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Authors: Dennis Wheatley

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‘Yes, within limits.'

‘Why within limits? You apparently consider levitation impossible, but wouldn't you have considered wireless impossible if you had been living fifty years ago and somebody had endeavoured to convince you of it?'

‘Maybe.' Rex sat forward suddenly. ‘But I don't get what you're driving at. Hypnotism is only a demonstration of the power of the human will.'

‘Ah! There you have it. The
will to good
and the
will to evil.
That is the whole matter in a nutshell. The human will is like a wireless set and properly
adjusted—trained that is—it can tune in with the invisible influence which is all about us.'

‘The
Invisible Influence.
I've certainly heard that phrase somewhere before.'

‘No doubt. A very eminent mental specialist who holds a high position in our asylums wrote a book with that title and I have not yet asked you to believe one tenth of what he vouches for.'

‘Then I wonder they haven't locked him up.'

‘Rex! Rex!' De Richleau smiled a little sadly. ‘Try and open your mind, my friend. Do you believe in the miracles performed by Jesus Christ?'

‘Yes.'

‘And of His Disciples and certain of the Saints?'

‘Sure, but they had some special power granted to them from on high.'

‘Exactly!
Some Special Power.
But I suppose you would deny that Gautama Buddha and his disciples performed miracles of a similar nature?'

‘Not at all. Most people agree now that Buddha was a sort of Indian Christ, a Holy Man, and no doubt he had some sort of power granted to him too.'

The Duke sat back with a heavy sigh. ‘At last my friend we seem to be getting somewhere. If you admit that miracles, as you call them although you object to the word magic, have been performed by two men living in different countries hundreds of years apart, and that even their disciples were able to tap a similar power through their holiness, you cannot reasonably deny that other mystics have also performed similar acts in many portions of the globe–and therefore, that there is a power existing outside us which is not
peculiar to any religion,
but can be utilised if one can get into communication with it.'

Rex laughed. ‘That's so, I can't deny it.'

‘Thank God! Let's mix ourselves another drink shall we, I need it?'

‘Don't move, I'll fix it.' Rex good-naturedly scrambled to his feet. ‘All the same,' he added slowly, ‘it doesn't follow that because a number of good men have been granted supernatural powers that there is anything in Black Magic.'

‘Then you do not believe in Witchcraft?'

‘Of course not, nobody does in these days.'

‘Really! How long do you think it is since the last trial for Witchcraft took place?'

‘I'll say it was all of a hundred and fifty years ago.'

‘No, it was in January, 1926, at Melun near Paris.'

‘Oh! You're fooling!' Rex exclaimed angrily.

‘I'm not,' De Richleau assured him solemnly. ‘The records of the court will prove my statement, so you see you are hardly accurate when you say that
nobody
believes in Witchcraft in these days, and many many thousands still believe in a personal devil.'

‘Yes, simple folk maybe, but not educated people.'

‘Possibly not, yet every thinking man must admit that there is still such a thing as the power of Evil.'

‘Why?'

‘My dear fellow, all qualities have their opposites, like love and hate, pleasure and pain, generosity and avarice. How could we recognise the goodness of Jesus Christ, Lao Tze, Ashoka, Marcus Aurelius, Francis of
Assisi, Florence Nightingale and a thousand others if it were not for the evil lives of Herod, Caesar Borgia, Rasputin, Landru, Ivan Kreuger and the rest?'

‘That's true,' Rex admitted slowly.

‘Then if an intensive cultivation of good can beget strange powers is there any reason why an intensive cultivation of evil should not beget them also?'

‘I think I begin to get what you're driving at.'

‘Good! Now listen, Rex.' The Duke leaned forward earnestly. ‘And I will try and expound what little I know of the Esoteric Doctrine which has come down to us through the ages. You will have heard of the Persian myth of Ozamund and Ahriman, the eternal powers of Light and Darkness, said to be co–equal and warring without cessation for the good or ill of mankind. All ancient sun and nature worship festivals of spring, and so on, were only an outward expression of that myth, for Light typifies Health and Wisdom, Growth and Life; while Darkness means Disease and Ignorance, Decay and Death.

‘In its highest sense Light symbolises the growth of the Spirit towards that perfection in which it can throw off the body and become light itself; but the road to perfection is long and arduous, too much to hope for in one short human life, hence the widespread belief in re-incarnation; that we are born again and again until we begin to despise the pleasures of the flesh. This doctrine is so old that no man can trace its origin, yet it is the inner core of truth common to all religions at their inception. Consider the teaching of Jesus Christ with that in mind and you will be amazed that you have not realised before the true purport of His message. Did He not say that the ‘Kingdom of God was within us,' and, when He walked upon the waters declared: ‘These things that I do ye shall do also; and greater things than these shall ye do, for I go unto my Father which is in Heaven,' meaning most certainly that He had achieved perfection but that others had the same power within each one of them to do likewise.'

De Richleau paused for a moment and then went on more slowly. ‘Unfortunately the hours of the night are still equal to the hours of the day, and so the power of Darkness is no less active than when the world was young, and no sooner does a fresh Master appear to reveal the light than ignorance, greed, and lust for power cloud the minds of his followers. The message becomes distorted and the simplicity of the truth submerged and forgotten in the pomp of ceremonies and the meticulous performance of rituals which have lost their meaning. Yet the real truth is never entirely lost, and through the centuries new Masters are continually arising either to proclaim it or, if the time is not propitious, to pass it on in secret to the chosen few.

‘Apollonius of Tyana learned it in the East. The so-called Heretics whom we know as the Albigenses preached it in the twelfth century through Southern France until they were exterminated. Christian Rosenkreutz had it in the Middle Ages. It was the innermost secret of the Order of the Templars who were suppressed because of it by the Church of Rome. The Alchemists, too, searched for and practised it. Only the ignorant take literally their struggle to find the Elixir of Life. Behind such phrases, designed to protect them from the persecution of their enemies, they sought Eternal Life, and their efforts to transmute base metals into gold were only symbolical of their transfusion of matter into light. And still today while the
night life of London goes on about us there are mystics and adepts who are seeking the Eightfold Way to perfection in many corners of the Earth.'

‘You really believe that?' asked Rex seriously.

‘I do.' De Richleau's answer held no trace of doubt. ‘I give you my word Rex, that I have talked with men whose sanity you would never question, an Englishman, an Italian, and a Hindu, all three of whom have been taken by guides sent to fetch them to the hidden valley in the uplands of Tibet, where some of the Lamas have reached such a high degree of enlightenment that they can prolong their lives at will, and perform today all the miracles which you have read of in the Bible. It is there that the sacred fire of truth has been preserved for centuries, safe from the brutal mercenary folly of our modern world.'

‘That sounds a pretty tall story to me, but granted there are mystics who have achieved such amazing powers through their holiness, I still don't see where your Black Magic comes in?'

‘Let's not talk of Black Magic, which is associated with the preposterous in our day, but of the order of the Left Hand Path. That, too, has its adepts and, just as the Yoga of Tibet are the preservers of the Way of Light, the Way of Darkness is exemplified in the Voodoo cult which had its origin in Madagascar and has held Africa in its grip for centuries, spreading even with the slave trade to the West Indies and your own country.'

‘Yes, I know quite a piece about that, the Negroes mess around with it still back home in the Southern States, despite their apparent Christianity. Still I can't think that an educated man like Simon would take serious notice of that mumbo jumbo stuff.'

‘Not in its crude form perhaps, but others have cultivated the power of Evil, and among whites it is generally the wealthy and intellectual, who are avaricious for greater riches or power, to whom it appeals. In the Paris of Louis XIV, long after the Middle Ages were forgotten, it was still particularly rampant. The poisoner, La Voisin, was proved to have procured over fifteen hundred children for the infamous Abbé Guibourg to sacrifice at Black Masses. He used to cut their throats, drain the blood into a chalice, and then pour it over the naked body of the inquirer who lay stretched upon the altar. I speak of actual history, Rex, and you can read the records of the trial that followed in which two hundred and forty-six men and women were indicted for these hellish practices.'

‘Maybe. It sounds ghastly enough but that's a mighty long time ago.'

‘Then, if you need more modern evidence of its continuance hidden in our midst there is the well authenticated case of Prince Borghese. He let his Venetian Palazzo on a long lease, expiring as late as 1895. The tenants had not realised that the lease had run out until he notified them of his intention to resume possession. They protested, but Borghese's agents forced an entry. What do you think they found?'

‘Lord knows.' Rex shook his head.

‘That the principal salon had been redecorated at enormous cost and converted into a Satanic Temple. The walls were hung from ceiling to floor with heavy curtains of silk damask, scarlet and black to exclude the light; at the farther end there stretched a large tapestry upon which was woven a colossal figure of Lucifer dominating the whole. Beneath, an altar had been built and amply furnished with the whole liturgy of Hell; black candles, vessels, rituals, nothing was lacking. Cushioned prie-dieux and luxurious
chairs, crimson and gold, were set in order for the assistants, and the chamber lit with electricity fantastically arranged so that it should glare through an enormous human eye.'

De Richleau hammered the desk with his clenched fist. ‘These are facts I'm giving you Rex-facts, d'you hear? Things I can prove by eye-witnesses still living. Despite our electricity, our aeroplanes, our modern scepticism, the power of Darkness is still a living force, worshipped by depraved human beings for their unholy ends in the great cities of Europe and America to this very day.'

Rex's face had suddenly paled under its tan. ‘And you really think poor Simon has got mixed up in this beastliness?'

‘I know it! Could you have been so intrigued with the girl that you did not notice the rest of that foul crew? The Albino, the man with the hare-lip, the Eurasian who only possessed a
left
arm. They're Devil Worshippers all of them.'

‘Not the girl! Not Tanith!' cried Rex, springing to his feet. ‘She must have been drawn into it like Simon.'

‘Perhaps, but the final proof lay in that basket. They were about to practise the age-old sacrifice to their infernal master, the slaughter of a black rooster and a white hen… De Richleau swung round as a soft knock came on the door. ‘Yes, what is it?'

‘Excellency.' His man Max stood bowing in the doorway. ‘I thought I had better bring this to you.' In his open palm he displayed the jewelled swastika.

With one panther-like spring the Duke thrust him aside and bounded from the room. ‘Simon,' he shouted as he dashed down the corridor. ‘Simon! I command you to stay still.' But when he reached the bedroom the only signs that Simon had ever occupied it were the tumbled bed and his underclothes left scattered on the floor.

4
The Silent House

De Richleau strode back into the sitting-room. His grey eyes glittered dangerously but his voice was gentle as he picked the jewelled swastika from his servant's palm. ‘How did you come by this, Max?'

‘I removed it from Mr Aron's neck, Excellency.'

‘What!'

‘He rang for me, Excellency, and said that he would like a cup of bouillon and when I returned with it he was sleeping, but so strangely that I was alarmed. His tongue was protruding from between his teeth and his face was nearly black; then I saw that his neck was terribly swollen and that a ribbon was cutting deeply into his flesh. I cut the ribbon, fearing that he would choke, the jewel dropped off, so I brought it straight to you.'

‘All right, you may go. And it's not necessary to wait up for me, I may be late.' As the door closed the Duke swung round towards Rex. ‘Simon must have woken the moment Max's back was turned, pulled on a few clothes, then slipped out of the window and down the fire-escape.'

‘Sure,' Rex agreed. ‘He's well on his way back to St John's Wood by now.'

‘Come on, we'll follow. We've got to save him from those devils somehow. I don't know what they're after but there must be something pretty big and very nasty behind all this. It can't have been easy to involve a man like Simon to the extent they obviously have, and they would never have gone to all that trouble to recruit an ordinary dabbler in the occult. They are after really big stakes of some kind, and they need him as a pawn in their devilish game.'

‘Think we can beat him to it?' Rex asked as they ran down the staircase of the block and out into Curzon Street.

BOOK: The Devil Rides Out
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