The House of Mystery
William Henry Irwin
Part 2 out of 3
bite into as a young man dope."
The expected knock came. Entered the new sitter--him whom we know as
Dr. Walter Huntington Blake, but a stranger to Rosalie. During the
formal preliminaries--in which Dr. Blake stated simply that he wanted a
sitting and expressed himself as willing to pay two dollars for full
trance control--Rosalie studied him and mapped her plan of action.
There was, indeed, "nothing to bite into." His shapely clothes bore
neither fraternity pin nor society button; his face was comparatively
inexpressive; to her attempts at making him chatter, he returned but
polite nothings. Only one thing did she "get" before she assumed
control. When she made him hold hands to "unite magnetisms," his finger
rested for a moment on the base of her palm. She put that little detail
aside for further reference, and slid gently into "trance," making the
most, as she assumed the slumber pose, of her profile, her plump,
well-formed arms, her slender hands. This sitter was "refined"; not for
him the groans and contortions of approaching control which so
impressed factory girls and shopkeepers.
Peeping through her long eyelashes, she noted that his face, while
turned upon her in close attention, was without visible emotion.
"I must fish," she thought as she began the preliminary gurgles which
heralded the coming of Laughing Eyes, her famous Indian child
control--"I wonder if I've got to tell him that the influence won't
work to-day and I can't get anything? Maybe I'd better."
A long silence, broken here and there by guttural gurglings; then
Laughing Eyes babbled tentatively:
"John--Will--Will--" she choked here, as though trying to add a
syllable which she could not clearly catch. And at this point, Rosalie
took another look through her eyelashes. She had touched something! He
was leaning forward; his mouth had opened. Before she could follow up
her advantage, he had thrown himself wide open.
"Wilfred--is it Wilfred?" he asked.
Laughing Eyes was far too clever a spirit to take immediately an
opening so obvious.
"You wait a minny!" she said. "Laughing Eyes don't see just right now.
Will--Will--he come, he go. Oh--oh--I see a ring--maybe it's on a
finger, maybe it ain't--Laughing Eyes kind of a fool this
morning--Laughing Eyes has got lots to do for a 'itty girl--" Rosalie
had essayed another glance as she spoke of the ring. It brought no
visible change of expression; and from the success of her shot with
Wilfred she knew that this, in spite of first impressions, was a sitter
whose expression betrayed him. "Then it's business troubles," she
thought, "unless he's a psychic researcher. And if he was, he wouldn't
be so easy with his face."
So Laughing Eyes burbled again, and then burst out:
"I see a atmosphere of trouble!" The young man's countenance dropped,
whereupon Laughing Eyes fell to chattering foolishly before she went
on: "Piles of bright 'itty buttons--money--" And then something which
had been gently titillating Rosalie's sense of smell made a sudden
connection with her memory, Iodoform--the faintest suggestion. She
linked this perception with his appearance of having been freshly
tubbed, his immaculate finger nails, shining as though fresh from the
manicure, his perfectly kept teeth and--yes--the pressure of a finger
on her pulse. Upon this perception, Laughing Eyes spoke sharply:
"Wilfred says your sick folks don't always pay like they ought. He says
when they're in danger they can't do too much for the doctor, but when
they're well, he's--he--he--Wilfred is funny--a old sawbones!"
"Ask fa--ask him about the patient," faltered Rosalie's sitter.
"Wilfred says, 'My son, it's comin' out all right if you follow your
own impulses,'" responded Laughing Eyes. "You do the way the influences
guide you. They 're guiding _you_, not them other doctors that you're
askin' advice from." Laughing Eyes shifted to babbling of the bright
spirit plane beyond, and all that the patient was missing by delay in
translation, while Rosalie took another glance of observation, and
thought rapidly. Was this patient a medical or surgical case? Two
chances out of three, surgical; it would take remorse and apprehension
over a mistake with the scalpel to drive a medical man medium-hunting.
Her glance at his hands confirmed her determination to venture. They
were large and heavy, yet fine, the hands of a craftsman, a forger, a
surgeon, anyone who does small and exact work. Rosalie had been in a
hospital in her day, and she had studied doctors, as she studied the
rest of humanity, with an eye always to future uses. Having a pair of
hands like that, a doctor must inevitably choose surgery.
"Trust your papa!" babbled the Control. "Laughing Eyes trusted her
papa--ugh!--he big Chief. He here now! Your papa knows my papa! Your
papa says you didn't cut too deep!"
The young man let out an agitated "didn't I?"
"You was guided," pursued Laughing Eyes. "What you might'a' thought was
a mistake was all for the best. Those in the spirit controlled your
hands. Wilfred says 'three'--oh--oh I know what Wilfred means--ugh--get
out bad spirit--Wilfred means three days--you wait three days--you wait
three days and it will be right."
"And now," thought Rosalie Le Grange, "he's got his money's worth, and
I'll take no more risks for any two dollars!" Forthwith, she let the
voice of Laughing Eyes chuckle lower and lower. "Good-by!" whispered
the control at length, "I'm goin' away from my medie!" Then, with a few
refined convulsions, Rosalie awoke, rubbed her eyes, and said in her
tinkling natural voice:
"Was I out long? I hope the sitting was satisfactory."
No change came over the young man's face as he said:
"From my standpoint--very!"
"Thank you," murmured Rosalie. "I was afraid, when you come in, that
the influences wasn't going to be strong. A medium can sense them."
"Very satisfactory--with modifications," responded the sitter. "For
instance, it is absolutely true that I had a father. His name wasn't
Wilfred, it was James. And he died before I was born. But don't let
that discourage you. I can prove his existence. The other true thing
was the corker. I've been to fifty-seven varieties of mediums in the
course of this experiment, and you're the first to jump at the widest
opening I gave. I am a physician. I've put iodoform on my handkerchief
every morning to prove it. I've been listed six times as a commercial
traveler, twice as a con man, eight times as a clerk, three times as a
policeman, with scattering votes for a reporter, a clergyman, an actor
and an undertaker. But you're the first to roll the little ball into
the little hole. I am a physician, or was. Better than that, you got it
that I specialized on surgery--and I didn't plant _that_. You draw the
"Young man," asked Rosalie with an air of shocked and injured
innocence, "are you accusing me of _fakery_?" But despite her stern
lips, in Rosalie's cheeks played the ghost of a pair of dimples. They
were reflected, so to speak, by twin twinkles in the eyes of her
sitter. And he went straight on:
"In addition, you're the prettiest of them all, and a cross-eyed man
with congenital astigmatism could see that you're a good fellow. Do!
_My_ controls tell _me_ that you're about to be offered a good job."
"My controls tell _me_," responded Rosalie Le Grange, "that if you
don't quit insultin' a lady in her own house and disgracin' her crown
of mediumship, out you go. There's those here that will defend me, I'll
have you know!"
The young man's face sobered. "I beg your pardon, Mme. Le Grange," he
said, "I have been sudden. Would you mind my coming to the point at
once? I'm here to offer you a job."
Rosalie looked him sternly over a moment, but in the end her dimples
triumphed. She lifted her right hand as though to arrange her hair, two
fingers extended--the sign in the Brotherhood of Professional Mediums
to recognize a fellow craftsman. The young man made no response;
Rosalie's eyes flashed back on guard.
"How much is this business worth to you?" pursued the young man.
"Mediums ain't measuring their rewards by earthly gains," responded
Rosalie; and now she made no secret of her dimples. "If we wanted to
water our mediumship, couldn't we get rich out of the tips we give
people on their business?"
"But getting down to the earth plane," the young man continued--and
perhaps the twinkles in his eyes were never more obstreperous--"how
much would you ask to take a nice, easy job of using your eyes for me?"
"Well," said Rosalie, "if there was nothin' unprofessional about it, I
should say fifty dollars a week." She smiled on him now openly. "You're
a doctor. I don't have to say, as one professional person to another,
that there's such a thing as ethics."
The young man smiled back. "Oh, certainly!" he said. "I understand
that!" Quite suddenly he leaned forward and clapped Rosalie's shoulder
with a motion that had nothing offensive about it--only good fellowship
and human understanding--"I want you to help me expose Mrs. Paula
The announcement stiffened Rosalie. She sat bolt upright. "There ain't
nothin' to expose!" she said.
"Now let's get on a business basis," said the young man.
"Well, you let me tell you one thing first. If you're pumpin' me for
evidence, it don't go, because you've got no witnesses."
"I'm not pumping you for anything. I'm willing to admit that the
spirits, not you, smelled the iodoform--"
"An' noticed that you was scrubbed clean as a whistle and that when we
held hands to unite our magnetism, you was pawing for my pulse,"
pursued Rosalie, dropping her defences all at once. Thereupon, Roman
haruspex looked into the eyes of Roman haruspex, and they both laughed.
But Rosalie was serious enough a moment later.
"Now when you come to talk about exposing Mrs. Markham, you've got to
show me first why you want her exposed, and you've got to let me tell
you that you're wastin' your money. There's enough that's fake about
this profession, but I know two mediums I'd stake my life on; barring
of course myself"--here Rosalie smiled a smile which might have meant a
confession or a boast, so balanced was it between irony and
sweetness--"Mrs. Markham and Mrs. Anna Fife. They're _real_."
She peered into the face of her investigator. His expression showed
skeptical amusement. She knew that her passion for talking too much was
her greatest professional flaw; though had she thought it over
maturely, she would have realized that she had never got into trouble
through her tongue. Her trained instinct for human values led her
inevitably to those who would appreciate her confidences and keep them.
So the sudden retreat within her defences, which followed, proved
irritation rather than suspicion.
"See here," she pursued, "are you a psychic researcher?"
"Cross my heart," answered the young man, "I never associated with
spooks in my life until this week. I did it then because I wanted a
first-class professional medium to take a good job."
"Investigating Mrs. Markham? What for? Has she got a cinch on a
relative of yours?"
"Well, I'd like her for a relative," started the young man. Then he
hesitated and for the first time faltered. A light blush began at the
roots of his hair and overspread his face.
"I got that you were a physician," said Rosalie, "but there's one place
I got you plumb wrong. I thought it was business troubles. So the
trouble's your heart and affections! It's that big-eyed blonde niece of
Markham's, of course. Well, you ain't the first. The best way to bring
the young men like a flock of blackbirds is to shut a girl away from
Now the young man showed real surprise.
"How did you know?" he enquired.
"My controls an' guides, of course," responded Rosalie. "They couldn't
find anybody else to fall in love with around the Markham house--ain't
as smart as you thought you was, are you?"
"Beside you," he responded, "I'm Beppo the Missing Link."
Rosalie acknowledged the compliment, and turned to business.
"I ain't asking you how I'm going about it," she said; "probably you've
planted that. I _am_ asking you if you're willing to risk fifty a week
on a pig in a poke? I know about her; we all do. She's just like Mrs.
Fife. The Psychic Researchers have written up Mrs. Fife, but they ain't
got half of her. They miss the big things, just like they get fooled on
the little things. _We_ know. And we know about Mrs. Markham, too,
though she's had sense enough to keep shut up from the professors.
"You're a skeptic," pursued Rosalie, "and I'm blowin' my breath to cool
a house afire when I talk to you. I guess I just talk to hear myself
talk. We start real. I did; we all do. With some of us it's a big
streak an' with some it's a little. I was pretty big--pretty big.
Things happen; voices and faces. Things that are true right out of the
air, and things that ain't true--all mixed up with what you're thinking
yourself. It comes just when it wants to, not when you want it. And the
longer you go on, and the more horse sense you get, the less it comes."
Rosalie stopped a moment, and veiled her eyes with her lashes, as
though speaking out of trance.
"Everyone of us says to herself, 'It won't leave me!' An' we start to
practice. What are we goin' to do then? You git a sitter. She pays her
two dollars. And _they_ don't come perhaps. Not for that sitter, or the
next sitter, or the next. But you have to give the value for the two
dollars or go out of business. So some day, you guess. That's the funny
thing about this business, anyway. Lots of times you ain't quite sure
whether guessing did it, or spirits. I've glimpsed the ring on a girl's
left hand, and right then my voices have said, 'Engaged!' Now was it me
makin' that voice, or the spirit? I don't know. But when you begin to
guess, you find how easy people are--how they swallow fakes and cry for
more. As sitters go, fakin' gets 'em a lot harder than the real stuff.
An' before long--it's easy--you're slipping the slates or bringing
spooks from cabinets--let me tell you no medium ever did that genuine.
But it's funny how long the real thing stays. Now you--I called your
father Wilfred. Maybe I'll wake up to-morrow night, seein' your face,
and a voice will come right out of the air and say a name--and it'll be
yours. It's happened; it will happen again; but generally when I can't
make any use of it.
"I'm goin' a long way round to get home. There's some so big that they
don't have to fake. Sometimes, of course, the controls won't come to
them, but they can afford to tell a sitter they can't sense nothin',
because the next sitter will get the real stuff--the stuff you can't
fake. Mrs. Fife is that way. I've seen her work and I know. I know just
as well about Mrs. Markham, though I haven't seen her. She keeps tight
shut up away from the rest of us. She never mixes. But some of us have
seen her, they've passed it on.
"Mediums," added Rosalie Le Grange, after a pause, "is a set of pipe
dreamers as a class, but there's one place where you can take their
word like it was sworn to on the Bible. It's when they say somebody has
the real thing. Because mediums is knockers, and when they pass out a
bouquet, you can bet they mean it. No, young man, Mrs. Markham, if she
_does_ play a lone hand, is the real thing. But I may help you waste
The young man had lost his air of cynical levity, he was regarding
Rosalie Le Grange somewhat as a collector regards a new and
"Why?" he asked.
"Who's the greatest doctor in the world?" asked Mme. Le Grange.
"Watkins, I suppose," responded the young man.
"What'd you give for a chance to stay in his office a month and see him
He nodded his head.
"I was a darned little fool when I was young," pursued Rosalie Le
Grange, "an' now that I'm gettin' on in years I'm just as darned an old
one. I like to take chances. See?"
"Mme. Le Grange," said her sitter, again clapping her rounded shoulder,
"you're a fellow after my heart."
"Just a second before we come to the bouquets," responded Rosalie Le
Grange, "there's another reason. Can you guess it?"
"I've already given up guessing on you."
On the table beside Mme. Le Grange lay an embroidery frame, the needle
set in a puffy red peony. Mme. Le Grange picked it up and took a stitch
or two. Her head bent over her work, so that the playful light made
gold of the white in her chestnut hair, she pursued:
"Maybe you specialize on mendin' people's bones and maybe your
specialty is their insides. I've got a specialty, too. You see, in this
business it's easy to go all to the bad unless you do somethin' for
other people. You have to have a kind of religion to tie to. Mine is
unitin' and reunitin' lovin' hearts. Of course you're saying that this
is a lot of foolishness. Never mind." She paused a moment, and plied
the needle. "What's the trouble between you and that slim little niece
of Mrs. Markham's that you want her aunt exposed? An' can't I fix it
some other way?"
"What do you know about Miss Markham?" asked the sitter.
"I've opened myself up to you like a school-girl in a cosey corner
chat," said Rosalie Le Grange; "ain't it time _you_ was doin' some
"Did you ever hear that Miss Markham had been brought up to be a
medium? That she mustn't marry because it would destroy her powers?
That she's been taught to believe that she will never develop fully
until she's put aside an earthly love?"
"O-ho!" quoth Rosalie; "so that's the way the wind sets! My! I must say
that's the fakiest thing I ever heard about Mrs. Markham. We all know
that a medium's born. This dark room developin' seance work is bosh to
stall the dopes along. Still, Mrs. Markham has always played a lone
hand. She's never mixed with other mediums, which is why I'll be safe
in goin' into her house--she won't recognize me. Probably she's kept
some fool notions that the rest of us lost long ago. But the poor
little puss!"--her voice sank to a ripple--"the poor little puss!" Her
eyes grew tender, and tenderly they met the softened eyes of the young
man. "Just robbin' her of her girlhood! I wonder"--her voice grew
harder as she turned to practical consideration of the subject--"if
Mrs. Markham got the idea from them Yogis and adepts and things that
she mixed with in India. Just like 'em. They've got the real thing, but
they're little, crawling Dagoes with no more blood in 'em than a swarm
"It is terrible to think of," said the sitter.
"You poor dear, I should say so!" responded Rosalie. "Of course, I see
what you want done. If I can prove that Mrs. Markham is a fake, then I
prove to the girl that it's all bosh about her not marrying. I can't
give you no encouragement as far as exposin' goes, seem' 's I know Mrs.
Markham is real, but if I'm on the ground, maybe I can fix it some
other way. How are you goin' to git me into the house?"
"This week," responded her co-conspirator, "Mrs. Markham will advertise
for a housekeeper. I suppose you can play housekeeper well enough to
keep the place a month, can't you?"
"If there's anythin' I can do," responded Rosalie, "it's keep house. Is
it a big house?"
"Three stories--three or four servants, I suppose."
"That's good; I'll enjoy it; I never had a chance at _that_!"
"Remember you must get the place from the other applicants."
"If my mediumship hasn't taught me enough to git me a plain job, it
hasn't taught me nothin'," responded Rosalie.
"Then it's as good as done," answered the young man. "Shall I pay you
now or later? Mrs. Markham's salary will be your tip."
"It's a good paymaster that pays when the job's got," answered Rosalie.
Her sitter rose, as though to go.
"Confidences is like love," said Rosalie, "first sight or not for ten
years. Here I've opened my whole bag of tricks, and yours is locked
tight. Don't you think you might tell me your name?"
The young man reached for a card.
"Dr. Blake," he said as he fumbled.
"Walter Huntington Blake, Curfew Club," corrected Rosalie.
His hands dropped, and he stared.
"Spirits--my kind." Rosalie extended her hand. In it rested his little
card case. "Excuse me. I done it just to show you I wasn't _quite_ a
darn fool, if I do tell everything I know to a stranger. Now don't get
silly an' think from this marvelous demonstration that I've been givin'
you a con talk. It's just a lesson not to take your card case along
when you visit a medium. It's a proof that I can expose Mrs. Markham if
there 's anything to expose. Good-by Dr. Blake, and good luck."
[Illustration: "THEN IT'S AS GOOD AS DONE"]
The following Wednesday, at eight o'clock in the morning, a messenger
boy woke Mme. Le Grange by prolonged knocking. He passed in this note:
Answer early the third advertisement, third column, sixth page, in
the _Herald_ Help Wanted column. From the address, I know it is
ROSALIE'S FIRST REPORT
Rosalie Le Grange, upon assuming her position as housekeeper in the
Markham establishment, had written Dr. Blake that Tuesday was her
afternoon out, and suggesting that he meet her every Tuesday afternoon
at three in the ladies' parlor of the old Hotel Greenwich, which lay
far from main lines of traffic and observation. So they sat on the
faded velvets of the Greenwich that fall afternoon, heads together in
"You're wastin' your money," began Rosalie.
"Tell me about Miss Markham first," he interrupted; "is she well?"
"As well as she ever is--that girl's far from strong. The more I think
of this job"--she reverted to her subject--"the more meechin' I feel
about it, spyin' on a good woman an' a great medium like her. Git the
girl away from _her_! Let me tell you, Dr. Blake, your girl's the
luckiest girl in the world, and I don't care if I have to say it right
into your face. If _I'd_ had a chance to develop my mediumship straight
from a great vessel of the spirit like that, I wouldn't be fakin' test
books, and robbin' card cases, and givin' demonstrations to store girls
at a dollar a trance. To learn from Mrs. Markham! She ought to thank
God for the chance."
Then, perceiving that she had left his feelings out of
consideration--noticing by the droop of his eyes how much she had
depressed him--she patted his knee and let a tender smile flutter over
"Of course, Boy," she said, with the sweet patronage of woman, "I don't
take no stock in the notion that the girl has got to put aside earthly
love, and that kind of talk. We've all got our notions and our
places--where we don't follow the spirit guides. Perhaps that's just
Mrs. Markham's weak spot. Maybe her own love affairs was ashes in her
mouth. Come to think of it, I never did know who Mr. Markham was. What
I'm tryin' to tell you is that you've got your pig by the wrong ear,
for you can't expose what's genuine. And I'm ashamed of what I'm doin',
and if I hadn't promised to stay a month, I'd leave this very day." Her
companion made an involuntary motion of alarm.
"Don't be afraid--I'm not goin' to yet. Gettin' the place was easy. You
want a housekeeper stupid and respectable; I was all that. I was
bothered, before I got started, to get the letters of recommendation,
but I got 'em--never mind how. And they were good, too. I'm Mrs.
Granger, as I told you, and I'm a widow. So I took the place away from
a Swede, an Irishwoman, and a French ginny. Right at the start, I found
a line on Mrs. Markham. When she was alone with me, after we come to
terms, she was just as kind and good as any lady in the land. I don't
suppose that means anythin' to you, but it did to me. Big fakirs and
crooks just live their lives in terror, afraid of their own shadows.
They've got to be sweet and kind on the outside, and so they take out
their crossness and irritation on the help. I'd rather be keeper in an
asylum than cook to a burglar. But Mrs. Markham was _fine_--and no airs
and no softness. If the spirit ever hallowed a face, it's hers. I know
you don't like her, and you can't be blamed--her keeping your little
girl from you! But you must have noticed her voice, how pretty it is if
she _does_ talk English fashion. Now that was my first sight into her.
Whatever she's done, she's never done materializin', which is just
where pure, proved fakin' begins. It's as soft as a girl's. It wouldn't
be if she'd worked up her voices for men controls. I've been
complimented on my voice myself, but you must have noticed the way it
slides down and gits deep every little while. That's left to show I did
materializin' in St. Paul; and I'm ashamed of it, too. My, how I wander
around in Robin Hood's barn! But I'm full of it."
"Tell me everything," he said, "and in your own way."
"'You know my profession?' says Mrs. Markham.
"'No, Ma'am,' says I.
"'I'm a religious teacher, in a way,' says she. 'A medium if you care
to call it that. I prefer another name.'
"'A medium!' says I. 'My! I was to a medium last week!'
"Perhaps you don't see why I done that. 'T was to give her an opening.
First move, when you're fakin' on a big scale, is to make dopes out of
your servants. Git 'em to swallow the whole thing; then find the yellow
spot, work it, and pull 'em into your fakin'. But she never followed
the lead, even so much as to seem interested. 'Indeed?' says she.
'Well, I see only a few callers, and usually in the evening. I'm a
little particular about bein' disturbed at such times, and I must ask
you not to come below the top floor on such evenings. Ellen, the parlor
maid, always sits by the front door to answer the bell.' That was a
relief. I was afraid I'd have to answer bells, which would have been
risky. Dopes that follow big mediums go to little ones sometimes; there
was a chance that I'd let in one of my own sitters and be recognized.
And the arrangement didn't look faky to me as it may to you; for a
fact, you're just a bundle of nerves when you're coming in and out of
"'And I hope you'll be comfortable,' says she, 'I'm coming up this
evening to see if your room is all right and if there's anything you
want. You'll like my servants, I think.'
"Right there I began to be ashamed of our game, and it hasn't got any
less, I'll tell _you_.
"It was hard work getting the job to runnin', and I didn't have much
time for pokin' into things. When I did git room to turn around, I went
through that whole house pretendin' to take inventories. I didn't find
a thing that looked out of place, or faky. Not a scrap of notes on
sitters, not a trap, not a slate, not a thread of silk mull, not a
spark of phosphorus. I wasn't fool enough to break the rule about
coming downstairs when she had sitters. Let her catch me spyin', and
the bird's gone. But last Sunday night I had a fair chance. I knew it
would come if I waited. There's three servants under me--Mary the cook,
who's a hussy; and Martin the furnace man, who's a drunk; and Ellen,
who's a fool. I'd listened to 'em talking and I'd pumped 'em gradual,
but I couldn't git a definite thing--and what the help don't know about
the crooked places in their bosses ain't generally worth knowin'.
Ellen, the maid, ought to 'a' been my best card--her sittin' every
night at the door catchin' what comes out of the parlors. She couldn't
tell a thing. All she knew was that she heard a lot of talk in low
tones, and it was something about spirits and the devil, and then she
crossed herself. As help goes, they like Mrs. Markham, which is a good
"Last Sunday, at supper, Ellen begins to complain of a pain in her
head. It seemed to me that I'd better take, just once, the chance of
being recognized by a sitter, an' 'tend door for the seance. So I begun
"'You're sick, child,' says I, havin' her alone at the time. 'It looks
to me like neuralgia.'
"Well, you're a doctor--I don't have to tell you how easy it is to make
a person _think_ they're sick. And that's my specialty--makin' people
think things. In half an hour, I had that girl whoop-in' an' Martin
telephonin' for a doctor. Then I broke the news over the house
telephone to Mrs. Markham. She waited ten minutes, and called me down.
It come out just as I figured. She wanted me to 'tend door. I'd been
playin' the genteel stupid, you know, so she trusted me. And I must say
I'd rather she hated me, the way I'm out to do her. She told me that I
was to sit by the door and bring in the names of callers, and if anyone
come after eight o'clock, I was to step into the outside hall and get
rid of 'em as quick as I could. Now let me tell you, that killed
another suspicion. One way, the best way of fakin' in a big house, is
to have the maid rob the pockets of people's wraps for letters an'
calling cards an' such. I'd thought maybe Ellen played that game, she
acted so stupid; but here I was lettin' in the visitors, me only, a
week in the house. I took the coats off her callers myself and I
watched them wraps all the time. Nobody ever approached 'em while I
looked. She had only four sitters, two men and two women--an old
married couple an' a brother an' sister, I took it from their looks an'
the way they acted toward each other. The old couple were rich and
tony. They didn't flash any jewelry, but her shoes and gloves were made
to order and her coat had a Paris mark inside. The brother and sister
must be way up, too; he was dressed quiet but rich, and he had a
Bankers' Association pin in his buttonhole. Yes, they wasn't paupers,
and that's the only fake sign I've seen about Mrs. Markham. But that's
nothin'. Stands to reason the best people go to the best mediums, just
like they go to the best doctors and preachers.
"That sittin', you hear me, was real. I got by the double doors where I
could listen. You just hear me--it was real. You ain't a sensitive.
You've followed knowledge and not influences, and it's going to be hard
for me to git this into you. So I'll tell you first how it would have
looked to you, and then how it looked to me. I'm not sayin' what she
gave wasn't something she got out of test books and memorandums,
because I don't know her people or yet how much she'd had to do with
them. It was the way it come out that impressed me. First place, she
didn't go into trance. That's a fake to impress dopes, nine times out
of ten. If you ever git anything real from me, you'll git it out of
half trance. Then she didn't feel around an' fish, an' neither did she
hit the bull's eye every time. She'd get the truth all tangled up. John
would say a true thing, that only _he_ knew, and she'd think she got it
from James. Her sitters were fine acknowledgers, especially the old
maid, and I could tell. That's how I would 'a' looked to you, and now
let me tell you how it struck me. You don't have to believe it.
"I was sittin' there just takin' it all in, when I began to get
influences. Now laugh; but you won't stop me. It never struck me so
strong in my life as it did right there. And it all come from Mrs.
Markham. It was like a sweet smell radiatin' from that room, and just
makin' me drunk. It was like--maybe you've heard John B. Gough speak.
Remember how he had you while you listened? Remember how you believed
like he did and felt everything was right and you could do anything?
Now that is as near like it as I can tell you and yet that _ain't_ it
by half. You ain't a sensitive. You can't git just what I mean.
"An' then _I_ begun to see. I can't tell you all; I was half out; but
just this for a sample: I had a sitter last week, an old lady; an' the
sittin' was a failure. Yes, I was fishin' and pumpin', but she was
close-mouthed an' suspicious. I got it out of her that she was worried
about her boy. I tried a bad love affair for a lead, an' there was
nothing doing. I tried bad habits and it was just as far away; and I
give it up and was thankful I got fifty cents out of her. Well, while I
sat there listenin' to Mrs. Markham, right into my mind came a
picture--the old lady leanin' over a young man--her pale and shaky and
him surprised an' mad,--and he held a pen in his hand, an' I got the
word 'forgery!' That's one of the things I saw while that influence
come from Mrs. Markham; and if you only knew how seldom I git anything
real nowadays, you'd be as crazy as me about her. I just had to use all
the force I've got to look stupid when the sitters went out."
Rosalie had talked on, oblivious to Dr. Blake's anxieties and feelings.
He sat there, the embodiment of disappointment.
"As perfect a case of auto-suggestion as I ever knew," his professional
mind was thinking. But he expressed in words his deeper thought:
"Then that line fails."
"I'm sorry, boy," responded Rosalie, "but I'm doin' my job straight,
and you wouldn't want it done any other way. And I feel you'll git her
somehow; if not this way, some other. And the longer the wait the
stronger the love, _I_ say. She don't seem any too happy, even if Mrs.
Markham does treat her well."
"Doesn't she?" he asked, his face lighting with a melancholy relief.
"Good symptom for you, ain't it? And I can't think of nothing else that
can be on her mind. But how that girl passes her days, I don't know. It
must be dull for her, poor little bird. She and Mrs. Markham ain't much
apart. She looks at Mrs. Markham like a dog looks at his master, she's
that fond of her. Seems to read a lot, and twice they've been out in
the evening--theater, or so the chauffeur said. We don't have no
private car. We hire one by the month from a garage. An' if I ever
liked a girl and wanted to see her happy, that's the one!"
Rosalie rose. "Must do some shoppin'. Can't say I hope for better news
next week, not the kind of good news you're looking for. But I'm hopin'
for good news in the end."
Dr. Blake remained sitting, his head dropped in depression on his
breast. Rosalie stooped to pat it with a motherly gesture.
"Just remember this," she said, "you love her and she loves you or I
miss my guess, an' there ain't no beatin' that combination. If I was
fakin' with you I wouldn't need no more than that to make me see your
two names in a ring. And remember this, too, boy! There never was
anything that turned out just the way you expected. You figure on it
twenty ways. It always beats you; and yet when you look back, you say,
'Of course; what a fool I was.' Good-by, boy--here next Tuesday at
three unless I tell you different by letter." Rosalie was gone.
Dr. Blake walked in the park that night until dawn broke over the city
roofs. And he drew out a dull and anxious existence,--shot and broken
with whims, fancies, all the irregularities of a lover,--during the
week in which he awaited Rosalie's next report.
THE FISH NIBBLES
Quietly, naturally, giving a preliminary word of direction to the maid
as she lifted the portieres, Mrs. Markham entered the drawing room.
Pricking with a sense of impatience, tinctured by nervousness over his
own folly, Robert H. Norcross awaited her there. She stood a moment
regarding him; in that moment, the quick perception, veiled away by an
expression of thought, to which the railroad baron owed so much, took
her all in. Superficially, he saw a tall woman, approaching fifty, but
still vigorous and free from over-burdening flesh.
"Good evening; I am glad to see you," she said quietly. She had a low
voice and pleasing. He remembered then that he had failed to rise, so
intent had he been on her face; and he got to his feet in some
embarrassment. As she approached him, his mind, going from detail to
detail, noticed her powerful head, her Grecian nose, rising without
indentation from a straight forehead, her firm but pleasant mouth, her
large, light gray eyes which looked a little past him. Here was a
person on his own level of daring mental flight. He remembered only one
other woman who had struck him with the force of this one. That other
was an actress, supreme in her generation not so much for temperament
as for mind. As he looked over a reception crowd at her, intellect had
spoken to intellect; they had known each other. So Paula Markham struck
him on first sight.
He was about to speak, but she put in her word first.
"Do you come personally or professionally? I had an engagement for an
unknown visitor on professional business. Are you he? For if you are,
it would be better for you not to tell me your name--I am Mrs.
"I came professionally," he said. He paused. The manner of Norcross, on
all first meetings, was timid and hesitating. It was one of his
unconscious tricks. Because of that timidity, new-comers, in trying to
put him at his ease revealed themselves to his shrewd observation. But
there was a real embarrassment at this meeting. He was approaching the
subject which had lain close to his imagination ever since three days
ago, when Bulger said carelessly that a woman had given him the address
of the best spook medium in the business.
"I want to know," he said, "all about--myself."
She laughed lightly as she seated herself in an old-fashioned
"If I should tell you that," she said, "I would give you the sum and
substance of human wisdom. That seems to me the greatest mystery of the
unknowable. No human being ever thoroughly understood any other human
being, I suppose,--and yet no human being knows himself. If you search
yourself, you find mystery. If you ask others, you find double mystery.
Perhaps that is the knowledge which is reserved for the Divine."
"That is true," responded Norcross. "That is true. But your spirits--"
"Not mine," she interrupted. "And perhaps not spirits, either. Though
they speak to me, I cannot say that they are real, any more than I can
tell that this table, these clothes"--her long, expressive, ringless
hand swept across the area of her skirt--"than you yourself, are real.
All reality and unreality may dwell in the mind. Though personally,"
she added, "I prefer to believe that this chair, these clothes, you, I,
are real. And if they are real, so are the Voices. At least, so I
This philosophy was past any power of Norcross for repartee; the
faculties which deal with such things had wasted in him during thirty
years in Wall Street. But the effect of her voice, her ladyhood, and
her command of this philosophy--those moved him.
"Will your voices tell me anything?" he asked, irrelevantly, yet coming
straight to the point.
"Impatience," she answered, "will not help you. The power bloweth where
it listeth. That impatience is one of the roads to trickery employed by
the frauds of--my profession."
A smile lifted the mustache of Norcross.
"You admit that there _are_ frauds in your profession, then?"
"Oh, dear, yes!" she smiled back at him. "It lends itself so easily to
fraud that the temptation among the little people must be
overwhelming--the more because trickery is often more accurate than
real revelation. I will confess to you that this is the rock upon which
my powers and my mission seem sometimes most likely to split. But I
console myself by thinking that all of us, great as well as small, must
be on the verge of it sometimes. Let me draw you a parallel. Perhaps
you know something of the old alchemists. They had laid hold on the
edge of chemistry. But because that truth came confused, because they
all had things by the wrong handle, a thousand of them confused truth
with error until, in the end, they did not know right from wrong. This
force in which you and I are interested is a little like chemistry--it
may be called mental and spiritual chemistry. But because it deals with
the unseen, not with the seen, it is a thousand times more uncertain
and baffling. We have ears, eyes, touch--a great equipment--to perceive
gold, silver, stones, trees, water. But we have only this mind, a
mystery even to ourselves, to perceive an idea, a concept. I wish that
I could express it better"--she broke off suddenly--"and very likely
I'm boring you--but when your whole soul is full of a thing it _will_
overflow." She smiled upon Norcross, as though for sympathy. If he gave
it, his face did not betray him.
"Then you say," returned Norcross with one of his characteristic shifts
to childlike abruptness, "that you never faked?"
Mrs. Markham, as though daring him to provoke her by his
forthrightness, leaned forward and regarded him with amusement on her
lips. "Men are only boys," she said. "My dear sir--I could almost say
'my dear boy'--if I had, would I admit it? You must take me as I am and
form your own conclusions. I shall not help you with that, even though
I admit to you that I don't care very much what your conclusions are.
"To be serious," she added, "it is not a pleasant suspicion to hear of
one's self. Now take yourself--you are a man of large practical
Norcross leaned forward a trifle, as though expecting revelation to
begin. She caught the motion.
"Don't think I'm telling you _that_ from any supernormal source," she
said. "That's my own intelligence--my woman's intuition if you like to
call it so. Your air, your ineptness to understand philosophy, show
that you are not in one of the learned professions, and it is easy to
see, if I may make so bold"--here she smiled a trifle--"that you are no
ordinary person. You have the air of great things about you. Well, if I
should raise suspicion against your business integrity and your
methods, it would hurt for a moment, even if there were truth in it. In
fairness, that is so, is it not?"
"I have to beg your pardon, of course," said Norcross, grown easier in
his manner. "But you must remember that your profession has to prove
itself--that they're all accused of fraud."
"Now that you have apologized," said she, "I will prove that I have
accepted the apology by answering you direct. I am not a fraud. I have
been able to afford not to be. Still, I have a little sympathy with
those who are. Did you ever consider," she went on, "that no fraud
invents anything; that he is only imitating something genuine? Perhaps
it may shake whatever faith you have in me if I tell you whatever these
people profess to do has been done genuinely and without possibility of
"Even bringing spirits from a cabinet?" he asked. Just as he spoke that
question, an electric bell rang somewhere to the rear of the
drawing-room. Mrs. Markham sat unmoving for an instant, as though
considering either the sound or his question. The bell tinkled no more.
After a moment, she smiled again.
"You must know more of all these things before I can answer your
question. Haven't we talked enough? Wouldn't it be better, in your
present condition of suspicion, if I try to see what we can do without
seeming any further to inspect you? For you must know that long
preliminary conversation is a stock method with frauds and fakirs."
Norcross's breath came a little faster, and a curious change passed for
a second over his face--a falling of all the masses and lines. Mrs.
Markham rose, sat by the table, under the reading-lamp, and shaded her
eyes with her hand. She spoke now in a different tone, softer and less
[Illustration: NORCROSS'S BREATH CAME A LITTLE FASTER]
"I shall probably not go into trance," she said. "That is rare with me,
rare with anyone, though often assumed for effect. Of you, I ask only
that you remain quiet and passive. I'd like less light."
Norcross shot a glance of quick suspicion at her as he rose, reached
for the old-fashioned gas chandelier, and turned the jets down to tiny
"Oh, dear no!" spoke Mrs. Markham, "not so low as that--this is no dark
seance. I merely meant that the lights are too strong for a pair of
sensitive eyes. I feel everything when I am in this condition. Would
you mind sitting a little further away? Thank you. I think that's
right. Please do not speak to me until I speak, and do not be
disappointed if I tell you nothing."
For five minutes, no sound broke the silence in Mrs. Markham's
drawing-room, except the hiss of a light, quick breath and the intake
and outgo of a heavier, slower one. And so suddenly, with such
smothered intensity, that Norcross started in his seat, Mrs. Markham's
voice emitted the first quaver of a musical note. She held it for a
moment, before she began to hum over and over three bars of an old
tune--"Wild roamed an Indian maid, bright Alfaretta." Thrice she hummed
it, still sitting with her hand over her eyes.--"Wild roamed an Indian
maid--" Then silence. But now, the breath of Norcross was coming more
heavily, and the masses of his face had still further fallen. After an
interval, Mrs. Markham spoke, in a low, even tone:
"It is Lallie."
Another period of heavy silence.
"I cannot see her nor hear her speak. Martha, my control, is speaking
for her. But Martha shows me the picture of a child--a little girl in
an old-fashioned dress. And I think she is saying that name--Lallie."
The silence again, so that when Norcross moistened his dry lips with
his tongue the slight smack seemed like the crackle of a fire.
"I see it more clearly now and I understand. The child gave her that
name, but someone else used it for a love name. It was just between
those two." The rest came in scattered sentences, with long pauses
between--"I hear that song again--it was her favorite--I understand now
why it comes--she was singing it when--Yes, you are the man--when you
told her--She calls you Bobbert--and now I cannot see."
A bead of perspiration had appeared so suddenly on the forehead of
Norcross that it had the effect of bursting from a pore. He was on his
feet, was pacing the floor in his jerky little walk. When, after one
course of the drawing-room, he turned back, Mrs. Markham had taken her
hand from her eyes, and was facing him.
"Oh, why did you do that?" she asked. "It has its effect on me--you do
not know how much!" Her manner spoke a smothered irritation. "I shall
not see Lallie to-night. And she was very near."
As though something had clicked and fallen into place within him,
Norcross straightened and stiffened, controlled the relaxed muscles of
his face, flashed his eyes on Mrs. Markham.
"Might I ask some questions?" he said.
"You must sit quietly," she answered, "and though I can never see so
well after the first contact breaks, Martha may speak for you. Sit as
you did, and wait for me." Norcross walked at his nervous, hurried
little pace back to his seat on the sofa. His face was quite controlled
now, and his sharp eyes held all their native cunning. That grip on
himself grew, as he waited for the inert seeress to speak again.
"Martha says, 'I will try,'" she gave out finally. "Quick--with your
question--with your lips, not your mind--I am not strong enough now."
"What was Lallie's real name?"
"Her other name?"
A pause, then:
"Martha is silent. You are testing me. Tell something you want to
"Was there ever anyone else?"
A pause again, then:
"Never. She loved you wholly. She was angry over a little thing, just
jealousy, during that last quarrel. She had already forgiven. It was
only a girl's whim. Do you want advice?"
Norcross thrusted obliquely from the corner of his eye at Mrs. Markham
and looked down at the floor.
"Ask her if I shall sell," he said.
The answer came so suddenly that it overlapped the last words of his
"Martha says that she is going away." No more for two silent minutes;
no more until Mrs. Markham dropped her hand from her eyes, turned to
Norcross, and said in a normal, sprightly tone:
"It is all over for this evening. I suppose the trouble lay in your
last question. I am sorry--if you came here looking for business
advice--that you got only the things of the affections. To your old
love affairs, I had an unusually quick response to-night." She leaned
heavily back in her chair. "Excuse me if I seem tired. There is a kind
of inner strain about this which you cannot know--a strain at the core.
It does not affect the surface, but it makes you languid." Yet her
manner, as she threw herself back, invited him to linger.
"I shall not ask you," she went on, "whether the things I told you
to-night are true. We all have our human vanities in our work; we like
to hear it praised. That is one reason why I do not ask. Then I know
without your confirmation that what I told you was true. When the
control comes as clearly and strongly as it did for a few minutes
tonight,--before you interrupted by rising--the revelations are always
accurate and true. The details I gave you are trivial. That is
generally a feature of a first sitting. The scholars have found an
explanation of that phenomenon, and I am inclined to agree with them.
If I were talking to you over a telephone and you were not sure of my
voice, how should I identify myself? By some trivial incident of our
common experience. For example, suppose I were to call you up
to-morrow. How should I identify myself? Somewhat like this, probably:
'You tried to turn the gas out completely, when I wanted it only
lowered in order to save my eyes.' Wouldn't that identify me to you?"
she paused as for an answer.
"As nearly as you could over a telephone wire," he answered. "You're a
marvelously clever woman, to think of that," he added. Mrs. Markham
answered, on the wings of a light laugh:
"If I appear at all clever by contrast with what you expected to find,
it is because I have not let my mind dwell in a half-world, as have so
many others of my profession. That is the tendency. I have seen no
reason why I should not combat it. I believe, too, that I am the
stronger for it in my work. What was I saying? Oh, yes--about the first
contact. Probably the last thought of the disembodied, upon assuming
the trance state--for I believe that the sender of these messages, like
the receivers, have to enter an abnormal condition--is to prove their
identity. That is only natural, is it not? Would not you do the same?
Think. And what do they have to offer? One of those intimate memories
of years past which linger so long in the mind. Take me for example.
What should I offer to--well, to that one among the disembodied who
means most to me? An adventure in stealing cream from a dairy house!"
As though she were carried away by this memory, her face grew soft and
serious. With an outward sweep of her hands and a quick "but then!" she
"The best judges of character--and you must be such a one--make their
mistakes. Why did you ask that question?"
Norcross, glib and effective as his tongue could be when he directed or
traded, found now no better answer than:
"Because I wanted to know, I suppose."
"Were this Helen in the flesh--young and inexperienced as she
was--would you expect her to give you advice in any large affair of
business--would she be basically interested in it? Interested because
it is yours and she loves you, perhaps--but basically? We have no proof
that natures change out there. I suppose that isn't all, either. Is
she, keeping her soul for you in a life which I hope is better--is she
interested in whether or no you make a little more money and position?
I can conceive only one condition in which she would mention your
business. If you were at a crossroads--if great danger or great
deliverance hung on your decision--she might sense that. I think they
must get it, by some process to which we are blind, from other
"Suppose, then, that--Martha I think you call her--had brought some old
business associate. Would he have answered me?"
"Perhaps. But that does not really explain what is in your mind. If
this business matter which perplexes you were so vital, don't you
suppose that some one of those very associates would have rushed to
speak, instead of a dead love? In that way, I think I can construct an
answer--provided you ask that question in good faith. It is, probably,
not very important whether you sell or no."
Mrs. Markham rose on this. Norcross caught the hint in her manner, and
rose with her. A little "oh!" escaped her, and her face lighted.
"I know who you are, now!" she said. "You are Robert H. Norcross of the
"Please do not think I got _that_ by any supernormal means!" she added
quickly. "I mention it only to be frank with you. From the moment I saw
you, I was perplexed by a memory and a resemblance. Then, too, I caught
the air of big things about you. That attitude which you have just
taken solved it all. It is the counterpart of your photograph in last
Sunday's _Times_--the full-page snap shot. I must be frank with you or
you will not believe me."
The mustache of Norcross raised just a trifle, and his eyes glittered.
"Passing over what I may think of your revelations," he said, "you're a
"If you're coming again," said Mrs. Markham, "perhaps you'd better not
delve into my personality. It interferes. Understand, I'm really
flattered to have a man like you take notice of this work. That's why I
ask that your notice shan't be personal. At least not yet."
"Since this is a--a--professional relation, may I ask how much I owe
"My price is twenty-five dollars a sitting--for those who can afford
Norcross drew out his wallet, handed Mrs. Markham three bills. Without
looking at them, she dropped them on the table beside her. "You see,"
she went on as though her mind were still following their discussion,
"I don't like to talk much with my--patients. I never can know when I
may unconsciously steal from what they tell me."
At the entrance, Norcross hesitated, as though hoping for something
more than a good-night. No more than that did she give him, however. He
himself was obliged to introduce the subject in his mind. "If I should
come again, would Helen tell me more?"
"Perhaps. From the excellent result to-night I should call it likely."
"Then may I come again?" His voice broke once, as with eagerness.
"Certainly. Will you make an appointment?"
"I had an engagement for Tuesday. Could you come as well on Friday?"
And though it meant postponing a directors' meeting, he answered
"Very well. Say Friday at eight."
And now he was in his automobile. He settled himself against the
cushions and held the attitude, without motion. For five minutes he sat
so, until the chauffeur, who had been throwing nervous backward glances
through the limousine windows, asked:
"I beg your pardon, sir, did you say 'home'?"
"Yes, home," responded Norcross. And even on those words, his voice
Mrs. Markham stood beside the table, hardly moving, until she knew by
whir and horn that the Norcross automobile was gone. Then she sent
Ellen to bed, and herself moved quickly to a secretary in the little
alcove library back of the drawing-room. Taking a key from her bosom,
she unlocked a drawer and took out a packet of yellow legal cap paper.
Holding this document concealed in a fold of her waist, she passed
rapidly to an apartment upstairs. She opened the door softly, and
listened. Nothing sounded within but the light, even breathing of a
sleeper. After a moment, she crossed the room, finding her way expertly
in the darkness. Well within, she knelt and began some operation on the
And her hand made a slip. A crash echoed through the house. Following
the startled, half-articulate cry of a sudden awakening, Mrs. Markham,
still finding her way with marvelous precision in the darkness, passed
through a set of portieres and crossed to the bed.
"Hush, dear," she said, "I only came upstairs to borrow a handkerchief.
Go to sleep. I'm sure it won't bother your rest. Don't think of it
ROSALIE'S SECOND REPORT
As though to prove her maxim, "Nothing turns out the way you expect
it," Rosalie, on her second Tuesday off, failed to meet her anxious
young employer in the ladies' parlor of the Hotel Greenwich. Instead
came a page, calling "Dr. Blake!" It was a note--"Stuyvesant Fish Park
as soon as you get this. R. Le G.," it read. Dr. Blake leaped into a
taxicab and hurried to the rendezvous. He spied her on a park bench,
watching with interest the maneuvers of the little Russian girls, as
they swarmed over the rocker swings. Even before he came within
speaking distance of her, he perceived that something must have
happened--read it in her attitude, her manner of one who lulls a
suppressed excitement. When she turned to answer his quick "Mme. Le
Grange!" her cheeks carried a faint color, and her gray eyes were
shining. But her face was serious, too; her dimples, barometer of her
gayer emotions, never once rippled. Before he was fairly seated, she
tumbled out the news in a rush:
"Well! I never was more fooled in my life!"
"She's a fraud!" He jumped joyously to conclusions. "You can prove it!"
Rosalie put a slender finger to her lips.
"Not so loud. Yids have ears. I ain't dead sure of anything now. I
ain't even sure she don't have me followed when I leave the house.
That's why I sent for you to change meeting places. There's nothing as
safe as outdoors, because you can watch the approaches."
"But is she a fake? Can you prove it?" persisted Dr. Blake.
"I'm a woman," responded Rosalie Le Grange, "not a newspaper reporter.
I can't tell my story in a headline before I git to it. I've got to go
my own gait or I can't go at all. Now you listen and don't interrupt,
or I'll explode. It goes back, anyhow, into our last talk.
"I was comin' downstairs in the afternoon a week ago Thursday, and I
saw Ellen let in a man. Good-looking man. Good dresser. Seemed about
thirty-five till you looked over his hands and the creases around his
eyes, when you saw he was risin' forty-five if a day. Stranger, I
guess, for Ellen kept him waiting in the hall. He read the papers while
he waited, and he didn't look at nothing but the financial columns. I
took it from that, he was in Wall Street, though you can't never tell
in New York, where they all play the market or the ponies. I didn't
wait to size him up real careful; that wouldn't do. I just passed on
down to the pantry and then passed back again. He was still there. This
time he had put up his newspapers, and he was looking over some pencil
notes on that yellow legal cap paper. He didn't hear me until I was
close on him, the rugs in the hall are that big and soft. But when I
did get close, he jumped like I had caught him in something crooked and
made like he was goin' to hide the sheets. Of course, I didn't look at
him, but just kept right on upstairs. When I turned into the second
floor, I heard Ellen say, 'Mrs. Markham will receive you.' I didn't pay
no attention to that at the time. It was only one of twenty little
things I remembered. Stayed in the back of my head, waitin' to tie up
with something else.
"Come Tuesday--week ago to-day and my afternoon off. I was comin' home
early, about nine o'clock. I've got front door privileges, but I
generally use the servants' entrance just the same. Right ahead of me,
a green automobile with one of those limousine bodies drove up to the
front door. It's dark down in the area by the servants' entrance. I
stopped like I was huntin' through my skirt for my key, and looked. Out
of the automobile come a man. He turned around to speak to the
chauffeur and I got the light on his face. _Who_ do you suppose it was?
Robert H. Norcross!"
"The railroad king?"
Rosalie pursed her lips and nodded wisely.
"How did you know? You've never seen him before."
"Ain't it my business to know the faces of everybody? What do I read
the personals in the magazines for? You'd know Theodore Roosevelt if
you saw him first time, wouldn't you? But I made surer than that. Next
day I matched the number of his automobile with the automobile
register. That number belongs to Robert H. Norcross."
Dr. Blake whistled.
"Playing for big game!" he said.
"That was what struck me," said Rosalie, "and while it wasn't
impossible that this Mr. Norcross might have a straight interest in the
spirit world--well, when you see big medium and big money together, it
looks like big _fake_. And there was the man with the notes who read
the financial pages--he jumped back into my mind.
"The servants' entrance comes out through the kitchen onto the second
floor. When I come into the hall, Ellen was waiting for me. She was
tiptoeing and whispering.
"'Mrs. Markham,' she says, 'wanted that I should tell you she has
sitters unexpected. There's some of her devil doin's going on
downstairs to-night. She wanted me to catch you when you came in and
ask you to go very quiet to your room.'
"While I went upstairs, I listened hard. Just before I came out on the
landing of the servants' hall, I heard a bell ring, away down below.
Just a little ring--b-r-r. Now, you know if there's one thing more 'n
another that I've got, it's ears--and ears that remember, too. I hadn't
been a day in that house when I knew every bell in it and who was
ringin' besides. This wasn't any of 'em. But that wasn't the funny
thing. _It lasted just about as long as my foot rested on a step of the
stairs_. I didn't make the break of going back and ringin' again; but I
remembered that step--third from the top.
"'T ain't easy to admit you've been fooled, and 't ain't easy to give
up somebody you've believed in. I couldn't have slept that night even
if I'd wanted. I opened the registers in my room, because open
registers help you to hear things, and sat in the darkness. I could
catch that the sitting was over, because the front door slammed. Then
Ellen came upstairs, and the bell rang b-r-r again. I could hear
someone come upstairs to the second floor, where Mrs. Markham and the
girl have their rooms. I listened for that bell when she struck the
stairs. I couldn't hear nothing. The current has been switched off,
thinks I. Maybe it was ten minutes later when I got a faint kind of
thud, like somebody had let down a folding bed, though there ain't a
one of those man-killers in our house. Sort of stirred up a
recollection, that sound. I lay puzzling, and the answer came like a
flash. Worst fake outfit I ever had anything to do with was Vango's
Spirit Thought Institute in St. Paul. I've told you before how ashamed
I am of that. I left because there's some kinds of work I won't stand
for. Well, he used a ceiling trap for his materializin'; though the
wainscot is a sight better and more up-to-date in my experience. When
he let it drop careless, in practicing before the seance, it used to
make a noise like that. I fell asleep by-and-bye; and out of my dreams,
which was troubled and didn't bring nothing definite, I got the general
impression that Mrs. Markham wasn't all right and that I'd been fooled.
"Mrs. Markham and the little girl went to the matinee next afternoon.
Now I'm comin' to her. You let me tell this story _my_ way. The cook
was bakin' in the kitchen, Ellen the parlor maid, who had to stay home
to answer bells, was gossipin' with her. Martin was cleanin' out the
furnace. I had the run of the house. First thing I looked at was the
third step from the top of the stairs. I worked out two tacks in the
carpet--wasn't much trouble; they come out like they was used to it. I
pulled the carpet sideways. Sure enough, there was a wide crack just
below the step, and when I peeked in, I could see the electric
connections. Question was, where was the bell? But I had something to
think of first. Where would Mrs. Markham have a cabinet if she ever
done materializin'? I had thought that all out--a little alcove library
in the rear of the back parlor. Give you plenty of room, when the
folding doors were open, for lights and effects. If there _was_ a
ceiling trap, it must be in the rooms above. I went into--into the
rooms"--here Rosalie paused an infinitesimal second as though making a
mental shift--"into the room above. Just over the alcove library is a
small sittin'-room. The--a bedroom opens off it--but has nothing to do
with the case. It's one of those new-fangled bare floor rooms. Right
over the cabinet space was a big rug. I pulled it aside and pried
around with a hair pin until I found a loose nail."
[Illustration: "I WAS LOOKING STRAIGHT DOWN ON THE BACK PARLORS"]
Rosalie paused for breath before she resumed:
"I went over the house again to be sure I was alone, before I pulled
out the nail. Well, sir, what happened like to knocked me over. The
minute that nail come out, a trap rose right up--on springs. I just
caught it in time to stop it from making a racket. I was looking
straight down on the back parlors. It's one of those flossy, ornamented
ceilings down there, and a panel of those ceiling ornaments came up
with the bottom of the trap. But that wasn't the funny thing about that
trap, nice piece of work as it was. It's a regular cupboard. Double,
you understand. Space in between--and all the fixings for a
materializin' seance, the straight fixings that the dope sees and the
crooked ones that only the medium and the spook sees, tucked inside. A
shutter lamp, blue glass--a set of gauze robes, phosphorescent stars
and crescents, a little rope ladder all curled up--and whole books of
notes. Right on top was"--she paused impressively to get suspense for
her climax--"was them notes on yellow foolscap that I seen in the hands
of the visitor last week. And"--another impressive pause--"they're the
dope for Robert H. Norcross!"
"The full information on him--dead sweetheart, passed out thirty years
ago up-state. Fine job with good little details--whoever got 'em must
'a' talked with somebody that was right close to her--an old aunt, I'm
thinking. But no medium made them notes. Looks like a private
detective's work. Not a bit of professional talk. The notes on Robert
H. Norcross. See!"
Dr. Blake, whose face had lightened more and more as he listened,
jumped up and grasped Rosalie's hand.
"Didn't I tell you!" he cried. "Didn't I tell you!"
But she failed to respond to his enthusiasm. She turned on him a grave
face; and her eyes shone.
"What I'm wondering," she said, "is who plays her spook? 'Cause if she
has a trap, she uses confederates, and it can't be none of the
servants, unless I'm worse fooled on that little Ellen than ever I was
on Mrs. Markham. That's the next thing to consider."
"Does look curious," replied Dr. Blake, "but of course you can be
trusted to discover that! But about Annette?"
"Something's a little wrong there," responded Rosalie. "Quiet, and
dopey, and strange. That,"--her voice fell to soft contemplation,--"is
another thing to find out."
"We must get her out of there!" he exploded; "away from that vampire!"
"Well, that's what I'm takin' your money for, ain't it?" responded
After they parted Rosalie Le Grange stood on a corner, among the
push-cart peddlers and the bargaining wives, and watched Dr. Blake's
taxicab disappear down Stanton Street.
"Ain't it funny?" she said half aloud, "that a smart young man like him
never thought to ask whose room it was I found the trap in?"
THE STREAMS CONVERGE
Bulger, trailing whiffs of out-door air, had dropped into the Norcross
offices to join the late afternoon drink. He sat now sipping his
highball, tilted back with an affectation of ease. Norcross, in his
regular place at the glass-covered desk, laid his glass down; and his
gaze wandered again to the spire of Old Trinity and then, following
down, to the churchyard at its foot. Had he faced about suddenly at
that moment, he would have surprised Bulger in a strained attitude of
attention. But he did not turn; he spoke with averted glance.
"You never asked me, Bulger, how I was making it with that medium
Bulger took a deep swallow of whiskey and water that he might control
his voice. When, finally, he spoke, he showed a fine assumption of
"Well, no. Can't say I'm heavily interested. When I found for you the
best medium that money could buy, I decided that my job was done. Of
course," he added, "I was complimented to have you tell me--what I've
forgotten. If you want to consult a medium, it's really none of my
business. How the Lusitania does loom up at her dock out there!"
Norcross let his eyes wander in search of the Lusitania, but his mind
refused to stray from the vital subject.
"You've no business to be indifferent, Bulger. When you come to my age,
you won't be. Martha says it's the most important thing. And she's
right--she's right. What's the ten or twenty years I've got to live in
this world, compared with all that's waiting us out there? Of course,"
he added, "I don't know much about your private life; I don't know if
you have another part of you waiting."
"Who's Martha?" enquired Bulger.
"No one in _this_ world," responded Norcross. "She's a control
now--Mrs. Markham's best control." Norcross jumped up, and began to
pace the floor in his hurried little walk. Bulger did not fail to
notice that, within a minute or two, a heavy, beady perspiration came
out on his face and forehead. The room was cool; the railroad king was
old and spare. Nothing save some struggle of the inner consciousness
could produce that effect of mighty labor.
"Bulger," said Norcross, speaking in quick, staccato jerks, "if I told
you what I'd seen and heard in the last fortnight, I couldn't make you
believe it. Proofs! Proofs! I've wasted thirty years. I might have had
her--the best part of her--all this time. You think I'm crazy--" he
stopped and peered into Bulger's face. "If anyone had talked this way
to me six months ago, I'd have thought so myself. Do you or don't you?"
"About as crazy as you ever were," responded Bulger. "Not to sugar coat
the pill, people have always said you were crazy--just before you let
off your fireworks. You've got there because you dared do things that
only a candidate for Bloomingdale would attempt. But you always landed,
and we've another name for it now."
"That's it!" exclaimed Norcross. "That's exactly it. I dare to say now
that the dead do return! People have believed in ghosts as long as
they've believed in a Divine Providence--just as many centuries and
ages--every race, every nation. We hear in this generation that certain
people have proved it--found! the way--set up the wires--and we laugh,
and call it all fraud. I don't laugh! Why, we're on the verge of things
which make the railroad and the steamboat and the telegraph seem like
toys--if we only dared. I dare--I dare!" He went on pacing the floor;
and now the beads had assembled into rivers, so that a tiny stream
trickled down and fogged his reading-glasses. He jerked them off, wiped
them, wiped his face and forehead. The action calmed him, brought him
back to his reasonable grip on himself. At the end of his route across
the room, he sat down abruptly.
Bulger did not miss this shift of the new Norcross back toward the old,
iron, inscrutable Norcross whom the world knew. The next remark he
directed against that aspect of his man.
"It's all right," said Bulger, "if you want to follow that line."
During the short pause which ensued, he thought and felt intensely.
Working under the direction of a mind infinitely his superior for
intrigue and subtlety, he had instruction to play gently upon the
Norcross contrariety, the Norcross habit of rejecting advice. This, if
ever, seemed the time. With a bold hand, he laid his counter upon the
board. "Just one thing to be careful about--of course, it's a mouse
trying to steer a lion for me to advise you--but watch those people,
when they get on the subject of business. Sometimes they work people,
Norcross's face, fixed on the third monument from the south door of Old
Trinity, permitted itself the luxury of a slight smile.
"I'm safe there," he responded. "Don't think I haven't tried her
out--put tests of my own. I know what you're thinking about--Marsh and
Diss Debar. I tried at my very first seance to make her talk business
and I've tried it twice since. I couldn't get a single rise out of
_that_. This medium receives from me her regular rate, and no more. I
established that in the beginning. Though I suppose the guides could
advise on business as well as on anything else. But they think about
other things on the other side than this"--his hand swept over Lower
Manhattan--"this money grubbing."
Bulger leaned his elbows on his knees.
"It sounds wonderful," he said.
"Not more wonderful than wireless telegraphy," answered Norcross. "And
the ancients, she says, dreamed of talking with spirits long before
they dreamed of talking to each other across an ocean. We only need an
exceptional force to do it. And Mrs. Markham is that force. You know
the locket I showed you?"
"I promised to forget it."
"Well, remember for a minute. I"--his voice exploded--"I may see her,
Bulger--before the month is over, I may see her!"
Bulger threw himself back in his chair.
"What!" he exclaimed, jumping with an affectation of surprise.
It was as though the sudden motion, the exclamation had touched a
spring in the mind of Norcross, had projected his spirit from that
disintegrating, anaemic cell in his brain to the sound, full-blooded
cells by which he did his daily business. His form, which had seemed
relaxed and old, stiffened visibly. He turned his eyes on Bulger.
"Forget that, too," he said. "Some day, when I'm strong enough, you'll
go with me and you'll believe too." And now the secretary had signalled
the chauffeur, and Norcross had risen to go.
* * * * *
The streams of destiny were converging that afternoon; the lines were
drawing close together. Among the towers of Lower Manhattan, Norcross
sat baring his soul; on a bench in Stuyvesant Square, Rosalie Le Grange
had reported the consummation of her investigations to Dr. Walter
Huntington Blake; in a back parlor of the Upper West Side, Paula
Markham, with many a sidelong glance at the approaches, sat memorizing
the last syllable of a set of notes on yellow legal cap paper. But the
master current was flowing elsewhere. In the offices of the _Evening
Sun_, the stereotypers had just shot the front page of the Wall Street
edition down to the clanking basement. It carried a "beat"; and that
item of news had as much to do with this story as with the ultimate
destinies of the L.D. and M. railroad. On October 19, two weeks hence,
the directors of the road were to meet and decide whether to pay or
pass the dividend. "The directors"--that, as the _Sun_ insinuated,
meant none other than Norcross. Holding a majority of the L.D. and M.
stock, holding the will of those directors, his creatures, he alone
would decide whether to declare the dividend or to pass it. The stock
wavered at about fifty, waiting the decision. If Norcross put it on a
dividend-paying basis, it was good for eighty. To know which way he
would decide, to extract any information from that inscrutable
mind--that were to open a steel vault with a pen-knife. "All trading,"
the _Sun_ assured its readers, "will be speculative; it is considered a
As Bulger parted with Norcross on the street and turned south, a
newsboy thrust the Wall Street _Sun_ into his face. The announcement of
the L.D. and M. situation jumped out at him from a headline. The inside
information, held for two weeks by the group of speculators in which
Bulger moved, was out; the public was admitted to the transaction; now
was the time, if ever, to strike. He found a sound-proof telephone, and
did a few minutes of rapid talking. Then he proceeded to his office.
The force was gone. Alone at his desk, he went over the papers in a
complicated calculation which he had made twenty times before. By all
devices, Watson could hold back the collapse of the Mongolia Mine until
after October 19. By straining his credit to the utmost--liquidating
everything--he himself could raise a trifle more than seventy thousand
dollars. He hesitated no longer. Methodically, he apportioned out the
seventy thousand dollars among a dozen brokers, who to-morrow should
buy for him, on a ten point margin, L.D. and M. stock at fifty to
This done, Bulger locked up the papers again, telephoned for a cab, and
proceeded to his club, where he dined with his customary hilarity and
THROUGH THE WALL-PAPER
"You've got to do it!" said Rosalie Le Grange; "no half-way business. I
could show better reasons than I'm tellin'."
Blake paused in his slow walk beside her.
"What reasons?" he asked.
"Now listen to the man!" exclaimed Rosalie. "And ain't it man for you!
Right off, first meeting, I told you enough to put me in jail and now
you won't trust me!"
Blake seemed to see the logic of what she said.
"I have cause to trust you," he said, "and I hope you don't think that
I am afraid of the personal danger. It's just that you're asking me to
do something which--will, which people like me don't do."
"So anxious to be a gentleman that you forgit to be a man!" remarked
Rosalie with asperity. "Now you listen to me. I've told you that she's
held two materializing seances for Robert H. Norcross, haven't I? I've
told you it is crooked materialization--even if there was such a thing
as real cabinet spooks, which there ain't--because I found the ceiling
trap an' the apparatus long ago. And if Mrs. Markham is playin' fake
materializing with old Norcross as a dope, what does it come to?
Obtainin' money, an' big money, under false pretenses! That's enough to
put her behind the bars. So what risk do you take even if you _are_
caught? She'll be more anxious than you to keep it away from the papers
and the police. And Norcross! He'll break his collar-bone to shut it
Half persuaded, he clutched at his sense of honor.
"But it's a sneaking trick--Annette would call it that."
"Yes, an' ain't it a sneakin' trick to hire a housekeeper to be a spy?"
Rosalie hurled back. "Seems to me you draw a fine line between doin'
your own dirty work an' havin' it done!"
At this plain statement of the case, Blake smiled for the first time
"I suppose you're right," he said. "A good officer never sends a man
where he wouldn't go himself. I'm rather sorry I started now."
The dominant thought in all the complex machinery of Rosalie's mind
was: "And you'll be sorrier before this night's over, boy." But her
"I knew you'd see it that way. Now listen and git this carefully:
You're to wear a big ulster and old hat and soft-soled shoes--don't
forget that. You're to come to the back door at a quarter to
nine--exactly. Us servants receive our callers at the back door.
Norcross will be in the parlor at half past, Annette will be in her
room, the other help will be out, Ellen and all. Mrs. Markham takes no
chances--not even with that fool girl--when she's got Norcross. She's
given Ellen theater tickets. That's how careful she is about little
things. You can see how clear the coast will be. I'm goin' to bring you
straight to my room like a visitor. You walk soft!"
"But how about that electric bell?" he asked.
"I disconnected it this morning at the trap with my manicure scissors
an' a hairpin," replied Rosalie, triumphantly.
So, at sixteen minutes to nine, Dr. Blake, feeling a cross between a
detective and a burglar, stole through the alley which backed the
Markham residence, crossed the area, knocked softly at the kitchen
door. It opened cautiously and then suddenly to show the kitchen,
lighted with one dim lamp, and the ample form of Rosalie. With a finger
on her lips, she closed the door behind him. His heart beat fast, less
with a sense of impending adventure than with the thought, which struck
him as he mounted the servants' staircase, that he was divided but by
thin walls from the object of all these strivings and diplomacies--that
for the second time in his life he was under her home roof with
Annette. It was a firm, old house. Their footsteps made not the
slightest creak on the thick-carpeted stairs. At the door of her room,
Rosalie stopped and put her mouth to his ear.
"Step careful inside," she said, "my floor is bare." He stood now in
the neat, low-ceiled housekeeper's parlor. Rosalie turned up the gas,
and indicated by a gesture that he was to stand still. Elaborately, she
closed the registers, plugged the keyhole with her key, and set two
chairs beside him.
"Now sit down," she whispered. "They can't hear us talkin', though we'd
better whisper for safety, but two sets of footsteps might sound
suspicious. The halls are carpeted like a padded cell, which ought to
have put me wise in the beginning."
"Are you sure Annette's abed?" he asked anxiously.
Rosalie threw him a swift glance, as of suspicion.
"Sure," she said--"saw her go. Now before I let you out, I want to git
one promise from you. Whatever happens, you leave this house quiet,--as
quiet as you can. You've got _me_ to guard in this as well as
yourself--you can't leave me alone with trouble."
"I'll promise that," he said. "Won't you tell me what I'm going to
Rosalie, under pretense of consulting her watch, looked away.
"You'll know in ten minutes," she said. "Now don't bother me with any
questions. I've got directions for you. You're coming with me to the
floor below. I'll let you into a hall closet. It was built into a--into
a room, and the back of it is only wood. There's an old gas connection,
which they papered over, through that wood. Yesterday I punched through
the paper and hung a picture over the hole. This afternoon, I took that
picture down. To-morrow morning, the picture goes back. But now,
there's a peephole into the room."
Dr. Blake bristled.
"Peep through a hole!" he said.
"Now ain't that just like a fashionable bringin-up," said Rosalie,
almost raising her voice. "Things a gentleman can do an' things he
can't do! You're tryin' to bust a crook, an' you remember what your
French nurse told you about the etiquette of keyholes!"
"You're my master at argument, Mme. Le Grange," responded Blake. "Go
"And you promise to leave quiet?"
"There's one place I can trust your bringin'-up, I guess. When you're
inside, feel about till you find a hassock. Stand on it; 't will bring
your eyes up to the hole. Stay there until I knock for you to come
out--let's be goin'."
"But what am I to do--why am I here if I am to do nothing?"
"You're to look an' see an' remember what you see--that's all for
At the door, she looked him full in the eyes again:
"Remember, you've promised."
The dim light of a low gas jet illuminated the upper hall. From below
came the faintest murmur of voices. Rosalie led to the hall of the
second floor, turned toward the back of the house, opened a door and
motioned. He stepped inside; the door closed without noise. He was in
His foot found the hassock; he mounted it and adjusted his eye. He was
looking into some kind of a living-room or boudoir. On the extreme left
of his range of vision he could see a set of dark portieres; directly
before him was a foolish little white desk, over which burned a gas
jet, turned low. That, apparently, was the only illumination in the
room. For the rest, he could only see a wall decorated with the tiny
frivolities of a boudoir, two chairs, a sewing table. He watched
until--his eyes, grown accustomed to the dim light--he discerned every
detail. From far below, he heard the subdued hum of a conversation, and
made out at length, in the rise and fall of voices, that a man and a
woman were speaking. Then even that sound ceased; over the house lay a
stillness so heavy that he feared his own breathing.
Gradually, he was aware that someone was playing a piano. It began so
gently that he doubted, at first, whether it was not a far echo from
one of the houses to right or left. But it increased in volume until he
located it definitely in the rooms below. The air, unrecognized at
first, called up a memory of old-fashioned parlors and of his
grandmother. He found himself struggling for words to fit the tune; and
suddenly they sprang into his mind--"Wild roamed an Indian maid, bright
Alfaretta." Thrice over the unseen musician played the air, and let it
die with a last, lingering chord.
Suddenly his heart gave a great leap. For the first time, something was
happening in the room before him. It came first as a slight, padded
thump, like bare feet striking the floor. He saw that the portieres to
left of his range of vision were undulating. They parted--and a pillar
of white stood for a moment before them. The thing resolved itself into
a human figure, swathed, draped in white, the face concealed by a white
veil which fell straight from the head. Now the white figure, with a
noiseless, gliding motion, was crossing the room toward the white desk.
It stopped, lifted a hand which crept toward the gaslight. With this
motion, the veil fell away from the face. The gaslight shone upon it;
he could see it in full profile.
It was Annette.
In the space of his long gasp, her hand touched the gas jet. It went
out; the room faded into absolute darkness.
And the vision which stood out from the black background made him sway
and clutch at the garments in the closet. For her robes radiated dull
light, like a coal seen behind ashes. It was as though she were about
to burst into flame. On her head gleamed a dull star; from it, the
radiance of her robe fell away toward her feet in lesser light, like
the tail-streamer of a comet. All emotion of despair, disillusion,
rage, were expressed for a moment within him by an emotion of
supernatural awe which sent the tremors running from his face to his
spine, and his spine to his feet. She stood a perfect phantom of the
night, like Annette called back from the dead.
The pillar of dull light was moving now. She had stooped; he heard a
faint creak, he imagined that he felt new air. Suddenly, too, a voice
which had been droning far away became audible. And now the pillar of
light was sinking, sinking through the floor. The feet were gone, the
torso; the star of light was level with the floor, was gone. He was
looking into darkness.
Mrs. Markham's controlled, vibrant voice rose clearly from below--he
caught every word:
"Come, Helen; be strong. He loves you. His love calls you!"
Silence for a quarter of a minute; then a swish as of garments agitated
by some swift motion; then Annette's well-remembered contralto voice of
a boy--Annette's voice, which had spoken such things to him--
"_Robert, dearest, I have come again. Robert, I keep for you out here
the little ring. Robert, we will be happy!_"
And the voice of a man, sobbing and breaking between the exclamatives:
"_My little Lallie--Dear Helen--how long I've waited--sweetheart--how
And the voice of Annette.
"_Only a few more years to wait, dearest--and now that you have faith,
I can come to you sometimes--but, oh, dearest, I foresee a danger--a
Ten minutes later, Rosalie tiptoed from the library from which she had
observed the seance to the last detail of method, and made her way to
the closet wherein she had shut Dr. Blake. She opened the door with all
precaution, fumbled, found nothing, whispered. No one answered. At last
she stepped within, plugged the keyhole with her key, and lit a match.
The closet was empty.
Rosalie crept upstairs to her own room. When she lit the gas, she was
crying softly and--as of old habit under emotional stress--talking to
herself under her breath.
"I had to do it," she whispered. "He'd believe nothin' but his eyes!"
She sat down then, and surveyed her belongings. "The job's over. What
whelps it makes people--just to touch this business!"
Blake rose from a night of protracted, dull suffering; of quick rages;
of hideous, unrelieved despairs. When the day came and the city roared
about him again, the habits of life reasserted themselves. He rose,
dressed, sent for coffee, gained the pathetic victory of swallowing it.
His face, seared by all the inner fires of that night, settled now to a
look of steel resolution. He rose from his coffee, opened his desk and
wrote this note:
MY DEAR MME. LE GRANGE:
I understand perfectly your motive in asking me to invade a private
house and peep through a keyhole. It was the only thing which would
have disillusioned me. Had you told me this, I would not have
believed you. Though it was harsh treatment, I thank you. I enclose
a check for a hundred dollars, payment two weeks in advance for
your services, which I shall need no longer. You did your job well.
You will understand, I think, that I do not reflect on you when I
ask you never to see me again. You would recall something which I
shall try for the rest of my life to forget.
WALTER H. BLAKE.
P.S. Do as you please about this--but I should prefer you to give
Mrs. Markham the customary notice.
As he sealed the letter and put on his hat that he might go to post it
with his own hands, he had the look of a man who has settled everything
and for life. But the clanging lid of the letter box had no sooner
closed than the look of resolution began to leave his face. For two
hours, he paced the streets of Manhattan. He found himself at length
apostrophizing a brick wall, "Who could believe it?" And again, to a
lamp-post, "I can't believe it!" And again, "She made her!" He wheeled
on this, turned into a drug store, shut himself into the telephone
booth, and called up the Markham house.
After an eternal minute, he was answered in Annette's own deep,
He paused, controlled his voice, and plunged in:
"Miss Markham, this is Dr. Blake. Please don't go away from the
telephone. You owe it to me to listen--"
"I shall listen--"
"Very well. You will remember that I have respected your wishes about
keeping away from you. I do not want to make you any trouble. But
something has happened in which you are concerned, and which makes it
imperative that I should speak to you face to face for five minutes--"
"Something important?" he heard her voice tremble. He remembered then
that cheated and humiliated lovers had been known to shoot women; he
had raised his voice; perhaps, what with her bad conscience, she was
thinking of that.
"Understand me," he added, speaking lower. "I shall be kind. I shall do
nothing violent nor disagreeable. I want five minutes, at your house,
in the Park--anywhere. Though I would prefer to see you alone, I would
consent to the presence of your aunt. But you must see me!"
"I must see you," she repeated--musingly he thought--"Aunt Paula is
"Could you come at once to that Eighty-sixth Street entrance of the
A pause, and--
"I will come," she said.
"Good-by--at once," he answered, and hung up the receiver, without
further word. Outside, he hurled himself into a taxicab. Spurred on by
an offer of an extra dollar for speed, the chauffeur raced north.
Annette was sitting on a bench by the Park gate. Not until he had paid
and dismissed the chauffeur did she look up. She wore a smile, which
faded as she caught his expression. With its fading came the old, worn
look; he had never, even at that first meeting on the train, seen it
more pronounced. A flood of perverse tenderness came over him; he found
himself obliged to steel his heart. And so, it was Annette who spoke
"What is the matter--oh, what has happened?"
He stood towering over her.
"Miss Markham, I came to ask a simple question. Do not be afraid to
tell me the truth. What did you do last night?"
"What did I do last night?" she repeated. "Why do you ask?"
"Answer, please. Where were you last night--what did you do?"
"Why do you ask that?"
"It will be better, I assure you," he replied, "if you do not act with
"You have never seemed harsh before--"
"Will you answer me?"
A blush ran over her exquisite whiteness.
"I have to remember," she said, "that perhaps I once gave you the right
to ask such things of me. Last night I went to bed just after dinner."
"A little after eight. I have been tired lately. Aunt Paula saw that I
went to sleep."
"Is that all?" sharply.
"Why, yes. I slept heavily. The old sleep. The one which leaves me
"You did not get up?"
"I am beginning to question your right to--"
"But answer me--_Did you wake?_"
"No. I slept until seven this morning. Walter, Walter--" she had never
used his Christian name before, and at the moment it struck him only as
one of her Circe arts--"you are cruel! What do you mean by this? Why do
you trouble me so?"
Now that she had lied in his face, he felt the blood surging scarlet
behind his eyes. It came to him that, if he remained a moment longer,
he should lose all control. Without another word, without a backward
look, he turned and walked away.
"Walter!" she called after him, and again, "Walter! Don't go!"
But he was running top speed down the footpath.
When he stopped, from growing weariness of soul as much as from
physical exhaustion, he was on a cross street leading into Sixth
Avenue. The tinsel front of a saloon rose before him. He tore through
the swinging doors, ordered a drink of whiskey and then another. It
might have been so much water, for all it either fed or quenched the
fire within him. With some instinct to go back to his own private hole
of misery, he took a street car. But he found it impossible to sit
still. He got down after three blocks, found another saloon, took
another drink. This, too, evaporated in the feverish heat engendered by
his sleepless night. But it did afford an idea, a plan. He would get
drunk--for the first time in his life, get blind, staggering drunk.
When he recovered from that, time would have dimmed the misery a
little; he would be able to endure. Just now, he must get drunk or die.
Alone and in broad daylight, he tried it. From, the corner saloons of
the Upper West Side to the dives of the Bowery, he poured in whiskey
and yet more whiskey. Nothing happened; positively nothing. The fire
within burned as fiercely as ever, the misery beat as keenly against
his temples. He tried his voice; he was speaking clearly. Once he ran
down the open asphalt of a water-front street; all his muscular control
remained. The most that liquor did was to spread a slight fog over his
senses, so that he seemed to be seeing through a veil, hearing through
On the approach of night, the effect struck him all at once. It came in
a wave of drowsiness, a delicious sense that his trouble, still there,
weighed lightly upon him--did not matter. He was sitting in Madison
Square when he realized this effect. He could sleep now. Thank God for
that! He turned toward the club, walking on the rosy airs of reaction.
As he approached the club door, he was aware that a woman had
disengaged herself from the crowd across the street, was hurrying
toward him. At that moment, a hall-boy dived from the entrance, and
grabbed his arm urgently but respectfully.
"That woman's been asking for you since four--when we chased her away
she laid for you--if you want to get inside--"
"Young man," said the voice of Rosalie Le Grange across his shoulder,
"young man, Dr. Blake wants to see me as much as I want to see him an'
more. Now you jest leave go of him, and you Dr. Blake, come right along
with me, or I'll make a scene and scandal right here in front of the
The hall-boy, with the exaggerated desire to avoid scandal which marks
the perfect club servant, fell away. As for Dr. Blake, this seemed the
line of least resistance. Life and death, misery and happiness--all
looked equally dim and rosy.
Mme. Le Grange said nothing until they were three doors away. Under the
marquee of a restaurant, she stopped, whirled Blake, whom she still
held by an arm, within the entrance.
"You've been drinkin'," she said. "Now don't talk back. The question in
my mind is whether you're clear enough in your head to understand what
I've got to say, because it's something you want to hear straight and
quick. See that table over in the corner? Let's see you walk to it and
take off your hat and pull out a chair for me an' tell the waiter we
won't eat till the rest of our party comes. If you can do that, you can
listen to me."
Blake, feeling that someone else was going through these motions,
"Legs are straight," commented Rosalie Le Grange as she settled herself
and picked at her glove buttons. "How's your head? Are you takin' in
what I tell you?"
"Yes. I hear you. Why won't you leave me alone?"
"Tongue's pretty straight, too. Can't have much in you, though you do
look like the last whisper of a misspent life. Well, men can't cry just
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