The hideous and childish tyranny of licensing hours never affected him in the least, for the simple reason that all his customers were personal friends, including, of course, the magistrates upon the local bench and had some officious policeman from the town ever questioned the fact that gentlemen were to be found there quite frequently in the middle of the afternoon taking a little modest refreshment, they would have quailed under the astonished and supercilious glance of the good Mr. Wilkes, together with the freezing statement that this was no monetary transaction, but the gentlemen concerned were doing him the honour to give him their opinion upon his latest purchase in the way of port. In short, it will be gathered that this ancient hostelry could provide all the comfort which any reasonable person might demand and was something a little out of the ordinary for a village inn. Rex, of course, knew the place well from his previous visits to Cardinals Folly and a little out of breath from the pace at which he had come, hurried into the low, comfortably furnished lounge, the old oak beams of which almost came down to his head, Tanith was there alone. Immediately she jumped up from her chair and ran to meet him, gripping both his hands in hers with a strength surprising for her slender fingers. She was pale and weary. Her green linen dress was stained and mired from her terrible journey the previous night, although obviously she had done her best to tidy herself. Her eyes were shadowed from strain and lack of sleep, seeming unnaturally large and she trembled slightly as she clutched at him.
“Oh, thank God you've come!” she cried.
“But how did you know I was at Cardinals Folly?” he asked her quickly.
“My dear,” she sank down in the chair again, drawing her hand wearily across her eyes. “I am terribly sorry about last night. I think I was mad when I stole your car and tried to get to the Sabbath. I crashed of course, but I expect you will have heard about that, and then I did the last five miles on foot.”
“Good God! Do you mean to say you got there after all?” She nodded and told him of that nightmare walk from Easterton to the Satanic Festival. As she came to the part in her story where, against her will, she had been drawn down into the valley, her eyes once more expressed the hideous terror which she had felt.
“I could not help myself,” she said, “I tried to resist with all my mind but my feet simply moved against my will. Then, for a moment, I thought that the heavens had opened and God had suddenly decided to strike those blasphemous people dead. There was a noise like thunder and two giant eyes like those of some nightmare monster seemed to leap out of the darkness right at me. I screamed, I think and jumped aside. I remember falling and springing up again. The power that had held my feet seemed to have been suddenly released and I fled up the hill in absolute panic. When I got to the top, I tripped over something and then I must have fainted.” Rex smiled.
“That was us in the car,” he said. “But how did you know where to find me?”
“It was not very difficult,” she told him. “When I came, I was lying on the grass and there wasn't a sound to show that there was a living soul within miles of me. I started off at a run without the faintest idea where I was going, my only thought being to get away from that terrible valley. Then when I was absolutely exhausted, I fell again and I must have been so done that I slept for a little in a ditch. When I woke up, it was morning and I found that I was quite near a main road. I limped along it, then I saw houses and a straggling street and soon I discovered that I had walked into Devizes. I went into the centre of the town and was about to go into a hotel when I realised that I had no money, but I had a brooch, so I found a jeweller's and sold it to them, or rather, they agreed to advance me 20 pounds, because I didn't want to part with it and it must be worth at least a hundred. An awfully nice old man there agreed to keep it as security until I could send him money from London. Then I did go to the hotel, took a room and tried to think things over.
“Such an extraordinary lot seemed to have happened since you took me off in your car from Claridges yesterday that at first I could not get things straight at all, but one thing stood out absolutely clearly. Whether it was you or the vision of my mother, I don't know, but my whole outlook had changed completely. How I could ever have allowed myself to listen to Madame D'Urfe and do the things I've done I just can't think. But I know now that I've been in the most awful danger, and that I must try and get free of Mocata somehow. Anyone would think I’m mad, and possibly I am, to come to you like this when I hardly know you, but the whole thing has been absolutely outside all ordinary experiences. I am terribly alone, Rex, and you are the only person in the world that I can turn to.” She sank back in her chair almost exhausted with the effort of endeavouring to impress him with her feelings. He leant forward and taking one of her hands in his great leg-of-mutton fist, squeezed it gently.
“There, there, my sweet.” Speaking from his heart he used the endearment quite naturally and unconsciously. “You did the right thing every time. Don't you worry any more. Nobody is going to hurt a hair of your head now. But how in the world did you do it?” Her eyes opened again and she smiled faintly.
“My only hope was to throw myself in your protection, so I had to find you somehow and that part wasn't difficult. All systems of divination are merely so many methods of obscuring the outer vision, in order that the inner may become clear. Tea-leaves, crystals, melting wax, lees of wine, cards, water, entrails, birds, sieve- turning, sand and all the rest. I wanted sleep terribly when I got to that hotel bedroom, but I knew that I mustn't allow myself to, so I took some paper from the lounge and borrowed a pencil. Then I threw myself into a trance with the paper before me and the pencil in my hand. When I looked at it again I had enough information scribbled down to enable me to follow you here.”
Rex accepted this amazing explanation quite calmly. Had he been told such a thing a few days before he would have considered it fantastic, but now it never even occurred to him that it was in any way extraordinary that a woman desiring to know his whereabouts should throw herself into a trance and employ automatic-writing. Now that he knew Tanith was safe he must get back to Cardinals Folly, so he announced abruptly:
“I'm mighty sorry, but I've got Simon to look after so I can't stay here much longer.”
“Oh, Rex,” her eyes held his imploringly. “You must not unless you take me with you. If you leave me alone, Mocata will be certain to get me.” For a moment Rex hesitated miserably, wrestling with the quandary that faced him. If Tanith was telling the truth, he couldn't possibly leave her to be drawn back by that terrible power of evil. But was she? So far she had been Mocata's puppet.
How much truth was there in this pretended change of heart? Had Mocata planted her there in order to lure him deliberately away from Simon's side? It occurred to him that he might take her back with him to Cardinals Folly, for if she was speaking the truth she was in the same case as Simon.
“What might happen if I leave you alone?” he asked suddenly.
“You can't, you mustn't,” her eyes pleaded, “not only for my own sake, but your friends' as well. Mocata has a hundred means of knowing where Simon is and where I am too. He may arrive here at any moment. It's no good pretending Rex. I know beyond any question that I cannot resist him and he'll work through me, however much my will is set against it. He's told me a dozen times that he has never met a woman who is such a successful medium for him as myself. So
you can be certain
that he is on his way here now.”
“What do you think he'll do when he turns up?”
“He will throw me into a trance and call Simon to him. Then if Simon fails to come, Mocata may curse him through me.” Rex shrugged.
“Don't worry. De Richleau's a wily old bird. He'll turn the curse aside.”
“But you don't seem to understand,” she sobbed. “If a curse is sent out, it must lodge somewhere, and if it fails to reach its objective because there is an equally strong influence working against it, the vibrations recoil and impinge upon the sender.”
“Steady now.” He took her hands and tried to soothe her. “If that is so I guess we couldn't find a better way to tickle up Mocata.”
“No, no!! He never does things himself, at least I have never known him to, just in case he fails because then he would have to pay the penalty. Instead, he uses other people, hypnotises them and makes them throw out the thought or the wish. That is what he will do to me. If he succeeds, you will no longer be able to protect Simon and if he fails, it is I who will pay the price.”
“Holy smoke! Then we're in a proper jam!” Rex's brain was working swiftly. If she were telling the truth, she was in real danger. If not, at least Simon still had Richard and Marie Lou to take care of him until the Duke's return.
“All right, I'll stay,” he said after a moment.
“Oh, thank God!” she sighed.
“Thank God! But tell me,” he went on, “just why is it you're such a kingpin medium to this man? What about old Madame D'Urfe and the rest? Can't he do his stuff through them?” Tanith looked at him through tear-dimmed eyes and shook her head.
“Not in the same way. You see there is rather an unusual link between us. My number is 20 and so is his.” Rex frowned.
“What exactly do you mean by that?” he asked in a puzzled voice.
“I mean our astrological number,” she replied quietly. “Give me a piece of paper and I will show you.” Rex handed her a few sheets from a nearby table and a pencil from his waistcoat pocket, then she quickly drew out a list of the numerical values to the letters of the alphabet: A=1, K=2, S=3, B=2, L=3, T=4, C=3, M=4, U=6,D=4, N=5, V=6.
“There!” she went on. “By substituting numbers for letters in anyone's name and adding them up you get their occult number which indicates the planet that influences them most in all spiritual affairs. It must be the name by which they are most generally known, even if it is a pet name. Now look! You see how closely our vibrations are attuned. Two is the value of the Moon, to which both he and I are subject and any names having a total numerical value which reduce by progressive additions to two, such as 11 or 29 or 38 or 47 would give us some affinity, but that they actually add up to the same compound number shows that we are attuned to a very remarkable degree. That is why I have proved such an exceptionally good medium for him to work through.”
“But you are utterly different from him,” Rex protested.
“Of course,” she nodded gravely. “One's birth date gives the material number which is generally that of another planet and modifies the influence of the spiritual number considerably. As it happens, mine is May 2, again a two you see, so I am an almost pure type. Moon people are intensely imaginative, artistic, romantic, gentle by nature and not very strong physically. Mocata gets all his imaginative and psychic qualities from the Moon, but his birthday is April 24 which adds up to six and six being the number of Venus, he is very strongly influenced by that planet. Venus people are extremely magnetic. They attract others easily and are usually loved and worshipped by those under them, but very often they are obstinate and unyielding. It is that in his nature which balances the weakness of the Moon and makes him so determined in carrying out his plans.”
“What do I come under?" Rex asked with sudden curiosity. “My names are so short that I'm generally known by all three.” Again Tanith took the paper and quickly worked out the equivalent of his name.
She looked at him sharply: “Yes, I am not surprised. Five is a fortunate and magic number which comes under Mercury. Such people are versatile and mercurial, quick in thought and decisions, impulsive in action and detest plodding work. They make friends easily and have a wonderful elasticity of character which can recover at once from
“That certainly is so,” Rex grinned as she went on thoughtfully.
“But I should have thought that there was a good bit of the Sun about you because you have such strong individuality and you are so definite in your views.”
“I was born on the 19 August if that gives you a line.”
“Yes, 19 is 1+9 which equals 10 and 1+0 equals 1, the number of the Sun. So I was right and it is that part of you which I think attracts me so much. Sun and Moon people always get on well together.”
“I don't know anything about that,” Rex said softly. “But I'm dead sure I could never see too much of you.”
She lifted her eyes quickly as though almost in fright and to break the pause that followed, he asked:
“What number is Simon associated with?”
“He was born under Saturn as we know only too well and his occult number is certain, to be the Saturnian eight,” Tanith replied promptly, scribbling the name and numbers on the paper.
“By Jove! That's queer,” Rex murmured as he saw the name worked out quite simple to the number she had predicted.
“He is a typical number eight person too,” she went on. “They have deep, intense natures and are often lonely at heart because they are frequently misunderstood. Sometimes they play a most important part on life's stage and nearly always a fatalistic one. They are almost fanatically loyal to persons they are fond of or causes they take up, and carry things through regardless of making enemies. It is not a fortunate number to be born under as a rule and such people usually become great successes or great failures.”
Rex drew the paper towards him and taking the pencil from her began to work out for himself the numerical symbols of De Richleau, Richard Eaton and Marie Lou.
“This is amazing,” Tanith exclaimed when he had finished. “The Duke not only comes under the eight like Simon, but their compound number, 35 is the same as well. He should have immense influence over Simon through that affinity, just as Mocata has over me and the nine in his name gives him the additional qualities of a born leader, independence, success, courage and determination.
If anyone in the world can save your friend, that extraordinary combination of strength and sympathy will enable De Richleau to do so.”
“But do you see that the names Richleau and Ryn boil down to eight as well, linking us both with Simon. That's strange, isn't it?”
to be continued...