THE APE

Mrs. Andrews was certainly Athenian by nature, and it was her delight
not only to hear some new thing, but to put it into practice. Enjoying
excellent health, she was able to take almost any liberties with her
constitution, and for a long time was absorbed in the maelstrom of
diets, each of which seemed to suit her to perfection. For a couple of
months she adopted the Pembroke treatment, and droves of sheep were
sacrificed to supply her with sufficient minced mutton, while the utmost
resources of the kitchen boiler were needed to give her the oceans of
hot water which she found it necessary to drink all day except at meals.
Having obtained the utmost benefits derivable from this system, she
nourished her ample and vigorous frame, by way of a change, on pyramids
of grated nuts, carefully weighed out, and it cannot be doubted that she
would enthusiastically have fed herself on chopped-up hard-boiled egg,
like a canary, if she could have found any system of diet that
inculcated such a proceeding.

Her husband, for all his mild and apparently yielding disposition, must
at bottom have been a man of iron soul, for he absolutely refused to
embark on any of these experiments, though he never dissuaded his wife
from so doing, and stuck firmly, like a limpet, to his three solid and
satisfactory meals, not disdaining minced mutton, nor even a modicum of
milled nuts, when he felt that they would be agreeable, but adding them
to his ordinary diet, without relying on them. The two, childless and
middle-aged, lived in extreme happiness and comfort together, and no
doubt Mrs. Andrews’s enthusiasms, and the perennial amusement her
husband derived from them, served to keep the sunlight of life shining
on them. They were never bored and always busy, which, perhaps, even
more than diet, secured them serenity of health.

But the time came when Mrs. Andrews, in an unacknowledged despair of
feeling better and more vigorous physically than she always did, turned
her Athenian mind towards mental and psychical fads. She began by
telling the fortunes of her friends by means of cards, and, though she
could always say how she knew, following the rules of her primer, that
her husband had had scarlet fever when he was twenty-three, yet the fact
that she knew it perfectly well without the help of the cards made the
divination rather less amazing. She tried Christian Science, though only
for a short time, since no amount of demonstration over false claims
could rid her one day of the conviction that she had a raging toothache,
whereas the dentist convinced her in a moment, by the short though
agonizing application of the pincers, that he could remove the
toothache, which had resisted all the precepts of her temporary creed.

An excursion into the realms of astrology succeeded this, and conjointly
a study of palmistry, and at this point her husband, for the first time,
began to take an interest in his wife’s preoccupations. It certainly did
seem very odd that his horoscope should testify to the identical events
which the lines in his hand so plainly showed his wife, and certain
apparent discrepancies were no doubt capable of explanation. When he
knew that the right hand indicated what Nature meant him to be, and the
left what he had made of himself, it could not but be gratifying to find
he had lived so closely up to his possibilities, and it was pleasant,
again, to find his wife so enthusiastic about his plump, pink palm.

“A most remarkable hand, dear,” she said. “I never saw evidence of such
pluck and determination. And look at your Mount of Jupiter! Splendid!”

Mr. Andrews did not know exactly what the Mount of Jupiter was, but he
knew what pluck and determination were.

“Upon my word, my dear,” he said, “there may be something in it. I will
borrow your primer, if I may. And now about the future.”

Mrs. Andrews was already peering eagerly into the future. This was as
splendid as the Mount of Jupiter.

“Such a line of life!” she said. “Let me see, you are fifty-eight, are
you not? Well, on it goes–sixty, seventy, eighty, without a break in
it. Why, I declare it reaches ninety, Henry!”

This was very gratifying, and it showed only ordinary politeness on
Henry’s part to inquire into his wife’s prospects.

“Ah, I haven’t such a line as you, dear,” she said. “But, after all, if
I live in perfect health till I am eighty-two, which is what my hand
tells me, I’m sure there’s no reason to complain, and I for one shan’t.”

But when Mrs. Andrews had told the fortunes of her husband and all her
friends, and secured them, on the whole, such charming futures, it was
no wonder that she went further into matters more psychical and occult.
A course of gazing into the most expensive crystal proved disappointing,
since she could never see anything except the reflection of the objects
in the room, while her husband, now actively taking part in these
investigations, merely fell asleep when he attempted to see anything
there. They both hoped that this might not be ordinary sleep, but the
condition of deep trance which they found was one of the accompanying
phenomena, and productive of great results; but these trances were so
deep that no recollection of what occurred therein ever remained in his
mind, with the exception of one occasion, on which he dreamed about
boiled rabbit. As he had partaken of this disgusting provender at lunch
that day, both Mrs. Andrews and he regarded this dream as retrospective
in character, and as not possessed of prophetic significance.

It was about this time that they both became members of the Psychical
Research Society, and their attention could not but be struck by the
wonderful phenomena resulting from the practice of automatic writing. If
you had a psychical gift in this direction–and it was now the settled
conviction of both Henry Andrews and his wife that they had–all
apparently that had to be done was to hold a pencil over a writing-pad
conveniently placed, abstract your mind from the hand that held the
pencil, and sit there to see what happened. The theory was that some
controlling spirit might take possession of the pencil and dictate
messages from the other world, which the pencil would record. Eager
study of the psychical journals warned them that patient practice might
be necessary before any results were arrived at, the reason being that
the control must get used to the novel instrument of communication; and
warning was given that they must not be discouraged if for a long time
nothing was recorded on the paper except meaningless lines. But it
appeared that most people, if they would only be patient enough, would
be rewarded by symptoms of the presence of a control before very long,
and when once a beginning was made, progress was apt to be very rapid.
It was recommended also that practice should be regular, and, if
possible, should take place at the same time every day.

The idea fired Mrs. Andrews at once.

“Upon my word, dear Henry,” she said, “I think it is very well worth
trying, for the crystal is yielding no results at all. Psychical gifts
are possessed by everybody in some degree, so this very interesting
article says, and if ours do not lie in the direction of crystal-gazing,
it makes it all the more probable that we shall achieve something in
automatic writing. And as for a regular time for practising it, what
could be more pleasant than to sit out in the garden after tea, when you
have come in from your golf, and enjoy these warm evenings, with the
feeling that we are occupying ourselves, instead of sitting idle, as we
are apt to do?”

Henry distinctly approved of the suggestion. He was often a little
fatigued after his golf, though he was going to live till ninety, and
the prospect of sitting quietly in a chair in the garden, instead of
feeling that he ought to be weeding, was quite a pleasant one.

“Then shall we each sit with paper and pencil, dear?” he asked.

Mrs. Andrews referred to the essay that gave elementary instruction.

“Certainly,” she said. “We will try that first. They say that two hands
holding the pencil often produce extraordinary results, but we will
begin, as they suggest, singly. I declare that my hand feels quite
fidgety already, as if the control was just waiting for the means of
communication to be prepared.”

Everything in Mrs. Andrews’s house was in apple-pie order, and it took
her no time at all to find two writing-pads and a couple of sharpened
pencils. With these she rejoined her husband on the paved walk, where
they had had tea, outside the drawing-room, and, with pencil in hand,
fixed her eye firmly on the top of the mulberry tree at the edge of the
lawn, and waited. He, with left hand free for his cigarette, did the
same, but his mind kept going back to the boiled rabbit he had dreamed
of after crystal-gazing, which still seemed to him a very unusual
occurrence, for, to the best of his recollection, he had never dreamed
of boiled rabbit before.

Within a few days’ time very promising developments had taken place.
Almost immediately Mrs. Andrews had begun to trace angled lines on the
paper, which, if they did not suggest anything else particular, were
remarkably like the temperature chart of a very feverish patient. Her
hand, seemingly without volition on her part, made energetic dashes and
dabs all over the paper, and she felt a very odd tingling sensation in
her fingers, which could scarcely be put down to anything else than the
presence of the control.

Her husband, scarcely less fortunate, also began to trace queer patterns
of irregular curves on his sheet, which looked very much as if they
were words. But though they were like words, they were not any known
words, whichever way up you attempted to read them, though, as Mrs.
Andrews said, they might easily be Russian or Chinese, which would
account for their being wholly meaningless to the English eye. Sheets of
possible Russian were thus poured out by Mr. Andrews, and whole hospital
records of fever charts on the part of his wife, but neither at present
came within measurable distance of intelligibility. The control seemed
incapable of making itself understood. Then on a memorable day Mr.
Andrews’s pencil evinced an irresistible desire to write figures, and
after inscribing “one, two, one, two,” a great many times, wrote quite
distinctly 4958, and gave a great dash as if it had said its last word.

“And what 4958 indicates, my dear,” said he, passing it over to Mrs.
Andrews, “I think we must leave to the control to determine.”

She looked at it a moment in silence; then, a great thought splendidly
striking her, she rose in some excitement.

“Henry, it is as plain as plain,” she said. “I am forty-nine; you are
fifty-eight. Our ages are thus wonderfully conjoined. It certainly means
that we must act together. Come and hold my pencil with me.”

“Well, that is very curious,” said Henry, and did as he was told.

At this point their experiments entered the second phase, and the pencil
thus jointly held at once developed an intelligible activity. Instead of
mere fever charts and numerals, it began to produce whole sentences
which were true to the point of being positive truisms. Before they went
to dinner that night, they were told, in a large, sprawling hand, that
“Wisdom is more than wealth,” and that “Fearlessness is best,” and that
“Hate blinds the eyes of Love.” The very next day more unimpeachable
sentiments were poured forth, and at the end was written, “From Pocky.”

Pocky, then, was clearly the control; he became to Mr. and Mrs. Andrews
an established personality with a mind stored with moral generalities.
Very often some practical application could be made of his dicta, as,
for instance, when Mr. Andrews was hesitating as to whether to invest
quite a considerable sum of money in a rather speculative venture. But,
recollecting that Pocky had said that “Wisdom is better than wealth,” he
very prudently refrained, and had the satisfaction of seeing the
speculative concern come a most tremendous smash very soon after. But it
required a good deal of ingenuity to fit Pocky’s utterances into the
affairs of daily life, and Mr. Andrews was getting a little tired of
these generalities, when the curtain went up on the third phase.

This was coincident with the outbreak of the German war, when nothing
else was present in the minds of husband and wife, and Pocky suddenly
became patriotic and truculent. For a whole evening he wrote, “Kill
them. Treacherous Germans. Avenge the scrap of paper,” and very soon
after, just when England generally was beginning to be excited over the
rumour that hosts of Russians were passing through the country to the
French battle-front, he made a further revelation of himself.

“The hosts of Russia are with you,” he wrote, “Cossacks from the
Steppes, troops of the Great White Tsar. Hundreds and thousands, Russia
to England, England to France. The Allies triumph. From Pocksky.” The
pencil gave a great dash and flew from the fingers that held it.

It was all most clearly written, and in a voice that trembled with
excitement, Mrs. Andrews read it out.

“There, my dear,” she said, “I don’t think we need have any further
doubt about the Russians. And look how it is signed–not Pocky any
longer, but Pocksky. That is a Russian name, if ever there was one!”

“Pocksky–so it is,” said Mr. Andrews, putting on his spectacles. “Well,
that is most wonderful. And to think that in those early days, when my
pencil used to write things we couldn’t read, you suggested it might be
Russian!”

“I feel no doubt that it was,” said Mrs. Andrews firmly. “I wish now
that we had kept them, and my writing, too, which you used to call the
fever charts. I dare say some poor fellow in hospital had temperatures
like that.”

Mr. Andrews did not feel so sure of this.

“That sounds a little far-fetched, dear,” he said, “though I quite agree
with you about the possibility of its being Pocksky who wrote through
me. I wonder who he was? Some great general, probably.”

You can easily imagine the excitement that pervaded Oakley in the weeks
that followed, when every day brought some fresh butler or railway
porter into the public press, who had told somebody who had told the
author of the letter in question that he had seen bearded soldiers
stepping out of trains with blinds drawn down, and shaking the snow off
their boots. It mattered nothing that the whole romance was officially
denied; indeed, it only made Mrs. Andrews very indignant at the
suppression of war news.

“The War Office may say what it likes,” she exclaimed, “and, indeed, it
seems to make it its business to deny what we all know to be true. I
think I must learn a few words of Russian, in case I meet any soldier
with a beard–‘God Save the Tsar!’ or something of the kind. I shall
send for a Russian grammar. Now, let us see what Pocksky has to tell us
to-night.”

That no further confirmation of Pocksky’s announcements on this subject
ever came to light was scarcely noticed by the automatic writers, for
Pocksky was bursting with other news. He rather terrified his
interpreters, when there was nervousness about possible Zeppelin raids,
by saying: “Fires from the wicked ones in the clouds. Fourteen, twelve,
fourteen, cellar best,” since this could hardly mean anything but that a
raid was to be expected on the fourteenth of December; and Mr. and Mrs.
Andrews–and, indeed, a large number of their friends–spent the evening
in their cellars, coming out again when it was definitely after
midnight. But the relief at finding that no harm had been done speedily
obliterated the feeling that Pocksky had misled them, and when, on
Christmas Eve, he said, “Spirit of Peace descends,” though certain
people thought he meant that the War would soon be over, the truce on
the Western Front for Christmas Day was more generally believed to bear
out this remarkable prophecy.

All through the spring Pocksky continued voluble. He would not
definitely commit himself over the course that Italy was to take, but,
as Mrs. Andrews triumphantly pointed out, Italy would not definitely
commit herself either, which just showed how right Pocksky was. He
rather went back to the Pocky style over this, and said: “Prudence is
better than precipitation; Italy prepares before making decision. Wisdom
guides her counsels, and wisdom is ever best. From Pocksky.”
Intermittently the forcing of the Dardanelles occupied him.

Now, here a rather odd point arose. Mr. Andrews at this time had to
spend a week in town, and only Mrs. Andrews held the pencil which the
intelligence of Pocksky used to express himself with. In all these
messages Pocksky spelled the name of the straits “Dardanels,” which, for
all I know, may be the Russian form. But two days ago Mrs. Andrews
kindly sent me one of his messages, which I was glad to see was most
optimistic in tone. She enclosed a note from herself, saying:

“You will like to see what Pocksky says about the Dardanels. Isn’t he
wonderful?”

So Mrs. Andrews, writing independently of Pocksky, spells Dardanelles
the same way as Pocksky does when he controls the pencil. I cannot help
wondering if the control is–shall we say?–quite complete. I wonder
also how the straits will get themselves spelt when Mr. Andrews returns.
It is all rather puzzling.

Hugh Marsham had spent the day, as a good tourist should, in visiting
the temples and the tombs of the kings across the river, and the magic
of the hour of sunset flamed over earth and heaven as he crossed the
Nile again to Luxor in his felucca. It seemed as if the whole world had
been suddenly transferred into the heart of an opal, and burned with a
myriad fiery colours. The river itself was of the green that beech trees
are clad in at spring-time; the columns of the temple that stood close
to its banks glowed as if lit from within by the flame of some perpetual
evening sacrifice; the cloudless sky was dusky blue in the east, the
blue of turquoise overhead, and melted into aqua-marine above the line
of desert where the sun had just sunk. All along the bank which he was
fast approaching under the press of the cool wind from the north were
crowds of Arabs, padding softly home in the dust from their work, and
chattering as sparrows chatter among the bushes in the long English
twilights. Even the dust that hovered and hung and was dispersed again
by the wind was rainbowed; it caught the hues from the river and the sky
and the orange-flaming temple, and those who walked in it were clad in
brightness.

Here in the South no long English twilight lingered, and as he walked up
the dusky fragrant tunnel of mimosa that led to the hotel, night
thickened, and in the sky a million stars leaped into being, while the
soft gathering darkness sponged out the glories of the flaming hour. On
the hotel steps the vendors of carpets and Arabian hangings, of incense
and filigree work, of suspicious turquoises and more than suspicious
scarabs were already packing up their wares, and probably recounting to
each other in their shrill incomprehensible gabble the iniquitous
bargains they had made with the gullible Americans and English, who so
innocently purchased the wares of Manchester. Only in his accustomed
corner old Abdul still squatted, for he was of a class above the
ordinary vendors, a substantial dealer in antiques, who had a shop in
the village, where archæologists resorted, and bought, _sub rosa_,
pieces that eventually found their way into European museums. He was in
his shop all day, but evening found him, when serious business hours
were over, on the steps of the hotel, where he sold undoubted
antiquities to tourists who wanted something genuine.

The day had been very hot, and Hugh felt himself disposed to linger
outside the hotel in this cool dusk, and turn over the tray of scarabs
which Abdul Hamid presented to his notice. He was a wrinkled, dried-up
husk of a man, loquacious and ingratiating in manner, and welcomed Hugh
as an old customer.

“See, sir,” he said, “here are two more scroll-scarabs like those you
bought from me before the week. You should have these; they are very
fine and very cheap, because I do no business this year. Mr. Rankin, you
know him? of the British Museum, he give me two pounds each last year
for scroll-scarabs not so fine, and to-day I sell them at a pound and a
half each. Take them; they are yours. Scroll-scarabs of the twelfth
dynasty; if Mr. Rankin were here he pay me two pounds each, and be sorry
I not ask more.”

Hugh laughed.

“You may sell them to Mr. Rankin then,” he said. “He comes here
to-morrow.”

The old man, utterly unabashed, grinned and shook his head.

“No; I promised you them for pound and a half,” he said. “I am not
cheat-dealer. They are yours–pound and a half. Take them, take them.”

Hugh resisted this unparalleled offer, and, turning over the contents of
the tray, picked out of it and examined carefully a broken fragment of
blue glaze, about an inch in height. This represented the head and
shoulders of an ape, and the fracture had occurred half-way down the
back, so that the lower part of the trunk, the forearms which apparently
hung by its sides, and the hind legs were missing. On the back there was
an inscription in hieroglyphics, also broken. Presumably the missing
piece contained the remainder of the letters. It was modelled with
extreme care and minuteness, and the face wore an expression of
grotesque malevolence.

“What’s this broken bit of a monkey?” asked Hugh carelessly.

Abdul, looking much like a monkey himself, put his eyes close to it.

“Ah, that’s the rarest thing in Egypt,” he said, “so Mr. Rankin he tell
me, if only the monkey not broken. See the back? There it says: ‘He of
whom this is, let him call on me thrice’–and then some son of a dog
broke it. If the rest was here, I would not take a hundred pounds for
it; but now ten years have I kept half-monkey, and never comes
half-monkey to it. It is yours, sir, for a pound it is yours.
Half-monkey nothing to me; it is fool-monkey only being half-monkey. I
let it go–I give it you, and you give me pound.”

Hugh Marsham felt in one pocket, then in another, with no appearance of
hurry or eagerness.

“There’s your pound,” he said casually.

Abdul peered at him in the dusk. It was very odd that Hugh did not offer
him half what he asked, instead of paying up without bargaining. He
regretted extremely that he had not asked more. But the little blue
fragment was now in Hugh’s pocket, and the sovereign glistened very
pleasantly in his own palm.

“And what was the rest of the hieroglyphic, do you think?” Hugh asked.

“Eh, Allah only knows the wickedness and the power of the monkeys,” said
Abdul. “Once there were such in Egypt, and in the temple of Mut in
Karnak, which the English dug up, you shall see a chamber with just such
monkeys sitting round it, four of them, all carved in sandstone. But on
them there is no writing; I have looked at them behind and before; they
not master-monkeys. Perhaps the monkey promised that whoso called on him
thrice, if he were owner of the blue image of which gentleman has the
half, would be his master, and that monkey would do his bidding. Who
knows? It is of the old wickedness of the world, the old Egyptian
blackness.”

Hugh got up. He had been out in the sun all day, and felt at this moment
a little intimate shiver, which warned him that it was wiser to go
indoors till the chill of sunset had passed.

“I expect you’ve tried it on with the half-monkey, haven’t you?” he
said.

Abdul burst out into a toothless cackle of laughter.

“Yes, effendi,” he said. “I have tried it a hundred times, and nothing
happens. Else I would not have sold it you. Half-monkey is no monkey at
all. I have tried to make boy with the ink-mirror see something about
monkeys, but nothing comes, except the clouds and the man who sweeps. No
monkey.”

Hugh nodded to him.

“Good-night, you old sorcerer,” he said pleasantly.

As he walked up the broad flagged passage to his room, carrying the
half-monkey in his hand, Hugh felt with a disengaged thumb in his
waistcoat pocket for something he had picked up that day in the valley
of the tombs of the kings. He had eaten his lunch there, after an
inspection of the carved and reeking corridors, and, as he sat idly
smoking, had reached out a lazy hand to where this thing had glittered
among the pebbles. Now, entering his room, he turned up the electric
light, and, standing under it with his back to the window, that opened,
door fashion, on to the three steps that led into the hotel garden, he
fitted the fragment he had found to the fragment he had just purchased.
They joined on to each other with the most absolute accuracy, not a chip
was missing. There was the complete ape, and down its back ran the
complete legend.

The window was open, and at this moment he heard a sudden noise as of
some scampering beast in the garden outside. His light streamed out in
an oblong on to the sandy path, and, laying the two pieces of the image
on the table, he looked out. But there was nothing irregular to be seen;
the palm trees waved and clashed in the wind, and the rose bushes
stirred and scattered their fragrance. Only right down the middle of the
sandy path that ran between the beds, the ground was curiously
disturbed, as by some animal, heavily frolicking, scooping and spurning
the light soil as it ran.

The midday train from Cairo next day brought Mr. Rankin, the eminent
Egyptologist and student of occult lore, a huge red man with a complete
mastery of colloquial Arabic. He had but a day to spend in Luxor, for he
was _en route_ for Merawi, where lately some important finds had been
made; but Hugh took occasion to show him the figure of the ape as they
sat over their coffee in the garden just outside his bedroom after
lunch.

“I found the lower half yesterday outside one of the tombs of the
kings,” he said, “and the top half by the utmost luck among old Abdul’s
things. He told me you said that if it was complete it would be of the
greatest rarity. He lied, I suppose?”

Rankin gave one gasp of amazed surprise as he looked at it and read the
inscription on the back. Marsham thought that his great red face
suddenly paled.

“Good Lord!” he said. “Here, take it!” And he held out the two pieces to
him.

Hugh laughed.

“Why in such a hurry?” he said.

“Because there comes a breaking-point to every man’s honesty, and I
might keep it, and swear that I had given it back to you. My dear
fellow, do you know what you’ve got?”

“Indeed I don’t. I want to be told,” said Hugh.

“And to think that it was you who only a couple of months ago asked me
what a scarab was! Well, you’ve got there what all Egyptologists, and
even more keenly than Egyptologists all students of folk-lore and magic
black and white–especially black–would give their eyes to have found.
Good Lord! what’s that?”

Hugh was sitting by his side in a deck-chair, idly fitting together the
two halves of the broken image. He too heard what had startled Rankin;
for it was the same noise as had startled him last night, namely, the
scampering of some great frolicsome animal, somewhere close to them. As
he jumped up, severing his hands, the noise ceased.

“Funny,” he said, “I heard that last night. There’s nothing; it’s some
stray dog in the bushes. Do tell me what it is that I’ve got.”

Rankin, who had surged to his feet also, stood listening a moment. But
there was nothing to be heard but the buzzing of bees in the bushes and
the chiding of the remote kites overhead. He sat down again.

“Well, give me two minutes,” he said, “and I can tell you all I know.
Once upon a time, when this wonderful and secret land was alive and not
dead–oh, we have killed it with our board-schools and our steamers and
our religion–there was a whole hierarchy of gods, Isis, Osiris, and the
rest, of whom we know a great deal. But below them there was a company
of semi-divinities, demons if you will, of whom we know practically
nothing. The cat was one, certain dwarfish creatures were others, but
most potent of all were the cynocephali, the dog-faced apes. They were
not divine, rather they were demons, of hideous power, _but_”–and he
pointed a great hand at Hugh–“they could be controlled. Men could
control them, men could turn them into terrific servants, much as the
genii in the ‘Arabian Nights’ were controlled. But to do that you had to
know the secret name of the demon, and had yourself to make an image of
him, with the secret name inscribed thereon, and by that you could
summon him and all the incarnate creatures of his species.

“So much we know from certain very guarded allusions in the Book of the
Dead and other sources, for this was one of the great mysteries never
openly spoken of. Here and there a priest in Karnak, or Abydos, or in
Hieropolis, had had handed down to him one of those secret names, but in
nine cases out of ten the knowledge died with him, for there was
something dangerous and terrible about it all. Old Abdul here, for
instance, believes that Moses had the secret names of frogs and lice,
and made images of them with the secret name inscribed on them, and by
those produced the plagues of Egypt. Think what you could do, think what
he did, if infinite power over frog-nature were given you, so that the
king’s chamber swarmed with frogs at your word. Usually, as I said, the
secret name was but sparingly passed on, but occasionally some very bold
advanced spirit, such as Moses, made his image, and controlled—-”

He paused a moment, and Hugh wondered if he was in some delirious dream.
Here they were, taking coffee and cigarettes underneath the shadow of a
modern hotel in the year A.D. 1912, and this great savant was talking to
him about the spell that controlled the whole frog-nature in the
universe. The gist, the moral of his discourse, was already perfectly
clear.

“That’s a good joke,” Hugh said. “You told your story with extraordinary
gravity. And what you mean is that those two blue bits I hold in my hand
control the whole ape-nature of the world? Bravo, Rankin! For a moment,
you and your impressiveness almost made me take it all seriously. Lord!
You do tell a story well! And what’s the secret name of the ape?”

Rankin turned to him with the shake of an impressive forefinger.

“My dear boy,” he said, “you should never be disrespectful towards the
things you know nothing of. Never say a thing is moonshine till you know
what you are talking about. I know, at this moment, exactly as much as
you do about your ape-image, except that I can translate its
inscription, which I will do for you. On the top half is written, ‘He,
of whom this is, let him call on me thrice—-’”

Hugh interrupted.

“That’s what Abdul read to me,” he said.

“Of course. Abdul knows hieroglyphics. But on the lower half is what
nobody but you and I know. ‘Let him call on me thrice,’ says the top
half, and then there speaks what you picked up in the valley of the
tombs, ‘and I, Tahu-met, obey the order of the Master.’”

“Tahu-met?” asked Hugh.

“Yes. Now in ten minutes I must be off to catch my train. What I have
told you is all that is known about this particular affair by those who
have studied folk-lore and magic, and Egyptology. If anything–if
anything happens, do be kind enough to let me know. If you were not so
abominably rich I would offer you what you liked for that little broken
statue. But there’s the way of the world!”

“Oh, it’s not for sale,” said Hugh gaily. “It’s too interesting to sell.
But what am I to do next with it? Tahu-met? Shall I say Tahu-met three
times?”

Rankin leaned forward very hurriedly, and laid his fat hand on the young
man’s knee.

“No, for Heaven’s sake! Just keep it by you,” he said. “Be patient with
it. See what happens. You might mend it, perhaps. Put a drop of
gum-arabic on the break and make it whole. By the way, if it interests
you at all, my niece Julia Draycott arrives here this evening, and will
wait for me here till my return from Merawi. You met her in Cairo, I
think.”

Certainly this piece of news interested Hugh more than all the
possibilities of apes and super-apes. He thrust the two pieces of
Tahu-met carelessly into his pocket.

“By Jove, is she really?” he said. “That’s splendid. She told me she
might be coming up, but didn’t feel at all sure. Must you really be off?
I shall come down to the station with you.”

While Rankin went to gather up such small luggage as he had brought with
him, Hugh wandered into the hotel bureau to ask for letters, and seeing
there a gum-bottle, dabbed with gum the fractured edges of Tahu-met. The
two pieces joined with absolute exactitude, and wrapping a piece of
paper round them to keep the edges together, he went out through the
garden with Rankin. At the hotel gate was the usual crowd of donkey-boys
and beggars, and presently they were ambling down the village street on
bored white donkeys. It was almost deserted at this hottest hour of the
afternoon, but along it there moved an Arab leading a large grey ape,
that tramped surlily in the dust. But just before they overtook it, the
beast looked round, saw Hugh, and with chatterings of delight strained
at his leash. Its owner cursed and pulled it away, for Hugh nearly rode
over it, but it paid no attention to him, and fairly towed him along the
road after the donkeys.

Rankin looked at his companion.

“That’s odd,” he said. “That’s one of your servants. I’ve still a couple
of minutes to spare. Do you mind stopping a moment?”

He shouted something in the vernacular to the Arab, who ran after them,
with the beast still towing him on. When they came close the ape stopped
and bent his head to the ground in front of Hugh.

“And that’s odd,” said Rankin.

Hugh suddenly felt rather uncomfortable.

“Nonsense!” he said. “That’s just one of his tricks. He’s been taught it
to get baksheesh for his master. Look, there’s your train coming in. We
must get on.”

He threw a couple of piastres to the man, and they rode on. But when
they got to the station, glancing down the road, he saw that the ape was
still looking after them.

* * * * *

Julia Draycott’s arrival that evening speedily put such antique
imaginings as the lordship of apes out of Hugh’s head. He chucked
Tahu-met into the box where he kept his scarabs and ushapti figures, and
devoted himself to this heartless and exquisite girl, whose mission in
life appeared to be to make as miserable as possible the largest
possible number of young men. Hugh had already been selected by her in
Cairo as a decent victim, and now she proceeded to torture him. She had
no intention whatever of marrying him, for poor Hugh was certainly ugly,
with his broad, heavy face, and though rich, he was not nearly rich
enough. But he had a couple of delightful Arab horses, and so, since
there was no one else on hand to experiment with, she let him buy her a
side-saddle, and be, with his horses, always at her disposal. She did
not propose to use him for very long, for she expected young Lord
Paterson (whom she did intend to marry) to follow her from Cairo within
a week. She had beat a Parthian retreat from him, being convinced that
he would soon find Cairo intolerable without her; and in the meantime
Hugh was excellent practice. Besides, she adored riding.

They sat together one afternoon on the edge of the river opposite
Karnak. She had treated him like a brute beast all morning, and had
watched his capability for wretchedness with the purring egoism that
distinguished her; and now, as a change, she was seeing how happy she
could make him.

“You are such a dear,” she said. “I don’t know how I could have endured
Luxor without you; and, thanks to you, it has been the loveliest week.”

She looked at him from below her long lashes, through which there
gleamed the divinest violet, smiling like a child at her friend. “And
to-night? You made some delicious plan for to-night.”

“Yes; it’s full moon to-night,” said he. “We are going to ride out to
Karnak after dinner.”

“That will be heavenly. And, Mr. Marsham, do let us go alone. There’s
sure to be a mob from the hotel, so let’s start late, when they’ve all
cleared out. Karnak in the moonlight, just with you.”

That completely made Hugh’s mind up. For the last three days he had been
on the look out for a moment that should furnish the great occasion; and
now (all unconsciously, of course) she indicated it to him. This
evening, then. And his heart leaped.

“Yes, yes,” he said. “But why have I become Mr. Marsham again?”

Again she looked at him, now with a penitent mouth.

“Oh, I was such a beast to you this morning,” she said. “That was why. I
didn’t deserve that you should be Hugh. But will you be Hugh again? Do
you forgive me?”

In spite of Hugh’s fixing the great occasion for this evening, it might
have come then, so bewitching was her penitence, had not the rest of
their party on donkeys, whom they had outpaced, come streaming along the
river bank at this moment.

“Ah, those tiresome people,” she said. “Hughie, what a bore everybody
else is except you and me.”

They got back to the hotel about sunset, and as they passed into the
hall the porter handed Julia a telegram which had been waiting some
couple of hours. She gave a little exclamation of pleasure and
surprise, and turned to Hugh.

“Come and have a turn in the garden, Hughie,” she said, “and then I must
go down for the arrival of the boat. When does it come in?”

“I should think it would be here immediately,” he said. “Let’s go down
to the river.”

Even as he spoke the whistle of the approaching steamer was heard. The
girl hesitated a moment.

“It’s a shame to take up all your time in the way I’m doing,” she said.
“You told me you had letters to write. Write them now; then–then you’ll
be free after dinner.”

“To-morrow will do,” he said. “I’ll come down with you to the boat.”

“No, you dear, I forbid it,” she said. “Oh, do be good, and write your
letters. I ask you to.”

Rather puzzled and vaguely uncomfortable, Hugh went into the hotel. It
was true that he had told her he had letters that should have been
written a week ago, but something at the back of his mind insisted that
this was not the girl’s real reason for wanting him to do his task now.
She wanted to go and meet the boat alone, and on the moment an unfounded
jealousy stirred like a coiled snake in him. He told himself that it
might be some inconvenient aunt whom she was going to meet, but such a
suggestion did not in the least satisfy him when he remembered the
obvious pleasure with which she had read the telegram that no doubt
announced this arrival. But he nailed himself to his writing-table till
a couple of very tepid letters were finished, and then, with growing
restlessness, went out through the hall into the warm, still night. Most
of the hotel had gone indoors to dress for dinner, but sitting on the
veranda with her back to him was Julia. A chair was drawn in front of
her, and facing her was a young man, on whose face the light shone. He
was looking eagerly at her, and his hand rested on her knee. Hugh turned
abruptly and went back into the hotel.

He and Julia for these last three days had, with two other friends, made
a very pleasant party of four at lunch and dinner. To-night, when he
entered the dining-room, he found that places were laid here for three
only, and that at a far-distant table in the window were sitting Julia
and the young man whom he had seen with her on the veranda. His identity
was casually disclosed as dinner went on; one of his companions had seen
Lord Paterson in Cairo. Hugh had only a wandering ear for table-talk,
but a quick glancing eye, ever growing more sombre, for those in the
window, and his heavy face, as he noted the tokens and signs of their
intimacy, grew sullen and savage. Then, before dinner was over, they
rose and passed out into the garden.

Jealousy can no more bear to lose sight of those to whom it owes its
miseries than love can bear to be parted from the object of its
adoration, and presently Hugh and his two friends went and sat, as was
usual with them, on the veranda outside. Here and there about the garden
were wandering couples, and in the light of the full moon, which was to
be their lamp at Karnak to-night when the “tiresome people” had gone, he
soon identified Julia and Lord Paterson. They passed and repassed down a
rose-embowered alley, hidden sometimes behind bushes and then appearing
again for a few paces, and each sight of them, each vanishing of them
again served but to confirm that which already needed no confirmation.
And as his jealousy grew every moment more bitter, so every moment Hugh
grew more and more dangerously enraged. Apparently Lord Paterson was not
one of the “tiresome people” whom Julia longed to get away from.

Presently his two companions left him, for they were starting now to
ride out to Karnak, and Hugh sat on, smoking and throwing away half
consumed an endless series of cigarettes. He had ordered that his two
horses, one with a side-saddle, should be ready at ten, and at ten he
meant to go to the girl and remind her of her engagement. Till then he
would wait here, wait and watch. If the veranda had been on fire, he
felt he could not have left it to seek safety in some place where he was
unable to see the bushy path where the two strolled. Then they emerged
from that on to the broader walk that led straight to where he was
sitting, and after a few whispered words, Lord Paterson left her there,
and came quickly towards the hotel. He passed close by Hugh, gave him
(so Hugh thought) a glance of amused derision, and went into the hotel.

Julia came quickly towards him when Lord Paterson had gone.

“Oh, Hughie,” she said. “Will you be a tremendous angel? Lord
Paterson–yes, he’s just gone in, such a dear, you would delight in
him–Lord Paterson’s only here for one night, and he’s dying to see
Karnak by moonlight. So will you lend us your horses? He absolutely
insists I should go out there with him.”

The amazing effrontery of this took Hugh’s breath away, and in that
moment’s pause his rage flamed within him.

“I thought you were going out with me?” he said.

“I was. But, well, you see—-”

She made the penitent mouth again, which had seemed so enchanting to him
this afternoon.

“Oh, Hughie, don’t you understand?” she said.

Hugh got up, feeling himself to be one shaking black jelly of wounded
anger.

“I’m not sure if I do,” he said. “But no doubt I soon shall. Anyhow, I
want to ask you something. I want you to promise to marry me.”

She opened her great childlike eyes to their widest. Then they closed
into mere slits again as she broke out into a laugh.

“Marry you?” she said. “You silly, darling fellow! That is a good joke.”

Suddenly from the garden there sounded the jubilant scamper of running
feet, and next moment a great grey ape sprang on to the veranda beside
them, and looked eagerly, with keen dog’s eyes, at Hugh, as if intent on
obeying some yet unspoken command. Julia gave a little shriek of fright
and clung to him.

“Oh, that horrible animal!” she cried. “Hughie, take care of me!”

Some sudden ray of illumination came to Hugh. All the extraordinary
fantastic things that Rankin had said to him became sober and real. And
simultaneously the girl’s clinging fingers on his arm became like the
touch of some poisonous, preying thing, snake-coil, or suckers of an
octopus, or hooked wings of a vampire bat. Something within him still
shook and trembled like a quicksand, but his conscious mind was quite
clear and collected.

“Go away,” he said to the ape, and pointed into the garden, and it
scampered off, still gleefully spurning and kicking the soft sandy path.
Then he quietly turned to the girl.

“There, it’s gone,” he said. “It was just some tame thing escaped. I saw
it, or one like it, the other day on the end of a string. As for the
horses, I shall be delighted to let you and Lord Paterson have them. It
is ten now; they will be round.”

The girl had quite recovered from her fright.

“Ah, Hughie, you are a dear,” she said. “And you do understand?”

“Yes, perfectly,” said he.

Julia went to dress herself for riding, and presently Hugh saw them off
from the gate, with courteous wishes for a pleasant ride. Then he went
back to his bedroom and opened the little box where he kept his scarabs.

* * * * *

An hour later he was walking out alone on the road to Karnak, and in his
pocket was the image of Tahu-met. He had formed no clear idea of what he
was meaning to do; the immediate reason for his expedition was that once
again he could not bear to lose sight of Julia and her companion. The
moon was high, the feathery outline of palm-groves was clearly and
delicately etched on the dark velvet of the heavens, and stars sat among
their branches like specks of golden fruit. The caressing scent of
bean-flowers was wafted over the road, and often he had to stand aside
to let pass a group of noisy tourists mounted on white donkeys, coming
riotously home from the show-piece of Karnak by moonlight. Then,
striking off the road, he passed beside the horseshoe lake, in the
depths of whose black waters the stars burned unwaveringly, and by the
entrance of the ruined temple of Mut. And then, with a stab of jealousy
that screamed for its revenge, he saw, tied up to a pillar just within,
his own horses. So _they_ were here.

He gave the beasts a wide berth, lest, recognizing him, they should
whinny and perhaps betray his presence, and, creeping in the shadow of
the walls behind the row of great cat-headed statues, he stole into the
inner court of the temple. Here for the first time he caught sight of
the two at the far end of the enclosure, and as they turned, white-faced
in the moonlight, he saw Paterson kiss the girl, and they stood there
with neck and arms interlaced. Then they began walking towards him
again, and he stepped into a dark chamber on his right to avoid meeting
them.

It had that strange stale animal odour about it that hangs in Egyptian
temples, and with a thrill of glee he saw, by a ray of moonlight that
streamed in through the door, that by chance he had stepped into the
shrine round which sit the dog-faced apes, whose secret name he knew,
and whose controlling spell lay in his breast-pocket. Often he had felt
the underworld horror that dwelt here, as a thing petrified and
corpse-like; to-night it was petrified no longer, for the images seemed
tense and quivering with the life that at any moment he could put into
them. Their faces leered and hated and lusted, and all that demoniac
power, which seemed to be flowing into him from them, was his to use as
he wished. Rankin’s fantastic tales were bursting with reality; he knew
with the certainty with which the night-watcher waits for the day, that
the lordship of the spirit of apes, incarnate and discarnate, would
descend on him as on some anointed king the moment he thrice pronounced
the secret name. He was going to do it too; he knew also that all he
hesitated for now was to determine what orders their lord should give.
It seemed that the image in his breast-pocket was aware, for it throbbed
and vibrated against his chest like a boiling kettle.

He could not make up his mind what to do; but fed as with fuel by
jealousy, and love, and hate, and revenge, his sense of the magical
control he wielded could be resisted no longer, but boiled over, and he
drew from his pocket the image where was engraven the secret name.

“Tahu-met, Tahu-met, Tahu-met,” he shouted aloud.

There was a moment’s absolute stillness; then came a wild scream of
fright from his horses, and he heard them gallop off madly into the
night. Slowly, like a lamp turned down and then finally turned out, the
blaze of the moon faded into utter darkness, and in that darkness, which
whispered with a gradually increasing noise of scratchings and
scamperings, he felt that the walls of the narrow chamber where he stood
were, as in a dream, going farther and farther away from him, until,
though still the darkness was impenetrable, he knew that he was standing
in some immense space. One wall, he fancied, was still near him, close
behind him, but the space which was full of he knew not what unseen
presences, extended away and away to both sides of him and in front of
him. Then he was aware that he was not standing, but sitting, for
beneath his hands he could feel the arms as of some throne, of which the
seat’s edge pressed him just below his knees. The animal odour he had
noticed before increased enormously in pungency, and he sniffed it in
ecstatically, as if it had been the scent of beanfields, and mixed with
it was the sweetness of incense and the savour as of roast meat. And at
that the withdrawn light began to glow once more, only now it was not
the whiteness of the moon, but a redder glow as of flames that aspired
and sank again.

He saw where he was now. He was seated on a chair of pink granite, and a
little in front of him was a huge altar, on which limbs smoked. Overhead
was a low roof supported at intervals by painted pillars, and the whole
of the vast floor was full of great grey apes, squatting in dense rows.
Sometimes they all bowed their heads to the ground, sometimes, as by a
signal, they raised them again, and myriads of obscene expectant eyes
faced him. They glowed from within, as cats’ eyes glow in the dusk, but
with an infinity of hellish power. All that power was his to command,
and he gloried in it.

“Bring them in,” he said, and no more. Indeed, he was not sure if he
said it; it was just his thought.

But as if he spoke the soundless language of animals, they understood,
and they clambered and leaped over each other to do his bidding. Then a
huddled wave of them surged up in front of where he sat, and as it broke
in foam of evil eyes and paws and switching tails, it disclosed the two
whom he had ordered to be brought before him.

“And what shall I do with them?” he asked himself, cudgelling his
monkey-brain for some infamous invention.

“Kiss each other,” he said at length, in order to inflame the brutality
of his jealousy further, and he laughed chatteringly, as their white
trembling lips met. He felt that all remnants of humanity were draining
from him; there was but a little left in his whole nature that could be
deemed to belong to a man. A hundred awful schemes ran about through his
brain, as sparks of fire run through the charred ashes of burnt paper.

And then Julia turned her face towards him. In the hideous entry that
she had made in that wave of apes her hair had fallen down and streamed
over her shoulders. And at that, the sight of a woman’s hair unbound,
the remnant of his manhood, all that was not submerged in the foulness
of his supreme apehood, made one tremendous appeal to him, like some
final convulsion of the dying, and at the bidding of that impulse his
hands came together and snapped the image in two.

Something screamed; the whole temple yelled with it, and mixed with it
was a roaring in his ears as of great waters or hurricane winds. He
stamped on the broken image, grinding it to powder below his heel, and
felt the ground and the temple walls rocking round him.

Then he heard someone not far off speaking in human voice again, and no
music could be so sweet.

“Let’s get out of the place, darling,” it said. “That was an earthquake,
and the horses have bolted.”

He heard running steps outside, which gradually grew fainter. The moon
shone whitely into the little chamber with the grotesque stone apes, and
at his feet was the powdered blue glaze and baked white clay of the
image he had ground to dust.

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