Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

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

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

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



Transcribed from the 1918 Boni and Liveright edition by David Price,
email ccx074@pglaf.org



                                 CAN SUCH
                                THINGS BE?


                                    BY
                              AMBROSE BIERCE

                [Picture: Decorative graphic labelled B L]

                                * * * * *

                             BONI & LIVERIGHT
                           NEW YORK        1918

                                * * * * *

                           COPYRIGHT, 1909, BY
                       THE NEALE PUBLISHING COMPANY

                                * * * * *



CONTENTS

                                        PAGE
THE DEATH OF HALPIN FRAYSER               13
THE SECRET OF MACARGER’S GULCH            44
ONE SUMMER NIGHT                          58
THE MOONLIT ROAD                          62
A DIAGNOSIS OF DEATH                      81
MOXON’S MASTER                            88
A TOUGH TUSSLE                           106
ONE OF TWINS                             121
THE HAUNTED VALLEY                       134
A JUG OF SIRUP                           155
STALEY FLEMING’S HALLUCINATION           169
A RESUMED IDENTITY                       174
A BABY TRAMP                             185
THE NIGHT-DOINGS AT “DEADMAN’S”          194
BEYOND THE WALL                          210
A PSYCHOLOGICAL SHIPWRECK                227
THE MIDDLE TOE OF THE RIGHT FOOT         235
JOHN MORTONSON’S FUNERAL                 252
THE REALM OF THE UNREAL                  255
JOHN BARTINE’S WATCH                     268
THE DAMNED THING                         280
HAÏTA THE SHEPHERD                       297
AN INHABITANT OF CARCOSA                 308
THE STRANGER                             315



THE DEATH OF HALPIN FRAYSER


I


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



II


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



III


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

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

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



IV


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

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

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

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

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

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

“You remember Branscom?” said Jaralson, treating his companion’s wit with
the inattention that it deserved.

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

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

“The devil!  That’s where they buried his wife.”

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

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

“But you had exhausted all the other places.  Learning your failure at
them, I ‘laid for him’ there.”

“And you found him?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What is?”

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

“Naturally.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Poor devil! he had a rough deal.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “At last the viewless—”

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

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

“Who’s Bayne?” Holker asked rather incuriously.

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

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

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

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

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

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



THE SECRET OF MACARGER’S GULCH


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

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

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

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

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

                   a more familiar face
    Than that of man—

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                * * * * *

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

“Mr. Morgan,” I asked abruptly, “do you know a place up there called
Macarger’s Gulch?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I had deposited a chicken bone in my finger bowl.

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

“Will you let me see it?” I said.

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

“By the way, Mr. Elderson,” said my affable host, “may I know why you
asked about ‘Macarger’s Gulch’?”

“I lost a mule near there once,” I replied, “and the mischance has—has
quite—upset me.”

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



ONE SUMMER NIGHT


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You saw it?” cried one.

“God! yes—what are we to do?”

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

“I’m waiting for my pay,” he said.

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



THE MOONLIT ROAD


I
STATEMENT OF JOEL HETMAN, JR.


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

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

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

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

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

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

“God!  God! what is that?”

“I hear nothing,” I replied.

“But see—see!” he said, pointing along the road, directly ahead.

I said: “Nothing is there.  Come, father, let us go in—you are ill.”

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

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



II
STATEMENT OF CASPAR GRATTAN


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

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

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

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

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

                    Remote, unfriended, melancholy, slow.

Ah, the poet’s prophecy of Me—how admirable, how dreadfully admirable!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



A DIAGNOSIS OF DEATH


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“‘I beg your pardon,’ I said, somewhat coldly, ‘but if you knocked I did
not hear.’

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

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

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

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

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

Hawver stared and did not reply.

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

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

Hawver was apparently growing nervous.

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

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

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

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



MOXON’S MASTER


“ARE you serious?—do you really believe that a machine thinks?”

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

Presently he said:

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

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

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

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

“And what, pray, does it think with—in the absence of a brain?”

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

“With what does a plant think—in the absence of a brain?”

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

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

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

“And all this?”

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

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

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

“I do not explain them.”

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

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

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

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

“How would it do to trim its nails?”

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

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

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

“‘Life,’ he says, ‘is a definite combination of heterogeneous changes,
both simultaneous and successive, in correspondence with external
coexistences and sequences.’”

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

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

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

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

“Moxon, whom have you in there?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Tell me about it,” I managed to say, faintly—“all about it.”

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

“And Moxon?”

“Buried yesterday—what was left of him.”

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

“Who rescued me?”

“Well, if that interests you—I did.”

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

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

“Do you know that?”

“I do,” I replied; “I saw it done.”

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



A TOUGH TUSSLE


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Bah!” he exclaimed; “he was an actor—he knows how to be dead.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



ONE OF TWINS


        A LETTER FOUND AMONG THE PAPERS OF THE LATE MORTIMER BARR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



THE HAUNTED VALLEY


I
HOW TREES ARE FELLED IN CHINA


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



II
WHO DRIVES SANE OXEN SHOULD HIMSELF BE SANE


“Gee-up, there, old Fuddy-Duddy!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

                            JO. DUNFER.  DONE FOR.

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

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

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

“No, sir; he justifiably homicided him.”

“Then he really did kill him.”

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

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

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

“Jealous of _you_!” I repeated with ill-mannered astonishment.

“That’s what I said.  Why not?—don’t I look all right?”

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s that kind of tongue,” he replied, and not another word would he say
about it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That’s why I’m afraid of ’im.”

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

“Gee-up, there, you derned old Geranium.”



A JUG OF SIRUP


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why!—what the devil,” he said, “has become of that jug?”

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

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

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

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

“Are you quite sure, Alvan?”

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

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

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

“For Heaven’s sake,” she said, “what ails you?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



STALEY FLEMING’S HALLUCINATION


OF two men who were talking one was a physician.

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

“You look all right,” the physician said.

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

“You say you wake; are you sure about that?  ‘Hallucinations’ are
sometimes only dreams.”

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

“’M, ’m—what is the beast’s expression?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes, there is an electric bell.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

But there was no animal.



A RESUMED IDENTITY


I
THE REVIEW AS A FORM OF WELCOME


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



II
WHEN YOU HAVE LOST YOUR LIFE CONSULT A PHYSICIAN


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

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

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

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

The physician merely nodded.

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

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

“Not seriously—it seems.”

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

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

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

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

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

“That is true.  I—I don’t quite understand.”

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

“How old are you?”

“Twenty-three—if that has anything to do with it.”

“You don’t look it; I should hardly have guessed you to be just that.”

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

“You are quite sure that you saw them?”

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

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

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

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



III
THE DANGER OF LOOKING INTO A POOL OF WATER


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

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

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

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

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



A BABY TRAMP


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jo did not.

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



THE NIGHT-DOINGS AT “DEADMAN’S”


                          A STORY THAT IS UNTRUE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You bet your life I am!”

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

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

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

“But _I_ think you’d better skedaddle.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He did not get it.”

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

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

“But he keeps coming!”

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

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

“Do you play me for a Modoc?”

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

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

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

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

“They are swiping my dust!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bang!

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

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

                                * * * * *

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



BEYOND THE WALL


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Please be seated,” he said; “it is nothing—no one is there.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“‘Good morning, Mr. Dampier,’ she said.  ‘Have you heard the news?’

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

“‘About the sick young lady next door,’ she babbled on.  ‘What! you did
not know?  Why, she has been ill for weeks.  And now—’

“I almost sprang upon her.  ‘And now,’ I cried, ‘now what?’

“‘She is dead.’

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

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

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

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



A PSYCHOLOGICAL SHIPWRECK


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

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

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

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

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

                                * * * * *

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

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

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

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

“Doyle,” I repeated, “did they save _her_?”

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

“Her?  Whom do you mean?”

“Janette Harford.”

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

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

A moment later I asked: “What ship is this?”

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

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

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

“Have I been ill?”

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

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

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

“First tell me what _you_ know of her?”

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

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

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

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

“Doyle, what book are you reading?”

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

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

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

“She had—she has—a singular taste in reading,” I managed to say,
mastering my agitation.

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

“You talked of her in your sleep,” I said.

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



THE MIDDLE TOE OF THE RIGHT FOOT


I


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The man standing apart from the group bowed and smiled.

“And you, Mr. Grossmith?”

The heavy man bowed and scowled.

“You will be pleased to remove your outer clothing.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



II


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That chap was obviously listening intently to the conversation.

“Damn his impudence!” muttered King—“what ought we to do?”

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

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

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

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

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

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



III


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



JOHN MORTONSON’S FUNERAL {252}


JOHN MORTONSON was dead: his lines in “the tragedy ‘Man’” had all been
spoken and he had left the stage.

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

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

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

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

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

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



THE REALM OF THE UNREAL


I


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

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

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

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

“You are Dr. Dorrimore, I think,” said I.

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

“Which I extend with all my heart.”

That was not altogether true.

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



II


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

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

“For example, how?” asked another, lighting a cigar.

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

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

“Certainly not: I have seen them too often.”

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

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

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

“Mr. Manrich,” he said, “I am going your way.”

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

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

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

“How do you know that?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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



III


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

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

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

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

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

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



IV


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

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

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

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

“What name did you say?”

“Corray.”

“Nobody of that name has been here.”

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

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

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

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



V


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

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



JOHN BARTINE’S WATCH


                          A STORY BY A PHYSICIAN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What is your view of the matter—of the justice of it?”

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

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

“Was that all?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Damn you! it is two minutes to eleven!”

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

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

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

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

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

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



THE DAMNED THING


I
ONE DOES NOT ALWAYS EAT WHAT IS ON THE TABLE


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

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

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

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

The coroner nodded; no one else greeted him.

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

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

The coroner smiled.

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

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

“But you say it is incredible.”

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

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

The men removed their hats.  The witness was sworn.

“What is your name?” the coroner asked.

“William Harker.”

“Age?”

“Twenty-seven.”

“You knew the deceased, Hugh Morgan?”

“Yes.”

“You were with him when he died?”

“Near him.”

“How did that happen—your presence, I mean?”

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

“I sometimes read them.”

“Thank you.”

“Stories in general—not yours.”

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

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

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



II
WHAT MAY HAPPEN IN A FIELD OF WILD OATS


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

“‘We’ve started a deer,’ I said.  ‘I wish we had brought a rifle.’

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

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

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

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

“‘What is it?  What the devil is it?’ I asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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



III
A MAN THOUGH NAKED MAY BE IN RAGS


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes.”

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

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

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

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

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



IV
AN EXPLANATION FROM THE TOMB


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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oct. 3.—I shall not go—it shall not drive me away.  No, this is _my_
house, _my_ land.  God hates a coward . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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



HAÏTA THE SHEPHERD


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Who would not have thee forever?” replied Haïta.  “Oh! never again leave
me until—until I—change and become silent and motionless.”

Haïta had no word for death.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



AN INHABITANT OF CARCOSA


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An owl on the branch of a decayed tree hooted dismally and was answered
by another in the distance.  Looking upward, I saw through a sudden rift
in the clouds Aldebaran and the Hyades!  In all this there was a hint of
night—the lynx, the man with the torch, the owl.  Yet I saw—I saw even
the stars in absence of the darkness.  I saw, but was apparently not seen
nor heard.  Under what awful spell did I exist?

I seated myself at the root of a great tree, seriously to consider what
it were best to do.  That I was mad I could no longer doubt, yet
recognized a ground of doubt in the conviction.  Of fever I had no trace.
I had, withal, a sense of exhilaration and vigor altogether unknown to
me—a feeling of mental and physical exaltation.  My senses seemed all
alert; I could feel the air as a ponderous substance; I could hear the
silence.

A great root of the giant tree against whose trunk I leaned as I sat held
inclosed in its grasp a slab of stone, a part of which protruded into a
recess formed by another root.  The stone was thus partly protected from
the weather, though greatly decomposed.  Its edges were worn round, its
corners eaten away, its surface deeply furrowed and scaled.  Glittering
particles of mica were visible in the earth about it—vestiges of its
decomposition.  This stone had apparently marked the grave out of which
the tree had sprung ages ago.  The tree’s exacting roots had robbed the
grave and made the stone a prisoner.

A sudden wind pushed some dry leaves and twigs from the uppermost face of
the stone; I saw the low-relief letters of an inscription and bent to
read it.  God in Heaven! _my_ name in full!—the date of _my_ birth!—the
date of _my_ death!

A level shaft of light illuminated the whole side of the tree as I sprang
to my feet in terror.  The sun was rising in the rosy east.  I stood
between the tree and his broad red disk—no shadow darkened the trunk!

A chorus of howling wolves saluted the dawn.  I saw them sitting on their
haunches, singly and in groups, on the summits of irregular mounds and
tumuli filling a half of my desert prospect and extending to the horizon.
And then I knew that these were ruins of the ancient and famous city of
Carcosa.

                                * * * * *

Such are the facts imparted to the medium Bayrolles by the spirit Hoseib
Alar Robardin.



THE STRANGER


A MAN stepped out of the darkness into the little illuminated circle
about our failing campfire and seated himself upon a rock.

“You are not the first to explore this region,” he said, gravely.

Nobody controverted his statement; he was himself proof of its truth, for
he was not of our party and must have been somewhere near when we camped.
Moreover, he must have companions not far away; it was not a place where
one would be living or traveling alone.  For more than a week we had
seen, besides ourselves and our animals, only such living things as
rattlesnakes and horned toads.  In an Arizona desert one does not long
coexist with only such creatures as these: one must have pack animals,
supplies, arms—“an outfit.”  And all these imply comrades.  It was
perhaps a doubt as to what manner of men this unceremonious stranger’s
comrades might be, together with something in his words interpretable as
a challenge, that caused every man of our half-dozen “gentlemen
adventurers” to rise to a sitting posture and lay his hand upon a
weapon—an act signifying, in that time and place, a policy of
expectation.  The stranger gave the matter no attention and began again
to speak in the same deliberate, uninflected monotone in which he had
delivered his first sentence:

“Thirty years ago Ramon Gallegos, William Shaw, George W. Kent and Berry
Davis, all of Tucson, crossed the Santa Catalina mountains and traveled
due west, as nearly as the configuration of the country permitted.  We
were prospecting and it was our intention, if we found nothing, to push
through to the Gila river at some point near Big Bend, where we
understood there was a settlement.  We had a good outfit but no
guide—just Ramon Gallegos, William Shaw, George W. Kent and Berry Davis.”

The man repeated the names slowly and distinctly, as if to fix them in
the memories of his audience, every member of which was now attentively
observing him, but with a slackened apprehension regarding his possible
companions somewhere in the darkness that seemed to enclose us like a
black wall; in the manner of this volunteer historian was no suggestion
of an unfriendly purpose.  His act was rather that of a harmless lunatic
than an enemy.  We were not so new to the country as not to know that the
solitary life of many a plainsman had a tendency to develop
eccentricities of conduct and character not always easily distinguishable
from mental aberration.  A man is like a tree: in a forest of his fellows
he will grow as straight as his generic and individual nature permits;
alone in the open, he yields to the deforming stresses and tortions that
environ him.  Some such thoughts were in my mind as I watched the man
from the shadow of my hat, pulled low to shut out the firelight.  A
witless fellow, no doubt, but what could he be doing there in the heart
of a desert?

Having undertaken to tell this story, I wish that I could describe the
man’s appearance; that would be a natural thing to do.  Unfortunately,
and somewhat strangely, I find myself unable to do so with any degree of
confidence, for afterward no two of us agreed as to what he wore and how
he looked; and when I try to set down my own impressions they elude me.
Anyone can tell some kind of story; narration is one of the elemental
powers of the race.  But the talent for description is a gift.

Nobody having broken silence the visitor went on to say:

“This country was not then what it is now.  There was not a ranch between
the Gila and the Gulf.  There was a little game here and there in the
mountains, and near the infrequent water-holes grass enough to keep our
animals from starvation.  If we should be so fortunate as to encounter no
Indians we might get through.  But within a week the purpose of the
expedition had altered from discovery of wealth to preservation of life.
We had gone too far to go back, for what was ahead could be no worse than
what was behind; so we pushed on, riding by night to avoid Indians and
the intolerable heat, and concealing ourselves by day as best we could.
Sometimes, having exhausted our supply of wild meat and emptied our
casks, we were days without food or drink; then a water-hole or a shallow
pool in the bottom of an _arroyo_ so restored our strength and sanity
that we were able to shoot some of the wild animals that sought it also.
Sometimes it was a bear, sometimes an antelope, a coyote, a cougar—that
was as God pleased; all were food.

“One morning as we skirted a mountain range, seeking a practicable pass,
we were attacked by a band of Apaches who had followed our trail up a
gulch—it is not far from here.  Knowing that they outnumbered us ten to
one, they took none of their usual cowardly precautions, but dashed upon
us at a gallop, firing and yelling.  Fighting was out of the question: we
urged our feeble animals up the gulch as far as there was footing for a
hoof, then threw ourselves out of our saddles and took to the _chaparral_
on one of the slopes, abandoning our entire outfit to the enemy.  But we
retained our rifles, every man—Ramon Gallegos, William Shaw, George W.
Kent and Berry Davis.”

“Same old crowd,” said the humorist of our party.  He was an Eastern man,
unfamiliar with the decent observances of social intercourse.  A gesture
of disapproval from our leader silenced him and the stranger proceeded
with his tale:

“The savages dismounted also, and some of them ran up the gulch beyond
the point at which we had left it, cutting off further retreat in that
direction and forcing us on up the side.  Unfortunately the _chaparral_
extended only a short distance up the slope, and as we came into the open
ground above we took the fire of a dozen rifles; but Apaches shoot badly
when in a hurry, and God so willed it that none of us fell.  Twenty yards
up the slope, beyond the edge of the brush, were vertical cliffs, in
which, directly in front of us, was a narrow opening.  Into that we ran,
finding ourselves in a cavern about as large as an ordinary room in a
house.  Here for a time we were safe: a single man with a repeating rifle
could defend the entrance against all the Apaches in the land.  But
against hunger and thirst we had no defense.  Courage we still had, but
hope was a memory.

“Not one of those Indians did we afterward see, but by the smoke and
glare of their fires in the gulch we knew that by day and by night they
watched with ready rifles in the edge of the bush—knew that if we made a
sortie not a man of us would live to take three steps into the open.  For
three days, watching in turn, we held out before our suffering became
insupportable.  Then—it was the morning of the fourth day—Ramon Gallegos
said:

“‘Senores, I know not well of the good God and what please him.  I have
live without religion, and I am not acquaint with that of you.  Pardon,
senores, if I shock you, but for me the time is come to beat the game of
the Apache.’

“He knelt upon the rock floor of the cave and pressed his pistol against
his temple.  ‘Madre de Dios,’ he said, ‘comes now the soul of Ramon
Gallegos.’

“And so he left us—William Shaw, George W. Kent and Berry Davis.

“I was the leader: it was for me to speak.

“‘He was a brave man,’ I said—‘he knew when to die, and how.  It is
foolish to go mad from thirst and fall by Apache bullets, or be skinned
alive—it is in bad taste.  Let us join Ramon Gallegos.’

“‘That is right,’ said William Shaw.

“‘That is right,’ said George W. Kent.

“I straightened the limbs of Ramon Gallegos and put a handkerchief over
his face.  Then William Shaw said: ‘I should like to look like that—a
little while.’

“And George W. Kent said that he felt that way, too.

“‘It shall be so,’ I said: ‘the red devils will wait a week.  William
Shaw and George W. Kent, draw and kneel.’

“They did so and I stood before them.

“‘Almighty God, our Father,’ said I.

“‘Almighty God, our Father,’ said William Shaw.

“‘Almighty God, our Father,’ said George W. Kent.

“‘Forgive us our sins,’ said I.

“‘Forgive us our sins,’ said they.

“‘And receive our souls.’

“‘And receive our souls.’

“‘Amen!’

“‘Amen!’

“I laid them beside Ramon Gallegos and covered their faces.”

There was a quick commotion on the opposite side of the campfire: one of
our party had sprung to his feet, pistol in hand.

“And you!” he shouted—“_you_ dared to escape?—you dare to be alive?  You
cowardly hound, I’ll send you to join them if I hang for it!”

But with the leap of a panther the captain was upon him, grasping his
wrist.  “Hold it in, Sam Yountsey, hold it in!”

We were now all upon our feet—except the stranger, who sat motionless and
apparently inattentive.  Some one seized Yountsey’s other arm.

“Captain,” I said, “there is something wrong here.  This fellow is either
a lunatic or merely a liar—just a plain, every-day liar whom Yountsey has
no call to kill.  If this man was of that party it had five members, one
of whom—probably himself—he has not named.”

“Yes,” said the captain, releasing the insurgent, who sat down, “there is
something—unusual.  Years ago four dead bodies of white men, scalped and
shamefully mutilated, were found about the mouth of that cave.  They are
buried there; I have seen the graves—we shall all see them to-morrow.”

The stranger rose, standing tall in the light of the expiring fire, which
in our breathless attention to his story we had neglected to keep going.

“There were four,” he said—“Ramon Gallegos, William Shaw, George W. Kent
and Berry Davis.”

With this reiterated roll-call of the dead he walked into the darkness
and we saw him no more.

At that moment one of our party, who had been on guard, strode in among
us, rifle in hand and somewhat excited.

“Captain,” he said, “for the last half-hour three men have been standing
out there on the _mesa_.”  He pointed in the direction taken by the
stranger.  “I could see them distinctly, for the moon is up, but as they
had no guns and I had them covered with mine I thought it was their move.
They have made none, but, damn it! they have got on to my nerves.”

“Go back to your post, and stay till you see them again,” said the
captain.  “The rest of you lie down again, or I’ll kick you all into the
fire.”

The sentinel obediently withdrew, swearing, and did not return.  As we
were arranging our blankets the fiery Yountsey said: “I beg your pardon,
Captain, but who the devil do you take them to be?”

“Ramon Gallegos, William Shaw and George W. Kent.”

“But how about Berry Davis?  I ought to have shot him.”

“Quite needless; you couldn’t have made him any deader.  Go to sleep.”



FOOTNOTES


{252}  Rough notes of this tale were found among the papers of the late
Leigh Bierce.  It is printed here with such revision only as the author
might himself have made in transcription.





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

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home