Arthur Conan Doyle
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 lowest
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
"I'm reading hard. I think it best to leave it alone."
Hastie nodded, and they relapsed into a contented silence.
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
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
"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
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 distractedly.
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 before.
"What the deuce can have frightened him so?" he asked.
"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 him."
"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 am!"
He sunk his head on to his hands, and burst into peal after peal of
"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
"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 quite
"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 languages, Smith?"
"Nothing at all. Not a word."
The answer seemed to lift a weight from the Egyptologist's mind.
"By-the-way," he continued, "how long was it from the time that you ran down,
until I came to my senses?"
"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
"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,
"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 detain him.
"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, Lee?"
"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 them.
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, Styles."
"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 outside."
"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 want me."
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 his memory.
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 below.
"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 it."
"Why, I hear someone coming up the steps now," said Smith.
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 the room.
"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
"I didn't know you kept a dog," said Smith, looking very thoughtfully at the
disturbed face of his companion.
"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
"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 forefinger.
"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 Old's."
"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
"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
"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
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 Oxford meadows.
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
Smith sat staring with a lighted match in one hand and his unlit cigarette in
"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
"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 any man?"
"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 uncontrollable excitement.
"You know, then?" he gasped.
Lee dropped back again with a groan.
"My lips are sealed," he said. "I must not speak."
"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
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 else.
"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 he 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 smooth-cropped lawn.
"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
"Wake up, old chap. You've frightened us quite enough."
"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 up."
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."
His features were grave, but there was the gleam of a hidden laugh in his
eyes as he spoke. Smith saw it, and he could have knocked him down for it.
"You'll be sorrier still to hear that Monkhouse Lee is doing very well, and
is out of all danger," he answered. "Your hellish tricks have not come off this
time. Oh, you needn't try to brazen it out. I know all about it."
Bellingham took a step back from the angry student, and half-closed the door
as if to protect himself.
"You are mad," he said. "What do you mean? Do you assert that I had anything
to do with Lee's accident?"
"Yes," thundered Smith. "You and that bag of bones behind you; you worked it
between you. I tell you what it is, Master B., they have given up burning folk
like you, but we still keep a hangman, and, by George! if any man in this
college meets his death while you are here, I'll have you up, and if you don't
swing for it, it won't be my fault. You'll find that your filthy Egyptian tricks
won't answer in England."
"You're a raving lunatic," said Bellingham.
"All right. You just remember what I say, for you'll find that I'll be better
than my word."
The door slammed, and Smith went fuming up to his chamber, where he locked
the door upon the inside, and spent half the night in smoking his old briar and
brooding over the strange events of the evening.
Next morning Abercrombie Smith heard nothing of his neighbour, but Harrington
called upon him in the afternoon to say that Lee was almost himself again. All
day Smith stuck fast to his work, but in the evening he determined to pay the
visit to his friend Dr. Peterson upon which he had started upon the night
before. A good walk and a friendly chat would be welcome to his jangled nerves.
Bellingham's door was shut as he passed, but glancing back when he was some
distance from the turret, he saw his neighbour's head at the window outlined
against the lamp-light, his face pressed apparently against the glass as he
gazed out into the darkness. It was a blessing to be away from all contact with
him, but if for a few hours, and Smith stepped out briskly, and breathed the
soft spring air into his lungs. The half-moon lay in the west between two Gothic
pinnacles, and threw upon the silvered street a dark tracery from the stone-work
above. There was a brisk breeze, and light, fleecy clouds drifted swiftly across
the sky. Old's was on the very border of the town, and in five minutes Smith
found himself beyond the houses and between the hedges of a May-scented
It was a lonely and little frequented road which led to his friend's house.
Early as it was, Smith did not meet a single soul upon his way. He walked
briskly along until he came to the avenue gate, which opened into the long
gravel drive leading up to Farlingford. In front of him he could see the cosy
red light of the windows glimmering through the foliage. He stood with his hand
upon the iron latch of the swinging gate, and he glanced back at the road along
which he had come. Something was coming swiftly down it.
It moved in the shadow of the hedge, silently and furtively, a dark,
crouching figure, dimly visible against the black background. Even as he gazed
back at it, it had lessened its distance by twenty paces, and was fast closing
upon him. Out of the darkness he had a glimpse of a scraggy neck, and of two
eyes that will ever haunt him in his dreams. He turned, and with a cry of terror
he ran for his life up the avenue. There were the red lights, the signals of
safety, almost within a stone's throw of him. He was a famous runner, but never
had he run as he ran that night.
The heavy gate had swung into place behind him, but he heard it dash open
again before his pursuer. As he rushed madly and wildly through the night, he
could hear a swift, dry patter behind him, and could see, as he threw back a
glance, that this horror was bounding like a tiger at his heels, with blazing
eyes and one stringy arm outthrown. Thank God, the door was ajar. He could see
the thin bar of light which shot from the lamp in the hall. Nearer yet sounded
the clatter from behind. He heard a hoarse gurgling at his very shoulder. With a
shriek he flung himself against the door, slammed and bolted it behind him, and
sank half-fainting on to the hall chair.
"My goodness, Smith, what's the matter?" asked Peterson, appearing at the
door of his study.
"Give me some brandy!"
Peterson disappeared, and came rushing out again with a glass and a decanter.
"You need it," he said, as his visitor drank off what he poured out for him.
"Why, man, you are as white as a cheese."
Smith laid down his glass, rose up, and took a deep breath.
"I am my own man again now," said he. "I was never so unmanned before. But,
with your leave, Peterson, I will sleep here to-night, for I don't think I could
face that road again except by daylight. It's weak, I know, but I can't help
Peterson looked at his visitor with a very questioning eye.
"Of course you shall sleep here if you wish. I'll tell Mrs. Burney to make up
the spare bed. Where are you off to now?"
"Come up with me to the window that overlooks the door. I want you to see
what I have seen."
They went up to the window of the upper hall whence they could look down upon
the approach to the house. The drive and the fields on either side lay quiet and
still, bathed in the peaceful moonlight.
"Well, really, Smith," remarked Peterson, "it is well that I know you to be
an abstemious man. What in the world can have frightened you?"
"I'll tell you presently. But where can it have gone? Ah, now look, look! See
the curve of the road just beyond your gate."
"Yes, I see; you needn't pinch my arm off. I saw someone pass. I should say a
man, rather thin, apparently, and tall, very tall. But what of him? And what of
yourself? You are still shaking like an aspen leaf."
"I have been within hand-grip of the devil, that's all. But come down to your
study, and I shall tell you the whole story."
He did so. Under the cheery lamplight, with a glass of wine on the table
beside him, and the portly form and florid face of his friend in front, he
narrated, in their order, all the events, great and small, which had formed so
singular a chain, from the night on which he had found Bellingham fainting in
front of the mummy case until his horrid experience of an hour ago.
"There now," he said as he concluded, "that's the whole black business. It is
monstrous and incredible, but it is true."
Dr. Plumptree Peterson sat for some time in silence with a very puzzled
expression upon his face.
"I never heard of such a thing in my life, never!" he said at last. "You have
told me the facts. Now tell me your inferences."
"You can draw your own."
"But I should like to hear yours. You have thought over the matter, and I
"Well, it must be a little vague in detail, but the main points seem to me to
be clear enough. This fellow Bellingham, in his Eastern studies, has got hold of
some infernal secret by which a mummy—or possibly only this particular mummy—can
be temporarily brought to life. He was trying this disgusting business on the
night when he fainted. No doubt the sight of the creature moving had shaken his
nerve, even though he had expected it. You remember that almost the first words
he said were to call out upon himself as a fool. Well, he got more hardened
afterwards, and carried the matter through without fainting. The vitality which
he could put into it was evidently only a passing thing, for I have seen it
continually in its case as dead as this table. He has some elaborate process, I
fancy, by which he brings the thing to pass. Having done it, he naturally
bethought him that he might use the creature as an agent. It has intelligence
and it has strength. For some purpose he took Lee into his confidence; but Lee,
like a decent Christian, would have nothing to do with such a business. Then
they had a row, and Lee vowed that he would tell his sister of Bellingham's true
character. Bellingham's game was to prevent him, and he nearly managed it, by
setting this creature of his on his track. He had already tried its powers upon
another man—Norton—towards whom he had a grudge. It is the merest chance that he
has not two murders upon his soul. Then, when I taxed him with the matter, he
had the strongest reasons for wishing to get me out of the way before I could
convey my knowledge to anyone else. He got his chance when I went out, for he
knew my habits, and where I was bound for. I have had a narrow shave, Peterson,
and it is mere luck you didn't find me on your doorstep in the morning. I'm not
a nervous man as a rule, and I never thought to have the fear of death put upon
me as it was to-night."
"My dear boy, you take the matter too seriously," said his companion. "Your
nerves are out of order with your work, and you make too much of it. How could
such a thing as this stride about the streets of Oxford, even at night, without
"It has been seen. There is quite a scare in the town about an escaped ape,
as they imagine the creature to be. It is the talk of the place."
"Well, it's a striking chain of events. And yet, my dear fellow, you must
allow that each incident in itself is capable of a more natural explanation."
"What! even my adventure of to-night?"
"Certainly. You come out with your nerves all unstrung, and your head full of
this theory of yours. Some gaunt, half-famished tramp steals after you, and
seeing you run, is emboldened to pursue you. Your fears and imagination do the