Mr. Atterby-Smith proved on acquaintance
to be even worse than unfond fancy painted him.
He was a gentleman in a way and of good family whereof
the real name was Atterby, the Smith having been added
to secure a moderate fortune left to him on that condition.
His connection with Lord Ragnall was not close and
through the mother’s side. For the rest
he lived in some south-coast watering-place and fancied
himself a sportsman because he had on various occasions
hired a Scottish moor or deer forest. Evidently
he had never done anything nor earned a shilling during
all his life and was bringing his family up to follow
in his useless footsteps. The chief note of his
character was that intolerable vanity which so often
marks men who have nothing whatsoever about which
to be vain. Also he had a great idea of his rights
and what was due to him, which he appeared to consider
included, upon what ground I could not in the least
understand, the reversal of all the Ragnall properties
and wealth. I do not think I need say any more
about him, except that he bored me to extinction,
especially after his fourth glass of port.
Perhaps, however, the son was worse,
for he asked questions without number and when at
last I was reduced to silence, lectured me about shooting.
Yes, this callow youth who was at Sandhurst, instructed
me, Allan Quatermain, how to kill elephants, he who
had never seen an elephant except when he fed it with
buns at the Zoo. At last Mr. Smith, who to Scroope’s
great amusement had taken the end of the table and
assumed the position of host, gave the signal to move
and we adjourned to the drawing-room.
I don’t know what had happened
but there we found the atmosphere distinctly stormy.
The ample Mrs. Smith sat in a chair fanning herself,
which caused the barbaric ornaments she wore to clank
upon her fat arm. Upon either side of her, pale
and indeterminate, stood Polly and Dolly each pretending
to read a book. Somehow the three of them reminded
me of a coat-of-arms seen in a nightmare, British
Matron sejant with Modesty and Virtue as supporters.
Opposite, on the other side of the fire and evidently
very angry, stood Lady Ragnall, regardant.
“Do I understand you to say,
Luna,” I heard Mrs. A.-S. ask in resonant tones
as I entered the room, “that you actually played
the part of a heathen goddess among these savages,
clad in a transparent bed-robe?”
“Yes, Mrs. Atterby-Smith,”
replied Lady Ragnall, “and a nightcap of feathers.
I will put it on for you if you won’t be shocked.
Or perhaps one of your daughters ”
“Oh!” said both the young
ladies together, “please be quiet. Here
come the gentlemen.”
After this there was a heavy silence
broken only by the stifled giggles in the background
of Mrs. Scroope and the canon’s fluffy-headed
wife, who to do her justice had some fun in her.
Thank goodness the evening, or rather that part of
it did not last long, since presently Mrs. Atterby-Smith,
after studying me for a long while with a cold eye,
rose majestically and swept off to bed followed by
Afterwards I ascertained from Mrs.
Scroope that Lady Ragnall had been amusing herself
by taking away my character in every possible manner
for the benefit of her connections, who were left
with a general impression that I was the chief of
a native tribe somewhere in Central Africa where I
dwelt in light attire surrounded by the usual accessories.
No wonder, therefore, that Mrs. A.-S. thought it best
to remove her “Twin Pets,” as she called
them, out of my ravening reach.
Then the Scroopes went away, having
arranged for me to lunch with them on the morrow,
an invitation that I hastily accepted, though I heard
Lady Ragnall mutter “Mean!”
beneath her breath. With them departed the canon
and his wife and the curate, being, as they said, “early
birds with duties to perform.” After this
Lady Ragnall paid me out by going to bed, having instructed
Moxley to show us to the smoking room, “where,”
she whispered as she said good night, “I hope
you will enjoy yourself.”
Over the rest of the night I draw
a veil. For a solid hour and three-quarters did
I sit in that room between this dreadful pair, being
alternately questioned and lectured. At length
I could stand it no longer and while pretending to
help myself to whiskey and soda, slipped through the
door and fled upstairs.
I arrived late to breakfast purposely
and found that I was wise, for Lady Ragnall was absent
upstairs, recovering from “a headache.”
Mr. A.-Smith was also suffering from a headache downstairs,
the result of champagne, port and whisky mixed, and
all his family seemed to have pains in their tempers.
Having ascertained that they were going to the church
in the park, I departed to one two miles away and thence
walked straight on to the Scroopes’ where I
had a very pleasant time, remaining till five in the
afternoon. I returned to tea at the Castle where
I found Lady Ragnall so cross that I went to church
again, to the six o’clock service this time,
only getting back in time to dress for dinner.
Here I was paid out for I had to take in Mrs. Atterby-Smith.
Oh! what a meal was that. We sat for the most
part in solemn silence broken only by requests to
pass the salt. I observed with satisfaction,
however, that things were growing lively at the other
end of the table where A.-Smith pere was drinking
a good deal too much wine. At last I heard him
“We had hoped to spend a few
days with you, my dear Luna. But as you tell
us that your engagements make this impossible” and
he paused to drink some port, whereon Lady Ragnall
“I assure you the ten o’clock
train is far the best and I have ordered the carriage
at half-past nine, which is not very early.”
“As your engagements make this
impossible,” he repeated, “we would ask
for the opportunity of a little family conclave with
Here all of them turned and glowered at me.
“Certainly,” said Lady
Ragnall, “’the sooner ’tis over the
sooner to sleep.’ Mr. Quatermain, I am
sure, will excuse us, will you not? I have had
the museum lit up for you, Mr. Quatermain. You
may find some Egyptian things there that will interest
“Oh, with pleasure!” I murmured, and fled
I spent a very instructive two hours
in the museum, studying various Egyptian antiquities
including a couple of mummies which rather terrified
me. They looked so very corpse-like standing there
in their wrappings. One was that of a lady who
was a “Singer of Amen,” I remember.
I wondered where she was singing now and what song.
Presently I came to a glass case which riveted my
attention, for above it was a label bearing the following
words: “Two Papyri given to Lady Ragnall
by the priests of the Kendah Tribe in Africa.”
Within were the papyri unrolled and beneath each of
the documents, its translation, so far as they could
be translated for they were somewhat broken. N, which was dated, “In the first year of Peroa,”
appeared to be the official appointment of the Royal
Lady Amada, to be the prophetess to the temple of
Isis and Horus the Child, which was also called Amada,
and situated on the east bank of the Nile above Thebes.
Evidently this was the same temple of which Lady Ragnall
had written to me in her letter, where her husband
had met his death by accident, a coincidence which
made me start when I remembered how and where the
document had come into her hands and what kind of
office she filled at the time.
The second papyrus, or rather its
translation, contained a most comprehensive curse
upon any man who ventured to interfere with the personal
sanctity of this same Royal Lady of Amada, who, apparently
in virtue of her office, was doomed to perpetual celibacy
like the vestal virgins. I do not remember all
the terms of the curse, but I know that it invoked
the vengeance of Isis the Mother, Lady of the Moon,
and Horus the Child upon anyone who should dare such
a desecration, and in so many words doomed him to
death by violence “far from his own country where
first he had looked on Ra,” (i.e. the sun) and
also to certain spiritual sufferings afterwards.
The document gave me the idea that
it was composed in troubled days to protect that particularly
sacred person, the Prophetess of Isis whose cult,
as I have since learned, was rising in Egypt at the
time, from threatened danger, perhaps at the hands
of some foreign man. It occurred to me even that
this Princess, for evidently she was a descendant of
kings, had been appointed to a most sacred office for
that very purpose. Men who shrink from little
will often fear to incur the direct curse of widely
venerated gods in order to obtain their desires, even
if they be not their own gods. Such were my conclusions
about this curious and ancient writing which I regret
I cannot give in full as I neglected to copy it at
I may add that it seemed extremely
strange to me that it and the other which dealt with
a particular temple in Egypt should have passed into
Lady Ragnall’s hands over two thousand years
later in a distant part of Africa, and that subsequently
her husband should have been killed in her presence
whilst excavating the very temple to which they referred,
whence too in all probability they were taken.
Moreover, oddly enough Lady Ragnall had herself for
a while filled the rôle of Isis in a shrine whereof
these two papyri had been part of the sacred appurtenances
for unknown ages, and one of her official titles there
was Prophetess and Lady of the Moon, whose symbol
she wore upon her breast.
Although I have always recognized
that there are a great many more things in the world
than are dreamt of in our philosophy, I say with truth
and confidence that I am not a superstitious man.
Yet I confess that these papers and the circumstances
connected with them, made me feel afraid.
Also they made me wish that I had
not come to Ragnall Castle.
Well, the Atterby-Smiths had so far
effectually put a stop to any talk of such matters
and even if Lady Ragnall should succeed in getting
rid of them by that morning train, as to which I was
doubtful, there remained but a single day of my visit
during which it ought not to be hard to stave off
the subject. Thus I reflected, standing face to
face with those mummies, till presently I observed
that the Singer of Amen who wore a staring, gold mask,
seemed to be watching me with her oblong painted eyes.
To my fancy a sardonic smile gathered in them and spread
to the mouth.
“That’s what you
think,” this smile seemed to say, “as once
before you thought that Fate could be escaped.
Wait and see, my friend. Wait and see!”
“Not in this room any way,”
I remarked aloud, and departed in a hurry down the
passage which led to the main staircase.
Before I reached its end a remarkable
sight caused me to halt in the shadow. The Atterby-Smith
family were going to bed en bloc. They
marched in single file up the great stair, each of
them carrying a hand candle. Papa led and young
Hopeful brought up the rear. Their countenances
were full of war, even the twins looked like angry
lambs, but something written on them informed me that
they had suffered defeat recent and grievous.
So they vanished up the stairway and out of my ken
When they had gone I started again
and ran straight into Lady Ragnall. If her guests
had been angry, it was clear that she was furious,
almost weeping with rage, indeed. Moreover, she
turned and rent me.
“You are a wretch,” she
said, “to run away and leave me all day long
with those horrible people. Well, they will never
come here again, for I have told them that if they
do the servants have orders to shut the door in their
Not knowing what to say I remarked
that I had spent a most instructive evening in the
museum, which seemed to make her angrier than ever.
At any rate she whisked off without even saying “good
night” and left me standing there. Afterwards
I learned that the A.-S.’s had calmly informed
Lady Ragnall that she had stolen their property and
demanded that “as an act of justice” she
should make a will leaving everything she possessed
to them, and meanwhile furnish them with an allowance
of L4,000 a year. What I did not learn were the
exact terms of her answer.
Next morning Alfred, when he called
me, brought me a note from his mistress which I fully
expected would contain a request that I should depart
by the same train as her other guests. Its real
contents, however, were very different.
“My dear Friend,” it ran, “I
am so ashamed of myself and so sorry for my rudeness
last night, for which I deeply apologise. If you
knew all that I had gone through at the hands of
those dreadful mendicants, you would forgive me. L.R.”
“P.S. I have ordered breakfast
at 10. Don’t go down much before,
for your own sake.”
Somewhat relieved in my mind, for
I thought she was really angry with me, not altogether
without cause, I rose, dressed and set to work to
write some letters. While I was doing so I heard
the wheels of a carriage beneath and opening my window,
saw the Atterby-Smith family in the act of departing
in the Castle bus. Smith himself seemed to be
still enraged, but the others looked depressed.
Indeed I heard the wife of his bosom say to him,
“Calm yourself, my dear.
Remember that Providence knows what is best for us
and that beggars on horseback are always unjust and
To which her spouse replied,
“Hold your infernal tongue,
will you,” and then began to rate the servants
about the luggage.
Well, off they went. Glaring
through the door of the bus, Mr. Smith caught sight
of me leaning out of the window, seeing which I waved
my hand to him in adieu. His only reply to this
courtesy was to shake his fist, though whether at
me or at the Castle and its inhabitants in general,
I neither know nor care.
When I was quite sure that they had
gone and were not coming back again to find something
they had forgotten, I went downstairs and surprised
a conclave between the butler, Moxley, and his satellites,
reinforced by Lady Ragnall’s maid and two other
“Gratuities!” Moxley was
exclaiming, which I thought a fine word for tips,
“not a smell of them! His gratuities were ’Damn
your eyes, you fat bottle-washer,’ being his
name for butler. My eyes, mind you, Ann, not
Alfred’s or William’s, and that because
he had tumbled over his own rugs. Gentleman!
Why, I name him a hog with his litter.”
“Hogs don’t have litters,
Mr. Moxley,” observed Ann smartly.
“Well, young woman, if there
weren’t no hogs, there’d be no litters,
so there! However, he won’t root about in
this castle no more, for I happened to catch a word
or two of what passed between him and her Ladyship
last night. He said straight out that she was
making love to that little Mr. Quatermain who wanted
her money, and probably not for the first time as
they had forgathered in Africa. A gentleman, mind
you, Ann, who although peculiar, I like, and who,
the keeper Charles tells me, is the best shot in the
“And what did she say to that?” asked
“What did she say? What
didn’t she say, that’s the question.
It was just as though all the furniture in the room
got up and went for them Smiths. Well, having
heard enough, and more than I wanted, I stepped off
with the tray and next minute out they all come and
grab the bedroom candlesticks. That’s all
and there’s her Ladyship’s bell. Alfred,
don’t stand gaping there but go and light the
So they melted away and I descended
from the landing, indignant but laughing. No
wonder that Lady Ragnall lost her temper!
Ten minutes later she arrived in the
dining-room, waving a lighted ribbon that disseminated
“What on earth are you doing?” I asked.
“Fumigating the house,”
she said. “It is unnecessary as I don’t
think they were infectious, but the ceremony has a
moral significance like incense. Anyway
it relieves my feelings.”
Then she laughed and threw the remains
of the ribbon into the fire, adding,
“If you say a word about those
people I’ll leave the room.”
I think we had one of the jolliest
breakfasts I ever remember. To begin with we
were both hungry since our miseries of the night before
had prevented us from eating any dinner. Indeed
she swore that she had scarcely tasted food since
Saturday. Then we had such a lot to talk about.
With short intervals we talked all that day, either
in the house or while walking through the gardens
and grounds. Passing through the latter I came
to the spot on the back drive where once I had saved
her from being abducted by Harut and Marut, and as
I recognized it, uttered an exclamation. She
asked me why and the end of it was that I told her
all that story which to this moment she had never heard,
for Ragnall had thought well to keep it from her.
She listened intently, then said,
“So I owe you more than I knew.
Yet, I’m not sure, for you see I was abducted
after all. Also if I had been taken there, probably
George would never have married me or seen me again,
and that might have been better for him.”
“Why?” I asked. “You were all
the world to him.”
“Is any woman ever all the world to a man, Mr.
I hesitated, expecting some attack.
she went on, “it would be too long and you wouldn’t
convince me who have been in the East. However,
he was all the world to me. Therefore his welfare
was what I wished and wish, and I think he would have
had more of it if he had never married me.”
“Why?” I asked again.
“Because I brought him no good
luck, did I? I needn’t go through all the
story as you know it. And in the end it was through
me that he was killed in Egypt.”
“Or through the goddess Isis,” I broke
in rather nervously.
“Yes, the goddess Isis, a part
I have played in my time, or something like it.
And he was killed in the temple of the goddess Isis.
And those papyri of which you read the translations
in the museum, which were given to me in Kendah Land,
seem to have come from that same temple. And how
about the Ivory Child? Isis in the temple evidently
held a child in her arms, but when we found her it
had gone. Supposing this child was the same as
that of which I was guardian! It might have been,
since the papyri came from that temple. What do
“I don’t think anything,”
I answered, “except that it is all very odd.
I don’t even understand what Isis and the child
Horus represent. They were not mere images either
in Egypt or Kendah Land. There must be an idea
behind them somewhere.”
“Oh! there was. Isis was
the universal Mother, Nature herself with all the
powers, seen and unseen, that are hidden in Nature;
Love personified also, although not actually the queen
of Love like Hathor, her sister goddess. The
Horus child, whom the old Egyptians called Heru-Hennu,
signified eternal regeneration, eternal youth, eternal
strength and beauty. Also he was the Avenger
who overthrew Set, the Prince of Darkness, and thus
in a way opened the Door of Life to men.”
“It seems to me that all religions
have much in common,” I said.
“Yes, a great deal. It
was easy for the old Egyptians to become Christian,
since for many of them it only meant worshipping Isis
and Horus under new and holier names. But come
in, it grows cold.”
We had tea in Lady Ragnall’s
boudoir and after it had been taken away our conversation
died. She sat there on the other side of the fire
with a cigarette between her lips, looking at me through
the perfumed smoke till I began to grow uncomfortable
and to feel that a crisis of some sort was at hand.
This proved perfectly correct, for it was. Presently
“We took a long journey once
together, Mr. Quatermain, did we not?”
“Undoubtedly,” I answered,
and began to talk of it until she cut me short with
a wave of her hand, and went on,
“Well, we are going to take
a longer one together after dinner to-night.”
“What! Where! How!” I exclaimed
“I don’t know where, but
as for how look in that box,” and
she pointed to a little carved Eastern chest made
of rose or sandal wood, that stood upon a table between
With a groan I rose and opened it.
Inside was another box made of silver. This I
opened also and perceived that within lay bundles of
dried leaves that looked like tobacco, from which floated
an enervating and well-remembered scent that clouded
my brain for a moment. Then I shut down the lids
and returned to my seat.
“Taduki,” I murmured.
“Yes, Taduki, and I believe
in perfect order with all its virtue intact.”
“Virtue!” I exclaimed.
“I don’t think there is any virtue about
that hateful and magical herb which I believe grew
in the devil’s garden. Moreover, Lady Ragnall,
although there are few things in the world that I
would refuse you, I tell you at once that nothing will
induce me to have anything more to do with it.”
She laughed softly and asked why not.
“Because I find life so full
of perplexities and memories that I have no wish to
make acquaintance with any more, such as I am sure
lie hid by the thousand in that box.”
“If so, don’t you think
that they might clear up some of those which surround
“No, for in such things there
is no finality, since whatever one saw would also
“Don’t let us argue,”
she replied. “It is tiring and I daresay
we shall need all our strength to-night.”
I looked at her speechless. Why
could she not take No for an answer? As usual
she read my thought and replied to it.
“Why did not Adam refuse the
apple that Eve offered him?” she inquired musingly.
“Or rather why did he eat it after many refusals
and learn the secret of good and evil, to the great
gain of the world which thenceforward became acquainted
with the dignity of labour?”
“Because the woman tempted him,” I snapped.
“Quite so. It has always
been her business in life and always will be.
Well, I am tempting you now, and not in vain.”
“Do you remember who was tempting the woman?”
“Certainly. Also that he
was a good school-master since he caused the thirst
for knowledge to overcome fear and thus laid the foundation-stone
of all human progress. That allegory may be read
two ways, as one of a rise from ignorance instead
of a fall from innocence.”
“You are too clever for me with
your perverted notions. Also, you said we were
not to argue. I have therefore only to repeat
that I will not eat your apple, or rather, breathe
“Adam over again,” she
replied, shaking her head. “The same old
beginning and the same old end, because you see at
last you will do exactly what Adam did.”
Here she rose and standing over me,
looked me straight in the eyes with the curious result
that all my will power seemed to evaporate. Then
she sat down again, laughing softly, and remarked
as though to herself,
“Who would have thought that
Allan Quatermain was a moral coward!”
“Coward,” I repeated. “Coward!”
“Yes, that’s the right
word. At least you were a minute ago. Now
courage has come back to you. Why, it’s
almost time to dress for dinner, but before you go,
listen. I have some power over you, my friend,
as you have some power over me, for I tell you frankly
if you wished me very much to do anything, I should
have to do it; and the same applies conversely.
Now, to-night we are, as I believe, going to open a
great gate and to see wonderful things, glorious things
that will thrill us for the rest of our lives, and
perhaps suggest to us what is coming after death.
You will not fail me, will you?” she continued
in a pleading voice. “If you do I must
try alone since no one else will serve, and then I
know how I cannot say that
I shall be exposed to great danger. Yes, I think
that I shall lose my mind once more and never find
it again this side the grave. You would not have
that happen to me, would you, just because you shrink
from digging up old memories?”
“Of course not,” I stammered.
“I should never forgive myself.”
“Yes, of course not. There
was really no need for me to ask you. Then you
promise you will do all I wish?” and once more
she looked at me, adding, “Don’t be ashamed,
for you remember that I have been in touch with hidden
things and am not quite as other women are. You
will recollect I told you that which I have never
breathed to any other living soul, years ago on that
night when first we met.”
“I promise,” I answered
and was about to add something, I forget what, when
she cut me short, saying,
“That’s enough, for I
know your word is rather better than your bond.
Now dress as quickly as you can or the dinner will