"But in a hospital bed," I said, "from a known disease."
"He died of strangulation, just as though the fingers of a priest of Nyi had been at his throat. He died at seven minutes after midnight on the seventh day of the seventh month."
"Good lord, Tony! I refuse to listen to that sort of rot. Bobby's death was tragic enough without having your morbid interpretations. Tell me what you want me to do, and I'll do it, but I won't be drawn into admitting the possible power of a baseless superstition."
"Milroy died in July of '27. Two months before that my book had come off the press. That's why 'Cheeky' was the third to die–because Milroy, disgusted with you and me, had willed the collection to him." He fingered a salt-cellar to steady his trembling fingers. "In July of '28, just a year ago, the press got word from South America that a Persian, Hadji Cheekh ol-Molk, who had been with the Clark-Milroy Expedition, had been murdered–done to death by 'person or persons unknown.'"
"'Cheeky' had enemies," I reminded him.
"Yes, and he had the sacred stone of Nyi.
"That's beyond the point–mere coincidence."
"Very well. But 'Cheeky' had the eye; remember that. He was in an open two-seater plane flying from Rio to Victoria. The pilot swore he left the port the second 'Cheeky' had entered the cockpit behind him. Later, when the authorities badgered him, he changed the 'I know' to 'I think." 'Cheeky' was dead when they landed–strangled to death, and no landings had been made. It was obvious he had been murdered before the plane left Rio at midnight. I thought so, too–last July. But now——" His voice trailed off into nothingness.
The man's persistence was getting on my nerves. '"That's what you think."
"That's what I know–now. 'Cheeky' left no will. His personal junk went to some relatives; Captain Clark's collection was sent on to me, because of the book. That's why you may be glad you never got the chance I stole from you."
"Don't be a damn fool, Tony!"
"The Eye is here now, in a safe in my room. And the month is July. It's the sixth day. After midnight it will be the seventh."
"There's absolutely no connection between what you've been telling me and that stone. Coincidence, I'll admit, but anything else is pure bunk."
"So I thought a week ago. But each night since then——" He looked around and then continued in a low, rapid voice. "The first night they came no nearer than the far side of the room."
"The hands"–impatiently–"the hands of a priest of Bhan-Guru. They were black, and the blue light made them shine like liquid jet. The nails were bluish green like the stone. They were there for perhaps a half-minute. Then I turned on the light and looked at the time. It was seven minutes after midnight."
He gave a convulsive shudder and went on, "The next night I waited up for them. At seven after twelve they were there again; this time within six feet of where I sat. And the next night and the next night I waited for them and always they were there and always a little nearer, and when I turned on the light it was always seven minutes after midnight. The fifth night I could reach out to where they were, but my hand touched