and his mind trembled. He began to lose memory - memory of his identity,
of where he was, of what he ought to do. The very foundations of his
strength were shaken. His will seemed paralysed.
And it was then that the room filled with this horde of cats, all dark
as the night, all silent, all with lamping eyes of green fire. The
dimensions of the place altered and shifted. He was in a much larger
space. The whining of the dog sounded far away, and all about him the
cats flew busily to and fro, silently playing their tearing, rushing
game of evil, weaving the pattern of their dark purpose upon the floor.
He strove hard to collect himself and remember the words of power he had
made use of before in similar dread positions where his dangerous
practice had sometimes led; but he could recall nothing consecutively; a
mist lay over his mind and memory; he felt dazed and his forces
scattered. The deeps within were too troubled for healing power to come
out of them.
It was glamour, of course, he realised afterwards, the strong glamour
thrown upon his imagination by some powerful personality behind the
veil; but at the time he was not sufficiently aware of this and, as with
all true glamour, was unable to grasp where the true ended and the false
began. He was caught momentarily in the same vortex that had sought to
lure the cat to destruction through its delight, and threatened utterly
to overwhelm the dog through its terror.
There came a sound in the chimney behind him like wind booming and
tearing its way down. The windows rattled. The candle flickered and went
out. The glacial atmosphere closed round him with the cold of death, and
a great rushing sound swept by overhead as though the ceiling had lifted
to a great height. He heard the door shut. Far away it sounded. He felt
lost, shelterless in the depths of his soul. Yet still he held out and
resisted while the climax of the fight came nearer and nearer.... He had
stepped into the stream of forces awakened by Pender and he knew that he
must withstand them to the end or come to a conclusion that it was not
good for a man to come to. Something from the region of utter cold was
And then quite suddenly, through the confused mists about him, there
slowly rose up the Personality that had been all the time directing the
battle. Some force entered his being that shook him as the tempest
shakes a leaf, and close against his eyes - clean level with his face - he
found himself staring into the wreck of a vast dark Countenance, a
countenance that was terrible even in its ruin.
For ruined it was, and terrible it was, and the mark of spiritual evil
was branded everywhere upon its broken features. Eyes, face and hair
rose level with his own, and for a space of time he never could properly
measure, or determine, these two, a man and a woman, looked straight
into each other's visages and down into each other's hearts.
And John Silence, the soul with the good, unselfish motive, held his own
against the dark discarnate woman whose motive was pure evil, and whose
soul was on the side of the Dark Powers.
It was the climax that touched the depth of power within him and began
to restore him slowly to his own. He was conscious, of course, of
effort, and yet it seemed no superhuman one, for he had recognised the
character of his opponent's power, and he called upon the good within
him to meet and overcome it. The inner forces stirred and trembled in
response to his call. They did not at first come readily as was their
habit, for under the spell of glamour they had already been diabolically
lulled into inactivity, but come they eventually did, rising out of the
inner spiritual nature he had learned with so much time and pain to
awaken to life. And power and confidence came with them. He began to
breathe deeply and regularly, and at the same time to absorb into
himself the forces opposed to him, and to _turn them to his own
account_. By ceasing to resist, and allowing the deadly stream to pour
into him unopposed, he used the very power supplied by his adversary and
thus enormously increased his own.
For this spiritual alchemy he had learned. He understood that force
ultimately is everywhere one and the same; it is the motive behind that
makes it good or evil; and his motive was entirely unselfish. He
knew - provided he was not first robbed of self-control - how vicariously
to absorb these evil radiations into himself and change them magically
into his own good purposes. And, since his motive was pure and his soul
fearless, they could not work him harm.
Thus he stood in the main stream of evil unwittingly attracted by
Pender, deflecting its course upon himself; and after passing through
the purifying filter of his own unselfishness these energies could only
add to his store of experience, of knowledge, and therefore of power.
And, as his self-control returned to him, he gradually accomplished this
purpose, even though trembling while he did so.
Yet the struggle was severe, and in spite of the freezing chill of the
air, the perspiration poured down his face. Then, by slow degrees, the
dark and dreadful countenance faded, the glamour passed from his soul,
the normal proportions returned to walls and ceiling, the forms melted
back into the fog, and the whirl of rushing shadow-cats disappeared
whence they came.
And with the return of the consciousness of his own identity John
Silence was restored to the full control of his own will-power. In a
deep, modulated voice he began to utter certain rhythmical sounds that
slowly rolled through the air like a rising sea, filling the room with
powerful vibratory activities that whelmed all irregularities of lesser
vibrations in its own swelling tone. He made certain sigils, gestures
and movements at the same time. For several minutes he continued to
utter these words, until at length the growing volume dominated the
whole room and mastered the manifestation of all that opposed it. For
just as he understood the spiritual alchemy that can transmute evil
forces by raising them into higher channels, so he knew from long study
the occult use of sound, and its direct effect upon the plastic region
wherein the powers of spiritual evil work their fell purposes. Harmony
was restored first of all to his own soul, and thence to the room and
all its occupants.
And, after himself, the first to recognise it was the old dog lying in
his corner. Flame began suddenly uttering sounds of pleasure, that
"something" between a growl and a grunt that dogs make upon being
restored to their master's confidence. Dr. Silence heard the thumping of
the collie's tail against the floor. And the grunt and the thumping
touched the depth of affection in the man's heart, and gave him some
inkling of what agonies the dumb creature had suffered.
Next, from the shadows by the window, a somewhat shrill purring
announced the restoration of the cat to its normal state. Smoke was
advancing across the carpet. He seemed very pleased with himself, and
smiled with an expression of supreme innocence. He was no shadow-cat,
but real and full of his usual and perfect self-possession. He marched
along, picking his way delicately, but with a stately dignity that
suggested his ancestry with the majesty of Egypt. His eyes no longer
glared; they shone steadily before him, they radiated, not excitement,
but knowledge. Clearly he was anxious to make amends for the mischief to
which he had unwittingly lent himself owing to his subtle and electric
Still uttering his sharp high purrings he marched up to his master and
rubbed vigorously against his legs. Then he stood on his hind feet and
pawed his knees and stared beseechingly up into his face. He turned his
head towards the corner where the collie still lay, thumping his tail
feebly and pathetically.
John Silence understood. He bent down and stroked the creature's living
fur, noting the line of bright blue sparks that followed the motion of
his hand down its back. And then they advanced together towards the
corner where the dog was.
Smoke went first and put his nose gently against his friend's muzzle,
purring while he rubbed, and uttering little soft sounds of affection in
his throat. The doctor lit the candle and brought it over. He saw the
collie lying on its side against the wall; it was utterly exhausted, and
foam still hung about its jaws. Its tail and eyes responded to the sound
of its name, but it was evidently very weak and overcome. Smoke
continued to rub against its cheek and nose and eyes, sometimes even
standing on its body and kneading into the thick yellow hair. Flame
replied from time to time by little licks of the tongue, most of them
But Dr. Silence felt intuitively that something disastrous had happened,
and his heart was wrung. He stroked the dear body, feeling it over for
bruises or broken bones, but finding none. He fed it with what remained
of the sandwiches and milk, but the creature clumsily upset the saucer
and lost the sandwiches between its paws, so that the doctor had to feed
it with his own hand. And all the while Smoke meowed piteously.
Then John Silence began to understand. He went across to the farther
side of the room and called aloud to it.
"Flame, old man! come!"
At any other time the dog would have been upon him in an instant,
barking and leaping to the shoulder. And even now he got up, though
heavily and awkwardly, to his feet. He started to run, wagging his tail
more briskly. He collided first with a chair, and then ran straight into
a table. Smoke trotted close at his side, trying his very best to guide
him. But it was useless. Dr. Silence had to lift him up into his own
arms and carry him like a baby. For he was blind.
It was a week later when John Silence called to see the author in his
new house, and found him well on the way to recovery and already busy
again with his writing. The haunted look had left his eyes, and he
seemed cheerful and confident.
"Humour restored?" laughed the doctor, as soon as they were comfortably
settled in the room overlooking the Park.
"I've had no trouble since I left that dreadful place," returned Pender
gratefully; "and thanks to you - "
The doctor stopped him with a gesture.
"Never mind that," he said, "we'll discuss your new plans afterwards,
and my scheme for relieving you of the house and helping you settle
elsewhere. Of course it must be pulled down, for it's not fit for any
sensitive person to live in, and any other tenant might be afflicted in
the same way you were. Although, personally, I think the evil has
exhausted itself by now."
He told the astonished author something of his experiences in it with
"I don't pretend to understand," Pender said, when the account was
finished, "but I and my wife are intensely relieved to be free of it
all. Only I must say I should like to know something of the former
history of the house. When we took it six months ago I heard no word
Dr. Silence drew a typewritten paper from his pocket.
"I can satisfy your curiosity to some extent," he said, running his eye
over the sheets, and then replacing them in his coat; "for by my
secretary's investigations I have been able to check certain information
obtained in the hypnotic trance by a 'sensitive' who helps me in such
cases. The former occupant who haunted you appears to have been a woman
of singularly atrocious life and character who finally suffered death by
hanging, after a series of crimes that appalled the whole of England and
only came to light by the merest chance. She came to her end in the year
1798, for it was not this particular house she lived in, but a much
larger one that then stood upon the site it now occupies, and was then,
of course, not in London, but in the country. She was a person of
intellect, possessed of a powerful, trained will, and of consummate
audacity, and I am convinced availed herself of the resources of the
lower magic to attain her ends. This goes far to explain the virulence
of the attack upon yourself, and why she is still able to carry on after
death the evil practices that formed her main purpose during life."
"You think that after death a soul can still consciously direct - "
gasped the author.
"I think, as I told you before, that the forces of a powerful
personality may still persist after death in the line of their original
momentum," replied the doctor; "and that strong thoughts and purposes
can still react upon suitably prepared brains long after their
originators have passed away.
"If you knew anything of magic," he pursued, "you would know that
thought is dynamic, and that it may call into existence forms and
pictures that may well exist for hundreds of years. For, not far removed
from the region of our human life is another region where float the
waste and drift of all the centuries, the limbo of the shells of the
dead; a densely populated region crammed with horror and abomination of
all descriptions, and sometimes galvanised into active life again by the
will of a trained manipulator, a mind versed in the practices of lower
magic. That this woman understood its vile commerce, I am persuaded,
and the forces she set going during her life have simply been
accumulating ever since, and would have continued to do so had they not
been drawn down upon yourself, and afterwards discharged and satisfied
"Anything might have brought down the attack, for, besides drugs, there
are certain violent emotions, certain moods of the soul, certain
spiritual fevers, if I may so call them, which directly open the inner
being to a cognisance of this astral region I have mentioned. In your
case it happened to be a peculiarly potent drug that did it.
"But now, tell me," he added, after a pause, handing to the perplexed
author a pencil drawing he had made of the dark countenance that had
appeared to him during the night on Putney Hill - "tell me if you
recognise this face?"
Pender looked at the drawing closely, greatly astonished. He shuddered a
little as he looked.
"Undoubtedly," he said, "it is the face I kept trying to draw - dark,
with the great mouth and jaw, and the drooping eye. That is the woman."
Dr. Silence then produced from his pocket-book an old-fashioned woodcut
of the same person which his secretary had unearthed from the records of
the Newgate Calendar. The woodcut and the pencil drawing were two
different aspects of the same dreadful visage. The men compared them for
some moments in silence.
"It makes me thank God for the limitations of our senses," said Pender
quietly, with a sigh; "continuous clairvoyance must be a sore
"It is indeed," returned John Silence significantly, "and if all the
people nowadays who claim to be clairvoyant were really so, the
statistics of suicide and lunacy would be considerably higher than they
are. It is little wonder," he added, "that your sense of humour was
clouded, with the mind-forces of that dead monster trying to use your
brain for their dissemination. You have had an interesting adventure,
Mr. Felix Pender, and, let me add, a fortunate escape."
The author was about to renew his thanks when there came a sound of
scratching at the door, and the doctor sprang up quickly.
"It's time for me to go. I left my dog on the step, but I suppose - "
Before he had time to open the door, it had yielded to the pressure
behind it and flew wide open to admit a great yellow-haired collie. The
dog, wagging his tail and contorting his whole body with delight, tore
across the floor and tried to leap up upon his owner's breast. And there
was laughter and happiness in the old eyes; for they were clear again as
CASE II: ANCIENT SORCERIES
There are, it would appear, certain wholly unremarkable persons, with
none of the characteristics that invite adventure, who yet once or twice
in the course of their smooth lives undergo an experience so strange
that the world catches its breath - and looks the other way! And it was
cases of this kind, perhaps, more than any other, that fell into the
wide-spread net of John Silence, the psychic doctor, and, appealing to
his deep humanity, to his patience, and to his great qualities of
spiritual sympathy, led often to the revelation of problems of the
strangest complexity, and of the profoundest possible human interest.
Matters that seemed almost too curious and fantastic for belief he loved
to trace to their hidden sources. To unravel a tangle in the very soul
of things - and to release a suffering human soul in the process - was
with him a veritable passion. And the knots he untied were, indeed,
after passing strange.
The world, of course, asks for some plausible basis to which it can
attach credence - something it can, at least, pretend to explain. The
adventurous type it can understand: such people carry about with them an
adequate explanation of their exciting lives, and their characters
obviously drive them into the circumstances which produce the
adventures. It expects nothing else from them, and is satisfied. But
dull, ordinary folk have no right to out-of-the-way experiences, and the
world having been led to expect otherwise, is disappointed with them,
not to say shocked. Its complacent judgment has been rudely disturbed.
"Such a thing happened to _that_ man!" it cries - "a commonplace person
like that! It is too absurd! There must be something wrong!"
Yet there could be no question that something did actually happen to
little Arthur Vezin, something of the curious nature he described to Dr.
Silence. Outwardly or inwardly, it happened beyond a doubt, and in spite
of the jeers of his few friends who heard the tale, and observed wisely
that "such a thing might perhaps have come to Iszard, that crack-brained
Iszard, or to that odd fish Minski, but it could never have happened to
commonplace little Vezin, who was fore-ordained to live and die
according to scale."
But, whatever his method of death was, Vezin certainly did not "live
according to scale" so far as this particular event in his otherwise
uneventful life was concerned; and to hear him recount it, and watch his
pale delicate features change, and hear his voice grow softer and more
hushed as he proceeded, was to know the conviction that his halting
words perhaps failed sometimes to convey. He lived the thing over again
each time he told it. His whole personality became muffled in the
recital. It subdued him more than ever, so that the tale became a
lengthy apology for an experience that he deprecated. He appeared to
excuse himself and ask your pardon for having dared to take part in so
fantastic an episode. For little Vezin was a timid, gentle, sensitive
soul, rarely able to assert himself, tender to man and beast, and almost
constitutionally unable to say No, or to claim many things that should
rightly have been his. His whole scheme of life seemed utterly remote
from anything more exciting than missing a train or losing an umbrella
on an omnibus. And when this curious event came upon him he was already
more years beyond forty than his friends suspected or he cared to admit.
John Silence, who heard him speak of his experience more than once, said
that he sometimes left out certain details and put in others; yet they
were all obviously true. The whole scene was unforgettably
cinematographed on to his mind. None of the details were imagined or
invented. And when he told the story with them all complete, the effect
was undeniable. His appealing brown eyes shone, and much of the charming
personality, usually so carefully repressed, came forward and revealed
itself. His modesty was always there, of course, but in the telling he
forgot the present and allowed himself to appear almost vividly as he
lived again in the past of his adventure.
He was on the way home when it happened, crossing northern France from
some mountain trip or other where he buried himself solitary-wise every
summer. He had nothing but an unregistered bag in the rack, and the
train was jammed to suffocation, most of the passengers being unredeemed
holiday English. He disliked them, not because they were his
fellow-countrymen, but because they were noisy and obtrusive,
obliterating with their big limbs and tweed clothing all the quieter
tints of the day that brought him satisfaction and enabled him to melt
into insignificance and forget that he was anybody. These English
clashed about him like a brass band, making him feel vaguely that he
ought to be more self-assertive and obstreperous, and that he did not
claim insistently enough all kinds of things that he didn't want and
that were really valueless, such as corner seats, windows up or down,
and so forth.
So that he felt uncomfortable in the train, and wished the journey were
over and he was back again living with his unmarried sister in Surbiton.
And when the train stopped for ten panting minutes at the little station
in northern France, and he got out to stretch his legs on the platform,
and saw to his dismay a further batch of the British Isles debouching
from another train, it suddenly seemed impossible to him to continue the
journey. Even _his_ flabby soul revolted, and the idea of staying a
night in the little town and going on next day by a slower, emptier
train, flashed into his mind. The guard was already shouting "_en
voiture_" and the corridor of his compartment was already packed when
the thought came to him. And, for once, he acted with decision and
rushed to snatch his bag.
Finding the corridor and steps impassable, he tapped at the window (for
he had a corner seat) and begged the Frenchman who sat opposite to hand
his luggage out to him, explaining in his wretched French that he
intended to break the journey there. And this elderly Frenchman, he
declared, gave him a look, half of warning, half of reproach, that to
his dying day he could never forget; handed the bag through the window
of the moving train; and at the same time poured into his ears a long
sentence, spoken rapidly and low, of which he was able to comprehend
only the last few words: "_à cause du sommeil et à cause des chats_."
In reply to Dr. Silence, whose singular psychic acuteness at once seized
upon this Frenchman as a vital point in the adventure, Vezin admitted
that the man had impressed him favourably from the beginning, though
without being able to explain why. They had sat facing one another
during the four hours of the journey, and though no conversation had
passed between them - Vezin was timid about his stuttering French - he
confessed that his eyes were being continually drawn to his face,
almost, he felt, to rudeness, and that each, by a dozen nameless little
politenesses and attentions, had evinced the desire to be kind. The men
liked each other and their personalities did not clash, or would not
have clashed had they chanced to come to terms of acquaintance. The
Frenchman, indeed, seemed to have exercised a silent protective
influence over the insignificant little Englishman, and without words or
gestures betrayed that he wished him well and would gladly have been of
service to him.
"And this sentence that he hurled at you after the bag?" asked John
Silence, smiling that peculiarly sympathetic smile that always melted
the prejudices of his patient, "were you unable to follow it exactly?"
"It was so quick and low and vehement," explained Vezin, in his small
voice, "that I missed practically the whole of it. I only caught the few
words at the very end, because he spoke them so clearly, and his face
was bent down out of the carriage window so near to mine."
"'_À cause du sommeil et à cause des chats'?_" repeated Dr. Silence, as
though half speaking to himself.
"That's it exactly," said Vezin; "which, I take it, means something like
'because of sleep and because of the cats,' doesn't it?"
"Certainly, that's how I should translate it," the doctor observed
shortly, evidently not wishing to interrupt more than necessary.
"And the rest of the sentence - all the first part I couldn't understand,
I mean - was a warning not to do something - not to stop in the town, or
at some particular place in the town, perhaps. That was the impression
it made on me."
Then, of course, the train rushed off, and left Vezin standing on the
platform alone and rather forlorn.
The little town climbed in straggling fashion up a sharp hill rising out
of the plain at the back of the station, and was crowned by the twin
towers of the ruined cathedral peeping over the summit. From the station
itself it looked uninteresting and modern, but the fact was that the