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"We don't want to make explanations.
They'll both be all right in five minutes, and
they'll think it all a dream. As, indeed, like
the rest of things, it is!"
But Cyril had to carry la Giuffria. The
rapid successions of these mysterious
events had ended by throwing her
consciousness completely out of gear. She
lay in a deep trance. [71]
"A very fortunate circumstance!"
remarked Simon, when he observed it. "This
is the time to take her over to the Profess-
House." Cyril wrapped her in her furs;
between them they carried her to the
boulevard, where Simon Iff's automobile
was in waiting.
The old mystic held up his left hand,
with two of the fingers crossed. It was a
signal to the chauffeur. In another moment
they were running on easy speed up the
Boulevard Arago.
Lisa came to herself as the car, crossing
the Seine, pointed at the heights of
Montmartre; and she was perfectly
recovered as it stopped before a modest
house of quite modern type, which was set
against the steepest part of the hill.
The door opened, without alarm being
given. Lisa learnt later that in this house no
orders needed to be issued, that simplicity
had reached so serene a level that all
things operated together without question.
Only when unusual accidents took place
was there need for speech; and little, even
then.
The door stood open, and a quite
ordinary butler presented himself, bowing.
Simon Iff returned the salute, and walked
on, when a second door opened, also
spontaneously. Lisa found herself in a small
lobby. The man who had opened the inner
door was clad from neck to knee in a single
black robe, without sleeves. From his belt
hung a heavy sword with a cross-hilt. This
man held up three fingers. Simon Iff again
nodded, and led his guests to the room on
the left.
Here were the three guests indicated by
the gesture of the guard. Lord Antony
Bowling was a familiar friend of the old
mystic. He was a stout and strong man of
nearly fifty years of age, with a gaze both
intrepid and acute: His nose was of the
extreme aristocratic type, his mouth
sensual and strong. [72]
Cyril Grey had nicknamed him "The
Merman of Mayfair" and claimed that Rodin
got the idea for his "Centaur" the day that
he met him.
He was the younger brother of the Duke
of Flint, his race probably Norman in the
main: but he gave the impression of a
Roman Emperor. Haughtiness was here, and
great good-nature; the intellect was
evidently developed to the highest possible
pitch of which man as man is capable; and
one could read the judicial habit on his
deep wide brows. Against this one could
see the huge force of the man's soul, the
passionate desire for knowledge which
burnt in that great brain. One could
conceive him capable of monstrous deeds,
for he would let no man, no prejudice of
men, stand in his way. He would certainly
have fiddled while Rome was burning if it
had been his hobby to play the violin.
This man was the mainstay of the
Society for Psychical Research. He was the
only absolutely competent man in it,
perhaps; at least, he stood well above all
others. He had the capacity for measuring
the limits of error in any investigation with
great accuracy. Just as the skilful climber
can make his way on rotten chalk by
trusting each crumbling fragment with just
that fraction of his weight which will not
quite dislodge it, so Lord Antony could
prepare a sound case from worthless
testimony. He knew the limits of fraud. He
might catch a medium in the act of
cheating a dozen times in a seance, and yet
record some of the phenomena of that
seance as evidential. He used to say that
the fact of a medium having his hands free
did not explain the earthquake at Messina.
If this man had ever caused people to
distrust his judgment -- nobody but an
imbecile could have doubted his sincerity --
the cause lay in his power to fool the
mediums he was investigating to the top of
their bent. He would enter into every phase
of their [73] strange moods as if he had
been absolutely one with them in spirit;
then, when they were gone, he would
withdraw and look at the whole course of
events from without, as if he had had no
share in them.
But people who saw him only in the first
phase thought him easily hoodwinked.
The second of the guests of Simon Iff,
or, rather, of the Order to which he
belonged, was a tall man bowed with ill-
health. A shock of heavy black hair
crowned a face pallid as death itself; but
his eyes blazed formidably beneath their
bushy brows. He had just returned from
Burma, where he had lived for many years
as a Buddhist monk. The indomitable moral
valour of the man shone from him; one
could see in every gesture the marks of his
fierce fight against a dozen deadly
sicknesses. With hardly a week of even
tolerable health in any year, he had done
work that might have frightened the staff
of a great University. Almost single-handed,
he had explored the inmost doctrine of the
Buddha, and thrown light on many a
tangled grove of thought. He had
reorganized Buddhism as a missionary
religion, and founded societies everywhere
to study and practise it. He had even found
time and strength, amid these labours, to
pursue his own hobby of electrical
research. Misunderstood, thwarted,
hampered in every way, he had won
through; and he had never violated the
precepts of his Teacher by raising his voice
to denounce error. Even his enemies had
been compelled to recognize him as a
saint. Simon Iff had never met him, but he
went to greet Cyril with the affection of a
brother. The boy had been the greatest of
his pupils, but the Mahathera Phang, as he
was now called in his monastery, had long
ago abandoned magick for a path not very
different from that of Simon Iff.
The third man was of very inferior
calibre to [74] either of the others. He was
of medium height and good build, though
somewhat frail. But in him was no great
development. One divined a restless
intelligence fettered to mere cleverness, a
failure to grasp the distinction between
genius and talent. He was an expert
conjurer, had all the facts of psychic
research at his finger's end, was up in all
the modern theories of psychology, but was
little more than a machine. He was
incapable of refuting his own logic by an
appeal to his common sense. Some one
having once remarked that we all dig our
graves with our teeth, Wake Morningside
had started to prove scientifically that
eating was the direct cause of death; and
that, consequently, absolute fasting would
confer immortality. This was of course easy
to prove -- in America.
He had continued with experiments in
weighing souls, photographing thoughts,
and would probably have gone fishing for
the Absolute if he had only thought of it!
He was a prop to the editors of the New
York Sunday Newspapers, and was at
present engaged on writing a scenario for
moving pictures in which he was to
incorporate the facts of psychical research.
Nobody in the world was better aware than
he that everything reliable could be packed
into a single reel, and rattle, but he had
undauntedly contracted for a series of fifty [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]