The Aldebaran Connection.
Following from the last installment: Dr Standfast has just committed a poor unfortunate to Princeton Gaol. Something else is up.
Saying, “I should have known,” he dashed to the fire and tossed it in. There was a greenish flash and it vanished in a puff of acrid smoke.
“Uncle! I liked that. It was pretty.”
“Let me get you another. Much nicer, and it’s been in the family for a while. Time you should have it.” Moving quickly, for an ostensibly tired old man, he ran upstairs and a moment later returned. “This one’s solid gold, not paste.”
Elizabeth took it from him and examined it closely. It was, if anything, more ornate than her old one. More interestingly, it was covered in writing. Writing in a script she couldn’t recognize.
“Uncle,” she said, “Do you know what it says?”
“Some of it, but my Aldebaran isn’t as good as it used to be.”
“A dialect of Arabic, from Timbuktu. Or somewhere like that. It’s mostly for good luck. A verse from the Koran, intended to ward off the evil eye. Superstitious twaddle of course, but I’d feel happier if you’d wear it. Wear it all the time.”
“If you insist.” Elizabeth put it on and felt a warm glow come over her. “Thank you.”
“Excellent, now shall we see what the industrious Mrs Trent has prepared for dinner?”
“You know Uncle, there might be something to that superstition. I’m feeling stronger already.” A thought struck her, and she paused, “Uncle, what did that man do?”
“The one you committed.”
“I’m sorry, Elizabeth, but not before dinner. Spoil your appetite. Funny thing, he claimed he was from another planet. Stuff and nonsense.”
“So it wasn’t hard then, to prove he was insane.”
“Not at all, he was decidedly not a normal person. Tried to bite Sergeant Hopwell and snarled at us in an incomprehensible language.”
Elizabeth started walking into the back parlour, and the asked, “Was it safe to keep him here if he were so dangerous?”
“Being an alienist, I have the facilities to restrain, um, difficult patients. George kept watch, so yes, I’d say it was safe.”
“If you say so, Uncle.”
“I do. By the way, George will be in your room this afternoon. Replacing that broken window pane and fixing the lock. I hope you don’t mind.”
“No, what happened to it?”
“Don’t you know?”
“I wouldn’t have asked if I did.”
“Someone must have thrown a pebble from the street. The pane was broken, and the lock, well, it needed replacing in any case.”
That’s the end of this chapter. We’ll pick up at the beginning of the next with the next installment.