Many Dimensions, by Charles Williams

Chapter Nine

The Action of Lord Arglay

Lord Arglay, insisting on writing some business letters after lunch, insisted also that Chloe should wait his convenience and rest until he was ready for her. It was consequently not until after tea that he lit one of his very occasional cigars, and standing in front of the fireplace said: “And now, Miss Burnett, what do you make of it?”

“I feel an awful ass,” Chloe told him, “going for Sir Giles like that. But I couldn’t think of anything sane to do — I was so angry.”

“The wrath of the Lamb,” Arglay said. “But I didn’t mean about yourself; you saved the Lord Chief Justice throwing an inkstand at Giles, which would have been more scandalous, but perhaps more effective, if I had hit him. It might even have killed him. I really meant — about the situation. Suppress, if you can, your righteous supernatural anger with him, and tell me why you hate him so.”

“I don’t hate him,” Chloe said. “I only want to stop him doing anything at all with the Stone. He oughtn’t to have it.”

“So far as we know, he bought it,” Lord Arglay pointed out.

“But it isn’t his,” Chloe pleaded, “not really.”

“Mrs. Sheldrake used much the same argument to convince me that all the Types ought to be her husband’s,” Arglay answered. “Only she said, they are his, really. Try and be masculine and rational. Why isn’t it his?”

Chloe made an obviously intense effort. “I think I hate the way he looks at it,” she said. “He doesn’t care about it, only about the way it works. He doesn’t care about Suleiman — or Charlemagne — or . . . He only wants to see what it will do.”

“And being an incurable romantic,” Arglay said, “you hate him being merely utilitarian. Well, I don’t suppose anyone else, for a thousand years or so, has barked their knuckles for the sake of Suleiman the King. I should think you were the first of the English to do it. Still — it’s hardly reason enough for your disliking Giles quite so much.”

Chloe went on looking for reasons. “He doesn’t care about it a bit,” she protested. “He throws it about as if it were of no importance at all. And he doesn’t care how much he cuts it up.”

“And why do we care?” Lord Arglay asked.

Chloe smiled. “I don’t know,” she said, “I don’t know a bit, but I do. Don’t you know?”

The Chief Justice frowned at his cigar. “I will offer you two alternatives,” he said. “First, we are both disgracefully sentimental. We wallow in tradition. And when a traditional thing appears to produce unusual results we can’t help being affected. Giles is stronger-minded. Suleiman and our lord the Prophet leave him unmoved. J’y suis, j’y reste, and so on. I hate being less efficient than Giles, but I fear it, I promise you I fear it.” He shook his head despairingly.

“And the other alternative?” Chloe said.

“The other? O the other is that we’re right in being affected,” Lord Arglay answered, “that amid all this mess of myths and tangle of traditions and . . . and . . . febrifuge of fables, there is something extreme and terrible. And if so, Giles had better be careful.”

“Which do you believe?” Chloe asked.

“My dear girl, I haven’t a notion,” the Chief Justice told her. “I don’t see a little bit how we can decide. It’s a question — let’s be perfectly frank — of which we want to believe.”

“Which do you then?” Chloe persisted.

“I don’t want to believe either. I hate being foolish and I dislike being pious,” Arglay said. “Do you choose first. How will you know and receive the Stone?”

“He said it was the End of Desire,” Chloe murmured.

“And shall that be romance or truth for you?” Arglay asked. “Make up your mind and tell me, child; what will you have the Stone to be?”

“I would have it to be the End of Desire indeed,” Chloe said. “I would have it to be something very strong and satisfying. I am afraid of it but I— don’t laugh — I love it.”

Lord Arglay looked at her thoughtfully. Then, “Do you believe in God?” he asked.

“I suppose so,” Chloe said. “I think I do when I look at the Stone. But otherwise — I don’t know.”

“Well,” said Lord Arglay, “I will make you a fair proposal — I will if you will. It’s all perfectly ridiculous, but since I saw those people this morning I feel I must be with them or against them. So I suppose I’m against them. Not, mind you, on the evidence. But I refuse to let you believe in God all by yourself.”

Chloe looked up at him, her eyes shining. “But dare I believe that the Stone is of God?” she said. “And what do I mean by God — except . . . ” she half added and stopped.

“Except —?” Arglay asked, but she silently refused to go on and he said: “If you will believe this way, then I also will believe. And we will set ourselves against the world, the flesh, and the devil, and not sit in the seat of Giles Tumulty. But I would have you be careful there for I think he hates you.”

“But what can he do?” Chloe asked in astonishment.

“If I have seen his mind, as I believe I did,” Lord Arglay said, “he may also see yours. Unless the Stone has varying powers. I would have you consider very closely in what way you may work with the Stone for God. Also I would have you keep it on you day and night that you may escape by it if need be.”

“But what need can there be?” Chloe asked.

“Child,” Lord Arglay answered, “it is clear that these men cannot stop where they are. They must either abandon the Stone to chance and itself or they must seek to possess it. Now I do not think it is well that they should wholly possess it, and I think that you and I should keep our Types while we can. I do not know whether the Types can be united, but if I were Birlesmere I would strive for that, and the united Stone would give sole power. If this is what he does they may attempt anything within or without the Law. Fortunately,” he added pensively, “the interpretation of the law so often depends on the Courts. To-morrow I will talk to the Hajji.”

“But what will you do with it in the end?” Chloe asked.

“Why, that we shall see,” Lord Arglay said. “For the Law is greater than the Courts, and in the end the Courts shall submit to the Law. But meanwhile you shall consider how you will follow this God that we have decided to believe in, who, it seems, may give wisdom through the Stone. And then we will free Giles’s prisoner in the past.” He paused and considered Chloe with an anxious protectiveness. “But if you need me,” he said, “come to me at any hour of the day or night.”

Chloe met his eyes gravely. “I will remember,” she said, “and — and I do believe in God.”

“In spite of the fact that Giles Tumulty exists, so do I,” Lord Arglay said, “though in a man of past fifty it’s either an imbecility or a heroism.”

“And what for a girl of twenty-five?” Chloe asked.

“O in her it’s either a duty or a generosity,” Lord Arglay said, “but for a secretary it’s a safeguard. One must have something to explain or counter-balance one’s employer!”

At Ealing Sir Giles got up in a rage. “Why the hell can’t I find out?” he asked, throwing one of the Types on the table. The question seemed reasonable enough. For in their preliminary investigations that afternoon both he and the Professor had found out all they wanted. Having worked out what seemed a moderately safe formula they had experimented first on such minds as Sir Giles’s housekeeper, the Professor’s old aunt, Lord Birlesmere, and others. After something of the same experiences which Lord Arglay had undergone, the results had been satisfactory enough. Sir Giles, rather to his annoyance, had been conscious of a strongly marked, if muddled, desire that some malignant old beast should go to China, mingled with an anxiety whether a girl called Lizzie should be getting into trouble. The process was similar in each case. There opened before the eyes of the holder of the Stone the scene then before the eyes of the subject of the investigation, there arose within his mind the occupation of the subject’s mind, but — in words rather than in ill-defined vision. The presence of the Stone in the hand remained throughout as a kind of anchor, so that the connexion with the actual world was never entirely lost, and could at will be wholly reestablished.

But when Sir Giles, rather pleased at being able apparently to get his own back on the Chief Justice, attempted the most important experiment, he found the result negligible. He framed the formula; he called up the consciousness of Arglay; he intensified his will. There appeared gradually before him the familiar study as seen from in front of the fire-place; Chloe was sitting in front of him. Sir Giles was aware of thinking that Arglay had an admirable taste in women, that though of course this girl was not really intelligent she could probably take the Chief Justice in. This consciousness went on repeating itself again and again. He tried to empty his mind, but it was no good. The image of Chloe occupied it, with a sort of detached irritation, until he recalled himself in a fit of anger.

“You try, Palliser,” he said shortly. “Arglay can’t be so demented on that girl that he can think of nothing else. But I’m damned if he seems to, unless the Stone’s gone wrong.”

The Professor tried, with a little more success. “The Chief Justice,” he said, “seems to be thinking of protecting God.”

“Of what?” Sir Giles shrieked.

“That was the impression I got,” Palliser said. “A strong wish to protect and a sense that protection was valueless, and the idea — the word God recurring. All aimed at the girl.”

“I know Arglay’s a legal hurdy-gurdy,” Sir Giles said, “but even he wouldn’t play that tune. But why can’t I get any result?”

“You don’t think,” Palliser asked rather nervously, “that it’s because you’d already decided what he was thinking?”

“Don’t be a damned fool,” said Sir Giles. “I hadn’t decided. I know his feeling about the girl, of course. She’s a presentable bitch and there’s only one thing an unmarried senility like Arglay could be thinking. You don’t mean to tell me he’s merely altruistic? But he can’t be thinking of lechery the whole time. He must be talking to her about something — even God.”

The Professor continued persistent. “You don’t think you’re imposing your view on him?” he said. “After all, these others — your housekeeper and the rest — we didn’t know or care what they were thinking about. But Arglay and this girl — you do or you say you do.”

“Well, you don’t seem to be much nearer,” Sir Giles snapped. “What’s this blithering imbecility about protecting God?”

“I may not have got it quite right,” Palliser admitted. “But I certainly had the idea of protection, and of God. It may have been the girl he wanted to protect.”

“A damn good word, protection,” Tumulty sneered, and for a minute or two seethed up and down the room. Then he broke out: “Do you mean to tell me Arglay can read my mind and I can’t read his?”

“You know best,” Palliser answered. “You know how far he knew what you were doing, and how far you know what he was.’

“He knew something about that Boy Scout of yours,” Sir Giles said, “so he must have seen something. By the way, I suppose he — what was his filthy name? Pondon? — is going on his merry-go-round just the same? I’d like to have a look at him. I suppose we can?”

“Only take care you don’t get caught up in the past too,” Palliser said. “But I should think you could see him if you wanted to. As I understand it, all the past still exists and it’s merely a matter of choosing your point of view.”

“I don’t see,” Sir Giles said thoughtfully, “I really don’t see how he’s ever going to get back. Birlesmere’s quite right — what we want is to control the damned thing. If I could do that I’d — I’d make Arglay an infant in arms and his girl an . . . an embryo again. Friday — Saturday — Sunday — Monday. It’ll very soon be four days to the minute since your fellow willed. I suppose he just goes on willing when he reaches the top point?”

“The Stone being there too?” Palliser asked.

“I suppose so,” Sir Giles meditatively answered. “If the past is continually scaled off the present, the Stone is scaled off too. And he goes on willing and dropping it. Let’s have a look at him, Palliser!” Palliser hesitated a little. “We want to be careful only to look,” he said. “Don’t forget that half-hour.”

Sir Giles looked black. “I don’t,” he said harshly. “But we can’t do anything about that now. And we only want to see the past from the present. Come along, Palliser, let’s try it. I desire — I will — to see — what was his name? Hezekiah? O, Elijah — I will without passing into the past to see Elijah Pondon — something like that, eh? What was the exact time — a quarter to seven, wasn’t it? It’s almost that now.”

“Suppose,” Lord Arglay said to Chloe, “two persons, each holding the Stone or its Type, wished opposite things at once, what would happen then?”

“Nothing probably,” Chloe said.

“I wonder.” Lord Arglay looked at the Type before them. “Nothing — or would the stronger will . . .? The point is this. You know the wretched fellow Giles trapped? Well, he willed Of course; they must have persuaded him so far. But he must have willed merely in obedience, in anxiety to please, in a kind of good-feeling — you see —? And at the moment he held a Type.” He paused.

“Yes?” Chloe asked.

“It’s all very difficult,” Lord Arglay sighed. “But if the Stone is — what the Hajji says — indivisible and that sort of thing, mustn’t all the Types be, so to speak, one? It sounds raving lunacy — but otherwise I don’t see . . . And if they are, and if a fellow had one of the Types for a moment, could we enlarge that moment by some other Type so that he saw and did or didn’t do what he did before? Do you see?”

“Not very well,” Chloe said frankly. “Wouldn’t you be altering the past?”

“Not really,” Lord Arglay went on arguing. “If the Types are one then at his moment of holding his this fellow in Birmingham held this one, and there his present touches our present.”

“But then — you mean that Time is in the Stone, not the Stone in Time?” Chloe asked.

“Eh?” said Lord Arglay, “do I? I believe I do. Lucid mind! But keep your lucidity on the practical aspect. Eschew the metaphysics for a moment, and tell me — don’t you think we might offer him other ways at that moment?”

“Why are we to be so anxious to help this poor man?” Chloe asked. “You do dislike Sir Giles almost as much as I do, don’t you, Lord Arglay?”

“I dislike tyranny, treachery, and cruelty,” the Chief Justice said. “And I think that this fellow has been betrayed and tyrannized over. Whether it’s cruelty depends on what his past was like. Besides, it’s got to be a kind of symbol for me — an omen. I can’t believe the Stone likes it.”

“I don’t suppose it does,” Chloe said seriously.

A little startled, Lord Arglay looked at her. “My dear child,” he said, “do you really think —?” But as she looked up at him it was so clear that she did think exactly that, and that it seemed quite natural to her, that he abandoned his protest.

“We are,” he thought to himself, “becoming anthropomorphic a little rapidly. We shall be asking the Stone what it would like for breakfast next.” He played privately with the fancy of the the Stone absorbing sausages and coffee, and then decided to postpone any protest for the moment. “After all, I don’t know any more than she does,” he meditated, “perhaps it would like sausages and coffee. Shall I end with a tribal deity? Well then, God help us all, it shall be at least our deity and not Giles’s and Sheldrake’s and Birlesmere’s. Much nicer for everyone, I should think. Now that we know we create gods, do not let us hesitate in the work.” He blinked inwardly at the phrase and proceeded. “But I have promised to believe in God, and here is a temptation to infidelity already, since I know that any god in whom I can believe will be consonant with my mind. So if I believe it must be in a god consonant with me. This would seem to limit God very considerably.”

“Do I really think what?” Chloe asked.

For a moment he did not answer. He considered her as she sat before him, leaning a little forward, gravity closed over fire, waiting for his answer, and “Yet it is very certain,” Lord Arglay thought, “that things beyond my conscious invention exist and are to be believed. Also that if I choose to attribute such an admirable creation to God I am thereby enlarging my own ideas of Him, which by themselves would never have reached it. So that in some sense I do believe outside myself.”

“Nothing, nothing,” he said to Chloe. “Return we to our sheep, our ewe lamb. If his will worked merely in courtesy, might it not be swept by a stronger will?” He began to walk up and down the room. “You know, Chloe, I’ve a good mind to try it.”

“Do be careful,” Chloe said, with considerable restraint.

“I shall be extremely careful,” Lord Arglay told her. “But don’t forget we are rather relying on the Stone to assist us. I admit that it’s purely logical and won’t go against our wills, but perhaps it might even elucidate the will. Anyhow,” he added suddenly, “I’m going to try. But what the devil do I say to it?”

He took up a pencil and a sheet of paper and sat down, remaining for some minutes engrossed. When he had at last, in deep concentration, made several marks on the paper he threw it to Chloe. “There,” he said.

It looked almost like a magical diagram. There was a rectangle in the centre, with two or three small sketches within it which might have been meant for human figures. Above it was written “6:45 or thereabouts”, and next to it “Pondon”. Underneath “I will that in the unity of the Stone I may know that moment and show this present moment to him who is in the past, and that I may return therefrom.”

“The last phrase,” Lord Arglay said, “sounds singularly unlike a courageous English gentleman. But I shall do no good at all by being stuck in last Friday. Otherwise it’s almost as good as the Hajji.”

“I think the Hajji would have added one thing,” Chloe answered, and blushing a little wrote at the end “Under the Protection”; then she said hastily, “What is the drawing meant to be?”

“That is the room where Giles’s experiment took place,” Lord Arglay explained. “The squizzle on the right is Pondon, the Greek decoration on the left is Palliser, and the thousand-legged Hindu god underneath is Giles himself. It’s to help the mind. With the greatest respect to the informing spirit of the Stone I don’t want to leave more to it than I can help.” He looked at his watch. “Six-thirty-three,” he said. “Ought one to give the Stone a little rope?”

“You think the exact time necessary?” Chloe asked.

“Not logically, no,” Arglay said. “It’s merely to help my own mind again. Strictly one could reach six-forty-five on Friday from any time now. But the nearer we are the sharper the crisis seems to me to be. Silly, but true.”

“And what do I do?” Chloe asked.

Arglay looked at her a little wryly. “I think you’d better just sit still,” he said. “You might pray a little if you feel sufficiently accustomed to believing in God.” He picked up the Stone and settled himself in his armchair. But before he could begin to concentrate Chloe had moved her own chair to face him, and leaning forward, laid her right hand over his that held the Stone. With her left she picked up the diagram.

“Let me try too,” she said. “I’d rather not be left here alone.”

“Be warned,” Lord Arglay answered. “You may find yourself merely taking down the history of Organic Law. Or even continually knocking Palliser’s chair away from him and getting your fingers cut infinitely often.”

“Let me try,” she urged again. “Or do you think I might spoil it?”

“No,” Arglay said. “I think you may save it. For I am sure you are the only one of all of us who is heartily devoted to the Stone. Well, come along then. Are you comfortable?”

Chloe nodded. “Under the Protection,” she said softly and suddenly, and Lord Arglay, smiling a little but not at all in scorn, gravely assented: “Under the Protection.” And silence fell on the room.

Chloe was later on very indistinct in her own mind on what had actually happened or seemed to happen. She was even shy of explaining it to Lord Arglay, though she did manage to give him a general idea, encouraged by the fact that he seemed to accept it as a perfectly normal incident. For after some few minutes while she gallantly strove to keep her mind fixed on the diagram at which she was gazing, and the unfortunate Mr. Pondon, and Lord Arglay’s almost unintelligibly fixed passion for restoring him, and such difficult and remote things, it seemed to her as if an inner voice very like Arglay’s said firmly: “My dear child, don’t blether. You know perfectly well you don’t care about this at all. Do let us be accurate. Now.”

She made, or so she thought, a general vague protest that she was anxious to do what he wanted, but Arglay, or the Stone, or whatever it was that was dominating her, swept this aside; she forgot it in the sudden rush of her consciousness to its next point of rest. And this point seemed to be the memory of Mr. Frank Lindsay. She found herself remembering with a double poignancy at once how satisfactory and how unsatisfactory he was. The poor dear did and was everything he could be; he held her hand pleasantly, he kissed well, he displayed becoming zeal, and if his talk was a little dull . . . yes, but his talk was not dull but alien. Talk, they all — and two or three other young men arose in Chloe’s mind — they all failed to be memorable in talk. There came to her almost a cloud of phrases and sentences in different voices — preceding, accompanying, following, incidents that had certainly not been talk. They had been extremely delightful — incidents and companions alike — she was an ungrateful creature. But her palm rested on something that was warmer and closer and steadier than any kiss on that palm had been, and the ends of her fingers touched a hand that was warm and intimate and serene. And again the voice that was Arglay’s or the Stone’s said within her: “Go on, child.” In a sudden reaction it seemed to her that she hated that intimate but austere government. She hung suspended between it and Frank Lindsay. Times upon times seemed to pass as she waited, without the power of choice between this and that, hating to lose and fearing to gain either because of the loss of the other that such gain must bring. She must, she thought vaguely, be getting very old, too old to be loved or desired, too old to desire. Her memories were spectral now; her companions and peers very faint and circling round her in an unnoticing procession. And besides them what else had there been in her life? There came to her a phrase — The Survey of Organic Law. Organic Law had never meant very much to her, and this increasing loneliness and age was law, organic law. But again there pierced through that loneliness the double strength upon which her hand rested. The words grew sacramental; they had not existed by themselves but as the communication — little enough understood — of a stored and illuminated mind. Who was it, long before, had used those words? And suddenly at a great distance she saw the figure of Lord Arglay as he stood in Sir Giles’s room holding the Stone — the justice of England, direct in the line of the makers and expositors of law. Other names arose, Suleiman and Charlemagne and Augustus, the Khalifs and Caesars of the world, of a world in which a kiss was for a moment but their work for a longer time, and though they grew old their work was final, each in its degree, and endured. Between those figures and her young lovers, now, in her increasing age, she could not stop to choose; immediately and infinitesimally her mind shifted and she forgot her throbbing past. It avenged itself at once; the names grew cold and the figures vague as she dwelled in them. She seemed to meet the eyes of the ghostly Arglay, and he smiled and shook his head. No longer strong but very faint the same voice said to her: “Go on, child.” But where and how was she to go? A cold darkness was about her and within her, and at the end of that darkness the high vision of instruction and fair companionship was fading also in the night. Despairingly she called to it; despairingly with all her soul she answered: “I will go on, I will, but tell me how.” The phantom did not linger gently to mock or comfort her; it was gone, and around her was an absolute desolation which she supposed must be death. All the pain of heart-ache she had ever known, all negligences, desertions, and betrayals, were gathered here, and were shutting themselves up with her alone. Beyond any memory of a hurt and lonely youth, beyond any imagination of an unwanted and miserable age, this pain fed on itself and abolished time. She lay stupefied in anguish.

From somewhere a voice spoke to her, an outer voice, increasing in clearness; she heard it through the night. “Child,” Lord Arglay was saying with a restrained anxiety, and then, still carefully, “Chloe! Chloe, child!” She made a small effort towards him, and suddenly the pain passed from her and the outer world began to appear. But in the less than second in which that change took place she saw, away beyond her, glowing between the darkness and the returning day, the mild radiance of the Stone. Away where the apparition of Lord Arglay had seemed to be, it shone, white interspersed with gold, dilating and lucid from within. Only in the general alteration of her knowledge she was aware of that perfection, and catching up her breath at the vision she loosed it again in the study and found the Chief Justice watching her.

Lord Arglay’s own experience had been much more definable. He shaped in his mind the image of the room in which he had seen the three men, formulated as clearly as he could his desire to offer Pondon a way of return, and made an effort towards submitting the whole thing to whatever Power reposed in the Stone. He took all possible care to avoid any desire towards an active imposition of his will, since it appeared to him that such a desire involved not only danger to himself, but probable failure in his attempt. Less moved, in spite of his protestations, by the mere romanticism of the thing than Chloe, unaffected by titles and traditions and half-ceremonial fables, he yet arrived at something of the same attitude by a process of rationalism. He did not know how far the Stone was capable of action — perhaps not at all; but until he did know a great deal more about its potentialities than he did at the moment, he refused to do more than make an attempt to provide Pondon with a way of return. How far, and in what manner, such a return would present itself to the consciousness of Sir Giles’s victim, he could not tell; the endeavour was bound to be experimental only. But he did not primarily wish to move himself to the building at Birmingham; he wanted to bring that complex of minds and place and time again into the presence of the Stone. He resolved his thoughts into lucidity and sat waiting.

For what seemed a long while nothing happened. Concentrated on his thought he remained unconscious of the look of strain that gradually occupied Chloe’s face; at first he was vaguely conscious of her, then he lost her altogether, For though there was at first no change either in his surroundings or in his thought yet change there was. Something was pressing against his eyes from within; he felt unnaturally detached, floating, as it were, in his chair. A slight nausea attacked him and passed; his brain was swimming in a sudden faintness. The room about him was the same and yet not the same. The table at his right hand seemed to be multiplied; a number of identical tables appeared beyond it in a long line stretching out to a vague infinity, and all around him the furniture multiplied itself so. Walls that were and yet were not transparent sometimes obscured it and sometimes dissolved and vanished. He saw himself in different positions, now here, now there, and seemed to recognize them. Whenever his mind paused on any one of these eidola of himself it seemed to be fixed, and all the rest to fade, and then his mind would relax and again the phantastmagoria would close in, shifting, vanishing, reappearing. He became astonishingly aware of himself sitting there, much more acutely so than in any normal action; a hand was still on his, but it was not Chloe’s or was it Chloe’s? No, it was another’s hand, masculine, more aged; it was . . . it was the Hajji’s. Lord Arglay began to think: “But this is Friday,” then with an effort abolished the thought, and went on keeping the problem in his mind clear. The myriad images of himself that vacillated about him were vastly disconcerting — and there were other people too, his servant, the Hajji, Chloe. He was doing or saying something with each of them. It was like a dream, yet it was not like a dream for distinct memory hovered round him and he found that only by a strong inhibition could he prevent himself submitting to it and being conscious only of some precise moment. The apprehensions began to deepen downwards and outwards but not by the mere inclusion of neighbouring space. An entirely new plane of things thrust itself in and across various of the appearances; in an acute angle almost like a wedge a different room thrust itself down over a picture of himself talking to the Hajji, but within this wedge itself were infinite appearances, swelling like a huge balloon with a painted cover and loosing fresh balloons and new thrusting wedges in all directions. In one group of superimposed layers he was aware of Giles doing a thousand things, and then suddenly, as if in a streak of white light driving right across the whole mirage he was aware of Giles watching. In a new resolution he turned from Giles to Pondon, but he couldn’t see Pondon, or not at all clearly; it seemed to him certainly that Pondon now and again was walking about, was walking towards him, down a floor that ran level with his eyes, straight towards the bridge of his nose. The physical discomfort of the sensation was almost unbearable, but Lord Arglay held on. Pondon now like a tiny speck was right up against him, and then the discomfort vanished. A hand — not Chloe’s, not the Hajji’s, was closing round the Stone in his own hand. Lord Arglay made another act of submission to the Stone; all times were here and equal — if the captive of the past could understand. The Stone seemed to melt, and almost before he had realized it to re-harden; the intruding hand was gone. There was a faint crash somewhere, a sensation of rushing violence. Lord Arglay found himself on his feet and gasping for breath while before him Chloe lay pallid and silent and with shut eyes in her chair.

He stood still for a few seconds till he was breathing more normally and had become more conscious of his surroundings; then, feeling slightly uncertain of his balance, he sat down again. He became aware that his hand and Chloe’s were now closely interlocked; in the hollow between the two he felt the Stone. He looked more carefully at his secretary; he put out his other hand and felt the table near him; then he sighed a little. “And I wonder,” he said to himself, “if anything has happened. Heavens, how tired I am! And what on earth is happening to this child? She looks as if she were going through it too. Dare one do anything . . .? I wonder why Giles shot across like that. He didn’t seem to do anything. I wonder — I wonder about it all. Where is Pondon? Where is Giles? Where am I? And above all where is my admirable secretary?”

Very gently he disengaged their hands, but not entirely, restoring them to the position they were in at the beginning of the experiment. He looked at his watch; it marked six forty-seven. “I wonder,” Lord Arglay said, still staring at it, “if Pondon caught the connexion. It’s all very difficult . . . I seem,” he added, “to remember saying that before. Well . . . ” He leant forward a little and said, softly, but clearly, “Chloe . . . Chloe . . . Chloe, child!”

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