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Title: Pharos, The Egyptian - A Romance
Author: Boothby, Guy Newell, 1867-1905
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Pharos, The Egyptian - A Romance" ***

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                         PHAROS, THE EGYPTIAN

                              _A ROMANCE_

                            BY GUY BOOTHBY

               AUTHOR OF DOCTOR NIKOLA, THE LUST OF HATE,
                    THE BEAUTIFUL WHITE DEVIL, ETC.


NEW YORK
D. APPLETON AND COMPANY
1899

Copyright, 1898, 1899,
By D. APPLETON AND COMPANY.

_All rights reserved._



PHAROS, THE EGYPTIAN.



PREFACE.

BEING A LETTER FROM SIR WILLIAM BETFORD, OF BAMPTON ST. MARY, IN
DORSETSHIRE, TO GEORGE TREVELYAN, OF LINCOLN'S INN FIELDS, LONDON.



"My dear Trevelyan: Never in my life have I been placed in such an
awkward, not to say invidious, position. I am, as you know, a plain man,
fond of a plain life and plain speaking, and yet I am about to imperil
that reputation by communicating to you what I fancy you will consider
the most extraordinary and unbelievable intelligence you have ever
received in your life. For my own part I do not know what to think. I
have puzzled over the matter until I am not in a position to judge
fairly. You must, therefore, weigh the evidence, first for us both. For
pity's sake, however, do not decide hastily. _In dubiis benigniora
semper sunt præferenda_, as they used to say in our school days, must be
our motto, and by it we must abide at any hazards. As far as I can see,
we are confronted with one of the saddest and at the same time one of
the most inexplicable cases ever yet recorded on paper. Reduced to its
proper factors it stands as follows: Either Forrester has gone mad and
dreamed it all, or he is sane and has suffered as few others have done
in this world. In either case he is deserving of our deepest pity. In
one way only are we fortunate. Knowing the man as we do, we are in a
position to estimate the value of the accusations he brings against
himself. Of one thing I am convinced--a more honourable being does not
walk this earth. Our acquaintance with him is of equal length. We were
introduced to him, and to each other, on one and the same occasion,
upward of twelve years ago; and during that time I know I am right in
saying neither of us ever had reason to doubt his word or the honour of
a single action. Indeed, to my mind he had but one fault, a not uncommon
one in these latter days of the nineteenth century. I refer to his
somewhat morbid temperament and the consequent leaning toward the
supernatural it produced in him.

"As the world has good reason to remember, his father was perhaps the
most eminent Egyptologist our century has seen; a man whose whole mind
and being was impregnated with a love for that ancient country and its
mystic past. Small wonder, therefore, that the son should have inherited
his tastes and that his life should have been influenced by the same
peculiar partiality. While saying, however, that he had a weakness for
the supernatural, I am by no means admitting that he was what is
vulgarly termed a spiritualist. I do not believe for an instant that he
ever declared himself so openly. His mind was too evenly balanced, and
at the same time too healthy to permit such an enthusiastic declaration
of his interest. For my part, I believe he simply inquired into the
matter as he would have done into, shall we say, the Kinetic theory of
gases, or the history of the ruined cities of Mashonaland, for the
purpose of satisfying his curiosity and of perfecting his education on
the subject. Having thus made my own feelings known to you, I will leave
the matter in your hands, confident that you will do him justice, and
will proceed to describe how the pathetic record of our friend's
experiences came into my possession.

"I had been hunting all day and did not reach home until between
half-past six and seven o'clock. We had a house full of visitors at the
time, I remember, some of whom had been riding with me, and the
dressing-gong sounded as we dismounted from our horses at the steps. It
was plain that if we wished to change our attire and join the ladies in
the drawing-room before dinner was announced, we had no time to lose.
Accordingly we departed to our various rooms with all possible speed.

"There is nothing pleasanter or more refreshing after a long day in the
saddle than a warm bath. On this particular occasion I was in the full
enjoyment of this luxury when a knocking sounded at the door. I inquired
who was there.

"'Me, sir--Jenkins,' replied my servant. 'There is a person downstairs,
sir, who desires to see you.'

"'To see me at this hour,' I answered. 'What is his name, and what does
he want?'

"'His name is Silver, sir,' the man replied; and then, as if the
information might be put forward as some excuse for such a late visit,
he continued: 'I believe he is a kind of foreigner, sir. Leastways, he's
very dark, and don't speak the same, quite, as an Englishman might do.'

"I considered for a moment. I knew of no person named Silver who could
have any possible reason for desiring to see me at seven o'clock in the
evening.

"'Go down and inquire his business,' I said, at length. 'Tell him I am
engaged to-night; but if he can make it convenient to call in the
morning, I will see him.'

"The man departed on his errand, and by the time he returned I had
reached my dressing-room once more.

"'He is very sorry, sir,' he began, as soon as he had closed the door,
'but he says he must get back to Bampton in time to catch the 8.15
express to London. He wouldn't tell me his business, but asked me to say
that it is most important, and he would be deeply grateful if you could
grant him an interview this evening.'

"'In that case,' I said, 'I suppose I _must_ see him. Did he tell you no
more?'

"'No, sir. Leastways, that wasn't exactly the way he put it. He said,
sir, "If the gentleman won't see me otherwise, tell him I come to him
from Mr. Cyril Forrester. Then I think he will change his mind."'

"As the man, whoever he was, had predicted, this _did_ make me change my
mind. I immediately bade Jenkins return and inform him that I would be
with him in a few moments. Accordingly, as soon as I had dressed, I left
my room and descended to the study. The fire was burning brightly, and a
reading-lamp stood upon the writing-table. The remainder of the room,
however, was in shadow, but not sufficiently so to prevent my
distinguishing a dark figure seated between the two bookcases. He rose
as I entered, and bowed before me with a servility that, thank God! is
scarcely English. When he spoke, though what he said was grammatically
correct, his accent revealed the fact that he was not a native of our
Isles.

"'Sir William Betford, I believe,' he began, as I entered the room.

"'That is my name,' I answered, at the same time turning up the lamp and
lighting the candles upon the mantelpiece in order that I might see him
better. 'My man tells me you desire an interview with me. He also
mentioned that you have come from my old friend, Mr. Cyril Forrester,
the artist, who is now abroad. Is this true?'

"'Quite true,' he replied. 'I do come from Mr. Forrester.'

"The candles were burning brightly by this time, and, as a result, I was
able to see him more distinctly. He was of medium height, very thin, and
wore a long overcoat of some dark material. His face was distinctly
Asiatic in type, though the exact nationality I could not determine.
Possibly he might have hailed from Siam.

"'Having come from Mr. Forrester,' I said, when I had seated myself,
'you will be able to tell me his address, I have neither seen nor heard
of or from him for more than a year past.'

"'I regret exceedingly that it is impossible for me to give you the
information you seek,' the man replied, civilly but firmly. 'My
instructions were most explicit upon that point.'

"'You come to me from him, and yet you are instructed not to tell me his
address?' I said, with natural surprise. 'That is rather extraordinary,
is it not? Remember, I am one of his oldest, and certainly one of his
firmest, friends.'

"'Nevertheless, I was instructed on no account to reveal his present
residence to you,' the man replied.

"'What, then, can your business be with me?' I asked, more nettled at
his words than I cared to show.

"'I have brought you a packet,' he said, 'which Mr. Forrester was most
anxious I should personally deliver to your hands. There is a letter
inside which he said would explain everything. I was also instructed to
obtain from you a receipt, which I am to convey to him again.'

"So saying, he dived his hand into the pocket of his greatcoat, and
brought thence a roll, which he placed with some solemnity upon the
table.

"'There is the packet,' he said. 'Now if you will be kind enough to give
me a note stating that you have received it, I will take my departure.
It is most necessary that I should catch the express to London, and if I
desire to do so, I have a sharp walk in front of me.'

"'You shall have the receipt,' I answered; and, taking a sheet of
notepaper from a drawer, I wrote the following letter:--

    "'THE GRANGE, BAMPTON ST. MARY,
    "'_December 14, 18--._

     "'DEAR FORRESTER: This evening I have been surprised by a visit
     from a man named----'

"Here I paused and inquired the messenger's name, which I had, for the
moment, forgotten.

"'Honoré de Silva,' he replied.

     "'----from a man named Honoré de Silva, who has handed me a
     packet for which he desires this letter shall be a receipt. I
     have endeavoured to elicit your address from him, but on this
     point he is adamant. Is it kind to an old friend to let him
     hear from you, but at the same time to refuse to permit him to
     communicate with you? Why all this mystery? If you are in
     trouble, who would so gladly share it with you as your old
     friend? If you need help, who would so willingly give it? Are
     the years during which we have known each other to count for
     nothing? Trust me, and I think you are aware that I will not
     abuse your confidence.

     "Your affectionate friend,

     "'WILLIAM BETFORD.'

"Having blotted it, I placed the letter in an envelope, directed it to
Cyril Forrester, Esq., and handed it to De Silva, who placed it
carefully in an inner pocket and rose to take leave of me.

"'Will nothing induce you to reveal your employer's present place of
residence?' I said. 'I assure you I am most anxious to prove his
friend.'

"'I can easily believe that,' he answered. 'He has often spoken of you
in terms of the warmest affection. If you could hear him, I am sure you
would have no doubt on that score.'

"I was much affected, as you may imagine, on hearing this, and his
assertion emboldened me to risk yet another question.

"'Upon one point, at least, you can set my mind at rest,' I said. 'Is
Mr. Forrester happy?'

"'He is a man who has done with happiness such as you mean, and will
never know it again,' he answered solemnly.

"'My poor old friend,' I said, half to myself and half to him. And then
added, 'Is there no way in which I can help him?'

"'None,' De Silva replied. 'But I can tell you no more, so I beg you
will not ask me.'

"'But you can surely answer one other question,' I continued, this time
with what was almost a note of supplication in my voice. 'You can tell
me whether, in your opinion, we, his friends, will see him again, or if
he intends to spend the remainder of his life in exile?'

"'That I can safely answer. No! You will never see him again. He will
not return to this country, or to the people who have known him here.'

"'Then may God help him and console him, for his trouble must be bitter
indeed!'

"'It is well-nigh insupportable,' said De Silva, with the same
solemnity; and then, picking up his hat, bowed, and moved toward the
door.

"'I must risk one last question. Tell me if he will communicate with me
again?'

"'Never,' the other replied. 'He bade me tell you, should you ask, that
you must henceforth consider him as one who is dead. You must not
attempt to seek for him, but consign him to that oblivion in which only
he can be at peace.'

"Before I could say more he had opened the door and passed into the
hall. A moment later I heard the front door close behind him, a step
sounded on the gravel before my window, and I was left standing upon the
hearthrug, staring at the packet upon the table. Then the gong sounded,
and I thrust the roll into a drawer. Having securely locked the latter,
I hastened to the drawing-room to meet my guests.

"Needless to say, my demeanour during dinner was not marked with any
great degree of gaiety. The interview with De Silva had upset me
completely; and though I endeavoured to play the part of an attentive
host, my attempt was far from being successful. I found my thoughts
continually reverting to that curious interview in the study, and to the
packet which had come into my possession in such a mysterious manner,
the secret contained in which I had still to learn.

"After dinner we adjourned to the billiard-room, where we spent the
evening; consequently it was not until my guests bade me 'Good night,'
and retired to their various rooms, by which time it was well after
eleven o'clock, that I found myself at liberty to return to the study.

"Once there, I made up the fire, wheeled an easy-chair to a position
before it, arranged the reading-lamp so that the light should fall upon
the paper over my left shoulder, and having made these preparations,
unlocked the drawer and took out the packet De Silva had handed to me.

"It was with a mixture of pain, a small measure of curiosity, but more
apprehension as to what I should find within, that I cut the string and
broke the seals. Inside I discovered a note and a roll of manuscript in
that fine and delicate handwriting we used to know so well. After a
hasty glance at it, I put the latter aside, and opened the envelope. The
note I found within was addressed to you, Trevelyan, as well as to
myself, and read as follows:--

     "'MY DEAR OLD FRIENDS: In company with many other people, you
     must have wondered what the circumstances could have been that
     induced me to leave England so suddenly, to forfeit the success
     I had won for myself after so much up-hill work, and, above
     all, to bid farewell to a life and an art I loved so devotedly,
     and from which, I think I may be excused for saying, I had such
     brilliant expectations. I send you herewith, Betford, by a
     bearer I can trust, an answer to that question. I want you to
     read it, and, having done so, to forward it to George
     Trevelyan, with the request that he will do the same. When you
     have mastered the contents, you must unitedly arrange with some
     publishing house to put it before the world, omitting nothing,
     and in no way attempting to offer any extenuation for my
     conduct. We were three good friends once, in an age as dead to
     me now as the Neolithic. For the sake of that friendship,
     therefore, I implore this favour at your hands. As you hope for
     mercy on that Last Great Day when the sins of all men shall be
     judged, do as I entreat you now. How heavily I have sinned
     against my fellow-men--in ignorance, it is true--you will know
     when you have read what I have written. This much is
     certain--the effect of it weighs upon my soul like lead. If you
     have any desire to make that load lighter, carry out the wish I
     now express to you. Remember me also in your prayers, praying
     not as for a man still living, but as you would for one long
     since dead. That God may bless and keep you both will ever be
     the wish of your unhappy friend,

     "'CYRIL FORRESTER.

     "'P. S.--Matthew Simpford, in the Strand, is keeping two
     pictures for me. They were once considered among my best work.
     I ask you each to accept one, and when you look at them try to
     think as kindly as possible of the friend who is gone from you
     forever.'

"So much for the letter. It is possible there may be people who will
smile sarcastically when they read that, as I finished it, tears stood
in my eyes, so that I could scarcely see the characters upon the paper.

"You, Trevelyan, I know, will understand my emotion better. And why
should I not have been affected? Forrester and I had been good friends
in the old days, and it was only fit and proper I should mourn his loss.
Handsome, generous, clever, who could help loving him? I could not,
that's certain.

"The letter finished, I replaced it in its envelope and turned my
attention to the manuscript. When I began to read, the hands of the
clock upon the chimneypiece stood at twenty minutes to twelve, and they
had reached a quarter past five before I had completed my task. All that
time I read on without stopping, filled with amazement at the story my
poor friend had to tell, and consumed with a great sorrow that his
brilliant career should have terminated in such an untoward manner.

"Now, having completed my share of the task, as required of me in the
letter, I send the manuscript by special messenger to you. Read it as he
desires, and when you have done so let me have your opinion upon it.
Then I will come up to town, and we will arrange to carry out the last
portion of our poor friend's request together. In the meantime,

    "Believe me ever your friend,

    "WILLIAM BETFORD."

       *       *       *       *       *

_Six months later._

Trevelyan and I have completed the task allotted to us. We have read
Forrester's manuscript, and we have also discovered a publisher who will
place it before the world. What the result is to be it remains for time
to decide.



CHAPTER I.


If ever a man in this world had a terrible--I might almost go so far as
to add a shameful--story to relate, surely I, Cyril Forrester, am the
one. How strange--indeed, how most unbelievable--it is I do not think I
even realised myself until I sat down to write it. The question the
world will in all probability ask when it has read it is, why it should
have been told at all. It is possible it may be of opinion that I should
have served my generation just as well had I allowed it to remain locked
up in my own bosom for all time. This, however, my conscience would not
permit. There are numberless reasons, all of them important and some
imperative beyond all telling, why I should make my confession, though
God knows I am coward enough to shrink from the task. And if you
consider for a moment, I think you will understand why. In the first
place, the telling of the story can only have the effect of depriving me
of the affection of those I love, the respect of those whose good
opinion I have hitherto prized so highly, the sympathy of my most
faithful friends, and, what is an equal sacrifice as far as I am
personally concerned--though it is, perhaps, of less importance to
others--the fame I have won for myself after so hard a struggle. All
this is swept away like drift-wood before a rising tide, and as a result
I retire into voluntary exile, a man burdened with a life-long sorrow.
How I have suffered, both in body and mind, none will ever understand.
That I have been punished is also certain, how heavily you, my two old
friends, will be able to guess when you have read my story. With the
writing of it I have severed the last link that binds me to the
civilized world. Henceforth I shall be a wanderer and an outcast, and
but for one reason could wish myself dead. But that is enough of regret;
let me commence my story.

Two years ago, as you both have terrible reason to remember, there
occurred in Europe what may, perhaps, be justly termed the most
calamitous period in its history, a time so heart-breaking, that
scarcely a man or woman can look back upon it without experiencing the
keenest sorrow. Needless to say I refer to the outbreak of the plague
among us, that terrible pestilence which swept Europe from end to end,
depopulated its greatest cities, filled every burial-place to
overflowing, and caused such misery and desolation in all ranks of life
as has never before been known among us. Few homes were there, even in
this fair England of ours, but suffered some bereavement; few families
but mourn a loss the wound of which has even now barely healed. And it
is my part in this dreadful business that I have forced myself with so
much bitter humiliation to relate. Let me begin at the very beginning,
tell everything plainly and straightforwardly, offer nothing in
extenuation of my conduct, and trust only to the world to judge me, if
such a thing be possible, with an unbiassed mind.

I date my misery from a wet, miserable night in the last week of
March--a night without a glimpse of the moon, which, on that particular
evening, was almost at its full. There had been but one solitary hour of
painting-light all day; short as it was, however, it was sufficient for
my purpose. My picture for the Academy was finished, and now all that
remained was to pack it up and send it in. It was, as you remember, my
eighth, and in every way my most successful effort. The subject I had
chosen had enthralled me from the moment it had first entered my head,
and the hours of thought and preparation it had entailed will always
rank among the happiest of my life. It represented Merenptah, the
Pharaoh of the Exodus, learning from the magicians the effect of his
obstinacy in the death of his first-born son. The canvas showed him
seated on his throne, clad in his robes of state. His head was pushed a
little forward, his chin rested in his hand, while his eyes looked
straight before him as though he were endeavouring to peer into the
future in the hope of reading there the answer to the troubled thoughts
inside his brain. Behind him stood the sorcerers, one of whom had found
courage to announce the baneful tidings.

The land of Egypt has always possessed a singular attraction for me--a
taste which, doubtless, I inherit from my poor father, who, as you are
aware, was one of the greatest authorities upon the subject the world
has ever known.

As I have said, it was a miserable night, dark as the pit of Tophet. A
biting wind whistled through the streets, the pavements were dotted with
umbrella-laden figures, the kennels ran like mill-sluices, while the
roads were only a succession of lamp-lit puddles through which the
wheeled traffic splashed continuously. For some reason--perhaps because
the work upon which I had been so long and happily engaged was finished
and I felt lonely without it to occupy my mind--I was stricken with a
fit of the blues. Convinced that my own company would not take me out of
it, I left my studio in search of more congenial society. This was soon
forthcoming; and you will remember, Betford and Trevelyan, that we dined
together at a little restaurant in the neighbourhood of Leicester
Square, and followed the dinner up with a visit to a theatre. As
ill-luck would have it, I was in the minority in the choice of a place
of entertainment. The result was disastrous. Instead of ridding myself
of my melancholy, as I had hoped to do, I intensified it, and when, at
the end of the evening, I bade you farewell in the Strand, my spirits
had reached a lower level than they had attained all day. I remember
distinctly standing beneath a gas-lamp at the corner of Villiers Street,
as the clocks were striking midnight, feeling disinclined to return to
my abode and go to bed, and yet equally at a loss to know in what manner
I should employ myself until there was some likelihood of slumber
visiting my eyelids. To help me make up my mind I lit a fresh cigar and
strolled down toward the river. On the pavement, at the foot of the
steps leading to Hungerford Bridge, a poor tattered creature, yet still
possessing some pretensions to gentlemanly address, came from beneath
the archway and begged of me, assuring me most solemnly that, as far as
he was concerned, the game was played out, and if I did not comply with
his request, he would forthwith end his troubles in the river. I gave
him something--I can not now remember what--and then, crossing the road,
made my way along the Embankment toward Cleopatra's Needle. The rain had
ceased for the moment, and in the north a few stars were shining. The
myriad lights of the Embankment were reflected in the river like lines
of dancing fire, and I remember that behind me a train was rolling
across the bridge from Charing Cross with a noise like distant thunder.
I suppose I must have been thinking of my picture, and of the land and
period which had given me the idea. At any rate, I know that on this
occasion the ancient monument in front of which I soon found myself
affected me as it had never done before. I thought of the centuries that
had passed since those hieroglyphics were carved upon the stone, of the
changes the world had seen since that giant monolith first saw the light
of day. Leaning my elbows on the parapet, I was so absorbed in my own
thoughts that when a sudden cry of "Help, help!" rang out from the river
it was with a sensible shock that I returned to the commonplace and
found myself standing where I was. A moment later I was all action. The
cry had come from the other side of the Needle. I accordingly hastened
to the steps farthest from me, shouting, as I went, in my excitement,
that a man was drowning. It might have all been part of some evil
dream--the long line of silent Embankment on either side, the
swiftly-flowing river, and that despairing appeal for help coming so
suddenly out of the black darkness. Then I became aware that I was not
alone on the steps. There was another man there, and he stood
motionless, peering out into the dark stream, scarcely a dozen paces
from me.

I had reached the top of the steps and was about to descend them in
order to accost him, when something occurred which stopped me and held
me spell-bound. The moon had emerged from its pall of cloud and was now
shining clear and bright across the river. Thirty seconds must have
elapsed since we had heard the cry for assistance, and now, as I looked,
the drowning man was washed in at the foot of the steps upon which we
stood. It would have needed but the least movement on the part of the
man below me to have caught him as he swept by and to have saved him
from a watery death. To my amazement, however--and even now, after this
lapse of time, my gorge rises at the very thought of it--the other did
not offer to help, but drew himself back. Before I could return my
eyes, the wretched suicide had passed out of sight and had vanished into
the darkness again. As he did so a pronounced chuckle of enjoyment
reached me from the man below--a burst of merriment so out of place and
so detestable that I could scarcely believe I heard aright. I can not
hope to make you understand how it affected me. A second later a fit of
blind fury overtook me, and, under the influence of it, I ran down the
steps and seized the murderer--for such I shall always consider him--by
the arm.

"Are you a man or a fiend," I cried in jerks, "that you could so allow
another to perish when you might have saved him? His death is upon your
conscience, brute and monster that you are!"

So extreme was my emotion that I trembled under it like a man with the
palsy.

Then the other turned his head and looked at me; and, as he did so, a
great shudder, accompanied by an indescribable feeling of nausea, passed
over me. What occasioned it I could not tell, nor could I remember
having felt anything of the kind before. When it departed, my eyes fixed
themselves on the individual before me. Connecting him in some way with
the unenviable sensation I had just experienced, I endeavoured to
withdraw them again, but in vain. The others gaze was riveted upon
me--so firmly, indeed, that it required but small imagination to believe
it eating into my brain. Good Heavens! how well I recollect that night
and every incident connected with it! I believe I shall remember it
through all eternity. If only I had known enough to have taken him by
the throat then and there, and had dashed his brains out on the stones,
or to have seized him in my arms and hurled him down the steps into the
river below, how much happier I should have been! I might have earned
eternal punishment, it is true, but I should at least have saved myself
and the world in general from such misery as the human brain can
scarcely realise. But I did not know, the opportunity was lost, and, in
that brief instant of time, millions of my fellow-creatures were
consigned unwittingly to their doom.

After long association with an individual, it is difficult, if not
impossible, to set down with any degree of exactness a description of
the effect his personality in the first instance had upon me. In this
case I find it more than usually difficult, for the reason that, as I
came more under his influence, the original effect wore off and quite
another was substituted for it.

His height was considerably below the average, his skull was as small as
his shoulders were broad. But it was not of his stature, his shoulders,
or the size of the head which caused the curious effect I have elsewhere
described. It was his eyes, the shape of his face, the multitudinous
wrinkles that lined it, and, above all, the extraordinary colour of his
skin, that rendered his appearance so repulsive. To understand what I
mean you must think first of old ivory, and then endeavour to realise
what the complexion of a corpse would be like after lying in an
hermetically sealed tomb for many years. Blend the two and you will have
some dim notion of the idea I am trying to convey. His eyes were small,
deeply sunken, and in repose apparently devoid of light and even of
life. He wore a heavy fur coat, and, for the reason that he disdained
the customary headgear of polite society, and had substituted for it a
curious description of cap, I argued that he was a man who boasted a
will of his own, and who did not permit himself to be bound by arbitrary
rules. But, however plain these things may have been, his age was a
good deal more difficult to determine. It was certainly not less than
seventy, and one might have been excused had one even set it down at a
hundred. He walked feebly, supporting himself with a stick, upon which
his thin yellow fist was clutched till the knuckles stood out and shone
like billiard balls in the moonlight.

Under the influence of his mysterious personality, I stood speechless
for some moments, forgetful of everything--the hour, the place, and even
his inhumanity to the drowning wretch in the river below. By the time I
recovered myself he was gone, and I could see him crossing the road and
moving swiftly away in the direction of Charing Cross. Drawing my hand
across my forehead, which was clammy with the sweat of real fear, I
looked again at the river. A police boat was pulling toward the steps,
and by the light of the lantern on board I could make out the body of a
man. My nerves, already strained to breaking pitch, were not capable of
standing any further shock. I accordingly turned upon my heel and
hurried from the place with all the speed at my command.

Such was my first meeting with the man whom I afterward came to know as
Pharos the Egyptian.



CHAPTER II.


As you are aware, my picture that year was hung in an excellent
position, was favourably received by those for whose criticism I had any
sort of respect, attracted its fair share of attention from the general
public, and, as a result, brought me as near contentment as a man can
well hope or expect to be in this world. Before it had been twenty-four
hours "on the line," I had received several tempting offers for it; but
as I had set my heart on obtaining a certain sum, and was determined not
to accept less, you may suppose I did not give them much attention. If I
received what I wanted, I promised myself a treat I had been looking
forward to all my life. In that case I would take a long holiday, and,
instead of spending the next winter in England, would start for Egypt in
the autumn, taking in Italy _en route_, make my way up the Nile, and be
home again, all being well, in the spring, or, at latest, during the
early days of summer.

Ever since I first became an exhibitor at Burlington House, I have made
it a rule to studiously avoid visiting the gallery after varnishing day.
My reasons would interest no one, but they were sufficiently strong to
induce me to adhere to them. This year, however, I was led into doing so
in a quite unintentional fashion, and as that exception vitally concerns
this narrative, I must narrate in detail the circumstances that led up
to it.

On a certain Friday early in June, I was sitting in my studio, after
lunch, wondering what I should do with myself during the afternoon, when
a knock sounded at the door, and a moment later, after I had invited
whoever stood outside to enter, my old friend, George Merridew, his
wife, son, and three daughters, trooped into the room. They were plainly
up from the country, and, as usual, were doing the sights at express
speed. George Merridew, as you know, stands six feet in his stockings,
and is broad in proportion. His face is red, his eyes blue, and he
carries with him wherever he goes the air of a prosperous country
squire, which he certainly is. Like many other big men, he is
unconscious of his strength, and when he shakes hands with you, you have
reason to remember the fact for five minutes afterward. His wife is
small, and, as some folks declare, looks younger than her eldest
daughter, who is a tennis champion, a golfer, and boasts a supreme
contempt for Royal Academicians and, for that matter, for artists
generally. The son is at Oxford, a nice enough young fellow with limpid
blue eyes, who, to his father's disgust, takes no sort of interest in
fox-hunting, racing, football, or any other sport, and has openly
asserted his intention of entering the Church in the near future. There
are two other girls, Gwendoline and Ethel--the latter, by the way,
promises to be a second edition of her mother--who, at present, are in
the advanced schoolroom stage, dine with their parents, except on state
occasions, and play duets together on the piano with a conscientious
regard for time and fingering that gives their father no small amount of
pleasure, but with other people rather detracts from the beauty of the
performance.

"Thank goodness we have got you at last!" cried Merridew, as he rushed
forward and gripped my hand with a cordiality that made me suffer in
silent agony for minutes afterward. "But, my dear fellow, what on earth
induces you to live in a place that's so difficult to find? We have been
all round the neighbourhood, here, there, and everywhere, making
inquiries, and shouldn't have found you now had it not been for an
intelligent butcher-boy, who put us on the right scent and enabled us to
run you to earth at last."

"Such is fame, you see," I answered with a smile. "One should be humble
when one reflects that the knowledge of one's address is confined to a
butcher-boy.--How do you do, Mrs. Merridew? I am sorry you should have
had so much difficulty in discovering my poor abode."

I shook hands with the rest of the family, and when I had done so,
waited to be informed as to the reason of their visit.

"Now, look here," said the squire, as he spoke producing an enormous
gold repeater from his pocket, which by sheer force of habit he held in
his hand, though he never once looked at it, during the time he was
speaking. "I'll tell you what we're going to do. In the first place
you're to take us to the Academy to see your picture, which every one is
talking about, and at the same time to act as showman and tell us who's
who. After that you'll dine with us at the Langham, and go to the
theatre afterward. No, no, it's not a bit of use you're pretending
you've got another engagement. We don't come up to town very often, but
when we do we enjoy ourselves, and--why, man alive! just consider--I
haven't seen you since last autumn, and if you think I am going to let
you escape now, you're very much mistaken. Such a thing is not to be
thought of--is it, mother?"

Thus appealed to, Mrs. Merridew was kind enough to say that she hoped I
would comply with her husband's wishes. The daughters murmured
something, which I have no doubt was intended to be a complimentary
expression of their feelings, while the son commenced a remark, failed
to make himself intelligible, and then lapsed into silence again.

Thus hemmed in, it remained for me to invent a valid excuse, or to fall
in with their plans. I effected a compromise, informed them that I
should be much pleased to accompany them to the Academy, but that it was
quite impossible I should dine with them afterward, or even visit the
theatre in their company, having, as was quite true, already accepted an
invitation for that evening. Five minutes later the matter was settled,
and we were making our way toward Piccadilly and Burlington House.

In the light of all that has happened since, I can only regard my
behaviour on that occasion with a contemptuous sort of pity. The
minutest details connected with that afternoon's amusement are as
clearly photographed upon my brain as if they had occurred but
yesterday. If I close my eyes for a moment, I can see, just as I saw it
then, the hawkers selling catalogues in the busy street outside, the
great courtyard with the lines of waiting carriages, the fashionable
crowd ascending and descending the stairs, and inside the rooms that
surging mass of well-dressed humanity so characteristic of London and
the season. When we had fought our way to the vestibule, I was for doing
the round of the rooms in the orthodox fashion. This, however, it
appeared, was by no means to George Merridew's taste. He received my
suggestion with appropriate scorn.

"Come, come, old fellow," he replied, "we're first going to see your
picture. It was that which brought us here; and, as soon as I have told
you what I think of it, the rest of the daubs may go hang as far as I am
concerned."

Now, it is an indisputable fact that, whatever Nature may, or may not,
have done for me, she has at least endowed me with an extremely
sensitive disposition. My feelings, therefore, may be imagined when I
tell you that my old friend spoke in a voice that was quite audible
above the polite murmur of the crowd, and which must have penetrated to
the farthest end of the room. Not content with that, he saluted me with
a sounding smack on the back, bidding me, at the same time, consign my
modesty to the winds, for everybody knew--by everybody, I presume he
meant his neighbours in the country--that I was the rising man of the
day, and would inevitably be elected President before I died. To avert
this flood of idiotic compliment, and feeling myself growing hot from
head to foot, I took him by the arm and conducted him hastily through
the room toward that portion of the building where my picture was
displayed.

Whether the work was good, bad, or indifferent, the public at least paid
me the compliment of bestowing their attention upon it, and their
behaviour on this occasion was no exception to the rule. I hope I shall
not be considered more conceited than my fellows; at the risk of it,
however, I must confess to a feeling of pride as I glanced, first at the
crowd wedged in before the rail, and then at the party by my side.
George Merridew's face alone was worth the trouble and time I had spent
upon the canvas. His eyes were opened to their fullest extent: his lips
were also parted, but no sound came from them. Even the face of my
formidable friend, the tennis champion, betrayed a measure of interest
that, in the light of her previous behaviour, was more than flattering.
For some moments we stood together on the outskirts of the throng. Then
those who were directly in front moved away, and my friends immediately
stepped into the gap and took their places. As there was no reason why I
should follow their example, I remained outside, watching the faces and
noting the different effects the picture produced upon them.

I had not been alone more than a few seconds, however, before I became
sensible of a curious sensation. It was accompanied by a lowering of the
pulse that was quite perceptible, followed by an extraordinary feeling
of nausea. I battled against it in vain. The room and its occupants
began to swim before me. I tottered, and at length, being unable any
longer to support myself, sat down on the seat behind me. When I looked
up again I could scarcely credit the evidence of my senses. Approaching
me from the crowd, leaning upon his stick, just as I remembered him on
the previous occasion, and dressed in the same extraordinary fashion,
was the old man whose personality had given me such a shock at the foot
of Cleopatra's Needle. His face was as thin and as wrinkled as I had
seen it then, and I also noticed that he wore the same indescribable
look of cruelty and cunning that I remembered so well. One thing was
quite plain, however profoundly I may have been affected by my proximity
to this singular being: I was not the only one who came within the
sphere of his influence. Indeed, it was strange to notice the manner in
which the polite crowd drew away from him, and the different expressions
upon their faces as they stepped aside in order to give him room to
pass. Had he been a snake, they could scarcely have shown a more
unanimous desire to withdraw from his neighbourhood. On this occasion
he was evidently not alone. I gathered this from the fact that, as soon
as he had emerged from the crowd, he paused as if to wait for a
companion. A moment later a woman come to his side--a woman who carried
herself like a daughter of the gods; the most beautiful creature, I can
safely assert, that I have ever seen either in this or any other
country. If her companion's height was below the average, hers was at
least several inches above it. But it was neither her stature, the
exquisite symmetry of her figure, the beauty of her face, the luxuriance
of her hair, nor the elegance of her attire that fascinated me. It was
the expression I saw in her dark, lustrous eyes.

It is essential to my profession that I should be continually studying
the human face, attempting to obtain from it some clew as to the
character of the owner, and learning to read in it the workings of the
mind within. And what I read in this woman's face was a sorrow that
nothing could assuage, a hopelessness that was not limited to this
earth, but was fast passing into the Eternal.

Having once freed herself from the crowd, who, you may be sure, turned
and stared after her as if she were some rare and beautiful animal, she
took her place at her companion's side, and they passed along the room
together, finally disappearing through the archway at the farther end. A
moment later the eldest of my friend's daughters joined me. I had never
credited her with the possession of so much emotion as she displayed at
that moment.

"Mr. Forrester," she said, "I want you to tell me if you have ever seen
anything so awful as that old man's face?"

"I think I can safely say that I never have," I answered; and then, in
an attempt to conceal the emotion I was still feeling, added, "I wonder
who he can be?"

"I can not imagine," she continued, "but I'm certain of this, that I
never want to see him again."

At that moment we were joined by the remainder of the family.

"By Jove! Forrester," said the squire, but without his usual heartiness,
"I don't know what is coming to this place. Did you see that little chap
in the fur coat and skullcap who came out of the crowd just now with
that fine-looking woman behind him? You may scarcely credit it, but his
face gave me quite a turn. I haven't got over it yet."

"The girl with him was very beautiful," murmured his wife gently; "but
there was something about her face that struck me as being very sad. I
should like to know what relationship she bears to him."

"His granddaughter, I should imagine," said Miss Merridew, who was still
watching the entrance to the next room as if she expected them to
return.

"Nonsense!" cried the squire impatiently. "His great-granddaughter, you
mean. I'll stake my reputation that the old fellow is as old as
Methuselah. What say you, Forrester?"

I can not now remember what answer I returned. I only know that we
presently found ourselves on the pavement of Piccadilly, saying
good-bye, and expressing our thanks in an aimless sort of fashion for
the pleasure we had derived from each other's society.

Having seen them safely on their way toward Regent Street, I strolled
along Piccadilly in the direction of my studio, thinking as I went of
that terrible old man whose personality had twice given me such a shock,
and also of the beautiful woman, his companion. The effect they had
produced upon me must have been something out of the common, for I soon
discovered that I could think of nothing else. It was in vain I looked
in at my club and attempted to engage in conversation with friends, or
that, when I reached home, I threw myself into an easy-chair and
endeavoured to interest myself in a book. Out of the centre of every
page peered that wicked old face, with its pallid, wrinkled skin, and
lack-lustre eyes. For upward of an hour I wrestled with the feeling, but
without success. The man's image was not conducive to peace of mind, and
I knew very well that unless I found some distraction I should be
dreaming of him at night. Accordingly I rose from my chair and crossed
the room to a table on which stood a large Satsuma bowl, in which it was
my custom to place the invitations I received. That evening fortune
favoured me. I had the choice of four houses. Two I rejected without a
second thought; between the others I scarcely knew how to decide. Though
I was not aware of it, my evil destiny, for the second time that day,
was standing at my elbow, egging me on to ruin. It appeared I had the
choice of a dance in the Cromwell Road, another in Belgrave Square;
private theatricals in Queen's Gate, and a musical "at home" in Eaton
Square. I did not feel equal to dances or private theatricals, and,
thinking music would soothe my troubled mind, I decided for Eaton Square,
and in so doing brought about the misery and downfall of my life.

Nine o'clock that evening, accordingly, found me ascending the staircase
of Medenham House, greeting my hostess in the anteroom, and passing
thence into the great drawing-room beyond. There is not a more
conspicuous power within the range of her hobby than her ladyship, and
at her house one hears all that is newest and most likely to be famous
in the musical world. Many now celebrated _artistes_ owe much of what
they have since achieved to the helping hand she held out to them when
they were struggling up the rugged hill of fame.

On entering the room I looked about me in the hope of finding some one I
knew, but for some moments was unsuccessful. Then I espied, seated in a
corner, almost hidden by a magnificent palm, a man with whom I possessed
some slight acquaintance. I strolled toward him, and after a few
moments' conversation took my place at his side. He had himself achieved
considerable success as an amateur violinist, and was a distant relative
of our hostess.

"I suppose, like the rest of us, you have come to hear Lady Medenham's
latest prodigy?" he said, after the usual polite nothings had been said.

"I am ashamed to confess I have heard nothing at all about him," I
answered.

"_Her_, my dear sir," he replied, with a little laugh. "Our hostess says
she is marvellous."

"A pianist?"

"Indeed, no! A violinist, and with, I believe, the additional advantage
of being a very beautiful woman. Lady Medenham met her in Munich, and
she has raved about her ever since. Needless to say, she invited her to
visit her as soon as she reached London."

What the connection could have been it is impossible to say, but by some
occult reasoning I instantly associated this new wonder with the
magnificent creature I had seen at Burlington House that afternoon.

"You have already made her acquaintance, I presume?"

I said in a tone of mild curiosity.

"No such luck," he answered. "I have not been permitted that pleasure.
From all accounts, however, she is really very wonderful. All the people
I have met who have heard her declare they have never known anything
like her playing. And the funniest part of it is, she is accompanied
everywhere by a man who is as physically repulsive as she is beautiful."

"A little old man with an extraordinary complexion, deep-set, horrible
eyes, who wears a fur coat and a peculiar cap in the height of the
season, and looks at least a hundred years old?"

"From all accounts you describe him exactly. Where did you meet him?"

"I saw them both at the Academy this afternoon," I answered. "She is, as
you say, very beautiful; but she scarcely struck me as being English."

"She is not. She is Hungarian, I believe, but she has travelled a great
deal and speaks English perfectly."

"And her companion--what nation has the honour of claiming him as her
son?"

"Ah, that I can not tell you! He is a mystery, for no one seems to know
anything about him. Nor is it at all certain what relationship he bears
to the woman. But see, here is Lord Medenham. The performance is
evidently about to commence."

As he spoke there was a general turning of heads in the direction of the
anteroom, and almost simultaneously my hostess entered the room,
accompanied by the exquisite creature I had seen emerging from the crowd
before my picture that afternoon. If she had looked beautiful then, she
was doubly so now. Dressed to perfection, as on the previous occasion,
she towered head and shoulders above Lady Medenham, who is generally
considered tall for her sex, and carried herself with a more imperial
grace than is boasted by any empress I have ever seen.

A few paces behind her followed the man who had been her companion that
afternoon. On this occasion also he disdained the orthodox style of
dress, wore a black velvet coat, closely buttoned beneath his chin, and
upon his head a skullcap of the same material. As on the previous
occasions, he walked with a stick, leaning upon it heavily like an old
man of ninety. Reaching that portion of the room in which the piano was
situated, he dropped into a chair, without waiting for his hostess to
seat herself, and, laying his head back, closed his eyes as if the
exertion of walking had been too much for him. A servant, who had
followed close behind, wrapped a heavy rug about his knees and then
withdrew. Meanwhile his beautiful companion stood for a moment looking
down at him, and then, with a little gesture the significance of which I
could not then interpret, accepted her hostess's invitation and seated
herself beside her.

The first item on the programme was a nocturne rendered by the composer,
a famous pianist who at the time was delighting all London. He seated
himself at the piano and began to play. I am afraid, however, I spared
but small attention for his performance. My interest was centred on that
huddled-up figure under the fur rug and the beautiful creature at his
side. Then a change came, and once more I experienced the same sensation
of revulsion that had overwhelmed me twice before. Again I felt sick and
giddy; once more a clammy sweat broke out upon my forehead, and at last,
unable any longer to control myself, I rose from my seat.

"What on earth is the matter?" inquired my friend, who had been watching
me. "Are you ill?"

"I believe I'm going to faint," I replied. "I must get into the air. But
there is no necessity for you to come. I shall be all right alone."

So saying I signed him back to his seat, and, slipping quietly from the
corner, made my way through the anteroom into the marble corridor
beyond. Once there I leant against the balustrading of the staircase and
endeavoured to pull myself together. A groom of the chambers, who was
passing at the time, seeing there was something amiss, approached and
inquired if he could be of service.

"I am feeling a little faint," I replied. "The heat of the drawing-room
was too much for me. If you can get me a little brandy I think I shall
be quite well in a few moments."

The man departed and presently came back with the spirit I had asked
for. With the return of my self-possession I endeavoured to arrive at an
understanding of what had occasioned the attack. I was not subject to
fainting-fits, but was in every respect as strong as the majority of my
fellow-creatures.

"It's all nonsense," I said to myself, "to ascribe it to that old
fellow's presence. How could such a thing affect me? At any rate, I'll
try the experiment once more."

So saying, I returned to the drawing-room.

I was only just in time, for, as I entered, the lady who had hitherto
been seated by her hostess's side rose from her chair and moved toward
the piano. As no one else stirred, it was plain that she was going to
dispense with the services of an accompanist. Taking her violin from a
table she drew her bow gently across the strings, and, when she had
tuned it, stood looking straight before her down the room. How beautiful
she was at that moment I can not hope to make you understand. Then she
began to play. What the work was I did not then know, but I have since
discovered that it was her own. It opened with a movement in the
minor--low and infinitely sad. There was a note of unappeasable yearning
in it, a cry that might well have been wrung from a heart that was
breaking beneath the weight of a deadly sin; a weird, unearthly
supplication for mercy from a soul that was beyond redemption or the
reach of hope. None but a great musician could have imagined such a
theme, and then only under the influence of a supreme despair. While it
lasted her audience sat spell-bound. There was scarcely one among them
who was not a lover of music, and many were world-famous for their
talent. This, however, was such playing as none of us had ever heard
before, or, indeed, had even dreamed of. Then by imperceptible
gradations the music reached its height and died slowly down, growing
fainter and fainter until it expired in a long-drawn sob. Absolute
silence greeted its termination. Not a hand was raised; not a word was
uttered. If proof were wanting of the effect she had produced, it was to
be found in this. The violinist bowed, a trifle disdainfully, I thought,
and, having placed her instrument on the table once more, returned to
Lady Medenham's side. Then a young German singer and his accompanist
crossed the room and took their places at the piano. The famous pianist,
who had first played, followed the singer, and when he had resumed his
seat the violinist rose and once more took up her instrument.

This time there was no pause. With an abruptness that was startling, she
burst into a wild barbaric dance. The notes danced and leaped upon each
other in joyous confusion, creating an enthusiasm that was as
instantaneous as it was remarkable. It was a tarantella of the wildest
description--nay, I should rather say a dance of Satyrs. The player's
eyes flashed above the instrument, her lithe, exquisite figure rocked
and swayed beneath the spell of the emotion she was conjuring up.
Faster and faster her bow swept across the strings, and as before,
though now for a very different reason, her audience sat fascinated
before her. The first work had been the outcome of despair, this was the
music of unqualified happiness, of the peculiar joy of living--nay, of
the very essence and existence of life itself. Then it ceased as
suddenly as it had begun, and once more she bowed, put down her violin,
and approached her hostess. The programme was at an end, and the
enthusiastic audience clustered round to congratulate her. For my own
part I was curiously ill at ease. In a vague sort of fashion I had
appropriated her music to myself, and now I resented the praise the
fashionable mob was showering upon her. Accordingly I drew back a little
and made up my mind to get through the crowd and slip quietly away. By
the time I was able to emerge from my corner, however, there was a
movement at the end of the room, and it became evident that the player
and her companion were also about to take their departure. Accompanied
by Lord and Lady Medenham they approached the spot where I was standing,
endeavouring to reach the door. Had it been possible I would have taken
shelter behind my palm again in order that my presence might not have
been observed. But it was too late. Lady Medenham had caught my eye, and
now stopped to speak.

"Mr. Forrester," she said, "we have been permitted a great treat
to-night, have we not? You must let me introduce you to the Fräulein
Valerie de Vocxqal."

I bowed, and, despite the fact that, regarded in the light of her
genius, such a thing was little better than an insult, followed the
example of my betters and murmured a complimentary allusion to her
playing and the pleasure she had given us. She thanked me, all the time
watching me with grave, attentive eyes, into which there had suddenly
flashed a light that was destined to puzzle me for a long time, and the
reason of which I could not understand. Then came the crucial moment
when Lady Medenham turned to me again, and said:

"Mr. Forrester, Monsieur Pharos has expressed a desire to be introduced
to you. I told him yesterday I thought you would be here to-night. May I
have the pleasure of making you acquainted with each other?"

Those cold, dead eyes fixed themselves steadily on mine, and, under
their influence, I felt as if my brain were freezing.

"I am indeed honoured, sir," he said, "and I trust I may be permitted to
express a hope of enlarging our acquaintance. I understand you are the
painter of that very wonderful picture I saw at the Academy this
afternoon? Allow me to offer you my congratulations upon it. It
interested me more deeply than I can say, and on some future date I
shall be grateful if you will let me talk to you upon the subject. The
knowledge it displayed of the country and the period is remarkable in
these days. May I ask how it was acquired?"

"My father was a famous Egyptologist," I replied. "All that I know I
learned from him. Are you also familiar with the country?"

"There are few things and fewer countries with which I am not familiar,"
he replied, somewhat conceitedly, but still watching me and speaking
with the same peculiar gravity. "Some day I shall hope to offer you
conclusive evidence on that point. In the meantime the hour grows late.
I thank you and bid you farewell."

Then, with a bow, he passed on, and a moment later I, too, had quitted
the house and was making my way homeward, trying to collect my
impressions of the evening as I went.



CHAPTER III.


To infer that my introduction that evening to the beautiful violinist
and her diabolical companion, Monsieur Pharos, produced no effect upon
me, would be as idle as it would misleading. On leaving Medenham House I
was conscious of a variety of sensations, among which attraction for the
woman, repugnance for the man, and curiosity as to the history and
relationship of both could be most easily distinguished. What was
perhaps still more perplexing, considering the small, but none the less
genuine, antagonism that existed between us, by the time I reached my
own abode I had lost my first intense hatred for the man, and was
beginning to look forward, with a degree of interest which a few hours
before would have surprised me, to that next meeting which he had
prophesied would so soon come to pass. Lightly as I proposed to myself
to treat it, his extraordinary individuality must have taken a greater
hold upon me than I imagined, for, as in the afternoon, I soon
discovered that, try to divert my thoughts from it how I would, I could
not dispel his sinister image from my mind. Every detail of the
evening's entertainment was vividly photographed upon my brain, and
without even the formality of shutting my eyes, I could see the crowded
room, the beautiful violinist standing, instrument in hand, beside the
piano, and in the chair at her feet her strange companion, huddled up
beneath his rug.

By the time I reached home it was considerably past midnight; I was not,
however, the least tired, so, exchanging my dress coat for an old velvet
painting jacket, for which I entertained a lasting affection, I lit a
cigar and began to promenade the room. It had been a fancy of mine when
I first took the studio, which, you must understand, was of more than
the usual size, to have it decorated in the Egyptian fashion, and, after
my meeting with Pharos, this seemed to have a singular appropriateness.
It was as if the quaint images of the gods, which decorated the walls,
were watching me with almost human interest, and even the gilded
countenance upon the mummy-case, in the alcove at the farther end, wore
an expression I had never noticed on it before. It might have been
saying: "Ah, my nineteenth century friend, your father stole me from the
land of my birth, and from the resting-place the gods decreed for me;
but beware, for retribution is pursuing you and is even now close upon
your heels."

Cigar in hand, I stopped in my walk and looked at it, thinking as I did
so of the country from which it had hailed, and of the changes that had
taken place in the world during the time it had lain in its Theban tomb,
whence it had emerged in the middle of the nineteenth century, with
colouring as fresh, and detail as perfect, as on the day when the
hieroglyphs had first left the artist's hand. It was an unusually fine
specimen--one of the most perfect, indeed, of its kind ever brought to
England, and, under the influence of the interest it now inspired in me,
I went to an ancient cabinet on the other side of the room, and, opening
a small drawer, took from it a bulky pocketbook, once the property of my
father. He it was, as I have already said, who had discovered the mummy
in question, and it was from him, at his death, in company with many
other Egyptian treasures, that I received it.

As I turned the yellow, time-stained pages in search of the information
I wanted, the clock of St. Jude's, in the street behind, struck one,
solemnly and deliberately, as though it were conscious of the part it
played in the passage of time into eternity. To my surprise the
reference was more difficult to find than I had anticipated. Entries
there were in hundreds; records of distances travelled, of measurements
taken, evidence as to the supposed whereabouts of tombs, translations of
hieroglyphics, paintings, and inscriptions, memoranda of amounts paid to
Arab sheiks, details of stores and equipments, but for some time no
trace of the information for which I was searching. At last, however, it
struck me to look in the pocket contained in the cover of the book. My
diligence was immediately rewarded, for there, carefully folded and
hidden away, was the small square of parchment upon which my father had
written the name once borne by the dead man, with a complete translation
of the record upon the _cartonnage_ itself. According to the statement
here set forth, the coffin contained the mortal remains of a certain
Ptahmes, Chief of the King's Magicians--an individual who flourished
during the reign of Menptah (Amenepthes of the Greeks, but better known
to the nineteenth century as the Pharaoh of the Exodus). For all I knew
to the contrary, my silent property might have been one of that band of
conjurors who pitted their wits against Moses, and by so doing had
caused Pharaoh's heart to be hardened so that he would not let the
Children go. Once more I stood looking at the stolid representation of a
face before me, guessing at the history of the man within, and wondering
whether his success in life had equalled his ambition, or was
commensurate with his merits, and whether in that age, so long since
dead, his heart had ever been thrilled by thoughts of love.

While wrapped in this brown study, my ears, which on that particular
occasion were for some reason abnormally acute, detected the sound of a
soft footfall on the polished boards at the farther end of the room. I
wheeled sharply round, and a moment later almost fell back against the
mummy-case under the influence of my surprise. (How he had got there I
could not tell, for I was certain I had locked the door behind me when I
entered the house.) It is sufficient, however, that, standing before me,
scarcely a dozen feet away, breathing heavily as though he had been
running, and with what struck me as a frightened look in his eyes, was
no less a person than Monsieur Pharos, the man I had met at the foot of
Cleopatra's Needle some weeks before, at the Academy that afternoon, and
at Medenham House only a couple of hours since. Upward of a minute must
have elapsed before I could find sufficient voice to inquire the reason
of his presence in my room.

"My dear Mr. Forrester," he said in a conciliatory tone, "while offering
you ten thousand apologies for my intrusion, I must explain that it is
quite by accident I am here. On reaching home this evening I pined for a
breath of fresh air. Accordingly I went for a stroll, lost my way, and
eventually found myself in this street, where, seeing an open door, I
took the liberty of entering for the purpose of inquiring the way to my
hotel. It was not until you turned round that I realised my good fortune
in having chanced upon a friend. It is plain, however, that my presence
is not as welcome as I could have desired."

From the way he spoke I gathered that for some purpose of his own he
had taken, or was pretending to take, offence at my reception of him.
Knowing, therefore, that if I desired to see anything further of his
beautiful companion, an idea which I will confess had more than once
occurred to me, I must exert myself to conciliate him, I hastened to
apologise for the welcome I had given him, explaining that any momentary
hesitation I might have shown was due more to my surprise than to any
intended discourtesy toward himself.

"In that case let us agree to say no more about it," he answered
politely, but with the same expression of cunning upon his face to which
I have referred elsewhere. "You were quite within your rights. I should
have remembered that in England an impromptu visit at one in the
morning, on the part of an acquaintance of a few hours' standing, is
scarcely likely to be well received."

"If you will carry your memory back a few weeks," I said, as I wheeled a
chair up for him, "you will remember that our acquaintance is not of
such a recent date."

"I am rejoiced to hear it," he replied, with a sharp glance at me as he
seated himself. "Nevertheless, I must confess that I fail for the moment
to remember where I had the pleasure of meeting you on that occasion. It
is not a complimentary admission, I will admit; but, as you know, age is
proverbially forgetful, and my memory is far from being what it once
was."

Could the man be pretending, or had the incident really escaped his
memory? It was just possible, of course, that on that occasion my face
had failed to impress itself upon his recollection; but after the hard
things I had said to him on that memorable occasion, I had to confess
it seemed unlikely. Then the remembrance of the drowning man's piteous
cry for help, and the other's demoniacal conduct on the steps returned
to me, and I resolved to show no mercy.

"The occasion to which I refer, Monsieur Pharos," I said, standing
opposite him and speaking with a sternness that in the light of all that
has transpired since seems almost ludicrous, "was an evening toward the
end of March--a cold, wet night when you stood upon the steps below
Cleopatra's Needle, and not only refused help to, but, in a most inhuman
fashion, laughed at, a drowning man."

I half expected that he would offer a vehement denial, or would at least
put forward the plea of forgetfulness. To my surprise, however, he did
neither.

"I remember the incident perfectly," he answered, with the utmost
composure. "At the same time, I assure you, you wrong me when you
declare I laughed--on my word, you do! Let us suppose, however, that I
_did_ do so; and where is the harm? The man desired death; his own
action confessed it, otherwise how came he there? It was proved at the
inquest that he had repeatedly declared himself weary of life. He was
starving; he was without hope. Had he lived over that night, death,
under any circumstances, would only have been a matter of a few days
with him. Would you therefore have had me, knowing all this, prolong
such an existence? In the name of that humanity to which you referred
just now, I ask you the question. You say I laughed. Would you have had
me weep?"

"A specious argument," I replied; "but I own to you frankly I consider
the incident a detestable one."

"There I will meet you most willingly," he continued. "From your point
of view it certainly _was_. From mine--well, as I said just now, I
confess I view it differently. However, I give you my assurance, your
pity is undeserved. The man was a contemptible scoundrel in every way.
He came of respectable stock, was reared under the happiest auspices.
Had he chosen he might have risen to anything in his own rank of life;
but he would not choose. At fifteen he robbed his father's till to
indulge in debauchery, and had broken his parents' hearts before he was
five-and-twenty. He married a girl as good as he was bad, and as a
result starved not only himself but his wife and children. Though
employment was repeatedly offered him, he refused it, not from any
inability to work, but from sheer distaste of labour. He had not
sufficient wit, courage, or energy to become a criminal; but throughout
his life, wherever he went, and upon all with whom he came in contact,
he brought misery and disgrace. Eventually he reached the end of his
tether, and was cast off by every one. The result you know."

The fluency and gusto with which he related these sordid details amazed
me. I inquired how, since by his own confession he had been such a short
time in London, he had become cognisant of the man's history. He
hesitated before replying.

"Have I not told you once before to-night," he said, "that there are
very few things in this world which are hidden from my knowledge? Were
it necessary, I could tell you circumstances in your own life that you
flatter yourself are known to no one but yourself. But do not let us
talk of such things now. When I entered the room you were reading a
paper. You hold it in your hand at this moment."

"It is a translation of the inscription upon the mummy-case over
yonder," I replied, with an eagerness to change the subject that
provoked a smile in Pharos. "At his death many of his Egyptian treasures
came into my possession, this among them. For some reason or another I
had never read the translation until to-night. I suppose it must have
been my meeting with you that put the idea into my head."

"I am interested in such matters, as you know. May I, therefore, be
permitted to look at it?"

With a parade of indifference that I could easily see was assumed,
Pharos had extended his withered old hand and taken it from me before I
realised what he was doing. Having obtained it, he leaned back in his
chair, and stared at the paper as if he could not remove his eyes from
it. For some moments not a word passed his lips. Then, muttering
something to himself in a language I did not recognise, he sprang to his
feet. The quickness of the action was so different from his usual
enfeebled movements that I did not fail to notice it.

"The mummy?" he cried. "Show me the mummy!"

Before I could answer or comply with his request, he had discovered it
for himself, had crossed to it and was devouring it with his eyes.

Upward of three minutes must have elapsed before he turned to me again.
When he did so, I scarcely recognised the man. So distorted was his
countenance that I instinctively recoiled from him in horror.

"Thy father, was it, wretched man," he cried, shaking his skeleton fist
at me, while his body trembled like a leaf in the whirlwind of his
passion, "who stole this body from its resting-place? Thy father, was
it, who broke the seals the gods had placed upon the tombs of those who
were their servants? If that be so, then may the punishment decreed
against the sin of sacrilege be visited upon thee and thine for
evermore!" Then, turning to the mummy, he continued, as if partly to it
and partly to himself: "Oh, mighty Egypt! hast thou fallen so far from
thy high estate that even the bodies of thy kings and priests may no
longer rest within their tombs, but are ravished from thee to be gaped
at in alien lands? But, by Osiris, a time of punishment is coming. It is
decreed, and none shall stay the sword!"

If I had been surprised at the excitement he had shown on reading the
paper, it was nothing to the astonishment I felt now. For the first time
since I had known him, a suspicion of his sanity crossed my mind, and my
first inclination was to draw away from him. Then the fit, as I deemed
it, passed, and his expression changed completely. He uttered a queer
little laugh, that might have been one of shame or annoyance.

"Once more I must crave your forgiveness, Mr. Forrester," he said, as he
sank exhausted into a chair. "Believe me, I had not the least intention
of offending you. Your father was, I know, an ardent Egyptologist, one
of that intrepid band who penetrated to every corner of our sacred land,
digging, delving, and bringing to light such tombs, temples, and
monuments as have for centuries lain hidden from the sight of man. For
my own part, as you may have gathered from my tirade just now, my
sympathies do not lie in that direction. I am one who reverences the
past, and would fain have others do so."

"At the same time, I scarcely see that that justifies such language
toward myself as you used a few moments since," I replied, with a fair
amount of warmth, which I think it will be conceded I had every right to
feel.

"It does not justify it in the least," he answered, with ready
condescension. "The only way I can hope to do so is on the plea of the
exuberance of my emotion. My dear Mr. Forrester, I beg you will not
misunderstand me. I would not quarrel with you for the wealth of
England. Though you are not aware of it, there is a bond between us that
is stronger than chains of steel. You are required for a certain work,
and for that reason alone I dare not offend you or excite your anger,
even if I otherwise desired to do so. In this matter I am not my own
master."

"A bond between us, Monsieur Pharos? A work for which I am required? I
am afraid I do not understand what you mean."

"And it is not in my power to enlighten you. Remain assured of this,
however, when the time is ripe you will be informed."

As he said this the same light that I have described before came into
his eyes, causing them to shine with an unnatural brilliance. To use a
fishing simile, it made me think of the gleam that comes into the eyes
of a hungry pike as he darts toward his helpless prey. Taken in
conjunction with the extraordinary language he had used toward me, I
felt more than ever convinced of his insanity. The thought was by no
means a cheerful one. Here I was, alone with a dangerous lunatic, in the
middle of the night, and not a soul within call. How I was to rid myself
of him I could not see. Under the circumstances, therefore, I knew that
I must humour him until I could hit upon a scheme. I accordingly tried
to frame a conciliatory speech, but before I could do so he had turned
to me again.

"Your thoughts are easily read," he began, with a repetition of that
queer little laugh which I have described before; and as he uttered it
he leaned a little closer to me till I was sick and faint with the mere
horror of his presence. "You think me mad, and it will require more
than my assurance to make you believe that I am not. How slight is your
knowledge of me! But there, let us put that aside for to-night. There is
something of much greater importance to be arranged between us. In the
first place, it is necessary both for your sake--your safety, if you
like--and for mine, that yonder mummy should pass into my possession."

"Impossible!" I answered. "I could not dream of such a thing! It was one
of my poor father's greatest treasures, and for that reason alone no
consideration would induce me to part with it. Besides, despite your
assertion that it is for our mutual safety, I can not see by what right
you ask such a favour of me."

"If you only knew how important it is," he repeated, "that that
particular mummy should become my property, you would not know a single
minute's peace until you had seen the last of it. You may not believe me
when I say that I have been searching for it without intermission for
nearly fifteen years, and it was only yesterday I learned you were the
owner of it. And yet it is the truth."

If I had not had sufficient proof already, here was enough to convince
me of his madness. By his own confession, until that evening he had had
no notion of my identity, much less of the things I possessed. How,
therefore, could he have become aware that I was the owner of the
remains of Ptahmes, the King's magician? Under the influence of the
momentary irritation caused by his persistence my intention of humouring
him quite slipped my memory, and I answered sharply that it was no use
his bothering me further about the matter, as I had made up my mind and
was not to be moved from it.

He took my refusal with apparent coolness; but the light which still
lingered in his eyes warned me, before it was too late, not to rely too
much upon this. I knew that in his heart he was raging against me, and
that any moment might see his passion taking active shape.

"You must excuse my saying so, Monsieur Pharos," I said, rising from my
chair and moving toward the door, "but I think it would perhaps be
better for both of us to terminate this most unpleasant interview. It is
getting late and I am tired. With your permission, I will open the door
for you."

Seeing that I was determined he should go, and realising, I suppose,
that it was no use his staying longer, he also rose, and a more
evil-looking figure than he presented as he did so Victor Hugo himself
could scarcely have imagined. The light of the quaint old Venetian
hanging-lamp in the middle of the room fell full and fair upon his face,
showing me the deep-set gleaming eyes, the wrinkled, nut-cracker face,
and the extraordinary development of shoulder to which I have already
directed attention. Old man as he was, a braver man than myself might
have been excused had he declined the task of tackling him, and I had
the additional spur of knowing that if he got the better of me he would
show no mercy. For this reason alone I watched his every movement.

"Come, come, my foolish young friend," he said at length, "in spite of
my warning, here we are at a deadlock again! You really must not take
things so seriously. Had I had any idea that you were so determined not
to let me have the thing, I would not have dreamed of asking for it. It
was for your own good as well as mine that I did so. Now, since you
desire to turn me out, I will not force my presence upon you. But let us
part friends."

As he said this he advanced toward me with extended hand, leaning
heavily upon his stick, according to his custom, and to all intents and
purposes as pathetic an example of senile decrepitude as a man could
wish to see. If he were going off like this, I flattered myself I was
escaping from my horrible predicament in an easier manner than I had
expected. Nevertheless, I was fully determined, if I could but once get
him on the other side of the street door, no earthly consideration
should induce me ever to admit him to my dwelling again. His hand was
deathly cold--so cold, in fact, that even in my excitement I could not
help noticing it. I had scarcely done so, however, before a tremor ran
through his figure and, with a guttural noise that could scarcely be
described as a cry, he dropped my hand and sprang forward at my throat.

If I live to be a hundred I shall not forget the absolute, the
unspeakable, the indescribable terror of that moment. Till then I had
never regarded myself in the light of a coward; on the contrary, I had
on several occasions had good reason to congratulate myself upon what is
popularly termed my "nerve." Now, however, it was all different.
Possibly the feeling of repulsion, I might almost say of fear, I had
hitherto entertained for him had something to do with it. It may have
been the mesmeric power, which I afterward had good reason to know he
possessed, that did it. At any rate, from the moment he pounced upon me
I found myself incapable of resistance. It was as if all my will power
were being slowly extracted from me by the mere contact of those
skeleton fingers which, when they had once touched my flesh, seemed to
lose their icy coldness and to burn like red-hot iron. In a dim and
misty fashion, somewhat as one sees people in a fog, I was conscious of
the devilish ferocity of the countenance that was looking into mine.
Then a strange feeling of numbness took possession of me, an entire lack
of interest in everything, even in life itself. Gradually and easily I
sank into the chair behind me, the room swam before my eyes, an intense
craving for sleep overcame me, and little by little, still without any
attempt at resistance, my head fell back and I lost consciousness.



CHAPTER IV.


When I came to myself again it was already morning. In a small square
behind the studio the sparrows were discussing the prospects of
breakfast, though as yet that earliest of all birds, the milkman, had
not begun to make his presence known in the streets. Of all the hours of
the day there is not one, to my thinking, so lonely and so full of
dreariness as that which immediately precedes and ushers in the dawn;
while, of all the experiences of our human life, there is, perhaps, not
one more unpleasant than to awake from sleep at such an hour to find
that one has passed the entire night in one's clothes and seated in a
most comfortable armchair. That was my lot on this occasion. On opening
my eyes I looked around me with a puzzled air. For the life of me I
could not understand why I was not in my bed. It was the first time I
had ever gone to sleep in my chair, and the knowledge that I had done so
disquieted me strangely. I studied the room, but, to all intents and
purposes, everything there was just as when I had closed my eyes. I only
was changed. My brain was as heavy as lead, and, though I did my best to
recall the events of the previous evening, I found that, while I could
recollect the "at home" at Medenham House, and my return to my studio
afterward, I could remember nothing that followed later. I was still
pursuing this train of thought when I became aware of a loud knocking at
the street door. I immediately hastened to it and drew the bolts. My
feeling of bewilderment was increased rather than diminished on
discovering an inspector of police upon the threshold, with a constable
behind him.

"Mr. Forrester, I believe?" he began; and as soon as I had answered in
the affirmative, continued: "You must excuse my disturbing you, sir, at
this early hour, but the reason is imperative. I should be glad if you
would permit me the honour of five minutes' conversation with you,
alone."

"With pleasure," I answered, and immediately invited him to enter.

Having shut the door behind him, I led the way to the studio, where I
signed him to a chair, taking up a position myself on the hearthrug
before him. The constable remained in the passage outside.

"It is, as you say, rather an early hour for a call," I remarked, making
a mental note as I spoke of the man's character as I read it in his
large, honest eyes, well-shaped nose, and square, determined-looking
chin. "What can I do for you?"

"I believe you are in a position to furnish me with some important
information," he replied. "To begin with, I might inform you that a
diabolical murder was committed at the old curiosity shop at the corner
of the next street, either late last night or during the early hours of
this morning, most probably between midnight and one o'clock. It is
altogether a most remarkable affair, and, from the evidence we have
before us, though no cries were heard, the struggle must have been a
desperate one. From the fact that the front door was still locked and
bolted when we forced our way in, it is plain that the murderer must
have effected his escape by the back. Indeed, a man _was_ seen entering
the alley behind the house between one and two o'clock, though this
circumstance excited no suspicion at the time. The witness who saw him
reports that he came along on this side of the street, in the shadow,
and, though he is not at all certain on this point, believes that he
entered one of the houses hereabouts. That on your right is empty, and
the doors and windows are securely fastened. He could not, therefore,
have gone in there. That on the left is a boarding-house. I have called
upon the landlady, who asserts most positively that her front door was
not opened to any one after ten o'clock last night. She informs me,
however, that a light was burning in your studio all night, and I see
for myself that you have not been to bed. May I ask, therefore, if you
saw anything of such a man, or whether you can furnish me with such
particulars as will be likely to help us in our search for him."

Like lightning, while he was talking, the memory of everything connected
with the visit Pharos had paid me flashed across my mind. I glanced
involuntarily toward that part of the room where the mummy had hitherto
stood. To my amazement--I might almost say to my consternation--it was
no longer there. What had become of it? Could Pharos, after disposing of
me as he had done, have stolen it and transported it away? It seemed
impossible, and yet I had the best of evidence before me that it was no
longer there. And then another question: had Pharos had any connection
with the murder? The time at which it was supposed to have been
committed, between midnight and one o'clock, was precisely that at which
he had made his appearance before me. And yet what reason had I, but my
own terrible suspicions, to lead me to the conclusion that he was the
author of this fiendish bit of work? I saw, however, that my continued
silence was impressing the inspector unfavourably.

"Come, sir," he said, this time a little more sharply than before, "I
must remind you that my time is valuable. Am I to understand that you
are in a position to help me, or not?"

God knows, if I had been my own master I should have instantly loosed my
tongue and revealed all I knew. I should have told him under what
terrible circumstances I had met Pharos on the Embankment that wet night
toward the end of March, and have commented on his inhuman conduct on
that occasion. I should have informed him of the appearance the other
had made in my studio early this morning, not only with a frightened
look in his eyes, but breathing heavily, as though he had been running,
a thing which would have seemed impossible in a man of his years. Then I
should have gone on to tell how he had attempted to induce me to part
with something upon which I placed considerable value, and, being
disappointed, had hypnotised me and made off with the article in
question. All this, as I say, I should have narrated had I been my own
master. But God knows I was not. An irresistible force was at work
within me, compelling me, even against my will, to screen him, and to
tell the first deliberate lie to which, I think, I had ever given
utterance in my life.

It is a poor excuse to offer, and I am aware that a world so censorious
as our own will not, in all probability, believed this statement, but
upon my hopes of forgiveness at the Last Great Day, at that dread moment
when the sins of all men shall be judged and punishment awarded, I
declare it to be true in every single particular: and what is more, I
further say that even if my life depended on it I could not have done
otherwise.

Though it has taken some time to place these thoughts on paper, the
interval that elapsed between the inspector's last question and my
answer, which seemed to me so halting and suspicious, to the effect that
I had neither seen nor heard anything of the man he wanted, was scarcely
more than a few seconds.

Having received my assurance, the officer apologised for troubling me
and withdrew, and I was left alone with my thoughts. Deep down in my
heart there was the desire to hasten after him and to tell him that not
only I had lied to him, but that it was possible for me to make amends
by putting him on the track of the man who, I felt morally certain, was
the criminal. The wish, however, was scarcely born before it was dragged
down and stifled by that same irresistible force I have described a few
lines since. It seemed to me I was bound hand and foot, powerless to
help myself and incapable of doing aught save carry out the will of the
remorseless being into whose power I had fallen so completely. But had I
really so fallen? Could it be possible that such power was permitted to
a human being? No, no--a thousand times no! If he had that influence he
must be an agent of the Evil One, whose mission it was to draw to
perdition the souls of helpless men. Filled with shame, I sank into a
chair and covered my face with my hands, as if by so doing I could shut
out the horrible thoughts that filled my brain. Could it be true that I,
who had always regarded a liar as the most despicable of men, had sunk
so low as to become one myself? God help me! God pity me! Of all the
bitter hours my life has known, I think that moment was the worst.

For some time after the inspector had taken his departure I sat, as I
have said, my face covered with my hands, trying to think coherently.
Twenty-four hours before I had been one of the happiest men in England.
Nothing had troubled me. I had lived _for_ my art and _in_ my art, and I
believe I can confidently say that I had not an enemy in the world. Now,
in a single hour, my whole life was changed. I had been drawn into the
toils of a fiend in human shape and I was paying the awful penalty.

Hour after hour went by. My servant arrived and presently brought in my
breakfast, but I put it aside; I had too much upon my mind to eat. It
was in vain I tried to force myself. My food stuck in my throat and
defied me. And all the time I was oppressed by the diabolical picture of
that murder. The shop in which it had occurred was one with which I was
familiar. In my mind's eye I saw the whole scene as clearly as if I had
been present at the time. I saw the shop, filled to overflowing with
bric-a-brac, the light of the single gas-lamp reflected in a hundred
varieties of brass and pottery work. At a desk in the corner sat the
dealer himself, and before him, holding him in earnest conversation, the
extraordinary figure of Pharos the Assassin. How he came to be there at
such an hour I could not tell, but from what I knew of him I was
convinced it was with no good purpose. I could imagine how off his guard
and totally unprepared for attack the other would be; and, even if he
had entertained any suspicions, it is extremely doubtful whether he
would have credited this deformed atom with the possession, either of
such malignity or of such giant strength. Then that same cruel light
that had exercised such an influence upon me a few hours before began to
glisten in the murderer's eyes. Little by little he moved his right hand
behind him until it touched an Oriental dagger lying on a table beside
which he stood. Then, with that cat-like spring which I had good reason
to remember, he leaped upon his opponent and seized him by the throat,
driving the blade deep in below the shoulder. His victim, paralyzed with
surprise, at first offered no resistance. Then, with the instinct of
self-preservation, he began to struggle with his devilish opponent, only
to discover the strength that seemingly attenuated form possessed.
Little by little his power departed from him, and at last, with a crash,
he fell back upon the floor. I pictured Pharos stooping over him to see
if he were dead, chuckling with delight at the success he had achieved.
When he had convinced himself on this head, he abstracted a key from the
dead man's pocket and approached a safe, built into the wall. The handle
turned and the door swung open. A moment later he had taken a ring set
with a scarabæus from a drawer and dropped it into his pocket. After
that he paused while he considered in which direction it would be safest
for him to make his escape. A policeman's step sounded on the pavement
outside, and as he heard it he looked up, and his thin lips drew back,
showing the wolfish teeth behind. His horrible cunning pointed out to
him the danger he would incur in leaving by the front. Accordingly he
made his way through the sitting-room behind the shop and passed out by
the gate in the yard beyond. A few seconds later he was in my presence,
but whether by accident or design was more than I could say.

So vivid was the picture I had conjured up that I could not help
believing it must be something more than mere conjecture on my part. If
so, what course should I pursue? I had been robbed. I had given a
murderer shelter at the very moment when he stood most in need of it,
and, when the law was close upon his heels, I had pledged my word for
his innocence and perjured myself to ensure his salvation. His presence
had been repulsive to me ever since I had first set eyes on him. I hated
the man as I had hitherto deemed it impossible I could hate any one.
Yet, despite all this, by some power--how real I can not expect any one
to believe--he was compelling me to shield and behave toward him as if
he had been my brother, or at least my dearest friend. I can feel the
shame of that moment even now, the agonising knowledge of the gulf that
separated me from the man I was yesterday, or even an hour before.

I rose from the table, leaving my breakfast untouched, and stood at the
window looking out upon the dismal square beyond. The sunshine of the
earlier morning had given place to a cloudy sky, and, as I watched, a
heavy shower began to fall. It was as if Nature were weeping tears of
shame to see a Child of Man brought so low. I went to the place where,
until a few hours before, the mummy had stood--that wretched mummy which
had been the cause of all the trouble. As I had good reason to know, it
weighed a considerable amount, more, indeed, than I should have imagined
an old man like Pharos could have lifted, much less carried. I examined
the floor, to see if the case had been dragged across it, but, highly
polished as the boards were, I could detect no sign of such a thing
having taken place. The wainscoting of the hall next received my
attention, but with a similar result. And it was at this juncture that
another curious point in the evening's story struck me. When I had
admitted the inspector of police, I had unlocked and unchained the door.
I was the sole occupant of the building. How, therefore, had Pharos
conveyed his burden outside, and locked, chained, and bolted the door
behind him? Under the influence of this discovery I returned with all
speed to the studio. Perhaps he had not gone out by the front door at
all, but had made his escape by the windows at the back. These I
carefully examined, only to find them safely bolted as usual. The riddle
was beyond me. I had to confess myself beaten. Was it possible I could
have dreamed the whole thing? Had I fallen asleep in my chair and
imagined a meeting with Pharos which had really never taken place? Oh,
if only it could be true, what a difference it would make in my
happiness! And yet, staring me in the face, was the damning fact that
the mummy was gone. When I rose from my chair my mind was made up. I
would seek Pharos out, accuse him not only of the theft, but of the
murder, and make him understand, with all the earnestness of which I was
master, that justice should be done, and that I would no longer shield
him from the consequences of his villainy. It was only then I remembered
that I had no knowledge of the man's whereabouts. I considered for a
moment how I could best overcome this difficulty. Lady Medenham was, of
course, the one person of all others to help me. Since she had invited
the man to her house, it was almost certain that she would be able to
furnish me with his address. I would go to her without further waste of
time. Accordingly I made the necessary changes in my toilet and left the
studio. The rain had ceased and the streets were once more full of
sunshine. It was a pleasant morning for walking, but so urgent did my
business seem that I felt I could not even spare the time for exercise.
Hailing a hansom, I bade the man drive me with all possible speed to
Eaton Square. To my delight Lady Medenham was at home, and I was shown
forthwith to her boudoir. A few moments elapsed before she joined me
there, and then her first remark was one of astonishment.

"Why, Mr. Forrester, what is the matter with you?" she cried. "I have
never seen you look so ill."

"It is nothing," I answered, with a forced laugh. "I have had some bad
news this morning, and it has upset me. Lady Medenham, I have come to
beg a favour at your hands."

"If it is within my power, you know it is already granted," she said
kindly. "Won't you sit down and tell me what it is?"

"I want you to furnish me with the address of that singular old
gentleman who was at your 'at home' last evening," I replied, as I
seated myself opposite her.

"London would say that there were many singular old gentlemen at my 'at
home,'" she answered with a smile; "but my instinct tells me you mean
Monsieur Pharos."

"That, I believe, is his name," I said, and then, as if to excuse the
question, I added, "he is, as I think you heard him say, an ardent
Egyptologist."

"I do not know anything about his attainments in that direction," Lady
Medenham replied, "but he is certainly a most extraordinary person. Were
it not for his beautiful ward, whose case I must confess excites my
pity, I should not care if I never saw him again."

"She is his ward, then?" I said, with an eagerness that I could see was
not lost upon my companion. "I had made up my mind she was his
granddaughter."

"Indeed, no," Lady Medenham replied. "The poor girl's story is a very
strange and sad one. Her father was a Hungarian noble, a brilliant man
in his way, I believe, but a confirmed spendthrift. Her mother died when
she was but six years old. From a very early age she gave signs of
possessing extraordinary musical talent, and this her father, perhaps
with some strange prevision of the future, fostered with every care.
When she was barely fifteen he was killed in a duel. It was then
discovered that his money was exhausted and that the home was mortgaged
beyond all redemption to the Jews. Thus the daughter, now without
relations or friends of any sort or description, was thrown upon the
world to sink or swim just as Fate should decree. For any girl the
position would have been sufficiently unhappy, but for her, who had seen
nothing of life, and who was of an extremely sensitive disposition, it
was well-nigh insupportable. What her existence must have been like for
the next five years one scarcely likes to think. But it served its
purpose. With a bravery that excites one's admiration she supported
herself almost entirely by her music; gaining in breadth, power, and
knowledge of technique with every year. Then--where, or in what manner I
have never been able to discover, for she is peculiarly sensitive upon
this point--she became acquainted with the old gentleman you saw last
night, Monsieur Pharos. He was rich, eccentric, and perhaps what most
attracted her, passionately fond of music. His extreme age obviated any
scandal, even had there been any one to raise it, so that when he
proposed to adopt the friendless but beautiful girl, and to enable her
to perfect her musical education under the best masters, no one came
forward to protest against it. She has, I believe, been with him upward
of seven years now."

I shuddered when I heard this. Knowing what I did of Pharos I could not
find it in my heart to credit him with the possession of so much kindly
feeling. But if it were not so, what could the bond between them be?

"What you tell me is extremely interesting," I remarked, "and only adds
to my desire to see the old gentleman once more. If you could let me
have his address I should be more grateful than I can say."

"I am very much afraid it is not in my power," she replied. "It is one
of the least of Monsieur Pharos's many peculiarities to take
extraordinary precautions to prevent his whereabouts becoming known; but
stay, I think I can tell you of some one who may be of more service to
you. You know Sir George Legrath, do you not?"

"The Director of the Egyptian Museum?" I said. "Yes, I know him very
well indeed. He was an old friend of my father's."

"To be sure he was," she answered. "Well, then, go and see him. I think
it is probable that he may be able to assist you. Monsieur Pharos is an
acquaintance of his, and it was to Sir George's care that I sent the
invitation to my 'at home' last night."

"I can not thank you enough for your kindness, Lady Medenham," I
replied, as I rose from my chair. "I will go and see Sir George at
once."

"And I hope you may be successful. If I can help you in any other way be
sure I will do so. But before you go, Mr. Forrester, let me give you
another piece of advice. You should really consult a doctor without
delay. I do not like your appearance at all. We shall hear of your being
seriously ill if you do not take more care of yourself."

I laughed uneasily. In my own heart I knew my ailment was not of the
body but of the mind, and until my suspicions concerning Pharos were set
at rest it was beyond the reach of any doctor's science to do me good.
Once more I thanked Lady Medenham for her kindness, and then left her
and made my way back to the cab.

"To the Egyptian Museum," I cried to the driver, as I took my seat in
the vehicle, "and as quickly as you can go!"

The man whipped up his horse, and in less than ten minutes from the time
the butler closed the front door upon me at Medenham House I was
entering the stately portico of the world-famous Museum. For some years
I had been a constant visitor there, and as a result was well known to
the majority of the officials. I inquired from one, whom I met in the
vestibule, whether I should find Sir George in his office.

"I am not quite certain, sir," the man replied. "It's only just gone
half past ten, and unless there is something important doing, we don't
often see him much before a quarter to eleven. However, if you will be
kind enough, sir, to step this way, I'll very soon find out."

So saying he led me along the corridor, past huge monuments and blocks
of statuary, to a smaller passage on the extreme left of the building.
At the farther end of this was a door, upon which he knocked. No answer
rewarded him.

"I am very much afraid, sir, he has not arrived," remarked the man, "but
perhaps you will be good enough to step inside and take a seat. I feel
sure he won't be very long."

"In that case I think I will do so," I replied, and accordingly I was
ushered into what is perhaps the most characteristic office in London.
Having found the morning paper and with unconscious irony placed it
before me, the man withdrew, closing the door behind him.

I have said that the room in which I was now seated was characteristic
of the man who occupied it. Sir George Legrath is, as every one knows,
the most competent authority the world possesses at the present time on
the subject of ancient Egypt. He had graduated under my own poor father,
and, if only for this reason, we had always been the closest friends. It
follows as a natural sequence that the walls of the room should be
covered from ceiling to floor with paintings, engravings, specimens of
papyrus, and the various odds and ends accumulated in an Egyptologist's
career. He had also the reputation of being one of the best-dressed men
in London, and was at all times careful to a degree of his appearance.
This accounted for the velvet office-coat, a sleeve of which I could
just see peeping out from behind a curtain in the corner. Kindly of
heart and the possessor of a comfortable income, it is certain that but
few of those in need who applied to him did so in vain; hence the pile
of begging letters from charitable institutions and private individuals
that invariably greeted his arrival at his office. I had not been
waiting more than five minutes before I heard an active step upon the
stone flagging of the passage outside. The handle of the door was
sharply turned, and the man for whom I was waiting entered the room.

"My dear Cyril," he cried, advancing toward me with outstretched hand,
"this is indeed a pleasure! It is now some weeks since I last saw you,
but, on the other hand, I have heard of you. The fame of your picture is
in every one's mouth."

"Every one is very kind," I replied, "but I am afraid in this instance
the public says rather more than it means."

"Not a bit of it," answered my friend. "That reminds me, however, that
there is one point in the picture about which I want to talk to you."

"At any other time I shall be delighted," I replied, "but to-day, Sir
George, I have something else to say to you. I have come to you because
I am very much worried."

"Now that I look at you I can see you are not quite the thing," he said.
"But what is this worry? Tell me about it, for you know if I can help
you I shall be only too glad to do so."

"I have come to seek your advice in a rather strange matter," I replied,
"and before I begin I must ask that everything I say shall remain in the
strictest confidence between us."

"I will give you that promise willingly," he said, "and I think you know
me well enough to feel certain I shall keep it. Now let me hear your
troubles."

"In the first place I want you to tell me all you know of an
extraordinary individual who has been seen a good deal in London society
of late. I refer to a man named Pharos."

While I had been speaking Sir George had seated himself in the chair
before his writing-table. On hearing my question, however, he sprang to
his feet with an exclamation that was as startling as it was unexpected.
It did not exactly indicate surprise, nor did it express annoyance or
curiosity; yet it seemed to partake of all three. It was his face,
however, that betrayed the greatest change. A moment before it had
exhibited the ruddiness of perfect health, now it was ashen pale.

"Pharos?" he cried. Then, recovering his composure a little, he added,
"My dear Forrester, what can you possibly want with him?"

"I want to know all you can tell me about him," I replied gravely. "It
is the greatest favour I have ever asked of you, and I hope you will not
disappoint me."

For some moments he paced the room as if in anxious thought. Then he
returned to his seat at the writing-table. The long hand of the clock
upon the mantelpiece had made a perceptible movement when he spoke
again. So changed was his voice, however, that I scarcely recognised it.

"Cyril," he said, "you have asked me a question to which I can return
you but one answer, and that is--may God help you if you have fallen
into that man's power! What he has done or how he has treated you I do
not know, but I tell you this, that he is as cruel and as remorseless as
Satan himself. You are my friend, and I tell you I would far rather see
you dead than in his clutches. I do not fear many men, but Pharos the
Egyptian is to me an incarnate terror."

"You say Pharos the Egyptian. What do you mean by that?"

"What I say. The man is an Egyptian, and claims, I believe, to be able
to trace his descent back at least three thousand years."

"And you know no more of him?"

As I put the question I looked at Sir George's hand, which rested on his
blotting-pad, and noticed that it was shaking as if with the palsy.

Once more a pause ensued.

"What I know must remain shut up in my own brain," he answered slowly
and as if he were weighing every word before he uttered it; "and it will
go down to my grave with me. Dear lad, fond as I am of you, you must not
ask any more of me, for I can not satisfy your curiosity."

"But, Sir George, I assure you, with all the earnestness at my command,
that this is a matter of life and death to me," I replied. "You can have
no notion what it means. My honour, my good name--nay, my very existence
itself--depends upon it."

As if in answer to my importunity, my friend rose from his chair and
picked up the newspaper which the attendant had placed on the table
beside me. He opened it, and, after scanning the pages, discovered what
he was looking for. Folding it carefully, he pointed to a certain column
and handed it to me. I took it mechanically and glanced at the item in
question. It was an account of the murder of the unfortunate curiosity
dealer, but, so far as I could see, my name was not mentioned. I looked
up at Sir George for an explanation.

"Well?" I said, but the word stuck in my throat.

"Though you will scarcely credit it, I think I understand everything,"
he replied. "The murdered man's shop was within a short distance of your
abode. A witness states that he saw some one leave the victim's house
about the time the deed must have been committed and that he made his
way into your street. As I said, when you first asked me about him, may
God help you, Cyril Forrester, if this is your trouble!"

"But what makes you connect Pharos with the murder described here?" I
asked, feigning a surprise I was far from feeling.

"That I can not tell you," he replied. "To do so would bring upon
me----But no, my lips are sealed, hopelessly sealed."

"But surely you are in a position to give me that man's address? Lady
Medenham told me you were aware of it."

"It is true I was, but I am afraid you have come too late."

"Too late! What do you mean? Oh, Sir George, for Heaven's sake do not
trifle with me!"

"I am not trifling with you, Forrester," he replied seriously. "I mean
that it is impossible for you to find him in London, for the simple
reason that he left England with his companion early this morning."

On hearing this I must have looked so miserable that Sir George came
over to where I sat and placed his hand upon my shoulder.

"Dear lad," he said, "you don't know how it pains me to be unable to
help you. If it were possible, you have every reason to know that I
would do so. In this case, however, I am powerless, how powerless you
can not imagine. But you must not give way like this. The man is gone,
and in all human probability you will never see his face again. Try to
forget him."

"It is impossible. I assure you, upon my word of honour, that I shall
know neither peace nor happiness until I have seen him and spoken to him
face to face. If I wish ever to be able to look upon myself as an
honourable man I _must_ do so. Is there no way in which I can find him?"

"I fear none; but stay, now I come to think of it, there is a chance,
but a very remote one. I will make inquiries about it and let you know
within an hour."

"God bless you! I will remain in my studio until your messenger
arrives."

I bade him good-bye and left the Museum. That he did not forget his
promise was proved by the fact that within an hour a cab drove up to my
door and one of the attendants from the Museum alighted. I took in the
note he brought with him at the door, and, when I had returned to the
studio, tore open the envelope and drew forth a plain visiting card. On
it was written:

      "_Inquire for the man you seek from_
                 CARLO ANGELOTTI,
             _Public Letter-writer,
    In the arches of the Theatre San Carlo, Naples._"



CHAPTER V.


If there is one place more than another for which I entertain a dislike
that is akin to hatred, it is for Naples in the summer time--that
wretched period when every one one knows is absent, all the large houses
are closed, the roads are knee-deep in dust, and even the noise of the
waves breaking upon the walls of the Castello del' Ovo seems unable to
alleviate the impression of heat and dryness which pervades everything.
It is the season when the hotels, usually so cool--one might almost say
frigid--have had time to grow hot throughout, and are in consequence
well-nigh unbearable; when the particular waiter who has attended to
your wants during each preceding visit, and who has come to know your
customs and to have survived his original impression that each
successive act on your part is only a more glaring proof of your insular
barbarity, is visiting his friends in the country, or whatever it is
that waiters do during the dull season when the tourists have departed
and their employers have no further use for them. It was at this
miserable period of the year that I descended upon Naples in search of
Monsieur Pharos.

Owing to a breakdown on the line between Spezia and Pisa, it was close
upon midnight before I reached my destination, and almost one o'clock
before I had transported my luggage from the railway station to my
hotel. By this time, as will be readily understood by all those who
have made the overland journey, I was in a condition bordering upon
madness. Ever since I had called upon Sir George Legrath, and had
obtained from him the address of the man from whom I hoped to learn the
whereabouts of Pharos, I had been living in a kind of stupor. It took
the form of a drowsiness that nothing would shake off, and yet, do what
I would, I could not sleep. Times out of number during that long journey
I had laid myself back in the railway carriage and closed my eyes in the
hope of obtaining some rest; but it was in vain. However artfully I
might woo the drowsy god, sleep would not visit my eyelids. The mocking
face of the man I had come to consider my evil angel was always before
me, and in the darkness of the night, when the train was rolling
southward, I could hear his voice in my ears telling me that this
hastily-conceived journey on my part had been all carefully thought out
and arranged by him beforehand, and that in seeking him in Naples I was
only advancing another step toward the fulfilment of my destiny.

On reaching my hotel I went straight to bed. Every bone in my body ached
with fatigue. Indeed, so weary was I that I could eat nothing and could
scarcely think coherently. The proprietor of the hotel was an old
friend, and for the reason that whenever I visited Naples I made it a
rule to insist upon occupying the same room, I did not experience the
same feeling of loneliness which usually assails one on retiring to rest
in a strange place. In my own mind I was convinced that as soon as my
head touched the pillow I should be asleep. But a bitter disappointment
was in store for me. I laid myself down with a sigh of satisfaction and
closed my eyes; but whether I missed the rocking of the train, or was
overtired, I can not say--at any rate, I was soon convinced of one
thing, and that was that the longer I lay there the more wakeful I
became. I tried another position, but with the same result. I turned my
pillow, only to make it the more uncomfortable. Every trick for the
production of sleep that I had ever heard of I put into execution, but
always with entire absence of success. At last, thoroughly awake and
still more thoroughly exasperated, I rose from my couch, and dressing
myself, opened the window of my room and stepped out on to the balcony.
It was a glorious night, such a one as is seldom, if ever, seen in
England. Overhead the moon sailed in a cloudless sky, revealing with her
exquisite light the city stretching away to right and left and the
expanse of harbour lying directly before me; Vesuvius standing out black
and awesome, and the dim outline of the hills toward Castellamare and
Sorrento beyond. For some reason my thoughts no longer centred
themselves on Pharos. I found the lovely face of his companion
continually rising before my eyes. There was the same expression of
hopelessness upon it that I remembered on the first occasion upon which
I had seen her; but there was this difference, that in some vague,
uncertain way she seemed now to be appealing to me to help her, to
rescue her from the life she was leading and from the man who had got
her, as he had done myself, so completely in his power. Her beauty
affected me as no other had ever done. I could still hear the soft
accents of her voice, and the echo of her wild, weird music, as plainly
as if I were still sitting listening to her in Lady Medenham's
drawing-room; and, strange to relate, it soothed me to think that it was
even possible we might be in the same town together.

For upward of an hour I remained in the balcony looking down at the
moonlit city and thinking of the change the last few days had brought
about in my life. When I once more sought my couch, scarcely five
minutes elapsed before I was wrapped in a heavy, dreamless sleep from
which I did not wake until well nigh nine o'clock. Much refreshed, I
dressed myself, and having swallowed a hasty breakfast, to which I
brought a better appetite than I had known for some days past, donned my
hat and left the hotel in search of Signor Angelotti, who, as the card
informed me, carried on his profession of a public letter-writer under
the arches of the San Carlo Theatre.

In all the years which have elapsed since Don Pedro de Toledo laid the
foundation of the magnificent thoroughfare which to-day bears his name,
I very much doubt if a man has made his way along it on a more curious
errand than I did that day. To begin with, I had yet to discover what
connection Angelotti could have with Monsieur Pharos, and then to find
out how far it was in his power to help me. Would he forsake his
business and lead me direct to the Egyptian's abode, or would he deny
any knowledge of the person in question and send me unsatisfied away?
Upon these points I resolved to satisfy myself without delay.

Of all the characteristic spots of Naples surely the point at which the
Via Roma joins the Piazza San Ferdinando, in which is situated the
theatre for which I was making, is the most remarkable. Here one is
permitted an opportunity of studying the life of the city under the most
favourable auspices. My mind, however, on this occasion was too much
occupied wondering what the upshot of my errand would be to have any
time to spare for the busy scene around me. Reaching the theatre I took
the card from my pocket and once more examined it. It was plain and
straightforward, like Sir George Legrath's own life, and, as I have
already said, warned me that I must look for this mysterious Angelotti,
who carried on the trade of a public letter-writer under the arches of
the famous theatre. As I glanced at the words "Public Letter-writer"
another scene rose before my mind's eye.

Several years before I had visited Naples with a number of friends,
among whom was a young American lady whose vivacity and capacity for fun
made her the life and soul of the party. On one occasion nothing would
please her but to stop in the street and engage one of these public
scribes to indite a letter for her to an acquaintance in New York. I can
see the old man's amusement now, and the pretty, bright face of the girl
as she endeavoured to make him understand, in broken Italian, what she
desired him to say. That afternoon, I remember, we went to Capri and
were late in reaching home, for which we should in all probability have
received a wigging from the elder members of the party, who had remained
behind, but for the fact that two important engagements, long hoped for,
were announced as resulting from the excursion. I could not help
contrasting the enjoyment with which I had made a bet of gloves with the
young American, that she would not employ the letter-writer as narrated
above, with my feelings as I searched for Angelotti now. Approaching the
first table I inquired of the man behind it whether he could inform me
where I should be most likely to find the individual I wanted.

"Angelotti, did you say, signore?" the fellow replied, shaking his head
"I know no one of that name among the writers here." Then, turning to a
man seated a little distance from him, he questioned him, with the same
result.

It began to look as if Legrath must have made some mistake, and that
the individual in whose custody reposed the secret of Pharos's address
was as difficult to find as his master himself. But, unsuccessful as my
first inquiry had been, I was not destined to be disappointed in the
end. A tall, swarthy youth, of the true Neapolitan loafer type, who had
been leaning against a wall close by smoking a cigarette and taking a
mild interest in our conversation, now removed his back from its
resting-place and approached us.

"Ten thousand pardons, Excellenza," he said, "but you mentioned the name
of one Angelotti, a public letter-writer. I am acquainted with him, and
with the signore's permission will conduct him to that person."

"You are sure you know him?" I replied, turning upon him sharply, for I
had had dealings with Neapolitan loafers before, and I did not
altogether like the look of this fellow.

"Since he is my uncle, Excellenza, it may be supposed that I do," he
answered.

Having said this he inhaled a considerable quantity of smoke and blew it
slowly out again, watching me all the time. I do not know any being in
the world who can be so servile, and at the same time so insolent at a
moment's notice, as a youth of the Neapolitan lower classes. This fellow
was an excellent specimen of his tribe.

"Since you know Angelotti, perhaps you will be good enough to tell me
his address?" I said at last. "I have no doubt I shall then be able to
find him for myself."

Seeing the advantage he held, and scenting employment of not too severe
a kind, the young man made a gesture with his hands as if to signify
that while he was perfectly willing to oblige me in so small a matter,
business was business, and he must profit by his opportunity. He would
be perfectly willing, he said, to act as my guide; but it must be
remembered that it would occupy some considerable portion of his
valuable time, and this would have to be paid for at a corresponding
rate.

When I had agreed to his terms he bade me follow him, and leaving the
precincts of the theatre struck out in the direction of the Strada di
Chiaia. Whatever his other deficiencies may have been, he was certainly
a good walker, and I very soon found that it took me all my time to keep
up with him. Reaching the end of the street he turned sharply to the
right, crossed the road, and a few seconds later dived into an alley. Of
all the filthy places of Naples, that in which I now found myself was
undoubtedly the dirtiest. As usual, the houses were many stories high;
but the road was so narrow, and the balconies projected so far from the
windows that an active man might have leaped from side to side with
perfect safety. For the most part the houses consisted of small shops,
though here and there the heavily-barred lower windows and carved
doorways proclaimed them private residences. Halfway down this
objectionable thoroughfare a still smaller and dirtier one led off to
the right, and into this my guide turned, bidding me follow him. Just as
I was beginning to wonder whether I should ever find my way out alive,
the youth came to a standstill before a small shop, in which a number of
second-hand musical instruments were displayed for sale.

"This, Excellenza, is the residence of the most illustrious Angelotti,"
he said, with a wave of his hand toward the shop in question.

"But I understand that he was a letter-writer," I answered, believing
for the moment that the youth had tricked me.

"And it was quite true," he replied. "Until a month ago the Signor
Angelotti had his table at the theatre; but his cousin is dead, and now
he sells the most beautiful violins in all Italy."

As he said this the young man lifted his hand and gently waved it in the
air, as if it were impossible for him to find words sufficiently
expressive to describe the excellence of the wares I should find within.
It is probable he considered me an intending purchaser, and I do not
doubt he had made up his mind, in the event of business ensuing, to
return a little later in order to demand from his avuncular relative a
commission upon the transaction. Rewarding him for the trouble he had
taken, I bade him be off about his business and entered the shop. It was
a dismal little place and filthy to an indescribable degree. The walls
were hung with musical instruments, the ceiling with rows of dried
herbs, and in a corner, seated at a table busily engaged upon some
literary composition, a little old man, with sharp, twinkling eyes and
snow-white hair. On seeing me he rose from his chair and came forward to
greet me, pen in hand.

"I am looking for the Signor Angelotti," I said, by way of introducing
myself, "whom I was told I should find among the public letter-writers
at the Theatre San Carlo."

"Angelotti is my name," he answered, "and for many years I received my
clients at the place you mention; but my cousin died, and though I would
willingly have gone on writing my little letters--for I may tell you,
Excellenza, that writing letters for other people is a pleasurable
employment--business is business, however, and here was this shop to be
attended to. So away went letter-writing, and now, as you see, I sell
violins and mandolins, of which I can show you the very best assortment
in all Naples."

As he said this he put his little sparrow-like head on one side and
looked at me in such a comical fashion that I could scarcely refrain
from laughing. I had no desire, however, to offend the little man, for I
did not know how useful he might prove himself to me.

"Doubtless you miss your old employment," I said, "particularly as it
seems to have afforded you so much interest. It was not in connection
with your talents in that direction, however, that I have called upon
you. I have come all the way from England to ask you a question."

On hearing this he nodded his head more vigorously than before.

"A great country," he answered with enthusiasm. "I have written many
letters for my clients to relatives there. There is a place called
Saffron Hill. Oh, Excellenza, you would scarcely believe what stories I
could tell you about the letters I have written to people there. But I
am interrupting you. I am an old man, and I have seen very many things,
so it is only natural I should like to talk about them."

"Very natural, indeed," I answered; "but in this instance all I have
come to ask of you is an address. I want you to find a person for me who
left England a few days since."

"And came to Naples? A countryman, perhaps?"

"No, he is no countryman of mine, nor do I even know that he came to
Naples; but I was told by some one in England, from whom I made
inquiries, that if I came here and asked for one Angelotti, a public
letter-writer, I should, in all probability, be able to learn his
whereabouts."

As if convinced of the importance of the part he was to play in the
affair, the old man laid his pen carefully down upon the table, and then
stood before me with his hands placed together, finger-tip to
finger-tip.

"If your Excellency would condescend to mention the individual's name,"
he said softly, "it is just possible I might be able to give him the
information he seeks."

"The name of the person I want to find is Pharos," I replied. "He is
sometimes called Pharos the Egyptian."

Had I stated that I was in search of the Author of all Evil, the placid
Angelotti could scarcely have betrayed more surprise. He took a step
from me and for a moment gazed at me in amazement. Then the expression
gradually faded from his face, leaving it as devoid of emotion as
before.

"Pharos?" he repeated. "For the moment it does not strike me that I know
the individual."

I should have believed that he really had not the power to help me had I
not noticed the look which had come into his face when I mentioned that
fatal name.

"You do not know him?" I said. "Surely you must be making some mistake.
Think again, Signor Angelotti. See, here is the card I spoke of. It has
your name and address upon it, and it was given me by Sir George
Legrath, the head of the Egyptian Museum in London, of whom I think you
must at least have heard."

He shook his head after he had examined the card.

"It is my name, sure enough," he said, handing it back to me, "but I can
not understand why you should have supposed that I know anything of the
person you are seeking. However, if you will write your name and address
upon the card, and will leave it with me, I will make inquiries, and,
should I discover anything, will at once communicate with your
Excellency. I can do no more."

I saw then that my suppositions were correct, and that the old fellow
was not as ignorant as he desired me to believe. I accordingly wrote my
name, with that of the hotel at which I was staying, at the top of the
card, and handed it to him, and then, seeing that there was nothing
further to be done, bade him good-morning, and left the shop.
Fortunately, the road home was easier to find than I had expected it
would be, and it was not very long before I was once more in the Piazza
S. Ferdinando.

I was still thinking of the curious interview through which I had just
passed when, as I crossed the road, I was suddenly recalled to the
reality of the moment by a loud voice adjuring me, in scarcely
complimentary terms, to get out of the way, unless I desired to be run
over. I turned my head in time to see a handsome carriage, drawn by a
pair of horses, coming swiftly toward me. With a spring I gained the
pavement, and then turned to take stock of it. It was not, however, at
the carriage I gazed, but at its occupant. For, lying back upon her
cushions, and looking even more beautiful than when I had seen her last,
was Pharos's companion, the Fräulein Valerie de Vocsqal. That she saw
and recognised me was shown by the expression on her face and the way in
which she threw up her right hand. I almost fancied I could hear the cry
of amazement that escaped her lips. Then the carriage disappeared in the
crowd of traffic and she was gone again. For some moments I stood on the
pavement looking after her as if rooted to the spot. It was only when I
had recovered myself sufficiently to resume my walk that I could put two
and two together and understand what significance this meeting had for
me. If she were in Naples, it was well-nigh certain that Pharos must be
there too; and if he were there, then I hoped it would be in my power to
find him and acquaint him with the determination I had arrived at
concerning him. That he desired to avoid me I could well understand, and
the very fact that his companion showed so much astonishment at seeing
me seemed to point to the same conclusion. Poor blind worm that I was, I
hugged this conceit to my heart, and the more I did so the more resolved
I became in my own mind that, when I _did_ meet him, I would show no
mercy. Debating with myself in this fashion, I made my way along the
Strada S. Carlo and so by a short cut to my hotel.

As I have already remarked, there is nothing drearier in the world than
a foreign hotel out of the season. In this particular instance I seemed
to have the entire building to myself. The long corridors were innocent
of the step of a stranger foot, and when I sat down to lunch in the
great dining-hall, I had not only the room, but the entire staff, or
what was left of it, to wait upon me.

I had just finished my meal, and was wondering in what manner I could
spend the afternoon, when a waiter approached and placed a note beside
my plate. Had I never seen the writer, I should have been able to guess
his profession by his penmanship. The caligraphy displayed upon the
envelope was too perfect not to be professional, and, as I looked at it,
it seemed to me I could see the queer, sparrow-like head of the writer
bending over it and smell the odour of the dried herbs and the still
drier violins hanging up in that quaint old shop to which I had paid a
visit that morning. On the top was my name and address in my own
writing, and below it the direction furnished me by Sir George Legrath.
Seeing that there was nothing new on that side, I took it to the window,
and, turning it over, read as follows:

"If Mr. Forrester desires to meet the person of whom he spoke this
morning he should be in the Temple of Mercury at Pompeii this afternoon
at four o'clock. Provided he brings no one with him, he will be
permitted the interview he seeks."

There was no signature, and nothing but the penmanship to show from whom
it emanated; that it was genuine, however, I did not for a moment doubt.
I looked at my watch, and finding that as yet it was scarcely half past
one, tried to make up my mind whether I should go by train or drive. The
afternoon would be hot, I was very well aware, and so would a long drive
in an open carriage be; but the train would be hotter still. Eventually
I decided for the road, and immediately despatched a waiter in search of
a conveyance. Of the carriage and horses there is nothing to be said,
and save the view, which is always beautiful, but little in favour of
the drive. It was a quarter to four when I alighted at the entrance to
the ruins, and by that time I was covered from head to foot with a
coating of that indescribable dust so peculiar to Naples.

Informing the cabman that I should return to the city by train, I paid
the admission fee and, declining the services of a guide, entered the
grounds, keeping my eyes wide open, as you may suppose, for the man I
had come to meet. Entering the ruins proper by the Marine Gate, I made
my way direct to the _rendezvous_ named upon the card, and, surely,
never in the history of that ancient place had a man passed along its
streets on a stranger mission. I need not have hurried, however, for on
reaching the Forum, whence a full view of the Temple can be obtained, I
found that I had the place to myself. Having satisfied myself on this
point, I sat down on a block of stone and collected my thoughts in
preparation for the coming interview. Times out of number I consulted my
watch; and when the hands pointed to four o'clock I felt as if the
quarter of an hour I had spent there had in reality been an hour. It was
a breathless afternoon; beyond the city the blue hills seemed to float
and quiver in mid-air. A lark was trilling in the sky above me, and so
still was it that the rumbling of a wagon on the white road half a mile
or so away could be distinctly heard.

"My dear Mr. Forrester, allow me to wish you a very good afternoon; I
need scarcely say how delighted I am to meet you!" said a voice behind
me; and, turning, I found myself face to face with Pharos.



CHAPTER VI.


Anxious as I had been to see him, and eagerly as I had sought his
presence, now that Pharos stood before me I was as frightened of him as
I had been on the night I had first set eyes on him at the foot of
Cleopatra's Needle. I stood looking at his queer, ungainly figure for
some seconds, trying to make up my mind how I should enter upon what I
had to say to him. That he was aware of my embarrassment I could see,
and from the way his lips curled I guessed that he was deriving
considerable satisfaction from it. His face was as crafty and his eyes
as wicked as ever I had seen them; but I noticed that on this occasion
he leaned more heavily upon his stick than usual.

"I presume it is to my kind friend Sir George Legrath that I am indebted
for the pleasure of this interview," he said, after the short pause that
followed his introductory speech; "for I need not flatter myself you
will believe me when I say that I was fully aware, even before I met you
in Lady Medenham's house the other day, that we should be talking
together in this Temple within a week."

The palpable absurdity of this speech gave me just the opportunity for
which I was waiting.

"Monsieur Pharos," I said, with as much sternness as I could manage to
throw into my voice, "successful as you have hitherto been in deceiving
me, it is not the least use your attempting to do so on the present
occasion. I am quite willing to state that it was my friend Sir George
Legrath who put me in the way of communicating with you. I called upon
him on Tuesday morning and obtained your address from him."

He nodded his head.

"You will pardon me, I hope, if I seat myself," he said. "It seems that
this interview is likely to be a protracted one, and as I am no longer
young I doubt if I can go through it standing."

With this apology he seated himself on a block of stone at the foot of
one of the graceful columns which in bygone days had supported the
entrance to the Temple, and, resting his chin on his hands, which again
leaned on the carved handle of his stick, he turned to me and in a
mocking voice said: "This air of mystery is no doubt very appropriate,
my friend; but since you have taken such trouble to find me, perhaps you
will be good enough to furnish me with your reason?"

I scratched in the dust with the point of my stick before I replied.
Prepared as I was with what I had to say to him, and justified as I felt
in pursuing the course I had determined to adopt, for the first time
since I had arrived in Naples a doubt as to the probability, or even the
sanity, of my case entered my head.

"I can quite understand your embarrassment, my dear Mr. Forrester," he
said, with a little laugh, when he saw that I did not begin. "I am
afraid you have formed a totally wrong impression of me. By some
mischance a train of circumstances has arisen which has filled your mind
with suspicion of me. As a result, instead of classing me among your
warmest and most admiring friends, as I had hoped you would do, you
distrust me and have nothing but unpleasant thoughts in your mind
concerning me. Pray let me hear the charges you bring against me, and I
feel sure--nay, I am certain--I shall be able to refute them. The matter
of what occurred at Cleopatra's Needle has already been disposed of, and
I do not think we need refer to it again. What else have you to urge?"

His voice had entirely changed. It had lost its old sharpness, and was
softer, more musical, and infinitely more agreeable than I had ever
known it before. He rose from his seat and moved a step toward me.
Placing his hand upon my arm, and looking me full and fair in the face,
he said:

"Mr. Forrester, I am an old man--how old you can have no idea--and it is
too late in my life for me to begin making enemies. Fate, in one of her
cruel moments, has cursed me with an unpleasing exterior. Nay, do not
pretend that you think otherwise, for I know it to be true. Those whom I
would fain conciliate are offended by it. You, however, I should have
thought would have seen below the surface. Why should we quarrel? To
quote your own Shakespeare, 'I would be friends with you and have your
love.' I am rich, I have influence, I have seen a great deal of the
world, and have studied mankind as few others have done. If, therefore,
we joined forces, what is there we might not do together?"

Incredible as it may seem after all I had suffered on his account, such
was the influence he exerted over me that I now began to find myself
wishing it were not necessary for me to say the things I had come to
say. But I had no intention of allowing him to suppose I could be moved
as easily as he seemed to imagine.

"Before there can be any talk of friendship or even of association
between us, Monsieur Pharos," I said, "it will be necessary for me to
have a complete understanding with you. If I have wronged you, as I
sincerely hope I have done, I will endeavour to make amends for it. Are
you aware that on the night of Lady Medenham's 'at home' a diabolical
murder was committed at the old curiosity shop at the corner of the
street adjoining that in which my studio is situated?"

"One could hardly read the English papers without being aware of it," he
answered gravely; "but I scarcely see in what way that affects me."

Here he stopped and gazed at me for a moment in silence as if he were
anxious to read what was passing in my mind. Then he began again:

"Surely you do not mean to tell me, Mr. Forrester, that your dislike to
me is so great as to induce you to believe that I was the perpetrator of
that ghastly deed?"

"Since you are aware that a murder _was_ committed," I said, without
appearing to notice his interruption, "perhaps you also know that the
deed was supposed to have been done between the hours of midnight and
one o'clock. You may also have read that an individual was seen leaving
the house by the back entrance almost on the stroke of one, and that he
was believed to have taken refuge in my studio."

"Now that you recall the circumstance, I confess I did see something of
the sort in the paper," he answered; "and I remember reading also that
you informed the inspector of police, who called upon you to make
inquiries, that to the best of your knowledge no such man _had_ entered
your house. What then?"

"Well, Monsieur Pharos, it was a few moments after the hour mentioned
that you made your appearance before me, breathing heavily as though you
had been running. Upon my questioning you, you offered the paltry excuse
that you had been for a walk after Lady Medenham's 'at home,' and that
you had missed your way and come quite by chance to my studio."

"As I shall prove to your satisfaction when you have finished, that was
exactly what happened."

"But you have not heard all," I replied. "While in my rooms you became
desirous of possessing the mummy of the Egyptian magician, Ptahmes. You
expressed a wish that I should present it to you, and, when I declined
to do so, you hypnotised me and took it without either my leave or my
license--a very questionable proceeding if viewed in the light of the
friendship you profess to entertain for me. How the law of the land
would regard it doubtless you know as well as I do."

As I said this I watched his face closely, but if I hoped to find any
expression of shame there I was destined to be disappointed.

"My dear Forrester," he said, "it is very plain indeed that you have
developed an intense dislike to me. Otherwise you would scarcely be so
ready to believe evil of me. How will you feel when I convince you that
all the ill you think of me is undeserved? Answer me that!"

"If only you can do so," I cried, clutching eagerly at the hope he held
out. "If you can prove that I have wronged you, I will only too gladly
make you any amends in my power You can not imagine what these last few
days have been to me. I have perjured myself to save you. I have risked
my good name, I have----"

"And I thank you," he answered. "I don't think you will find me
ungrateful. But before I accept your services I must prove to you that I
am not as bad as you think me. Let us for a moment consider the matter.
We will deal with the case of the mummy first, that being, as you will
allow, of the least importance as far as you, individually, are
concerned. Before I unburden myself, however, I must make you understand
the disadvantage I am labouring under. To place my meaning more clearly
before you, it would be necessary for me to make an assertion which I
have the best of reasons for knowing you would not believe. Perhaps I
made a mistake on that particular evening to which we are referring,
when I induced you to believe that it was by accident I visited your
studio. I am prepared now to confess that it was not so. I was aware
that you had that mummy in your possession. I had known it for some
considerable time, but I had not been able to get in touch with you.
That night an opportunity offered, and I seized it with avidity. I could
not wait until the next day, but called upon you within a few hours of
meeting you at Lady Medenham's 'at home.' I endeavoured to induce you to
part with the mummy, but in vain. My entreaties would not move you. I
exerted all my eloquence, argued and pleaded as I have seldom, if ever,
done to a man before. Then, seeing that it was useless, I put into force
a power of which I am possessed, and determined that, come what might,
you should do as I desired. I do not deny that in so doing I was to
blame, but I think, if the magnitude of the temptation were brought home
to you, you would understand how difficult it would be not to fall. Let
me make my meaning clearer to you if possible."

"It would, perhaps, be as well," I answered, with a touch of sarcasm,
"for at present I am far from being convinced."

"You have been informed already by our mutual friend Sir George Legrath
that I am of Egyptian descent. Perhaps you do not understand that, while
the ancient families of your country are proud of being able to trace
their pedigrees back to the time of the Norman Conquest, a beggarly
eight hundred years or thereabouts, I, Pharos, can trace mine, with
scarcely a break, back to the nineteenth dynasty of Egyptian history, a
period of over three thousand years. It was that very Ptahmes, the man
whose mummy your father stole from its ancient resting-place, who was
the founder of our house. For some strange reason, what I can not tell,
I have always entertained the belief that my existence upon this earth,
and such success as I shall meet with, depend upon my finding that mummy
and returning it to the tomb from which sacrilegious hands had taken it.
At first this was only a mere desire; since then it has become a fixed
determination, which has grown in strength and intensity until it has
become more than a determination, a craving in which the happiness of my
whole existence is involved. For many years, with a feverish longing
which I can not expect or hope to make you understand, I searched Europe
from end to end, visiting all the great museums and private collections
of Egyptian antiquities, but without success. Then, quite by chance and
in a most circuitous fashion, I discovered that it was your father who
had found it, and that at his death it had passed on to you. I visited
England immediately, obtained an introduction to you, and the rest you
know."

"And where is the mummy now?" I inquired.

"In Naples," he replied. "To-morrow I start with it for Egypt, to return
it to the place whence your father took it."

"But allow me to remark that it is not your property, Monsieur Pharos,"
I replied; "and even taking into consideration the circumstances you
relate, you must see yourself that you have no right to act as you
propose doing."

"And pray by what right did your father rifle the dead man's tomb?"
said Pharos quietly. "And since you are such a stickler for what is
equitable, perhaps you will show me his justification for carrying away
the body from the country in which it had been laid to rest and
conveying it to England to be stared at in the light of a curiosity. No,
Mr. Forrester, your argument is a poor one, and I should combat it to
the last. I am prepared, however, to make a bargain with you."

"And what is that bargain?" I inquired.

"It is as follows," he replied. "Our interest in the dead man shall be
equal. Since it was your father who stole the mummy from its
resting-place, let it be the descendant of the dead Ptahmes who restores
it. As you will yourself see, and as I think you must in common honesty
admit, what I am doing in this matter can in no way advance my own
personal interests. If I have taken from you a possession which you
valued so highly, set your own figure upon it, and double what you ask I
will pay. Can I say anything fairer?"

I did not know what answer to make. If the man were what he said, the
veritable descendant of the king's magician, then it was only natural he
should be willing to sacrifice anything to obtain possession of the body
of his three-thousand-years-old ancestor. On my part the sentiment was
undoubtedly a much weaker one. The mummy had been left me, among other
items of his collection, by my father, and, when that has been said, my
interest in the matter lapsed. There was, however, a weightier issue to
be decided before I could do him the favour he asked.

"So much for the mummy incident," I said. "What you have to do now is to
clear yourself of the more serious suspicion that exists against you. I
refer to the murder of the curiosity dealer."

"But surely, Mr. Forrester," he said, "you can not be serious when you
say you believe I had anything to do with that dreadful affair?"

"You know very well what I do and what I do not believe," I answered. "I
await your reply."

"Since you press me for it, I will give it," he continued. "But remember
this, if I have to convince you of my innocence, your only chance will
be gone, for I shall never feel the same toward you again."

As he said this the old fierce light came into his eyes, and for a
moment he looked as dangerous as on that evening in the studio.

"I repeat, I ask you to convince me," I said as firmly as my voice could
speak.

"Then I will do so," he replied, and dived his hand into his coat
pocket. When he produced it again it held a crumpled copy of a
newspaper. He smoothed it out upon his knee and handed it to me.

"If you will look at the third column from the left, you will see a
heading entitled 'The mysterious murder in Bonwell Street.' Pray read
it."

I took the paper and read as follows:

    MYSTERIOUS MURDER IN BONWELL STREET.

    EXTRAORDINARY CONFESSION AND SUICIDE.

"Shortly before nine o'clock this morning, a tall, middle-aged man,
giving the name of Johann Schmidt, a German, and evidently in a weak
state of health, entered the precincts of Bow Street Police Station, and
informed the officer in charge that he desired to give himself up to
justice as the murderer of Herman Clausand, the curiosity dealer of
Bonwell Street, the victim of the shocking tragedy announced in our
issue of Tuesday last. Schmidt, who spoke with considerable earnestness
and seemed desirous of being believed, stated that several years before
he had been in the deceased's employ, and since his dismissal had nursed
feelings of revenge. On the day preceding the murder he had called at
Bonwell Street, and, after informing Clausand that he was out of
employment and starving, asked to be again taken into his service; the
other, however, refused to entertain his request, whereupon Schmidt very
reluctantly left the shop. For the remainder of the day he wandered
about London, endeavouring to obtain work, but about midnight, having
been unsuccessful, he returned to Bonwell Street and rang the bell. The
door was opened by Clausand himself, who, as we stated in our first
account of the murder, lived alone. Schmidt entered, and once more
demanded employment, or at least money sufficient to enable him to find
shelter for the night. Again Clausand refused, whereupon the man picked
up a dagger from a stand near by and stabbed him to the heart.
Frightened at what he had done, he did not stay to rob the body, but
made his way through the house and out by the back door. Passing into
Murbrook Street, he saw a policeman coming toward him, but by stepping
into a doorway managed to avoid him. Since that time, up to the moment
of surrendering himself, he had been wandering about London, and it was
only when he found starvation staring him in the face that he determined
to give himself up. Having told his story, the man was about to be
searched prior to being conducted to a cell, when he drew from his
pocket a revolver and placed the muzzle to his forehead. Before the
bystanders could stop him he had pulled the trigger; there was a loud
report, and a moment later the wretched man fell dead at the officer's
feet. The divisional surgeon was immediately summoned, but on his
arrival found that life was extinct. Inquiries were at once made with a
view to ascertaining whether the story he had told had any foundation in
fact. We have since learned that the description he gave of himself was
a true one, that he had once been in Clausand's employ, and that on the
day preceding the murder he had openly asserted in a public-house in the
neighbourhood of Soho his intention of being revenged upon the dead man.

"The coroner has been informed, and an inquest will be held to-morrow
morning."

       *       *       *       *       *

After I had read it, I stood for some moments looking at the paper in my
hand. Then I turned to Pharos, who was still seated on the block of
stone watching me intently. Since this miserable wretch had confessed to
the crime, it was plain that I had wronged him in supposing he had
committed it. A weight was undoubtedly lifted from my mind, but for some
reason or another the satisfaction I derived from this was by no means
as great as I had expected it would be. At the back of my mind there was
still a vague impression that I was being deceived, and, do what I
would, I could not rid myself of it.

"That, I think, should convince you, Mr. Forrester," said Pharos, rising
and coming toward me, "how very unwise it is ever to permit one's
feelings to outweigh one's judgment. You made up your mind that you
disliked me, and for the simple reason that I had the misfortune to lose
my way on that particular evening, and to reach your studio about the
same time that that terrible murder was committed, you were ready at a
moment's notice to believe me guilty of the crime."

"What you say is quite true," I answered humbly. "I acted very
foolishly, I admit. I have done you a great wrong, and you have behaved
very generously about it."

"In that case we will say no more about it," he replied. "It is an
unpleasant subject; let us forget it and never refer to it again. As I
asked you to believe when last I saw you, my only desire is that you
should think well of me and that we should be friends. As another proof
of my kindly feeling toward yourself, I will go further than I
originally intended and say that I am willing to restore the mummy I
took from you. It is here in Naples, but, if you wish, it shall be at
once returned to your house in London."

This was more than I had expected from him, and it impressed me
accordingly.

"I could not dream of such a thing," I replied. "Since you have been so
generous, let me follow your example. I have wronged you, and, as some
small return, I ask you to keep the king's magician, and do with him as
you please."

"I accept your offer in the spirit in which it is made," he replied.
"Now, perhaps, we had better be going. If you have nothing better to do
this evening I should be glad if you would dine with me. I think I can
promise you a better dinner than you will get at your own hotel, and
afterward, I have no doubt, we shall be able to induce my ward to give
us some music. You had better say 'Yes,' for, I assure you, we shall
both be disappointed if you refuse."

"You are really very kind," I began, "but----"

"With your permission we will have no 'buts,'" he replied, with a wave
of his hand. "The matter is settled, and I shall look forward to a
pleasant evening. My carriage is at the gate, and if you will drive back
with me I shall be doubly honoured."

If there had been any way of getting out of it, I think I should have
taken advantage of it; but as I could not discover one, I was perforce
compelled to accept his invitation.

"I wonder if this city has the same fascination for you, Mr. Forrester,
that it has for me?" said Pharos, after I had given my consent to the
arrangement he proposed. "For my own part I never come to Naples without
paying it a visit; but how very few are there of the numbers who visit
it weekly that really understand it! What tales I could tell you of it,
if only they interested you! How vividly I could bring back to you the
life of the people who once spoke in this forum, bathed in yonder baths,
applauded in the theatre nineteen hundred years ago! Let us follow this
street which leads toward the Temple of Isis, that Temple in which the
Egyptian goddess was worshipped by such as pretended to believe in her
mysterious powers. I say _pretended_, because it was the fashion then to
consult her oracles--a fashion as insulting as it was popular."

By this time we had passed out of the Temple of Mercury and were making
our way along the time-worn pavement toward the building of which he
spoke. The sun was sinking in the west, and already long shadows were
drawing across the silent streets, intensifying the ghostliness of the
long-deserted city. Reaching the Temple, we entered and looked about us.

"See how its grandeur has departed from it," said Pharos, with a note of
sadness in his voice that made me turn and gaze at him in surprise.
"Time was when this was the most beautiful temple in the city, when
every day her courts were thronged with worshippers, when her oracles
boasted a reputation that reached even to mighty Rome. On this spot
stood the statue of the goddess herself. There that of her son, the god
Horus. Here was the purgatorium, and there the bronze figure of the bull
god Apis. Can you not picture the crowd of eager faces beyond the rails,
the white-robed priests, and the sacrifice being offered up on yonder
altar amid the perfumes of frankincense and myrrh? Where, Mr. Forrester,
are these priests now? The crowd of worshippers, the statues?
Gone--gone--dust and ashes, these nineteen hundred years. Come, we have
lingered here long enough, let us go further."

Leaving the Temple we made our way into the Stabian Street, passed the
Temple of Æsculapius, and did not stop until we had reached the house of
Tullus Agrippa. Into this Pharos led me.

"O Tullus Agrippa!" he cried, as if apostrophizing the dead man, "across
the sea of time, I, Pharos the Egyptian, salute thee! Great was thy
wealth and endless thy resources. Greedy of honour and praise wast thou,
and this house was the apex of thy vanity. Here is that same triclinium
where thy guests were wont to assemble when thou didst invite them to
thy banquets. Here the room in which thou didst condemn thine only son
to perpetual banishment. In those days, when the sun was warm and the
table was laden with the banquet, and friends crowded about thee and
praised the beauty of thy frescoes, the excellence of thy wine, the
cunning of thy cook, and the service of thy slaves, little didst thou
dream that nineteen centuries later would find thy house roofless, dug
up from the bowels of the earth, and thy cherished rooms a show to be
gaped at by all who cared to pay a miserable fee. Least of all didst
thou think then that Pharos the Egyptian would be standing in the room
where once thou didst rule so absolute, telling thy faults and follies
to a man of a race that in thy day was well-nigh unknown."

He stopped for a moment, and then, turning to me again, recommenced with
fresh energy:

"The owner of this house, Tullus Agrippa, was avaricious, cruel, vain,
and sensual. He gave of his wealth only when he was assured of a large
return. He was hated on every hand, and by his own family and dependants
most of all. What did his wealth avail him on that last dread day, when
the streets were filled with flying citizens, when all was confusion and
none knew which way to turn for safety? The catastrophe found him
tossing on a bed of sickness and scarcely able to stand alone. With the
first shock of the earthquake he called imperiously for his favourite
slave, but received no answer. He called again, this time almost with
entreaty. Still no answer came. The walls of his house trembled and
shook as he rose from his couch and staggered out into the fast
darkening street. Like a blind man he groped his way to yonder corner,
calling upon the names of his gods as he went, and offering every
sestertia in his possession to the person who would conduct him to a
place of safety. A man brushed against him. He looked up and recognised
the gladiator, Tymon, the man he had encouraged and whose richest patron
he had been. Accordingly, he seized him and clung to him, offering gifts
innumerable if he would only carry him as far as the Marine Gate. But
this, as Tymon knew, was no time for helping others, with that terrible
shower of ashes pouring down like rain. The gladiator cast him off, but
the other was not to be denied. He struggled to his knees and threw his
arms around the strong man's legs, but only for an instant. Roused to a
pitch of fury by his terror, Tymon struck him a blow on the temple with
the full strength of his ponderous fist. The old man stumbled against
the wall, clutched at it for support, and at length fell senseless upon
the ground. The shower of ashes and scoria quickly covered him, and
nineteen hundred years later the workmen, excavating the ruins,
discovered his body at the base of yonder wall. Such was the fate of the
noble Tullus Agrippa, citizen of Rome, and once the owner of this
house."

Before I could reply or ask how he had become familiar with these
details, he had made his way outside and was in the road once more. I
followed him to the Street of Fortune, passed the House of the Fawn, the
Baths, and the Villa of Glaucus. Of each he had some story to tell--some
anecdote to relate. From the graphic way in which he described
everything, the names and characters he introduced, I might have been
excused had I even believed that he had known the city in its prime and
been present on the day of its destruction. I said as much to him, but
he only shook his head.

"Think what you please," he said. "If I were to tell you the truth you
would not believe me. For that reason I prefer that you should credit me
with the possession of an exceedingly vivid imagination. If I have
succeeded in making the last hour pass pleasantly, I am amply rewarded.
But it grows late; the guards are coming in search of us; let us return
to the gate."

Accordingly, we made our way back to the Porta Marina, and down the path
toward the entrance to the ruins. My companion was evidently well known
to the officials, for they treated him with obsequious respect, bowing
before him and inquiring if he had seen certain new excavations, as if
the success of the latter depended entirely on his good opinion of them.
In the road outside a carriage was standing, to which was attached a
magnificent pair of black horses. A coachman, dressed in a neat but
unpretentious black livery, sat upon the box, while a footman stood
beside the carriage door. The whole turn-out was in excellent taste, and
would have made a creditable appearance in the Bois de Boulogne or Hyde
Park. Into this elegant equipage Pharos invited me to step, and as soon
as I had seated myself he took his place beside me. Hot though the night
was, a heavy fur rug was wrapped round his knees, and when this had been
done he laid himself back upon the cushions with a sigh of relief, as if
the exertion of the afternoon had been too much for him.

"So much for Pompeii," he said, as the horses sprang forward. "Now for
Naples and the most beautiful creature it contains at present, my ward,
the Fräulein Valerie de Vocsqal."



CHAPTER VII.


If any one had told me on the night that I first met Pharos at the foot
of Cleopatra's Needle that within a very short space of time I should be
driving from Pompeii to Naples alone with him, I believe I should have
laughed that person to scorn. And what is perhaps stranger, seeing how
intense my dislike for him had been less than two hours before, I was
not only paying attention to what he said to me, but was actually
deriving a certain measure of enjoyment from his society. In my time I
have met some of the cleverest talkers in Europe, men whose
conversational powers are above the average, and to whom it is rightly
enough considered a privilege to listen. Pharos, however, equalled if he
did not exceed them all. His range of topics was extraordinary, and his
language as easy and graceful as it was free from the commonplace. Upon
every conceivable subject he had some information to impart, and in the
cases of events in the world's history, he did so with the same peculiar
suggestion of being able to speak from the point of an eye-witness, or,
at least, as one who had lived in the same period, that I had noticed
when he conducted me through the ruins of Pompeii that afternoon. The
topography of the country through which we were passing he also had at
his fingers' ends. About every portion of the landscape he had some
remark of interest to make, and when we had exhausted Italy and
proceeded to more distant countries, I found that he was equally
conversant with the cities they contained. How long the drive lasted I
can not say; but never in my experience of the high road between Naples
and Pompeii had it seemed so short. Reaching the Castello del Carmine we
turned sharply to our right, passed up the Corso Garibaldi for some
considerable distance, and eventually branched off to the left. After
that, I have no further knowledge of our route. We traversed street
after street, some of them so narrow that there was barely room for our
carriage to pass along, until at last we reached a thoroughfare that not
only contained better houses than the rest, but was considerably wider.
Before a large, old-fashioned residence the horses came to a standstill;
a pair of exquisitely wrought-iron gates guarding a noble archway were
thrown open, and through them we passed into the courtyard beyond.
Beautiful as many of the courtyards are in Naples, I think this one
eclipsed them all. The house surrounded it on three sides; on the
fourth, and opposite that by which we had entered, was the garden, with
its fountains, vista of palm trees, through which a peep of the waters
of the bay could be obtained, and its luxuriant orange groves. In the
soft light of evening a more picturesque picture could not have been
desired.

The footman, having descended from the box, opened the door of the
carriage, and when he had withdrawn the rug from his master's knees,
assisted him to alight. I followed, and we proceeded up the steps into
the house. Prepared as I was by the fact that both Lady Medenham and Sir
George Legrath had informed me of Pharos's wealth, I could scarcely
contain my surprise when the beauty of the house to which I was now
introduced was revealed to me. The hall in which we stood was filled
from floor to ceiling with works of art, carvings, paintings, statues,
tapestry, the value of which I could the better appreciate when I was
permitted an opportunity of examining them more closely.

"I make you welcome to my abode, Mr. Forrester," said Pharos, as I
crossed the threshold. "You are not the first English artist who has
honoured me with a visit, and I think, if you will glance round these
walls, you will admit that you are in good company. See, here is a Fra
Angelico, here a Botticelli, here a Perugino, to your right a
Giorgione--all your fellow-guests. At the foot of the stairs is a Jan
Steen, half-way up a Madonna by Signorelli; the monk above is, as
doubtless you can see for yourself, an Andrea del Sarto, who has found
many admirers. But that is not all. If you will follow me, I think I can
show you something which will have an equal interest for you, though
perhaps in a somewhat different way."

Feeling as if I were walking in a dream, I followed him along the hall.
Presently he stopped and pointed to a large canvas.

"Do you recognise it?" he inquired.

To my surprise it was neither more nor less than one of my own earlier
works which had appeared in the Academy about three years before and
represented a fantastic subject. It had been purchased by a dealer, and
after it had left my possession I had lost sight of it altogether. To
find it here, in the home of the man who had come to play such an
extraordinary part in my life, overwhelmed me with astonishment.

"You seem surprised at seeing it," said Pharos, as we stood before it.
"If you will allow me I will relate to you the circumstances under which
it came into my possession, and I think you will admit that they are
highly interesting. It is now two years since the event occurred of
which I am going to tell you. I was then in Baden. It was the height of
the season, and the city was crowded, not only with interesting
foreigners--if you will permit the unintentional sarcasm--but with a
large proportion of your own English aristocracy. Among the latter was a
certain nobleman to whom I was happily able to be of considerable
service. He was one of life's failures. In his earlier youth he had a
literary tendency which, had the Fates been propitious, might possibly
have brought him some degree of fame; his accession to the title,
however, and the wealth it carried with it, completely destroyed him.
When I met him in Baden he was as near ruined as a man of his position
could be. He had with him one daughter, a paralytic, to whom he was
devotedly attached. Had it not been for her I am convinced he would have
given up the struggle and have done what he afterward did--namely, have
made away with himself. In the hope of retrieving his fortune and of
distracting his mind he sought the assistance of the gaming-tables; but
having neither luck nor, what is equally necessary, sufficient courage,
eventually found himself face to face with ruin. It was then that I
appeared upon the scene and managed to extricate him from his dilemma.
As a token of his gratitude he made me a present of this picture, which
up to that time had been one of his most treasured possessions."

"And the man himself--what became of him?"

Pharos smiled an evil smile.

"Well, he was always unfortunate. On the self-same night that he made me
the present to which I refer he experienced another run of ill luck."

"And the result?"

"Can you not guess? He returned to his lodgings to find that his
daughter was dead, whereupon he wrote me a note, thanking me for the
assistance I had rendered him, and blew his brains out at the back of
the Kursaal."

On hearing this I recoiled a step from the picture. While it flattered
my vanity to hear that the wretched man who had lost fame, fortune, and
everything else should still have retained my work, I could not repress
a feeling of horror at the thought that in so doing he had,
unconsciously, it is true, been bringing me into connection with the
very man who I had not the least doubt had brought about his ruin. As
may be supposed, however, I said nothing to Pharos on this score. For
the time being we were flying a flag of truce, and having had one
exhibition of his powers, I had no desire to experience a second.
Whether he read what was passing in my mind or not I can not say. At any
rate, he changed the subject abruptly and led me away from my own work
to another at the farther end of the hall. From this we passed into an
anteroom, which, like the hall, was hung with pictures. It was a
magnificent apartment in every way, but, as I soon discovered, was
eclipsed by the larger room into which it opened. The latter could not
have been less than eighty feet long by forty wide. The walls were
decorated with exquisite pictures, and, if such a thing were possible,
with still more exquisite china. All the appointments were in keeping.
At the farther end was a grand piano, and seated near this, slowly
fanning herself with a large ostrich-feather fan, was the woman I had
seen first at the Academy, then at Medenham House, and earlier that very
day in the Piazza S. Ferdinando. Upon our entrance she rose, and once
more I thought I discovered a frightened look in her face. In a second,
however, it had passed and she had once more recovered her equanimity.

"Valerie," said Monsieur Pharos, "I have been fortunate enough to meet
Mr. Forrester, who arrived in Naples last night, and to induce him to
dine with us this evening."

While he was speaking I had been watching the face of the beautiful
woman whose affecting story Lady Medenham had told me, and had noticed
how white it had suddenly become. The reason of this I have since
discovered, but I know that at the time it puzzled me more than a
little.

"I bid you welcome, sir," she said, in excellent English, but with no
great degree of cordiality.

I made some suitable reply, and then Pharos departed from the room,
leaving us together. My companion once more seated herself, and, making
an effort, began a conversation that was doubtless of a very polite, but
to me entirely unsatisfactory, nature. Presently she rose from her chair
and went to the window, where she stood for some moments looking out
into the fast-darkening street. Then she turned to me, as she did so
making a little gesture with her hands that was more expressive than any
words.

"Mr. Forrester," she said, speaking rapidly in a low voice, but with
great earnestness, "have you taken leave of your senses that you come
here? Are you tired of your life that you thrust your head into the
lion's den in this foolish fashion?"

Her words were so startling and her agitation so genuine that I could
make neither head nor tail of it. I accordingly hastened to ask for an
explanation.

"I can tell you nothing," she said, "except that this place is fatal to
you. Oh, if I could only make you understand how fatal!"

Her beauty and the agitation under which she was labouring exercised a
most powerful effect upon me, which was increased rather than
diminished when I reflected that it was being exerted on my behalf.

"I scarcely understand you," I stammered, for I was quite carried away
by her vehemence. "From what you say I gather that you believe me to be
in a position of some danger, but I assure you such is not the case. I
met Monsieur Pharos at Pompeii this afternoon, and he was kind enough to
ask me to dine with him this evening. Surely, there can be nothing
dangerous in that. If, however, my presence is in any way distasteful to
you, I can easily make an excuse and take my departure."

"You know it is not that," she answered quickly and with a little stamp
of her foot. "It is for your own sake I am imploring you to go. If you
knew as much of this house as I do, you would not remain in it another
minute."

"My dear madame," I said, "if you would only be more explicit, I should
be the better able to understand you."

"I can not be more explicit," she answered; "such a thing is out of my
power. But remember, if anything happens, I have warned you, and your
fate will be upon your own head."

"But----" I cried, half rising from my seat.

"Hush!" she answered. "There is not time for more. He is coming."

A moment later Pharos entered the room. He had discarded his heavy fur
coat and was now dressed as I had seen him at Medenham House--that is to
say, he wore a tight-fitting black velvet coat buttoned high up round
his throat and a skullcap of the same material. He had scarcely entered
the room before dinner was announced.

"If you will take my ward," he said, "I will follow you."

I did as directed, and never while I live shall I forget the thrill that
passed through me as I felt the pressure of her tiny hand upon my arm.
Lovely as I had always thought her, I had never seen her look more
beautiful than on this particular evening. As I watched her proud and
graceful carriage, I could well believe, as Lady Medenham had said, that
she traced her descent from one of the oldest families in Europe. There
was something about her that I could not understand, though I tried
repeatedly to analyze it--a vague, indescribable charm that made her
different from all other women I had ever met.

The room in which we dined was a more sombre apartment than the others I
had seen. The walls were hung with heavy tapestries, unrelieved by light
or brilliant colour. The servants also struck me as remarkable. They
were tall, elderly, dark-skinned, and, if the truth must be told, of
somewhat saturnine appearance, and if I had been asked, I should have
given my vote against their being Italians. They did their duty
noiselessly and well, but their presence grated upon me, very much as
Pharos's had done on the first three occasions that I had met him. Among
other things, one singular circumstance arrested my attention. While the
dinner was in every respect admirable, and would not have discredited
the Maison Dorée, or the Café de la Paix, Pharos did not partake of it.
At the commencement of the meal a dish of fruit and a plate of small
flat cakes were placed before him. He touched nothing else, save, when
we had finished, to fill a wineglass with water and to pour into it a
spoonful of some white powder, which he took from a small silver box
standing before him. This he tossed off at one draught.

"You are evidently surprised," he said, turning toward me, "at the
frugality of my fare, but I can assure you that in my case eating has
been reduced almost to a vanishing point. Save a little fruit in the
morning, and a glass of water in which I dissolve one of these powders,
and a meal similar to that you now see me making in the evening, I take
nothing else, and yet I am stronger than many men of half my age. If the
matter interests you I will some day give you proof of that."

To this speech I made some reply and then glanced at the Fräulein
Valerie. Her face was still deathly pale, and I could see by the way her
hands trembled above her plate that the old fellow's words had in some
manner been the cause of it. Had I known as much then as I do now I
should no doubt have trembled myself. For the moment, however, I thought
she must be ill, and should have said as much had my eyes not met hers
and found them imploring me to take no notice of her agitation. I
accordingly addressed myself to Pharos on the subject of the journey
from Paris to Naples, and thus permitted her time to recover her
self-possession. The meal at an end, she rose and left the room, not,
however, before she had thrown another look of entreaty at me, which, as
I read it, seemed to say, "For pity's sake remember where you are, and
be careful what you say or do!"

The door had scarcely closed behind her before another on the other side
of the room opened, and a servant entered carrying in his arms a monkey
wrapped in a small rug, from which its evil-looking little face peered
out at me as if it were wondering at my presence there. Pharos noticed
my surprise.

"Let me make you acquainted with my second self," he said, and then
turning to the monkey continued, "Pehtes, make your salutation."

The monkey, however, finding himself in his master's arms, snuggled
himself down and paid no more attention to me, whereupon Pharos pushed
the decanters, which the servant had placed before him, toward me and
invited me to fill my glass.

I thanked him, but declined.

"If you will permit me to say so, I think you are foolish," he answered.
"I have been often complimented on that wine, particularly by your
countrymen."

I wondered who the countrymen were who had sat at this table and what
the reason could have been that had induced them to accept his
hospitality. Could Legrath have been among the number, and, if so, what
was the terrible connection between them? For terrible I knew it must
have been, otherwise it would scarcely have made Sir George, usually the
most self-contained of men, betray such agitation when I inquired if he
were acquainted with the name of Pharos.

While these thoughts were passing through my mind I stole a glance at
the old fellow as he sat at the head of the table, propped up with
cushions, and with the monkey's evil countenance peeping out from his
hiding-place under the other's coat. He was evidently in an expansive
mood and as anxious as possible to make himself agreeable. The first
horror of his presence had by this time left me, and, as I said at the
commencement of this chapter, its place had been taken by a peculiar
interest for which I found it well-nigh impossible to account.

"If you will not take any wine, perhaps you will let me offer you a
cigarette," he said, after I had declined his previous invitation. "I am
not a smoker myself, but those who do enjoy the fragrant weed tell me
the brand is excellent. It is grown on one of my own estates in Turkey,
and can be obtained nowhere else in the world."

So saying he produced a small silver case from his pocket and handed it
to me. I took one of the cigarettes it contained, lit it, and for the
next two or three minutes sat back in my chair silently smoking. The
tobacco was excellent. To have wasted a puff of that precious smoke in
conversation would have been a sacrilege that I was determined not to
commit. Having finished one, I was easily persuaded to take another, and
was compelled to declare the flavour to be even better than the first.

"I am delighted to see that you enjoy them," said Pharos.

"I have never smoked any tobacco like it," I replied. "It seems hard
that you should not enjoy it yourself."

"I could not enjoy it in a happier way," he answered, "than through my
friends. I am amply compensated when I see the pleasure it gives them."

After this philanthropic contribution to the conversation of the evening
we were both silent again for some moments. My cigarette was
half-finished, but the case, still nearly full, lay upon the table for
me to help myself when I felt inclined. Little by little the subtle
intoxication of the weed was permeating my whole being; a gentle languor
was stealing over me, and as a result my brain had never before seemed
so bright or my capacity of enjoyment so keen as it did then.

"If you will not take wine we might adjourn to the drawing-room," said
Pharos at last. "It is possible we may be able to induce my ward to give
us some music, and as she is partial to the aroma of these cigarettes,
I think I may assure you beforehand that she will willingly give you
permission to smoke in her presence."

Accordingly, we sought the drawing-room, the same in which the beautiful
Hungarian had uttered her curious warning to me earlier in the evening.
She was seated in the same chair that she had then occupied, and on
entering, Pharos, still carrying the monkey in his arms, crossed and
patted her hand in a grand-fatherly fashion. Kindly, however, as the
action appeared to be, I noticed that she trembled beneath it.

"I have assured Mr. Forrester, my dear Valerie," he said, "that the
odour of tobacco is not distasteful to you, and that you will permit him
to smoke a cigarette in your presence. Was I not right?"

"Of course I will give permission," she answered, but never had I heard
her voice so cold and monotonous. It was as if she were repeating
something under compulsion. At any other time I should have declined to
avail myself of what I could not help thinking was permission grudgingly
given; but since Pharos insisted, and the Fräulein begged me to do so, I
at length consented and made a further raid upon the case. As soon as he
had seen the cigarette lighted and myself comfortably seated, Pharos
installed himself in an armchair, while his ward wrapped the inevitable
rug about his knees. Having done this she took her violin from its case,
and, when she had tuned it, took up her position and commenced to play.
I had still the same feeling, however, that she was doing it under
compulsion, but how that force was being exerted, and for what reason,
was more than I could tell. Once more the same gentle languor I had felt
at the dinner-table began to steal over me and again my senses became
abnormally acute. Under the influence of the music, new ideas, new
inspirations, new dreams of colour, crowded upon me thick and fast. In
the humour in which I was then, I felt that there was nothing I could
not do, no achievement of which I was not capable. What I had done in
the past was as nothing compared with what I would do in the future.
With this man's help I would probe the very heart of Wisdom and make
myself conversant with her secrets. Through half-closed eyes I could see
the violinist standing before me, and it was as if her white hands were
beckoning me along the road of Fame. I turned from her to Pharos, and
found him still seated in his chair with his eyes fixed steadfastly upon
me. Then the cigarette came to an end, the music ceased, and with a
choking sob the violinist, unable to control herself any longer, fled
from the room. I sprang to my feet and hastened to open the door for
her, but was too late. She was gone.

"Mr. Forrester," said Pharos, after we had been alone together for a few
moments, "I am going to make a proposition to you which I shall be very
much honoured if you can see your way to accept."

"I shall be better able to tell you when I know what it is," I answered.

"It is eminently simple," he continued. "It is neither more nor less
than this. I am the possessor of a steam-yacht--a comfortable craft, my
friends tell me--and in her my ward and I start to-morrow for Port Said,
_en route_ for Cairo."

"For Cairo?" I cried in amazement.

"For Cairo," he answered, with a smile. "And why not? Cairo is a most
delightful place, and I have important business in Egypt. Perhaps you
can guess what that business is."

"The mummy?" I answered at a hazard.

"Exactly," he replied, nodding his head; "the mummy. It is my intention
to restore it to the tomb from which your father sto--from which, shall
we say, your father removed it."

"And your proposition?"

"Is that you accompany us. The opportunity is one you should not let
slip. You will have a chance of seeing the land of the Pharaohs under
the most favourable auspices, and the hints you should derive for future
work should be invaluable to you. What do you say?"

To tell the truth I did not know what answer to give. I had all my life
long had a craving to visit that mysterious country, and, as I have said
elsewhere, I had quite made up my mind to do so at the end of the year.
Now an opportunity was afforded me of carrying out my intentions, and in
a most luxurious fashion. I remembered the extraordinary interest Pharos
had lent to the ruins of Pompeii that afternoon, and I felt sure that in
Egypt, since it was his native country, he would be able to do much
more. But it was not the prospect of what I should learn from him so
much as the knowledge that I should be for some weeks in the company of
Valerie de Vocxqal that tempted me. The thought that I should be with
her on board the yacht, and that I should be able to enjoy her society
uninterruptedly in the mystic land which had played such an important
part in my career, thrilled me to the centre of my being. That her life
was a far from happy one I was quite convinced, and it was just
possible, if I went with them, that I might be able to discover the seat
of the trouble and perhaps be in a position to assist her.

"What have you to say to my plan?" inquired Pharos. "Does not the idea
tempt you?"

"It tempts me exceedingly," I answered; "but the fact of the matter is I
had no intention of being absent so long from England."

"England will be still there when you get back," he continued with a
laugh. "Come, let it be decided that you will join us. I think I can
promise that you will enjoy the trip."

"I do not wish to appear discourteous," I said, "but would it not be
better for me to take till to-morrow morning to think it over?"

"It would be the most foolish policy possible," he answered, "for in
that case I feel convinced you would find some reason for not accepting
my invitation, and by so doing would deprive yourself of a chance which,
as I said just now, may never come again in your life. If Valerie were
here I feel sure she would add her voice to mine."

The mention of his ward's name decided me, and, with a recklessness that
forces a sigh from me now, I gave my promise to accompany them.

"I am very glad to hear it," said Pharos. "I think you have decided
wisely. We shall sail to-morrow evening at ten o'clock. My servants will
call for your luggage and will convey it and you on board. You need not
trouble yourself in any way."

I thanked him, and then, finding that it was close upon eleven o'clock,
took leave of him. That I was disappointed in not being permitted an
opportunity of saying farewell to his ward I will not deny. I feared
that she was offended with me for not having taken her advice earlier in
the evening. I did not mention the matter, however, to Pharos, but bade
him good-night, and, declining his offer to send me home in his
carriage, made my way into the hall and presently left the house. Having
crossed the courtyard, the ancient gate-keeper passed me out through a
small door beside the gates. The night was exceedingly warm, and as I
stepped into the street the moon was rising above the opposite
house-tops. Having made inquiries from Pharos, I had no doubt of being
able to make my way back to my hotel. Accordingly, as soon as I had
rewarded the _concierge_, and the gate had closed behind me, I set off
down the pavement at a brisk pace. I had not gone very far, however,
before a door opened in a garden wall, and a black figure stole forth
and addressed me by my name. It was the Fräulein Valerie.

"Mr. Forrester," she said, "I have come at great risk to meet you. You
would not listen to me this evening, but I implore you to do so now. If
you do not heed me and take my warning it may be too late."

The moon shone full and fair upon her face, revealing her wonderful
beauty and adding an ethereal charm to it which I had never noticed it
possessed before.

"Of what is it you would warn me, my dear lady?" I asked.

"I can not tell you," she answered, "for I do not know myself. But of
this I am certain, since he has interested himself in you and has
declared his desire for your friendship, it can not be for your good.
You do not know him as I do. You have no idea, it is impossible you
should, of what he is. For your own sake, Mr. Forrester, draw back while
you have time. Have no more to do with him. Shun his society, whatever
it casts you. You smile! Ah, if you only knew! I tell you this--it would
be better, far better, for you to die than to fall into his power."

I was touched by the earnestness with which she spoke, but more by the
sadness of her face.

"Fräulein," I said, "you speak as if you had done that yourself."

"I have," she answered. "I am in his power, and, as a result, I am lost
body and soul. It is for that reason I would save you. Take warning by
what I have said and leave Naples to-night. Never mind where you go--go
to Russia, to America, bury yourself in the wilds of Siberia or
Kamchatka--but get beyond his reach."

"It is too late," I answered. "The die is cast, for I have promised to
sail with him to Egypt to-morrow."

On hearing this she uttered a little cry and took a step away from me.

"You have promised to visit Egypt with him?" she cried, as if she could
scarcely believe she heard aright. "Oh! Mr. Forrester, what can you be
thinking of? I tell you it is fatal, suicidal! If you have any regard
for your own safety you will get away to-night, this very moment, and
never return to Naples or see him again."

In her agitation she clutched at my arm and held it tightly. I could
feel that she was trembling violently. Her touch, however, instead of
effecting the purpose she had in view, decided me on a contrary course.

"Fräulein," I said in a voice I should not at any other time have
recognised as my own, "you tell me that this man has you in his power?
You warn me of the dangers I run by permitting myself to associate with
him, and, having risked so much for me, you expect me to go away and
leave you to his mercy. I fear you must have a very poor opinion of me."

"I am only trying to save you," she answered. "The first day I saw you I
read disaster in your face, and from that moment I desired to prevent
it."

"But if you are so unhappy, why do you not attempt to save yourself?" I
asked. "Come, I will make a bargain with you. If I am to fly from this
man, you must do so too. Let us set off this moment. You are beyond the
walls now. Will you trust yourself to me? There is a steamer in the
harbour sailing at midnight. Let us board her and sail for Genoa, thence
anywhere you please. I have money, and I give you my word of honour as a
gentleman that I will leave nothing undone to promote your safety and
your happiness. Let us start at once and in half an hour we shall be rid
of him forever."

As I said this I took her arm and endeavoured to lead her down the
pavement, but she would not move.

"No, no," she said in a frightened whisper. "You do not know what you
are asking of me. Such a thing is impossible--hopelessly impossible.
However much I may desire to do so I can not escape. I am chained to him
for life by a bond that is stronger than fetters of steel. I can not
leave him. O God! I can not leave him!"

She fell back against the wall and once more covered her face with her
hands, while her slender frame shook with convulsive sobs.

"So be it then," I said; and as I did so I took off my hat. "If you will
not leave him, I swear before God I will not go alone! It is settled,
and I sail with him for Egypt to-morrow."

She did not attempt to dissuade me further, but, making her way to the
door in the wall through which she had entered the street, opened it and
disappeared within. I heard the bolts pushed to, and then I was in the
street alone.

"The die is cast," I said to myself. "Whether good or evil, I accompany
her to-morrow, and, once with her, I will not leave her until I am
certain that she no longer requires my help."

Then I resumed my walk to my hotel.



CHAPTER VIII.


The clocks of the city had struck ten on the following evening when I
left the carriage which Pharos had sent to convey me to the harbour,
and, escorted by his servant, the same who had sat beside the coachman
on the occasion of our drive home from Pompeii on the previous evening,
made my way down the landing-stage and took my place in the boat which
was waiting to carry me to the yacht.

Throughout the day I had seen nothing either of Pharos or his ward, nor
had I heard anything from the former save a message to the effect that
he had made arrangements for my getting on board. But if I had not seen
them I had at least thought about them--so much so, indeed, that I had
scarcely closed my eyes all night. And the more attention I bestowed
upon them the more difficult I found it to account for the curious
warning I had received from the Fräulein Valerie. What the danger was
which threatened me it was beyond my power to tell. I endeavoured to
puzzle it out, but in vain. Had it not been for that scene on the
Embankment, and his treatment of me in my own studio, to say nothing of
the suspicions I had erroneously entertained against him in respect of
the murder of the curiosity dealer, I should in all probability have
attributed it to a mere womanly superstition which, although it appeared
genuine enough to her, had no sort of foundation in fact. Knowing,
however, what I did, I could see that it behooved me, if only for the
sake of my own safety, to be more than cautious, and when I boarded the
yacht I did so with a full determination to keep my eyes wide open, and
to be prepared for trouble whenever or in whatever shape it might come.

On gaining the deck I was received by an elderly individual whom I
afterward discovered to be the captain. He informed me in French that
both Monsieur Pharos and the Fräulein Valerie had already arrived on
board and had retired to their cabins. The former had given instructions
that everything possible was to be done to promote my comfort, and,
having said this, the captain surrendered me to the charge of the
servant who had escorted me on board, and, bowing reverentially to me,
made some excuse about seeing the yacht under way and went forward. At
the request of the steward I passed along the deck to the
after-companion ladder, and thence to the saloon below. The evidence of
wealth I had had before me in the house in Naples had prepared me in
some measure for the magnificent vessel in which I now found myself;
nevertheless, I must confess to feeling astonished at the luxury I saw
displayed on every side. The saloon must have been upward of thirty feet
long by eighteen wide, and one glance round it showed me that the
decorations, the carpet, and the furniture, were the best that taste and
money could procure. With noiseless footfall the steward conducted me
across the saloon, and, opening a door on the port side, introduced me
to my cabin.

My luggage had preceded me, and, as it was now close upon eleven
o'clock, I determined to turn in and, if possible, get to sleep before
the vessel started.

When I woke in the morning we were at sea. Brilliant sunshine streamed
in through the porthole and danced on the white and gold panelling of
the cabin. Smart seas rattled against the hull and set the little craft
rolling till I began to think it was as well I was a good sailor,
otherwise I should scarcely have looked forward with such interest to
the breakfast I could hear preparing in the saloon outside.

As soon as I had dressed I made my way to the deck. It was a lovely
morning, a bright blue sky overhead, with a few snow-white clouds away
to the southwest to afford relief and to add to the beauty of the
picture. A smart sea was running, and more than once I had to make a
bolt for the companion-ladder in order to escape the spray which came
whistling over the bulwarks.

In the daylight the yacht looked bigger than she had done on the
previous night. At a rough guess she scarcely could have been less than
four hundred tons. Her captain, so I afterward discovered, was a Greek,
but of what nationality her crew were composed I was permitted no
opportunity of judging. One thing is very certain--they were not
English, nor did their behaviour realise my notion of the typical
sailor. There was none of that good-humoured chaff or horseplay which is
supposed to characterise the calling. These men, for the most part, were
middle-aged, taciturn and gloomy fellows, who did their work with
automaton-like regularity, but without interest or apparent good-will.
The officers, with the exception of the captain, I had not yet seen.

Punctually on the stroke of eight bells a steward emerged from the
companion and came aft to inform me that breakfast was served. I
inquired if my host and hostess were in the saloon, but was informed
that Pharos made it a rule never to rise before midday, and that on
this occasion the Fräulein Valerie intended taking the meal in her own
cabin and begged me to excuse her. Accordingly, I sat down alone, and
when I had finished returned to the deck and lit a cigar. The sea by
this time had moderated somewhat and the vessel in consequence was
making better progress. For upward of half an hour I tramped the deck
religiously and then returned to my favourite position aft. Leaning my
elbows on the rail, I stood gazing at the curdling wake, watching the
beautiful blending of white and green created by the screw.

I was still occupied in this fashion when I heard my name spoken, and,
turning, found the Fräulein Valerie standing before me. She was dressed
in some dark material, which not only suited her complexion but
displayed the exquisite outline of her figure to perfection.

"Good-morning, Mr. Forrester," she said, holding out her white hand to
me. "I must apologise to you for my rudeness in not having joined you at
breakfast; but I was tired and did not feel equal to getting up so
early."

There was a troubled look in her eyes which told me that while she had
not forgotten our interview of two nights before, she was determined not
to refer to it in any way or even to permit me to suppose that she
remembered it. I accordingly resolved to follow her example, though, if
the truth must be confessed, there were certain questions I was more
than desirous of putting to her.

"Since you are on deck the first morning out, I presume you are fond of
the sea?" I said, in a matter-of-fact voice, after we had been standing
together for some moments.

"I love it," she answered fervently; "and the more so because I am a
good sailor. In the old days, when my father was alive, I was never
happier than when we were at sea, away from land and all its attendant
troubles."

She paused, and I saw her eyes fill with tears. In a few moments,
however, she recovered her composure and began to talk of the various
countries with which we were mutually acquainted. As it soon transpired,
she had visited almost every capital in Europe since she had been with
Pharos, but for what purpose I could not discover. The most eastern side
of Russia and the most western counties of England were equally well
known to her. In an unguarded moment I asked her which city she
preferred.

"Is it possible I could have any preference?" she asked, almost
reproachfully. "If you were condemned to imprisonment for life, do you
think it would matter to you what colour your captors painted your cell,
or of what material the wall was composed that you looked upon through
your barred windows? Such is my case. My freedom is gone, and for that
reason I take no sort of interest in the places to which my gaoler leads
me."

To this speech I offered no reply, nor could I see that one was needed.
We were standing upon dangerous ground and I hastened to get off it as
soon as possible. I fear, however, I must have gone clumsily to work,
for she noticed my endeavour and smiled a little bitterly, I thought.
Then, making some excuse, she left me and returned below.

It was well past midday before Pharos put in an appearance. Whether at
sea or ashore he made no difference in his costume. He wore the same
heavy coat and curious cap that I remembered seeing that night at
Cleopatra's Needle.

"I fear, my dear Forrester," he said, "you will think me a discourteous
host for not having remained on deck last night to receive you. My age,
however, must be my excuse. I trust you have been made comfortable?"

"The greatest Sybarite could scarcely desire to be more comfortable," I
answered. "I congratulate you upon your vessel and her appointments."

"Yes," he answered, looking along the deck, "she is a good little craft,
and, as you may suppose, exceedingly useful to me at times."

As he said this a curious expression came into his face. It was as if
the memory of an occasion on which this vessel had carried him beyond
the reach of pursuit had suddenly occurred to him. Exquisite, however,
as the pleasure it afforded him seemed to be, I can not say that it
pleased me as much. It revived unpleasant memories, and just at the time
when I was beginning to forget my first distrust of him.

After a few moments' further conversation he expressed a desire to show
me the vessel, an invitation which, needless to say, I accepted with
alacrity. We first visited the smoking-room on deck, then the bridge,
after that the engine-room, and later on the men's quarters forward.
Retracing our steps aft we descended to the saloon, upon the beauty of
which I warmly congratulated him.

"I am rejoiced that it meets with your approval," he said gravely. "It
is usually admired. And now, having seen all this, perhaps it would
interest you to inspect the quarters of the owner."

This was exactly what I desired to do, for from a man's sleeping
quarters it is often possible to obtain some clue as to his real
character.

Bidding me follow him, he led me along the saloon to a cabin at the
farther end. With the remembrance of all I had seen in the other parts
of the vessel still fresh in my mind, I was prepared to find the owner's
berth replete with every luxury. My surprise may therefore be imagined
when I discovered a tiny cabin, scarcely half the size of that occupied
by myself, not only devoid of luxury, but lacking much of what is
usually considered absolutely necessary. On the starboard side was the
bunk, a plain wooden affair, in which were neatly folded several pairs
of coarse woollen blankets. Against the bulwark was the wash-hand-stand,
and under the port a settee, covered with a fur rug, on which was curled
up the monkey Pehtes. That was all. Nay, I am wrong--it was not all. For
in a corner, carefully secured so that the movement of the vessel should
not cause it to fall, was no less a thing than the mummy Pharos had
stolen from me, and which was the first and foremost cause of my being
where I was. From what he had told me of his errand I had surmised it
might be on board; but I confess I scarcely expected to find it in the
owner's cabin. With the sight of it the recollection of my studio rose
before my eyes, and not only of the studio, but of that terrible night
when the old man now standing beside me had called upon me and had used
such diabolical means to obtain possession of the thing he wanted. In
reality it was scarcely a week since Lady Medenham's "at home"; but the
gulf that separated the man I was then from the man I was now seemed one
of centuries.

Accompanied by Pharos I returned to the deck, convinced that I was as
far removed from an understanding of this strange individual's character
as I had been since I had known him. Of the Fräulein Valerie I saw
nothing until late in the afternoon. She was suffering from a severe
headache, so the steward informed Pharos, and was not equal to leaving
her cabin.

That this news was not palatable to my companion I gathered from the way
in which his face darkened. However, he pretended to feel only
solicitude for her welfare, and, having instructed the steward to convey
his sympathy to her, returned to his conversation with me. In this
fashion, reading, talking, and perambulating the deck, the remainder of
the day passed away, and it was not until we sat down to dinner at night
that our party in the saloon was united. On board the yacht, as in his
house in Naples, the cooking was perfection itself, but, as on that
other occasion, Pharos did not partake of it. He dined as usual upon
fruit and small wheaten cakes, finishing his meal by pouring the powder
into the glass of water and drinking it off as before.

When we rose from the table my host and hostess retired to their
respective cabins, while I lit a cigar and went on deck. The sun was
just disappearing below the horizon and a wonderful hush had fallen upon
the sea. Scarcely a ripple disturbed its glassy surface, while the track
the vessel left behind her seemed to lead across the world into the very
eye of the sinking sun beyond. There was something awe-inspiring in the
beauty and stillness of the evening. It was like the hush that precedes
a violent storm, and seeing the captain near the entrance to the
smoking-room, I made my way along the deck and accosted him, inquiring
what he thought of the weather.

"I scarcely know what to think of it, monsieur," he answered in French.
"The glass has fallen considerably since morning. My own opinion is that
it is working up for a storm."

I agreed with him, and after a few moments' more conversation, thanked
him for his courtesy and returned aft.

Reaching the skylight, I seated myself upon it. The glasses were lifted
and through the open space I could see into the saloon below. The mellow
light of the shaded electric lamps shone upon the rich decorations and
the inlaid furniture and was reflected in the mirrors on the walls. As
far as I could see no one was present. I was about to rise and move away
when a sound came from the Fräulein Valerie's cabin that caused me to
remain where I was. Someone was speaking, and that person was a woman.
Knowing there was no other of her sex on board, this puzzled me more
than I can say. The voice was harsh, monotonous, unmusical, and grated
strangely upon the ear. There was a pause, then another, which I
instantly recognised as belonging to Pharos, commenced.

I had no desire to play the eavesdropper, but for some reason which I
can not explain I could not choose but listen.

"Come," Pharos was saying in German, "thou canst not disobey me. Hold my
hand so, open thine eyes, and tell me what thou seest!"

There was a pause for a space in which I could have counted fifty. Then
the woman's voice answered as slowly and monotonously as before:

"I see a sandy plain, which stretches as far as the eye can reach in all
directions save one. On that side it is bordered by a range of hills. I
see a collection of tents, and in the one nearest me a man tossing on a
bed of sickness."

"Is it he? The man thou knowest?"

There was another pause, and when she answered, the woman's voice was
even harsher than before:

"It is he."

"What dost thou see now?"

"I am in the dark, and see nothing."

"Hold my hand and wait, thou wilt see more plainly anon. Now that thine
eyes are accustomed to the darkness, describe to me the place in which
thou standest."

There was another interval. Then she began again:

"I am in a dark and gloomy cavern. The roof is supported by heavy
pillars, and they are carved in a style I have never seen before. On the
ceilings and walls are paintings, and lying on a slab of stone--a dead
man!"

Once more there was a long silence, until I began to think that I must
have missed the next question and answer, and that this extraordinary
catechism had terminated. Then the voice of Pharos recommenced:

"Place thine hand in mine and look once more."

This time the answer was even more bewildering than before.

"I see death," said the voice. "Death on every hand. It continues night
and day, and the world is full of wailing!"

"It is well, I am satisfied," said Pharos. "Now lie down and sleep. In
an hour thou wilt wake and wilt remember naught of what thou hast
revealed to me."

Unable to make anything of what I had heard, I rose from the place where
I had been sitting and began to pace the deck. The remembrance of the
conversation to which I had listened irritated me beyond measure. Had I
been permitted another insight into the deviltry of Pharos, or what was
the meaning of it? I was still thinking of this when I heard a step
behind me, and turning, found the man himself approaching me. In the dim
light of the deck the appearance he presented was not prepossessing, but
when he approached me I discovered he was in the best of humours, in
fact in better spirits than I had ever yet seen him.

"I have been looking for you, Mr. Forrester," he said. "It is delightful
on deck, and I am in just the humour for a chat."

I felt an inclination to tell him that I was not so ready, but before I
could give him an answer he had noticed my preoccupation.

"You have something on your mind," he said. "I fear you are not as
pleased with my hospitality as I could wish you to be. What is amiss? Is
there anything I can do to help you?"

"Nothing, I thank you," I answered a little stiffly. "I have a slight
headache and am not much disposed for conversation this evening."

Though the excuse I made was virtually true, I did not tell him that I
had only felt it since I had overheard his conversation a few minutes
before.

"You must let me cure you," he answered. "I am vain enough to flatter
myself I have some knowledge of medicine."

I was beginning to wonder if there was anything of which he was
ignorant. At the same time I was so suspicious of him that I had no
desire to permit him to practise his arts on me. I accordingly thanked
him, but declined his services, on the pretext that my indisposition was
too trifling to call for so much trouble.

"As you will," he answered carelessly. "If you are not anxious to be
cured, you must, of course, continue to suffer."

So saying, he changed the subject, and for upward of half an hour we
wandered in the realm of art, discussing the methods of painters past
and present. Upon this subject, as upon every other, I was amazed at the
extent and depth of his learning. His taste, I discovered, was
cosmopolitan, but if he had any preference it was for the early Tuscan
school. We were still debating this point when a dark figure emerged
from the companion and came along the deck toward us. Seeing that it was
the Fräulein Valerie, I rose from my chair.

"How hot the night is, Mr. Forrester!" she said, as she came up to us.
"There is thunder in the air, I am sure, and if I am not mistaken we
shall have a storm before morning."

"I think it more than likely," I answered. "It is extremely oppressive
below."

"It is almost unbearable," she answered, as she took the seat I offered
her. "Notwithstanding that fact, I believe I must have fallen asleep in
my cabin, for I can not remember what I have been doing since dinner."

Recalling the conversation I had overheard, and which had concluded with
the instruction, "In an hour thou wilt wake and wilt remember naught of
what thou hast revealed to me," I glanced at Pharos; but his face told
me nothing.

"I fear you are not quite yourself, my dear," said the latter in a
kindly tone, as he leaned toward her and placed his skinny hand upon her
arm. "As you say, it must be the thundery evening. Our friend Forrester
here is complaining of a headache. Though he will not let me experiment
upon him, I think I shall have to see what I can do for you. I will
consult my medicine chest at once."

With this he rose from his seat and, bidding us farewell, went below.

Presently the Fräulein rose and side by side we walked aft to the
taffrail. Though I did my best to rouse her from the lethargy into which
she had fallen, I was unsuccessful. She stood with her slender hands
clasping the rail before her and her great, dark eyes staring out across
the waste of water. Never had she looked more beautiful and certainly
never more sad. Her unhappiness touched me to the heart, and, under the
influence of my emotion, I approached a little nearer to her.

"You are unhappy," I said. "Is there no way in which I can help you?"

"Not one," she answered bitterly, still gazing steadfastly out to sea.
"I am beyond the reach of help. Can you realise what it means, Mr.
Forrester, to be beyond the reach of help?"

The greatest tragedienne the world has seen could not have invested
those terrible words with greater or more awful meaning.

"No, no," I said; "I can not believe that. You are overwrought to-night.
You are not yourself. You say things you do not mean."

This time she turned on me almost fiercely.

"Mr. Forrester," she said, "you try to console me; but, as I am beyond
the reach of help, so I am also beyond the reach of comfort. If you
could have but the slightest conception of what my life is, you would
not wonder that I am so wretched."

"Will you not tell me about it?" I answered. "I think you know by this
time that I may be trusted." Then, sinking my voice a little, I added a
sentence that I could scarcely believe I had uttered when the words had
passed my lips. "Valerie, if you do not already know it, let me tell you
that, although we have not known each other a fortnight, I would give my
life to serve you."

"And I believe you and thank you for it from the bottom of my heart,"
she answered with equal earnestness; "but I can tell you nothing." Then,
after an interval of silence that must have lasted for some minutes, she
declared her intention of going below.

I accompanied her as far as the saloon, where she once more gave me her
hand and wished me good-night. As soon as her door had closed behind her
I went to my own cabin, scarcely able to realise that I had said what I
had.

I do not know whether it was the heat, or whether it was the excitement
under which I was labouring. At any rate, I soon discovered that I could
not sleep. Valerie's beautiful, sad face haunted me continually. Hour
after hour I lay awake, thinking of her and wondering what the mystery
could be that surrounded her. The night was oppressively still. Save the
throbbing of the screw, not a sound was to be heard. The yacht was upon
an even keel, and scarcely a wavelet splashed against her side. At last
I could bear the stifling cabin no longer, so, rising from my bunk, I
dressed myself and sought the coolness of the deck. It was now close
upon one o'clock, and when I emerged from the companion the moon was a
hand's-breadth above the sea line, rising like a ball of gold. I seemed
to have the entire world to myself. Around me was the glassy sea, black
as ink, save where the moon shone upon it. Treading softly, as if I
feared my footsteps would wake the sleeping ship, I stepped out of the
companion and was about to make my way aft when something I saw before
me caused me to stop. Standing on the grating which extended the whole
width of the stern behind the after wheel, was a man whom I had no
difficulty in recognising as Pharos. His hands were lifted above his
head as if he were invoking the assistance of the Goddess of the Night.
His head was thrown back, and from the place where I stood I could
distinctly see the expression upon it. Anything more fiendish could
scarcely be imagined. It was not the face of a human being, but that of
a ghoul, so repulsive and yet so fascinating was it. Try how I would, I
could not withdraw my eyes; and while I watched he spread his arms apart
and cried something aloud in a language I did not recognise. For upward
of a minute he remained in this attitude, then, descending from the
grating, he made his way slowly along the deck and came toward the place
where I stood.

Afraid of I know not what, I shrank back into the shadow of the hatch.
Had he discovered my presence I feel convinced, in the humour in which
he then was, he would have done his best to kill me. Fortunately,
however, my presence was unsuspected, and he went below without seeing
me. Then, wiping great beads of sweat from my forehead, I stumbled to
the nearest skylight, and, seating myself upon it, endeavoured to regain
my composure. Once more I asked myself the question, "Who and what was
this man into whose power I had fallen?"



CHAPTER IX.


The captain was not very far out in his reckoning when he prophesied
that the unusual calm of the previous evening betokened the approach of
a storm. Every one who has had experience of the Mediterranean is aware
with what little warning gales spring up. At daybreak the weather may be
all that can be desired, and in the evening your ship is fighting her
way along in the teeth of a hurricane. In this particular instance, when
I turned into my bunk after the fright Pharos had given me, as narrated
in the preceding chapter, the sea was as smooth as glass and the sky
innocent of a single cloud. When I opened my eyes on the morning
following, the yacht was being pitched up and down and to and fro like a
cork. A gale of wind was blowing overhead, while every timber sent forth
an indignant protest against the barbarity to which it was being
subjected. From the pantry, beyond the saloon companion-ladder, a
clatter of breaking glass followed every roll, while I was able to
estimate the magnitude of the seas the little vessel was encountering by
the number of times her propeller raced as she hung suspended in
mid-air. For upward of an hour I remained in my bunk, thinking of the
singular events of the night before and telling myself that were it not
for the Fräulein Valerie I could find it in my heart to wish myself out
of the yacht and back in my own comfortable studio once more. By seven
o'clock my curiosity was so excited as to what was doing on deck that I
could no longer remain inactive. I accordingly scrambled out of bed and
dressed myself, a proceeding which, owing to the movement of the vessel,
was attended with no small amount of difficulty, and then, clutching at
everything that would permit of a grip, I passed out of the saloon and
made my way up the companion-ladder. On glancing through the portholes
there, a scene of indescribable tumult met my eye. In place of the calm
and almost monotonous stretch of blue water across which we had been
sailing so peacefully less than twenty-four hours before, I now saw a
wild and angry sea, upon which dark, leaden clouds looked down. The gale
was from the north-east and beat upon our port quarter with relentless
fury.

My horizon being limited in the companion, I turned the handle and
prepared to step on to the deck outside. It was only when I had done so
that I realised how strong the wind was; it caught the door and dashed
it from my hand as if it had been made of paper, while the cap I had
upon my head was whisked off and carried away into the swirl of grey
water astern before I had time to clap my hand to it. Undaunted,
however, by this mishap, I shut the door, and, hanging on to the
hand-rail, lest I too should be washed overboard, made my way forward
and eventually reached the ladder leading to the bridge. By the time I
put my foot upon the first step I was quite exhausted and had to pause
in order to recover my breath; and yet, if it was so bad below, how
shall I describe the scene which greeted my eyes when I stood upon the
bridge itself? From that dizzy height I was better able to estimate the
magnitude of the waves and the capabilities of the little vessel for
withstanding them.

The captain, sea-booted and clad in sou'wester and oilskins, came
forward and dragged me to a place of safety as soon as he became aware
of my presence. I saw his lips move, but what with the shrieking of the
wind in the shrouds and the pounding of the seas on the deck below, what
he said was quite inaudible. Once in the corner to which he led me, I
clung to the rails like a drowning man and regarded the world above my
canvas screen in silent consternation. And I had excellent reasons for
being afraid, for the picture before me was one that might have appalled
the stoutest heart. Violent as the sea had appeared from the port of the
companion hatch, it looked doubly so now; and the higher the waves, the
deeper the valleys in between. Tossed to and fro, her bows one moment in
mid-air and the next pointing to the bottom of the ocean, it seemed
impossible so frail a craft could long withstand the buffeting she was
receiving. She rolled without ceasing, long, sickening movements
followed on each occasion by a death-like pause that made the heart
stand still and forced the belief upon one that she could never right
herself again. Times out of number I searched the captain's face in the
hope of deriving some sort of encouragement from it; but I found none.
On the other hand, it was plain, from the glances he now and again threw
back along the vessel, and from the strained expression that was never
absent from his eyes, that he was as anxious as myself, and, since he
was more conversant with her capabilities, with perhaps greater reason.
Only the man at the wheel--a tall, gaunt individual, with bushy eyebrows
and the largest hands I have ever seen on a human being--seemed
undisturbed. Despite the fact that upon his handling of those frail
spokes depended the lives of twenty human creatures, he was as undaunted
by the war of the elements going on around him as if he were sitting by
the fireside, smoking his pipe, ashore.

For upward of half an hour I remained where the captain had placed me,
drenched by the spray, listening to the dull thud of the seas as they
broke upon the deck below, and watching with an interest that amounted
almost to a pain the streams of water that sluiced backward and forward
across the bridge every time she rolled. Then, summoning all my courage,
for I can assure you it was needed, I staggered toward the ladder and
once more prepared to make my way below. I had not reached the deck,
however, and fortunately my hands had not quitted the guide rails, when
a wave larger than any I had yet seen mounted the bulwark and dashed
aboard, carrying away a boat and twisting the davits, from which it had
been suspended a moment before, like pieces of bent wire. Had I
descended a moment earlier, nothing could have prevented me from being
washed overboard. With a feeling of devout thankfulness in my heart for
my escape, I remained where I was, clinging to the ladder long after the
sea had passed and disappeared through the scuppers. Then I descended
and, holding on to the rails as before, eventually reached the saloon
entrance in safety.

To be inside, in that still, warm atmosphere, out of the pressure of the
wind, was a relief beyond all telling, though what sort of object I must
have looked, with my hair blown in all directions by the wind and my
clothes soaked through and through by the spray that had dashed upon me
on the bridge, is more than I can say. Thinking it advisable I should
change as soon as possible, I made my way to my own cabin, but, before I
reached it, the door of that occupied by the Fräulein Valerie opened and
she came out. That something unusual was the matter I saw at a glance.

"Mr. Forrester," she said, with a scorn in her voice that cut like a
knife, "come here. I have something curious to show you."

I did as she wished, and forthwith she led me to her cabin. I was not
prepared, however, for what I found there. Crouching in a corner, almost
beside himself with fear, and with the frightened face of the monkey
Pehtes peering out from beneath his coat, was no less a person than
Pharos, the man I had hitherto supposed insensible to such an emotion.
In the presence of that death, however, which we all believed to be so
imminent, he showed himself a coward past all believing. Terror
incarnate stared from his eyes and rendered him unconscious of our
scorn. At every roll the vessel gave he shrank farther into his corner,
glaring at us meanwhile with a ferocity that was not very far removed
from madness.

At any other time and in any other person such an exhibition might have
been conducive of pity; in his case, however, it only added to the
loathing I already felt for him. One thing was very certain, in his
present condition he was no fit companion for the woman who stood
clinging to the door behind me. I accordingly determined to get him
either to his own cabin or to mine without delay.

"Come, come, Monsieur Pharos," I said, "you must not give way like this.
I have been on deck, and I can assure you there is no immediate danger."

As I said this I stooped and placed my hand upon his shoulder. He threw
it off with a snarl and a snap of his teeth that was more like the
action of a mad dog than that of a man.

"You lie, you lie!" he cried in a paroxysm of rage and fear. "I am
cursed, and I shall never see land again. But I will not die--I will not
die! There must be some way of keeping the yacht afloat. The captain
must find one. If any one is to be saved it must be me. Do you hear what
I say? It must be me."

For the abominable selfishness of this remark I could have struck him.

"Are you a man that you can talk like this in the presence of a woman?"
I cried. "For shame, sir, for shame! Get up and let me conduct you to
your own cabin."

With this I lifted him to his feet and, whether he liked it or not, half
led and half dragged him along the saloon to his own quarters. Once
there I placed him on his settee, but the next roll of the vessel
brought him to the floor and left him crouching in the corner, still
clutching the monkey, his knees almost level with his shoulders, and his
awful face looking up at me between them. The whole affair was so
detestable that my gorge rose at it, and when I left him I returned to
the saloon with a greater detestation of him in my heart than I had felt
before. I found the Fräulein Valerie seated at the table.

"Fräulein," I said, seating myself beside her, "I am afraid you have
been needlessly alarmed. As I said in there, I give you my word there is
no immediate danger."

"I _am_ frightened," she answered. "See how my hands are trembling. But
it is not death I fear."

"You fear that man," I said, nodding my head in the direction of the
cabin I had just left; "but I assure you, you need not do so, for
to-day, at least, he is harmless."

"Ah! you do not know him as I do," she replied. "I have seen him like
this before. As soon as the storm abates he will be himself again, and
then he will hate us both the more for having been witnesses of his
cowardice." Then, sinking her voice a little, she added: "I often
wonder, Mr. Forrester, whether he can be human. If so, he must be the
only one of his kind in the world, for Nature surely could not permit
two such men to live."



CHAPTER X.


It was almost dark when the yacht entered the harbour of Port Said,
though the sky at the back of the town still retained the last lingering
colours of the sunset, which had been more beautiful that evening than I
ever remembered to have seen it before. Well acquainted as I was with
the northern shores of the Mediterranean, this was the first time I had
been brought into contact with the southern, and, what was more
important, it was also the first occasion on which I had joined hands
with the Immemorial East. In the old days I had repeatedly heard it said
by travellers that Port Said was a place not only devoid of interest,
but entirely lacking in artistic colour. I take the liberty of
disagreeing with my informants _in toto_. Port Said greeted me with the
freshness of a new life. The colouring and quaint architecture of the
houses, the vociferous boatmen, the monotonous chant of the Arab
coalers, the string of camels I could just make out turning the corner
of a distant street, the donkey boys, the Soudanese soldiers at the
barriers, and last, but by no means least, the crowd of shipping in the
harbour, constituted a picture that was as full of interest as it was of
new impressions.

As soon as we were at anchor and the necessary formalities of the port
had been complied with, Pharos's servant, the man who had accompanied us
from Pompeii and who had brought me on board in Naples, made his way
ashore, whence he returned in something less than an hour to inform us
that he had arranged for a special train to convey us to our
destination. We accordingly bade farewell to the yacht and were driven
to the railway-station, a primitive building on the outskirts of the
town. Here an engine and a single carriage awaited us. We took our
places and five minutes later were steaming across the flat sandy plain
that borders the Canal and separates it from the Bitter Lakes.

Ever since the storm, and the unpleasant insight it had afforded me into
Pharos's character, our relations had been somewhat strained. As the
Fräulein Valerie had predicted, as soon as he recovered his
self-possession, he hated me the more for having been a witness of his
cowardice. For the remainder of the voyage he scarcely put in an
appearance on deck, but spent the greater portion of his time in his own
cabin, though in what manner he occupied himself there I could not
imagine.

Now that we were in our railway carriage, _en route_ to Cairo, looking
out upon that dreary landscape, with its dull expanse of water on one
side, and the high bank of the Canal, with, occasionally, glimpses of
the passing stations, on the other, we were brought into actual contact,
and, in consequence, things improved somewhat. But even then we could
scarcely have been described as a happy party. The Fräulein Valerie sat
for the most part silent and preoccupied, facing the engine in the
right-hand corner; Pharos, wrapped in his heavy fur coat and rug, and
with his inevitable companion cuddled up beside him, had taken his place
opposite her. I sat in the farther corner, watching them both and dimly
wondering at the strangeness of my position. At Ismailia another train
awaited us, and when we and our luggage had been transshipped to it, we
continued our journey, entering now on the region of the desert proper.
The heat was almost unbearable, and to make matters worse, as soon as
darkness fell and the lamps were lighted, swarms of mosquitoes emerged
from their hiding-places and descended upon us. The train rolled and
jolted its way over the sandy plain, passed the battle-fields of
Tel-el-Kebir and Kassassin, and still Pharos and the woman opposite him
remained seated in the same position, he with his head thrown back, and
the same death-like expression upon his face, and she staring out of the
window, but, I am certain, seeing nothing of the country through which
we were passing. It was long after midnight when we reached the capital.
Once more the same obsequious servant was in attendance. A carriage, he
informed us, awaited our arrival at the station door, and in it we were
whirled off to the hotel, at which rooms had been engaged for us.
However disagreeable Pharos might make himself, it was at least certain
that to travel with him was to do so in luxury.

Of all the impressions I received that day, none struck me with greater
force than the drive from the station to the hotel. I had expected to
find a typical Eastern city; in place of it I was confronted with one
that was almost Parisian, as far as its handsome houses and broad
tree-shaded streets were concerned. Nor was our hotel behind it in point
of interest. It proved to be a gigantic affair, elaborately decorated in
the Egyptian fashion, and replete, as the advertisements say, with every
modern convenience. The owner himself met us at the entrance, and from
the fact that he informed Pharos, with the greatest possible respect,
that his old suite of rooms had been retained for him, I gathered that
they were not strangers to each other.

"At last we are in Cairo, Mr. Forrester," said the latter, with an ugly
sneer, when we had reached our sitting-room, in which a meal had been
prepared for us, "and the dream of your life is realised. I hasten to
offer you my congratulations."

In my own mind I had a doubt as to whether it was a matter of
congratulation to me to be there in his company. I, however, made an
appropriate reply, and then assisted the Fräulein Valerie to divest
herself of her travelling cloak. When she had done so we sat down to our
meal. The long railway journey had made us hungry, but, though I
happened to know that he had tasted nothing for more than eight hours,
Pharos would not join us. As soon as we had finished we bade each other
good-night and retired to our various apartments.

On reaching my room I threw open my window and looked out. I could
scarcely believe that I was in the place in which my father had taken
such delight and where he had spent so many of the happiest hours of his
life.

When I woke, my first thought was to study the city from my bedroom
window. It was an exquisite morning, and the scene before me more than
equalled it in beauty. From where I stood I looked away across the flat
roofs of houses, over the crests of palm trees, into the blue distance
beyond, where, to my delight, I could just discern the Pyramids peering
up above the Nile. In the street below stalwart Arabs, donkey boys, and
almost every variety of beggar could be seen, and while I watched,
emblematical of the change in the administration of the country, a guard
of Highlanders, with a piper playing at their head, marched by _en
route_ to the headquarters of the Army of Occupation.

As usual, Pharos did not put in an appearance when breakfast was served.
Accordingly, the Fräulein and I sat down to it alone. When we had
finished we made our way to the cool stone veranda, where we seated
ourselves, and I obtained permission to smoke a cigarette. That my
companion had something upon her mind I was morally convinced. She
appeared nervous and ill at ease, and I noticed that more than once,
when I addressed some remark to her, she glanced eagerly at my face as
if she hoped to obtain an opening for what she wanted to say, and then,
finding that I was only commenting on the stateliness of some Arab
passer-by, the beautiful peep of blue sky permitted us between two white
buildings opposite, or the graceful foliage of a palm overhanging a
neighbouring wall, she would heave a sigh and turn impatiently from me
again.

"Mr. Forrester," she said at last, when she could bear it no longer, "I
intended to have spoken to you yesterday, but I was not vouchsafed an
opportunity. You told me on board the yacht that there was nothing you
would not do to help me. I have a favour to ask of you now. Will you
grant it?"

Guessing from her earnestness what was coming, I hesitated before I
replied.

"Would it not be better to leave it to my honour to do or not to do so
after you have told me what it is?" I asked.

"No; you must give me your promise first," she replied. "Believe me, I
mean it when I say that your compliance with my request will make me a
happier woman than I have been for some time past." Here she blushed a
rosy red, as though she thought she had said too much. "But it is
possible my happiness does not weigh with you."

"It weighs very heavily," I replied. "It is on that account I can not
give my promise blindfold."

On hearing this she seemed somewhat disappointed.

"I did not think you would refuse me," she said, "since what I am going
to ask of you is only for your own good. Mr. Forrester, you have seen
something on board the yacht of the risk you run while you are
associated with Pharos. You are now on land again and your own master.
If you desire to please me, you will take the opportunity and go away.
Every hour that you remain here only adds to your danger. The crisis
will soon come, and then you will find that you have neglected my
warning too long."

"Forgive me," I answered, this time as seriously as even she could
desire, "if I say that I have not neglected your warning. Since you have
so often pointed it out to me, and judging from what I have already seen
of the character of the old gentleman in question, I can quite believe
that he is capable of any villainy; but, if you will pardon my reminding
you of it, I think you have heard my decision before. I am willing, nay,
even eager to go away, provided you will do the same. If, however, you
decline, then I remain. More than that I will not, and less than that I
can not, promise."

"What you ask is impossible; it is out of the question," she continued.
"As I have told you so often before, Mr. Forrester, I am bound to him
forever and by chains that no human power can break. What is more, even
if I were to do as you wish, it would be useless. The instant he wanted
me, if he were thousands of miles away and only breathed my name, I
should forget your kindness, my freedom, his old cruelty--everything, in
fact--and go back to him. Have you not seen enough of us to know that
where he is concerned, I have no will of my own? Besides--but there, I
can not tell you any more! Let it suffice that I can not do as you ask."

Remembering the interview I had overheard that night on board the yacht,
I did not know what to say. That Pharos had her under his influence I
had, as she had said, seen enough to be convinced. And yet, regarded in
the light of our sober, every-day life, how impossible it all seemed! I
looked at the beautiful, fashionably-dressed woman seated by my side,
playing with the silver handle of her Parisian parasol, and wondered if
I could be dreaming, and whether I should presently waken to find myself
in bed in my comfortable rooms in London once more, and my servant
entering with my shaving-water.

"I think you are very cruel!" she said, when I returned no answer.
"Surely you must be aware how much it adds to my unhappiness to know
that another is being drawn into his toils, and yet you refuse to do the
one and only thing which can make my mind easier."

"Fräulein," I said, rising and standing before her, "the first time I
saw you I knew that you were unhappy. I could see that the canker of
some great sorrow was eating into your heart. I wished that I could help
you, and Fate accordingly willed that I should make your acquaintance.
Afterward, by a terrible series of coincidences, I was brought into
personal contact with your life. I found that my first impression was a
correct one. You were miserable, as, thank God! few human beings are. On
the night that I dined with you in Naples you warned me of the risk I
was running in associating with Pharos and implored me to save myself.
When I knew that you were bound hand and foot to him, can you wonder
that I declined? Since then I have been permitted further opportunities
of seeing what your life with him is like. Once more you ask me to save
myself, and once more I make you this answer. If you will accompany me,
I will go; and if you do so, I swear to God that I will protect and
shield you to the best of my ability. I have many influential friends
who will count it an honour to take you into their families until
something can be arranged, and with whom you will be safe. On the other
hand, if you will not go, I pledge you my word that so long as you
remain in this man's company I will do so too. No argument will shake my
determination and no entreaty move me from the position I have taken
up."

I searched her face for some sign of acquiescence, but could find none.
It was bloodless in its pallor, and yet so beautiful that at any other
time and in any other place I should have been compelled by the love I
felt for her--a love that I now knew to be stronger than life itself--to
take her in my arms and tell her that she was the only woman in the wide
world for me, that I would protect her, not only against Pharos, but
against his master Apollyon himself. Now, however, such a confession was
impossible. Situated as we were, hemmed in by dangers on every side, to
speak of love to her would have been little better than an insult.

"What answer do you give me?" I said, seeing that she did not speak.

"Only that you are cruel," she replied. "You know my misery, and yet you
add to it. Have I not told you that I should be a happier woman if you
went?"

"You must forgive me for saying so, but I do not believe it," I said,
with a boldness and a vanity that surprised even myself. "No, Fräulein,
do not let us play at cross-purposes. It is evident you are afraid of
this man, and that you believe yourself to be in his power. I feel
convinced it is not as bad as you say. Look at it in a matter-of-fact
light and tell me how it can be so? Supposing you leave him now, and we
fly, shall we say, to London. You are your own mistress and quite at
liberty to go. At any rate, you are not his property to do with as he
likes, so if he follows you and persists in annoying you, there are many
ways of inducing him to refrain from doing so."

She shook her head.

"Once more, I say, how little you know him, Mr. Forrester, and how
poorly you estimate his powers! Since you have forced me to it, let me
tell you that I have twice tried to do what you propose--once in St.
Petersburg and once in Norway. He had terrified me, and I swore that I
would rather die than see his face again. Almost starving, supporting
myself as best I could by my music, I made my way to Moscow, thence to
Kiev and Lemburg, and across the Carpathians to Buda-Pesth. Some old
friends of my father's, to whom I was ultimately forced to appeal, took
me in. I remained with them a month, and during that time heard nothing
either of or from Monsieur Pharos. Then, one night, when I sat alone in
my bedroom, after my friends had retired to rest, a strange feeling that
I was not alone in the room came over me--a feeling that something, I do
not know what, was standing behind me, urging me to leave the house and
to go out into the wood which adjoined it, to meet the man whom I feared
more than poverty, more than starvation, more even than death itself.
Unable to refuse, or even to argue with myself, I rose, drew a cloak
about my shoulders and, descending the stairs, unbarred a door and went
swiftly down the path toward the dark wood to which I have just
referred. Incredible as it may seem, I had not been deceived. Pharos
was there, seated on a fallen tree, waiting for me."

"And the result?"

"The result was that I never returned to the house, nor have I any
recollection of what happened at our interview. The next thing I
remember was finding myself in Paris. Months afterward I learned that my
friends had searched high and low for me in vain, and had at last come
to the conclusion that my melancholy had induced me to make away with
myself. I wrote to them to say that I was safe, and to ask their
forgiveness, but my letter has never been answered. The next time was in
Norway. While we were there a young Norwegian pianist came under the
spoil of Pharos's influence. But the load of misery he was called upon
to bear was too much for him and he killed himself. In one of his cruel
moments Pharos congratulated me on the success with which I had acted as
his decoy. Realising the part I had unconsciously played, and knowing
that escape in any other direction was impossible, I resolved to follow
the wretched lad's example. I arranged everything as carefully as a
desperate woman could do. We were staying at the time near one of the
deepest fjords, and if I could only reach the place unseen, I was
prepared to throw myself over into the water five hundred feet below.
Every preparation was made, and when I thought Pharos was asleep I crept
from the house and made my way along the rough mountain path to the spot
where I was going to say farewell to my wretched life for good and all.
For days past I had been nerving myself for the deed. Reaching the spot
I stood upon the brink gazing down into the depths below, thinking of my
poor father, whom I expected soon to join, and wondering when my mangled
body would be found. Then, lifting my arms above my head, I was about
to let myself go, when a voice behind me ordered me to stop. I
recognised it, and though I knew that before he could approach me it was
possible for me to effect my purpose and place myself beyond even his
power forever, I was unable to do as I desired.

"'Come here,' he said--and since you know him you can imagine how he
would say it--'this is the second time you have endeavoured to outwit
me. First you sought refuge in flight, but I brought you back. Now you
have tried suicide, but once more I have defeated you. Learn this, that
as in life so even in death you are mine, to do with as I will.' After
that he led me back to the hotel, and from that time I have been
convinced that nothing can release me from the chains that bind me."

Once more I thought of the conversation I had overheard through the
saloon skylight on board the yacht. What comfort to give her or what
answer to make I did not know. I was still debating this in my mind when
she rose and, offering some excuse, left me and went into the house.
When she had gone, I seated myself in my chair again and tried to think
out what she had told me. It seemed impossible that her story could be
true, and yet I knew her well enough by this time to feel sure that she
would not lie to me. But for such a man as Pharos to exist in this
prosaic nineteenth century, and stranger still, for me, Cyril Forrester,
who had always prided myself on my clearness of head, to believe in him,
was absurd. That I was beginning to do so was, in a certain sense, only
too true. I was resolved, however, that, happen what might in the
future, I would keep my wits about me and endeavour to outwit him, not
only for my own sake, but for that of the woman I loved, whom I could
not induce to seek refuge in flight while she had the opportunity.

During the afternoon I saw nothing of Pharos. He kept himself closely
shut up in his own apartment and was seen only by that same impassive
man-servant I have elsewhere described. The day, however, was not
destined to go by without my coming in contact with him. The Fräulein
Valerie and I had spent the evening in the cool hall of the hotel, but
being tired she had bidden me good-night and gone to her room at an
early hour. Scarcely knowing what to do with myself, I was making my way
upstairs to my room, when the door of Pharos's apartment opened and to
my surprise the old man emerged. He was dressed for going out--that is
to say, he wore his long fur coat and curious cap. On seeing him I
stepped back into the shadow of the doorway, and was fortunate enough to
be able to do so before he became aware of my presence. As soon as he
had passed I went to the balustrading and watched him go down the
stairs, wondering as I did so what was taking him from home at such a
late hour. The more I thought of it the more inquisitive I became. A
great temptation seized me to follow him and find out. Being unable to
resist it, I went to my room, found my hat, slipped a revolver into my
pocket, in case I might want it, and set off after him.

On reaching the great hall, I was just in time to see him step into a
carriage, which had evidently been ordered for him beforehand. The
driver cracked his whip, the horses started off, and, by the time I
stood in the porch, the carriage was a good distance down the street.

"Has my friend gone?" I cried to the porter, as if I had hastened
downstairs in the hope of seeing him before he left. "I had changed my
mind and intended accompanying him. Call me a cab as quickly as you
can."

One of the neat little victorias which ply in the streets of Cairo was
immediately forthcoming, and into it I sprang.

"Tell the man to follow the other carriage," I said to the porter, "as
fast as he can go."

The porter said something in Arabic to the driver, and a moment later we
were off in pursuit.

It was a beautiful night, and, after the heat of the day, the rush
through the cool air was infinitely refreshing. It was not until we had
gone upward of a mile, and the first excitement of the chase had a
little abated, that the folly of what I was doing came home to me, but
even then it did not induce me to turn back. Connected with Pharos as I
was, I was determined if possible to find out something more about him
and his doings before I permitted him to get a firmer hold upon me. If I
could only discover his business on this particular night, it struck me,
I might know how to deal with him. I accordingly pocketed my scruples,
and slipping my hand into my pocket to make sure that my revolver was
there, I permitted my driver to proceed upon his way unhindered. By this
time we had passed the Kasr-en-Nil barracks, and were rattling over the
great Nile bridge. It was plain from this that whatever the errand might
be that was taking him abroad, it at least had no connection with old
Cairo.

Crossing the Island of Bulak, and leaving the caravan depot on our left,
we headed away under the avenue of beautiful Lebbek-trees along the road
to Gizeh. At first I thought it must be the Museum he was aiming for,
but this idea was dispelled when we passed the great gates and turned
sharp to the right hand. Holding my watch to the carriage-lamp, I
discovered that it wanted only a few minutes to eleven o'clock.

Although still shaded with Lebbek-trees, the road no longer ran between
human habitations, but far away on the right and left a few twinkling
lights proclaimed the existence of Fellahin villages. Of foot-passengers
we saw none, and save the occasional note of a night-bird, the howling
of a dog in the far distance, and the rattle of our own wheels, scarcely
a sound was to be heard. Gradually the road, which was raised several
feet above the surrounding country, showed a tendency to ascend, and
just as I was beginning to wonder what sort of a Will-o'-the-wisp chase
it was upon which I was being led, and what the upshot of it would be,
it came to an abrupt standstill, and towering into the starlight above
me, I saw two things which swept away all my doubts, and told me, as
plainly as any words could speak, that we were at the end of our
journey. _We had reached the Pyramids of Gizeh._ As soon as I understood
this, I signed to my driver to pull up, and, making him understand as
best I could that he was to await my return, descended and made my way
toward the Pyramids on foot. Keeping my eye on Pharos, whom I could see
ahead of me, and taking care not to allow him to become aware that he
was being followed, I began the long pull up to the plateau on which the
largest of these giant monuments is situated. Fortunately for me the
sand not only prevented any sound from reaching him, but its colour
enabled me to keep him well in sight. The road from the Mena House Hotel
to the Great Pyramid is not a long one, but what it lacks in length it
makes up in steepness. Never losing sight of Pharos for an instant, I
ascended it. On arriving at the top, I noticed that he went straight
forward to the base of the huge mass, and when he was sixty feet or so
from it, called something in a loud voice. He had scarcely done so
before a figure emerged from the shadow and approached him. Fearing they
might see me, I laid myself down on the sand behind a large block of
stone, whence I could watch them, remaining myself unseen.

As far as I could tell, the new-comer was undoubtedly an Arab, and from
the way in which he towered above Pharos, must have been a man of
gigantic stature. For some minutes they remained in earnest
conversation. Then, leaving the place where they had met, they went
forward toward the great building, the side of which they presently
commenced to climb. After a little they disappeared, and, feeling
certain they had entered the Pyramid itself, I rose to my feet and
determined to follow.

The Great Pyramid, as all the world, knows, is composed of enormous
blocks of granite, each about three feet high, and arranged after the
fashion of enormous steps. The entrance to the passage which leads to
the interior is on the thirteenth tier, and nearly fifty feet from the
ground. With a feeling of awe which may be very well understood, when I
reached it I paused before entering. I did not know on the threshold of
what discovery I might be standing. And what was more, I reflected that
if Pharos found me following him, my life would in all probability pay
the forfeit. My curiosity, however, was greater than my judgment, and
being determined, since I had come so far, not to go back without
learning all there was to know, I hardened my heart, and, stooping down,
entered the passage. When I say that it is less than four feet in
height, and of but little more than the same width, and that for the
first portion of the way the path slopes downward at an angle of
twenty-six degrees, some vague idea may be obtained of the unpleasant
place it is. But if I go on to add that the journey had to be undertaken
in total darkness, without any sort of knowledge of what lay before me,
or whether I should ever be able to find my way out again, the
foolhardiness of the undertaking will be even more apparent. Step by
step, and with a caution which I can scarcely exaggerate, I made my way
down the incline, trying every inch before I put my weight upon it and
feeling the walls carefully with either hand in order to make sure that
no other passages branched off to right or left. After I had been
advancing for what seemed an interminable period, but could not in
reality have been more than five minutes. I found myself brought to a
standstill by a solid wall of stone. For a moment I was at a loss how to
proceed. Then I found that there was a turn in the passage, and the
path, instead of continuing to descend, was beginning to work upward,
whereupon, still feeling my way as before, I continued my journey of
exploration. The heat was stifling, and more than once foul things, that
only could have been bats, flapped against my face and hands and sent a
cold shudder flying over me. Had I dared for a moment to think of the
immense quantity of stone that towered above me, or what my fate would
be had a stone fallen from its place and blocked the path behind me, I
believe I should have been lost for good and all. But, frightened as I
was, a greater terror was in store for me.

After I had been proceeding for some time along the passage, I found
that it was growing gradually higher. The air was cooler, and raising my
head cautiously in order not to bump it against the ceiling, I
discovered that I was able to stand upright. I lifted my hand, first a
few inches, and then to the full extent of my arm; but the roof was
still beyond my reach. I moved a little to my right in order to
ascertain if I could touch the wall, and then to the left. But once more
only air rewarded me. It was evident that I had left the passage and was
standing in some large apartment; but, since I knew nothing of the
interior of the Pyramid, I could not understand what it was or where it
could be situated. Feeling convinced in my own mind that I had missed my
way, since I had neither heard nor seen anything of Pharos, I turned
round and set off in what I considered must be the direction of the
wall; but though I walked step by step, once more feeling every inch of
the way with my foot before I put it down, I seemed to have covered
fifty yards before my knuckles came in contact with it. Having located
it, I fumbled my way along it in the hope that I might discover the
doorway through which I had entered; but though I tried for some
considerable time, no sort of success rewarded me. I paused and tried to
remember which way I had been facing when I made the discovery that I
was no longer in the passage. In the dark, however, one way seemed like
another, and I had turned myself about so many times that it was
impossible to tell which was the original direction. Oh, how bitterly I
repented having ever left the hotel! For all I knew to the contrary I
might have wandered into some subterranean chamber never visited by the
Bedouins or tourists, whence my feeble cries for help would not be
heard, and in which I might remain until death took pity on me and
released me from my sufferings.

Fighting down the terror that had risen in my heart and threatened to
annihilate me, I once more commenced my circuit of the walls, but again
without success. I counted my steps backward and forward in the hope of
locating my position. I went straight ahead on the chance of striking
the doorway haphazard, but it was always with the same unsatisfactory
result. Against my better judgment I endeavoured to convince myself that
I was really in no danger, but it was useless. At last my fortitude gave
way, a clammy sweat broke out upon my forehead, and remembering that
Pharos was in the building, I shouted aloud to him for help. My voice
rang and echoed in that ghastly chamber till the reiteration of it
well-nigh drove me mad. I listened, but no answer came. Once more I
called, but with the same result. At last, thoroughly beside myself with
terror, I began to run aimlessly about the room in the dark, beating
myself against the walls and all the time shouting at the top of my
voice for assistance. Only when I had no longer strength to move, or
voice to continue my appeals, did I cease, and falling upon the ground
rocked myself to and fro in silent agony. Times out of number I cursed
myself and my senseless stupidity in having left the hotel to follow
Pharos. I had sworn to protect the woman I loved, and yet on the first
opportunity I had ruined everything by behaving in this thoughtless
fashion.

Once more I sprang to my feet and once more I set off on my interminable
search. This time I went more quietly to work, feeling my way carefully
and making a mental note of every indentation in the walls. Being
unsuccessful, I commenced again, and once more scored a failure. Then
the horrible silence, the death-like atmosphere, the flapping of the
bats in the darkness, and the thought of the history and age of the
place in which I was imprisoned, must have affected my brain, and for a
space I believe I went mad. At any rate, I have a confused recollection
of running round and round that loathsome place and of at last falling
exhausted upon the ground, firmly believing my last hour had come. Then
my senses left me and I became unconscious.

How long I remained in the condition I have just described I can not
say. All I know is that when I opened my eyes I found the chamber bright
with the light of torches, and no less a person than Pharos kneeling
beside me. Behind him, but at a respectful distance, were a number of
Arabs, and among them a man whose height could scarcely have been less
than seven feet. This was evidently the individual who had met Pharos at
the entrance to the Pyramid.

"Rise," said Pharos, addressing me, "and let this be a warning to you
never to attempt to spy on me again. Think not that I was unaware that
you were following me, or that the mistake on your part in taking the
wrong turning in the passage was not ordained. The time has now gone by
for me to speak to you in riddles; our comedy is at an end, and for the
future you are my property to do with as I please. You will have no will
but my pleasure, no thought but to act as I shall tell you. Rise and
follow me."

Having said this, he made a sign to the torch-bearers, who immediately
led the way toward the door which was now easy enough to find. Pharos
followed them, and, more dead than alive, I came next, while the tall
man I have mentioned brought up the rear. In this order we groped our
way down the narrow passage. Then it was that I discovered the mistake I
had made in entering. Whether by accident, or by the exercise of
Pharos's will, as he had desired me to believe, it was plain I had taken
the wrong turning, and, instead of going on to the King's Hall, where no
doubt I should have found the man I was following, I had turned to the
left and had entered the apartment popularly, but erroneously, called
the Queen's Chamber.

It would have been difficult to estimate the thankfulness I felt on
reaching the open air once more. How sweet the cool night wind seemed
after the close and suffocating atmosphere of the Pyramid I can not hope
to make you understand. And yet, if I had only known, it would have been
better for me, far better, had I never been found, and my life come to
an end when I fell senseless upon the floor.

When we had left the passage and had clambered down to the sands once
more, Pharos bade me follow him, and leading the way round the base of
the Pyramid, conducted me down the hill toward the Sphinx.

For fully thirty years I had looked forward to the moment when I should
stand before this stupendous monument and try to read its riddle; but in
my wildest dreams I had never thought to do so in such company. Looking
down at me in the starlight, across the gulf of untold centuries, it
seemed to smile disdainfully at my small woes.

"To-night," said Pharos, in that same extraordinary voice he had used a
quarter of an hour before, when he bade me follow him, "you enter upon a
new phase of your existence. Here, under the eyes of the Watcher of
Harmachis, you shall learn something of the wisdom of the ancients."

At a signal the tall man whom he had met at the foot of the Pyramid
sprang forward and seized me by the arms from behind with a grip of
iron. Then Pharos produced from his pocket a small case containing a
bottle. From the latter he poured a few spoonfuls of some fluid into a
silver cup, which he placed to my mouth.

"Drink," he said.

At any other time I should have refused to comply with such a request;
but on this occasion so completely had I fallen under his influence that
I was powerless to disobey.

The opiate, or whatever it was, must have been a powerful one, for I had
scarcely swallowed it before an attack of giddiness seized me. The
outline of the Sphinx and the black bulk of the Great Pyramid beyond
were merged in the general darkness. I could hear the wind of the desert
singing in my ears and the voice of Pharos muttering something in an
unknown tongue beside me. After that I sank down on the sand and
presently became oblivious of everything.

How long I remained asleep I have no idea. All I know is, that with a
suddenness that was almost startling, I found myself awake and standing
in a crowded street. The sun shone brilliantly, and the air was soft and
warm. Magnificent buildings, of an architecture that my studies had long
since made me familiar with, lined it on either hand, while in the
roadway were many chariots and gorgeously-furnished litters, before and
beside which ran slaves, crying aloud in their masters' names for room.

From the position of the sun in the sky, I gathered that it must be
close upon midday. The crowd was momentarily increasing, and as I
walked, marvelling at the beauty of the buildings, I was jostled to and
fro and oftentimes called upon to stand aside. That something unusual
had happened to account for this excitement was easily seen, but what it
was, being a stranger, I had no idea. Sounds of wailing greeted me on
every side, and in all the faces upon which I looked signs of
overwhelming sorrow were to be seen.

Suddenly a murmur of astonishment and anger ran through the crowd, which
separated hurriedly to right and left. A moment later a man came
through the lane thus formed. He was short and curiously misshapen, and
as he walked he covered his face with the sleeve of his robe, as though
he were stricken with grief or shame.

Turning to a man who stood beside me, and who seemed even more excited
than his neighbours, I inquired who the new-comer might be.

"Who art thou, stranger?" he answered, turning sharply on me. "And
whence comest thou that thou knowest not Ptahmes, Chief of the King's
Magicians? Learn, then, that he hath fallen from his high estate,
inasmuch as he made oath before Pharaoh that the first-born of the King
should take no hurt from the spell this Israelitish sorcerer, Moses,
hath cast upon the land. Now the child and all the first-born of Egypt
are dead, and the heart of Pharaoh being hardened against his servant,
he hath shamed him and driven him from before his face."

As he finished speaking, the disgraced man withdrew his robe from his
face, and I realised the astounding fact _that Ptahmes the Magician and
Pharos the Egyptian were not ancestor and descendant, but one and the
same person_.



CHAPTER XI.


Of the circumstances under which my senses returned to me after the
remarkable vision, for that is the only name I can assign to it, which I
have described in the preceding chapter, only the vaguest recollection
remains to me.

When Pharos had ordered me to drink the stuff he had poured out, we were
standing before the Sphinx at Gizeh; now, when I opened my eyes, I was
back once more in my bedroom at the hotel in Cairo. Brilliant sunshine
was streaming in through the jalousies, and I could hear footsteps in
the corridor outside. At first I felt inclined to treat the whole as a
dream; but the marks upon my hands, made when I had beaten them on the
rough walls of that terrible chamber in the Pyramid, soon showed me the
futility of so doing. I remembered how I had run round and round that
dreadful place in search of a way out, and the horror of the
recollection was sufficient to bring a cold sweat out once more upon my
forehead. Strange to say, I mean strange in the light of all that has
transpired since, the memory of the threat Pharos had used to me caused
me no uneasiness, and yet, permeating my whole being, was a loathing for
him and a haunting fear that was beyond description in words. This
dislike was the outcome not so much of a physical animosity, if I may so
designate it, as of a peculiar description of supernatural fear. Reason
with myself as I would I could not get rid of the belief that the man
was more than he pretended to be, that there was some link between him
and the Unseen which it was impossible for me to understand. Arguing
with myself in this way I was the more disposed to believe in the vision
of the preceding night.

On consulting my watch I was amazed to find that it wanted only a few
minutes of ten o'clock. I sprang from my bed, and a moment later came
within an ace of measuring my length upon the floor. What occasioned
this weakness I could not tell, but the fact remains that I was as
feeble as a little child. The room spun round and round until I became
so giddy that I was compelled to clutch at a table for support. What was
even stranger, I was conscious of a sharp pricking on my left arm a
little above the elbow, which eventually became so sharp that it could
be felt not only on the tips of my fingers but for some distance down my
side. To examine the place was the work of a moment. On the fleshy part
of the arm, three inches or so above the elbow, was a small spot, such
as might have been made by some sharp pointed instrument, a hypodermic
syringe for instance, and which was fast changing from a pale pink to a
purple hue. My wonderment was increased when I discovered that the spot
itself, and the flesh surrounding it for more than an inch, was
incapable of sensation. I puzzled my brains in vain to account for its
presence there. I could not remember scratching myself with anything in
my room, nor could I discover that the coat I bad worn on the preceding
evening showed any signs of a puncture.

After a few moments the feeling of weakness which had seized me when I
first left my bed wore off. I accordingly dressed myself with as much
despatch as I could put into the operation, and my toilet being
completed, left my room and went in search of the Fräulein Valerie. To
my disappointment she was not visible. I, however, discovered Pharos
seated in the veranda, in the full glare of the morning sun, with the
monkey, Pehtes, on his knee. For once he was in the very best of
tempers. Indeed, since I had first made his acquaintance I never
remembered to have known him so merry. At a sign I seated myself beside
him.

"My friend," he began, "I am rejoiced to see you. Permit me to inform
you that you had a narrow escape last night. However, since you are up
and about this morning I presume you are feeling none the worse for it."

I described the fit of vertigo which had overtaken me when I rose from
my bed, and went on to question him as to what had happened after I had
become unconscious on the preceding night.

"I assure you you came very near being a lost man," he answered. "As
good luck had it I had not left the Pyramid and so heard you cry for
help, otherwise you might be in the Queen's Hall at this minute. You
were unconscious when we found you, and you had not recovered by the
time we reached home again."

"Not recovered?" I cried in amazement. "But I walked out of the Pyramid
unassisted, and accompanied you across the sands to the Sphinx, where
you gave me something to drink and made me see a vision."

Pharos gazed incredulously at me.

"My dear fellow, you must have dreamed it," he said. "After all you had
gone through it is scarcely likely I should have permitted you to walk,
while as for the vision you speak of--well, I must leave that to your
own common sense. If necessary my servants will testify to the
difficulty we experienced in getting you out of the Pyramid, while the
very fact that you yourself have no recollection of the homeward
journey would help to corroborate what I say."

This was all very plausible; at the same time I was far from being
convinced. I knew my man too well by this time to believe that because
he denied any knowledge of the circumstance in question he was really as
innocent as he was plainly anxious I should think him. The impression
the vision, for I shall always call it by that name, had made upon me
was still clear and distinct in my mind. I closed my eyes and once more
saw the street filled with that strangely dressed crowd, which drew back
on either hand to make a way for the disgraced Magician to pass through.
It was all so real, and yet, as I am compelled to confess, so
improbable, that I scarcely know what to think. Before I could come to
any satisfactory decision Pharos turned to me again.

"Whatever your condition last night may have been," he said, "it is
plain you are better this morning, and I am rejoiced to see it, for the
reason I have made arrangements to complete the business which has
brought us here. Had you not been well enough to travel I should have
been compelled to leave you behind."

I searched his face for an explanation.

"The mummy?" I asked.

"Exactly," he replied. "The mummy. We leave Cairo this afternoon for
Luxor. I have made the necessary arrangements, and we join the steamer
at midday, that is to say in about two hours' time."

I inquired after the Fräulein Valerie, whom I had not yet seen,
whereupon Pharos informed me that she had gone to her cabin to prepare
for the excursion up the Nile.

"And now, Mr. Forrester," he said, rising from his chair and returning
the monkey to his place of shelter in the breast of his coat, "if I were
you I should follow her example. It will be necessary for us to start as
punctually as possible."

Sharp on the stroke of twelve a carriage made its appearance at the door
of the hotel. The Fräulein Valerie, Pharos, and myself took our places
in it, the gigantic Arab whom I had seen at the Pyramid on the preceding
night, and who I was quite certain had held my arms when Pharos
compelled me to drink the potion before the Sphinx, took his place
beside the driver, and we set off along the road to Bulak _en route_ to
the Embabeh. Having reached this, one of the most characteristic spots
in Cairo, we made our way along the bank toward a landing-stage, beside
which a handsome steamer was moored. If anything had been wanting to
convince me of the respect felt for Pharos by the Arabs, I should have
found it in the behaviour of the crew of this vessel. Had he been imbued
with the powers of life and death, they could scarcely have stood in
greater awe of him.

Our party being on board, there was no occasion for any further delay,
consequently, as soon as we had reached the upper deck, the ropes were
cast off, and with prodigious fuss the steamer made her way out into mid
stream, and began the voyage which was destined to end in such a strange
fashion for all our party.

Full as my life had been of extraordinary circumstances during the last
few weeks, I am not certain that my feelings as I stood upon the deck of
the steamer while she made her way up stream, passed the Khedive's
Palace, the Kasr-en-Nil barracks, Kasr-el-Ain, the Island of Rodah, and
Gizeh, did not eclipse them. Our vessel was a most luxurious one, and to
charter her must have cost Pharos a pretty penny. Immediately we got
under way the latter departed to his cabin, while the Fräulein Valerie
and I stood side by side under the awning, watching the fast-changing
landscape in silence. The day was hot, with scarcely a breath of wind to
cool the air. Ever since the first week in June the Nile had been
rising, and was now running a swift and muddy river only a few feet
below the level of her banks. I looked at my companion, and as I did so
thought of all that we had been through together in the short time we
had known each other. Less than a month before, Pharos and I had to all
intents and purposes been strangers, and Valerie and I had not met at
all. Now I was embarking on a voyage up the Nile in their company, and
for what purpose? To restore the body of Merenptah's Chief Magician to
the tomb from which it had been taken by my own father nearly twenty
years before. Could anything have seemed more unlikely, and yet could
anything have been more true? Amiable as were my relations with my host
at present, there was a feeling deep down in my heart that troublous
times lay ahead of us. The explanation Pharos had given me of what had
occurred on the preceding night had been plausible enough, as I have
said, and yet I was far from being convinced by it. There were only two
things open to me to believe. Either he had stood over me saying, "For
the future you are mine to do with as I please; you will have no will
but my pleasure, no thought but to act as I shall tell you," or I had
dreamed it. When I had taxed him with it some hours before, he had
laughed at me, and had told me to attribute it all to the excited
condition of my brain. But the feeling of reality with which it had
inspired me was, I felt sure, too strong for it to have been imaginary;
and yet, do what I would, I could not throw off the unpleasant belief
that, however much I might attempt to delude myself to the contrary, I
was in reality more deeply in his power than I fancied myself to be.

One thing struck me most forcibly, and that was the fact that now we
were away from Cairo, the Fräulein Valerie was in better spirits than I
had yet seen her. Glad as I was, however, to find her happier, the
knowledge of her cheerfulness, for some reason or another, chilled and
even disappointed me. Yet, Heaven knows, had I been asked, I must have
confessed that I should have been even more miserable had she been
unhappy. When I joined them at lunch I was convinced that I was a
discordant note. I was thoroughly out of humour, not only with myself,
but with the world in general, and the fit had not left me when I made
my way up to the deck again.

Downcast as I was, however, I could not repress an exclamation of
pleasure at the scene I saw before me when I reached it. In the
afternoon light the view, usually so uninviting, was picturesque in the
extreme. Palm groves decorated either bank, with here and there an Arab
village peering from among them, while, as if to afford a fitting
background, in the distance could be seen the faint outline of the
Libyan Hills. At any other time I should have been unable to contain
myself until I had made a sketch of it; now, however, while it impressed
me with its beauty, it only served to remind me of the association in
which I found myself. The centre of the promenade deck, immediately
abaft the funnel, was arranged somewhat in the fashion of a
sitting-room, with a carpet, easy-chairs, a sofa, and corresponding
luxuries. I seated myself in one of the chairs, and was still idly
watching the country through which we were passing, when Pharos made his
appearance from below, carrying the monkey Pehtes in his arms, and
seated himself beside me. It was plain that he was still in a contented
frame of mind, and his opening speech, when he addressed me, showed that
he had no intention of permitting me to be in anything else.

"My dear Forrester," he said in what was intended to be a conciliatory
tone, "I feel sure you have something upon your mind that is worrying
you. Is it possible you are still brooding over what you said to me this
morning? Remember you are my guest; I am responsible for your happiness.
I can not permit you to wear such an expression of melancholy. Pray tell
me your trouble, and if I can help you in any way, rest assured I shall
only be too glad to do so."

"I am afraid, after the explanation you gave me this morning, that it is
impossible for you to help me," I answered. "To tell the truth, I have
been worrying over what happened last night, and the more I think of it
the less able I am to understand."

"What is it you find difficult to understand?" he inquired. "I thought
we were agreed on the subject when we spoke of it this morning."

"Not as far as I am concerned," I replied. "And if you will consider for
a moment, I fancy you will understand why. As I told you then, I have
the best possible recollection of all that befell me in the Pyramid, and
of the fright I sustained in that terrible room. I remember your coming
to my assistance, and I am as convinced that, when my senses returned to
me, I followed you down the passage, out into the open air, and across
the sands to a spot before the Sphinx, where you gave me some strange
concoction to drink, as I am that I am now sitting on this deck beside
you."

"And I assure you with equal sincerity that it is all a delusion," he
replied. "You must have dreamed the whole thing. Now I come to think of
it, I _do_ remember that you said something about a vision which I
enabled you to see. Perhaps, as your memory is so keen on the subject,
you may be able to give me some idea of its nature."

I accordingly described what I had seen. From the way he hung upon my
words it was evident that the subject interested him more than he cared
to confess. Indeed, when I had finished he gave a little gasp that was
plainly one of relief, though why he should have been so I could not
understand.

"And the man you saw coming through the crowd, this Ptahmes, what was he
like? Did you recognise him? Should you know his face again?"

"I scarcely know how to tell you," I answered diffidently, a doubt as to
whether I had really seen the vision I had described coming over me for
the first time, now that I was brought face to face with the assertion I
was about to make. "It seems so impossible, and I am weak enough to feel
that I should not like you to think I am jesting. The truth of the
matter is, the face of the disgraced Magician was none other than your
own. You were Ptahmes, the man who walked with his face covered with his
mantle, and before whom the crowd drew back as if they feared him, and
yet hated him the more because they did so."

"The slaves, the craven curs!" muttered Pharos fiercely to himself,
suddenly oblivious to my presence, his sunken eyes looking out across
the water, but I am convinced seeing nothing. "So long as he was
successful they sang his praises through the city, but when he failed
and was cast out from before Pharaoh, there were only six in all the
country brave enough to declare themselves his friends."

Then recollecting himself he turned to me, and with one of his peculiar
laughs, to which I had by this time grown accustomed, he continued: "But
there, if I talk like this you will begin to imagine that I really have
some association with my long-deceased relative, the man of whom we are
speaking, and whose mummy is in the cabin yonder. Your account of the
vision, if by that name you still persist in calling it, is extremely
interesting, and goes another step toward proving how liable the human
brain is, under stress of great excitement, to seize upon the most
unlikely stories, and even to invest them with the necessary
_mise-en-scène_. Now I'll be bound you could reproduce the whole
picture, were such a thing necessary--the buildings, the chariots, the
dresses, nay even the very faces of the crowd."

"I am quite sure I could," I answered, filled with sudden excitement at
the idea, "and what is more I will do so. So vivid was the impression it
made upon my mind that not a detail has escaped my memory. Indeed, I
really believe that it will be found that a large proportion of the
things I saw then I had never seen or heard of before. This, I think,
should go some way toward proving that my story is not the fallacy you
suppose."

"You mistake me, my dear Forrester," he hastened to reply. "I do not go
so far as to declare it to be altogether a fallacy; I simply say that
what you think you saw must have been the effect of the fright you
received in the Pyramid. But your idea of painting the picture is
distinctly a good one, and I shall look forward with pleasure to giving
you my opinion upon it when it is finished. As you are well aware, I am
a fair Egyptologist, and I have no doubt I shall be able to detect any
error in the composition, should one exist."

"I will obtain my materials from my cabin, and set to work at once," I
said, rising from my chair, "and when I have finished you shall
certainly give me your opinion on it."

As on a similar occasion already described, under the influence of my
enthusiasm, the feeling of animosity I usually entertained toward him
left me entirely. I went to my cabin, found the things I wanted, and
returned with them to the deck. When I reached it I found the Fräulein
Valerie there. She was dressed in white from head to foot, and was
slowly fanning herself with the same large ostrich-feather fan which I
remembered to have seen her vising on that eventful night when I had
dined with Pharos in Naples. Her left hand was hanging by her side, and
as I greeted her and reseated myself in my chair, I could not help
noticing its exquisite proportions.

"Mr. Forrester was fortunate enough to be honoured by a somewhat
extraordinary dream last night," said Pharos by way of accounting for my
sketching materials. "The subject was Egyptian, and I have induced him
to try and make a picture of the scene for our benefit."

"Do you feel equal to the task?" Valerie inquired, with unusual interest
as I thought. "Surely it must be very difficult. As a rule even the most
vivid dreams are so hard to remember in detail."

"This was something more than a dream," I answered confidently, "as I
shall presently demonstrate to Monsieur Pharos. Before I begin, however,
I am going to ask a favour in return."

"And what is that?" asked Pharos.

"That while I am at work you tell us, as far as you know it, the history
of Ptahmes, the King's Magician. Not only does it bear upon the subject
of my picture, but it is fit and proper, since we have his mummy on
board, that we should know more than we at present do of our illustrious
fellow-traveller."

"What could be fairer?" said Pharos after a slight pause. "While you
paint I will tell you all I know and since he is my ancestor, and I have
made his life my especial study, it may be supposed I am acquainted with
as much of his history as research has been able to bring to light.
Ptahmes, or, as his name signifies, the man beloved of Ptah, was the son
of Netruhôtep, a Priest of the High Temple of Ammon, and a favourite of
Rameses II. From the moment of his birth great things were expected of
him, for, by the favour of the gods, he was curiously misshapen, and it
is well known that those whom the mighty ones punish in one way are
usually compensated for it in another. It is just possible that it may
be from him I inherit my own unpleasing exterior. However, to return to
Ptahmes, whose life, I can assure you, forms an interesting study. At an
early age the boy showed an extraordinary partiality for the mystic, and
it was doubtless this circumstance that induced his father to intrust
him to the care of the Chief Magician, Ilaper, a wise man, by whom the
lad was brought up. Proud of his calling, and imbued with a love for the
sacred mysteries, it is small wonder that he soon outdistanced those
with whom he was brought in contact. So rapid indeed were the strides he
made that the news of his attainments reached the ears of Pharaoh. He
was summoned to the royal presence and commanded to give an exhibition
of his powers, whereupon the King ordered him to remain at Court, and to
be constantly in attendance upon his person. From this point the youth's
career was assured. Year by year, and step by step, he made his way up
the ladder of fame till he became a mighty man in the land, a
councillor. Prophet of the North and South, and Chief of the King's
Magicians. Then, out of the land of Midian rose the star that, as it had
been written, should cross his path and bring about his downfall. This
was the Israelite Moses, who came into Egypt and set himself up against
Pharaoh, using magic, the like of which had never before been seen. But
that portion of the story is too well known to bear repetition. Let it
suffice that Pharaoh called together his councillors, the principal of
whom was Ptahmes, now a man of mature years, and consulted with them.
Pthames, foreseeing what would happen, was for acceding to the request
made by the Hebrew and letting the Israelites depart in peace from the
kingdom. To this course, however, Pharaoh would not agree, and he
allowed his favourite to understand that, not only was such advice the
reverse of palatable, but that a repetition of it would in all
probability deprive him of the royal favour. Once more the Hebrews
appeared before Pharaoh and gave evidence of their powers, speaking
openly to the King and using threats of vengeance in the event of their
demands not being acceded to. But Pharaoh was stiff-necked and refused
to listen, and in consequence evil days descended upon Egypt. By the
magic of Moses the fish died, and the waters of the Nile were polluted
so that, the people could not drink; frogs, in such numbers as had never
been seen before, made their appearance and covered the face of the
land. Then Pharaoh called upon Ptahmes and his Magicians, and bade them
imitate all that the others had done. They did so, and by their arts
frogs came up out of the land, even as Moses had made them do. Seeing
this, Pharaoh laughed the Israelites to scorn and once more refused to
consider their request, whereupon plagues of lice, flies, and boils
broke out upon man and beast, with mighty storms, and a great darkness
in which no man could see another's face. Once more Pharaoh, whose heart
was still hardened against Moses, called Ptahmes to his presence and
bade him advise him as to the course he should pursue. Being already at
war with his neighbours, he had no desire to permit this horde to cross
his borders only to side with his enemies against himself. And yet to
keep them and to risk further punishment was equally dangerous. Moses
was a stern man, and as the King had had already good reason to know,
was not one to be trifled with. Only that morning he had demanded an
audience and had threatened Pharaoh with a pestilence that should cause
the death of every first-born son throughout the land should he still
persist in his refusal.

"Now Ptahmes, who, as I have said, was an astute man, and who had
already been allowed to see the consequences of giving advice that did
not tally with his master's humour, found himself in a position, not
only of difficulty, but also of some danger. Either he must declare
himself openly in favour of letting the Hebrews go, and once more run
the risk of Pharaoh's anger and possible loss of favour, or he must side
with his master, and, having done so, put forth every effort to prevent
the punishment Moses had decreed. After hours of suspense and
overwhelming anxiety he adopted the latter course. Having taken counsel
with his fellow-Magicians, he assured Pharaoh, on the honour of the
gods, that what the Israelite had predicted could never come to pass.
Fortified with this promise, Pharaoh once more refused to permit the
strangers to leave the land. As a result the first-born son of the King,
the child whom he loved better than his kingdom, sickened of a
mysterious disease and died that night, as did the first-born of all the
Egyptians, rich and poor alike. In the words of your own Bible, 'There
was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not
one dead.' Then Pharaoh's hatred was bitter against his advisers, and he
determined that Ptahmes in particular should die. He sought him with the
intention of killing him, but the Magician had received timely warning
and had escaped into the mountains, where he hid himself for many
months. Little by little his health gave way, he grew weaker, and in the
fiftieth year of his life Osiris claimed him for his own. It was said at
the time that for the sin he had caused Pharaoh to do, and the misery he
had brought upon the land of Egypt, and swearing falsely in the name of
the gods, he had been cursed with perpetual life. This, however, could
not have been so, seeing that he died in the mountains, and that his
mummy was buried in the tomb whence your father took it. Such is the
story of Ptahmes, the beloved of Ptah, son of Netruhôtep, Chief of the
Magicians and Prophet of the North and South."



CHAPTER XII.


Strange as it may seem, all the circumstances attending it being taken
into consideration, that voyage up the Nile was one of the most
enjoyable I have ever undertaken. It is true the weather was somewhat
warmer than was altogether agreeable; but if you visit Egypt at
midsummer you must be prepared for a little discomfort in that respect.
From the moment of rising until it was time to retire at night our time
was spent under the awning on deck, reading, conversing, and watching
the scenery on either bank, and on my part in putting the finishing
touches to the picture I had commenced the afternoon we left Cairo.

When it was completed to my satisfaction, which was on the seventh day
of our voyage, and that upon which we expected to reach Luxor, I showed
it to Pharos. He examined it carefully, and it was some time before he
offered an opinion upon it.

"I will pay you the compliment of saying I consider it a striking
example of your art," he said, when he did speak. "At the same time, I
must confess it puzzles me. I do not understand whence you drew your
inspiration. There are things in this picture, important details in the
dress and architecture, that I feel convinced have never been seen by
this century. How, therefore, you could have known them passes my
comprehension."

"I have already told you that that picture represents what I saw in my
vision," I answered.

"You still believe that you saw a vision then?" he asked, with a return
to his old sneering habit, as he picked the monkey up and began to
stroke his ears.

"I shall always do so," I answered. "Nothing will ever shake my belief
in that."

At this moment the Fräulein Valerie joined us, whereupon Pharos handed
her the picture and asked for her opinion upon it. She examined it
carefully, while I waited with some anxiety for her criticism.

"It is very clever," she said, still looking at it, "and beautifully
painted; but, if you will let me say so, I do not know that I altogether
like it. There is something about it that I do not understand. And see,
you have given the central figure Monsieur Pharos's face."

She looked up at me as if to inquire the reason of this likeness, after
which we both glanced at Pharos, who was seated before us, wrapped as
usual in his heavy rug, with the monkey, Pehtes, peering out from his
invariable hiding-place beneath his master's coat. For the moment I did
not know what answer to return. To have told her in the broad light of
day, with the prosaic mud-banks of the Nile on either hand, and the
Egyptian sailors washing paint-work at the farther end of the deck, that
in my vision I had been convinced that Pharos and Ptahmes were one and
the same person, would have been too absurd. Pharos, however, relieved
me of the necessity of saying anything by replying for me.

"Mr. Forrester has done me great honour, my dear," he said gaily, "in
choosing my features for the central figure. I had no idea that my
unfortunate person was capable of such dramatic effect.--If at any
time, Forrester, you should desire to dispose of that picture, I shall
be delighted to take it off your hands."

"You may have it now," I answered. "If you think it worthy of your
acceptance, I will gladly give it you. To tell the truth, I myself, like
the Fräulein here, am a little afraid of it, though why I should be,
seeing that it is my own work, Heaven only knows."

"As you say, Heaven only knows," returned Pharos solemnly, and then
making the excuse that he would put the picture in a place of safety, he
left us and went to his cabin, Pehtes hopping along the deck behind him.

For some time after he had left us the Fräulein and I sat silent. The
afternoon was breathless, and even our progress through the water raised
no breeze. We were passing the town of Keneh at the time, a miserable
collection of buildings of the usual Nile type, and famous only as being
a rallying place for Mecca pilgrims, and for the Kulal and Ballas
(water-bottles), which bear its name.

While her eyes were fixed upon it I was permitted an opportunity of
studying my companion's countenance. I noted the proud poise of her
head, and the luxuriance of the hair coiled so gracefully above it. She
was a queen among women, as I had so often told myself; one whom any man
might be proud to love, and then I added, as another thought struck me,
one for whom the man she loved might willingly lay down his life. That I
loved her with a sincerity and devotion greater than I had ever felt for
any other human being, I was fully aware by this time. If the truth must
be told, I believe I had loved her from the moment I first saw her face.
But was it possible that she could love me?

"I have noticed that you are very thoughtful to-day, Fräulein," I said,
as the steamer dropped the town behind her and continued her journey up
stream in a somewhat more westerly direction.

"Have I not good reason to be?" she answered. "You must remember I have
made this journey before."

"But why should that produce such an effect upon you?" I asked. "To me
it is a pleasure that has not yet begun to pall, and as you will, I am
sure, admit, Pharos has proved a most thoughtful and charming host."

I said this with intention, for I wanted to see what reply she would
make.

"I have not noticed his behaviour," she answered wearily. "It is always
the same to me. But I _do_ know this, that after each visit to the place
for which we are now bound, great trouble has resulted for some one.
Heaven grant that it may not be so on this occasion!"

"I do not see what trouble _can_ result," I said. "Pharos is simply
going to replace the mummy in the tomb from which it was taken, and
after that I presume we shall return to Cairo, and probably to Europe."

"And then?"

"After that----"

But I could get no further. The knowledge that in all likelihood as soon
as we reached Europe I should have to bid her good-bye and return to
London was too much for me, and for this reason I came within an ace of
blurting out the words that were in my heart. Fortunately, however, I
was able to summon up my presence of mind in time to avert such a
catastrophe, otherwise I can not say what the result would have been.
Had I revealed my love to her and asked her to be my wife, and she had
refused me, our position, boxed up together as we were on board the
steamer, and with no immediate prospect of release, would have been
uncomfortable in the extreme. So I crammed the words back into my heart
and waited for another and more favourable opportunity.

The sun was sinking behind the Arabian hills, in a wealth of gold and
crimson colouring, as we obtained our first glimpse of the mighty ruins
we had come so far to see. Out of a dark green sea of palms to the left,
rose the giant pylons of the Temple of Ammon at Karnak. A few minutes
later Luxor itself was visible, and within a quarter of an hour our
destination was reached, and the steamer was at a standstill.

We had scarcely come to an anchor before the vessel was surrounded by
small boats, the occupants of which clambered aboard, despite the
efforts of the officers and crew to prevent them. As usual they brought
with them spurious relics of every possible sort and description, not
one of which, however, our party could be induced to buy. The Fräulein
Valerie and I were still protesting, when Pharos emerged from his cabin
and approached us. Never shall I forget the change that came over the
scene. From the expressions upon the rascals' faces I gathered that he
was well known to them, at any rate within five seconds of his
appearance not one of our previous persecutors remained aboard the
vessel.

"They seem to know you." I said to Pharos, with a laugh, as the last of
the gang took a header from the rail into the water.

"They do," he answered grimly. "I think I can safely promise you that
after this not a man in Luxor will willingly set foot upon this vessel.
Would you care to try the experiment?"

"Very much," I said, and taking an Egyptian pound piece from my pocket I
stepped to the side and invited the rabble to come aboard and claim it.
But the respect they entertained for Pharos was evidently greater than
their love of gold; at any rate not a man seemed inclined to venture.

"A fair test," said Pharos. "You may rest assured that unless you throw
it over to them your money will remain in your own pocket. But see, some
one of importance is coming off to us. I am expecting a messenger, and
in all probability it is he."

A somewhat better boat than those clustered around us was putting off
from the bank, and seated in her was an Arab, clad in white burnouse and
wearing a black turban upon his head.

"Yes, it is he," said Pharos, as with a few strokes of their oars the
boatmen brought their craft alongside.

Before I could inquire who the person might be whom he was expecting,
the man I have just described had reached the deck, and, after looking
about him, approached the spot where Pharos was standing. Accustomed as
I was to the deference shown by the Arabs toward their superiors, I was
far from expecting the exhibition of servility I now beheld. So
overpowered was the new-comer by the reverence he felt for Pharos that
he could scarcely stand upright.

"I expected thee, Salem Awad," said Pharos, in Arabic. "What tidings
dost thou bring?"

"I come to tell thee," the man replied, "that he whom thou didst order
to be here has heard of thy coming, and will await thee at the place of
which thou hast spoken."

"It is well," continued Pharos. "Has all of which I wrote to thee been
prepared?"

"All has been prepared and awaits thy coming."

"Return then and tell him who sent thee to me that I will be with him
before he sleeps to-night."

The man bowed once more and made his way to his boat, in which he
departed for the bank.

When he had gone, Pharos turned to me.

"We are expected," he said, "and, as you heard him say, preparations
have been made to enable us to carry out the work we have come to do.
After all his journeying Ptahmes has at last returned to the city of his
birth and death. It is a strange thought, is it not? Look about you, Mr.
Forrester, and see the mightiest ruins the world has known. Yonder is
the Temple of Luxor, away to the north you can see the remains of the
Temple of Ammon at Karnak; five thousand years ago they were connected
by a mighty road. Yonder is the Necropolis of Thebes, with the tombs
that once contained the mortal remains of the mighty ones of Egypt.
Where are those mighty ones now? Scattered to the uttermost parts of the
earth, stolen from their resting-places to adorn glass cases in European
and American museums, and to be sold at auction by Jew salesmen at so
much per head, the prices varying according to their dates and state of
preservation. But there, time is too short to talk of such indignity.
The gods will avenge it in their own good time. Let it suffice that
to-night we are to fulfil our errand. Am I right in presuming that you
desire to accompany me?"

"I should be sincerely disappointed if I could not do so," I answered.
"But if you would prefer to go alone I will not force my presence upon
you."

"I shall only be too glad of your company," he answered. "Besides, you
have a right to be present, since it is through you I am permitted an
opportunity of replacing my venerable ancestor in his tomb. Perhaps you
will be good enough to hold yourself in readiness to start at eleven
o'clock. Owing to the publicity now given to anything that happens in
the ruins of this ancient city, the mere fact that we are returning a
mummy to its tomb, of the existence of which the world has no knowledge,
would be sufficient to attract a concourse of people whose presence
would be in the highest degree objectionable to me."

"You must excuse my interrupting you," I said, thinking I had caught him
tripping, "but you have just said that you are going to open a tomb of
the existence of which the world has no knowledge. Surely my father
opened it many years ago, otherwise how did he become possessed of the
mummy?"

"Your father discovered it, it is true, but he stumbled upon it quite by
chance, and it was reburied within a few hours of his extracting the
mummy. If he were alive now I would defy him to find the place again."

"And you are going to open it to-night?"

"That is my intention. And when I have done so it will once more be
carefully hidden, and may woe light upon the head of the man who shall
again disturb it!"

I do not know whether this speech was intended to have any special
significance, but as he said it he looked hard at me, and never since I
have known him had I seen a more diabolical expression upon his
countenance. I could scarcely have believed that the human face was
capable of such malignity. He recovered himself as quickly, however, and
then once more bidding me prepare for the excursion of the evening, took
himself off to his cabin and left me to ponder over all he had said.

Eleven o'clock had only just struck that night when the tall Arab, my
acquaintance of the Pyramids, came along the deck in search of me. I was
sitting with the Fräulein Valerie at the time, but as soon as he told me
that Pharos was waiting and that it was time for us to start, I made
haste to rise. On hearing our errand my companion became uneasy.

"I do not like it," she said. "Why could he not do it in the daytime?
This going off under cover of the night savours too much of the
conspirator, and I beg you to be careful of what you do. Have you a
revolver?"

I answered in the affirmative, whereupon she earnestly advised me to
carry it with me, a course which I resolved to adopt. Then bidding her
good-bye I left her and went to my cabin, little dreaming that upward of
a week would elapse before I should see her again.

When I joined Pharos on deck I discovered that he had made no difference
in his attire, but was dressed just as I had always seen him, even to
the extent of his heavy coat which he wore despite the heat of the
night.

"If you are ready," he said, "let us lose no time in starting." Then
turning to the tall Arab, he bade him call the boat up, and as soon as
it was at the ladder we descended and took our places in it. A few
strokes of the oars brought us to the bank, where we found two camels
awaiting us. On closer inspection I discovered that the individual in
charge of them was none other than the man who had boarded the steamer
that afternoon, and whom I have particularized as having shown such
obsequious respect to Pharos.

At a sign from the latter, one of the camels was brought to his knees,
and I was invited to take my place in the saddle. I had never in my life
ridden one of these ungainly brutes, and it was necessary for the
driver to instruct me in the art. Pharos, however, seemed quite at home,
and as soon as he had mounted, and the camels had scrambled to their
feet once more, we set off.

If my drive to the Pyramids, a week before, had been a singular
experience, this camel ride among the ruins of ancient Thebes at
midnight was much more so. On every side were relics of that
long-departed age when the city had been the centre of the civilized
world.

After the heat of the day the coolness of the night was most refreshing.
Overhead the stars shone brilliantly, while from the desert a little
lonely wind came up and sighed for the desolation of the place. Nothing
could have been in better keeping with the impressiveness of the
occasion. One thing, however, puzzled me, for so far I had seen nothing
of the chief, and indeed the only reason of the expedition--namely, the
mummy of the dead Magician. I questioned Pharos on the subject, who
answered briefly that it had been sent on ahead to await our coming at
the tomb, and having given this explanation lapsed into silence.

It must have been upward of half an hour later when the tall Arab, who
had all the way walked in front of the camel upon which Pharos was
seated, stopped and held up his hand. The animals immediately came to a
standstill. Peering into the darkness ahead, I found that we were
standing before a gigantic building which towered into the starlight.
This proved to be the main pylon of the great Temple of Ammon, the most
stupendous example of human architecture ever erected on the surface of
our globe. On either side of the open space upon which we stood, rows of
kriosphinxes showed where a noble road had once led from the temple to
the river.

At a signal from Pharos the man who had boarded the steamer that
afternoon left us and entered the building, leaving us outside.

Fully five minutes must have elapsed before he returned. When he did so
he said something to Pharos in a low voice, who immediately descended
from his camel and signed to me to do the same. Then we, in our turn,
approached the gigantic pylon, at the entrance of which we were met by a
man carrying a lighted torch. Viewed by this dim and uncertain light the
place appeared indescribably mysterious. Overhead the walls towered up
and up until I lost sight of them in the darkness. Presently we entered
a large court--so large indeed that even with the assistance of the
guide's torch we could not see the farther end of it. Then passing
through a doorway formed of enormous blocks of stone, the architrave of
which could scarcely have been less than a hundred feet from the ground,
we found ourselves standing in yet another and even greater hall. Here
we paused, while Pharos went forward into the darkness alone, leaving me
in the charge of the tall Arab and the man who carried the torch. Where
he had gone, and his reason for thus leaving me, I could not imagine,
and my common sense told me it would only be waste of time on my part to
inquire. Minutes went by until perhaps half an hour had elapsed, and
still he did not return. I was about to make some remark upon this, when
I noticed that the man holding the torch, who had hitherto been leaning
against a pillar, suddenly drew himself up and looked toward another
side of the great hall. I followed the direction of his eyes and saw an
old man approaching me. He was clad in white from head to foot, and with
a long white beard descending to within a few inches of his waist. He
signed to me to follow him, and then turning, led me across the hall in
the direction he had come. I followed close at his heels, threaded my
way among the mighty pillars carved all over with hieroglyphics, and so
passed into yet another court. Here it was all black darkness, and so
lonely that I found my spirits sinking lower and lower with every step I
took. Reaching the centre of my court my guide stopped and bade me
pause. I did so, whereupon he also departed, but in what direction he
went I could not tell.

Had it been possible, I think at this stage of the proceedings I should
have left Pharos to his own devices, and have made my way out of the
ruins and back to the steamer without waste of time. Under the
circumstances I have narrated, however, I had no option but to remain
where I was, and in any case I doubt whether I should have had time to
make my escape, for the old man presently returned, this time with a
torch, and once more bade me follow him. I accordingly accompanied him
across the court, and among more pillars, to a small temple, which must
have been situated at some considerable distance from the pylon through
which we had entered the ruins.

Approaching the farther corner of this temple, he stooped and, so it
seemed to me, touched something with his hand. At any rate, I distinctly
heard the jar of iron on stone. Then a large block of masonry wheeled
round on its own length and disappeared into the earth, revealing a
cavity possibly four feet square at our feet. As soon as my eyes became
accustomed to the darkness I was able to detect a flight of steps
leading down into a dark vault below. These the old man descended, and
feeling certain that I was intended to accompany him, I followed his
example. The steps were longer than I expected them to be, and were
possibly some fifty in number. Reaching the bottom I found myself
standing in a subterranean hall. The roof or ceiling was supported by a
number of elegantly sculptured _papyrus-bud_ columns, while the walls
were covered with paintings, every one of which was in a perfect state
of preservation. For what purpose the hall had been used in bygone days
I could not, of course, tell, but that it had some connection with the
mysterious rites of the god Ammon was shown, not only by the frescoes,
but by the trouble which had been taken to conceal the entrance to the
place.

When we had reached the centre of the hall the old man turned and
addressed me.

"Stranger," he said in a voice as deep and resonant as the tolling of a
bell, "by reason of the share that has been allotted thee in the
vengeance of the gods, it has been decreed that thou shalt penetrate the
mysteries of this holy place, the like of which not one of thy race or
people has ever yet beheld. Fear not that evil will befall thee; thou
art in the hands of the Mighty Ones of Egypt. They will protect thee.
Follow me."



CHAPTER XIII.


In describing what occurred after the curious admonition addressed to me
by the old man who had conducted me to the subterranean chamber
mentioned in the last chapter, I am oppressed by the fear that my
narrative may seem too extraordinary to carry with it any semblance of
reality. The whole affair, from the moment when we left the steamer
until I stood where I now was, had been so mysterious, so unbelievable,
I might almost say, that I had passed from stage to stage of
bewilderment, scarcely conscious of anything but what was occurring at
the moment. In a vague fashion I wondered how it was that these rooms
had never been discovered by the hundreds of Egyptologists who, since
the time of Napoleon, had explored the temple. That it had not been so
brought to light I felt convinced, otherwise the necessity would
scarcely have existed for such secrecy as had been shown when I was
conducted to it. Besides, I had studied my guide-books carefully on our
voyage up the river, and was quite convinced that no mention of such
places had been made in any one of them.

Having finished the speech with which I closed the preceding chapter,
the old man led me toward a doorway at the farther end of the room. The
posts which supported it, and which must have been something like ten
feet in width, were covered with hieroglyphics, as were the neighbouring
walls. On either side of the doorway stood two enormous kriosphinxes,
similar to those which had once lined the avenue between the Temples of
Karnak and Luxor. These had the bodies of lions and heads of rams, and
were as perfect as on the day when they had left the sculptor's hands,
who knew how many thousand years ago. Entering the archway, for archway
I should prefer to call it rather than door, I found myself standing
between two rows of life-sized statues, all excelling in workmanship,
and in the most perfect state of preservation. Though I was not
sufficiently learned in Egyptian history to be able to assign names to
them, I was nevertheless quite capable of appreciating their immense
value, and could well imagine the find they would prove to any
Egyptologist who, in days to come, might discover the secret of the
stone and penetrate into this mysterious place.

From what I remember, and speaking at a guess, the passage could
scarcely have been less than a hundred feet in length and must have
contained at least a dozen statues. At the farther end it opened into a
smaller chamber or catacomb, in the walls of which were a number of
niches, each one containing a mummy. The place was intolerably close and
was filled with an overpowering odour of dried herbs. In the centre, and
side by side, were two alabaster slabs, each about seven feet long by
three in width. A stone pillar was at the head of each, but for what
purpose the blocks were originally intended I have no idea.

At a signal from my conductor two beings, I cannot call them men, who
from their appearances I should have judged to be as old as Pharos
himself, made their appearance, bringing with them certain vestments and
a number of curiously shaped bottles. The robes, which were of some
white material, were embroidered with hieroglyphics. These they placed
about my shoulders, and when they had done so the old fellow who had
conducted me to the place bade me stretch myself upon one of the slabs I
have just mentioned.

Under other circumstances I should have protested most vigorously, but I
was in such a position now that I came to the conclusion that it would
not only be useless but most impolitic on my part to put myself in
opposition against him thus early in the day. I accordingly did as I was
ordered. The two attendants, who were small, thin, and wizened almost
beyond belief, immediately began to anoint my face and hands with some
sweet-smelling essences taken from the bottles they had brought with
them. The perfume of these unguents was indescribably soothing, and
gradually I found myself losing the feeling of excitement and distrust
which had hitherto possessed me. The cigarettes Pharos had given me on
the occasion that I had dined with him in Naples must have contained
something of a like nature, for the effect was similar in more than one
essential. I refer in particular to the sharpening of the wits, to the
feeling of peculiar physical enjoyment, and to the dulling of every
sense of fear.

It was just as well, perhaps, that I was in this frame of mind, for
though I did not know it, I was about to be put to a test that surpassed
in severity anything of which I could have dreamed.

Little by little a feeling of extreme lassitude was overtaking me; I
lost all care for my safety, and my only desire was to be allowed to
continue in the state of exquisite semiconsciousness to which I had now
been reduced. The figures of the men who continued to sprinkle the
essences upon me, and of the old man who stood at my feet, his arms
stretched above his head as if he were invoking the blessing of the gods
upon the sacrifice he was offering to them, faded farther and farther
into the rose-coloured mist before my eyes. How long an interval elapsed
before I heard the old man's voice addressing me again I cannot say. It
may have been a few seconds, it may have been hours; I only know that as
soon as I heard it I opened my eyes and looked about me. The attendants
had departed and we were alone together. He was still standing before me
gazing intently down at my face.

"Rise, son of an alien race," he said, "rise purified for the time of
thy earthly self, and fit to enter and stand in the presence of
Ammon-Ra!"

In response to his command I rose from the stone upon which I had been
lying. Strangely enough, however, I did so without perceptible exertion.
In my new state my body was as light as air, my brain without a cloud,
while the senses of hearing, of sight, of smell, and of touch, were each
abnormally acute.

Taking me by the hand, the old man led me from the room in which the
ceremony of anointing had taken place, along another passage, on either
side of which, as in the apartment we had just left, were a number of
shelves each containing a mummy case. Reaching the end of this passage,
he paused and extinguished the torch he carried, and then, still leading
me by the hand, entered another hall which was in total darkness. In my
new state, however, I experienced no sort of fear, nor was I conscious
of feeling any alarm as to my ultimate safety.

Having brought me to the place for which he was making, he dropped my
hand, and from the shuffling of his feet upon the stone pavement I knew
that he was moving away from me.

"Wait here and watch," he said, and his voice echoed and re-echoed in
that gloomy place. "For it was ordained from the first that this night
thou shouldst see the mysteries of the gods. Fear not, thou art in the
hands of the watcher of the world, the ever mighty Harmachis, who
sleepeth not day or night, nor hath rested since time began."

With this he departed, and I remained standing where he had put me,
watching and waiting for what should follow. To attempt to make you
understand the silence that prevailed would be a waste of time, nor can
I tell you how long it lasted. Under the influence of the mysterious
preparation to which I had been subjected, such things as time, fear and
curiosity had been eliminated from my being.

Suddenly, in the far distance, so small as to make it uncertain whether
it was only my fancy or not, a pin point of light attracted my
attention. It moved slowly to and fro with the regular and
evenly-balanced swing of a pendulum, and as it did so it grew larger and
more brilliant. Such was the fascination it possessed for me that I
could not take my eyes off it, and as I watched it everything grew
bright as noon-day. How I had been moved I know not, but to my amazement
I discovered that I was no longer in that subterranean room below the
temple, but was in the open air in broad daylight, and standing on the
same spot before the main pylon where Pharos and I had waited while the
man who had conducted us to the temple went off to give notice of our
arrival. There was, however, this difference, the temple, which I had
seen then was nothing more than a mass of ruins, now it was restored to
its pristine grandeur, and exceeded in beauty anything I could have
imagined. High into the cloudless sky above me rose the mighty pylons,
the walls of which were no longer bare and weather worn, but adorned
with brilliant coloured paintings. Before me, not covered with sand as
at present, but carefully tended and arranged with a view to enhancing
the already superb effect, was a broad and well-planned terrace from
which led a road lined on either side with the same stately kriosphinxes
that to-day lie headless and neglected on the sands. From this terrace
the waters of the Nile could be distinctly seen, with the steps, at
which the avenue I have just described terminated, leading down to them.
Away to the southwest rose the smaller Temple of Khunsi, and from it the
avenue of sphinxes which connected it with the Temple of Ammon two miles
away at Luxor. From the crowds that congregated round these mighty
edifices, and from the excitement which prevailed on every hand, it was
plain that some great festival was about to be celebrated. While I
watched the commencement of the procession made its appearance on the
farther side of the river, where state barges ornamented with much gold
and many brilliant colours were waiting to carry it across. On reaching
the steps it continued its march toward the temple. It was preceded by a
hundred dancing girls clad in white, and carrying timbrels in their
hands. Behind them was a priest bearing the two books of Hermes, one
containing hymns in honour of the gods, and the other precepts relating
to the life of the King. Next came the Royal Astrologer bearing the
measure of Time, the hour-glass and the Phoenix. Then the King's
Scribe, carrying the materials of his craft. Following him were more
women playing on single and double pipes, harps, and flutes, and after
the musicians the Stolistes, with the sign of Justice and the cup of
Libation. Next walked twelve servants of the temple, headed by the Chief
Priest, clad in his robes of leopard skins, after whom marched a troop
of soldiers with the sun glittering on their armour and accoutrements.
Behind, the runners were carrying white staves in their hand, and after
them fifty singing girls, strewing flowers of all colours upon the path.
Then, escorted by his bodyguard, the Royal Arms bearers, and seated upon
his throne of state, which again was borne upon the shoulders of the
chief eight nobles of the land, and had above it a magnificent canopy,
was Pharaoh himself, dressed in his robes of state and carrying his
sceptre and the flagellum of Osiris in either hand. Behind him were his
fan bearers, and by his side a man whom, in spite of his rich dress, I
recognised as soon as my eyes fell upon him. He was none other than the
servant whom Pharaoh delighted to honour, his favourite, Ptahmes, son of
Netruhôtep, Chief of the Magicians, and Lord of the North and South.
Deformed as he was, he walked with a proud step, carrying himself like
one who knows that his position is assured. Following Pharaoh were his
favourite generals, then another detachment of soldiers, still more
priests, musicians, and dancing girls, and last of all a choir robed in
white, and numbering several hundred voices. If you can picture the blue
sky overhead, the sunshine, the mighty pylons and temples, the palm
trees, the glittering procession, the gorgeous uniforms, the avenues of
kriosphinxes, and the waters of the Nile showing in the background, you
will have some notion of the scene I have attempted to portray.

Reaching the main pylon of the temple, the dancing girls, musicians and
soldiers drew back on either side, and Pharaoh, still borne upon the
shoulders of his courtiers, and accompanied by his favourite magician,
entered the sacred building and was lost to view.

He had no sooner disappeared than the whole scene vanished, and once
more I found myself standing in the darkness. It was only for a few
moments, however. Then the globule of light which had first attracted my
attention reappeared. Again it swung before my eyes and again I suddenly
found myself in the open air. Now, however, it was nighttime. As on the
previous occasion, I stood before the main pylon of the temple. This
time, however, there was no crowd, no brilliant procession, no joyous
music. Heavy clouds covered the sky, and at intervals the sound of
sullen thunder came across the sands from the west. A cold wind sighed
round the corners of the temple and added to the prevailing dreariness.
It was close upon midnight, and I could not help feeling that something
terrible was about to happen. Nor was I disappointed. Even as I waited a
small procession crossed the Nile and made its way, just as the other
had done, up the avenue of kriosphinxes. Unlike the first, however, this
consisted of but four men, or to be exact, of five, since one was being
carried on a bier. Making no more noise than was necessary, they
conveyed their burden up the same well-kept roadway and approached the
temple. From where I stood I was able to catch a glimpse of the dead
man, for dead he certainly was. To my surprise he was none other than
Ptahmes. Not, however, the Ptahmes of the last vision. Now he was old
and poorly clad, and a very different creature from the man who had
walked so confidently beside Pharaoh's litter on the occasion of the
last procession.

Knowing as I did the history of his downfall, I was easily able to put
two and two together and to ascribe a reason for what I saw. He had been
in hiding to escape the wrath of Pharaoh, and now he was dead, and his
friends among the priests of Ammon were bringing him by stealth to the
temple to prepare his body for the tomb. Once more the scene vanished
and I stood in darkness. Then, as before, the light reappeared, and with
it still another picture.

On this occasion also it was night, and we were in the desert. The same
small party I had seen carrying the dead man before was now making its
way toward a range of hills. High up on a rocky spur a tomb had been
prepared, and to it the body of the man, once so powerful and now fallen
so low, was being conveyed. Unseen by the bearers, I followed and
entered the chamber of death. In front was the Chief Priest, a venerable
man, but to my surprise without his leopard skin dress. The mummy was
placed in position without ceremony of any kind. Even the most simple
funerary rites were omitted. No sorrowing relatives made an oblation
before it, no scroll of his life was read. Cut off from the world,
buried by stealth, he was left to take the long rest in an unhallowed
tomb from which my own father, three thousand years later, was destined
to remove his body. Then, like the others, this scene also vanished, and
once more I found myself standing in the dark hall.

"Thou hast seen the splendour and the degradation of the man Ptahmes,"
said the deep voice of the old man who had warned me not to be afraid.
"How he rose and how he fell. Thou hast seen how the mortal body of him
who was once so mighty that he stood before Pharaoh unafraid, was buried
by night, having been forbidden to cross the sacred Lake of the Dead.
For more than three thousand years, by thy calculation, that body has
rested in an unconsecrated tomb, it has been carried to a far country,
and throughout that time his soul has known no peace. But the gods are
not vengeful for ever, and it is decreed that by thy hand, inasmuch as
thou art not of his country or of his blood, he shall find rest at last.
Follow me, for there is much for thee to see."

Leading the way across the large hall, he conducted me down another
flight of steps into yet another hall, larger than any I had yet seen,
the walls of which were covered with frescoes, in every case having some
connection with the services rendered to the dead. On a stone slab in
the centre of this great place was the mummy case which had for so many
years stood in the alcove of my studio, and which was undoubtedly the
cause of my being where I now was. I looked again and could scarcely
believe my eyes, for there, seated at its head, gazing from the old man
to myself, was the monkey Pehtes, with an expression of terror upon his
wizened little face.

I must leave you to imagine what sort of effect the solemnity of this
great hall, the solitary mummy case lying in the centre, and the
frightened little monkey seated at its head had upon me.

At a signal from my companion the men who had anointed me on my arrival
in this ghostly place made their appearance, but whence I could not
discover. Lifting the lid of the case, despite the monkey's almost human
protests, they withdrew the body, swaddled up as it was, and laid it
upon the table. One by one the cloths were removed until the naked flesh
(if flesh it could be called) lay exposed to view. To the best of my
belief it had never seen the light, certainly not in my time, since the
day, so many thousand years before, when it had been prepared for the
tomb. The effect it had upon me was almost overwhelming. My guide,
however, permitted no sign of emotion to escape him. When everything had
been removed the men who had done the work withdrew as silently as they
had come, and we three were left alone together.

"Draw near," said the old man solemnly, "and if thou wouldst lose
conceit in thy strength, and learn how feeble a thing is man, gaze upon
the form of him who lies before you. Here on this stone is all that is
left of Ptahmes, the son of Netruhôtep, Magician to Pharaoh, and chief
of the Prophets of the North and South."

I drew near and looked upon the mummified remains. Dried up and brown as
they were, the face was still distinctly recognisable, and as I gazed I
sprang back with a cry of horror and astonishment. Believe it or not as
you please, but what I saw there was none other than the face of Pharos.
The likeness was unmistakable. There could be no sort of doubt about it.
I brushed my hand across my eyes to find out if I were dreaming. But no,
when I looked again the body was still there. And yet it seemed so
utterly impossible, so unheard of, that the man stretched out before me
could be he whom I had first seen at the foot of Cleopatra's Needle, at
the Academy, in Lady Medenham's drawing-room, and with whom I had dined
at Naples after our interview at Pompeii. And as I looked, as if any
further proof were wanting, the monkey, with a little cry, sprang upon
the dead man and snuggled himself down beside him.

Approaching the foot of the slab, the old man addressed the recumbent
figure.

"Open thine eyes, Ptahmes, son of Netruhôtep," he said, "and listen to
the words that I shall speak to thee. In the day of thy power, when yet
thou didst walk upon the earth, thou didst sin against Ra and against
the mighty ones, the thirty-seven gods. Know now that it is given thee
for thy salvation to do the work which has been decreed against the
peoples upon whom their wrath has fallen. Be strong, O Ptahmes! for the
means are given thee, and if thou dost obey thou shalt rest in peace.
Wanderer of the centuries, who cometh out of the dusk, and whose birth
is from the house of death, thou wast old and art born again. Through
all the time that has been thou hast waited for this day. In the name,
therefore, of the great gods Osiris and Nephthys, I bid thee rise from
thy long rest and go out into the world, but be it ever remembered by
thee that if thou usest this power to thy own advantage or failest even
by as much as one single particular in the trust reposed in thee, then
thou art lost, not for to-day, not for to-morrow, but for all time. In
the tomb from whence it was stolen thy body shall remain until the work
which is appointed thee is done. Then shalt thou return and be at peace
for ever. Rise, Ptahmes, rise and depart!"

As he said this the monkey sprang up from the dead man's side with a
little cry and beat wildly in the air with his hands. Then it was as if
something snapped, my body became deadly cold, and with a great shiver I
awoke (if, as I can scarcely believe, I had been sleeping before) to
find myself sitting on the same block of stone in the great Hypostile
Hall where Pharos had left me many hours before. The first pale light of
dawn could be seen through the broken columns to the east. The air was
bitterly cold, and my body ached all over as if, which was very likely,
I had caught a chill. Only a few paces distant, seated on the ground,
their faces hidden in their folded arms, were the two Arabs who had
accompanied us from Luxor. I rose to my feet and stamped upon the ground
in the hope of imparting a little warmth to my stiffened limbs. Could I
have fallen asleep while I waited for Pharos, and if so, had I dreamed
all the strange things that I have described in this chapter? I
discarded the notion as impossible, and yet what other explanation had I
to offer? I thought of the secret passage beneath the stone, and which
led to the vaults below. Remembering as I did the direction in which the
old man had proceeded in order to reach it, I determined to search for
it. If only I could find the place I should be able to set all doubt on
the subject at rest for good and all. I according crossed the great
hall, which was now as light as day, and searched the place which I
considered most likely to contain the stone in question. But though I
gave it the most minute scrutiny for upwards of a quarter of an hour, no
sign could I discover. All the time I was becoming more and more
convinced of one thing, and that was the fact that I was unmistakably
ill. My head and bones ached, while my left arm, which had never yet
lost the small purple mark which I had noticed the morning after my
adventure at the Pyramids, seemed to be swelling perceptibly and
throbbed from shoulder to wrist. Unable to find the stone, and still
more unable to make head or tail of all that had happened in the night,
I returned to my former seat. One of the Arabs, the man who had boarded
the steamer on our arrival the previous afternoon, rose to his feet and
looked about him, yawning heavily as he did so. He, at least, I thought,
would be able to tell me if I had slept all night in the same place. I
put the question to him, only to receive his solemn assurance that I had
not left their side ever since I had entered the ruins. The man's
demeanour was so sincere, that I had no reason to suppose that he was
not telling the truth. I accordingly seated myself again and devoutly
wished I were back with Valerie on board the steamer.

A nice trick Pharos had played me in bringing me out to spend the night
catching cold in these ruins. I resolved to let him know my opinion of
his conduct at the earliest opportunity. But if I had gone to sleep on
the stone, where had he been all night, and why had he not permitted me
to assist in the burial of Ptahmes according to agreement? What was more
important still, when did he intend putting in an appearance again? I
had half made up my mind to set off for Luxor on my own account, in the
hope of being able to discover an English doctor, from whom I could
obtain some medicine and find out the nature of the ailment from which I
was suffering. I was, however, spared the trouble of doing this, for
just as my patience was becoming exhausted a noise behind me made me
turn round, and I saw Pharos coming toward me. It struck me that his
step was more active than I had yet seen it, and I noticed the pathetic
little face of the monkey, Pehtes, peeping out from the shelter of his
heavy coat.

"Come," he said briskly, "let us be going. You look cold, my dear
Forrester, and if I am not mistaken, you are not feeling very well. Give
me your hand."

I did as he ordered me. If, however, my hand was cold, his was like ice.

"I thought as much," he said; "you are suffering from a mild attack of
Egyptian fever. Fortunately, however, that can soon be set right."

I followed him through the main pylon to the place where we had
dismounted from our camels the night before. The patient beasts were
still there just as we had left them.

"Mount," said Pharos, "and let us return with all speed to the steamer."

I did as he desired, and we accordingly set off. I noticed, however,
that on the return journey we did not follow the same route as that
which had brought us to the temple. By this time, however, I was feeling
too ill to protest or to care very much where we went.

"We are nearly there," said Pharos. "Keep up your heart. In less than
ten minutes you will be in bed and on the high road to recovery."

"But this is not the way to Luxor," I said feebly, clinging to the
pommel of my saddle as I spoke and looking with aching eyes across the
dreary stretch of sand.

"We are not going to Luxor," Pharos replied. "I am taking you to a place
where I can look after you myself, and where there will be no chance of
any meddlesome European doctors interfering with my course of
treatment."

The ten minutes he had predicted seemed like centuries, and, had I been
asked, I should have declared that at least two hours elapsed between
our leaving the Temple of Ammon and our arrival at our destination.
During that time my agony was well nigh unbearable. My throat was
swelling and I felt as if I were suffocating. My limbs quivered as
though they had been stricken with the palsy, and the entire landscape
was blotted out by a red mist as thick as blood.

More dead than alive, I accommodated myself to the shuffling tread of
the camel as best I could, and when at last I heard Pharos say in
Arabic, "It is here; bid the beast lie down," my last ounce of strength
departed and I lost consciousness.

How long I remained in this state I had no idea at the time, but when I
recovered my senses again I found myself lying in an Arab tent, upon a
rough bed made up upon the sand. I was as weak as a kitten, and when I
looked at my hand as it lay upon the rough blanket I scarcely recognised
it, so white and emaciated was it. Not being able to understand the
reason of my present location, I raised myself on my elbow and looked
out under the flap of the tent. All I could see there, however, was
desert sand, a half-starved dog prowling about in the foreground in
search of something to eat, and a group of palm trees upon the far
horizon. While I was thus investigating my surroundings the same Arab
who had assured me that I had slept all night on the block of stone in
the temple made his appearance with a bowl of broth which he gave to me,
putting his arm round me and assisting me to sit up while I drank it. I
questioned him as to where I was and how long I had been there, but he
only shook his head, saying that he could tell me nothing. The broth,
however, did me good, more good than any information could have done,
and after he had left me I laid myself down and in a few moments was
asleep again. When I woke it was late in the afternoon and the sun was
sinking behind the palm trees to which I referred just now. As it
disappeared Pharos entered the tent and expressed his delight at finding
me conscious once more. I put the same questions to him that I had asked
the Arab, and found that he was inclined to be somewhat more
communicative.

"You have now been ill three days," he said, "so ill, indeed, that I
dared not move you. Now, however, that you have got your senses back,
you will make rapid progress. I can assure you I shall not be sorry, for
events have occurred which necessitate my immediate return to Europe.
You on your part, I presume, will not regret saying farewell to Egypt?"

"I would leave to-day, if such a thing were possible," I answered. "Weak
as I am I think I could find strength enough for that. Indeed, I feel
stronger already, and as a proof of it my appetite is returning. Where
is the Arab who brought me my broth this morning?"

"Dead," said Pharos laconically. "He held you in his arms and died two
hours afterward. They've no stamina, these Arabs, the least thing kills
them. But you need have no fear. You have passed the critical point and
your recovery is certain."

But I scarcely heard him. "Dead! dead!" I was saying over and over again
to myself as if I did not understand it. "Surely the man cannot be
dead?" He had died through helping me. What then was this terrible
disease of which I had been the victim?



CHAPTER XIV.


In travelling either with Pharos or in search of him it was necessary to
accustom oneself to rapid movement. I was in London on June 7th, and had
found him in Naples three days later; had reached Cairo in his company
on the 18th of the same month, and was four hundred and fifty miles up
the Nile by the 27th. I had explored the mysteries of the great Temple
of Ammon as no other Englishman, I feel convinced, had ever done; had
been taken seriously ill, recovered, returned to Cairo, travelled thence
to rejoin the yacht at Port Said; had crossed in her to Constantinople,
journeyed by the Orient Express to Vienna, and on the morning of July
15th stood at the entrance to the Teyn Kirche in the wonderful old
Bohemian city of Prague.

From this itinerary it will be seen that the grass was not allowed to
grow under our feet. Indeed, we had scarcely arrived in any one place
before our remorseless leader hurried us away again. His anxiety to
return to Europe was as great as it had been to reach Egypt. On land the
trains could not travel fast enough; on board the yacht his one cry was,
"Push on, push on!" What this meant to a man like myself, who had lately
come so perilously near death, I must leave you to imagine. Indeed,
looking back upon it now, I wonder that I emerged from it alive. Looked
at from another light, I believe I could not have done so but for
Pharos. Callous as he had been to my sufferings hitherto, he could
scarcely do enough for me now. His first inquiry in the morning was as
to how I felt, and his last injunction at night was to the effect that
if I felt any return of fever I was to communicate with him immediately.
From this show of consideration on his part it would probably be argued
that I should at least have felt some gratitude toward himself. The
contrary, however, was the case. Ever since he had announced the death
of the Arab to me my fear and dislike of him had been intensified rather
than diminished. I was afraid of him very much in the same way as a man
is afraid of a loathsome snake, and yet with that fear there was a
peculiar fascination which I was powerless to resist.

We had reached Constantinople early on Thursday morning and had left for
Vienna at four o'clock in the afternoon. In the latter place we had
remained only a few hours, had caught the next available train, and
reached Prague the following morning. What our next move would be I had
not the least idea, nor did Pharos enlighten me upon the subject. Times
out of number I made up my mind that I would speak to him about it and
let him see that I was tired of so much travelling, and desired to
return to England forthwith. But I could not leave Valerie, and whenever
I began to broach the subject my courage deserted me, and it did not
require much self-persuasion to make me put the matter off for a more
convenient opportunity.

Of the Fräulein Valerie, up to the time of our arrival in the city there
is little to tell. She had evidently been informed of my illness at
Karnak, for when I returned to the steamer she had arranged that
everything should be in readiness for my reception. By the time we
reached Cairo again I was so far recovered as to be able to join her on
deck, but by this time a curious change had come over her, she was more
silent and much more reserved than heretofore, and when we reached the
yacht spent most of her days in her own cabin, where I could hear her
playing to herself such wild, sad music that to listen to it made me
feel miserable for hours afterward. With Pharos, however, it was
entirely different. He, who had once been so morose, now was all smiles,
while his inseparable companion, the monkey, Pehtes, for whom I had
conceived a dislike that was only second to that I entertained for his
master, equalled if he did not excel him in the boisterousness of his
humour.

At the commencement of this chapter I have said that on this particular
morning, our first in Prague, I was standing before the doors of the
Teyn Kirche, beneath the story of the Crucifixion as it is told there in
stone. My reason for being there will be apparent directly. Let it
suffice that when I entered the sacred building I paused, thinking how
beautiful it was, with the sunshine straggling in through those
wonderful windows which in bygone days had looked down on the burial of
Tycho Brahé, and had in all probability seen John of Nepomuc standing in
the pulpit. Their light illumined the grotesque old organ with its
multitude of time-stained pipes and dingy faded ornaments, and
contrasted strangely with that of the lamps and candles burning before
the various altars and shrines. Of all the churches of Europe there is
not one that affects me so deeply as this famous old Hussite building.
With the exception, however, of myself and a kneeling figure near the
entrance to the Marian Capelle, no worshippers were in the church. I
stood for a moment looking round the building. Its vague suggestion of
sadness harmonised with my own feelings, and I wondered if, among all
those who had worshipped inside its walls since the days when the German
merchants had first erected it, there had ever been one who had so
strange a story to tell as myself. At last, having screwed my courage to
the sticking point, I made my way down the nave between the carved,
worm-eaten pews, and approached the figure I have referred to above.
Though I could not see her face, I knew that it was Valerie. Her head
was bent upon her hands and her shoulders shook with emotion. She must
have heard my step upon the stones, for she suddenly looked up, and
seeing me before her, rose from her knees and prepared to leave the pew.
The sight of her unhappiness affected me keenly, and when she reached
the spot where I was standing I could control myself no longer. For the
last few weeks I had been hard put to it to keep my love within bounds,
and now, under the influence of her grief, it got the better of me
altogether. She must have known what was coming, for she stood before me
with a troubled expression in her eyes.

"Mr. Forrester," she began, "I did not expect to see you. How did you
know that I was here?"

"Because I followed you," I answered unblushingly.

"You followed me?" she said.

"Yes, and I am not ashamed to own it," I replied. "Surely you can
understand why?"

"I am afraid I do not," she answered, and as she did so she took a step
away from me, as if she were afraid of what she was going to hear.

"In that case there is nothing left but for me to tell you," I said, and
approaching her I took possession of the slender hand which rested upon
the back of the pew behind her. "I followed you, Valerie, because I love
you, and because I wished to guard you. Unhappily we have both of us the
best of reasons for knowing that we are in the power of a man who would
stop at nothing to achieve any end he might have in view. Did you hear
me say, Valerie, that I love you?"

From her beautiful face every speck of colour had vanished by this time;
her bosom heaved tumultuously under the intensity of her emotion. No
word, however, passed her lips. I still held her hand in mine, and it
gave me courage to continue when I saw that she did not attempt to
withdraw it.

"Have you no answer for me?" I inquired, after the long pause which had
followed my last speech. "I have told you that I love you. If it is not
enough I will do so again. What better place could be found for such a
confession than this beautiful old church, which has seen so many lovers
and has held the secrets of so many lives. Valerie, I believe I have
loved you since the afternoon I first saw you. But since I have known
you and have learnt your goodness that love has become doubly strong."

"I can not hear you," she cried, almost with a sob, "indeed, I can not.
You do not know what you are saving. You have no idea of the pain you
are causing me."

"God knows I would not give you pain for anything," I answered. "But now
you _must_ hear me. Why should you not? You are a good woman, and I am,
I trust, an honest man. Why, therefore, should I not love you? Tell me
that."

"Because it is madness," she answered in despair. "Situated as we are we
should be the last to think of such a thing. Oh, Mr. Forrester, if only
you had taken my advice, and had gone away from Naples when I implored
you to do so, this would not have happened."

"If I have anything to be thankful for it is that," I replied fervently.
"I told you then that I would not leave you. Nor shall I ever do so
until I know that your life is safe. Come, Valerie, you have heard my
confession, will you not be equally candid with me. You have always
proved yourself my friend. Is it possible you have nothing more than
friendship to offer me?"

I knew the woman I was dealing with. Her beautiful, straightforward
nature was incapable of dissimulation.

"Mr. Forrester, even if what you hope is impossible, it would be unfair
on my part to deceive you," she said. "I love you, as you are worthy to
be loved, but having said that I can say no more. You must go away and
endeavour to forget that you ever saw so unhappy a person as myself."

"Never," I answered, and then dropping on one knee and pressing her hand
to my lips, I continued: "You have confessed, Valerie, that you love me,
and nothing can ever separate us now. Come what may, I will not leave
you. Here, in this old church, by the cross on yonder altar, I swear it.
As we are together in trouble, so will we be together in love, and may
God's blessing rest upon us both."

"Amen," she answered solemnly.

She seated herself in a pew, and I took my place beside her.

"Valerie," I said, "I followed you this morning for two reasons. The
first was to tell you of my love, and the second was to let you know
that I have made up my mind on a certain course of action. At any risk
we must escape from Pharos, and since you have confessed that you love
me we will go together."

"It is useless," she answered sorrowfully, "quite useless."

"Hush!" I said, as three people entered the church. "We can not talk
here. Let us find another place."

With this we rose and left the building. Proceeding into the street, I
hailed a cab, and as soon as we had taken our places in it, bade the man
drive us to the Baumgarten. Some of my pleasantest recollections of
Prague in days gone by were clustered round this park, but they were as
nothing compared with the happiness I now enjoyed in visiting it in the
company of the woman I loved. When we had found a seat in a secluded
spot we resumed the conversation that had been interrupted in the
church.

"You say that it is useless our thinking of making our escape from this
man?" I said. "I tell you that it is not useless, and that at any hazard
we must do so. We know now that we love each other. I know, at least,
how much you are to me. Is it possible, therefore, that you can believe
I should allow you to remain in his power an instant longer than I can
help? In my life I have not feared many men, but I confess that I fear
Pharos as I do the devil. Since I have known him I have had several
opportunities of testing his power. I have seen things, or he has _made_
me believe I have seen things which, under any other circumstances,
would seem incredible, and, if it is likely to have any weight with you,
I do not mind owning that his power over me is growing greater every
day. And that reminds me there is a question I have often desired to ask
you. Do you remember one night on board the yacht, when we were crossing
from Naples to Port Said, telling Pharos that you could see a cave in
which a mummy had once stood?"

She shook her head.

"I remember nothing of it," she said. "But why do you ask me such
strange questions?"

I took her hand before I answered. I could feel that she was trembling
violently.

"Because I want to prove to you the diabolical power the man possesses.
You described a tomb from which the mummy had been taken. I have seen
that tomb. It was the burial place of the Magician, Ptahmes, whose mummy
once stood in my studio in London, which Pharos stole from me, and which
was the primary cause of my becoming associated with him. You described
a subterranean hall with carved pillars and paintings on the walls, and
a mummy lying upon a block of stone. I have seen that hall, those
pillars, those carvings and paintings, and the mummy of Ptahmes lying
stretched out as you portrayed it. You mentioned a tent in the desert
and a sick man lying on a bed inside it. I was that sick man, and it was
to that tent that Pharos conveyed me after I had spent the night in the
ruins of the Temple of Ammon. The last incident has yet to take place,
but, please God, if you will help me in my plan, we shall have done with
him long before then."

"You say you saw all the things I described. Please do not think me
stupid, but I do not understand how you could have done so."

Thereupon I told her all that had befallen me at the ruins of Karnak.
She listened with feverish interest.

"How is it that Providence allows this man to live?" she cried when I
had finished. "Who is he and what is the terrible power he possesses?
And what is to be the end of all his evil ways?"

"That is a problem which only the future can solve," I answered. "For
ourselves it is sufficient that we must get away from him and at once.
Nothing could be easier, he exercises no control over our movements. He
does not attempt to detain us. We go in and out as we please, therefore
all we have to do is to get into a train and be hundreds of miles away
before he is even aware that we are outside the doors of the hotel. You
are not afraid, Valerie, to trust yourself and your happiness to me?"

"I would trust myself with you anywhere," she answered, and as she said
it she pressed my hand and looked into my face with her brave sweet
eyes. "And for your sake I would do and bear anything."

Brave as her words were, however, a little sigh escaped her lips before
she could prevent it.

"Why do you sigh?" I asked. "Have you any doubt as to the safety of our
plan? If so tell me and I will change it."

"I have no doubt as to the plan," she answered. "All I fear is that it
may be useless. I have already told you how I have twice tried to escape
him, and how on each occasion he has brought me back."

"He shall not do so this time," I said with determination. "We will lay
our plans with the greatest care, behave toward him as if we
contemplated remaining for ever in his company, and then to-morrow
morning we will catch the train for Berlin, be in Hamburg next day, and
in London three days later. Once there I have half a hundred friends
who, when I tell them that you are hiding from a man who has treated you
most cruelly, and that you are about to become my wife, will be only too
proud to take you in. Then we will be married as quickly as can be
arranged, and as man and wife defy Pharos to do his worst."

She did her best to appear delighted with my plan, but I could see that
she had no real faith in it. Nor, if the truth must be told, was I in my
own heart any too sanguine of success. I could not but remember the
threat the man had held over me that night in the Pyramid at Gizeh: "For
the future you are my property, to do with as I please. You will have no
will but my pleasure, no thought but to act as I shall tell you."
However, we could but do our best, and I was determined it should not be
my fault if our enterprise did not meet with success. Not once but a
hundred times we overhauled our plan, tried its weak spots, arranged our
behaviour before Pharos, and endeavoured to convince each other as far
as possible that it could not fail. And if we did manage to outwit him
how proud I should be to parade this glorious creature in London as my
wife, and as I thought of the happiness the future might have in store
for us, and remembered that it all depended on that diabolical
individual Pharos, I felt sick and giddy with anxiety to see the last of
him.

Not being anxious to arouse any suspicion in our ogre's mind by a
prolonged absence, we at last agreed that it was time for us to think of
returning. Accordingly, we left the park and, finding the cab which had
been ordered to wait for us at the gates, drove back to the city. On
reaching the hotel, we discovered Pharos in the hall holding in his hand
a letter which he had just finished reading as we entered. On seeing us
his wrinkled old face lit up with a smile.

"My dear," he said to Valerie, placing his hand upon her arm in an
affectionate manner, "a very great honour has been paid you. His
Majesty, the Emperor King, as you are perhaps aware, arrived in the city
yesterday, and to-night a state concert is to be given at the palace.
Invitations have been sent to us, and I have been approached in order to
discover whether you will consent to play. Not being able to find you, I
answered that I felt sure you would accept his Majesty's command. Was I
right in so doing?"

Doubtless, remembering the contract we had entered into together that
morning to humour Pharos as far as possible, Valerie willingly gave her
consent. Though I did not let him see it, I for my part was not so
pleased. He should have waited and have allowed her to accept or decline
for herself, I thought. However, I held my peace, trusting that on the
morrow we should be able to make our escape and so be done with him for
good and all.

For the remainder of the day Pharos exhibited the most complete
good-humour. He was plainly looking forward to the evening. He had met
Franz Josef on more than one occasion, he informed me, and remembered
with gusto the compliments that had been paid him the last time about
his ward's playing.

"I am sure we shall both rejoice in her success, shall we not, my dear
Forrester?" he said, and as he did so he glanced slyly at me out of the
corner of his eye. "As you can see for yourself, I have discovered your
secret."

"I looked nervously at him. What did he mean by this? Was it possible
that by that same adroit reasoning he had discovered our plan for
escaping on the following day?

"I am afraid I do not quite understand," I replied, with as much
nonchalance as I could manage to throw into my voice. "Pray what secret
have you discovered?"

"That you love my ward," he answered. "But why look so concerned? It
does not require very great perceptive powers to see that her beauty has
exercised considerable effect upon you. Why should it not have done so?
And where would be the harm? She is a most fascinating woman, and you,
if you will permit me to tell you so to your face, are--what shall we
say?--well, far from being an unprepossessing man. Like a foolish
guardian I have permitted you to be a good deal, perhaps too much,
together, and the result even a child might have foreseen. You have
learnt to love each other. No; do not be offended. I assure you there is
no reason for it. I like you, and I promise you, if you continue to
please me, I shall raise no objection. Now what have you to say to me?"

"I do not know what to say," I said, and it was the truth. "I had no
idea you suspected anything of the kind."

"I fear you do not give me the credit of being very sharp," he replied.
"And perhaps it is not to be wondered at. An old man's wits can not hope
to be as quick as those of the young. But there, we have talked enough
on this subject, let us postpone consideration of it until another day."

"With all my heart," I answered. "But there is one question I had better
ask you while I have the opportunity. I should be glad if you could
tell me how long you are thinking of remaining in Prague. When I left
England I had no intention of being away from London more than a
fortnight, and I have now trespassed on your hospitality for upward of
two months. If you are going west within the next week or so, and will
let me travel with you, I shall be only too glad to do so, otherwise I
fear I shall be compelled to bid you good-bye and return to England
alone."

"You must not think of such a thing," he answered, this time throwing a
sharp glance at me from his sunken eyes. "Neither Valerie nor I could
get on without you. Besides, there is no need for you to worry. Now that
this rumour is afloat I have no intention of remaining here any longer
than I can help."

"To what rumour do you refer?" I inquired. "I have heard nothing."

"That is what it is to be in love," he replied. "You have not heard then
that one of the most disastrous and terrible plagues of the last five
hundred years has broken out on the shores of the Bosphorus, and is
spreading with alarming rapidity through Turkey and the Balkan States."

"I have not heard a word about it," I said, and as I did so I was
conscious of a vague feeling of terror in my heart, that fear for a
woman's safety which comes some time or another to every man who loves.
"Is it only newspaper talk, or is it really as serious as your words
imply?"

"It is very serious," he answered. "See, here is a man with the evening
paper. I will purchase one and read you the latest news."

He did so, and searched the columns for what he wanted. Though I was
able to speak German, I was unable to read it; Pharos accordingly
translated for me.

"The outbreak of the plague which has caused so much alarm in Turkey,"
he read, "is, we regret having to inform our readers, increasing instead
of diminishing, and to-day fresh cases to the number of seven hundred
and thirty-three, have been notified. For the twenty-four hours ending
at noon the death-rate has equalled eighty per cent. of those attacked.
The malady has now penetrated into Russia, and three deaths were
registered as resulting from it in Moscow, two in Odessa, and one in
Kiev yesterday. The medical experts are still unable to assign a
definite name to it, but incline to the belief that it is of Asiatic
origin, and will disappear with the break up of the present phenomenally
hot weather."

"I do not like the look of it at all," he said when he had finished
reading. "I have seen several of these outbreaks in my time, and I shall
be very careful to keep well out of this one's reach."

"I agree with you," I answered, and then bade him good-bye and went
upstairs to my room, more than ever convinced that it behooved me to get
the woman I loved out of the place without loss of time.

The concert at the palace that night was a brilliant success in every
way, and never in her career had Valerie looked more beautiful, or
played so exquisitely as on that occasion. Of the many handsome women
present that evening, she was undoubtedly the queen. And when, after her
performance, she was led up and presented to the Emperor by Count de
Schelyani, an old friend of her father's, a murmur of such admiration
ran through the room as those walls had seldom heard before. I, also,
had the honour of being presented by the same nobleman, whereupon his
Majesty was kind enough to express his appreciation of my work. It was
not until a late hour that we reached our hotel again. When we did
Pharos, whom the admiration Valerie had excited seemed to have placed in
a thoroughly good humour, congratulated us both upon our success, and
then, to my delight, bade us good night and took himself off to his bed.
As soon as I heard the door of his room close behind him, and not until
then, I took Valerie's hand.

"I have made all the arrangements for our escape to-morrow," I
whispered, "or rather I should say to-day, since it is after midnight.
The train for Berlin _via_ Dresden, I have discovered, leaves here at a
quarter past six. Do you think you can manage to be ready so early?"

"Of course I can," she answered confidently. "You have only to tell me
what you want and I will do it."

"I have come to the conclusion," I said, "that it will not do for us to
leave by the city station. Accordingly, I have arranged that a cab shall
be waiting for us in the Platz. We will enter it and drive down the
line, board the train, and bid farewell to Pharos for good and all."

Ten minutes later I had said good night to her and had retired to my
room. The clocks of the city were striking two as I entered it. In four
hours we should be leaving the house to catch the train which we hoped
would bring us freedom. Were we destined to succeed or not?



CHAPTER XV.


So anxious was I not to run any risk of being asleep at the time we had
arranged to make our escape that I did not go to bed at all, but seated
myself in an armchair and endeavoured to interest myself in a book until
the fateful hour arrived. Then, leaving a note upon my dressing-table,
in which was contained a sufficient sum to reimburse the landlord for my
stay with him, I slipped into one pocket the few articles I had resolved
to carry with me, and taking care that my money was safely stowed away
in another, I said good-bye to my room and went softly down the stairs
to the large hall. Fortune favoured me, for only one servant was at work
there, an elderly man with a stolid, good-humoured countenance, who
glanced up at me, and, being satisfied as to my respectability,
continued his work once more. Of Valerie I could see no sign, and since
I did not know where her room was situated I occupied myself, while I
waited, wondering what I should do if she had overslept herself and did
not put in an appearance until too late. In order to excuse my presence
downstairs at such an early hour, I asked the man in which direction the
cathedral lay, and whether he could inform me at what time early mass
was celebrated.

He had scarcely instructed me on the former point and declared his
ignorance of the latter, before Valerie appeared at the head of the
stairs and descended to meet me, carrying her violin case in her hand. I
greeted her in English, and after I had slipped a couple of florins into
the servant's hand, we left the hotel together and made our way in the
direction of the Platz, where to my delight I found the cab I had
ordered the previous afternoon already waiting for us. We took our
places, and I gave the driver his instructions. In less than a quarter
of an hour he had brought us to the station I wanted to reach. I had
taken the tickets, and the train was carrying us away from Prague and
the man whom we devoutly hoped we should never see again as long as we
lived. Throughout the drive we had scarcely spoken a couple of dozen
words to each other, having been far too much occupied with the affairs
of the moment to think of anything but our flight. Knowing Pharos as we
did, it seemed more than probable that he might even now be aware of our
escape, and be taking measures to insure our return. But when we found
ourselves safely in the train our anxiety lessened somewhat, and with
every mile we threw behind us our spirits returned. By the time we
reached Dresden we were as happy a couple as any in Europe, and when
some hours later we stepped out of the carriage on to the platform at
Berlin, we were as unlike the pair who had left the hotel at Prague as
the proverbial chalk is like cheese. Even then, however, we were
determined to run no risk. Every mile that separated us from Pharos
meant greater security, and it was for this reason I had made up my mind
to reach the German capital, if possible, instead of remaining at
Dresden, as had been our original intention.

When our train reached its destination it was a few minutes after six
o'clock, and for the first time in my life I stood in the capital of the
German empire. Though we had been travelling for more than ten hours,
Valerie had so far shown no sign of fatigue.

"What do you propose doing now?" she inquired as we stood together on
the platform.

"Obtain some dinner," I answered, with a promptness and directness
worthy of the famous Mr. Dick.

"You must leave that to me," she said, with one of her own bright
smiles, which had been so rare of late. "Remember I am an old traveller,
and probably know Europe as well as you know Piccadilly."

"I will leave it to you then," I answered, "and surely man had never a
fairer pilot."

"On any other occasion I should warn you to beware of compliments," she
replied, patting me gaily on the arm with her hand, "but I feel so happy
now that I am compelled to excuse you. To-night, for the last time, I am
going to play the part of your hostess. After that it will be your duty
to entertain me. Let us leave by this door."

So saying, she led me from the station into the street outside, along
which we passed for some considerable distance. Eventually we reached a
restaurant, before which Valerie paused.

"The proprietor is an old friend of mine," she said, "who, though he is
acquainted with Pharos, will not, I am quite sure, tell him he has seen
us."

We entered, and when the majordomo came forward to conduct us to a
table, Valerie inquired whether his master were visible. The man stated
that he would find out, and departed on his errand.

While we waited I could not help noticing the admiring glances that were
thrown at my companion by the patrons of the restaurant, among whom
were several officers in uniform. Just, however, as I was thinking that
some of the latter would be none the worse for a little lesson in
manners, the shuffling of feet was heard, and presently, from a doorway
on the right, the fattest man I have ever seen in my life made his
appearance. He wore carpet slippers on his feet, and a red cap upon his
head, and carried in his hand a long German pipe with a china bowl. His
face was clean shaven, and a succession of chins fell one below another,
so that not an inch of his neck was visible. Having entered the room, he
paused, and when the waiter had pointed us out to him as the lady and
gentleman who had asked to see him, he approached and affected a
contortion of his anatomy which was evidently intended to be a bow.

"I am afraid, Herr Schuncke, that you do not remember me," said Valerie,
after the short pause that followed.

The man looked at her rather more closely, and a moment later was bowing
even more profusely and inelegantly than before.

"My dear young lady," he said, "I beg your pardon ten thousand times.
For the moment, I confess, I did not recognise you. Had I done so I
should not have kept you standing here so long."

Then, looking round, with rather a frightened air, he added, "But I do
not see Monsieur Pharos? Perhaps he is with you, and will be here
presently?"

"I sincerely hope not," Valerie replied. "That is the main reason of my
coming to you." Then, sinking her voice to a whisper, she added, as she
saw the man's puzzled expression, "I know I can trust you, Herr
Schuncke. The truth is, I have run away from him."

"Herr Gott!" said the old fellow. "So you have run away from him. Well,
I do not wonder at it, but you must not tell him I said so. How you
could have put up with him so long I do not know; but that is no
business of mine. But I am an old fool; while I am talking so much I
should be finding out how I can be of assistance to you."

"You will not find that very difficult," she replied. "All we are going
to trouble you for is some dinner, and your promise to say nothing,
should Monsieur Pharos come here in search of us."

"I will do both with the utmost pleasure," he answered. "You may be sure
I will say nothing, and you shall have the very best dinner old Ludwig
can cook. What is more, you shall have it in my own private
sitting-room, where you will be undisturbed. Oh, I can assure you,
Fräulein, it is very good to see your face again."

"It is very kind of you to say so," said Valerie, "and also to take so
much trouble. I thank you."

"You must not thank me at all," the old fellow replied. "But some day,
perhaps, you will let me hear you play again." Then, pointing to the
violin-case, which I carried in my hand, he continued, "I see you have
brought the beautiful instrument with you. Ah, Gott! what recollections
it conjures up for me. I can see old--but there, there, come with me, or
I shall be talking half the night!"

We accordingly followed him through the door by which he had entered,
and along a short passage to a room at the rear of the building. Here he
bade us make ourselves at home, while he departed to see about the
dinner. Before he did so, however, Valerie stopped him.

"Herr Schuncke," she said, "before you leave us, I want your
congratulations. Let me introduce you to Mr. Forrester, the gentleman to
whom I am about to be married."

The old fellow turned to me, and gave another of his grotesque bows.

"Sir," he said, "I congratulate you with all my heart. To hear her play
always, ah! what good fortune for a man. You will have a treasure in
your house that no money could buy. Be sure that you treat her as such."

When I had promised to do so, the warm-hearted old fellow departed on
his errand.

I must leave you to imagine the happiness of that dinner. Even now it
sends a thrill through me to think of it. I can recall the quaint little
room, so undeniably German in its furniture and decorations; the table
laden with the good things the landlord had provided for us--even to the
extent of a bottle of his own particular wine, which only saw the light
on the most important occasions; the military-looking waiter, with his
close-cropped hair and heavy eyes; and Valerie seated opposite, looking
so beautiful and so happy that I could scarcely believe she was the same
woman I had seen rising from her knees in the Teyn Kirche only the day
before.

"I hope all this travelling has not tired you, dearest?" I said, when
the waiter had handed us our coffee and had left the room.

"You forget that I am an old traveller," she said, "and not likely to be
fatigued by such a short journey. You have some reason, however, for
asking the question. What is it?"

"I will tell you," I answered. "I have been thinking that it would not
be altogether safe for us to remain in Berlin. It is quite certain that,
as soon as he discovers that we are gone, Pharos will make inquiries,
and find out what trains left Prague in the early morning. He will then
put two and two together, after his own diabolical fashion, and as
likely as not he will be here in search of us to-morrow morning, if not
sooner."

"In that case, what do you propose doing?" she asked.

"I propose, if you are not too tired, to leave here by the express at
half-past seven," I replied, "and travel as far as Wittenberge, which
place we should reach by half-past ten. We can manage it very easily. I
will telegraph for rooms, and to-morrow morning early we can continue
our journey to Hamburg, where we shall have no difficulty in obtaining a
steamer for London. Pharos would never think of looking for us in a
small place like Wittenberge, and we should be on board the steamer and
_en route_ to England by this time to-morrow evening."

"I can be ready as soon as you like," she answered bravely, "but before
we start you must give me time to reward Herr Schuncke for his kindness
to us."

A few moments later our host entered the room. I was about to pay for
our meal, when Valerie stopped me.

"You must do nothing of the kind," she said; "remember, you are my
guest. Surely you would not deprive me of one of the greatest pleasures
I have had for a long time?"

"You shall pay with all my heart," I answered, "but not with Pharos'
money."

"I never thought of that," she replied, and her beautiful face flushed
crimson. "No, no, you are quite right. I could not entertain you with
his money. But what am I to do? I have no other."

"In that case you must permit me to be your banker," I answered, and
with that I pulled from my pocket a handful of German coins.

Herr Schuncke at first refused to take anything, but when Valerie
declared that if he did not do so she would not play to him, he
reluctantly consented, vowing at the same time that he would not accept
it himself, but would bestow it upon Ludwig. Then Valerie went to the
violin-case, which I had placed upon a side table, and taking her
precious instrument from it--the only legacy she had received from her
father--tuned it, and stood up to play. As Valerie informed me later,
the old man, though one would scarcely have imagined it from his
commonplace exterior, was a passionate devotee of the beautiful art, and
now he stood, leaning against the wall, his fat hands clasped before
him, and his upturned face expressive of the most celestial enjoyment.
Nor had Valerie, to my thinking, ever done herself greater justice. She
had escaped from a life of misery that had been to her a living death,
and her whole being was in consequence radiant with happiness; this was
reflected in her playing. Nor was the effect she produced limited to
Herr Schuncke. Under the influence of her music I found myself building
castles in the air, and upon such firm foundations, too, that for the
moment it seemed no wind would ever be strong enough to blow them down.
When she ceased I woke as from a happy dream; Schuncke uttered a long
sigh, as much as to say, "It will be many years before I shall hear
anything like that again," and then it was time to go. The landlord
accompanied us into the street and called a cab. As it pulled up beside
the pavement a cripple passed, making his way slowly along with the
assistance of a pair of crutches. Valerie stopped him.

"My poor fellow," she said, handing him the purse containing the money
with which, ten minutes before, she had thought of paying for our
dinner, "there is a little present which I hope may bring you more
happiness than it has done me. Take it."

The man did so, scarcely able to contain his surprise, and when he had
examined the contents burst into a flood of thanks.

"Hush," she said, "you must not thank me. You do not know what you are
saying." Then turning to Schuncke, she held out her hand. "Good-bye,"
she said, "and thank you for your kindness. I know that you will say
nothing about having seen us."

"You need have no fear on that score," he said. "Pharos shall hear
nothing from me, I can promise you that. Farewell, Fräulein, and may
your life be a happy one."

I said good-bye to him, and then took my place in the vehicle beside
Valerie. A quarter of an hour later we were on our way to Wittenberge,
and Berlin, like Prague, was only a memory. Before leaving the station I
had purchased an armful of papers, illustrated and otherwise, for
Valerie's amusement. Though she professed to have no desire to read
them, but to prefer sitting by my side, holding my hand, and talking of
the happy days we hoped and trusted were before us, she found time, as
the journey progressed, to skim their contents. Seeing her do this
brought the previous evening to my remembrance, and I inquired what
further news there was of the terrible pestilence which Pharos had
declared to be raging in eastern Europe.

"I am afraid it is growing worse instead of better," she answered, when
she had consulted the paper. "The latest telegram declares that there
have been upward of a thousand fresh cases in Turkey alone within the
past twenty-four hours, that it has spread along the Black Sea as far as
Odessa, and north as far as Kiev. Five cases are reported from Vienna;
and, stay, here is a still later telegram in which it says"--she paused,
and a look of horror came into her face, "Can this be true?--it says
that the pestilence has broken out in Prague, and that the Count de
Schelyani, who, you remember, was so kind and attentive to us last night
at the palace, was seized this morning, and at the time this telegram
was despatched was lying in a critical condition."

"That is bad news indeed," I said. "Not only for Austria but also for
us."

"How for us?" she asked.

"Because it will make Pharos move out of Prague," I replied. "When he
spoke to me yesterday of the way in which this disease was gaining
ground in Europe he seemed visibly frightened, and stated that as soon
as it came too near he should at once leave the city. We have had one
exhibition of his cowardice, and you may be sure he will be off now as
fast as trains can take him. It must be our business to take care that
his direction and ours are not the same."

"But how are we to tell in which direction he will travel?" asked
Valerie, whose face had suddenly grown bloodless in its pallor.

"We must take our chance of that," I answered. "My principal hope is
that knowing, as he does, the whereabouts of the yacht he will make for
her, board her, and depart for mid-ocean to wait there until all danger
is passed. For my own part I am willing to own that I do not like the
look of things at all. I shall not feel safe until I have got you safely
into England, and that little silver streak of sea is between us and the
Continent."

"You _do_ love me, Cyril, do you not?" she inquired, slipping her little
hand into mine, and looking into my face with those eyes that seemed to
grow more beautiful with every day I looked into them. "I could not live
without your love now."

"God grant you may never be asked to do so," I answered; "I love you,
dearest, as I believe man never loved woman before, and, come what may,
nothing shall separate us. Surely even death itself could not be so
cruel. But why do you talk in this dismal strain? The miles are slipping
behind us; Pharos, let us hope, is banished from our lives for ever; we
are together, and as soon as we reach London, we shall be man and wife.
No, no, you must not be afraid, Valerie."

"I am afraid of nothing," she answered, "when I am with you. But ever
since we left Berlin I seem to have been overtaken by a fit of
melancholy which I can not throw off. I have reasoned with myself in
vain. Why I should feel like this I can not think. It is only
transitory, I am sure; so you must bear with me; to-morrow I shall be
quite myself again."

"Bear with you, do you say?" I answered. "You know that I will do so.
You have been so brave till now, that I can not let you give way just at
the moment when happiness is within your reach. Try and keep your
spirits up, my darling, for both our sakes. To-morrow, you will be on
the blue sea with the ship's head pointing for old England. And after
that--well, I told you just now what would happen then."

In spite of her promises, however, I found that in the morning my hopes
were not destined to be realized. Though she tried hard to make me
believe that the gloom had passed, it needed very little discernment
upon my part to see that the cheerfulness she affected was all assumed,
and, what made it doubly hard to bear, that it was for my sake.

Our stay at Wittenberge was not a long one. As soon as we had finished
our breakfast, we caught the 8.30 express and resumed our journey to
Hamburg, arriving there a little before midday. Throughout the journey,
Valerie had caused me considerable anxiety. Not only had her spirits
reached a lower level than they had yet attained, but her face, during
the last few hours, had grown singularly pale and drawn, and when I at
last drove her to it, she broke down completely and confessed to feeling
far from well.

"But it can not be anything serious," she cried. "I am sure it can not.
It only means that I am not such a good traveller as I thought.
Remember, we have covered a good many hundred miles in the last week,
and we have had more than our share of anxiety. As soon as we reach our
hotel in Hamburg I will go to my room and lie down. After I have had
some sleep, I have no doubt I shall be myself again."

I devoutly hoped so; but in spite of her assurance, my anxiety was in no
way diminished. Obtaining a cab, we drove at once to the Hôtel
Continental, at which I had determined to stay. Here I engaged rooms as
usual for Mr. and Miss Clifford, for it was as brother and sister we had
decided to pass until we should reach England and be made man and wife.
It was just luncheon-time when we arrived there; but Valerie was so
utterly prostrated that I could not induce her to partake of anything.
She preferred, she declared, to retire to her room at once, and
believing that this would be the wisest course for her to pursue, I was
only too glad that she should do so. Accordingly, when she had left me I
partook of lunch alone, but with no zest, as may be supposed, and having
despatched it, put on my hat and made my way to the premises of the
Steamboat Company in order to inquire about a boat for England.

On arrival at the office in question it was easily seen that something
unusual had occurred. In place of the business-like hurry to which I was
accustomed, I found the clerks lolling listlessly at their desks. So far
as I could see, they had no business wherewith to occupy themselves.
Approaching the counter, I inquired when their next packet would sail
for the United Kingdom, and in return received a staggering reply.

"I am afraid, sir," said the man, "you will find considerable difficulty
in getting into England just now."

"Difficulty in getting into England?" I cried in astonishment, "and why
so, pray?"

"Surely you must have heard?" he replied, and looking me up and down as
if I were a stranger but lately arrived from the moon. The other clerks
smiled incredulously.

"I have heard nothing," I replied, a little nettled at the fellow's
behaviour. "Pray be kind enough to inform me what you mean. I am most
desirous of reaching London at once, and will thank you to be good
enough to tell me when, and at what hour, your next boat leaves?"

"We have no boat leaving," the clerk answered, this time rather more
respectfully than before. "Surely, sir, you must have heard that there
have been two cases of the plague notified in this city to-day, and more
than a hundred in Berlin; consequently, the British Government have
closed their ports to German vessels, and, as it is rumoured that the
disease has made its appearance in France, it is doubtful whether you
will get into a French port either."

"But I must reach England," I answered desperately. "My business is most
important. I do not know what I shall do if I am prevented. I must sail
to-day, or to-morrow at latest."

"In that case, sir, I am afraid it is out of my power to help you," said
the man. "We have received a cablegram from our London office this
morning advising us to despatch no more boats until we receive further
orders."

"Are you sure there is no other way in which you can help me?" I asked.
"I shall be glad to pay anything in reason for the accommodation."

"It is just possible, though I must tell you, sir, I do not think it is
probable, that you might be able to induce the owner of some small craft
to run the risk of putting you across, but as far as we are concerned,
it is out of the question. Why, sir, I can tell you this, if we had a
boat running this afternoon, I could fill every berth thrice over, and
in less than half an hour. What's more, sir, I'd be one of the
passengers myself. We've been deluged with applications all day. It
looks as if everybody is being scared off the Continent by the news of
the plague. I only wish I were safe back in England myself. I was a fool
ever to have left it."

While the man was talking I had been casting about me for some way out
of my difficulty, and the news that this awful pestilence had made its
appearance in the very city in which we now were, filled me with so
great a fear that, under the influence of it, I very nearly broke down.
Pulling myself together, however, I thanked the man for his information,
and made my way into the street once more. There I paused and considered
what I should do. To delay was impossible. Even now Pharos might be
close behind me. A few hours more, and it was just possible he might
have tracked us to our hiding-place. But I soon discovered that even my
dread of Pharos was not as great as my fear of the plague, and as I have
said before, I did not fear that for myself. It was of Valerie I
thought, of the woman I loved more than all the world; whose existence
was so much to me that without her I should not have cared to go on
living. The recollection of her illness brought a thought into my mind
that was so terrible, so overwhelming, that I staggered on the pavement
and had to clutch at a tree for support.

"My God," I said to myself, "what should I do if this illness proved to
be the plague?"

The very thought of such a thing was more than I could bear. It choked,
it suffocated me, taking all the pluck out of me and making me weaker
than a little child. But it could not be true, I said, happen what might
I would not believe it. Fate, which had brought so much evil upon me
already, could not be so cruel as to frustrate all my hopes just when I
thought I had turned the corner and was in sight of peace once more.

What the passers-by must have thought I do not know, nor do I care. The
dreadful thought that filled my mind was more to me than anyone else's
good opinion could possibly be. When I recovered myself I resumed my
walk to the hotel, breathing in gasps as the thought returned upon me,
and my whole body alternately flushing with hope and then numbed with
terror. More dead than alive I entered the building and climbed the
stairs to the sitting-room I had engaged. I had half hoped that on
opening the door I should find Valerie awaiting me there, but I was
disappointed. Unable to contain my anxiety any longer, I went along the
passage and knocked at the door of her room.

"Who is there?" a voice that I scarcely recognised asked in German.

"It is I," I replied. "Are you feeling better?"

"Yes, better," she answered, still in the same hard tone, "but I think I
would prefer to lie here a little longer. Do not be anxious about me, I
shall be quite myself again by dinner time."

I asked if there was anything I could procure for her, and on being
informed to the contrary, left her and went down to the manager's office
in the hope that I might be able to discover from him some way in which
we might escape to our own country.

"You have reached Hamburg at a most unfortunate time," he answered. "As
you are doubtless aware, the plague has broken out here, and Heaven
alone knows what we shall do if it continues. I have seen one of the
councillors within the last hour, and he tells me that three fresh cases
have been notified since midday. The evening telegrams report that more
than five thousand deaths have already occurred in Turkey and Russia
alone. It is raging in Vienna, and indeed through the whole of Austria.
In Dresden and Berlin it has also commenced its dreadful work, while
three cases have been certified in France. So far England is free, but
how long she will continue to be so it is impossible to say. That they
are growing anxious there is evident from the stringency of the
quarantine regulations they are passing. No vessel from any infected
country, they do not limit it even to ports, is allowed to land either
passengers or cargo until after three weeks' quarantine, so that
communication with the Continent is practically cut off. The situation
is growing extremely critical, and every twenty-four hours promises to
make it more so."

"In that case I do not know what I shall do," I said, feeling as if my
heart would break under the load it was compelled to carry.

"I am extremely sorry for you, sir," the manager answered, "but what is
bad for you is even worse for us. You simply want to get back to your
home. We have home, nay, even life itself at stake."

"It is bad for everyone alike," I answered, and then, with a heart even
heavier than it was before, I thanked him for his courtesy and made my
way upstairs to our sitting-room once more. I opened the door and walked
in, and then uttered a cry of delight, for Valerie was at the farther
end of the room, standing before the window. My pleasure, however, was
short lived, for on hearing my step she turned, and I was able to see
her face. What I saw there almost brought my heart into my mouth.

"Valerie," I cried, "what has happened? Are you worse that you look at
me like that?"

"Hush!" she whispered, "do not speak so loud. Can not you see that
Pharos is coming?"

Her beautiful eyes were open to their widest extent, and there was an
air about her that spoke of an impending tragedy.

"Pharos is coming," she said again, this time very slowly and
deliberately. "It is too late for us to escape. He is driving down the
street."

There was a long pause, during which I felt as if I were being slowly
turned to stone.

"He has entered the hotel."

There was another pause.

"He is here." And as she spoke the handle of the door was turned.

As the person, whoever he might be, entered, Valerie uttered a little
cry and fell senseless into my arms. I held her tightly and then wheeled
round to see who the intruder might be.

_It was Pharos!_



CHAPTER XVI.


For more than a minute neither of us moved. Valerie lay in my arms just
as she had fallen, Pharos stood a foot or so inside the door, while I
stood looking first at her and then at him without being able to utter a
word. As far as my own feelings were concerned the end of the world had
come, for I had made up my mind that Valerie was dying. If that were so,
Pharos might do his worst.

"My friends, it would seem as if I have come only just in time," he said
with sarcastic sweetness. "My dear Forrester, I must offer you my
congratulations upon the neat manner in which you effected your escape.
Unfortunately I was aware of it all along. Knowing what was in your
heart, I laid my plans accordingly, and here I am. And pray, may I ask,
what good have you done yourself by your impetuosity? You chase across
Europe at express speed, hoping to get to England before I can catch
you, only to find on arrival here that the plague has headed you off,
and that it is impossible for you to reach your destination."

"Are you going to stand talking all day?" I said, forgetting caution and
the need that existed for humouring him, everything in fact, in my
anxiety. "Can not you see that she is ill? Good heavens, man, she may be
dying!"

"What do you mean?" he asked quickly, with a change of voice as he
crossed the room and came over to where I was standing. "Let me see her
instantly!"

With a deftness, and at the same time a tenderness I had never noticed
in him before, he took her from me and placed her upon a sofa. Having
done so, he stooped over her and commenced his examination. Thirty
seconds had not elapsed before he turned fiercely on me again.

"You fool!" he cried, "are you mad? Lock that door this instant. This is
more serious than I imagined. Do you know what it is?"

"How should I?" I answered in agony. "Tell me, tell me, can not you see
how much I am suffering?"

I clutched him by the arm so tightly that he winced under it and had to
exert his strength to throw me off.

"It is the plague," he answered, "and but for your folly in running away
from me she would never have caught it. If she dies the blame will rest
entirely with you."

But I scarcely heard him. The knowledge that my darling was the victim
of the scourge that was ravaging all Europe drove me back against the
wall faint and speechless with terror. "If she dies," he had said, and
the words rang in my ears like a funeral knell. But she should not die.
If any power in the world could save her, it should be found.

"What can I do?" I whispered hoarsely. "For pity's sake let me help in
some way. She must not die, she shall not die!"

"In that case you had better bestir yourself," he said. "There is but
one remedy, and that we must employ. Had it not been for your folly I
should have it with me now. As it is, you must go out and search the
town for it. Give me writing materials."

These were on a neighbouring table, and when I had put them before him
he seized the pen and scrawled something upon a sheet of notepaper, then
folding it, he handed it to me.

"Take that with all speed to a chemist," he said. "Tell him to be
particularly careful that the drugs are fresh, and bring it back with
you as soon as you can. In all probability you will have a difficulty in
procuring it, but you must do so somewhere. Rest assured of this, that
if she does not receive it within an hour nothing can possibly save
her."

"I will be back in less than half that time," I answered, and hastened
from the room.

From a man in the street I inquired the address of the nearest chemist,
and, as soon as he had directed me, hastened thither as fast as my legs
could carry me. Entering the shop, I threw the prescription upon the
counter, and in my impatience could have struck the man for his slowness
in picking it up. If his life had depended upon his deciphering it
properly he could not have taken longer to read it. Before he had got to
the end of it my impatience had reached boiling heat.

"Come, come," I said, "are you going to make it up or not? It is for an
urgent case, and I have wasted ten minutes already."

The man glanced at the paper again, smoothed it out between his fat
fingers, and shook his head until I thought his glasses would have
dropped from his nose.

"I can not do it," he said at length. "Two of the drugs I do not keep
in stock. Indeed, I do not know that I ever saw another prescription
like it."

"Why did you not say so at once?" I cried angrily, and snatching the
paper from his hand, I dashed madly out and along the pavement. At the
end of the street was another shop, which I entered. On the door it was
set forth that English, French and German were spoken there. I was not
going to risk a waste of time on either of the two first, however, but
opened upon the man in his own language. He was very small, with an
unwholesome complexion, and was the possessor of a nose large enough to
have entitled him to the warmest esteem of the great Napoleon. He took
the prescription, read it through in a quarter of the time taken by the
other man, and then retired behind his screen. Scarcely able to contain
my delight at having at last been successful, I curbed my impatience as
well as I could, examined all the articles displayed in the glass case
upon the counter, fidgeted nervously with the india-rubber change mat,
and when, at the end of several minutes, he had not made it up, was only
prevented from going in search of him by his appearance before me once
more.

"I am exceedingly sorry to say," he began, and directly he opened his
mouth I knew that some fresh misfortune was in store for me, "that I can
not make up the prescription for you at all. Of one of the drugs I
remember once reading, but of the other I have never even heard.
However, if----"

But before he could utter another word I had seized the paper and was
out of the shop. This was the second time I had been fooled, and upward
of half an hour, thirty precious minutes, had been wasted. Even then
Valerie might be dying, and I was powerless to save her. Never in my
life before had time seemed so precious. I stopped a passer-by and
inquired the direction of the nearest chemist. He referred me to the
shop I had just left; I stopped another, but he confessed himself a
stranger in the city. At last, at my wit's end to know what to do,
finding myself before the office of the steamship company I had visited
that afternoon, I determined to go inside and make inquiries.

To my surprise, in place of the half dozen clerks who had stared at me
only a few hours before, I found but one man, and before he had opened
his lips I realized that he was drunk.

"Ha, ha!" he said, with a burst of tipsy laughter, "so you have come
back again, my friend? Want to get a boat to take you to England, I
suppose. Oh, of course you do. We know all about that. We're not as
blind, I mean as blind drunk, as you suppose."

With that he lurched against the desk, and cannoned off it on to me.
Then, having reached that stage of inebriation when music becomes a
necessity, he leant against the wall and burst into song:--

    Drink to me only with thine eyes,
    And I will pledge with mine,
    Or leave a kiss within....

He had got no farther when I took him by the collar, and pushing him
back against the wall, bumped his head against it until it is a wonder I
did not fracture his skull.

"Hold your tongue, you drunken fool!" I said, feeling as if I could kill
him where he stood, "and tell me where the man is who attended to me
this afternoon."

The energy with which I had administered the punishment must have
somewhat sobered the fellow, for he pulled himself together, and rubbing
the back of his head with his hand asked me if I had heard the news.

"I have heard nothing," I cried. "What news do you mean?"

"Why, that the man you spoke to this afternoon is dead. He died of the
plague within an hour after you were here, rolling on the floor, and
making an awful mess of things. Then all the other fellows ran away.
They didn't know there was a bottle and a half of brandy in the cupboard
in the manager's room, but, bless your heart, I did, and now I'm not
afraid of the plague. Don't you believe it!"

"Dead?" I cried, for I could scarcely credit that what he told me could
be true. The man had seemed so well when I had seen him only a few hours
before. However, I had no time to think of him.

"I want a chemist," I cried. "I must find one at once. Can you give me
the address of one?"

"The first turning to the left," he cried, "and the third shop on the
right; Dittmer is the name. But I say, you're looking precious white
about the gills. Though you did treat me badly just now, I don't bear
any malice, so you can have a drop of this if you like. There's enough
here for two of us. You won't? Well, then, I will. A short life and a
merry one's my motto, and here's to you, my buck."

Before he could have half filled his glass I had passed out of the
office and was in the street he had mentioned. Drunk as he was, his
information proved correct, and a chemist's shop, with the name of
Dittmer over the door, was the third house on the right hand side. I
entered and handed the prescription to the venerable-looking man I found
behind the counter.

"I am afraid you will have some difficulty in getting this made up," he
said after he had read it. "Two of the drugs are not in common use, and
personally I do not keep them. Is the case an urgent one?"

"It's a matter of life and death," I answered. "All my happiness in life
depends upon it. If you can not help me, can you direct me to any one
who will? I assure you there is not a moment to be lost."

Evidently the man was touched by my anxiety. At any rate he went out of
his way to do a kindly action, for which no amount of gratitude on my
part will ever be able to repay him.

"I do not know anything about the merits of the prescription," he said,
"but if these two drugs are necessary, I don't mind telling you that I
think I know where I can procure them. I have an old friend, a quack, so
the other chemists call him, who is always trying experiments. It is
within the bounds of possibility he may have them. If you will wait here
for a few minutes I'll run up to his house and see. It is only a few
doors from here, and he is always at home at this hour."

"I will await only too willingly," I answered earnestly. "Heaven grant
you may be successful!"

He said no more but ran out of the shop. While he was gone I paced up
and down in a fever of impatience. Every minute seemed an hour, and as I
looked at my watch and realized that if I wished to get back to the
hotel within the time specified by Pharos I had only ten minutes in
which to do it, I felt as if my heart would stop beating. In reality the
man was not gone five minutes, and when he burst into the shop again he
waved two bottles triumphantly above his head.

"There's not another man in Hamburg could have got them!" he cried with
justifiable pride. "Now I can make it up for you."

Five minutes later he handed the prescription to me.

"I shall never be able to thank you sufficiently for your kindness," I
said as I took it. "If I can get back with it in time you will have
saved a life that I love more than my own. I do not know how to reward
you, but if you will accept this and wear it as a souvenir of the
service you have rendered me, I hope you will do so."

So saying, I took from my pocket my gold watch and chain and handed them
across the counter to him. Then, without waiting for an expression of
his gratitude, I passed into the street and, hailing a cab, bade the man
drive me as fast as his horse could go to my hotel.

Reaching it, I paid him with the first coin I took from my pocket and
ran upstairs. What my feelings were as I approached the room where I had
left Pharos and Valerie together I must leave you to imagine. With a
heart beating like a sledge-hammer I softly turned the handle of the
door and stole in, scarcely daring to look in the direction of the sofa.
However, I might have spared myself the pain, for neither Pharos nor
Valerie were there, but just as I was wondering what could have become
of them the former entered the room.

"Have you got it?" he inquired eagerly, his voice trembling with
emotion.

"I have," I answered, and handed him the medicine. "Here it is. At one
time I began to think I should have to come back without it."

"Another ten minutes and I can promise you you would have been too
late," he answered. "I have carried her to her room and placed her upon
her bed. You must remain here and endeavour to prevent any one
suspecting what is the matter. If your medicine proves what I hope, she
should be sleeping quietly in an hour's time, and on the high road to
recovery in two. But remember this, if the people in this house receive
any hint of what she is suffering from they will remove her to the
hospital at once, and in that case, I pledge you my word, she will be
dead before morning."

"You need have no fear on that score," I answered. "They shall hear
nothing from me."

Thereupon he took his departure, and for the next hour I remained where
I was, deriving what satisfaction I could from the assurance he had
given me.

It was quite dark by the time Pharos returned.

"What news do you bring?" I inquired anxiously. "Why do you not tell me
at once how she is? Can you not see how I am suffering?"

"The crisis is past," he replied, "and she will do now. But it was a
very narrow escape. If I had not followed you by the next train, in what
sort of position would you be at this minute?"

"I should not be alive," I answered. "If her life had been taken it
would have killed me."

"You are very easily killed, I have no doubt," was his sneering
rejoinder. "At the same time, take my advice and let this be a lesson to
you not to try escaping from me again. You have been pretty severely
punished. On another occasion your fate may be even worse."

I gazed at him in pretended surprise.

"I do not understand your meaning when you say that I escaped from
you," I said, with an air of innocence that would not have deceived any
one. "Why should I desire to do so? If you refer to my leaving Prague so
suddenly, please remember that I warned you the night before that it
would be necessary for me to leave at once for England. I presume I am
at liberty to act as I please?"

"I am not in the humour just now to argue the question with you," he
answered, "but if you will be advised by me, my dear Forrester, you
will, for the future, consult me with regard to your movements. My ward
has given you her experiences and has told you with what result, she, on
two occasions, attempted to leave me. At your instigation she has tried
a third time, and you see how that attempt has turned out. You little
thought that when you were dining so comfortably in Herr Schuncke's
restaurant in Berlin, last night, that I was watching your repast."

"I do not believe it," I answered angrily. "It is impossible that you
could have been there, if only for the reason that there was no train to
bring you."

He smiled pityingly upon me.

"I am beginning to think, my friend," he said, "that you are not so
clever as I at first supposed you. I wonder what you would say if I were
to tell you, that while Valerie was playing for Schuncke's
entertainment, I, who was travelling along between Prague and Dresden,
was an interested spectator of the whole scene. Shall I describe to you
the arrangement of the room? Shall I tell you how Schuncke leant against
the wall near the door, his hands folded before him, and his great head
nodding? How you sat at the table near the fireplace, building castles
in the air, upon which, by the way, I offer you my felicitations? while
Valerie, standing on the other side of the room, made music for you
all? It is strange that I should know all that, particularly as I did
not do myself the honour of calling at the restaurant, is it not?"

I made no answer. To tell the truth, I did not know what to say. Pharos
chuckled as he observed my embarrassment.

"You will learn wisdom before I have done with you," he continued.
"However, that is enough on the subject just now. Let us talk about
something else. There is much to be done to-night, and I shall require
your assistance."

The variety of emotions to which I had been subjected that day had
exercised such an effect upon me that, by this time, I was scarcely
capable of even a show of resistance. In my own mind I felt morally
certain that when he said there was much to do he meant the
accomplishment of some new villainy, but what form it was destined to
take I neither knew nor cared. He had got me so completely under his
influence by this time that he could make me do exactly as he required.

"What is it you are going to do?" I inquired, more because I saw that he
expected me to say something than for any other reason.

"I am going to get us all out of this place and back to England without
loss of time," he answered, in a tone of triumph.

"To England?" I replied, and the hideous mockery of his speech made me
laugh aloud; as bitter a laugh surely as was ever uttered by mortal man.
"You accused me just now of not being as clever as you had at first
supposed me. I return the compliment. You have evidently not heard that
every route into England is blocked."

"No route is ever blocked to me," he answered. "I leave for London at
midnight to-night, and Valerie accompanies me."

"You must be mad to think of such a thing!" I cried, Valerie's name
producing a sudden change in my behaviour toward him. "How can she
possibly do so? Remember how ill she is. It would be little short of
murder to move her."

"It will be nothing of the kind," he replied. "When I want her she will
rise from her bed and walk down stairs and go wherever I bid her,
looking to all appearances as well and strong as any other woman in this
town."

"By all means let us go to England then," I said, clutching eagerly at
the hope he held out. "Though how you are going to manage it I do not
know."

"You shall see," he said. "Remember, you have never known me fail. If
you would bear that fact in mind a little oftener, you would come nearer
a better appreciation of my character than that to which you have so far
attained. However, while we are wasting time talking, it is getting
late, and you have not dined yet. I suppose it is necessary for you to
eat, otherwise you will be incapable of anything?"

"I could not touch a thing," I answered in reply to his gibe. "You will
not therefore be hindered by me. But how can we go out and leave Valerie
behind in her present condition?"

"I shall give her an opiate," he said, "which will keep her sleeping
quietly for the next three or four hours. When she wakes she will be
capable of anything."

He thereupon left the room, and upward of a quarter of an hour elapsed
before he rejoined me. When he did, I noticed that he was dressed for
going out. I immediately picked up my hat and stick and followed him
down stairs. Once in the street, Pharos started off at a smart pace, and
as soon as he reached the corner, near the first chemist's shop I had
visited that afternoon, turned sharply to his left, crossed the road,
and entered a bye lane. The remainder of the journey was of too tortuous
a description for me to hope to give you any detailed account of it. Up
one back street and down another, over innumerable canals, we made our
way, until at last we reached a quarter of the town totally distinct
from that in which our hotel was situated. During the walk Pharos
scarcely spoke, but times out of number he threw angry glances at me
over his shoulder when I dropped a little behind. Indeed, he walked at
such a pace, old man though he was, that at times I found it extremely
difficult to keep up with him. At last, entering a dirtier street than
any we had so far encountered, he stopped short before a tall, austere
building which from a variety of evidences had seen better days, and
might a couple of centuries or so before have been the residence of some
well-to-do merchant. Mounting the steps, he rapped sharply upon the door
with his stick. A sound of laughter and the voice of a man singing
reached us from within, and when Pharos knocked a second time the
rapidity of the blows and the strength with which they were administered
bore witness to his impatience. At last, however, the door was opened a
few inches by a man who looked out and inquired with an oath what we
wanted.

"I have come in search of Captain Wisemann," my companion answered. "If
he is at home, tell him that if he does not receive Monsieur Pharos at
once, he knows the penalty. Carry him that message and be quick about
it. I have waited at this door quite long enough."

With an unintelligible grunt the man departed on his errand, and it was
plain that the news he brought had a sobering effect upon the company
within, for a sudden silence prevailed, and a few moments later he
returned and begged us with comparative civility to enter. We did so,
and followed our guide along a filthy passage to a room at the back of
the dwelling, a magnificent chamber, panelled with old oak, every inch
of which spoke of an age and an art long since dead. The dirt of the
place, however, passes description. Under the _régime_ of the present
owner, it seemed doubtful whether any attempt had ever been made to
clean it. The ceiling was begrimed with smoke and dirt, cobwebs not only
decorated the cornices and the carved figures on the chimneypiece, but
much of the panelling on the walls themselves was cracked and broken. On
the table in the centre of the room was all that remained of a repast,
and at this Pharos sniffed disdainfully.

"A pig he was when I first met him, and a pig he will remain to the day
of his death," said Pharos, by way of introducing the man upon whom we
were calling. "However, a pig is at all times a useful animal, and so is
Wisemann."

At this moment the man of whom he had spoken in these scarcely
complimentary terms entered the room.

I have elsewhere described the Arab who met Pharos at the Pyramids, on
the occasion of my momentous visit, as being the biggest man I had ever
beheld in my life, and so he was, for at that time I had not the
pleasure of Herman Wisemann's acquaintance. Since I have seen him,
however, the Arab has, as the Americans say, been compelled to take a
back place. Wisemann must have stood six-foot nine if an inch, and in
addition to his height his frame was correspondingly large. Though I am
not short myself, he towered above me by fully a head. To add to the
strangeness of his appearance, he was the possessor of a pair of
enormous ears that stood out at right angles to his head. That he was
afraid of Pharos was shown by the sheepish fashion in which he entered
the room.

"Three years ago I called upon you," said Pharos, "and was kept waiting
while you fuddled yourself with your country's abominable liquor.
To-night I have been favoured with a repetition of that offence. On the
third occasion I shall deal with you more summarily. Remember that! Now
to business."

"If Herr Pharos will condescend to tell me what it is he requires of
me," said the giant, "he may be sure I will do my best to please him."

"You had better not do otherwise, my friend," snapped Pharos with his
usual acidity. "Perhaps you remember that on one occasion you made a
mistake. Don't do so again. Now listen to me. I am anxious to be in
London on Friday morning next. You will, therefore, find me a fast
vessel, and she must leave to-night at midnight."

"But it is impossible to get into England," replied the man. "Since the
outbreak of the plague the quarantine laws have been stricter even than
they were before. Heinrich Clausen tried last week and had to return
unsuccessful."

"How does Heinrich Clausen's failure affect me?" asked Pharos. "I shall
not fail, whatever any one else may do. Your friend Clausen should have
known better than to go to London. Land me on the coast of Norfolk and
that will do."

"But it is eight o'clock now," the man replied, "and you say you wish to
start at midnight. How am I to arrange it before then?"

"How you are to do it does not concern me," said Pharos. "All I know is
that you must do it. Otherwise, well then the punishment will be the
same as before, only on this occasion a little more severe. You can send
me word in an hour's time, how, and where, we are to board her. I am
staying at the Continental, and my number is eighty-three."

The man had evidently abandoned all thought of refusing.

"And the remuneration?" he inquired. "The risk will have to be taken
into account."

"The price will be the same as on the last occasion, provided he lands
us safely at the place which I shall name to him as soon as we are on
board. But only half that amount, if, by any carelessness on his part,
the scheme is unsuccessful. I shall expect to hear from you within an
hour. Be careful, however, that your messenger does not arouse any
suspicions at the hotel. We do not want the English authorities put upon
their guard."

Wisemann accompanied us to the door, and bowed us out. After that we
returned as quickly as possible to our hotel. My delight may be imagined
on hearing from Pharos, who visited her as soon as he returned, that
throughout the time we had been absent Valerie had been sleeping
peacefully, and was now making as good progress toward recovery as he
could desire.

At nine o'clock, almost punctual to the minute, a note was brought to
Pharos. He opened it, and having read it, informed the man that there
was no answer.

"Wisemann has arranged everything," he said. "The steamer Margrave of
Brandenburg will be ready to pick us up in the river at the hour
appointed, and in fifty hours from the first revolution of her screw we
should be in England."

"And what would happen then?" I asked myself.



CHAPTER XVII.


When the sun rose on the following morning, nothing but green seas
surrounded us, and the Margrave of Brandenburg was doing her best to
live up to the reputation I soon discovered she possessed--namely, of
being the worst roller in the North Sea trade. She was by no means a
large craft, nor, as I soon remarked, was she particularly well found;
she belonged to a firm of Altona Jews, and, as the captain was wont to
say pathetically, "The only thing they did not grudge him was the right
to do as much work on the smallest amount of pay on which it was
possible for a man to keep body and soul together." The captain's
nationality was more difficult to determine than that of his employers.
He called himself an Englishman, but, unfortunately for this assertion,
his accent belied him. In addition to English, he spoke German like a
Frenchman, and French like a German, was equally at home in
Russian--which, to say the least of it, is not a language for the
amateur--Italian also, while in a moment of confidence he found occasion
to inform me that he had served for three years on board a Spanish
troop-ship, an assertion which would lead one to suppose that he was
conversant with that language also. In point of fact, he was one of that
curious class of sailor commonly met with outside the British mercantile
marine, who, if you asked them, would find it difficult to tell you
where they were born, and who have been so long at sea that one country
has become like another to them, provided the liquor is good and they
can scrape together a sufficient living out of it; and one flag is equal
to another, provided, of course, it is not Chinese, which as everyone
knows is no use to anyone, not even to themselves.

For the week, and more particularly for the forty-eight hours preceding
our departure from Hamburg, I had been living in such a state of nervous
tension that, as soon as we were once clear of the land, the reaction
that set in was almost more than I could bear. The prophecy Pharos had
given utterance to regarding Valerie had been verified to the letter. At
the hour appointed for leaving, she had descended from her room, looking
at first glance as healthy and strong as I had ever seen her. It was
only when I came close up to her and could catch a glimpse of her eyes
that I saw how dilated the pupils were and how unnatural was the light
they contained. From the moment she appeared upon the stairs, throughout
the drive through the city, and until we reached the steamer, not a word
crossed her lips, and it was only when we were in the saloon and Pharos
bade her retire to her cabin, that she found her voice and spoke to me.

"Good night," she said very slowly, as if it hurt her even to speak the
words, and then added with infinite sadness, "You have been very good
and patient with me, Cyril." Having said this, she disappeared into her
cabin, and I saw no more of her that night.

As I remarked at the commencement of this chapter, the sun when it rose
next morning found us in open water. Not a trace of the land was to be
seen, and you may be sure I was not sorry to be away from it. Taking one
thing with another, I had not spent a pleasant night. I had tried
sleeping in my bunk, but without success. It was filthy in the extreme,
and so small that I found it quite impossible to stretch myself out at
full length. Accordingly, I had tumbled and tossed in it, tried every
position, and had at last vacated it in favour of the settee in the
saloon, where I had remained until the first signs of day showed
themselves. Then I went on deck to find a beautiful pearl-grey dawn, in
which the steamer seemed a speck on the immensity of sea. I tried to
promenade the deck, only to find that the vessel's rolling rendered it
extremely difficult, if not well-nigh impossible. I accordingly made my
way to a sheltered spot, just abaft the saloon entrance, and, seating
myself on the skylight, endeavoured to collect my thoughts. It was a
more difficult matter than would at first be supposed, for the reason
that the side issues involved were so many, and also so important, and I
found myself being continually drawn from the main point at issue, which
was the question as to what was to become of Valerie and myself since we
found it impossible to escape from Pharos. How the latter had become
possessed of the secret of our intention to escape from him I could not
imagine, nor could I understand how he had been able to pursue and
capture us with such accuracy and despatch. As it had turned out, it was
just as well that he did follow us, and I shivered again as I thought of
what Valerie's fate might have been had he not come upon the scene so
opportunely. Of one thing I was quite convinced, in spite of the threats
he had used, and that was that, as soon as we reached England, I would
find some way--how I was to do so I did not for the moment quite
realise--of getting the woman I loved out of his clutches, this time for
good and all.

I breakfasted that morning alone. Valerie being still too ill to leave
her bunk, while Pharos, as usual, did not put in appearance until close
upon midday. By the time he did so the sea had lost much of its former
violence, and the vessel was, in consequence, making better progress.
How I longed to be in England no one can have any idea. The events of
the last few months, if they had done nothing else, had at least
deprived me of my taste for travel, and as for the land of Egypt, the
liking I had once entertained for that country had given place to a
hatred that was as vigorous as I had deemed the other sincere.

I have already said that it was midday before Pharos made his appearance
on deck; but when he did, so far as his amiability was concerned, he
would have been very much better below. Being accustomed by this time to
note the changes in his manner, it did not take me very long to see that
this was one of his bad days. For this reason I resolved to keep out of
his way as far as possible, but in my attempt I was only partly
successful.

"In thirty-eight hours, my friend," he said, when he had found me out,
"you will be in England once more, and the desire of your heart will be
gratified. You should be grateful to me, for had I not followed you to
Hamburg, it is quite certain _you_ would still be in that plague-ridden
city, and where would Valerie be? Well, Valerie would be----But there,
we will have no more of those little escapades, if you please, so
remember that. The next time you attempt to play me false, I shall know
how to deal with you. All things considered, it was a good day for me
when you fell in love with Valerie."

"What do you mean?" I asked, for I neither liked the look on his face
nor the way he spoke.

"I mean what I say," he answered. "You love Valerie, and she loves you;
but----Well, to put it mildly, she does what I tell her, and for the
future so must you! It would be as well, perhaps, if you would bear that
fact in mind."

I rose from the skylight upon which I had been sitting and faced him.

"Monsieur Pharos," I said, holding up my hand in protest, "you have gone
quite far enough. Let me advise you to think twice before you make use
of such threats to me. I do not understand by what right you speak to me
in this fashion."

"There are many things you do not understand, and at present it is not
my intention to enlighten you," he answered, with consummate coolness.
"Only remember this--while you act in accordance with my wishes, you are
safe, but if at any time you attempt to thwart me, I give you fair
warning I will crush you like a worm."

So saying, he darted another glance at me full of intense malignity, and
then took his departure. When he had gone I seated myself again and
endeavoured to solve the riddle of his behaviour. What his purpose could
be in keeping me with him, and why he was always threatening me with
punishment if I did not act in accordance with his wishes, were two
questions I tried to answer, but in vain. That there was something
behind it all which boded ill for myself, I felt morally certain, but
what that something was I had yet to discover. If I had known all, I
wonder what course of action I should have pursued.

For the remainder of the day I saw nothing of Pharos. He had shut
himself up in his cabin with only the monkey for company. Towards the
end of the afternoon, however, he sent for the captain, and they
remained closeted together for a quarter of an hour. When the latter
appeared again, it was with an unusually white face. He passed me on the
companion-ladder, and from the light I saw in his eyes I surmised that
Pharos had been treating him to a sample of his ill-humour, and that he
had come out of it considerably scared. Once more I partook of the
evening meal alone, and, as I was by this time not only thoroughly tired
of my own company, but worn out with anxiety and continual brooding upon
one subject, I sought my couch at an early hour. My dreams that night
were far from good. The recollection of that terrible afternoon in
Hamburg, when Valerie had been taken ill, and Pharos had so unexpectedly
appeared in time to save her, was sufficient to wake me up in a cold
sweat of fear. When I had somewhat recovered, I became aware that
someone was knocking on my cabin door. To my surprise it proved to be
the captain.

"What is the matter?" I inquired, as he entered. "What brings you here?"

"I have come to you for your advice," he said nervously, as he fidgeted
with his cap. "I can tell you we're in a bad way aboard this ship."

"Why, what has happened?" I inquired, sitting up and staring at his
white face. "Have we met with an accident?"

"We have," he answered, "and a bad one. A worse could scarcely have
befallen us." Then, sinking his voice to a whisper, he added, "_The
plague has broken out aboard!_"

"The plague!" I cried, in consternation. "Do you mean it? For Heaven's
sake, man, be sure you are not making a mistake before you say such a
thing!"

"I only wish I were not sure," he replied. "Unfortunately there is no
getting away from the fact. The plague's upon us, sure enough, and,
what's worse, I'm afraid it's come to stay."

"How many cases are there?" I asked, "and when did you discover it? Tell
me everything."

"We found it out early this morning," the captain replied. "There are
two cases, the steward aft here, and the cook for'ard. The steward is
dead; we pitched him overboard just before I came down to you. The cook
is very nearly as bad. I can tell you, I wish I was anywhere but where I
am. I've got a wife and youngsters depending on me at home. The thing
spreads like fire, they say, and poor Reimann was as well as you are a
couple of hours ago. He brought me a cup of coffee and a biscuit up on
to the bridge at eight bells, and now to think he's overboard!"

The captain concluded his speech with a groan, and then stood watching
me and waiting for me to speak.

"But I can't understand what brings you to me," I said. "I don't see how
I can help you."

"I came to you because I wanted to find out what I had better do," he
returned. "I thought most probably you would be able to advise me, and I
didn't want to go to him." Here he nodded his head in the direction of
Pharos's cabin. "If you could only have heard the way he bulliragged me
yesterday you would understand why. If I'd been a dog in the street he
couldn't have treated me worse, and all because I was unable to make the
boat travel twice as fast as her engines would let her go."

"But I don't see how I'm to help you in this matter," I said, and then
added, with what could only have been poor comfort, "We don't know who
may be the next case."

"That's the worst part of it," he answered. "For all we can tell it may
be you, and it might be me. I suppose you're as much afraid of it as I
am."

I had to confess that I was, and then inquired what means he proposed to
adopt for stamping it out.

"I don't know what to do," he answered, and the words were scarcely out
of his mouth before another rap sounded on the cabin door. He opened it
to find a deck hand standing outside. A muttered conversation ensued
between them, after which the captain, with a still more scared look
upon his face, returned to me.

"It's getting worse," he said. "The chief engineer's down now, and the
bosun has sent word to say he don't feel well. God help us if this sort
of thing is going to continue! Every mother's son aboard this ship will
make sure he's got it, and then who's to do the work? We may as well go
to the bottom right off."

Trouble was indeed pursuing us. It seemed as if I were destined to get
safely out of one difficulty only to fall into another. If this terrible
scourge continued we should indeed be in straits; for the Continent was
barred to us on one hand, and England on the other, while to turn her
head and put back to Hamburg was a course we could not dream of
adopting. One thing was plain to me; to avoid any trouble later we must
inform Pharos. So, advising the captain to separate those who had
contracted the disease from those who were still well, I left my cabin
and crossed to the further side of the saloon. To my surprise Pharos
received the news with greater equanimity than I had expected he would
show.

"I doubted whether we should escape unscathed," he said; "but the
captain deserves to die of it himself for not having informed me as soon
as the first man was taken ill. However, let us hope it is not too late
to put a stop to it. I must go and see the men, and do what I can to
pull them round. It would not do to have a breakdown out here for the
want of sufficient men to work the boat."

So saying he bade me leave him while he dressed, and when this operation
was completed, departed on his errand, while I returned to the saloon. I
had not been there many minutes before the door of Valerie's cabin
opened and my sweetheart emerged. I sprang to my feet with a cry of
surprise and then ran forward to greet her. Short though her illness had
been, it had effected a great change in her appearance, but since she
was able to leave her cabin, I trusted that the sea air would soon
restore her accustomed health to her. After a few preliminary remarks,
which would scarcely prove of interest even if recorded, she inquired
when we expected to reach England.

"About midnight to-night, I believe," I replied; "that is, if all goes
well."

There was a short silence, and then she placed her hand in mine and
looked anxiously into my face.

"I want you to tell me, dear," she said, "all that happened the night
before last. In my own heart I felt quite certain from the first that we
should not get safely away. Did I not say that Pharos would never permit
it? I must have been very ill, for though I remember standing in the
sitting-room at the hotel, waiting for you to return from the steamship
office, I cannot recall anything else. Tell me everything, I am quite
strong enough to bear it."

Thus entreated, I described how she had foretold Pharos's arrival in
Hamburg, and how she had warned me that he had entered the hotel.

"I can remember nothing of what you tell me," she said sadly when I had
finished. Then, still holding my hand in hers, she continued in an
undertone, "We were to have been so happy together."

"Not '_were to have been_,'" I said, with a show of confidence I was far
from feeling, "but '_are to be_.' Believe me, darling, all will come
right yet. We have been through so much together that surely we must be
happy in the end. We love each other, and nothing can destroy that."

"Nothing," she answered, with a little catch of her breath; "but there
is one thing I must say to you while I have time, something that I fear
may possibly give you pain. You told me in Hamburg that up to the
present no case of the plague had been notified in England. If that is
so, darling, what right have we to introduce it? Surely none. Thing of
the misery its coming must inevitably cause to others. For aught we know
to the contrary, we may carry the infection from Hamburg with us, and
thousands of innocent people will suffer in consequence. I have been
thinking it over all night, and it seems to me that if we did this thing
we should be little better than murderers."

I had thought of this myself, but lest I should appear to be taking
credit for more than I deserve, I must confess that the true
consequences of the action to which she referred had never struck me.
Not having any desire to frighten her, I did not tell her that the
disease had already made its appearance on board the very vessel in
which we were travelling.

"You are bargaining without Pharos, however," I replied. "If he has made
up his mind to go, how are we to gainsay him? Our last attempt could
scarcely be considered a success."

"At any cost to ourselves we must not go," she said firmly and
decidedly. "The lives of loving parents, of women and little children,
the happiness of an entire nation, depend upon our action. What is our
safety, great as it seems to us, compared with theirs?"

"Valerie, you are my good angel," I said. "Whatever you wish I will do."

"We must tell Pharos that we have both determined on no account to land
with him," she continued. "If the pestilence had already shown itself
there it would be a different matter, but as it is we have no choice
left us but to do our duty."

"But where are we to go if we do not visit England? And what are we to
do?" I asked, for I could plainly see the difficulties ahead.

"I do not know," she answered simply. "Never fear; we will find some
place. You may be certain of this, dear--if we wish God to bless our
love we must act as I propose."

"So it shall be," I answered, lifting her hand to my lips. "You have
decided for me. Whatever it may mean to ourselves, we will not do
anything that will imperil the lives of the people you spoke of just
now."

A few moments later I heard a footstep on the companion-ladder. It was
Pharos returning from his examination of the plague-stricken men. In the
dim light of the hatchway he looked more like a demon than a man, and as
I thought of the subject I had to broach to him, and the storm it would
probably bring down upon us, I am not ashamed to confess that my heart
sank into my shoes.

It was not until he was fairly in the saloon that he became aware of
Valerie's presence.

"I offer you my congratulations upon your improved appearance," he said
politely. "I am glad of it, for it will make matters the easier when we
get ashore."

I had already risen from my seat, though I still held Valerie's hand.

"Your pardon, Monsieur Pharos," I said, trying to speak calmly, "but on
that subject it is necessary that I should have a few words with you."

"Indeed," he answered, looking at me with the customary sneer upon his
face. "In that case, say on, for, as you see, I am all attention. I must
beg, however, that you will be quick about it, for matters are
progressing so capitally on board this ship that, if things go on as
they are doing at present, we may every one of us expect to be down with
the plague before midday."

"The plague!" Valerie repeated, with a note of fear in her voice. "Do
you mean to say that it has broken out on board this steamer?" Then,
turning to me, she added reproachfully, "You did not tell me that."

"Very probably not, my dear," Pharos answered for me. "Had he done so,
you would scarcely have propounded the ingenious theory you were
discussing shortly before I entered."

Overwhelming as was Valerie's surprise at the dreadful news Pharos had
disclosed to her, and unenviable as our present position was, we could
not contain our astonishment at finding that Pharos had become
acquainted with the decision we had arrived at a few moments before.
Instinctively I glanced up at the skylight overhead, thinking it might
have been through that he had overheard our conversation. But it was
securely closed. By what means, therefore, he had acquired his
information I could not imagine.

"You were prepared to tell me when I appeared," he said, "that you would
refuse to enter England, on what I cannot help considering most absurd
grounds. You must really forgive me if I do not agree with your views.
Apart from the idea of your thwarting me, your decision is ludicrous in
the extreme. However, now that you find you are no safer on board this
ship than you would be ashore--in point of fact, not so safe--you will
doubtless change your minds. By way of emphasising my point, I might
tell you that out of the twelve men constituting her crew, no less than
four are victims of the pestilence, while one is dead and thrown
overboard."

"Four," I cried, scarcely able to believe that what he said could be
true. "There were only two half an hour ago."

"I do not combat that assertion," he said; "but you forget that the
disease travels fast, faster even than you do when you run away from me,
my dear Forrester. However, I don't know that that fact matters very
much. What we have to deal with is your obliging offer to refuse to land
in England. Perhaps you will be good enough to tell me, in the event of
your not doing so there, where you will condescend to go ashore! The
Margrave of Brandenburg is only a small vessel, after all, and with the
best intention she cannot remain at sea for ever."

"What we wish to tell you is," I answered, "that we have decided not to
be the means of introducing this terrible scourge into a country that so
far is free from it."

"A very philanthropic decision on your part," he answered sarcastically.
"Unfortunately, however, I am in a position to be able to inform you
that your charity is not required. Though the authorities are not aware
of it, the plague has already broken out in England. For this reason you
will not be responsible for such deaths as may occur."

He paused and looked first at Valerie and then at myself. The old light
I remembered having seen in his eyes the night he had hypnotised me in
my studio was shining there now. Very soon the storm which had been
gathering broke, and its violence was the greater for having been so
long suppressed.

"I have warned you several times already," he cried, shaking his fist at
me, "but you take no notice. You will try to thwart me again, and then
nothing can save you. You fool! cannot you see how thin the crust is
upon which you stand? Hatch but one more plot, and I will punish you in
a fashion of which you do not dream. As with this woman here, I have but
to raise my hand, and you are powerless to help yourself. Sight,
hearing, power of speech, may be all taken from you in a second, and for
as long a time as I please." Then, turning to Valerie, he continued, "To
your cabin with you, madam. Let me hear no more of such talk as this, or
'twill be time for me to give you another exhibition of my power."

Valerie departed to her cabin without a word, and Pharos, with another
glance at me, entered his, while I remained standing in the centre of
the saloon, not knowing what to do nor what to say.

It was not until late that evening that I saw him again, and then I was
on deck. The sea was much smoother than in the morning, but the night
wind blew cold. I had not left the companion-ladder very long before I
was aware of a man coming slowly along the deck towards me, lurching
from side to side as he walked. To my astonishment it proved to be the
captain, and it was plain that something serious was the matter with
him. When he came closer I found that he was talking to himself.

"What is the matter, captain?" I inquired, with a foreboding in my
heart. "Are you not feeling well?"

He shook off the hand I had placed upon his arm.

"It is no good, I will not do it!" he cried fiercely. "I have done
enough for you already, and you won't get me to do any more."

"Come, come," I said, "you mustn't be wandering about the deck like
this! Let me help you to your cabin." So saying, I took him by the arm
and was about to lead him along the deck in the direction of his own
quarters, when, with a shout of rage, he turned and threw himself upon
me. Then began a struggle such as I had never known in my life before.
The man was undoubtedly mad, and I soon found that I had to put out all
my strength to hold my own against him.

While we were still wrestling, Pharos made his appearance from below. He
took in the situation at a glance, and as we swayed towards him threw
himself upon the captain, twining his long, thin fingers about the
other's throat and clinging to him with the tenacity of a bulldog. The
result may be easily foreseen. Overmatched as he was, the wretched man
fell like a log upon the deck, and I with him. The force with which his
head struck the planks must have stunned him, for he lay, without
moving, just where he had fallen. The light of the lamp in the companion
fell full upon his face and enabled me to see a large swelling on the
right side of the throat, a little below the ear.

"Another victim," said Pharos, and I could have sworn a chuckle escaped
him. "You had better leave him to me. There is no hope for him. That
swelling is an infallible sign. He is unconscious now; in half an hour
he will be dead."

Unhappily his prophecy proved to be correct, for though we bore him to
his cabin and did all that was possible, in something under the time
Pharos had mentioned death had overtaken him.

Our position was even less pleasant now than before. We had only the
second mate to fall back upon, and if anything happened to him I did not
see how it would be possible for us to reach our destination. As it
turned out, however, I need not have worried myself, for we were closer
to the English coast than I imagined.

Owing to the stringency of the quarantine laws, and to the fact that the
coastguards all round the British Isles were continually on the look-out
for vessels attempting to land passengers, orders had been given that no
lights should be shown; the skylights and portholes were accordingly
covered with tarpaulins.

It wanted a quarter of an hour to midnight when Pharos came along the
deck and, standing by my side, pointed away over our bow.

"The black smudge you can distinguish on the horizon is England," he
said abruptly, and then was silent, in order, I suppose, that I might
have time to digest the thoughts his information conjured up.



CHAPTER XVIII.


Pharos and I stood leaning against the bulwarks, gazing at the land. For
my part I must confess that there was a feeling in my heart that was not
unlike that of a disgraced son who enters his home by stealth after a
long absence. And yet it would be impossible to tell you how my heart
warmed to it. Times out of number I had thought of my return to England,
and had pictured Valerie standing by my side upon the deck of the
steamer, watching the land loom up, and thinking of the happiness that
was to be our portion in the days to come. Now Valerie and I were
certainly nearing England together; Pharos, however, was with us, and
while we were in his power happiness was, to all intents and purposes,
unknown to us.

"What do you propose doing when you get ashore?" I inquired of my
companion, more for the sake of breaking the silence than for any desire
I had for the information.

"That will very much depend upon circumstances," he replied, still
without looking at me. "Our main object must be to reach London as
quickly as possible." Then, changing his tone, he turned to me.
"Forrester, my dear fellow," he said, almost sorrowfully, "you cannot
think how I regret our little disagreement of this morning. I am afraid,
while I am touchy, you are headstrong; and, in consequence, we
misunderstand each other. I cannot, of course, tell what you think of
me in your heart, but I venture to believe that if you knew everything,
you would be the first to own that you have wronged me. Bad as I may be,
I am not quite what you would make me out. If I were, do you think,
knowing your antagonism as I do, I should have kept you so long with me?
You have doubted me from the beginning; in fact, as you will remember,
you once went so far as to accuse me of the crime of murder. You
afterwards acknowledged your mistake--in handsome terms, I will own; but
to counterbalance such frankness, you later on accused me of drugging
you in Cairo. This was another fallacy, as you yourself will, I am sure,
admit. In Prague you ran away from me, taking my ward with you, a very
curious proceeding, regarded in whatever light you choose to look at it.
What was your object? Why, to reach England. Well, as soon as I knew
that, I again showed my desire to help you. As a proof of that, are we
not now on board this ship, and is not that the coast of England over
yonder?"

I admitted that it was. But I was not at all prepared to subscribe to
his generous suggestion that he had only undertaken the voyage for my
sake.

"That, however, is not all," he continued, still in the same tone. "As I
think I told you in Prague, I am aware that you entertain a sincere
affection for my ward. Many men in my position would doubtless have
refused their consent to your betrothal, if for no other reason, because
of your behaviour to myself. I am, however, cast in a different mould.
If you will only play fair by me, you will find that I will do so to
you. I like you, as I have so often said, and, though I am doubtless a
little hasty in my temper, there is nothing I would not do to help you,
either in your heart, your ambition, or your love. And I can assure you
my help is not to be despised. If it is fame you seek, you have surely
seen enough of me to know that I can give it to you. If it is domestic
happiness, who can do so much for you as I?"

"I hope, Monsieur Pharos," I answered, in as dignified a manner as I
could assume, "that I appreciate your very kind remarks at their proper
value, and also the generous manner in which you have offered to forget
and forgive such offences as I have committed against yourself. You
must, however, pardon me if I fail to realise the drift of your remarks.
There have been times during the last six weeks when you have uttered
the most extraordinary threats against myself. Naturally, I have no
desire to quarrel with you; but, remembering what has passed between us,
I am compelled to show myself a little sceptical of your promises."

He glanced sharply at me, but was wise enough to say nothing. A moment
later, making the excuse that he must discover where the mate intended
to bring up, he left me and went forward to the bridge.

I was still thinking of my conversation with Pharos, and considering
whether I had been wise in letting him see my cards, when a little hand
stole into mine, and I found Valerie beside me.

"I could not remain below," she said, "when we were nearing England. I
knew the effect the land would have upon you, and I wanted to be with
you."

I then gave her an account of the interview I had had with Pharos, and
of all he had said to me and I to him. She listened attentively enough,
but I could see that she was far from being impressed.

"Do not trust him," she said. "Surely you know him well enough by this
time not to do so. You may be very sure he has some reason for saying
this, otherwise he would not trouble himself to speak about it."

"I shall not trust him," I replied. "You need have no fear of that. My
experience of him has taught me that it is in such moments as these that
he is most dangerous. When he is in one of his bad humours, one is on
the alert and prepared for anything he may do or say; but when he
repents and appears so anxious to be friendly, one scarcely knows how to
take him. Suspicion is lulled to sleep for the moment, there is a
feeling of security, and it is then the mischief is accomplished."

"We will watch him together," she continued; "but, whether he is
friendly or otherwise, we will not trust him even for a moment."

So close were we by this time to the shore, and so still was the night,
that we could even hear the wavelets breaking upon the beach. Then the
screw of the steamer ceased to revolve, and when it was quite still
Pharos and the second mate descended from the bridge and joined us.

"This has been a bad business, a very bad business," the mate was
saying. "The skipper, the chief engineer, the steward, and three of the
hands all dead, and no port to put into for assistance. I wish I was
going ashore like you."

We shook hands with him in turn, and then descended the ladder to the
boat alongside. The thought of the mate's position on board that
plague-stricken vessel may possibly have accounted for the silence in
which we pushed off and headed for the shore; at any rate, not a word
was spoken. The sea was as calm as a mill-pond, and for the reason that
the night was dark, and we were all dressed in sombre colours, while the
boat chosen for the work of landing us was painted a deep black, it was
scarcely likely our presence would be detected. Be that as it may, no
coastguard greeted us on our arrival. Therefore, as soon as the boat was
aground, we made our way into the bows, and with the assistance of the
sailors reached the beach. Pharos rewarded the men, and remained
standing beside the water until he had seen them safely embarked on
their return journey to the steamer. Then, without a word to us, he
turned himself about, crossed the beach, and carrying his beloved monkey
in his arms, began slowly to ascend the steep path which led to the high
land on which the village was situated. We did not, however, venture to
approach the place itself.

The remembrance of that strange night often returns to me now. In my
mind's eye I can see the squat figure of Pharos tramping on ahead,
Valerie following a few steps behind him, and myself bringing up the
rear, and all this with the brilliant stars overhead, the lights of the
village showing dimly across the sandhills to our right, and the
continuous murmur of the sea behind us.

For upwards of an hour we tramped on in this fashion, and in that time
scarcely covered a distance of four miles. Had it occurred at the
commencement of our acquaintance I should not have been able to
understand how Pharos, considering his age and infirm appearance, could
have accomplished even so much. Since then, however, I had been
permitted so many opportunities of noting the enormous strength and
vitality contained in his meagre frame that I was past any feeling of
wonderment. Valerie it was who caused me most anxiety. Only two days
before she had been stricken by the plague; yesterday she was still
confined to her cabin. Now here she was, subjected to intense excitement
and no small amount of physical exertion. Pharos must have had the same
thought in his mind, for more than once he stopped and inquired if she
felt capable of proceeding, and on one occasion he poured out for her
from a flask he carried in his pocket a small cupful of some fluid he
had doubtless brought with him for that purpose. At last the welcome
sight of a railway line came into view. It crossed the road, and as soon
as we saw it we stopped and took counsel together. The question for us
to consider was whether it would be wiser to continue our walk along the
high road, on the chance of its bringing us to a station, or whether we
should clamber up the embankment to the railway line itself, and follow
that along in the hope of achieving the same result. On the one side
there was the likelihood of our having to go a long way round, and on
the other the suspicion that might possibly be aroused in the minds of
the railway officials should we make an appearance at the station in
such an unorthodox fashion. Eventually, however, we decided for the
railway line. Accordingly we mounted the stile beside the arch, and
having clambered up the embankment to the footpath beside the permanent
way, resumed our march, one behind the other as before. We had not,
however, as it turned out, very much further to go, for on emerging from
the cutting, which began at a short distance from the arch just referred
to, we saw before us a glimmering light, emanating, so we discovered
later, from the signal-box on the further side of the station. I could
not help wondering how Pharos would explain our presence at such an
hour, but I knew him well enough by this time to feel sure that he would
be able to do so, not only to his own, but to everybody else's
satisfaction. The place itself proved to be a primitive roadside affair,
with a small galvanised shelter for passengers, and a cottage at the
further end, which we set down rightly enough as the residence of the
stationmaster. The only lights to be seen were an oil-lamp above the
cottage door, and another in the waiting-room. No sign of any official
could be discovered.

"We must now find out," said Pharos, "at what time the next train leaves
for civilisation. Even in such a hole as this they must surely have a
time-table."

So saying, he went into the shelter before described and turned up the
lamp. His guess proved to be correct, for a number of notices were
pasted upon the wall.

"Did you happen to see the name of the station as you came along the
platform?" he inquired of me as he knelt upon the seat and ran his eye
along the printed sheets.

"I did not," I replied; "but I will very soon find out."

Leaving them, I made my way along the platform toward the cottage. Here
on a board suspended upon the fence was the name "Tebworth" in large
letters. I returned and informed Pharos, who immediately placed his
skinny finger upon the placard before him.

"Tebworth," he said. "Here it is. The next train for Norwich leaves at
2.48. What is the time now?"

I consulted my watch.

"Ten minutes to two," I replied. "Roughly speaking, we have an hour to
wait."

"We are lucky in not having longer," Pharos replied. "It is a piece of
good fortune to get a train at all at such an early hour."

With that he seated himself in a corner and closed his eyes as if
preparatory to slumber. I suppose I must have dozed off after a while,
for I have no remembrance of anything further until I was awakened by
hearing the steps of a man on the platform outside, and his voice
calling to a certain Joel, whoever he might be, to know if there were
any news of the train for which we were waiting.

Before the other had time to answer Pharos had risen and gone out. The
exclamation of surprise, to say nothing of the look of astonishment upon
the stationmaster's face--for the badge upon his cap told me it was
he--when he found Pharos standing before him, was comical in the
extreme.

"Good evening," said the latter in his most urbane manner, "or rather,
since it is getting on for three o'clock, I suppose I should say 'Good
morning.' Is you train likely to be late, do you think?"

"I don't fancy so, sir," the man replied. "She always runs up to time."

Then, unable to contain the curiosity our presence on his platform at
such an hour occasioned him, he continued, "No offence, I hope, sir, but
we don't have many passengers of your kind by it as a general rule. It's
full early for ladies and gentlemen Tebworth way to be travelling about
the country."

"Very likely," said Pharos, with more than his usual sweetness; "but you
see, my friend, our case is peculiar. We have a poor lady with us whom
we are anxious to get up to London as quickly as possible. The
excitement of travelling by day would be too much for her, so we choose
the quiet of the early morning. Of course you understand."

Pharos tapped his forehead in a significant manner, and his intelligence
being thus complimented, the man glanced into the shelter, and seeing
Valerie seated there with a sad expression upon her face, turned to
Pharos and said--

"When the train comes in, sir, you leave it to me, and I'll see if I
can't find you a carriage which you can have to yourselves right
through. You'll be in Norwich at three-twenty."

We followed him along the platform to the booking-office, and Pharos had
scarcely taken the tickets before the whistle of the train, sounding as
it entered the cutting by which we had reached the station, warned us to
prepare for departure.

"Ah, here she is, running well up to time!" said the stationmaster.
"Now, sir, you come with me."

Pharos beckoned us to follow; the other opened the door of a first-class
coach. We all got in. Pharos slipped a sovereign into the man's hand;
the train started, and a minute later we were safely out of Tebworth and
on the road once more. Our arrival in Norwich was punctual almost to the
moment, and within twenty minutes of our arrival there we had changed
trains and were speeding toward London at a rate of fifty miles an hour.

From Norwich, as from Tebworth, we were fortunate enough to have a
carriage to ourselves, and during the journey I found occasion to
discuss with Pharos the question as to what he thought of doing when we
reached town. In my own mind I had made sure that as soon as we got
there he would take Valerie away to the house he had occupied on the
occasion of his last visit, while I should return to my own studio.
This, however, I discovered was by no means what he intended.

"I could not hear of it, my dear Forrester," he said emphatically. "Is
it possible that you can imagine, after all we have been through
together, I should permit you to leave me? No! no! Such a thing is not
to be thought of for an instant. I appreciate your company, even though
you told me so plainly last evening that you do not believe it. You are
also about to become the husband of my ward, and for that reason alone I
have no desire to lose sight of you in the short time that is left me. I
arranged with my agents before I left London in June, and I heard from
them in Cairo that they had found a suitable residence for me in a
fashionable locality. Valerie and I do not require very much room, and
if you will take up your abode with us--that is to say, of course, until
you are married--I assure you we shall both be delighted. What do you
say, my dear?"

I saw Valerie's face brighten on hearing that we were not destined to be
separated, and that decided me. However, for the reason that I did not
for an instant believe in his expressions of friendship, I was not going
to appear too anxious to accept his proposal. There was something behind
it all that I did not know, and before I pledged myself I desired to
find out what that something was.

"I do not know what to say," I answered, as soon as I had come to the
conclusion that for the moment it would be better to appear to have
forgotten and forgiven the past. "I have trespassed too much upon your
hospitality already."

"You have not trespassed upon it at all," he answered. "I have derived
great pleasure from your society, and I shall be still more pleased if
you can see your way to fall in with my plan."

Thereupon I withdrew my refusal, and promised to take up my residence
with him at least until the arrangements should be made for our wedding.

As it turned out, my astonishment on hearing that he had taken a London
house was not the only surprise in store for me, for on reaching
Liverpool Street, who should come forward to meet us but the same
peculiar footman who had ridden beside the coachman on that memorable
return journey from Pompeii. He was dressed in the same dark and
unpretentious livery he had worn then, and while he greeted his master,
mistress, and myself with the most obsequious respect, did not betray
the least sign of either pleasure or astonishment. Having ascertained
that we had brought no luggage with us, he led us from the platform to
the yard outside, where we found a fine landau awaiting us, drawn by a
pair of jet-black horses, and driven by the same coachman I had seen in
Naples on the occasion referred to above. Having helped Valerie to
enter, and as soon as I had installed myself with my back to the horses,
Pharos said something in an undertone to the footman, and then took his
place opposite me. The door was immediately closed and we drove out of
the yard.

We soon left the City behind and proceeded along Victoria Street, and so
by way of Grosvenor Place to Park Lane, where we drew up before a house
at which, in the days when it had been the residence of the famous Lord
Tollingtower, I had been a constant visitor.

"I presume, since we have stopped here, that this must be the place,"
said Pharos, gazing up at it.

"Do you mean that this is the house you have taken?" I asked in
astonishment, for it was one of the finest residences in London.

"I mean that this is the house that my agents have taken for me," Pharos
replied. "Personally I know nothing whatsoever about it."

"But surely you do not take a place without making some inquiries about
it?" I continued.

"Why not?" he inquired. "I have servants whom I can trust, and they know
that it is more than their lives are worth to deceive me. Strangely
enough, however, it is recalled to my mind that this house and I do
happen to be acquainted. The late owner was a personal friend. As a
matter of fact, I stayed with him throughout his last illness and was
with him when he died."

You may be sure I pricked up my ears on hearing this, for, as everyone
knew, the later Lord Tollingtower had reached the end of his
extraordinary career under circumstances that had created rather a
sensation at the time. Something, however, warned me to ask no
questions.

"Let us alight," said Pharos, and when the footman had opened the door
we accordingly did so.

On entering the house I was surprised to find that considerable
architectural changes had been made in it. Nor was my wonderment
destined to cease there, for when I was shown to the bedroom which had
been prepared for me, there, awaiting me at the foot of the bed, was the
luggage I had left at the hotel in Prague, and which I had made up my
mind I had lost sight of for ever. Here, at least, was evidence to prove
that Pharos had never intended that I should leave him.



CHAPTER XIX.


After the excitement of the past few days, and her terrible experience
in Hamburg, to say nothing of the fact that she had landed from a
steamer under peculiar circumstances, and had been tramping the country
half the night, it is not to be wondered at that by the time we reached
Park Lane Valerie was completely knocked up. Pharos had accordingly
insisted that she should at once retire to her room and endeavour to
obtain the rest of which she stood so much in need.

"For the next few weeks--that is to say, until the end of the Season--I
intend that you shall both enjoy yourselves," he said with the utmost
affability, when we were alone together, "to the top of your bent. And
that reminds me of something, Forrester. Your betrothal must be
announced as speedily as possible. It is due to Valerie that this should
be done. I presume you do not wish the engagement to be a long one?"

"Indeed I do not," I answered, not, however, without a slight feeling of
surprise that he should speak so openly and so soon upon the subject.
"As you may suppose, it cannot be too short to please me. And our
marriage?"

"Your marriage can take place as soon after the Season as you please,"
he continued with the same extraordinary geniality. "You will not find
me placing any obstacles in your way."

"But you have never asked me as to my means, or my power to support
her," I said, putting his last remark aside as if I had not heard it.

"I have not," he answered. "There is no need for me to do so. Your means
are well known to me; besides, it has always been my intention to make
provision for Valerie myself. Provided you behave yourselves, and do not
play me any more tricks such as I had to complain of in Hamburg, you
will find that she will bring you a handsome little nest-egg that will
make it quite unnecessary for you ever to feel any anxiety on the score
of money. But we will discuss all that more fully later on. See, here
are a number of invitations that have arrived for us. It looks as if we
are not likely to be dull during our stay in London."

So saying, he placed upwards of fifty envelopes before me, many of which
I was surprised to find were addressed to myself. These I opened with
the first feeling of a return to my old social life that I had
experienced since I had re-entered London. The invitations hailed, for
the most part, from old friends. Some were for dinners, others for
musical "at homes," while at least a dozen were for dances, one of the
last-named being from the Duchess of Amersham.

"I have taken the liberty of accepting that on your behalf," said
Pharos, picking the card up. "The Duchess of Amersham and I are old
friends, and I think it will brighten Valerie and yourself up a little
if we look in at her ball for an hour or so to-night."

"But surely," I said, "we have only just reached London, and----" Here I
paused, not knowing quite how to proceed.

"What objection have you to raise?" he asked, with a sudden flash of the
old angry look in his eyes.

"My only objection was that I thought it a little dangerous," I said.
"On your own confession, it was the plague from which Valerie was
suffering in Hamburg."

Pharos laughed a short, harsh laugh, that grated upon the ear.

"You must really forgive me, Forrester, for having deceived you," he
said, "but I had to do it. It was necessary for me to use any means I
could think of for getting you to England. As you have reason to know,
Valerie is possessed of a peculiarly sensitive temperament. She is
easily influenced, particularly by myself, and the effect can be
achieved at any distance. If I were in London and she in Vienna, I
could, by merely exercising my will, not only induce her to do anything
I might wish, but could make her bodily health exactly what I pleased.
You will therefore see that it would be an easy task for me to cause her
to be taken ill in Hamburg. Her second self--that portion of her mind
which is so susceptible to my influence, as you saw for
yourself--witnessed my arrival in Prague and at the hotel. As soon as I
entered the room in which she was waiting for me, the attraction
culminated in a species of fainting fit. I despatched you post haste to
a chemist with a prescription which I thought would be extremely
difficult, if not impossible, for you to get made up. At any rate it
would, I knew, serve my purpose if it kept you some time away."

"Then you mean that while I was hurrying from place to place like a
madman, suffering untold agonies of fear, and believing that Valerie's
life depended upon my speed, you were in reality deceiving me?"

"If I am to be truthful, I must confess that I was," he replied; "but I
give you my word the motive was a good one. Had I not done so, who knows
what would have happened? The plague was raging on the Continent, and
you were both bent on getting away from me again on the first
opportunity. What was the result? Working on your fears for her, I
managed to overcome the difficulties and got you safely into England.
Valerie has not been so ill as you supposed. I have sanctioned your
engagement, and, as I said just now, if you will let me, will provide
for you both for life, and will assist in lifting you to the highest
pinnacle of fame. After this explanation, surely you are not going to be
ungenerous enough to still feel vindictive against me?"

"It was a cruel trick to play me," I answered; "but since the result has
not been so serious as I supposed, and you desire me to believe you did
it all with a good object, I will endeavour to think no more about it."

"You have decided sensibly," he said. "And now let us arrange what we
shall do this evening. My proposal is that we rest this afternoon, that
you dine with me at my club, the Antiquarian, in the evening, and that
afterwards I show you London as I see it in my character of Pharos the
Egyptian. I think you will find the programme both interesting and
instructive. During the evening we might return here, pick Valerie up,
and go on to the Duchess of Amersham's ball. Does that meet with your
approval?"

I was so relieved at finding that Valerie had not really been attacked
by the plague, that, however much I should have liked to spend the
evening alone with her, I could see no reason for declining Pharos's
invitation. I accordingly stated that I should be very glad to do as he
wished.

We followed out his plan to the letter. After lunch we retired to our
respective apartments and rested until it was time to prepare for the
evening. At the hour appointed I descended to the drawing-room, where I
found Pharos awaiting me. He was dressed as I had seen him at Lady
Medenham's well-remembered "at home"--that is to say, he wore his velvet
jacket and black skull cap, and, as usual, carried his gold-topped
walking-stick in his hand.

"The carriage is at the door, I think," he said as I entered, "so if you
are ready we will set off."

A neat brougham was drawn up beside the pavement; we took our places in
it, and ten minutes later had reached the Antiquarian Club, of all the
establishments of the kind in London perhaps the most magnificent. Wide
and lofty, and yet boasting the most harmonious proportions, the
dining-room at the Antiquarian Club always remains in my mind the most
stately of the many stately banqueting halls in London. Pharos's
preference, I found, was for a table in one of the large windows
overlooking the Embankment and the river, and this had accordingly been
prepared for him.

"If you will sit there," said Pharos, motioning with his hand to a chair
on the right, "I will take this one opposite you."

I accordingly seated myself in the place he indicated.

The dinner was perfect in every respect. My host himself, however, dined
after his own fashion, in the manner I have elsewhere described.
Nevertheless, he did the honours of the table with the most perfect
grace, and had any stranger been watching us, he would have found it
difficult to believe that the relationship existing between us was not
of the most cordial nature possible.

By eight o'clock the room was crowded, and with as fine a collection of
well-born, well-dressed, and well-mannered men as could be found in
London. The decorations, the portraits upon the walls, the liveried
servants, the snowy drapery and sparkling silver, all helped to make up
a picture that, after the sordidness of the Margrave of Brandenburg, was
like a glimpse of a new life.

"This is the first side of that London life I am desirous of presenting
to you," said Pharos, in his capacity of showman, after I had finished
my dessert and had enjoyed a couple of glasses of the famous Antiquarian
port--"one side of that luxury and extravagance which is fast drawing
this great city to its doom. Now, if you have quite finished, we might
move on."

I acquiesced, and we accordingly descended to the hall and donned our
coats.

"If you would care to smoke, permit me to offer you one of the same
brand of cigarettes of which you expressed your approval in Naples,"
said Pharos, producing from his pocket a silver case, which he handed to
me. I took one of the delicacies it contained and lit it. Then we passed
out of the hall to Pharos's own carriage, which was waiting in the
street for us. "We will now return to pick up Valerie, after which we
will drive to Amersham House, where I have no doubt we shall meet many
of those whom we have seen here to-night."

We found Valerie awaiting us in the drawing-room. She was dressed for
the ball, and, superb as I thought she looked on the evening she had
been presented to the Emperor in Prague, I had to confess to myself that
she was even more beautiful now. Her face was flushed with excitement,
and her lovely eyes sparkled like twin stars. I hastened to congratulate
her on her altered appearance, and had scarcely done so before the
butler announced that the carriage was at the door, whereupon we
departed for Carlton House Terrace.

On the subject of the ball itself it is not my intention to say very
much; let it suffice that, possibly by reason of what followed later, it
is talked of to this day. The arrangements were of the most sumptuous
and extravagant description; princes of the blood and their wives were
present, Cabinet Ministers jostled burly country squires upon the
staircase, fair but haughty aristocrats rubbed shoulders with the
daughters of American millionaires, whose money had been made goodness
knows where or how; half the celebrities of England nodded to the other
half; but in all that distinguished company there was no woman to
eclipse Valerie in beauty, and, as another side of the picture, no man
who could equal Pharos in ugliness. Much to my astonishment the latter
seemed to have no lack of acquaintances, and I noticed also that
everyone with whom he talked, though they paid the most servile
attention to his remarks while he was with them, invariably heaved a
sigh of relief when he took his departure.

At two o'clock Valerie was tired, and we accordingly decided to leave.
But I soon found that it was not to return home. Having placed my
darling in her carriage, Pharos directed the coachman to drive to Park
Lane, declaring that we preferred to walk.

It was a beautiful night, cool and fresh, with a few clouds in the
southwest, but brilliant starlight overhead. Leaving Carlton House
Terrace, we passed into Waterloo Place, ascended it as far as
Piccadilly, and then hailed a cab.

"Our evening is not completed yet," said Pharos. "I have still some
places to show you. It is necessary that you should see them, in order
that you may appreciate what is to follow. The first will be a fancy
dress ball at Covent Garden, where yet another side of London life is to
be found."

If such a thing could possibly have had any effect, I should have
objected; but so completely did his will dominate mine, that I had no
option but to consent to anything he proposed. We accordingly stepped
into the cab and were driven off to the place indicated. From the sounds
which issued from the great building as we entered it, it was plain that
the ball was proceeding with its accustomed vigour, a surmise on our
part which proved to be correct when we reached the box Pharos had
bespoken. A floor had been laid over the stalls and pit, and upon this
upwards of fifteen hundred dancers, in every style of fancy dress the
ingenuity of man could contrive, were slowly revolving to the music of a
military band. It was a curious sight, and at any other time would have
caused me considerable amusement. Now, however, with the fiendish face
of Pharos continually at my elbow, and his carping criticisms sounding
without ceasing in my ear, mocking at the people below us, finding evil
in everything, and hinting always at the doom which was hanging over
London, it reminded me more of Dante's Inferno than anything else to
which I could liken it. For upwards of an hour we remained spectators of
it. Then, with a final sneer, Pharos gave the signal for departure.

"We have seen the finest club in Europe," he said, as we emerged into
the cool air of Bow Street, "the most fashionable social event of the
season, and a fancy dress ball at Covent Garden. We must now descend a
grade lower, and, if you have no objection, we will go in search of it
on foot?"

I had nothing to urge against this suggestion, so, turning into Long
Acre, we passed through a number of squalid streets, with all of which
Pharos seemed to be as intimately acquainted as he was in the West-end,
and finally approached the region of Seven Dials--that delectable
neighbourhood bordered on the one side by Shaftesbury Avenue, and on
the other by Drury Lane. Here, though it was by this time close upon
three o'clock, no one seemed to have begun to think of bed. In one
narrow alley through which we were compelled to pass at least thirty
people were assembled, more than half of which number were intoxicated.
A woman was screaming for assistance from a house across the way, and a
couple of men were fighting at the further end of an adjoining court. In
this particular locality the police seemed as extinct as the dodo. At
any other time, and in any other company, I should have felt some doubt
as to the wisdom of being in such a place at such an hour. But with my
present companion beside me I felt no fear.

We had walked some distance before we reached the house Pharos desired
to visit. From its outward appearance it might have been a small
drinking-shop in the daytime; now, however, every window was closely
shuttered, and not a ray of light showed through chink or cranny.
Approaching the door he knocked four times upon it, whereupon it was
opened on a chain for a few inches. A face looked through the aperture
thus created, and Pharos, moving a little closer, said something in a
whisper to it.

"Beg pardon, sir," said the woman, for a woman I soon discovered it was.
"I didn't know as it was you. I'll undo the chain. Is the gentleman with
you safe?"

"Quite safe," Pharos replied. "You need have no fear of him. He is my
friend."

"In you come, then," said the woman to me, my character being thus
vouched for, and accordingly in I stepped.

Dirty as were the streets outside, the house in which we now stood more
than equalled them. The home of Captain Wisemann in Hamburg, which I had
up to that time thought the filthiest I had ever seen, was nothing to
it. Taking the candle in her hand, the old woman led us along the
passage toward another door. Before this she paused and rang a bell, the
handle of which was cleverly concealed in the woodwork. Almost instantly
it was opened, and we entered a room the like of which I had never seen
or dreamt of before. Its length was fully thirty feet, its width
possibly fifteen. On the wall above the fireplace was a gas bracket,
from the burner of which a large flame was issuing with a hissing noise.
In the center of the room was a table, and seated round it were at least
twenty men and women, who, at the moment of our entering, were engaged
upon a game the elements of which I did not understand. On seeing us the
players sprang to their feet with one accord, and a scramble ensued for
the money upon the table. A scene of general excitement followed, which
might very well have ended in the gas being turned out and our finding
ourselves upon the floor with knives between our ribs, had not the old
woman who had introduced us called out that there was no need for alarm,
and added, with an oath--what might in Pharos's case possibly have been
true, but in mine was certainly not--that we had been there hundreds of
times before, and were proper sort o' gents. Thereupon Pharos
contributed a sovereign to be spent in liquid refreshment, and when our
healths had been drunk with a variety of toasts intended to be
complimentary, our presence was forgotten, and the game once more
proceeded. One thing was self-evident: there was no lack of money among
those present, and when a member of the company had not the wherewithal
to continue the gamble, he in most cases produced a gold watch, a ring,
or some other valuable from his pocket, and handed it to a burly ruffian
at the head of the table, who advanced him an amount upon it which nine
times out of ten failed to meet with his approval.

"Seeing you have not been here before," said Pharos, "I might explain
that this is the most typical thieves' gambling hell in London. There is
not a man or woman in this room at the present moment who is not a
hardened criminal in every sense of the word. The fellow at the end
narrowly escaped the gallows, the man on his right has but lately
emerged from seven years' penal servitude for burglary. The three
sitting together next the banker are at the present moment badly wanted
by the police, while the old woman who admitted us, and who was once not
only a celebrated variety actress, but an exceedingly beautiful woman,
is the mother of that sickly youth drinking gin beside the fireplace,
who assisted in the murder of an old man in Shaftesbury Avenue a
fortnight or so ago, and will certainly be captured and brought within
measurable distance of the gallows before many more weeks have passed
over his head. Have you seen enough of this to satisfy you?"

"More than enough," I answered truthfully.

"Then let us leave. It will soon be daylight, and there are still many
places for us to visit before we return home."

We accordingly bade the occupants of the room good-night, and, when we
had been escorted to the door by the old woman who had admitted us, left
the house.

From the neighbourhood of Seven Dials Pharos carried me off to other
equally sad and disreputable quarters of the city. We visited Salvation
Army Shelters, the cheapest of cheap lodging-houses, doss-houses in
comparison to which a workhouse would be a palace; dark railway arches,
where we found homeless men, women, and children endeavouring to snatch
intervals of rest between the visits of patrolling policemen; the public
parks, where the grass was dotted with recumbent forms, and every seat
was occupied; and then, turning homewards, reached Park Lane just as the
clocks were striking seven, as far as I was concerned sick to the heart,
not only of the sorrow and the sin of London, but of the callous
indifference to it displayed by Pharos.



CHAPTER XX.


When I woke next morning the feeling I had had in my heart the evening
before, that something terrible was about to happen, had not left me.
With a shudder of intense disgust I recalled the events of the previous
night. Never, since I had known him, with the exception of that one
occasion on the Embankment, had Pharos appeared so loathsome to me. I
remembered the mocking voice in which he had pointed out to me the
follies and frailties of our great city, the cruel look in his eyes as
he watched those about him in the different places we had visited. For
the life of me I could not comprehend what his object had been in taking
me to them. While I dressed I debated the subject with myself, but
though I had a very shrewd suspicion that the vengeance to which he
alluded, and which he had declared to be so imminent, was the plague,
yet I could not see how he was able to speak with such authority upon
the subject. On the other hand, I had to remember that I had never yet
known him fail, either in what he had predicted, or anything he had set
himself to do. Having got so far in my calculations I stopped, as
another thought occurred to me, and with my brushes still in either hand
stared at the wall before me. From the fact that he had informed me of
the existence of the plague in London it was certain that he knew of it,
though the authorities did not. Could it be possible, therefore, that he
had simply crossed from the Continent to London in order to be able to
gloat over the misery that was to come?

The diabolical nature of the man, and his love of witnessing the
sufferings of others, tallied exactly with the conclusion I had arrived
at; and if my reasoning were correct, this would account for the
expression of triumph I had seen upon his face. When I descended to the
breakfast-room I found Valerie awaiting me there. She was looking quite
her own self again by this time, and greeted me with a pretty exhibition
of shyness upon her face, which I could understand when she handed me a
number of letters she had received, congratulating her upon our
engagement.

"You were late last night," she said. "Hour after hour I lay awake
listening for your step, and it was broad daylight when I heard you
ascend the stairs. I cannot tell you how frightened I was while you were
away. I knew you were with him, and I imagined you exposed to a hundred
dangers."

I told her where and with whom I had been.

"But why did he take you with him?" she inquired, when I had finished.
"I cannot understand that."

"I must confess that it has puzzled me also," I replied.

"The whole thing is very strange," she continued, "and I do not like the
look of it. We have reason to know that he does nothing without a
motive. But what can the motive have been in this particular instance?"

"That is more than I can say," I answered, and with that we changed the
subject, and interested ourselves in our own and more particular
concerns. So engrossing were they, and so pleasant were the thoughts
they conjured up, that when breakfast was finished I remained in the
dining-room, and did not open any of the morning papers which were
lying in a heap upon the library table. At half-past ten I said good-bye
to Valerie, who was practising in the drawing-room--Pharos I had not yet
seen--and, putting on my hat, left the house. It was the first
opportunity I had had since my return to London of visiting my studio,
and I was exceedingly anxious to discover how things had been
progressing there during my absence. It was a lovely morning for
walking, the sky being without a cloud, and the streets in consequence
filled with sunshine. In the Row a considerable number of men and women
were enjoying their morning canter, and nurse-maids in white dresses
were to be counted by the dozen in the streets leading to the Park. At
the corner of Hamilton Place a voice I recognised called to me to stop,
and on turning round I found my old friend, Sir George Legrath,
hastening after me.

"My dear Cyril," he said, as he shook hands with me, "I am indeed glad
to see you. I had no idea you had returned."

"I reached London yesterday morning," I answered, but in such a
constrained voice that he must have been dense indeed if he did not see
that something was amiss. "How did you know I had been away?"

"Why, my dear fellow," he answered, "have you forgotten that I sent you
a certain address in Naples? and then I called at your studio the
following morning, when your man told me you were abroad. But somehow
you don't look well. I hope nothing is the matter?"

"Nothing, nothing," I replied, almost sharply, and for the first time in
my life his presence was almost distasteful to me, though if I had been
asked the reason I should have found it difficult to say why. "Sir
George, when I called on you at the Museum that morning, you told me
you would rather see me in my grave than connected in any way with
Pharos."

"Well?" he inquired, looking up at me with a face that had suddenly lost
its usual ruddy hue. "What makes you remind me of that now?"

"Because," I answered, "if it were not for one person's sake I could
wish that that opportunity had been vouchsafed you. I have been two
months with Pharos."

"Well?" he said again.

"What more do you expect me to say?" I continued. Then, sinking my voice
a little, as if I were afraid Pharos might be within hearing distance, I
added, "Sir George, if I were to tell you all I know about that man----"

"You must tell me nothing," he cried hastily. "I know too much already."

We walked for some distance in silence, and it was not until we were
opposite Devonshire House that we spoke again.

Then Sir George said abruptly, and with a desire to change the subject
that could not be disguised, "Of course you have heard the terrible news
this morning?"

Following the direction of his eyes I saw what had put the notion into
his head. A news-seller was standing in the gutter on the other side of
the street, holding in his hand the usual placard setting forth the
contents of the papers he had for sale. On this was printed in large
letters--

    TERRIBLE OUTBREAK OF THE PLAGUE IN LONDON.

"You refer to the plague, I presume?" I said, with an assumed calmness I
was far from feeling. "From that headline it would seem to have made
its appearance in London after all."

"It has, indeed," said Sir George, with a gloominess that was far from
usual with him. "Can it be possible you have not seen the papers?"

"I have scarcely seen a paper since I left London," I replied. "I have
been far too busy. Tell me about it. Is it so very bad?"

"It has come upon us like a thunderclap," he answered. "Two days ago it
was not known. Yesterday there was but one case, and that in the
country. This morning there are no less than three hundred and
seventy-five, and among them some of our most intimate friends. God help
us if it gets worse! The authorities assure us they can stamp it out
with ease, but it is my opinion this is destined to prove a grave crisis
in England's history. However, it does not do to look on the black side
of things, so I'll not turn prophet. Our ways part here, do they not? In
that case, good-bye. I am very glad to have seen you. If you should be
passing the Museum I hope you will drop in. You know my hours, I think?"

"I shall be very glad to do so," I answered, and thereupon we parted
with the first shadow of a cloud between us that our lives had seen. On
reviewing our conversation afterward I could recall nothing that should
have occasioned it; nevertheless, there it was, "that little rift within
the lute," as Tennyson says, "which by and by would make the music
mute."

After we had parted, I crossed the road and walked by way of Dover
Street to my studio. Scarcely two months had elapsed since that fatal
day when I had left it to go in search of Pharos, and yet those eight
weeks seemed like years. So long did I seem to have been away that I
almost expected to find a change in the houses of the street, and when
I passed the curiosity shop at the corner where the murder had taken
place--that terrible tragedy which had been the primary cause of my
falling into Pharos's power--it was with a sensible feeling of surprise
I found the windows still decorated with the same specimens of china,
and the shop still carrying on its trade under the name of Clausand. I
turned the corner and crossed the road. Instinctively my hand went into
my pocket and produced the latchkey. I tapped it twice against the
right-hand pillar of the door, just as I had been in the habit of doing
for years, and inserted it in the lock. A few seconds later I had let
myself in and was standing amongst my own _lares_ and _penates_ once
more. Everything was just as I had left it; the clock was ticking on the
mantelpiece, not a speck of dirt or dust was upon chair or china;
indeed, the only thing that served to remind me that I had been away at
all was the pile of letters which had been neatly arranged upon my
writing-table. These I opened, destroyed what were of no importance, and
placed the rest in my pocket to be answered at a more convenient
opportunity. Then, leaving a note upon my table to inform my servant
that I had returned, and would call again on the following morning, I
let myself out, locked the door, and returned to Piccadilly _en route_
to Park Lane.

A great writer has mentioned somewhere that the gravest issues are often
determined by the most insignificant trifles. As I have just remarked, I
had, in this instance, made up my mind to return to Park Lane, in the
hope that I might be able to induce Valerie to take a stroll with me in
the Park, and had left Bond Street in order to turn westward, when,
emerging from a shop on the other side of the road, I espied the writer
of one of the most important of the many letters I had found awaiting
me at the studio. He was a member of my own club, and thinking I had
better apologise to him while I had the chance for not having answered
his letter sooner, I hastened after him. He, however, seemed to be in a
hurry, and as soon as it came to a race between us it was evident that
he had the advantage of me on a point of speed. I chased him until I saw
that he was bound for the club, whereupon, knowing I should be certain
to catch him there, I slackened my pace and strolled leisurely along. In
other days I had often been twitted in a jocular fashion by my friends
about my membership of this particular club. The reputation it possessed
was excellent in every way, but it certainly must be confessed that what
it gained in respectability it lacked in liveliness. For the most part
the men who made use of it were middle-aged--in point of fact, I believe
there were but two younger than myself; consequently the atmosphere of
the house, while being always dignified, was sometimes cold almost to
the borders of iciness.

On this particular day there was an additional air of gloom about it
that rather puzzled me. When, however, I had finished my conversation
with the man I had been following, and sought the smoking-room, the
reason of it soon became apparent. That terrible fear which was destined
within a few hours to paralyse all London was already beginning to make
its presence felt, and as a result the room, usually so crowded, now
contained but four men. These greeted me civilly enough, but without any
show of interest. They were gathered round one of their number who was
seated at a table with a pencil in his hand and a map of Europe spread
out before him. From the way in which he was laying down the law, I
gathered that he was demonstrating some theory upon which he pinned
considerable faith.

"I have worked the whole thing out," he was saying as I entered, "and
you can see it here for yourselves. On this sheet of paper I have pasted
every telegram that has reached London from the time the disease first
made its appearance in Constantinople. As each country became affected I
coloured it upon the map in red, while these spots of a darker shade
represent the towns from which the first cases were notified. At a
glance, therefore, you can see the way in which the malady has travelled
across Europe."

On hearing this, you may be sure I drew closer to the table, and looked
over the shoulders of the men at the map below.

"As you see," said the lecturer, with renewed interest as he observed
this addition to his audience, "it started in Constantinople, made its
appearance next in Southern Russia and the Balkan States. Two days later
a case was notified from Vienna and another in Prague. Berlin was the
next city visited, then Wittenberg, then Hamburg. France did not become
infected until some days later, and then the individual who brought it
was proved to have arrived the day before from Berlin. Yesterday,
according to the official returns, there were twelve hundred cases in
France, eighteen thousand in Austria, sixteen thousand in Germany--of
which Hamburg alone contributes five thousand three hundred and
fifty--while in Italy there have been three thousand four hundred, in
Spain and Portugal only two hundred and thirty, while Turkey and Russia
have forty-five thousand, and thirty-seven thousand three hundred and
eighty, respectively. Greece returns seventeen thousand six hundred and
twenty, Holland seven thousand two hundred and sixty-four, Belgium nine
thousand five hundred and twenty-three, while Denmark completes the
total of Europe with four thousand two hundred and twenty-one. The
inferences to be drawn from these figures are apparent. The total number
of deaths upon the Continent up to midnight last night was one hundred
and fifty-nine thousand eight hundred and thirty-eight. The nations most
seriously affected are Turkey and the countries immediately surrounding
her, namely, Greece, Russia, and Austria. Germany follows next, though
why Hamburg should contribute such a large proportion as five thousand
three hundred and fifty I must admit it is difficult to see. England
hitherto has stood aloof; now, however, it has broken out in London, and
three hundred and seventy-five cases have been notified up to eight
o'clock this morning."

On hearing this, the men standing round him turned pale and shuffled
uneasily upon their feet. As for myself, I might have been changed to
stone, so cold and so incapable of moving was I. It was as if a bandage
had suddenly been removed from my eyes, enabling me to see everything
plainly and in its proper light.

"The returns for our own country," continued this indefatigable
statistician, without noticing my condition, "are as interesting as
those from the Continent. I have filed everything already published, and
have applied the result to this map of London. The two cases that
occurred in Norfolk, the porter in Norwich, and the stationmaster at
Tebworth Junction, I omit, for the reason that they tell us nothing. Of
the cases notified in this city, careful inquiries on the part of the
authorities have elicited the information that twenty-five spent the
evening at the Antiquarian Club last night, seventy-one at the Fancy
Dress Ball at Covent Garden, while, strangely enough, no less than
thirty-seven can be proved to have been among the guests of the Duchess
of Amersham at her ball in Carlton House Terrace. The others are more
difficult to account for, being made up of costermongers, homeless
vagrants, street hawkers, and others of the same class."

I could bear no more, but stumbled from the room like a drunken man out
into the hall beyond. A servant, thinking I was ill, hastened to inquire
if he could be of any assistance to me.

"Get me a cab," I faltered huskily.

The man ran into the street and blew his whistle. A hansom drove up, and
I made my way into the street and scrambled into it, scarcely knowing
how I managed it, and then fell back upon the cushions as if I were in a
fit. The cab sped along the streets, threaded its way in and out of the
traffic with a dexterity and a solicitude for my safety that was a more
biting sarcasm than any lips could utter. What was my safety to me now?
Knowing what I knew, I had better, far better, be dead.

The dreadful secret was out. In less than five minutes the mystery of
two months had been solved. Now I knew the meaning of the spot I had
discovered upon my arm on the morning following my terrible adventure in
the Pyramid; now I could understand my illness in the desert, and the
sudden death of the poor Arab who had nursed me. In the light of this
terrible truth, everything was as clear as daylight, and all I wanted
was to get back to Park Lane and find myself face to face with Pharos,
in order that I might tax him with it, and afterwards go forth and
publish his infamy to the world. Fast as the man was driving, he could
not make his horse go fast enough for me. Though at first my blood had
been as cold as ice, it now raced through my veins like liquid fire. A
feverish nervousness had seized me, and for the time being I was little
better than a madman. Regardless of the passers-by, conscious only of
the vile part I had been induced to play--unwittingly, it is true--in
his unbelievable wickedness, I urged the driver to greater speed. At
last, after what seemed an eternity, we reached our destination. I
alighted, and, as I had done in Hamburg, paid the cabman with the first
money I took from my pocket, and then went up the steps and entered the
house. By this time the all-consuming fire of impatience which had
succeeded the icy coldness of the first discovery had left me, and was
succeeded by a strange, unnatural calm, in which I seemed to be myself,
and yet to be standing at a distance, watching myself. In a voice that I
scarcely recognised, I inquired from the butler where I could find his
master. He informed me that he was in the drawing-room, and I
accordingly went thither in search of him. I had not the least notion of
what I was going to say to him when I found him, or how I should say it,
but I had to relieve my mind of the weight it was carrying, and
then----Why, after that, nothing would matter. I opened the door and
entered the room. The sunshine was streaming in through the windows at
the further end, falling upon the elegant furniture, the embroideries
and draperies, the china, and the hundred-and-one knick-knacks that go
to make up a fashionable drawing-room. Of Pharos, however, there was no
sign. In place of him Valerie rose from a chair by the window and
greeted me with a little exclamation of delight. Then, seeing the look
upon my face, and the deadly pallor of my complexion, she must have
realised that something serious had happened to me, for she ran forward
and took my hands in hers.

"My darling!" she cried, with a look of terror upon her face, "what has
happened? Tell me, for pity's sake, for your face terrifies me!"

The pressure of her hands and the sight of those beautiful frightened
eyes gazing up into mine cut me to the heart. Overwhelmed with sorrow as
I was, she alone of all the world could soothe me and alleviate the
agony I was suffering. It was not possible, however, that I could avail
myself of her sympathy. I was dishonoured enough already, without
seeking to dishonour her. Here our love must end. For the future I
should be an outcast, a social leper, carrying with me to my grave the
knowledge of the curse I had brought upon my fellow men. I tried to put
her from me, but she would not be denied.

"Oh, what can have happened that you treat me like this?" she cried.
"Your silence breaks my heart."

"You must not come near me, Valerie," I muttered hoarsely. "Leave me.
You have no notion what I am."

"You are the man I love," she answered. "That is enough for me. Whatever
it may be, I have the right to share your sorrow with you."

"No, no!" I cried. "You must have no more to do with me. Drive me away
from you. I tell you I am viler than you can believe, lower than the
common murderer, for he kills but one, while, God help me, I have killed
thousands."

She must have thought me mad, for she uttered a little choking sob and
sank down upon the floor, the very picture and embodiment of despair.

Then the door opened and Pharos entered.

Seeing me standing in the centre of the room with a wild look upon my
face, and Valerie crouching at my feet, he paused and gazed from one to
the other of us in surprise.

"I am afraid I am _de trop_," he said, with the old nasty sneer upon his
face. "If it is not putting you to too much trouble, perhaps one of you
will be good enough to tell me what it means."

Neither of us answered for upward of a minute; then I broke the spell
that bound us and turned to Pharos. How feeble the words seemed when
compared with the violence of my emotions and the unbelievable nature of
the charge I was bringing against him I must leave you to imagine.

"It means, Monsieur Pharos," I said, "that I have discovered
everything."

I could say no more, for a lump was rising in my throat which threatened
to choke me. It soon appeared, however, that I had said enough, for
Pharos must either have read my thoughts and have understood that denial
would be useless, or, since I was no longer necessary to him, he did not
care whether he confessed to me or not. At any rate, he advanced into
the room, his cruel eyes watching me intently the while.

"So you have discovered everything, have you, my friend?" he said. "And
pray what is this knowledge that you have accumulated?"

"How can I tell you?" I cried, scarcely knowing how to enter upon my
terrible indictment. "How can I make you understand your wickedness? I
have discovered that it is you who are responsible for the misery from
which Europe is now suffering. I know that it was I, through you, who
introduced the plague and carried it from Constantinople to London.
Inhuman monster!" I continued, having by this time worked myself to a
white heat. "I was in your power and you made me your tool. But you
shall not escape. It is not too late even now to punish you. Within an
hour the world shall know everything, and you will be dead, if devils
can die. I have been your tool, but, since I know your wickedness, I
will not be your accomplice. Oh, my God! is it possible that a man
breathing the pure air of heaven can be so vile?"

All the time I had been thus denouncing him I had been standing just as
I was when he entered the room, with Valerie still crouching at my feet.
The dangerous light I remembered so well of old had returned to his
eyes, making him look indescribably fiendish.

"Are you mad that you dare to talk to me in this fashion?" he said at
last, but with a calmness the meaning of which there was no mistaking.
"Since it is plain that you do not remember the hold I have upon you,
nor what your fate will be if you anger me, I must enlighten you. You
bring these accusations against me and you threaten to betray me to the
world--me, Pharos the Egyptian, and to your pitiful world which I spurn
beneath my feet. Once more I ask you, are you mad? But since there is no
further need for concealment, and you desire the truth, you shall hear
it." He paused, and when he spoke again it was noticeable that he had
dropped his former conversational tone and had adopted a manner more in
keeping with the solemnity of what he had to say. "Know, then, that what
thou sawest in the vision before the Sphinx and in the Temple of Ammon
was the truth, and not a dream, as I desired thee to believe. I, whom
thou hast known as Pharos, am none other than Ptahmes, son of
Netruhôtep, prophet of the north and south, the same whom Pharaoh sought
to kill, and who died in hiding and was buried by his faithful priests
under cover of night more than three thousand years ago. Cursed by the
Gods, and denied the right of burial by order of the King, I have
inhabited this shape since then. Darest thou, knowing this, pit thyself
against the servant of the Mighty Ones? For I tell thee assuredly that
the plague which is now destroying Europe was decreed by the Gods of
Egypt against such nations as have committed the sin of sacrilege."

He paused, and for a moment I thought he would have sprung upon me as he
had done that night in my studio. But he controlled himself with an
effort, and a moment later his voice was as soft and conciliatory and
yet as full of malice as before. I also noticed that he had returned to
his ordinary and more colloquial tone.

"Are you anxious to hear more? If you are determined to proclaim my
doings to the world, it is only fit you should know everything. I will
willingly confess. Why should I not do so? You are mine to do with as I
please. Without my leave you are powerless to hurt me, and who would
believe you if you were to tell? No one! They would call you mad, as you
undoubtedly are, and say that fear of the plague had turned your brain.
In Naples you accused me of the murder of Clausand, the curiosity
dealer. I denied it because the time was not then ripe for me to
acquaint you with the truth. Now I confess it. I stabbed him because he
would not give me a certain scarabeus, and to divert suspicion willed
that the half-crazy German, Schmidt, whom the other had cast out of his
service, should declare that he did the deed. In obedience to my desire
you followed me to Italy and accompanied me thence to Egypt. I it was
who drew you to the Pyramid and decreed that you should lose your way
inside, in order that when fear had deprived you of your senses I might
inoculate you with the plague. Seven days later you were stricken with
it in the desert. As soon as you recovered I carried you off to Europe
to begin the work required of you. In Constantinople, Vienna, Prague,
Berlin, Hamburg, wherever you went you left the fatal germs of the
disease as a legacy behind you. You infected this woman here, and but
for me she would have died. To-day the last portion of that vengeance
which has been decreed commences, and when all is finished I go to that
rest in ancient Thebes which has been denied me these long three
thousand years. Hark! Even now the sound of wailing is to be heard in
London. Hour by hour the virulence of the pestilence increases, and the
strong men and weak women, youths and maidens, children and babes, go
down before it like corn before the reaper. On every hand the voices of
mourners rise into the summer air, and it is I, Ptahmes, the servant of
the Gods, the prophet of the King, the man whom thou hast said thou wilt
proclaim to the world, who has brought it about."

Then, lifting his right hand, he pointed it at me.

"Fool--fool!" he cried, with withering scorn. "Frail atom in the path of
life, who art thou that thou shouldst deem thyself strong enough to cope
with me? Learn then that the time is not yet ripe. I have further need
of thee. Sleep again, and in that sleep do all I shall require of thee."

As he said this his diminutive form seemed to grow larger and more
terrible, until it appeared to have attained twice its ordinary size.
His eyes shone in his head like living coals and seemed to burn into my
brain. I saw Valerie rise from the place where she had hitherto been
crouching, and snatch an Oriental dagger from a table. Then, swift as a
panther, she sprang upon him, only to be hurled back against the wall as
if struck by an invisible hand. Then, obedient as a little child, I
closed my eyes and slept.



CHAPTER XXI.


For no less a period than five days and six nights Pharos kept me in the
same hypnotic condition, and, incredible though it may seem, I have not
the slightest recollection of any one single circumstance that occurred
during the whole of that time. Valerie has since informed me that I
moved about the house very much as usual, that I went in and out with
Pharos, but that I never spoke to her, and while I seemed conscious of
my actions and well enough in my bodily health, I did everything with
that peculiar listless air that one notices in a man while walking in
his sleep. I also gather from the same source that Pharos's behaviour
during that terrible period was equally extraordinary. Never for one
instant did he allow her to remain alone with me. The greater portion of
his time was spent out of the house with myself, though in what pursuit
he was engaged she could not discover. He would take me away with him
early in the morning and not return until late at night, when he would
conduct me to my room and then retire himself. At times he would
scarcely speak a word, then a fit of loquacity would come over him, and
he would openly boast to her of the misery he had caused, and find a
diabolical delight in every bulletin that proclaimed the increasing
virulence of the plague. To this day the picture of that impish creature
perambulating the death-stricken streets and alleys to the accompaniment
of tolling bells, watching with ghoulish satisfaction the futile
efforts of the authorities to cope with the disease, haunts me like a
nightmare. Every day fresh tidings were pouring in of the spread of the
infection into other cities and towns until the entire kingdom was
riddled like a honeycomb.

How long Pharos would have kept me under his influence, had he possessed
the power, I cannot say. I only know that on the morning of the sixth
day I woke with a strange and confused feeling in my head. Though my
eyes were open and I was to all outward appearances wide awake, I was
like a man hovering on the borderland of sleep. My senses were gradually
coming back to me; the strength of my brain was reasserting itself, and
by some strange process, how arrived at it is impossible for me to say,
the hold Pharos had obtained upon me was slowly weakening. Then it was
as if I suddenly awoke to find myself standing fully dressed in my own
room. My bed had been slept in, and one glance out of my window showed
me that it was early morning. And yet I had not the least recollection
of having been in bed or of having made my toilet. Then the scene with
Pharos, and the awful knowledge if had given rise to, came back to me,
and I remembered how he had pointed his hand at me, and how I had fallen
asleep before him. Here was the logical explanation of the whole thing.
It was plain that after I had become unconscious, Pharos had caused me
to be carried to my room and put to bed. This, then, I argued, must be
the morning following. Now that the effect he had produced had worn off,
there was still time for me to do what I had originally intended. Having
arrived at this decision I opened my door and went downstairs. A curious
silence prevailed, not only in the house, but outside. I stopped on the
first landing and looked out of the window. So far as I could see there
were no cabs or carriages in the street, no riders in the Row, no
children with their nurses upon the pavements, and yet the old
Chippendale timepiece in the hall told me that the hour was considerably
past nine o'clock. A curious feeling of drowsiness still possessed me,
but it was fast leaving me, and, what was more, leaving me filled with
but one purpose in life, which was to seek out the authorities and
proclaim to them the devilry of Pharos and the part I had myself played
in his abominable wickedness. After that I would wait for Fate to say
what should become of me.

Putting on my hat I opened the front door and stepped out into the
street. At any cost I would endeavour to reach the Home Office, and tell
my story there, before Pharos could prevent me. With this end in view I
hurried toward Piccadilly, intending to take a cab there and so save
time. But when I set out I had not the least notion of the misery that
had befallen London, nor of anything that had happened since Pharos had
pointed his finger at me. In my wildest dreams I had never imagined such
a picture of desolation as that which was now presented to me. It seemed
impossible that so terrible a change should have come over a city in so
short a time (I must remind you here that I still believed that only
twenty hours had elapsed since I had had my fatal interview with
Pharos). In all Park Lane not a house, save that occupied by Pharos,
showed any sign of being inhabited. Without exception the blinds were
down, and in most cases the shutters had been put up, while in numerous
instances broad lines of red paint had been drawn across the pavement
opposite them, but for what purpose, or their indication, I had not the
remotest idea. In Piccadilly, from Apsley House to Berkeley Street, it
was the same, though here a few solitary foot-passengers were to be
seen. Thinking I must have mistaken the hour, and that it was earlier
than I supposed, I looked at my watch, but it said a quarter to ten. In
vain I searched for a cab of any sort. In the road, usually so crowded
at that hour with vehicles of all descriptions, omnibuses, hansoms,
private carriages, vans, and even costermongers' barrows, two dogs were
fighting over a piece of food. But the silence was the worst part of it
all. Not a sound, save the chirruping of the sparrows in the trees of
the park, was to be heard. Realising that it was useless waiting for a
cab, I crossed the road and entered the Green Park, intending to make my
way to St. James's Park, and thence to the Home Office. With feverish
haste I pushed on, walking as if every life in England depended on my
speed.

Reaching the Mall, I crossed into St. James's Park and passed over the
bridge which spans the lake. Here the water-birds were swimming about as
happily as if nothing out of the common were occurring in the great city
around them. At last I reached the office for which I was making. The
Home Secretary at the time was a man I had known all my life, an
upright, honest Englishman in every sense of the word, beloved by
everybody, and respected even by his political opponents. If any man
would listen to my story, I felt convinced he would be that one. When,
however, I reached the office, what a change was there! Only the day
before, as I still imagined, the place had been teeming with life, every
room filled with clerks, and exhibiting all the machinery of a great
Government office. Now, at first glance, it appeared deserted. I entered
the hall in which I had been accustomed to inquire from the porter for
my friend, only to find it occupied by a sergeant of the Guards, who
rose on seeing me.

"What do you want?" he inquired brusquely.

"I desire to see the Home Secretary without loss of time," I answered.
"I am the bearer of very important information, and it is most
imperative that I should see him at once."

"What is the information?" the man inquired suspiciously. "The Home
Secretary sees no one except on the most urgent business now."

"My business is the most urgent possible," I returned. "If you will take
my name to him, I feel sure he will see me."

"I shall do nothing of the kind," replied the sergeant, "so you had
better take yourself off. We don't want any of your kind about here just
now. There's enough trouble without having you to look after."

"But I must see him!" I cried in despair. "You don't know what you are
doing when you try to stop me. I have a confession to make to him, and
make it I will at any hazard. Take me to him at once, or I shall find
him myself."

The man was moving toward me with the evident intention of putting me
into the street, when a door opened and the Home Secretary, Sir Edward
Grangerfield, stood before me. When last I had seen him at the Duchess
of Amersham's ball--I remembered that he congratulated me on my
engagement on that occasion--he had looked in the prime of life. Now he
was an old man, borne down by the weight of sorrow and responsibility
which the plague had placed upon his shoulders. From the way he looked
at me it was plain he did not recognise me.

"Sir Edward," I said, "is it possible I am so much changed that you do
not know me? I am Cyril Forrester."

"Cyril Forrester!" he cried in amazement, coming a step closer to me as
he spoke. "Surely not? But it is, I see. Why, man, how changed you are!
What brings you here, and what is it you want with me? I have not much
time to spare. I have an appointment with the Public Health Commission
in a quarter of an hour."

"So much the better," I answered, "for you will then be able to acquaint
them with the circumstances I am about to reveal to you. Sir Edward, I
must have a few moments' conversation with you alone. I have a
confession to make to you--the most hideous tale to pour into your ears
that ever man confided to another." Then, recollecting myself, I
continued, "But it must not be here. It must be in the open air, or I
shall infect you."

He looked at me in a curious fashion.

"You need have no fear on that score," he said. "I have had the plague,
and have recovered from it. So far it has not been known to attack
anyone twice. But since you wish to speak to me alone, come with me."

With this he led me down the long passage to an office at the further
end. Like the others this one was also deserted. Once inside he closed
the door.

"Be as brief as you can," he said, "for during this terribly trying
period my time is not my own. What is it you wish to say to me?"

"I wish to confess to you," I said, and my voice rang in my ears like a
death knell, "that I am the cause of the misery under the weight of
which England and Europe is groaning at the present time."

Once more Sir Edward looked at me as he had done in the passage outside.

"I am afraid I do not quite understand," he said, but this time in a
somewhat different tone. "Do you mean that you wish me to believe that
you, Cyril Forrester, are the cause of the plague which is decimating
England in this terrible manner?"

"I do," I answered, and then waited to hear what he would say.

In reply he inquired whether I had suffered from the disease myself.

"I was the first to have it," I answered. "My story is an extraordinary
one, but I assure you every particular of it is true. I was inoculated
with the virus while I was in Egypt--that is to say, in the Queen's Hall
of the Great Pyramid of Gizeh. I afterward nearly died of it in an Arab
tent out in the desert beyond Luxor. Later I was taken by a man, of whom
I will tell you more presently, to Constantinople, thence through
Austria and Germany, and finally was smuggled across the Channel into
England."

"And who was the man who inoculated you?" inquired the Home Secretary,
still with the same peculiar intonation. "Can you remember his name?"

"He is known in England as Pharos the Egyptian," I replied--"the foulest
fiend this world has ever seen. In reality he is Ptahmes the Magician,
and he has sworn vengeance on the human race. Among other things he was
the real murderer of Clausand, the curiosity dealer, in Bonwell Street
last June, and not the inoffensive German who shot himself after
confessing to the crime at Bow Street. He smuggled me into England from
Hamburg, and the night before last he took me all through London--to the
Antiquarian Club, to the Duchess of Amersham's ball, to the Fancy Dress
ball that was held at Covent Garden the same night, and to many other
places. Everyone I spoke to became infected, and that, I assure you, on
my word of honour, was how the plague originated here. Oh, Sir Edward,
you cannot realise what agonies I have suffered since I became possessed
of this terrible knowledge!"

A short silence followed, during which I am convinced I heard my
companion say very softly to himself, "That settles it."

Then, turning to me, he continued, "You say you were at the Duchess of
Amersham's ball the night before last? Do you mean this?"

"Of course I do," I replied. "Why, you spoke to me there yourself, and
congratulated me upon my engagement. And, now I come to think of it, I
saw you talking with Pharos there."

"Quite right," he said. "I did speak to Monsieur Pharos there. But are
you sure it was the night before last? That is what I want to get at."

"I am as sure of that as I am of anything in this world," I replied.

"What you tell me is very interesting," he said, rising from his
chair--"very interesting indeed, and I am sincerely obliged to you for
coming to me. Now, if you will excuse me, I must be going, for, as I
told you, I have a meeting of the Health Commission to attend in a few
minutes. If I were you I should go back to my house and keep quiet.
There is nothing to be gained by worrying oneself, as you have evidently
been doing."

"I can see that you do not believe what I have told you," I cried with
great bitterness. "Sir Edward, I implore you to do so. I assure you on
my honour as a gentleman, I will swear, by any oath you care to name,
that what I say is true in every particular. Pharos is still in London,
in Park Lane, and if you are quick you can capture him. But there is not
a moment to lose. For God's sake believe me before it is too late!"

"I have listened to all you have said, my dear Cyril," he answered
soothingly, "and I can quite understand that you believe it to be true.
You have been ill, and it is plain your always excitable imagination has
not yet recovered its equilibrium. Go home, as I say, and rest. Trust
me, you will soon be yourself once more. Now I must go."

"Oh, heavens! how can I convince you?" I groaned, wringing my hands. "Is
there nothing I can say or do that will make you believe my story? You
will find out when it is too late that I have told you the truth. Men
and women are dying like sheep to right and left of us, and yet the vile
author of all this sorrow and suffering will escape unpunished. Is it
any use, Sir Edward, for me to address one last appeal to you?"

Then a notion struck me. I thrust my hand into my coat pocket and
produced the prescription which Pharos had given me for Valerie in
Hamburg, and which, since it had done her so much good, I had been
careful not to let out of my possession.

"Take that, Sir Edward," I said. "I came to make my confession to you
because I deemed it my duty, and because of the load upon my brain,
which I thought it might help to lighten. You will not believe me, so
what can I do? This paper contains the only prescription which has yet
been effectual in checking the disease. It saved the life of Valerie de
Vocxqal, and I can vouch for its efficacy. Show it to the medical
authorities. It is possible it may convince them that I am not as mad as
you think me."

He took it from me, but it was plain to me, from the look upon his face,
that he believed it to be only another part of my delusion.

"If it will make your mind any easier," he said, "I will give you my
word that it shall be placed before the members of the Commission. If
they deem it likely that any good can result from it, you may be sure it
will be used."

He then wished me good-bye, and, with a feeling of unavailing rage and
disappointment in my heart, I left the Offices and passed out into
Whitehall. Once more I made my way into St. James's Park, and reaching a
secluded spot, threw myself down upon the turf and buried my face in my
arms. At first I could think of nothing but my own shame; then my
thoughts turned to Valerie. In my trouble I had for the moment forgotten
her. Coward that I was, I had considered my own safety before hers. If
anything happened to me, who would protect her? I was still debating
this with myself when my ears caught the sound of a footstep on the hard
ground, and then the rustle of a dress. A moment later a voice sounded
in my ears like the sweetest music. "Thank God!" it said, "Oh! thank
God! I have found you."

Her cry of happiness ended in a little choking sob, and I turned and
looked up to discover Valerie, her beautiful eyes streaming with tears,
bending over me.

"How did you find me?" I inquired, in a voice that my love and longing
for her rendered almost inaudible. "How did you know that I was here?"

"Love told me," she answered softly. "My heart led me to you. You forget
the strange power with which I am gifted. Though I did not see you leave
the house, I knew that you were gone, and my instinct warned me not only
where you were going, but what you were going to do. Cyril, it was brave
of you to go."

"It was useless," I cried. "I have failed. He would not believe me,
Valerie, and I am lost eternally!"

"Hush!" she said. "Dear love, you must not say such things. They are not
true. But rise. You must come to him. All this morning he has not been
at all the same. I do not know what to think, but something is going to
happen, I am certain."

There was no need for her to say to whom she referred.

I did as she commanded me, and side by side we crossed the park.

"He has made arrangements to leave England this afternoon," she
continued, as we passed into Piccadilly. "The yacht is in the Thames,
and orders have been sent to hold her in readiness for a long voyage."

"And what does he intend doing with us?"

"I know nothing of that," she answered. "But there is something very
strange about him to-day. When he sent for me this morning I scarcely
knew him, he was so changed."

We made our way along the deserted streets and presently reached Park
Lane. As soon as we were inside the house I ascended the stairs beside
her, and it was not until we had reached the top floor, on which
Pharos's room was situated, that we paused before a door. Listening
before it, we could plainly hear someone moving about inside. When we
knocked, a voice I failed to recognise called upon us to enter. It was a
strange picture we saw when we did so. In a large armchair before a
roaring fire, though it was the middle of summer, sat Pharos, but so
changed that I hardly knew him. He looked half his usual size; his skin
hung loose about his face, as if the bones had shrunken underneath it;
his eyes, always so deep-set in his head, were now so much sunken that
they could scarcely be seen, while his hands were shrivelled until they
resembled those of a mummy more than a man. The monkey also, which was
huddled beside him in the chair, looked smaller than I had ever seen it.
As if this were not enough, the room was filled with Egyptian curios
from floor to ceiling. So many were there, indeed, that there barely
remained room for Pharos's chair. How he had obtained possession of them
I did not understand; but since Sir George Legrath's confession, written
shortly before his tragic death by his own hand, the mystery has been
solved, and Pharos confronts us in an even more unenviable light than
before. Hating, loathing, and yet fearing the man as I did, there was
something in his look now that roused an emotion in me that was almost
akin to pity.

"Thou hast come in time," he said to Valerie, but in a different voice
and without that harshness to which we had so long grown accustomed. "I
have been anxiously awaiting thee."

He signed to her to approach him.

"Give me your hand," he whispered faintly. "Through you it is decreed
that I must learn my fate. Courage, courage--there is naught for thee to
fear!"

Taking her hand, he bade her close her eyes and describe to him what she
saw. She did as she was ordered, and for upward of a minute perfect
silence reigned in the room. The picture they made--the worn-out,
shrivelled body of the man and the lovely woman--I cannot hope to make
you understand.

"I see a great hall, supported by pillars," she said at last, speaking
in that hard, measured voice I remembered to have heard on board the
yacht. "The walls are covered with paintings, and two sphinxes guard the
door. In the centre is an old man with a long white beard, who holds his
arms above his head."

"It is Paduamen, the mouthpiece of the Gods," moaned Pharos, with a look
of terror in his face that there was no disguising. "I am lost for
ever--for ever; not for to-day, not for to-morrow, but for all time!
Tell me, woman, what judgment the Mighty Ones pronounce against me?"

"Hush--he speaks!" Valerie continued slowly; and then a wonderful thing
happened.

Whether it was the first warning of the illness that was presently to
fall upon me, or whether I was so much in sympathy with Valerie that I
saw what she and Pharos saw, I cannot say; at any rate, I suddenly found
myself transported from Park Lane away to that mysterious hall below the
Temple of Ammon, of which I retained so vivid a recollection. The place
was in semi-darkness, and in the centre, as Valerie had described, stood
the old man who had acted as my guide on the other occasion that I had
been there. His arms were raised above his head, and his voice when he
spoke was stern yet full of sadness.

"Ptahmes, son of Netruhôtep," he was saying, "across the seas I speak to
thee. For the second time thou hast been found wanting in the trust
reposed in thee. Thou hast used the power vouchsafed thee by the Gods
for thine own purposes and to enrich thyself in the goods of the earth.
Therefore thy doom is decreed, and in the Valley of Amenti thy
punishment awaits thee. Prepare, for that time is even now upon thee."

Then the hall grew dark, there was a rushing sound as of a great wind,
and once more I was back in Park Lane. Pharos was crouching in his
chair, moaning feebly, and evidently beside himself with terror.

"What more dost thou see?" he said at length, and his voice was growing
perceptibly weaker. "Tell me all."

There was another pause, and then Valerie spoke again.

"I see a rocky hillside and a newly-opened tomb. I see three white men
and five Arabs who surround it. They are lifting a mummy from the vault
below with cords."

On hearing this Pharos sprang to his feet with a loud cry, and for a
moment fought wildly with the air. Meanwhile the monkey clung
tenaciously to him, uttering strange cries, which grew feebler every
moment. Valerie, released from her trance, if by such a name I may
describe it, and unable to bear more, fled the room, while I stood
rooted to the spot, powerless to move hand or foot, watching Pharos with
fascinated eyes.

As if he were choking, he tore at his throat with his skeleton fingers
till the blood spurted out on either side. Little by little, however,
his struggles grew weaker, until they ceased altogether, and he fell
back into his chair, to all intents and purposes a dead man, with the
dying monkey still clinging to his coat.

After all I had lately gone through, the strain this terrible scene put
upon my mind was too great for me to bear, and I fell back against the
wall in a dead faint.

       *       *       *       *       *

When I recovered from the attack of brain fever which followed the
ghastly event I have just described, I found myself lying in my bunk in
my old cabin on board the yacht. Valerie was sitting beside me holding
my hand in hers and gazing lovingly into my face. Surprised at finding
myself where I was, I endeavoured to obtain an explanation from her.

"Hush," she said, "you must not talk! Let it suffice that I have saved
you, and now we are away from England and at sea together. Pharos is
dead, and the past is only a bitter memory."

As she spoke, as if to bear out what she had said, a ray of sunshine
streamed in through the porthole and fell upon us both.


THE END.



GUY BOOTHBY'S NOVELS.


PHAROS, THE EGYPTIAN.

Mr. Boothby has proved himself a master of the art of story-telling from
the point of view of the reader who asks for a succession of stirring
events, a suspicion of mystery, and an interest not only maintained but
culminating. It would be unfair to explain the extraordinary character
of "Pharos," or to do more than allude to the series of strange
adventures wherein he plays a leading part. It is enough to assure Mr.
Boothby's readers of delightful thrills and an interest which this vivid
romancer never permits to flag.


THE LUST OF HATE.

Mr. Boothby is at his best in this romance, which is characterized by
unflagging interest and by most stirring adventures in which Dr. Nikola
plays a leading part. "Dr. Nikola" was considered "one of the most
thrilling stories ever published."


THE BEAUTIFUL WHITE DEVIL.

"Here we have, in modern form, the same old hairbreadth escapes, the
same extraordinary adventures following one another at breathless speed,
and the same splendid disregard for mere probability that marked the
efforts of these wizards of an earlier day."--_New York Sun._


DR. NIKOLA.

"Crowded to the covers with the mysterious, the startling, and the
supernatural."--NEW YORK MAIL AND EXPRESS.

"A novel containing a more ingenious, exciting, and absorbing romance
has not appeared upon our book table this season."--_Boston Courier._


A BID FOR FORTUNE.

"Mr. Boothby never allows the interest of their doings to drop from
first page to last; and he tells his tale in a pleasant, brisk fashion
that carries the reader along, and is as convincing a vehicle as could
be chosen for the relation of strange adventures such as befell the hero
and his friends."--_London Times._



THE MARRIAGE OF ESTHER.

"Abounds in dramatic situations, and is bright in dialogue, graphic in
description, and subtle in character analysis."--_Boston Advertiser._





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