Part 3 out of 3
Mr Gregory, the Rector of Parsbury, had strolled out before breakfast, it
being a fine autumn morning, as far as the gate of his carriage-drive,
with intent to meet the postman and sniff the cool air. Nor was he
disappointed of either purpose. Before he had had time to answer more
than ten or eleven of the miscellaneous questions propounded to him in
the lightness of their hearts by his young offspring, who had accompanied
him, the postman was seen approaching; and among the morning's budget was
one letter bearing a foreign postmark and stamp (which became at once the
objects of an eager competition among the youthful Gregorys), and
addressed in an uneducated, but plainly an English hand.
When the Rector opened it, and turned to the signature, he realized that
it came from the confidential valet of his friend and squire, Mr.
Somerton. Thus it ran:
Has I am in a great anxiety about Master I write at is Wish to beg
you Sir if you could be so good as Step over. Master Has add a Nastey
Shock and keeps His Bedd. I never Have known Him like this but No
wonder and Nothing will serve but you Sir. Master says would I
mintion the Short Way Here is Drive to Cobblince and take a Trap.
Hopeing I Have maid all Plain, but am much Confused in Myself what
with Anxiatey and Weakfulness at Night. If I might be so Bold Sir it
will be a Pleasure to see a Honnest Brish Face among all These Forig
I am Sir
Your obed't Serv't
P.S.--The Village for Town I will not Turm It is name Steenfeld.
The reader must be left to picture to himself in detail the surprise,
confusion, and hurry of preparation into which the receipt of such a
letter would be likely to plunge a quiet Berkshire parsonage in the year
of grace 1859. It is enough for me to say that a train to town was caught
in the course of the day, and that Mr Gregory was able to secure a cabin
in the Antwerp boat and a place in the Coblenz train. Nor was it
difficult to manage the transit from that centre to Steinfeld.
I labour under a grave disadvantage as narrator of this story in that I
have never visited Steinfeld myself, and that neither of the principal
actors in the episode (from whom I derive my information) was able to
give me anything but a vague and rather dismal idea of its appearance. I
gather that it is a small place, with a large church despoiled of its
ancient fittings; a number of rather ruinous great buildings, mostly of
the seventeenth century, surround this church; for the abbey, in common
with most of those on the Continent, was rebuilt in a luxurious fashion
by its inhabitants at that period. It has not seemed to me worth while to
lavish money on a visit to the place, for though it is probably far more
attractive than either Mr Somerton or Mr Gregory thought it, there is
evidently little, if anything, of first-rate interest to be seen--except,
perhaps, one thing, which I should not care to see.
The inn where the English gentleman and his servant were lodged is, or
was, the only 'possible' one in the village. Mr Gregory was taken to it
at once by his driver, and found Mr Brown waiting at the door. Mr Brown,
a model when in his Berkshire home of the impassive whiskered race who
are known as confidential valets, was now egregiously out of his element,
in a light tweed suit, anxious, almost irritable, and plainly anything
but master of the situation. His relief at the sight of the 'honest
British face' of his Rector was unmeasured, but words to describe it were
denied him. He could only say:
'Well, I ham pleased, I'm sure, sir, to see you. And so I'm sure, sir,
'How is your master, Brown?' Mr Gregory eagerly put in.
'I think he's better, sir, thank you; but he's had a dreadful time of it.
I 'ope he's gettin' some sleep now, but--'
'What has been the matter--I couldn't make out from your letter? Was it
an accident of any kind?'
'Well, sir, I 'ardly know whether I'd better speak about it. Master was
very partickler he should be the one to tell you. But there's no bones
broke--that's one thing I'm sure we ought to be thankful--'
'What does the doctor say?' asked Mr Gregory.
They were by this time outside Mr Somerton's bedroom door, and speaking
in low tones. Mr Gregory, who happened to be in front, was feeling for
the handle, and chanced to run his fingers over the panels. Before Brown
could answer, there was a terrible cry from within the room.
'In God's name, who is that?' were the first words they heard. 'Brown, is
'Yes, sir--me, sir, and Mr Gregory,' Brown hastened to answer, and there
was an audible groan of relief in reply.
They entered the room, which was darkened against the afternoon sun, and
Mr Gregory saw, with a shock of pity, how drawn, how damp with drops of
fear, was the usually calm face of his friend, who, sitting up in the
curtained bed, stretched out a shaking hand to welcome him.
'Better for seeing you, my dear Gregory,' was the reply to the Rector's
first question, and it was palpably true.
After five minutes of conversation Mr Somerton was more his own man,
Brown afterwards reported, than he had been for days. He was able to eat
a more than respectable dinner, and talked confidently of being fit to
stand a journey to Coblenz within twenty-four hours.
'But there's one thing,' he said, with a return of agitation which Mr
Gregory did not like to see, 'which I must beg you to do for me, my dear
Gregory. Don't,' he went on, laying his hand on Gregory's to forestall
any interruption--'don't ask me what it is, or why I want it done. I'm
not up to explaining it yet; it would throw me back--undo all the good
you have done me by coming. The only word I will say about it is that you
run no risk whatever by doing it, and that Brown can and will show you
tomorrow what it is. It's merely to put back--to keep--something--No; I
can't speak of it yet. Do you mind calling Brown?'
'Well, Somerton,' said Mr Gregory, as he crossed the room to the door. 'I
won't ask for any explanations till you see fit to give them. And if this
bit of business is as easy as you represent it to be, I will very gladly
undertake it for you the first thing in the morning.'
'Ah, I was sure you would, my dear Gregory; I was certain I could rely on
you. I shall owe you more thanks than I can tell. Now, here is Brown.
Brown, one word with you.'
'Shall I go?' interjected Mr Gregory.
'Not at all. Dear me, no. Brown, the first thing tomorrow morning--(you
don't mind early hours, I know, Gregory)--you must take the Rector
to--_there_, you know' (a nod from Brown, who looked grave and anxious),
'and he and you will put that back. You needn't be in the least alarmed;
it's _perfectly_ safe in the daytime. You know what I mean. It lies on
the step, you know, where--where we put it.' (Brown swallowed dryly once
or twice, and, failing to speak, bowed.) 'And--yes, that's all. Only this
one other word, my dear Gregory. If you _can_ manage to keep from
questioning Brown about this matter, I shall be still more bound to you.
Tomorrow evening, at latest, if all goes well, I shall be able, I
believe, to tell you the whole story from start to finish. And now I'll
wish you good night. Brown will be with me--he sleeps here--and if I were
you, I should lock my door. Yes, be particular to do that. They--they
like it, the people here, and it's better. Good night, good night.'
They parted upon this, and if Mr Gregory woke once or twice in the small
hours and fancied he heard a fumbling about the lower part of his locked
door, it was, perhaps, no more than what a quiet man, suddenly plunged
into a strange bed and the heart of a mystery, might reasonably expect.
Certainly he thought, to the end of his days, that he had heard such a
sound twice or three times between midnight and dawn.
He was up with the sun, and out in company with Brown soon after.
Perplexing as was the service he had been asked to perform for Mr
Somerton, it was not a difficult or an alarming one, and within half an
hour from his leaving the inn it was over. What it was I shall not as yet
Later in the morning Mr Somerton, now almost himself again, was able to
make a start from Steinfeld; and that same evening, whether at Coblenz or
at some intermediate stage on the journey I am not certain, he settled
down to the promised explanation. Brown was present, but how much of the
matter was ever really made plain to his comprehension he would never
say, and I am unable to conjecture.
This was Mr Somerton's story:
'You know roughly, both of you, that this expedition of mine was
undertaken with the object of tracing something in connexion with some
old painted glass in Lord D----'s private chapel. Well, the
starting-point of the whole matter lies in this passage from an old
printed book, to which I will ask your attention.'
And at this point Mr Somerton went carefully over some ground with which
we are already familiar.
'On my second visit to the chapel,' he went on, 'my purpose was to take
every note I could of figures, lettering, diamond-scratchings on the
glass, and even apparently accidental markings. The first point which I
tackled was that of the inscribed scrolls. I could not doubt that the
first of these, that of Job--"There is a place for the gold where it is
hidden"--with its intentional alteration, must refer to the treasure; so
I applied myself with some confidence to the next, that of St John--"They
have on their vestures a writing which no man knoweth." The natural
question will have occurred to you: Was there an inscription on the robes
of the figures? I could see none; each of the three had a broad black
border to his mantle, which made a conspicuous and rather ugly feature in
the window. I was nonplussed, I will own, and, but for a curious bit of
luck, I think I should have left the search where the Canons of Steinfeld
had left it before me. But it so happened that there was a good deal of
dust on the surface of the glass, and Lord D----, happening to come in,
noticed my blackened hands, and kindly insisted on sending for a Turk's
head broom to clean down the window. There must, I suppose, have been a
rough piece in the broom; anyhow, as it passed over the border of one of
the mantles, I noticed that it left a long scratch, and that some yellow
stain instantly showed up. I asked the man to stop his work for a moment,
and ran up the ladder to examine the place. The yellow stain was there,
sure enough, and what had come away was a thick black pigment, which had
evidently been laid on with the brush after the glass had been burnt, and
could therefore be easily scraped off without doing any harm. I scraped,
accordingly, and you will hardly believe--no, I do you an injustice; you
will have guessed already--that I found under this black pigment two or
three clearly-formed capital letters in yellow stain on a clear ground.
Of course, I could hardly contain my delight.
'I told Lord D---- that I had detected an inscription which I thought
might be very interesting, and begged to be allowed to uncover the whole
of it. He made no difficulty about it whatever, told me to do exactly as
I pleased, and then, having an engagement, was obliged--rather to my
relief, I must say--to leave me. I set to work at once, and found the
task a fairly easy one. The pigment, disintegrated, of course, by time,
came off almost at a touch, and I don't think that it took me a couple of
hours, all told, to clean the whole of the black borders in all three
lights. Each of the figures had, as the inscription said, "a writing on
their vestures which nobody knew".
'This discovery, of course, made it absolutely certain to my mind that I
was on the right track. And, now, what was the inscription? While I was
cleaning the glass I almost took pains not to read the lettering, saving
up the treat until I had got the whole thing clear. And when that was
done, my dear Gregory, I assure you I could almost have cried from sheer
disappointment. What I read was only the most hopeless jumble of letters
that was ever shaken up in a hat. Here it is:
_St John_. RDIIEAMRLESIPVSPODSEEIRSETTA
'Blank as I felt and must have looked for the first few minutes, my
disappointment didn't last long. I realized almost at once that I was
dealing with a cipher or cryptogram; and I reflected that it was likely
to be of a pretty simple kind, considering its early date. So I copied
the letters with the most anxious care. Another little point, I may tell
you, turned up in the process which confirmed my belief in the cipher.
After copying the letters on Job's robe I counted them, to make sure that
I had them right. There were thirty-eight; and, just as I finished going
through them, my eye fell on a scratching made with a sharp point on the
edge of the border. It was simply the number xxxviii in Roman numerals.
To cut the matter short, there was a similar note, as I may call it, in
each of the other lights; and that made it plain to me that the
glass-painter had had very strict orders from Abbot Thomas about the
inscription and had taken pains to get it correct.
'Well, after that discovery you may imagine how minutely I went over the
whole surface of the glass in search of further light. Of course, I did
not neglect the inscription on the scroll of Zechariah--"Upon one stone
are seven eyes," but I very quickly concluded that this must refer to
some mark on a stone which could only be found _in situ_, where the
treasure was concealed. To be short, I made all possible notes and
sketches and tracings, and then came back to Parsbury to work out the
cipher at leisure. Oh, the agonies I went through! I thought myself very
clever at first, for I made sure that the key would be found in some of
the old books on secret writing. The _Steganographia_ of Joachim
Trithemius, who was an earlier contemporary of Abbot Thomas, seemed
particularly promising; so I got that and Selenius's _Cryptographia_ and
Bacon's _de Augmentis Scientiarum_ and some more. But I could hit upon
nothing. Then I tried the principle of the "most frequent letter", taking
first Latin and then German as a basis. That didn't help, either; whether
it ought to have done so, I am not clear. And then I came back to the
window itself, and read over my notes, hoping almost against hope that
the Abbot might himself have somewhere supplied the key I wanted. I could
make nothing out of the colour or pattern of the robes. There were no
landscape backgrounds with subsidiary objects; there was nothing in the
canopies. The only resource possible seemed to be in the attitudes of the
figures. "Job," I read: "scroll in left hand, forefinger of right hand
extended upwards. John: holds inscribed book in left hand; with right
hand blesses, with two fingers. Zechariah: scroll in left hand; right
hand extended upwards, as Job, but with three fingers pointing up." In
other words, I reflected, Job has one finger extended, John has _two_,
Zechariah has _three_. May not there be a numerical key concealed in
that? My dear Gregory,' said Mr Somerton, laying his hand on his friend's
knee, 'that _was_ the key. I didn't get it to fit at first, but after two
or three trials I saw what was meant. After the first letter of the
inscription you skip _one_ letter, after the next you skip _two_, and
after that skip _three_. Now look at the result I got. I've underlined
the letters which form words:
'Do you see it? "_Decem millia auri reposita sunt in puteo in at_ ..."
(Ten thousand [pieces] of gold are laid up in a well in ...), followed by
an incomplete word beginning _at_. So far so good. I tried the same plan
with the remaining letters; but it wouldn't work, and I fancied that
perhaps the placing of dots after the three last letters might indicate
some difference of procedure. Then I thought to myself, "Wasn't there
some allusion to a well in the account of Abbot Thomas in that book the
'_Sertum_'?" Yes, there was; he built a _puteus in atrio_; (a well in the
court). There, of course, was my word _atrio_. The next step was to copy
out the remaining letters of the inscription, omitting those I had
already used. That gave what you will see on this slip:
'Now, I knew what the three first letters I wanted were--namely,
_rio_--to complete the word _atrio_; and, as you will see, these are all
to be found in the first five letters. I was a little confused at first
by the occurrence of two _i_'s, but very soon I saw that every alternate
letter must be taken in the remainder of the inscription. You can work it
out for yourself; the result, continuing where the first "round" left
_rio domus abbatialis de Steinfeld a me, Thoma, qui posui custodem
super ea. Gare a qui la touche_.
'So the whole secret was out:
"Ten thousand pieces of gold are laid up in the well in the court of
the Abbot's house of Steinfeld by me, Thomas, who have set a guardian
over them. _Gare a qui la louche_."
'The last words, I ought to say, are a device which Abbot Thomas had
adopted. I found it with his arms in another piece of glass at Lord
D----'s, and he drafted it bodily into his cipher, though it doesn't
quite fit in point of grammar.
'Well, what would any human being have been tempted to do, my dear
Gregory, in my place? Could he have helped setting off, as I did, to
Steinfeld, and tracing the secret literally to the fountain-head? I don't
believe he could. Anyhow, I couldn't, and, as I needn't tell you, I found
myself at Steinfeld as soon as the resources of civilization could put me
there, and installed myself in the inn you saw. I must tell you that I
was not altogether free from forebodings--on one hand of disappointment,
on the other of danger. There was always the possibility that Abbot
Thomas's well might have been wholly obliterated, or else that someone,
ignorant of cryptograms, and guided only by luck, might have stumbled on
the treasure before me. And then'--there was a very perceptible shaking
of the voice here--'I was not entirely easy, I need not mind confessing,
as to the meaning of the words about the guardian of the treasure. But,
if you don't mind, I'll say no more about that until--until it becomes
'At the first possible opportunity Brown and I began exploring the place.
I had naturally represented myself as being interested in the remains of
the abbey, and we could not avoid paying a visit to the church, impatient
as I was to be elsewhere. Still, it did interest me to see the windows
where the glass had been, and especially that at the east end of the
south aisle. In the tracery lights of that I was startled to see some
fragments and coats-of-arms remaining--Abbot Thomas's shield was there,
and a small figure with a scroll inscribed _Oculos habent, et non
videbunt_ (They have eyes, and shall not see), which, I take it, was a
hit of the Abbot at his Canons.
'But, of course, the principal object was to find the Abbot's house.
There is no prescribed place for this, so far as I know, in the plan of a
monastery; you can't predict of it, as you can of the chapter-house, that
it will be on the eastern side of the cloister, or, as of the dormitory,
that it will communicate with a transept of the church. I felt that if I
asked many questions I might awaken lingering memories of the treasure,
and I thought it best to try first to discover it for myself. It was not
a very long or difficult search. That three-sided court south-east of the
church, with deserted piles of building round it, and grass-grown
pavement, which you saw this morning, was the place. And glad enough I
was to see that it was put to no use, and was neither very far from our
inn nor overlooked by any inhabited building; there were only orchards
and paddocks on the slopes east of the church. I can tell you that fine
stone glowed wonderfully in the rather watery yellow sunset that we had
on the Tuesday afternoon.
'Next, what about the well? There was not much doubt about that, as you
can testify. It is really a very remarkable thing. That curb is, I think,
of Italian marble, and the carving I thought must be Italian also. There
were reliefs, you will perhaps remember, of Eliezer and Rebekah, and of
Jacob opening the well for Rachel, and similar subjects; but, by way of
disarming suspicion, I suppose, the Abbot had carefully abstained from
any of his cynical and allusive inscriptions.
'I examined the whole structure with the keenest interest, of course--a
square well-head with an opening in one side; an arch over it, with a
wheel for the rope to pass over, evidently in very good condition still,
for it had been used within sixty years, or perhaps even later though not
quite recently. Then there was the question of depth and access to the
interior. I suppose the depth was about sixty to seventy feet; and as to
the other point, it really seemed as if the Abbot had wished to lead
searchers up to the very door of his treasure-house, for, as you tested
for yourself, there were big blocks of stone bonded into the masonry, and
leading down in a regular staircase round and round the inside of the
'It seemed almost too good to be true. I wondered if there was a trap--if
the stones were so contrived as to tip over when a weight was placed on
them; but I tried a good many with my own weight and with my stick, and
all seemed, and actually were, perfectly firm. Of course, I resolved that
Brown and I would make an experiment that very night.
'I was well prepared. Knowing the sort of place I should have to explore,
I had brought a sufficiency of good rope and bands of webbing to surround
my body, and cross-bars to hold to, as well as lanterns and candles and
crowbars, all of which would go into a single carpet-bag and excite no
suspicion. I satisfied myself that my rope would be long enough, and that
the wheel for the bucket was in good working order, and then we went home
'I had a little cautious conversation with the landlord, and made out
that he would not be overmuch surprised if I went out for a stroll with
my man about nine o'clock, to make (Heaven forgive me!) a sketch of the
abbey by moonlight. I asked no questions about the well, and am not
likely to do so now. I fancy I know as much about it as anyone in
Steinfeld: at least'--with a strong shudder--'I don't want to know any
'Now we come to the crisis, and, though I hate to think of it, I feel
sure, Gregory, that it will be better for me in all ways to recall it
just as it happened. We started, Brown and I, at about nine with our bag,
and attracted no attention; for we managed to slip out at the hinder end
of the inn-yard into an alley which brought us quite to the edge of the
village. In five minutes we were at the well, and for some little time we
sat on the edge of the well-head to make sure that no one was stirring or
spying on us. All we heard was some horses cropping grass out of sight
farther down the eastern slope. We were perfectly unobserved, and had
plenty of light from the gorgeous full moon to allow us to get the rope
properly fitted over the wheel. Then I secured the band round my body
beneath the arms. We attached the end of the rope very securely to a ring
in the stonework. Brown took the lighted lantern and followed me; I had a
crowbar. And so we began to descend cautiously, feeling every step before
we set foot on it, and scanning the walls in search of any marked stone.
'Half aloud I counted the steps as we went down, and we got as far as the
thirty-eighth before I noted anything at all irregular in the surface of
the masonry. Even here there was no mark, and I began to feel very blank,
and to wonder if the Abbot's cryptogram could possibly be an elaborate
hoax. At the forty-ninth step the staircase ceased. It was with a very
sinking heart that I began retracing my steps, and when I was back on the
thirty-eighth--Brown, with the lantern, being a step or two above me--I
scrutinized the little bit of irregularity in the stonework with all my
might; but there was no vestige of a mark.
'Then it struck me that the texture of the surface looked just a little
smoother than the rest, or, at least, in some way different. It might
possibly be cement and not stone. I gave it a good blow with my iron bar.
There was a decidedly hollow sound, though that might be the result of
our being in a well. But there was more. A great flake of cement dropped
on to my feet, and I saw marks on the stone underneath. I had tracked the
Abbot down, my dear Gregory; even now I think of it with a certain pride.
It took but a very few more taps to clear the whole of the cement away,
and I saw a slab of stone about two feet square, upon which was engraven
a cross. Disappointment again, but only for a moment. It was you, Brown,
who reassured me by a casual remark. You said, if I remember right:
"'It's a funny cross: looks like a lot of eyes."
'I snatched the lantern out of your hand, and saw with inexpressible
pleasure that the cross was composed of seven eyes, four in a vertical
line, three horizontal. The last of the scrolls in the window was
explained in the way I had anticipated. Here was my "stone with the seven
eyes". So far the Abbot's data had been exact, and as I thought of this,
the anxiety about the "guardian" returned upon me with increased force.
Still I wasn't going to retreat now.
'Without giving myself time to think, I knocked away the cement all round
the marked stone, and then gave it a prise on the right side with my
crowbar. It moved at once, and I saw that it was but a thin light slab,
such as I could easily lift out myself, and that it stopped the entrance
to a cavity. I did lift it out unbroken, and set it on the step, for it
might be very important to us to be able to replace it. Then I waited for
several minutes on the step just above. I don't know why, but I think to
see if any dreadful thing would rush out. Nothing happened. Next I lit a
candle, and very cautiously I placed it inside the cavity, with some idea
of seeing whether there were foul air, and of getting a glimpse of what
was inside. There _was_ some foulness of air which nearly extinguished
the flame, but in no long time it burned quite steadily. The hole went
some little way back, and also on the right and left of the entrance, and
I could see some rounded light-coloured objects within which might be
bags. There was no use in waiting. I faced the cavity, and looked in.
There was nothing immediately in the front of the hole. I put my arm in
and felt to the right, very gingerly....
'Just give me a glass of cognac, Brown. I'll go on in a moment,
'Well, I felt to the right, and my fingers touched something curved, that
felt--yes--more or less like leather; dampish it was, and evidently part
of a heavy, full thing. There was nothing, I must say, to alarm one. I
grew bolder, and putting both hands in as well as I could, I pulled it to
me, and it came. It was heavy, but moved more easily than I had expected.
As I pulled it towards the entrance, my left elbow knocked over and
extinguished the candle. I got the thing fairly in front of the mouth and
began drawing it out. Just then Brown gave a sharp ejaculation and ran
quickly up the steps with the lantern. He will tell you why in a moment.
Startled as I was, I looked round after him, and saw him stand for a
minute at the top and then walk away a few yards. Then I heard him call
softly, "All right, sir," and went on pulling out the great bag, in
complete darkness. It hung for an instant on the edge of the hole, then
slipped forward on to my chest, and _put its arms round my neck_.
'My dear Gregory, I am telling you the exact truth. I believe I am now
acquainted with the extremity of terror and repulsion which a man can
endure without losing his mind. I can only just manage to tell you now
the bare outline of the experience. I was conscious of a most horrible
smell of mould, and of a cold kind of face pressed against my own, and
moving slowly over it, and of several--I don't know how many--legs or
arms or tentacles or something clinging to my body. I screamed out, Brown
says, like a beast, and fell away backward from the step on which I
stood, and the creature slipped downwards, I suppose, on to that same
step. Providentially the band round me held firm. Brown did not lose his
head, and was strong enough to pull me up to the top and get me over the
edge quite promptly. How he managed it exactly I don't know, and I think
he would find it hard to tell you. I believe he contrived to hide our
implements in the deserted building near by, and with very great
difficulty he got me back to the inn. I was in no state to make
explanations, and Brown knows no German; but next morning I told the
people some tale of having had a bad fall in the abbey ruins, which I
suppose they believed. And now, before I go further, I should just like
you to hear what Brown's experiences during those few minutes were. Tell
the Rector, Brown, what you told me.'
'Well, sir,' said Brown, speaking low and nervously, 'it was just this
way. Master was busy down in front of the 'ole, and I was 'olding the
lantern and looking on, when I 'eard somethink drop in the water from the
top, as I thought. So I looked up, and I see someone's 'ead lookin' over
at us. I s'pose I must ha' said somethink, and I 'eld the light up and
run up the steps, and my light shone right on the face. That was a bad
un, sir, if ever I see one! A holdish man, and the face very much fell
in, and larfin', as I thought. And I got up the steps as quick pretty
nigh as I'm tellin' you, and when I was out on the ground there warn't a
sign of any person. There 'adn't been the time for anyone to get away,
let alone a hold chap, and I made sure he warn't crouching down by the
well, nor nothink. Next thing I hear master cry out somethink 'orrible,
and hall I see was him hanging out by the rope, and, as master says,
'owever I got him up I couldn't tell you.'
'You hear that, Gregory?' said Mr Somerton. 'Now, does any explanation of
that incident strike you?'
'The whole thing is so ghastly and abnormal that I must own it puts me
quite off my balance; but the thought did occur to me that possibly
the--well, the person who set the trap might have come to see the success
of his plan.'
'Just so, Gregory, just so. I can think of nothing else so--_likely_, I
should say, if such a word had a place anywhere in my story. I think it
must have been the Abbot.... Well, I haven't much more to tell you. I
spent a miserable night, Brown sitting up with me. Next day I was no
better; unable to get up; no doctor to be had; and if one had been
available, I doubt if he could have done much for me. I made Brown write
off to you, and spent a second terrible night. And, Gregory, of this I am
sure, and I think it affected me more than the first shock, for it lasted
longer: there was someone or something on the watch outside my door the
whole night. I almost fancy there were two. It wasn't only the faint
noises I heard from time to time all through the dark hours, but there
was the smell--the hideous smell of mould. Every rag I had had on me on
that first evening I had stripped off and made Brown take it away. I
believe he stuffed the things into the stove in his room; and yet the
smell was there, as intense as it had been in the well; and, what is
more, it came from outside the door. But with the first glimmer of dawn
it faded out, and the sounds ceased, too; and that convinced me that the
thing or things were creatures of darkness, and could not stand the
daylight; and so I was sure that if anyone could put back the stone, it
or they would be powerless until someone else took it away again. I had
to wait until you came to get that done. Of course, I couldn't send Brown
to do it by himself, and still less could I tell anyone who belonged to
'Well, there is my story; and, if you don't believe it, I can't help it.
But I think you do.'
'Indeed,' said Mr Gregory, 'I can find no alternative. I _must_ believe
it! I saw the well and the stone myself, and had a glimpse, I thought, of
the bags or something else in the hole. And, to be plain with you,
Somerton, I believe my door was watched last night, too.'
'I dare say it was, Gregory; but, thank goodness, that is over. Have you,
by the way, anything to tell about your visit to that dreadful place?'
'Very little,' was the answer. 'Brown and I managed easily enough to get
the slab into its place, and he fixed it very firmly with the irons and
wedges you had desired him to get, and we contrived to smear the surface
with mud so that it looks just like the rest of the wall. One thing I did
notice in the carving on the well-head, which I think must have escaped
you. It was a horrid, grotesque shape--perhaps more like a toad than
anything else, and there was a label by it inscribed with the two words,
 'Keep that which is committed to thee.'