The House of Mystery
William Henry Irwin
Part 1 out of 3
Produced by Kevin O'Hare, Beth Trapaga and the Online Distributed
[Illustration: ROSALIE LE GRANGE]
THE HOUSE OF MYSTERY
AN EPISODE IN THE CAREER OF ROSALIE LE GRANGE, CLAIRVOYANT
By WILL IRWIN
Illustrated by Frederick C. Yohn
I. The Unknown Girl
II. Mr. Norcross Wastes Time
III. The Light
IV. His First Call
V. The Light Wavers
VI. Enter Rosalie Le Grange
VII. Rosalie's First Report
VIII. The Fish Nibbles
XI. Rosalie's Second Report
X. The Streams Converge
XI. Through the Wall-Paper
XII. Annette Lies
XIII. Annette Tells the Truth
XIV. Mainly from the Papers
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Rosalie le Grange
"It wasn't the money; it was the game--"
He had taken an impression of mental power as startling as a sudden
blow in the face
"Then it's as good as done"
Norcross's breath came a little faster
"I was looking straight down on the back parlors"
"Stay where you are," he commanded
THE HOUSE OF MYSTERY
THE UNKNOWN GIRL
In a Boston and Albany parlor-car, east bound through the Berkshires,
sat a young man respectfully, but intently studying a young woman. Now
and then, from the newspapers heaped in mannish confusion about his
chair, he selected another sheet. Always, he took advantage of this
opportunity to face the chair across the aisle and to sweep a glance
over a piquant little profile, intent on a sober-looking book. Again,
he would gaze out of the window; and he gazed oftenest when a freight
train hid the beauties of outside nature. The dun sides of freight cars
make out of a window a passable mirror. Twice, in those dim and
confused glimpses, he caught just a flicker of her eye across her book,
as though, she, on her part, were studying him.
It was her back hair which had first entangled Dr. Blake's thoughts; it
was the graceful nape of her neck which had served to hold them fast.
When the hair and the neck below dawned on him, he identified her as
that blonde girl whom he had noted at the train gate, waving farewell
to some receding friend--and noted with approval. As a traveler on many
seas and much land, he knew the lonely longing to address the woman in
the next seat. He knew also, as all seasoned travelers in America know,
that such desire is sometimes gratified, and without any surrender of
decency, in the frank and easy West--but never east of Chicago. This
girl, however, exercised somehow, a special pull upon his attention and
his imagination. And he found himself playing a game by which he had
mitigated many a journey of old. He divided his personality into two
parts--man and physician--and tried, by each separate power, to find as
much as he could from surface indications about this travel-mate of
Mr. Walter Huntington Blake perceived, besides the hair like dripping
honey, deep blue eyes--the blue not of a turquoise but of a
sapphire--and an oval face a little too narrow in the jaw, so that the
chin pointed a delicate Gothic arch. He noted a good forehead, which
inclined him to the belief that she "did" something--some subtle
addition which he could not formulate confirmed that observation. He
saw that her hands were long and tipped with nails no larger than a
grain of maize, that when they rested for a moment on her face, in the
shifting attitudes of her reading, they fell as gently as flower-stalks
swaying together in a breeze. He saw that her shoulders had a slight
slope, which combined with hands and eyes to express a being all
feminine--the kind made for a lodestone to a man who has known the hard
spots of the world, like Mr. Walter Huntington Blake.
"A pippin!" pronounced Mr. Blake, the man.
Dr. Blake, the physician, on the other hand, caught a certain languor
in her movements, a physical tenuity which, in a patient, he would have
considered diagnostic. So transparent was her skin that when her
profile dipped forward across a bar of sunshine the light shone through
the bridge of her nose--a little observation charming to Blake, the
man, but a guide to Blake, the physician. She had the look, Dr. Blake
told himself, which old-fashioned country nurses of the herb-doctor
school refer to as "called." He knew that, in about one case out of
three, that look does in fact amount to a real "call"--the outward
expression of an obscure disease.
"Her heart?" queried Blake, the physician. The transparent, porcelain
quality of her skin would indicate that. But he found, as he watched,
no nervous twitching, no look as of an incipient sack under her eyes;
nor did the transparent quality seem waxy. There was, too, a certain
pinkness in the porcelain which showed that her blood ran red and pure.
Then Mr. Blake and Dr. Blake re-fused into one psychology and decided
that her appearance of delicacy was subtly psychological. It haunted
him with an irritating effect of familiarity--as of a symptom which he
ought to recognize. In all ways was it intertwined with the expression
of her mouth. She had never smiled enough; therein lay all the trouble.
She presented a very pretty problem to his imagination. Here she was,
still so very young that little was written on her face, yet the
little, something unusual, baffling. The mouth, too tightly set, too
drooping--that expressed it all. To educate such a one in the ways of
When the porter's "last call for luncheon" brought that flutter of
satisfaction by which a bored parlor-car welcomes even such a trivial
diversion as food, Dr. Blake waited a fair interval for her toilet
preparations, and followed toward the dining-car. He smiled a little at
himself as he realized that he was craftily scheming to find a seat, if
not opposite her, at least within seeing distance. On a long and lonely
day-journey, he told himself, travelers are like invalids--the smallest
incident rolls up into a mountain of adventure. Here he was, playing
for sight of an interesting girl, as another traveler timed the
train-speed by the mile-posts, or counted the telegraph poles along the
So he came out suddenly into the Pullman car ahead--and almost stumbled
over the nucleus of his meditations. She was half-kneeling beside a
seat, clasping in her arms the figure of a little, old woman. He
hesitated, stock still. The blonde girl shifted her position as though
to take better hold of her burden, and glanced backward with a look of
appeal. The doctor came forward on that; and his sight caught the face
of the old woman. Her eyes were closed, her head had dropped to one
side and lay supine upon the girl's shoulder. It appeared to be a plain
case of faint.
"I am a physician," he said simply, "Get the porter, will you?" Without
an instant's question or hesitation, the girl permitted him to relieve
her, and turned to the front of the car. Other women and one fussy,
noisy man were coming up now. Dr. Blake waved them aside. "We need air
most of all--open that window, will you?" The girl was back with the
porter. "Is the compartment occupied? Then open it. We must put her on
her back." The porter fumbled for his keys. Dr. Blake gathered up the
little old woman in his arms, and spoke over his shoulder to the blonde
"You will come with us?" She nodded. Somehow, he felt that he would
have picked her from the whole car to assist in this emergency. She was
like one of those born trained nurses who ask no questions, need no
special directions, and are as reliable as one's instruments.
The old woman was stirring by the time he laid her out on the sofa of
the compartment. He wet a towel in the pitcher at the washstand, wrung
it out, pressed it on her forehead. It needed no more than that to
bring her round.
"Only a faint," said Dr. Blake; "the day's hot and she's not accustomed
to train travel, I suppose. Is she--does she belong to your party?"
The girl spoke for the first time in his hearing. Even before he seized
the meaning of her speech, he noted with a thrill the manner of it.
Such a physique as this should go with the high, silvery tone of a
flute; so one always imagines it. This girl spoke in the voice of a
violin--soft, deep, deliciously resonant. In his mind flashed a picture
for which he was a long time accounting--last winter's ballet of the
New York Hippodrome. Afterward, he found the key to that train of
thought. It, had been a ballet of light, shimmering colors, until
suddenly a troop of birds in royal purple had slashed their way down
the center of the stage. They brought the same glorified thrill of
contrast as this soft but strong contralto voice proceeding from that
"Oh, no!" she said, "I never saw her before. She was swaying as I came
down the aisle, and I caught her. She's--she's awake." The old woman
had stirred again.
"Get my bag from seat 12, parlor-car," said Dr. Blake to the porter.
"Tell them outside that it is a simple fainting-spell and we shall need
no assistance." Now his charity patient had recovered voice; she was
moaning and whimpering. The girl, obeying again Dr. Blake's unspoken
thought, took a quick step toward the door. He understood without
further word from her.
"All right," he said; "she may want to discuss symptoms. You're on the
way to the dining-car aren't you? I'll be along in five minutes, and
I'll let you know how she is. Tell them outside that it is nothing
serious and have the porter stand by--please." That last word of
politeness came out on an afterthought--he had been addressing her in
the capacity of a trained nurse. He recognized this with confusion, and
he apologized by a smile which illuminated his rather heavy, dark face.
She answered with the ghost of a smile--it moved her eyes rather than
her mouth--and the door closed.
After five minutes of perfunctory examination and courteous attention
to symptoms, he tore himself away from his patient upon the pretext
that she needed quiet. He wasted three more golden minutes in assuring
his fellow passengers that it was nothing. He escaped to the dining
car, to find that the delay had favored him. Her honey-colored back
hair gleamed from one of the narrow tables to left of the aisle. The
unconsidered man opposite her had just laid a bill on the waiter's
check, and dipped his hands in the fingerbowl. Dr. Blake invented a
short colloquy with the conductor and slipped up just as the waiter
returned with the change. He bent over the girl.
"I have to report," said he, "that the patient is doing nicely; doctor
and nurse are both discharged!"
She returned a grave smile and answered conventionally, "I am very
At that precise moment, the man across the table, as though recognizing
friendship or familiarity between these two, pocketed his change and
rose. Feeling that he was doing the thing awkwardly, that he would give
a year for a light word to cover up his boldness, Dr. Blake took the
seat. He looked slowly up as he settled himself, and he could feel the
heat of a blush on his temples. He perceived--and for a moment it did
not reassure him--that she on her part neither blushed nor bristled.
Her skin kept its transparent whiteness, and her eyes looked into his
with intent gravity. Indeed, he felt through her whole attitude the
perfect frankness of good breeding--a frankness which discouraged
familiarity while accepting with human simplicity an accidental contact
of the highway. She was the better gentleman of the two. His renewed
confusion set him to talking fast.
"If it weren't that you failed to come in with any superfluous advice,
I should say that you had been a nurse--you seem to have the instinct.
You take hold, somehow, and make no fuss."
"Why should I?" she asked, "with a doctor at hand? I was thinking all
the time how you lean on a doctor. I should never have known what to
do. How is she? What was the matter?"
"She's resting. It isn't every elderly lady who can get a compartment
from the Pullman Company for the price of a seat. She was put on at
Albany by one set of grandchildren and she's to be taken off at
Boston by another set. And she's old and her heart's a little
sluggish--self-sacrifice goes downward not upward, through the
generations, I observe--though I'm a young physician at that!"
Her next words, simply spoken as they were, threw him again into
"I don't know your name, I think--mine is Annette Markham."
Dr. Blake drew out a card.
"Dr. W.H. Blake, sometime contract surgeon to the Philippine Army of
Occupation," he supplemented, "now looking for a practice in these
"The Philippines--oh, you've been in the East? When we were in the
Orient, I used to hear of them ever so dimly--I didn't think we'd all
be talking of them so soon--"
"Oh, you've been in the Orient--do you know the China Coast--and Nikko
"No, only India."
"I've never been there--and I've heard it's the kernel of the East," he
said with his lips. But his mind was puzzling something out and finding
a solution. The accent of that deep, resonant voice was neither Eastern
nor Western, Yankee nor Southern--nor yet quite British. It was rather
cosmopolitan--he had dimly placed her as a Californienne. Perhaps this
fragment explained it. She must be a daughter of the English official
class, reared in America. The theory would explain her complexion and
her simple, natural balance between frankness and reserve. He formed
that conclusion, but, "How do you like America after India?" was all he
"How do you like it after the Philippines?" she responded.
"That is a Yankee trick--answering one question with another," he said,
still following his line of conjecture; "it was invented by the
original Yankee philosopher, a person named Socrates. I like it after
everything--I'm an American. I'm one of those rare birds in the Eastern
United States, a native of New York City."
"Well, then,"--her manner had, for the first time, the brightness which
goes with youth, plus the romantic adventure--"I like it not only after
anything but before anything--I'm an American, too."
A sense of irritation rose in him. He had let conjecture grow to
conclusion in the most reckless fashion. And why should he care so much
that he had risked offending a mere passing acquaintance of the road?
"Somehow, I had taken it for granted--your reference to India I
suppose--that you were English."
"Oh, no! Though an English governess made me fond of the English. I'm
another of the rare birds. I was hardly out of New York in my life
until five years ago, when my aunt took me for a stay of two years in
the Orient--in India at least. I've been very happy to be back."
The current of talk drifted then from the coast of confidences to the
open sea of general conversation. He pulled himself up once or twice by
the reflection that he was talking too much about himself. Once--and he
remembered it with blushes afterward--he went so far as to say, "I
didn't really need to be a doctor, any more than I needed to go to the
Philippines--the family income takes care of that. But a man should do
something." Nevertheless, she seemed disposed to encourage him in this
course, seemed most to encourage him when he told his stories about the
Philippine Army of Occupation.
"Oh, tell me another!" she would cry. And once she said, "If there were
a piano here, I venture you'd sing Mandelay." "That would I," he
answered with a half sigh. And at last, when he was running down, she
said, "Oh, please don't stop! It makes me crazy for the Orient!" "And
me!" he confessed. Before luncheon was over, he had dragged out the two
or three best stories in his wanderer's pack, and especially that one,
which he saved for late firesides and the high moments of anecdotal
exchange, about the charge at Caloocon. She drank down these tales of
hike and jungle and firing-line like a seminary girl listening to her
first grownup caller. For his part, youth and the need of male youth to
spread its bright feathers before the female of its species, drove him
on to more tales. He contrived his luncheon so that they finished and
paid simultaneously--and in the middle of his story about Sergeant
Jones, the dynamite and the pack mule. So, when they returned to the
parlor-car, nothing was more simple, natural and necessary than that he
should drop into the vacant chair beside her, and continue where he
left off. He felt, when he had finished, the polite necessity of
leading the talk back to her; besides, he had not finished his Study of
the Unknown Girl. He returned, then, to the last thread which she had
"So you too are glad to be at home!" he said. "I'm so glad that I don't
want to lose sight either of a skyscraper or of apple trees for years
and years. I can't remember when I've ever wanted to stay in one place
She laughed--the first full laugh he had heard from her. It was low and
deep and bubbling, like water flowing from a long-necked bottle.
"Just a moment ago, we were confessing that we were crazy for the
"I'm glad to be caught in an inconsistency!" he answered. "I've been
afraid, though, that this desire to roost in one place was a sign of
incipient old age."
She looked at him directly, and for a moment her fearless glance played
over him, as in alarm.
"Oh, I shouldn't be afraid of _that_," she said. "I don't know your
age, of course, but if it will reassure you any, I'd put it at
twenty-eight. And that, according to Peter Ibbertson, is quite the
nicest age." Her face, with its unyouthful capacity for sudden
seriousness, grew grave. Her deep blue eyes gazed past him out of the
"I'm only twenty-four, but I know what it is to think that middle age
is near--to dread it--especially when I half suspect I haven't spent
the interest on my youth." She stopped.
Dr. Blake held his very breath. His instincts warned him that she
faltered at one of those instincts when confidence lies close to the
lips. But she did not give it. Instead, she caught herself up with a
perfunctory, "I suppose everyone feels that way at times."
Although he wanted that confidence, he was clever enough not to reach
for it at this point. Instead, he took a wide detour, and returned
slowly, backing and filling to the point. But every time that he
approached a closer intimacy, she veered away with an adroitness which
was consummate art or consummate innocence. His first impression
grew--that she "did" something. She had mentioned "Peter Ibbertson." He
spoke, then, of books. She had read much, especially fiction; but she
treated books as one who does not write. He talked art. Though she
spoke with originality and understanding in response to his second-hand
studio chatter, he could see that she neither painted nor associated
much with those who did. Besides, her hands had none of the
craftswoman's muscle. Of music--beyond ragtime--she knew as little as
he. He invaded business--her ignorance was abysmal. The stage--she
could count on her fingers the late plays which she had seen.
When the trail had grown almost cold, there happened a little incident
which put him on the scent again. He had thought suddenly of his
patient in the compartment and made a visit, only to find her asleep.
Upon his return he said:
"You behaved like a soldier and a nurse toward her--a girl with such a
distinct _flair_ for the game must have had longings to take up
nursing--or perhaps you never read 'Sister Dora'?"
"I did read 'Sister Dora,'" she answered, "and I was crazy about it."
"Most girls are--hence the high death rate in hospitals," he
"But I gave that up--and a lot of other desires which all girls
have--for something else. I had to." Her sapphirine eyes searched the
Berkshire hills again, "Something bigger and nobler--something which
meant the entire sacrifice of self."
And here the brakeman called "Next station is Berkeley Center." Dr.
Blake came to the sudden realization that they had reached his
destination. She started, too.
"Why, I get off here!" she exclaimed.
"And so do I!" He almost laughed it out.
"That's a coincidence."
Dr. Blake refrained from calling her attention to the general flutter
of the parlor-car and the industry of two porters. This being the
high-tide time of the summer migration, and Berkeley Center being the
popular resort on that line, nearly everyone was getting off. However
as he delivered himself over to the porter, he nodded:
"The climax of a series!"
As they waited, bags in hand, "I am on my way to substitute for a month
at the Hill Sanatorium," he said. "The assistant physician is going on
a vacation--I suppose the ambulance will be waiting."
"And I am going to the Mountain House--it's a little place and more the
house of friends than an inn. If your work permits--"
He interrupted with a boyish laugh.
"Oh, it will!" But he said good-bye at the vestibule with a vague idea
that she might have trouble explaining him to any very particular
friends. He saw her mount an old-fashioned carry-all, saw her turn to
wave a farewell. The carry-all disappeared. He started toward the Hill
ambulance, but he was still thinking, "Now what is the thing which a
girl like _that_ would consider more self-sacrificing than nursing?"
MR. NORCROSS WASTES TIME
Robert H. Norcross looked up from a sheet of figures, and turned his
vision upon the serrated spire of old Trinity Church, far below. Since
his eyes began to fail, he had cultivated the salutary habit of resting
them every half-hour or so. The action was merely mechanical; his mind
still lingered on the gross earnings of the reorganized L.D. and M.
railroad. It was a sultry afternoon in early fall. The roar of lower
New York came up to him muffled by the haze. The traffic seemed to move
more slowly than usual, as though that haze clogged its wheels and
congealed its oils. The very tugs and barges, on the river beyond,
partook of the season's languor. They crept over the oily waves at a
sluggard pace, their smoke-streamers dropping wearily toward the water.
The eyes of Robert H. Norcross swept this vista for the allotted two
minutes of rest. Presently--and with the very slightest change of
expression--they fixed themselves on a point so far below that he needs
must lean forward and rest his arms on the window sill in order to
look. He wasted thus a minute; and such a wasting, in the case of
Robert H. Norcross, was a considerable matter. The Sunday
newspapers--when in doubt--always played the income of Robert H.
Norcross by periods of months, weeks, days, hours and minutes. Every
minute of his time, their reliable statisticians computed, was worth a
trifle less than forty-seven dollars. Regardless of the waste of time,
he continued to gaze until the watch on his desk had ticked off five
minutes, or two hundred and thirty-five dollars.
The thing which had caught and held his attention was a point in the
churchyard of old Trinity near to the south door.
The Street had been remarking, for a year, that Norcross was growing
old. The change did not show in his operations. His grip on the market
was as firm as ever, his judgment as sure, his imagination as daring,
his habit of keeping his own counsel as settled. Within that year, he
had consummated the series of operations by which the L.D. and M.,
final independent road needed by his system, had "come in"; within that
year, he had closed the last finger of his grip on a whole principality
of our domain. Every laborer in that area would thenceforth do a part
of his day's delving, every merchant a part of his day's bargaining,
for Robert H. Norcross. Thenceforth--until some other robber baron
should wrest it from his hands--Norcross would make laws and unmake
legislatures, dictate judgments and overrule appointments--give the
high justice while courts and assemblies trifled with the middle and
the low. Certainly the history of that year in American finance
indicated no flagging in the powers of Robert H. Norcross.
The change which the Street had marked lay in his face--it had taken on
the subtle imprint of a first frosty day. He had never looked the power
that he was. Short and slight of build, his head was rather small even
for his size, and his features were insignificant--all except the
mouth, whose wide firmness he covered by a drooping mustache, and the
eyes, which betrayed always an inner fire. The trained observer of
faces noticed this, however; every curve of his facial muscles, every
plane of the inner bone-structure, was set by nature definitely and
properly in its place to make a powerful and perfectly cooerdinated
whole. In this facial manifestation of mental powers, he was like one
of those little athletes who, carrying nothing superfluous, show the
power, force and endurance which is in them by no masses of overlying
muscles, but only by a masterful symmetry.
Now, in a year, the change had come over his face--the jump as abrupt
as that by which a young girl grows up--the transition from middle age
to old age. It was not so much that his full, iron-gray hair and
mustache had bleached and silvered. It was more that the cheeks were
falling from middle-aged masses to old-age creases, more that the skin
was drawing up, most that the inner energy which had vitalized his walk
and gestures was his no longer.
In the mind, too--though no one perceived that, he least of all--had
come a change. Here and there, a cell had disintegrated and collapsed.
They were not the cells which vitalized his business sense. They lay
deeper down; it was as though their very disuse for thirty years had
weakened them. In such a cell his consciousness dwelt while he gazed on
Trinity Churchyard, and especially upon that modest shaft of granite,
three graves from the south entrance. And the watch on his desk clicked
off the valuable seconds, and the electric clock on the wall jumped to
mark the passing minutes. "Click-click" from the desk--seventy-eight
cents--"Click-click"--one dollar and fifty-seven cents--"Clack" from
the wall--forty-seven dollars.
Presently, when watch and clock had chronicled four hundred and seventy
dollars of wasted time, he leaned back, looked for a moment on the
brazen September heavens above, and sighed. He might then have turned
back to his desk and the table of gross earnings, but for his
"Mr. Bulger outside, sir," said the secretary.
"All right!" responded Mr. Norcross. In him, those two words spoke
enthusiasm; usually, a gesture or a nod was enough to bar or admit a
visitor to the royal presence. Hard behind the secretary, entered with
a bound and a breeze, Mr. Arthur Bulger. He was a tall man about
forty-five if you studied him carefully, no more than thirty-five if
you studied him casually. Not only his strong shoulders, his firm set
on his feet, his well-conditioned skin, showed the ex-athlete who has
kept up his athletics into middle age, but also that very breeze and
bound of a man whose blood runs quick and orderly through its channels.
His face, a little pudgy, took illumination from a pair of lively eyes.
He was the jester in the court of King Norcross; one of the half-dozen
men whom the bachelor lord of railroads admitted to intimacy. A
measured intimacy it was; and it never trenched on business. Bulger,
like all the rest, owed half of his position to the fact that he never
asked by so much as a hint for tips, never seemed curious about the
operations of Norcross. There was the time on Wall Street when
Norcross, by a lift of his finger, a deflection of his eye, might have
put his cousin and only known relative on the right side of the market.
He withheld the sign, and his cousin lost. The survivors in Norcross's
circle of friends understood this perfectly; it was why they survived.
If they got any financial advantage from the friendship, it was through
the advertising it gave. For example, Bulger, a broker of only moderate
importance, owed something to the general understanding that he was
"thick with the Old Man."
Norcross looked up; his mustache lifted a little, and his eyes lit.
"Drink?" he said. His allowance was two drinks a day; one just before
he left the office, the other before dinner.
"Much obliged," responded Bulger, "but you know where I was last night.
If I took a drink now, I would emit a pale, blue flame."
Norcross laughed a purring laugh, and touched a bell. The secretary
stood in the door; Norcross indicated, by an out-turned hand, the top
of his desk. The secretary had hardly disappeared before the office-boy
entered with a tray and glasses. Simultaneously a clerk, entering from
another door as though by accident, swept up the balance sheets of the
L.D. and M. and bore them away. Bulger's glance followed the papers
hungrily for a second; then turned back on Norcross, carefully mixing a
As Norcross finished with the siphon, his eyes wandered downward again.
"Ever been about much down there?" he asked suddenly. Bulger crossed
the room and looked down over his shoulder.
"Where?" he asked, "The Street or--"
"Once I sang my little love lays there in the noon hour," answered
Bulger. "I was a gallant clerk and hers the fairest fingers that ever
caressed a typewriter--" The intent attitude of Norcross, the fact that
he neither turned nor smiled, checked Bulger. With the instinct of the
courtier, he perceived that the wind lay in another tack. He racked the
unused half of his mind for appropriate sentiments.
"Bully old graveyard," he brought out; "lot's of good people buried
"Know any of the graves?"
"Only Alexander Hamilton's. Everyone knows that."
"That one--see--that marble shaft--not one of the old ones."
"If you're curious to know," answered Bulger easily, "I'll find out on
my way down to-morrow. I suppose if you were to go and look, and the
reporters were to see you meditating among the tombs, we'd have a scare
head to-morrow and a drop of ten points in the market." Bulger's shift
to a slight levity was premeditated; he was taking guard against
overplaying his part.
"No, never mind," said Norcross, "it just recalls something." He paused
the fraction of a second, and his eye grew dull. "Wonder if
they're--anywhere--those people down under the tombstones?"
"I suppose we all believe in immortality."
"Seeing and hearing is believing. I believe what I see. Born that way."
Norcross was speaking with a slight, agitated jerk in his voice. He
rose now, and paced the floor, throwing out his feet in quick thrusts.
"I'm getting along, Bulger, and I'd like to know." More pacing. Coming
to the end of his route, he peered shrewdly into the face of the
younger man. "Have you read the Psychical Society's report on Mrs.
Bulger's mind said, "Good God no!" His lips said, "Only some newspaper
stuff about them. Seemed rather remarkable if true. Something in that
stuff, I suppose."
"I've read them," resumed Norcross. "Got the full set. We ought to
inform ourselves on such things, Bulger. Especially when we get older.
That gravestone now. There's one like it--that I know about." Norcross,
with another jerky motion, which seemed to propel him against his will,
crossed to his desk and touched a bell, bringing his secretary
"Left hand side of the vault, box marked 'Private 3,'" he said. Then he
"If they could come back they would come, Bulger. Especially those we
loved. Not to let us see them, you understand, but to assure us it is
all right--that we'll live again. That's what I want--proof--I can't
take it on faith." His voice lowered. "Thirty years!" he whispered.
"What's thirty years?"
The secretary knocked, entered, set a small, steel box on the glass top
of the desk. Norcross dismissed him with a gesture, drew out his keys,
opened the box. It distilled a faint scent of old roses and old papers.
Norcross looked within for a moment, as though turning the scent into
memories, before he took out a locket. He opened it, hesitated, and
then extended it to Bulger. It enclosed an exquisite miniature--a young
woman, blonde, pretty in a blue-eyed, innocent way, but characterless,
too--a face upon which life had left nothing, so that even the great
painter who made the miniature from a photograph had illuminated it
only with technical skill.
"Don't tell me what you think of her," Norcross said quietly; "I prefer
to keep my own ideas. It was when I was a young freight clerk. She
taught school up there. We were--well, the ring's in the box, too. They
took it off her finger when they buried her. That's why--" to put the
brake on his rapidly running sentiment, he ventured one of his rare
pleasantries at this point--"that's why I'm still a stock newspaper
feature as one of the great matches for ambitious society girls."
Bulger, listening, was observing also. Within the front cover of the
case were two sets of initials in old English letters--"R.H.N." and
"H.W." His mind, a little confused by its wanderings in strange fields,
tried idly to match "H.W." with names. Suddenly he felt the necessity
of expressing sympathy.
"Poor--" he began, but Norcross, by a swift outward gesture of the
hand, stopped and saved him.
[Illustration: "IT WASN'T THE MONEY; IT WAS THE GAME--"]
"Well, I got in after that," Norcross went on, "and I drove 'em! It
wasn't the money; it was the game. She'd have had the spending of
_that_. And it isn't just to see her--it's to know if she is still
waiting--and if we'll make up for thirty years--out there."
As Bulger handed back the locket, the secretary knocked again. Norcross
started; something seemed to snap into place; he was again the silent,
guarded baron of the railroads. He dropped the locket into the box,
closed it. "The automobile," said his secretary. Norcross nodded, and
indicated the box. The secretary bore it away.
"Come up to dinner Tuesday," said Norcross in his normal tone. But his
voice quavered a little for a moment as he added:
"You're good at forgetting?"
"Possessor of the best forgettery you ever saw," responded Bulger.
Forthwith, they turned to speech of the railroad rate bill.
* * * * *
When, after a mufti dinner at the club, Bulger reached his bachelor
apartments, he found a telegram. The envelope bore his office address;
by that sign he knew, even before he unfolded the yellow paper, that it
was the important telegram from his partner, the crucial telegram, for
which he had been waiting these two days. It must have come to the
office after he left. He got out the code book from his desk, laid it
open beside the sheet, and began to decipher, his face whitening as he
Reports of expert phony. Think Oppendike salted it on him. They
will finish this vein in a month. Then the show will bust.
Federated Copper Company will not bite and too late now to unload
on public. Something must be done. Can't you use your drag with
Bulger, twisting the piece of yellow paper, stared out into the street.
His "drag with Norcross!" What had that ever brought, what could it
ever bring, except advertising and vague standing? Yet Norcross by a
word, a wink, could give him information which, rightly used, would
cancel all the losses of this unfortunate plunge in the Mongolia Mine.
But Norcross would never give that word, that wink; and to fish for it
were folly. Norcross never broke the rules of the lone game which he
As Bulger stood there, immovable except for the nervous hands which
still twisted and worried the telegram, he saw a sign on the building
opposite. The first line, bearing the name, doubtless, was illegible;
the second, fully legible, lingered for a long time merely in his
perceptions before it reached and touched his consciousness.
"CLAIRVOYANT," it read.
He started, leaned on a table as though from weakness, and continued to
stare at the sign.
"Who is the cleverest fakir in that business?" he said at length to
And then, after a few intent minutes:
"When he was a freight clerk--thirty years ago--that was at Farnham
Mills--'H.W.'--granite shaft--sure it can be done!"
As Dr. Blake tucked his racket under his arm and came down to the net,
the breeze caught a corner of her veil and let the sunlight run clear
across her face. He realized, in that moment, how the burning interest
as a man, which he had developed in these three weeks for Annette
Markham, had quite submerged his interest as a physician. For health,
this was a different creature from the one whom he had studied in the
parlor-car. Her color ran high; the greatest alarmist in the profession
would have wasted no thought on her heart valves; the look as of one
"called" had passed. Though she still appeared a little grave, it was a
healthy, attractive gravity; and take it all in all she had smiled much
during three weeks of daily walks and rides and tennis. Indeed, now
that he remembered it, her tennis measured the gradual change. She
would never be good at tennis; she had no inner strength and no "game
sense." But at first she had played in a kind of stupor; again and
again she would stand at the backline in a brown study until the
passage of the ball woke her with an apologetic start. Now, she
frolicked through the game with all vigor, zest and attention, going
after every shot, smiling and sparkling over her good plays, prettily
put out at her bad ones.
While he helped her on with her sweater--lingering too long over that
little service of courtesy--he expressed this.
"Do you know that for physical condition you're no more the same girl
whom I first met than--than I am!"
She laughed a little at the comparison. "And you are no more the same
man whom I first met--than I am!"
He laughed too at this tribute to his summer coating of bronze over
red. "I feel pretty fit," he admitted.
"My summer always has that effect," she went on. "Do you know that for
all I've been so much out of the active world"--a shadow fell on her
eyes,--"I long for country and farms? How I wish I could live always
out-of-doors! The day might come--" the shadow lifted a little--"when
I'd retire to a farm for good."
"You've one of those constitutions which require air and light and
sunshine," he answered.
"You're quite right. I actually bleach in the shadow--like lettuce.
That's why Aunt Paula always sends me away for a month every now and
then to the quietest place proper for a well-brought-up young person."
His eyes shadowed as though they had caught that blasting shade in
hers. From gossip about the Mountain House, later from her own
admission, he knew who "Aunt Paula" was--"a spirit medium, or
something," said the gossip; "a great teacher of a new philosophy,"
said Annette Markham.
Dr. Blake, partly because adventure had kept him over-young, held still
his basic, youthful ideas about the proper environment for woman.
Whenever the name "Aunt Paula," softened with the accents of affection,
proceeded from that low, contralto voice, it hurt the new thing,
greater than any conventional idea, which was growing up in him. He
even suspected, at such times, what might be the "something nobler than
A big apple tree shaded the sidelines of the Mountain House tennis
court. A bench fringed its trunk. Annette threw herself down, back
against the bark. It was late afternoon. The other house-guests droned
over bridge on the piazzas or walked in the far woods; they were alone
out-of-doors. And Annette, always, until now, so chary of confidences,
developed the true patient's weakness and began to talk symptoms.
"It is curious the state I'm in before Aunt Paula sends me away," she
said; "I was a nervous child, and though I've outgrown it, I still have
attacks of nerve fag or something like it. I can feel them coming on
and so can she. You know we've been together so much that it's
like--like two bees in adjoining cells. The cell-wall has worn thin; we
can almost touch. She knows it often before I do. She makes me go to
bed early; often she puts me to sleep holding my hand, as she used to
do when I was a little girl. But even sleep doesn't much help. I come
out of it with a kind of fright and heaviness. I have little memories
of curious dreams and a queer sense, too, that I mustn't remember what
I've dreamed. I grow tired and heavy--I can always see it in my face.
Then Aunt Paula sends me away, and I become all right again--as I am
Blake did not express the impatient thought of his mind. He only said:
"A little sluggishness of the blood and a little congestion of the
brain. I had such sleep once after I'd done too much work and fought
too much heat in the Cavite Hospital. Only with me it took the form of
nightmare--mostly, I was in process of being boloed."
"Yes, perhaps it was that"--her eyes deepened to their most faraway
blue--"and perhaps it is something else. I think it may be. Aunt Paula
thinks so, too, though she never says it."
What was the something? Did she stand again on the edge of revelation?
Events had gone past the time when he could wait patiently for her
confidence, could approach it through tact. It was the moment not for
snipping but for bold charging. And his blood ran hot.
"This something--won't you tell me what it is? Why are you always so
mysterious with me? Why--when I want to know everything about you?"
After he had said this, he knew that there was no going backward.
Doubts, fears, terrors of conventionalities, awe of his conservative,
blood-proud mother in Paris--all flew to the winds.
Perhaps she caught something of this in his face, for she drew away a
trifle and said:
"I might have told you long ago, but I wasn't sure of your sympathy."
"I want you to be sure of my sympathy in all things."
"Ah, but your mind is between!" That phrase brought a shock to Dr.
Blake. At the only spiritualistic seance he had ever attended, a greasy
affair in a hall bedroom, he had heard that very phrase. A picture of
this woman, so clean and windblown of mind and soul, caught like a
trapped fly in the web of the unclean and corrupt--it was that which
quite whirled him off his feet.
"Between our hearts then, between our hearts!" he cried. "Oh, Annette,
I love you!" His voice came out of him low and distinct, but all the
power in the world vibrated behind it. "I have loved you always. You've
been with me everywhere I went, because I was looking for you. I've
seen a part of you in the best of every woman"--he pulled himself up,
for neither by look nor gesture did she respond--"I've no right to be
"If you have not," she answered, and a delicate blush ran over her
skin, "no other man has!" She said it simply, but with a curious kind
He would have taken her hand on this, but the grave, direct gaze of her
sapphirine eyes restrained him. It was not the look of a woman who
gives herself, but rather that of a woman who grieves for the
"Ah," she said, "if anyone's to blame, it is I. I've brought it on
myself! I've been weak--weak!"
"No," he said, "I brought it on--God brought it on--but what does that
"It's _here_. I can no more fight it than I can fight the sea."
Now her head dropped forward and her hands, with that gracefully
uncertain motion which was like flower-stalks swayed by a breeze, had
covered her face.
"I can't speak if I look at you," she said, "and I must before you go
further--I must tell you all about myself so that you will understand."
The confidence, long sought, was coming, he thought; and he thought
also how little he cared for it now that he was pursuing a greater
"You know so little about me that I must begin far back--you don't even
know about my aunt--"
"I know something--what you've said, what Mrs. Cole at the Mountain
House told me. She's Mrs. Paula Markham--" his mind went on, "the great
fakir of the spook doctors," but his lips stifled the phrase and said
after a pause, "the great medium."
"I don't like to hear her called that," said Annette. "In spite of what
I'm going to tell you, I never saw but once the thing they call a
medium. That was years ago--but the horrible sacrilege of it has never
left me. She had a part of truth, and she was desecrating it by guesses
and catch words--selling it for money! Aunt Paula is broader than I.
'It's part of the truth,' she said, 'that woman is desecrating the
work, but she's serving in her way.' I suppose so--but since then I've
never liked to hear Aunt Paula called a medium."
She paused a second on this.
"If I were only sure of your sympathy!" A note of pleading fluttered in
"No thought of yours, however I regard it, but is sure of my
sympathy--because it's yours," he answered.
As though she had not heard, she went on.
"I was an orphan. I never knew my father and mother. The first things I
remember are of the country--perhaps that is why I love the
out-of-doors--the sky through my window, filled with huge, puffy,
ice-cream clouds, a little new-born pig that somebody put in my bed one
morning--daisy-fields like snow--and the darling peep-peep-peep of
little bunches of yellow down that I was always trying to catch and
never succeeding. I couldn't say _chicken_. I always said _shicken_"
She paused. With that tenderness which every woman entertains for her
own little girlhood, she smiled.
"I've told you of the five white birches. I was looking at them and
naming them on my fingers the day that Aunt Paula came. My childhood
ended there. I seemed to grow up all at once."
Blake muttered something inarticulate. But at her look of inquiry, he
merely said. "Go on!"
"She isn't really my aunt by blood,--Aunt Paula isn't. You
understand--my father and her husband were brothers. They all
died--everybody died but just Aunt Paula and me. So she took me away
with her. And after that it was always the dreadful noise and confusion
of New York, with only my one doll--black Dinah--a rag-baby. I
thought," she interrupted herself wistfully, "I'd send Dinah to you
when I got back to New York. Would you like her?"
"Like her--like her! My--my--" But he swallowed his words. "Go on!" He
"Afterwards came London and then India. Such education as I had, I got
from governesses. I didn't have very much as girls go in my--in my
class. I didn't understand that then, any more than I understand why I
wasn't allowed to go to school or to play with other girls. There was a
time when I rebelled frightfully at that. I can tell definitely just
when it began. We were passing a convent in the Bronx, and it was
recess time. The sisters in their starched caps were sewing over by the
fence, and the girls were playing--a ring game, 'Go in and out the
window'--I can hear it now. I crowded my little face against the
pickets to watch, and two little girls who weren't in the game passed
close to me. The nearest one--I 'm sure I'd know her now if I saw her
grown up. She was of about my own age, very dark, with the silkiest
black hair and the longest black eyelashes that I ever saw. She had a
dimple at one corner of her mouth. She wore on her arm a little
bracelet with a gold heart dangling from it. I wasn't allowed any
jewelry; and it came into my mind that I'd like a gold bracelet like
that, before it came that I'd like such a friend for my very ownest and
dearest. The other girl, a red-haired minx who walked with her arm
about _my_ girl's waist--how jealous I was of her! I watched until Aunt
Paula dragged me away. As I went, I shouted over my shoulder, 'Hello,
little girl!' The little dark girl saw me, and shouted back, 'Hello!'
Dear little thing. I hope she's grown up safe and very happy! She'll
never know what she meant to me!"
Her lips quivered again. Looking up into her face, Blake wondered for
an instant at the sudden softness of her eyes. Then he realized that
they were slowly filling with tears. He reached again to seize her
"Oh, no, no--wait!" she said, weakly. After a pause, she resumed:
"That got up rebellion in me. All children have such periods, I've
heard. I'm docile enough now. But before I was through with this one,
Aunt Paula had to make my destiny clear to me--long before she meant to
do so. And I grew to be resigned, and then glad, because it was a
Here a rapid, inexplicable change crossed her face. From its firmness
of health and strength, it fell toward the look of one "called"--
"I must go back again. Between Aunt Paula and me there was always a
great sympathy. It's hard to describe. Often we do not have to speak
even of the most important things. When I come to know more about other
people, I wondered at first why they needed to do so much talking.
Things have happened--things that I would not expect you to believe--"
She had kindled now, and she looked into his eyes like some sybil,
divinely unconscious, preaching the unbelievable.
"I knew dimly, as a child knows, and accepts, that Aunt Paula had some
wonderful mission and that it had to do with the other world--all
you're taught when they teach you to say your prayers. Little by little
she made me understand. I grew up before I understood fully. The
Guides--Aunt Paula's--I have none as yet--had told her that I was a
He caught at this word, for his lover's impatience was burning and
beating within him.
"Light!" he said; "my Light!"
She regarded him gravely, and then, as though his fervor had frightened
her, she looked beyond at the apple leaves.
"Don't--you'll know soon why you mustn't. Oh, help me, for I am
unhappy!" She controlled a little upward ripple of her throat. "She,
the Guides say, is a great Light, but I am to be a greater. They sent
her to find me, and they directed her to keep me as she has--away from
the world. When she first told me that, I was terrified. She had to sit
beside me and hold my hand until I went to sleep. It's wonderful how
quickly I do sleep when Aunt Paula's with me--she's the most soothing
person in the world. If it weren't for her, I don't know what I'd do
when I get into my tired times."
"You're never going to have any more tired times, Light," he said.
She went on inflexibly, but he knew that she had heard:
"There was one thing which I did not understand, and neither perhaps
did Aunt Paula. The Guides sometimes seem foolish, but in the end
they're always wise; I suppose they waited until the time should come.
Though I tried to help it along, though I cried with impatience, I
couldn't begin to get voices. I've sat in dark rooms for hours, as Aunt
Paula wished me to do. I've felt many true things, but I could never
say honestly that I heard anything. But the Guides told Aunt Paula
'wait.' And at last she learned what was the matter.
"I don't know quite how to tell you this next. It came on the way back
from India. She had gone there--but perhaps you won't be interested to
know why she went. Though I was more than twenty, I'd never had what
you might call a flirtation. I'd been kept by the Guides away from
men--as I'd once been kept from other children. There was a young
Englishman on the steamer. And I liked him."
Blake gave a sudden start, and rose automatically. So this confidence
led to another man--that was the obstacle! She seemed to catch his
"Oh, not that!" she cried; "he was only an incident--won't you hear
me?" Blake dropped at her feet again.
"But I liked him, though never any more--he was a friend and girls need
to play. But he wanted to be more than a friend. Aunt Paula passed us
on the deck one evening. After I had gone to bed, she came into my
stateroom. When the power is in her, I know it--and I never saw it so
strong as that night. It shone out of her. But that wasn't the strange
thing. Only twice before, had I heard the voices speak from her
mouth--mostly, she used to tell me what they said to her. But it was
not Aunt Paula talking then--it was Martha, her first and best control.
Shall I tell you all she said?"
Out of the confused impulses running through Dr. Blake, his sense of
humor spurted a moment to the fore. He found himself struggling to keep
back a smile at the picture of some fat old woman in a dressing gown
simulating hysteria that she might ruin a love affair. He was hard put
to make his voice sound sincere, as he answered:
"She said: 'Child, you are more influenced by this man than you know.
It is not the great love, but it is dangerous. You are to be the great
Light only after you have put aside a great earthly love. This vessel
from which I am speaking'--she meant Aunt Paula of course--'yielded to
an earthly love. That is why she is less than you will be. Would you
imperil truth?' It was something like that, only more. Ah, do you see
"I see," said his sense of humor, "that your Aunt Paula is a most
"I see," said his voice, "but do you _believe_ it?"
"I've so much cause to believe that I can never tell you all. After
Aunt Paula came out of it, I told her what Martha had said. She was
dear and sympathetic. She put me to sleep; and when I woke, I was
resigned. I did not see him alone again. Now I understand more clearly.
When I have had that earthly love and put it aside, when I have
_proved_ myself to my Guides--then the voices will come to me. Martha
has repeated it to Aunt Paula whenever I have gone away from home. She
repeated it before I came up here--"
"They had cause to repeat it," he took her up fiercely; "cause to
"I--I'm afraid so. But how should I know? I looked at you--and it
seemed right, everlastingly right, that I should know you. And then I
did--so suddenly and easily that it made me shudder afterwards for fear
the test had come--the agony which I have been afraid to face. Ah, it's
bold saying this!" She drooped forward, and her porcelain skin turned
Blake sat breathless, dumb. Never had she seemed so far away from him
as then; never had she seemed so desirable. He struggled with his
voice, but no word came; and it was she who spoke first.
"Now I know--it is the agony!"
At this admission, all the love and all the irritation in him came up
together into a force which drove him on. They were alone; none other
looked; but had all the world been looking, he might have done what he
did. He rose to his feet, he dropped both his hands on her shoulders,
he devoured her sapphirine eyes with his eyes, and his voice was steel
as he spoke:
"You love me. You have always loved me. In spite of everything, you
will marry me! You will say it before you are done with me!"
He stopped suddenly, for her eyelids were drooping. Had he not been a
physician, he would have said that she was going to faint. But her
color did not change. And suddenly she was speaking in a low tone which
mocked his, but with no expression nor intonations:
"I love you. I have always loved you. In spite of everything, I shall
He dropped his hands from her shoulders with a bewildered impulse to
seize her in his arms; then the publicity of the place came to him, and
he drew his hands back. On that motion, her eyes opened and she flashed
a little away from him.
"What did I say?" she exclaimed; "and why--oh, don't touch me--don't
come near--can't you see it makes it harder for me to renounce?"
"But you said--"
"I said before you touched me--ah, don't touch me again--that I
_should_ make it hard--the harder I make it, the more I shall grow--but
I can't bear so much!" She had risen, was moving away.
"Let's walk," he said shortly; and then, "Even if you put me aside,
won't you keep me in your life?"
"The Guides will tell me," she answered simply.
"But I may see you--call on you in the city?"
"Unless the Guides forbid."
They were walking side by side now; they had turned from the sunken
arena, which surrounded the tennis court, toward the house. Blake saw
that the driver of the Mountain House stage was approaching. He waved a
yellow envelope as he came on:
"Been looking for you, Miss Markham. Telegram. Charges paid."
Dr. Blake stepped away as Annette, in the preliminary flutter of fear
with which a woman always receives a telegram, tore open the envelope
and read the enclosure. Without a word, she handed it over to him. It
Take next train home. Advice of Martha. Wire arrival.
"Perhaps the Guides know," she said, smiling but quivering, too.
"Perhaps they're going to make it easier for me."
HIS FIRST CALL
Dear Mr. Blake (read the letter): It was nice to get your note and
to know that you are back in town so soon. Of course you must come
to see me. I want Aunt Paula to know that all the complimentary
things I have said about you are true. We are never at home in the
conventional sense--but I hope Wednesday evening will do.
He had greeted this little note with all the private follies of lovers.
Now for the hundredth time, he studied it for significances, signs,
pretty intimacies; and he found positively nothing about it which he
did not like. True, he failed to extract any important information
from the name of the stationer, which he found under the flap of the
envelope; but on the other hand the paper itself distinctly pleased
him. It was note-size and of a thick, unfeminine quality. He approved
of the writing--small, fine, legible, without trace of seminary
affectation. And his spirits actually rose when he observed that it
bore no coat-of-arms--not even a monogram.
At last, with more flourishes of folly, he put the note away in his
desk and inspected himself in the glass. To the credit of his modesty,
he was thinking not of his white tie--fifth that he had ruined in the
process of dressing--nor yet of the set of his coat. He was thinking
of Mrs. Paula Markham and the impression which these gauds and graces
might make upon her.
"What do you suppose she's like?" he asked inaudibly of the correct
vision in the glass.
He had exhausted all the possibilities--a fat, pretentious medium whom
Annette's mind transformed by the alchemy of old affection into a
presentable personage; a masculine and severe old woman with the
"spook" look in her eyes; a fluttering, affected _precieuse_,
concealing her quackery by chatter. Gradually as he thought on her, the
second of these hypotheses came to govern--he saw her as the severe and
masculine type. This being so, what tack should she take?
The correct vision in the glass vouchsafed no answer to this. His mood
persisted as his taxicab whirled him into the region which borders the
western edge of Central Park. The thing assumed the proportions of a
great adventure. No old preparation for battle, no old packings to
break into the unknown dark, had ever given him quite such a sense of
the high, free airs where romance blows. He was going on a mere
conventional call; but he was going also to high and thrilling
The house was like a thousand other houses of the prosperous middle
class, distinguishable only by minor differences of doors and steps and
area rails, from twenty others on the same block. He found himself
making mystery even of this. Separate houses in New York require
"Evidently it pays to deal in spooks," he said to himself.
His first glimpse of the interior, his subsequent study of the
drawing-room while the maid carried in his name, made more vivid this
impression. The taste of the whole thing was evident; but the apartment
had besides a special flavor. He searched for the elements which gave
that impression. It was not the old walnut furniture, ample, huge,
upholstered in a wine-colored velours which had faded just enough to
take off the curse; it was not the three or four passable old
paintings. The real cause came first to him upon the contemplation of a
wonderful Buddhist priest-robe which adorned the wall just where the
drawing-room met the curtains of the little rear alcove-library. The
difference lay in the ornaments--Oriental, mostly East Indian and, all
his experience told him, got by intimate association with the
Orientals. That robe, that hanging lantern, those chased swords, that
gem of a carved Buddha--they came not from the seaports nor from the
shops for tourists. Whoever collected them knew the East and its
peoples by intimate living. They appeared like presents, not
purchases--unless they were loot.
And now--his thumping heart flashed the signal--the delicate feminine
flutter that meant Annette, was sounding in the hall. And now at the
entrance stood Annette in a white dress, her neck showing a faint rim
of tan above her girlish decolletage; Annette smiling rather formally
as though this conventional passage after their unconventional meeting
and acquaintance sat in embarrassment on her spirits; Annette saying in
that vibrant boyish contralto which came always as a surprise out of
her exquisite whiteness:
"How do you do, Dr. Blake--you are back in the city rather earlier than
you expected, aren't you?"
He was conscious of shock, emotional and professional--emotional that
they had not taken up their relation exactly where they left it
off--professional because of her appearance. Not only was she pale and
just a little drawn of facial line, but that indefinable look of one
"called" was on her again.
All this he gathered as he made voluble explanation--the attendance at
the sanitorium had fallen off with the approach of autumn--they really
needed no assistant to the resident physician--he thought it best to
hurry his search for an opening in New York before the winter should
set in. Then, put at his ease by his own volubility, and remembering
that it is a lover's policy to hold the advantage gained at the last
battle, he added:
"And of course you may guess another reason."
This she parried with a woman-of-the-world air, quite different from
her old childlike frankness.
"The theatrical season, I suppose. It opens earlier every year."
He pursued that line no further. She took up the reins of the
conversation and drove it along smooth but barren paths. "It's nice
that you could come to-night. Looking for a practice must make so many
calls on your time. I shouldn't have been surprised not to see you at
all this winter. No one seems able to spare much time for acquaintances
in New York."
"Not at all," he said, ruffling a little within, "I shall find plenty
of time for my _friends_ this winter." Deliberately he emphasized the
word. "I hope nothing has happened to change our--friendship. Or does
Berkeley Center seem primitive and far away?"
For the first time that quality which he was calling in his mind her
"society shell" seemed to melt away from her. She had kept her eyelids
half closed; now they opened full.
"I am living on the memory of it," she said.
Here was his opening. A thousand incoherences rushed to his lips--and
stopped there. For another change came over her. Those lids, like
curtains drawn by stealth over what must not be revealed, sank half-way
over her eyes. An impalpable stiffening ran over her figure. She became
as a flower done in glass.
Simultaneously, an uneasiness as definite as a shadow, fell across his
spirit. He became conscious of a presence behind him. Involuntarily he
A woman was standing in the doorway leading to the hall.
An instant she looked at Blake and an instant he looked at her. What
she gained from her scrutiny showed in no change of expression. What he
gained showed only in a quick flutter of the eyelids. He had, in fact,
taken an impression of mental power as startling as a sudden blow in
the face. She had a magnificent physique, preserved splendidly into the
very heart of middle age; yet her foot had made no sound in her
approach. Her black velvet draperies trailed heavy on the floor, yet
they produced not the ghost of a rustle. Jet-black hair coiled in
ropes, yet wisped white above the temples; light gray eyes, full and
soft, yet with a steady look of power--all this came in the process of
rising, of stepping forward to clasp a warm hand which lingered just
long enough, in hearing Annette say in tones suddenly dead of their
"Aunt Paula, let me introduce Dr. Blake." With one ample motion, Mrs.
Markham seated herself. She turned her light eyes upon him. He had a
subconscious impression of standing before two searchlights.
"My niece has told me much about Dr. Blake," she said in a voice which,
like Annette's, showed every intonation of culture; "I can't thank you
enough for being kind to my little girl. So good in you to bother about
her when"--Aunt Paula gave the effect of faltering, but her smile was
peculiarly gracious--"when there were no other men nearer her own age."
[Illustration: HE HAD TAKEN AN IMPRESSION OF MENTAL POWER AS STARTLING
AS A SUDDEN BLOW IN THE FACE]
Curiously, there floated into Blake's mind the remark which Annette
made that first day on the train--"I should think you were about
twenty-eight--and that, according to 'Peter Ibbertson,' is about the
nicest age." Well, Annette at least regarded him as a contemporary! He
found himself laughing with perfect composure--"Yes, that's the trouble
with these quiet country towns. There never _are_ any interesting young
"True," Mrs. Markham agreed, "although it makes slight difference in
Annette's case. She is so little interested in men. It really worries
me at times. But it's quite true, is it not so, dear?"
Mrs. Markham had kept her remarkable eyes on Dr. Blake. And Annette, as
though the conversation failed to interest her, had fallen into a
position of extreme lassitude, her elbow on the table, her cheek
resting on her hand.
At her aunt's question, she seemed to rouse herself a little. "What is
it that's quite true, Auntie?" she asked.
Mrs. Markham transferred her light-gray gaze to her niece's face. "I
was saying," she repeated, speaking distinctly as one does for a child,
"that you are very little interested in men."
"It is perfectly true," Annette answered.
Mrs. Markham laughed a purring laugh, strangely at variance with her
size and type. "You'll find this an Adam-less Eden, Dr. Blake. I'll
have to confess that I too am not especially interested in men."
This thrust did not catch Dr. Blake unawares. He laughed a laugh which
rang as true as Mrs. Markham's. He even ventured on a humorous
monologue in which he accused his sex of every possible failing, ending
with a triumphant eulogy of the other half of creation. But Mrs.
Markham, though she listened with outward civility, appeared to take
all his jibes seriously--miscomprehended him purposely, he thought.
Whereupon, he turned to the lady's own affairs.
"Miss Markham told me something about your stay in India. I've never
been there yet. But of course no seasoned orientalist has any idea of
dying without seeing India. I gathered from Miss Markham that you had
some unusual experiences."
"It's the dear child's enthusiasm," Mrs. Markham said. And it came to
Blake at once that she was a little irritated. "I assure you we did not
stir out of the conventional tourist route." Then came a few minutes
about the beauties of the Taj by moonlight.
Blake listened politely. "Your loot is all so interesting," he said,
when she had finished. "Do tell me how you got it? Have you ever
noticed what bully travelers' tales you get out of adventures in
bargaining? Or better--looting? Those Johnnies who came out of Pekin--I
mean the allied armies--tell some stories that are wonders."
"That is true generally," Mrs. Markham agreed. "But I must confess that
I did nothing more wonderful than to walk up to one of the bazaars and
buy everything that I wanted."
"That," Dr. Blake said mentally, "is a lie."
Almost as if Annette had heard his thought--were answering it--she
spoke for the first time with something of the old resiliency in her
tone. "Auntie, do tell Dr. Blake about some of your adventures with
those wonderful Yogis, and that fascinating rajah who was so kind to
"The Yogis!" commented Dr. Blake to himself; "Ha, ha, and ho, ho! I bet
you learned a bag of tricks there, madam."
"Why, Annette, dear." Mrs. Markham laughed her purring laugh--that
laugh could grow, Dr. Blake discovered, until it achieved a singularly
unpleasant quality. "Your romantic ideas are running away with you.
Whenever we arrived anywhere, of course, like anybody else, I called at
Government House and the authorities there always put me in the way of
seeing whatever sights the neighborhood afforded. I met one rajah in
passing and visited one Yogi monastery. Do tell me about the
Philippines!" Annette settled back into her appearance of weariness.
Dr. Blake complied.
He had intended to stay an hour at this first formal call. He had hoped
to be led on, by gentle feminine wiles, to add another hour. He had
even dreamed that Aunt Paula might be so impressed by him as to hold
him until midnight. As a matter of fact, he left the house just
thirty-five minutes after he entered. Just why he retreated so early in
the engagement, he had only the vaguest idea. Even fresh from it as he
was, he could not enumerate the small stings, the myriad minor goads,
by which it became established in his mind that his call was not a
success, that he was boring the two ladies whom he was trying so hard
to entertain. At the end, it was a labored dialogue between him and
Mrs. Markham. Again and again, he tried to drag Annette into the
conversation. She was tongue-tied. The best she did was to give him the
impression that, deep down in her tired psychology, she was trying to
listen. As for Aunt Paula--if his gaze wandered from her to Annette and
then back, he caught her stifling a yawn. Her final shot was to
interrupt his best story a hair's breadth ahead of the point. When he
said good-night, his manner--he flattered himself--betrayed nothing of
his sense of defeat. But no fellow pedestrian, observing the savage
vigor of his swift walk homeward, could have held any doubt as to his
state of mind.
THE LIGHT WAVERS
As Blake drove the runabout north through the fine autumn morning, he
perceived suddenly that his subconscious mind was playing him a trick.
He had started out to get light, air, easement of his soul among woods
and fields. And now, instead of turning into Central Park at Columbus
Circle, he was following Upper Broadway, where, in order to reach the
great out-of-doors, he must dodge trucks and cabs between miles of
hotels and apartment houses. In fact, he had been manoeuvering,
half-unconsciously, so that he might turn into the park at the
Eighty-Sixth Street entrance and so pass that most important of all
dwellings in Manhattan, the house where Annette Markham lived. Any
irritation which he had felt against her, after the unpleasant evening
before, was lost in his greater irritation with her aunt. Annette
appeared to him, now, as the prize, the reward, of a battle in which
Mrs. Paula Markham was his antagonist.
As he turned the corner into her street, ten years rolled away from
him; he dreamed the childish, impossible dreams of a very youth. She
might be coming down the steps as he passed. Fate might even send a
drunkard or an obstreperous cabman for him to thrash in her service.
But when he reached the house, nothing happened. The front door
remained firmly shut; no open window gave a delicious glimpse of
Annette. After his machine had gone ahead to such position that he
could no longer scan the house without impolite craning of his neck, he
found that his breath was coming fast. Awakened from his dream, a
little ashamed of it, he opened the control and shot his machine ahead
to the violation of all speed laws. He was crossing Central Park West,
and the smooth opening of the park driveway was before him, when he
looked up and saw--Annette.
Her honey-colored hair, glistening dull in the autumn sunshine,
identified her even before he caught her characteristic walk--graceful
and fast enough, but a little languid, too. She was dressed in a plain
tailor suit, a turban, low, heavy shoes.
He slowed down the automobile to a crawl, that he might enter the park
after her. A boyish embarrassment smote him; if he drove up and spoke
to her, it would look premeditated. So he hesitated between two
courses, knowing well which he would pursue in the end. As he entered
the park, still a dozen yards behind her, he saw that the footpath
which she was following branched out from the automobile drive. Within
a few paces, she would disappear behind a hydrangea bush. On that
perception, he gave all speed to his machine, shot alongside and
Even before he reached her, she had turned and faced him. He fancied
that the smile of recognition on her face had started even before she
began to turn; she did not appear surprised, only pleased. Beating
around in his mind for a graceful word of introduction, he accomplished
an abrupt and ungraceful one.
"Will you ride?" he asked.
"With pleasure," she responded simply, and in one light motion she was
in the seat beside him. He turned at low speed north, and as his hands
moved over wheels and levers, she was asking:
"How did you happen to be here?"
He put a bold front on it.
"I drove past your home, by instinct, because I was coming north. And I
saw you. Which of your spirits"--he was bold enough for the moment to
make light of her sacred places--"sent you out-of-doors just before I
"The spirit of the night before," she answered, passing from smiles to
gravity. "That long sleep without rest has been troubling me again. I
remembered how exercise set me up in the country, and I started out for
a little air. Aunt Paula is out this morning--something about the
plumbing. Dear Auntie, how I'd love to take those cares off her
shoulders. She'll never let me, though. And next week our housekeeper,
whom we've held for two years, is leaving; she must advertise and
receive applicants--and likely get the wrong one. So that's another
worry for her. I was alone in the house when I awoke, and I could not
waste such autumn weather as this!"
He looked at her with anxiety--the physician again.
"I saw trouble in your face last night. It isn't normal that you should
be tired out so soon after the perfect condition you achieved at
"No, it isn't. I know that perfectly, and I'm resigned to it."
"I won't ask you to let _me_ treat you--but why don't you go to some
physician about it? You know how much this case means to me."
For a time she did not reply. She only kept her eyes on the autumn
tints of the park, streaking past them like a gaudy Roman scarf.
"No," she said at length, "no physician like you can heal me. Greater
physicians, higher ones, for me. And they will not--will not--" She was
"Are you coming back again to that queer business of which you told
me--that day on the tennis court?"
"To just that."
"What can such a thing have to do with your physical condition?"
"You will not laugh?"
"At you and yours and anything which touches you--no. You know I could
not laugh now. Little as I respect that obstacle, it is the most
serious fact I know."
His eyes were on the steering of the automobile. He could not see that
her lips pursed up as though to form certain low and tender words, and
that her sapphirine eyes swept him before she controlled herself to go
"Aunt Paula says it is part of the struggle. Some people, when the
power is coming into them, are violent. Men, she says, have smashed
furniture and torn their bodies. I am not strong to do such things, but
only weak to endure. And so it takes me as it does.
"Don't you see?" she added, "that if I'm to give up so many powers of
my mind, so many needs of my soul, to this thing, I can afford to give
up a few powers of my body? Am I to become a Light without sacrificing
all? So I keep away from physicians. It is Aunt Paula's wish, and she
has always known what is best for me."
The automobile was running at an even fifteen miles an hour down a
broad, unobstructed parkway. He could turn his eyes from his business
and let his hands guide. So he looked full at her, as he said:
"She may have a hard time keeping you away from this physician!"
That, it seemed, amused her. The strain in her face gave way to a
"For yourself, she likes you, I think," said Annette.
"She has a most apt and happy way of showing it," he responded, his
slights rising up in him.
"You mustn't judge her by last night," replied Annette. "Aunt Paula has
many manners. I think she assumes that one when she is studying people.
Then think of the double reason she has for receiving you coldly--my
whole future, as she plans it, hangs on it--and she spoke nicely of
you. She likes your eyes and your wit and your manners. But--"
"But I am an undesirable acquaintance for her niece just the same!"
"Have I not said that you are--the obstacle? Haven't her controls told
her that? If not, why did she telegraph to me when she did?" Then, as
they turned from the park corner and made towards Riverside Drive,
something in her changed.
"Must we talk this out whenever we meet? You said once that you would
teach me to play. Ah, teach me now! I need it!"
And though he turned and twisted back toward the subject, she was pure
girl for the next hour. The river breezes blew sparkle into her eyes;
the morning intoxicated her tongue. She chattered of the trees, the
water, the children on the benches, the gossiping old women. She made
him stop to buy chestnuts of an Italian vendor, she led him toward his
tales of the Philippines. He plunged into the Islands like a white
Othello, charming a super-white Desdemona. It was his story of the
burning of Manila which brought him back to the vexation in his mind.
"That yarn seemed to make a very small hit last night," he said,
turning suddenly upon her.
"I didn't like it so much last night," she answered frankly.
"What was the matter?" he asked. "Why were you so far away? Were you
afraid of Mrs. Markham? I felt like the young man of a summer
flirtation calling in the winter. What was it?"
"I don't know," she answered.
"There wasn't any reason. I liked you last night as I always like you.
But we were far away. Shall I tell you how it seemed to me? I was like
an actress on the stage, and you like a man in the audience. I was
speaking to you--a part. In no way could you answer me. In no way could
I answer you directly. We moved near to each other, but in different
worlds. It was something like that."
"I suppose"--bitterly--"your Aunt Paula had nothing to do with that?"
"You must like Aunt Paula if you are to like me," she warned. "Yet that
may have something to do with it. I am wonderfully influenced by what
she thinks--as is right."
"Then it's coming to a fight between me and your Aunt Paula? For I'll
do even that."
"Must we go all over it again? Oh like me, like me, and give me a rest
from it! I think of nothing but this all day--why do you make it
harder? I do not know if I can renounce and still have you in my life.
Won't you wait until I know? It will be time enough then!"
"'Renounce,'" he quoted. "Then you know that there is something to
renounce--and that means you love me!" So giddy had he become with the
surge of his passion that his hands trembled on the steering-wheel.
Afraid of losing all muscular control, he brought the automobile to a
full stop at the roadside. Her sapphirine eyes were shining, her hands
lay inert in her lap, her lips quivered softly.
"Have I ever denied it--can I ever deny it to you?"
The pure accident of location gave him opportunity for what he did
next. For they were in one of those country lanes of Upper Manhattan
which, though enclosed by the greatest city, seem still a part of
remote country. Heavy branches of autumn foliage guarded the road to
right and left; from end to end of the passage was neither vehicle nor
foot-passenger. One faculty, standing unmoved in the storm of emotions
which had overwhelmed him, perceived this.
He reached for the trembling hands which gave themselves to his touch.
She swayed against him. Her hands had snatched themselves away
now--only to clasp his neck. And now her lips had touched his again and
again and somehow between kiss and kiss, she was murmuring, "Oh, I love
you--I love you--I love you. I love you so much that life without you
is a perfect misery. I love you so much that my work now seems stale
and dreary. I love you so much that I don't want ever to go away from
you. I want to stay here forever and feel your arms about me, for that
is the only way that I shall ever know happiness--or peace. I wake in
the morning with your name on my lips. I wander through the day with
you. If I try to read, you come between me and the page. If I try to
play you come between me and the notes. You are my books. You are my
music--my--my--everything. I go to bed early at night often so that I
can lie in the dusk and think of you. And oh, the only nights that rest
me are those filled with dreams of the poem we would make out of
Her voice faltered and he felt the exquisite caress of her lips
trembling against his cheek. As though she were utterly spent, she
ended where she had begun, "I love you--I love--I love you."
He was aware now that another car whirred behind them. He managed--it
took all the force in his soul--to put her from him. He turned to see
if they had been observed; the passengers in the other car, intent on
their own chatter, did not look; only the chauffeur regarded their
chassis with a professional eye, as though wondering if they were
stalled. When Blake drew a long breath and looked back at Annette, her
face was buried in her hands. And now, when he touched her, she drew
"Oh, drive on--drive on!" she said.
"Don't speak. I beg you--drive on or I shall die!"
And though the car wavered dangerously under his unsteady touch, he
obeyed, managed to gain the highroad without a spill, and to turn
She wept silently. When at last she took her hands away and turned her
face on him, his lover's observation saw how beautifully she wept. Her
eyes were not red, her face was calm. He took heart from her glance,
began to babble foolish love words. But she stopped him.
"You are driving away from home," she said. "Drive back, and don't
After he had turned, her tears ceased. She dried her eyes. Now she
smiled a little, and her voice grew natural.
"I must never be weak again," she said. "But it was sweet. Dear, might
I touch your arm? No, you must not stop again. Just my hand on your
"Dearest, why do you ask?" She drew off her glove, and all the way a
light, steady pressure made uncertain his wheel-hand. They drove a mile
so--two miles--and neither spoke until they came out into inhabited
Upper Broadway. At the appearance of crowds, trucks and the perils of
the highway, that silver thread of silence broke. She drew her hand
away, and took up the last word of ten minutes ago.
"It was sweet--but no more. How long it is since I kissed you! I am
glad. I shall pay for it heavily--but I am glad!"
He smiled on her as on a child who speaks foolishness.
"You cannot renounce now!" he said.
"I shall renounce. I have stolen this morning--would you rob me in
"It will be the first kiss of a million," he said.
"It will be the last forever," she answered. "But remember, if you do
not kiss me, no man ever shall."
He busied himself with guiding the automobile; it was no time to hurl
out the intense things which he had to say. But when they had entered
the smooth park driveway, he came out with it:
"Do you think that I respect that obstacle? Can you think that I
believe such moonshine even if you do? And do you suppose that I am
going to let Aunt Paula keep you now?"
She touched his arm again; let her hand rest there as before.
"Dear," she said, "I have never thought that you believed. I have felt
this always in the bottom of your heart. I only ask you not to spoil
this day for me. I have stolen it. Let me enjoy it. I shall not put you
out of my life--at least not yet. Later, when we are both calm, we will
talk that out. But let it rest now, for I am tired--and happy."
So they drove along, her light hand making warm his arm, and said no
word until they came near the Eighty-Sixth Street entrance. He looked
at her with a question in his eyes.
"Leave me where you found me," she answered; "I shall go in alone."
"But will you tell your Aunt Paula that you met me?"
"I shall tell her--yes. Not all, perhaps, but that I rode with you.
What is the use of concealment? She will know--"
"Dear, do not mock me. They tell her everything she wants to know about
me." They had drawn up at the park entrance now; before he could
assist, she had jumped down.
"Good-by--I must go quickly--you must come soon--I will write."
He stood beside his car, watching her back. Once she turned and waved
to him; when she went on, she walked with a spring, an exultation, as
though from new life. He watched until she was only a blue atom among
the foot-passengers, until a park policeman thumped him on the shoulder
and informed him that this was not an automobile stand.
* * * * *
When Dr. Blake woke next morning, it was with a sense of delicious
expectancy. He formulated this as his eyes opened. She had promised to
write; the mail, due for distribution in the Club at a quarter past
eight, might bring a note from her. He timed his dressing carefully,
that he might arrive downstairs neither before nor after the moment of
fulfilment or disappointment. He saw, as he crossed the corridor to his
mail-box, that the clerk was just dropping a square, white envelope. He
peered through the glass before he felt for his keys. It was Annette's
So, glowing, he tore it open, and read:
DEAR MR. BLAKE:
I think it best never to see you again. Aunt Paula approves of
this; but it is done entirely of my own accord. My decision will
not change. Please do not call at my house, for I shall not see
you. Please do not write, for I shall send your letters back
unopened. Please do not try to see me outside, for I shall not
recognize you. I thank you for your interest in me; and believe me,
Your sincere friend,
After a dreadful day, he came back to the Club and found a package,
addressed in her hand. Out fell a little bundle of rags, topped by a
comical black face, and a note. The letter of the morning was in a
firm, correct hand. This was a trembling scrawl, blotted with tears.
And it read:
Dear, I have something terrible to write you. I must give you up. I
cannot go into all the reasons now, and after all that would not
help any, for it all comes to this--we must never see each other
again. Please do not send me a letter, for though I should cover it
with my kisses, in the end I would have to send it back unopened. I
send you Black Dinah as I promised. It's all that's left of me now,
and I want you to have it. Dearest, dearest, good-by.
ENTER ROSALIE LE GRANGE
"Cut, dearie," said Rosalie Le Grange, trance and test clairvoyant, to
Hattie, the landlady's daughter. "Now keep your wish in your mind,
remember. That's right; a deep cut for luck. U-um. The nine of hearts
is your wish--and right beside it is the ace of hearts. That means your
home, dearie--the spirits don't lie, even when they're manifestin'
themselves just through cards. They guide your hand when you shuffle
and cut. Your wish is about the affections, ain't it, dearie?"
The pretty slattern across the table nodded. She had put down her
dust-pan and leaned her broom across her knees when she sat down to
receive the only tip which Rosalie Le Grange, in the existing state of
her finances, could give.
"I got your wish now, dearie," announced Rosalie Le Grange. "The
spirits sometimes help the cards somethin' wonderful. Here it comes. I
thought so. The three of hearts for gladness an' rejoicin' right next
to the ace, which is your home. Now that might mean a little home of
your own, but the influence I git with it is so weak I don't think it
means anythin' as strong an' big as that. Wait a minute--now it comes
straight an' definite--he'll call--rejoicin' at your home because he'll
call. Do you understand that, dearie?"
"Sure!" Hattie's eyes were big with awe.
"Hat-tie!" came a raucous voice from outside.
"Yes-m!" answered Hattie.
"Are you going to be all day redding up them rooms?" pursued the voice.
"Nearly through!" responded Hattie. Rosalie Le Grange made pantomime of
"I'll help you red up, my dear," she whispered. Forthwith, they fell to
sweeping, dusting, shaking sheets.
As she moved about the squeezed little furnished rooms and alcove,
which formed her residence and professional offices in these reduced
days, Rosalie Le Grange appeared the one thing within its walls which
was not common and dingy. A pink wrapper, morning costume of her craft,
enclosed a figure grown thick with forty-five, but marvelously
well-shaped and controlled. Her wrapper was as neat as her figure; even
the lace at the throat was clean. Her long, fair hands, on which the
first approach of age appeared as dimples, not as wrinkles or
corrugations of the flesh, ran to nails whose polish proved daily care.
Her hair, chestnut in the beginning, foamed with white threads. Below
was a face which hardly needed, as yet, the morning dab of powder, so
craftily had middle age faded the skin without deadening it. Except for
a pair of large, gray, long-lashed eyes--too crafty in their corner
glances, too far looking in their direct vision--that skin bounded and
enclosed nothing which was not attractive and engaging. Her chin was
piquantly pointed. Beside a tender, humorous, mobile mouth played two
dimples, which appeared and disappeared as she moved about the room
delivering monologue to Hattie.
"I see a dark gentleman that ain't in your life yet. He's behind a
counter now, I think. He ain't the one that the ace of hearts shows is
goin' to call. I see you all whirled about between 'em, but I sense
nothin' about how it's goin' to turn out--land sakes, child, don't you
ever dust behind the pictures? You'll have to be neater if you expect
to make a good wife to the dark gentleman--"
"Will it be him?" asked Hattie, stopping with a sheet in her hands.
"Now the spirits slipped that right out of me, didn't they?" pursued
Rosalie. "Land sakes, you can't keep 'em back when they want to talk.
Now you just hold that and think over it, dearie. No more for you
to-day." Rosalie busied herself with pinning the faded, dusty pink
ribbon to a gilded rolling pin, and turned her monologue upon herself:
"I ain't sayin' nothin' against this house for the price, dearie, but
my, this is a comedown. The last time I done straight clairvoyant work,
it was in a family hotel with three rooms and a bath and breakfast in
bed. Well, there's ups an' downs in this business. I've been down
before and up again--"
Hattie, her mouth relieved of a pillowcase, spoke boldly the question
in her mind.
"What put you down?"
Rosalie, her head on one side, considered the arrangement of the pink
ribbon, before she answered:
"Jealousy, dearie; perfessional jealousy. The Vango trumpet seances
were doin' too well to suit that lyin', fakin', Spirit Truth outfit in
Brooklyn--wasn't that the bell?"
It was. Hattie patted the pillow into place, and sped for the door.
"If it's for me," whispered Rosalie, "don't say I'm in--say you'll
see." Rosalie bustled about, putting the last touches on the room,
pulling shut the bead portieres which curtained alcove and bed.
Hattie poked her head in the door.
"It's a gentleman," she said.
"Well, come inside and shut the door--no use tellin' _him_ all about
himself," said Rosalie. "I'm--I'm kind of expectin' a gentleman visitor
I don't want to see yet. It's a matter of the heart, dearie," she
added. "What sort of a looking gentleman?"
Hattie stood a moment trying to make articulate her observations.
"He's got nice eyes," she said. "And he's dressed quiet but swell. Sort
of tall and distinguished."
"Did you look at his feet?" For the moment, Rosalie had taken it for
granted that all women knew, as she so well knew, the appearance of
"No 'm, not specially," said Hattie.
"Well, you'd 'a' noticed," said Rosalie, covering up quickly. "The
gentleman I don't want to see has a club foot--show him up, dearie."
As Madame Le Grange sat down by the wicker center table and composed
her features to professional calm, she was thinking:
"If he's a new sitter, I'll have to stall. There's nothing as hard to
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