Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Bat Wing by Sax Rohmer

Part 3 out of 6

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.6 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

servants' quarters was unlocked again to-night--to what are we reduced
in seeking to explain the presence of a woman in Colonel Menendez's
room? Madame de Stmer, unassisted, could not possibly have mounted the

"Stop, Harley!" I said, sternly. "Stop."

He ceased speaking, and I watched the steady glow of his cigarette in
the darkness. It lighted up his bronzed face and showed me the steely
gleam of his eyes.

"You are counting too much on the locking of the door by Pedro," I
continued, speaking very deliberately. "He is a man I would trust no
farther than I could see him, and if there is anything dark underlying
this matter you depend that he is involved in it. But the most natural
explanation, and also the most simple, is this--Colonel Menendez has
been taken seriously ill, and someone is in his room in the capacity of
a nurse."

"Her behaviour was scarcely that of a nurse in a sick-room," murmured

"For God's sake tell me the truth," I said. "Tell me all you saw."

"I am quite prepared to do so, Knox. On three. occasions, then, I saw
the figure of a woman, who wore some kind of loose robe, quite clearly
silhouetted upon the linen blind. Her gestures strongly resembled those
of despair."

"Of despair?"

"Exactly. I gathered that she was addressing someone, presumably
Colonel Menendez, and I derived a strong impression that she was in a
condition of abject despair."

"Harley," I said, "on your word of honour did you recognize anything in
the movements, or in the outline of the figure, by which you could
identify the woman?"

"I did not," he replied, shortly. "It was a woman who wore some kind of
loose robe, possibly a kimono. Beyond that I could swear to nothing,
except that it was not Mrs. Fisher."

We fell silent for a while. What Paul Harley's thoughts may have been I
know not, but my own were strange and troubled. Presently I found my
voice again, and:

"I think, Harley," I said, "that I should report to you something which
Miss Beverley told me this evening."

"Yes?" said he, eagerly. "I am anxious to hear anything which may be of
the slightest assistance. You are no doubt wondering why I retired so
abruptly to-night. My reason was this: I could see that you were full
of some story which you had learned from Miss Beverley, and I was
anxious to perform my tour of inspection with a perfectly unprejudiced

"You mean that your suspicions rested upon an inmate of Cray's Folly?"

"Not upon any particular inmate, but I had early perceived a distinct
possibility that these manifestations of which the Colonel complained
might be due to the agency of someone inside the house. That this
person might be no more than an accomplice of the prime mover I also
recognized, of course. But what did you learn to-night, Knox?"

I repeated Val Beverley's story of the mysterious footsteps and of the
cries which had twice awakened her in the night.

"Hm," muttered Harley, when I had ceased speaking. "Assuming her
account to be true----"

"Why should you doubt it?" I interrupted, hotly.

"My dear Knox, it is my business to doubt everything until I have
indisputable evidence of its truth. I say, assuming her story to be
true, we find ourselves face to face with the fantastic theory that
some woman unknown is living secretly in Cray's Folly."

"Perhaps in one of the tower rooms," I suggested, eagerly. "Why,
Harley, that would account for the Colonel's marked unwillingness to
talk about this part of the house."

My sight was now becoming used to the dusk, and I saw Harley vigorously
shake his head.

"No, no," he replied; "I have seen all the tower rooms. I can swear
that no one inhabits them. Besides, is it feasible?"

"Then whose were the footsteps that Miss Beverley heard?"

"Obviously those of the woman who, at this present moment, so far as I
know, is in the smoking-room with Colonel Menendez."

I sighed wearily.

"This is a strange business, Harley. I begin to think that the mystery
is darker than I ever supposed."

We fell silent again. The weird cry of a night hawk came from somewhere
in the valley, but otherwise everything within and without the great
house seemed strangely still. This stillness presently imposed its
influence upon me, for when I spoke again, I spoke in a low voice.

"Harley," I said, "my imagination is playing me tricks. I thought I
heard the fluttering of wings at that moment."

"Fortunately, my imagination remains under control," he replied,
grimly; "therefore I am in a position to inform you that you did hear
the fluttering of wings. An owl has just flown into one of the trees
immediately outside the window."

"Oh," said I, and uttered a sigh of relief.

"It is extremely fortunate that my imagination is so carefully
trained," continued Harley; "otherwise, when the woman whose shadow I
saw upon the blind to-night raised her arms in a peculiar fashion, I
could not well have failed to attach undue importance to the shape of
the shadow thus created."

"What was the shape of the shadow, then?"

"Remarkably like that of a bat."

He spoke the words quietly, but in that still darkness, with dawn yet a
long way off, they possessed the power which belongs to certain chords
in music, and to certain lines in poetry. I was chilled unaccountably,
and I peopled the empty corridors of Cray's Folly with I know not what
uncanny creatures; nightmare fancies conjured up from memories of
haunted manors.

Such was my mood, then, when suddenly Paul Harley stood up. My eyes
were growing more and more used to the darkness, and from something
strained in his attitude I detected the fact that he was listening

He placed his cigarette on the table beside the bed and quietly crossed
the room. I knew from his silent tread that he wore shoes with rubber
soles. Very quietly he turned the handle and opened the door.

"What is it, Harley?" I whispered.

Dimly I saw him raise his hand. Inch by inch he opened the door. My
nerves in a state of tension, I sat there watching him, when without a
sound he slipped out of the room and was gone. Thereupon I arose and
followed as far as the doorway.

Harley was standing immediately outside in the corridor. Seeing me, he
stepped back, and: "Don't move, Knox," he said, speaking very close to
my ear. "There is someone downstairs in the hall. Wait for me here."

With that he moved stealthily off, and I stood there, my heart beating
with unusual rapidity, listening--listening for a challenge, a cry, a
scuffle--I knew not what to expect.

Cavernous and dimly lighted, the corridor stretched away to my left. On
the right it branched sharply in the direction of the gallery
overlooking the hall.

The seconds passed, but no sound rewarded my alert listening--until,
very faintly, but echoing in a muffled, church-like fashion around that
peculiar building, came a slight, almost sibilant sound, which I took
to be the gentle closing of a distant door.

Whilst I was still wondering if I had really heard this sound or merely
imagined it:

"Who goes there?" came sharply in Harley's voice.

I heard a faint click, and knew that he had shone the light of an
electric torch down into the hall.

I hesitated no longer, but ran along to join him. As I came to the head
of the main staircase, however, I saw him crossing the hall below. He
was making in the direction of the door which shut off the servants'
quarters. Here he paused, and I saw him trying the handle. Evidently
the door was locked, for he turned and swept the white ray all about
the place. He tried several other doors, but found them all to be
locked, for presently he came upstairs again, smiling grimly when he
saw me there awaiting him.

"Did you hear it, Knox?" he said.

"A sound like the closing of a door?"

Paul Harley nodded.

"It _was_ the closing of a door," he replied; "but before that I
had distinctly heard a stair creak. Someone crossed the hall then,
Knox. Yet, as you perceive for yourself, it affords no hiding-place."

His glance met and challenged mine.

"The Colonel's visitor has left him," he murmured. "Unless something
quite unforeseen occurs, I shall throw up the case to-morrow."



The man known as Manoel awakened me in the morning. Although
characteristically Spanish, he belonged to a more sanguine type than
the butler and spoke much better English than Pedro. He placed upon the
table beside me a tray containing a small pot of China tea. an apple, a
peach, and three slices of toast.

"How soon would you like your bath, sir?" he enquired.

"In about half an hour," I replied.

"Breakfast is served at 9.30 if you wish, sir," continued Manoel, "but
the ladies rarely come down. Would you prefer to breakfast in your

"What is Mr. Harley doing?"

"He tells me that he does not take breakfast, sir. Colonel Don Juan
Menendez will be unable to ride with you this morning, but a groom will
accompany you to the heath if you wish, which is the best place for a
gallop. Breakfast on the south veranda is very pleasant, sir, if you
are riding first."

"Good," I replied, for indeed I felt strangely heavy; "it shall be the
heath, then, and breakfast on the veranda."

Having drunk a cup of tea and dressed I went into Harley's room, to
find him propped up in bed reading the _Daily Telegraph_ and smoking a

"I am off for a ride," I said. "Won't you join me?"

He fixed his pillows more comfortably, and slowly shook his head.

"Not a bit of it, Knox," he replied, "I find exercise to be fatal to

"I know you have weird theories on the subject, but this is a beautiful

"I grant you the beautiful morning, Knox, but here you will find me
when you return."

I knew him too well to debate the point, and accordingly I left him to
his newspaper and cigarette, and made my way downstairs. A housemaid
was busy in the hall, and in the courtyard before the monastic porch a
negro groom awaited me with two fine mounts. He touched his hat and
grinned expansively as I appeared. A spirited young chestnut was
saddled for my use, and the groom, who informed me that his name was
Jim, rode a smaller, Spanish horse, a beautiful but rather wicked-
looking creature.

We proceeded down the drive. Pedro was standing at the door of the
lodge, talking to his surly-looking daughter. He saluted me very
ceremoniously as I passed.

Pursuing an easterly route for a quarter of a mile or so, we came to a
narrow lane which branched off to the left in a tremendous declivity.
Indeed it presented the appearance of the dry bed of a mountain
torrent, and in wet weather a torrent this lane became, so I was
informed by Jim. It was very rugged and dangerous, and here we
dismounted, the groom leading the horses.

Then we were upon a well-laid main road, and along this we trotted on
to a tempting stretch of heath-land. There was a heavy mist, but the
scent of the heather in the early morning was delightful, and there was
something exhilarating in the dull thud of the hoofs upon the springy
turf. The negro was a natural horseman, and he seemed to enjoy the ride
every bit as much as I did. For my own part I was sorry to return. But
the vapours of the night had been effectively cleared from my mind, and
when presently we headed again for the hills, I could think more coolly
of those problems which overnight had seemed well-nigh insoluble.

We returned by a less direct route, but only at one point was the path
so steep as that by which we had descended. This brought us out on a
road above and about a mile to the south of Cray's Folly. At one point,
through a gap in the trees, I found myself looking down at the gray
stone building in its setting of velvet lawns and gaily patterned
gardens. A faint mist hovered like smoke over the grass.

Five minutes later we passed a queer old Jacobean house, so deeply
hidden amidst trees that the early morning sun had not yet penetrated
to it, except for one upstanding gable which was bathed in golden
light. I should never have recognized the place from that aspect, but
because of its situation I knew that this must be the Guest House. It
seemed very gloomy and dark, and remembering how I was pledged to call
upon Mr. Colin Camber that day, I apprehended that my reception might
be a cold one.

Presently we left the road and cantered across the valley meadows, in
which I had walked on the previous day, reentering Cray's Folly on the
south, although we had left it on the north. We dismounted in the
stable-yard, and I noted two other saddle horses in the stalls, a pair
of very clean-looking hunters, as well as two perfectly matched ponies,
which, Jim informed me, Madame de Stmer sometimes drove in a chaise.

Feeling vastly improved by the exercise, I walked around to the
veranda, and through the drawing room to the hall. Manoel was standing
there, and:

"Your bath is ready, sir," he said.

I nodded and went upstairs. It seemed to me that life at Cray's Folly
was quite agreeable, and such was my mood that the shadowy Bat Wing
menace found no place in it save as the chimera of a sick man's
imagination. One thing only troubled me: the identity of the woman who
had been with Colonel Menendez on the previous night.

However, such unconscious sun worshippers are we all that in the glory
of that summer morning I realized that life was good, and I resolutely
put behind me the dark suspicions of the night.

I looked into Harley's room ere descending, and, as he had assured me
would be the case, there he was, propped up in bed, the _Daily
Telegraph_ upon the floor beside him and the _Times_ now open
upon the coverlet.

"I am ravenously hungry," I said, maliciously, "and am going down to
eat a hearty breakfast."

"Good," he returned, treating me to one of his quizzical smiles. "It is
delightful to know that someone is happy."

Manoel had removed my unopened newspapers from the bedroom, placing
them on the breakfast table on the south veranda; and I had propped the
_Mail_ up before me and had commenced to explore a juicy grapefruit
when something, perhaps a faint breath of perfume, a slight rustle of
draperies, or merely that indefinable aura which belongs to the
presence of a woman, drew my glance upward and to the left. And
there was Val Beverley smiling down at me.

"Good morning, Mr. Knox," she said. "Oh, please don't interrupt your
breakfast. May I sit down and talk to you?"

"I should be most annoyed if you refused."

She was dressed in a simple summery frock which left her round, sun-
browned arms bare above the elbow, and she laid a huge bunch of roses
upon the table beside my tray.

"I am the florist of the establishment," she explained. "These will
delight your eyes at luncheon. Don't you think we are a lot of
barbarians here, Mr. Knox?"


"Well, if I had not taken pity upon you, here you would have bat over a
lonely breakfast just as though you were staying at a hotel."

"Delightful," I replied, "now that you are here."

"Ah," said she, and smiled roguishly, "that afterthought just saved

"But honestly," I continued, "the hospitality of Colonel Menendez is
true hospitality. To expect one's guests to perform their parlour
tricks around a breakfast table in the morning is, on the other hand,
true barbarism."

"I quite agree with you," she said, quietly. "There is a perfectly
delightful freedom about the Colonel's way of living. Only some horrid
old Victorian prude could possibly take exception to it. Did you enjoy
your ride?"

"Immensely," I replied, watching her delightedly as she arranged the
roses in carefully blended groups.

Her fingers were very delicate and tactile, and such is the character
which resides in the human hand, that whereas the gestures of Madame de
Stmer were curiously stimulating, there was something in the movement
of Val Beverley's pretty fingers amidst the blooms which I found most

"I passed the Guest House on my return," I continued. "Do you know Mr.

She looked at me in a startled way.

"No," she replied, "I don't. Do you?"

"I met him by chance yesterday."

"Really? I thought he was quite unapproachable; a sort of ogre."

"On the contrary, he is a man of great charm."

"Oh," said Val Beverley, "well, since you have said so, I might as well
admit that he has always seemed a charming man to me. I have never
spoken to him, but he looks as though he could be very fascinating.
Have you met his wife?"

"No. Is she also American?"

My companion shook her head.

"I have no idea," she replied. "I have seen her several times of
course, and she is one of the daintiest creatures imaginable, but I
know nothing about her nationality."

"She is young, then?"

"Very young, I should say. She looks quite a child."

"The reason of my interest," I replied, "is that Mr. Camber asked me to
call upon him, and I propose to do so later this morning."


Again I detected the startled expression upon Val Beverley's face.

"That is rather curious, since you are staying here."


"Well," she looked about her nervously, "I don't know the reason, but
the name of Mr. Camber is anathema in Cray's Folly."

"Colonel Menendez told me last night that he had never met Mr. Camber."

Val Beverley shrugged her shoulders, a habit which it was easy to see
she had acquired from Madame de Stmer.

"Perhaps not," she replied, "but I am certain he hates him."

"Hates Mr. Camber?"

"Yes." Her expression grew troubled. "It is another of those mysteries
which seem to be part of Colonel Menendez's normal existence."

"And is this dislike mutual?"

"That I cannot say, since I have never met Mr. Camber."

"And Madame de Stmer, does she share it?"

"Fully, I think. But don't ask me what it means, because I don't know."

She dismissed the subject with a light gesture and poured me out a
second cup of coffee.

"I am going to leave you now," she said. "I have to justify my
existence in my own eyes."

"Must you really go?"

"I must really."

"Then tell me something before you go."

She gathered up the bunches of roses and looked down at me with a
wistful expression.

"Yes, what is it?"

"Did you detect those mysterious footsteps again last night?"

The look of wistfulness changed to another which I hated to see in her
eyes, an expression of repressed fear,

"No," she replied in a very low voice, "but why do you ask the

Doubt of her had been far enough from my mind, but that something in
the tone of my voice had put her on her guard I could see.

"I am naturally curious," I replied, gravely.

"No," she repeated, "I have not heard the sound for some time now.
Perhaps, after all, my fears were imaginary."

There was a constraint in her manner which was all too obvious, and
when presently, laden with the spoil of the rose garden, she gave me a
parting smile and hurried into the house, I sat there very still for a
while, and something of the brightness had faded from the coming, nor
did life seem so glad a business as I had thought it quite recently.



I presented myself at the Guest House at half-past eleven. My mental
state was troubled and indescribably complex. Perhaps my own uneasy,
thoughts were responsible for the idea, but it seemed to me that the
atmosphere of Cray's Folly had changed yet again. Never before had I
experienced a sense of foreboding like that which had possessed me
throughout the hours of this bright summer's morning.

Colonel Menendez had appeared about nine o'clock. He exhibiting no
traces of illness that were perceptible to me. But this subtle change
which I had detected, or thought I had detected, was more marked in
Madame Stmer than in any one. In her strange, still eyes I had read
what I can only describe as a stricken look. It had none of the heroic
resignation and acceptance of the inevitable which had so startled me
in the face of the Colonel on the previous day. There was a bitterness
in it, as of one who has made a great but unwilling sacrifice, and
again I had found myself questing that faint but fugitive memory,
conjured up by the eyes of Madame de Stmer.

Never had the shadow lain so darkly upon the house as it lay this
morning with the sun blazing gladly out of a serene sky. The birds, the
flowers, and Mother Earth herself bespoke the joy of summer. But
beneath the roof of Cray's Folly dwelt a spirit of unrest, of
apprehension. I thought of that queer lull which comes before a
tropical storm, and I thought I read a knowledge of pending evil even
in the glances of the servants.

I had spoken to Harley of this fear. He had smiled and nodded grimly,

"Evidently, Knox, you have forgotten that to-night is the night of the
full moon."

It was in no easy state of mind, then, that I opened the gate and
walked up to the porch of the Guest House. That the solution of the
grand mystery of Cray's Folly would automatically resolve these lesser
mysteries I felt assured, and I was supported by the idea that a clue
might lie here.

The house, which from the roadway had an air of neglect, proved on
close inspection to be well tended, but of an unprosperous aspect. The
brass knocker, door knob, and letter box were brilliantly polished,
whilst the windows and the window curtains were spotlessly clean. But
the place cried aloud for the service of the decorator, and it did not
need the deductive powers of a Paul Harley to determine that Mr. Colin
Camber was in straitened circumstances.

In response to my ringing the door was presently opened by Ah Tsong.
His yellow face exhibited no trace of emotion whatever. He merely
opened the door and stood there looking at me.

"Is Mr. Camber at home?" I enquired.

"Master no got," crooned Ah Tsong.

He proceeded quietly to close the door again.

"One moment," I said, "one moment. I wish, at any rate, to leave my

Ah Tsong allowed the door to remain open, but:

"No usee palaber so fashion," he said. "No feller comee here. Sabby?"

"I savvy, right enough," said I, "but all the same you have got to take
my card in to Mr. Camber."

I handed him a card as I spoke, and suddenly addressing him in
"pidgin," of which, fortunately, I had a smattering:

"Belong very quick, Ah Tsong," I said, sharply, "or plenty big trouble,

"Sabby, sabby," he muttered, nodding his head; and leaving me standing
in the porch he retired along the sparsely carpeted hall.

This hall was very gloomily lighted, but I could see several pieces of
massive old furniture and a number of bookcases, all looking incredibly

Rather less than a minute elapsed, I suppose, when from some place at
the farther end of the hallway Mr, Camber appeared in person. He wore a
threadbare dressing gown, the silken collar and cuffs of which were
very badly frayed. His hair was dishevelled and palpably he had not
shaved this morning.

He was smoking a corncob pipe, and he slowly approached, glancing from
the card which he held in his hand in my direction, and then back again
at the card, with a curious sort of hesitancy. In spite of his untidy
appearance I could not fail to mark the dignity of his bearing, and the
almost arrogant angle at which he held his head.

"Mr--er--Malcolm Knox?" he began, fixing his large eyes upon me with a
look in which I could detect no sign of recognition. "I am advised that
you desire to see me?"

"That is so, Mr. Camber," I replied, cheerily. "I fear I have
interrupted your work, but as no other opportunity may occur of
renewing an acquaintance which for my part I found extremely pleasant--

"Of renewing an acquaintance, you say, Mr. Knox?"


"Quite." He looked me up and down critically. "To be sure, we have met
before, I understand?"

"We met yesterday, Mr. Camber, you may recall. Having chanced to come
across a contribution of yours of the _Occult Review_, I have
availed myself of your invitation to drop in for a chat."

His expression changed immediately and the sombre eyes lighted up.

"Ah, of course," he cried, "you are a student of the transcendental.
Forgive my seeming rudeness, Mr. Knox, but indeed my memory is of the
poorest. Pray come in, sir; your visit is very welcome."

He held the door wide open, and inclined his head in a gesture of
curious old-world courtesy which was strange in so young a man. And
congratulating myself Upon the happy thought which had enabled me to
win such instant favour, I presently found myself in a study which I
despair of describing.

In some respects it resembled the lumber room of an antiquary, whilst
in many particulars it corresponded to the interior of one of those
second-hand bookshops which abound in the neighbourhood of Charing
Cross Road. The shelves with which it was lined literally bulged with
books, and there were books on the floor, books on the mantelpiece, and
books, some open and some shut, some handsomely bound, and some having
the covers torn off, upon every table and nearly every chair in the

Volume seven of Burton's monumental "Thousand Nights and a Night" lay
upon a littered desk before which I presumed Mr. Camber had been seated
at the time of my arrival. Some wet vessel, probably a cup of tea or
coffee, had at some time been set down upon the page at which this
volume was open, for it was marked with a dark brown ring. A volume of
Fraser's "Golden Bough" had been used as an ash tray, apparently, since
the binding was burned in several places where cigarettes had been laid
upon it.

In this interesting, indeed unique apartment, East met West, unabashed
by Kipling's dictum. Roman tear-vases and Egyptian tomb-offerings stood
upon the same shelf as empty Bass bottles; and a hideous wooden idol
from the South Sea Islands leered on eternally, unmoved by the presence
upon his distorted head of a soft felt hat made, I believe, in

Strange implements from early British barrows found themselves in the
company of _Thugee_ daggers There were carved mammals' tusks and
snake emblems from Yucatan; against a Chinese ivory model of the Temple
of Ten Thousand Buddhas rested a Coptic crucifix made from a twig of
the Holy Rose Tree. Across an ancient Spanish coffer was thrown a
Persian rug into which had been woven the monogram of Shah-Jehan and a
text from the Koran. It was easy to see that Mr. Colin Camber's studies
must have imposed a severe strain upon his purse.

"Sit down, Mr. Knox, sit down," he said, sweeping a vellum-bound volume
of Eliphas Levi from a chair, and pushing the chair forward. "The visit
of a fellow-student is a rare pleasure for me. And you find me, sir,"
he seated himself in a curious, carved chair which stood before the
desk, "you find me engaged upon enquiries, the result of which will
constitute chapter forty-two of my present book. Pray glance at the
contents of this little box."

He placed in my hands a small box of dark wood, evidently of great age.
It contained what looked like a number of shrivelled beans.

Having glanced at it curiously I returned it to him, shaking my head

"You are puzzled?" he said, with a kind of boyish triumph, which
lighted up his face, which rejuvenated him and gave me a glimpse of
another man. "These, sir," he touched the shrivelled objects with a
long, delicate forefinger "are seeds of the sacred lotus of Ancient
Egypt. They were found in the tomb of a priest."

"And in what way do they bear upon the enquiry to which you referred,
Mr. Camber?"

"In this way," he replied, drawing toward him a piece of newspaper upon
which rested a mound of coarse shag. "I maintain that the vital
principle survives within them. Now, I propose to cultivate these
seeds, Mr. Knox. Do you grasp the significance, of this experiment?"

He knocked out the corn-cob upon the heel of his slipper and began to
refill the hot bowl with shag from the newspaper at his elbow.

"From a physical point of view, yes," I replied, slowly. "But I should
not have supposed such an experiment to come within the scope of your
own particular activities, Mr. Camber."

"Ah," he returned, triumphantly, at the same time stuffing tobacco into
the bowl of the corn-cob, "it is for this very reason that chapter
forty-two of my book must prove to be the hub of the whole, and the
whole, Mr. Knox, I am egotist enough to believe, shall establish a new
focus for thought, an intellectual Rome bestriding and uniting the
Seven Hills of Unbelief."

He lighted his pipe and stared at me complacently.

Whilst I had greatly revised my first estimate of the man, my revisions
had been all in his favour. Respecting his genius my first impression
was confirmed. That he was ahead of his generation, perhaps a new
Galileo, I was prepared to believe. He had a pride of bearing which I
think was partly racial, but which in part, too, was the insignia of
intellectual superiority. He stood above the commonplace, caring little
for the views of those around and beneath him. From vanity he was
utterly free. His was strangely like the egotism of true genius.

"Now, sir," he continued, puffing furiously at his corn-cob, "I
observed you glancing a moment ago at this volume of the 'Golden
Bough.'" He pointed to the scarred book which I have already mentioned.
"It is a work of profound scholarship. But having perused its hundreds
of pages, what has the student learned? Does he know why the twenty-
sixth chapter of the 'Book of the dead' was written upon lapis-lazuli,
the twenty-seventh upon green felspar, the twenty-ninth upon cornelian,
and the thirtieth upon serpentine? He does not. Having studied Part
Four, has he learned the secret of why Osiris was a black god, although
he typified the Sun? Has he learned why modern Christianity is losing
its hold upon the nations, whilst Buddhism, so called, counts its
disciples by millions? He has not. This is because the scholar is
rarely the seer."

"I quite agree with you," I said, thinking that I detected the drift of
his argument.

"Very well," said he. "I am an American citizen, Mr. Knox, which is
tantamount to stating that I belong to the greatest community of
traders which has appeared since the Phoenicians overran the then known
world. America has not produced the mystic, yet Juda produced the
founder of Christianity, and Gautama Buddha, born of a royal line,
established the creed of human equity. In what way did these magicians,
for a miracle-worker is nothing but a magician, differ from ordinary
men? In one respect only: They had learned to control that force which
we have to-day termed Will."

As he spoke those words Colin Camber directed upon me a glance from his
luminous eyes which frankly thrilled me. The bemused figure of the
Lavender Arms was forgotten. I perceived before me a man of power, a
man of extraordinary knowledge and intellectual daring. His voice,
which was very beautiful, together with his glance, held me enthralled.

"What we call Will," he continued, "is what the Ancient Egyptians
called _Khu_. It is not mental: it is a property of the soul. At
this point, Mr. Knox, I depart from the laws generally accepted by my
contemporaries. I shall presently propose to you that the eye of the
Divine Architect literally watches every creature upon the earth."


"Literally, Mr. Knox. We need no images, no idols, no paintings. All
power, all light comes from one source. That source is the sun! The sun
controls Will, and the Will is the soul. If there were a cavern in the
earth so deep that the sun could never reach it, and if it were
possible for a child to be born in that cavern, do you know what that
child would be?"

"Almost certainly blind," I replied; "beyond which my imagination fails

"Then I will inform you, Mr. Knox. It would be a demon."

"What!" I cried, and was momentarily touched with the fear that this
was a brilliant madman.

"Listen," he said, and pointed with the stem of his pipe. "Why, in all
ancient creeds, is Hades depicted as below? For the simple reason that
could such a spot exist and be inhabited, it must be _sunless_,
when it could only be inhabited by devils; and what are devils but
creatures without souls?"

"You mean that a child born beyond reach of the sun's influence would
have no soul?"

"Such is my meaning, Mr. Knox. Do you begin to see the importance of my
experiment with the lotus seeds?"

I shook my head slowly. Whereupon, laying his corn-cob upon the desk,
Colin Camber burst into a fit of boyish laughter, which seemed to
rejuvenate him again, which wiped out the image of the magus
completely, and only left before me a very human student of strange
subjects, and withal a fascinating companion.

"I fear, sir," he said, presently, "that my steps have led me farther
into the wilderness than it has been your fate to penetrate. The whole
secret of the universe is contained in the words Day and Night,
Darkness and Light. I have studied both the light and the darkness,
deliberately and without fear. A new age is about to dawn, sir, and a
new age requires new beliefs, new truths. Were you ever in the country
of the Hill Dyaks?"

This abrupt question rather startled me, but:

"You refer to the Borneo hill-country?"


"No, I was never there."

"Then this little magical implement will be new to you," said he.

Standing up, he crossed to a cabinet littered untidily with all sorts
of strange-looking objects, carved bones, queer little inlaid boxes,
images, untidy manuscripts, and what-not.

He took up what looked like a very ungainly tobacco-pipe, made of some
rich brown wood, and, handing it to me:

"Examine this, Mr. Knox," he said, the boyish smile of triumph
returning again to his face.

I did as he requested and made no discovery of note. The thing clearly
was not intended for a pipe. The stem was soiled and, moreover, there
was carving inside the bowl. So that presently I returned it to him,
shaking my head.

"Unless one should be informed of the properties of this little
instrument," he declared, "discovery by experiment is improbable. Now,

He struck the hollow of the bowl upon the palm of his hand, and it
delivered a high, bell-like note which lingered curiously. Then:

"Note again."

He made a short striking motion with the thing, similar to that which
one would employ who had designed to jerk something out of the bowl.
And at the very spot on the floor where any object contained in the
bowl would have fallen, came a reprise of the bell note! Clearly, from
almost at my feet, it sounded, a high, metallic ring.

He struck upward, and the bell-note sounded on the ceiling; to the
right, and it came from the window; in my direction, and the tiny bell
seemed to ring beside my ear! I will honestly admit that I was
startled, but:

"Dyak magic," said Colin Camber; "one of nature's secrets not yet
discovered by conventional Western science. It was known to the
Egyptian priesthood, of course; hence the Vocal Memnon. It was known to
Madame Blavatsky, who employed an 'astral bell'; and it is known to

He returned the little instrument to its place upon the cabinet.

"I wonder if the fact will strike you as significant," said he, "that
the note which you have just heard can only be produced between sunrise
and sunset?"

Without giving me time to reply:

"The most notable survival of black magic--that is, the scientific
employment of darkness against light--is to be met with in Haiti and
other islands of the West Indies."

"You are referring to Voodooism?" I said, slowly.

He nodded, replacing his pipe between his teeth.

"A subject, Mr. Knox, which I investigated exhaustively some years

I was watching him closely as he spoke, and a shadow, a strange shadow,
crept over his face, a look almost of exaltation--of mingled sorrow and
gladness which I find myself quite unable to describe.

"In the West Indies, Mr. Knox," he continued, in a strangely altered
voice, "I lost all and found all. Have you ever realized, sir, that
sorrow is the price we must pay for joy?"

I did not understand his question, and was still wondering about it
when I heard a gentle knock, the door opened, and a woman came in.



I find it difficult, now, to recapture my first impression of that
meeting. About the woman, hesitating before me, there was something
unexpected, something wholly unfamiliar. She belonged to a type with
which I was not acquainted. Nor was it wonderful that she should strike
me in this fashion, since my wanderings, although fairly extensive, had
never included the West Indies, nor had I been to Spain; and this girl
--I could have sworn that she was under twenty--was one of those rare
beauties, a golden Spaniard.

That she was not purely Spanish I learned later.

She was small, and girlishly slight, with slender ankles and exquisite
little feet; indeed I think she had the tiniest feet of any woman I had
ever met. She wore a sort of white pinafore over her dress, and her
arms, which were bare because of the short sleeves of her frock, were
of a child-like roundness, whilst her creamy skin was touched with a
faint tinge of bronze, as though, I remember thinking, it had absorbed
and retained something of the Southern sunshine. She had the swaying
carriage which usually belongs to a tall woman, and her head and neck
were Grecian in poise.

Her hair, which was of a curious dull gold colour, presented a mass of
thick, tight curls, and her beauty was of that unusual character which
makes a Cleopatra a subject of deathless debate. What I mean to say is
this: whilst no man could have denied, for instance, that Val Beverley
was a charmingly pretty woman, nine critics out of ten must have failed
to classify this golden Spaniard correctly or justly. Her complexion
was peach-like in the Oriental sense, that strange hint of gold
underlying the delicate skin, and her dark blue eyes were shaded by
really wonderful silken lashes.

Emotion had the effect of enlarging the pupils, a phenomenon rarely met
with, so that now as she entered the room and found a stranger present
they seemed to be rather black than blue.

Her embarrassment was acute, and I think she would have retired without
speaking, but:

"Ysola," said Colin Camber, regarding her with a look curiously
compounded of sorrow and pride, "allow me to present Mr. Malcolm Knox,
who has honoured us with a visit."

He turned to me.

"Mr. Knox," he said, "it gives me great pleasure that you should meet
my wife."

Perhaps I had expected this, indeed, subconsciously, I think I had.
Nevertheless, at the words "my wife" I felt that I started. The analogy
with Edgar Allan Poe was complete.

As Mrs. Camber extended her hand with a sort of appealing timidity, it
appeared to me that she felt herself to be intruding. The expression in
her beautiful eyes when she glanced at her husband could only be
described as one of adoration; and whilst it was impossible to doubt
his love for her, I wondered if his colossal egotism were capable of
stooping to affection. I wondered if he knew how to tend and protect
this delicate Southern girl wife of his.

Remembering the episode of the Lavender Arms, I felt justified in
doubting her happiness, and in this I saw an explanation of the mingled
sorrow and pride with which Colin Camber regarded her. It might betoken
recognition of his own shortcomings as a husband.

"How nice of you to come and see us. Mr. Knox," she said.

She spoke in a faintly husky manner which was curiously attractive,
although lacking the deep, vibrant tones of Madame de Stmer's
memorable voice. Her English was imperfect, but her accent good.

"Your husband has been carrying me to enchanted lands, Mrs. Camber," I
replied. "I have never known a morning to pass so quickly."

"Oh," she replied, and laughed with a childish glee which I was glad to
witness. "Did he tell you all about the book which is going to make the
world good? Did he tell you it will make us rich as well?"

"Rich?" said Camber, frowning slightly. "Nature's riches are health and
love. If we hold these the rest will come. Now that you have joined us,
Ysola, I shall beg Mr. Knox, in honour of this occasion, to drink a
glass of wine and break a biscuit as a pledge of future meetings."

I watched him as he spoke, a lean, unkempt figure invested with a
curious dignity, and I found it almost impossible to believe that this
was the same man who had sat in the bar of the Lavender Arms, sipping
whisky and water. The resemblance to the portrait in Harley's office
became more marked than ever. There was an air of high breeding about
the delicate features which, curiously enough, was accentuated by the
unshaven chin. I recognized that refusal would be regarded as a rebuff,
and therefore:

"You are very kind," I said.

Colin Camber inclined his head gravely and courteously.

"We are very glad to have you with us, Mr. Knox," he replied.

He clapped his hands, and, silent as a shadow, Ah Tsong appeared. I
noted that although it was Camber who had summoned him, it was to Mrs.
Camber that the Chinaman turned for orders. I had thought his yellow
face incapable of expression, but as his oblique eyes turned in the
direction of the girl I read in them a sort of dumb worship, such as
one sees in the eyes of a dog.

She spoke to him rapidly in Chinese.

"Hoi, hoi," he muttered, "hoi, hoi," nodded his head, and went out.

I saw that Colin Camber had detected my interest, for:

"Ah Tsong is really my wife's servant," he explained.

"Oh," she said in a low voice, and looked at me earnestly, "Ah Tsong
nursed me when I was a little baby so high." She held her hand about
four feet from the floor and laughed gleefully. "Can you imagine what a
funny little thing I was?"

"You must have been a wonder-child, Mrs. Camber," I replied with
sincerity; "and Ah Tsong has remained with you ever since?"

"Ever since," she echoed, shaking her head in a vaguely pathetic way.
"He will never leave me, do you think, Colin?"

"Never," replied her husband; "you are all he loves in the world. A
case, Mr. Knox," he turned to me, "of deathless fidelity rarely met
with nowadays and only possible, perhaps, in its true form in an

Mrs. Camber having seated herself upon one of the few chairs which was
not piled with books, her husband had resumed his place by the writing
desk, and I sought in vain to interpret the glances which passed
between them.

The fact that these two were lovers none could have mistaken. But here
again, as at Cray's Folly, I detected a shadow. I felt that something
had struck at the very root of their happiness, in fact, I wondered if
they had been parted, and were but newly reunited for there was a sort
of constraint between them, the more marked on the woman's side than on
the man's. I wondered how long they had been married, but felt that it
would have been indiscreet to ask.

Even as the idea occurred to me, however, an opportunity arose of
learning what I wished to know. I heard a bell ring, and:

"There is someone at the door, Colin," said Mrs. Camber.

"I will go," he replied. "Ah Tsong has enough to do."

Without another word he stood up and walked out of the room.

"You see," said Mrs. Camber, smiling in her naive way, "we only have
one servant, except Ah Tsong, her name is Mrs. Powis. She is visiting
her daughter who is married. We made the poor old lady take a holiday."

"It is difficult to imagine you burdened with household
responsibilities, Mrs. Camber," I replied. "Please forgive me but I
cannot help wondering how long you have been married?"

"For nearly four years."

"Really?" I exclaimed. "You must have been married very young?"

"I was twenty. Do I look so young?"

I gazed at her in amazement.

"You astonish me," I declared, which was quite true and no mere
compliment. "I had guessed your age to be eighteen."

"Oh," she laughed, and resting her hands upon the settee leaned forward
with sparkling eyes, "how funny. Sometimes I wish I looked older. It is
dreadful in this place, although we have been so happy here. At all the
shops they look at me so funny, so I always send Mrs. Powis now."

"You are really quite wonderful," I said. "You are Spanish, are you
not, Mrs. Camber?"

She slightly shook her head, and I saw the pupils begin to dilate.

"Not really Spanish," she replied, haltingly. "I was born in Cuba."

"In Cuba?"

She nodded.

"Then it was in Cuba that you met Mr. Camber?"

She nodded again, watching me intently.

"It is strange that a Virginian should settle in Surrey."

"Yes?" she murmured, "you think so? But really it is not strange at
all. Colin's people are so proud, so proud. Do you know what they are
like, those Virginians? Oh! I hate them."

"You hate them?"

"No, I cannot hate them, for he is one. But he will never go back."

"Why should he never go back, Mrs. Camber?"

"Because of me."

"You mean that you do not wish to settle in America?"

"I could not--not where he comes from. They would not have me."

Her eyes grew misty, and she quickly lowered her lashes.

"Would not have you?" I exclaimed. "I don't understand."

"No?" she said, and smiled up at me very gravely. "It is simple. I am a
Cuban, one, as they say, of an inferior race--and of mixed blood."

She shook her golden head as if to dismiss the subject, and stood up,
as Camber entered, followed by Ah Tsong bearing a tray of refreshments.

Of the ensuing conversation I remember nothing. My mind was focussed
upon the one vital fact that Mrs. Camber was a Cuban Creole. Dimly I
felt that here was the missing link for which Paul Harley was groping.
For it was in Cuba that Colin Camber had met his wife, it was from Cuba
that the menace of Bat Wing came.

What could it mean? Surely it was more than a coincidence that these
two families, both associated with the West Indies, should reside
within sight of one another in the Surrey Hills. Yet, if it were the
result of design, the design must be on the part of Colonel Menendez,
since the Cambers had occupied the Guest House before he had leased
Cray's Folly.

I know not if I betrayed my absentmindedness during the time that I was
struggling vainly with these maddening problems, but presently, Mrs.
Camber having departed about her household duties, I found myself
walking down the garden with her husband.

"This is the summer house of which I was speaking, Mr. Knox," he said,
and I regret to state that I retained no impression of his having
previously mentioned the subject. "During the time that Sir James
Appleton resided at Cray's Folly, I worked here regularly in the summer
months. It was Sir James, of course, who laid out the greater part of
the gardens and who rescued the property from the state of decay into
which it had fallen."

I aroused myself from the profitless reverie in which I had become
lost. We were standing before a sort of arbour which marked the end of
the grounds of the Guest House. It overhung the edge of a miniature
ravine, in which, over a pebbly course, a little stream pursued its way
down the valley to feed the lake in the grounds of Cray's Folly.

From this point of vantage I could see the greater part of Colonel
Menendez's residence. I had an unobstructed view of the tower and of
the Tudor garden.

"I abandoned my work-shop," pursued Colin Camber, "when the--er--the
new tenant took up his residence. I work now in the room in which you
found me this morning."

He sighed, and turning abruptly, led the way back to the house, holding
himself very erect, and presenting a queer figure in his threadbare
dressing gown.

It was now a perfect summer's day, and I commented upon the beauty of
the old garden, which in places was bordered by a crumbling wall.

"Yes, a quaint old spot," said Camber. "I thought at one time, because
of the name of the house, that it might have been part of a monastery
or convent. This was not the case, however. It derives its name from a
certain Sir Jaspar Guest, who flourished, I believe, under King Charles
of merry memory."

"Nevertheless," I added, "the Guest House is a charming survival of
more spacious days."

"True," returned Colin Camber, gravely. "Here it is possible to lead
one's own life, away from the noisy world," he sighed again wearily.
"Yes, I shall regret leaving the Guest House."

"What! You are leaving?"

"I am leaving as soon as I can find another residence, suited both to
my requirements and to my slender purse. But these domestic affairs can
be of no possible interest to you. I take it, Mr. Knox, that you will
grant my wife and myself the pleasure of your company at lunch?"

"Many thanks," I replied, "but really I must return to Cray's Folly."

As I spoke the words I had moved a little ahead at a point where the
path was overgrown by a rose bush, for the garden was somewhat

"You will quite understand," I said, and turned.

Never can I forget the spectacle which I beheld.

Colin Camber's peculiarly pale complexion had assumed a truly ghastly
pallor, and he stood with tightly clenched hands, glaring at me almost

"Mr. Camber," I cried, with concern, "are you unwell?"

He moistened his dry lips, and:

"You are returning--to Cray's Folly?" he said, speaking, it seemed,
with difficulty.

"I am, sir. I am staying with Colonel Menendez."


He clutched the collar of his pyjama jacket and wrenched so strongly
that the button was torn off. His passion was incredible, insane. The
power of speech had almost left him.

"You are a guest of--of Devil Menendez," he whispered, and the speaking
of the name seemed almost to choke him. "Of--Devil Menendez. You--you--
are a spy. You have stolen my hospitality--you have obtained access to
my house under false pretences. God! if I had known!"

"Mr. Camber," I said, sternly, and realized that I, too, had clenched
my fists, for the man's language was grossly insulting, "you forget

"Perhaps I do," he muttered, thickly; "and therefore"--he raised a
quivering forefinger--"go! If you have any spark of compassion in your
breast, go! Leave my house."

Nostrils dilated, he stood with that quivering finger outstretched, and
now having become as speechless as he, I turned and walked rapidly up
to the house.

"Ah Tsong! Ah Tsong!" came a cry from behind me in tones which I can
only describe as hysterical--"Mr. Knox's hat and stick. Quickly."

As I walked in past the study door the Chinaman came to meet me,
holding my hat and cane. I took them from him without a word, and, the
door being held open by Ah Tsong, walked out on to the road.

My heart was beating rapidly. I did not know what to think nor what to
do. This ignominious dismissal afforded an experience new to me. I was
humiliated, mortified, but above all, wildly angry.

How far I had gone on my homeward journey I cannot say, when the sound
of quickly pattering footsteps intruded upon my wild reverie. I
stopped, turned, and there was Ah Tsong almost at my heels.

"Blinga chit flom lilly missee," he said, and held the note toward me.

I hesitated, glaring at him in a way that must have been very
unpleasant; but recovering myself I tore open the envelope, and read
the following note, written in pencil and very shakily:

Please forgive him. If you knew what we have suffered from Senor Don
Juan Menendez, I know you would forgive him. Please, for my sake.

The Chinaman was watching me, that strangely pathetic expression in his
eyes, and:

"Tell your mistress that I quite understand and will write to her," I

"Hoi, hoi."

Ah Tsong turned, and ran swiftly off, as I pursued my way back to
Cray's Folly in a mood which I shall not attempt to describe.



I sat in Paul Harley's room. Luncheon was over, and although, as on the
previous day, it had been a perfect repast, perfectly served, the sense
of tension which I had experienced throughout the meal had made me
horribly ill at ease.

That shadow of which I have spoken elsewhere seemed to have become
almost palpable. In vain I had ascribed it to a morbid imagination:
persistently it lingered.

Madame de Stmer's gaiety rang more false than ever. She twirled the
rings upon her slender fingers and shot little enquiring glances all
around the table. This spirit of unrest, from wherever it arose, had
communicated itself to everybody. Madame's several bon mots one and all
were failures. She delivered them without conviction like an amateur
repeating lines learned by heart. The Colonel was unusually silent,
eating little but drinking much. There was something unreal, almost
ghastly, about the whole affair; and when at last Madame de Stmer
retired, bearing Val Beverley with her, I felt certain that the Colonel
would make some communication to us. If ever knowledge of portentous
evil were written upon a man's face it was written upon his, as he sat
there at the head of the table, staring straightly before him. However:

"Gentlemen," he said, "if your enquiries here have led to no result of,
shall I say, a tangible character, at least I feel sure that you must
have realized one thing."

Harley stared at him sternly.

"I have realized, Colonel Menendez," he replied, "that something is

"Ah!" murmured the Colonel, and he clutched the edge of the table with
his strong brown hands.

"But," continued my friend, "I have realized something more. You have
asked for my aid, and I am here. Now you have deliberately tied my

"What do you mean, sir?" asked the other, softly.

"I will speak plainly. I mean that you know more about the nature of
this danger than you have ever communicated to me. Allow me to proceed,
if you please, Colonel Menendez. For your delightful hospitality I
thank you. As your guest I could be happy, but as a professional
investigator whose services have been called upon under most unusual
circumstances, I cannot be happy and I do not thank you."

Their glances met. Both were angry, wilful, and self-confident.
Following a few moments of silence:

"Perhaps, Mr. Harley," said the Colonel, "you have something further to

"I have this to say," was the answer: "I esteem your friendship, but I
fear I must return to town without delay."

The Colonel's jaws were clenched so tightly that I could see the
muscles protruding. He was fighting an inward battle; then:

"What!" he said, "you would desert me?"

"I never deserted any man who sought my aid."

"I have sought your aid."

"Then accept it!" cried Harley. "This, or allow me to retire from the
case. You ask me to find an enemy who threatens you, and you withhold
every clue which could aid me in my search."

"What clue have I withheld?"

Paul Harley stood up.

"It is useless to discuss the matter further, Colonel Menendez," he
said, coldly.

The Colonel rose also, and:

"Mr. Harley," he replied, and his high voice was ill-controlled, "if I
give you my word of honour that I dare not tell you more, and if,
having done so, I beg of you to remain at least another night, can you
refuse me?"

Harley stood at the end of the table watching him.

"Colonel Menendez," he said, "this would appear to be a game in which
my handicap rests on the fact that I do not know against whom I am
pitted. Very well. You leave me no alternative but to reply that I will

"I thank you, Mr. Harley. As I fear I am far from well, dare I hope to
be excused if I retire to my room for an hour's rest?"

Harley and I bowed, and the Colonel, returning our salutations, walked
slowly out, his bearing one of grace and dignity. So that memorable
luncheon terminated, and now we found ourselves alone and faced with a
problem which, from whatever point one viewed it, offered no single
opening whereby one might hope to penetrate to the truth.

Paul Harley was pacing up and down the room in a state of such nervous
irritability as I never remembered to have witnessed in him before.

I had just finished an account of my visit to the Guest House and of
the indignity which had been put upon me, and:

"Conundrums! conundrums!" my friend exclaimed. "This quest of Bat Wing
is like the quest of heaven, Knox. A hundred open doors invite us, each
one promising to lead to the light, and if we enter where do they
lead?--to mystification. For instance, Colonel Menendez has broadly
hinted that he looks upon Colin Camber as an enemy. Judging from your
reception at the Guest House to-day, such an enmity, and a deadly
enmity, actually exists. But whereas Camber has resided here for three
years, the Colonel is a newcomer. We are, therefore, offered the
spectacle of a trembling victim seeking the sacrifice. Bah! it is

"If you had seen Colin Camber's face to-day, you might not have thought
it so preposterous."

"But I should, Knox! I should! It is impossible to suppose that Colonel
Menendez was unaware when he leased Cray's Folly that Camber occupied
the Guest House."

"And Mrs. Camber is a Cuban," I murmured.

"Don't, Knox!" my friend implored. "This case is driving me mad. I have
a conviction that it is going to prove my Waterloo."

"My dear fellow," I said, "this mood is new to you."

"Why don't you advise me to remember Auguste Dupin?" asked Harley,
bitterly. "That great man, preserving his philosophical calm, doubtless
by this time would have pieced together these disjointed clues, and
have produced an elegant pattern ready to be framed and exhibited to
the admiring public."

He dropped down upon the bed, and taking his briar from his pocket,
began to load it in a manner which was almost vicious. I stood watching
him and offered no remark, until, having lighted the pipe, he began to
smoke. I knew that these "Indian moods" were of short duration, and,
sure enough, presently:

"God bless us all, Knox," he said, breaking into an amused smile, "how
we bristle when someone tries to prove that we are not infallible! How
human we are, Knox, but how fortunate that we can laugh at ourselves."

I sighed with relief, for Harley at these times imposed a severe strain
even upon my easy-going disposition.

"Let us go down to the billiard room," he continued. "I will play you a
hundred up. I have arrived at a point where my ideas persistently work
in circles. The best cure is golf; failing golf, billiards."

The billiard room was immediately beneath us, adjoining the last
apartment in the east wing, and there we made our way. Harley played
keenly, deliberately, concentrating upon the game. I was less
successful, for I found myself alternately glancing toward the door and
the open window, in the hope that Val Beverley would join us. I was
disappointed, however. We saw no more of the ladies until tea-time, and
if a spirit of constraint had prevailed throughout luncheon, a
veritable demon of unrest presided upon the terrace during tea.

Madame de Stmer made apologies on behalf of the Colonel. He was
prolonging his siesta, but he hoped to join us at dinner.

"Is the Colonel's heart affected?" Harley asked.

Madame de Stmer shrugged her shoulders and shook her head, blankly.

"It is mysterious, the state of his health," she replied. "An old
trouble, which began years and years ago in Cuba."

Harley nodded sympathetically, but I could see that he was not
satisfied. Yet, although he might doubt her explanation, he had noted,
and so had I, that Madame de Stmer's concern was very real. Her
slender hands were strangely unsteady; indeed her condition bordered on
one of distraction.

Harley concealed his thoughts, whatever they may have been, beneath
that mask of reserve which I knew so well, whilst I endeavoured in vain
to draw Val Beverley into conversation with me.

I gathered that Madame de Stmer had been to visit the invalid, and
that she was all anxiety to return was a fact she was wholly unable to
conceal. There was a tired look in her still eyes, as though she had
undertaken a task beyond her powers to perform, and, so unnatural a
quartette were we, that when presently she withdrew I was glad,
although she took Val Beverley with her.

Paul Harley resumed his seat, staring at me with unseeing eyes. A sound
reached us through the drawing room which told us that Madame de
Stmer's chair was being taken upstairs, a task always performed when
Madame desired to visit the upper floors by Manoel and Pedro's
daughter, Nita, who acted as Madame's maid. These sounds died away, and
I thought how silent everything had become. Even the birds were still,
and presently, my eye being attracted to a black speck in the sky
above, I learned why the feathered! choir was mute. A hawk was hovering
loftily overhead.

Noting my upward glance, Paul Harley also raised his eyes.

"Ah," he murmured, "a hawk. All the birds are cowering in their nests.
Nature is a cruel mistress, Knox."



Over the remainder of that afternoon I will pass in silence. Indeed,
looking backward now, I cannot recollect that it afforded one incident
worthy of record. But because great things overshadow small, so it may
be that whereas my recollections of quite trivial episodes are sharp
enough up to a point, my memories from this point onward to the
horrible and tragic happening which I have set myself to relate are
hazy and indistinct. I was troubled by the continued absence of Val
Beverley. I thought that she was avoiding me by design, and in Harley's
gloomy reticence I could find no shadow of comfort.

We wandered aimlessly about the grounds, Harley staring up in a vague
fashion at the windows of Cray's Folly; and presently, when I stopped
to inspect a very perfect rose bush, he left me without a word, and I
found myself alone.

Later, as I sauntered toward the Tudor garden, where I had hoped to
encounter Miss Beverley, I heard the clicking of billiard balls; and
there was Harley at the table, practising fancy shots.

He glanced up at me as I paused by the open window, stopped to relight
his pipe, and then bent over the table again.

"Leave me alone, Knox," he muttered; "I am not fit for human society."

Understanding his moods as well as I did, I merely laughed and

I strolled around into the library and inspected scores of books
without forming any definite impression of the contents of any of them.
Manoel came in whilst I was there and I was strongly tempted to send a
message to Miss Beverley, but common sense overcame the inclination.

When at last my watch told me that the hour for dressing was arrived, I
heaved a sigh of relief. I cannot say that I was bored, my ill-temper
sprang from a deeper source than this. The mysterious disappearance of
the inmates of Cray's Folly, and a sort of brooding stillness which lay
over the great house, had utterly oppressed me.

As I passed along the terrace I paused to admire the spectacle afforded
by the setting sun. The horizon was on fire from north to south and the
countryside was stained with that mystic radiance which is sometimes
called the Blood of Apollo. Turning, I saw the disk of the moon coldly
rising in the heavens. I thought of the silent birds and the hovering
hawk, and I began my preparations for dinner mechanically, dressing as
an automaton might dress.

Paul Harley's personality was never more marked than in his evil moods.
His power to fascinate was only equalled by his power to repel. Thus,
although there was a light in his room and I could hear Lim moving
about, I did not join him when I had finished dressing, but lighting a
cigarette walked downstairs.

The beauty of the night called to me, although as I stepped out upon
the terrace I realized with a sort of shock that the gathering dusk
held a menace, so that I found myself questioning the shadows and
doubting the rustle of every leaf. Something invisible, intangible yet
potent, brooded over Cray's Folly. I began to think more kindly of the
disappearance of Val Beverley during the afternoon. Doubtless she, too,
had been touched by this spirit of unrest and in solitude had sought to
dispel it.

So thinking. T walked on in the direction of the Tudor garden. The
place was bathed in a sort of purple half-light, lending it a fairy air
of unreality, as though banished sun and rising moon yet disputed for
mastery over earth. This idea set me thinking of Colin Camber, of
Osiris, whom he had described as a black god, and of Isis, whose silver
disk now held undisputed sovereignty of the evening sky.

Resentment of the treatment which I had received at the Guest House
still burned hotly within me, but the mystery of it all had taken the
keen edge off my wrath, and I think a sort of melancholy was the
keynote of my reflections as, descending the steps to the sunken
garden, I saw Val Beverley, in a delicate blue gown, coming toward me.
She was the spirit of my dreams, and the embodiment of my mood. When
she lowered her eyes at my approach, I knew by virtue of a sort of
inspiration that she had been avoiding me.

"Miss Beverley," I said, "I have been looking for you all the

"Have you? I have been in my room writing letters."

I paced slowly along beside her.

"I wish you would be very frank with me," I said.

She glanced up swiftly, and as swiftly lowered her lashes again.

"Do you think I am not frank?"

"I do think so. I understand why."

"Do you really understand?"

"I think I do. Your woman's intuition has told you that there is
something wrong."

"In what way?"

"You are afraid of your thoughts. You can see that Madame de Stmer and
Colonel Menendez are deliberately concealing something from Paul
Harley, and you don't know where your duty lies. Am I right?"

She met my glance for a moment in a startled way, then: "Yes," she
said, softly; "you are quite right. How have you guessed?"

"I have tried very hard to understand you," I replied, "and so perhaps
up to a point I have succeeded."

"Oh, Mr. Knox." She suddenly laid her hand upon my arm. "I am oppressed
with such a dreadful foreboding, yet I don't know how to explain it to

"I understand. I, too, have felt it."

"You have?" She paused, and looked at me eagerly. "Then it is not just
morbid imagination on my part. If only I knew what to do, what to
believe. Really, I am bewildered. I have just left Madame de Stmer--"

"Yes?" I said, for she had paused in evident doubt.

"Well, she has utterly broken down."

"Broken down?"

"She came to my room and sobbed hysterically for nearly an hour this

"But what was the cause of her grief?"

"I simply cannot understand."

"Is it possible that Colonel Menendez is dangerously ill?"

"It may be so, Mr. Knox, but in that event why have they not sent for a

"True," I murmured; "and no one has been sent for?"

"No one."

"Have you seen Colonel Menendez?"

"Not since lunch-time."

"Have you ever known him to suffer in this way before?"

"Never. It is utterly unaccountable. Certainly during the last few
months he has given up riding practically altogether, and in other ways
has changed his former habits, but I have never known him to exhibit
traces of any real illness."

"Has any medical man attended him?"

"Not that I know of. Oh, there is something uncanny about it all.
Whatever should I do if you were not here?"

She had spoken on impulse, and seeing her swift embarrassment:

"Miss Beverley," I said, "I am delighted to know that my company cheers

Truth to tell my heart was beating rapidly, and, so selfish is the
nature of man, I was more glad to learn that my company was acceptable
to Val Beverley than I should have been to have had the riddle of
Cray's Folly laid bare before me.

Those sweetly indiscreet words, however, had raised a momentary barrier
between us, and we walked on silently to the house, and entered the
brightly lighted hall.

The silver peal of a Chinese tubular gong rang out just when we reached
the veranda, and as Val Beverley and I walked in from the garden,
Madame de Stmer came wheeling through the doorway, closely followed by
Paul Harley. In her the art of the toilette amounted almost to genius,
and she had so successfully concealed all traces of her recent grief
that I wondered if this could have been real.

"My dear Mr. Knox," she cried, "I seem to be fated always to apologize
for other people. The Colonel is truly desolate, but he cannot join us
for dinner. I have already explained to Mr. Harley."

Harley inclined his head sympathetically, and assisted to arrange
Madame in her place.

"The Colonel requests us to smoke a cigar with him after dinner, Knox,"
he said, glancing across to me. "It would seem that troubles never come

"Ah," Madame shrugged her shoulders, which her low gown left daringly
bare, "they come in flocks, or not at all. But I suppose we should feel
lonely in the world without a few little sorrows, eh, Mr. Harley?"

I loved her unquenchable spirit, and I have wondered often enough what
I should have thought of her if I had known the truth. France has bred
some wonderful women, both good and bad, but none I think more
wonderful than Marie de Stmer.

If such a thing were possible, we dined more extravagantly than on the
previous night. Madame's wit was at its keenest; she was truly
brilliant. Pedro, from the big bouffet at the end of the room,
supervised this feast of Lucullus, and except for odd moments of
silence in which Madame seemed to be listening for some distant sound,
there was nothing, I think, which could have told a casual observer
that a black cloud rested upon the house.

Once, interrupting a tte--tte between Val Beverley and Paul Harley:

"Do not encourage her, Mr. Harley," said Madame, "she is a desperate

"Oh, Madame," cried Val Beverley and blushed deeply.

"You know you are, my dear, and you are very wise. Flirt all your life,
but never fall in love. It is fatal, don't you think so, Mr. Knox?"--
turning to me in her rapid manner.

I looked into her still eyes, which concealed so much.

"Say, rather, that it is Fate," I murmured.

"Yes, that is more pretty, but not so true. If I could live my life
again, M. Knox," she said, for she sometimes used the French and
sometimes the English mode of address, "I should build a stone wall
around my heart. It could peep over, but no one could ever reach it."

Oddly enough, then, as it seems to me now, the spirit of unrest seemed
almost to depart for awhile, and in the company of the vivacious
Frenchwoman time passed very quickly up to the moment when Harley and I
walked slowly upstairs to join the Colonel.

During the latter part of dinner an idea had presented itself to me
which I was anxious to mention to Harley, and:

"Harley," I said, "an explanation of the Colonel's absence has occurred
to me."

"Really!" he replied; "possibly the same one that has occurred to me."

"What is that?"

Paul Harley paused on the stairs, turning to me.

"You are thinking that he has taken cover from the danger which he
believes particularly to threaten him to-night?"


"You may be right," he murmured, proceeding upstairs.

He led the way to a little smoke-room which hitherto I had never
visited, and in response to his knock:

"Come in," cried the high voice of Colonel Menendez.

We entered to find ourselves in a small and very cosy room. There was a
handsome oak bureau against one wall, which was littered with papers of
various kinds, and there was also a large bookcase occupied almost
exclusively by French novels. It occurred to me that the Colonel spent
a greater part of his time in this little snuggery than in the more
formal study below. At the moment of our arrival he was stretched upon
a settee near which stood a little table; and on this table I observed
the remains of what appeared to me to have been a fairly substantial
repast. For some reason which I did not pause to analyze at the moment
I noted with disfavour the presence of a bowl of roses upon the silver

Colonel Menendez was smoking a cigarette, and Manoel was in the act of
removing the tray.

"Gentlemen," said the Colonel, "I have no words in which to express my
sorrow. Manoel, pull up those armchairs. Help yourself to port, Mr.
Harley, and fill Mr. Knox's glass. I can recommend the cigars in the
long box."

As we seated ourselves:

"I am extremely sorry to find you indisposed, sir," said Harley.

He was watching the dark face keenly, and probably thinking, as I was
thinking, that it exhibited no trace of illness.

Colonel Menendez waved his cigarette gracefully, settling himself amid
the cushions.

"An old trouble, Mr. Harley," he replied, lightly; "a legacy from
ancestors who drank too deep of the wine of life."

"You are surely taking medical advice?"

Colonel Menendez shrugged slightly.

"There is no doctor in England who would understand the case," he
replied. "Besides, there is nothing for it but rest and avoidance of

"In that event, Colonel," said Harley, "we will not disturb you for
long. Indeed, I should not have consented to disturb you at all, if I
had not thought that you might have some request to make upon this
important night."

"Ah!" Colonel Menendez shot a swift glance in his direction. "You have
remembered about to-night?"


"Your interest comforts me very greatly, gentlemen, and I am only sorry
that my uncertain health has made me so poor a host. Nothing has
occurred since your arrival to help you, I am aware. Not that I am
anxious for any new activity on the part of my enemies. But almost
anything which should end this deathly suspense would be welcome."

He spoke the final words with a peculiar intonation. I saw Harley
watching him closely.

"However," he continued, "everything is in the hands of Fate, and if
your visit should prove futile, I can only apologize for having
interrupted your original plans. Respecting to-night"--he shrugged--
"what can I say?"

"Nothing has occurred," asked Harley, slowly, "nothing fresh, I mean,
to indicate that the danger which you apprehend may really culminate

"Nothing fresh, Mr. Harley, unless you yourself have observed

"Ah," murmured Paul Harley, "let us hope that the threat will never be

Colonel Menendez inclined his head gravely.

"Let us hope so," he said.

On the whole, he was curiously subdued. He was most solicitous for our
comfort and his exquisite courtesy had never been more marked. I often
think of him now--his big but graceful figure reclining upon the
settee, whilst he skilfully rolled his eternal cigarettes and chatted
in that peculiar, light voice. Before the memory of Colonel Don Juan
Sarmiento Menendez I sometimes stand appalled. If his Maker had but
endowed him with other qualities of mind and heart equal to his
magnificent courage, then truly he had been a great man.



I stood at Harley's open window--looking down in the Tudor garden. The
moon, like a silver mirror, hung in a cloudless sky. Over an hour had
elapsed since I had heard Pedro making his nightly rounds. Nothing
whatever of an unusual nature had occurred, and although Harley and I
had listened for any sound of nocturnal footsteps, our vigilance had
passed unrewarded. Harley, unrolling the Chinese ladder, had set out
upon a secret tour of the grounds, warning me that it must be a long
business, since the brilliance of the moonlight rendered it necessary
that he should make a wide detour, in order to avoid possible
observation from the windows. I had wished to join him, but:

"I count it most important that one of us should remain in the house,"
he had replied.

As a result, here was I at the open window, questioning the shadows to
right and left of me, and every moment expecting to see Harley
reappear. I wondered what discoveries he would make. It would not have
surprised me to learn that there were lights in many windows of Cray's
Folly to-night.

Although, when we had rejoined the ladies for half an hour, after
leaving Colonel Menendez's room, there had been no overt reference to
the menace overhanging the house, yet, as we separated for the night, I
had detected again in Val Beverley's eyes that look of repressed fear.
the masterful Madame, who declared that she looked tired.

I wondered now, as I gazed down into the moon-bathed gardens, if Harley
and I were the only wakeful members of the household at that hour. I
should have been prepared to wager that there were others. I thought of
the strange footsteps which so often passed Miss Beverley's room, and I
discovered this thought to be an uncomfortable one.

Normally, I was sceptical enough, but on this night of the full moon as
I stood there at the window, the horrors which Colonel Menendez had
related to us grew very real in my eyes, and I thought that the
mysteries of Voodoo might conceal strange and ghastly truths, "The
scientific employment of darkness against light." Colin Camber's words
leapt unbidden to my mind; and, such is the magic of moonlight, they
became invested with a new and a deeper significance. Strange, that
theories which one rejects whilst the sun is shining should assume a
spectral shape in the light of the moon.

Such were my musings, when suddenly I heard a faint sound as of
footsteps crunching upon gravel. I leaned farther out of the window,
listening intently. I could not believe that Harley would be guilty of
such an indiscretion as this, yet who else could be walking upon the
path below?

As I watched, craning from the window, a tall figure appeared, and,
slowly crossing the gravel path, descended the moss-grown steps to the
Tudor garden.

It was Colonel Menendez!

He was bare-headed, but fully dressed as I had seen him in the smoking-
room; and not yet grasping the portent of his appearance at that hour,
but merely wondering why he had not yet retired, I continued to watch
him. As I did so, something in his gait, something unnatural in his
movements, caught hold of my mind with a sudden great conviction. He
had reached the path which led to the sun-dial, and with short, queer,
ataxic steps was proceeding in its direction, a striking figure in the
brilliant moonlight which touched his gray hair with a silvery sheen.

His unnatural, automatic movements told their own story. He was walking
in his sleep! Could it be in obedience to the call of M'kombo?

My throat grew dry and I knew not how to act. Unwillingly it seemed,
with ever-halting steps, the figure moved onward. I could see that his
fists were tightly clenched and that he held his head rigidly upright.
All horrors, real and imaginary, which I had ever experienced,
culminated in the moment when I saw this man of inflexible character, I
could have sworn of indomitable will, moving like a puppet under the
influence of some unnameable force.

He was almost come to the sun-dial when I determined to cry out. Then,
remembering the shock experienced by a suddenly awakened somnambulist,
and remembering that the Chinese ladder hung from the window at my
feet, I changed my mind. Checking the cry upon my lips, I got astride
of the window ledge, and began to grope for the bamboo rungs beneath
me. I had found the first of these, and, turning, had begun to descend,

"Knox! Knox!" came softly from the opening in the box hedge, "what the
devil are you about?"

It was Paul Harley returned from his tour of the building.

"Harley!" I whispered, descending, "quick! the Colonel has just gone
into the Tudor garden!"

"What!" There was a note of absolute horror in the exclamation. "You
should have stopped him, Knox, you should have stopped him!" cried
Harley, and with that he ran off in the same direction.

Disentangling my foot from the rungs of the ladder which lay upon the
ground, I was about to follow, when it happened--that strange and
ghastly thing toward which, secretly, darkly, events had been tending.

The crack of a rifle sounded sharply in the stillness, echoing and re-
echoing from wing to wing of Cray's Folly and then, more dimly, up the
wooded slopes beyond! Somewhere ahead of me I heard Harley cry out:

"My God, I am too late! They have got him!"

Then, hotfoot, I was making for the entrance to the garden. Just as I
came to it and raced down the steps I heard another sound the memory of
which haunts me to this day.

Where it came from I had no idea. Perhaps I was too confused to judge
accurately. It might have come from the house, or from the slopes
beyond the house, But it was a sort of shrill, choking laugh, and it
set the ultimate touch of horror upon a _scne macabre_ which, even as
I write of it, seems unreal to me.

I ran up the path to where Harley was kneeling beside the sun-dial.
Analysis of my emotions at this moment were futile; I can only say that
I had come to a state of stupefaction. Face downward on the grass, arms
outstretched and fists clenched, lay Colonel Menendez. I think I saw
him move convulsively, but as I gained his side Harley looked up at me,
and beneath the tan which he never lost his face had grown pale. He
spoke through clenched teeth.

"Merciful God," he said, "he is shot through the head."

One glance I gave at the ghastly wound in the base of the Colonel's
skull, and then swayed backward in a sort of nausea. To see a man die
in the heat of battle, a man one has known and called friend, is
strange and terrible. Here in this moon-bathed Tudor garden it was a
horror almost beyond my powers to endure.

Paul Harley, without touching the prone figure, stood up. Indeed no
examination of the victim was necessary. A rifle bullet had pierced his
brain, and he lay there dead with his head toward the hills.

I clutched at Harley's shoulder, but he stood rigidly, staring up the
slope past the angle of the tower, to where a gable of the Guest House
jutted out from the trees.

"Did you hear--that cry?" I whispered, "immediately after the shot?"

"I heard it."

A moment longer he stood fixedly watching, and then:

"Not a wisp of smoke," he said. "You note the direction in which he was
facing when he fell?"

He spoke in a stern and unnatural voice.

"I do. He must have turned half right when he came to the sun-dial."

"Where were you when the shot was fired?"

"Running in this direction."

"You saw no flash?"


"Neither did I," groaned Harley; "neither did I. And short of throwing
a cordon round the hills what can be done? How can I move?"

He had somewhat relaxed, but now as I continued to clutch his arm, I
felt the muscles grow rigid again.

"Look, Knox!" he whispered--"look!"

I followed the direction of his fixed stare, and through the trees on
the hillside a dim light shone out. Someone had lighted a lamp in the
Guest House.

A faint, sibilant sound drew my glance upward, and there overhead a bat
circled--circled--dipped--and flew off toward the distant woods. So
still was the night that I could distinguish the babble of the little
stream which ran down into the lake. Then, suddenly, came a loud
flapping of wings. The swans had been awakened by the sound of the
shot. Others had been awakened, too, for now distant voices became
audible, and then a muffled scream from somewhere within Cray's Folly.

"Back to the house, Knox," said Harley, hoarsely. "For God's sake keep
the women away. Get Pedro, and send Manoel for the nearest doctor. It's
useless but usual. Let no one deface his footprints. My worst
anticipations have come true. The local police must be informed."

Throughout the time that he spoke he continued to search the moon-
bathed landscape with feverish eagerness, but except for a faint
movement of birds in the trees, for they, like the swans on the lake,
had been alarmed by the shot, nothing stirred.

Book of the day: