has told
me. I presume that your decision is final, and that, therefore, there is
nothing more to be said on the subject."

"My decisions are usually final, Mr Merrill, because I do not arrive at
them without due consideration. I am deeply grieved, as I have told you
before, but my decision is a deduction from what I consider to be an
unbreakable chain of argument which I need not trouble you with.
Personally and socially, of course, it would be impossible for me to
have the slightest objection to you. In fact, apart from your execrable
fighting profession, I like you; but otherwise, as you know, I cannot
help looking at you as the survival of an age of barbarism, a hark-back
of humanity, for all the honour in which that trade is held by an
ignorant and deluded world; and so for the last time it is my painful
task to tell you that there can be no union between your blood and mine.
Outside that, of course, there is no reason why we should not remain
friends."

"Very well, sir," replied Merrill, "I have heard your decision, and Miss
Marmion has told me she is resolved to abide by it; I should be
something less than a man if I attempted to alter her resolve. We are
ordered on foreign service this week, and so for the present,
good-bye."

He lifted his hat, turned away and walked down the road with teeth
clenched and eyes fixed straight in front of him, and a shade of grey
under the tan of his skin.

The Professor looked after him for a few moments and turned in at the
gate, saying:

"It's a great pity in some ways--many ways, in fact. He's a fine young
fellow and a thorough gentleman, and I'm afraid they're very fond of
each other, but of course to let Niti marry him would be the negation of
the belief and teaching of more than half a lifetime. I hope the poor
girl won't take it too keenly to heart. I'm afraid he seems rather hard
hit, poor chap, but of course there's no help for it. Just fancy me the
father-in-law of a fighting man, and the grandfather of what might be a
brood of fighters! No, no; that is quite out of the question."



CHAPTER VII

MOSTLY POSSIBILITIES


The Professor went into the garden feeling just a trifle uncomfortable.
He not only loved his daughter dearly, but he also had a very deep and
well-justified respect for her intellect and scholarly attainments. Her
unfortunate love for a man whom he honestly believed to be a totally
unfit mate for her was the only shadow that had ever drifted between
them since she had become, not only his daughter, but his friend and
companion, and the enthusiastic sharer of his intellectual pursuits. Of
course, anything like a scene was utterly out of the question; but there
is a silence more eloquent than words, and it was that that he was
mostly afraid of.

He found her walking up and down the lawn with her hands behind her
back. She was a little paler than usual, and there was a shadow in her
eyes. She came towards him, and said quite quietly:

"Mr Merrill has been here, Dad, to say good-bye. I told him, and so we
have said it."

The simple words were spoken with a quiet and yet tender dignity which
made him feel prouder than ever of his daughter and all the more sorry
for her.

"I met him just outside the gate, Niti," he replied, looking at her
through a little mist in his eyes, "He spoke most honourably, and like
the gentleman that he is. I hope you will believe me----"

"I believe you in everything, Dad," she said quickly; "and since the
matter is ended, it will only hurt us both to say any more about it.
Now, I have some news," she continued, in a tone whose alteration was
well assumed.

"Ah! and what is that, Niti?" he asked, looking up at her with a smile
of relief.

"It's something that I hope you will be able to get some of your solemn
fun out of. One of the items in the 'Social Intelligence' to-day states
that your old friend, Professor Hoskins van Huysman, and his wife and
daughter have come to London, and will stay ten days before 'proceeding'
to Paris and the South of France, and so, of course, they will be here
for your lecture, and naturally he will not resist the temptation of
making one of your audience."

"Van Huysman!" exclaimed the Professor. "That Yankee charlatan, confound
him! I shouldn't wonder if he had the impudence to take part in the
discussion afterwards."

"Then," laughed Nitocris, "you must take care to have all your heavy
guns ready for action. But, of course, Dad, you won't let your--well,
your scientific feelings get mixed up with social matters, will you?
Because, you know, I like Brenda very much; she's the prettiest and
brightest girl I know. You know, she can do almost anything, and yet
she's as unaffected----"

"As some one else we know," interrupted the Professor with another
smile.

"And then, you know, Mrs van Huysman," continued Nitocris with a little
flush, "is such a dear, innocent, good-natured thing, so good-hearted
and so deliciously American. Of course, you can fight with the Professor
as much as you like in print, and in lecture halls--I know you both love
it--but you'll still be friends socially, won't you?"

"Which, of course, means garden-parties and river trips, and similar
frivolities that learned young ladies love so much. You needn't trouble
about that, Niti. I shall not allow my zeal for scientific truth to
interfere with your social pleasures, you may be quite sure. Science, as
you know, has nothing to do with what we call Society, except as one of
the most curious phenomena of Sociology. Drive into town whenever you
like and see them. Present my respectful compliments, and ask them to
dinner, or whatever you like. And now I must get to my work--I've only
three more days, and my notes are not anything like complete."

"Very well, Dad; I think I'll telephone them--they're stopping at the
Savoy--extravagant people!--to say that I'll run in this afternoon and
have tea. Oh! and, by the way," she added, as he turned towards the
house, "there's another item. Lord Leighton has been called home
suddenly on some business, and will be here the day after to-morrow."

"Oh! indeed," said the Professor, pausing. "Well, I shall be delighted
to see him--but I don't know what I shall have to say to him about that
Mummy."

Nitocris turned away towards her chair with a faint smile on her lips.
With a woman's rapid intuition, she had seen a glimmer of hope in the
conjunction of these two announcements. Although Professor van Huysman's
personal fortune was not as great as his attainments or his fame, Brenda
would be very rich, for her mother was the only sister of a widower
whose sole interest and occupation in life was piling up dollars. He had
dollars in everything, from pork and lumber to canned goods, and her own
father's scientific inventions, and Brenda was the bright particular
star of his affections.

On the other hand, Lord Leighton, son and heir of the invalid Earl of
Kyneston, was a fairly well-to-do young nobleman, good-looking, a
scholar, and a good sportsman, who had done brilliantly at Cambridge,
and then devoted himself to Egyptian exploration with a whole-souled
ardour which had quickly won Professor Marmion's heart, and a ready
consent to his "trying his luck" with his daughter to boot. This had not
a little to do with the present unfortunate condition of her own love
affairs.

She had already refused Lord Leighton, letting him down, of course, as
gently as possible, but withal firmly and uncompromisingly. Who could
better console him than this beautiful and brilliant American girl, and
what would better suit that lovely head of hers than an English coronet
which was bright with the untarnished traditions of five hundred years?

Wherefore, then and there, Miss Nitocris Marmion, Bachelor of Science,
Licentiate of Literature and Art, and Gold-Medallist in Higher
Mathematics at the University of London, decided upon her first
experiment in match-making.

When the Professor got into his study and shut the door, there was a
curious smiling expression upon his refined, intellectual features.
Instead of sitting down to his desk, he lit a pipe and began walking up
and down the room, communing with his own soul in isolated sentences, as
was his wont when he was trying to arrive at any difficult decision.

In order to appreciate his deliberations and their result, it will be
necessary to say that Professor Hoskins van Huysman was one of the most
distinguished physicists in America, and he had also gained distinction
in applied mathematics. In addition to this, he was the inventor of many
marvellous contrivances for the demonstration and measurement of the
more obscure physical forces. His official position was that of Lecturer
and Demonstrator in Physical Science in Harvard University.

He and Professor Marmion had been deadly opponents in the field of
controversy for years. The latter had once detected an error in a very
learned monograph which he had published in the _Scientific American_ on
the "Co-Relation of the Etheric Forces in the Phenomena of Light and
Heat," and of course he had never forgiven him. From that day forth a
relentless duel of wits between them had continued. Every essay,
monograph, or book that the one published, the other criticised with
cold but ruthless severity, to the great delectation of the scientific
world, if not to the clarification of its atmosphere.

Socially, they were cordial acquaintances, if not friends. What they
really thought of each other was known only to themselves and to their
immediate domestic circles.

Naturally Professor Marmion was well aware that his elevation to the
higher plane of N4 gave him an enormous advantage over his adversary,
for now he could, if he chose, smite him hip and thigh, in a strictly
scientific sense, and reduce him to utter confusion and public ridicule,
and the question which he had come to discuss with himself was: In how
far, if at all, was he justified in so using the extra-human powers with
which he had been endowed?

The moment that he began to do this he became conscious of another
curious complication of his recent development. On the higher plane he
had argued the matter out with no more emotion than a calculating
machine would have betrayed, and he had come to a conclusion that was
absolutely luminous and just: but now that he came to argue the same
question on the lower plane he found that he was doing it under human
limitations, and therefore with human feelings.

"No," he said in the peculiar low, musing tone which was habitual to him
during these monologues, "no; after all, I do not see that there would
be any harm in that. Wrong, nay, sinful it would undoubtedly be to prove
to demonstration that religious, social, and physical laws, may, under
certain changing circumstances, be both true and false at the same time.
I am, or was--or whatever it is--perfectly right in considering that to
deliberately produce such a chaos as that would do would be the most
colossal crime that a man could commit against humanity, as far as this
plane is concerned, but there can be no harm in making a few
mathematical experiments."

He took a few more turns up and down the room, pulling slowly at his
pipe, and with his mind not wholly unoccupied with speculations as to
what Professor Van Huysman's feelings might be if he were watching the
said experiments. Then he began again:

"At the worst I shall only be carrying certain investigations a few
steps farther, and developing theories which have been seriously
discussed by the hardest-headed scholars in the world. Both the Greek
and the Alexandrian philosophers speculated on the possibility of a
state of four dimensions; and didn't Cayley, before this very Society,
deliberately say that at the present rate of progress in the Higher
Mathematics, the eye of Intellect might ere long see across the border
of tri-dimensional space?

"Surely I cannot do any very great harm by carrying his arguments to
their logical conclusions--if I can. Of course, physical demonstrations
would never do: I should frighten my brilliant and learned audience out
of its seven senses; but, as for mere mathematics--well, I may make them
stare, and set a good many highly-respected brains--my gifted friend
Huysman's, among them--working pretty hard. Of course, he will be
especially furious, but there's no harm in that either. Yes, I shall
certainly do it. If he can't understand my demonstrations, that's not my
concern."

He went and sat down at his desk, still smiling, and went very carefully
through the notes he had already made, and then through Professor
Hartley's letter, and his speculations on the Forty-Seventh Proposition.
This done, he plunged into a fresh vortex of figures, and symbols, and
diagrams, in which he remained for the next two hours, his mind
hovering, as it were, over the borderland which at once divides and
unites the higher and the lower planes. When he returned to earth, the
dreamy, abstracted look faded away from his face; his eyes lit up, and
the pleasant smile came back.

He opened the middle drawer in his desk, and took out the first page of
the fair copy of his notes, which Nitocris had made for him--thinking
the while how easy it would have been for him in the state of N4 to
take it out without opening the drawer at all--and looked at it. It was
headed:

"RECENT PROGRESS IN THE HIGHER MATHEMATICS."

He crossed the title out carefully, and wrote above it:

"AN EXAMINATION OF SOME SUPPOSED MATHEMATICAL IMPOSSIBILITIES."

"There," he murmured, as he put the sheet back; "I think that such a
theme, adequately treated, will considerably astonish my learned friends
in general, and my esteemed critic, Van Huysman, in particular."

From which remark it will be gathered that Franklin Marmion had
certainly recrossed the dividing line between the two Planes of
Existence.



CHAPTER VIII

MISS BRENDA ARRIVES, AND PHADRIG THE EGYPTIAN PROPHESIES


"Now, this is just too sweet of you, Niti, to come so soon after we got
here. In five minutes more I should have written you a note, asking you
and the Professor to come and take lunch with us to-morrow, and here
you've anticipated me, so we have the pleasure of seeing you all the
sooner."

These were the words with which Miss Brenda van Huysman greeted Nitocris
as she entered the drawing-room of the suite of apartments which formed
her home for the time being in London. I say her home advisedly,
because, although her father and mother also occupied it, she was
virtually, if not nominally, mistress undisputed of the splendid
camping-place.

She was an almost perfect type of the highly developed, highly educated
American girl of to-day, a marvellous compound of intense energy and
languorous grace. She had done as brilliantly at Vassar as Nitocris had
done at Girton and London, and she had also rowed stroke in the Ladies'
Eight, and was champion fencer of the College. Yet as far as her
physical presence was concerned, she was just a "Gibson Girl" of the
daintiest type--fair-skinned, blue-eyed, golden-haired--her hair had a
darker gleam of bronze in it in certain lights--exquisitely moulded
features which seemed capable of every sort of expression within a few
changing moments, and a poise of head and carriage of body which only
perfect health and the most scientific physical training can produce. In
a word, she was one of those miraculous developments of femininity which
Nature seems to have made a speciality for the particular benefit of the
younger branch of the Anglo-Saxon race. As for her dress--well, the
shortest and best way to describe that is to say that it exactly suited
her.

As she spoke, and their hands met, Mrs van Huysman got up and came
towards them, saying:

"Good afternoon, Miss Marmion. We were real glad to get your 'phone, and
it's good to see you again. How's the Professor? Too busy to come with
you, I suppose, as usual. We see he's going to lecture before the Royal
Society on the tenth, and I reckon we shall all be there to listen to
him. I shouldn't wonder but there'll be trouble as usual between him and
my husband. It seems a pity that two such clever men should waste so
much time in scrapping over these scientific things, which don't seem to
matter half a cent, anyhow."

"Oh, I don't know," laughed Nitocris, as they shook hands. "You see, Mrs
van Huysman, _they_ do think it matters a great deal, and, besides, I'm
quite sure that they both enjoy it very thoroughly. It's their way of
taking recreation, you see, just as a couple of pitmen will try and
pound one another to pieces, just for the fun of the thing. It's only a
case of intellectual fisticuffs, after all."

"Why, certainly," said Brenda, as she rang for tea; "I'm just sure that
Poppa never has such a good time as when he thinks he's tearing one of
Professor Marmion's theories into little pieces and dancing on them, and
I shouldn't wonder if Professor Marmion didn't feel about the same."

"I dare say he does," said Nitocris, remembering what had happened in
the morning; "it's only one of the thousand unexplained puzzles of human
nature. As you know, my father hates fighting in the physical sense with
a hatred which is almost fanatical, and yet, when it comes to a battle
of wits, he's like a schoolboy in a football match."

"It's just another development of the same thing," said Brenda. "Man was
born a fighting animal, and I guess he'll remain one till the end of
time; and with all our progress in civilisation and science, and all
that, the man who doesn't enjoy a fight of some sort isn't of very much
account. Now, here's tea, which is just now a more interesting subject.
Sit down, and we'll talk about vanities. I'm just perishing to see what
Regent Street and Bond Street are like. I don't think I've spent ten
dollars in London yet. I'm twenty-two to-morrow, Niti, and my
grandfather, who is just about the best grandfather a girl ever had,
cabled across to the Napier people, and they've sent round the dandiest
six-cylinder, thirty-horse landaulette that you ever saw, even in
Central Park, and a driver to match--only I shan't have much use for
him, except to look after the automobile. I'll run you round in her
after tea, and you can reintroduce me to the stores--I mean shops; I
forgot we were in London."

Mrs van Huysman, as usual, took a back seat while her daughter dispensed
tea, and did most of the talking. She was a lady of moderate
proportions, and, unlike a good many American women, she had kept her
good looks until very close on fifty. She was full of shrewd common
sense, but she had been born in a different generation and in a
different grade of life, and therefore her attire inclined rather to
magnificence than to elegance, in spite of her daughter's restraining
hand and frankly expressed counsel. She had a profound respect for her
husband's attainments without in the least understanding them, and she
very naturally held an unshakable belief that no quite ordinary woman,
as she called herself, had ever been miraculously blessed with such a
daughter as she had.

Nitocris was just beginning her second cup of tea when the door opened
and her father's foeman in the arena of Science came in. He was the very
antithesis of Professor Marmion; a trifle below middle height,
square-shouldered and strongly built, with thick, iron-grey hair, and
somewhat heavy features which would have been almost commonplace but for
the broad, square forehead above them, and the brilliant steel-grey
eyes which glittered restlessly under the thick brows, and also a
certain sensitiveness about the nostrils and lips which seemed curiously
out of keeping with the strength of the lower jaw. His whole being
suggested a combination of restless energy and inflexible determination.
If he had not been one of America's greatest scientists, he would
probably have been one of her most ruthless and despotic Dollar Lords.

"Ah, Miss Marmion, good afternoon! Pleased to see you," he said
heartily, as Nitocris got up and held out her hand. "Very kind of you to
look us up so soon. How's the Professor? Well, I hope. I see he's
scheduled for a lecture before the Royal Society. He's got something
startling to tell us about, I hope. It's some time since we had anything
of a scientific scrap between us."

"And therefore," said Nitocris, as she took his hand, "I suppose you are
just dying for another one."

"Well, not quite dying," laughed the Professor. "Don't look half dead,
do I? Just curious, that's all. You can't give me any idea of the
subject, I suppose?"

"I could, Professor," she replied, with a malicious twinkle in her eye,
because she had already had a talk with her father on the altered title
of the lecture, "but if I did, you know, I should only, as we say in
England, be spoiling sport. However, I don't think I shall be playing
traitor if I tell you to prepare for a little surprise."

Professor van Huysman's manner changed instantly, and the warrior soul
of the scientist was in arms.

"Oh yes! A surprise, eh?" he said, with something between a snort and a
snarl in his voice. "Then I guess----"

"Poppa, sit down and have some tea," said his daughter, quietly but
firmly.

He sat down without a word, took his cup of tea and a slice of bread and
butter; listened in silence as long as he could bear the entirely
feminine conversation on a subject in which he hadn't the remotest
interest, and then he put his cup down with a little jerk, got up with a
bigger one, and said, holding out his hand to Miss Nitocris:

"Well, Miss Marmion, I shall have to say good afternoon. You see we've
only just reached this side, and I've got quite a lot of things to
attend to. Bring your father along to dinner to-morrow night, if you
can; I shall be glad to meet him again. You needn't be afraid: we shan't
shoot."

When he had gone, Brenda rang and ordered the motor-car to be ready in
half an hour. Then they finished their tea and talk, and Brenda and
Nitocris went and put on their wraps--not the imitation of the mediæval
armour which is used for serious motor-driving, but just dust-cloaks and
mushrooms, both of which Brenda lent to her friend. As they came back
through the drawing-room, she said to her mother:

"Well, Mamma, the car's ready, I believe. Won't you join us in a little
run round town?"

"When I want to take a run into the Other World in one of those infernal
machines of yours, Brenda," said her mother, with a mild touch of
sarcasm in her tone, "I'll ask you to let me come. This afternoon I feel
just a little bit too comfortable for a journey like that."

"It's a curious thing," said Brenda, as they were going down in the
lift, "Mamma's as healthy a woman as ever lived, and she's American too,
and yet I believe she'd as soon get on top of a broncho as into an
automobile."

The car was waiting for them in the courtyard under the glass awning. A
smart-looking young _chauffeur_ in orthodox costume touched his cap and
set the engine going. The gold-laced porters handed them into the two
front seats, and the _chauffeur_ effaced himself in the _tonneau_. Miss
Brenda put one hand on the steering-wheel and the other on the first
speed lever, and the car slid away, as though it had been running on
ice, towards the great arched entrance.

As they turned to the left on their way westward, a shabbily dressed man
and woman stepped back from the roadway on to the pavement. For a moment
they stared at the car in mute astonishment; then the man gripped the
woman tightly by the arm and led her away out of the ever-passing
throng, whispering to her in Coptic:

"Did'st thou see her, Neb-Anat--the Queen--the Queen in the living flesh
sitting there in the self-mover, the devil-machine? To what unholy
things has she come--she, the daughter of the great Rameses! But it may
be that she is held in bondage under the spell of the evil powers that
created these devil-chariots which pant like souls in agony and breathe
with the breath of Hell. She must be rescued, Neb-Anat."

"Rescued?" echoed the woman, in a tone that was half scorn and half
fear. "Is it so long ago that thou hast forgotten how we tried to rescue
her mummy from the hands of these infidels? Now, behold, she is alive
again, living in the midst of this vast, foul city of the infidels,
clothed after the fashion of their women, and yet still beautiful and
smiling. Pent-Ah, didst thou not even see her laugh as she rode past us?
Alas! I tell thee that our Queen is laid under some awful spell,
doubtless because she has in some way incurred the displeasure of the
High Gods, and if that is so, not even the Master himself could rescue
her. What, then, shall we do?"

"Thy saying is near akin to blasphemy, Neb-Anat," he murmured in reply,
"and yet there may be a deep meaning in it. Nevertheless, to-night, nay,
this hour, the Master must know of what we have seen."

They walked along, conversing in murmurs, as far as Waterloo Bridge,
then they turned and crossed it and walked down Waterloo Road into the
Borough Road, and then turned off into a narrow, grimy street which
ended in a small court whose three sides were formed of wretched houses,
upon which many years of misery, poverty, and crime had set their
unmistakable stamp. They crossed the court diagonally and entered a
house in the right-hand corner. They went up the worn, carpetless stairs
with a rickety handrail on one side and the torn, peeling paper on the
other, and stopped before a door which opened on to a narrow landing on
the first floor. Pent-Ah knocked with his knuckles on the panel, first
three times quickly, and then twice slowly. Then came the sound of the
drawing of a bolt, and the door opened.

They went in with shuffling feet and crouching forms, and the woman
closed the door behind her. A tall, gaunt, yellow-skinned man, his head
perfectly bald and the lower part of his face covered with a heavy white
beard and moustache, faced them. His clothing was half Western, half
Oriental. A pair of thin, creased, grey tweed trousers met, or almost
met, a pair of Turkish slippers, showing an inch of bare, lean ankle in
between. His body was covered with a dirty yellow robe of fine woollen
stuff, whose ragged fringe reached to his knees, and a faded red scarf
was folded twice round his neck, one end hanging down his breast and the
other down his back. As Pent-Ah closed the door and bolted it, he said
to him in Coptic:

"So ye have returned! What news of the Queen? For without that surely ye
would not have dared to come before me."

He spoke the words as a Pharaoh might have spoken them to a slave, and
as though the bare, low-ceiled, shabby room, with its tawdry Oriental
curtains and ornaments, had been an audience-chamber in the palace of
Pepi in old Memphis, for this was he who had once been Anemen-Ha, High
Priest of Ptah, in the days when Nitocris was Queen of the Two Kingdoms.

"We have seen her once more, Lord," said Pent-Ah, "scarce an hour ago,
dressed after the fashion of these heathen English, and seated in a
devil-chariot beside another woman, as fair almost as she. It is true,
Lord, even as we said, that our Lady the Queen is in the flesh again,
and yet she knows us not. It may be that the High Gods have laid some
spell upon her."

"Spell or no spell, the mission which is ours is the same," was the
reply. "It is plain that a miracle has been worked. The Mummy which
we--I as well as you--were charged to recover and restore to its
resting-place, has vanished. The Queen has returned to live yet another
life in the flesh, but the command remains the same. Mummy or woman, she
shall be taken back to her ancient home to await the day when the Divine
Assessors shall determine the penalty of her guilt. The task will be
hard, yet nothing is impossible to those who serve the High Gods
faithfully. Ye have done well to bring me this news promptly. Here is
money to pay for your living and your work. Watch well and closely. Know
every movement that the Queen makes, and every day inform me by word or
in writing of all her actions. On the fourth day from now come here an
hour before midnight. Now go."

He counted out five sovereigns to Pent-Ah. Their glitter contrasted
strangely with the shabby squalor of the room and the poverty of his own
dress, but he gave them as though they had been coppers. Pent-Ah took
them with a low obeisance, and dropped them one by one into a pocket in
a canvas belt which he wore under his ragged waistcoat. Neb-Anat looked
at them greedily as they disappeared.

"The Master's commands shall be obeyed, and the High Gods shall be
faithfully served," said Pent-Ah, as he straightened himself up again.
"From door to door the Queen shall be watched, and, if it be permitted,
Neb-Anat shall become her slave, and so the watch shall be made closer.
Is not that so, Neb-Anat?"

"The will of the Master is the law of his slave," she replied, sinking
almost to her knees.

"It is enough," replied the Master, who was known to the few who knew
him as Phadrig Amena, a Coptic dealer in ancient Egyptian relics and
curios in a humble way of business. "Serve faithfully, both of you, and
your reward shall not be wanting. Farewell, and the peace of the High
Gods be on you."

When they had gone he sat down to the old bureau, took out a sheaf of
papers, some white and new, others yellow-grey with age, and yet others
which were sheets of the ancient papyrus. The writing on these was in
the old Hermetic character; of the rest some were in cursive Greek and
some in Coptic. A few only were in English, and about half a dozen in
Russian. He read them all with equal ease, and although he knew their
contents almost by heart, he pored over them for a good half-hour with
scarcely so much as a movement of his lips. Then he put them away and
locked the drawer with one of a small bunch of curiously shaped keys
which were fastened round his waist by a chain. When he had concealed
them in his girdle, he got up and began to pace the floor of the
miserable room with long, stately, silent steps as though the dirty,
cracked, uneven boards had been the gleaming squares of alternate black
and white marble of the floor of the Sanctuary in the now ruined Temple
of Ptah in old Memphis. Then, after a while, with head thrown proudly
back and hands clasped behind him, he began to speak in the Ancient
Tongue, as though he were addressing some invisible presence.

"Yes, truly the Powers of Evil and Darkness have conquered through many
generations of men, but the days of the High Gods are unending, and the
climax of Fate is not yet. Not yet, O Nitocris, is the murderous crime
of thy death-bridal forgotten. The souls of those who died by thy hand
in the banqueting chamber of Pepi still call for vengeance out of the
glooms of Amenti. The thirst of hate and the hunger of love are still
unslaked and unsatisfied. I, Phadrig, the poor trader, who was once
Anemen-Ha, hate thee still, and the Russian warrior-prince, who was once
Menkau-Ra, shall love thee yet again with a love as fierce as that of
old, and so, if the High Gods permit, between love and hate shalt thou
pass to the doom that thou hast earned."

He paused in his walk and stood staring blankly out of the grimy little
window with eyes which seemed to see through and beyond the
smoke-blackened walls of the wretched houses opposite, and away through
the mists of Time to where a vast city of temples and palaces lay under
a cloudless sky beside a mighty slow-flowing river, and his lips began
to move again as those of a man speaking in a dream:

"O Memphis, gem of the Ancient Land and home of a hundred kings, how is
thy grandeur humbled and thy glory departed! Thy streets and broad
places which once rang with the tramp of mighty hosts and echoed with
the songs of jubilant multitudes welcoming them home from victory are
buried under the drifting desert sands; in the ruins of thy holy temples
the statues of the gods lie prone in the dust, and the owl rears her
brood on thy crumbling altars, and hoots to the moon where once rose the
solemn chant of priests and the sweet hymns of the Sacred Virgins; the
jackal barks where once the mightiest monarchs of earth gave judgment
and received tribute; thy tombs are desecrated, and the mummies of kings
and queens and holy men have been ravished from them to adorn the
unconsecrated halls of the museums of ignorant infidels; the heel of the
heathen oppressor has stamped the fair flower of thy beauty into the
deep dust of defilement. Alas, what great evil have the sons and
daughters of Khem wrought that the High Gods should have visited them
with so sore a judgment! How long shall thy bright wings lie folded and
idle, O Necheb, Bringer of Victory?"

A deep sigh came from his heaving breast as he turned away and began his
walk again. Soon he spoke again, but now in a changed voice from which
the note of exaltation had passed away:

"But it is of little use to brood over the lost glories of the past. Our
concern is with that which is and that which may--nay, shall be. Who is
this Franklin Marmion, this wise man of the infidels? Who is he, and who
was he--since, by the changeless law of life and death, each man and
woman is a deathless soul which passes into the shadows only to return
re-garbed in the flesh to live and work through the interlocked cycles
of Eternal Destiny? Was he--ah Gods! was _he_ once Ma-Rim[=o]n, whose
footsteps in the days that are dead approached so nearly to the
threshold of the Perfect Knowledge, while mine, doubtless for the sin of
my longing for mere earthly power and greatness, were caught and held
back in a web of my own weaving? And, if so, has he attained while I
have lost?

"What if that strange tale which Pent-Ah and Neb-Anat told me of their
visit to his house--told, as I thought, to hide their failure under a
veil of lies--was true? If so, then he has passed the threshold and
taken a place only a little lower than the seats of the gods, a place
that I may not approach, barred by the penalty of my accursed folly and
pride! Ah well, be it so or be it not, are not the fates of all men in
the hands of the High Gods who see all things? We see but a little, and
that little, with their help, we must do according to the faith and the
hope that is in us."

At this moment there came a knock at the door. It opened at his bidding,
and a dirty-faced, ragged-frocked little girl shuffled into the room
holding out a letter in her hard, grimy, claw-like hand.

"'Ere's somethin' as has just come for you, Mister Phadrig. Muvver told
me ter bring it up, and wot'll yer want for supper, and will yer give me
the money?" she said in a piping monotone, still holding out her hand
after he had taken the letter. He gave her sixpence, saying:

"Two eggs and some bread. I will make my coffee myself."

She took the coin and shuffled out quickly, for she went not a little in
awe of this dark-faced foreign man from mysterious regions beyond her
ken, who was doubtless a magician of some sort, and could kill her or
change her into a rat by just breathing on her, if he wanted to.

Meantime Nitocris and Brenda were having what the latter called "a
perfectly lovely time" in Regent Street and Bond Street and other
purlieus of that London paradise which the genius of commerce has
created for the delight of his richest and most lavish-handed votaries.
Brenda spent her ten dollars and a few thousands more, and then, as it
was getting on to dinner-time and Nitocris absolutely refused to let her
father eat his meal alone, she ran her out to Wimbledon at a speed for
which a mere man would have inevitably been fined, asked herself to
dinner, and made herself entirely delightful to the Professor.

But in spite of all her cunning wiles and winning ways she left in
absolute ignorance of the subject of the forthcoming lecture.



CHAPTER IX

"THE WILDERNESS," WIMBLEDON COMMON


The little estate on Wimbledon Common, which had been in Professor
Marmion's family for three generations, was called "The Wilderness." The
house was of distinctly composite structure. Tradition said that it had
been a royal hunting lodge in the days when Barnes and Putney and
Wimbledon were tiny hamlets and the Thames flowed silver-clear through a
vast, wild region of forest and gorse and heather, and the ancestors of
the deer in Richmond Park browsed in the shade of ancient oaks and elms
and beeches, and antler-crowned monarchs sent their hoarse challenges
bellowing across the open spaces which separated their jealously guarded
domains.

Generation by generation it had grown with the wealth and importance of
its owners, as befits a house that is really a home and not merely a
place to live in, until it had become a quaint medley of various styles
of architecture from the Elizabethan to the later Georgian. Thus it had
come to possess a charm that was all its own, a charm that can never
belong to a house that has only been built, and has not grown. Its
interior was an embodiment in stone and oak and plaster of cosy comfort
and dignified repose, and, though it contained every "modern
improvement," all was in such perfect taste and harmony that even the
electric light might have been installed in the days of the first James.

The Professor inhabited the northern wing, reputed to have been the
original lodge in which kings and queens and great soldiers and
statesmen had held revel after the chase, and tradition had endowed it
with a quite authentic ghost: which was that of a fair maiden who had
been decoyed thither to become the victim of royal passion, and who,
strangely enough, poisoned herself in her despair, instead of getting
herself made a duchess and founding the honours of a noble family on her
own dishonour.

Although, as I have said, quite authentic, for the Professor had seen
her so often that he had come to regard her with respectful friendship,
the Lady Alicia was not quite an orthodox ghost. She did not come at
midnight and wail in distressing fashion over the scene of her sad and
shameful death. She seemed to come when and where she listed, whether in
the glimpses of the moon or the full sunlight of mid-day. She never
passed beyond the limits of the old lodge, and never broke the silence
of her coming and goings. None of the present inhabitants of "The
Wilderness" had seen her save the Professor, but Nitocris had often
shivered with a sudden chill when she chanced to be in her invisible
presence, and at such times she would often say to her father:

"There is something cold in the room, Dad. I suppose your friend the
Lady Alicia is paying you a visit. I _do_ wish she would allow me to
make her acquaintance."

And to this he would sometimes reply with perfect gravity:

"Yes, she has just come in: she is standing by the window yonder." And
this had happened so often that Nitocris, like her father, had come to
regard the wraith, or astral body, as the Professor deemed it, of the
unhappy lady almost as a member of the family. Of course, after he had
passed the border into the realm of N4, Franklin Marmion speedily came
to look upon her visits as the merest commonplaces.

But as the unhappy Lady Alicia will have no part to play in the action
of this narrative, her little story must be accepted as a perhaps
excusable digression.

There were about four acres of comfortably wooded land about the house,
of which nearly an acre had formed the pleasaunce of the old lodge. This
was now a beautifully-kept modern garden, with a broad, gently-sloping
lawn, whose turf had been growing more and more velvety year by year for
over three centuries, and divided from it by a low box-hedge was
another, levelled up and devoted to tennis and new-style croquet. The
Old Lawn, as it was called, sloped away from a broad verandah which ran
the whole length of the central wing and formed the approach to the big
drawing-room and dining-room, and a cosy breakfast-room of early
Georgian style, and these, with her study and "snuggery" and bedroom on
the next floor, formed the peculiar domain of Miss Nitocris.

She and the Professor were just sitting down to an early breakfast on
the morning of the garden-party, which had been arranged for the day but
one after the arrival of the Huysmans, when the post came in. There were
a good many letters for both, for each had many interests in life. The
Professor only ran his eye over the envelopes and then put the bundle
aside for consideration in the solitude of his own den. Nitocris did the
same, picked one out and left the others for similar treatment after she
had interviewed the cook about lunch and refreshments for the afternoon,
and the butler on the subject of cooling drinks, for it promised to be a
perfect English day in June--which is, of course, the most delicious day
that you may find under any skies between the Poles.

She opened the one she had selected and skimmed its contents. Then her
eyelids lifted, and she said:

"Oh!"

"What is the matter, Niti?" asked her father, looking up from his
cutlet. "Nothing gone wrong with your arrangements, I hope."

"Oh dear, no," she replied, with something like exultation in her voice,
"quite the reverse, Dad. This is from Brenda, and Brenda is an angel
disguised in petticoats and picture hats. Listen."

Then she began to read:

     "MY DEAREST NITI,--I am going to take what I'm afraid
     English people would think a great liberty. The trouble is this:
     When the Professor (mine, I mean) was making his tour of the
     Russian Universities two years ago, he received a great deal of
     courtesy and help from no less a person than the celebrated Prince
     Oscar Oscarovitch--the modern Skobeleff, you know--who was very
     interested in Poppa's work, and took a lot of trouble to smooth
     things out for him. Well, the Prince, as of course you know, is in
     London now. He called yesterday, and when I mentioned your party,
     he said he was very sorry he had not the honour of your father's
     acquaintance as well as mine. The grammar's a bit wrong there, but
     you know what I mean. That, of course, meant that he wants to come;
     and, to be candid, I should like to bring him, for even an American
     girl here doesn't always get a Prince, and a famous man as well, to
     take around, so, as the time is so short, may we include him in our
     party? If you have forgiven me and are going to say 'yes,' I must
     tell you that the Prince would like to compensate for his
     intrusion--that's the way he puts it--by helping entertain your
     guests. It seems that he has met with a man who can work miracles,
     an Egyptian----"

At this point Professor Marmion looked up again suddenly with an almost
imperceptible start, and, for the first time, took an interest in Miss
Huysman's letter.

     "----named Phadrig. The Prince assures me that he is not a
     conjurer in the professional sense, and would be deeply insulted
     to be called one; also that no amount of money would induce him to
     give a display of his powers just _for_ money. He will come to-day,
     if you like, and do wonderful things, which, from what the Prince
     says, will astonish and perhaps frighten us a bit, but only because
     the Prince once saved his life and got him out of a very bad place
     he had got into with a Turkish Pascha. Now, that is my little
     story. Please 'phone me as soon as you can so that I can let the
     Prince know. It will be just too sweet of you and the Professor to
     say 'yes.'

      --Your devoted chum,                                    BRENDA."


"Well, Dad," she asked, as she put the letter down, "what do you say?"

"Just what you want to say, my dear Niti," he replied, carefully
spreading some marmalade on a triangle of toast "Personally, I must
confess that I should rather like to see some of this so-called
magician's alleged magic. I know that some of these fellows are
extraordinarily clever, and I have no doubt that he will show us
something interesting, if you care to see it."

"Then that settles it," said Nitocris, rising; "I will go and ring up
the Savoy at once. Perhaps the Egyptian gentleman might be able to help
you with that Forty-Seventh Proposition problem of Professor Hartley's."

"Perhaps," answered Franklin Marmion drily, and went on with his
breakfast.



CHAPTER X

THE STAGE FILLS


The party which gradually assembled on the lawn about four was somewhat
small, but very select. Nitocris had too much common sense and too much
real consideration for her friends and acquaintances to get together a
mere mob of well-dressed people of probably incompatible tastes and
temperament, and call it a party. She disliked an elbowing crowd and a
clatter of fashionably shrill tongues with all the aversion of a
delicately developed sensibility. No consideration of rank or social
power or wealth had the slightest weight with her when she was
distributing cards of invitation, wherefore the said cards were all the
more eagerly awaited by those who did, and did not, get them. The result
of this in the present case was that, although every one accepted and
came, rather less than fifty people had the run of the broad lawns and
the leafy wilderness about them on that momentous afternoon.

The first of the arrivals was Professor Hartley, reputed to be the
greatest mathematician in England. He was a large man with rather heavy
features, lit up by alert grey eyes, a big, dome-like cranium, and a
manner that was modest almost to diffidence. He brought his wife, a
slim and somewhat stern-featured lady, who, in the domestic sense, kept
him in his place with inflexible decision, and worshipped him in his
professional capacity, and two pretty, well-dressed, and obviously
well-bred daughters. Their carriage drew up, turned into the drive
precisely at four. Punctuality was the Professor's one and only social
vice.

Next came Commander Merrill in a hansom. This would be one of the very
few meetings that he could hope for with his lost beloved--as he now
sadly thought of her--before he put H.M.S. _Blazer_ into commission, and
so punctuality on his part was both natural and excusable. Then came a
few more carriages containing very nice people with whom we have here
but little concern; and then Miss Brenda, deeply regretting her
beautiful Napier, with her father and mother in a very smart Savoy
turn-out followed by a coronetted brougham drawn by a splendid pair of
black Orloffs. This was followed by an equally smart dog-cart driven by
a rather slightly-built but well set-up young man with a light
moustache, bronzed skin, and brilliant blue eyes. He was good-looking,
but if his features had been absolutely plain he could never have looked
commonplace, for this was Lord Lester Leighton, son of the Earl of
Kyneston, and twenty generations of unblemished descent had made him the
aristocrat that he was.

Nitocris did not like pompous announcements by servants, and so she
received her guests, who were all acquaintances or friends, in the
great porch through which many a brilliant presence had passed, and had
two maids waiting inside to see to the wants of the ladies, and their
own coachman and a couple of grooms to attend to matters outside.

Merrill was made as happy as possible by a bright smile, a real
hand-clasp instead of the usual Society paw-waggle, and instructions to
go and make himself agreeable and useful. Brenda also received a hearty
"shake"--Nitocris did not believe in kissing in public--and when the
Professor and Mrs Huysman had gone in, she whispered:

"I suppose that's the Prince's brougham. You must wait here, dear, and
do the introductions. You're responsible, you know."

Brenda assented with a nod and a smile, as the brougham drew up and the
smart tiger jumped down and opened the door. The Prince got out, and was
followed by Phadrig the Adept. As she looked at the two men, Nitocris
felt as though a wave of cold air had suddenly enveloped her whole
being--body and soul.

"Niti, this is our friend, Prince Oscar Oscarovitch, whom you have been
kind enough to let me invite by proxy. Prince, this is Miss Nitocris
Marmion."

Of course all the world knew of Oscar Oscarovitch, the modern Skobeleff,
the lineal descendant of Ivan the Terrible, the crystal-brained,
steel-willed man who was to be the saviour and regenerator of
half-ruined, revolution-rent Russia, but this was the first time that
Nitocris had met him in her present life. When she had returned his
stately bow, she looked up and saw with a strange intuition, which
somehow seemed half-reminiscent an almost perfect type of the primitive
warrior through the disguise of his faultless twentieth-century attire.
He was nearly two inches over six feet, but he was so exquisitely
proportioned that he looked less than his height. His skin was fair and
smooth, but tanned to an olive-brown. His forehead was of medium height,
straight and square, with jet-black brows drawn almost straight across
it above a pair of rather soft, dreamy eyes that were blue or black
according to the mood of their possessor. His nose was strong and
slightly curved, with delicately sensitive nostrils. A dark glossy
moustache and beard trimmed _à la_ Tsar, partly hid full, almost sensual
lips and a powerful somewhat projecting chin.

As their eyes met the shiver of revulsion passed through her again. She
hardly heard his murmured compliments, but her attention awoke when he
turned to the man who was standing behind him, and said with a very
graceful gesture of his left hand:

"Miss Marmion, this is the gentleman whom you have so graciously
permitted me to bring to your house. This is Phadrig the Adept, as he is
known in his own ancient land of Egypt, a worker of wonders which really
are wonders, and not mere sleight-of-hand conjuring tricks. He has been
good enough to accompany me in order to convince the learned of the West
that the Immemorial East could still teach it something if it chose."

Nitocris bowed, and as she looked at the figure which now stood beside
the Prince, she shivered again. She had a swift sense of standing in the
presence of implacable enemies, and yet she had never seen these men
before, and, for all she knew, she had not an enemy in the world. She
was intensely relieved when Lord Lester Leighton came up and held out
his hand, and she was able to ask the Prince and his companion to go
through to the lawn.

No one would have recognised the shabby denizen of the grimy room in
Candler's Court, Borough High Street, in the tall, dignified Eastern
gentleman who walked with slow and stately step through the spacious old
hall of "The Wilderness." He was clad in a light frock-coat suit of
irreproachable cut and fit. The correctly-creased trousers met
brightly-burnished, narrow-toed tan boots; a black-tasselled scarlet
tarbush was set square on his high forehead, and the dark red tie under
his two-ply collar just added the necessary touch of Oriental colour to
his costume, and went excellently with the lighter red of the tarbush.
It is hardly necessary to say that when he and the Prince went out on to
the lawn, they were, as a Society paper report of the function would
have put it, "the observed of all observers."

"I'm so glad you were able to be here in time for my little party, Lord
Leighton," said Nitocris, when she had ended the welcoming of the other
guests. "Dad will be delighted, too----"

She stopped rather suddenly, remembering that Dad would have to tell his
young friend the sad story of the mysterious loss of the Mummy; but
another subject was uppermost in her mind just then, and, taking refuge
in it, she went on quickly:

"Come along to the lawn. I want to introduce you to a very distinguished
gentleman--and his wife and daughter. No less a person, my lord, than
the great Professor Hoskins van Huysman!"

"What!" exclaimed Leighton, with a laugh that was almost boyish for such
a serious and learned young man. "_The_ Huysman: the Professor's most
doughty antagonist in the arena of symbols and theorems? Oh, now that
_is_ good!"

"Yes; I think you will find him very interesting," replied Nitocris,
hoping in her soul that he would find Brenda a great deal more
interesting. "Come along, or Dad will be beginning to think that I am
neglecting my duties, and I must be on quite my best behaviour to-day.
We are favoured by the presence of another very celebrated celebrity
to-day. That tall man who came in just before you was Prince Oscar
Oscarovitch."

"Oh yes," he said lightly; "I recognised the brute."

"The brute? Dear me, that is rather severe. Then you know His Highness?"
she asked in a low, almost eager, voice.

"There are not many men in the Near or Far East who have not some cause
to know His Highness," he replied in a serious tone, tinged by the
suspicion of a sneer. "He is about the finest specimen of the
well-veneered savage that even Russia has produced for the last
century. He is a brilliant scholar, statesman, and soldier; delightful
among his equals--or those he chooses to consider so--charming to men,
and, they say, almost irresistible to women; but to his opponents and
his inferiors, a pitiless brute-beast without heart, or soul, or honour.
A curious mixture: but that's the man."

"How awful!" murmured Nitocris. "Fancy a man like that being in such a
position!"

But, although she did not understand why, she had heard his
harshly-spoken words with a positive sense of relief. They exactly
translated and crystallised her first inexplicable feelings of desperate
aversion--almost of terror.

She led Leighton to a little group on the left side of the lawn,
composed of the three Professors and the wives and daughters of two of
them. As they approached them, Nitocris became sensible of a curious
kind of nervousness. She did not know that by this commonplace action
she was reuniting two links in a long-severed chain of destiny, but she
had a dim consciousness that she was going to do something much more
important than merely introducing two strangers to each other. She
looked quite anxiously at Brenda, who had turned towards them as they
came near, and saw that, just for the fraction of a second, her eyes
brightened, and a passing flush deepened the delicate colour in her
cheeks. It was almost like a glance of recognition, and yet she had only
heard his name two or three times, and certainly had never seen him
before. Then she looked swiftly at Leighton. Yes, there was a flush
under his tan and a new light in his eyes. When she had completed the
introductions she looked away for a moment, and said in her soul:

"Thank goodness! If that is not a case of love at first sight, I shan't
believe that there is any such thing, whatever the poets and romancers
may say."

Yes, her womanly intuition was right as far as it reached; but she could
not yet grasp the full meaning of the marvel which she had helped to
bring about. With her father, she believed in the Doctrine of
Re-Incarnation as the only one which affords a logical and entirely just
solution of the bewildering puzzles and ghastly problems of human life
as seen by the eyes of ignorance. She had grasped in its highest meaning
the truth--that Man is really a living soul, living from eternity to
eternity. An immortality with one end to it was to her an unthinkable
proposition which could not possibly be true. For her, as for her
father, Eternal Life and Eternal Justice were one. Where a man ended one
life, from that point he began the next: for good or for evil, for
ignorance or for knowledge. A life lived and ended in righteousness
(not, of course, in the narrow theological sense of the term) began
again in righteousness, and in evil meant inexorably a re-beginning in
evil. That was Fate, because it was also immutable Justice. Man
possessed the Divine gift of free will to use or abuse as he would, so
far as his own life-conduct was concerned; but there was no evasion of
the adamantine law of the survival and progress of the fittest, which,
in the course of ages, infallibly proved to be the best. This, in a
word, was why "some are born to honour and some to dishonour."

Yet she had still to fathom an even subtler mystery than this: the
mystery of sexual love. Why should one man and one woman, out of all the
teeming millions of humanity, be irresistibly attracted to each other by
a force which none can analyse or define? Why should a woman, confronted
with the choice between two men, one of whom possesses every apparent
advantage over the other, yet feel her heart go out to that other, and
impel her to follow him, even to the leaving of father and mother and
home, and all else that has been dear to her? Why in the soul of every
true man and woman is Love, when it comes, made Lord of all, and all in
all? It is because Love is co-eternal with Life, and these two have
loved, perchance wedded, many times before in other lives which they
have lived together, and, with the succession of these lives, their love
has grown stronger and purer, until "falling in love" is merely a
recognition of lovers; unconscious, no doubt, to those who have not
progressed far enough in wisdom, but none the less necessary and
inevitable for that.[1]

Is it not from ignorance of this truth, or wilful denial of this law,
that all the miseries of mismarriage come forth? Again the woman has
the choice. She obeys the bidding of her own lust of wealth and comfort
and social power, or she submits to the pressure of family influence, or
the stress of poverty, and crushes--or thinks she does--the ages-old
love out of her heart and marries the man she does not love, never has
loved, and never can. She has defied the eternal Law of Selection. She
has desecrated the sanctity of an immortal soul, and she has defiled the
temple of her body. She has sold herself for a price in the
market-place, and has become a prostitute endowed by law with a
conventional respectability, and for this crime she pays the penalty of
unsated heart-hunger. Instead of the fruits of Eden distilling their
sweet juices into her blood, the apples of Gomorrah turn perpetually to
ashes in her mouth. Often weariness and despair drive her to the brief
intoxication of the anodyne of adultery, a further crime which is only
the natural consequence of the first.

But it must not be thought that women are the only sexual criminals.
There are male as well as female prostitutes made respectable by
convention, and the debt-burdened man of title who marries to get gold
to re-gild his tarnished coronet is the worst of these; for too often he
drags an innocent but ignorant maiden down to his own vile level. Yet
the chief criminal of all is not the individual, but the Society which
not only encourages, but too often compels the crime. For this it also
pays the penalty. The collective crime brings the collective curse,
for, if human history proves anything, it proves that the Society which
persistently denies the Law of Selection, and continually defiles the
Altar of Love, in the end goes down through a foul welter of lust and
greed and gluttony into the nethermost Pit of Destruction.

Nitocris had not learned this yet. It was not within the plan of Eternal
Justice that her virgin soul, purified by the strenuous labour of many
lives towards the Light, should yet be darkened by the shadow of such
grim knowledge as this. It was enough for her now that she should be the
ministering angel of Love and Light.

But at the same moment, standing on that smooth, shady lawn, there were
also two incarnations of the destroying angels of Hate and Darkness, for
even here, amidst this pleasant scene of seemingly innocent pleasure and
laughter, the Eternal Conflict was being continued, as it is and must
be, wherever man comes in contact with his kith and kind.

Soon after Nitocris and Brenda had joined the group, Phadrig approached
the Prince, who happened for the moment to be standing alone at the
bottom of the lawn, and said softly in Russian:

"Highness, my dream, as you are pleased to call it, has proved true.
That is the Queen--she who was once the daughter of the great Rameses,
Lady of the Upper and Lower Kingdoms."

"What?" laughed the Prince. "Miss Marmion, that lovely English girl,
your old Egyptian Mummy re-vivified! Well, have it as you like. You are
welcome to your dreams as long as you use your arts to help me to lay
hands on the beautiful reality. I have seen many a fair woman, and
thought myself in love with some of them, but by the beard of Ivan, I
have never seen one like this. I tell you, Phadrig, that the moment my
eyes looked for the first time into hers, only a few minutes ago, I knew
that I had found my fate, and, having found it, I shall take very good
care that I don't lose it. And you shall help me to keep it; I shall try
every fair means first to make her my princess, for, whether she was
once Queen of Egypt or not, she is worthy now to sit beside a sovereign
on his throne--and it might be that I could some day give her such a
place--but have her I will, if not as fairly-won wife and consort, then
as stolen slave and plaything, to keep as long as my fancy lasts. And
listen, Phadrig," he went on in a low tone, but with savage intensity.
"Your life is mine, for I gave it back to you when the lifting of a
finger would have sent you into what you would call another incarnation;
and from this day forth you must devote it to this end until it is
attained, one way or the other. I know you don't care for money as
wealth, but in this world it is the right hand of power, and that you
love. All that you need shall be yours for the asking in exchange for
your faithful service. Are you content with the bargain?"

"No, Highness, that will not content me," replied Phadrig, in a voice
that had no expression save unalterable resolve.

"What! Is not that enough for you, a penniless seller of curios?" said
the Prince, with a sneer in his tone. "Then I will add to it the ready
aid and unquestioning obedience of our secret police, here and in
Europe. Will that satisfy you?"

"I do not need the help of your police, Highness," answered the
Egyptian, in the same passionless accents. "They are skilful and brave,
but they have not the Greater Knowledge. I could turn the wisest of them
into a fool, and frighten the bravest out of his senses in a few
minutes. Use them yourself, Highness, should it become necessary. They
would be less than useless to me."

"Then what will satisfy you?" asked the Prince impatiently, but with no
show of anger, for he knew the strange power of the man whose help he
needed.

"I do not ask you to believe in the reality of what you call my dreams,
Highness," replied Phadrig slowly, "but I do ask--nay, I require, as the
price of my faithful service, your solemn promise in writing, signed and
attested, that, if and when my dreams become realities, and your own
hopes are fulfilled, the independence and sovereignty of the Ancient
Land shall be restored; her temples and tombs and palaces shall be
rebuilt; her ancient worship revived in my person, and the sceptre of
Rameses replaced in the hand of Nitocris the Queen."

The Prince was silent for a few moments. To grant the seemingly
extravagant demand meant to reduce the splendid dream and scheme of his
life to cold, tangible writing, and to put into this man's hand the
power to betray him. On the other hand, their aims were one, and only
through him could Phadrig hope to realise his dreams. Of course they
were only dreams; but he was faithful to them, and so he would be
faithful to him. At the worst it would be easy to arrange a burglary,
or, for the matter of that, a murder in Candler's Court, and that would
make an end of the matter.

"Very well, Phadrig," he said at length. "It is settled. I will trust
you, for it is necessary that we should trust each other. You shall have
what you ask for within a week. Now I must go. I shall tell them that I
have been arranging the exhibition of your powers which you are going to
give them. It will be well to startle them sufficiently to shake their
British beef-sense up into something like fear. Make them wonder, but,
for the sake of our hostess, don't frighten them too much."

Phadrig only acknowledged his promise with a bow, and he turned away and
joined the growing group in which Nitocris and Brenda were still the
central objects of attraction.

+------------------------------------------------------------+
|FOOTNOTE:                                                   |
|                                                            |
|[1] The Doctrine, of course, affords the same explanation of|
|friendships between man and man, and woman and woman.       |
|                                                            |
+------------------------------------------------------------+



CHAPTER XI

THE MARVELS OF PHADRIG


The time, about an hour or so before tea, was occupied by the guests
according to their varying tastes--in tennis, croquet, more or less
good-natured gossip, and flirtations which may or may not have been
serious.

Nitocris saw with growing cause for self-gratulation that Lord Leighton
and Brenda were decidedly attracted towards each other. He, in spite of
having received his gracious, but, as he well knew, final _congé_ from
Nitocris, still felt that he was not quite playing the game with
himself; but for all that it was impossible for him not to see that the
emotion, which was even now stirring in his heart, awakened by the first
touch of Brenda's hand, and the first meeting of their eyes, was
something very different from the tenderly respectful admiration, the
real friendship, inevitably exalted by the magic of sex, which, as he
saw now, he had innocently mistaken for love.

He managed quite adroitly to separate Brenda from the circle, and to
lure her into a stroll about the outside grounds, during which he told
her the history and traditions of "The Wilderness" not, of course,
omitting the sad little tragedy of the Lady Alicia, all of which Miss
Brenda listened to with an interest which was not, perhaps, wholly
derived from the story itself. She had never yet met any one who was
quite like this learned, much-travelled, quiet-spoken young aristocrat.
On her father's side she was descended from one of the oldest
Knickerbocker families in the State of New York and her aristocracy
responded instinctively to his, and formed a first bond between them.

It need hardly be said that her beauty and her prospective wealth, to
say nothing of the bright, mental, and intellectual atmosphere in which
she seemed to live and move, had attracted to her many men whom she had
inspired with a very genuine desire to link their lives with hers. She
was only twenty-two, but she had already refused more than one coronet
of respectable dignity, and so far her heart had remained as virgin as
it was when she had admired herself in her first long skirt. But now,
for the first time in her life, she began to feel a strange disquietude
in the presence of a man, and a man, too, whom she had not known for an
hour. Nitocris had, happily, told her nothing of what had passed between
Lord Leighton and herself, and so the pleasant element in her
disquietude was entirely unalloyed.

Her father was already too deeply engrossed in learned converse with his
brother professors to take any notice of the great fact which was
beginning to get itself accomplished; but her mother's instinct
instantly noticed the subtle change that had come over her daughter,
and she saw it with anything but displeasure. All sensible mothers of
beautiful daughters are discreetly sanguine. She was far too wise in her
generation not to have agreed with Brenda's decision in certain former
cases. The idea of her daughter's beauty and her father's millions being
bartered for mere rank and social power, however splendid, was utterly
repugnant to her. She had married for love, and she wanted Brenda to do
the same, whoever the chosen man might be, provided always that he was a
man--and in this regard there could be no doubt about Lord Lester
Leighton; so as they walked away she said to Nitocris with a confidence
which was almost girlish:

"His Lordship is just delightful--now, isn't he, Miss Marmion? Just the
sort that you seem to raise over here, and nowhere else. Tells you that
you have to take him for a gentleman and nothing else in the first three
words he says to you--and Brenda seems to like him. I never saw her go
off with a man like that on such short notice, for Brenda's pretty proud
and cold with men, for all her nice ways and high spirits."

"You would have to search a long time, Mrs van Huysman," replied
Nitocris very demurely, "before you found a better type of the real
English gentleman than Lord Leighton. His family is one of the oldest in
the country, and, unlike too many of our noble families, the Kynestons
have no bar-sinister on their escutcheon."

"I guess you're getting a little beyond me there, Miss Marmion. I don't
think I ever heard of a--what is it?--a bar-sinister, before. What might
it be?"

Nitocris flushed very faintly as she replied:

"I think I can explain it best, Mrs van Huysman, by saying that it means
that Lord Leighton's ancestors have preserved their honour unstained
through many generations. Of course, you know that some of our so-called
noble families in England spring from anything but a noble origin. There
are not a few English dukes and earls who would find it rather awkward
to introduce their great-great-grandmothers to their present circle of
friends."

"I should think they would, from what I have read of them, the shameless
creatures!" said Mrs van Huysman, with a sniff of real republican
virtue.

Then the Prince joined them, and the conversation was promptly switched
off on to another line of interest.

Tea was served on the Old Lawn under the shade of the great cedars,
which made its greatest adornment; and when everybody had had what he or
she wanted, and the men had lit their cigarettes--and the Professors, by
special permission, their pipes--Nitocris looked across a couple of
tables at Oscarovitch, whom she had so far managed most adroitly to keep
at an endurable distance, and said:

"Now, Prince, if your friend the Adept is in the mood to astonish us
with his wonders, perhaps you will be good enough to tell him that we
are all ready and willing to be startled--only I hope that he will be
merciful to our ignorance and not frighten us too much."

"I can assure you, Miss Marmion, that my good friend from Egypt will be
discretion itself," replied the Prince, with a look and a courtly
gesture that inspired Commander Merrill with an almost passionate
longing to take him down one of the quiet paths under the beeches for a
ten minutes' interlude. "I can promise that he will show you some
marvels which even your learned and distinguished father and his
_confrères_ may find difficult of explanation: but it shall all be white
magic. I understand that your real adept considers the black variety as
what you call bad form."

As the company rose and went in little groups towards the tennis-lawn,
where Phadrig had elected to display his powers, the three Professors
instinctively joined each other in a small phalanx of scepticism. If
there was any trick or deception to be discovered all looked to them to
do it, and they were almost gleefully aware of their responsibility.
Figuratively speaking, they each wore the scalps of many spiritualistic
mediums, and both Professor van Huysman and Professor Hartley sensed a
possible addition to their belts of scientific wampum which would not be
the least of their trophies. It had been agreed to by Phadrig, with a
quiet scorn, that they were to take any measures they liked to detect
him in any practice that would convict him of being merely a conjurer;
and they had accepted the permission with that whole-souled devotion to
truth which excludes all idea of pity from the really scientific mind.
Franklin Marmion was naturally in a very different frame of mind,
although, from reasons of high policy, he assumed a similar mask of
almost scornful scepticism; but for all that he was by far the most
anxious man in the company.

At the request of their hostess the guests arranged themselves sitting
and standing in a spacious circle on the tennis-lawn; and when this was,
formed, Phadrig, whose isolation so far from the rest of the company had
been satisfactorily explained by the Prince, walked slowly into the
middle of it, and, after a quick, keen glance round him--a glance which
rested for just a moment or so on Professor Marmion and his _confrères_,
and then on Nitocris, who was sitting beside Brenda attended by Lord
Leighton and Merrill--he said in a low but clear and far-reaching voice,
and in perfect English:

"Ladies and gentlemen, I have come to the house of the learned Professor
Marmion at the request of my very good friend and patron, His Highness
Prince Oscar Oscarovitch, to give you a little display of what I may
call white magic. But before I begin I must ask you to accept my word of
honour as a humble student of the mysteries of what, for want of a
better word, we call Nature, that I am not in any sense a conjurer, by
which I mean one who performs apparent marvels by merely deceiving your
senses.

"What I am going to show you, you really will see. My marvels, if you
please to think them such, will be realities, not illusions; and I shall
be pleased if you will take every means to satisfy yourselves that they
are so. I say this with all the more pleasure because I know that there
are present three gentlemen of great eminence in the world of science,
and if they are not able to detect me in anything approaching trickery,
I think you will take their word for it that I am not deceiving you.

"In order that there may not be the smallest possible chance of error, I
will ask Professors Marmion, Hartley, and Van Huysman to come and stand
near to me, so that they may be satisfied that I make use of none of the
mere conjurer's apparatus. I shall use nothing but the knowledge, and
therefore the power, to which it has been my privilege to attain."

Phadrig spoke with all the calm confidence of perfect self-reliance, and
therefore his words were not wanting in effect on his audience, critical
and sceptical as it was.

"I reckon that's a challenge we can't very well afford to let go," said
Professor van Huysman, with a keen look at his two brother scientists.
"Of course he's just a trick-merchant, but they're so mighty clever
nowadays, especially these fellows from the gorgeous East, that you've
got to keep your eyes wide open all the time they've got the platform."

"Certainly," said Professor Hartley, as they moved out from the circle;
"it must be trickery of some sort, and we shall be doing a public
service by exposing it. What do you think, Marmion? I hope you won't
mind the exposure taking place in your own garden and among your own
guests?"

"Not a bit, my dear Hartley," replied Franklin Marmion with a smile,
which was quite lost upon his absolutely materialistic friends. "We
have, as Van Huysman says, received a direct challenge. We should be
most unworthy servants of our great Mistress if we did not take it up.
Personally, I mean to find out everything that I can."

"And, gentlemen," laughed the Prince, who had been standing with them
and now moved away towards Nitocris, "I sincerely hope that what you
find out will be worth the learning."

"He's a big man, that," said Professor van Huysman, when he was out of
earshot, "but he's not the sort I'd have much use for. I wonder why
those people who are on the war-path in his country ever let him out of
it alive?"

In accordance with Phadrig's request, they made a triangle of which he
was the central point. Without any formula of introduction, he said
rather abruptly:

"Professor van Huysman, will you oblige me by taking a croquet ball and
holding it in your hand as tightly as you can?"

Brenda ran out of the circle and gave him one. He took it and gripped it
in a fist that looked made to hold things. Phadrig glanced at the ball,
and said quietly:

"Follow me!"

Then he turned away, and, in spite of all the Professor's efforts to
hold it, the ball somehow slipped through his fingers and fell on to the
lawn. Then, to the utter amazement of every one, except Franklin
Marmion, it rolled towards the Adept and followed him at a distance of
about three yards as he walked round the circle of spectators. He did
not even look at it. When he had made the round, he took his place in
the Triangle of Science, and the ball stopped at his feet.

"It is now released, Professor," he said to Van Huysman. "You may take
it away, if you wish."

There was something in the saying of the last sentence that nettled him.
He had seen all, or nearly all, the physical laws, which were to him as
the Credo is to a Catholic or the Profession of Faith to a Moslem,
openly and shamelessly outraged, defied, and set at nought. To say he
was angry would be to give a very inadequate idea of his feelings,
because he, the greatest exposer of Spiritualism, Dowieism, and
Christian Scientism in the United States, was not only angry, but--for
the time being only, as he hoped--utterly bewildered. It was too much,
as he would have put it, to take lying down, and so, greatly daring, he
took a couple of strides towards Phadrig, and said with a snarl in his
voice:

"I guess you mean really if _you_ wish, Mr Miracle-Worker. It was mighty
clever, however you did it, but you haven't got me to believe that
physical laws are frauds yet. You want me to pick that ball up?"

"Certainly, Professor--if you can--now," replied Phadrig, with a little
twitch of his lips which might have been a smile, or something else.

Hoskins van Huysman was a strong man, and he knew it. Not very many
years before, he had been able to shoulder a sack of flour and take it
away at a run, and now he could bend a poker across his shoulders
without much trouble. He stooped down and gripped the ball, expecting,
of course, to lift it quite easily. It didn't move. He put more force
into his arms and tried again. For "all the move he got on it," as he
said afterwards, it might have weighed a ton. It was ridiculous, but it
was a fact. In spite of all his pulling and straining, the ball remained
where it was as though it had been rooted in the foundations of the
world. He was wise enough to know when he was beaten, so he let go, and
when he pulled himself up, somewhat flushed after his exertions, he
said:


"Well, Mister Phadrig, I don't know how you do it, but I've got to
confess that it lets me out. I'm beaten. If you can make the law of
gravitation do what you want, you're a lot bigger man in physics than I
am."

He turned and went back to his place, looking, as his daughter whispered
to Nitocris, "pretty well shaken up." The Prince caught Phadrig's eye
for an instant, and said:

"Miss Marmion, will you confound the wisdom of the wise and bring the
ball here?"

It was not the words but the challenge in them that impelled her to
rise from her chair, aided by Merrill's hand, and not the one that the
Prince held out, and walk across the lawn towards Phadrig. She took no
notice of him. She just stooped and picked up the ball and carried it
back to her chair. She tossed it down on the grass, and sat down again
without a word, quaking with many inward emotions, but outwardly as calm
as ever. What Professor van Huysman said to himself when he saw this
will be better left to himself.

It might have been expected that the miracle, or at least the
extraordinary defiance of physical law which had been accomplished by
Phadrig, would have produced something like consternation among the bulk
of the spectators. It did nothing of the sort. They were, perhaps, above
the ordinary level of Society intellect in London; but they only saw
something wonderful in what had been done. Nothing would have persuaded
them that it was not the result of such skill as produced the marvels of
the Egyptian Hall, simply because they were not capable of grasping its
inner significance. Could they have done that, the panic which Professor
Marmion was beginning to fear would probably have broken the party up in
somewhat unpleasant fashion. As it was they contented themselves with
saying: "How exceedingly clever!" "He must be quite a remarkable man!"
"I wonder we've never heard of him before!" "He must make a great deal
of money!" "I wonder if I could persuade the dear Prince--what a
charming man he is!--to bring him to my next At Home day?" and so on,
perfectly ignorant, as it was well they should be, that they had
witnessed a real conquest of Knowledge over Force.

Phadrig, who seemed to be the least interested person on the lawn,
looked about him, and said as quietly as before:

"I should be very much obliged if the best tennis player in the company
will do me the honour to have a game with me."

Now, it so happened that Brenda, in addition to her other athletic
honours, had recently won the Ladies' Tennis Tournament at Washington,
which carried with it the Championship of the State for the year, and so
this challenge appealed both to her pride in the game and her spirit of
adventure. She looked round at Nitocris, and said:

"I've half a mind to try, Niti. I suppose he won't strike me with
lightning or send me down through the earth if I happen to beat him.
Shall I?"

"Yes, do," replied her hostess, with a suspicion of mischief in her
voice; "those dear Professors of ours are puzzling so delightfully over
the first miracle, or whatever it was, that I _do_ want to see them
worried a little more. It will be a wholesome chastening for the
overweening pride of knowledge."

"Very well," laughed Brenda, rising and dropping a light cloak from her
shoulders. "It's the first time I've had the honour of playing against a
magician, mind, so you mustn't be too hard on me if I lose."

Lord Leighton fetched her racquet and one for Phadrig, and they went
together towards the tennis-court in which he was standing. The three
Professors left their places and stood at one end of the net, Messrs
Hartley and Van Huysman indulging in audible growls of baffled
scepticism, and Franklin Marmion silently observant, divided between
interest and amusement. He could not help imagining what would happen if
he were to stand in the middle of the circle and remove himself to the
Higher Plane, and then go round shaking hands and saying, "Good
afternoon."

Brenda acknowledged Phadrig's bow with a gracious nod as she took her
place. Then Lord Leighton handed the other racquet to the Adept. To his
astonishment he declined it with another bow, saying:

"I thank you, my lord, but I do not need it."

"What!" exclaimed the other, with a frank stare of astonishment. "Excuse
me, but tennis without a racquet, you know--are you going to play with
your hands?"

"To some extent, yes, my lord," replied Phadrig, as he took his place.
"Will you ask Miss van Huysman if she will be kind enough to serve?"

Brenda would. Phadrig stood on the middle line between the two courts
with his hands folded in front of him. She certainly felt a little
nervous, but she knew her skill, and she sent a scorcher of an undercut
skimming across the net. The ball stopped dead. Phadrig gave a flick
with his right forefinger, and it hopped back over the net and ran
swiftly along the ground to Brenda's feet. She flushed as she picked it
up and changed courts. Then she raised her racquet and sent a really
vicious slasher into the opposite court. Phadrig, without moving, raised
his hand at the same moment. The ball, hard as it had been driven,
stopped in mid-air over the net, hung there for a moment, then dropped
on Brenda's side and rolled to her feet again. She picked it up, walked
to the net with it in her hand, and said quite good-humouredly:

"I think you're a bit too smart for me, Mr Phadrig. I can't pretend to
play against a gentleman who can suspend the law of gravitation just to
win a game of tennis."

"I did not do it to win the game, Miss van Huysman," he replied with a
gentle smile; "I only desired to amuse you and the other guests of
Professor Marmion. Now, it may be that some excellent but ignorant
people here may think that that ball is bewitched, as they would call
it, so if you will give it to me, I will send it out of reach."

She handed him the ball, wondering what was going to happen next. He
took it and put it on the thumb of his right hand as one does with a
coin when tossing. He flicked it into the air, and, to the amazement of
every one, saving always Franklin Marmion, it rose slowly up to the
cloudless sky, followed by the gaze of a hundred eyes, and vanished.
Then he bowed again to Brenda, and said in the most commonplace tone:

"It is out of harm's way now. Thank you once more for your
condescension."

"But how did it go up like that?" asked Brenda, looking him frankly and
somewhat defiantly in the eyes.

"That, Miss Huysman," he replied with perfect gravity, "was only a
demonstration of what Spiritualists and Theosophists are accustomed to
call levitation. It is only a matter of reversing the force of gravity."

"Is that all?" laughed Brenda, as she turned away. "You talk of it as
though it were a matter of turning a paper bag inside out."

"The one is as easy as the other," he smiled. "It is only a question of
knowing how to do it."

She walked back to her chair very much mystified, and, for the first
time in her so far triumphal journey through the interlude between the
eternities which we call life, a trifle humiliated: but that fact, of
course, she kept to herself. As she dropped back in her chair, she said
to Lord Leighton:

"That was pretty wonderful, wasn't it? I'm quite certain that there's no
trickery about it. What he did, he really did do."

"I don't pretend to be able to explain it," he replied, "but for all
that I've seen very much the same sort of thing done by the fakirs in
India, and I think it's generally admitted that that is either a matter
of trickery or hypnotism. They make you believe you see what you really
don't see at all."

"That's about it," said Merrill, with a short laugh, "Of course no one
who knows anything about the East will deny that hypnotism is a fact,
although I must say that these same fakirs have tried it with me more
than once and found me a quite hopeless subject."

Even as though he had heard him, Phadrig came towards them at the
moment, and said in his polite, impersonal tone:

"Commander Merrill, I am going to try one or two experiments now which I
should like to have very closely watched. I know that there is no keener
observer in the world than the skilled British naval officer. May I ask
for your assistance?"

There was something in his tone which made it quite impossible to
refuse, so he replied:

"You have shown us a good many wonders already, Mr Phadrig, and unless
you've hypnotised the whole of us, I haven't a notion how you have done
it; but if I can find you out I will."

"That is exactly what I wish, sir," said Phadrig, as he bowed to the
ladies and went back to the centre of the circle. Merrill followed him,
and, with the three Professors, formed a square about him.

Phadrig, turning slowly round so that his voice might reach all his
audience, said:

"Ladies and gentlemen, you have all heard of or seen the strange
performances of the Indian fakirs: the growing of the mango plant, the
so-called basket trick, and the throwing into the air of a rope up which
the performer climbs from view of the spectators. I am not going to say
whether those are tricks or not. Their knowledge may be different from
mine, therefore I do not question it. I only propose to show you the
same kind of performance without the use of any coverings or
concealment, and leave you and these four gentlemen to discover any
deception on my part if you can. I will begin by giving you a new
version of the mango trick, if trick it is, with variations. Professor
Marmion, would you have the goodness to ask one of the young ladies to
bring me one of those beautiful white roses of yours?"

Franklin Marmion was on the point of saying: "I'll bring you one myself,
and see what you can do with it," but he was a sportsman in his way,
and, seeing that his guests were so far not all inclined to be
frightened at what they had seen, he refrained from spoiling the
"entertainment," as they evidently took it to be, and so he asked his
daughter to go and get one of her nicest Marèchal Niels.

She rose from her chair and went to her favourite tree; Merrill followed
her with a ready penknife. They came back with a fine half-blown rose on
a leafy twig about nine inches long. As she held it out to Phadrig he
declined it with a bow and a wave of his hand, saying:

"I thank you, Miss Marmion, but it will be better for me not to touch
it. Some one might think that I had bewitched it in some way; will you
be kind enough to give it to Commander Merrill and ask him to put the
stem into the turf: about two inches down, please."

She handed the rose to Merrill, and as he took it their eyes met for an
instant, and she flushed ever so slightly. He, with many unspoken
thoughts, knelt down, made a little hole in the turf with his knife, and
planted the rose. When he stood up again Phadrig went on in the same
quiet impersonal voice:

"Now, ladies and gentlemen, you know that this rose is of a pale cream
colour slightly tinted with red. It shall now grow into a tree bearing
both red and white roses. It will not be necessary for me to touch it."

This somehow appealed more closely to such imagination as the majority
of the spectators possessed. They had regarded the other marvels they
had seen merely as bewilderingly clever examples of legerdemain: but for
a man to make a single sprig of rose grow into a tree bearing both red
and white roses without even touching it meant something quite
unbelievable--until they had seen it. Instinctively the circle narrowed,
and Phadrig noting this, said:

"Pray, come as close as you like, ladies and gentlemen, as long as you
do not pass my guardians, for they have undertaken that you shall not be
deceived."

The result was that a smaller circle was formed round the square, at the
angles of which stood Merrill and the three men of science. Phadrig
stood at one side facing the east. Then he spread his hands out above
the rose, and said slowly:

"Earth feeds, sun warms, and air refreshes: wherefore grow, rose, that
the power of the Greater Knowledge may be manifested, and that those who
believed not before may now see and believe."

He raised his hands with a spreading movement and, to the utter
amazement of every one except Franklin Marmion, who now saw that this
man certainly had approached to within measurable distance of the
borderland which he had himself so lately crossed--wherefore in his eyes
there was nothing at all marvellous in anything he had done--the leaves
on the sprig grew rapidly out into branches as the main stem increased
in height and thickness, red and white buds appeared under the leaves
and swelled out into full blooms with a rapidity that would have been
quite incredible if a hundred keen eyes had not been watching the marvel
so closely; and within ten minutes a fine rose-bush, some three feet
high, loaded with red and white and creamy blossoms, stood where Merrill
had planted the sprig.

After the first gasps of astonishment there arose quite a chorus of
requests from the younger members of Phadrig's audience for a rose to
keep in memory of the marvel they had seen; but he shook his head, and
said with a smile of deprecation:

"I regret that it is not possible for me to grant what you ask. For your
own sakes I cannot do it. If I gave you those roses they would never
fade, and it might be that those who possessed them would never die. Far
be it from me to curse you with such a terrible gift as immortality on
earth."

The gravely, almost sadly spoken words fell upon his hearer's ears like
so many snowflakes. Instinctively they shrank back from the beautiful
bush as though it had been the fabled Upas. They had begun to fear now
for the first time. But there was one among them, a young fellow of
twenty-two, named Martin Caine, who was already known as one of the most
daring and far-sighted of the rising generation of chemical
investigators, to whom the prospect of an endless life devoted to his
darling science was anything but a curse. Intoxicated for the moment by
what he had seen, he sprang forward, exclaiming:

"I'll risk the curse if I can have the life!"

As his hand touched one of the roses, Phadrig's darted out and caught
his wrist. He was a powerful youth, but the instant Phadrig's hand
gripped him he stopped, as though he had been suddenly stricken by
paralysis. He turned a white, scared face with fear-dilated eyes upward,
and said in a half-choked voice:

"What's the matter? If what you say's true, give me eternal life, and
I'll give it to Science."

"My young friend," said Phadrig, with a slow shake of his head, "you are
grievously mistaken. You have eternal life already. You may kill your
body, or it may die of age or disease, but the life of your soul is not
yours to take or keep. Only the High Gods can dispose of that. Who am I
that I should abet you in defying their decrees? Here is my refusal of
your mad request."

He plucked the rose which Caine had touched, held it to his lips and
breathed on it. The next instant the withered leaves fell to the
ground, and lay there dry and shrivelled. The stalk was brown and dry.
As he released Caine's wrist he dropped the stalk in the middle of the
bush, and said in a loud tone:

"As thou hast lived, die--as all things must which shall live again."

As quickly as the rose-bush had grown and flowered so quickly, it
withered and died. In a few moments there was nothing left of it but a
few dry sticks lying in a little heap of dust.

The circle suddenly widened out as the people shrank back, every face
showing, not only wonder now, but actual fear; and now Franklin Marmion
felt that Phadrig had been allowed to go as far as a due consideration
for the sanity of his guests would permit. The other two Professors were
disputing in low, anxious tones, as if even their scepticism was shaken
at last: Martin Caine had drifted away through the opening press to hide
his terror and chagrin. The Adept stood impassively triumphant beside
the poor relics of the rose-bush, but obviously enjoying the
consternation that he had produced--for now the lust of power which ever
attends upon imperfect knowledge had taken hold of him, and he was
devising yet another marvel for their bewilderment. But before he had
arrived at his decision, something else happened which was quite outside
his programme.

The Prince broke the chilly silence by saying to Nitocris in a tone loud
enough for every one to hear:

"I hope, Miss Marmion, that I have justified my intrusion by the skill
which my friend Phadrig has displayed for the entertainment of your
guests?"

She turned and looked at him, and, as their glances met, he saw a change
come over her. Her eyes grew darker: her features acquired an almost
stony rigidity utterly strange to her. His eyelids lifted quickly, and
he shrank back from her as a man might do who had seen the wraith of one
long dead, but once well known.

"Nitocris!" he murmured in Russian. "Phadrig was right: it is the
Queen!"

She swept past him--Oscar Oscarovitch, the man who aspired to the throne
of the Eastern Empire of Europe--as though he had been one of his own
slaves in the old days, and faced Phadrig.

"It is enough, Anemen-Ha that was. Hast thou not learned wisdom yet,
after so many lives? Is the inmost chamber of thy soul still closed in
rebellion against the precepts of the High Gods? No more of thy poor
little mummeries for the deception of the ignorant! Go, and without
further display of the weakness which thou hast presumptuously mistaken
for strength. The Queen commands--go!"

Only Phadrig and Franklin Marmion saw that it was not Nitocris, the
daughter of the English man of science, but the daughter of the great
Rameses who stood there crowned and robed as Queen of the Two Kingdoms.

Phadrig raised the palms of his hands to his forehead, bowed before her,
and murmured:

"The Queen has but to speak to be obeyed! It is even as I feared. But the
Prince----"

"I who was and am, know what thou wouldst say. Go, or----"

"Royal Egypt, I go! But as thou art mighty, have mercy, and make the
manner of my going easy."

Nitocris turned away with a gesture of utter contempt, walked slowly
towards her father, and said in English:

"Dad, I think our friend the Adept is a little tired after his
wonder-working. I dare say most of us would be if we could do what he
has been doing. He seems quite exhausted. I think you had better ask the
Prince to let his coachman take him home."

Oscar Oscarovitch's soul was in a tumult of bewilderment, but his almost
perfect training made it possible for him to say as quietly as though he
had been taking leave of his hostess at a reception in London:

"Miss Marmion, we must thank you for your great consideration. As you
say, our friend is undoubtedly fatigued, and, as I have an appointment
at the Embassy this evening, I will ask you to allow me to take my leave
as well."

With a comprehensive bow of farewell to the company, and a somewhat limp
handshake with Professor Marmion and his daughter, he put his arm
through that of his defeated and humiliated accomplice, and led him away
through an opening which the still dazed spectators instinctively made
for them.



CHAPTER XII

CONTROVERSY AND CONFIDENCES


After this incident, the guests melted away, singly and by pairs and
families, thanking Nitocris and her father with much _empressement_ for
"the delightful afternoon," and "the extraordinary entertainment which
they had so much enjoyed," and many regrets that "the poor Adept, who
really was so very clever and had mystified them all so delightfully,"
had overdone himself and got ill, and so on, and so on, through the
endless repetitions and variations usual on such occasions.

A small party, including the Hartleys, the Van Huysmans, Merrill, and
Lord Leighton, had been asked to stay to dinner, but it happened that
they had a conversazione already included in the day's programme, and so
they took their departure soon after the others, the Professor, it must
be confessed, in a somewhat morose frame of mind. Like all men of
similar mental constitution, he hated to be mystified, and now, for the
first time in his long career of investigation into apparently abstruse
phenomena, he had been absolutely stumped by this perfect-mannered,
quiet-spoken gentleman from the East who performed wonders in broad
daylight, on a plot of grass amidst a crowd of people, and did not
deign to even touch the things he worked his miracles with. If he had
only used some sort of apparatus, or condescended to some concealment,
after the manner of others of this kind, there might have been a chance
of finding a means of exposure; but the whole performance had been so
transparently open and aboveboard that Professor Marcus Hartley, D.Sc.,
M.A., F.R.S., etc., etc., felt that, as a consistent materialist, he had
not been given a fair chance. Still, he did not despair; and by the time
he got back into his own den he had resolved that when it did come, as
of course it must do sooner or later, the exposure of Phadrig the Adept
and the vindication of Natural Law should be complete and final.

A discussion of the same marvels naturally bulked largely in the
conversation during dinner at "The Wilderness." Mrs van Huysman did not
contribute much wisdom to it beyond the assertion of her conviction that
such things were wicked and should be stopped by law, at which her
daughter was sufficiently unfilial to draw a diverting picture of a
stalwart policeman trying to arrest an elusive adept who could probably
make himself invisible at will, or call to his aid fire-breathing
dragons, just as easily as he could make a tennis ball evaporate into
thin air, or grow lovely witch-roses and wither them to ashes with a
breath.

"I do think it was a bit mean of him not to let that poor young man have
one of them, if he was willing to take the risk. Especially as he just
wanted to go on working for Science for ever. Fancy what a single man
might do if he could just keep right on with his life-work for, say, a
thousand years without having to stop it to die and be born again,
according to Niti's pet theory. What couldn't a man like that do for
human knowledge!"

"Would you have had one of those roses, Brenda, if the Prince's
miracle-worker had offered you one?" asked Nitocris, smiling, but still
with a decided note of seriousness in her tone.

"I?" laughed Brenda, leaning back in her chair. "Sakes, no, child! I've
had a pretty good time so far, and I hope it won't be over just yet;
but, after all, there must be a limit even to the combinations of human
life, and a time would have to come when you'd just be doing the same
old things over and over again. And, besides that, think of the horror
of living on and on and seeing every one you loved--husband and wife,
and children and grandchildren--grow old and die, and leave you alone in
a world of strangers. No; life's a good thing if you only have fair play
in the world; but so is death when you've lived your life. It's only
like going to bed, after all. Eternal life would be like a day with no
night to it, and that, I guess, would get a bit monotonous after a
century or two. What do you think, Professor?"

"My dear Miss van Huysman," replied her host with one of his rare but
eloquent smiles, "since I began to study the question with anything
like enlightenment, I have not been able to look upon what we call life,
by which I mean existence in this or some other world, as anything but
eternal. In its manifestations to our senses it is, I admit, merely
transitory, a brief span of time between two other states which, for
want of a better word, we may call two eternities; but I must confess
that, to me, a human existence beginning with the cradle and ending with
the grave is merely a more or less tragic riddle without an answer: in
other words, a meaningless absurdity. I find it quite impossible to
conceive any deity or presiding genius of the universe who could be
guilty of such a colossally useless tragedy as human life would be under
those circumstances."

"I can't see it, my dear Marmion," said Brenda's father a trifle
gruffly, for he had not yet quite recovered from the disquieting
experiences of the afternoon. "What does it matter whether we live again
or not as long as we live cleanly and do our work honestly while we are
alive? Surely if we leave this world a little bit better, a little bit
richer in knowledge, than we find it, these poor little lives of ours,
such as they are, and that's not much--will not have been lived in vain.
Of course, as you know, I'm just a common, low-down materialist who
can't rise to the poetry of things as you can with this gorgeous theory
of re-incarnation of yours.

"I should very much like to believe it if I could, as I once said to an
eminent revivalist on the war-path in the States; but the trouble with a
man who is honest with himself is that he can no more make himself
believe what doesn't seem true to him than he can make himself hungry
when he isn't. All the horrible history of religious persecution is just
the story of a lot of bigots in power trying to force helpless people to
do what they couldn't do honestly. The awful part of the business is
that they were most likely all wrong, and didn't know it."

"But, at least, Professor, I hope you are able to give them credit for
honest intentions, however mistaken they might have been?" interposed
Merrill, who was the son of a country parson and had so far preserved
his simple faith intact. It may be remarked here, that Nitocris was well
aware of this, and loved her strong-souled sailor all the better for it.
Franklin Marmion did not, but then he thought any creed good enough for
"a mere fighting man."

"There were schemers and scoundrels among them on both sides, sir,"
replied the American quietly. "The temptation was too big; but I am
quite willing to allow that the majority of them, even the Inquisitors,
were honest zealots who really did think it right to produce any amount
of suffering and misery here on earth in order to get matters
straightened out, as they thought, hereafter. Charles V. was the most
enlightened monarch of his age and the worst persecutor, and Torquemada,
away from his religion, was as kind-hearted a man as ever lived. Calvin
was a good man, but he watched Servetus burn, and our own Pilgrim
Fathers on the other side were just about as hard men as any when it
came to arguing out a religious question with whips and pillories and
thumbscrews, and the like. I don't want to offend any one's sentiment or
question any one's faith. To each man the belief that satisfies him, but
personally I have no use for a religion that can't get itself believed
without persecution."

"I quite agree with you there, Professor," replied Merrill, who felt a
little chilled by the perfect aloofness with which the other spoke, and
was wondering what his dear old father, living his quiet, saintly life
among the Derbyshire dales, would have thought of such cold-blooded
heresy. "I have always looked upon that sort of brutal intolerance as a
form of religious mania--sincere, but still mania, and the story of it
is the most awful chapter in human history----"

"Except, perhaps, the story of war," interrupted Professor Marmion, with
a snap in his voice. Monomania, more or less harmless, is a not
infrequent affliction of very high intelligences, and a quite
unreasoning hatred of war was his, although within the last few days he
had come to suspect disquieting misgivings on the subject, possibly in
consequence of the higher knowledge to which he was attaining.

"My dear sir," replied Merrill quite good-humouredly, and not at all
sorry for the diversion, "I am glad to say that I agree with you also.
No man who has not actually fought can have any just idea of the
appalling abominations of war, and I am sure that no men hate it more
devotedly than those who have to fight. But we have to take the world as
it is, and not as we would like it to be; and as long as we have people
in it who want to set it on fire for their own brutally selfish
purposes, we shall have to keep the fire-extinguishers in good order."

In obedience to an appealing glance from his daughter, the Professor did
not reply. His opponent in the bloodless arena of Science saved him by
interrupting:

"Yes, sir. I differ from my friend Marmion on a good many points, and
that's one of them. You have the honour to serve in the biggest
fire-extinguishing institution on earth. It was the British Navy that
put out Napoleon's bonfire that he was making of the world: you kept the
ring round us and Spain, and round Russia and Japan, and you've saved
more conflagrations than half a dozen Noah's floods would put out.
That's why the Kaiser and his tin-hatted firebrands have such a healthy
dislike for you. They'd have had the world on fire years ago if they
hadn't had to worry about you."

"I think you must admit, Professor Marmion," said Lord Leighton, who had
so far been busy with his own new thoughts and the contemplation of the
inspirer of them, "that it is people like these on whom the real guilt
of the crime of war rests. Now that the pressure of the bear's paw is
removed, Germany is the danger-spot of the world. The Maroocan business
proved that pretty clearly; and nothing but our friendship with America
and France and Japan, and the ability to strike hard and instantly at
sea, saved Europe, and perhaps the world, from something like a
repetition of the Napoleonic wars."

"With Mister William Hohenzollern a Napoleon," added Professor van
Huysman, with a half-suppressed snort. "It seems to me as though that
gentleman had been spreading himself round Europe as German War-Lord so
long that he's getting tired of playing at it, and 's just spoiling for
a real fight."

"That is very possible," said Merrill; "but happily he has
responsibilities, and even the German war party would not follow him as
far as he would like to go, to say nothing of the Liberals and the
Socialists. Personally, I must say that I think we have had a much more
dangerous person, as far as the peace of the world is concerned, on the
lawn of 'The Wilderness' this afternoon."

"Of course you mean that hateful Russian Prince who brought that equally
hateful Adept, as he calls himself, with him," said Nitocris, with an
unwonted harshness that made every one look up.

"Oh, Niti," exclaimed Brenda, "and I asked you to let me bring him!"

"I'm very sorry, dear," she replied quietly, but with a smile of
reassurance. "It was not your fault, of course. He may have been very
nice to you, but I am obliged to say that the first moment I looked at
him I was possessed by some inexplicable feeling of dislike, and even
fear, although I certainly never hated or feared any one before. If I
had met him before I got your note, I really think I should have asked
you to spare us the honour. It seemed to me as though there was
something uncanny about the man. It was very curious."

Her father looked up at her for a moment, wondering what would happen if
he were to explain the mysterious antipathy there and then. The little
theological discussion would look very small after such a revelation as
that. But he, too, had had a revelation which the somewhat desultory
conversation had done something to press home upon him. He had seen the
advent of the Queen, and heard what she had said to Phadrig with other
eyes and ears than his guests had done, for to them it had only been
Nitocris who had gone to him and said a few inaudible words, which they
had taken as a request for the conclusion of his "performance."

He had seen back through the mists of many centuries and recognised them
as they had been, and he had learned that Oscarovitch the Russian had
now entered the circle of the Queen's, and therefore his own, influence.
A sudden anxiety for the safety of his darling Niti had awakened in his
heart. He had seen the lust for possession flame in the man's eyes, and
now that he knew who he was--and had been--he determined that whatever
other adventurer might set the world aflame, the Modern Skobeleff should
not do it if he and his Royal ally on the Higher Plane could prevent it.
His coming had been a curious coincidence, possibly a consequence of
obscure causes; but, for some reason or other, he felt himself beginning
to look with a more favourable eye on Commander Mark Merrill--perhaps
because he was the impersonation of uncompromising hostility to
everything that Oscarovitch represented.

Dinner had come to an end now, and so Nitocris took advantage of ending
a conversation which bade fair to become somewhat awkward. She glanced
round the table and rose, saying:

"Don't you think we've had polemics enough for one little dinner, Dad?
There's a lovely moon, so we'll have our coffee on the verandah, and you
and Mr van Huysman can settle the affairs of the universe comfortably
over your pipes. Give Lord Leighton and Mr Merrill something to smoke,
and we will join you when we have got some wraps."

When they got back from Nitocris's rooms Mrs van Huysman elected to take
her coffee in a big, deep-seated armchair by the drawing-room window.
She said that she had felt the sun a little, and might possibly indulge
in forty winks--which she did within a few minutes of getting
comfortably arranged in it. Then Nitocris took Brenda by the arm and
walked her half-way down the lawn.

"I want to take possession of Lord Leighton for about half an hour,
dear, if you don't mind. I've got something very serious to say to him.
Dad, with the characteristic cowardice of his sex, has left it to me to
say. It's--well, it's about a mummy: a female mummy, or, at least, I
suppose I ought to say a mummy that was once a female--about five
thousand years ago."

"My dear Niti----"

"No, no, don't interrupt me, for goodness' sake. It's too serious. It is
really. We've had something like a tragedy here in the last few days,
and things seem to have been, as you would say, a good deal mixed up
ever since. I don't understand it a bit; but they have been."

"But, my dear Niti, what on earth can you have to say to Lord
Leighton about a--a female mummy? What possible interest can a
five-thousand-year-old corpse have for him?"

"Don't, Brenda, don't--at least not just now! Wait till I've told you,
and then you'll see," said Nitocris, pressing her arm closer to her
side. "Lord Leighton is, as I think you know, an enthusiastic student of
Egyptian antiquities. He was also, or thought he was, in love with my
unworthy self. He found this mummy in a royal tomb at Memphis. He--well,
I suppose, stole it--of course under the usual licence from the
Khedive--and sent it home to Dad. Now comes the mystery. That was the
mummy of Nitocris, the daughter of the great Rameses, and it was the
dead image of my living self."

"Oh, but, Niti--what do you mean?"

"I don't know, Brenda. I wish I did. All I do know is that it was stolen
that very night out of Dad's study in the Old Wing, and that I've got to
tell Lord Leighton all about it. I'm sure Dad could have told him much
better, only somehow he seems afraid."

"Oh, is that all--just the stealing of what was perhaps a very valuable
relic? They try to steal much fresher corpses than that in the States if
there are dollars in the business."

"Don't be brutal, Brenda! I know you don't mean it, and it isn't like
you. Now, listen. Before he went to Egypt this time Lord Leighton asked
me to marry him. I said 'No,' and for two reasons. I knew that he liked
me very much--he always has done--and poor Dad took his liking for love
and encouraged him: but I'm a woman and, I know, that liking isn't
love--and then I love some one else. And now he, I mean Lord
Leighton--loves some one else. Turn your face to the moon. Yes, you know
who the some one else is. I'm so glad, for I do think you----"

"Niti, you're talking arrant nonsense for an educated young woman. I've
only known His Lordship for a day, and how can you----"

"Because female Bachelors of Science and graduates of Vassar, whatever
stupid people may say, have hearts _as_ well as intellects, dear, and so
they know. I seem to have had a kind of sixth sense given to me to-day,
and, when you met Lord Leighton, I saw it, and I believe you _felt_ it.
I saw your eyes brighten and your face flush--only a little, but it did,
and so did his. You know my belief in the Doctrine. You may have been
lovers--perhaps wedded lovers--once upon a time, as they say in the
fairy tales."

"How awful--no, I mean how wonderful--if it could only be true! And now,
as you've told me all this, you might as well tell me who your some one
else is."

"Really, Brenda, I thought you had more perception. He's there on the
verandah smoking with your Lord Leighton."

"Oh! Then, of course, you're going to marry him?"

"I'm sorry to say Dad doesn't want me to. With all his genius and
learning he is a perfect child in that sort of thing. He has no idea of
Natural Selection. Now listen again, Brenda.. When I had to tell Mark
that Dad wouldn't let me marry him, he picked me up out of a chair in
the verandah there, where your father and mine are sitting, and kissed
me three times."

"And I'll gamble ten cents that you kissed him back. That's Natural
Selection, if I know anything about it. Niti, if that man--and he is a
man--doesn't get killed in a fight, he'll marry you in spite of all the
misguided scientific Dads on earth. Don't you worry. You've made me just
happy. I'm not emotional that way, but I'd like to kiss you if the moon
wasn't so bright. Suppose we go back and try to assist the kindly Fates
a little bit?"

The Fates which, in some dimly-perceived fashion, seem to shape our
little successive phases of existence, were certainly in a kindly mood
that "lovely night in June." The two Professors had retired to Franklin
Marmion's sanctum for the discussion of whisky and soda and the
possibilities of physical manifestations of the Occult. Mrs van Huysman
was frankly and comfortably sleeping in the deep, amply-cushioned
armchair, and the two young men were almost as frankly pining for
sweeter companionship than their own.

But the pairing off, which was so deftly managed by Nitocris, did not at
first appear entirely satisfactory to them, yet a very few minutes'
conversation sufficed to convince them of the wisdom of the arrangement.
Brenda, with all the delicate tact which makes every highly-trained
woman a skilled diplomatist, managed, not only to completely charm
Merrill as a man who is in love with another woman likes to be charmed,
but also to make him understand even more clearly than he had done how
greatly the Fates had blessed him by giving him the love of such a girl
as Nitocris; and then, by a few very deftly conveyed suggestions, she
further gave him to understand that, so far as Lord Leighton had ever
been an unconscious obstacle in his path, he was even now engaged in
removing himself. Wherefore Commander Merrill enjoyed his smoke and
stroll under the beeches a good deal more than he had anticipated.

More difficultly ambiguous, certainly, was the position in which Lord
Leighton found himself with Nitocris, but here also her tact and
perfect candour helped his own innate chivalry to accomplish all that
was desirable with the slightest possible friction. She began by telling
him, as she had told Brenda, of the mysterious stealing of the Mummy,
and made a sort of apology for her father having deputed the telling of
it to her--of course, in perfect innocence of the real reason for his
doing so. He deplored with her the loss of what they both believed to be
a priceless relic of the Golden Age of Egypt, but he passed it over
lightly, chiefly for the reason that there was something in his mind
just now that was much more serious than even the loss of the mummy of
her long-dead namesake.

There had been a little silence between them after he had made his
condolences, and then he said, with a hesitation which told quite
plainly what was coming:

"Miss Marmion, I have a rather awkward confession to make to you--I have
got to tell you, in fact, I think it is my duty to--well, honestly I
really don't quite know how to put it properly, but--but--er, something
has happened to me to-day that is a good deal more important to me, at
least, than the disappearance of half a dozen royal mummies."

"Indeed?" said Nitocris, with a demurely perfect assumption of
ignorance. "A good many things seem somehow to have happened to-day. It
is something connected with that wonderful Adept's marvels, perhaps?
They have certainly astonished most of us, I think."

"No," he replied, still a trifle hesitatingly, "it is nothing connected
with him or his miracles, as far as I know, except that there was
certainly something decidedly queer about the man and the impression he
made upon one. Of course I have seen something like the same thing in
Egypt and the Farther East; but he seemed quite what I might call
uncanny. Still, that's not the point, although possibly it may have had
something to do with it."

He hesitated again. She looked at him with a sideway glance, and said,
almost in a whisper: "Yes?"

The moonlight was bright enough for him to see the notes of
interrogation in her eyes, and he took the plunge.

"Miss Marmion, I once told you that I loved you and wanted you for my
wife, and--and the real fact is that it--I mean I know now that it
wasn't true--and so I thought I ought to tell you. You know, of course,
that the Professor----"

"My dear Lord Leighton," she answered, with an air of quite superior
wisdom, "my learned father is a very clever man in his own subjects: but
I think I know a great deal more about this particular one than he does.
You are quite right. You did not love me. You liked me very much, I have
no doubt----"

"Yes, and so I do still, and always shall do, but----"

"But your liking was great enough to make you mistake it for love.
Women's instincts are quicker and keener in these relations than men's
are, and I saw that you did not love me as a real woman has to be loved,
and, to be quite frank with you, some one else did. I like you very
much, Lord Leighton, and I am going to go on liking you; but, you see, I
could not give you what I had already given away. Now, you have told me
so much that you ought to tell me a little more. How did your sudden
enlightenment on that interesting subject come about?"

He was infinitely relieved by the absolutely frank and friendly way in
which she had treated the whole subject, and so he had courage to reply
with a laugh:

"In short, Miss Marmion, you ask me who the other girl is. Well, you
certainly have a right to know, because, curiously enough, I might never
have got to know her but for you----"

"Is it Brenda?"

The question was whispered, and he replied in a whisper:

"Yes; do you think I have any chance?"

A cohort of wild cats would not have torn Brenda's secret out of her
friend's soul, and so she replied in a tone that was almost judicious in
its evenness:

"That, my friend, is a question that you can only get answered by asking
another--and you must ask her, not me."

"Oh yes, of course I must," he said rather limply. "But she's so
splendid--so beautiful, so exquisite--and--I do wish she wasn't so very
rich. You see, even if I had the great good fortune to--to get her to
marry me, I have lots for both; and, you know, the moment an Englishman
with a title gets engaged to an American millionairess everybody says
that he is simply dollar-hunting."

"That, unfortunately, is usually too well justified by the facts," she
replied seriously. "But only the most idiotic and ignorant of gossips
could possibly say that of you. Every one who is any one knows that the
Kyneston coronet does not want re-gilding."

And then she went on, glancing sideways at him again:

"Still, as you know perfectly well, in matters of this kind, these very
delicate diplomatic considerations, I do not care whether it is a
question of fifty shillings a week or fifty thousand a year. You once
paid me the very great compliment of offering me rank, position, and
almost everything that a girl, from the merely material point of view
could ask for. I refused, because I felt certain that you and I did not
love each other--however much we may have liked and respected each
other--as a man and woman ought to do, unless they become guilty of a
great sin against each other. To put it in a very hackneyed way, we were
not each other's affinities. I had already found mine--and I think, and
hope, that you have found yours--and I wish you all the good fortune
that you may, and, perhaps, can win."

"If is very, very good of you, Miss Marmion; but do you think you
could--well, help me a little? I know I don't deserve it."

"No, sir, you do not," she laughed softly, because the other two were
coming back on to the lawn. "I wonder that you have--I have half a mind
to say the impudence--to ask such a thing. You have confessed your
fickleness in an almost shameless way; and now you ask me to help you
with the other girl! No, my lord: if I know anything of Brenda van
Huysman's nature, there is no one who can help you except yourself. Of
course she might----"

"Do you really think she might--I mean in that way?"

"Who am I that I should know the secrets of another woman's soul?" she
replied, with unhesitating prevarication. "There she is. Go and ask her,
and take my best wishes with you. Now I am going to talk to _my_
affinity for a few minutes."

"So it was Merrill, after all!" he said to himself, as they joined the
others. "Well, I'm glad. He's a splendid fellow; and she--of course,
she's worth the love of the best man on earth--and I'm afraid that's
not--anyhow, I'll have Miss Brenda's opinion on the subject before I go
home to-night."

It now need hardly be added that the said opinion was not only entirely
satisfactory, but also very sweetly expressed.



CHAPTER XIII

OVER THE TEA AND THE TOAST


The next morning there were, at least, three eventful breakfasts
"partaken of," as it was once the fashion to say; one at "The
Wilderness," one at the Savoy, and one at the Kyneston town house in
Prince's Gate.

When Professor Marmion came down he was a little late, for he had done a
long night's work, finishing his lecture-notes to his own satisfaction,
or, at least, as nearly as he could get there. Like all good workers, he
was never quite satisfied with what he did. When the maid had closed the
door of the breakfast-room, he looked across the table at his daughter
with a twinkle in his eyes, and said:

"Niti, before Lord Leighton left last night he had a talk with me, and
you were partly the subject of it."

"And who might have been the other part of the subject, Dad?" she asked,
with excellently simulated composure.

"That, Niti," he replied slowly, "I expect you know quite as well as I
do. I am inclined to consider myself the victim of something very like a
conspiracy."

"I think you are quite right, Dad," she replied, with perfect calmness.
"But the chief conspirators were the Fates themselves. We others only
did as we had to do. When you have solved that problem of N to the
fourth, I think you will see that we could really have done nothing
else, because, if you once crossed the border-line--the horizon which
Professor Cayley spoke of, I mean--you ought to be on speaking terms
with them."

Before he replied to this somewhat searching remark, the man who _had_
crossed the horizon emptied his coffee cup, and set it down in the
saucer with a perceptible rattle. Then he said more slowly than before:

"My dear Niti, there are other mysteries than N to the fourth. I only
wish now to confess frankly to you that I have tried to solve one of
them, perhaps the greatest of all, and ignominiously failed. I learnt a
great deal last night from a young man to whom I thought I could have
taught anything, and I got up this morning in a distinctly chastened
frame of mind; and so, to make a long story short, if you like to drive
into town and bring Commander Merrill back to lunch, I shall be very
pleased to have a chat with him afterwards."

The next moment Nitocris was on the other side of the table, with her
arm round her father's shoulders. She kissed him, and whispered:

"You dearest of dears! If I could have loved you any more, I would now,
but I can't. I won't drive into town, because Brenda's coming out with
Lord Leighton in her new motor to fetch me; at least, she will, if other
papas have been as delightful as you have been."

He put his hand up and stroked her cheek with a gesture that was older
than she was, and said with a smile which meant more than she could
comprehend:

"Ah! so it _was_ a conspiracy, after all! Well, dear, I hope that, for
all your sakes, it will turn out a successful one."

About the same time Brenda was saying to her parents:

"Poppa and Mammy, I've got some news to tell you, and I've slept on it,
so as to make quite sure about the telling."

"And what might that be, Brenda?" asked her mother, looking up a trifle
anxiously. "Nothing very serious, I hope."

"Anything connected with the Marmions?" asked her father, in a voice
that sounded as though it had come from somewhere far away. He had the
_Times_ propped up against the sugar basin on his left hand, and he had
just read the announcement of Franklin Marmion's lecture for the
following evening, and this was quite a serious matter for him.

"It's connected with them in this way," said Brenda, leaning her elbows
on the table. "You and Uncle have wanted a coronet in the family, and
you know that I've refused three, because the men who wore them weren't
fit to respect, to say nothing about loving. Well, I've just discovered
that I do love a man who has one coronet now, and will have another some
day, unless something unexpected happens to him; but mind, it's the man
I love and want to marry, and I'd want to do it just the same if he was
still the same man he is, and hadn't either a coronet or a dollar to his
name."

"That's like you, Brenda, and it sounds good," said her father, tearing
his attention away from the alluring title of Franklin Marmion's
lecture. "Now, who is it?"

"If it was only that nice young man, Lord Leighton!" said Mrs van
Huysman, in a voice that sounded like an appeal against the final
judgment of human fate, "but, of course, he's----"

"No, Mammy, that's just what he's _not_ going to do," exclaimed Brenda,
sitting up and clasping her hands behind her neck. "Nitocris Marmion is
in love with some one else, and Lord Leighton is in love with me--at
least he said so last night at 'The Wilderness,' and I don't suppose
he'd have said it if he hadn't meant it--and I told him to go and ask
his Papa: and now I'm going to ask my Poppa and Mammy if I may be Lady
Leighton soon, and, perhaps, some day Countess of Kyneston. You see,
Lord Leighton is just a viscount now----"

"What, just a viscount!" exclaimed Mrs van Huysman, getting up from her
chair and putting a plump arm round her neck. "Just a viscount--and heir
to one of the oldest peerages in England! Oh, Brenda, is it really
true?"

"I guess Brenda wouldn't say it if it wasn't, and that's about all there
is to it," said her father, putting his long arm out over the table. "I
congratulate you, my girl. Mammy and I may have been a bit troubled over
some of those other refusals of yours, but you seem to have known best,
after all: and I reckon your Uncle Ephraim'll think the same. Lord
Leighton's a man right through. He wouldn't have done what he has done
if he hadn't been. Shake, child, and----"

Brenda "shook," and then, without another word, she got up and hurried
out of the room.

"The girl's right!" said Professor van Huysman, as the door closed
behind her; "and if I'm not a fool entirely, she's found the right man."

"Hoskins, you can leave that to a well-brought-up girl like Brenda all
the time. She _is_ right, and all we've got to hope for now is that the
Earl will be right too," said his wife somewhat anxiously.

"He's just got to see our girl and then he will be, unless he's a
natural born idiot, which, of course, he couldn't be," replied Brenda's
father in a tone of absolute conviction. "Now, I wonder what that man
Marmion's going to let loose on us to-morrow night?"

"Good morning, sir," said Lord Leighton, as his father came into the
breakfast-room at about the same time that Brenda left the other room in
the Savoy.

"Good morning, Lester," replied the Earl of Kyneston, as father and son
shook hands in the old courtly fashion which, within the last half
century, has gone out of vogue save among those who have ancestors whose
record is a credit to their descendants. "You are looking very well and
fit--and there is something else. What is it? Had you a very pleasant
evening yesterday at 'The Wilderness'? Has Miss Marmion revoked her
decision after all?"

"No, sir," said his son, looking at him with brightening eyes; "but she
convinced me that I had thought myself in love with the wrong girl--and
the other girl was on the lawn at the same time, talking with the man
that Miss Marmion was, and is in love with, and will be always, I
think."

"And the other young lady, Lester--because, of course, she is a lady, I
mean in our sense of the word, much misunderstood as it is in these
days?"

"She is Brenda van Huysman, sir."

"Oh, the Professor's daughter.--I mean the other Professor's daughter. A
very good family. Her father is a distinguished man, and, if I remember
rightly, a Van Huysman was one of the first colonisers of New England
about four hundred years ago. It is the same family, I suppose?"

"Yes, sir; I can vouch for that."

Nitocris had given him the whole history of the family, and so he was
sure of his facts.

"Lester, I congratulate you," replied his father, taking his arm, as
they were accustomed to. "While you have been away digging among those
Egyptian tombs and temples, this girl has refused at least three
coronets, and one had strawberry leaves on it; so she loves you for
yourself. That is good, other things being equal, as I think they will
be in this case. Now, we will go to breakfast, and you shall tell me the
whole story. I have not heard a real love story for a good many years."



CHAPTER XIV

"SUPPOSED IMPOSSIBILITIES"


It was only to be expected that the announcement of a lecture with such
an alluring title by such a distinguished scholar and scientist as
Professor Franklin Marmion should fill the theatre of the Royal Society,
as the reporters said tritely but truly, "to its utmost capacity."

The mere words, "An Examination of Some Supposed Mathematical
Impossibilities," were just so many bomb-shells tossed into the middle
of the scientific arena. The circle-squarers, the triangle-trisectors,
the cube-doublers, the flat-worlders, and all the other would-be workers
of miracles plainly impossible in a world of three dimensions
jumped--not incorrectly--to the conclusion that their favourite
impossibility would be selected for examination, and, perhaps--blissful
thought!--demonstration by one of the foremost thinkers of the day, to
the lasting confusion of the scoffers. Learned pundits of the old
school, who were firmly convinced that Mathematics had long ago said
their last word, and that to talk about "supposed impossibilities" was
blasphemy of the rankest sort, came with note-books and a grim
determination to explode Franklin Marmion's heresies for good and all.
Dreamers of Fourth Dimensional dreams came hoping against hope, for the
Professor was known to be something of a dreamer himself; and added to
all these there assembled a distinguished company of ladies and
gentlemen who looked upon the lecture as a "function" which their social
positions made it necessary for them to patronise. The reader's personal
friends and acquaintances, including Prince Oscarovitch and Phadrig,
were naturally among the most anxiously interested of the Professor's
audience.

It is almost needless to say that Hoskins van Huysman had donned all his
panoply of scientific war, and had armed himself with what he believed
his keenest weapons; and that Professor Hartley looked with amused
confidence to a veritable battle royal of wits when the lecture was over
and the discussion began. The Prince and Phadrig were keenly
anticipative, and the latter not a little nervous.

A verbatim report of that famous lecture would, of course, be out of
place in these pages. If Professor Marmion's words of wonder are not
already written in the archives of the Royal Society, no doubt they will
be in the fullness of time when the minds of men shall have become
prepared to receive them. Here we are mainly concerned with the results
which they produced upon his audience. Certain portions may, however, be
properly reproduced here.

When the decorous murmur of applause which greeted the President's
closing sentences had died away, and Franklin Marmion went to the
reading-desk and unfolded his notes, there was a tense silence of
anticipation, and hundreds of pairs of eyes, which had some of the
keenest brains in Europe behind them, were converged upon his spare,
erect figure and his refined, clear-cut, somewhat sternly-moulded face.

"Mr President, my lords, ladies, and gentlemen," he began, in his quiet,
but far-reaching tones. "The somewhat peculiar title which I have chosen
for my lecture was not, I hope I need scarcely say, selected with a view
of arousing any but that intelligent curiosity which is always
characteristic of such a distinguished audience as that which I have the
honour of addressing to-night. I chose it after somewhat anxious
consideration, because I am aware that the bulk of opinion in the world
of science strongly insists upon the finality of the axioms of
mathematics, and therefore it was with no little hesitancy that I
approached such a subject as this. I am well aware that, in the
estimation of most of my learned _confrères_ and fellow-seekers after
scientific truth, to suggest those axioms may not embody final and
universal truth is, if I may put it so, to lay sacrilegious hands on the
Ark of the Scientific Covenant."

A low murmur, prelude of the coming storm, ran through the theatre, and
Professor van Huysman permitted himself to snort distinctively, for
which he was very promptly, though quietly, called to order by his
daughter, who was sitting in front of the platform between him and Lord
Leighton. Franklin Marmion paused for a moment and smiled ever so
faintly. Nitocris looked round at the now eager audience a trifle
anxiously, for she had a fairly clear idea of the trouble that might
possibly be ahead. Her father went on as quietly as before:

"Of course, every one here is aware that the great Napoleon once said
that the word 'impossible' was not French. I need not remind such an
audience as this that more than one distinguished student and
investigator has suggested that it also may not be scientific."

The murmur broke out again, and Hoskins van Huysman blew his nose
somewhat aggressively. His scientific bile was beginning to rise. He
disapproved very strongly of the tone which his rival had begun. Its
quiet confidence was somewhat ominous. The lecturer continued without
this time noticing the interruption, and proceeded to give a lengthy and
learned but singularly lucid _resumé_ of the more recent progress in the
higher mathematics and the deeply interesting speculations to which it
had given rise. This, with certain demonstrations which he made on the
great black-board beside him, occupied nearly an hour. When he had
finished there was another murmur, which this time was wholly of
applause, for this part of the lecture had not only been masterly but
entirely orthodox. Then silence fell again, the silence of expectant
waiting, for every one felt that the "Examination" was coming now. He
began again in a slightly altered voice.

"What I have just been saying was necessary to my subject as far as it
went, but for all that it was chiefly introductory to what I am now
going to bring to your notice. But this is a matter rather for
illustration and discussion than for mere disquisition. Therefore, to
save your time as much as possible, I will proceed at once to the
illustration, and then we will have the discussion."

Professor van Huysman snorted again, even as a war-horse that snuffs the
fray. This time Franklin Marmion seemed to recognise the implied
challenge, for he looked round the crowded theatre with a curious smile,
which seemed to say: "Yes, gentlemen, I see that some of you are getting
ready for a tussle. I am in hopes of being able to oblige you."

"Now," he continued, "it is generally conceded that an ounce of practice
is worth a good many pounds of precept, so I will get to the practice. I
need hardly remind you that ever since mathematics became an exact
science, three problems have been recognised as impossible of
solution--trisecting the triangle, squaring the circle, and doubling the
cube. I have now the pleasure of announcing that I have had the great
good fortune to discover certain formulæ which, so far, at least, as I
can see, make the solution of those problems not only possible, but
comparatively easy--to those who know how to use them."

As he said this, Franklin Marmion looked directly at Hoskins van
Huysman. He was the challenger now, and there was a glint in his eyes
and a smile on his lips which showed that he meant business. The
American writhed, and had it not been for Brenda's gently but firmly
restraining hand, he might have jumped to his feet and precipitated
matters in a somewhat embarrassing fashion. The chairman looked up at
the lecturer with elevated eyelids which had a note of interrogation
under each of them, and then there came that sound of shifting in seats
and breathing in many low keys which denotes that an audience has been
wound up to a very tense pitch of expectation. If a smaller man had said
such words to such hearers some one would have laughed, and then would
have burst forth a storm of derision. But the keenest critic had never
found Franklin Marmion wrong yet, and he had far too great a reputation
to permit himself to say in such a place that which he did not seriously
mean. So the hum died down as he went to the black-board, and Nitocris
looked at Merrill with something like fear in her eyes.

"If he does that," whispered Phadrig to the Prince in Russian, "the
story that Pent-Ah and Neb-Anat told will be true--which the High Gods
forbid!"

"As the trisection of the triangle is, perhaps, the simplest of the
three problems," said the lecturer, with almost judicial calmness, "we
will, if you please, begin with that. I hope that gentlemen who have
brought note-books with them will be kind enough to follow my
calculations and check any error that I may make."

But a good threescore note-books, pencils, and stylographic pens were
out already, and hundreds of eyes were eagerly fastening their gaze on
the black-board, their owners desperately anxious to detect the first
slip in the demonstration. The demonstrator drew an isosceles triangle
rapidly, and without speaking filled the remainder of the board with
formulæ. The almost breathless silence was broken only by the click of
the chalk on the board and the scratching of pencils and pens on paper.
When he had finished he ran through the calculations aloud, and said in
the most commonplace voice:

"Now, gentlemen, if, as I hope, you have found my working correct, I may
draw the two lines which will trisect the triangle."

He drew them, and then, as calmly as though he had done nothing more
than cross the much-trodden _pons asinorum_, he told two attendants to
take the board down and put it in front of the platform; then, while
they were lifting another on to the easel, he said:

"As those who have followed me would no doubt like a little time to
revise the figures, I will go on with the next problem, which will be
our old friend, or enemy, the squaring of the circle."

The second board was filled with diagrams and formulæ as rapidly as the
first.

"There is the demonstration, gentlemen," he said, as the attendants
placed it beside the other in full view of everybody. "Now, as time is
shortening, I will get on with the third problem."

The chalk began to click again, and the pens and pencils scratched on to
the accompaniment of murmurs and whispers and occasional grunts and
snorts of incredulity. By a master-stroke of strategy Franklin Marmion
had, in placing the three demonstrations of the long-supposed impossible
before them in quick succession, kept the learned, but now utterly
bewildered mathematicians so busy that they literally had not time to
begin "the trouble" which Brenda was now actually dreading. Her father's
face, bent down over his note-book, was getting more terrible to look
upon every moment. The mere fact that he had not uttered a sound since
the demonstrations had begun was sufficiently ominous, for it meant that
he was puzzled--perhaps even beaten--and if that was so, she dreaded to
even imagine what might happen. On the other hand, Nitocris felt her
spirits rising as she looked round and saw the many learned heads
bending and shaking over the note-books, each owner of them working at
high pressure to win the honour of first finding the error which all
firmly believed must exist, and which none of them could detect.

When he had finished his third demonstration, Franklin Marmion, without
interrupting the hard thinking that was going on, took a chair by the
side of the President, poured out a glass of water, and waited for
results.

"Marmion, what is this white magic that you have been springing upon
us?" whispered the presiding genius of the learned assembly, looking up
from several sheets of paper which he had been rapidly covering with
formulæ. "These things are impossible, you know--unless, of course, you
have got a good deal farther than any of us. And yet the calculations
are correct as far as I can follow them, and no one else seems to have
hit on any error yet. I must confess, though, that these progressives of
yours are too deep for me. I can follow them, and yet I can't. At a
certain point they seem to elude me, and yet the calculations are
rigidly right. It's almost enough to make one think you had done what
Cayley once told us in this room some one might do some day."

"My Lord," replied Franklin Marmion, almost inaudibly, "I began my
address by remarking, as you will remember, that perhaps, after all, the
word 'impossible' might not be scientific."

Their eyes met, and the President, than whose there was no greater name
in the higher realm of learning, saw something in Marmion's which sent a
little chill through him, and that something told him that he was in the
presence of a superior being.

"Dear me!" he murmured, looking down at his papers again, "the age of
miracles is not past, after all--in fact, it is only just beginning."

"It is re-beginning, my Lord--for us," came the reply, in a voice which
seemed to come from very far away.

The President did not reply. As a matter of fact, he had no reply ready,
and he had something else to do. He rose, and said in a somewhat
constrained voice:

"Ladies and gentlemen, Professor Marmion has shown us some very strange
demonstrations which have certainly amply justified the title which he
selected. A good many gentlemen, and some ladies as well, I am glad to
see, have followed his calculations very carefully. I have done the same
myself, but I am bound to confess that I have not been able to find any
error. I think I shall be right in saying that no one will be more
pleased than the learned and--er--gifted lecturer to hear that some one
else has been able to do so."

Franklin Marmion bowed his assent, and a faint smile flickered across
his clean-shaven lips. The next instant Professor van Huysman was on his
legs, note-book in one hand and stylo in the other. All the fresh colour
had gone out of his face; his eyes were burning, and his lips were
twitching with uncontrollable excitement.

"My Lord," he began, in a voice that even Brenda hardly recognised,
"like yourself, I have been unable to find any actual error in the
lecturer's demonstrations of which I will take permission to call the
possibility of the impossible; in other words, that a contradiction in
terms can be true and false at one and the same time. That, my Lord, and
ladies, and gentlemen," he went on, raising his voice almost to a
shout, "is still, and, I hope, in the interests of true science, and not
adroit jugglery with figures and formulæ, will ever remain, another
impossibility. Professor Marmion has apparently trisected the triangle,
squared the circle, and doubled the cube. It may be that he has
persuaded some present that he really has done so; but, again, in the
interests of science, I desire to protest against the way in which these
demonstrations have been sprung upon us. Calculations which he has
doubtless taken months to elaborate, he has asked us to test in a few
minutes. For myself, I decline to accept them as true, and I hope that
others will do the same until we have had time to satisfy ourselves that
the hitherto impossible has been made possible."

He sat down, breathing hard and white with anger and excitement, and
then the trouble began. The trisectors, the circle-squarers, and the
cube-doublers, had seen their long-flouted theories proved to
demonstration by one of the most learned and responsible men of science
in the world, and one of their most sarcastic and hitherto successful
flouters had been compelled to confess that he could find no flaw in the
calculations of this mathematical Daniel so unexpectedly come to
judgment. They did not understand his proofs, but that was no reason why
they should reject them, and so they rose as one man in support of their
champion to demand that Professor van Huysman should withdraw his
imputations of jugglery. He sat still, and shook his head. He was too
disgusted and bewildered to do or say anything more until he had made a
searching analysis of these diabolical formulæ.

But there were others who wanted to have their say in defence of
scientific orthodoxy, and they had it--and the rest was a chaos of
intellectual conflict until, at the end of nearly an hour, the
President, who now saw with clearer eyes than any of the disputants,
rose and put an end to the discussion by remarking that they had not the
whole night before them, and that all that Professor Marmion had said
and done would be published in the scientific papers; further, that such
a controversy would perhaps be more profitably conducted in print than
by word of mouth. Such a course would give every one ample leisure to
work out the problems in the light of the new demonstrations, and also
give a much better prospect of reaching a logical, and therefore just,
conclusion than a discussion in which haste, and possibly pre-conceived
opinions, from the influence of which no human being was really free,
could possibly promise.

This, of course, put an end to the matter for the time being, and, after
the usual votes of thanks and acknowledgments, the distinguished company
dispersed--amused, mystified, gratified, bewildered, and exasperated:
but, saving only four of its members, with no idea of the effect which
that evening's proceedings were destined to have upon the fate of
Europe, perhaps of the whole human race.



CHAPTER XV

THE ADVANCEMENT OF NITOCRIS--THE RESOLVE OF OSCAROVITCH


Franklin Marmion and Hoskins van Huysman parted that evening in what may
be described as a state of armed neutrality, but with more cordiality
than Brenda, at any rate, had hoped for. Still, they were both
gentlemen, and, moreover, the American scientist was honestly looking
forward to the discovery of some fatal flaw in the reasoning of his
English rival which should leave the final triumph with him--and such a
triumph would be not only final but crushing.

Brenda whirled her father and Lord Leighton--who, of course, sat beside
her in front as she drove--off to supper; Merrill went to his club to
ruminate happily for an hour; and the hero of the evening and his
daughter drove home almost in silence, and it was a silence for which
there was a very sufficient reason. Such people do not talk about
trivialities when they are thinking about much more serious concerns.

After supper Nitocris followed her father into the study, as he quite
expected her to do, and when she had shut the door, she faced him and
said in a voice that was not quite her own:

"Dad, there seems to me to be only one explanation of what you did
to-night. I know enough mathematics to see that it is the only one. If
you tell me that I am wrong, of course I shall believe you--and then I
shall ask you how else you did it."

As she spoke he felt that his soul was asking itself a momentous
question. She had guessed--or did she already know?--the Great Secret.
And, if either, was she herself near enough to the dividing line between
the two worlds for him to tell her the truth?

He sat down in the chair before his writing-table and stared hard at his
plotting-pad for a few moments. Then he looked up at her and saw the
answer.

"Niti," he said slowly, and with a little halt between the words, "you
have asked me a question which I think some one else must answer, if it
can be answered at all. Look behind you!"

She turned swiftly, and there, almost beside her, stood--not the Mummy,
but the Queen, her living other-self, royal-robed and crowned as she had
been in the dim past, which was now again the present.

Would she flinch or faint, or cry out with fear? If her unconscious feet
had not advanced very near to the Border she would certainly do one or
the other. Indeed, it was with an inward quaking of fear for her that
her father had told her to turn. It might well have meant the difference
between sanity and insanity, knowing what she already did of the Mummy
and its mysterious disappearance. But no: there before his eyes was
worked again the miracle which had already been worked in his own case,
though now it was, if possible, even more marvellous than it had been
before. As Nitocris turned she uttered a low cry of wonder and
recognition, and held out both hands to her other twin-self. The Queen
took them, and said in the Ancient Tongue, which now she understood
again after many centuries:

"Welcome, thou who wast once myself, into this larger life to which the
Perfect Knowledge hath led thee: where Time is not, and that which was,
and is, and shall be are the same! Thou hast yet many days, as men call
them, to live in that limited life known as mortal, and so the mortal
lot, with its perils and sorrows and joys, shall yet be thine: yet,
although, if the High Gods will it so, that life shall end and begin and
end again many times, thou hast already won through the shadows which
bound that little life into the light of the Day which knows not dawn
nor noon nor night. I who was, and thou who art, are one again!"

Then came silence. Franklin Marmion saw the two kindred shapes merge
into each other. He closed his eyes for a moment, as he thought, and
when he opened them again he was alone. He looked at the clock, and saw
that it was after four.

"Dear me!" he said, getting up with a shake of his shoulders, "I must
have fallen asleep. Where's Niti? Why, of course, she has been in bed
for hours, and it's about time that I got there, too."

When they met before breakfast Nitocris said to him:

"I had a very strange experience last night, Dad. I either saw, or
dreamt I saw, the Mummy alive again, robed and crowned like a queen of
ancient Egypt; and then we seemed to become the same person, and I
remembered that I had been Queen Nitocris of Egypt once. Then I found
myself alone--so very much alone--in a new world which was still like
this one, only there wasn't any time. I had another sense which made me
able to see past, present, and future all at once, and here and there,
and up and down, and something else were all the same, and yet it did
not seem in the slightest strange to me, so I suppose it was a dream."

"It was no dream, Niti," said her father, looking at her with grave
eyes. "Last night, as we have to say in the state of Three Dimensions,
you had your first glimpse of the state of Four. I saw what you did."

"Ah!" she replied, without any sign of astonishment. "Then that is why I
was able to understand your demonstrations last night when all the rest
were puzzled. I didn't think I quite did then, however, but I see now
that I did. And so I and Her Majesty are really one and the same! It
ought to seem very wonderful, but somehow it doesn't in the slightest."

"I don't think that anything will seem wonderful to you now, Niti," was
the quiet response. "But as we are at present on the lower plane of
existence, it will be necessary for us to go to breakfast."

       *       *       *       *       *

Oscarovitch and Phadrig went back after the lecture to the Prince's flat
in Royal Court Mansions, which, as a bachelor and a bird of passage, he
found much more convenient in many ways than a house. He ordered his
Russian servant to make coffee for his guest, and mixed a stiff
brandy-and-soda for himself. He wanted it, for the experiences of the
evening had shaken even his nerves not a little. He was essentially a
man of power, both physically and mentally, of boundless ambitions and
iron will, vast knowledge of the world, as he knew it, and of very high
intellectual attainments; but the cast of his mind was absolutely
material, and therefore he both hated and feared anything which appeared
to transcend the material plane to which his mental vision was at
present entirely confined.

When the servant had left the room after bringing the coffee, he gave
Phadrig a cigar, lit one himself, and said through the first puffs of
smoke:

"Phadrig, you know, or pretend to know, more about these things than I
do, or want to do: but, still, just now I want you to tell me honestly
if you believe that Professor Marmion did really solve those problems
to-night. I ask you because I admit that the solutions went beyond the
range of my mathematics."

"Highness," replied the Egyptian, speaking slowly and almost reverently,
"he did. There is not, I think, another man on earth now who could have
done so; but for those who had eyes to see there could be no doubt, and
you will find that, though he has many rivals and will have countless
critics, not one will be able either to explain his solutions or find a
flaw in them."

"You did a few things that I should not have thought possible the other
day, which you claimed to be really miracles. Now, if they were, I
suppose you can explain Professor Marmion's?"

"There are no miracles, Highness: only the results of higher knowledge
than that which they who see them possess. That is why what I did seemed
like miracles to those who watched. But this Franklin Marmion, as he is
called in this life, has attained to a higher knowledge than mine,
wherefore I am able only to understand imperfectly, but not myself to
do, that which he does. Yet, as the High Gods live, he did this thing;
and to do it he must have passed to the higher life through the gate of
the Perfect Knowledge."

"In other words," said the Prince, after a big gulp of his
brandy-and-soda, "that he has solved that infernal problem of the fourth
dimension you have had so much to say about. Now, granted that he has
done so, what does it amount to as regards our world--the world of
practical thought and real action, I mean?"

"All thought is practical, Highness," replied Phadrig, "since there can
be no action which is intelligent without thought. Wherefore, the higher
the thought the more potent the action, and so he who has the Perfect
Knowledge has also the Perfect Power."

"Then, do you mean to tell me seriously--and I can hardly think that you
would trifle with me--that this man is now practically omnipotent, as
far as we lower beings, as you seem to call us, are concerned?"

"Only the High Gods are omnipotent, Your Excellency; but, if I have seen
rightly, he is as a god to us of the lower life, and therefore I would
pray you again to utterly relinquish your lately and, as I have dared
for your sake to say, rashly-formed designs to make the Queen who was,
and his daughter that is, the sharer of your future throne. Is not the
Princess Hermia noble and fair enough?"

"No, by all your gods, no!" exclaimed the Prince passionately. "Since I
have seen the woman who, as you say, was once Queen of Egypt, there is,
and shall be, no other consort for me. And who are you to advise me
thus? Are you still the same man who made the condition that, if you
used your arts, whatever they may be, to place her in my power, she
should be, not only my Empress, but also Queen of Egypt? What has
changed you? What has made you faithless to the promise that you gave
me in exchange for mine? If you have forgotten that, do not also forget
that we Russians have a short way with traitors."

"What has changed me, Highness," replied Phadrig, ignoring the threat,
"is the knowledge that I have gained to-night. Though you believe me or
not, the debt which I owe you makes it my duty to warn you. The matter
stands thus: Nitocris, the daughter of Franklin Marmion, was the Queen.
For all I know, she also may have attained to the higher life, and is
therefore the Queen still, though that is a mystery beyond my
comprehension; but I do know now that her father has attained to it, and
that for this reason, unless you put this new-found love out of your
heart, you will bring yourself within the sphere of this man's power--a
power mighty enough to wreck every scheme you have ever shaped, and to
doom you to a fate more horrible than mortal brain could conceive. You
would be as a man who strove against a god."

"You may believe what you are saying, Phadrig, and I dare say you do,"
exclaimed the Prince again. "I don't, because I can't; but even if I
did, I would claim your promise. I love this Nitocris, Queen or woman,
and neither man nor god shall keep her from me, willing or unwilling. As
for the Princess Hermia--well, her husband is not dead yet."

"Better he dead and his widow your wife, as was planned, Highness, than
that you should dare the power of one who has attained to the Perfect
Knowledge," said the Egyptian, with all the earnestness of absolute
conviction. "But my duty is done. I have warned you of that which you
cannot see for yourself. I have done it to my own sorrow and the
destroying of my own dream; but my promise is given, and I will keep it,
even to a fate that may be worse than death."

The Prince drained his glass and laughed.

"Well said, my ages-old adept, as you think you are! You shall follow
me, for I will go on now even to death, or what there may be worse
behind it, if I can only take my beautiful Queen with me. Yes, I swear I
will, by God--if there is one!"

So by his ignorant blasphemy Oscar Oscarovitch, who once was Lord of War
in Egypt, for the love of the same woman, fixed his fate for this life,
and for many that were to come after it.



CHAPTER XVI

THE MYSTERY OF PRINCE ZASTROW


Events now began to move with an almost bewildering rapidity, at least,
so far as they affected the immediate temporal concerns of Nitocris and
her father. For days and weeks a furious storm raged round the famous
lecture, and the atmosphere of the scientific world was thick with
figures and formulæ, diagrams and disquisitions; but since none of the
learned disputators proved himself capable of detecting the slightest
flaw in the lecturer's mathematics, it had very little interest for him,
and therefore has none for us. In fact, so little did he seem concerned
with the tempest he had raised, that a few days later, to the
astonishment and chagrin of his baffled critics, he and Nitocris bade
adieu to their more intimate friends and disappeared on a wandering trip
of undetermined destination for change of air and scene and a
much-needed holiday for the over-worked Professor. At least, that is the
reason which Nitocris gave to Lord Leighton and the Van Huysmans, and
the few others to whom she thought it necessary to give any explanation
at all.

The day before they left, Merrill lunched at "The Wilderness," took a
fitting leave of his lady-love and his prospective father-in-law, and
departed to join his ship, slightly mystified, perhaps, by recent
happenings, but still believing himself with sufficient reason to be the
happiest and most fortunate Lieutenant-Commander in the British Navy.

The true reasons for the sudden departure of the now more than ever
famous Professor and his beautiful daughter from the scene of his latest
and most marvellous triumph may be set forth as follows:

On the evening of the third day after the lecture Franklin Marmion was
going back by train to Wimbledon after a long day at the British Museum
among the relics of Egyptian antiquity--which, as may well be
understood, he studied now with an interest of which no other man living
could have been capable; and as soon as he was seated in a comfortable
corner, and had his pipe going, he opened his _Pall Mall Gazette_, and,
as was his wont on such occasions, began with the leading article and
read straight along through the Special Article and the Occ. Notes,
until he came to the news of the day, skipping only the financial news
and quotations, which, under his present changed conditions of
existence, he dare not trust himself to read lest he might be tempted by
the unrighteousness of Mammon, a form of idolatry which he had always
heartily despised.

The first item on the news page was headed in bold type:


      ~"MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE OF A
      RULING GERMAN PRINCE.

      "SUSPICION OF FOUL PLAY.

      "IMPORTANT STATE PAPERS VANISH WITH
      HIM.--SPECIAL.~

     "In spite of the most rigorous censorship of the Press Bureau, it
     has now become a matter of practical certainty that Prince Emil
     Rudolf von Zastrow, the youthful and very capable ruler of Boravia,
     who, during the last two or three years, has become one of the most
     brilliant figures in European society, has disappeared under
     circumstances so strangely mysterious as to suggest some analogy
     with the tragedy of which the unhappy Prince Alexander of Bulgaria
     was the central figure.

     "The facts, so far as they have been ascertained, are briefly as
     follows:--Up to about a fortnight ago, the Prince was living in
     semi-retirement with his consort, the Princess Hermia, in his
     picturesque Castle of Trelitz, which, as every one knows, looks
     down over the waters of the Baltic from a solitary eminence of rock
     which rises out of the vast forests that cover the rolling plains
     for leagues on the landward sides. It will be remembered that every
     year since his accession, the Prince has been wont to retire to
     this famous hunting-ground of his to enjoy at once the pleasures of
     the chase and the society of his beautiful young consort in peace
     and solitude after the whirl of the European winter season. As far
     as is known, the only guests at the Castle were the Count Ulik von
     Kessner, High Chamberlain of Boravia, who is believed to have been
     present on business of State, and Captain Alexis Vollmar, of the
     55th Caucasus Regiment, at present attached to the Imperial
     Headquarter Staff at St Petersburg. Captain Vollmar, in addition to
     being a brilliant young officer, is also a scion of two of the
     wealthiest and most aristocratic families in Russia.

     "It is now fully established that on the evening of the 6th of this
     month--that is to say, nearly three weeks ago--the Prince and his
     two guests returned after a long day in the forest, and that the
     Prince retired to rest very shortly before supper. From that day to
     this he has never been seen, either at home or in society. What
     makes the disappearance more strangely striking is the fact that
     the Prince, who is Colonel of the 28th Pommeranian Regiment, did
     not put in an appearance at the recent review in the Kaiserhof when
     the German Emperor held his usual inspection. Although it was
     obvious that His Majesty was both puzzled and annoyed by his
     absence, no official explanation of it has been given, and all
     information on the subject is rigidly withheld. Our own comes from
     a personal friend, and, as far as it goes, may be absolutely relied
     upon."

For some reason or other, which, after his recent experiences, he
thought it would be as well not to try and fathom for the present, these
few paragraphs made a strangely persistent impression on him. When he
got home he gave his evening papers as usual to his daughter, and at
dinner the Zastrow mystery was the chief, in fact almost the only, topic
of conversation.

"Yes, it certainly is very extraordinary," said Nitocris. "The papers
make mysteries enough out of the disappearance, of the most everyday,
insignificant persons, who were probably only running away from their
debts or their domestic troubles, but for a real Prince to utterly
vanish like this--that certainly looks like a little more than an
ordinary mystery. And I suppose," she went on, after a little interval
of silence, "if there really has been foul play--I mean, granted that
Prince Charming, as all the Society papers got to call him, has been
spirited away for some hidden reason of State or politics and is never
intended to see the light of day again, who knows how many secrets may
be connected with this affair which might be like matches in a powder
magazine? And--Oh yes--why, Dad, it was this same Prince Zastrow who has
been mentioned by most of the best European papers as the only possible
Elective Tsar of Russia if the Romanoffs are driven out by the
Revolution, and the people go back to the old Constitution. In fact,
some of them went so far as to say that nothing but his selection could
prevent a scramble for the fragments of Russia which could only end in
general conflagration."

"Yes, of course I do," replied her father. "But what an atrocious shame,
if it is so! One of the most popular of the minor princes of Europe
spirited away, and perhaps either murdered or thrown into some prison or
fortress, where he will drag out his days and nights in solitude until
he goes mad: a young, bright, promising life ruined, just because he
happens to stand in the way of some unscrupulous ambition, or vile
political intrigue!

"It would be a crime of the very first magnitude, that is to say, of the
most villainous description, and all the more horrible because it would
be committed by people in the highest of places. Really, Niti, it is
enough to make one think that there ought to be some higher power in the
world capable of making these political crimes impossible. The inner
history of European politics--I mean, the history that doesn't get into
books or newspapers--would, I am certain, prove that quite half the wars
of the world, at least during the period of what we are pleased to call
civilisation, would have been avoided if some means could have been
found of putting an end to the miserable personal ambitions and
jealousies which have never anything to do with the welfare of nations,
but quite the reverse. I shouldn't wonder if poor Prince Zastrow has
been the victim of something of the sort. It is quite possible that
expiring Tsardom had a finger in the pie. At any rate, there was a
Russian officer in the Castle the day he disappeared. I should very much
like to see the sort of explanation _he_ could give of the affair, if he
chose."

"But is there not such a power in the world now, Dad?" asked Nitocris,
looking across the table at him with a peculiar smile.

He looked back in silence for a moment or two. Then he replied slowly:

"I see what you mean, Niti. Of course, I suppose we shall be able to
read each other's thoughts now, or even converse without speaking, or
when we are out of earshot of each other. The same idea came to me while
I was reading the account of this affair in the train; but should I, or,
rather we, be doing right in interfering actively in the transactions,
political and otherwise, of the world--by which I mean, of course, the
state of three dimensions? It would be a terrific responsibility.
Remember what tremendous powers we are capable of wielding by simply--it
is so very simple now--simply transferring our personalities to the
higher plane. What if we were to do wrong? We might involve the whole
world in some unspeakable catastrophe."

"And which do _you_ consider to be the greatest catastrophe, or, perhaps
I ought rather to say the greatest evil, that has ever afflicted the
world, Dad?" she asked, with just a suspicion of a smile in her eyes,
though her lips were perfectly serious.

"Oh, war, of course!" he replied, with his usual emphasis when he got on
to that topic. "What was I saying only just now about personal intrigues
and ambitions that make war? What have I always thought about war? It is
the most appalling curse----"

"Then, Dad," she interrupted in her sweetest tones, "do you think that,
supposing we possess these wonderful powers, they could be better used
than in preventing any war which may possibly arise out of this
disappearance of Prince Zastrow, and so convincing those who are wicked
enough to plunge the human race into blood and misery that henceforth
all wars of aggression and ambition will be impossible?"

"Yes, you are right as usual, Niti," he exclaimed, getting up. "Now you
go and think about it all, and give me your advice in the morning. I
want to get away now and work out an intelligible solution of those
three problems--if I can make it so--for the benefit of Van Huysman and
the rest of my respected critics. When I've done that, we'll be off to
the Continent or somewhere----"

"And see what we can make of the Zastrow Mystery, perhaps!" said
Nitocris. "Good-night, Dad. I want to do some thinking, too."

He went to his study and set to work upon a development of the
demonstrations with which he had astounded not only London, but the
whole civilised world.

But it was no good to-night. The ideas would not come. Over and over
again he picked up the threads of his arguments, only to drop them
again. At last, in something like wondering despair, he muttered:

"Confound the thing! I almost had it last night, and now I seem as far
away from it as ever. What on earth can be the matter with me?"

He put his elbows on the table, took his head between his hands, and
stared down at the pages covered with angles and circles, chords and
curves, and wildernesses of symbols, which were scattered about his
desk. As he stared at them they seemed somehow to come together, and the
lines and curves arranged themselves in symmetrical shapes, until they
developed from diagrams into pictures; and as they did so he found
himself forgetting all about the problems, and thinking only of the
strange vision which seemed to be unfolding itself among the scattered
papers before him. The straight lines became the walls and turrets of
one of those two-or three-hundred-year-old German country houses, half
castle, half mansion, which every explorer of the bye-paths of the
Fatherland has seen and admired so often. The curves became long,
sweeping stretches of sandy bays, fringed with other curves of breaking
rollers; and as the picture grew more distinct, one great circle
embraced a whole perfect picture of land and seascape--land dusky and
forest-covered in the southward half; and the misty sea, island-dotted,
wind-whipped, and foam-flecked, to the northward.

The castle stood on the top of a somewhat steeply sloping hill about
five hundred feet above the sandy shore, on which the breakers were
curling a couple of miles away. The hill was covered with thick-growing
firs from the plain to the castle wall, but two broad avenues ran in
straight lines, one to seaward, and the other down into the depths of
the vast forest, until it opened on to the post road, which afforded the
only practicable carriage route to the station of Trelitz on the main
Berlin-Königsberg Railway.

The longer he looked, the more surprisingly distinct the picture became,
and, curiously enough, the less his wonder grew. He saw three men on
horseback riding at a canter up the avenue from the forest. Their
costumes showed plainly enough that they had just come back from the
chase. As they rode on they seemed to come quite close to him, until he
could see their features with perfect distinctness. By the changing
expression of their faces he could tell they were laughing and chatting;
but, singularly enough, he could not hear a word that they were saying,
which, considering the minuteness with which he saw everything, struck
him as being distinctly curious.

He watched them ride up to the old Gothic gateway in the wall which ran
round the castle, suiting itself to the irregularities of the hill. They
crossed the courtyard and dismounted. The grooms led their horses away,
and, as the big double doors opened, they went in, one of them, standing
aside for the younger of his companions but entering before the other.
In the great hall whose walls were adorned with horns and heads and
tusks, and whose floor was almost completely carpeted with skins, they
gave their weapons to a couple of footmen; and as they did so he saw the
slim and yet stately figure of a woman coming down the winding stair
which led into the hall from a broad gallery running round it. As she
reached the bottom of the stairway she threw her head back a little, and
held out both her hands towards the man who had come in second. As the
light of a great swinging lamp above the stairway fell upon her upturned
face, he recognised the Countess Hermia von Zastrow, the reigning
European beauty whose portrait in the illustrated papers, and in the
great photographer's windows, was almost as familiar as that of Queen
Alexandra.

The Count--for the handsome young hunter who now took her hands could
now be no other than the Prince of Boravia-Trelitz--raised her right
hand in courtly fashion to his lips. The other two bowed low before her,
and then she led the way up the stairs.

He saw all this as distinctly as though he had been actually present,
and yet none of the party seemed to take the slightest notice of him.
But he was getting quite accustomed to miracle-working now, and so he
accepted the extraordinary conditions of his visions, or whatever it
was, with more interest than astonishment. He followed them up the
stairs and along the right hand side of the gallery. The Count opened a
door of heavy black oak and stood aside for his Countess to enter. Again
the younger of his companions went first, and again he followed; then,
as the elder man entered and closed the door, the scene was blotted out
as though a sudden darkness had fallen upon his eyes.

"Dear me!" he said, getting up and rubbing his temples with both hands.
"If I hadn't had so many extraordinary experiences since my promotion to
the plane of N4, I should probably be a little scared as well. But it
is really astonishing how soon the trained intellect gets accustomed to
anything--even the eccentricities of the fourth dimensional world.
Well, well! I hope that's not the end of the adventure, I was getting
quite interested. I suppose this must be in some obscure way the reason
why those paragraphs in the _Pall Mall_ interested me so strangely."

He walked towards the window, pulled the blind aside and looked out. But
instead of his own tree-shaded lawn and the wide expanse of moonlit
common beyond which he expected to see, he found himself looking, as it
were, through a window from the outside into a great, oak-panelled
sleeping chamber, lighted by a huge silver lamp hanging from the middle
of the painted and corniced ceiling. Against the middle of the left hand
side wall, as he was looking into the room, stood one of the huge,
heavily-draped, four-post bedsteads in which the great ones of the earth
were wont to take their rest a couple of hundred years ago. The curtains
were drawn back on both sides. In the middle of the bed lay Count
Zastrow, deathly white, with fast-closed eyes and lips, breathing
heavily as the rise and fall of the embroidered sheet and silken
coverlet which lay across his chest showed. On the right hand side stood
the Countess and the two men whom he had seen before; on the other side
stood a tall, strikingly handsome woman, whose dark imperious features
seemed strangely at variance with the severely fashioned grey dress and
the plainly arranged hair which proclaimed her either a nurse or an
upper servant.

He saw the elder of the two men lean over the bed and raise one of the
sleeper's eyelids with his thumb. The nurse took up a lighted taper by
the table beside her and passed it in front of the opened eye. The man
closed the eyelid, and turned and said something to the Countess and the
other man. The Countess nodded and smiled, not quite as a man likes to
see a woman smile, and, with a swift glance at the motionless figure on
the bed, turned away and left the room. The nurse said something to the
two men, and as the door closed behind her the scene changed again.

This time he was not looking into a window, but out of one. He was
gazing over a vast expanse of forest pierced by a broad, straight road
which led for several miles, as it seemed to him, between two dark walls
of thickly-growing pines until it ended abruptly with the forest and
opened out on a tiny sand-fringed inlet whose narrow mouth was guarded
by two little outcrops of rock half a mile to seaward.

A carriage drawn by four black horses rolled rapidly along the road,
swung out on to the beach, and stopped. Almost at the same moment a
grey-painted, six-oared boat grounded on the sandy beach. A couple of
men landed from her, and as the carriage door opened, they saluted. The
Count's two guests got out and the others entered the carriage, then one
of them got out again followed by the other, and between them they
carried a limp, motionless human form completely covered by a great rug
of dark fur. It was taken to the boat. All embarked, and the pinnace
shot away out through the little headlands. A mile out to seaward lay
the long black shape of a torpedo destroyer. The pinnace ran alongside
and they all went on board, two of the sailors carrying the body as
before.

Professor Marmion found himself accompanying them. The body was taken
into a little cabin and laid in a berth. The rug was turned down from
the face, and he recognised Prince Zastrow. A few minutes later he found
himself in the main cabin of the destroyer. The two men who had come in
the carriage were sitting at a little table with a man in mufti. This
man raised his head and said something. He did not hear the words--but,
to his amazement, he recognised the handsome face as that of Prince
Oscarovitch, whom he had never seen before he came as his guest to the
garden-party at "The Wilderness."

On the bulkhead of the cabin at the Prince's head there hung a little
block-calendar, and the exposed leaf showed the date, Monday, 6th June.
As he read it an impulse caused him to look round at the calendar
standing upon his own mantel-shelf. It showed the date, Friday, 24th
June. He turned back to the window and saw nothing but his own lawn and
the moonlit Common beyond.



CHAPTER XVII

M. NICOL HENDRY


Franklin Marmion sat down and began to think the situation over. It was
not an easy one, for, as it appeared to him, it would be very difficult,
if not impossible, for Nitocris and himself to help in the elucidation
of the Zastrow mystery, and the prevention of any European complications
that might arise out of it, on both the higher and the lower planes of
existence. Of course, it would have been perfectly easy to do so in one
sense, for now, practically nothing in human affairs was impossible of
achievement to them; but, on the other hand, it would never do to allow
people on the lower plane to become aware of their extra-human powers.
This was out of the question for many reasons, not the least of which
was that they had their lives to live under the ordinary conditions of
time and space and among their fellow-mortals, every one of whom would
shun them in fear, perhaps even horror, if they knew their secret. What,
for instance, would happen to Nitocris in her temporal state if even
only Merrill came to know it? No, the idea was certainly beyond the
possibility of consideration.

At the same time, it was to some extent necessary that they should work
on both planes if they were to reap the full advantage of their recently
acquired powers, and out of this dilemma there appeared to be only one
way open to the Professor: he must have the assistance of others to do
on the lower plane the work that he would, as it were, direct from the
higher. The question was, who? Obviously it must be some one upon whose
discretion absolute reliance could be placed. He must be highly skilled
in police work, and have a reputation to enhance or lose as the result
might decide. Suddenly a name occurred to him. A short time ago his
friend the President had been telling him the inner story of a very
intricate case which had involved a scandal of two Courts. Only the most
meagre details had obviously been permitted to appear in the papers, but
His Lordship had told him that it had been solved and settled almost
entirely by the skill and diplomacy of a M. Nicol Hendry, who held the
little advertised but highly responsible position of Head of the English
Department of the International Police Bureau.

"That's the very man," he said, "the very man, and I shouldn't wonder if
he's engaged on this particular case. It's too late to wire, and,
besides, that would look suspicious. I could telephone to Scotland Yard,
but I don't want even the police to know I want him until I've seen him.
No, I'll write a note: it will go by the early post, and no one will
know where it comes from."

Just as lunch was over the next day the front door bell tingled, and
presently the parlour-maid knocked, and came in with a card on a silver
salver:

"I have shown the gentleman into the drawing-room, sir. He says that he
has an appointment with you for half-past two."

"Very well: I will be up in a moment, Annie." Then, as she closed the
door, he gave Nitocris the card, and continued: "Our ally on the lower
plane that may be. You say you wouldn't care to be present and help me
with your opinion?"

"Oh no, Dad. I don't want any one to know that I am taking any part in
this little adventure. But if you will introduce him afterwards, I'll
tell you what I think. You know, women generally judge other people that
way."

"Very well," laughed her father, as he turned to the door, "that will be
best. If everything goes right and I think I can work with him, I shall
bring him upstairs and you can give him a cup of tea. If I don't, you
will know that he won't do."

"Good-bye, then, for the present," she smiled, "and don't frighten the
poor man, if you can help it. I dare say he's only an exaggerated
policeman, after all."

But it was a very different sort of person whom Franklin Marmion greeted
in the drawing-room. M. Nicol Hendry was a slimly but strongly-built man
of about forty. His high, somewhat narrow forehead was framed with
close-cut, crinkly, reddish-brown hair. Under well-defined brown
eyebrows shone a pair of alert steel-grey eyes of almost startling
brilliancy. His nose was a trifle long and slightly aquiline. A
carefully-trained golden-brown moustache half-concealed firm, thinly-cut
lips, and a closely-trimmed, pointed beard just revealed the strength of
the chin beneath. He was dressed in a dark grey frock-coat suit, and
wore a pinky-red wild rose, which he had plucked on the Common, in his
button-hole. As he shook hands with him the Professor made a mental note
of him as an embodiment of strength, keenness, and quiet inflexibility:
a summing-up which was pretty near the truth.

"Good afternoon, M. Hendry," he said, as the hands and eyes met.

"Good afternoon, Professor," returned the other in a gentle voice, and
almost perfect English. "May I ask to what happy circumstance--at least,
I hope it is a happy one--I owe the honour of making the acquaintance of
the gentleman who has succeeded in mystifying all the mathematicians of
Europe?"

"Well," said Franklin Marmion with a smile, "I don't know whether there
is so very much honour about that, but I do know that your time is very
valuable and that I have already taken up a good deal of it by bringing
you all the way out here, so I will come to the point at once. But wait
a moment. Come down into my study. We can talk more comfortably there."
When the Professor had given his guest a cigar and lit his pipe, he
said quite abruptly: "It is about the Zastrow affair."

If he had said it was about the last Grand Ducal plot in the Peterhof,
M. Hendry could not have been inwardly more astonished. Outwardly the
Professor might have mentioned the last commonplace murder. Only his
eyelids lifted a little as he replied:

"Ah, indeed? Well, really, Professor, you must forgive me for saying
that that is about the very last matter I should have expected you to
have brought up. All the world knows you as one of its most
distinguished men of science, now, of course, more distinguished than
ever; but I hardly think any one would have expected you to interest
yourself in political mysteries. I have a recollection of hearing or
reading somewhere that politics were your pet aversion."

"So they are," replied Franklin Marmion, with a short laugh. "I consider
ordinary politics--juggling with phrases to delude the ignorance and
flatter the prejudices of the mob, and bartering principles for place
and power--to be about the most contemptible vocation a man can descend
to, but those are low politics in more senses than one. Now high
politics, as a psychological study, to an outsider are a very different
matter. But I am digressing. I did not invite you here to discuss
trivialities like these. I want to ask you--of course, you will not
answer me unless you like--whether you are connected, professionally or
otherwise, with the Zastrow affair?"

M. Hendry looked down at the toes of his perfectly-shaped boots for a
moment or two. Then he raised his head and said good-humouredly:

"Professor, I know that there is no more honourable man in the world
than you, but even from you I must ask frankly your reasons for asking
that question?"

"You have a perfect right to do that, my dear sir," was the quiet reply.
"If you say 'yes,' I am anxious to help you: if you say 'no,' I should
like you to help me: if you don't care to answer, there is an end of the
matter. Those are my reasons."

It took a good deal to astonish Nicol Hendry, but he was considerably
astonished now. Yet it was impossible to have the remotest doubt of
Franklin Marmion's absolute earnestness. But why should he of all men on
earth want to unravel the Zastrow mystery? What interest save the merest
curiosity could he have in the matter? And yet he was by no means the
sort of man to be merely curious. The very strangeness of his
proposition half-convinced him that there must be some other very strong
reason underlying those which he had given. Again, he was to be
perfectly trusted, so no harm could be done trying to discover if this
was so, since if he could help he would do so loyally. So he told him.

"Yes, Professor," he said, looking keenly into his eyes, "I am
interested in the _affaire_, professionally interested, and, I may add,
very deeply interested, to boot."

"I am glad to hear that," said Franklin Marmion with unexpected
earnestness. "Now, the next question is: Will you accept my assistance,
whatever it may be, under my own conditions, which are these: No one but
yourself shall know that I am helping you, and you yourself will not ask
me how I help you."

Once more a puzzle. Nicol Hendry thought for a few seconds before he
replied slowly:

"Yes, Professor. As long as you do help us I don't care either why or
how, for, as I may now be quite frank with you, we certainly want help
of some sort very badly. The papers are quite right for once. Neither
here nor on the Continent have we found a single clue worth picking up.
It is humiliating, but it is true."

"Then before you go I hope I shall be able to give you some that will be
worth picking up, and keeping too," said the scientist with a faint
smile; "at any rate, I think I can put you upon certain lines of enquiry
which you will find it profitable to trace out."

Nicol Hendry was an ambitious man, and he would have given a good deal
to have known what was passing in the other's mind just then, but his
expression betrayed nothing more than interested anticipation.

"We shall be entirely grateful to you if you will, Professor," he
murmured.

"I have no doubt of that, my dear sir. Now, to begin with: I presume
that there are photographs of the persons mentioned in the newspapers
as being in the Castle of Trelitz with the Prince on the last day that
he was known to be there?"

"Certainly; we should scarcely leave a simple preliminary like that
neglected," smiled Nicol Hendry. "With the exception of the Fraülein
Hulda von Tyssen, the Princess' Lady of the Bedchamber, all have been
photographed for publication, and hers we have got through a private
source. The Chief of each of our Departments has a copy of them, and I
happen to have mine in my pocket now, if you would like to see them. The
Princess, of course, you must have seen. She is in every photographer's
window in the West End."

"Oh yes, I have seen her. Who has not? She is a singularly beautiful
woman. But I should very much like to see the others, if I may."

The Chef de Bureau looked at him sharply as he took a small square
morocco case out of his inner pocket and opened it. Going to a little
table he spread out five small unmounted photographs upon it. He put two
of them on one side, saying:

"Those, of course, you know; they are the Prince and Princess. This one
is Count Ulik von Kessner, High Chamberlain of Boravia; this, Captain
Alexis Vollmar; and this is Fraülein von Tyssen."

Franklin Marmion looked at them with much more than ordinary interest,
for he recognised all five as clearly as though he had just left them in
his own dining-room.

"There are no suspicions attaching to any of these people, I suppose?"
he said carelessly.

"My dear Professor," replied Nicol Hendry a little coldly, "those who
write stories about our profession always say that it is our invariable
rule to suspect everybody, but we have a little common-sense, and we
know the records of these ladies and gentlemen in the minutest detail
from the Prince himself to Fraülein Hulda. We have not the slightest
reason to suspect any of them."

"Ah, just so," said the other musingly; "no, of course you wouldn't
have, and, unfortunately, I cannot tell you why you should. But I'll
tell you this: if you ever do find cause to suspect any of these
persons, you will find that this group is not complete. It ought to
contain the photograph of Prince Oscar Oscarovitch."

"Prince Oscar Oscarovitch!" exclaimed Nicol Hendry, staring at him this
time with wide-open eyes. "Why on earth should you----"

"Pardon me, my dear sir," interrupted Franklin Marmion gently, "remember
that you are not supposed to care anything about the why or the how. I
have already explained that I cannot explain."

"A thousand pardons, Professor. I don't often forget myself, but I did
then. You took me so utterly by surprise."

"I fancy that you will be a good deal more surprised before you have
come to the end of this affair," was the smiling but almost exasperating
reply; "but, as I implied, I can only give you clues. I cannot even
tell you how I get them, and it is for you to follow them or not as your
judgment dictates. Now, here are one or two to go on with. Try and find
out whether or not there was a four-funnelled Russian destroyer anywhere
in the neighbourhood of Trelitz on the night of the 6th. Trace as
closely as you can the movements of Prince Oscarovitch on that and the
two preceding days. Try and find out whether or not a large closed
chariot something like a barouche, drawn by four black horses, went from
anywhere in the direction of the Castle on that day. And lastly, keep a
very close eye upon the Egyptian Adept, as he calls himself--his name is
Phadrig Amena--who worked those alleged miracles at my daughter's
garden-party the other day. The Prince practically invited himself, and
brought this fellow with him. If you can find out the true relationship
between them I think you will have found out enough to keep you rather
busy for the present. If you do think anything of these little points
and examine them, let me know how you get on. We are going abroad for a
bit of a holiday, but I will send you my address every now and then.
Now, let us go back into the drawing-room, and my daughter will give us
some tea."

When Nicol Hendry left "The Wilderness" that afternoon he was about the
most mystified man in London. After he had gone, Franklin Marmion said
to Nitocris:

"Well, Niti, what do you think of our gimlet-eyed friend? Will he do?"

"Yes, Dad; I like his manner, and he seems very clever in his own way.
Quite a gentleman, too," she replied.

"I'm glad you think that," he added; "but what a pity it is that we
could not get the world to accept fourth dimensional evidence without
turning the said world inside out. We could clear up the whole _affaire_
Zastrow in a week then."

"But we shouldn't enjoy our holiday as much, I'm afraid, it would be too
exciting," concluded Nitocris.



CHAPTER XVIII

MURDER BY SUGGESTION


Two days later the Marmions left London for Copenhagen, whence they
intended to take a trip among the Baltic Islands, now looking their
brightest and prettiest, then up along the Norwegian Fiords, just before
the tourist rush began, and finally across from Trondjem to Iceland.
They were both excellent sailors, and both disliked crowds, especially
when the said crowds were pleasure-hunting. Moreover, they had now a
particular reason for being alone that they might enjoy together--they,
the only two mortals who could do so--the countless marvels of that new
existence which had now become possible for them. Where, too, could they
do this to more advantage than in the ancient Northland, whose
marvellous past would now be to them even as the present of their own
temporal lives?

The Van Huysmans, and, of course, Lord Lester Leighton, were to remain
in London until the end of the Season. Uncle Ephraim had cabled warm
congratulations and large credits, and so Brenda, very naturally as a
newly-engaged girl and a prospective Countess, wanted all that London
and Ranelagh and Henley, Ascot and Goodwood and Cowes, could give her
before her devoted lover's yacht carried them off to the Mediterranean.
Later in the autumn they were all to go over to the States to spend the
winter in Washington and New York, whence they were to return to London
for the wedding in May: surely as pleasant a programme--I fear that Miss
Brenda spelt it "program"--as could be desired even by a fair maiden
upon whom the kindly Fates had already showered their choicest gifts.
The only bitter drop in the family cup of content was the fact that
Professor van Huysman was as far away as ever from the exposure of the
fallacy which, as he was immovably convinced, those abominable
demonstrations _must_ contain.

After due consultation between Nicol Hendry and his colleagues of
France, Germany, and Russia, it was decided to follow up the clues which
he had so mysteriously received. The others would, of course, have been
very glad to know where and how he got them, but at the outset he had
put them on their honour not to ask, and so professional etiquette made
it impossible for them to do anything but accept his assurance that he
had received them from a source which was quite beyond reproach. Once
they accepted the situation, they got to work with a quiet thoroughness
which resulted in the spreading of an invisible but unbreakable net
round the footsteps of every one of the suspects from the great
Oscarovitch himself to the humble seller of curios in Candler's Court,
and his still humbler friends Pent-Ah and Neb-Anat, who were known to
the few who knew them as Mr and Mrs Pentana, renovators, and, possibly
manufacturers, of ancient gems and relics.

But to one pair of eyes, at least, the police-net was as plainly visible
as a spider's web hanging in the sunlight.

Within three days Phadrig received a visit from a shabbily-dressed but
well-to-do Jew trader with whom he had done business before, who wanted
to know if he could put him in the way of getting some really good old
Egyptian gems and jewellery to show on approval to a wealthy patron who
wanted to give his daughter a set of rare and uncommon ornaments on her
wedding day. It was by this means, by acting as an intermediary between
those who had something to sell and those who wished to buy, that
Phadrig was supposed to make his modest living. His knowledge of Eastern
antiquities was admittedly great, though, of course, no one knew how
great, and he had often been asked why, instead of living in such a
wretched way, he did not start a little business for himself; to which
he always replied that he had no capital, and that he preferred
independence, however poor, to the cares and ties of regular trading.

When the Jew had stated his business, Phadrig looked at him with sleepy
eyes with a strange expression in them which, for some reason or other,
held his visitor's usually shifty gaze fixed, and said in a slow, gentle
voice:

"It is very kind of you, Mr Josephus, to bring me all these nice little
commissions. They are of much benefit to a poor student of antiquities
like myself, although I do not like trading in things that I love.
Still, one must live if one would study. Now, I had a gem sent to me the
other day which I would dearly love to possess, but, alas! as well might
I long for the Koh-i-Noor itself. Moreover, it is already promised--nay,
as good as sold. But what have the poor to do with such splendours save
to help the rich to buy them!"

The Jew's prominent eyes shone with an inward light at the mention of
the gem, and he said in a coaxing voice:

"My dear Phadrig, we have always been friends for ever so long, and you
say I've been a good customer to you. Might I have a look at that gem?
You know how fond I am of the pretty things. Have you got it here?"

"Yes, and you shall see it with pleasure, my good Josephus," replied
Phadrig, well knowing the thought that was in his mind when he asked if
he had the gem there in that shabby, unprotected room.

He went to the old oak secretaire, unlocked a cupboard at the side, and
then a drawer within it, followed in every motion by the gleaming eyes
of the Jew, and took from it a leather parcel. He undid this and
produced a box, about four inches long and three wide, of plain black
polished wood. It looked solid, but Phadrig made a swift motion with his
fingers, and one half of it slid off the other. He held it towards his
visitor, and said:

"What do you think of that as a specimen of ancient art, Mr Josephus?"

The Jew looked. The inside of the box seemed filled with green light
tinted with yellow. Out of the midst of it began to shine a deeper green
light which crystallised into the most glorious emerald that he had ever
even dreamt of. It was fully an inch square, flawless, and of perfect
colour. The yellow sheen came from a framework of heavy,
exquisitely-wrought gold. Phadrig took it out and held it before him,
and the green light seemed to radiate through the dull atmosphere of the
room. The Jew stared at it with bulging eyes and trembling under-lip,
and his hands went out towards it with a gesture which seemed like
worship.

"God of Israel," he gasped, "was anything so splendid ever seen before!
Mr Phadrig, is it--is it real?"

"Real?" echoed the Egyptian scornfully. "Did you ever see light like
that come out of a sham stone? You should know more about gems than
that, Mr Josephus."

"Ah yes, yes, of course. It is glorious; it is worthy to shine on the
breastplate of the High Priest--and what a price it must be! Is it
allowed to ask the name of the great millionaire for whom it is
destined?"

"Yes. It will in a few hours be the property of Prince Oscar
Oscarovitch."

As Phadrig spoke he hid the gem in his hand. His voice was so changed
that the Jew looked up at him. His eyes were wide open now, and glowing
with a fire that made them look almost dull red. They seemed to see
right through his eyeballs and look into his brain. Josephus started as
though he had been struck. He tried to turn his head away, but the
terrible eyes held him. His fat, greasy, olive face grew grey and dry,
and his head shook from side to side.

"What is the matter, my dear Mr Josephus?" asked Phadrig, in slow, stern
tones. "The mention of the Prince seems to have affected your nerves.
Are you acquainted with His Highness?"

"Me? I? Why, how should I know a great man like the noble Prince? No,
no; of course I know him as a very grand and great gentleman, but that
is all, really all, my dear Phadrig."

"Yes, yes, of course," said the Egyptian, once more in his gentle voice;
"would not be likely, would it? Now, if you would like to look at the
gem more closely, go and sit down there by the light and take it in your
hand. You will see that it is engraved with hieroglyphics. They say that
this jewel was once the property of Rameses the Great of Egypt, and was
given by him to his daughter Nitocris."

This information did not interest the Jew in the slightest, since he had
never heard the names in his life; but the delight and honour of holding
such a glorious gem in his hand even for a few minutes was ecstasy to
him. He sat down, and held out his fat, trembling hand greedily. With a
smile of contempt Phadrig placed the jewel in it, and said:

"Examine it closely, my friend. It is well worth it, and it may be long
before you see another like it."

"Like--like _it_, like _this_! By the beard of Father
Moses, I should think not--I should think--I should--oh,
beautiful--glor--glorious--splendid--did--splen--oh, what a
light--li--light--li--oh----!"

As each of the disjointed syllables came from his shaking lips he
mumbled more and more, and his head sank lower towards the priceless
thing in his palm. As he gazed, the stone grew round and bigger and
brighter, till it seemed like a great green-blazing eye glaring into the
utmost depths of his being. Then the light suddenly went out, his head
fell on his breast, and as his hand sank, Phadrig caught it and took
away the jewel. Then he put the Jew back in the chair, and standing in
front of him began in a slow, penetrating voice:

"Isaac Josephus, thou hast gazed upon the Horus Stone, and he who doeth
that may not answer the questions of an Adept with lies save at the
price of his life. Now answer me truly, or to-morrow morning those of
thine household shall find thee dead in thy bed."

Wide open the eyes of the hypnotised man stared at him, and the loose
lips quivered, but these were the only signs of life.

"Thou art not only a dealer in gems and curious things: thou art also a
spy of the police; is not that so?"

"Yes."

"Believing that I am a very poor man, yet knowing that I dealt with
objects of value, they thought me to be one who receives such things
from thieves to sell them again, since they could not. Is that so?"

"Yes."

"And, believing this, and knowing thee to have dealings with me, they
bribed thee to come here as my friend and fellow-dealer and spy upon my
actions, so that they might have evidence against me and cast me into
prison. Is that so?"

"Yes."

"Late on the last night but one thou didst go to the house of Nicol
Hendry, who is no common catcher of thieves, but a spy of nations whose
business is with the great ones of the earth. Tell me: whom did thy
business with him concern?"

"Prince Oscarovitch and yourself."

"What were his orders?"

"To watch you both, especially you, and find out when you went to him,
and why you were sometimes a poor devil in a miserable hole like this,
and sometimes a swell going to swagger places with him."

"How were you going to do this?"

"I know your servant or chum, Mr Pentana. I've lent him money: and Peter
Petroff, the Prince's particular servant, gambles like a lord, and he
owes me and a friend of mine a lot of money. We were going to work
through them."

"It is enough; and well for you that you have answered truthfully. Now
tell me: do you know how to use a revolver?"

"Never fired a shot in my life."

Phadrig went to the secretaire and took a common, cheap revolver,
identical with thousands of others which our criminally careless
Government allows to be bought every day without the production of a
licence--just a hooligan's weapon, in fact--went back and put it into
the Jew's hand. He raised the hand several times, and pointed the muzzle
to the temple, keeping the forefinger on the trigger. At length he let
go the wrist, and said in a gentle, persuading tone:

"That is the way to handle a revolver when you are going to shoot, my
dear Josephus. Now, let me see if you can do it by yourself."

With mechanical precision the Jew's arm went up until the muzzle touched
his temple. Again and again he did the same thing at Phadrig's bidding,
till at length he said rather more peremptorily:

"Now pull the trigger!"

The finger tightened and the hammer clicked. Five times more was the
operation repeated, and then Phadrig gently took the revolver and laid
the hand down. He went to the secretaire and loaded the six chambers,
cocked the weapon and put it into the right hand side-pocket of the
lounge jacket which Josephus was wearing, and said deliberately:

"Now remember, my dear Josephus: you will go straight back to your
office in Waterloo Road and let yourself in with your key. In your
private room you will see a man who wants to rob you of some valuable
papers. You will be ruined if he gets them, so you must take your pistol
out of your pocket and shoot him. Do you quite understand me?"

"Yes; I am to shoot him."

"That is right. Now, if you do not go he will have them before you get
there. Get up and we will say good-night. You must not put your hand in
your pocket until you see the man who wants to rob you. Good-night.
There is your hat."

"Good-night!"

Mr Isaac Josephus put on his hat and walked away to his death with the
motions of a mechanical doll.



CHAPTER XIX

THE HORUS STONE


An hour later Phadrig, the poor curio dealer, had disappeared, and Mr
Phadrig Amena, the wonder-working Adept, clad in evening clothes and a
light overcoat, alighted from a hansom at the great entrance to the
Royal Court Mansions. The huge, gorgeously uniformed guardian of the
Gilded Gates was saluting at his elbow in an instant, for a friend of
Princes is a very great man in the eyes of even such dignitaries as he.

"The Prince expects you, sir," he said, loud enough to make the title
heard by those who were standing by. "Will you be good enough to walk
in? I will discharge the cab."

He stood aside with a bow and another salute, and Phadrig walked lightly
up the broad steps. Peter Petroff opened the door of the flat, bowing
low, and conducted him to his master's sanctum. Evidently he was
expected, for the coffee apparatus stood ready on the Moorish table
beside the cosy chair which he was wont to occupy. The Prince, who was
standing on a white bear's skin by the mantel, motioned him to it,
saying:

"Ah, Phadrig, my friend, punctual, of course; and equally, of course,
you have something important to impart. Your wire just caught me in
time to put off an engagement which, happily, is of no great
consequence. There's the coffee, and you'll find the cigars you like in
the second drawer. Now, what is the news?"

His guest filled a cup of coffee and took a cigar and lit it before he
replied. Then, turning to the Prince, he said in his usual slow, even
tone:

"Highness, I regret to say that my news is both urgent and bad."

"It would naturally be urgent," said the Prince, turning quickly towards
him, "but bad I hardly expected. Well, all news cannot be good. What is
it?"

"I fear that my warning was even more urgent than I thought it myself--I
mean, in point of time. Your Highness is already being watched."

"What! A Prince of the Empire, the man whom they call the Modern
Skobeleff, an intimate of Nicholas! What should I be watched for?"
exclaimed the Prince, half angry and half astonished. "The thing is
ridiculous; another of your dreams!"

"Ridiculous it may be, Highness," replied Phadrig, quite unruffled, "but
it is no dream; and, moreover, the eyes which are watching you are keen
ones--and they are everywhere. You are under the surveillance of the
International Police."

These were not words which even a Prince of the Holy Russian Empire
cared to hear. Oscarovitch was silent for a few moments, for the
earnestness, and yet the calmness, with which they were spoken made it
impossible for him to doubt them. As he had asked, what could such a man
as he be watched for by this thousand-eyed organisation of which he
himself was one of the supreme Directors? It was impossible that
these people could suspect his great scheme of treachery and
self-aggrandisement. That was known to only three persons in the
world--himself, Phadrig, and the Princess Hermia; and the Princess, the
woman who had willingly sacrificed her brilliant young husband to her
guilty love and her boundless ambition--no, she could be no traitress.
It must be something else: and yet what?

He took two or three rapid turns up and down the room, chewing and
puffing at his cigar, until he stopped before Phadrig, and said quietly,
but with angry eyes:

"Very well, we will grant that I am watched by the International. Tell
me how you came to know it."

The Egyptian took a few sips of his coffee, and then related almost word
for word his interview with Josephus. He ended by saying:

"Your Highness may believe or not now as you please, but I presume you
will when you read in your paper to-morrow morning of the suicide of a
respectable Hebrew merchant named Isaac Josephus at the address which I
have mentioned."

Oscarovitch had pretty strong nerves, and he was well accustomed to
regard any kind of crime as a quite proper means of furthering
political ends: but there was something in this man's utter
soullessness and the weird horror of the crime which he had just
accomplished--for by this time his victim would be already lying
self-slain on the floor of his own spider's lair--that chilled him,
cold-blooded as he was. He looked at him lounging in his chair and
calmly puffing the smoke from his half-smiling lips as though he hadn't
a thought beyond the little blue rings that he was making.

"That was a devilish thing to do, Phadrig!" he said, a little above a
whisper.

"Devilish, possibly, Highness, but necessary, of a certainty," was the
quiet reply. "You will agree with me that Nicol Hendry is a dangerous
antagonist even for you, and as for me--no doubt he thinks that he can
crush me under his foot whenever he chooses to put it down. I should
like to know his feelings as he reads of his spy's suicide when he had
only just got to work."

"It will certainly be somewhat of a shock to him and his colleagues, and
for that reason I am inclined, on second thoughts, to agree that it was
necessary, and ghastly, as I confess; it seems to me, I think, that you
took the best means to give them a salutary warning. After all, the life
of an individual, and that individual a Jew, does not count for much
when the fate of empires is at stake. What puzzles me is how these
fellows came to suspect me, and what do they suspect me of. I suppose
you have no idea on the subject, have you?"

He looked at him keenly as he spoke, but he might as well have looked at
the face of a graven image. Then, like a flash of inspiration, the
Zastrow affair leapt into his mind. Had his connection with that, by any
extraordinary chance, come to the knowledge of the International? The
thought was distinctly disquieting. Phadrig had helped in this with his
strange arts. He would discuss this phase of the matter with him
afterwards.

Phadrig replied, returning his glance:

"Highness, I have only one explanation to offer, and that you have
already refused. Were I to speak of any other it would only be vain
invention."

"You mean about Professor Marmion and his mathematical miracles?" said
the Prince somewhat uneasily.

"I do," replied the Egyptian firmly. "I say now what I thought when I
saw him work them. I did not believe that any man could have done what
he did unless he had attained to what we styled in the ancient days the
Perfect Knowledge, or, as they term it to-day, passed the border between
the states of three and four dimensions. If Professor Marmion has
achieved that triumph of virtue and intelligence--and in the days that I
can remember there were more than one of the adepts who had done
so--then Your Highness's Imperial designs must be as well known to him
as to yourself: nay, better, for, while you can see only a part, the
beginning and a little way beyond, he can see the whole, even to the
end; for in that state, as we were taught, past, present, and future are
one. Now, only three persons know of the project, and treason among them
is not within the limits of reason, wherefore I would again ask Your
Highness to believe that such information as the International may have
has been given them directly or indirectly by Professor Marmion."

"But," said the Prince, who was now evidently wavering in his
scepticism, since Phadrig's explanation of the mystery really seemed to
be the only feasible one, impossible as it looked to him, "granted all
you say, what possible interest could Professor Marmion, whether he's
living in this world or the one of four dimensions, have in interfering
in such a project, even if he did know all about it, especially as every
educated Englishman admits that the state of affairs in Russia could
hardly be worse than it is? I cannot see what conceivable interest he
can have in the matter."

"But, Highness, his interest may be a private and not a public one."

"What do you mean by that, Phadrig?" asked the Prince sharply.

"As I have said," replied the Egyptian slowly, "it may be that his
daughter, who was once the Queen, has also attained to the Knowledge. In
that case the love which Your Highness so suddenly conceived for her
would instantly bring you within the sphere of his and her influence and
power. Now, she, as Nitocris Marmion, the mortal, is betrothed to the
English officer, Merrill. She loves him, and therefore, since you are
great and powerful in the earth-life, your ruin, or even your death,
might seem necessary to remove you from her path."

Oscarovitch shivered in spite of all his courage and self-control. The
idea of fearing anything human had never occurred to him after his first
battle; but this, if true, was a very different matter. To be threatened
with ruin or death by a power which he could not even see, to contend
against enemies who could read his very thoughts, and even be present in
a room with him without his knowing it--as Phadrig had assured him more
than once that they could be--was totally beyond the power of the
bravest or strongest of men. No, it was impossible: he could not, would
not, believe that, such a thing could be. His invincible materialism
came suddenly to his aid, and saved him from the reproach of fear in his
own eyes.

"No, Phadrig," he said, with a gesture of impatience, "that is not to be
credited. To you it may seem a reality: to me it can never be anything
more than a phantasy of intellect run mad on a single point--which, I
need hardly remind you, is a by no means uncommon failing of the
greatest of minds. Another reason has just occurred to me which would
need no such fantastic explanation."

"And that, Highness?" queried Phadrig, looking up with an almost
imperceptible shrug of his shoulders.

"The Zastrow affair. Unlikely as it seems, it is not impossible that
there has been treason there. I have many enemies in both Russia and
Germany, and it is well known that Zastrow and I were rivals once. Yes,
that is it: it must be so, and therefore we must prepare to fight the
International; and with such weapons as you are able to use there is not
much reason why we should fear them."

He dismissed the subject with an imperious wave of his hand, and
continued in an altered tone:

"And now, _àpropos_ of your weapons. Tell me something about this
wonderful gem with which you hypnotised the Jew."

"I will not only tell you about it, Highness, I will show it to you, if
you desire to see it," replied Phadrig, who now fully recognised the
hopelessness of overcoming the blind materialism which was, of course,
inevitable to the life-condition in which the Prince had his present
being.

"What! you have brought it with you! Excellent! Now I think we shall be
able to talk on pleasanter subjects than conspiracies and such phantasms
as the Fourth Dimension!" exclaimed Oscarovitch, who, like all Russians,
was almost passionately fond of gems. "Fancy asking a Russian if he
desires to see such a thing as that!"

"Your Excellency must be careful not to look at it too long or closely,"
said Phadrig, putting his hand down inside his waistcoat and drawing out
a wash-leather bag. "As I have told you, it possesses certain qualities
which are not to be trifled with. You are, of course, aware that many
Eastern gems are credited with hypnotic powers. This one undoubtedly has
them."

As he spoke he drew out the emerald, and held it by the clasp under a
cluster of electric lights.

"What a glorious gem!" exclaimed the Prince, starting forward to look at
it more closely. "There is nothing to compare with it even among the
Imperial jewels of Russia."

"Have a care, Highness," said the Egyptian, raising his left hand,
"unless you wish to fall under its influence. Once it seized your gaze
you could not withdraw it without the permission of its possessor, and
meanwhile he would have complete mastery of you. I am your faithful
servant, and therefore I warn you."

Was there just the faintest suspicion of a sneer in his voice as he said
this? If there was, Oscarovitch did not notice it. He was already too
much under the charm of the Horus Stone. Phadrig suddenly put his hand
over the gem and went on. "The story of this jewel, Highness, is that
many ages ago, before the beginning of the First Dynasty, a little raft
of a strange wood, as white as ivory and shaped like a river-lily, came
floating down the Nile at full flood-time and drifted to the shore in
front of the house of a wise and holy man who was reputed to hold
perpetual communion with the gods. On the raft was a cradle of white
wicker-work lined with down, upon which lay a man-child of such
exquisite beauty that he could scarce have been born of mortal parents.
His body was bare, but round his neck was a glistening chain of
marvellously wrought gold, fastened to which was this gem lying on his
breast. This was doubtless the origin of the Hebrew fable of the finding
of Moses, who, as all scholars know, was not a Hebrew, but an Egyptian
priest in the House of Ra.

"The holy man took him into his home, burying the chain and gem, lest it
might bring temptation to those who saw them; and as the boy grew to
manhood he taught him all his lore, until he, too, was wise enough to be
admitted into the communion of the gods, which afterwards was called by
the adepts the Perfect Knowledge. On the gem are engraved the three
symbols by which the Trinity--Osiris, Isis, and Horus; Father: Mother,
and Child, the antetype of Humanity--became known and worshipped. The
holy man divined that the boy was the incarnation of Horus sent thus to
earth to teach men the way of knowledge, which is the only
righteousness, since those who know all cannot sin. Where his house
stood was built the first Temple of the Divine Trinity, and of this
Horus became High Priest. He crowned the King in the land, and hung this
gem round his neck as the symbol of his kingship and the approval of the
gods.

"From the first king it was handed down from monarch to monarch through
all the changes of dynasties, until it hung from the royal chain of the
great Rameses; and by him it was given to his daughter Nitocris, thereby
making her Queen of Egypt after him; and she wore it on that fatal
night of the death-bridal when, rather than wed with you, who were then
Menkau-Ra, Lord of War, she flooded the banqueting hall of Pepi and
drowned herself and all her guests--which, Highness, is an omen that it
were well for you not to forget should you persist in your pursuit of
the daughter of Professor Marmion."

Oscarovitch was a man of vivid imagination, as all great soldiers and
statesmen must be, and so the story of the Horus Stone appealed strongly
to him; but what interested him perhaps even more was the spectacle of
this man, who had just been guilty of a peculiarly ghastly form of
murder, sitting there and telling with simple eloquence and evident
reverence the sacred Myth out of which what was perhaps the most ancient
religion in the world had evolved. He heard him with a silence of both
interest and respect until his last sentence. Then he got up and
stretched his arms out and said with a laugh:

"Omen, Phadrig! Your tale of the stone has interested me deeply, but I
believe no more in the omen than I do in the story. Ay, and even if I
did, I would dare all the omens that wizards ever invented for their own
profit in trying to make Nitocris Marmion what I want her to be, and
what she shall be unless she is the cause of my first failure to achieve
what I had set my heart upon. But you have not finished your story. Tell
me now how the stone came into your possession, seeing that it was swept
out into the Nile hanging on the breast of the Royal Nitocris."

"The next season of Flood, so the records ran, Highness, the skeleton of
a woman was washed up to the foot of the river stairs of the House of
Ptah, and the stone and chain were found among the weeds which filled
the cavity of the chest. They were taken with all reverence to the High
Priest, who bore them to the Pharaoh, and, amidst great rejoicing, hung
them round his neck. Then from Pharaoh to Pharaoh it came down through
the centuries until it fell into the possession of her who wrought the
ruin of the Ancient Land. She gave the stone to her lover, and from his
body it was taken by a priest of the Ancient Faith who once was
Anemen-Ha, and is now Phadrig Amena, the degenerate worker of mean
marvels which the ignorant of these days would call miracles did they
not take them for conjuring tricks.

"Since then it remained hidden, seen only by the successors of him who
rescued it from the plunderers of the body of Antony, until, seemingly
in the way of trade, yet doubtless for some deep reason which is not
revealed to me, it came back into my hands again. Such so far, Highness,
is the end of the story of the Stone of Horus."

"And doubtless more yet remains to be written or told," said the Prince
seriously, for he was really impressed in spite of his scepticism. Then,
after a little pause, he continued: "Phadrig, you have said that the
stone is dangerous to any but its possessor. I wish to possess it. Name
your price, and, to half my fortune, you shall have it."

"The stone, Highness," replied the Egyptian, with the shadow of a smile
flickering across his lips, "never has been, and never can be, sold for
money, so I could not sell it, even if money had value for me, which it
has not. There is only one price for it."

"And what is that?"

"A human life--perchance many lives--but all to be paid in succession by
him or her who buys it, unless he or she shall attain to the Perfect
Knowledge."

"Give it to me, then!" exclaimed Oscarovitch, holding out his hand. "The
life I have I will gladly pay for it in the hope of laying it on the
breast of the living Nitocris. As I do not believe in any others, I will
throw them in. Give it to me!"

"It is a perilous possession, Highness, for one who has not even
attained to the Greater Knowledge, as I have. Let me warn you to think
again, for once you take it from me the price must be paid to the
uttermost pang of the doom that it may bring with it."

"I care nothing about your knowledges, Phadrig," laughed the Prince,
still holding out his hand. "It is enough for me to know that it is the
most glorious gem on earth, and that it shall help me to win the
divinest woman on earth. So, once more, give it to me!"

"Take it, then, Highness," said the Egyptian, with a ring of solemnity
in his voice. "Take, and with it all that the High Gods may have in
store for you!"

He dropped the more than priceless gem into his hand with as little
reluctance as he would have given him a brass trinket. Then he turned
away to take another cigar, leaving Oscarovitch gazing in silent ecstasy
at, as he thought, his easily-come-by treasure. Then the Prince went to
a large panel picture fixed to the wall on the left-hand side of the
fireplace, touched it with his finger, and it swung aside, disclosing
the door of a small safe built into the wall. He unlocked this, placed
the stone in an inner drawer, closed the safe, and put the picture back
in its place.

When he sat down again, he said:

"My good friend, I know that it is useless for me to thank you, for even
if you wanted thanks I could not do justice to the occasion, as they say
in speeches: but I want to ask you just one more question, and then I
won't keep you any longer from that delightful Oriental Club of yours
which I suppose you are bound to. Now that I have got the stone I am, as
you may well believe, more than anxious to find the lady to whom it
shall belong--again, as I suppose you would say. To my great disgust,
the Professor and his daughter have disappeared from the sphere of
London society for a holiday _à deux_, and have, apparently with intent,
left all their friends in ignorance of their destination. Have you any
idea of it? I know that that Coptic woman whom you employ has been
ordered to keep a sharp watch on the movements of Miss Nitocris."

"Yes, Highness," replied Phadrig, "and she has obeyed her orders. The
day before they left she waylaid that pretty maid of Miss Marmion's on
the Common, and told her fortune. Of course, she talked the usual jargon
about lovers and letters and going on a journey, and the maid quite
innocently let out that she was going with her master and mistress by
steamer to Denmark and up the coast of Norway, and then over to Iceland
by the passenger steamers, and that she did not like the idea at all,
because she knew that she would be very seasick."

"Excellent! the very thing!" exclaimed the Prince. "It couldn't be
better if I had arranged it myself. My yacht is down in the Solent
waiting for Cowes Week. I'll be afloat to-morrow. Give that woman a
ten-pound note from me with my blessing. Now, I shall leave everything
else to you. Do what you think fit with regard to our friends of the
International. Kill as many of their spies as you can with safety, and
make the chiefs believe that they are fighting the Devil himself. And
now, good-night."

When Peter Petroff brought him the papers the next morning, the Prince
took up the _Telegraph_, and turned to the page devoted to the minor
events of the previous day. His eye was almost immediately caught by a
paragraph headed:

     "SUICIDE IN THE WATERLOO ROAD

     "Shortly after seven last evening the passers-by on the eastern
     side of this thoroughfare were startled by hearing the report of a
     firearm, apparently coming from the office of Mr Isaac Josephus at
     138a. Constable 206 Q., who was on point-duty near the spot, had
     seen Mr Josephus enter the office with his key only a few minutes
     before, walking in a rather curious way, and staring straight
     before him. As the door was locked, the officer thought it his duty
     to force it. The door of the inner office was also locked, and when
     this was opened, the unfortunate man was found lying across the
     desk with a bullet wound in his temple. His right hand still
     clutched a cheap revolver which was loaded in five chambers. There
     appears at present to have been no reason for the rash act. Mr
     Josephus was a broker dealing chiefly in curios and antique
     jewellery. Although not in a large way of business, his affairs are
     understood to have been in a prosperous condition. What makes the
     tragedy all the more strange is the fact that suicide is almost
     unknown among persons of the Jewish faith."

Oscarovitch felt a little shiver run down his back as he read the
commonplace lines. The man who had done this had been in this room with
him a few hours before, and one of the means of murder was now in his
safe. It would have been just as easy for Phadrig to have caused him to
look upon the fatal gem, left a bottle of poison with him, and told him
to take it as medicine on going to bed. The only difference would have
been that there would have been a very much greater sensation in the
papers.

Nicol Hendry was reading the paragraph about the same time. His eyes
contracted, and he stroked his beard with slow motions of his hand. The
hand was steady, but even his nerves quivered a little. He divined
instantly how the suicide-murder had been brought about, and this very
fact, coupled with the absolute impossibility of proving anything, made
the affair all the more disquieting.

"So that is the sort of thing we've got to fight, is it? I don't like
it. Still, it goes far to prove that the Professor was perfectly right
when he told me to keep a sharp eye on Mr Phadrig Amena."



CHAPTER XX

THROUGH THE CENTURIES


As they discovered that the sea journey to Copenhagen would be somewhat
tedious and uninteresting, and that the steamers were not exactly
palatial, Nitocris and her father decided at the last minute to cross to
Ostend, spend a day there and go on to Cologne, put in a couple of days
more among its venerable and odorous purlieus, and two more at Hamburg,
so that, while the present-day inhabitants were asleep, they might, as
Nitocris somewhat flippantly put it, take a trip back through the
centuries, and watch the great city grow from the little wooden village
of the Ubii and the Roman colony of Agrippina into the Hanse Town of the
thirteenth century: watch the laying of the first stone of the mighty
Dom, the up-rising of the glorious fabric, and the crowning of the last
tower in 1880.

During the journey from Hamburg to Copenhagen, Nitocris, reclining
comfortably in a corner of their compartment in the long, easily-moving
car, entertained herself with a review of these extraordinary
experiences from the point of view of her temporal life, and found them
not only extraordinary, but also very curious. She had already learnt
that the connecting link between the two existences, when once the
border had been passed, was Will: but Will of a far more intense and
exalted character than that which was necessary as an incentive to
action on the lower plane. There was naturally something that seemed
extra-human in the mysterious force which was capable of bidding the
present-day world vanish like a shadow into either the future or the
past, its solid-seeming substance melt away like "the airy fabric of a
vision," and summon in an instant, too brief to be measured, the past
from the grave where it lay buried beneath the dust of uncounted ages,
or the future from the womb of unborn things.

But to her, at least at first, the strangest part of the new revelation
was this: When her will had carried her across the confines of the
tri-dimensional world, and she saw the centuries marshalled and
motionless before her, she felt not the slightest sense of wonder or
awe. She was simply a being apart, moving along their ranks and passing
them in review, herself unseen and unknown save by that other being who,
in this state, was no longer her father or even her friend, but merely a
companion endowed with power and intelligence equal to her own. Her
human hopes and fears and loves and passions had, as it were, been left
behind. The men and things she saw were absolutely real to her, as they
had been to the men of other days, or would be in days to come; but she
herself was a pure Intelligence which saw and acted and thought with
perfect clearness, but with absolutely no feeling save that of
intellectual interest.

She saw armies meet in the shock of battle without a thrill of fear or
horror; towns and cities roared up to the unheeding heavens in flame and
smoke, and left her standing unmoved amidst their ruins; she heard the
screams of agony that rang through the torture chambers without a
quiver, and watched the long, pale lines of the martyrs to what in the
earth-life was called Religion pass to the stake without a quiver of
pity or a thrill of disgust. She stood face to face with the great ones
of the earth who have graven their names deep upon the tablets of Time
without reverence or admiration; and she witnessed the most heroic deeds
and the most atrocious crimes with neither respect for the one nor
hatred for the other.

Human history was in her eyes merely a logical sequence of necessary
events, neither good nor bad in themselves, but only as they were viewed
from this standpoint or that, by the oppressor or the oppressed, the
slayer or the slain, the robber or the robbed, the governor or the
governed. She learned that human emotion is merely a matter of time and
space. One century does not feel the loves and hates of another, and the
sorrows of Here have no real sympathy with the sufferings of There.
Beyond the Border all these were merely matters of intense intellectual
interest.

But when she returned to the temporal life the memory of them was
marvellous and terrible. Her heart throbbed with pity and burned with
righteous anger. Horror seemed to take hold of her soul and shake it
with earthquake shudders when she thought that what she had seen but a
few time-moments ago had really come to pass; and she longed for the
power to show all this to the men and women of her own passing day, and
bid them have done with the poor, shadowy images of themselves, which,
had they really been gods, would have made of human life something
better and happier and nobler than the ghastly tragedy which, as she had
seen with her own eyes, it had been. But she knew that such a power was
not hers. She, like her father, had, through the toil and strife and
stress of many lives of mingled good and evil, knowledge and ignorance,
won her way to the Perfect Knowledge; and so she knew that all these
poor kings and slaves, conquerors and conquered, torturers and tortured,
were all doing the same thing, were all groping their way through the
shadows and the night towards the dawn and the light, through the hell
of ignorance to the heaven of knowledge.

And now, too, since the Wisdom of the Ages was hers, she saw that over
all the vast, weltering swarm of struggling immortals, hung the
inevitable decree of silent, impersonal destiny. "As ye live, so shall
ye die; as ye end, so shall ye begin again--in knowledge or ignorance,
in good or evil, life after life, death after death, world without
end."

It was clear to her now why "some are born to honour and some to
dishonour": some to happiness and some to misery, each in his or her
degree; why the liver of a good life was happy, no matter what his place
in the earth-life might be: and why the evil liver, no matter how high
he might stand in his own or others' sight, carried the canker of past
misdeeds in his heart. Standing, as she now did, in the midway of the
present, looking with single gaze on past and future, she saw at once
the honest striver after good in his yesterday-life rise to his reward
in the life of to-day, and the dishonest rich and powerful sitting in
the high places of to-day cast down into the gutterways of to-morrow.
Life had ceased to be a riddle to her now.

What with their halts at Ostend, Cologne, and Hamburg, the
thirty-three-hour journey lengthened itself out very pleasantly into a
week; and so, when the famous city on the Sound was reached, they were
as fresh and unfatigued as they were on the morning that they left "The
Wilderness." Of course, they put up at the Hôtel d'Angleterre, and here
they enjoyed themselves quietly for four days, for of all European
capitals, Copenhagen is one of the pleasantest in which to idle a few
fine summer days away.

On the evening of the fourth day they were just sitting down to their
table by one of the windows overlooking the Oestergade when Nitocris
happened to look up towards the door through which the diners were
trickling in an irregular stream of well-dressed men and women. For a
moment her eyes became fixed. Then she bent her head over the table, and
said:

"Dad, there is Prince Oscarovitch. I wonder what he is doing here? He is
alone: please go and ask him to join us. I will tell you why
afterwards."

They exchanged glances, and the Professor got up and went towards the
door, while his daughter got through a considerable amount of hard
thinking in a very short time. She was, of course, perfectly conversant
with his share in the Zastrow affair, so far as her father had yet gone
with it; but she determined that when Copenhagen had gone to sleep that
night they would cross the Border and pay a visit to the Castle of
Trelitz at the time of the tragedy, and follow it out as far as it had
gone.

It has already been shown that on her first meeting with the Prince she
conceived an aversion from him which was then inexplicable save by the
ordinary theory of natural antipathy: but now she knew that she had been
Nitocris, Queen of Egypt, when he was Menkau-Ra, the Lord of War, who
would have forced her to wed him by the might and terror of the sword,
and the will of a blind and blood-intoxicated populace. She had hated
him then even to death, and now she hated him still in life; wherefore
she desired to make his closer acquaintance on the earth-plane on which
they had met once more after many lives.

As he had been in those far-off days, so he was now, a splendid specimen
of aristocratic humanity. Many eyes had followed her as she had walked
to her table, but there were more people in the room now, and as the
Prince walked towards her beside the famous Professor who had puzzled
all the mathematicians of Europe, the whole crowd of guests was looking
at nothing but these three.

"This is indeed good fortune, Miss Marmion, and as good as it is
unexpected--which, perhaps makes it all the better! Who would have
thought of finding you in Copenhagen?" he said, as he bowed low over her
hand.

"If there is any reason at all for it, Prince, it is that my father and
I always like to take our holidays at irregular times and in unexpected
places: by which, I mean places where we do not expect to meet all our
acquaintances," she replied, as she sat down. "I think we manage to bore
each other quite enough in London, and we like each other all the better
when we meet again."

"Is not that rather an ungracious speech, Niti, seeing that one of the
said acquaintances has only just chanced to join us?" said the Professor
mildly.

"You mean as regards the Prince?" she laughed. "Certainly not. His
Highness is hardly an acquaintance--yet. You know we have only had the
pleasure of meeting him once: and then, of course, I said _all_ our
acquaintances. There might be exceptions."

These words, spoken with a quite indescribable charm, were, as he
thought, quite the sweetest that Oscarovitch had heard for many a day.
It had been perfectly easy for a man with his official influence to
trace by telegraph every movement that the Marmions had made after he
had guessed that they would travel by either Calais or Ostend. He had
wired for his yacht, the _Grashna_, to meet him at Dover, run across to
Ostend, found that they had left there for Cologne with through tickets
for Copenhagen, again guessed rightly that they would spend a few days
there and in Hamburg, and then steam away for the Sound.

The farther north he travelled, the farther he left Phadrig and his
phantasies behind, and the nearer he came to the belief that, if he had
only a fair chance and the field to himself, as he intended to have, he
would not find very much difficulty in convincing Nitocris that there
was no comparison at all between the humble naval officer she had left
behind to do his work on his dirty little destroyer, and the millionaire
Prince who could give her one of the noblest names in Europe and
everything that the heart of woman could desire. And now these
sweetly-spoken words and the glance which accompanied them, her
undisguised pleasure at the chance meeting, and her father's very
evident approval of his presence, quickly but finally convinced him
that he had come to a perfectly just conclusion.

Of course, there was the memory of another woman, only a little less
fair than Nitocris, who had shut herself up yonder in the gloomy Castle
of Trelitz, acting the farce of her official sorrow for love of him, and
pining for the time when the finding of her betrayed husband's corpse
should leave her free, after a decent interval of mock-mourning, to join
her lot with his: but what did that matter? Was it not as easy to get
rid of a woman as a man? Was not the fatal beauty of the Horus Stone at
his command now that he was its possessor for good or evil? A
well-arranged suicide might easily be taken by the world as the
excusable, if deplorable, result of her mysterious bereavement.

The conversation during dinner naturally turned on ways and means of
travelling, and, when the Professor had sketched out their plans,
Oscarovitch said with an admirably simulated deference:

"My dear sir, I most sincerely hope that you and Miss Marmion will not
think that I am presuming on an acquaintance which, if only a new one
now, may perhaps one day be older, if I venture to suggest another way
of making your tour. I am an old voyager in these waters, and I can
assure you that the steamers, though vastly improved, have not quite
reached the standard of the Atlantic liner."

"Oh, but you know, Prince, we didn't expect it," interrupted Nitocris.
"Neither my father nor I have the slightest objection to roughing it a
little. In fact, that is half the fun of wandering."

"And slow travelling between stated points, not always of the greatest
or any interest, together with the enforced company of a promiscuous
crowd of tourists and commercial travellers, who, by the way, are mostly
German, and therefore of nature and necessity disagreeable, would about
make up the other half," said Oscarovitch, leaning back in his chair
with a low laugh. "No, no, my dear Miss Marmion, I am afraid you would
not find that the reality quite squared with the anticipation. Now, may
I risk the suspicion of presumption and offer an alternative
proposition?"

"Why not?" said Nitocris with a smile, and a glance which dazzled him.
"I'm sure it is very kind of you to take so much interest in our poor
little attempt to get away for a while from the madding crowd who are
doing the round of the same stale, weary pleasures that they try so hard
to enjoy year after year, and then come back _so_ tired, after all."

"Then," he replied, looking at them alternately, "as I have your
permission, I would suggest that, instead of rushing from fixed point to
fixed point in crowded steamers and the shackles of Company or
Government regulations, you should take possession of a fairly
comfortable steam yacht of a little over a thousand tons which will be
entirely at your disposal, and will run you from anywhere to anywhere
you choose at any speed you like, from five to thirty-five knots an
hour, with properly trained servants to attend to you, and, as the
advertisements say, 'every possible comfort and convenience.'"

"Which, of course, means that you have got your yacht here, and are so
very kind as to ask us to become your guests for a time," said the
Professor, with a suspicion of stiffness. "It is more than generous of
you, Prince, but really----"

"But really, my dear sir," Oscarovitch interrupted, with a gesture of
deprecation, "I can assure you that, so far as I am concerned, there is
no kindness, to say nothing of generosity. It is pure selfishness. This
is my position. I have managed to escape for a time from the toils of
official work and worry, and the almost equally irksome bonds of that
form of penal servitude which is called Society. Like you, I have fled
overseas, but, unlike you, I have no company but my own, and I have had
a great deal too much of that already, though I have only been three
days and nights at sea. I have no plans, I have got nothing to do and
nowhere to go; and so, if you and Miss Marmion would take pity on my
loneliness all the generosity would be on your side. Of course, I cannot
presume to ask you to change your plans all at once, but if you will
sleep on my proposition and come and lunch with me to-morrow on board
the _Grashna_ and take a run up the Sound, say, to Elsinore, you may be
able to come to a decision."

It was a lovely night, and so they took their coffee and liqueurs, and
the two men their smokes on the balcony overlooking the Oestergade,
which might be called the Rue de la Paix of Copenhagen, and watched the
well-dressed crowds sauntering to and fro past the brilliantly lighted
shops; and Nitocris, who seemed to her father to be in singularly high
spirits, sent the conversation rippling over all manner of subjects with
the exception of politics and the Fourth Dimension. Oscarovitch was
becoming more and more fascinated as the light-winged minutes sped by,
and he took but little pains to conceal the fact. Nitocris, of course,
saw this, and simulated a delightful unconsciousness. The Professor was,
for the time being, completely mystified. He knew that his daughter
hated the Prince with a thorough cordiality, and yet he had never seen
her make herself so entirely charming to any man, not even excepting
Merrill himself, as she was to this man, her enemy of the Ages. He could
have solved the problem instantly by crossing the Border, but then the
sudden vanishing of a famous scientist from the midst of the brilliant
company on the balcony would have set all the newspapers in Europe
chattering, with consequences which would have been the reverse of
pleasant both to his daughter and himself.

However, he had not long to wait, for Nitocris soon rose, saying that
she must go to Jenny, her maid, to see about packing arrangements for
to-morrow; and the Prince, after another cigarette and liqueur, took his
leave and went on board the yacht to give orders for her to be put into
her best trim, and then to have a luxurious half-hour with the Horus
Stone, and indulge in fond imaginings as to how it would look hanging
from a chain of diamonds on the white breast of Miss Nitocris.

When the Professor went to his own sitting-room he found his daughter
waiting to say good-night.

"Niti," he said, as he closed the door, "I don't want to seem
inquisitive, but, frankly, I was astounded at the gracious way in which
you treated that scoundrel Oscarovitch."

"Dad," she replied, with apparent irrelevance, "do you believe in the
forgiveness of sins?"

"Of course not! How could any one who holds the Doctrine do that? We
know that every moral debit must be worked off and turned into a credit
by the sinner, however many lives of suffering it takes to do it. Why do
you ask?"

"So that you might answer as you have done!" she said, with a little
laugh. "Now this Oscarovitch has sinned grievously, not only in this
life but in many others, and I am going to see that he works off at
least some of his debit as you put it somewhat commercially. He loved me
in the old days in Memphis, and he loves me still in the same brutal,
animal way. I know that if he cannot get me by fair means he will try to
take me by force--and I am going to let him do it."

"Niti!"

"Yes, he shall take me; he shall think he had got me safe away from you
and Mark--and when he has got me he shall taste what the hot-and-strong
sort of Christian preachers call the torments of the damned. No, I shall
not kill him. He shall live till he prays to all his gods, if he has
any, that he may die. He shall hunger without eating, thirst without
drinking, lie down without sleeping, have wealth that he cannot spend,
and palaces so hideously haunted that he dare not live in them, until,
when men wish to illustrate the uttermost extreme of human misery, they
shall point to Prince Oscarovitch. I, the Queen, have said it!"

Then, with a swift change of voice and manner, she laid her hands on her
father's shoulders, kissed him, and murmured:

"Good-night, Dad--at least as far as this world is concerned."



CHAPTER XXI

WHAT HAPPENED AT TRELITZ


It was the 6th of June again.

Once more Prince Zastrow rode with Ulik von Kessner and Alexis Vollmar
and the attendant huntsmen up the avenue of pines leading to the gate of
the Castle of Trelitz, but now accompanied by two unseen Presences which
belonged at once to their own world and also to another and wider one.
Once more the great doors opened and they passed into the trophy-decked,
skin-carpeted hall: and once more they were welcomed by the stately,
silken-clad woman who came down the broad staircase to greet her lord
and his guests. Emil von Zastrow, last and worthiest scion of his
ancient line, the very _beau ideal_ of youthful strength and manly
dignity, ran half-way up the stairs to meet his lady and his love, and
then the men went away to their rooms, while the Princess Hermia, true
housewife as well as princess, betook herself to the pleasant task of
making sure that all the preparations for dinner were complete.

The dinner was served in one of the smaller rooms, in the modern wing of
the Castle, on an oval table. The Prince sat at one end faced by his
beautiful consort. To his right sat his guest, Alexis Vollmar, and a
tall, handsome, but somewhat hard-featured woman of about thirty, with
the clear blue eyes and thick, yellow-gold hair which proclaimed her a
daughter of the northern German lowlands. This was Hulda von Tyssen, the
Princess's companion and lady-in-waiting. They were faced by a stout,
powerfully-built man with a full beard and moustache _à la_ Friedrich,
Ulik von Kessner, High Chamberlain of Boravia. Captain Alexis Vollmar
was a typical Russian officer of the younger school, tall, well-set-up,
and good-looking after the Muscovite fashion. He had distinguished
himself in the Far East, but just now he preferred the serene atmosphere
of Boravia to the thunder-laden air of Holy Russia.

The talk was of hunting and war and politics and the chances of the
Russian revolution, and on this latter subject it was perfectly
unrestrained, for all knew that the Powers had made a secret compact by
which they bound themselves, in the event of the fall of the Romanoff
Dynasty and the Arch-Ducal oligarchy--which all Europe would be very
glad to see the last of--to support Prince Zastrow as elective candidate
for the vacant throne.

The Revolutionary leaders had been sounded on the subject, and were
found strongly in favour of the scheme. It meant a return to the ancient
principle of elected monarchy, and Prince Zastrow, though now a German
ruling prince, represented the union of two of the oldest and noblest
families in Russia and Poland. Moreover, he had pledged himself to a
Constitution which, without going to Radical or Socialistic extremes,
embodied all that the moderate and responsible adherents of the
Revolutionary cause desired or considered suitable for the people in
their present stage of political development--which, of course, meant
everything that Oscar Oscarovitch did not want.

After dinner they went out through the long French windows on to a
verandah which overlooked a vast sea of forest, lying dark and seemingly
limitless under the fading daylight and the radiance of the brightening
moon. Since their marriage day the Prince had made it a bargain that
whenever they dined _en famille_, his wife should prepare his coffee
with her own hands. She even roasted the berries and ground them
herself, and, as many a time before, she did it to-night in the
seclusion of the little room set apart for that and similar purposes.
She was alone in the physical sense, for the two watching Presences were
invisible to her, and so, for all she knew, no one saw her measure
twenty drops of a colourless fluid from a little blue bottle into the
coronetted cup of almost transparent porcelain which had been one of her
wedding presents to her husband.

After a couple of cups of coffee and half a dozen half-smoked
cigarettes, the Prince stretched his long legs out, struggled with a
yawn, and said in a sleepy voice:

"My Princess, you must ask our guests to excuse me. I am tired after the
long day in the sun; and so, if I may, I will go to bed."

He rose, and the rest rose at the same moment. He bowed his good-night,
and the two saluted. The Princess followed him into the dining-room.

The unseen watchers stood by the end of the great heavily-hung bed, in
the midst of which lay Prince Zastrow, seemingly sinking into the
slumber of death. Von Kessner leaned over and raised an eyelid, and said
to the Princess, who was standing on the other side, the single word:
"Unconscious." She bent forward for a moment as though she were bidding
a silent farewell to the man to whom she had pledged her maiden troth,
then straightened up and walked like some beautiful simulacrum of a
woman towards the door which Vollmar held open for her....

The earth-hours passed, and the two men kept their watch by the bed,
conversing now and then in whispers between long intervals of anxious
silence, until three strokes sounded from the bell of the Castle clock.
The whole household, save one fair woman, who, in softly-slippered feet,
was pacing the floor of her bedroom, was fast asleep, and the days of
sentries were far past. Von Kessner gently lifted one of the arms lying
on the coverlet of the bed and let it fall. It dropped as the arm of a
man who had just died might have done. Again he raised an eyelid, this
time with some difficulty. The eyeball beneath was fixed and glassy as
that of a corpse. He nodded across the bed to the Russian, and together
they turned the bedclothes down to the foot. Then from under the bed he
pulled out a bundle of grey skins which he spread on the floor beside
the bed. It was a sleeping bag such as hunters use in winter on the
snow-swept plains and forests of Northern Europe. Vollmar turned the
head-flap back. Then they lifted the body of the Prince from the bed,
slid it into the sack, and buttoned the flap down over the face.

"That Egyptian's drug has worked well," whispered Von Kessner.

Vollmar nodded, and whispered back:

"I wish I had a handful of it. But it is time. He will be ready for us
now."

Even as he spoke the locked door opened, as it were of its own accord,
and Phadrig stood in the room dressed in the livery of the Prince's
coachman. Von Kessner and Vollmar turned grey as he bowed, and
whispered:

"The doors are open, Excellencies, and all is ready!"

Then the three lifted the shapeless bag and carried it with noiseless
tread down to the hall and out through the half-open doors to where a
carriage drawn by four black horses stood waiting. Though there was no
one in charge of them, they stood as still as though carved out of
blocks of black marble until the body of the Prince had been laid in the
carriage and Von Kessner and Vollmar had taken their places beside it.
Then Phadrig mounted the box, shook the reins, and the rubber-shod
horses moved silently away at a trot, which, as soon as the main road
was reached, became a gallop only a little less silent than the trot.

The carriage turned aside from the road, and ran down a broad forest
lane till it stopped by the shore of a little sandy inlet. The bow of a
long black boat was resting on the sand, and six closely-blindfolded men
were sitting on the thwarts with oars out. Another stood on the beach
with the painter in his hands. The body of the Prince was carried from
the carriage to the boat, and laid in the stern sheets. Von Kessner and
Vollmar remained on board, and Phadrig went back to the carriage. At a
short word of command the oarsman backed hard, and the boat slid off the
sand into the smooth water of the little cove. Then she shot away and
melted into the light haze which hung over the outside sea.

The boat stopped under the shadow of the long, low-lying black hull of a
four-funnelled destroyer. A rope dropped from the deck and was made fast
by Vollmar in the bow. The blindfolded crew were helped up the ladder
which hung over the side and taken below forward. Then came a sharp
order: "All hands below"; and when the deck was deserted, Von Kessner
and Vollmar went up the ladder and were met on deck by Oscar Oscarovitch
in civilian dress. There was another man beside him in the uniform of a
lieutenant. He slacked off the tackle falls of the davits under which
the boat had brought up, dropped down the ladder and hooked them on.
When he got back to the deck the four men hauled first on one tackle
and then on the other, till the boat was up flush with the deck. The
falls were belayed, and Oscarovitch got into the boat and opened the
flap of the sleeping-sack. He touched the spring of an electric
pocket-lamp and looked upon the calm, cold features of his rival. Then
he buttoned down the flap again and returned to the deck. The four went
down into the cabin: glasses were filled with champagne, and as
Oscarovitch raised his to his lips, he said:

"Count and Captain Vollmar, I am satisfied. Let us drink to the New
Empire of the Russias and the sceptre of Ivan the Terrible!"

"And his illustrious successor!" added Von Kessner.

Within half an hour a small boat was lowered; the Chamberlain and
Vollmar got into it and rowed away toward the cove. The Russian officer
went on to the little bridge, signalled "full speed ahead" to the
engine-room, and then took the wheel. The screws ground the water astern
into foam, the black shape leapt forward and sped away eastward into the
glimmering dawn with its silent passenger lying in the swinging boat,
and the unseen watchers standing by the helmsman....

More earth-hours passed. The sun rose upon a lonely sea. The destroyer
stopped, and a white speck on the eastward horizon rapidly grew into the
white shape of a large yacht flying through the water at a tremendous
speed. In a few minutes she was almost alongside. She swung round in a
sharp curve, slowed down and dropped a boat. Oscarovitch and the
lieutenant lowered the destroyer's boat till it touched the water. The
other came alongside, and the body of Prince Zastrow was transferred to
it, and Oscarovitch followed it. Four men from the yacht's boat jumped
on board the destroyer and hauled hers up. The other was backed to the
ladder and they came on board. A silent salute passed between
Oscarovitch and the lieutenant, and a few minutes later the yacht's boat
was hoisted to the davits, and the white shape was growing smaller and
dimmer amidst the light haze that lay on the water shimmering under the
slanting rays of the rising sun.

Morning grew into noon, noon faded into evening, and evening darkened
into night. The yacht ran into a wide-opening gulf between two
forest-clad points, on the southern of which twinkled the lights of a
large town. These were soon left behind by the flying yacht, and as a
vast sea of fleecy cloud drifted up from the north-east and spread its
veil across the path of the half moon, a little cluster of lights
gleamed out on the port bow. Her bowsprit swerved to the left till it
pointed directly to them. Presently she slowed down and ran into a
little land-locked bay surrounded with dense pine woods which came down
almost to the water's edge, swung round and slowed up alongside a wooden
jetty. From this a broad road, cut straight through the forest, sloped
steeply up to a plateau on which stood a gaunt, grey, turreted castle,
the very picture of the sea-robbers' home that it had been in the days
of Oscarovitch's not very remote ancestors. Up this road and into the
outer gate across the lowered drawbridge the sleeping-sack and the
insensible man within were borne. Through the keep-yard it was taken
into the Castle and up to a large room in the eastern turret,
comfortably furnished, and containing a bed almost as luxurious as that
in which Prince Zastrow had lain down to sleep the evening before.
Oscarovitch preceded the men who carried him, and was met at the door by
a grey-haired, keen-eyed man, who bowed before him, and said in a low
tone:

"May I presume to ask if this is my charge, Highness?"

"It is, Doctor Hugo; and I give him into your hands with every
confidence that you will restore your patient to health as quickly as
any man in Europe could do. I must leave immediately, and so I trust
everything to you. All care must be taken of him. He must want for
nothing that you can give him--except liberty."

Oscarovitch returned the doctor's assenting bow and left the room. In
half an hour the yacht was flying at full speed over the smooth waters
of the Baltic, heading a little to the south of West.



CHAPTER XXII

A TRIP ON THE SOUND


"Good morning, Dad," said Nitocris, as she entered the sitting-room
about half an hour before breakfast the next morning. "What is your
opinion of the European situation now?"

"Good morning, Niti; what is yours?" asked her father, looking at her
with grave eyes and smiling lips.

"As it was yesterday, only rather more so. In his present incarnation,
Prince Oscar Oscarovitch is, I should think, about as black-hearted a
scoundrel as ever polluted the air that honest people breathe."

"I entirely agree with you. And now, believing that, do you still
propose to trust yourself to his tender mercies on board his own yacht,
surrounded, as you will be, by men who, no doubt, are his absolute
slaves?"

"_I_ trust myself to his tender mercies, Dad?" she replied, drawing
herself up and throwing her head back a little; "you seem to have got
hold of the thing by the wrong end, as Brenda would say. That is only
what it will look like. The reality will be that he will blindly trust
himself to _my_ mercies--and I can assure you that he will find them
anything but tender. No, dear, we shall accept His Highness's invitation
to lunch, and then his offer of the hospitality of the yacht for the
trip, which, by the way, I fancy will be more to the eastward than to
the northward----"

"You mean, I suppose, Trelitz and Viborg?"

"Not Trelitz, I think, but Viborg almost certainly. That will be the end
of the abduction as far as I can see from our present plane of
existence."

"Really, Niti--well, well. Of course, I know that you will be perfectly
safe: but what would our good friends on this plane, as you put it, the
Van Huysmans, for instance, think if they could hear you talking so
calmly to your own father about getting yourself abducted by a man whom
you justly think to be one of the most unscrupulous scoundrels on earth!
And, by the way, what is to become of me in the carrying out of this
little scheme of yours? I hope you don't expect me to connive at the
abduction of my own daughter. I have a certain amount of reputation to
lose, you know."

"Oh, if His Highness is the clever villain that we know him to be, I
think we may safely trust him to arrange for your temporary
disappearance from the scene. And whatever he does it will be easy for
you to play the part of the passive victim for the time being. He can't
injure or kill you, for if it came to extremities you have the means of
giving his people such a fright as would probably drive them out of
their senses, just as I could if their master got troublesome. Really,
from a certain point of view, the adventure will have a decidedly
humorous aspect."

"With a very considerable leaven of tragedy."

"Yes, the tragedy will be a logical sequence of the comedy--and, as I
said last night, it will be tragedy. And now suppose we go to breakfast.
I have been up nearly two hours helping Jenny with the packing, and this
lovely air has given me a raging appetite. There's a little more to do
yet, and we shall have His Highness here before long to ask for our
decision and take us off to the yacht."

Here she was quite right, for she had hardly left her father to his
after-breakfast pipe and gone upstairs to help her maid, than
Oscarovitch came into the smoking-room.

"Good morning, Professor Marmion! I need not ask you if you have had a
good night. You look the very picture of a man who has slept the sleep
of the just. And Miss Marmion?"

"Thanks, Your Highness, I think we have both managed to spend the night
to good purpose. The air here is glorious just now. I always think that
sound, dreamless sleep is the best sign that a place is doing you good."

"Oh, undoubtedly, though for some reason or other I did not sleep very
well last night. Something had disagreed with me, I suppose. I seemed to
have a sense of being pursued to the uttermost ends of the earth and
back again by some relentless foe who simply would not allow me to take
a moment's rest. But I didn't come to talk about the stuff that dreams
are made of. I came to ask whether my cruise is to be a lonely one, or
whether I am to have the very great pleasure of your company."

Franklin Marmion, for perhaps the first time in his life, felt
distinctly murderous towards a fellow-creature as he looked at this
splendid specimen of physical humanity, knowing so well the real man who
was hiding behind that fascinating exterior; but he managed to answer
pleasantly enough:

"We have talked the matter over, Prince, and we have come to the
conclusion that your very kind invitation is really too good to be
refused. We know that we are incurring a debt that we shall not be able
to pay, but we are trusting to your generosity to let us off."

"On the contrary, my dear Professor," said Oscarovitch, without the
slightest attempt to conceal the pleasure that the acceptation gave him,
"it is yourself and Miss Marmion who have made me your debtor. In fact,
if you had not found yourselves able to come, I should have run the
_Grashna_ back to Cowes, gone up to London, plunged into a maelström of
dissipation, and probably ended by losing a great deal of money at Ascot
and Goodwood. Ah, Miss Marmion, good morning! How well the air of
Copenhagen seems to agree with you! The Professor has just gladdened my
soul by telling me that you have decided to take pity on my loneliness."

"Good morning, Prince!" she replied, putting her hand for a moment in
the one he held out. "Yes, we are coming, if you will have us. In fact,
I have just finished packing."

"Ah, excellent! Well now, since that is happily arranged, it would be a
pity to waste any of this lovely morning. The Sound is like a streak of
blue sky fallen from heaven. My gig is down at the jetty, and I have a
couple of my men here who will convoy your baggage down. If it is
packed, as you say, you need not trouble about it. You will find
everything safe on board."

"Thank you, Prince," said the Professor. "Then I will go and settle up
at the office while Niti puts her hat on. I will have the things sent
down, and we may as well walk to the jetty. It will do me good after
that big breakfast. Jenny had better get into a cab and go down with the
luggage."

When they reached the promenade along the Sound shore Oscarovitch
pointed to a beautifully-shaped, three-masted, two-funnelled white yacht
lying about five hundred yards out, and said:

"That is the _Grashna_, Miss Marmion. I hope you like the look of her."

"She is beautiful!" exclaimed Nitocris, recognising at once the vessel
which had met the Russian destroyer on the early morning of the 7th.
"She almost looks as if she could fly."

"So she can in a sense," laughed the Prince. "Come now, here is the gig.
We will get on board, and you shall see her go through her paces."

Neither she nor her father were strangers to yachts, but when they
mounted the bridge of the _Grashna_ and looked over her from stem to
stern, they had to admit that they had never seen anything quite so
daintily splendid. They had chosen their rooms, and Jenny was below
unpacking. Although, of course, he had a captain on board, the Prince
often sailed the yacht himself when he had guests on board. He had a
genuine love for the beautiful craft, and he took an almost boyish
delight in showing what she could do. She was a twelve-hundred-ton,
triple-screw, turbine-driven boat, and, thanks to the space-economy of
the new system, her builders had been able to stow away fifteen thousand
horse-power in her engine-room, and this when fully developed gave a
speed in smooth water of thirty-five knots or a little over forty
statute miles an hour.

The anchor was up almost as soon as they got on to the bridge, and
Oscarovitch moved the pointer of the telegraph to "Ahead slow." The
quartermaster in the oval wheel-house behind him moved the little wheel
a few spokes to starboard, her mellow whistle tooted, and she glided in
an outward curve through the other yachts and shipping, and gained the
open water.

"Now," he said, turning to Nitocris, "we can begin to move. It is
roughly thirty English miles to Elsinore. If you have never done any
fast travelling at sea and would like to do some now, I can get you
there in about three-quarters of an hour."

"What!" exclaimed the Professor, "thirty miles in forty-five minutes by
sea! That is over forty miles an hour. A wonderful speed."

"Yes," he replied, almost tenderly; "but my beautiful _Grashna_ is a
wonderful craft--at least, I think you will say so when you see what she
can do. Now, if you will take advice, you and Miss Marmion will go into
shelter, for it will begin to blow soon."

Behind the wheel-house was an observation room, as it would be called in
the States, running nearly the whole length of the bridge, and fronted
with thick plate glass. They went in, and Oscarovitch turned the pointer
to half-speed. There was no increase in vibration, but the shore began
to slip away behind them faster and faster, and the northern suburbs of
Copenhagen rose ahead and fell astern as though they were part of a
swiftly moving panorama. Then the pointer went down to full speed, and
the Prince, after a word to the quartermaster, joined them in the
bridge-house and closed the door.

"You will need all your eyes to see much of the shore now," he said; "I
have given her her wings."

Nitocris felt a shudder in the carpeted floor. Looking ahead she saw the
bow lift slightly. Then a smooth, green swathe of water curled up on
either side. She looked aft, and saw a broad torrent of froth, foaming
like a furious, rapid stream away from the stern. The houses and trees
on the shore seemed to run into each other, and slide out of sight
almost before the eye could rest upon them. The water alongside was
merely a blue-green blur. Nitocris involuntarily held her breath as
though she had been out on deck.

"It is wonderful, Prince!" she said, almost in a whisper. "That alleged
express from Hamburg was nothing to this: and yet how steadily she moves
in spite of the speed. I should have thought that it would have nearly
shaken us to jelly."

"That is the turbines, dear," said her father, who was already wondering
whether Oscarovitch was doing this just to show how hopeless any pursuit
of such a vessel would be. "They are a marvellous means of applying
steam power. Lieutenant Parsons is robbing the sea of one, at least, of
its worst terrors."

"Yes," added the Prince, "we are travelling a little over forty miles an
hour; and if you got that speed out of reciprocating engines you would
scarcely be able to lie on the deck without holding on to something, yet
here we are as comfortable as though we were standing in a
drawing-room."

"You have given us a new experience to begin with," said Nitocris,
thinking how nice it would be to take her wedding trip with Merrill in
such a craft as this. "Why, look at the two shores coming together,
Dad!"

"No, excuse me," said Oscarovitch, "we are only about half-way to the
Gate of the Baltic yet. That land on the right is the island of Hvreen.
When we have passed that you will soon see the heights of Elsinore and
Helsingborg rising ahead. There are only about two and a half miles
between Denmark and Sweden there."

"Oh yes, of course. I am forgetting my geography," laughed Nitocris, as
the low, wooded patch of land came rushing towards them as though it
were adrift on a fast-flowing stream. "Goodness, what a speed!"

"A very wonderful craft, Prince," added the Professor, as the island
drifted past; "she quite inclines me towards a breach of the tenth
commandment. Now that you have given us this taste of the delights of
speed, I think that if I were a millionaire, I should try to build one
to beat her."

"Exactly," laughed Oscarovitch. "It is marvellous this fascination of
speed. Your poet, Henley, touched the pulse of the times when he wrote
those splendid lines of his. But surely, Professor, _you_ would not have
very much difficulty in leaving all far behind. A man to whom
mathematical impossibilities are as easy as an addition sum ought to be
able to realise the dream of the ages and solve the problem of aerial
navigation."

He looked him straight in the eyes as he said this. He fully believed in
the possibility of human flight, given the transcendent genius who could
work out the equation of weight and power. Perhaps that genius might be
with him now in the bridge-house. His vivid imagination was already
picturing the lovely girl at his side crowned Empress of the Russias and
the East, and himself in command of an aerial navy, beneath whose
assault the armies and navies and fortresses of the rest of the world
would be as so many toys to play with and destroy.

"If I could do that, and I do not think it would be so very difficult
after all," said Franklin Marmion, returning his glance, "I would not
do it. It would put too much power in the hands of a few men, and we
have enough of that already. The owner of a fleet of aerial warships
would be above all human law. He could terrorise the earth, and make
mankind his slaves. Life would become unendurable under such conditions.
Commercialism, which only means slavery plus the liberty to starve, is
bad enough, but it is at least possible. The other would be impossible.
There is no man quite honest enough to be trusted with such a power as
that. I have worked the thing out, and it is perfectly feasible, but I
burnt my designs and calculations."

"What!" exclaimed Oscarovitch, flushing in spite of his effort to keep
the blood back from his face. "You have solved the problem, and won't
make use of the greatest invention of all the ages! Surely, Professor,
that is a little quixotic, is it not?"

"Who am I that I should bring a curse upon humanity, Prince?" he
answered gravely. "Do you not kill each other fast enough now? No, the
world is not fit for such a development yet. My results will remain my
own until Tom Hood's ideal of good government has been realised."

"And what was that, Dad?" asked Nitocris, who had a double reason for
being interested in the conversation. "If I ever knew it, I have
forgotten it."

"Despotism, Niti--and an angel from heaven for the despot," he replied,
with another look into the Prince's eyes which brought him to the
conclusion that the sooner his presence on board the _Grashna_ was
dispensed with the better for his plans. There was a sense of quiet
mastery in Franklin Marmion's manner which made him uneasy.

"Ah! there is the famous fortress, is it not? the home of Hamlet and
Ophelia and the Ghost!" she exclaimed, pointing ahead to where a
grey-blue mass was rising out of the water. "Do you believe in ghosts,
Prince?" she added suddenly, flashing a glance at him which seemed to
pierce his brain like a ray of unearthly light.

"Ghosts? No, Miss Marmion. I'm afraid I am too hopelessly materialistic
for that. I never saw or heard of an authentic ghost, and I do not
propose to believe until I see."

"We have a ghost at 'The Wilderness,'--the wraith of a poor young lady
who killed herself after some royal blackguard had abused his own
hospitality. She often comes to visit me in my study," said the
Professor, as though he were relating the most ordinary occurrence.

"Ah," smiled the Prince, "that is very interesting: but, of course, it
would be in the power of a man like yourself to have experiences which
are denied to ordinary mortals. Still, granted all that, I confess that
I have often wondered whether or not I should be frightened if I really
did see a ghost."

"Yes, I wonder?" murmured Nitocris, with a great deal more meaning than
he had any idea of just then.

All three felt that the conversation was getting a little difficult, and
they were not sorry when the rapid rising of the rock of Elsinore made
it necessary for Oscarovitch to go out to the engine telegraph.

"His Highness doesn't believe in ghosts now," whispered Nitocris to her
father, when the door shut behind him, "but I think he will before very
long. I wonder what he is really going to do? I've half a mind to----"

"No, no, Niti," he said quickly; "keep this side of the Border till you
really have to cross it. What on earth, literally, would happen if he
came back and found me standing here alone?"

"Oh, of course I didn't mean it," she smiled. "It would be very poor
sport to spoil both the comedy and the tragedy before the curtain goes
up. I wonder if the drama will begin to-night? I shouldn't be
surprised."

"Nor I," said the Professor, a trifle grimly. "I didn't at all like his
looks when I was talking about the flying machine. The brute looked as
if he were quite capable of locking me up and starving or torturing me
until I gave him the secret. My word, I should like to see him try! I'd
have him grovelling at my feet in five minutes."

The door opened and Oscarovitch came in. He took off the cap which had
been pulled tight over his eyes, and said:

"Well, we have arrived! Almost exactly forty-five minutes. There is
Elsinore, there is Kronborg, King Frederick's sixteenth-century castle,
and there is Marienlyst, which is to Copenhagen what Brighton is to
London, only, I must say, in a much more refined sense. Now what is
your pleasure, Miss Marmion? We have still nearly two hours before
lunch, so, if you would like an hour's stroll ashore, the gig will be
ready in a couple of minutes."

"Thank you, Prince," she said with a rewarding smile. "Dad, what do you
think? It all looks very beautiful under this sun and sky."

"Which, of course, means that you want to go ashore, Niti," said her
father. "For my own part, I certainly should like a little walk on new
ground. I have never been here before."

"Then, of course we will go," said Oscarovitch, opening the door and
going to the telegraph.

The yacht came to a standstill in a few minutes, and the gig was waiting
at the foot of the gangway ladder. They spent a very pleasant hour
ashore, and what they saw, you may read of in your Murray and Baedeker,
wherefore there is no need to set it down here. When they came aboard
again, lunch was almost ready, and the steward presented his master and
the Professor with quite exceptional cocktails in the smoking-room. Then
they went and had a wash, and the mellow gong sounded.

I am not very fond of those descriptions in stories which read like
extracts from an upholsterer's price-list, nor yet those accounts of
meals that, after all, are only menus writ large, so it may suffice to
say that the saloon of the _Grashna_ was an arrangement of sandal-wood
panels, framed in thin silver filigree, and hung with exquisite little
masterpieces in water-colour, and black and white, and crayon, mostly
sea-scapes, with here and there a beautiful head with living eyes which
followed you everywhere; that the rich yellow of the panels was enhanced
by _portières_ and curtains of deep golden-bronze silk, and that the
domed ceiling was of pale, sky-blue enamel spangled with the
constellations of the northern heavens, which at night lit up the whole
saloon with a soft electric radiance. As for the lunch, it was as nearly
perfect as the best-paid chef afloat could make it, after his master had
asked him as a personal favour to do so.

They ran back quietly to Copenhagen at twenty knots, and Oscarovitch and
the Professor went ashore to send off a few telegrams, leaving Nitocris,
for her own reasons, to make herself at home on the yacht. They returned
in time to dress for dinner and enjoy a stroll on the broad upper deck,
and watch the sunset over the town and the quickly-increasing sparkle of
the myriad lights on shore and sea. When they came up after dinner,
these lights were only represented by a luminous haze glimmering under
the stars to the northward. The _Grashna_ was heading nearly due south
at an easy speed towards the Baltic Islands.

Something told both Nitocris and her father that the decisive hour would
come soon, and they were both prepared for its advent.



CHAPTER XXIII

THE DISAPPEARANCE OF THE PROFESSOR


The Prince and the Professor sat up in the smoking-room for a
considerable time after Nitocris had retired. Oscarovitch was doing his
utmost to persuade his guest to revoke his decision as to the creation
of the aerial warships. Franklin Marmion's simple announcement, which he
never thought for a moment of disbelieving, had filled his mind with new
ideas, which were rapidly taking the shape of gorgeous dreams of an
empire such as mortal man had never ruled over before. All his present
designs faded away into mere trivialities in comparison with this
splendid conception. He pictured Nitocris, as his consort, Empress of
the air, and himself Lord of earth and sea and sky. But all his subtle
arguments, all his delicately-put suggestions, and his skilfully framed
promises failed to produce the slightest effect upon the genially
inflexible man, who quietly turned them all aside, as a grown man might
deal with the arguments of a boy.

The thought that this man who was lying back in his deep-seated
armchair, holding a cigar in a white, delicately-shaped hand which was
strong enough to shake the world to its foundations, should possess
such a tremendous power and yet refuse to use it, as quietly as he might
have declined an invitation to dinner, exasperated him almost beyond the
bounds of patience. If he would only join forces with him what glories
might they not achieve, what splendours of power and possession might
not be theirs! Here was universal empire, in one sense, only a couple of
yards away from him! In another it was more distant than the suns which
flame in Space beyond the Milky Way. It was maddening, but it was true,
and he knew the man well enough now to feel absolutely assured that no
extremity of mental or physical torment would wring the priceless secret
from him.

Well, if it had to be, it must be. If he could not learn the secret, at
least no one else should. Before morning it would be buried for ever
under the waters of the Baltic, and he would revenge himself on the
daughter for that which the father refused to do. If Franklin Marmion
would not give him the sceptre of the World-Empire, then Nitocris should
be his wife and Empress if she would, and if not, his slave and
plaything, as he had sworn to Phadrig the Egyptian. The fortress-castle
of Oscarburg, on the lonely wooded shore of Viborg Bay, had kept many a
secret safely before now, and it would keep this one. Every retainer in
the Castle, every man, woman, and child on the estates for leagues
around, was his, body and soul, as their fathers before them had been
the blind, unquestioning serfs of his fathers. There his word was law,
and his will was fate. There was no "liberty" within his domains, since
no man wanted it, or would have understood it had it been given to him.

When their argument was over they parted, apparently the best of
friends. Franklin Marmion went to bed calmly curious as to what was
going to happen, and Oscarovitch paid a visit to his captain.

A little after three that morning he opened the door of the Professor's
state-room very gently and looked in. The room was dark, and he
listened. A soft, just audible sound of breathing came from the bed. It
was the breathing of a man fast asleep. He pressed the spring of his
electric lamp, and turned the thin ray on to the water-bottle in the
rack over the wash-stand. It was half-empty, and a glass stood on the
table in the middle of the room. Then the ray fell on the face of the
sleeping man. It was as Prince Zastrow's face had been the last night he
went to sleep in the Castle of Trelitz--rather the face of a corpse than
that of a living man. His captain stood behind him, and he turned and
whispered:

"He is ready. Are the men below?"

"All, Highness, save Grovno at the wheel and Hartog on the look-out.
They will see nothing, as they did before," came the whispered reply.

"Very well, then. You and I can manage this between us. You have the
line?"

The captain nodded, and they went into the room, softly closing the
door. In a few minutes they came out again, carrying between them a long
bundle of blankets lashed from end to end with thin line. They took it
aft along the alloway and out on to the lower deck by the stern. Two
iron doors of a port used for coaling stood open on the starboard side.
On the deck lay a couple of pigs of iron lashed together. These the
captain made fast to one end of the bundle and lifted them towards the
port. Oscarovitch took hold of the other end. They lifted it. The
weights dropped outside the port, and the bundle followed them. The
captain started up, clasped his hands to his forehead, and said in a
gasping whisper:

"Holy God, Highness, what have we done?"

"What do you mean, Derevskin? You have obeyed my orders; that is all. Is
it not enough for you?"

"Yes, Highness--but who or what was that man? Was he really a man?"

"Are you mad, Derevskin?"

"No, Highness, I hope not: but did you hear--or, rather, did you not
hear?"

"What, you fool?"

"He--it--the body--it made no splash when it touched the water!"

The stammered words struck Oscarovitch like so many puffs of frozen air.
No, the body of Franklin Marmion _had_ made no splash. It had vanished
through the port into silence. That was all. He beat back his own terror
with the exertion of all his will-power, and said in a sneering
whisper:

"Derevskin, you are either mad or drunk; but I will forgive you this
time because you have obeyed. Go to bed, and don't forget to be either
sober or sane when I come on deck."

The captain bowed his head, and went forward with shambling steps and
shaking limbs. Oscarovitch closed the port with hands which all his
force could not keep steady, and betook himself to bed, to lie awake for
the rest of the short summer night wondering vainly what really had
happened.

He had had his bath and dressed soon after six, and went on deck. The
captain was on the bridge, and he joined him.

"Good morning, Derevskin!"

"I have the honour to wish Your Highness good morning!"

"Nothing happened during the night worth reporting, I suppose?"

"No, Highness, nothing."

"Very good: but I have slept badly, and you look as if you had been on
the bridge all night. Perhaps it is necessary among all these islands,
and I am pleased that you are so watchful, especially as I have guests
on board. Come down to your room now and send your steward for a bottle.
It will do neither of us any harm."

There was a somewhat lengthy conversation over this early breakfast of
champagne and biscuits after the door had been closed and locked, and
when it was finished, Oscarovitch and his captain understood each other
as completely as was necessary.

An hour later he saw Nitocris walking about the upper deck looking pale
and anxious. He went to her and said in a tone which intentionally
betrayed his own nervousness:

"Good morning, Miss Marmion! Have you seen anything of the Professor?"

"No, Prince, I have not. I went to his room just now and knocked. There
was no reply and I opened the door. The room was empty, but he had
evidently been to bed. Is he not on deck?"

"No, Miss Marmion, he is not. He said last night that he would like his
bath about six, and the steward I sent to valet him went to his room and
found it as you say. I have had the ship searched high and low, and from
stem to stern, and there is no sign of him. I have had every one
questioned, and no one has seen anything of him since last night."

"Oh, my poor, poor Dad, I have lost him! Yes, I suppose it must have
been that. He has walked overboard."

"Walked overboard, Miss Marmion?"

"Yes, yes, it must be that. Prince Oscarovitch, my father, like most
very clever men, had one dangerous failing. He walked in his sleep and
did things unconsciously. That was why he told you about the ghost at
'The Wilderness' just as though he really had seen it. Yes, he must have
got up in the night and come on deck, and walked overboard, and so I
have lost the best friend I ever had, or shall have. You must excuse
me, Prince. I must go to my room. The very sunlight seems horrible now.
Jenny will look after me. Good morning!"

Her face was white and her eyes were staring at nothing. She spoke with
a horrible, stony calm which, crime-hardened as he was, sent a thrilling
shiver through his nerves. A spasm of remorse shook him; then his
self-control came back, and he offered her his arm in silence. He led
her down to the saloon, and gave her into Jenny's charge. Then he went
on deck again, lit a cigar, and proceeded to congratulate himself on the
great good fortune which had, from his point of view at least, so
happily explained away the disappearance of Franklin Marmion.



CHAPTER XXIV

THE LUST THAT WAS--AND IS


Nitocris kept her room until nearly seven the following evening.
Oscarovitch made frequent enquiries of Jenny as to her condition, and
always received the same reply. Her mistress was in a semi-unconscious
state, and she could only rouse her every now and then to take a little
nourishment. Unfortunately there was no doctor on board. He had had news
in Copenhagen that his mother was lying very ill at Hamburg, and, as the
cruise was then intended to be only a very short one, he had been given
leave to go to her.

The Prince wished to go back to Copenhagen, but this Nitocris absolutely
refused. She had determined to fight her sorrow alone, and when she had
conquered it, she would go back to England and her friends--which was
exactly what Oscarovitch had determined she should not do. She was
absolutely at his mercy now. He would be something worse than a fool to
let such a golden opportunity go by--and so the _Grashna's_ bowsprit was
kept pointing eastward, and the leagues between her and Oscarburg were
being flung behind her as fast as the whirling screws could devour them.

The only question that he had to ask himself was: How? and to that an
easy answer at once suggested itself: The Horus Stone.

When he went down to what he expected would be a lonely dinner, he was
more than agreeably surprised to find Nitocris dressed in a black
evening costume, which was the nearest approach to mourning that her
available wardrobe made possible, already in the saloon.

He bowed to her with a gesture of reverence, which meant far more than
mere formal politeness, and said in a low tone:

"Miss Marmion, I need not say how pleased I am to find that you are able
to leave your room. May I hope that you will be able to dine?"

"Yes, Prince," she replied, in the same cold, mechanical voice in which
she had answered the tidings of her father's death. "The worst is over
now, I hope. Some time and some way we must all leave the world and, at
least, there is the consolation that my father has left it perhaps a
little better and a little wiser than he found it. That, I think is as
much as the ordinary mortal may be permitted to hope for. We who hold
the Doctrine do not sorrow for the dead: we only sorrow for ourselves
who are left to wait until we may, perhaps, meet again."

"The Doctrine, Miss Marmion?" he asked, as he placed a chair for her at
his right hand. "May I ask what the Doctrine is?"

"Of re-incarnation," she replied, sitting down and looking at him across
the corner of the table.

"Really? I most sincerely wish that I could believe in it. Mr Amena,
whom I took the great liberty of bringing to your garden-party, a man
of very remarkable powers, as you saw, holds the Doctrine, as you call
it, and he has been trying for months to convert me to it; but, as I
said going to Elsinore, I'm afraid I am too hopelessly materialistic for
any conversion to be possible in my case, at least as far as my present
experiences have gone."

"As the belief so must be the faith," she said with a grave smile. "It
is no more possible to have true faith when you do not really believe
than it is to be hungry when you have not got an appetite. That is quite
a material simile; but I think it is true."

"Absolutely true!" he replied, looking at her again with a note of
interrogation in each eye. "But, really, these things are too deep for
me, a mere human animal. And now, talking about appetite, here comes the
soup."

The dinner _à deux_ was just what he had intended it to be, simple and
yet perfect in every detail. The subject of Franklin Marmion's departure
from the world was, as if by mutual consent, dropped. Oscarovitch
comforted such conscience as he had by trying to believe that what
Nitocris had said about her belief in the Doctrine was to her really
true. He also honestly believed that she had faced her great sorrow in
solitude, and overcome it in the strength of that belief. Their
conversation turned easily away to other topics, and by the time that
coffee was brought in and he had obtained her permission to light a
cigarette, his beautiful guest appeared to have left the recent past
behind her, for the time being at least, and was almost as she had been
during the run up to Elsinore.

Her manner was that of complete composure, and it is hardly necessary to
say that this mastery of her emotion forced him to a degree of
admiration, almost of worship, which the physical charm that appealed
only to his animal senses could never have inspired. Here, truly, was
the ideal Empress of the Russias and the East sitting almost beside him.
And now the psychological moment had come!

"Will you excuse me for a couple of minutes, Miss Marmion?" he asked, as
he finished his coffee and rose from his chair. "Going back to what you
were saying about re-incarnation: I have something in my room which I
hope may interest you. I got it from my friend, the miracle-worker. He
told me a long story about it that I don't want to trouble you with: but
the thing in itself is quite worth seeing. At least, I never saw
anything like it before."

"Then please let me see it," she replied, assenting with an inclination
of her head. "If that is so it must be, as you say, well worth seeing."

He went to his room and came back with a large square morocco case in
his hand. He gave it to her, and said:

"Do me the favour to open it, and tell me what you think of it."

She touched the spring and the cover flew up. She half-expected what she
saw. There, lying in a nest of soft black velvet, encircled by a triple
halo of whitely gleaming diamonds, was the Horus Stone. In an instant
she travelled back through fifty centuries to the scene of the
death-bridal of her other self, Nitocris the Queen, in the
banqueting-hall of the Palace of Pepi. Then it had lain gleaming on her
breast, and now she saw it again with the eyes of flesh, after nearly
five thousand years. Now, too, she grasped in all the fullness of its
evil meaning the reason why Oscarovitch had brought it to her in such an
hour as this. With utter contempt in her soul and a smile on her lips,
she leaned back in her chair and said in a voice which had a note of
ecstasy in it:

"Oh, Prince, how lovely! What a glorious gem! The diamonds are, of
course, splendid, but they are only a setting for the emerald. What a
magnificent stone! Rich as you are, you are very fortunate to be the
possessor of such a treasure--for treasure it surely must be."

"It is, as you say, a magnificent stone," he replied, looking steadily
into her questioning eyes. "But if what Amena told me was true, it is
something more than a unique gem. There is an inscription on it, some
characters carved in the stone which are, as he said, the history of it,
but to me they are as unintelligible as the Assyrian cuneiform would be.
Possibly you may know something of them. If you do, here is a lens that
will help your sight."

She took the glass from him and bent down over the gem. She read the
sacred symbol of the Trinity as she had read it and known it ages
before. But while she was gazing at it, she also read the intent of the
man who had given it into her hands. She put the lens aside, and,
laying her palms on her temples, she looked deep down into the luminous
depths of the great emerald in a silence which Oscarovitch interpreted
into such meaning as he was able to make for himself.

Minute after minute passed in silence, and still her eyes were fixed
upon the Stone. Her face became like that of a beautiful masterpiece of
Phidias: pure, cold, and true. A feeling of something like awe crept
over him as he watched her, and he found himself asking whether, after
all, Phadrig's story might have been true. But, true or not, there was
the fascination which, as Phadrig had told him, had lured Isaac Josephus
to his self-inflicted doom. Her eyes were chained to the gem: her face
was no longer that of a living woman dominated by her own will. After
all his disbelief, there _was_ an enchantment in the Stone, for here,
even she, Nitocris, had succumbed to it.

He sat and waited for a few minutes longer. If there is magic in the
Stone, let it work, he thought; and so he sat and watched her until he
saw that the fixed stare of her eyes and the rigidity of her now
perfectly statuesque face convinced him that the magic of the Stone had,
as Phadrig had told him, made him the possessor of it, absolute master
of the man or woman who had gazed upon its fatal beauty.

Then he got up and, reaching over her shoulders, took up the diamond
chain, glistening under the soft light of the starry dome of the saloon,
shook it out into a flood of white radiance, lifted it above her head,
and let it fall very gently round her neck. The Horus Stone, as though
endowed with sentience, fell and rested where it had rested five
thousand years before. As it touched her flesh Nitocris felt a tremor of
indescribable emotion, not only of the body but of the soul, pass
through her. She leaned back in her chair again, and whispered:

"Is it really mine now, Prince? But no! How could I take it from you--I
who can give nothing in exchange for such a treasure? No, no, you must
take it back. I am not worthy to wear it."

He laid his hands gently on her arms, and said in a soft, murmuring tone
which sounded like the purring of a tiger-cat:

"Nitocris, if all the choicest gems in all the world could be put into a
crucible and fused into one, all its splendour would still be unworthy
to lie on that white breast of yours. Give me your love, Nitocris. I am
hungering and thirsting for it. Come with me to Oscarburg, and you shall
be crowned Princess--and after that Empress--Empress of the Russias and
the East. I will give you a dominion such as the great Catherine never
dared to dream of. Say yes, and in a month you shall be seated on her
throne. It is only a little word, dearest, only a little word--will you
not say it, and be my Princess, my Queen, my Empress?"

"I am tired now, Oscar," she said wearily, "so much has happened in so
short a time. Yes, I will, if it is possible: but let me go now. No, you
must not kiss me yet. Remember that Russian saying, 'Take thy thoughts
to bed with thee, for the morning is wiser than the evening.'
Good-night, Oscar, I am very tired. You shall have your answer in the
morning. May I take this with me?"

"Yes," he replied, giving her his hand as she rose from her chair, and
bowing over hers until his lips touched it. "Take it, unworthy as it is,
as an earnest of the realisation of the happy dreams that will come to
me to-night. Au revoir, pas adieu!"

"Auf viedersehn, mein Oscar!" she replied as she passed him, leaving the
sensation of a gentle flutter of her hand in his. "We shall understand
each other better still before long--I hope."

"It is my dearest wish. Good-night, Nitocris, and when the dawn comes
may it find nothing but sunshine in that sweet soul of yours!"

Nitocris went to her room and found her maid waiting, white-faced and
anxious. She was frightened and nearly worn out with caring for her
mistress. She would have been very glad to have been back that very
night at "The Wilderness," even if it had lost its master.

"Go to bed at once, Jenny; you look like a ghost, as you may well do
after all the trouble I've given you. No, I don't really want you, and
you want sleep rather badly. Go to bed, like a good girl. It will not be
the first time that I have undressed myself."

And when Jenny had gone and she had locked the door, Nitocris stripped
herself, save for the collar of diamonds and the pendant Horus Stone.
She took a long veil of Indian muslin out of her dress-box and wound it
round her after the fashion of old Egypt, leaving her left breast bare.
Only the Ureaus Crown was wanting to make her, in the flesh, Nitocris
the Queen: but here on her bosom flashed and flamed the Horus
Stone--hers once again, as it had been in the far-off past, symbol of
her sovereignty, and proof of her faith in the one true Doctrine.

She looked at the lovely reflection in the long mirror behind her
dressing-table, and said to herself in a low, whispering laugh:

"This for you, Oscar Oscarovitch that is, Menkau-Ra who was! Yes, you
may dream your pleasant dreams to-night; you may take me to your lonely
castle in Viborg Bay; you may make me marry you, as you think I
shall--and here is my wedding gift--mine again after all these
ages--blessed be for ever the Holy Trinity, Osiris, Isis, and Horus. May
the Most High Gods help and protect me!"

She raised the Sacred Stone to her lips as she spoke, turned off the
light, and lay down in her bed to dream dreams of forgotten ages.



CHAPTER XXV

THE PASSING OF PHADRIG


In all London, or, indeed, in any capital of Europe, there were no more
angrily puzzled men than Nicol Hendry and his colleague and
subordinates. He was perfectly certain now that Phadrig Amena held the
key to the conspiracy which had resulted in the disappearance of Prince
Zastrow. Oscarovitch had vanished. He had been traced to Copenhagen, and
then absolutely lost sight of. Three agents, all picked experts, had
been put on to watch Phadrig and the Pentanas, as they were known to
him, and within a fortnight they had all died. One had fallen down
crossing the north side of Trafalgar Square: the verdict had been heart
failure. Another threw himself into the river from the Tower Bridge; and
the third, a woman who was one of the most skilful spies in the service
of the International, had made his acquaintance and had dinner with him
at the "Monico," and was found dead the next morning with an empty
morphia syringe in her hand and a swollen puncture in her left arm.

Thus four more or less valuable lives had been lost, and not a shred of
tangible evidence obtained against the Egyptian. Convinced as he was
that this man was as responsible for their deaths as he had been for
that of Josephus, neither he nor his colleagues could find the slightest
grounds for applying for a warrant for his arrest, and meanwhile things
were going from bad to worse in Russia. The Romanoff dynasty was
tottering to its fall. The responsible leaders of the Revolution, angry
and bewildered by the loss of the man whom they had practically chosen
to rule over them, were distributing thousands of copies of an unsigned
manifesto which could not have come from any one but "the new
Skobeleff." What was left of the army and the navy was rallying to the
nameless standard of the still unknown saviour of Russia. Von Kessner
and Captain Vollmar had apparently ceased to exist, and the Princess
Hermia was living with her lady-in-waiting in the strictest retirement
in Dresden.

"It seems to me that things are at an utter deadlock," said Nicol Hendry
to the Chief of the German section, who had come over to London to
confer with him. "Four of our best agents have died in a fortnight, and
the others are getting shy. Really, we can't blame them. This is not
like fighting the ordinary sort of anarchist or regicide, who, after
all, does content himself with physical means. This infernal scoundrel,
as I must confess I was warned to begin with, is quite independent of
the rules of the game. He kills people by their own hands, not his, and,
literally, there seems no way of catching him."

"There must be a way, my dear Hendry," replied the German, who was the
very incarnation of mechanical officialism. "You look at these things as
consequences, I regard them only as rather extraordinary coincidences.
If this is anything like what you seem to think it, it is supernatural,
and I don't believe in that."

"There is a very easy way to convince yourself, my dear Von Hamner,"
replied Hendry, with a slight shrug of his shoulders. "Suppose you go
and interview this modern Mephistopheles yourself?"

"Will you come with me if I do?" asked the German, with a straight stare
through his spectacles.

"Certainly. In our profession it is necessary to take risks. The thing
has gone far enough. Here we are in my room at New Scotland Yard, the
centre and stronghold of the British police system, and there is this
man or super-man, if you like, making no sign, doing nothing that will
give us a hold upon him, and yet killing our agents as fast as we send
them to find out what he is working at, and we know just as much to-day
as we did three weeks ago. Now, what is your idea?"

"Just this: if the English law won't touch him, do as we do in Germany,
take the law into your own hands. We know where the fellow is to be
found down in that slum near the Borough Road. Send a few of your
plain-clothes men there this afternoon, and we will follow in a cab.
Bring your bracelets with you, and I shall take my revolver. We don't
want any nonsense this time. If it goes on much longer we shall be the
laughing-stock of the whole force from end to end of Europe, and that
will not do us any good. Shall it be for this afternoon?"

"It will be better done now. He has worked mischief enough, and if we
are going to do it we may as well bring the thing to a head at once, as
they say in the States. Now I will give the instructions, and we will go
to lunch. It may be the last that either of us will eat, you know."

"Poof!" exclaimed Von Hamner, who was feeling not a little nettled at
this quiet challenge to test his personal courage. "You are the last man
on earth that I should have suspected of superstition, my dear Hendry.
But, there, give your orders, and we will go to lunch, and then about
four o'clock we may make our call in Candler's Court."

While the two Chiefs of the International were talking, Phadrig was
reading a cypher telegram, of which the meaning was this:

     "REVAL.--Professor fell overboard three days ago. Body not
     recovered. Horus Stone did its work. N. consents. I marry her at
     Oscarburg. Russia ready. Fool International for a few days and come
     to Viborg when you have done with them.
                                                                   O."

"That is good news," said Phadrig, in a confidential whisper to himself;
"for a man on the lower plane of existence the Prince is wonderfully
clever. This is a master-stroke. If he really has the Queen in his power
all the rest will be easy."

"There's two gentlemen to see you, Mr Amena." The door opened, and his
landlady's dirty little daughter put her towsled head through the little
space behind the doorpost. "They're down below; shall I send 'em up?"

"Certainly, Jane. Tell the gentlemen that I shall be pleased to see
them."

The dirty face vanished as the door closed. Phadrig shut down the top of
the big escritoire and locked it. Heavy treads sounded on the rickety
stairs. There was a shuffle of feet on the little landing, a sharp knock
at the door, and he said in a low tone:

"Come in, gentlemen. I have been expecting you."

The door opened and Nicol Hendry entered, followed by his German
colleague. Practised as they were in all the arts of their profession,
they looked about the mean, miserably appointed room with curious eyes.
Phadrig, dressed in the same shabby semi-Oriental costume in which he
had received Isaac Josephus, salaamed, and said:

"Gentlemen, although this is but a poor room to receive you in, I am
pleased that you have come. You are officers of the International, if I
am not mistaken."

Then his speech changed to German, and he went on:

"You, sir, are M. Nicol Hendry, and your friend is the Herr von Hamner,
Chief of the Berlin Section. What can I do to serve you?"

It was anything but the greeting that they expected. They thought that
they had tracked the real criminal to his last hiding-place. They had
established the identity between Phadrig, the poor seller of curios, and
Phadrig Amena, the worker of miracles, whom all the smart set in London
was talking about; and here he was in this miserable, shabby room,
dressed in clothes that no pawnbroker would advance a couple of
shillings on, smiling and bowing before them as though they were lords
of the earth, and he--the man who had sent three men and a woman to
their deaths by, as it were, a mere word of command--a worm beneath
their feet. Nicol Hendry managed to keep his self-possession, but Von
Hamner was already sorry that he had come, and his face showed it.

"We have come to ask you, Mr Amena," said Hendry, thinking it best to
come to the point at once, "why you found it necessary to kill those
people. I needn't mention names. You know them as well as we do."

"I did not kill them, gentlemen. They killed themselves, according to
the newspaper reports. And now, may I ask you why you found it necessary
to set these spies of yours to watch my every movement night and day?
What have I done to bring myself within the four corners of your English
law?"

"Nothing, unfortunately, that we can get a warrant for," replied Hendry,
trying not to look into his eyes, "and so we have taken the law into our
own hands. Come, Mr Amena, the game is up. We know all about your share
in the conspiracy to remove Prince Zastrow in order to make room for
your patron Prince Oscarovitch. We have copies of his manifesto at
Scotland Yard, and we know that you received a telegram in cypher from
him to-day."

"Ah!" said Phadrig, in a tone whose smoothness was intensely
aggravating, "that is very interesting. May I ask if you have translated
the cypher?"

"No, damn you and your Prince!" burst in Von Hamner. "If we had done
that we should know even more about you than we do now--and that ought
to be enough to hang you."

He had spluttered the words out before Hendry had time to stop him. He
expected a tragedy there and then, but it did not happen. Phadrig took
the telegram out of his coat pocket, handed it to Von Hamner with a
graceful bow, and said:

"Your information is quite correct, gentlemen. That is the telegram, and
this is the meaning of it."

Then as they read the unintelligible jumble of words, he repeated the
meaning of them as though they formed the most ordinary message, instead
of a dispatch that might, as they well knew, shake Europe to its social
and political foundations within the next week or so.

"Then this is another of your devilries, I suppose," snarled Von Hamner.
"So you have killed the great Professor Marmion, the most gifted genius
in the whole world, as you killed the others, to promote your infernal
schemes; and you have helped that scoundrel Oscarovitch to abduct his
daughter. Well, law or no law, this shall be the end of your doings. You
will come with us as our prisoner, or you will not leave this room
alive."

"Those are hard words, mein Herr," said Phadrig, still speaking in
German. "I your prisoner! Why? What have I done to make this outrage on
English law possible?"

"You will do better to come, Mr Amena," said Hendry, in his quiet
official tone; "it will save a good deal of trouble both to you and us.
It must be the same in the end, you know. We have got you, and we don't
mean to let you do any more mischief. You have done quite enough
already. Now, will you come quietly, or shall we take you? We shall
charge you at Lambeth as a receiver of stolen goods: you will be
remanded for a week in custody, and by that time we shall have your
Prince in safe keeping in St Petersburg."

"Will you, really?" asked Phadrig, lifting his eyelids for the first
time during the interview. "I should have thought that a man of your
European experience would have called the Russian capital by its proper
name. Surely you know that only newspaper people make that mistake. It
is the city of Peter the Great, not Saint Peter the apostle. The
fortress of Petro-paulovsky is not named after saints--only after
Tsars."

There was a sneer in his voice as he made this trivial correction which
roused both Hendry and Von Hamner to anger. The German pulled his
revolver out of his hip pocket, and Hendry produced a beautiful pair of
polished handcuffs from his left trouser pocket.

"Ah, I see that you have come prepared, gentlemen!" said Phadrig, with a
laughing sneer in his low-voiced whisper. "Those are what you call the
bracelets in England, are they not? Well, since you are determined to
take the law into your hands--here are mine. Put them on M. Hendry, and
then your friend may not think it necessary to try and shoot me."

He held his hands out. The way in which he said "try and shoot me" did
not sound well in their ears, but Nicol Hendry thought that the work had
to be put through now or not at all. He took a couple of steps towards
Phadrig, and a couple of sharp snaps told Von Hamner that their prisoner
was safe. But the prisoner did not seem to think so. He raised his hands
and looked at the handcuffs. He seemed to examine them as though they
were curiosities.

"Are these really what you take criminals to prison with? They don't
seem very strong. I could break them as though they were thread."

"That will do, Mr Amena. You've got them on now, and we don't want any
more of your conjuring tricks. Come along, and take it quietly like a
sensible man."

Hendry was fast losing patience, and Von Hamner was doing all he could
to keep his finger off the trigger of the revolver.

"Ah yes, conjuring tricks you call them, you ignorants! Now look. You
have put the handcuffs on to my wrists. Is this a conjuring trick? See!"

He held his arms out towards them, his two hands chained together.

"Mr Hendry, be good enough to take my right hand, and you, Herr von
Hamner, my left. So; now shake my hands. You see, there are the
handcuffs on the floor."

It was only a shake of the hands, but the clink of the steel followed as
the bracelets dropped from his wrists. He stooped down, and inside ten
seconds they were clipped round Von Hamner's. In the same instant he had
twitched the revolver out of his hand and pointed it at Hendry's face.

"Now, gentlemen, you were talking about taking the law into your own
hands. I, you see, have taken it into mine. What do you propose to do? I
am quite at your service. Your idea of arresting me on a charge of
receiving stolen goods is, if you will allow me to say so, absurd. You
could no more make me guilty of that than you could hang me for the
deaths of those foolish spies of yours. Now, what is it to be? Pardon
me, Herr von Hamner: the bracelets inconvenience you. Allow me." He took
the handcuffs between his finger and thumb, shook the chain, and they
dropped into his hand. "You will feel more comfortable now."

"Yes, and I'll make you less comfortable in Hell, where you should have
been long ago," shouted Von Hamner, jumping at him the moment his hands
were free, and snatching the revolver out of his hand. The pistol went
up before Hendry could get hold of his arm, and he fired. Phadrig put
his hand up, and when the smoke had drifted away, he held it out to Von
Hamner, and said:

"I think that is your bullet, mein Herr."

The bullet was lying in the palm of his hand, a little out of shape
through passing the rifling, but still the same bullet.

The German's face turned a reddish-grey, and Nicol Hendry, with all his
courage, was not feeling particularly well. As a matter of fact, he was,
for the first time in his life, absolutely frightened. A man who could
deal with handcuffs as though they were made of cotton, and catch a
bullet in his hands, was not the sort of criminal he had been trained to
hunt. As for Von Hamner, he was in a state of utter collapse. He dropped
upon a chair, a pitiable spectacle of craven fear, looking about half
his real size so physically shrunken did he seem.

"Let the devil go, Hendry," he mumbled. "He is more than man. What is
the use? If you cannot shoot him, you cannot hang him, and if handcuffs
won't hold him, prison doors won't. Let us go and leave the devil to
himself. I've had enough of it."

"But perhaps the devil has not," said Phadrig, with a politeness which
was infuriating in its mildness. "You gentlemen will understand that I
do not wish to have this espionage going on any longer. If you cannot
promise that it shall stop at once I shall, for my own protection, have
to suggest to you that you shall remove yourselves, as the others have
done."

"No, no, not that, man, not that!" shouted Von Hamner, springing from
his seat and making for the door. "I have done with the whole business,
curse it! Let me go, let me go! Hendry, do as you like, but do it alone.
I have finished."

Before Hendry could reply, or before Von Hamner could reach it, the door
was flung open, and Franklin Marmion strode into the room. Von Hamner
crawled back to his chair. He did not like the look of a dead man who
had come to life again. Nicol Hendry held out his hand, and said:

"And is it really you, Professor? Mr Amena here has just had news that
you were dead--'fallen overboard in the Baltic from Prince Oscarovitch's
yacht. Body not recovered,' is what the telegram says."

"The body is here right enough, M. Hendry. I did not fall overboard. I
was bound hand and foot, had a mass of iron tied to my feet, and was
thrown out of a port-hole by the Prince and his captain. Of course, I
got rid of the rope and the iron even more easily than this man got rid
of your handcuffs a short time ago, and after keeping myself afloat for
half an hour or so, I was picked up by a fishing-boat which took me to
Stralsund. I got a change of clothes there, and came home _viâ_ Hamburg
and Ostend. My daughter has gone on in the yacht to Oscarburg, where
the Prince expects to make her his wife, and where she will make a very
considerable fool of him. That is all, and now I suppose I had better
deal with this man."

"Mercy, mercy, Thou Who Knowest! Pity, pity!"

Phadrig raised his hands above his head, turned round thrice slowly, and
sank in a heap on the floor.

"Thou who wast once High Priest in the House of Ptah: thou who hast held
the Doctrine: thou darest to ask for mercy, knowing well that there is
no forgiveness of sins: thou hast taken innocent lives, believing
thyself above human law. A wasted life is behind thee: see that thou
doest better for thy soul's sake in the next. Die now! The High Gods
have spoken, and the penalty of sin is death--and the life beyond. Die!"

And Phadrig died. His eyes glazed and his flesh withered; his lips and
his gums dried up and shrivelled away from his jaws. His clothes fell
away from his body in rotting shreds, and before Nicol Hendry and Von
Hamner had quite grasped the full meaning of the horror that was
happening before their eyes, all that was left of him was a little heap
of yellow bones with a few fragments of cloth clinging to them.

"Gentlemen," said Franklin Marmion, "there are some things which cannot
be told. I think you will agree with me that this is one of them. Mr
Amena has left the world for the present. Those bones will be dust in a
few minutes. It will only be another mysterious disappearance, and I
don't think that any one except the Pentanas and Prince Oscarovitch will
trouble much about him. The Pentanas are now deprived of all power for
harm, and the Prince will probably be a harmless lunatic when he comes
back into the world. I should sweep that dust up and put it into the
fireplace, if I were you. In that desk you will find documents giving
the whole history of the Affaire Zastrow. They will be useful to you.
You will have to excuse me now. Europe is on the brink of war, and I
must go and remove the cause. I rely upon your discretion as to the
events of this afternoon. Au revoir. I shall have the pleasure of seeing
you again shortly."

The door closed, and they were left to their somewhat gruesome task.



CHAPTER XXVI

CAPTAIN MERRILL'S COMMISSION


Franklin Marmion found a hansom in the Borough Road and drove to
Waterloo. He had just time to wire to Merrill to meet him at the
"Keppel's Head" for dinner and catch the new 4.55 express for
Portsmouth. Merrill was waiting for him in the smoking-room. As they
shook hands, he said in the quiet tone which is characteristic of his
profession:

"Your wire was rather sudden news, Professor. I thought you were
somewhere in the Baltic. Your coming back like this seemed to mean
something, and so I took the liberty of having a private room for our
dinner."

"Perfectly right, my dear Merrill," he replied. "Let us go upstairs at
once. I have a good deal to say to you, and what I am going to say will
have to be done quickly."

"We have our sailing orders for the Baltic, and the Special Squadron
leaves Spithead at midnight. Come upstairs, Professor, and we can talk."

Dinner was served a few minutes after they got into the room that
Merrill had reserved on the first floor. The waiter was dismissed and
the door locked, and then Franklin Marmion told Mark Merrill the most
wonderful story he had ever heard. If it had come from any one else he
would have put it down as a lie, but he remembered what had happened in
the lecture theatre of the Royal Society, and so he held his peace. It
was quite impossible for him to disbelieve anything the father of his
Best Beloved told him. When the Professor had finished the story of
Nitocris and the Prince, he leaned his elbows on the table, and said:

"Now, my dear Merrill, I am going to put it into your power to save
Europe from the horrors of a universal war: but to that you must be
prepared to take risks which may result in your being dismissed the
Service. On the other hand, if you succeed, as you are almost certain to
do if you act strictly on the instructions that I am going to give you,
you will be a Captain in a month, and a Vice-Admiral in a year."

"But I'm a Captain now, Professor. I was keeping that little bit of news
for you. I hoisted my pennant this morning on His Majesty's ship
_Nitocris_: new second-class cruiser, eight thousand tons, and
twenty-four knots: as pretty a ship as Elswick ever turned out. And the
name: it came to me like a revelation."

"Possibly it was, in a sense that you may not quite understand now, but
you will understand it when you and Niti are married. She will be better
able to explain it then than I could now."

"And what are the orders--I mean, of course, the private ones? Ours are:
sail at midnight, make Kronstadt in forty-eight hours: command the
approaches to Riga and St Petersburg, and wait for the developments of
this manifesto which seems to be setting what is left of Russia on fire.
Germany is in with us for the time being: France and Italy and our
Mediterranean squadron will see to things in the Near East, and
altogether there seem to be the prospects of a very handsome sort of
row."

"Which you, my dear Merrill, will be the means of preventing," said
Franklin Marmion, taking a piece of folded tracing paper out of the
inside pocket of his coat. "I yield to circumstance. The name of your
new ship convinces me that I was wrong in certain other circumstances.
You will give me a passage to Viborg on the _Nitocris_. You will take
French leave of the fleet as soon as you sight Kronstadt, get into
Viborg Bay at your best speed, land your men, take the Castle, which is
quite undefended, bring away Prince Zastrow and Oscarovitch, and, of
course, Niti; put your two princes on board the flagship, bring them
back to England, and dictate terms from London. It seems a good deal to
do, but I will make it possible, if you are prepared to do as I advise
you. There is the chart showing the approaches to Oscarburg."

"I'll do it, sir," said Merrill, taking the tracing from his hand. "I'll
break every regulation of the Service into little pieces to get that
done. Now, I ought to be getting on board. Are you ready?"

"Quite," said Franklin Marmion, rising from his chair. "I see now where
the man of action comes in. I did not see that before, I must confess."



CHAPTER XXVII

THE BRIDAL OF OSCAROVITCH


The Special Service Squadron steamed out of Spithead as the clock of
Portsmouth Town Hall chimed twelve that night. Thirty-six hours later a
marriage ceremony took place in the chapel of the Castle of Oscarburg.
It was performed according to the rites of the Orthodox Church, and the
witnesses were Prince Zastrow and his medical attendant, Doctor Hugo.
The retainers of the Castle, headed by the major-domo and the
housekeeper, formed the congregation. Jenny was up in her mistress' room
packing as though for an immediate departure. She was very frightened at
the happenings of the past three or four days, but she contented herself
with the thought that her mistress was going to be a princess, and that,
therefore, her own lot in life would be brightened with reflected glory.

When the ceremony was over, the wedding feast was held in the great
dining-hall of the Castle after the ancient Finnish style. When the
loving-cup had been drunk, Nitocris took leave of her lord and went to
her room. The bridal chamber was blazing with light, and the great
silken-hung bed was a couch fit for a queen. She turned the draperies
down, laid herself dressed on the thick, downy bed, and then got up and
went back to her own.

"I shall sleep here to-night, Jenny, and I shall not undress. You
mustn't do, either. Lock the door, and put the sofa across it. You will
find that something is going to happen to-night. Is everything ready for
us to go away?"

"Yes, Your Highness," replied Jenny, wondering what was going to happen
next.

"You must not call me Highness, Jenny," said her mistress, with a laugh.
"I did not marry the Prince to-day. It was some one else he knew a long
time ago. I have put her to bed in that splendid bridal chamber of his.
She is waiting for him now."

"But I don't understand, Miss--I----"

"There is no need for you to understand, Jenny. Just be a good girl, and
do as you're told. When we get back to England I will explain matters as
far as I can."

Miss Jenny wisely decided to keep her thoughts to herself, and went on
with her packing. Nitocris changed her bridal dress for her yachting
costume, and lay down on the couch to await the progress of events.

Oscarovitch left the company in the dining-hall to their revel in about
an hour's time, and went up to his fate in the bridal chamber. He
knocked and opened the door softly: locked it, and went toward the bed.
He leaned over it for a moment, and then a hoarse shriek of mingled rage
and terror rang through the room. He flung the clothes off the bed.
Where was the lovely bride he had wedded only a few hours before? What
was this horrible thing lying where _she_ should have been? Not
Nitocris--and yet, it _was_ Nitocris. Like a flash of lightning rending
the darkness of the midnight heavens, the gap of oblivion between his
lives was rent, and the light flamed into his soul. Phadrig had lied to
him. The daughter of Rameses had not died that night in the banqueting
chamber of the Palace of Pepi. She had lived and reigned virgin queen of
the Sacred Land. Her body had been submitted to the hands of the
paraschites and buried in the City of the Dead over against Memphis, on
the eastward side of the river. And here was her mummy lying in his
bridal bed, mocking him with its hideous, stony rigidity.

For a few terrible moments he stood staring at it, his clenched fists
raised above his head. Then with another scream he cast himself upon it.

When they broke the door open, they found the man who in a few days
would have been Emperor of the Russias and the East lying across the bed
mowing and gibbering like a mad monkey, and scraping up handfuls of
brown dust from the stained sheets.

       *       *       *       *       *

Twenty-four hours later the Admiral in command of the British Special
Squadron off Kronstadt saw the private signal flashed from the
north-east. He was a very angry Admiral, for he had lost a brand-new
cruiser and one of the smartest captains in the Service. But the signal
spelt "_Nitocris_. All well. Coming alongside."

"All well, and be damned to you, Captain Merrill!" muttered the Admiral
under his breath, when the signal was read to him. "This is a nice way
to begin a new command. I've half a mind to put him under arrest: but
he's a good man. I'd better hear what he has to say for himself first. I
wonder what the deuce he's been doing with that cruiser since he took
her away without leave? Well, here she is, I suppose."

But it was not H.M.S. _Nitocris_ that came out of the night glittering
with electric lights and flying through the water at a speed that the
fastest destroyer in the squadron could not have equalled. A whistle
tooted softly, a white shape swung up out of the darkness and slowed
down alongside the flagship. A boat dropped into the water, and three
minutes later Captain Mark Merrill ran up the gangway ladder, saluted
the quarter-deck, and handed his sword to the Admiral.

"I have done wrong, sir, but I hope that I have also, in another sense,
done right. I have brought both princes with me."

"Both princes--Good Lord, sir, what do you mean?"

"May I come below with you, sir, and explain? It has been rather
delicate work, but we've got it through all right, I think."

"Then keep your sword for the present, and come and tell me what you
have to say."

Captain Merrill followed the Admiral to his room, and told the story of
the taking of the Oscarburg--a very easy matter with a hundred
bluejackets at his back--the capture of Oscarovitch, who was now in a
straight waistcoat on board his own yacht, the rescue of Prince Zastrow
and Nitocris, and----

"The other Nitocris is following, sir," he concluded. "I thought I had
better take the yacht. She can make a good thirty-five knots, and that's
useful when you're in a hurry. And now, sir, I am at your disposal."

"Rubbish!" said the Admiral, holding out his hand. "Captain Merrill, I
don't quite know how you've done it, but you've saved Europe, and
perhaps the world, from war. If you hadn't brought those two princes of
yours to-night, we should have been fighting Germany for the possession
of Kronstadt before mid-day to-morrow. Those were the orders. Now, of
course, they can do nothing, as you have brought Prince Zastrow back
from the dead. He's their choice, and you had better get him and the
other away to London as soon as I have seen them, and you can take my
report with you on that thirty-five knotter after breakfast to-morrow
morning. Now, it's getting late. I'll say good-night."



EPILOGUE


The double wedding which took place at St George's, Hanover Square, the
following June was one of the most brilliant functions of the year.
Their Majesties of Russia and Great Britain graced the ceremony with
their presence, and, as a special act of grace to the man who, with
Franklin Marmion's help, had saved the world from what might have been
one of the bloodiest wars in history, H.M.S. _Nitocris_ was put into
commission for a cruise, the object of which was anything rather than
warlike. Two of the happiest couples on land or sea made the round of
the world in her. Before they returned Princess Hermia had taken the
last of Phadrig's drug and lain down to sleep never to wake again, and
in the fullness of her happiness Nitocris pardoned Oscar Oscarovitch,
and allowed him to die.


THE END



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  PRINTED AT THE EDINBURGH PRESS, 9 AND 11 YOUNG STREET





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