The Story of the Amulet
THE HEART'S DESIRE
If I only had time I could tell you lots of things. For instance, how, in spite of the advice of the Psammead, the four children did, one very wet day, go through their Amulet Arch into the golden desert, and there find the great Temple of Baalbec and meet with the Phoenix whom they never thought to see again. And how the Phoenix did not remember them at all until it went into a sort of prophetic trance—if that can be called remembering. But, alas! I HAVEN'T time, so I must leave all that out though it was a wonderfully thrilling adventure. I must leave out, too, all about the visit of the children to the Hippodrome with the Psammead in its travelling bag, and about how the wishes of the people round about them were granted so suddenly and surprisingly that at last the Psammead had to be taken hurriedly home by Anthea, who consequently missed half the performance. Then there was the time when, Nurse having gone to tea with a friend out Ivalunk way, they were playing 'devil in the dark'—and in the midst of that most creepy pastime the postman's knock frightened Jane nearly out of her life. She took in the letters, however, and put them in the back of the hat-stand drawer, so that they should be safe. And safe they were, for she never thought of them again for weeks and weeks.
One really good thing happened when they took the Psammead to a magic-lantern show and lecture at the boys' school at Camden Town. The lecture was all about our soldiers in South Africa. And the lecturer ended up by saying, 'And I hope every boy in this room has in his heart the seeds of courage and heroism and self-sacrifice, and I wish that every one of you may grow up to be noble and brave and unselfish, worthy citizens of this great Empire for whom our soldiers have freely given their lives.'
And, of course, this came true—which was a distinct score for Camden Town.
As Anthea said, it was unlucky that the lecturer said boys, because now she and Jane would have to be noble and unselfish, if at all, without any outside help. But Jane said, 'I daresay we are already because of our beautiful natures. It's only boys that have to be made brave by magic'—which nearly led to a first-class row.
And I daresay you would like to know all about the affair of the fishing rod, and the fish-hooks, and the cook next door—which was amusing from some points of view, though not perhaps the cook's—but there really is no time even for that.
The only thing that there's time to tell about is the Adventure of Maskelyne and Cooke's, and the Unexpected Apparition—which is also the beginning of the end.
It was Nurse who broke into the gloomy music of the autumn rain on the window panes by suggesting a visit to the Egyptian Hall, England's Home of Mystery. Though they had good, but private reasons to know that their own particular personal mystery was of a very different brand, the four all brightened at the idea. All children, as well as a good many grown-ups, love conjuring.
'It's in Piccadilly,' said old Nurse, carefully counting out the proper number of shillings into Cyril's hand, 'not so very far down on the left from the Circus. There's big pillars outside, something like Carter's seed place in Holborn, as used to be Day and Martin's blacking when I was a gell. And something like Euston Station, only not so big.'
'Yes, I know,' said everybody.
So they started.
But though they walked along the left-hand side of Piccadilly they saw no pillared building that was at all like Carter's seed warehouse or Euston Station or England's Home of Mystery as they remembered it.
At last they stopped a hurried lady, and asked her the way to Maskelyne and Cooke's.
'I don't know, I'm sure,' she said, pushing past them. 'I always shop at the Stores.' Which just shows, as Jane said, how ignorant grown-up people are.
It was a policeman who at last explained to them that England's Mysteries are now appropriately enough enacted at St George's Hall.
So they tramped to Langham Place, and missed the first two items in the programme. But they were in time for the most wonderful magic appearances and disappearances, which they could hardly believe—even with all their knowledge of a larger magic—was not really magic after all.
'If only the Babylonians could have seen THIS conjuring,' whispered Cyril. 'It takes the shine out of their old conjurer, doesn't it?'
'Hush!' said Anthea and several other members of the audience.
Now there was a vacant seat next to Robert. And it was when all eyes were fixed on the stage where Mr Devant was pouring out glasses of all sorts of different things to drink, out of one kettle with one spout, and the audience were delightedly tasting them, that Robert felt someone in that vacant seat. He did not feel someone sit down in it. It was just that one moment there was no one sitting there, and the next moment, suddenly, there was someone.
Robert turned. The someone who had suddenly filled that empty place was Rekh-mara, the Priest of Amen!
Though the eyes of the audience were fixed on Mr David Devant, Mr David Devant's eyes were fixed on the audience. And it happened that his eyes were more particularly fixed on that empty chair. So that he saw quite plainly the sudden appearance, from nowhere, of the Egyptian Priest.
'A jolly good trick,' he said to himself, 'and worked under my own eyes, in my own hall. I'll find out how that's done.' He had never seen a trick that he could not do himself if he tried.
By this time a good many eyes in the audience had turned on the clean-shaven, curiously-dressed figure of the Egyptian Priest.
'Ladies and gentlemen,' said Mr Devant, rising to the occasion, 'this is a trick I have never before performed. The empty seat, third from the end, second row, gallery—you will now find occupied by an Ancient Egyptian, warranted genuine.'
He little knew how true his words were.
And now all eyes were turned on the Priest and the children, and the whole audience, after a moment's breathless surprise, shouted applause. Only the lady on the other side of Rekh-mara drew back a little. She KNEW no one had passed her, and, as she said later, over tea and cold tongue, 'it was that sudden it made her flesh creep.'
Rekh-mara seemed very much annoyed at the notice he was exciting.
'Come out of this crowd,' he whispered to Robert. 'I must talk with you apart.'
'Oh, no,' Jane whispered. 'I did so want to see the Mascot Moth, and the Ventriloquist.'
'How did you get here?' was Robert's return whisper.
'How did you get to Egypt and to Tyre?' retorted Rekh-mara. 'Come, let us leave this crowd.'
'There's no help for it, I suppose,' Robert shrugged angrily. But they all got up.
'Confederates!' said a man in the row behind. 'Now they go round to the back and take part in the next scene.'
'I wish we did,' said Robert.
'Confederate yourself!' said Cyril. And so they got away, the audience applauding to the last.
In the vestibule of St George's Hall they disguised Rekh-mara as well as they could, but even with Robert's hat and Cyril's Inverness cape he was too striking a figure for foot-exercise in the London streets. It had to be a cab, and it took the last, least money of all of them. They stopped the cab a few doors from home, and then the girls went in and engaged old Nurse's attention by an account of the conjuring and a fervent entreaty for dripping-toast with their tea, leaving the front door open so that while Nurse was talking to them the boys could creep quietly in with Rekh-mara and smuggle him, unseen, up the stairs into their bedroom.
When the girls came up they found the Egyptian Priest sitting on the side of Cyril's bed, his hands on his knees, looking like a statue of a king.
'Come on,' said Cyril impatiently. 'He won't begin till we're all here. And shut the door, can't you?'
When the door was shut the Egyptian said—
'My interests and yours are one.'
'Very interesting,' said Cyril, 'and it'll be a jolly sight more interesting if you keep following us about in a decent country with no more clothes on than THAT!'
'Peace,' said the Priest. 'What is this country? and what is this time?'
'The country's England,' said Anthea, 'and the time's about 6,000 years later than YOUR time.'
'The Amulet, then,' said the Priest, deeply thoughtful, 'gives the power to move to and fro in time as well as in space?'
'That's about it,' said Cyril gruffly. 'Look here, it'll be tea-time directly. What are we to do with you?'
'You have one-half of the Amulet, I the other,' said Rekh-mara. 'All that is now needed is the pin to join them.'
'Don't you think it,' said Robert. 'The half you've got is the same half as the one we've got.'
'But the same thing cannot be in the same place and the same time, and yet be not one, but twain,' said the Priest. 'See, here is my half.' He laid it on the Marcella counterpane. 'Where is yours?'
Jane watching the eyes of the others, unfastened the string of the Amulet and laid it on the bed, but too far off for the Priest to seize it, even if he had been so dishonourable. Cyril and Robert stood beside him, ready to spring on him if one of his hands had moved but ever so little towards the magic treasure that was theirs. But his hands did not move, only his eyes opened very wide, and so did everyone else's for the Amulet the Priest had now quivered and shook; and then, as steel is drawn to the magnet, it was drawn across the white counterpane, nearer and nearer to the Amulet, warm from the neck of Jane. And then, as one drop of water mingles with another on a rain-wrinkled window-pane, as one bead of quick-silver is drawn into another bead, Rekh-mara's Amulet slipped into the other one, and, behold! there was no more but the one Amulet!
'Black magic!' cried Rekh-mara, and sprang forward to snatch the Amulet that had swallowed his. But Anthea caught it up, and at the same moment the Priest was jerked back by a rope thrown over his head. It drew, tightened with the pull of his forward leap, and bound his elbows to his sides. Before he had time to use his strength to free himself, Robert had knotted the cord behind him and tied it to the bedpost. Then the four children, overcoming the priest's wrigglings and kickings, tied his legs with more rope.
'I thought,' said Robert, breathing hard, and drawing the last knot tight, 'he'd have a try for OURS, so I got the ropes out of the box-room, so as to be ready.'
The girls, with rather white faces, applauded his foresight.
'Loosen these bonds!' cried Rekh-mara in fury, 'before I blast you with the seven secret curses of Amen-Ra!'
'We shouldn't be likely to loose them AFTER,' Robert retorted.
'Oh, don't quarrel!' said Anthea desperately. 'Look here, he has just as much right to the thing as we have. This,' she took up the Amulet that had swallowed the other one, 'this has got his in it as well as being ours. Let's go shares.'
'Let me go!' cried the Priest, writhing.
'Now, look here,' said Robert, 'if you make a row we can just open that window and call the police—the guards, you know—and tell them you've been trying to rob us. NOW will you shut up and listen to reason?'
'I suppose so,' said Rekh-mara sulkily.
But reason could not be spoken to him till a whispered counsel had been held in the far corner by the washhand-stand and the towel-horse, a counsel rather long and very earnest.
At last Anthea detached herself from the group, and went back to the Priest.
'Look here,' she said in her kind little voice, 'we want to be friends. We want to help you. Let's make a treaty. Let's join together to get the Amulet—the whole one, I mean. And then it shall belong to you as much as to us, and we shall all get our hearts' desire.'
'Fair words,' said the Priest, 'grow no onions.'
'WE say, "Butter no parsnips",' Jane put in. 'But don't you see we WANT to be fair? Only we want to bind you in the chains of honour and upright dealing.'
'Will you deal fairly by us?' said Robert.
'I will,' said the Priest. 'By the sacred, secret name that is written under the Altar of Amen-Ra, I will deal fairly by you. Will you, too, take the oath of honourable partnership?'
'No,' said Anthea, on the instant, and added rather rashly. 'We don't swear in England, except in police courts, where the guards are, you know, and you don't want to go there. But when we SAY we'll do a thing—it's the same as an oath to us—we do it. You trust us, and we'll trust you.' She began to unbind his legs, and the boys hastened to untie his arms.
When he was free he stood up, stretched his arms, and laughed.
'Now,' he said, 'I am stronger than you and my oath is void. I have sworn by nothing, and my oath is nothing likewise. For there IS no secret, sacred name under the altar of Amen-Ra.'
'Oh, yes there is!' said a voice from under the bed. Everyone started—Rekh-mara most of all.
Cyril stooped and pulled out the bath of sand where the Psammead slept. 'You don't know everything, though you ARE a Divine Father of the Temple of Amen,' said the Psammead shaking itself till the sand fell tinkling on the bath edge. 'There IS a secret, sacred name beneath the altar of Amen-Ra. Shall I call on that name?'
'No, no!' cried the Priest in terror.
'No,' said Jane, too. 'Don't let's have any calling names.'
'Besides,' said Rekh-mara, who had turned very white indeed under his natural brownness, 'I was only going to say that though there isn't any name under—'
'There IS,' said the Psammead threateningly.
'Well, even if there WASN'T, I will be bound by the wordless oath of your strangely upright land, and having said that I will be your friend—I will be it.'
'Then that's all right,' said the Psammead; 'and there's the tea-bell. What are you going to do with your distinguished partner? He can't go down to tea like that, you know.'
'You see we can't do anything till the 3rd of December,' said Anthea, 'that's when we are to find the whole charm. What can we do with Rekh-mara till then?'
'Box-room,' said Cyril briefly, 'and smuggle up his meals. It will be rather fun.'
'Like a fleeing Cavalier concealed from exasperated Roundheads,' said Robert. 'Yes.'
So Rekh-mara was taken up to the box-room and made as comfortable as possible in a snug nook between an old nursery fender and the wreck of a big four-poster. They gave him a big rag-bag to sit on, and an old, moth-eaten fur coat off the nail on the door to keep him warm. And when they had had their own tea they took him some. He did not like the tea at all, but he liked the bread and butter, and cake that went with it. They took it in turns to sit with him during the evening, and left him fairly happy and quite settled for the night.
But when they went up in the morning with a kipper, a quarter of which each of them had gone without at breakfast, Rekh-mara was gone! There was the cosy corner with the rag-bag, and the moth-eaten fur coat—but the cosy corner was empty.
'Good riddance!' was naturally the first delightful thought in each mind. The second was less pleasing, because everyone at once remembered that since his Amulet had been swallowed up by theirs—which hung once more round the neck of Jane—he could have no possible means of returning to his Egyptian past. Therefore he must be still in England, and probably somewhere quite near them, plotting mischief.
The attic was searched, to prevent mistakes, but quite vainly.
'The best thing we can do,' said Cyril, 'is to go through the half Amulet straight away, get the whole Amulet, and come back.'
'I don't know,' Anthea hesitated. 'Would that be quite fair? Perhaps he isn't really a base deceiver. Perhaps something's happened to him.'
'Happened?' said Cyril, 'not it! Besides, what COULD happen?'
'I don't know,' said Anthea. 'Perhaps burglars came in the night, and accidentally killed him, and took away the—all that was mortal of him, you know—to avoid discovery.'
'Or perhaps,' said Cyril, 'they hid the—all that was mortal, in one of those big trunks in the box-room. SHALL WE GO BACK AND LOOK?' he added grimly.
'No, no!' Jane shuddered. 'Let's go and tell the Psammead and see what it says.'
'No,' said Anthea, 'let's ask the learned gentleman. If anything has happened to Rekh-mara a gentleman's advice would be more useful than a Psammead's. And the learned gentleman'll only think it's a dream, like he always does.'
They tapped at the door, and on the 'Come in' entered. The learned gentleman was sitting in front of his untasted breakfast.
Opposite him, in the easy chair, sat Rekh-mara!
'Hush!' said the learned gentleman very earnestly, 'please, hush! or the dream will go. I am learning... Oh, what have I not learned in the last hour!'
'In the grey dawn,' said the Priest, 'I left my hiding-place, and finding myself among these treasures from my own country, I remained. I feel more at home here somehow.'
'Of course I know it's a dream,' said the learned gentleman feverishly, 'but, oh, ye gods! what a dream! By jove!...'
'Call not upon the gods,' said the Priest, 'lest ye raise greater ones than ye can control. Already,' he explained to the children, 'he and I are as brothers, and his welfare is dear to me as my own.'
'He has told me,' the learned gentleman began, but Robert interrupted. This was no moment for manners.
'Have you told him,' he asked the Priest, 'all about the Amulet?'
'No,' said Rekh-mara.
'Then tell him now. He is very learned. Perhaps he can tell us what to do.'
Rekh-mara hesitated, then told—and, oddly enough, none of the children ever could remember afterwards what it was that he did tell. Perhaps he used some magic to prevent their remembering.
When he had done the learned gentleman was silent, leaning his elbow on the table and his head on his hand.
'Dear Jimmy,' said Anthea gently, 'don't worry about it. We are sure to find it today, somehow.'
'Yes,' said Rekh-mara, 'and perhaps, with it, Death.'
'It's to bring us our hearts' desire,' said Robert.
'Who knows,' said the Priest, 'what things undreamed-of and infinitely desirable lie beyond the dark gates?'
'Oh, DON'T,' said Jane, almost whimpering.
The learned gentleman raised his head suddenly.
'Why not,' he suggested, 'go back into the Past? At a moment when the Amulet is unwatched. Wish to be with it, and that it shall be under your hand.'
It was the simplest thing in the world! And yet none of them had ever thought of it.
'Come,' cried Rekh-mara, leaping up. 'Come NOW!'
'May—may I come?' the learned gentleman timidly asked. 'It's only a dream, you know.'
'Come, and welcome, oh brother,' Rekh-mara was beginning, but Cyril and Robert with one voice cried, 'NO.'
'You weren't with us in Atlantis,' Robert added, 'or you'd know better than to let him come.'
'Dear Jimmy,' said Anthea, 'please don't ask to come. We'll go and be back again before you have time to know that we're gone.'
'And he, too?'
'We must keep together,' said Rekh-mara, 'since there is but one perfect Amulet to which I and these children have equal claims.'
Jane held up the Amulet—Rekh-mara went first—and they all passed through the great arch into which the Amulet grew at the Name of Power.
The learned gentleman saw through the arch a darkness lighted by smoky gleams. He rubbed his eyes. And he only rubbed them for ten seconds.
The children and the Priest were in a small, dark chamber. A square doorway of massive stone let in gleams of shifting light, and the sound of many voices chanting a slow, strange hymn. They stood listening. Now and then the chant quickened and the light grew brighter, as though fuel had been thrown on a fire.
'Where are we?' whispered Anthea.
'And when?' whispered Robert.
'This is some shrine near the beginnings of belief,' said the Egyptian shivering. 'Take the Amulet and come away. It is cold here in the morning of the world.'
And then Jane felt that her hand was on a slab or table of stone, and, under her hand, something that felt like the charm that had so long hung round her neck, only it was thicker. Twice as thick.
'It's HERE!' she said, 'I've got it!' And she hardly knew the sound of her own voice.
'Come away,' repeated Rekh-mara.
'I wish we could see more of this Temple,' said Robert resistingly.
'Come away,' the Priest urged, 'there is death all about, and strong magic. Listen.'
The chanting voices seemed to have grown louder and fiercer, and light stronger.
'They are coming!' cried Rekh-mara. 'Quick, quick, the Amulet!'
Jane held it up.
'What a long time you've been rubbing your eyes!' said Anthea; 'don't you see we've got back?' The learned gentleman merely stared at her.
'Miss Anthea—Miss Jane!' It was Nurse's voice, very much higher and squeaky and more exalted than usual.
'Oh, bother!' said everyone. Cyril adding, 'You just go on with the dream for a sec, Mr Jimmy, we'll be back directly. Nurse'll come up if we don't. SHE wouldn't think Rekh-mara was a dream.'
Then they went down. Nurse was in the hall, an orange envelope in one hand, and a pink paper in the other.
'Your Pa and Ma's come home. "Reach London 11.15. Prepare rooms as directed in letter", and signed in their two names.'
'Oh, hooray! hooray! hooray!' shouted the boys and Jane. But Anthea could not shout, she was nearer crying.
'Oh,' she said almost in a whisper, 'then it WAS true. And we HAVE got our hearts' desire.'
'But I don't understand about the letter,' Nurse was saying. 'I haven't HAD no letter.'
'OH!' said Jane in a queer voice, 'I wonder whether it was one of those... they came that night—you know, when we were playing "devil in the dark"—and I put them in the hat-stand drawer, behind the clothes-brushes and'—she pulled out the drawer as she spoke—'and here they are!'
There was a letter for Nurse and one for the children. The letters told how Father had done being a war-correspondent and was coming home; and how Mother and The Lamb were going to meet him in Italy and all come home together; and how The Lamb and Mother were quite well; and how a telegram would be sent to tell the day and the hour of their home-coming.
'Mercy me!' said old Nurse. 'I declare if it's not too bad of You, Miss Jane. I shall have a nice to-do getting things straight for your Pa and Ma.'
'Oh, never mind, Nurse,' said Jane, hugging her; 'isn't it just too lovely for anything!'
'We'll come and help you,' said Cyril. 'There's just something upstairs we've got to settle up, and then we'll all come and help you.'
'Get along with you,' said old Nurse, but she laughed jollily. 'Nice help YOU'D be. I know you. And it's ten o'clock now.'
There was, in fact, something upstairs that they had to settle. Quite a considerable something, too. And it took much longer than they expected.
A hasty rush into the boys' room secured the Psammead, very sandy and very cross.
'It doesn't matter how cross and sandy it is though,' said Anthea, 'it ought to be there at the final council.'
'It'll give the learned gentleman fits, I expect,' said Robert, 'when he sees it.'
But it didn't.
'The dream is growing more and more wonderful,' he exclaimed, when the Psammead had been explained to him by Rekh-mara. 'I have dreamed this beast before.'
'Now,' said Robert, 'Jane has got the half Amulet and I've got the whole. Show up, Jane.'
Jane untied the string and laid her half Amulet on the table, littered with dusty papers, and the clay cylinders marked all over with little marks like the little prints of birds' little feet. Robert laid down the whole Amulet, and Anthea gently restrained the eager hand of the learned gentleman as it reached out yearningly towards the 'perfect specimen'.
And then, just as before on the Marcella quilt, so now on the dusty litter of papers and curiosities, the half Amulet quivered and shook, and then, as steel is drawn to a magnet, it was drawn across the dusty manuscripts, nearer and nearer to the perfect Amulet, warm from the pocket of Robert. And then, as one drop of water mingles with another when the panes of the window are wrinkled with rain, as one bead of mercury is drawn into another bead, the half Amulet, that was the children's and was also Rekh-mara's,—slipped into the whole Amulet, and, behold! there was only one—the perfect and ultimate Charm.
'And THAT'S all right,' said the Psammead, breaking a breathless silence.
'Yes,' said Anthea, 'and we've got our hearts' desire. Father and Mother and The Lamb are coming home today.'
'But what about me?' said Rekh-mara.
'What IS your heart's desire?' Anthea asked.
'Great and deep learning,' said the Priest, without a moment's hesitation. 'A learning greater and deeper than that of any man of my land and my time. But learning too great is useless. If I go back to my own land and my own age, who will believe my tales of what I have seen in the future? Let me stay here, be the great knower of all that has been, in that our time, so living to me, so old to you, about which your learned men speculate unceasingly, and often, HE tells me, vainly.'
'If I were you,' said the Psammead, 'I should ask the Amulet about that. It's a dangerous thing, trying to live in a time that's not your own. You can't breathe an air that's thousands of centuries ahead of your lungs without feeling the effects of it, sooner or later. Prepare the mystic circle and consult the Amulet.'
'Oh, WHAT a dream!' cried the learned gentleman. 'Dear children, if you love me—and I think you do, in dreams and out of them—prepare the mystic circle and consult the Amulet!'
They did. As once before, when the sun had shone in August splendour, they crouched in a circle on the floor. Now the air outside was thick and yellow with the fog that by some strange decree always attends the Cattle Show week. And in the street costers were shouting. 'Ur Hekau Setcheh,' Jane said the Name of Power. And instantly the light went out, and all the sounds went out too, so that there was a silence and a darkness, both deeper than any darkness or silence that you have ever even dreamed of imagining. It was like being deaf or blind, only darker and quieter even than that.
Then out of that vast darkness and silence came a light and a voice. The light was too faint to see anything by, and the voice was too small for you to hear what it said. But the light and the voice grew. And the light was the light that no man may look on and live, and the voice was the sweetest and most terrible voice in the world. The children cast down their eyes. And so did everyone.
'I speak,' said the voice. 'What is it that you would hear?'
There was a pause. Everyone was afraid to speak.
'What are we to do about Rekh-mara?' said Robert suddenly and abruptly. 'Shall he go back through the Amulet to his own time, or—'
'No one can pass through the Amulet now,' said the beautiful, terrible voice, 'to any land or any time. Only when it was imperfect could such things be. But men may pass through the perfect charm to the perfect union, which is not of time or space.'
'Would you be so very kind,' said Anthea tremulously, 'as to speak so that we can understand you? The Psammead said something about Rekh-mara not being able to live here, and if he can't get back—' She stopped, her heart was beating desperately in her throat, as it seemed.
'Nobody can continue to live in a land and in a time not appointed,' said the voice of glorious sweetness. 'But a soul may live, if in that other time and land there be found a soul so akin to it as to offer it refuge, in the body of that land and time, that thus they two may be one soul in one body.'
The children exchanged discouraged glances. But the eyes of Rekh-mara and the learned gentleman met, and were kind to each other, and promised each other many things, secret and sacred and very beautiful.
Anthea saw the look. 'Oh, but,' she said, without at all meaning to say it, 'dear Jimmy's soul isn't at all like Rekh-mara's. I'm certain it isn't. I don't want to be rude, but it ISN'T, you know. Dear Jimmy's soul is as good as gold, and—'
'Nothing that is not good can pass beneath the double arch of my perfect Amulet,' said the voice. 'If both are willing, say the word of Power, and let the two souls become one for ever and ever more.'
'Shall I?' asked Jane.
The voices were those of the Egyptian Priest and the learned gentleman, and the voices were eager, alive, thrilled with hope and the desire of great things.
So Jane took the Amulet from Robert and held it up between the two men, and said, for the last time, the word of Power.
'Ur Hekau Setcheh.'
The perfect Amulet grew into a double arch; the two arches leaned to each other making a great A.
'A stands for Amen,' whispered Jane; 'what he was a priest of.'
'Hush!' breathed Anthea.
The great double arch glowed in and through the green light that had been there since the Name of Power had first been spoken—it glowed with a light more bright yet more soft than the other light—a glory and splendour and sweetness unspeakable. 'Come!' cried Rekh-mara, holding out his hands.
'Come!' cried the learned gentleman, and he also held out his hands.
Each moved forward under the glowing, glorious arch of the perfect Amulet.
Then Rekh-mara quavered and shook, and as steel is drawn to a magnet he was drawn, under the arch of magic, nearer and nearer to the learned gentleman. And, as one drop of water mingles with another, when the window-glass is rain-wrinkled, as one quick-silver bead is drawn to another quick-silver bead, Rekh-mara, Divine Father of the Temple of Amen-Ra, was drawn into, slipped into, disappeared into, and was one with Jimmy, the good, the beloved, the learned gentleman.
And suddenly it was good daylight and the December sun shone. The fog has passed away like a dream.
The Amulet was there—little and complete in jane's hand, and there were the other children and the Psammead, and the learned gentleman. But Rekh-mara—or the body of Rekh-mara—was not there any more. As for his soul...
'Oh, the horrid thing!' cried Robert, and put his foot on a centipede as long as your finger, that crawled and wriggled and squirmed at the learned gentleman's feet.
'THAT,' said the Psammead, 'WAS the evil in the soul of Rekh-mara.'
There was a deep silence.
'Then Rekh-mara's HIM now?' said Jane at last.
'All that was good in Rekh-mara,' said the Psammead.
'HE ought to have his heart's desire, too,' said Anthea, in a sort of stubborn gentleness.
'HIS heart's desire,' said the Psammead, 'is the perfect Amulet you hold in your hand. Yes—and has been ever since he first saw the broken half of it.'
'We've got ours,' said Anthea softly.
'Yes,' said the Psammead—its voice was crosser than they had ever heard it—'your parents are coming home. And what's to become of ME? I shall be found out, and made a show of, and degraded in every possible way. I KNOW they'll make me go into Parliament—hateful place—all mud and no sand. That beautiful Baalbec temple in the desert! Plenty of good sand there, and no politics! I wish I were there, safe in the Past—that I do.'
'I wish you were,' said the learned gentleman absently, yet polite as ever.
The Psammead swelled itself up, turned its long snail's eyes in one last lingering look at Anthea—a loving look, she always said, and thought—and—vanished.
'Well,' said Anthea, after a silence, 'I suppose it's happy. The only thing it ever did really care for was SAND.'
'My dear children,' said the learned gentleman, 'I must have fallen asleep. I've had the most extraordinary dream.'
'I hope it was a nice one,' said Cyril with courtesy.
'Yes.... I feel a new man after it. Absolutely a new man.'
There was a ring at the front-door bell. The opening of a door. Voices.
'It's THEM!' cried Robert, and a thrill ran through four hearts.
'Here!' cried Anthea, snatching the Amulet from Jane and pressing it into the hand of the learned gentleman. 'Here—it's yours—your very own—a present from us, because you're Rekh-mara as well as... I mean, because you're such a dear.'
She hugged him briefly but fervently, and the four swept down the stairs to the hall, where a cabman was bringing in boxes, and where, heavily disguised in travelling cloaks and wraps, was their hearts' desire—three-fold—Mother, Father, and The Lamb.
'Bless me!' said the learned gentleman, left alone, 'bless me! What a treasure! The dear children! It must be their affection that has given me these luminous apercus. I seem to see so many things now—things I never saw before! The dear children! The dear, dear children!'