- Transcribers Note: In this text the macron is represented by ō -
Supernatural & Occult Fiction
This is a volume in the Arno Press collection
Supernatural & Occult Fiction
R. Reginald Douglas Menville
See last pages of this volume for a complete list of titles.
THE MUMMY AND MISS NITOCRIS
A PHANTASY OF THE FOURTH DIMENSION
ARNO PRESS A New York Times Company 1976
Editorial Supervision: MARIE STARECK
Reprint Edition 1976 by Arno Press Inc.
Reprinted from a copy in The Library of the University of California, Riverside
SUPERNATURAL AND OCCULT FICTION
ISBN for complete set: O-405-08107-3
See last pages of this volume for titles.
Manufactured in the United States of America
Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Griffith, George Chetwynd. The mummy and Miss Nitocris.
(Supernatural and occult fiction) Reprint of the 1906? ed. published by T. W. Laurie, London.
I. Title. II. Series. PZ3.G88Mu7 [PR4728.083] 823'.8 75-46273 ISBN 0-405-08131-6
THE MUMMY AND MISS NITOCRIS
A PHANTASY OF THE FOURTH DIMENSION
AUTHOR OF "THE ANGEL OF THE REVOLUTION," "A HONEYMOON IN SPACE," "AN ISLAND LOVE STORY," "A MAYFAIR MAGICIAN," ETC., ETC.
T. WERNER LAURIE CLIFFORD'S INN, FLEET STREET LONDON
Certain it should be that, beyond and about this World of Length, and Breadth, and Thickness, there is another World, or State of Existence, consisting of these and another dimension of which only those beings who are privileged to enter or dwell in it can have any conception. Now, if this postulate be granted, it follows that a dweller in this State would be freed from those conditions of Time and Space which bind those beings who are confined within the limits of Tri-Dimensional Space, or Existence. For example, he would be able to make himself visible or invisible to us at will by entering into or withdrawing himself from this State, and returning into that of Four Dimensions, whither our eyes could not follow him—even though he might be close to us in our sense of nearness. Moreover, he could be in two or more places at once, and cause two bodies to occupy the same space—which to us is inconceivable. Stranger still, he might be both alive and dead at the same time—since Past, Present, and Future would be all one to him; the world without beginning or end ...—From the "Geometrical Possibilities," of Abd'el Kasir, of Cordoba, circa. 1050 A.D.
I. INTRODUCES THE MUMMY 1
II. BACK TO THE PAST 15
III. THE DEATH-BRIDAL OF NITOCRIS 27
IV. THIEVES IN THE NIGHT 36
V. ACROSS THE THRESHOLD 47
VI. THE LAW OF SELECTION 60
VII. MOSTLY POSSIBILITIES 70
VIII. MISS BRENDA ARRIVES, AND PHADRIG THE EGYPTIAN PROPHESIES 79
IX. "THE WILDERNESS," WIMBLEDON COMMON 95
X. THE STAGE FILLS 101
XI. THE MARVELS OF PHADRIG 115
XII. CONTROVERSY AND CONFIDENCES 138
XIII. OVER THE TEA AND THE TOAST 157
XIV. "SUPPOSED IMPOSSIBILITIES" 164
XV. THE ADVANCEMENT OF NITOCRIS—THE RESOLVE OF OSCAROVITCH 176
XVI. THE MYSTERY OF PRINCE ZASTROW 185
XVII. M. NICOL HENDRY 199
XVIII. MURDER BY SUGGESTION 210
XIX. THE HORUS STONE 220
XX. THROUGH THE CENTURIES 237
XXI. WHAT HAPPENED AT TRELITZ 251
XXII. A TRIP ON THE SOUND 260
XXIII. THE DISAPPEARANCE OF THE PROFESSOR 274
XXIV. THE LUST THAT WAS—AND IS 281
XXV. THE PASSING OF PHADRIG 290
XXVI. CAPTAIN MERILL'S COMMISSION 304
XXVII. THE BRIDAL OF OSCAROVITCH 307
THE MUMMY AND MISS NITOCRIS
INTRODUCES THE MUMMY
"Oh, what a perfectly lovely mummy! Just fancy!—the poor thing—dead how many years? Something like five thousand, isn't it? And doesn't she look just like me! I mean, wouldn't she, if we had both been dead as long?"
As she said this, Miss Nitocris Marmion, the golden-haired, black-eyed daughter of one of the most celebrated mathematicians and physicists in Europe, stood herself up beside the mummy-case which her father had received that morning from Memphis.
"Look!" she continued. "I am almost the same height. Just a little taller, perhaps, but you see her hair is nearly as fair as mine. Of course, you don't know what colour her eyes are—just fancy, Dad! they have been shut for nearly five thousand years, perhaps a little more—because I think they counted by dynasties then—and yet look at the features! Just imagine me dead!"
"Just imagine yourself shutting the door on the other side, my dear Niti," said the Professor, who had risen from the chair, and was facing his daughter and the Mummy. "I don't want to banish you too unceremoniously, but I really have a lot of work to do to-night, and, as you might know, Bachelor of Science of London as you are, I have got to worry out as best I can, if I can do it at all, this problem that Hartley sent me about the Forty-seventh Proposition of the first book of Euclid."
"Oh yes," she said, going to his side and putting her hand on to his shoulder as he stood facing the Mummy; "I have reason enough to remember that. And what does Professor Hartley say about it?"
"He says, my dear Niti," said the Professor, in a voice which had something like a note of awe in it, "that when Pythagoras thought out that problem—which, of course, is not Euclid's at all—he almost saw across the horizon of the world that we live in."
"But that," she interrupted, "would be something like looking across the edge of time into eternity, and that—well, of course, that is quite impossible, even to you, Dad, or Mr Hartley. What does he mean?"
"He doesn't quite mean that, dear," replied the Professor, still staring straight at the motionless Mummy as though he half expected the lips which had not spoken for fifty centuries to answer the question that was shaping itself in his mind. "What Hartley means, dear, is this—that when Pythagoras thought out that proposition he had almost reached the border which divides the world of three dimensions from the world of four."
"Which, as our dear old friend Euclid would say, is impossible; because you know, Dad, if that were possible, everything else would be. Come, now, Annie is bringing up your whisky and soda. Put away your problems and take your night-cap, and do get to bed in something like respectable time. Don't worry your dear old head about forty-seventh propositions and fourth dimensions and mummies and that sort of thing, even if this Mummy does happen to look a bit like me. Now, good night, and remember that the night-cap is to be a night-cap, and when you've put it on you really must go to bed. You've been thinking a great deal too much this week. Good-night, Dad."
"Good-night, Niti, dear. Don't trouble your head about my thinking. Sufficient unto the brain are the thoughts thereof. Sometimes they are more than sufficient. Good-night. Sleep well and don't dream, if you can help it."
"And don't you dream, Dad, especially about that wretched proposition. Just have another pipe, and drink your whisky and go to bed. There's something in your eyes that says you want a long night's rest. Good-night now, and sleep well."
She pulled his head down and kissed him twice on his grey, thin cheek, and then, with a wave of her hand and a laughing nod towards the Mummy, vanished through the closing study door to go and dream her dreams, which were not very likely to be of mummies and fourth dimensional problems, and left her father to dream his.
Then a couple of lines from one of "B.V.'s" poems, which had been running in his head all the evening, came back to him, and he murmured half-unconsciously:
"'Was it hundreds of years ago, my love, Was it thousands of miles away...?'"
"And why should it not be? Why should you, who were once Ma-Rimōn, priest of Amen-Ra, in the City of Memphis—you who almost stood upon the threshold of the Inmost Sanctuary of Knowledge: you who, if your footsteps had not turned aside into the way of temptation and trodden the black path of Sin, might even now be dwelling on the Shores of Everlasting Peace in the Land of Amenti—dost thou dare to ask such a question?"
The sudden change of the pronoun seemed to him to put the Clock of Time back indefinitely.
He was standing by his desk still facing the Mummy just as his daughter had left him after saying "good-night." He was not a man to be easily astonished. Not only was he one of the best-read amateur Egyptologists in Europe, but he was also an ex-President of the Royal Society, a Member of the Psychical Research Society, and, moreover, Chairman of a recently appointed Commission on Comparative Insanity, the object of whose labours was to determine, if possible, what proportion of people outside asylums were mad or sane according to a standard which, somehow, no one had thought of inventing before—the standard of common-sense.
The voice, strangely like his daughter's and his dead wife's also, appeared to come from nowhere and yet from everywhere, and it had a faint and far-away echo in it which harmonised most marvellously with other echoes which seemed to come up out of the depths of his own soul.
Where had he heard it before? Somewhere, certainly. There was no possibility of mistaking tones which were so irresistibly familiar, and, moreover, why did they bring back to him such distinct memories of tragedies long forgotten, even by him? Why did they instantly draw before the windows of his soul a long panorama of vast cities, splendid palaces, sombre temples, and towering tombs, in which he saw all these and more with an infinitely greater vividness of form and light and colour than he had ever been able to do in his most inspired hours of dream or study?
Had the voice really come from those long-silenced lips of the Mummy of Nitocris, that daughter of the Pharaohs who had so terribly avenged her outraged love, and after whom he had named the only child of his marriage?
"It is certainly very strange," he said, going to his writing-table and taking up his pipe. "I know that voice, or at least I seem to know it, and it is very like Niti's and her mother's; but where can it have come from? Hardly from your lips, my long-dead Royal Egypt," he went on, going up to the mummy-case and peering through his spectacles into the rigid features. He put up his hand and tapped the tightly-drawn lips very gently, then turned away with a smile, saying aloud to himself: "No, no, I must have been allowing what they call my scientific imagination to play tricks with me. Perhaps I have been worrying a little too much about this confounded fourth dimension problem,—and yet the thing is exceedingly fascinating. If the hand of Science could only reach across the frontier line! If we could only see out of the world of length and breadth and thickness into that other world of these and something else, how many puzzles would be solved, how many impossibilities would become possible, and how many of the miracles which those old Egyptian adepts so seriously claimed to work would look like the merest commonplaces! Ah well, now for the realities. I suppose that's Annie with the whisky."
As he turned round the door opened, and he beheld a very strange sight, one which, to a man who had had a less stern mental training than he had had, would have been nothing less than terrifying. His daughter came in with a little silver tray on which there was a small decanter of whisky, a glass, and a syphon of soda-water.
"Annie has gone to the post, and I thought I might as well bring this myself," said Miss Nitocris, walking to the table and putting the tray down on the corner of it.
Beside her stood another figure as familiar now to his eyes as her's was, dressed and tired and jewelled in a fashion equally familiar. Save for the difference in dress, Nitocris, the daughter of Rameses, was the exact counterpart in feature, stature, and colouring of Nitocris, the daughter of Professor Marmion. In her hands she carried a slender, long-necked jar of brilliantly enamelled earthenware and a golden flagon richly chased, and glittering with jewels, and these she put down on the table in exactly the same place as the other Nitocris had put her tray on, and as she did so he heard the voice again, saying:
"Time was, is now, and ever shall be to those for whom Time has ceased to be—which is a riddle that Ma-Rimōn may even now learn, since his soul has been purified and his spirit strengthened by earnest devotion through many lives to the search for the True Knowledge."
Both voices had spoken together, the one in English and the other in the ancient tongue of Khem, yet he had heard each syllable separately and comprehended both utterances perfectly. He felt a cold grip of fear at his heart as he looked towards the mummy-case, and, as his fear had warned him, it was empty. Then he looked at his daughter, and as their eyes met, she said in the most commonplace tones:
"My dear Dad, what is the matter with you? If advanced people like ourselves believed in any such nonsense, I should be inclined to say that you had seen a ghost; but I suppose it's only that silly fourth dimension puzzle that's worrying you. Now, look here, you must really take your whisky and go to bed. If you go on bothering any longer about 'N to the fourth,' you will have one of your bad headaches to-morrow and won't be able to finish your address for the Institute."
She put her hand out and took up the decanter. It passed without any apparent resistance through the jar. She lifted it from the same place, and poured out the usual modicum of whisky into the glass, which was standing just where the flagon was. Then she pressed the trigger of the syphon, and the familiar hiss of the soda-water brought the Professor, as he thought, back to his senses.
But no! There could be no doubt about it. There in material form on the corner of his table was a point-blank, tangible contradiction of the universally accepted axiom that two bodies cannot occupy the same space, and that, come from somewhere or nowhere, there were two plainly material objects through which his daughter's hand, without her even knowing it, had passed as easily as it would have done through a little cloud of steam. Happily she had no idea of what he had seen and heard, and so for her sake he made a strong effort to control himself, and said as steadily as he could:
"Thank you, Niti, it is very good of you. Yes, I think I am a little tired to-night. Good-night now, and I promise you that I will be off very soon; I will just have one more pipe, and drink my whisky, and then I really will go. Good-night, little woman. We'll have a talk about the Mummy in the morning."
As soon as his daughter had closed the door, Professor Marmion returned to his writing-table. The decanter of whisky, the tumbler, and the syphon of soda-water were still standing on the corner of the table, occupying the same space as the enamelled flagon of wine and the drinking goblet which the long-dead other-self of Miss Nitocris had placed on the little silver salver.
He looked about the room anxiously, with a feeling nearer akin to physical dread than he had ever experienced before; but his worst fears were not fulfilled. Nitocris the Queen had vanished and the Mummy was back in its case, blind, rigid, and silent, as it had been for fifty centuries.
For several moments he looked at the hard, grey, fixed features of the woman who had once been Nitocris, Queen of Middle Egypt, half expecting, after what he had seen, or thought he had seen, that the soul would return, that the long-closed eyes would open again, and that the long-silent lips would speak to him. But no! For all the answer that he got he might as well have been looking upon the granite features of the Sphinx itself. He turned away again towards the table, and murmured:
"Ah well! I suppose it was only an hallucination, after all. One of these strange pranks that the over-strained intellect sometimes plays with us. Perhaps I have been thinking too much lately. And now I really think I had better follow Niti's advice, and take my night-cap and go to bed."
But as he put out his hand to take the whisky decanter he stopped and pulled it back.
"What on earth is the matter with me?" he said, putting his hand to his head. "That decanter is mine—it is the same, and yet it is standing in just the same place as that other thing—and I remember that, too. Look here, Franklin Marmion, my friend, if you were not a rather over-worked man I should think you had had a good deal too much to drink. Two bodies cannot occupy the same space. It is ridiculous, impossible!"
As he said the last word, his voice rose a little, and, as it seemed, an echo came back from one of the corners of the room:
There seemed to be a sarcastic note of interrogation after the last word.
"Eh? What was that?" and he looked round at the mummy-case. Her long-dead Majesty was still reclining in it, silent and impassive.
"Oh, this won't do at all! Hartley and the fourth dimension be hanged! It strikes me that this way madness lies if you only go far enough. I'll have that night-cap at once and go to bed."
He put out his hand, took hold of the whisky decanter, and as he drew back his arm he saw that instead he held the enamelled flagon in his grasp.
"Well, well," he said, looking at it half-angrily, "if it is to be, it must be."
He put out his left hand and took hold of the goblet, tilted the flagon, and out of the curved lip there fell a thin stream of wine, which glittered with a pale ruby radiance in the light of the electric cluster that hung above his writing-desk. He set the flagon down, and as he raised the goblet to his lips, he heard his own voice saying in the ancient language of Khem:
"As was, and is, and ever shall be; ever, yet never—never, yet ever. Nitocris the Queen, in the name of Nebzec I greet thee! From thy hands I take the gift of the Perfect Knowledge!"
As he drained the goblet he turned towards the mummy-case. It might have been fancy, it might have been the effect of that miraculous old wine of Cos which, if he had really drunk it, must now be more than thirty centuries old: it might have been the result of the hard thinking that he had been doing now for several days and half-nights; but he certainly thought that the Queen's head suddenly became endowed with life, that the eyes opened, and the grey of the parchment skin softened into a delicate olive tinge with a faint rosy blush showing through it. The brown, shrivelled lips seemed to fill out, grow red, and smile. The eyelids lifted, and the eyes of the Nitocris of old looked down on him for a moment. He shook his head and looked, and there was the Mummy just as it had been when he opened the case.
"Really, this is strange, almost to the point of bewilderment," he went on. "I wonder if there is any more of that wine left?"
He took up the flagon and poured out another goblet, filled and drank it.
"Yes," he continued, speaking as though under some strange exultation of the mind rather than of the senses, "yes, that is the wine of Cos. I drank it. I, Ma-Rimōn, the priest-student of the Higher Mysteries; I, whose feet faltered on the threshold of the Place of the Elect, and whose heart failed him at the portal of the Sanctuary, even though Amen-Ra was beckoning me to cross it."
"Good heavens, what nonsense I am talking! Whatever there was in that wine or wherever it came from, I think it is quite time I was off, not to old Egypt, but the Land of Nod. It seems to—no, it has not got into my head; in fact I am beginning to see that, after all, Hartley might very possibly be right about that forty-seventh proposition. Well, I will do as the Russians say, take my thoughts to bed with me, since the morning is wiser than the evening. It is all very mysterious. I certainly hope that Annie won't find these things here in the morning when she comes to clear up. I wonder what the Museum would give me for them if they were not, as I think they are, the unsubstantial fabric of a vision?"
When he got into his room and turned the electric light on, he stood under the cluster and held up his closed hand so that the light fell upon a curiously engraved scarab set in a heavy gold ring which had been given to him on his last birthday by Lord Lester Leighton, a wealthy and accomplished young nobleman who had devoted his learned leisure to Egyptian exploration and research. It was he who had sent the Mummy of Queen Nitocris to the house on Wimbledon Common instead of adding it to his own collection—not altogether unselfishly, it must be confessed, for he was very much in love with the other Nitocris who was still in the flesh.
"Now," he said, fingering the scarab, "if I was not dreaming, and if by some mysterious means Her Highness's promise is to be actually fulfilled, I ought to be able to take this ring off without opening my hand. Certainly, any fourth dimensional being could do it."
As he spoke he pulled at the setting of the scarab—and, to his amazement, the ring came off whole. There was no scar on his finger—no break in the ring.
"Good heavens!" he exclaimed, staring with something like fear in his eyes, first at his hand, and then at the ring. "Then it is true!" He was silent for a full minute; then he put the ring down on the dressing-table and whispered: "What a terrible power—and what an awful responsibility! Well, thank God, I am a fairly honest man!"
As he undressed he was conscious of a curious sense of reminiscence which he had never experienced before. His brain was not only perfectly clear, but almost abnormally active, and yet the current of his thoughts appeared to be turned backward instead of forward. The things of his own life, the life that he was then living, seemed to drift behind him. The facts which he had learned in his long and minute study of Egyptian history came up in his mind, no longer as facts learned from books and monuments, wall-paintings, and hieroglyphics, but as living entities. He seemed to know, not by memory, but of immediate knowledge. It was the difference between the reading of the story, say, of a battle, and actually taking part in it. He got into bed, and turned over on his right side, saying:
"Well, this is all very extraordinary. I wonder what it all means? Thank goodness, I am sleepy enough, and sleep is the best of all medicines. I should not wonder if I were to dream of Memphis again to-night. A wonderfully beautiful mummy that, quite unique—and Nitocris, too. Good-night, Nitocris, my royal mistress that might have been! Good-night!"
BACK TO THE PAST
The City of a Hundred Kings, vast and sombre, stretched away into the dim, soft distance of the moonlit night to right and left and far behind him. In front lay the broad, smooth, silver-gleaming Nile, then approaching its full flood-time, and looking like a wide, shining road out of the shadows through the light and into the shadows again—symbol of the visible present coming invisibly out of the domains of the past, and fading away into the still more hazy domain of the unknown future. Symbol, too, in its countless ripples under the fresh north wind, of the generations of Man drifting endlessly down the Stream of Time.
He was standing in the dark shadows of a huge pylon at one end of the broad white terrace of the palace of Pepi in Memphis—he, Ma-Rimōn, Priest of Amen-Ra and Initiate of the Higher Mysteries.
Nitocris was standing beside him with her hands clasped behind her and her head slightly thrown back, and as she gazed out over the river the moonlight fell full on the white loveliness of her face and into the dark depths of her eyes, where it seemed to lose itself in the dusk that lay deep down in them, a dusk like the shadow of a soul in sorrow.
He looked upon her face, and saw in it a beauty and a mystery deeper even than the beauty and the mystery of the Egyptian night as it was in those old days—the face of a fair woman, a riddle of the gods which men might go mad in seeking to read aright, and yet never learn the true meaning of it.
The silence between them had been long and yet so solemn in its wordless meaning that he had not dared to break it. Then at length she spoke, moving only her lips, her body still motionless and her eyes still gazing at the stars, or into the depths beyond them.
"Can it be true, Ma-Rimōn? Can the gods indeed have permitted such a thing to be? Can the All-Father have given His Chief Minister to be the instrument of such a foul crime and monstrous impiety as this?"
And he replied, slowly and sadly:
"Yes, it is true, Nitocris, true that thou art now Queen in the land by the will of the great Rameses; and true also it is that the shade of Nefer is now waiting in the halls of Amenti till his murderers shall be sent by the hand of a just vengeance into the presence of the Divine Assessors."
"Ah yes, vengeance," she replied, turning towards him with a gasp in her voice, "that must come; but whose hand shall cast the spear or draw the bow? We claim kinship with the gods, but we are not the gods, and what mortal hand could avenge a crime like this?"
"A woman's hand is soft and a woman's lips are sweet, yet what so cruel or so merciless in all the world as a woman? As there is nothing liker Heaven than a woman's love, so there is nothing liker Hell than a woman's hate. So saith the Ancient Wisdom, O Nitocris; and therefore, as thou hast loved Nefer the Prince, so shalt thou also hate Menkau-Ra and Anemen-Ha, his murderers and the destroyers of his promised happiness."
She shivered as he spoke, not with cold, for the breath of that perfect night was well nigh as soft as her touch and as warm as her own breath. She turned swiftly and laid her hand on his shoulder. Her touch was as light as the falling of the rose-leaves in the gardens of Sais, yet he trembled under it, and his face, which had been as pale as her own before, flushed darkly red as she looked into his eyes.
"You—yes, you, Ma-Rimōn, you too love me, do you not—truly? The stars are the eyes of the gods: they are looking on you. Tell me, do you love me? Does your blood throb in your veins when I touch you? Does your heart beat quicker when you come near me? Are your ears keener for my voice than for that of any other woman—tell me?"
His hands went up and clasped hers as they lay on his shoulders. He took her right hand and pressed it to his heart, and laid her left hand on his cheek. Then he let them fall. He stepped back, bowed his head, and said:
"The Queen is answered!"
"Not the Queen, but the woman, Ma-Rimōn, and as a woman loves to be answered. And now the woman shall speak. Nefer is dead, yet is not Nefer re-incarnated in another form, another man of another build, but yet Nefer that was—and is beside me now?"
She whispered these words very softly and very distinctly, and as the words came rippling out from between her half-smiling lips, she took half a pace forward and looked up into his face.
"Not dead—Nefer—I!" he exclaimed, starting back. "Have not the Paraschites done their work on his body? Is not his mummy even now resting in the City of the Dead? How can it be? Surely, Nitocris, thou art dreaming."
"And hast thou, a priest and sage, standing on the threshold of the Holy Mysteries, hast thou not learned the law which tells thee how, with the permission of the Divine Assessors, the souls of the dead may come back from the halls of Amenti to do their bidding in other mortal shapes? And what if they should have ordained that his soul should have thus returned?
"Thou, who art so like him that while he was yet alive mortal eyes could scarce distinguish the one from the other. May it not be that the gods, who foresee all things, made thee in the same image, perchance to this very end?"
"No, the riddle is too deep for me, even as that other riddle which I read in thy eyes, O Queen!"
"Let thy love help thee to read it, then!" she replied, coming to him and putting her hands on his shoulders again. "Tell me now, Ma-Rimōn, what wouldst thou do if thy soul were now waiting in the land of Aalu and the soul of Nefer was listening to me with thine ears, and looking at me with thine eyes?"
"And if thou——"
"Yes, and if I too believed that this were so?"
He saw the sweet, red, smiling lips coming nearer to him, and felt the soft breath on his bare throat. He saw the deep eyes melting into tenderness as the moonlight shone upon them, and in the pale olive cheeks a faint flush swiftly deepened.
"Nefer or Ma-Rimōn, I am mortal," he said, swiftly catching her wrists and drawing her towards him. "I am flesh and blood. I am man, and thou art woman—and I love thee! I love thee! Ah, how sweet thy kisses are! Now let the gods bless or curse, for never could they take away what thou hast given—and for it I will give thee all. All that has been, and is, and might have been! Priest and sage, Initiate of the Mysteries, what are they to me now! O Nitocris, my queen and my love! Sooner would I live through one year of bliss with thee than an eternity in the Peace of the Gods itself!"
The words of blasphemy came hot and fast between his kisses, and she heard them unresisting in his arms, giving him back kiss for kiss, and looking into his eyes under the dark lashes which half-hid hers; and so Ma-Rimōn, the youthful Initiate of the Holy Mysteries, became in that moment a man, and so he began to learn the long lesson which teaches to what heights and depths a woman who has loved and hated can rise and fall for the sake of her love and her hate.
"And now, my Nefer," she went on, throwing her clinging arms round his neck again, "now, good-night! Go and dream of me as I will dream of thee, and remember that, though mortals may plan, the gods decide. We may try to paint the picture, but the outline is drawn by their hands and may not be changed by ours. But, so far as this matter is concerned, I swear by the Veil of Isis, by these sacred kisses of ours, and by the Uraeus Crown of the Three Kingdoms, that, rather than be sold as a priceless chattel to grace the triumph of Menkau-Ra, I will give myself, as others did in the old days, to be the bride of Father Nile. Remember that, and remember, too, that, whatever the outward seeming of things may be, I am thine and thou art mine, as it was, and is, and shall be, until the Peace of all Things shall come."
* * * * *
Then the dream-vision changed from moonlight to sunlight, from night to morning; for it was the dawn of the day that was to see, as all men believed, the gorgeous ceremony of the nuptials of the daughter of Rameses with Menkau-Ra, the Mohar, chief of the House of War and mightiest of all the warriors of the Land of Khem, now that Rameses had passed from the black banks of the Nile to the shores of Amenti, and his mummy was waiting the summons of the High Gods which should recall it to life in the fulness of time and the dawn of the Everlasting Peace.
Never had even the Land of Khem seen a fairer dawn. The East shone in silver, blushed into amethyst, and flamed in gold as the Restorer of all things rose bright and glorious in sudden splendour over the City of the White Wall. Standing on the flat roof of the temple of Ptah, he looked about him in the first flush of this morning which had just dawned, big with fate, not only for him and his beloved, but also for the Land of Khem, and perchance for the world.
The great river was spreading its annual blessings over the land. The waters were broadening out into wide shining sheets, and the slow, soft music of their rippling was stealing along the great water-walls of the temples and palaces which formed the river-front of Memphis. Only a week ago the victorious armies of Khem had brought their spoils and their prisoners across the eastern frontier. There had been fruit, bread, and flesh, and wine for the poor, and banquets of royal lavishness for those who could claim right of entry into the sacred circle which enclosed the Throne, the Temple, and the camp of the victorious warrior.
For days he had heard the name of Menkau-Ra the Conqueror shouted up to the heavens by the crowds that had thronged the streets and the market-places, and, mingled with it, he had also heard the name of the girl-queen whose arms had been about his neck, and whose lips he had kissed the night before, and he knew that even now the people were asking why the Conqueror should not wed the daughter of Rameses, and become the father of a line of even greater and yet mightier Pharaohs.
He had heard their cries calmly and without anger, for he knew that that one stolen hour of sweet intercourse with her meant much more than the Conqueror himself could win—something that could not be taken by force, or even through the will of the dead king. Her soul was his, and he knew well that the man to whom she had not given her soul would never be permitted to lay a loving hand on her body.
"Ah yes, there he comes, I suppose," he went on, still talking aloud to himself, as a shrill musical peal of silver trumpets broke out from the direction of the barracks to the north of the palace. "Alas! were I but truly Nefer! That golden-crowned murderer—for sure I am that he killed him—he would not now be making ready for his triumph at the head of his victorious troops through the streets and squares of Memphis. If that were so, how glad a day this would be for Egypt and for us!"
But, as the Divine Assessors willed it, there was no triumph that day in Memphis. The sun had hardly risen to a level with the topmost wall of the Rameseum before messengers were sent out from the palace bearing the tidings that Nitocris the Queen had been stricken with a sudden malady, and that all festivities were to be deferred till the next day at the earliest.
That night, when the moon was sinking low down in the west towards the dark hills of the Libyan Desert, and the Isis Star was glowing palely like an expiring lamp hung high above the brightening eastern earth-line, he saw her muffled form gliding ghost-like towards him as he stood waiting for her on the terrace. She was clad like the meanest of her serving-maids, just as a common slave-wench who had stolen out to meet a lover of her own sort might have been. When she came within a pace of him, he held his arms out. She put hers out too, and for a moment they looked in silence into each other's eyes, and then she, seeing that the kiss which she expected did not come, parted her lips and said smilingly:
"You need not fear to kiss them, dearest, they have not yet been polluted by the lips of Menkau-Ra, although all the city has been hailing him as the betrothed of Nitocris."
Then he smiled too, and their lips met in such a long, silent kiss as only lovers give and take.
"Thy words are almost as sweet as thy kisses are, O Nitocris!" he said, "for I would sooner see thee—yes, I would sooner see thee in the hands of the Paraschites—this lovely body of thine dead—knowing that thy soul was waiting for mine on the shores of Amenti, than I would know that those sweet lips had been defiled by the touch of such as he; and yet surely thou hast spoken with him. Did he not claim the fulfilment of the promise of the great king?"
"Ah yes," she replied softly, as she slipped out of his arms, "but it is one thing to claim and another to get. Yes, I have spoken with him. I have promised all, and given nothing. I have not even yielded my hand to his lips, for I told him in answer to all the entreaties of his love—and of a truth I tell thee that he loves me very dearly, for that great, strong frame of his shook like a bulrush in the wind under the breath of my lightest words—that, until the last vows had made us man and wife, I would be his queen and he should be my subject and my slave, even as he was of the great Rameses; and with this he was fain to be content, thinking, no doubt, how soon he would be my lord and master, and I his—his queen and plaything, bound by the law that may not be broken, to submit to every varying whim and humour of his passion."
"Thy master, Nitocris! Thine! Such shame could never be. Rather would the High Gods permit Death to be the Master of Life, or Night to be Lord of Day. Is there no other way?"
"Yes, there is another way, and only one to save me, Nefer—if truly the soul of my beloved is looking out of thine eyes into mine," she whispered, coming close to him and laying her hands lightly upon his shoulders, "there is another way, but it is the way that leads through the mystery of the things that are into the deeper mystery of the things that are to be—the way of death and vengeance. Tell me, my beloved, hast thou the courage to tread it with me?"
The lovely face, the pleading lips, the searching eyes were close to his. He could feel the soft contact of her body, even her fluttering heartbeats answering his. It was the moment of the supreme test, the parting of the ways—to the heights whose pinnacles reach to the heaven of Perfect Knowledge, or to the abysses whose lowest depths are the roof of hell; for there is but one heaven and one hell, and their names are Knowledge and Ignorance.
There lay the fulfilment of his vows, the renunciation of the lower life with all its potent witcheries of the senses, with all its exquisite delights and glittering prizes, fame and honours, power and wealth, and, dearest of all, the love of woman.
Here, clasped in his arms, stood Nitocris, her hands still resting lightly on his shoulders, her head lying on his breast, her eyes upturned, the star-beams swimming in their luminous depths.
"Nefer, beloved, answer me!"
The stars grew dim, and the solid floor of the terrace shook under his feet. He bent his head and laid his lips upon hers.
"Thou art answered, O Nitocris—even unto death and the life beyond!"
Her lips returned his kisses—kisses that were curses—and then for many minutes they conversed in hurried whispers. At last she slipped out of his arms and left him, his lips burning from the clinging touch of hers, and his heart cold with a fear that was greater than the fear of death.
He clasped his hands to his temples and looked up at the coldly shining Isis Star, and through the silence there came to his soul in the speech that is never heard by the ears of flesh the fateful words:
"Once only is it given to mortals to look into the eyes of Isis. He who looks and turns his gaze aside has found and lost."
THE DEATH-BRIDAL OF NITOCRIS
The day of the bridal of Nitocris the Queen with Menkau-Ra the Conqueror had come and gone in a blaze of golden splendour. In all the Upper and Lower Lands no head was held so proudly as the head of Menkau-Ra, no heart beat so high as his that day, nor did any cheek bloom so sweetly, or any eyes shine so brightly as the cheeks and the eyes of Nitocris—so strange are the workings of a woman's heart, and so far are its mysteries past finding out.
And now the bridal feast was spread in the great banqueting hall which Pepi the Wise had made deep down in the foundations of his palace below the waters of the Nile at flood-time, and at midnight the waters would be at the full. It was here that Nitocris had sat at the betrothal feast with Nefer but a few hours before his death, for here he had drunk from the poisoned cup which Anemen-Ha the High Priest had prepared, and here only would Nitocris meet her guests.
The great hall shone with the light of a thousand golden lamps, which shed their radiance and the perfume from the scented oils in which were dissolved the most precious gums of the distant East.
The long tables, spread with snowy linen and loaded with vessels of gold and silver and glass of many hues and curious forms, flashed and glittered in the glow of the thousand flames. The vineyards of Cos and Sais had yielded their oldest and sweetest wines, red and purple and golden. The choicest meats and the rarest fruits that ripened under the glowing suns of Khem—all was there that could make glad the heart of man and fill his soul with contentment.
At the centre of the table, which stood on a raised platform in front of the great black pedestal of the Colossus of Pepi, Nitocris the Queen sat in her chair of ivory and gold, clad in almost transparent robes of the finest silk of Cos, shining with gems, and crowned with the Uraeus Snake, and the double diadem of the Two Lands.
On her right sat Menkau-Ra, crowned and robed in royal vesture, and on her left Anemen-Ha in his priestly garments of snowy linen. At the other tables sat their friends and kindred, the families of the Mohar and the High Priest, the chief officers of the victorious army and all the proud hierarchy of the Temple of Ptah, for was not this the triumph of Anemen-Ha no less than of Menkau-Ra?
Only Ma-Rimōn was absent. He had disappeared from the temple early in the morning, and no one had given a thought to his going, for one base-born, even though of royal blood, had no place at the bridal feast of the Queen and her chosen consort.
The libations had been poured out to the Lords and Ladies of Heaven—to Ptah the Beginner, and Ra the Lord of Day, to Sechet the Lady of Love and War, and Necheb the Bringer of Victory; and when the slaves had carried round the viands till all were satisfied, the guests were crowned with garlands, and the jars of the oldest and choicest wines were broached. The feast was ended, and the revel was about to begin.
The last half of the last hour of the night was well-nigh spent, and while the guests were waiting for the signal from the royal table, the Queen rose in her place, and, in the silence that greeted her, her voice sounded sweetly as she spoke and said:
"O my guests—ye who are the holiest and the bravest in the Land of Khem, though our hearts are joyful, and our souls refreshed with wine and good cheer, let us not forget the pious customs and wise ways of our ancestors, for it is fitting that in such hours as this our hearts should be turned from pride by the remembrance that we live ever in the presence of death, and that this world is but the threshold of the next. Ill, too, would it become me to forget, in the midst of my present happiness, to pay the honour due to him who might have shared this crown with me; wherefore let the noble dead be brought into our midst, so that the soul of Nefer, looking down from the flowery fields of Aalu, may see that in the hour of our joy we do not forget the sorrow of his untimely death."
Then she clapped her hands, and Menkau-Ra and Anemen-Ha shifted in their seats, and looked at each other with eyes of evil meaning as six slaves appeared at the lower end of the hall, bearing upon their shoulders the mummy-case of Nefer, the dead Prince, beloved of Nitocris. Now low, sad music sounded from a hidden source, and to the cadence of this the slaves marched slowly round the tables, followed by the eyes of the silenced and sobered guests. Then they stopped in front of the Queen's seat, and she said:
"Let the case be set up against the central pillar yonder, and let the face of the Prince be uncovered, that I may look upon him who was to have been my lord."
"But if I may speak, Royal Egypt," said Anemen-Ha, the chief of the House of Ptah, leaning towards her, "that would be beyond the law of the gods and the customs of the land. To look on the face of the dead were defilement for thee and us."
"Yet this once it shall be done, O Priest of the Father of the Gods," answered Nitocris, turning and looking into his eyes, "for last night I had a vision, and I saw the soul of Nefer come back to his mummy, here in this hall, at my bridal feast, and his eyes opened, and his lips spoke, and made plain to me many things that I greatly longed to know. But why shouldst thou turn pale and tremble, thou the holiest man in the land? What hast thou to fear, even if my vision came true? And thou, too, Menkau-Ra the Mighty, hast thou slain thy thousands, and yet fearest to look upon the face of one dead man? See, see!" and she pointed her finger at the face of the mummy. "By the power of the just and merciful gods, my vision shall be made very truth indeed! Look, Anemen-Ha, Priest of the God who is King of Gods! Look, Menkau-Ra, thou who wouldst reign in the place of Nefer. Behold, he has come back from the bosom of Osiris to greet thee!"
With eyes fixed and ears sharpened by such terror as only the sin-steeped soul can know, they saw the waxen eyelids of the mummy slowly rise, the dim, glazed eyes look out from underneath them, the dry, black lips move, and heard a thin, harsh voice say through the awful silence:
"Greeting, Nitocris, my Queen—greeting from the gloom of Amenthes, where I have waited too long for those who ere now should have stood with me in the Halls of Doom and the presence of the Assessors! Say now, thou who sittest feasting between my murderers, how much longer must I wait for thee and them?"
Not long, O Nefer, my beloved, not long! Tarry yet a little while, O outraged soul, in the shape that once was thine, and thou shalt see thyself avenged. Lo, I hear the wings of Kefa, Goddess of the Flood-time, rustling in the silence of the midnight skies. She herself shall pour out a libation to thine injured shade! "Nay, nay, my lords, and you good friends of those who did my own true lord to death, sit still, and drain a farewell cup with me, your Queen. It is too late to fly, for every way is closed. The High Gods have spoken, and I will do their bidding!" Then, extending her white, jewelled arms toward the mummy, she cried in a deeper, harsher tone: "O Nefer, my Prince and my love! There lives no man in Khem who shall take thy place beside me, or usurp the throne that should have been thine. I have sinned, but I repent me of the wrong. Lo, now I come and bring thee a goodly sacrifice to cheer thine angry heart—my lord, my love, I come!"
Held by the triple spell of guilt and fear and wonder, they listened to these terrible words in silence, white horror sitting on their blanching cheeks and brows.
As she ceased she raised her arms above her head, a golden cup full-crowned between her glittering hands. A moment she held it aloft, then dashed it to the floor, and cried in a voice that rang like the laughter of devils through the awful silence:
"Come, Kefa, come, and bear me to my lord!"
The goddess answered in a mighty rush and roar of waters, long pent and swiftly loosed. Then above the tumult rose the hoarse shouts of men and the shrill screams of women, and the crash and clash of tables overturned; then came the swirl and bubbling hiss of a flood that gleamed darkly under the golden lamps and swiftly rose towards them, bearing upon its surface white arms with outstretched hands gripping at the empty air, and gauzy robes which half hid gleaming limbs, white faces with wildly-staring eyes, and teeth that grinned between tight-drawn lips so lately smiling; strong swimmers fighting for another moment's breath, and one by one dragged down by many hidden hands: then the sharp hiss of swift-quenched flames, then darkness, and the stifling of sobbing groans into silence, and after that only the sibilant undertone of waters rushing swiftly past smooth walls through utter night.
* * * * *
"Dear me!" the Professor heard himself say as he sat up and rubbed his eyes, "what on earth can be the matter with me? Egypt—the Queen—Palace of Pepi—bridal feast of Nitocris and Menkau-Ra—yes, yes, of course I remember it all now. She made me impersonate Nefer in the mummy-case, and then, when she had frightened her guests half out of their wits, she avenged her lover by opening the sluice-gates and drowning the lot, herself included. A rare device, that of old Pepi's, for getting rid of hospitably entertained enemies. Not quite in accordance with our modern ideas of sport, I'm afraid, but in those days we thought a good deal more of effectiveness than sport. Good heavens! What sort of nonsense am I talking? Dreaming, I suppose."
He stopped as the reflection of a brilliant flash of lightning lit up his window, and bursts of rain dashed upon the panes.
"Ah yes, of course, that's it! Quite in accordance with the theory of dreams. It's only the difference between a thunder-shower and the Nile flood. The Genius of Dreams could easily account for the rest. Certainly this apparatus that we call our brain plays some very curious tricks with us sometimes. I suppose this is one of them. And yet if ever there was a dream that seemed like reality that one did. The Mummy and the long-dead Nitocris back to life! By the way, I wonder whether that flagon was really there, and whether there was any wine in it? If there was, perhaps I took too much of it. Ah, there's the rain again!
"By the way now, suppose that this fourth dimension that has puzzled so many of us is, after all, duration? If so, it would solve a great many problems, because it would be possible to be and not to be at the same time, and, therefore, for two bodies to occupy the same space. That would be perfectly easy of supposition to the being to whom time and eternity were one. Yes, I believe that when the great problem is solved, it will be found that the fourth dimension is duration, extending in all directions like the circumference of a circle, the edges of a cube, and the curves of the conic sections.
"Yes, I really do think I have got it at last, and that confounded Mummy has taught it me. Still, I don't think I ought to speak as disrespectfully as that of a young lady who has been dead for the last fifty centuries or so and has come back. Yes, that is it. It is duration."
Perfectly satisfied for the time being with this solution, he turned over on to his right side—for, to his disgust, he found that he had been lying on his back, a most pernicious position where dreaming is concerned—and went to sleep. Half an hour later he was awakened by another heaven-shaking crash of thunder.
THIEVES IN THE NIGHT
This time he was very much awake. In fact, his sense of wakefulness seemed almost superhuman. His faculties were preternaturally alert, and he had a feeling of what might properly be called mental extension—it was not exaltation—- which seemed to widen his mental vision enormously. Problems which had puzzled him to desperation suddenly became as obvious as the first axioms of geometry. In short, he felt as though he had become a new man, re-born, or re-incarnated, into another world which contained the one he had so far lived in, but which was infinitely vaster in some undefined way which was not yet plain to him.
He lay for some time thinking over the extraordinary happenings of the evening and his dream, which he remembered with astonishing exactness of detail. Then a sudden turn of thought carried his mind to the subject of miracles, apparitions, ghosts, and mathematical impossibilities such as squaring the circle and doubling the cube—and to his amazement he found that the impossible of yesterday had become the possible—nay, the almost absurdly obvious of to-night.
He went on thinking and wondering until he began to half-believe that he was dreaming again, so he got up and switched on the electric light. Then he turned involuntarily towards the wardrobe, which, as usual, had a long mirror running down the middle of it. To his amazement he did not see himself reflected in it. The mirror seemed to have vanished, and in its place was a window looking into his study.
He saw the mummy-case leaning up against the wall, but it was empty. In front of it stood a man and a woman. Both were plainly, almost meanly, dressed; the man in a tightly-buttoned black frock-coat and baggy grey trousers; the woman in a plain gown of dark stuff, and a shawl which was draped round her head and shoulders in somewhat Eastern fashion.
He could see their faces distinctly in profile. They were of the classic Coptic type which so persistently reproduces the features of the old Egyptians as we see them outlined in the wall-paintings of the temples and the half-mutilated carvings and statues. The window of the study was open, but the door was shut; so was the door of his own room, but for all that he distinctly heard the man say to the woman in Coptic, which, curiously enough, sounded as familiar to his ears as the faces seemed to his eyes:
"Neb-Anat, it is gone! These heathen ravishers have not been content with stealing the body of our Queen from its sacred resting-place and bringing it here, whither we have traced it with so much labour. See, it has been stolen again; hidden, no doubt, so that the servants of the King could not find it. It may be that even we have been suspected and watched, in spite of all our care. Yet it must be found, or the doom that may not be revoked will be ours."
"Even so, Pent-Ah," replied the woman in a soft, musical voice which well suited the comeliness of her face; "but though the priceless treasure has been taken from its casket, it cannot have been carried out of the house, for you know that every approach has been watched closely since it was brought here. Come, in this house it must be, and to find it is our task. Every one is asleep; take off thy shoes and let us search."
She took off her own shoes as she spoke, and he saw the man do the same. Then, as the man opened the door and they passed out of the study, the picture vanished from the mirror.
Amazement at what he had seen and heard—the disappearance of the Mummy, the presence of the man and woman, evidently charged with what they believed to be the sacred mission of stealing it back again, and their evident purpose of searching the house for it—instantly gave place to a quick thrill of fear.
His daughter's bedroom was on the same floor as the study, only a couple of doors away round the corner of the landing. These people would search every room. What if she had not locked her door securely, or if they had some means of opening it? She was the living image of the dead Nitocris. He did not dare to think of what might happen to her. Would these new-found, strangely-given powers of his suffice to protect her? If not, he would have but little use for them, since she was his nearest and dearest on earth.
He pulled his stockings over the pants of his pyjamas and put on his velvet working jacket, forgetting for the moment that, if these things were true, it would be perfectly easy for him to make himself invisible to beings in the ordinary world of three dimensions. Then he turned out the light, opened the door very softly, and crept downstairs.
Yes, what he had seen was true. He heard the soft, shuffling patter of stockinged feet along the landing, though he could see nothing in the dark. A door opened gently. His sense of location told him that it was the door of the spare bedroom next but one to the study. He felt his way silently and softly along the wall, and as he did so his hand touched the electric switch. Should he turn the light on and alarm the house? Whoever was there had "broken and entered" after midnight, and was therefore outside the law. No, he would not do that. If what he had seen was true, the intruders believed that their mission was a sacred one. No doubt the man was armed, and perhaps the woman also, and what would a knife-stab mean to them on such a desperate quest?
As these thoughts ran at lightning speed through his mind, he saw a faint glow inside the room. He crept forward and looked round the side of the doorway. The man had a little electric lamp in his hand and was flashing the slender rays all over the room. He drew his head back quickly as he heard him say:
"There is nothing here, Anat. Come, let us try the next room. Neither lock nor bolt nor even human life must stand in the way of our search now that we have begun it!"
He heard them coming towards the door. Instinctively he shrank back, and his heart stood still as he thought of what would happen if the man chanced to turn the little ray of his lamp on him. Almost involuntarily his thoughts went back to the promise of Queen Nitocris, and something like a prayer that it might be kept rose to his lips.
They came out, and the man flashed the thin electric ray up and down the passage. It wavered hither and thither, and at last fell directly on his face. He was anything but a coward, but he was thinking of Niti—and what if a knife-stab left her undefended? But to his amazement, although they were both looking straight at him, the expression of neither face changed in the slightest. They had not seen him. The Queen had answered his prayer. He was no longer in the world of three dimensions, and so he was invisible to all dwellers in it. For him, then, there was evidently no danger—but Niti——?
They moved along to the next door. That was hers. The woman put her hand on the knob and turned it. To his horror, the door opened. She had forgotten to lock it. They both crept in, and he followed them boldly enough now, knowing what he did. The ray leapt rapidly about the room till it fell on the bed with its pale blue silken coverlet, and then on the pillow, on which rested the head of the sleeping, breathing image of the long-dead Queen.
With a half-stifled gasp the man shrank back and dropped the lamp, and the Professor heard him say to the woman in a shuddering whisper:
"By the High Gods, Neb-Anat, it is a miracle! Do you not see her? It is she—the Queen—alive again, as the ancient prophecy said she should be. What magic have these heathens used?"
"Yes," replied the woman, whispering lower, "truly it is the Queen, and she is alive and sleeping—no doubt passing from the sleep of death through the sleep of life to life again. Now, O Pent-Ah, is our task much harder, yet will its accomplishment be all the more glorious for you and me, and greatly will our Lord reward us if we can restore to his keeping, not the ravished mummy of Nitocris, but the Queen herself, warm and breathing and beautiful, as she was in the ancient days of the great Rameses."
"I'll be hanged if you do!" said the Professor to himself, "not, at least, if Her Majesty's legacy to me is worth anything. Abduct my daughter at the dead of night, would you, you scoundrels? We'll see about that. If you don't leave this house as thoroughly frightened as ever you were in your lives, I know nothing about the fourth dimension."
Meanwhile he heard them both groping about the floor after the lamp. The woman found it, and pressed the button. The ray fell on the man's face, and he saw that the olive of his skin had turned to a ghastly grey. His eyes were wide open, and his mouth and nostrils were working with intense excitement. Then the woman turned the ray on Niti's face again.
"They will wake her if this goes on much longer," said the Professor to himself again. "I had better stop this little comedy before it becomes a tragedy. Poor Niti would go half mad if she found these two scoundrels by her bedside—and yet if I do anything out of the way they will yell. Ah, I think I have it!"
He walked softly out of the room, and when he got into the passage he whispered in the tongue that had become so strangely familiar to him:
"Pent-Ah, Neb-Anat, come hither instantly! Who are you that you should disturb the slumbers of your Lady the Queen!"
He saw them stare at each other with eyes wide with fear and wonder.
"It is the command of the Mighty One," whispered the woman, taking hold of the man's hand and drawing him towards the door.
"And He must be obeyed," said he in reply, bowing his head and following her.
They closed the door very softly behind them.
The Professor could not repress a sigh of thankfulness for Niti's escape from what, at best, would have been a very terrible fright.
"And now, my friends," he went on to himself, "I think I can teach you not to come into an English gentleman's house again with an idea of stealing his property, to say nothing of abducting his daughter."
The man and woman were still staring at each other by the light of the lamp, each holding each other's trembling hand, when the lamp was suddenly snatched away from the woman and went out. Then, to their horror, the ray shot out again in front of them as though the lamp were floating by itself in the air. It flashed from face to face, both ghastly with fear. Then an invisible hand gripped the man's, and drew him with irresistible force along the passage. The woman grasped his coat, and followed with shuffling feet and shaking limbs, dumb with wonder and fear. The hand led them down the passage, round the corner, and into the study. Then it released them. They heard the door shut and the key turn in the lock. Then there was a click, and the electric cluster above the writing-table shone out, apparently of its own volition. The woman uttered a low scream, and cowered down in a corner of a big sofa that stood by the bay-window. The man, after one terrified glance round the room, began to creep towards the open sash; but the invisible hand gripped him by the collar and pulled him back. His trembling knees gave way under him, and he rolled in a heap on the floor.
Then, to his wondering horror, he saw a stout blackthorn stick which was standing in a corner of the room, jump up into the air and leap towards him. He put his head down on to the carpet, covered his eyes with his hands, and began to moan with terror. The stick came down with what seemed to him superhuman force again and again on his back and shoulders. He whimpered and moaned, and at last howled with pain. He rolled over and looked up, and there was the stick hanging in the air above him. He put up his hands clasped as though in prayer, and down it came on his knuckles. He did not howl this time. His hands unclasped and dropped beside him; his head went back, and he fainted in sheer terror.
"There, my friend," said the Professor aloud, forgetting the presence of the woman for the moment; "mummy or no mummy, I don't think you will come into this house again. And as for you, madam," he went on, "of course, I can't give you a hiding, so the sight of his punishment will have to be enough for you. Still, I think you have had enough of attempted mummy-stealing to last you some time."
The woman stared up into the vacancy out of which the voice came, her eyes dilated, and her lips trembling with the movement of her lower jaw. She saw a jug of water get up off the table and empty itself over her companion's face. Then she fainted, too.
When Pent-Ah came to himself and sat up, he saw an elderly gentleman, tall and erect as a man in the prime of life, standing over him with the blackthorn in one hand and the water-jug in the other.
"I am not going to ask what you two are doing here," he said sternly, "because I know already. If I called the police I could send you both to prison for house-breaking and attempted robbery; but I don't want any fuss, and perhaps you have been punished enough for the present. Ah, I see your accomplice is coming round. You came in by the window, I suppose. Now get out by it as quick as you can, and mind you keep your mouths shut as to what has happened to-night. If you don't," he went on, suddenly changing into Coptic, "beware of the anger of your Lord—of Him who never forgives!"
The man scrambled to his feet, whimpering:
"I go, Lord, I go, and my lips shall be silent as the lips of——"
He cast a frightened glance towards the mummy-case, and then, grasping the woman roughly by the arm, he dragged her towards the open window, saying:
"Come, Neb-Anat, come ere the wrath of our Lord consumes us!"
* * * * *
"Why, where's the Mummy, Dad?" said Miss Nitocris, as she came into her father's study just before breakfast the next morning, and looked in amazement at the empty case.
"Stolen, my dear, I am sorry to say," replied the Professor gravely. "Did you hear any noises in the house last night, or were you sleeping too soundly?"
"I seem to have an idea that I did," she said, "but only a dim one; I thought I only dreamt it. But did you, Dad? Do tell me all about it. What a horrible shame to steal that lovely Mummy! And it was so like me, too. I believe I should have got quite fond of it."
"Yes, dear," continued the Professor, speaking, as she thought, a little nervously. "There was a noise, and I heard it. I came down here and turned the light on. I found the window open and the Mummy gone—and that is all I can tell you about it."
ACROSS THE THRESHOLD
After breakfast Professor Marmion, according to his practice on fine days, lit his pipe, and went out for a stroll on the Common to put in a little hard thinking, while Miss Nitocris, after seeing to certain household matters, sat down in his study and read the papers, in order that she might be able to give him a synopsis of the world's news at lunch. He did not read the newspapers himself, except, perhaps, in the train, when he had nothing better to do. He took no interest in politics, for one thing, and he had still less interest in professional cricket and football, racing, and what is generally called sport. He had a fixed opinion that all the events happening in the world which really mattered, not even excepting the proceedings of learned societies and the criminal and civil Law Courts, could be adequately recorded on a couple of sheets of notepaper. In other words, he had an absolute contempt for everything that makes a newspaper sell, and therefore his daughter had very soon learnt to omit these fascinating items entirely.
Curiously enough, his mind seemed to be running on this subject of all things that morning. He had been reading an article in the Fortnightly on the growing sensationalism, and therefore the general decadence of the English Press a day or two before, and this had got connected up in his thoughts with the amazing happenings of the last twelve hours, and he asked himself what would happen if he were to give the narrative of his experiences in a letter to the Times, supported by the authority of his own distinguished and irreproachable name.
Certainly it would be the most sensational communication that had ever appeared in a newspaper. In a day or two, granted always that the Times had no doubts as to his sanity and printed the letter, the whole Press would be ablaze with it; Wimbledon would be besieged by reporters eager to see miracles; and then they would go away and write lurid articles, some about the miracles, if they saw them, and some about an absolutely new form of conjuring that he had invented. Then the scientific Press would take it up, and a very merry battle of wits would begin. He smiled gravely as he thought of the inkshed that would come to pass in a combat a l'outrance between the Three Dimensionists and the Four Dimensionists, and how the distinguished scientists on each side would hurl their ponderous thunderbolts of wisdom against each other.
Then there would be the religious folk to deal with, for naturally no theologian of any enterprise or self-respect could see a fight like that going on without taking a hand in it. The Churches, of course, had a monopoly of miracles, or at least the traditions of them. The Christian Scientists, blatantly, claimed to work them now, but their subjects died with disgusting regularity. So he quickly came to the conclusion that, if he were once to state in plain English that he could accomplish the seemingly impossible; that he, a mere mortal, could make himself independent of the ordinary conditions of time and space and break with impunity all the laws which govern the physical universe, he would simply make himself the centre of a vortex of frenzied disputation which would shake the social, religious, and scientific worlds to their foundations, and that would certainly not be a pleasant position for an eminent and respected scientist, who was already a certain number of years past middle age—to say nothing of the very real harm that might be done.
Of course, he could settle all the disputes instantly, and dazzle the whole world into the bargain by simply delivering a lecture, say, before the Royal Society, on the existence of a world of four dimensions, and then proving by ocular demonstration that it does exist; but what would happen then? Simply intellectual anarchy.
Every belief that man had held for ages would be negatived. For instance, if there is one dogma to which humanity has clung with unanimous consistency, it is to the dogma that two and two make four. What if he were to prove—as, of course, he could do now that this mysterious hand, outstretched through the mists of the far past, had led him across the horizon which divides the two states of Existence—that, under certain circumstances, they would also make three or five? What if he demonstrated that even the axioms of Euclid could, under different conditions, be both true and false at the same time?
No, the thought of overthrowing such a venerable authority and plunging the scientific world into a hopeless state of intellectual chaos sent a shudder through his nerves. He could not do it.
And yet it was only the bare, solid truth that he did possess these powers. The dream of the death-bridal of Nitocris might possibly have been nothing more than just a dream, or possibly the revival of an episode in a past existence; but the other experiences certainly were not. He had taken off his ring without unbending his finger. Yes, he could do it again now; it was just as easy as taking it off in the ordinary way. He certainly had not been dreaming when the Mummy had become Queen Nitocris and given him the wine. He could not have been mad or dreaming, because his daughter was there. The episode of the strange stealers who had come into his house—that too was real, for they had left their lamp and the man's shoes behind them, and the Mummy was gone!
He took a piece of string out of his pocket, tied the two ends, and then with the greatest ease tied another knot in the string without undoing the first.
A motor-car came humming along the road towards him, and he began to think what this place was like a thousand years before motors were heard of. That instant the motor vanished, and he found himself standing in a little glade surrounded by huge forest trees with not so much as a foot-track in sight. He made his way through the trees in what he remembered to be the direction of the road, and presently, through an opening avenue, he saw the sun glittering upon something moving, and heard voices; and then past the end of the avenue half a dozen armoured knights, followed by their squires and a string of men-at-arms guarding a covered waggon, and after these came a motley little crowd of travellers, some on horseback and some on foot, evidently taking advantage of the escort to protect them from robbers.
"Dear me!" said the Professor to himself, not without a little shiver of apprehension, "this is very interesting. I seem to have put myself back into the tenth century. Yes, that is certainly tenth-century armour that they're wearing. I mustn't let them see me, or there's no telling what they'd think of an elderly gentleman in a soft hat and a twentieth-century morning suit. But perhaps," he went on with his reasoning, "they can't see me at all. My condition is N to the fourth now. There's a thousand years between us; I forgot that. At any rate, I'll try it."
He walked quickly down the avenue, and stood by the side of the rugged path looking at the strange spectacle. No one took the slightest notice of him. And then a chill of awful loneliness struck him. Although he could see and move and hear, and, no doubt, eat and drink in this world, he was unexistent as regards the inhabitants of it, and yet he knew perfectly well he was standing by the side of the road where the motor-car ought to be, and over there, a few hundred yards away, Niti would be sitting in her room or walking in the garden—and she wouldn't be born for nearly a thousand years yet.
It was certainly somewhat disquieting, this power of living in two existences and different ages, but it was a matter that would take some little time to get accustomed to.
The next instant the cavalcade and the forest had vanished, and there was the motor-car, just spinning past him. He was on the Wimbledon Common of the twentieth century once more. He stroked his clean-shaven chin with his finger and thumb, and walked slowly along the path by the side of the road, and then across the grass towards the flagstaff.
"I think I begin to see it now," he murmured. "Of course, life, that is to say real, intellectual, or, as some would say, spiritual life, is, after all, the coefficient of that totally unexplainable thing called thought which enables us to explain most things except itself. Time and space and location are only realities to us in so far that we can see them. A human being born blind, dumb, deaf, and without feeling would still, I suppose, be a human being, because it would be conscious of existence; it would breathe and know that its heart was beating, but without sight or sensation there could be no idea of space—time, to it, would be a meaningless series of breaths or heartbeats. Without touch or sight it could have no idea of form or size, which are merely conditions of space, and both the past and the future would be absolutely non-existent for it."
He paused, and walked on a little way in silence, arguing silently with himself as to the correctness of these premises. Then he began aloud again:
"Yes, I think that's about right. And now, suppose that such a being became endowed with the natural senses, one by one. It would go through all the processes of the physical and mental evolution of humanity until it reached the highest of human attributes—the ability to think, and therefore to reason. In other words, from a merely living organism it would, in the old Scriptural language, have become a living soul. That is, obviously, what the words in Genesis were really intended to mean. It would then become capable of development, of proceeding from the partly-known to the more fully known, until, granted perfect physical and mental health, it reached what are generally called the limits of human knowledge."
The Professor's thumb and finger went up to his chin again. He walked another two or three hundred yards in silence; then he recommenced his spoken argument with himself:
"Limits of human knowledge? Yes, that sounds all very well in ordinary language, but are there any? Who was it said that a man trying to reach those limits was like the child who saw a rainbow for the first time, and started out to find the place where it rested? The simile is not bad, not by any means. Just in the same way, we try to imagine the limits of time and space, and we can't do it. Only infinity of space and duration are possible, and yet we can't grasp them; still, they are the only possible states in which we can exist. And now, as I have had a glimpse of the past, I wonder what this place would be like in ten thousand years?
"Good heavens, how cold it is!" He shivered, and buttoned up his coat, and continued, looking about him on the vast snow-field dotted with hummocks of ice which lay bleak and lifeless about him: "Ah, I suppose either the Gulf Stream has got diverted, or the earth's axis has shifted and we are in another glacial epoch.
Again the shock of utter isolation struck him, but it seemed to hit him harder this time. The world that he had been born in lay ten thousand years behind him. For all he knew, he might be standing upon what was now the earth's North Pole. Civilisation, as he had known it, might have been wiped off the face of the earth, and the remnants of humanity flung back into savagery. He looked up at the sun, and saw that it was almost exactly where it had been, and that it had not perceptibly diminished in power.
The idea was not at all pleasant to him, and very naturally his thoughts turned back once more to his cosy home that had been on the edge of Wimbledon Common ten thousand years ago. He remembered, with a curious sort of thrill, some notes which he had to complete that morning for his lecture—and in the same instant he was walking back across the turf towards his house through the warm May sunshine.
"Yes," he said to himself, as he drew a deep breath of the sweet spring air. "I was right; that's it. The fourth dimension is a form of duration in some way correlated with space. I shall have to work that out in the light of the greater knowledge, which Her vanished Majesty has given me, and which I almost attained to in Egypt. Wherefore, existence in a state of four dimensions, or the world of N4, as I have always called it, is, roughly speaking, one. Time and space are, as it were, two sides of the same shield, and a person living in that world can see both of them at once. Wherefore, past, present, future, length, breadth, thickness, here and there are all the same thing to him. It's a great pity there isn't a fourth dimensional language as well, so that one could state these things a little more precisely. But that, of course, is out of the question.
"Really, I can hardly make myself understand it as far as words and phrases are concerned; still, there it is; and now the question arises: Having got this power, as I certainly have, of transferring myself from one existence to another by a mere effort of thought, because it is very evident that this power is really only an extension or an exaltation—confound the language of the third dimension—I can't say it! Although I understand what it is, it won't go into words. What am I to do with it? Its possibilities are, of course, a little appalling—that is to say, from the point of view of N3. I have not the slightest desire to shake the fabric of Society to pieces, as I could do, and still less have I taste for spending the rest of my scientific career in what the world would very easily believe to be conjuring tricks. I hope I am not going to be another of the unnumbered proofs of Solomon's wisdom when he said, 'Whoso getteth knowledge, getteth sorrow.' I wonder what sort of advice Her late Majesty of Egypt——
"Dear me, what nonsense I am talking! Her late Majesty? That won't do at all—she has reached the Higher Plane too, so, of course, she can't be dead——"
And then with the force of a powerful electric shock, the terrible fact struck him that, for those who had reached that plane, there was no death! Here was a new light on the weird problem which he had somehow been called upon to deal with.
"I wonder what Her Majesty would really think of it?" he murmured, after a few moments of mental bewilderment. "Dear me, who's that?"
He looked up, and, to his utter amazement, he saw Queen Nitocris, arrayed exactly as she had been on that terrible night of her bridal with Menkau-Ra, walking towards him; a perfect incarnation of beauty, but——
"Oh dear me!" said the Professor, "this will never do. Good heavens! everybody in Wimbledon knows me, and—well, of course, Her Majesty is very lovely and all that; but what on earth would people think if any one saw me strolling across the Common in company with an Egyptian Queen—to say nothing of the costume—and the image of my own daughter, too!"
The figure approached, and the Queen, dazzlingly and bewilderingly beautiful, held out her hands to him, and their eyes met and they looked at each other across the gulf of fifty centuries. Impelled by an irresistible impulse coming from whence he knew not, he clasped them in his, and said, apparently by no volition of his own, in the Ancient Tongue:
"Ma-Rimōn greets Nitocris, the Queen! What hath he done that he should be once more so highly honoured?"
At that moment a carriage came by along the road quite close to them. Two of its occupants were looking straight towards them. They passed without taking the slightest notice, as they must have done had they seen such a marvellous figure as that of the Queen. And then he remembered that, unless she willed it, no one in the world of N3 could see her, since it was for her, as it was for him now, to make herself visible or invisible as she chose to pass on to or beyond the lower Plane of Existence. These things were quickly becoming more plain to his comprehension, although, as will be readily understood, it was not a lesson to be learnt very easily.
"Welcome, Ma-Rimōn," replied the Queen, in a voice which filled him with many distant and strange memories, "but let there be no talk between us of honour, for in this state there is neither honour nor dishonour, neither ruler nor subject, neither good nor evil, since all these are absorbed in the Perfect Knowledge. Yet it is the will of the High Gods that I should help thee and guide thee in that new world whose threshold thou hast so lately crossed. It was my hand led thee from the path of Light to the path of Darkness, and for that I have paid the penalty as well as thou.
"For many ages, as time is counted in that other world, we have toiled, sometimes together, sometimes apart, sometimes in honour, sometimes in dishonour, yet ever struggling on to regain the heights which then we had so nearly won. The High Gods permitted me to reach them first, and therefore it was my hand which was stretched out to lead thee across the Border.
"Now, my message to thee is this: Thou hast powers which no other man living in that lower state possesses; see to it that they be used rightly. Forget not that in that other world sin and shame, oppression and misery, are as rife as, within the limits of time, they have ever been. Make it thy concern that the forces of evil shall be weaker and not stronger for the use of these powers to which thou hast attained.
"We shall meet often in that other world, and that living other-self of mine, thy daughter in the flesh and bearer of my name, through every moment of her time-life, I shall watch and guard her, for she, too—although she knows it not—is approaching the light never seen by the Eye of Flesh, and, though strange things should befall her, it will be for thee in that other state, knowing what thou dost in the Higher Life, to help me in this task as in others. Now, farewell, Ma-Rimōn," she said, holding out her hands again.
As he took them, they melted in his grasp, two lustrous eyes looked at him for a moment and grew dim, and he was once more alone on Wimbledon Common.
"I think I'll be getting home," he said, looking at his watch, and he turned and walked slowly with bent head and hands clasped behind his back to the house.
THE LAW OF SELECTION
In actual mundane time, to use a somewhat halting expression, Professor Marmion's walk had occupied about a couple of hours. His strange experiences had, of course, occupied none, since they had taken place beyond the bounds of Time.
Meanwhile, Miss Nitocris had finished her digest of the morning papers, given the cook a few directions, and then gone out on the lawn at the back of the house to have a quiet read and enjoy the soft air and sunshine of that lovely May morning. She lay down in a hammock chair in the shade of a fine old cedar at the bottom of the lawn, and began to read, and soon she began to dream. The news in the papers, even the most responsible of them, had been very serious. The shadow of war was once more rising in the East—war which, if it came, England could scarcely escape, and if it did Someone would have to go and fight in that most perilous of all forms of battle, torpedo attack.
The book she had taken with her was one of exceedingly clever verse written years before by just such another as herself; a girl, beautiful, learned, and yet absolutely womanly, and endowed, moreover, with that gift so rare among learned women, the gift of humour. Long ago, this girl had taken the fever in Egypt, and died of it; but before she died she wrote a book of poems and verses, which, though long forgotten—if ever known—by the multitude, is still treasured and re-read by some, and of these Miss Nitocris was one. Just now the book was open at the hundred and forty-third page, on which there is a portion of a poem entitled Natural Selection.
Miss Nitocris' eyes alternately rested on the page for a few moments and then lifted and looked over the lawn towards the open French windows. The verses ran thus:
"But there comes an idealless lad, With a strut, and a stare, and a smirk; And I watch, scientific though sad, The Law of Selection at work.
"Of Science he hasn't a trace, He seeks not the How and the Why, But he sings with an amateur's grace And he dances much better than I.
"And we know the more dandified males By dance and by song win their wives— 'Tis a law that with Aves prevails, And even in Homo survives."
"Just my precious papa's ideas!" she murmured, with a toss of her head, and something like a little sniff. "What a nuisance it all is! Aristocracy of intellect, indeed! Just as if any of us, even my dear Dad, if he is considered one of the cleverest and most learned men in Europe, were anything more than what Newton called himself—a little child picking up pebbles and grains of sand on the shore of a boundless and fathomless ocean, and calling them knowledge. I'm not quite sure that that's correct, but it's something like it. Still, that's not the question. How on earth am I to tell poor Mark? Oh dear! he'll have to be 'Mr Merrill' now, I suppose. What a shame! I've half a mind to rebel, and vindicate the Law of Selection at any price. Ah, there he is. Well, I suppose I've got to get through it somehow."
As she spoke, one of the French windows under the verandah opened, and a man in a panama hat, Norfolk jacket and knickerbockers, came out and raised his hat as he stepped off the verandah.
With a sigh and a frown she closed the book sharply, got up and tossed it into the chair. No daintier or more desirable incarnation of the eternal feminine could have been imagined than she presented as she walked slowly across the lawn to meet the man whom the Law of Selection had designated as her natural mate, and whom her father, for reasons presently to be made plain, had forbidden her to marry on pain of exile from his affections for ever.
The face he turned towards her as she approached was not exactly handsome as an artist or some women would have defined the word, but it was strong, honest, and open—just the sort of face, in short, to match the broad shoulders, the long, cleanly-shaped, athletic limbs, and the five feet eleven of young, healthy manhood with which Nature had associated it.
A glance at his face and another one at him generally would, in spite of the costume, have convinced any one who knows the genus that Mark Merrill was a naval officer. He had that quiet air of restrained strength, of the instinctive habit of command which somehow or other does not distinguish any other fighting man in the world in quite the same degree. His name and title were Lieutenant-Commander Mark Gwynne Merrill, of His Majesty's Destroyer Blazer, one of the coolest-headed and yet most judiciously reckless officers in the Service.
There was a light in his wide-set, blue-grey eyes, and a smile on his strong, well-cut lips which were absolutely boyish in their anticipation of sheer delight as she approached; and then, after one glance at her face, his own changed with a suddenness, which, to a disinterested observer, would have been almost comic.
"I'm awfully sorry, Mark," she began, in a tone which literally sent a shiver—a real physical shiver—through him, for he was very, very much in love with her.
"What on earth is the matter, Niti?" he said, looking at the fair face and downcast eyes which, for the first time since he had asked the eternal question and she had answered it according to his heart's desire, had refused to meet his. "Let's have it out at once. It's a lot better to be shot through the heart than starved to death, you know. I suppose it's something pretty bad, or you wouldn't be looking down at the grass like that," he continued.
"Oh, it's—it's—it's a beastly shame, that's what it is, so there!" And as she said this Miss Nitocris Marmion, B.Sc., stamped her foot on the turf and felt inclined to burst out crying, just as a milkmaid might have done.
"Which means," said Mark, pulling himself up, as a man about to face a mortal enemy would do, "that the Professor has said 'No.' In other words, he has decided that his learned and lovely daughter shall not, as I suppose he would put it, mate with an animal of a lower order—a mere fighting-man. Well, Miss Marmion——"
"Oh, don't; please don't!" she exclaimed, almost piteously, dropping into a big wicker armchair by the verandah and putting her hands over her eyes.
He had an awful fear that she was going to cry, and, as the Easterns say, he felt his heart turning to water within him. But her highly trained intellect came to her aid. She swallowed the sob, and looked up at him with clear, dry eyes.
"It isn't quite that, Mark," she continued. "You know I wouldn't stand anything like that even from the dear old Dad. Much as I love him, and even, as you know, in some senses almost worship him, it isn't that. It's this theory of heredity of his—this scientific faith—bigotry, I call it, for it is just the same to him as Catholicism was to the Spaniards in the sixteenth century. In fact, I told him the other night that he reminded me of the Spanish grandee whose daughters were convicted of heresy by the Inquisition, and who showed his devotion to the Church by lighting the faggots which burned them with his own hands."
"And what did he say to that?" said the sailor, not because he wanted to know, but because there was an awkward pause that needed filling.
"I would rather not tell you, Mark, if you don't mind," she said slowly and looking very straightly and steadily at him. "You know—well, I needn't tell you again what I've told you already. You know I care for you, and I always shall, but I cannot—I dare not—disobey my father. I owe all that I ever had to him. He has been father, mother, teacher, friend, companion—everything to me. We are absolutely alone in the world. If I could leave him for anybody, I'd leave him for you, but I won't disobey him and break his heart, as I believe I should, even for you."
"You're perfectly right, Niti, perfectly," said Commander Merrill, in a tone of steady conviction which inspired her with an almost irresistible impulse to get up and kiss him. "You couldn't honestly do anything else, and I know the shortest way to make you hate me would be to ask you to do that something else. But still," he went on, thrusting his hands into the pockets of his Norfolk jacket, "I do think I have a sort of right to have some sort of explanation, and with your permission I shall just ask him for one."
"For goodness' sake, don't do that, Mark—don't!" she pleaded. "You might as well go and ask a Jewish Rabbi why he wouldn't let his daughter marry a Christian. Wise and clever as he is in other things, poor Dad is simply a fanatic in this, and—well, if he did condescend to explain, I'm afraid you might mistake what he would think the correct scientific way of putting it, for an insult, and I couldn't bear to think of you quarrelling. You know you're the only two people in the world I—I—Oh dear, what shall I do!"
It was at this point that the Law of Natural Selection stepped in. Natural laws of any sort have very little respect for the refinements of what mortals are pleased to call their philosophy. Professor Marmion was a very great man—some men said he was the greatest scientist of his age—but at this moment he was but as a grain of sand among the wheels of the mighty machine which grinds out human and other destinies.
Commander Merrill took a couple of long, swift strides towards the chair in which Nitocris was leaning back with her hands pressed to her eyes. He picked her up bodily, as he might have picked a child of seven up, put her protesting hands aside, and slowly and deliberately kissed her three times squarely on the lips as if he meant it; and the third time her lips moved too. Then he whispered:
"Good-bye, dear, for the present, at any rate!"
After which he deposited her tenderly in the chair again, and, with just one last look, turned and walked with quick, angry strides across the lawn and round the semi-circular carriage-drive, saying some things to himself between his clenched teeth, and thinking many more.
A few yards outside the gate he came face to face with the Professor.
"Good-morning, sir," said Merrill, with a motion of his hand towards his hat.
"Oh, good-morning, Mr Merrill," replied the Professor a little stiffly, for relations between them had been strained for some considerable time now. "I presume you have been to the house. I am sorry that you did not find me at home, but if it is anything urgent and you have half an hour to spare——"