THE CONQUERED CITY
MARK was called earlier than usual, and with his tea came a note. The Deputy Director sent his compliments and must ask Mr. Studdock to call on him instantly about a most urgent and distressing matter. Mark dressed and obeyed.
In Wither's room he found Wither and Miss Hardcastle. To Mark's surprise and relief Wither showed no recollection of their last meeting. Indeed, his manner was genial, even deferential, though extremely grave.
"Good morning, good morning, Mr. Studdock," he said. "It is with the greatest regret that I-er-in short, I would not have kept you from your breakfast unless I had felt that in your own interests you should be placed in possession of the facts at the earliest moment. I feel sure that as the conversation proceeds (pray be seated, Mr. Studdock) you will realise how very wise we have been in securing from the outset a police force-to give it that rather unfortunate name-of our own."
Mark licked his lips and sat down.
"My reluctance to raise the question," continued Wither, " would, however, be much more serious if I did not feel able to assure you-in advance you understand-of the confidence which we all feel in you and which I very much hoped " (here for the first time he looked Mark in the eyes) " you were beginning to reciprocate. We regard ourselves here as being so many brothers and-er-sisters : and shall all feel entitled to discuss the subject in the most informal manner possible."
Miss Hardcastle's voice suddenly broke in.
"You have lost your wallet, Studdock," she said.
"Yes. I have. Have you found it?"
Does it contain three pounds ten, letters from a woman signing herself Myrtle, from the Bursar of Bracton, from G. Hernshaw, and a bill for a dress-suit from Simonds and Son, 32A Market Street, Edgestow?"
"Well, more or less so."
"There it is," said Miss Hardcastle. "No you don't!" she added as Mark made a step towards it. "None of that! This wallet was found beside the road about five yards away from Hingest's body."
"My God!" said Studdock. "You don't mean . . . the thing's absurd."
"I don't really think," said the Deputy Director, " that you need have the slightest apprehension that there is, at this stage, any radical difference between your colleagues and yourself as to the light in which this painful matter should be regarded. The question is really a constitutional one--"
"Constitutional?" said Mark angrily. "If l understand her, Miss Hardcastle is accusing me of murder." Wither's eyes looked at him as if from an infinite distance. "Oh," said he, "I don't really think that does justice to Miss Hardcastle's position. That element in the Institute which she represents would be strictly ultra vires in doing anything of the kind within the N.I.C.E.-supposing, but purely of course for purposes of argument, that they wished, or should wish at a later stage, to do so-while in relation to the outside authorities her function--"
"But it's the outside authorities with whom I'm concerned, I suppose," said Mark. "As far as I can understand, Miss Hardcastle means I'm going to be arrested."
"On the contrary," said Wither. "This is precisely one of those cases in which you see the enormous value of possessing our own executive. I do not know if Miss Hardcastle has made it perfectly clear to you that it was her officers, and they only, who have made this-er-embarrassing discovery."
"What do you mean?" said Mark. "If Miss Hardcastle does not think there's a prima facie case against me, why am I being arraigned in this way at all ? And if she does, how can she avoid informing the authorities?"
"My dear friend," said Wither in an antediluvian tone, " there is not the slightest desire on the part of the Committee to insist on defining, in cases of this sort, the powers of action of our own police, much less, what is here in question, their powers of inaction. I do not think anyone had suggested that Miss Hardcastle should be obliged-in any sense that limited her own initiative-to communicate to outside authorities any facts acquired by her staff in the course of their internal functioning within the N.I.C.E."
"Do I understand," said Mark, " that Miss Hardcastle thinks she has facts justifying my arrest for the murder of Mr. Hingest, but is kindly offering to suppress them?"
"You got it now, Studdock," said the Fairy. "But that's not what I want," said Mark. This was not quite true. "I don't want that," he said, speaking rather too loud. "I'm innocent. I think I'd better go to the police-the real police, I mean-at once."
"If you want to be tried for your life," said the Fairy, " that's another matter."
"I want to be vindicated," said Mark. "The charge would fall to pieces at once. There was no conceivable motive. And I have an alibi. Everyone knows I slept here that night."
"There's always a motive, you know," said she, " for anyone murdering anyone. The police are only human. When the machinery's started they naturally want a conviction." Mark assured himself he was not frightened. "There's a letter you wrote," said the Fairy. "What letter?"
"A letter to a Mr. Pelham, of your own College, dated six weeks ago, in which you say, ' I wish Bill the Blizzard could be moved to a better world.' "
Like a sharp physical pain the memory of that scribbled note came back to Mark. It was the sort of silly jocularity one used in the Progressive Element-the kind of thing that might be said a dozen times a day in Bracton about an opponent or even about a bore.
"You don't suppose," said Mark, " that anyone could take that letter to be meant seriously?"
"Ever tried to make a policeman understand anything?" said the Fairy. "I mean what you call a real policeman." Mark said nothing.
"And I don't think the alibi is specially good," said the Fairy. "You were seen talking to Bill at dinner. You were seen going out of the front door with him when he left. You were not seen coming back. Nothing is known of your movements till breakfast-time next morning. If you had gone with him by car to the scene of the murder you would have had ample time to walk back and go to bed by about two-fifteen. Frosty night, you know. No reason why your shoes should have been muddy."
"If I might pick up a point made by Miss Hardcastle," said Wither, " this is a very good illustration of the immense importance of the Institutional Police. There are so many fine shades involved which, so long as they remain in our own family circle (I look upon the N.I.C.E., Mr. Studdock, as one great family), need develop no tendency to lead to any miscarriage of justice."
"You really advise me, sir," said Mark, " not to go to the police?"
"To the police?" said Wither as if this idea were completely new. "I don't think, Mr. Studdock, that anyone had quite contemplated your taking any irrevocable action of that sort. It might even be argued that by such an action you would be guilty- unintentionally guilty, I hasten to add-of some degree of disloyalty. You would, of course, be placing yourself outside our protection. . . ."
"That's the point, Studdock," said the Fairy, "Once you are in the hands of the police you are in the hands of the police."
The moment of Mark's decision passed by him without his noticing it.
"Then there's nothing to be done at present?" said Mark.
"No," said Wither. "No. No immediate action of any official character. It is, of course, very advisable that you should act, as I am sure you will, with the greatest prudence and-er-er-caution for the next few months. As long as you are with us, Scotland Yard would, I feel, see the inconvenience of trying to act unless they had a very clear case indeed."
"But, look here, damn it!" said Mark. "Aren't you hoping to catch the thief in a day or two ? Aren't you going to do anything?"
"The thief?" said Wither. "There has been no suggestion so far that the body was rifled."
"I mean the thief who stole my wallet."
"Oh-ah-your wallet," said the other, very gently stroking his refined, handsome face. "I see. I understand, do I, that you are advancing a charge of theft against some person or persons unknown---"
"But, good God!" shouted Mark, "were you not assuming that someone stole it? Do you think I was there myself? Do you both think I am a murderer?"
"Please!" said the Deputy Director, "please, Mr. Studdock, you really must not shout. Quite apart from the indiscretion of it, I must remind you that you are in the presence of a lady. As far as I can remember, nothing has been said on our side about murder, and no charge of any sort has been made. My only anxiety is to make perfectly clear what we are all doing. I am sure Miss Hardcastle agrees with me."
"It's all one to me," said the Fairy. "Why Studdock should start bellowing at us because we are trying to keep him out of the dock, I don't know. But that's for him to decide. I've got a busy day and don't want to hang about here all morning."
"Really," said Mark, "I should have thought it was excusable to--"
"Pray compose yourself, Mr. Studdock," said Wither.
"As I said before, we look upon ourselves as one family, and nothing like a formal apology is required. We all understand one another and all dislike-er-scenes."
"I'm sorry if I was rude," said Mark. "What do you advise me to do?"
"Don't put your nose outside Belbury, Studdock," said the Fairy.
"I do not think Miss Hardcastle could have given you better advice," said Wither. "And now that Mrs. Studdock is going to join you here, this will not be a serious hardship. You must look upon this as your home, Mr. Studdock."
"Oh ... that reminds me, sir," said Mark. "I'm not quite sure about having my wife here. As a matter of fact she's not in very good health---"
"But surely, in that case, you must be all the more anxious to have her here?"
"I don't believe it would suit her, sir." The D.D.'s eyes wandered and his voice became lower. "I had almost forgotten, Mr. Studdock," he said, " to congratulate you on your introduction to our Head. We all now feel that you are really one of us in a deeper sense. He is anxious to welcome Mrs. Studdock among us at the earliest opportunity."
"Why?" said Mark suddenly. Wither looked at Mark with an indescribable smile. "My dear boy," he said. "Unity, you know. The family circle. She'd-she'd be company for Miss Hardcastle !"Before Mark had recovered from this staggeringly new conception, Wither rose and shuffled towards the door. "You must be hungry for your breakfast," he said. "Don't let me delay you. Behave with the greatest caution. And -and "-here his face suddenly changed. The widely opened mouth looked all at once like, the mouth of some animal. "And bring the girl. Do you understand ? Get your wife," he added. "The Head . . . he's not patient."
As Mark closed the door behind him he immediately thought "Now! They're both in there together. Safe for a minute at least." Without even waiting to get his hat he walked briskly to the front door and down the drive.
Nothing but physical impossibility would stop him from going to Edgestow and warning Jane. After that he had no plans.
Now he was past the road; he was in the belt of trees. Scarcely a minute had passed since he had left the D.D.'s office and no one had overtaken him. But yesterday's adventure was happening over again. A tall, stooped, shuffling, creaking figure, humming a tune, barred his way. Mark had never fought. Ancestral impulses lodged in his body directed the blow which he aimed at this senile obstructor. But there was no impact. The shape had suddenly vanished.
Those who know best were never fully agreed as to the explanation of this episode. It may have been that Mark, both then and on the previous day, being overwrought, saw an hallucination. It may be that the appearance of Wither which haunted so many rooms and corridors of Belbury was, in one sense of the word, a ghost-one of those sensory impressions which a strong personality in its last decay can imprint, most commonly after death but sometimes before it, on the very structure of a building. Or it may, after all, be that souls who have lost the intellectual good do indeed receive in return, and for a short period, the vain privilege of thus reproducing themselves in many places as wraiths. At any rate the thing, whatever it was, vanished.
The path ran diagonally across a field of grass, now powdered with frost, and the sky was hazy blue. Then he went across a road, across a stream by a footbridge, and so into the frozen ruts of the lane that led him into Courthampton.
The first thing he saw as he came into the village street was a farm cart. A woman and three children sat beside the man who was driving, and in the cart were piled chests of drawers, mattresses, and a canary in a cage. Immediately after it came a man and woman and child on foot wheeling a perambulator: it also was piled with small household property. After that came a family pushing a hand-cart, and then a heavily loaded trap, and then an old car. A steady stream of such traffic was passing through the village. Mark had never seen war: if he had he would have recognised at once the signs of flight, the message "Enemy behind ".
It took him a long time to get to the crossroads by the pub, where he could find a glazed and framed timetable of buses. There would not be one to Edgestow till twelve-fifteen. He hung about, understanding nothing of what he saw. At eleven-thirty the pub opened. He went in and ordered a pint and some bread and cheese.
The bar was at first empty. During the next half-hour men dropped in one by one till about four were present. For some time they did not talk at all. Then a very little man with a face like an old potato observed to no one in particular, "I seen old Rumbold the other night."No one replied for five minutes, and then a very young man in leggings said, "I reckon he's sorry he ever tried it."' It was only when the subject of Rumbold was thoroughly exhausted that the talk, very indirectly and by gradual stages, began to throw some light on the stream of refugees. "Still coming out," said one man. "Ah," said another. "Can't be many left there by now."
"Don't know where they'll all get in, I'm sure." Little by little the whole thing came out. These were the refugees from Edgestow. Some had been turned out of their houses, some scared by the riots, and still more by the restoration of order. Something like a terror appeared to have been established in the town.
"They tell me there were two hundred arrests yesterday," said the landlord.
"Ah," said the young man. "They're hard cases those N.I.C.E. police, every one of them. They put the wind up my old Dad proper, I tell 'ee." He ended with a laugh.
" 'Taint the police so much as the workmen by what I hear," said another. "They never ought to have brought those Welsh and Irish."
When the time came he had no difficulty in getting on to the bus, for all the traffic was going in the opposite direction. It put him down at the top of Market Street and he set out to walk up to the flat. The town wore a new expression. One house out of three was empty. About half the shops had their windows boarded up. As he gained height and came into the region of large villas with gardens he noticed that many of these had been requisitioned and bore white placards with the N.I.C.E. symbol-a muscular male nude grasping a thunderbolt. At every corner lounged or sauntered the N.I.C.E. police, helmeted, swinging their clubs, with revolvers in holsters on their black shiny belts.
Would Jane be in? He felt he could not bear it if Jane should not be in. It seemed cold and damp on the staircase : cold and damp and dark on the landing. "Ja-ane," he shouted as he unlocked the door of the flat: but he had already lost hope. As soon as he was inside the door he knew the place was uninhabited. A pile of unopened letters lay on the inside doormat. There was not a tick of a clock. The bread in the cupboard was stale. There was a jug half full of milk, but the milk had thickened and would not pour. A splutter of unreasonable anger arose. Why the hell hadn't Jane told him she was going away? Or had someone taken her away? Perhaps there was a note for him. He took a pile of letters off the mantelpiece, but they were only letters he had put there himself to be answered. Then on the table he noticed an envelope addressed to Mrs. Dimble at her own house over beyond the Wynd. So that damned woman had been here! Those Dimbles had always, he felt, disliked him. They'd probably asked Jane to stay with them. Been interfering somehow, no doubt. He must go down to Northumberland and see Dimble.
The idea of being annoyed with the Dimbles occurred to Mark almost as an inspiration. To bluster a little as an injured husband in search of his wife would be a pleasant change from the attitudes he had recently been compelled to adopt.
"Come in," said Dimble in his rooms at Northumberland. "Oh, it's you, Studdock," he added as the door opened. "Come in."
"I've come to ask about Jane," said Mark. "Do you know where she is?"
"I can't give you her address, I'm afraid," said Dimble.
"Do you mean you don't know it?"
"I can't give it," said Dimble.
According to Mark's programme this was the point at which he should have begun to take a strong line. But he did not feel the same now that he was in the room. Dimble had always treated him with scrupulous politeness, and Mark had always felt that Dimble disliked him. This had not made him dislike Dimble. It had only made him uneasily talkative in Dimble's presence and anxious to please. Vindictiveness was by no means one of Mark's vices. For Mark liked to be liked. There was a good deal of the spaniel in him.
"What do you mean?" he asked. "I don't understand."
"If you have any regard for your wife's safety you will not ask me to tell you where she has gone," said Dimble. "Safety from what?"
"Don't you know what has happened?"
"On the night of the riot the Institutional Police attempted to arrest her. She escaped, but not before they had tortured her."
"Tortured her? What do you mean?"
"Burned her with cigars."
"That's what I've come about," said Mark. "Jane- I'm afraid she is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. That didn't really happen, you know."
"The doctor who dressed the burns thinks otherwise."
"Great Scott!" said Mark. "So they really did ? But, look here ..."
Under the quiet stare of Dimble he found it difficult to speak.
"Why have I not been told about this outrage?" he ;
"By your colleagues?" asked Dimble dryly. "It is an odd- question to ask me. You ought to understand the workings of the N.I.C.E. better than I do."
"Why didn't you tell me? Why has nothing been done about it? Have you been to the police?"
"The Institutional Police?"
"No, the ordinary police."
"Do you really not know that there are no-ordinary police left in Edgestow?"
"I suppose there are some magistrates."
"There is the Emergency Commissioner, Lord Feverstone. You seem to misunderstand. This is a conquered and occupied city."
"Then why, in Heaven's name, didn't you get on to me?
"You?" said Dimble.
For one moment Mark saw himself exactly as a man like Dimble saw him. It almost took his breath away.
"Look here," he said. "You don't . . . it's too fantastic! You don't imagine I knew about it! You don't really believe I send policemen about to man-handle my own wife!"
Dimble said nothing and his face did not relax.
"I know you've always disliked me," said Mark. "But I didn't know it was quite as bad as that." And again Dimble was silent.
"Well," said Studdock, " there doesn't seem to be much more to say. I insist on being told where Jane is."
"Do you want her to be taken to Belbury?"
"I don't see why I should be cross-questioned in this way. Where is my wife?"
"I have no permission to tell you. She is not in my house nor under my care. If you still have the slightest regard for her happiness you will make no attempt to get into touch with her."
"Am I some sort of leper or criminal that I can't even be trusted to know her address?"
"Excuse me. You are a member of the N.I.C.E. who have already insulted, tortured, and arrested her. Since her escape she has been left alone only because your colleagues do not know where she is."
"And if it really was the N.I.C.E. police, do you suppose I'm not going to have a very full explanation out of them ? Damn it, what do you take me for?"
"I can only hope that you have no power in the N.I.C.E. at all. If you have no power, then you cannot protect her. If you have, then you are identified with its policy. In neither case will I help you to discover where Jane is."
"This is fantastic," said Mark. "Even if I do happen to hold a job in the N.I.C.E. for the moment, you know me."
"I do not know you," said Dimble. "I have no conception of your aims or motives."
He seemed to Mark to be looking at him not with anger or contempt but with that degree of loathing which produces in those who feel it a kind of embarrassment. In reality Dimble was simply trying very hard not to hate, not to despise, and he had no idea of the fixed severity which this effort gave to his face.
"There has been some ridiculous mistake," said Mark.
"I'll make a row. I suppose some newly enrolled policeman got drunk or something. Well, he'll be broken. I--"
"It was the chief of your police. Miss Hardcastle herself, who did it."
"Very well. I'll break her then."
"Do you know Miss Hardcastle well?" asked Dimble. Mark thought that Dimble was reading his mind and seeing there his certainty that he had no more power of calling Miss Hardcastle to account than of stopping the revolution of the Earth.
Suddenly Dimble's face changed, and he spoke in a new voice. "Have you the means to bring her to book?" he said. "Are you already as near the centre of Belbury as that? If so, then you have consented to the murder of Hingest, the murder of Compton. It is with your approval that criminals-honest criminals whose hands you are unfit to touch-are being taken from the jails to which British judges sent them and packed off to Belbury to undergo for an indefinite period, out of reach of the law, whatever tortures and assaults on personal identity you call Remedial Treatment. It is you who have driven two thousand families from their homes. It is you who can tell us why Place and Rowley have been arrested. And if you are as deeply in it as that, not only will I not deliver Jane into your hands, but I would not deliver my dog."
"Really-really," said Mark. "This is absurd. What have I ever done that you should make me responsible for every action that any N.I.C.E. official has taken- or is said to have taken in the gutter Press?"
"Gutter Press! What nonsense is this ? Do you suppose I don't know that you have control of every paper in the country except one? And that one has not appeared this, morning."
It may seem strange to say that Mark, having long lived in a world without charity, had nevertheless seldom met anger. Malice in plenty he had encountered, but it all operated by snubs and sneers and stabbing in the back. The eyes and voice of this elderly man had an effect on him which was unnerving. (At Belbury one used the words " whining " and " yapping " to describe any opposition which Belbury aroused in the outer world.)
"I tell you I knew nothing about it," he shouted. "I'll raise hell about it. I'll break the infernal bitch who did it, if it means breaking the whole N.I.C.E."
He knew that Dimble knew that he was now talking nonsense. Yet Mark could not stop.
"Sooner than put up with this," he shouted, "I'll leave the N.I.C.E."
"Do you mean that?" asked Dimble with a sharp glance. To Mark this glance appeared accusing and intolerable. In reality it had been a glance of awakened hope.
"I see you don't trust me," said Mark.
Dimble was a truthful man. "No," he said after a longish pause. "I don't quite."
Mark shrugged his shoulders and turned away.
"Studdock," said Dimble, " this is not a time for foolery, or compliments. It may be that both of us are within a few minutes of death. You have probably been shadowed into the college. And I, at any rate, don't propose to die with polite insincerities in my mouth. I don't trust you. Why should I ? You are (at least in some degree) the accomplice of the worst men in the world. Your very coming to me this afternoon may be a trap."
"Don't you know me better than that?" said Mark.
"Stop talking nonsense!" said Dimble. "Stop posturing and acting, if only for a minute. They have corrupted better men than you or me before now. Straik was a good man once. Filostrato was at least a genius. Even Alcasan - yes, yes, I know who your Head is-was a plain murderer: something better than they have now made of him. Who are you to be exempt?"
"Nevertheless," continued Dimble, " knowing this- knowing that you may be only bait in the trap-I will take a risk. I will risk things compared with which both our lives are a triviality. If you seriously wish to leave the N.I.C.E., I will help you."'
One moment it was like the gates of Paradise opening--then, at once, caution and the incurable wish to temporise rushed back. The chink had closed.
"I-I'd need to think that over," he mumbled. "It's a question affecting my whole future career."
"Your career!" said Dimble. "It's a question of damnation or-a last chance. But you must come at once."
"I don't think I understand," said Mark. "You keep on suggesting some kind of danger. What is it? And what powers have you to protect me-or Jane-if I do bolt?"
"I can offer you no security. There is no security for anyone now. I'm offering you a place on the right side. I don't know which will win."
"As a matter of fact," said Mark, "I had been thinking of leaving. But I must think it over. Supposing I look you up again to-morrow?" ,
"Do you know that you'll be able?"
"Or in an hour? Come, that's only sensible. Will you be here in an hour's time?"
"What can an hour do for you ? You are only waiting in the hope that your mind will be less clear."
"But will you be here?"
"If you insist. But no good can come of it."
"I want to think. I want to think," said Mark, and left the room without waiting for a reply.
Mark had said he wanted to think: in reality he wanted alcohol and tobacco. And he wanted Jane, and he wanted to punish Jane for being a friend of Dimble, and he wanted never to see Wither again, and he wanted to creep back and patch things up with Wither somehow. He wanted to be admired for manly honesty among the Dimbles and also for realism and knowingness at Belbury. Damn the whole thing! Why had he such a rotten heredity ? Why had his education been so ineffective? Why was the system of society so irrational ? Why was his luck so bad ?
It was raining as he reached the College lodge. Some sort of van seemed to be standing in the street outside, and there were three or four uniformed men in capes.
"Excuse me, sir," said one of the men. "I must ask for your name."
"Studdock," said Mark.
"Mark Gainsby Studdock," said the man, " it is my duty to arrest you for the murder of William Hingest."
Dr. Dimble drove out to St. Anne's dissatisfied with himself, haunted with the suspicion that if he had been wiser, or more perfectly in charity with this very miserable young man, he might have done something for him.
"Here he is. Here's Dr. Dimble," shouted Ivy Maggs as he drove up to the front door of the Manor.
"Don't put the car away, Dimble," said Denniston.
"Oh Cecil!" said his wife; and he saw fear in her face.
A few moments later, blinking in the lighted kitchen, he saw that this was not to be a normal evening. The Director himself was there, seated by the fire. There were signs that everyone else had had an early supper, and Dimble found himself almost at once seated at the end of the table and being rather excitedly urged to eat and drink by his wife and Mrs. Maggs.
"Don't stop to ask questions, dear," said Mrs. Dimble. "Go on eating while they tell you. Make a good meal."
"You have to go out again," said Ivy Maggs.
"Yes," said the Director. "We're going into action at last. I'm sorry to send you out the moment you come in: but the battle has started."
"I have already repeatedly urged," said MacPhee, " the absurdity of sending out an older man like yourself, when here am I, a great strapping fellow sitting doing nothing."
"It's no good, MacPhee," said the Director, " you can't go. Put the other map on the table where Dimble can see it while he goes on with his meal. And now, Dimble. What was under Bragdon was a living Merlin. Yes, asleep, if you like to call it sleep. And nothing has yet happened to show that the enemy have found him. Last night Jane had the most important dream she's had. You remember that in an earlier dream she saw (or so I thought) the very place where he lay under Bragdon. But- and this is the important thing- it's not reached by a shaft and a stair. She dreamed of going through a long tunnel with a very gradual descent. Jane thinks she can recognise the entrance to that tunnel under a heap of stones at the end of a copse with.. what was it, Jane?"
"A white gate, sir. An ordinary five-barred gate with a cross-piece. But the cross-piece was broken off about a foot from the top. I'd know it again."
"You see, Dimble? There's a very good chance that this tunnel comes up outside the area held by the N.I.C.E."
"You mean," said Dimble, " that we can now get under Bragdon without going into Bragdon."
"Exactly. But that's not all. Apparently we are almost too late. He has waked already."
Dimble stopped eating.
"Jane found the place empty," said Ransom. "You mean the enemy have already found him?"
"No. Not quite as bad as that. The place had not been broken into. He seems to have waked of his own accord."
"But what does it mean?"
"I think it means that the thing has been planned long, long ago," said the Director. "That he went into the para-chronic state for the very purpose of returning at this moment."
"Is he out?" asked Dimble.
"He probably is by now," said the Director. "Tell him what it was like, Jane."
"It was the same place," said Jane. "The slab of stone was there, but no one lying on it; this time it wasn't quite cold. Then I dreamed about this tunnel . . . sloping up from the souterrain. And there was a man in the tunnel. A big man. Breathing heavily. At first I thought it was an animal. It got colder as we went up the tunnel. It seemed to end in a pile of loose stones. He was pulling them about just before the dream changed. Then I was outside, in the rain, at the white gate."
"It looks, you see," said Ransom, "as if they had not yet-or not then-established contact with him. Our only chance now is to meet this creature before they do."
"Bragdon is very nearly water-logged," put in MacPhee. "Where you'll find a dry cavity is a question."
"That's the point," said the Director. "The chamber must be under the high ground-the gravelly ridge on the south, where it slopes up to the Eaton Road. That's where you'll have to look for Jane's white gate. I suspect it opens on the Eaton Road. Or else that other road-the yellow one that runs up into the Y of Cure Hardy."
"We can be there in half an hour," said Dimble. "I suppose it must be to-night?" said Mrs. Dimble shamefacedly.
"I am afraid it must, Margaret," said the Director. "Every minute counts."
"Of course. I see. I'm sorry," said Mrs. Dimble. "And what is our procedure, sir?" said Dimble. "The first question is whether he's out," said the Director. "He may take hours getting out."
"You'll need at least two strong men with picks--" began MacPhee.
"It's no good, MacPhee," said the Director. "I'm not sending you. But he may have powers we don't know. If he's out, you must look for tracks. Thank God it's a muddy night."
"If Jane is going, sir," said Camilla, " couldn't I go too?"
"Jane has to go because she is the guide," said Ransom. "You must stay at home. We in this house are all that is left of Logres. You carry its future in your body. As I was saying, Dimble, you must hunt. I do not think he can get far. The country will be quite unrecognisable to him, even by daylight."
"And . . . if we do find him, sir?"
"That is why it must be you, Dimble. Only you know the Great Tongue. Even if he does not understand it he will, I think, recognise it. That will teach him he is dealing with Masters. There is a chance that he will think you are the Belbury people. In that case you will bring him here at once."
"And if not?"
"That is the moment when the danger comes. We do not know what the powers of the old Atlantean circle were: some kind of hypnotism probably covered most of it. Don't be afraid: but don't let him try any tricks. Keep your hand on your revolver. You too, Denniston."
"I'm a good hand with a revolver myself," said MacPhee. "And why--?"
"You can't go, MacPhee," said the Director. "He'd put you to sleep in ten seconds. The others are heavily protected and you are not. You understand, Dimble ? Your revolver in your hand, a prayer on your lips. Then, if he stands, conjure him."
"What shall I say in the Great Tongue?"
"Say that you come in the name of God and all angels and in the power of the planets from one who sits today in the seat of the Pendragon, and command him to come with you. Say it now."
And Dimble raised his head, and great syllables of words came out of his mouth. Jane felt her heart leap and quiver; it was as if the words spoke themselves through him from some strong place at a distance-or as if they were not words at all but present operations of God, the planets, and the Pendragon. For this was the language spoken before the Fall and beyond the Moon. Language herself, as she first sprang at Maleldil's bidding out of the molten quicksilver of the star called Mercury on Earth, but Viritrilbia in Deep Heaven.
"Thank you," said the Director. "And if he comes with you, all is well. If he does not-why then, Dimble, say your prayers and keep your will fixed in the will of Maleldil. I don't know what he will do. You can't lose your soul, whatever happens; at least, not by any action of his."
"Yes," said Dimble. "I understand."
"You are all right, Jane?"
"I think so, sir," said Jane.
"Do you place yourself in the obedience," said the Director, " in obedience to Maleldil?"
"Sir," said Jane, "I know nothing of Maleldil. But I place myself in obedience to you."
"It is enough for the present," said the Director. "This is the courtesy of Deep Heaven: that when you mean well, He always takes you to have meant better than you knew. It will not be enough for always. He is very jealous. He will have you for no one but Himself in the end. But for to-night, it is enough."
"This is the craziest business ever I heard of," said MacPhee.
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