Many Dimensions, by Charles Williams

Chapter Fifteen

The Possessiveness of Mr. Frank Lindsay

Neither Mrs. Webb nor Miss Burnett were of much use to the police in that morning investigation. Neither of them recognized the body, and though it had lain huddled against the front door of the house, there was nothing to show that, alive or dead, it had ever been inside the door. Besides which, burning and breaking, as that body was burnt and broken, are not injuries which the two women seemed very capable of inflicting, and the inspector in charge leaned to the idea that it had been brought from a distance and dropped at this spot. The usual inquiries were set on foot, with a casual jest or two about the possibility of the Rich Stone being responsible. But Miss Burnett was not prevented from departing to her employment, though some care was taken to see that she actually went to Lord Arglay’s as she had professed to intend; since with these modern girls, as someone remarked, you never knew. The police had cause to be glad that they had not interfered, since in quite a short time the Home Office was intimating to them that the whole incident had better be kept as quiet as possible, and the stop-press paragraph which, by the chance of a belated journalist, had appeared in one morning paper had better be left without any sequel.

The Chief Justice had listened in silence to Chloe’s account of the night.

“And that blast of sound went on,” she ended, “and it Seemed to be a long time before I understood it was just a Police whistle, and all that light was just the moon. And then I knew that whatever it was had gone away; so I got up and looked out of the window. And there they were.”

“The police?”

“The police. They saw me and I asked a question or two, and they asked more — of Mrs. Webb too. But they couldn’t do anything to us. I don’t even know whether . . . what they had was what I saw.”

“It may not have been,” Arglay said. “But I think it is likely. Did you see the . . . the result?”

“Yes,” Chloe said, her face white but rather with awe than horror or fear, “it was as if it had been struck by lightning.”

“It wasn’t Giles?”

“It was someone I have never seen before,” Chloe answered. “A dark man, a foreigner I think. Not a negro but someone Eastern.”

“As a Persian, for instance?” Lord Arglay asked. “Though how they knew of you I don’t understand. Well, we can ask the Hajji if he knows anything — I don’t think he’d be in it. He seems to have too low an opinion of violence and too high an opinion of you.”

Chloe looked at her feet and said nothing, and in a moment the Chief Justice went on. “Yes, we will talk to him, and also I will speak to Bruce Cumberland. He won’t want the thing broadcast, if it is the Persians, and it may save you some trouble. At any rate, you will sleep here now.”

“Yes,” Chloe said simply, “I will. Shall I send a note to Mrs. Webb explaining?”

“Do,” Arglay said, “while I telephone.”

Mr. Bruce Cumberland, when he heard the news, took the steps he was expected to take. The police were warned to be careful in their inquiries, and to turn those inquiries to discovering whether any member of the Persian Embassy was missing. But before Lord Arglay had finished talking to the Hajji a caller arrived at Lancaster Gate.

Mr. Frank Lindsay had seen the newspaper paragraph, and alone among its readers had known the street for Chloe’s. He did not seriously connect her with “the dead body of a man found early that morning,” but there flashed through his mind the notion that here was an opportunity for an anxious inquiry. Within that opportunity another possibility lay curled, vivid with a delectable poison. Sometimes with, sometimes without, his own consent, Merridew’s proposal had demanded consideration, each time more urgently, each time more plausibly. But however reasonable it had begun to seem, since after all it would do Chloe no harm and himself a great deal of good, he could not discover how to carry it out without a depressing sacrifice of his own proper pride. She had refused his suggestion almost — no, quite — rudely; she had dismissed him; she had promised to write and had not written. Even for the sake of his examination and (what of course did not weigh with him) the fee Merridew had spoken of — for a fee, nothing more, was what it was — even for these things Lindsay could not see how to make any movement towards a reconciliation. But every day made the need of that reconciliation more urgent, if it was to be in time to be any use, if (he said to himself) they were to be on their old terms again, and hardly knew that by the phrase he meant very new terms indeed. It was not that Chloe would bear any malice, but that swift willingness of hers to hurry all occasion of mischief into oblivion at times rather annoyed him; it seemed a little undignified, and was one of the things in which he suspected the influence of Lord Arglay encouraged her in lessening herself. Of course, it was different when he was concerned, though even then it was difficult for him to be gracious when she so speedily abolished the opportunity for grace. She ran where he walked, and he thought walking the more handsome movement. But now — with a dead body in the street — yes, a real concern was permissible. And that concern repaid its possessor in other ways — but he was not thinking of that, he was thinking of a dead body. He was perfectly correct, but a more accurate vision would have told him that he was thinking also of a dying soul, and that his own.

She would be at Lancaster Gate, and to Lancaster Gate, rather nervously, he went. The telephone seemed inadequate to his anxiety; an actual meeting, a clasping hand, a reassuring embrace, if possible, if the Chief Justice was out of the way, seemed to be demanded. From every point of view he hoped that Lord Arglay would be out of the way.

Lord Arglay, seeing the maid speak to Chloe and seeing also Chloe’s glance at himself, cut short his conversation with the Hajji, and, hearing that Mr. Lindsay had called, took immediate steps to be out of the way. “You can call me for a minute when he’s going,” he said, “if you think it would look more courteous. But do as you like about that. The Hajji won’t be here just yet.”

“But I don’t know that I want you to go,” Chloe said uncertainly. “No, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to put it like that. I didn’t mean to talk as if I had a right . . . ”

“I feel,” Lord Arglay said, “that God — it’s curious how easily one accepts the idea; atavism, I suppose — would rather I went; at least, the God in your friend. There is courtesy everywhere, and this, so to speak, is that. Besides, now I know you’re safe, I should like him to.”

Chloe did her amiable best to reassure Mr. Lindsay, but she felt all the time that she couldn’t much mind whether he were reassured or not. Unless indeed he had undergone a conversion of which she would not look for the signs for fear they should not be there. She said nothing about the invasion of the night and at first took great care not to mention the Stone. Yet since it was so much in her thoughts she did find herself wishing that he, so young, so ignorant, so well-intentioned, as he seemed to her, could feel as she felt about it, or could at least see what she felt, and when after about a quarter of an hour she felt that he might as well go, she said hesitatingly: “You do understand, Frank, about the other night, don’t you?”

Frank, whose inner thoughts had also been occupied with the Stone, said brightly: “O of course, of course. Don’t worry; that’s quite all right. I see what you meant,” and wondered, for the fifteenth time, whether she had brought it with her or left it at Highgate. It wasn’t on any of the tables, but her handbag lay by the typewriter; could it be —

“Would you like just to speak to Lord Arglay?” Chloe said.

That meant that she was expecting him to go, he thought very swiftly; if he said yes would she leave the room? or would she send a maid? It was growing urgent, this need of the Stone, though, of course, he could perhaps take her home. But where did she keep it? Suppose she had it round her neck in a bag? Girls did; and then — Even his mind refused to contemplate what measures, and in them what treachery, might be necessary: after all, they had been friends. “Yes” then, and pray heaven she went to tell Lord Arglay herself.

“Perhaps it would be better,” he said.

She kissed him — persevering upon the Way — pressed his hand, went to the door, threw him a last smile, and disappeared. And he, swiftly and quietly, his eyes on the closed door, moved to her work-table, opened the bag, felt the Stone, withdrew it, stared, at it, slipped it into his trouser pocket, where he thought among his keys and money it would be least noticeable, refastened the bag, and almost ran to the window. And even then there were two or three minutes given him for repentance, before Chloe opened the door for the Chief Justice, and stepped softly aside, as a secretary should, that her employer might enter. This careful subordination had always pleased Lord Arglay, and after the occurrences of the last few days gave him an increasing joy, as if it were part of the habitual ritual that surrounded his office, but much more delightful, more dear, and in some way more important than the rest.

Lord Arglay shook hands. Mr. Lindsay, a trifle awkwardly apologized for disturbing Miss Burnett at her work. Lord Arglay said that any friend of Miss Burnett’s was free at all times to disturb her in her work, which owing to her sense of form was rapidly becoming a great deal more her work than it was his. Mr. Lindsay said that the paragraph in the paper had alarmed him; he had been afraid there might have been some disturbance in the street, or even that some attack . . . Lord Arglay said that he had feared the same thing and had been very anxious until Miss Burnett arrived. Mr. Lindsay was greatly indebted to Lord Arglay. Lord Arglay hoped that Mr. Lindsay would believe that their common friendship with Miss Burnett put his own house at Mr. Lindsay’s disposal at such — or any — times. The maid announced Mr. Ibrahim. Mr. Lindsay was again obliged and must go. Lord Arglay regretted, understood, and parted. The maid showed Mr. Lindsay out.

With his departure the three in the study seemed to enter into a common concern. The Hajji, as the sound of the front door closing was heard, said quite simply: “It was Ali.”

“That is your nephew?” Lord Arglay said.

“He was my nephew,” the Hajji answered, “but more than death has separated us. For he also has wished to lay violent hands upon the Stone.”

Lord Arglay said, as he motioned to them to be seated, “Hajji, the whole world seems to agree with him there.”

“it is the worse for all of us,” the Hajji answered sadly.

“You are sure of this?” Arglay asked, as he too sat down.

“As sure as I can be without seeing him,” Ibrahim said. “He is not at the Embassy this morning, none knows where he has gone, and I know what he unwisely desired.”

“I am very sorry for your house,” Lord Arglay said, “for this is becoming a very terrible thing. But because of others will you tell us what you think happened last night? Why did this man die?”

The Hajji looked at Chloe. “Tell me,” he said, “what you did when you knew that someone was in your room.”

Chloe tried to express it. “I didn’t think I ought to use the Stone for myself,” she said, “and I didn’t think I knew what it willed for itself, so I— I did nothing except hope that it would — deal with things.”

“Of itself?” the Hajji asked softly.

“I suppose so,” Chloe admitted. “I didn’t know what I ought to do.”

The Hajji nodded slowly, and looked at Lord Arglay. “It should be clear to you what has come about,” he said. “A thing has happened which has not been possible for a thousand years —”

“I can quite believe that,” Lord Arglay said. “A thousand years seem to be considerably less than a day in this case. But I an not at all clear what this thing is.”

“This Holy Thing has been kept in seclusion,” Ibrahim answered, “through many centuries, and in all that time none of its keepers have approached or touched it. And since Giles Tumulty stole it men have grasped at it in their own wisdom. But this woman has put her will at its disposal, and between it and her the union may be achieved by which the other Hiddenness is made manifest.”

“What is the other Hiddenness?” Lord Arglay asked.

The Hajji hesitated, then he turned his eyes back to Chloe and seemed to ask a question of her. What answer he saw on the forehead at which he gazed she could not guess, but he spoke then in a low and careful voice.

“In the Crown of Suleiman the Wise — the Peace be upon him! —” he said, “there was a Stone, and this Stone was that which is the First Matter of Creation, holy and terrible. But on the hand of the King there was a Ring and in the Ring was another secret, more holy and terrible than the Stone. For within the Ring there was a point of that Light which is the Spirit of Creation, the Adornment of the Unity, the Knowledge of the Loveliness, the Divine Image in the mirror of the worlds just and true. This was the justice and the Wisdom of Suleiman, by which all souls were made manifest to him and all causes rightly determined. Also when within the Holy of Holies in the Temple that the King made he laid his crown upon the Ark and between the wings of the Cherubim, and held his hand over it, the Light of the Ring shone upon the Stone and all things had peace. But when the King erred, building altars to strange gods, he dared no longer let the Light fall upon the Stone; also he put aside the Ring and it is told that Asmodeus sat upon his throne seven years. But I think that perhaps the King himself had not all that time parted from his throne, how closely soever Asmodeus dwelt within his soul. And of the hiding place of the Ring I do not know, nor any of my house; if it is on earth it is very secret. But the Light of it is in the Stone and all the Types of the Stone — and the Power of it is in the soul and body of any who have sought the union with the Stone, so that whoever touches them in anger or hatred or evil desire is subjected to the Light and Power of the Adornment of the Unity. And this I think my nephew did, and this is the cause of his blasting and hurling out.”

He looked straight at Chloe. “But woe, woe, woe to you,” he said, “if from this time forth for ever you forget that you gave your will to the Will of That which is behind the Stone.”

Chloe started to her feet with a cry. “It isn’t true,” she broke out, “it isn’t true! What have I done to bring all this on me? I can’t bear it; it isn’t, it mustn’t be true.”

Lord Arglay’s voice answered her. “All is well,” he said, “all is well, child. You shall do nothing that you cannot do and bear nothing that you cannot bear. I will see to that.” He held out his hand towards her, and, shaken and terrified, she caught it. “Sit down,” he went on, smiling at her, “and we will know what all this is.”

“What are you,” the Hajji asked, more astonished than indignant, “to promise to govern the Stone?”

“Why, in some sense,” Lord Arglay said, smiling again, “I am at the moment, as you say, the Light that is in the Stone. Not that I ever meant or wanted to be.”

“I do not understand you,” the Hajji exclaimed in bewilderment. “You act as if you believed in the Stone, yet you talk like an infidel. Are you for or against this Sanctity?”

“That it may decide for itself,” Lord Arglay said. “I am no light to my own mind, I promise you. But if what you say is true, and the Stone is a thing of goodness, and has saved this child last night, then we may agree yet.”

The Hajji shook his head. “I do not understand,” he said almost pitifully. “Why will you always mock?”

“I do not mock,” Arglay answered, “or if I do I would have you consider whether this may not be part of your Mystery. But we will not now talk of the place of mockery among the gifts of the King Suleiman, although if he never smiled at himself the Court of the King must have been a very sombre place. I have known other Courts which were so, but they were, often, without any kind of light. Let us talk quietly of this.”

He drew from his pocket a small jewel case and laid it on the table, then he released his hand from Chloe’s and touched her shoulder as she sat. “Is everything well?” he said.

She looked at him, in a returning serenity. “Everything,” she said, “I was afraid.”

“Do not be afraid,” he said. “Consider that we, if anything at all can be,. are in the knowledge of the illuminated Stone.”

He opened the case, and his Type lay before them, but in it there was a change. The Stone was glowing with a stronger colour than before; its size was no greater but its depth seemed, as in some great jewel, to be infinitely increased, and in that depth the markings which had seemed like letters arose in a new and richer darkness. It expanded within; and the eyes of those who gazed were drawn down the shapes of the Tetragrammaton into its midst where the intervolutions of creams and gold mingled themselves in what was more like cloud than Stone. The Hajji looked and covered his eyes with his hand, pronouncing in a low voice the formula of the Unity. Lord Arglay looked and there came upon his face a half-smile of such affectionate irony as that with which he had glanced at Chloe —“this thing,” he seemed to say, “cannot be and yet it is.” Chloe looked, and unconsciously put out her hand towards the Stone, not as if to take hold, but naturally as if it were on the point of clasping that of some sufficient lover, it moved forward and then sank and rested on the table close to the Stone, and Lord Arglay, including it also in his gaze, wondered suddenly at the kinship between the two. For the hand and the Stone were to his eyes both softly translucent; though the shapes were different, the matter of both was the same, and if the one was to be raised the other was capable of raising it. He permitted for a moment the fancy that that hand was but pausing before it lifted up, not the Stone, but the whole round world, playing with it as a ball upon its palm. He remembered the Hand thrust out from a cloud in many an early painting to image the Power behind creation, and the hand that lay open before him seemed meant to receive that creation as it came into being. He saw — even while, rightly wise in his own proper generation among these things, he refused to believe too easily — that the Stone no longer rested on the table but that it threw out of itself colour shaped into the table: the walls and furniture were in themselves reflections of that Centre in which they secretly existed; they were separations, forms, and clouded visibilities of its elements, and he also and other mortals who moved among them. The Stone quivered with its own intense and hidden life, and through the unknown hand that appeared close beside it there passed an answering quiver. Arglay saw it and held his breath for what might ensue. But nothing more ensued, or nothing that could be apprehended by his critical mind. The hand which had been for a moment a mystery of the same nature as the Stone resolved itself again into the hand of Chloe Burnett. The Stone, parted to his vision again from the world, lay on the table where he had set it. He looked up suddenly and as Chloe also moved their eyes met.

“And still,” he said, “even so, you did muddle up those quotations.”

She smiled across at him. “Am I not forgiven?” she asked.

“No,” Lord Arglay said thoughtfully, “no, I do not think you are forgiven.” He considered the Stone again. “Lay your Type here,” he went on, and let us see if they agree.”

She went across the room to her typewriting table, picked up and opened her bag, looked into it, felt in it, looked again, and turned to him with an exclamation. “It isn’t here,” she cried.

The Hajji looked round with a start of attention; Lord Arglay went swiftly over to her. “Was it there?” he asked.

“Certainly it was,” Chloe cried. “I looked at it this morning just before Frank came in.”

Arglay turned back towards the table where the Type lay. “Can the two already have become one?” he said. “Are all the Types of the Stone restored?”

Ibrahim joined them, asking, “What is the matter?”

“I had a Stone here,” Chloe said, agitation growing in her —“not an hour ago it was here, and now it is gone.”

The Hajji gazed, and shook his head. “I do not think they are yet all one,” he said, “for no soul has yet made itself a way for the Stone to be what it will in itself. I think it is more likely that you have been robbed of it.”

Lord Arglay frowned, but before he could speak Chloe broke out in an exclamation of horror. “O no,” she cried, “no,” and looked at him with troubled eyes.

“Who has been here since you saw it?” the Hajji asked, and the girl, still staring at Arglay, answered, “It couldn’t be,” but more in fear than doubt.

“Why, all of us are capable of all misfortunes at all times,” the Chief Justice answered. “Are you very certain that it was here?”

“I am quite certain,” Chloe answered, “for I . . . I adored it while you were telephoning.”

“And are you certain,” Arglay said to Ibrahim, “that the Types of the Stone are not yet made one?”

“I am not certain,” he answered, “who can be certain of the movement of justice? But I think that a further devotion is needed.”

Lord Arglay turned back to Chloe, “Well,” he said, “there is no need for us to decide, for there is nothing that we could do. If it has been taken, let us desire that goodwill may go with it, and that I will very gladly do.”

“But I must go after him,” Chloe said, “I must make him give it back. It is my fault — perhaps I ought to have given it to him. Only . . . O what have I done?”

“Nothing but what was wise,” Arglay said. “Let us forget it. You and I are here, and also a Type of the Stone. Let it rest at that, and we are where we were before.”

“Not quite,” the Hajji said, “for as there is but one End, so there is now but one Stone with you, and it may be one path for the Stone. It may be that the path and the Stone and the End are shown you that they may be one.”

Lord Arglay had turned to go to the Type that remained when he was interrupted by the entrance of the maid with a telegram. He took it from her, opened and read it, and gave a low exclamation. Then, “There is no immediate answer,” he said, and as the maid went out he went back to the other two.

“They have dealt with Reginald,” he said. “Your friends again, I expect, Hajji.”

Chloe said, “What has happened to Mr. Montague?”

“They have killed him,” Arglay answered, and for once negligent of an absurdity read the telegram aloud.

“From the Hotel Montespan, Brighton. Gentleman seriously injured by burglars and afterwards died here registered as Reginald Montague Rowland Street West gave your name as that of relation burglar unfortunately escaped but no apparent trace of theft would like to confer Gregson manager.”

After a moment’s silence Arglay said, “I am sorry for Reginald. He was a fool but he wasn’t malevolent.. And now there is only us — and the others.”

“Shall you go to Brighton?” the Hajji asked.

“Certainly I shall go,” Lord Arglay said, “for if by chance it was not a thing done to gain the stone then any that he had may still be there. I do not think that I shall find one, but I will take no risks. Besides, as things are, I would not have even Reginald’s death quite unnoticed, whatever catastrophe awaits us.”

“And this Type that you have?” Ibrahim asked, pointing to it.

“That I will leave here,” Lord Arglay said, “and Miss Burnett shall guard it for the few hours that I shall be gone. They will not attack the house of the Chief Justice in full daylight, and if any come to take it in the name of the Law then Miss Burnett shall do what she chooses. And you, Hajji?”

“If this is true,” Ibrahim answered, “I will not go back to those who are already shedding blood.”

“Then you also shall be here,” Lord Arglay said, “and you shall talk together, and see if there is anything to be done. For so far,” he added with an unwonted outbreak of anger, “I have done nothing at all. Nothing. I have been only a useless loquacity.”

“It isn’t true,” Chloe said.

“Well — if you can think of anything, excepting trying to bring a laboratory assistant out of yesterday, the Chief Justice answered, still bitterly.

“You may have been more than you know,” the Hajji put in.

“O I may . . . ” Lord Arglay said. “They also serve who only sit about and chat. But after believing in God —”

“Ah but you do!” Chloe cried, “and is that doing nothing?” Lord Arglay looked at her. “It is giving a new name to old things,” he said. “Or perhaps an old name to new things. Don’t worry, child. I will go to Brighton, and do you consider the doctrine that is within the Stone.”

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 12:30