Vera, The Medium
Richard Harding Davis
Part 2 out of 3
sister look like -- that photograph we used this morning.?"
"No," Vance answered. "I've a better one, Rainey gave me. Taken
when she was older. Has white hair and a cap and a kerchief
crossed -- so." He drew his hands across his shoulders. "Rainey,
show Miss Vera that picture."
"Not now," Gaylor commanded. "The important thing now is that
Miss Vera understands the message Mr. Hallowell is to receive
from his sister."
The two other men nodded quickly in assent. Gaylor turned to
Vera. He spoke slowly, earnestly.
"Miss Vera," he said, "Mr. Hallowell's present will leaves his
fortune to his niece. He has made another will, which he has not
signed, leaving his fortune to the Hallowell Institute. He will
ask his sister to which of these he should leave his money. You
will tell him -- " he corrected himself instantly. "She will tell
him to give it where it will be of the greatest good to the most
people -- to the Institute." There was a pause. "Do you
understand?" he asked.
"To the Institute. Not to the niece," Vera answered. Gaylor
"What," asked Vera, "are the fewest words in which that message
could be delivered? I mean -- should she say, You are to endow
the Hallowell Institute, or Brother, you are to give -- Sign
the new will?" With satisfaction the girl gave a sharp shake of
her head, and nodded to Vance. " Destroy the old will. Sign the
new will. That is the best," she said.
"That's it exactly," Gaylor exclaimed eagerly; "that's
excellent!" Then his face clouded. "I think," he said in a
troubled voice, "we should warn Miss Vera, that to guard himself
from any trickery, Mr. Hallowell insists on subjecting her to
the most severe tests. He -- "
"That will be all right," said the girl. She turned to Vance
and, in a lower tone but without interest, asked: "What, for
instance?" Vance merely laughed and shrugged his shoulders. The
girl smiled. Nettled, and alarmed at what appeared to be their
overconfidence, Gaylor objected warmly.
"That's all very well," he cried, "but for instance, he insists
that the entire time you are in the cabinet, you hold a handful
of flour in one hand and of shot in the other" -- he illustrated
with clenched fists -- "which makes it impossible," he
protested, "for you to use your hands."
The face of the girl showed complete indifference.
"Not necessarily," she said.
"But you are to be tied hand and foot," cried the Judge. "And on
top of that," he burst forth indignantly, pointing aggrievedly
at Vance, "he himself proposed this flour-and-shot test. It was
silly, senseless bravado!"
"Not necessarily," repeated the girl. "He knew that I invented
it." Rainey laughed. Gaylor gave an exclamation of
"If it will be of any comfort to you, Judge," said Vance, "I'll
tell you one thing; every test that ever was put to a medium --
was invented by a medium."
Vera rose. "If there is nothing more," she said, "I will go and
get the things ready for this evening. Destroy the old will.
Sign the new will." she repeated. She turned suddenly to Vance,
her brow drawn in consideration. "I suppose by this new will,"
she asked, "the girl gets nothing?" "Not at all!" exclaimed
Gaylor emphatically. "We don't want her to fight the will. She
gets a million."
"A million dollars?" demanded Vera. For an instant, as though
trying to grasp the possibilities of such a sum, she stood
staring ahead of her. With doubt in her eyes, and shaking her
head, she turned to Vance.
"How can one woman spend a million dollars?" she protested.
"Well, you see, we don't intend to starve her," exclaimed Gaylor
eagerly, "and at the same time the Institute will be benefiting
all humanity. Doing good to -- "
Vera interrupted him with a sharp, peremptory movement of the
"We won't go into that, please," she begged.
The Judge inclined his head. "I only meant to point out," he
said stiffly, "that you are giving Mr. Hallowell the best
advice, and doing great good."
For a moment the girl looked at him steadily. On her lips was a
faint smile of disdain, but whether for him or for herself, the
Judge could not determine.
"I don't know that," the girl said finally. "I don't ask." She
turned to Rainey. "Have you that photograph?" He gave her a
photograph and after, for an instant, studying it in silence,
she returned it to him.
"It will be quite easy," she said to Vance. She walked to the
door, and instinctively the two men, who were seated, rose.
"I will see you tonight at Mr. Hallowell's," she said, and, with
a nod, left them.
"Well," exclaimed Rainey, "you didn't tell her!"
"I know,"Vance answered. "I decided we'd be wiser to take advice
from my wife. She understands Vera better than I do." He opened
the door to the hall, and called "Mannie! Tell Mabel -- Oh,
Mabel," he corrected, "come here a minute." He returned to his
seat on the piano stool. "She can tell us," he said.
In expectation of the arrival of Winthrop, Mrs. Vance had
arrayed herself in a light blue frock, and, as though she had
just come in from the street, in such a hat as she considered
would do credit not only to Vera but to herself.
"Mabel," her husband began, "we're up against a hard
proposition. Hallowell insists that Winthrop and Miss Coates
must come to the seance tonight."
"Winthrop and Miss Coates!" cried Mabel. In astonishment she
glanced from her husband to Rainey and Gaylor. "Then, it's all
off!" she exclaimed.
"That's what I say," growled Rainey.
"We want you to tell us," continued Vance, unmoved, "whether
Vera should know that now, or wait until tonight?"
"Paul Vance!" almost shrieked his wife, "do you mean to tell me
you're thinking of giving a materialization in front of the
District Attorney! You're crazy!"
"That's what I tell them," chorused Rainey.
Gaylor raised his hand for silence.
"No, Mrs. Vance," he said wearily. "We are not crazy, but," he
added bitterly, "we can't help ourselves. You mediums have got
Mr. Hallowell in such a state that he'll only do what his
sister's spirit tells him. He says, if he's robbing his niece,
his sister will tell him so; if he's to give the money to the
Institute, his sister will tell him that. He says, if Vance is
fair and above-board, he shouldn't be afraid to have his niece
and any friends of hers present. We can't help ourselves."
"I helped a little," said Vance, "by insisting on having our own
friends there -- told him the spirit could not materialize
unless there were believers present."
"Did he stand for that?" asked Mabel.
"Glad to have them," her husband assured her. "They like to
think there are others as foolish as they are. And I'm going to
place Mr. District Attorney," he broke out suddenly and
fiercely, "between two mediums. They'll hold his hands!"
Already frightened by the possible result of the plot, Rainey,
with a vehemence born of fear, retorted sharply: "Hold his
hands! How're you going to make him hold his tongue, afterward?"
Gaylor turned upon him savagely.
"My God, man!" he cried, "we're not trying to persuade the
District Attorney that he's seen a ghost. If your friends can
persuade Stephen Hallowell that he's seen one, the District
Attorney can go to the devil!"
"Well, he won't!" returned Rainey, "he'll go to law!"
"Let him!" cried Gaylor defiantly. "Get Hallowell to sign that
will, and I'll go into court with him."
His bravado was suddenly attacked from an unexpected source.
"You'll go into court with him, all right," declared Mrs. Vance,
"all of you! And if you don't want him to catch you," she cried,
"you'll clear out, now! He's coming here any minute."
"Who's coming here?" demanded her husband.
"Winthrop," returned his wife, "to see Vera."
"To see Vera!" cried Vance eagerly. "What about? About this
"No," protested Mabel, "to call on her. He's an old friend -- "
In alarm Rainey pushed into the group of now thoroughly excited
people. "Don't you believe it!" he cried. "If he's coming here,
he's coming to give her the third degree -- "
The door from the hall suddenly opened, was as suddenly closed,
and Mannie slipped into the room. One hand he held up for
silence; with the other he pointed at the folding doors.
"Hush!" he warned them. "He's in there! He says he's come to
call on Vera. She says he's come professionally, and I must
bring him in here. I've shut the door into the parlor, and you
can slip upstairs without his seeing you."
"Upstairs!" gasped Rainey, "not for me!" He appealed to Gaylor
in accents of real alarm. "We must get away from this house," he
declared. "If he finds us here -- " With a gesture of dismay he
tossed his hands in the air. Gaylor nodded. In silence all, save
Mannie, moved into the hall, and halted between the outer and
inner doors of the vestibule. Gaylor turned to Vance. "Are you
going to tell her," he asked, "that he is to be there tonight?"
"He'll tell her himself, now!"
"No," corrected Rainey, "he doesn't know yet there's to be a
seance. Hallowell was writing the note when he left."
"Then," instructed Gaylor, "do not let her know until she
arrives -- until it will be too late for her to back out."
Vance nodded and, waiting until from the back room he heard the
voices of Mannie and Winthrop, he opened the front door and the
two men ran down the steps into the street.
While the conspirators were hidden in the vestibule, Mannie had
opened the folding doors, and invited Winthrop to enter the
"Miss Vera will be down in a minute," he said. "If you want your
hand read," he added, pointing, "you sit over there."
As Winthrop approached the centre table, Mannie backed against
the piano. The presence of the District Attorney at such short
range aroused in him many emotions. Alternately he was torn with
alarm, with admiration, with curiosity. He regarded him
apprehensively, with a nervous and unhappy smile.
About the smile there was something that Winthrop found
familiar, and, with one almost as attractive, he answered it.
"I think we've met before, haven't we?" he asked pleasantly.
Mannie nodded. "Yes, sir," he answered promptly. "At Sam
Hepner's old place, on West Forty-fourth street."
"Why, of course!" exclaimed the District Attorney.
"Don't you -- don't you remember?" stammered Mannie eagerly. He
was deeply concerned lest the distinguished cross-examiner
should think, that from him of his lurid past he could withhold
anything. "I had my coat off -- and you said you'd make it hot
"Did I?" asked Winthrop with an effort at recollection.
"No, you didn't!" Mannie hastened to reassure him. "I mean, you
didn't make it hot for me."
Winthrop laughed, and seated himself comfortably beside the
centre table. Well I'm glad of that," he said. "So our relations
are still pleasant, then?" he asked.
"Sure!" exclaimed Mannie heartily. "I mean -- yes, sir."
Winthrop mechanically reached for his cigarette case, and then,
recollecting, withdrew his hand.
"And how are the ponies running?' he asked.
The interview was filling Mannie with excitement and delight. He
chuckled with pleasure. His fear of the great man was rapidly
departing. Could this, he asked himself, be the "terror to evil-
doers," the man whose cruel questions drove witnesses to tears,
whose "third degree" sent veterans of the underworld staggering
from his confessional box, limp and gasping?
"Oh, pretty well," said the boy, "seems as if I couldn't keep
away from them. I got a good thing for today -- Pompadour -- in
the fifth. I put all the money on her I could get together," he
announced importantly, and then added frankly, with a laugh,
"two dollars!" The laugh was contagious, and the District
Attorney laughed with him.
"Pompadour," Winthrop objected, "she's one of those winter track
"I know, but today," declared Mannie, "she win, sure!" Carried
away by his enthusiasm, and by the sympathy of his audience, he
rushed, unheeding, to his fate. "If you'd like to put a little
on," he said, "I can tell you where you can do it."
The District Attorney stared and laughed. "You mustn't tell me
where you can do it," he said.
Mannie gave a terrified gasp and, for an instant, clapped his
hands over his lips. "That's right," he cried. "Gee, that's
right! I'm such a crank on all kinds of sport that I clean
He gazed at the much-dreaded District Attorney with the awe of
the new-born hero-worshipper. "I guess you are, too, hey?" he
protested admiringly. "Vera was telling me you used to be a
great ball tosser."
In the face of the District Attorney there came a sudden
interest. His eyes lightened.
"How did she -- "
"She used to watch you in Geneva," said Mannie, "playing with
the college lads. I -- I," he added consciously, "was a ball
player myself once. Used to pitch for the Interstate League." He
"Interstate?" said Winthrop encouragingly. "You must have been
The enthusiasm had departed from the face of the boy. "Yes, he
said, "but -- " he smiled shamefacedly, "but I got taking coke,
and they -- " He finished with a dramatic gesture of the hand as
of a man tossing away a cigarette.
"Cocaine?" said the District Attorney.
The boy nodded and, for an instant, the two men eyed each other,
the boy smiling ruefully. The District Attorney shook his head.
"My young friend," he said, "you can never beat that game!"
Mannie stared at him, his eyes filled with surprise.
"Don't you suppose," he said simply, "that I know that better
than you do?" With a boy's pride in his own incorrigibility he
went on boastingly: "Oh, yes," he said, "I used to be awful bad!
Cocaine and all kinds of dope, and cigarettes, and whiskey. I
was nearly all in -- with morphine, it was then -- till she took
hold of me, and stopped me."
"She?" said Winthrop.
"Vera," said Mannie. "She made me stop. I had to stop. She
started taking it herself."
"What!" cried Winthrop.
"Oh!" exclaimed Mannie hastily, "I don't mean what you mean -- I
mean she started taking it to make me stop. She says to me,
Mannie, you're killing yourself, and you got to quit it; and if
you don't, every time you take a grain, I'll take two. And she
did! I'd come home, and she'd see what I'd been doing, and she'd
up with her sleeves, and -- " In horrible pantomime, the boy
lifted the cuff of his shirt, and pressed his right thumb
against the wrist of his other arm. At the memory of it, he gave
a shiver and, with a blow, roughly struck the cuff into place.
"God!" he muttered, "I couldn't stand it. I begged, and begged
her not. I cried. I used to get down, in this room, on my knees.
And each time she'd get whiter, and black under the eyes. And --
and I had to stop. Didn't I?"
Winthrop moved his head.
"And now," cried the boy with a happy laugh, "I'm all right!" He
appealed to the older man eagerly, wistfully. "Don't you think
I'm looking better than I did the last time you saw me?"
Again, without venturing to speak, Winthrop nodded.
Mannie smiled with pride. "Everybody tells me so," he said.
"Well, she did it. That's what she did for me. And, I can tell
you," he said simply, sincerely, "there ain't anything I
wouldn't do for her. I guess that's right, hey?" he added.
The eyes of the cruel cross-examiner, veiled under half-closed
lids, were regarding the boy with so curious an expression that
under their scrutiny Mannie, in embarrassment, moved uneasily.
"I guess that's right," he repeated.
To his surprise, the District Attorney rose from his comfortable
position and, leaning across the table, held out his hand.
Mannie took it awkwardly.
"That's all right," he said.
"Sure, it's all right," said the District Attorney.
From the hall there was the sound of light, quick steps, and
Mannie, happy to escape from a situation he did not understand,
ran to the door.
"She's coming," he said. He opened the door and, as Vera
entered, he slipped past her and closed it behind him.
Vera walked directly to the chair at the top of the centre
table. She was nervous, and she was conscious that that fact was
evident. To avoid shaking hands with her visitor, she carried
her own clasped in front of her, with the fingers interlaced.
She tried to speak in her usual suave, professional tone. "How
do you do?" she said.
But Winthrop would not be denied. With a smile that showed his
pleasure at again seeing her, he advanced eagerly, with his hand
outstretched. "How are you?" he exclaimed. "Aren't you going to
shake hands with me?" he demanded. "With an old friend?"
Vera gave him her hand quickly, and then, seating herself at the
table, picked up the ivory pointer.
"I didn't know you were coming as an old friend," she murmured
embarrassedly. "You said you were coming to consult Vera, the
"But you said that was the only way I could come," protested
Winthrop. "Don't you remember, you said -- "
Vera interrupted him. She spoke distantly, formally. "What kind
of a reading do you want?" she asked. "A hand reading, or a
Winthrop leaned forward in his chair, frankly smiling at her. He
made no attempt to conceal the pleasure the sight of her gave
him. His manner was that of a very old and dear friend, who, for
the first time, had met her after a separation of years.
"Don't want any kind of a reading," he declared. "I want a
talking. You don't seem to understand," he objected, "that I am
making an afternoon call." His good humor was unassailable.
Looking up with a perplexed frown, Vera met his eyes and saw
that he was laughing at her. She threw the ivory pointer down
and, leaning back in her chair, smiled at him.
"I don't believe," she said doubtfully, "that I know much about
afternoon calls. What would I do, if we were on Fifth Avenue?
Would I give you tea?" she asked, "because," she added hastily,
"there isn't any tea."
"In that case, it is not etiquette to offer any," said Winthrop
"Then," said Vera, "I'm doing it right, so far?"
They both laughed; Vera because she still was in awe of him, and
Winthrop because he was happy.
"You're doing it charmingly," Winthrop assured her.
"Good!" exclaimed Vera. "Well, now," she inquired, "now we talk,
"Yes," assented Winthrop promptly, "we talk about you."
"No, I -- I don't think we do," declared Vera, in haste. "I
think we talk about -- Geneva." She turned to him with real
interest. "Is the town much changed?" she asked.
As though preparing for a long talk, Winthrop dropped his hat to
the floor and settled himself comfortably. "Well, it is, and it
isn't," he answered. "Haven't you been back lately?" he asked.
Vera looked quickly away from him.
"I have never been back!" she answered. There was a pause and
when she again turned her eyes to his, she was smiling. "But I
always take the Geneva Times," she said, "and I often read that
you've been there. You're a great man in Geneva."
Winthrop nodded gravely.
"Whenever I want to be a great man," he said, "I go to Geneva."
"Why, yes," exclaimed Vera. "Last June you delivered the oration
to the graduating class," she laughed, "on The College Man in
Politics. Such an original subject! And did you point to
yourself?" she asked mockingly, "as the -- the bright example?"
"No," protested Winthrop, "I knew they'd see that."
Much to her relief, Vera found that of Winthrop she was no
"Oh!" she protested, "didn't you say, twelve years ago, a humble
boy played ball for Hobart College. That boy now stands before
you? Didn't you say that?"
"Something like that,"assented the District Attorney. "Oh!" he
exclaimed, "that young man who showed me in here -- your
confederate or fellow-conspirator or lookout man or whatever he
is -- told me you used to be a regular attendant at those
"I never missed one!" Vera cried. She leaned forward, her eyes
shining, her brows knit with the effort of recollection.
"I used to tell Aunt," she said, "I had to drive in for the
mail. But that was only an excuse. Aunt had an old buggy, and an
old white horse called Roscoe Conkling. I called him Rocks. He
was blind in one eye, and he would walk on the wrong side of the
road; you had to drive him on one rein." The girl was speaking
rapidly, eagerly. She had lost all fear of her visitor. With
satisfaction Winthrop recognized this; and unconsciously he was
now frankly regarding the face of the girl with a smile of
pleasure and admiration.
"And I used to tie him to the fence just opposite first base,"
Vera went on excitedly, "and shout -- for you!"
"Don't tell me," interrupted Winthrop, in burlesque excitement,
"that you were that very pretty little girl, with short dresses
and long legs, who used to sit on the top rail and kick and
Vera shook her head sternly.
"I was," she said, "but you never saw me."
"Oh, yes, we did," protested Winthrop. "We used to call you our
"No, that was some other little girl," said Vera firmly. "You
never looked at me, and I" -- she laughed, and then frowned at
him reproachfully -- "I thought you were magnificent! I used to
have your pictures in baseball clothes pinned all around my
looking glass, and whenever you made a base hit, I'd shout and
shout -- and you'd never look at me! And one day -- " she
stopped, and as though appalled by the memory, clasped her
hands. "Oh, it was awful!" she exclaimed; "one day a foul ball
hit the fence, and I jumped down and threw it to you, and you
said, Thank you, sis! And I," she cried, "thought I was a young
"Oh! I couldn't have said that," protested Winthrop, "maybe I
"No," declared Vera energetically shaking her head, "not
sister, sis. And you never did look at me; and I used to drive
past your house every day. We lived only a mile below you."
"Where?" asked Winthrop.
"On the lake road from Syracuse," said Vera. "Don't you remember
the farm a mile below yours -- the one with the red barn right
on the road? Yes, you do," she insisted, "the cows were always
looking over the fence right into the road."
"Of course!" exclaimed Winthrop delightedly. "Was that your
"Oh, no," protested Vera, "ours was the little cottage on the
other side -- "
"With poplars round it?" demanded Winthrop.
"That's it!" cried Vera triumphantly, "with poplars round it."
"Why, I know that house well. We boys used to call it the
"That's the one," assented Vera. She smiled with satisfaction.
"Well, that's where I lived until Aunt died," she said.
"And then, what?" asked Winthrop.
For a moment the girl did not answer. Her face had grown grave
and she sat motionless, staring beyond her. Suddenly, as though
casting her thoughts from her, she gave a sharp toss of her
"Then," she said, speaking quickly, "I went into the mills, and
was ill there, and I wrote Paul and Mabel to ask if I could join
them, and they said I could. But I was too ill, and I had no
money -- nothing. And then," she raised her eyes to his and
regarded him steadily, "then I stole that cloak to get the money
to join them, and you -- you helped me to get away, and -- and"
Winthrop broke in hastily. He disregarded both her manner and
the nature of what she had said.
"And how did you come to know the Vances?" he asked.
After a pause of an instant, the girl accepted the cue his
manner gave her, and answered as before.
"Through my aunt," she said. "she was a medium too."
"Of course!" cried Winthrop. "I remember now. that's why we
called it the haunted house."
"My aunt," said the girl, regarding him steadily and with, in
her manner, a certain defiance, "was a great medium. All the
spiritualists in that part of the State used to meet at our
house. I've witnessed some wonderful manifestations in that
front parlor." She turned to Winthrop and smiled. "So, you see,"
she exclaimed, "I was born and brought up in this business. I am
the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter. My grandmother was a
medium, my mother was a medium -- she worked with the Fox
sisters before they were exposed. But, my aunt," she added
thoughtfully, judicially, "was the greatest medium I have ever
seen. She did certain things I couldn't understand, and I know
every trick in the trade -- unless," she explained, "you believe
the spirits helped her."
Winthrop was observing the girl intently, with a new interest.
"And you don't believe that?" he asked, quietly.
"How can I?" Vera said. "I was brought up with them." She shook
her head and smiled. "I used to play around the kitchen stove
with Pocahontas and Alexander the Great, and Martin Luther lived
in our china closet. You see, the neighbors wouldn't let their
children come to our house; so, the only playmates I had were
-- ghosts." She laughed wistfully. "My!" she exclaimed, "I was a
queer, lonely little rat. I used to hear voices and see visions.
I do still," she added. With her elbows on the arms of her
chair, she clasped her hands under her chin and leaned forward.
She turned her eyes to Winthrop and nodded confidentially.
"Do you know," she said, "sometimes I think people from the
other world do speak to me."
"But you said," Winthrop objected, "you didn't believe."
"I know," returned Vera. "I can't!" Her voice was perplexed,
impatient. "Why, I can sit in this chair," she declared
earnestly, "and fill this room with spirit voices and rappings,
and you sitting right there can't see how I do it. And yet,
inspite of all the tricks, sometimes I believe there's something
She looked at Winthrop, her eyes open with inquiry. He shook his
"Yes," insisted the girl. "When these women come to me for
advice, I don't invent what I say to them. It's as though
something told me what to say. I have never met them before, but
as soon as I pass into the trance state I seem to know all their
troubles. And I seem to be half in this world and half in
another world -- carrying messages between them. Maybe," her
voice had sunk to almost a whisper; she continued as though
speaking to herself, "I only think that. I don't know. I
There was a long pause.
"I wish," began Winthrop earnestly, "I wish you were younger, or
I were older."
"Why?" asked Vera.
"Because," said the young man, "I'd like to talk to you -- like
Vera turned and smiled on him securely, with frank friendliness.
"Go ahead," she assented, "talk to me like a father."
Winthrop smiled back at her, and then frowned.
"You shouldn't be in this business," he said.
The girl regarded him steadily.
"What's the matter with the business?" she asked.
Winthrop felt she had put him upon the defensive, but he did not
"Well," he said, "there may be some truth in it. But we don't
know that. We do know that there's a lot of fraud and deceit in
it. Now," he declared warmly, "there's nothing deceitful about
you. You're fine," he cried enthusiastically, "you're big! That
boy who was in here told me one story about you that showed -- "
Vera stopped him sharply.
"What do you know of me?" she asked bitterly. "The first time
you ever saw me I was in a police court; and this morning -- you
heard that man threaten to put me in jail -- "
In turn, by abruptly rising from his chair, Winthrop interrupted
her. He pushed the chair out of his way, and, shoving his hands
into his trousers' pockets, began pacing with long, quick
strides up and down the room. "What do I care for that?" he
cried contemptuously. He tossed the words at her over his
shoulder. "I put lots of people in jail myself that are better
than I am. Only, they won't play the game." He halted, and
turned on her. "Now, you're not playing the game. This is a mean
business, taking money from silly girls and old men. You're too
good for that." He halted at the table and stood facing her.
"I've got two sisters uptown," he said. He spoke commandingly,
peremptorily. "And tomorrow I am going to take you to see them.
And we fellow townsmen," he smiled at her appealingly, "will
talk this over, and we'll make you come back to your own
For a moment the two regarded each other. Then the girl answered
firmly, but with a slight hoarseness in her voice, and in a tone
hardly louder than a whisper:
"You know I can't do that!"
"I don't!" blustered Winthrop. "Why not?"
"Because," said the girl steadily, "of what I did in Geneva." As
though the answer was the one he had feared, the man exclaimed
"Nonsense!" he cried. "You didn't know what you were doing. No
decent person would consider that."
"They do," said the girl, "they are the very ones who do. And --
it's been in the papers. Everybody in Geneva knows it. And here
too. And whenever I try to get away from this" -- she stretched
out her hands to include the room about her -- "Someone tells!
Five times, now. She leaned forward appealingly, not as though
asking pity for herself, but as wishing him to see her point of
view. "I didn't choose this business," she protested, "I was
sort of born in it, and," she broke out loyally, "I hate to have
you call it a mean business; but I can't get into any other.
Whenever I have, some man says, That girl in your front office
is a thief." The restraint she put upon herself, the air of
disdain which at all times she had found the most convenient
defense, fell from her.
"It's not fair!" she cried, "it's not fair." To her
mortification, the tears of self-pity sprang to her eyes, and as
she fiercely tried to brush them away, to her greater anger,
continued to creep down her cheeks. "It was nine years ago," she
protested, "I was a child. I've been punished enough." She
raised her face frankly to his, speaking swiftly, bitterly.
"Of course, I want to get away!" she cried. "Of course, I want
friends. I've never had a friend. I've always been alone. I'm
tired, tired! I hate this business. I never know how much I hate
it until the chance comes to get away -- and I can't."
She stopped, but without lowering her head or moving her eyes
"This time," said the man quietly, "you're going to get away
"I can't," repeated the girl. "you can't help me!"
Winthrop smiled at her confidently.
"I'm going to try," he said.
"No, please!" begged the girl. Her voice was still shaken with
tears. She motioned with her head toward the room behind her.
"These are my people," she declared defiantly, as though daring
him to contradict her. "And they are good people! They've tried
to be good friends to me, and they've been true to me."
Winthrop came toward her and stood beside her, so close that he
could have placed his hand upon her shoulder. He wondered,
whimsically, if she knew how cruel she seemed in appealing with
her tears, her helplessness and loveliness to what was generous
and chivalric in him; and, at the same time, by her words,
treating him as an interloper and an enemy.
"That's all right," he said gently. "But that doesn't prevent my
being a good friend to you, too, does it? Or," he added, his
voice growing tense and conscious -- "my being true to you? My
sisters will be here tomorrow," he announced briskly.
Vera had wearily dropped her arms upon the table and lowered her
head upon them. From a place down in the depths she murmured a
"No," contradicted Winthrop cheerfully, "this time you are going
to win. You'll have back of you, If I do say it, two of the best
women God ever made. Only, now, you must do as I say." There was
a pause. "Will you?" he begged.
Vera raised her head slowly, holding her hand across her eyes.
There was a longer silence, and then she looked up at him and
smiled pathetically, gratefully, and nodded. "Good!" cried
Winthrop. "No more spooks," he laughed, "no more spirit
Through her tears Vera smiled up at him a wan, broken smile. She
gave a shudder of distaste. "Never!" she whispered. "I promise."
Their eyes met; the girl's looking into his shyly, gratefully;
the man's searching hers eagerly. And suddenly they saw each
other with a new and wonderful sympathy and understanding.
Winthrop felt himself bending toward her. He was conscious that
the room had grown dark, and that he could see only her eyes.
"You must be just yourself," he commanded, but so gently, so
tenderly, that, though he did not know it, each word carried
with it the touch of a caress, "just your sweet, fine, noble
Something he read in the girl's uplifted eyes made him draw back
with a shock of wonder, of delight, with an upbraiding
conscience. To pull himself together, he glanced quickly about
him. The day had really grown dark. He felt a sudden desire to
get away; to go where he could ask himself what had happened,
what it was that had filled this unknown, tawdry room with
beauty and given it the happiness of a home.
"By Jove!" he exclaimed nervously, "I had no idea I'd stayed so
long. You'll not let me come again. Goodbye -- until tomorrow."
He turned, holding out his hand, and found that again the girl
had dropped her face upon her arm, and was sobbing quietly,
"Oh, what is it?" cried Winthrop. "What have I said?" The catch
in the girl's voice as she tried to check the sobs wrenched his
heart. "Oh, please," he begged, "I've said something wrong? I've
hurt you?" With her face still hidden in her arms, the girl
shook her head.
"No, no!" she sobbed. Her voice, soft with tears, was a melody
of sweet and tender tones. "It's only -- that I've been so
lonely -- and you've made me happy, happy!"
The sobs broke out afresh, but Winthrop, now knowing that they
brought to the girl peace, was no longer filled with dismay.
Her head was bent upon her left arm, her right hand lightly
clasped the edge of the table. With the intention of saying
farewell, Winthrop took her hand in his. The girl did not move.
To his presence she seemed utterly oblivious. In the gathering
dusk he could see the bent figure, could hear the soft,
irregular breathing as the girl wept gently, happily, like a
child sobbing itself to sleep. The hand he held in his neither
repelled nor invited, and for an instant he stood motionless,
holding it uncertainly. It was so delicate, so helpless, so
appealing, so altogether lovable. It seemed to reach up, and,
with warm, clinging fingers, clutch the tendrils of his heart.
Winthrop bent his head suddenly, and lifting the hand, kissed
it; and then, without again speaking, walked quickly into the
hall and shut the door. In the room the dusk deepened. Through
the open windows came the roar of the Sixth Avenue Elevated, the
insistent clamor of an electric hansom, the murmur of Broadway
at night. The tears had suddenly ceased, but the girl had not
moved. At last, slowly, stiffly, she raised her head. Her eyes,
filled with wonder, with amazement, were fixed upon her hand.
She glanced cautiously about her. Assured she was alone, with
her other hand she lifted the one Winthrop had kissed and held
it pressed against her lips.
The folding doors were thrown open, letting in a flood of light,
and Mabel Vance, entering swiftly, knelt at the table and bent
her head close to Vera.
"That woman's in the hall," she whispered, "that niece of
Hallowell's. Paul and Mannie can't get rid of her. Now she's got
hold of Winthrop. She says she will see you. Be careful!"
Vera rose. That Mabel might not see she had been weeping, she
walked to the piano, covertly drying her eyes.
"What," she asked dully, "does she want with me?"
"About tonight," answered Mabel. She exclaimed fiercely, "I told
them there'd be trouble!"
With Vance upon her heels, Helen Coates came in quickly from the
hall. Her face was flushed, her eyes lit with indignation and
excitement. In her hand she held an open letter.
As though to protect Vera, both Vance and his wife moved between
her and their visitor, but, disregarding them, Miss Coates at
once singled out the girl as her opponent.
"You are the young woman they call Vera, I believe," she said.
"I have a note here from Mr. Hallowell telling me you are giving
a seance tonight at his house. That you propose to exhibit the
spirit of my mother. That is an insult to the memory of my
mother and to me. And I warn you, if you attempt such a thing, I
will prevent it."
There was a pause. When Vera spoke it was in the tone of every-
day politeness. Her voice was even and steady.
"You have been misinformed," she said, "there will be no seance
Vance turned to Vera, and, in a voice lower than her own, but
sufficiently loud to include Miss Coates, said: "I don't think
we told you that Mr. Hallowell himself insists that this lady
and her friends be present."
"Her presence makes no difference," said Vera quietly. "There
will be no seance tonight. I will tell you about it later,
Paul," she added. She started toward the door, but Miss Coates
moved as though to intercept her.
"If you think," she cried eagerly, "you can give a seance to Mr.
Hallowell without my knowing it, you are mistaken."
Vera paused, and made a slight inclination of her head.
"That was not my idea," she said. She looked appealingly to
Vance. "Is that not enough, Paul?" she asked.
"Quite enough!" exclaimed the man. He turned to the visitor and
made a curt movement of the hand toward the open door.
"There will be a seance tonight," he declared. "At Mr.
Hallowell's. If you wish to protest against it, you can do so
there. This is my house. If you have finished -- " He repeated
the gesture toward the open door.
"I have not finished," said Miss Coates sharply; "and if you
take my advice, you will follow her example." With a nod of the
head she signified Vera. "When she sees she's in danger, she
knows enough to stop. This is not a question of a few medium's
tricks," she cried, contemptuously. "I know all that you planned
to do, and I intend that tomorrow every one in New York shall
know it too."
Like a cloak Vera's self-possession fell from her. In alarm she
"What do you mean?" she demanded.
"I have had you people followed pretty closely," said Miss
Coates. Her tone was assured. She was confident that of those
before her she was the master, and that of that fact they were
"I know," she went on, "just how you tried to impose upon my
uncle -- how you tried to rob me, and tonight I have invited the
reporters to my house to give them the facts."
With a cry Vera ran to her.
"No!" she begged, "you won't do that. You must not do that!"
"Let her talk!" growled Vance. "Let her talk! She's funny."
"No!" commanded Vera. Her voice rang with the distress. "She
cannot do that!" She turned to Miss Coates. "We haven't hurt
you," she pleaded; "we haven't taken your money. I promise you,"
she cried," we will never see Mr. Hallowell again. I beg of you
Vance indignantly caught her by the arm and drew her back. "You
don't beg nothing of her!" he cried.
"I do," Vera answered wildly. She caught Vance's hand in both of
hers. "I have a chance, Paul," she entreated, "don't force me
through it again. I can't stand the shame of it again." Once
more she appealed to the visitor. "Don't!" she begged. "Don't
But the eyes of the older girl, blind to everything save what,
as she saw it, was her duty, showed no consideration.
Vera's hands, trembling on his arm, drove Vance to deeper anger.
He turned savagely upon Miss Coates.
"You haven't lost anything yet, have you?" he demanded. "She
hasn't hurt you, has she? If it's revenge you want," he cried
insolently, "why don't you throw vitriol on the girl?"
"Revenge!" exclaimed Miss Coates indignantly. "It is my duty. My
public duty. I'm not alone in this; I am acting with the
District Attorney. It is our duty." She turned suddenly and
called, "Mr. Winthrop, Mr. Winthrop!"
For the first time Vera saw, under the gas jet, at the farther
end of the hall, the figures of Mannie and Winthrop.
"No, no!" she protested, "I beg of you," she cried hysterically.
"I've got a chance. If you print this thing tomorrow, I'll never
have a chance again. Don't take it away from me." Impulsively
her arms reached out in an eager final appeal. "I'm down," she
said simply, "give me a chance to get up."
When Miss Coates came to give battle to the Vances, she foresaw
the interview might be unpleasant. It was proving even more
unpleasant than she had expected, but her duty seemed none the
"You should have thought of that," she said, "before you were
For an instant Vera stood motionless, staring, unconsciously
holding the attitude of appeal. But when, by these last words,
she recognized that her humiliation could go no further, with an
inarticulate exclamation she turned away.
"The public has the right to know," declared Miss Coates, "the
sort of people you are. I have the record of each of you -- "
From the hall Winthrop had entered quickly, but, disregarding
him, Vance broke in upon the speaker, savagely, defiantly.
"Print em, then!" he shouted, "print em!"
"I mean to," declared Miss Coates, "yours, and hers, she -- "
Winthrop placed himself in front of her, shutting her off from
the others. He spoke in an earnest whisper.
"Don't!" he begged. "She has asked for a chance. Give her a
Miss Coates scorned to speak in whispers.
"She has had a chance," she protested loudly. "She's had a
chance for nine years; and she's chosen to be a charlatan and a
cheat, and -- " The angry woman hesitated, and then flung the
word -- "and a thief!"
In the silence that followed no one turned toward Vera; but as
it continued unbroken each raised his eyes and looked at her.
They saw her drawn to her full height; the color flown from her
face, her deep, brooding eyes flashing. She was like one by some
religious fervor lifted out of herself, exalted. When she spoke
her voice was low, tense. It vibrated with tremendous, wondering
"Do you know who I am?" she asked. She spoke like one in a
trance. "Do you know who you are threatening with your police
and your laws? I am a priestess! I am a medium between the souls
of this world and the next. I am Vera -- the Truth! And I mean,"
the girl cried suddenly, harshly, flinging out her arm, "that
you shall hear the truth! Tonight I will bring your mother from
the grave to speak it to you!"
With a swift, sweeping gesture she pointed to the door. "Take
those people away!" she cried.
The eyes of Winthrop were filled with pity. "Vera!" he said,
For an instant, against the tenderness and reproach in his voice
the girl held herself motionless; and then, falling upon the
shoulder of Mrs. Vance, burst into girlish, heart-broken tears.
"Take them away," she sobbed, "take them away!"
Mannie Day and Vance closed in upon the visitors, and motioning
them before them, drove them from the room.
The departure of the District Attorney and Miss Coates left Vera
free to consider how serious, if she carried out her threat, the
consequences might be. But of this chance she did not avail
herself. Instead, with nervous zeal she began to prepare for her
masquerade. It was as though her promise to Winthrop to abandon
her old friends had filled her with remorse, and that she now,
by an extravagance of loyalty, was endeavoring to make amends.
At nine o'clock, with the Vances, she arrived at the house of
Mr. Hallowell. Already, to the same place, a wagon had carried
the cabinet, a parlor organ, and a dozen of those camp chairs
that are associated with house weddings and funerals; and while,
in the library, Vance and Mannie arranged these to their liking,
on the third floor Vera, with Mrs. Vance, waited for that moment
to arrive when Vance considered her entrance would be the most
This entrance was to be made through the doorway that opened
from the hall on the second story into the library. To the right
of this door, in an angle of two walls, was the cabinet, and on
the left, the first of the camp chairs. These had been placed in
a semicircle that stretched across the room, and ended at the
parlor organ. The door from Mr. Hallowell's bedroom opened
directly upon the semicircle at the point most distant from the
cabinet. In the centre of the semicircle Vance had placed the
invalid's arm chair.
Vance, in his manner as professional and undisturbed as a
photographer focussing his camera and arranging his screens, was
explaining to Judge Gaylor the setting of his stage. The judge
was an unwilling audience. Unlike the showman, for him the
occasion held only terrors. He was driven by misgivings, swept
by sudden panics. He scowled at the cabinet, intruding upon the
privacy of the room where for years, without the aid of
accessories, by his brains alone, he had brought Mr. Hallowell
almost to the point of abject submission to his wishes. He
turned upon Vance with bitter self-disgust.
"So, I've got down as low as this, have I?" he demanded.
Vance heard him, undisturbed.
"I must ask you," he said, briskly, "to help me keep the people
just as I seat them. They will be in this half-circle facing the
cabinet and holding hands. Those we know are against us," he
explained, "will have one of my friends, Professor Strombergk,
or Mrs. Marsh, or my wife, on each side of him. If there should
be any attempt to rush the cabinet, we must get there first. I
will be outside the cabinet working the rappings, the floating
music, and the astral bodies." At the sight of the expression
these words brought to the face of Gaylor, Vance permitted
himself the shadow of a smile. "I can take care of myself," he
went on, "but remember -- Vera must not be caught outside the
cabinet! When the lights go up, she must be found with the ropes
Gaylor turned from him with an exclamation of disgust.
"Pah!" he muttered. "It's a hell of a business!"
Vance continued unmoved. "And, another thing," he said, "about
these lights; this switch throws them all off, doesn't it?" He
pressed a button on the left of the door, and the electric
lights in the walls and under a green shade on the library table
faded and disappeared, leaving the room, save for the light from
the hall, in darkness.
"That's the way we want it," said the showman.
From the hall Mannie appeared between the curtains that hung
across the doorway. "What are you doing with the lights?" he
demanded. "You want to break my neck? All our people are
downstairs," he announced.
Vance turned on the lights. At the same moment Rainey came from
the bedroom into the library. It was evident that to sustain his
courage he had been drinking. He made no effort to greet those
in the room, but stood, glaring resentfully at the cabinet and
the row of chairs.
"Well," exclaimed Vance cheerfully, "if our folks are all here,
we're all right."
Glancing behind him, Mannie took Vance by the sleeve, and led
him to the centre of the room.
"No, we're not all right," said the boy, "that Miss Coates has
brought a friend with her. She says Hallowell told her she could
bring a friend. She says this young fellow is her friend. I
think he's a Pink!"
"What nonsense," exclaimed Gaylor in alarm. "No detective would
force his way into this house."
"She says," continued Mannie, disregarding Gaylor, and still
addressing Vance, "he's a seeker after the Truth. I'll bet,"
declared the boy violently, "he's a seeker after the truth!"
Garrett came hastily and noiselessly into the room. He nodded
"Has he told you?" he asked.
"Yes," Gaylor answered, "who is he?"
"The reporter who was here this morning," Garrett returned. "The
one who threatened -- "
"That'll do," commanded Gaylor. In the face of this new
complication he again became himself. Suavely and politely he
turned to Vance. "Will you and your friend join Miss Vera," he
asked, "and tell her that we begin in a few minutes?"
For the first time, aggressively and offensively Rainey broke
"No, we won't begin in a few minutes," he announced, "not by a
The explosion was so unexpected that, for an instant, while the
eyes of all were fixed in astonishment upon the speaker, there
was complete silence. Gaylor, still suave, still polite, looked
toward Vance, and motioned him to the door.
"Will you kindly do as I ask?" he said. With Mannie at his side,
Vance walked quickly from the room. Once in the hall, the boy
laid a detaining hand upon the arm of the older man.
"If you'll take my advice, which you won't," he said, "we'll all
cut and run now, while we got the chance!"
In the library, Gaylor turned savagely upon his fellow
"Well!" he demanded.
Rainey frowned at him sulkily. "I wash my hands of the whole
thing!" he cried.
Gaylor dropped his voice to a whisper.
"What are you afraid of now?: he demanded. "If you're not afraid
of a district attorney, why are you afraid of a reporter?"
"I'm not afraid of anybody," returned Rainey, thickly. "But, I
don't mean to be a party to no murder!" He paused, shaking his
head portentously. "That man in there," he whispered, nodding
toward the bedroom, "is in no condition to go through this.
After that shock this morning, and last night -- it'll kill him.
His heart's rotten, I tell you, rotten!"
Garrett snarled contemptuously.
"How do you know?" he demanded.
"How do I know?" returned Rainey, fiercely. "I was four years in
a medical college, when you were in jail, you -- " "Stop that!"
cried Gaylor. Glancing fearfully toward the open door, he
interposed between them.
"Don't take my advice, then," cried Rainey. "Go on! Kill him!
And he won't sign your will. Only, don't say I didn't tell you."
"Have you told him?" demanded Gaylor.
"Yes," Rainey answered stoutly. "Told him if he didn't stop
this, he wouldn't live till morning."
"Are we forcing him to do this?" demanded Gaylor. "No! He's
forcing it on us. My God!" he exclaimed, "do you think I want
this farce? You say, yourself, you told him it would kill him,
and he will go on with it. Then why do you blame us? Can we help
The butler had distinguished the sounds of footsteps in the
hall. He fell hastily to rearranging the camp chairs.
"Hush!" he warned. "Look out!" Gaylor and Rainey had but time to
move apart, when Winthrop entered. He regarded the three men
with a smile of understanding.
"I beg pardon," he exclaimed, "I am interrupting?"
Gaylor greeted him with exaggerated heartiness.
"Ah, it is Mr. Winthrop!" he cried. "Have you come to help us
find out the truth this evening?"
"I certainly hope not!" said Winthrop brusquely. "I know the
truth about too many people already." He turned to Garrett, who,
unobtrusively, was endeavoring to make his escape.
"I want to see Miss Vera," he said.
"Miss Vera," interposed Gaylor. "I'm afraid that's not possible.
She especially asked not to be disturbed before the seance. I'm
Winthrop's manner became suspiciously polite.
"Yes?" he inquired. "Well, nevertheless I think I'll ask her.
Tell Miss Vera, please," he said to Garrett, "that Mr. Winthrop
would like a word with her here," with significance he added,
In offended dignity, Judge Gaylor moved toward the door. "Dr.
Rainey," he said stiffly, "will you please inform Mr. Hallowell
that his guests are now here, and that I have gone to bring them
"Yes, but you won't bring them upstairs, please," said Winthrop,
"until you hear from me."
Gaylor flushed with anger and for a moment appeared upon the
point of mutiny. Then, as though refusing to consider himself
responsible for the manners of the younger man, he shrugged his
shoulders and left the room.
With even less of consideration than he had shown to Judge
Gaylor, Winthrop turned upon Rainey.
"How's your patient?" he asked shortly. Rainey was sufficiently
influenced by the liquor he had taken to dare to resent
Winthrop's peremptory tone. His own in reply was designedly
"My patient?" he inquired.
"Mr. Hallowell," snapped Winthrop, "he's sick, isn't he?"
"Oh, I don't know," returned the Doctor.
"You don't know?" demanded Winthrop. "Well, I know. I know if he
goes through this thing tonight, he'll have another collapse. I
saw one this morning. Why don't you forbid it? You're his
medical adviser, aren't you?"
Rainey remained sullenly silent.
"Answer me!" insisted the District Attorney. "You are, aren't
"I am," at last declared Rainey.
"Well, then," commanded Winthrop, "tell him to stop this. Tell
him I advise it."
Through his glasses Rainey blinked violently at the District
Attorney, and laughed. "I didn't know," he said, "that you were
a medical man."
Winthrop looked at the Doctor so steadily, and for so long
a time, that the eyes of the young man sought the floor and the
ceiling; and his sneer changed to an expression of discomfort.
"I am not," said Winthrop. "I am the District Attorney of New
York." His tones were cold, precise; they fell upon the
superheated brain of Dr. Rainey like drops from an icicle.
"When I took over that office," continued Winthrop, "I found a
complaint against two medical students, a failure to report the
death of an old man in a private sanitarium."
Winthrop lowered his eyes, and became deeply absorbed in the
toe of his boot. "I haven't looked into the papers, yet," he
Rainey, swaying slightly, jerked open the door of the bedroom.
"I'll tell him," he panted thickly. "I'll tell him to do as you
"Thank you, I wish you would," said Winthrop.
At the same moment, from the hall, Garrett announced, "Mrs.
Vance, sir." And Mabel Vance, tremulous and frightened, entered
Winthrop approached her eagerly.
"Ah! Mrs. Vance," he exclaimed, "can I see Miss Vera?"
Embarrassed and unhappy, Mrs. Vance moved restlessly from
foot to foot, and shook her head.
"Please, Mr. District Attorney," she begged. "I'm afraid not.
This afternoon upset her so. And she's so nervous and queer
that the Professor thinks she shouldn't see nobody."
"The Professor?" he commented. His voice was considerate,
conciliatory. "Now, Mrs. Vance," he said, "I've known Miss
Vera ever since she was a little girl, known her longer than
you have, and, I'm her friend, and you're her friend, and -- "
"I am," protested Mabel Vance tearfully."Indeed I am!"
"I know you are," Winthrop interrupted hastily.
"You've been more than a friend to her, you've been a sister,
mother, and you don't want any trouble to come to her, do you?"
"I don't," cried the woman. "Oh!" she exclaimed miserably, "I
told them there'd be trouble!"
Winthrop laughed reassuringly.
"Well, there won't be any trouble," he declared, "if I can help
it. And if you want to help her, help me. Persuade her to let
me talk to her. Don't mind what the Professor says."
"I will," declared Mrs. Vance with determination, "I will."
She started eagerly toward the hall, and then paused and
returned. Her hands were clasped; her round, baby eyes, wet
with tears, were fixed upon Winthrop appealingly.
"Oh, please," she pleaded, "you're not going to hurt him, are
you? Paul, my husband," she explained, "he's been such a good
husband to me."
Winthrop laughed uneasily.
"Why, that'll be all right," he protested.
"He doesn't mean any harm, insisted Mrs. "Vance, "he's on the
level; true, he is!"
"Why, of course, of course," Winthrop assented.
Unsatisfied, Mrs. Vance burst into tears. "It's this spirit
business that makes the trouble!" she cried. "I tell them to cut
it out. Now, the mind reading at the theatre," she sobbed,
"there's no harm in that, is there? And there's twice the money
in it. But this ghost raising" -- she raised her eyes
appealingly, as though begging to be contradicted -- "it's sure
to get him into trouble, isn't it?"
Winthrop shook his head, and smiled.
"It may," he said. Mrs. Vance broke into a fresh outburst of
tears. "I knew it," she cried, "I knew it." Winthrop placed
his hand upon her arm and turned her in the direction of
"Don't worry,:" he said soothingly. "Go send Miss Vera
here. And," he called after her, "don't worry."
As Mabel departed upon his errand, Rainey reentered from the
bedroom. He carefully closed the door and halted with his hand
upon the knob, and shook his head.
"It's no use," he said, "he will go on with it. It's not my
fault," he whined, "I told him it would kill him. I couldn't
make it any stronger than that, could I?"
Rainey was not looking at Winthrop, but, as though fearful of
interruption, toward the door. His eyes were harassed, furtive,
filled with miserable indecision. Many times before Winthrop had
seen men in such a state. He knew that for the sufferer it
foretold a physical break down, or that he would seek relief in
full confession. To give the man confidence, he abandoned his
attitude of suspicion.
"That certainly would be strong enough for me," he said
cheerfully. "Did you tell him what I advised?"
"Yes, yes," muttered Rainey impatiently. "He said you were
invited here to give advice to his niece, not to him." For the
first time his eyes met those of Winthrop boldly. The District
Attorney recognized that the man had taken his fears by the
throat, and had arrived at his decision."
"See here," exclaimed Rainey, "could I give you some
"I'm sure you could," returned Winthrop briskly. "Give it to
But Rainey, glancing toward the door, shrank back. Winthrop,
following the direction of his eyes, saw Vera. Impatiently he
waved Rainey away.
"At the office, tomorrow morning," he commanded. With a sigh of
relief at the reprieve, Rainey slipped back into the bedroom.
Winthrop had persuaded himself that in seeking to speak with
Vera, he was making only a natural choice between preventing the
girl from perpetrating a fraud, or, later, for that fraud,
holding her to account. But when she actually stood before him,
he recognized how absurdly he had deceived himself. At the mere
physical sight of her, there came to him a swift relief, a
thrill of peace and deep content; and with delighted certainty
he knew that what Vera might do or might not do concerned him
not at all, that for him all that counted was the girl herself.
With something of this showing in his face, he came eagerly
"Vera!" he exclaimed. In the word there was delight, wonder,
tenderness; but if the girl recognized this she concealed her
knowledge. Instead, her eyes looked into his frankly; her manner
was that of open friendliness.
"Mabel tells me you want to talk to me," she said evenly "but I
don't want you to. I have something I want to say to you. I
could have written it, but this" -- for an instant the girl
paused with her lips pressed together; when she spoke, her voice
carried the firmness and finality of one delivering a verdict --
"but this," she repeated, "is the last time you shall hear from
me, or see me again."
Winthrop gave an exclamation of impatience, of indignation.
"No," returned the girl, "it is quite final. Maybe you will not
want to see me, but -- "
Winthrop again sharply interrupted her. His voice was filled
"Vera!" he protested.
"Well," said the girl more gently, "I'm glad to think you do,
but this is the last, and before I go, I -- ".
"Go!" demanded Winthrop roughly. "Where?"
"Before I go," continued the girl, "I want to tell you how much
you have helped me -- I want to thank you -- ".
"You haven't let me thank you," broke in Winthrop, "and, now,
you pretend this is our last meeting. It's absurd!".
"It is our last meeting," replied the girl. Of the two, for the
moment, she was the older, the more contained. "On the
contrary," contradicted the man. He spoke sharply, in a tone he
tried to make as determined as her own. "Our next meeting will
be in ten minutes -- at my sister's. I have told her about this
afternoon, and about you; and she wants very much to meet you.
She has sent her car for you. It's waiting in front of the
house. Now," he commanded masterfully, "you come with me, and
get in it, and leave all this" -- he gave an angry, contemptuous
wave of the hand toward the cabinet -- "behind you, as," he
added earnestly, "you promised me you would."
As though closing from sight the possibility he suggested, the
girl shut her eyes quickly, and then opened them again to meet
"I can't leave these things behind me," she said quietly.
"I told you so this afternoon. For a moment, you made me think I
could, and I did promise. I didn't need to promise. It's what
I've prayed for. Then, you saw what happened, you saw I was
right. Within five minutes that woman came -- "
"That woman had a motive," protested Winthrop.
"That woman," continued the girl patiently, "or some other
woman. What does it matter? In five minutes, or five days, some
one would have told." She leaned toward him anxiously. "I'm not
complaining," she said; "it's my own fault. It's the life I've
chosen." She hesitated and then as though determined to carry
out a programme she had already laid down for herself, continued
rapidly: "And what I want to tell you, is, that what's best in
that life I owe to you."
"Vera!" cried the man sharply.
"Listen!" said the girl. Her eyes were alight, eager. She spoke
frankly, proudly, without embarrassment, without fear of being
misconstrued, as a man might speak to a man.
"I'd be ungrateful, I'd be a coward," said the girl, "if I went
away and didn't tell you. For ten years I've been counting on
you. I made you a sort of standard. I said, as long as he keeps
to his ideals, I'm going to keep to mine. Maybe you think my
ideals have not been very high, but anyway you've made it easy
for me. Because I'm in this business, because I'm good-looking
enough, certain men" -- the voice of the girl grew hard and cool
-- "have done me the honor to insult me, and it was knowing you,
and that there are others like you, that helped me not to care."
The girl paused. She raised her eyes to his frankly. The look in
them was one of pride in him, of loyalty, of affection. "And
now, since I've met you," she went on, "I find you're just as I
imagined you'd be, just as I'd hoped you'd be." She reached out
her hand warningly, appealingly. "And I don't want you to
change, to let down, to grow discouraged. You can't tell how
many more people are counting on you." She hesitated and, as
though at last conscious of her own boldness, flushed
deprecatingly, like one asking pardon. "You men in high places,"
she stammered, "you're like light houses showing the way. You
don't know how many people you are helping. You can't see them.
You can't tell how many boats are following your light, but if
your light goes out, they are wrecked." She gave a sigh of
relief. "That's what I wanted to tell you," she said, "and, so
thank you." She held out her hand. "And, goodby."
Winthrop's answer was to clasp her hand quickly in both of his,
and draw her toward him.
"Vera," he begged, "come with me now!"
The girl withdrew her hand and moved away from him, frowning.
"No," she said, "no, you do not want to understand. I have my
work to do tonight."
Winthrop gave an exclamation of anger.
"You don't mean to tell me," he cried, "that you're going on
"Yes," she said, And then in sudden alarm cried: "But not if
you're here! I'll fail if you're here. Promise me, you will not
"Indeed," cried the man indignantly, "I will not! But I'll be
downstairs when you need me. And," he added warningly, "you'll
need me." "No," said the girl. "No matter what happens, I tell
you, between us, this is the end."
"Then," begged the man, "if this is the end, for God's sake,
Vera, as my last request, do not do it!"
The girl shook her head. "No," she repeated firmly. "I've tried
to get away from it, and each time they've forced me back. Now,
I'll go on with it. I've promised Paul, and the others. And you
heard me promise that woman."
"But you didn't mean that!" protested the man. "She insulted
you; you were angry. You're angry now, piqued -- "
"Mr. Winthrop," interrupted the girl, "today you told me I was
not playing the game. You told the truth. When you said this
was a mean business, you were right. But" -- for the first time
since she had spoken her tones were shaken, uncertain -- "I've
been driven out of every other business." She waited until her
voice was again under control, and then said slowly,
definitely, "and, tonight, I am going to show Mr. Hallowell the
spirit of his sister."
In the eyes of Winthrop the look of pain, of disappointment, of
reproach, was so keen, that the girl turned her own away.
"No," said the man gently, "you will not do that."
"You can stop my doing it tonight," returned the girl, "but at
some other time, at some other place, I will do it."
"You yourself will stop it," said Winthrop. "You are too honest,
too fine, to act such a lie. Why not be yourself?" he begged.
"Why not disappoint these other people who do not know you? Why
disappoint the man who knows you best, who trusts you, who
believes in you -- ".
"You are the very one," interrupted the girl, "who doesn't know
me. I am not fine; I am not honest. I am a charlatan and a
cheat; I am all that woman called me. And that is why you can't
know me. That's why. I told you, if you did, you would be
"I am not sorry," said Winthrop.
"You will be," returned the girl, "before the night is over."
"On the contrary," answered the man quietly, "I shall wait here
to congratulate you -- on your failure."
"I shall not fail," said the girl. Avoiding his eyes, she turned
from him and, for a moment, stood gazing before her miserably.
Her lips were trembling, her eyes moist with rising tears. Then
she faced him, her head raised defiantly.
"I have been hounded out of every decent way of living," she
protested hysterically. "I can make thousands of dollars
tonight," she cried, "out of this one."
Winthrop looked straight into her eyes. His own were pleading,
full of tenderness and pity; so eloquent with meaning that those
of the girl fell before them.
"That is no answer," said the man. "You know it's not. I tell
you -- you will fail."
From the hall Judge Gaylor entered noisily. Instinctively the
man and girl moved nearer together, and upon the intruder
Winthrop turned angrily.
"Well?" he demanded sharply. "I thought you had finished your
talk," protested the Judge. "Mr. Hallowell is anxious to begin."
Winthrop turned and looked at Vera steadily. For an instant the
eyes of the girl faltered, and then she returned his glance with
one as resolute as his own. As though accepting her verdict as
final, Winthrop walked quickly to the door. "I shall be
downstairs," he said, "when this is over, let me know."
Gaylor struggled to conceal his surprise and satisfaction. "You
won't be here for the seance?" he exclaimed.
"Certainly not," cried Winthrop. "I -- " He broke off suddenly.
Without again looking toward Vera, or trying to hide his
displeasure, he left the room.
Gaylor turned to the girl. He was smiling with relief.
"Excellent!" he muttered. "Excellent! What was he saying to
you,:" he asked eagerly, "as I came in -- that you would fail?"
The girl moved past him to the door. "Yes," she answered dully.
"But you will not!" cried the man. "We're all counting on you,
you know. Destroy the old will. Sign the new will," he quoted.
He came close to her and whispered. "That means thousands of
dollars to you and Vance," he urged.
The girl turned and regarded him with unhappy, angry eyes.
"You need not be frightened,:" she answered. For the man before
her and for herself, her voice was bitter with contempt and
self- accusation. "Mr. Winthrop is mistaken. He does not know
me," she said miserably. "I shall not fail."
For a moment, after she had left him, Gaylor stood motionless,
his eyes filled with concern, and then, with a shrug, as though
accepting either good or evil fortune, he called from the
bedroom Mr. Hallowell, and, from the floor below, the guests of
Hallowell and of Vance.
As Hallowell, supported by Rainey, sank into the invalid's chair
in the centre of the semicircle, Gaylor made his final appeal.
"Stephen," he begged, "are you sure you're feeling strong
enough? Won't some other night -- " The old man interrupted him
"No, now!" I want it over," he commanded. "Who knows," he
complained, "how soon it may be before -- "
The sight of Mannie entering the room with Vance caused him to
interrupt himself abruptly. He greeted the showman with a curt
"And who is this?" he demanded. Mannie, to whom a living
millionaire was much more of a disturbing spectacle than the
ghost of Alexander the Great, retreated hastily behind Vance.
"He is my assistant," Vance explained. "He furnishes the music."
He pushed Mannie toward the organ.
"Music!" growled Hallowell. "Must there be music?"
"It is indispensable," protested Vance. "Music, sir, is one of
the strongest psychic influences. It"
"Nonsense!" cried Hallowell.
"Tricks," he muttered, "tricks!"
Vance shrugged his shoulders, and smiled in deprecation. "I am
sorry to find you in a skeptical mood, Mr. Hallowell," he
murmured reprovingly "It will hardly help to produce good
results. Allow me," he begged, "to present two true believers."
With a wave of the hand he beckoned forward a stout, gray-haired
woman with bulging, near- sighted eyes that rolled meaninglessly
behind heavy gold spectacles.
"Mrs. Marsh of Lynn, Massachusetts," proclaimed Vance, "of whom
you have heard. Mrs. Marsh," he added, "is probably the first
medium in America. The results she has obtained are quite
wonderful. She alone foretold the San Francisco earthquake, and
the run on the Long Acre Square Bank."
"I am glad to know you," said Mr. Hallowell. "Pardon my not
The old lady curtsied obsequiously.
"Oh, certainly, Mr. Hallowell," she protested. "Mr. Hallowell,"
she went on, rolling the name delightedly on her tongue, "I need
not tell you how greatly we spiritualists rejoice over your
joining the ranks of the believers."
Hallowell nodded. He was not altogether unimpressed. "Thanks,"
he commented dryly. "But I am not quite there yet, madam."
"We hope," said Vance sententiously, "to convince Mr. Hallowell
"And I am sure, Mr. Hallowell," cried the old lady, "if any one
can do it, little Miss Vera can. Hers is a wonderful gift, sir,
a wonderful gift!"
"I am glad to hear you say so," returned Hallowell.
He nodded to her in dismissal, and turned to the next visitor.
"And this gentleman?" he asked.
"Professor Strombergk," announced Vance, "the distinguished
writer on psychic and occult subjects, editor of The World
A tall, full-bearded German, in a too-short frock coat, bowed
awkwardly. Upon him, as upon Mannie, had fallen the spell of the
Hallowell fortune. He, who chatted familiarly with departed
popes and emperors, who daily was in communication with Goethe,
Caesar, and Epictetus, thrilled with embarrassment before the
man who had made millions from a coupling pin.
"And Helen!" Mr. Hallowell cried, as Miss Coates followed the
Professor. "That is all, is it not?" he asked.
Miss Coates moved aside to disclose the person of the reporter
from the Republic, Homer Lee.
"I have taken you at your word, uncle," she said., "and have
brought a friend with me." In some trepidation she added; "He is
Mr. Lee, a reporter from the Republic."
"A reporter!" exclaimed Mr. Hallowell. Disturbed and yet amused
at the audacity of his niece, he shook his head reprovingly. "I
don't think I meant reporters," he remonstrated.
"You said in your note," returned his niece, "that as I had so
much at stake, I could bring any one I pleased, and the less he
believed in spiritualism, the better. Mr. Lee," she added dryly,
"believes even less than I do."
"Then it will be all the more of a triumph, if we convince him,"
declared Hallowell. "Understand, young man," he proclaimed
loudly, "I am not a spiritualist. I am merely conducting an
investigation. I want the truth. If you, or my niece, detect any
fraud tonight, I want to know it." Including in his speech the
others in the room, he glared suspiciously in turn at each.
"Keep your eyes open," he ordered, "you will be serving me quite
as much as you will Miss Coates."
Miss Coates and Lee thanked him and, recognizing themselves as
the opposition and in the minority, withdrew for consultation
into a corner of the bay window.
Vance approached Mr. Hallowell.
"If you are ready," he said, "we will examine the cabinet. Shall
I wheel it over here, or will you look at it where it is?"
"If it is to be in that corner during the seance," declared Mr.
Hallowell, "I'll look at it where it is."
As he struggled from his chair, he turned to Mrs. Marsh, and
nodded his head knowingly. "You see, Mrs. Marsh," he said, "I am
taking no chances."
"That is quite right, Mr. Hallowell," purred the old lady. "If
there be any doubt in your mind, you must get rid of it, or we
will have no results."
With a dramatic gesture, Vance swept aside from the opening in
the cabinet the black velvet curtain. "It's a simple affair," he
said indifferently. "As you see, it's open at the top and
bottom. The medium sits inside on that chair, bound hand and
In turn, Mr. Hallowell, Mrs. Marsh, Gaylor, Rainey, Professor
Strombergk entered the cabinet. With their knuckles they beat
upon its sides. They moved it to and fro. They dropped to their
knees, and with their fingers tugged at the carpet upon which it
Under cover of their questions, in the corner of the bay window,
Miss Coates whispered to Lee; "Don't look now," she warned, "but
later, you will see on the left of that door the switch that
throws on the lights. When I am sure she is outside the cabinet,
when she has told him not to give the money to me, I'll cry
now!' and whichever one of us is seated nearer the switch will
turn on all the lights. I think, "Miss Coates added with, in her
voice, a thrill of triumph not altogether free from a touch of
vindictiveness, "when my uncle sees her caught in the middle of
the room, disguised as his sister -- we will have cured him."
"It may be," said the man.
The possibility of success as Miss Coates pointed it out did not
appear to stir in him any great delight. He glanced unwillingly
over his shoulder. "I see the switch," he said.
Leaning on the arm of Gaylor, Mr. Hallowell returned from the
cabinet to his chair. What he had seen apparently strengthened
his faith and, in like degree, inspired him to greater
"Well," he exclaimed, "there are no trapdoors or false bottoms
about that! If they can project a spirit from that sentry box,
it will be a miracle. For whom are we waiting?" he asked
impatiently. "Where is Winthrop?"
Judge Gaylor explained that Winthrop preferred to wait
downstairs, and that he had said he would remain there until the
seance was finished.
"Afraid of compromising his position," commented the old man.
"I'm sorry. I'd like to have him here." He motioned Gaylor to
bend nearer. In a voice that trembled with eagerness and
excitement, he whispered: "Henry, I have a feeling that we are
going to witness a remarkable phenomenon."
Gaylor's countenance grew preternaturally grave. He nodded
"I have the same feeling, Stephen," he returned.
Vance raised his hand to command silence.
"Every one," he called, "except the committee, who are to bind
and tie the medium, will take the place I give him, and remain
in it. Mr. Day will please acquaint Miss Vera and Mrs. Vance
with the fact that we are ready."
Up to this point Vance had appeared only as a stage manager. He
had been concerned with his groupings, his lights, in assigning
to his confederates the parts they were to play. Now that the
curtain was to rise, as an actor puts on a wig and grease paint,
Vance assumed a certain voice and manner. On the stage the
critics would have called him a convincing actor. He made his
audience believe what he believed. He knew the eloquence of a
pause, the value of a surprised, unintelligible exclamation. One
moment he was as professionally solemn as a "funeral director;"
the next, his voice, his whole frame, would shake with
excitement, in an outburst of fanatic fervor. As it pleased him
he could play Hamlet, tenderly shocked at the sight of his dead
father, or Macbeth, retreating in horror before the ghost of
Banquo. For the moment his manner was that of the undertaker.
"Now, Mr. Hallowell," he said hoarsely, "please to name those
you wish to serve on the committee."
Mr. Hallowell waved his arm to include every one in the room.
"Everybody will serve on the committee," he declared.
"Everything is to be open and above- board. The whole city is
welcome on the committee. I want this to be above suspicion."
"That is my wish, also, sir," said Vance stiffly. "But a
committee of more than three is unwieldy. Suppose you name two
gentlemen and I one? Or," he shrugged his shoulders, "you can
name all three."
After a moment of consideration Mr. Hallowell pointed at Lee. "I
choose Mr. -- that young man," he announced, "and Judge Gaylor."
"I would much rather not, Stephen," Judge Gaylor whispered.
"I know, Henry," answered the other. "But I ask it of you. It
will give me confidence." He turned to Vance. "You select some
one," he commanded.
With a bow, Vance designated the tall German.
"Will Professor Strombergk be acceptable?" he asked. Mr.
"Then, the three gentlemen chosen will please come to the
Vance, his manner now that of a master of ceremonies, assigned
to each person the seat he or she was to occupy. Miss Coates
with satisfaction noted that only Mrs. Vance separated Lee from
the electric switch.
"I must ask you," said Vance, "to keep the sears I have assigned
to you. With us tonight are both favorable and unfavorable
influences. And what I have tried to do in placing you, is to
obtain the best psychic results." He moved to the door and
looked into the hall, then turned, and with uplifted arm
silently demanded attention.
"Miss Vera," he announced. Followed closely, like respectful
courtiers, by Mannie and Mrs. Vance, Vera appeared in the
doorway, walked a few feet into the room, and stood motionless.
As though already in a trance, she moved slowly, without
volition, like a somnambulist. Her head was held high, but her
eyes were dull and unseeing. Her arms hung limply. She wore an
evening gown of soft black stuff, that clung to her like a lace
shawl, and which left her throat and arms bare. In spite of the
clash of interests, of antagonism, of mutual distrust, there was
no one present to whom the sight of the young girl did not bring
an uneasy thrill. The nature of the thing she proposed to do,
contrasted with the loveliness of her face, which seemed to mock
at the possibility of deceit; something in her rapt, distant
gaze, in the dignity of her uplifted head, in her air of
complete detachment from her surroundings, caused even the most
skeptical to question if she might not possess the power she
claimed, to feel for a moment the approach of the supernatural.
The voices of the committee, consulting together, dropped
suddenly to a whisper; the others were instantly silent.
In his arms Mannie carried silken scarfs, cords, and ropes. In
each hand he held a teacup. One contained flour, the other shot.
Vance took these from him, and Mannie hurriedly slipped into his
chair in front of the organ.
"Gentlemen," explained Vance, "you will use these ropes and
scarfs to tie the medium. Also, as a further precaution against
the least suspicion of fraud, we will subject her to the most
severe test known. In one hand she will hold this flour; the
other will be filled with shot. This will make it impossible for
her to tamper with the ropes.
He gave the two cups to Gaylor, and turned to Vera.
"Are you ready?" he asked. After a pause, the girl slightly
inclined her head. Lee, with one of the scarfs in his hand,
approached her diffidently. He looked unhappily at the slight,
girlish figure, at the fair white arms. In his embarrassment he
appealed to Vance.
"How would you suggest?" he asked.
Vance, apparently shocked, hastily drew away. "That would be
most irregular," he protested.
Apologetically Lee turned to the girl.
"Would you mind putting your arms behind you?" he asked. He
laced the scarf around her arms, and drew it tightly to her
"Tell me if I hurt you," he murmured, but the girl made no
answer. To what was going forward she appeared as unmindful as
though she were an artist's manikin.
"Will you take these now?" asked Gaylor, and into her open palms
he poured the flour and shot. "And, now," continued Lee, "will
you go into the cabinet?" As she seated herself, he knelt in
front of her and bound her ankles. From behind her Strombergk
deftly wound the ropes about her body and through the rungs and
back of the chair.
"Would you mind seeing if you can withdraw your arms?" Lee
asked. The girl raised her shoulders, struggled to free her
hands, and tried to rise. But the efforts were futile.
"Are the gentlemen satisfied?" demanded Vance. The three men,
who had shown but little heart in the work, and who were now red
and embarrassed, hastily answered in the affirmative.
"If you are satisfied the ropes are securely fastened," Vance
continued, "you will take your seats." Professor Strombergk, as
he moved to his chair, announced in devout, solemn tones;
"Nothing but spirit hands can move those ropes now."
From the organ rose softly the prelude to a Moody and Sankey
hymn, and, in keeping with the music, the voice of Vance sank to
a low tone.
"We will now," he said, "establish the magnetic chain. Each
person will take with his right hand the left wrist of the
person on his or her right." He paused while this order was
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