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An evil antiquarian illegally purchases the fabled Stone of Suleiman (Williams uses this Muslim form rather than the more familiar King Solomon) from its Islamic guardian in Baghdad and returns to England to discover not only that the Stone can multiply itself infinitely without diminishing the original, but that it also allows its possessor to transcend the barriers of space and time.
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First digital edition 2016 by Anna Ruggieri
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- 1. The Stone
- 2. The Pupil of Organic Law
- 3. The Tale of the End of Desire
- 4. Vision in the Stone
- 5. The Loss of a Type
- 6. The Problem of Time
- 7. The Miracles at Rich
- 8. The Conference
- 9. The Action of Lord Arglay
- 10. The Appeal of the Mayor of Rich
- 11. The First Refusal of Chloe Burnett
- 12. National Transport
- 13. The Refusal of Lord Arglay
- 14. The Second Refusal of Chloe Burnett
- 15. The Possessiveness of Mr. Frank Lindsay
- 16. The Discovery of Sir Giles Tumulty
- 17. The Judgement of Lord Arglay
- 18. The Process of Organic Law
“Do you mean,” Sir Giles said, “that the thing never gets smaller?”
“Never,” the Prince answered. “So much of its virtue has entered into its outward form that whatever may happen to it there is no change. From the beginning it was as it is now.”
“Then by God, sir,” Reginald Montague exclaimed, “you’ve got the transport of the world in your hands.”
Neither of the two men made any answer. The Persian, sitting back in his chair, and Sir Giles, sitting forward on the edge of his, were both gazing at the thing which lay on the table. It was a circlet of old, tarnished, and twisted gold, in the centre of which was set a cubical stone measuring about half an inch every way, and having apparently engraved on it certain Hebrew letters. Sir Giles picked it up, rather cautiously, and concentrated his gaze on them. The motion awoke a doubt in Montague’s mind.
“But supposing you chipped one of the letters off?” he asked. “Aren’t they awfully important? Wouldn’t that destroy the — the effect?”
“They are the letters of the Tetragrammaton,” the Persian said drily, “if you call that important. But they are not engraved on the Stone; they are in the centre — they are, in fact, the Stone.”
“O!” Mr. Montague said vaguely, and looked at his uncle Sir Giles, who said nothing at all. This, after a few minutes, seemed to compel Montague to a fresh attempt.
“You see, sir?” he said, leaning forward almost excitedly. “If what the Prince says is true, and we’ve proved that it is, a child could use it.”
“You are not, I suppose,” the Persian asked, “proposing to limit it to children? A child could use it, but in adult hands it may be more dangerous.”
“Dangerous be damned,” Montague said more excitedly than before, “It’s a marvellous chance — it’s . . . it’s a miracle. The thing’s as simple as pie. Circlets like this with the smallest fraction of the Stone in each. We could ask what we liked for them — thousands of pounds each, if we like. No trains, no tubes, no aeroplanes. Just the thing on your forehead, a minute’s concentration, and whoosh!”
The Prince made a sudden violent movement, and then again a silence fell.
It was late at night. The three were sitting in Sir Giles Tumulty’s house at Ealing — Sir Giles himself, the traveller and archaeologist; Reginald Montague, his nephew and astockbroker; and the Prince Ali Mirza Khan, First Secretary to the Persian Ambassador at the court of St. James. At the gate of the house stood the Prince’s car; Montague was playing with a fountain-pen; all the useful tricks of modern civilization were at hand. And on the table, as Sir Giles put it slowly down, lay all that was left of the Crown of Suleiman ben Daood, King in Jerusalem,
Sir Giles looked across at the Prince. “Can you move other people with it, or is it like season-tickets?”
“I do not know,” the Persian said gravely. “Since the time of Suleiman (may the Peace be upon him!) no one has sought to make profit from it.”
“Ha!” said Mr. Montague, surprised. “O come now, Prince!”
“Or if they have,” the Prince went on, “they and their names and all that they did have utterly perished from the earth.”
“Ha!” said Mr. Montague again, a little blankly. “O well, we can see. But you take my advice and get out of Rails. Look here, uncle, we want to keep this thing quiet.”
“Eh?” Sir Giles said. “Quiet? No, I don’t particularly want to keep it quiet. I want to talk to Palliser about it — after me he knows more about these things than anyone. And I want to see Van Eilendorf — and perhaps Cobham, though his nonsense about the double pillars at Baghdad was the kind of tripe that nobody but a broken-down Houndsditch sewer-rat would talk.”
The Prince stood up. “I have shown you and told you these things,” he said, “because you knew too much already, and that you may see how very precious is the Holy Thing which you have there. I ask you again to restore it to the guardians from whom you stole it. I warn you that if you do not —”
“I didn’t steal it,” Sir Giles broke in. “I bought it. Go and ask the fellow who sold it to me.”
“Whether you stole by bribery or by force is no matter,” the Prince went on. “You very well know that he who betrayed it to you broke the trust of generations. I do not know what pleasure you find in it or for what you mean to use it, unless indeed you will make it a talisman for travel. But however that may be, I warn you that it is dangerous to all men and especially dangerous to such unbelievers as you. There are dangers within the Stone, and other dangers from those who were sworn to guard the Stone. I offer you again as much money as you can desire if you will return it.”
“O well, as to money,” Reginald Montague said, “of course my uncle will have a royalty — a considerable royalty — on all sales and that’ll be a nice little bit in a fewmonths. Yours isn’t a rich Government anyhow, is it? How many millions do you owe us?”
The Prince took no notice. He was staring fiercely and eagerly at Sir Giles, who put out his hand again and picked up the circlet.
“No,” he said, “no, I shan’t part with it. I want to experiment a bit. The bastard asylum attendant who sold it to me —”
The Prince interrupted in a shaking voice. “Take care of your words,” he said. “Outcast and accursed as that man now is, he comes of a great and royal family. He shall writhe in hell for ever, but even there you shall not be worthy to see his torment.”
“— said there was hardly anything it wouldn’t do,” Sir Giles finished. “No, I shan’t ask Cobham. Palliser and I will try it first. It was all perfectly legal, Prince, and all the Governments in the world can’t make it anything else.”
“I do not think Governments will recover it,” the Prince said. “But death is not a monopoly of Governments. If I had not sworn to my uncle —”
“O it was your uncle, was it?” Sir Giles asked. “I wondered what it was that made you coo so gently. I rather expected you to be more active about it to-night.”
“You try me very hard,” the Prince uttered. “But I know the Stone will destroy you at last.”
“Quite, quite,” Sir Giles said, standing up. “Well, thank you for coming. If I could have pleased you, of course . . . But I want to know all about it first.”
The Prince looked at the letters in the Stone. “I think you will know a great deal then,” he said, salaamed deeply to it, and without bowing to the men turned and left the house.
Sir Giles went after him to the front door, though they exchanged no more words, and, having watched him drive away returned to find his nephew making hasty notes.
“I don’t see why we need a company,” he said. “Just you and I, eh?”
“Why you?” Sir Giles asked. “What makes you think you’re going to have anything to do with it?”
“Why, you told me,” Montague exclaimed. “You offered me a hand in the game if I’d be about to-night when the Prince came in case he turned nasty.”
“So I did,” his uncle answered. “Yes — well, on conditions. If there is any money in it, I shall want some of it. Not as much as you do, but some. It’s always useful, and I had to pay pretty high to get the Stone. And I don’t want a fuss made about it — not yet.”
“That’s all right,” Montague said. “I was thinking it might be just as well to have Uncle Christopher in with us.”
“Whatever for?” Sir Giles asked.
“Well . . . if there’s any legal trouble, you know,” Montague said vaguely. “I mean — if it came to the Courts we might be glad — of course, I don’t know if they could — but anyhow he’d probably notice it if I began to live on a million — and some of these swine will do anything if their pockets are touched — all sorts of tricks they have — but a Chief Justice is a Chief Justice — that is, if you didn’t mind —”
“I don’t mind,” Sir Giles said. “Arglay’s got a flat-footed kind of intellect; that’s why he’s Chief Justice, I expect. But for what it’s worth, and if they did try any international law business. But they can’t; there was nothing to prevent that fellow selling it to me if he chose, nor me buying. I’ll get Palliser here as soon as I can.”
“I wonder how many we ought to make,” Montague said. “Shall we say a dozen to start with? It can’t cost much to make a dozen bits of gold — need it be gold? Better, better. Better keep it in the same stuff-and it looks more for the money. The money — why, we can ask a million for each — for what’ll only cost a guinea or two . . . ” He stopped, appalled by the stupendous vision,
Then he went on anxiously, “The Prince did say a bit any size would do, didn’t he? and that this fellow —” he pointed a finger at the Stone “— would keep the same size? It means a patent, of course; so if anybody else ever did get hold of the original they couldn’t use it. Millions . . . Millions . . . ”
“Blast your filthy gasbag of a mouth!” Sir Giles said. “You’ve made me forget to ask one thing. Does it work in time as well as space? We must try, we must try.” He sat down, picked up the Crown, and sat frowning at the Divine Letters.
“I don’t see what you mean,” Reginald said, arrested in his note-taking. “Time? Go back, do you mean?”
He considered, then, “I shouldn’t think anyone would want to go back,” he said.
“Forward then,” Sir Giles answered. “Wouldn’t you like to go forward to the time when you’ve got your millions?”
Reginald gaped at him. “But . . . I shouldn’t have them,” he began slowly, “unless . . . eh? O if I’m going to . . . then I should be able to jump to when . . . but . . . I don’t see how I could get at them unless I knew what account they were in. I shouldn’t be that me, should I . . . or should I?”
As his brain gave way, Sir Giles grinned. “No,” he said almost cheerfully, “you’d have the money but with your present mind. At least I suppose so. We don’t know how it affects consciousness. It might be an easy way to suicide — ten minutes after death.”
Reginald looked apprehensively at the Crown. “I suppose it wouldn’t go wrong?” he ventured.
“That we don’t know,” Sir Giles answered cheerfully. “I daresay your first millionaire will hit the wrong spot, and be trampled underfoot by wild elephants in Africa. However, no one will know for a good while.”
Reginald went back to his notes.
Meanwhile the Prince Ali drove through the London streets till he reached the Embassy, steering the car almost mechanically while he surveyed in his mind the position in which he found himself He foresaw some difficulty in persuading his chief, who concealed under a sedate rationalism an almost intense scepticism, of the disastrous chance which, it appeared to the Prince, had befallen the august Relic. Yet not to attempt to enlist on the side of the Faith such prestige and power as lay in the Embassy would be to abandon it to the ungodly uses of Western financiers. Ali himself had been trained through his childhood in the Koran and the traditions, and, though the shifting policies of Persia had flung him for awhile into the army and afterwards into the diplomatic service his mind moved with most ease in the romantic regions of myth. Suleiman ben Daood, he knew, was a historic figure the ruler of a small nation which, in the momentary decrease of its two neighbours, Egypt and Assyria, had attained an unstable preeminence. But Suleiman was also one of the four great world-shakers before the Prophet, a commander of the Faithful, peculiarly favoured by Allah. He had been a Jew, but the Jews in those days were the only witnesses to the Unity. “There is no God but God,” he murmured to himself, and cast a hostile glance at a crucifix which stood as a war memorial in the grounds of a church near the Embassy. “‘Say: for those who believe not is the torment of hell: an evil journey shall it be.’” With which quotation he delivered the car to a servant and went in to find the Ambassador, whom he discovered half-asleep over the latest volume of Memoirs. He bowed and waited in silence.
“My dear Ali,” the Ambassador said, rousing himself. “Did you have a good evening?”
“No,” the young man answered coldly.
“I didn’t expect you would,” his chief said. “You orthodox young water-drinkers can hardly expect to enjoy a dinner. Was it, so to speak, a dinner?”
“I was concerned, sir,” the Prince said, “with the Crown of Suleiman, on whom be the Peace.”
“Really?” the Ambassador asked. “You really saw it? And is it authentic?”
“It is without doubt the Crown and the Stone,” Ali answered. The Ambassador stared, but Ali went on.
“And it is in the hands of the infidel. I have seen one of these dogs —”
His chief frowned a little. “I have asked you,” he said, “even when we are alone — to speak of these people without such phrases.”
“I beg your Excellency’s pardon,” the Prince said. “I have seen one of them use it — by the Permission: and return unharmed. It is undoubtedly the Crown.”
“The Crown of a Jew?” the Ambassador murmured. “My friend, I do not say I disbelieve you, but — have you told your uncle?”
“I reported first to you, sir,” the Prince answered. “If you wish my uncle —” He paused.
“O by all means, by all means,” the Ambassador said, getting up. “Ask him to come here.” He stood stroking his beard while a servant was dispatched on the errand, and until a very old man, with white hair, bent and wrinkled, came into the room.
“The Peace be upon you, Hajji Ibrahim,” he said in Persian, while the Prince kissed his uncle’s hand. “Do me the honour to be seated. I desire you to know that your nephew is convinced of the authenticity of that which Sir Giles Tumulty holds.” He eyed the old man for a moment. “But I do not clearly know,” he ended, “what you now wish me to do.”
Hajji Ibrahim looked at his nephew. “And what will this Sir Giles Tumulty do with the sacred Crown?” he asked.
“He himself,” the Prince said carefully, “will examine it and experiment with it, may the dogs of the street devour him! But there was also present a young man, his relation, who desires to make other crowns from it and sell them for money. For he sees that by the least of the graces of the divine Stone those who wear it may pass at once from place to place, and there are many who would buy such power at a great price.” The formal phrases with which he controlled his rage broke suddenly and he closed in colloquial excitement, “He will form a company and put it on the market.”
The old man nodded. “And even though this destroy him —” he began.
“I implore you, my uncle,” the young Prince broke in, “to urge upon his Excellency the horrible sacrilege involved. It is a very dreadful thing for us that by the fault of our house this thing should come into the possession of the infidels. It is not to be borne that they should put it to these uses; it is against the interests of our country and the sanctity of our Faith.”
The Ambassador, his head on one side, was staring at his shoes. “It might perhaps be held that the Christians derive as much from Judah as we,” he said.
“It will not so be held in Tehran and in Delhi and in Cairo and in Beyrout and in Mecca,” the Prince answered. “I will raise the East against them before this thing shall be done.”
“I direct your attention,” the Ambassador said stiffly, “to the fact that it is for me only to talk of what shall or shall not be done, under the sanction of Reza Shah who governs Persia today.”
“Sir,” the Prince said, “in this case it is a crown greater than the diadem of Reza Shah that is at stake.”
“With submission,” the old man broke in, “will not your Excellency make representations to the English Government? This is not a matter which any Government can consider without alarm.”
“That is no doubt so,” the Ambassador allowed. “But, Hajji Ibrahim, if I go to the English Government and say that one of their nationals, by bribing a member of your house, has come into the possession of a very sacred relic they will not be in the mind to take it from him; and if I add that this gives men power to jump about like grasshoppers they will ask me for proof.” He paused. “And if you could give them proof, or if this Sir Giles would let them have it, do you think they would restore it to us?”
“Will you at least try, sir?” Ali asked.
“Why, no,” the Ambassador answered. “No, I do not think I will even try. It is but the word of Hajji Ibrahim here. Had he not known of the treachery of his kinsmen and come to England by the same boat as Giles Tumulty we should have known very little of what had happened, and that vaguely. But as it is, we were warned of what you call the sacrilege, and now you have talked to him, and you are convinced. But what shall I say to the Foreign Minister? No; I do not think I will try.”
“You do not believe it,” the Hajji said. “You do not believe that this is the Crown of Suleiman or that Allah put a mystery into it when His Permission bestowed it on the King?”
The Ambassador considered. “I have known you a long while,” he said thoughtfully, “and I will tell you what I believe. I know that your family, which has always been known for a very holy house, has held for centuries certain relics, and has preserved them in great secrecy and remoteness. I know that among them tradition has said that there is the Crown of the King, and that, but a few weeks since, one of the keepers was bribed to part with this Crown — if such it be — to an Englishman. I believe that many curious powers exist in such things, lasting for a longer or shorter time. And — because I believe Ali — I believe that it has seemed to him that a man has been here and there in a moment. But how, or whether indeed, this has been I do not know, and I do not desire to argue upon it with the English ministers.” He shook his head. “I risked too much even when I permitted you semi-officially to try and buy it back from Sir Giles.”
“But he would not sell it,” the Prince cried.
“A very natural feeling,” the Ambassador said, and added rather incautiously, “if I had it myself I don’t suppose I should sell it.”
“Then,” the Prince insisted, “if your Excellency will do nothing, it is for me to act. There is a sin upon my house till I recover the Crown.”
“And what will you do, my friend?” the Ambassador asked.
“I shall cause all my relatives and my acquaintances in Persia to know of it, and I will take such an oath that they will certainly believe,” the Prince answered. “I will send the news of it through all the palaces and bazaars. I will cause this sacrilege to be known in every mosque, and the cry against the English shall go from Adrianople to Hong Kong. I will see if I can do a little in all the places of Islam.”
“You will make the English Government curious, I believe,” the Ambassador said, “and you may kill a few soldiers. But I do not think you will recover the Crown. Also you will do these things against my will.”
Hajji Ibrahim said suddenly, “By the Permission it was taken; by the Permission it will return. When the Unity deigned to bestow the Stone upon the King it was not that he might go swiftly from place to place. I think it shall return to the Keepers only when one shall use it for the journey that is without space, and I do not think that shall be you, my nephew, nor any of us. Let spies be set upon the infidels and let us know what they do. But do not let us wake the bazaars. I do not think that will help you at all.”
“And the English Government?” the Ambassador asked.
“A soft word in the ear of a friend,” the Hajji said. “Be very friendly with them — and that your Excellency may well do, for you are almost as one of them. But speak onlyof a relic and not of the virtues of the relic; seek peace and ensue it, as their scriptures say. The English will not have war for the sake of Giles Tumulty, unless their pride is touched.” He rose to his feet. “The Peace be upon you,” he said and went to the door.
“You ought to know by now,” Lord Arglay said into the telephone, “that I can’t possibly put any money into your companies . . . Caesar’s wife . . . No, I am . . . O never mind . . . Yes . . . Certainly . . . As much as you like . . . Lunch then.” He put the receiver back. “It’s an extraordinary thing,” he went on to Chloe Burnett, as she lifted her hands again to the typewriter, “that Reginald won’t realize how careful I have to be of what my money is in. It’s a wonder I have any private income at all. As it is, whenever I give a decision in a financial case I expect to be left comparatively penniless in a month or two.”
“Does Mr. Montague want you to invest?” Miss Burnett asked.
“He wants me to give him five hundred, so far as I can understand,” Lord Arglay said, “to put in the best thing that ever was. What is the best thing that ever was?”
Miss Burnett looked at her typewriter and offered no opinion.
“I suppose that I ought to think the Twelve Tables were,” the Chief Justice went on, “officially — or the Code Napoléon — but they’re rather specialist. And anyhow when you say ‘that ever was,’ do you mean that it’s stopped being? Or can it still be? . . . Miss Burnett,” he added after a pause, “I was asking you a question.”
“I don’t know, Lord Arglay,” Chloe said patiently. “I never can answer that sort of question. I suppose it depends on what you mean by ‘was.’ But oughtn’t we to get on with the rest of the chapter before lunch?”
Lord Arglay sighed and looked at his notes. “I suppose so, but I’d much rather talk. Was there ever a best thing that ever was? Never mind; you’re right as usual. Where were we? The judgement of Lord Mansfield —” He began dictating.
There was, in fact, time for an hour’s work before Mr. Montague arrived for lunch. Chloe Burnett had been engaged six months before by Lord Arglay as general intellectual factotum when he had determined to begin work on his Survey of Organic Law. When the Chief Justice was at the Courts she spent her time reducing to typed order whatever material Lord Arglay left ready for her the night before. But during the vacation, since he had remained in town, it had become a habit for them to lunch together, and neither Chloe’s intention of withdrawing or Mr. Montague’s obvious uneasiness caused Lord Arglay to break it.
“Of course you’ll lunch here,” he said to Chloe, and to Mr. Montague’s private explanations that the matter in hand was very secret, “That’s all right; two can spoil a secret but three make a conspiracy, which is much safer.”
“And now,” he said to his nephew after they were settled, “what is it? What do you want me to put my money in this time? I shan’t, of course, but what’s it all about?”
“Well, it’s a kind of transport,” Reginald said. “It came to me through Uncle Giles, who wanted me to help him in an experiment.”
“Was it a dangerous experiment?” Lord Arglay asked.
“No I don’t think dangerous,” Montague answered. “Unusual perhaps, but not dangerous. When he came back from Baghdad this time he brought with him a funny kind of a thing, something . . . well, something like a crown and something . . . something . . . ”
“Something not,” said Lord Arglay. “Quite. Well?”
“Made of gold,” Reginald went on, “with a stone — that size . . . in the middle. Well, so he asked me over to help him experiment, and there was a man from the Persian Embassy there too, who said it was what Sir Giles thought it was — at least, he’d bought it as being — but that doesn’t matter. Well now, this thing — I know you won’t believe it — it sounds so silly; only you know I did it. Not Sir Giles — he said he wanted to observe, but I did. The Persian fellow was rather upset about it, at least not upset, but a bit high in the air, you know. Rather frosty. But I’m bound to say he met us quite fairly, said he was perfectly willing to admit that we had it, and to make it clear to us what it was; only he must have it back. But that would have been too silly.”
As Mr. Montague paused for a moment Lord Arglay looked at Chloe. “It’s a fact I’ve continually observed in the witness box,” he said abstractedly, “that nine people out of ten, off their own subject, are incapable of lucidity, whereas on their own subject they can be as direct as a straight line before Einstein. I had a fellow once who couldn’t put three words together sanely; we were all hopeless, till counsel got him on his own business — which happened to be statistics of the development of industry in the Central American Republics; and then for about five minutes I understood exactly what had been happening there for the last seventy years. Curious. You and I are either silent or lucid. Yes, Reginald’ Never mind me, I’ve often been meaning to tell Miss Burnett that, and it just came into my mind. Yes?”
“O he was lucid enough,” Reginald said. “Well it seems this thing was supposed to be the crown of King Suleiman, but of course as to that I can’t say. But I can tell youthis.” He pointed a fork at the Chief Justice. “I put that thing on my head —” Chloe gave a small gasp “— and I willed myself to be back in my rooms in Rowland Street, and there I was.” He stopped.
Lord Arglay and Chloe were both staring at him. “There!” he repeated. “And then I willed myself back at Ealing, and there I was.”
Chloe went on staring. Lord Arglay frowned a little. “What do you mean?” he said, with a sound of the Chief Justice in his voice.
“I mean that I just was,” Reginald said victoriously. “I don’t know how I got there. I felt a little dizzy at the time, and I had a headache of sorts afterwards. But without any kind of doubt I was one minute in Ealing and the next in Rowland Street, one minute in Rowland Street and the next in Ealing.”
The two listeners looked at each other, and were silent for two or three minutes. Reginald leaned back and waited for more.
Lord Arglay said at last, “I won’t ask you if you were drunk, Reginald, because I don’t think you’d tell me this extraordinary story if you were drunk then unless you were drunk now, which you seem not to be. I wonder what exactly it was that Giles did. Sir Giles Tumulty, Miss Burnett, is one of the most cantankerously crooked birds I have ever known. He is, unfortunately, my remote brother-in-law; his brother was Reginald’s mother’s second husband — you know the kind of riddle-me-ree relationship. He’s obscurely connected with diabolism in two continents; he has written a classic work on the ritual of Priapus; he is the first authority in the world on certain subjects, and the first authority in hell on one or two more. Yet he never seems to do anything himself, he’s always in the background as an interested observer. I wonder what exactly it was that he did and still more I wonder why he did it.”
“But he didn’t do anything,” Reginald said indignantly. “He just sat and watched.”
“Of two explanations,” Lord Arglay said, “other things being equal, one should prefer that most consonant with normal human experience. That Giles should play some sort of trick on you is consonant with human experience; that you should fly through the air in ten minutes is not — at least it doesn’t seem so to me. What do you think, Miss Burnett?”
“I don’t seem to believe it somehow,” Chloe said. “Did you say it was the Crown of Suleiman, Mr. Montague? I thought he went on a carpet.”
Lord Arglay stopped a cigarette half way to his lips. “Eh” he said. “What a treasure you are as a secretary, Miss Burnett! So he did, I seem to remember. You’re sure it wasn’t a carpet, Reginald?”
“Of course I’m sure,” Reginald said irritably. “Should I mistake a carpet for a crown? And I never knew that Suleiman had either particularly.”
Lord Arglay, pursuing his own thoughts, shook his head. “It would be like Giles to have the details right, you know,” he said. “If there was a king who travelled so, that would be the king Giles would bring out for whatever his wishes might be. Look here, Reginald, what did he want you to do?”
“Nothing,” Reginald answered. “But the point is this.” Confirming the Chief Justice’s previous dictum he became suddenly lucid. “The Persian man told us that small fractions taken from the Stone — it’s the Stone in the Crown that does it — have the same power. Now, if that’s so, we can have circlets made — with a chip in each, and just think what any man with money would give to have a thing like that. Think of a fellow in Throgmorton Street being able to be in Wall Street in two seconds! Think of Foreign Secretaries! Think of the Secret Service! Think of war! Every Government will need them. And we have the monopoly. It means a colossal fortune — colossal. O uncle, you must come in. I want a thousand: I can get six hundred or so quietly — not a word must leak out or I could do more, of course. Give me five hundred and I’ll get you fifty thousand times five hundred back.”
Lord Arglay disregarded this appeal. “Did you say the other man belonged to the Persian Embassy?” he asked. “What did he want anyway?”
“He wanted it back,” Reginald said. “Some sort of religious idea, I fancy. But really Sir Giles only needed him in order to make sure it was authentic.”
“If Giles thought it was authentic,” Lord Arglay said, “I’d bet any money he wanted to tantalize him with it. If there was an it, which of course I don’t believe.”
“But I saw it, I touched it, I used it,” Reginald cried out lyrically. “I tell you, I did it.”
“I know you do,” the Chief Justice answered, “And though I shan’t give you the money I’m bound to say I feel extremely curious.” He got up slowly. “I think,” he said, “the telephone. Excuse me a few minutes. I want to try and catch Giles if he’s in.”
When he had gone out of the room a sudden consciousness of their respective positions fell on the other two. Reginald Montague became acutely aware that he had been revealing an immense and incredible secret to a girl in his uncle’s employment. Chloe became angrily conscious that she could not interrogate this young man as shewould have done her own friends. This annoyed her the more because, compared with Lord Arglay’s learning and amused observation, she knew him to be trivial and greedy. But she, though certain of greater affection for the Chief Justice than he had, was a servant and he a relation. She thought of the phrase again —“the Crown of Suleiman.” The crown of Suleiman and Reginald Montague!
“Sounds awfully funny, doesn’t it, Miss Burnett?” Mr. Montague asked, coming carefully down to her level.
“Lord Arglay seemed to think Sir Giles was having a joke with you,” she answered coldly. “A kind of mesmerism, perhaps.”
“O that’s just my uncle’s way,” Reginald said sharply. “He likes to pull my leg a bit.”
“So Lord Arglay seemed to think,” Chloe said.
“No, I mean Lord Arglay,” Reginald said more irritably than before.
“You mean Lord Arglay really believes it all?” Chloe said, surprised. “O do you think so, Mr. Montague?”
“Lord Arglay and I understand one another,” Reginald threw over carelessly.
“One another?” Chloe said. “Both of you? But how splendid! He’s such an able man, isn’t he? It must be wonderful to understand him so well.” She frowned thoughtfully. “Of course I don’t know what to think.”
“Ah, well, that doesn’t so much matter, does it? I mean —” He hesitated.
“O I know it isn’t my money that comes in,” Chloe hastened to say. “I do realize that, Mr. Montague.”
“It isn’t a question of money — not first of all,” Reginald protested. “It’s a matter of general interest.”
Chloe said nothing, chiefly because she was a little ashamed of herself, but the result was almost worse than if she had made another effort. The commenting silence extended itself for some minutes and was broken at last by Lord Arglay’s return.
“Well,” he said, “I’ve been talking to Giles. I’m bound to say he swears it’s quite right, and sticks to you in every particular, Reginald. However, he’s asked us to go over to-night and see. Miss Burnett, can you come?”
“O but, Lord Arglay, ought I to . . . ” Chloe said doubtfully; and “I don’t suppose Miss Burnett would find it very interesting,” Reginald hastily threw in.
“Civilized man,” Lord Arglay said, “is known by the capacity of his intellect to produce convincing reasons for his emotions. Convincing, Reginald. Say anything you like, except to suggest that anyone wouldn’t be interested in this new interstellar trafficof yours. Besides, I need my secretary. I shall be out this afternoon and I officially request her to spend her time looking up all the references to Suleiman the son of David that she can find. We will all dine here at seven and then go to Ealing. That suit you, Miss Burnett? You, Reginald? Right.”
Reginald got up to go. “Well, you won’t finally decide against coming in until to-night, will you, uncle?” he said. “Good-bye, Miss Burnett. Don’t let my uncle persuade you to come if you don’t want to.”
“I won’t,” Chloe said politely, “as I shan’t be able to have a financial interest. Good-bye, Mr. Montague.”
When Reginald had gone —“And why the scratch, Miss Burnett?” Lord Arglay asked. “Quite right, of course, but why today especially? Generally you just let Reginald fleet by. Why this unwonted sharpness?”
“I beg your pardon,” Chloe said. “I don’t quite know. It was impertinent of me. I didn’t mean to be rude to you.”
“Not in the least impertinent,” the Chief Justice answered. “Quite remarkably relevant. But why today?”
“I think it was his talk of the Crown of Suleiman,” Chloe said reluctantly. “Somehow . . . ”
Arglay shook his head. “I wouldn’t pin much to that. My belief is still that Giles has been hocussing that young man. But I’m curious to know why; and anyhow it wouldn’t do me any harm to know as much as you about the son of David. I can’t think of another fact about him at present. So you dig out what you can and then clear off and be back by seven.”
“Are you going out, Lord Arglay?” Chloe asked.
“Certainly not,” the Chief Justice said. “I am going to lie in my deepest armchair and read When Anarchy came to an n, which has an encouraging picture of the Law Courts being burnt on the cover. Till seven, then.”
The dinner was largely occupied, much to Reginald’s boredom, by Chloe’s account of what she had discovered about King Suleiman and Lord Arglay’s comments on it. It seemed she had been right in her remembrance that the Majesty of the King made its journeys accompanied by the Djinn, the doctors of the law, and the viziers, upon a carpet which accommodated its size to the King’s needs. But there were also tales of the Crown and the Stone in the Crown, and (more general) of the Ring by virtue of which the King understood all languages of men and beasts and Djinn and governed all createdthings’ save only the great Archangels themselves who exist in immediate cognition of the Holy One. “For,” said Chloe thrilling, “he was one of the four mighty ones — who were Nimrod and Sheddad the Son of Ad, and Suleiman and Alexander; the first two being infidels and the Second two True Believers.”
“Alexander?” Arglay said in surprise. “How jolly! Perhaps Giles will produce the helmet of the divine Alexander too. We shall have a regular archaeological evening, I expect. Well, come along, Malbrouck s’en va t’en guerre . . . He carried them off to the car.
Sir Giles received the party with an almost Christlike, “What went ye out for to see?” air, but he made no demur about producing the Crown for their examination. The Chief Justice, after examining it, showed it to Chloe.
“And the markings?” he asked her.
Chloe said nervously, “O you know them, Lord Arglay.”
“I know they are Hebrew,” the Chief Justice said, “and I know that Sir Giles is sneering at me in his heart. But I haven’t an idea what they are.”
“I suppose you’ve never had a Hebrew Rabbi before you?” Sir Giles said. “That’s how you judges become educated men, isn’t it? The letters —”
“I asked Miss Burnett, Giles,” Lord Arglay interrupted, and Sir Giles with a shrug waited.
“They are the four letters of the Tetragrammaton, the Divine Name,” Chloe said still more nervously. “Yod, He, Vau, He. I found it out this afternoon,” she said suddenly to Sir Giles, “in an encyclopedia.”
“Some of us write encyclopedias,” Arglay said, “— that’s you, Giles; some of us read them — that’s you, Miss Burnett; some of us own them — that’s me; and some of us despise them — that’s you, Reginald.”
“Encyclopedias are like slums,” Giles said, “the rotten homes of diseased minds. But even Hoxton has to pretend to live, it thinks, and of course it doesn’t know it stinks.”
Arglay was looking at the letters. “The Divine Name,” he said musingly. “Yod, He, Vau, He. Umph. Well . . . We were going to experiment, weren’t we?” he added, almost as if recovering himself. “Who begins? Reginald, suppose you show us.”
“Certainly,” Montague said. “Now look here, uncle, let’s really show you. Tell me something I can bring you from your study.”
“Bring me the pages of manuscript on the small table by the window,” Arglay answered at once. “The top one is marked Chapter IV.”
Montague nodded and taking the Crown put it on his head; he settled it comfortably, then taking a step or two backwards sat down in the nearest convenient chair. Lord Arglay watched him attentively, occasionally darting his eyes sideways towards Sir Giles, who — as if bored with the repetition of a concluded experiment — had turned to the papers on which he had previously been working. Chloe suddenly caught Arglay’s arm; he put up his other hand and pressed hers. At once they found themselves looking at an empty chair. Chloe cried out; Arglay took a step towards the chair. Sir Giles, looking round, said casually; “I shouldn’t get in the way; he may be back at any moment, and you might get a nasty knock.”
“Well, I’m damned,” Lord Arglay said. “It’s all —” he began, looking at Chloe, but, impressed by the vivid excitement that possessed her, ceased in the middle of the reassuring phrase he had begun. They waited in silence.
It was only about two or three minutes before, suddenly, they saw Reginald Montague again in front of them. He sat still for another minute or two, then he stepped forward and gave the Chief Justice several pages of manuscript. “Well, uncle?” he asked triumphantly.
Arglay took the papers and looked at them. They were those on which he had been making notes that afternoon, and he had, he knew, left them on his table. He turned them over in silence. Chloe released his arm suddenly and sat down. Sir Giles strolled back to them. “Interesting exhibit, what?” he said.
The Chief Justice’s mind admitted the apparent fact. It was impossible, but it had happened. In less than five minutes these papers had been brought from Lancaster Gate to Ealing. He loosed the little sigh which always preceded his giving judgement and nodded. “I don’t know whether it’s the Crown of Suleiman, Giles,” he said, “or some fantasia of our own. But it certainly seems to work.”
“What about trying it, uncle?” Reginald said invitingly, removing the gold circlet from his head and holding it out. “It’s quite simple. You just put it on and wish firmly to go wherever you choose.”
“Wishing firmly is a very difficult thing,” Lord Arglay said. “But if you can I suppose I can.” He took the Crown and looked at Chloe. “Where shall I go, Miss Burnett?” he asked.
“Somewhere quiet,” Sir Giles interjected. “If you choose the House of Commons or London Bridge or anything like that you’ll cause a sensation. Try your —” he paused a moment, “dining-room,” he added.
“I’d rather go somewhere I didn’t know,” Arglay said.
“Go to my sitting-room, Lord Arglay,” Chloe put in swiftly. “I don’t suppose you even remember what the address is. Oh — let me think — on the table is last week’s New Statesman.”
“There isn’t likely to be any other fellow there?” Sir Giles asked. “No? All right, Arglay. Better sit down; it’s apt to jar you, they say. Now — will yourself there.”
Lord Arglay took the Crown in both hands and set it on his head. Chloe involuntarily compared the motion with Montague’s. Reginald had put it on with one hand as if he were settling a cap; against his thin form the Chief Justice’s assured maturity stood like a dark magnificence. He set on the Crown as if he were accepting a challenge, and sat down as if the Chief Justice of England were coming to some high trial, either of another or of himself. Chloe, used to seeing and hearing him when his mind played easily with his surroundings, used to the light courtesy with which he had always treated her, had rarely seen in him that rich plenitude of power which seemed to make his office right and natural to him. Once or twice, when, in dictating his book, he had framed slowly some difficult and significant paragraph, she had caught a hint of it, but her attention then had been on her work and his words rather than his person. She held her breath as she looked, and her eyes met his. They were fixed on her with a kind of abstract intimacy; she felt at once more individual to him than ever before and yet as if the individuality which he discerned was something of which she herself was not yet conscious. And while she looked back into them, thrilling to that remote concentration, she found she was looking only at the chair, and was brought back at once from that separate interaction to the remembrance of their business. She started with the shock, and both the men in the room looked at her.
“Don’t be frightened,” Sir Giles said, with an effort controlling his phrases, and “It’s all right, you know,” Montague added coldly.
“I’m not frightened, thank you,” Chloe said, hating them both with a sudden intensity, but she knew she lied. She was frightened; she was frightened of them. The Crown of Suleiman, the strange happenings, Lord Arglay’s movements — these were what had stirred her emotions and shaken her, and those shaken emotions were loosed within her in a sudden horror, yet of what she did not know. It seemed as if there were two combinations; one had vanished, and the other she loathed, but to that she was suddenly abandoned. It was ridiculous, it was insane. “What on earth are you afraid of?” she asked herself, “do you think either of them is going to assault you?” And beyond anddespite herself, and as if thinking of some assault she could not visualize or imagine she answered, “Yes, I do.”
Lord Arglay, as he sat down wearing the Crown, had directed his eyes and mind towards Chloe. For the first few moments half a score of ordinary irrelevant thoughts leapt in his mind. She was efficient, she was rather good-looking, she was, under the detached patience with which she took his dictation, avid of ideas and facts, she was desirous — but of what Lord Arglay doubted if she knew and was quite certain he did not. He put the irrelevancies aside, by mere habitual practice, held his mind empty and prepared, as if to receive some important answer which could then be directed to its proper place in the particular order to which it belonged, allowed the image of Chloe Burnett and the thought of her home to enter, and shut his mind down on them. The Crown pressed on his forehead; he involuntarily united the physical consciousness and the mental; either received the other. His interior purpose suddenly lost hold; a dizziness caught him, through which he was aware only of a dominating attraction — his being yearned, to some power above, around, within him. The dizziness increased and then was gone; his head ached; the Stone pressed heavily on it, then more lightly. He found himself opening his eyes.
He opened them on a strange room, and realized that he was standing by the door. It was a not too well furnished room — not, obviously, his own kind. There were two comfortable armchairs; there was a bookcase; a table; another chair; pictures; a little reproduction of the Victory of Samothrace, a poor Buddha, a vase or two. On the table a box of cigarettes and a matchbox; some sort of needlework; a book; the New Statesman. Lord Arglay drew a deep breath. So it worked. He walked to the table, then he went over to the window and looked out. It was the ordinary suburban street, a few ordinary people — three men, a woman, four children. He felt the curtains — they seemed actual. He felt himself with the same result. He went back to the table and picked up the New Statesman, then he sat down in one of the comfortable chairs as if to consider. But as he leant back against the cushions he remembered that the experiment was only half done; he could consider afterwards. The immediate thing was to return with the paper; if that were done, all was done that could be at the moment. “I wish there were someone here to speak to,” he thought. “I wonder — I suppose they would see me.” He thought of going down into the street and asking his way to some imaginary road, but the difficulty in passing anyone outside Chloe Burnett’s room occurred to him and he desisted. Return, then. He gripped the New Statesman tightly, and began to think of Sir Giles at Ealing. But the notion of introducing Sir Giles offended him; so, almost as much, did thethought of Reginald Montague, and he was content at last to make an image, as near as possible, of the room from which he had come, with the thought of his secretary attached to it. “My dear child,” Lord Arglay said unconsciously, and shut his eyes.
When, after a similar play of feeling to that which he had experienced before, he opened them to see Reginald Montague in front of him there flashed across his mind the idea that the Crown had somehow muddled things. But it was gone as he came to himself and recognized that he had indeed returned. He looked at his watch; the whole episode had taken exactly five minutes. He sat for a minute, then he got up, walked across to Chloe and gave her the paper. “Yours, I think, Miss Burnett? I’m sorry to give you the trouble of carrying it back,” he said, and wondered whether he had only imagined the look of relief in her eyes. “Well,” he went on to the other two, “it seems you’re quite right. I don’t know what happens or how, but if this sort of thing can go on indefinitely, space doesn’t exist — for purposes of travel.”
“You see it?” Reginald cried out.
“Certainly I see it,” Lord Arglay answered. “It’s a little startling at first and I want to know several more things, but they can wait. At the moment I have enough to brood on. But We’re forgetting our duty. Miss Burnett, wouldn’t you like to try the . . . to put on the Crown of Suleiman?”
“No,” said Chloe. “No, thank you, Lord Arglay. Thank you all very much, but I think I had better go.”
“Go — at once?” Arglay asked, “But give me a few more minutes and we’ll all go back together.”
“I shouldn’t press Miss Burnett to stop if she wants to go,” Sir Giles said. “The station is about the fourth turning on the right.”
“Thank you, Sir Giles,” Chloe answered him. “Thank you for showing me the — the Crown. Good night, Mr. Montague. Good night, Lord Arglay.”
“All right, Giles,” Arglay stopped a movement Tumulty had not made. “I’ll see Miss Burnett out.” As the room door closed behind them he took her arm. “Why the rush?” he asked gently.
“I don’t . . . I don’t really know,” Chloe said. “I’m being rather silly but I felt I couldn’t stop there just now. It is rather upsetting, isn’t it? And . . . O I don’t know. I’m sorry to seem a fool.”
“You are not in the least like a fool,” the Chief Justice said equably. “And you will tell me tomorrow what the matter is. Are you sure you are all right now?”
“Quite all right,” Chloe said as he opened the door for her “Yes, really, Lord Arglay.” She added with a sudden rush of temper, “I don’t like Sir Giles.”
“I couldn’t,” Arglay smiled at her, “have much use for a secretary who did like Sir Giles. Or Reginald either, for that matter. A vulture and a crow — but that’s between ourselves, Well, if you will go, good night.”
“Good night,” Chloe said, took a step forward, and looked back suddenly. “You aren’t going to try it again yourself.?”
“Not I,” Lord Arglay said. “I’m going to talk to them a little and then go. No more aerial flights today. Till tomorrow then.” He watched her out of the gate and well along the street before he returned to the others.
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