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´╗┐Title: Can Such Things Be?
Author: Bierce, Ambrose, 1842-1914?
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Can Such Things Be?" ***

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CAN SUCH THINGS BE?



Contents:

The death of Halpin Frayser
The secret of Macarger's Gulch
One summer night
The moonlit road
A diagnosis of death
Moxon's master
A tough tussle
One of twins
The haunted valley
A jug of sirup
Staley Fleming's hallucination
A resumed identity
Hazen's brigade
A baby tramp
The night-doings at "Deadman's"
A story that is untrue
Beyond the wall
A psychological shipwreck
The middle toe of the right foot
John Mortonson's funeral
The realm of the unreal
John Bartine's watch
A story by a physician
The damned thing
Haita the shepherd
An inhabitant of Carcosa
The Stranger



THE DEATH OF HALPIN FRAYSER



I

For by death is wrought greater change than hath been shown.  Whereas
in general the spirit that removed cometh back upon occasion, and is
sometimes seen of those in flesh (appearing in the form of the body
it bore) yet it hath happened that the veritable body without the
spirit hath walked.  And it is attested of those encountering who
have lived to speak thereon that a lich so raised up hath no natural
affection, nor remembrance thereof, but only hate.  Also, it is known
that some spirits which in life were benign become by death evil
altogether.--Hali.


One dark night in midsummer a man waking from a dreamless sleep in a
forest lifted his head from the earth, and staring a few moments into
the blackness, said:  "Catherine Larue."  He said nothing more; no
reason was known to him why he should have said so much.

The man was Halpin Frayser.  He lived in St. Helena, but where he
lives now is uncertain, for he is dead.  One who practices sleeping
in the woods with nothing under him but the dry leaves and the damp
earth, and nothing over him but the branches from which the leaves
have fallen and the sky from which the earth has fallen, cannot hope
for great longevity, and Frayser had already attained the age of
thirty-two.  There are persons in this world, millions of persons,
and far and away the best persons, who regard that as a very advanced
age.  They are the children.  To those who view the voyage of life
from the port of departure the bark that has accomplished any
considerable distance appears already in close approach to the
farther shore.  However, it is not certain that Halpin Frayser came
to his death by exposure.

He had been all day in the hills west of the Napa Valley, looking for
doves and such small game as was in season.  Late in the afternoon it
had come on to be cloudy, and he had lost his bearings; and although
he had only to go always downhill--everywhere the way to safety when
one is lost--the absence of trails had so impeded him that he was
overtaken by night while still in the forest.  Unable in the darkness
to penetrate the thickets of manzanita and other undergrowth, utterly
bewildered and overcome with fatigue, he had lain down near the root
of a large madrono and fallen into a dreamless sleep.  It was hours
later, in the very middle of the night, that one of God's mysterious
messengers, gliding ahead of the incalculable host of his companions
sweeping westward with the dawn line, pronounced the awakening word
in the ear of the sleeper, who sat upright and spoke, he knew not
why, a name, he knew not whose.

Halpin Frayser was not much of a philosopher, nor a scientist.  The
circumstance that, waking from a deep sleep at night in the midst of
a forest, he had spoken aloud a name that he had not in memory and
hardly had in mind did not arouse an enlightened curiosity to
investigate the phenomenon.  He thought it odd, and with a little
perfunctory shiver, as if in deference to a seasonal presumption that
the night was chill, he lay down again and went to sleep.  But his
sleep was no longer dreamless.

He thought he was walking along a dusty road that showed white in the
gathering darkness of a summer night.  Whence and whither it led, and
why he traveled it, he did not know, though all seemed simple and
natural, as is the way in dreams; for in the Land Beyond the Bed
surprises cease from troubling and the judgment is at rest.  Soon he
came to a parting of the ways; leading from the highway was a road
less traveled, having the appearance, indeed, of having been long
abandoned, because, he thought, it led to something evil; yet he
turned into it without hesitation, impelled by some imperious
necessity.

As he pressed forward he became conscious that his way was haunted by
invisible existences whom he could not definitely figure to his mind.
From among the trees on either side he caught broken and incoherent
whispers in a strange tongue which yet he partly understood.  They
seemed to him fragmentary utterances of a monstrous conspiracy
against his body and soul.

It was now long after nightfall, yet the interminable forest through
which he journeyed was lit with a wan glimmer having no point of
diffusion, for in its mysterious lumination nothing cast a shadow.  A
shallow pool in the guttered depression of an old wheel rut, as from
a recent rain, met his eye with a crimson gleam.  He stooped and
plunged his hand into it.  It stained his fingers; it was blood!
Blood, he then observed, was about him everywhere.  The weeds growing
rankly by the roadside showed it in blots and splashes on their big,
broad leaves.  Patches of dry dust between the wheelways were pitted
and spattered as with a red rain.  Defiling the trunks of the trees
were broad maculations of crimson, and blood dripped like dew from
their foliage.

All this he observed with a terror which seemed not incompatible with
the fulfillment of a natural expectation.  It seemed to him that it
was all in expiation of some crime which, though conscious of his
guilt, he could not rightly remember.  To the menaces and mysteries
of his surroundings the consciousness was an added horror.  Vainly he
sought by tracing life backward in memory, to reproduce the moment of
his sin; scenes and incidents came crowding tumultuously into his
mind, one picture effacing another, or commingling with it in
confusion and obscurity, but nowhere could he catch a glimpse of what
he sought.  The failure augmented his terror; he felt as one who has
murdered in the dark, not knowing whom nor why.  So frightful was the
situation--the mysterious light burned with so silent and awful a
menace; the noxious plants, the trees that by common consent are
invested with a melancholy or baleful character, so openly in his
sight conspired against his peace; from overhead and all about came
so audible and startling whispers and the sighs of creatures so
obviously not of earth--that he could endure it no longer, and with a
great effort to break some malign spell that bound his faculties to
silence and inaction, he shouted with the full strength of his lungs!
His voice broken, it seemed, into an infinite multitude of unfamiliar
sounds, went babbling and stammering away into the distant reaches of
the forest, died into silence, and all was as before.  But he had
made a beginning at resistance and was encouraged.  He said:

"I will not submit unheard.  There may be powers that are not
malignant traveling this accursed road.  I shall leave them a record
and an appeal.  I shall relate my wrongs, the persecutions that I
endure--I, a helpless mortal, a penitent, an unoffending poet!"
Halpin Frayser was a poet only as he was a penitent:  in his dream.

Taking from his clothing a small red-leather pocketbook, one-half of
which was leaved for memoranda, he discovered that he was without a
pencil.  He broke a twig from a bush, dipped it into a pool of blood
and wrote rapidly.  He had hardly touched the paper with the point of
his twig when a low, wild peal of laughter broke out at a measureless
distance away, and growing ever louder, seemed approaching ever
nearer; a soulless, heartless, and unjoyous laugh, like that of the
loon, solitary by the lakeside at midnight; a laugh which culminated
in an unearthly shout close at hand, then died away by slow
gradations, as if the accursed being that uttered it had withdrawn
over the verge of the world whence it had come.  But the man felt
that this was not so--that it was near by and had not moved.

A strange sensation began slowly to take possession of his body and
his mind.  He could not have said which, if any, of his senses was
affected; he felt it rather as a consciousness--a mysterious mental
assurance of some overpowering presence--some supernatural
malevolence different in kind from the invisible existences that
swarmed about him, and superior to them in power.  He knew that it
had uttered that hideous laugh.  And now it seemed to be approaching
him; from what direction he did not know--dared not conjecture.  All
his former fears were forgotten or merged in the gigantic terror that
now held him in thrall.  Apart from that, he had but one thought:  to
complete his written appeal to the benign powers who, traversing the
haunted wood, might some time rescue him if he should be denied the
blessing of annihilation.  He wrote with terrible rapidity, the twig
in his fingers rilling blood without renewal; but in the middle of a
sentence his hands denied their service to his will, his arms fell to
his sides, the book to the earth; and powerless to move or cry out,
he found himself staring into the sharply drawn face and blank, dead
eyes of his own mother, standing white and silent in the garments of
the grave!

II

In his youth Halpin Frayser had lived with his parents in Nashville,
Tennessee.  The Fraysers were well-to-do, having a good position in
such society as had survived the wreck wrought by civil war.  Their
children had the social and educational opportunities of their time
and place, and had responded to good associations and instruction
with agreeable manners and cultivated minds.  Halpin being the
youngest and not over robust was perhaps a trifle "spoiled."  He had
the double disadvantage of a mother's assiduity and a father's
neglect.  Frayser pere was what no Southern man of means is not--a
politician.  His country, or rather his section and State, made
demands upon his time and attention so exacting that to those of his
family he was compelled to turn an ear partly deafened by the thunder
of the political captains and the shouting, his own included.

Young Halpin was of a dreamy, indolent and rather romantic turn,
somewhat more addicted to literature than law, the profession to
which he was bred.  Among those of his relations who professed the
modern faith of heredity it was well understood that in him the
character of the late Myron Bayne, a maternal great-grandfather, had
revisited the glimpses of the moon--by which orb Bayne had in his
lifetime been sufficiently affected to be a poet of no small Colonial
distinction.  If not specially observed, it was observable that while
a Frayser who was not the proud possessor of a sumptuous copy of the
ancestral "poetical works" (printed at the family expense, and long
ago withdrawn from an inhospitable market) was a rare Frayser indeed,
there was an illogical indisposition to honor the great deceased in
the person of his spiritual successor.  Halpin was pretty generally
deprecated as an intellectual black sheep who was likely at any
moment to disgrace the flock by bleating in meter.  The Tennessee
Fraysers were a practical folk--not practical in the popular sense of
devotion to sordid pursuits, but having a robust contempt for any
qualities unfitting a man for the wholesome vocation of politics.

In justice to young Halpin it should be said that while in him were
pretty faithfully reproduced most of the mental and moral
characteristics ascribed by history and family tradition to the
famous Colonial bard, his succession to the gift and faculty divine
was purely inferential.  Not only had he never been known to court
the muse, but in truth he could not have written correctly a line of
verse to save himself from the Killer of the Wise.  Still, there was
no knowing when the dormant faculty might wake and smite the lyre.

In the meantime the young man was rather a loose fish, anyhow.
Between him and his mother was the most perfect sympathy, for
secretly the lady was herself a devout disciple of the late and great
Myron Bayne, though with the tact so generally and justly admired in
her sex (despite the hardy calumniators who insist that it is
essentially the same thing as cunning) she had always taken care to
conceal her weakness from all eyes but those of him who shared it.
Their common guilt in respect of that was an added tie between them.
If in Halpin's youth his mother had "spoiled" him, he had assuredly
done his part toward being spoiled.  As he grew to such manhood as is
attainable by a Southerner who does not care which way elections go
the attachment between him and his beautiful mother--whom from early
childhood he had called Katy--became yearly stronger and more tender.
In these two romantic natures was manifest in a signal way that
neglected phenomenon, the dominance of the sexual element in all the
relations of life, strengthening, softening, and beautifying even
those of consanguinity.  The two were nearly inseparable, and by
strangers observing their manner were not infrequently mistaken for
lovers.

Entering his mother's boudoir one day Halpin Frayser kissed her upon
the forehead, toyed for a moment with a lock of her dark hair which
had escaped from its confining pins, and said, with an obvious effort
at calmness:

"Would you greatly mind, Katy, if I were called away to California
for a few weeks?"

It was hardly needful for Katy to answer with her lips a question to
which her telltale cheeks had made instant reply.  Evidently she
would greatly mind; and the tears, too, sprang into her large brown
eyes as corroborative testimony.

"Ah, my son," she said, looking up into his face with infinite
tenderness, "I should have known that this was coming.  Did I not lie
awake a half of the night weeping because, during the other half,
Grandfather Bayne had come to me in a dream, and standing by his
portrait--young, too, and handsome as that--pointed to yours on the
same wall?  And when I looked it seemed that I could not see the
features; you had been painted with a face cloth, such as we put upon
the dead.  Your father has laughed at me, but you and I, dear, know
that such things are not for nothing.  And I saw below the edge of
the cloth the marks of hands on your throat--forgive me, but we have
not been used to keep such things from each other.  Perhaps you have
another interpretation.  Perhaps it does not mean that you will go to
California.  Or maybe you will take me with you?"

It must be confessed that this ingenious interpretation of the dream
in the light of newly discovered evidence did not wholly commend
itself to the son's more logical mind; he had, for the moment at
least, a conviction that it foreshadowed a more simple and immediate,
if less tragic, disaster than a visit to the Pacific Coast.  It was
Halpin Frayser's impression that he was to be garroted on his native
heath.

"Are there not medicinal springs in California?" Mrs. Frayser resumed
before he had time to give her the true reading of the dream--"places
where one recovers from rheumatism and neuralgia?  Look--my fingers
feel so stiff; and I am almost sure they have been giving me great
pain while I slept."

She held out her hands for his inspection.  What diagnosis of her
case the young man may have thought it best to conceal with a smile
the historian is unable to state, but for himself he feels bound to
say that fingers looking less stiff, and showing fewer evidences of
even insensible pain, have seldom been submitted for medical
inspection by even the fairest patient desiring a prescription of
unfamiliar scenes.

The outcome of it was that of these two odd persons having equally
odd notions of duty, the one went to California, as the interest of
his client required, and the other remained at home in compliance
with a wish that her husband was scarcely conscious of entertaining.

While in San Francisco Halpin Frayser was walking one dark night
along the water front of the city, when, with a suddenness that
surprised and disconcerted him, he became a sailor.  He was in fact
"shanghaied" aboard a gallant, gallant ship, and sailed for a far
countree.  Nor did his misfortunes end with the voyage; for the ship
was cast ashore on an island of the South Pacific, and it was six
years afterward when the survivors were taken off by a venturesome
trading schooner and brought back to San Francisco.

Though poor in purse, Frayser was no less proud in spirit than he had
been in the years that seemed ages and ages ago.  He would accept no
assistance from strangers, and it was while living with a fellow
survivor near the town of St. Helena, awaiting news and remittances
from home, that he had gone gunning and dreaming.

III

The apparition confronting the dreamer in the haunted wood--the thing
so like, yet so unlike his mother--was horrible!  It stirred no love
nor longing in his heart; it came unattended with pleasant memories
of a golden past--inspired no sentiment of any kind; all the finer
emotions were swallowed up in fear.  He tried to turn and run from
before it, but his legs were as lead; he was unable to lift his feet
from the ground.  His arms hung helpless at his sides; of his eyes
only he retained control, and these he dared not remove from the
lusterless orbs of the apparition, which he knew was not a soul
without a body, but that most dreadful of all existences infesting
that haunted wood--a body without a soul!  In its blank stare was
neither love, nor pity, nor intelligence--nothing to which to address
an appeal for mercy.  "An appeal will not lie," he thought, with an
absurd reversion to professional slang, making the situation more
horrible, as the fire of a cigar might light up a tomb.

For a time, which seemed so long that the world grew gray with age
and sin, and the haunted forest, having fulfilled its purpose in this
monstrous culmination of its terrors, vanished out of his
consciousness with all its sights and sounds, the apparition stood
within a pace, regarding him with the mindless malevolence of a wild
brute; then thrust its hands forward and sprang upon him with
appalling ferocity!  The act released his physical energies without
unfettering his will; his mind was still spellbound, but his powerful
body and agile limbs, endowed with a blind, insensate life of their
own, resisted stoutly and well.  For an instant he seemed to see this
unnatural contest between a dead intelligence and a breathing
mechanism only as a spectator--such fancies are in dreams; then he
regained his identity almost as if by a leap forward into his body,
and the straining automaton had a directing will as alert and fierce
as that of its hideous antagonist.

But what mortal can cope with a creature of his dream?  The
imagination creating the enemy is already vanquished; the combat's
result is the combat's cause.  Despite his struggles--despite his
strength and activity, which seemed wasted in a void, he felt the
cold fingers close upon his throat.  Borne backward to the earth, he
saw above him the dead and drawn face within a hand's breadth of his
own, and then all was black.  A sound as of the beating of distant
drums--a murmur of swarming voices, a sharp, far cry signing all to
silence, and Halpin Frayser dreamed that he was dead.

IV

A warm, clear night had been followed by a morning of drenching fog.
At about the middle of the afternoon of the preceding day a little
whiff of light vapor--a mere thickening of the atmosphere, the ghost
of a cloud--had been observed clinging to the western side of Mount
St. Helena, away up along the barren altitudes near the summit.  It
was so thin, so diaphanous, so like a fancy made visible, that one
would have said:  "Look quickly! in a moment it will be gone."

In a moment it was visibly larger and denser.  While with one edge it
clung to the mountain, with the other it reached farther and farther
out into the air above the lower slopes.  At the same time it
extended itself to north and south, joining small patches of mist
that appeared to come out of the mountainside on exactly the same
level, with an intelligent design to be absorbed.  And so it grew and
grew until the summit was shut out of view from the valley, and over
the valley itself was an ever-extending canopy, opaque and gray.  At
Calistoga, which lies near the head of the valley and the foot of the
mountain, there were a starless night and a sunless morning.  The
fog, sinking into the valley, had reached southward, swallowing up
ranch after ranch, until it had blotted out the town of St. Helena,
nine miles away.  The dust in the road was laid; trees were adrip
with moisture; birds sat silent in their coverts; the morning light
was wan and ghastly, with neither color nor fire.

Two men left the town of St. Helena at the first glimmer of dawn, and
walked along the road northward up the valley toward Calistoga.  They
carried guns on their shoulders, yet no one having knowledge of such
matters could have mistaken them for hunters of bird or beast.  They
were a deputy sheriff from Napa and a detective from San Francisco--
Holker and Jaralson, respectively.  Their business was man-hunting.

"How far is it?" inquired Holker, as they strode along, their feet
stirring white the dust beneath the damp surface of the road.

"The White Church?  Only a half mile farther," the other answered.
"By the way," he added, "it is neither white nor a church; it is an
abandoned schoolhouse, gray with age and neglect.  Religious services
were once held in it--when it was white, and there is a graveyard
that would delight a poet.  Can you guess why I sent for you, and
told you to come heeled?"

"Oh, I never have bothered you about things of that kind.  I've
always found you communicative when the time came.  But if I may
hazard a guess, you want me to help you arrest one of the corpses in
the graveyard."

"You remember Branscom?" said Jaralson, treating his companion's wit
with the inattention that it deserved.

"The chap who cut his wife's throat?  I ought; I wasted a week's work
on him and had my expenses for my trouble.  There is a reward of five
hundred dollars, but none of us ever got a sight of him.  You don't
mean to say--"

"Yes, I do.  He has been under the noses of you fellows all the time.
He comes by night to the old graveyard at the White Church."

"The devil!  That's where they buried his wife."

"Well, you fellows might have had sense enough to suspect that he
would return to her grave some time."

"The very last place that anyone would have expected him to return
to."

"But you had exhausted all the other places.  Learning your failure
at them, I 'laid for him' there."

"And you found him?"

"Damn it! he found ME.  The rascal got the drop on me--regularly held
me up and made me travel.  It's God's mercy that he didn't go through
me.  Oh, he's a good one, and I fancy the half of that reward is
enough for me if you're needy."

Holker laughed good humoredly, and explained that his creditors were
never more importunate.

"I wanted merely to show you the ground, and arrange a plan with
you," the detective explained.  "I thought it as well for us to be
heeled, even in daylight."

"The man must be insane," said the deputy sheriff.  "The reward is
for his capture and conviction.  If he's mad he won't be convicted."

Mr. Holker was so profoundly affected by that possible failure of
justice that he involuntarily stopped in the middle of the road, then
resumed his walk with abated zeal.

"Well, he looks it," assented Jaralson.  "I'm bound to admit that a
more unshaven, unshorn, unkempt, and uneverything wretch I never saw
outside the ancient and honorable order of tramps.  But I've gone in
for him, and can't make up my mind to let go.  There's glory in it
for us, anyhow.  Not another soul knows that he is this side of the
Mountains of the Moon."

"All right," Holker said; "we will go and view the ground," and he
added, in the words of a once favorite inscription for tombstones:
"'where you must shortly lie'--I mean, if old Branscom ever gets
tired of you and your impertinent intrusion.  By the way, I heard the
other day that 'Branscom' was not his real name."

"What is?"

"I can't recall it.  I had lost all interest in the wretch, and it
did not fix itself in my memory--something like Pardee.  The woman
whose throat he had the bad taste to cut was a widow when he met her.
She had come to California to look up some relatives--there are
persons who will do that sometimes.  But you know all that."

"Naturally."

"But not knowing the right name, by what happy inspiration did you
find the right grave?  The man who told me what the name was said it
had been cut on the headboard."

"I don't know the right grave."  Jaralson was apparently a trifle
reluctant to admit his ignorance of so important a point of his plan.
"I have been watching about the place generally.  A part of our work
this morning will be to identify that grave.  Here is the White
Church."

For a long distance the road had been bordered by fields on both
sides, but now on the left there was a forest of oaks, madronos, and
gigantic spruces whose lower parts only could be seen, dim and
ghostly in the fog.  The undergrowth was, in places, thick, but
nowhere impenetrable.  For some moments Holker saw nothing of the
building, but as they turned into the woods it revealed itself in
faint gray outline through the fog, looking huge and far away.  A few
steps more, and it was within an arm's length, distinct, dark with
moisture, and insignificant in size.  It had the usual country-
schoolhouse form--belonged to the packing-box order of architecture;
had an underpinning of stones, a moss-grown roof, and blank window
spaces, whence both glass and sash had long departed.  It was ruined,
but not a ruin--a typical Californian substitute for what are known
to guide-bookers abroad as "monuments of the past."  With scarcely a
glance at this uninteresting structure Jaralson moved on into the
dripping undergrowth beyond.

"I will show you where he held me up," he said.  "This is the
graveyard."

Here and there among the bushes were small inclosures containing
graves, sometimes no more than one.  They were recognized as graves
by the discolored stones or rotting boards at head and foot, leaning
at all angles, some prostrate; by the ruined picket fences
surrounding them; or, infrequently, by the mound itself showing its
gravel through the fallen leaves.  In many instances nothing marked
the spot where lay the vestiges of some poor mortal--who, leaving "a
large circle of sorrowing friends," had been left by them in turn--
except a depression in the earth, more lasting than that in the
spirits of the mourners.  The paths, if any paths had been, were long
obliterated; trees of a considerable size had been permitted to grow
up from the graves and thrust aside with root or branch the inclosing
fences.  Over all was that air of abandonment and decay which seems
nowhere so fit and significant as in a village of the forgotten dead.

As the two men, Jaralson leading, pushed their way through the growth
of young trees, that enterprising man suddenly stopped and brought up
his shotgun to the height of his breast, uttered a low note of
warning, and stood motionless, his eyes fixed upon something ahead.
As well as he could, obstructed by brush, his companion, though
seeing nothing, imitated the posture and so stood, prepared for what
might ensue.  A moment later Jaralson moved cautiously forward, the
other following.

Under the branches of an enormous spruce lay the dead body of a man.
Standing silent above it they noted such particulars as first strike
the attention--the face, the attitude, the clothing; whatever most
promptly and plainly answers the unspoken question of a sympathetic
curiosity.

The body lay upon its back, the legs wide apart.  One arm was thrust
upward, the other outward; but the latter was bent acutely, and the
hand was near the throat.  Both hands were tightly clenched.  The
whole attitude was that of desperate but ineffectual resistance to--
what?

Near by lay a shotgun and a game bag through the meshes of which was
seen the plumage of shot birds.  All about were evidences of a
furious struggle; small sprouts of poison-oak were bent and denuded
of leaf and bark; dead and rotting leaves had been pushed into heaps
and ridges on both sides of the legs by the action of other feet than
theirs; alongside the hips were unmistakable impressions of human
knees.

The nature of the struggle was made clear by a glance at the dead
man's throat and face.  While breast and hands were white, those were
purple--almost black.  The shoulders lay upon a low mound, and the
head was turned back at an angle otherwise impossible, the expanded
eyes staring blankly backward in a direction opposite to that of the
feet.  From the froth filling the open mouth the tongue protruded,
black and swollen.  The throat showed horrible contusions; not mere
finger-marks, but bruises and lacerations wrought by two strong hands
that must have buried themselves in the yielding flesh, maintaining
their terrible grasp until long after death.  Breast, throat, face,
were wet; the clothing was saturated; drops of water, condensed from
the fog, studded the hair and mustache.

All this the two men observed without speaking--almost at a glance.
Then Holker said:

"Poor devil! he had a rough deal."

Jaralson was making a vigilant circumspection of the forest, his
shotgun held in both hands and at full cock, his finger upon the
trigger.

"The work of a maniac," he said, without withdrawing his eyes from
the inclosing wood.  "It was done by Branscom--Pardee."

Something half hidden by the disturbed leaves on the earth caught
Holker's attention.  It was a red-leather pocketbook.  He picked it
up and opened it.  It contained leaves of white paper for memoranda,
and upon the first leaf was the name "Halpin Frayser."  Written in
red on several succeeding leaves--scrawled as if in haste and barely
legible--were the following lines, which Holker read aloud, while his
companion continued scanning the dim gray confines of their narrow
world and hearing matter of apprehension in the drip of water from
every burdened branch:


"Enthralled by some mysterious spell, I stood
In the lit gloom of an enchanted wood.
   The cypress there and myrtle twined their boughs,
Significant, in baleful brotherhood.

"The brooding willow whispered to the yew;
Beneath, the deadly nightshade and the rue,
   With immortelles self-woven into strange
Funereal shapes, and horrid nettles grew.

"No song of bird nor any drone of bees,
Nor light leaf lifted by the wholesome breeze:
   The air was stagnant all, and Silence was
A living thing that breathed among the trees.

"Conspiring spirits whispered in the gloom,
Half-heard, the stilly secrets of the tomb.
   With blood the trees were all adrip; the leaves
Shone in the witch-light with a ruddy bloom.

"I cried aloud!--the spell, unbroken still,
Rested upon my spirit and my will.
   Unsouled, unhearted, hopeless and forlorn,
I strove with monstrous presages of ill!

"At last the viewless--"


Holker ceased reading; there was no more to read.  The manuscript
broke off in the middle of a line.

"That sounds like Bayne," said Jaralson, who was something of a
scholar in his way.  He had abated his vigilance and stood looking
down at the body.

"Who's Bayne?" Holker asked rather incuriously.

"Myron Bayne, a chap who flourished in the early years of the nation-
-more than a century ago.  Wrote mighty dismal stuff; I have his
collected works.  That poem is not among them, but it must have been
omitted by mistake."

"It is cold," said Holker; "let us leave here; we must have up the
coroner from Napa."

Jaralson said nothing, but made a movement in compliance.  Passing
the end of the slight elevation of earth upon which the dead man's
head and shoulders lay, his foot struck some hard substance under the
rotting forest leaves, and he took the trouble to kick it into view.
It was a fallen headboard, and painted on it were the hardly
decipherable words, "Catharine Larue."

"Larue, Larue!" exclaimed Holker, with sudden animation.  "Why, that
is the real name of Branscom--not Pardee.  And--bless my soul! how it
all comes to me--the murdered woman's name had been Frayser!"

"There is some rascally mystery here," said Detective Jaralson.  "I
hate anything of that kind."

There came to them out of the fog--seemingly from a great distance--
the sound of a laugh, a low, deliberate, soulless laugh, which had no
more of joy than that of a hyena night-prowling in the desert; a
laugh that rose by slow gradation, louder and louder, clearer, more
distinct and terrible, until it seemed barely outside the narrow
circle of their vision; a laugh so unnatural, so unhuman, so
devilish, that it filled those hardy man-hunters with a sense of
dread unspeakable!  They did not move their weapons nor think of
them; the menace of that horrible sound was not of the kind to be met
with arms.  As it had grown out of silence, so now it died away; from
a culminating shout which had seemed almost in their ears, it drew
itself away into the distance, until its failing notes, joyless and
mechanical to the last, sank to silence at a measureless remove.



THE SECRET OF MACARGER'S GULCH



North Westwardly from Indian Hill, about nine miles as the crow
flies, is Macarger's Gulch.  It is not much of a gulch--a mere
depression between two wooded ridges of inconsiderable height.  From
its mouth up to its head--for gulches, like rivers, have an anatomy
of their own--the distance does not exceed two miles, and the width
at bottom is at only one place more than a dozen yards; for most of
the distance on either side of the little brook which drains it in
winter, and goes dry in the early spring, there is no level ground at
all; the steep slopes of the hills, covered with an almost
impenetrable growth of manzanita and chemisal, are parted by nothing
but the width of the water course.  No one but an occasional
enterprising hunter of the vicinity ever goes into Macarger's Gulch,
and five miles away it is unknown, even by name.  Within that
distance in any direction are far more conspicuous topographical
features without names, and one might try in vain to ascertain by
local inquiry the origin of the name of this one.

About midway between the head and the mouth of Macarger's Gulch, the
hill on the right as you ascend is cloven by another gulch, a short
dry one, and at the junction of the two is a level space of two or
three acres, and there a few years ago stood an old board house
containing one small room.  How the component parts of the house, few
and simple as they were, had been assembled at that almost
inaccessible point is a problem in the solution of which there would
be greater satisfaction than advantage.  Possibly the creek bed is a
reformed road.  It is certain that the gulch was at one time pretty
thoroughly prospected by miners, who must have had some means of
getting in with at least pack animals carrying tools and supplies;
their profits, apparently, were not such as would have justified any
considerable outlay to connect Macarger's Gulch with any center of
civilization enjoying the distinction of a sawmill.  The house,
however, was there, most of it.  It lacked a door and a window frame,
and the chimney of mud and stones had fallen into an unlovely heap,
overgrown with rank weeds.  Such humble furniture as there may once
have been and much of the lower weatherboarding, had served as fuel
in the camp fires of hunters; as had also, probably, the curbing of
an old well, which at the time I write of existed in the form of a
rather wide but not very deep depression near by.

One afternoon in the summer of 1874, I passed up Macarger's Gulch
from the narrow valley into which it opens, by following the dry bed
of the brook.  I was quail-shooting and had made a bag of about a
dozen birds by the time I had reached the house described, of whose
existence I was until then unaware.  After rather carelessly
inspecting the ruin I resumed my sport, and having fairly good
success prolonged it until near sunset, when it occurred to me that I
was a long way from any human habitation--too far to reach one by
nightfall.  But in my game bag was food, and the old house would
afford shelter, if shelter were needed on a warm and dewless night in
the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, where one may sleep in comfort on
the pine needles, without covering.  I am fond of solitude and love
the night, so my resolution to "camp out" was soon taken, and by the
time that it was dark I had made my bed of boughs and grasses in a
corner of the room and was roasting a quail at a fire that I had
kindled on the hearth.  The smoke escaped out of the ruined chimney,
the light illuminated the room with a kindly glow, and as I ate my
simple meal of plain bird and drank the remains of a bottle of red
wine which had served me all the afternoon in place of the water,
which the region did not supply, I experienced a sense of comfort
which better fare and accommodations do not always give.

Nevertheless, there was something lacking.  I had a sense of comfort,
but not of security.  I detected myself staring more frequently at
the open doorway and blank window than I could find warrant for
doing.  Outside these apertures all was black, and I was unable to
repress a certain feeling of apprehension as my fancy pictured the
outer world and filled it with unfriendly entities, natural and
supernatural--chief among which, in their respective classes, were
the grizzly bear, which I knew was occasionally still seen in that
region, and the ghost, which I had reason to think was not.
Unfortunately, our feelings do not always respect the law of
probabilities, and to me that evening, the possible and the
impossible were equally disquieting.

Everyone who has had experience in the matter must have observed that
one confronts the actual and imaginary perils of the night with far
less apprehension in the open air than in a house with an open
doorway.  I felt this now as I lay on my leafy couch in a corner of
the room next to the chimney and permitted my fire to die out.  So
strong became my sense of the presence of something malign and
menacing in the place, that I found myself almost unable to withdraw
my eyes from the opening, as in the deepening darkness it became more
and more indistinct.  And when the last little flame flickered and
went out I grasped the shotgun which I had laid at my side and
actually turned the muzzle in the direction of the now invisible
entrance, my thumb on one of the hammers, ready to cock the piece, my
breath suspended, my muscles rigid and tense.  But later I laid down
the weapon with a sense of shame and mortification.  What did I fear,
and why?--I, to whom the night had been


   a more familiar face
Than that of man -


I, in whom that element of hereditary superstition from which none of
us is altogether free had given to solitude and darkness and silence
only a more alluring interest and charm!  I was unable to comprehend
my folly, and losing in the conjecture the thing conjectured of, I
fell asleep.  And then I dreamed.

I was in a great city in a foreign land--a city whose people were of
my own race, with minor differences of speech and costume; yet
precisely what these were I could not say; my sense of them was
indistinct.  The city was dominated by a great castle upon an
overlooking height whose name I knew, but could not speak.  I walked
through many streets, some broad and straight with high, modern
buildings, some narrow, gloomy, and tortuous, between the gables of
quaint old houses whose overhanging stories, elaborately ornamented
with carvings in wood and stone, almost met above my head.

I sought someone whom I had never seen, yet knew that I should
recognize when found.  My quest was not aimless and fortuitous; it
had a definite method.  I turned from one street into another without
hesitation and threaded a maze of intricate passages, devoid of the
fear of losing my way.

Presently I stopped before a low door in a plain stone house which
might have been the dwelling of an artisan of the better sort, and
without announcing myself, entered.  The room, rather sparely
furnished, and lighted by a single window with small diamond-shaped
panes, had but two occupants; a man and a woman.  They took no notice
of my intrusion, a circumstance which, in the manner of dreams,
appeared entirely natural.  They were not conversing; they sat apart,
unoccupied and sullen.

The woman was young and rather stout, with fine large eyes and a
certain grave beauty; my memory of her expression is exceedingly
vivid, but in dreams one does not observe the details of faces.
About her shoulders was a plaid shawl.  The man was older, dark, with
an evil face made more forbidding by a long scar extending from near
the left temple diagonally downward into the black mustache; though
in my dreams it seemed rather to haunt the face as a thing apart--I
can express it no otherwise--than to belong to it.  The moment that I
found the man and woman I knew them to be husband and wife.

What followed, I remember indistinctly; all was confused and
inconsistent--made so, I think, by gleams of consciousness.  It was
as if two pictures, the scene of my dream, and my actual
surroundings, had been blended, one overlying the other, until the
former, gradually fading, disappeared, and I was broad awake in the
deserted cabin, entirely and tranquilly conscious of my situation.

My foolish fear was gone, and opening my eyes I saw that my fire, not
altogether burned out, had revived by the falling of a stick and was
again lighting the room.  I had probably slept only a few minutes,
but my commonplace dream had somehow so strongly impressed me that I
was no longer drowsy; and after a little while I rose, pushed the
embers of my fire together, and lighting my pipe proceeded in a
rather ludicrously methodical way to meditate upon my vision.

It would have puzzled me then to say in what respect it was worth
attention.  In the first moment of serious thought that I gave to the
matter I recognized the city of my dream as Edinburgh, where I had
never been; so if the dream was a memory it was a memory of pictures
and description.  The recognition somehow deeply impressed me; it was
as if something in my mind insisted rebelliously against will and
reason on the importance of all this.  And that faculty, whatever it
was, asserted also a control of my speech.  "Surely," I said aloud,
quite involuntarily, "the MacGregors must have come here from
Edinburgh."

At the moment, neither the substance of this remark nor the fact of
my making it, surprised me in the least; it seemed entirely natural
that I should know the name of my dreamfolk and something of their
history.  But the absurdity of it all soon dawned upon me:  I laughed
aloud, knocked the ashes from my pipe and again stretched myself upon
my bed of boughs and grass, where I lay staring absently into my
failing fire, with no further thought of either my dream or my
surroundings.  Suddenly the single remaining flame crouched for a
moment, then, springing upward, lifted itself clear of its embers and
expired in air.  The darkness was absolute.

At that instant--almost, it seemed, before the gleam of the blaze had
faded from my eyes--there was a dull, dead sound, as of some heavy
body falling upon the floor, which shook beneath me as I lay.  I
sprang to a sitting posture and groped at my side for my gun; my
notion was that some wild beast had leaped in through the open
window.  While the flimsy structure was still shaking from the impact
I heard the sound of blows, the scuffling of feet upon the floor, and
then--it seemed to come from almost within reach of my hand, the
sharp shrieking of a woman in mortal agony.  So horrible a cry I had
never heard nor conceived; it utterly unnerved me; I was conscious
for a moment of nothing but my own terror!  Fortunately my hand now
found the weapon of which it was in search, and the familiar touch
somewhat restored me.  I leaped to my feet, straining my eyes to
pierce the darkness.  The violent sounds had ceased, but more
terrible than these, I heard, at what seemed long intervals, the
faint intermittent gasping of some living, dying thing!

As my eyes grew accustomed to the dim light of the coals in the
fireplace, I saw first the shapes of the door and window, looking
blacker than the black of the walls.  Next, the distinction between
wall and floor became discernible, and at last I was sensible to the
form and full expanse of the floor from end to end and side to side.
Nothing was visible and the silence was unbroken.

With a hand that shook a little, the other still grasping my gun, I
restored my fire and made a critical examination of the place.  There
was nowhere any sign that the cabin had been entered.  My own tracks
were visible in the dust covering the floor, but there were no
others.  I relit my pipe, provided fresh fuel by ripping a thin board
or two from the inside of the house--I did not care to go into the
darkness out of doors--and passed the rest of the night smoking and
thinking, and feeding my fire; not for added years of life would I
have permitted that little flame to expire again.


Some years afterward I met in Sacramento a man named Morgan, to whom
I had a note of introduction from a friend in San Francisco.  Dining
with him one evening at his home I observed various "trophies" upon
the wall, indicating that he was fond of shooting.  It turned out
that he was, and in relating some of his feats he mentioned having
been in the region of my adventure.

"Mr. Morgan," I asked abruptly, "do you know a place up there called
Macarger's Gulch?"

"I have good reason to," he replied; "it was I who gave to the
newspapers, last year, the accounts of the finding of the skeleton
there."

I had not heard of it; the accounts had been published, it appeared,
while I was absent in the East.

"By the way," said Morgan, "the name of the gulch is a corruption; it
should have been called 'MacGregor's.'  My dear," he added, speaking
to his wife, "Mr. Elderson has upset his wine."

That was hardly accurate--I had simply dropped it, glass and all.

"There was an old shanty once in the gulch," Morgan resumed when the
ruin wrought by my awkwardness had been repaired, "but just
previously to my visit it had been blown down, or rather blown away,
for its debris was scattered all about, the very floor being parted,
plank from plank.  Between two of the sleepers still in position I
and my companion observed the remnant of a plaid shawl, and examining
it found that it was wrapped about the shoulders of the body of a
woman, of which but little remained besides the bones, partly covered
with fragments of clothing, and brown dry skin.  But we will spare
Mrs. Morgan," he added with a smile.  The lady had indeed exhibited
signs of disgust rather than sympathy.

"It is necessary to say, however," he went on, "that the skull was
fractured in several places, as by blows of some blunt instrument;
and that instrument itself--a pick-handle, still stained with blood--
lay under the boards near by."

Mr. Morgan turned to his wife.  "Pardon me, my dear," he said with
affected solemnity, "for mentioning these disagreeable particulars,
the natural though regrettable incidents of a conjugal quarrel--
resulting, doubtless, from the luckless wife's insubordination."

"I ought to be able to overlook it," the lady replied with composure;
"you have so many times asked me to in those very words."

I thought he seemed rather glad to go on with his story.

"From these and other circumstances," he said, "the coroner's jury
found that the deceased, Janet MacGregor, came to her death from
blows inflicted by some person to the jury unknown; but it was added
that the evidence pointed strongly to her husband, Thomas MacGregor,
as the guilty person.  But Thomas MacGregor has never been found nor
heard of.  It was learned that the couple came from Edinburgh, but
not--my dear, do you not observe that Mr. Elderson's boneplate has
water in it?"

I had deposited a chicken bone in my finger bowl.

"In a little cupboard I found a photograph of MacGregor, but it did
not lead to his capture."

"Will you let me see it?" I said.

The picture showed a dark man with an evil face made more forbidding
by a long scar extending from near the temple diagonally downward
into the black mustache.

"By the way, Mr. Elderson," said my affable host, "may I know why you
asked about 'Macarger's Gulch'?"

"I lost a mule near there once," I replied, "and the mischance has--
has quite--upset me."

"My dear," said Mr. Morgan, with the mechanical intonation of an
interpreter translating, "the loss of Mr. Elderson's mule has
peppered his coffee."



ONE SUMMER NIGHT



The fact that Henry Armstrong was buried did not seem to him to prove
that he was dead:  he had always been a hard man to convince.  That
he really was buried, the testimony of his senses compelled him to
admit.  His posture--flat upon his back, with his hands crossed upon
his stomach and tied with something that he easily broke without
profitably altering the situation--the strict confinement of his
entire person, the black darkness and profound silence, made a body
of evidence impossible to controvert and he accepted it without
cavil.

But dead--no; he was only very, very ill.  He had, withal, the
invalid's apathy and did not greatly concern himself about the
uncommon fate that had been allotted to him.  No philosopher was he--
just a plain, commonplace person gifted, for the time being, with a
pathological indifference:  the organ that he feared consequences
with was torpid.  So, with no particular apprehension for his
immediate future, he fell asleep and all was peace with Henry
Armstrong.

But something was going on overhead.  It was a dark summer night,
shot through with infrequent shimmers of lightning silently firing a
cloud lying low in the west and portending a storm.  These brief,
stammering illuminations brought out with ghastly distinctness the
monuments and headstones of the cemetery and seemed to set them
dancing.  It was not a night in which any credible witness was likely
to be straying about a cemetery, so the three men who were there,
digging into the grave of Henry Armstrong, felt reasonably secure.

Two of them were young students from a medical college a few miles
away; the third was a gigantic negro known as Jess.  For many years
Jess had been employed about the cemetery as a man-of-all-work and it
was his favorite pleasantry that he knew "every soul in the place."
From the nature of what he was now doing it was inferable that the
place was not so populous as its register may have shown it to be.

Outside the wall, at the part of the grounds farthest from the public
road, were a horse and a light wagon, waiting.

The work of excavation was not difficult:  the earth with which the
grave had been loosely filled a few hours before offered little
resistance and was soon thrown out.  Removal of the casket from its
box was less easy, but it was taken out, for it was a perquisite of
Jess, who carefully unscrewed the cover and laid it aside, exposing
the body in black trousers and white shirt.  At that instant the air
sprang to flame, a cracking shock of thunder shook the stunned world
and Henry Armstrong tranquilly sat up.  With inarticulate cries the
men fled in terror, each in a different direction.  For nothing on
earth could two of them have been persuaded to return.  But Jess was
of another breed.

In the gray of the morning the two students, pallid and haggard from
anxiety and with the terror of their adventure still beating
tumultuously in their blood, met at the medical college.

"You saw it?" cried one.

"God! yes--what are we to do?"

They went around to the rear of the building, where they saw a horse,
attached to a light wagon, hitched to a gatepost near the door of the
dissecting-room.  Mechanically they entered the room.  On a bench in
the obscurity sat the negro Jess.  He rose, grinning, all eyes and
teeth.

"I'm waiting for my pay," he said.

Stretched naked on a long table lay the body of Henry Armstrong, the
head defiled with blood and clay from a blow with a spade.



THE MOONLIT ROAD



I--STATEMENT OF JOEL HETMAN, JR.

I am the most unfortunate of men.  Rich, respected, fairly well
educated and of sound health--with many other advantages usually
valued by those having them and coveted by those who have them not--I
sometimes think that I should be less unhappy if they had been denied
me, for then the contrast between my outer and my inner life would
not be continually demanding a painful attention.  In the stress of
privation and the need of effort I might sometimes forget the somber
secret ever baffling the conjecture that it compels.

I am the only child of Joel and Julia Hetman.  The one was a well-to-
do country gentleman, the other a beautiful and accomplished woman to
whom he was passionately attached with what I now know to have been a
jealous and exacting devotion.  The family home was a few miles from
Nashville, Tennessee, a large, irregularly built dwelling of no
particular order of architecture, a little way off the road, in a
park of trees and shrubbery.

At the time of which I write I was nineteen years old, a student at
Yale.  One day I received a telegram from my father of such urgency
that in compliance with its unexplained demand I left at once for
home.  At the railway station in Nashville a distant relative awaited
me to apprise me of the reason for my recall:  my mother had been
barbarously murdered--why and by whom none could conjecture, but the
circumstances were these:  My father had gone to Nashville, intending
to return the next afternoon.  Something prevented his accomplishing
the business in hand, so he returned on the same night, arriving just
before the dawn.  In his testimony before the coroner he explained
that having no latchkey and not caring to disturb the sleeping
servants, he had, with no clearly defined intention, gone round to
the rear of the house.  As he turned an angle of the building, he
heard a sound as of a door gently closed, and saw in the darkness,
indistinctly, the figure of a man, which instantly disappeared among
the trees of the lawn.  A hasty pursuit and brief search of the
grounds in the belief that the trespasser was some one secretly
visiting a servant proving fruitless, he entered at the unlocked door
and mounted the stairs to my mother's chamber.  Its door was open,
and stepping into black darkness he fell headlong over some heavy
object on the floor.  I may spare myself the details; it was my poor
mother, dead of strangulation by human hands!

Nothing had been taken from the house, the servants had heard no
sound, and excepting those terrible finger-marks upon the dead
woman's throat--dear God! that I might forget them!--no trace of the
assassin was ever found.

I gave up my studies and remained with my father, who, naturally, was
greatly changed.  Always of a sedate, taciturn disposition, he now
fell into so deep a dejection that nothing could hold his attention,
yet anything--a footfall, the sudden closing of a door--aroused in
him a fitful interest; one might have called it an apprehension.  At
any small surprise of the senses he would start visibly and sometimes
turn pale, then relapse into a melancholy apathy deeper than before.
I suppose he was what is called a "nervous wreck."  As to me, I was
younger then than now--there is much in that.  Youth is Gilead, in
which is balm for every wound.  Ah, that I might again dwell in that
enchanted land!  Unacquainted with grief, I knew not how to appraise
my bereavement; I could not rightly estimate the strength of the
stroke.

One night, a few months after the dreadful event, my father and I
walked home from the city.  The full moon was about three hours above
the eastern horizon; the entire countryside had the solemn stillness
of a summer night; our footfalls and the ceaseless song of the
katydids were the only sound aloof.  Black shadows of bordering trees
lay athwart the road, which, in the short reaches between, gleamed a
ghostly white.  As we approached the gate to our dwelling, whose
front was in shadow, and in which no light shone, my father suddenly
stopped and clutched my arm, saying, hardly above his breath:

"God!  God! what is that?"

"I hear nothing," I replied.

"But see--see!" he said, pointing along the road, directly ahead.

I said:  "Nothing is there.  Come, father, let us go in--you are
ill."

He had released my arm and was standing rigid and motionless in the
center of the illuminated roadway, staring like one bereft of sense.
His face in the moonlight showed a pallor and fixity inexpressibly
distressing.  I pulled gently at his sleeve, but he had forgotten my
existence.  Presently he began to retire backward, step by step,
never for an instant removing his eyes from what he saw, or thought
he saw.  I turned half round to follow, but stood irresolute.  I do
not recall any feeling of fear, unless a sudden chill was its
physical manifestation.  It seemed as if an icy wind had touched my
face and enfolded my body from head to foot; I could feel the stir of
it in my hair.

At that moment my attention was drawn to a light that suddenly
streamed from an upper window of the house:  one of the servants,
awakened by what mysterious premonition of evil who can say, and in
obedience to an impulse that she was never able to name, had lit a
lamp.  When I turned to look for my father he was gone, and in all
the years that have passed no whisper of his fate has come across the
borderland of conjecture from the realm of the unknown.

II--STATEMENT OF CASPAR GRATTAN

To-day I am said to live; to-morrow, here in this room, will lie a
senseless shape of clay that all too long was I.  If anyone lift the
cloth from the face of that unpleasant thing it will be in
gratification of a mere morbid curiosity.  Some, doubtless, will go
further and inquire, "Who was he?"  In this writing I supply the only
answer that I am able to make--Caspar Grattan.  Surely, that should
be enough.  The name has served my small need for more than twenty
years of a life of unknown length.  True, I gave it to myself, but
lacking another I had the right.  In this world one must have a name;
it prevents confusion, even when it does not establish identity.
Some, though, are known by numbers, which also seem inadequate
distinctions.

One day, for illustration, I was passing along a street of a city,
far from here, when I met two men in uniform, one of whom, half
pausing and looking curiously into my face, said to his companion,
"That man looks like 767."  Something in the number seemed familiar
and horrible.  Moved by an uncontrollable impulse, I sprang into a
side street and ran until I fell exhausted in a country lane.

I have never forgotten that number, and always it comes to memory
attended by gibbering obscenity, peals of joyless laughter, the clang
of iron doors.  So I say a name, even if self-bestowed, is better
than a number.  In the register of the potter's field I shall soon
have both.  What wealth!

Of him who shall find this paper I must beg a little consideration.
It is not the history of my life; the knowledge to write that is
denied me.  This is only a record of broken and apparently unrelated
memories, some of them as distinct and sequent as brilliant beads
upon a thread, others remote and strange, having the character of
crimson dreams with interspaces blank and black--witch-fires glowing
still and red in a great desolation.

Standing upon the shore of eternity, I turn for a last look landward
over the course by which I came.  There are twenty years of
footprints fairly distinct, the impressions of bleeding feet.  They
lead through poverty and pain, devious and unsure, as of one
staggering beneath a burden -


Remote, unfriended, melancholy, slow.


Ah, the poet's prophecy of Me--how admirable, how dreadfully
admirable!

Backward beyond the beginning of this via dolorosa--this epic of
suffering with episodes of sin--I see nothing clearly; it comes out
of a cloud.  I know that it spans only twenty years, yet I am an old
man.

One does not remember one's birth--one has to be told.  But with me
it was different; life came to me full-handed and dowered me with all
my faculties and powers.  Of a previous existence I know no more than
others, for all have stammering intimations that may be memories and
may be dreams.  I know only that my first consciousness was of
maturity in body and mind--a consciousness accepted without surprise
or conjecture.  I merely found myself walking in a forest, half-clad,
footsore, unutterably weary and hungry.  Seeing a farmhouse, I
approached and asked for food, which was given me by one who inquired
my name.  I did not know, yet knew that all had names.  Greatly
embarrassed, I retreated, and night coming on, lay down in the forest
and slept.

The next day I entered a large town which I shall not name.  Nor
shall I recount further incidents of the life that is now to end--a
life of wandering, always and everywhere haunted by an overmastering
sense of crime in punishment of wrong and of terror in punishment of
crime.  Let me see if I can reduce it to narrative.

I seem once to have lived near a great city, a prosperous planter,
married to a woman whom I loved and distrusted.  We had, it sometimes
seems, one child, a youth of brilliant parts and promise.  He is at
all times a vague figure, never clearly drawn, frequently altogether
out of the picture.

One luckless evening it occurred to me to test my wife's fidelity in
a vulgar, commonplace way familiar to everyone who has acquaintance
with the literature of fact and fiction.  I went to the city, telling
my wife that I should be absent until the following afternoon.  But I
returned before daybreak and went to the rear of the house, purposing
to enter by a door with which I had secretly so tampered that it
would seem to lock, yet not actually fasten.  As I approached it, I
heard it gently open and close, and saw a man steal away into the
darkness.  With murder in my heart, I sprang after him, but he had
vanished without even the bad luck of identification.  Sometimes now
I cannot even persuade myself that it was a human being.

Crazed with jealousy and rage, blind and bestial with all the
elemental passions of insulted manhood, I entered the house and
sprang up the stairs to the door of my wife's chamber.  It was
closed, but having tampered with its lock also, I easily entered and
despite the black darkness soon stood by the side of her bed.  My
groping hands told me that although disarranged it was unoccupied.

"She is below," I thought, "and terrified by my entrance has evaded
me in the darkness of the hall."

With the purpose of seeking her I turned to leave the room, but took
a wrong direction--the right one!  My foot struck her, cowering in a
corner of the room.  Instantly my hands were at her throat, stifling
a shriek, my knees were upon her struggling body; and there in the
darkness, without a word of accusation or reproach, I strangled her
till she died!

There ends the dream.  I have related it in the past tense, but the
present would be the fitter form, for again and again the somber
tragedy reenacts itself in my consciousness--over and over I lay the
plan, I suffer the confirmation, I redress the wrong.  Then all is
blank; and afterward the rains beat against the grimy window-panes,
or the snows fall upon my scant attire, the wheels rattle in the
squalid streets where my life lies in poverty and mean employment.
If there is ever sunshine I do not recall it; if there are birds they
do not sing.

There is another dream, another vision of the night.  I stand among
the shadows in a moonlit road.  I am aware of another presence, but
whose I cannot rightly determine.  In the shadow of a great dwelling
I catch the gleam of white garments; then the figure of a woman
confronts me in the road--my murdered wife!  There is death in the
face; there are marks upon the throat.  The eyes are fixed on mine
with an infinite gravity which is not reproach, nor hate, nor menace,
nor anything less terrible than recognition.  Before this awful
apparition I retreat in terror--a terror that is upon me as I write.
I can no longer rightly shape the words.  See! they -

Now I am calm, but truly there is no more to tell:  the incident ends
where it began--in darkness and in doubt.

Yes, I am again in control of myself:  "the captain of my soul."  But
that is not respite; it is another stage and phase of expiation.  My
penance, constant in degree, is mutable in kind:  one of its variants
is tranquillity.  After all, it is only a life-sentence.  "To Hell
for life"--that is a foolish penalty:  the culprit chooses the
duration of his punishment.  To-day my term expires.

To each and all, the peace that was not mine.

III--STATEMENT OF THE LATE JULIA HETMAN, THROUGH THE MEDIUM BAYROLLES

I had retired early and fallen almost immediately into a peaceful
sleep, from which I awoke with that indefinable sense of peril which
is, I think, a common experience in that other, earlier life.  Of its
unmeaning character, too, I was entirely persuaded, yet that did not
banish it.  My husband, Joel Hetman, was away from home; the servants
slept in another part of the house.  But these were familiar
conditions; they had never before distressed me.  Nevertheless, the
strange terror grew so insupportable that conquering my reluctance to
move I sat up and lit the lamp at my bedside.  Contrary to my
expectation this gave me no relief; the light seemed rather an added
danger, for I reflected that it would shine out under the door,
disclosing my presence to whatever evil thing might lurk outside.
You that are still in the flesh, subject to horrors of the
imagination, think what a monstrous fear that must be which seeks in
darkness security from malevolent existences of the night.  That is
to spring to close quarters with an unseen enemy--the strategy of
despair!

Extinguishing the lamp I pulled the bed-clothing about my head and
lay trembling and silent, unable to shriek, forgetful to pray.  In
this pitiable state I must have lain for what you call hours--with us
there are no hours, there is no time.

At last it came--a soft, irregular sound of footfalls on the stairs!
They were slow, hesitant, uncertain, as of something that did not see
its way; to my disordered reason all the more terrifying for that, as
the approach of some blind and mindless malevolence to which is no
appeal.  I even thought that I must have left the hall lamp burning
and the groping of this creature proved it a monster of the night.
This was foolish and inconsistent with my previous dread of the
light, but what would you have?  Fear has no brains; it is an idiot.
The dismal witness that it bears and the cowardly counsel that it
whispers are unrelated.  We know this well, we who have passed into
the Realm of Terror, who skulk in eternal dusk among the scenes of
our former lives, invisible even to ourselves and one another, yet
hiding forlorn in lonely places; yearning for speech with our loved
ones, yet dumb, and as fearful of them as they of us.  Sometimes the
disability is removed, the law suspended:  by the deathless power of
love or hate we break the spell--we are seen by those whom we would
warn, console, or punish.  What form we seem to them to bear we know
not; we know only that we terrify even those whom we most wish to
comfort, and from whom we most crave tenderness and sympathy.

Forgive, I pray you, this inconsequent digression by what was once a
woman.  You who consult us in this imperfect way--you do not
understand.  You ask foolish questions about things unknown and
things forbidden.  Much that we know and could impart in our speech
is meaningless in yours.  We must communicate with you through a
stammering intelligence in that small fraction of our language that
you yourselves can speak.  You think that we are of another world.
No, we have knowledge of no world but yours, though for us it holds
no sunlight, no warmth, no music, no laughter, no song of birds, nor
any companionship.  O God! what a thing it is to be a ghost, cowering
and shivering in an altered world, a prey to apprehension and
despair!

No, I did not die of fright:  the Thing turned and went away.  I
heard it go down the stairs, hurriedly, I thought, as if itself in
sudden fear.  Then I rose to call for help.  Hardly had my shaking
hand found the doorknob when--merciful heaven!--I heard it returning.
Its footfalls as it remounted the stairs were rapid, heavy and loud;
they shook the house.  I fled to an angle of the wall and crouched
upon the floor.  I tried to pray.  I tried to call the name of my
dear husband.  Then I heard the door thrown open.  There was an
interval of unconsciousness, and when I revived I felt a strangling
clutch upon my throat--felt my arms feebly beating against something
that bore me backward--felt my tongue thrusting itself from between
my teeth!  And then I passed into this life.

No, I have no knowledge of what it was.  The sum of what we knew at
death is the measure of what we know afterward of all that went
before.  Of this existence we know many things, but no new light
falls upon any page of that; in memory is written all of it that we
can read.  Here are no heights of truth overlooking the confused
landscape of that dubitable domain.  We still dwell in the Valley of
the Shadow, lurk in its desolate places, peering from brambles and
thickets at its mad, malign inhabitants.  How should we have new
knowledge of that fading past?

What I am about to relate happened on a night.  We know when it is
night, for then you retire to your houses and we can venture from our
places of concealment to move unafraid about our old homes, to look
in at the windows, even to enter and gaze upon your faces as you
sleep.  I had lingered long near the dwelling where I had been so
cruelly changed to what I am, as we do while any that we love or hate
remain.  Vainly I had sought some method of manifestation, some way
to make my continued existence and my great love and poignant pity
understood by my husband and son.  Always if they slept they would
wake, or if in my desperation I dared approach them when they were
awake, would turn toward me the terrible eyes of the living,
frightening me by the glances that I sought from the purpose that I
held.

On this night I had searched for them without success, fearing to
find them; they were nowhere in the house, nor about the moonlit
lawn.  For, although the sun is lost to us forever, the moon, full-
orbed or slender, remains to us.  Sometimes it shines by night,
sometimes by day, but always it rises and sets, as in that other
life.

I left the lawn and moved in the white light and silence along the
road, aimless and sorrowing.  Suddenly I heard the voice of my poor
husband in exclamations of astonishment, with that of my son in
reassurance and dissuasion; and there by the shadow of a group of
trees they stood--near, so near!  Their faces were toward me, the
eyes of the elder man fixed upon mine.  He saw me--at last, at last,
he saw me!  In the consciousness of that, my terror fled as a cruel
dream.  The death-spell was broken:  Love had conquered Law!  Mad
with exultation I shouted--I MUST have shouted, "He sees, he sees:
he will understand!"  Then, controlling myself, I moved forward,
smiling and consciously beautiful, to offer myself to his arms, to
comfort him with endearments, and, with my son's hand in mine, to
speak words that should restore the broken bonds between the living
and the dead.

Alas! alas! his face went white with fear, his eyes were as those of
a hunted animal.  He backed away from me, as I advanced, and at last
turned and fled into the wood--whither, it is not given to me to
know.

To my poor boy, left doubly desolate, I have never been able to
impart a sense of my presence.  Soon he, too, must pass to this Life
Invisible and be lost to me forever.



A DIAGNOSIS OF DEATH



"I am not so superstitious as some of your physicians--men of
science, as you are pleased to be called," said Hawver, replying to
an accusation that had not been made.  "Some of you--only a few, I
confess--believe in the immortality of the soul, and in apparitions
which you have not the honesty to call ghosts.  I go no further than
a conviction that the living are sometimes seen where they are not,
but have been--where they have lived so long, perhaps so intensely,
as to have left their impress on everything about them.  I know,
indeed, that one's environment may be so affected by one's
personality as to yield, long afterward, an image of one's self to
the eyes of another.  Doubtless the impressing personality has to be
the right kind of personality as the perceiving eyes have to be the
right kind of eyes--mine, for example."

"Yes, the right kind of eyes, conveying sensations to the wrong kind
of brain," said Dr. Frayley, smiling.

"Thank you; one likes to have an expectation gratified; that is about
the reply that I supposed you would have the civility to make."

"Pardon me.  But you say that you know.  That is a good deal to say,
don't you think?  Perhaps you will not mind the trouble of saying how
you learned."

"You will call it an hallucination," Hawver said, "but that does not
matter."  And he told the story.

"Last summer I went, as you know, to pass the hot weather term in the
town of Meridian.  The relative at whose house I had intended to stay
was ill, so I sought other quarters.  After some difficulty I
succeeded in renting a vacant dwelling that had been occupied by an
eccentric doctor of the name of Mannering, who had gone away years
before, no one knew where, not even his agent.  He had built the
house himself and had lived in it with an old servant for about ten
years.  His practice, never very extensive, had after a few years
been given up entirely.  Not only so, but he had withdrawn himself
almost altogether from social life and become a recluse.  I was told
by the village doctor, about the only person with whom he held any
relations, that during his retirement he had devoted himself to a
single line of study, the result of which he had expounded in a book
that did not commend itself to the approval of his professional
brethren, who, indeed, considered him not entirely sane.  I have not
seen the book and cannot now recall the title of it, but I am told
that it expounded a rather startling theory.  He held that it was
possible in the case of many a person in good health to forecast his
death with precision, several months in advance of the event.  The
limit, I think, was eighteen months.  There were local tales of his
having exerted his powers of prognosis, or perhaps you would say
diagnosis; and it was said that in every instance the person whose
friends he had warned had died suddenly at the appointed time, and
from no assignable cause.  All this, however, has nothing to do with
what I have to tell; I thought it might amuse a physician.

"The house was furnished, just as he had lived in it.  It was a
rather gloomy dwelling for one who was neither a recluse nor a
student, and I think it gave something of its character to me--
perhaps some of its former occupant's character; for always I felt in
it a certain melancholy that was not in my natural disposition, nor,
I think, due to loneliness.  I had no servants that slept in the
house, but I have always been, as you know, rather fond of my own
society, being much addicted to reading, though little to study.
Whatever was the cause, the effect was dejection and a sense of
impending evil; this was especially so in Dr. Mannering's study,
although that room was the lightest and most airy in the house.  The
doctor's life-size portrait in oil hung in that room, and seemed
completely to dominate it.  There was nothing unusual in the picture;
the man was evidently rather good looking, about fifty years old,
with iron-gray hair, a smooth-shaven face and dark, serious eyes.
Something in the picture always drew and held my attention.  The
man's appearance became familiar to me, and rather 'haunted' me.

"One evening I was passing through this room to my bedroom, with a
lamp--there is no gas in Meridian.  I stopped as usual before the
portrait, which seemed in the lamplight to have a new expression, not
easily named, but distinctly uncanny.  It interested but did not
disturb me.  I moved the lamp from one side to the other and observed
the effects of the altered light.  While so engaged I felt an impulse
to turn round.  As I did so I saw a man moving across the room
directly toward me!  As soon as he came near enough for the lamplight
to illuminate the face I saw that it was Dr. Mannering himself; it
was as if the portrait were walking!

"'I beg your pardon,' I said, somewhat coldly, 'but if you knocked I
did not hear.'

"He passed me, within an arm's length, lifted his right forefinger,
as in warning, and without a word went on out of the room, though I
observed his exit no more than I had observed his entrance.

"Of course, I need not tell you that this was what you will call an
hallucination and I call an apparition.  That room had only two
doors, of which one was locked; the other led into a bedroom, from
which there was no exit.  My feeling on realizing this is not an
important part of the incident.

"Doubtless this seems to you a very commonplace 'ghost story'--one
constructed on the regular lines laid down by the old masters of the
art.  If that were so I should not have related it, even if it were
true.  The man was not dead; I met him to-day in Union street.  He
passed me in a crowd."

Hawver had finished his story and both men were silent.  Dr. Frayley
absently drummed on the table with his fingers.

"Did he say anything to-day?" he asked--"anything from which you
inferred that he was not dead?"

Hawver stared and did not reply.

"Perhaps," continued Frayley, "he made a sign, a gesture--lifted a
finger, as in warning.  It's a trick he had--a habit when saying
something serious--announcing the result of a diagnosis, for
example."

"Yes, he did--just as his apparition had done.  But, good God! did
you ever know him?"

Hawver was apparently growing nervous.

"I knew him.  I have read his book, as will every physician some day.
It is one of the most striking and important of the century's
contributions to medical science.  Yes, I knew him; I attended him in
an illness three years ago.  He died."

Hawver sprang from his chair, manifestly disturbed.  He strode
forward and back across the room; then approached his friend, and in
a voice not altogether steady, said:  "Doctor, have you anything to
say to me--as a physician?"

"No, Hawver; you are the healthiest man I ever knew.  As a friend I
advise you to go to your room.  You play the violin like an angel.
Play it; play something light and lively.  Get this cursed bad
business off your mind."

The next day Hawver was found dead in his room, the violin at his
neck, the bow upon the strings, his music open before him at Chopin's
funeral march.



MOXON'S MASTER



"Are you serious?--do you really believe that a machine thinks?"

I got no immediate reply; Moxon was apparently intent upon the coals
in the grate, touching them deftly here and there with the fire-poker
till they signified a sense of his attention by a brighter glow.  For
several weeks I had been observing in him a growing habit of delay in
answering even the most trivial of commonplace questions.  His air,
however, was that of preoccupation rather than deliberation:  one
might have said that he had "something on his mind."

Presently he said:

"What is a 'machine'?  The word has been variously defined.  Here is
one definition from a popular dictionary:  'Any instrument or
organization by which power is applied and made effective, or a
desired effect produced.'  Well, then, is not a man a machine?  And
you will admit that he thinks--or thinks he thinks."

"If you do not wish to answer my question," I said, rather testily,
"why not say so?--all that you say is mere evasion.  You know well
enough that when I say 'machine' I do not mean a man, but something
that man has made and controls."

"When it does not control him," he said, rising abruptly and looking
out of a window, whence nothing was visible in the blackness of a
stormy night.  A moment later he turned about and with a smile said:
"I beg your pardon; I had no thought of evasion.  I considered the
dictionary man's unconscious testimony suggestive and worth something
in the discussion.  I can give your question a direct answer easily
enough:  I do believe that a machine thinks about the work that it is
doing."

That was direct enough, certainly.  It was not altogether pleasing,
for it tended to confirm a sad suspicion that Moxon's devotion to
study and work in his machine-shop had not been good for him.  I
knew, for one thing, that he suffered from insomnia, and that is no
light affliction.  Had it affected his mind?  His reply to my
question seemed to me then evidence that it had; perhaps I should
think differently about it now.  I was younger then, and among the
blessings that are not denied to youth is ignorance.  Incited by that
great stimulant to controversy, I said:

"And what, pray, does it think with--in the absence of a brain?"

The reply, coming with less than his customary delay, took his
favorite form of counter-interrogation:

"With what does a plant think--in the absence of a brain?"

"Ah, plants also belong to the philosopher class!  I should be
pleased to know some of their conclusions; you may omit the
premises."

"Perhaps," he replied, apparently unaffected by my foolish irony,
"you may be able to infer their convictions from their acts.  I will
spare you the familiar examples of the sensitive mimosa, the several
insectivorous flowers and those whose stamens bend down and shake
their pollen upon the entering bee in order that he may fertilize
their distant mates.  But observe this.  In an open spot in my garden
I planted a climbing vine.  When it was barely above the surface I
set a stake into the soil a yard away.  The vine at once made for it,
but as it was about to reach it after several days I removed it a few
feet.  The vine at once altered its course, making an acute angle,
and again made for the stake.  This manoeuvre was repeated several
times, but finally, as if discouraged, the vine abandoned the pursuit
and ignoring further attempts to divert it traveled to a small tree,
further away, which it climbed.

"Roots of the eucalyptus will prolong themselves incredibly in search
of moisture.  A well-known horticulturist relates that one entered an
old drain pipe and followed it until it came to a break, where a
section of the pipe had been removed to make way for a stone wall
that had been built across its course.  The root left the drain and
followed the wall until it found an opening where a stone had fallen
out.  It crept through and following the other side of the wall back
to the drain, entered the unexplored part and resumed its journey."

"And all this?"

"Can you miss the significance of it?  It shows the consciousness of
plants.  It proves that they think."

"Even if it did--what then?  We were speaking, not of plants, but of
machines.  They may be composed partly of wood--wood that has no
longer vitality--or wholly of metal.  Is thought an attribute also of
the mineral kingdom?"

"How else do you explain the phenomena, for example, of
crystallization?"

"I do not explain them."

"Because you cannot without affirming what you wish to deny, namely,
intelligent cooperation among the constituent elements of the
crystals.  When soldiers form lines, or hollow squares, you call it
reason.  When wild geese in flight take the form of a letter V you
say instinct.  When the homogeneous atoms of a mineral, moving freely
in solution, arrange themselves into shapes mathematically perfect,
or particles of frozen moisture into the symmetrical and beautiful
forms of snowflakes, you have nothing to say.  You have not even
invented a name to conceal your heroic unreason."

Moxon was speaking with unusual animation and earnestness.  As he
paused I heard in an adjoining room known to me as his "machine-
shop," which no one but himself was permitted to enter, a singular
thumping sound, as of some one pounding upon a table with an open
hand.  Moxon heard it at the same moment and, visibly agitated, rose
and hurriedly passed into the room whence it came.  I thought it odd
that any one else should be in there, and my interest in my friend--
with doubtless a touch of unwarrantable curiosity--led me to listen
intently, though, I am happy to say, not at the keyhole.  There were
confused sounds, as of a struggle or scuffle; the floor shook.  I
distinctly heard hard breathing and a hoarse whisper which said "Damn
you!"  Then all was silent, and presently Moxon reappeared and said,
with a rather sorry smile:

"Pardon me for leaving you so abruptly.  I have a machine in there
that lost its temper and cut up rough."

Fixing my eyes steadily upon his left cheek, which was traversed by
four parallel excoriations showing blood, I said:

"How would it do to trim its nails?"

I could have spared myself the jest; he gave it no attention, but
seated himself in the chair that he had left and resumed the
interrupted monologue as if nothing had occurred:

"Doubtless you do not hold with those (I need not name them to a man
of your reading) who have taught that all matter is sentient, that
every atom is a living, feeling, conscious being.  _I_ do.  There is
no such thing as dead, inert matter:  it is all alive; all instinct
with force, actual and potential; all sensitive to the same forces in
its environment and susceptible to the contagion of higher and
subtler ones residing in such superior organisms as it may be brought
into relation with, as those of man when he is fashioning it into an
instrument of his will.  It absorbs something of his intelligence and
purpose--more of them in proportion to the complexity of the
resulting machine and that of its work.

"Do you happen to recall Herbert Spencer's definition of 'Life'?  I
read it thirty years ago.  He may have altered it afterward, for
anything I know, but in all that time I have been unable to think of
a single word that could profitably be changed or added or removed.
It seems to me not only the best definition, but the only possible
one.

"'Life,' he says, 'is a definite combination of heterogeneous
changes, both simultaneous and successive, in correspondence with
external coexistences and sequences.'"

"That defines the phenomenon," I said, "but gives no hint of its
cause."

"That," he replied, "is all that any definition can do.  As Mill
points out, we know nothing of cause except as an antecedent--nothing
of effect except as a consequent.  Of certain phenomena, one never
occurs without another, which is dissimilar:  the first in point of
time we call cause, the second, effect.  One who had many times seen
a rabbit pursued by a dog, and had never seen rabbits and dogs
otherwise, would think the rabbit the cause of the dog.

"But I fear," he added, laughing naturally enough, "that my rabbit is
leading me a long way from the track of my legitimate quarry:  I'm
indulging in the pleasure of the chase for its own sake.  What I want
you to observe is that in Herbert Spencer's definition of 'life' the
activity of a machine is included--there is nothing in the definition
that is not applicable to it.  According to this sharpest of
observers and deepest of thinkers, if a man during his period of
activity is alive, so is a machine when in operation.  As an inventor
and constructor of machines I know that to be true."

Moxon was silent for a long time, gazing absently into the fire.  It
was growing late and I thought it time to be going, but somehow I did
not like the notion of leaving him in that isolated house, all alone
except for the presence of some person of whose nature my conjectures
could go no further than that it was unfriendly, perhaps malign.
Leaning toward him and looking earnestly into his eyes while making a
motion with my hand through the door of his workshop, I said:

"Moxon, whom have you in there?"

Somewhat to my surprise he laughed lightly and answered without
hesitation:

"Nobody; the incident that you have in mind was caused by my folly in
leaving a machine in action with nothing to act upon, while I
undertook the interminable task of enlightening your understanding.
Do you happen to know that Consciousness is the creature of Rhythm?"

"O bother them both!" I replied, rising and laying hold of my
overcoat.  "I'm going to wish you good night; and I'll add the hope
that the machine which you inadvertently left in action will have her
gloves on the next time you think it needful to stop her."

Without waiting to observe the effect of my shot I left the house.

Rain was falling, and the darkness was intense.  In the sky beyond
the crest of a hill toward which I groped my way along precarious
plank sidewalks and across miry, unpaved streets I could see the
faint glow of the city's lights, but behind me nothing was visible
but a single window of Moxon's house.  It glowed with what seemed to
me a mysterious and fateful meaning.  I knew it was an uncurtained
aperture in my friend's "machine-shop," and I had little doubt that
he had resumed the studies interrupted by his duties as my instructor
in mechanical consciousness and the fatherhood of Rhythm.  Odd, and
in some degree humorous, as his convictions seemed to me at that
time, I could not wholly divest myself of the feeling that they had
some tragic relation to his life and character--perhaps to his
destiny--although I no longer entertained the notion that they were
the vagaries of a disordered mind.  Whatever might be thought of his
views, his exposition of them was too logical for that.  Over and
over, his last words came back to me:  "Consciousness is the creature
of Rhythm."  Bald and terse as the statement was, I now found it
infinitely alluring.  At each recurrence it broadened in meaning and
deepened in suggestion.  Why, here, (I thought) is something upon
which to found a philosophy.  If consciousness is the product of
rhythm all things ARE conscious, for all have motion, and all motion
is rhythmic.  I wondered if Moxon knew the significance and breadth
of his thought--the scope of this momentous generalization; or had he
arrived at his philosophic faith by the tortuous and uncertain road
of observation?

That faith was then new to me, and all Moxon's expounding had failed
to make me a convert; but now it seemed as if a great light shone
about me, like that which fell upon Saul of Tarsus; and out there in
the storm and darkness and solitude I experienced what Lewes calls
"The endless variety and excitement of philosophic thought."  I
exulted in a new sense of knowledge, a new pride of reason.  My feet
seemed hardly to touch the earth; it was as if I were uplifted and
borne through the air by invisible wings.

Yielding to an impulse to seek further light from him whom I now
recognized as my master and guide, I had unconsciously turned about,
and almost before I was aware of having done so found myself again at
Moxon's door.  I was drenched with rain, but felt no discomfort.
Unable in my excitement to find the doorbell I instinctively tried
the knob.  It turned and, entering, I mounted the stairs to the room
that I had so recently left.  All was dark and silent; Moxon, as I
had supposed, was in the adjoining room--the "machine-shop."  Groping
along the wall until I found the communicating door I knocked loudly
several times, but got no response, which I attributed to the uproar
outside, for the wind was blowing a gale and dashing the rain against
the thin walls in sheets.  The drumming upon the shingle roof
spanning the unceiled room was loud and incessant.

I had never been invited into the machine-shop--had, indeed, been
denied admittance, as had all others, with one exception, a skilled
metal worker, of whom no one knew anything except that his name was
Haley and his habit silence.  But in my spiritual exaltation,
discretion and civility were alike forgotten and I opened the door.
What I saw took all philosophical speculation out of me in short
order.

Moxon sat facing me at the farther side of a small table upon which a
single candle made all the light that was in the room.  Opposite him,
his back toward me, sat another person.  On the table between the two
was a chessboard; the men were playing.  I knew little of chess, but
as only a few pieces were on the board it was obvious that the game
was near its close.  Moxon was intensely interested--not so much, it
seemed to me, in the game as in his antagonist, upon whom he had
fixed so intent a look that, standing though I did directly in the
line of his vision, I was altogether unobserved.  His face was
ghastly white, and his eyes glittered like diamonds.  Of his
antagonist I had only a back view, but that was sufficient; I should
not have cared to see his face.

He was apparently not more than five feet in height, with proportions
suggesting those of a gorilla--a tremendous breadth of shoulders,
thick, short neck and broad, squat head, which had a tangled growth
of black hair and was topped with a crimson fez.  A tunic of the same
color, belted tightly to the waist, reached the seat--apparently a
box--upon which he sat; his legs and feet were not seen.  His left
forearm appeared to rest in his lap; he moved his pieces with his
right hand, which seemed disproportionately long.

I had shrunk back and now stood a little to one side of the doorway
and in shadow.  If Moxon had looked farther than the face of his
opponent he could have observed nothing now, except that the door was
open.  Something forbade me either to enter or to retire, a feeling--
I know not how it came--that I was in the presence of an imminent
tragedy and might serve my friend by remaining.  With a scarcely
conscious rebellion against the indelicacy of the act I remained.

The play was rapid.  Moxon hardly glanced at the board before making
his moves, and to my unskilled eye seemed to move the piece most
convenient to his hand, his motions in doing so being quick, nervous
and lacking in precision.  The response of his antagonist, while
equally prompt in the inception, was made with a slow, uniform,
mechanical and, I thought, somewhat theatrical movement of the arm,
that was a sore trial to my patience.  There was something unearthly
about it all, and I caught myself shuddering.  But I was wet and
cold.

Two or three times after moving a piece the stranger slightly
inclined his head, and each time I observed that Moxon shifted his
king.  All at once the thought came to me that the man was dumb.  And
then that he was a machine--an automaton chess-player!  Then I
remembered that Moxon had once spoken to me of having invented such a
piece of mechanism, though I did not understand that it had actually
been constructed.  Was all his talk about the consciousness and
intelligence of machines merely a prelude to eventual exhibition of
this device--only a trick to intensify the effect of its mechanical
action upon me in my ignorance of its secret?

A fine end, this, of all my intellectual transports--my "endless
variety and excitement of philosophic thought!"  I was about to
retire in disgust when something occurred to hold my curiosity.  I
observed a shrug of the thing's great shoulders, as if it were
irritated:  and so natural was this--so entirely human--that in my
new view of the matter it startled me.  Nor was that all, for a
moment later it struck the table sharply with its clenched hand.  At
that gesture Moxon seemed even more startled than I:  he pushed his
chair a little backward, as in alarm.

Presently Moxon, whose play it was, raised his hand high above the
board, pounced upon one of his pieces like a sparrow-hawk and with
the exclamation "checkmate!" rose quickly to his feet and stepped
behind his chair.  The automaton sat motionless.

The wind had now gone down, but I heard, at lessening intervals and
progressively louder, the rumble and roll of thunder.  In the pauses
between I now became conscious of a low humming or buzzing which,
like the thunder, grew momentarily louder and more distinct.  It
seemed to come from the body of the automaton, and was unmistakably a
whirring of wheels.  It gave me the impression of a disordered
mechanism which had escaped the repressive and regulating action of
some controlling part--an effect such as might be expected if a pawl
should be jostled from the teeth of a ratchet-wheel.  But before I
had time for much conjecture as to its nature my attention was taken
by the strange motions of the automaton itself.  A slight but
continuous convulsion appeared to have possession of it.  In body and
head it shook like a man with palsy or an ague chill, and the motion
augmented every moment until the entire figure was in violent
agitation.  Suddenly it sprang to its feet and with a movement almost
too quick for the eye to follow shot forward across table and chair,
with both arms thrust forth to their full length--the posture and
lunge of a diver.  Moxon tried to throw himself backward out of
reach, but he was too late:  I saw the horrible thing's hands close
upon his throat, his own clutch its wrists.  Then the table was
overturned, the candle thrown to the floor and extinguished, and all
was black dark.  But the noise of the struggle was dreadfully
distinct, and most terrible of all were the raucous, squawking sounds
made by the strangled man's efforts to breathe.  Guided by the
infernal hubbub, I sprang to the rescue of my friend, but had hardly
taken a stride in the darkness when the whole room blazed with a
blinding white light that burned into my brain and heart and memory a
vivid picture of the combatants on the floor, Moxon underneath, his
throat still in the clutch of those iron hands, his head forced
backward, his eyes protruding, his mouth wide open and his tongue
thrust out; and--horrible contrast!--upon the painted face of his
assassin an expression of tranquil and profound thought, as in the
solution of a problem in chess!  This I observed, then all was
blackness and silence.

Three days later I recovered consciousness in a hospital.  As the
memory of that tragic night slowly evolved in my ailing brain
recognized in my attendant Moxon's confidential workman, Haley.
Responding to a look he approached, smiling.

"Tell me about it," I managed to say, faintly--"all about it."

"Certainly," he said; "you were carried unconscious from a burning
house--Moxon's.  Nobody knows how you came to be there.  You may have
to do a little explaining.  The origin of the fire is a bit
mysterious, too.  My own notion is that the house was struck by
lightning."

"And Moxon?"

"Buried yesterday--what was left of him."

Apparently this reticent person could unfold himself on occasion.
When imparting shocking intelligence to the sick he was affable
enough.  After some moments of the keenest mental suffering I
ventured to ask another question:

"Who rescued me?"

"Well, if that interests you--I did."

"Thank you, Mr. Haley, and may God bless you for it.  Did you rescue,
also, that charming product of your skill, the automaton chess-player
that murdered its inventor?"

The man was silent a long time, looking away from me.  Presently he
turned and gravely said:

"Do you know that?"

"I do," I replied; "I saw it done."

That was many years ago.  If asked to-day I should answer less
confidently.



A TOUGH TUSSLE



One night in the autumn of 1861 a man sat alone in the heart of a
forest in western Virginia.  The region was one of the wildest on the
continent--the Cheat Mountain country.  There was no lack of people
close at hand, however; within a mile of where the man sat was the
now silent camp of a whole Federal brigade.  Somewhere about--it
might be still nearer--was a force of the enemy, the numbers unknown.
It was this uncertainty as to its numbers and position that accounted
for the man's presence in that lonely spot; he was a young officer of
a Federal infantry regiment and his business there was to guard his
sleeping comrades in the camp against a surprise.  He was in command
of a detachment of men constituting a picket-guard.  These men he had
stationed just at nightfall in an irregular line, determined by the
nature of the ground, several hundred yards in front of where he now
sat.  The line ran through the forest, among the rocks and laurel
thickets, the men fifteen or twenty paces apart, all in concealment
and under injunction of strict silence and unremitting vigilance.  In
four hours, if nothing occurred, they would be relieved by a fresh
detachment from the reserve now resting in care of its captain some
distance away to the left and rear.  Before stationing his men the
young officer of whom we are writing had pointed out to his two
sergeants the spot at which he would be found if it should be
necessary to consult him, or if his presence at the front line should
be required.

It was a quiet enough spot--the fork of an old wood-road, on the two
branches of which, prolonging themselves deviously forward in the dim
moonlight, the sergeants were themselves stationed, a few paces in
rear of the line.  If driven sharply back by a sudden onset of the
enemy--and pickets are not expected to make a stand after firing--the
men would come into the converging roads and naturally following them
to their point of intersection could be rallied and "formed."  In his
small way the author of these dispositions was something of a
strategist; if Napoleon had planned as intelligently at Waterloo he
would have won that memorable battle and been overthrown later.

Second-Lieutenant Brainerd Byring was a brave and efficient officer,
young and comparatively inexperienced as he was in the business of
killing his fellow-men.  He had enlisted in the very first days of
the war as a private, with no military knowledge whatever, had been
made first-sergeant of his company on account of his education and
engaging manner, and had been lucky enough to lose his captain by a
Confederate bullet; in the resulting promotions he had gained a
commission.  He had been in several engagements, such as they were--
at Philippi, Rich Mountain, Carrick's Ford and Greenbrier--and had
borne himself with such gallantry as not to attract the attention of
his superior officers.  The exhilaration of battle was agreeable to
him, but the sight of the dead, with their clay faces, blank eyes and
stiff bodies, which when not unnaturally shrunken were unnaturally
swollen, had always intolerably affected him.  He felt toward them a
kind of reasonless antipathy that was something more than the
physical and spiritual repugnance common to us all.  Doubtless this
feeling was due to his unusually acute sensibilities--his keen sense
of the beautiful, which these hideous things outraged.  Whatever may
have been the cause, he could not look upon a dead body without a
loathing which had in it an element of resentment.  What others have
respected as the dignity of death had to him no existence--was
altogether unthinkable.  Death was a thing to be hated.  It was not
picturesque, it had no tender and solemn side--a dismal thing,
hideous in all its manifestations and suggestions.  Lieutenant Byring
was a braver man than anybody knew, for nobody knew his horror of
that which he was ever ready to incur.

Having posted his men, instructed his sergeants and retired to his
station, he seated himself on a log, and with senses all alert began
his vigil.  For greater ease he loosened his sword-belt and taking
his heavy revolver from his holster laid it on the log beside him.
He felt very comfortable, though he hardly gave the fact a thought,
so intently did he listen for any sound from the front which might
have a menacing significance--a shout, a shot, or the footfall of one
of his sergeants coming to apprise him of something worth knowing.
From the vast, invisible ocean of moonlight overhead fell, here and
there, a slender, broken stream that seemed to plash against the
intercepting branches and trickle to earth, forming small white pools
among the clumps of laurel.  But these leaks were few and served only
to accentuate the blackness of his environment, which his imagination
found it easy to people with all manner of unfamiliar shapes,
menacing, uncanny, or merely grotesque.

He to whom the portentous conspiracy of night and solitude and
silence in the heart of a great forest is not an unknown experience
needs not to be told what another world it all is--how even the most
commonplace and familiar objects take on another character.  The
trees group themselves differently; they draw closer together, as if
in fear.  The very silence has another quality than the silence of
the day.  And it is full of half-heard whispers--whispers that
startle--ghosts of sounds long dead.  There are living sounds, too,
such as are never heard under other conditions:  notes of strange
night-birds, the cries of small animals in sudden encounters with
stealthy foes or in their dreams, a rustling in the dead leaves--it
may be the leap of a wood-rat, it may be the footfall of a panther.
What caused the breaking of that twig?--what the low, alarmed
twittering in that bushful of birds?  There are sounds without a
name, forms without substance, translations in space of objects which
have not been seen to move, movements wherein nothing is observed to
change its place.  Ah, children of the sunlight and the gaslight, how
little you know of the world in which you live!

Surrounded at a little distance by armed and watchful friends, Byring
felt utterly alone.  Yielding himself to the solemn and mysterious
spirit of the time and place, he had forgotten the nature of his
connection with the visible and audible aspects and phases of the
night.  The forest was boundless; men and the habitations of men did
not exist.  The universe was one primeval mystery of darkness,
without form and void, himself the sole, dumb questioner of its
eternal secret.  Absorbed in thoughts born of this mood, he suffered
the time to slip away unnoted.  Meantime the infrequent patches of
white light lying amongst the tree-trunks had undergone changes of
size, form and place.  In one of them near by, just at the roadside,
his eye fell upon an object that he had not previously observed.  It
was almost before his face as he sat; he could have sworn that it had
not before been there.  It was partly covered in shadow, but he could
see that it was a human figure.  Instinctively he adjusted the clasp
of his sword-belt and laid hold of his pistol--again he was in a
world of war, by occupation an assassin.

The figure did not move.  Rising, pistol in hand, he approached.  The
figure lay upon its back, its upper part in shadow, but standing
above it and looking down upon the face, he saw that it was a dead
body.  He shuddered and turned from it with a feeling of sickness and
disgust, resumed his seat upon the log, and forgetting military
prudence struck a match and lit a cigar.  In the sudden blackness
that followed the extinction of the flame he felt a sense of relief;
he could no longer see the object of his aversion.  Nevertheless, he
kept his eyes set in that direction until it appeared again with
growing distinctness.  It seemed to have moved a trifle nearer.

"Damn the thing!" he muttered.  "What does it want?"

It did not appear to be in need of anything but a soul.

Byring turned away his eyes and began humming a tune, but he broke
off in the middle of a bar and looked at the dead body.  Its presence
annoyed him, though he could hardly have had a quieter neighbor.  He
was conscious, too, of a vague, indefinable feeling that was new to
him.  It was not fear, but rather a sense of the supernatural--in
which he did not at all believe.

"I have inherited it," he said to himself.  "I suppose it will
require a thousand ages--perhaps ten thousand--for humanity to
outgrow this feeling.  Where and when did it originate?  Away back,
probably, in what is called the cradle of the human race--the plains
of Central Asia.  What we inherit as a superstition our barbarous
ancestors must have held as a reasonable conviction.  Doubtless they
believed themselves justified by facts whose nature we cannot even
conjecture in thinking a dead body a malign thing endowed with some
strange power of mischief, with perhaps a will and a purpose to exert
it.  Possibly they had some awful form of religion of which that was
one of the chief doctrines, sedulously taught by their priesthood, as
ours teach the immortality of the soul.  As the Aryans moved slowly
on, to and through the Caucasus passes, and spread over Europe, new
conditions of life must have resulted in the formulation of new
religions.  The old belief in the malevolence of the dead body was
lost from the creeds and even perished from tradition, but it left
its heritage of terror, which is transmitted from generation to
generation--is as much a part of us as are our blood and bones."

In following out his thought he had forgotten that which suggested
it; but now his eye fell again upon the corpse.  The shadow had now
altogether uncovered it.  He saw the sharp profile, the chin in the
air, the whole face, ghastly white in the moonlight.  The clothing
was gray, the uniform of a Confederate soldier.  The coat and
waistcoat, unbuttoned, had fallen away on each side, exposing the
white shirt.  The chest seemed unnaturally prominent, but the abdomen
had sunk in, leaving a sharp projection at the line of the lower
ribs.  The arms were extended, the left knee was thrust upward.  The
whole posture impressed Byring as having been studied with a view to
the horrible.

"Bah!" he exclaimed; "he was an actor--he knows how to be dead."

He drew away his eyes, directing them resolutely along one of the
roads leading to the front, and resumed his philosophizing where he
had left off.

"It may be that our Central Asian ancestors had not the custom of
burial.  In that case it is easy to understand their fear of the
dead, who really were a menace and an evil.  They bred pestilences.
Children were taught to avoid the places where they lay, and to run
away if by inadvertence they came near a corpse.  I think, indeed,
I'd better go away from this chap."

He half rose to do so, then remembered that he had told his men in
front and the officer in the rear who was to relieve him that he
could at any time be found at that spot.  It was a matter of pride,
too.  If he abandoned his post he feared they would think he feared
the corpse.  He was no coward and he was unwilling to incur anybody's
ridicule.  So he again seated himself, and to prove his courage
looked boldly at the body.  The right arm--the one farthest from him-
-was now in shadow.  He could barely see the hand which, he had
before observed, lay at the root of a clump of laurel.  There had
been no change, a fact which gave him a certain comfort, he could not
have said why.  He did not at once remove his eyes; that which we do
not wish to see has a strange fascination, sometimes irresistible.
Of the woman who covers her eyes with her hands and looks between the
fingers let it be said that the wits have dealt with her not
altogether justly.

Byring suddenly became conscious of a pain in his right hand.  He
withdrew his eyes from his enemy and looked at it.  He was grasping
the hilt of his drawn sword so tightly that it hurt him.  He
observed, too, that he was leaning forward in a strained attitude--
crouching like a gladiator ready to spring at the throat of an
antagonist.  His teeth were clenched and he was breathing hard.  This
matter was soon set right, and as his muscles relaxed and he drew a
long breath he felt keenly enough the ludicrousness of the incident.
It affected him to laughter.  Heavens! what sound was that? what
mindless devil was uttering an unholy glee in mockery of human
merriment?  He sprang to his feet and looked about him, not
recognizing his own laugh.

He could no longer conceal from himself the horrible fact of his
cowardice; he was thoroughly frightened!  He would have run from the
spot, but his legs refused their office; they gave way beneath him
and he sat again upon the log, violently trembling.  His face was
wet, his whole body bathed in a chill perspiration.  He could not
even cry out.  Distinctly he heard behind him a stealthy tread, as of
some wild animal, and dared not look over his shoulder.  Had the
soulless living joined forces with the soulless dead?--was it an
animal?  Ah, if he could but be assured of that!  But by no effort of
will could he now unfix his gaze from the face of the dead man.

I repeat that Lieutenant Byring was a brave and intelligent man.  But
what would you have?  Shall a man cope, single-handed, with so
monstrous an alliance as that of night and solitude and silence and
the dead,--while an incalculable host of his own ancestors shriek
into the ear of his spirit their coward counsel, sing their doleful
death-songs in his heart, and disarm his very blood of all its iron?
The odds are too great--courage was not made for so rough use as
that.

One sole conviction now had the man in possession:  that the body had
moved.  It lay nearer to the edge of its plot of light--there could
be no doubt of it.  It had also moved its arms, for, look, they are
both in the shadow!  A breath of cold air struck Byring full in the
face; the boughs of trees above him stirred and moaned.  A strongly
defined shadow passed across the face of the dead, left it luminous,
passed back upon it and left it half obscured.  The horrible thing
was visibly moving!  At that moment a single shot rang out upon the
picket-line--a lonelier and louder, though more distant, shot than
ever had been heard by mortal ear!  It broke the spell of that
enchanted man; it slew the silence and the solitude, dispersed the
hindering host from Central Asia and released his modern manhood.
With a cry like that of some great bird pouncing upon its prey he
sprang forward, hot-hearted for action!

Shot after shot now came from the front.  There were shoutings and
confusion, hoof-beats and desultory cheers.  Away to the rear, in the
sleeping camp, were a singing of bugles and grumble of drums.
Pushing through the thickets on either side the roads came the
Federal pickets, in full retreat, firing backward at random as they
ran.  A straggling group that had followed back one of the roads, as
instructed, suddenly sprang away into the bushes as half a hundred
horsemen thundered by them, striking wildly with their sabres as they
passed.  At headlong speed these mounted madmen shot past the spot
where Byring had sat, and vanished round an angle of the road,
shouting and firing their pistols.  A moment later there was a roar
of musketry, followed by dropping shots--they had encountered the
reserve-guard in line; and back they came in dire confusion, with
here and there an empty saddle and many a maddened horse, bullet-
stung, snorting and plunging with pain.  It was all over--"an affair
of outposts."

The line was reestablished with fresh men, the roll called, the
stragglers were reformed.  The Federal commander with a part of his
staff, imperfectly clad, appeared upon the scene, asked a few
questions, looked exceedingly wise and retired.  After standing at
arms for an hour the brigade in camp "swore a prayer or two" and went
to bed.

Early the next morning a fatigue-party, commanded by a captain and
accompanied by a surgeon, searched the ground for dead and wounded.
At the fork of the road, a little to one side, they found two bodies
lying close together--that of a Federal officer and that of a
Confederate private.  The officer had died of a sword-thrust through
the heart, but not, apparently, until he had inflicted upon his enemy
no fewer than five dreadful wounds.  The dead officer lay on his face
in a pool of blood, the weapon still in his breast.  They turned him
on his back and the surgeon removed it.

"Gad!" said the captain--"It is Byring!"--adding, with a glance at
the other, "They had a tough tussle."

The surgeon was examining the sword.  It was that of a line officer
of Federal infantry--exactly like the one worn by the captain.  It
was, in fact, Byring's own.  The only other weapon discovered was an
undischarged revolver in the dead officer's belt.

The surgeon laid down the sword and approached the other body.  It
was frightfully gashed and stabbed, but there was no blood.  He took
hold of the left foot and tried to straighten the leg.  In the effort
the body was displaced.  The dead do not wish to be moved--it
protested with a faint, sickening odor.  Where it had lain were a few
maggots, manifesting an imbecile activity.

The surgeon looked at the captain.  The captain looked at the
surgeon.



ONE OF TWINS
A LETTER FOUND AMONG THE PAPERS OF THE LATE MORTIMER BARR



You ask me if in my experience as one of a pair of twins I ever
observed anything unaccountable by the natural laws with which we
have acquaintance.  As to that you shall judge; perhaps we have not
all acquaintance with the same natural laws.  You may know some that
I do not, and what is to me unaccountable may be very clear to you.

You knew my brother John--that is, you knew him when you knew that I
was not present; but neither you nor, I believe, any human being
could distinguish between him and me if we chose to seem alike.  Our
parents could not; ours is the only instance of which I have any
knowledge of so close resemblance as that.  I speak of my brother
John, but I am not at all sure that his name was not Henry and mine
John.  We were regularly christened, but afterward, in the very act
of tattooing us with small distinguishing marks, the operator lost
his reckoning; and although I bear upon my forearm a small "H" and he
bore a "J," it is by no means certain that the letters ought not to
have been transposed.  During our boyhood our parents tried to
distinguish us more obviously by our clothing and other simple
devices, but we would so frequently exchange suits and otherwise
circumvent the enemy that they abandoned all such ineffectual
attempts, and during all the years that we lived together at home
everybody recognized the difficulty of the situation and made the
best of it by calling us both "Jehnry."  I have often wondered at my
father's forbearance in not branding us conspicuously upon our
unworthy brows, but as we were tolerably good boys and used our power
of embarrassment and annoyance with commendable moderation, we
escaped the iron.  My father was, in fact, a singularly good-natured
man, and I think quietly enjoyed nature's practical joke.

Soon after we had come to California, and settled at San Jose (where
the only good fortune that awaited us was our meeting with so kind a
friend as you) the family, as you know, was broken up by the death of
both my parents in the same week.  My father died insolvent and the
homestead was sacrificed to pay his debts.  My sisters returned to
relatives in the East, but owing to your kindness John and I, then
twenty-two years of age, obtained employment in San Francisco, in
different quarters of the town.  Circumstances did not permit us to
live together, and we saw each other infrequently, sometimes not
oftener than once a week.  As we had few acquaintances in common, the
fact of our extraordinary likeness was little known.  I come now to
the matter of your inquiry.

One day soon after we had come to this city I was walking down Market
street late in the afternoon, when I was accosted by a well-dressed
man of middle age, who after greeting me cordially said:  "Stevens, I
know, of course, that you do not go out much, but I have told my wife
about you, and she would be glad to see you at the house.  I have a
notion, too, that my girls are worth knowing.  Suppose you come out
to-morrow at six and dine with us, en famille; and then if the ladies
can't amuse you afterward I'll stand in with a few games of
billiards."

This was said with so bright a smile and so engaging a manner that I
had not the heart to refuse, and although I had never seen the man in
my life I promptly replied:  "You are very good, sir, and it will
give me great pleasure to accept the invitation.  Please present my
compliments to Mrs. Margovan and ask her to expect me."

With a shake of the hand and a pleasant parting word the man passed
on.  That he had mistaken me for my brother was plain enough.  That
was an error to which I was accustomed and which it was not my habit
to rectify unless the matter seemed important.  But how had I known
that this man's name was Margovan?  It certainly is not a name that
one would apply to a man at random, with a probability that it would
be right.  In point of fact, the name was as strange to me as the
man.

The next morning I hastened to where my brother was employed and met
him coming out of the office with a number of bills that he was to
collect.  I told him how I had "committed" him and added that if he
didn't care to keep the engagement I should be delighted to continue
the impersonation.

"That's queer," he said thoughtfully.  "Margovan is the only man in
the office here whom I know well and like.  When he came in this
morning and we had passed the usual greetings some singular impulse
prompted me to say:  'Oh, I beg your pardon, Mr. Margovan, but I
neglected to ask your address.'  I got the address, but what under
the sun I was to do with it, I did not know until now.  It's good of
you to offer to take the consequence of your impudence, but I'll eat
that dinner myself, if you please."

He ate a number of dinners at the same place--more than were good for
him, I may add without disparaging their quality; for he fell in love
with Miss Margovan, proposed marriage to her and was heartlessly
accepted.

Several weeks after I had been informed of the engagement, but before
it had been convenient for me to make the acquaintance of the young
woman and her family, I met one day on Kearney street a handsome but
somewhat dissipated-looking man whom something prompted me to follow
and watch, which I did without any scruple whatever.  He turned up
Geary street and followed it until he came to Union square.  There he
looked at his watch, then entered the square.  He loitered about the
paths for some time, evidently waiting for someone.  Presently he was
joined by a fashionably dressed and beautiful young woman and the two
walked away up Stockton street, I following.  I now felt the
necessity of extreme caution, for although the girl was a stranger it
seemed to me that she would recognize me at a glance.  They made
several turns from one street to another and finally, after both had
taken a hasty look all about--which I narrowly evaded by stepping
into a doorway--they entered a house of which I do not care to state
the location.  Its location was better than its character.

I protest that my action in playing the spy upon these two strangers
was without assignable motive.  It was one of which I might or might
not be ashamed, according to my estimate of the character of the
person finding it out.  As an essential part of a narrative educed by
your question it is related here without hesitancy or shame.

A week later John took me to the house of his prospective father-in-
law, and in Miss Margovan, as you have already surmised, but to my
profound astonishment, I recognized the heroine of that discreditable
adventure.  A gloriously beautiful heroine of a discreditable
adventure I must in justice admit that she was; but that fact has
only this importance:  her beauty was such a surprise to me that it
cast a doubt upon her identity with the young woman I had seen
before; how could the marvelous fascination of her face have failed
to strike me at that time?  But no--there was no possibility of
error; the difference was due to costume, light and general
surroundings.

John and I passed the evening at the house, enduring, with the
fortitude of long experience, such delicate enough banter as our
likeness naturally suggested.  When the young lady and I were left
alone for a few minutes I looked her squarely in the face and said
with sudden gravity:

"You, too, Miss Margovan, have a double:  I saw her last Tuesday
afternoon in Union square."

She trained her great gray eyes upon me for a moment, but her glance
was a trifle less steady than my own and she withdrew it, fixing it
on the tip of her shoe.

"Was she very like me?" she asked, with an indifference which I
thought a little overdone.

"So like," said I, "that I greatly admired her, and being unwilling
to lose sight of her I confess that I followed her until--Miss
Margovan, are you sure that you understand?"

She was now pale, but entirely calm.  She again raised her eyes to
mine, with a look that did not falter.

"What do you wish me to do?" she asked.  "You need not fear to name
your terms.  I accept them."

It was plain, even in the brief time given me for reflection, that in
dealing with this girl ordinary methods would not do, and ordinary
exactions were needless.

"Miss Margovan," I said, doubtless with something of the compassion
in my voice that I had in my heart, "it is impossible not to think
you the victim of some horrible compulsion.  Rather than impose new
embarrassments upon you I would prefer to aid you to regain your
freedom."

She shook her head, sadly and hopelessly, and I continued, with
agitation:

"Your beauty unnerves me.  I am disarmed by your frankness and your
distress.  If you are free to act upon conscience you will, I
believe, do what you conceive to be best; if you are not--well,
Heaven help us all!  You have nothing to fear from me but such
opposition to this marriage as I can try to justify on--on other
grounds."

These were not my exact words, but that was the sense of them, as
nearly as my sudden and conflicting emotions permitted me to express
it.  I rose and left her without another look at her, met the others
as they reentered the room and said, as calmly as I could:  "I have
been bidding Miss Margovan good evening; it is later than I thought."

John decided to go with me.  In the street he asked if I had observed
anything singular in Julia's manner.

"I thought her ill," I replied; "that is why I left."  Nothing more
was said.

The next evening I came late to my lodgings.  The events of the
previous evening had made me nervous and ill; I had tried to cure
myself and attain to clear thinking by walking in the open air, but I
was oppressed with a horrible presentiment of evil--a presentiment
which I could not formulate.  It was a chill, foggy night; my
clothing and hair were damp and I shook with cold.  In my dressing-
gown and slippers before a blazing grate of coals I was even more
uncomfortable.  I no longer shivered but shuddered--there is a
difference.  The dread of some impending calamity was so strong and
dispiriting that I tried to drive it away by inviting a real sorrow--
tried to dispel the conception of a terrible future by substituting
the memory of a painful past.  I recalled the death of my parents and
endeavored to fix my mind upon the last sad scenes at their bedsides
and their graves.  It all seemed vague and unreal, as having occurred
ages ago and to another person.  Suddenly, striking through my
thought and parting it as a tense cord is parted by the stroke of
steel--I can think of no other comparison--I heard a sharp cry as of
one in mortal agony!  The voice was that of my brother and seemed to
come from the street outside my window.  I sprang to the window and
threw it open.  A street lamp directly opposite threw a wan and
ghastly light upon the wet pavement and the fronts of the houses.  A
single policeman, with upturned collar, was leaning against a
gatepost, quietly smoking a cigar.  No one else was in sight.  I
closed the window and pulled down the shade, seated myself before the
fire and tried to fix my mind upon my surroundings.  By way of
assisting, by performance of some familiar act, I looked at my watch;
it marked half-past eleven.  Again I heard that awful cry!  It seemed
in the room--at my side.  I was frightened and for some moments had
not the power to move.  A few minutes later--I have no recollection
of the intermediate time--I found myself hurrying along an unfamiliar
street as fast as I could walk.  I did not know where I was, nor
whither I was going, but presently sprang up the steps of a house
before which were two or three carriages and in which were moving
lights and a subdued confusion of voices.  It was the house of Mr.
Margovan.

You know, good friend, what had occurred there.  In one chamber lay
Julia Margovan, hours dead by poison; in another John Stevens,
bleeding from a pistol wound in the chest, inflicted by his own hand.
As I burst into the room, pushed aside the physicians and laid my
hand upon his forehead he unclosed his eyes, stared blankly, closed
them slowly and died without a sign.

I knew no more until six weeks afterward, when I had been nursed back
to life by your own saintly wife in your own beautiful home.  All of
that you know, but what you do not know is this--which, however, has
no bearing upon the subject of your psychological researches--at
least not upon that branch of them in which, with a delicacy and
consideration all your own, you have asked for less assistance than I
think I have given you:

One moonlight night several years afterward I was passing through
Union square.  The hour was late and the square deserted.  Certain
memories of the past naturally came into my mind as I came to the
spot where I had once witnessed that fateful assignation, and with
that unaccountable perversity which prompts us to dwell upon thoughts
of the most painful character I seated myself upon one of the benches
to indulge them.  A man entered the square and came along the walk
toward me.  His hands were clasped behind him, his head was bowed; he
seemed to observe nothing.  As he approached the shadow in which I
sat I recognized him as the man whom I had seen meet Julia Margovan
years before at that spot.  But he was terribly altered--gray, worn
and haggard.  Dissipation and vice were in evidence in every look;
illness was no less apparent.  His clothing was in disorder, his hair
fell across his forehead in a derangement which was at once uncanny
and picturesque.  He looked fitter for restraint than liberty--the
restraint of a hospital.

With no defined purpose I rose and confronted him.  He raised his
head and looked me full in the face.  I have no words to describe the
ghastly change that came over his own; it was a look of unspeakable
terror--he thought himself eye to eye with a ghost.  But he was a
courageous man.  "Damn you, John Stevens!" he cried, and lifting his
trembling arm he dashed his fist feebly at my face and fell headlong
upon the gravel as I walked away.

Somebody found him there, stone-dead.  Nothing more is known of him,
not even his name.  To know of a man that he is dead should be
enough.



THE HAUNTED VALLEY



I--HOW TREES ARE FELLED IN CHINA

A half-mile north from Jo. Dunfer's, on the road from Hutton's to
Mexican Hill, the highway dips into a sunless ravine which opens out
on either hand in a half-confidential manner, as if it had a secret
to impart at some more convenient season.  I never used to ride
through it without looking first to the one side and then to the
other, to see if the time had arrived for the revelation.  If I saw
nothing--and I never did see anything--there was no feeling of
disappointment, for I knew the disclosure was merely withheld
temporarily for some good reason which I had no right to question.
That I should one day be taken into full confidence I no more doubted
than I doubted the existence of Jo. Dunfer himself, through whose
premises the ravine ran.

It was said that Jo. had once undertaken to erect a cabin in some
remote part of it, but for some reason had abandoned the enterprise
and constructed his present hermaphrodite habitation, half residence
and half groggery, at the roadside, upon an extreme corner of his
estate; as far away as possible, as if on purpose to show how
radically he had changed his mind.

This Jo. Dunfer--or, as he was familiarly known in the neighborhood,
Whisky Jo.--was a very important personage in those parts.  He was
apparently about forty years of age, a long, shock-headed fellow,
with a corded face, a gnarled arm and a knotty hand like a bunch of
prison-keys.  He was a hairy man, with a stoop in his walk, like that
of one who is about to spring upon something and rend it.

Next to the peculiarity to which he owed his local appellation, Mr.
Dunfer's most obvious characteristic was a deep-seated antipathy to
the Chinese.  I saw him once in a towering rage because one of his
herdsmen had permitted a travel-heated Asian to slake his thirst at
the horse-trough in front of the saloon end of Jo.'s establishment.
I ventured faintly to remonstrate with Jo. for his unchristian
spirit, but he merely explained that there was nothing about Chinamen
in the New Testament, and strode away to wreak his displeasure upon
his dog, which also, I suppose, the inspired scribes had overlooked.

Some days afterward, finding him sitting alone in his barroom, I
cautiously approached the subject, when, greatly to my relief, the
habitual austerity of his expression visibly softened into something
that I took for condescension.

"You young Easterners," he said, "are a mile-and-a-half too good for
this country, and you don't catch on to our play.  People who don't
know a Chileno from a Kanaka can afford to hang out liberal ideas
about Chinese immigration, but a fellow that has to fight for his
bone with a lot of mongrel coolies hasn't any time for foolishness."

This long consumer, who had probably never done an honest day's-work
in his life, sprung the lid of a Chinese tobacco-box and with thumb
and forefinger forked out a wad like a small haycock.  Holding this
reinforcement within supporting distance he fired away with renewed
confidence.

"They're a flight of devouring locusts, and they're going for
everything green in this God blest land, if you want to know."

Here he pushed his reserve into the breach and when his gabble-gear
was again disengaged resumed his uplifting discourse.

"I had one of them on this ranch five years ago, and I'll tell you
about it, so that you can see the nub of this whole question.  I
didn't pan out particularly well those days--drank more whisky than
was prescribed for me and didn't seem to care for my duty as a
patriotic American citizen; so I took that pagan in, as a kind of
cook.  But when I got religion over at the Hill and they talked of
running me for the Legislature it was given to me to see the light.
But what was I to do?  If I gave him the go somebody else would take
him, and mightn't treat him white.  WHAT was I to do?  What would any
good Christian do, especially one new to the trade and full to the
neck with the brotherhood of Man and the fatherhood of God?"

Jo. paused for a reply, with an expression of unstable satisfaction,
as of one who has solved a problem by a distrusted method.  Presently
he rose and swallowed a glass of whisky from a full bottle on the
counter, then resumed his story.

"Besides, he didn't count for much--didn't know anything and gave
himself airs.  They all do that.  I said him nay, but he muled it
through on that line while he lasted; but after turning the other
cheek seventy and seven times I doctored the dice so that he didn't
last forever.  And I'm almighty glad I had the sand to do it.

Jo.'s gladness, which somehow did not impress me, was duly and
ostentatiously celebrated at the bottle.

"About five years ago I started in to stick up a shack.  That was
before this one was built, and I put it in another place.  I set Ah
Wee and a little cuss named Gopher to cutting the timber.  Of course
I didn't expect Ah Wee to help much, for he had a face like a day in
June and big black eyes--I guess maybe they were the damn'dest eyes
in this neck o' woods."

While delivering this trenchant thrust at common sense Mr. Dunfer
absently regarded a knot-hole in the thin board partition separating
the bar from the living-room, as if that were one of the eyes whose
size and color had incapacitated his servant for good service.

"Now you Eastern galoots won't believe anything against the yellow
devils," he suddenly flamed out with an appearance of earnestness not
altogether convincing, "but I tell you that Chink was the perversest
scoundrel outside San Francisco.  The miserable pigtail Mongolian
went to hewing away at the saplings all round the stems, like a worm
o' the dust gnawing a radish.  I pointed out his error as patiently
as I knew how, and showed him how to cut them on two sides, so as to
make them fall right; but no sooner would I turn my back on him, like
this"--and he turned it on me, amplifying the illustration by taking
some more liquor--"than he was at it again.  It was just this way:
while I looked at him, SO"--regarding me rather unsteadily and with
evident complexity of vision--"he was all right; but when I looked
away, SO"--taking a long pull at the bottle--"he defied me.  Then I'd
gaze at him reproachfully, SO, and butter wouldn't have melted in his
mouth."

Doubtless Mr. Dunfer honestly intended the look that he fixed upon me
to be merely reproachful, but it was singularly fit to arouse the
gravest apprehension in any unarmed person incurring it; and as I had
lost all interest in his pointless and interminable narrative, I rose
to go.  Before I had fairly risen, he had again turned to the
counter, and with a barely audible "so," had emptied the bottle at a
gulp.

Heavens! what a yell!  It was like a Titan in his last, strong agony.
Jo. staggered back after emitting it, as a cannon recoils from its
own thunder, and then dropped into his chair, as if he had been
"knocked in the head" like a beef--his eyes drawn sidewise toward the
wall, with a stare of terror.  Looking in the same direction, I saw
that the knot-hole in the wall had indeed become a human eye--a full,
black eye, that glared into my own with an entire lack of expression
more awful than the most devilish glitter.  I think I must have
covered my face with my hands to shut out the horrible illusion, if
such it was, and Jo.'s little white man-of-all-work coming into the
room broke the spell, and I walked out of the house with a sort of
dazed fear that delirium tremens might be infectious.  My horse was
hitched at the watering-trough, and untying him I mounted and gave
him his head, too much troubled in mind to note whither he took me.

I did not know what to think of all this, and like every one who does
not know what to think I thought a great deal, and to little purpose.
The only reflection that seemed at all satisfactory, was, that on the
morrow I should be some miles away, with a strong probability of
never returning.

A sudden coolness brought me out of my abstraction, and looking up I
found myself entering the deep shadows of the ravine.  The day was
stifling; and this transition from the pitiless, visible heat of the
parched fields to the cool gloom, heavy with pungency of cedars and
vocal with twittering of the birds that had been driven to its leafy
asylum, was exquisitely refreshing.  I looked for my mystery, as
usual, but not finding the ravine in a communicative mood,
dismounted, led my sweating animal into the undergrowth, tied him
securely to a tree and sat down upon a rock to meditate.

I began bravely by analyzing my pet superstition about the place.
Having resolved it into its constituent elements I arranged them in
convenient troops and squadrons, and collecting all the forces of my
logic bore down upon them from impregnable premises with the thunder
of irresistible conclusions and a great noise of chariots and general
intellectual shouting.  Then, when my big mental guns had overturned
all opposition, and were growling almost inaudibly away on the
horizon of pure speculation, the routed enemy straggled in upon their
rear, massed silently into a solid phalanx, and captured me, bag and
baggage.  An indefinable dread came upon me.  I rose to shake it off,
and began threading the narrow dell by an old, grass-grown cow-path
that seemed to flow along the bottom, as a substitute for the brook
that Nature had neglected to provide.

The trees among which the path straggled were ordinary, well-behaved
plants, a trifle perverted as to trunk and eccentric as to bough, but
with nothing unearthly in their general aspect.  A few loose
bowlders, which had detached themselves from the sides of the
depression to set up an independent existence at the bottom, had
dammed up the pathway, here and there, but their stony repose had
nothing in it of the stillness of death.  There was a kind of death-
chamber hush in the valley, it is true, and a mysterious whisper
above:  the wind was just fingering the tops of the trees--that was
all.

I had not thought of connecting Jo. Dunfer's drunken narrative with
what I now sought, and only when I came into a clear space and
stumbled over the level trunks of some small trees did I have the
revelation.  This was the site of the abandoned "shack."  The
discovery was verified by noting that some of the rotting stumps were
hacked all round, in a most unwoodmanlike way, while others were cut
straight across, and the butt ends of the corresponding trunks had
the blunt wedge-form given by the axe of a master.

The opening among the trees was not more than thirty paces across.
At one side was a little knoll--a natural hillock, bare of shrubbery
but covered with wild grass, and on this, standing out of the grass,
the headstone of a grave!

I do not remember that I felt anything like surprise at this
discovery.  I viewed that lonely grave with something of the feeling
that Columbus must have had when he saw the hills and headlands of
the new world.  Before approaching it I leisurely completed my survey
of the surroundings.  I was even guilty of the affectation of winding
my watch at that unusual hour, and with needless care and
deliberation.  Then I approached my mystery.

The grave--a rather short one--was in somewhat better repair than was
consistent with its obvious age and isolation, and my eyes, I dare
say, widened a trifle at a clump of unmistakable garden flowers
showing evidence of recent watering.  The stone had clearly enough
done duty once as a doorstep.  In its front was carved, or rather
dug, an inscription.  It read thus:


AH WEE--CHINAMAN.

Age unknown.  Worked for Jo. Dunfer.
This monument is erected by him to keep the Chink's memory green.
Likewise as a warning to Celestials not to take on airs.  Devil take
'em!
She Was a Good Egg.


I cannot adequately relate my astonishment at this uncommon
inscription!  The meagre but sufficient identification of the
deceased; the impudent candor of confession; the brutal anathema; the
ludicrous change of sex and sentiment--all marked this record as the
work of one who must have been at least as much demented as bereaved.
I felt that any further disclosure would be a paltry anti-climax, and
with an unconscious regard for dramatic effect turned squarely about
and walked away.  Nor did I return to that part of the county for
four years.


II--WHO DRIVES SANE OXEN SHOULD HIMSELF BE SANE


"Gee-up, there, old Fuddy-Duddy!"

This unique adjuration came from the lips of a queer little man
perched upon a wagonful of firewood, behind a brace of oxen that were
hauling it easily along with a simulation of mighty effort which had
evidently not imposed on their lord and master.  As that gentleman
happened at the moment to be staring me squarely in the face as I
stood by the roadside it was not altogether clear whether he was
addressing me or his beasts; nor could I say if they were named Fuddy
and Duddy and were both subjects of the imperative verb "to gee-up."
Anyhow the command produced no effect on us, and the queer little man
removed his eyes from mine long enough to spear Fuddy and Duddy
alternately with a long pole, remarking, quietly but with feeling:
"Dern your skin," as if they enjoyed that integument in common.
Observing that my request for a ride took no attention, and finding
myself falling slowly astern, I placed one foot upon the inner
circumference of a hind wheel and was slowly elevated to the level of
the hub, whence I boarded the concern, sans ceremonie, and scrambling
forward seated myself beside the driver--who took no notice of me
until he had administered another indiscriminate castigation to his
cattle, accompanied with the advice to "buckle down, you derned
Incapable!"  Then, the master of the outfit (or rather the former
master, for I could not suppress a whimsical feeling that the entire
establishment was my lawful prize) trained his big, black eyes upon
me with an expression strangely, and somewhat unpleasantly, familiar,
laid down his rod--which neither blossomed nor turned into a serpent,
as I half expected--folded his arms, and gravely demanded, "W'at did
you do to W'isky?"

My natural reply would have been that I drank it, but there was
something about the query that suggested a hidden significance, and
something about the man that did not invite a shallow jest.  And so,
having no other answer ready, I merely held my tongue, but felt as if
I were resting under an imputation of guilt, and that my silence was
being construed into a confession.

Just then a cold shadow fell upon my cheek, and caused me to look up.
We were descending into my ravine!  I cannot describe the sensation
that came upon me:  I had not seen it since it unbosomed itself four
years before, and now I felt like one to whom a friend has made some
sorrowing confession of crime long past, and who has basely deserted
him in consequence.  The old memories of Jo. Dunfer, his fragmentary
revelation, and the unsatisfying explanatory note by the headstone,
came back with singular distinctness.  I wondered what had become of
Jo., and--I turned sharply round and asked my prisoner.  He was
intently watching his cattle, and without withdrawing his eyes
replied:

"Gee-up, old Terrapin!  He lies aside of Ah Wee up the gulch.  Like
to see it?  They always come back to the spot--I've been expectin'
you.  H-woa!"

At the enunciation of the aspirate, Fuddy-Duddy, the incapable
terrapin, came to a dead halt, and before the vowel had died away up
the ravine had folded up all his eight legs and lain down in the
dusty road, regardless of the effect upon his derned skin.  The queer
little man slid off his seat to the ground and started up the dell
without deigning to look back to see if I was following.  But I was.

It was about the same season of the year, and at near the same hour
of the day, of my last visit.  The jays clamored loudly, and the
trees whispered darkly, as before; and I somehow traced in the two
sounds a fanciful analogy to the open boastfulness of Mr. Jo.
Dunfer's mouth and the mysterious reticence of his manner, and to the
mingled hardihood and tenderness of his sole literary production--the
epitaph.  All things in the valley seemed unchanged, excepting the
cow-path, which was almost wholly overgrown with weeds.  When we came
out into the "clearing," however, there was change enough.  Among the
stumps and trunks of the fallen saplings, those that had been hacked
"China fashion" were no longer distinguishable from those that were
cut "'Melican way."  It was as if the Old-World barbarism and the
New-World civilization had reconciled their differences by the
arbitration of an impartial decay--as is the way of civilizations.
The knoll was there, but the Hunnish brambles had overrun and all but
obliterated its effete grasses; and the patrician garden-violet had
capitulated to his plebeian brother--perhaps had merely reverted to
his original type.  Another grave--a long, robust mound--had been
made beside the first, which seemed to shrink from the comparison;
and in the shadow of a new headstone the old one lay prostrate, with
its marvelous inscription illegible by accumulation of leaves and
soil.  In point of literary merit the new was inferior to the old--
was even repulsive in its terse and savage jocularity:


JO. DUNFER.  DONE FOR.


I turned from it with indifference, and brushing away the leaves from
the tablet of the dead pagan restored to light the mocking words
which, fresh from their long neglect, seemed to have a certain
pathos.  My guide, too, appeared to take on an added seriousness as
he read it, and I fancied that I could detect beneath his whimsical
manner something of manliness, almost of dignity.  But while I looked
at him his former aspect, so subtly inhuman, so tantalizingly
familiar, crept back into his big eyes, repellant and attractive.  I
resolved to make an end of the mystery if possible.

"My friend," I said, pointing to the smaller grave, "did Jo. Dunfer
murder that Chinaman?"

He was leaning against a tree and looking across the open space into
the top of another, or into the blue sky beyond.  He neither withdrew
his eyes, nor altered his posture as he slowly replied:

"No, sir; he justifiably homicided him."

"Then he really did kill him."

"Kill 'im?  I should say he did, rather.  Doesn't everybody know
that?  Didn't he stan' up before the coroner's jury and confess it?
And didn't they find a verdict of 'Came to 'is death by a wholesome
Christian sentiment workin' in the Caucasian breast'?  An' didn't the
church at the Hill turn W'isky down for it?  And didn't the sovereign
people elect him Justice of the Peace to get even on the gospelers?
I don't know where you were brought up."

"But did Jo. do that because the Chinaman did not, or would n'ot,
learn to cut down trees like a white man?"

"Sure!--it stan's so on the record, which makes it true an' legal.
My knowin' better doesn't make any difference with legal truth; it
wasn't my funeral and I wasn't invited to deliver an oration.  But
the fact is, W'isky was jealous o' ME"--and the little wretch
actually swelled out like a turkeycock and made a pretense of
adjusting an imaginary neck-tie, noting the effect in the palm of his
hand, held up before him to represent a mirror.

"Jealous of YOU!" I repeated with ill-mannered astonishment.

"That's what I said.  Why not?--don't I look all right?"

He assumed a mocking attitude of studied grace, and twitched the
wrinkles out of his threadbare waistcoat.  Then, suddenly dropping
his voice to a low pitch of singular sweetness, he continued:

"W'isky thought a lot o' that Chink; nobody but me knew how 'e doted
on 'im.  Couldn't bear 'im out of 'is sight, the derned protoplasm!
And w'en 'e came down to this clear-in' one day an' found him an' me
neglectin' our work--him asleep an' me grapplin a tarantula out of
'is sleeve--W'isky laid hold of my axe and let us have it, good an'
hard!  I dodged just then, for the spider bit me, but Ah Wee got it
bad in the side an' tumbled about like anything.  W'isky was just
weigh-in' me out one w'en 'e saw the spider fastened on my finger;
then 'e knew he'd made a jack ass of 'imself.  He threw away the axe
and got down on 'is knees alongside of Ah Wee, who gave a last little
kick and opened 'is eyes--he had eyes like mine--an' puttin' up 'is
hands drew down W'isky's ugly head and held it there w'ile 'e stayed.
That wasn't long, for a tremblin' ran through 'im and 'e gave a bit
of a moan an' beat the game."

During the progress of the story the narrator had become
transfigured.  The comic, or rather, the sardonic element was all out
of him, and as he painted that strange scene it was with difficulty
that I kept my composure.  And this consummate actor had somehow so
managed me that the sympathy due to his dramatis persone was given to
himself.  I stepped forward to grasp his hand, when suddenly a broad
grin danced across his face and with a light, mocking laugh he
continued:

"W'en W'isky got 'is nut out o' that 'e was a sight to see!  All his
fine clothes--he dressed mighty blindin' those days--were spoiled
everlastin'! 'Is hair was towsled and his face--what I could see of
it--was whiter than the ace of lilies. 'E stared once at me, and
looked away as if I didn't count; an' then there were shootin' pains
chasin' one another from my bitten finger into my head, and it was
Gopher to the dark.  That's why I wasn't at the inquest."

"But why did you hold your tongue afterward?" I asked.

"It's that kind of tongue," he replied, and not another word would he
say about it.

"After that W'isky took to drinkin' harder an' harder, and was
rabider an' rabider anti-coolie, but I don't think 'e was ever
particularly glad that 'e dispelled Ah Wee.  He didn't put on so much
dog about it w'en we were alone as w'en he had the ear of a derned
Spectacular Extravaganza like you. 'E put up that headstone and
gouged the inscription accordin' to his varyin' moods.  It took 'im
three weeks, workin' between drinks.  I gouged his in one day."

"When did Jo. die?" I asked rather absently.  The answer took my
breath:

"Pretty soon after I looked at him through that knot-hole, w'en you
had put something in his w'isky, you derned Borgia!"

Recovering somewhat from my surprise at this astounding charge, I was
half-minded to throttle the audacious accuser, but was restrained by
a sudden conviction that came to me in the light of a revelation.  I
fixed a grave look upon him and asked, as calmly as I could:  "And
when did you go luny?"

"Nine years ago!" he shrieked, throwing out his clenched hands--"nine
years ago, w'en that big brute killed the woman who loved him better
than she did me!--me who had followed 'er from San Francisco, where
'e won 'er at draw poker!--me who had watched over 'er for years w'en
the scoundrel she belonged to was ashamed to acknowledge 'er and
treat 'er white!--me who for her sake kept 'is cussed secret till it
ate 'im up!--me who w'en you poisoned the beast fulfilled 'is last
request to lay 'im alongside 'er and give 'im a stone to the head of
'im!  And I've never since seen 'er grave till now, for I didn't want
to meet 'im here."

"Meet him?  Why, Gopher, my poor fellow, he is dead!"

"That's why I'm afraid of 'im."

I followed the little wretch back to his wagon and wrung his hand at
parting.  It was now nightfall, and as I stood there at the roadside
in the deepening gloom, watching the blank outlines of the receding
wagon, a sound was borne to me on the evening wind--a sound as of a
series of vigorous thumps--and a voice came out of the night:

"Gee-up, there, you derned old Geranium."



A JUG OF SIRUP



This narrative begins with the death of its hero.  Silas Deemer died
on the 16th day of July, 1863, and two days later his remains were
buried.  As he had been personally known to every man, woman and
well-grown child in the village, the funeral, as the local newspaper
phrased it, "was largely attended."  In accordance with a custom of
the time and place, the coffin was opened at the graveside and the
entire assembly of friends and neighbors filed past, taking a last
look at the face of the dead.  And then, before the eyes of all,
Silas Deemer was put into the ground.  Some of the eyes were a trifle
dim, but in a general way it may be said that at that interment there
was lack of neither observance nor observation; Silas was indubitably
dead, and none could have pointed out any ritual delinquency that
would have justified him in coming back from the grave.  Yet if human
testimony is good for anything (and certainly it once put an end to
witchcraft in and about Salem) he came back.

I forgot to state that the death and burial of Silas Deemer occurred
in the little village of Hillbrook, where he had lived for thirty-one
years.  He had been what is known in some parts of the Union (which
is admittedly a free country) as a "merchant"; that is to say, he
kept a retail shop for the sale of such things as are commonly sold
in shops of that character.  His honesty had never been questioned,
so far as is known, and he was held in high esteem by all.  The only
thing that could be urged against him by the most censorious was a
too close attention to business.  It was not urged against him,
though many another, who manifested it in no greater degree, was less
leniently judged.  The business to which Silas was devoted was mostly
his own--that, possibly, may have made a difference.

At the time of Deemer's death nobody could recollect a single day,
Sundays excepted, that he had not passed in his "store," since he had
opened it more than a quarter-century before.  His health having been
perfect during all that time, he had been unable to discern any
validity in whatever may or might have been urged to lure him astray
from his counter and it is related that once when he was summoned to
the county seat as a witness in an important law case and did not
attend, the lawyer who had the hardihood to move that he be
"admonished" was solemnly informed that the Court regarded the
proposal with "surprise."  Judicial surprise being an emotion that
attorneys are not commonly ambitious to arouse, the motion was
hastily withdrawn and an agreement with the other side effected as to
what Mr. Deemer would have said if he had been there--the other side
pushing its advantage to the extreme and making the supposititious
testimony distinctly damaging to the interests of its proponents.  In
brief, it was the general feeling in all that region that Silas
Deemer was the one immobile verity of Hillbrook, and that his
translation in space would precipitate some dismal public ill or
strenuous calamity.

Mrs. Deemer and two grown daughters occupied the upper rooms of the
building, but Silas had never been known to sleep elsewhere than on a
cot behind the counter of the store.  And there, quite by accident,
he was found one night, dying, and passed away just before the time
for taking down the shutters.  Though speechless, he appeared
conscious, and it was thought by those who knew him best that if the
end had unfortunately been delayed beyond the usual hour for opening
the store the effect upon him would have been deplorable.

Such had been Silas Deemer--such the fixity and invariety of his life
and habit, that the village humorist (who had once attended college)
was moved to bestow upon him the sobriquet of "Old Ibidem," and, in
the first issue of the local newspaper after the death, to explain
without offence that Silas had taken "a day off."  It was more than a
day, but from the record it appears that well within a month Mr.
Deemer made it plain that he had not the leisure to be dead.

One of Hillbrook's most respected citizens was Alvan Creede, a
banker.  He lived in the finest house in town, kept a carriage and
was a most estimable man variously.  He knew something of the
advantages of travel, too, having been frequently in Boston, and
once, it was thought, in New York, though he modestly disclaimed that
glittering distinction.  The matter is mentioned here merely as a
contribution to an understanding of Mr. Creede's worth, for either
way it is creditable to him--to his intelligence if he had put
himself, even temporarily, into contact with metropolitan culture; to
his candor if he had not.

One pleasant summer evening at about the hour of ten Mr. Creede,
entering at his garden gate, passed up the gravel walk, which looked
very white in the moonlight, mounted the stone steps of his fine
house and pausing a moment inserted his latchkey in the door.  As he
pushed this open he met his wife, who was crossing the passage from
the parlor to the library.  She greeted him pleasantly and pulling
the door further back held it for him to enter.  Instead he turned
and, looking about his feet in front of the threshold, uttered an
exclamation of surprise.

"Why!--what the devil," he said, "has become of that jug?"

"What jug, Alvan?" his wife inquired, not very sympathetically.

"A jug of maple sirup--I brought it along from the store and set it
down here to open the door.  What the--"

"There, there, Alvan, please don't swear again," said the lady,
interrupting.  Hillbrook, by the way, is not the only place in
Christendom where a vestigial polytheism forbids the taking in vain
of the Evil One's name.

The jug of maple sirup which the easy ways of village life had
permitted Hillbrook's foremost citizen to carry home from the store
was not there.

"Are you quite sure, Alvan?"

"My dear, do you suppose a man does not know when he is carrying a
jug?  I bought that sirup at Deemer's as I was passing.  Deemer
himself drew it and lent me the jug, and I--"

The sentence remains to this day unfinished.  Mr. Creede staggered
into the house, entered the parlor and dropped into an armchair,
trembling in every limb.  He had suddenly remembered that Silas
Deemer was three weeks dead.

Mrs. Creede stood by her husband, regarding him with surprise and
anxiety.

"For Heaven's sake," she said, "what ails you?"

Mr. Creede's ailment having no obvious relation to the interests of
the better land he did not apparently deem it necessary to expound it
on that demand; he said nothing--merely stared.  There were long
moments of silence broken by nothing but the measured ticking of the
clock, which seemed somewhat slower than usual, as if it were civilly
granting them an extension of time in which to recover their wits.

"Jane, I have gone mad--that is it."  He spoke thickly and hurriedly.
"You should have told me; you must have observed my symptoms before
they became so pronounced that I have observed them myself.  I
thought I was passing Deemer's store; it was open and lit up--that is
what I thought; of course it is never open now.  Silas Deemer stood
at his desk behind the counter.  My God, Jane, I saw him as
distinctly as I see you.  Remembering that you had said you wanted
some maple sirup, I went in and bought some--that is all--I bought
two quarts of maple sirup from Silas Deemer, who is dead and
underground, but nevertheless drew that sirup from a cask and handed
it to me in a jug.  He talked with me, too, rather gravely, I
remember, even more so than was his way, but not a word of what he
said can I now recall.  But I saw him--good Lord, I saw and talked
with him--and he is dead!  So I thought, but I'm mad, Jane, I'm as
crazy as a beetle; and you have kept it from me."

This monologue gave the woman time to collect what faculties she had.

"Alvan," she said, "you have given no evidence of insanity, believe
me.  This was undoubtedly an illusion--how should it be anything
else?  That would be too terrible!  But there is no insanity; you are
working too hard at the bank.  You should not have attended the
meeting of directors this evening; any one could see that you were
ill; I knew something would occur."

It may have seemed to him that the prophecy had lagged a bit,
awaiting the event, but he said nothing of that, being concerned with
his own condition.  He was calm now, and could think coherently.

"Doubtless the phenomenon was subjective," he said, with a somewhat
ludicrous transition to the slang of science.  "Granting the
possibility of spiritual apparition and even materialization, yet the
apparition and materialization of a half-gallon brown clay jug--a
piece of coarse, heavy pottery evolved from nothing--that is hardly
thinkable."

As he finished speaking, a child ran into the room--his little
daughter.  She was clad in a bedgown.  Hastening to her father she
threw her arms about his neck, saying:  "You naughty papa, you forgot
to come in and kiss me.  We heard you open the gate and got up and
looked out.  And, papa dear, Eddy says mayn't he have the little jug
when it is empty?"

As the full import of that revelation imparted itself to Alvan
Creede's understanding he visibly shuddered.  For the child could not
have heard a word of the conversation.

The estate of Silas Deemer being in the hands of an administrator who
had thought it best to dispose of the "business" the store had been
closed ever since the owner's death, the goods having been removed by
another "merchant" who had purchased them en bloc.  The rooms above
were vacant as well, for the widow and daughters had gone to another
town.

On the evening immediately after Alvan Creede's adventure (which had
somehow "got out") a crowd of men, women and children thronged the
sidewalk opposite the store.  That the place was haunted by the
spirit of the late Silas Deemer was now well known to every resident
of Hillbrook, though many affected disbelief.  Of these the hardiest,
and in a general way the youngest, threw stones against the front of
the building, the only part accessible, but carefully missed the
unshuttered windows.  Incredulity had not grown to malice.  A few
venturesome souls crossed the street and rattled the door in its
frame; struck matches and held them near the window; attempted to
view the black interior.  Some of the spectators invited attention to
their wit by shouting and groaning and challenging the ghost to a
footrace.

After a considerable time had elapsed without any manifestation, and
many of the crowd had gone away, all those remaining began to observe
that the interior of the store was suffused with a dim, yellow light.
At this all demonstrations ceased; the intrepid souls about the door
and windows fell back to the opposite side of the street and were
merged in the crowd; the small boys ceased throwing stones.  Nobody
spoke above his breath; all whispered excitedly and pointed to the
now steadily growing light.  How long a time had passed since the
first faint glow had been observed none could have guessed, but
eventually the illumination was bright enough to reveal the whole
interior of the store; and there, standing at his desk behind the
counter, Silas Deemer was distinctly visible!

The effect upon the crowd was marvelous.  It began rapidly to melt
away at both flanks, as the timid left the place.  Many ran as fast
as their legs would let them; others moved off with greater dignity,
turning occasionally to look backward over the shoulder.  At last a
score or more, mostly men, remained where they were, speechless,
staring, excited.  The apparition inside gave them no attention; it
was apparently occupied with a book of accounts.

Presently three men left the crowd on the sidewalk as if by a common
impulse and crossed the street.  One of them, a heavy man, was about
to set his shoulder against the door when it opened, apparently
without human agency, and the courageous investigators passed in.  No
sooner had they crossed the threshold than they were seen by the awed
observers outside to be acting in the most unaccountable way.  They
thrust out their hands before them, pursued devious courses, came
into violent collision with the counter, with boxes and barrels on
the floor, and with one another.  They turned awkwardly hither and
thither and seemed trying to escape, but unable to retrace their
steps.  Their voices were heard in exclamations and curses.  But in
no way did the apparition of Silas Deemer manifest an interest in
what was going on.

By what impulse the crowd was moved none ever recollected, but the
entire mass--men, women, children, dogs--made a simultaneous and
tumultuous rush for the entrance.  They congested the doorway,
pushing for precedence--resolving themselves at length into a line
and moving up step by step.  By some subtle spiritual or physical
alchemy observation had been transmuted into action--the sightseers
had become participants in the spectacle--the audience had usurped
the stage.

To the only spectator remaining on the other side of the street--
Alvan Creede, the banker--the interior of the store with its
inpouring crowd continued in full illumination; all the strange
things going on there were clearly visible.  To those inside all was
black darkness.  It was as if each person as he was thrust in at the
door had been stricken blind, and was maddened by the mischance.
They groped with aimless imprecision, tried to force their way out
against the current, pushed and elbowed, struck at random, fell and
were trampled, rose and trampled in their turn.  They seized one
another by the garments, the hair, the beard--fought like animals,
cursed, shouted, called one another opprobrious and obscene names.
When, finally, Alvan Creede had seen the last person of the line pass
into that awful tumult the light that had illuminated it was suddenly
quenched and all was as black to him as to those within.  He turned
away and left the place.

In the early morning a curious crowd had gathered about "Deemer's."
It was composed partly of those who had run away the night before,
but now had the courage of sunshine, partly of honest folk going to
their daily toil.  The door of the store stood open; the place was
vacant, but on the walls, the floor, the furniture, were shreds of
clothing and tangles of hair.  Hillbrook militant had managed somehow
to pull itself out and had gone home to medicine its hurts and swear
that it had been all night in bed.  On the dusty desk, behind the
counter, was the sales-book.  The entries in it, in Deemer's
handwriting, had ceased on the 16th day of July, the last of his
life.  There was no record of a later sale to Alvan Creede.

That is the entire story--except that men's passions having subsided
and reason having resumed its immemorial sway, it was confessed in
Hillbrook that, considering the harmless and honorable character of
his first commercial transaction under the new conditions, Silas
Deemer, deceased, might properly have been suffered to resume
business at the old stand without mobbing.  In that judgment the
local historian from whose unpublished work these facts are compiled
had the thoughtfulness to signify his concurrence.



STALEY FLEMING'S HALLUCINATION



Of two men who were talking one was a physician.

"I sent for you, Doctor," said the other, "but I don't think you can
do me any good.  May be you can recommend a specialist in
psychopathy.  I fancy I'm a bit loony."

"You look all right," the physician said.

"You shall judge--I have hallucinations.  I wake every night and see
in my room, intently watching me, a big black Newfoundland dog with a
white forefoot."

"You say you wake; are you sure about that?  'Hallucinations' are
sometimes only dreams."

"Oh, I wake, all right.  Sometimes I lie still a long time, looking
at the dog as earnestly as the dog looks at me--I always leave the
light going.  When I can't endure it any longer I sit up in bed--and
nothing is there!"

"'M, 'm--what is the beast's expression?"

"It seems to me sinister.  Of course I know that, except in art, an
animal's face in repose has always the same expression.  But this is
not a real animal.  Newfoundland dogs are pretty mild looking, you
know; what's the matter with this one?"

"Really, my diagnosis would have no value:  I am not going to treat
the dog."

The physician laughed at his own pleasantry, but narrowly watched his
patient from the corner of his eye.  Presently he said:  "Fleming,
your description of the beast fits the dog of the late Atwell
Barton."

Fleming half-rose from his chair, sat again and made a visible
attempt at indifference.  "I remember Barton," he said; "I believe he
was--it was reported that--wasn't there something suspicious in his
death?"

Looking squarely now into the eyes of his patient, the physician
said:  "Three years ago the body of your old enemy, Atwell Barton,
was found in the woods near his house and yours.  He had been stabbed
to death.  There have been no arrests; there was no clew.  Some of us
had 'theories.'  I had one.  Have you?"

"I?  Why, bless your soul, what could I know about it?  You remember
that I left for Europe almost immediately afterward--a considerable
time afterward.  In the few weeks since my return you could not
expect me to construct a 'theory.'  In fact, I have not given the
matter a thought.  What about his dog?"

"It was first to find the body.  It died of starvation on his grave."

We do not know the inexorable law underlying coincidences.  Staley
Fleming did not, or he would perhaps not have sprung to his feet as
the night wind brought in through the open window the long wailing
howl of a distant dog.  He strode several times across the room in
the steadfast gaze of the physician; then, abruptly confronting him,
almost shouted:  "What has all this to do with my trouble, Dr.
Halderman?  You forget why you were sent for."

Rising, the physician laid his hand upon his patient's arm and said,
gently:  "Pardon me.  I cannot diagnose your disorder off-hand--to-
morrow, perhaps.  Please go to bed, leaving your door unlocked; I
will pass the night here with your books.  Can you call me without
rising?"

"Yes, there is an electric bell."

"Good.  If anything disturbs you push the button without sitting up.
Good night."

Comfortably installed in an armchair the man of medicine stared into
the glowing coals and thought deeply and long, but apparently to
little purpose, for he frequently rose and opening a door leading to
the staircase, listened intently; then resumed his seat.  Presently,
however, he fell asleep, and when he woke it was past midnight.  He
stirred the failing fire, lifted a book from the table at his side
and looked at the title.  It was Denneker's "Meditations."  He opened
it at random and began to read:

"Forasmuch as it is ordained of God that all flesh hath spirit and
thereby taketh on spiritual powers, so, also, the spirit hath powers
of the flesh, even when it is gone out of the flesh and liveth as a
thing apart, as many a violence performed by wraith and lemure
sheweth.  And there be who say that man is not single in this, but
the beasts have the like evil inducement, and--"

The reading was interrupted by a shaking of the house, as by the fall
of a heavy object.  The reader flung down the book, rushed from the
room and mounted the stairs to Fleming's bed-chamber.  He tried the
door, but contrary to his instructions it was locked.  He set his
shoulder against it with such force that it gave way.  On the floor
near the disordered bed, in his night clothes, lay Fleming gasping
away his life.

The physician raised the dying man's head from the floor and observed
a wound in the throat.  "I should have thought of this," he said,
believing it suicide.

When the man was dead an examination disclosed the unmistakable marks
of an animal's fangs deeply sunken into the jugular vein.

But there was no animal.



A RESUMED IDENTITY



I--THE REVIEW AS A FORM OF WELCOME

One summer night a man stood on a low hill overlooking a wide expanse
of forest and field.  By the full moon hanging low in the west he
knew what he might not have known otherwise:  that it was near the
hour of dawn.  A light mist lay along the earth, partly veiling the
lower features of the landscape, but above it the taller trees showed
in well-defined masses against a clear sky.  Two or three farmhouses
were visible through the haze, but in none of them, naturally, was a
light.  Nowhere, indeed, was any sign or suggestion of life except
the barking of a distant dog, which, repeated with mechanical
iteration, served rather to accentuate than dispel the loneliness of
the scene.

The man looked curiously about him on all sides, as one who among
familiar surroundings is unable to determine his exact place and part
in the scheme of things.  It is so, perhaps, that we shall act when,
risen from the dead, we await the call to judgment.

A hundred yards away was a straight road, showing white in the
moonlight.  Endeavoring to orient himself, as a surveyor or navigator
might say, the man moved his eyes slowly along its visible length and
at a distance of a quarter-mile to the south of his station saw, dim
and gray in the haze, a group of horsemen riding to the north.
Behind them were men afoot, marching in column, with dimly gleaming
rifles aslant above their shoulders.  They moved slowly and in
silence.  Another group of horsemen, another regiment of infantry,
another and another--all in unceasing motion toward the man's point
of view, past it, and beyond.  A battery of artillery followed, the
cannoneers riding with folded arms on limber and caisson.  And still
the interminable procession came out of the obscurity to south and
passed into the obscurity to north, with never a sound of voice, nor
hoof, nor wheel.

The man could not rightly understand:  he thought himself deaf; said
so, and heard his own voice, although it had an unfamiliar quality
that almost alarmed him; it disappointed his ear's expectancy in the
matter of timbre and resonance.  But he was not deaf, and that for
the moment sufficed.

Then he remembered that there are natural phenomena to which some one
has given the name "acoustic shadows."  If you stand in an acoustic
shadow there is one direction from which you will hear nothing.  At
the battle of Gaines's Mill, one of the fiercest conflicts of the
Civil War, with a hundred guns in play, spectators a mile and a half
away on the opposite side of the Chickahominy valley heard nothing of
what they clearly saw.  The bombardment of Port Royal, heard and felt
at St.  Augustine, a hundred and fifty miles to the south, was
inaudible two miles to the north in a still atmosphere.  A few days
before the surrender at Appomattox a thunderous engagement between
the commands of Sheridan and Pickett was unknown to the latter
commander, a mile in the rear of his own line.

These instances were not known to the man of whom we write, but less
striking ones of the same character had not escaped his observation.
He was profoundly disquieted, but for another reason than the uncanny
silence of that moonlight march.

"Good Lord!" he said to himself--and again it was as if another had
spoken his thought--"if those people are what I take them to be we
have lost the battle and they are moving on Nashville!"

Then came a thought of self--an apprehension--a strong sense of
personal peril, such as in another we call fear.  He stepped quickly
into the shadow of a tree.  And still the silent battalions moved
slowly forward in the haze.

The chill of a sudden breeze upon the back of his neck drew his
attention to the quarter whence it came, and turning to the east he
saw a faint gray light along the horizon--the first sign of returning
day.  This increased his apprehension.

"I must get away from here," he thought, "or I shall be discovered
and taken."

He moved out of the shadow, walking rapidly toward the graying east.
From the safer seclusion of a clump of cedars he looked back.  The
entire column had passed out of sight:  the straight white road lay
bare and desolate in the moonlight!

Puzzled before, he was now inexpressibly astonished.  So swift a
passing of so slow an army!--he could not comprehend it.  Minute
after minute passed unnoted; he had lost his sense of time.  He
sought with a terrible earnestness a solution of the mystery, but
sought in vain.  When at last he roused himself from his abstraction
the sun's rim was visible above the hills, but in the new conditions
he found no other light than that of day; his understanding was
involved as darkly in doubt as before.

On every side lay cultivated fields showing no sign of war and war's
ravages.  From the chimneys of the farmhouses thin ascensions of blue
smoke signaled preparations for a day's peaceful toil.  Having
stilled its immemorial allocution to the moon, the watch-dog was
assisting a negro who, prefixing a team of mules to the plow, was
flatting and sharping contentedly at his task.  The hero of this tale
stared stupidly at the pastoral picture as if he had never seen such
a thing in all his life; then he put his hand to his head, passed it
through his hair and, withdrawing it, attentively considered the
palm--a singular thing to do.  Apparently reassured by the act, he
walked confidently toward the road.


II--WHEN YOU HAVE LOST YOUR LIFE CONSULT A PHYSICIAN


Dr. Stilling Malson, of Murfreesboro, having visited a patient six or
seven miles away, on the Nashville road, had remained with him all
night.  At daybreak he set out for home on horseback, as was the
custom of doctors of the time and region.  He had passed into the
neighborhood of Stone's River battlefield when a man approached him
from the roadside and saluted in the military fashion, with a
movement of the right hand to the hat-brim.  But the hat was not a
military hat, the man was not in uniform and had not a martial
bearing.  The doctor nodded civilly, half thinking that the
stranger's uncommon greeting was perhaps in deference to the historic
surroundings.  As the stranger evidently desired speech with him he
courteously reined in his horse and waited.

"Sir," said the stranger, "although a civilian, you are perhaps an
enemy."

"I am a physician," was the non-committal reply.

"Thank you," said the other.  "I am a lieutenant, of the staff of
General Hazen."  He paused a moment and looked sharply at the person
whom he was addressing, then added, "Of the Federal army."

The physician merely nodded.

"Kindly tell me," continued the other, "what has happened here.
Where are the armies?  Which has won the battle?"

The physician regarded his questioner curiously with half-shut eyes.
After a professional scrutiny, prolonged to the limit of politeness,
"Pardon me," he said; "one asking information should be willing to
impart it.  Are you wounded?" he added, smiling.

"Not seriously--it seems."

The man removed the unmilitary hat, put his hand to his head, passed
it through his hair and, withdrawing it, attentively considered the
palm.

"I was struck by a bullet and have been unconscious.  It must have
been a light, glancing blow:  I find no blood and feel no pain.  I
will not trouble you for treatment, but will you kindly direct me to
my command--to any part of the Federal army--if you know?"

Again the doctor did not immediately reply:  he was recalling much
that is recorded in the books of his profession--something about lost
identity and the effect of familiar scenes in restoring it.  At
length he looked the man in the face, smiled, and said:

"Lieutenant, you are not wearing the uniform of your rank and
service."

At this the man glanced down at his civilian attire, lifted his eyes,
and said with hesitation:

"That is true.  I--I don't quite understand."

Still regarding him sharply but not unsympathetically the man of
science bluntly inquired:

"How old are you?"

"Twenty-three--if that has anything to do with it."

"You don't look it; I should hardly have guessed you to be just
that."

The man was growing impatient.  "We need not discuss that," he said;
"I want to know about the army.  Not two hours ago I saw a column of
troops moving northward on this road.  You must have met them.  Be
good enough to tell me the color of their clothing, which I was
unable to make out, and I'll trouble you no more."

"You are quite sure that you saw them?"

"Sure?  My God, sir, I could have counted them!"

"Why, really," said the physician, with an amusing consciousness of
his own resemblance to the loquacious barber of the Arabian Nights,
"this is very interesting.  I met no troops."

The man looked at him coldly, as if he had himself observed the
likeness to the barber.  "It is plain," he said, "that you do not
care to assist me.  Sir, you may go to the devil!"

He turned and strode away, very much at random, across the dewy
fields, his half-penitent tormentor quietly watching him from his
point of vantage in the saddle till he disappeared beyond an array of
trees.


III--THE DANGER OF LOOKING INTO A POOL OF WATER


After leaving the road the man slackened his pace, and now went
forward, rather deviously, with a distinct feeling of fatigue.  He
could not account for this, though truly the interminable loquacity
of that country doctor offered itself in explanation.  Seating
himself upon a rock, he laid one hand upon his knee, back upward, and
casually looked at it.  It was lean and withered.  He lifted both
hands to his face.  It was seamed and furrowed; he could trace the
lines with the tips of his fingers.  How strange!--a mere bullet-
stroke and a brief unconsciousness should not make one a physical
wreck.

"I must have been a long time in hospital," he said aloud.  "Why,
what a fool I am!  The battle was in December, and it is now summer!"
He laughed.  "No wonder that fellow thought me an escaped lunatic.
He was wrong:  I am only an escaped patient."

At a little distance a small plot of ground enclosed by a stone wall
caught his attention.  With no very definite intent he rose and went
to it.  In the center was a square, solid monument of hewn stone.  It
was brown with age, weather-worn at the angles, spotted with moss and
lichen.  Between the massive blocks were strips of grass the leverage
of whose roots had pushed them apart.  In answer to the challenge of
this ambitious structure Time had laid his destroying hand upon it,
and it would soon be "one with Nineveh and Tyre."  In an inscription
on one side his eye caught a familiar name.  Shaking with excitement,
he craned his body across the wall and read:


HAZEN'S BRIGADE
to
The Memory of Its Soldiers
who fell at
Stone River, Dec. 31, 1862.


The man fell back from the wall, faint and sick.  Almost within an
arm's length was a little depression in the earth; it had been filled
by a recent rain--a pool of clear water.  He crept to it to revive
himself, lifted the upper part of his body on his trembling arms,
thrust forward his head and saw the reflection of his face, as in a
mirror.  He uttered a terrible cry.  His arms gave way; he fell, face
downward, into the pool and yielded up the life that had spanned
another life.



A BABY TRAMP



If you had seen little Jo standing at the street corner in the rain,
you would hardly have admired him.  It was apparently an ordinary
autumn rainstorm, but the water which fell upon Jo (who was hardly
old enough to be either just or unjust, and so perhaps did not come
under the law of impartial distribution) appeared to have some
property peculiar to itself:  one would have said it was dark and
adhesive--sticky.  But that could hardly be so, even in Blackburg,
where things certainly did occur that were a good deal out of the
common.

For example, ten or twelve years before, a shower of small frogs had
fallen, as is credibly attested by a contemporaneous chronicle, the
record concluding with a somewhat obscure statement to the effect
that the chronicler considered it good growing-weather for Frenchmen.

Some years later Blackburg had a fall of crimson snow; it is cold in
Blackburg when winter is on, and the snows are frequent and deep.
There can be no doubt of it--the snow in this instance was of the
color of blood and melted into water of the same hue, if water it
was, not blood.  The phenomenon had attracted wide attention, and
science had as many explanations as there were scientists who knew
nothing about it.  But the men of Blackburg--men who for many years
had lived right there where the red snow fell, and might be supposed
to know a good deal about the matter--shook their heads and said
something would come of it.

And something did, for the next summer was made memorable by the
prevalence of a mysterious disease--epidemic, endemic, or the Lord
knows what, though the physicians didn't--which carried away a full
half of the population.  Most of the other half carried themselves
away and were slow to return, but finally came back, and were now
increasing and multiplying as before, but Blackburg had not since
been altogether the same.

Of quite another kind, though equally "out of the common," was the
incident of Hetty Parlow's ghost.  Hetty Parlow's maiden name had
been Brownon, and in Blackburg that meant more than one would think.

The Brownons had from time immemorial--from the very earliest of the
old colonial days--been the leading family of the town.  It was the
richest and it was the best, and Blackburg would have shed the last
drop of its plebeian blood in defense of the Brownon fair fame.  As
few of the family's members had ever been known to live permanently
away from Blackburg, although most of them were educated elsewhere
and nearly all had traveled, there was quite a number of them.  The
men held most of the public offices, and the women were foremost in
all good works.  Of these latter, Hetty was most beloved by reason of
the sweetness of her disposition, the purity of her character and her
singular personal beauty.  She married in Boston a young scapegrace
named Parlow, and like a good Brownon brought him to Blackburg
forthwith and made a man and a town councilman of him.  They had a
child which they named Joseph and dearly loved, as was then the
fashion among parents in all that region.  Then they died of the
mysterious disorder already mentioned, and at the age of one whole
year Joseph set up as an orphan.

Unfortunately for Joseph the disease which had cut off his parents
did not stop at that; it went on and extirpated nearly the whole
Brownon contingent and its allies by marriage; and those who fled did
not return.  The tradition was broken, the Brownon estates passed
into alien hands and the only Brownons remaining in that place were
underground in Oak Hill Cemetery, where, indeed, was a colony of them
powerful enough to resist the encroachment of surrounding tribes and
hold the best part of the grounds.  But about the ghost:

One night, about three years after the death of Hetty Parlow, a
number of the young people of Blackburg were passing Oak Hill
Cemetery in a wagon--if you have been there you will remember that
the road to Greenton runs alongside it on the south.  They had been
attending a May Day festival at Greenton; and that serves to fix the
date.  Altogether there may have been a dozen, and a jolly party they
were, considering the legacy of gloom left by the town's recent
somber experiences.  As they passed the cemetery the man driving
suddenly reined in his team with an exclamation of surprise.  It was
sufficiently surprising, no doubt, for just ahead, and almost at the
roadside, though inside the cemetery, stood the ghost of Hetty
Parlow.  There could be no doubt of it, for she had been personally
known to every youth and maiden in the party.  That established the
thing's identity; its character as ghost was signified by all the
customary signs--the shroud, the long, undone hair, the "far-away
look"--everything.  This disquieting apparition was stretching out
its arms toward the west, as if in supplication for the evening star,
which, certainly, was an alluring object, though obviously out of
reach.  As they all sat silent (so the story goes) every member of
that party of merrymakers--they had merry-made on coffee and lemonade
only--distinctly heard that ghost call the name "Joey, Joey!"  A
moment later nothing was there.  Of course one does not have to
believe all that.

Now, at that moment, as was afterward ascertained, Joey was wandering
about in the sage-brush on the opposite side of the continent, near
Winnemucca, in the State of Nevada.  He had been taken to that town
by some good persons distantly related to his dead father, and by
them adopted and tenderly cared for.  But on that evening the poor
child had strayed from home and was lost in the desert.

His after history is involved in obscurity and has gaps which
conjecture alone can fill.  It is known that he was found by a family
of Piute Indians, who kept the little wretch with them for a time and
then sold him--actually sold him for money to a woman on one of the
east-bound trains, at a station a long way from Winnemucca.  The
woman professed to have made all manner of inquiries, but all in
vain:  so, being childless and a widow, she adopted him herself.  At
this point of his career Jo seemed to be getting a long way from the
condition of orphanage; the interposition of a multitude of parents
between himself and that woeful state promised him a long immunity
from its disadvantages.

Mrs. Darnell, his newest mother, lived in Cleveland, Ohio.  But her
adopted son did not long remain with her.  He was seen one afternoon
by a policeman, new to that beat, deliberately toddling away from her
house, and being questioned answered that he was "a doin' home."  He
must have traveled by rail, somehow, for three days later he was in
the town of Whiteville, which, as you know, is a long way from
Blackburg.  His clothing was in pretty fair condition, but he was
sinfully dirty.  Unable to give any account of himself he was
arrested as a vagrant and sentenced to imprisonment in the Infants'
Sheltering Home--where he was washed.

Jo ran away from the Infants' Sheltering Home at Whiteville--just
took to the woods one day, and the Home knew him no more forever.

We find him next, or rather get back to him, standing forlorn in the
cold autumn rain at a suburban street corner in Blackburg; and it
seems right to explain now that the raindrops falling upon him there
were really not dark and gummy; they only failed to make his face and
hands less so.  Jo was indeed fearfully and wonderfully besmirched,
as by the hand of an artist.  And the forlorn little tramp had no
shoes; his feet were bare, red, and swollen, and when he walked he
limped with both legs.  As to clothing--ah, you would hardly have had
the skill to name any single garment that he wore, or say by what
magic he kept it upon him.  That he was cold all over and all through
did not admit of a doubt; he knew it himself.  Anyone would have been
cold there that evening; but, for that reason, no one else was there.
How Jo came to be there himself, he could not for the flickering
little life of him have told, even if gifted with a vocabulary
exceeding a hundred words.  From the way he stared about him one
could have seen that he had not the faintest notion of where (nor
why) he was.

Yet he was not altogether a fool in his day and generation; being
cold and hungry, and still able to walk a little by bending his knees
very much indeed and putting his feet down toes first, he decided to
enter one of the houses which flanked the street at long intervals
and looked so bright and warm.  But when he attempted to act upon
that very sensible decision a burly dog came bowsing out and disputed
his right.  Inexpressibly frightened and believing, no doubt (with
some reason, too) that brutes without meant brutality within, he
hobbled away from all the houses, and with gray, wet fields to right
of him and gray, wet fields to left of him--with the rain half
blinding him and the night coming in mist and darkness, held his way
along the road that leads to Greenton.  That is to say, the road
leads those to Greenton who succeed in passing the Oak Hill Cemetery.
A considerable number every year do not.

Jo did not.

They found him there the next morning, very wet, very cold, but no
longer hungry.  He had apparently entered the cemetery gate--hoping,
perhaps, that it led to a house where there was no dog--and gone
blundering about in the darkness, falling over many a grave, no
doubt, until he had tired of it all and given up.  The little body
lay upon one side, with one soiled cheek upon one soiled hand, the
other hand tucked away among the rags to make it warm, the other
cheek washed clean and white at last, as for a kiss from one of God's
great angels.  It was observed--though nothing was thought of it at
the time, the body being as yet unidentified--that the little fellow
was lying upon the grave of Hetty Parlow.  The grave, however, had
not opened to receive him.  That is a circumstance which, without
actual irreverence, one may wish had been ordered otherwise.



THE NIGHT-DOINGS AT "DEADMAN'S"
A STORY THAT IS UNTRUE



It was a singularly sharp night, and clear as the heart of a diamond.
Clear nights have a trick of being keen.  In darkness you may be cold
and not know it; when you see, you suffer.  This night was bright
enough to bite like a serpent.  The moon was moving mysteriously
along behind the giant pines crowning the South Mountain, striking a
cold sparkle from the crusted snow, and bringing out against the
black west the ghostly outlines of the Coast Range, beyond which lay
the invisible Pacific.  The snow had piled itself, in the open spaces
along the bottom of the gulch, into long ridges that seemed to heave,
and into hills that appeared to toss and scatter spray.  The spray
was sunlight, twice reflected:  dashed once from the moon, once from
the snow.

In this snow many of the shanties of the abandoned mining camp were
obliterated, (a sailor might have said they had gone down) and at
irregular intervals it had overtopped the tall trestles which had
once supported a river called a flume; for, of course, "flume" is
flumen.  Among the advantages of which the mountains cannot deprive
the gold-hunter is the privilege of speaking Latin.  He says of his
dead neighbor, "He has gone up the flume."  This is not a bad way to
say, "His life has returned to the Fountain of Life."

While putting on its armor against the assaults of the wind, this
snow had neglected no coign of vantage.  Snow pursued by the wind is
not wholly unlike a retreating army.  In the open field it ranges
itself in ranks and battalions; where it can get a foothold it makes
a stand; where it can take cover it does so.  You may see whole
platoons of snow cowering behind a bit of broken wall.  The devious
old road, hewn out of the mountain side, was full of it.  Squadron
upon squadron had struggled to escape by this line, when suddenly
pursuit had ceased.  A more desolate and dreary spot than Deadman's
Gulch in a winter midnight it is impossible to imagine.  Yet Mr.
Hiram Beeson elected to live there, the sole inhabitant.

Away up the side of the North Mountain his little pine-log shanty
projected from its single pane of glass a long, thin beam of light,
and looked not altogether unlike a black beetle fastened to the
hillside with a bright new pin.  Within it sat Mr. Beeson himself,
before a roaring fire, staring into its hot heart as if he had never
before seen such a thing in all his life.  He was not a comely man.
He was gray; he was ragged and slovenly in his attire; his face was
wan and haggard; his eyes were too bright.  As to his age, if one had
attempted to guess it, one might have said forty-seven, then
corrected himself and said seventy-four.  He was really twenty-eight.
Emaciated he was; as much, perhaps, as he dared be, with a needy
undertaker at Bentley's Flat and a new and enterprising coroner at
Sonora.  Poverty and zeal are an upper and a nether millstone.  It is
dangerous to make a third in that kind of sandwich.

As Mr. Beeson sat there, with his ragged elbows on his ragged knees,
his lean jaws buried in his lean hands, and with no apparent
intention of going to bed, he looked as if the slightest movement
would tumble him to pieces.  Yet during the last hour he had winked
no fewer than three times.

There was a sharp rapping at the door.  A rap at that time of night
and in that weather might have surprised an ordinary mortal who had
dwelt two years in the gulch without seeing a human face, and could
not fail to know that the country was impassable; but Mr. Beeson did
not so much as pull his eyes out of the coals.  And even when the
door was pushed open he only shrugged a little more closely into
himself, as one does who is expecting something that he would rather
not see.  You may observe this movement in women when, in a mortuary
chapel, the coffin is borne up the aisle behind them.

But when a long old man in a blanket overcoat, his head tied up in a
handkerchief and nearly his entire face in a muffler, wearing green
goggles and with a complexion of glittering whiteness where it could
be seen, strode silently into the room, laying a hard, gloved hand on
Mr. Beeson's shoulder, the latter so far forgot himself as to look up
with an appearance of no small astonishment; whomever he may have
been expecting, he had evidently not counted on meeting anyone like
this.  Nevertheless, the sight of this unexpected guest produced in
Mr. Beeson the following sequence:  a feeling of astonishment; a
sense of gratification; a sentiment of profound good will.  Rising
from his seat, he took the knotty hand from his shoulder, and shook
it up and down with a fervor quite unaccountable; for in the old
man's aspect was nothing to attract, much to repel.  However,
attraction is too general a property for repulsion to be without it.
The most attractive object in the world is the face we instinctively
cover with a cloth.  When it becomes still more attractive--
fascinating--we put seven feet of earth above it.

"Sir," said Mr. Beeson, releasing the old man's hand, which fell
passively against his thigh with a quiet clack, "it is an extremely
disagreeable night.  Pray be seated; I am very glad to see you."

Mr. Beeson spoke with an easy good breeding that one would hardly
have expected, considering all things.  Indeed, the contrast between
his appearance and his manner was sufficiently surprising to be one
of the commonest of social phenomena in the mines.  The old man
advanced a step toward the fire, glowing cavernously in the green
goggles.  Mr. Beeson resumed:

"You bet your life I am!"

Mr. Beeson's elegance was not too refined; it had made reasonable
concessions to local taste.  He paused a moment, letting his eyes
drop from the muffled head of his guest, down along the row of moldy
buttons confining the blanket overcoat, to the greenish cowhide boots
powdered with snow, which had begun to melt and run along the floor
in little rills.  He took an inventory of his guest, and appeared
satisfied.  Who would not have been?  Then he continued:

"The cheer I can offer you is, unfortunately, in keeping with my
surroundings; but I shall esteem myself highly favored if it is your
pleasure to partake of it, rather than seek better at Bentley's
Flat."

With a singular refinement of hospitable humility Mr. Beeson spoke as
if a sojourn in his warm cabin on such a night, as compared with
walking fourteen miles up to the throat in snow with a cutting crust,
would be an intolerable hardship.  By way of reply, his guest
unbuttoned the blanket overcoat.  The host laid fresh fuel on the
fire, swept the hearth with the tail of a wolf, and added:

"But _I_ think you'd better skedaddle."

The old man took a seat by the fire, spreading his broad soles to the
heat without removing his hat.  In the mines the hat is seldom
removed except when the boots are.  Without further remark Mr. Beeson
also seated himself in a chair which had been a barrel, and which,
retaining much of its original character, seemed to have been
designed with a view to preserving his dust if it should please him
to crumble.  For a moment there was silence; then, from somewhere
among the pines, came the snarling yelp of a coyote; and
simultaneously the door rattled in its frame.  There was no other
connection between the two incidents than that the coyote has an
aversion to storms, and the wind was rising; yet there seemed somehow
a kind of supernatural conspiracy between the two, and Mr. Beeson
shuddered with a vague sense of terror.  He recovered himself in a
moment and again addressed his guest.

"There are strange doings here.  I will tell you everything, and then
if you decide to go I shall hope to accompany you over the worst of
the way; as far as where Baldy Peterson shot Ben Hike--I dare say you
know the place."

The old man nodded emphatically, as intimating not merely that he
did, but that he did indeed.

"Two years ago," began Mr. Beeson, "I, with two companions, occupied
this house; but when the rush to the Flat occurred we left, along
with the rest.  In ten hours the Gulch was deserted.  That evening,
however, I discovered I had left behind me a valuable pistol (that is
it) and returned for it, passing the night here alone, as I have
passed every night since.  I must explain that a few days before we
left, our Chinese domestic had the misfortune to die while the ground
was frozen so hard that it was impossible to dig a grave in the usual
way.  So, on the day of our hasty departure, we cut through the floor
there, and gave him such burial as we could.  But before putting him
down I had the extremely bad taste to cut off his pigtail and spike
it to that beam above his grave, where you may see it at this moment,
or, preferably, when warmth has given you leisure for observation.

"I stated, did I not, that the Chinaman came to his death from
natural causes?  I had, of course, nothing to do with that, and
returned through no irresistible attraction, or morbid fascination,
but only because I had forgotten a pistol.  This is clear to you, is
it not, sir?"

The visitor nodded gravely.  He appeared to be a man of few words, if
any.  Mr. Beeson continued:

"According to the Chinese faith, a man is like a kite:  he cannot go
to heaven without a tail.  Well, to shorten this tedious story--
which, however, I thought it my duty to relate--on that night, while
I was here alone and thinking of anything but him, that Chinaman came
back for his pigtail.

"He did not get it."

At this point Mr. Beeson relapsed into blank silence.  Perhaps he was
fatigued by the unwonted exercise of speaking; perhaps he had
conjured up a memory that demanded his undivided attention.  The wind
was now fairly abroad, and the pines along the mountainside sang with
singular distinctness.  The narrator continued:

"You say you do not see much in that, and I must confess I do not
myself.

"But he keeps coming!"

There was another long silence, during which both stared into the
fire without the movement of a limb.  Then Mr. Beeson broke out,
almost fiercely, fixing his eyes on what he could see of the
impassive face of his auditor:

"Give it him?  Sir, in this matter I have no intention of troubling
anyone for advice.  You will pardon me, I am sure"--here he became
singularly persuasive--"but I have ventured to nail that pigtail
fast, and have assumed the somewhat onerous obligation of guarding
it.  So it is quite impossible to act on your considerate suggestion.

"Do you play me for a Modoc?"

Nothing could exceed the sudden ferocity with which he thrust this
indignant remonstrance into the ear of his guest.  It was as if he
had struck him on the side of the head with a steel gauntlet.  It was
a protest, but it was a challenge.  To be mistaken for a coward--to
be played for a Modoc:  these two expressions are one.  Sometimes it
is a Chinaman.  Do you play me for a Chinaman? is a question
frequently addressed to the ear of the suddenly dead.

Mr. Beeson's buffet produced no effect, and after a moment's pause,
during which the wind thundered in the chimney like the sound of
clods upon a coffin, he resumed:

"But, as you say, it is wearing me out.  I feel that the life of the
last two years has been a mistake--a mistake that corrects itself;
you see how.  The grave!  No; there is no one to dig it.  The ground
is frozen, too.  But you are very welcome.  You may say at Bentley's-
-but that is not important.  It was very tough to cut:  they braid
silk into their pigtails.  Kwaagh."

Mr. Beeson was speaking with his eyes shut, and he wandered.  His
last word was a snore.  A moment later he drew a long breath, opened
his eyes with an effort, made a single remark, and fell into a deep
sleep.  What he said was this:

"They are swiping my dust!"

Then the aged stranger, who had not uttered one word since his
arrival, arose from his seat and deliberately laid off his outer
clothing, looking as angular in his flannels as the late Signorina
Festorazzi, an Irish woman, six feet in height, and weighing fifty-
six pounds, who used to exhibit herself in her chemise to the people
of San Francisco.  He then crept into one of the "bunks," having
first placed a revolver in easy reach, according to the custom of the
country.  This revolver he took from a shelf, and it was the one
which Mr. Beeson had mentioned as that for which he had returned to
the Gulch two years before.

In a few moments Mr. Beeson awoke, and seeing that his guest had
retired he did likewise.  But before doing so he approached the long,
plaited wisp of pagan hair and gave it a powerful tug, to assure
himself that it was fast and firm.  The two beds--mere shelves
covered with blankets not overclean--faced each other from opposite
sides of the room, the little square trapdoor that had given access
to the Chinaman's grave being midway between.  This, by the way, was
crossed by a double row of spike-heads.  In his resistance to the
supernatural, Mr. Beeson had not disdained the use of material
precautions.

The fire was now low, the flames burning bluely and petulantly, with
occasional flashes, projecting spectral shadows on the walls--shadows
that moved mysteriously about, now dividing, now uniting.  The shadow
of the pendent queue, however, kept moodily apart, near the roof at
the further end of the room, looking like a note of admiration.  The
song of the pines outside had now risen to the dignity of a triumphal
hymn.  In the pauses the silence was dreadful.

It was during one of these intervals that the trap in the floor began
to lift.  Slowly and steadily it rose, and slowly and steadily rose
the swaddled head of the old man in the bunk to observe it.  Then,
with a clap that shook the house to its foundation, it was thrown
clean back, where it lay with its unsightly spikes pointing
threateningly upward.  Mr. Beeson awoke, and without rising, pressed
his fingers into his eyes.  He shuddered; his teeth chattered.  His
guest was now reclining on one elbow, watching the proceedings with
the goggles that glowed like lamps.

Suddenly a howling gust of wind swooped down the chimney, scattering
ashes and smoke in all directions, for a moment obscuring everything.
When the firelight again illuminated the room there was seen, sitting
gingerly on the edge of a stool by the hearthside, a swarthy little
man of prepossessing appearance and dressed with faultless taste,
nodding to the old man with a friendly and engaging smile.  "From San
Francisco, evidently," thought Mr. Beeson, who having somewhat
recovered from his fright was groping his way to a solution of the
evening's events.

But now another actor appeared upon the scene.  Out of the square
black hole in the middle of the floor protruded the head of the
departed Chinaman, his glassy eyes turned upward in their angular
slits and fastened on the dangling queue above with a look of
yearning unspeakable.  Mr. Beeson groaned, and again spread his hands
upon his face.  A mild odor of opium pervaded the place.  The
phantom, clad only in a short blue tunic quilted and silken but
covered with grave-mold, rose slowly, as if pushed by a weak spiral
spring.  Its knees were at the level of the floor, when with a quick
upward impulse like the silent leaping of a flame it grasped the
queue with both hands, drew up its body and took the tip in its
horrible yellow teeth.  To this it clung in a seeming frenzy,
grimacing ghastly, surging and plunging from side to side in its
efforts to disengage its property from the beam, but uttering no
sound.  It was like a corpse artificially convulsed by means of a
galvanic battery.  The contrast between its superhuman activity and
its silence was no less than hideous!

Mr. Beeson cowered in his bed.  The swarthy little gentleman
uncrossed his legs, beat an impatient tattoo with the toe of his boot
and consulted a heavy gold watch.  The old man sat erect and quietly
laid hold of the revolver.

Bang!

Like a body cut from the gallows the Chinaman plumped into the black
hole below, carrying his tail in his teeth.  The trapdoor turned
over, shutting down with a snap.  The swarthy little gentleman from
San Francisco sprang nimbly from his perch, caught something in the
air with his hat, as a boy catches a butterfly, and vanished into the
chimney as if drawn up by suction.

From away somewhere in the outer darkness floated in through the open
door a faint, far cry--a long, sobbing wail, as of a child death-
strangled in the desert, or a lost soul borne away by the Adversary.
It may have been the coyote.

In the early days of the following spring a party of miners on their
way to new diggings passed along the Gulch, and straying through the
deserted shanties found in one of them the body of Hiram Beeson,
stretched upon a bunk, with a bullet hole through the heart.  The
ball had evidently been fired from the opposite side of the room, for
in one of the oaken beams overhead was a shallow blue dint, where it
had struck a knot and been deflected downward to the breast of its
victim.  Strongly attached to the same beam was what appeared to be
an end of a rope of braided horsehair, which had been cut by the
bullet in its passage to the knot.  Nothing else of interest was
noted, excepting a suit of moldy and incongruous clothing, several
articles of which were afterward identified by respectable witnesses
as those in which certain deceased citizens of Deadman's had been
buried years before.  But it is not easy to understand how that could
be, unless, indeed, the garments had been worn as a disguise by Death
himself--which is hardly credible.



BEYOND THE WALL



Many years ago, on my way from Hongkong to New York, I assed a week
in San Francisco.  A long time had gone by since I had been in that
city, during which my ventures in the Orient had prospered beyond my
hope; I was rich and could afford to revisit my own country to renew
my friendship with such of the companions of my youth as still lived
and remembered me with the old affection.  Chief of these, I hoped,
was Mohun Dampier, an old schoolmate with whom I had held a desultory
correspondence which had long ceased, as is the way of correspondence
between men.  You may have observed that the indisposition to write a
merely social letter is in the ratio of the square of the distance
between you and your correspondent.  It is a law.

I remembered Dampier as a handsome, strong young fellow of scholarly
tastes, with an aversion to work and a marked indifference to many of
the things that the world cares for, including wealth, of which,
however, he had inherited enough to put him beyond the reach of want.
In his family, one of the oldest and most aristocratic in the
country, it was, I think, a matter of pride that no member of it had
ever been in trade nor politics, nor suffered any kind of
distinction.  Mohun was a trifle sentimental, and had in him a
singular element of superstition, which led him to the study of all
manner of occult subjects, although his sane mental health
safeguarded him against fantastic and perilous faiths.  He made
daring incursions into the realm of the unreal without renouncing his
residence in the partly surveyed and charted region of what we are
pleased to call certitude.

The night of my visit to him was stormy.  The Californian winter was
on, and the incessant rain plashed in the deserted streets, or,
lifted by irregular gusts of wind, was hurled against the houses with
incredible fury.  With no small difficulty my cabman found the right
place, away out toward the ocean beach, in a sparsely populated
suburb.  The dwelling, a rather ugly one, apparently, stood in the
center of its grounds, which as nearly as I could make out in the
gloom were destitute of either flowers or grass.  Three or four
trees, writhing and moaning in the torment of the tempest, appeared
to be trying to escape from their dismal environment and take the
chance of finding a better one out at sea.  The house was a two-story
brick structure with a tower, a story higher, at one corner.  In a
window of that was the only visible light.  Something in the
appearance of the place made me shudder, a performance that may have
been assisted by a rill of rain-water down my back as I scuttled to
cover in the doorway.

In answer to my note apprising him of my wish to call, Dampier had
written, "Don't ring--open the door and come up."  I did so.  The
staircase was dimly lighted by a single gas-jet at the top of the
second flight.  I managed to reach the landing without disaster and
entered by an open door into the lighted square room of the tower.
Dampier came forward in gown and slippers to receive me, giving me
the greeting that I wished, and if I had held a thought that it might
more fitly have been accorded me at the front door the first look at
him dispelled any sense of his inhospitality.

He was not the same.  Hardly past middle age, he had gone gray and
had acquired a pronounced stoop.  His figure was thin and angular,
his face deeply lined, his complexion dead-white, without a touch of
color.  His eyes, unnaturally large, glowed with a fire that was
almost uncanny.

He seated me, proffered a cigar, and with grave and obvious sincerity
assured me of the pleasure that it gave him to meet me.  Some
unimportant conversation followed, but all the while I was dominated
by a melancholy sense of the great change in him.  This he must have
perceived, for he suddenly said with a bright enough smile, "You are
disappointed in me--non sum qualis eram."

I hardly knew what to reply, but managed to say:  "Why, really, I
don't know:  your Latin is about the same."

He brightened again.  "No," he said, "being a dead language, it grows
in appropriateness.  But please have the patience to wait:  where I
am going there is perhaps a better tongue.  Will you care to have a
message in it?"

The smile faded as he spoke, and as he concluded he was looking into
my eyes with a gravity that distressed me.  Yet I would not surrender
myself to his mood, nor permit him to see how deeply his prescience
of death affected me.

"I fancy that it will be long," I said, "before human speech will
cease to serve our need; and then the need, with its possibilities of
service, will have passed."

He made no reply, and I too was silent, for the talk had taken a
dispiriting turn, yet I knew not how to give it a more agreeable
character.  Suddenly, in a pause of the storm, when the dead silence
was almost startling by contrast with the previous uproar, I heard a
gentle tapping, which appeared to come from the wall behind my chair.
The sound was such as might have been made by a human hand, not as
upon a door by one asking admittance, but rather, I thought, as an
agreed signal, an assurance of someone's presence in an adjoining
room; most of us, I fancy, have had more experience of such
communications than we should care to relate.  I glanced at Dampier.
If possibly there was something of amusement in the look he did not
observe it.  He appeared to have forgotten my presence, and was
staring at the wall behind me with an expression in his eyes that I
am unable to name, although my memory of it is as vivid to-day as was
my sense of it then.  The situation was embarrassing; I rose to take
my leave.  At this he seemed to recover himself.

"Please be seated," he said; "it is nothing--no one is there."

But the tapping was repeated, and with the same gentle, slow
insistence as before.

"Pardon me," I said, "it is late.  May I call to-morrow?"

He smiled--a little mechanically, I thought.  "It is very delicate of
you," said he, "but quite needless.  Really, this is the only room in
the tower, and no one is there.  At least--" He left the sentence
incomplete, rose, and threw up a window, the only opening in the wall
from which the sound seemed to come.  "See."

Not clearly knowing what else to do I followed him to the window and
looked out.  A street-lamp some little distance away gave enough
light through the murk of the rain that was again falling in torrents
to make it entirely plain that "no one was there."  In truth there
was nothing but the sheer blank wall of the tower.

Dampier closed the window and signing me to my seat resumed his own.

The incident was not in itself particularly mysterious; any one of a
dozen explanations was possible (though none has occurred to me), yet
it impressed me strangely, the more, perhaps, from my friend's effort
to reassure me, which seemed to dignify it with a certain
significance and importance.  He had proved that no one was there,
but in that fact lay all the interest; and he proffered no
explanation.  His silence was irritating and made me resentful.

"My good friend," I said, somewhat ironically, I fear, "I am not
disposed to question your right to harbor as many spooks as you find
agreeable to your taste and consistent with your notions of
companionship; that is no business of mine.  But being just a plain
man of affairs, mostly of this world, I find spooks needless to my
peace and comfort.  I am going to my hotel, where my fellow-guests
are still in the flesh."

It was not a very civil speech, but he manifested no feeling about
it.  "Kindly remain," he said.  "I am grateful for your presence
here.  What you have heard to-night I believe myself to have heard
twice before.  Now I KNOW it was no illusion.  That is much to me--
more than you know.  Have a fresh cigar and a good stock of patience
while I tell you the story."

The rain was now falling more steadily, with a low, monotonous
susurration, interrupted at long intervals by the sudden slashing of
the boughs of the trees as the wind rose and failed.  The night was
well advanced, but both sympathy and curiosity held me a willing
listener to my friend's monologue, which I did not interrupt by a
single word from beginning to end.

"Ten years ago," he said, "I occupied a ground-floor apartment in one
of a row of houses, all alike, away at the other end of the town, on
what we call Rincon Hill.  This had been the best quarter of San
Francisco, but had fallen into neglect and decay, partly because the
primitive character of its domestic architecture no longer suited the
maturing tastes of our wealthy citizens, partly because certain
public improvements had made a wreck of it.  The row of dwellings in
one of which I lived stood a little way back from the street, each
having a miniature garden, separated from its neighbors by low iron
fences and bisected with mathematical precision by a box-bordered
gravel walk from gate to door.

"One morning as I was leaving my lodging I observed a young girl
entering the adjoining garden on the left.  It was a warm day in
June, and she was lightly gowned in white.  From her shoulders hung a
broad straw hat profusely decorated with flowers and wonderfully
beribboned in the fashion of the time.  My attention was not long
held by the exquisite simplicity of her costume, for no one could
look at her face and think of anything earthly.  Do not fear; I shall
not profane it by description; it was beautiful exceedingly.  All
that I had ever seen or dreamed of loveliness was in that matchless
living picture by the hand of the Divine Artist.  So deeply did it
move me that, without a thought of the impropriety of the act, I
unconsciously bared my head, as a devout Catholic or well-bred
Protestant uncovers before an image of the Blessed Virgin.  The
maiden showed no displeasure; she merely turned her glorious dark
eyes upon me with a look that made me catch my breath, and without
other recognition of my act passed into the house.  For a moment I
stood motionless, hat in hand, painfully conscious of my rudeness,
yet so dominated by the emotion inspired by that vision of
incomparable beauty that my penitence was less poignant than it
should have been.  Then I went my way, leaving my heart behind.  In
the natural course of things I should probably have remained away
until nightfall, but by the middle of the afternoon I was back in the
little garden, affecting an interest in the few foolish flowers that
I had never before observed.  My hope was vain; she did not appear.

"To a night of unrest succeeded a day of expectation and
disappointment, but on the day after, as I wandered aimlessly about
the neighborhood, I met her.  Of course I did not repeat my folly of
uncovering, nor venture by even so much as too long a look to
manifest an interest in her; yet my heart was beating audibly.  I
trembled and consciously colored as she turned her big black eyes
upon me with a look of obvious recognition entirely devoid of
boldness or coquetry.

"I will not weary you with particulars; many times afterward I met
the maiden, yet never either addressed her or sought to fix her
attention.  Nor did I take any action toward making her acquaintance.
Perhaps my forbearance, requiring so supreme an effort of self-
denial, will not be entirely clear to you.  That I was heels over
head in love is true, but who can overcome his habit of thought, or
reconstruct his character?

"I was what some foolish persons are pleased to call, and others,
more foolish, are pleased to be called--an aristocrat; and despite
her beauty, her charms and graces, the girl was not of my class.  I
had learned her name--which it is needless to speak--and something of
her family.  She was an orphan, a dependent niece of the impossible
elderly fat woman in whose lodging-house she lived.  My income was
small and I lacked the talent for marrying; it is perhaps a gift.  An
alliance with that family would condemn me to its manner of life,
part me from my books and studies, and in a social sense reduce me to
the ranks.  It is easy to deprecate such considerations as these and
I have not retained myself for the defense.  Let judgment be entered
against me, but in strict justice all my ancestors for generations
should be made co-defendants and I be permitted to plead in
mitigation of punishment the imperious mandate of heredity.  To a
mesalliance of that kind every globule of my ancestral blood spoke in
opposition.  In brief, my tastes, habits, instinct, with whatever of
reason my love had left me--all fought against it.  Moreover, I was
an irreclaimable sentimentalist, and found a subtle charm in an
impersonal and spiritual relation which acquaintance might vulgarize
and marriage would certainly dispel.  No woman, I argued, is what
this lovely creature seems.  Love is a delicious dream; why should I
bring about my own awakening?

"The course dictated by all this sense and sentiment was obvious.
Honor, pride, prudence, preservation of my ideals--all commanded me
to go away, but for that I was too weak.  The utmost that I could do
by a mighty effort of will was to cease meeting the girl, and that I
did.  I even avoided the chance encounters of the garden, leaving my
lodging only when I knew that she had gone to her music lessons, and
returning after nightfall.  Yet all the while I was as one in a
trance, indulging the most fascinating fancies and ordering my entire
intellectual life in accordance with my dream.  Ah, my friend, as one
whose actions have a traceable relation to reason, you cannot know
the fool's paradise in which I lived.

"One evening the devil put it into my head to be an unspeakable
idiot.  By apparently careless and purposeless questioning I learned
from my gossipy landlady that the young woman's bedroom adjoined my
own, a party-wall between.  Yielding to a sudden and coarse impulse I
gently rapped on the wall.  There was no response, naturally, but I
was in no mood to accept a rebuke.  A madness was upon me and I
repeated the folly, the offense, but again ineffectually, and I had
the decency to desist.

"An hour later, while absorbed in some of my infernal studies, I
heard, or thought I heard, my signal answered.  Flinging down my
books I sprang to the wall and as steadily as my beating heart would
permit gave three slow taps upon it.  This time the response was
distinct, unmistakable:  one, two, three--an exact repetition of my
signal.  That was all I could elicit, but it was enough--too much.

"The next evening, and for many evenings afterward, that folly went
on, I always having 'the last word.'  During the whole period I was
deliriously happy, but with the perversity of my nature I persevered
in my resolution not to see her.  Then, as I should have expected, I
got no further answers.  'She is disgusted,' I said to myself, 'with
what she thinks my timidity in making no more definite advances'; and
I resolved to seek her and make her acquaintance and--what?  I did
not know, nor do I now know, what might have come of it.  I know only
that I passed days and days trying to meet her, and all in vain; she
was invisible as well as inaudible.  I haunted the streets where we
had met, but she did not come.  From my window I watched the garden
in front of her house, but she passed neither in nor out.  I fell
into the deepest dejection, believing that she had gone away, yet
took no steps to resolve my doubt by inquiry of my landlady, to whom,
indeed, I had taken an unconquerable aversion from her having once
spoken of the girl with less of reverence than I thought befitting.

"There came a fateful night.  Worn out with emotion, irresolution and
despondency, I had retired early and fallen into such sleep as was
still possible to me.  In the middle of the night something--some
malign power bent upon the wrecking of my peace forever--caused me to
open my eyes and sit up, wide awake and listening intently for I knew
not what.  Then I thought I heard a faint tapping on the wall--the
mere ghost of the familiar signal.  In a few moments it was repeated:
one, two, three--no louder than before, but addressing a sense alert
and strained to receive it.  I was about to reply when the Adversary
of Peace again intervened in my affairs with a rascally suggestion of
retaliation.  She had long and cruelly ignored me; now I would ignore
her.  Incredible fatuity--may God forgive it!  All the rest of the
night I lay awake, fortifying my obstinacy with shameless
justifications and--listening.

"Late the next morning, as I was leaving the house, I met my
landlady, entering.

"'Good morning, Mr. Dampier,' she said.  'Have you heard the news?'

"I replied in words that I had heard no news; in manner, that I did
not care to hear any.  The manner escaped her observation.

"'About the sick young lady next door,' she babbled on.  'What! you
did not know?  Why, she has been ill for weeks.  And now--'

"I almost sprang upon her.  'And now,' I cried, 'now what?'

"'She is dead.'

"That is not the whole story.  In the middle of the night, as I
learned later, the patient, awakening from a long stupor after a week
of delirium, had asked--it was her last utterance--that her bed be
moved to the opposite side of the room.  Those in attendance had
thought the request a vagary of her delirium, but had complied.  And
there the poor passing soul had exerted its failing will to restore a
broken connection--a golden thread of sentiment between its innocence
and a monstrous baseness owning a blind, brutal allegiance to the Law
of Self.

"What reparation could I make?  Are there masses that can be said for
the repose of souls that are abroad such nights as this--spirits
'blown about by the viewless winds'--coming in the storm and darkness
with signs and portents, hints of memory and presages of doom?

"This is the third visitation.  On the first occasion I was too
skeptical to do more than verify by natural methods the character of
the incident; on the second, I responded to the signal after it had
been several times repeated, but without result.  To-night's
recurrence completes the 'fatal triad' expounded by Parapelius
Necromantius.  There is no more to tell."

When Dampier had finished his story I could think of nothing relevant
that I cared to say, and to question him would have been a hideous
impertinence.  I rose and bade him good night in a way to convey to
him a sense of my sympathy, which he silently acknowledged by a
pressure of the hand.  That night, alone with his sorrow and remorse,
he passed into the Unknown.



A PSYCHOLOGICAL SHIPWRECK



In the summer of 1874 I was in Liverpool, whither I had gone on
business for the mercantile house of Bronson & Jarrett, New York.  I
am William Jarrett; my partner was Zenas Bronson.  The firm failed
last year, and unable to endure the fall from affluence to poverty he
died.

Having finished my business, and feeling the lassitude and exhaustion
incident to its dispatch, I felt that a protracted sea voyage would
be both agreeable and beneficial, so instead of embarking for my
return on one of the many fine passenger steamers I booked for New
York on the sailing vessel Morrow, upon which I had shipped a large
and valuable invoice of the goods I had bought.  The Morrow was an
English ship with, of course, but little accommodation for
passengers, of whom there were only myself, a young woman and her
servant, who was a middle-aged negress.  I thought it singular that a
traveling English girl should be so attended, but she afterward
explained to me that the woman had been left with her family by a man
and his wife from South Carolina, both of whom had died on the same
day at the house of the young lady's father in Devonshire--a
circumstance in itself sufficiently uncommon to remain rather
distinctly in my memory, even had it not afterward transpired in
conversation with the young lady that the name of the man was William
Jarrett, the same as my own.  I knew that a branch of my family had
settled in South Carolina, but of them and their history I was
ignorant.

The Morrow sailed from the mouth of the Mersey on the 15th of June
and for several weeks we had fair breezes and unclouded skies.  The
skipper, an admirable seaman but nothing more, favored us with very
little of his society, except at his table; and the young woman, Miss
Janette Harford, and I became very well acquainted.  We were, in
truth, nearly always together, and being of an introspective turn of
mind I often endeavored to analyze and define the novel feeling with
which she inspired me--a secret, subtle, but powerful attraction
which constantly impelled me to seek her; but the attempt was
hopeless.  I could only be sure that at least it was not love.
Having assured myself of this and being certain that she was quite as
whole-hearted, I ventured one evening (I remember it was on the 3d of
July) as we sat on deck to ask her, laughingly, if she could assist
me to resolve my psychological doubt.

For a moment she was silent, with averted face, and I began to fear I
had been extremely rude and indelicate; then she fixed her eyes
gravely on my own.  In an instant my mind was dominated by as strange
a fancy as ever entered human consciousness.  It seemed as if she
were looking at me, not WITH, but THROUGH, those eyes--from an
immeasurable distance behind them--and that a number of other
persons, men, women and children, upon whose faces I caught strangely
familiar evanescent expressions, clustered about her, struggling with
gentle eagerness to look at me through the same orbs.  Ship, ocean,
sky--all had vanished.  I was conscious of nothing but the figures in
this extraordinary and fantastic scene.  Then all at once darkness
fell upon me, and anon from out of it, as to one who grows accustomed
by degrees to a dimmer light, my former surroundings of deck and mast
and cordage slowly resolved themselves.  Miss Harford had closed her
eyes and was leaning back in her chair, apparently asleep, the book
she had been reading open in her lap.  Impelled by surely I cannot
say what motive, I glanced at the top of the page; it was a copy of
that rare and curious work, "Denneker's Meditations," and the lady's
index finger rested on this passage:

"To sundry it is given to be drawn away, and to be apart from the
body for a season; for, as concerning rills which would flow across
each other the weaker is borne along by the stronger, so there be
certain of kin whose paths intersecting, their souls do bear company,
the while their bodies go fore-appointed ways, unknowing."


Miss Harford arose, shuddering; the sun had sunk below the horizon,
but it was not cold.  There was not a breath of wind; there were no
clouds in the sky, yet not a star was visible.  A hurried tramping
sounded on the deck; the captain, summoned from below, joined the
first officer, who stood looking at the barometer.  "Good God!" I
heard him exclaim.

An hour later the form of Janette Harford, invisible in the darkness
and spray, was torn from my grasp by the cruel vortex of the sinking
ship, and I fainted in the cordage of the floating mast to which I
had lashed myself.

It was by lamplight that I awoke.  I lay in a berth amid the familiar
surroundings of the stateroom of a steamer.  On a couch opposite sat
a man, half undressed for bed, reading a book.  I recognized the face
of my friend Gordon Doyle, whom I had met in Liverpool on the day of
my embarkation, when he was himself about to sail on the steamer City
of Prague, on which he had urged me to accompany him.

After some moments I now spoke his name.  He simply said, "Well," and
turned a leaf in his book without removing his eyes from the page.

"Doyle," I repeated, "did they save HER?"

He now deigned to look at me and smiled as if amused.  He evidently
thought me but half awake.

"Her?  Whom do you mean?"

"Janette Harford."

His amusement turned to amazement; he stared at me fixedly, saying
nothing.

"You will tell me after a while," I continued; "I suppose you will
tell me after a while."

A moment later I asked:  "What ship is this?"

Doyle stared again.  "The steamer City of Prague, bound from
Liverpool to New York, three weeks out with a broken shaft.
Principal passenger, Mr. Gordon Doyle; ditto lunatic, Mr. William
Jarrett.  These two distinguished travelers embarked together, but
they are about to part, it being the resolute intention of the former
to pitch the latter overboard."

I sat bolt upright.  "Do you mean to say that I have been for three
weeks a passenger on this steamer?"

"Yes, pretty nearly; this is the 3d of July."

"Have I been ill?"

"Right as a trivet all the time, and punctual at your meals."

"My God!  Doyle, there is some mystery here; do have the goodness to
be serious.  Was I not rescued from the wreck of the ship Morrow?"

Doyle changed color, and approaching me, laid his fingers on my
wrist.  A moment later, "What do you know of Janette Harford?" he
asked very calmly.

"First tell me what YOU know of her?"

Mr. Doyle gazed at me for some moments as if thinking what to do,
then seating himself again on the couch, said:

"Why should I not?  I am engaged to marry Janette Harford, whom I met
a year ago in London.  Her family, one of the wealthiest in
Devonshire, cut up rough about it, and we eloped--are eloping rather,
for on the day that you and I walked to the landing stage to go
aboard this steamer she and her faithful servant, a negress, passed
us, driving to the ship Morrow.  She would not consent to go in the
same vessel with me, and it had been deemed best that she take a
sailing vessel in order to avoid observation and lessen the risk of
detection.  I am now alarmed lest this cursed breaking of our
machinery may detain us so long that the Morrow will get to New York
before us, and the poor girl will not know where to go."

I lay still in my berth--so still I hardly breathed.  But the subject
was evidently not displeasing to Doyle, and after a short pause he
resumed:

"By the way, she is only an adopted daughter of the Harfords.  Her
mother was killed at their place by being thrown from a horse while
hunting, and her father, mad with grief, made away with himself the
same day.  No one ever claimed the child, and after a reasonable time
they adopted her.  She has grown up in the belief that she is their
daughter."

"Doyle, what book are you reading?"

"Oh, it's called 'Denneker's Meditations.'  It's a rum lot, Janette
gave it to me; she happened to have two copies.  Want to see it?"

He tossed me the volume, which opened as it fell.  On one of the
exposed pages was a marked passage:

"To sundry it is given to be drawn away, and to be apart from the
body for a season; for, as concerning rills which would flow across
each other the weaker is borne along by the stronger, so there be
certain of kin whose paths intersecting, their souls do bear company,
the while their bodies go fore-appointed ways, unknowing."

"She had--she has--a singular taste in reading," I managed to say,
mastering my agitation.

"Yes.  And now perhaps you will have the kindness to explain how you
knew her name and that of the ship she sailed in."

"You talked of her in your sleep," I said.

A week later we were towed into the port of New York.  But the Morrow
was never heard from.



THE MIDDLE TOE OF THE RIGHT FOOT



I

It is well known that the old Manton house is haunted.  In all the
rural district near about, and even in the town of Marshall, a mile
away, not one person of unbiased mind entertains a doubt of it;
incredulity is confined to those opinionated persons who will be
called "cranks" as soon as the useful word shall have penetrated the
intellectual demesne of the Marshall Advance.  The evidence that the
house is haunted is of two kinds:  the testimony of disinterested
witnesses who have had ocular proof, and that of the house itself.
The former may be disregarded and ruled out on any of the various
grounds of objection which may be urged against it by the ingenious;
but facts within the observation of all are material and controlling.

In the first place, the Manton house has been unoccupied by mortals
for more than ten years, and with its outbuildings is slowly falling
into decay--a circumstance which in itself the judicious will hardly
venture to ignore.  It stands a little way off the loneliest reach of
the Marshall and Harriston road, in an opening which was once a farm
and is still disfigured with strips of rotting fence and half covered
with brambles overrunning a stony and sterile soil long unacquainted
with the plow.  The house itself is in tolerably good condition,
though badly weather-stained and in dire need of attention from the
glazier, the smaller male population of the region having attested in
the manner of its kind its disapproval of dwelling without dwellers.
It is two stories in height, nearly square, its front pierced by a
single doorway flanked on each side by a window boarded up to the
very top.  Corresponding windows above, not protected, serve to admit
light and rain to the rooms of the upper floor.  Grass and weeds grow
pretty rankly all about, and a few shade trees, somewhat the worse
for wind, and leaning all in one direction, seem to be making a
concerted effort to run away.  In short, as the Marshall town
humorist explained in the columns of the Advance, "the proposition
that the Manton house is badly haunted is the only logical conclusion
from the premises."  The fact that in this dwelling Mr. Manton
thought it expedient one night some ten years ago to rise and cut the
throats of his wife and two small children, removing at once to
another part of the country, has no doubt done its share in directing
public attention to the fitness of the place for supernatural
phenomena.

To this house, one summer evening, came four men in a wagon.  Three
of them promptly alighted, and the one who had been driving hitched
the team to the only remaining post of what had been a fence.  The
fourth remained seated in the wagon.  "Come," said one of his
companions, approaching him, while the others moved away in the
direction of the dwelling--"this is the place."

The man addressed did not move.  "By God!" he said harshly, "this is
a trick, and it looks to me as if you were in it."

"Perhaps I am," the other said, looking him straight in the face and
speaking in a tone which had something of contempt in it.  "You will
remember, however, that the choice of place was with your own assent
left to the other side.  Of course if you are afraid of spooks--"

"I am afraid of nothing," the man interrupted with another oath, and
sprang to the ground.  The two then joined the others at the door,
which one of them had already opened with some difficulty, caused by
rust of lock and hinge.  All entered.  Inside it was dark, but the
man who had unlocked the door produced a candle and matches and made
a light.  He then unlocked a door on their right as they stood in the
passage.  This gave them entrance to a large, square room that the
candle but dimly lighted.  The floor had a thick carpeting of dust,
which partly muffled their footfalls.  Cobwebs were in the angles of
the walls and depended from the ceiling like strips of rotting lace,
making undulatory movements in the disturbed air.  The room had two
windows in adjoining sides, but from neither could anything be seen
except the rough inner surfaces of boards a few inches from the
glass.  There was no fireplace, no furniture; there was nothing:
besides the cobwebs and the dust, the four men were the only objects
there which were not a part of the structure.

Strange enough they looked in the yellow light of the candle.  The
one who had so reluctantly alighted was especially spectacular--he
might have been called sensational.  He was of middle age, heavily
built, deep chested and broad shouldered.  Looking at his figure, one
would have said that he had a giant's strength; at his features, that
he would use it like a giant.  He was clean shaven, his hair rather
closely cropped and gray.  His low forehead was seamed with wrinkles
above the eyes, and over the nose these became vertical.  The heavy
black brows followed the same law, saved from meeting only by an
upward turn at what would otherwise have been the point of contact.
Deeply sunken beneath these, glowed in the obscure light a pair of
eyes of uncertain color, but obviously enough too small.  There was
something forbidding in their expression, which was not bettered by
the cruel mouth and wide jaw.  The nose was well enough, as noses go;
one does not expect much of noses.  All that was sinister in the
man's face seemed accentuated by an unnatural pallor--he appeared
altogether bloodless.

The appearance of the other men was sufficiently commonplace:  they
were such persons as one meets and forgets that he met.  All were
younger than the man described, between whom and the eldest of the
others, who stood apart, there was apparently no kindly feeling.
They avoided looking at each other.

"Gentlemen," said the man holding the candle and keys, "I believe
everything is right.  Are you ready, Mr. Rosser?"

The man standing apart from the group bowed and smiled.

"And you, Mr. Grossmith?"

The heavy man bowed and scowled.

"You will be pleased to remove your outer clothing."

Their hats, coats, waistcoats and neckwear were soon removed and
thrown outside the door, in the passage.  The man with the candle now
nodded, and the fourth man--he who had urged Grossmith to leave the
wagon--produced from the pocket of his overcoat two long, murderous-
looking bowie-knives, which he drew now from their leather scabbards.

"They are exactly alike," he said, presenting one to each of the two
principals--for by this time the dullest observer would have
understood the nature of this meeting.  It was to be a duel to the
death.

Each combatant took a knife, examined it critically near the candle
and tested the strength of blade and handle across his lifted knee.
Their persons were then searched in turn, each by the second of the
other.

"If it is agreeable to you, Mr. Grossmith," said the man holding the
light, "you will place yourself in that corner."

He indicated the angle of the room farthest from the door, whither
Grossmith retired, his second parting from him with a grasp of the
hand which had nothing of cordiality in it.  In the angle nearest the
door Mr. Rosser stationed himself, and after a whispered consultation
his second left him, joining the other near the door.  At that moment
the candle was suddenly extinguished, leaving all in profound
darkness.  This may have been done by a draught from the opened door;
whatever the cause, the effect was startling.

"Gentlemen," said a voice which sounded strangely unfamiliar in the
altered condition affecting the relations of the senses--"gentlemen,
you will not move until you hear the closing of the outer door."

A sound of trampling ensued, then the closing of the inner door; and
finally the outer one closed with a concussion which shook the entire
building.

A few minutes afterward a belated farmer's boy met a light wagon
which was being driven furiously toward the town of Marshall.  He
declared that behind the two figures on the front seat stood a third,
with its hands upon the bowed shoulders of the others, who appeared
to struggle vainly to free themselves from its grasp.  This figure,
unlike the others, was clad in white, and had undoubtedly boarded the
wagon as it passed the haunted house.  As the lad could boast a
considerable former experience with the supernatural thereabouts his
word had the weight justly due to the testimony of an expert.  The
story (in connection with the next day's events) eventually appeared
in the Advance, with some slight literary embellishments and a
concluding intimation that the gentlemen referred to would be allowed
the use of the paper's columns for their version of the night's
adventure.  But the privilege remained without a claimant.

II

The events that led up to this "duel in the dark" were simple enough.
One evening three young men of the town of Marshall were sitting in a
quiet corner of the porch of the village hotel, smoking and
discussing such matters as three educated young men of a Southern
village would naturally find interesting.  Their names were King,
Sancher and Rosser.  At a little distance, within easy hearing, but
taking no part in the conversation, sat a fourth.  He was a stranger
to the others.  They merely knew that on his arrival by the stage-
coach that afternoon he had written in the hotel register the name
Robert Grossmith.  He had not been observed to speak to anyone except
the hotel clerk.  He seemed, indeed, singularly fond of his own
company--or, as the PERSONNEL of the Advance expressed it, "grossly
addicted to evil associations."  But then it should be said in
justice to the stranger that the PERSONNEL was himself of a too
convivial disposition fairly to judge one differently gifted, and
had, moreover, experienced a slight rebuff in an effort at an
"interview."

"I hate any kind of deformity in a woman," said King, "whether
natural or--acquired.  I have a theory that any physical defect has
its correlative mental and moral defect."

"I infer, then," said Rosser, gravely, "that a lady lacking the moral
advantage of a nose would find the struggle to become Mrs. King an
arduous enterprise."

"Of course you may put it that way," was the reply; "but, seriously,
I once threw over a most charming girl on learning quite accidentally
that she had suffered amputation of a toe.  My conduct was brutal if
you like, but if I had married that girl I should have been miserable
for life and should have made her so."

"Whereas," said Sancher, with a light laugh, "by marrying a gentleman
of more liberal views she escaped with a parted throat."

"Ah, you know to whom I refer.  Yes, she married Manton, but I don't
know about his liberality; I'm not sure but he cut her throat because
he discovered that she lacked that excellent thing in woman, the
middle toe of the right foot."

"Look at that chap!" said Rosser in a low voice, his eyes fixed upon
the stranger.

That chap was obviously listening intently to the conversation.

"Damn his impudence!" muttered King--"what ought we to do?"

"That's an easy one," Rosser replied, rising.  "Sir," he continued,
addressing the stranger, "I think it would be better if you would
remove your chair to the other end of the veranda.  The presence of
gentlemen is evidently an unfamiliar situation to you."

The man sprang to his feet and strode forward with clenched hands,
his face white with rage.  All were now standing.  Sancher stepped
between the belligerents.

"You are hasty and unjust," he said to Rosser; "this gentleman has
done nothing to deserve such language."

But Rosser would not withdraw a word.  By the custom of the country
and the time there could be but one outcome to the quarrel.

"I demand the satisfaction due to a gentleman," said the stranger,
who had become more calm.  "I have not an acquaintance in this
region.  Perhaps you, sir," bowing to Sancher, "will be kind enough
to represent me in this matter."

Sancher accepted the trust--somewhat reluctantly it must be
confessed, for the man's appearance and manner were not at all to his
liking.  King, who during the colloquy had hardly removed his eyes
from the stranger's face and had not spoken a word, consented with a
nod to act for Rosser, and the upshot of it was that, the principals
having retired, a meeting was arranged for the next evening.  The
nature of the arrangements has been already disclosed.  The duel with
knives in a dark room was once a commoner feature of Southwestern
life than it is likely to be again.  How thin a veneering of
"chivalry" covered the essential brutality of the code under which
such encounters were possible we shall see.

III

In the blaze of a midsummer noonday the old Manton house was hardly
true to its traditions.  It was of the earth, earthy.  The sunshine
caressed it warmly and affectionately, with evident disregard of its
bad reputation.  The grass greening all the expanse in its front
seemed to grow, not rankly, but with a natural and joyous exuberance,
and the weeds blossomed quite like plants.  Full of charming lights
and shadows and populous with pleasant-voiced birds, the neglected
shade trees no longer struggled to run away, but bent reverently
beneath their burdens of sun and song.  Even in the glassless upper
windows was an expression of peace and contentment, due to the light
within.  Over the stony fields the visible heat danced with a lively
tremor incompatible with the gravity which is an attribute of the
supernatural.

Such was the aspect under which the place presented itself to Sheriff
Adams and two other men who had come out from Marshall to look at it.
One of these men was Mr. King, the sheriff's deputy; the other, whose
name was Brewer, was a brother of the late Mrs. Manton.  Under a
beneficent law of the State relating to property which has been for a
certain period abandoned by an owner whose residence cannot be
ascertained, the sheriff was legal custodian of the Manton farm and
appurtenances thereunto belonging.  His present visit was in mere
perfunctory compliance with some order of a court in which Mr. Brewer
had an action to get possession of the property as heir to his
deceased sister.  By a mere coincidence, the visit was made on the
day after the night that Deputy King had unlocked the house for
another and very different purpose.  His presence now was not of his
own choosing:  he had been ordered to accompany his superior and at
the moment could think of nothing more prudent than simulated
alacrity in obedience to the command.

Carelessly opening the front door, which to his surprise was not
locked, the sheriff was amazed to see, lying on the floor of the
passage into which it opened, a confused heap of men's apparel.
Examination showed it to consist of two hats, and the same number of
coats, waistcoats and scarves, all in a remarkably good state of
preservation, albeit somewhat defiled by the dust in which they lay.
Mr. Brewer was equally astonished, but Mr. King's emotion is not of
record.  With a new and lively interest in his own actions the
sheriff now unlatched and pushed open a door on the right, and the
three entered.  The room was apparently vacant--no; as their eyes
became accustomed to the dimmer light something was visible in the
farthest angle of the wall.  It was a human figure--that of a man
crouching close in the corner.  Something in the attitude made the
intruders halt when they had barely passed the threshold.  The figure
more and more clearly defined itself.  The man was upon one knee, his
back in the angle of the wall, his shoulders elevated to the level of
his ears, his hands before his face, palms outward, the fingers
spread and crooked like claws; the white face turned upward on the
retracted neck had an expression of unutterable fright, the mouth
half open, the eyes incredibly expanded.  He was stone dead.  Yet,
with the exception of a bowie-knife, which had evidently fallen from
his own hand, not another object was in the room.

In thick dust that covered the floor were some confused footprints
near the door and along the wall through which it opened.  Along one
of the adjoining walls, too, past the boarded-up windows, was the
trail made by the man himself in reaching his corner.  Instinctively
in approaching the body the three men followed that trail.  The
sheriff grasped one of the outthrown arms; it was as rigid as iron,
and the application of a gentle force rocked the entire body without
altering the relation of its parts.  Brewer, pale with excitement,
gazed intently into the distorted face.  "God of mercy!" he suddenly
cried, "it is Manton!"

"You are right," said King, with an evident attempt at calmness:  "I
knew Manton.  He then wore a full beard and his hair long, but this
is he."

He might have added:  "I recognized him when he challenged Rosser.  I
told Rosser and Sancher who he was before we played him this horrible
trick.  When Rosser left this dark room at our heels, forgetting his
outer clothing in the excitement, and driving away with us in his
shirt sleeves--all through the discreditable proceedings we knew whom
we were dealing with, murderer and coward that he was!"

But nothing of this did Mr. King say.  With his better light he was
trying to penetrate the mystery of the man's death.  That he had not
once moved from the corner where he had been stationed; that his
posture was that of neither attack nor defense; that he had dropped
his weapon; that he had obviously perished of sheer horror of
something that he saw--these were circumstances which Mr. King's
disturbed intelligence could not rightly comprehend.

Groping in intellectual darkness for a clew to his maze of doubt, his
gaze, directed mechanically downward in the way of one who ponders
momentous matters, fell upon something which, there, in the light of
day and in the presence of living companions, affected him with
terror.  In the dust of years that lay thick upon the floor--leading
from the door by which they had entered, straight across the room to
within a yard of Manton's crouching corpse--were three parallel lines
of footprints--light but definite impressions of bare feet, the outer
ones those of small children, the inner a woman's.  From the point at
which they ended they did not return; they pointed all one way.
Brewer, who had observed them at the same moment, was leaning forward
in an attitude of rapt attention, horribly pale.

"Look at that!" he cried, pointing with both hands at the nearest
print of the woman's right foot, where she had apparently stopped and
stood.  "The middle toe is missing--it was Gertrude!"

Gertrude was the late Mrs. Manton, sister to Mr. Brewer.



JOHN MORTONSON'S FUNERAL {1}



John Mortonson was dead:  his lines in "the tragedy 'Man'" had all
been spoken and he had left the stage.

The body rested in a fine mahogany coffin fitted with a plate of
glass.  All arrangements for the funeral had been so well attended to
that had the deceased known he would doubtless have approved.  The
face, as it showed under the glass, was not disagreeable to look
upon:  it bore a faint smile, and as the death had been painless, had
not been distorted beyond the repairing power of the undertaker.  At
two o'clock of the afternoon the friends were to assemble to pay
their last tribute of respect to one who had no further need of
friends and respect.  The surviving members of the family came
severally every few minutes to the casket and wept above the placid
features beneath the glass.  This did them no good; it did no good to
John Mortonson; but in the presence of death reason and philosophy
are silent.

As the hour of two approached the friends began to arrive and after
offering such consolation to the stricken relatives as the
proprieties of the occasion required, solemnly seated themselves
about the room with an augmented consciousness of their importance in
the scheme funereal.  Then the minister came, and in that
overshadowing presence the lesser lights went into eclipse.  His
entrance was followed by that of the widow, whose lamentations filled
the room.  She approached the casket and after leaning her face
against the cold glass for a moment was gently led to a seat near her
daughter.  Mournfully and low the man of God began his eulogy of the
dead, and his doleful voice, mingled with the sobbing which it was
its purpose to stimulate and sustain, rose and fell, seemed to come
and go, like the sound of a sullen sea.  The gloomy day grew darker
as he spoke; a curtain of cloud underspread the sky and a few drops
of rain fell audibly.  It seemed as if all nature were weeping for
John Mortonson.

When the minister had finished his eulogy with prayer a hymn was sung
and the pall-bearers took their places beside the bier.  As the last
notes of the hymn died away the widow ran to the coffin, cast herself
upon it and sobbed hysterically.  Gradually, however, she yielded to
dissuasion, becoming more composed; and as the minister was in the
act of leading her away her eyes sought the face of the dead beneath
the glass.  She threw up her arms and with a shriek fell backward
insensible.

The mourners sprang forward to the coffin, the friends followed, and
as the clock on the mantel solemnly struck three all were staring
down upon the face of John Mortonson, deceased.

They turned away, sick and faint.  One man, trying in his terror to
escape the awful sight, stumbled against the coffin so heavily as to
knock away one of its frail supports.  The coffin fell to the floor,
the glass was shattered to bits by the concussion.

From the opening crawled John Mortonson's cat, which lazily leapt to
the floor, sat up, tranquilly wiped its crimson muzzle with a
forepaw, then walked with dignity from the room.



THE REALM OF THE UNREAL



For a part of the distance between Auburn and Newcastle the road--
first on one side of a creek and then on the other--occupies the
whole bottom of the ravine, being partly cut out of the steep
hillside, and partly built up with bowlders removed from the creek-
bed by the miners.  The hills are wooded, the course of the ravine is
sinuous.  In a dark night careful driving is required in order not to
go off into the water.  The night that I have in memory was dark, the
creek a torrent, swollen by a recent storm.  I had driven up from
Newcastle and was within about a mile of Auburn in the darkest and
narrowest part of the ravine, looking intently ahead of my horse for
the roadway.  Suddenly I saw a man almost under the animal's nose,
and reined in with a jerk that came near setting the creature upon
its haunches.

"I beg your pardon," I said; "I did not see you, sir."

"You could hardly be expected to see me," the man replied, civilly,
approaching the side of the vehicle; "and the noise of the creek
prevented my hearing you."

I at once recognized the voice, although five years had passed since
I had heard it.  I was not particularly well pleased to hear it now.

"You are Dr. Dorrimore, I think," said I.

"Yes; and you are my good friend Mr. Manrich.  I am more than glad to
see you--the excess," he added, with a light laugh, "being due to the
fact that I am going your way, and naturally expect an invitation to
ride with you."

"Which I extend with all my heart."

That was not altogether true.

Dr. Dorrimore thanked me as he seated himself beside me, and I drove
cautiously forward, as before.  Doubtless it is fancy, but it seems
to me now that the remaining distance was made in a chill fog; that I
was uncomfortably cold; that the way was longer than ever before, and
the town, when we reached it, cheerless, forbidding, and desolate.
It must have been early in the evening, yet I do not recollect a
light in any of the houses nor a living thing in the streets.
Dorrimore explained at some length how he happened to be there, and
where he had been during the years that had elapsed since I had seen
him.  I recall the fact of the narrative, but none of the facts
narrated.  He had been in foreign countries and had returned--this is
all that my memory retains, and this I already knew.  As to myself I
cannot remember that I spoke a word, though doubtless I did.  Of one
thing I am distinctly conscious:  the man's presence at my side was
strangely distasteful and disquieting--so much so that when I at last
pulled up under the lights of the Putnam House I experienced a sense
of having escaped some spiritual peril of a nature peculiarly
forbidding.  This sense of relief was somewhat modified by the
discovery that Dr. Dorrimore was living at the same hotel.

II

In partial explanation of my feelings regarding Dr. Dorrimore I will
relate briefly the circumstances under which I had met him some years
before.  One evening a half-dozen men of whom I was one were sitting
in the library of the Bohemian Club in San Francisco.  The
conversation had turned to the subject of sleight-of-hand and the
feats of the prestidigitateurs, one of whom was then exhibiting at a
local theatre.

"These fellows are pretenders in a double sense," said one of the
party; "they can do nothing which it is worth one's while to be made
a dupe by.  The humblest wayside juggler in India could mystify them
to the verge of lunacy."

"For example, how?" asked another, lighting a cigar.

"For example, by all their common and familiar performances--throwing
large objects into the air which never come down; causing plants to
sprout, grow visibly and blossom, in bare ground chosen by
spectators; putting a man into a wicker basket, piercing him through
and through with a sword while he shrieks and bleeds, and then--the
basket being opened nothing is there; tossing the free end of a
silken ladder into the air, mounting it and disappearing."

"Nonsense!" I said, rather uncivilly, I fear.  "You surely do not
believe such things?"

"Certainly not:  I have seen them too often."

"But I do," said a journalist of considerable local fame as a
picturesque reporter.  "I have so frequently related them that
nothing but observation could shake my conviction.  Why, gentlemen, I
have my own word for it."

Nobody laughed--all were looking at something behind me.  Turning in
my seat I saw a man in evening dress who had just entered the room.
He was exceedingly dark, almost swarthy, with a thin face, black-
bearded to the lips, an abundance of coarse black hair in some
disorder, a high nose and eyes that glittered with as soulless an
expression as those of a cobra.  One of the group rose and introduced
him as Dr. Dorrimore, of Calcutta.  As each of us was presented in
turn he acknowledged the fact with a profound bow in the Oriental
manner, but with nothing of Oriental gravity.  His smile impressed me
as cynical and a trifle contemptuous.  His whole demeanor I can
describe only as disagreeably engaging.

His presence led the conversation into other channels.  He said
little--I do not recall anything of what he did say.  I thought his
voice singularly rich and melodious, but it affected me in the same
way as his eyes and smile.  In a few minutes I rose to go.  He also
rose and put on his overcoat.

"Mr. Manrich," he said, "I am going your way."

"The devil you are!" I thought.  "How do you know which way I am
going?"  Then I said, "I shall be pleased to have your company."

We left the building together.  No cabs were in sight, the street
cars had gone to bed, there was a full moon and the cool night air
was delightful; we walked up the California street hill.  I took that
direction thinking he would naturally wish to take another, toward
one of the hotels.

"You do not believe what is told of the Hindu jugglers," he said
abruptly.

"How do you know that?" I asked.

Without replying he laid his hand lightly upon my arm and with the
other pointed to the stone sidewalk directly in front.  There, almost
at our feet, lay the dead body of a man, the face upturned and white
in the moonlight!  A sword whose hilt sparkled with gems stood fixed
and upright in the breast; a pool of blood had collected on the
stones of the sidewalk.

I was startled and terrified--not only by what I saw, but by the
circumstances under which I saw it.  Repeatedly during our ascent of
the hill my eyes, I thought, had traversed the whole reach of that
sidewalk, from street to street.  How could they have been insensible
to this dreadful object now so conspicuous in the white moonlight?

As my dazed faculties cleared I observed that the body was in evening
dress; the overcoat thrown wide open revealed the dress-coat, the
white tie, the broad expanse of shirt front pierced by the sword.
And--horrible revelation!--the face, except for its pallor, was that
of my companion!  It was to the minutest detail of dress and feature
Dr. Dorrimore himself.  Bewildered and horrified, I turned to look
for the living man.  He was nowhere visible, and with an added terror
I retired from the place, down the hill in the direction whence I had
come.  I had taken but a few strides when a strong grasp upon my
shoulder arrested me.  I came near crying out with terror:  the dead
man, the sword still fixed in his breast, stood beside me!  Pulling
out the sword with his disengaged hand, he flung it from him, the
moonlight glinting upon the jewels of its hilt and the unsullied
steel of its blade.  It fell with a clang upon the sidewalk ahead
and--vanished!  The man, swarthy as before, relaxed his grasp upon my
shoulder and looked at me with the same cynical regard that I had
observed on first meeting him.  The dead have not that look--it
partly restored me, and turning my head backward, I saw the smooth
white expanse of sidewalk, unbroken from street to street.

"What is all this nonsense, you devil?" I demanded, fiercely enough,
though weak and trembling in every limb.

"It is what some are pleased to call jugglery," he answered, with a
light, hard laugh.

He turned down Dupont street and I saw him no more until we met in
the Auburn ravine.

III

On the day after my second meeting with Dr. Dorrimore I did not see
him:  the clerk in the Putnam House explained that a slight illness
confined him to his rooms.  That afternoon at the railway station I
was surprised and made happy by the unexpected arrival of Miss
Margaret Corray and her mother, from Oakland.

This is not a love story.  I am no storyteller, and love as it is
cannot be portrayed in a literature dominated and enthralled by the
debasing tyranny which "sentences letters" in the name of the Young
Girl.  Under the Young Girl's blighting reign--or rather under the
rule of those false Ministers of the Censure who have appointed
themselves to the custody of her welfare--love


   veils her sacred fires,
And, unaware, Morality expires,


famished upon the sifted meal and distilled water of a prudish
purveyance.

Let it suffice that Miss Corray and I were engaged in marriage.  She
and her mother went to the hotel at which I lived, and for two weeks
I saw her daily.  That I was happy needs hardly be said; the only bar
to my perfect enjoyment of those golden days was the presence of Dr.
Dorrimore, whom I had felt compelled to introduce to the ladies.

By them he was evidently held in favor.  What could I say?  I knew
absolutely nothing to his discredit.  His manners were those of a
cultivated and considerate gentleman; and to women a man's manner is
the man.  On one or two occasions when I saw Miss Corray walking with
him I was furious, and once had the indiscretion to protest.  Asked
for reasons, I had none to give and fancied I saw in her expression a
shade of contempt for the vagaries of a jealous mind.  In time I grew
morose and consciously disagreeable, and resolved in my madness to
return to San Francisco the next day.  Of this, however, I said
nothing.

IV

There was at Auburn an old, abandoned cemetery.  It was nearly in the
heart of the town, yet by night it was as gruesome a place as the
most dismal of human moods could crave.  The railings about the plats
were prostrate, decayed, or altogether gone.  Many of the graves were
sunken, from others grew sturdy pines, whose roots had committed
unspeakable sin.  The headstones were fallen and broken across;
brambles overran the ground; the fence was mostly gone, and cows and
pigs wandered there at will; the place was a dishonor to the living,
a calumny on the dead, a blasphemy against God.

The evening of the day on which I had taken my madman's resolution to
depart in anger from all that was dear to me found me in that
congenial spot.  The light of the half moon fell ghostly through the
foliage of trees in spots and patches, revealing much that was
unsightly, and the black shadows seemed conspiracies withholding to
the proper time revelations of darker import.  Passing along what had
been a gravel path, I saw emerging from shadow the figure of Dr.
Dorrimore.  I was myself in shadow, and stood still with clenched
hands and set teeth, trying to control the impulse to leap upon and
strangle him.  A moment later a second figure joined him and clung to
his arm.  It was Margaret Corray!

I cannot rightly relate what occurred.  I know that I sprang forward,
bent upon murder; I know that I was found in the gray of the morning,
bruised and bloody, with finger marks upon my throat.  I was taken to
the Putnam House, where for days I lay in a delirium.  All this I
know, for I have been told.  And of my own knowledge I know that when
consciousness returned with convalescence I sent for the clerk of the
hotel.

"Are Mrs. Corray and her daughter still here?" I asked.

"What name did you say?"

"Corray."

"Nobody of that name has been here."

"I beg you will not trifle with me," I said petulantly.  "You see
that I am all right now; tell me the truth."

"I give you my word," he replied with evident sincerity, "we have had
no guests of that name."

His words stupefied me.  I lay for a few moments in silence; then I
asked:  "Where is Dr. Dorrimore?"

"He left on the morning of your fight and has not been heard of
since.  It was a rough deal he gave you."

V

Such are the facts of this case.  Margaret Corray is now my wife.
She has never seen Auburn, and during the weeks whose history as it
shaped itself in my brain I have endeavored to relate, was living at
her home in Oakland, wondering where her lover was and why he did not
write.  The other day I saw in the Baltimore Sun the following
paragraph:

"Professor Valentine Dorrimore, the hypnotist, had a large audience
last night.  The lecturer, who has lived most of his life in India,
gave some marvelous exhibitions of his power, hypnotizing anyone who
chose to submit himself to the experiment, by merely looking at him.
In fact, he twice hypnotized the entire audience (reporters alone
exempted), making all entertain the most extraordinary illusions.
The most valuable feature of the lecture was the disclosure of the
methods of the Hindu jugglers in their famous performances, familiar
in the mouths of travelers.  The professor declares that these
thaumaturgists have acquired such skill in the art which he learned
at their feet that they perform their miracles by simply throwing the
'spectators' into a state of hypnosis and telling them what to see
and hear.  His assertion that a peculiarly susceptible subject may be
kept in the realm of the unreal for weeks, months, and even years,
dominated by whatever delusions and hallucinations the operator may
from time to time suggest, is a trifle disquieting."



JOHN BARTINE'S WATCH
A STORY BY A PHYSICIAN



"The exact time?  Good God! my friend, why do you insist?  One would
think--but what does it matter; it is easily bedtime--isn't that near
enough?  But, here, if you must set your watch, take mine and see for
yourself."

With that he detached his watch--a tremendously heavy, old-fashioned
one--from the chain, and handed it to me; then turned away, and
walking across the room to a shelf of books, began an examination of
their backs.  His agitation and evident distress surprised me; they
appeared reasonless.  Having set my watch by his, I stepped over to
where he stood and said, "Thank you."

As he took his timepiece and reattached it to the guard I observed
that his hands were unsteady.  With a tact upon which I greatly
prided myself, I sauntered carelessly to the sideboard and took some
brandy and water; then, begging his pardon for my thoughtlessness,
asked him to have some and went back to my seat by the fire, leaving
him to help himself, as was our custom.  He did so and presently
joined me at the hearth, as tranquil as ever.

This odd little incident occurred in my apartment, where John Bartine
was passing an evening.  We had dined together at the club, had come
home in a cab and--in short, everything had been done in the most
prosaic way; and why John Bartine should break in upon the natural
and established order of things to make himself spectacular with a
display of emotion, apparently for his own entertainment, I could
nowise understand.  The more I thought of it, while his brilliant
conversational gifts were commending themselves to my inattention,
the more curious I grew, and of course had no difficulty in
persuading myself that my curiosity was friendly solicitude.  That is
the disguise that curiosity usually assumes to evade resentment.  So
I ruined one of the finest sentences of his disregarded monologue by
cutting it short without ceremony.

"John Bartine," I said, "you must try to forgive me if I am wrong,
but with the light that I have at present I cannot concede your right
to go all to pieces when asked the time o' night.  I cannot admit
that it is proper to experience a mysterious reluctance to look your
own watch in the face and to cherish in my presence, without
explanation, painful emotions which are denied to me, and which are
none of my business."

To this ridiculous speech Bartine made no immediate reply, but sat
looking gravely into the fire.  Fearing that I had offended I was
about to apologize and beg him to think no more about the matter,
when looking me calmly in the eyes he said:

"My dear fellow, the levity of your manner does not at all disguise
the hideous impudence of your demand; but happily I had already
decided to tell you what you wish to know, and no manifestation of
your unworthiness to hear it shall alter my decision.  Be good enough
to give me your attention and you shall hear all about the matter.

"This watch," he said, "had been in my family for three generations
before it fell to me.  Its original owner, for whom it was made, was
my great-grandfather, Bramwell Olcott Bartine, a wealthy planter of
Colonial Virginia, and as stanch a Tory as ever lay awake nights
contriving new kinds of maledictions for the head of Mr. Washington,
and new methods of aiding and abetting good King George.  One day
this worthy gentleman had the deep misfortune to perform for his
cause a service of capital importance which was not recognized as
legitimate by those who suffered its disadvantages.  It does not
matter what it was, but among its minor consequences was my excellent
ancestor's arrest one night in his own house by a party of Mr.
Washington's rebels.  He was permitted to say farewell to his weeping
family, and was then marched away into the darkness which swallowed
him up forever.  Not the slenderest clew to his fate was ever found.
After the war the most diligent inquiry and the offer of large
rewards failed to turn up any of his captors or any fact concerning
his disappearance.  He had disappeared, and that was all."

Something in Bartine's manner that was not in his words--I hardly
knew what it was--prompted me to ask:

"What is your view of the matter--of the justice of it?"

"My view of it," he flamed out, bringing his clenched hand down upon
the table as if he had been in a public house dicing with
blackguards--"my view of it is that it was a characteristically
dastardly assassination by that damned traitor, Washington, and his
ragamuffin rebels!"

For some minutes nothing was said:  Bartine was recovering his
temper, and I waited.  Then I said:

"Was that all?"

"No--there was something else.  A few weeks after my great-
grandfather's arrest his watch was found lying on the porch at the
front door of his dwelling.  It was wrapped in a sheet of letter
paper bearing the name of Rupert Bartine, his only son, my
grandfather.  I am wearing that watch."

Bartine paused.  His usually restless black eyes were staring fixedly
into the grate, a point of red light in each, reflected from the
glowing coals.  He seemed to have forgotten me.  A sudden threshing
of the branches of a tree outside one of the windows, and almost at
the same instant a rattle of rain against the glass, recalled him to
a sense of his surroundings.  A storm had risen, heralded by a single
gust of wind, and in a few moments the steady plash of the water on
the pavement was distinctly heard.  I hardly know why I relate this
incident; it seemed somehow to have a certain significance and
relevancy which I am unable now to discern.  It at least added an
element of seriousness, almost solemnity.  Bartine resumed:

"I have a singular feeling toward this watch--a kind of affection for
it; I like to have it about me, though partly from its weight, and
partly for a reason I shall now explain, I seldom carry it.  The
reason is this:  Every evening when I have it with me I feel an
unaccountable desire to open and consult it, even if I can think of
no reason for wishing to know the time.  But if I yield to it, the
moment my eyes rest upon the dial I am filled with a mysterious
apprehension--a sense of imminent calamity.  And this is the more
insupportable the nearer it is to eleven o'clock--by this watch, no
matter what the actual hour may be.  After the hands have registered
eleven the desire to look is gone; I am entirely indifferent.  Then I
can consult the thing as often as I like, with no more emotion than
you feel in looking at your own.  Naturally I have trained myself not
to look at that watch in the evening before eleven; nothing could
induce me.  Your insistence this evening upset me a trifle.  I felt
very much as I suppose an opium-eater might feel if his yearning for
his special and particular kind of hell were re-enforced by
opportunity and advice.

"Now that is my story, and I have told it in the interest of your
trumpery science; but if on any evening hereafter you observe me
wearing this damnable watch, and you have the thoughtfulness to ask
me the hour, I shall beg leave to put you to the inconvenience of
being knocked down."

His humor did not amuse me.  I could see that in relating his
delusion he was again somewhat disturbed.  His concluding smile was
positively ghastly, and his eyes had resumed something more than
their old restlessness; they shifted hither and thither about the
room with apparent aimlessness and I fancied had taken on a wild
expression, such as is sometimes observed in cases of dementia.
Perhaps this was my own imagination, but at any rate I was now
persuaded that my friend was afflicted with a most singular and
interesting monomania.  Without, I trust, any abatement of my
affectionate solicitude for him as a friend, I began to regard him as
a patient, rich in possibilities of profitable study.  Why not?  Had
he not described his delusion in the interest of science?  Ah, poor
fellow, he was doing more for science than he knew:  not only his
story but himself was in evidence.  I should cure him if I could, of
course, but first I should make a little experiment in psychology--
nay, the experiment itself might be a step in his restoration.

"That is very frank and friendly of you, Bartine," I said cordially,
"and I'm rather proud of your confidence.  It is all very odd,
certainly.  Do you mind showing me the watch?"

He detached it from his waistcoat, chain and all, and passed it to me
without a word.  The case was of gold, very thick and strong, and
singularly engraved.  After closely examining the dial and observing
that it was nearly twelve o'clock, I opened it at the back and was
interested to observe an inner case of ivory, upon which was painted
a miniature portrait in that exquisite and delicate manner which was
in vogue during the eighteenth century.

"Why, bless my soul!" I exclaimed, feeling a sharp artistic delight--
"how under the sun did you get that done?  I thought miniature
painting on ivory was a lost art."

"That," he replied, gravely smiling, "is not I; it is my excellent
great-grandfather, the late Bramwell Olcott Bartine, Esquire, of
Virginia.  He was younger then than later--about my age, in fact.  It
is said to resemble me; do you think so?"

"Resemble you?  I should say so!  Barring the costume, which I
supposed you to have assumed out of compliment to the art--or for
vraisemblance, so to say--and the no mustache, that portrait is you
in every feature, line, and expression."

No more was said at that time.  Bartine took a book from the table
and began reading.  I heard outside the incessant plash of the rain
in the street.  There were occasional hurried footfalls on the
sidewalks; and once a slower, heavier tread seemed to cease at my
door--a policeman, I thought, seeking shelter in the doorway.  The
boughs of the trees tapped significantly on the window panes, as if
asking for admittance.  I remember it all through these years and
years of a wiser, graver life.

Seeing myself unobserved, I took the old-fashioned key that dangled
from the chain and quickly turned back the hands of the watch a full
hour; then, closing the case, I handed Bartine his property and saw
him replace it on his person.

"I think you said," I began, with assumed carelessness, "that after
eleven the sight of the dial no longer affects you.  As it is now
nearly twelve"--looking at my own timepiece--"perhaps, if you don't
resent my pursuit of proof, you will look at it now."

He smiled good-humoredly, pulled out the watch again, opened it, and
instantly sprang to his feet with a cry that Heaven has not had the
mercy to permit me to forget!  His eyes, their blackness strikingly
intensified by the pallor of his face, were fixed upon the watch,
which he clutched in both hands.  For some time he remained in that
attitude without uttering another sound; then, in a voice that I
should not have recognized as his, he said:

"Damn you! it is two minutes to eleven!"

I was not unprepared for some such outbreak, and without rising
replied, calmly enough:

"I beg your pardon; I must have misread your watch in setting my own
by it."

He shut the case with a sharp snap and put the watch in his pocket.
He looked at me and made an attempt to smile, but his lower lip
quivered and he seemed unable to close his mouth.  His hands, also,
were shaking, and he thrust them, clenched, into the pockets of his
sack-coat.  The courageous spirit was manifestly endeavoring to
subdue the coward body.  The effort was too great; he began to sway
from side to side, as from vertigo, and before I could spring from my
chair to support him his knees gave way and he pitched awkwardly
forward and fell upon his face.  I sprang to assist him to rise; but
when John Bartine rises we shall all rise.

The post-mortem examination disclosed nothing; every organ was normal
and sound.  But when the body had been prepared for burial a faint
dark circle was seen to have developed around the neck; at least I
was so assured by several persons who said they saw it, but of my own
knowledge I cannot say if that was true.

Nor can I set limitations to the law of heredity.  I do not know that
in the spiritual world a sentiment or emotion may not survive the
heart that held it, and seek expression in a kindred life, ages
removed.  Surely, if I were to guess at the fate of Bramwell Olcott
Bartine, I should guess that he was hanged at eleven o'clock in the
evening, and that he had been allowed several hours in which to
prepare for the change.

As to John Bartine, my friend, my patient for five minutes, and--
Heaven forgive me!--my victim for eternity, there is no more to say.
He is buried, and his watch with him--I saw to that.  May God rest
his soul in Paradise, and the soul of his Virginian ancestor, if,
indeed, they are two souls.



THE DAMNED THING



I--ONE DOES NOT ALWAYS EAT WHAT IS ON THE TABLE

By the light of a tallow candle which had been placed on one end of a
rough table a man was reading something written in a book.  It was an
old account book, greatly worn; and the writing was not, apparently,
very legible, for the man sometimes held the page close to the flame
of the candle to get a stronger light on it.  The shadow of the book
would then throw into obscurity a half of the room, darkening a
number of faces and figures; for besides the reader, eight other men
were present.  Seven of them sat against the rough log walls, silent,
motionless, and the room being small, not very far from the table.
By extending an arm any one of them could have touched the eighth
man, who lay on the table, face upward, partly covered by a sheet,
his arms at his sides.  He was dead.

The man with the book was not reading aloud, and no one spoke; all
seemed to be waiting for something to occur; the dead man only was
without expectation.  From the blank darkness outside came in,
through the aperture that served for a window, all the ever
unfamiliar noises of night in the wilderness--the long nameless note
of a distant coyote; the stilly pulsing thrill of tireless insects in
trees; strange cries of night birds, so different from those of the
birds of day; the drone of great blundering beetles, and all that
mysterious chorus of small sounds that seem always to have been but
half heard when they have suddenly ceased, as if conscious of an
indiscretion.  But nothing of all this was noted in that company; its
members were not overmuch addicted to idle interest in matters of no
practical importance; that was obvious in every line of their rugged
faces--obvious even in the dim light of the single candle.  They were
evidently men of the vicinity--farmers and woodsmen.

The person reading was a trifle different; one would have said of him
that he was of the world, worldly, albeit there was that in his
attire which attested a certain fellowship with the organisms of his
environment.  His coat would hardly have passed muster in San
Francisco; his foot-gear was not of urban origin, and the hat that
lay by him on the floor (he was the only one uncovered) was such that
if one had considered it as an article of mere personal adornment he
would have missed its meaning.  In countenance the man was rather
prepossessing, with just a hint of sternness; though that he may have
assumed or cultivated, as appropriate to one in authority.  For he
was a coroner.  It was by virtue of his office that he had possession
of the book in which he was reading; it had been found among the dead
man's effects--in his cabin, where the inquest was now taking place.

When the coroner had finished reading he put the book into his breast
pocket.  At that moment the door was pushed open and a young man
entered.  He, clearly, was not of mountain birth and breeding:  he
was clad as those who dwell in cities.  His clothing was dusty,
however, as from travel.  He had, in fact, been riding hard to attend
the inquest.

The coroner nodded; no one else greeted him.

"We have waited for you," said the coroner.  "It is necessary to have
done with this business to-night."

The young man smiled.  "I am sorry to have kept you," he said.  "I
went away, not to evade your summons, but to post to my newspaper an
account of what I suppose I am called back to relate."

The coroner smiled.

"The account that you posted to your newspaper," he said, "differs,
probably, from that which you will give here under oath."

"That," replied the other, rather hotly and with a visible flush, "is
as you please.  I used manifold paper and have a copy of what I sent.
It was not written as news, for it is incredible, but as fiction.  It
may go as a part of my testimony under oath."

"But you say it is incredible."

"That is nothing to you, sir, if I also swear that it is true."

The coroner was silent for a time, his eyes upon the floor.  The men
about the sides of the cabin talked in whispers, but seldom withdrew
their gaze from the face of the corpse.  Presently the coroner lifted
his eyes and said:  "We will resume the inquest."

The men removed their hats.  The witness was sworn.

"What is your name?" the coroner asked.

"William Harker."

"Age?"

"Twenty-seven."

"You knew the deceased, Hugh Morgan?"

"Yes."

"You were with him when he died?"

"Near him."

"How did that happen--your presence, I mean?"

"I was visiting him at this place to shoot and fish.  A part of my
purpose, however, was to study him and his odd, solitary way of life.
He seemed a good model for a character in fiction.  I sometimes write
stories."

"I sometimes read them."

"Thank you."

"Stories in general--not yours."

Some of the jurors laughed.  Against a sombre background humor shows
high lights.  Soldiers in the intervals of battle laugh easily, and a
jest in the death chamber conquers by surprise.

"Relate the circumstances of this man's death," said the coroner.
"You may use any notes or memoranda that you please."

The witness understood.  Pulling a manuscript from his breast pocket
he held it near the candle and turning the leaves until he found the
passage that he wanted began to read.

II--WHAT MAY HAPPEN IN A FIELD OF WILD OATS

" . . . The sun had hardly risen when we left the house.  We were
looking for quail, each with a shotgun, but we had only one dog.
Morgan said that our best ground was beyond a certain ridge that he
pointed out, and we crossed it by a trail through the chaparral.  On
the other side was comparatively level ground, thickly covered with
wild oats.  As we emerged from the chaparral Morgan was but a few
yards in advance.  Suddenly we heard, at a little distance to our
right and partly in front, a noise as of some animal thrashing about
in the bushes, which we could see were violently agitated.

"'We've started a deer,' I said.  'I wish we had brought a rifle.'

"Morgan, who had stopped and was intently watching the agitated
chaparral, said nothing, but had cocked both barrels of his gun and
was holding it in readiness to aim.  I thought him a trifle excited,
which surprised me, for he had a reputation for exceptional coolness,
even in moments of sudden and imminent peril.

"'O, come,' I said.  'You are not going to fill up a deer with quail-
shot, are you?'

"Still he did not reply; but catching a sight of his face as he
turned it slightly toward me I was struck by the intensity of his
look.  Then I understood that we had serious business in hand and my
first conjecture was that we had 'jumped' a grizzly.  I advanced to
Morgan's side, cocking my piece as I moved.

"The bushes were now quiet and the sounds had ceased, but Morgan was
as attentive to the place as before.

"'What is it?  What the devil is it?' I asked.

"'That Damned Thing!' he replied, without turning his head.  His
voice was husky and unnatural.  He trembled visibly.

"I was about to speak further, when I observed the wild oats near the
place of the disturbance moving in the most inexplicable way.  I can
hardly describe it.  It seemed as if stirred by a streak of wind,
which not only bent it, but pressed it down--crushed it so that it
did not rise; and this movement was slowly prolonging itself directly
toward us.

"Nothing that I had ever seen had affected me so strangely as this
unfamiliar and unaccountable phenomenon, yet I am unable to recall
any sense of fear.  I remember--and tell it here because, singularly
enough, I recollected it then--that once in looking carelessly out of
an open window I momentarily mistook a small tree close at hand for
one of a group of larger trees at a little distance away.  It looked
the same size as the others, but being more distinctly and sharply
defined in mass and detail seemed out of harmony with them.  It was a
mere falsification of the law of aerial perspective, but it startled,
almost terrified me.  We so rely upon the orderly operation of
familiar natural laws that any seeming suspension of them is noted as
a menace to our safety, a warning of unthinkable calamity.  So now
the apparently causeless movement of the herbage and the slow,
undeviating approach of the line of disturbance were distinctly
disquieting.  My companion appeared actually frightened, and I could
hardly credit my senses when I saw him suddenly throw his gun to his
shoulder and fire both barrels at the agitated grain!  Before the
smoke of the discharge had cleared away I heard a loud savage cry--a
scream like that of a wild animal--and flinging his gun upon the
ground Morgan sprang away and ran swiftly from the spot.  At the same
instant I was thrown violently to the ground by the impact of
something unseen in the smoke--some soft, heavy substance that seemed
thrown against me with great force.

"Before I could get upon my feet and recover my gun, which seemed to
have been struck from my hands, I heard Morgan crying out as if in
mortal agony, and mingling with his cries were such hoarse, savage
sounds as one hears from fighting dogs.  Inexpressibly terrified, I
struggled to my feet and looked in the direction of Morgan's retreat;
and may Heaven in mercy spare me from another sight like that!  At a
distance of less than thirty yards was my friend, down upon one knee,
his head thrown back at a frightful angle, hatless, his long hair in
disorder and his whole body in violent movement from side to side,
backward and forward.  His right arm was lifted and seemed to lack
the hand--at least, I could see none.  The other arm was invisible.
At times, as my memory now reports this extraordinary scene, I could
discern but a part of his body; it was as if he had been partly
blotted out--I cannot otherwise express it--then a shifting of his
position would bring it all into view again.

"All this must have occurred within a few seconds, yet in that time
Morgan assumed all the postures of a determined wrestler vanquished
by superior weight and strength.  I saw nothing but him, and him not
always distinctly.  During the entire incident his shouts and curses
were heard, as if through an enveloping uproar of such sounds of rage
and fury as I had never heard from the throat of man or brute!

"For a moment only I stood irresolute, then throwing down my gun I
ran forward to my friend's assistance.  I had a vague belief that he
was suffering from a fit, or some form of convulsion.  Before I could
reach his side he was down and quiet.  All sounds had ceased, but
with a feeling of such terror as even these awful events had not
inspired I now saw again the mysterious movement of the wild oats,
prolonging itself from the trampled area about the prostrate man
toward the edge of a wood.  It was only when it had reached the wood
that I was able to withdraw my eyes and look at my companion.  He was
dead."

III--A MAN THOUGH NAKED MAY BE IN RAGS

The coroner rose from his seat and stood beside the dead man.
Lifting an edge of the sheet he pulled it away, exposing the entire
body, altogether naked and showing in the candle-light a claylike
yellow.  It had, however, broad maculations of bluish black,
obviously caused by extravasated blood from contusions.  The chest
and sides looked as if they had been beaten with a bludgeon.  There
were dreadful lacerations; the skin was torn in strips and shreds.

The coroner moved round to the end of the table and undid a silk
handkerchief which had been passed under the chin and knotted on the
top of the head.  When the handkerchief was drawn away it exposed
what had been the throat.  Some of the jurors who had risen to get a
better view repented their curiosity and turned away their faces.
Witness Harker went to the open window and leaned out across the
sill, faint and sick.  Dropping the handkerchief upon the dead man's
neck the coroner stepped to an angle of the room and from a pile of
clothing produced one garment after another, each of which he held up
a moment for inspection.  All were torn, and stiff with blood.  The
jurors did not make a closer inspection.  They seemed rather
uninterested.  They had, in truth, seen all this before; the only
thing that was new to them being Harker's testimony.

"Gentlemen," the coroner said, "we have no more evidence, I think.
Your duty has been already explained to you; if there is nothing you
wish to ask you may go outside and consider your verdict."

The foreman rose--a tall, bearded man of sixty, coarsely clad.

"I should like to ask one question, Mr. Coroner," he said.  "What
asylum did this yer last witness escape from?"

"Mr. Harker," said the coroner, gravely and tranquilly, "from what
asylum did you last escape?"

Harker flushed crimson again, but said nothing, and the seven jurors
rose and solemnly filed out of the cabin.

"If you have done insulting me, sir," said Harker, as soon as he and
the officer were left alone with the dead man, "I suppose I am at
liberty to go?"

"Yes."

Harker started to leave, but paused, with his hand on the door latch.
The habit of his profession was strong in him--stronger than his
sense of personal dignity.  He turned about and said:

"The book that you have there--I recognize it as Morgan's diary.  You
seemed greatly interested in it; you read in it while I was
testifying.  May I see it?  The public would like--"

"The book will cut no figure in this matter," replied the official,
slipping it into his coat pocket; "all the entries in it were made
before the writer's death."

As Harker passed out of the house the jury reentered and stood about
the table, on which the now covered corpse showed under the sheet
with sharp definition.  The foreman seated himself near the candle,
produced from his breast pocket a pencil and scrap of paper and wrote
rather laboriously the following verdict, which with various degrees
of effort all signed:

"We, the jury, do find that the remains come to their death at the
hands of a mountain lion, but some of us thinks, all the same, they
had fits."

IV--AN EXPLANATION FROM THE TOMB

In the diary of the late Hugh Morgan are certain interesting entries
having, possibly, a scientific value as suggestions.  At the inquest
upon his body the book was not put in evidence; possibly the coroner
thought it not worth while to confuse the jury.  The date of the
first of the entries mentioned cannot be ascertained; the upper part
of the leaf is torn away; the part of the entry remaining follows:

" . . . would run in a half-circle, keeping his head turned always
toward the centre, and again he would stand still, barking furiously.
At last he ran away into the brush as fast as he could go.  I thought
at first that he had gone mad, but on returning to the house found no
other alteration in his manner than what was obviously due to fear of
punishment.

"Can a dog see with his nose?  Do odors impress some cerebral centre
with images of the thing that emitted them? . . .

"Sept. 2.--Looking at the stars last night as they rose above the
crest of the ridge east of the house, I observed them successively
disappear--from left to right.  Each was eclipsed but an instant, and
only a few at the same time, but along the entire length of the ridge
all that were within a degree or two of the crest were blotted out.
It was as if something had passed along between me and them; but I
could not see it, and the stars were not thick enough to define its
outline.  Ugh!  I don't like this." . . .

Several weeks' entries are missing, three leaves being torn from the
book.

"Sept. 27.--It has been about here again--I find evidences of its
presence every day.  I watched again all last night in the same
cover, gun in hand, double-charged with buckshot.  In the morning the
fresh footprints were there, as before.  Yet I would have sworn that
I did not sleep--indeed, I hardly sleep at all.  It is terrible,
insupportable!  If these amazing experiences are real I shall go mad;
if they are fanciful I am mad already.

"Oct. 3.--I shall not go--it shall not drive me away.  No, this is MY
house, MY land.  God hates a coward . . .

"Oct. 5.--I can stand it no longer; I have invited Harker to pass a
few weeks with me--he has a level head.  I can judge from his manner
if he thinks me mad.

"Oct. 7.--I have the solution of the mystery; it came to me last
night--suddenly, as by revelation.  How simple--how terribly simple!

"There are sounds that we cannot hear.  At either end of the scale
are notes that stir no chord of that imperfect instrument, the human
ear.  They are too high or too grave.  I have observed a flock of
blackbirds occupying an entire tree-top--the tops of several trees--
and all in full song.  Suddenly--in a moment--at absolutely the same
instant--all spring into the air and fly away.  How?  They could not
all see one another--whole tree-tops intervened.  At no point could a
leader have been visible to all.  There must have been a signal of
warning or command, high and shrill above the din, but by me unheard.
I have observed, too, the same simultaneous flight when all were
silent, among not only blackbirds, but other birds--quail, for
example, widely separated by bushes--even on opposite sides of a
hill.

"It is known to seamen that a school of whales basking or sporting on
the surface of the ocean, miles apart, with the convexity of the
earth between, will sometimes dive at the same instant--all gone out
of sight in a moment.  The signal has been sounded--too grave for the
ear of the sailor at the masthead and his comrades on the deck--who
nevertheless feel its vibrations in the ship as the stones of a
cathedral are stirred by the bass of the organ.

"As with sounds, so with colors.  At each end of the solar spectrum
the chemist can detect the presence of what are known as 'actinic'
rays.  They represent colors--integral colors in the composition of
light--which we are unable to discern.  The human eye is an imperfect
instrument; its range is but a few octaves of the real 'chromatic
scale.'  I am not mad; there are colors that we cannot see.

"And, God help me! the Damned Thing is of such a color!"



HAITA THE SHEPHERD



In the heart of Haita the illusions of youth had not been supplanted
by those of age and experience.  His thoughts were pure and pleasant,
for his life was simple and his soul devoid of ambition.  He rose
with the sun and went forth to pray at the shrine of Hastur, the god
of shepherds, who heard and was pleased.  After performance of this
pious rite Haita unbarred the gate of the fold and with a cheerful
mind drove his flock afield, eating his morning meal of curds and oat
cake as he went, occasionally pausing to add a few berries, cold with
dew, or to drink of the waters that came away from the hills to join
the stream in the middle of the valley and be borne along with it, he
knew not whither.

During the long summer day, as his sheep cropped the good grass which
the gods had made to grow for them, or lay with their forelegs
doubled under their breasts and chewed the cud, Haita, reclining in
the shadow of a tree, or sitting upon a rock, played so sweet music
upon his reed pipe that sometimes from the corner of his eye he got
accidental glimpses of the minor sylvan deities, leaning forward out
of the copse to hear; but if he looked at them directly they
vanished.  From this--for he must be thinking if he would not turn
into one of his own sheep--he drew the solemn inference that
happiness may come if not sought, but if looked for will never be
seen; for next to the favor of Hastur, who never disclosed himself,
Haita most valued the friendly interest of his neighbors, the shy
immortals of the wood and stream.  At nightfall he drove his flock
back to the fold, saw that the gate was secure and retired to his
cave for refreshment and for dreams.

So passed his life, one day like another, save when the storms
uttered the wrath of an offended god.  Then Haita cowered in his
cave, his face hidden in his hands, and prayed that he alone might be
punished for his sins and the world saved from destruction.
Sometimes when there was a great rain, and the stream came out of its
banks, compelling him to urge his terrified flock to the uplands, he
interceded for the people in the cities which he had been told lay in
the plain beyond the two blue hills forming the gateway of his
valley.

"It is kind of thee, O Hastur," so he prayed, "to give me mountains
so near to my dwelling and my fold that I and my sheep can escape the
angry torrents; but the rest of the world thou must thyself deliver
in some way that I know not of, or I will no longer worship thee."

And Hastur, knowing that Haita was a youth who kept his word, spared
the cities and turned the waters into the sea.

So he had lived since he could remember.  He could not rightly
conceive any other mode of existence.  The holy hermit who dwelt at
the head of the valley, a full hour's journey away, from whom he had
heard the tale of the great cities where dwelt people--poor souls!--
who had no sheep, gave him no knowledge of that early time, when, so
he reasoned, he must have been small and helpless like a lamb.

It was through thinking on these mysteries and marvels, and on that
horrible change to silence and decay which he felt sure must some
time come to him, as he had seen it come to so many of his flock--as
it came to all living things except the birds--that Haita first
became conscious how miserable and hopeless was his lot.

"It is necessary," he said, "that I know whence and how I came; for
how can one perform his duties unless able to judge what they are by
the way in which he was intrusted with them?  And what contentment
can I have when I know not how long it is going to last?  Perhaps
before another sun I may be changed, and then what will become of the
sheep?  What, indeed, will have become of me?"

Pondering these things Haita became melancholy and morose.  He no
longer spoke cheerfully to his flock, nor ran with alacrity to the
shrine of Hastur.  In every breeze he heard whispers of malign
deities whose existence he now first observed.  Every cloud was a
portent signifying disaster, and the darkness was full of terrors.
His reed pipe when applied to his lips gave out no melody, but a
dismal wail; the sylvan and riparian intelligences no longer thronged
the thicket-side to listen, but fled from the sound, as he knew by
the stirred leaves and bent flowers.  He relaxed his vigilance and
many of his sheep strayed away into the hills and were lost.  Those
that remained became lean and ill for lack of good pasturage, for he
would not seek it for them, but conducted them day after day to the
same spot, through mere abstraction, while puzzling about life and
death--of immortality he knew not.

One day while indulging in the gloomiest reflections he suddenly
sprang from the rock upon which he sat, and with a determined gesture
of the right hand exclaimed:  "I will no longer be a suppliant for
knowledge which the gods withhold.  Let them look to it that they do
me no wrong.  I will do my duty as best I can and if I err upon their
own heads be it!"

Suddenly, as he spoke, a great brightness fell about him, causing him
to look upward, thinking the sun had burst through a rift in the
clouds; but there were no clouds.  No more than an arm's length away
stood a beautiful maiden.  So beautiful she was that the flowers
about her feet folded their petals in despair and bent their heads in
token of submission; so sweet her look that the humming birds
thronged her eyes, thrusting their thirsty bills almost into them,
and the wild bees were about her lips.  And such was her brightness
that the shadows of all objects lay divergent from her feet, turning
as she moved.

Haita was entranced.  Rising, he knelt before her in adoration, and
she laid her hand upon his head.

"Come," she said in a voice that had the music of all the bells of
his flock--"come, thou art not to worship me, who am no goddess, but
if thou art truthful and dutiful I will abide with thee."

Haita seized her hand, and stammering his joy and gratitude arose,
and hand in hand they stood and smiled into each other's eyes.  He
gazed on her with reverence and rapture.  He said:  "I pray thee,
lovely maid, tell me thy name and whence and why thou comest."

At this she laid a warning finger on her lip and began to withdraw.
Her beauty underwent a visible alteration that made him shudder, he
knew not why, for still she was beautiful.  The landscape was
darkened by a giant shadow sweeping across the valley with the speed
of a vulture.  In the obscurity the maiden's figure grew dim and
indistinct and her voice seemed to come from a distance, as she said,
in a tone of sorrowful reproach:  "Presumptuous and ungrateful youth!
must I then so soon leave thee?  Would nothing do but thou must at
once break the eternal compact?"

Inexpressibly grieved, Haita fell upon his knees and implored her to
remain--rose and sought her in the deepening darkness--ran in
circles, calling to her aloud, but all in vain.  She was no longer
visible, but out of the gloom he heard her voice saying:  "Nay, thou
shalt not have me by seeking.  Go to thy duty, faithless shepherd, or
we shall never meet again."

Night had fallen; the wolves were howling in the hills and the
terrified sheep crowding about Haita's feet.  In the demands of the
hour he forgot his disappointment, drove his sheep to the fold and
repairing to the place of worship poured out his heart in gratitude
to Hastur for permitting him to save his flock, then retired to his
cave and slept.

When Haita awoke the sun was high and shone in at the cave,
illuminating it with a great glory.  And there, beside him, sat the
maiden.  She smiled upon him with a smile that seemed the visible
music of his pipe of reeds.  He dared not speak, fearing to offend
her as before, for he knew not what he could venture to say.

"Because," she said, "thou didst thy duty by the flock, and didst not
forget to thank Hastur for staying the wolves of the night, I am come
to thee again.  Wilt thou have me for a companion?"

"Who would not have thee forever?" replied Haita.  "Oh! never again
leave me until--until I--change and become silent and motionless."

Haita had no word for death.

"I wish, indeed," he continued, "that thou wert of my own sex, that
we might wrestle and run races and so never tire of being together."

At these words the maiden arose and passed out of the cave, and
Haita, springing from his couch of fragrant boughs to overtake and
detain her, observed to his astonishment that the rain was falling
and the stream in the middle of the valley had come out of its banks.
The sheep were bleating in terror, for the rising waters had invaded
their fold.  And there was danger for the unknown cities of the
distant plain.

It was many days before Haita saw the maiden again.  One day he was
returning from the head of the valley, where he had gone with ewe's
milk and oat cake and berries for the holy hermit, who was too old
and feeble to provide himself with food.

"Poor old man!" he said aloud, as he trudged along homeward.  "I will
return to-morrow and bear him on my back to my own dwelling, where I
can care for him.  Doubtless it is for this that Hastur has reared me
all these many years, and gives me health and strength."

As he spoke, the maiden, clad in glittering garments, met him in the
path with a smile that took away his breath.

"I am come again," she said, "to dwell with thee if thou wilt now
have me, for none else will.  Thou mayest have learned wisdom, and
art willing to take me as I am, nor care to know."

Haita threw himself at her feet.  "Beautiful being," he cried, "if
thou wilt but deign to accept all the devotion of my heart and soul--
after Hastur be served--it is thine forever.  But, alas! thou art
capricious and wayward.  Before to-morrow's sun I may lose thee
again.  Promise, I beseech thee, that however in my ignorance I may
offend, thou wilt forgive and remain always with me."

Scarcely had he finished speaking when a troop of bears came out of
the hills, racing toward him with crimson mouths and fiery eyes.  The
maiden again vanished, and he turned and fled for his life.  Nor did
he stop until he was in the cot of the holy hermit, whence he had set
out.  Hastily barring the door against the bears he cast himself upon
the ground and wept.

"My son," said the hermit from his couch of straw, freshly gathered
that morning by Haita's hands, "it is not like thee to weep for
bears--tell me what sorrow hath befallen thee, that age may minister
to the hurts of youth with such balms as it hath of its wisdom."

Haita told him all:  how thrice he had met the radiant maid, and
thrice she had left him forlorn.  He related minutely all that had
passed between them, omitting no word of what had been said.

When he had ended, the holy hermit was a moment silent, then said:
"My son, I have attended to thy story, and I know the maiden.  I have
myself seen her, as have many.  Know, then, that her name, which she
would not even permit thee to inquire, is Happiness.  Thou saidst the
truth to her, that she is capricious for she imposeth conditions that
man cannot fulfill, and delinquency is punished by desertion.  She
cometh only when unsought, and will not be questioned.  One
manifestation of curiosity, one sign of doubt, one expression of
misgiving, and she is away!  How long didst thou have her at any time
before she fled?"

"Only a single instant," answered Haita, blushing with shame at the
confession.  "Each time I drove her away in one moment."

"Unfortunate youth!" said the holy hermit, "but for thine
indiscretion thou mightst have had her for two."



AN INHABITANT OF CARCOSA



For there be divers sorts of death--some wherein the body remaineth;
and in some it vanisheth quite away with the spirit.  This commonly
occurreth only in solitude (such is God's will) and, none seeing the
end, we say the man is lost, or gone on a long journey--which indeed
he hath; but sometimes it hath happened in sight of many, as abundant
testimony showeth.  In one kind of death the spirit also dieth, and
this it hath been known to do while yet the body was in vigor for
many years.  Sometimes, as is veritably attested, it dieth with the
body, but after a season is raised up again in that place where the
body did decay.

Pondering these words of Hali (whom God rest) and questioning their
full meaning, as one who, having an intimation, yet doubts if there
be not something behind, other than that which he has discerned, I
noted not whither I had strayed until a sudden chill wind striking my
face revived in me a sense of my surroundings.  I observed with
astonishment that everything seemed unfamiliar.  On every side of me
stretched a bleak and desolate expanse of plain, covered with a tall
overgrowth of sere grass, which rustled and whistled in the autumn
wind with heaven knows what mysterious and disquieting suggestion.
Protruded at long intervals above it, stood strangely shaped and
somber-colored rocks, which seemed to have an understanding with one
another and to exchange looks of uncomfortable significance, as if
they had reared their heads to watch the issue of some foreseen
event.  A few blasted trees here and there appeared as leaders in
this malevolent conspiracy of silent expectation.

The day, I thought, must be far advanced, though the sun was
invisible; and although sensible that the air was raw and chill my
consciousness of that fact was rather mental than physical--I had no
feeling of discomfort.  Over all the dismal landscape a canopy of
low, lead-colored clouds hung like a visible curse.  In all this
there were a menace and a portent--a hint of evil, an intimation of
doom.  Bird, beast, or insect there was none.  The wind sighed in the
bare branches of the dead trees and the gray grass bent to whisper
its dread secret to the earth; but no other sound nor motion broke
the awful repose of that dismal place.

I observed in the herbage a number of weather-worn stones, evidently
shaped with tools.  They were broken, covered with moss and half
sunken in the earth.  Some lay prostrate, some leaned at various
angles, none was vertical.  They were obviously headstones of graves,
though the graves themselves no longer existed as either mounds or
depressions; the years had leveled all.  Scattered here and there,
more massive blocks showed where some pompous tomb or ambitious
monument had once flung its feeble defiance at oblivion.  So old
seemed these relics, these vestiges of vanity and memorials of
affection and piety, so battered and worn and stained--so neglected,
deserted, forgotten the place, that I could not help thinking myself
the discoverer of the burial-ground of a prehistoric race of men
whose very name was long extinct.

Filled with these reflections, I was for some time heedless of the
sequence of my own experiences, but soon I thought, "How came I
hither?"  A moment's reflection seemed to make this all clear and
explain at the same time, though in a disquieting way, the singular
character with which my fancy had invested all that I saw or heard.
I was ill.  I remembered now that I had been prostrated by a sudden
fever, and that my family had told me that in my periods of delirium
I had constantly cried out for liberty and air, and had been held in
bed to prevent my escape out-of-doors.  Now I had eluded the
vigilance of my attendants and had wandered hither to--to where?  I
could not conjecture.  Clearly I was at a considerable distance from
the city where I dwelt--the ancient and famous city of Carcosa.

No signs of human life were anywhere visible nor audible; no rising
smoke, no watch-dog's bark, no lowing of cattle, no shouts of
children at play--nothing but that dismal burial-place, with its air
of mystery and dread, due to my own disordered brain.  Was I not
becoming again delirious, there beyond human aid?  Was it not indeed
ALL an illusion of my madness?  I called aloud the names of my wives
and sons, reached out my hands in search of theirs, even as I walked
among the crumbling stones and in the withered grass.

A noise behind me caused me to turn about.  A wild animal--a lynx--
was approaching.  The thought came to me:  If I break down here in
the desert--if the fever return and I fail, this beast will be at my
throat.  I sprang toward it, shouting.  It trotted tranquilly by
within a hand's breadth of me and disappeared behind a rock.

A moment later a man's head appeared to rise out of the ground a
short distance away.  He was ascending the farther slope of a low
hill whose crest was hardly to be distinguished from the general
level.  His whole figure soon came into view against the background
of gray cloud.  He was half naked, half clad in skins.  His hair was
unkempt, his beard long and ragged.  In one hand he carried a bow and
arrow; the other held a blazing torch with a long trail of black
smoke.  He walked slowly and with caution, as if he feared falling
into some open grave concealed by the tall grass.  This strange
apparition surprised but did not alarm, and taking such a course as
to intercept him I met him almost face to face, accosting him with
the familiar salutation, "God keep you."

He gave no heed, nor did he arrest his pace.

"Good stranger," I continued, "I am ill and lost.  Direct me, I
beseech you, to Carcosa."

The man broke into a barbarous chant in an unknown tongue, passing on
and away.

An owl on the branch of a decayed tree hooted dismally and was
answered by another in the distance.  Looking upward, I saw through a
sudden rift in the clouds Aldebaran and the Hyades!  In all this
there was a hint of night--the lynx, the man with the torch, the owl.
Yet I saw--I saw even the stars in absence of the darkness.  I saw,
but was apparently not seen nor heard.  Under what awful spell did I
exist?

I seated myself at the root of a great tree, seriously to consider
what it were best to do.  That I was mad I could no longer doubt, yet
recognized a ground of doubt in the conviction.  Of fever I had no
trace.  I had, withal, a sense of exhilaration and vigor altogether
unknown to me--a feeling of mental and physical exaltation.  My
senses seemed all alert; I could feel the air as a ponderous
substance; I could hear the silence.

A great root of the giant tree against whose trunk I leaned as I sat
held inclosed in its grasp a slab of stone, a part of which protruded
into a recess formed by another root.  The stone was thus partly
protected from the weather, though greatly decomposed.  Its edges
were worn round, its corners eaten away, its surface deeply furrowed
and scaled.  Glittering particles of mica were visible in the earth
about it--vestiges of its decomposition.  This stone had apparently
marked the grave out of which the tree had sprung ages ago.  The
tree's exacting roots had robbed the grave and made the stone a
prisoner.

A sudden wind pushed some dry leaves and twigs from the uppermost
face of the stone; I saw the low-relief letters of an inscription and
bent to read it.  God in Heaven! MY name in full!--the date of MY
birth!--the date of MY death!

A level shaft of light illuminated the whole side of the tree as I
sprang to my feet in terror.  The sun was rising in the rosy east.  I
stood between the tree and his broad red disk--no shadow darkened the
trunk!

A chorus of howling wolves saluted the dawn.  I saw them sitting on
their haunches, singly and in groups, on the summits of irregular
mounds and tumuli filling a half of my desert prospect and extending
to the horizon.  And then I knew that these were ruins of the ancient
and famous city of Carcosa.


Such are the facts imparted to the medium Bayrolles by the spirit
Hoseib Alar Robardin.



THE STRANGER



A man stepped out of the darkness into the little illuminated circle
about our failing campfire and seated himself upon a rock.

"You are not the first to explore this region," he said, gravely.

Nobody controverted his statement; he was himself proof of its truth,
for he was not of our party and must have been somewhere near when we
camped.  Moreover, he must have companions not far away; it was not a
place where one would be living or traveling alone.  For more than a
week we had seen, besides ourselves and our animals, only such living
things as rattlesnakes and horned toads.  In an Arizona desert one
does not long coexist with only such creatures as these:  one must
have pack animals, supplies, arms--"an outfit."  And all these imply
comrades.  It was perhaps a doubt as to what manner of men this
unceremonious stranger's comrades might be, together with something
in his words interpretable as a challenge, that caused every man of
our half-dozen "gentlemen adventurers" to rise to a sitting posture
and lay his hand upon a weapon--an act signifying, in that time and
place, a policy of expectation.  The stranger gave the matter no
attention and began again to speak in the same deliberate,
uninflected monotone in which he had delivered his first sentence:

"Thirty years ago Ramon Gallegos, William Shaw, George W. Kent and
Berry Davis, all of Tucson, crossed the Santa Catalina mountains and
traveled due west, as nearly as the configuration of the country
permitted.  We were prospecting and it was our intention, if we found
nothing, to push through to the Gila river at some point near Big
Bend, where we understood there was a settlement.  We had a good
outfit but no guide--just Ramon Gallegos, William Shaw, George W.
Kent and Berry Davis."

The man repeated the names slowly and distinctly, as if to fix them
in the memories of his audience, every member of which was now
attentively observing him, but with a slackened apprehension
regarding his possible companions somewhere in the darkness that
seemed to enclose us like a black wall; in the manner of this
volunteer historian was no suggestion of an unfriendly purpose.  His
act was rather that of a harmless lunatic than an enemy.  We were not
so new to the country as not to know that the solitary life of many a
plainsman had a tendency to develop eccentricities of conduct and
character not always easily distinguishable from mental aberration.
A man is like a tree:  in a forest of his fellows he will grow as
straight as his generic and individual nature permits; alone in the
open, he yields to the deforming stresses and tortions that environ
him.  Some such thoughts were in my mind as I watched the man from
the shadow of my hat, pulled low to shut out the firelight.  A
witless fellow, no doubt, but what could he be doing there in the
heart of a desert?

Having undertaken to tell this story, I wish that I could describe
the man's appearance; that would be a natural thing to do.
Unfortunately, and somewhat strangely, I find myself unable to do so
with any degree of confidence, for afterward no two of us agreed as
to what he wore and how he looked; and when I try to set down my own
impressions they elude me.  Anyone can tell some kind of story;
narration is one of the elemental powers of the race.  But the talent
for description is a gift.

Nobody having broken silence the visitor went on to say:

"This country was not then what it is now.  There was not a ranch
between the Gila and the Gulf.  There was a little game here and
there in the mountains, and near the infrequent water-holes grass
enough to keep our animals from starvation.  If we should be so
fortunate as to encounter no Indians we might get through.  But
within a week the purpose of the expedition had altered from
discovery of wealth to preservation of life.  We had gone too far to
go back, for what was ahead could be no worse than what was behind;
so we pushed on, riding by night to avoid Indians and the intolerable
heat, and concealing ourselves by day as best we could.  Sometimes,
having exhausted our supply of wild meat and emptied our casks, we
were days without food or drink; then a water-hole or a shallow pool
in the bottom of an arroyo so restored our strength and sanity that
we were able to shoot some of the wild animals that sought it also.
Sometimes it was a bear, sometimes an antelope, a coyote, a cougar--
that was as God pleased; all were food.

"One morning as we skirted a mountain range, seeking a practicable
pass, we were attacked by a band of Apaches who had followed our
trail up a gulch--it is not far from here.  Knowing that they
outnumbered us ten to one, they took none of their usual cowardly
precautions, but dashed upon us at a gallop, firing and yelling.
Fighting was out of the question:  we urged our feeble animals up the
gulch as far as there was footing for a hoof, then threw ourselves
out of our saddles and took to the chaparral on one of the slopes,
abandoning our entire outfit to the enemy.  But we retained our
rifles, every man--Ramon Gallegos, William Shaw, George W. Kent and
Berry Davis."

"Same old crowd," said the humorist of our party.  He was an Eastern
man, unfamiliar with the decent observances of social intercourse.  A
gesture of disapproval from our leader silenced him and the stranger
proceeded with his tale:

"The savages dismounted also, and some of them ran up the gulch
beyond the point at which we had left it, cutting off further retreat
in that direction and forcing us on up the side.  Unfortunately the
chaparral extended only a short distance up the slope, and as we came
into the open ground above we took the fire of a dozen rifles; but
Apaches shoot badly when in a hurry, and God so willed it that none
of us fell.  Twenty yards up the slope, beyond the edge of the brush,
were vertical cliffs, in which, directly in front of us, was a narrow
opening.  Into that we ran, finding ourselves in a cavern about as
large as an ordinary room in a house.  Here for a time we were safe:
a single man with a repeating rifle could defend the entrance against
all the Apaches in the land.  But against hunger and thirst we had no
defense.  Courage we still had, but hope was a memory.

"Not one of those Indians did we afterward see, but by the smoke and
glare of their fires in the gulch we knew that by day and by night
they watched with ready rifles in the edge of the bush--knew that if
we made a sortie not a man of us would live to take three steps into
the open.  For three days, watching in turn, we held out before our
suffering became insupportable.  Then--it was the morning of the
fourth day--Ramon Gallegos said:

"'Senores, I know not well of the good God and what please him.  I
have live without religion, and I am not acquaint with that of you.
Pardon, senores, if I shock you, but for me the time is come to beat
the game of the Apache.'

"He knelt upon the rock floor of the cave and pressed his pistol
against his temple.  'Madre de Dios,' he said, 'comes now the soul of
Ramon Gallegos.'

"And so he left us--William Shaw, George W. Kent and Berry Davis.

"I was the leader:  it was for me to speak.

"'He was a brave man,' I said--'he knew when to die, and how.  It is
foolish to go mad from thirst and fall by Apache bullets, or be
skinned alive--it is in bad taste.  Let us join Ramon Gallegos.'

"'That is right,' said William Shaw.

"'That is right,' said George W. Kent.

"I straightened the limbs of Ramon Gallegos and put a handkerchief
over his face.  Then William Shaw said:  'I should like to look like
that--a little while.'

"And George W. Kent said that he felt that way, too.

"'It shall be so,' I said:  'the red devils will wait a week.
William Shaw and George W.  Kent, draw and kneel.'

"They did so and I stood before them.

"'Almighty God, our Father,' said I.

"'Almighty God, our Father,' said William Shaw.

"'Almighty God, our Father,' said George W. Kent.

"'Forgive us our sins,' said I.

"'Forgive us our sins,' said they.

"'And receive our souls.'

"'And receive our souls.'

"'Amen!'

"'Amen!'

"I laid them beside Ramon Gallegos and covered their faces."

There was a quick commotion on the opposite side of the campfire:
one of our party had sprung to his feet, pistol in hand.

"And you!" he shouted--"YOU dared to escape?--you dare to be alive?
You cowardly hound, I'll send you to join them if I hang for it!"

But with the leap of a panther the captain was upon him, grasping his
wrist.  "Hold it in, Sam Yountsey, hold it in!"

We were now all upon our feet--except the stranger, who sat
motionless and apparently inattentive.  Some one seized Yountsey's
other arm.

"Captain," I said, "there is something wrong here.  This fellow is
either a lunatic or merely a liar--just a plain, every-day liar whom
Yountsey has no call to kill.  If this man was of that party it had
five members, one of whom--probably himself--he has not named."

"Yes," said the captain, releasing the insurgent, who sat down,
"there is something--unusual.  Years ago four dead bodies of white
men, scalped and shamefully mutilated, were found about the mouth of
that cave.  They are buried there; I have seen the graves--we shall
all see them to-morrow."

The stranger rose, standing tall in the light of the expiring fire,
which in our breathless attention to his story we had neglected to
keep going.

"There were four," he said--"Ramon Gallegos, William Shaw, George W.
Kent and Berry Davis."

With this reiterated roll-call of the dead he walked into the
darkness and we saw him no more.

At that moment one of our party, who had been on guard, strode in
among us, rifle in hand and somewhat excited.

"Captain," he said, "for the last half-hour three men have been
standing out there on the mesa."  He pointed in the direction taken
by the stranger.  "I could see them distinctly, for the moon is up,
but as they had no guns and I had them covered with mine I thought it
was their move.  They have made none, but, damn it! they have got on
to my nerves."

"Go back to your post, and stay till you see them again," said the
captain.  "The rest of you lie down again, or I'll kick you all into
the fire."

The sentinel obediently withdrew, swearing, and did not return.  As
we were arranging our blankets the fiery Yountsey said:  "I beg your
pardon, Captain, but who the devil do you take them to be?"

"Ramon Gallegos, William Shaw and George W. Kent."

"But how about Berry Davis?  I ought to have shot him."

"Quite needless; you couldn't have made him any deader.  Go to
sleep."



Footnotes:

{1}  Rough notes of this tale were found among the papers of the late
Leigh Bierce.  It is printed here with such revision only as the
author might himself have made in transcription.





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