The Green Eyes of Bast/Chapter 29
I WISH it lay in my power to satisfy the curiosity in all quarters expressed respecting the identity of "Nahémah"—the cat-woman, or psycho-hybrid, who figured in Dr. Damar Greefe's statement. But it is my duty, as chronicler of the strange and awful occurrences which at this period disturbed the even tenor of my existence, to state that from the moment in which she leaped from the window of Mrs. Wentworth's house to the path below, neither I nor any other witness who ever came forward beheld her again.
At the end of a quest which exercised the intricate machinery of New Scotland Yard throughout the length and breadth of the land, Inspector Gatton was compelled to admit himself defeated in this particular. And his explanation of the failure to apprehend the central figure of the tragedies which had exterminated the house of Coverly was a curious one.
"You know, Mr. Addison," he said to me one evening, "the more I think of this Nahémah the more I wonder if such a person ever really existed!"
"What do you mean, Gatton?" I asked.
"Well," he replied, "I mean that although you and I and others are prepared to testify to the existence of a woman in the case, what do we really know about her (leaving Damar Greefe's statement out of the question) except that she possessed very remarkable eyes?"
"And very remarkable agility," I interrupted.
"Yes, I'll grant you that," he said; "her agility was certainly phenomenal. But, still, as I was saying, except for this definite information we have no proof outside the statement of Dr. Damar Greefe that such a person as Nahémah ever existed or at any rate that there ever was a creature possessing the attributes which he ascribed to her. The Laurels is an ordinary suburban house, which has been leased for a number of years by a 'Mr. and Miss da Costa'—Damar Greefe, no doubt, and a female companion. But of his 'great work' and so forth there's not a trace. There are a lot of Egyptian antiquities, I'll admit, but not a scrap of evidence; and the rooms evidently used by the female inmate of the household are those of an ordinary cultured Englishwoman."
"But, good heavens, Gatton," I cried, "whatever explanation can you offer of a series of crimes which were palpably directed against the members of the Coverly family?"
"I don't say," continued Gatton, "that there wasn't a sort of feud or vendetta at the bottom of the business. I merely mention that we have no evidence to show that the person responsible for it was any other than this Eurasian doctor."
"But what could have been his object?"
"I could suggest several; but my point at the moment is this: although I am prepared to grant that he had a woman associate of some kind, I can't see that there is any evidence to prove that she was otherwise than an ordinary human being, except that I am disposed to think she was demented."
"You are probably right there, Gatton," I agreed; "and Dr. Damar Greefe was by no means normal; in fact I think he was a dangerous and very brilliant maniac."
"At any rate," added Gatton, "no trace of this Nahémah has been found—which, at the least, is very significant."
"Significant, if you like," I replied; "but for my own part I have no ambition whatever to see again those dreadful green eyes."
"I never did see them," said Gatton musingly; "therefore I can't speak upon the matter; but when we got Dr. Damar Greefe I think we had the head of the conspiracy. How much of his 'statement' is true and how much the product of a diseased mind is something we are never likely to know."
"Nor am I curious to know it," I assured him. "I only desire to forget the tragedies associated with the green eyes of Bâst and to leave the darkness of the past behind—"
"And," said Gatton, with a smile less grim than usual, "you have my best wishes for the future."