Sunday, 14th June Helmuth carried out his threat, and the result was pretty bloody. He came in to me about eleven o'clock. There was the sort of scene which it has now become redundant to record. I called him by a string of unprintable names and he retorted with variations on the theme that I was a stiff necked little 'whatnot', whom he was determined to bring to heel. The fun started half an hour after he had left me. As there was no hell broth candle on this occasion, and the fire had practically died out, I had no immediate warning before the attack. Something suddenly scurried across the back of my neck and bit me on the ear. I shook my head violently, clapped a hand to the place, then quickly hauled myself up into a sitting position. Nothing more happened for a while; but I don't mind admitting that as I sat there in the darkness I had no mean fit of the jitters. I could not help visualising swarms of the little brutes coming at me from every direction, as they had the night before, but this time every one of them having a nip like a pair of tweezers and intending to make their supper off me. Thank God, it did not turn out to be as bad as all that, and the period of nerve-racking anticipation was really the worst part of the business. But the realisation was quite bad enough. Helmuth's pet family of 'little brothers' turned out to consist of about a score of small, active and persistent horrors, as far as I could judge although it was impossible to estimate with any certainty how many there were of them making darts at me in the darkness. I think being in the dark made the bites seem more painful, as this morning there is not very much to show for them; but at the time each hurt like the cut of a small, sharp knife, and the shock of it coming without warning added to its intensity. It brought to my mind what I had read of a Chinese torture called 'the death of a thousand cuts' and, although of course I wasn't, I could not help believing that I must be bleeding in dozens of places from the bites on my face, arms, neck, hands and the upper part of my body. How long the ordeal went on I don't quite know; but it must have been well over three quarters of an hour with a fresh bite about every minute. For the whole of that time I was jerking myself about and slapping at my unseen enemies; so when at last the biting ceased I was sweating like a pig thoroughly exhausted. For a time I remained sitting tense and vigilant, waiting for the next bite to come; but when a considerable interval had elapsed without one I gradually relaxed, and began to wonder if Helmuth would soon appear to gloat over his blood-soaked victim. But he didn't, and some time later, still propped up against my pillows, I dropped off to sleep. One good thing, at least, has come out of this last bedevilment. Sally found two more corpses in my bed this morning; and although there was no blood to show, my skin was red and slightly puffy where I had been bitten. I twitted her, a little unfairly perhaps, on not having believed my prediction that I should be the victim of another 'nightmare'; but she took the matter seriously, and expressed contrition at having given me a raspberry instead of the benefit of the doubt. At the moment, while I sit here writing this on the terrace, she is conducting a grand spider hunt in my room, and is dusting insect powder into the crevices of the wainscoting behind my bed. That will not stop the spiders, if Helmuth decides to send them again, as they come from all over the place; but, now that she is so concerned about it, he may abandon this form of tormenting me from fear that she will start agitating to have me moved again. She said this morning that proper sleep was an essential to my recovery, and that if we couldn't get rid of the spiders she would have to speak to Helmuth about it. Moreover, she volunteered of her own accord to come in late tonight to see that I was all right. I reminded her that she was dining with Helmuth, and suggested, with what I fear must have been rather a forced laugh, that she might find his books and his conversation so interesting that she would forget all about me. To that I got the tart reply that a few hours' relaxation had never yet made her forget her professional duties. Let's hope that tonight does not prove an exception. It would be a great triumph for me if she came in while a spider attack was in full progress, as I think that if I then told her the truth she might believe it. But will she come at all? She certainly won't if Helmuth gets really busy on her.
Later I have spent a miserable afternoon. Not on account of any further threat from Helmuth, or my own situation which, God knows, is desperate enough but worrying about Sally. I feel sure she has no idea what she may be letting herself in for tonight, and it would be futile to try to tell her. She would only put it down to a recurrence of the abnormal condition in which I am supposed to have sex on the brain, and I should risk disrupting to no purpose the excellent relations that now exist between us. Sally has been here over a fortnight, and a cripple is naturally far more dependent than any other type of invalid on his nurse, so I have already spent many pleasant idle hours in her company. In fact, I have really seen much more of her than I did of any of the girls that I met casually, and ran around with for two or three months, while I was in the R.A.F. I have come to like her enormously; and I am beginning to wonder if my intense repugnance to the thought of Helmuth getting hold of her is not partly inspired by jealousy. I have never been jealous of anyone before; the Weylands training eliminated that emotion in my makeup during my adolescence, and I thought it had done so for good; but now I am by no means certain. Knowing Helmuth's attitude to women as I do, the thought of her spending a whole evening with him makes me squirm. I simply cannot bear the thought of his filling her up with drink, then pawing her about. Of course, she may not let him; but his personal magnetism is extraordinarily strong, and if he thinks she is likely to prove difficult he is quite capable of slipping something into her drink. The terrible frustration that I am feeling, from being unable to protect her, can hardly be entirely attributed to a normal sense of chivalry; so I suppose there is no escaping the fact that jealousy must enter into it. If so it is a most hideous emotion; and, since jealousy of this type is a by-product of love, it brings me face to face with the question can I possibly be in love with Sally? As I have never been in love, I honestly don't know. I have always thought of love in this sense as an extra intense form of physical desire, and Sally has not so far had any profound effect upon my passions. She has a lovely figure, and, although she is not beautiful in the accepted sense, her face is so expressive that it gives her an attraction all her own. There is, too, a rich warmth in her voice, and she is altogether a very cuddlesome person; but I certainly would not jump off Westminster Bridge for the privilege of sleeping with her. On the other hand I think I would jump off Westminster Bridge if by so doing I could prevent what is likely to happen tonight. Which strikes me as very queer.
Tuesday, 16th June Last night I was stymied. When Konrad brought my dinner up he told me that Nurse Cardew had asked him to say that she felt a little indisposed, so she was going early to bed and would not be coming up again. Poor Sally. I love her so much that I could not help feeling sorry for her, despite the annoying setback to my own plans. She certainly had a packet the night before, and even I don't know quite how big a one it may have been; it was very natural that she should feel that she wanted to sleep the clock round. Perhaps, after all, so far as I am concerned, it is all to the good that I should have been compelled to postpone my offer to her of a thundering fat bribe. She is in a much better mood this morning and, although a bit standoffish, at least civil to me. I have decided not to rush my fences, but to be on my best behaviour all day, so as to try to win her back to a really friendly mood; then take the plunge just after tea, when we do my second daily standing exercise. We haven't got very far with that. I can just bear my own weight for about a minute, but I fear it will be quite a time yet before I can take even a single step, as, directly I attempt to lift one foot from the ground, the other leg crumples up. Still, Sally remains extremely persistent and quite optimistic about me; and, as she regards this business as her own special contribution towards my recovery, she is always most patient and sympathetic during our sessions at it. I shall do my very damnedest this evening to show some progress, so as to please her; then offer her a life of luxury for the rest of her days to become my ally.
Later I have bogged it. I don't think it was my fault. The exercise was a success. I stood erect for two minutes by Sally's watch without support, and she was delighted. As soon as I had recovered from the effort, I put the matter to her as tactfully as I could. I did not go into a long speech about Helmuth, much less make any apparently wild statements about his possessing occult powers derived from the Devil and having deliberately wished spiders on to me. I simply said that, mad or sane, I was thoroughly fed up with Llanferdrack, and had come to the conclusion that it was bad for my nerves to remain here. I added that, if I could get to London, I was perfectly prepared to go straight to the Air Ministry and ask to be taken back into one of their hospitals; and that as I was one of their own types, and a D.F.C. to boot, I felt certain they would take me provided I was willing to pay my own expenses. That seemed to me a pretty reasonable proposition. Then I went all out, and mentally transporting Sally to the mountain top, spread all the riches of the earth before her. For several minutes I dilated on what an ample supply of money could still do in the world for a personable young woman. Freedom from work and care, the opportunity to meet an endless succession of men with charm, ability and wealth; clothes, beauty treatments, furs, jewels, travel, horses to ride in the country and parties to go to in town, winter sports in Switzerland and sunbathing in the West Indies, but she did not let me get as far as making the actual offer. Having listened to me with an intent expression for a bit, she suddenly got what I was driving at; and, coming to her feet with a jerk, she told me to 'Shut up'. But I went through with it; I had to, as things I value more than my life depend on my getting away from here before Helmuth gets back. She went red in the face, stamped her foot, and declared that nothing in the world would induce her even to consider such a proposition. Looking back on it, I realise that she presents the most adorable picture when she is flushed and angry; but I was in no mood to think of that at the time. I told her that she was crazy; and that for her to reject such a future out of loyalty to Helmuth could only mean that he had bewitched her. She replied that Helmuth had nothing to do with it, apart from the fact that he had engaged her and she was responsible to him. Then she got on her high horse about having been left in charge of me, and her honour as a professional nurse. Again, looking back, I really believe she meant that; and, when one considers the temptation I was holding out, one does not have to be a born cynic to believe that very few young women would have shown such splendid integrity. Whether she is still a virgin, or has been Helmuth's mistress and had a dozen lovers before him, weighs as nothing in the scales against such a flat, rejection of a colossal bribe; and I know now that I am very right to love her as I do. But, at the time, my bitter disappointment, and the awful sense of impending fate that now weighs upon me all my waking hours, overmastered all other emotions. My filthy temper got the better of me again, and I cracked at her: 'Oh, be your age; and stop talking hot air about your professional honour! You won't have any honour of any kind left if you have much more to do with Dr. Helmuth Lisicky.' Her blue eyes blazed, and she retorted: 'If you were not, one a cripple; two my patient; and three suffering from erotomania, I would slap your face.'
Wednesday, 17th June I have blotted it again. Last night I decided that since there seems no possible chance of securing Sally's conscious aid, I must attempt to hypnotise her, and force her into helping me unconsciously. The idea was intensely repugnant to me, but desperate ills call for desperate remedies; and if ever a man was desperate, I am. This morning, after we had been out on the terrace for about ten minutes, I tried the trick that had worked so well with Deb. I said that I had got a fly in my eye, and asked her to fish it out. In an instant she rounded on me, called me an 'unscrupulous young brute' and proceeded to flay me with her tongue. I suppose that before Helmuth sacked Deb he got out of her particulars of how I had gone to work in her case. Anyhow he had told Sally about it the first night that she dined with him and warned her to be on her guard in case I attempted the same trick on her. Worse, he inferred that I had not only used the hypnotic control that I succeeded in acquiring over Deb to force her to help me to escape, but had used it before that to secure her unwilling cooperation in indulging my immoral aberrations. Of course I hotly denied it; but that got me nowhere; and I don't wonder now that Sally takes such a dim view of me. She said that she would have thrown up the case and gone back to London days ago if she had not realised that when these fits seize me I am not responsible for my actions. So all I have succeeded in doing is to strengthen her conviction that I am an erotomaniac, and, this morning, made a most despicable attempt to make her my unwilling victim. By this afternoon Helmuth will have been gone two days; and that is just half the period of grace that I have been granted. I have shot both my bolts with Sally, and have not another round of any kind left in the locker.
Later It was Sally's afternoon off and she went down to the village; but there is nothing much to do there, so after tea she came up to sit with me. She was in a much more pleasant mood and, without exactly apologising, she inferred that she was sorry about having flared out at me as she did this morning. She said that I am so normal most of the time that she is apt to forget that my mind is unbalanced, so goes off the deep end when these occasional evidences of my malady occur, instead of calmly ignoring them. So I think her early return to keep me company was partly a gesture of the amende honourable variety. I accepted it as such only too willingly, and after we had talked of trivialities for a bit, she said: 1 met your ex nurse, Deborah Kain, in the village post office this afternoon.' 'Did you?' I exclaimed. 'I thought she had gone back to London.' 'No. I gather that she is engaged to the village schoolmaster, a man named Gruffydd, and is staying with him and his mother.' 'What did you think of her?' I asked. Sally smiled. 'Rather a flashy type, isn't she? I mean not at all the sort of person one would expect to find in these parts; or anyhow, not dressed the way she was. Her off-smart clothes, silk stockings, high heels and hairdo might have looked all right in Oxford Street, but they were a bit startling for Llanferdrack. I had no idea who she was until she came up and introduced herself. I suppose somebody had pointed me out to her as your new nurse. She asked me how I was liking it up at the Castle.' 'And what did you say to that one?' I smiled back. 'Oh, I was very noncommittal,' Sally shrugged. 'I'm quite good at minding my own business, and other people's. I said that Helmuth was charming and you were a pet which is by no means true all of the time and asked her why she had chucked up such a pleasant job. That shook her rather; but she took refuge in the fib that, although she had liked both you and the Doctor immensely, when she had become engaged her fiancé had insisted on her leaving so that they could be together more often.' We laughed a lot over that, as it was so absurdly far off the facts; but it suddenly occurred to me that Sally did not know the real truth about Deb's relations with Helmuth and myself only a small part of it, with a number of entirely false additions given her by Helmuth. I knew that it was useless to give her my own version, as she would never believe me, and only get in an ill humour again from supposing that I was once more attempting to blacken Helmuth in her eyes. But there was one way which, if it did not entirely convince her of the respective parts we had played, might at least arouse doubts in her mind about Helmuth's veracity. 'Sally,' I said, 'can you keep a secret?' She nodded. 'I mean really keep it,' I went on. 'To me this one is of vital importance. I want you to give me your word that in no circumstances whatsoever will you disclose it to Helmuth or anyone else without my permission.' 'I'll give you my word, then,' she agreed. 'All this sounds very mysterious.' 'No. It's very down to earth, really.' While I had been speaking the idea in my mind had swiftly developed. I realised that if I was to make this final bid to convince her that Helmuth was a rogue, to give her only the part that Deb had played in the story would be like producing a single slice of a large cake. So I decided to go the whole hog, and went on: 'Ever since the beginning of May I have been keeping a journal. You must often have seen me scribbling away with one of my stamp albums open on my knees. But I was not making long notes about watermarks, perforations and freak issues, as I pretended; I was entering up my diary, which now runs to over three hundred loose sheets. 'You believe me to be mad; but you admit that for much the greater part of the time I am perfectly sane, so the great bulk of my writing must have been done when I was normal. My reason for writing the journal was because / believe myself to be the victim of a conspiracy to drive me insane. I hoped that if the conspiracy succeeded, and I was put in a lunatic asylum, some honest person might come across my papers, realise the truth, and take steps to get me out. That is why I have taken considerable pains to prevent anyone here knowing of the existence of this document. You see, they might destroy it; and I regard it as my only remaining lifeline. 'If you read what I have written you may consider much of it to be the ravings of a lunatic; but it will tell you a great deal about me that you don't know, and of which independent proof is easily available. It will tell you all about my family and my early life; of the part that Helmuth played in it and of the great financial issues that hang upon the question of my sanity or madness; of the strange school, at which Helmuth was a master, where I was educated, and of how much he has to gain by making people believe that I am mad. 'If I told you this story myself I'm afraid you would think that I was making great chunks of it up as I went along; but you won't be able to think that of this account which has been written day by day as a record of events, and of the hopes and fears which have made my life one long battle for these past two months. 'If I give you these papers will you read them through this evening, and, whatever conclusions you come to, promise faithfully to let me have them back tomorrow morning?' 'Yes, Toby,' she said. 'I promise. And whatever I think I won't give away what you have been doing. I'd like to read the biographical part especially, as it may help me to help you to get well more quickly if I know more about you. If there are over three hundred pages of it, though, it is going to take a long time to read, so perhaps I had better take them downstairs and start on it now.' I asked her to get me the albums, extracted the pages I have written in the last few days so that she should not read the entries in which I have confessed my love for her, and gave her the rest. Looking rather sweetly serious, she took them off with her, while I settled down to make this record of our conversation. Was I, perhaps, inspired to start this journal before I even knew of her existence, so that she should one day read it? The workings of Providence are sometimes very strange; but perhaps Sally is the 'honest person' who will see the truth through the web of lies that Helmuth has spun, and set me free.
Thursday, 18th June Anyone can imagine the state of suppressed excitement in which I awaited Sally's verdict this morning. Her face told me nothing when she came in shortly after Konrad, to help me with my morning toilet. As soon as we were alone together for a moment, I asked her if she had read it all, and she nodded 'Fortunately your writing is pretty legible, except in a few parts which were evidently written when you were overwrought, so I managed to get through it; but it took me till two in the morning. Konrad will be coming up with your breakfast in a moment, though; so I think we had better wait to discuss it until we are out on the terrace.' So I had to contain my impatience for another hour; but as soon as we were comfortably settled in our corner of the battlements, she said: 'It is an extraordinary document, Toby. I was tremendously impressed; but honestly, I don't know what to say about it.' "The point is,' I said a little abruptly, 'having read it, do you consider that it is the work of a man who is sane or insane?' 'Honestly, Toby, I can't answer that.' Her voice held an unhappy note. 'Whether you imagine things or whether you don't, there can be no doubt about it that you have been through absolute hell. I cried in places, I simply couldn't help it.' I think that is the nicest thing she has ever said to me. It almost made having gone through it all worth while, to have touched her heart like that. But the third day of Helmuth's absence was nearly up; he will be back by this time tomorrow, so the paramount need for action forced me to say: "Thanks for your sympathy, Sally. I'm very grateful for that; but as I am situated it is not enough. I'm afraid I have placed you in a rotten situation. I wouldn't have done so from choice, but I had to; because I am a prisoner here and you happen to be my gaoler, and there is no one else to whom I can appeal for help. 'If I am still here when Helmuth gets back I am going to be sunk for good, You know that, from what you have read of his threats to me. If you consider that those threats are entirely the product of my imagination you will be fully justified in ignoring my plea. But if you feel that there is even a grain of truth in them you are now saddled with a very weighty responsibility. By helping to detain me here against my will you are not only aiding and abetting a criminal conspiracy, but doing something which you know to be morally indefensible.' She took that very well, and agreed in principle that I was right; but she continued to declare that as she had nothing but my written word to go on it really was impossible for her to judge whether I had invented the more fantastic parts of my story or not. So for an hour or more we argued the matter, passing from the general to the particular, as I strove to convince her that every episode recorded was cold, hard fact. There were two points in my favour. She had known a girl who had been at Weylands, so had some idea of the amoral principles that are inculcated there which helped to lower Helmuth's stock and she was not at all sceptical about ghosts or the more usually accepted supernormal occurrences. Moreover, she admitted that my whole conception of the motive for a conspiracy was built up on sound logic. But she simply could not swallow the fact that Black Magic is still practised today, and that Helmuth has been employing Satanic power with the object of reducing me to a gibbering idiot. 'All right, then,' I said at last. 'Let's leave the Brotherhood, and the Great Spider, and the question of Helmuth being a servant of the Devil, out of it. If I can prove that he has told you a pack of lies, and slandered me outrageously, in connection with one particular episode, will that convince you that he has an ulterior motive in keeping me here, and induce you to help me get out of his clutches?' After a moment she nodded. 'Yes. If you can do that, it would satisfy me that he really is plotting to get hold of your money, and whether he is using occult power to aid him, or not, becomes beside the point. Either way it would be up to me to do what I can to protect you from his criminal intentions. But I don't see how you are going to prove anything.' 'I may be able to,' I replied; 'but I shall need your help. Getting you to read the journal at all only arose through your running into Deborah Kain in the village yesterday, and because I wanted you to know my side of that particular story. If you will go down to the village again, and get her to come up here, I'll find a way to make her tell the truth; then you'll see if it is Helmuth or I who has been lying.' 'I can find her easily enough, because I know that she is living with the Gruffydds; but whether I can persuade her to come up here is quite another matter.' 'If you tell her that Helmuth is away until tomorrow, so there is no chance of her running into him, I think I can guarantee that she'll come back with you,' I said with a smile. 'I will write a little note for you to give her, and when she has read it I shall be very surprised if she does not agree to play.' 'You mean to hold some threat over her?' Sally frowned suspiciously. 'I do,' I admitted. 'But only to get her up here. After that you shall see for yourself that I won't use threats on her to get the truth.' Turning my chair, I wheeled myself back into my room, got a sheet of notepaper and wrote on it: My Dear Deb, I am anxious to ask you a few questions, and it is of the utmost importance that I should put them to you at once; so would you be good enough to accompany Nurse Cardew back to the Castle. In view of all you told me of your early life and political persuasions I am sure you will agree that it is much better that I should have this chat with you than to have to ask Mr. Gruffydd to come up to see me. I addressed the envelope, then wheeled myself back to the terrace and showed the letter to Sally. When she had read it she said: 'I remember, now, all that business about her being a Communist, that you got out of her when you had her in a hypnotic trance. You're threatening to tell her fiancé. That is blackmail, you know!' 'My dear Sally!' I exclaimed impatiently. 'I don't care if it is theft, forgery, arson, and all the other crimes in the Newgate Calendar. I'd commit the lot to get out of here; and since you insist on my proving my words before you will help me to escape, it is you who are driving me to commit this one.' 'I'm sorry, Toby.' Her voice had become quite meek. 'You're right about me forcing you into this; but I've got to know the truth, and the sooner the better. It is nearly twelve o clock now, and it's a good bet that she'll be at the Gruffydds' house at lunchtime. If I borrow a bicycle from one of the servants and start right away, I shall be down in the village well before one. I'll have a snack myself at the teashop, then if all goes well pick her up afterwards and be back here soon after two.' So off Sally went, and at any moment now I am expecting her to return with Comrade Deborah Kain. Later I've won! But what a session; and what a revelation! I am writing this now only to fill in time, as, anxious as Sally and I are to get off, it would be madness to make a start until Konrad is out of the way for the night. And our interview with Deb is well worth recording. When she arrived she was pretty sullen, which was hardly surprising; but she became almost pleasant when I apologised for having troubled her, and said that I only wanted to ask her some questions, to set Nurse Cardew's mind at rest about certain things which it was suggested had happened here. Then I said: 'I want you to tell the truth, even if it appears to be unfavourable to myself, and if you do so I give you my word that I will say nothing to Owen Gruffydd of what I know about your affairs. Now; while you were here, did I at any time make any amorous advances to you?' She looked very surprised, gave a quick glance at Sally and said: 'No. As a matter of fact I thought you were rather standoffish. You were always quite polite, but you hardly seemed to notice me as a person at all.' 'Right!' I said. 'When Dr. Lisicky discovered that on several occasions I had hypnotised you, and had an explanation with you about that which led to your leaving, did he reveal to you, or even suggest, that I had taken advantage of you while you were in a trance state?' 'No; he never said anything of that kind.' Her eyes widened as she added: 'Did you did you do that?' 'Certainly not,' I replied. 'But he seems to have given Nurse Cardew the impression that I did. Now, about the Doctor himself. Did he make amorous advances to you?' 'No,' she said firmly. 'He did not.' Her denial took me by surprise, as it seemed quite pointless in view of all I knew, and the fact that Helmuth had thrown her out bag and baggage. 'Come, Deb!' I admonished her. 'I am not threatening you, and Nurse Cardew will promise not to repeat anything you may say to your detriment; but we want the truth. Dr. Lisicky told me that you were his mistress, and you confirmed that to me yourself, while you were in a trance. You can't deny it.' She stubbornly shook her head. 'What I said in a trance you may have put into my mind; and if he said that of me it is because he is a vain and boastful man. He was lying.' I saw that I was up against it, and there was only one thing to do. I said: 'AH right; I will believe you, if you look me in the face and swear to that.' She fell into the trap. The second she had her eyes fixed on mine I shot out my right hand, pointed my first and second fingers at them and gave the order: 'Sleep, Deb! At once! Go to sleep this instant!' The old formula worked like magic. There was barely a flicker of resistance before her eyes began to glaze and the heavy eyelids dropped over them. 'Good,' I said, after a moment. 'Now we will start all over again. I am still not threatening you, but I order you to disclose the naked truth that lies in your subconscious. Were you telling the truth just now about me?' 'Yes.' Her voice had gone dull and toneless. 'You never laid a finger on me.' 'Were you Dr. Lisicky's mistress?' 'Yes.' 'I want details about that. I want Nurse Cardew to hear from your own lips the full particulars of your affaire with the Doctor, and how, having first taken, and then neglected you, he took you back again to spite Owen Gruffydd. You had better tell the whole story as you told it to me that day in the summerhouse; with any additional details which may show how badly the Doctor treated you.' It all came out in about twenty minutes' monotonous monologue; and when she had done Sally expressed herself as entirely satisfied that I had put no part of it into Deb's mind; her story included things that I couldn't have known, and it branded Helmuth as both a sadistic brute and outrageous liar. I turned back to Deb and asked her, purely out of curiosity: 'Why did you seek to protect the Doctor before I put you in a trance? Why didn't you tell us the truth then?' 'Before I left he told me that I was never to mention that I had had an affair with him to anyone. And that if I was ever asked, I was to deny it.' 'But as you were leaving anyhow, he could no longer hold the threat of dismissal over you; so why should you take orders from him? Was it because you were afraid that he might tell Owen Gruffydd something about you that you did not want Gruffydd to know?' 'No. It was because I should have been severely punished if he found out that I had disobeyed him.' 'Who by?' 'By the Party.' I drew in my breath. 'Do you mean then that Dr. Lisicky is also a Communist, and a member of the Party?' 'Of course, and a very high one. He is a Commissar.' Sally and I took a swift look at one another. The reply had electrified us both. Later, I realised that I should have considered the possibility of Helmuth being a member of the Communist Party before. Deb had disclosed that Miss Smith, who ran her nursing organisation, used it as cover for a Communist centre, and Helmuth had told me himself that Miss Smith was an old friend of his hence his pull with her to send him not only good looking, complaisant nurses, but ones who were also 'trustworthy'. The tie-up was pretty clear, and I ought to have spotted it. By 'trustworthy' it was now clear, too, that he had meant girls who were members of the Party, whom he could order around, and who would keep their mouths shut if they suspected him of the filthy game he was playing on me. What a heaven sent blessing that Miss Smith should have gone off for the weekend and the nurse she had selected to replace Deb had injured her ankle, so that dear Sally was sent instead! But Helmuth a Commissar! I would never have suspected that. And what a field of speculation it opened up about the real activities of the Brotherhood! When I had had a moment to recover from the bombshell that Deb had so unwittingly thrown, I said to her: 'Did you ever hear anything about occult forces being used by members of the Party to gain their political ends?" 'We are taught to use whatever means we regard as most suitable,' she replied. 'In some cases people who are interested in the occult can be led on through it to do things which they would not like others to know; then they can easily be blackmailed into doing as we wish.' 'But have you ever known a member of the Party actually to practise Black Magic himself?' I asked. 'I mean, one who cast spells, and used incantations to call up evil entities from the other world to help him in his work?' 'Only Dr. Lisicky,' came the toneless answer. 'He did not tell me very much about it. But I know that the reason he would not allow your blackout curtain to be lengthened, in the room downstairs, was so that the moonlight could continue to show under it. He needed the moonlight as a path for something to come into your room.' I looked at Sally again, and I knew that as far as she was concerned I now had Helmuth completely in the bag. Under hypnotic influence Deb had done her stuff, and more; so I woke her and reassured her that I would say nothing to Owen Gruffydd. Then Sally took her downstairs and got rid of her. When Sally came back she could not have been more generous about not having believed me before; and for a little time I allowed myself the luxury of basking in her sweet sympathy about this ghastly time I have been through. But there is only tonight before Helmuth gets back, so we soon got down to brass tacks and started planning our getaway. She was all against my idea for getting the wheelchair down the staircase, as she said it would be much too great a strain and might do me serious injury, even if I didn't collapse before we reached the bottom. But after a bit she thought of a better idea. The far end of the battlement along the terrace is in partial ruin already, and the rest of the stones can easily be pushed over. It is only a fifteen foot drop to the grass verge beneath, which is about two yards wide, having the chapel on one side of it and the edge of the lake on the other. With a twenty-five foot rope, or even that length of stout knotted cord, we could take a hitch round the nearest sound castellation of the battlement and lower the chair to the ground. Fortunately Sally is very strong for a girl, so she is going to take me down the stairs in a semi piggyback. I'll have my arms round her neck, and my feet dragging, but each time she takes a step down, I'll be able to take my own weight off her for a moment. There is a side door just down a passage from the bottom of the stairs and we shall go out through that. She will be able to get me along the passage, and round the outside of the Castle to my chair, in the same way as we mean to go down the stairs. We tried it out this afternoon, and found that I could get across the room quite easily that way. She has gone down to the village again to buy the length of stout cord, and also to order a car to meet us at the bridge at the lake end, at midnight; so she won't have far to wheel me. I think I can hear her coming up the stairs now; so she has lost no time on the job. What a blessed, merciful relief all this is.
Friday, 19th June Those footsteps coming up the stairs were Helmuth's. As the door opened and I saw him the thought leapt to my mind that he must be the Fiend in person. Or, at least, that only by Satanic means could he possibly have learned of our plan to escape, and have returned eighteen hours before he was due back in order to prevent it. Then, thunderstruck as I was by his unexpected appearance, common sense told me that, barely two hours having elapsed since Sally had agreed to help me, he could not have known of it earlier, even by a thought wave; and, if he had stuck to his schedule he would then have been in the train coming south from Carlisle. In so brief a time nothing short of a magic carpet could have whisked him from a station en route, back to Llanferdrack; and I put that beyond what even the Devil could do for his agents in full daylight. I was right about that, but nevertheless it transpired that his psychic powers had hastened his return. For a moment he stood in the doorway, looking at me searchingly and almost seeming to sniff the atmosphere. Then he said abruptly: 'Well? Have you made your choice?' Consternation, anger, hatred and fear all struggled for first place in my emotions following the shock; but, by a miracle, I managed to retain enough of my wits to realise that now Sally was on my side all was not entirely lost, and that my one hope was to play for time. So I shook my head. 'No. I've been giving my mind a holiday. The events of the week before you left put such a strain on it that I found I couldn't think coherently; so I decided not even to try to face the question till a few hours before you got back. And you said you wouldn't be back till after lunch tomorrow.' 'I know,' he said; 'but last night I felt an impulse to er as you would put it consult the oracle. The stars were by no means propitious, so the portents proved unusually obscure. That does happen occasionally, even to the most gifted practitioner of the art. However, on one point I received guidance. It was to the effect that my plans might be endangered if I failed to keep you under my personal observation; so I caught the first train south this morning and hired a car to bring me from Birmingham.' With a shrug of my shoulders I pretended an unconcern that I was far from feeling, and muttered: 'So long as I am kept in this glorified cell with Nurse Cardew and Konrad to act as my gaolers I shouldn't have thought you had much cause to worry.' 'In any case, I haven't now that I am back,' he replied. 'And now that your mind is rested you had better do a little serious thinking.' That admonition ended his brief visit, and I was left to savour the gall and wormwood of my most promising attempt to escape having been nipped in the bud. I was almost weeping with vexation, but my futile mental rebellion against this unforeseen blasting of my hopes was soon submerged by a specific anxiety arising out of the new situation. The question that made me sweat blood was would Helmuth run into Sally on her return and find out that she had gone over to me in his absence? If he did he would sack her instantly, and I should never see her again. The thought was torture. Half an hour after he had left me, that immediate anxiety was relieved by her reappearance. She was flushed with excitement, laughing, a little breathless, and carrying under her arm a brown paper parcel containing the length of stout cord for lowering the chair. She had not seen Helmuth. In a few words I told her what had happened. For a bit she was terribly upset not frightened, but angry and disappointed. Then we discussed the possibility of carrying through our plans, but agreed that Helmuth having returned in such a suspicious mood our chances would be far better if we postponed our attempt for twenty-four hours, anyway. Before we had time to go into matters further Konrad came in with my dinner, and Sally had to go downstairs to have hers. While I ate I was again the prey of harrowing speculations. It suddenly struck me that Helmuth was almost certain to learn of Deb's visit. If he tackled me about it, what explanation could I invent that would not involve Sally? And when he tackled her was there one chance in a hundred that her explanation would tally with mine? That passage in our activities was obviously dynamite. Later, Sally told me that she had been equally perturbed on the same point; but she did not dare to come up to me again till half past nine, in case Helmuth should suspect that we had been getting together while he was away. She had seen him and reported my attempt to bribe her. That was clever of her, and had gone with a swing, as few things could have been better calculated to convince Helmuth that she still regarded him as her boss and was capable of resisting all attempts to undermine her loyalty to him. Fortunately he still seemed to know nothing of Deb's visit, as he had not alluded to it. We discussed that, and decided that if he asked Sally about it, she should say she had met Deb on the bridge on her way up here; that Deb had introduced herself, spoken of her forthcoming marriage, and as one nurse to another disclosed the fact that she simply did not know which way to turn to raise the money for her trousseau; and had had the idea of appealing to me either to give or lend her a hundred pounds as compensation for having been the cause of her losing her job. Upon which Sally agreed to let her see me and brought her up here; but what happened at the interview she does not know. We were rather pleased with the story we concocted, as it covered Sally's having brought Deb to the house, and is really very plausible, since nurses are notoriously ill paid and Deb, having no family to help her, may well be up against it for cash to buy nice clothes for her wedding. Sally and I had only just agreed on the above when Konrad came in, and, after the usual drill, they both left me for the night. I feel terribly tired, as Helmuth's return having baulked me when I was within an ace of getting free had exasperated me almost beyond endurance; and, added to that, I had gone through some four hours of nerve racking fear that he might find out about Sally's change of attitude and sack her. But that danger seemed over for the moment if we both kept our heads, and it was up to me to make yet another plan; so I endeavoured to shake off my mental fatigue and get to grips with the problem anew. The results of my effort were lamentably poor. Helmuth had clearly been in a highly suspicious mood on his return, but having found everything as he had left it, and particularly Sally having told him of my attempt to bribe her, must have done a lot to reassure him. So the best I could hope for was that if nothing occurred to cause him to take special precautions, we might have a decent chance of making our escape tonight. The devil of it is that he will come up this afternoon, or evening, for his answer. I am determined not to give in, but if I defy him there is the dreadful possibility that he may carry out his threat to employ the Great Spider. God knows how I will ever bring myself to face that fearful Satanic beast, and the touch of it may well drive me insane. But Helmuth must know that, and such a possibility seems to be the only card that I have left. If he does drive me insane he will have burnt his boats as far as the short, easy way of getting control of the Jugg millions is concerned. He will get hold of them in the long run, but that will take a considerable time, and an immense amount of skilful intrigue would be required before he could oust the Trustees that might oppose his plans, and achieve absolute control of the Board. Whereas if he can get me to sign a power of attorney he will have achieved complete victory by a single stroke of the pen. So I must play on that. The Sabbath, at which I take it the Brotherhood mean to celebrate a full-scale Black Mass in the chapel here, is not to take place until Tuesday five nights hence so I must temporise to the utmost of my ability in the hope of winning another two or three days' grace. If only I can get him to postpone extreme measures until Sunday or Monday, Sally may be able to get me away before then. But there is no guarantee that he will not issue an ultimatum to me this evening; and as I lay in the dark last night, realising that in another twenty-four hours I might have to face the Great Spider, the thought alone was enough to make me sweat with terror. It was casting frantically about in my mind for a means to defend myself that made me think of Great-aunt Sarah. What effect, if any, a bullet would have on a supernatural beast I have no idea, but I do know that I would feel considerably more courageous with a firearm in my hand if I am called on to face it. I doubt if there is a pistol in the Castle, unless Helmuth keeps one somewhere, and, even if he does, it would be impossible to get hold of that; but there must be several shotguns and ammunition in the gunroom, and it occurred to me that I might get Great-aunt Sarah to bring me one tonight. In consequence, when I heard her going down the staircase in the wall behind my bed, I rapped on the panel and called her in. After making polite enquiries about the progress of her tunnel, I told her what I wanted her to do for me, and thank God, without even asking me what I meant to do with a gun up here, she readily agreed to my request. This is a great comfort, as if I don't need the gun tonight I can hide it behind the back of my bed; then I'll have it handy and, in the last event, I'll be able to fill Helmuth full of lead. Later It rained this morning, so Sally and I were not able to go out on to our terrace as usual; but we had a long talk here in my room. I gave her a full account of Helmuth's conversations with me during the few days before he went away as I did not let her have the latter pages of my journal when she read the rest of it, because they contained several passages referring to my love for her so she is now up to date with the whole situation and, thank goodness, she no longer doubts any part of what I told her. She was, once more, sweetly sympathetic about the hell I have been through, and when I had finished, she said: 'You must have done something pretty frightful in one of your previous lives to be landed with a packet like this; but at least you have the consolation of knowing that you are paying it off, and that whatever happens now you will go forward with a much cleaner start in the future.' I looked at her in surprise. 'Do you honestly believe that this is what the Hindus call Karma; and that there really is something in Reincarnation?' 'Why not?' she smiled. 'It is the only creed which provides a logical explanation to any and every human experience; that is, if you believe that the power which created the world, and us, is both intelligent and just and if you don't believe that, then the whole scheme of things does not make sense.' 'Not to believe it would be to argue that God is an inferior being to men,' I replied; 'so one must.' 'Then if He is intelligent He would not permit the destruction of His property by wars, starvation and disease, pointlessly or allow us to be the victims of all the other ills that inflict us in this life, needlessly but only for our own ultimate good as a part of a great pattern. And if He is just, He would not condemn anybody to suffer for all eternity because they had failed to make good in the infinitesimal fraction of a second, which by comparison is all that anyone gets in even the longest of human lifespan. However much evil might have been crammed into that single life the punishment would still be out of proportion to the crime; and that is not justice.' I nodded. 'You're certainly right there. Do go on.' 'You will remember the famous bit in the Bible about the "sins of the fathers" and God venting His wrath on those who had displeased Him "even unto the third and fourth generation". Well, what could be more flagrantly unjust than punishing innocent children for the faults of their grandparents?' 'Yet it happens, in the form of syphilis,' I murmured. 'Of course it does; and lots of children are born with T.B., although there is no taint of sin about their grandparents having caught that. But it doesn't follow in the least that because a child starts life with an hereditary disease it is through God seeking to revenge Himself upon someone who may already be dead. To accept that puts God on a par with a criminal lunatic. But look at it a different way and you'll see that the disabilities with which many children are born result from a just and logical process.' 'Oh, come, Sally!' I cocked an eyebrow at her. 'You're going to find it difficult to make a case for that.' 'Not at all,' she replied quietly. 'I believe that in the course of ages the real meaning of the Bible text became obscured and was then lost altogether. I think it was originally a warning that people who led evil lives would have to pay for it "unto the third and fourth generation" of their own personalities. That is, if you take it that each time our spirit is reborn in a new body we inherit the mental and physical disabilities and, of course, all the good things too that are due to us as a result of the good or ill that we did in our previous lives. If, in one life, a man forces some poor girl into prostitution with the result that she contracts syphilis, and in the next he is born with it himself, you wouldn't consider such a punishment either illogical or unjust, would you?' 'You've certainly made your case,' I smiled. 'But does the punishment always fit the crime?' 'Always. It is never a fraction more or less than you deserve.' 'How about my back; what do you think I did to deserve that?' 'It may be that you were due to learn patience as a cripple; or simply that the Nazi was paying off an old score, because long ago you had broken his back with a battleaxe, or something.' Then will I have to break his again in some future life, to punish him in his turn? It seems a stupid game to go on playing tit for tat like that through all eternity.' 'Oh no. You will be given the chance; and if you care to take it you will be in the clear, as you are entitled to give back what you get. But not a fraction more, mind. And if you are wise you will refrain from taking your revenge. It is by suppressing one's anger, and turning the other cheek, that one achieves spiritual progress.' 'If I did that he would get off.' Sally shook her head. 'No, he wouldn't. If you denied yourself the temporary gratification of sloshing him, he would still have to pay up for having sloshed you; but it would be through some other agency. He might have his back broken in a mine disaster, or by some scaffolding falling on him while he was walking down a street. If you did break his back first you are now even, on the old eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth principle, so he has nothing to worry about; but if this was the first round between you he has got it coming to him in some form or another.' 'How about the other thing? These hideous ordeals that Helmuth has inflicted on me?' 'I think it's pretty certain that you must have put up rather a special black to have earned those.' She smiled a little wickedly. 'Until people learn that it does not pay they are always exchanging blows of one kind and another and a lie which does harm, or doing anyone an ill turn of any kind, is just as much a blow as an actual slap in the face but this is something different. I can only suppose that at some time or other you must have been a powerful Black Magician yourself, and have caused a great deal of misery and terror by your evil practices.' "That sort of thing hardly goes with wielding a battleaxe,' I demurred. She shrugged. 'One does not pay all the debts contracted during one life off in the next; but one may settle old ones from several lives during one short period. That is probably what you have been doing recently.' 'If you are right, where does all this lead to?' 'It fits us for a higher sphere. We all start here on a very low level, as cruel, superstitious, barbarous savages. Gradually we learn this and that to be gentle, generous, courageous in the right way, unselfish, wise, and to exercise control over all our appetites and passions. Eventually we become really fine people; we may live our last life on earth as great religious teachers, or pass it in comparative obscurity doing a great deal of good it is quite immaterial which but when we have learnt all there is to learn here we join the great ones who have preceded us.' 'What happens if we fail to progress, or get worse and worse with each life we lead?' "That is impossible. If we are pigheaded, and ignore all the signposts that point the way to our becoming better people, progress will be slow; and if we give free rein to our baser instincts we slip back a bit. That is a bore, as it may mean having to go through several extra lives before the lost ground is regained. But everyone realises their faults sooner or later and makes a determined effort to eradicate them. Even an animal has the sense not to keep on getting itself hurt in the same way over and over again.' 'What part do animals play in all this? You said just now that we all start as low types of human beings, but some religions teach us that souls have their origin in much humbler forms of life.' 'No. Mankind is a different and higher form of creation than anything in the animal world. We are individuals; they are not, so they have only group souls.' The word 'group souls' instantly brought to my mind what Helmuth had said when he was talking to me about totems the Great Spider, the Great Serpent, and so on. With a quick look at Sally, I said: 'You seem very certain about all this. Where did you get it from?' She smiled. 'I got it from a book called Winged Pharaoh by a woman named Joan Grant. At least that is where I got the basic principles. But somehow it rang such a bell with me that I have since been able to fill in additional little bits and pieces for myself. That is why I am so certain about it. Every other form of faith that I have ever met with has always seemed to me to demand a belief in not only a number of good things, but in all sorts of absurdities as well; whereas this is simply sound common sense. 'Hellfire apart, how could any God who was worthy of respect condemn the most wayward of His children without giving them a second chance? And how can our salvation possibly depend upon anyone but ourselves and our own actions? Going to church may be an excellent form of discipline, and a useful reminder that worldly success has no permanent value; but it is childish to think that any ceremony one attends on Sunday can cancel out meannesses, cruelties and betrayals committed during the week. 'We all know what is right and what is wrong without any telling from other people. The still small voice of our own spirit, which has lived with us through all our lives from the very beginning, tells us that. We may not always be strong-minded enough to follow its counsel, but in every crisis of our lives it is an infallible guide, and we need no other.' Sally paused for a moment, then went on, her face glowing but in a low voice, almost as though speaking to herself: "This belief of mine also abolishes all fear of death. Naturally as long as our spirits are chained to bodies we all fear the pain that precedes so many forms of death, but most people seem to dread death itself even more. They are frightened at the idea of being parted from the little securities of family, home and money, that they have built up round themselves during their few years on earth; they are terrified at the thought of their soul going out into the dark empty spaces as a lonely wanderer, until at last it is called on to face some dread Being who will pronounce a final and irrevocable judgment upon it. 'Such thoughts have been instilled into them by generations of ignorant priests, who have blindly followed the teachings of churches that long ago became decadent and lost the light. Death is really a release from trial and hardship. Again and again we are sent here, like children going term after term back to school. Each time in a new body with new surroundings; sometimes as men, sometimes as women, sometimes to be rich and sometimes to be poor; we are given an allotted span of days and set certain tasks to learn in them. 'We have freewill and we can cut short that span in a variety of ways. If we do we only have to make it up by going through another part life, as an infant or child who dies while still young. But we cannot increase the span by a single instant, whatever we may do. When the term is over we may go home with a bad report or a good one, and any trials that we have shirked we shall have to face again later on. But death is a holiday; and between our lives here, while our spirits are no longer imprisoned in a dull and heavy body, we are infinitely more fully our real selves, and have a far greater capacity for understanding and enjoyment. 'Unlike a school curriculum down here, the holidays are usually longer than the terms. As we have freewill we may decide that we wish to be born again almost at once, for some special purpose; but more often it is two hundred years or so before we feel impelled to enter on another trial; so it follows that a greater number of the friends we have made in many lives are always away from earth than on it, so we have the joy of being with them again. In what we call Life we are really only half alive, but constantly beset by troubles, sometimes by ill health and often lonely; whereas what we call Death is really living to the full, without material worries of physical handicaps, and being happy in the company of those we love.'
Later I had to break off because Helmuth came in. He mentioned Deb's visit at once, and to my great relief I learnt that Sally had already sold him our story; so I had only to add that since I had no money I had had to refuse Deb's request. He then produced a lengthy legal document and said: 'Tomorrow is your birthday, Toby, and your signature to this document then will make it a fully valid legal instrument. Are you prepared to sign it?' 'I certainly won't until I've had a chance to study its contents,' I hedged. He nodded, quite amiably. 'I thought you would say that; so with a view to avoiding unnecessary delays tomorrow I propose to give it to you now. You will have plenty of time to read it through this evening.' I took it, but made no reply, as there seemed nothing to be said. After a moment he went on: 'You have put up a good fight, Toby, and I admire you for that. It makes me all the keener to have you become one of us. You have brains and guts, so there is a great future for you in the Brotherhood. But it is both useless and dangerous for you to fight further. So don't try to back out tomorrow; because if you do I really shall have to turn on the heat and you'll find that all you have experienced to date was only child's play compared with this next step. Instead, I want your birthday to be a happy one, marking the beginning of an entirely new treatment by which I believe we'll soon have you well again.' As it is of first importance that, for tonight at least, he should go happily to bed, believing that I am at the end of my resources and about to give in, I raised a smile and murmured my thanks. Then he left me. So, without any effort on my part, I have gained the twenty-four hour respite that I needed so desperately. It seems at last the 'Great Ones', as Sally calls them, have listened to my prayers. Reverting to the fascinating conversation I had with her this afternoon. We talked a lot more about her beliefs, and they certainly ring a bell with me too. The more one thinks about them the sounder they seem. All the intolerable stupidities and injustices of mankind, which make so many people doubt the existence of a God, are explained by them. And if one accepts it that all the misfortunes and setbacks with which we meet are not blind, ugly chance, but obstacles to be surmounted from which lessons can be learned, and tests of our fortitude and courage, the struggle of life takes on a real meaning and becomes a great adventure. She confirmed my own belief, too, that no one is ever given a trial that is beyond his capacity to bear; and that, in conjunction with all she said about death not really being Death at all, but a return to a fuller, happier Life, makes me feel now as if I were encased in a suit of shining armour. Sally is a wonderful person. What would I not give for her to feel for me one tenth of what I feel for her; but to have won her friendship is in itself a triumph and a benediction. Before we parted she agreed that we dared wait no longer, but must make our bid for freedom tonight. She went off to bicycle down to the village and order the car to be at the bridge again. Our worst fear was that Helmuth might send the Great Spider to me, and thus wreck everything at the last moment; but we decided that we must chance that. Mercifully that fear has since been removed; so I have great hopes now that on my birthday morn Sally will give me the splendid gift of freedom.
Later I hardly know how to write it. This afternoon I was full of a splendid new courage; now I am near to tears. Sally is to dine with Helmuth. She met him on her return from the village, and came straight up to tell me. I implored her not to; but she said that she must, otherwise he would become suspicious that I had prejudiced her against him while he was away, and that might put all sorts of ideas into his head especially after she had allowed Deb to see me during his absence, about which, it seems, he spoke to her rather sharply. I have never before dared to broach the subject of her last dinner with him, from fear she would resent it but I did this evening. She shrugged and said: 'It wasn't particularly pleasant, and, of course, you were right about him. He played his cards skilfully enough not to be offensive, but I soon saw which way the wind was blowing. That's why I got tight. I hate getting tight, as it always makes me feel frightful the next day. But it seemed the best thing to do.' I stared at her in amazement. 'Do you really mean that you deliberately got tight so that you shouldn't care what happened?' 'Certainly not!' she retorted with a sudden flash of anger. 'You must have a very poor opinion of me to think that. If you want to know the truth, I am still a virgin; and I have not the least intention of throwing my shoes over the moon until my own good time and then it will be with a man that I really love. But if you had ever tried to make love to a girl who is drunk you would know that it is neither easy nor pleasant particularly when she ends up by being sick in your immediate vicinity.' Her outburst both confounded and cheered me; and, blushing at the awful gaffe I had made, I muttered: 'I'm sorry, Sally. That was darned clever of you; but all the same, I'm afraid he won't let you get away with that sort of thing a second time.' 'I don't expect him to,' she agreed frankly. 'And I am not looking forward to this evening's party one little bit. But I'll get by somehow. It may make me late in coming for you, but that can't be helped; and if the man with the car has given up and gone by the time we get to the bridge, I'll have to push you a bit further, that's all.' 'Oh, Sally!' I begged. 'Please, please don't dine with him. He is capable of any dirty trick. He may put a drug in your wine or try to hypnotise you.' She shook her head. 'He won't do either. When he warned me against your attempting to hypnotise me I told him that an expert had tried it on me once, and failed completely, showing that I'm not a good subject. And in view of what happened before, I have an excellent excuse this time for refusing to drink anything.' 'All the same,' I argued desperately, 'he is horribly clever at getting his way with women, and absolutely ruthless. I implore you to pretend you are ill, or something, and cut it out. Even at the best it will mean your going through an absolutely beastly time for several hours, and if he gets really wrought up it may end in your actually having to fight him.' Suddenly she stooped over my bed and kissed me lightly on the forehead, then she gave me a wan smile. 'Don't worry, Toby. Try not to think about it. And remember; none of us is ever given a trial that it is beyond our capabilities to bear. So help will be sent me if I really need it.' I think the fact that she gave me that sisterly kiss makes things even worse. But Great-aunt Sarah should bring me that gun tonight. And if I learn tomorrow that Helmuth has hurt a hair of my darling Sally's head, I swear to God I'll kill him.
Sunday, 21st June In the past ten hours I have been the plaything of such violent emotions that my mind is still reeling under their impact. Setting them down may help to reassure me that the thing which overwhelmed me really happened. To get the whole picture in proper perspective I had better continue this record from where I left off. Helmuth's fearful disclosures that the Devil's new disguise is Communism, and that for the past century he has devoted all his energies to wearing this dark cloak with which to blanket for ever the freewill of mankind kept him with me barely twenty minutes. After his final threat he turned away to leave me, but almost collided with Konrad in the doorway. Helmuth had probably forgotten that in anticipation of his victory he had ordered up Champagne. With a cynical smile he told Konrad to leave the bottle with me, as I 'might need it in the night'. Then they both went downstairs. To keep my thoughts off the ordeal ahead of me I spent the next hour and a half writing the last entry in my journal. At ten o'clock Konrad returned, settled me down and removed my lamp. It was a fine night, the moon was up and threw the pattern of the grating on the floor; but only faintly, as the late summer twilight still lingered and reduced its power. Gradually, as the last light of day disappeared outside, the big oblong with its crisscross of black bars grew brighter. I tried not to look at it, dreading what I might see, and endeavoured to comfort myself with my last remaining hope. I thought it unlikely that the Evil would appear much before midnight, and at eleven o'clock Great-aunt Sarah would be going down to her tunnel. I prayed, as I have never prayed before, that she would not have forgotten again her promise to bring me a gun. At last I heard her footsteps, and I rapped sharply on the panel. It slid back and she stepped out into the room. With an awful sinking of the heart I saw that she was not carrying the weapon. Her poor old mind is evidently incapable of retaining any thought permanently, except that of rescuing her lover from the Lady of the Lake. For a moment I thought of trying to keep her with me, but I realised that would have been a futile as well as a wicked thing to do; so I let her go off to the strange task that will end only when she becomes bedridden, or at her death. My hopes of obtaining the shotgun having been dashed, I cast about for the next best thing with which to defend myself. The reflection from the moonlight now lit the room faintly, and on glancing round my eye lit on the bottle of Champagne. Failing a firearm or a cutlass, few things could have suited my purpose better. The tapering neck of the bottle offered a perfect handhold, and its weight made it a first-class club. As my fingers closed over the gold foil I blessed Helmuth for his cynical gesture in leaving it with me. Between my prayers I thought a lot about Sally, and the wonderful new faith that she had given me. Without it I doubt now if I would have had the courage to defy Helmuth. Somehow, having to face the ordeal took on a new aspect, as if what I had to go through was the paying off of an old debt that I had contracted during a life when I was myself a servant of Evil, or a test of courage which, if I passed it, would give me a step up the ladder of progress. I was very far from being unafraid, but I now felt that there was a definite limit to what either man or Devil could do to me; and that those friends of the long journey, of whom Sally had spoken, who were at present untrammelled with bodies, were watching over me and would see to it that no permanent harm befell my spirit. I tried to keep my thoughts off the Great Spider, but despite my efforts they kept reverting to it; and one thing that puzzled me greatly was the nature and consistency of my enemy. There could be no doubt that it was a Satanic entity and, since it came from another plane, it could have no real being here. Therefore, it seemed to follow, from what little I knew of supernatural manifestations, that it could be seen and, perhaps, heard, but not felt. If that was so, then I had little to fear, except the horror inspired by being forced to look at a terrifying and repulsive beast. And if I knew that it could not touch me or harm me there was really no reason to be afraid. On the other hand, Helmuth had spoken of it materialising, and having to sustain its body on blood and excrement; which definitely implied that at times it had the power to transform itself into a ferocious animal capable of biting and tearing at a victim with its strong, spear pointed legs. So I did not know what to think. Again, if it was only a form of spectre it would find no difficulty in passing through walls, or a pane of plate-glass; yet it had obviously been incapable of getting at me through the courtyard window. Alternatively, if it had a solid body, surely the same factor would prevent its getting at me up here as had prevented it from doing so downstairs. The grating through which I can look down into the chapel from my room has no glass in it; but the mesh of crisscross bars make the open squares between them far too small for a brute even one tenth of the size to squeeze itself through. For a time I strove to draw what comfort I could from the assumptions that if it was a spirit form it could not harm me, and if it had a physical body it could not get in; then another idea came to me. Perhaps it would come through the grating or the wall in its spirit form, and materialise a body for itself when it was inside the room. Yet Helmuth had said that it needed rotting offal, and such things, from which to form an envelope of flesh, and there was nothing of that kind here, except yes, the thought was horrifying, but he had mentioned blood my own blood. With a shudder, I tried to thrust from my mind the appalling picture of myself lying there in bed, striking wildly with the Champagne bottle at an intangible form which yet seemed to smother me, and gradually became a semi fluid substance like reddish black treacle as it sucked at a vein in my neck. I countered that unnerving vision by arguing that if it could enter and materialise in such a manner here, it could have done so equally well down in the library. But then again, perhaps in those early stages of my 'conditioning' Helmuth had held it in check, whereas tonight he had no such intention. My grim speculations got no further. At that moment I heard footsteps on the stairs; the door opened and Helmuth appeared. I could not see him very clearly, as the moonlight hardly penetrated to that corner of the room, but it shimmered faintly on the strange garment he was wearing, and as he moved forward I saw that it was a ceremonial robe of white satin with a number of large black symbols imposed upon it. The folds of the robe prevented me from making out exactly what they were, but they looked like the signs of the Zodiac. Round his neck he wore a black stole heavily embroidered in gold, and on his head a curiously shaped Sattish mitre. In his hand he carried a silver wand, at one end of which there was a crescent moon. Without a word to me, or a glance in my direction, he walked past the foot of my bed. As he did so I could see the flattish mitre more clearly; it was really a toque of dark fur with two large red jewels in front; it was fashioned to appear like a big spider and the jewels were there to represent eyes. Holding himself very rigid and moving with slow deliberation, as though he were in a trance, he advanced to the door that gives on to my little terrace, made the sign of the Cross the wrong way round with his wand, then unlatched the door and opened it a fraction. The question I had been asking myself was answered. He had to assist the Great Spider to materialise itself by some hideous ceremony, and once it had acquired a body it could not pass through material obstacles. He had come up to let it in. Turning, he walked slowly back towards the door that gives on to the staircase. I did not see him go. My eyes were fixed on the terrace door. At any second I expected to see it open and disclose the beast. As the other door shut behind Helmuth I had a wild impulse to call him back and beg him to spare me; but I managed to suppress it. If I had not actually seen him unlatch the door to the terrace I would not have known that it was open. But I did know. It was just ajar, and it needed no more than a push of a child's hand for the heavy oak postern to swing slowly inward on its well-oiled hinges. My hands were clammy as I stared at it, imagining that I could see it moving; but for what seemed an age nothing happened. Suddenly my heart missed a beat. The door had not moved, but I knew that the beast was approaching. It was three weeks since I had felt that awful sensation, but there was no mistaking it. The perspiration that had already broken out on my forehead now chilled it as though snowflakes were melting there; my breath was coming faster yet catching in my throat, and I had a queasy feeling in my stomach that made me want to retch. Still the door remained as Helmuth had left it. With the saliva running hot in my mouth I kept my gaze riveted on the old oak boards. The waiting seemed unbearable, and if at that moment I had been able to pray at all, I should have prayed for something anything to happen, that would end my agonising suspense. The night was very still. It was close on twelve o'clock and I knew that all the Castle staff would normally be asleep. But even if any of them were awake and I had screamed for help, shut off as I was and at such a distance from their quarters, they could never have heard me. All at once the eerie quiet was broken by a faint scuffling noise. The hair on the back of my head rose like the hackles of a dog. I could feel my eyes open wide with apprehension, and my ears seemed to start out from the sides of my head with the intensity of my listening. The noise came again, louder this time. It sounded as if a boot was being scraped with quick, light jerks against rough stone. I still had my eyes fixed unswervingly upon the door; but a sudden flicker of movement just outside my line of vision caught my attention. Jerking my head round, I stared at the checkered patch of moonlight on the floor. Part of an all too familiar shadow sprawled across it. Slowly I raised my eyes; then I saw the beast itself. It was peering through the left-hand lower corner of the grating at me. I could not see the whole of it; only about three-quarter of the body, the head and parts of several legs, one of which was fully extended above it and measured more than the length of my arm. Its body was fat and furry; its legs thick, sinewy and covered with sparse stiff hairs each about two inches long. As it clung there, silhouetted against the bright moonlight that was now streaming through the grille, I could see every detail of its outline; but its face was obscured by shadow, and all I could distinguish of that were two reddish eyes, glowing luminously. The room was now ice-cold, and filled with an appalling stench. There flashed into my mind a temporary morgue that I had once had to visit, where bomb torn bodies were being preserved for identification on blocks of ice. The atmosphere was very similar, except that there the smell of putrefaction had been partially obscured by iodo form, whereas here it came undiluted in sickening waves from the pulsing body of the beast. After a second it shifted its position. The movement was so swift that I only glimpsed its action. One nimble sideways slither and it was still again, spread-eagled right in the middle of the grating. I was no longer capable of any coherent thought. All I could do was to keep muttering 'This is it! This is it!' while my brain subconsciously absorbed certain physical facts about the Horror. It was as big as a fully fledged vulture. Its skin and hair were black, but splotched here and there with patches of a leprous looking greyish white. It could easily have torn a cat limb from limb or made mincemeat of a hound. But there seemed no animal, short of the elephant, hippopotamus and rhino, to whom the beast would not have proved a formidable opponent. Even a lion might have found himself bested by such a beast, had it sprung upon his back and, while he roared impotently, clung there, gnawing its way into his liver. Suddenly it began its devil dance, scampering to and fro across the grating. With chattering teeth I watched it; and slowly the fact penetrated to my mind that although it possessed immense physical activity its intelligence must be dull and sluggish. It could see the terrace door through the grille yet it made no attempt to test that way into the room; instead it kept at its frantic blind fumbling to find a means of getting through the iron bars. For a good ten minutes it continued to leap up and down, back and forth, until I was dizzy with watching it; then, all of a sudden, it dropped from sight. I was sitting up propped against my pillows, the champagne bottle gripped in one hand and my heavy silver cigarette box in the other. For a moment or two I remained with every muscle tensed, then I relaxed a little. The room was still very cold, and the stink of rotting offal remained strong in my nostrils; but I was beginning to have just a flicker of hope that Helmuth's plan had miscarried, and that I might yet come through unharmed unless he had some means of communicating with, and directing, his foul emissary. I think now that must have been so. It is impossible to estimate time with any accuracy in such circumstances. It may have been three minutes, it may have been ten, after the brute had dropped from sight, that I heard the scraping noise again. This time it came from out on the terrace. I shuddered, swallowed hard, and tensed myself. The scraping grew louder; then there came a faint tapping, which might have been made by the brute's pointed feet. My eyes were starting from their sockets as they stared at the door. Slowly it was pushed open. The door swung back without a sound, and there in the entrance stood the monster. Now that it was no longer between myself and the moonlight I could see it plainly. It stood a good two foot six from the ground and shimmered with a faint reddish radiance of its own. It appeared to have no neck and its head was sunken, like that of a hunchback, into its obese body. Under a low, vulture like forehead the two fire bright eyes glared at me malignantly. Instead of the beak I had expected, its mouth was a horrid cavity surrounded by fringed gills, that constantly twitched and exuded a beastly brownish saliva. In spite of the cold the sweat was pouring off me. I knew that in another moment this awful creature a devil out of hell in the form of a gargantuan insect would be upon me. But Sally's assurance, that none of us are ever given a trial to bear that is beyond our capabilities, came back to me, and strengthened my determination to fight the brute to the last gasp. Something outside myself suddenly warned me that the monster was just about to spring. With all my force I hurled the cigarette box at it. The box caught it full and square on the body, just below its slavering mouth. Even in that moment of terror I found myself observing the curious effect of my missile with surprise and interest. It did not go through the brute, as it would have through a spectre; nor did it land with a bump and then fall to the floor, as it would have on striking a flesh and blood animal. It seemed to sink right into the furry mass just as though I had thrown it at a great lump of dough. And the impact had some effect, as the beast wobbled uncertainly on its spindly legs, then backed a couple of paces. I had no other missile in reach that was heavy enough to be of any value; so, gasping out a prayer for help, I transferred the bottle to my right hand and grasped it firmly by the neck. It took me only a few seconds to do so, and in that time the monster had recovered. It sidled forward again to its previous position and gathered itself to spring. At that instant my prayer was answered. I heard the staircase door open. There came the rush of flying feet, and I saw Sally race past the end of my bed. Without a tremor of hesitation she flung herself against the terrace door and slammed it to. The beast had been half in, half out, of the open doorway. The impact threw it back on to the terrace, but the door closed so swiftly that it caught and cut off the lower part of one of the brute's legs. Sally, her eyes distended from the awful thing she had seen, and her breath coming quickly after her valiant effort, had turned, and was standing with her back against the door staring at me. By her feet it could see the severed leg. It seemed to have a vile life of its own, and was wriggling like a snake; but I had seen too much during the past quarter of an hour to feel any surprise when it flattened itself into a ribbon and slid under the door to rejoin its monstrous owner on the terrace. For what seemed a long time Sally and I said nothing. Both of us were rendered speechless from horror of the Thing we had just seen, and fear that it would yet manage to get at us. It must have been a good two minutes before we recovered sufficiently to feel that the stout oak door was really a strong enough barrier to keep it out. At last Sally whispered: 'Are-are you all right?' 'Yes!' I gulped. 'But you? Oh, Sally, I love you so much! I've been in agony about you for the past twenty-four hours.' She left the door and, coming over, stood beside my bed. 'Do you really mean that?' she asked slowly. I nodded. 'Yes. I didn't mean to tell you that I loved you. It just slipped out in the stress of the moment. But I do terribly. You won't mind my loving you, will you? I promise faithfully that I won't make a nuisance of myself.' 'No,' she said, and her voice seemed rather flat. 'I'm sure you won't make a nuisance of yourself; and I won't mind your loving me not a bit.' She was standing with her back to the moonlight, so her face was in shadow; but she turned it a little away from me, and then I saw that she was crying. The light glinted on a large tear running down her cheek. 'Sally!' I exclaimed. And I reached out and took her hand. As I did so, she openly burst into tears, crumpled up, and practically fell into my arms. For a moment I thought that she was still frightfully overwrought from the sight of that fearsome beast; but as she clung to me she laughed a little hysterically between her sobs, and murmured: 'I won't mind your loving me! How could I mind! Oh, Toby Haven't you guessed that I’m terribly in love with you Over her shoulder I had been keeping an anxious eye on the door, but it was fast shut and no sound came from beyond it; so at those marvellous words of hers I ceased to think of the terrors outside, and our mouths met in a succession of long, sweet kisses. A little later she told me she had believed that I thought her both plain and stupid; to which I was able to reply truthfully that her dear face aroused a tenderness in me that I had never felt for any other woman, and that I knew her to have more real wisdom than any woman or man that I had ever met. She still seemed to think it astonishing that I should have fallen in love with her, but I said that the boot was on the other foot; and that, anyhow, it was the most rotten luck on her to have developed those sort of feelings for a cripple. 'Why?' she asked. "There is nothing wrong with you apart from the fact that you can't walk, and that does not make the slightest difference to your personality.' 'Perhaps not,' I said a little sadly. 'And I'm immensely grateful for this present blessing of your love; but I won't be able to keep it, because I can't ask you to marry me.' She turned her head and peered at me in the moonlight. 'Does that mean that you are secretly married already and have a wife hidden away somewhere?' 'Good lord, no!' I exclaimed. 'But I couldn't ask a girl like you to tie yourself to a cripple for life. It wouldn't be fair.' 'Would you’ she squeezed my hand hard' would you, Toby, if you were strong and well?'
I smiled up at her. 'Of course I would. I've had quite a number of affairs, but I've never before met a girl that I really loved. You've read my journal, so you know that's true. And now I have, it’s only natural that I should want her to be mine for keeps.' She nodded; then, after a moment, she said: 'I shouldn't have asked that. It was my beastly vanity that urged me to. Please try to forget it. I feel awfully touched and honoured by what you said, and I'd like you to know that your being a cripple has nothing whatever to do with it. I would marry you tomorrow if it were only that; but well or ill, if you did ask me, I'm afraid I would have to say no.' 'Why?' I asked a trifle belligerently; then I added with an attempt at lightness that I did not feel: 'Perhaps you've got a husband tucked away somewhere?' 'No, it's not that. It's just that you are far too rich.' Too rich!' I echoed. 'What on earth has that to do with it?' 'A lot,' she replied seriously. 'When I do marry I want it to be someone who will really stick to me. I don't mean that I'd never forgive a slip-up; in fact, human frailty being what it is, I might need forgiveness myself some time and if I did, I'd expect to get it. 'But I do feel that marriage should be something much more than two people agreeing to legalise a yen for one another, and after living together for a few years accepting it as quite natural that they should take another dip in the lucky tub. That is rather like starting to build a house without bothering to select a firm piece of ground, then abandoning the job halfway because the foundations have turned out to be rotten. I think one should try to make something really fine and enduring of marriage. In fact that it should be a sort of growing together in spirit, so that the joy of it should become greater, instead of less, with the passing of the years.' 'You're right about that,' I said softly; 'just as you are about so many other things. But I still don't see why having a lot of money should prevent two people making the sort of marriage you suggest.' 'Don't you? Well, just think for a minute. Mind, I'm not advocating poverty. That is tragic and hideous, and just as bad the other way. But surely you've noticed that couples who are not very well off generally make a much better thing of marriage than the rich. It is all the little difficulties that they have to overcome in making a home and keeping it together that act as the cement for the bare bricks of love. When one of them wants something, it is not just a matter of signing another cheque; it means that the other must forgo something they would have liked to have had themselves. It is that give and take, the little willing sacrifices, the saving up out of a not very big margin to buy one's love a present, that really binds people together. 'But for the rich it is all too easy. They have their fun while it lasts and then there is nothing left. Their homes are not the centres of their lives, but only beautifully furnished settings which they occupy from time to time when they have nothing more exciting to do. They have few real friends but a legion of acquaintances, so they are always running into new people who may attract them physically, and it is an accepted thing that they should flirt just as lightly as they go to the races or play cards. And almost always one of those flirtations becomes a new craving that they feel they must satisfy at all costs. Money is no obstacle so they get expensive lawyers to arrange matters, and with very little fuss or inconvenience to anyone concerned one more divorce goes through.' After a little pause, Sally went on: 'It is sweet of you to say that I am beautiful; but I know that I am not. I believe that I am passably good looking; and I think that I could hold my own with most girls who have had my type of upbringing, but I am not in the same class as, for instance, your Aunt Julia. I'm not being catty, either, when I say I wouldn't want to be. It's just that I'm different, and I like my own type best. 'But women like Julia Jugg make an art of beauty, and they bowl men over like ninepins. Just one slinky look from a woman like that will often do something to a man that a girl like myself can't bring off in a month of Sundays, however much she loves him. When you get better, Toby darling, as I'm sure you will, and things are normal again, you will lead the sort of life in which you'll meet dozens of women as beautiful as Julia, only younger; and because you are a millionaire they will all make a dead set at you. Well, I'm not competing. It would break my heart if I tried. That's why I wouldn't marry you, Toby.' I was silent for a moment. I saw the sound sense of her reasoning, and admired her more than ever for her strength of character in scorning the sort of marriage that most girls would have given their eyes to make. Then I said: 'As I am still a cripple, and likely to remain one for a long time to come, the question does not arise. But if I were fit I'd never rest until I had persuaded you to think differently, as far as I am concerned. I am different, you know, from most young men who have had riches thrust upon them. I am different because my unusual upbringing disillusioned me very early. I know better than most people how utterly empty and worthless easy conquests always prove. You are the first girl that I have ever really fallen for, and I think you are underrating that a bit, by suggesting that a platinum blonde, dolled up in a Schaparelli outfit and a new shade of lipstick, is all that is needed to make me lose my head.' Tm sorry, Toby,' she murmured. 'I didn't mean quite that.' I kissed her again and made a joke of it. 'Anyhow, if I do get well, there is always one way of getting over your objection. I can make all my money over to Helmuth; then we'll take a ten bob a week cottage, where you can scrub the floors and do all the cooking.' All this time she had been lying beside me on the bed, with her head pillowed on my shoulder. At my mention of Helmuth she broke from my embrace and sat up with a jerk, exclaiming: 'He mustn't find me here! I waited to come to you till I thought he was safely in bed; but as he sent that awful thing tonight he's certain to come up to find out what effect it had on you.' As he had done so after he sent the legion of small spiders I thought the odds were on her being right, but I said quickly: 'Don't worry, sweet. If he does, you can hide while he is here.' 'Where?' she asked, with an anxious glance round. 'Behind the secret panel that gives on to Great-aunt Sarah's staircase,' I replied, pointing it out to her. 'But there's another thing. He left the terrace door open slightly, and if he comes up he must find it like that, or open; otherwise, as I couldn't possibly have shut it myself, he'll know that I must have had a human visitor.' She shuddered. 'I daren't open it again. That-that awful creature may still be out there.' For the past twenty minutes my every thought had been of Sally, so I had not been conscious of the change in the atmosphere; but now I realised that, although the moonlight still shone brightly through the grille, the air was no longer foul with that awful stench and was once again warm with the balminess of the summer night; so I said: 'The brute has gone. I'm sure of that. It seems extraordinary that simply slamming a door on a powerful Satanic entity should have been enough to drive it off altogether. I should have thought it would have had another go at trying to get through the grating, but your presence seems to have worked a miracle.' She shook her head. 'If it has gone, it wasn't anything that I did. It was us. The saying "God is Love" is true, you know. And the spiritual something we released when we discovered that we loved one another must have been terrific. It probably had the same effect on the Horror as its shadow used to have on you; and I wouldn't be surprised if it crept away somewhere to be sick in a corner.' As far as the beast was concerned her theory sounded highly plausible, but we did not feel that we could count on it also applying to Helmuth; and if she opened the door and left me there was a chance both that it might return, and that she might run into him on her way downstairs. We decided that she had better remain and we would keep our ears open for sounds of his approach. Then, if he did come up, she could quickly open the terrace door, and get into hiding behind the panel, before he entered the room. So that no time should be lost I suggested that she should get the panel open. She slid off the bed and, as she stepped forward, gave an 'Ouch!' of pain. 'What is it, darling?' I asked anxiously. 'My ankle,' she explained. 'I sprained it last night. That is why I wasn't able to come up to you all day.' 'So Helmuth wasn't lying about that,' I murmured. 'Last night I was half crazy with worry about you. How did you manage with him?' She laughed, a little ruefully. 'I overplayed my hand and this is the result. Before dinner I thought out what I meant to do. If a girl has just ricked her ankle badly and is in considerable pain it is just as much out of the question to make love to her satisfactorily as if she is disgustingly drunk. He was as charming and interesting as ever over dinner, and I'm sure he thought that he had really got me going. 'Afterwards we went upstairs to look at his books. That main staircase is so highly polished that it is rather a death-trap anyway. Halfway up I slipped on purpose, pretended to clutch at him, missed and went tumbling down to the bottom. Unfortunately I was wearing high heels, the right one turned over and gave me an awful twinge. It wasn't a case of shamming any longer, and in a few minutes it had swollen to the thickness of my forearm. He put a cold compress on it, and offered to help me undress; but I said I could manage all right, and by half past nine I was safely in bed.' "That was darned clever of you, darling, but the most filthy luck. Is it still giving you a lot of pain? 'It is now, rather; as I had to put all my weight on it when I ran across the room to slam the terrace door. Of course, its swelling up like that made it impossible for him to doubt that I really had hurt myself; so I don't think he has the least suspicion that I was deliberately holding out on him; but the infuriating thing is that as long as I can hardly bear my own weight on it I can't possibly get you downstairs on my back; and now that Helmuth is taking extreme measures it is terribly urgent that you should escape.' As she finished speaking we caught the sound of footsteps on the stairs. Limping a bit Sally ran across the room, opened the terrace door, then ran back and slipped into her hiding place, sliding the panel to after her. Meanwhile, I quickly disarranged the bedclothes, so that it would look as if a struggle had taken place on the bed, and wriggled down flat with my head lolling over to one side. I let my right arm hang right out of bed and, under cover of a trailing corner of the sheet, I once more grasped the champagne bottle; then I let myself go limp, as if I was unconscious. I heard Helmuth come is, cross the room to the terrace door and shut it. Then he turned and walked over to my bed. My eyes were a fraction open and I could just see him under my lowered lids. He was still in his ceremonial robes and the moonlight glinted upon the white satin. He spoke to me. I made no reply, so he leant over and shook me. That was my opportunity. Jerking up my arm I struck at him with the bottle. It did not, as I had hoped, smash in his nose, but caught him on the side of the face. Even so it was a fine bash and may well have cracked his cheekbone. With a guttural cry he staggered back and fell to the floor. For a few moments he lay moaning there, then he picked himself up. I had hoisted myself into a sitting position and, still clutching the bottle, was praying that he would come near enough for me to get another swipe at him; but he did not even look at me. With one hand held to his face, he tottered towards the door, fumbled his way out and banged it to behind him. As soon as the sound of his uneven footsteps had died away I rapped on the panel and Sally came out. From the noises, she had guessed more or less what was happening, and I gleefully gave her details of that marvellously satisfactory comeback on our enemy. 'I can't help hoping that it is hurting him like hell,' she smiled, 'and I think in his case you must have a pretty big margin in your favour; but when you are tempted to hit people in future, don't forget that unless you owe them the blow already the time will come when they'll give it you back.' 'You give me a kiss, and I'll give you that back,' I laughed, and we were in one another's arms again. Later we opened the champagne and drank it; the empty bottle will still prove a useful weapon. Sally stayed with me till the moon had gone down and the first light of dawn was coming through the grating. It was an unforgettable night and, from her arrival in my room onwards, would have been one of unallayed happiness, had it not been that my battle with Helmuth is now rapidly approaching its final crisis, and Sally's ankle makes it impossible for us to get away for another twenty-four hours, at least. We felt that if she rested all today, the ankle might be well enough for her to get me downstairs tonight, or anyhow tomorrow night, which is the last before the Midsummer Night's meeting of the Brotherhood; but that in the meantime we positively dared not take a chance on her being able to do so, and must take any other measures we could think of which might possibly spike Helmuth's guns. Naturally my thoughts reverted to Julia and Uncle Paul, and I suddenly realised that now Sally had come over to my side it should not be difficult to get them down here. After our last meeting, and my reconciliation with Helmuth, they would be certain to regard anything I said in a letter to them as the outcome of a worsening of my mental state, so it was most unlikely that they would make an immediate response to an S O S from me. But there was no question about Sally's sanity, so if she got in touch with them and told them it was absolutely imperative that they should catch the first train to Llanferdrack, it was a hundred to one that they would agree to do so. A letter would take too long, so we agreed that Sally should either telegraph or telephone to Julia as soon as she could today. The trouble is, though, that her ankle makes it out of the question for her to bicycle down to the village; and, as she is officially hors de combat, we could think of no reason she could give which would be even remotely plausible for asking for a car to take her there and back. So, unless she has a brainwave, she will have to telephone from the house; and while she is supposed to be sitting in her room with her foot up, it will be far from easy for her to snoop on Helmuth until he leaves the coast clear, without his spotting her. I very much doubt if Sally's ankle will be sufficiently better for us to make our attempt tonight, but whether it is or not she is going to come up to me a little before midnight, in case Helmuth decides to summon the Great Spider again. It is now nearly dinnertime and he has not so far been up here today, so I still have no idea if he thinks that my attack on him was the result of his spider driving me frantic, or if he suspects that his abominable scheme broke down in some way and that I simply took the chance that came my way to slosh him. I hope that his non-appearance can be taken as a sign that the blow I dealt him has put him temporarily out of action. Anyhow it has spared me further immediate anxieties, and as Sally has not been up here either apart from Konrad's routine appearances I have spent the whole day in solitude. Thank God, once again, for this journal, as writing this long account of my twenty-first birthday night has taken me all day, and has kept me from worrying too much about the possibility of Helmuth catching Sally while she is telephoning to Julia, and my own still horribly critical situation. In the past twenty-four hours I have known the extremes of terror and happiness. Strange as it may seem I have already almost forgotten the former in the warm glow from the latter. I can still hardly believe it true that Sally loves me, but my head goes swimmy at the thought of her sweetness, courage and wisdom. I can hardly bear to wait until she comes to me again.
Tuesday, 23rd June It is still very early in the morning, and I am writing this by first light. Fortunately I slept all yesterday afternoon, so although I have not slept at all during the night, I do not feel particularly tired. Anyhow, I can still get in a good couple of hours' sleep before Konrad calls me, and God alone knows what will happen tomorrow today I mean so this may be the last chance I'll have to make an entry in my journal, and I wish to record the splendid courage and devotion that Sally had shown in the desperate turn of my affairs. The sight of Julia decorating an altar to Satan even the thought of it now stuns me afresh left me dumbfounded, stricken to the heart, hardly able to credit what I had seen with my own eyes, yet forced to because Sally had seen it too; and I knew inside myself that it explained all sorts of little things about Julia that had vaguely puzzled me in the past. Yet, at first, I could not bring myself to accept it as a fact, and the upheaval in my mind robbed me of all initiative. So Sally took charge. As soon as she had got me back to bed, she said that she was terribly sorry for me, but that from what we had seen there could be no doubt at all that I had been 'sold down the river' by my own people. She had spotted Dr. Arling among the men who had been helping Helmuth to erect one of the trestle tables, so he was in it too. Clearly my relatives were members of the Brotherhood, and the doctor was also a member. He had been brought down to pull the wool over my eyes and, no doubt, to remove me to a private asylum in due course. They were all actively abetting Helmuth in his criminal plot. Sally's view was that my only chance lay in her getting me away that night. Her ankle was still paining her but she declared that she would manage somehow. It was already half past nine so we had very little time to plan in before Konrad came up to take away my lamp. Her main anxiety was whether she would be able to get me around the outside of the Castle. She thought she would be able to semi piggyback me downstairs, but it was going to be a terribly long haul from the side door to the place under the terrace to which we meant to lower my wheelchair, and she feared that her groggy ankle might not stand up to it. I was still too bemused by my recent discovery to think of any possible alternative, and it was she who had the idea of using Great-aunt Sarah's secret staircase. It could lead nowhere except straight down to the chapel, and we knew that a flight of about twenty steps led up from the chapel floor to a side entrance, which gave on to the grass verge of the lake within a dozen yards of the spot where the chair would be. That route was barely a third of the distance we should have had to cover along our old one, down the spiral stairs, along the passage and halfway round the Castle. Even allowing for the extra strain of getting me up the stone steps inside the chapel, the total effort required would be nothing like so great. I pulled my wits together sufficiently to produce the only snag I could think of that the door at the bottom of the secret staircase might be locked, and its bolts rusted in with long disuse, so that we should not be able to get it open. Sally countered that by saying she could get hold of some oil, a hammer, a small saw and other tools from the garage machine shop, and that she would bring with her candles as well as a torch; and that even if it took us an hour to get the door open we would still have ample time to be out of the grounds well before dawn. She also pointed out that another advantage of going by the secret staircase was that we could be certain of not running into anyone on it; so there would be much less danger of our being caught. I had no further objections to offer, and time was getting short; so I kissed her and blessed her and, after promising to be back shortly before midnight for our eleventh hour bid for freedom, she left me. The entry I made in my journal took me only a few minutes and I had hardly completed it when Konrad arrived. After he had gone the time of waiting passed with extraordinary swiftness because, I am ashamed to say, my mind was not really on the job ahead, but occupied with the most wretched speculations about Julia. On Sally's return the first thing we decided was that she should reconnoitre the secret stairway, to make certain that there was a door at its bottom and that it would be possible to get it open. She had brought quite a large bag of tools and, taking them with her, she disappeared through the panel, closing it after her. Going into such a place alone at dead of night must have taken more courage than most girls possess, particularly when one knew of the evil things that lurked in the vicinity; but Sally never hesitated, and somehow I did not feel afraid for her, only rather humble at the thought that I should be loved by a girl with such a valiant heart. But as time went by and she failed to reappear I did get worried. I endeavoured to convince myself that she had found the door and was working on it; but I could not help imagining that she had met with some accident, and I began to pray frantically for her safe return. She must have been down there over three quarters of an hour, but at last I heard her coming back and, dusty, begrimed, dishevelled, she stumbled, still panting, through the panel opening. 'It's all right,' she said with a smile. 'Luckily the bolts are on this side. I managed to get one of them back, but the other needs a stronger blow with the hammer than I can give it. The lock will have to be cut out too. I've bored the holes for that and sawed down one side, but my wrist got so tired that I thought I had better come back and get you down there to help me.' 'Thank God you did!' I murmured, pulling her to me and kissing her cheek where it was smudged with dirt. Limping over to the staircase door she shot the bolt, so that we should not be interrupted. Then she helped me to dress and got me into my chair. Next she opened the terrace door and wheeled me out to the far end of the terrace, where the battlement is crumbling away. I helped her to push over a number of the big, loose stones until we had made a gap about four feet wide. To get out the lower ones needed all the strength of my arms and I had to lie on the ground to exert sufficient pressure, but after about twenty minutes we had the gap clear to the bottom, so that the chair needed only a push to run over. We tied the stout cord to the back rail of the chair, took a double hitch round the nearest castellation, and I hung on while Sally wheeled the chair over the edge. She supported part of its weight for a moment, so that the jerk should not snap the cord, then I cautiously lowered away. Two minutes later the cord abruptly slackened, and we knew that we had accomplished that part of the job all right. The moon was just showing above the tree tops on the far side of the lake and on peering over the battlement we could make out the chair standing right way up fifteen feet below us. It had been easy enough for Sally to get me out of the chair on to the ground but it proved a much harder task to get me up again. On previous occasions when she had got me to my feet I had always been sitting on the edge of the bed or in my chair, but now she had to kneel down so that I could clamber on her back, then, with a great effort, she lifted me bodily. Once I was upright we were able to go forward slowly. She took most of my weight on her shoulders, in a semi piggyback, but I was able to take some of it on my feet, and with each of them dragging alternatively we made our way forwards a few steps at a time. It took us ten minutes to get back to my bed. There we rested for a bit, and while we were doing so we heard Great-aunt Sarah come up the stairs behind the panel, so we knew that it was one o'clock. When her footsteps had died away, by a further five minutes of strenuous effort Sally got me through the secret panel. The light from her torch showed the staircase to be much broader than I had expected. It was a good six feet wide, and lofty, with a vaulted ceiling. The air inside it was warm but had none of the stuffiness that one associated with secret passages; and for that we soon saw the reason. About every five feet down the outer wall there were shallow embrasures with long arrow slits, through which the moonlight percolated faintly. After another short rest we essayed the descent. Before we were halfway I could feel the perspiration wet upon poor Sally's neck, and from the way she flinched each time she now put her bad foot one step further down, I knew that it must be hurting her like the devil. I insisted that we should make longer pauses, but she said that did not really help, and that when we got to the bottom there would be plenty of time for her to rest her foot while we were getting the door open. Between the bottom step and the door there was a short section of passage, only about eight feet in length, the floor space of which was partly encumbered by square blocks of stone. I saw that these had been removed from the left-hand wall, in which there was a big hole some four feet high and three feet across, and I knew it must be the entrance to Great-aunt Sarah's tunnel. The blocks of stone now came in handy as they were from twelve to eighteen inches square, and were not too heavy for Sally to lift with an effort. By piling them up she made a seat for me, so that while she held the torch I could get to work on the lock. It is no light task to cut through a three inch thick panel of ancient oak, and after I had been at it for a little while I marvelled that Sally had managed to get as far as she had in the time. Nearly two hours elapsed before I had completed the square round the lock, and by the time I had hammered back the remaining bolt it must have been three in the morning. Having brushed ourselves down, we made ready for the next stage of our arduous journey. Sally put her shoulder against the door and heaved. With a loud groan of rusty hinges it gave, and reluctantly opened a couple of feet. As it did so I felt a chill draught come through from the chapel. Instantly I knew that all our labours had been in vain; for at the same second a wave of nausea flooded through me. I was still seated on the pile of stone. As I leaned sideways to look past Sally I heard her give a sob; then I saw what she had already seen and knew that my fears were only too well founded. The Great Spider was crouching in the middle of the aisle. The moonlight streamed through a rent in the roof right on to the monster. Between its forefeet it held a dead cat, and it had evidently been making a meal off the cat's entrails, as they hung out from its torn stomach on to the floor; but the noise of the opening door had drawn our enemy's attention to us. Flinging aside the dead cat the black, hairy brute bounded in our direction. Simultaneously, Sally and I grabbed the door and hauled it shut again. Then, falling on her knees beside me, she gave way to her distress in a flood of bitter tears. It was hard indeed to find our escape route barred by that hideous sentinel and, although I tried, there was little I could say to comfort her. Afterwards, it did occur to me that if we could have gone boldly out into the chapel hand in hand the strength of our love might have created an aura that would have driven the brute back. But I could not stand alone for more than a moment, and I would not have let Sally face that incredibly evil thing with me dragging along behind her. At the time, to beat a retreat seemed the only possible course open to us. When Sally had recovered a bit we began the ghastly business of getting back up the stairs. The eighteen or twenty steps that we had meant to go up on the far side of the chapel to its lakeshore entrance would have proved a bad enough ordeal, but here there were more than double that number. Leaning on Sally's back, I had been able to come down a step at a time, but I was much too heavy for her to carry and it was beyond my own powers to take a single step upward. We started by my clinging to her waist while she dragged me behind her, and got up about ten steps that way. But the strain on her was frightful; and when she could no longer suppress a loud moan from the pain in her ankle, I refused to let her pull me any further. I tried pulling myself up, but as there was nothing ahead of me to grip except the smooth stones, and my knees were useless, I had to abandon the attempt. Then, turning round, I used my arms as levers to lift myself backwards from step to step. By the time I was halfway up I felt as though my arms were being wrenched from their sockets, and I could not possibly have got much further had not Sally come to my assistance. She went up backwards, too, behind me, and, stooping almost double, got her hands under my armpits so that she could heave every time I lifted. We managed that way, and at last she got me back to my room, but the final effort of supporting me to my bed proved too much for her, and as I flopped on to it she fainted. She slipped to the floor near enough for me to sprinkle water from my bedside carafe on her face, and to my relief she soon came round sufficiently to pull herself up on to the bed beside me. We remained like that for a while, getting our strength back and wondering miserably what we should do next. To attempt our original plan, of going down the spiral staircase, was out of the question. We were both deadbeat already, and Sally's ankle was paining her so much that she would have fainted again before we were a quarter of the way down it. So there seemed nothing for it but that I should resign myself to remaining where I was, and facing whatever was coming to me. Suddenly I remembered that we had lowered my wheelchair over the battlements. It was much too heavy for us to pull up again, and I could not possibly have got it down to the lakeside by myself. When that was discovered as it must be first thing in the morning it would be realised that someone had aided me in an abortive attempt to escape; and suspicion could point only to Sally. When I told her my new fear she laughed a little bitterly. 'You poor sweet; don't fret about that. Surely you realise that I have burnt my boats already. By sending that telegram to Mia I disclosed the fact that I am on your side. But she is not; and she only brought Dr. Arling to hear what I had to say this afternoon to keep me from suspecting that they are both in this plot against you. Since we have failed to escape it is certain now that they will prevent my seeing you again, and do their best either to bribe or browbeat me into acknowledging that I was quite mistaken about your being sane.' That gave me furiously to think. I felt convinced that Helmuth and Co. were capable of going to any lengths to ensure that Sally held her tongue. The business of the chair would give it away that her interest in me was not merely one of wanting to assure fair play for her patient; but that she was actively endeavouring to get me out of Helmuth's clutches. That presupposed that I had told her the whole story, and that she believed me. In that case they could not possibly afford to let her leave Llanferdrack, and, therefore, she was now in grave danger. I told her that, and added: 'There is only one thing to do, darling. You can't get me out, but you can get out yourself. You must go downstairs, collect the few things that you feel you will be able to carry, and slip away before daylight.' She shook her head. 'I'm damned if I will, Toby! What do you take me for? I love you; and I'm going to stay and fight these bloody people with you.' For a quarter of an hour we wrangled fiercely over that. I alternately begged and ordered her to leave me; she refused to listen to my arguments and insisted on remaining. At length we agreed on a compromise. She should not return to her room, where she might find herself at their mercy, but lead them to suppose that she had got the wind up and cleared out. Actually she would retire into hiding behind the secret panel, so that she could hear all that went on in my room and render me any assistance that she could. By the time the issue had been settled it was after four o'clock. The moon was down, so Sally lit a candle. The sweat had dried on us, caking the dirt, and we looked like a couple of sweeps. Anyone who saw me would have known at once that I must have been burrowing in some dirty hole, and the last thing we wanted was for Helmuth to start hunting for a secret passage. So Sally helped me to undress and got me properly back to bed, then brought me the basin and ewer from the washstand. We made a cross on the water to prevent bad luck and washed our faces and hands. She threw the dirty water out on to the terrace, shut the door and unbolted the one to the spiral stairs. Before she left me we arranged that if I gave one knock on the panel that would be the danger signal; she would know that I had heard someone coming upstairs and that she must remain quite still in case they heard her. If I gave two knocks that would be the signal that the coast was clear again, and I would knock three times if I wanted her to come out. On my insisting she took some of the clothes from my wardrobe and a couple of cushions to make a couch to lie on; then we parted with mutual exhortations to have courage, and with great tenderness. The grey light of dawn was already throwing the crisscross bars of the grating into relief, so I started to scribble this; but I hope that my sweet Sally has been sleeping for the past hour or more. I am now feeling very tired myself, so I will snatch a couple of hours' sleep before Konrad comes to call me. God alone knows what fresh ordeals the coming day will bring. I am alone in a dark world, but for the beacon of Sally's love. That must and shall sustain me.
Later If I were not so desperately afraid of what may happen in the next twenty-four hours to Sally and myself, I should be laughing at the comedy that has just taken place. Within a few moments of entering the room Konrad noticed the disappearance of my wheelchair. I had only just woken, so I had not got my wits fully about me; but I think my subconscious must have been concerning itself with the problem during my two-hour sleep, since I replied without hesitation: 'The Archangel Gabriel appeared to me last night. He said that I no longer required it, and he took it away. I think he threw it in the lake.' Konrad's pale blue eyes almost popped out of his head. This cunning Ruthenian peasant is terribly superstitious. He would, I am sure, have bullied me unmercifully during these past three weeks had I not taken a leaf out of Helmuth's book. H. scared Taffy by telling him that I had the evil eye. I told that story to Konrad soon after H. made him my gaoler body servant. Since then he has done his job with as little fuss as possible. He is still 100 per cent Helmuth's man, but he has been mighty careful not to give me offence. My quiet, unemotional statement about the Archangel having visited me, threw him into a paroxysm of terror. The chair was no longer in the room and he knew perfectly well that I could not possibly have disposed of it myself, so it was not altogether surprising that he should accept the suggestion that it had been removed by a supernatural agency. He had already dumped my breakfast tray on my bed table; and, instead of proceeding as usual to hand me my toothbrush and the basin, he gave me a shifty glance then sidled quickly out of the room. I gave three knocks for Sally. A moment later she almost tumbled through the panel opening, still half asleep. 'Quick!' I said. 'Help yourself to a cup of coffee, and take some toast and fruit; then skip back to your hiding place. Konrad has gone to fetch Helmuth and they will be up here in a few minutes.' She poured the coffee, made a face as she gulped it down, took a handful of cherries off the plate, gave me a swift kiss on the nose, then stumbled back through the opening like a large sleepy child. I longed to call her back and put my arms round her. She is absolute heaven. Konrad returned with Helmuth five minutes later. It is the first time I have seen him since I hit him with the bottle. He had the bandages off this morning but his eye is still black and blue. I maintained my story about the Archangel, and for a moment I saw fear in his tawny eyes. Then his suspicions overcame his credulity. He went out on to the terrace, saw the gap in the battlement and, on looking over, the chair down by the lakeside. Striding back to me, he shouted: "That great hoyden Sally Cardew must be responsible for this! It was she who telegraphed for Julia. And now she's tried to help you to escape; but it proved too much for her. I'll teach that young bitch to double-cross me like this!' 'Do, if you can find her,' I mocked him. 'But you won't; because she's gone back to London. And in due course she will bear witness against you in a criminal court.' 'She won't get the chance!' he snapped. 'I'll soon have her traced and stop her tongue. The Brotherhood has plenty of ways of dealing with stupid or indiscreet people. It may interest you to know that Deborah Kain will be sailing from Cardiff in the hold of a tramp steamer today. If she does not die on the voyage round. Africa she will eventually reach Persia, and be sent through to Russia. She came here to see you against my orders, and in the Soviet Union they know how to punish the servants who have failed them.' Glad as I was to know that Britain was nurturing one less viper in her bosom, I could not help feeling sorry for the wretched Deb, as it was largely my fault that such a fate had overtaken her. But Helmuth was going on: 'As for anyone bearing witness against me in a criminal court, you must be really mad if you think you will ever be in a position to prosecute me. After the dance you've led me I'm in no mood to show you further mercy. Tonight I mean to finish your business once and for all. The Brotherhood will invoke the Lady Astoroth to visit you here, and she will destroy your reason.' Turning on his heel he flung out of the room, and I was left to contemplate anew the really desperate situation in which last night's failure to get away has placed me. I had continued to put a bold face on matters in front of Helmuth, but I am feeling very far from bold. Sally's love, and her faith in the inevitable triumph of good over evil, alone sustained me. But I am powerless to help myself and I do not see how she can help me further. Moreover, while I now fully accept her wonderful teaching, it is a long-term policy; it may well be that in a past life I once drove someone mad, and in this one must pay the penalty by being driven mad myself. I have only one weak straw to cling to, and that is Julia. There can be no question about her being in with Helmuth. If further proof were needed, he gave it himself by disclosing that she had told him of Sally's telegram, thus giving it away that Sally had come over to my side. If Helmuth is with her at the moment, and mentions his disclosure, she will realise that I now know her to be in league with my enemies, and she may be ashamed to face me. But if she does not yet know that I know of her treachery she should be coming up to see me as she promised, quite soon now. If she does, there is just a chance that I may be able to save myself through her.
Later It is afternoon. I am writing the following only because it is absolutely vital that I should do so. This time tomorrow I expect to be insane and my testimony will then be valueless. I hereby make solemn declaration that I am now in my right mind; that the following is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, with regard to the death of Julia Jugg. I murdered her. Nurse Cardew was an accessory but an innocent one. She acted in defence of her crippled patient, in the belief that she could help to save him from a gang of criminals. The very fact that I shall not attempt to conceal the part she played is in itself testimony that she was innocent of the actual crime. What she did was done by my orders and the responsibility for Mrs. Paul Jugg's death is entirely mine. This is what occurred; so help me God. A little after ten thirty this morning, Tuesday the 23rd of June, 1942, Julia came up to see me as she had promised. Her demeanour was affectionate and unabashed. She sat down beside my bed and, after talking trivialities for a few moments, by a casual question I extracted the information from her that she had not seen Dr. Helmuth Lisicky since last night; as she had breakfasted in bed, only just got up, and had come straight up from her bedroom to me. I knew then that she knew nothing yet of my abortive attempt to escape last night, or that I realised that she was involved in the conspiracy against me. I asked her when we were going to leave Llanferdrack, 'Not till tomorrow, darling,' she replied. 'Dr. Arling wants to examine you again tonight in the moonlight to see if the moon really has a bad effect on you. But whether it has or not Paul and I mean to take you back with us to Queensclere tomorrow morning.' Stretching out my hand, I took hers. Then I said quietly: 'You are lying, Julia. You have been plotting with Helmuth to drive me mad tonight, so that Dr. Arling can take me away to some private asylum tomorrow.' Her great eyes suddenly showed fear and consternation. She shook her head and struggled violently to drag her hand from my grasp; but I had a firm grip on it, and I went on: 'It is useless to deny it, Julia. I saw you last night arranging those poisonous herbs and stinging nettles on the Devil's altar. That was the most awful thing that has ever happened to me. It was like losing a limb. It was worse than when I was told that my back was broken and the odds were against my ever walking again.' I paused and added in a husky voice: 'Even now, terribly as you have hurt me, I hate having to hurt and bully you. But I've got to; because only you can save me from Helmuth, and only by regaining my freedom can I save you from the ghastly web in which you have enmeshed yourself. I suppose you were blackmailed into becoming a Satanist. I want to know the truth about that. Then we'll make a plan to trick Helmuth at the last moment. Once I am free I mean to smash up this evil Brotherhood; but whatever you have done I'll find a way to save you from them. You see, I want to help you to become clean and free again. So you must tell me the whole truth.' 'I won't!' she moaned. 'I won't! Let me go! Let me go!' Oh yes, you will,' I said. 'If you won't talk freely I shall have to make you.' Then I caught her glance and held it. 'Let me go! Let me go!' her voice grew louder, and tearing her glance from mine she wailed: 'You beast! You're trying to hypnotise me!' I knew then that even at the price of giving Sally’s Nurse Cardew's hiding place away I must have help, otherwise my forlorn hope was doomed to failure. Stretching across Julia I rapped thrice sharply with my free hand on the secret panel. In leaning over I had momentarily to loosen my grip on Julia's hand. As the panel slid back and Sally came out Julia wrenched her hand from my grasp. Turning, she ran towards the door. 'Quick, Sally!' I cried. 'For God's sake catch her, and bring her back. I've got to hypnotise her by force. It's our only hope.' Sally darted after her and caught her in the middle of the room. For a few moments there ensued a horrid scuffle. The two women fought like tiger cats. Julia's long nails tore three furrows in Sally's grimy cheek; then she got hold of a handful of Sally's fuzzy hair and wrenched it out, while kicking violently at her shins. But Sally was much the stronger of the two. She hit Julia hard in the face, grabbed one of her arms and twisted it behind her back, then hurtled her across the room and forced her face down on to the bed. I seized Julia by the shoulders, but by that time she had begun to scream for help; so I transferred by grip to her throat and, much as I hated having to do it, choked her into silence. She was now sprawled over sideways on to the bed and face upwards across my middle. Stooping over her, I stared down into her eyes and ordered her to sleep. But she shut her eyes firmly, so I had to get Sally to turn the lids back and hold them open. Even then, Julia put up a terrific resistance, and after we had held her like that for a quarter of an hour she still had not given in. I had always heard that it is terribly difficult to hypnotise anyone against their will, but I was determined to go through with it. I had been holding her down by the throat the whole time, and I began to choke her again, with the idea that if I reduced her to semi consciousness that way she would no longer be able to exert her will, and her resistance would give way. Her lovely magnolia skin began to go red in patches and her black eyes bulged from her head. Sally warned me to be careful, but I disregarded her advice. I eased the pressure a little, now and then, but kept my thumbs digging into Julia's neck each side of her windpipe. It was horrible; but it worked. Her eyes took on that curious look of the somnambulist and I knew that she had passed into an hypnotic sleep. I released my grip at once and Sally got her into the chair beside my bed. We gave her a glass of water and a few minutes to recover; then I started on her. 'Now, Julia,' I said, 'I want the truth. When did you become a Satanist?' 'When I was seventeen,' she replied hoarsely. Her answer staggered me; but details of my reactions to her story are irrelevant now. 'How did it happen?' I asked. 'An old peasant woman in our village took me to a Witches' Sabbath in the Alban hills.' 'Did you go willingly?' 'Yes.' 'Why?' 'I wanted all the things which were mine by right, but of which I had been cheated. She promised me that if I became a witch I should make a rich marriage.' 'But you had great beauty and you were a daughter of the noble Roman house of Colona, so why shouldn't you have made a rich marriage anyhow?' 'No. My father was a Colona, but he was not married to my mother; that is why I felt myself to have been cheated. She was a peasant girl on his estate outside Rome, and I was brought up by her in a cottage that was almost a hovel.' 'What happened after the Sabbath?' 'My father rarely left the big house when he visited his estate, but one day soon after the Sabbath he came down to the village. He saw me washing clothes in the stream, and struck by my beauty he enquired who I was. When he found that I was his own daughter he expressed a wish to do something for me. He sent me to school for two years, but after that I suffered a bitter disappointment. I had expected to become one of the family, but all he did was to make me his wife's lady’s maid.' 'Was that what you were when you met Uncle Paul?' 'Yes; and he was the rich husband I had been promised. He was not rich then, but he was a gentleman, so he could lift me by marriage to the status that was mine by right of blood; and while he was courting me he told me all about the Jugg millions. I realised that he must be the husband that had been sent for me by the Old One, and I felt certain that once I was married to him I would be able to get hold of a share of those millions.' 'What happened after you came to England?' 'I thought that if I could cure Paul of his bad habits, your grandfather would forgive him and make him a handsome allowance. That was the object of the séances at Kew. By means of them I was able to frighten Paul out of drinking so much. When he got tight I used to send a ghoul to give him the horrors. Sometimes it used to get out of control for a while and appear in the house unbidden. That is how you came to see it the night you thought you had run into a burglar on the stairs.' 'Soon after that we moved to Kensington Palace Gardens and Queensclere, and you had everything you could wish for. Why did you continue to be a Satanist after that?' 'I didn't. And your coming made a lot of difference, Toby. I was very happy looking after you, and I became very fond of you. I didn't want you to be mixed up in that sort of thing; so after we left Kew I had nothing more to do with it.' 'Why did you take it up again then? and why did you send me to Weylands?' Julia's big dark eyes were suddenly suffused with tears, and they began to run down her cheeks; but she made no motion to brush them away and, in her trance state, she probably did not know that she was crying. She made a pitiful spectacle, as she went on tonelessly: 'I had to. One of the Brotherhood came to me a little over a year later. How he found out about me I've no idea; but he knew all about my past. He told me that the time had come when I must pay for my riches or lose them; and that you were the price. I was too weak to refuse. I simply could not bring myself to face poverty again, so I agreed to send you to Weylands. But I hoped that later on I would find a way to prevent them making you one of us.' 'But Helmuth got the better of you, eh?' 'Yes. He did not arrive on the scene until you were about thirteen; but within a week of his coming to stay at Queensclere as your tutor, he became my lover. I had had others ever since I was seventeen. Paul was never anything to me, except the vehicle for my ambitions; and he soon became the complacent husband, content to show me off and let me manage his affairs. But Helmuth was a landmark in my life. I became as wax in his hands, and have been so ever since.' 'That time at Weylands when you and Uncle Paul came up to see me, and I had that horrible experience. I take it that you had not been to a friend's house, or run off the road in the car, at all. When you found me at the bungalow had you just returned from a Black Mass in the crypt of the ruined Abbey?' 'Yes. Paul had been initiated that night as a lay brother. He is not a type out of which a potent Satanist could be made; but as you were growing up, it was considered advisable to bind him to the Brotherhood, so as to ensure his taking his future orders from Helmuth without question, and working to get him the next vacant seat on your Board of Trustees.' 'You knew all about the conspiracy to drive me insane, in order that the Brotherhood could get control of my fortune?' The tears welled from her eyes again. 'I knew their intention, Toby, but not the details. Helmuth knows how fond I am of you, and he did not altogether trust me. He feared that if I learned too much about the methods he meant to employ I might rebel, and try to save you. That is why he intercepted all your letters to me, and would not let me come down to see you until he gave the word.' 'Yet you came at once in response to Nurse Cardew's telegram?' 'Paul and I were coming anyway for the Black Mass tonight. When I got the telegram I telephoned Helmuth and asked him what I was to do. Directly he realised that he could no longer trust Nurse Cardew he feared that she might help you in another attempt to escape, last night. So to make you believe such an attempt unnecessary he said that Paul and I must come down at once to reassure you, and that we were to bring Dr. Arling with us.' That was the whole awful story of how her ambition for riches and luxury had led her to betray a child that she had brought up with loving care as a younger brother. There seemed nothing further left to ask her, so I said: 'Now, Julia, I freely forgive you for all you have done, and intended to allow to be done, against me. It is never too late to mend. Somehow, I will get you out of the clutches of these vile people, and we will forget the whole horrible business. I still want to repay you for all the love and happiness with which you surrounded me when I came to you as a little orphan, and so long as it lies with me you shall never lack for money. But you have got to do as I tell you. 'I am going to write a letter to the district Inspector of Police. I shall tell him about the meeting that is to be held here tonight; but I shall say nothing about Satanism, or a Black Mass. I shall simply say that these people are meeting in the chapel without my consent and I have good grounds for believing that they intend to use it for sacrilegious and immoral purposes. As the owner of this property I have the right to invoke the protection of the law against this unwarranted and scandalous trespass. I shall ask that a squad of police be mustered in the grounds at ten o'clock, in readiness to take the names of the trespassers and expel them at the signal of the Inspector; and that he should come to me here at that hour in order to see for himself through the grating all that takes place in the chapel. 'I shall also draw a little sketch plan of the Castle, showing the position of the side door which is at the end of the passage at the bottom of the spiral staircase, and enclose it with the letter. 'When I have written the letter I shall give it to you. Then you will go downstairs, beg, borrow or steal a car, make any excuse you like, and drive into the village. There you will go to the Police Sergeant and he will tell you where the nearest Inspector is stationed. You will drive on to the Inspector and give him the letter with your own hand, remain there while he reads it, make certain that he fully understands the urgency of the matter, and intends to do as I wish; then return here and come up to report to me. Lastly you will be at the side door I have marked on the plan, yourself, at ten o'clock tonight, to let the Inspector in and bring him up to me here. Is that all clear?' She said that it was. Sally got me my pen and paper. I wrote the letter, drew the plan, put them both in an envelope and gave it to Julia. Then I gave her my instructions a second time and made her repeat them after me, When she had done so I told her that she was to say nothing of what had passed between us to anyone except the Inspector, and woke her from her trance. As her full consciousness came back she stared at me wide-eyed, stood up, turned to look at Sally, then clutched at her heart. Suddenly she let out a piercing scream, pitched forward and fell flat on the floor. The echo of her scream had hardly died away when I caught the sound of footsteps on the stairs. Almost instantaneously they broke into a run. Too late I remembered that I had neglected to tell Sally to bolt the door, so as to secure us from interruption. After one look at Julia she had hurried over to my washstand to get water. As she picked up the jug Helmuth and Dr. Arling burst into the room. There is little point in giving a detailed account of what happened after that. The secret panel was closed, so Helmuth still does not know how Sally came to be in my room when he thought she had gone to London; but she could not get back into her hiding place without revealing it. As cold water failed to revive Julia, Helmuth and Dr. Arling carried her out on to the terrace, hoping that the fresh air might do so. A few moments later Helmuth came back and announced that she was dead that she had died of heart failure. There was no disguising the fact that the two women had had a fight. The bloody scratches on Sally's face showed that, and the doctor had found some strands of her hair still adhering to Julia's fingernails. They had also come on my letter addressed to the Inspector of Police. Helmuth took Sally's arm with one hand and waved the letter at me with the other, as he said: 'Your writing to the Inspector of Police seems to have been prompted by a forecast of events. I will save you a stamp, as I mean to telephone him now. It will be my unpleasant duty to hand Nurse Cardew over to him on a charge of murder.' In vain I cursed him and swore that it was my doing. He took Sally downstairs to lock her up. A few minutes later he returned with a sheet; then he and Dr. Arling carried Julia's dead body, draped in its awful final whiteness, in from the terrace and through my room. The above is the truth. By Almighty God I swear it. How, I cannot think, but I hope to get these papers to Sally for her defence. Should I fail, I implore anyone who may come across them to take them to the nearest J.P. Blessed be the person who does. Cursed for all eternity be anyone who reads this and fails to act upon it. It is the truth, the real truth. I swear it by all I hold holy. Sally did no more than catch Julia for me. It was I who choked her and threw so terrible a strain upon her body and mind that it proved too much for her heart. Oh, Sally! Sally! That your love for me should have brought you to such a pass is terrible beyond belief. Had I the power to save you by dying at this minute I would do it; and gladly, rather than they should harm one hair of your sweet head.
Later At three twenty this afternoon I signed away my fortune. Helmuth came to me with a duplicate copy of the deed that he showed me some days ago. He said that there was a clear case against Sally for wilful murder. That, bedridden as I am, I could not have killed Julia, and that there was ample evidence that she had died as a result of Sally's assault. He went on to say that the Brotherhood were above the petty laws and shibboleths of this world, and was not the least interested in bringing offenders to the so-called justice of the British courts. Their only interest was the immediate furtherance of their own concerns, of which obtaining control of the Jugg millions was one. By signing the document he produced I could spare them much trouble and delay in achieving this particular item in their plans. If I would do so, Dr. Arling was prepared to sign a certificate that Julia had died a natural death, and there would then be no occasion to call in the police. I attempted to make some other stipulations, but he would not listen to me. He insisted that it should be a plain one clause bargain. Either I signed or Sally went to the rope. He had me in a corner. There was no option. I signed.
Later This is the end. Sally was telling me the other day what she believes to be the true interpretation of the conception that 'the unforgivable sin is to blaspheme against the Holy Ghost'. She said that it is not a matter of mere words, but the act of suicide; because we all carry a particle of the Holy Ghost within us, and to drive our spirit out of our body before the time ordained for it to go is not unforgivable nothing is unforgivable but it is the most heinous crime which it is possible to commit. Yet had I the means I would be sorely tempted to take my own life tonight. It is after nine and I am writing this by the failing light. My lamp has not been lit, nor will it be, as Konrad will not be coming up to me again. Helmuth has just paid me a final visit and he told me that before he left. He came to gloat, and render my last sane hours unendurably hideous by disclosing the way in which he had tricked me; and, infinitely worse, tricked my beloved Sally. Julia is not dead. It was only a heart attack she had, and she is now little the worse for her seizure. The inspiration to say that she was dead came to Helmuth when he and Dr. Arling had her limp body out on the terrace. He realised that Sally and I were in love, and saw that by causing us to believe that we had killed Julia he could bend us both to his will. He led me to believe that, as Julia and Sally had clearly had a fight, it was Sally who would be charged with the murder, unless I signed away my fortune as the price of Dr. Arling giving a certificate that Julia had died a natural death. He led Sally to believe that he knew the fight to have been only incidental, and that the marks on Julia's throat showed that she had really died from strangulation and that it was I who had strangled her. He threatened to hand me over to the police unless she would do as he wished; and, believing it to be the only way to save me from hanging, she agreed. He told me that having signed the document would not now save me from mental destruction tonight, because I had not signed it with resignation only under extreme pressure. He said that my prolonged and bitter opposition showed that I could never be made a useful member of the Brotherhood, and would always be liable to make trouble. Therefore, at a quarter past one in the morning, when the moon is at its highest, they will invoke Lady Astoroth. She will appear here in my room, and tomorrow I shall be found a raving lunatic. Dr. Arling will remove me to his private asylum, and after I have spent some time there the official Board of Lunacy will examine and certify me. I only pray that a merciful God will allow my mind to be blotted out entirely. If I were certain of that I think I could resign myself to this miserable fate. But nothing could make me resigned to what is in store for Sally. Helmuth stood well out of reach at the end of my bed. Leonine, rock faced, sardonic, he grinned at me with unutterably evil malice as he told me about that. He says that Sally knows too much to be allowed to depart in peace, and that steps have to be taken to stop her tongue once and for all. That could be done by making her a lay sister of the Brotherhood, as, after even the lowest degree of initiation, she would never dare to risk the appalling fate reserved for a member who betrays them there is no recorded case of anyone ever having done so yet. And she has agreed to accept initiation, believing that only by doing so can she save my life. Helmuth said that the initiation will take place at midnight, and that although I shall not be able to see it I shall hear enough of it through the grating to imagine what is going on. Sally does not yet know what they mean to do to her, but Helmuth took fiendish delight in describing to me what will happen, in order that I could better imagine the scene when it takes place. He is to act as the officiating priest. Sally will be spread-eagled naked on a bed of nettles before the Devil's altar. He will then do to her what he has failed to do so far. The excited cries of the congregation will inform me when the ritual is being accomplished, and the completion of the act will be the signal for a general orgy. I do not think that when the Lady Astoroth appears to me at a quarter past one I shall know much about it. I shall have gone mad by midnight. May God have mercy upon my dear Sally, and upon my soul.
Wednesday, 24th June This old Castle must have seen many strange and terrible events, but it can have seen none stranger or more terrible than those which occurred here last night. It is now the scene of catastrophe and death; yet, despite everything, I am still sane. That I am so after what I endured between nine o'clock and midnight last night is in itself a miracle. No sound came to distract my agonising thoughts until a little after ten; then I heard people moving in the chapel. Gradually the noise increased. I heard the clatter of plates and the clink of glasses; so I knew that the Satanists had begun to feast at the tables set up in the side aisles. The voices grew louder and more distinct. There came the drinking of health’s and raucous laughter. That went on for well over an hour, so it must have been about half past eleven when the service started. There was music, but music the like of which I have never heard before and hope never to hear again. It had no tune or any kind of beauty, but was a series of hideous discords, rising at times to a wild cacophony of sound interspersed by catcalls, shouts and animal noises. I knew that those beasts in human form were working them selves up into a frenzy of abandon, the better to satiate their vile lusts when the time came. The night was stiflingly hot, and the fumes of strange and horrible things that were burning down there came up to me through the grating. The chapel was brightly lit, and the grating stood out sharply; a great rectangle of light crisscrossed with its black bars, which illuminated the whole room almost as brightly as though it were day. I had thrown off the bedclothes, and swung myself round so that my useless legs were dangling over the side of the bed. From time to time, as midnight approached, I tried to stand, but I could not do so for more than a minute without having to grasp the head of the bed for support. I prayed as I have never prayed before violently, unceasingly supplicating God to spare Sally, or at least grant her oblivion, so that she might be spared the knowledge of the abominable things those beasts meant to do to her. I prayed aloud, and I was raving. I called on God and the Virgin Mary; on all the Powers of Good and Light and Love that there had ever been in the world. The sweat was pouring off me. It ran into my eyes and they grew misty. I could no longer see even the brightly lit grating clearly. My effort was so intense that I was shaking all over. I tried to throw my spirit forward out of my body, and down into the chapel to protect Sally. I cried aloud my defiance of Satan and all his works. It was then the miracle happened. God had heard my prayer. I found that I was standing up, and that I was walking towards the panel. I seemed to be buoyed up and supported by unseen hands. Without any effort I climbed through the panel opening on to the secret stairs. They were faintly lit by the moonlight coming through the arrow slits. I walked slowly but surely down them till I reached the door at the bottom. I thrust it open and entered the chapel. The scene was one which will remain stamped on my memory until my dying day. There were about eighty people present, all wearing fantastic costumes. Many of them were women, some nude to the waist, others dressed in eccentric arrangements of veiling through which their bodies could be seen, or which left their sexual parts exposed. The men were in gorgeous satins and velvets, and each wore a headdress in the likeness of some wild animal or poisonous reptile. Like a reredos, behind the altar, there spread a vast web which seemed to have been spun from liquid silver. It extended to both sides of the chapel and right up to its roof. In the centre of the web, about twenty feet up, sat the Great Spider. In front of the altar stood Helmuth. He was wearing his white satin robe with the black signs of the Zodiac on it, but the robe was now hitched up so that he was naked from the waist down. Two women, one of whom was Julia, knelt at either side of him in attitudes of adoration. In front of him two assistant priests were standing, and between them they held Sally by the arms. She was dressed in the fashion of a nun, except that her single garment was of magenta veiling, through which one could see her white body. Konrad was stationed quite near me, with five other men. They were all clad alike, in red with long hose and horned headdresses, in imitation of the Devil; and evidently formed a Satanic guard, as they stood in a line in front of the main door of the chapel and each of them was holding at rest long tridents with barbed points. It was Konrad who first saw me. He must have thought that I was an avenging spirit. Pointing at me, he let out a howl of terror, then fell to the ground and lay grovelling there a dozen paces from my feet. At his shout the whole congregation turned in my direction. Sally alone could have known how I had got into the chapel, and that by some extraordinary means I had managed to get down the stairs. She gave a loud cry, broke from the men who were holding her, and came running towards me. Helmuth and the rest must also have thought that I was a spirit to disperse their diabolical gathering, as they either remained rooted where they stood, their faces aghast with fear, or cowered away from me. The Great Spider had begun to run frantically up and down its huge silver web. Then, just as Sally reached me, I found myself with my right arm outstretched again hurling defiance at the Devil. As I did so I could feel the power streaming into me and out through my pointing arm like an electric current. Suddenly the Great Spider stopped its dance, quivered violently as though ' struck by lightning, and began to disintegrate. In a matter of seconds it had dissolved into a cloud of evil smelling black smoke. Consternation seized the Satanists. They began to run senselessly in all directions, covering their heads and screaming with fear. I waited no longer, but grasped the edge of the door behind me and made to pull it open. I had it about a foot open when it stuck. At that moment something must have clicked over in Helmuth's quick brain. He had not seen me come through the door and was probably unaware that it even existed until he saw it partly open. He must have guessed then that behind it lay a secret staircase up to my room: and that what he had thought to be an apparition was really myself in the flesh. Above the din, I heard him bellow: "There's nothing to be afraid of! He is only a man! Stop them! Stop them! Catch them before they get away!' A sudden hush, all the more marked from the previous clamour, fell on that weird assembly. For a moment they hesitated, and in that moment I got the door wide open. It gave unexpectedly, and swung right back. 'Stop them, damn you! Stop them!' Helmuth yelled again; and as I thrust Sally through the doorway, the brief hush was succeeded by a new pandemonium. With howls of rage and hate the Satanists came charging towards us. We were up about four steps when the first of our enemies reached the door. Helmuth was among them, and from the maniacal glare in their eyes I knew that if they got us they would tear us limb from limb. It was an awful moment perhaps the worst that night for we had so nearly got away, and I knew that only God's help could save us from being dragged down before we were halfway up the stairs. But He extended His merciful protection to us once again. It was then that there came the second miracle of that unforgettable night. I heard a rumbling sound. It increased in volume to the noise of thunder before we were up another couple of steps, drowning the fierce cries of the mob that pursued us. Suddenly a great torrent of water burst from the entrance to Great-aunt Sarah's tunnel. It hit the opposite wall of the passage like a tidal wave, drenching us to the skin; then turned and roared into the chapel. A second later I glimpsed the old lady's frail body as it whirled out of the tunnel and through the open door. Night after night for over forty years she had laboured for love's sake, and an inscrutable Providence had decreed that the culmination of her efforts should exactly coincide with the desperate need of two other lovers who were in dire peril. Her own ordeal, too, was over. At long last she had burrowed her way to the lake bottom, and in so doing had rejoined her Lancelot in a better way than she could ever have done in life. As the first violent spate of water receded we saw that it had swept the advancing Satanists below us from their feet. They were now a flailing mass of legs and arms struggling in the torrent., Helmuth alone was still standing framed in the doorway, breasting the tide as it raced past on either side of him. For a moment he stood there hurling imprecations at us, then a screaming, half drowned woman was thrown against him by the rushing water. He lost his balance and plunged beneath it, to be swept away with the rest. Thousands of gallons were pouring down from the lake to the lower level of the chapel in a steady flood. But for that unholy congregation worse was yet to come. Within a few minutes of the first inrush the water took hold of the half ruined pillar bases and the temporary structures that were shoring the building up. Beams cracked and snapped. Above the roar of the water we could hear the louder roar of great chunks of masonry giving way. The Satanists were trapped there, owing to the main door on the chapel floor level being held fast shut by the weight of water pressing against it. After Helmuth had been swept away, Sally and I continued to stand on the stairs watching the horrific spectacle through the Open doorway. It was as though Samson had come again to pull down the pillars of the temple upon another host of Philistines. We saw one forty foot column collapse upon the screaming crowd that struggled waist deep in water. Then big sections of the roof began to fall in, burying them beneath waterlogged debris. We were cut off from the chapel by the flood, so there was nothing that we could do to help; no act of mercy that we could perform. The chapel was soon full of water to the height of the top of the tunnel, but it still continued to rise, as I knew it must until its level reached that of the lake outside. Step by step we retreated up the stairs, until the swirling waters, now quiet, had reached the top of the door, and our last glimpse of the debacle within was cut off. Then we turned and went slowly up to my room. There, side by side, we gave thanks to God for our merciful deliverance from Evil, and vowed to devote our lives to fighting Evil in all its forms. Nor did we forget to pray for the happiness of that spirit which for a little time lived in the body of Sarah Jug who yesterday was old and mad, but today is young and sane again.