2. The Voodoo Swamp
Often enough my memory has recaptured that moment in Paul Harley's office,
when Harley, myself, and the tall Spaniard stood looking down at the bat wing
lying upon the blotting pad.
My brilliant friend at times displayed a sort of prescience, of which I may have
occasion to speak later, but I, together with the rest of pur- blind humanity, am
commonly immune from the prophetic instinct. Therefore I chronicle the fact for
what it may be worth, that as I gazed with a sort of disgust at the exhibit lying
upon the table I became possessed of a conviction, which had no logical basis,
that a door had been opened through which I should step into a new avenue of
being; I felt myself to stand upon the threshold of things strange and terrible, but
withal alluring. Perhaps it is true that in the great crises of life the inner eye
becomes momentarily opened.
With intense curiosity I awaited the Colonel's next words, but, a cigarette held
nervously between his fingers, he stood staring at Harley, and it was the latter
who broke that peculiar silence which had fallen upon us.
"The wing of a bat," he murmured, then touched it gingerly. "Of what kind of bat,
Colonel Menendez? Surely not a British species?"
"But emphatically not a British species," replied the Spaniard. "Yet even so the
matter would be strange."
"I am all anxiety to learn the remainder of your story, Colonel Menendez."
"Good. Your interest comforts me very greatly, Mr. Harley. But when first I came,
you led me to suppose that you were departing from London?"
"Such, at the time, was my intention, sir." Paul Harley smiled slightly.
"Accompanied by my friend, Mr. Knox, I had proposed to indulge in a fortnight's
fishing upon the Norfolk Broads."
"A peaceful occupation, Mr. Harley, and a great rest-cure for one who like
yourself moves much amid the fiercer passions of life. You were about to make
Paul Harley nodded.
"It is cruel of me to intrude upon such plans," continued Colonel Menendez,
dexterously rolling his cigarette around between his fingers. "Yet because of my
urgent need I dare to do so. Would yourself and your friend honour me with your
company at Cray's Folly for a few days? I can promise you good entertainment,
although I regret that there is no fishing; but It may chance that there will be other
and more exciting sport."
Harley glanced at me significantly.
"Do I understand you to mean, Colonel Menendez," he asked, "that you have
reason to believe that this conspiracy directed against you is about to come to a