The Moon Endureth HTML version

II. A Lucid Interval
To adopt the opening words of a more famous tale, "The truth of this strange matter is
what the world has long been looking for." The events which I propose to chronicle were
known to perhaps a hundred people in London whose fate brings them into contact with
politics. The consequences were apparent to all the world, and for one hectic fortnight
tinged the soberest newspapers with saffron, drove more than one worthy election agent
to an asylum, and sent whole batches of legislators to Continental cures. "But no
reasonable explanation of the mystery has been forthcoming until now, when a series of
chances gave the key into my hands.
Lady Caerlaverock is my aunt, and I was present at the two remarkable dinner-parties
which form the main events in this tale. I was also taken into her confidence during the
terrible fortnight which intervened between them. Like everybody else, I was hopelessly
in the dark, and could only accept what happened as a divine interposition. My first clue
came when James, the Caerlaverocks' second footman, entered my service as valet, and
being a cheerful youth chose to gossip while he shaved me. I checked him, but he
babbled on, and I could not choose but learn something about the disposition of the
Caerlaverock household below stairs. I learned--what I knew before--that his lordship had
an inordinate love for curries, a taste acquired during some troubled years as Indian
Viceroy. I had often eaten that admirable dish at his table, and had heard him boast of the
skill of the Indian cook who prepared it. James, it appeared, did not hold with the Orient
in the kitchen. He described the said Indian gentleman as a "nigger," and expressed
profound distrust of his ways. He referred darkly to the events of the year before, which
in some distorted way had reached the servants' ears. "We always thought as 'ow it was
them niggers as done it," he declared; and when I questioned him on his use of the plural,
admitted that at the time in question "there 'ad been more nor one nigger 'anging about
the kitchen."
Pondering on these sayings, I asked myself if it were not possible that the behaviour of
certain eminent statesmen was due to some strange devilry of the East, and I made a vow
to abstain in future from the Caerlaverock curries. But last month my brother returned
from India, and I got the whole truth. He was staying with me in Scotland, and in the
smoking-room the talk turned on occultism in the East. I declared myself a sceptic, and
George was stirred. He asked me rudely what I knew about it, and proceeded to make a
startling confession of faith. He was cross-examined by the others, and retorted with
some of his experiences. Finding an incredulous audience, his tales became more defiant,
until he capped them all with one monstrous yarn. He maintained that in a Hindu family
of his acquaintance there had been transmitted the secret of a drug, capable of altering a
man's whole temperament until the antidote was administered. It would turn a coward
into a bravo, a miser into a spendthrift, a rake into a fakir. Then, having delivered his
manifesto he got up abruptly and went to bed.
I followed him to his room, for something in the story had revived a memory. By dint of
much persuasion I dragged from the somnolent George various details. The family in
question were Beharis, large landholders dwelling near the Nepal border. He had known