Round The Red Lamp
Arthur Conan Doyle
Part 4 out of 5
did so until her lips were close to his ear.
"There is Lord Arthur Sibthorpe," said she
Lord Charles bounded in his chair, and muttered a
word or two such as were more frequently heard from
Cabinet Ministers in Lord Melbourne's time than now.
"Are you mad, Clara!" he cried. "What can have
put such a thought into your head?"
"The Prime Minister."
"Who? The Prime Minister?"
"Yes, dear. Now do, do be good! Or perhaps I
had better not speak to you about it any more."
"Well, I really think that you have gone rather
too far to retreat."
"It was the Prime Minister, then, who told me
that Lord Arthur was going to Tangier."
"It is a fact, though it had escaped my memory
for the instant."
"And then came Sir William with his advice
about Ida. Oh! Charlie, it is surely more than
"I am convinced," said Lord Charles, with his
shrewd, questioning gaze, "that it is very much more
than a coincidence, Lady Clara. You are a very
clever woman, my dear. A born manager and
Lady Clara brushed past the compliment.
"Think of our own young days, Charlie," she
whispered, with her fingers still toying with his
hair. "What were you then? A poor man, not even
Ambassador at Tangier. But I loved you, and believed
in you, and have I ever regretted it? Ida loves and
believes in Lord Arthur, and why should she ever
regret it either?"
Lord Charles was silent. His eyes were fixed
upon the green branches which waved outside the
window; but his mind had flashed back to a Devonshire
country-house of thirty years ago, and to the one
fateful evening when, between old yew hedges, he
paced along beside a slender girl, and poured out to
her his hopes, his fears, and his ambitious. He took
the white, thin hand and pressed it to his lips.
"You, have been a good wife to me, Clara," said
She said nothing. She did not attempt to improve
upon her advantage. A less consummate general might
have tried to do so, and ruined all. She stood
silent and submissive, noting the quick play of
thought which peeped from his eyes and lip. There
was a sparkle in the one and a twitch of amusement in
the other, as he at last glanced up at her.
"Clara," said he, "deny it if you can! You have
ordered the trousseau."
She gave his ear a little pinch.
"Subject to your approval," said she.
"You have written to the Archbishop."
"It is not posted yet."
"You have sent a note to Lord Arthur."
"How could you tell that?"
"He is downstairs now."
"No; but I think that is his brougham."
Lord Charles sank back with a look of half-
"Who is to fight against such a woman?" he cried.
"Oh! if I could send you to Novikoff! He is too much
for any of my men. But, Clara, I cannot have them up
"Not for your blessing?"
"It would make them so happy."
"I cannot stand scenes."
"Then I shall convey it to them."
"And pray say no more about it--to-day, at any
rate. I have been weak over the matter."
"Oh! Charlie, you who are so strong!"
"You have outflanked me, Clara. It was very well
done. I must congratulate you."
"Well," she murmured, as she kissed him, "you
know I have been studying a very clever diplomatist
for thirty years."
A MEDICAL DOCUMENT.
Medical men are, as a class, very much too busy
to take stock of singular situations or dramatic
events. Thus it happens that the ablest chronicler
of their experiences in our literature was a lawyer.
A life spent in watching over death-beds--or over
birth-beds which are infinitely more trying--takes
something from a man's sense of proportion, as
constant strong waters might corrupt his palate. The
overstimulated nerve ceases to respond. Ask the
surgeon for his best experiences and he may reply
that he has seen little that is remarkable, or break
away into the technical. But catch him some night
when the fire has spurted up and his pipe is reeking,
with a few of his brother practitioners for company
and an artful question or allusion to set him going.
Then you will get some raw, green facts new plucked
from the tree of life.
It is after one of the quarterly dinners of the
Midland Branch of the British Medical Association.
Twenty coffee cups, a dozer liqueur
glasses, and a solid bank of blue smoke which
swirls slowly along the high, gilded ceiling gives a
hint of a successful gathering. But the members have
shredded off to their homes. The line of heavy,
bulge-pocketed overcoats and of stethoscope-bearing
top hats is gone from the hotel corridor. Round the
fire in the sitting-room three medicos are still
lingering, however, all smoking and arguing, while a
fourth, who is a mere layman and young at that, sits
back at the table. Under cover of an open journal he
is writing furiously with a stylographic pen, asking
a question in an innocent voice from time to time and
so flickering up the conversation whenever it shows a
tendency to wane.
The three men are all of that staid middle age
which begins early and lasts late in the profession.
They are none of them famous, yet each is of good
repute, and a fair type of his particular branch.
The portly man with the authoritative manner and the
white, vitriol splash upon his cheek is Charley
Manson, chief of the Wormley Asylum, and author of
the brilliant monograph--Obscure Nervous Lesions in
the Unmarried. He always wears his collar high like
that, since the half-successful attempt of a student
of Revelations to cut his throat with a splinter of
glass. The second, with the ruddy face and the merry
brown eyes, is a general practitioner, a man of
vast experience, who, with his three assistants
and his five horses, takes twenty-five hundred a year
in half-crown visits and shilling consultations out
of the poorest quarter of a great city. That cheery
face of Theodore Foster is seen at the side of a
hundred sick-beds a day, and if he has one-third more
names on his visiting list than in his cash book he
always promises himself that he will get level some
day when a millionaire with a chronic complaint--the
ideal combination--shall seek his services. The
third, sitting on the right with his dress shoes
shining on the top of the fender, is Hargrave, the
rising surgeon. His face has none of the broad
humanity of Theodore Foster's, the eye is stern and
critical, the mouth straight and severe, but there is
strength and decision in every line of it, and it is
nerve rather than sympathy which the patient demands
when he is bad enough to come to Hargrave's door. He
calls himself a jawman "a mere jawman" as he modestly
puts it, but in point of fact he is too young and too
poor to confine himself to a specialty, and there is
nothing surgical which Hargrave has not the skill and
the audacity to do.
"Before, after, and during," murmurs the general
practitioner in answer to some interpolation of the
outsider's. "I assure you, Manson, one sees all
sorts of evanescent forms of madness."
"Ah, puerperal!" throws in the other,
knocking the curved grey ash from his cigar.
"But you had some case in your mind, Foster."
"Well, there was only one last week which was new
to me. I had been engaged by some people of the name
of Silcoe. When the trouble came round I went
myself, for they would not hear of an assistant. The
husband who was a policeman, was sitting at the head
of the bed on the further side. `This won't do,'
said I. `Oh yes, doctor, it must do,' said she.
`It's quite irregular and he must go,' said I. `It's
that or nothing,' said she. `I won't open my mouth
or stir a finger the whole night,' said he. So it
ended by my allowing him to remain, and there he sat
for eight hours on end. She was very good over the
matter, but every now and again HE would fetch a
hollow groan, and I noticed that he held his right
hand just under the sheet all the time, where I had
no doubt that it was clasped by her left. When it
was all happily over, I looked at him and his face
was the colour of this cigar ash, and his head had
dropped on to the edge of the pillow. Of course I
thought he had fainted with emotion, and I was just
telling myself what I thought of myself for having
been such a fool as to let him stay there, when
suddenly I saw that the sheet over his hand was all
soaked with blood; I whisked it down, and there was
the fellow's wrist half cut through. The woman
had one bracelet of a policeman's handcuff over her
left wrist and the other round his right one. When
she had been in pain she had twisted with all her
strength and the iron had fairly eaten into the bone
of the man's arm. `Aye, doctor,' said she, when she
saw I had noticed it. `He's got to take his share as
well as me. Turn and turn,' said she."
"Don't you find it a very wearing branch of the
profession?" asks Foster after a pause.
"My dear fellow, it was the fear of it that drove
me into lunacy work."
"Aye, and it has driven men into asylums who
never found their way on to the medical staff. I was
a very shy fellow myself as a student, and I know
what it means."
"No joke that in general practice," says the
"Well, you hear men talk about it as though it
were, but I tell you it's much nearer tragedy. Take
some poor, raw, young fellow who has just put up his
plate in a strange town. He has found it a trial all
his life, perhaps, to talk to a woman about lawn
tennis and church services. When a young man IS
shy he is shyer than any girl. Then down comes an
anxious mother and consults him upon the most
intimate family matters. `I shall never go to that
doctor again,' says she afterwards. `His manner is
so stiff and unsympathetic.' Unsympathetic!
Why, the poor lad was struck dumb and paralysed. I
have known general practitioners who were so shy that
they could not bring themselves to ask the way in the
street. Fancy what sensitive men like that must
endure before they get broken in to medical practice.
And then they know that nothing is so catching as
shyness, and that if they do not keep a face of
stone, their patient will be covered with confusion.
And so they keep their face of stone, and earn the
reputation perhaps of having a heart to correspond.
I suppose nothing would shake YOUR nerve, Manson."
"Well, when a man lives year in year out among a
thousand lunatics, with a fair sprinkling of
homicidals among them, one's nerves either get set or
shattered. Mine are all right so far."
"I was frightened once," says the surgeon. "It
was when I was doing dispensary work. One night I
had a call from some very poor people, and gathered
from the few words they said that their child was
ill. When I entered the room I saw a small cradle in
the corner. Raising the lamp I walked over and
putting back the curtains I looked down at the baby.
I tell you it was sheer Providence that I didn't drop
that lamp and set the whole place alight. The head
on the pillow turned and I saw a face looking up at
me which seemed to me to have more malignancy and
wickedness than ever I had dreamed of in a
nightmare. It was the flush of red over the
cheekbones, and the brooding eyes full of loathing of
me, and of everything else, that impressed me. I'll
never forget my start as, instead of the chubby face
of an infant, my eyes fell upon this creature. I
took the mother into the next room. `What is it?' I
asked. `A girl of sixteen,' said she, and then
throwing up her arms, `Oh, pray God she may be
taken!' The poor thing, though she spent her life in
this little cradle, had great, long, thin limbs which
she curled up under her. I lost sight of the case
and don't know what became of it, but I'll never
forget the look in her eyes."
"That's creepy," says Dr. Foster. "But I think
one of my experiences would run it close. Shortly
after I put up my plate I had a visit from a little
hunch-backed woman who wished me to come and attend
to her sister in her trouble. When I reached the
house, which was a very poor one, I found two other
little hunched-backed women, exactly like the first,
waiting for me in the sitting-room. Not one of them
said a word, but my companion took the lamp and
walked upstairs with her two sisters behind her, and
me bringing up the rear. I can see those three queer
shadows cast by the lamp upon the wall as clearly as
I can see that tobacco pouch. In the room above
was the fourth sister, a remarkably beautiful girl in
evident need of my assistance. There was no wedding
ring upon her finger. The three deformed sisters
seated themselves round the room, like so many graven
images, and all night not one of them opened her
mouth. I'm not romancing, Hargrave; this is absolute
fact. In the early morning a fearful thunderstorm
broke out, one of the most violent I have ever known.
The little garret burned blue with the lightning, and
thunder roared and rattled as if it were on the very
roof of the house. It wasn't much of a lamp I had,
and it was a queer thing when a spurt of lightning
came to see those three twisted figures sitting round
the walls, or to have the voice of my patient drowned
by the booming of the thunder. By Jove! I don't
mind telling you that there was a time when I nearly
bolted from the room. All came right in the end, but
I never heard the true story of the unfortunate
beauty and her three crippled sisters."
"That's the worst of these medical stories,"
sighs the outsider. "They never seem to have an
"When a man is up to his neck in practice, my
boy, he has no time to gratify his private curiosity.
Things shoot across him and he gets a glimpse of
them, only to recall them, perhaps, at some quiet
moment like this. But I've always felt, Manson,
that your line had as much of the terrible in it as
"More," groans the alienist. "A disease of the
body is bad enough, but this seems to be a disease of
the soul. Is it not a shocking thing--a thing to
drive a reasoning man into absolute Materialism--to
think that you may have a fine, noble fellow with
every divine instinct and that some little vascular
change, the dropping, we will say, of a minute
spicule of bone from the inner table of his skull on
to the surface of his brain may have the effect of
changing him to a filthy and pitiable creature with
every low and debasing tendency? What a satire an
asylum is upon the majesty of man, and no less upon
the ethereal nature of the soul."
"Faith and hope," murmurs the general
"I have no faith, not much hope, and all the
charity I can afford," says the surgeon. "When
theology squares itself with the facts of life I'll
read it up."
"You were talking about cases," says the
outsider, jerking the ink down into his stylographic
"Well, take a common complaint which kills many
thousands every year, like G. P. for instance."
"What's G. P.?"
"General practitioner," suggests the surgeon with
"The British public will have to know what G. P.
is," says the alienist gravely. "It's increasing by
leaps and bounds, and it has the distinction of being
absolutely incurable. General paralysis is its full
title, and I tell you it promises to be a perfect
scourge. Here's a fairly typical case now which I
saw last Monday week. A young farmer, a splendid
fellow, surprised his fellows by taking a very rosy
view of things at a time when the whole country-side
was grumbling. He was going to give up wheat, give
up arable land, too, if it didn't pay, plant two
thousand acres of rhododendrons and get a monopoly of
the supply for Covent Garden--there was no end to his
schemes, all sane enough but just a bit inflated. I
called at the farm, not to see him, but on an
altogether different matter. Something about the
man's way of talking struck me and I watched him
narrowly. His lip had a trick of quivering, his
words slurred themselves together, and so did his
handwriting when he had occasion to draw up a small
agreement. A closer inspection showed me that one of
his pupils was ever so little larger than the other.
As I left the house his wife came after me. `Isn't it
splendid to see Job looking so well, doctor,' said
she; `he's that full of energy he can hardly keep
himself quiet.' I did not say anything, for I
had not the heart, but I knew that the fellow was as
much condemned to death as though he were lying in
the cell at Newgate. It was a characteristic case of
incipient G. P."
"Good heavens!" cries the outsider. "My own lips
tremble. I often slur my words. I believe I've got
Three little chuckles come from the front of the
"There's the danger of a little medical knowledge
to the layman."
"A great authority has said that every first
year's student is suffering in silent agony from four
diseases," remarks the surgeon. " One is heart
disease, of course; another is cancer of the parotid.
I forget the two other."
"Where does the parotid come in?"
"Oh, it's the last wisdom tooth coming through!"
"And what would be the end of that young farmer?"
asks the outsider.
"Paresis of all the muscles, ending in fits,
coma, and death. It may be a few months, it may be a
year or two. He was a very strong young man and
would take some killing."
"By-the-way," says the alienist, "did I ever tell
you about the first certificate I signed? I came as
near ruin then as a man could go."
"What was it, then?"
"I was in practice at the time. One morning a
Mrs. Cooper called upon me and informed me that her
husband had shown signs of delusions lately. They
took the form of imagining that he had been in the
army and had distinguished himself very much. As a
matter of fact he was a lawyer and had never been out
of England. Mrs. Cooper was of opinion that if I
were to call it might alarm him, so it was agreed
between us that she should send him up in the evening
on some pretext to my consulting-room, which would
give me the opportunity of having a chat with him
and, if I were convinced of his insanity, of signing
his certificate. Another doctor had already signed,
so that it only needed my concurrence to have him
placed under treatment. Well, Mr. Cooper arrived in
the evening about half an hour before I had expected
him, and consulted me as to some malarious symptoms
from which he said that he suffered. According to
his account he had just returned from the Abyssinian
Campaign, and had been one of the first of the
British forces to enter Magdala. No delusion could
possibly be more marked, for he would talk of little
else, so I filled in the papers without the slightest
hesitation. When his wife arrived, after he had
left, I put some questions to her to complete the
form. `What is his age?' I asked. `Fifty,' said
she. `Fifty!' I cried. `Why, the man I
examined could not have been more than thirty!
And so it came out that the real Mr. Cooper had never
called upon me at all, but that by one of those
coincidences which take a man's breath away another
Cooper, who really was a very distinguished young
officer of artillery, had come in to consult me. My
pen was wet to sign the paper when I discovered it,"
says Dr. Manson, mopping his forehead.
"We were talking about nerve just now," observes
the surgeon. "Just after my qualifying I served in
the Navy for a time, as I think you know. I was on
the flag-ship on the West African Station, and I
remember a singular example of nerve which came to my
notice at that time. One of our small gunboats had
gone up the Calabar river, and while there the
surgeon died of coast fever. On the same day a man's
leg was broken by a spar falling upon it, and it
became quite obvious that it must be taken off above
the knee if his life was to be saved. The young
lieutenant who was in charge of the craft searched
among the dead doctor's effects and laid his hands
upon some chloroform, a hip-joint knife, and a volume
of Grey's Anatomy. He had the man laid by the
steward upon the cabin table, and with a picture of a
cross section of the thigh in front of him he began
to take off the limb. Every now and then, referring
to the diagram, he would say: `Stand by with
the lashings, steward. There's blood on the chart
about here.' Then he would jab with his knife until
he cut the artery, and he and his assistant would tie
it up before they went any further. In this way they
gradually whittled the leg off, and upon my word they
made a very excellent job of it. The man is hopping
about the Portsmouth Hard at this day.
"It's no joke when the doctor of one of these
isolated gunboats himself falls ill," continues the
surgeon after a pause. "You might think it easy for
him to prescribe for himself, but this fever knocks
you down like a club, and you haven't strength left
to brush a mosquito off your face. I had a touch of
it at Lagos, and I know what I am telling you. But
there was a chum of mine who really had a curious
experience. The whole crew gave him up, and, as they
had never had a funeral aboard the ship, they began
rehearsing the forms so as to be ready. They thought
that he was unconscious, but he swears he could hear
every word that passed. `Corpse comin' up the
latchway!' cried the Cockney sergeant of Marines.
`Present harms!' He was so amused, and so indignant
too, that he just made up his mind that he wouldn't
be carried through that hatchway, and he wasn't,
"There's no need for fiction in medicine,"
remarks Foster, "for the facts will always beat
anything you can fancy. But it has seemed to me
sometimes that a curious paper might be read at some
of these meetings about the uses of medicine in
"Well, of what the folk die of, and what diseases
are made most use of in novels. Some are worn to
pieces, and others, which are equally common in real
life, are never mentioned. Typhoid is fairly
frequent, but scarlet fever is unknown. Heart
disease is common, but then heart disease, as we know
it, is usually the sequel of some foregoing disease,
of which we never hear anything in the romance. Then
there is the mysterious malady called brain fever,
which always attacks the heroine after a crisis, but
which is unknown under that name to the text books.
People when they are over-excited in novels fall down
in a fit. In a fairly large experience I have never
known anyone do so in real life. The small
complaints simply don't exist. Nobody ever gets
shingles or quinsy, or mumps in a novel. All the
diseases, too, belong to the upper part of the body.
The novelist never strikes below the belt."
"I'll tell you what, Foster," says the alienist,
there is a side of life which is too medical for the
general public and too romantic for the professional
journals, but which contains some of the richest
human materials that a man could study. It's
not a pleasant side, I am afraid, but if it is good
enough for Providence to create, it is good enough
for us to try and understand. It would deal with
strange outbursts of savagery and vice in the lives
of the best men, curious momentary weaknesses in the
record of the sweetest women, known but to one or
two, and inconceivable to the world around. It would
deal, too, with the singular phenomena of waxing and
of waning manhood, and would throw a light upon those
actions which have cut short many an honoured career
and sent a man to a prison when he should have been
hurried to a consulting-room. Of all evils that may
come upon the sons of men, God shield us principally
from that one!"
"I had a case some little time ago which was out
of the ordinary," says the surgeon. "There's a
famous beauty in London society--I mention no names--
who used to be remarkable a few seasons ago for the
very low dresses which she would wear. She had the
whitest of skins and most beautiful of shoulders, so
it was no wonder. Then gradually the frilling at her
neck lapped upwards and upwards, until last year she
astonished everyone by wearing quite a high collar at
a time when it was completely out of fashion. Well,
one day this very woman was shown into my consulting-
room. When the footman was gone she suddenly tore
off the upper part of her dress. `For Gods sake
do something for me!' she cried. Then I saw what the
trouble was. A rodent ulcer was eating its way
upwards, coiling on in its serpiginous fashion until
the end of it was flush with her collar. The red
streak of its trail was lost below the line of her
bust. Year by year it had ascended and she had
heightened her dress to hide it, until now it was
about to invade her face. She had been too proud to
confess her trouble, even to a medical man."
"And did you stop it?"
"Well, with zinc chloride I did what I could.
But it may break out again. She was one of those
beautiful white-and-pink creatures who are rotten
with struma. You may patch but you can't mend."
"Dear! dear! dear!" cries the general
practitioner, with that kindly softening of the eyes
which had endeared him to so many thousands. "I
suppose we mustn't think ourselves wiser than
Providence, but there are times when one feels that
something is wrong in the scheme of things. I've
seen some sad things in my life. Did I ever tell you
that case where Nature divorced a most loving couple?
He was a fine young fellow, an athlete and a
gentleman, but he overdid athletics. You know how
the force that controls us gives us a little tweak to
remind us when we get off the beaten track. It may
be a pinch on the great toe if we drink too much
and work too little. Or it may be a tug on our
nerves if we dissipate energy too much. With the
athlete, of course, it's the heart or the lungs. He
had bad phthisis and was sent to Davos. Well, as
luck would have it, she developed rheumatic fever,
which left her heart very much affected. Now, do you
see the dreadful dilemma in which those poor people
found themselves? When he came below four thousand
feet or so, his symptoms became terrible. She could
come up about twenty-five hundred and then her heart
reached its limit. They had several interviews half
way down the valley, which left them nearly dead, and
at last, the doctors had to absolutely forbid it.
And so for four years they lived within three miles
of each other and never met. Every morning he would
go to a place which overlooked the chalet in which
she lived and would wave a great white cloth and she
answer from below. They could see each other quite
plainly with their field glasses, and they might have
been in different planets for all their chance of
"And one at last died," says the outsider.
"No, sir. I'm sorry not to be able to clinch the
story, but the man recovered and is now a successful
stockbroker in Drapers Gardens. The woman, too, is
the mother of a considerable family. But what are
you doing there?"
"Only taking a note or two of your talk."
The three medical men laugh as they walk towards
"Why, we've done nothing but talk shop," says the
general practitioner. "What possible interest can
the public take in that?"
LOT NO. 249.
Of the dealings of Edward Bellingham with William
Monkhouse Lee, and of the cause of the great terror
of Abercrombie Smith, it may be that no absolute and
final judgment will ever be delivered. It is true
that we have the full and clear narrative of Smith
himself, and such corroboration as he could look for
from Thomas Styles the servant, from the Reverend
Plumptree Peterson, Fellow of Old's, and from such
other people as chanced to gain some passing glance
at this or that incident in a singular chain of
events. Yet, in the main, the story must rest upon
Smith alone, and the most will think that it is more
likely that one brain, however outwardly sane, has
some subtle warp in its texture, some strange flaw in
its workings, than that the path of Nature has been
overstepped in open day in so famed a centre of
learning and light as the University of Oxford. Yet
when we think how narrow and how devious this path of
Nature is, how dimly we can trace it, for all our
lamps of science, and how from the darkness
which girds it round great and terrible possibilities
loom ever shadowly upwards, it is a bold and
confident man who will put a limit to the strange by-
paths into which the human spirit may wander.
In a certain wing of what we will call Old
College in Oxford there is a corner turret of an
exceeding great age. The heavy arch which spans the
open door has bent downwards in the centre under the
weight of its years, and the grey, lichen-blotched
blocks of stone are, bound and knitted together with
withes and strands of ivy, as though the old mother
had set herself to brace them up against wind and
weather. From the door a stone stair curves upward
spirally, passing two landings, and terminating in a
third one, its steps all shapeless and hollowed by
the tread of so many generations of the seekers after
knowledge. Life has flowed like water down this
winding stair, and, waterlike, has left these smooth-
worn grooves behind it. From the long-gowned,
pedantic scholars of Plantagenet days down to the
young bloods of a later age, how full and strong had
been that tide of young English life. And what was
left now of all those hopes, those strivings, those
fiery energies, save here and there in some old-world
churchyard a few scratches upon a stone, and
perchance a handful of dust in a mouldering coffin?
Yet here were the silent stair and the grey old
wall, with bend and saltire and many another heraldic
device still to be read upon its surface, like
grotesque shadows thrown back from the days that had
In the month of May, in the year 1884, three
young men occupied the sets of rooms which opened on
to the separate landings of the old stair. Each set
consisted simply of a sitting-room and of a bedroom,
while the two corresponding rooms upon the ground-
floor were used, the one as a coal-cellar, and the
other as the living-room of the servant, or gyp,
Thomas Styles, whose duty it was to wait upon the
three men above him. To right and to left was a line
of lecture-rooms and of offices, so that the dwellers
in the old turret enjoyed a certain seclusion, which
made the chambers popular among the more studious
undergraduates. Such were the three who occupied
them now--Abercrombie Smith above, Edward Bellingham
beneath him, and William Monkhouse Lee upon the
It was ten o'clock on a bright spring night, and
Abercrombie Smith lay back in his arm-chair, his feet
upon the fender, and his briar-root pipe between his
lips. In a similar chair, and equally at his ease,
there lounged on the other side of the fireplace his
old school friend Jephro Hastie. Both men were in
flannels, for they had spent their evening upon the
river, but apart from their dress no one could
look at their hard-cut, alert faces without seeing
that they were open-air men--men whose minds and
tastes turned naturally to all that was manly and
robust. Hastie, indeed, was stroke of his college
boat, and Smith was an even better oar, but a coming
examination had already cast its shadow over him and
held him to his work, save for the few hours a week
which health demanded. A litter of medical books
upon the table, with scattered bones, models and
anatomical plates, pointed to the extent as well as
the nature of his studies, while a couple of single-
sticks and a set of boxing-gloves above the
mantelpiece hinted at the means by which, with
Hastie's help, he might take his exercise in its most
compressed and least distant form. They knew each
other very well--so well that they could sit now in
that soothing silence which is the very highest
development of companionship.
"Have some whisky," said Abercrombie Smith at
last between two cloudbursts. "Scotch in the jug and
Irish in the bottle."
"No, thanks. I'm in for the sculls. I don't
liquor when I'm training. How about you?"
"I'm reading hard. I think it best to leave it
Hastie nodded, and they relapsed into a contented
"By-the-way, Smith," asked Hastie, presently,
have you made the acquaintance of either of the
fellows on your stair yet?"
"Just a nod when we pass. Nothing more."
"Hum! I should be inclined to let it stand at
that. I know something of them both. Not much, but
as much as I want. I don't think I should take them
to my bosom if I were you. Not that there's much
amiss with Monkhouse Lee."
"Meaning the thin one?"
"Precisely. He is a gentlemanly little fellow.
I don't think there is any vice in him. But then you
can't know him without knowing Bellingham."
"Meaning the fat one?"
"Yes, the fat one. And he's a man whom I, for
one, would rather not know."
Abercrombie Smith raised his eyebrows and glanced
across at his companion.
"What's up, then?" he asked. "Drink? Cards?
Cad? You used not to be censorious."
"Ah! you evidently don't know the man, or you
wouldn't ask. There's something damnable about him--
something reptilian. My gorge always rises at him.
I should put him down as a man with secret vices--an
evil liver. He's no fool, though. They say that he
is one of the best men in his line that they have
ever had in the college."
"Medicine or classics?"
"Eastern languages. He's a demon at them.
Chillingworth met him somewhere above the second
cataract last long, and he told me that he just
prattled to the Arabs as if he had been born and
nursed and weaned among them. He talked Coptic to
the Copts, and Hebrew to the Jews, and Arabic to the
Bedouins, and they were all ready to kiss the hem of
his frock-coat. There are some old hermit Johnnies
up in those parts who sit on rocks and scowl and spit
at the casual stranger. Well, when they saw this
chap Bellingham, before he had said five words they
just lay down on their bellies and wriggled.
Chillingworth said that he never saw anything like
it. Bellingham seemed to take it as his right, too,
and strutted about among them and talked down to them
like a Dutch uncle. Pretty good for an undergrad. of
Old's, wasn't it?"
"Why do you say you can't know Lee without
knowing Bellingham? "
"Because Bellingham is engaged to his sister
Eveline. Such a bright little girl, Smith! I know
the whole family well. It's disgusting to see that
brute with her. A toad and a dove, that's what they
always remind me of."
Abercrombie Smith grinned and knocked his ashes
out against the side of the grate.
"You show every card in your hand, old
chap," said he. "What a prejudiced, green-eyed,
evil-thinking old man it is! You have really nothing
against the fellow except that."
"Well, I've known her ever since she was as long
as that cherry-wood pipe, and I don't like to see her
taking risks. And it is a risk. He looks beastly.
And he has a beastly temper, a venomous temper. You
remember his row with Long Norton?"
"No; you always forget that I am a freshman."
"Ah, it was last winter. Of course. Well, you
know the towpath along by the river. There were
several fellows going along it, Bellingham in front,
when they came on an old market-woman coming the
other way. It had been raining--you know what those
fields are like when it has rained--and the path ran
between the river and a great puddle that was nearly
as broad. Well, what does this swine do but keep the
path, and push the old girl into the mud, where she
and her marketings came to terrible grief. It was a
blackguard thing to do, and Long Norton, who is as
gentle a fellow as ever stepped, told him what he
thought of it. One word led to another, and it ended
in Norton laying his stick across the fellow's
shoulders. There was the deuce of a fuss about it,
and it's a treat to see the way in which Bellingham
looks at Norton when they meet now. By Jove,
Smith, it's nearly eleven o'clock!"
"No hurry. Light your pipe again."
"Not I. I'm supposed to be in training. Here
I've been sitting gossiping when I ought to have been
safely tucked up. I'll borrow your skull, if you can
share it. Williams has had mine for a month. I'll
take the little bones of your ear, too, if you are
sure you won't need them. Thanks very much. Never
mind a bag, I can carry them very well under my arm.
Good-night, my son, and take my tip as to your
When Hastie, bearing his anatomical plunder, had
clattered off down the winding stair, Abercrombie
Smith hurled his pipe into the wastepaper basket, and
drawing his chair nearer to the lamp, plunged into a
formidable green-covered volume, adorned with great
colored maps of that strange internal kingdom of
which we are the hapless and helpless monarchs.
Though a freshman at Oxford, the student was not so
in medicine, for he had worked for four years at
Glasgow and at Berlin, and this coming examination
would place him finally as a member of his
profession. With his firm mouth, broad forehead, and
clear-cut, somewhat hard-featured face, he was a man
who, if he had no brilliant talent, was yet so
dogged, so patient, and so strong that he might in
the end overtop a more showy genius. A man who
can hold his own among Scotchmen and North Germans is
not a man to be easily set back. Smith had left a
name at Glasgow and at Berlin, and he was bent now
upon doing as much at Oxford, if hard work and
devotion could accomplish it.
He had sat reading for about an hour, and the
hands of the noisy carriage clock upon the side table
were rapidly closing together upon the twelve, when a
sudden sound fell upon the student's ear--a sharp,
rather shrill sound, like the hissing intake of a
man's breath who gasps under some strong emotion.
Smith laid down his book and slanted his ear to
listen. There was no one on either side or above
him, so that the interruption came certainly from the
neighbour beneath--the same neighbour of whom Hastie
had given so unsavoury an account. Smith knew him
only as a flabby, pale-faced man of silent and
studious habits, a man, whose lamp threw a golden bar
from the old turret even after he had extinguished
his own. This community in lateness had formed a
certain silent bond between them. It was soothing to
Smith when the hours stole on towards dawning to feel
that there was another so close who set as small a
value upon his sleep as he did. Even now, as his
thoughts turned towards him, Smith's feelings were
kindly. Hastie was a good fellow, but he was
rough, strong-fibred, with no imagination or
sympathy. He could not tolerate departures from what
he looked upon as the model type of manliness. If a
man could not be measured by a public-school
standard, then he was beyond the pale with Hastie.
Like so many who are themselves robust, he was apt to
confuse the constitution with the character, to
ascribe to want of principle what was really a want
of circulation. Smith, with his stronger mind, knew
his friend's habit, and made allowance for it now as
his thoughts turned towards the man beneath him.
There was no return of the singular sound, and
Smith was about to turn to his work once more, when
suddenly there broke out in the silence of the night
a hoarse cry, a positive scream--the call of a man
who is moved and shaken beyond all control. Smith
sprang out of his chair and dropped his book. He was
a man of fairly firm fibre, but there was something
in this sudden, uncontrollable shriek of horror which
chilled his blood and pringled in his skin. Coming
in such a place and at such an hour, it brought a
thousand fantastic possibilities into his head.
Should he rush down, or was it better to wait? He
had all the national hatred of making a scene, and he
knew so little of his neighbour that he would not
lightly intrude upon his affairs. For a moment
he stood in doubt and even as he balanced the
matter there was a quick rattle of footsteps upon the
stairs, and young Monkhouse Lee, half dressed and as
white as ashes, burst into his room.
"Come down!" he gasped. "Bellingham's ill."
Abercrombie Smith followed him closely down
stairs into the sitting-room which was beneath his
own, and intent as he was upon the matter in hand, he
could not but take an amazed glance around him as he
crossed the threshold. It was such a chamber as he
had never seen before--a museum rather than a study.
Walls and ceiling were thickly covered with a
thousand strange relics from Egypt and the East.
Tall, angular figures bearing burdens or weapons
stalked in an uncouth frieze round the apartments.
Above were bull-headed, stork-headed, cat-headed,
owl-headed statues, with viper-crowned, almond-eyed
monarchs, and strange, beetle-like deities cut out of
the blue Egyptian lapis lazuli. Horus and Isis and
Osiris peeped down from every niche and shelf, while
across the ceiling a true son of Old Nile, a great,
hanging-jawed crocodile, was slung in a double noose.
In the centre of this singular chamber was a
large, square table, littered with papers, bottles,
and the dried leaves of some graceful, palm-like
plant. These varied objects had all been heaped
together in order to make room for a mummy case,
which had been conveyed from the wall, as was evident
from the gap there, and laid across the front of the
table. The mummy itself, a horrid, black, withered
thing, like a charred head on a gnarled bush, was
lying half out of the case, with its clawlike hand
and bony forearm resting upon the table. Propped up
against the sarcophagus was an old yellow scroll of
papyrus, and in front of it, in a wooden armchair,
sat the owner of the room, his head thrown back, his
widely-opened eyes directed in a horrified stare to
the crocodile above him, and his blue, thick lips
puffing loudly with every expiration.
"My God! he's dying!" cried Monkhouse Lee
He was a slim, handsome young fellow, olive-
skinned and dark-eyed, of a Spanish rather than of an
English type, with a Celtic intensity of manner which
contrasted with the Saxon phlegm of Abercombie Smith.
"Only a faint, I think," said the medical
student. "Just give me a hand with him. You take
his feet. Now on to the sofa. Can you kick all
those little wooden devils off? What a litter it is!
Now he will be all right if we undo his collar and
give him some water. What has he been up to at all?"
"I don't know. I heard him cry out. I ran up.
I know him pretty well, you know. It is very good of
you to come down."
"His heart is going like a pair of castanets,"
said Smith, laying his hand on the breast of the
unconscious man. "He seems to me to be frightened
all to pieces. Chuck the water over him! What a
face he has got on him!"
It was indeed a strange and most repellent face,
for colour and outline were equally unnatural. It
was white, not with the ordinary pallor of fear but
with an absolutely bloodless white, like the under
side of a sole. He was very fat, but gave the
impression of having at some time been considerably
fatter, for his skin hung loosely in creases and
folds, and was shot with a meshwork of wrinkles.
Short, stubbly brown hair bristled up from his scalp,
with a pair of thick, wrinkled ears protruding on
either side. His light grey eyes were still open,
the pupils dilated and the balls projecting in a
fixed and horrid stare. It seemed to Smith as he
looked down upon him that he had never seen nature's
danger signals flying so plainly upon a man's
countenance, and his thoughts turned more seriously
to the warning which Hastie had given him an hour
"What the deuce can have frightened him so?" he
"It's the mummy."
"The mummy? How, then?"
"I don't know. It's beastly and morbid. I wish
he would drop it. It's the second fright he has
given me. It was the same last winter. I found him
just like this, with that horrid thing in front of
"What does he want with the mummy, then?"
"Oh, he's a crank, you know. It's his hobby. He
knows more about these things than any man in
England. But I wish he wouldn't! Ah, he's beginning
to come to."
A faint tinge of colour had begun to steal back
into Bellingham's ghastly cheeks, and his eyelids
shivered like a sail after a calm. He clasped and
unclasped his hands, drew a long, thin breath between
his teeth, and suddenly jerking up his head, threw a
glance of recognition around him. As his eyes fell
upon the mummy, he sprang off the sofa, seized the
roll of papyrus, thrust it into a drawer, turned the
key, and then staggered back on to the sofa.
"What's up?" he asked. "What do you chaps want?"
"You've been shrieking out and making no end of a
fuss," said Monkhouse Lee. "If our neighbour here
from above hadn't come down, I'm sure I don't know
what I should have done with you."
"Ah, it's Abercrombie Smith," said Bellingham,
glancing up at him. "How very good of you to come
in! What a fool I am! Oh, my God, what a fool I
He sunk his head on to his hands, and burst into
peal after peal of hysterical laughter.
"Look here! Drop it!" cried Smith, shaking him
roughly by the shoulder.
"Your nerves are all in a jangle. You must drop
these little midnight games with mummies, or you'll
be going off your chump. You're all on wires now."
"I wonder," said Bellingham, "whether you would
be as cool as I am if you had seen----"
"Oh, nothing. I meant that I wonder if you could
sit up at night with a mummy without trying your
nerves. I have no doubt that you are quite right. I
dare say that I have been taking it out of myself too
much lately. But I am all right now. Please don't
go, though. Just wait for a few minutes until I am
"The room is very close," remarked Lee, throwing
open the window and letting in the cool night air.
"It's balsamic resin," said Bellingham. He
lifted up one of the dried palmate leaves from the
table and frizzled it over the chimney of the lamp.
It broke away into heavy smoke wreaths, and a
pungent, biting odour filled the chamber. "It's
the sacred plant--the plant of the priests," he
remarked. "Do you know anything of Eastern
"Nothing at all. Not a word."
The answer seemed to lift a weight from the
"By-the-way," he continued, "how long was it from
the time that you ran down, until I came to my
"Not long. Some four or five minutes."
"I thought it could not be very long," said he,
drawing a long breath. "But what a strange thing
unconsciousness is! There is no measurement to it.
I could not tell from my own sensations if it were
seconds or weeks. Now that gentleman on the table
was packed up in the days of the eleventh dynasty,
some forty centuries ago, and yet if he could find
his tongue he would tell us that this lapse of time
has been but a closing of the eyes and a reopening of
them. He is a singularly fine mummy, Smith."
Smith stepped over to the table and looked down
with a professional eye at the black and twisted form
in front of him. The features, though horribly
discoloured, were perfect, and two little nut-like
eyes still lurked in the depths of the black, hollow
sockets. The blotched skin was drawn tightly from
bone to bone, and a tangled wrap of black coarse
hair fell over the ears. Two thin teeth, like those
of a rat, overlay the shrivelled lower lip. In its
crouching position, with bent joints and craned head,
there was a suggestion of energy about the horrid
thing which made Smith's gorge rise. The gaunt ribs,
with their parchment-like covering, were exposed, and
the sunken, leaden-hued abdomen, with the long slit
where the embalmer had left his mark; but the lower
limbs were wrapt round with coarse yellow bandages.
A number of little clove-like pieces of myrrh and of
cassia were sprinkled over the body, and lay
scattered on the inside of the case.
"I don't know his name," said Bellingham, passing
his hand over the shrivelled head. "You see the
outer sarcophagus with the inscriptions is missing.
Lot 249 is all the title he has now. You see it
printed on his case. That was his number in the
auction at which I picked him up."
"He has been a very pretty sort of fellow in his
day," remarked Abercrombie Smith.
"He has been a giant. His mummy is six feet
seven in length, and that would be a giant over
there, for they were never a very robust race. Feel
these great knotted bones, too. He would be a nasty
fellow to tackle."
"Perhaps these very hands helped to build the
stones into the pyramids," suggested Monkhouse
Lee, looking down with disgust in his eyes at the
crooked, unclean talons.
"No fear. This fellow has been pickled in
natron, and looked after in the most approved style.
They did not serve hodsmen in that fashion. Salt or
bitumen was enough for them. It has been calculated
that this sort of thing cost about seven hundred and
thirty pounds in our money. Our friend was a noble
at the least. What do you make of that small
inscription near his feet, Smith?"
"I told you that I know no Eastern tongue."
"Ah, so you did. It is the name of the embalmer,
I take it. A very conscientious worker he must have
been. I wonder how many modern works will survive
four thousand years?"
He kept on speaking lightly and rapidly, but it
was evident to Abercrombie Smith that he was still
palpitating with fear. His hands shook, his lower
lip trembled, and look where he would, his eye always
came sliding round to his gruesome companion.
Through all his fear, however, there was a suspicion
of triumph in his tone and manner. His eye shone,
and his footstep, as he paced the room, was brisk and
jaunty. He gave the impression of a man who has gone
through an ordeal, the marks of which he still bears
upon him, but which has helped him to his end.
"You're not going yet?" he cried, as Smith rose
from the sofa.
At the prospect of solitude, his fears seemed to
crowd back upon him, and he stretched out a hand to
"Yes, I must go. I have my work to do. You are
all right now. I think that with your nervous system
you should take up some less morbid study."
"Oh, I am not nervous as a rule; and I have
unwrapped mummies before."
"You fainted last time," observed Monkhouse Lee.
"Ah, yes, so I did. Well, I must have a nerve
tonic or a course of electricity. You are not going,
"I'll do whatever you wish, Ned."
"Then I'll come down with you and have a shake-
down on your sofa. Good-night, Smith. I am so sorry
to have disturbed you with my foolishness."
They shook hands, and as the medical student
stumbled up the spiral and irregular stair he heard a
key turn in a door, and the steps of his two new
acquaintances as they descended to the lower floor.
In this strange way began the acquaintance
between Edward Bellingham and Abercrombie Smith,
an acquaintance which the latter, at least, had no
desire to push further. Bellingham, however,
appeared to have taken a fancy to his rough-spoken
neighbour, and made his advances in such a way that
he could hardly be repulsed without absolute
brutality. Twice he called to thank Smith for his
assistance, and many times afterwards he looked in
with books, papers, and such other civilities as two
bachelor neighbours can offer each other. He was, as
Smith soon found, a man of wide reading, with
catholic tastes and an extraordinary memory. His
manner, too, was so pleasing and suave that one came,
after a time, to overlook his repellent appearance.
For a jaded and wearied man he was no unpleasant
companion, and Smith found himself, after a time,
looking forward to his visits, and even returning
Clever as he undoubtedly was, however, the
medical student seemed to detect a dash of insanity
in the man. He broke out at times into a high,
inflated style of talk which was in contrast with the
simplicity of his life.
"It is a wonderful thing," he cried, "to feel
that one can command powers of good and of evil--a
ministering angel or a demon of vengeance." And
again, of Monkhouse Lee, he said,--"Lee is a good
fellow, an honest fellow, but he is without strength
or ambition. He would not make a fit partner
for a man with a great enterprise. He would not make
a fit partner for me."
At such hints and innuendoes stolid Smith,
puffing solemnly at his pipe, would simply raise his
eyebrows and shake his head, with little
interjections of medical wisdom as to earlier hours
and fresher air.
One habit Bellingham had developed of late which
Smith knew to be a frequent herald of a weakening
mind. He appeared to be forever talking to himself.
At late hours of the night, when there could be no
visitor with him, Smith could still hear his voice
beneath him in a low, muffled monologue, sunk almost
to a whisper, and yet very audible in the silence.
This solitary babbling annoyed and distracted the
student, so that he spoke more than once to his
neighbour about it. Bellingham, however, flushed up
at the charge, and denied curtly that he had uttered
a sound; indeed, he showed more annoyance over the
matter than the occasion seemed to demand.
Had Abercrombie Smith had any doubt as to his own
ears he had not to go far to find corroboration. Tom
Styles, the little wrinkled man-servant who had
attended to the wants of the lodgers in the turret
for a longer time than any man's memory could carry
him, was sorely put to it over the same matter.
"If you please, sir," said he, as he tidied down
the top chamber one morning, "do you think Mr.
Bellingham is all right, sir?"
"All right, Styles?"
"Yes sir. Right in his head, sir."
"Why should he not be, then?"
"Well, I don't know, sir. His habits has changed
of late. He's not the same man he used to be, though
I make free to say that he was never quite one of my
gentlemen, like Mr. Hastie or yourself, sir. He's
took to talkin' to himself something awful. I wonder
it don't disturb you. I don't know what to make of
"I don't know what business it is of yours,
"Well, I takes an interest, Mr. Smith. It may be
forward of me, but I can't help it. I feel sometimes
as if I was mother and father to my young gentlemen.
It all falls on me when things go wrong and the
relations come. But Mr. Bellingham, sir. I want to
know what it is that walks about his room sometimes
when he's out and when the door's locked on the
"Eh! you're talking nonsense, Styles."
"Maybe so, sir; but I heard it more'n once with
my own ears."
"Very good, sir. You'll ring the bell if you
Abercrombie Smith gave little heed to the gossip
of the old man-servant, but a small incident occurred
a few days later which left an unpleasant effect upon
his mind, and brought the words of Styles forcibly to
Bellingham had come up to see him late one night,
and was entertaining him with an interesting account
of the rock tombs of Beni Hassan in Upper Egypt, when
Smith, whose hearing was remarkably acute, distinctly
heard the sound of a door opening on the landing
"There's some fellow gone in or out of your
room," he remarked.
Bellingham sprang up and stood helpless for a
moment, with the expression of a man who is half
incredulous and half afraid.
"I surely locked it. I am almost positive that I
locked it," he stammered. "No one could have opened
"Why, I hear someone coming up the steps now,"
Bellingham rushed out through the door, slammed
it loudly behind him, and hurried down the stairs.
About half-way down Smith heard him stop, and thought
he caught the sound of whispering. A moment later
the door beneath him shut, a key creaked in a lock,
and Bellingham, with beads of moisture upon his pale
face, ascended the stairs once more, and re-entered
"It's all right," he said, throwing himself down
in a chair. "It was that fool of a dog. He had
pushed the door open. I don't know how I came to
forget to lock it."
"I didn't know you kept a dog," said Smith,
looking very thoughtfully at the disturbed face of
"Yes, I haven't had him long. I must get rid of
him. He's a great nuisance."
"He must be, if you find it so hard to shut him
up. I should have thought that shutting the door
would have been enough, without locking it."
"I want to prevent old Styles from letting him
out. He's of some value, you know, and it would be
awkward to lose him."
"I am a bit of a dog-fancier myself," said Smith,
still gazing hard at his companion from the corner of
his eyes. "Perhaps you'll let me have a look at it."
"Certainly. But I am afraid it cannot be to-
night; I have an appointment. Is that clock right?
Then I am a quarter of an hour late already. You'll
excuse me, I am sure."
He picked up his cap and hurried from the room.
In spite of his appointment, Smith heard him re-enter
his own chamber and lock his door upon the inside.
This interview left a disagreeable impression
upon the medical student's mind. Bellingham had
lied to him, and lied so clumsily that it looked as
if he had desperate reasons for concealing the truth.
Smith knew that his neighbour had no dog. He knew,
also, that the step which he had heard upon the
stairs was not the step of an animal. But if it were
not, then what could it be? There was old Styles's
statement about the something which used to pace the
room at times when the owner was absent. Could it be
a woman? Smith rather inclined to the view. If so,
it would mean disgrace and expulsion to Bellingham if
it were discovered by the authorities, so that his
anxiety and falsehoods might be accounted for. And
yet it was inconceivable that an undergraduate could
keep a woman in his rooms without being instantly
detected. Be the explanation what it might, there
was something ugly about it, and Smith determined, as
he turned to his books, to discourage all further
attempts at intimacy on the part of his soft-spoken
and ill-favoured neighbour.
But his work was destined to interruption that
night. He had hardly caught tip the broken threads
when a firm, heavy footfall came three steps at a
time from below, and Hastie, in blazer and flannels,
burst into the room.
"Still at it!" said he, plumping down into his
wonted arm-chair. "What a chap you are to stew!
I believe an earthquake might come and knock Oxford
into a cocked hat, and you would sit perfectly placid
with your books among the rains. However, I won't
bore you long. Three whiffs of baccy, and I am off."
"What's the news, then?" asked Smith, cramming a
plug of bird's-eye into his briar with his
"Nothing very much. Wilson made 70 for the
freshmen against the eleven. They say that they will
play him instead of Buddicomb, for Buddicomb is clean
off colour. He used to be able to bowl a little, but
it's nothing but half-vollies and long hops now."
"Medium right," suggested Smith, with the intense
gravity which comes upon a 'varsity man when he
speaks of athletics.
"Inclining to fast, with a work from leg. Comes
with the arm about three inches or so. He used to be
nasty on a wet wicket. Oh, by-the-way, have you
heard about Long Norton?"
"He's been attacked."
"Yes, just as he was turning out of the High
Street, and within a hundred yards of the gate of
"Ah, that's the rub! If you said `what,'
you would be more grammatical. Norton swears
that it was not human, and, indeed, from the
scratches on his throat, I should be inclined to
agree with him."
"What, then? Have we come down to spooks?"
Abercrombie Smith puffed his scientific contempt.
"Well, no; I don't think that is quite the idea,
either. I am inclined to think that if any showman
has lost a great ape lately, and the brute is in
these parts, a jury would find a true bill against
it. Norton passes that way every night, you know,
about the same hour. There's a tree that hangs low
over the path--the big elm from Rainy's garden.
Norton thinks the thing dropped on him out of the
tree. Anyhow, he was nearly strangled by two arms,
which, he says, were as strong and as thin as steel
bands. He saw nothing; only those beastly arms that
tightened and tightened on him. He yelled his head
nearly off, and a couple of chaps came running, and
the thing went over the wall like a cat. He never
got a fair sight of it the whole time. It gave
Norton a shake up, I can tell you. I tell him it has
been as good as a change at the sea-side for him."
"A garrotter, most likely," said Smith.
"Very possibly. Norton says not; but we
don't mind what he says. The garrotter had long
nails, and was pretty smart at swinging himself over
walls. By-the-way, your beautiful neighbour would be
pleased if he heard about it. He had a grudge
against Norton, and he's not a man, from what I know
of him, to forget his little debts. But hallo, old
chap, what have you got in your noddle?"
"Nothing," Smith answered curtly.
He had started in his chair, and the look had
flashed over his face which comes upon a man who is
struck suddenly by some unpleasant idea.
"You looked as if something I had said had taken
you on the raw. By-the-way, you have made the
acquaintance of Master B. since I looked in last,
have you not? Young Monkhouse Lee told me something
to that effect."
"Yes; I know him slightly. He has been up here
once or twice."
"Well, you're big enough and ugly enough to take
care of yourself. He's not what I should call
exactly a healthy sort of Johnny, though, no doubt,
he's very clever, and all that. But you'll soon find
out for yourself. Lee is all right; he's a very
decent little fellow. Well, so long, old chap! I
row Mullins for the Vice-Chancellor's pot on
Wednesday week, so mind you come down, in case I
don't see you before."
Bovine Smith laid down his pipe and turned
stolidly to his books once more. But with all
the will in the world, he found it very hard to keep
his mind upon his work. It would slip away to brood
upon the man beneath him, and upon the little mystery
which hung round his chambers. Then his thoughts
turned to this singular attack of which Hastie had
spoken, and to the grudge which Bellingham was said
to owe the object of it. The two ideas would persist
in rising together in his mind, as though there were
some close and intimate connection between them. And
yet the suspicion was so dim and vague that it could
not be put down in words.
"Confound the chap!" cried Smith, as he shied his
book on pathology across the room. "He has spoiled
my night's reading, and that's reason enough, if
there were no other, why I should steer clear of him
in the future."
For ten days the medical student confined himself
so closely to his studies that he neither saw nor
heard anything of either of the men beneath him. At
the hours when Bellingham had been accustomed to
visit him, he took care to sport his oak, and though
he more than once heard a knocking at his outer door,
he resolutely refused to answer it. One afternoon,
however, he was descending the stairs when, just as
he was passing it, Bellingham's door flew open, and
young Monkhouse Lee came out with his eyes sparkling
and a dark flush of anger upon his olive cheeks.
Close at his heels followed Bellingham, his fat,
unhealthy face all quivering with malignant passion.
"You fool!" he hissed. "You'll be sorry."
"Very likely," cried the other. "Mind what I
say. It's off! I won't hear of it!"
"You've promised, anyhow."
"Oh, I'll keep that! I won't speak. But I'd
rather little Eva was in her grave. Once for all,
it's off. She'll do what I say. We don't want to
see you again."
So much Smith could not avoid hearing, but he
hurried on, for he had no wish to be involved in
their dispute. There had been a serious breach
between them, that was clear enough, and Lee was
going to cause the engagement with his sister to be
broken off. Smith thought of Hastie's comparison of
the toad and the dove, and was glad to think that the
matter was at an end. Bellingham's face when he was
in a passion was not pleasant to look upon. He was
not a man to whom an innocent girl could be trusted
for life. As he walked, Smith wondered languidly
what could have caused the quarrel, and what the
promise might be which Bellingham had been so anxious
that Monkhouse Lee should keep.
It was the day of the sculling match between
Hastie and Mullins, and a stream of men were
making their way down to the banks of the Isis.
A May sun was shining brightly, and the yellow path
was barred with the black shadows of the tall elm-
trees. On either side the grey colleges lay back
from the road, the hoary old mothers of minds looking
out from their high, mullioned windows at the tide of
young life which swept so merrily past them. Black-
clad tutors, prim officials, pale reading men, brown-
faced, straw-hatted young athletes in white sweaters
or many-coloured blazers, all were hurrying towards
the blue winding river which curves through the
Abercrombie Smith, with the intuition of an old
oarsman, chose his position at the point where he
knew that the struggle, if there were a struggle,
would come. Far off he heard the hum which announced
the start, the gathering roar of the approach, the
thunder of running feet, and the shouts of the men in
the boats beneath him. A spray of half-clad, deep-
breathing runners shot past him, and craning over
their shoulders, he saw Hastie pulling a steady
thirty-six, while his opponent, with a jerky forty,
was a good boat's length behind him. Smith gave a
cheer for his friend, and pulling out his watch, was
starting off again for his chambers, when he felt a
touch upon his shoulder, and found that young
Monkhouse Lee was beside him.
"I saw you there," he said, in a timid,
deprecating way. "I wanted to speak to you, if you
could spare me a half-hour. This cottage is mine. I
share it with Harrington of King's. Come in and have
a cup of tea."
"I must be back presently," said Smith. "I am
hard on the grind at present. But I'll come in for a
few minutes with pleasure. I wouldn't have come out
only Hastie is a friend of mine."
"So he is of mine. Hasn't he a beautiful style?
Mullins wasn't in it. But come into the cottage.
It's a little den of a place, but it is pleasant to
work in during the summer months."
It was a small, square, white building, with
green doors and shutters, and a rustic trellis-work
porch, standing back some fifty yards from the
river's bank. Inside, the main room was roughly
fitted up as a study--deal table, unpainted shelves
with books, and a few cheap oleographs upon the wall.
A kettle sang upon a spirit-stove, and there were tea
things upon a tray on the table.
"Try that chair and have a cigarette," said Lee.
"Let me pour you out a cup of tea. It's so good of
you to come in, for I know that your time is a good
deal taken up. I wanted to say to you that, if I
were you, I should change my rooms at once."
Smith sat staring with a lighted match in one
hand and his unlit cigarette in the other.
"Yes; it must seem very extraordinary, and the
worst of it is that I cannot give my reasons, for I
am under a solemn promise--a very solemn promise.
But I may go so far as to say that I don't think
Bellingham is a very safe man to live near. I intend
to camp out here as much as I can for a time."
"Not safe! What do you mean?"
"Ah, that's what I mustn't say. But do take my
advice, and move your rooms. We had a grand row to-
day. You must have heard us, for you came down the
"I saw that you had fallen out."
"He's a horrible chap, Smith. That is the only
word for him. I have had doubts about him ever since
that night when he fainted--you remember, when you
came down. I taxed him to-day, and he told me things
that made my hair rise, and wanted me to stand in
with him. I'm not strait-laced, but I am a
clergyman's son, you know, and I think there are some
things which are quite beyond the pale. I only thank
God that I found him out before it was too late, for
he was to have married into my family."
"This is all very fine, Lee," said Abercrombie
Smith curtly. "But either you are saying a great
deal too much or a great deal too little."
"I give you a warning."
"If there is real reason for warning, no promise
can bind you. If I see a rascal about to blow a
place up with dynamite no pledge will stand in my way
of preventing him."
"Ah, but I cannot prevent him, and I can do
nothing but warn you."
"Without saying what you warn me against."
"But that is childish. Why should I fear him, or
"I can't tell you. I can only entreat you to
change your rooms. You are in danger where you are.
I don't even say that Bellingham would wish to injure
you. But it might happen, for he is a dangerous
neighbour just now."
"Perhaps I know more than you think," said Smith,
looking keenly at the young man's boyish, earnest
face. "Suppose I tell you that some one else shares
Monkhouse Lee sprang from his chair in
"You know, then?" he gasped.
Lee dropped back again with a groan.
"My lips are sealed," he said. "I must not
"Well, anyhow," said Smith, rising, "it is not
likely that I should allow myself to be frightened
out of rooms which suit me very nicely. It
would be a little too feeble for me to move out all
my goods and chattels because you say that Bellingham
might in some unexplained way do me an injury. I
think that I'll just take my chance, and stay where I
am, and as I see that it's nearly five o'clock, I
must ask you to excuse me."
He bade the young student adieu in a few curt
words, and made his way homeward through the sweet
spring evening feeling half-ruffled, half-amused, as
any other strong, unimaginative man might who has
been menaced by a vague and shadowy danger.
There was one little indulgence which Abercrombie
Smith always allowed himself, however closely his
work might press upon him. Twice a week, on the
Tuesday and the Friday, it was his invariable custom
to walk over to Farlingford, the residence of Dr.
Plumptree Peterson, situated about a mile and a half
out of Oxford. Peterson had been a close friend of
Smith's elder brother Francis, and as he was a
bachelor, fairly well-to-do, with a good cellar and a
better library, his house was a pleasant goal for a
man who was in need of a brisk walk. Twice a week,
then, the medical student would swing out there along
the dark country roads, and spend a pleasant hour in
Peterson's comfortable study, discussing, over a
glass of old port, the gossip of the 'varsity or
the latest developments of medicine or of surgery.
On the day which followed his interview with
Monkhouse Lee, Smith shut up his books at a quarter
past eight, the hour when he usually started for his
friend's house. As he was leaving his room, however,
his eyes chanced to fall upon one of the books which
Bellingham had lent him, and his conscience pricked
him for not having returned it. However repellent
the man might be, he should not be treated with
discourtesy. Taking the book, he walked downstairs
and knocked at his neighbour's door. There was no
answer; but on turning the handle he found that it
was unlocked. Pleased at the thought of avoiding an
interview, he stepped inside, and placed the book
with his card upon the table.
The lamp was turned half down, but Smith could
see the details of the room plainly enough. It was
all much as he had seen it before--the frieze, the
animal-headed gods, the banging crocodile, and the
table littered over with papers and dried leaves.
The mummy case stood upright against the wall, but
the mummy itself was missing. There was no sign of
any second occupant of the room, and he felt as he
withdrew that he had probably done Bellingham an
injustice. Had he a guilty secret to preserve, he
would hardly leave his door open so that all the
world might enter.
The spiral stair was as black as pitch, and Smith
was slowly making his way down its irregular steps,
when he was suddenly conscious that something had
passed him in the darkness. There was a faint sound,
a whiff of air, a light brushing past his elbow, but
so slight that he could scarcely be certain of it.
He stopped and listened, but the wind was rustling
among the ivy outside, and he could hear nothing
"Is that you, Styles?" he shouted.
There was no answer, and all was still behind
him. It must have been a sudden gust of air, for
there were crannies and cracks in the old turret.
And yet he could almost have sworn that be heard a
footfall by his very side. He had emerged into the
quadrangle, still turning the matter over in his
head, when a man came running swiftly across the
"Is that you, Smith?"
"For God's sake come at once! Young Lee is
drowned! Here's Harrington of King's with the news.
The doctor is out. You'll do, but come along at
once. There may be life in him."
"Have you brandy?"
"I'll bring some. There's a flask on my table."
Smith bounded up the stairs, taking three at a
time, seized the flask, and was rushing down with it,
when, as he passed Bellingham's room, his eyes fell
upon something which left him gasping and staring
upon the landing.
The door, which he had closed behind him, was now
open, and right in front of him, with the lamp-light
shining upon it, was the mummy case. Three minutes
ago it had been empty. He could swear to that. Now
it framed the lank body of its horrible occupant, who
stood, grim and stark, with his black shrivelled face
towards the door. The form was lifeless and inert,
but it seemed to Smith as he gazed that there still
lingered a lurid spark of vitality, some faint sign
of consciousness in the little eyes which lurked in
the depths of the hollow sockets. So astounded and
shaken was he that he had forgotten his errand, and
was still staring at the lean, sunken figure when the
voice of his friend below recalled him to himself.
"Come on, Smith!" he shouted. "It's life and
death, you know. Hurry up! Now, then," he added, as
the medical student reappeared, "let us do a sprint.
It is well under a mile, and we should do it in five
minutes. A human life is better worth running for
than a pot."
Neck and neck they dashed through the darkness,
and did not pull up until, panting and spent,
they had reached the little cottage by the river.
Young Lee, limp and dripping like a broken water-
plant, was stretched upon the sofa, the green scum of
the river upon his black hair, and a fringe of white
foam upon his leaden-hued lips. Beside him knelt his
fellow-student Harrington, endeavouring to chafe some
warmth back into his rigid limbs.
"I think there's life in him," said Smith, with
his hand to the lad's side. "Put your watch glass to
his lips. Yes, there's dimming on it. You take one
arm, Hastie. Now work it as I do, and we'll soon
pull him round."
For ten minutes they worked in silence, inflating
and depressing the chest of the unconscious man. At
the end of that time a shiver ran through his body,
his lips trembled, and he opened his eyes. The three
students burst out into an irrepressible cheer.
"Wake up, old chap. You've frightened us quite
"Have some brandy. Take a sip from the flask."
"He's all right now," said his companion
Harrington. "Heavens, what a fright I got! I was
reading here, and he had gone for a stroll as far as
the river, when I heard a scream and a splash. Out I
ran, and by the time that I could find him and fish
him out, all life seemed to have gone. Then
Simpson couldn't get a doctor, for he has a game-leg,
and I had to run, and I don't know what I'd have done
without you fellows. That's right, old chap. Sit
Monkhouse Lee had raised himself on his hands,
and looked wildly about him.
"What's up?" he asked. "I've been in the water.
Ah, yes; I remember."
A look of fear came into his eyes, and he sank
his face into his hands.
"How did you fall in?"
"I didn't fall in."
"I was thrown in. I was standing by the bank,
and something from behind picked me up like a feather
and hurled me in. I heard nothing, and I saw
nothing. But I know what it was, for all that."
"And so do I, " whispered Smith.
Lee looked up with a quick glance of surprise.
"You've learned, then!" he said. "You remember the
advice I gave you?"
"Yes, and I begin to think that I shall take it."
"I don't know what the deuce you fellows are
talking about," said Hastie, "but I think, if I were
you, Harrington, I should get Lee to bed at once. It
will be time enough to discuss the why and the
wherefore when he is a little stronger. I
think, Smith, you and I can leave him alone now.
I am walking back to college; if you are coming in
that direction, we can have a chat."
But it was little chat that they had upon their
homeward path. Smith's mind was too full of the
incidents of the evening, the absence of the mummy
from his neighbour's rooms, the step that passed him
on the stair, the reappearance--the extraordinary,
inexplicable reappearance of the grisly thing--and
then this attack upon Lee, corresponding so closely
to the previous outrage upon another man against whom
Bellingham bore a grudge. All this settled in his
thoughts, together with the many little incidents
which had previously turned him against his
neighbour, and the singular circumstances under which
he was first called in to him. What had been a dim
suspicion, a vague, fantastic conjecture, had
suddenly taken form, and stood out in his mind as a
grim fact, a thing not to be denied. And yet, how
monstrous it was! how unheard of! how entirely beyond
all bounds of human experience. An impartial judge,
or even the friend who walked by his side, would
simply tell him that his eyes had deceived him, that
the mummy had been there all the time, that young Lee
had tumbled into the river as any other man tumbles
into a river, and that a blue pill was the best thing
for a disordered liver. He felt that he would have
said as much if the positions had been reversed.
And yet he could swear that Bellingham was a murderer
at heart, and that he wielded a weapon such as no man
had ever used in all the grim history of crime.
Hastie had branched off to his rooms with a few
crisp and emphatic comments upon his friend's
unsociability, and Abercrombie Smith crossed the
quadrangle to his corner turret with a strong feeling
of repulsion for his chambers and their associations.
He would take Lee's advice, and move his quarters as
soon as possible, for how could a man study when his
ear was ever straining for every murmur or footstep
in the room below? He observed, as he crossed over
the lawn, that the light was still shining in
Bellingham's window, and as he passed up the
staircase the door opened, and the man himself looked
out at him. With his fat, evil face he was like some
bloated spider fresh from the weaving of his
"Good-evening," said he. "Won't you come in?"
"No," cried Smith, fiercely.
"No? You are busy as ever? I wanted to ask you
about Lee. I was sorry to hear that there was a
rumour that something was amiss with him."
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