It’s worth now revisiting 1995 when Umberto Eco–child of Italian Fascism–explained to us the 14 hallmarks of fascism, be it Italian, German, Spanish, Russian or otherwise: Ur-Fascism. Here’s a gloss in reverse order; ellipses mine, emphasis his.
14. Ur-Fascism speaks Newspeak… All the Nazi or Fascist schoolbooks made use of an impoverished vocabulary, and an elementary syntax, in order to limit the instruments for complex and critical reasoning. But we must be ready to identify other kinds of Newspeak, even if they take the apparently innocent form of a popular talk show.
13. Ur-Fascism is based upon a selective populism, a qualitative populism, one might say. In a democracy, the citizens have individual rights… For Ur-Fascism, however, individuals as individuals have no rights, and the People is conceived as a quality, a monolithic entity expressing the Common Will… Thus the People is only a theatrical fiction… There is in our future a TV or Internet populism, in which the emotional response of a selected group of citizens can be presented and accepted as the Voice of the People… Wherever a politician casts doubt on the legitimacy of a parliament because it no longer represents the Voice of the People, we can smell Ur-Fascism.
12. Since both permanent war and heroism are difficult games to play, the Ur-Fascist transfers his will to power to sexual matters. This is the origin of machismo (which implies both disdain for women and intolerance and condemnation of nonstandard sexual habits, from chastity to homosexuality). Since even sex is a difficult game to play, the Ur-Fascist hero tends to play with weapons—doing so becomes an ersatz phallic exercise.
11. In such a perspective everybody is educated to become a hero. In every mythology the hero is an exceptional being, but in Ur-Fascist ideology, heroism is the norm. This cult of heroism is strictly linked with the cult of death… The Ur-Fascist hero is impatient to die. In his impatience, he more frequently sends other people to death.
10. Elitism is a typical aspect of any reactionary ideology, insofar as it is fundamentally aristocratic, and aristocratic and militaristic elitism cruelly implies contempt for the weak. Ur-Fascism can only advocate a popular elitism. Every citizen belongs to the best people of the world, the members of the party are the best among the citizens, every citizen can (or ought to) become a member of the party. But there cannot be patricians without plebeians. In fact, the Leader, knowing that his power was not delegated to him democratically but was conquered by force, also knows that his force is based upon the weakness of the masses; they are so weak as to need and deserve a ruler…
9. For Ur-Fascism there is no struggle for life but, rather, life is lived for struggle. Thus pacifism is trafficking with the enemy. It is bad because life is permanent warfare…
8. The followers must feel humiliated by the ostentatious wealth and force of their enemies… However, the followers must be convinced that they can overwhelm the enemies. Thus, by a continuous shifting of rhetorical focus, the enemies are at the same time too strong and too weak…
7. To people who feel deprived of a clear social identity, Ur-Fascism says that their only privilege is the most common one, to be born in the same country. This is the origin of nationalism. Besides, the only ones who can provide an identity to the nation are its enemies. Thus at the root of the Ur-Fascist psychology there is the obsession with a plot, possibly an international one. The followers must feel besieged. The easiest way to solve the plot is the appeal to xenophobia…
6. Ur-Fascism derives from individual or social frustration. That is why one of the most typical features of the historical fascism was the appeal to a frustrated middle class, a class suffering from an economic crisis or feelings of political humiliation, and frightened by the pressure of lower social groups…
5. …Ur-Fascism grows up and seeks for consensus by exploiting and exacerbating the natural fear of difference. The first appeal of a fascist or prematurely fascist movement is an appeal against the intruders. Thus Ur-Fascism is racist by definition.
4. No syncretistic faith can withstand analytical criticism. The critical spirit makes distinctions, and to distinguish is a sign of modernism. In modern culture the scientific community praises disagreement as a way to improve knowledge. For Ur-Fascism, disagreement is treason.
3. Irrationalism also depends on the cult of action for action’s sake. Action being beautiful in itself, it must be taken before, or without, any previous reflection. Thinking is a form of emasculation. Therefore culture is suspect insofar as it is identified with critical attitudes. Distrust of the intellectual world has always been a symptom of Ur-Fascism… The official Fascist intellectuals were mainly engaged in attacking modern culture and the liberal intelligentsia for having betrayed traditional values.
2. Traditionalism implies the rejection of modernism. Both Fascists and Nazis worshiped technology, while traditionalist thinkers usually reject it as a negation of traditional spiritual values. However, even though Nazism was proud of its industrial achievements, its praise of modernism was only the surface of an ideology based upon Blood and Earth (Blut und Boden)… The Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, is seen as the beginning of modern depravity. In this sense Ur-Fascism can be defined as irrationalism.
1. The first feature of Ur-Fascism is the cult of tradition… As a consequence, there can be no advancement of learning. Truth has been already spelled out once and for all, and we can only keep interpreting its obscure message….Tags: fascism, sfw, Umberto Eco, ur fascism
I’m a 30-something, single, straight male with a decent job, the ability to dress myself, some social graces and worldliness, a liking for kids, and the desire to “settle down” and begin the next adventure of my life. This, in theory, means that I’m the sort of man that women in their late 20s to late 30s join dating sites like OKCupid.com to meet.
Yeah, it’s a weird thought for me too.
I’ve been on and off the site for several years, and had several relationships with women I’ve met through it. As such, after helping my roommate with her own profile, I’ve been asked to put together some tips on what we look for–and don’t look for.
It’s Ladies Night on SpaceToast.net.
It’s Only a Marketing Piece
Write enough to distinguish yourself. You’re the product. Give us a reason to remember you. You don’t get to post a three line profile and then complain that guys only write, “Hey girl heeey!” You love [local sports team], [popular band], travel, and your family? Great. Your prince will not be able to read your mind; weren’t you paying attention to Frozen?
Don’t write a novel. Respect your reader’s time and attention. There’s always more to know about you; that’s what chatting and meeting up is for. This is a marketing piece, and not in the sense of a McKinley-era broadsheet ad. Too much too fast too soon is overwhelming and impossible to keep straight.
Keep It Positive
Negativity suggests more down deeper. Keep it light. You won’t always be feeling that way, but who does? Remember: it’s marketing. If you can’t keep it positive for a few short paragraphs, it’s possible you’re not ready for the dating scene right now. You may get a lot of crap messages from guys, but complaining about them isn’t going to make those sorts of guys stop. Sorry they exist, but there’s nothing we can do about them either. Just hit delete and move on.
Take a risk. You may be nervous about online dating, in which case there’s a tendency to strike an ironic tone. Trust yourself a little more. Display some warmth. It won’t attract the wrong people, any more than being standoffish will attract the right ones. If you’ve been on for a long time and dealt with every sort of jerk the internet can throw at you, you still need to take that risk: Remember that we’re not all like that. Ignore the haters. Keep your head high.
Don’t be proud of your sarcasm. At the end of the day, sarcasm is a defense mechanism. It’s the opposite of taking a risk. It’s used to keep your feelings buried behind a facade. Sarcasm is often useful in life, but beware of drawing too much attention to it. All you’re saying is that you–the real you–is locked deep in this fortress, and good luck battling your way in on one Continue.
Don’t complain about your exes. Explicitly or implicitly, it doesn’t paint you as someone who’s moved on. We’ve all got scars. We’ve all been there. You don’t want to be hindered by our baggage any more than we enjoy the prospect of having to hire the Argonauts to navigate the unbecalmed seas of your past. “And if you’re some partly-functioning alcoholic? do. not. bother. messaging me!” doesn’t screen out real alcoholics, but it does tell us you picked a real Mr. Toad and stayed on his wild ride far longer than any girl with your brains should have.
Men and Women Are Attracted to Different Things
We don’t care about your self confidence. (And that’s okay.) Here’s the simplest useful model of basically straight male/female attraction. Make a list, in order, of the traits you find most attractive. Swap the order of physical attractiveness and self-confidence. Done. That’s the list of what we care the most about. Our desire for you has virtually nothing to do with your self-confidence; we decide what a person is worth, male or female. Can you find a man without self-confidence desirable though? No, but the wasted musician body or beer gut is pretty well negotiable. In case you haven’t noticed how much we preen in our profile photos (bare chest laydeez!), it’s as counterintuitive to us the other way around as it is to you.
Include at least one solo picture. Selfies are totally okay. We believe that you have friends. Don’t make us study Set Theory and dust off a Guess Who board just to figure out which one you are. There’s something quantumly strange about a woman who can only appear in photos with other people.
Hint at a real vulnerability. It’s possible your inner 12 year old still wants us to be unassailably rom-com perfect, but we don’t want you to be like that. (What would we even talk about?) At some point OKCupid did away with the question, “What’s the most personal thing you’re willing to admit?” It’s true an annoyingly high percentage of women punted on it (“Then it wouldn’t be personal lol right????”) but it was a good prompt because it nudged you to admit to a fault. A profile is barely-disguised braggadocio no matter what (see above: marketing) but coming across too perfect merely makes you look narcissistic.
Overused on OKC
Travelly travel travel travel travel! I get it. You like to see the world. But you need to hear this: If seeing ever more of the world implicitly made one a better person, I’d hate to see where some of you started. I’ve done enough of it myself to notice something people don’t like to talk about: it’s a total hookup scene. The guys you imagine seeing the world with are mostly into it for that reason. There’s something subtly corrosive about becoming too involved. When spinning the globe and going somewhere else becomes the solution to life’s unmet desires, how can one succeed in a real relationship, with a real person, day after day after day after day…? Broaden your horizons, but remember that some of life’s important adventures start by stepping out your door, and some start by crying over a hand holding yours.
Ducky wips? What are you in middle school? (Yes? Crap, now I have to wipe my hard drive again…) I told you selfies are okay, but act your age, not your Korean size.
Fuck your cat. Yes, I said it. I’m sure your pussy is very pretty, but there’s a place for that on the side of your profile. If it’s all over your pictures and you can’t stop writing about the damn thing you might as well just get one of those little rolling carts and a “Cat Lady in Training” tee shirt. Will three dozen be enough? Real cat ladies can’t count them.
And For the Guys
Don’t write “Hey girl heeey!”
No one wants to see your chest, penis or vehicle. No, not even together.Tags: dating, okcupid, sfw
Cut your graham crackers to size per the pattern above. I found that using a sharp paring knife that I kept wetting (since graham crackers turn to mush when damp) and a lot of patient, repeated cuts over the same line worked well.
Royal icing turns to goo with a very small amount of water added. Take some of your red and some of your white; add a little bit of water to each. (Not too much, or you’ll soak the graham crackers, and, well, mush.) Spread the color on the cut pieces as above. Leave them to dry a couple hours.
Cut a milk chocolate and a dark chocolate Hershey bar into bricks (4 per rectangle). Glue down the 3 floor graham crackers to the work surface with royal icing. Wet down some more royal icing, adding black food coloring if desired, and spread it out for mortar. Lay down the chocolate bricks, leaving room for the cafe walls to go in.
Once the walls are dry, start gluing the pieces together, as shown above. Use an extra piece of graham cracker propped up with leftover bricks for the bar. Soak some Mike & Ikes in warm water to remove the outer coating. Mix & match to fill the bar with bottles. Wrap the mini LED lights a few times around the ceiling of the first floor to light the interior. Leave some extra light wire trailing off to string up as hanging lights.
Add details: Mint chocolates on leftover bricks for tables. Green tip-frosted plants. Mint planters with green tip-frosting plants on top. More Mike & Ike bottles. Candy cane light posts.diy, project, sfw
One of Disney’s last traditionally animated (2-D) films, with the exception of all characters’ photorealistic CGI hands.
Ranked #5 on AFI’s 50 Most Based Movies.
A third act was completed, but cut from the final film.
Besides the nine credited screenwriters, several Disney senior managers were personally involved in rewrites well into the final week of production. This allegedly explains the otherwise incongruous exchange during the Blowhole Beach chase where Lilly and Mulligan say: “Fuck you, Brent.” “Fuck you, Christine.”
Nominated for the 2003 Best Animation or Musical Oscar, but lost to Dreamworks SKG’s “Captain Hookworm” (2002).
The first and, to date, only film produced in Disney’s proprietary 17:1 “Hyper Widescope” format. Following negative reaction in theaters, the film was heavily cropped for home video release, explaining why most action and dialogue take place offscreen.
Work on the film was fully rebooted and all prior work scrapped after one of the original directors failed to properly kowtow to chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg.
Princess Boneable was created specifically to add a new Disney Princess to the roster. She has no lines, but to date is the only Disney Princess to kick another character in the face without apparent provocation.
The running joke about Dr. Grooventein being back to “Teabag Iz’ey’s balls” was not scripted, but the result of clever audio editing around David Ogden Stiers’ constant improvisational muttering in the recording booth, often over other actors’ lines. No one named “Iz’ey” appears in the script, nor is Ogden Steirs known to have been officially hired for the film.
Body count: 56, and one undead boat.
According to co-co-Director Sam Marshall, Lilly Pikachu is not a fox but an Antarctic explorer from the human world in an elaborate, anatomically-correct costume.
Held the record for most co-directors on any Disney film at 18. (Soon bested by “Salmon” (2004) with 93.)
Most of the artists with traditional hand drawing skills were fired as production neared completion, often forcefully while still at work. See Goofs: Sudden vertical lines/characters disappearing.
The song “Suck My Kiss” was later recorded by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Produced under the title “Tuesday I’m Eating” as a lower cost “B” project alongside the expected box office smash then titled “Hoof Town.” When the original “Hoof Town” performed poorly, the titles were switched to the confusion of most moviegoers, in order to chalk it up as a win on quarterly financial statements. (The original “Hoof Town” was later released on home video as “Monkey Spanks: Private Eye”.) This explains why neither a single hoofed animal nor a town appear in the film.
Drew the ire of many Conservative Christian parents’ groups for being a movie.
Feature film debut of singer Sasha Turpworth. Turpworth was discovered at a dick sucking contest in Miami Beach, FL.
As a result of contractual obligations and poor timing, the requisite Broadway adaptation opened the same day as the theatrical release, resulting in an infinite recursion of royalty payments between the two Disney divisions. Still ongoing to this day, these payments make it both the highest grossing and greatest financial loss of any Disney film.
First bulimic character in a Disney animated movie. (“Herbie: Fully Loaded” was a live-action film.)
Foreign titles: “Animal Feet Amok” (France), “The Wacky Animal Village” (Germany), “Hoofs: Being an Exploration of Numerous Amusing Things That Happen to Several Anthropomorphized Animals Near a Somewhat Tasteful Bus Depot” (Brazil), “Tits” (Finland).
Howard Pauls, key animator on Spunky Sally, has not been seen by any current member of the Walt Disney animation staff. The last of Walt’s famed Nine Old Men, Pauls exchanges work through a gap under his locked office door. Some suspect he is long dead and it is the room itself producing the drawings.
“Truundelhorn” is a real brand of Hungarian truck, although they have not been sold with anti-Semitic slogans on the hood since 1993.
Similarities have been noted between the plot and that of Virginia Woolf’s “To the Lighthouse,” in that neither has one.
Roger Ebert admitted that he was high on mushrooms while reviewing the film, but did not feel it altered his opinion meaningfully.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus delivers the second-longest racist tirade by a former “Seinfeld” cast member in a Disney movie, and the third longest in any animated movie. (See Trivia for “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (1996) and “Bee Movie” (2007).)
Musician Morrissey was brought in to give the film “some indy cred,” but was replaced by Alan Menkin when it was realized Morrissey had died in Paris in 1998. He was not rehired when it was discovered that he had not died in Paris in 1998.
Reunites actresses Annie Potts and Elizabeth Perkins for the first time since “Lesbian Sorority Blood Inferno Part 5” (1982).
Hidden Mickey: Beneath the word “SEX” in the underwater rave scene.
David Schramm recorded all of the lines for Based Barry in March of 2001, before being ordered whacked by Disney management in November of that year. Reginald VelJohnson was brought in as a last-minute replacement.
George Clooney, David Thewlis, George C. Scott, William H. Macy and Linda Carter were all considered for the role of the ottoman.
Daveigh Chase, Colm Meaney, Nicolas Refn and Jaden Smith were all considered for the role of Peter Pubgoer, which eventually went to all of them.Tags: nsfw?
From the archives of the Boston Public Library’s Louis Prang & Company Chromolithographs collection, all scanned in lovingly, Rodney’s-friendly high resolution. L. Prang & Co.’s cards and prints were popular in the late 19th and early 20th Century; Prang is credited with popularizing the Christmas card in America. The total digitized collection contains over 1400 images.
Let me tell you a story. It begins with a confession.
I can’t wear earbuds. It feels like my ears are being sexually violated. I tried to make myself get used to them when I moved to LA, because I had them, and my headphones broke, and I was broke, and moving to LA has a lot to do with putting up with the feeling of sexual violation. It didn’t take.
After that sad chapter in my life, I settled on a range of small over-the-ear phones that were a thing at the time from a few manufacturers–speakers that clipped over the ears, with an under the chin cord but no band between them, and a nifty little spring-loaded reel that retracted the cord into the right-hand earphone when not in use. I wore a pair until the cord worked loose from the headphone jack (as usual), then another manufacturer’s pair until the same happened.
By then the world had moved on. Over-the-ear separates were out. They couldn’t be found. Not even on closeout.
I ended up sinking $65 into a set of Japanese imports from an Amazon shop. They came in a surprisingly garish Japanese white, in a garishly Japanese box.
Within a week of arriving, the cord snagged on a door handle in the Harvard CoOp and snapped right off the headphone jack. Have you ever tried to disassemble a stereo mini jack in hopes of re-soldering five hair-thin wires (stereo R +-, L +- and ground, I assume)? I have.
After that, I determined never to go back to wires. I got a cheap pair of behind-the-head Bluetooth headphones and wore them until the left speaker died–a good three years. With some research, I chose to drop some cash on a decent pair, and now live in a pair of Marshall Major II Bluetooth headphones.
Are there tradeoffs to going wireless? Sure. I have to recharge my headphones–once a week with the Marshalls, every day or two with the cheap pair. SUVs and their particularly overpowered Bluetooth systems tend to make the audio drop out now and then. That’s… honestly it. Any but the lowest-end pairs even let you plug a mini jack in and use them as wired headphones when you want.
So yes, Apple dropped the mini jack from the new iPhone, to free up space for an optically-stabilized camera and a better antenna, and make the phone waterproof down to about a meter beneath the surface. (Not to bury the lede.)
I’m never sure how much is really behind a large surge of indignation on the internet. Being basically an attention sucking machine, the public mouths and faces of those we encounter here are not only constructed, but constructed as economically as possible. (Economically from the standpoint of the internet’s real currency: Attention. Again, not to bury the lede.) Everyone is Dilbert in his underwear holding a business-suited puppet of himself up to the webcam for a teleconference.
I’m old enough to remember when Genesis did and Nintendo didn’t, when Facebook was MySpace for college students right down to the dorm room whiteboard skeuomorph, when the MCP was just a chess program, and when Apple released the original iMac–without a floppy drive.
I remember the gnashing, the whining, even from people who should have known better. USB flash drives barely existed and cost way too much–small hard drives ruled their niche then. Everyone doing serious work still had a Zip Drive (or even a Jaz Drive). Yes, the floppy was old, but it was venerable! It still Just Worked. It was cheap. It was standard. It was backward-compatible. It was 1.2MB a disk and not even that formatted, and that was shit even back then.
The headphone jack is on its way out, and we–all of us–are going to be fine.Tags: Bluetooth, headphones, iPhone, mini jack
CASE OF THE VEIL OF ISIS
I have made no attempt, in these chronicles, to arrange the cases of my remarkable friend, Moris Klaw, in sections. Yet, as has recently been pointed out to me, they seem naturally to fall into two orders. There were those in which he appeared in the role of criminal investigator, and in which he was usually associated with Inspector Grimsby. There was another class of inquiry in which the criminal element was lacking; mysteries which never came under the notice of New Scotland Yard.
Since Moris Klaw’s methods were, if not supernatural, at any rate supernormal, I have been asked if he ever, to my knowledge, inquired into a case which proved insusceptible of a natural explanation—which fell strictly within the province of the occult.
To that I answer that I am aware of several; but I have refrained from including them because readers of these papers would be unlikely to appreciate the nature of Klaw’s investigations outside the sphere of ordinary natural laws. Those who are curious upon the point cannot do better than consult the remarkable work by Moris Klaw entitled Psychic Angles.
But there was one case with which I found myself concerned that I am disposed to include, for it fell between the provinces of the natural and supernatural in such a way that it might, with equal legitimacy, be included under either head. On the whole, I am disposed to bracket it with the case of the headless mummies.
I will take leave to introduce you, then, to the company which met at Otter Brearley’s house one night in August.
“This is most truly amazing,” Moris Klaw was saying; “and I am indebted to my good friend Searles”—he inclined his sparsely covered head in my direction—“for the opportunity to be one of you. It is a séance? Yes and no. But there is a mummy in it—and those mummies are so instructive!”
He extracted the scent-spray from his pocket and refreshed his yellow brow with verbena.
“How to be regretted that my daughter is in Paris,” he continued, his rumbling voice echoing queerly about the room. “She loves them like a mother—those mummies! Ah, Mr. Brearley, this will cement your great reputation!”
Otter Brearley shook his head.
“I am not yet prepared to make it public property,” he declared, slowly. “No one, outside the present circle, knows of my discovery. I do not wish it to go further—at present.”
He glanced around the table, his prominent blue eyes passing from myself to Moris Klaw and from Klaw to the clean-cut, dark face of Dr. Fairbank. The latter, scarce heeding his host’s last words, sat watching how the shaded light played, tenderly, amid the soft billows of Ailsa Brearley’s wonderful hair.
“Shall you make it the subject of a paper?” he asked suddenly.
“My dear Dr. Fairbank!” rumbled Moris Klaw, solemnly, “if you had been paying attention to our good friend you would have heard him say that he was not prepared, at present, to make public his wonderful discovery.”
“Sorry!” said Fairbank, turning to Brearley. “But if it is not to be made public I don’t altogether follow the idea. What do you intend, Brearley?”
“In what way?” I asked.
“In every way possible!”
Dr. Fairbank sat back in his chair and looked thoughtful.
“Rather a comprehensive scheme?”
Brearley toyed with the bundle of notes under his hand.
“I have already,” he said, “exhaustively examined seven of the possibilities; the eighth, and—I believe, the last—remains to be considered.”
“Listen now to me, Mr. Brearley,” said Moris Klaw, wagging a long finger. “I am here, the old curious, and find myself in delightful company. But until this evening I know nothing of your work except that I have read all your books. For me you will be so good as to outline all the points—yes?”
Otter Brearley mutely sought permission of the company, and turned the leaves of his manuscript. All men have an innate love of “talking shop,” but few can make such talk of general interest. Brearley was an exception in this respect. He loved to talk of Egypt, of the Pharaohs, of the temples, of the priesthood and its mysteries; but others loved to hear him. That made all the difference.
“The discovery,” he now began, “upon which I have blundered—for pure accident, alone, led me to it—assumes its great importance by reason of the absolute mystery surrounding certain phases of Egyptian worship. In the old days, Fairbank, you will recall that it was my supreme ambition to learn the secrets of Isis-worship as practised in early Egyptian times. Save for impostors, and legitimate imaginative writers, no one has yet lifted the veil of Isis. That mystical ceremony by which a priest was consecrated to the goddess, or made an arch adept, was thought to be hopelessly lost, or by others, to be a myth devised by the priesthood to awe the ignorant masses. In fact, we know little of the entire religion but its outward form. Of that occult lore so widely attributed to its votaries we know nothing—absolutely nothing! By we, I mean students in general. I, individually, have made a step, if not a stride, into that holy of holies!”
“Mind you don’t lose yourself!” said Fairbank, lightly.
But, professionally, he was displeased with Brearley’s drawn face and with the feverish brightness of his eyes. So much was plain for all to see. In the eyes of Ailsa Brearley, so like, yet so unlike, her brother’s, he read understanding of his displeasure, I think, together with a pathetic appeal.
Brearley waved his long, white hand carelessly.
“Rest assured of that, doctor!” he replied. “The labyrinth in which I find myself is intricate, I readily admit; but all my steps have been well considered. To return, Mr. Klaw”—addressing the latter—“I have secured the mummy of one of those arch adepts! That he was one is proved by the papyrus, presumably in his own writing, which lay upon his breast! I unwrapped the mummy in Egypt, where it now reposes; but the writing I brought back with me, and have recently deciphered. A glance had showed me that it was not the usual excerpts from the Book of the Dead. Six months’ labour has proved it to be a detailed account of his initiation into the inner mysteries!”
“Is such a papyrus unique?” I asked.
“Unique!” cried Moris Klaw. “Name of a little blue man! It is priceless!”
“But why,” I pursued, “should this priest, alone amongst the many who must have been so initiated, have left an account of the ceremony?”
“It was forbidden to divulge any part, any word, of it, Searles!” said Brearley. “Departure from this law was visited with fearful punishments in this world and dire penalties in the next. Khamus, for so this priest was named, well knew this. But some reason which, I fear, can never be known, prompted him to write the papyrus. It is probable, if not certain, that no eye but his, and mine, has read what is written there.”
A silence of a few seconds followed his words.
“Yes,” rumbled Klaw presently; “it is undoubtedly a discovery of extraordinary importance, this. You agree, my friend?”
“That’s evident,” I replied. “But I cannot altogether get the hang of the ceremony itself, Brearley. That is the point upon which I am particularly hazy.”
“To read you the entire account in detail,” Brearley resumed, “would occupy too long, and would almost certainly confuse you. But the singular thing is this: Khamus distinctly asserts that the goddess appeared to him. His writing is eminently sane and reserved, and his account of the ceremony, up to that point, highly interesting. Now, I have tested the papyrus itself—though no possibility of fraud is really admissible, and I have been able to confirm many of the statements made therein. There is only one point, it seems to me, remaining to be settled.”
“What is that?” I asked.
“Whether, as a result of the ceremony described, Khamus did see Isis, or whether he merely imagined he did!”Public Domain, Sax Rohmer, sfw
I would say the top five Spacehog songs are, in order:
- The Meantime
- I Want to Live
- Beautiful Girl
- Mungo City
CASE OF THE HAUNTING OF GRANGE
A large lamp burned in the centre of the table; a red-shaded candle stood close by each diner; and the soft light made a brave enough show upon the snowy napery and spotless silver, but dispersed nothing of the gloom about us. The table was a lighted oasis in the desert of the huge apartment. One could barely pick out the suits of armour and trophies which hung from distant panelled walls, and I started repeatedly when the butler appeared, silent, at my elbow.
Of the party of five, four were men—three of them (for I venture to include myself) neatly groomed and dressed with care in conventional dinner fashion. The fourth was a heavy figure in a dress-coat with broad satin lapels such as I have seen, I think, in pictures of Victorian celebrities. I have no doubt, judging from its shiny appearance, that it was the workmanship of a Victorian tailor. The vest was cut high and also boasted lapels; the trousers, though at present they were concealed beneath the table, belonged to a different suit, possibly a mourning suit, and to a different sartorial epoch.
The woman, young, dark and exceedingly pretty, wore a gown of shimmering amber, cut with Parisian daring. Her beautiful eyes were more often lowered than raised, for Sir James Leyland, our host, was unable to conceal his admiration; his face, tanned by his life in the Bush, was often turned to her. Clement Leyland, the baronet’s cousin, bore a striking resemblance to Sir James, but entirely lacked the latter’s breezy manner. I set him down for a man who thought much and said little.
However, conversation could not well flag at a board boasting the presence of such a genial colonial as Sir James, and such a storehouse of anecdotal oddities as Moris Klaw. Mr. Leyland and myself, then, for the most part practised the difficult art of listening; for Isis Klaw, I learned, could talk almost as entertainingly as her father.
“I am so glad,” said Moris Klaw, and his voice rumbled thunderously about the room, “that I have this opportunity to visit Grange.”
“It certainly has great historic interest,” agreed Sir James. “I had never anticipated inheriting the grand old place, much less the title. My uncle’s early death, unmarried, very considerably altered my prospects; I became a landed proprietor who might otherwise have become a ‘Murrumbidgee whaler!’ ”
He laughed, light-heartedly, glancing at Isis Klaw, and from her to his cousin.
“Clem had everything in apple-pie order for me,” he added, “including the family goblin!”
“Ah! that family goblin!” rumbled Moris Klaw. “It is him I am after, that goblin!”
The history of Grange, in fact, was directly responsible for Moris Klaw’s presence that night. An odd little book, Psychic Angles, had recently attracted considerable attention amongst students of the occult, and had proved equally interesting to the general public. It dealt with the subject of ghosts from quite a new standpoint, and incidentally revealed its anonymous author as one conversant apparently with the history of every haunted house in Europe. Few knew that the curio-dealer of Wapping was the author, but as Grange was dealt with in Psychic Angles, amongst a number of other haunted homes of England, a letter from Sir James Leyland, forwarded by the publisher, had invited the author to investigate the latest developments of the Leyland family ghost.
I had had the privilege to be associated with Moris Klaw, in another case of apparent haunting—that which I have dealt with in an earlier paper; the haunting of The Grove. He had courteously invited me, then, to assist him (his own expression) in the inquiry at Grange. I welcomed the opportunity; for I was anxious to include in my annals at least one other case of the apparent occult.
“We shall without delay,” continued the eccentric investigator, “endeavour to meet him face to face—this disturber of the peace. Sir James, it is with the phenomena you call ghosts the same as with valuable relics, with jewels, with mummies—ah, those mummies!—with beautiful women!”
“To liken a beautiful woman to a relic,” said Sir James, “would be—well——” he glanced at Isis, “hardly complimentary!”
“It would be true!” Moris Klaw assured him impressively. “Nature, that mystic process of reproduction, wastes not its models. Sir James, all beauty is duplicated. Look at my daughter Isis.” (Sir James readily obeyed.) “You see her, yes? And what do you see?”
Isis lowered her eyes, but, frankly, I was unable to perceive an evidence of embarrassment in this singularly self-possessed girl.
“Perhaps,” resumed her father, “I could tell you what you see; but I will only tell you what it is you may see. You may see a beauty of your Regency or a favourite of your Charles; the daughter of a Viking, an ancient British princess; the slave of a Caesar, the dancer of a Pharaoh!”
“You believe in reincarnation?” suggested Clement Leyland, quietly.
“Yes, certainly, why not, of course!” rumbled Moris Klaw. “But I do not speak of it now, not I; I speak of Nature’s reproduction; I tell you how Nature wastes nothing which is beautiful. What has the soul to do with the body? I tell you how the reproduction goes on and on until the mould, the plate, the die, has perished! So is it with ghosts. You write me that your goblin has learned some new tricks. I answer, your goblin can never learn new tricks; I answer this is not he, it is another goblin! Nature is conservative with her goblins as with her beautiful women; she does not disfigure the old model with alterations. What! Chop them about! Never! she makes new ones.”
Clement Leyland smiled discreetly, but Sir James was evidently interested.
“Of course I’ve read Psychic Angles, Mr. Klaw,” he said, “consequently your novel theories do not altogether surprise me. I gather your meaning to be this: a haunted house is haunted in exactly the same way generation after generation? Any new development points to the presence of a new force or intelligence?”
“It is exactly quite so,” Moris Klaw nodded sympathetically. “You have the receptive mind, Sir James; you should take up ghosts; they would like you. There is a scientific future for the sympathetic ghost-hunter—for I will whisper it—these poor ghosts are sometimes so glad to be hunted! It is a lonely life, that of a ghost!”
“The Grange ghost,” Sir James assured him, “is a most gregarious animal. He doesn’t go in for lonely groanings in the chapel or anything of that kind; he drops into the billiard-room frequently, he’s often to be met with right here in the dining-room, and of late he’s been sleeping with me regularly!”
“So I hear,” rumbled Moris Klaw; “so I hear. It is quaint, yes, proceed, my friend.”
Isis Klaw sat with her big eyes fixed upon Sir James as he continued:
“The traditional ghost of Grange was a grey monk who on certain nights—I forget the exact dates—came out from the chapel beyond the orchard carrying a long staff, walked up to a buttress of the west wall and disappeared at the point where formerly there was a private entrance. In fact there used to be a secret stair opening at that point and communicating with a room built by a remote Leyland of the eighth Henry’s time—a notorious roué. The last Leyland to use the room was Sir Francis, an intimate of Charles II. The next heir had the wing rebuilt, and the ancient door walled up.”
“Yes, yes,” said Moris Klaw. “I know it all, but you tell it well. This is a most interesting house, this Grange. I have recorded him, the grey monk, and I learn with surprise how another spook comes poaching on his preserves! Tell us now of these new developments, Sir James.”
Sir James cleared his throat and glanced about the table. “Please smoke,” said Isis; “because I should like to smoke, too!”
“Yes, yes!” agreed Moris Klaw. “Remain, my child, we will all remain; do not let us move an inch. This banqueting-hall is loaded with psychic impressions. Let us smoke and concentrate our minds upon the problem.”
Coffee and liqueurs were placed upon the table and cigarettes lighted. In deference to the presence of Isis, I suppose, no cigars were smoked; but the girl lighted an Egyptian cigarette proffered by Sir James with the insouciance of an old devotee of my Lady Nicotine. The butler having made his final departure, we were left—a lonely company in our lighted oasis—amid the shadow desert of that huge and ghostly apartment.
“All sorts of singular things have happened,” began Sir James, “since my return from Australia. Of course I cannot say if these are recent developments, because my uncle, for seven or eight years before his death, resided entirely in London, and Grange was in charge of the housekeeper. It is notorious, is it not, that housekeepers and such worthy ladies never by any chance detect anything unseemly in family establishments with which they are associated? Anyway, when I was dug up out of the Bush, and all the formalities were through, good old Clement here set about putting things to rights for me and I arrived to find Grange a perfect picture from floor to roof. New servants engaged, too, though the housekeeper and the butler, who have been in the family for years, remained, of course, with some other old servants. As I have said, everything was in apple-pie order.”
“Including the ghost!” interpolated his cousin, laughing.
“That’s the trouble,” said Sir James, banging his fist upon the table; “the very first night I dined in this room there was a most uncanny manifestation. Clement and I were sitting here at this very table; we had dined—not unwisely, don’t think that—and were just smoking and chatting, when——”
He ceased abruptly; in fact the effect was similar to that which would have resulted had a solid door suddenly been closed upon the speaker. But the stark silence which ensued was instantly interrupted. My blood seemed to freeze in my veins; a horrid, supernatural dread held me fast in my chair.
For, echoing hollowly around and about the huge, ancient apartment, rolled, booming, a peal of demoniacal laughter! From whence it proceeded I was wholly unable to imagine. It seemed to be all about, above us, and beneath us. It was mad, devilish, a hell-sound impossible to describe. It rose, it fell, it rose again—and ceased abruptly.Public Domain, Sax Rohmer, sfw
CASE OF THE HEADLESS MUMMIES
The mysteries which my eccentric friend, Moris Klaw, was most successful in handling undoubtedly were those which had their origin in kinks of the human brain or in the mysterious history of some relic of ancient times.
I have seen his theory of the Cycle of Crime proven triumphantly time and time again; I have known him successfully to demonstrate how the history of a valuable gem or curio automatically repeats itself, subject, it would seem, to that obscure law of chance into which he had made particular inquiry. Then his peculiar power—assiduously cultivated by a course of obscure study—of recovering from the atmosphere, the ether, call it what you will, the thought-forms—the ideas thrown out by the scheming mind of the criminal he sought for—enabled him to succeed where any ordinary investigator must inevitably have failed.
“They destroy,” he would say in his odd, rumbling voice, “the clumsy tools of their crime; they hide away the knife, the bludgeon; they sop up the blood, they throw it, the jemmy, the dead man, the suffocated poor infant, into the ditch, the pool—and they leave intact the odic negative, the photograph of their sin, the thought-thing in the air!” He would tap his high yellow brow significantly. “Here upon this sensitive plate I reproduce it, the hanging evidence! The headless child is buried in the garden, but the thought of the beheader is left to lie about. I pick it up. Poof! he swings—that child-slayer! I triumph. He is a dead man. What an art is the art of the odic photograph.”
But I propose to relate here an instance of Moris Klaw’s amazing knowledge in matters of archaeology—of the history of relics. In his singular emporium at Wapping, where dwelt the white rats, the singing canary, the cursing parrot, and the other stock-in-trade of this supposed dealer in oddities, was furthermore a library probably unique. It contained obscure works on criminology; it contained catalogues of every relic known to European collectors with elaborate histories of the same. What else it contained I am unable to say, for the dazzling Isis Klaw was a jealous librarian.
You who have followed these records will have made the acquaintance of Coram, the curator of the Menzies Museum; and it was through Coram that I first came to hear of the inexplicable beheading of mummies, which, commencing with that of Mr. Pettigrew’s valuable mummy of the priestess Hor-ankhu, developed into a perfect epidemic. No more useless outrage could well be imagined than the decapitation of an ancient Egyptian corpse; and if I was surprised when I heard of the first case, my surprise became stark amazement when yet other mummies began mysteriously to lose their heads. But I deal with the first instance, now, as it was brought under my notice by Coram.
He rang me up early one morning.
“I say, Searles,” he said; “a very odd thing has happened. You’ve heard me speak of Pettigrew the collector; he lives out Wandsworth way; he’s one of our trustees. Well, some demented burglar broke into his house last night, took nothing, but cut off the head of a valuable mummy!”
“Good Heavens!” I cried. “What an original idea!”
“Highly so,” agreed Coram. “The police are hopelessly mystified, and as I know you are keen on this class of copy I thought you might like to run down and have a chat with Pettigrew. Shall I tell him you are coming?”
“By all means,” I said, and made an arrangement forthwith.
Accordingly, about eleven o’clock I presented myself at a gloomy Georgian house standing well back from the high road, and screened by an unkempt shrubbery. Mr. Mark Pettigrew, a familiar figure at Sotheby auctions, was a little shrivelled man, clean shaven and with the complexion of a dried apricot. His big spectacles seemed to occupy a great proportion of his face, but his eyes twinkled merrily and his humour was as dry as his appearance.
“Glad to see you, Mr. Searles,” he said. “You’ve had some experience of the outré, I believe, and where two constables, an imposing inspector, and a plain-clothes gentleman who looked like a horse, have merely upset my domestic arrangements, you may be able to make some intelligent suggestion.”
He conducted me to a large gloomy room in which relics, principally Egyptian, were arranged and ticketed with museum-like precision. Before a wooden sarcophagus containing the swathed figure of a mummy he stopped, pointing. He looked as though he had come out of a sarcophagus himself.
“Hor-ankhu,” he said, “a priestess of Sekhet; a very fine specimen, Mr. Searles. I was present when it was found. See—here is her head!”Public Domain, Sax Rohmer, sfw
CASE OF THE WHISPERING POPLARS
One afternoon Moris Klaw walked into my office and announced that “owing to alterations” he had temporarily suspended business at the Wapping emporium, and thus had found time to give me a call. I always welcomed a chat with that extraordinary man, and although I could conceive of no really useful “alteration” to his unsavoury establishment other than that of setting fire to it, I made no inquiries, but placed an easy chair for him and offered a cigar.
Moris Klaw removed his caped overcoat and dropped it upon the floor. Upon this sartorial wreckage he disposed his flat-topped brown bowler, and from it extracted the inevitable scent-spray. He sprayed his dome-like brow and bedewed his toneless beard with verbena.
“So refreshing,” he explained, “a custom of the Romans, Mr. Searles. It is a very warm day.”
I admitted that this was so.
“My daughter Isis,” continued Klaw, “has taken advantage of the alterations and decorations to run over so far as Paris.”
I made some commonplace remark, and we drifted into a conversation upon a daring robbery which at that time was flooding the press with copy. We were so engaged when, to my great surprise (for I had thought him at least a thousand miles away), Shan Haufmann was announced. As my old American friend entered, Moris Klaw modestly arose to depart. But I detained him and made the two acquainted.
Haufmann hailed Klaw cordially, exhibiting none of the illbred surprise which so often greeted my eccentric acquaintance of singular aspect. Haufmann had all that bonhomie which overlooks the clothes and welcomes the man. He glanced apologetically at his right hand which hung in a sling.
“Can’t shake, Mr. Klaw,” said the big American, a goodhumoured smile on his tanned, clean-shaven face. “I stopped some lead awhile back and my right is still off duty.”
Naturally I was anxious at once to know how he had come by the hurt; and he briefly explained that in the discharge of certain official duties he had run foul of a bad gang, two of whom he had been instrumental in convicting of murder, whilst the third had shot him in the arm and escaped.
“Three dagoes,” he explained in his crisply picturesque fashion, “been wanted for years. Helped themselves to a bunch of my colts this Fall; killed one of the boys and left another for dead. So I went after them hot and strong. We rounded them up on the Mexican border, and got two, Schwart Sam and one of the Costas; but the younger Costa—we call him Corpus Chris—broke away and found me in the elbow with a lump of lead!”
“So you’ve come for a holiday?”
“Mostly,” replied Haufmann. “Greta hustled me here. She got real ill when I said I wouldn’t come. So we came! I’m centring in London for six months. Brought the girls over for a look round. I’m not stopping at a hotel. We’ve rented a house a bit outside; it’s Lal’s idea. Settled yesterday. All fixed. Expect you to dinner to-night! You, too, Mr. Klaw! Is it a bet?”
Moris Klaw was commencing some sort of a reply, but what it was never transpired, for Haufmann, waving his sound hand cheerily, quitted the office as rapidly as he had entered, calling back:
“Dine seven-thirty. Girls expecting you!”
That was his way; but so infectious was his real geniality that few could fail to respond to it.
“He is a good fellow, that Mr. Haufmann,” rumbled Moris Klaw. “Yes, I love such natures. But he has forgotten to tell us where he lives!”
It was so! Haufmann, in his hurry and impetuosity, had overlooked that important matter; but I thought it probable that he would recall the oversight and communicate, so prevailed upon Klaw to remain. At last, however, I glanced at my watch, and found it to be nearly six o’clock, whereupon I looked blankly at Moris Klaw. That eccentric shrugged his shoulders and took up the caped coat. Then the ’phone-bell rang. It was Haufmann.
I was glad to hear his familiar accent as he laughingly apologised for his oversight. Rapidly he acquainted me with the whereabouts of The Grove—for so the house was called.
“Come now,” he said. “Don’t stop to dress; you’ve only just got time,” and rang off.
I thought Moris Klaw stared oddly through his pince-nez when I told him the address, but concluded, as he made no comment, that I had been mistaken. There was just time to catch our train, and from the station where we alighted it was only a short drive to the house. Haufmann’s car was waiting for us, and in less than three-quarters of an hour from our quitting the Strand, we were driving up to The Grove, through the most magnificent avenue of poplar I had ever seen.
“By Jove!” I cried, “what fine trees!”Public Domain, Sax Rohmer, sfw
CASE OF THE BLUE RAJAH
Inspector Grimsby called upon me one evening, wearing a great glumness of countenance.
“Look here,” said he, “I’m in a bit of a corner. You’ll have heard that a committee of commercial magnates has been formed to buy, and on behalf of the City of London to present to the Crown, the big Indian diamond?”
I nodded and pushed the box of cigarettes towards him.
“Well,” he continued, thoughtfully selecting one, “they are meeting in Moorgate Street to-morrow morning to complete the deal and formally take over the stone. Sir Michael Cayley, the Lord Mayor, will be present, and he’s received a letter, which has been passed on to me.”
He fumbled for his pocket-case. Grimsby is a man who will go far. He is the youngest detective-inspector in the service, and he has that priceless gift—the art of using other people for the furtherance of his own ends. I do not intend this criticism unkindly. Grimsby does nothing dishonourable and seeks to rob no man of the credit that may be due. There is nothing underhand about Grimsby, but he is exceedingly diplomatic. He imparts official secrets to me with an ingenuousness entirely disarming—but always for reasons of his own.
“Here you are,” he said, and passed a letter to me. It read as follows—
“To the Right Hon. the Lord Mayor of London.
“Beware that the Blue Rajah is not stolen on Wednesday the 13th inst. Do not lose sight of it for one moment.
“Your Lordship’s obedient servant,
“You see,” continued Grimsby, “Wednesday the thirteenth is to-morrow, when the thing is being brought to Moorgate Street. Naturally, Sir Michael communicated with the Yard, and as I’m in the know about Moris Klaw, I got the job of looking into the matter. I was at the Mansion House this morning.”
“I suppose Sir Michael regards this note with suspicion?”
“Well, he’s not silly enough to suppose that anybody who thought of stealing the diamond would drop him a line advising him of the matter! But he’d never heard of Moris Klaw until I explained about him. When I told him that Klaw had a theory about the Cycle of Crime, and his letter probably meant that, according to said theory, on Wednesday the thirteenth the Blue Rajah was due to be lifted, so to speak, he laughed. You’ll have noticed that people mostly laugh at first about Moris Klaw?”
“Certainly. You did, yourself!”
“I know it—and I’m suffering for it! Klaw won’t lift his little finger when I ask him; and as for his daughter, she giggles as though she was looking at a comedian when she looks at me! She thinks I’m properly funny!”
“You’ve been to Wapping, then?”
“Yes, this afternoon. The Lord Mayor wanted a lot of convincing that Moris Klaw was on the straight after I’d told him that the old gentleman was a dealer in curios in the East End. Finally, he suggested that I should find out what the warning meant exactly. But I couldn’t get to see Klaw; his daughter said he was out.”
“I suppose every precaution will be taken?”
“To-morrow morning we have arranged that I and two other C.I.D. men are to accompany the party to the Safe Deposit vaults to fetch the diamond and we shall guard it on the way back afterwards.”
“Who’s going to fetch it?”
“Sir John Carron, representing the India Office, Mr. Mark Anderson—the expert—representing the City, and Mr. Gautami Chinje, representing the Gaekwar of Nizam. I was wondering”— he surveyed the burning end of his cigarette—“if you had time to run down to Wapping yourself, and find out from what direction we ought to look for trouble?”
“Sorry, Grimsby,” I replied; “I would do it with pleasure, but my evening is fully taken up. Personally, it appears to me that Moris Klaw’s warning was a timely one. You seem to be watching the stone pretty closely.”
“Like a cat watches a mouse!” he rapped. “If any one steals the Blue Rajah to-morrow, he’ll be a clever fellow.”Public Domain, Sax Rohmer, sfw
CASE OF THE IVORY STATUE
Where a case did not touch his peculiar interest, appeals to Moris Klaw fell upon deaf ears. However dastardly a crime, if its details were of the sordid sort, he shrank within his Wapping curio-shop as closely as any tortoise within its shell.
“Of what use,” he said to me on one occasion, “are my acute psychic sensibilities to detect who it is with a chopper that has brained some unhappy washerwoman? Shall I bring to bear those delicate perceptions which it has taken me so many years to acquire in order that some ugly old fool shall learn what has become of his pretty young wife? I think not—no!”
Sometimes, however, when Inspector Grimsby of Scotland Yard was at a loss, he would induce me to intercede with the eccentric old dealer, and sometimes Moris Klaw would throw out a hint.
Beyond doubt the cases that really interested him were those that afforded scope for the exploiting of his pet theories; the Cycle of Crime, the criminal history of all valuable relics, the indestructibility of thought. Such a case came under my personal notice on one occasion, and my friend Coram was instrumental in enlisting the services of Moris Klaw. It was, I think, one of the most mysterious affairs with which I ever came in contact, and the better to understand it you must permit me to explain how Roger Paxton, the sculptor, came to have such a valuable thing in his studio as that which we all assumed had inspired the strange business.
It was Sir Melville Fennel, then, who commissioned Paxton to execute a chryselephantine statue. Sir Melville’s museum of works of art, ancient and modern, is admittedly the second finest private collection of the kind in the world. The late Mr. Pierpont Morgan’s alone took precedence.
The commission came as something of a surprise. The art of chryselephantine sculpture, save for one attempt at revival, in Belgium, has been dead for untold generations. By many modern critics, indeed, it is condemned, as being not art but a parody of art.
Given carte-blanche in the matter of cost, Paxton produced a piece of work which induced the critics to talk about a modern Phidias. Based upon designs furnished by the eccentric but wealthy baronet, the statue represented a slim and graceful girl reclining as in exhaustion upon an ebony throne. The ivory face, with its wearily closed eyes, was a veritable triumph, and was surmounted by a head-dress of gold intertwined among a mass of dishevelled hair. One ivory arm hung down so that the fingers almost touched the pedestal; the left hand was pressed to the breast as though against a throbbing heart. Gold bracelets and anklets, furnished by Sir Melville, were introduced into the composition; and, despite the artist’s protest, a heavy girdle, encrusted with gems and found in the tomb of some favourite of a long-dead Pharaoh, encircled the waist. When complete, the thing was, from a merely intrinsic point of view, worth several thousand pounds.
As the baronet had agreed to the exhibition of the statue prior to its removal to Fennel Hall, Paxton’s star was seemingly in the ascendant, when the singular event occurred that threatened to bring about his ruin.
The sculptor gave one of the pleasant little dinners for which he had gained a reputation. His task was practically completed, and his friends had all been enjoined to come early, so that the statue could be viewed before the light failed. We were quite a bachelor party, and I shall always remember the circle of admiring faces surrounding the figure of the reclining dancer—warmed in the soft light to an almost uncanny semblance of fair flesh and blood.
“You see,” explained Paxton, “this composite work although it has latterly fallen into disrepute, affords magnificent scope for decorative purposes; such a richness of colour can be obtained. The ornaments are genuine antiques and of great value—a fad of my patron’s.”
For some minutes we stood silently admiring the beautiful workmanship; then Harman inquired: “Of what is the hair composed?”
Paxton Smiled. “A little secret I borrowed from the Greeks!” he replied, with condonable vanity. “Polyclitus and his contemporaries excelled at the work.”
“That jewelled girdle looks detachable,” I said.
“It is firmly fastened to the waist of the figure,” answered the sculptor. “I defy any one to detach it inside an hour.”
“From a modern point of view the thing is an innovation,” remarked one of the others, thoughtfully.
Coram, curator of the Menzies Museum, who up to the present had stood in silent contemplation of the figure, now spoke for the first time. “The cost of materials is too great for this style of work ever to become popular,” he averred. “That girdle, by the way, represents a small fortune, and together with the anklets, armlets and head-dress, might well tempt any burglar. What precautions do you take, Paxton?”
“Sleep out here every night,” was the reply; “and there is always some one here in the daytime. Incidentally, a curious thing occurred last week. I had just fixed the girdle, which, I may explain, was once the property of Nicris, a favourite of Ramses III., and my model was alone here for a few minutes. As I was returning from the house I heard her cry out, and when I came to look for her she was crouching in a corner trembling. What do you suppose had frightened her?”
“Give it up,” said Harman.
“She swore that Nicris—for the statue is supposed to represent her—had moved!”
“Imagination,” replied Coram; “but easily to be understood. I could believe it, myself, if I were here alone long enough.”
“I fancy,” continued Paxton, “that she must have heard some of the tales that have been circulated concerning the girdle. The thing has a rather peculiar history. It was discovered in the tomb of the dancer by whom it had once been worn; and it is said that an inscription was unearthed at the same time containing an account of Nicris’s death under particularly horrible circumstances. Seton—you fellows know Seton—who was present at the opening of the sarcophagus, tells me that the Arabs, on catching sight of the girdle, all prostrated themselves and then took to their heels. Sir Melville Fennel’s agent sent it on to England, however, and Sir Melville conceived the idea of this statue.”
“Luckily for you,” added Coram.
“Quite so,” laughed the sculptor; and, carefully locking the studio door, he led the way up the short path to the house.
We were a very merry party, and the night was far advanced ere the gathering broke up. Coram and I were the last to depart; and having listened to the voices of Harman and the others dying away as they neared the end of the street, we also prepared to take our leave.
“Just come with me as far as the studio,” said Paxton, “and having seen that all’s well I’ll let you out by the garden door.”
Accordingly, we donned our coats and hats, and followed our host to the end of the garden, where his studio was situated. The door unlocked, we all three stepped inside the place and gazed upon the figure of Nicris—the pallid face and arms seeming almost unearthly in the cold moonlight, wherein each jewel of the girdle and head-dress glittered strangely.
“Of course,” muttered Coram, “the thing’s altogether irregular—a fact which the critics will not fail to impress upon you; but it is unquestionably very fine, Paxton. How uncannily human it is! I don’t entirely envy you your bedchamber, old man!”
“Oh, I sleep well enough,” laughed Paxton. “No luxury, though; just this corner curtained off and a camp bedstead.”
“A truly Spartan couch!” I said. “Well, goodnight, Paxton. We shall probably see you to-morrow—I mean later to-day!”
With that we parted, leaving the sculptor to his lonely vigil at the shrine of Nicris, and as my rooms were no great distance away, some half-hour later I was in bed and asleep.
I little suspected that I had actually witnessed the commencement of one of the most amazing mysteries which ever cried out for the presence of Moris Klaw.Public Domain, Sax Rohmer, sfw