May 15, 1924: Journal Entry

14-15 May, 1924

When I returned home at half past one o’clock in the morning on the 15th, I was not eager to rest my head and let my eyes close. I must have wrapped and rewrapped that palette twenty times! Each time I convinced myself that I just wanted to lay eyes on it to be sure that it was safe, that is was indeed real, and that I would leave it be and look at it again only after I had gotten some sleep. But the thing seems to have some sort of hold over me. It pulls me towards it; it is as if I have no mind of my own, no ability to control my desires!

I confess that I had to fight with myself not to repeat the spell. I have always been moderate in smoking and drinking, never inclined towards extremes or dependence, but this is something altogether different. I fear that it might take me over, if I let it. I can fight it for now, though, and when I am again with Peter, each of us will watch the other. We cannot afford to venture into these strange places again alone, without a safe, sturdy anchor.

Ah, but let me explain: when I arrived home early this morning, I found a package from Peter that had arrived that afternoon. It contained what must be the oddest envelope stuffing imaginable. (Well, apart from van Gogh’s ear, but that was actually delivered by hand rather than by post, as the legends claim.) It was a piece of cardboard, and in it were small holes, not at all in any discernable pattern. This was nothing gruesome or unsettling, thank goodness, merely strange.

I went to sleep with the belief that all would be explained in due course, as I did not think that Peter had completely lost his mind, and indeed I awoke the next day around 2pm to find that another message had arrived, one that made sense of the earlier oddity.

With the clever decoding cardboard in place, the real message reads (with added punctuation and syntax):

I used the mirror. It sent me to the library. A man was there named Henri. He knew the yantra. Strange being encountered. Something horrible came through with me when I awoke, but it is no more. Don’t worry. I am alive.

So I am not the only one who has dabbled with forces that are probably better left alone. I am not the only one who gave into temptation, who was foolish enough to venture deeper into the mysteries of this puzzling case. For Peter’s impatience and foolhardiness I am much grateful, for now it will not be quite as difficult to tell him of my rather foolhardy recitation—though in truth it did no harm…I do not think so, at least.

My mind is awash with speculations, but I will hold my pen for now. There is too much I do not yet know, so any such ponderings would surely only take off on the wrong course. Besides, I have many arrangements to make today, for I intend to be in Berlin in no less than three days time, if I can manage it.

May 14, 1924: The British Museum/Library

Kathleen had the ability to wrap her father neatly around her finger. While Sir Frederic was certainly a fine scholar, he was much more of an administrator and delegator than a hands-on man. Therefore, while he was interested in Irene's enthusiasm for Indian archaeology and epigraphy (she told him very little, only that she was working on deciphering some unknown hieroglyphs), he was not too keen to delve into it himself. It was not his particular area of interest and, alas, his time was taken up with meetings and so forth. So it was with relative ease that he allowed Irene and Kathleen to have almost free-run of the British Museum (thank goodness Irene had letters of recommendation from important persons in Egypt!). At that time, the library and artifacts were housed in the same building, making the establishment a veritable goldmine, a one-stop for any and all scholarly needs. Still, Irene was not certain that even the wondrous British Museum would hold even a small clue to the mystery she sought to unravel. But she had to try.

But the main reason that she was here today was that she needed to attempt her own investigations before revealing to anyone else what she was studying. She loathed the very thought of showing “Pashupati” to anyone else, not only because she felt an attachment to it that went beyond the sentimental, but also because it might be foolish to do so. She and Peter had, after all, stolen the thing! If the Major realized that his precious amulet was missing—and surely he would at some point!—and he happened to mention it to anyone and word traveled back to England, as it always did…yes, there were definite dangers in showing anyone the item.

As for informing Miss Kenyon about the reasons behind her investigation, Irene had been honest in some ways and reticent in others. She had shown the amulet to her new friend and had explained why she had taken it—and here she painted the Major as a somewhat stupid and ignorant man, more so than he was in real life, but she needed Kathleen’s sympathy. Irene was very clear that she was not going to keep the amulet, but merely needed a little time to research it. She told Kathleen about the strange occurrences, but left out the specifics of her and Peter’s speculations about the cult. Instead, she simply left it to Kathleen’s imagination as to what had happened, though she tried to lead her to believe that whatever was written here was of great importance, but potentially dangerous as well, hence the need for secrecy.

Irene and Kathleen had spent the busiest time of the day looking over the collection that was on display, which, while large, was only a small part of the holdings. They had not been expecting any breakthroughs there, but it had to be done; besides, it made for a pleasant morning excursion.

Now the hour was growing late and the number of scholars, students and visitors had greatly diminished. Furnished with keys and permission from the director, Irene and Kathleen intended to begin to look into the uncatalogued artifacts from India. Some came from previous excavations, others had been acquired (some certainly illegally) or left to the museum. This would be the place to find something of use, Irene was sure of it. These were the ill-understood and forgotten artifacts and they were just begging to be rediscovered and appreciated again. Irene was more than happy to oblige.

May 12, 1924: Journal Entry

9-12 May, 1924

I arrived in London on the 9th in the mid-afternoon and had a lovely time with my father and new mother. I am always in awe of how the mere presence of those you love can be such a immensely powerful method of detoxification. We did not stay in for long, though, for the next day we went to visit friends, look several walks in the city and then had a perfect dinner in the center of London. After that, time sort of blurs together (oh how I am ashamed to admit it!), though believe that I do remember most of it.

Honestly, I did not plan to forget my troubles by attending party after party, but my friends and family pounced on me and, well, a little persuasion and a few drinks was really all that was needed to get the ball rolling, so they say in America. And what better cure for one’s troubles than two nights of drinking, dancing and acting as if you haven’t a care in the world? Besides the peer pressure, I also put blame squarely on my stepmother, Aurelia, who wasted no time in presenting me with a divine dress that simply begged to be worn. While in the course of my work and everyday life I am not overly interested in skirts and dresses, I must admit that when it comes to an evening out I can be as dreadfully girlish as most of my sex manages to be at all hours of the day. I do love to dance and to just let go once in a while. Perhaps that is how I can maintain such a dull and serious air most of the time!

But, alas, it is but a temporary high. Nothing has been resolved, and I am left with a headache and a desire to escape once more from the pressures of the real world. I must be strong and resist the temptation to repeat the ordeal, though. Once in a while, yes, I will indulge. But now it is time to get down to work.

Oh, but I did, however, run into Kathleen Kenyon while I was out. She is now eighteen, just four years younger than me, and she quite surprised me by saying that she admired me! Why, I had not thought that anyone even noticed me at all! I am certainly no Gertrude Bell or Margaret Murray or Winifred Lamb! But of course I attempted to be humble and accepted the praise graciously, for who am I to correct the daughter of the director of the British Museum? But my interest in her is not only selfish. She does indeed have a wealth of interesting contacts, but she is also an intelligent, enlightened young woman and an interesting conversationalist. I have not felt so close to another woman in a long while, since dearest Priscilla.

I am debating how much to tell her about what went on in India. I would feel safer entrusting some of the specifics of this mystery—though certainly not all of it!—to a woman that I can relate to rather than any number of stuffy old men who run the museums and academies and institutes here. Some of them are quite nice (except that Earl of Balfour…I cannot stand the man!), but they might take one look at the amulet and decide that they must have it and the glory of deciphering it all to themselves. No, enquiries would have to be very, very careful.

Ugh, I fear it is time for a nap. Perhaps that will chase away the throbbing that plagues my skull.

April 26, 1924: Journal Entries & Misc.

26 April, 1924

I have been much too tired, confused and altogether discombobulated to write anything coherent over the past few days. Even now, when faced with the task of recording but three days of my life, I fear that I will not have enough ink with which to do so, not to mention enough strength in my hand and hours in the day.  Therefore, I will write what I can and attempt a recap and in-depth discussion at a later time.

In brief—

Apr 24 - This day I visited Peter in the hospital (bearing books (Barnard's Dictionary of Early to Middle Sanskrit (1921), Talismans of the Gangetic Plains by Victor H.S. Nuttenwold (1917), Symbolism in Pre-Vedic Art by D. D. Turley-Smith (1919) and Indian Mythology by A.B. Keith (1917)) and cigarettes), and I was pleased to see that he was looking quite well. Like myself, he was interested in digging deeply into the recent burglary attempts and was open to interpreting the event in rather unconventional ways. We had an intense study session, the notes from which will be enclosed at a later time (copies must be made...I am eager to have at least four copies of everything I have acquired or written about in India), but here I include a copy of Peter’s drawing of the yantra on “Mumbles,” the thief, and my transliteration. We were unable to interrogate Mumbles, which ended up being as unfortunate as I had feared it might.

I spent the night, which turned into a fiasco of fantastic and horrible proportions. Peter and Ashan ended up in catatonic states, Mumbles was mauled by a jackal and I was left with many more questions than answers. I do not know how I escaped so lightly. I was very, very fortunate.

Apr 25 - On this morning, Peter informed me (he quite surprised me with how quickly he recovered!) that he was leaving, going back to Europe. I was not as cheerful and understanding as I ought to have been, I know. That was wrong of me. But the thought of losing him, well…it was frightening. As was putting our investigations on hold and admitting defeat, even if it was only temporary. But then John Daniel was hospitalized in a condition startlingly similar to Peter and Ashan’s, and McCormick decided to close the dig until further notice. And so I am to leave too.  Perhaps, as Peter attempted to convince me, that is really what is best.  Perhaps I am indeed foolish to think I could do the least bit of good here, that I would stand a chance against such a powerful cult of determined and dangerous individuals.

I also received this note from my father. Hearing his voice—for I can hear it in my head even as I read the brief words—makes me long to be home once more. I am normally content to travel and to experience life outside of England, but at this moment I want noting more than to be at my first home, the home that will always be home, even if I eventually choose to purchase a house and reside elsewhere. Would that I could be a girl again, could run into my father’s arms and ask him to hold me tightly until everything felt alright again! Perhaps I will do so anyway. He would never judge.

Apr 26 -

We are in Karachi now, John Daniel is dead, seemingly by his or someone else’s hand (apparently not that of something as impartial as illness), and I do not know what to feel. I feel tired and worried and scared, but also relieved, but it all is mashed together and leaves me a bit numb. I know this: I am leaving India. Surely the jackals and evil men will not follow me. But I feel that this cult is like a ghost that will always haunt me and will overshadow all that I do, think and dream. I will not, cannot rest until this murderous mystery is unraveled. But, also, I cannot think on this all hours of each day. I am determined to put my mind elsewhere during the journey. When I am home and when I feel safe and happy again, then I will be ready to delve into the horrors of the past and—dare I prophesy?—the future as well.

Tomorrow to Tehran, then to Constantinople/Istanbul, followed by Munich on the 7th, where Peter and I will part ways after one last night. Then I am off to London and, hopefully, I will arrive by the 9th. You never know with trains these days…

I am determined not to ask Peter more about John Daniel and other such matters for at least a few days after we part.  I do not think that either of us has the strength to deal with such controversial and complex issues right now.