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Title: On the Borderland
Author: Austin, F. Britten (Frederick Britten)
Language: English
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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.

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ON THE BORDERLAND


      *      *      *      *      *      *

BOOKS BY

F. BRITTEN AUSTIN

ACCORDING TO ORDERS
IN ACTION
ON THE BORDERLAND
THE SHAPING OF LAVINIA
THE THING THAT MATTERS

      *      *      *      *      *      *


ON THE BORDERLAND

by

F. BRITTEN AUSTIN


[Illustration: Logo]



Garden City      New York
Doubleday, Page & Company
1923

Copyright, 1923 by
Doubleday, Page & Company
All Rights Reserved, Including That of Translation
into Foreign Languages, Including the Scandinavian

Copyright, 1919, by the Curtis Publishing Company in
the United States and Great Britain

Copyright, 1919, 1920, by International Magazine Co.

Copyright, 1920, by Consolidated Magazines Corporation
(The Red Book Magazine)
All Rights Reserved

Printed in the United States
at
The Country Life Press, Garden City, N. Y.

First Edition



TO

EDWARD CECIL

IN

OLD FRIENDSHIP



CONTENTS

                                     PAGE
BURIED TREASURE                         1

A PROBLEM IN REPRISALS                 28

SECRET SERVICE                         51

THE STRANGE CASE OF MR. TODMORDEN      83

THROUGH THE GATE OF HORN               98

THE WHITE DOG                         122

A POINT OF ETHICS                     143

THE LOVERS                            165

HELD IN BONDAGE                       187

SHE WHO CAME BACK                     211

FROM THE DEPTHS                       231

YELLOW MAGIC                          253



ON THE BORDERLAND



BURIED TREASURE


For the last twenty minutes the after-dinner talk of the little group
of men in the liner’s smoking-room had revelled in the uncanny. One
man had started it, rather diffidently, with a strange yarn. Another
had capped it. Then, no longer restrained by the fear of a humiliating
scepticism in their audience, they gave themselves up to that
mysteriously satisfying enjoyment of the inexplicably marvellous, vying
with each other in stories which, as they were narrated, were no doubt
more or less unconsciously modified to suit the argument, but which one
and all dealt with experience that in the ultimate analysis could not
be explained by the normal how and why of life.

“What do you think of all this, doctor?” said one of the story-tellers,
turning suddenly to a keen-eyed elderly man who had been listening in
silence. “As a specialist in mental disorders you must have had a vast
experience of delusions of every kind. Is there any truth in all this
business of spiritualism, automatic writing, reincarnation and the rest
of it? What’s the scientific reason for it all?--for some reason there
must be! People don’t tell all these stories just for fun.”

The doctor shifted his pipe in his mouth and smiled, his eyes twinkling.

“You seem to find a certain amount of amusement in it,” he
remarked, drily. “The scientific reasons you ask for so easily are
highly controversial. But many of the phenomena are undoubtedly
genuine--automatic writing, for instance. It is a fact that persons
of a certain type find their hand can write, entirely independent
of their conscious attention, coherent sentences whose meaning is
utterly strange to them. They need not even deliberately make their
mind a blank. They may be surprised by their hand suddenly writing on
its own initiative when their consciousness is fixed upon some other
occupation, such as entering up an account-book. Always they have
a vivid feeling that not their own but another distinctly separate
intelligence guides the pen. This feeling is not evidence, of course.
It may be an illusion; probably is.

“The best-analyzed reincarnation story is probably that dealt with by
Professor Flournoy in his study of the famous medium Hélène Smith of
Geneva. This lady sincerely believed herself to be a reincarnation
of Marie Antoinette--and in her trance-state she acted the part with
astonishing fidelity and dramatic power. In her normal condition she
certainly possessed neither so much detailed knowledge of the life of
the ill-fated queen nor so much histrionic ability. She also wrote
automatically, and some of her productions were amazing, to say the
least of them. Well, Professor Flournoy’s psychological investigations
proved clearly to my thinking that it was a case of her subconscious
mind dramatizing, with that wonderful faculty of impersonation which
characterizes it, a few hints accidentally dropped into it and
combining with her subconscious memory, which forgets nothing it has
ever heard or read or even casually glanced at, to produce an almost
perfect representation of Marie Antoinette. Also he proved that her
automatic writing emanated from her own subconscious mind and nowhere
else.

“Now, I am not going to say that discarnate spirits do not communicate
through this subconscious activity of which one form is automatic
writing. I am not going to say that we do not become reincarnated
through an endless cycle of lives. I do not know enough about it to
assert such a negative--no one does. All I know about the human mind
is that we know very little about it. It is like the moon, of which
you never see more than the small end. Infinite possibilities lie in
the shadow. You are only conscious of a small fraction of your own
personality. The subconscious--the unillumined portion of your soul--is
incomputably vast. It learns everything, forgets nothing; possibly
it even goes on from life to life. When it is tapped by any of those
traditional means which nowadays we call spiritualistic one may--or may
not--come across buried treasure.”

“But you yourself do not believe in the truth of spiritualism as an
actual fact, doctor?” queried one of the group, a trace of aggression
in his tone.

The doctor shrugged his shoulders.

“I accord _belief_ to a very limited number of attested facts, my
friend,” he said. “That I am sitting here with you, for example. I am
ready to adopt provisionally all sorts of hypotheses to explain those
varied phenomena of life, the ultimate explanation of which must in any
case elude me. They are hypotheses for myself--I do not announce them
as dogmas for others. But--if you do not think it is too late--I will
tell you a story, a rather queer experience of my own, and you can form
your own hypotheses in explanation of it.”

There was a chorus of approval. The doctor waited while the steward
refilled the glasses at the instance of one of the group, relit his
pipe, and settled himself to begin.


It was in 1883. I was a young man. I had recently finished walking the
hospitals, got my degree, and before settling down into practice at
home had decided to see a little of the world. So I signed on for a few
voyages as a ship’s doctor. At the termination of one of them I found
myself at a loose end in New York. There I became friendly with the son
of a man who in his young days had been a Californian “Fortyniner,”
had made a pile, settled East, become a railroad speculator and made
millions--William Vandermeulen.

Old Vandermeulen had a delicate daughter, Pauline, then about nineteen
years of age and in the incipient stages of consumption. Under medical
advice, he was accustomed to take her each winter for a cruise
around the West Indies in his steam yacht. That year, young Geoffrey
Vandermeulen persuaded his father to ship me as medical officer. There
was nothing alarming in the young girl’s condition, of course, or a
much older and more experienced man would have accompanied them. She
was merely delicate.

We were a small party on board: the old man, his wife--a faded old lady
with no personality whatever--Pauline, Geoffrey, and myself. Geoffrey
was an ordinary, high-spirited young man, intelligent and a pleasant
companion, but not particularly remarkable. His sister was mildly
pretty but utterly devoid of attractiveness, extremely shy, and given
to sitting in blank reverie over a book. Although she always had one in
her hand, she read, as a matter of fact, very little. It was just an
excuse for day-dreaming. Of this girl the old man, otherwise as keen as
a razor and as hard as nails--commercially, I believe, he was little
better than a pirate--was inordinately fond. Outside business, she
was the absorbing passion of his life. There was no whim of hers that
he would not gratify. It was rather pathetic to see the old scoundrel
hanging over her frail innocence, all that he had of idealism centred
in her threatened life.

The cruise was pleasant but uneventful enough for some weeks. We
pottered down through the Bahamas to Jamaica and then turned eastward
with intent to visit the various ports of the Antilles as far south as
Barbados.

It was one evening while we were chugging peacefully across the
Caribbean Sea that occurred the first of the remarkable incidents which
made this voyage so memorable to me. I remember the setting of it
perfectly. We were all in the saloon; I suppose because the night was
for some reason unpleasant. The weather was calm, at any rate. Geoffrey
and I were reading. Old Vandermeulen and his wife were playing
cribbage. Pauline was sitting at a writing-table fixed in a corner of
the saloon, entering up the day’s trivial happenings in the diary which
she religiously kept. I remember glancing at her and noticing that she
was chewing the nail of her left thumb--a habit of which I was vainly
trying to break her--as she stared vacantly at the bulkhead, no doubt
ransacking her memory for some incident to record.

Suddenly she turned round upon us with a startled cry.

“Look, Mamma!--I have scrawled all over my diary without knowing that I
did it!--Isn’t that strange!”

We all of us looked up languidly. The mother made some banal remark,
but did not withdraw her attention from her cards. The father glanced
affectionately toward her without ceasing to count up the score he was
about to peg on the board. Geoffrey and I continued our reading.

But the girl had been puzzling over the scrawl and all at once she
jumped up from her seat and came across to us.

“Look!” she said. “Isn’t it funny? These words--they’re all like the
words on blotting-paper--they go backwards and inside out! And there
are figures, too!--Whatever could have made me do it?--And I don’t
remember doing it either, though of course I must have done so. There
was nothing on that page a minute before, I am sure of that!”

There was something curiously uneasy in the girl’s manner, a note in
her voice that impressed me. I got up, took the open diary from her
hand and there sure enough was a large uneven scrawl, two lines of it,
diagonally across the page, and, as she said, reversed, as though it
had been blotted down upon it.

Almost without thinking, I held the open page against one of the
mirrors panelled in the saloon wall--and I could not repress a cry
of astonishment. The scrawl was a decipherable sentence, mysterious
enough, but coherent!--I’ll write it down for you as nearly as I
remember it, so as to show you how it looked. He produced pencil and
paper from his pocket, wrote: “_lucia 1324 N 8127 W katalina sculle
point SWbS 3 trees digge jno dawson youre turne_:” There you are--the
last two words were added like a postscript and were followed by
a rough sketch, an irregular oval over a St. Andrew’s cross, like
this--O/X

I read out what was written, and Pauline stared at me wide-eyed.

“Whatever could have made me write that?” she exclaimed.

Geoffrey looked up, fraternally scornful.

“It’s a thin joke, Pauline! You can’t monkey us in that fashion! I
suppose you want to pretend that the ghost of some old pirate wrote it
down in your book so as to start us off on a Treasure Island hunt.”
Stevenson’s romance was then in its first success and Geoffrey had just
been reading it. “Of course, you wrote it deliberately--what nonsense!”

She turned round upon him, her eyes filling with tears in the vehemence
of her protest.

“Geoffrey, I couldn’t!--I couldn’t write reversed like that if I tried!”

“Oh, yes, you could,” asserted Geoffrey, confidently. “It’s easy
enough.”

“Supposing we all try,” said I, curious to test its feasibility. I felt
considerably puzzled. Pauline was not at all the sort of girl one would
expect to persist in such a pointless sort of practical joke as this,
and persistent she was--tearful like a child unjustly accused of a
crime of which it protests innocence.

Her mother and father renounced their game of cribbage and bent their
heads together over the enigmatic screed, without proffering an
opinion. It was evident that they did not wish to hurt their daughter’s
feelings by open scepticism. They would have humoured her in anything,
no matter how absurd.

I reiterated my suggestion and it was accepted in the spirit of a
parlour-game. A line from a book was selected, we all tried--and we all
failed hopelessly. None of us got more than two or three consecutive
letters right. It is not so easy as it sounds. Try it for yourselves!

At that time, although spiritualism was a great craze in America,
and D. D. Home, Eglinton, and other famous mediums, were arousing
enormous interest and controversy in England, automatic script was
an uncommon phenomenon. Table-rapping, levitation, slate-writing and
materialization were the wonders in vogue--and I had then never heard
of the “mirror-writing” which has since become a frequent form of
automatic expression. Neither, of course, _à fortiori_, had the young
girl who had just produced this mysterious specimen.

We all felt puzzled and impressed at our failure to imitate
deliberately the reversed script. Old Vandermeulen picked up the diary
and read the reflection of the scrawled page in the wall-mirror.

“Well, it’s sure strange!” he said in his twangy drawl. “Geoff! You
write this down in a straightaway hand and we’ll see if we can get any
sense out of it. I guess there’s some meaning in it. Pauline ain’t
joking.”

Geoffrey obeyed and read out the script again.

“‘_lucia 1324 N 8127 W katalina sculle point SWbS 3_ _trees digge jno
dawson youre turne_’--It’s exactly like the directions to a pirate’s
buried treasure, Father!” he added, excitedly. “Skull and crossbones
and all! But of course that’s ridiculous! Though I can’t understand how
Pauline could have written it like she did!”

“And I did not know even that I was writing!” asseverated Pauline, “let
alone know what I wrote! It was just as if my hand did not belong to
me--it was a sort of numbness that made me look down.”

“Tear it up, dear!” implored her mother anxiously. “I am sure it comes
from the Devil!” Mrs. Vandermeulen belonged to a particularly strict
little sect and was always ready to discern the immediate agency of
the Evil One.

“Devil or not!” said old Vandermeulen. “I guess if there’s any buried
treasure lying around here, I’m going to peg out my claim on it.”
He turned to me. “Young man, was there ever any pirates about these
parts?” The old ruffian was quite illiterate; had never, I believe,
read a book in his life.

“Why, yes,” I replied, “from the end of the sixteenth century these
seas were the chief haunt of the buccaneers and, after them, of the
pirates who were not entirely suppressed until well in the eighteenth
century. There must be any amount of their hidden treasure buried in
these islands.”

“You don’t say!” he exclaimed, his avaricious old eyes lighting up.
“And here have I been running this yacht up and down these parts for
five years at a dead loss!” His disgust would have been comic, were
it not for the ugly, ruthless lust of gold which looked suddenly out
of his face. “Guess I’m going to quit this fooling around right away!
I don’t know and don’t care if it was the Devil himself wrote this
specification in Pauline’s book--I’m darned sure she didn’t write it
herself--the handwriting’s different, d’you see?”--It was, as a matter
of fact, compared with the previous pages, quite another hand--hers
was an upright, rounded schoolgirl calligraphy, this was a cursive
old-fashioned script inclined well forward. “So as we’ve got nothing
else to start upon, we may as well see if there’s anything to it.” He
tossed Geoffrey’s transcription across to me. “What do you make of it,
young man?” he asked, with the sneering condescension he accorded to my
superior literary attainments.

I took it, rather amused at the old scoundrel’s simplicity. That there
was any authentic meaning in Pauline’s scrawl seemed to me wildly
improbable. I was a frank materialist in those days and had Carpenter’s
formula of “unconscious cerebration” glibly ready to cover up anything
psychologically abnormal. However, I considered the sheet of paper with
attention.

“Assuming this to be a genuine message,” I said, “it would appear to
give the precise latitude and longitude of some point where it is
desirable to dig. I take it that the figures stand for 13 degrees
24 minutes North, 81 degrees 27 minutes West. The world ‘_lucia_’
puzzles me--unless the island of St. Lucia is meant. What ‘_katalina_’
stands for, I do not know--it is evidently a proper name of some kind,
‘_sculle point SWbS 3 trees digge_’ presumably means that one should
dig under three trees south-west-by-south of Skull Point--wherever
that is. ‘_jno dawson_’ is, of course, John Dawson. Assuming this
to be a spirit-message from the other world,” I could not help
smiling ironically, “it is possibly the name of the ghost who is
communicating--and who desires to indicate to some person that it is
his or her turn. He does not specify for what. I may remark that the
ghost is either ill-educated or he has an archaic taste in spelling.”

“I don’t like it,” said Mrs. Vandermeulen, querulously timid. “Do
tear it up, William! I am sure harm will come of it!--It is the Devil
tempting you!”

“So long as he’s serious, he can tempt me sure easy!” said the old
ruffian in a tone of cool blasphemy which sent the colour out of his
wife’s face. He rang the bell and the negro steward appeared. “Sam! Ask
Captain Higgins to step in here for a moment!”

Captain Higgins, the skipper of the yacht, was a level-headed mariner
of middle age whom nothing ever ruffled. He was competence itself.

“Good evening, Captain Higgins,” said old Vandermeulen, fixing him
with the keen eyes under shaggy gray brows, eyes which defied you to
divine his purpose whilst they probed yours. “What’s the latitude and
longitude of the island of St. Lucia?”

“Fourteen North, sixty-one West,” replied Captain Higgins promptly.

Old Vandermeulen turned to me.

“Then it’s not St. Lucia, young man,” he said. He picked up Geoffrey’s
transcription. “Well, now, Captain Higgins, is there any place
thirteen-twenty-four North, eighty-one twenty-seven West?”

The skipper reflected a moment.

“No place of importance, certainly. I’ll get the chart.”

He returned with it, spread it out on the saloon table, ran his
forefinger across it.

“Here you are!” he said. “A small island called Old Providence. It
belongs to Colombia.”

Geoffrey, who was peering over his shoulder, uttered a startled
exclamation.

“And look!” he cried. “There’s your Katalina!” He pointed to a small
islet just north of Old Providence, a mere dot on the chart. “Santa
Katalina!--My hat! that is weird!”

It certainly was. From whatever stratum of Pauline’s consciousness her
writing had emanated, it was an amazing thing that she should have
written down the exact latitude and longitude of a tiny island off the
Nicaraguan coast and named it correctly. Even I could not help feeling
that it was more than a fortuitous coincidence, that it was uncanny.
The others surrendered themselves straight away.

I turned to look at Pauline. She was deathly white; evidently
frightened at being made the vehicle of this message from the beyond.
Her mother clutched at her, as though protecting her from unseen
dangers. Geoffrey’s imagination had caught fire, his eyes were bright
with excitement.

“My sakes! Pauline!” he cried. “I believe you now! You couldn’t have
written that out of your head. I’ve read of things like this before--I
guess you’re a medium and didn’t know it!--Father! We’ll track this
message down, wherever it comes from, say now?”

“It comes from the Devil! Tear it up--oh, tear it up!” implored Mrs.
Vandermeulen. “William! Tear it up--don’t follow it!”

Old Vandermeulen turned to the skipper. His jaw had set hard, his lips
were compressed, only the glitter in his eyes, peering in a momentary
fixation of thought from under his bent brows, showed that he shared
the excitement of his son. So he must have looked in his office when he
took the decisions which had made his millions.

“Captain Higgins,” he said, curtly ignoring the supplications of his
wife, “how long will it take us to reach that island?”

The skipper put his finger on the chart at a point south of Haiti.

“We’re here,” he said. He measured off the distance. “At our best rate
of twelve knots--about sixty hours steaming.”

The old man nodded.

“Put her about,” he said. His harsh tone had an odd ring about it, as
though he was secretly conscious of affronting mysterious dangers, was
all the more emphatic. “Right now!”

Captain Higgins never queried owners’ orders.

“Very good, sir,” he replied, stolidly, and walked out of the cabin.

A minute or two later we felt the yacht swing round. There is always
something impressive when a ship on the open sea goes about upon her
course, but I never felt it more powerfully than then. It seemed that
there was a fateful significance in our deliberate action.

Geoffrey meanwhile was poring over the sheet of paper on which he had
transcribed his sister’s reversed scrawl.

“It’s all perfectly clear,” he said, triumphantly. “We’ve got to make
this island of Santa Katalina, thirteen-twenty-four North, eighty-one
twenty-seven West, try and find a place called Skull Point, look for
three trees south-west-by-south of it, and dig! We understand every
word of it now!”

“All except the word ‘_lucia_’” I corrected, “and whose turn it is.”

“Yes--there’s that,” he said, dubiously. “I suppose every word has some
meaning.”

“You can bet it has!” I replied, half sarcastically humouring his
credulity, half surrendering myself to an uncritical acception of these
mysteriously given directions. “I wonder who this John Dawson was--if
he existed?”

“He’s a sure-enough ghost of some old pirate!” said Vandermeulen, with
complete conviction. “And I guess he’s putting us fair and good on to
his pile!”

I laughed, involuntarily, at this childishness. The old man frowned.

“There’s some things that perhaps even you all-fired clever young
fellows don’t know,” he said, crushingly. “’Tain’t the first time I’ve
heard of this sort of thing. A mate of mine in the old days at ’Frisco
was waked up one morning by the ghost of a prospector who’d died up in
the ranges. He told him just where he’d made his strike before his grub
gave out. My mate had never heard of the place but he lit straight away
on the trail--and sure enough the ghost was telling the truth. Old Jim
Hamilton it was--and he drank himself to death on what he got out of
it.” The old man looked me straight in the eyes as though challenging
me to doubt him. Of course, I could say nothing. He grunted scornfully,
and turned again to the chart still spread out upon the table. “It’s
a nice quiet out-of-the-way place,” reflected the old ruffian,
putting his thumb-nail on the lonely island. “Just the location for
a cache--guess they’d feel pretty sure of not being interfered with
there!” There was a grim undertone in his voice which was decidedly
ugly. He might, himself, have been the reincarnation of just such a
pirate as the one whose existence he was postulating.

Well, nothing more happened that night. Mrs. Vandermeulen, thoroughly
alarmed and uneasy, hustled her daughter off to bed. Old Vandermeulen
and his son sat up in an endless discussion of the mysterious script,
referring again and again to the chart which so startlingly confirmed
its indications, and speculating optimistically as to the nature and
amount of the treasure they were convinced was buried in the designated
place. They talked themselves into a complete faith in the supernatural
origin of the message, and, father and son alike--it was curious to
note the traits of resemblance which cropped out in them--were equally
indifferent as to whether its source was diabolic or benevolent.
Enormously wealthy although they already were, the prospect of this
phantom gold waiting to be unearthed had completely fascinated them.
At last I turned in, wearied with the thousand and one questions they
asked me and to which I could give no answer, disgusted with their
avarice, and scornfully contemptuous of their simplicity.

I found sleep no easy matter. Sceptical though I was, I could not get
Pauline’s curious production out of my head, and the more I thought of
it the more inexplicable seemed its coincidence with the chart. The
subconscious mind, with its amazing memory, its dramatic faculty, its
unexpected invasion of the surface consciousness in certain types, was
not then the commonplace of psychology that it is now--or I should
probably have referred the whole thing to the combination of a casual,
apparently unheeding, glance at the chart with a memory of some of
her brother’s remarks about “Treasure Island,” automatically and
dramatically reproduced. As it was, I could formulate no explanation
that satisfied me--though I utterly disbelieved in the ghost of a
piratical John Dawson, of which the two Vandermeulens were now fully
persuaded.

The next day found us steaming steadily westward. Father and son could
talk of nothing else but their fancied buried treasure and their plans
for digging it up without taking the crew of the yacht into their
confidence. Mrs. Vandermeulen hovered round her daughter, horribly
anxious of she knew not what, but--after having been once silenced by
a peremptory oath from her husband--afraid to make further protest.
Pauline herself sat all day in a deck-chair, more silent even than
usual, staring dreamily across the empty sea in a reverie which ignored
us all. Naturally, I watched her closely. But, except that her eyes had
a kind of haunting fear in them, she seemed perfectly normal. Evidently
the occurrence of the previous night had shocked her profoundly, for
once, when I casually mentioned it, she shuddered and implored me not
to speak of it again. The fear of the uncanny in herself stared out of
her eyes as she entreated me.

This dreamy absorption in herself continued until supper time that
evening. Throughout the meal, I do not think she uttered a single
word. She seemed not even to hear the conversation around her, but
toyed listlessly with her food and finally ceased to eat long before
the others had finished. Watching her with a professionally interested
observation, I was uneasy. She had leaned back in her chair, was gazing
straight before her with wide-open eyes. Suddenly I noticed that they
had glazed over. All expression faded out of her face. The arm that
rested on the salmon-table stiffened into a cataleptic sort of rigidity.

Her mother was also anxiously watching her.

“Pauline!” she cried. “Are you ill?”

There was no answer. The girl sat like a statue. Mrs. Vandermeulen
glanced at me in wild alarm, silently imploring my intervention.
Old Vandermeulen and his son were hotly arguing the desirability or
otherwise of informing Captain Higgins of their plans, and took no
notice of us.

I got up from my seat and went round the table to the girl. I lifted up
her lifelessly heavy arm with my fingers on her pulse. It was normal.

“Miss Vandermeulen!” I said, rather sharply. “Are you not well?”

She turned her head slowly round to me, like a sleep-walker faintly
aware of some sound that does not, however, wake her, and stared me
full in the face with eyes in which there was not the slightest glimmer
of recognition.

“Pauline!” almost screamed her mother, “don’t you know your own name?”

An expression of curious intelligence dawned in her face--her aspect
changed in some subtle manner, as though another, quite different,
personality was emerging in her--she laughed in low, confident tones
utterly unlike her ordinary laugh.

“My name is Lucia!” she said, as though stating a well-known fact.

Lucia! To say that we were startled is to understate our
astonishment--we were dumbfounded. The first word of the cryptic
message! We gazed at her for a moment as at a complete stranger
from the clouds--and indeed she looked it, as she smiled at us with
bright malicious eyes. The diffident Pauline we knew had completely
disappeared.

“She is possessed!” screamed her mother. “Oh, God--restore her! restore
her!”

The girl stood up suddenly from her chair, passed her hand over her
eyes, shook herself as though shaking off sleep. She turned away from
us deliberately.

“Oh, John!” she said, and there was an odd little foreign accent in
her tone, “I have dreamed--such a strange dream! I dreamed--I know
not!--that I was not Lucia!” She laughed softly in her new low tones,
“--That strange people were asking me my name. Then I woke--oh, John!”
she sidled up in a wheedling manner to what, so far as we could see,
was vacant space. “I am Lucia, am I not?--And you love me? You love
me?” Her shoulders moved sinuously as though she were putting herself
under the caresses of a person invisible to us. “You love me--and I
love you, although you have only that one terrible eye!” She still
spoke with that curious foreign accent which lent a certain piquancy
to her speech. “You love me, you John Dawson, you Englishman, you love
me for ever, say?” She reminded me of Carmen sidling up to Don José.
“You not deceive me--or----!” She looked up as into a tall man’s face
with a sudden expression of feline vindictiveness, her white teeth
showing in an ugly little rictus of the mouth, and slid her hand down
stealthily toward her stocking. “But no!” She smiled; her hand came up
again as though to rest upon a man’s shoulder. “You love me--and I love
you--and,” her voice dropped, “when we have killed the others we go
away with the treasure--you promise me, John Dawson?”

She appeared utterly unaware of our presence. There was a dramatic
intensity in her voice and gestures which thrilled even me, although I
had attended some hypnotic experiments in London and was aware of the
complete realism with which a somnambulist will play a part suggested
to him. I had no doubt whatever that she was in a state of hypnosis,
accidentally self-induced, and that she was merely acting on the
suggestions of the talk she had overheard.

Her mother, however, had no such consoling certitude. She hid her face
in her hands, groaning: “She is possessed! She is possessed! Oh, God,
cast out the evil spirit! cast out the evil spirit!”

Geoffrey was white to the lips, appalled, unable to utter a sound. The
old man stared at her, fascinated, a strange gleam in his eyes.

The mother turned to me in despair.

“Oh, doctor! Do something--do something!--Oh, if only we had a minister
here! She is possessed by an evil spirit! My Pauline! My Pauline!”
She sank on her knees by one of the swivel-chairs, gave herself up to
agonized prayers. “Oh, God, cast out the evil one! Oh, God, cast out
the evil one!”

Thinking that this strange incident had already lasted more than long
enough, I took a step toward the girl with a vague idea (though I
didn’t quite know how) of breaking the hypnosis. She stood looking
upward still, with a wheedling, diabolical smile, into apparent
nothingness.

“We will go together--we two--with the treasure, say, John Dawson?” she
murmured seductively, the very incarnation of a Delilah. “Mansvelt is
dead--we will run away from Simon and go with my people before they
kill us all--they are very many and you can only hold out two-three
days--but we might take the treasure, John Dawson, the treasure you
and Simon hid with Mansvelt--Simon, we will kill him--and we will go
away and be rich--rich, John Dawson--say?” Her voice was perfidiously
honeyed, her eyes glistened, as she caressed that uncanny empty air.

“What is she talking about?” muttered Geoffrey in a low, excited voice.
“Who are these people--Mansvelt and Simon? Have you heard of them,
doctor?”

I shook my head. They were utterly unknown to me. For a moment I
hesitated, fascinated by the little drama, curious to hear more.

The mother moaned.

“Oh, do something, doctor! do something!--Save her! Save her! Oh, God,
deliver her from the evil one!”

Her agony recalled me to my professional duty. I started forward but
before I could reach her I was snatched back by a violent hand on my
shoulder.

“Stand aside!” commanded old Vandermeulen in a terrible voice. “Evil
spirit or no evil spirit, I guess it knows all about that treasure--and
I’m going to hear what it’s got to say!” Of his normal love for his
daughter there was not a trace. The man was completely dominated, to
the exclusion of any other sentiment, by the lust for gold, more gold.
He looked scarcely human as his eyes glowered upon me, murder in them
if I thwarted him. “If it’s the Devil himself that’s got her--let her
talk!”

But the mother sprang up with a wild shriek, rushed toward her daughter.

“Do you wish her eternal damnation?” she cried, flinging her arms
about the girl. “Pauline! Pauline! For the love of God, don’t you know
me?--Oh, say a prayer--say a prayer after me!” She commenced the Lord’s
Prayer in a voice that trembled with anguish.

The girl stood rigid in her embrace, drawn up away from her, looking
down upon her with fixed and hostile eyes. She made one instinctive
movement to escape--and then suddenly crumpled in a swoon upon the
floor.

She came round easily enough under simple restoratives, looked up at
us with childish, bewildered eyes--the old Pauline again! Her mother
completely broke down over her, sobbing in almost crazy joy at her
restoration. Emotionally infected, perhaps, the girl also gave way to
a hysterical passion of weeping, which would not be checked, and for
which she could give no reason. She seemed not to have the slightest
recollection of the part she had just played. Old Vandermeulen, still
obsessed by his lust for the treasure, tried to question her. She only
stared at him dumbly--a vague fear coming into her eyes, but giving
no response. I silenced him with all the authority of my professional
position, and got the girl into her stateroom, where we left her with
her mother.

Throughout the next day neither of the two women appeared. Pauline
was utterly prostrated, and she remained in bed. Her mother stayed
with her, under strict injunctions to mention nothing of last night’s
terrible scene.

Meanwhile, of course, we were steadily drawing nearer to the Nicaraguan
coast and the island of Old Providence with its tiny and, to us,
fascinating satellite, Santa Katalina. Even I could not help wondering
what we should find there. The two Vandermeulens were in a fever of
excitement, cursing at every moment the slowness of the yacht. We were,
as a matter of fact, due to reach the island early next morning.

Some time in the afternoon, the old man approached me confidentially.

“Say, young know-all,” he said, “what d’you figure out was the meaning
of last night’s gaff? I guess Pauline ain’t got no natural talent for
play-acting like that.”

Rather foolishly, I amused myself with his credulity.

“Of course,” I said, concealing a smile, “it may be that in a previous
existence your daughter’s name was Lucia--the Spanish lady friend of
some of the buccaneers and particularly of a certain John Dawson, who
is now directing her to the treasure they buried together a few hundred
years ago.” I regretted my words the moment they were uttered. The
man’s infatuation needed no fanning from me.

“By God, you’ve hit it!” he exclaimed. “And she’s just remembering!--I
guess she can lead us straight to it!”

“Don’t be absurd!” I said, pettishly. “I was only joking!”

He glared at me in savage disappointment.

“You’re joking with the wrong man!” he said harshly. “Besides, it sure
ain’t impossible!--You don’t know what happens to us when we’re dead,
though you do think you know everything!”

“No--it’s not impossible,” I conceded. “But it’s improbable.”

“That’s your opinion,” he sneered. “You know nothing about it!--I’ve
had them feelings myself--feelings that I’ve been to a place before
when I sure know I haven’t. By God, that’s it!--Pauline’s just
remembering--coming back to these old places--and she’ll take us a
bee-line to the cache!”

He strode off to impart this illuminating theory to his son, and I saw
no more of them until supper time. They were, I was sure, concerting
some plan for cutting me out of a share in the treasure.

They had the furtive look of a couple of conspirators as we three,
Pauline and her mother still absent, sat that night at table. Both
forced themselves to exhibit a strained politeness to me, which
obviously concealed some treacherous design. I didn’t like the
atmosphere at all and was impelled to clear it.

“By the way,” I remarked, casually, “I don’t want a share in that
treasure--I prefer to work for my living.” As I had not the slightest
faith in its existence, this renunciation was not difficult. “Supposing
your theory to be true, it belongs to Miss Vandermeulen if it belongs
to any one.”

“Sure, that’s so!” agreed the old man. “It’s Pauline’s treasure, right
enough. Ain’t it, Geoffrey?”

“I guess it’s no one else’s,” said Geoffrey, picking up the idea. “I’ll
see to that.”

I could not help smiling at the gratuitous menace in his tone; he might
have been sitting on the treasure-chests already.

At that moment we were startled by an appalling scream, a choking cry,
from Pauline’s stateroom.

We rushed in and stood for a moment transfixed with horror. Pauline,
leaning out of her bunk, was throttling with both hands the life out
of her mother, who had been sitting by the bedside. In a flash of my
first perception of the scene, I saw that the girl had reverted to
her trance-personality. It was Lucia who had that deadly grip upon
the other woman’s throat, Lucia who glared at her with fiendishly
triumphant eyes, Lucia who gloated mockingly in her foreign accent:
“Ah, Teresa!--You think you would take the Englishman from me--you
think you would go away with John Dawson and the treasure?” She
laughed, cruelly exultant. “I think no, Teresa--I think no--not with
the treasure! You can go with that John Dawson, yes! But not with the
treasure! You go and wait for him--for your John Dawson--I will send
him to you--soon--soon!” Her low laugh was diabolical.

We flung ourselves upon her, but her strength was superhuman. She
seemed utterly oblivious of us, as heedless of our struggles as
though we were not there. Her eyes flashing, her teeth showing, she
continued to jeer at her victim in her foreign voice: “He will come
to you to-night--your John Dawson--as he promised, yes! I will send
him to you----!” Only as we finally tore the almost strangled Mrs.
Vandermeulen from her hands did she suddenly cease to speak. She sank
back upon the bed, swooning into complete unconsciousness.

I drove out the father and son and applied myself to reviving the
mother. I shall not forget the terrible night I had with her, after she
had resuscitated. At length, I had to give her a few drops of laudanum
to get her off to sleep. Pauline slept like a child.

I woke up the next morning to that strange feeling of hushed stillness
which pervades a ship when her engines are at rest after a long period
of unbroken activity. We were pitching heavily, evidently at anchor,
for our upward rise was every now and then suddenly and jarringly
arrested. We had arrived!

I went to look at my patients and found them both suffering from
sea-sickness. This vicious plunging of the yacht was more than their
weak stomachs could stand. I gave them each a steadying draught and
then went on deck.

The two Vandermeulens were on the bridge with the skipper. I ignored
them, instinctively avoiding their certain excitement. Upon our port
bow was a fairly large island, its rocky shore crowned with a dense
tropical foliage. On the other side of us was a small islet, barren
save for a few sparse trees scattered over it, surf breaking white upon
its beaches. Old Providence and its satellite, Santa Katalina! Between
the two islands a strong current was running, with a heavy ground-swell
in which we plunged and kicked, straining at our cables. No wonder the
two ladies were ill, I thought, as the deck sank sickeningly sideways
under my feet.

I went into the saloon and found that the Vandermeulens had already
breakfasted. As I ate my solitary meal, I could hear the heavy
trampling of feet on the deck overhead, and guessed that they were
hoisting outboard the little steam-launch we used when in harbour.

When I had finished, I went to have another look at Pauline. Her mother
was with her. Mentally, she was completely her normal self, with
apparently no memory even of that trance-personality which had for
the second time surged up in her. But she was feeling very ill in this
violent and disturbing motion of the anchored yacht.

Old Vandermeulen came in.

“Get up and dress, Pauline!” he commanded, brutally, as though bearing
down opposition in advance. “We’re going ashore!”

His wife sprang forward.

“Oh, no, no, William! Don’t take her! Don’t take her!--Don’t tempt
Providence. Don’t go! William! William!” she clung to him in
supplication. “She’s too ill to go! She’s too ill to go, isn’t she,
doctor?”

The old man shook her off.

“Nonsense!” he said roughly. Nevertheless, he turned enquiringly to me.

I considered the pros and cons dispassionately for a moment. Of course,
the old lady’s fears were mere superstition and did not influence me in
the least.

“Well,” I said, “I think that if Miss Vandermeulen feels equal to the
effort of dressing, it would do her good to get away from the yacht and
walk about on firm land for an hour or two.”

“I should like to,” said Pauline, all docility. “Besides,” she smiled,
“I should like to see for myself if there is any truth in that strange
writing.”

Half an hour later we had, with some difficulty, stowed the ladies--for
the mother insisted on coming also--in the stern-sheets of the little
launch which rose and fell dizzily under the lee of the yacht. The
two Vandermeulens were amidships, ready to give instructions to the
helmsman. I noticed that they had a pick and shovel on board. I sat
close to Pauline. She was looking pale, but the sea-sickness was in
abeyance for the moment and a touch of digitalis I had given her had
stiffened her up.

We sheered off, set a course over the rolling dark blue well toward the
islet we could see as we lifted on the waves. We had anchored rather
on the Old Providence side of the channel dividing the islands, and
the launch was about midway between the two when Pauline, who had been
looking around her with some curiosity, uttered a sudden ejaculation.

“That’s not the island!” she cried, with a gesture toward Santa
Katalina. “It’s the other one--the big one!” She pointed to Old
Providence. Then she checked herself, a peculiar look of puzzlement in
her face. “I wonder whatever made me say that!” she exclaimed. “One
would think I have been here before--but I can’t have!”

“But that’s Santa Katalina!” objected Geoffrey, pointing to the islet.
It undoubtedly was.

“Wait!” said old Vandermeulen, who had been sharply watching his
daughter for any sign of recognition. “I guess Pauline knows what she
is talking about!”

He stopped the engine and for a few moments we rose and fell idly upon
the waves, while the two men stared across to Old Providence.

“By Jove, yes!” cried Geoffrey suddenly. “Pauline’s right! Look!
There’s Skull Point!”

He indicated, with outstretched hand, a jutting headland whose face had
been weather-sculptured into the unmistakable semblance of a skull.

“Skull Point it is!” said old Vandermeulen, with such an oath as he did
not usually let come to his daughter’s ears.

In another moment we had gone about and were throbbing quickly toward
the headland. All eyes were fixed on it as we approached. Geoffrey had
produced a compass.

“Look!” he cried. “The three trees! South-west-by-south from Skull
Point!”

Sure enough, in the direction designated, three enormous trees,
evidently hundreds of years old, raised their heads high above the mass
of more recent vegetation.

A quarter of an hour later we were running into a little cove on the
west side of the headland. A ledge of rock, sheltered from the swell,
offered itself as a landing-stage, and we ran alongside and made fast.

Old Vandermeulen ordered the two members of the yacht’s crew, who had
accompanied us, to remain in the launch. The rest of us started off
into the island, Geoffrey carrying the tools. The three trees were at
no great distance, at the summit of a slope of broken-down volcanic
rock. Geoffrey arrived first.

“No need to worry where to dig, Father!” he shouted. “Here it is--plain
enough!”

Under the centre tree was a cairn of loose stones, more than half
buried under the detritus of many years, it is true, but evidently the
work of men’s hands.

“That’s it, sure!” cried the old man. “First time you’ve seen this
place, Pauline?” he queried, with a touch of grim cynicism.

“Of course!” she replied. “What do you mean, Father?--and yet--” she
hesitated, looking around her--“yet I do have a strange sort of feeling
as though I had been here before. But I can’t have! It’s absurd!”

Mother and daughter sat down under the shade of the trees whilst we
three set to work to open the cairn. I was as excited as they by this
time, and I helped with a will. The old man, wielding his pick with the
skill of an ex-miner, loosened the stones on the surface. I rolled away
the big ones, and Geoffrey shovelled away the smaller stuff. At the end
of an hour we had made a pretty deep excavation. We then took it in
turns to work with pick and shovel in the hole, from which we threw up
the stones.

Suddenly Geoffrey uttered an exclamation.

“We’re on something!--What’s that, doctor?” He passed me up a long bone.

“That’s the tibia of a man,” I replied. “I expect you’ll find the rest
of him there.”

“Sure thing!” he said. “Here he is!” He cleared away one or two large
lumps of rock and revealed the grinning skeleton of a man. “Hallo!” he
added, as he bent down to it, “what’s this?”

A long thin stiletto was lying loosely between the fleshless ribs of
the skeleton.

The old man snatched it from him as he plucked it out.

“And by all that’s holy!” he cried, “it’s got her name on it! Look!”

I took it from him. The dagger was of antique pattern, its steel rusted
and corroded but still resilient enough to make it a dangerous weapon,
and on the hilt, still legible, roughly inlaid in silver like the
amateur work of a sailorman, was the name--_Lucia!_

“I guess she murdered him with that!” said the old man, grimly,
glancing from the stiletto to the skeleton grinning up at us from the
hole where it had so long lain undisturbed. He turned toward where his
daughter sat in the shade of the trees. “Here, Pauline!” he called to
her. “Come and see--your friend the pirate and the knife that killed
him!”

The girl jumped up and ran across to us, all excitement.

“How wonderful!” she said. “It’s like a dream come true!”

At the time, excited as we all were, I did not notice the strangeness
of that spontaneous phrase. She stood upon the edge of the excavation
and took the stiletto with eager curiosity from her father. She held it
in both hands, breast-high, the point toward her, to read the name upon
the hilt.

“Lucia!” she cried, with a strange look toward us, as though dimly and
uncertainly recalling some terrible experience. “Lucia!” She repeated
the name with a peculiar, slow intonation--an intonation of puzzled
half-remembrance.

We stared at her, fascinated. Was our fantastic theory true?

Her gaze lost us, fixed itself into vacancy. Her features changed. An
expression of vague fear--the fear of the hypnotic shrinking at some
invisible danger--came into them. She opened her mouth as though to
speak.

She uttered only an inarticulate cry--a cry of fright as the loose
stones of the excavation slipped from under her. She fell headlong into
the hole, where she lay oddly--ominously--still. I jumped down after
her, lifted her up. The rusty old stiletto, caught under her in her
fall, had driven straight into her heart--broken off at the hilt!


The doctor stopped, looked round upon his audience.

“And the treasure?” queried one of them.

“There was no treasure. There was no more digging that day. We took
the poor girl’s corpse back to the yacht and I thought her mother
would have died as well--or gone out of her mind. She was screaming
to get away from the place. But the old man was not put off his game
so easily. The next day, whilst I stayed on board with the distracted
mother, he and his son went and dug again in that tragic cairn.

“They brought back all they found--the broken lid of a chest, branded
with the date 1665. That, curiously enough, was _underneath_ the
skeleton, suggesting that the hoard had been rifled before the man,
whoever he was, was killed.”

“A strange story!” commented another of the audience. “And what’s your
hypothesis in explanation, doctor?”

The doctor smiled.

“Well--you can have your choice,” he said. “There is the possibility
that, in a prior existence, Miss Vandermeulen was in fact Lucia, that
she seduced John Dawson into revealing the secret of the treasure,
that she murdered him on the spot and went off with it--and that
the vengeful spirit of the old buccaneer, hovering around these
latitudes, came into touch with her new reincarnation, and, playing
with a fine irony upon that same lust of gold which was responsible
for his murder but of which she was this time entirely innocent, led
her to a death by that same poniard with which she had killed _him_.
Alternatively, there is the hypothesis that her spontaneous writing and
the impersonation of Lucia were but an automatic dramatization by her
subconsciousness of hints dropped into it by her brother’s reading of
‘Treasure Island’ and subsequent conversations between her father and
his son, and that her death was a mere coincidence.”

“An incredibly complete coincidence!” said one of the men.

The doctor shrugged his shoulders.

“There was one other curious thing,” he said. “Some years later, in
a history of the buccaneers, I came across a paragraph to the effect
that the island called Old Providence since the eighteenth century was
known to the buccaneers as Santa Katalina, and that only subsequently
was that name transferred to the islet north of it. So Pauline’s
subconscious memory was right! Furthermore, it stated that the large
island, then called Santa Katalina, was seized and garrisoned by the
buccaneers in 1664 under the leadership of a man named Mansvelt. He
sailed off to get recruits, leaving the island in command of a certain
Simon, and died upon the voyage. Simon surrendered the island to the
Spaniards who had besieged it. The date was 1665.

“Of course, Miss Vandermeulen may have read that paragraph and
subconsciously retained the names--but, for her, it was an improbable
kind of reading. At any rate, she had a curious knowledge of an
out-of-the-way piece of history. As I said, when you tap the
subconsciousness you never know what buried treasure you may find.
Well, I leave you to your hypotheses, gentlemen.” He stood up, knocked
out his pipe. “Good-night!”



A PROBLEM IN REPRISALS


In the dusk of a winter afternoon a battalion of the French Contingent
of the Army of Occupation dispersed to its billets in the little
German village. The _Chef-de-bataillon_ and the _médecin-major_,
having installed their staffs in their respective bureaux, walked up
the street in search of the quarters which had been chosen for them
in the meanwhile. The scared faces of slatternly women, obsequiously
gesturing the mud-stained French soldiers into occupation of their
cottages, turned to look anxiously at them as they passed, in evident
apprehension of the order which should let loose a vengeful destruction
only too probable to their uneasy consciences. Here and there a
haggard-looking man, an ex-soldier probably, slunk into his house, out
of sight, but the native population of the village was preponderatingly
feminine. The two officers--the _commandant_, good-humoured and
inclined to rotundity, his eyes twinkling under brows a shade less gray
than his moustache; the doctor, a middle-aged man, quiet, restrained
to curtness in speech and expression, with eyes that swept sombrely
without interest over his environment--ignored alike the false smiles
and the genuinely alarmed glances of these wives and mothers of their
once arrogant enemies.

A captain came down the street toward them and saluted on near
approach. It was the adjutant of the battalion. He was young and his
natural cheerfulness was enhanced to perpetual high spirits in the
enjoyment of the experiences following upon overwhelming victory.

“We are well housed, _mon commandant_,” he said joyously, with a
flash of white teeth under his little brown moustache. “_Comfort
moderne--presque!_ Not a château, it is true--but large enough. The
best in the village, in any case. Bedrooms for the three of us, and a
room for our _popote_. Our baggage is already in, and dinner will be
ready in half an hour. _Tout ce qu’il y a de mieux, n’est-ce pas?_” He
finished with his young laugh.

The gray eyes of the battalion-commander twinkled at him.

“And the _patronne_, Jordan?--Old and ugly?”

The young man’s face lit up. He put one finger to his lips and blew an
airy kiss.

“Ah, _mon commandant_!” he replied in a tone of assumed ecstasy. “You
shall see her! A pearl, a jewel, _une femme exquise_!--That is to say,”
he added, with a change of note, “she would be if she were not a _femme
boche_. One almost forgets it, to look at her. But _boche_ or not, she
is young, she is beautiful, and, _mon commandant_, rarest of all--she
is intelligent!”

The battalion commander laid his hand on the young man’s shoulder and
drew him along with them as they resumed their momentarily interrupted
progress.

“I see I have to congratulate you upon another conquest,” he said, with
amused tolerance. “He is incredible, _notre cher Jordan_, Delassus!” he
added with a smile to the doctor.

“_Je ne dis pas_,” protested the young captain with an affectation
of modesty. “But we understand each other and that is already
much--although, unfortunately, she speaks no French and my German lacks
vocabulary. But she made me understand that her husband was an officer
killed in the war. ‘_Mann_--_Offizier_--_tot_--_Krieg_.’ That’s right,
doctor, _n’est-ce pas_?--You are the linguist.”

The doctor nodded assent.

“Quite correct. You should make rapid progress under an instructor so
willing to impart interesting information,” he said drily.

The young man protested warmly against the implication.

“Your cynicism is out of place, doctor. I assure you. She is
_timide_--_timide_ like a frightened bird.--I extorted it from
her.--But you shall see for yourselves. Here we are!”

They were at the end of the village. The young captain led them through
a carriage gateway, sadly in need of a coat of paint, up a weed-grown
drive to a fairly large house, that had once been white but was now
stained with the overflow of gutters long left out of repair. A belt of
trees hid it from the road. The main door, in the centre of the house
with windows on both sides of it, was open, as if in expectation of
them. Wisps of smoke from several of the chimneys hinted at hospitality
in preparation.

As the three of them entered the hall, a young woman appeared on the
threshold of one of the rooms communicating with it. Her natural
slimness was emphasized by a gown of black, and this sombre garb threw
into relief the fair hair which was massed heavily above her delicate
features. It needed, perhaps, the youthful enthusiasm of the captain to
call her beautiful; but her appearance had something of fragile charm
which conferred a distinction rare among German women. She stood there,
a little drawn back from her first emergence, contemplating them with
eyes that evidently sought to measure the potentiality for mischief in
these forced guests. Her attitude appealed dumbly for protection, so
forlorn and frail and timid was it as she shrunk back in the doorway.

“Introduce us, Jordan!” whispered the battalion-commander to his
subordinate. “_On est civilisé, quoi donc!_”

The young captain had lost a considerable amount of his assurance.
Rather flustered, he saluted and pointed to his superior.

“_Commandant!_” then, turning to the other, “Doctor!” he blurted,
clumsily.

Their hostess bowed slightly with a pathetic little smile as the two
officers saluted. The doctor advanced a step.

“Have no fear, _gnädige Frau_,” he said politely in German. “The war is
over and France does not avenge itself upon women. No harm will come to
you.”

Her face lit up.

“_Ach_, you speak German!”

“I studied in Germany in my youth, _gnädige Frau_, and I have not quite
forgotten the language.”

She smiled at him.

“_Gewiss nicht!_” Then, with a swift change of expression, she clutched
imploringly at his arm. “You will protect me? I am so alone and
frightened!” She hesitated as though seeking a cognate circumstance in
him that should compel his sympathy. “You are married?”

The polite smile went out of his face. His expression hardened.

“I was, _gnädige Frau_,” he replied, curtly.

She stared at him, divining that she had blundered upon some painful
mystery. With feminine tact she steered quickly away from it into the
region of safe commonplace. She threw open one of the doors leading
into the hall.

“Here, _meine Herren_, is the _Speisezimmer_,” she said in a tone of
colourless courtesy that contrasted with her emotion-charged voice of
a moment before. “It is at your service for your meals. There,” she
pointed to a door at the other side of the hall, “is the _Salon_--also
at your service. I have had a fire lit in it. Your orderlies are now
in the kitchen. I will send them to you to show you your rooms.” She
inclined her head slightly in sign of farewell and passed out through a
door at the end of the hall.

The young captain looked at his commanding officer.

“_Eh bien, mon commandant?_ What did I tell you? Is she not----?”

His superior interrupted him, a twinkle in his eye.

“She is, _mon cher Jordan_--but you have not a chance against the
doctor here!” He laughed, clapping the doctor on the back.

The _médecin-major_ frowned. His ascetic features hardened again.

“_Mon cher commandant_, you do me too much honour,” he said coldly. “I
assure you that there is no living woman who can interest me.”

“Bah!” said the battalion-commander a trifle fatuously, “_moi, je suis
connaisseur dans ces affaires-lá!_ I am sure that something is going to
happen between you and that woman. I can always feel that sort of thing
in the air like--” he hesitated for an illustration, “like some people
can see ghosts.”

The doctor looked him in the eyes.

“_Mon Commandant_,” he said, curtly, “if you could see ghosts you would
not feel so sure.”

There was a moment of unpleasant silence. The captain broke it by
shouting for the orderlies.

The three officers were introduced to their rooms and parted to perform
their toilet before dinner.

The meal which followed in the rather overfurnished Speisezimmer was
overshadowed by the gloomy taciturnity of the doctor who appeared still
to resent the battalion-commander’s suggestions of gallantry. Not all
the sprightly sallies of the adjutant, not the persistent _bonhomie_
of the battalion-commander, resolutely ignoring any hostility between
himself and the doctor, could bring a smile into that hard-set face
with the sombre eyes. Their hostess did not appear again and was not
mentioned between them. When they had finished, the captain suggested
that they should smoke their cigars in the Salon.

“I feel I want to put my feet on the piano,” he said, with a vague
remembrance of a popular picture, “like the _boches_ at Versailles in
’seventy! To infect our hostess’s curtains with cigar-smoke is a poor
compromise, but it is something! _Allons, messieurs!_--let us indulge
in hideous reprisals! The _boche_ has devastated our homes--let us
avenge ourselves by spoiling his curtains!”

The battalion-commander looked smilingly across to the doctor.

“_Mon cher Delassus_, are you for this policy of reprisals?”

The doctor looked up as though startled out of a train of thought.

“_Mon commandant_, it is a subject on which I dare not let myself
think.”

There was something so harsh in his tone that neither of his companions
could continue their banter. Both looked at the doctor. They knew
little or nothing of his private life, for he had joined the battalion
only just prior to the armistice, but evidently it contained a tragedy
the memory of which they had unwittingly revived. Both maintained a
respectful silence for a few moments. Then the adjutant rose and went
out of the room. He called out to them from the Salon that a splendid
fire awaited them, and the others rose from the table also.

The battalion-commander laid his hand affectionately upon the doctor’s
shoulder.

“_Mon cher_,” he said, “forgive me if I have unconsciously wounded
sacred sentiments.”

The doctor pressed the hand that was extended to him. They went
together across the hall into the Salon.

A blazing wood fire fitfully lit up a large room still without other
means of illumination. Jordan explained that he had sent an orderly
for some candles, as Madame had no petroleum for the lamps. The
battalion-commander and the doctor threw themselves luxuriously into
deep armchairs on either side of the fireplace and lit their cigars. In
a few minutes the orderly arrived with the candles. Jordan fitted them
into two large candelabra on the mantelpiece and lit them.

The eyes of all three officers roved around the apartment. It was, like
the dining-room, rather overfurnished and was particularly rich in
bric-à-brac of all kinds. It was, in fact, overcrowded with porcelain
figures, small mirrors, pictures of moderate size, all sorts of
valuable objects that in almost every case were of _easily portable
dimensions_. This last attribute leaped simultaneously to the minds of
two of them.

“_Mon commandant_,” began Jordan, in a humorously affected judicial
tone, “I am penetrated by an unworthy suspicion----!”

“French! _Nom d’un nom!_” cried the battalion-commander. “Everything
here!--The collection of the burglar _boche_ officer!--Doctor! You
speak German!--Ask that woman----!”

Both were suddenly arrested by the attitude of the doctor. He was
staring in a fixed fascination at a small Buhl clock upon the
mantelpiece. Suddenly he jumped to his feet, snatched down the clock,
and gazed eagerly at the back of it.

“_Mon Dieu!_” he cried. “_This is mine!_--it comes from my
house!--Look!”

He showed them an inscription on the back:

[1]“_A Jules, pour marquer les heures d’un amour qui ne cessera pas
quand le temps même cessera, de sa Marcelle._”

He stared at them like a lunatic.

“My wife!” he cried. “My wife!--Oh, Marcelle, Marcelle, where are you?
Where are you?”

The others also had risen to their feet. A tense silence followed upon
the wild cry.

The battalion-commander touched the doctor’s arm.

“_Mon ami_,” he said gently, “--can we help you----?”

The erstwhile sombre eyes of the doctor blazed down upon him, as
though searching for a mortal enemy even in this friend. Then, with a
distinctly apparent effort of will, the anguished man mastered himself.

“Listen!” he said. “This clock was a present to me from my wife. It was
a love-marriage, ours--we loved, she and I----” he broke off, his eyes
blazing again. Then, with a gesture of the hand as though he put that
from him, he continued: “Before the war I was in practice at Cambrai.
We lived out of the town--in a country house such as this. In August,
1914, I was mobilized. They sent me to Lorraine. I left my wife at
home, believing her to be safe. You know what happened. The enemy swept
over that part of the country. Trench-warfare began and my home, all
I cared for in the world--my wife--was in the German lines. I never
saw her again. I could never get any news. I waited four desperate
years--and then, when we advanced, I went to find my home. It simply
did not exist--it was a heap of bricks with a trench through it. My
wife--no hint!” He pressed a hand over his eyes, then stared once more
at the clock. “And now--I find this--here!”

Again there was a tense silence. The battalion-commander broke it at
last.

“Interrogate the woman,” he said, briefly. “She must know something.”

“It is a pity her husband is dead,” said the captain, with grim humour.
“We could have the pleasure of condemning him by court-martial, after
he had confessed--whatever there is to confess.”

The doctor’s face set hard. He replaced the clock on the mantelpiece
and wrote a few words on a page of his notebook.

“I am going to have the truth,” he said, tearing out the page and
folding it up. “Ring the bell, my dear Jordan.”

An orderly appeared.

“Take this to Madame,” said the doctor, “at once.”

The orderly departed. The three men waited, two of them tingling with
the excitement of this unexpected drama, the third standing with
compressed lips and eyes that seemed to be frowning into a world which
transcended this. He was certainly oblivious of his companions in the
fixity of his thought. At last his lips moved.

“Marcelle! Marcelle!” he murmured. “My love! I am going to know--and,
if need be, to avenge!”

At that moment the door opened and the frail little figure of the
German woman appeared upon the threshold.

“_Meine Herren?_” she said, in timid enquiry.

The doctor looked up. His companions marvelled to see the expression of
his face change to a smiling courtesy. But there was a glitter in the
usually sombre eyes which spurred their hardly repressed excitement.

“Will you have the kindness to enter, _gnädige Frau_?” said the doctor.
His voice was suave, but there was a note in it which his companions,
although they did not understand the words, recognized as compelling.

The German woman glanced at him apprehensively, and obeyed. The doctor
drew up an armchair for her, close to the fire.

“Will you not seat yourself, _gnädige Frau_?” he asked still in the
suave voice with the undertone of command.

She inclined her head speechlessly and sat down. They noticed that her
hands were trembling. The doctor motioned his companions to resume
their seats. He himself remained standing, his back to the fireplace,
his form hiding the clock on the mantelpiece from the eyes of the woman
had she looked up. He smiled at her in a reassuring manner, as she
waited dumbly for him to state the reason for his summons.

“We are very much interested in your collection of porcelain, _gnädige
Frau_,” he said, smoothly. “It is French, is it not?”

A sudden expression of alarm flitted into her eyes, was banished. She
nodded her head.

“_Ja--ja, mein Herr_,” she answered hesitatingly. She moistened her
lips. Her hands gripped each other tightly upon her lap.

The battalion-commander and the captain observed her with a quickened
interest. Despite their ignorance of German, the word “_Porzelän_” gave
them the clue to their comrade’s opening question.

“It is the result of many years’ gradual acquisition, I presume?” he
pursued, in a casual tone.

She shot an upward glance at him from under her eyebrows ere she
replied.

“_Ja--mein Herr._”

“It is well chosen,” said the doctor. “I congratulate you on your
knowledge and good taste. Perhaps you would explain some of the pieces
to us--pieces I do not recognize?”

She looked up at him with wide and innocent eyes.

“I cannot, _mein Herr_. I know nothing about porcelain. It was my
husband’s collection. I keep it in memory of him.”

There was an accent of sincerity in the last phrase which drew a sharp
glance from the doctor.

“Ah,” he said quietly. “He was killed, was he not?”

Her eyes filled with tears, her mouth twitched.

“Killed in one of the very last battles, _mein Herr_.” She drew
a long sobbing breath and looked wildly at him. “_Ach Gott!_ do
not remind me! do not remind me!” she cried. “He was all I had in
the world--everything--everything! You do not know how good and
kind and loving he was! And now he is gone--he will never come
back--never--never! And I loved him so!” She broke down into sobs,
hiding her face in her hands.

The doctor waited until the crisis had subsided. A diagnosis of
hysteria formed itself in his professional mind.

“So you have no real interest in this collection?” he enquired. “Would
you sell it?”

“_Ach, nein--nein_!” she answered. “I keep it in memory of him, my
Heinrich, who loved it so.--I feel him here when I dust it and care for
it.” She looked wildly round the room. “I feel him here now!”

The doctor nodded his head in courteous assent to a possibility.

“Did he inherit it?” he asked casually, as though merely pursuing a
conversation which could not, in politeness, be allowed to cease on a
note of distress.

She shook her head.

“Ah, he bought it?”

She moistened her lips nervously ere she replied.

“Yes.”

“Before the war?”

Her face hardened as she answered again.

“Yes.”

There was a moment of silence and then the doctor changed his position
slightly before the mantelpiece.

“And this pretty clock?” he asked, pointing to it. “Did he buy that
also?”

She stared at it and then nodded her head.

“_Ja, mein Herr._”

“_So!_--that is curious. I am particularly interested in that clock,
_gnädige Frau_. Can you remember where it was bought?”

She hesitated, ventured a scared glance at him, and obviously forced
herself to speech. The two officers involuntarily bent forward in their
interest.

“No, _mein Herr_.”

She glanced round as though seeking an opportunity for escape.

The doctor repeated his question in a level tone of authority, his eyes
fixed on her.

“You are sure you cannot remember where that clock was bought, _gnädige
Frau_?”

“Quite sure.” Her breast was heaving. She half rose from her seat. “Why
do you ask me all these questions? Let me go!--Let me go! You have no
right to question me like this! I--I tell you it was bought--it was all
bought!”

The doctor stepped forward with a quick movement, seized her wrist, and
forced her back into her seat.

“I beg of you!” he said in a voice that compelled obedience.

She subsided, trembling in every limb. Her eyes followed his every
movement with the fascinated attention of a frightened animal.

The doctor came close to her, and from her point of view glanced up to
the mantelpiece. Then, stepping back, he arranged the candles so that
the face of the clock, seen from her position, was a disc of bright
reflection.

Without a word but with a deliberation which awed even the watching
officers by its inflexible though mysterious purpose, he turned to her
once more, and, with the gently firm touch of a medical man, posed
her head so that she looked straight before her. Paralyzed under his
masterful dominance, she submitted plastically. She was too frightened
to utter a sound. Only her eyes widened as she saw him produce a heavy
revolver.

“Now, _gnädige Frau_!” he said, and his voice, though passionless,
was intense in its expression of level will-power, “do not move your
head! Look up--under your eyebrows. You see that clock? Look at
it--continue to look at it!--If you take your eyes off it for one
fraction of a second I shall shoot you dead! You are looking at it? It
marks a quarter to eight. When it strikes eight you will tell me quite
truthfully how you came by it!”

He ceased. The young woman, her face white with terror, her mouth
twitching, her nostrils distended, sat motionless, staring up under her
eyebrows at the face of the clock.

There was a dead silence in the room. The minutes passed. The young
woman did not move a muscle. Her wide-open eyes fixed on the clock, she
seemed to stiffen into a cataleptic rigidity.

The doctor put aside his revolver. He approached her, took one of her
wrists and lifted her hand from her lap. It lay limply in his.

“You are feeling sleepy,” he said in his level, positive voice. “You
are going to sleep. My voice is sounding muffled and far away--but you
will still hear it. You are losing the sense of your surroundings--but
you still see that clock face. You cannot help but see it. And when it
strikes eight you are going to tell the truth.” He dropped the hand
which fell lifelessly again upon her lap.

The young woman sat motionless as a statue. Her breathing changed to
the deep respirations of sleep, although her eyes remained wide open.

The clock struck eight. At the last of its thin, silvery notes the
young woman shuddered. Her lips moved.

“My husband sent it to me,” she said in a toneless, dreamy voice.

“When?” asked the doctor.

“In 1915.”

“From whence?”

“From the front.”

“Do you know the place?”

“No.”

“You are quite sure?”

“Quite sure.”

“And all these other things?”

“My husband sent them to me.”

“From France?”

“Yes.”

“How did he become possessed of them?”

“He took them out of houses.”

There was a pause in which the young woman did not move in the
slightest. She appeared like some oracular statue waiting for the next
question.

“Why did you lie to me?” asked the doctor in his level voice.

“Because you would have thought my husband a thief, and I am so proud
of him.”

“Can you be proud of him, knowing that he was a thief?”

“Yes,” came the dreamy answer. “It was not his crime. He sent these
things to me because I asked him for them and he loved me.”

“You asked him to send you these things? Why?”

“Because all the other officers’ wives were having things sent to them.”

“_So!_ Your husband would not have taken them if you had not asked for
them?”

“No. He only took them to give me pleasure. He never thought of
anybody but me. That is why I love him so--why I shall always love him.”

The doctor bit his lip, and hesitated for a moment.

“You do not think your husband would have offered violence to a woman
in the house where he got this clock?”

“No. He loved me too much. He never thought of any woman but me. I am
sure of it. He was an ideal man, my Heinrich--always gentle, always
loving, always faithful.” She paused a moment before continuing. “It is
cruel of you to make me realize how much I love him!”

The doctor stood over her, contemplating her, his brows wrinkled in
a puzzled frown. His comrades looked at him enquiringly. He ignored
them. The young woman, having ceased to speak, remained motionless and
upright on her chair. The only sound in the room was the ticking of the
clock.

Suddenly the doctor’s brows cleared in an evident decision. He lifted
the young woman’s hand again as he spoke in his level, positive voice.
His face was very grave.

“You are asleep. But you are going into a very much deeper sleep--a
sleep so profound that it takes you far out of this time and place.
Nevertheless you will remain in touch with me and you will hear my
voice. But everything else is going from you. You are now released from
the limitations of this body. You are on a plane from which you can
enter into any time and place that I shall command.”

He dropped her hand and, with his finger-tips, closed the lids over her
eyes. Her body still remained upright in its trancelike rigidity.

“What do you see?” he asked.

“Nothing,” came the dreamy answer.

“Where are you?”

“I do not know--I--I am nowhere, I think,” she said with hesitation.
“I--I--oh, do not keep me like this!” There was a new note of anxiety
in her voice.

“Wait a moment,” said the doctor. He turned to the mantelpiece, took
down the clock, placed it on her lap, and clasped her hands about it.

“Now,” he said in his quiet, tense tones, “you are in touch with that
clock. I want you to go into the time and place when that clock had
another owner--before your husband had it. Focus yourself upon it. Go
into the room where it stands.”

The young woman’s eyelids twitched flickeringly but otherwise her rigid
attitude was unmodified.

“Yes,” she said, in a slow and doubtful tone, “yes----”

“What do you see?” asked the doctor. His lips compressed themselves
firmly after the words, the muscles of his lean jaw stood out, in the
intense effort of his will to keep emotion under control, to avoid an
unconscious suggestion of ideas.

“I see a _salon_,” said the young woman dreamily, “a _salon_ with
French windows opening on to a lawn. There is a grand piano in it--and
a young woman seated at the piano. She is dark--young--oh, she is
very beautiful! She keeps on looking at the clock--the clock is on
the mantelpiece between two bronze statuettes. She is expecting
somebody----”

“Yes?” said the doctor, crouching over her, his fists clenched in a
spasm of supremely willed self-control, his breath coming in the quick
gasps enforced by that tumultuous beating of the heart he could not
command.

“Yes?--Go on!”

“She hears a footstep--she jumps up from the piano. A man comes into
the room--a civilian. She throws her arms about him and kisses him.
She leads him across to the mantelpiece and takes up the clock. She
puts it into his hands--she is showing him something on the back of it,
something written! They kiss again. They are in love these two--how
she loves him! I can feel that--I can feel her love vibrating in me!”
She paused dreamily. “I know what real love is--and she loves him like
that----”

“The man?” asked the doctor, his eyes wild. “The man?--describe him!”

“His back is turned to me--I cannot see his face. Ah, he turns round.
The man is--_you!_”

The doctor looked as though he were going to collapse. His companions
watched him, fascinated, completely mystified, trying to guess at
the drama their ignorance of the language hid from them. He mastered
himself with a mighty effort.

“Yes,” he said. “You have the place right--but not the time. Go on a
year--more than a year! Go on to the time when this clock passed out of
that woman’s possession!”

“More than a year!” she repeated dreamily. “I--I must sleep--I
cannot----” She was silent for a few moments. “Yes--yes--I see the
room again. The young woman is in it. She is seated at a little
table--writing. She looks up--Oh, how sad and pale she is!--but she is
still very beautiful. I am so sorry for her--she is so unhappy--and she
is still in love, I can still feel it vibrating in me. She is picking
up a photograph--she kisses it--it is yours!--she kisses it again and
again. Why are you not with her? I feel that you are a great distance
off--she does not know where you are. That worries her, because she
loves you so.” She stopped.

“Go on,” said the doctor sternly. “What do you see next?”

“She puts away her writing hurriedly. She is frightened of
something--someone is coming, I think--yes! The door opens--a
soldier--no, a German officer! Oh, she is frightened of him, but she
is brave! She stands up as he comes toward her. She draws back from
him--he is between her and the door. He puts out his hands, tries to
hold her--_Ach!_” her voice rose to a scream, “_it is Heinrich!_”

“Go on!” commanded the doctor. “_Go on!_ What do you see?” His voice
was terrible in its inexorability.

“Oh no, no!” she whispered. “No! Don’t make me see! don’t make me see!
I don’t want to--I don’t want to--_Ach, Heinrich, Heinrich!_” Her voice
came on a note of anguish. “I cannot bear it!”

The doctor frowned at the rigid figure with closed eyes that began to
sway slightly to and fro upon its chair. Her face was drawn with a
suffering beyond expression.

“See!” he commanded. “And tell me what you see!”

“Oh!” she moaned, “you are cruel--cruel! I do not want to see! I do not
want to look!”

“You must!”

“Oh!” Evidently she surrendered helplessly. She commenced in a
fatigued, dreary voice: “They are there together--the two of them!
That beautiful woman--oh, I hate her now, I hate her!--_Ach, Heinrich,
have you forgotten me?_” It was as if she called to him. “He does not
hear me. His eyes are fixed on the woman.” She continued in short
panting sentences uttered with increasing horror. “She is retreating
from him--further and further back. He is following her. Oh, something
terrible is going to happen--it is in the air--I feel it--something
horrible!--What?--Ah, _he is trying to kiss her!_ My Heinrich! Oh, how
dreadful, how dreadful!--Oh, don’t make me see any more--don’t make me
see any more!--He has got her in his arms--she is struggling. Oh, I
can’t look--I will not look!--Oh, Heinrich, and I loved you so!” Her
voice fell from the scream of a nightmare to a plaintive moaning. “Oh,
no more--no more! I can bear no more!”

“Look!--Look to the very end!”

The doctor’s comrades shuddered at his aspect as he crouched over her,
seeming as though he were trying to peer with her eyes into some scene
of horror they could not even imagine.

The young woman’s face was a mask of agony.

“Oh, you torture me,” she moaned, “you torture me--I see, and I do not
want to see--oh, I do not want to see----”

“What do you see?”

“They are struggling together!--She fights desperately--what a wild
cat she is! He is pinning her arms to her sides with his embrace--she
throws her head back, back, to escape him. Ah! She has broken away!
She runs to the table. _What is she going to do?_” The seer’s voice
rose in acute alarm. “_Ach_, a revolver! Oh, no, no!” The ejaculation
was a vehement and agonized protest. “_Heinrich!_ Oh, leave her--leave
her!--No, he laughs at her as he follows--and she is so desperate. Ah,
he has got her up in a corner--he has seized her again--she is crying
out--it is a name--she cries it again and again----”

“What name?”

“I hear it! _Jules!_--_Jules!_--that is it--_Jules!_ Oh, what a tone of
despair!”

The doctor closed his eyes and swayed. Then, mastering himself with a
superhuman effort, he said hoarsely:

“Go on!--To the end!”

“I cannot see plainly--they are struggling still. _Ach!_ the revolver!
_She has fired!_ I see the thin smoke in the air.--What has happened?
He has her in his arms--he stumbles with her.--_Ach, she is dead!_ She
has shot herself. He stretches her out on the floor--he is bending over
her--Ach, _Heinrich_, _Heinrich_, you have broken my heart!” She wailed
as if from the depths of a wretchedness beyond all solace. “You have
killed my love for ever! I hate you, I hate you, I hate you as long
as I live--I hate myself for having loved you! _Faithless, despicable
brute!_”

She finished in a tone of fierce vindictiveness, a resentment, at once
horrified and implacable, of unforgivable wrong.

But the doctor no longer heeded her. Hands to his brow, eyes closed, he
reeled away from her.

“_Mon Dieu! Mon Dieu!_” he groaned. “Marcelle, Marcelle! How shall I
avenge you?”

He glanced at the now silent and still rigid figure of the young woman.
Tears were trickling down her cheeks from the closed eyes. Her trance
was unbroken. She sat still nursing the clock.

Then, with a deep breath, he drew himself erect. The jaw that expressed
his powerful will set hard again. His two companions looked with horror
upon the dreadful pallor of that face from which two fierce eyes
blazed. A little laugh from him. It was a sickening mockery of mirth.

“_Mes amis!_” he said. “You asked me a little time ago what I thought
of the policy of reprisals. I ask you that question now. That young
woman, in a hypnotic trance, has just described to me, as though she
had seen it acted before her eyes, the suicide of my wife. She killed
herself rather than be outraged by that woman’s husband. In her waking
life the young woman is, of course, totally ignorant of the event.
In her waking life she adores the memory of her dead husband as of a
perfect and faithful lover. Now, in her hypnotic state, she loathes
him--her love has turned to bitter jealous hatred. She despises him.
In fact, she feels toward him just as she would have felt had she
witnessed the scene that destroyed my life’s happiness. It rests with
me to call her back to waking life, totally ignorant of her husband’s
crime, adoring him as before--or to leave her in an agony of shattered
love. Virtually, her husband murdered my wife. Her memory of him is
the only thing that I can touch. Shall I leave it sacred? Or shall I,
justly, kill it?--What do you say?--It is a pretty little problem in
reprisals for you!”

His comrades stared at him in horrified astonishment.

“But,” cried the battalion-commander, “are you sure----”

“Look at her!” replied the doctor.

The young woman still sat rigidly upright. Her face was drawn with
anguish. Heavy tears rolled ceaselessly from under the closed eyelids.
She sobbed quietly in a far-off kind of way that was nevertheless
eloquent of an immense despair.

“She sees what happened----?” queried the captain in an incredulous and
puzzled tone.

“Three years ago. She is looking at it now,” asserted the doctor. “She
sees her husband bending over my dead wife.--Come, _messieurs_, let
me have your verdict!” He seemed to be experiencing a grim, unhuman
enjoyment at their evident recoil from the terrible problem he offered
them. “I must wake her soon!”

“And if she wakes--knowing----?” faltered the captain.

“She will probably kill herself. She has been living in an intense
love for the idealized memory of her husband. The revulsion will be
overwhelming.”

The battalion-commander interposed.

“But, _mon cher_--a suicide--that goes beyond----”

The doctor shrugged his shoulders.

“Her husband drove _my_ wife to suicide----”

“It is terribly logical,” murmured the young captain, “but,” he glanced
at the unconscious figure in its mysterious and awful grief, “one needs
to be God to indulge in logic to that point.”

“And yet we are but men,” said the doctor, “and the problem is there
before us--must be solved at once! In my place, what would you do?”

The battalion-commander rose. He went up to his comrade and looked him
in the eyes.

“_Mon cher_,” he said solemnly, “God forbid that I should ever be in
your place! I do not know.”

The doctor turned to the young man. There was a terrible smile on his
lips.

“And you, _mon cher Jordan_?”

The captain rose also. He also read the hell in the doctor’s eyes. He
shook his head and shuddered.

“_Mon ami_,” he replied, “I should go mad.”

The doctor nodded grimly.

“The terrible thing is that I cannot go mad,” he said. “I am still
sane.--So you both decline the problem?”

The two officers shook their heads, not trusting themselves to speech.

The doctor turned away from them and covered his face with both hands.
He reeled to the mantelpiece, leaned against it. They saw his body
shake in the intensity of the nervous crisis which swept over him.

“Marcelle!” he cried. “Marcelle!--if you are a living spirit, counsel
me! Shall I avenge?”

The watchers turned to the entranced woman as though involuntarily
expecting a reply through her from that mysterious region where her
soul was in touch with the long-past tragedy she had revealed. She
still wept silently in that awful sleep which was no sleep. But no
word passed her lips. Only the clock she held upon her lap struck one
silvery note, marking the half-hour.

At the sound the doctor turned from the fireplace and took up the
clock. He gazed, with a passionate intensity, upon the inscription on
the back.

“Marcelle!” he murmured. “Our love ceases not when time itself
shall cease! Though you are dead, that still lives--_that_ was not
murdered!--I understand, _ma bien-aimée_, I understand!”

He put the clock gently upon the mantelpiece and turned once more to
the rigid, waiting figure. His comrades watched him, spell-bound,
keying themselves to deduce his decision from the tone of his voice
when he should speak. His stern face was set in an unfaltering resolve
they could not penetrate. He lifted her hand.

“_Gnädige Frau_,” he said, and the level, passionless voice gave no
hint to those ignorant of the language of the purport of the German
words which followed, “when you wake from this sleep you will entirely
forget the hideous dream through which you have passed. You will never
remember it, waking or asleep. You will think of your husband as you
have always thought of him--faithful and loving. You will completely
resume your normal life. You will not even be aware that you have
slept. It will seem to you as if you had only just sat down in this
chair. But when you wake you will present me with the clock upon the
mantelpiece. You will feel an overmastering impulse to do this, and you
will obey it.--Now,” he wiped the tears from her face and blew sharply
upon her closed eyelids, “_wake!_”

The two officers watched her, fascinated. Would she shriek? What
terrible paroxysm would be the expression of a heart-broken despair? Or
had he----? They held their breath.

Her eyelids flickered for a moment, and then, with one deep sigh, her
eyes opened. She smiled round on them.

“_Meine Herren?_” she said in her voice of timid enquiry. Then, fixing
her eyes on the doctor, “You sent for me?”

The doctor looked at her gravely.

“The Commandant desired me to assure you, _gnädige Frau_, that you need
be under no apprehensions during our stay here. We consider ourselves
the guests of a charming lady and we hope to leave only a pleasant
memory behind us.”

His companions marvelled at the strength of will which could enforce so
complete a normality of voice and feature.

The German woman smiled up at him, a pathetic little smile.

“You are very kind, Herr Doctor--please convey my thanks to the
Commandant.” She made a little movement which drew attention to her
black dress. “My--my husband in heaven, if he can see you, will--will
bless you.” Her eyes filled with tears. “Please excuse me!” she said
with a pretty little gesture of apology, “his memory is all I have--I
cannot help bringing him into every act of my life.”

“Love need not cease with death, _gnädige Frau_,” replied the doctor.
“One hopes that those we loved still watch over us--though we cannot
see them.”

She smiled again.

“He had no thought but of me, Herr Doctor, and I have none but of
him.--I see you understand,” she finished in a tone of involuntary
sympathy. “You also have loved?”

“_Ja, gnädige Frau_,” he replied with a grave and enigmatic smile. “I
also.”

Her eyes went past him to the mantelpiece, rested with a curiously
fixed expression on the clock. Suddenly, as though moved by an
uncontrollable impulse, she jumped up, took the clock from the
mantelpiece and thrust it into the doctor’s hands.

“Please accept this!” she said appealingly.

The doctor fixed his grave eyes upon her.

“Why?” he asked.

She stammered, evidently at a loss for her reason.

“Because--because I want you to have it--because I feel, I do not
know why, that you have protected me from something----” She stopped,
puzzled by her own words. “That is absurd, I know!” she exclaimed. “But
it belonged to two lovers, Herr Doctor--you, who understand love, will
value it, I know. I--I feel you _ought_ to have it!”

She left him standing with it. Then she turned to the other officers
with her appealing little smile and bowed slightly in farewell.

“_Gute Nacht, meine Herren!_” she said, and went out of the room.

The doctor stared after her, his face deathly white. Suddenly his body
broke and crumpled. He sank down to his knees by one of the chairs,
still clasping the clock in his hands.

“Marcelle!” he cried, his head bowed over his recovered love-token, his
body shaking, “Marcelle! have I done right?--have I done right?”

The battalion-commander touched his subordinate on the shoulder. Both
tip-toed silently out of the room.

FOOTNOTE:

[1] “To Jules, to mark the hours of a love which will not cease when
Time itself shall cease, from his Marcelle.”



SECRET SERVICE


“But, _Excellenz_----!” The entreaty, from such a man, was oddly
and strikingly sincere. About forty years of age, sprucely dressed
in a well-cut lounge suit, spats over patent boots, he was the type
to be seen any day gazing rather aimlessly into the shop-windows of
Piccadilly or the Rue de la Paix, the type that haunts the hotels
frequented by the best society and yet is not of that society, the
type that drifts behind the chairs of every gambling casino in the
world. A dark moustache, carefully trimmed, curled over lips whose
fine curves were unpleasantly thin and clear-cut. His complexion was
sallow; his dark eyes, fixed on his companion in an accentuation of his
entreaty, implored now with an expression of genuine truthfulness which
was certainly not habitual to them. He gesticulated with a white and
exquisitely manicured hand.

“But rubbish!” The speaker was an oldish, thick-set man in evening
dress. His round red face, barred with a clipped white moustache, with
a pair of small gray eyes vivacious behind pince-nez, was set upon a
short apoplectic neck which rucked into folds above his collar. The
scalp showed pink through close-cropped white hair. He stood warming
himself with his back to the fire--a very large fire for Berlin in the
winter of early 1918--and glared angrily at the young man. He spoke
with the irascibility of a brutal superior whose impunity is of long
date and unquestioned.

“Are you mad, Kranz? Do you take me for an imbecile old woman? Am
I feeble-minded--do I _look_ feeble-minded--that you should dare
to--to play such a trick upon me?” He was obviously working himself
up into one of his official rages. “You--you tell me that you have
an infallible means for obtaining secret information, no matter how
hidden. You persuade me to come and test it--_me!_ I give you credit
for your impudence!--and this is what it is!” He almost choked with
offended dignity. “Be careful, Kranz! You have traded this once upon
your record with us--you will never do it again! To bring me--_me!_--to
this absurdity!--to expect me to listen to the hypnotic ravings of that
idiot girl! I wonder you didn’t offer me crystal-gazing!”

“But, _Excellenz_----!”

The old man waved a hand at him.

“My dear Kranz,” he said, dropping suddenly into a tone of tolerant
contempt. “I forgive you this once. I daresay you have been the victim
of a genuine hallucination. You would not have dared else.--You don’t
drug, do you?” The question was asked with a disconcertingly sudden
sharpness. The younger man made a gesture of emphatic denial, defying
the piercing gray eyes that probed him. The old man grunted. “Keep your
sanity, Kranz--or the Bureau will lose a valued servant. Drop this
nonsense. I know what I am talking about--I studied psychology under
Wundt of Jena. The whole thing is a hallucination--the raving of the
dream-self released from control--_dummes Zeug!_--Give me my coat!”

“_Excellenz_, I implore you!”

The old man looked at him with a snarl of savage mockery.

“Don’t waste any more of my time, Kranz! Look at her--is it even
probable that an imbecile creature like that can be of use in our
business? Look at her, I say!”

He flung out a hand toward a young girl who stood with obvious
reluctance in the centre of the luxuriously furnished apartment. She
was perhaps eighteen but her youth had neither beauty nor charm. Her
features were soft and heavy; the nose thick; the chin receding; the
eyes weak and protuberant. Unmistakably, her personality was of the
feeblest. Her face flooded scarlet with shame and her eyes swam with
tears at this brutal insult. Yet evidently she did not dare to rush
away. Only she looked beseechingly toward Kranz, like a dog who awaits
a sign from its master.

His sallow face blanched. The thin lips under the dark moustache lost
their curves, became a straight line.

“Agathe!” he said, and his voice of command was strangely in contrast
with the tone in which he had entreated the old man. “Go into the next
room and wait!”

The girl vanished without a word. Kranz waited until she had closed the
door, and then he turned once more to his superior.

“I implore Your Excellency to listen!” he said with a desperate
gesture. “I stake my reputation upon it----”

The old man grunted scornfully.

“Your reputation!”

The dark eyes flashed.

“My reputation with you, _Excellenz_,” he corrected in a gentle voice
of complete cynicism.

The old man stared at him.

“Well, go on!” he said brutally, after a short pause which was eloquent
of his appraisement. He cleaned his pince-nez to mark his contemptuous
indifference to anything that might be said.

“You remember Karl Wertheimer, _Excellenz_?”

The old man swung round on him, replaced the pince-nez.

“Shot by the English.--You’ll never equal him, Kranz.”

Kranz shrugged his shoulders.

“_Excellenz_, I believe neither in God nor Devil--until the other day I
believed that death finished us completely--but I assure you solemnly
upon my--upon anything which you think will bind me--that the soul,
or whatever you choose to call it, of Karl Wertheimer speaks through
that girl!” There was a pause of silence in which the old man’s eyes
probed him to the depths. He proffered no comment and Kranz continued,
his voice intensely earnest. “The English shot Karl Wertheimer in
London--but they did not kill him. His--his soul is here, in Berlin, in
this room, alive as ever, as eager as ever to work for the Fatherland!”

“He always had patriotic notions,” murmured the old man, with a sly
smile at the obviously cosmopolitan Kranz, “--that is why he was such
an invaluable agent. Go on with your little romance.”

“It is no romance, _Excellenz_, I assure you--it is living fact. Karl
Wertheimer was a useful agent while he lived upon this earth--but he is
immeasurably more useful now that he is a--a spirit. There are no walls
that can keep him out--there is nothing he cannot see if he chooses
to--there is no conversation he cannot overhear----”

“H’m!” grunted the old man, “admitted that if he is a spirit he can do
all this--how can he communicate it to us?”

“Through this girl!”

“Who is she, this girl?”

“The daughter of some shopkeeper or other. I followed her ankles one
evening in the Park--it was night, and I could not see her face.” He
smiled cynically. “I won’t trouble Your Excellency with the details.
I brought her in here and no sooner had she sat down in that chair
when she swooned off. I was just cursing my luck--I saw her face for
the first time then!--and wondering how I was going to get rid of her,
_when Karl spoke to me_. I confess, _Excellenz_, it gave me a pretty
bad turn. It was so utterly unexpected--his voice coming from her
lips. However, I pulled myself together--and we had a most interesting
conversation----”

“He could answer your questions?” interjected the old man, sharply.

“Just as if he were himself sitting in the chair. So, naturally, I kept
a tight hold on the girl. She has not been allowed out since.”

“H’m!” The old man grunted again and looked at his watch. “Well, I have
missed my appointment,” he said with the factitious bad temper he owed
to his dignity. “I may as well see her performance. Fetch her in!”

Kranz went to the door and called.

“Agathe!”

The girl entered, stood with her eyes fixed timorously on him. He
pointed to a large armchair by the fireplace.

“Sit down!” he commanded. The girl obeyed dully, one little
apprehensive glance at him the only sign of any mental life in her. She
sat upright, her hands on her lap, staring stupidly into the fire. Two
heavy tears collected themselves in her protuberant eyes rolled down
her cheeks. They seemed but to emphasize her degradation. Her tyrant
stood over her, his dark eyes hard.

“Lean back and go to sleep!”

She sank back among the cushions. Obviously, she had no will at all of
her own. Her eyes closed. Her expressionless face twitched for a moment
and then was as still as a mask. Her bosom heaved in the commencement
of deep and heavy breathing which continued in the normality of
slumber. The old man watched her, keenly and contemptuously alert for
any sign of simulation.

Kranz pulled a little table across to the fireplace. A telephone
instrument, incongruously utilitarian in this luxurious room, and
writing materials were on it.

“You should note down what is said, _Excellenz_,” he said earnestly, in
a low voice.

The old man ignored him, his eyes on the girl. Suddenly he shuddered in
a rush of cold air. The paper on the table fluttered as in a draught.
He turned to Kranz in savage irritation.

“Shut that window!”

Kranz shook his head.

“They are all shut, _Excellenz_!” His whisper was one of genuine awe.
“Hush! It’s beginning! _He’s come!_”

The old man favoured him with a glance of inexpressible contempt. The
scorn was still in his eyes when he jerked round to the girl again in
an involuntary start of surprise at a sudden greeting.

“Good evening, _Excellenz_!” The words issued from that expressionless
mask of the deeply breathing girl, but they were uttered in a tone of
easy jocularity, followed by a little good-humoured laugh, which was
uncanny in its contrast with her degraded personality. Despite the
feminine vocal chords which had articulated the phrase, the _timbre_
and intonation were vividly those of a man of the world.

The old man stared speechlessly. His faculties seemed inhibited under
the shock. The red faded out of his round face, left it ashen gray
under the close-cropped white hair. Kranz, watching him narrowly,
feared for his heart. He made a brusque little gesture as though
seizing control of himself.

“_Herr Gott!_ It’s--it’s _his_ voice!” he gasped.

His eyes turned to Kranz and there was fear in them, a primitive fear
of the supernatural. Trembling, he reeled rather than walked to the
chair by the table with the telephone, dropped heavily into it. Kranz
broke the oppressive silence, posed himself as master of the situation.

“Good evening, _Karl_!” he said as though welcoming an everyday
acquaintance into the room.

“Hallo, Kranz!” came the easy, jocular voice through the lips of the
entranced girl. “_Wie gehts?_ I am glad you persuaded His Excellency to
come. Now we can start!”

The old man pulled himself together, moistened his lips for speech.

“Is--is that really you, Karl?” he asked, unevenly.

The merry little laugh, so uncanny from the only origin visible,
preceded the answer.

“Really I, _Excellenz_--Karl Wertheimer, shot six months ago by
the English in the Tower of London, and as alive in this room as
ever I was.” The tone changed to that of a humorously bantering
introduction. “Karl Wertheimer, _Excellenz_, the terror of the English
counterespionage department, at your service--still!”

The old man fumblingly produced a handkerchief and mopped at the
perspiration on his brow. He hesitated for an appropriate remark.

“Why----?” he asked falteringly, and stopped.

The merry little laugh rang out again in the silent room.

“Why, _Excellenz_? Because in my earth-life I had only one passion--and
it is as strong as ever it was. _Stronger_, for I owe our enemies a
grudge for that little early-morning shooting party in the Tower.
You’ve no idea how I long for a really good cigar, _Excellenz_,” he
finished in a tone of jesting complaint.

The old man stared into the empty air beyond the girl.

“And you can really obtain information and convey it?” He was
recovering his poise. The question was asked in the brusque tone
familiar to his subordinates.

“Test me, _Excellenz_!”

“I assure you, _Excellenz_----!” interjected Kranz, eagerly.

His superior waved him aside. The brow under the short white hair had
recovered its normal ruddiness, was wrinkled in cogitation. He felt in
his pocket and produced a letter in a sealed envelope.

“Tell me from whom this comes,” he said.

He proffered the letter as though expecting it to be taken out of his
fingers. Then, as it was not, he dropped his hand with a gesture of
hopeless bafflement. There was so real a feeling of the actual presence
of Karl Wertheimer in the room that the quite normal fact of the letter
remaining untouched emphasized suddenly the uncanny nature of this
conversation.

“Permit me, _Excellenz_,” said Kranz, politely. He took the letter and
laid it on the girl’s brow. Her lips moved at once.

“This purports to be from the firm of Wilson and Staunton, Boston,
to the firm of Jensen and Auerstedt, Christiania, with reference to
an overdue account.” The voice was still the chuckling voice of Karl
Wertheimer. “Actually, it is a communication in code to you from
Heinrich Biedermann at New York. Do you wish me to read the message? I
still remember the old code, _Excellenz_!”

“No--no!” interposed the old man. “Never mind!”

“Perhaps you would like me to tell you what Heinrich Biedermann is
doing at this moment, _Excellenz_?”

“But he is in New York! You can’t be here and there, too!”

Again came the merry little laugh.

“Time and Space are an illusion of matter, _Excellenz_. I half forget
that you are still subject to it.--Well, Heinrich Biedermann is sitting
with a young woman in a restaurant, having tea. They are both very
cheerful, for he has just received a remittance from you, and he has
bought her a new hat. The sun is setting and he is lost in admiration
of the glow of her red hair against the background of the illuminated
sky which he can perceive through the window. He is hopelessly in love
with her, which is unfortunate, as the lady happens to be a spy, by
name Desirée Rochefort, in the pay of the French Secret Service.”

“The devil----!” ejaculated the old man.

“But,” said Kranz in a puzzled tone. “Sunset?--It is nearly midnight!”

The old man turned on him.

“Fool! There is a difference of six hours in time between here and
America. That proves it--if anything can be proof of such wild
improbability!”

“Test me again!” said the amused and confident voice of Karl
Wertheimer. “Something really difficult this time!”

The old man leaned back in his chair and pondered. Then the gleam of an
idea came into his malicious gray eyes.

“Right!” he said, emphatically. “You know the library in my house?”

“Certainly, _Excellenz_!”

“Go into my library. Read me the fifteenth line of the ninety-first
page of the sixth volume on the third shelf of the right-hand side,
without opening the book. Can you do that?”

“You shall see, _Excellenz_,” replied the voice, cheerfully. “The sixth
volume counting from the left, I presume?”

“Yes.”

“I will note that,” said Kranz, coming to the table. He wrote the
particulars and looked up to his superior. “Do you know what the line
is, _Excellenz_?” he asked.

“I don’t even know what the book is!” replied the old man, harshly. He
wrinkled his brows in impatience at the silence, which prolonged itself
through several seconds. The girl seemed quite normally asleep.

“Here you are, _Excellenz_!” It was again the mocking voice of Karl
Wertheimer which issued from her lips. “The book is Shakespeare.
The line is ‘_England, bound in with the triumphant sea._’ Can you
interpret the omen, _Excellenz_?”

“The U-boat war----” murmured Kranz, as if to himself.

“Write it down!” commanded the old man. Kranz wrote the line.

His Excellency took up the telephone receiver.

“Hallo! Hallo!” He gave a number and waited. “Hallo! Is Wolff
there?--Tell him I want him at once! Yes--a thousand devils!--Wolff!
my secretary! Are you all deaf?” he vociferated irascibly. “Hallo! Is
that you, Wolff? Yes, of course it is I speaking! You ought to know my
voice by this time!--Go into the library and get--” He hesitated. Kranz
passed him the sheet of paper “--get the sixth volume from the left
on the third shelf of the right-hand side. Bring it to the telephone.
Hurry now!”

Again he waited. There was a tense silence in the room, a silence
which was emphasized by the heavy and regular breathing of the sleeping
girl.

“Hallo! Are you there?--Is that you, Wolff? Be quiet! Answer my
questions!--Have you got the book?--Right--What is it?--An English
book?--Shakespeare--right!--Now turn up page--page ninety-one. Got
it?--Count to the fifteenth line----” He turned from the telephone
to Kranz. “Write down what I repeat!” Then again speaking into the
telephone: “Yes? Read out the line!--what?--‘_England, bound in
with the triumphant sea_’--a thousand devils!--Wolff! Wolff! wait
a minute!--where did you find the book? On the shelf? Had it been
touched? You are sure that it had not been touched--not opened? Oh, you
have been in the library all the evening, working----”

“Tell him that the love-poem he has been writing to Fräulein Mimi
in your library to-night is not only banal but it does not scan,”
interjected the mocking voice of Karl Wertheimer. “The line ‘_Unsere
Herzen schlagen rhythmisch_’ is particularly bad.”

The old man glanced toward the vacant air over the girl and grinned. He
repeated the message into the telephone. He waited a moment--and then
burst into chuckling laughter.

“_Famos!_--He’s smashed the receiver. Scared out of his life!--I heard
him yell.” He put down the instrument and turned again to the chair.
“Karl Wertheimer, I believe in your reality--I believe in your powers.”
His voice was solemn. “The Fatherland has work for you to do.”

“That is why I am here, _Excellenz_.” The voice came jauntily through
the expressionless lips of the unconscious girl.

The old man pursed his mouth under the clipped white moustache and
pondered. Kranz watched him with acute interest.

“Listen!” said the old man, looking up in a sudden decision. “At
the present time the Allied Military Missions in Washington are
negotiating with the United States Government with regard to the
despatch of the American Army to Europe, for the coming campaign. We
know this--we know that any day now they may come to an agreement. It
is of the utmost importance to us that we should know, _immediately_,
the numbers promised and the schedule of sailings. The fate of
the world depends upon it. The secret will be most jealously
guarded--triply locked out of reach of any ordinary agent. Can you read
it, as you read the line in that closed book?”

“I can, _Excellenz_--if you can give me some indication where to look,”
replied the voice. “We must, so to speak, _focus_ ourselves--I can’t
now explain the conditions with us, but you will understand what I
mean--spirit pervades----” For the first time in the colloquy the
voice spoke with hesitation, as though despairing of explaining the
inexplicable. “Direction--definite direction--is essential----”

“H’m,” the old man grunted. “Well, I suggest Forsdyke--you know, the
permanent Chief of Department--as the man most likely to prepare the
schedule. You know where he lives?”

“The very house in Washington!” replied the voice triumphantly. “Good
enough! I will do my best, _Excellenz_.”

“To-day is the 21st of February,” said the old man. “We _must_ know by
the end of the month. Vast issues depend on it. Can you do it?”

“I will try.” The voice came feebly and as from far away. “I
must go now, _Excellenz_--the power--the power is failing--fast.
Good-bye--good-bye, Kranz--take--take care of the girl--she--she is
the--only means--of--communication----” The last words came in a
whisper, ceased. The girl appeared to be in normal slumber.

The old man turned to Kranz, spoke out of preoccupation which otherwise
ignored him.

“Give me my hat and coat!”

A sudden anxiety paled the sallow face.

“Your Excellency remembers what Karl said,” he murmured as he assisted
his chief into the heavy fur-lined garment.--“The girl is the only
means of communication. I need not remind Your Excellency that the girl
is my----”

“You need not remind me of anything, Kranz,” interrupted the old man,
harshly. “You will not be forgotten. Good-night!”

Kranz accompanied him obsequiously to the door.

       *       *       *       *       *

On that evening of the 21st of February a cheerful little party was
assembled around the dinner-table of Henry Forsdyke, Chief of a certain
department in the United States Administration. The large room, which
had been built by a Southern magnate who led Washington society in
pre-Civil War days, was illumined only by the shaded lights of the
table, and beyond the dazzling shirt-fronts of the men it lapsed
into a gloom that was intensified by the dark curtains over the
long windows and was scarcely relieved by the glinting gilt frames
of the pictures spaced on the walls hung in a dull tint. In that
half-light the servants moved, scarcely real. Only the party within
the illuminated oval of white napery, sparkling glass, and gleaming
silver was vividly actual, plucked out of shadow. It was a fad of the
host’s, this concentration of the light upon the table. He alleged that
it emphasized the personalities of his guests. His daughter, who was
irreverent, accused him of an atavistic tendency that craved for the
candle-light of his ancestors.

Within the magic oval the party exchanged light-hearted talk that
effervesced every now and then into merry laughter where a young girl’s
voice predominated. All were in evident good spirits. The host himself,
a man of between fifty and sixty years, with shrewd gray eyes looking
out of a face characterized by a pointed and neatly clipped iron-gray
beard, set the tone. He smiled down the table with a contentment that
seemed to spring from a secret satisfaction, the contentment of a man
who has completed an anxious and difficult task and can now relax. He
was in his best vein of sententious humour.

The same undertone of relief could have been discerned by the acute in
the gaiety of young Jimmy Lomax, Forsdyke’s private secretary, although
one alone of the little glances between him and his host’s daughter, if
intercepted, might have seemed sufficient reason.

Captain Sergeantson, Jimmy Lomax’s chum, had obvious cause for
cheerfulness. Attached to a Special Service Department, he had just
returned from Europe, where he had fulfilled an extremely difficult
mission with conspicuous success. His home-coming had provided the
excuse for this little dinner-party.

As for Professor Lomax, Jimmy’s father, no one had ever seen him
other than in high spirits. The author--after a lifetime of profound
and exact scientific research that had earned him a world-wide
reputation--of an enquiry into the possible survival of human
personality, which was the controversial topic of that winter and
which threatened to deprive him of that reputation, he was in striking
contrast with the idea of him propagated by the sensational Press.
There was nothing of the visionary about those clear-cut features. A
stranger would have diagnosed him as a lawyer--a lawyer whose judicial
perception of evidence was clarified by a sense of humour. The mobile
mouth, even in silence, hinted at this latter quality. The eyes
twinkled, eminently sane, under a well-balanced brow. He joked like a
schoolboy with his host’s daughter, exciting--for the secretly selfish
pleasure of hearing it--her gay young laugh. Occasionally he glanced
across to his son, approbation in his eyes.

Hetty Forsdyke, the only woman of the party, was a typical specimen
of self-reliant, college-bred American girl. Good to look upon, her
beauty hinted at a race which had been proud of its exclusiveness long
after Napoleon had sold Louisiana to the States. Her vivacity and
charm had roots, perhaps, in the same stock, but the cool, level-headed
understanding of life, which she expressed in a slang that provoked her
father to vain rebuke, and the genuineness of which was vouched for by
her clear gray eyes, was an attribute of the Forsdykes and the North.

The dinner was nearly at an end. Forsdyke, launched on a story of a
Presidential campaign in the Middle West a generation ago, had arrived
at the stage where the chuckles of his hearers were on the point of
culminating in the final burst of laughter. Hetty, her glass between
her fingers, half-way to her mouth, was looking at him with a smile
that pretended the story was quite new to her. Suddenly her expression
changed. She stared, as if spell-bound, at the dark curtains from which
her father’s oval face detached itself in the illumination of the
table. The glass slipped from her fingers, smashed.

Forsdyke’s story ceased abruptly. Four pairs of alarmed eyes focussed
themselves upon his daughter. Jimmy, involuntarily, had half risen from
his chair. The movement seemed to recall the girl to her surroundings.
She shuddered and then, with an evident effort of will, brought back
her gaze to the table. Her smile routed the momentary anxiety of her
companions.

“How careless of me!” she said easily, quelling, with quiet
self-control, her confusion ere it could well be remarked. “I don’t
know what I was thinking of!--Do go on, Poppa! It was just getting
interesting.”

She signed composedly to a servant to pick up the broken glass, and
settled herself, all attention, to the familiar story.

“What a hostess she is!” thought her father. “Just like----” He did not
finish the complementary clause and stifled another which began: “I
wonder what I shall do when----” He picked up his story again and was
rewarded by his meed of laughter. But his eyes rested uneasily on his
daughter and he promised himself a later enquiry into this abnormality.


The party withdrew into the drawing-room, where, since Forsdyke was a
widower of many years’ masculine supremacy, the men lit their cigars.
Hetty, at a request from her father, seated herself at the grand piano
in the far corner, and commenced the soft chords of a Chopin prelude.
Jimmy Lomax stood over her. There was already something proprietary in
his air. But the girl, after one glance up at him, seemed to forget his
presence in the spell of the music. Her position commanded a full view
of the room and she looked dreamily across to where the three men were
gathered by the white marble fireplace.

Suddenly the music stopped on a crashing discord. The girl had jumped
to her feet, was trembling violently. Young Lomax clutched at her.

“Hetty! What----?”

She broke away from him, came swiftly across the room to his father.

“Professor!” she said. “You were once in practice as a doctor, weren’t
you?”

The twinkling eyes went grave as they met hers. There was unmistakable
seriousness in her question.

“Yes, my dear----”

“Then I want you to examine me right here, Professor!” she said. “Tell
me if I’ve got fever!”

She met the amazed eyes of the other men with a look which announced
that she knew her own business.

Without a word the Professor lifted up her wrist and felt her pulse.
“Now show me your tongue!” She obeyed. He nodded his head, and placed
his hand upon her brow. His eyes plunged into hers for one second of
searching scrutiny and then he nodded his head again, satisfied. “My
dear,” he said, “I haven’t a thermometer here, but I should say you are
absolutely normal in every way. Your pulse is a shade rapid, perhaps.”

The girl took a long breath.

“Thank you, Professor,” she said, simply. She turned to the others.
“You heard what the Professor said? There’s no fever about _me_.
Now--listen! I want to tell you something. I’ve been waiting to tell
you ever since we sat down to dinner--and now I _must_ tell you! And
you mustn’t laugh!--Poppa, this is serious!”

The four men, puzzled at her demeanour, grouped themselves round her.
She assured herself of their gravity.

“This evening,” she began, “between five and six o’clock I suddenly
developed a dreadful headache. It was so bad that I just had to go to
my room and lie down. I went to sleep straight off. And then--then I
had a--a dream--only,” she interposed quickly, to hold their interest,
“it wasn’t like an ordinary dream. It was so vivid that I felt all the
time it _meant_ something. I dreamed that someone or something that I
could feel was sort of loving and kind and earnest--_very_ earnest, I
could feel that strongly--took me into a room. And, somehow, I knew
that the room was in Berlin. It seemed quite a nice room but I don’t
remember much about the details of it. I only remember that I saw
myself there with two men, one young and dark, the other old and white,
who were staring at a girl sleeping in a big armchair. They took not
the faintest notice of me, and I didn’t worry much about them. The girl
was the interesting thing to all of us--and yet, though I was staring
at her with a sort of fascination I couldn’t shake off, I didn’t know
why. Then a strange thing happened. The girl kind of faded away--I
don’t know how to describe it, because I felt all the time she was
still there--and as she faded, there came up the figure of a man. He
seemed to grow out of her--to take her place. It was real uncanny. This
man that grew out of the girl like a--like a ghost--was somehow more
_living_ than any of us. It was as if he were in the limelight and we
were in the shadow. I shall never forget his face. It was handsome but
_wicked_--mocking--malicious--like a devil. And he had an ugly scar
over the right eyebrow which made him look even more devilish----”

“What colour was his hair?” interposed Captain Sergeantson. “Any
moustache?”

The girl looked at him in surprise at the question.

“Fair--sticking up straight. No moustache--why?”

Captain Sergeantson nodded.

“I only wondered. Go on, Miss Forsdyke.”

The girl resumed.

“Well--it seemed that we were all looking at this man and not the girl
at all. She had disappeared behind him, or into him, I don’t know
which. The other two men were talking to him--talking earnestly. And it
seemed to me that it was extremely--oh, _immensely_--important that I
should understand what they were saying. I listened with all my soul.
It almost hurt me to listen as hard as I did--And yet I couldn’t get
a word of it. What they said was, somehow, just out of reach--like
people you see talking on the bioscope. And then, all of a sudden, I
heard--one sentence--as clearly as possible, ‘_Forsdyke is the man who
prepares the schedule!_’”

Jimmy Lomax uttered a sharp cry of amazement.

“What!” He turned to Forsdyke. “Chief, that’s strange!”

Forsdyke imposed silence with a gesture.

“Go on, Hetty,” he said, calmly. “What then?”

“Then I woke up. The words were ringing in my ears. They haunted me
all the time I was dressing for dinner. I wondered if I ought to tell
you. Something was whispering to me that I should. But I was afraid you
would laugh at me. But that’s not all. You remember at dinner I dropped
a glass.--Poppa!” Her voice suddenly became very earnest. “I saw that
man--the man who had grown out of the girl--_standing behind you_. His
eyes were fixed on you as though trying to read into you--so evilly
that I went cold all over.”

The Professor gave her a sharp glance.

“No vision of the room in Berlin--or wherever it was?” he queried.

She shook her head.

“No. Just the man. But even that’s not all. Just now--when I was
playing and looking across to you--_I distinctly saw him again_, close
behind Poppa! He moved this time--moved with a funny little limp--just
like a real man with a bad leg. I jumped up--and--and he was gone!” She
looked around apprehensively as though expecting to see him still.

“Your liver’s out of order, my dear,” said her father. “Take a pill
when you go to bed to-night.”

“No,” said the girl, “it’s not that. I know you would say I was
ill--that is why I asked the Professor to examine me. I am sure it
_means_ something!”

Captain Sergeantson threw the end of his cigar into the fireplace and
took a wallet out of his pocket. The wallet contained photographs. He
handed them to the girl.

“Miss Forsdyke,” he said, gravely, “would you mind telling me if you
have ever seen any of these people?”

The girl examined them. Suddenly she uttered a cry and held up one of
the prints.

“_This!_” she said. Her eyes were wide with astonishment. “This is the
man I saw!--There’s the scar, too--exactly!--Who is he? Do you know
him?”

“That man,” replied Captain Sergeantson, sententiously, “is Karl
Wertheimer. About the cutest spy the German Secret Service ever had.--I
was going to tell Jimmy a story about him and brought his picture along
with me,” he added in explanation. “I sort of recognized him from your
description.”

The girl stared at the photograph.

“Of course,” continued Sergeantson, “he made up over that scar. He
was an extraordinarily clever actor, by the way. They cleaned off the
make-up when they took the photograph.”

“And he is a German spy!” mused the girl, still staring at the picture.

“He was!” replied Sergeantson, grimly. “The British shot him in the
Tower when I was in London six months ago.”

The girl looked up sharply.

“I’m sure I’ve never seen his photograph before!” she said, as though
answering an allegation she felt in the silence of the others. “How
could I?”

“I can’t imagine, Miss Forsdyke. The extraordinary thing is that you
should have got his limp. That’s what gave him away to the British. He
broke his leg dropping over a wall in an exceedingly daring escape at
the beginning of the war. But how you should know about it beats me all
to pieces.”

“I didn’t _know_--I saw----”

“You saw his ghost, I guess, Miss Forsdyke--and that’s all there is to
it.” Captain Sergeantson lit himself another cigar by way of showing
how cold-blooded he could be in the possible presence of a spectre.

Jimmy shuddered. “It’s uncanny,” he said. “I don’t like it.”

“But _why_?” puzzled Hetty, wrinkling her brows. She turned to her
father. “Poppa----!”

Forsdyke shook his head smilingly.

“I’m out of this deal. Ask the Professor. He’s the authority on spooks.
What does it all mean, Lomax? Can you give an explanation that doesn’t
outrage commonsense?”

The Professor smiled. The eyes in that clean-cut face twinkled.

“Commonsense?” He shrugged his shoulders. “We want to start by
defining that--by defining all our senses--and we should never
finish.” He looked with his challenging smile round the group. “I see
you are inviting me to throw away my last little shred of reputation
as a sane,” he said, humorously. “Well, I will not venture on any
explanation of my own. The evidence, with all respect to Hetty here,
is insufficient. We only know that she had a dream and a hallucination
twice repeated. We know that the hallucination corresponds to a
photograph in Captain Sergeantson’s pocket. We do not know what basis
there is--if any--for her dream. But I will give you two alternative
explanations that might be suggested by other people.--Will that
satisfy you?”

“Go ahead, Professor,” said Forsdyke. “Don’t ask me to believe in
ghosts, that’s all!”

“I don’t ask you to believe in anything,” replied the Professor. “I
don’t ask you to believe in the reality of your presence and ours in
this room. If you have ever read old Bishop Berkeley you will know that
you would find it exceedingly difficult to evade the thesis that it may
all be an illusion. Your consciousness--whatever that is--builds up a
picture from impressions on your senses. You can’t test the reality of
the origin of those impressions--you can only collate the subjective
results. Everything--Time and Space--may be an illusion for all you or
I know!”

“I heard that in my dream!” Hetty broke in. “Someone said it: ‘Time
and Space are an illusion!’ I remember it so clearly now!” Her eyes
glistened with excitement.

“All right, Hetty,” said her father. “Let the Professor have his say.
It’s his turn. And don’t take us out of our depth, Lomax. You know as
well as I do what I mean by commonsense.”

The Professor laughed.

“Well, I’m not going to guarantee either of the explanations, Forsdyke.
I merely put them before you. The first is the out-and-out spiritualist
explanation. Let us see what we can make of that. You must assume,
with the spiritualists, that man has a soul which survives with its
attributes of memory, volition, and a certain potentiality for action
upon what we know as matter. Captain Sergeantson here vouches for the
fact that a certain German spy, Karl Wertheimer, was shot in London six
months ago. The spiritualist would allege that it is possible--under
certain conditions which are very imperfectly under human command--for
the soul (we’ll call it that) of Karl Wertheimer to put itself into
communication with his old associates who still remain in the world of
the living. There is an enormous mass of human testimony--which you may
reject as worthless if you like--to the possibility of such a thing.
Assume it _is_ possible. Karl Wertheimer was a spy so successful,
according to Captain Sergeantson, that it is reasonable to suppose
that spying was his natural vocation, his life-passion, as much as
painting pictures is the life-passion of an artist. It may be assumed
that, if anything survives, one’s life-passion survives. Now suppose
that Karl Wertheimer’s late employers believe in the possibility of
communication with their late agent--that they find a medium--in this
case, the young girl that Hetty saw in her dream--who can be controlled
by the defunct Karl Wertheimer--through whom they can speak to him and
receive communications from him--what is more natural than that they
should do so? Admitting the premises, difficult as they are, it appears
to me that the discarnate soul of Karl Wertheimer would be an extremely
valuable secret agent----”

“Yes, suppose--suppose----” said Forsdyke. “It is all supposition. And
it doesn’t explain Hetty’s dream.”

“I am coming to that,” pursued the Professor. “Grant me, for the sake
of argument, all my suppositions. Karl Wertheimer’s employers are
communicating with him and setting him tasks. One of those tasks, we
will assume, concerns you. Now it may be, Forsdyke, that in the unseen
world of discarnate spirits there is one who watches over you, guards
you from danger. Someone, perhaps, who loved you in this life----”

Forsdyke glanced up to the portrait of his wife upon the wall.

“I leave the suggestion to you,” said the Professor, delicately. “We
will merely pursue it as a hypothesis. Such a spirit would seek to warn
you. It is obviously futile to discuss the means it might or might not
employ. We know nothing of the conditions of discarnate life--nothing,
at any rate, with scientific certainty. But we will assume that such a
spirit, desirous of communicating, finds that Hetty here is temporarily
in a mediumistic condition--and by ‘mediumistic’ I mean merely that
she is in the abnormal state which, in all ages and in all countries,
induces persons to declare that they see and hear things imperceptible
to others. She certainly had an abnormal headache. She goes to sleep
and dreams. We won’t analyze dream-consciousness now. I will only point
out that, in a clearly remembered dream, the events of that dream are
as real to consciousness as the events of waking life, and that the
perception of Time is enormously modified--you dream through hours of
experience while the hand marks minutes on the clock. You are subject
to a different illusion of Time--and, as Time and Space are but two
faces of the same phenomenon, it may be said that you are subject to
a different illusion of Space as well. The spiritualist uses this
undoubted fact to support his assertion that in dream-sleep the spirit
of the living person is freed from the conditions of matter and is in a
condition at least approximating to that of a person who is dead--that
it can and does accompany the spirits of those who in this life were
linked to it.

“The spiritualist, then, endeavouring to explain our present problem,
would allege that a spiritual agency concerned with your welfare led
Hetty’s spirit into a room in Berlin where Karl Wertheimer’s employers
were indicating him to you for some special purpose--that Hetty, being
then pure spirit, could actually perceive Karl Wertheimer as a living
being when perhaps those in the room (if there was such a room) could
only perceive the girl through whom he was speaking--that she could
actually hear the significant phrase of their conversation. Further,
the spiritualist would assert as a possibility that Karl Wertheimer,
ordered to obtain information in your possession, is actually
here--_shadowing_ you more effectively than any mortal spy could
do--and that Hetty, still retaining her mediumistic power, has actually
seen him. That is a spiritualistic explanation--I apologize for its
length, Forsdyke. Give me another of your very excellent and material
cigars!”

“It is a fantastic explanation. I don’t believe a word of it,” said
Forsdyke, passing him the box. “Let us have the other one.”

“The other one,” replied the Professor, cutting the tip of his cigar
and lighting it carefully, with a critical glance at its even burning,
“is shorter. It is the explanation of those who are determined to
explain a great mass of well-attested and apparently abnormal facts
by normal agency. Their explanation in one word is--telepathy. You
know the idea--the common phenomenon of two people who utter a remark,
unconnected with previous conversation, at the same moment. Living
minds unconsciously act upon each other--that is experimentally
proved. Why, therefore, drag in dead ones? That is their argument.
Let us apply their theory. Hetty is in an abnormal condition. Captain
Sergeantson is coming to dinner. In his pocket he has a photograph of
the notorious German spy, Karl Wertheimer. In his mind he has a story
about him which he intends to relate. Now there are well-documented
cases of hallucinations of persons actually on their way to a house
where they were not expected appearing to their destined hostesses.
I could quote you dozens of examples. The telepathist says this is
because the guest forms in his mind a vivid picture of himself in that
house, which is projected forward to the hostess’s mind and causes her
to think she sees him. Now, Captain Sergeantson’s mind is not full
of himself--it is full of the story about Karl Wertheimer that he
is going to tell. Hetty’s mind--somehow--picks this up. She goes to
sleep and as in sleep, notoriously, the human mind has a faculty for
building up pictures and a story. Hetty dreams this story about Karl
Wertheimer. It is true that she has never seen Karl Wertheimer. But
Captain Sergeantson presumably has a visualization of him, including
the limp, in his mind. The subsequent hallucinations are explained by
the tendency to automatic repetition of any vivid impression upon the
nervous centres which excite a picture in consciousness. It is a more
or less tenable theory, but it would be gravely shaken if it happened
that, unknown to Hetty or Captain Sergeantson--_you actually had
something to do with a secret schedule which would interest our friends
the enemy_.”

There was a silence. Forsdyke’s brow wrinkled as he stared into the
fire. Suddenly he switched round to the Professor.

“That’s the devil of it, Lomax!” he exclaimed. “I have! A most secret
schedule. Thank God, it will be out of my possession to-morrow morning,
when I----”

“_Don’t_, Poppa!” cried Hetty, clapping her hand over his mouth. She
stared wildly around her. “I feel sure that someone is listening!”

Forsdyke freed himself with a gesture which expressed his impatience of
this absurdity.

“What do you make of that, Lomax?” he asked.

“Of course,” murmured the Professor, “Hetty’s mind may be influenced
by a dominant anxiety in yours.--I should not like to say, Forsdyke!”
His tone was emphatic. “Personally, I have never heard of a spectral
spy--but--well, you are, on your showing worth spying on. And there
are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio--you know! If it _is_
possible--then there are things more improbable than that this means of
acquiring information should be used. Your schedule would, I take it,
be priceless?”

“The fate of the world may be involved in it,” replied Forsdyke. “But I
can’t believe----”

“I am certain!” exclaimed Hetty. “I feel there’s something uncanny
around us now!” She shuddered. “Oh, _do_ take care, Poppa!”

“But what can he do?” asked Jimmy, who had been listening anxiously to
the Professor’s explanation. “What do you suggest, Sergeantson? You’re
the authentic spycatcher. How can you defeat the ghost of one?”

“I pass!” replied Sergeantson, laconically. “Professor, the word’s to
you!”

Forsdyke looked genuinely worried.

“Of course, I don’t believe it, Lomax,” he said. “But
supposing--supposing there was something like you suggest--what could I
do?”

The Professor’s eyes twinkled.

“Assuming the objective reality of our supposition, my dear Forsdyke,”
he replied, “I can think of only one effective counterstroke.”

He held their interest for a moment in suspense.

“And that is----?”

“To drop a bomb on the girl!”

“A bomb--on the girl----” puzzled Jimmy slowly. “Why?”

“Because when you break the telephone receiver it doesn’t matter what
the fellow at the other end says--you can’t hear!”

“But we can’t get at her,” said Sergeantson. “We don’t even know who
she is, or where. We should never find out--in time.”

“That’s just it,” agreed the Professor. “You would have no time.
Assuming that a ghostly spy is haunting our friend Forsdyke--the moment
he reads that schedule, or even indicates where it is, the spy reads it
too----”

“Reads it?” echoed Jimmy, incredulously. “But surely ghosts can’t read!”

“It is alleged they can,” replied the Professor. “There is, for
example, a very curious case reported of the Rev. Stainton Moses, a
teacher at the University College in London during the ’seventies.
A spirit, purporting to be writing through his hand, quoted to him
a paragraph from a closed book in a friend’s library. Moses merely
indicated a book and a page at random, without knowing even to what
book he referred. The quotation was correct. One of the foremost
scientists of the present day has lent the weight of his authority to
this story by incorporating it in his book as evidence of supernormal
powers----”[2]

“That is sure incredible, Professor!” cried Sergeantson.

“We are dealing with what normally are incredibilities,” said the
Professor, with a smile. “We agreed to assume an objective reality
to our supposition--and, assuming it, the spy would read that
schedule at the same moment as Forsdyke, and possibly communicate
it instantaneously. As Forsdyke is going to do something with that
schedule to-morrow morning, well,” he shrugged his shoulders, “my money
would be on the ghost!”

“My God!” said Forsdyke, thoroughly alarmed, “if it’s true--it’s
maddening! One can do nothing!”

“Nothing,” agreed the Professor. “There would be no time.”

The men stared at each other, exasperated at the hopelessness of the
problem. If--they scarcely dared admit it to their sanity--it really
were the case?

Hetty startled them by a sudden cry.

“Didn’t you hear? Didn’t you hear?” she exclaimed. “Someone laughing at
us--close behind!--Oh, look! Look!” She pointed to empty space. “There
he is again! Don’t you see?”

She fainted in Jimmy’s ready arms.

       *       *       *       *       *

The next morning Hetty found her father already at breakfast.

“Well,” he asked, his dry smile mildly sarcastic, “any more dreams?”

“Horrid!” she replied with a little shudder as she poured herself out
some coffee. “But I don’t remember them.”

“You will see the doctor to-day, young woman,” observed her father in
a tone which indicated his verdict on the happenings of the previous
night.

Hetty was docility itself, a phenomenon not altogether lost on her
experienced parent.

“Very well, Poppa,” she agreed, demurely. “What are you going to do
this morning?”

“I am going to the office to get some papers----”

“_The_ papers----?” She checked herself with a little frightened glance
round the room.

Her father laughed--a good, healthy, commonsense laugh.

“_The_ papers!” he said. “No more nonsense about ghosts, Hetty. I’m
going to get _the_ papers from my office and take them round to the
Conference. So now you know. And there’s a Colt automatic in the pocket
of the automobile if any one tries tricks on the way.”

Hetty nodded her head sagely.

“Guess you’ve a place for me in that automobile, Poppa,” she said.
“I’ll come with you to the office, wait while you get the papers, and
go on with you to the Conference building--and while you’re there I’ll
go on to see that doctor. I shall be back in time to pick you up before
you are finished with your old Conference.”

Her father saw no objection to this, was in fact secretly glad to have
her under his eye as long as possible.

“Mind, no tricks about the doctor!” he said, with an assumption of
severity.

“Sure, Poppa!” was her equable reply.

A few minutes later saw them speeding through the keen air of a frosty
morning toward Forsdyke’s office. But the interior of the limousine was
warm, and Hetty, snug in her furs, looked a picture of young, healthy
beauty, looked---- A memory came to Henry Forsdyke in a pang that
brought a sigh. He thought of the Professor’s suggestion of last night.
Of course, the whole thing was absurd!--but he wondered----

The car swung into the sidewalk in front of the Government building,
stopped before the big doorway with the marble steps. Forsdyke got out.

“I shall be back in a few minutes,” he said.

Hetty watched him go across the pavement, ascend the marble steps. He
looked neither to right nor left. _Then who was that with him?_ Hetty
felt her heart stop. Who was that who passed into the doorway with him?
No one had been on the steps--she was suddenly sure of it. Yet--her
heart began to pump again--certainly two figures had passed through the
swing-doors! She sat chilled and paralyzed for the moment in which she
visualized the memory of those two figures passing into the shadow of
the interior--tried to think when she had first perceived the second. A
certitude shot through her, a wild alarm.

She jumped to her feet, and with a blind, instinctive desire for a
weapon, pulled the Colt out of the pocket of the limousine and thrust
it into her muff. A moment later she was running across the pavement
and up the marble steps. The janitor pulled open the swing-door for
her. She fixed him with excited eyes.

“Who was that who came in with Mr. Forsdyke just now?” she asked
breathlessly.

The janitor stared.

“No one, miss. Mr. Forsdyke was alone.”

Alone! She repressed an impulse to scream out, dashed to the elevator
which had just come to rest after its descent. The attendant opened the
gate at her approach.

“Did you take Mr. Forsdyke up just now?” she asked.

“Yes, miss.”

“Was he alone?”

“Sure!--He came in alone.”

“Take me up!” She trembled so that she could scarcely stand. Her eyes
closed in a sickening anxiety as she swayed back against the wall of
the elevator.

She shot upward. Another moment and she found herself racing along the
corridor to her father’s rooms, twisting at the handle of the door.

She almost fell into the ante-room occupied by Jimmy Lomax. He jumped
to his feet.

“Hetty!”

“Father!” She had scarcely breath enough for utterance. “Father!--I
must see Father----!”

“Hetty, you can’t! He’s busy in his private room--no one dare----”

“I must!” she gasped. “Quick!--the ghost----!”

He stared in astonishment. She dodged past him, flung open the door
into the next room.

Henry Forsdyke was standing, checking over a sheaf of papers in his
hand, in front of the swung-open wall of the room, now revealed as a
safe divided into many compartments. Hetty perceived him at the first
glance; _perceived, standing at his side, a man with a sardonic mocking
face and a scar over the right eye who peered over his shoulder_.

In a blind whirl of impulse she whipped out the automatic, rushed up
close, and fired--into thin air!

Her father swung round on her in a burst of anger.

“Good God, Hetty!--Are you mad?”

She looked wildly at him.

“The ghost!--the ghost!”

He laughed despite his genuine wrath.

“Great heavens, what nonsense it all is!--What are you thinking
of?--You can’t shoot a ghost!”

But Hetty had sunk on to a chair and was sobbing hysterically.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the luxuriously furnished room in Berlin Kranz was speaking
excitedly into the telephone.

“_Excellenz!_” he called. “_Excellenz!_--Are you there?--Quickly!--Karl
says he will be with us in ten minutes!” He glanced toward the girl
sleeping in the big chair. “Quickly!”

He listened for a moment and then put down the receiver with a
satisfied air. He rose from his seat and began to pace nervously up and
down the room. From time to time he threw a glance at the still figure
stretched back among the cushions. She slept with a regular deep
breathing. He listened, anxiously alert for any change.

The minutes passed, slowly enough to his impatience. He looked at
his watch. It marked ten minutes to four. A thought occurred to
him--he amplified it deliberately, to occupy his mind. Ten minutes to
four!--What time would it be in Washington? Six hours--ten minutes to
ten in the morning. What would be happening at ten minutes to ten? What
was Karl looking at----?

The raucous hoot of a Klaxon horn startled him out of these
meditations. He ran to the window, looked out. A familiar motor-car was
drawing up by the pavement. His Excellency had lost no time!

A few moments later and the dreaded Chief stood in the room, formidable
still despite his dwarfed appearance in the great fur coat turned up
to his ears. The clipped white moustache bristled more than ever, it
seemed, as he glared at Kranz through the pince-nez with a ferocity
which was but the expression of his excitement.

“Yes?” he cried, ere the door had closed after him. “What has happened?
Speak, man!”

“Nothing yet, _Excellenz_!” Kranz hastened to assure him. “The girl
swooned off suddenly at about a quarter to four--I have not let her
out of my sight since last night--and then Karl spoke. He said--and it
sounded as though he meant it--that he would give us the information in
ten minutes. I telephoned you at once.”

“Right! Quite right!” snapped His Excellency. “Ten minutes! The time
must be up----”

“Good afternoon, _Excellenz_!” The old man jumped. The familiar
mocking voice came from the lifeless mask of the sleeping girl. “Your
suggestion was correct--Forsdyke! He is taking me to it now!” The
derisive laugh rang out, uncanny in the silent room. “Patience for a
few minutes!”

The old man made an effort of his will.

“Where are you now, Karl?” he asked.

“In a motor-car--funny story--tell you later--patience.” The voice
sounded far away and faint. “Look to the girl, Kranz--not breathing
properly--can’t speak--if--power--fails.”

Kranz went to the sleeping girl. Her head had fallen forward and she
was breathing stertorously. He rearranged the cushions, posed her head
so that she once more breathed deeply and evenly.

They waited in a tense silence. Then her lips moved again.

“Listen--now! Take it down as I read it!” Karl’s voice rang with an
unholy triumph.

“Quick, Kranz!--Write!” commanded the old man.

His subordinate leaped to the table, settled himself pen in hand.

The girl’s lips trembled in the commencement of speech, opened.

“Schedule of Sailings of American Army to Europe!” began the triumphant
voice.

There was a pause.

“Yes--yes!” cried the old man impatiently. “Go on!”

“Numbers for March”--Karl Wertheimer’s voice came with a curious
deliberation as though he were memorizing figures. “--_Ahh!_” The voice
broke in a wild, unearthly cry that froze the blood.

They waited. There was no sound. They heard their hearts beat in a
growing terror.

Suddenly the old man spoke.

“The girl!--Look, Kranz!--She does not breathe!”

Kranz sprang to her, lifted her hand, bent suddenly down to her face.
He looked up with the eyes of a baulked demon.

“She is dead!” he said hoarsely.

He turned to her again and, with a frenzied rage, tore away the clothes
from her throat and chest. Just over her heart was a small round dark
spot staining the unbroken skin.

“Look!” he cried.

The old man peered down at the mark, and then stared round the room.

“What has happened?” The wild cry quavered with the terror of the
Unseen.

No answer came from the silence.


NOTE

     The belief that an injury done to the “astral” body of a spirit is
     reproduced in the physical body of the medium _en rapport_ with
     that spirit is found in all countries and in all times, from the
     most ancient to the present. The old-time witch or wizard is, of
     course, the same psychologically abnormal type as the “medium” of
     to-day. The genuineness or otherwise of their powers is beside
     the point. Phenomena of the same nature as that described above
     are reported again and again in the witchcraft trials of the
     seventeenth century and in a comparatively recent legal case in
     France in 1853. Andrew Lang, analyzing this last case, says: “In
     the events at Cideville, and the depositions of witnesses, we have
     all the characteristics.... The phantom is wounded, a parallel
     wound is found on the suspected warlock.” Reporting the evidence
     in the trial, Lang continues: “Nails were driven into points on
     the floor where Lemonier saw the spectral figure standing. One
     nail became red-hot and the wood around it smoked: Lemonier said
     that this nail had hit ‘the man in the blouse’ on the cheek. Now,
     when Thorel was made to ask the boy’s pardon and was recognized
     by him as the phantom, Thorel bore on his cheek the mark of the
     wound!” The alleged wizard lost his case. (“A Modern Trial for
     Witchcraft,” in _Cock Lane and Common-sense_, 1894, p. 278.)

     In this case it was the medium’s own spectre which appeared.
     But the modern spiritualist holds that there exists the same
     connection between the living body of the medium and the
     materialized spirit of the dead. “... The clutching of a
     [materialized] form hits the medium with a force like that of an
     electric shock, and many sensitives have been grievously injured
     by foolish triflers in this way.” (_Spirit Intercourse_, J.
     Hewat Mackenzie, 1916, p. 53.) Sir Wm. Crookes sounds the same
     warning note in his description of the famous “Katie King” case
     (_Researches in Spiritualism_, 1874, p. 108 _et seq._).


FOOTNOTE:

[2] The reference is to _The Survival of Man_, Sir Oliver Lodge, pp.
104-5.



THE STRANGE CASE OF MR. TODMORDEN


Mr. Todmorden rose from his seat in the railway carriage; he spoke in
the tones of a man who ends a discussion:

“Well, gentlemen, this is my station, and you haven’t convinced me that
a man ever commits a crime unless of his own free-will. I’d show no
mercy to the rascal! Good-night!”

Mr. Todmorden was far from being so stern, either in appearance or
character, as this emphatically uttered sentiment would suggest. As
his short, stout figure moved along the platform, the head thrown
back and a pair of bright little eyes, set in a chubby round face,
glancing sharply through his spectacles for an acquaintance to smile
at, he looked--what, in fact, he was--a successful city man whose
original kindness of heart had mellowed into habitual benevolence--the
type of man who moves through life beaming on people who touch their
caps; salutation and recognition alike instinctive, meeting each other
half-way.

Affable though Mr. Todmorden was, he had his prejudices and his pride;
pride centred in the practice he had built up as a family solicitor of
standing and renown: prejudices directed against those unfortunates
who, from choice or necessity, transgressed the social code. His
ideal in life was probity. He was intolerant of any infraction of it,
and conducted his own affairs with punctilious scrupulousness. If
he contemplated himself with some approbation it was justified. His
fellow-men concurred in it.

In the warm light of a late summer sunset he strolled along the
suburban streets to his home. His countenance expressed that
contentment with himself and his surroundings usual with him. His mind,
satisfied, played lightly over the headings of sundry affairs, neatly
docketed and done with, he had settled that day. Other affairs, not
so completed, were thrust into the background until the morrow. His
good-humoured round face was in readiness for a smile.

Suddenly he stopped and contemplated through his spectacles a large
house a little way back from the road. A long ladder resting against
the wall was the uncommon object that had attracted his attention.

“Dear me!” he said to himself, “Old Miss Hartley having the house
painted again!”

Miss Hartley was one of his oldest and most valued clients. In fact,
both repudiated the business term and called each other “friends.”
Their sentiments toward each other warranted it. She was an elderly
spinster, eccentric and wealthy; he a bachelor who could and did
afford himself a whim. They smiled at one another’s oddities without
any lessening of the mutual respect many years of intercourse had
induced. His attitude toward the old lady was almost fraternal. The
long practice of watching her interests had developed a habit of
affectionate protection in him. He advised her on countless petty
manners and forgot to put them in the bill. He was personally, not
merely professionally, anxious on her behalf when the occasion required
it.

The sight of the ladder against the wall recalled one of his most
common anxieties. It was a pet grievance of his that she would persist
in living alone, save for one maid, in that large house. To his mind,
she offered herself as a prey to the malefactor who should chance to
correlate the two facts of her wealth and her solitude. He expressed
that opinion frequently, and was obstinately smiled at. Now, as he
walked on, the thought of the danger she invited recurred to him. It
irritated him.

“Tut! tut!” he said. “That ladder, now, is just placed right for a
burglar! I’m sure it is! Dear me! how careless! how very careless!” He
tried to measure the ladder from his remembrance of it, and, to end his
doubts, returned and examined it again. The ladder rested close to a
freshly painted window-sill on the first floor.

“Dear me! dear me!” said Mr. Todmorden, genuinely perturbed. “That’s
the window of Miss Hartley’s room!” He stood irresolute, debating
whether he should ring the bell, and point out the dangerous position
of the ladder. A nervous fear of the old lady’s smile restrained him.
He knew she regarded him as an old “fusser.”

He walked on again, carrying his fears.

“She is really too foolish, too foolish!” he repeated. “Living alone
there--with only that stupid girl in the house! Any one might break
in. They’ve only to walk up that ladder! And she will persist in
advertising that she has valuables!” The occasion of the final clause
in Mr. Todmorden’s mental arraignment was a particularly fine diamond
brooch the old lady wore at all times, despite his protests. If there
was a sentimental reason for its continual use, she concealed it under
her quiet smile. The memory of that smile irritated Mr. Todmorden.
“Confound her! she’s so obstinate!” His thoughts focussed themselves on
that brooch, with a criminal lurking in the background. Gradually, they
drifted to the criminal. As his irritation faded under the soft warm
light of the sunset, he amused himself by picturing types of possible
burglars. Finally, forgetting his original preoccupation, he thought
of an ancestor of his own--his maternal grandfather--who had been
transported for a doubtful case of murder. In contrast to that squalid
page of family history self-esteem read over his own achievements.
Successful, respected, an alderman, a possible knighthood in front, he
had surely wiped out that black patch on his pedigree. He savoured a
very pleasant sense of personal probity as he walked up the drive to
his house.

He ate his solitary dinner, and revived the feeling of well-being with
a bottle of his favourite port. Then Miss Hartley’s brooch recurred
to his mind, and was followed by a thought of the ladder which led to
it, and of a criminal who might climb the ladder. As he sat in his big
chair in the lonely dining-room, gazing at passing thoughts rather than
thinking them, the case of his maternal grandfather cropped up in his
reverie. Moved by a sudden whim, he rose from his chair and took down
a battered volume of law reports. Fortified by another glass, he read
through the case of his ancestor. He finished it, and sat thoughtful
for a moment before replacing the book. “H’m, h’m,” he said to himself.
“Very doubtful! Very doubtful! Ah, well, we’ve travelled a long road
since then!” He smiled at his own success, and went off to bed in a
contented mood. That doubtful grandfather was a long way back.

In the morning, as he walked down to the station to catch his usual
train, he noticed a group of people standing on the pavement and gazing
up at a house. An unreasoning anxiety gripped him. He hastened his
pace. Yes--surely!--it was Miss Hartley’s house which excited this
unwonted interest. He arrived among the crowd, rather out of breath.

“What is it? What is it, my man?” he demanded of a gazing spectator.

Half a dozen voices replied.

“It’s a murder! Old Miss Hartley----!”

Mr. Todmorden did not wait to hear more.

“Good gracious!” he said, as he hurried along the garden path, and
“Good gracious!” he repeated, as he rang the bell. He could not
formulate a thought. He gazed, mentally, at the awful thing, stunned.

The door was opened by a policeman. Behind him stood the maid-servant,
white, frightened, and sobbing. She ran toward him with a cry of “Oh,
sir!” but broke down, unable to utter a word.

“All right, all right, Ellen,” said Mr. Todmorden rather brusquely,
pushing her aside. He addressed himself to the policeman. “What has
happened, constable? Surely not murder?”

“Yes, sir. I’m afraid so.” He looked doubtfully at his questioner. “Are
you one of the old lady’s relatives, sir?”

“No. I’m her solicitor, and one of her oldest friends. Dear me! dear
me! how terrible! Is there any one in authority here, constable?”

“Two inspectors upstairs, sir.”

“Can I see them?”

He was shown into the bedroom, and introduced himself to the
police-officers. They welcomed him with gravity. On the bed lay a
covered figure. Mr. Todmorden drew aside the sheet and gazed upon the
features of his old friend. They were marred by a bullet-hole through
the forehead. He turned away, trembling, his face working with emotion.
He could scarcely speak, but made the effort due to his dignity, as the
deceased’s legal adviser. “Any--any clue?” he asked.

“None, sir, at present,” was the reply.

“Dear me! how terrible! how very terrible! She was my oldest
friend----” he could not find the strength to repress his grief--“my
oldest friend! Oh, it’s awful, inspector, awful! The--the wickedness
of it! She hadn’t an enemy.” He struggled for the control of himself.
“What was it--robbery?”

“No, sir--nothing seems to be tampered with. Perhaps the murderer was
startled.”

“When was it discovered?”

“This morning, when the maid brought in the tea. She says she heard
nothing. She admits being a heavy sleeper.”

“And there is nothing missing?”

“Apparently not, sir. The drawers were locked, and the keys have not
been interfered with. Nothing was disturbed, in fact.”

“Ah!” Mr. Todmorden was gradually getting back into his legal
clearness of mind. “Has the girl looked carefully round to see if
anything has disappeared?”

“I don’t know, sir.”

“Call her up, if you please, officer.”

Ellen appeared, still weeping, and was bidden to look round for
anything out of place. Dabbing her eyes, she examined the room
carefully. Suddenly she gave a cry.

“The mistress’s diamond brooch! I put it here last night!” She pointed
to a tray on the dressing-table. “It’s gone!”

“Good God!” said Mr. Todmorden. “How very curious!”

The inspectors looked at him sharply.

“Does that give you any clue, sir?” asked one of them.

“No--no,” he replied, rather confused. “I--the fact is, I was thinking
of that brooch only last night, and of how unprotected Miss Hartley
was. I have often told her so--poor woman!”

“Ah!” said the inspectors in chorus. Mr. Todmorden felt there was
something suspicious in their sharply uttered exclamation. Even to
himself his explanation had sounded lame. The police-officers might
imagine he was shielding somebody. The consciousness of his inability
to explain how very startling the fulfilment of his fears had been to
him made him feel awkward.

“Of course,” he said, “the murderer must have come in by the ladder.”

“The ladder?” asked one of the inspectors. “I saw no ladder.”

“There was certainly a ladder resting against the sill of this window
at six o’clock last night,” asserted Mr. Todmorden. “The house, you
will observe, is being redecorated. I noticed the ladder, and it
occurred to me that a first-class opportunity was being offered to a
burglar. In fact, I was on the point of calling on Miss Hartley and
warning her of it. I wish I had done so!”

“H’m!” The inspector scarcely deigned to trifle with the suggestion.
It could be understood that it was his professional prerogative to
evolve theories. “Yes--perhaps. But I think we can explain the entrance
in a more likely way,” he said, mysteriously. “It is scarcely probable
that the decorator’s men would leave the ladder there all night, sir.”

“I’m sure the rascal came up the ladder!” Mr. Todmorden’s affirmation
was so vehement, came so involuntarily, that it surprised himself.
Why was he so positive? He felt uncomfortable. He put on a bustling,
important air. “Well, well, I must get up to town, as I have a very
important appointment. I will look in at the station on my way home
this evening. If you hear of anything during the day you might
communicate with me. Here is my card.”

The old gentleman took his way to the city, oppressed by grief.
Bitterly he reproached himself for not having ceded to his impulse to
point out the dangerous position of that fatal ladder.

As good as his word, he called at the police-station on his way home.
The chief inspector received him:

“A very mysterious affair, Mr. Todmorden. Very mysterious!”

“It is very terrible to me,” replied the old gentleman. “Miss Hartley
was a very old friend. I feel myself in some way responsible. The
possibility of such a tragedy actually occurred to me on my way home
last night, and I might have warned her of it. I shall never forgive
myself. Miss Hartley relied upon me. It is terrible to think that I
failed her in this supreme instance.”

“You refer to the ladder,” said the inspector. “We have made enquiries
about that. It appears it was overlooked last night and was carried
away by one of the decorator’s men at six o’clock this morning.
Undoubtedly, the murderer used it. In fact, he left the window open
after him.”

“I was certain of it,” said Mr. Todmorden. “And there is no clue to the
rascal?”

“Hardly any. The constable on the beat reports that, at two o’clock
this morning, he saw the figure of a man running along the road away
from the house. That man was wearing a very light suit--possibly a
flannel one. A curious dress for a burglar, I think you will admit. The
constable particularly noticed that there was no sound of footsteps as
the man ran. He must have been wearing rubber soles. Unfortunately, the
constable lost sight of him when he turned the corner.”

“Dear me!” said Mr. Todmorden. Only half his mind had listened to the
inspector’s words; the other half was occupied by that curious and
fairly common hallucination of a previous and identical incident. The
description was oddly familiar. He seemed to know it in advance. At
an intense moment of the hallucination, he had a glimpsed memory of
himself running, running along a road at the dead of night, running
silently. He shook off the uncomfortable and absurd feeling. “Dear me!
How very strange!”

The inspector was observing him narrowly.

“I suppose you cannot give us any hint that might help us, Mr.
Todmorden? You know no one who bore the old lady a grudge?”

“Certainly not. She was the best and kindest of women.”

“May I ask who benefits by her death?”

“She has only one relative, a nephew, who inherits everything. He is in
America. I have cabled to him, and received a reply.”

“Ah! So he’s out of it.”

“Of course, of course.”

“This business of the brooch, Mr. Todmorden--it seems strange that the
murderer should have taken that, and that only. He has made no attempt
on anything else. You know no one who had an interest in the article?”

“No one. Miss Hartley wore it always. I have often expostulated with
her for wearing so valuable a piece of jewellery in the street.
Someone might have noticed it and resolved to obtain it.”

“Yes, yes, of course. A very strange affair, Mr. Todmorden, very
strange! I confess I cannot see light in it. Er--her affairs are quite
in order, of course?”

“Quite. I keep the accounts; they are open to investigation. The name
of Todmorden and Baines is a sufficient guarantee, I think,” he added,
with a smile. “But, of course, it is natural you should wish to make
sure. You can examine the books to-morrow.”

“Unnecessary, my dear sir, I’m quite certain. Of course, I am bound to
ask these unpleasant questions.”

“Don’t apologize. I am as anxious as you are to catch the criminal. I
have, in fact, a personal interest in it. Miss Hartley was so good a
friend to me that I shall never rest until I have brought the scoundrel
to justice. A reward may help. I will personally give a hundred pounds
for his apprehension. You might have bills printed to that effect.”

“Thank you, Mr. Todmorden. I hope we shall be able to claim it, though,
at present, I see little chance of it. However, something may turn up.”

As Mr. Todmorden went home, he looked years older than the man who had
traversed the same ground twenty-four hours earlier. Grief-stricken
though he was, at the loss of his dear friend, his predominant emotion
was a fierce lust for vengeance on the murderer. His fingers worked,
gripped the air, as he brooded on him--the hated unknown--and his
step oscillated from fast to slow and slow to fast, as thoughts,
hopeful or despondent, got the upper hand. If he could only lay hands
on the scoundrel. A black and bitter wrath seethed in him. It was,
unjustifiably, the more bitter at the remembrance that Fate had placed
for a moment in his hand the power to avert the tragedy, had given
him a glimpse into the future--and yet had turned aside his will. The
wickedness of it! That dear, kind, charitable old soul! Shot like a
dog! He stamped his foot on the pavement at the thought of it; tears
welled up in his eyes.

“I’ll double that reward if he isn’t caught within a week!” he decided.
The decision comforted him.

All through his solitary dinner he brooded on the crime, and sat
afterward, for long hours, trying to think of someone who might have an
urgent reason for possessing himself of that diamond brooch. He went to
bed at last, baffled, weary, heartsick. Had he met the murderer on the
stairs he would gladly have throttled him with his own hands.

Putting on his pyjamas, he noticed something unusual--something
hard--in the pocket. Mechanically, he drew out the object and looked at
it. He stood as if petrified, his eyes staring, sweat breaking out on
his brow.

In his hand he held Miss Hartley’s diamond brooch!

He gazed at it, overwhelmed with amazement and horror. What was
happening? Was he crazed? Was his mind unhinged by the event of the
morning, was this an hallucination? All that was his familiar self
prayed, prayed hard, that this might be madness. Or--his instinct of
self-preservation caused him to clutch at the thought--was he the
victim of some atrocious trick? Impossible. Was it real? He felt the
jewel--turned it, so that it sparkled under the electric light.

“My God!” said Mr. Todmorden, sinking into a chair. The familiar
concrete surroundings crumbled about him, were dissipated. He gazed
into unfathomable mysteries.

How could the brooch have got into his pocket? Someone must have put
it there! Someone! Who? Who could have come into his bedroom and put
that damnatory brooch into the pocket of his pyjamas? The servants? He
reviewed them swiftly. Impossible! Then who? Not--surely not--he must
be going mad--not himself! It was absurd, unthinkable. He had gone
to bed and slept without a dream. Or, was there a dream--a dream of
running in the darkness, fast, barefoot? Nonsense! Nonsense! He did
not get up in the middle of the night, walk down the street, murder
his dearest friend, and come back as though nothing had happened! His
mind flashed on the portrait of Miss Hartley, and he felt the cruel
irony of the supposition, though he himself made it. Then who--who? A
wave of superstition swept over him. Devils? It was inexplicable. He
revolted at something obscure within him, something which pointed a
finger to the accusing brooch, which whispered the inexorable corollary
in his ear. No! No! It could not be! He was innocent, he was conscious,
instinctively conscious of his innocence.

But was he?

The something whispered persistently. An idea came to him--the proof.
He went quickly across to a drawer in his dressing-table and took out
his revolver. With trembling hands he examined the charges. One had
been exploded! Had devils fired his revolver also? Oh, God! He thought
he was going to faint.

How? Why? How? Why? These two questions besieged him incessantly,
battering at his crumbling mind. He clasped his head in his hands,
rocked to and fro on his chair.

Madness? Madness came in these sudden attacks, so an imp of thought
assured him. He was mad! Mad!

For hours he strode up and down the room, wrestling with demons in the
night. He had killed his dearest friend. He had no doubt of it; the
realization filled him with an agony of horror and grief. He would
gladly have died rather than have done this awful thing. And how had
he done it? How had he committed this crime without the faintest
remembrance of it? It was impossible! He had not--then he looked at the
brooch, and knew he had. It was monstrous, unthinkable--but true.

At length, physically exhausted, he threw himself on the bed and
continued the struggle--striving, striving to see light in this
appalling mystery. At last he fell asleep.

He woke and looked around him. He was in a dark room. That was strange.
He knew he had left the light on. He was standing up. He held something
in his hand--a book. Puzzled, he put out his hand to where the switch
of the electric light should be. It was not there. In a new terror
that surged up, obliterating the older horrors of the night, he groped
along the wall for the switch, and found it. The place sprang into
light. He was in the dining-room! In his hand he held the report of his
grandfather’s trial. The truth flashed on him.

He was a somnambulist.

With a wild cry he sank down in a swoon.

When he returned to consciousness, the electric lamps were yellow
patches in the sunlight which filled the room. He struggled to his feet
and switched them off. He stood for some moments unsteadily, trying
to adjust his mind to these unfamiliar surroundings, to remember--to
remember something. Then his ghastly situation rushed on his mind,
vivid with a new light. He was a criminal! He risked discovery, ruin!
He heard people moving about--servants. They must not suspect him
of any abnormality. Haggard, trembling, giddy, an old, old man, he
tottered up the stairs to his own bedroom.

Escape--escape from the consequences of his involuntary crime was
his master impulse. He was no longer the benevolent Mr. Todmorden,
successful, respected, the eminent solicitor; he was a hunted criminal,
happed by Furies. He must not be found out. He sobbed in self-pity and
strove for the control of his faculties. He must think--must think. The
brooch must be got rid of. He would drop it over London Bridge. Yes,
that was the way. The brooch gone beyond all possibility of recovery,
who would suspect him? He had not suspected himself. He breathed more
freely, feeling himself already safe. He would triple that reward.
That would avert suspicion. Yes. Yes. He repeated the monosyllable to
himself as he walked up and down the room.

But suppose there was some trace of the crime on him? He must make
sure. The inspector’s story of the light-suited fugitive came into
his mind--his pyjamas! That fugitive must have been himself in his
pyjamas. He had again that flashed memory of running, running silently.
He doubted no longer, but examined the pyjamas on his body, searching
for a spot of blood, for any sign that might betray him. Yes! There
on the trouser-leg was a smear of stone-coloured paint--the paint on
Miss Hartley’s window-sill. He must get those pyjamas away, destroy
them--somehow. He thought of half a dozen plans and rejected all.
Everything he thought of seemed to proclaim his guilt. The problem
was still unsolved when another danger occurred to him. His revolver
contained a discharged cartridge. He must reload it. Feverishly he did
so. As he clicked the chambers into place there was a knock at the
door. He put down the revolver and listened in sudden panic. The knock
was repeated. He tried to speak and could not. At last words came:

“What is it?”

“Please, sir, a man from the police-station wants to speak to you at
once.”

He tried hard to reply in his normal tones.

“All right. Tell him I’ll be down presently.”

“Please, sir, he says he can’t wait. It’s very urgent.” Discovery? No!
Impossible--as yet! He kept a tremor out of his voice by an effort.

“Show him into my dressing-room.”

Mr. Todmorden thought swiftly for a vivid second. That smear of paint
must be concealed. He slipped on a dressing-gown. Then he caught sight
of his revolver on the table, and, on a blind impulse, dropped it into
his pocket. He took a long breath. Now--was there anything about him
suspicious? He opened his dressing-gown and surveyed himself in the
mirror. Yes!--there was a button gone from his pyjama-jacket! Where had
he lost that button? He would have given anything for certainty. But he
must not keep the police waiting. That would look strange. He girdled
his gown about him and went into the dressing-room.

The chief inspector awaited him. A sharp expression of surprise came
into the officer’s face.

“I have had a bad night, inspector,” said the old gentleman, noticing
the look and feeling his haggard appearance needed explanation.

The inspector condoled with him.

“I am pleased to say we have found a slight clue to the criminal, Mr.
Todmorden,” he said, looking again sharply at the old gentleman. Mr.
Todmorden felt he quailed under the glance. “It’s a button. And, the
curious thing is, it is a pyjama button.”

“Yes?” Mr. Todmorden’s mouth went dry.

“Funny wear for a burglar--pyjamas,” commented the inspector. “Don’t
you think so, sir?”

“Very curious.” Mr. Todmorden recognized the urgent necessity for a
normal voice. “Yes; very curious.” He must talk--say something! “By the
way, inspector, I’ve been thinking about that reward. I’ve decided to
triple it. I--I am determined to catch the scoundrel.”

“Very kind of you, sir. I hope we shall ask you for the cheque. We’re
on the road, anyway. We’ve only got to find out where those pyjamas
came from, and, quite likely, we shall get on his track.”

“Yes, yes, quite so.” Would the interview never end? Mr. Todmorden
agonized.

“If we can only find some buttons like this we can make a start. There
are differences even in pyjama buttons, you know, sir. I have compared
it with mine, but it doesn’t tally. Would you mind comparing it with
yours?”

Mr. Todmorden stared at him, speechless.

“Would you mind comparing it with yours, sir? We must not neglect any
chance of getting a clue. Allow me!”

He stepped quickly to the old gentleman and flung aside his
dressing-gown. The buttons, with the hanging thread of their missing
fellow, were revealed. Triumph flashed in the inspector’s face.

“James Henry Todmorden, I----”

Mr. Todmorden jumped back from his grasp. With a sharp cry he drew his
hand swiftly from his pocket. There was a report, and he dropped to the
floor.

The inspector looked at his lifeless body.

“I thought the old rascal did it,” he said. “A well-planned bit of
work, though.”



THROUGH THE GATE OF HORN


The young man’s face was pale. His jaw, hard-set in a grip of
self-control, lent his clever, handsome features a suggestion of force
remarkable for his twenty-two years. At maturity, his intellect, backed
by so much character, would be formidable. He turned to the window,
stared out of it for a long moment. Then he switched round upon the
girl.

“So that’s your last word, Betty?--Finish?”

Her eyes dropped under his, were raised again in a volition which dared
to match itself, though she was tremulous with the effort, against the
challenge of his voice. Their blue depths were charmingly sincere.

“I cannot help myself, Jack.” She shook her head pathetically. “You
ought to understand.”

His voice came grimly, with intent to wound.

“You are selling yourself to James Arrowsmith. Yes, I understand.”

She shuddered, turned away her head in despair of sympathetic
comprehension. There was a silence during which both gazed down vistas
of gloomy thought. Then she looked up again, diffidently venturing
another appeal to his magnanimity.

“You know Father’s position----”

He nodded, sardonically.

“I know. He thinks his business is safe if James Arrowsmith is his
son-in-law instead of merely his go-ahead competitor. He’s wrong.
Arrowsmith would cut his own brother’s throat if he met him on a dark
road and thought he had a dollar in his pocket. He’s just a modern
brigand!”

The girl sighed.

“What can I do, Jack?--Father----”

He blazed out in a sudden fury.

“Oh, yes, I know! Father! I can’t help your father being a fool! It’s
not my fault that he can’t recognize potentiality in a man--that he
is only capable of appreciating a success that is already made, which
he can measure by a balance in a bank! Give me ten years--I’ll eat up
James Arrowsmith!”

The girl shook her head sadly.

“Ten years, Jack--it’s a long time ahead. We have got to deal with
things as they are to-day. And to-day----”

“I’m nothing!” he said, bitterly.

She looked up at him.

“You are just a promising young man fresh from college, Jack! With a
big future before you, I am sure of that--but it’s only a future!”

“I’ve started, anyway!” he exclaimed. “I’ve got that job on the
_Rostrum_--begin next week. And I’m going to make good!”

“Of course you are--but--we can’t marry on your pay as a very junior
sub-editor.” She shook her head again. “We must be reasonable, Jack. If
I saw any chance----”

“Yes,” he interrupted, brutally, “if you saw any chance of my
driving you about in six months’ time in a big motor-car like James
Arrowsmith’s--then you would condescend to love me!”

She stood up, her eyes filled with tears.

“Oh, _don’t_, Jack!” She turned away her head, pressed her hand to
her eyes, dropped it in a hopeless gesture. She faced him again, her
sensitive mouth quivering at the corners, her expression appealing
from misery to compassion. Evidently, she hardly dared trust herself
to speak. “You know I love you!” Her voice caught, almost broke. “You
know I love you now--shall never love any one else. All my life I shall
remember you--if I live fifty years----”

His short laugh was intended to express that terrible cynicism of Youth
losing its first illusions.

“Cut it out, Betty! In fifty years you will be seventy. No doubt
you will be a charming old lady. You may even be sentimental--you
can indulge safely in the luxury, then! But you won’t even remember
my name. You’ll only be interested in the love-affairs of your
grandchildren!”

She smiled at him involuntarily--and then consciously maintained the
gleam in her eyes, quick to emphasize and elaborate the note of comedy
he had accidentally struck. It was escape from threatening acrimony.

“And you, Jack? In nineteen-seventy-two? Will you remember _my_
name?--Will you be even sentimental, I wonder?--Oh, I should like to
see you--a cynical old grandfather, telling your grandchildren not to
marry for money, but to marry where money is!--Oh, Jack!” Her voice was
genuinely mirthful. “You _will_ come and see me and talk their affairs
over with me, won’t you? We shall be two such dear old cronies!”

He had to concentrate on his frown, endangered by her infectious sense
of humour.

“I shall never marry!” he announced, gloomily. “So there’s not much use
in promising to discuss my grandchildren’s affairs with you fifty years
hence. I shall never love another woman.”

She ignored the sombre vaticination, determined to keep on a safer
plane of futurity.

“Oh, wouldn’t you like to see, Jack? Fifty years ahead--and all that
will happen in the meantime?” There was just a hint of seriousness
in the light tone, in the bright eyes which smiled into his. “If
one could only know!” Her face went wistful. “I often wonder--these
crystal-gazers and people--whether they can really see----” She looked
up at, him. “Jack! You are so clever and know everything--don’t you
know any place where one can go and really see what is going to
happen?”

He smiled, half in pleasure at her flattery, half in the consciousness
of being about to say a clever thing. The smile was wholly youthful,
despite his assumption of withered cynicism.

“Yes. The place to which you are sending me.”

“What place?” Her tone was puzzled.

“Hell!” he said shortly.

She wrinkled her brows.

“I don’t understand.”

“Of course, you haven’t read Virgil,” he said, with the crushing
superiority of the newly fledged graduate. “It’s in the sixth
book--where he takes Ænas into Hades. He describes two gates there--a
gate of horn and a gate of ivory. They are the gates through which
all dreams come. Those that pass through the ivory gate are false
dreams--the true ones come out of the gate of horn. I will sit down
beside it, and report if any of them concern you. You haven’t left me
much other interest,” he concluded, bitterly, “and this life will be
just Hell.”

She looked at him in a short silence.

“You are being very cruel, Jack. Do you think there will be much
happiness for me?” She turned away her head.

He laid both his hands on her shoulders, compelled her gaze to meet his.

“Then let me give you happiness! Betty, I love you! I love you! I care
for nothing in the world but you! Risk it! Forget everything except
that you love me and I love you! You will never regret it. I will
make you the happiest woman on earth as I shall be the happiest man.
You cannot live without love! I love you, Betty!--and I shall always,
always love you! Trust yourself to it, whatever happens!”

She withdrew herself from him, shook her head hopelessly.

“I can’t,” she said, wearily. “I have promised----”

“Arrowsmith?”

“Father.” Her tone answered all the implications of his question
with a dreary finality that left no issue. Her sigh was a seal upon
resignation.

“Then it’s good-bye?”

She nodded in a forced economy of speech.

“Good-bye.”

He picked up hat, stick, and gloves and moved toward the door.

“You’ve nothing more to say to me?”

She shook her head, her eyes brimming with tears.

“No, Jack. Except that I shall remember this birthday as the most
miserable day of my life. You have not made it easy for me.”

“Why should I?” he asked, the uncompromising egotism of youth suddenly
harshly apparent. “You refuse the best gift I can offer you--myself!”

“I can’t help myself. But,” she hesitated on the pathetically forlorn
appeal, “you might be kind.” Her eyes implored him.

He struck himself upon the forehead with a dramatic little ejaculation
which matched the gesture.

“Bah!--It all seems like an evil dream to me!”

She smiled at him, sadly.

“I wish it came out of the gate of ivory, Jack--and not out of the gate
of horn!”

He flushed, his raw sensitiveness resentful of this boomerang return of
his own witticism.

“You can keep your sense of humour for James Arrowsmith,
Betty!--Good-bye!”

He snatched open the door, went out. He could not visualize her
standing there listening for his shattering slam of the front door,
running to the window for a last glimpse. He thought of her only as
mocking at the tragedy which was so real to him.

In a furious rage with the universe as constituted, he marched blindly
out of the house and straight across the pavement with intent to quit
even her side of the road. His brain in a whirl, he looked neither to
right nor left, careless of an environment which was at that moment
scarcely real to him. He only half-heard the raucous scream of a Klaxon
horn, a warning human shout--and then something struck him violently on
the side, followed it with a crashing blow on his head.

He could not see Betty’s face, tense and white, bending over his
senseless body as it was extricated from under James Arrowsmith’s
plutocratic car and--after her emphatic prohibition of hospital--borne
into her father’s house.

       *       *       *       *       *       *

He felt himself shoot upward in the vast, familiar elevator of the
_Daily Rostrum_ building. His head was full of important business,
interviews with Senators, statesmen, financiers which had filled his
busy day. With practised mental control he screened these matters
temporarily from his consciousness, cleared his brain for the immediate
tasks which awaited him. The elevator stopped opposite a door which
bore his name. As he opened it he heard, with the little glow of
observed success, the awed recognitory whisper of one of the two seedy
journalists he left behind him in the lift: “_The Editor!_”

He entered the big room hung with wall-maps above the low-ranged
bookcases, where a lady clerk was arranging his afternoon tea on a
little table by the side of his massive desk. His secretary, evidently
alert for his entrance, appeared at another door.

“Mr. Bolingbroke is waiting to see you, sir!”

“Good! Show him in!”

He settled himself in his big chair, glanced at the pile of papers on
his desk, looked up to nod a curt greeting to the keen-faced young man
who entered.

“Five minutes, Mr. Bolingbroke!” he said warningly, with a gesture
toward the papers which awaited him.

The young man smiled.

“I can do more business with you, sir, in five minutes, than I can with
another man in fifty,” he said, extracting a wad of typescript from an
attaché case. “Here’s the draft of the last article.”

He took it, leaned back in his chair, ran his eye over it. It was
headed “_The Cut-throat Combine. The Arrowsmith Apaches Uneasy For
Their Own Scalps. More Points for the Public Prosecutor._”

He skimmed it through rapidly. It was a scathing denunciation of a
predatory Trust with which the proprietors of the _Daily Rostrum_ had
quarrelled. Chapter and verse were given for a series of malpractices
which, substantiated after this publicity, would infallibly bring the
wrongdoers before a court of justice. He leaned forward, picked up a
pencil, struck out a few sentences, made other points more telling.
Suddenly he frowned, scored out a whole paragraph.

“You’re too tame over this infantile mortality business! You want to
let yourself scream over it. That’s the note that’ll wake ’em up!
Get all the sentimental parents clamouring for his blood!” He handed
back the typescript. “Rewrite the final paragraph and it’ll pass.” He
glanced at his watch. “Four and a half minutes, Mr. Bolingbroke!” he
said, an almost boyish note of triumph in his voice, “and I guess it’s
finish for Mr. James Arrowsmith!”

He turned to his tea while the journalist made his exit. Then he bent
himself forward to the business on his desk.

As he ran through and signed letter after letter, his own phrase
“Finish for Mr. James Arrowsmith!” rang in his head, repeated itself
over and over again with almost the distinctness of an auditory
hallucination. A detached portion of his consciousness listened to it,
was lured into a train of thought that was not unpleasant.

Of course, he had no real personal grudge against James Arrowsmith.
Without him----! He smiled as he set his signature at the foot of yet
another letter. That was a long time ago! And he had prophesied it--he
remembered, suddenly, his own words--“Give me ten years and I’ll _eat_
James Arrowsmith!” Ten years! He glanced involuntarily at the calendar
in front of him, read the date--1932. By Jove, it _was_ ten years--ten
years ago--Betty’s birthday! He glanced again at the calendar--and
dropped his pen on the desk with a sharp exclamation of annoyance. Good
Lord, of course it was! It was Betty’s birthday to-day! And he had
forgotten it!

For a moment or two he stared in front of him, his brows contracted
into a frown which was directed impartially at circumstance and
himself. He had been so terribly busy of late--but, of course, he must
find time. Poor old Betty! He took up the telephone instrument on his
desk, gave a number.

“Hallo! That you, Betty?--Jack. Jack speaking. Many happy returns of
the day! What?--Of course I remembered!--What?--Well, it’s only five
o’clock,” his tone was one of self-extenuation. “I say, old girl!
We’ll go out to dinner--any restaurant you like! What? You’ve got an
appointment?” He repeated the words incredulously. “Oh, very well!--I
say, Betty! You haven’t got a cold or anything, have you?--Oh, all
right--no, I only thought your voice sounded strange.” He frowned.
“Very well--do as you like! Good-bye!” He put back the receiver with a
vicious thud.

Throughout the remainder of the afternoon, while he gave directions to
the series of sub-editors who came deferentially into his presence, an
obscure worry persisted at the back of his consciousness. Of course--he
had to confess it--he had neglected her of late. How long was it since
he had been home? Only a month--or five weeks? The foreground of his
brain, working at full pressure on the problems continuously submitted
to it for instant decision, failed to solve the question--relegated it
to be worried over by that independent consciousness at the back of
his mind. It was a long time, anyway! Of course she understood. It was
the paper--the paper to which he was the slave--which, practically, he
never quitted (he had a bedroom in the building)--the paper of which he
personally read every item that was printed and an enormous quantity
of copy which was not--the paper which was his pride, his joy, his
one interest in life! Of course, she understood--but it was rough on
her. Poor old Betty! He thought of her strange voice, and winced with
remorse. She had been brooding over no letter that morning. If only
she would have gone to dinner with him! He felt that he could have
explained things, put everything straight. But she had an appointment!
What appointment? With whom? He put a thought out of his mind, and the
thought peeped persistently over the barrier. Impossible, of course!
Preposterous! Docile little Betty? Besides--who could there be? His
vanity was scornful of the idea.

Nevertheless, as he worked, an impulse kept rising in him, ever more
powerfully, an impulse to go home--to go home at once. He fidgeted as
he beat back the disturbing desire, had to concentrate himself fiercely
upon his task. Suddenly, as though the obscure subconsciousness, which
was, after all, his real self, had come to a decision in which his
brain had no part, he surrendered. He was surprised at himself as he
sharply pressed the bell-button upon his desk. His secretary appeared.

“Tell Mr. Thompson to see the paper through to-night. Get me a taxi at
once!”

The well-disciplined secretary barely succeeded in veiling his
astonishment.

“Very good, sir.--And if we get that cable from Yokohama----?”

He bit his lip in an unwonted hesitation. Upon the contents of a cable
expected that evening from Yokohama he would have to decide the policy
of his paper, and upon the policy of his paper, as outlined in the
leader which would be published in the morning, depended to a large
extent the direction of the current of popular opinion--the current
which would set in a few days toward peace or war. To-night, if ever,
he ought to remain at his post, but the dominant impulse which had
swept over him would take no denial. He felt like a traitor to his
professional code as he replied:

“I may be back. If I am not, ring me up. You will find me at home.”

His straight stare at the secretary challenged and browbeat the
bewilderment in that young man’s eyes.

“Very good, sir,” he said, submissively, and departed.

A few minutes later he found himself speeding homeward in a taxi that,
despite the reckless audacity of the liberally subsidized driver,
could not go fast enough. The momentary halts imposed by cross-traffic
seemed interminably prolonged delays. Of course he was a fool, he
told himself--but his impatience increased with every second, set
his fingers drumming upon the unread evening newspaper on his knee.
At last! The taxi swung into the pavement in front of the tall block
of flats where he had his city home. He jumped out with the feverish
alacrity of a man who hastens to avert disaster, almost ran to the
elevator.

Another moment and he was fitting his key into the latch. He swung the
door open--was confronted by Betty in hat and furs, apparently just on
the point of departure. She shrank back at his entrance, went white.

“Jack!”

The tone of her voice reëchoed in him like an alarm-bell. He looked
sharply at her.

“Where are you going?”

She stared at him, white to the lips, evidently unable to answer. He
repeated the question in a level voice from which, by an effort of
will, he banished the wild suspicion which suddenly surged up in him.

“Where are you going, Betty?”

She laughed, a trifle hysterically.

“You are taking a great interest in my doings all at once, Jack! I’m
going out, of course.--I told you I had an appointment.”

His eyes met hers, held them till they dropped and she went suddenly
red. He opened the door of an adjoining room, gestured her to enter,
followed her.

They stood and faced each other in a silence that seemed to ring with
the menace of near event. He was the first to break it.

“Now perhaps you will tell me where you are going, Betty?” He held
his voice on a note of politeness, but it was nevertheless sternly
compelling.

Her eyes sought the carpet. Her bosom heaved deeply through a long
moment where there was no sound save the suddenly perceived loud
ticking of the clock upon the mantelpiece. Then, on the wave of a
resolve, she lifted her head, confronted him proudly.

“I am going to leave you, Jack!” It was evident that she had to fight
to keep her voice from breaking. “I--I have had enough of it!”

His ejaculation was characteristic.

“My dear!--You must be mad!”

An answering anger came into her eyes.

“Mad or not--I mean it!”

“Leave Maisie?” he cried incredulously.

She smiled at him, more in control of herself now than he.

“No. I am taking Maisie with me,” she said with deliberate calmness.

“But you can’t! I will not allow it!”

“Perhaps you propose to sit here all day and watch her?” she asked,
with biting sarcasm. Then, with a sudden change of tone, indignation
flamed up in her. “What is she to you?--Is she any more to you than
I am?--Do you see her from one month’s end to another?--Do you ask
after her? Do you write to her? Do you take the faintest interest in
her?--No!--Once you leave this flat and go to your hateful paper, you
forget her as utterly as you do me!” Her eyes blazed at him. “Maisie
and I are all the world to each other, Jack! And we will not be
separated! We go together!”

The violence of this outburst from the woman whose docility he had
so long accepted as naturally as he did that of his staff upon the
_Rostrum_ shocked him profoundly. At the same time, a blinding passion
of jealousy surged up in him.

“You shall not go!”

“I shall!” There was no mistaking the determination in her voice. “The
moment your back is turned!”

The room seemed to reel about him. The hitherto so solid foundations
of his existence had broken up suddenly beneath him. He could not have
suspected so great a capacity for emotion in himself. He pressed his
hand against his brow, closed his eyes tight in the sickening shock.

“Who is it?” he asked hoarsely. “The man?--His name?”

Her eyes seemed to be probing the depth of his wound as they looked
into his, but they showed no compassion.

“I cannot tell you.” Her tone was unshakably firm.

There was again a silence, in which he fought for mastery over himself.
He looked at her in uncomprehending despair.

“Betty! Betty, tell me why?--For God’s sake, tell me why!--You used to
love me. Tell me why you’ve changed!”

She evidently was also fighting to keep his emotion from communicating
itself to her. He thought, as he waited for her answer, that her head
never looked more nobly beautiful.

“Do you remember, Jack? Ten years ago?--Ten years to-day?--You said to
me: ‘You cannot live without love!’ You were right.” A sob, that almost
escaped its check, came into her voice. “I cannot live without love.”

He looked for yet another moment upon the sad dignity of her face,
upon the quivering, sensitive mouth, upon the eyes that brimmed with
tears--then, with an impulsive movement, he sprang forward, seized her
two hands in his. The tears were in his eyes also, and in his voice.

“Oh, Betty, Betty darling! I remember! And I said ‘I love you! I love
you! Trust yourself to it whatever happens!’--Oh, Betty! Is it too
late? Is it too late?”

Her eyes looked deeply into his, incredulous at first of his sincerity,
then softening in a wonderful certitude, she let herself go into his
enfolding arms, her mouth drawn wistfully close to his, yet still, for
a moment, withheld. All pride went out of her suddenly. She implored,
like a soul that has an unbelievable chance of life.

“Oh, Jack! You do love me?--You love me still!--Oh, Jack, Jack!”

She buried her head upon his shoulder, her body shaking with sobs.

He caressed her, soothingly.

“My dear! My beloved! My dear, dear Betty! Of course I love you! You
and Maisie are all I have in the world--and it’s mostly you!--Oh,
I know I’ve been a fool! I’ve thought only of my selfish ambition.
But, dear, try me again! I’ll be so much kinder to you, so much more
thoughtful.--And we’ll forget all this. Never remember it. I won’t even
ask you the man’s name.”

She half-raised her head from his shoulder, swallowed tearfully.

“There--there wasn’t any man!” she said, and broke down again into a
passion of sobs that would not cease.

       *       *       *       *       *       *

As he expected, the young man was waiting for him. Maisie was waiting
also, standing very tall and rigid by the window, in all the dignity
of youth measuring swords with the parental generation. He thought, as
he came into the centre of the room, how like her mother she was--her
mother twenty years ago, when she had faced _her_ father. He nearly
smiled at the remembrance, checked himself with a thought of the matter
in hand. This, of course, was quite different!

The young man rose to meet him. They shook hands with the amount of
stiffness proper to the occasion. He found himself suddenly wishing
that Betty were here, after all. He had been hasty in telling her to
keep out of the way. She could handle Maisie more tactfully than he
could. Very reasonable woman, Betty--she had seen his point of view at
once. These thoughts passed swiftly through his mind as he invited the
young man to a chair, seated himself. There was an awkward silence.

He and the young man broke it at the same instant.

“You wanted to speak to me----?”

“I think you understand, sir----”

Both stopped likewise at the same instant to make way for the other,
and both failed to recommence.

Maisie stepped forward impatiently, stood between them, towering
superbly.

“I don’t see why you want all this icy ceremony, both of you,” she
said scornfully. She turned to her father. “Jim wants to marry me,
Father--and I want to marry Jim. And that’s all there is to it!”

“Indeed!” He raised his eyebrows in mild sarcasm. “I wonder you thought
it necessary to inform me of such a trifling matter.”

“We thought it better to tell you.” Maisie was cheerfully unscathed.

“Much obliged, I am sure. I’m very interested. I expect you will both
of you want to marry lots more people before you’ve finished. I shall
always be willing to lend a sympathetic ear when you care to tell me of
the latest.”

“Father!” broke out Maisie indignantly. He felt that he had scored.
“This is serious!”

“It always is,” he said philosophically. “And you, young man? I suppose
you are burning to add your testimony of the solemnity of this occasion
to Maisie’s?” He felt that if he could only keep it up on this tone he
was safe. Maisie was apt to be so damnably stubborn and unmanageable
once he failed to maintain superiority. As for the young man--well, of
course, he was only a young man. He could soon manage _him_!

This young man, however, was no whit abashed.

“I am, sir,” he said, confidently. “Maisie and I are made for each
other!” he added, uttering the banality as though it were now for the
first time new-minted for the lovers’ lexicon.

“Really?--It is a happy chance, for certainly Maisie’s mother and
myself omitted to take you into account when we----”

“Father!”

“--named her at the baptismal font,” he continued, equably. He had
scored again.

The young man was impervious.

“Perhaps there are higher Powers than you, sir?” he ventured, with
polite deference.

“--Even if you are the editor of the _Daily Rostrum_!” added Maisie
viciously.

He resettled himself in his chair under this lively counter-attack.

“Well, let us drop these witticisms,” he said with some asperity. “Come
to business. Let’s hear your case, if you have one.”

“Certainly, sir. I ask your permission to marry Maisie.”

“I appreciate the courtesy. What is your income?”

The young man hesitated.

“Well--at present, sir----”

“Nothing, I suppose?” He was still keeping his end up, was
well-satisfied with the tartness of that question. He nearly smiled as
he watched the young man wriggle.

“I must confess, sir--but I have qualifications--and I am ambitious!”

“All young men are ambitious,” he replied, oracularly. “Let us hear the
qualifications!”

“I graduated with honours at my university----”

“Pooh! So did the man who sells my paper at the corner of the street!”

“--and I have great hopes of getting a good job.”

“Indeed!--Where?”

“On your paper, sir!”

He was staggered by the young man’s impudence.

“My compliments!--But, as I unfortunately fail to share those hopes, I
must regretfully refuse the permission you ask for!”

He had only just managed to keep his temper.

Maisie sailed forward to the attack.

“But, Father, you have often told me that when you married Mother you
were only a graduate with your first job on the _Rostrum_! We don’t
mind struggling--we should _like_ to struggle--just as you did!”

“Things were different then. That was a long time ago. In this year of
nineteen forty-two life is much more difficult than when your mother
and I were young.”

“It only seems so to you because you have got old. It isn’t difficult
to us young people!” said Maisie, smilingly positive.

He winced under the unconscious cruelty of this remark.

“Perhaps you will allow my experience to be the best judge,” he
said, snappily. “In any case, I refuse my permission! The idea is
ridiculous!--I do not think there is any more I need say, young man,”
he concluded, making a movement to rise from his chair.

Maisie pinned him down to it, both arms around him, kneeling at his
side, her face--Betty’s young face!--looking up to him in winsome
appeal.

“Father!” she said, and her voice was full of soft cajolery, “if any
one took Mother away from you, wouldn’t you feel it dreadfully?” He had
a sudden little flitting vision of a crisis ten years back. “Would life
be worth anything to you?--I mean it seriously.” She paused for a reply
he refused to give. “Well, Father--that’s just what life will be like
to Jim if you take me away from him!”

“I don’t see the necessity of the parallel,” he countered, feebly.

“Oh, yes, you do. And Father!--If any one took you away from
Mother?--What would life be like to her?--You know! _Just a dreary
blank!_--And that’s what my life will be like if you send Jim away from
me!”

“But----” he began.

She put her hand over his mouth, a deliciously soft young hand, with a
faint fragrance that reminded him----

“No!” she continued, inexorably. “Listen to me! I haven’t finished.
If any one took you from Mother, and she knew where to find you--what
would she do? You know! She would go to you, whatever was in the
way!--And, Father, that’s what I should do!--Father!” she said, and
her tone was full of solemn warning, “would you like to think of your
darling little Maisie starving somewhere in a top back room--and
hating you, _hating you_!” her voice suddenly became almost genuinely
vicious, “because you wouldn’t give her husband a chance to earn his
living? Would you like to sit day after day, not knowing where she
was, wondering all sorts of things--with Mother sitting on the chair
opposite and not daring to say a word--day after day, and year after
year, and never hear from her any more?--And all because you were a
stubborn, foolish old man who had forgotten what real love was!”

“But, Maisie----” he did not himself know what he was going to say.

She snuggled up close to him, looked up into his face.

“Dadsie!” she said, and the voice was the voice of the child Maisie who
had so often looked up from his knee with just that irresistible smile
which had brought strange tears to his eyes then as it did now--sudden
tears he could not quite keep back. “Dadsie!” she said once more and
her tone went straight to his heart. “You do love your little Maisie,
don’t you? And you want to make her happy--all her life you have wanted
to make her happy and you’re going to make her happy now. You are
going to give her Jim, her man--like you are Mother’s man--a chance
to make good. You are going to give us both a chance to make good
together--like you and Mother have made good together. You are still
going to be Maisie’s dear, good, kind, generous father whom she will
always love--aren’t you, Dadsie?”

The young man stood up.

“Sir,” he said, “I’ve lost my father. And if I could choose another
one--I should like it to be you!”

The older man warmed suddenly at the unmistakable sincerity of
his tone. He was a good lad, after all--very like himself, he
thought--twenty years ago!

“Dadsie!” implored Maisie, her arms still about him. “Dadsie!--Say
yes!--Just think it’s Mother and you starting for the first time!”

Something broke down in him--almost the barrier against unmanliness. He
blew his nose quickly and his smile had a twist in it as he looked into
Maisie’s eyes.

“That’s not fair!” he said. “But you’ve won. You shall have your
chance.--You can start to-morrow, young man, but, mind--to work!” He
stood up, went to the door.

“Betty!” he called as he opened it.

She stood there--smiling at him. He guessed suddenly that she had been
there all the while.

“Well?” she said, her eyes happy.

He glanced round to where the two young lovers had stood. But they had
vanished together into the garden.

“I’ve been an old fool, my dear!” he said, smiling.

“You’ve been an old dear!” she replied, putting an arm about him and
coming with him into the room. “You couldn’t have made me a better
birthday present!” Her eyes, also, were full of tears.

“Forty to-day!” he said, “and it only seems like yesterday since you
and I----”

“And you still love me?” she queried, in a tone that had no doubt,
looking up into his face.

“I still love you,” he replied, happily positive. “Just as I did then!”

Arms about each other, he led her in front of the big mirror over the
fireplace and they smiled at the reflected picture of their union.

“She called me an old man,” he said, a little ruefully, patting his
hair before the mirror. “I’m getting a bit gray, too.” He looked at
her. “But you, dear, you haven’t got a gray hair--and in my eyes you
are just as beautiful as ever!”

She shook her head slowly at him in delight.

“And you are just as handsome!”

He smiled down upon her.

“Maisie accused me of being too old to remember what true love was,” he
said. “Do you think so, dear?--Have we forgotten?”

“Darling!” she whispered, as she snuggled close against him.

They kissed, believing that their kiss was just the kiss of twenty
years ago. It wasn’t. It was a symbol of infinitely more.

       *       *       *       *       *       *

He sat tapping his foot impatiently on the carpet of the ante-room to
the council-chamber of the _Daily Rostrum_. Behind the closed door
a meeting of the chief proprietors was in secret deliberation. He
glanced at his watch, his dignity fretting at this unwonted exclusion,
an unacknowledged anxiety unsettling his nerves. He knew himself to
be on the threshold of a new epoch. An enterprising, young-blooded
syndicate was acquiring the _Daily Rostrum_, was even then in conclave
with the old proprietors, agreeing upon the final terms. They had sent
for him--had asked him (oh, most courteously!) to give them yet five
minutes.

But he was resentful of those five minutes. Young Henry Vancoutter
(not so very young now, though--he must be forty!--Let me see--twenty
years----), the chief proprietor, ought to have treated him with more
consideration. He deserved better than to be left cooling his heels
while the destinies of his paper--_his_ paper, for he if any one had
made it, had lived for it for forty years, had been its unchallenged
autocrat for thirty--were in the balance. The old man would never
have done it, he thought, resentful of this rising generation. Never
once was old Vancoutter lacking in the respect due to him, the prince
of editors who had made his property one of the most valuable in the
journalistic world.

He wondered what the future would bring. Doubtless the policy of the
paper would be changed--that was only natural, of course. They must
go ahead with the times (he nerved himself for an effort that he felt
would be a tax upon his strength). Yes--perhaps they had fallen a bit
behind of late. The circulation was not what it was--not half what it
had been fifteen years ago. They had made rather a virtue of being a
trifle old-fashioned, appealing to conservative instincts. Not in the
old days, certainly--but for the last twenty years. And undoubtedly
they had suffered from it. He must look up the side-lines a bit--the
radio-service to private subscribers, for example. He drifted on to a
vague calculation of the initial cost for the service of wirelessed
cinema-pictures of current events, mingled with advertisements, with
which their go-ahead rival the _Lightning News_ was making so great
success with hotels and flat communities. His jaw set. He would beat
them on their own ground. He would show the world that the editor of
the _Rostrum_ was still alive, was still a power.

Yes--he was not done yet. He could not--no one could--conceive the
_Rostrum_ without him. He was the paper itself. There was not the
faintest possibility of his being replaced. It was unthinkable as
practical near politics, as unimaginable as death itself. Such a day
was, thank God, still remote. Old proprietors or new, there was no
question that he was the indispensable editor. But he would have to put
his shoulder to the wheel.

He wondered what Betty would think of the changes. Poor old Betty! She
was getting very frail, but (he thought, cheerfully) considering that
she was sixty to-day she was a wonderful woman. He glanced at his watch
again, fidgeted with impatience. She would be waiting for him in the
car outside--very nice of the old dear to come down for him every day
as she had done for now, let me see, was it five or six years past?
Ever since he had had his illness. Dear old Betty! He warmed himself
with the thought of the splendid fur coat he was going to buy her as a
birthday present that afternoon.

The door opened suddenly. Young Vancoutter uttered his name with a
smile, murmured an apology, beckoned him in.

He entered, glanced round upon the familiar faces and the new ones
gathered on each side of the long table. The new looked up at him with
interest, the old bent over blotting-pads on which they scribbled idly.
He seated himself.

Vancoutter spoke in his familiar crisp tones.

“Mr. Trenchard, I have to inform you that the board has come to very
satisfactory terms with the syndicate who are, in fact, now the new
proprietors of the _Daily Rostrum_.” The speaker paused for a moment,
cleared his throat. “You will, of course, readily understand that
these new proprietors wish to have complete control of their property
and that their ideas of editorial management may not coincide with
ours--with those which you have so successfully and so worthily upheld
for so many years.” He felt himself turn sick as he listened, pinched
his lips together lest his emotion should be remarked. A mantle of
ice seemed to compress him. Vancoutter continued, with an indulgent
smile: “We for our part, of course, have safeguarded the interests of
a man who has served us so brilliantly, whose association with our
paper----” ‘_Our paper_’! He almost smiled in bitter irony.“--has so
materially contributed to bring it to that pitch of influence at which
it is still maintained to-day. Therefore, as part of the purchase-price
paid by the new proprietors, ten thousand shares have been set aside
as your property--and, if you prefer it, the syndicate has engaged
itself to buy those shares of you, cash down, at the current market
valuation----”

He scarcely knew what followed. He had only the most indistinct
recollection of several other long-winded speeches whose flattery was
sincerely intended to soften the blow. He could not remember what he
himself had said--apparently, he had kept his dignity--had duly thanked
the old proprietors. Of all the welter of words, he clearly recalled
only--“The younger generation, Mr. Trenchard! A man of sixty-two owes
it to himself to retire!”--and they haunted him, rang over and over
again in his brain like the knell of his life.

At last he escaped, went stumbling blindly down the stairs, forgetting,
for the first time for forty years, the elevator. Betty was waiting for
him in the closed car, her head peering out of the window. He groped
for the door, almost fell into it. She helped him to the seat.

“My dear! What is the matter?” she said, white with alarm. “Are you
ill?”

He clenched his jaw in the agony of his humiliation.

“Sacked!” he said briefly, the tears starting to his eyes. “Sacked at a
moment’s notice!”

She stared at him, unable at first to grasp the full significance of
his words.

“Oh, no, Jack! No!” she said. “No! You can’t mean it! It’s not true?”

He nodded, gazing fixedly out of the window, away from her.

“It’s true!” he replied grimly. “My life’s finished!”

She felt timidly for his hand, pressed it without a word. He turned
and faced her. They looked for a moment into each other’s eyes, then
suddenly he crumpled into her arms, a dead-beat old man, and sobbed
like a child.

“Oh, Jack, dear! Jack!” she said, caressing the gray head upon which
her tears fell like rain. “At last we can be together!”

       *       *       *       *       *       *

They sat side by side on the porch of the country-house, overlooking
the wide lawns which swept down to a belt of trees and the river.
Along the bank two young couples were walking in a close and intimate
comradeship whose happiness was indicated by the bright young laughter
which floated at intervals, in the stillness of the sunny afternoon,
to the porch of the house. He watched them as they went, then turned
silently to his companion. Betty sat, sweetly placid, a little smile
just accentuating the loose wrinkles on the soft face, her eyes looking
perhaps after the young people, perhaps into happy thoughts. He thought
she was very beautiful as she sat there--and inestimably precious.

“Betty darling!” he said suddenly, lifting her hand to his lips, “to
think that you are seventy to-day!”

She turned and smiled at him, her pale-blue eyes darkening with
grateful love.

“Nineteen seventy-two, Jack!” she said, softly. “Do you remember----?”

His smile answered hers.

“Yes, dear. I remember----”

She checked him with a little gesture.

“Hush! Don’t speak!” she murmured, as though in awe.

They sat there, hand in hand, in silence, gazing over the lawns to
where their grandchildren wandered with the lovers of their choice,
in a quiet ecstasy for which they had no words. Love swelled in them,
filled them with the soundless harmonies wherein Life’s discords are
resolved.

       *       *       *       *       *       *

“Hush! Don’t speak!”

He opened his eyes. Betty was bending over him. Betty? He stared
at her, puzzled. Where were the soft wrinkles, the gray hair? This
was Betty--Betty as she used to be all that time ago. Then his
consciousness readjusted itself suddenly to its environment. He gazed
round on an unfamiliar bedroom where Betty moved with an air of
proprietorship.

“I have had such strange dreams, dear----” he said weakly.

She bent over him again, smiled.

“From the gate of horn?” she asked. How charming she looked!

He collected his thoughts with an effort--remembered, all at once.

“I hope so, dear--please God, they are!”

She rearranged his pillow, smoothed the sheet under his chin, smiled
again.

“Go to sleep, Jack--lots more sleep!” she commanded gently but
authoritatively.

Without strength or will to protest, he let himself relapse once more
into drowsiness. Suddenly he opened his eyes.

“What was the name of the man who wanted to marry Maisie?” he asked, as
though he had long been puzzling over the question.

“Maisie?” She looked at him in blank lack of comprehension.

“Our daughter!”

A beautiful smile of tenderness, of something ineffably feminine, came
into her eyes. What was it she gazed at in that instant of silence?

“Hush, dear. Don’t talk!” she said, softly, kissing him on the brow.
“Go and sit again by the gate of horn.”



THE WHITE DOG


Mr. Gilchrist was nervous and fidgety. He was alone, not merely in the
dining-room where he sat, but in the house; and solitude at night to
a man accustomed to find comfort and distraction in the presence of
others is a black desert where one starts at one’s own footsteps.

Sitting there in the dining-room of the pretty suburban villa he had
had built some twenty miles from town, the familiar objects which
surrounded him seemed to have grown remote, unfamiliar. Smoking his
pipe, with the half-read newspaper on his knee, his ear was worried by
the insistent ticking of the clock, and this ticking seemed a novel,
almost uncanny, phenomenon. He could not remember having heard a sound
from that timepiece before. There were features about the sideboard,
too, as he gazed at it fixedly, that appeared quite strange to him.
Certain details of inlay-work on the Sheraton-pattern legs he perceived
now for the first time. These little unfamiliarities observed with his
mind on the stretch--the latent primitive man in him scenting danger in
solitude--added to the loneliness. The sheltering walls of the usual
were pushed away from him. He felt himself exposed, out of the call of
friends, in a desolation hinted by invisible malevolences. Of course,
the feeling was absurd. He shook himself and tried to summon up a
little of the bravura with which he had dismissed his wife and daughter
to the dance at the village a mile away, making light of their protests
that it was the one servant’s evening out, saying that at any rate she
in the kitchen would not be much company to him in the dining-room
where he proposed to sit and smoke. His friend Williamson might drop
in, too--anyway, he would be all right.

His friend Williamson had not dropped in, and with every slow minute
ticked out by that confounded clock he had found himself less at ease.
Once he got up and walked into another room, but the sound of his own
footsteps, heard with astonishing loudness in the house empty of any
other person, afflicted his nerves, and he returned to his former seat
in the dining-room.

The seven-thirty express from town rushed by on the railway line which
ran, fifty yards distant, parallel with the road; and the sound of it
heartened him for a minute or two. The world of fellow-men was brought
close to him for a flying second, and all his sociable instincts
greeted it, claiming acquaintance, as it sped along. Then, as the noise
of it died away into a silence yet more profound than before, the
primitive in him again peeped out through his civilization, panicky,
ear at stretch for stealthy danger. The stillness which surrounded the
lonely house seemed charged with perils that stole near with noiseless
footfall. A weird, mournful cry outside, breaking suddenly on that
stillness, pulled him erect on his feet, listening, trembling. The
cry was repeated, and he sat down again, telling himself that it was
an owl, as doubtless it was; but his hand shook as he picked up his
newspaper again and tried to read.

With some effort he forced his brain to grasp the meanings of the
words, which related a murder case, announced in massive letters at
the top of the column. The mental machine seemed to stop every now
and then and he found himself gazing at some unimportant, common word
in the line until it looked as strange and devoid of meaning as one
in a foreign and unknown language. The comprehension of it required a
deliberate effort of will.

Suddenly, with a soul-shaking unexpectedness, there was a violent,
rapid knocking at the door.

       *       *       *       *       *       *

He was on his feet in an instant, shaking in every limb,
panic-stricken as an Indian in a place of spirits. A primitive vague
dread of the supernatural held him motionless, obsessed by a formless
horror.

The knocking at the door renewed itself, a frantic hammering. The
repetition lightened him, redeemed it from the vague purposelessness of
the ghostly, suggested human anxiety at fever pitch. His imagination,
relieved from the spell, flew to work, building catastrophes after
familiar models. His wife and daughter? The disasters of fire,
vehicular collision or heart-failure presented themselves in confused
and fragmentary pictures. The door now resounded under a ceaseless rain
of blows; and, trembling so violently as to feel almost ill, he ran to
open it.

On the threshold stood a little, stout bearded man, past middle age. He
struck one or two frenzied blows at the air after the door had swung
away from him.

“What do you want?” demanded Mr. Gilchrist.

His visitor looked at him vacantly for a moment, seemingly unable to
adjust his mind to human intercourse.

“For God’s sake, give me some brandy--if you are a Christian man!”

“Come inside,” said Mr. Gilchrist, and he led the way into the
dining-room, the stranger following. “Bless my soul! What is it? An
accident?” He spoke nervously, more to himself than to his guest, who
replied nothing but stood swaying on his legs and kept from falling
only by the clutched-at support of the table. “Dear me--dear me! One
moment--I have some brandy here.” He fumbled with the key of the
tantalus. “Here you are. Steady, man, steady! Sit down.”

The stranger drank off the brandy and took a deep breath, passing his
hand over his brow like one recovering from a swoon. In the moment or
two of silence Mr. Gilchrist had leisure to scrutinize him. He was
without a hat, and his head shone in the lamplight, a polished dome
rising from a narrow forehead and a half-ring of gray wisps over
his ears. His eyes protruded, globularly, but it could be guessed
that they carried impressions to an active brain. His gray beard
converged irresolutely to a point in front of his chin. His clothes
were respectable but not well cut, and they were now soiled with earth.
One trouser-leg, Mr. Gilchrist noticed, was badly torn. Altogether his
appearance suggested a benevolent old gentleman, connected possibly
with some dissenting religious body, who had been badly mauled in
conflict with a gang of ruffians.

“Feel better?” asked Mr. Gilchrist. “Have some more.”

“No, I thank you, sir,” replied the stranger, and the tone of his voice
assured his host that he had to deal with an educated man. “I feel much
better. Alcohol, I may say, is an unfamiliar stimulant to me, and the
action of a comparatively small quantity is powerful. If I might beg a
little further indulgence of your kindness, however, I should be glad
to rest myself a minute or two.”

“Certainly, certainly--by all means. You will find that a more
comfortable chair. Have you met with an accident?”

The stranger’s protruding eyes flashed with a singular brightness at
the question. Then he sighed and again pressed the palm of his hand
across his brow.

“Your courtesy, sir, undoubtedly deserves some explanation of the
plight you have so generously relieved.” The man’s tone and phrasing
indicated a person accustomed to put his thoughts into an elaborated
word-structure for the attention of an audience. “I hardly think that
accident is the correct description of my misfortune. I am the victim,
sir, of a traitorous chain of circumstances, a chain of circumstances
so strange as to be scarcely credible.”

“Indeed?” Mr. Gilchrist had reseated himself and now bent forward, his
face alight with interest kindled by his guest’s last sentence. “If I
can help you in any way, I shall be glad to do so.”

The stranger acknowledged the offer by a downward inclination of the
head.

“Your great kindness of heart needs no further exposition, sir--it is
self-evident. I have no words sufficient to thank you. I greatly fear,
however, that I am beyond human help. A matter of a few hours is the
utmost respite from my fate that I can expect. None the less, I am
deeply grateful to you for this breathing-space.”

The stranger sighed again, and his countenance settled into a resigned
melancholy.

“You make me curious,” said Mr. Gilchrist. “Of course, I don’t wish to
intrude----”

The old gentleman raised his eyebrows and made a protesting movement
with his hand.

“In all probability, sir, you will soon be made acquainted with a
garbled newspaper version of the calamity which has befallen me. Its
dreadful nature is bound to flare into publicity. It is useless,
therefore, for me to attempt to conceal it. If you care to hear
the true version of a tragedy which every newsboy will be shouting
to-morrow morning--a version stranger than the one counsel for defence
and prosecution will adopt as a battle-ground for their wits--I will
do my best to gratify your curiosity. I may say that it will be some
comfort to me to know that one fellow human being--especially so
kind-hearted a one as yourself--is acquainted with the real facts.”

“My dear sir!” began Mr. Gilchrist. “Surely--you are overwrought--an
accident--I cannot believe----”

“I do not look like a murderer,” said the old gentleman, interrupting
him, a pathetic little smile on his grave face. “Nevertheless I am
one. It is the terrible truth, I assure you, sir. I am a murderer, a
murderer trapped into crime by that chain of circumstances I spoke of.
And I am a man that until to-day never wittingly took the life of any
creature, however small.”

“But--my dear sir!” Mr. Gilchrist half rose from his chair. His guest
waved him back into it.

“I am speaking the sober truth. You think that you are harbouring a
madman. I am as sane as you. If you care to listen, I will relate the
story, and when I have finished, if you desire to call in the local
police, you are at liberty to do so. I give you my word that there will
be no disturbance.”

Mr. Gilchrist sat back in his chair, half-fascinated, half-frightened.

“Go on,” he said briefly, not trusting himself to speak.

“I must first request your patience whilst I relate a few circumstances
which, however remote they may appear from the terrible fact that has,
among other things, made me your guest, are nevertheless intimately
connected with it.

“I am a man in business for myself, in a small way, as the saying is.
It might have been a larger way had not my intellectual activities been
employed on subjects which I regard as of graver and deeper import than
the purchase and sale of ephemeral commodities. For many years my mind
has been more familiar with that region known briefly as the occult,
than with the intricacies of terrestrial markets. I have striven
earnestly to penetrate to those great secrets which throb behind this
earthly veil--with what success I need not specify. Suffice it that
a small society of fellow-seekers after the Truth chose me as their
president, a position I still hold.

“However small your acquaintance with this difficult subject, sir,
you are probably aware--from hearsay, at least--that it has two great
aspects, good and evil. The pure in heart may achieve a certain mastery
over forces hidden from the multitude and use them for innocent or
praiseworthy ends, such, for example, as establishing communication
between our loved ones who have crossed the threshold and those who
remain here. This is known vulgarly as white magic. But there is a
black magic. It is known to every adept that it is possible--difficult,
perhaps, but possible--for self-seeking men who have, perchance before
they became perverted, had the key to these vast mysteries put in
their hands, to control the mighty forces of which I have spoken and
turn them, regardless of the suffering they inflict, to their personal
advantage.

“It is possible, I say, though exceedingly rare. Few men, good or evil,
are so fortunately endowed as to acquire a mastery over those forces
for any purpose, and of those who have acquired it the majority are
good. In any case they are rare. For myself, despite years of study
and anxious striving, I have utterly failed to grasp those forces save
in one or two trifling instances. This, by the way. For some time past
I have been conscious--I cannot now tell you by what agency I became
aware of it--that a group of men, greater adepts than any I have known,
had in fact subjected forces terrible in their power and were using
them to the danger of the world.”

The stranger turned his bulbous bright eyes to Mr. Gilchrist, who sat
silent, gripped in a spell which was partly fear. In the moment or two
of silence he heard that infernal clock ticking along with insistent
industry. The stranger waited a brief space for some comment, and,
receiving none, proceeded.

“You know, I have no doubt, that in the past--in the Middle Ages, for
example--certain secret societies existed for purposes partly occult.
I use _occult_ as a synonym for the spiritual, for all that lies
beyond the veil. Such, I may remark, were the Rosicrucians. Others are
known to every student of the subject. One might almost class it as
common historical knowledge. Few, however, suspect that to-day such a
society, immeasurably more powerful than the ordinary man considers
possible, exists. It exists, and by some means it has penetrated to the
very arcana of the spiritual world. It wields a power, by its control
over forces that to call cosmic is to minimize, quite beyond ordinary
resistance. And it wields that power for evil. I could point out
several frightful disasters of recent times directly traceable to that
society. It is a menace to the world!”

The old gentleman’s eyes flashed excitement at Mr. Gilchrist, who felt
in a dream, scarcely knowing whether he was awake or sleeping.

“In one way only can it be overthrown--and it must be overthrown if our
civilization is to continue. A group of men--equally adept but pure in
soul--must meet and check each of their schemes and finally turn the
immense forces, too great for ordinary comprehension, with which they
work, against them, wiping them out of existence. Where that group
of men is to be found, sir, I do not know; but if the disease is to
find a remedy it must first be diagnosed. It was my duty, then, having
discovered this monstrous danger, to proclaim it to the world. And,
knowing full well the awful risks I ran, I did so. I contributed a long
article to a periodical which exists for the diffusion of spiritual
truth, and, so far as my knowledge permitted me, exposed the terrible
enemy.

“I knew I invited disaster. Immediately I was warned--I cannot tell
you by what channel the warning came to me--that the gravest perils
threatened me. You, an ordinary man, whose most terrible engine of
destruction possible to the imagination is a monster-gun battleship,
can have no conception of the powers unchained against me. I cannot
tell you with what fervour I strove to acquire control over forces
that might befriend me, but in vain. Ever I was thwarted and baffled.
I lost what little powers I had. Stripped of every means of defence,
I waited in anguish for the blow to fall. What kind of blow it would
be and whence it would come I could not tell. I knew only that it was
inevitable. An undying enmity was all around me.

“I expected something cataclysmic, world-shaking. Fool that I was, I
might have known better. ‘They’ are far too cunning thus to advertise
their power needlessly. Day after day I dwelt in a world of terror, and
nothing happened, save the complete interruption of any intercourse
with the spiritual world. Malevolent forces had closed that door. I
waited, each moment expecting disaster, I knew not from what quarter,
as a man waits in a dark wood for the lurking danger to spring at him.
Suddenly--a week ago to-day--they commenced to act.”

He stopped to allow the import of his words to have full effect on his
host. Mr. Gilchrist opened his mouth as if to speak, but he could not
give utterance to a sound.

“I was walking, about six o’clock in the afternoon, along Piccadilly.
The thoroughfare was crowded. I felt almost happy in the throng. My
mind was for the moment distracted from its ever-present anxiety, and I
had almost forgotten my danger. Suddenly a man jostled against me and
thrust a piece of paper into my hand. I glanced at it and knew my doom
was upon me. Here it is.”

He took a piece of paper from his pocket and handed it to Mr.
Gilchrist. It bore only the words, in fat black type: “Prepare to meet
thy Judge.”

“But,” said his host, grasping at the familiar in this strange story,
“this is merely a leaflet circulated by some religious body.”

“I know,” said the stranger, smiling. “That is their cunning. It
conveys little or nothing to an outsider. _But they knew I would know._
I looked around for the man. He had disappeared. The blood surged to
my head; I reeled dizzily against a lamp-post and for a moment or
two knew nothing. The shock, long expected though it was, was awful.
After a brief space my brain cleared. My giddiness seemingly had not
been noticed. The street looked normal. I shook myself and prepared
to continue on my way. At that moment I happened to look round and
saw a large white bulldog sitting on the pavement and regarding me
fixedly. Even then--_I knew_. But I affected to take no notice of it
and commenced to walk onward. The dog got up and followed me. I walked
faster, but the dog was always a couple of feet behind my heels. I
stopped. The dog stopped. I went on again. The dog went on again also.
There was no doubt of its connection with me.

“I cannot make you realize, sir, the awful fear that surged up in me,
mastering me, throttling me. I almost choked. The lights, the houses,
the people swam in my vision. For some moments I walked along blind,
unseeing. I trust that I am not a coward, that ordinary danger would
find me ready to meet it with some calmness of mind, but in contact
now with the peril I had dreaded, such firmness as I have gave way.
The seeming innocence of the manner in which my death-sentence was
conveyed, the apparently innocuous character of the messenger they
had sent, accentuated my terror. I felt that it was useless to appeal
to my fellow-creatures for help. The certain reply would have been an
imputation of madness. Above all, the purpose of the dog baffled me. It
seemed impossible that my enemies, with all the vast forces at their
command, should use so petty an instrument to strike at me. I could not
even imagine in what manner the dog was to bring about my annihilation.
The disparity of means to the end seemed grotesque.

“So strongly did I feel this that I half-persuaded myself that I was
under an illusion, that the dog was merely a stray that had followed
me for a few yards in the hope of finding a new home. Walking along,
looking straight in front of me, for I dared not turn my head, I
was almost comforted by a semi-belief that the dog was no longer in
pursuit. Presently, with an effort of will, I looked back--to find, as
reason told me I should, the animal still at my heels, padding along
with its nose to the ground.

“I stopped, more from a suspension of faculties than from any desire
to do so, and the dog stopped also. It sat calmly down, looking at me,
and I could almost fancy a quiet, diabolic smile on the loose, ugly,
dripping jaws. We exchanged a steadfast gaze--I can see it now; its
eyes were red-rimmed, bleary, cunning. Standing there, I strove to
divine its purpose. Suddenly it flashed upon me. The dog was tracking
me to my home. Over the trail it had gone once it would go again, this
time accompanied by the active agents of my foes. Why this roundabout
method of reaching me was adopted will no doubt seem a puzzle to you,
sir--it is so to me. But I was and am convinced of the fact.

“No sooner had I realized this,” pursued the old gentleman, “than I
thought over means of ridding myself of it. The obvious way was simple.
I walked along the streets in quest of a policeman. The dog got quietly
on its legs again and followed. Some hundred yards or so farther on
I saw an officer and approached him. It was at the corner where the
street flows into Piccadilly Circus, and the open space was a maelstrom
of traffic, starred overhead by the lamps which were beginning to glow
against the darkening sky. I had to wait an agonized minute or two at
the policeman’s elbow whilst he set two fussy and nervous old ladies
upon their right way. At last he turned to me, and a radiance of hope
commenced to break over the dark tumult of my mind as I explained to
him that I was being followed by a stray dog and wished to give it into
his charge.

“He looked patiently down at me from his towering bulk of body,
nodded, and asked: ‘Where’s the dog?’ I turned to point it out. To my
astonishment, it had disappeared. No shape of dog was anywhere visible.
The policeman’s eyes rested upon me with so questioning a look that I
felt uncomfortable. I could divine that he was thinking me deranged
or intoxicated. My mind was in a state of bewilderment also at the
sudden disappearance of the creature that a moment before had hung at
my heels with all the quiet persistency of Fate. I stammered, strove to
explain, found myself entangled in nervous foolishness rendered worse
by the slightly contemptuous, steady gaze of the policeman. I leaped
desperately out by the common exit from such embarrassments and tipped
the policeman with the only coin I happened to have in my pocket. It
was a half-crown. He smiled as I made off quickly, my ears burning.

“Thank God, at any rate I was freed from my enemy. With a bounding
lightness of spirits I plunged into the vortex of traffic and made my
way across the Circus. I was supremely happy. I remember smiling round
at the garish lights, at the thronging people, at the poor, at the
wealthy, at the flower-girls, at the vicious. I was glad, unutterably
glad, like a prisoner just reprieved, to be among my kind, of whatever
sort. I am not musical, but I found myself singing a trivial melody,
picked up somewhere from a barrel-organ.

“Thus I proceeded on my way, going eastward, making, in fact, for the
station, where I take train to my home some few miles farther down the
line than this.

“I was somewhere in the Strand when suddenly I heard a girl who passed
me say to her companion: ‘Oh, what an ugly beast!’ I turned sharply, an
ice-cold hand clutching at my heart, and saw to my horror the white dog
again at my heels. He looked up at me, and I fled, with a cry, down a
side street. The dog followed easily.

“In wild terror I ran as fast as my strength, never great, would
permit. It was useless, of course. The dog found no difficulty in
keeping up with me. I stopped at last from sheer exhaustion, and the
creature seemed to grin at my distress. Had a policeman been visible, I
would have tried again to hand it over to him, convinced though I was
that the attempt would be in vain.

“One means of escape presented itself to me, but I could not avail
myself of it. I might have called a taxicab, but I had no money. I
ought to have tried that way first.

“A wild rage seized me. I rushed at the dog, kicking at him furiously.
The animal dodged me with ease. I could not touch him. I ran on again.

“Thus, now running in mad panic, now walking with the slow deliberation
of settled despair, I continued on my way, and always the dog followed.
Why I did not go in another direction and throw the animal off the
scent, I do not know. My one leading idea was to get home, and perhaps
subconsciously I knew that, whatever stratagems I tried, the dog was
not to be shaken from his trail.

“I was almost demented with terror when unexpectedly salvation showed
itself. My station was not many hundred yards distant--I was in Broad
Street, I think--when suddenly there was a snarl and a furious barking
behind me. A large dog, belonging to some passer-by, had sprung at my
enemy, and they were locked in desperate fight. In a few seconds a
crowd collected. I saw a policeman hastening up. It was my chance. With
all that remained to me of strength I ran toward the station.

“I heard voices calling after me, but I heeded them not. The sounds of
angry strife continued, muffled, and lent me hope and speed. Calling up
every energy, I raced along, sped down the approach, saw that it wanted
but the fraction of a minute to seven-thirty, dashed through the gate,
which clanged behind me, and flung myself into the train for home just
as it started. I thought I was safe. As I put my hand out of the window
to shut the door, I heard a commotion at the gate. I looked out and
saw the dog struggling with the officials, vainly striving to leap the
barrier. We moved out of the station, leaving him behind.”

He stopped, looking at his host. Mr. Gilchrist gasped and nodded. The
stranger continued:

“For a few exultant minutes I thought that I was saved. But presently,
as I calmed and my reason began to work, I realized that ‘they’
had gained their point. They had only to watch and wait. On the
morrow a human emissary of my foes would accompany the dog over the
trail, starting at the same time, arriving within a few minutes of
seven-thirty at that station platform. From that the direction, at
least, of my home could easily be deduced. Convinced that sooner or
later I should be journeying on that line, they had only to watch and
wait till I appeared. I knew that there was no hope for me, that my
doom was certain.

“I reached home, in a turmoil of fears, and fell ill. For a week I did
not leave the house, and all through my indisposition the spectre of
that white dog dominated not only my dreams but every waking thought. I
could see it looking out at me from under the furniture, sitting with
patient eyes on my every movement, in corners of the house, barring my
way to the door, if I wished to enter or leave a room. It haunted me,
kept me at an excruciating point of mental anguish.

“This morning, however, I felt better, and my business imperatively
claiming my attention after a week of absence, I decided to go to town.

“I left the house with the feeling of a man who goes out to execution.
Nevertheless, human nature revolted at the prospect of dying without
resistance, and I went armed. In my pocket was a revolver which had
belonged to my father. He had fought in the Indian Mutiny. I was born
in India myself. Some of his fighting instincts arose in me as I walked
down to the station fingering the weapon in my pocket.

“Dread oppressed me as I entered the train and journeyed cityward.
I felt that I was going to meet my fate. None the less I went about
my business, and all day nothing occurred, save moments of fear, to
alarm me. I made up my mind to return by a midday train--would that
I had done so!--though perhaps it would have made no difference. So
great a press of work awaited me, however, that it was impossible. One
hindrance after another stood in my way, and with rapidly rising fears
I was forced to remain and see the time slip away until the only train
that remained to me was the seven-thirty.

“My office is a little room at the top of a large building. I keep no
clerk. Most or all the other workers in the building had left while I
was still writing letters, and the solitude which broods over the city
in the evening weighed more and more oppressively on me every minute.
My nerves were already at stretch when I heard something thrust into
the letter-box. I jumped to my feet, trembling with premonitions. I
heard no footfall along the passage. After a moment, when my heart
seemed to stop, I went to the box, and to my horror--drew out a piece
of paper identical with the one pushed into my hand a week before. It
bore the same solemn words: ‘Prepare to meet thy Judge,’ and nothing
more. I believe I reeled and staggered. I know that in a flash of
frenzy I flung the door wide and rushed into the passage. I could have
sworn--I could swear it now--that I saw the white dog slink round the
corner a few yards along the corridor.

“Trembling in every limb, my head on fire, I hastily locked up the
office and made my way to the station. The building seemed quite
deserted as I left it. I saw no sign of the white dog. Choosing the
most frequented thoroughfares, I soon reached the terminus without any
cause for alarm. I remember that my heart beat so violently as to make
me feel faint as I passed the barrier. I scarcely dared look for the
dog, but with an effort of will I did so and assured myself it was not
there.

“I chose an unoccupied carriage and settled myself in it--waiting,
with throbbing anxiety, for the few remaining minutes to slip away
before the train was due to start. Those minutes seemed vast spaces of
time in which the movement of the world had stopped, waiting for some
catastrophe. At last I heard the bell ring. For one wild, exultant
moment I thought that I was safe.

“Then, just as the train commenced to move, I saw a man running along
the platform, holding a dog in leash. The animal strained powerfully at
the lead, his nose to the ground. On the instant, I recognized it--the
white dog! The door of my compartment was thrown open, and man and dog
leaped in. A porter slammed the door after them, and we were moving
fast out of the station. Short of throwing myself on the rails there
was no escape possible.

“The man was dressed in the garb of a clergyman. He was a large,
powerfully built fellow, strength of mind and body marked all over him.
He nodded and smiled at me as he drew a long breath to recover his wind
and sat down. The dog slunk under the seat, where it lay watching me
with steady eyes.

“I cowered in my corner in terror. Had I wished to speak, I could not
have done so. The sight of one of my all-powerful foes, visible for
the first time, fascinated me. I could not take my eyes from him.
Occasionally he looked up at me from his newspaper with a slow, quiet
smile which seemed to say: ‘All right, my friend. I’ll deal with you
presently.’

“The train clanged and banged over the switches and gathered speed for
its rush into the dark night and the loneliness of the countryside.
Minute after minute I sat there in panic, watching him, agonized every
now and then by that terrible sure smile with which he glanced at me.
The silence in the carriage was the oppressive silence which awaits a
tragedy to break it with a lightning-flash.

“Mile after mile the train raced on, and nothing happened. The suspense
was maddening me. My lips were dry. My tongue stuck to the roof of my
mouth. I could feel a cold sweat beading my forehead. I took out my
handkerchief to wipe it, and a piece of paper fluttered to the ground,
close to his feet. I recognized it. It was the second warning. Before
I could move, the man bent to pick it up. He handed it to me with that
meaning smile and said, with awful quietness: ‘Are you prepared?’

“I started with terror and felt something hurt the hand which all the
time had been gripping the revolver in my pocket. It was the tense
pressure of my finger on the weapon.

“The man nodded and smiled at me again. I gasped, feeling certain
that my hour had come. With the fascination of a man trapped and
bound, I saw him bend sideways and put his hand into his hip pocket.
Instantly--I know not how--there was a deafening report in the
carriage, and a film of smoke floated between me and him. He sank to
the floor. He rolled slightly with his last gasp, his arm outflung.
I had killed him! I stood fixed with horror. In his hand was--not a
revolver, but a tobacco-pipe.

“For a moment my senses left me. I knew nothing. I was brought to
consciousness by a sharp pain in my leg. The white dog held me in a
savage grip, growling in a manner frightful to hear. Frenzy overcame
me; I kicked and fought in vain. Then, suddenly recollecting the
revolver in my hand, I pressed it to his head and fired. I was free.
Free? No, trapped in the swaying carriage splashed with blood, its
floor heaped with the large body of the man I had killed. The train
was racing along at top speed. In five or ten minutes more we should
stop and the crime would be discovered. Mad with horror, I rushed to
the door, opened it, flung myself into the black night. I remember
the roar of the train passing me as I rolled down the embankment,
have an impression of a bright light whisked away, and then I lost
consciousness.

“When my senses returned, I saw the light in your house. Clambering
over a wall, I made my way to it, fainting, scarce able to walk, but
frantic, it seemed to me, for help. You kindly took me in. For the
moment I have respite, but ‘they’ have triumphed. By their cunning
manipulation of the forces behind Life, I have been tricked into
murdering one who to all outward semblance was an innocent man. In a
day or two I shall be standing in the dock, and finally my life will be
violently cut short by my fellow-men, accompanied by every circumstance
of ignominy. Fully, indeed, are they revenged!

“Now, sir, you know my story; and if, after hearing it, you care to
call in the local police----”

       *       *       *       *       *       *

At that moment there was a sound of carriage-wheels on the road. They
stopped just in front of the house. The stranger sprang to his feet.
His eyes swept round the room in a swift, panic-stricken quest for
concealment. Then, crying: “No! They shall not take me! They shall not
take me!” he rushed from the room.

Mr. Gilchrist, still spellbound by the story to which he had been
so intently listening, stood for a moment as though paralyzed,
staring at the open door. A familiar whistle from outside, a cheery
call--“Gilchrist! Gilchrist!”--gave him back his faculties. It was
Williamson--thank God!

Mr. Gilchrist ran out into the hall, found the front door still open
from the stranger’s abrupt departure, peered out into the dark night
intensified by the two staring eyes of Williamson’s gig-lamps.

“Come in, Williamson!” he called. His voice was joyous with relief. As
he spoke, he heard swift feet upon the gravel! The words had barely
left his mouth when a violent collision knocked him breathless against
the doorpost. It was the stranger, back again!

“The white dog! The white dog!” he gasped in terror.

Mr. Gilchrist clutched at him and fought for breath to speak.

“But, my dear sir----” he began, irritably. This was absurd! Of course
there was a dog--the harmless old white bull which was Williamson’s
invariable companion. He tried to explain, but the stranger, tugging
frantically to get free, would listen to nothing. With the strength of
a madman he wrenched himself from Gilchrist’s detaining grasp and fled
into the house.

Williamson, preceded by his old dog, came up the gravel path.

“All alone?” he asked, cheerily.

Mr. Gilchrist hesitated, and then, obeying an obscure impulse, lied.

“Er--yes,” he replied. “Come in.”

The absurdity of the falsehood occurred to him at once. Cursing his
folly, he tried to think of some plausible explanation as he led his
friend to the dining-room, where, of course, the stranger’s presence
would stultify his ridiculous statement. He glanced round the room as
he entered. It was empty! Where, then? His eyes rested on a suspicious
bulging of the window-curtain.

He waved his friend to a chair.

“Sit down,” he said, with an assumption of normality. “What’s the
news?”

“There’s news, right enough,” said Williamson, dropping into the
proffered seat. “Terrible business on the seven-thirty to-night.
Poor old Hepplewhite--shot dead--he and his dog. Ghastly struggle,
evidently--blood over everything!”

“Good God!” ejaculated Gilchrist, chilled with a sudden horror. He had
given no real credence to his visitor’s fantastic story. This brutal
contact with the reality paralyzed him in an awful terror at his own
false position. What was to be done? He strove to think--played for
time. “And the murderer?” he asked thickly.

“Escaped--for the moment,” replied Williamson in a tone that suggested
confidence in the police. “Here, Tiger! Come here!” He addressed the
dog, which was sniffing uneasily about the room.

The dog came up to him obediently, wagging his stump of tail. He
carried in his mouth a piece of folded paper which he had picked up
and now presented to his master. Gilchrist recognized it with a little
shock as his friend opened it.

“_Prepare to meet thy Judge!_” Williamson read out with mock solemnity,
and smiled in superior tolerance of the evangelist enthusiasm which had
printed the leaflet.

Gilchrist shuddered and thought suddenly of the terrified man behind
the curtain, dimly realizing the significance to that overwrought brain
of these fatal words. He glanced at the betraying bulge, saw it move
slightly.

Williamson smiled down into the intelligent eyes of his old dog.

“Tiger, old fellow,” he said jocularly, “you’ve made a mistake--you’ve
brought this message to the wrong man. It is evidently meant for the
person who shot poor old Hepplewhite. Here”--he held it out to the
dog--“take it to him. _Find him!_”

The dog took the paper in his jaws, wagged his tail with a
comprehending look up at his master, and ran, following the scent which
was on the paper, across the room. He stopped, pawing at the bulged
curtain.

Williamson stared after him in amusement.

“Is he there, Tiger?” he said, humouring the intelligent animal. “Have
you found him?”

Gilchrist stood speechless. What was coming next?

The curtain was flung suddenly aside. The old gentleman stood revealed,
stepped forward into the room. His bulbous eyes were unwholesomely
bright.

“Gentlemen,” he said, “I surrender. You have won. I might, of course,
shoot you”--he took a revolver from his pocket--“as I shot your
confederate in the train to-night. But I recognize that it would be
useless. Your Society would raise up yet other avengers----”

Both Gilchrist and Williamson had shrunk back in alarm from that
brandished revolver--were unable, in their astonishment, to utter a
word. They could only stare, bewildered.

The old gentleman looked down at the dog which still offered him the
paper.

“I understand--perfectly,” he said, with a grim appreciation of some
subtlety which eluded them. “In a better cause, I should admire the
ingenuity with which you have utilized means which are apparently of
the simplest. I do homage to your powers, gentlemen. Or perhaps you
yourselves are only half-conscious tools of that occult force you
think you control--that occult force which has, with such singular
completeness, worked my ruin.” There was a sneer in his voice. He
turned to Gilchrist. “As for you, sir, I congratulate you on your
faculty of dissimulation. You gulled me excellently well. I can only
bow in acknowledgment of the supreme irony with which you beguiled me
into telling you the miserable story which, of course, you already knew
far better than I. I do not grudge you your triumph. It was superbly
well planned. You held me without suspicion whilst you awaited the
arrival--for the last time--of the symbol of my doom--_the white dog_!”
His smile was an illumination of savage sarcasm.

There was a pause of silence in which Williamson glanced inquiringly at
his friend.

The old gentleman laughed in a mirthless mockery which was hideous to
hear.

“But now, face to face at last with you whose monstrous plot I was at
least able to detect, if I could not baffle it--I yet cheat you!” he
cried. “I cheat you of your complete vengeance! You thought to condemn
me to the ignominy of a murderer’s trial!” He laughed again. “I elude
you--thus!”

With a quick movement he raised the revolver and fired.

The two friends, after the moment in which they recovered from the
shock, bent over his body.

“I don’t understand!” said Williamson, horror-stricken and mystified.
“Who and what was he?”

Gilchrist answered him in one terse word.

“Mad,” he replied, pushing away the white dog, which sniffed innocently
at the body.



A POINT OF ETHICS


He leaned forward across the flower-decked dinner-table and raised his
glass.

“To many happy anniversaries, darling!”

The pretty woman he addressed raised her glass also. Gowned in a simple
evening robe whose discreet _décolletage_ revealed shoulders still
youthfully rounded, she was the incarnation of that delicate refinement
which lifts beauty into charm with one deft touch. The single dark rose
at her breast was its present symbol. It was also, indubitably, the
deliberate symbol of something more. The large, emotional eyes which
smiled upon him were radiant with happiness.

“_Many_ anniversaries, Jack!” she echoed, shaking her head slowly in
emphasis, her gaze in his. “All as happy as this--all of us together!”

Both turned, as with a common thought, to the demure little
five-year-old girl who watched them with grave eyes from her place at
the dinner-table. She smiled at their smiles, confidently.

“I’m as fond of her as you are, Evelyn,” he said, with evident
sincerity. “Never fear! I couldn’t love her more if she were my own
daughter.”

“You couldn’t be kinder to her, Jack,” said the young woman, in
affectionate agreement. “Oh, my dear, we are very fortunate, both of
us, Dorothy and I! Without you!” she sighed. “A whole year! A whole
year of perfect happiness! I thought I was happy before--but I did not
know what happiness was--until it began a year ago to-day!”

He smiled.

“Nor I, Evelyn. Looking back, it seems that I only began to live on
the day I married you.” He glanced around him. “A year ago!--You were
right, dear, to have our little dinner here to-night, and not at River
Lawn. You were right to keep this place going--it reminds us both of
our starting-point.” His tone warmed with affection. “But then, you are
always right!”

She beamed with gratitude.

“I wanted to keep it because it was _my_ home--it was what I brought to
you. You gave me our home at River Lawn, Jack--and you know how I love
it. But this--this is where you came to me, and it’s all sacred to me.
I couldn’t bear to change a thing in it. Besides,” she added, smilingly
lifting her argument out of sentimentality, “it is really an economy,
isn’t it? With your work we must have a city home as well. Why change
this flat for another which would perhaps be less convenient, and which
we should have to refurnish?”

“Quite,” he agreed. “I gave into you about it long ago. But I didn’t
like it at first, I’ll admit.”

“You are too big a man, Jack, dear, to be jealous of the past. And I
am sure Harry would not mind, if he could know.” Her eyes looked past
him, dreamily reminiscent. “Poor old Harry!” she said, after a little
silence.

“I should like to have met him,” he said, conversationally, getting on
with his fish. “He must have been a good chap.”

“Oh, he was! I wish I could have got some news of him--of how he was
killed. No one in the regiment seemed to know anything. It is dreadful
to go out like that--no one knowing how!” She shuddered. Then, with
an instinctive movement to break the spell of unwanted memories, she
pressed the bell for the maid to clear the course from the table.

The conversation resumed on the everyday matters of his profession.
She thoroughly identified herself with her husband’s interests and
discussed them, as was her wont, with intelligent sympathy. She was one
of those women who stimulate all the latent potentialities of their
men. He--it was obvious from the clear-cut features--was both resolute
and clever; a man who would go far. Already Satterthwaite was a name in
the Courts for which clients would pay big fees.

They were discussing the important case of the day when suddenly she
looked round, startled.

“Jack! Someone has come in--or gone out. I heard the hall door slam!”

“Imagination, my dear,” he replied, smiling sceptically. “The maids are
busy--they would not go out. We should have heard the bell if there
were a visitor. No one has a key except ourselves----”

The words were scarcely uttered when the door behind them opened. The
child, who sat facing it, stared in amazement for a second, and then
slipped off her chair and ran toward the intruder with a wild shout of
joy.

“_Daddie!_”

Mr. and Mrs. Satterthwaite sprang up from their seats, turned to see
a youngish man, clad in an ill-fitting lounge suit, standing in the
doorway. The young woman clutched at the back of her chair, her eyes
wide in terror.

“Harry!” She breathed the cry almost voicelessly in her stupefaction.
“_Harry’s ghost!_”

Satterthwaite snatched back the child, who had recoiled from the
flaming anger in the stranger’s face.

“What does this mean?” asked the intruder, fiercely, ignoring the
little one. “Evelyn!” The summons was uttered with outraged but
confident authority.

She shrank back, covering her face.

“No!” She spoke as to herself. “No!--It can’t be! He’s dead--he’s dead!”

Satterthwaite intervened, his jaw setting hard, the level tone of his
voice evidently sternly controlled.

“May I ask who you are?” he enquired, coldly.

The stranger faced him. Anger met anger in their eyes.

“Certainly. I am Harry Tremaine. And perhaps you will be good enough
to tell me who the devil you are--and what you are doing with my wife
in my flat?” The man’s voice trembled with fury. His face worked with
passion. He took a step toward the young woman.

She drew quickly away from him, sheltered herself behind her companion,
whence she stared at him with fascinated eyes.

“My name is Satterthwaite--and I am dining with my wife!”

“Your--wife----!” He repeated the words slowly as though scarcely
crediting such audacious impudence of assertion. Then he laughed in
harsh mockery. “Don’t talk nonsense!” He looked down at the child at
Satterthwaite’s side. “Dorothy!--come here!”

Satterthwaite restrained the child’s movement of obedience with a firm
grip. “Excuse me,” he said quietly, “I think the youngster is better
absent from this discussion.” He led the bewildered little girl to
the door, opened it, and called for the nurse. “Put Miss Dorothy to
bed!” he ordered. “And then all of you go out for the evening. Go to
the movies. Here!” He held out a note. “Have a good time--and get out
at once! Mrs. Satterthwaite and I want to be alone in the flat this
evening.”

He closed the door and returned to the others. The stranger, dominated
for the moment by his quiet, masterful manner, had made no movement to
interfere, stood, as he had left him, by the doorway. But his eyes were
fixed still wrathfully upon the young woman who stared back at him,
fascinated, clutching at the table for support. Her lips were ashen,
parted in a soundless terror.

Satterthwaite turned to her.

“Do you know this man, Evelyn?”

She made an effort, answered.

“It--it is Harry--or his ghost!”

The stranger laughed in bitter scorn.

“What foolery!--Don’t pretend I died since yesterday!”

Amazement came into both their faces.

“Since yesterday?” they repeated in one bewildered echo.

The stranger frowned.

“What is there strange about that?” he asked, irritably, impressed,
nevertheless, by their evidently genuine astonishment.

“Where--where were you yesterday, Harry?” asked the young woman
unsteadily, as though scarcely daring to probe some awful mystery.

He laughed shortly in impatience.

“Why, of course----” he began in confident tones. He stopped, a baffled
look suddenly in his eyes. “Of course----” he began again, less
confidently. Then he gave it up. “I--I can’t remember--it’s funny!--I
can’t remember where I was yesterday----” He bit his lower lip, looked
around him slowly with bent and puzzled brows, plainly uneasy at this
unexpected forgetfulness. “But of course I must have been here!” He put
an end to his embarrassment by dogmatic assertion.

Satterthwaite contemplated him for a moment with eyes that searched him
to the depths.

“H’m!” he said, meditatively. “There’s something extraordinary about
this!--Won’t you sit down, Mr. Tremaine?” He pointed to a chair. “Let
us discuss this matter amicably--it’s not so simple as you think, and
hostility won’t help us.”

Tremaine hesitated a moment, a flicker of angry revolt in his eyes. But
there was a note in Satterthwaite’s quiet tones which more than invited
compliance, and he seated himself in the chair with a shrug of the
shoulders which justified him in himself.

“This is my flat--and my wife,” he said, “anyway!” The assertion
sounded curiously weak.

The young woman watched him speechlessly.

Satterthwaite caressed his chin with that little gesture which was
habitual to him when commencing the cross-examination of a witness. He
began in the suave, deliberate tones familiar to the Courts.

“What is the last thing you can remember, Mr. Tremaine?” he asked.

Tremaine stared at him.

“I--I think----” he began, hesitatingly, almost automatically
responsive to Satterthwaite’s seductive voice. Then he stopped, the
baffled look again in his eyes. “What the devil has it got to do with
you?” he demanded, in exasperation.

Satterthwaite was unruffled.

“It has a great deal to do with me, Mr. Tremaine,” he said, “and with
all of us here. So please try to answer my questions.”

Tremaine’s eyes blazed at him.

“What right have you to question me?--What are you doing here at all,
that’s what I want to know?”

Satterthwaite soothed him with a gesture.

“We’re coming to that presently. Answer my questions now--and afterward
you can put any questions to me that you like. Now--try and remember!”

Tremaine relapsed sullenly. It was evident that he was secretly
conscious of the inferiority in which his absence of memory placed him.
His eyes sought the young woman as though to elicit some key-point of
remembrance, came back empty.

“Well?” he said, with suspicious ill-humour.

Satterthwaite was courtesy itself.

“Now, think! Carry your mind back! You were in the Army, weren’t you?”

“Of course!”

“You remember that--perfectly?”

“Yes--of course I do!” His tone was impatient.

“Good! You remember being in France?”

“I should think so!”

“In what part of France were you last?”

“In the Argonne.”

“Right! Now--when did you leave France?”

Tremaine hesitated, bit his lip. The eyes went blank again.

“I--I can’t remember.”

“Do you remember leaving France at all?--Do you remember the voyage?”

There was a silence whilst Tremaine evidently made an effort of memory.

“No,” he said, at last, “I cannot remember it.”

“Ah!--Now, what is the last thing you can remember in France? You were
in the trenches, I suppose?”

“No--we had left the trenches behind us. We were fighting in the
forest--I can remember that--a sort of ravine with splintered trees--we
were attacking----” A new note of interest came into his voice, a
satisfaction at recovering these memories. “By George, yes! Of course,
there was a terrific attack on--we were going for the Kriemhild Line.
What happened----?” He hesitated. “I was running forward--the Boche was
shelling like mad----” He seemed to be visualizing a scene, his face
screwed up, his eyes narrowed, his lower lip between his teeth. “I saw
a whole bunch go down--and then----” He stopped.

“And then?”

“A sheet of flame. I--I can’t remember anything more. I--I must have
been hit, I suppose----”

“I see. Now, can you remember what you were wearing just then?”

“I was in shirt and breeches. My tunic had been torn off the day
before--breaking through the undergrowth. I remember that perfectly.”

Satterthwaite nodded.

“And your identity disc?”

“I’d lost that the day before also--I remember thinking I should have
to get a new one.”

Satterthwaite smiled.

“We’re coming to it,” he said, encouragingly. “Now--just before you
came into this flat, where were you?”

“In a street-car. I got off at the corner in the usual way, and let
myself in with my key.”

“You had that key in France, I suppose?”

“Yes, I had it with a few others on a ring in my breeches-pocket. I
kept it for the day I should come back.”

“Quite. Now--before you got into that street-car, where were you? Where
had you been?”

Tremaine hesitated again.

“I can’t for the life of me remember!--I--I sort of woke up in that
street-car, as if I had been to sleep on my way home. I remember
looking out and thinking to myself--of course, that’s where I
am--nearly home. It seemed quite natural.”

Obviously, the man himself was puzzled. There was a short silence, and
then Satterthwaite spoke again.

“And you remember nothing of what you did between the day you attacked
the Kriemhild Line--and finding yourself in the street-car?”

Tremaine frowned in a desperate effort to collect his thoughts.

“No,” he said at last. “It’s an extraordinary thing but my mind seems a
complete blank!”

“Can you remember the date of that attack upon the Kriemhild Line--the
day you saw that sheet of flame go up?”

“October tenth,” came the reply without hesitation.

“What year?”

“1918, of course.”

Satterthwaite smiled.

“Do you know what year this is?”

The other stared at him, a sudden fear in his eyes.

“Not 1919?” he cried. “Don’t say I’ve lost a year?”

“1920!”

“Good God!” He jumped up, gripped in a panic that drove the blood out
of his face, and switched round to his wife. “Evelyn! Where have I
been? Haven’t I been here all this time?”

She took a deep breath.

“I see you to-day for the first time since you sailed in April, 1918,
Harry,” she said, steadily.

He stood swaying on his feet, hand pressed to his brow, through a long
moment of realization. No one spoke. Then he dropped his hand, turned
to his wife again.

“And you?--When----?” he indicated Satterthwaite with a helpless
gesture, “when did this happen?”

She met his eyes bravely.

“I married--Jack--a year ago to-day!” she answered. The effort of her
speech was obvious.

“But you couldn’t!” he exclaimed. “It’s bigamy!”

Satterthwaite went without a word to the escritoire standing in a
corner of the room and took out a paper. He came back with it, handed
it silently to Tremaine. It was an official War Department notification.

Tremaine stared at it.

“My God!” he muttered, appalled.

“You are dead, my friend!” said Satterthwaite, grimly. “Killed in
action, October 10th, 1918.”

Again there was a long silence. Tremaine sank heavily into a chair,
stared straight in front of him. An expression of combativeness came
slowly into his face, his jaw set. At last he uttered an aggressive
grunt.

“Well, I’m not!” he said. “I’m very much alive. So that’s that!
Whatever has happened, I’ve come back! This is my flat--and my wife and
child. And you can clear out just as soon as you like!” His eyes flamed
hostility as they met Satterthwaite’s. “Quit!”

His wife sprang forward.

“Harry!” she cried, imploring she scarcely knew what.

He turned to her.

“I’ll talk to you presently,” he said, in a voice of smouldering
resentment. “I’m not blaming you--but I guess you might have waited a
bit. We’ll square this out by ourselves when he’s gone.”

Satterthwaite smiled, and his smile was by no means acquiescent.

“I guess you’ll have to wait for that, Mr. Tremaine,” he said, in even
tones that had an edge to them. “I’m not going just yet.”

Tremaine glared up at him.

“What?” he cried, incredulously.

“I’m not going,” repeated Satterthwaite. “You don’t realize the
situation, my friend. This woman has been living with me for a year
as my wife. I do not propose to make her name a public scandal.
Officially, you are dead. Well--remain dead!”

Tremaine laughed mockingly.

“And leave you my wife, my child--all this!” He waved his hand round
the flat. “Thank you!”

Satterthwaite shrugged his shoulders.

“I’ll buy your property of you at your own valuation. Your will has
been proved. The amount of your estate, plus interest, shall be
refunded to you. I’ll give you, in addition, any reasonable amount as
compensation. You are the victim of circumstances, my friend--but, as a
straight man, there’s only one thing for you to do. You can’t ruin this
woman’s life!”

Both men, following their thought, turned to glance at her. She stood
tense, deathly pale, looking from one to the other, evidently in an
atrocious dilemma, unable to utter a word.

Tremaine swung round again to his rival, sneered scornfully.

“What kind of fool do you take me for? Do you expect me to give up my
wife and child, my home--give up my whole existence and pretend to be
someone else--just to oblige you? You must be mad!--I’ve come back
and here I am--come to stay,” he ended, doggedly, “to pick up my life
again!”

There was a shade of sympathy in Satterthwaite’s eyes as he
contemplated him.

“But can’t you see that it’s impossible to pick it up again where you
left off?” he said. “Can’t you see that as Harry Tremaine you can never
be happy again? You can’t get away from what has happened--it will
always be there, haunting you--and you’ll be reminded of it--pointed
at. The other women will make your wife’s life a hell in the thousand
little subtle ways they have. And besides, _what have you been doing
for the past two years_? You’ve been living somewhere--as somebody.
That existence will always be waiting in the background--ready to
spring out on you--and you can’t guard against it, for you don’t even
know what it was!”

The young woman bent forward.

“Can’t you remember, Harry?--Can’t you think where you’ve been--what
you’ve been doing?” she asked, anxiously. “Oh!” she added, with a
little despairing gesture, “I only want to do what is right--what is
best for all of us!”

Tremaine shook his head.

“I haven’t the remotest idea of where I was at lunchtime to-day!” he
said. “I may have come straight out of hospital, for all I know.”

Satterthwaite nodded, humouring him.

“You may--of course,” he said. “But it’s highly improbable. Two years
is a long time to stay in hospital. Almost certainly you have been
living somewhere, in new relationships. Be reasonable, my friend. Can’t
you see that the only thing is to sell out to me--and clear off, go
right away--start a fresh life?”

Tremaine revolted.

“I’m damned if I do!” he replied. “Right is right--you can’t get
away from it. I’m Harry Tremaine--and I’ve come back to my wife and
child--to my own existence--and I’ve got a right to them!” He rose from
his chair. “Enough of this talk! I’m master of this flat--and I give
you just time enough to pack up your traps. Get a move on!” His voice
quivered with an anger he instinctively accentuated as a protection
against the other man’s arguments. “I want to be alone with my wife!
Get out!” He moved forward menacingly.

Satterthwaite did not stir.

“I think not,” he said, steadily. “Not like that.”

Tremaine’s anger flamed up in him.

“Get out!--or I’ll throw you out!”

Satterthwaite smiled.

“If you wish to fight for her----?” he said, grimly inviting.

With a savage snarl, Tremaine tore off his coat.

His wife sprang forward in terrified appeal.

“Harry!”

He flung her off brutally.

“Stand out of this!” he said. “This is a man’s fight! I’ll deal with
you afterward!”

An atmosphere of primitive passion filled the room. She cowered
away, watching the rivals with fascinated eyes, like a squaw for
whom two braves unsheath their knives. Both were big, powerful men.
Satterthwaite made no movement while Tremaine flung aside his coat and
rolled up his shirt-sleeves--but his eyes were warily alert and his
fists clenched massively at the end of the arms held loosely ready for
sudden action.

With a savage bellow of maddened hatred, Tremaine rushed at him
blindly. Satterthwaite’s right arm jerked up to guard--and like
lightning his left fist shot out from the shoulder, crashed full
between his adversary’s eyes. Tremaine went over backward, arms in the
air, his head striking the table with an impact that shattered glass
and crockery, rolled over to the floor. He lay motionless.

His wife had darted to his side, bent over him.

“Oh, Jack!” she cried, looking up to the victor. “You haven’t killed
him?”

Satterthwaite bent over him also.

“No,” he said. “Get some water!”

She took the jug from the table and Satterthwaite splashed his face.
Tremaine drew a difficult breath, opened his eyes, looked up and around
him, dazed.

“Where am I?” he asked, feebly.

“You’re all right,” said Satterthwaite, bathing away the blood which
trickled down his nose. “Don’t worry.”

Still half-stunned, the stricken man made an abortive, ill-coördinated
effort to rise.

“Here, let me help you,” said Satterthwaite. “Get into this chair.”
He lifted him up, supported him to a big armchair by the fireplace,
deposited him in it.

“Thanks,” said Tremaine, feebly, “--extremely good of you.” He looked
around him with vacant eyes. “Where am I? What happened?--I--I was in a
street-car----”

Satterthwaite shot a swift glance of intelligence to the young woman
who was, after all, his wife as well. She drew near, her breath held at
a sudden possibility, her eyes searching the face of this man who but a
moment before had so uncompromisingly claimed her. Had he----?

“Don’t worry about anything now,” said Satterthwaite, kindly. “You’ll
feel better in a moment.”

His erstwhile adversary smiled up vacantly into his face.

“I’m better now,” he said, passing his hand gropingly across his brow.
Then, as he removed it, he stared stupidly at the blood upon his
fingers. “What happened?” he asked, weakly. “How did I get here? I was
in a street-car--was there an accident?--I remember the street-car----”

“You’ll remember all about it presently,” Satterthwaite assured him,
watching him narrowly with critical eyes.

“I suppose you brought me here,” he continued in his dazed voice. “Very
kind of you--I’m much obliged.” He looked round, perceived the young
woman with the water-jug in her hand, and smiled feebly. “Your wife, I
presume?--I’m very sorry, madam,” he added, politely, “to put you to so
much inconvenience.”

She stared at him for a moment as though suspecting his sincerity, and
then turned away her head, a wild expression in the eyes that sought
Satterthwaite’s face. He signalled back discretion.

“Here’s your coat,” he said, holding it out. “Let me help you on with
it.”

Tremaine gazed at it, obviously puzzled, and then glanced down to his
rolled-back shirt-sleeves.

“Was there a row, then?” he asked, mystified. “A fight?”

“There was a little trouble,” conceded Satterthwaite.

“And you took me out of it, I suppose?” he said, with genuine
gratitude. “I am exceedingly obliged to you, sir--going to this bother
for a complete stranger.”

“Not at all--not at all,” said Satterthwaite, easily. “Here, let me
help you.”

The assistance was accepted. Tremaine rose shakily to his feet, stood
docilely while Satterthwaite guided his arms into the sleeves of his
coat. There was a curiously subtle difference in his expression;
quite another, a gentler, more courteous personality looked out of
those features which were Tremaine’s with a placid smile such as Mrs.
Tremaine had never seen. Close though his head was to Satterthwaite’s,
he evinced not the slightest sign of recognition.

“Thank you, sir,” he said. “I’ll get along now.”

“Where do you live?” asked Satterthwaite, with a veiled glance at the
young woman.

She held her breath, on this opening threshold of the mystery of the
past two years.

“At the Newport Hotel,” he replied. He took a few steps and then
stopped, his hand pressed to his brow. He turned to Satterthwaite. “I
wonder whether you would mind my sitting here a little longer, sir?” he
asked, apologetically. “I still feel somewhat faint and dizzy.”

“By all means,” replied Satterthwaite. “You are quite welcome to stay
until you are recovered.”

The young woman marvelled at the quiet self-control of his voice. She
felt as though she must shriek to break a nightmare.

“You are very kind,” he said. “I am afraid my wife will be anxious
about me----”

His wife! The young woman choked back a cry. _His wife!_ Then----

“Is it too much to ask if you would telephone to her, sir?” he
continued. “She would come and fetch me.”

“Certainly I will,” replied Satterthwaite, his face an impassive mask.

“My name is Durham--Room 363 at the hotel.”

“Right. Come and sit down in here.” He led the way into the adjoining
drawing-room. “Make yourself comfortable whilst I ring through to Mrs.
Durham.”

He hospitably settled his guest in the most luxurious chair of the
elegantly furnished room, and then went out, closing the door after him.

His wife was awaiting him outside. Her face was white. Her eyes,
preternaturally large, implored him. She clasped her hands tensely
against her breast.

“Oh, Jack!” she cried, her voice nevertheless held too low to be
overheard. “We can’t let him go like that! It is Harry--after all!”

He moved forward, and she followed him to the telephone.

“It is Harry all right,” he agreed. “It’s clear enough what has
happened. He was shell-shocked. The hospital authorities found nothing
on him by which to identify him. No one happened to recognize him.
When he recovered consciousness he thought he was someone else--was,
in fact, someone else. There are half-a-dozen cases on record, to my
knowledge--cases that have nothing to do with the war. Dissociation
of personality is the technical term of it. He just ceases to be
Tremaine--and becomes Durham, with all its implications.”

“But, Jack!” she expostulated. “We _know_ he’s not Durham!”

He shrugged his shoulders as he lifted up the telephone receiver.

“What good will it do to proclaim our knowledge?” he asked. “It insists
merely on double bigamy--smash-up all round!”

“Then----?” she clutched at him. “You’re going to----?”

He turned to answer the challenge of the telephone operator, gave a
number.

“Hallo!--The Newport Hotel--Will you ask Mrs. Durham to come to the
telephone, please?--She’s staying at Room 363--right!--I’ll hold on!”

“Jack! Jack!” His wife implored him. “It’s not right--it _can’t_ be
right!--We must tell her!”

His attention was claimed by the telephone.

“Hallo!--Is that Mrs. Durham?--My name’s Satterthwaite, no, you won’t
recognize it.--Your husband has met with a slight accident--nothing
serious--he’s here and he wants to know if you’ll come round and
fetch him as he feels rather shaky--yes----” he gave the address,
“--yes--ground-floor flat. Very good. We’ll expect you.”

He put up the receiver, turned to his wife with a grim smile.

“Now we shall see what Harry’s other choice is like,” he said.

She was not to be diverted.

“But, Jack--you’ll tell her?--You _must_ tell her!” she implored.

He looked her full in the eyes. His voice was grave.

“Evelyn! Are you tired of our life together? Do you prefer him to me?”

She turned away her head with a hopeless gesture.

“Oh, don’t ask me! Don’t tempt me!--I don’t want to think of myself--I
only want to do what is right! And how can it be right to--to let him
go away like a stranger from all that was his!”

He laid his hands upon her shoulders, forced her gaze to meet his again.

“And is it right, Evelyn, to break your life, to break my life, to
break this woman’s life--to put Harry himself into an impossible
position--out of a quixotic regard for pure ethics?”

“Oh, I don’t know!” she said, shaking her head in mental anguish. “I
only know that he’s Harry--and that we’re disowning him----”

“But he does not know that he is Harry Tremaine--he’s quite content to
be Durham!”

“And if he wakes up again and remembers?”

He shrugged his shoulders.

“Wait till it happens. We can only deal with the actual situation. At
the present time he’s quite happily Durham!--Now, dear,” he smiled
affection, “trust me! Leave it all to me--just keep quiet!” He kissed
her on the brow. “It will all work out.”

She turned away, shuddering.

“He was my husband,” she said, drearily.

“He _was_!--And your husband was killed in action on October 10th,
1918. The man in the drawing-room is a complete stranger by the name of
Durham.--Now, let us go in to him.”

She resigned herself, with one last protest.

“I don’t like it, Jack! I won’t promise! Right is right!”

“In this case it is wrong! Come!”

He led her back to the drawing-room. Their visitor rose politely from
his chair.

“Don’t get up,” said Satterthwaite. “Your wife is coming along.”

“Thank you,” he replied. “It is very good of you to take so much
trouble. I shall be quite all right when my wife arrives to take charge
of me.” He smiled in half-serious self-depreciation.

The three of them sat down. The Durham personality was amiably
loquacious. The young woman watched him speechlessly, noting, with an
icy chill at her heart, a hundred little familiarities of gesture as he
sat in that old familiar chair all unconscious of any previous presence
in it.

“I’m very muddled still,” he confided. “I can’t remember anything since
being in that street-car. The row, whatever it was, is a complete blank
to me--I can’t imagine even how I got into this street. Extraordinary,
isn’t it?”

“Very,” agreed Satterthwaite, coolly.

“It’s not the first time I’ve had a lapse of memory like this,” he went
on. “A shock does it. I went through the war--and--would you believe
it?--I woke up one day in hospital utterly unable to remember anything
about myself except that my name was Durham! I couldn’t remember
where I came from--nor whether I had any relatives--couldn’t remember
anything except just my name. And--this is the strange part of it--I
never have remembered. They discharged me from hospital--shell-shock
it was--and I just started life afresh.” He smiled confidently at
the young woman. “I sometimes wonder whether I was married before,
madam--but I hope not. I couldn’t part with the wife I’ve got. I
married her eighteen months ago and she’s everything to me. I don’t
think there’s another woman like her in the world! And she feels the
same about me. That’s the right sort of married life, isn’t it?”

He waited for her agreement. Her tongue seemed to be sticking to the
roof of her dry mouth. She could only nod, speechlessly, and try to
smile. Something seemed to be crying out in her: “Harry! Harry!”
Another part of her consciousness prayed desperately for guidance.
Should she--could she--ought she to speak--to break this pathetic
little idyll he sketched for her?

She looked curiously at his clothes. They were cheap and
ill-fitting--frayed at the trouser-ends. So different from the spruce
Harry she had known!

As though something of her thought had communicated itself to him, he
clapped his hand suddenly to his breast-pocket, fished out a wallet,
glanced into it, put it back.

“Whew!” he breathed in deep relief. “I had a nasty turn--thought
perhaps I had lost that in the row. It contains all I own in the
world!” He smiled. “It’s all right, though!” He glanced around him
appreciatively. “But it wouldn’t buy the things you’ve got in this
room, all the same. I admire your taste, if you’ll pardon my saying so,
madam. I’m glad my wife is coming round--I’ll show her the sort of
drawing-room we’re going to have some day, when we’ve made good!”

His cheerful smile was heart-breaking. She felt as though she must jump
up and run across to him, shrieking that it was his--all his! That he
and she had bought it all together, every bit of it. And yet she could
not stir--could only stare at him in a fascination that was dumb.

Satterthwaite sat apparently unmoved, but his jaw was set hard.

“Perhaps you’ll come in for a legacy some day,” he said, casually.

His wife glanced at him, reading his thought. Of course, Jack would not
do anything mean, would compensate him somehow! She was suddenly very
grateful to him. The idea of a future anonymous restitution lightened
her conscience a little.

“It’s not likely!” said their visitor, indifferently. “We have neither
of us any relatives--my wife and I. And I don’t care so long as I’ve
got her. When we get some youngsters we shall be the happiest family
going!” He smiled--and she thought of Dorothy, peacefully asleep in the
other room. She shut out the picture with an effort.

The door-bell rang, and, with an enormous relief, she sprang up to
answer it. Anything to put an end to this torture! For one moment, in
the hall, she hesitated.

“Help me! help me, O God, to do what is right!” she prayed in
dumb agony. And the question came up inexorably before her, vast,
overpowering, not to be solved. Right!--what was right?

She opened the door.

An insignificant-looking little woman of the lower middle-class stood
on the threshold, nervously agitated, her eyes wild with alarm.

“My husband?” she asked, breathlessly. “Mr. Durham?”

“He’s here,” replied Mrs. Satterthwaite, coldly. “This way.”

She led her to the drawing-room and Harry Tremaine’s two wives entered
together, the one beautiful, refined, exquisitely dressed--the other
commonplace, dowdy, the cheaply attired product of a cheap city suburb,
good-hearted vulgarity in every line of her. Mrs. Satterthwaite looked
from the man who had been her husband to the woman who was now his
wife--and her heart turned suddenly to stone.

“Here is Mr. Durham,” she said. With something of a shock,
Satterthwaite admired her consummate ease of manner.

The little woman had rushed forward to her husband.

“Oh, Ed, Ed!” she cried, ignoring Satterthwaite, who stood up politely.
“What is the matter?--You’re not hurt?--Not badly?”

“I’m all right, dear,” he said, embracing her. “I’ll tell you all about
it presently. These kind people took me in and looked after me.”

She turned to them.

“Oh, thank you so much!” she said, effusively. “It _is_ good of
you!--And I don’t know what _would_ have happened if anything serious
had gone wrong with Ed to-night!--You see, we’re sailing for Buenos
Ayres to-morrow! And he’s got such a good post--an agency--and if
anything had prevented his going----”

“Never mind that, my dear,” said Durham, cutting short her loquacity.
“These kind people do not want to go into our private affairs. Come
along. I’ve inconvenienced them enough already.” He held out his hand
to Mrs. Satterthwaite. “Good-bye, madam--and many thanks.”

She looked him in the eyes as she took his hand. They were the eyes of
a stranger.

“Good-bye, Mr. Durham,” she said, and turned away.

Satterthwaite escorted the couple to the door.

“Your hat is here,” he said, as he took it off the clothes-peg where
Tremaine had hung it. “Good-bye.--Good-bye, Mr. Durham.--What boat do
you sail by to-morrow?” The enquiry was in the most casual tone of
courteous interest.

“The _Manhattan_.”

“Pleasant voyage--and good luck to you both!” he said, cheerfully, and
closed the door. He stood for a moment listening to their happy voices
as they went out of the building and then turned to find his wife
standing by his side.

“Jack!” she cried, and her eyes searched his face as if to read
acknowledged partnership in a crime. “He’s gone?”

He nodded, smiling at her.

“Gone, right enough--and he’ll get his legacy. I can trace him quite
easily now we know the name of his boat. That gives us a clear
conscience.”

“Does it, Jack?--Does it?--Oh, I wish I could be sure!--Durham is not
the man Tremaine was!”

“He’s a happier man than Tremaine would be, anyway! Think of their
delight when they get that legacy!” He led her back into the
dining-room, where the remains of their anniversary feast were yet upon
the table. “And, dear!” he looked into her eyes, “we are happier people
than we should have been had Durham not replaced Tremaine!”

She shook her head, still doubtful.

“But if he remembers?” she queried.

“He goes a long way off, into a new environment. The chances are
against his remembering at all. If he does,” he shrugged his shoulders,
“he will probably himself put it down as a hallucination from which his
devoted little wife will nurse him back. Don’t worry, my dear. We did
the right thing.”

“If only I could be sure!” she said, with a sigh.

       *       *       *       *       *       *

The next morning Dorothy woke up to see her mother bending over her bed.

“Where’s Dada, Mummy?” she asked.

“Dada?” said Mrs. Satterthwaite, as though she did not understand.

“Yes,” said the child. “Dada--Dada who came back last night!”

Her mother shook her head, smilingly.

“You dreamed it, dear,” she said. “Dada was killed in the war.”



THE LOVERS


He opened the door into darkness and fumbled for the switch. The
spacious, beautifully furnished living-room of the flat--long,
dark bookcase filled with mellowed leather bindings; large, soft
bearskins compensating for the insufficiency of the delicate Persian
carpet on the parquet floor; a few precious prints spaced with an
exquisite reticence upon the walls; an Oriental bibelot here and there
emphasizing the quiet charm of English eighteenth-century furniture
with its touch of the cunningly grotesque; two great leather-covered
chairs by the fireside--was suffused with soft light.

He stood in the doorway--tall, lean, handsome, forceful with a touch of
asceticism--and smiled to the corridor.

“Here we are!” he said, his voice on a note of happiness. “At last!”

He stretched out his arms to the girl upon the threshold. She came
into the light--tall almost as he, long fur coat half-open over her
tailor-made costume, finely modelled head poised in a graceful,
winsome upturn of the face, smiling at him in a radiance of eyes and
mouth--and, on the movement of an irresistible impulse, cast herself
into his embrace.

“At last!” she echoed. “Oh, Jim, dear!--at last--at long last!”

He held her, and she snuggled into his shoulder, face upturned to his,
drawing his kisses down to her with the magnetism of her lips.

The quaint enamel clock on the mantelpiece ticked, just heard, the
passing seconds of eternity, the only sound in the silence of their
union.

Then, with the long breath of recovery from the timeless swoon of a
kiss prolonged to its uttermost limit, she turned her head slowly to
gaze about the room.

“Oh, Jim!” she said, in affectionate reproach, “and you told me you
were a poor man!”

He shrugged his shoulders, his lips mobile in a little smile.

“Well, dear,” he replied in whimsical apology, “compared with the
daughter of a man who owns half a city--compared with what you
might have had!” He looked into her eyes. “Helen! You won’t regret?
They’ll rub it in to you--the title you’ve thrown away--the position
in society--what they’ll be pleased to term your hole and corner
marriage----”

She laughed happily.

“Oh, Jim!--I’ve got you and you’ve got me--and nothing else matters--it
seems to me that you and I are the only two people in the world!” She
assured herself of a tightening of his embrace with a touch of her hand
on his as she looked up into his eyes with a slow, smiling shake of the
head that affirmed her love. “As if only you and I ever existed--and
had always loved! As if all through eternity we had waited for this! As
if I was born to be just Jim Dacres’s wife!”

He looked down upon her, eyes into eyes.

“Darling!” His voice was low and earnest in a sincerity beyond doubt.
“Jim Dacres’s wife you are--and, please God, I’ll never let you go!”

With one more kiss she disengaged herself, came into the centre of the
room, threw her fur coat back from the shoulders with a smile that
invited the assistance he was prompt to give.

“Are we all alone?” she asked, glancing round, struck by the quietude
of the flat.

“All alone, dear,” he replied, folding her coat over a chair. “I told
Mrs. Wilkinson she could go out. I thought it would be good to have it
all to ourselves for this first evening--you and I alone in Paradise,
darling!” He kissed her, drew her toward the fire. “Warm yourself, my
beauty--and pretend it is my heart!” He squeezed her shoulders with
broad, strong hands.

She shook her head at him in roguish reproof, as she spread her
fingers--the new gold ring upon one of them--before the blaze he
stirred.

“Pretty, pretty!” she rebuked him. “Where has Jim Dacres learned to
make love, I should like to know!”

“In your eyes, dearest!” he replied, smiling into them. “In your eyes
that open right back into a soul that knows immemorial secrets and
knows them all as love!”

She felt quietly for his hand and held it, without a word, through
moments where speech was profanation.

Then, with a long breath, feminine curiosity awaking in her, she turned
her head and glanced once more around the room.

“It’s charming, Jim!” she asserted. “I didn’t know you had so much
taste. Where did you get all these beautiful things?” She left the
fireside, began to roam about the room, peering into cabinets, picking
up one precious object after another, turning over the pages of the
books that lay upon the tables.

He watched her lithe, graceful movements with admiration.

“All over the place,” he answered, negligently. “China, Japan--a few in
Italy----”

“And this?” she asked, holding up a large crystal ball, supported in a
lotus cup upon the back of a carved ivory elephant studded with amber
and turquoise and coral, its feet upon an ivory tortoise. “What is
this?”

“Oh--that! I got that in India. Some old crystal-gazer’s outfit. It’s
a few hundred years old--symbolizes the universe, you know. The world
rests upon an elephant and the elephant upon a tortoise. I don’t know
what the tortoise stands on----”

Her face was bright with interest.

“And have you ever looked into it?”

“Of course not.” His tone was contemptuous. “I don’t go in for that
sort of thing. I didn’t buy that--an old Hindoo priest gave it to me--a
nice old chap who was good enough to adopt me more or less, years ago
now.”

“Oh, Jim! Do let us look into it!” Her voice was ecstatic in a sudden
excitement. “Do let’s look!”

“You won’t see anything,” he emphasized his pessimism in a grudge at
the interest she diverted from him to this inanimate object. “It’s
all rot, you know--only people with brain-sick imaginations ever see
things--or think they see things.”

“Oh, but do let’s try!” She came across to him, the crystal in her
hand. “Do, there’s a darling!” The appeal of the kiss-pouted lips in
the face turned up to him, eyes bright with ingenuous vivacity, was
irresistible.

He shrugged his shoulders with large good-humour.

“All right--but it’s waste of time.”

“Is anything waste of time when we are together, dear?” She nestled
up to him, drew the kiss that was inevitable. “It’s all part of the
romance. Now, be good and do as I tell you. Switch off the lights--the
firelight is enough.”

He obeyed, with a gesture of tolerant complaisance that could refuse no
whim. The room relapsed into shadows shifting in the blaze of the fire
that he had stirred.

“Now come and sit close by me here,” she dictated, delightfully
imperious to this tall strong man, seating herself in one of the
big chairs by the fireside. “There is room for two. That’s right.”
He squeezed his long body into the seat beside her. She held up the
crystal ball. “Now you hold it with one hand and I will hold it with
one hand--like this!” With her free hand she clasped the hand that
remained on her knee. “That’s all I want to see, dear--our joint
fates, linked together.” Her voice was soft and tender, thrillingly
sincere. “Just you and I--for ever--past or future, darling, what does
it matter?--it’s all one long life that is only real when you and I
touch.” She finished with a sigh of happiness.

He responded in a gentle pressure of her hand. Together they stared
into the crystal sphere they jointly held. Minute after minute passed
in silence, in a pervading sense of intimate communion where their
pulse-beats, in the contact of their hands, regulated themselves to an
identical rhythm.

“I see nothing,” he murmured, vaguely disappointed, “nothing at all.”

“Patience!” she breathed, intent on the crystal, but sparing him
a little squeeze of the fingers in recognition of his presence.
“Look!--keep on looking!”

Again there was silence. The ticking of the clock upon the mantelpiece
became almost hypnotic in its monotony. The fire dulled down, its light
no longer reflected in leaping flashes in the crystal.

“Look!” she whispered. “It’s clouding over--going milky! Do you see?”

He nodded assent, unwilling to break the spell by speech, mysteriously
awed as he, too, saw a milky cloud suffuse the depths of the crystal.
Holding their breath, they waited, closely linked, for they knew not
what of vision.

As they stared into it, almost unconscious now of their own bodies, of
the muscular effort that held the crystal globe in unvarying focus from
their eyes, they saw the cloud break and clear in a widening rift that
seemed to open into infinity.

“Look!” she murmured. “_It’s coming!_--Look--_People!_--crowds of
them--running and jostling each other! Look, it’s a fête of some
sort--a lot of them have cockades! Do you see?”

In fact, the depths of the crystal were suddenly inhabited. A throng of
tiny figures, men and women, surged, broke up, flocked together again
in high excitement, arms waving in the air. Over their heads other
figures leaned out from the upper windows of a row of more distant
houses--evidently the scene was a public square--and waved also in
diminutive enthusiasm. Their costumes seemed like fancy dress--men
in long, bright-coloured coats with enormous lapels and tight-fitting
trousers with broad stripes of some contrasting colour--women in
high-waisted dresses and poke bonnets or no bonnets at all--men and
women, and these the greater number, the dominant majority of the
crowd, in the nondescript vestments of squalid, ugly poverty. The
better-dressed men and women wore prominently, all of them, a cockade
or rosette of red, white, and blue.

The crowd packed close together in a common impulse, was agitated
by a common emotion that set a forest of arms waving above their
heads and contorted their faces in cries that were inaudible.
Something was happening in that square--something that evoked fierce
passion--invisible behind the densely serried mob whose backs alone
could be seen.

“Look!” breathed the girl in the chair. “Look!--that poor girl!” There
was a curious accent of vivid sympathy in the whispered ejaculation.

A young girl was forcing her way through the throng, her face covered
in her hands, her shoulders shaking with sobs, weeping convulsively
in a paroxysm of despair. The crowd, intent on the spectacle beyond,
parted and made way for her automatically.

“Oh,” murmured the girl in the chair, “I feel so funny--I feel I want
to cry, too--as if a terrible calamity had suddenly come upon me--a
frightful danger to someone I loved----” She shuddered, “oh, it’s
awful!--it numbs me--it’s--it’s as if I felt what _she_ was feeling!”

The girl in the vision took her hands from her face, looked about her
with eyes of wild misery.

“My God, Helen!” whispered the man in the chair, in a thrill of
excitement. “_It’s you!_”

“Shh!” she breathed, gazing intently into the magic scene. The air
about them seemed mysteriously charged with tumultuous passion, with
the inaudible vociferations of that surging mob. To both, it seemed as
though they were in contact with a real crowd, beset by the vague,
fierce emotions that gather and roll in the collective, primitive soul
of humanity in congregation. It set their hearts to a quicker beat,
bewildered their brains with unheard clamours.

The girl in the vision--so strikingly like the girl in the chair that
she seemed a duplication of her personality--drew herself erect on the
edge of the crowd and wiped her eyes. Evidently, with a great effort,
she was mastering herself. The girl in the chair drew a hard breath,
as though of some supreme determination. Then, taking a few steps, the
figure that they watched moved close under the houses of the nearer
side of the square and, looking up at the doorways as though seeking an
inscription, commenced to walk along the pavement.

The crystal held her still as its centre--like the lens of a
cinematograph following always the chief personage upon the
screen--and, watching her, the man and woman in the chair forgot the
globe that they held with cataleptic rigidity, forgot the diminished
scale of the vision. Their perceptions adjusted themselves like those
of children who day-dream among their toys, and it seemed to both of
them that they gazed into a real scene with full-sized human emotions
at clash in the acute earnestness of present life.

The girl, her face white and tense, her eyes fixed in the courage
of timidity brought to despair, moved along the houses. Suddenly
she stopped, looking upward to a portal surmounted by a trophy
of tri-coloured flags and a shield on which the three words
“_Liberté--Egalité--Fraternité_” were crudely emblazoned. A couple of
ruffianly men in quasi-military uniform, exaggeratedly large cocked
hats coming down over their ears, short pipes in the mouths hidden by
untrimmed, pendent moustaches, enormously long muskets with bayonets
fixed leaning against the bandoliers across their chests, guarded the
doorway. The girl spoke to them, with vehement gestures, evidently
imploring entrance. They barred her path, callously untouched by her
agonized entreaty. She pointed up to an inscription below the trophy
“_RÉPUBLIQUE FRANÇAISE--Réprésentant en Mission_,” smiled at them in
a heart-breaking assumption of coquetry, candid innocence never more
purely virginal. One of them shrugged his shoulders and spat upon the
cobbled pavement without removing his pipe. The other winked broadly,
and, still retaining his musket, reached out with his disengaged hand.
The girl shrank back, horror in her eyes--and then, as if bethinking
herself of an unfailing resource, felt feverishly in the neckerchief
which covered her bosom. She drew out a packet of notes, offered them.
With a broad grin on their faces, the two ruffians parted to allow her
passage.

She climbed an uncarpeted, dreary staircase and hesitated for a
moment outside a door inscribed “_le citoyen réprésentant du peuple
Desnouettes_.” She knocked timidly, opened, and entered.

Across a large bare room a young man was seated, writing, at a table.
A broad tri-coloured sash barred his blue, wide-collared coat and
white waistcoat. He had divested himself of the cocked hat with three
absurdly large plumes of blue, white, and red which lay upon the
table and the long hair of his uncovered head reached almost to his
shoulders. He looked up, as if startled, at his visitor, looked up
with a young face whose intellectual keenness, whose vivid, passionate
eyes above the long nose and almost ascetic mouth were strangely,
disconcertingly reminiscent of--of----

“_Jim!_” gasped the young woman in the chair, feeling herself in that
curious state of split identity where the unaffected, remote Ego
registers without controlling the adventures of a dream.

“Shh!” he murmured in his turn, bewildered to find himself as it were
looking at his own personality and, though as at the other side of a
partition in his soul, experiencing the feelings of the man at whom he
gazed. An echo of a surprise, of a mysterious surprise that disturbed
him to the depths--of something that had come, startlingly new and
powerful though not yet fully manifest, into his life--reverberated
in the recesses of his being as he contemplated the girl. And then a
counter-impulse flooded him, the impulse that made him set his mouth,
rejecting with an assertion of his own personality wedded to some vague
ideal, the vulgar influence of a human emotion. He felt as though the
girl approached _him_, as she moved toward that young man who regarded
her with a stern frigidity.

“_Citoyenne?_” he was surprised to find himself murmuring the coldly
polite query, as though repeating it after that insultingly superior
young man.

He heard the gasp of the young woman at his side as of someone
infinitely remote from him. His real being was in that large bare room
where the superb young republican scrutinized the young girl with a
cold glance that put her out of countenance. Yet how beautiful she was
as she blushed up to her eyes, youthful modesty in confusion! He felt
something flush warm within his breast, a vague emotion that dissipated
the assurance underneath his sternly maintained aspect. Before she had
spoken, an alarm to the threatened supremacy of his cold reason rang
through the depths of him. He reacted with a severity that he obscurely
felt to be excessive, reiterated almost with menace “_Citoyenne?_” Was
the word really uttered from his lips? He did not know.

She came close, poured out her trouble in a flood of nervous, anguished
speech that he comprehended perfectly without being able to arrest
a single definite word in his memory--it was as though that part
of him which understood was something deep down, lying beyond the
necessity for spoken language. Of course! he comprehended with a kind
of awakening memory--that old _émigré_ who had stolen back disguised,
in defiance of the laws, whom he had arrested for plotting against
the safety of that Republic One and Indivisible of which he was the
incorruptible servant, whose name he had but just put on the fatal
list of the next batch for the guillotine! He chilled, mercilessly;
wondered for a moment at his own inexorability, and then, as his
identification with the scene completed itself, understood it.

For a crime against himself, against another individual, he might
have had compassion. The conspirator against that fanaticized ideal
of his soul, the young Republic fighting in rags for its life, for
the ultimate freedom of all humanity, was guilty of the unforgiveable
sin. He steeled himself, in a pride of approximation to that Brutus,
to those other sternly incorruptible Roman republicans with whom his
imagination was filled. No human tears, no human despair however
poignant, should move him from his path of duty. He felt his teeth
set hard over the absurd feebleness in his breast as his eyes rested,
coldly he hoped, upon that beautiful girl who stood, strangely
disturbing in her closeness, and stretched out her arms to him in
agonized appeal. As if telepathically, his soul was filled with her
passionate, eloquent entreaty--he had to fight down the tears which
threatened his eyes in sympathy with those which suffused the beautiful
orbs which looked into his, in despair of softening them.

And she--the woman in the chair, remote spheres away, trembled
at a trouble in her soul, at an awakening of something else in
her--something that was wrong, unpardonably at variance with every
standard of her life, as she looked into those stern but fascinating
eyes in the ascetic face and pleaded her cause. She despised herself
for the blush she felt creep over her. Her father’s life--her father’s
life!--what else dared she think of? This superb young man was an
enemy, an implacable enemy, the incarnation of all the crimes wreaked
upon her class! Yet her dignity imposed upon her, and she dared not
practice that false coquetry upon him that, in a sublime abnegation of
her own pride, she had promised herself to use as a supreme resource.
She could only plead, plead passionately, in utter sincerity, the best
in her appealing to the best in him--and she scorned herself for
admitting that there was that best to evoke.

A devil stirred in him, subtly malicious, tempting him with an
intellectual bait that was the disguise of passions of whose
reality he was but vaguely cognizant. These proud _aristos_! The
bitterness of a youth of humiliations surged up in him, avid for
vengeance. He encouraged it as a protection against himself. He
would show them--these oppressors of the people, these enemies of
the republic--who sent their womenfolk to corrupt the virtuous
representatives of the nation! Two could play at that game! He smiled
in the thought of the insult he prepared.

With a quick movement he rose from his seat and, on an impulse that
was almost blind in its swift fulfilment, put his arm round the girl’s
waist and kissed her full on the mouth. The act was done before her
instinct of self-protection could assert itself--and then she pushed
him away in sudden revolt, stood facing him with panting bosom and a
countenance where emotions chased each other in alternations of white
and red. For a moment she contemplated him, breathing tumultuously, and
then, with a gesture of disgust, she wiped her lips. Her eyes looked
straight into his with angry dignity, withered him with their fierce
disdain. A bitter smile wreathed her lips.

“_Er, bien, citoyen_--you have had your pay. My father’s life!”

Did he actually hear the words? The low, scornfully vengeful laugh
which came involuntarily from him was like an echo, far off, of
that mocking laugh, inaudible now, in the bare room where the young
commissary, arrogant with the outrage he had inflicted upon this
representative of a superior race, drew himself up in his conscious
incorruptibility.

“Your father dies to-morrow, _citoyenne_!” The marble coldness of his
voice was a triumph of which he was not sure until it rang in his ears.
He exulted in its echo, like a saint self-consciously a victor over
temptation.

Their eyes met, looked into each other with a sudden furious,
unappeasable hatred--a hatred which flooded them with a passion that
was bigger than themselves--that soul-devouring hatred, clutching
instinctively at death for its expression, which is the other face
of violent love. Between these souls, in commotion far beyond their
consciousness, indifference was not possible. They had met, and the
world was in upheaval.

He heard the hiss of a long breath drawn in through clenched teeth--he
distinguished no longer between the girl like a brooding invisibility
in the chair beside him and the panting girl confronting that suddenly
pale young patriot whom he watched with inexpressible fascination. He
saw the insult, like livid lightning, in her face before she hurled it
at him.

“_Canaille!_”

The word rang close in his ear, and yet infinitely far away, on an
accent of vindictive emphasis that struck to his soul.

A fury surged up in him, a blind fury that annihilates with one
ruthless blow of its insulted strength.

He stamped a signal on the floor.

“You also, _citoyenne_, will die to-morrow!” The decree, cold as the
bloodless lips which uttered it, echoed in him to a savage satisfaction.

The girl remained motionless, head high, in superb indifference to his
threat. The door behind her was flung open. The two ruffianly guards
ran in, sprang to grip her arms in obedience to his imperious gesture.
She smiled at him, splendid in unshakable disdain.

“_We prefer to die!_”

He motioned them out, livid with a rage beyond words. She went,
proudly, unresistingly between her brutal captors. At the door she
turned her head and smiled at him again, a smile full of significance.

“_Canaille!_”

He sat down to his table and, in a furious scrawl, added a name to his
list.

... The vision dissolved in blackness, in an obliteration, for timeless
moments, of all thought....

They found themselves looking into a long dark hall, its gloom
inadequately relieved by high barred windows. Straw littered the floor
and was collected into little heaps along the walls. Dimly discerned in
the shadows was a throng of people, men and women--some promenading up
and down in solitary dejection, some in groups seated upon the straw
at a game of cards, some leaning propped against the wall in listless
despair. He gazed into that Hades-like abode of misery with a curious
anxiety at his heart, an anxiety whose cause for the moment eluded
him. He watched, waiting in a vague expectation of some event that
approached and was yet unseen.

A door in the foreground opened and, with a little intimate shock, he
saw enter that mysterious duplication of his personality that was he
and yet was not he--the sternly ascetic young _répreséntant en mission_
whose plumed hat and sash of office proclaimed his authority in this
dreadful place. A subservient turnkey followed at his heels, called a
name.

A young girl--_she_--she of the bare room overlooking the square, she
of--of--he failed to identify another appearance he knew ought to be
familiar--started up from a bed of straw where she had been sitting in
company with an old man. She approached, in quiet command of herself,
neither hastily nor reluctantly. Obviously, she was indifferent to
whatever might be required of her. Only when she perceived the identity
of her visitor did she start back in a sudden little hesitation,
vanquished as soon as felt. She came coolly up to him, regarded him
with contemptuously hostile eyes, awaited his business with her.

He was trembling with emotions that almost overpowered him--the soul
that watched felt itself gripped in an agony of remorse, of fear,
of--something else that he would not acknowledge. He stammered
evidently as he spoke.

“_Citoyenne_, come with me--you are free!”

She looked at him in blank surprise.

“Free?”

The inaudible words were plain to those two watching souls who had long
ago forgotten the crystal that they held. Both thrilled with a sense of
crisis in which they were intimately involved.

The young man reiterated his assertion eagerly.

“And my father?” The girl turned her head toward the melancholy figure
bowed in dejection on its heap of straw.

He shrugged his shoulders.

“Your father is guilty of a crime against the Republic. I can do
nothing for him. But you have committed no crime, _citoyenne_”

Her eyes looked into his, probed him.

“Nor have many here. Why do you release me?”

He lost control of himself in his eagerness to withdraw her from the
danger into which he had himself wantonly plunged her.

“Because--because I love you! Because I cannot let you die!--Because--I
cannot help it--you are all of life to me, _citoyenne_!”

She looked at him, her face like a carven sphinx, her eyes inscrutable.

“I go--wherever my father goes!”

He stood, deathly pale, wrestling with a terrible temptation. She
watched his agony, without malice, without sympathy, cold like a slave
in the market who may be bought--for a price. All of him that was human
yearned for her, yearned for her unutterably in a surge of desire that
all but overcame him--and yet an austere inner self, that self which
had vowed itself to the idealized service of the Republic in youthful
fanaticism, stood firm although it agonized. He felt himself a worthy
spiritual successor of that Scaevola who stood with his hand in the
fire, as he answered, cold sweat upon his brow.

“_Citoyenne_, it is impossible. I cannot buy even your love with my
dishonour. Your father has committed a crime against the Republic--but
you have committed none.”

She shrugged her shoulders in calm indifference. An insulting smile
came into her face.

“Then I will do so!” She turned toward the prisonful of victims with
the exultant gesture of a martyr who demands the stake, and cried,
evidently with full lungs: “_Vive le Roi! À bas la République!_”

“_Vive le Roi!--À bas la République!_” came like a murmured echo from
somewhere beyond defined space, in defiant mockery of all that he
craved.

He watched her turn away from him, an immense despair submerging him,
and went slowly, head down, toward the door as though himself condemned.

She turned for one last look at him as he disappeared, a strange wild
ecstasy in her face--and then flung herself face downward upon the
straw in a paroxysm of hysteric sobs.

Whence came those murmured words, charged with unutterable passion,
with the intensity of a soul that gathers its essence for its leap into
the infinite dark?

“Now--now I can love him! Death, death! come quickly!--now I have the
right to love!”

There was a glimpse of a face suddenly radiant through its tears--and
then again blackness, a suspense of thought.

He stood with his back to the room, looking out upon the square filled
with a surging mob. In the middle, upon a raised scaffold, stood the
terrible red-painted uprights with the gleaming knife under the linking
beam, poised ready for the swift fall of its diagonal edge. The mob
swirled in a sudden turbulence under the windows. He knew what it meant.

There, forcing its slow passage through the maddened crowd, came the
fatal cart--a rough vehicle filled with hatless men and women whose
necks were bare and whose hands were bound, men and women who seemed
deaf to the vociferations of the bloodthirsty mob that raved about
them. He shuddered--slipped his right hand into his pocket, held it
there, his gaze fastened in horrible fascination upon that slowly
moving cartload of already almost lifeless human beings. He saw,
clearly, only one figure, a girl in white, and he waited--in an agony
which held him rigid.

The cart lurched its slow way to the scaffold, stopped. The victims
began to descend. He saw the figure in white mount the steps to
the machine, saw it turn its head at the last moment toward his
window--and, as though it were the signal expected, he whipped the
pistol from his pocket, glimpsed the dark hole of its barrel, and fired.

The man and woman in the chair stared into a crystal ball whose depths
were suffused with a milky cloud.

“Oh, Jim!” she murmured. “_The last time----!_”

“Shh!” he said, with a squeeze of her hand. “Look! It’s coming again!”

Once more the cloud parted--they peered, breath held for further
revelations, into a crude contrast of bright light and intense shadow,
upon a striped awning at an angle from a wall glaring in the sun, upon
a narrow street where dust rose yellow like an illumined cloud above a
dark throng of Asiatics, their white robes almost blue in the shadow,
who gesticulated and pushed each other as they packed themselves into a
semicircle of eager faces. Their vision adjusting itself to the violent
juxtaposition of high light and deep shadow, they stared into the
comparative sombreness under the awning, to the object which held the
interest of the crowd.

In a cleared space, in front of a trio of barbaric musicians who
squatted cross-legged upon the ground in serious management of pipe and
tom-toms, a dancing-girl postured in fluidic attitudes of her lithe,
slim body. Arms and legs covered with bracelets, she turned, stretched,
and twisted herself in accompaniment to a rhythm which escaped them.
Indefatigably she danced, heedless of the eager, appreciative eyes upon
her, her face expressionless in a rapt absorption where consciousness
of her environment seemed lost. The crowd shouted inaudible
encouragements in flashes of gleaming teeth, flung flowers and small
coins on to the mat whereon she danced, swayed with contagious waves
of enthusiasm. The girl danced on, indifferent to the applause,
ecstatically absorbed in the perfection of her art. Only one or other
of the serious musicians lifted an occasional bright, sharp glance to
the increasing spread of coins upon the mat.

Suddenly there was a commotion in the rear of the crowd, a jostling and
elbowing which propagated itself to the front rank. The throng parted,
with alarmed turns of the head to some disturbance behind them. A huge
elephant appeared, gliding forward with slow and stately motion to
the rhythmic wave of its sensitive trunk. Upon the gorgeous cloth of
its back was poised a richly carved and gilt _howdah_ surmounted by a
gigantic umbrella in scarlet and gold. Beneath that umbrella reposed a
languid young man, handsome with aquiline nose and splendid eyes under
the magnificent turban which crowned his dark head. He lifted his hand
in a gesture to the mahout perched on the neck of the elephant, and the
great animal stopped, left in a clear space by the crowd which fell
back reverently from its neighbourhood.

Still the girl danced on, heedless, unperceiving perhaps, of the
prince who watched her from his lofty seat. The musicians, after one
quick glance upward of apprehension, risked boldly and played on with
undisturbed solemnity. She danced with a sinuous grace that held the
eye in fascination, with an intensity of restrained movement, daringly
provocative though were her postures, which thrilled the watcher with
a sense of suppressed and concentrated passion whose potentialities
might not be measured. She danced, the incarnation of the fierce pulse
of life that beats beneath the fallacious languor of the East, her body
charged with vitality as it bent and straightened with lithe precision
to another curve, her face carven, expressionless, as though her soul
were withdrawn to its mysterious centre. The prince clapped his hands
in irrepressible enthusiasm. She stopped dead, stood rigidly upright
facing him, arms close to her sides, arabesqued breastlets thrust
forward, a slim statue that quivered with magically arrested life, in a
motionless effrontery that challenged his regard, his very power. Their
eyes met, looked into each other while the musicians ceased to play.
What was that of intense communion which sped between them? With a
sudden gesture the prince flung a handful of golden coins into the mat,
made a grave inclination of his head.

The elephant moved onward. With a smile of triumph, with a breath
long-drawn through her nostrils, and eyes that closed ecstatically for
a moment as in a dream realized, the girl followed in the train of his
gorgeously attired retinue....

_They knew_--those watchers who gazed as through the rent veils
of eternity, apprehending with minds that had ceased to be
corporeal--recognizing themselves once more, though in an incarnation
immeasurably remote, an incarnation whose transient language was long
ago forgotten.

The vision changed abruptly. They gazed into the hall of an Oriental
palace, arabesqued arches in a colonnade on either side, tessellated
marble in cool colours patterning the floor, ebony-black slaves waving
peacock fans above a cushioned divan on which the prince reclined. An
indulgent smile played over his handsome features as he toyed with the
unbraided hair of the beautiful girl who sat at his feet, in confident
lassitude against his knee, and turned her head back to gaze up into
his face with eyes voluptuously fond. She sighed with happiness--her
face no longer expressionless as in the public dance, but charged with
a yearning intensity of love. He, too, yearned over her with his grave
smile, bent his head down for the kiss her lips put up to him....

Again the scene changed. It was night in the colonnaded hall, moonbeams
patching the tessellated floor, flickering points of yellow flame
swinging slightly with the hanging lamps in the gloom under the
intricacy of the arches. A shadow moved out of the darkness, stood in
the moonlight, waited for a moment, then dropped a veil from its face.
It was the dancing-girl. She turned questing eyes about her as though,
at risk to herself, she was fulfilling an appointment that was not yet
met.

Another shadow slid out of the gloom under the arches, approached
her--another woman, young also and also beautiful, but with a
beauty--its character was startlingly vivid to those watchers--that
was insinuatingly treacherous, the beauty that smiles as it betrays.
She stood now with the erstwhile dancing-girl in the moonlight, spoke
to her with an assumption of gravely concerned and pitying friendship,
shook her head dolefully as though in distress at her own message.
The dancing-girl revolted with a vehement gesture of denial, of
impossibility--but her dark eyes flashed and her nostrils quivered. The
other persisted, in emphatic asseveration, her face a study in subtle
malice. She pointed to the heavy curtains which draped the just-seen
extremity of the hall, a fiercely assertive significance in her gesture.

The girl shrank back, shuddered. Then, with a slow turn of her body
from the tempter, she relapsed into herself, into a fierce meditation
where her eyes swept the shadows about her, where her lips uncovered
her teeth in a quick-caught breath and her clenched fist went slowly,
tensely, up to the side of her head in an agony that was beyond
words. The other woman contemplated her, just restraining a smile,
diabolically malicious--appealed once more to those hanging curtains
for proof of her sincerity. The girl, forlorn, gripped in some immense
unhappiness, nodded sombrely, with set teeth. With one last unobserved
smile of evil triumph, the other woman vanished.

For a long moment the girl hesitated. Then, with stealthy, feline
step, her shoulders crouched, she commenced to move along the hall.
Her gaze, a gaze of wide-open eyes set in the horror of some torture
of the soul, was fixed as though fascinated upon those heavy curtains
which she approached. She attained them, stopped, stood with one hand
in a final hesitation upon the folds, her bosom heaving with fiercely
primitive emotions. Then, in a violent determination, she flung them
aside.

Beyond, in a small torch-lit apartment, the prince reclined in company
with another woman. His head turned in sudden anger to the intruder.
Before he could make a movement of defence or escape, the dancing-girl
had sprung upon him, with a bound like a tigress, a long knife flashing
in her hand....

Even as they gasped their horror, they found themselves once more
staring at the milky cloud suffusing the depths of the crystal globe.

“Oh, Jim!” she breathed, in an awe-stricken recognition, “that was _my_
crime--the crime for which you punished me----”

“Look!” he murmured. “Look! It is not finished yet.”

In fact, the cloud was parting once more, parting this time over a
scene in ancient Egypt. Once more they recognized themselves, princess
and priest of a temple, in a drama that passed vaguely, too quickly in
its remoteness to be fully grasped, before their sight.

Scene after scene unfolded itself in the depths of the crystal, in a
succession of varying settings, in an ever-briefer duration, an ever
more vague drama of relationship, whose blurred outlines were perhaps
the effect of their fatigued attention, no longer able to follow in
their details visions possibly as minutely exhibited as the first.
Always their two personalities, in ever-changing incarnations, met
and reacted in wild passions that claimed them fully. In the eternal
history of their lives, all was possible, all had happened, every
variation of experience--save only indifference to each other. An
unseen link held them always, tightened into contact from the moment
of propinquity. On islands in a blue sea furrowed by long-oared and
primitive galleys; in cities of Cyclopean masonry that glittered,
as if vitrified, in a burning sun; in dark forests where skin-clad
savages went furtively with stone-barbed spears and knelt in worship
of the animal that they had just slain; by the side of reedy lakes
where hairy, scarce-human creatures crouched and gnawed the bones they
plucked from the embers--always they two met and always they were
lovers, fortunate sometimes, tragic sometimes, but always lovers.

Beyond humanity, far into the mists of time where strange shapes bodied
themselves, unrecognizable, and were dissipated into others yet more
strange, the visions continued in ever-increasing recession--leading
back into a distance where they lost all sense of personal
participation among vague and formless shadows.

They watched, in a breathless fascination.

Still farther back, beyond those shadows, something began to glow in
the depths of a night that cleared to transparent blackness, a ball
of fire, of living light that pulsed with intense incandescence in an
uttermost remoteness. And, as they watched, it divided itself, split
into two smaller spheres that circled about each other, throwing
out flames that reached like clutching arms in vain endeavour to
reëstablish unity. For an incomputable period--it seemed æons to those
souls who watched--they circled, held in mutual attraction and yet
still apart despite the reaching streamers. And then slowly, slowly,
they approached--their light heightening to a yet more vivid brightness
as they drew near....

The crystal globe slipped from numbed fingers into the fireplace. As
though roused from a dream by the crash of its contact with the brass
curb, the girl started and turned to her companion. He picked up the
crystal, starred and fissured with its fall--henceforth useless.

“Oh, Jim!” she cried in poignant regret. “We shall not see---- What is
going to happen _this_ time?”

She held his hand between her two, gazed up into his face in fond
anxiety, yearned out to him.

He put down the crystal, drew her close, enfolded her.

“Love!” he answered. “Love--once more and for always! And, to us, dear,
nothing else matters. It is the one reality.”

In each other’s eyes they saw, with a perception transcending physical
vision, the divine light of those sundered spheres that drew together.



HELD IN BONDAGE


Two French officers, wearing the red velvet bands of the medical
service upon their caps, followed an old woman down the staircase of a
pleasant villa-residence on the outskirts of Mainz.

“The bedrooms will suit perfectly,” said the elder of the two officers,
a major, in German. “And now a sitting-room?”

The old woman led them along a passage and, without a word, threw open
the door of a room lined with books. The two officers entered, looked
about them.

They were startled by a man’s voice behind them.

“Good day, messieurs!”

They turned to see a tall civilian, pince-nez gleaming over
exceptionally blue eyes, fair moustache, fair hair cut short and
brushed up straight from a square forehead, smiling at them from the
doorway.

“I am Doctor Breidenbach--at your service,” he said courteously in
accentless French.

The major stepped forward.

“I am Major Chassaigne, monsieur. I--and my assistant, Lieutenant
Vincent here--have been allotted quarters in your house. Here is the
_billet de logement_.” He held out a piece of paper. “It is issued
with the authority of the Army of Occupation and countersigned by your
municipality. I regret to put you to inconvenience----”

“Not at all! not at all!” interposed the German, affably, taking
the billeting order. As his face went serious in a scrutiny of the
document, the two officers had an impression of extreme intelligence
and ruthless will-power. He looked up again with a nod of assent,
his smile masking everything behind its gleam of blue eyes and white
teeth. “Perfectly correct, monsieur! Please consider my house at your
disposition. I am charmed to be of assistance to any of my confrères.”
He smiled recognition of their red cap-bands. “Although you wear
another uniform than that which I myself have but recently quitted, we
serve in a common cause--the cause of humanity, _n’est-ce pas_? which
knows no national animosities.”

“We desired a sitting-room,” said Major Chassaigne, ignoring this
somewhat unctuous profession of altruism.

The German waved his hand about the room.

“If this will suit you----?”

“Your library, monsieur?” queried the lieutenant.

“My work-room,” replied the doctor. “Before this deplorable war
interrupted my studies, I had some little reputation in my special
branch of mental therapeutics. If you are interested in psychology,
normal and abnormal, you will find here a very complete collection of
works upon the subject. Use them freely, by all means. Well, if you are
satisfied, gentlemen, I will leave you, for I am a busy man. I was just
about to visit some patients when you arrived. _Auf wiedersehen!_” He
smiled and left them.

Vincent turned to his senior, with a puzzled expression.

“What is it about that man I do not like?”

The older man shrugged his shoulders.

“Too friendly by far. They are all the same, these _boches_--they would
do anything to make us forget,” he said, divesting himself of his belt.
“I am going to have a rest and a cigarette before we walk back into the
town.”

The young man wandered around the room, scanning the titles of the
books on the shelves, picking up the various bibelots scattered about.
Suddenly he uttered a startled cry.

“_Mon Dieu!_ Look at this!”

The major turned to him. In his hand he held a small snapshot
photograph. He stared at it, trembling violently.

“What is the matter?”

“Look!--_It is she!_” The young man’s face was a study in horrified
astonishment.

Chassaigne looked over his comrade’s shoulder at the photograph. It
represented their host arm in arm with a good-looking young woman.

“_She?_” he queried, with a tolerant smile. “Be a little more explicit,
my dear Vincent.”

The young man turned on him.

“You remember the deportations from Lille? The women and girls the
_boche_ snatched from their homes?--My fiancée was among them.” His
voice checked at the painful memory. “Other women have been traced,
returned to their relatives. She has never been heard of again.”

“My poor friend!” murmured the major, sympathetically.

Vincent stared once more, as if fascinated, at the photograph in his
hand.

“It is she--in every detail! Yet----” his tone was puzzled. “No!
I cannot believe it! It is some chance resemblance. This woman is
obviously happy--content, at least.” He looked up, passed over the
photograph. “Chassaigne, you are an analyst of the human mind. What
relationship do you diagnose between those two people?”

The major took the print, scrutinized it critically.

“Friends, certainly--lovers, possibly,” was his sententious verdict.

“Then it cannot be!” cried the young man. “My fiancée was--is, I am
sure of it--incapable of a faithless acquiescence in the wrong done to
her.”

“Can one ever be sure about a woman?” said the major, with a gentle
cynicism. “However, I agree with you that it is improbable that the
person in the photograph is your lost friend. It is, as you say, a
chance resemblance.”

“If I could only be certain of it!” The young man was obviously
stirred to the depths. “I _must_ make sure, Chassaigne.--I must get to
know this woman--find out who she is!”

Both men turned at the sound of the door opening behind them. A
young woman, tall, dark, strikingly handsome, stood timidly upon the
threshold. It was the woman of the photograph.

“Doctor--Doctor Breidenbach?” she faltered, as though disconcerted by
an unexpected meeting with strangers.

Vincent stared at her, held in a suspense of the faculties where he
seemed not to breathe. At last he found his voice.

“_Hélène!_” he cried. “Hélène! It _is_ you!” He sprang to her, clutched
her arm. “What are you doing here?”

With a frightened gesture of repulsion, the young woman disengaged
herself from his grasp. She drew herself up, looked at him without the
faintest recognition in her eyes.

“_Ich spreche nicht französisch, mein Herr!_” she said in a tone of
cold rebuff.

“Hélène!”

She shrank back in obviously offended dignity, and, without another
word, haughtily left the room.

Vincent reeled away from the closed door, his hands to his head.

“My God!” he groaned. “Am I going mad?”

Then, ceding to a sudden impulse, he eluded his friend’s restraining
grasp, dashed to the door.

“Hélène!”

He found himself confronted by the smiling figure of Doctor Breidenbach.

“Pardon the unintended intrusion, messieurs!” he said, good-humouredly
apologetic and taking no notice of Vincent’s excited appearance. “My
ward, Fräulein Rosenhagen, was unaware that I had guests.--I merely
wished to reassure myself that you require nothing before I go into the
town. Is there anything you desire of me?”

“Nothing, thank you,” interposed Chassaigne, quickly, before Vincent
could speak.

“_A tantôt_, then!” He nodded amicably and went out.

“We ought to have questioned him!” cried Vincent, resentful of the
missed opportunity.

“We ought to do nothing of the kind, my dear Vincent,” replied
Chassaigne. “Calm yourself. Be sensible. What question could we
possibly ask that would not be ridiculous? You may be utterly wrong.”

“_It is she!_ I swear it!” asserted the young man, vehemently. “Do you
think I cannot recognize a woman I have known all my life?”

He commenced to pace up and down the room in wild agitation. His friend
contemplated him with a gaze of genuine solicitude.

“You may be mistaken for all that,” he said, gently. “Doubles, although
rare, exist----”

Vincent stared at him in exasperation.

“My fiancée had three little moles just above her right wrist--I looked
for those three moles when I held that woman’s arm just now--_and I
found them_! Are doubles so exactly reproduced as that?” he asked,
furiously.

“It sounds incredible, certainly,” agreed Chassaigne. “But her
attitude----”

“I know,” said Vincent, recommencing his pacing up and down the room.
“She looked at me like a complete stranger. But,” he ground his teeth
in jealous rage, “if she has consented to live with that man--she might
have pretended--to hide her shame----”

“My friend,” said Chassaigne, seriously, “in that young woman was
neither shame nor pretence. I observed her closely. She genuinely did
not recognize any acquaintance in you. She genuinely did not even know
French. She was genuinely resentful of your familiarity. That was no
play-acting performance. She was taken by surprise. She had no time to
prepare herself for it.”

The young man beat his brow.

“Oh, I am going mad!” he cried. “It was she, I swear it!--and yet--she
did not know me! It baffles me.” He stopped for a moment, then looked
up with a new idea. “Chassaigne! You are an authority on these things.
It is possible--by hypnotism or anything of the sort--to change a
personality completely--so that they forget everything--start afresh?”

Chassaigne met his glance, hesitated.

“It is--perhaps--possible,” he said, slowly. He went up to his friend,
put his hand on his shoulder, drew him to a chair. “Sit down, my
dear fellow. Let us be calm and think this out. If you are right--if
this young woman is indeed your--your friend--your suggestion might
_perhaps_ be the key to the enigma. But we shall achieve nothing by
getting excited.”

Vincent allowed himself to be gently forced into the chair. He looked
white and ill, thoroughly shaken. His friend, contemplating him, was
impressed by his appearance. Could such a shock be produced by a merely
imagined resemblance? He felt that it could not--and then those three
moles! His mind reverted to the young woman, to her indubitably genuine
non-recognition, and he felt more than ever puzzled. With a quiet
deliberation he drew up a chair and seated himself close to his comrade.

“Now let us analyze this problem,” he said. He spoke in a calm,
consulting-room voice which eliminated in advance all emotion from the
discussion.

Vincent looked up, his eyes miserable.

“Have you ever known of such a case?”

“Of a personality _permanently_ changed? No.”

“Is it hypothetically possible?”

“Hypothetically--yes.”

“By hypnotism?”

“By hypnotism and suggestion.”

“But a woman cannot be hypnotized against her will, can she?”

“No--technically not--but her will may be stunned, so to speak, into
abeyance by a sudden shock or by terror and then, virtually, she might
be hypnotized against her will. It is possible.”

The young man took a deep breath.

“That acquits her moral responsibility. But you say it is
hypothetically possible to change a personality _permanently_? It
sounds fantastic to me. Would you please explain?”

Chassaigne leaned back in his chair and lightly joined the finger-tips
of his two hands. He spoke in the impersonal tone of a professor
elucidating a thesis.

“Well, my dear fellow, to begin at the beginning we should have to
analyze personality--and human personality is a mystery I confess
myself unable to explore. You are aware, however, that there are
people who have double personalities--even triple and multiple
personalities--which differ utterly. For some reason which eludes us,
one of these submerged personalities in an individual may suddenly come
to the top. He, or she, entirely forgets the personality which was
theirs up to that moment, forgets name, relations, every circumstance
of life--and is completely someone else, quite new. There is a
recent case, exhaustively studied, of a young woman with four such
personalities--over which she has not the slightest control, and which
differ profoundly, mentally and morally. I mention this merely to show
you how unstable personality may be.”

“These are pathological cases,” interposed Vincent. “My fiancée was a
thoroughly well-balanced woman.”

Chassaigne nodded.

“Before the war when you last saw her. She must have gone through
great stress since. But let us continue. Under hypnotism a person is
extraordinarily susceptible to the suggestions of the operator. He
will carry out perfectly any rôle indicated to him. The reason is that
in the hypnotic condition the conscious personality is put to sleep
and the subjective mind--the dream-creating consciousness which is
independent of the will--is paramount. That subjective mind possesses
little if any power of origination, but it has a startling faculty
of dramatizing any suggestion made to it. Tell a hypnotic that he is
President Wilson at the Peace Conference and he will get up and make
a speech perfectly in character, amazingly apposite, expressing ideas
that are normally perhaps quite alien to his temperament. Tell him
that he is Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo and he will act the part
with a reality that is impressive. He believes himself actually to be
Napoleon. Under hypnotism, then, the personality which is mirrored in
the Ego--which you believe to be the essential, unchanging you--may be
utterly changed----”

“Yes,” objected Vincent. “But that is only during the hypnotic trance.
It is not permanent.”

“Wait a moment,” said Chassaigne. “Suggestions made during the hypnotic
trance may and do persist after the subject has awakened from it. I
may, for example, suggest to the hypnotized person that when he wakes
he will have forgotten his native language--and he will forget it. If
he knows no other, he will remain dumb until I remove the suggestion. I
may suggest to him that a person actually in the room is not there--and
he will not perceive him. I may suggest that in a week, a month, a
year, at such and such an hour, he will perform some absurd action--and
punctually to the moment, without understanding the source of his
impulse, he will perform it. Post-hypnotic persistence of suggestion is
a scientific fact.”

“Then--in this case?”

“In this case we have to do with a clever and possibly unscrupulous
man who is a specialist in manipulating the human mind. Of course, he
practises hypnotic suggestion as a part of his profession--it is the
chief agent in modern mental therapeutics. _It is possible_ that by
some means he got this young woman into his power after she was dragged
from her home. It is possible that he was violently attracted to her,
and finding that she did not reciprocate his sentiments, proceeded to
subject her individuality to his. How would he do this? He would drug
or stun her volition by terror--as, for example, a bird is helplessly
fascinated in fear of the snake. Then, using some common mechanical
means such as the revolving mirror--staring into her eyes--anything
that would fatigue the sensory centres of sight--he would induce a
hypnotic trance. In that trance he would suggest to her that her name
was no longer Hélène whatever it was--but Fräulein Rosenhagen, that she
was a German woman ignorant of French, that she was perfectly happy
and contented in his society. In the supernormally receptive state of
the hypnotized mind he could give her lessons in German, which would
be learned with a speed and accuracy far surpassing that of ordinary
education. He would suggest to her that all his lessons persisted after
waking. Finally, he would constantly reiterate these suggestions in
a succession of hypnotic trances--once the first has been induced,
it is easy to bring about the second--until he had reconstructed her
personality, or rather imposed a new one upon her consciousness.

“There, my dear Vincent, presuming that you are correct in your
recognition of this young lady, is a theoretical explanation of the
phenomenon which confronts us. For that the young woman genuinely did
not recognize you, I am certain.”

“She is held in the most diabolical slavery ever conceived, then!”
cried Vincent, in despair. “A slavery of the soul! But can nothing be
done?”

Chassaigne shrugged his shoulders.

“Something can be attempted, my dear fellow. I promise nothing.” He
rose from his chair. “Now, I want you to promise to keep quiet--not
to interfere. Fortunately, I speak German, and can talk to her in the
language she believes to be her own. Wait a minute.” He roved round
the room, opening the cupboards under the bookcases, the drawers in
the writing-table by the window. “Ah, here we are!” he ejaculated. He
held up a small silver mirror which revolved quickly upon its single
support under the motion of his fingers. “I expected that our friend
the doctor would possess this little instrument.” He smiled. “Very
considerate of him to go out and leave us to ourselves! Now we will try
and profit by the circumstance. I am going to find that young lady and
bring her to you. You will maintain the attitude of a complete stranger
who regrets an impulsive familiarity for which a mistake in identity is
responsible. Master yourself!” He put the little mirror on the table
and went out of the room.

A few moments later he returned, held the door wide open for the young
woman to enter. He spoke in fluent German.

“My young friend, Fräulein, will not be consoled until he has had the
opportunity of a personal apology!”

The young woman inclined her head gravely, and somewhat shyly advanced
to the centre of the room. Vincent rose to his feet, his face deadly
white, trembling in every limb, and bowed. Ignorant of German, he could
not utter a word. Chassaigne turned to him, spoke to him in French.

“Look closely at Fräulein Rosenhagen, _mon ami_--and satisfy yourself.”

The muscles of his face tense under the effort to repress his emotion,
to appear normal, the young man looked at her for a long moment. She
returned his gaze without a quiver of the eyelids, smiled with the
kindliness which sets a stranger at his ease.

“It is she--it is she,” he muttered, hoarsely. “I swear it!”

Chassaigne turned to the young woman.

“My young friend is much affected by your extraordinary resemblance
to a lady he knew, Fräulein,” he said, smilingly, in German. “But he
perceives now that he was mistaken. You will, I am sure, pardon an
emotion that a person of your charm will readily understand. My friend
was greatly attached to the lady he thought he recognised in you.”

The young woman smiled upon Vincent in feminine sympathy for a lover.

“Is she a German?” she asked in a rich deep voice that made him start.

Chassaigne replied for him.

“No, Fräulein--she is a Frenchwoman brought to Germany against her
will.”

He observed her narrowly as he spoke. Her face remained calm. His
words, evidently, awakened no latent memory in her.

“How dreadful!” she said. Her rich voice vibrated on a note of
unfeigned sympathy which was, nevertheless, impersonal. “Poor man! And
he does not know where she is!”

“He has no idea, Fräulein,” replied Chassaigne. “But let us leave this
painful subject. Will you not keep us company for a few minutes? We are
strangers in a strange land.” With a gallant courtesy, which, however,
omitted to wait for her assent, he took her right hand and led her to a
chair. His quick eyes noted the three moles upon her wrist. She seated
herself almost automatically. He registered, in support of his theory,
her easy susceptibility to a quietly insistent suggestion. “Will you
not tell us what is most worth seeing in Mainz?” he asked, smilingly.

She looked up at him.

“Alas, mein Herr, I cannot!” she said. “I have never been in the city.”

“Indeed?” He expressed mild but courteous surprise. “Perhaps you have
only recently come to live here yourself?”

“Yes--er--no!” She smiled at her own confusion. “I mean we have been
here some time--but we travelled so much before we came here--that I--I
have really lost count----”

Chassaigne made a reassuring little gesture which relegated the matter
to a limbo of indifference.

“You travelled with Doctor Breidenbach, I presume?” he asked, casually.

“Yes. We went to a great many places. He was in the army then.”

“When you first met him?”

“Yes.” Her first tone of confident assertion changed almost as she
uttered it to one of puzzled doubt. “Yes--I--I think so--I really
forget.” She smiled in self-apology. “I have a very bad memory, you
see, mein Herr,” she said, as if in explanation. “Doctor Breidenbach is
treating me for it.”

“Ah?--Doubtless he is doing you a great deal of good?” Chassaigne
seated himself upon the edge of the table and smiled down upon her in
paternal benevolence.

“Oh, yes,” she began, impulsively. “You see, we are going to be
married. But Doctor Breidenbach thinks it would not be right to be
married until my memory is perfectly restored. So”--she hesitated, then
smiled up with an innocent naïveté--“so you see I am doing all I can to
concentrate and--and get it right.”

“_Mon Dieu!_” groaned Vincent in a low tone of anguish, turning away
and staring out of the window.

Chassaigne frowned admonition at him in a quick glance unperceived by
the young woman. Unobtrusively, he put one hand behind him, picked up
the revolving-mirror from the table, held it behind his back. He nodded
assent to her little self-revelation.

“Of course. No doubt you are making very rapid progress. Doctor
Breidenbach is a very clever man, is he not?”

“Oh, yes--very clever. And so kind!”

Chassaigne nodded again, his smile holding her confidence. As if
absent-mindedly, he brought the little mirror in front of him, played
with it. He noticed that her eyes fixed themselves instinctively upon
it.

“Pretty toy!” he remarked, casually. “It belongs to Doctor Breidenbach
I suppose?”

She stared at it in a strange fascination, shuddered suddenly.

“Yes,” she said, with a little gesture before her eyes as though
trying to throw off a spell, “yes--I--I think so----”

“A scientific instrument, I presume?” continued Chassaigne,
imperturbably, as if merely interested in a curiosity, twirling the
support between his fingers so that the mirror rapidly revolved.
Imperceptibly he leaned forward, brought it nearer to her eyes. “It
suggests sleep, I think,” he continued in a quiet level voice that had
suddenly acquired a peculiar intensity. “Sleep. Sleep, Fräulein!”

She stared at it, open-eyed, stiffening curiously. A phrase of protest
seemed frozen on her lips.

He held it very close to her face, revolving the mirror in a
long-continued series of rapid flashes before her eyes.

“Sleep!” he commanded in his intense level voice.

Her breast heaved in a long, sleepy sigh. She shuddered again,
stiffened suddenly, sat rigid, entranced. Vincent, watching, crept
forward, tense with anxiety.

“What are you going to do?” he whispered.

Chassaigne motioned him to silence with a gesture of his forefinger. He
turned to the young woman.

“You are asleep, are you not?”

She did not reply.

“You hear me?”

“Yes.”

Her lips moved, but beyond that she did not stir.

“In that sleep you remember things which you had otherwise forgotten.”
He turned to Vincent, whispered: “What is her name?”

“Hélène Courvoisier.”

Chassaigne bent over her, picked up her wrist with the three moles.

“Do you remember Hélène Courvoisier?”

“No.”

“Not even the name?”

“Not even the name.”

There was a short silence, and then Chassaigne spoke again in insistent
level tones.

“I suggest to you that you are yourself Hélène Courvoisier!”

Vincent, guessing the purport of the words, held his breath in
suspense. To his despair the young woman responded with a far-away but
genuinely mirthful laugh.

“No! How absurd!” she said, laughing like a person under a drug. “I
am Ottilie Rosenhagen! I was always Ottilie Rosenhagen!” She laughed
again, hysterically, but more and more freely, more and more loudly,
more and more the laugh of a person normally awake. Still laughing,
she shuddered, passed her hand across her brow, relaxed suddenly
from her stiff attitude--and ceased to laugh with a glance around of
bewilderment. She fixed her eyes upon Chassaigne.

“I--I think I feel unwell,” she said, rising brusquely from her chair.
“Excuse me!--I--I cannot stay!”

Without a glance behind her, she went swiftly from the room.

Vincent watched her go, anguish and despair in his eyes. He turned to
Chassaigne.

“Well?” he asked, hoarsely.

Chassaigne made a gesture of annoyance. He shrugged his shoulders.

“I might have guessed as much!” he said. “He has rendered her immune
to the suggestion. You see, the trance was induced easily enough. As
I thought, she was accustomed to being hypnotized by that mirror and
the mere sight of it was almost sufficient. Without that, I should
certainly have failed to hypnotize her at all, for Breidenbach would
assuredly have impressed upon her the suggestion that she could be
hypnotized by no one but himself. He has furthermore guarded himself by
impressing upon her that the suggestion of being anybody but Ottilie
Rosenhagen will suffice to break the trance. He cannot be sure that
such an impressionable subject may not be hypnotized, possibly by a
chance accident--such things occur--in his absence. But he can be sure
that any counter-suggestion on the vital matter will defeat itself--as
we have just seen.”

“But can no one remove the suggestion?” cried Vincent. He glared around
the room, clenching his fist. “The infernal scoundrel! By God, I’ll
kill him!” He fingered the revolver, in the holster strapped to his
belt.

Chassaigne laid a restraining hand upon him.

“If you do--you will in all probability kill the only man in the world
who can replace the factitious personality of Ottilie Rosenhagen by the
real personality of Hélène Courvoisier!”

Vincent stared at him.

“Do you mean that?”

“He certainly can remove the suggestions he has himself made. It is
doubtful whether any other can.”

“He must be forced to do it! We must inform the authorities!”

“Agreed, my dear fellow!” Chassaigne’s voice was soothing. “But we
must first get evidence--real evidence--that this young woman is not
Ottilie Rosenhagen but Hélène Courvoisier. What evidence have we got
now that we could put up before a tribunal? None. Merely your alleged
recognition, as against her own emphatic denial that she is the person
you maintain. And at the present time not even the most cunning
cross-examination could elucidate the fact that she had ever known the
French language. Ottilie Rosenhagen does not know French--and, at this
moment, to all intents and purposes, she _is_ Ottilie Rosenhagen!”

“Then we must get hold of him ourselves!”

“He will simply laugh at us as madmen--apply to have us removed from
his house. No, my dear fellow, we cannot force the pace. Wait. Be
patient. Arouse no suspicion in his mind. Our opportunity will come,
be sure of that. The real personality of Hélène Courvoisier is there
all the time, latent. I am confident that we shall--somehow--succeed in
bringing it to the surface again.”

The young man shuddered.

“I wish I could see how!” he said, hopelessly.

“You will see it. I guarantee it,” said Chassaigne, forcing his
cheerfulness. “Now, come away out of this house. We will go into Mainz,
dine, spend the evening at a café, and forget it--or talk it over, as
you will. We can do nothing more now.” He smiled at him. “Come! As your
superior officer, I command you!”

The hour was late when the two officers returned. Before going out,
Chassaigne had provided himself with a key, and they let themselves
into the house. It was quiet, its occupants apparently in bed.
Throughout the evening there had been but one topic of conversation
and, as it was yet unexhausted, they went into Doctor Breidenbach’s
library, switched on the lights, and sat down for a final smoke before
retiring.

“What we require,” said Chassaigne, for the twentieth time, as he
lit his cigarette, “is demonstrable evidence, something that makes
it certain that you are not under an illusion. Even in my own mind,
I cannot help confessing, there is a doubt. Look at it from my point
of view. You assure me that you recognize the young woman. Good--but
your recognition may be an error, although sincere. You strengthen
your case by pointing to the three moles. But, if I were questioned, I
should be bound to admit that you did not mention those moles until you
had seen them on this woman. You may be suffering from a not uncommon
delusion of memory which refers to the past a thing now for the first
time perceived. The strongest piece of evidence we possess is that,
under the physical analysis to which we subjected the young woman, I
found that she was a hypnotic subject, that she was impressible, and
that her personality as Ottilie Rosenhagen is practically without any
memories of the past. _But we could not discover any trace of any other
personality._ She rejects as ridiculous the suggestion that she is not
Ottilie Rosenhagen. That proves nothing, in the special circumstances
we are considering. She might or might not still be Hélène Courvoisier.
But the theory on which we have been working presupposes a crime so
unique, that, quite frankly, to be entirely convinced I want to come
upon some trace of a submerged personality which tallies with your
assertion. If she is Hélène Courvoisier that personality is certainly
there. But how are we going to get at it?”

Vincent shook his head.

“I cannot imagine,” he said, wearily.

He looked up to see Chassaigne staring in astonishment at the door
behind his chair. Startled, he twisted himself round to see what was
happening--and gasped.

Framed in the doorway, a dressing-gown over her night-attire, her dark
hair loose over her shoulders, was the young woman. In her hand was a
bedroom candle, alight. Her face was expressionless and placid. Her
eyes were open, looked fixedly in front of her. She moved into the room
with a gliding step.

“She is asleep!” whispered Chassaigne. “Speak to her, Vincent!--who
knows?--Perhaps another stratum of personality!”

The young woman glided straight toward the lieutenant, who gripped at
the arm of the chair in his emotion. She was close upon him ere he
could force himself to speech.

“Hélène!” he said in a tense, low voice, looking up into her eyes as if
trying to bring her dream down to him. “Do you know me?”

She bent over him, kissed him softly upon the brow.

“Maxime!” she murmured, her tone vibrant with tender affection.
“Maxime! You have been away so long!”

_She spoke in French!_

Chassaigne jumped in his chair, but before he could utter a word, a new
voice spoke sharply.

“Ottilie!”

The two officers turned to the doorway to see Doctor Breidenbach
standing there, his face clouded with menace, his eyes angry.

The young woman started, looked wildly about her in the bewilderment
of one suddenly aroused from sleep. Then after one horrified glance at
her attire, an amazed stare at the two officers, she sank down on to
a chair and covered her face with her hands. Trembling violently in
every nerve of her body, she crouched there in a misery of shame, too
overwhelmed to utter a sound.

The German advanced into the room, stood over her.

“Ottilie! Come away at once!”

Vincent, now on his feet, flushed with rage at the brutal tone of the
command, comprehensible enough to him despite his ignorance of the
language.

Chassaigne went quietly behind the German, locked the door, and slipped
the key in his pocket.

Breidenbach, his eyes fixed on the girl, reiterated his command.

“Monsieur!” broke from Vincent in an angry expostulation which ignored
his comrade’s gesture to silence.

The German looked round upon him, forcing his face to a smile in which
the vivid blue eyes behind the pince-nez failed to participate.

“You are certainly entitled to some explanation of this unseemly
occurrence, gentlemen,” he said in French. His voice, perfectly
controlled and reinforcing his smile, suggested an appreciation of
piquancy in this equivocal situation, invited the sense of humour of
the Gallic temperament. “I need not tell you that Fräulein Rosenhagen
is entirely innocent of any intent to disturb you. She is, I may say,
under my medical care. She suffers from somnambulism, and you will
understand that it is comprehensible she should wander to this room
where she is accustomed to receive treatment.”

Vincent, with difficulty, controlled himself to silence in obedience to
his friend’s warning glance. Chassaigne stepped forward.

“Quite, monsieur,” he said, easily, smiling as though he fully
appreciated the position from all points of view. “A case of abnormal
subconscious activity. I am myself greatly interested, professionally,
in this common neuro-pathological symptom. May I suggest that, since
your patient has come here in response to an obscure instinctive
desire for the accustomed treatment of which she is doubtless in need,
you now satisfy her? I should esteem it a privilege to assist at a
demonstration of your methods.”

The German’s eyes flashed a suspicion that was instantly veiled.

“The hour is late, monsieur,” he said, coldly.

Chassaigne shrugged his shoulders good-humouredly.

“In our profession, monsieur--the service of humanity,” he said with
sly malice, “one is on duty at all hours.”

The German’s eyes expressed frank hostility.

“I do not consider it advisable,” he said. His tone was curt.

Chassaigne glanced at the young woman still crouched upon the chair.

“As a professional man of some experience, monsieur,” he said,
imperturbably, “I do not agree with you. I feel sure your patient would
benefit by it. Let me beg of you!”

The German trembled with sudden anger.

“This is an unwarrantable interference, monsieur! The patient is in my
charge. I decline absolutely!” He turned to the girl. “Come, Ottilie!”
he added in German.

She ventured a shrinking glance up at him, stirred as if to rise.

Chassaigne raised his hand in a gesture which checked her. His eyes met
the German’s in a direct challenge.

“Unreasonable as it sounds, monsieur, I have set my heart upon
witnessing your methods. It is a whim of the conqueror--the force of
which you, who have served in Belgium, will appreciate.” His right hand
slid into the pocket of his tunic. “I must insist!”

“I refuse, then!” The German was livid with rage. He turned and plucked
the girl violently from her seat. “Out of my way, monsieur!”

Dragging the girl after him, he took two steps toward the door--and
stopped suddenly. Two more steps would have brought him into contact
with the muzzle of the revolver which Chassaigne levelled at him.

“Foreseeing your possible ill-humour, monsieur,” said the Frenchman,
with a mocking suavity, “I took the precaution of locking the door.
This young woman has inspired me with so violent an interest that I
cannot bear to see her suffer unrelieved. And I might remind you that
should you unfortunately lose your life by the accidental explosion of
this revolver--I should find it comparatively easy to restore her to
complete mental health myself.”

The German glared at him.

“I do not understand you!”

“You do--perfectly!” Chassaigne turned to his friend. “Vincent, conduct
that young lady to a chair!”

The girl, who had been released by the German in the first shock of
his surprise, stood paralyzed with terror, staring speechlessly at the
revolver in Chassaigne’s hand. Unresistingly, she allowed herself to be
led to a chair by the young man who was as speechless as she.

Chassaigne nodded satisfaction.

“Good! Now, Vincent, draw your revolver and cover this gentleman
yourself. Be careful to hit him in a vital spot should you be compelled
to fire.”

Vincent obeyed with alacrity, dangling the heavy weapon with fingers
that evidently itched to pull the trigger.

“Monsieur,” said Chassaigne with grim courtesy to the German who had
remained motionless under the menace of the revolver, “I invite you to
take a seat. You may keep your hands on your knees, but do not move
them until I give permission.”

The German sat down heavily, his eyes gleaming evilly at the Frenchman.

“Now, monsieur,” said Chassaigne, in succinct tones, “since you say you
do not understand, I will be more explicit. I desire that you should
induce in this young woman the hypnotic trance which is your habitual
treatment for her indisposition----”

A gleam of cunning flitted in the German’s eyes.

“Very well,” he said, with sulky submission. “If you insist!”

“But with this difference,” continued Chassaigne, “_that your habitual
suggestion shall be reversed_!”

The German started--controlled himself quickly.

“I do not understand,” he said, maintaining his pose of sulkiness.

“I mean that instead of suggesting to her that she is and always has
been Ottilie Rosenhagen--you suggest to her that she is really Hélène
Courvoisier, a French girl deported from Lille!”

The muscles stood out suddenly upon the German’s lean jaws, even as,
with a strength of will Chassaigne could not but admire, he smiled
mockingly into his adversary’s face.

“You rave, monsieur!” he said, and his tone emphasized the insult.

“Rave or not,” replied Chassaigne, calmly, “I want you to try the
experiment. It is a whim of mine.” He handled the revolver suggestively.

“And if I refuse?”

“I shall shoot you!”

The German laughed outright.

“Ottilie!” he cried, in German, “these Frenchmen have gone mad. They
pretend that you are not Ottilie Rosenhagen but a French girl--and they
want to take you from me!”

The girl sprang from her seat with a cry of horror, rushed to him, and
flung her arms about him.

“Oh, no, no!” she cried. “I am German--I am German--I was never
anything but German! Oh, don’t take me away from him! I love him! I
love him! He is all I have in the world!”

Vincent watched the action with jealous rage.

“My God!” he muttered. “I shall kill him in another moment if this goes
on!”

The German smiled at them triumphantly.

“You see, gentlemen! Your suggestion is fantastic! This girl is my
fiancée, and she is German to the core!”

Chassaigne’s face was stern.

“Vincent! Remove the lady!”

The young man had to tear her by force from the German, who remained
immobile in his chair in a mocking respect for the revolver.

“Fantastic or not,” said Chassaigne, “I demand that you try the
experiment. If you refuse--it is because you dare not do it!”

The German shrugged his shoulders.

“Very good, monsieur. I refuse. Think what you will!”

Chassaigne drew his watch from his pocket.

“I give you three minutes to decide,” he said. “Vincent! Put the lady
in that armchair and be ready to shoot when I give the word. Two
bullets are more sure than one!”

The girl, dazed with fright, looking as though she were in some awful
dream, collapsed nervelessly into the chair. Vincent posted himself by
the German’s side, his levelled revolver held just out of reach of a
sudden snatch.

The German tried one more expostulation.

“This is madness!” he cried. “You surely do not propose to commit a
cold-blooded murder!”

“One!” said Chassaigne, grimly. “Two more minutes, monsieur!”

The German laughed diabolically.

“Very well, then! Commit your murder! Much will it profit you! I am the
only man in the world who can influence that young woman. Whatever you
may think, you cannot transform her personality. Ottilie Rosenhagen she
is and Ottilie Rosenhagen she will remain!”

“Two!” said Chassaigne.

“You may as well shoot now! Don’t wait for the third!” jeered the
German. “I deny that she is other than Ottilie Rosenhagen. I utterly
refuse to experiment upon her at your dictation. Shoot! I defy you!”
The man certainly did not lack courage. He smiled mockingly as
Chassaigne’s revolver rose slowly and deliberately to a level with his
eyes. “Shoot! Outrage for outrage, your murder of a German civilian
may well balance the deportations you prate about!” It was significant
that in this fateful crisis it should be that particular crime which
occurred to him for parity.

The taunt seemed to strike the spark of an idea in Chassaigne’s brain.
Still menacing the German with his revolver, he held out the key to the
door in his left hand.

“Vincent! In Doctor Briedenbach’s hall there is a telephone. A hundred
yards away there is a post of infantry. Ring up the commandant, tell
him that I have arrested Doctor Breidenbach on the charge of abducting
a French subject, ask him to send along an armed escort at once--not
less than half a dozen!” He glanced at the girl, who was apparently
in a swoon upon her chair. “It is important that the force should be
imposing! Hurry!”

Vincent snatched at the key, and dashed from the room.

The German smiled in grim contempt. Chassaigne, still covering him with
the revolver, smiled back, not less grimly. They waited in a complete
silence, through minute after minute. The girl upon the chair did not
stir.

Suddenly they heard the rhythmic tramp of a body of armed men on the
gravel outside, a sharp voice of command, and then, after a brief
pause, the heavy multiple tramp again, resounding through the house,
louder and louder in its approach. At the sound, the girl sat up
brusquely, stared wild-eyed at the door.

It was flung open. Vincent entered, pointed out the girl to the
French officer who accompanied him, evidently in confirmation of a
statement made outside. The officer barked an order. A file of helmeted
infantrymen, bayoneted rifles at the slope, marched heavily into the
room. The girl shrieked.

“Oh, no! no! Don’t take me!” she cried--_and her cry was French_!
“Don’t take me! I will not go! I will not go!” She sprang up from her
chair, looked frenziedly around the room in a terror-stricken search
for an avenue of escape. Her eyes fell upon Vincent remained curiously
fixed upon him. Suddenly, with a cry of recognition, she rushed into
his arms. “Maxime! Maxime! Protect me! Oh, don’t let them take me!
Don’t let them take me!”

Chassaigne smiled. He had won. As he expected, the shock of this
armed entry so vividly recalled the night of terror in Lille when the
girl-victims were snatched from their violated homes, had sufficed to
reawaken the personality which had then agonized in its last moments of
freedom.

Vincent enfolded her, murmuring reassuring words as he caressed the
head that hid itself upon his breast. Her body shook with violent sobs.

The German stood up, placed himself, with a shrug of the shoulders,
between the double file of infantrymen. The officer produced a
notebook, asked a few questions of Chassaigne, jotted down the replies.
He turned to the girl.

“Your name, mademoiselle?”

She looked up.

“Hélène Courvoisier,” she replied, unhesitatingly.



SHE WHO CAME BACK


The clock upon the mantelpiece struck, discreetly, the hour of eleven
in the night-stillness of the study where old Henry Arkwright worked.
He glanced up with busy, preoccupied brows to the dial, confirming his
half-registered impression of the tale of strokes. Eleven o’clock! He
would work for another two or three hours yet. He sucked cheerfully
at his pipe as he signed the just-written counsel’s opinion; folded
the stiff, long documents and tied them neatly with their original
tape; took yet another legal case from the pile in front of him. He
felt himself in form to-night, enjoyed the efficiency of his brain
that worked so swiftly and surely in this solitude. The complete
silence of the house was subtly grateful to him. He was immune from all
disturbance. The servants had long since gone to bed. His concentration
upon his task was unthreatened, the stores of legal knowledge held
ready for his use in that practised brain of his unobscured by any
concrete trivialities. Eleven o’clock--yes, he could put in another
three hours good work before, exhausted to-night like all the other
nights, he went slowly up the empty stairs to his empty bedroom. He
adjusted himself to consideration of the affidavits he unfolded.

What was that? The faint ringing of the door-bell, far away in the
servants’ quarters but distinctly audible in this sleep-hushed house,
persisted until it came to his full recognition. He looked up, puzzled,
from the papers in the shaded light of his reading-lamp, glanced around
the book-lined study where the fire-glow flickered redly in the absence
of full illumination. Who could it be at this time of night? The
far-away faint ringing continued, eloquent of an unrelaxed pressure
upon the bell-push at the porch. He listened to it with exasperated
annoyance, resentful of this interruption of his labours, trying to
imagine an identity for this inconsiderately late visitor. Whoever it
was, he himself would have to open the door. The servants were long ago
asleep. They would not hear the bell. With a petulant exclamation, he
rose from his desk, went out into the darkened hall.

Stimulated into haste in instinctive response to the determined urgency
of the summons of that bell, its sound quite loud and definite out
here, he fumbled hurriedly for the electric switch. Then, the lights
full on, he went quickly to the door and opened it. A cold wind blew
in upon him from the darkness into which he peered, seeing, at first,
nothing. The ringing had ceased. A doubt of reality, a suspicion of
hallucination, shot through him, was dispelled upon the instant. From
the shadowed side of the porch a woman’s form moved into the broad beam
of light. A curious, inexplicable, sudden consciousness of his own
heart, vaguely not normal in its action, filled his breast as he stared
out to her in a momentary suspense of recognition. Then she turned her
face full upon him.

He started back, shocked to his inmost as though he had touched a live
electric wire.

“Christine!” he gasped, in incredulous amazement.
“Christine!--_You!_--_Come back?_”

The eyes in the woman’s drawn face opened upon him as from a tight-shut
agony, searched what was to her his dark, featureless silhouette in the
illumination from the hall. Her whole soul seemed to yearn out to him
in doubt and in desperate appeal. He saw her lips move before she spoke.

“Will you let me in?” she asked, humbly. “Harry!” She breathed his name
as though she dared not pronounce it.

He felt himself turn dizzy under this unexpected emotional shock. He
stared at her dumbly, the scathing phrases of indignant repudiation, so
often mentally rehearsed for such a moment, eluding him. Christine! He
could not at once adjust himself to her reality, looked at her again to
make unmistakably sure. Christine--come back.

“Harry!” she breathed again in timid humility.

He shuddered in a cold gust from the darkness as he stared at her. She
was hatless, coatless, in that bitter wind. He saw her shiver as she
half-ventured to stretch out a hand toward him.

A sudden impulse, as from a source superior to him--he thought it was
pity--mastered the righteous indignation he had been trying to bring to
utterance.

“Come in,” he said, thickly, and made way for her.

She entered. He shut the door behind her, turned to look at her as she
stood in the full illumination of the hall. Once more her eyes had
closed. Her lips were compressed as over an almost unendurable agony
of the spirit. She swayed on her feet, arms limply by her sides, as
though only stayed from falling by a supreme effort of the will. How
old and haggard she looked!--the thought traversed him like a flash,
linked itself to another--twenty-five years! What had happened to her
in that twenty-five years? Little of good fortune, assuredly--with the
professional eye that appraised a new witness in the box, he noted the
poor, threadbare quality of her white dress, unadorned by any of the
jewellery that had once been her delight.

The chilled blueness of her skin struck him as he scrutinized her. He
touched her hand, automatically and impersonally, for confirmation of
his impression.

“You’re frozen!” he said. His accent of ill-humour rang oddly familiar
in his own ears. It was the old annoyance at yet another of the
impulsive follies so typical of her. “What are you thinking of, to come
out like this?” he added, sharply. “Here!” He flung open the study
door. “There’s a fire here--sit down and warm yourself!” The tone of
unsympathetic authority was--he remembered it--instinctively just the
old tone he had so often used to her in that life now so remote as
almost to seem a previous existence.

She opened her eyes again, the large emotional eyes that had not
changed, looked at him, looked _into him_. Incredulity spread over her
face.

“By your fire? Can you, Harry?--Can you, after everything--after all
these years--can you still have me by your fire?”

Tears came up in those big eyes which looked so yearningly into his,
and her mouth twisted itself into a pathetic little smile--the ghost
of the smile that he had known in a younger face. He felt oddly
uncomfortable.

“Come along!” He commanded her almost brutally, defending himself from
any relaxation of hostility. “Come and warm yourself!” He lifted one of
her hands and its chill struck to the centre of him. “Why have you no
coat?--You must be mad!”

She smiled at him, and did not answer. He drew her into the warm study,
pulled a chair close to the fire for her, pressed her down into it.
Then he turned to switch on the full lights.

She stopped him with a gesture.

“Please, Harry!--Just like this--in the firelight.”

He obeyed and returned to her. Coldness seemed to emanate from her body
as he came close. What sheer insanity! She must be chilled through and
through, he thought.

He shrugged his shoulders to himself, disclaiming responsibility, and,
for his own self-respect, played the host.

“Can I get you anything, Christine?” he asked, ungraciously. “Anything
to eat or drink?”

She lifted her large eyes toward his face and shook her head slowly,
without a word.

Baffled by her manner, he struck at what he thought to be the heart of
the awkward situation.

“What do you want? What have you come for?” he demanded, harshly.
“Money?”

She shook her head again and smiled.

“No, Harry. I want nothing, except just to be with you once again--for
a little time.”

A long sigh, from the depths of her bosom, escaped her as she turned
her head down again to the fire and stared dreamily into its red
recesses.

“Just to be with you,” she repeated, softly, as to herself, “once more.”

He stood over her, not knowing what to say. Silence filled the room.

She looked up at him, timidly.

“You’re not pleased to see me, are you, Harry? You never wanted to see
me again?”

He did not answer.

“Of course--how could you be?” she murmured to herself, gazing once
more into the fire. “You never could forgive--never!”

He forced himself to a politeness he felt to be magnanimous.

“I don’t want to dwell on past injuries, Christine,” he said, coldly.
“I should be pleased to know that what you did brought happiness.”

“Happiness!” she repeated, almost inaudibly, in ironic mockery, her
gaze still fixed upon the fire.

Suddenly she looked round to him.

“Harry!” she said, impulsively. “Harry!” Her eyes went beyond him for
a moment to the litter of papers on his desk, returned to him. “Harry!
I know I am disturbing you”--the old pathetic smile came into her
face--“but I want to ask you a favour--” she hesitated, as though her
courage failed her--“the favour for which I came.”

He hardened himself for a refusal.

“What is it?” he asked.

“I want you to give up your work for just one hour--I want you to sit
by the fireside and talk to me. Won’t you? Won’t you let me come
first for just once--as--as I used to want to in the old days?” Her
eyes, fine as ever, implored him in almost irresistible appeal. “I
have dreamed of this for so long!” She went on as in a reverie, after
a little pause, staring once more into the fire. “You never would,
Harry--and perhaps--if you had----” She sighed. “You were so ambitious!”

He stood immobile, typically reluctant to break his habits. Those
cases were important. He was coming to himself now, the effect of the
first shock diminishing. Some of the old anger awoke in his heart as
he looked down upon her. The old sense of disturbance returned. It was
just like her to come and break up his night’s work. And now--after all
that had happened! He resented her presumption, stigmatized it as sheer
callousness.

She looked up, feeling his thoughts perhaps.

“Harry! Can’t you--for just this once? I don’t ask you to forgive.”

Her eyes held him, enfeebled his resistance.

“I’ve got nothing to tell you, Christine,” he said, gruffly. “Nothing.
I didn’t ask you to come back, but since you have come--well, I will
not shut you out in the cold. You can sit by the fire if you like.”

She smiled--the little ghost of her twenty-year-old smile upon that
worn and middle-aged face. He clenched his teeth at it, at something in
himself.

“Have you really nothing to say to me, Harry? Not a question to ask?”

He armed himself against the pathos of her appeal.

“No,” he said, curtly. “Nothing.”

She shut her eyes as though under a blow. Then, with a tacit admission
of its justice, she smiled up at him again. Evidently, her courage was
held at high tension.

“I know I don’t deserve it,” she said. “I don’t deserve to be sitting
here again, after all these years. But, oh, Harry, you _could_ be
generous--once, at those rare times when I could really touch the real
you as I so often longed to do. Are you still hard, Harry?--still so
hard?” She sighed, wearily, turned her head hopelessly once more to
the fire.

He watched the play of its glow over her features, was struck by her
bad colour. The coldly observant part of him noted the fact that
she was, or had been, ill. Half-starved, too, added this detached
professional self. Suffering, physical and mental, was stamped upon
her face. He acquiesced in it, grimly. Her frivolous wickedness--he
remembered the callously jaunty tone of the note she had left for
him--had met just retribution. He wondered what had happened to the man.

She looked up again, answering, with a subtle perception, the question
in his mind.

“He’s dead, Harry--dead years ago. Very dead. To me, he never really
lived--not as you have lived, always, through every moment of my--” she
paused--“my Hell.”

A sentiment of pity pricked him sharply. Poor little Christine!--she
had certainly paid, and paid heavily. He repressed his commiseration,
in alarm at himself. He must think--think sensibly. Did she intend
to come back for good? He reacted violently against the idea. It was
impossible. He would be a laughing-stock, the butt for the pointing
fingers, the sly allusions, of his fellows in the Courts. His pride
revolted. No, no--he must get her out again somehow, before the
servants knew.

Once more she read his thought.

“No one shall know that I have come, Harry. It’s just for this one
hour and then I’ll go again. But just for this one hour--Harry!” She
stretched out her arms to him. “Be generous!”

He fenced stubbornly.

“What, exactly, do you want, Christine?”

She smiled at him, her face radiant.

“I want--I want just to pretend that it all never happened. I want,
just once, to sit with you by the fireside as though I had been here
all these years--as though you and I had learned to be the comrades I
had dreamed we should be. I want to sit with you as we should have sat,
both of us now growing old, looking back on all the beautiful things of
our life together. Harry!” She lifted her arms to him again, yearning
out to him. “Just once--just once to pretend--to be as we might have
been--and then I can go away and really and truly die, satisfied. Be
generous, Harry, be generous just this once if you never are again.”

An obscure feeling stirred in him, a sense of tears that threatened as
he looked down into the eyes that swam with moisture.

“You nearly broke my life, Christine,” he said, with a hardly achieved
attempt at harshness.

“I want to forget it,” she answered. “To believe--for just one
hour--that I made your life, as I wanted to help make it. Oh, Harry,
Harry, I love you--I have always loved you, wherever I have been and
whatever I have done--and I want to believe, oh, for just such a little
minute, that my love was not really in vain. I just had to come!”

He pressed his hand over his eyes, did not answer.

She pointed to the comrade chair by the fireside.

“Harry--Harry dear--sit down and talk to me as we ought to have been
able to sit and talk--old married lovers with never a cloud between us.”

“Oh--don’t!” he said. “Don’t, Christine!” He burst out with a sudden
anger. “Why have you come back? I--I wanted to forget, forget always.”

She reached for his hand, touched it with fingers that were still cold.

“And we are going to forget--going to forget it quite, for just a
little hour, Harry, Harry darling!”

Her voice, on the old remembered note of fondness, touched him with a
strange power. Something crumbled in him.

He sat down suddenly in the indicated chair, stared, he also, into the
fire.

“It’s a bitter mockery, Christine!”

“No,” she answered. “It’s the real thing--for just once--the real
thing.”

They sat in silence for long moments where the clock ticked loudly. She
stretched her hand out to him.

“Harry! Hold my hand in yours--like you used to do--in the old days
before you married me. It will help so much. Can you remember it?--the
old touch that used to thrill?”

He obeyed without a word, took her little palm between his two large
hands, pressed it close. Its death-like coldness struck him and, in
defiance of it, he emphasized his contact. With a sudden tenderness
that was awkwardly unpractised, he endeavoured to instil a little of
his own warmth into it. As he did so, he felt as it were a sluice-gate
open in him. A long-repressed sentimentality asserted itself, invaded
his lonely soul like a flood. He looked at her. If only--his protective
secondary personality, dominant for so many years, reacted jealously,
perverted his regret--if only she could have understood him a little
more!

It was she who spoke.

“I’m so proud of you, Harry--so proud of your success!”

He almost started--remembering how he had hoped that she would read
his name in the newspapers, in a vindictive desire that she should
regret what she had thrown away. He saw, suddenly, that it was only her
opinion that had ever really mattered to him.

“My dear,” he said, feeling himself a tolerant old man who could afford
to be kind from his altitude, “perhaps if I had never known you, I
should never have worked so hard.”

She smiled at him as though there were no irony in his words, but only
a beautiful truth.

“Harry--Harry darling!” she murmured. “I have helped--helped a little,
haven’t I? My love has been what you said it would be--the vital force
on which you could always draw? Do you remember that, the night we
were engaged?”

This cool assumption of a dream, utterly opposed to the facts, startled
him. He looked at her, and had not the heart to contradict. Suppose it
had been so? Could he surrender himself to this make-believe which she
was playing with an almost childish simplicity? It was suddenly very
tempting to him.

“I remember, my dear--and I promised,” his voice broke a little while
he hesitated on a self-reproach, “never--never to cut myself off from
it--never to say the harsh word which you warned me would freeze your
sensitive little soul.”

“And you never have, Harry,” she murmured, softly. “You’ve always
remembered--always been gentle and kind and loving--all these long
years of happiness together.”

His eyes felt sympathetically uncomfortable as he looked into hers,
moist in the firelight.

“Twenty-seven years, dear,” he said, caressingly, consciously
defiant of the jealous self that watched. He had taken the plunge.
“Twenty-seven years last week since we married.”

She nodded her head in acquiescence.

“We’ve had our life-time, Harry dear--and we have not wasted it, have
we? Every year has been full, full to the brim, with sympathy and
love.” She sighed, gazing into the fire. “And that’s the only thing in
life that matters--the only thing. Success without love would have been
very barren to you, wouldn’t it, Harry?” Her eyes came round to him.

“Dead Sea fruit, my darling,” the illusion was almost perfect to him,
the irony without bitterness, scarcely perceived, “dust and ashes at
the core.” He smiled at her from a strangely sentimental self that was
almost foreign to him and yet his own. “Christine, without you I should
not really have lived.”

She answered him with a movement of the fingers now warm between the
hands still holding them.

“Nor I, Harry, without you. You and I were each other’s Destiny.”

He, too, nodded his head solemnly.

“Yes, dear,” he agreed. “I believe that.”

“And, thank God, we have not thwarted it, Harry. We have enjoyed it to
the full.”

He pressed her hand tightly for his only answer. Dream or reality, was
it? He had almost lost the power to distinguish. He looked into her
face, softly happy and somehow nobler and purer than he had ever known
it, pressed her hand again in a vague necessity to substantiate the
tangible actuality of her presence. It was really Christine sitting
there, filling that usually empty chair, breathing with slight rise and
fall of her bosom as she gazed into the fire. And if the other were a
dream--the happy past that she called up in imagination--just an old
man’s dream, why he would allow himself, that sentimental self in him
that none but himself had ever seen, the happiness of the illusion to
the full. There was none to ridicule him for a childish make-believe,
unworthy of his dignity.

“Christine,” he said, gently, “are you happy?”

She smiled at him upon her sigh.

“Very happy, dear.”

Again there was a silence between them. Presently she looked up once
more.

“It’s splendid the way Phil is getting on, isn’t it, dear?”

He glanced at her from his own dream, uncomprehending. She went on, as
though discussing a subject thoroughly familiar.

“Do you remember we said we would call him Philip--our first boy--long
before we had him? When we used to talk about him, in those first happy
months of being together, it didn’t seem possible that it could ever be
really true, did it, dear? And yet there he is--twenty-four years old!
It’s difficult for me to think that I ever could have been his mother.
When I look at him, so tall and big, it seems impossible that he could
once have been my baby.”

He stared at her. What was she talking of? They had never had a child.
Then it came to him----

“Yes, dear. He’s a fine chap.”

She smiled at him gratefully.

“I think we were right to let him marry, don’t you, dear? I know
he’s very young--but it’s perhaps better than if he waited until he
became set in his own habits and could no longer share the youthful
high-spirits of his dear little wife--as you very nearly waited too
long, didn’t you, dear? Another year or two of getting wrapped up in
your own ambitions and you might have crushed all the young life out of
me.” Her tone was dreamily sincere.

“Don’t, Christine!” he said, thickly. “I know a lot of it was my
fault----”

“Shh!” she soothed him with a gesture of her disengaged hand. “We’re
talking about Phil and his charming little wife. She’s just the sort of
girl I would have chosen for him, Harry. Young, sensible, pretty, with
eyes that look you straight in the face--and she loves him, Harry, like
I loved you, with all her young soul.”

He made a little choking sound and pressed her hand--so warm and loving
now!--with a convulsive tightness.

“And soon, Harry,” she went on, “we shall be grandparents, you and
I--looking forward beyond the next generation to the one after--_living
forward_. Life is very wonderful, isn’t it, dear, in its continuity?
Our little lives cease, but something of us goes on and on, in
generations that we can’t even imagine. Oh, it’s very wonderful!” She
sighed. “To think we might have missed it all, if we had not loved!”

“Christine!” He could scarcely speak. “You’re torturing me!”

“Shh!” she said. “It’s all real--it’s all real _now_. Everything else
was a bad dream from which we have waked together.”

“If only we could keep awake!” he said, pressing her hand in his as
though he would never let it go.

She looked at him archly.

“You were always pessimistic, Harry, weren’t you? Do you remember
how you used to say we should never have the little girl for whom we
longed, just because we longed for her so much? And now there’s Jeanie!
Jeanie who’ll be having her twenty-first birthday in a month or two!
And you are proud of her, aren’t you, Harry? Of course you are! We are
both proud of such a daughter, just the daughter we imagined.”

He closed his eyes.

“I remember--I remember how we used to talk of the daughter we were
going to have. It seems very long ago, Christine, those first months of
our life together.”

She smiled.

“And there she is, all our dreams of her coming true, asleep upstairs
and very likely herself dreaming of the woman’s life that is opening
before her. She’s very real to you, isn’t she, Harry?”

He forced himself to speech with an effort.

“Yes, dear. Go on.”

“She’s worth all the anxieties we had with her--the anxieties we
never imagined. Do you remember, when she was a little golden-haired
prattler, that awful time when she was ill? Do you remember how I
nursed her, night and day--and how you would come tip-toeing to her
tiny cot and look down upon it, praying with all your soul that she
would not die? I think that was when you first began really to love
her very much, Harry--when you thought you might lose her.” She nodded
her head in dreamy reminiscence, staring into the fire. “I remember
how proud I was when you gave up your work for a day or two because
you felt you could not leave the house while she was in danger. It was
such a miracle for you to do that--like Joshua stopping the sun--and
all because of our tiny little Jeanie. It made me love you, oh, ever so
much more, Harry!”

“Go on!” he said, closing his eyes again. “Go on!”

“And then how proud of her you were while she was at school! She always
had your brains, Harry, didn’t she? Always she was at the top of her
class. I remember”--she smiled--“I used to fear that she might grow too
clever and wear spectacles. But there was just that bit of me--of the
frivolous me--in her, wasn’t there, Harry? And so just like her mother
she grew up to like pretty frocks and look as charming in them as I
used to want to look for you to admire me.”

“Never so charming as you used to look, Christine, when you were
twenty-one,” he said, his eyes lighting up with a genuine memory. “No
one could look prettier than you did.”

Her warm fingers curled in his hard hands and her smile came up to him.

“Thank you, dear. It is nice of you not to forget.”

He breathed a long sigh.

“For every day of twenty-five years, Christine, I have seen you as you
used to look then.” There was an emphasis in his subdued and deliberate
enunciation that was eloquent of past agonies.

“It was the real Christine, Harry, that twenty-one-year-old Christine
who was so proud to be your wife and knew herself to be so unworthy of
you.”

“No, no!” he said, hoarsely. “Not unworthy--I didn’t understand then.
If only I had understood--if I had not been so absorbed in the things I
wanted to do----”

“Shh!” she soothed him. “It was all very beautiful, our life together,
Harry dear. Do you remember the holidays we had alone together? Do you
remember Switzerland, and the great mountains that towered up behind
our hotel, the snow upon their summits orange against deep blue in
the first sunshine of the dawn? Do you remember how we used to wake
up to look at them, and said it was just like the pictures, only
more wonderful because we were actually there? Do you remember being
among the great fields of narcissi, with blue gentian higher up, and
reminding me that this was what you had promised to show me--those
fields on fields of wild flowers which you had seen when you were
a young student, years before? Do you remember the mountain stream
with the big boulders where we ate sandwiches on a little patch of
turf between the rocks, and you kissed me just as those other people
came down the path? I remember--I remember how I went hot all over
and yet was very proud and happy, because it was the first time that
any one else had ever seen you loving me. You used to pretend--do you
remember?--to be a little cold and distant toward me when we were in
company, your dignity much too big to admit that you were in love.”

“Don’t, Christine--don’t!” he murmured, the breath of a soundless sob
escaping him in a broken exhalation. “If only we had had them--those
holidays we meant to have!”

“We did, dear,” she pursued. “We did have them. They’re all
there--among our dreams. Look at them and you will see that they are
true. The memory of them isn’t spoilt by anything that was not just
right. Can’t you call them up again--the holidays we used to promise
ourselves for the days when you were successful? Can’t you see them?
Can’t you see that lovely time in Italy--the big blue lake, with the
yellow houses and the red roofs close under the mountains and fairy
islands in the middle? Can’t you see Venice and the black gondola in
which we sat, urged forward like a living thing over the still water in
which the palaces were reflected? Can’t you call back that wonderful
night of silent peacefulness when, arms around each other, we leaned
out over our balcony and listened to the gondoliers singing to each
other under the stars? Don’t you remember the bridge in Florence where
you stopped and said: ‘This is where Dante met Beatrice’--and we
looked into each other’s eyes and knew that we, too, were a Dante and
Beatrice, born for each other’s love? Don’t you remember, dear? Can’t
you see them, all those wonderful years together, when you and I were
young?”

“Christine, Christine!” he murmured. “If only they were true!”

“They are true, dear--they are true,” she asserted. “They are the
truest things we have--the dreams of our souls which they will dream
again and again long after we have no body. And not only holidays--our
life together had work in it, too, didn’t it, dear?--hard and
successful work. Do you remember the big case which made you famous?”

He nodded, a smile of genuine reminiscence on his face.

“The Pembroke case?”

“Yes, dear,” she continued, “the Pembroke case. Do you remember how
hard you worked then?”

“By Jove, I do!” he agreed, with an emphatic little laugh. “I never
worked so hard in my life!”

“Do you remember how I used to sit by the fire here at night, not
daring to make the slightest sound, while you worked at your desk,
going through all those masses and masses of papers in readiness for
the next day of the trial? Do you remember how sometimes you would look
up, not saying a word, but just assuring yourself that I was still
there and going on with your work all the fresher because you saw me?
Do you remember when at last, in the small hours, you finished for the
night, you would come across and kiss me, oh, so quietly, and lay your
head against me for comfort because you were so tired!”

He did not answer. His eyes stared into the fire, his lips thinned in
a tight pressure against each other, as the mental picture of the fact
came up in conflict with this ideality. They had been terrible, those
nights of solitary work.

She continued, undeterred.

“And then, on the last day of the trial, when you had made that great
speech--the first big speech of your career--and got your verdict,
the night when all the newspapers were full of your triumph, do you
remember your home-coming, dear?”

“By Heaven, I do!” he interrupted, with a sudden outburst of
bitterness. “I came home and looked around me--and wished that I were
dead in the hopeless emptiness of it all!”

“No, dear, no!” she corrected him. “You came home and found me waiting
for you in my prettiest dress and we had dinner together, just you and
I alone, because the moment was so big that we couldn’t possibly share
it with any one else. Do you remember how solemn we tried to be, you
and I--you looking so dignified in your evening clothes and I just as
dainty as I could be? And then suddenly you jumped up like a schoolboy
and darted round the table to kiss me--and we kissed and laughed at
ourselves, and kissed and laughed again, every time the servants went
out of the room--a couple of happy children. And I loved you so much
because you were so very clever and yet could be such a boy. And then
we got solemn again as the bigness of it all came over us--real, real
success at last! The paths of all the world seemed open to us, didn’t
they, dear? And we drank to it, success and love! And then, quite close
and looking into my eyes, you said the loveliest thing of all the
lovely things you ever said to me--you said that your great success,
the one success that really mattered to you, was that you had won my
love, my real, real love that bound my soul to yours for ever. Oh,
Harry, I would have died for you that night!”

She ceased and he was silent. The might-have-been came up before him
with intolerable vividness. If one could but begin over again!

“And now,” she gently moved the hand that all this time had lain in
his as they crouched close together over the fire, “and now here we
are--all the years of hard work, so successful that we need not worry
any more, behind us--nothing really important to do except to sit hand
in hand and dream over the happy past, an old Darby and Joan who have
lived their lives----”

He jumped to his feet.

“Christine! Christine!” he cried. “Let us make it true! Let us
forget--forget all the bad dream--go on again together just as if what
you said were true!”

She looked up at him, a strange and awful fear coming into her eyes,
the face that had gained colour going ashen once more.

“Oh, Harry!” she said, in a tone of infinite reproach. “You’ve broken
it! You’ve let go my hand!”

He ignored this infantile remark, went straight to his point in the
brutally over-riding manner characteristic of him.

“Let us forget it, Christine, forget that you ever went away from me.
I’ll never remind you of it. We won’t argue past responsibilities.
We’ll start afresh. Christine, I’m a lonely old man--I want you. I
want you to sit by the fire with me, to talk over, if you like, the
might-have-beens that we threw away, I as much as you. I want you,
anyway. I can’t bear loneliness any more--not now, after you have come
back to me!”

She rose to her feet also, shivering, her eyes closing, biting at her
lower lip as though in suppressed pain. She shook her head.

“No, Harry, not now. I--I must go away now, go back.”

She turned and moved, with a curious detachment from him that reminded
him somewhat of a sleep-walker, toward the door.

He jumped in front of her.

“You shall not go, Christine! You have come back--and you shall not go
again!”

She opened anguished eyes at him.

“Harry,” she said in a tone of profound melancholy, “you know you
cannot keep me like that. Remember the last time you tried to hold me
caged behind a closed door!”

He did remember--the day when, disapproving of some intended excursion,
he had, in a cold passion, turned the key upon her--the day he had come
back to find a broken lock and curt note. He had learned his lesson. He
stood aside from her path, entreated instead of dictating.

“Stay with me, Christine! Stay with me!”

She shook her head.

“I cannot,” she said. “I must go back. It was only for one little hour
I came. We have had it, Harry, and I must go.”

“But you will return? I shall see you again?”

She smiled a wan smile at him.

“Who knows, Harry?”

“Where are you going? Where do you live?”

“Please, Harry!--ask no questions. Let me go.”

There was a dignity about her which silenced him. He opened the door
for her and they went out into the hall. In a dazed preoccupation, he
went up to the outer door and opened it to the night. Then he turned
and perceived her coatless condition.

“Good Heavens, Christine, you can’t go out like that! Wait a minute.
I’ll lend you my fur coat. It’s better than nothing.”

He darted into the adjoining clothes-lobby, returned with the garment.
The hall was empty; the door still open. She had gone.

He ran out and down the drive after her, crying her name: “Christine!
Christine!” There was no response, neither sound nor sign of her. She
had vanished.

Bitterly disappointed, he returned to the house, closed the door behind
him. As he went into the clothes-lobby to replace the unneeded coat he
was startled by the telephone bell.

He hastened to the instrument, picked up the receiver.

“Hallo!--Yes--Yes--what is it? Who are you?--_the police_?” He
repeated the last word in a tone of bewilderment, listened.

“Yes,” he replied, “Yes--Mrs. Christine Arkwright--yes--that is my
wife--yes----”

The silence of the empty hall seemed to envelop him as he listened. He
interjected an impatient exclamation.

“Yes!--you found a letter and traced me--yes!--Go on!--What is it all
about?”

He frowned, contorted his face as though the distant voice was not
clearly audible.

“What?--what do you say?--died suddenly?--I don’t understand.--Where
was this?”

He nodded as though now receiving more intelligible information.

“No--I don’t recognize the address at all! What sort of place is
it?--oh, a second-rate boarding house. Well, I think there must be some
mistake--what?”

He listened again.

“No,” he persisted categorically, “I say I think there must be some
mistake. You say that a Mrs. Christine Arkwright died suddenly in a
second-rate boarding-house--at that address I don’t know--and you’ve
traced me out--I quite understand all that. But I say I have good
reason to think there is a mistake somewhere--it couldn’t be---- What?”

He smiled with a grim superiority as he listened.

“What?--You say there’s no doubt of the identity?”

His brows puckered suddenly in the frown with which he prepared the
annihilation of a stupid and stubbornly insistent witness.

“Now, pay attention, my friend!--When did this event occur?” He
asked the question in the tone of one confident of establishing an
impossibility by a counter fact. There was a moment of pause--and then
his expression changed. “To-night?--_At eleven o’clock?_”

The clock in the study struck, discreetly, twelve.



FROM THE DEPTHS


The S. S. _Upsal_, 2,000 tons, the Swedish ensign at her taffrail,
her one black-spouting funnel still daubed with remains of war-time
camouflage, lifted and plunged doggedly into the teeth of the September
south-west gale that lashed her with cold rain from the streaming
gray clouds which curtained close the foam-topped gray-green waves
into which she crashed with recurrent walls of spray high above her
forecastle, and which mingled in an indistinguishable whelm with
the dirty murk of beaten-down smoke low upon the track of her bared
and racing propeller. The men upon her bridge crouched, oilskins to
their ears, behind the soaked canvas of the “dodger” which protected
them, peering into the mist from which at any moment might emerge
the towering bulk of a liner hurrying up-channel to the hungry ports
of Europe. They were silent. Conversation was a futile effort in the
buffeting blasts that stopped the words in their mouths. The only
sounds were the crash and thud of green water that slid off in foaming
cascades from the forecastle to the well, the harp-like moaning of
the wind-tautened stays, and, in brief lulls, the sizzling of rain
and spray upon the heated funnel and the creaking of boat-gear whose
serviceable character in such a humble “tramp” was a phenomenon
reminiscent of unwonted marine perils that had but recently ceased.
No longer did her look-out scrutinize every flitting patch of foam in
apprehension of the dreaded periscope. The violences of sea and sky
were dangers as of yore. From the depths came now no menace.

The group upon her bridge was more numerous than is customary on a
cheaply run little freighter of her class. In addition to the second
officer whose watch it was, and the look-out man on the opposite corner
of the bridge were three others. Two of them, young men oilskin-clad
like their companions, stood close together in an attitude which
indicated a personal acquaintanceship independent of the working of the
vessel. The third man held himself aloof, his back to them, staring
over the troubled sea to a point on the starboard quarter. Somewhere
in that direction, wrapped in the mists of rain and trailing cloud the
last rocky outposts of England whitened the waves which surged and fell
back about them in ceaseless and ever-baffled attack.

The buoyant twist and roll which accompanied the lift and plunge of
the _Upsal_, the frequent racing of her propeller, indicated that
she was running in ballast. Almost for the first time in her drab,
maid-of-all-work career, indeed, the _Upsal_ carried no cargo. She was
on a special mission. A Scandinavian salvage syndicate, having come to
an arrangement with the underwriters of a few out of the hundreds of
vessels which strew the bottoms of the entrances to the British seas,
had chartered her to locate and survey a group of promising wrecks,
preparatory to more extended operations. The two young men were their
technical engineers; Jensen, the taller of the pair, and Lyngstrand,
his assistant.

The third man, who stood aloof from them, was Captain Horst, the master
of the ship. He was, of course, primarily responsible to his owners
and not to the syndicate who had chartered his vessel. Until they
reached the location of the wrecks the submarine engineers were merely
passengers. Reticent and sombre as he had been since the commencement
of the voyage, he ignored them now, stood apparently lost in abstract
contemplation of the gray waste of sea. But one who could have looked
into his face would have been impressed and puzzled by his expression.
The cruel mouth under the little red moustache was curiously twisted.
In the haggard eyes which roved around the restricted horizon was
an oddly apprehensive uncertainty, unexpected in such a determined
countenance. His glance looked down, apparently fascinated, upon the
seas which raced below him as the _Upsal_ lifted on yet another crest,
as though there were something strange in being so high above them--and
then jerked up, automatically, to the horizon as in swift, instinctive
doubt of impunity. A psychologist would have suspected that he allowed
a fear of some kind, so long abiding as to have become a subconscious
mental habit, the relief of free play when he knew himself unwatched.

The two submarine engineers paid no attention to him. They gazed
across the untenanted sea ahead to where the white spray leaped,
almost lantern-high, in unsuccessful embraces of the tall column of
The Bishop. Then, when the lighthouse, loftily unmoved above the eager
seas, ascetically alone in the wide desolation of foam-streaked gray,
had slipped abeam, had receded into the mist behind them, when there
was no object to claim the eye on all the tumultuous stretch of ocean
ahead, Jensen turned to his companion and pointed downward. Lyngstrand
nodded assent, and they both staggered across the wet, reeling bridge
toward the ladder which led below.

The skipper, staring aft, his back on them, blocked their passage.
Jensen touched him on the shoulder. He swung round abruptly, with a
startled curse. Then, recognizing them, he moved aside grudgingly. His
face was turned from them as they passed.

The two young men descended to the deck below. They were berthed
in the saloon under the poop, but they took their meals in the
charthouse immediately beneath the bridge, in company with the skipper
who slept there. In addition to meal-times, the charthouse was a
convenient refuge from the weather common to all of them. It was their
objective now, and, just dodging a flying sea that fell with a heavy
far-scattered splash upon the deck, they flung themselves inside and
shut the door. Then, removing and hanging up their dripping oilskins,
they slid round to a final seat upon the leather-covered lockers which
filled the space between two sides of the walls and the screwed-down
centre table.

“Filthy weather!” said Jensen, producing pipe and tobacco-pouch. “But
we ought to get there to-night. We’re changing course now to the
north-west. Feel it?”

In effect, even as he spoke the _Upsal_ swung round to starboard. A
long lurching roll substituted itself for the corkscrew plunges which
had been the predominant motion, and the spray flung itself viciously
at the port side of the ship to the exclusion of the other.

Jensen, having lit his pipe, produced a type-written sheet of paper
from his pocket. It was a list of ships, followed by indications of
latitude, longitude, and other particulars.

“No. 1--_Gloucester City_, 7,500 tons, Latitude 50 degrees 55 minutes
North, Longitude 9 degrees 14 minutes West, 60 fathoms, torpedoed 20th
September, 1918,” he read out. “Get the chart, Lyngstrand, and let us
prick down its exact position.”

His fair-haired junior obediently spread out a chart of the exit to the
English Channel upon the table.

“20th of September!” he said, reflectively. “That’s curious, Jensen!
Exactly a year ago to-day!”

“Coincidences must happen sometimes,” replied Jensen with the superior
indifference of three or four years’ seniority. “I see nothing
remarkable in it.”

“It just struck me,” said Lyngstrand, apologetically. “No--I suppose
there’s nothing remarkable in it--it might just as well have been any
other day.”

Jensen threw a cursory glance at the chart.

“You’ve brought the wrong one,” he said, snappily. “This doesn’t go far
enough north. Look in the drawer there--there must be another one.”

“It is up in the wheelhouse, I think, Jensen,” demurred the young man,
mildly.

“Yes--I know--but old Horst is certain to have a duplicate. Look in
the drawer and see!” replied Jensen, with an impatience invited by the
docility of his junior.

Lyngstrand obeyed, rummaging among a number of charts in the drawer of
the locker under Captain Horst’s bunk.

“Here we are!” he cried at last, unrolling one of them. “This is a
special one, evidently! Someone has marked it all over with red ink.”

Jensen snatched it from him, spread it out. In fact, as Lyngstrand
said, it was marked in many places with little red-ink crosses, and
under each was a date. Jensen ran his finger across it, stopped just
off the south coast of Ireland.

“By all that’s wonderful!” he cried in a slow, long-drawn accent
of amazement, raising his head and looking at his companion. “_He
has marked our wreck!_ Look!--Fifty-fifty-five North, Nine-fourteen
West--and there’s the date under it 20/9/18!”

“Then all those other crosses----?” queried Lyngstrand, in a voice of
puzzled interest.

“They must be---- Wait a minute!” He compared some of them with the
indications on his list. “Yes! They are wrecks, too--all torpedoed
ships--look! this and this and this are marked on the chart! There are
others not marked--but there are many more marks than there are ships
on our list. They must be all torpedoed ships!”

“But why?” asked Lyngstrand. “Why has he got them all marked like
this?--Where did he get this chart, I wonder?”

Jensen glanced to the bottom of the sheet.

“_This is a German chart!_” he exclaimed.

Lyngstrand stared at him.

“German----!” he began, and stopped. They looked into each other’s eyes
in a long moment when suspicion defined itself as almost certitude. For
that moment they forgot the sickly rolling of the ship threshing and
wallowing on her way to one of those tragic little red crosses. They
forgot everything except the slowly dawning possible corollaries of
this discovery.

Before either could utter another word, the lee door of the charthouse
opened and Captain Horst stood framed in the entrance. He glared across
at them, his face livid with a sudden anger, his eyes blazing. Then,
with a scarcely articulate but vehemently muttered oath, he sprang
across the little room, snatched the chart from the table, thrust it
into the drawer, locked it up and put the key in his pocket. He turned
and scowled at them in a silence which they were too awed to break. His
eyes, fiercely blue, seemed to search into their very souls. Theirs
dropped under the intolerable scrutiny. He uttered an exclamation
of angry contempt and, without further speech, walked out of the
charthouse.

The two young men looked at each other.

“That is the second time this morning!” said Jensen, at last, glancing
toward the door now once more closed on them.

“What is?” asked Lyngstrand, curiously.

“_That he has cursed in German!_--Lyngstrand! I am beginning to see
into this!”

“But it’s impossible!” exclaimed Lyngstrand, his mind leaping to
his friend’s deduction and then rejecting it. “He is a Swede, like
ourselves!”

“He is a German!” said Jensen, positively.

“But he speaks Swedish without a trace of accent!”

“And other languages also, I expect--French and English, as
well--better than you or I speak them, I have no doubt. Swedish would
much facilitate service in the Baltic--and your German naval officer
was linguistically well equipped for any possible campaign.”

“German naval officer!” echoed Lyngstrand, incredulously.

“I will bet on it!” asserted his friend.

“But--a German naval officer commanding a rotten little tramp like
the _Upsal?_” said Lyngstrand, emphasizing his incredulity. “I can’t
believe it!”

“Even German ex-naval officers have to live, my friend,” responded
Jensen, axiomatically. “And--I ask you--what is open to them but to
take service in the mercantile marine of other nations? There is no
more German fleet--there are not enough merchant vessels left under the
German flag to employ all their trained officers. On the other hand,
all the Scandinavian nations have multiplied their trading fleets--they
cannot find officers enough for them. A first-class seaman like Horst,
speaking Swedish like a native, would find plenty of owners only too
willing to employ him.”

“It sounds plausible,” agreed Lyngstrand, but somewhat doubtfully.

“Plausible!” repeated Jensen, scornfully. “It is more than
plausible--the more I think of it, the more certain I am. Consider!
Is Horst the typical rough merchant skipper? You know perfectly well
he is not. You said yourself, the first evening we came aboard, that
although he had the soul of a pig he had the manners of a gentleman.
How does he speak Swedish--like a man who has spent half his life
knocking about harbour drinking-shops? No! He expresses himself with
that precise accuracy of the man employing a language well learnt,
indeed, but nevertheless foreign to him--like you and I speak English,
my friend. And his clothes!--Did you ever know the skipper of a tramp
steamer wear a stiff white collar while at sea? Then his curt way of
giving orders--no question about discipline, but you should see some of
our Swedish forecastle-hands stare at him! One of them stared a moment
too long just before you came aboard. He knocked him clean out!--He
is a German naval officer, I will swear to it!--More than that, I am
convinced that he commanded a submarine!”

“That chart, then----?”

“Is the chart of his sinkings!”

“By God!” said Lyngstrand, solemnly, setting his teeth and staring
sternly at the charthouse wall. “If I were sure of it----!”

“What do you mean?” asked Jensen, struck by this sudden change from his
friend’s ordinarily meek demeanour. “What has it to do with you?”

Lyngstrand turned to him with a bitter little laugh. He seemed, indeed,
a different man.

“More than you think, my friend,” he said, briefly. “I am not good
company for U-boat commanders!”

“But why?--You lost no one----?”

Lyngstrand’s serious eyes held his.

“You remember I went to America in 1917, Jensen? I met a girl there--we
were betrothed. She was coming to Europe to me last year. She never
arrived. Her ship--a neutral--a small Norwegian ship, the _Trondhjem_,
on which I had arranged for her passage--was torpedoed in the Atlantic
last September--_spurlos versenkt_!” He finished in a tone of bitter
mimicry, and then suddenly hid his face in his hands through a silence
which Jensen felt incapable of breaking. At last he looked up again.
“If ever I trace the scoundrel who murdered her----!” The ugly menace
in his voice supplied the final clause to his unfinished sentence.

“A difficult task!” murmured Jensen, sympathetically.

Lyngstrand glanced at the closed drawer of the locker.

“When I think that perhaps on that chart--one of those little red
crosses----” He crashed his hand upon the table. “By God, Jensen! I
would give something to have another look at it!”

Jensen laid a friendly hand on his shoulder.

“We will do our best, Lyngstrand, to see it again. But don’t torture
yourself about it now. Come out on deck. The barometer is rising, and
if the sea goes down to-morrow we shall want to keep clear heads for
our investigation of the _Gloucester City_.--Come!”

He rose and held out his friend’s oilskins, helped him on with them.

They went out and stood in the shelter of the lee-deck, watching the
foam-froth sink down and melt in the depths of the malachite waves that
rolled away from them, until soon after eight bells the white-jacketed
steward clanged out his announcement of dinner.

They found Captain Horst already at his place at the table in the
charthouse. It was significant of the unexpressed but clearly felt
antipathy which in the past few days had grown up between the skipper
and his passengers that he had commenced his meal without waiting
for them. Jensen, however, was a level-headed young man who had not
the least intention of jeopardizing the enterprise for which he was
responsible by ill-timed open bad-temper. He nodded a greeting with a
smile which totally ignored the strained circumstances of their last
meeting.

“I think the weather is moderating, Captain Horst,” he said,
pleasantly, as he sat down.

“_Ja_,” responded Captain Horst, gruffly, throwing a perfunctory glance
through the unshuttered forward windows of the charthouse.

“We ought to reach the neighbourhood of our wreck some time to-night?”
pursued Jensen in affable enquiry.

Lyngstrand had addressed himself in silence to the food the steward set
before him, but he glanced up as though some undertone of significance
in his friend’s voice had caught his ear.

“Thereabouts,” conceded Captain Horst in a tone which sufficiently
indicated that he was disinclined for conversation.

But Jensen was cheerfully loquacious.

“I wonder whether we shall hit on some other wreck instead?” he
surmised. “These seas must be strewn with them.”

Captain Horst shrugged his shoulders.

Lyngstrand looked up.

“If I were a German U-boat commander,” he said, with a quiet
deliberation, his eyes straight on Captain Horst’s face, “I should not
dare to sail over these seas again. I should see drowning faces sinking
through every wave.”

His last sentence seemed to ring through the silence which followed it.
Captain Horst sat impassive, but his brutal jaw looked hard and his
cruel mouth thinned during the moment in which he returned Lyngstrand’s
glance.

“Bah!” he said. “The dead don’t come back!” There was something of
defiance in his harshly contemptuous tone. “They are finished with--for
ever!”

The blood went out of Lyngstrand’s face as he bent down again to his
plate.

There was no further conversation during the meal.

The afternoon was spent by the two young men, in company with
the half-dozen divers under their orders, in overhauling the
diving-dresses, air-pumps, etc., which might be required on the morrow.

The gale had obviously blown itself out. The western sky had cleared,
the rain had ceased, the wave-tops were no longer torn in flying spume,
there was less violence in the rolling surges in whose trough they
wallowed. When, a little after four bells, they were summoned to tea,
the sun was setting in a golden splendour that promised a peaceful dawn.

Excited by the prospect of the next day’s work, the two young men
forgot their suspicions of Captain Horst, could talk of nothing but
their plans for diving despite the after-swell of the gale which would
surely still be running. The captain listened to their impatience with
the ghost of a grim smile, but volunteered no part in the conversation.

“Do you propose to keep under way all night, Captain Horst?” enquired
Jensen.

“No,” he replied. “By my dead reckoning we ought to be in the vicinity
of the wreck at about eight bells to-night. I shall anchor then if the
glass is still rising. To-morrow we will take an observation and get
as close as we can to the position of the _Gloucester City_--presuming
that you have it correctly stated.”

His tone was perfectly indifferent, but Lyngstrand thought suddenly of
that chart with the little red crosses--and particularly that cross on
their indicated spot, 50° 55´´ N., 9° 14´´ W, with the fatal date of
exactly a year ago--20/9/18. Surely it could not be mere coincidence!
He thrilled suddenly with a dramatic perception. If--if it were so--if
the man so calmly smiling at him had really sent the _Gloucester City_
to the bottom!--and now, on the anniversary of the crime, was coolly
proposing to anchor himself as near as might be over her ocean grave,
preparatory to disturbing it on the morrow!--No! He ridiculed himself.
It was impossible! No man could have the iron will--he glanced straight
into the blue eyes of the impassive Horst, read nothing--no man could
stand the strain without betraying himself. The murderer brought back
to the scene of his crime broke down into confession--and, if he were
the murderer of the _Gloucester City_, Horst was being brought back
with ironic inexorability to the site of his assassination, brought
back by those subtle, apparently normal, everyday circumstances from
which there is no escape.

He wondered to what extent Horst had been informed of the purport of
their voyage when the _Upsal_ was chartered. He could not, certainly,
have been left in ignorance--but, on the other hand, he could not
well refuse to navigate the ship without losing an employment which,
however humble, was assuredly to be coveted by a man in his position. A
penniless naval officer had poor prospects in Germany. Bah! (he thought
to himself in a sudden revulsion) he was accepting Jensen’s unsupported
surmises as though they were reality. The thing was impossible! Another
glance at the hard but emotionless face opposite him reassured him. He
banished his hyper-dramatic idea in a spurn of self-contempt for his
too excitable imagination.

Conversation languished. There was no community of thought between
the skipper and his passengers, and his presence was a check upon the
mutual confidences of the two young men. Meals together were an ordeal
escaped from as soon as terminated, and Jensen and Lyngstrand speedily
went out on deck again with the murmured allegation that the overhaul
of their gear was not yet finished.

They did not come together again until some three hours later, when,
her white anchor-light hoisted between her masts, the _Upsal_ was
pitching at her cable to the heavy swell which rolled down upon her
from the darkness of the night. The two young men had been yarning
with the chief engineer in the pleasant warmth of the engine-room,
when a glance at the clock reminded them that it was the hour when the
steward brought biscuits and cocoa to the charthouse. Light-hearted
as boys, their unpleasant thoughts of the captain dissipated by the
cheerful talk in which they had been indulging, they scrambled up the
iron-runged ladder from the warm, oily depths to the black, damp chill
of the outer night.

In this sea-smelling gloom where the wave-tops ran past them with
faintly phosphorescent crests, the unwonted stillness of the ship’s
engines was suddenly vivid to their consciousness as she eased and
tugged at her anchorage.

“Well, here we are!” said Jensen, stopping for a moment to peer around
him.

“I wonder what lies beneath us?” queried Lyngstrand, developing his
comrade’s thought. As he, too, probed the darkness where the cruel
waves ran, easy familiars of the night, he had an uncomfortable little
mental picture of the _Gloucester City_ foundering, with torn side,
into their chill depths--a year ago. What shrieks and cries had hushed,
for ever, into the silence which encompassed them?

Both shuddered.

“Come along,” said Jensen. “Our cocoa will be cold.”

At the charthouse door they hesitated for a moment on an indefinable
impulse, peeped through the unshuttered window which allowed a broad
ray of light to fall across the deck.

Captain Horst was seated at the table, his head in his hands, his
back to them. Spread out before him was the chart with the little
red crosses. He sat motionless, staring at it, as though absorbed in
reverie. The three cups of cocoa were steaming on the table. His was
untouched.

For one wild moment Lyngstrand thought he might be able to surprise a
glance at the chart. He turned the handle of the door as stealthily
as he could. Slight as the sound had been, however, Captain Horst had
heard it. When they entered he was stuffing something into his breast
pocket, and the chart was no longer on the table.

They drank their cocoa in silence, Horst staring moodily at the floor,
Jensen and Lyngstrand risking a glance of mutual comprehension.
Suddenly two loud, sharp knocks broke the stillness--knocks that seemed
to be on the charthouse wall.

Captain Horst raised his head.

“_Herein!_” he cried, automatically, obviously without thinking.

Jensen shot a swift look at his friend, eyebrows raised at this German
permission of entry. Horst bit his lip, suddenly self-conscious. He
repeated the authorization in Swedish.

No one entered.

Expectation was just passing into a vague surprise, when the knocks
were repeated--three heavy blows, obviously deliberate, upon the
after-wall of the charthouse.

Horst sprang up, with a savage curse of exasperation. He was
self-controlled enough, however, to utter his thought in Swedish.
“I’ll teach them!” he exclaimed, as he flung open the charthouse door.
“Fooling around here!”

He disappeared into the night and they heard the tramp of his heavy
sea-boots as he ran round the charthouse. But no other sound woke
upon his passage. The circuit completed, they heard his angry yell
to the look-out man on the bridge above, heard the quietly normal
response, the surprised denial. The interior of the charthouse was a
hushed stillness where Jensen and Lyngstrand sat exchanging a smile of
malicious enjoyment. Horst vituperated the stammering look-out man in a
flood of ugly oaths that were plainly a break-down of nervous control.

The door opened again for his entry.

“Extraordinary thing!” he scowled across at them. “No one there! You
heard them, didn’t you?” He seated himself with an angry grunt.

Before they could answer, the knocks recommenced in a sudden
vehemence--not slow and deliberate this time, but in a rapid succession
which quickened to a fast and furious fusillade from origins that
seemed to play, flitting arbitrarily, all over the walls and roof. The
charthouse reverberated with them. Their intensity varied at every
moment from sharp, hammer-like blows to rapid, nervous taps from what
might have been a feverishly agitated pencil. The wild and uncanny
tattoo culminated in three crashing blows that seemed to be on the
underside of the table itself. There was silence.

“What are you playing at?” cried Horst, glaring at them in fierce
suspicion of a hoax.

For answer, they both lifted up their hands, obviously unoccupied, into
the air. Even as they did so, the knocks started again, still rapid,
but with a certain deliberate rhythm, and much less violent. Again they
seemed to be on the underside of the table. Horst looked, with a scowl
of distrust, under it to their immobile feet. The two young men glanced
at each other, as puzzled and alarmed as Horst himself.

“What in the name of Heaven is it?” cried Jensen.

The knocks swelled suddenly louder as though in answer to his voice.

“Listen!” said Horst, holding up his hand. The colour had gone suddenly
out of his face, his eyes fixed themselves in a recognition charged
with vague fear. “It’s----!”

“Yes!” cried Jensen, “by all that’s wonderful----!”

“The Morse code!” Lyngstrand completed the sentence.

Once perceived, there was no doubt of it. That succession of irregular
taps and pauses coming from the table as from a sounding-board was
a plain language to all three of them, unmistakable, not more to be
banished from cognition than the reiteration of spoken words.

“But,” cried Lyngstrand, “where does it come from?--We have no
wireless--and even wireless could not produce that!”

“Listen!” Jensen reproved him. “It’s a message of some kind!” He
glanced across to Horst who sat speechless, his face gray, his eyes
terrified. “Not Swedish!--Take it down, Lyngstrand, while I spell it
out!”

The young man feverishly produced pencil and paper from his pocket.
“Listen!” he cried. “Good God! Do you catch it?”

Three sharp taps--three more widely spaced--three sharp taps again--the
series was reiterated insistently--_S--O--S!--S--O--S!--S--O--S!_

“Ready, Lyngstrand?” queried Jensen in the sharp tone of a man
concentrating himself for action. His comrade nodded.

Jensen rapped sharply upon the table the wireless operator’s signal
of reception. In immediate answer the raps from the invisible source
renewed themselves, continued evidently in a message. Lyngstrand jotted
down the letters as Jensen spelled them out.

“‘_s-t-e-a-m-s-h-i-p_’--it’s English!” he interjected. “Got it?----”
The raps had continued, noted by his brain and coalesced by it into
definite words. “‘_Gloucester City_’----”

“_What----?_” ejaculated Lyngstrand, in incredulous amazement, as he
rapidly wrote the words.

Jensen continued, his attention fixed upon the unceasing raps.

“--_torpedoed 50-55 north 9-14 west--sinking fast--come quickly--done
in_----”

He glanced up to see Horst springing at them like a maddened animal.

“Stop that!” cried the captain. “It’s a trick!--it’s a trick!” In
another second he had snatched paper and pencil from Lyngstrand’s hand.

A formidable series of violent crashes, emanating from walls, roof,
and table, was the instant response to his action. He shrank back,
appalled, crouching with eyes that searched the surrounding walls in
agonized apprehension. “It’s a trick!--it’s a diabolical trick!” he
muttered. “_It must be!_”

“Captain Horst!” said Jensen, with sternly level authority. “Be good
enough to sit down and remain quiet. All matters relating to the
_Gloucester City_ come within my province.”

Horst, his arms up as though to guard himself, went slowly backward to
his seat but did not sit. There was madness in his eyes. “How could
they know?” he said to himself in a sharp-breathed whisper, “--_the
exact words!_----”

“What do you mean?” queried Lyngstrand, curiously. Horst replied
without thinking, more to himself than to his questioner.

“The exact words of her call for help--a year ago! My wireless picked
it up after we had left her----” He stopped suddenly, realized that he
had betrayed himself.

“Then----!” cried Lyngstrand, jumping up from his seat and taking
a step forward. His eyes, full of menace, searched the ex-U-boat
commander’s face.

“Be quiet--both of you!” commanded Jensen, holding up his hand. The
regular succession of raps had commenced again. Jensen listened to
them, nodded. Then he himself rapped a message in English on the
table--“_who are you?_”

Horst and Lyngstrand listened in dead silence as the answer spelled
itself out upon the table.

“_h-e-n-r-y s-m-i-t-h w-i-r-e-l-e-s-s o-p-e-r-a-t-o-r
g-l-o-u-c-e-s-t-e-r c-i-t-y._”

Jensen turned a glance of wonderment to his comrade. Horst, reading the
message as currently as the others, looked as though about to faint.

“Stop it!” he said, hoarsely. “Stop it!”

Jensen ignored him, rapped again upon the table--“_where are you now?_”

The answer came immediately.

“_a-t y-o-u-r s-i-d-e_”

The three of them sprang back simultaneously, as from the presence of a
ghost. Their eyes probed empty air.

Jensen spoke aloud, still in English.

“Can you see us--hear us?”

The raps of the invisible hand upon the table replied at once.

“_y-e-s_”

“_Mein Gott!_” muttered Horst. “I shall go mad!” Jensen continued his
colloquy.

“Where is the _Gloucester City_?” He smiled to himself as though
setting a trap for this unseen intelligence. “Is she still afloat?”

The raps recommenced without hesitation.

“_y-o-u-r a-n-c-h-o-r f-i-x-e-d- i-n u-p-p-e-r w-o-r-k-s_”

Lyngstrand uttered an ejaculation of awed astonishment. He looked to
see the sweat pearling on Captain Horst’s forehead.

The raps spelled out, spontaneously, an explanatory afterward.

“_w-e l-e-d y-o-u t-o i-t_”

“_We?_” queried Jensen. “Who are ‘_we_’?”

“_t-h-e d-r-o-w-n-e-d_” The raps were decisive.

“Why?” Lyngstrand admired his comrade’s steely self-control. “Why did
you lead us to it?”

“_h-e c-a-n g-u-e-s-s_”

“Who?”

“_t-h-e m-u-r-d-e-r-e-r_”

Both glanced swiftly at Horst. He was speechless, his face a study in
blanched terror.

“_h-e k-n-o-w-s_” added the raps. There was something indefinably
malicious about their sound.

“Stop it!” Horst’s voice was strangled, scarcely audible. “Stop it!”

Jensen was unmoved.

“How many of you?” he asked.

Lyngstrand, fascinated by this conversation with the unseen, was
grateful for the question.

“_t-h-r-e-e h-u-n-d-r-e-d a-n-d e-i-g-h-t g-l-o-u-c-e-s-t-e-r c-i-t-y
h-u-n-d-r-e-d a-n-d f-i-v-e r-e-s-c-u-e-d o-t-h-e-r s-h-i-p-s f-o-u-r
h-u-n-d-r-e-d a-n-d t-h-i-r-t-e-e-n i-n a-l-l_”

“All men?” queried Jensen.

“_t-w-e-n-t-y-f-i-v-e w-o-m-e-n_”

“My God!” muttered Lyngstrand, in a sudden vivid remembrance that
stabbed him like a pain. He glanced at Horst.

Jensen glanced also, and was merciless.

“Are you all here?” he asked.

“_y-e-s_” There was a little pause, “_h-u-n-d-r-e-d-s m-o-r-e I d-o-n-t
k-n-o-w d-r-o-w-n-e-d o-t-h-e-r s-u-n-k s-h-i-p-s a-l-l h-e-r-e_”

Lyngstrand shivered, looked around him uneasily. Jensen’s voice
scarcely betrayed a tremor as he pursued.

“What have you come for?”

“_w-e h-a-v-e c-o-m-e f-o-r h-i-m_”

“No!--no!” screamed Horst, suddenly. “No!--_Ach, Gott, schütze mich!_”

Both Lyngstrand and Jensen had a sense of inaudible mocking laughter in
the air about them. There was an awful silence.

The raps recommenced spontaneously.

“_t-e-l-l h-i-m t-h-e-y a-r-e f-i-l-i-n-g p-a-s-t h-i-m
i-d-e-n-t-i-f-y-i-n-g h-i-m_”

Jensen turned to Horst.

“You hear?” he asked, grimly.

But Horst, with a blood-curdling scream of terror, had flung himself
at the charthouse door, thrown it open. They heard the hiss and sough
of the dark seas. He plunged out, blindly, head-foremost. Then, just
beyond the threshold, he stopped, recoiled, staggered back into the
charthouse.

“No!” he gasped, hoarsely. “No!--_I can’t face them! I can’t face
them!_--I can’t die!--I dare not!”

He shook in a palsy of the faculties. His eyes agonizedly sought their
unsympathetic faces. The German submarine commander is a pariah among
seafaring men, whatever their nationality. He realized it, hopelessly,
as he met their hard eyes. With a sob of self-pity, he stumbled across
to a corner of the charthouse, sank down upon the seat, covered his
face with his hands.

Lyngstrand’s young features were sternly set as he glanced at him. Then
he took a long breath, the preparatory oxygen-renewal of the man who
dares an experiment that will tax him. He rapped the wireless “call-up”
upon the table.

“Can the others communicate also?” he asked, loudly, in English. He,
also, was trembling.

The answer came at once.

“_o-n-l-y t-h-r-o-u-g-h m-e_” There was a slight pause, then the raps
recommenced again, “_l-a-d-y h-e-r-e h-a-s a m-e-s-s-a-g-e f-o-r
p-e-t-e-r_” the raps hesitated “_p-e-t-e-r f-u-n-n-y n-a-m-e c-a-n-t
c-a-t-c-h i-t_----”

Lyngstrand’s face went deathly white.

“Yes,” he gasped, just only able to speak, “--Peter--yes--go on!”
He looked at the table as though expecting to see the hand that was
rapping out the message. Tap-tap-tap, it came.

“_p-e-t-e-r l-i-n-g-s-t-r-a-n-d_”

“Yes--here!” he gasped. “Go on!--who is it?”

“_m-a-r-y t-i-l-l-o-t-s-o-n_”

He reeled against the table, clutched at it.

“My God!” he murmured to himself, his eyes closing, his teeth grinding
upon one another in an agony of emotion. Then, with a supreme effort of
self-control, he asked, loudly: “The message? Give it me!”

“_s-h-e s-a-y-s s-h-e s-u-r-e l-o-v-e-s y-o-u s-t-i-l-l a-n-d i-s
w-a-i-t-i-n-g f-o-r y-o-u_”

“Mary!” The cry burst from him, sobbingly, on a note of poignant
anguish. Jensen felt the tears start to his eyes. Horst cowered still,
face hidden, in his corner.

There was a long moment in which Lyngstrand failed to bring another
sound to utterance. He swayed as though about to faint. Then once more
he mastered himself.

“What--what happened?” he asked, unsteadily. “How did she die? Was she
torpedoed?”

“_s-h-e s-a-y-s s-t-e-a-m-e-r t-r-o-n-d-h-j-e-m s-u-n-k g-u-n-f-i-r-e
r-e-s-c-u-e-d s-m-a-l-l b-o-a-t b-y g-l-o-u-c-e-s-t-e-r c-i-t-y
a-f-t-e-r-w-a-r-d t-o-r-p-e-d-o-e-d_”

Lyngstrand reeled with closed eyes. He had a vivid vision of the torn
wreck in the depths beneath them, carnivorous fish darting where their
anchor grappled its untenanted bridge.

“Did--did they have a chance?” he asked.

“_n-i-g-h-t w-i-t-h-o-u-t w-a-r-n-i-n-g_” came the answer.

Lyngstrand drew another deep breath, glanced at the motionless Horst.

“And--and the man--the man who sank her?”

“_k-a-p-i-t-a-n-l-e-u-t-n-a-n-t h-o-r-s-t_” There was a terrible
precision in those raps.

They ceased. There was a deathly stillness. Through long moments, not
one of the three men in the charthouse moved. Then Lyngstrand turned
slowly. He took three steps toward Captain Horst, stood over him. The
only sounds were the creaking of gear as the _Upsal_ rose and subsided
on the swell, the swish and suck of the long waves that ran past her
in the darkness beyond the open charthouse door.

Lyngstrand’s mouth had set in a thin line. His lips, compressed, opened
but slightly as he spoke.

“Captain Horst,” he said, with grim distinctness, “you are certainly
going to die. I give you the privilege of the warning you did not
extend to your victims.”

Horst looked up suddenly. His eyes, blue still, but crazed with terror,
fixed themselves upon the gray eyes that met them pitilessly. His mouth
moved under the little red moustache, but no sound came from it.

Lyngstrand continued, an edge of fierce contempt upon his hard voice.

“I even give you a choice: You can, if you like, go out there”--he
pointed through the open door to the rayless night--“and throw yourself
overboard----”

Horst sprang to his feet, recoiled into the extreme corner of the
charthouse.

“No!” he screamed. “No!”

“--or I shall kill you myself,” pursued Lyngstrand, evenly.

Horst’s face contorted suddenly with demoniac passion. Jensen, who
had approached and was watching him closely, saw his hand dart to the
pocket of his jacket, and he flung himself forward just as the revolver
cracked.

With a red-hot thrust through his shoulder, a sickening faintness in
which the floor seemed to rise up to his knees, Jensen tottered back
to the charthouse wall. Fighting for consciousness, he dimly saw his
comrade hurl himself upon Horst--someone’s arm high in the air holding
a revolver, another arm high with it, clutching at the wrist below the
weapon.

Then commenced a terrible silent struggle where the only sound was the
short gasps and sobs for breath of the two men swaying with the motion
of the ship. They hugged close, face upon face, in a murderous wrestle
where neither dared shift his grip. Both were big-framed, powerful,
but Lyngstrand had the advantage of youth. They came, inch by inch,
slipping on the floor, past Jensen leaning dizzily against the wall.
He saw them through a red mist where the electric lamp glowed vaguely,
unmoved like a nebulous start above the tensely locked embrace where
life fought for human continuance.

Inch by inch, they moved onward. Jensen, his vision clearing, though
impotent to move, saw now that Lyngstrand had the inner berth, that
Horst was being gradually, slowly but surely, thrust toward the open
door. He saw one of Horst’s hands free itself, grip at the door-post,
cling to it. He saw the awful terror in the eyes that glared upon his
relentless adversary.

Minute after minute the tense and silent struggle at the door
continued. Still clutching at the door-post, Horst was gradually borne
backward. His feet still in the charthouse, his body, save for that one
gripping hand, was bent back out of sight into the darkness.

Suddenly his fingers relaxed their hold. Their feet tripped by the
raised threshold of the door, both disappeared headlong in a heavy thud
upon the deck outside.

Jensen heard a sharp exclamation, the gasp of bodies that are rolled
upon--then the quick scuffling of feet. Agonized for his comrade, he
dragged himself painfully toward the door. Just as he reached it one
ghastly piercing scream rang through the night.

He gazed out to see two closely locked bodies disappear over the
bulwark.

The dark seas lifted a foaming crest as the _Upsal_ rolled.



YELLOW MAGIC


The talk of the half-dozen men on the veranda of the Singapore
club--a couple of merchants, a planter in town on business, an
officer of an Indian regiment, a globe-trotting professor from an
American university, and a sea-captain--had drifted desultorily from
the specific instance of the famous Indian rope-trick, resuscitated
by a British magazine that lay upon the club-tables and contested
sceptically by the Anglo-Indian officer, to the general topic of
the alleged ability of the Asiatic to make people “see what isn’t
there.” The American professor, whose specialty, as he confessed, was
psychology, manifested a pertinacious interest in the subject. But
his direct questions to these habitual dwellers in the Middle and
Far East elicited only contemptuous negatives or vague second- and
third-hand stories without evidential value. Merchants, planter, and
officer alike had quite obviously none of them seen any tricks upon
which the professor could safely base his rather rashly enunciated
theory of special hypnotic powers possessed by the inscrutable races,
whose surface energies are so profitably exploited by the white man. He
turned at last to the sea-captain who had sat puffing at his cheroot in
silence.

“And you, Captain Williamson? You have voyaged about these seas for the
best part of a generation--have you never been confronted by one of
these inexplicable phenomena of which the travellers tell us?”

There was just a little of Oliver Wendell Holmes pedantry about the
professor--a touch of that Boston of the ’eighties in which he had been
educated.

Captain Williamson changed the duck-clad leg which crossed the other
and smiled a little with his keen gray eyes. Caressing the neat pointed
beard which accentuated the oval of his intelligent face, he replied
thoughtfully:

“Well, Professor--I have. Once. Personally, though I saw the affair
with my own eyes, I don’t even now know what to make of it. Perhaps
your hypnotic theory might explain it.” He shrugged his shoulders.

“Will you not tell us the story?” entreated the professor. “It is so
rare to receive trustworthy first-hand evidence of anything abnormal.”

Captain Williamson glanced rather diffidently around upon his
companions.

“Fire away, cap’en!” exclaimed one of the merchants, slapping him
amicably on the knee. “You’ve always got a good yarn!”

“This happens to be a true one,” said the captain, with a smile of
tolerance, “but, of course, you are under no compulsion to believe it!”

“Drinks all round on the one who doesn’t!” decreed the planter. “Go
ahead! Don’t ask us to believe rubber is going to boom again, that’s
all. Short of that, we’ll believe anything.”

“Well,” began Captain Williamson, his eyes following reflectively the
long, deliberate puff of smoke he blew into the air, “perhaps some
of you may remember Captain Strong--‘lucky Jim Strong’? Twenty-five
years or so ago he was one of the best known skippers in the Pacific,
celebrated almost. Men talked of him with a certain awe as of a man
who had a good fortune that was nothing short of uncanny. He had been
engaged in all sorts of desperate enterprises, frequently illicit, such
as seal-poaching in the Russian preserves, gun-running under the nose
of British cruisers, gold or opium smuggling despite the patrol-boats
of the Chinese Customs Board, and always he emerged unharmed and gorged
with profits. Only all the San Francisco banks put together, for he
dealt with all of them, could tell you what he was worth, but it was
certainly a very large sum. However wealthy he was, he apparently
derived very little enjoyment from his money. He was always at sea in
his ship, the _Mary Gleeson_, of which he was both owner and skipper,
and stayed in port only just long enough to discharge one cargo and
pick up another. His personal habits were almost unknown, but of course
a legend of eccentricity grew up around them as a companion to the
legend of his supernatural luck.

“It happened, as the finale to sundry personal adventures with which
I will not weary you, that about a quarter of a century ago I found
myself sailing out of the port of San Francisco as first officer to
the _Mary Gleeson_. I was quite a young man and it was my first job
as mate. We were bound to Saigon, in Cochin China, with a cargo of
American arms and ammunition consigned to the French Government. At
that time the French were still fighting to preserve and extend their
conquests in that part of the world.

“The voyage across the Pacific was uneventful enough. We were a
contented ship. The men were cheerful. The old uncertificated
Scandinavian we had shipped as second mate was a conscientious officer.
I was rather proud of my new dignity and anxious to justify it.

“As for Captain Strong, I unaffectedly liked him. Decisive but
even-tempered, his quietly firm handling of the ship’s company won my
respect, and there was no doubt of his first-class seamanship. He was
utterly without that petty punctilious pride by which some masters
try to conceal their lack of native dignity, and he would talk to
me for hours during my watch. His conversation revealed a wide and
intimate knowledge of men and affairs, and in particular of those
intrigues by which the Great Powers were in those days--I speak of the
’nineties--pushing their fortunes at the expense of the Chinese races.
Upon his own personal adventures and career, however, he was completely
silent, and no stratagems of mine could lure him into speaking of
them. Reserved as he was upon this point, nevertheless, I felt that
he regarded me with a distinctly friendly sentiment, and I cordially
reciprocated it.

“At last we made the tall promontory of Cape St. Jacques, with its
lighthouse and cable-station, and took on board the half-caste pilot
who was to navigate us the sixty miles up the river to Saigon. I
remember the trip up-stream with that clearness of the memory for all
that immediately precedes a drama, no matter how long ago. It was
early morning when he crossed the bar and, relieved from the direct
responsibilities of navigation, Captain Strong and I sat in deck-chairs
under the awning of the bridge and all day watched the dense,
mist-hung, fever-infested forests of mangrove and pandanus slip past
us on both banks of the river. The damp, close heat was suffocating
and neither of us had much desire to talk, but I fancied that a more
than usually heavy moodiness lay over the skipper. He was certainly not
quite normal. He frowned to himself, bit his lip, and his eyes roved
in an uneasy sort of recognition from side to side of the stream as we
rounded reach after interminable reach. I felt that some secret anxiety
possessed him, but of course I could not ask him straight out what it
was. Rather diffidently, I did venture on one question.

“‘Ever been here before, sir?’ I asked.

“He shot a suspicious look at me, directly into my eyes, before he
answered.

“‘Once.’

“The tone of the reply effectually checked any further exhibition of
the curiosity it heightened.

“The worst heat of the day was over when we dropped anchor in the broad
stream opposite the European-looking city of Saigon. The usual swarm of
junks and sampans thronged around the quay, but the black Messageries
Maritimes packet moored in the river was the only other steamship.

“To my pleasure, Captain Strong invited me to go ashore with him,
and in a few minutes the gig was pulling us toward the rows of
fine-looking Government buildings which stretch back from the quays.
I don’t know whether any of you have ever been to Saigon and I don’t
know what it looks like now, but in those days it looked like the
disastrous enterprise of a bankrupt speculative builder when you got to
close quarters. The town of Saigon had been burnt by the French in the
fighting by which they had obtained possession of the place, and they
had rebuilt it on European lines, shops, cafés, Government buildings,
all complete. But a paralysis was on everything, the paralysis of the
excessive administration with which the French ruin their colonies. The
streets were nearly deserted, a majority of the shops empty. The only
Europeans were slovenly, haggard military and the white-faced, dreary
Government employees who sat at the cafés and longed for France. I was
more depressed and disappointed at every step.

“We went up to the Government House and filled up a few dozens of those
useless papers without which the French functionary dare do nothing,
and received vague assurances that in a few days we should be allowed
to unload the arms of which the French troops were in urgent need. Our
business completed as far as possible, Captain Strong hesitated for a
moment or two, biting his lip in that odd way I had noticed coming up
the river. Irresolution of any kind was a most common phenomenon in
him. Then suddenly, evidently giving way to a powerful impulse, I heard
him murmur to himself: ‘Give ’em a chance anyway!’

“Throwing a curt ‘Come along!’ to me, he set off at a tremendous pace
through the streets with the assurance of a man who can find his way
about any town where he has been once previously. I followed him,
puzzled by the words I had overheard, wondering whither he was going,
and noting the native population with curious eyes. The Annamite
men are a stunted, degenerate race, in abject terror of their white
masters, but the women are many of them surprisingly attractive. I had
plenty of opportunity for comparison, for very soon we found ourselves
among a swarm of both sexes at the station of the steam-tram which runs
to Cho-lon, the Chinese town a few miles up the river.

“During the ride on the tram, Captain Strong did not open his lips. He
stared steadily in front of him in a curious kind of way, like a man
inexorably pursuing some allotted line of action.

“Arrived at Cho-lon, he struck quickly through the squalid streets of
the Chinese town, looking neither to right nor left, and saying not a
word. We had passed right through the town before he gave me a hint of
our objective. Then he made a gesture upward as if to reassure me that
we were near our journey’s end.

“Beyond the last houses, on an eminence backed by the primeval jungle,
a Buddhist temple of pagoda fashion rose above us, the terminus of the
rough track up which we were stumbling. As we drew near I saw that it
was dilapidated, its courtyard overgrown, deserted evidently by both
priests and worshippers.

“Was this what Captain Strong had come to see? Somewhat puzzled, I
glanced at his face under the pith helmet. His lips were compressed,
his eyes stern as though defying some secret danger. At the entrance
gateway, festooned and almost smothered in parasitic vegetation, he
stopped and stared into the desolate courtyard. Then, after a moment
of the curious hesitation which I had already remarked that day, he
entered.

“A deathlike stillness brooded over the place. The great doorless
portal of the temple, flanked by huge and staring figures, confronted
us, opening on to a black unillumined interior like the entrance to
a tomb. Weeds grew between the flags of the threshold. An atmosphere
of indefinable evil, as though the very stones held the memory of
some awful calamity, pervaded the silence. I shuddered in a sudden
sense of the sinister in this abandonment, and glanced involuntarily
at my companion as if from his face I might divine the cause. It was
impossible to guess his thoughts. His jaw was locked hard, his face
expressionless.

“Then I perceived that we were not alone. Slinking round the outer wall
came a wretched-looking native. His long robe was torn and dirty. His
yellow face, lit by two slanting beady eyes, was emaciated and sunken.
His shaven crown was wrinkled to the top. The limbs which protruded
from his gown were as thin as sticks. In his hand he held a beggar’s
bowl. Remarking us, he stopped dead, watching us with his horribly
bright, fever-like eyes. Instinctively, I don’t know why, I put him
down as the last of the priests still haunting this once prosperous and
now deserted temple.

“Captain Strong took no notice of him and advanced toward the
portal. Somewhat apprehensively, I followed him and peered in, but
the darkness, by comparison with the intense light outside, was so
complete that I could see nothing. My curiosity getting the better of
my nervousness, I stepped inside though, I confess, rather gingerly.
After a minute or two, my eyes accustoming themselves to the gloom,
I could see the great bronze figure of the Buddha towering above me,
facing the door. Its placid face, uplifted far above the passions of
men, looked as though it were patiently awaiting the day when this
abandonment should cease and its worshippers return to adoration of
its serenity. No precious stone now reflected the light from the door
and the huge candlesticks on either side of it were empty, the days of
their scintillating illumination long past.

“Captain Strong, I noticed, remained on the threshold, silhouetted
black against the sunshine, but, emboldened by my impunity, I took
another step forward or two. I recoiled quickly. Something stirred
in the lap of the Buddha and a snake erected its head in a sudden
movement. Its eyes gleamed at me from the shadow like two green
precious stones.

“I swung round to shout a warning to Captain Strong. If there was one
there were probably others of these deadly guardians of the divine
image. There were. To my horror, I saw another snake uncoil itself from
a crevice in the doorway, on a level with his neck, and draw its head
back in the poise for the fatal dart. I don’t know whether he heard
my inarticulate cry. His perception of the danger was simultaneous
with mine. But he made no blundering movement of confusion. Swift as
lightning his hand shot out and grasped the snake firmly close under
the head, where its fangs could not touch him. Then with a quick jerk
he flung it into the courtyard. The snake writhed away in a flash.

“Such a display of cool, swift courage I have never seen before or
since. I ran out to him where he stood in the courtyard gazing after
the vanished snake, and excitedly expressed my admiration. He turned
round on me with a grim smile and shrugged his shoulders. The wretched
priest, if priest he was, had approached and he smiled also, a foolish,
exasperating, inscrutable smile, like an idiot enjoying an imbecile
esoteric meaning which is a meaning for him alone. Yet at the same time
I thought there was a suggestion of sly menace in that cringing grin.

“‘Come back into Saigon,’ said Captain Strong, ignoring him. ‘We’ll
have a drink before we go on board.’ There was nothing in his manner to
remind you that he had just escaped death by a fraction.

“I was not at all sorry to quit this unpleasant place, and I descended
that rough path with considerably more alacrity than I had mounted it.
Captain Strong was as coolly self-possessed as though walking down the
main street of San Francisco.

“‘I must congratulate you on your luck, sir,’ I ventured, when we had
gone a little distance. ‘Had that snake struck a second before----’

“‘Bah!’ he replied, shrugging his shoulders. ‘One can get tired of
luck!’

“There was a violence, a sombre bitterness, in his tone which impressed
me. I thought of all the miraculous good-fortune which men attributed
to him--a specimen of which I had just seen--and wondered whether he
were really wearied of it. I could conceive it possible that a man of
his type would find life very dull if assured beforehand of success and
safety. It would be the struggle, the peril, which would appeal to him.

“He relapsed into a gloomy silence which I did not dare to break.

“We returned to Saigon on the steam-tram and shortly afterward we
found ourselves seated on the deserted terrace of a café, trickling
water through the sugar into our absinthe, for all the world as though
we were in some bankrupt quarter of Marseilles. Natives thronged
around us pestering us to buy all sorts of worthless trifles in their
horrible pidgin-French--_petit négre_ they call it. Their ‘_Mossieu
acheter--mossieu acheter_’ at every moment thoroughly exasperated me.
But Captain Strong sat lost in a brooding reverie where he did not even
hear them. His eyes looked, unseeing, down the wide street.

“Suddenly an insinuating voice whined into my ear some native words I
could not understand, and repeated them with a wheedling insistence
which compelled my attention. I looked round into an ugly yellow face
whose malicious narrow-slitted eyes glittered unprepossessingly above
his fawning smile. There was something in the face that seemed familiar
to me and yet I could not place it. Under the conical bamboo hat all
these Annamites looked alike to me. I waved him away, but he was not
to be shaken off, reiterating over and over again his incomprehensible
phrase.

“I glanced enquiringly at Captain Strong, whom I knew to understand
many Chinese dialects.

“‘He’s a conjurer and wants to show you a trick,’ he explained,
contemptuously, adding a curt word and nod of assent to the native.

“The Annamite beamed idiotically and stretched out his skinny hands
over the little table.

“‘_Vous--regarder_,’ he said, evidently making the most of his French,
and grinned insinuatingly at me.

“With a slow, snaky motion of his skeleton-like hands he commenced
to make passes in the air about six inches above my glass. I watched
him, at first idly, but gradually more and more fascinated as my
eyes followed the sinuous movements of his hands. Presently, to my
astonishment, I saw the glass, tall and fairly heavy--a typical
absinthe glass, commence to rock slightly on its base. The direction of
the passes altered to a vertical, up and down, as though his hands were
encouraging the glass to rise. And sure enough, it detached itself from
the table and, swaying a little unsteadily, rose into the air under the
hands still some distance above it. It ascended slowly, as though he
were drawing it up by a magnetic attraction, to an appreciable height
from the table, say three or four inches. Then, as he changed the
character of the passes again so that they seemed to press it down, it
sank slowly once more to the table. The native, childishly pleased with
this successful exhibition of his powers, grinned ingratiatingly at us
both.

“Captain Strong threw a coin upon the marble top of the table.
The fawning smile still upon his ugly face, the conjurer looked
straight into the skipper’s eyes as he gabbled some native words of
thanks. Then, instead of picking up the coin, he suddenly seized
his benefactor’s hand in his skinny grasp and, using the captain’s
forefinger like a pen, traced upon the table-top a large ellipse
which commenced and finished at the coin. The action was performed so
unexpectedly, and with such swift strength, that Captain Strong had no
time to resist. The ellipse completed, he flung aside the captain’s
finger and held both his hands outstretched above the invisible
tracing. If I was astonished before, I was amazed now. Where the finger
had passed over that marble glowed a flexible reddish-gold snake
holding in its mouth, like a pendant on a chain, not the coin--but a
brilliantly flashing jewel of precious stones fashioned into a curious
pattern. I heard a startled exclamation break from my companion, but
before either of us could utter an articulate word, the conjurer’s hand
had descended swiftly upon the table. A second later both jewel--or
coin--and the conjurer had disappeared into the throng of watching
Annamites.

“I glanced at Captain Strong. He was deathly pale and one hand was
feeling nervously over the breast of his silk shirt. Then, after a long
breath, he turned and smiled at me.

“‘Clever trick that!’ he said.

“The assumption of personal unconcern was so marked that I felt any
remark of mine would have been an impertinence. But I could not help
wondering what Captain Strong wore underneath his shirt.

“He paid the native waiter for our drinks and rose from the table
without another word. We turned our steps toward the quay. The skipper
was absorbed in thoughts I could not penetrate, but I noticed that the
muscles of his jaw stood out upon his face and the heavy brows frowned
over his eyes. Evidently the tone of his meditations was combative.

“Whatever they were, there was no hint of their purport in his voice as
he turned to me.

“‘Come and have supper aft with me to-night, Mr. Williamson,’ he said,
carelessly. ‘I meant to have invited you to dinner in town but that
restaurant was really too depressing.’

“I thanked him, secretly astonished at the invitation. Captain Strong
never compromised his dignity by sitting at table with his officers.
He ate alone, in the beautifully fitted saloon under the poop. At the
time, I wondered whether he had some reason for preferring my company
to his customary solitude. But his manner expressed merely the courtesy
of a superior wishing to give pleasure to a young officer.

“We had arrived on the quay and I was looking over the crowd of
vociferating boatmen with a view to selecting a sampan for our return
to the ship, when a sudden cry from the captain startled me.

“‘Look! Good heavens! look!--Don’t you see?’ With one hand he gripped
me tightly by the shoulder, with the other he pointed to the _Mary
Gleeson_ anchored in mid-stream. ‘Look! _The yellow jack!_’

“I gazed with him across to the ship and to my horrified astonishment
saw that dreaded yellow flag which denotes the presence of yellow fever
fluttering in the evening breeze. Shocked and alarmed, I asked myself
who was the victim. There was no sickness among the ship’s company when
we went ashore. But I knew well enough the swiftness of death in these
latitudes.

“‘Quick! Get a sampan!’ ordered the captain.

“Privately, I doubted whether any boatman would venture into the
tainted neighbourhood of a ship with yellow fever on board, and I was
agreeably surprised to find that my only difficulty was to choose among
the swarm that offered themselves. I could only conclude that they did
not understand the meaning of the emblem. A moment or two later we were
being propelled swiftly across the stream, our eyes fixed upon that
fatal flag. The second officer stood at the top of the ladder to greet
us as we climbed on board.

“‘All well, sir,’ I heard him report in a perfectly normal voice.

“‘What?’ ejaculated the captain in astonishment above me.

“‘All well, sir,’ he repeated.

“By that time I had joined the captain on the deck and we exchanged a
puzzled glance. Then we looked around us. To our utter bewilderment,
of the yellow jack there was no sign at all. There was not a rag of
bunting about the ship.

“The captain bit his lip and wrinkled his brow. I could comprehend his
perplexity. He turned sharply to the second officer.

“‘Svendson! Has any one been monkeying with the signal-flags?’

“‘No, sir!’ The prompt denial was both surprised and emphatic. ‘I have
been on deck myself ever since you went ashore, sir.’

“‘H’m! All right!’ The captain shrugged his shoulders and turned to me.
‘You saw it, didn’t you?’ he asked.

“‘Yes, sir,’ I replied, confidently.

“‘A most extraordinary hallucination!’ he said. ‘But don’t let it worry
you. Come and have supper with me at six bells.’

“I could see plainly that he was much perturbed, and I myself felt
very uneasy as I went below. Following upon the shock of the captain’s
narrow escape from the snake in the deserted temple, the strange trick
of the conjurer at the café and this hallucination, shared by both
of us, of the most dreaded flag a sailor knows, combined to awake a
primitive superstitious fear in me. My nerves were in a state of acute
tension, and I found myself starting at the most ordinary sounds.

“The captain was normal and cheerful enough, however, when at seven
o’clock I joined him in the beautiful saloon which he had had fitted
regardless of expense with everything that could minister to his
comfort. It was his one luxury. Despite the damp, stifling heat which
makes Saigon one of the most uncomfortable places in the East, the
cabin was pleasantly cool. Electric fans whirred at the open ports and
underneath the large skylight hanging plants provided a refreshing mass
of greenery. The Chinese steward stood by the side of the elegantly
laid table, ready to serve his master. It was, as I said, the first
time I had eaten with Captain Strong and I was rather impressed with
the refinement of his private tastes.

“The meal, an excellent one, passed without incident. My host was
agreeably conversational, but his talk was confined to those impersonal
subjects which he preferred. Not once did he refer to the happenings
of the day, and I felt that it would be discretion on my part equally
to refrain from mention of them. The silent-footed Chang-Fu cleared the
table, pulled the awnings across the open, mosquito-netted skylight,
switched on the electric lamps, and left us to our coffee and cigars.

“The centre table folded down so as to leave a clear space which
made the saloon appear larger than it really was, and we sat upon a
comfortable leather-upholstered settee at one end, with our coffee on a
little Chinese table between us.

“A tap on the door interrupted our talk, and Chang-Fu, the steward,
glided into the saloon and made a respectful obeisance to the captain.

“‘Master--Chinese conjulor in sampan ’long-side--want speak master. Him
number-one top-hole conjulor makee plenty-heap big tlick--me talkee
with him--him velly gleat conjulor.’ The steward’s wheedling voice
had a note of genuine, awed admiration in it. ‘Master see him?’ he
finished, insinuatingly, rubbing his hands together under his cringing,
wrath-disarming smile.

“I glanced at the captain.

“‘I wonder if it is the fellow we saw at the café, sir?’ I ventured,
and then immediately regretted my words. Like the young fellow that I
was, I was eager to see more of the skill of these Oriental magicians,
but doubtless the captain would not wish again to come into contact
with the man whose strange trick of converting the coin into a jewel
had so perturbed him.

“Possibly he read my thoughts and resented the suspicion of moral
cowardice. His tone was curt as he replied.

“‘Very likely.--Bring him down, Chang-Fu.’

“Once more the muscle stood out along his jaw and his face set
doggedly. It was as though he prepared to confront an adversary.
Fascinated by the mystery which I felt underlay all this, I thrilled
with a sense of high adventure as I saw the captain go to a drawer
in a locker and get out a heavy revolver which he slipped into his
coat-pocket. He returned to his seat by my side.

“A moment later, Chang-Fu ushered in the conjurer, and discreetly
vanished. It was indeed the man we had seen at the café--more than
that, I recognized him suddenly, being now without his hat, as the man
hanging round that deserted temple. The ingratiating leer which twisted
up his emaciated face did not render it less ugly. With a profound bow
he advanced fawningly toward us, bowed again and then withdrew, after
a word or two in dialect which I did not understand but to which the
captain replied in a monosyllable, to a little distance across the
saloon floor.

“He performed one or two clever but not particularly remarkable tricks,
all of them harmless enough, and my vague suspicions of mischief were
lulled gradually in the interest with which I watched him. Captain
Strong remained silent, expressionless. I noticed that it was toward
him that the conjurer directed his smiles, and his attention that he
endeavoured more especially to hold. His complete immobility made
it impossible to guess the effect of the conjurer’s manœuvres;
certainly he did not take his eyes from him for a single moment and his
right hand remained in the pocket where I knew the revolver to be.

“Presently the conjurer produced a large bronze bowl--apparently from
nowhere--and made the usual mystic passes in the air above it. Smoke
began to issue from the bowl, a thick dark smoke which filled the
saloon with a pervasive and subtly pleasant aromatic scent. The smoke
rose from the bowl in ever denser volumes, curling into the air under
the saloon roof in such masses as to obscure our vision of the farther
walls. The electric lamps glowed redly as through a fog. The sweet,
cloying smell of incense permeated the atmosphere, made it oppressive,
dulled the brain as I drew it with every breath into my lungs. An
insidious paralysis stole over me. I felt that I had no power over my
limbs, could not move a muscle. I could only stare fascinated at that
grotesquely ugly Oriental half-seen in the dim light amid the wreathing
fumes, his skeleton-like hands still sweeping in slow and regular
passes over the bowl. I heard the deep breathing of Captain Strong at
my side as of a person whose individuality was remote from mine, hardly
to be identified. My drugged brain registered only that he was as
motionless as I.

“Suddenly the electric lights were extinguished--I did not see how,
in that fog of smoke, but the magician must have had the switch
explained to him by the steward. The darkness was only momentary. On
the instant almost, a dull red glow kindled itself in the depths of the
bowl, illumined luridly the dense masses of smoke which still welled
up from it. Behind them I caught a glimpse of the conjurer’s face
smiling evilly, inscrutably, his eyes glittering in the red glow, his
finger-tips sweeping round and round in the fumes. Then--I missed the
exact moment--he disappeared. A melancholy, sing-song chant commenced
from somewhere, haunting the brain with its barbaric reiteration of
meaningless words in a minor key. It was like the dreary lament of
savage worshippers before an idol that remains obstinately mute, I
remember thinking vaguely as I listened and watched with fascinated
eyes that curling, red-tinted smoke rising from the hidden flame of the
bowl, expecting I knew not what of marvellous appearance.

“Suddenly the smoke rolled away on either hand. I found myself looking
down a vista--not at the darkened cabin walls--but into the bright
sunshine of the tropics--at a pagoda-like temple where two huge,
carved, staring figures guarded the entrance to an interior where
lights glimmered. I recognized it with a peculiar thrill--the temple
above Cho-lon!

“Not now was the courtyard deserted and overgrown with weeds. A throng
of natives, gesticulating and chattering, though I could not hear them,
filled it--pressed back on either side as though to make way for a
procession. In that throng was a European in a white suit. He stood
out conspicuous in the front rank of the Oriental crowd. What was
there so familiar about that figure? My drugged brain puzzled vaguely
for a moment or two--and then he turned his face toward me. _Captain
Strong!_--a younger, slighter Captain Strong--but undoubtedly he. I
saw the flash of his eyes under the heavy brows, the living man! My
consciousness checked for a moment at this phenomenon of duplication,
and then accepted it. It seemed another part of me that was listening
to the deep breathing of the man at my side--I felt myself mingling
with what I saw almost as with actual reality--let myself drift as in a
dream where the fantastic ceases to be strange.

“The procession filled the open space between the pressed-back ranks
of the throng, a procession of priests with shaven heads, and gorgeous
robes, filing into the great doorway of the temple. After them came
a group of young girls, singing evidently, dancing as they went, and
flinging flowers on either hand--the young Annamite girls who are so
strikingly more attractive than their male relatives. I saw one of
them throw a flower at the foot of the white-clad European--saw her
provocative smile--saw him pick up the flower and fling it playfully
back into her face--saw him follow the throng and press into the
temple with the crowd. What was that peculiar gasp which came from the
darkness at my side? A part of me groped with numbed faculties for its
connection with the bright scene at which I gazed fascinated.

“The picture changed with the suddenness of a cinematograph film. I
found myself staring at the great image of the Buddha, looming up
above its prostrate worshippers from amid a blaze of torches. On its
breast glowed and sparkled the sacred jewel--_the jewel into which the
conjurer had transmuted Captain Strong’s coin upon the marble-topped
table of the café!_--the jewel suspended on a snake of gold.

“There, conspicuously erect, stood the white-clad figure among the
worshippers, staring up fixedly at the serene immensity of the image.
The jewel upon its breast glowed with a throbbing light like a living
thing. There was a sudden commotion among the crowd. A group of priests
came up to the white-clad man and pushed him gently but firmly out of
the temple.

“Again the scene changed. It was night. The moon shone down upon a
garden on a hillside. Far below, obliterated and revealed from instant
to instant by the foliage moving in the breeze, glittered the clustered
points of yellow light of a large town. In the shadow of the trees
lurked a vague white figure. Toward it, across the moonlit open space,
came another--a native girl. I could see her clearly. She was so
daintily beautiful that I could not but suspect foreign blood in her.
The best-looking Annamite girl I had seen was gross compared with her
delicate charm. For all that, she was genuinely Oriental in type. Her
lithe little figure, clad in a simple twisted robe, approached swiftly,
her head turning from side to side in bird-like enquiry, peeping behind
each bush she passed. It was not difficult to guess for whom she was
looking. The white-clad figure stepped from its shadow, and in another
moment she was in his arms.

“Then, with a sudden movement, she wriggled out of the impulsive
embrace and prostrated herself quaintly in a humble little obeisance.
The white-clad figure stooped to lift her up, folded her again in his
arms. Their lips met in a long, passionate kiss. From the darkness at
my side, but as it were from immeasurable distance, came again the
peculiar little gasp, a sound as of teeth clenching upon each other in
the enormous silence which seemed not to be of this world.

“My attention was fixed upon the mysterious scene before me, so real
that I forgot the ship’s cabin and the conjurer with his volumes of
smoke. The vision at which I gazed was to me actuality. What was
happening? The man was speaking, gesticulating, pointing away with one
hand--the girl was shrinking from him in horror, gesturing a desperate
negative, and then letting herself be drawn tightly to his breast
again to lavish her caresses upon him--and finally, as he still spoke
with the same gesticulation, withdrawing herself once more, her hands
up in agonized protest. What was being demanded of her? I held my
breath as I watched the little drama. What was the request which was
thus convulsing her to the bottom of her soul? Whatever it was, it was
despairfully refused. In savage exasperation, the man flung her from
him to the ground, turned his back upon her and strode away.

“She raised herself, stared after him crouchingly, agony in her face.
She stretched out her arms to him, but he did not turn his head. Then,
ceding evidently to an overwhelming impulse, she sprang to her feet,
darted after him with the speed of a young deer, and flung both her
arms passionately about his neck. Once more I saw him ask her the
mysterious question, menace in his face. And now she surrendered,
clinging to him desperately, tears coursing down her cheeks, her eyes
wild, but every fibre of her obviously ready to do his bidding rather
than lose him as she nodded her head in frantic assent.

“Once more he spoke, pointing mysteriously across the garden. She drew
away from him, her eyes fixed upon his face, her bosom filling as
with the long, deep breath of some tragic resolve. He was inexorable.
Hopelessly, she prepared to obey, in her attitude the touching dignity
of fate accepted since love imposes it, eternal womanhood fulfilling
itself in immolation. I felt the tears start to my eyes, although I
could not imagine what was the evidently tremendous sacrifice demanded
of her. The white-clad man stepped once more into the shadow of the
bushes. With one last passionate, yearning look toward him, she moved
away. She went crouched, huddled in to herself like a woman who creeps
forth to commit a crime.

“Again the scene changed. I was staring at the exterior of the temple
in the moonlight. The two great figures by the portal gazed now over an
empty courtyard. Only the moon-cast shadows of the trees moved upon its
untenanted space. There was a moment of waiting--for I knew not what,
but the air was filled with expectation. Then, slinking along the wall,
scarcely visible, with halting, furtive step, I saw the girl emerge
from the shadows. Warily she came, close against the wall, stopping
occasionally in the awful terror of the silence which brooded over
everything, moving on again with evidently a fresh effort of highly
strung will. Like a ghost she seemed in the moonlight, as she crept up
to the giant figure by the portal, peered cautiously into the interior
darkness where two yellow flames glimmered. She slipped into the gloom
like a pale shadow that flits across the wall.

“And then, I know not how, I found myself looking as from the doorway
into the interior. Between two guttering torches the great image lifted
itself up into a smoky obscurity, the glinting jewel still upon its
breast--the jewel that was suspended by a flexible snake of reddish
gold. With an impressive serenity the great calm face looked straight
before it, its hands stretched out from the elbow above the legs
crossed for its squatting, ‘earth-touching’ position. Below it, on the
steps of the altar, a priest squatted also, his shaven head nodding
forward in the sleep of a vigil excessively prolonged. By the portal
stood the shrinking figure of the girl, staring in terror at the jewel
winking in the uncertain light of the expiring torches.

“For a long, long moment she stood there, unable to move, her face
looking as carven in its fixed immobility as the image itself. With
a sympathetic thrill, I realized the awful superstitious dread which
had her in its grip. Then her human love triumphed. I saw her glide
stealthily toward the giant figure, so stealthily that the nodding head
of the somnolent priest altered not in the regularity of its drowsy
rise and fall, so stealthily that she seemed but a part of the shifting
shadows cast by the candelabra of the torches. Nimbly and cautiously
she clambered from the altar-steps to the knee of the mighty image,
drew herself up to the arm outstretched in benediction. She balanced
herself precariously, rose suddenly upright upon it, and snatched at
the jewel.

“The clasp of the flexible gold snake broke with the violence of her
pull. I saw it slide like a little stream of ruddy fire into her hands,
saw the last flash of the jewel as she stuffed it into her bosom. And
then, with a start, the priest looked up.

“Ere he could do more than spring to his feet, she had leaped down with
the sure-footed agility of a mountain girl. In a quick movement she
evaded his clutch, was gone.

“Once more I found myself looking at the garden where the white-clad
figure lurked in the shadows. A moment of waiting, then down the
moonlit open space came the flitting figure of the girl. Swiftly she
approached, panic in her wild flight, in the beautiful features now
close enough for distinct view. She was sobbing as she ran. The man
stepped out to her. She stopped, stood for a second regarding him with
a look of inexpressible reproach, and then, averting her head, thrust
into his eager grasp the sacred jewel. He slipped it into his pocket
and caught her in his arms. She gazed at him in yearning doubt, her
head drawn back, her soul seeming to question him through her eyes,
and then suddenly she flung herself toward him, her bare arms round
his neck, her mouth on his, kissing him in a passionate paroxysm of
caresses. Desperately she yielded herself to him, frenziedly claiming
the reward for her crime--his love. I saw the tears rolling down her
cheeks as she kissed him eagerly again and again, all else forgotten
but absorption in his presence. In a thrill of apprehension, I
remembered the priest. Surely the alarm was given--a horde of fanatics
searching for her while she lingered so recklessly! Despite the utter
silence in which all this passed, I almost fancied I could hear the
sonorous booming of a gong.

“My apprehension quickened to a stab of acute alarm. There, slinking
toward them in the shadows, as stealthily as a cat, came a crouching
figure, nearer and nearer from behind. The steel blade he clutched
flashed in the moonlight. His face looked up, illumined in the soft
radiance which suffused the garden. I recognized it--the priest who
had slumbered at his post!--and then, with a curious little internal
shock, but vaguely, as if these later incidents belonged to another
existence, the full recognition dawned upon me--the wretched native who
had loitered about the deserted pagoda of Cho-lon, the conjurer of the
café, the conjurer who--ages since--had filled the saloon of the _Mary
Gleeson_ with smoke and incense from the red fire of a bronze bowl!
His ugly face contorted with vindictive cunning, he crept now upon the
oblivious lovers locked in their passionate embrace. I saw him gather
himself for the spring, the long, murderous knife openly in his hand.
In a spasm of horror all of me tried frantically to shriek a warning,
but I could not utter a sound. I seemed to be only a watching brain,
divorced from all the other organs of the body. He leaped.

“There was a glimmer of cold light as the knife descended. I waited,
my heart stopping, in doubt as to the victim. The uncertainty lasted
but an instant. The girl, struck in the back, turned her face up to
the sky and crumpled to her knees like a marionette whose string is
cut. For one long moment the grinning evil face of the priest, tugging
to release his knife, and the horrified eyes of the white man looked
into each other in a silence which was appalling in its complete
soundlessness. Then the white man struck savagely downward upon the
shaven head--and sprang away into the darkness.

“Again I heard a gasp, a choked-back cry, from the obscurity at the
side of me. But now it seemed to be startlingly nearer and, as my
bewildered faculties tried to apprehend it, to identify the source
which I knew vaguely must be familiar to me and yet could not bring to
consciousness, my attention wandered for a moment. When I looked again
the vision had disappeared. There was no longer garden or temple.
There was only redly illumined smoke rolling upward from a dull red
glow and an atmosphere of sweet sickly fumes that held my body in a
drugged paralysis.

“Still I gazed, fascinated. Those thick, wreathing masses of smoke
were shaping themselves--shaping themselves into something--something
columnar. I watched like one in a dream, and as I watched a part of
me attained to consciousness of Captain Strong sitting in frozen
immobility by the side of me. The wreathing smoke coalesced, formed
itself into something whose outlines were not yet clear. A brighter,
yellower light emanated from below it, lit it up. A body--a vague
female body--collected itself, and then a girl’s head, strangely
beautiful for all its almond eyes and scanty brows, smiled upon us,
suddenly vivid and real. I recognized it with a shock--the girl of the
garden! She and her body were now one complete living organism that
moved sinuously from the hips. I held my breath in awe. Whereas the
visions I had been watching were like pictures at a distance, this was
an actual living woman a few feet from us. The smoke disappeared. I was
staring at a beautiful native woman, as real as you or I, mysteriously
illumined in yellow light against a background of obscurity, who stood
where the fumes had writhed upward from the bowl.

“Conscious as I now was of Captain Strong’s close neighbourhood, I
craved to turn to him for astonished comment. But still my body was
deprived of function; I could not move a muscle. He made neither move
nor sound. Then I almost forgot him in the fascinated interest which
this apparition compelled.

“Swaying slightly, with a free, graceful motion of the hips, she
moved from her place. Her mouth parted in a pathetic little smile of
melancholy, her dark eyes gazing not at me but at something at my side,
in soulful yearning appeal, she glided toward us through a hushed
silence where I could hear my own heart beat. Slowly she detached
her arms from the simple robe which swathed her, stretched them out
imploringly, with a wistful smile that seemed to beseech a difficult
confidence, to the companion at my side, to Captain Strong. Once more I
heard the gasp of his laboured breathing.

“She approached, and it seemed to me that she and I and the panting
figure at my side whom I could not turn my head to see were the
only things existing in a world that was otherwise dark. She was
illumined from head to foot, clearly and definitely detached from her
surroundings. I marked the soft, lithe roundness of her form. Did she
speak? Her lips moved, but I heard nothing, although it seemed to me
that a gently uttered name echoed far away in illimitable space, echoed
endlessly as though ringing through the vast, incommensurable soul of
things past, present, and to be.

“A name was breathed distinctly, as in awed answer, from the obscurity
at my side. _Héa-Nan!--Héa-Nan!_ The wistful smile on the beautiful
face sweetened as in grateful recognition. The eyes softened in a
tender fondness that had nevertheless a strange, remote dignity. Not
now did she give herself up to the passionate abandonment of that
moonlit garden. Love still yearned from her, but it was the eternal
love of the soul that looks to the unimaginable realities beyond the
body.

“Slowly, slowly, she approached until it seemed that the hands of
her outstretched arms would brush my sleeve as they reached toward
the man I felt recoil back into the darkness at my side. I looked up
into the face of a living, breathing woman--saw the faint flush upon
her Asiatic complexion--saw the dark eyes glowing, swimming in a bath
of tears. Once more the lips moved silently--once more the answering
name--_Héa-Nan!_--came in an emotionally exhaled whisper from the man
who could draw back no farther.

“She smiled, a smile of radiant forgiveness, of understanding and--so
it seemed--of pity, and then I saw her arms make a quick movement. From
the shadow at my side she plucked something, held it aloft. The sacred
jewel of the Buddha blazed in the mouth of the reddish-gold snake that
seemed to curl alive about her arm. For one long moment, I looked up at
her, her face glowing strangely in the glory of the recovered jewel,
yet still a living, human woman with lips that parted as I watched--and
then I found myself staring into a smother of smoke from which issued a
ghastly mocking laughter.

“The red glow near the floor expired in one last flicker. There was a
stab of flame, the simultaneous deafeningly violent detonation of a
revolver fired close to my ear, a savage cry of furious menace, another
gloating chuckle of laughter--and then darkness and silence.

“Brought suddenly to myself, I struggled to my feet in the choking
fumes, and groped feverishly for the switch of the electric light. I
found it and the lamp sprang into dull illumination of the smoke-filled
cabin. The door was open. The conjurer had disappeared--I heard a
splash in the river under the open ports and was left in no doubt that
he was beyond our reach. Then, in sudden alarm at his silence, I turned
to look for Captain Strong.

“He was stretched back unconscious upon the settee where we had sat
together, his hand grasping the revolver which he had vainly fired with
his last strength. He looked livid, pale as death, and for a moment I
thought the native had murdered him. But I could find no mark on him,
and presently he opened his eyes, began to murmur delirious phrases. I
saw at a glance that he was very ill, with the illness that frightens
you when you see it in a place like Saigon. With some difficulty, for
he was a heavy man, I lifted him to his bunk and put him to bed. As I
loosened the shirt from about his throat, I noticed, with a thrill of
the uncanny which made me shudder, that round his neck was a circling
line of blanched skin, and on his chest a similar, broader patch. But
the amulet, whose long wearing had evidently caused these marks, had
disappeared completely.

“Half an hour later I was being rowed in all haste to the black
Messageries Maritimes boat and claiming the services of her doctor.

“It was hopeless from the first, and we both knew it. Captain Strong
died before morning, raving native words in his delirium, and calling
incessantly a native name--_Héa-Nan! Héa-Nan!_

“At dawn I looked up to see the yellow jack fluttering from the
masthead precisely as, not twelve hours before, I had seen the vision
of it from the quay.”

Captain Williamson stopped, glanced at his burnt-out cheroot, threw it
away, and selected another one carefully from his case.

“Well, Professor, what do you make of that?” he asked, as he struck a
match.

The professor assumed an air of wisdom superior to any mystery.

“Of course,” he said, “there is no doubt what happened. Captain Strong
was probably infected with yellow fever coming up the river. Years
before, he had instigated a native girl to rob that Buddhist temple on
his behalf, and finding himself back at the place he was impelled--it
is a common psychological phenomenon in criminals--to revisit the
scene of his crime. The ex-priest saw him and recognized him, and,
wishing to make quite sure whether he still possessed the sacred jewel,
he hypnotized him by chaining his conscious attention on his little
conjuring trick at the café, and then suggested to him the vision of
the jewel by outlining it with his subject’s finger on the table.
Captain Strong’s exclamation and his gesture would be sufficient that
he still wore it.

“As for the scene in the saloon, it was hypnotism on a large scale,
induced by the use of the drugs with which the atmosphere was filled.
Captain Strong’s subconscious mind came to the top and lived once again
through the episodes of the robbery and the death of his agent, seeing
them, as is the habit of the subjective mind when released from the
control of the objective surface consciousness, like actual present
facts. The hallucination of the girl as a living presence in the cabin
is, of course, explained by the silent suggestion of the priest acting
on the already highly excited subconsciousness of the guilty man. Just
as I can make a hypnotic patient believe that you are someone else and
see you as someone else, so the conjurer himself, under cover of the
vision he had suggested, approached the wearer of the sacred jewel and
snatched it from his neck. The emotional crisis undergone by Captain
Strong would, of course, hasten the onset of the yellow fever already
in his body.”

“H’m,” objected Captain Williamson, “but that doesn’t explain why I
should share these visions.”

The professor was nothing daunted.

“Of course,” he said, “you were in close propinquity to Captain Strong
and were doubtless what is known as _en rapport_ with him. The vision
of the yellow flag--the not uncommon hallucination of a death-symbol
produced by the subconsciousness of a doomed person--was communicated
to you when the captain gripped your shoulder----”

“Have a whisky-and-soda, Professor,” interrupted the planter, coarsely,
“and don’t spoil a good story.”



+-------------------------------------------------+
|Transcriber’s note:                              |
|                                                 |
|Obvious typographic errors have been corrected.  |
|                                                 |
+-------------------------------------------------+





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