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Title: Possessed
Author: Moffett, Cleveland, 1863-1926
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 "Possessed" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



POSSESSED

by

CLEVELAND MOFFETT

_Author of "Through the Wall", etc._

NEW YORK

THE JAMES A. McCANN COMPANY

1920



Copyright 1920 by

THE JAMES A. McCANN COMPANY

_All Rights Reserved_

Printed in U. S. A.



DEDICATION

Whatever the defects or limitations of this story, I can assure my
readers that it is largely based on truth. Many of the incidents,
including the dual personality phenomena, were suggested by actual
happenings known to me. The doctor who accomplishes cures by occult
methods is a friend of mine, who lives and practises in New York City.
Seraphine, the medium, is also a real person. The episode that is
explained by waves of terror passing from one apartment to another and
separately affecting three unsuspecting persons is not imaginary, but
drawn from an almost identical happening that I, myself, witnessed in
Paris, France. And the truth about women that I have tried to tell has
been largely obtained from women themselves, women in various walks of
life, who have been kind enough to give me most of the opinions and
experiences that are contained in Penelope's diary. To them I now
gratefully dedicate this book.

C. M.



CONTENTS

                                                   PAGE

PROLOGUE                                              1

CHAPTER

    I. VOICES                                         6

   II. WHAT PENELOPE COULD NOT TELL THE DOCTOR       18

  III. A BOWL OF GOLD FISH                           42

   IV. FIVE PURPLE MARKS                             46

    V. WHAT REALLY HAPPENED AT THE STUDIO            53

   VI. EARTH-BOUND                                   62

  VII. JEWELS                                        70

 VIII. WHITE SHAPES                                  80

   IX. THE CONFESSIONAL CLUB                         90

    X. FAUVETTE                                     103

   XI. THE EVIL SPIRIT                              111

  XII. X K C                                        115

 XIII. TERROR                                       128

  XIV. POSSESSED                                    142

   XV. DR. LEROY                                    149

  XVI. IRRESPONSIBLE HANDS                          161

 XVII. THE HOUR OF THE DREAM                        169

XVIII. PLAYING WITH FIRE                            179

  XIX. PRIDE                                        192

   XX. THE MIRACLE                                  199

  XXI. THE TRUTH ABOUT WOMEN THAT NOBODY TELLS      210

       EPILOGUE                                     252



     "_Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues
     of life._"

     PROVERBS, _Chapter IV, Verse 23_.



POSSESSED



(_June, 1914_)

SCARLET LIGHTS


This story presents the fulfillment of an extraordinary prophecy made
one night, suddenly and dramatically, at a gathering of New Yorkers,
brought together for hilarious purposes, including a little supper, in
the Washington Square apartment of Bobby Vallis--her full name was
Roberta. There were soft lights and low divans and the strumming of a
painted ukulele that sang its little twisted soul out under the caress
of Penelope's white fingers. I can still see the big black opal in its
quaint setting that had replaced her wedding ring and the yellow serpent
of pliant gold coiled on her thumb with two bright rubies for its eyes.
Penelope Wells! How little we realized what sinister forces were playing
about her that pleasant evening as we smoked and jested and sipped our
glasses, gazing from time to time up the broad vista of Fifth Avenue
with its lines of receding lights.

There had been an impromptu session of the Confessional Club during
which several men, notably a poet in velveteen jacket, had vouchsafed
sentimental or matrimonial revelations in the most approved Greenwich
Village style. And the ladies, unabashed, had discussed these things.

But not a word did Penelope Wells speak of her own matrimonial troubles,
which were known vaguely to most of us, although we had never met the
drunken brute of a husband who had made her life a torment. I can see
her now in profile against the open window, her eyes dark with their
slumberous fires. I remember the green earrings she wore that night, and
how they reached down under her heavy black braids--reached down
caressingly over her white neck. She was a strangely, fiercely beautiful
creature, made to love and to be loved, fated for tragic happenings. She
was twenty-nine.

The discussion waxed warm over the eternal question--how shall a woman
satisfy her emotional nature when she has no chance or almost no chance
to marry the man she longs to marry?

Roberta Vallis put forth views that would have frozen old-fashioned
moralists into speechless disapproval--entire freedom of choice and
action for women as well as men, freedom to unite with a mate or
separate from a mate--both sexes to have exactly the same
responsibilities or lack of responsibilities in these sentimental
arrangements.

"No, no! I call that loathsome, abominable," declared Penelope, and the
poet adoringly agreed with her, although his practice had been
notoriously at variance with these professions.

"Suppose a woman finds herself married to some beast of a man," flashed
Roberta, "some worthless drunkard, do you mean to tell me it is her duty
to stick to such a husband, and spoil her whole life?"

To which Penelope, hiding her agitation, said: "I--I am not discussing
that phase of the question. I mean that if a woman is alone in the
world, if she longs for the companionship of a man--the intimate
companionship--"

"Ha, ha, ha!" snickered the poet. I can see his close cropped yellow
beard and his red face wrinkling in merriment at this supposition.

"I hate your Greenwich Village philosophy," stormed Penelope. "You
haven't the courage, the understanding to commit one big splendid sin
that even the angels in heaven might approve, but you fritter away your
souls and spoil your bodies in cheap little sins that are
just--_disgusting!_"

The poet shrivelled under her scorn.

"But--one splendid sin?" he stammered. "That means a woman must go to
her mate, doesn't it?"

"Without marriage? Never! I'll tell you what a woman should do--I'll
tell you what I would do, just to prove that I am not conventional, I
would act on the principle that there is a sacred right God has given to
every woman who is born, a right that not even God Himself can take away
from her, I mean the right to--"

A muffled scream interrupted her, a quick catching of the breath by a
stout lady, a newcomer, who was seated on a divan, I should have judged
this woman to be a rather commonplace person except that her deeply
sunken eyes seemed to carry a far away expression as if she saw things
that were invisible to others. Now her eyes were fixed on Penelope.

"Oh, the beautiful scarlet light!" she murmured. "There! Don't you
see--moving down her arm? And another one--on her shoulder! Scarlet
lights! My poor child! My poor child!"

Ordinarily we would have laughed at this, for, of course, we saw no
scarlet lights, but somehow now we did not laugh. On the contrary we
fell into hushed and wondering attention, and, turning to Roberta, we
learned that this was Seraphine, a trance medium who had given séances
for years to scientists and occult investigators, and was now assisting
Dr. W----, of the American Occult Society.

"A séance! Magnificent! Let us have a séance!" whispered the poet. "Tell
us, madam, can you really lift the veil of the future?"

But already Seraphine had settled back on the divan and I saw that her
eyes had closed and her breathing was quieter, although her body was
shaken from time to time by little tremors as if she were recovering
from some great agitation. We watched her wonderingly, and presently she
began to speak, at first slowly and painfully, then in her natural tone.
Her message was so brief, so startling in its purport that there can be
no question of any error in this record.

"Penelope will--cross the ocean," Seraphine began dreamily. "Her husband
will die--very soon. There will be war--soon. She will go to the war and
will have honors conferred upon her--on the battlefield. She will--she
will,"--the medium's face changed startlingly to a mask of anguish and
her bosom heaved. "Oh, my poor child! I see you--I see you going down
to--_to horror--to terror_--Ah!"

She cried out in fright and stopped speaking; then, after a moment of
dazed effort, she came back to reality and looked at us as before out of
her sunken eyes, a plump little kindly faced woman resting against a
blue pillow.

       *       *       *       *       *

_Now, whatever one may think of mediums, the facts are that Penelope's
husband died suddenly in an automobile accident within a month of this
memorable evening. And within two months the great war burst upon the
world. And within a year Penelope did cross the ocean as a Red Cross
Nurse, and it is a matter of record that she was decorated for valor
under fire of the enemy._

_This story has to do with the remainder of Seraphine's prophecy._



CHAPTER I

(_January, 1919_)

VOICES


Penelope moved nervously in her chair, evidently very much troubled
about something as she waited in the doctor's office. Her two years in
France had added a touch of mystery to her strange beauty. Her eyes were
more veiled in their burning, as if she had glimpsed something that had
frightened her; yet they were eyes that, even unintentionally, carried a
message to men, an alluring, appealing message to men. With her red
mouth, her fascinatingly unsymmetrical mouth, and her sinuous body
Penelope Wells at thirty-three was the kind of woman men look at twice
and remember. She was dressed in black.

When Dr. William Owen entered the front room of his Ninth Street office
he greeted her with the rough kindliness that a big man in his
profession, a big-hearted man, shows to a young woman whose case
interests him and whose personality is attractive.

"I got your note, Mrs. Wells," he began, "and I had a letter about you
from my young friend, Captain Herrick. I needn't say that I had already
read about your bravery in the newspapers. The whole country has been
sounding your praises. When did you get back to New York?"

"About a week ago, doctor. I came on a troop ship with several other
nurses. I--I wish I had never come."

There was a note of pathetic, ominous sadness in her voice. Even in his
first study of this lovely face, the doctor's experienced eye told him
that here was a case of complicated nervous breakdown. He wondered if
she could have had a slight touch of shell shock. What a ghastly thing
for a high spirited, sensitive young woman to be out on those battle
fields in France!

"You mustn't say that, Mrs. Wells. We are all very proud of you. Think
of having the _croix de guerre_ pinned on your dress by the commanding
general before a whole regiment! Pretty fine for an American woman!"

Penelope Wells sat quite still, playing with the flexible serpent ring
on her thumb, and looked at the doctor out of her wonderful deep eyes
that seemed to burn with a mysterious fire. Could there be something
Oriental about her--or--or Indian, the physician wondered.

"Doctor," she said, in a low tone, "I have come to tell you the truth
about myself, and the truth is that I deserve no credit for what I did
that day, because I--I did not want to live. I wanted them to kill me, I
took every chance so that they would kill me; but God willed it
differently, the shells and bullets swept all around me, cut through my
dress, through my hair, but did not harm me."

"Tell me a little more about it, just quietly. How did you happen to go
out there? Was it because you heard that Captain Herrick was wounded?
That's the way the papers cabled the story. Was that true?" Then, seeing
her face darken, he added: "Perhaps I ought not to ask that question?"

"Oh, yes, I want you to. I want you to know everything about
me--everything. That's why I am here. Captain Herrick says you are a
great specialist in nervous troubles, and I have a feeling that unless
you can help me nobody can."

"Well, I have helped some people who felt pretty blue about
life--perhaps I can help you. Now, then, what is the immediate trouble?
Any aches or pains? I must say you seem to be in splendid health," he
smiled at her with cheery admiration.

"It isn't my body. I have no physical suffering. I eat well enough, I
sleep well, except--my dreams. I have horrible, torturing dreams,
doctor. I'm afraid to go to sleep. I have the same dreams over and over
again, especially two dreams that haunt me."

"How long have you had these dreams?"

"Ever since I went out that dreadful day from Montidier--when the
Germans almost broke through. They told me Captain Herrick was lying
there helpless, out beyond our lines. So I went to him. I don't know how
I got there, but--I found him. He was wounded in the thigh and a German
beast was standing over him when I came up. He was going to run him
through with a bayonet. And somehow, I--I don't know how I did it, but
I caught up a pistol from a dead soldier and I shot the German."

"Good Lord! You don't say! They didn't have that in the papers! What a
woman! No wonder you've had bad dreams!"

Penelope passed a slender hand over her eyes as if to brush away evil
memories, then she said wearily: "It isn't that, they are not ordinary
dreams."

"Well, what kind of dreams are they? You say there are two dreams?"

"There are two that I have had over and over again, but there are
others, all part of a sequence with the same person in them."

The doctor looked at her sharply. "The same person? A person that you
recognize?"

"Yes."

"A person you have really seen? A man?"

"Yes, the man I killed."

"Oh!"

"I told you he was a beast. I saw that in his face, but I _know_ it now
because I dream of things that he did as a conqueror--in the villages."

"I see--brutal things?"

"Worse than that. In one dream I see him--Oh!" she shuddered and the
agony in her eyes was more eloquent than words.

"My dear lady, you are naturally wrought up by these dreadful
experiences, you need rest, quiet surroundings, good food, a little
relaxation----"

"No, no, no," Mrs. Wells interrupted impatiently.

"Don't tell me those old things. I am a trained nurse. I _know_ my case
is entirely different."

"How is it different? We all have dreams. I have dreams myself. One
night I dreamed that I was dissecting the janitor downstairs; sometimes
I wish I had."

Penelope brushed aside this effort at humor. "You haven't dreamed that
twenty times with every detail the same, have you? That's how I dream. I
see these faces, real faces, again and again. I hear the same cries, the
same words, vile words. Oh, I can't tell you how horrible it is!"

"But we are not responsible for our dreams," the doctor insisted.

She shook her head wearily. "That's just the point, it seems to me that
I am responsible. I feel as if I _enjoy_ these horrible dreams--while I
am dreaming them. When I am awake, the very thought of them makes me
shudder, but while I am dreaming I seem to be an entirely different
person--a low, vulgar creature proud of the brutal strength and
coarseness of her man. I seem to be a part of this human beast! When I
wake up I feel as if my soul had been stained, dragged in the mire,
almost lost. It seems as if I could never again feel any self-respect.
Oh, doctor," Penelope's voice broke and the tears filled her eyes, "you
must help me! I cannot bear this torture any longer! What can I do to
escape from such a curse?"

Seldom, in his years of practice, had the specialist been so moved by a
patient's confession as was Dr. Owen during Penelope's revelation of her
suffering. As a kindly human soul he longed to help this agonized
mortal; as a scientific expert he was eager to solve the mystery of this
nervous disorder. He leaned toward her with a look of compassion.

"Be assured, my dear Mrs. Wells, I shall do everything in my power to
help you. And in order to accomplish what we want, I must understand a
great many things about your past life." He drew a letter from his
pocket. "Let me look over what Captain Herrick wrote me about you. Hm!
He refers to your married life?"

"Yes."

The doctor studied the letter in silence. "I see. Your husband died
about four years ago?"

"Four years and a half."

"I judge that your married life was not very happy?"

"That is true, it was very unhappy."

"Is there anything in your memory of your husband, any details regarding
your married life, that may have a bearing on your present state of
mind?"

"I--I think perhaps there is," she answered hesitatingly.

"Is it something of an intimate nature that--er--you find it difficult
to tell me about?"

"I will tell you about it, doctor, but, if you don't mind," she made a
pathetic little gesture, "I would rather tell you at some other time. It
has no bearing upon my immediate trouble, that is, I don't think it
has."

"Good. We'll take that up later on. Now I want to ask another question.
I understood you to say that when you did that brave act on the battle
field you really wanted to--to have the whole thing over with?"

"Yes, I did."

"You did not go out to rescue Captain Herrick simply because you--let us
say, cared for him?"

For the first time Penelope's face lighted in an amused smile. "I
haven't said that I care for Captain Herrick, have I? I don't mind
telling you, though, that I should not have gone into that danger if I
had not known that Chris was wounded. I cared for him enough to want to
help him."

"But not enough to go on living?"

"No, I did not want to go on living."

He eyed her with the business-like tenderness that an old doctor feels
for a beautiful young patient. "Of course, you realize, Mrs. Wells, that
it will be impossible for me to help you or relieve your distressing
symptoms unless you tell me what is behind them. I must know clearly why
it was that you did not wish to go on living."

"I understand, doctor, I am perfectly willing to tell you. It is because
I was convinced that my mind was affected."

"Oh!" He smiled at her indulgently. "I can tell you, my dear lady, that
I never saw a young woman who, as far as outward appearances go, struck
me as being more sane and healthy than yourself. What gives you this
idea that your mind is affected? Not those dreams? You are surely too
intelligent to give such importance to mere dreams?"

Penelope bit her red lips in perplexed indecision, then she leaned
nearer the doctor and spoke in a low tone, glancing nervously over her
shoulder. Fear was plainly written on her face.

"No--it's not just the dreams. They are horrible enough, but I have
faith that you will help me get rid of them. There's something else,
something more serious, more uncanny. It terrifies me. I feel that I'm
in the power of some supernatural being who takes a fiendish delight in
torturing me. I'm not a coward, Dr. Owen," Penelope lifted her head
proudly, "for I truly have no fear of real danger that I can see and
face squarely, but the unseen, the unknown----" She broke off suddenly,
a strained, listening look on her face. Then she shivered though the
glowing fire in the grate was making the room almost uncomfortably warm.

"Do you mind giving me some details?" Dr. Owen spoke in his gentlest
manner, for he realized that he must gain her confidence.

Penelope continued with an effort:

"For several months I have heard voices about me, sometimes when no one
is present, sometimes in crowds on the street, at church, anywhere. But
the voices that I hear are not the voices of real persons."

"What kind of voices are they? Are they loud? Are they distinct? Or are
they only vague whispers?"

"They are perfectly distinct voices, just as clear as ordinary voices.
And they are voices of different persons. I can tell them apart; but
none of them are voices of persons that I have ever seen or known."

"Hm! I suppose you have heard, as a trained nurse, of what we call
clairaudient hallucinations?"

"Yes, doctor, and I know that those hallucinations often appear in the
early stages of insanity. That is what distresses me."

"How often do you hear these voices--not all the time? Do you hear them
in the night?"

"I hear them at any time--day or night. I have tried not to notice them,
I pretend that I do not hear them. I do my best to forget them. I have
prayed to God that He will make these voices cease troubling me, that He
will make them go away; but nothing seems to do any good."

"What kind of things do these voices say? Do they seem to be talking to
you directly?"

"Sometimes they do, sometimes they seem to be talking about me, as if
two or three persons were discussing me, criticizing me. They say very
unkind things. It seems as if they read my thoughts and make
mischievous, wicked comments on them. Sometimes they say horrid things,
disgusting things. Sometimes they give me orders. I am to do this or
that; or I am not to do this or that. Sometimes they say the same word
over and over again, many times. It was that way when I went out on the
battlefield to help Captain Herrick. As I ran along, stumbling over the
dead and wounded, I heard these voices crying out: 'Fool! Fool! Don't do
it! You mustn't do it! You're a coward! You know you're a coward! You're
going to be killed! You're a little fool to get yourself killed!'"

"And yet you went on? You did not obey these voices?"

"I went on because I was desperate. I tell you I wanted to die. What is
the use of living if one is persecuted like this? There is nothing to
live for, is there?"

He met her pathetic look with confidence.

"I think there is, Mrs. Wells. There is a lot to live for. Those
hallucinations and dreams are not as uncommon as you think. I could give
you cases of shell shock patients who have suffered in this way and come
back to normal health. You have been through enough, my young friend, to
bring about a somewhat hysterical condition that is susceptible of cure,
if you will put yourself in favorable conditions. Do you mind if I ask
you straight out whether you have any objections to marrying a second
time?"

"N--no, that is to say I--er----" The color burned in her cheeks and
Owen took note of this under his grizzled brows.

"As an old friend of the family--I mean Herrick's family--may I ask you
if you would have any objection to Captain Herrick as a
husband--assuming that you are willing to accept any husband?"

"I like Captain Herrick very much, I--I think I care for him more than
any man I know, but----"

"Well? If you love Herrick and he loves you----" Owen broke off here
with a new thought, "Ah, perhaps that is the trouble, perhaps Captain
Herrick has not told you that he loves you? I hope, dear lady, I am not
forcing your confidence?"

"No, doctor, I want you to know. Captain Herrick cares for me, he loves
me, he has asked me to marry him, but--I have refused him."

"But why--if you love him? Why refuse him?"

"Oh, can't you see? Can't you understand? How could I think of such a
thing, knowing, as I do, that something is wrong with my mind? It is
quite impossible. Besides, there is another reason."

"Another reason?" he repeated.

"It has to do with my married life. As I said I would rather tell you
about that some other time--if you don't mind?"

He saw that she could go no farther.

"Exactly, some other time. Let us say in about two weeks. During that
time my prescription for you is a rest down at Atlantic City with long
walks and a dip in the pool every morning. Come back then and tell me
how you feel, and don't think about those dreams and voices. But think
about your past life--about those things that you find it hard to tell
me. It may not be necessary to tell me provided you know the truth
yourself. Will you promise that?" He smiled at her encouragingly as she
nodded. "Good! Now be cheerful. I am not deceiving you, Mrs. Wells, I am
too sensible an old timer to do that. I give you my word that these
troubles can be easily handled. I really do not consider you in a
serious condition. Now then, until two weeks from today. I'll make you a
friendly little bet that when I see you again you'll be dreaming about
flower gardens and blue skies and pretty sunsets. Good morning."

He watched her closely as she turned with a sad yet hopeful smile to
leave the room.

"Thank you very much, doctor. I'll come back two weeks from today."

Then she was gone.

For some minutes Owen sat drumming on his desk, lost in thought. "By
George, that's a queer case. _Her other reason is the real one. I wonder
what it is?_"



CHAPTER II

WHAT PENELOPE COULD NOT TELL THE DOCTOR


(_Fragments from Her Diary_)

_Atlantic City, Tuesday._

I cannot tell what is on my mind, I cannot tell _anyone_, even a doctor;
but I will keep my promise and look into my past life. I will open those
precious, tragic, indiscreet little volumes bound in red leather in
which I have for years put down my thoughts and intimate experiences. I
have always found comfort in my diary.

I am thirty-three years old and for ten years, beginning before I was
married, I have kept this record. I wrote of my unhappiness with my
husband; I wrote of my lonely widowhood and of my many temptations; I
wrote of my illness, my morbid cravings and hallucinations.

There are several of these volumes and I have more than once been on the
point of burning them, but somehow I could not. However imperfectly I
have expressed myself and however mistaken I may be in my interpretation
of life, I have at least not been afraid to speak the truth about myself
and about other women I have known, and truth, even the smallest
fragment of it, is an infinitely precious thing.

What a story of a woman's struggles and emotions is contained in these
pages! I wonder what Dr. Owen would think if he could read them.
Heavens! How freely dare I draw upon these intimate chapters of my life?
How much must the doctor know in order to help me--to save me?

Shall I reveal myself to him as I really was during those agitated years
before my marriage when I faced the struggle of life, the temptations of
life--an attractive young woman alone in New York City, earning her own
living?

And how shall I tell the truth about my unhappy married life--the
torture and degradation of it? The truth about my widowhood--those two
gay years before the great disaster came, when, with money enough, I let
myself go in selfish pursuit of pleasure--playing with fire?

As I turn over these agitated pages I feel I have tried to be honest. I
rebel against hypocrisy, I hate false pretense, often I make myself out
worse than I really am.

In one place I find this:

"There is no originality in women. They do what they see others do, they
think what they are told to think--like a flock of sheep. Their hair is
a joke--absurd frizzles and ear puffs that are always imitated. Their
shoes are a tragedy. Their corsets are a crime. But they would die
rather than change these ordered abominations. So would I. I flock with
the crowd. I hobble my skirts, wear summer furs, powder my nose, wave my
hair (permanently or not) according to the commands of fashion, but I
hate myself for doing it. _I am a woman!_"

I am a woman and most women are liars--so are most men--but there is
more excuse for women because centuries of oppression have made us
afraid to tell the truth. I try to be original by speaking the
truth--part of it, at least--in this diary.

On one page I find this:

"The truth is that women love pursuit and are easily reconciled to
capture. Why else do they deck themselves out in finery, perfume
themselves, bejewel themselves, flaunt their charms (including decolleté
charms and alluring bathing suit charms) in every possible way? I do
this myself--why? I have a supple figure and I dance without corsets, or
rather with only a band to hold up my stockings. I wear low cut evening
gowns, the most captivating I can afford. I love to flirt. I could not
live without admiration, and other women are the same. They all have
something that they are vain about--eyes, nose, mouth, voice, teeth,
hair, complexion, hands, feet, figure--_something that they are vain
about._ And what is vanity but a consciousness of power to attract men
and make other women envious? _There are only two efforts that the human
race take seriously (after they have fed themselves): the effort of
women to attract men, the effort of men to capture women._"

       *       *       *       *       *

_Wednesday._

In searching back through the years for the cause of this disaster that
has brought me to the point where a woman's reason is overthrown, I see
that I was always selfish, absorbed in my own problems and vanities, my
own disappointments, grievances, emotions. It was what I could get out
of life, not what I could give, that concerned me. I was vain of my good
looks. I craved admiration.

Once I wrote in my diary:

"I often stand before my mirror at night before I go to bed and admire
my own sombre beauty. I let my hair fall in a black cloud over my
shoulders, then I braid it slowly with bare arms lifted in graceful
poses. I sway my hips like Carmen, I thrust red flowers into my bosom. I
move my head languidly, letting my white teeth gleam between red lips. I
study my profile with a hand glass, getting the double reflection. I
smile and beckon with my eyes. Yes, I am a beautiful woman--primeval,
elemental--I was made for love."

Again I wrote, showing that I half understood the perils that beset me:

"Women are moths, they love to play with fire. They are irresistibly
driven--like poor little birds that dash themselves against a
lighthouse--towards the burning excitements connected with the
allurement of men. They live for admiration. The besetting sin of all
women is vanity; _vanity is a woman's consciousness of her power over
men._"

And again:

"It is almost impossible for a fascinating woman not to flirt a
little--sometimes. For example, she passes a man on the street, a
distinguished looking man. She does not know him, but their eyes have
met in a certain way and she feels that he is attracted by her. She has
on a pretty dress with a bunch of violets. She wonders whether this man
has turned back to look at her--she is sure he has--she longs to look
back. No matter how much culture and breeding she has, _she longs to
look back_!"

No wonder that, with such thoughts and inclinations, I was always more
or less under temptation with men, who were drawn to me, I suppose, just
as I was drawn to them. And I tried to excuse myself in the old way, as
here:

"It is certain that some women have strong emotional desires, whereas
other women have none at all or scarcely any. This fact has an evident
bearing upon the question of women's morality. Some women must be judged
more leniently than others. I have wondered if there are similar
differences in men. I doubt it!"

Of course I had agitating experiences with men because I half invited
them. It seemed as if I could not help it. As I said to myself, I was a
moth, I wanted to play with fire.

On the next page I find this:

"Seraphine disapproves of my attitude towards men. She gave me a great
talking to last night and said things I would not take from anyone else.
Dear old Seraphine, she is so fine and kind! She says there is nothing
in my physical makeup that compels me to be a flirt. I can act more
discreetly if I wish to. It is my mental attitude toward romantic things
that is wrong. Thousands of women just as pretty as I am never place
themselves in situations with men that are almost certain to lead them
into temptation. They will not start an emotional episode that may
easily, as they know quite well, have a dangerous ending. But I am
always ready to start, confident that my self-control will save me from
any immediate disaster. And so far it always has."

How earnestly Seraphine sounded her warning. I wrote down her words and
promised to heed them: "_Remember, dear, that emotional desire
deliberately aroused in 'harmless flirtations' and then deliberately
repressed is an offense against womanhood, a menace to the health, and a
degradation to the soul._"

       *       *       *       *       *

_Thursday night._

I am horribly sad tonight--lonely--discouraged. The doctor wants to know
about my married life, about my husband. Why was I unhappy? Why is any
woman unhappy? Because her love is trampled on, degraded--the spiritual
part of it unsatisfied. Women are made for love and without love life
means nothing to them. Women are naturally finer than men, they aspire
more strongly to what is beautiful and spiritual, but their souls can be
coarsened, their love can be killed. They can be driven--they have been
driven for centuries (through fear of men) into lies and deceits and
sensuality or pretence of sensuality.

The great tragedy of the world is sensuality, and it may exist between
man and wife just as much as between a man and a paid woman. I don't
know whether the Bible condemns sensuality between man and wife, but it
ought to. I remember a story by Tolstoy in which the great moralist
strips off our mask of hypocrisy and shows the hideous evil that results
when a man and a woman degrade the holy sacrament of marriage. That is
not love, but a perversion of love. How can God bless a union in which
the wife is expected to conduct herself like a wanton or lose her
husband? And she loses him anyway, for sensuality in a man inevitably
leads him to promiscuousness. I know this to my sorrow!

Perhaps I am morbid. Perhaps I see life too clearly, know it too well. I
do not want to be cynical or bitter. Oh, if only those old days of faith
and trust could come back to me! When I think of what I was before I
married Julian I see that I was almost like a child in my ignorance of
the animal side of man's nature....

       *       *       *       *       *

_Friday._

Dr. Owen thinks my trouble is shell shock, but he is mistaken. I have
taken care of too many shell shock cases not to recognize the symptoms.
Can I ever forget that darling soldier boy from Maryland who mistook me
for his mother? "They're coming! They're coming!" he screamed one night;
you could hear him all over the hospital. Then he jumped out of bed like
a wild man--it took two orderlies and an engineer to get him back under
the covers. I can see his poor wasted face when the little doctor came
to give him a hypodermic. There he lay panting, groaning: "Oh those
guns! Oh those guns! They break my ears!" Then he sprang up again, his
eyes starting out of his head: "Look out, there! On the ammunition
cart! Look out, Bill! Oh my God, they've got Bill--my pal! Blown him to
hell! Oh, oh, oh!" and he put his head down and sobbed like a woman.
That is shell shock. I have nothing like that. I know what I am doing.

       *       *       *       *       *

There was a storm today with great crashing waves, then everything grew
calm under a golden sunset. I take this as a good omen. I feel happier
already. The infinite peace of Nature is quieting my soul. I love the
sea. I can almost say my prayers to the sea.

       *       *       *       *       *

_Saturday._

The swimming master pays me extravagant compliments every morning when I
splash about in the pool. I know my body is beautiful. Thank God, I have
never imprisoned it in corsets.

I love the exercises I do in my room every morning. They bring back the
play spirit of my childhood. When I get out of bed I slip into a loose
garment, then I lie on the floor and stretch my spine along the
carpet--it's wonderful how this exhilarates one. After that I take deep
breaths at the open window, raising and lowering my arms--up as I draw
my breath in, down as I throw it out. Then I lie down again and lift my
legs straight up, the right, the left, then both together. I do this
twenty times, resting between changes and taking deep breaths.

I sit cross-legged on the floor with my feet on a red and gold cushion
and rotate my waist like an oriental dancer. I stand on my head and
hands and curve my body to right and left in graceful flexings. I do
this no matter how cold it is. I do not feel the cold, for I am all
aglow with health and strength. Then, before my bath, I do dumb-bell
exercises in front of the mirror.

I remember dining with my husband one night in a pink lace peignoir--we
had been married about three years--and during the dessert, I excused
myself and went into my bedroom and, posing before a cheval glass, I let
the peignoir slip off my shoulders, and stood there like a piece of
polished marble, rejoicing in my youth and loveliness!

How I hated my husband that night! He had taught me to drink. He had
made me sensual. He had not yet assumed the coarse, red-faced brutish
aspect that he wore later, but he had a coarse, red-faced brutish soul.
Alas! his body was still fine enough to tempt me. And his mind was
devilishly clever enough to captivate my fancy. He took away my faith,
_even my faith in motherhood_. That was why I chiefly hated him.

For three years my husband disgusted me with his unfaithfulness. No
woman was too high or too low, too refined or too ignorant, for his
passing fancy, if only she had physical attractiveness--just a little
physical attractiveness. Anything for variety, shop girl or duchess,
kitchen maid or society leader, they were all the same to Julian. He
confessed to me that he once made love to a little auburn-haired
_divorcée_ while they were in a mourning carriage going to her sister's
funeral. _Et elle s'est laissée faire!_

He was like a hunter following his prey, like an angler fishing, he
cared only for the chase, for the capture. That was the man I had
married!

What a liar he was! He poisoned my mind with his lies, assuring me that
all men were like himself, hypocrites, incapable of being true to one
woman. And I believed him. The ghastly part of it is I still believe
him. I can't help it. I have suffered too much. I can never have faith
in another man, not even in Captain Herrick. That is why I shall never
marry again--that is one reason.

       *       *       *       *       *

_Sunday._

A wonderful day! I strolled along the board walk in my new furs, and met
a young mother pushing a baby carriage with two splendid baby boys--one
of them sucking at his bottle. Such babies! She let me hold the little
fellow and I cuddled him close in my arms and felt his soft cheeks and
his warm little chubby hands on my face. How I long for a baby of my
own! I have thought--hoped--dreamed--

I went to the movies this evening with some friends and laughed so hard
that I thought I would break something in my internal machinery.

When I returned to the hotel I found a letter from Captain Herrick--so
manly and affectionate. He loves me! And I love him, more than anything
in the world. I feel so well today, so glad to be alive that if Chris
were here, I think I would promise him whatever he asked. I long to give
myself entirely--_my beauty, my passion, everything_--to this man that I
love.

And yet--alas!

Am I bold and vain to call myself beautiful?

       *       *       *       *       *

I find myself in my diary siding strongly with women against men in
anything that has to do with emotional affairs, although I like men
better than women. My tendency is always to blame the man. This is
partly because of the hideous wrong that was done me by my husband and
partly because I like to believe that, however blame-worthy women are in
the sex struggle and, whatever _faiblesses_ they may be guilty of, the
fundamental cause of it all must be found in centuries of men's
wickedness and oppression.

I have written about this with much feeling. In one place I say:

"Sometimes I feel as if there were a conspiracy of men--all kinds of
men, including the most serious and respectable--against the virtue of
attractive women. What a downfall of masculine reputations there would
be if women should tell a little of what they know about men! Only a
little! But women are silent in the main--through loyalty or through
fear."

And again:

"What happens to an attractive woman who is forced to earn her own
living? In the business world? In the artistic world? Anywhere? I do
not say that men are a pack of wolves, but--I had such a heartbreaking
experience, especially in my brief musical career. I might have had a
small part in grand opera at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York
City, so one particular musical wolf assured me, if I would show a
little sympathy with his desire to assist me in some of the
rôles--occasional private rehearsals, and so on. Oh, the beast!... He
gave the part to another girl (her voice did not compare with mine) who
was less particular, and she made her début the next season. I went to
work at Wanamaker's store!"

And still men pursued me.

I find this entry:

"Roberta took me to dinner yesterday at the Lafayette with her friend
Mr. G----, a man of sixty, red-faced, fat and prosperous, the breezy
Westerner type. He is giving a grand party at Sherry's and wants me to
come. I said I was afraid I couldn't, my real reason being that I have
no dress that is nice enough. He said nothing at the time, but kept his
eyes on me, and this evening, when I got home, there was a perfectly
stunning dinner gown--it must have cost $250.--with a note from Mr.
G---- begging me to accept it as I would a flower, since it meant
absolutely nothing to him.

"How I longed to keep that gown! I think I should have kept it if
Seraphine had not happened in.

"'Isn't this lovely?' I said, holding it up. 'Do you think I can accept
it?' Then I told her what Mr. G---- had said.

"She looked at me out of her kind, wise eyes.

"'Do you like him?'

"'Well--rather.'

"'Is he married or unmarried?'

"'I think he's married.'

"'Is he the man who gave Roberta her sables?'

"'Y-yes,' I admitted.

"She looked at me again.

"'I can't decide for you, Pen; you must settle it with your own
conscience; but I am sure of one thing, that, if you accept this dress,
you will pay for it, and probably pay much more than it is worth.'

"It ended in my sending the gown back and missing the dinner party,
which made Mr. G---- furious, he blamed Roberta for my resistance, and a
little later he threw her over. Like most men of that type who promise
women wonderful things, he was hard, selfish and exacting--a
cold-blooded sensualist. And poor Roberta, indolent and luxurious, was
obliged to go back to work--up at seven and on her feet all day for
twenty dollars a week. She had been spending twenty dollars a day!

"What is a woman to conclude from all this?" I wrote despairingly. "I
know there are decent men in the world; there are employers who would
never think of becoming unduly interested in their good-looking women
assistants, who would never intimate that they had any claim upon the
evenings of pretty stenographers or secretaries; there are lawyers who
would never force odious attentions upon an attractive woman whose
divorce case they might be handling--'_Dear lady, how about a little
dinner and a cabaret show tonight?_'--There are old friends of the
family, serious middle-aged men who would never take advantage of a
young woman's weakness or distress; but, oh dear God! there are so many
others who have no decency, no heart! A woman is desperate and must
confide in someone. She has lost her position and is struggling to find
another. She craves innocent pleasure--music, the theatre, the dance.
_She is so horribly lonely._ Help me, counsel me, she pleads to some man
whom she trusts--any man, the average man. Does he help her? Yes, on one
condition, that she use her power as a woman. Not otherwise. This is a
great mystery to women--how men, who are naturally kind, can be so
cruel, so persistent, so infernally clever in forcing women to use their
power for their own undoing."

       *       *       *       *       *

_Tuesday._

Here is an interesting thing that Kendall Brown once said on this
subject--I recorded it in my diary along with other sayings of this
erratic Greenwich Village poet and philosopher:

"The sex power of women is the most formidable power ever loosed upon
earth," he declared one evening. "Thrones totter before it. Captains of
industry forget their millions in its presence. _Cherchez la femme!_
This terrible power is possessed by every dark-eyed siren in a Second
Avenue boarding house, by every languishing, red-lipped blonde earning
eighteen dollars a week in a department store. And she knows it! Others
have vast earthly possessions, stores of science, palaces of art,
knowledge without end--she has a _tresor_ that makes baubles of
these--she is the custodian of life, _she has the eternal life power_."

How true that is!

Again I wrote:

"It may be argued that women are willing victims of this man conspiracy,
I say _no_! Every woman in her heart longs to love _one_ man, to give
herself to _one_ man, to be true to _one_ man. Even the unfortunate in
the streets, if she receives just a little kindness, if she has only
half a chance and is encouraged to right living by some decent fellow,
will go through fire and water to show her gratitude and devotion. But
men give women no chance. They pluck the roses in the garden and trample
them under foot. Here is the great tragedy of modern life--_men wish to
change from one woman to another, whereas women do not wish to change. A
characteristic sex difference between men and women is that men are
naturally promiscuous, but women abhor the thought of promiscuousness._"

       *       *       *       *       *

_Sunday._

A wave of repulsion runs over me as I quickly turn the pages of my life
with Julian. And then a faint whisper comes to me: "The _truth_, you
have promised to tell it--at least to your own soul."

_The truth!_

Slowly I turn back to what I wrote in those unhappy days:

"Why do I live with him? I no longer love him. At times I despise him
and his slightest touch makes me shiver with disgust, yet I continue to
endure this life--why?

"It is because of the great pity I have for him. He is weak and
helpless, almost child-like in his dependence on me. I am the prop which
holds up the last shreds of his self-respect. If I left him, he would
drift lower and lower, I know it. Sometimes I pass some awful creature
staggering along the sidewalks. He is dirty and uncared for. Long matted
hair falls across his bleared and sunken eyes. I say to myself: 'But for
you, Penelope Wells, that might be Julian.' And this gives me courage to
take up my burden once more."

       *       *       *       *       *

And again I find:

"I am beginning to fear. I have been looking in my mirror and it seems
to me that my face is taking on the lines of animalism that I see daily
becoming deeper in Julian's face. Must I continue this degradation? If I
were helping him to raise himself--but I am not, not really. It's too
heavy a weight for me to bear. I am sinking ... sinking to his level. I
cannot stand it. It is killing me...."

       *       *       *       *       *

And again:

"I am too heartsick to write....

"I began this a week ago in agony of soul when I tried to set down my
feelings about a horrible night with Julian, but I could not. He has
been drinking--drinking for weeks--neglecting his business, breaking all
his promises to me. What can I do? How can I help him, strengthen him,
keep him from doing some irrevocable thing that will utterly destroy our
home and make me lose him? In spite of his weakness, his neglect, his
faithlessness, I cannot bear the thought of losing him. My pride is
involved and--and _something else_!

"He had not come home for dinner that night and it was ten o'clock when
I heard the door slam. Julian came into the living room and as soon as I
saw him my heart sank. He dropped into a chair without speaking.

"'Tired, dear?' I said, trying to smile a welcome.

"'Dead beat,' he sighed and stared moodily into the fire.

"I went to him and rested my hand lightly on his head and smoothed back
his hair as he liked me to do. He jerked away.

"'Wish you'd let me alone,' he muttered fretfully.

"I drew back, knowing what this irritability meant, and we sat in
silence gazing into the glowing ashes. His fingers beat a nervous tattoo
against the chair and presently, with some mumbled words, he rose and
moved towards the door. Now I knew the fight was on, the fight with the
Demon, drink, that was drawing him away from me. I followed him into the
hall.

"'Don't go,' I pleaded, but he pushed my hand from the door-knob.

"'I'll be back soon,' he said, reaching for his hat.

"'Wait!' I whispered. Deep within I breathed a prayer: 'Brave heart,
have courage; nimble wit, be alert; warm, white body hold him fast.'

"'Come back ... before the fire ... I want to talk to you,' I leaned
against him caressingly, but I could feel no response as I nestled
closer.

"'Don't you care for me any more?' I questioned tenderly.

"He was still unyielding, his brain was busy with the thought of the
brown liquor that his whole system craved. Purposely I drew back my
flowing sleeve and placed my warm flesh against his face. He turned to
his old seat before the fire.

"'All right, I'll stay for ten minutes ... if what you say is
important.'

"When he was once more comfortable, I brought a cushion to his chair and
snuggled down at his feet, with my head resting against him. I drew his
half reluctant hand around my throat, then I exerted every part of my
brain force ... to hold him. Ceaselessly I talked of our old days
together--camping trips to the Northern woods of Canada, wonderful weeks
of idling down the river in our launch, days of ideal happiness, spent
together. I appealed to his love for me, his old love, and the memory of
our early married life. He was unresponsive, and I could feel the
restlessness of his fingers in my hair.

"Presently he pushed me aside, not ungently this time but,
nevertheless, firmly. Once more the struggle began, and now I must rely
on the old physical lure to hold him.... Well, I won. I kept him with me
but was it worth such a sacrifice? As I think ... I burn with shame."

There are many entries in my diary like this, for my life with Julian
was full of scenes when I tried so hard ... so hard ... all in vain!

       *       *       *       *       *

Here is another picture:

"Last night Julian came home in a hilarious mood. His habitual sullen
look had gone and he almost seemed the man who had won me--before I knew
him as he really is.

"'Come along, Penny,' he laughed as he caught me in his arms. 'We're
going to celebrate. Dress up in that lacy black thing--you are seduction
itself in it.'

"His praise made me happy and, responding to his mood, I changed my
clothes quickly, and we set forth joyfully in anticipation of a pleasant
evening.

"Everything went well through the dinner, although I hesitated when
Julian ordered wine; but I was afraid to oppose him or to speak a single
jarring word.

"'Drink up, Penny, and have some more. My God, but you are glorious
tonight!' he whispered as he leaned across the table.

"I smiled and emptied my glass, and soon I became as reckless and jovial
as he. We went from one cabaret to another, laughing at everything. All
the world was gay. There was no sorrow anywhere--only one grand
celebration. Julian was never so fascinating. I was proud of his good
looks, of his wit, of his strength as he lifted me from the taxicab and
almost carried me into the house.

"'My darling!' I breathed as my lips brushed his cheek, 'I love you!'

"'You see, Penny, how wonderful everything is when you are reasonable.
If you will only drink with me once in a while, I'll never, never leave
you.'

"He placed me gently in a chair. Soon the room began to whirl around ...
and I knew no more....

"This morning my head ached and a thousand needles were piercing my
eyes. I rang for the maid and asked for my husband.

"'He brought you home last night, but he went out again later and he
hasn't come back,' she said and her eyes did not meet mine.

"'Was I--was I?' I stammered, shame possessing me.

"'Yes, Mrs. Wells, you were....'

"God! What have I gained? I have degraded myself without doing Julian
any good. I have sunk to his level and have not even been able to keep
him at my side. I hate him! I hate myself even more!"

       *       *       *       *       *

I find a pitiful entry that I made only a few months before Julian was
killed. In a fit of anger he had left me, accusing me of being a drag on
his life, saying that I was to blame for all his follies. He was going
to be rid of me now. So he took all the money in the house and went
off--I should never see him again. At last I had what I had longed for,
my freedom, he had given it to me, flung it in my face. And then--

This is what I wrote six weeks later:

"Well, I'm a failure all right. Never again may I think well of myself
or feel that I am entitled to the joys of life. For I'm just a plain
moral coward. I couldn't even keep what was forced on me--my liberty.

"Last Wednesday he came back, such a miserable wreck of a man, so
utterly broken in every way that it would have moved a heart of stone.
Inside of me is a sorrow too deep for expression, but somehow a peace
also. Now I am sure that my bondage will never cease. But I couldn't
refuse to take Julian back when I saw what a state he was in. His
spiritual abasement was such an awful thing that I could not shame him
by even letting him know that I understood it."

       *       *       *       *       *

_Monday._

I walked for hours beside the ocean, watching the waves, the sky, the
soaring gulls,--trying to tire myself out, searching into my heart for
the truth about my life--about my illness. I cannot find the truth. I
have done what Dr. Owen told me to do as well as I can and--I do not see
that any good has come of it. I have stirred up ghosts of the
past--leering ghosts, and I hate them. I am sick of ignoble memories. I
want to close forever the door on those unhappy years. I want to be
well, to live a sane life, to have a little pleasure; but....

       *       *       *       *       *

_Thursday._

I am tired of Atlantic City. I am going back to New York tomorrow. No
doubt I have benefited by these days of rest and change. My bad dreams
are gone and I have only heard the Voices once. Dr. Owen will say that
his prescription has been efficacious, but that is not true. I know
_They_ are waiting for me in the city, waiting to torture me. Then why
do I go back? Because it is my fate. I am driven on by some power beyond
my control--driven on!

_Penelope will cross the ocean. Her husband will die very soon. There
will be war soon. She will go to the war and honors will be conferred
upon her on the battlefields. Then she will go down to horror--to
terror!_

How that prophecy of Seraphine haunts me! All of it has come true except
the very last. Horror! Terror! These two are ever before me. These two
already encompass me. These two will presently overwhelm me
unless--unless--I don't know what.

Seraphine is in New York, I have meant to go to see her, but--I am
afraid, I am afraid of what she will tell me!


_New York, Saturday._

I must set down here--to ease my tortured brain--some of the things that
have happened to me since I last wrote in this book, my confessional.

When I got back to town I found an invitation to go to a Bohemian ball,
and I decided to accept. _Vive la joie!_ So I put on a white dress and
went with Roberta Vallis and that ridiculous poet Kendall Brown. It was
the first time I had danced since my husband died and I enjoyed it.

Such a ball! They called it a Pagan Revel and it was! Egyptian costumes
and a Russian orchestra. Some of the Egyptian slave maidens were dressed
mostly in brown paint. Kendall says he helped dress them at the Liberal
Club. Good heavens! Kendall's pose of lily white virtue amuses me. He
went as a cave man with a leopard skin over his shoulders, and I danced
with him two or three times. His talk reminds me of Julian. How well I
know the methods of these sentimental pirates! What infinite patience
and adroitness they use in leading the talk towards dangerous ground!
How seriously they begin! With what sincerity and ingenuous frankness
they proceed, and all the time they know exactly what they are doing,
exactly what effects they are producing in a woman.

Kendall spoke of the modern dance in a detached, intellectual way. He
dwelt on one particular development in the fox trot--had I noticed
it?--there! that naval officer and the languishing blonde were doing it
now--which seemed to him unæsthetic. It might be harmful in some cases,
say to a Class A woman. Being curious, I asked what he meant by a "Class
A" woman and this gave Kendall his opportunity to discourse on
fundamental differences that exist among women, so he declares. I wish I
knew if what he says is true. He assures me he has it on the authority
of a Chicago specialist, but I never put much dependence on anything
that Kendall Brown says. If this is true the whole romantic history of
the world will have to be rewritten and the verdicts of numberless
juries in murder trials _passionels_ ought to be set aside.

The statement is that physical desire is universal among men, but not
among women. One-third of all women, Kendall puts them in Class C, have
no such desire; therefore, they deserve no particular credit for
remaining virtuous. Another third of all women are in Class B, the
normal class, where this desire is or is not present, according to
circumstances. The last third of all women make up Class A, and these
women, being as strongly tempted as men (or more so), are condemned to
the same struggles that men experience, and, if they happen to be
beautiful, and without deep spirituality, they are fated to have
emotional experiences that may make them great heroines or artists,
great adventuresses or outcasts.

I am sure I do not belong in Class C, I _hope_ I belong in Class B, but I
am afraid--

       *       *       *       *       *

I knew _They_ were waiting for me. Last night I heard Them again--after
the ball. It was a horrible night! I shall write to Dr. Owen that I must
see him at once.



CHAPTER III

A BOWL OF GOLD FISH


(_A letter from Penelope_)

_New York, February ----._

DEAR DR. OWEN:

Did you think I had vanished from the earth? I know I ought to have
reported to you a week ago, but--I fear Penelope Wells is an unreliable
person. Forgive me! I am in great distress.

I will say, first, that Atlantic City did me a lot of good. I came back
to town happier than I have been for months, in fact I was so encouraged
that I decided to amuse myself a little, as you advised. Last night I
went to a rather gay ball with some friends, and I was beginning to
think myself almost normal, when suddenly--alas!

I had a strange experience this morning that frightens me. I was sitting
at my desk writing a note when I glanced towards the window where there
is a bowl of gold fish, three beautiful fish and two snails. It amuses
me to watch them sometimes. Well, as I looked up, the sunshine was
flashing on the little darting creatures and I felt myself drawn to the
bowl, and for two or three minutes I stood there staring into it as if I
expected to see something. Then, presently I _did_ see something, I saw
myself inside the bowl--in a kind of vision. I saw myself just as
distinctly as I ever saw anything.

In order that you may understand this, doctor, I must explain that
Captain Herrick took me home from the ball. It was two o'clock in the
morning when we left the place and it had blown up cold during the rain,
so that the streets were a glare of ice and our taxi was skidding
horribly. When we got to Twelfth Street and Fifth Avenue there came a
frightful explosion; a gas main had taken fire and flames were shooting
twenty feet into the air. I was terrified, for it made me think of
Paris--the air raids, the night sirens, the long-distance cannon.
Captain Herrick saw that I was quite hysterical and said that I mustn't
think of going up to Eightieth Street. I must spend the night at his
studio in Washington Square, only a few doors away, and he would go to a
hotel. I agreed to this, for I was nearly frozen.

When we entered the studio I was surprised to find what a beautiful
place it was. It seems that Captain Herrick has rented it from a
distinguished artist. There is a great high ceiling and a wonderful
fireplace where logs were blazing. I was standing before this fireplace
trying to warm myself, when there came a crash overhead, it was only a
gas fixture that had fallen, but it seemed to me the whole building was
coming down. I almost fainted in terror and Chris caught me in his arms,
trying to comfort me. Then, before I realized what he was doing, he had
drawn me close to him and kissed me.

This made me very angry. I felt that he had no right to take advantage
of my fright in this way and I told him I would not stay in his studio a
minute longer. And I did not. I almost ran down the stairs, then out
into the street. It was foolish to get so agitated, but I could not help
it. I went over to the Brevoort and spent the night there. You will
understand in a minute why I am telling you all this, it has to do with
the vision that I saw in the bowl of gold fish.

In this vision I saw myself enter Captain Herrick's studio just as I
really did--in my white satin dress. Christopher was with me in his
uniform. Then I saw myself lying on a divan and--Chris was bending over
me, kissing me passionately. He kissed me many times, it seemed as if he
would never stop kissing me--in the vision. All this was as clear as a
motion picture. The extraordinary part of it is, that I neither resisted
him nor responded in any way, I just seemed to be lying there--with my
eyes closed--as if I were asleep.

I am very much distressed about this. I _know_ that I did not really lie
down on Captain Herrick's divan--I would not have done such a thing for
the world. I _know_ Captain Herrick did not really kiss me in that
passionate way, as I saw him kiss me in the bowl of gold fish, but I
_feel_ that he did. I am afraid that he did. I can't get over the
feeling that he did. This sounds like madness, doesn't it? A woman
cannot be ardently kissed by a man without knowing it, can she? Perhaps
I am mad--perhaps this is the way mad people feel.

Help me, doctor, if you can, and above all _please_ see Captain
Herrick--he is an old friend of yours--and find out exactly what I did
at his studio. I must know the truth. And I can't ask Chris, can I?

Yours in anguish of soul,

PENELOPE WELLS.

P. S.--Please telephone me as soon as you get this and make an
appointment to see me.



CHAPTER IV

FIVE PURPLE MARKS


During his thirty years of medical experience among neurasthenic and
hysterical women, Dr. William Owen had never encountered a more puzzling
case than the one before him on this brisk winter morning when he set
forth to answer the urgent appeal of Penelope Wells. Here was a case
fated to be written about in many languages and discussed before learned
societies. A Boston psychologist was even to devote a chapter of his
great work "Mysteries of the Subconscious Mind" to the hallucinations of
Penelope W----. Poor Penelope!

When Dr. Owen entered her attractive sitting room with its prevailing
tone of blue, he found his fair patient reclining on a _chaise longue_,
her eyes heavy with anxiety.

"It's good of you to come, doctor. I appreciate it," she gave him her
hand gratefully. "I expected to go to your office, but--something else
has happened and I am--discouraged." Her arm fell listlessly by her
side. "So I telephoned you."

"I am glad to come, you know I take a particular interest in you," he
smiled cheerily and drew up a chair. "We must expect these set-backs,
but you are improving. You show it in your face. And your letter showed
it. I read your letter carefully--studied it and--"

"You haven't seen Captain Herrick?" she asked eagerly.

"Not yet. I have asked him to dine with me this evening."

Penelope sighed wearily and twined her fingers together in nervous
agitation.

"It's all so distressing. I can't understand it. Why did I see myself in
that bowl of gold fish, so distinctly? Tell me--why?"

"You mustn't take that seriously, Mrs. Wells. These crystal visions are
common enough--the books are full of them. It's a phenomenon of
self-hypnotism. You are in a broken-down nervous condition after months
of excessive strain--that's all, and these hallucinations result, just
as colored shapes and patterns appear when you shut your eyes tight and
press your fingers against the eye-balls."

This did not satisfy her. "What I want to know is whether there is any
possibility that I really did what I saw myself do in that vision? Do
you think there is?"

"Certainly not. I believe you did exactly what you tell me you did--you
spent a few minutes in Christopher's studio and then came away angry
because he kissed you. By the way, I don't see why one kiss from a man
who loves you and has asked you to marry him should have offended you so
terribly, especially when you admit that you care for him?"

His tone was one of good-humored indulgence for capricious beauty, but
Mrs. Wells kept to her seriousness.

"I didn't mean that I was really angry with Captain Herrick. I was angry
at myself for the thrill of joy I felt when he kissed me and I was
frightened by the wave of emotion that swept over me. I have been
frightened all these days--even now!" She covered her eyes with her hand
as if shrinking from some painful memory.

"Please don't agitate yourself. You must not get hysterical about this.
You must have confidence in me and in your own powers of recuperation.
And you must be sure to give me all the facts. Did I understand you to
say that something else has happened--since you wrote me?"

"Yes, something quite unbelievable--it happened last night."

"Tell me about it--quietly, just as if you were discussing somebody
else."

Penelope smiled wistfully. "How kind and wise you are! I will try to be
calm, but--it is hard for me. I had a dream last night, doctor, and this
dream is true. I have evidence that it is true. I did something last
night without knowing it, and then I dreamed about it."

"You did something without knowing it?"

"Yes, I put on a red dress and a black hat that I have not worn for four
years, not since my husband died. For four years I have only worn black
or white."

"Do I understand you to say that you put on these things without knowing
that you put them on?"

"Yes."

"How do you know you did?"

"My maid told me so. You see my dream was so extraordinarily vivid--I'll
give you the details in a minute--that, as soon as I awakened, I rang
for Jeanne and questioned her. 'Jeanne,' I said, 'you know the red dress
that I have not worn since my husband died?' She looked at me in a queer
way and said: 'Madame is laughing at me. Madame knows quite well that
she wore the red dress last night.' Then she recalled everything in
detail, how I sent her to a particular shelf where this dress was folded
away and got her to freshen up a ribbon and press the skirt where it was
wrinkled. Jeanne is also positive that I put on my black hat. Then, she
says, I went out; I left the house at five minutes to nine and came back
about eleven. There is no doubt about it."

"And you remember nothing of all this?"

"Nothing. So--so you see," she faltered, then she leaned impulsively
toward the doctor. "As an expert will you please tell me if it is
possible for a woman to act like that unless her mind is affected?"

Dr. Owen tried to take this lightly. "I'm a fairly sane citizen myself,
but if you asked me which suit I wore yesterday, I couldn't tell you."

"You couldn't suddenly put on red clothes without knowing it, if you had
been wearing black clothes for years, could you?" she demanded.

He laughed. "When it comes to clothes I might do anything. I might wear
a straw hat in January. But I couldn't go out of the house without
knowing it. Do you mean to tell me you don't remember going out of the
house last night?"

"I certainly do not. I remember nothing about it. I would have sworn
that I went to bed early," she insisted.

"Hm! Have you any idea where you went?"

"Yes--I know where I went, but I only know this from my dream. I know I
went to Captain Herrick's studio. You--you can ask him."

"Of course. You haven't asked him yourself--you haven't telephoned, have
you?"

"No, no! I would be ashamed to ask him."

The doctor noted her increasing agitation and the flood of color
mounting to her cheeks.

"Steady now! Take it easy. Have you any idea what you did at the studio,
assuming that you really went there?"

Penelope hesitated, biting her lips. "I know what I saw myself do in the
dream. I acted in an impossible way. I--I--here is a little thing--you
know I never smoke, but in the dream I did smoke."

"Have you ever smoked?"

"Yes, I did when my husband was living. He taught me. He said I was a
better sport when I was smoking a cigarette."

"But you haven't smoked since your husband's death?"

"Not at all. I have not smoked once since he died, not once--until last
night."

The man of science eyed her searchingly. "Mrs. Wells, you are not hiding
anything from me, are you?"

"No! No! Of course not! Don't frown at me like that--please don't. I am
trying my best to tell you the truth. I _know_ these things did not
happen, but--"

Here her self-control left her and, with a gesture of despair, Penelope
sank forward on a little table beside her chair and sobbed hysterically,
her face hidden in her arms.

"There! There!" soothed Dr. Owen. "I was a brute. I have taxed you
beyond your strength."

"I can't tell you how grateful I am for your patience and sympathy,"
murmured Penelope through her tears, and, presently, regaining her
composure, she continued her confession.

"I want you to know everything--now. In my dream there was a scene of
passion between Captain Herrick and myself. He held me in his arms and
kissed me and I--I responded. We both seemed to be swept on by a
reckless madness and at one moment Chris seized me roughly with his hand
and--of course you think this is all an illusion, but--look here!" She
threw open her loose garment and on her beautiful shoulder pointed to
five perfectly plain purple marks that might have been made by the
fingers of a man's hand.

"Extraordinary!" muttered the doctor. "Let me look at this closer. Have
you got such a thing as a magnifying glass? Ah, thank you!"

For some moments he silently studied these strange marks on the fair
young bosom, then he said very gravely: "Mrs. Wells, I want to think
this over before giving an opinion. And I must have a serious talk with
Captain Herrick."



CHAPTER V

WHAT REALLY HAPPENED AT THE STUDIO


For the purposes of this narrative, which is concerned almost
exclusively with the poignant strangeness of a woman's experiences, it
is sufficient to say that Captain Christopher Herrick was what is
generally known as a fine fellow--handsome, modest, well-to-do,
altogether desirable as a lover and a husband. At thirty-five he had
made for himself an enviable position as a New York architect, one who
was able to strike out boldly in new lines while maintaining a
reasonable respect for venerable traditions. He had served gallantly in
the war and he was now, for quite understandable reasons, desperately in
love with Penelope Wells.

On this particular evening when Christopher had been summoned by his
much respected friend, Dr. Owen, to dine and discuss a matter of
immediate importance, the young officer had accepted eagerly. For some
time he had wanted to talk with the doctor about Penelope's nervous
condition. He was drawn to this girl by a force that stirred the depths
of his being--he could not live without her; yet his love was clouded by
anxiety at her strange behavior.

Christopher's face was troubled. His brain was in a turmoil. The
happenings of the last few days bewildered him. Life had seemed so
simple, so beautiful, with just their great love for each other to build
on; but now.... He was only sure of one thing, that from the moment
Penelope Wells had come to him as a ministering angel across the scarred
and broken battle field, he had adored her with a love that would endure
until the day of his death ... and, he told himself, beyond that!

"Chris, my boy," began Owen in his bluff, cheery way when they had
retired to the study for coffee and cigars, "I am in a difficulty, I
must ask you some questions that may embarrass you--it's the only way
out."

Herrick's clear, honest gaze met the doctor's eyes unflinchingly.

"That's all right, sir. Go ahead. I suppose it's about Mrs. Wells?"

"Yes. I am very much interested in her case, not only on your account,
but because she is a wonderful woman. When I write your father I'll tell
him he's going to have a daughter-in-law who will make him sit up and
take notice. Ha, ha!"

The young man's heavy brows contracted gloomily.

"I wish that were true, sir, but--you know what I told you?"

"About her refusing you? Don't worry over that. Just wait until we get
her health built up a little."

"Do you think she will change her mind? Did she say so?" Herrick asked
eagerly.

"Pretty nearly that. If she doesn't marry you, she won't marry anyone.
The fact is--Mrs. Wells is suffering from a nervous strain, I'm not
sure what it is, but there are abnormal symptoms and--I hate to force
your confidence, Chris, but, speaking as Mrs. Wells' medical adviser and
a mighty good friend of yours, a sort of representative of your
father--you know how close your father and I have always been?"

"Yes, sir, I know. I'll do anything you say."

"You want to help this lovely lady? You want to make her happy?"

"That's what I want more than anything in this world," the officer's
grey eyes flashed with the spirit of a lover and a soldier.

"Good. Now the way to do it is--you must help her by helping me. I think
I understand the situation up to a week ago, but since then--well, it's
a little complicated. Mrs. Wells has paid you two visits in the last few
days, hasn't she?"

"Yes. Did she tell you?"

"She told me a little. Try some of that port, Chris, and light another
cigar," the older man said genially. "We may as well be comfortable.
There! Now tell me about Mrs. Wells' first visit--after the dance?"

At this invitation the young officer began quite frankly and with a
certain sense of humor to describe the circumstances that led up to the
climax, but presently he hesitated, and, observing this, Owen said: "No
false delicacy, please. It's extremely important to me as a doctor to
know everything that happened. You say Mrs. Wells came in chilled and
frightened and--then what?"

"Then I threw a couple of logs on the fire and was just going to get
her some brandy against the cold when there came an awful racket
overhead, it shook the whole place and Penelope was so startled
that--just instinctively I put my arm around her. She clung to me and--I
tried to soothe her and before I knew it--I couldn't help it--I kissed
her."

The doctor smiled. "If you hadn't kissed her under those circumstances,
my boy, I would never have forgiven you. Perhaps she wouldn't either.
Well?"

"It's going to be pretty tough, sir, to tell you--some of this,"
stammered Herrick, frowning at the carpet. "Penelope got awfully angry
and said she was going to leave. I apologized and tried to square
myself, but she wouldn't have it. She said I had insulted her and she
refused to stay in my place another minute. I asked her to wait until I
could get a dry coat and umbrella for her and then I would take her
wherever she wanted to go. She agreed to wait and I went into the other
room."

Christopher paused and drew his chair closer to the doctor.

"Now here is a most extraordinary thing. When I left Penelope she was
standing before the fire, furious with me, but when I came back, not two
minutes later, she was lying on the divan with her eyes closed,
apparently asleep. As I had been out of the room for so short a time, it
seemed incredible that she could have really fallen asleep, yet there
she was. I looked at her in astonishment. I wondered if she could have
fainted, but I saw that her cheeks were flushed, her lips were red and
she was breathing regularly. I didn't know what to make of it."

"Well?" questioned the doctor.

Herrick shifted uneasily on his chair. "I haven't had much experience
with women, sir, but I know they are complicated creatures, and I
couldn't help thinking that Penelope was playing a little joke on me; so
I bent over her and, after I had made up my mind that she wasn't ill and
wasn't asleep, I--I kissed her again. That's another queer thing. Her
lips were warm, her breathing was as soft and regular as a child's, but
she never moved nor spoke nor responded in any way. She just lay there
and--"

"You thought she was shamming?" suggested Owen.

"That's it, especially as she had been so angry with me just a few
minutes before. I couldn't imagine anything else. So--er--"

"Go on," said the older man.

"You know I have always respected women, and this woman was more to me
than anything--she's the woman I want for my wife, so you see I would be
the last man in the world to show her disrespect, but--" the young
fellow flushed--"as I looked at her there on the divan--so beautiful--I
longed to hold her in my arms and I said to myself that, even if she was
tricking me, it was quite a pleasing trick--if she could stand it, I
could--so I--I kissed her some more. I begged her to speak to me, to
respond to me, to tell me she returned my love and would be my wife; but
she didn't answer, didn't move, or speak, she didn't even open her eyes,
and presently I was filled with a horrible sense of shame. I felt like
a thief in the night, stealing caresses that were not meant for me or
willingly given. I realized that something terrible must have happened
to Penelope, although she looked so calm and beautiful.

"And now my only thought was to call for help. I hurried into the next
room and tried to get you on the telephone, but they said you were at
the hospital and could not be reached for an hour. Then I rushed back to
the studio and, as soon as I came in, I could scarcely believe my eyes
but there was Penelope standing in front of the fireplace, just as I had
left her the first time. She was looking at the blazing logs with a
thoughtful expression and when I came close to her, she faced me
naturally and pleasantly as if nothing had happened.

"You can imagine my astonishment, I could not speak, but--I was so
relieved to find her recovered that I put my arm around her
affectionately and just touched my lips to her cheek. Heavens! You
should have seen her then. She sprang away from me indignant. How dared
I take such a liberty? Had she not reproved me already? It was
incredible that a man who professed to care for her, a gentleman, should
be so lacking in delicacy. And before I could do anything or explain
anything, she had dashed out into the night alone, refusing even to let
me walk beside her. Now then," Christopher concluded, "what do you make
of that?"

"Strange!" nodded the doctor, "very strange. And in spite of this she
came to see you again?"

"Yes, two evenings later, without any warning, she burst into my studio
about nine o'clock."

"In a red dress?"

"Yes."

"And a black hat?"

"Yes."

"Good Lord, it's true!" muttered Owen. "Go on, my boy. I want the
details. This may be exceedingly important. Go right through the scene
from the beginning."

After a moment of perplexed silence, Christopher continued: "When I say
she burst in, that about expresses it. She was like a whirlwind, a red,
laughing, fascinating whirlwind. I had never seen her half so
beautiful--so alluring. I was mad about her and--half afraid of her."

"Hm!" grunted Owen. "What did she do?"

"Do? She did a lot of things. In the first place she apologized for
having been so silly the time before--after the ball. She said she was
ill then, she didn't want to talk about it. Now she had come to make
amends--that was the idea."

"I see. Well?"

"Well, we sat before the fire and she asked me to make her a cocktail.
She said she had had the blues and she wanted to be gay. So I mixed some
cocktails and she took two, and she certainly was gay. I didn't know
Penelope drank cocktails, but of course it was all right--lots of women
do. Then she wanted to sit on the divan and she bolstered me up with
pillows. She said she liked divans. I hate to tell you all this, sir."

"Go on, Chris."

"Pretty soon she wanted a cigarette and she began to blow smoke in my
face, laughing and fooling and--finally she put her lips up so
temptingly for another light that I ... I'll never forget how she bent
over me and held my face between her two hands and kissed me slowly with
a little sideways movement and told me to call her Fauvette--not
Penelope. She said she hated the name Penelope. 'Call me Fauvette,' she
said. 'I am your Fauvette, all yours.'"

"Extraordinary! This was the woman who had been furious with you only
two nights before for daring to kiss her once?"

"Yes, sir. Now she was a siren, a wonderful, lithe creature, clinging to
me. I almost lost control of myself. Once I caught her sharply by the
shoulder--I tore her dress...."

Christopher stopped as the power of these memories overcame him. He
covered his eyes with one hand, while the other clutched the chair arm.

The doctor waited.

"Well, sir," the young man resumed, "I don't know how I came through
that night without dishonor, but I did. There was a moment of madness,
then suddenly, distinctly, like a gentle bell I heard a voice inside me,
a sort of spiritual voice saying two words that changed everything.
'_Your wife!_' That is what she was to be, my wife! I loved her. I must
defend her against herself, against myself. And I did. I got her out of
that place--somehow. I got her home--somehow. I have been through
several battles, doctor, but this one was the hardest."

Captain Herrick drew a long sigh and sat silent.

"What's the answer, doctor?" he asked presently.

"I don't know, Chris. Upon my soul, I don't know."



CHAPTER VI

EARTH-BOUND


(_From Penelope's Diary_)

_Tuesday Night._

Heaven help me! I have heard the words that sound my doom. I saw Dr.
Owen this morning. It is all true--my dream, and what I saw myself do in
the bowl of goldfish. True! I did those incredible things. I wore my red
dress and my black hat. I went to Captain Herrick's studio. I lay down
on the divan--everything is true. Oh, God, this is too horrible! How can
I ever face Christopher again? I wish I could die!

Dr. Owen questioned me about the name Fauvette--why did I ask
Christopher to call me Fauvette? I have no idea. I hate and despise that
name. It brings up memories that I wish might be forever blotted out of
my mind. That was the name Julian used to call me when he had been
drinking. He would pretend that I was another person, Fauvette, and
sometimes Fauvette would do things that I refused to do. Fauvette would
yield to his over-powering physical charm and would say dreadful things,
would enter into his mood and become just the sort of animal creature
that he wanted. It was like a madness.


_Wednesday morning._

I cried my eyes out last night and lay awake for hours thinking about my
unhappy life. All my pride and hopes have come to this--an irresponsible
mind. It makes no difference whether the cause is shell shock or
something else, the fact remains that my mind does not work properly--I
do things without knowing or remembering what I do. I am sure I cannot
live long--what have I to live for? I have made a will leaving my little
fortune to Chris--he will never know how much I care for him--and my
jewelry to Seraphine, except my silly thumb ring, which is for Roberta
Vallis. She loves it.

This afternoon _They_ came again. _They_ never were so bad. I was
walking down Fifth Avenue and, as I reached the cathedral, I thought I
would go in and say my prayers. I love the soft lights and the smell of
incense, but just at the door _They_ began insulting me.

"Little fool! Little fool! She is going to say her prayers. Ha, ha!"
They laughed.

I knelt down and breathed an old benediction, shutting my ears against
the Voices:

"_The peace of God which passeth all understanding--_"

"Fauvette! Fauvette!" _They_ mocked me.

"_Keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God--_"

"She's a pretty little devil. I like her mouth."

"_And of his son, Jesus Christ our Lord--_"

"Red dress! Red dress! Divan! Divan!"

"_And the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy
Ghost--_"

"She can't remember it. She's thinking of her lover. She wants to kiss
her lover." Then _They_ said gross things and I could not go on. I got
up from my knees, heartbroken, and came away.

       *       *       *       *       *

_Thursday night._

I thought I should never be happy again, but whatever the future holds
for me of darkness and sadness, I have had one radiantly happy day.
Christopher telephoned this morning and arrived half an hour later with
an armful of roses. He took me to luncheon, then for a drive in the
Park, then to tea at the Plaza where we danced to delicious music, and
finally to dinner and the theater. He would not leave me. And over and
over again he asked me to marry him. He will not hear of anything but
that I am to be his wife. He loves me, he worships me, he trusts me
absolutely. Nothing that has happened makes the slightest difference to
him. Dr. Owen is going to cure me in a few weeks, there is no doubt
about it, Christopher says, and anyhow, he loves me.

If I were in Europe now I'd make a pilgrimage to the shrine of some
saint and heap up offerings of flowers. I _must_ do something to make
others happy; my heart is overflowing with gratitude!

I thrilled with pride as I walked beside my lover on the Avenue this
afternoon. He looked so tall and splendid in his uniform. I love his
eyes--his shoulders--everything about him. My Christopher!

I am to give him his answer within a week, but--_what answer can I give
him?_

       *       *       *       *       *

_Friday morning._

Alas! I have paid for my happiness--it was written, it had to be. I have
lived through a night that cannot be described. Seraphine's prophetic
words have come true. Horror! Terror! I cannot bear it any longer. It is
quite impossible for me to bear it any longer. I have sent for
Seraphine, begging her to come to me at once--this afternoon, this
evening, any time tonight, before I sleep again. I would sooner die than
endure another such night.

       *       *       *       *       *

_Saturday morning._

Seraphine did not get my note until late, but in spite of a snow-storm,
she came to me and stayed all night. Dear Seraphine! She spends her life
helping and comforting people in distress. She sees nothing but trouble
from morning till night, yet she is always cheerful and jolly. She says
God wants her to laugh and grow fat, so she does.

We talked for hours and I told her everything--or nearly everything.
There is only one abominable memory that I can never tell to anyone, I
may write it some day in the red leather volume of my diary that is
locked with a key and that must be burned before I die. I told
Seraphine how I was suddenly awakened Thursday night by a horrible
feeling that there was a _presence_ near me in my bedroom. Then I slept
again and saw myself all in white lying on the ground surrounded by a
circle of black birds with hateful red eyes--fiery eyes. These birds
came nearer and nearer and I knew I was suffering horribly as I lay
there, yet I looked on calmly without a shred of sympathy for myself; in
fact I felt only amused contempt when I saw the dream image of poor
Penelope start up from the ground with a scream of fright.

While I opened my heart Seraphine sat silent, watching me like a loving
mother. Several times she touched my arm protectingly, and once her gaze
swept quickly down my skirt, then up again, as if she saw something
moving.

"What is it? What do you see?" I asked, but she did not tell me.

When I had finished she kissed me tenderly and said she was so glad I
had let her come to me in my distress. She told me there was a great and
immediate danger hanging over me, but that God's infinite love would
protect and heal me, as it protects all His children, if I would learn
to draw upon it.

I asked what this danger was and Seraphine said it would strike at me
very soon through a dark-haired woman; but she would try to help me, if
I would heed her warnings. I don't know why but I immediately thought of
Roberta Vallis, and the strange part of it is that within an hour,
Roberta called me on the telephone to say she was coming up right away.
Roberta and Seraphine had not seen each other for years, not since that
night when Seraphine made her prophecy about me.

Within a half hour Roberta arrived very grand in furs and jewels, quite
dashingly pretty and pleased with herself--the real _joie de vivre_
spirit. She was perfectly willing to reveal the source of this sudden
magnificence, but I did not ask her--I know enough of Bobby's love
affairs already--and I could see that she was uneasy under Seraphine's
gravely disapproving eyes. She had come to invite me to a house-warming
party that she is planning to give at her new apartment in the Hotel des
Artistes. I shall meet all sorts of wonderful people, social and
theatrical celebrities, and there will be music. Seraphine's eyes kept
saying no, and I told Bobby I would telephone her tomorrow before six
o'clock. I was not sure whether I could accept because--"Haven't you an
engagement for Thursday with Captain Herrick?" suggested Seraphine.

Whereupon Bobby, with an impertinent little toss of her bobbed-off black
hair, said: "Oh, Pen, why do you waste your time on a commonplace
architect? He will never satisfy you--not in a thousand years. Bye-bye,
I'll see you at the party." Then away she went, her eyes challenging
Seraphine who stands for all the old homely virtues, including unselfish
love, that Bobby Vallis entirely disapproves of. What shall I do?
Seraphine says I must not go to this party, but--_I want to go!_

       *       *       *       *       *

I have accepted Roberta's invitation, in spite of a warning from Seraphine
that something dreadful will happen to me if I go. I have a morbid
curiosity to see what experiences _can_ be in store for me that are
worse than those I have gone through already. Besides, I do not believe
what Seraphine says--it is contrary to my reason, it is altogether
fantastic. And, even if it were true, even if I really am in the
horrible peril that she describes, what difference does it make where I
go or what I do? I am just a spiritual outcast, marked for suffering--a
little more or less _je m'en moque_.

       *       *       *       *       *

I have hesitated to write down Seraphine's explanation of my trouble,
even in my diary. I reject it with all the strength of my soul. I
consider it absurd, I hate it, I try to forget it; but alas! it sticks
in my thoughts like some ridiculous jingle. So I may as well face the
thing on paper, here in the privacy of my diary, and laugh at it. Ha,
ha!--is that false-sounding laughter?

_Seraphine says that the great war has thrown the spirit world into
confusion, especially in the lower levels where the new arrivals come
and linger. Millions, have died on the battle field in hatred and
violence. Great numbers of these have gone over so suddenly that they
are not able to adjust themselves to the other plane where they
constitute an immense company of earth-bound souls that long to come
back. There are myriads of these unreconciled souls hovering all about
us, crowding about us, eagerly, greedily, striving to come back. Some do
not know that they are dead and rebel fiercely against their changed
condition. The drunkards still thirst after drink. The murderers want to
go on killing. The gluttons would fain gorge themselves with food, the
lustful with bodily excesses. All these evil spirits, cut off from their
old gratifications, try to satisfy their desires by re-entering earthly
bodies, and often they succeed. That is the great peril of the war, she
says. What a horrible thought! I simply refuse to believe that such
things are possible._

_And yet--those Voices!_



CHAPTER VII

JEWELS


If this were a conventional novel and not simply a statement of
essential facts in the strange case of Penelope Wells, there would be
much elaboration of details and minor characters, including the wife of
Dr. William Owen and an adventure that befell this lady during a
week-end visit to Morristown, N. J., since this adventure has a bearing
upon the narrative. As it is, we must be content to know that Mrs.
William Owen was an irritable and neurasthenic person, a thorn in the
side of her distinguished husband, who was supposed to cure these
ailments. He could not cure his wife, however, and had long since given
up trying. It was Mrs. Owen who quite unintentionally changed the course
of events for sad-eyed Penelope.

It happened in this way. Dr. Owen received a call from Mrs. Seraphine
Walters on the day following Seraphine's talk with Penelope and was not
overjoyed to learn that his visitor was a trance medium. If there was
one form of human activity that this hard-headed physician regarded with
particular detestation it was that of mediumship. All mediums, in his
opinion, were knaves or fools and their so-called occult manifestations
were either conjurers' trickery or self-created illusions of a hypnotic
character. He had never attended a spiritualistic séance and had no
intention of doing so.

But in spite of his aversion for Seraphine's _métier_, the doctor was
impressed by the lady's gentle dignity and by her winsome confidence
that she must be lovingly received since she herself came armed so
abundantly with the power of love. Furthermore, it appeared that the
medium had called for no other reason than to furnish information about
her dear friend Penelope Wells, so the specialist listened politely.

"You are the first spiritualist I ever talked to, Mrs. Walters," he said
amiably. "You seem to have a sunny, joyous nature?"

Her face lighted up. "That is because I have so much to be grateful for,
doctor. I have always been happy, almost always, even as a little girl,
because--" She checked herself, laughing. "I guess you are not
interested in that."

"Yes I am. Go on."

"I was only going to say that I have always known that there are
wonderful powers all about us, guarding us."

"You knew this as a little girl?"

"Oh, yes, I used to see Them when I was playing alone. I thought They
were fairies. It was a long time before I discovered that the other
children did not see Them."

"Them! Hm! How long have you been doing active work as a medium?"

"About fifteen years."

"What started you at it? I suppose there were indications that you had
unusual powers?"

"Yes. There were indications that I had been chosen for this work. I
don't know why I was chosen unless it is that I have never thought much
about myself. That is the great sin--selfishness. My controls tell me
that terrible punishment awaits selfish souls on the other side. I was
so happy when I learned that the exalted spirits can only manifest
through a loving soul. They read our thoughts, see the color of our aura
and, if they can, they come to those who have traits in common with
their own."

"If they can--how do you mean?"

"My controls tell me that many spirits cannot manifest at all, just as
many humans cannot serve as mediums."

At this moment a maid entered the office and spoke to Dr. Owen in a low
tone saying that Mrs. Owen had sent her to remind the doctor that this
was Saturday morning and that they were leaving for Morristown in an
hour to be gone over Sunday. No message could have been more unfortunate
than this for Dr. Owen's equanimity, since he abominated week-end
invitations, particularly those like the present one (which Mrs. Owen
revelled in) from pretentiously rich people.

"Very well. Tell Mrs. Owen I will be ready," he said, then turned with
changed manner to poor Seraphine, whose brightening chances were now
hopelessly dissipated.

"Suppose we come to the point, Mrs. Walters," he went on. "I am rather
pressed for time and--you say you are a friend of Mrs. Wells? Have you
any definite information bearing upon her condition?"

"Oh, yes," she replied and at once made it clear that she was fully
informed as to Penelope's distressing symptoms.

"She is suffering from shell shock," said the doctor.

"No, no!" the medium disagreed, sweetly but firmly. "Penelope's trouble
is due to something quite different and far more serious than shell
shock."

Then earnestly, undaunted by Owen's skeptical glances, Seraphine
proceeded to set forth her belief that there is today in the world such
a thing as literal possession by evil spirits.

"You mean that as applying to Mrs. Wells?" the doctor asked with a weary
lift of the shoulders.

"Yes, I do. I can give you evidence--if you will only listen--"

"My dear lady, I really cannot go into such a--purely speculative field.
I must handle Mrs. Wells' case as I understand it with the help of means
that I am familiar with."

"Of course, but, doctor," she begged, "don't be vexed with me, I am only
trying to save this dear child, I love Penelope and--I _must_ say
it--you are not making progress. She is going straight on to--to
disaster. I _know_ what I am saying."

For a moment he hesitated.

"What do you want me to do?"

"I want you to have a consultation with Dr. Edgar Leroy."

"Dr. Edgar Leroy? Who is he? I never heard of him."

"He is a New York doctor who has had great success in cases like
Penelope's--cases of obsession or--possession."

"Oh! Does he believe in that sort of thing? Is he a spiritualist?"

Seraphine felt the coldness of his tone and shrank from it, but she
continued her effort, explaining that Dr. Leroy had been a regular
practitioner for years, but he had changed his methods after extended
psychic investigations that had led him to new knowledge--such wonderful
knowledge! Her deep eyes burned with the zeal of a great faith.

"I see. Where is his office?"

"In Fortieth Street--it's in the telephone book--Dr. Edgar Leroy. If you
only knew the extraordinary cures he has accomplished, you would realize
how necessary it is for Penelope to have the help he alone can give
her."

She waited eagerly for his reply.

"How do you happen to know so much about this doctor?"

"Because I have been allowed to help him. He uses me in diagnosis."

"You mean that Dr. Leroy relies upon information that you give him as a
medium in treating cases?" He spoke with frank disapproval.

"Yes."

Dr. Owen thought a moment. "Of course, Mrs. Wells is free to consult
anyone she pleases, but I would not feel justified in advising her to
go to Dr. Leroy."

"But you _must_ advise it, you must insist upon it," urged Seraphine.
"Penelope relies entirely upon you, she will do nothing without your
approval, and this is her only hope."

"My dear lady, you certainly are not lacking in confidence, but you must
realize that I cannot advise a treatment for Mrs. Wells that involves
the use of spiritualistic agencies when I do not believe in
spiritualism. In fact, I regard spiritualism as--"

Seraphine lifted her hand with a wistful little smile that checked the
outburst.

"Don't say it--please don't. Will you do one thing, doctor, not for me
but for poor Penelope? Come to my house Monday night. I have a little
class there, a class of eight. We have been working together for three
months and--we have been getting results. You may be allowed to witness
manifestations that will convince you. Will you come?" she pleaded.

"You mean that I may see a spirit form? Or hear some tambourines
playing? Something of that sort?" His tone was almost contemptuously
incredulous.

The anxious suppliant was gathering her forces to reply when the hall
clock struck solemnly, bringing back disagreeably to the specialist's
mind his impending social duty, and this was sufficient to turn the
balance of his decision definitely against Seraphine. He shook his head
uncompromisingly.

"I cannot do it, madam. I am sorry to disappoint you, but I have strong
convictions on this subject and--" He rose to dismiss her. "Now I must
ask you to excuse me."

In spite of this disappointment Seraphine did not lose faith. "Dear
child," she wrote to Penelope that night, "I am like a man in the
darkness who _knows_ the sun will rise soon and is not discouraged.
Before many days Dr. Owen will listen to me and be convinced."

Firm in this confidence, the medium returned to Dr. Owen's office the
following Monday morning, but she was coldly received. A rather
condescending young woman brought out word that the specialist was
exceedingly busy and could not see her.

"But it is _so_ important," pleaded Mrs. Walters with eyes that would
have moved a heart of stone. "Couldn't you ask him to give me a few
minutes? I'll be very grateful."

The office assistant wavered. "I'll tell you why you had better come
back another day, madam," she began confidentially; "Dr. Owen is very
much upset because his wife has just lost some valuable jewelry. You
see, Mrs. Owen went to Morristown for the week-end and took a jewel box
with her in her trunk--there was a pearl necklace and some brooches and
rings; but when she came to dress for dinner last night--"

"Wait! I--I hear something," Seraphine murmured and sank down weakly on
a chair. She closed her eyes and her breathing quickened, while the
young woman bent over her in concern; but almost immediately the psychic
recovered herself and looked up with a friendly smile.

"It's all right. You are very kind. I am happy now because I can do
something for Dr. Owen. Please tell him his wife is mistaken in thinking
that she took the jewels with her. The jewels are here in this
house--now."

"What makes you think that?"

"My control says so." The medium spoke with such a quiet power of manner
that the office assistant was impressed.

"Suppose I tell Mrs. Owen?" she suggested.

"Very well, tell Mrs. Owen. Ask her if I may go to the room where she
last remembers having her jewel box?"

The young woman withdrew with this message and presently returned to say
that Mrs. Owen would be glad if Seraphine would come up to her bedroom.
A few minutes later Seraphine faced a querulous invalid propped up
against lace pillows.

"I am positive I put my jewel box in the trunk," insisted Mrs. Owen. "It
is foolish to say that I did not, it is perfectly useless to look for
the jewels in this house. However--what are you doing? Why do you look
at me so strangely?"

"The jewels are--in this room--in a chintz sewing bag," the psychic
declared slowly, her eyes far away.

"Absurd!"

"I see the sewing bag--distinctly. There are pink roses on it."

"I have a sewing bag like that," admitted the doctor's wife, "it is on a
shelf in the closet--there! Will you get it for me, Miss Marshall? We
shall soon see about this. Now then!" She searched through the bag, but
found nothing. "I told you so. My husband is quite right in his ideas
about mediums. I really wish you had not disturbed me," she said
impatiently.

But the medium answered pleasantly: "I have only repeated what my
control tells me. I am sorry if I have annoyed you. I advise you to
search the house carefully."

"I have done that already," said Mrs. Owen.

Whereupon Seraphine, still unruffled, took her departure, with these
last words at the door to the office assistant: "Please tell Dr. Owen
that I beg him most earnestly to have the house searched for his wife's
jewels. Otherwise one of the servants will find them."

And Dr. Owen, in spite of his scientific prejudices, in spite of his
wife's positive declaration that the jewels had been stolen during her
visit, and that the house had been thoroughly searched, acted on this
suggestion and had the house searched again. _And this time the missing
jewel box was found, with the necklace, rings and brooches all intact,
in a chintz sewing bag covered with pink roses!_

It seems that Mrs. Owen had two chintz bags, one for ordinary sewing,
one for darning, and in the latter bag, hanging on a nail behind the
bureau, where the doctor's wife had absent-mindedly hidden it, the
missing jewel box was discovered.

"This beats the devil!" exclaimed the doctor when he heard the good
news. And an hour later he sent the following telegram to Seraphine:
"Jewels found, thanks to you. We are very grateful. I have reconsidered
the matter and accept your invitation for tonight. Will call at eight
o'clock."



CHAPTER VIII

WHITE SHAPES


(_From Penelope's Diary_)

_New York January 31, 1919._

An extraordinary thing happened on Monday night at Seraphine's
apartment. I must write down the details before they fade from my
memory. Seraphine telephoned Monday morning that there was to be a
meeting of her occult class in the evening and she wanted me to come as
Dr. Owen had promised to be there. She regarded this as a great
opportunity to help me. Darling Seraphine! Of course I could not refuse,
although I abhor spiritualism. I love Seraphine for what she is, and in
spite of her queer beliefs.

When we were gathered together and after introductions to her class
(there were six or seven devout believers), Seraphine explained that it
was difficult to obtain psychic manifestations in the presence of active
disbelief, and she begged us to maintain an attitude of friendly
open-mindedness. I am afraid I did not do this all the time.

We had first some psychic reminiscences and Seraphine described in
detail how on a certain night years ago she and her sister were sleeping
together in a heavy mahogany fourposter bed, when the whole bed with
the two women was lifted several inches from the floor and rocked about,
and was then held suspended in the air while the chamber resounded with
strange music. In my opinion, this was a dream or an illusion.

I am also skeptical about the testimony of one of the group, a New York
minister, who told us that his dead wife has come to him in the night on
several occasions in materialized form and has spoken to him, kissed
him, and taken loving counsel with him about the children and about
other matters. I am sure this minister was the victim of some kind of
hallucination.

And I cannot believe a statement of Seraphine's regarding a Southern
woman who is possessed by an evil spirit that forces her to drinking
excesses so that she has spoiled her whole life. Seraphine described to
us with ghastly vividness the appearance of this evil entity which she
is able to _see_, through her clairvoyant vision, with its hideous
leering countenance, inside the lady. For my part _I refuse to believe
it_.

I admit that I began to have creepy sensations when Seraphine went into
an entranced condition in the cabinet. Then came the happenings that I
do not understand and I know Dr. Owen does not understand them either,
but that does not prove that they were supernatural. I distinctly saw
two white shapes rise from the floor--one of them was so close to me
that I could have touched it with my hand, but I did not because I was
afraid. Besides, I was sitting in a semi-circle with the others and our
hands were joined. Dr. Owen, however, was at the end of the line with
one hand free, and I saw him reach out towards the apparition (it was
about four feet high) and it seemed to me that his hand and arm passed
right through the white shape. As he did this I heard a long sigh and a
rustling sound and I was conscious of a chilling breath on my face. I
asked Dr. Owen about this afterwards and he said that when his hand
touched the shape it felt as if he was grasping thick smoke.

The appearance of the second white shape was more terrifying because
Seraphine came out of the cabinet when she evoked it. She wore a loose
white garment and moved about the room in the near darkness like a woman
walking in her sleep. She repeated a beautiful prayer in a slow dreamy
voice--I wish I could remember it, the idea was that a great disaster
might be averted if God would open the eyes of two of His doubting
children. I suppose she meant Dr. Owen and me.

Then the second white shape appeared and seemed to rise and grow into
the likeness of a woman, but presently it wavered and dissolved.
Seraphine reached out her arms towards it imploringly and I saw a
woman's hand take shape clearly and rest on Seraphine's hand, but this
presently faded away, like a thing of vapor, and was gone. I have no
idea what those white shapes were, or why they came, or why they went;
but neither have I any idea as to the operation of X-rays. These white
shapes may in a few years turn out to be perfectly simple laboratory
phenomena, no more mysterious than wireless phenomena were twenty-five
years ago. _I refuse to believe that a living person can be possessed by
an evil spirit!_

Looking back at this séance, what troubles me is an utterance about
myself that is supposed to have been made by a voice from the other
side. This came at the very end when Seraphine went into an entranced
condition again, with the lights up.

"I have a message for one who is tenderly loved by an exalted spirit,"
she said, sighing heavily, her eyes closed, "one who would come to her,
but there is a barrier. She can regain health and happiness if she will
cleanse her soul of evil. She must confess a sinful purpose that she
entertained in her heart on the night of June 14, 1914."

June 14, 1914! I looked up this date in my diary and find that it was
the occasion of Roberta Vallis' party when Seraphine made her prophecy
about me. Now I remember. We were considering what a woman can do to
satisfy her emotional nature if she has no chance to marry and longs for
the companionship of a man. I said, according to my diary, that "there
is a sacred right given by God to every woman who is born, a right that
not even God Himself can take away--" Then I was interrupted by
Seraphine and I did not tell them what that sacred right is or what use
I personally proposed to make of it.

But I knew and know still, and the question that distresses me is
whether an exalted spirit (could it be my mother?) really possesses this
knowledge of my wicked purpose--if it was wicked--or whether this is
simply a case of mind reading by Seraphine.

"_She can regain health and happiness if she will cleanse her soul of
evil--_" That was the message. Is it true? Is there evil in my heart?
Have I entertained a sinful purpose? Have I the courage to answer this
question truthfully, even in these secret pages--have I?

Yes, I will put down the truth and justify myself in my own eyes. Then I
will burn this book. I would die of shame if Christopher should ever
read this confession.

As my chief justification, I dwell upon the frightful wrong that my
husband did me when he took away my faith in men, my faith in their
ability or willingness to be true to one woman. He did this by his words
and by his acts. He assured me that sex desire in the male is so
resistless that, when conflict arises between this desire and the
teachings of religion, it is the latter which are almost invariably set
aside; with the result that great numbers of men, brought up as
Christians, either renounce Christianity (if they are honest) or find
themselves forced into a life of hypocritical compromise in regard to
sex indulgence. Julian told me this over and over again, no doubt to
excuse his own delinquencies, until it was burned into my soul that,
whatever happened, I would never marry another man, and expose myself to
torments and humiliations such as I had endured with him--never!

After my husband died I had to face a problem that confronts thousands
of high principled young women, widows, divorcées, in America and in all
countries--how could I bear the torture of this immense loneliness? How
could I adjust myself to life without the intimate companionship of a
man? How could I satisfy my emotional nature? How?

There were two solutions, a second marriage and a lover. I rejected the
first solution for reasons already given and the second solution because
of evidence all about me that one lover usually means two, three, half a
dozen lovers, since men grow weary and change and women, in loneliness
or desperation, change also. Never would I let myself sink to the
degrading level of sex _complaisance_ that is sadly or cynically
accepted by many women, self-supporting and self-respecting, in many
American cities, simply because they cannot combat conditions that have
been created and perpetuated by the stronger sex.

Therefore I worked out a third solution that was to satisfy my emotional
nature and at the same time give me a reason for existence. I would
adopt a little waif as my child, a French or Belgian waif, and I would
bring up this child to be a useful and happy man or woman. I would love
it, care for it, teach it, and with this responsibility and
_soulagement_, I would be able to endure the loneliness of the long
years stretching before me. I would find this child while I was in
France working for the Red Cross and bring it home after the war, only--

_My purpose was to adopt a child that should be born of my own body!_

That is my sin, a sin never committed, save in intention, yet a sin that
would have been committed, if things had happened differently. The
arguments (based on the sacred right of motherhood and the longing for
a child) that led me to my original purpose still seem valid to me. It
is terrible to say this now, but I must tell the truth and the truth is
that, if I had not met Captain Herrick, I would have done this thing. My
whole plan of life was changed because I loved Captain Herrick. What was
previously impossible became possible, and what was previously possible
became impossible _because I loved Captain Herrick_.

That is the truth.

       *       *       *       *       *

_Tuesday._

If I love him so much, why am I possessed by a horrible fear that I will
refuse to be his wife? Good God, what a woman I am! I love Captain
Herrick so much that I would gladly die for him--I have risked my life
for him already--and yet--

I have promised Christopher his answer when we meet at Roberta's party
on Friday night, but I am not sure what I will say to him. Three days! I
told Roberta I would not go to her party unless she invited Christopher,
so she did.


_Wednesday._

I feel much encouraged about my health. For nearly a week my sleep has
been free from dreams and They have not come near me. I begin to think
Dr. Owen is right. I have been suffering from nervous disturbances
caused by shell shock, and I am on the road to recovery. I need rest and
recreation, especially recreation--anything to divert my mind from
fears and somber thoughts. I say this to Seraphine when she warns me
that I must not go to Roberta's party. She says I will go at my great
peril, but I refuse to entertain these fears. I crave the gaiety and
_insouciance_ of Roberta's care-free Bohemians. Besides, I shall see
Christopher. I will tell him that I love him with all my soul and will
marry him--the sooner the better--any time. Within a month I may be Mrs.
Christopher Herrick. How wonderful!


_Thursday._

While I was looking back through my diary I came upon a reflection of
Julian's--he said that men take no real interest in other men, _as men_,
although they are interested in all women. The fact that men are sex
animals makes no impression upon other men, whereas the fact that women
are sex animals makes an enormous impression. A man would hear of the
tragic death of a thousand unknown men with comparative indifference, he
declared, but would be distressed to hear of the death of a hundred
unknown women. I wonder if that is true. I know that women are intensely
conscious that all other women are sex animals. Is that due to jealousy?

I came upon another thought of Julian's--about temptation. He pictured a
drunkard who has sworn off drinking. This man announces his virtuous
intentions from the housetops--he will never drink again, he will avoid
temptation, he will not attend a certain convivial gathering, say
tonight at nine o'clock. He repeats this to himself and to others--he
will _not_ be present at this gathering. But all the time, deep down in
his heart, he knows that he will be present. He knows that nine o'clock
will find him in his accustomed seat smiling upon flowing glasses....

       *       *       *       *       *

I am afraid of tomorrow night. I am afraid of what I will say to Captain
Herrick!


_Friday morning._

I dreamed last night that I was in a great purple forest and again I saw
the black birds with fiery eyes. They were in a circle around me,
judging me. They wanted me to say something or do something, but I did
not know what it was, and I was in despair. Suddenly the trees opened
and I saw a smooth black river pouring over a precipice and the birds
bore me to the river and dropped me into it. Then, as I struggled in the
water, Chris leaped from the bank to save me, but I fought against him
and we were both swept along towards the precipice. He caught me in his
arms, but I struck at him and screamed--and then I awakened.

       *       *       *       *       *

Seraphine gave me a beautiful prayer or affirmation to say when I am
afraid. I say this over and over again and it comforts me: "_I am God's
child. God is my life, God is my strength. My soul is in unison with the
perfect love of God. There is absolutely nothing to fear. All thoughts
of fear are banished from my mind. I will no longer be bound by
thoughts of fear._"

I shut my eyes tight and say this when I am going to sleep.



CHAPTER IX

THE CONFESSIONAL CLUB


In setting forth the happenings at Roberta Vallis' party (with their
startling psychic consequences to Penelope Wells) it is necessary to say
a word about the Greenwich Village poet Kendall Brown, since he
originated the Confessional Club. This remarkable organization grew out
of a tirade against American hypocrisy made by Kendall one night in a
little Italian restaurant on Bleecker Street.

What was most needed in this country and in all countries, the one thing
that alone could redeem mankind, declared Brown, soaring away on red
wine enthusiasm, was truth. "Let us be honest and outspoken about things
as they are, about men and women as they are," he ran on in his
charmingly plausible way. "We are none of us very important, there isn't
much difference between saints and sinners--I'll argue that point with
any man--_but_ there is one immensely valuable contribution that we can
all make to the general store of life-knowledge, we can speak the exact
truth about ourselves and our experiences, instead of hiding it. That
would be a real service to humanity, for this composite truth, assembled
and studied, must lead to wisdom; but men and women are such pitiful
cowards, such cringing toadies to convention. It makes me sick!"

He refilled his glass slowly and continued: "Why is our talk stupid--all
talk, so stupid that we have to get drunk in order to endure life? Why
are we bores--all of us? Because we are afraid to say the essential
things--what we know. We talk about what we don't know, like monkeys,
and call it civilized. By God, I'd like to start a society for the
dissemination of the truth that everybody knows and nobody tells!"

This phrase caught the fancy of Roberta Vallis whose fluttering,
frivolous soul was appealed to by any line of reasoning that tended to
put saints and sinners on the same level. She made Kendall repeat his
idea and then and there proposed that they adopt it. _A society for the
dissemination of the truth that everybody knows and nobody tells!_
Splendid! They must found this society--immediately. When should they
have the first meeting?

In this casual way the Confessional Club came into being, with no fixed
membership, no dues or constitution, no regular place or time of
meeting, and added one more to those amusing (sometimes inspiring)
little groups that have flourished in Greenwich Village. It certainly
had a real idea behind it. "We are loaded with human dynamite. We tell
the truth that is never told," became the watchword of the society.

All of which bears upon the present narrative because Roberta Vallis had
arranged to have one of these self-revealing séances as a feature of her
party; and she insisted that Penelope contribute an emotional
experience.

"You _must_ confess something, Pen, my sweet one, in order to be in the
spirit of the evening," she explained with bubbling exuberance, "any
little thing. We all do it. Only be careful you don't make that
architect of yours jealous," she teased. "Think up a classy confession,
something weird--understand? Don't look so darned serious. It's only for
fun. You can fake up something, dearie, if you're afraid to tell the
truth. Why, what's the matter?"

Penelope's face had changed startlingly, and was now overcast by sombre
memories--by fears. Why had those lightly spoken words moved her so
strangely? Afraid to tell the truth! Was she afraid? With sinking heart
she recalled that message of Seraphine's exalted spirit--_Penelope must
cleanse her soul of evil!_

But--had she not cleansed her soul already? Had she not confessed the
truth about her longing for a child? And written it down in her diary
and prayed God to forgive her? Was not that enough? Why should this
pressure to confess more be put upon her? Could it be that frivolous,
selfish Roberta Vallis was the unconscious agent of some fateful power
urging Penelope Wells to look into her soul again?

Suddenly, in a flash of new understanding, Mrs. Wells decided. This was
no longer a trifling incident, but a happening of deep spiritual import.
She was struggling desperately for health--for happiness. Perhaps this
was her way of salvation, if she could only bring herself to say the
one thing that--that ought to be said. After all, the opinion of these
careless Bohemians mattered little--it was God's opinion that mattered.

"Do you mind if I bring Seraphine to the party?" Penelope asked with a
far-away look in her eyes.

"Of course not--we'll be glad to have her."

"All right, Bobby. I will make a confession. There is something I want
to confess. I don't know just the details, but--yes I do, too, it's
about--" she hesitated, but went on with strengthening resolve, "it's
about a trip I made once on a Fall River steamboat."

Roberta's eyes danced at this prospect.

"Splendid, Pen! We'll have yours last--just before the supper."

And so it came about that it was Penelope herself who set into action
forces of the mind or the soul, memories and fears that were to change
her whole future.

We need take no account of the other confessions (except one), tinsel or
tawdry fragments from the drift-wood of life, that were offered blithely
by three or four members of the gay company. We are concerned with
Penelope's confession, and with this only as it leads up to subsequent
developments of the evening. There was an ominous significance in the
fact that Mrs. Wells made this confession before the man she loved. Why
did she do that? Why?

Penelope sat beside a Japanese screen of black and gold on which a
red-tongued dragon coiled its embroidered length and, by the light of a
yellow lantern just above (there was also a tiny blue lantern that
flung down a caressing ray upon her smooth dark hair and adorable
shoulders) she glanced at some loose leaves taken from an old diary.
Then, nerving herself for the effort, she began in a low, appealing
tone, but rather unsteadily:

"I am going to tell you something that--it's very hard for me to speak
of this, but--I want to tell it. I have a feeling that if I tell it I
may save myself and someone who is dear to me," she looked down in
embarrassment, "from--from a terrible danger. I feel more deeply about
this because--some of you remember a strange thing that happened four
years ago when I was present at a meeting of this club."

There were murmurs and nods of understanding from several of the guests
who settled themselves into positions of expectant attention.

"Are we to have a second prophecy, Mrs. Walters?" inquired Kendall Brown
briskly of Seraphine, whose haunting eyes kept Penelope in loving
watchfulness; but the medium made no reply.

"The second prophecy has already been made, Kendall," Mrs. Wells
answered gravely. "I have come here tonight knowing that a disaster may
result from my presence. Seraphine says that a disaster will result,
but--I don't believe it. I can't believe it. What harm is there in my
coming to this party?"

She spoke vehemently with increasing agitation and the guests watched
her with fascinated interest.

"A disaster? Tonight? Extraordinary! What kind of a disaster?"

Such were the questions and exclamations called forth by this startling
announcement, and incredulous glances were addressed to the psychic; but
Seraphine offered no enlightenment. She merely rocked placidly in her
chair.

"Go on, dear," she said.

And Penelope continued:

"You know I have been ill since I came back from France. There are
symptoms in my illness that are--peculiar--distressing. I have horrible
fears that I have to fight all the time. Horrible dreams, one dream in
particular lately of a thing that happened on a Fall River steamboat."

"A thing that really happened?" questioned a little gray-haired woman.

"Yes, it really happened to me during a trip that I made on this boat;
and now, years later, it continues to happen in my dreams. It terrifies
me, tortures me, for the thing was--it was something wrong that I did.
I--I suppose it was a sin."

A sin!

There was a tremor in her voice, a pathetic catch in her breath, almost
a sob, as she forced herself to speak these words; then bravely,
pleadingly, she lifted her eyes to her beloved.

Over the gay company there came a surprised and sympathetic hush.
Herrick straightened awkwardly, but never flinched in his loyalty or
fondness--what an ordeal for a lover!--while Penelope paused as if
gathering strength to go on.

"May I ask if this was before you were married?" queried the poet.

"No."

"After you were married?"

"Yes. My husband was with me."

Penelope's voice sank almost to a whisper, and the unconscious twining
together of her fingers bore witness to her increasing distress.
Everyone in the room felt the poignancy of the moment. If the operation
of soul cleansing involved such stress as this, then even these heedless
members of the Confessional Club drew back disapprovingly.

"Hold on, Pen!" interposed Roberta Vallis good-naturedly, wishing to
relieve this embarrassment. "You're getting all fussed up. I guess you'd
better cut out this story. I don't believe it's much good anyway. If you
think there are any sentimental variations on a Fall River steamboat
theme that we are not fully conversant with, why you've got another
guess coming."

Penelope wavered and again her dark eyes yearned towards Christopher. It
was cruelly hard to go on with her story, yet it was almost impossible
now not to tell it.

"I _want_ to make this confession," she insisted, strong in her purpose,
yet breaking under womanly weakness. "I must cleanse my soul of--of
evil--mustn't I?" her anguished eyes begged comfort of Seraphine.

"You are right, dear child," the medium answered gently, "but wait a
little. Sit over here by me. We have plenty of time. She took her
friend's icy hand in hers and drew her protectingly to a place beside
her on the sofa.

"To cheer you up, Pen," laughed Bobby, "and create a general diversion,
I'll tell a story myself--you'll see the kind of confession stuff we
generally put over in our little group of unconventional thinkers.
Attention, folks! Harken to the Tale of Dora the Dressmaker! Which
proves that the way of the transgressor, as observed on Manhattan
Island, is not always so darned hard."

Then she told her story in the most approved Greenwich Village style,
with slangy and cynical comments, all of which were received with
chortles of satisfaction by the men and with no very severe disapproval
by the ladies--except Seraphine.

"Dora was a pretty, frail looking girl--but really as strong as a
horse," began Bobby gleefully, "one of those tall blondes who can pass
off for aristocrats without being the real thing. She came from a small
Southern town and had married a man who was no good. He drank and chased
after women; and, in one of his drunken fits, he was run over on a dark
night at the railroad crossing--fortunately."

Penelope stirred uneasily at the memories in her own life conjured up by
this picture.

"Dora had the usual small town collection of wedding cut glass and
doilies, which she put away in the attic, after husband's decease; and,
with them, she also put away all respect and desire for the married
state. She was through with domesticity and all that it represented, and
made up her mind to devote the rest of her life to earning as big a
salary as she could and having the best time possible."

The rest of the story was a sordid account of this girl's effort to
combine business with pleasure, as men do, and of her startled discovery
one day, just at the moment of her greatest success--she had been
offered the position of head designer in a wholesale dress house with
coveted trips to Europe--that she was about to become a mother.

Penelope sighed wearily as she listened. Could she _never_ escape from
this eternal sex theme?

"You see," Bobby rattled on, "Dora knew she couldn't go to roof gardens
and supper parties alone, and she couldn't keep a chap on a string
without paying--so she paid. Of course she camouflaged this part of her
life very daintily, as she did everything else, but going out evenings
was as important to her as her business ambition was."

Mrs. Wells smiled faintly at the word camouflaged, for she knew better
than anyone else that this supposed story of a dressmaker was really the
story of Roberta Vallis herself, thinly disguised.

"The point is that after years of living exactly like a man," Miss
Vallis became a shade more serious here and a note of defiance crept
into her discourse, "with work and pleasure travelling along side by
side, Dora was called upon to face a situation that would have brought
her gay and prosperous career to a sad and shameful end in any
well-constructed Sunday School book; but please notice that it did
nothing of the sort in real life. Did she lose her job? She did not. Or
her health or reputation? Nothing like that. After she got over the
first shock of surprise Dora decided to go through with the thing, and,
being tall and thin, got away with it successfully. No one suspected
that the illness which kept her away from her work was anything but
influenza, and--well, the child didn't live," she concluded abruptly as
she caught Seraphine's disapproving glance. "The point is that Dora is
today one of the most successful business women in Boston."

A challenge to outraged virtue was in her tone, and all eyes turned
instinctively to the psychic who was still rocking placidly.

"Poor woman!" Seraphine said simply, which seemed to annoy Miss Vallis.

"Why do you say that? Why is she a poor woman? She has everything she
wants."

"No! No indeed," was the grave reply. "She has nothing that she really
wants. She has cut herself off from the operation of God's love. She is
surrounded by forces that--Oh!" the medium's eyes closed for a moment
and she drew a long breath, "my control tells me these forces of
evil--they will destroy this girl."

Roberta essayed to answer mockingly, but the words died on her lips, and
there fell a moment of shivery silence until Kendall Brown broke the
spell.

"That story of Dora is a precious human document," was the poet's
ponderous pronouncement. "It is unpleasant, painful, but--what is the
lesson? The lesson is that infinite trouble grows out of our rotten
squeamishness about sex facts. This girl craved a reasonable amount of
pleasure after her work, and she got it. She refused to spend her
evenings alone in her room reading a book. She wanted to dance, to enjoy
the society of men--their intimate society. That brings us to the oldest
and most resistless force in the world, a blessed force, a God-given
force upon which all life depends--you know what I mean. And how do we
deal with this most formidable of forces? Are we grateful for it? Do we
acknowledge its irresistible supremacy? No! We deal with it by
pretending that it doesn't exist. We say to Friend Dora that, being
unmarried, she has nothing whatever to do with sex attraction, except to
forget it. Does she forget it? She does not. Do the men allow her to
forget it? They do not. And one fine day Friend Dora has a baby and
everybody says horrible, disgraceful! Rubbish! I maintain that the state
should provide homes and proper care for the children we call
illegitimate! What a word! I say _all_ children are legitimate, all
mothers should be honored, yes, and financially protected. A woman who
gives a child to the nation, regardless of who the father is, renders a
distinguished service. She is a public benefactor."

"Hear, hear!" approved several, but the little grey-haired woman
objected that this meant free love, whereupon Kendall was off again on
his hobby.

"Love _is_ free, it always has been and always will be free. If you
chain love down under smug rules you only kill it or distort it. I am
not arguing against marriage, but against hypocrisy. We may as well
recognize that sex desire is so strong a force in the world--that--"

To all of this Penelope had listened with ill-concealed aversion, now
she could no longer restrain her impatience. "Ridiculous!" she
interrupted. "You exasperate me with your talk about the compelling
claims of oversexed individuals. Let them learn to behave themselves and
control themselves."

"Mrs. Wells is absolutely right," agreed Captain Herrick quietly, his
eyes challenging Brown. "If certain men insist on behaving like
orang-outangs in the jungle, then society should treat them as
orang-outangs."

This incisive statement somewhat jarred the poet's self-sufficiency and
he subsided for the moment, but jealousy is a cunning adversary and the
rival awaited his opportunity for counter-attack.

As the discussion proceeded Kendall noticed that one of the loose pages
from Penelope's diary had fluttered to the floor and, recovering this,
he glanced at it carelessly, then smiled as he plucked at his yellow
beard.

"Excuse me, Mrs. Wells," he said. "I could not help reading a few words.
Won't you go on with your confession--please do. It sounds so
wonderfully interesting. See--there--at the bottom!" He pointed to the
lines.

"Oh!" she murmured as she saw the writing, and two spots of color burned
in her cheeks. "Let me have it--I insist!"

"Certainly. But do read it to us. This is a real human interest story.
_'Let me bow my head in shame and humble my spirit in the dust'_--wasn't
that it?" laughed Kendall maliciously.

At this, seeing the frightened look in Penelope's eyes, Captain Herrick
stormed in: "You had no right to read those words or repeat them."

"I am sorry, Mrs. Wells. I meant no offense," apologized the poet,
realizing that he had gone too far, but the harm was done. Something
unaccountably serious had happened to Penelope Wells. Her face had gone
deathly white, and Roberta, suddenly sympathetic, hastened to her.

"It's a shame to tease you, dearie. No more confession stuff. Now,
folks, we'll have supper--down in the restaurant. Then we'll dance. Come
on! Feeling better, Pen? What you need is a cocktail and some
champagne."

But Penelope lay like a stricken creature, her beautiful head limp
against the pillow of her chair, her eyes filled with pain.

"I--I'll be all right in a minute, Bobby," she whispered. "Please go
down now--all of you except Captain Herrick. We'll join you--a little
later. You don't mind?" she turned to Herrick who was bending over her
anxiously. Then she said softly: "Don't leave me, Chris. I don't feel
quite like myself. I'm a little frightened."



CHAPTER X

FAUVETTE


Thus it happened that Penelope and Captain Herrick did not descend to
the flower-spread supper room where dancing and good cheer awaited the
gay company, but remained in Roberta's black and gold apartment, two
lovers swept along by powers of fate far beyond their control, and now
facing the greatest emotional moment of their lives.

The catastrophe came gradually, yet at the end with startling
suddenness.

At first, when they were alone, Penelope seemed to recover from her
distress and began to talk naturally and serenely, as if her preceding
agitations were forgotten. She told Christopher that Dr. Owen's wise
counsels had reassured her, and she now felt confident that her bad
dreams and other disturbing symptoms would soon leave her.

"You see something has conquered all my sadness, all my fears," she
looked at him shyly.

For a moment he sat motionless, drinking in her splendid beauty, then he
leaned towards her impulsively and spoke one word that carried all the
devotion of his soul: "Penelope!"

"Dear boy!" she murmured, her voice thrilling, and a moment later he had
clasped her in his arms.

"You're mine! You love me! Thank God!"

But she disengaged herself gently, there was something she wished to
say. She would not deny her love, her great love for him. She realized
that she had loved him from the first. Her resistance had been part of
her illness--it was not coquetry, he must not think that. Now her eyes
were opened and her heart was singing with joy. She was the happiest
woman in the world at the thought that she was to be his wife.

"My darling! How I love you!" exclaimed Christopher, drawing her towards
him, his lips seeking hers.

"No--no," Penelope's voice was so serious, so full of alarm that her
lover instantly obeyed. He drew away from her with a hurt, puzzled
expression in his eyes. Very gravely Penelope went on. "I love you, too,
my darling, but I must ask you to make me a solemn promise. I shall be
most unhappy if you refuse. I want you to promise not to kiss
me,--as--as lovers kiss, passionately, ardently, until after we are
married."

"But, Pen, you--can't mean that seriously?"

With a wistful little smile she assured him that she did mean it most
seriously.

In vain he protested. "But why? It's so absurd! Why shouldn't I kiss you
when I love you better than anything in the world."

"Chris, please, _please_ don't talk like that. You must trust me and do
what I ask. You must, dear!"

A pathetic earnestness in her tone and a strange look in her eyes made
Christopher forget his privileges, and he made the promise.

"Thank you, dear. Now I must tell you something else," she went on. "I
must explain why I was so disturbed when Kendall Brown read those words
from my diary. I _must_ tell you what they meant."

But a masterful gesture from Herrick stopped her. He did not wish to
know anything about this. He trusted her entirely, he approved of her
entirely, they must never speak of these old sad things again.

Tears of gratitude suddenly filled her eyes.

"Take this, dear, it belonged to my mother," she said fondly and gave
him a circlet of twisted dolphins and he put it on his finger. Then he
gave her a brown seal ring, engraved with old Armenian characters.

"I got it in Constantinople, Pen. It's a talisman. It will bring us
luck."

They talked on, forgetful of the supper party downstairs, until a waiter
came with cocktails and champagne that Roberta had sent up, but Penelope
would have none of these, saying that her love was too great to need
stimulation.

"I must drink to your health, dear," said Herrick, and pouring out the
bubbling liquid, he offered her a glass, but she shook her head.

"No? Not even a sip? All right, sweetheart. I'll pledge you the finest
toast in the world," he lifted his goblet. "My love! My wife!"

As Christopher set down his glass and turned to clasp his beloved in his
arms, he realized that there was a curious change in her face, a subtle,
an almost indistinguishable change--the sweet radiance had gone. It was
the word _wife_ that had stabbed Penelope with unforgettable memories
and brought back her impulse to confess. Once more she tried to tell the
story of that tragic steamboat, but Christopher firmly and
good-naturedly refused to listen. Whatever she had done, her life had
been a hundred times finer and nobler than his. Not that he had any
great burden on his conscience, but--well--With a chivalrous idea of
balancing scores, he mentioned that there had been one or two things
that--er--and his embarrassment grew.

Penelope's eyes caressed him. "I'm so glad, Chris, if there is something
for me to forgive. Is it--is it a woman story?"

"Well, yes."

"Tell me. I won't misjudge you, dear," she spoke confidently, although a
shadow of pain flitted across her face. Then he began to tell of a hotel
flirtation--a young woman he had met one night in Philadelphia. She
wasn't so very pretty, but--her husband had treated her like the devil
and--she was very unhappy and--they had rather a mad time together.

Christopher spoke in brief, business-like sentence's as if desiring to
get through with a painful duty, but Penelope pressed him for details.

"What was her name--her first name?"

"Katherine."

"Did you have supper with her--did she drink?"

"Yes."

"Was she--how shall I say it?--an alluring woman? Did she have a pretty
figure?"

The soldier looked at his sweetheart in surprise and, without answering,
he struck a match and meditatively followed the yellow flame as it
consumed the wood. Penelope watched his well-shaped, well-kept hands.

"Did she?"

"I--I suppose so. What difference does that make? Do you mind if I
smoke?"

"Of course not." She took a cigarette from his silver case. "I'll have
one with you--from the same match! _Voilà!_" She inhaled deeply and blew
out a grey cloud. "Tell me more about Katherine."

His frown deepened.

"Poor woman! She was reckless. I am sure she had never done a thing like
this before. I hadn't either. I don't mean that I've been an angel, Pen,
but--" he paused, then, with a flash of self-justification: "I give you
my word of honor, in the main I have not done that sort of thing."

She caught his hand impulsively. "I know you haven't. I'm so glad. Now I
_will_ drink to--to you." She rose and stood before him, a lithe young
creature vibrant with life. "Touch your glass to mine. My dear boy! My
Christopher!"

They drank together.

Then Herrick resumed his explanation. "I must tell you a little more,
darling. You see I was sorry for this woman, her story was so pathetic.
I wanted to help her, if I could, not to harm her. So I suggested that
we each make a pledge to the other--"

He was intensely in earnest, but Penelope's eyes were now dancing in
mockery.

"Oh you reformer! You ridiculous boy!" she laughed.

"It's true, I assure you."

"I don't believe it. What was the pledge? No, don't tell me! Tell me if
you kept it."

He moved uneasily under her searching gaze, but did not answer.

"Did you keep your pledge?" she insisted.

"Yes."

"For how long?"

He shifted again uncomfortably.

"For several months," he began, "but I must admit--"

"No, no!" she interrupted with a swift emotional change. "Don't admit
anything. It was wicked of me to mock you. Come, we will drink to the
lady in Philadelphia! Fill the glasses! To Katherine! And poor, weak
human nature! Katherine! And all our good resolutions!"

Pen's eyes teased her lover with a gay _diablerie_ as she slowly emptied
her glass, and Herrick's heart quickened at the realization that this
beautiful woman belonged to him--she belonged to him. At the same time
he was conscious of a vague uneasiness under the increasing allurement
of her glances. Were there ever such eyes in the world? Was there ever
such a woman? Adorable as a saint, dangerous as a siren!

"There is one pledge I will never break, Pen," he said tenderly. "I'll
never fail to do every possible thing to make you happy."

"Will you take me back to Paris, Chris? I want to spend a whole year in
Paris with you. We'll go to fine hotels along the Champs Élysées, we'll
prowl through those queer places in Montmartre, remember? and once
you'll take me to a students' ball, won't you, dear? I'd love to dance
at a students' ball--_with you_!" Her eyes burned on him under
fluttering black lashes--such long curling lashes! "Let's drink to
Paris--_toi et moi, tous les deux ensemble, pas?_ Come!" She snatched up
her glass again and emptied it quickly.

A spirit of wild gaiety and abandon had caught Penelope--there was no
restraining her. They must sit on the divan under that dull blue light,
and talk of their love--their wonderful love that had swept aside all
barriers--while she smoked another cigarette. Christopher forgot to be
afraid--he, too, was young! _Vive la joie!_

She nestled close to him against the pillows and, as they talked in low
tones, he drew her closer, breathing the perfume of her hair. She caught
his hand and clung to it, then slowly, restlessly, her fingers moved
along his arm.

"My love! My love!" she whispered.

"Sweetheart!" he looked deep into her soul, his heart pounding
furiously.

"It was horrid of me, Chris, to make you promise--that," she bent close
offering him her lips.

"Promise what?" he asked unsteadily.

"Oh, Chris," she whispered and her soft form seemed to envelope him. "I
am yours, yours!"

Then silence fell in the room while she pressed her eager mouth to his.

"Penelope!" he thrilled deliriously.

"Don't call me Penelope. It's so prim and old fashioned. I told you what
to call me--Fauvette. That's the name I like. Fauvette! I am your
Fauvette. Say it."

Her eyes consumed him.

Christopher realized his danger, but he was powerless against the spell
of her beauty.

"My Fauvette!" he caught her in his arms.

"Ah! Ah! _Mon cheri!_ Wait!" Swiftly she turned off the lights, then
darted back to him in the darkness.

At this moment of supreme crisis the door of the apartment opened slowly
and, as the light streamed in, a figure entered that came like a gentle
radiance. It was Seraphine.



CHAPTER XI

THE EVIL SPIRIT


Penelope sprang up from the divan panting with anger. Her hair was
dishevelled. Her bare shoulders gleamed in the shadows. She glared at
Seraphine.

"How dare you come in here?" she demanded insolently. "What do you want
here?"

With a smile of infinite compassion Mrs. Walters approached like a
loving mother. "My child! My dear child!" she said tenderly.

But the mad young creature repulsed her. "No, no! I hate you! Go away!"

The newcomer turned reassuringly to Captain Herrick. "I am Penelope's
friend--Seraphine."

"Ha! Seraphine! I am Fauvette! What do I care for you?" The frantic one
snapped her fingers at the other woman.

"Penelope!" pleaded Christopher, shocked at her violence.

She turned on him in fury. "You fool! You wouldn't take the chance I
offered you."

"I will quiet her," said Mrs. Walters to Herrick. "Don't be alarmed."

"You can't quiet me. I'll say anything I damn please. Go on, quiet me!
Quiet Fauvette! I'd like to see you do it. Ha, ha, ha!" Her wild
laughter rang through the apartment.

Christopher's face was tense with alarm and distress. "What can I do?
What is the matter with her?" he appealed to Seraphine.

"She is ill. She is not herself," was the grave reply. "I'll call Dr.
Owen; I'll tell him to come at once."

He hurried out of the room and the two women faced each other.

Fauvette sank back on the divan and lay there in sullen defiance. "Now
we're alone--you and I. What are you going to do about it?" was her
harsh challenge.

The psychic did not answer, but her lips moved as if in prayer; then she
spoke sternly, her deep eyes widening: "I see your scarlet lights, your
sinister face."

From the shadowy corner Fauvette sneered: "I see your soft, sentimental
Christmas card face. I'm not afraid of you. I laugh at you." And peals
of shrill, almost satanic, laughter rang through the room.

Seraphine advanced slowly, holding out her hands.

"I know your ways, creature of darkness. I command you to leave this
pure body that you would defile."

And fierce the answer came: "No! Damn you! You are not strong enough to
drive me out."

"Think of the tortures you are preparing for yourself."

"Don't you worry about my tortures."

"Have pity on Penelope. It will be counted in your favor."

There were snarling throat-sounds, then these menacing words: "No! I'm
going to put Penelope out of business."

"Where is Penelope now?"

"She is sleeping. Poor nut!"

"She knows nothing about Fauvette?"

"Nothing."

"She remembers nothing that Fauvette says?"

"Nothing."

There was a long silence in the darkened room while Seraphine prayed.

"You know very well that Dr. Leroy can drive you out," she said
presently.

"He can't do it. Let him try. Nobody can drive me out. Besides, you
won't get Dr. Leroy."

"Why not?"

"This other doctor won't have him."

"Dr. Owen?"

"Yes. I know damned well how to fix him. I'll tell him some things that
will make him sit up and take notice."

"How do you mean you will fix him?"

"Never mind. You'll see. If I can't have Herrick, Penelope is _never_
going to have him."

The medium closed her eyes and seemed to listen. "You mean Penelope will
never have him because of something you are going to tell Dr.
Owen--something about--about chemistry?" she groped for the word.

"Ye-es," unwillingly.

"Dr. Owen will not believe you."

"He _will_ believe me."

"No!" declared Seraphine dreamily. "There are greater powers than you
fighting for Penelope."



CHAPTER XII

X K C


We come now to what has been regarded by some authorities as the most
remarkable feature in the case of Penelope Wells, a development almost
without parallel in the records of abnormal psychology. All books on
this subject record instances of jealousy or hostility between two
recurring personalities in the same individual. A woman in one
personality writes a letter that humiliates her in another personality.
A little girl eats a certain article of food while in one personality
simply because she knows that her other personality hates that
particular food. And so on. It almost never occurs, however, that an
evil personality will commit an act or a crime that is abhorrent to the
individual's fundamental nature. Neither through hypnotism nor through
any manifestation of a dual nature will a person become a thief or a
murderer unless there is really in that person a latent tendency towards
stealing or killing. There is always some germ of Mr. Hyde's
bloodthirstiness in the benevolence of Dr. Jekyll.

But Penelope Wells, under the domination of her Fauvette personality,
now entered upon a course that was certain to bring disgrace and sorrow
upon a man she loved with all her heart, a man for whom she had risked
her life on the battle field. Here is one of those mysteries that will
not be cleared up until we better understand these strange and
distressing phenomena of the sick brain or the sick soul.

In presenting this development it must be mentioned that Dr. William
Owen was not only a specialist on nervous diseases but a chemist of wide
reputation in the field of laboratory investigation. For a year and a
half preceding the end of the war he had held a major's commission in
the army and had spent much time in a government research laboratory,
studying poison gases.

In August, 1918, he had discovered a toxic product of extraordinary
virulence, not a gas, but a tasteless and odorless liquid containing
harmful bacteria. These bacteria showed great resistance against heat
and cold and were able to propagate and disseminate themselves with
incredible rapidity through living creatures, rats, earth worms, birds,
cattle, dogs, fleas, that might feed upon them or come in contact with
them. The deadliness of this product was so great, as appeared from
laboratory tests, that it was believed all human life might be
exterminated in a region intensively inoculated (from airplanes or guns)
with the liquid. This was only a possibility, but it was an enormously
important possibility.

A report on this formidable discovery had been prepared by Dr. Owen for
the Washington authorities with such extreme secrecy that the chemical
formula for the liquid had been indicated simply by the letters X K C,
the product being referred to as X K C liquid. Moreover, the only
person, except Dr. Owen, in possession of the full facts touching this
discovery was Captain Herrick who had assisted the doctor in his
investigations. Herrick had been cautioned to guard this secret as he
would his life, since there was involved in it nothing less than the
possibility of preventing future wars through the power of its potential
terribleness.

The bearing of all this upon our narrative was presently made clear as
the conflict developed between tortured Penelope and the psychic in
Roberta Vallis' studio.

For some moments the two women eyed each other in hostile silence, which
was broken presently by the sound of footsteps in the hall.

"Ah! Here comes your doctor!" mocked the fair creature on the divan.
"Now watch Fauvette!"

The door opened and Dr. Owen, followed by Herrick, both grave-faced,
entered the apartment.

Christopher turned anxiously to Seraphine: "What has happened? Is she
better?"

Mrs. Walters shook her head, but when the young officer looked at
Penelope his fears were lessened, for she (was it from dissimulation or
weariness?) gave no indication of her recent frenzy, but seemed to be
resting peacefully against the cushions.

"Let's have a little more light here," said Dr. Owen, and he turned on
the electrics. "I'm afraid you have overtaxed your strength, Mrs.
Wells."

Penelope answered gently with perfect self-possession: "I'm afraid I
have, doctor, I'm sorry to give you so much trouble." And she smiled
sweetly at Herrick.

The specialist drew up a chair and studied his patient thoughtfully.
There was an added austerity in his usual professional manner.

"Captain Herrick tells me that you made some rather strange remarks just
now?" he said tentatively.

Mrs. Wells met him with a look of half amused understanding.

"Did I?" she answered carelessly, and as she spoke she took up a pencil
and made formless scrawls on a sheet of paper. "I suppose he refers to
my calling him a fool. It is a little unusual, isn't it?"

She laughed in a mirthless way.

"Why did you do it?"

"I haven't any idea."

"And you spoke unkindly to Seraphine? That isn't like you."

"No? How do you know what I am like?" she answered quickly, her hand
still fidgeting with the pencil.

Dr. Owen observed her attentively and did not speak for some moments.
Seraphine and Christopher drew their chairs nearer, as if they knew that
the tension of restraint was about to break.

"You must realize that you have been under a great strain, Mrs. Wells,"
resumed the doctor, "and you are tired--you are very tired."

Her answer came dreamily, absent-mindedly: "Yes, I am tired," and, as
she spoke, Penelope's tragic eyes closed wearily. But her fingers still
clutched the pencil and continued to move it over the white sheet.

"Look!" whispered Seraphine, "she is making letters upside down."

"That's queer!" nodded Owen. "She is writing backwards--from right to
left. Hello!" He started in surprise as he saw, on bending closer, that
Penelope had covered the sheet with large printed letters--X--K--C,
written over and over again.

Greatly disturbed, Dr. Owen roused his patient and questioned her about
this; but she insisted that she had no idea what she had written or what
the letters meant. A little later, however, she acknowledged that this
was not true.

"What! You did know what you wrote?" the scientist demanded. His whole
manner had changed. His eyes were cold and accusing. He was no longer a
sympathetic physician tactful towards the whims of a pretty woman, but a
major in the United States Army defending the interests of his country.

"This is a very serious matter, Mrs. Wells, please understand that. You
told me just now that you did not know what you wrote on the sheet of
paper?"

Penelope faced him scornfully. Her cheeks were flushed. Her bosom
heaved.

"I said that, but it wasn't true. I lied to you. I did know what I
wrote."

"You know what those letters mean?"

"Yes, I do!"

"What do they mean?"

"They mean some kind of poison stuff that you have made for the army."

"How do you know that?"

"He told me," she turned to Captain Herrick who had listened in dumb
bewilderment.

"How can you say such a thing?" Chris protested.

"Because it's true," she flung the words at him defiantly.

The young officer went close to her and looked searchingly into her
eyes.

"Think what you are saying," he begged. "Remember what this means.
Remember that--"

She cut in viciously: "You shut up! I have no more use for you. I tell
you it's true."

"Don't believe her, doctor," interposed Seraphine: "She is not
responsible for what she says."

"I am responsible. I know exactly what I am saying."

"It is not true, sir," put in Captain Herrick. "May I add that--"

"Wait! Why are you confessing this, Mrs. Wells?"

Like a fury Fauvette glared at Christopher.

"Because he turned me down. I'm sore on him. He's not on the level."

"Not on the level? Are you speaking of him as a lover or an officer?"

"Both ways. He's not on the level at all."

"Oh, Penelope!" grieved the heartbroken lover.

She eyed him scornfully. "You needn't Penelope me! I said I have no use
for you. A Sunday school sweetheart! Ha! I'll tell you something else,
doctor, I'm not the only one who knows about your X K C stuff."

"Mrs. Wells," Dr. Owen spoke slowly, "are you deliberately accusing
Captain Herrick of disloyalty?"

"Yes, I am."

Herrick stiffened under this insult, white-faced, but he did not speak.

"He meant to sell this information--for money," she added.

"My God!" breathed Christopher.

"Captain Herrick told you this?"

"Yes, he did. He said we would go abroad and live together--like
millionaires. You did! You know damned well you did," she almost
screamed the words at Herrick, then she sank back on the divan
exhausted, and lay still, her eyes closed.

The doctor's face was ominously set as he turned to his young friend.

"Chris, my boy, I need not tell you that I cannot believe this monstrous
accusation. At the same time, I saw Mrs. Wells write down those letters
that are only known to you and to me. I saw that with my own eyes--you
saw it, too."

"Yes, sir."

"And you heard what she said?"

"Yes, sir."

"Under the circumstances, as your superior officer, I don't see how I
have any choice except to--"

Here Mrs. Walters interrupted: "May I speak? It is still possible to
avert a great disaster."

The doctor shook his head. "You have heard Mrs. Wells' confession. No
power on earth can prevent an investigation of this," he declared with
military finality.

Seraphine's lips moved in silent prayer. Her face was transfigured as
her eyes fell tenderly upon the white-faced, tortured sleeper.

"No power on earth, but--God can prevent it," she murmured and moved
nearer to Penelope whose face was convulsed as if by a terrifying dream.
Then, with hands extended over the beautiful figure, the psychic prayed
aloud, while Herrick and the doctor, caught by the power of her faith,
looked on in wondering silence.

_"God of love, let Thine infinite power descend upon this Thy tortured
child and drive out all evil and wickedness from her. Open the eyes of
these men so that they may understand and be merciful. Oh, God, grant us
a sign! Let Thy light descend upon us."_

Captain Herrick has always maintained that at this moment, as he watched
his beloved, his heart clutched with horrible forebodings, he distinctly
_saw_ (Dr. Owen did not see this) a faint stream of bluish radiance
playing over her from the direction of Seraphine, and enveloping her. It
is certain that Penelope's face immediately became peaceful and the
convulsive twitchings that had shaken her body ceased.

"Look!" marvelled Christopher. "She is smiling in her sleep."

Seraphine turned to Dr. Owen, with radiant countenance.

"It is God's sign. Come! Penelope will awaken soon and must find
herself alone with her lover. It will be the real Penelope. You will
see. Let us draw back into the shadows. You stay near her," she motioned
to Herrick, then turned down the lights except a yellow-shaded lamp near
the sleeper.

And, presently, watching with breathless interest, these three saw
Penelope stir naturally and open her eyes.

"Why, how strange!" she exclaimed. "I must have gone to sleep. Why did
you let me go to sleep, Chris?" she questioned her lover, with bright,
happy eyes in which there was no trace of her recent perturbations of
spirit.

"It's all right, Pen," he said reassuringly. "You were a little--a
little faint, I guess."

She held out her hand lovingly and beckoned him to her side.

"Sit by me here. I had such a horrible dream. I'm so glad to see you,
dear. I'm so glad to be awake. Oh!" She started up in embarrassment as
she saw that her dress was disarranged. "What's the matter with my
dress? What did I do? What has happened? Tell me. You must tell me," she
begged in confusion.

"Don't worry, sweetheart," he soothed her. "It was the excitement of all
that talk--that ass of a poet."

Penelope passed her hand over her eyes in a troubled effort to remember.
It was pathetic to see her groping backwards through a daze of confused
impressions. The last clear thing in her mind was exchanging rings with
her lover. How long had they been here? What time was it? What must
Roberta think of them, staying up in her apartment all alone?

Christopher assured her that what Roberta thought (she and her gay
friends were still dancing downstairs) was the very least of his
preoccupations, and he was planning to turn his sweetheart's thoughts
into a different channel when Seraphine came forward out of the shadows
followed by Dr. Owen.

"Why, Seraphine!" exclaimed Penelope in astonishment. "Where did you
come from? And Dr. Owen?"

Seraphine greeted her friend lovingly and kissed her, but there was
unconcealed anxiety in her voice and manner.

"Dear child, something very serious has happened. You were ill and--Dr.
Owen came to help you. He wants to ask you some questions."

"Yes?" replied Penelope, her face paling.

Then the doctor, with scarcely any prelude and with almost brutal
directness, said: "Mrs. Wells, I want you to tell me why you accused
Captain Herrick of disloyalty."

Poor Penelope! She could only gasp for breath and turn whiter still.
Accuse her dear Christopher whom she loved and honored above all men of
any wrong or baseness! God in heaven! If she had done this she wanted to
die.

"I--I didn't," she stammered. "I couldn't do such a thing."

But the doctor was relentless. "If what you said to me a few minutes ago
is true," he went on coldly, "it will be my duty, as a major in the
United States Army, to order the arrest of Captain Herrick for treason
against the government."

At this startling assertion Penelope fell back as if struck down by a
mortal wound, and lay still on the couch, a pitiful crumpled figure. The
others gathered around her apprehensively.

"You were very harsh, sir," reproached Herrick.

"It was the best thing for you and for Mrs. Wells," answered Dr. Owen,
bending over his patient, who lay there with dark-circled eyes closed,
oblivious to her surroundings. "At least I have no doubt as to her
sincerity, I mean as to the genuineness of this shock."

The doctor was sorely perplexed as he faced this situation. What was his
duty? Here was a definite charge of extreme gravity made against a young
man of unimpeachable character by the very last person in the world who
would naturally make such an accusation, that is the woman who loved
him. Must he assume that the patient's mind was affected? The idea that
Christopher Herrick could be capable of a treasonable act was altogether
preposterous, a thing that Owen rejected indignantly, yet there was the
evidence of his own senses. Penelope had written those letters that were
not known to anyone except Herrick and himself? And she knew what they
meant. _How did she know?_ Was it possible Chris had told her?

But, even so, why had Penelope betrayed and denounced her lover?

At this moment Seraphine turned to the doctor in gentle appeal.

"Don't you see what the explanation is?" she whispered with eloquent
eyes.

"It seems to be a case of dual personality," he answered.

"It's more than that, doctor."

The scientist moved impatiently, then, remembering what he had seen at
Seraphine's apartment, and the recovery of his wife's jewels, he
softened the skepticism of his tone.

"You think it is one of those cases you told me about of--possession?
That's absurd!"

"Why is it absurd? Doesn't the Bible speak of possession by evil
spirits? Is the Bible absurd? Did not Christ cast out evil spirits?"

"I suppose so, but--times have changed."

"Not in the spirit world. Oh no!"

"Anyway, the thing is not capable of proof."

"Yes, it is, if you will not shut your mind against the evidence. Oh,"
she pleaded, "if you only had faith enough to let Dr. Leroy treat
Penelope! What harm could it do? You say yourself this is a case of dual
personality. Do you know how to cure that trouble? Do you?" she
insisted.

"Perhaps not," he admitted, "but--that is not the only thing. It must be
made clear to me how Mrs. Wells came into possession of an extremely
precious secret of the war department."

The medium's face shone with an inspired light as she answered: "That is
the work of an evil entity, doctor, I know what I am saying. You _must_
let me prove it. Look at that young woman--honored by all the world."
She pointed to Penelope resting peacefully. "Think what she has done!
Think of her bravery, her kindness, her sincerity. Look at Captain
Herrick--the soul of honor! You know him, doctor, I tell you it is
impossible that these two are guilty of treason."

Dr. Owen could not resist the power of this appeal. He was deeply moved
in spite of himself. "You say you can prove that Mrs. Wells is possessed
by an evil spirit? How can you prove it?"

"Give me permission to take Penelope to Dr. Leroy's hospital for a few
days--will you?" she begged. "You will see for yourself that I am
right."

"See for myself? Great heavens! You don't mean to tell me that--?" the
doctor stopped short before the vivid memory of those white shapes that
this woman once before had so strangely evoked.

Seraphine stood silent in deep concentration, then she said slowly:
"Yes, that is what I mean. I believe that God, for His great purposes,
will let you _see_ this evil spirit."



CHAPTER XIII

TERROR


(_Statement by Seraphine_)

At the request of Dr. William Owen I am writing this account of what
happened last night after Roberta Vallis' party. What happened during
the party was terrible enough, but what came later, after the doctor and
the guests had gone and we three women were alone together, Roberta and
Penelope and I, was infinitely worse.

I am told to put down details of the night, as far as I can remember
them, so that these may be kept in the records of the American Occult
Society. There never was a clearer case of an evil spirit working
destructively against a living person, although other noble souls have
faced a similar ordeal, especially returned soldiers and Red Cross
workers, and some have not survived it. Remember those pitiful,
unaccountable suicides of our bravest and our fairest. In every case
_there was a reason_!

Penelope did not go home after the party, she was in no condition to do
so, but stayed at Roberta's, and I stayed with her, at least I promised
to stay, for I knew she needed me. I knew that the greatest danger was
still threatening her.

When the guests had gone we took off our things (Roberta let me have her
little spare room on the mezzanine floor and she gave Penelope her own
big bedroom with the old French furniture), then a Russian singer, a
tall blond, Margaret G----, came in from the next apartment and we
talked for a long time. Pen and Bobby smoke cigarettes and drank
cordials; they drank in a nervous, hysterical way, as if they felt they
_must_ drink, and, strangely enough, the more they drank the more
intensely sober they became. _I understood this!_

Such talk! Miss Gordon had just returned to America by way of Tokio. She
had been in London, Paris, Petrograd, Cairo; and, everywhere, as a
result of the war, she said, she found a mad carnival of recklessness
and extravagance. Everywhere the old standards of decency and honor had
been set aside, greed and lust were rampant, the whole human race seemed
to be swept as with a mighty tide, by three fierce desires--for money,
for pleasure, for sensuality. And God had been forgotten!

I, who know how hideously true this is, tried to show these women _why_
it is true, especially Penelope, whose eyes were burning dangerously,
but they were not interested in my moralizing. "Let us eat, drink and be
merry, for tomorrow we die," mocked Margaret G----, emptying her glass,
and Roberta joined her, while Penelope hesitated.

"Wait! For God's sake, wait!" I caught the poor child's arm and the
wine spilled over the carpet. Never shall I forget the look in her eyes
as she drew back her head and faced me. I realized that the powers of
evil were striving again for the soul of Penelope Wells. Poor, tortured
child!

"Why shouldn't we eat, drink and be merry?" she demanded boldly, and I
was silent.

How could I explain to this dear, misguided one that, even as those
rollicking words were spoken, I felt the clutch of a cold foreboding
that I know only too well.

_For tomorrow we die!_

The Russian singer presently withdrew as if she were annoyed at
something, saying to Roberta that she would see her later. It seems they
had arranged that Roberta should pass the night in Margaret G----'s
apartment so that Penelope might have the large bedroom.

It was now after two o'clock and I suggested that we all needed sleep,
my thought being for Penelope; but she was aggressively awake, and
Roberta, as if bent on further excitement, started a new subject that
came like a challenge to me. She began innocently enough by putting her
arm around Penelope, as she sat on the bedside between the draped
curtains--I never saw her so beautiful--and saying sweetly: "You don't
know how terribly I'm going to miss you, Pen, when you get married."

Married! That word, so full of exquisite sentiment, seemed to stir only
what was evil in Penelope. Her face hardened, her eyes narrowed
cynically.

"Good old Bobby! I'm not so sure that I shall marry at all. I'm a
little fed up with this holy matrimony stuff. Perhaps I want my freedom
just as much as you do."

For a moment I caught her steady defiant gaze, then her eyes dropped and
shifted. I knew that Penelope was gone.

After this outburst the _other one_ was restrained enough for a time and
did not betray herself by violent utterances. Apparently she was
listening attentively to Roberta Vallis' views about life and love and
the destiny of woman, these views being as extreme and selfish as the
most wayward nature could demand.

I realized that the moment was critical and concentrated all my
spiritual power in an appeal to Penelope, praying that God would bring
her back and make her heed my words. I spoke gently of God's love for
His children and said that we need fear no evil within us or about us,
no dangers of any sort, if we will learn to draw to us and through us
that healing and protecting love. We can do this, we must do this by
establishing a love-current from God to us and from us to God, by
keeping it flowing just as an electrician keeps an electrical current
flowing--every day, every hour. It is not enough to pray for God's love,
we must keep our spiritual connections right, exactly as an electrician
keeps his electrical connections right, if we expect the current to
flow. We cannot make our electric lamps burn by merely wishing them to
burn, although there is a boundless ocean of electricity waiting to be
drawn upon. We must know how to tap that ocean. Similarly, the power of
God's infinite love will not descend upon us simply because we need it
or ask for it. We must ask for it in the right way. We must establish
the right love-connections. We must set the love-current flowing, and
keep it flowing, _from God to us and from us back to God_; and this can
be done only by confessing our sins, by cleansing our hearts of evil
thoughts and desires. _Not even God Himself can make the sun shine upon
those who wilfully hide in the shadows!_

I saw that they were listening impatiently and more than once Roberta
tried to interrupt me, but I persisted and said what I had to say as
well as I could, with all the love in my heart, for I knew that my
precious Penelope's fate was hanging in the balance.

When I had finished Roberta got up from the bed where she had been
sitting and lighted a cigarette.

"Now, then, it's my turn," she began. I could see her eyes shining with
an evil purpose. "You've heard her pretty little speech, Pen. You've
heard her talk about the wonderful power of God's love, and a great
rigamarole about how it guards us from all evil, if we say our prayers
and confess our sins and so on. I say that is all bunk, and I can prove
it. Take women--they've always said their prayers more than men, always
confessed their sins more than men, always been more loving than men,
haven't they? And what's the result? Has God protected them from the
evils of life more than men? He has not. God has let women get the worst
of it right straight along through the centuries. Women have always been
the slaves of men, haven't they?--in spite of all their love and
devotion, in spite of all their prayers and tears? How do you account
for that?"

She flashed this at me with a wicked little toss of her head and
Penelope chimed in: "Yes, I'd like to know that myself." But, when I
tried to answer, Roberta cut me off with a new flood of violence.

"I'll let you know how I account for it," she went on angrily. "It's
because all the churches in the world, all the smug preachers in the
world, like you, have gone on shooting out this very same kind of hot
air that you've been giving us; and the women, silly fools, have fallen
for it. _But not the men!_ The women have tried to live by love and
prayer and unselfishness; they have said: 'God's will be done,' 'God
will protect us'; and what is the result? How has God protected the
women, who _did_ believe? And how has He punished the men who refused to
believe? He has made the men masters of the world, lords of everything;
and He has kept the women in bondage, hasn't He?--in factory bondage, in
nursery bondage, in prostitution bondage? Is what I say true, or isn't
it true? I ask you, I ask any person who has got such a thing as a clear
brain and is not simply a mushy sentimentalist, is what I say true?"

Again I tried to answer, but again she cut me short and rushed on in a
blaze of excitement.

"So it has been through all the pitiful history of women, until a few
years ago, the poor, foolish creatures began to wake up. At last women
are getting rid of their delusions and emerging from their slavery--why?
Because they have begun to imitate men, and go straight after the thing
they want, the thing that is worth while, _by using their power as
women_, and not depending upon the power of love or the power of God or
any other power. Believe me, the greatest power in the world is the
power of women _as women_, and we may as well use it to the limit, just
as men would. We can get anything we want out of men by learning to use
this power, and, I tell you, Pen, there isn't anything better in this
good old United States than money. So far men have had the money,
they've ground it out of the poor and the ignorant, especially women,
but now women are going after money and getting it, just like the men.
Why not? If I want a sable coat and a limousine and a nice duplex
apartment, why shouldn't I have them, if I can get them without breaking
the law? And I _can_ get them; so can you, Pen, if you'll play the cards
you hold in your hand. Haven't I done it? You don't see me eating in
Childs restaurants to any great extent these days, do you? And I'm not
worrying about clothes, or about paying my rent."

The poison of her words was stealing into Penelope's soul and defiling
it, yet I was powerless to restrain her.

"Listen to this, child, and remember it, women are the equals of men
today in every line, and they're going to have their full share of the
good things of life. They're going to have freedom, and that means the
right to do as they please without asking the permission of any man.
Women are going to have their own latch keys and their own bank
accounts. They're going to cut off their hair and put pockets in their
skirts, and have babies, if they feel like it, or not have them, if they
don't feel like it. The greatest revolution the world has ever known is
going on now, it's the revolution of women. Let the men open their eyes!
How did women get the suffrage? Was it by praying for it? Was it by the
power of love? Was it by the mercy of God? No! They got the suffrage by
fighting for it, by going out and hustling for it, just the way men
hustle for what they want. If women had depended on the power of God's
love to give them the suffrage, they wouldn't have got it in a million
years."

Of course, those were not Roberta's exact words, but I am sure I have
given the substance of them, and I cannot exaggerate the defiant
bitterness of her tone. She was a powerful devil's advocate and I saw
that wavering Penelope (if it still was Penelope) was deeply impressed
by this false and wicked reasoning. She looked at me out of her
wonderful eyes--unflinching, cruel, then the balance swung against me.

"I believe you are right, Roberta Vallis," she spoke with raised
forefinger and a show of judicial consideration. "It's a bold speech for
a woman, I never heard the thing put that way before, but--I'm damned if
I see what the answer is except--"

"Oh, Penelope!" I interrupted, trying in vain to reach her with my eyes.

"You shut up," she answered spitefully. "I said I'm _damned_ if I see
what the answer is except your answer, Bobby, that women have always
been fools and dupes--dupes of religious superstition invented by men
for the benefit of men and never accepted by men."

Roberta applauded this. "Bravo! little one! I'll tell that to Kendall
Brown. _Women have always been dupes of religious superstition invented
by men for the benefit of men and never accepted by men!_ Go on! Tell us
some more."

And Penelope went on, flinging aside all restraint, while my heart sank.

"Take my own life. Look at it! I had an ignoble husband. Why didn't I
leave him? Because I was loving, trusting. I thought I could save him. I
said prayers for him. I asked God to strengthen him. And what was the
result? The result was that Julian not only destroyed himself, but he
destroyed what was best in me. Did God interfere? Did God give any
manifestation of His infinite love? Not so that you could notice it."

She paused with heaving bosom and then swept on in her mad discourse.

"And then, when I was left alone in the world, what happened? I went
abroad as a Red Cross nurse. I tried my best to help in the war. I took
care of the wounded--under fire. I bore every hardship. I said my
prayers. And God put a curse upon me--yes He did. He took all chance of
happiness and health and love away from me. He made me do things that I
never meant to do, that I don't remember doing."

Her cheeks were burning scarlet, her eyes shone like black stars. I
tried to stop her. "My darling, you are ill!"

"Ill? Who made me ill? God made me ill, didn't He? That's my reward,
isn't it? That's what has come of all my love and faith. If that's what
God does, you can have Him. I don't want Him. I'll go with Roberta.
I'll do as Roberta does--yes, I will." She almost screamed the words.

How I prayed then for wisdom!

"No--no!" I said slowly but firmly. "You will _not_ go with Roberta. You
will go with me."

"I must say I like your impertinence," Roberta put in, her face white,
her voice trembling with fury. "This happens to be my apartment, Mrs.
Seraphine Walters, and now you can get damned well out of it."

I saw that I could no nothing more, for Penelope's eyes were hard set
against me. They both wanted me to go.

"Good night. God bless you, dear," I said.

"Don't you worry about God's blessing us. You can tell Him the next time
you make your report that there is a young woman named Roberta Vallis
living at the Hotel des Artistes who is getting along quite well, thank
you, without--"

"Don't say it, please don't say it," I begged. "You have no idea what
dangers are threatening, what evil powers are about us--even now--here."

She laughed in my face. "I snap my fingers at your evil powers and your
God of Love. I don't believe in either of them. I'm not afraid of either
of them. Evil powers! Ha! Let them come if they want to. Here! We'll
drink defiance to the powers of evil. Come on, Pen!"

"Defiance to the powers of evil," laughed my poor soul-sick Penelope,
lifting her glass.

With a shudder I watched these two tragically led young women as they
stood there, draped in white, and drank this sacrilegious toast; then,
heavy-hearted, I came away.

It was nearly four o'clock when I reached my home and I was so exhausted
by the emotions of the night that I lay down without undressing and
almost immediately fell into a troubled sleep. Then, suddenly, I awoke
with a start of alarm and a sense that a voice had called me. And,
though my bedroom was dark, I distinctly saw a white vaporish form
passing over me as if someone had blown a cloud of tobacco smoke in my
face. Once before I had had this experience of a white form passing over
me--it was when my mother died.

I got up quickly, knowing that this was a summons, and, as I put on my
hat and cloak, I heard my control telling me that I must go to Penelope.
I knelt down and prayed that I might not be too late. Then I hurried
back to the hotel and got there at half-past five. It was still night.

A sleepy elevator girl took me up to Roberta's apartment and I found
that the door opened at my touch. In another moment I was standing in
the silent hall looking down a long passage that led to Penelope's
bedroom. The bedroom door was ajar and a dim light from the chamber
illumined the way before me.

Thus far I had acted swiftly, almost mechanically, knowing that I had
only one thing to do, and I had been aware of no particular emotion
except a natural anxiety; but now, the moment I entered this apartment
and closed the door behind me, I was conscious of a freezing, paralyzing
fear, a sensation as real as the touch of a hand or the sound of a
bell. It was something that could not be resisted. I was bathed in an
atmosphere of terror. I was afraid to a degree that made my breath stop,
my heart stop....

The passage leading to Penelope's bedroom was not more than six yards
long, but it seemed as if it took me an hour to traverse it. I could
scarcely force my lagging steps, one by one, to carry me. And every
hideous moment brought me the vision of Penelope lying on that curtained
bed, her beautiful face distorted, her eager young life--crushed out of
her. Oh God, how I prayed!

When at last I came into the bedroom I faced another struggle. There was
absolute silence. No sound of breathing from the bed, although I saw a
woman's form under the sheets. But not her face, which was hidden by the
curtain. For a long time I stood beside that bed, rigid with fear,
before I found courage to draw the curtain back. At last I drew it back
and--there lay Penelope, sleeping peacefully, quite unharmed. I was
stunned with relief, with amazement and--suddenly her eyes opened and
she gave a wild but joyful cry and flung her arms around my neck,
sobbing hysterically.

"Oh! Oh! My dear, dear Seraphine! You came to me. You forgave me. You
did not abandon your poor Penelope." She clung to me like a child in
frantic, pitiful terror.

Then she told me that she too had gone through a frightful experience.
When Roberta had left her, about an hour before, to sleep in the
adjoining apartment, as they had arranged with Margaret G----, Penelope
had tried to compose herself on her pillow, but she had scarcely fallen
into a doze when she was awakened by the same sense of horrible fear
that had overcome me. She was about to die--by violence. An assassin was
coming--he was near her. She could hardly breathe. It was almost beyond
her power to rise from the bed and search the apartment, but she did
this. There was nothing, and yet the terror persisted. She huddled
herself under the bed-covers and waited, saying her prayers. And when I
entered the apartment and came down the passage--so slowly, so
stealthily!--she _knew_ it was the murderer coming to kill her. And when
I paused at her bedside--how long it was before I drew the curtain!--she
almost died again, waiting for the blow.

Of course I did not leave Penelope after this, but comforted her and
prayed with her and rejoiced that her madness was past. Then we tried to
sleep, locked in each other's arms, but, shortly after six, there came a
timid knock at the door and, all of a tremble, Jeanne entered,
Penelope's French maid who had come with her mistress to Roberta's party
and had occupied a small room overhead, and she told us with hysterical
sobs that she had not closed her eyes all night for ghastly visions of
Penelope murdered in her bed.

Now it is easy to scoff at premonitions and haunting fears, but there
can be no doubt that on this night an evil spirit was present in
Roberta's apartment, a hideous, destructive entity that came
and--wavered in its deadly purpose against Penelope, then--_manifested
to Roberta Vallis in the adjoining apartment_, for when I went in
there a little later I found Roberta--she who had mocked God and defied
the powers of evil--I found her in her bed, her face convulsed with a
look of indescribable terror--_dead!_

The hotel doctor reported it as a case of heart failure, but Doctor
William Owen, who has an honest mind, acknowledged that all this was
beyond his understanding. This tragedy made him realize at last that
there may be sinister agencies in us and about us that cannot be dealt
with by mere medical skill. And, at my pleading, he directed that Mrs.
Wells be placed immediately in the care of Dr. Edgar Leroy.

Thank God, my precious Penelope will receive psychic treatment before it
is too late. There is no other hope for her but this.



CHAPTER XIV

POSSESSED


(_From Penelope's Diary_)

_At Dr. Leroy's Sanitarium._

I understand why people kill themselves. There was an hour last night,
that horrible hour between four and five (I have seen so many hospital
patients die then), when I was resolved to kill myself. Seraphine was
sleeping in the next room--she has not left me since I came to this
place yesterday--and I longed to waken her for a last talk, but decided
not to. What was the use? I must settle this for myself--whether it was
possible for me to go on living or not, I must fight out this battle
alone--with my own soul.

I decided to kill myself because I felt sure, after what had happened,
that I was condemned to madness. This is evidently a place where mad
people are treated. They call it a Sanitarium, but I know what that
means. Seraphine speaks of Dr. Leroy (I have only seen him once) as a
wonderful spiritual healer and she says I will love him because he is so
kind and wise; but none of this deceives me. I know they have brought me
to a place for mad people.

Here is a thought that makes me waver--what if death is not
annihilation? What if I find myself in some new state where there are
other horrors and terrors--worse than those that I have suffered? The
Voices tell me this--taunting me. And then Christopher! He loves me so
much! He will be so sorry, if I do this!

While I was hesitating--it was just before dawn--Seraphine came to me.
She talked to me, soothed me, and, at last, she told me the truth about
myself. She said that all my troubles come from this, that I am
possessed by an evil spirit! _Literally possessed!_ This is what she was
leading up to when she told me about the great company of earth-bound
souls that are hovering about us since the war, striving to come back!

The extraordinary part of it is that I no longer regard this as a
fantastic impossibility. I no longer reject it. I am not terrified or
horrified by the thought, but almost welcome it, since it offers an
explanation of what has happened that does not involve madness. I am
either possessed by an evil spirit or I am mad, and of these two I
prefer the evil spirit. That, at least, is a definite cause carrying
with it the hope of a cure, for we read that evil spirits were cast out
in olden times, and they may be again.

       *       *       *       *       *

One thing convinces me that what Seraphine says is true--I did something
at Roberta's party that my own soul or spirit, even in madness, could
never have done. I accused Christopher of committing a crime. I accused
him of treason! Christopher! My love! Seraphine bears witness to this.
I _must_ be possessed by an evil spirit! This would account for
something else that happened last night. I was just falling into a
troubled sleep when--_no, I cannot tell it!_

       *       *       *       *       *

Christopher sent me a gorgeous basket of roses this morning with his
love. He loves me in spite of the devil and all his angels--he said that
to Seraphine. How wonderful! I wish they would let me see him, and
yet--I am ashamed. How can I ever face Christopher again?

There is something strange about Roberta Vallis--I feel it. She did not
come in to speak to me or say good-bye before I left her apartment--that
morning. Why not? I asked Seraphine if there was anything the matter
with Roberta--had I done anything to offend her?--but the only answer I
could get was that Roberta is not well. Seraphine is keeping something
back--I am sure of it.

       *       *       *       *       *

Seraphine knows of two cases where evil spirits have been cast out. One
was a New York silversmith who had never shown any talent for art, but
who suddenly began to paint remarkable pictures, which sold for good
prices. He was desperately unhappy, however, because he felt sure that
he was becoming insane. He had visions of scenes that he was impelled to
paint and he suffered from clairaudient hallucinations. Two well known
neurologists declared that he was a victim of paranoia and must soon be
confined in an asylum. This man was brought back to a normal condition
by Dr. Leroy's treatment, and the first step in his improvement was when
he grasped the idea that his abnormal symptoms were due to possession.
This satisfied his reason and drove away his fears (I understand that),
especially when he was assured that an evil spirit can be driven out by
the power of God's love as easily as an evil germ or humour of the body
can be driven out by the same agency. What a blessed thought!

Seraphine says we must obey the safeguarding rules with which God has
surrounded the operation of His love, if we would enjoy the blessed
guardianship of that love. We must not expect God to change His rules
for us. _We must cleanse our hearts of evil!_

The other case of possession was not a patient of Dr. Leroy, but came
under Seraphine's notice while she was attending a sufferer. This was
Alice E----, a charming, refined girl about twenty, the daughter of
well-bred people who lived in Boston. They were somewhat stricter in
family discipline than most American parents, consequently Alice, from
babyhood up, was guarded and protected in every possible way. She and
her mother were almost inseparable companions. There was absolutely no
way in which Alice could have become acquainted with people of the
underworld, or heard the vile expressions that she afterward used in an
evil personality. Her face showed unusual innocence and purity, her
disposition was affectionate and serene.

But when she was about seventeen Alice began to have strange spells of
irritability; she would grow sullen and stubborn, and soon these ugly
moods became more violent; she would burst into horrible tirades against
her father and mother and declare that she couldn't stand their
goody-goody ways, that they were so damned pious they made her sick.
Then rage and lust seemed to possess her and she would talk about men in
a shocking way, using unspeakable words, while the expression of her
face and the posture of her body became those of a wanton.

At first Alice could not tell when these attacks were coming on, but
later, when she was about twenty, she knew and would beg her family to
keep "that dreadful, horrible girl" from taking hold of her. "She's
going to change me! Oh, keep her away! Don't let her get me!" she would
cry out in terror.

Through the last days of the poor girl's life the struggle between the
real Alice and the gutter woman went on almost constantly. Alice would
implore Seraphine to make the wicked girl go away so that when the end
came (she knew she was going to die) she might be herself. But the evil
spirit had firm possession and a few hours before her death Alice's
mouth was coarse and sensual, her eyes were wicked, her whole expression
revolting.

Seraphine sent word to the family that they must not come into the room;
then, kneeling by the bedside of the dying girl, she nerved herself for
a last struggle between the powers of good and evil. With all the
strength of her pure soul she invoked God's love to restore and heal
this afflicted child ere she departed for the Great Beyond; and, an hour
before the end, the family were admitted to the chamber and looked upon
Alice's pillowed face, sweetly smiling, beautiful and unsullied, as they
had always known her and cherished her. _God's love had prevailed!_

       *       *       *       *       *

When Seraphine left me my mind had become calm and hopeful and I had
given up my wicked purpose. I fell asleep praying that God would save me
from the powers of darkness, that His love would watch over me and
protect me from all evil, especially from that dream on the Fall River
steamboat, the one that has tortured me so many nights.

I awakened suddenly to the knowledge that a terrible thing had happened,
an incredible thing. I was alone in my bedroom, _and yet I was not
alone_! I had escaped one degradation only to face another. I was awake,
fully awake; yet I was more abdominally tempted than ever I was in my
dreams. With all the strength of my soul I fought against the
aggressions of a real presence that--_that touched me!_ I cried out, I
struggled, I begged God to save me or else to let me die. And then
Seraphine came to me again in my agony.

But before she came the Voices sounded worse than ever, nearer about me
than ever. Why was I such a fool? Why was I so obstinate in resisting my
fate? Was I not Their appointed sacrifice? Why not be resigned to the
inevitable? Why not...? They laughed and fluttered close to me with
vile murmurings while I prayed against them with all my strength.

"_God of love, guard Thy child; God of power, save Thy child_," I
prayed.

A harsh, cruel voice broke in to tell me that Roberta Vallis was dead,
she died of terror because she had defied Them, as I had defied Them;
and, in three days, the Voice said that I, too, would die of terror.
Three days remained to me, three nights with my dream and a hideous
awakening, unless--

Then Seraphine opened my bedroom door and I sobbed in her arms a long
time before I could speak.

"Is--is Roberta dead?" I gasped.

She looked at me strangely and I knew it was true.

"Yes, dear," she answered gently, and tried to comfort me again, but it
was in vain.

"I have only three days to live, Seraphine," I said solemnly. "Three
days and three nights!"

Then I told her what the evil spirit had said, and she listened with
grave attention.



CHAPTER XV

DR. LEROY


There may now be presented, as bearing upon Mrs. Wells' strange illness,
a conversation which took place between Dr. William Owen and Dr. Edgar
Leroy, the psychic healer, on the evening following Penelope's entrance
into the Leroy sanitarium on Fortieth Street, just south of Bryant Park.

Owen began in his bluff, outspoken way: "Doctor, I have put into your
hands a lady I am very fond of, in spite of the fact that your theories
contradict everything I stand for. Not very complimentary, is it?--but I
may as well tell you the truth. Mrs. Wells has not improved under my
treatment, I admit that, and I have turned her over to you as a sort of
last hope."

Leroy's rather stern face brightened with a flash of humor.

"The same thing has happened to other physicians, doctor. I believe you
diagnose this case as shell shock?"

"Unquestionably--with unfavorable developments, dual personality
complications--I wrote you."

"Yes. I spent several hours with Mrs. Wells last evening when she
arrived. She was agitated, but I soothed her and explained certain
things that had troubled her, and, gradually, she grew calm. I think I
can help her."

In spite of himself Dr. Owen was favorably impressed both by the man and
his surroundings. There was nothing garish or freakish or Oriental about
the place, which was furnished with the business-like simplicity of an
ordinary doctor's office. And Leroy certainly had a fine head--a
clean-shaven face with heavy black brows under which shone grave, kindly
eyes that twinkled now and then in good-natured understanding. He was
about ten years younger than his colleague.

"May I ask, doctor, if there is any scientific evidence to prove the
existence of this healing spiritual power that you use or think you
use?" In spite of himself, Owen put this question a little
patronizingly.

"There are the results--the cures. And there is the evidence of
Christianity. Spiritual power is the basis of Christianity, isn't it?"

A deeper note sounded here, and the hard-headed materialist began to
realize that he was in the presence of an unusual personality, developed
by suffering and struggle, a man who had finally reached a haven of sure
and comforting belief. There was great kindness in this face as well as
strength.

"Nothing else? Is there no evidence similar to that which convinces us
that the X-rays really exist?"

Leroy thought a moment, then he spoke with a quiet impressiveness that
was not lost upon Dr. Owen.

"There is evidence that would probably convince any fair-minded person
who was willing to give to the investigation time enough to get results.
The X-rays were not discovered in a day, were they? Suppose I tell you
how I got into this occult field--would that interest you?"

"Very much."

"Take that other chair--make yourself comfortable--that's better. It
began accidentally with certain persistent hallucinations, as I used to
call them, in a patient of mine, a Southern lady whom I attended when I
was a regular practitioner like yourself. These hallucinations worried
me, and, being an open-minded man, I found it impossible to dismiss them
as of trivial importance; so I began an investigation that led me--well,
it led me very far, it is still leading me, for I am scarcely over the
threshold of that mysterious region where spirit phenomena occur. I
resolved to know _for myself_ whether these things are true."

"And you think they are true?"

"I know they are true," was the grave reply.

Dr. Owen listened attentively while Leroy described his first groping
efforts to determine whether or not he personally possessed psychic
powers. He began with regular periods of mental concentration, an
opening of the soul, as it were, to spirit impressions; he would sit
alone, in a state of meditative receptiveness for ten or fifteen minutes
every day, and later several times a day, waiting for something to
happen--he did not know what.

Day after day the psychologist persisted in this singular experiment
and, soon, he began to see small blue figures, irregularly shaped, that
moved rapidly about the room and cast no shadows. Some of these blue
figures were luminous, and among them were occasional luminous white
figures. As weeks passed and his efforts continued, there came a
noticeable increase in the number of these moving shapes until, when the
doctor desired it, he could make them swarm everywhere, over the walls,
the pictures, the bookcases.

"Wait!" interrupted Owen. "Do you see these blue shapes or luminous
figures at all times? Do you see them now?"

"No. I only see them when I desire to see them--when I prepare myself to
use them--for a case."

Leroy told how the phenomena continued to increase in frequency and in
intensity, how gradually he felt an unmistakable sense of power growing
in himself, as if he had somehow tapped a vast source of energy, a kind
of spiritual trolley-line, and he was now impelled to use this power. He
made his first trial on a poor man who had suffered for years from
headaches that seemed incurable.

"Stretch out on that reclining chair, close your eyes, don't think of
anything," ordered the experimenter. Then he laid his hands on the man's
forehead and concentrated his mind in the psychic way he had adopted.
Almost immediately the blue shapes appeared in great numbers, and began
to pour themselves in fine, pulsing streams, like a purplish mist, over
the patient's brow and head and shoulders, over his whole body until he
was completely enveloped in them, laved by them, penetrated by them.

"That was a crude beginning," Leroy went on, "but it drove away those
obstinate headaches for three months; then a second laying on of hands
completed the cure. After that, as months passed, other persons were
cured in the same way--especially nervous cases. Whatever these blue
streams are, they benefit the patient in most cases. One woman told me,
during a treatment, that _she saw blue shapes about her_!"

"You hypnotized her," declared Owen.

"Possibly. I did not intend to."

"What I want to know is, have you ever treated a case like this one of
Mrs. Wells?"

"Yes, I treated a young woman in Mrs. Wells' profession, a trained
nurse. She came of good family and was very intelligent, but she was
driven toward certain forms of depravity. It was pretty bad. All efforts
to change her had failed and, at last, her mother in desperation decided
to try psychic treatment."

"And you cured her?"

"Yes. She is now doing useful work in Washington for the Red Cross."

"How did you cure her--it wasn't simply by the laying on of hands, was
it?"

"No. I recognize the necessity of getting at the forgotten or concealed
causes of these abnormalities, just as Freud does in his
psycho-analysis, but, instead of following the uncertain trail of
dreams, I conceived the idea of discovering the truth by clairvoyant
revelation. I engaged Mrs. Seraphine Walters to assist me in my work.
She has astonishing psychic gifts and--" he hesitated.

"Yes?"

"In her entranced condition, Mrs. Walters discovered things about this
young woman, painful things that had been hidden for years and--well, I
was able to relieve her of her fears and check her waywardness," he
concluded abruptly.

"But the details? Tell me more about this case. What were the painful
things that Mrs. Walters discovered?"

Leroy shook his head.

"What's the use? I can state the result of my treatment, but if I go
into details, if I try to make you understand the cause of this young
woman's evil desires and how I overcame them--" he paused, his eyes
shining with an inspired light. "Don't you see, doctor, you and I do not
speak the same language. You are always in opposition. You have no
faith. It's your narrow training."

"Narrow?" snorted the other.

"Yes, you scientists are childishly narrow. You believe in atoms and
ions and electrons that you have never seen and never will see, but if
anyone mentions secrets of the soul that control human happiness, you
laugh or sneer."

"Not necessarily. I suppose you refer to your theory of possession by
evil spirits. If you could only furnish any evidence--"

"It isn't my theory. It's as old as Christianity, it's a part of
Christianity. As to evidence, my dear sir, you are blind to evidence.
The young lady I speak of was despaired of by everybody, she was on her
way to an insane asylum, two alienists had declared her case hopeless,
yet, thanks to psychic treatment, she was restored to health and
happiness. Does that impress you? Not at all if you call it a
coincidence. And if I am fortunate enough to cure Mrs. Wells, whom you
have failed to cure, you will call that a coincidence, too."

Dr. Owen tried to control his irritation, but his prejudices got the
better of him.

"Of course I want to see Mrs. Wells cured, but--do you mean to tell me
seriously that you believe she is possessed by an evil spirit?"

"I believe that some malignant influence is near her and able to control
her--intermittently. How else do you account for the facts in her case?
Even Mrs. Wells believes this."

"That is because Seraphine put the notion in her head. It's
unfortunate."

"No, she believes this because of the way her friend died. You know how
she died?"

"Miss Vallis? She died suddenly, but the cause of her death is doubtful.
People die suddenly from all sorts of causes."

"Yes," answered Leroy with a significant tightening of the lips, "and
one of the causes is fear. People die suddenly of fear, doctor."

"Referring to Mrs. Wells and her bad dreams?"

"Precisely. If you had seen her last night--after midnight--watching the
clock with dark, furtive glances, watching, waiting, as the hands
approached half past twelve, you would understand what fear can do to a
woman. That is Mrs. Wells' worst symptom, she is afraid--not all the
time but intermittently."

Owen leaned forward in concentrated attention.

"Why was she in such a state at half past twelve rather than at any
other time?"

"Because the change in her takes place then, the change into her other
personality."

"Fauvette? You saw her--in that personality?"

"Yes. I saw her. Besides, she told me about it in advance. She knows
what is going to take place, but is powerless against it. Every night at
exactly half past twelve there comes a violent period that lasts until
one o'clock. Then she falls into a deep sleep, and a dream begins,
always the same dream, a horrible dream that terrifies her and drains
her life forces. She had this dream last night, she will have it again
tonight, and again tomorrow night. _She believes that she will die
tomorrow night, just as her friend died!_"

"Good God! What a pity!" exclaimed Owen. "Why does she think she is
going to die tomorrow night?"

"Her Voices tell her so, and she believes them."

"She told you this?"

"Yes."

The older man tapped impatiently on his chair-arm.

"And you? What did you say to her? You surely do not believe that Mrs.
Wells will die tomorrow night? You know these are only the morbid
fancies of an hysterical woman, don't you?"

Leroy rose quietly and took down a volume from the bookcase.

"How we love to argue over the _names_ of things!" he answered gravely.
"I don't care what you call the influence or obsession that threatens
this lady. I ask, What do you propose to do about it? Do _you_ believe
that Mrs. Wells will die tomorrow night? Do you?"

Owen moved uncomfortably on his chair, frowned, snapped his fingers
softly and finally admitted that he did not know.

"Ah! Then is it your idea to wait without doing anything until tomorrow
night comes, and see if Mrs. Wells really does die at half-past twelve,
and then, if she does, as the Vallis woman died, to simply say: 'It's
very strange, it's too bad!' and let it go at that? Is that your idea?
Will you take that responsibility?"

"No, certainly not. I don't mean to interfere with your plans. I told
you I have left this matter entirely in your hands," answered the
skeptic, his aggressiveness suddenly calmed.

"Very well. Take my word, doctor, fear is terribly destructive, it may
cause death. Listen to this case, cited by a French psychologist." He
turned over the pages. "Daughter of an English nobleman, engaged to a
man she loves, perfectly happy; but one night she is visited, or thinks
she is, by her dead mother who says she will come for her daughter the
next day at noon. The girl tells her father she is going to die. She
reads her Bible, sings hymns to the accompaniment of a guitar, and just
before noon, although apparently in excellent health, she asks to be
helped to a large arm chair in her bedroom. At noon exactly she draws
two or three gasping breaths and sinks back into her chair, dead. That
shows what fear will do."

But his adversary was still unconvinced.

"What does that prove? Do you think you could have saved this young
woman if you had been in charge of the case?"

"Perhaps. I hope to save Mrs. Wells."

"How?"

Leroy hesitated, frowned with a nervous squinting, as if he were trying
to solve a baffling problem.

"How? I wish I could tell you, doctor, but you would not understand.
That is the sad part of my work, I am all alone."

His eyes burned somberly, then he spoke with intense feeling.

"Not one of you orthodox physicians will join me in my effort to save
millions of unfortunates from the tragedy of our state hospitals. You
won't lift a hand to help me. You all say there is nothing to be done.
What a wicked evasion of responsibility! Nothing to be done? I tell you
there is everything to be done. Suppose you had a daughter or a sister
or a wife who was suffering from such an affliction--how would you feel?
God grant you may never know how you would feel. Why do you doctors
scoff at miracles when the Bible is full of them and we all live among
them? What is life but an unceasing miracle? Tell me how you move your
finger except by a miracle? What is vision? What is death? How do you
_know_ that spirits of the departed, good and bad, do not come back to
help us--or to harm us? Many great men believe this and always have.
Many fine women know that this is true. Mrs. Walters has actually _seen_
an evil spirit hovering about a girl who was called insane. How do you
know that insanity is not caused by evil possession?"

"Hold on! I can't answer all those questions," laughed Owen and now his
manner changed quite charmingly as he made an _amende honorable_. "I'm a
stubborn old fool, doctor. I ought to have had more sense than to get
into this argument. What I care about is to have this dear lady restored
to health and happiness. There!" He held out his hand. "Forgive me! The
more miracles you can work for her cure, the better I shall like it."

At this Leroy relented in his turn.

"Dr. Owen, I will not conceal from you that Mrs. Wells is in great
peril. I have no more doubt that she will die tomorrow night, unless she
consents to do something that I have already indicated to her as
necessary, than I have of your presence in this room."

"Extraordinary! Do you really mean that? What is this thing? Is it a
definite thing, or is it some--some spiritual thing?"

Dr. Leroy sighed and shook his head.

"It's hard for you to believe, isn't it? I suppose you want me to give
Mrs. Wells a dose of medicine or put a hot water bag at her feet. No,
doctor, it's much more difficult than that."

The veteran pondered this in puzzled exasperation.

"If Mrs. Wells does this definite thing that you have told her to do,
will she be saved?"

"Yes, I think so," Leroy spoke confidently.

There came a knock at the office door, but both men were so absorbed in
their conversation that they paid no attention to it.

"Is there any doubt about her doing this definite thing that will save
her?"

"That's the trouble, she fights against doing it with all her strength.
She says she cannot do it. _But I tell her she must do it!_"

The knock sounded sharper. An attendant had come with a message from
Seraphine asking Dr. Leroy to come to her at once. She was upstairs in
Mrs. Wells' sitting-room. Something serious had happened.

"Tell Mrs. Walters that I will be right up," he said. "You had better
wait here, doctor." Leroy glanced at his watch. "It's half-past nine. We
have three hours."



CHAPTER XVI

IRRESPONSIBLE HANDS


Dr. Leroy found Mrs. Walters in the attractive sitting-room, brightened
by flowers (most of them sent by Christopher) that had been set apart
for Penelope. The medium, usually so serene, was pale and agitated and
had evidently been repairing some recent disorder of her hair and dress.

"She is asleep, doctor," panted Seraphine, and she pointed to the closed
door of the bedroom. "We have had quite a bad time."

Then Seraphine told the doctor what had happened. She and Penelope had
spent the evening pleasantly, sewing and chatting, and Mrs. Wells had
seemed her old joyous self, free from fears and agitations. She listened
with touching confidence when the medium assured her that her mother's
exalted spirit was trying to help her. And she promised to bear in mind
Dr. Leroy's injunction that, just before composing herself to sleep, she
must hold the thought strongly that she was God's child, guarded from
all evil by the power of God's love. Also she would search into her
heart to find the obstacle that prevented her mother from coming closer
to her.

About nine o'clock Penelope said she was sleepy and would lie down to
rest, at which Seraphine rejoiced, hoping this might indicate a break in
the spell of fear that had kept Mrs. Wells in exhausting suspense.
Perhaps this was an answer to their prayers. She assisted the patient,
lovingly and encouragingly, to prepare herself for the night and at
half-past nine left her in bed with the light extinguished and the door
leading into the sitting-room open, so that she could hear the slightest
call.

About twenty minutes later, as Seraphine sat meditating, her attention
was attracted by a sound from the bedroom and, looking through the door,
she was surprised to see Mrs. Wells sitting up in bed and writing
rapidly on a large pad from which she tore sheets now and then, letting
these fall to the floor. So dim was the bedroom light that it was
impossible for Penelope to see her penciled writing, nor did she even
glance at the words, but held her eyes fixed in a far-away stare, as if
she were guided by some distant voice or vision. After a time, Penelope
ceased writing and sank back in slumber upon her pillow, allowing the
pad to fall by her side.

"Automatic writing," nodded the psychologist.

"Yes. I entered the bedroom softly and picked up the sheets. There are
two communications, one in a large scrawl written by a woman--I believe,
it is Penelope's mother. The other is in a small regular hand with quick
powerful strokes, evidently a man's writing. There! You see the
handwriting is quite different from Penelope's."

Leroy studied the sheets in silence.

"Have you read these messages?"

"I read one of them, doctor, the one from Penelope's mother--it is full
of love and wisdom--and I was just beginning the other when a terrible
thing happened. That is why I sent for you. I was sitting in this
rocking chair with my back turned to the bedroom door, absorbed in
reading this message, when suddenly--"

"Wait! Let me read it first. Hello! It's for Captain Herrick."

"Not all of it. Won't you read it aloud, doctor?"

The medium closed her eyes while Leroy, speaking in a low tone but
distinctly, repeated this mysterious communication:

_Tell Captain Herrick it was I he saw on the battlefield guiding the
stumbling footsteps of my little girl, helping her to find the place
where he lay. I realized that, through her love for him, which she would
experience later, she would build better and higher ideals than the ones
she was then holding deep within her soul. Tell him also that he is in
danger from something he is carrying...._

Here the writing became impossible to decipher.

"See how the powers of Love work against the powers of Evil!" mused the
psychic. "I must show this to Captain Herrick. Well, what happened?"

Seraphine went on to say that she had just begun to read the second
piece of automatic writing and had only finished a few lines--enough to
see that it was very different from the first--when she felt a clutch of
hands around her throat and realized that Fauvette had crept up
cunningly from behind. There had been a struggle in which the medium
tried vainly to cry out for help or to reach the bell, but her enemy was
too strong for her, and she had grown weaker; then, using strategy, she
let herself fall limp under the murderous hands, whereupon Fauvette,
laughing triumphantly, had loosened her grip for a moment and allowed
Seraphine to free herself.

"Then I caught her and held her so that I could look into her eyes and,
finally, I subdued her. She cried out that she would come back again,
but I forced her to lie down and almost instantly she fell into a deep
sleep."

"It was your love and your fearlessness that gave you the victory,"
Leroy said quietly. Then he took up the other message and read it with
darkening eyes.

"Horrible! The change must have come while she was writing this."

He opened the bedroom door softly and, with infinite compassion in his
rugged face, bent over Penelope who was sleeping peacefully, her
loveliness marred by no sign of evil.

An hour passed now, during which the spiritual physician gave Seraphine
her instructions for the night and made preparations for the struggle
that he knew was before him.

       *       *       *       *       *

Meantime Captain Herrick had reached the sanitarium and, finding Dr.
Owen in the study, had laid before him a plan to save Penelope, if it
was true, as Christopher believed, that her trouble was simply in the
imagination. He proposed to divert his sweetheart's attention so that
she would not know when the deadly Fauvette hour was at hand. And to
this end he had arranged to have the clocks set back half an hour.

"It can't do any harm, can it, sir?" he urged with a lover's ardor, "and
it may succeed. Dr. Leroy says it's fear that's killing her. Well, we'll
drive away her fear. I've fixed it at the church down the street, the
one that chimes the quarter-hours, to have that clock put back. And the
clocks in the house are easy. What do you think of it, sir?" he asked
eagerly.

The old doctor frowned in perplexity.

"I don't know, Chris. You'll have to put this up to Dr. Leroy. He's a
wonderful fellow. I've had my eyes opened tonight or my
soul--something."

The two men smoked solemnly.

"I believe we're going to save Penelope, my boy--somehow. It's a mighty
queer world. I don't know but we are all more or less possessed by evil
spirits, Chris. What are these brainstorms that overwhelm the best of
us? Why do good men and women, on some sudden, devilish impulse, do
abominable things, criminal things, that they never meant to do? We
doctors pretend to be skeptical, but we all come up against creepy
stuff, inside confession stuff that we don't talk about."

He was silent again.

"There was a patient of mine in Chicago, a tough old rounder," Owen
resumed, "who changed overnight into the straightest chap you ever heard
of--because he went down to the edge of the Great Shadow--he was one of
the passengers saved from the Titanic. He told me that when he was
struggling there in the icy ocean, after the ship sank, _he saw white
shapes hovering over the waters, holding up the drowning_! I never
mentioned that until tonight."

They smoked without speaking.

"I--I had an experience like that myself, sir," ventured Christopher.
"I've never spoken of it either--people would call me crazy, but--that
night when I lay out there in front of Montidier, among the dead and
dying, I saw a white shape moving over the battlefields."

"You did?"

"Yes, sir. It was the figure of a woman--coming towards me--she seemed
to be leading Penelope. I saw her distinctly--she had a beautiful face."

Silence again.

Dr. Leroy joined them presently and, on learning of Captain Herrick's
plan, he made no objections to it, but said it would fail.

"We are dealing with an evil power, gentlemen, that is far too clever to
be deceived by such a trick," he assured them; but Christopher was
resolved to try.

Leroy then described Seraphine's narrow escape and showed them the
automatic writing, the message from Penelope's mother, not the evil
message; whereupon Christopher, in amazement, gave the corroborative
testimony of his battlefield experience. The psychologist nodded
gravely.

At five minutes of twelve (correct time) Seraphine sent down word that
Mrs. Wells had awakened and was asking eagerly for Captain Herrick.

"Go to her at once, my young friend," directed Leroy. "Do all you can to
encourage her and make her happy. Tell her there is nothing to fear
because her mother's pure soul is guarding her. Show her this message
from her mother. And whatever happens do not let your own faith waver. I
assure you our precautions are taken against everything. God bless you."

When Christopher had gone, Leroy told Dr. Owen about the second
communication in automatic writing which he had withheld from Captain
Herrick.

"This is undoubtedly from the evil spirit," he said, and he read it
aloud:

"_I was one of many loosed upon earth when the war began. I rode
screaming upon clouds of poison gas. I danced over red battlefields. I
entered one of the Gray ones, an officer, and revelled with him in
ravished villages. Then I saw Penelope going about on errands of mercy,
I saw her beautiful body and the little spots on her soul that she did
not know about, and when her nerves were shattered, I entered into her.
Now she is mine. I defy YOU to drive me out. Already her star burns
scarlet through a mist of evil memories. I see it now as she sleeps! I
shall come back tonight and make her dream._"

"You see what we have against us," Leroy said, and his face was sad, yet
fixed with a stern purpose.

And now the old materialist asked anxiously, not scoffingly: "Doctor, do
you really believe that this spirit can drag Mrs. Wells down?"

"That depends upon herself. Mrs. Wells knows what she must do. I have
told her. If she does this, she will be safe. If not--"

His eyes were inexpressibly tragic, and at this moment the neighboring
chimes resounded musically through the quiet sanitarium--_a quarter to
twelve!_



CHAPTER XVII

THE HOUR OF THE DREAM


When Seraphine led Captain Herrick into the bedroom where Penelope lay
propped up against pillows, her dark hair in braids and a Chinese
embroidered scarf brightening her white garment, it seemed to
Christopher that his beloved had never been so adorably beautiful.

Gallantly and tenderly he kissed the slim white hand that his lady
extended with a brave but pathetic smile.

Seraphine withdrew discreetly.

The lovers were alone.

It was an oppressive night, almost like summer, and Penelope, concerned
for her sweetheart's comfort, insisted that he take off his heavy coat,
and draw up an easy chair by her bedside.

They tried to talk of pleasant things--the lovely flowers he had sent
her--how well she was looking--but it was no use. The weight of the
approaching crisis was upon both of them.

"Oh, Chris, how we go on pretending--up to the very last!" she lifted
her eyes appealingly. "We know what has happened--what may happen,
but--" she drew in her breath sharply and a little shiver ran through
her. "I--I'm afraid."

He took her hand strongly in his and with all a lover's ardor and
tenderness tried to comfort her. Then, rather clumsily, he showed her
the automatic writing, not quite sure whether to present this as a thing
that he believed in or not.

Penelope studied the large, scrawled words.

"How wonderful!" she murmured. "I remember vaguely writing something,
but I had no idea what it was. My mother! It must be true! It's her
handwriting. She was watching over us, dear--she is watching over us
still. That ought to give us courage, oughtn't it?"

She glanced nervously at the little gilt clock that was ticking quietly
over the fireplace. Ten minutes to twelve!

"What is this danger, that she speaks of, Chris? What is it--that you
are carrying?"

The captain's answer was partly an evasion. He really did not know what
danger was referred to, unless it could be a small flask from the
laboratory with a gas specimen for Dr. Owen that he had left in the
other room in his coat, but this was in a little steel container and
could do no harm.

"It may mean some spiritual danger, Pen, from selfishness or want of
faith or--or something like that," he suggested. "I guess I am selfish
and impatient--don't you think so?"

"Impatient, Chris?"

"I mean impatient for you to get well, impatient to take you far away
from all these doctors and dreams, and just have you to myself. That
isn't very wicked, is it, sweetheart?"

He stroked her hand fondly and looked deep into her wonderful eyes.
Penelope sighed.

"I--I suppose it will all be over soon--I mean we shall know what's
going to happen, won't we?"

It was her first open reference to the peril hanging over them, and
again, involuntarily, she glanced at the clock. Five minutes to twelve!
It was really twenty-five minutes past twelve!--but she did not know
that.

"Darling, I don't believe anything is going to happen. Our troubles are
over. You are guarded by this beautiful love--all these prayers. I've
been saying prayers, myself, Pen--for both of us."

"Dear boy!"

"I want you to promise me one thing--you love me, don't you? No matter
what happens, you love me?"

Her eyes glowed on him.

"Oh yes, with all my heart."

"You're going to be my wife."

"Ye--es, if--if--"

"All right, we'll put down the _ifs_. I want you to promise that if this
foolish spell, or whatever it is, is broken tonight--if nothing happens
at half-past twelve, and you don't have this bad dream, then you'll
forget the whole miserable business and marry me tomorrow. There! Will
you?"

"Oh, Chris! Tomorrow?"

"Yes, tomorrow! I'm not a psychologist or a doctor, but I believe I can
cure you myself. Will you promise, Pen?"

Her eyes brimmed with tears of gratitude and fondness.

"You want me--anyway?"

"Anyway."

"Then I say--yes! I will! I will! Oh my love!" She drew him slowly down
to her and kissed his eyes gently, her face radiant with sweetness and
purity. A moment later the chimes rang out twelve.

As the minutes passed Christopher watched her in breathless but
confident expectation. The crisis had come and she was passing it--she
had passed it safely. They talked on fondly--five minutes, ten minutes,
fifteen minutes, and still there were no untoward developments, no sign
of anything evil or irrational. Penelope was her own adorable self. The
spell was broken. Nothing had happened.

"You see, it's all right?" he laughed. "You needn't be afraid any more."

"Wait!" she looked at the clock. "Ten minutes yet!"

He longed to tell her that they had already passed the fatal moment,
passed it by twenty minutes, but he restrained his ardor.

"Chris, my love, if we are really to be married tomorrow--how wonderful
that seems!--I must have no secrets from you. What my mother said is
true--a woman must cleanse her soul. I want to tell you something--for
my sake, not for yours--then we will never refer to it again."

"But, Penelope--"

"For my sake, Chris."

"It isn't about that steamboat?"

"It is, darling. I must tell it. Fix the pillows behind me. There! Sit
close to me--that's right. Now listen! This dream is a repetition of
what happened on the boat. It would have been much better if I had told
you all about it long ago."

"Why?"

She hesitated.

"Because--it is not so much the memory of what I did that worries me, as
the fear that--you will be ashamed of me or--or hate me--when you know."

Herrick saw that her cheeks were flushed, but at least her mind was
occupied, he reflected, and the minutes were passing.

"I could never be ashamed of you, Penelope."

"If I were only sure of that," she sighed, then with a great effort, and
speaking low, sometimes scarcely lifting her eyes, she told her lover
the story of the Fall River steamboat.

The main point was that her husband, a coarse sensualist, whom she
despised, had, during the year preceding his death, accepted a _chambre
apart_ arrangement, that being the only condition on which Penelope
would continue to live with him, but, on the occasion of this journey
down from Newport, he had broken his promise and entered her stateroom.

"It was an oppressive night, like this," she said, "and I had left the
deck door ajar, held on a hook. I was trying to sleep, when suddenly I
saw a man's arm pushed in through the opening. I shall never forget my
fright, as I saw that black sleeve. Do you understand what I mean?
Look!"

Gathering her draperies about her, Penelope sprang lightly out of bed
and moved swiftly to the bedroom door, while Christopher, startled,
followed the beauty of her sinuous form.

"His arm came through--like this," she stepped outside the bedroom, and,
reaching around the edge of the door showed her exquisite bare arm
within. "See? Then my husband entered slowly and--as soon as I saw his
eyes," her agitation was increasing, "I knew what to expect. His face
was flushed. He had been drinking. He looked at me and--then he locked
the door--like this. I crouched away from him, I was frozen with terror,
but--but--" she twined her hands in distress. "Oh, you'll hate me! I
know you'll hate me!"

"No!"

"I tried so hard to resist him. I pleaded, I wept. I begged on my
knees--like this."

"Please--please don't," murmured Christopher, as he felt the softness of
her supplicating body.

"But Julian was pitiless. He caught me in his arms. I fought against
him. I struck him as I felt his loathsome kisses. I said I would scream
for help and--he laughed at me. Then--"

She stopped abruptly, leaving her confession unfinished, and, standing
close to her lover, held him fascinated by the wild appeal of her eyes
and the heaving of her bosom.

Suddenly Christopher's heart froze with terror. The dreaded change had
come. This glorious young creature whose glances thrilled him, whose
flaunted beauty maddened him, was not Penelope any more, but _the
other_, Fauvette, the temptress, the wanton.

"Chris!" she stepped before him splendid in the intensity of her
emotion. Her garment was disarranged, her beautiful hair spread over her
white shoulders. She came close to him--closer--and clung to him.

"Why--why did you lock that door?" he asked unsteadily.

"I did not notice," she answered in pretended innocence, and he knew
that she was lying. "Do you mind, dear? Do you mind being alone with
me?" Then, before he could answer, she offered her lips. "My love! My
husband! Kiss me!"

It was too much. He clasped her in his arms and held her. He knew his
danger, but forgot everything in the deliciousness of her embraces.

"Penelope!"

She drew back in displeasure.

"No! I'm not Penelope. Look at me! Look!"

What was it the soldier read in those siren eyes--what depths of
allurement--what sublime degradation?

"Fauvette!" he faltered.

"Yes, your Fauvette. Say it!"

He said it, knowing that his power of resistance was breaking. He was
going to yield to her, he could not help yielding. What did the
consequences matter? She was too beautiful.

Then slowly, musically, the neighboring chimes resounded.

A quarter to one!

And Christopher remembered.

God! What should he do? He straightened from her with hands clenched and
eyes hardening.

In a flash she saw the change. She knew what he was thinking and pressed
close to him, offering again her red lips.

"No!"

"Don't be a fool! You can save _her_, your goody-goody Penelope. It's
the only way. I will leave her alone, except occasionally--I swear I
will."

"No! You're lying!" It seemed as if he repeated words spoken within him.

"Lying?" Her eyes half closed over slumberous fires. "Do you think
Penelope can ever love you as I can--as your Fauvette can? Share her
with me or--" she panted, "or you will lose her entirely. Penelope dies
tomorrow night, you know that, unless--"

Frantically she tried to encircle him with her arms, but Herrick
repulsed her. Some power beyond himself was strengthening him.

"Oh!" she cried in fury, "you don't deserve to have a beautiful woman.
Very well! This is the end!" She darted to the bedroom door and unlocked
it. "Come! I'll show you."

Deathly pale, she led the way into the sitting-room and, going to
Christopher's coat, she drew out a small flask.

"There! This is the danger she wrote about. _I know._ Spiritual danger!
Ha! I'm going to open this. Yes, I am. You can't stop me."

"Don't! It's death!"

But already she had unscrewed a metal stopper and drawn forth a small
glass vial filled with a colorless liquid.

"One step nearer, and I'll smash this on the floor!" she threatened. "If
I can't have you, _she_ never shall!"

The captain faced her quietly, knowing well what was at stake.

"Penelope!"

She stamped her foot. "I'm not Penelope. I'm Fauvette. I hate Penelope.
For the last time--will you do what I want?"

"No!"

She lifted the vial.

"Stop!" came a masterful voice, and, turning, they saw Dr. Leroy
standing in the outer doorway. Back of him were Seraphine and Dr. Owen.

"Give that to me."

The psychologist advanced toward her slowly, holding out his hands.
Fauvette stared at him, trembling.

"No! I'll throw it down."

His eyes blazed upon her. His outspread arms seemed to envelope her.

"You cannot throw it down! Come nearer! Give it to me!"

Like a frightened child she obeyed.

"Now go into the bedroom! Lie down! Sleep!"

Again she obeyed, turning and walking slowly to the bed; but there she
paused and said with scornful deliberateness: "You can drive me out
now, but I'll come back when she sleeps. I'll make her dream. Damn you!
And tomorrow night--Ha! You'll see!"

Dr. Leroy's stern gaze did not falter, but compelled Penelope to go back
to the couch, where almost immediately her tragic eyes closed in
slumber.



CHAPTER XVIII

PLAYING WITH FIRE


What happened on the last day, or rather the last night, of Mrs. Wells'
psychological crisis may be regarded either as a purely subjective
phenomena, a dream or a startling experience of the soul, or as
something that came from without, a telepathic or spiritualistic
manifestation. In any case note must be made of the testimony of Dr.
William Owen, an extremely rational person, that after midnight on this
occasion he distinctly _saw_ scarlet lights moving about the darkened
room near Penelope's couch.

The patient passed the day quietly (after sleeping late) and was advised
not to see her lover, although Dr. Leroy did not insist upon this. Mrs.
Wells agreed, however, that any conversation with Christopher might be
harmfully agitating, and was content to send him a loving message,
together with a sealed communication that was not to be opened
unless--unless things went badly.

"Do you think I am going to pull through tonight, doctor?" she asked
tremulously about three in the afternoon.

"I am sure you will, Mrs. Wells, if you will only trust me and do what
I have told you to do. Your fate is in your own hands--entirely."

Dr. Leroy spoke confidently, but she shook her head in distress of mind.

"I wish I could believe what you say. I would give anything to feel sure
that my mother is watching over me, trying to come to me; but I can't
believe it. If she wants to come, why doesn't she do it? Why didn't she
come to me last night when I needed her so terribly?"

"Seraphine has told you why, she says the conditions are not right. Is
that so surprising? Take a telephone--you can't talk over it unless the
connections are right, can you? Take a telescope or a microscope--you
can see nothing through them unless the instruments are in focus, can
you? Take an automobile--it will not move an inch unless all the parts
are properly adjusted, will it? You may have the finest photographic
camera in the world, yet you will get no picture unless you expose the
sensitive plate in just the right way--isn't that true? Suppose a savage
refused to believe in photography, or in the telephone, or the
telescope, or in any of our great inventions, unless they would operate
according to the fancy of his ignorant mind, regardless of scientific
laws? What results would he get? The very same kind that we get in the
psychic world if we refuse to obey psychic laws."

The fair patient moved wearily on her pillow with signs of increasing
discouragement.

"I have not refused to obey psychic laws, I don't know what the laws
are. How can I believe in something that is entirely unknown to me? I
can't do it, I can't do it."

"But, Mrs. Wells, when so much is at stake, when everything is at stake,
can't you take an open-minded attitude toward these mysteries? Why not
submit to the indicated conditions and see what happens? If there is
only one chance in a hundred that your mother can really come to you and
help you, why not take that chance? You believe that your mother is an
exalted spirit, don't you?"

"Oh, yes. I am sure she is."

"You don't doubt that she would be glad to help you in your present
trouble, if she could, do you?"

"No, of course not, but what can I do? I say my prayers, I try to have
good thoughts--what else can I do?"

The spiritual healer answered with sudden impressiveness.

"Penelope, you must cleanse your soul of evil. There is something you
are keeping back--perhaps you do not know what it is yourself. I can
only tell you to think, to look into the past, to search into your
soul--just as if you were coming before a great, wise, loving Judge who
cannot be deceived. He wants you to confess something--I don't know what
it is, you must find that out for yourself--but when you have confessed,
I _know_ that help will come to you through your mother. Now close your
eyes. Don't speak. Think! Think of your mother."

He laid his hands gently on her forehead and for some minutes there was
silence.

"Now I shall leave you alone. In an hour I will send Seraphine to you."

Then he left her.

At four o'clock Mrs. Walters came in with an armful of flowers from
Christopher and the two women talked of indifferent things over their
tea. Then they went for a drive in the park and Penelope returned
blooming like a lovely rose; but not one word did she breathe of her
deeper thoughts. Seraphine waited.

Seven o'clock!

At last the barrier of pride and reserve began to crumble. Penelope
turned to her old friend, trying at first to speak lightly, but her
troubled eyes told the story of tension within. Then came the
confession--in broken words. There were two things on her
conscience--one that she had done, but it wasn't exactly her fault, one
that she did not do, but she meant to do it. She supposed that was a sin
just the same.

Mrs. Walters smiled encouragingly.

"It can't be so serious a sin, can it? Tell me everything, Pen."

With flaming cheeks the young widow told how she had meant to adopt a
child--in France--that would really have been--her own child. She did
not do this because she met Captain Herrick, but--she would have done
it. The other thing was what happened on the Fall River steamboat--with
Julian. On that tragic summer night, she had finally yielded to him
and--_she had wanted to yield!_

To which Seraphine made the obvious reply: "Still, my dear, he was your
husband."

"But I had sworn that never--never--it was so--ignoble! I despised him.
Then I despised myself."

The medium listened thoughtfully.

"You trust me, don't you, Pen? You know I want to do what is best for
you?" She passed her arm affectionately around her distressed friend.

"Oh, yes. You have proved it, dearest. I'll never be able to repay your
love."

Mrs. Wells began to cry softly.

"Please don't. We need all our courage, our intelligence. It doesn't
matter how wrong you have been in the past, if you are right in the
present. The trouble with you, dear child, is that you cannot see the
truth, although it is right under your eyes."

"But I am telling the truth," Penelope protested tearfully. "I am not
keeping anything back."

"You don't mean to keep anything back--but--"

The psychic's deep-set, searching eyes seemed to read into the soul of
the fair sufferer.

"You showed me parts of your diary once--what you wrote in New York
after your husband died--before you went to France. There were four
years--you remember?"

"Yes."

"How would you interpret those four years, Pen? You were not worried
about money--Julian left you enough to live on. You had no children, no
responsibilities. You were in splendid health and very beautiful. What
was in your mind most of the time? How did you get that idea of adopting
a child in France? It must have come gradually. How did it come? _Why_
did it come?"

"Because I was--lonely."

"Is that all? Think!"

There was silence.

"Why did you dance so much during those four years?"

"I like dancing. It's good exercise."

"And all those allurements of dress--clinging skirts, low-cut waists, no
corsets--why was that?"

"I hate corsets. I don't need them. I can't breathe in corsets."

"And those insidious perfumes?"

"I don't see what that has to do with it."

"Those are little indications. But take the main point, your desire to
have a child--of your own. Do you really love children, Pen? Have you
ever shown that you do? Did you try to have children when you were
married?"

"Not _his_ children! God forbid!"

Seraphine hesitated as if dreading to wound her friend.

"I must go on, dear. We must get to the bottom of this. Suppose you had
done what you intended to do? And had come back to America with an
adopted child? And suppose no one had ever known the truth, about it--do
you think you would have been happy?"

Penelope sighed wearily.

"Is a woman ever happy?"

"Wait! Let us take one point. You have always loved men's society,
haven't you? That's natural, they're all crazy about you. Well, do you
think that would have changed just because you had a child? Do you?"

"No--no, I suppose not."

"You would have been just as beautiful. You would have gone on wearing
expensive clothes, wouldn't you? You would have kept up the old round of
teas and dinners, theatres, dances, late suppers--with a train of men
dangling after you--flirting men, married men--men who try to kiss women
in taxicabs--you know what I mean?"

Penelope bit her red lips at this sordid picture.

"No," she said, "I don't think I would have done that. I would have
changed, I intended to change. That was why I wanted a child--to give me
something worthy of my love, something to serve as an outlet for my
emotions."

The medium's eyes were unfathomably sad and yearning.

"Is that true, Pen? A child calls for ceaseless care--unselfishness. You
know that? Did you really long for a child in a spirit of unselfish
love? Did you?"

But Penelope was deaf to this touching appeal.

"Certainly," she answered sharply. "I wanted a child to satisfy my
emotional nature. What else do you think I wanted it for?"

Mrs. Walters' face shone with ineffable tenderness.

"That is what I want you to find out, my darling. When you have answered
that question I believe the barrier that keeps your dear mother away
will be removed. Now I am going to leave you to your own thoughts. God
bless you!"

       *       *       *       *       *

At ten o'clock Dr. Leroy directed Mrs. Wells to prepare herself for the
night and told her she was to sleep in a different room, a large chamber
that had been made ready on the floor below. As Penelope entered this
room a dim light revealed some shadowy pieces of furniture and at the
back a recess hung with black curtains. In this was a couch and two
chairs and on the wall a familiar old print, "Rock of Ages," showing a
woman clinging to a cross in a tempest.

"Please lie down, Mrs. Wells," said Leroy with cheerful friendliness.
"You don't mind these electrics?"

He turned on a strong white light that shone down upon the patient and
threw the rest of the room into darkness. Then Penelope, exquisitely
lovely in her white robe, stretched herself on the couch, while the
doctor and Seraphine seated themselves beside her.

"This light will make you sleep better when I turn it off," explained
the physician. Then he added: "I will ask Dr. Owen to come in a little
later."

Eleven o'clock!

Not yet had the patient spoken and time was passing, the minutes that
remained were numbered. Mrs. Walters essayed by appealing glances to
open the obstinately closed doors of Penelope's spiritual consciousness,
but it was in vain.

Half past eleven!

The spiritual healer rose, his face set with an unalterable purpose.

"I will turn down the light, Mrs. Wells," he said quietly. "I want you
to compose yourself. Remember that God is watching over you. You are
God's child. He will guard you from all evil. Hold that thought strongly
as you go to sleep."

Penelope closed her eyes. Her face was deathly pale in the shadows. The
minutes passed.

"I--I am afraid to go to sleep," the sufferer murmured, and her hands
opened and closed nervously as if they were clutching at something.

"Think of your mother, dear," soothed Seraphine. "Her pure spirit is
near you, trying to come nearer. _Oh God, keep Penelope, Thy loving
child, under the close guardianship of her mother's exalted spirit in
this her hour of peril._"

Twelve o'clock by the musical, slow-chiming bells!

Then at last Penelope spoke, her face transfigured with spiritual light
and beauty.

"Doctor,--I--I know I have only a few minutes," she began haltingly, but
almost immediately became calm, as if some new strength or vision had
been accorded her. "I realize that my troubles have come from
selfishness and--sensuality. I have deceived myself. I blamed my husband
for encouraging these desires in me, but--I knew what kind of a man my
husband was before I married him. There was another man, a much finer
man, who asked me to be his wife, but I refused him because--in a way
I--wanted the kind of husband that--my husband was."

She went on rapidly, speaking in a low tone but distinctly:

"In the years after my husband's death I was--playing with fire. I
craved admiration. I wanted to go as near the danger point--with men--as
I dared. I deceived myself when I said I wanted a child--of my own--to
satisfy my emotional nature. What I really wanted was an
excuse--to--give myself--to a man."

Some power beyond herself upheld the penitent in this hard ordeal. Her
eyes remained fixed on the Cross to which she seemed to cling in spirit
even as the woman pictured there clung to the Cross with outstretched
arms.

There was an impressive silence, then the spiritual teacher, his voice
vibrant with tenderness and faith, spoke these words of comfort:

"Penelope, you have cleansed your soul. You can sleep without fear. When
your dream begins you will know that the powers of love are guarding
you. You are God's child. No harm can befall you, for you will reach out
to the Cross, _you will reach out to the Cross_!"

"Yes," she murmured faintly. Her eyelids fluttered and closed. She drew
a long sigh of relief, then her breathing became regular and her face
took on an expression of lovely serenity. She was sleeping.

And then the dream!

Penelope was in that tragic stateroom once more. She heard the throb of
engines and sounds on the deck overhead--the echoing beat of footsteps,
while the steady swish of the waters came in through the open window.
She turned restlessly on her wide brass bed trying to sleep.

How oppressive was the night! She looked longingly at the stateroom
door which she had fixed ajar on its hook. If she could only go out
where the fresh breezes were blowing and spread her blanket on the
deck--what a heavenly relief!

Penelope sat up against her pillows and looked out over the sighing
waters illumined by an August moon. In the distance she watched the
flashes of a lighthouse and counted the seconds between them....

Suddenly she froze with terror at the sight of a black sleeve, a man's
arm, pushed in cautiously through the door, and a moment later Julian
entered. She saw him plainly in the moonlight. He wore a dinner coat. He
looked handsome but dissipated. His face was flushed, his dress
disordered. He came to her bed and caught her in his arms. He kissed
her. He drew her to him, close to him. She remembered the perfume of his
hair. He said she belonged to him. He was not going to let her go.
Promises did not matter--nothing mattered. This was a delicious summer
night and--

"_Oh God, let Thy love descend upon Penelope and strengthen her_,"
prayed Seraphine, kneeling by the couch.

The dream moved on relentlessly toward its inevitable catastrophe.
Penelope tried to resist the intruder, but she knew it was in vain. She
wept, protested, pleaded, but she knew that presently she would be swept
in a current of fierce desire, she would wish to surrender, she would be
incapable of _not_ surrendering.

"_Oh God, let the spirit of the mother come close to her imperilled
child_," prayed Seraphine.

In her dream Penelope was yielding. She had ceased to struggle. She was
clasped in her husband's arms and already was turning willing and
responsive lips to his, when her eyes fell upon the porthole, through
which the distant lighthouse was sending her a message--it seemed like a
message of love and encouragement. She saw the mighty shaft towering
serenely above dark rocks and crashing waters, and watched it change
with beautiful gradations of light into a rugged cross to which a woman
was clinging desperately. The waves beat against her, the winds buffeted
her, but she cried to God for help and--then, as she slept Penelope
recalled Dr. Leroy's words and, still dreaming, stretched out her hands
to the Cross, praying with all her strength that her sins might be
forgiven, that her soul might be cleansed, that she might be saved from
evil by the power of God's love.

Instantly the torture of her dream was relieved. The brutal arms that
had clasped her fell away. The ravisher, cheated of his victim, drew
back scowling and slowly faded from her view, while from a distance a
white figure with countenance radiant and majestic approached swiftly
and Penelope knew it was the pure spirit of her mother coming to save
her, and presently on her brow she felt a kiss of rapturous healing.

"My child!" came the dream words, perfectly distinct, although they were
unspoken. "God will bless you and save you."

Penelope smiled in her sleep and her soul was filled with inexpressible
peace.

"_I saw the mother's exalted spirit hovering over her child_," Seraphine
wrote of this clairvoyant vision. "_I saw the evil entity, leering
hideously, go out of Penelope in a glow of scarlet light. I knew that
the wicked dream was broken. My darling was saved._"

An hour passed, during which the two doctors and the medium watched
anxiously by the sleeping patient.

Finally the young woman stirred naturally and opened her eyes.

"Oh, Dr. Leroy!" she cried joyfully. "It is true--what you said. It
stopped--the dream stopped. And my mother came to me in my sleep. She
kissed me. She blessed me. Oh!" Penelope glanced eagerly about the room.

Leroy greeted her with grave kindness.

"Your troubles are all over, Mrs. Wells. You need never have any more of
these fears."

"Is that really true?"

"Yes, I am quite sure of what I say."

"How wonderful!"

He bowed gravely.

"God's love is very wonderful."

Again the radiant eyes seemed to search for some one. Penelope glanced
appealingly at Seraphine.

"I understand, dear," beamed Mrs. Walters. "He is waiting outside. He
will be so happy," and a moment later Christopher entered.



CHAPTER XIX

PRIDE


(_Fragments from Penelope's Diary_)

_Paris, Three Months Later._

It is three months since I wrote this diary, three lonely months since I
said good-bye to Christopher, or rather wrote good-bye, for I should
never have had the courage to leave him, if I had tried to give him my
reasons--face to face. I have never seen him or heard from him since
that terrible night at Dr. Leroy's when the evil cloud was lifted from
my soul and I knew and remembered--_everything!_

I have never heard from Seraphine. They do not even know where I am,
they must not know--that is part of my plan, but it is frightfully hard.
I pray for strength to be reconciled to my life of loneliness and to
find comfort in good works; but the strength has not come to me. Every
day I think of Christopher and the separation from him grows harder and
harder. Life is not worth living.

       *       *       *       *       *

I am perfectly sane and normal, just as I was before my hallucinations.
No more voices, or fears, or wicked dreams. Sometimes I wish I could
dream of Christopher; but I never do, I never dream of anything. I
suppose I should be grateful for that and glad that my cure is so
complete. Oh, dear!

       *       *       *       *       *

I wear myself out at the dispensary for poor French children and try my
best to smile and be cheerful and to interest myself in their pitiful
needs and sorrows; but my heart is not in this work and my smiles are
forced. Many nights I cry myself to sleep.

And yet I did right. I go over it all in my mind and I see that I did
right. There was nothing else for me to do. I had to decide for both of
us, and I decided. I thought of those dreadful things that I did,
and--meant to do--those things that neither Christopher nor I can
possibly forget ... how could Christopher ever have confidence in me as
his wife? How could we ever be happy together with those memories
between us?

       *       *       *       *       *

I try to remember the exact words that I wrote to my lover that morning
when I went away. I hope I did not make him suffer too much. But of
course he suffered--he must have. I told him we could not see each other
any more, or write to each other, or--anything. I knew I would have been
too weak to resist the call of my love and he would have been too fine,
too chivalrous, to let me go. He would have said: "You are cured now,
dear" (which I really am) "and there is no reason why we should not be
married--" which is true, except that he would always have had the fear,
deep down in his heart, that I might relapse into what I had been. How
could a high-minded man like Chris bear the thought that the woman he
loved, the woman who was to be the mother of his children, had acted
like a wanton? He could not bear it. It is evident that I did right.

_And yet--_

       *       *       *       *       *

I often wonder what another woman would have done in my place. She loves
a man as I loved Christopher--as I love him still. She is proud, she has
always been admired, she cannot bear the thought of being pitied. And
suddenly she learns that she has disgraced herself, she has violated the
sacred traditions of modesty that restrain all women. She has acted like
an abandoned woman towards the man she worships. God! It is true she has
done this without knowing it, without being responsible for it, but she
has done it, and that ineffaceable memory will always shame her, if she
becomes his wife. Day after day she will read it in his eyes, in his
reticencies, in his efforts to be cheerful--she will know that he
remembers--_what she was!_

NO! She could not bear it, no woman with any pride could bear it.

Pride!

What is pride? Is it a good thing or a bad thing? Would I be a finer
woman if I could endure this humiliation and gracefully accept
forgiveness? I suppose some women would take it all simply, like a
grateful patient cured of an illness. Alas! that is not my nature.

       *       *       *       *       *

How little we know ourselves! We all wear masks of one kind or another
that hide our true personalities even from ourselves. How will a woman
act in sudden peril? In a moral crisis? In the face of shattering
disgrace? Let the most beautiful wife and mother realize that some
painful chapter in her life is to be opened to the world--what price
will she not pay to avert this scandal?

Julian had a friend who on a certain night stood before a locked door
with an officer of the law. His wife was on the other side of that
door--with a companion in dishonor. The husband was armed. He was
absolutely within his rights. They broke down the door. _And then_--

Not one of those tragic three could have told in advance what would
happen when that door crashed in. As a matter of fact the woman alone
was calm--coldly calm.

"Yes," she said, "I am guilty. Now shoot! Why don't you shoot? You are
afraid to shoot!"

Which was true.

The husband was afraid; and the lover was more afraid; it was the erring
wife who cut the best figure. But who could have foreseen this
dénouement?

       *       *       *       *       *

After all I only did those abominable things because I was ill--when I
was not myself; whereas now I am well, and the evil has passed from me.
Besides, I only showed that wicked side of my nature to Christopher,
through my love; it is inconceivable that I could ever have acted that
way with another man. Christopher knows that. He knows there is no
possible doubt about that. How much difference does this knowledge make
to him--I wonder.

       *       *       *       *       *

I am going to leave Paris. I am too unhappy here. It seems there is a
great need for nurses at Lourdes--that strange miracle place where
pilgrims go to be healed--and I have volunteered for service. If the
sick are really cured by miracles I don't see why they need nurses; but
never mind that. It will give me a change and I may see some unfortunate
men and women who are worse off than I am. Oh, if God would only work a
miracle so that I can have Christopher and make him happy! But that can
never be. Why not? Why do I say that after what has happened to me? Was
it not a miracle that saved me from those hideous evils? Then why not
other miracles?

       *       *       *       *       *

_At Lourdes. Two Weeks Later._

Speaking of miracles, I am living among them. I am working in the
_Bureau de Constatations_ where the _miraculés_--those who are supposed
to have been miraculously healed--are questioned and examined by
doctors, Catholics, Protestants, Agnostics, Atheists, who come from all
over the world to investigate these cures from the standpoint of a
religion or pure science. What sights I have seen! Men and women of all
ages and walks of life testifying that the waters of the sacred grotto
have freed them from this or that malady, from tumors, lameness,
deafness, blindness, tuberculosis, nervous trouble and numerous other
afflictions. By thousands and tens of thousands these unfortunates crowd
here from the four corners of the earth, an endless procession of
believers, and every year sees scores of the incurable cured, instantly
cured--even the sceptical admit this, although they interpret the facts
differently. Some say it is auto-suggestion, others speak of mass
hypnotism, others regard it as a scientific phenomenon not yet
understood like the operation of the X-rays. And many wise men are
satisfied with the simple explanation that it is the work of God,
manifested today for those who have faith exactly as in Bible times.

       *       *       *       *       *

I was stabbed with poignant memories this afternoon when a tall
black-bearded peasant told the doctors that his father, who accompanied
him, and who had been insane, a violent neurasthenic, shut up in an
asylum for four years, had been restored by the blessed waters to
perfect health and had shown no abnormality of body or mind for eight
years. These statements were verified by scientists and doctors.

Eight years! If I really believe in the permanent recovery of this poor
man, as the doctors do, why am I doubtful about my own permanent
recovery? The answer is that I am not doubtful for myself, but for
Christopher. He might reason like this, he might say to himself--he is
so loyal that he would die rather than say it to me: "I know Penelope
has been restored to her normal condition of mind, but that normal
condition includes a strong inherited and developed tendency
towards--certain things,"--my cheeks burn with shame as I write this.
"How do I know that this tendency in her, even if she remains herself,
will not make trouble again--for both of us?"

How could Christopher be sure about this?

_He could not be sure!_

So I did right to leave him.



CHAPTER XX

THE MIRACLE


(_From Penelope's Diary_)

_Lourdes. A Week Later._

Today, with a multitude of the afflicted, I bathed in the _piscine_, a
long trough filled with holy water from the grotto. The water was cold
and not very clean (for hours it had received bodies carrying every
disease known to man), but as I lay there, wrapped in a soaking apron
and immersed to the head, I felt an indescribable peace possessing my
soul. Was it the two priests who held my hands and encouraged me with
kindly eyes? Was it the shouts and rejoicings, the continual prayers of
pilgrims all about me? Or was it a sudden overwhelming sense of my own
unworthiness, of my ingratitude and lack of faith and a rush of new
desire to begin my life all over again, to forget my selfish repining?
Whatever it was I know that as I arose from the bath and bowed before
the statue of the Blessed Virgin, I was caught by a spiritual fervor
that seemed to lift me in breathless ecstasy.

A young woman who was blind stood beside me, splashing water from a hand
basin upon her reddened, sightless eyelids, and praying desperately.
Together with her I prayed as I never had prayed, crying the words
aloud, over and over again, as she did, while tears poured down my
cheeks:

"_Oh, Marie, conçue sans péché, priez pour nous qui avons recours à
vous!_"

As I came away and started back to the _Bureau_, walking slowly under
the blazing Pyrenees sun, I knew that an extraordinary change had taken
place in me. I was not the same woman any more. I would never again be
the same woman. I was like the child I knew about that had been
miraculously cured of infantile paralysis; or like the widow I had
spoken to who had been miraculously cured of a fistula in the arm that
had been five times vainly operated upon; or like the old woman I had
seen who had been miraculously cured of an "incurable" tumor that had
caused her untold suffering for twenty-two years. I was a _miraculée_,
like these others, hundreds of others, one more case that would be
carefully noted down by skeptical investigators on their neatly ruled
sheets, _if only the mysteries of a sick soul could be revealed_!

Suddenly a great burst of singing drew my attention to the open space
beyond the gleaming white church with its sharp-pointed towers, and I
drew nearer, pushing my way through a dense multitude gathered to
witness the procession of pilgrims and the Blessing of the Sick. In all
the world there is no such sight as this, nothing that can stir the
human soul so deeply. Inside the concourse, fringing the great crowds,
lay the afflicted--on litters, on reclining chairs, on blankets spread
over the ground; standing and kneeling, men, women and children from all
lands and of all stations, pallid-faced, emaciated, suffering, dying,
brought here to supplicate for help when all other help has failed them.

"_Seigneur, nous vous adorons!_" chanted a priest with golden voice and
ten thousand tongues responded:

"_Seigneur, nous vous adorons!_"

"_Jesus, Fils de Marie, ayez pitie de nous!_" came the inspired cry.

"_Jesus, Fils de Marie, ayez pitie de nous!_" crashed the answer.

"_Hosanna! Hosanna au Fils de David!_"

"_Hosanna! Hosanna au Fils de David!_" thundered the multitude, and the
calm hills resounded.

It was an immense, an indescribable moment, not to be resisted. I felt
myself literally in the presence of God, and choking, almost dying with
emotion, I waited for what was to come.

Suddenly at the far end of the crowd a great shouting started and spread
like a powder-train, with a violent clapping of hands.

"A miracle! A miracle!" the cries proclaimed.

They told me afterwards that five miraculous cures were accomplished at
this moment, but I knew nothing about it. My eyes were closed. I had
fallen to my knees in the dust and was sobbing my heart out, not in
grief but in joy, for _I knew_ that all was well with me now and would
be in the days to come. I knew that Christopher would be restored to me,
and that I would be allowed to make him happy. There would be no more
doubt or fear in either of us--only love. _I knew this!_

As I knelt there filled with a spirit of infinite faith and serenity, it
seemed as if, above the tumult of the crowd, I heard my name spoken
gently--"Penelope!"

I knew, of course, that it could not be a real voice, for I was a
stranger here, yet there was nothing disturbing to me in this illusion.
It came rather like a comforting benediction, as if some higher part of
me had inwardly expressed approval of my prayerful aspirations, and had
confirmed my belief that Christopher would be restored to me.

"Penelope!" the voice spoke again, this time with unmistakable
distinctness, and now I opened my eyes and saw Seraphine standing before
me.

"Seraphine! Where did you come from? I thought you were in America--in
New York."

Smiling tenderly she helped me to my feet and led me away from the
multitude.

"Let us go where we can talk quietly," she said.

"We will go to the hospice, where I am staying," I replied, not
marvelling very much, but more than ever filled with the knowledge that
God was guiding and protecting me.

"This has been a wonderful day for me, Seraphine," I told her when we
came to my room, "the most wonderful day in my whole life."

"I know, dear," she answered calmly, as if nothing could surprise her
either.

Then I explained everything that had happened--why I had left America so
suddenly, why I had felt that I must never see Christopher again.

"But you don't feel that way any more?" she asked me with a look of
strange understanding in her deep eyes.

"No," said I, "everything is changed now. My fears are gone. I see that
I must count upon Christopher to have the same faith and courage that I
have in my own heart. Why should I expect to bear the whole burden of
our future? He must bear his part of it. The responsibility goes with
the love, doesn't it? I saw that this afternoon--it came to me like a
flash when the procession passed. Isn't it wonderful?

"Dear child, the working of God's love for His children is always
wonderful. This is a place of miracles"--she paused as if searching into
my soul--"and the greatest miracle is yet to come."

I felt the color flooding to my cheeks.

"What do you mean?"

"I must go back a little, Penelope, and tell you something important.
You haven't asked about Captain Herrick."

"Is he--is he well?" I stammered.

She shook her head ominously.

"No. He is far from well. You did not realize, dear, what an effect that
letter of yours would have upon him. It was a mortal blow."

I tried to speak, but I could not; my bosom rose and fell with quick
little gasping breaths, as if I was suffocating.

"There was no particular illness," my friend continued, "just a general
fading away, a slow discouragement. He had no interest in anything, and
about a month ago Doctor Owen told me the poor fellow would not live
long unless we could find you."

"Oh, if I had only known! If I had dreamed that he would care so--so
much," I sobbed. "How--how did you find me?"

Seraphine answered with that far-away, mystic look in her eyes: "It was
your mother, dear--she told me we must go to Lourdes, she said it quite
distinctly, she said we must sail that very week, or it would be too
late--and we did sail."

I stared at her with widening, frightened eyes.

"Seraphine! You don't mean that--that Christopher is--here?" I cried.

The clairvoyant bowed her head slowly.

"He is here, at the hotel, but he is very ill. He took cold on the ship
and--it got worse. He has pneumonia."

"Oh!" I breathed. I could feel my lips go white.

"The doctor is with him now, and a trained nurse. I left them to search
for you. I knew I should find you--somewhere."

I rose quickly and caught my companion's arm.

"Come! We must go to him."

"No! You cannot see him until tomorrow. This is the night of the
crisis."

"Please!" I begged.

"No! You must wait here. I will send you word." Then she left me.

Hour after hour I waited at the hospice, knowing that Seraphine would
keep her promise and send me some message. At about nine o'clock a
little boy came with a note saying that I must come at once.
Christopher was worse.

As we hurried through the square, the whole place was ablaze with
lights, the church itself outlined fantastically in electric fires,
while great crowds of chanting pilgrims moved in slow procession, each
man or woman carrying a torch or lantern or shaded candle and all
lifting their voices in that everlasting cry of faith and worship:

    _Ave, Ave, Ave, Maria!
    Ave, Ave, Ave, Maria!_

Until the day of my death I shall hear that thunderous chorus sounding
in my ears whenever memory turns back my thoughts to this fateful night.

Seraphine met me at the door of the chamber where Christopher lay,
feverish and delirious. A French doctor, with pointed beard, watched by
the patient gravely, while a sad-eyed nurse held his poor feet huddled
in her arms in an effort to give them warmth. Already the life forces
were departing from my beloved.

The doctor motioned me silently to a chair, but I came forward and sat
on the bed, and bending over my dear one, I called to him fondly:

"Chris! It's Penelope! Oh, my dear, my dear! Don't you know me?" I
pleaded.

But there was no answer, no recognition.

An hour passed, two hours and still there was no indication that my dear
Christopher realized that I was near him, bending over him, praying for
him. He turned uneasily in his fever and now and then cried out with a
great effort in his delirium; but he never spoke my name or made any
reference to his love for me. It was heartbreaking to be there beside
him and yet to feel myself so far away from him.

At about eleven the doctor saw that a change was coming and warned me
that there would be a lucid interval which would precede the final
crisis.

"Within an hour we shall know what to expect," he said. "Either your
friend will begin to improve--his heart action will be stronger, his
breathing easier, or--he will sink into a state of coma and--" the
doctor finished his sentence with an ominous gesture. "You must have
courage, dear lady. The balance of his life may be turned by you--either
way. It will be a shock for him to see you here, a great shock. I cannot
tell how that shock may affect him. It may save him, it may destroy him.
No man of science in my place would take the responsibility of saying to
you that you must or must not show yourself to this man at this moment.
You must take the responsibility for yourself--and for him."

"I understand, doctor," I said. "I will take the responsibility."

Again we waited in anguished silence, and soon the change came just as
the doctor said it would. Christopher's eyes opened naturally and I saw
that the glassy stare had gone out of them. He knew where he was, he
knew what he was saying, he would recognize me, if he saw me; but I drew
back into the shadows of the room where I could watch him without being
seen. I wanted to think what I must do.

Christopher beckoned Seraphine and the doctor to come close to him.

"I want you to write something for me," he said in weak tones but quite
distinctly to Seraphine. "I may not come out of this. I--I don't care
very much whether I do or not, but--get some paper--please--and a
pencil. The most important thing is about my money--all that I
have--everything in the world, understand? I--I leave it all to the only
woman I have ever loved--or ever could love--Penelope Wells."

When he had said this he settled back on the pillow and breathed heavily
but with a certain sense of relief, as if his mind was now at rest. I
bit my lip until my teeth cut into it to keep myself from crying out.

"You are both witnesses to this--to what I have said--you've written it
down?" he looked at Seraphine and the doctor who nodded gravely.

"You must find Penelope and tell her that--that she made a mistake to go
away. I understand why she did it, but it was a mistake. Tell her I said
that we all of us have a whole lot to be sorry for and we must not only
ask to be forgiven, but we must be glad to accept the forgiveness of
others for--for whatever we have done that is wrong, and we must believe
that they are sincere in forgiving us. Tell her that I would have been
glad to--to forgive her for--for everything."

His strength was evidently failing and the doctor told him that he had
better not try to talk any more. But Christopher smiled in that quaint
brave way that I knew so well and lifted his thin white hands in
protest.

"Just one thing more--please. It won't make any particular difference,
doc, and I want to say it. I want you to be sure to tell her this--write
it down. Tell her two things. One is that there isn't any argument about
my loving her because I am dying for her--now--that's a fact. There
isn't anything else I want to live for if I can't have Penelope. The
other thing is that--" He paused as a violent spasm of coughing shook
his wasted body, and again the doctor told him to be quiet, but he gave
no heed.

"The other thing is--be sure to tell her this--that I would sooner have
lived with Penelope--I don't care how many devils she was possessed
with--than with all the saints in the calendar. I loved her--" He
struggled to raise himself and then lifting his voice in a supreme
effort, "I loved her good or bad. I--I couldn't help loving her.
There--that's all. Let me sign it."

This was too much for me. As I saw my dear love tracing his name with
painful strokes, I could control myself no longer and rushed out of the
darkness to him, feeling that I must cry out wildly against his leaving
me. I must fight the grim shadows that were enveloping him. I must keep
him for myself by the fierce power of my love.

Just then a great glare from the torches filled the chamber and
Christopher's eyes met mine. I stood speechless, choked with emotion,
and as I tried to force my will against these obstacles of weakness, the
cry of the pilgrims resounded from the streets below, a vast
soul-stirring cry:

"_Hosanna! hosanna au fils de David!_"

At this I fell on my knees by the bedside and buried my face in my
hands. I realized suddenly that it was not for me to dispute God's will
even for this life that was so dear to me, even for our great love. Once
more I must fight my selfish pride and yield everything into God's
keeping for better or for worse. But with all my soul I prayed, not
daring to look up: "Dear God, save him! Give him back to me."

Then I felt Christopher's hand on my head, resting there lovingly.

"Penelope!" he said.

"Chris!"

Down in the street the lines of fire swept past in a molten sea while
the roar of worshipping voices came up to me:

"_Hosanna! hosanna au fils de David!_"

And still I prayed, with my head buried in my arms: "Save him! Dear God,
save him and give him back to me!"

_And God did._



CHAPTER XXI

THE TRUTH ABOUT WOMEN THAT NOBODY TELLS


(_Extracts from Penelope's Diary_)

_Two Years Later._

A woman who has been saved, as I have been, from a fate worse than death
must be grateful, and ready to show her gratitude by helping others,
especially other women. I have a message of hope for those who have
heard the Voices, for those who have gone down into the Black Valley,
where I was--_they can come back into the sunshine of happiness. The
powers of Light are stronger than the powers of Darkness, and Love
conquers Fear always in those who cleanse their souls of evil._

And I have a warning for thousands and tens of thousands of women who
have not yet glimpsed the Gates of Despair, but are drifting towards
them and will surely pass through them, as I did, unless they understand
the perils that surround and beset their lives.

With my husband's assistance and approval, I have selected from my diary
parts that bear on the emotional problems of women today. Christopher
says I have told the truth about women that nobody tells, and he wants
me to make it known, so that others, being enlightened, may avoid the
mistakes I made and be spared the consequences of these mistakes. Dear
Chris! His judgment encourages me, and yet--

How fully shall I speak, so that my words may do good, not harm?

I can only have faith in my honesty of purpose, and hold to my belief
that, in spite of my limitations, I have a message to deliver that will
be helpful. Yes, I must deliver this message. God will not allow so
sincere a motive to fail. Perhaps the reason for all my sufferings and
mistakes, the reason for my existence was that I should deliver this
message.


ARE CERTAIN WOMEN PREDESTINED TO UNHAPPINESS THROUGH THE INFLUENCE OF
THE STARS?

Soon after my deliverance from evil, Seraphine cast my horoscope (I
wonder why she never did this before?), and now much that was previously
inexplicable in my life is made clear to me. She says that astrology is
not a cheap form of trickery, but a recognized field of knowledge and
investigation.

From the earliest times wise men have emphasized the influence of the
stars upon human lives--for good or ill. I like to believe this. It
gives one a broader and more charitable view of one's fellow creatures,
of their sins and weaknesses, to realize the presence about us of these
vast and mysterious forces.

My horoscope, with its queer phraseology, reads:

"Your Neptune is in evil aspect to your Venus, which makes you attract
men almost irresistibly."

This was the case, Seraphine says, with Georges Sand, George Eliot and
various women in history who were the favorites of kings, although some
of them had little beauty. They were dowered, however, with this
terrific magnetism for the opposite sex.

I remember, even as a school girl, how the boys used to fight over me,
while they scarcely noticed prettier and brighter girls. I never
understood this, any more than they did, for I was rather indifferent to
them. There was one girl in our set who attracted the boys as much as I
did, but she was also drawn to them. When this girl was about eighteen
her father began to receive anonymous notes telling of his daughter's
escapades and warning him to guard her more carefully. Finally there
came an open scandal when the girl ran away with a married man. At the
time I thought myself a better and stronger character than she, since I
resisted temptation, but my horoscope shows that I had "in beneficent
aspect" certain planets that were "evilly aspected" for my friend, and
this made her temptations greater than mine.

Seraphine says that the horoscope, wisely used, is like an automobile
light in the darkness--it reveals dangers in the road that may be
avoided. "_The stars incline, but do not compel_," she always tells her
clients and assures them that, by power of the will, we can overcome any
influence of the stars, strengthening the good and weakening the evil
aspects. That is a blessed thought.

When I was a trained nurse I received many confidences from women and
some confessions of an intimate nature. At one time I took care of a
married woman in Washington, a neurasthenic case, and this woman told me
that she had several times tried to kill herself because of a curse that
seemed to be hanging over her. Twice, following an irresistible impulse,
she had left her husband with another man for whom she had no particular
affection. It was a kind of recurrent madness which she did not
understand except that _she was positive that it had something to do
with the phases of the moon_. During about ten days of the month when
the moon was "dark," she was perfectly normal, but when a new moon
appeared she was conscious of a vague uneasiness that increased and
finally became acute when the moon was full, this being her time of
peril.

Venus in conjunction with Mars, Seraphine says, brings love at first
sight, but in evil aspect to Mars it makes one liable to sex-excesses.

She says that a good Neptune in the 5th house, the house of Romance, or
in the 7th house, the house of Marriage, brings an ideal and spiritual
attachment; but in evil aspect in either of these houses it brings an
immoral relationship or a marriage to one who is morally or physically
deformed. This was the condition in my own horoscope and certainly poor
Julian was deformed morally.

What a strange and fascinating light all this throws upon human
behavior! How it clears up mysterious infatuations and explains
incredible follies! Seraphine knows a woman of fifty--she is a
grandmother and a most estimable person--who has always had and still
has this power of attracting men violently to her. On one occasion this
woman was in a railway station in New York, waiting for her son, when a
fine looking man approached her and, lifting his hat, asked if she could
direct him to the train that would soon leave for Chicago. She told him
in her well-bred way, and he left her; but a few minutes later he
returned and said with intense feeling that he had never believed in
love at first sight, but now he did. He was compelled to believe in it
now.

When she drew back he told her that he was a widower, a man of means,
living in the West, that he could give her the best references and--the
point was that his infatuation for her was so great that he begged her
to consider whether she would be willing to marry him. He would do
everything in his power to make her happy, but declared that he could
not and would not try to live without her another day.

Knowing her horoscope the woman did not get angry at this presumption,
but gently declined the offer, and begged the man to leave her. He bowed
and withdrew, but came back once again after she had joined her son and
explained to the astonished young man his hopes and aspirations toward
the mother. Whereupon, as the woman still refused, he finally left, to
all appearances broken-hearted.

I have had one experience of this sort myself that shows how even the
noblest man may suddenly suffer an infatuation capable of sweeping him
on to disaster. It was at the time of my husband's death--during days
when he lay half conscious in the hospital following his automobile
accident. A distinguished clergyman, Dr. B----, who had known Julian
slightly, visited him here and in this way made my acquaintance. And he
fell violently in love with me.

For months during my early widowhood he saw me almost every day and
wrote me impassioned letters, declaring that I was the only woman in the
world for him, I was his true mate, he could not live without me, he was
ready to give up everything for me, to go away with me to some distant
city--any city--and begin life all over again.

This clergyman was a man of fifty, a brilliant preacher, widely honored
and loved, who had never in his life, he assured me, committed any
deliberately sinful act such as this would be, for he was married to a
fine woman who had been his faithful companion for many years and had
borne him two children--two boys. All this he was ready to renounce for
me--reputation, honor, duty. He said it was fate. His desire for me was
too strong to be resisted. The sin, the disgrace, the pain that he would
cause--none of these could keep back this man of God from his evil
purpose.


ARE WOMEN DISLOYAL TO OTHER WOMEN?

In many pages of my diary (written sincerely at the time) I present the
conventional view of sex offences, the comforting view to women.

_But--_

When I search deep into my soul with an honest desire to find the truth,
I am not sure that women are as blameless in the sex struggle with men
as I would like to believe. Very often they are less pursued than
pursuing. Every man of the world can recall the cases where women have
played the rôle of temptress, using their charms against unwilling
victims, notably husbands of other women. _I am afraid the rule is that
women are disloyal to other women where there is any serious emotional
conflict._

The editor of a popular magazine told me once about a prize contest that
they had for the best essay on a woman's sex solidarity union--they
called it the W.S.S.U. The idea was that if women would stand together
against men they could get anything in the world they wanted--equal
rights and privileges, equal wages, fair treatment in every department
of life; and do away with evils of ignorance and poverty, child labor
evils, prostitution evils. We could have an ideal world if women, using
their sex power, would only stand together against men.

Hundreds of letters were received from women, who thought this a
wonderful idea; but they all agreed that it was impossible to carry it
out, because women would never be loyal to one another.

That is true; I know it, and every woman knows it--women are disloyal to
other women whenever it becomes a question of men. They might agree on a
W.S.S.U. program, but they would never stick to it, poor things, because
every blessed one of them who was at all good looking would be ready to
go over to the opposition at the first favorable opportunity. Only the
homely women would be loyal!


ARE WOMEN GREATER HYPOCRITES THAN MEN?

In all my troubles I kept at least to the form of religious belief,
although I missed the substance, namely, that any life can be made
happy, even glorious, if it is founded on purity of soul and unselfish
love and service. I was selfish--even in my love; therefore I brought
upon myself the fruits of selfishness which are ill health, inefficiency
and unhappiness. _The beauty of a selfish woman fades quickly._

Once I wrote this in my diary:

"Alas, how soon love passes! Ten or fifteen years and the best of it is
gone. After that the dregs! A woman of thirty! Ugh! I shall be thirty
next year. A woman of forty! No wrinkles at forty, says the beauty
advertisement, but that is a lie. A woman of forty is a pitiful, tragic
figure, especially if she is a little beautiful. No man wants her any
more."

I was mistaken. The beauty of unselfish love never passes. There are
sisters of charity whose faces are exquisitely beautiful at fifty.
Seraphine is forty-five and her face shines with heavenly radiance. Her
skin is as smooth as a girl's and free from lines because she thinks
good thoughts and does kind acts. The greatest beauty tonic in the world
is the habit of kindness.

In one place I find this:

"Women are naturally religious, especially women with a strong sex
nature; they believe in God, in spiritual mysteries; they are deeply
stirred by religious music and by the ritual of worship; they love the
architectural impressiveness of a church, the stained glass windows far
up among majestic arches, the candles, the incense, the far-away
chanting.

"I was brought up an Episcopalian, but when I am tired or discouraged I
often go into St. Patrick's Cathedral--it is so beautiful--and say my
prayers there. At any hour I find others praying, men and women--they
come in off Fifth Avenue quite naturally and cross themselves and bow to
the Altar and kneel straight up--they don't just lean forward the way we
do. I love to imitate them--cross myself and go down on one knee and dip
my fingers in the font of Holy Water as I come away. _Sometimes I wish I
was a Catholic and could confess my sins. It might help me._

"I do not think religion keeps women back very much from doing what they
want to do or have resolved to do in love affairs. It is a comfort, an
emotional satisfaction rather than a restraint. They come tripping in on
their high heels with all their smiles and finery, and they trip out
again, unchanged in their sentimental natures. A woman will go to church
in the afternoon and flirt with another woman's husband in the evening.
She will respond devoutly after the Commandments 'Lord have mercy upon
us, and incline our hearts to keep this law,' even though she knows that
her heart is inclined to break one of these laws."

This is true in the main, although I believe now that women, because
they are highly emotional, are sincere for the moment when they kneel
down to say their prayers and confess their sins, even if they half know
that they may continue in wrong-doing. I suppose women are less logical
here than men who will often stay away from church entirely when they
are breaking the moral law and when they know that they intend to go on
breaking it. I am sure it is better, however, for men and women to go to
church, even at the risk of a little hypocrisy, than not to go at all.


ARE WOMEN DISINGENUOUS IN SENTIMENTAL AFFAIRS?

I suppose we must admit that there are many women, in all classes of
society--not mercenary women--who extend to men a certain measure of sex
complaisance and feel no deep regret for this behavior, so long as
things go well.

Once I wrote in my diary:

"Of course women will not admit sex indiscretions--wild horses could not
drag the truth out of them. The attractive ones, those who have had
emotional experiences with men, will hide them, following the feminine
free masonry of centuries. And unattractive women will call high heaven
to witness that nothing of that sort has ever happened to them. They
have always found men respectful and considerate."

I asked Julian about this one day when he was in a penitential mood and
he said:

"Of course you are right, the indiscretions of women are numerous,
inevitable; but it is the fault of men. The evidence is all about us.
Any woman may ascertain this from her husband, her father, her
grandfather, or her great-grandfather, if she can persuade one of these
gentlemen to be honest with her."

The ghastly truth is--this is the truth that has filled the world with
tears--that the average full-blooded male citizen is polygamous in his
instinct and to some extent in his practice.

Every reasonably attractive woman who has been called upon to face the
facts of life knows that men are impelled towards women by a force of
desire that they call over-powering. It is not over-powering, as
thousands of clean-minded men have proved, it is no more over-powering
than the desire to gamble or the desire to take drugs; it can be
conquered as these other desires have been conquered; but centuries of
wayward living under relaxed standards (the double standard) have made
men believe that it is over-powering and they act accordingly. And women
yield on one pretense or another, smilingly or tearfully--_how can they
resist the dominant will of half the human race?_

I find this in my diary heavily underscored:

"_How can the same act be a sin for half the race and not a sin for the
other half? For centuries men have proclaimed that women must not give
themselves to men, but men may give themselves to women. Is there any
greater absurdity? Wine may mix with water, but water must not mix with
wine._"

If these sex-complaisant women were really filled with remorse, burdened
with a sense of shame, we should all know it. Their eyes, their voices,
their daily lives would reveal it. Could a million women be in physical
pain, say from starvation, without all the world knowing it? Is pain of
the soul less torturing than pain of the body? The fact is that these
women are not in spiritual pain. They regard what they have done (often
regretfully) as a result of impossible conditions in the world today, a
world controlled by men.

I can speak about these things with a certain authority, since, for
years, I sympathized with the self-indulgent point of view, in fact I
lived in an artistic and Bohemian _milieu_ where many of my friends
followed the line of least resistance. I may even confess that I might
have gone with the current, had I not seen the harm and unhappiness that
resulted. _It does not pay to be self-indulgent._


"LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION"

The suspicion that many women are disingenuous in regard to these
irregularities of conduct was forced upon me some years ago in a
conversation with Kendall Brown, who, for all his eccentricities, is a
keen observer of life.

I give the conversation at some length just as I wrote it down in my
diary:

"Kendall insists that women like me--he calls me a Class A woman which
makes me furious for I'm afraid I am one--are never really on the level
in sentimental affairs. If we were on the level, he says, we would not
make such a fuss about the grand conspiracy of men against our virtue.
There would be no point to it, for our virtue would never be in any
danger unless we half-wished it to be. He says that the three great sins
mentioned in the Bible and in all religions are killing, stealing and
sex offences. Now, the attitude of the human race toward these sins, as
established by centuries of habit, makes it almost impossible for the
average citizen, man or woman, to either kill or steal. 'Isn't that
true?' he asked.

"I agreed that the thought of stealing is so abhorrent to me that I
could not imagine any temptation strong enough to make me a thief. I
might have some reserves about killing, however, in fact I have once or
twice felt a sympathy for ... well, no!

"'All right,' he went on. 'Now, if women were on the level in guarding
their virtue and always had been, just as they are on the level in
regard to stealing, don't you see that it would be utterly impossible
for any man under any circumstances (barring violence which does not
happen once in ten thousand times) to have his way with a woman? This
habit of virtue would be so deeply ground into you women, into the very
depth of your being, that nothing could overcome it. But as we look
about us and observe women in all classes of society, we see that there
is no such condition, no such habit, which proves that women are not and
never have been on the level. What do you say to that, speaking as a
pretty woman?'

"I did not say anything, I was so indignant--speechless--at his
impertinence, and while I was searching for some answer to this
outrageous statement, my poet friend proceeded:

"'You know how strong habits are, Penelope, all habits. Take smoking, or
drinking cocktails, or even coffee. I swore off coffee six weeks ago.
During the first week I was nearly crazy for it--had headaches, felt
rotten, but I stuck it out. In the second week it was much easier for me
not to take coffee. At the end of a month the habit was established and
now I have no more craving for coffee. If I leave it alone for six
months the chances are that nothing will ever make me drink coffee
again, especially if I hypnotize myself with the idea that coffee is bad
for my heart action, that I'm a nice little hero to have cut it out and
that now I am going to live to be over ninety. You see?

"'Now then, the drift of all this is that the habit of virtue in women
if it really was an on-the-level habit that they believed in with all
their souls and would fight for with all their strength, would be
utterly and absolutely unbreakable--no man could overcome it. The only
reason why men in all times and in all lands have overcome women's
virtue is because women themselves have never attached the importance to
it that they pretend to attach. That isn't a very gallant speech, but it
is true.'"

As I said, I became angry at Kendall's accusations and refused to
continue the discussion, but if I were to answer the poet now, after my
wider experience of life, especially after my sufferings, I should feel
obliged to acknowledge that he struck a hard blow at feminine
complacency. The trouble with women is that there is an increasing
tendency among them, especially among those who live in cities full of
pleasures and excitements, to compromise with evil, to go as near the
danger line as possible, so long as they do not cross it. And this
cowardly, dallying virtue is almost no virtue at all. There was a time
when women prayed sincerely: "Lead us not into temptation"; now it seems
as if they pray to be led into temptation, with just this reservation:
_that they may come out of it unscathed. Demi-vierges!_

I have watched many attractive women treading the primrose path and I
have seen that it always leads them to unhappiness. Not that they are
disgraced or openly degraded--life goes on with many of them very much
as before, but gradually their faces change, their souls change. They
could have done so much better; they could have been useful, respected
and self-respecting figures in the world _through loving service_. After
all, life is very short and the only things that really matter are the
things that happen in our own souls. _No one can fail in life who does
not fail inside, and no one can succeed in life who only succeeds
outside._ I learned that from Dr. Leroy.


IS PLATONIC FRIENDSHIP POSSIBLE TO AN ATTRACTIVE WOMAN?

In telling the truth about my life and my innermost feelings I must
quote passages from my diary that were written in a light and often
flippant spirit, that being my mood at the time; but the lesson is there
just the same and in many instances tears follow close behind the
laughter. Furthermore, I thank God that my regeneration has not taken
away my sense of humor. One of the great troubles with neurasthenic
women is that they do not laugh enough.

I wrote the following about a year after my husband's death:

"We women are irrational creatures. Our emotions control us, and these
emotions change from day to day, from hour to hour. We never know how we
will act under any given circumstances--that may depend upon some man."

The truth is that the attraction which draws a man and a woman together
in what they call platonic friendship always has something of the
physical in it--on one side or the other. Or on both sides. Women will
not admit this, but it is true. They talk about the intellectual bond
that joins them to a man--what a precious interchange of thoughts! Or
the spiritual bond--such a soulful and inspiring companionship--nothing
else, my dear! I used to talk that way myself about Jimsy Brooks before
my husband died. He was my unchangeable rock of defense whenever the
subject of platonic friendship came up. Other men might fail and falter,
make fools of themselves, seek opportunities for--nonsense, but Jimsy
was Old Reliability. I could tell him everything, even my troubles with
Julian, I could trust him entirely. Alas!

One day I received this warning from Seraphine: "My beloved Penelope,
you are riding for a fall! I have had you in mind constantly since you
told me of your new friendship with Mr. R----. I know you intend to be
truly platonic and I can see you smiling as you recall your many years'
friendship with Jim Brooks to prove that such a thing is possible. But,
my dear, take warning in time. While it has apparently worked out in
that case, I am certain it is only the thought of losing 'even that that
he has' which has prevented Jimsy from telling you of his love long ago.
Your new playmate may cause you many heartaches before the game is
played out. Think it over."

Dear old Seraphine! How well she knows the human soul! A month later I
wrote this in my diary:

"Seraphine was right. My bubble has vanished into thin air. Jimsy Brooks
has declared his love for me and a wonderful thing has gone out of my
life forever. I had always felt so perfectly safe with Jimsy. When I
think of the all-day picnics that we two used to go on together and the
outrageous things I have done, I blush all over.

"I remember our trip to Bear Mountain and the sparkling stream that
beckoned me into its depths. I wanted to wade in it, to sit on one of
the smooth round stones in the middle and in general to behave like a
child. All of which I did, for there was only Jimsy to see and he didn't
matter in the least. He never so much as glanced at my bare feet and
legs when I splashed through the ripples with my dress pinned up!

"I remember how I kissed his hand where a fish barb had torn it....
'Kiss it, make it well,' and all the while I must have been hurting him
cruelly. God knows I did not mean to, I would not have hurt him for the
world.

"This sort of thing is all very well from a woman's angle, but is it
well for a man? Jimsy says no, and when I remember the expression in his
eyes, I am afraid I must agree with him. I had thought of him more as I
would think of a girl chum, only infinitely more desirable, for he had
the power of really _doing_ things for me--he was a cross between a nice
old friendly dog that would fetch and carry at my bidding and a powerful
protector who could (and did) stand between me and unpleasant
happenings.

"Jimsy has gone out of my life and left a terrible loneliness. He says
that some day, when he has learned resignation, he will come back and
we can take up the threads of our friendship just where we have laid
them down ... but that can never be, you cannot build up a new
friendship on the ashes of an old one. Poor Jim Brooks! I shall never
forget what a wonderful thing he was in my life. And now that I have
learned my lesson, my new platonic friend Mr. R---- can take his
professed platonic friendship elsewhere. I am through, henceforth all
men are acquaintances ... or lovers!"

       *       *       *       *       *

As I look back on my life and try to draw wisdom from my mistakes, I see
some things clearly and one is that it is impossible for a woman like me
to enjoy the close friendship of an attractive man without danger. No
matter how honorable he is or how sincere the woman is, there will be
danger. The only case where there is no danger is where there is no
physical attraction. I might have been safe enough with some anemic
saint, but not with one who had pulsing red blood in his
veins--certainly not!

       *       *       *       *       *

Here is a characteristic episode written before I married Julian, during
those months of hard struggle in New York:

"Last night Kendall Brown talked to me like an angel.

"'I'll give you a case in point, Pen,' he was saying. 'A beautiful woman
like you, an exquisite, lithe creature is sitting on a sofa under a soft
light, leaning against pillows--just as you are now; and a man like me,
a poor adoring devil, a regular worm, is sitting at the other end of the
sofa looking at this woman, drinking in her loveliness, thrilling to the
mysterious lights in her eyes, the caressing tenderness of her voice and
all the rest of it. This man wants to reach out and take this woman in
his arms--draw her to him--press his lips to hers. But he doesn't do it,
because--well, she wouldn't stand for it. Besides, it isn't right.
Perhaps she is a married woman. Perhaps he is married.

"'Now what I want to know is why this chap can't behave himself and
regard his fair friend as he would an exquisite rose in a
garden--somebody else's garden. Why can't he say to himself: "This woman
is one of God's loveliest creatures, but she does not belong to me. I
can look at her, I can rejoice in her beauty, but I mustn't touch her or
try to harm her." Why can't he say that to himself? Isn't it a wicked
thing for a man to crush and bruise and destroy a lovely flower, to
scatter its color and perfume just for a wayward impulse?'

"I shall never forget the earnestness, the tenderness in the eyes and
voice of this harum scarum poet whose record in women conquests makes a
rich chapter in the annals of Greenwich Village. At this moment he was
quite sincere, or thought he was. There were tears in his eyes.

"And what did I do? I rose from my pillows and said, with a little laugh
and toss of my head: 'Very pretty, Kendall, you ought to make a poem of
it.' Then I went over to the victrola and set it going in a fox-trot,
one of my favorites. I was restless and began to move about slowly to
the music while Kendall watched me with a different light growing in his
eyes. I wore a clinging white house garment--I suppose I was at my best.

"'Let's dance it, Pen, just gently so as not to disturb the folks
downstairs,' he said. So we danced the fox-trot and my hair brushed
against his cheek--he really dances very well for a poet.

"After he had gone I sat thinking of this for a long time, puzzled about
myself and about Kendall. This afternoon I saw him again as I was
passing through the Brevoort Café. He came up to me, smiling, and drew
me aside.

"'Don't you see what a little faker you are, Pen?' he laughed. 'It's
just as I said, you are none of you on the level, you pretty women. Why
did you set that victrola going last night and tempt me to--to--yes you
did, you know darn well you did. Why did you let your cheek brush
against mine? Come, be honest, if you can. You're laughing, you adorable
little devil--you expected me to kiss you.'

"'Impertinent!' I said. 'You do yourself too much honor, sir.'

"'I say you expected me to kiss you.'

"'No.'

"'Liar!' He wrinkled up his nose amusingly.

"I suppose I was a liar. I did expect Kendall Brown to--well--not to
kiss me necessarily, but to make it perfectly clear that he wanted to.
It was a ridiculous and unnecessary bit of posing on his part to act as
if he did not want to. The French have a saying that a pretty woman
always expects a suitor to know just _when_ to be lacking in respect."


HOW SHALL A WOMAN SATISFY HER HEART'S LONELINESS?

I quote from my diary without comment another significant conversation
that took place during the early months of my widowhood. How I resented,
at this time, any suggestion that I was inclined to venture too near the
sentimental danger line!

And yet....

"Tonight I had a long talk with Kendall Brown on the same old
subject--_what is a woman to do who longs for the companionship of a
man, but does not find it?_

"Kendall always says disconcerting things, he is brutally frank; but I
like to argue with him because I find him stimulating, and he does know
a lot about life.

"'The trouble with women like you, Pen,' he said, 'is that you are not
honest with yourselves. You pretend one thing and end by doing something
quite different; then you say that you never intended to do this thing.
Why can't you be consistent?'

"'Like men?'

"'Well, at least men know what they are going after, and when they have
done a certain thing, they don't waste time regretting it or insisting
that they meant to do something else.'

"'You think women are hypocrites?'

"'Yes.'

"'If women are hypocrites, if women are afraid to tell the truth about
sentimental things, it is because you men have made them so,' I replied
with feeling.

"Kendall answered good-naturedly that he held no brief for his own sex,
he acknowledged that men treat women abominably--lie to them, abandon
them, and so on; but he kept to his point that women create many of
their troubles by drifting back and forth aimlessly on the changing tide
of their emotions instead of establishing some definite goal for their
lives.

"'Women yield to every sentimental impulse--that is why they weep so
easily. Watch them at a murder trial--they weep for the victim, then
they weep for the murderer. Half their tears are useless. If women would
put into constructive thinking some of the vital power they waste in
weeping and talking they could revolutionize the world.'

"'Could they reform the men?' I retorted, but when he tried to answer I
stopped him. What was the use? I knew what he would say about this, and
I really wanted to get his ideas on the other point.

"'Come back to the question,' I said. 'Take the case of a well-bred
woman surrounded by stifling, conventional influences of family and
friends, who sees lonely years slipping by while nothing comes that
satisfies her womanhood. She may have money enough, comforts, even
luxuries, but she longs for the companionship of a man. What is she to
do?'

"He answered with his usual positiveness:

"'She must take the initiative. She must go after what she supremely
wants, just as a man would, using her power--I assume that she is
reasonably attractive. She must break through restraints, and drive
ahead towards the particular kind of emotional happiness that suits her.
That is what God created her for, to achieve by her own efforts this
emotional happiness. If she wants it enough she can get it. We can all
of us do anything, have anything on condition that we want it enough to
pay the price for it. The price is usually the elimination of other
things that interfere.'

"'Suppose a woman wants a husband? Suppose she is forty--and not rich?
Do you mean to say she can get a husband?'

"Here my poet, blazing with conviction, leaned towards me, pointing an
emphatic forefinger.

"'I tell you, Penelope Wells, it is possible for any reasonably
attractive woman _up to forty-five_ to get a reasonably satisfactory
husband if she will work to get him as a man works to make money. She
can't sit on a chair and twirl her thumbs and wait for a husband to drop
into her lap out of the skies like a ripe plum. She must bend destiny to
her purposes. She must make sacrifices, create opportunities, move
about, use the intelligence that God has given her. The world is full of
men who are half ready to marry--_she must turn the balance!_

"'Listen! If I were a lonely woman yearning for matrimony I would pick
out one of these eligible males and make him my own. I would make him
feel that the thing he wanted above all other things was to have me for
his wife. How would I do this? I would study his desires, his needs, his
weaknesses; I would make myself so necessary to him--as necessary as a
mother is to a child--that he couldn't get along without me. I tell you
it can be done, Pen, by the resistless power of the human will. The
trouble with most of us is that we don't want things hard enough. _If a
woman wants a husband hard enough she will get him--nothing can prevent
it!_'

"I smiled at these fantastic views, although I admit, that we women
ought to be more masters of our fates than we are. In my own case I
suppose it would have been better if I had left Julian of my own
volition, because it was right to leave him, instead of waiting for an
automobile accident to separate us.

"'Please be sensible, Kendall,' I protested. 'Give me thoughts that
apply to the world as it is, not extravagant fancies. You know perfectly
well that there are thousands, tens of thousands, of fairly attractive
women in all classes of society, especially in the wage earning class,
who have no chance to marry the kind of man they wish to marry. Besides,
there are a million more women than men in American. They can't all get
husbands, can they? There aren't enough men to go around. And there are
other thousands of wretched women tied to husbands who will not consent
to a divorce. What are all these unhappy women to do?'

"'Can't they get along without men?' he laughed.

"'Can men get along without women?' I answered, rather annoyed. Kendall
saw that I was serious and changed his tone.

"'Let me get this straight, Pen. If a woman longs for the companionship
of a man--you mean the intimate companionship? You are not talking about
platonic friendship?'

"'No, I mean the intimate companionship.'

"'And she cannot marry? Then what is she to do? Is that what you mean?'

"'Yes.'

"'Ah! Now we come to the heart of the discussion. You want to know if
there are cases where self-respecting women enter into irregular love
affairs and never regret it? Is it possible for a woman to break the
moral law without suffering disastrous consequences? Are there cases
where a girl or a woman yields to the desperate cry of her soul for a
mate without degradation and without loss of her self-respect? Can such
things be? Do you want my honest opinion?' The poet's eyes challenged
me.

"'Yes, that is exactly what I want, I want the truth.'

"Whereupon Kendall Brown assured me that he has known a number of rather
fine women, self-supporting and self-respecting, the kind of women who
say their prayers at night and try to be kind, who, nevertheless, have
had _liaisons_ that have not resulted in shame and sorrow or in any
moral or material disaster.

"'Are you sure of this? How can you be sure?'

"'Because I have talked frankly with these women. Sometimes I was in a
position where I could, and, anyhow, women tell me things. They know it
is my business to study life, to glimpse the heights and depths of human
nature. I would be a poor poet if I couldn't do that.'

"'And these women told you that they have never felt regrets?'

"'Practically that--yes; several of them said that they would do the
same thing over again if they had to relive their lives. They have been
happier, more efficient in their work, they have had better health,
calmer nerves, a more serene attitude towards life because of these love
affairs.'

"'I don't believe it,' I declared. 'These women lied to you. They kept
something back. The thing is wrong, abominable, and nothing can make it
right or decent. I would rather die of loneliness.'

"I shall never forget Kendall's superior smile as he answered me:

"'Oh, the inconsistency of a woman! She will not marry, she will not
have an _affaire_, yet she longs for the intimate companionship of a
man. She wants to go swimming, but insists upon keeping away from the
water.'

"I bit my lip in vexation of spirit.

"'Dear friend, don't be annoyed with me,' my poet continued with a quick
change to gentleness. 'I didn't make the world or put these troublesome
desires and inconsistencies into the hearts of women. Listen! I'll give
you my best wisdom now: If a woman cannot marry and will not have a
lover, then she must stop all stimulation of her emotions, she must put
men out of her thoughts, out of her life and concentrate on something
worth while that will not harm her. Let her take up the purely
intellectual life, some cultural effort--history, art, municipal reform,
anything, and absorb herself in it. Or let her follow the old path that
has led thousands of women to peace of mind--let her seek the comforts
of religion.' Then smiling, he added: 'You might become a missionary,
Pen, in China or Armenia. I'll bet you'd be flirting with some mandarin
or pasha before you got through.'

"Again I bit my lip, for I knew very well that the religious life would
never satisfy me. If I entered a convent I should probably run away from
it in despair. What a horrible situation to want to do right and long to
do wrong at the same time!

"Kendall Brown must have read my thoughts.

"'There is one thing you self-pitying ladies must learn,' he went on,
'that is to play the game of life according to the rules. You can't have
your cake and eat it. You can't amuse yourselves with fire without
getting burned.'

"I was silent.

"'You must stop flirting with temptation--that's what you all do, you
pretty women, fascinating women. You can't deny it.'

"'I do deny it,' I said weakly.

"'Oh come now! How about dancing--when a woman has a sinuous, clinging
body and wears no corsets and--you know what I mean. Isn't that
temptation?'

"'It's horrid of you, Kendall Brown, to suggest such things. Only a
person with evil thoughts--'

"His eyes twinkled at me good-humoredly but I refused to be conciliated.

"'And how about the ancient and honorable practice of kissing?' he
persisted. 'Of course it is not done any more, I realize that. No pretty
woman in these austere days ever thinks of allowing a man to kiss
her--except her husband, but--seriously, isn't kissing a temptation?
Isn't it, Pen?'

"By this time my nerves were decidedly ruffled.

"'You are too foolish!' I stormed. 'I wish you would go home. I am tired
of your ex-cathedra statements and your self-sufficiency.'

"'No,' he flung back, studying me with his keen gray eyes, 'you are
tired of the truth.'"


CONCERNING THE DOUBLE STANDARD

With great diffidence I venture to say a word about the most perplexing
and embarrassing question in the world:

_Shall men be allowed to do certain things without any particular
punishment or social condemnation, while women are punished mercilessly
for doing these same things--things that men compel them to do?_

The double standard!

Shall women try to change this standard, and, if so, in which
direction--up or down?

Is it desirable that the weaker sex be given more liberty in emotional
matters, or that the stronger sex be given less liberty?

I know that some distinguished women, great artists, stage favorites and
others have succeeded brilliantly in spite of sex irregularities; but
this proves nothing. These women succeeded because they had genius or
talent, not because they were immoral, just as certain men of genius
have succeeded in spite of an addiction to various evil practices. They
would probably have achieved more splendid careers had they been able to
conquer these weaknesses. Besides, we are considering what is best for
the majority of men and women, not for an exceptional few.

I have a friend, a public school teacher in Chicago,--Miss Jessie G----,
who holds advanced views on these matters and admits that she herself
has been a sex transgressor. She has never been sordid or mercenary,
she has always believed that she was actuated by sincere affection, but
the fact remains that she has had several affairs with men. She has
broken the moral law. And while she professes not to regret this and
insists that she would repeat these affairs if she had to live her life
over again, yet, I have felt in talking with her that this cannot
possibly be true.

Miss G---- has fine instincts, is fond of music, is proud of her
profession and shrinks from the thought that she might be considered
_déclassée_; at the same time she _knows_ that on more than one occasion
she has been treated coldly by men and women familiar with the facts of
her life. For example, at summer hotels, in spite of her good looks and
apparent respectability, she has been denied introductions to charming
women who would disapprove of her behavior.

_That hurts!_

Even the bravest of our advanced women thinkers know in their hearts
that they writhe under the pity or scorn of their sister women.

It is certain that a decent woman who enters into irregular relations
with a man whom she loves must endure great distress of mind; her
relations with this man are at best unsatisfactory. She accepts the
disadvantages of wifehood and foregoes the advantages. She can see her
adored one only with difficulty at uncertain times and places. She lives
in constant fear of discovery. She is doomed to torturing loneliness
for, in the nature of things, she cannot have her lover with her
whenever she longs to have him, there must be days and weeks of the
inevitable separation. Nor dare she write to him freely, lest the
letters fall into wrong hands. In no way may she reveal her love, the
proudest treasure in her life, but must hide it like a thing of shame.

"My poor child," I would say to such a woman, if I might, "remember that
the hard test comes when things go wrong, when money fails, when beauty
fades. Suppose your beloved falls ill. You cannot go to him, speak to
him, minister to him on his bed of pain, though your heart is breaking.
Even if he is dying, you can only wait ... wait in anguish of soul for
some cold or covert message. You have no rights at his side that the
family respect--_his_ family. Who are you? Are you his wife? No! Then
you are nothing, less than nothing; you are the temptress, _the
mistress_! You love him? Bah! Can such a woman love?"

Miss G---- once acknowledged to me that while she has enjoyed the
companionship of superior men whom she would never have known but for
her moral laxity, yet she has paid a heavy price here, since she no
longer values the acquaintance of men in her own sphere of life. From
two such men (excellent, average men) she has received offers of
marriage that she refused because their society no longer satisfied her
after that of others more brilliant and highly placed; but she might
easily have been happy with one of these two, had not her ideals been
raised to a level beyond her legitimate attainment.

I might present other difficulties that must be faced by a woman who
says she is tired of the old standards of virtue and will live her life
as a man lives his, but I need not detail these difficulties. In her
deepest soul every woman knows that the thought of a wayward existence
is abhorrent to her better nature. She hates the double standard, she
knows it has worked only evil in the world--it is a debasement of all
that is noblest, a betrayal of all that is most beautiful. _The double
standard has done more harm to the human race than all the wars of
history._

Women know this, but they are afraid to speak out, they are afraid to
fight for their ideals, and passing years find men clinging to hideous
sex privileges--one law of morality for men and another law for women.

I believe that American women could change all this, they could abolish
the wicked double standard, as they have abolished saloons and houses of
degradation, if they would face the facts of life instead of ignoring
them. It is merely a matter of courage and organization. Suppose a
hundred women in a single city should pledge themselves to bar from
their homes and acquaintance notorious sex offenders--men offenders? And
to question clean-minded men of their acquaintance, influential men,
about these things and to get honest answers? And to have these answers
openly discussed--perhaps in the churches? Why not? What are churches
for except to fight evil?

What would the average man say to a woman whom he respected and trusted
if she asked him to tell her, on his honor as a good citizen, whether he
believes that the double standard is helpful or harmful to the women of
America? Helpful or harmful to the children of America? To the manhood
of America? Whether he is glad or sorry to think of the effects that his
double-standard pleasures have had upon American women? Whether he would
wish his sons to follow in his double-standard footsteps? Whether he
would be willing to give up his double-standard privileges, if by so
doing, he could save ten American women like his mother or his daughter
from destruction? Would he be willing to do that? _Will he give his
pledge to do that?_

Think how such a leaven of decency and clean manhood might spread
throughout the land! It might start a single-standard revival that would
sweep the world. _By the power of courage and faith and the love of
God!_


SHALL A WIFE FORGIVE HER HUSBAND FOR UNFAITHFULNESS?

I have thought deeply about this, remembering what I suffered with
Julian. It is terribly hard to tell the truth; a woman is filled with
shame for herself and for her whole sex when she tries to tell the truth
about the unfaithfulness of husbands.

_How long shall a wife forgive? How much shall she deliberately ignore?_

Many women say: "I would never forgive my husband if he deceived me."
Others say: "I would never forgive my husband if I _knew_ that he had
deceived me." And still others say: "If my husband must deceive me, I
hope he will never let me know it."

The tragic truth is (as all women vaguely suspect) that thousands of
devoted husbands, hundreds of thousands of average husbands have at one
time or another fallen from grace. Julian used to say that if all the
men in America who have broken the seventh commandment were sent away to
do penance on lonely mountain tops, we should run short of mountains.

He told me also that a man can love his wife so sincerely that he would
gladly die for her, yet, in a moment of temptation, he may be untrue to
her. Julian was an impossible person, but other clean-minded men,
including my dear Christopher, have told me the same thing.

The truth is that most men have never learned to resist sex temptation;
they grow up with the knowledge that they need not resist temptation,
which is the fault of society, as now organized, the fault of wrong
teaching, of insincere preaching, of nation-wide hypocrisy.

I have come to see that women, so long as they have not set themselves
as a body against this evil system (which they might evidently change if
they would act together) have no right to complain of its inevitable
consequences. Men will abandon sex excesses, as they have abandoned
drinking excesses, gradually, through education, through reasonable
appeal, through the resistless force of public opinion intelligently
aroused and directed by devoted women. And in no other way!

Meantime, it is the duty of individual wives to be merciful, as far as
they can, towards erring husbands. The cure lies often in more love
from the wife rather than in less love.

To any tortured wife who knows or half knows certain things about her
husband, I say this--"Dear friend, as long as you love him, forgive him.
As long as he loves you, forgive him. Be patient--enduring. Make the
hard fight against sensuality with your husband, but don't let him know
you are making it. Make this fight exactly as you would a similar fight
against alcohol or drugs."

A woman must be on her guard, however, lest she hide under a cloak of
forgiveness, some base motive in her own heart. Alas! I know, better
than anyone, how easily we women can deceive ourselves.

There is an ignoble forgiveness that is based on love of material
advantages--love of money. There are women who tolerate faithless
husbands because they are too cowardly or indolent to fight the battle
of life alone. What would they do if they left their sheltered homes?
Who would provide comforts and luxuries? How would they dress
themselves? How would they live? Shall it be by working? But they hate
to work. They have never learned to work. It was partly as a defense
against this woman helplessness that I took up trained nursing while
Julian was still alive.

A still more degrading forgiveness is based on sensuality. There are
women married to brutes of husbands who will endure every humiliation,
surrendering all their fine ideals and high purposes rather than leave
these coarse mates.

I first realized this just before I went abroad to nurse the soldiers. I
had gone to the Adirondacks that summer for a rest, and one day on a
motor trip I stopped for luncheon at a farm house, and there I
recognized an old friend from my home town, Laura K----, who was to have
had a brilliant musical career. It was she who had encouraged me to
develop my voice; but I never could have been the great artist that
Laura might have been. A famous impresario had judged her voice to be so
fine--it was a glorious contralto--that he had offered to advance money
for her musical studies abroad. He assured Laura that in three years she
would be a blazing star on the grand opera stage.

That was the last I had heard of my old friend, and here suddenly I
found her, married to a hulking mountaineer, half trapper, half guide.
Here was my wonderful, burning-eyed Laura, who might have had the world
at her feet, a farm drudge taking in summer boarders! How was this
possible?

I spent the afternoon seeking an answer to this riddle. We walked out
into the forest and talked for hours, but whenever I pressed for an
explanation, she halted in confusion. Her mother was old and ill
and--she did not wish to leave her. But, I pointed out, she had never
spoken of this before, she had always cared supremely about her voice,
about her great musical triumph that was to be. Was not that true? Yes,
of course, but--the mountain air was so good for her mother. And she
made other trivial excuses.

Finally, I got the truth as we were strolling home in the twilight and
met her husband slouching along with a gun over his shoulder. As I
caught his sullen, tawny glance and sensed his superb, muscular figure,
I suddenly understood. He nodded curtly and passed on--this cave man!

"_That_ was the reason, Laura, wasn't it?" I whispered.

She looked at me in silence, biting her lips, and blushed furiously.

"Yes," she confessed, "that was the reason."


IS IT A WOMAN'S DUTY TO TELL HER HUSBAND OF PAST TRANSGRESSIONS?

I am not sure what I really believe about this in my deepest soul.
Thousands of women who long to do right will agree with me that it is a
terribly difficult question to answer.

If this were an ideal world where men and women had been purified and
spiritualized to a Christ-like loftiness of soul, one would say yes; but
it is not. A loving wife does not wish her husband to confess to her his
past transgressions, she takes him as he is and is happy to start a new
life with him, turning over a clean page. She only asks that he be loyal
and faithful in the future. And if she is ready to give him similar
loyalty and faithfulness, if she has sincerely repented of any sinful
act, is not that sufficient? Why must she risk the destruction of their
happiness by a revelation that will do no good to anyone? Why must she
give her husband needless pain?

_And yet--_

While the vast majority of women will agree that such feminine reticence
about past wrong-doing is justifiable, the truth, as I have come to see
it, is that, in so agreeing, women must subscribe to a creed of
deliberate deception. A man marries a woman whom he believes to be
virtuous, a woman whom he might refuse to marry if he knew that she were
not virtuous. And this woman does nothing to disabuse him of his error.
Is that right? She allows her husband to keep a certain good opinion of
her that is not justified. No matter how excellent her motive may be,
the fact remains that this marriage rests upon an insecure foundation,
upon an implied falsehood. Thousands of plays and stories have been
constructed on this theme, and they usually end unhappily.

Suppose a man who had been in prison should marry a woman who was
ignorant of this cloud on his life, trusting to chance that his criminal
record would never be discovered? The two cases are somewhat parallel.
What would the woman say if she learned later that she had unwittingly
married an ex-convict? Would she not prefer that he had told her the
truth before he married her?

On the other hand it may be argued that a woman's sin, being presumably
the fault of some man, may be properly expiated, in part at least, by
some other man. But that does not dispose of the difficulty that _a
woman who conceals past indiscretions from her husband is condemned to
live a lie_.

One deception almost invariably leads to another deception until a
whole chain or net of equivocations, ruses, trickeries, is established
with the hideous possibility of some shocking divorce scandal, possibly
years later when innocent children may be the sufferers.

Even if such disaster is averted and the truth is never revealed, even
if all goes well apparently through happy married years, yet the poison
of deceit may work a spiritual disaster in this woman--such a disaster
as overwhelmed me--or it may bring about a lowering of moral standards
in a woman, a stifling of religious life, that will have sinister and
far-reaching consequences.

_The greatest need in the world today is the need of spirituality among
women, for they are the teachers of the young._

As illustrating the frightful harm that may result from such a lack of
spirituality in a woman, I quote from my diary the case of a great
English lady whom I met while I was nursing in the battle region back of
Verdun. She had come from London to be near her son, a magnificent
soldier, the handsomest Englishman I have ever seen, who had been
wounded in the Mesopotamian campaign and was now here for his
convalescence.

"Lady Maude H---- G---- is a fascinating woman," I wrote. "She must have
been a great beauty in her day, and she seems to be a figure in the
rich, smart London set. She speaks quite casually of being invited to
this or that palace for a chat and a cup of tea with one of the
princesses or even with the Queen. During hours that she spent at the
hospital she talked to me frankly and charmingly about many things
connected with her boy and his future. She is worried lest some
designing woman get him in her power, and one day she told me that she
has arranged matters for Leonard so that he will be spared certain
perils of this kind that might surround him in London. This excellent
and brilliant mother has solved her son's problem--the sex problem--in
the following extraordinary way, which proves, so she seems to think,
her love and wisdom. She has arranged matters--goodness knows how--so
that Leonard will be on excellent terms with two beautiful young matrons
in her set and in this way he will not be vamped off by any unscrupulous
chorus girl. These two beauties are to serve for the delectation of this
young warrior until he can make a suitable marriage. What a commentary
upon the morals and standards of high society!"

How can one explain such incredible baseness?

This woman is not an ignoble person. On the contrary she is kind and
generous, full of the best intentions. She has simply reached a point in
her selfish round of vanity and pleasure-seeking where she can no longer
distinguish between right and wrong. Her soul is withered, starved,
because it has been deprived of God's love and God's truth; yet the
deterioration came gradually, no doubt, beginning with petty lies and
compromises and evasions of responsibility. If _she_ had any past
transgression on her conscience it is certain she never told her husband
about it.

It is a rule among women (with few exceptions) that idleness and
uselessness make for selfishness and sensuality. Also for irreligion.
These ultra _mondaines_ think of God in an amiable, well-bred way--they
approve of God, and they say their prayers in an amiable, well-bred way;
but none of this avails to regenerate their lives or to combat the
sensuality of their self-indulgent men. Nor does it save these women
themselves from submitting to a social regime that is largely based on
indulgence of the senses and the appetites. _Il y en a, de ces femmes du
monde, qui se conduisent d'une façon pire que les filles de joie._

       *       *       *       *       *

As for myself I told my husband everything. I kept back nothing of my
waywardness and sinfulness, my evil thoughts and desires. I admit that
most men would not forgive a wife or a young bride who confessed to some
sex transgression committed before her marriage. I also admit that the
chances are against a husband's discovering such a transgression, if the
wife keeps silent. It is apparently to the wife's advantage to keep
silent; it apparently pays, in this case, to live a lie; but if deeper
values are considered, if the sacredness of a woman's soul is taken into
account, then a woman will see that she must confess, regardless of
consequences. Alas, this is a very hard thing for the ordinary woman to
do--the ordinary woman who is neither a saint on a stained glass window
nor the heroine of a novel. But if she has the moral courage to confess
her sin (knowing that life is given us for something else than temporary
advantage), then, having cleansed her soul, she will be singularly
blessed with peace of mind, and will be given strength to bear whatever
comes, even loneliness. Besides, there are men who know how to forgive.
God knows most of them have need enough to be forgiven themselves.



EPILOGUE

A WOMAN'S LITANY


(_Written by Penelope Wells_)

I dedicate to other women who may have done wrong, as I did, or who may
be sorely tempted as I was, these thoughts that have comforted me--they
have been like a consecration of my life. I have had them printed on
vellum in a little red book no larger than a visiting card and so thin
that I can slip it inside my glove. This is my talisman. I read these
thoughts whenever I am wavering or discouraged, wherever I may be, in
crowds or solitude, walking in the street, sitting in a car, and they
always give me new heart and courage.


I

When I am weak or embittered, indolent, envious, I know that I can find
strength through the performance of some loving act, however small. I
can brighten the dullest sky with the sunshine of a little love. I know
that sin and evil come chiefly from selfishness and sensuality. I can
conquer selfishness by love. I can conquer sensuality by love. I can
overcome all evil, all fear, all vanity, by love. There is no death,
but the death of love. From which,

_Dear Lord, deliver me._


II

I know that pride is the worship of self: but humility is the worship of
God. Pride leads to discontent, but humility in loving service (no
matter how obscure) gives peace of mind. From all forms of pride,

_Dear Lord, deliver me._


III

I know that only harm can come to me from dwelling upon past mistakes,
follies, sins. I cannot change these so I put them out of my thoughts
and concentrate on the present, which is mine to do with as I please.
From all vain regrets,

_Dear Lord, deliver me._


IV

I know that right living comes only from right thinking. To do right
under stress of law or custom while desiring to do wrong is to make a
mockery of virtue. I must sincerely desire to do right. The forces of
life-control must act from within me, not from without. From all
hypocrisy and false pretense,

_Dear Lord, deliver me._


V

I know that a woman cannot be virtuous if she longs for sensuality, or
dallies with it, or dwells upon it in her thoughts, even though she
refrain from any sinful act. Nor can a married woman be a truly virtuous
wife if she yields to perverse revellings of the imagination which
defile body and soul--_even with her husband_! From all defilements of
love,

_Dear Lord, deliver me._


THE END





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