Can Such Things Be by Ambrose Bierce
THE DEATH OF HALPIN FRAYSER
For by death is wrought greater change than hath been
shown. Whereas in general the spirit that removed cometh
back upon occasion, and is sometimes seen of those in flesh
(appearing in the form of the body it bore) yet it hath
happened that the veritable body without the spirit hath
walked. And it is attested of those encountering who have
lived to speak thereon that a lich so raised up hath no
natural affection, nor remembrance thereof, but only hate.
Also, it is known that some spirits which in life were benign
become by death evil altogether.--HALL.
ONE dark night in midsummer a man waking from
a dreamless sleep in a forest lifted his head from the
earth, and staring a few moments into the blackness,
said: 'Catharine Larue.' He said nothing
more; no reason was known to him why he should
have said so much.
The man was Halpin Frayser. He lived in St.
Helena, but where he lives now is uncertain, for he
is dead. One who practises sleeping in the woods
with nothing under him but the dry leaves and
the damp earth, and nothing over him but the
branches from which the leaves have fallen and the
sky from which the earth has fallen, cannot hope for
great longevity, and Frayser had already attained
the age of thirty-two. There are persons in this
world, millions of persons, and far and away the
best persons, who regard that as a very advanced
age. They are the children. To those who view the
voyage of life from the port of departure the
bark that has accomplished any considerable distance
appears already in close approach to the farther
shore. However, it is not certain that Halpin
Frayser came to his death by exposure.
He had been all day in the hills west of the Napa
Valley, looking for doves and such small game as
was in season. Late in the afternoon it had come
on to be cloudy, and he had lost his bearings; and although
he had only to go always downhill--everywhere
the way to safety when one is lost--the absence
of trails had so impeded him that he was
overtaken by night while still in the forest. Unable
in the darkness to penetrate the thickets of manzanita
and other undergrowth, utterly bewildered
and overcome with fatigue, he had lain down near
the root of a large madrono and fallen into a dreamless
sleep. It was hours later, in the very middle of
the night, that one of God's mysterious messengers,
gliding ahead of the incalculable host of his companions
sweeping westward with the dawn line,
pronounced the awakening word in the ear of the
sleeper, who sat upright and spoke, he knew not
why, a name, he knew not whose.
Halpin Frayser was not much of a philosopher,
nor a scientist. The circumstance that, waking from
a deep sleep at night in the midst of a forest, he had
spoken aloud a name that he had not in memory
and hardly had in mind did not arouse an enlightened
curiosity to investigate the phenomenon.
He thought it odd, and with a little perfunctory
shiver, as if in deference to a seasonal presumption
that the night was chill, he lay down again and
went to sleep. But his sleep was no longer dreamless.
He thought he was walking along a dusty road
that showed white in the gathering darkness of a
summer night. Whence and whither it led, and why
he travelled it, he did not know, though all seemed
simple and natural, as is the way in dreams; for in
the Land Beyond the Bed surprises cease from
troubling and the judgment is at rest. Soon he came
to a parting of the ways; leading from the highway
was a road less travelled, having the appearance, indeed,
of having been long abandoned, because, he
thought, it led to something evil; yet he turned into
it without hesitation, impelled by some imperious
As he pressed forward he became conscious that
his way was haunted by invisible existences whom
he could not definitely figure to his mind. From
among the trees on either side he caught broken
and incoherent whispers in a strange tongue which
yet he partly understood. They seemed to him
fragmentary utterances of a monstrous conspiracy
against his body and soul.
It was now long after nightfall, yet the interminable
forest through which he journeyed was lit with
a wan glimmer having no point of diffusion, for in
its mysterious lumination nothing cast a shadow. A
shallow pool in the guttered depression of an old
wheel rut, as from a recent rain, met his eye with
a crimson gleam. He stooped and plunged his hand
into it. It stained his fingers; it was blood! Blood,
he then observed, was about him everywhere. The
weeds growing rankly by the roadside showed it in
blots and splashes on their big, broad leaves. Patches
of dry dust between the wheel-ways were pitted
and spattered as with a red rain. Defiling the trunks
of the trees were broad maculations of crimson, and
blood dripped like dew from their foliage.
All this he observed with a terror which seemed
not incompatible with the fulfilment of a natural
expectation. It seemed to him that it was all in expiation
of some crime which, though conscious of his
guilt, he could not rightly remember. To the menaces
and mysteries of his surroundings the consciousness
was an added horror. Vainly he sought, by tracing
life backward in memory, to reproduce the moment
of his sin; scenes and incidents came crowding
tumultuously into his mind, one picture effacing another,
or commingling with it in confusion and obscurity,
but nowhere could he catch a glimpse of
what he sought. The failure augmented his terror;
he felt as one who has murdered in the dark, not
knowing whom nor why. So frightful was the situation
--the mysterious light burned with so silent
and awful a menace; the noxious plants, the trees
that by common consent are invested with a melancholy
or baleful character, so openly in his sight
conspired against his peace; from overhead and all
about came so audible and startling whispers and
the sighs of creatures so obviously not of earth--
that he could endure it no longer, and with a great
effort to break some malign spell that bound his
faculties to silence and inaction, he shouted with the
full strength of his lungs! His voice, broken, it
seemed, into an infinite multitude of unfamiliar
sounds, went babbling and stammering away into
the distant reaches of the forest, died into silence,
and all was as before. But he had made a beginning
at resistance and was encouraged. He said:
'I will not submit unheard. There may be powers
that are not malignant travelling this accursed road.
I shall leave them a record and an appeal. I shall
relate my wrongs, the persecutions that I endure--
I, a helpless mortal, a penitent, an unoffending
poet!' Halpin Frayser was a poet only as he was
a penitent: in his dream.
Taking from his clothing a small red-leather
pocket-book one half of which was leaved for memoranda,
he discovered that he was without a pencil.
He broke a twig from a bush, dipped it into a pool
of blood and wrote rapidly. He had hardly touched
the paper with the point of his twig when a low, wild
peal of laughter broke out at a measureless distance
away, and growing ever louder, seemed approaching
ever nearer; a soulless, heartless, and unjoyous
laugh, like that of the loon, solitary by the lakeside
at midnight; a laugh which culminated in an
unearthly shout close at hand, then died away
by slow gradations, as if the accursed being that
uttered it had withdrawn over the verge of the
world whence it had come. But the man felt that
this was not so--that it was near by and had not
A strange sensation began slowly to take possession
of his body and his mind. He could not have
said which, if any, of his senses was affected; he felt
it rather as a consciousness--a mysterious mental
assurance of some overpowering presence--some
supernatural malevolence different in kind from
the invisible existences that swarmed about him, and
superior to them in power. He knew that it had
uttered that hideous laugh. And now it seemed to be
approaching him; from what direction he did not
know--dared not conjecture. All his former fears
were forgotten or merged in the gigantic terror that
now held him in thrall. Apart from that, he had but
one thought: to complete his written appeal to the
benign powers who, traversing the haunted wood,
might sometime rescue him if he should be denied
the blessing of annihilation. He wrote with terrible
rapidity, the twig in his fingers rilling blood without
renewal; but in the middle of a sentence his hands
denied their service to his will, his arms fell to his
sides, the book to the earth; and powerless to move
or cry out, he found himself staring into the sharply
drawn face and blank, dead eyes of his own mother,
standing white and silent in the garments of the
In his youth Halpin Frayser had lived with his
parents in Nashville, Tennessee. The Fraysers were
well-to-do, having a good position in such society as
had survived the wreck wrought by civil war. Their
children had the social and educational opportunities
of their time and place, and had responded to good
associations and instruction with agreeable manners
and cultivated minds. Halpin being the youngest
and not over robust was perhaps a trifle 'spoiled.'
He had the double disadvantage of a mother's
assiduity and a father's neglect. Frayser pere was
what no Southern man of means is not--a politician.
His country, or rather his section and State,
made demands upon his time and attention so exacting
that to those of his family he was compelled
to turn an ear partly deafened by the thunder of
the political captains and the shouting, his own
Young Halpin was of a dreamy, indolent and
rather romantic turn, somewhat more addicted to
literature than law, the profession to which he was
bred. Among those of his relations who professed
the modern faith of heredity it was well understood
that in him the character of the late Myron Bayne,
a maternal great-grandfather, had revisited the
glimpses of the moon--by which orb Bayne had
in his lifetime been sufficiently affected to be a poet
of no small Colonial distinction. If not specially observed,
it was observable that while a Frayser who
was not the proud possessor of a sumptuous copy
of the ancestral 'poetical works' (printed at the
family expense, and long ago withdrawn from an
inhospitable market) was a rare Frayser indeed,
there was an illogical indisposition to honour the
great deceased in the person of his spiritual successor.
Halpin was pretty generally deprecated as an
intellectual black sheep who was likely at any moment
to disgrace the flock by bleating in metre. The
Tennessee Fraysers were a practical folk--not
practical in the popular sense of devotion to sordid
pursuits, but having a robust contempt for any
qualities unfitting a man for the wholesome vocation
In justice to young Halpin it should be said that
while in him were pretty faithfully reproduced most
of the mental and moral characteristics ascribed by
history and family tradition to the famous Colonial
bard, his succession to the gift and faculty divine
was purely inferential. Not only had he never been
known to court the Muse, but in truth he could not
have written correctly a line of verse to save himself
from the Killer of the Wise. Still, there was no
knowing when the dormant faculty might wake and
smite the lyre.
In the meantime the young man was rather a
loose fish, anyhow. Between him and his mother was
the most perfect sympathy, for secretly the lady was
herself a devout disciple of the late and great Myron
Bayne, though with the tact so generally and justly
admired in her sex (despite the hardy calumniators
who insist that it is essentially the same thing as
cunning) she had always taken care to conceal her
weakness from all eyes but those of him who shared
it. Their common guilt in respect of that was an
added tie between them. If in Halpin's youth his
mother had 'spoiled' him he had assuredly done
his part toward being spoiled. As he grew to such
manhood as is attainable by a Southerner who does
not care which way elections go, the attachment between
him and his beautiful mother--whom from
early childhood he had called Katy--became yearly
stronger and more tender. In these two romantic
natures was manifest in a signal way that neglected
phenomenon, the dominance of the sexual element
in all the relations of life, strengthening, softening,
and beautifying even those of consanguinity. The
two were nearly inseparable, and by strangers observing
their manners were not infrequently mistaken
Entering his mother's boudoir one day Halpin
Frayser kissed her upon the forehead, toyed for a
moment with a lock of her dark hair which had escaped
from its confining pins, and said, with an obvious
effort at calmness:
'Would you greatly mind, Katy, if I were called
away to California for a few weeks?'
It was hardly needful for Katy to answer with her
lips a question to which her tell-tale cheeks had made
instant reply. Evidently she would greatly mind;
and the tears, too, sprang into her large brown eyes
as corroborative testimony.
'Ah, my son,' she said, looking up into his face
with infinite tenderness,' I should have known that
this was coming. Did I not lie awake a half of the
night weeping because, during the other half, Grandfather
Bayne had come to me in a dream, and standing
by his portrait--young, too, and handsome as
that--pointed to yours on the same wall? And
when I looked it seemed that I could not see the
features; you had been painted with a face cloth,
such as we put upon the dead. Your father has
laughed at me, but you and I, dear, know that such
things are not for nothing. And I saw below the edge
of the cloth the marks of hands on your throat--
forgive me, but we have not been used to keep such
things from each other. Perhaps you have another
interpretation. Perhaps it does not mean that you
will go to California. Or maybe you will take me
It must be confessed that this ingenious interpretation
of the dream in the light of newly discovered
evidence did not wholly commend itself to the son's
more logical mind; he had, for the moment at least,
a conviction that it foreshadowed a more simple and
immediate, if less tragic, disaster than a visit to the
Pacific Coast. It was Halpin Frayser's impression
that he was to be garroted on his native heath.
'Are there not medicinal springs in California?'
Mrs. Frayser resumed before he had time to give her
the true reading of the dream--'places where one
recovers from rheumatism and neuralgia? Look--
my fingers feel so stiff; and I am almost sure they
have been giving me great pain while I slept.'
She held out her hands for his inspection. What
diagnosis of her case the young man may have
thought it best to conceal with a smile the historian
is unable to state, but for himself he feels bound to
say that fingers looking less stiff, and showing fewer
evidences of even insensible pain, have seldom been
submitted for medical inspection by even the fairest
patient desiring a prescription of unfamiliar scenes.
The outcome of it was that of these two odd persons
having equally odd notions of duty, the one
went to California, as the interest of his client required,
and the other remained at home in compliance
with a wish that her husband was scarcely
conscious of entertaining.
While in San Francisco Halpin Frayser was walking
one dark night along the water-front of the city,
when, with a suddenness that surprised and disconcerted
him, he became a sailor. He was in fact
'shanghaied' aboard a gallant, gallant ship, and
sailed for a far countree. Nor did his misfortunes
end with the voyage; for the ship was cast ashore
on an island of the South Pacific, and it was six years
afterward when the survivors were taken off by a
venturesome trading schooner and brought back to
Though poor in purse, Frayser was no less proud
in spirit than he had been in the years that seemed
ages and ages ago. He would accept no assistance
from strangers, and it was while living with a fellow
survivor near the town of St. Helena, awaiting news
and remittances from home, that he had gone gunning
The apparition confronting the dreamer in the
haunted wood--the thing so like, yet so unlike, his
mother--was horrible! It stirred no love nor longings
in his heart; it came unattended with pleasant
memories of a golden past--inspired no sentiment
of any kind; all the finer emotions were swallowed
up in fear. He tried to turn and run from before it,
but his legs were as lead; he was unable to lift his
feet from the ground. His arms hung helpless at his
sides; of his eyes only he retained control, and these
he dared not remove from the lustreless orbs of the
apparition, which he knew was not a soul without
a body, but that most dreadful of all existences infesting
that haunted wood--a body without a soul!
In its blank stare was neither love, nor pity, nor
intelligence--nothing to which to address an appeal
for mercy. 'An appeal will not lie,' he thought,
with an absurd reversion to professional slang, making
the situation more horrible, as the fire of a cigar
might light up a tomb.
For a time, which seemed so long that the world
grew grey with age and sin, and the haunted forest,
having fulfilled its purpose in this monstrous culmination
of its terrors, vanished out of his consciousness
with all its sights and sounds, the apparition
stood within a pace, regarding him with the mindless
malevolence of a wild brute; then thrust its
hands forward and sprang upon him with appalling
ferocity! The act released his physical energies without
unfettering his will; his mind was still spellbound,
but his powerful body and agile limbs,
endowed with a blind, insensate life of their own, resisted
stoutly and well. For an instant he seemed to
see this unnatural contest between a dead intelligence
and a breathing mechanism only as a spectator
--such fancies are in dreams; then he regained
his identity almost as if by a leap forward into his
body, and the straining automaton had a directing
will as alert and fierce as that of its hideous
But what mortal can cope with a creature of his
dream? The imagination creating the enemy is already
vanquished; the combat's result is the combat'
s cause. Despite his struggles--despite his
strength and activity, which seemed wasted in a
void, he felt the cold fingers close upon his throat.
Borne backward to the earth, he saw above him the
dead and drawn face within a hand's-breadth of his
own, and then all was black. A sound as of the beating
of distant drums--a murmur of swarming
voices, a sharp, far cry signing all to silence, and
Halpin Frayser dreamed that he was dead.
A warm, clear night had been followed by a
morning of drenching fog. At about the middle of
the afternoon of the preceding day a little whiff of
light vapour--a mere thickening of the atmosphere,
the ghost of a cloud--had been observed
clinging to the western side of Mount St. Helena,
away up along the barren altitudes near the summit.
It was so thin, so diaphanous, so like a fancy
made visible, that one would have said: 'Look
quickly! in a moment it will be gone.'
In a moment it was visibly larger and denser.
While with one edge it clung to the mountain, with
the other it reached farther and farther out into the
air above the lower slopes. At the same time it extended
itself to north and south, joining small
patches of mist that appeared to come out of the
mountain-side on exactly the same level, with an intelligent
design to be absorbed. And so it grew and
grew until the summit was shut out of view from
the valley, and over the valley itself was an everextending
canopy, opaque and grey. At Calistoga,
which lies near the head of the valley and the foot
of the mountain, there were a starless night and a
sunless morning. The fog, sinking into the valley,
had reached southward, swallowing up ranch after
ranch, until it had blotted out the town of St.
Helena, nine miles away. The dust in the road was
laid; trees were adrip with moisture; birds sat
silent in their coverts; the morning light was wan
and ghastly, with neither colour nor fire.
Two men left the town of St. Helena at the first
glimmer of dawn, and walked along the road northward
up the valley toward Calistoga. They carried
guns on their shoulders, yet no one having knowledge
of such matters could have mistaken them for
hunters of bird or beast. They were a deputy sheriff
from Napa and a detective from San Francisco--
Holker and Jaralson, respectively. Their business
'How far is it?' inquired Holker, as they strode
along, their feet stirring white the dust beneath the
damp surface of the road.
'The White Church? Only a half mile farther,'
the other answered. 'By the way,' he added, 'it
is neither white nor a church; it is an abandoned
schoolhouse, grey with age and neglect. Religious
services were once held in it--when it was white,
and there is a graveyard that would delight a poet.
Can you guess why I sent for you, and told you to
'Oh, I never have bothered you about things of
that kind. I've always found you communicative
when the time came. But if I may hazard a guess,
you want me to help you arrest one of the corpses
in the graveyard.'
'You remember Branscom?' said Jaralson, treating
his companion's wit with the inattention that it
'The chap who cut his wife's throat? I ought; I
wasted a week's work on him and had my expenses
for my trouble. There is a reward of five hundred
dollars, but none of us ever got a sight of him. You
don't mean to say--'
'Yes, I do. He has been under the noses of you
fellows all the time. He comes by night to the old
graveyard at the White Church.'
'The devil! That's where they buried his wife.'
'Well, you fellows might have had sense enough
to suspect that he would return to her grave some
'The very last place that anyone would have expected
him to return to.'
'But you had exhausted all the other places.
Learning your failure at them, I "laid for him"
'And you found him?'
'Damn it! he found me. The rascal got the drop
on me--regularly held me up and made me travel.
It's God's mercy that he didn't go through me.
Oh, he's a good one, and I fancy the half of that
reward is enough for me if you're needy.'
Holker laughed good-humouredly, and explained
that his creditors were never more importunate.
'I wanted merely to show you the ground, and
arrange a plan with you,' the detective explained.
'I thought it as well for us to be armed, even in
'The man must be insane,' said the deputy sheriff.
'The reward is for his capture and conviction. If
he's mad he won't be convicted.'
Mr. Holker was so profoundly affected by that
possible failure of justice that he involuntarily
stopped in the middle of the road, then resumed his
walk with abated zeal.
'Well, he looks it,' assented Jaralson. 'I'm bound
to admit that a more unshaven, unshorn, unkempt,
and uneverything wretch I never saw outside the
ancient and honourable order of tramps. But I've
gone in for him, and can't make up my mind to let
go. There's glory in it for us, anyhow. Not another
soul knows that he is this side of the Mountains of
'All right,' Holker said; 'we will go and view the
ground,' and he added, in the words of a once
favourite inscription for tombstones: '"where you
must shortly lie"--I mean if old Branscom ever
gets tired of you and your impertinent intrusion.
By the way, I heard the other day that "Branscom"
was not his real name.'
'I can't recall it. I had lost all interest in the
wretch. and it did not fix itself in my memory--
something like Pardee. The woman whose throat he
had the bad taste to cut was a widow when he met
her. She had come to California to look up some
relatives--there are persons who will do that sometimes.
But you know all that.'
'But not knowing the right name, by what happy
inspiration did you find the right grave? The man
who told me what the name was said it had been cut
on the headboard.'
'I don't know the right grave.' Jaralson was apparently
a trifle reluctant to admit his ignorance of
so important a point of his plan. 'I have been watching
about the place generally. A part of our work
this morning will be to identify that grave. Here is
the White Church.'
For a long distance the road had been bordered by
fields on both sides, but now on the left there was a
forest of oaks, madronos, and gigantic spruces whose
lower parts only could be seen, dim and ghostly in
the fog. The undergrowth was, in places, thick, but
nowhere impenetrable. For some moments Holker
saw nothing of the building, but as they turned into
the woods it revealed itself in faint grey outline
through the fog, looking huge and far away. A few
steps more, and it was within an arm's length, distinct,
dark with moisture, and insignificant in size.
It had the usual country-schoolhouse form--belonged
to the packing-box order of architecture;
had an underpinning of stones, a moss-grown roof,
and blank window spaces, whence both glass and
sash had long departed. It was ruined, but not a ruin
--a typical Californian substitute for what are
known to guide-bookers abroad as 'monuments of
the past.' With scarcely a glance at this uninteresting
structure Jaralson moved on into the dripping
'I will show you where he held me up,' he said.
'This is the graveyard.'
Here and there among the bushes were small enclosures
containing graves, sometimes no more than
one. They were recognized as graves by the discoloured
stones or rotting boards at head and foot,
leaning at all angles, some prostrate; by the ruined
picket fences surrounding them; or, infrequently, by
the mound itself showing its gravel through the
fallen leaves. In many instances nothing marked
the spot where lay the vestiges of some poor mortal
--who, leaving 'a large circle of sorrowing friends,'
had been left by them in turn--except a depression
in the earth, more lasting than that in the spirits of
the mourners. The paths, if any paths had been,
were long obliterated; trees of a considerable size
had been permitted to grow up from the graves and
thrust aside with root or branch the enclosing
fences. Over all was that air of abandonment and
decay which seems nowhere so fit and significant
as in a village of the forgotten dead.
As the two men, Jaralson leading, pushed their
way through the growth of young trees, that enterprising
man suddenly stopped and brought up his
shotgun to the height of his breast, uttered a low
note of warning, and stood motionless, his eyes
fixed upon something ahead. As well as he could,
obstructed by brush, his companion, though
seeing nothing, imitated the posture and so
stood, prepared for what might ensue. A moment
later Jaralson moved cautiously forward, the other
Under the branches of an enormous spruce lay the
dead body of a man. Standing silent above it they
noted such particulars as first strike the attention--
the face, the attitude, the clothing; whatever most
promptly and plainly answers the unspoken question
of a sympathetic curiosity.
The body lay upon its back, the legs wide apart.
One arm was thrust upward, the other outward; but
the latter was bent acutely, and the hand was near
the throat. Both hands were tightly clenched. The
whole attitude was that of desperate but ineffectual
Near by lay a shotgun and a game bag through
the meshes of which was seen the plumage of shot
birds. All about were evidences of a furious struggle;
small sprouts of poison-oak were bent and
denuded of leaf and bark; dead and rotting leaves
had been pushed into heaps and ridges on both sides
of the legs by the action of other feet than theirs;
alongside the hips were unmistakable impressions
of human knees.
The nature of the struggle was made clear by a
glance at the dead man's throat and face. While
breast and hands were white, those were purple--
almost black. The shoulders lay upon a low mound,
and the head was turned back at an angle otherwise
impossible, the expanded eyes staring blankly backward
in a direction opposite to that of the feet. From
the froth filling the open mouth the tongue protruded,
black and swollen. The throat showed horrible
contusions; not mere finger-marks, but bruises
and lacerations wrought by two strong hands that
must have buried themselves in the yielding flesh,
maintaining their terrible grasp until long after
death. Breast, throat, face, were wet; the clothing
was saturated; drops of water, condensed from the
fog, studded the hair and moustache.
All this the two men observed without speaking--
almost at a glance. Then Holker said:
'Poor devil! he had a rough deal.'
Jaralson was making a vigilant circumspection of
the forest, his shotgun held in both hands and at full
cock, his finger upon the trigger.
'The work of a maniac,' he said, without withdrawing
his eyes from the enclosing wood. 'It was
done by Branscom--Pardee.'
Something half hidden by the disturbed leaves on
the earth caught Holker's attention. It was a redleather
pocket-book. He picked it up and opened it.
It contained leaves of white paper for memoranda,
and upon the first leaf was the name 'Halpin Frayser.'
Written in red on several succeeding leaves--
scrawled as if in haste and barely legible--were
the following lines, which Holker read aloud, while
his companion continued scanning the dim grey
confines of their narrow world and hearing matter
of apprehension in the drip of water from every burdened
'Enthralled by some mysterious spell, I stood
In the lit gloom of an enchanted wood.
The cypress there and myrtle twined their boughs,
Significant, in baleful brotherhood.
'The brooding willow whispered to the yew;
Beneath, the deadly nightshade and the rue,
With immortelles self-woven into strange
Funereal shapes, and horrid nettles grew.
'No song of bird nor any drone of bees,
Nor light leaf lifted by the wholesome breeze:
The air was stagnant all, and Silence was
A living thing that breathed among the trees.
'Conspiring spirits whispered in the gloom,
Half-heard, the stilly secrets of the tomb.
With blood the trees were all adrip; the leaves
Shone in the witch-light with a ruddy bloom.
'I cried aloud!--the spell, unbroken still,
Rested upon my spirit and my will.
Unsouled, unhearted, hopeless and forlorn,
I strove with monstrous presages of ill!
'At last the viewless--'
Holker ceased reading; there was no more to
read. The manuscript broke off in the middle of a
'That sounds like Bayne,' said Jaralson, who was
something of a scholar in his way. He had abated
his vigilance and stood looking down at the body.
'Who's Bayne?' Holker asked rather incuriously.
'Myron Bayne, a chap who flourished in the
early years of the nation--more than a century
ago. Wrote mighty dismal stuff; I have his collected
works. That poem is not among them, but it must
have been omitted by mistake.'
'It is cold,' said Holker; 'let us leave here; we
must have up the coroner from Napa.'
Jaralson said nothing, but made a movement in
compliance. Passing the end of the slight elevation
of earth upon which the dead man's head and
shoulders lay, his foot struck some hard substance
under the rotting forest leaves, and he took the
trouble to kick it into view. It was a fallen headboard,
and painted on it were the hardly decipherable
words, 'Catharine Larue.'
'Larue, Larue!' exclaimed Holker, with sudden
animation. 'Why, that is the real name of Branscom
--not Pardee. And--bless my soul! how it all
comes to me--the murdered woman's name had
'There is some rascally mystery here,' said Detective
Jaralson. 'I hate anything of that kind.'
There came to them out of the fog--seemingly
from a great distance--the sound of a laugh, a low,
deliberate, soulless laugh which had no more of joy
than that of a hyena night-prowling in the desert; a
laugh that rose by slow gradation, louder and louder,
clearer, more distinct and terrible, until it seemed
barely outside the narrow circle of their vision; a
laugh so unnatural, so unhuman, so devilish, that
it filled those hardy man-hunters with a sense of
dread unspeakable! They did not move their weapons
nor think of them; the menace of that horrible
sound was not of the kind to be met with arms.
As it had grown out of silence, so now it died away;
from a culminating shout which had seemed almost
in their ears, it drew itself away into the distance
until its failing notes, joyous and mechanical to the
last, sank to silence at a measureless remove.
THE SECRET OF MACARGER'S GULCH
NORTHWESTWARDLY from Indian Hill, about nine
miles as the crow flies, is Macarger's Gulch. It is not
much of a gulch--a mere depression between two
wooded ridges of inconsiderable height. From its
mouth up to its head--for gulches, like rivers, have
an anatomy of their own--the distance does not
exceed two miles, and the width at bottom is at
only one place more than a dozen yards; for most of
the distance on either side of the little brook which
drains it in winter, and goes dry in the early spring,
there is no level ground at all; the steep slopes of the
hills, covered with an almost inpenetrable growth of
manzanita and chemisal, are parted by nothing but
the width of the watercourse. No one but an occasional
enterprising hunter of the vicinity ever goes
into Macarger's Gulch, and five miles away it is unknown,
even by name. Within that distance in any
direction are far more conspicuous topographical
features without names, and one might try in vain
to ascertain by local inquiry the origin of the name
of this one.
About midway between the head and the mouth
of Macarger's Gulch, the hill on the right as you
ascend is cloven by another gulch, a short dry one,
and at the junction of the two is a level space of two
or three acres, and there a few years ago stood an
old board house containing one small room. How
the component parts of the house, few and simple as
they were, had been assembled at that almost inaccessible
point is a problem in the solution of which
there would be greater satisfaction than advantage.
Possibly the creek bed is a reformed road. It is
certain that the gulch was at one time pretty thoroughly
prospected by miners, who must have had
some means of getting in with at least pack animals
carrying tools and supplies; their profits, apparently,
were not such as would have justified any considerable
outlay to connect Macarger's Gulch with any
centre of civilization enjoying the distinction of a
sawmill. The house, however, was there, most of it.
It lacked a door and a window frame, and the
chimney of mud and stones had fallen into an unlovely
heap, overgrown with rank weeds. Such
humble furniture as there may once have been and
much of the lower weather-boarding, had served as
fuel in the camp fires of hunters; as had also, probably,
the kerbing of an old well, which at the time I
write of existed in the form of a rather wide but
not very deep depression near by.
One afternoon in the summer of 1874, I passed up
Macarger's Gulch from the narrow valley into which
it opens, by following the dry bed of the brook. I
was quail-shooting and had made a bag of about a
dozen birds by the time I had reached the house
described, of whose existence I was until then unaware.
After rather carelessly inspecting the ruin I
resumed my sport, and having fairly good success
prolonged it until near sunset, when it occurred to
me that I was a long way from any human habitation
--too far to reach one by nightfall. But in my
game bag was food, and the old house would afford
shelter, if shelter were needed on a warm and dewless
night in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada,
where one may sleep in comfort on the pine needles,
without covering. I am fond of solitude and love the
night, so my resolution to 'camp out' was soon
taken, and by the time that it was dark I had made
my bed of boughs and grasses in a corner of the
room and was roasting a quail at a fire that I had
kindled on the hearth. The smoke escaped out of
the ruined chimney, the light illuminated the room
with a kindly glow, and as I ate my simple meal of
plain bird and drank the remains of a bottle of red
wine which had served me all the afternoon in place
of the water, which the region did not supply, I experienced
a sense of comfort which better fare and
accommodations do not always give.
Nevertheless, there was something lacking. I had
a sense of comfort, but not of security. I detected
myself staring more frequently at the open doorway
and blank window than I could find warrant for
doing. Outside these apertures all was black, and I
was unable to repress a certain feeling of apprehension
as my fancy pictured the outer world and filled
it with unfriendly entities, natural and supernatural
--chief among which, in their respective classes
were the grizzly bear, which I knew was occasionally
still seen in that region, and the ghost, which I had
reason to think was not. Unfortunately, our feelings
do not always respect the law of probabilities, and to
me that evening, the possible and the impossible
were equally disquieting.
Every one who has had experience in the matter
must have observed that one confronts the actual
and imaginary perils of the night with far less apprehension
in the open air than in a house with an open
doorway. I felt this now as I lay on my leafy couch
in a corner of the room next to the chimney and permitted
my fire to die out. So strong became my
sense of the presence of something malign and menacing
in the place, that I found myself almost unable
to withdraw my eyes from the opening, as in
the deepening darkness it became more and more
indistinct. And when the last little flame flickered
and went out I grasped the shotgun which I had
laid at my side and actually turned the muzzle in
the direction of the now invisible entrance, my
thumb on one of the hammers, ready to cock the
piece, my breath suspended, my muscles rigid
and tense. But later I laid down the weapon
with a sense of shame and mortification. What
did I fear, and why?--I, to whom the night had
a more familiar face
Than that of man--
I, in whom that element of hereditary superstition
from which none of us is altogether free had given
to solitude and darkness and silence only a more
alluring interest and charm! I was unable to comprehend
my folly, and losing in the conjecture the
thing conjectured of, I fell asleep. And then I
I was in a great city in a foreign land--a city
whose people were of my own race, with minor
differences of speech and costume; yet precisely
what these were I could not say; my sense of them
was indistinct. The city was dominated by a great
castle upon an overlooking height whose name I
knew, but could not speak. I walked through many
streets, some broad and straight with high, modern
buildings, some narrow, gloomy, and tortuous, between
the gables of quaint old houses whose overhanging
stories, elaborately ornamented with carvings
in wood and stone, almost met above my head.
I sought some one whom I had never seen, yet
knew that I should recognize when found. My quest
was not aimless and fortuitous; it had a definite
method. I turned from one street into another without
hesitation and threaded a maze of intricate
passages, devoid of the fear of losing my way.
Presently I stopped before a low door in a plain
stone house which might have been the dwelling of
an artisan of the better sort, and without announcing
myself, entered. The room, rather sparely furnished,
and lighted by a single window with small
diamond-shaped panes, had but two occupants. a
man and a woman. They took no notice of my
intrusion, a circumstance which, in the manner
of dreams, appeared entirely natural. They were
not conversing; they sat apart, unoccupied and
The woman was young and rather stout, with fine
large eyes and a certain grave beauty; my memory
of her expression is exceedingly vivid, but in dreams
one does not observe the details of faces. About
her shoulders was a plaid shawl. The man was older,
dark, with an evil face made more forbidding by a
long scar extending from near the left temple diagonally
downward into the black moustache;
though in my dreams it seemed rather to haunt the
face as a thing apart--I can express it no otherwise
--than to belong to it. The moment that I
found the man and woman I knew them to be husband
What followed, I remember indistinctly; all was
confused and inconsistent--made so, I think, by
gleams of consciousness. It was as if two pictures, the
scene of my dream, and my actual surroundings,
had been blended, one overlying the other, until
the former, gradually fading, disappeared, and I
was broad awake in the deserted cabin, entirely and
tranquilly conscious of my situation.
My foolish fear was gone, and opening my eyes
I saw that my fire, not altogether burned out, had
revived by the falling of a stick and was again
lighting the room. I had probably slept only a few
minutes, but my commonplace dream had somehow
so strongly impressed me that I was no longer
drowsy; and after a little while I rose, pushed the
embers of my fire together, and lighting my pipe proceeded
in a rather ludicrously methodical way to
meditate upon my vision.
It would have puzzled me then to say in what respect
it was worth attention. In the first moment of
serious thought that I gave to the matter I recognized
the city of my dream as Edinburgh, where
I had never been; so if the dream was a memory
it was a memory of pictures and description. The
recognition somehow deeply impressed me; it was
as if something in my mind insisted rebelliously
against will and reason on the importance of all
this. And that faculty, whatever it was, asserted also
a control of my speech. 'Surely,' I said aloud, quite
involuntarily, 'the MacGregors must have come
here from Edinburgh.'
At the moment, neither the substance of this remark
nor the fact of my making it surprised me in
the least; it seemed entirely natural that I should
know the name of my dreamfolk and something of
their history. But the absurdity of it all soon dawned
upon me: I laughed aloud, knocked the ashes from
my pipe and again stretched myself upon my bed
of boughs and grass, where I lay staring absently
into my failing fire, with no further thought of
either my dream or my surroundings. Suddenly the
single remaining flame crouched for a moment,
then, springing upward, lifted itself clear of its
embers and expired in air. The darkness was
At that instant--almost, it seemed, before the
gleam of the blaze had faded from my eyes--there
was a dull, dead sound, as of some heavy body falling
upon the floor, which shook beneath me as I lay.
I sprang to a sitting posture and groped at my side
for my gun; my notion was that some wild beast
had leaped in through the open window. While the
flimsy structure was still shaking from the impact I
heard the sound of blows, the scuffling of feet upon
the floor, and then--it seemed to come from almost
within reach of my hand, the sharp shrieking of a
woman in mortal agony. So horrible a cry I had
never heard nor conceived; it utterly unnerved me;
I was conscious for a moment of nothing but my
own terror! Fortunately my hand now found the
weapon of which it was in search, and the familiar
touch somewhat restored me. I leaped to my feet,
straining my eyes to pierce the darkness. The
violent sounds had ceased, but more terrible than
these, I heard, at what seemed long intervals, the
faint intermittent gasping of some living, dying
As my eyes grew accustomed to the dim light of
the coals in the fireplace, I saw first the shapes of
the door and window looking blacker than the black
of the walls. Next, the distinction between wall and
floor became discernible, and at last I was sensible to
the form and full expanse of the floor from end to
end and side to side. Nothing was visible and the
silence was unbroken.
With a hand that shook a little, the other still
grasping my gun, I restored my fire and made a
critical examination of the place. There was nowhere
any sign that the cabin had been entered. My own
tracks were visible in the dust covering the floor, but
there were no others. I relit my pipe, provided fresh
fuel by ripping a thin board or two from the inside
of the house--I did not care to go into the darkness
out of doors--and passed the rest of the night
smoking and thinking, and feeding my fire; not for
added years of life would I have permitted that little
flame to expire again.
Some years afterward I met in Sacramento a man
named Morgan, to whom I had a note of introduction
from a friend in San Francisco. Dining with
him one evening at his home I observed various
'trophies' upon the wall, indicating that he was fond
of shooting. It turned out that he was, and in relating
some of his feats he mentioned having been
in the region of my adventure.
'Mr. Morgan,' I asked abruptly, 'do you know
a place up there called Macarger's Gulch? '
'I have good reason to,' he replied; 'it was I who
gave to the newspapers, last year, the accounts of
the finding of the skeleton there."
I had not heard of it; the accounts had been published,
it appeared, while I was absent in the East.
'By the way,' said Morgan, 'the name of the
gulch is a corruption; it should have been called
"MacGregor's." My dear,' he added, speaking to
his wife, 'Mr. Elderson has upset his wine.'
That was hardly accurate--I had simply dropped
it, glass and all.
'There was an old shanty once in the gulch,' Morgan
resumed when the ruin wrought by my awkwardness
had been repaired, 'but just previously to
my visit it had been blown down, or rather blown
away, for its debris was scattered all about, the very
floor being parted, plank from plank. Between two
of the sleepers still in position I and my companion
observed the remnant of a plaid shawl, and examining
it found that it was wrapped about the shoulders
of the body of a woman; of course but little remained
besides the bones, partly covered with fragments
of clothing, and brown dry skin. But we will
spare Mrs. Morgan,' he added with a smile. The
lady had indeed exhibited signs of disgust rather
'It is necessary to say, however,' he went on,
'that the skull was fractured in several places, as by
blows of some blunt instrument; and that instrument
itself--a pick-handle, still stained with blood
--lay under the boards near by.'
Mr. Morgan turned to his wife. 'Pardon me, my
dear,' he said with affected solemnity, 'for mentioning
these disagreeable particulars, the natural
though regrettable incidents of a conjugal quarrel--
resulting, doubtless, from the luckless wife's insubordination.'
'I ought to be able to overlook it,' the lady replied
with composure; 'you have so many times
asked me to in those very words.'
I thought he seemed rather glad to go on with
'From these and other circumstances,' he said,
'the coroner's jury found that the deceased, Janet
MacGregor, came to her death from blows inflicted
by some person to the jury unknown; but it was
added that the evidence pointed strongly to her husband,
Thomas MacGregor, as the guilty person. But
Thomas MacGregor has never been found nor heard
of. It was learned that the couple came from Edinburgh,
but not--my dear, do you not observe that
Mr. Elderson's bone-plate has water in it?'
I had deposited a chicken bone in my finger bowl.
'In a little cupboard I found a photograph of
MacGregor, but it did not lead to his capture.'
'Will you let me see it?' I said.
The picture showed a dark man with an evil face
made more forbidding by a long scar extending from
near the temple diagonally downward into the black
'By the way, Mr. Elderson,' said my affable host,
'may I know why you asked about "Macarger's
'I lost a mule near there once,' I replied, 'and
the mischance has--has quite--upset me.'
'My dear,' said Mr. Morgan, with the mechanical
intonation of an interpreter translating, 'the loss of
Mr. Elderson's mule has peppered his coffee.'
ONE SUMMER NIGHT
THE fact that Henry Armstrong was buried did not
seem to him to prove that he was dead: he had always
been a hard man to convince. That he really
was buried, the testimony of his senses compelled
him to admit. His posture--flat upon his back, with
his hands crossed upon his stomach and tied with
something that he easily broke without profitably
altering the situation--the strict confinement of
his entire person, the black darkness and profound
silence, made a body of evidence impossible to
controvert and he accepted it without cavil.
But dead--no; he was only very, very ill. He had,
withal, the invalid's apathy and did not greatly concern
himself about the uncommon fate that had been
allotted to him. No philosopher was he--just a
plain, commonplace person gifted, for the time being,
with a pathological indifference: the organ that
he feared consequences with was torpid. So, with
no particular apprehension for his immediate future,
he fell asleep and all was peace with Henry
But something was going on overhead. It was a
dark summer night, shot through with infrequent
shimmers of lightning silently firing a cloud lying
low in the west and portending a storm. These brief,
stammering illuminations brought out with ghastly
distinctness the monuments and headstones of the
cemetery and seemed to set them dancing. It was
not a night in which any credible witness was likely
to be straying about a cemetery, so the three men
who were there, digging into the grave of Henry
Armstrong, felt reasonably secure.
Two of them were young students from a medical
college a few miles away; the third was a gigantic
negro known as Jess. For many years Jess had
been employed about the cemetery as a man-of-allwork
and it was his favourite pleasantry that he
knew 'every soul in the place.' From the nature of
what he was now doing it was inferable that the
place was not so populous as its register may have
shown it to be.
Outside the wall, at the part of the grounds
farthest from the public road, were a horse and a
light wagon, waiting.
The work of excavation was not difficult: the
earth with which the grave had been loosely filled a
few hours before offered little resistance and was
soon thrown out. Removal of the casket from its box
was less easy, but it was taken out, for it was a
perquisite of Jess, who carefully unscrewed the
cover and laid it aside, exposing the body in black
trousers and white shirt. At that instant the air
sprang to flame, a cracking shock of thunder shook
the stunned world and Henry Armstrong tranquilly
sat up. With inarticulate cries the men fled in terror,
each in a different direction. For nothing on earth
could two of them have been persuaded to return.
But Jess was of another breed.
In the grey of the morning the two students,
pallid and haggard from anxiety and with the terror
of their adventure still beating tumultuously in their
blood, met at the medical college.
'You saw it?' cried one.
'God! yes--what are we to do?'
They went around to the rear of the building,
where they saw a horse, attached to a light wagon,
hitched to a gatepost near the door of the dissectingroom.
Mechanically they entered the room. On a
bench in the obscurity sat the negro Jess. He rose,
grinning, all eyes and teeth.
'I'm waiting for my pay,' he said.
Stretched naked on a long table lay the body of
Henry Armstrong, the head defiled with blood and
clay from a blow with a spade.
THE MOONLIT ROAD
- Statement of Joel Hetman, Jr.
I AM the most unfortunate of men. Rich, respected,
fairly well educated and of sound health--with
many other advantages usually valued by those
having them and coveted by those who have them
not--I sometimes think that I should be less unhappy
if they had been denied me, for then the
contrast between my outer and my inner life would
not be continually demanding a painful attention. In
the stress of privation and the need of effort I might
sometimes forget the sombre secret ever baffling the
conjecture that it compels.
I am the only child of Joel and Julia Hetman. The
one was a well-to-do country gentleman, the other
a beautiful and accomplished woman to whom he
was passionately attached with what I now know
to have been a jealous and exacting devotion.
The family home was a few miles from Nashville,
Tennessee, a large, irregularly built dwelling
of no particular order of architecture, a
little way off the road, in a park of trees and
At the time of which I write I was nineteen years
old, a student at Yale. One day I received a telegram
from my father of such urgency that in compliance
with its unexplained demand I left at once
for home. At the railway station in Nashville a distant
relative awaited me to apprise me of the reason
for my recall: my mother had been barbarously
murdered--why and by whom none could conjecture,
but the circumstances were these.
My father had gone to Nashville, intending to return
the next afternoon. Something prevented his
accomplishing the business in hand, so he returned
on the same night, arriving just before the dawn.
In his testimony before the coroner he explained
that having no latchkey and not caring to disturb the
sleeping servants, he had, with no clearly defined
intention, gone round to the rear of the house. As he
turned an angle of the building, he heard a sound as
of a door gently closed, and saw in the darkness, indistinctly,
the figure of a man, which instantly disappeared
among the trees of the lawn. A hasty pursuit
and brief search of the grounds in the belief
that the trespasser was some one secretly visiting
a servant proving fruitless, he entered at the unlocked
door and mounted the stairs to my mother's
chamber. Its door was open, and stepping into black
darkness he fell headlong over some heavy object
on the floor. I may spare myself the details; it was
my poor mother, dead of strangulation by human
Nothing had been taken from the house, the servants
had heard no sound, and excepting those terrible
finger-marks upon the dead woman's throat--
dear God! that I might forget them!--no trace of
the assassin was ever found.
I gave up my studies and remained with my
father, who, naturally, was greatly changed. Always
of a sedate, taciturn disposition, he now fell into so
deep a dejection that nothing could hold his attention,
yet anything--a footfall, the sudden closing
of a door--aroused in him a fitful interest; one
might have called it an apprehension. At any small
surprise of the senses he would start visibly and
sometimes turn pale, then relapse into a melancholy
apathy deeper than before. I suppose he was what
is called a 'nervous wreck.' As to me, I was younger
then than now--there is much in that. Youth is
Gilead, in which is balm for every wound. Ah, that
I might again dwell in that enchanted land! Unacquainted
with grief, I knew not how to appraise
my bereavement; I could not rightly estimate the
strength of the stroke.
One night, a few months after the dreadful event,
my father and I walked home from the city. The
full moon was about three hours above the eastern
horizon; the entire countryside had the solemn stillness
of a summer night; our footfalls and the ceaseless
song of the katydids were the only sound, aloof.
Black shadows of bordering trees lay athwart the
road, which, in the short reaches between, gleamed
a ghostly white. As we approached the gate to our
dwelling, whose front was in shadow, and in which
no light shone, my father suddenly stopped and
clutched my arm, saying, hardly above his breath:
'God! God! what is that?'
'I hear nothing,' I replied.
'But see--see!' he said, pointing along the road,
I said: 'Nothing is there. Come, father, let us go
in--you are ill.'
He had released my arm and was standing rigid
and motionless in the centre of the illuminated roadway,
staring like one bereft of sense. His face in the
moonlight showed a pallor and fixity inexpressibly
distressing. I pulled gently at his sleeve, but he had
forgotten my existence. Presently he began to retire
backward, step by step, never for an instant
removing his eyes from what he saw, or thought he
saw. I turned half round to follow, but stood irresolute.
I do not recall any feeling of fear, unless
a sudden chill was its physical manifestation. It
seemed as if an icy wind had touched my face and
enfolded my body from head to foot; I could feel the
stir of it in my hair.
At that moment my attention was drawn to a
light that suddenly streamed from an upper window
of the house: one of the servants, awakened by what
mysterious premonition of evil who can say, and in
obedience to an impulse that she was never able to
name, had lit a lamp. When I turned to look for my
father he was gone, and in all the years that have
passed no whisper of his fate has come across the
borderland of conjecture from the realm of the
2: Statement of Caspar Grattan
To-day I am said to live, to-morrow, here in this
room, will lie a senseless shape of clay that all too
long was I. If anyone lift the cloth from the face of
that unpleasant thing it will be in gratification of a
mere morbid curiosity. Some, doubtless, will go
further and inquire, 'Who was he?' In this writing
I supply the only answer that I am able to make--
Caspar Grattan. Surely, that should be enough.
The name has served my small need for more than
twenty years of a life of unknown length. True, I
gave it to myself, but lacking another I had the right.
In this world one must have a name; it prevents
confusion, even when it does not establish identity.
Some, though, are known by numbers, which also
seem inadequate distinctions.
One day, for illustration, I was passing along a
street of a city, far from here, when I met two men
in uniform, one of whom, half pausing and looking
curiously into my face, said to his companion, 'That
man looks like 767.' Something in the number
seemed familiar and horrible. Moved by an uncontrollable
impulse, I sprang into a side street and ran
until I fell exhausted in a country lane.
I have never forgotten that number, and always
it comes to memory attended by gibbering obscenity,
peals of joyless laughter, the clang of iron doors. So
I say a name, even if self-bestowed, is better than a
number. In the register of the potter's field I shall
soon have both. What wealth!
Of him who shall find this paper I must beg a
little consideration. It is not the history of my life;
the knowledge to write that is denied me. This is only
a record of broken and apparently unrelated memories,
some of them as distinct and sequent as brilliant
beads upon a thread, others remote and strange,
having the character of crimson dreams with interspaces
blank and black--witch-fires glowing still
and red in a great desolation.
Standing upon the shore of eternity, I turn for a
last look landward over the course by which I came.
There are twenty years of footprints fairly distinct,
the impressions of bleeding feet. They lead through
poverty and pain, devious and unsure, as of one
staggering beneath a burden--
Remote, unfriended, melancholy, slow.
Ah, the poet's prophecy of Me--how admirable,
how dreadfully admirable!
Backward beyond the beginning of this via dolorosa
--this epic of suffering with episodes of sin
--I see nothing clearly; it comes out of a cloud.
I know that it spans only twenty years, yet I am an
One does not remember one's birth--one has to
be told. But with me it was different; life came to
me full-handed and dowered me with all my faculties
and powers. Of a previous existence I know no
more than others, for all have stammering intimations
that may be memories and may be dreams.
I know only that my first consciousness was of maturity
in body and mind--a consciousness accepted
without surprise or conjecture. I merely found myself
walking in a forest, half-clad, footsore, unutterably
weary and hungry. Seeing a farmhouse, I approached
and asked for food, which was given me by one
who inquired my name. I did not know, yet knew
that all had names. Greatly embarrassed, I retreated,
and night coming on, lay down in the forest and
The next day I entered a large town which I shall
not name. Nor shall I recount further incidents of
the life that is now to end--a life of wandering,
always and everywhere haunted by an overmastering
sense of crime in punishment of wrong and of
terror in punishment of crime. Let me see if I can
reduce it to narrative.
I seem once to have lived near a great city, a
prosperous planter, married to a woman whom I
loved and distrusted. We had, it sometimes seems,
one child, a youth of brilliant parts and promise.
He is at all times a vague figure, never clearly
drawn, frequently altogether out of the picture.
One luckless evening it occurred to me to test my
wife's fidelity in a vulgar, commonplace way familiar
to everyone who has acquaintance with the
literature of fact and fiction. I went to the city, telling
my wife that I should be absent until the following
afternoon. But I returned before daybreak and
went to the rear of the house, purposing to enter by
a door with which I had secretly so tampered that it
would seem to lock, yet not actually fasten. As I
approached it, I heard it gently open and close, and
saw a man steal away into the darkness. With murder
in my heart, I sprang after him, but he had
vanished without even the bad luck of identification.
Sometimes now I cannot even persuade myself that
it was a human being.
Crazed with jealousy and rage, blind and bestial
with all the elemental passions of insulted manhood,
I entered the house and sprang up the stairs to the
door of my wife's chamber. It was closed, but having
tampered with its lock also, I easily entered, and
despite the black darkness soon stood by the side of
her bed. My groping hands told me that although
disarranged it was unoccupied.
'She is below,' I thought, 'and terrified by my
entrance has evaded me in the darkness of the hall.'
With the purpose of seeking her I turned to leave
the room, but took a wrong direction--the right
one! My foot struck her, cowering in a corner of the
room. Instantly my hands were at her throat, stifling
a shriek, my knees were upon her struggling body;
and there in the darkness, without a word of accusation
or reproach, I strangled her till she died!
There ends the dream. I have related it in the past
tense, but the present would be the fitter form, for
again and again the sombre tragedy re-enacts itself
in my consciousness--over and over I lay the plan,
I suffer the confirmation, I redress the wrong. Then
all is blank; and afterward the rains beat against the
grimy windowpanes, or the snows fall upon my
scant attire, the wheels rattle in the squalid streets
where my life lies in poverty and mean employment.
If there is ever sunshine I do not recall it; if there
are birds they do not sing.
There is another dream, another vision of the
night. I stand among the shadows in a moonlit road.
I am aware of another presence, but whose I cannot
rightly determine. In the shadow of a great dwelling
I catch the gleam of white garments; then the figure
of a woman confronts me in the road--my murdered
wife! There is death in the face; there are
marks upon the throat. The eyes are fixed on mine
with an infinite gravity which is not reproach, nor
hate, nor menace, nor anything less terrible than
recognition. Before this awful apparition I retreat in
terror--a terror that is upon me as I write. I can
no longer rightly shape the words. See! they--
Now I am calm, but truly there is no more to tell:
the incident ends where it began--in darkness and
Yes, I am again in control of myself: 'the captain
of my soul.' But that is not respite; it is another stage
and phase of expiation. My penance, constant in degree,
is mutable in kind: one of its variants is tranquillity.
After all, it is only a life-sentence. 'To Hell
for life'--that is a foolish penalty: the culprit
chooses the duration of his punishment. To-day my
To each and all, the peace that was not mine.
3: Statement of the Late Julia Hetman, through the
I had retired early and fallen almost immediately
into a peaceful sleep, from which I awoke with that
indefinable sense of peril which is, I think, a common
experience in that other, earlier life. Of its
unmeaning character, too, I was entirely persuaded,
yet that did not banish it. My husband, Joel Hetman,
was away from home; the servants slept in
another part of the house. But these were familiar
conditions; they had never before distressed me.
Nevertheless, the strange terror grew so insupportable
that conquering my reluctance to move I sat
up and lit the lamp at my bedside. Contrary to my
expectation this gave me no relief; the light seemed
rather an added danger, for I reflected that it would
shine out under the door, disclosing my presence to
whatever evil thing might lurk outside. You that
are still in the flesh, subject to horrors of the imagination,
think what a monstrous fear that must be
which seeks in darkness security from malevolent
existences of the night. That is to spring to close
quarters with an unseen enemy--the strategy of
Extinguishing the lamp I pulled the bedclothing
about my head and lay trembling and silent, unable
to shriek, forgetful to pray. In this pitiable state I
must have lain for what you call hours--with us
there are no hours, there is no time.
At last it came--a soft, irregular sound of footfalls
on the stairs! They were slow, hesitant, uncertain,
as of something that did not see its way; to my disordered
reason all the more terrifying for that, as
the approach of some blind and mindless malevolence
to which is no appeal. I even thought that I
must have left the hall lamp burning and the groping
of this creature proved it a monster of the night.
This was foolish and inconsistent with my previous
dread of the light, but what would you have? Fear
has no brains; it is an idiot. The dismal witness that
it bears and the cowardly counsel that it whispers
are unrelated. We know this well, we who have
passed into the Realm of Terror, who skulk in
eternal dusk among the scenes of our former lives,
invisible even to ourselves, and one another, yet
hiding forlorn in lonely places; yearning for speech
with our loved ones, yet dumb, and as fearful of
them as they of us. Sometimes the disability is removed,
the law suspended: by the deathless power
of love or hate we break the spell--we are seen by
those whom we would warn, console, or punish. What
form we seem to them to bear we know not; we
know only that we terrify even those whom we most
wish to comfort, and from whom we most crave
tenderness and sympathy.
Forgive, I pray you, this inconsequent digression
by what was once a woman. You who consult us in
this imperfect way--you do not understand. You
ask foolish questions about things unknown and
things forbidden. Much that we know and could
impart in our speech is meaningless in yours. We
must communicate with you through a stammering
intelligence in that small fraction of our language
that you yourselves can speak. You think that we
are of another world. No, we have knowledge of no
world but yours, though for us it holds no sunlight,
no warmth, no music, no laughter, no song of birds,
nor any companionship. O God! what a thing it is
to be a ghost, cowering and shivering in an altered
world, a prey to apprehension and despair!
No, I did not die of fright: the Thing turned and
went away. I heard it go down the stairs, hurriedly,
I thought, as if itself in sudden fear. Then I rose to
call for help. Hardly had my shaking hand found
the door-knob when--merciful heaven!--I heard
it returning. Its footfalls as it remounted the stairs
were rapid, heavy and loud; they shook the house. I
fled to an angle of the wall and crouched upon the
floor. I tried to pray. I tried to call the name of my
dear husband. Then I heard the door thrown open.
There was an interval of unconsciousness, and when
I revived I felt a strangling clutch upon my throat--
felt my arms feebly beating against something that
bore me backward--felt my tongue thrusting itself
from between my teeth! And then I passed into this
No, I have no knowledge of what it was. The sum
of what we knew at death is the measure of what we
know afterward of all that went before. Of this existence
we know many things, but no new light falls
upon any page of that; in memory is written all of it
that we can read. Here are no heights of truth overlooking
the confused landscape of that dubitable
domain. We still dwell in the Valley of the Shadow,
lurk in its desolate places, peering from brambles and
thickets at its mad, malign inhabitants. How should
we have new knowledge of that fading past?
What I am about to relate happened on a night.
We know when it is night, for then you retire to your
houses and we can venture from our places of concealment
to move unafraid about our old homes, to
look in at the windows, even to enter and gaze upon
your faces as you sleep. I had lingered long near the
dwelling where I had been so cruelly changed to what
I am, as we do while any that we love or hate remain.
Vainly I had sought some method of manifestation,
some way to make my continued existence
and my great love and poignant pity understood by
my husband and son. Always if they slept they
would wake, or if in my desperation I dared approach
them when they were awake, would turn
toward me the terrible eyes of the living, frightening
me by the glances that I sought from the purpose
that I held.
On this night I had searched for them without
success, fearing to find them; they were nowhere
in the house, nor about the moonlit dawn. For, although
the sun is lost to us for ever, the moon, fullorbed
or slender, remains to us. Sometimes it shines
by night, sometimes by day, but always it rises and
sets, as in that other life.
I left the lawn and moved in the white light and
silence along the road, aimless and sorrowing. Suddenly
I heard the voice of my poor husband in
exclamations of astonishment, with that of my son
in reassurance and dissuasion; and there by the
shadow of a group of trees they stood--near, so
near! Their faces were toward me, the eyes of the
elder man fixed upon mine. He saw me--at last, at
last, he saw me! In the consciousness of that, my
terror fled as a cruel dream. The death-spell was
broken: Love had conquered Law! Mad with exultation
I shouted--I must have shouted,' He sees, he
sees: he will understand!' Then, controlling myself,
I moved forward, smiling and consciously beautiful,
to offer myself to his arms, to comfort him with endearments,
and, with my son's hand in mine, to
speak words that should restore the broken bonds
between the living and the dead.
Alas! alas! his face went white with fear, his eyes
were as those of a hunted animal. He backed away
from me, as I advanced, and at last turned and fled
into the wood--whither, it is not given to me to
To my poor boy, left doubly desolate, I have never
been able to impart a sense of my presence. Soon he,
too, must pass to this Life Invisible and be lost to
me for ever.
A DIAGNOSIS OF DEATH
'I AM not so superstitious as some of your physicians
--men of science, as you are pleased to be
called,' said Hawver, replying to an accusation that
had not been made. 'Some of you--only a few, I
confess--believe in the immortality of the soul,
and in apparitions which you have not the honesty
to call ghosts. I go no further than a conviction that
the living are sometimes seen where they are not,
but have been--where they have lived so long, perhaps
so intensely, as to have left their impress on
everything about them. I know, indeed, that one's
environment may be so affected by one's personality
as to yield, long afterward, an image of one's self
to the eyes of another. Doubtless the impressing
personality has to be the right kind of personality as
the perceiving eyes have to be the right kind of
eyes--mine, for example.'
'Yes, the right kind of eyes, conveying sensations
to the wrong kind of brains,' said Dr. Frayley,
'Thank you; one likes to have an expectation
gratified; that is about the reply that I supposed
you would have the civility to make.'
'Pardon me. But you say that you know. That is
a good deal to say, don't you think? Perhaps you
will not mind the trouble of saying how you learned.'
'You will call it an hallucination,' Hawver
said, 'but that does not matter.' And he told the
'Last summer I went, as you know, to pass the
hot weather term in the town of Meridian. The relative
at whose house I had intended to stay was ill, so
I sought other quarters. After some difficulty I succeeded
in renting a vacant dwelling that had been
occupied by an eccentric doctor of the name of
Mannering, who had gone away years before, no
one knew where, not even his agent. He had built
the house himself and had lived in it with an old
servant for about ten years. His practice, never very
extensive, had after a few years been given up entirely.
Not only so, but he had withdrawn himself
almost altogether from social life and become a
recluse. I was told by the village doctor, about the
only person with whom he held any relations, that
during his retirement he had devoted himself to
a single line of study, the result of which he had
expounded in a book that did not commend itself to
the approval of his professional brethren, who, indeed,
considered him not entirely sane. I have not
seen the book and cannot now recall the title of it, but
I am told that it expounded a rather startling theory.
He held that it was possible in the case of many a
person in good health to forecast his death with
precision, several months in advance of the event.
The limit, I think, was eighteen months. There were
local tales of his having exerted his powers of prognosis,
or perhaps you would say diagnosis; and it
was said that in every instance the person whose
friends he had warned had died suddenly at the
appointed time, and from no assignable cause. All
this, however, has nothing to do with what I have
to tell; I thought it might amuse a physician.
'The house was furnished, just as he had lived in
it. It was a rather gloomy dwelling for one who was
neither a recluse nor a student, and I think it gave
something of its character to me--perhaps some
of its former occupant's character; for always I felt
in it a certain melancholy that was not in my natural
disposition, nor, I think, due to loneliness. I had no
servants that slept in the house, but I have always
been, as you know, rather fond of my own society,
being much addicted to reading, though little to
study. Whatever was the cause, the effect was dejection
and a sense of impending evil; this was especially
so in Dr. Mannering's study, although that
room was the lightest and most airy in the house.
The doctor's life-size portrait in oil hung in that
room, and seemed completely to dominate it. There
was nothing unusual in the picture; the man was
evidently rather good looking, about fifty years old,
with iron-grey hair, a smooth-shaven face and dark,
serious eyes. Something in the picture always drew
and held my attention. The man's appearance
became familiar to me, and rather "haunted"
'One evening I was passing through this room to
my bedroom, with a lamp--there is no gas in Meridian.
I stopped as usual before the portrait, which
seemed in the lamplight to have a new expression,
not easily named, but distinctly uncanny. It interested
but did not disturb me. I moved the lamp from
one side to the other and observed the effects of the
altered light. While so engaged I felt an impulse to
turn round. As I did so I saw a man moving across
the room directly toward me! As soon as he came
near enough for the lamplight to illuminate the face
I saw that it was Dr. Mannering himself; it was
as if the portrait were walking!
'"I beg your pardon," I said, somewhat coldly,
"but if you knocked I did not hear."
'He passed me, within an arm's length, lifted his
right forefinger, as in warning, and without a word
went on out of the room, though I observed his
exit no more than I had observed his entrance.
'Of course, I need not tell you that this was what
you will call a hallucination and I call an apparition.
That room had only two doors, of which one
was locked; the other led into a bedroom, from
which there was no exit. My feeling on realizing this
is not an important part of the incident.
'Doubtless this seems to you a very commonplace
"ghost story"--one constructed on the regular
lines laid down by the old masters of the art. If that
were so I should not have related it, even if it were
true. The man was not dead; I met him to-day in
Union Street. He passed me in a crowd.'
Hawver had finished his story and both men were
silent. Dr. Frayley absently drummed on the table
with his fingers.
'Did he say anything to-day?' he asked--'anything
from which you inferred that he was not
Hawver stared and did not reply.
'Perhaps,' continued Frayley,' he made a sign, a
gesture--lifted a finger, as in warning. It's a trick
he had--a habit when saying something serious--
announcing the result of a diagnosis, for example.'
'Yes, he did--just as his apparition had done.
But, good God! did you ever know him?'
Hawver was apparently growing nervous.
'I knew him. I have read his book, as will every
physician some day. It is one of the most striking
and important of the century's contributions to medical
science. Yes, I knew him; I attended him in an
illness three years ago. He died.'
Hawver sprang from his chair, manifestly disturbed.
He strode forward and back across the room; then approached his friend, and in a voice
not altogether steady, said: 'Doctor, have you anything
to say to me--as a physician? '
'No, Hawver; you are the healthiest man I ever
knew. As a friend I advise you to go to your room.
You play the violin like an angel. Play it; play something
light and lively. Get this cursed bad business
off your mind.'
The next day Hawver was found dead in his room,
the violin at his neck, the bow upon the string, his
music open before him at Chopin's Funeral March.
'ARE you serious?--do you really believe that a
I got no immediate reply; Moxon was apparently
intent upon the coals in the grate, touching them
deftly here and there with the fire-poker till they
signified a sense of his attention by a brighter glow.
For several weeks I had been observing in him a
growing habit of delay in answering even the most
trivial of commonplace questions. His air, however,
was that of preoccupation rather than deliberation:
one might have said that he had 'something on his
Presently he said:
'What is a "machine"? The word has been variously
defined. Here is one definition from a popular
dictionary: "Any instrument or organization by
which power is applied and made effective, or a
desired effect produced." Well, then, is not a man a
machine? And you will admit that he thinks--or
thinks he thinks.'
'If you do not wish to answer my question,'
said, rather testily, 'why not say so?--all
that you say is mere evasion. You know well
enough that when I say "machine" I do not mean
a man, but something that man has made and controls.'
'When it does not control him,' he said, rising
abruptly and looking out of a window, whence nothing
was visible in the blackness of a stormy night.
A moment later he turned about and with a smile
said: 'I beg your pardon; I had no thought of evasion.
I considered the dictionary man's unconscious
testimony suggestive and worth something in the
discussion. I can give your question a direct answer
easily enough: I do believe that a machine thinks
about the work that it is doing.'
That was direct enough, certainly. It was not altogether
pleasing, for it tended to confirm a sad
suspicion that Moxon's devotion to study and work
in his machine-shop had not been good for him. I
knew, for one thing, that he suffered from insomnia,
and that is no light affliction. Had it affected his
mind? His reply to my question seemed to me then
evidence that it had; perhaps I should think differently
about it now. I was younger then, and
among the blessings that are not denied to youth
is ignorance. Incited by that great stimulant to controversy,
'And what, pray, does it think with--in the absence
of a brain?'
The reply, coming with less than his customary
delay, took his favourite form of counter-interrogation:
'With what does a plant think--in the absence of
'Ah, plants also belong to the philosopher class!
I should be pleased to know some of their conclusions;
you may omit the premises.'
'Perhaps,' he replied, apparently unaffected by
my foolish irony, 'you may be able to infer their
convictions from their acts. I will spare you the
familiar examples of the sensitive mimosa, the several
insectivorous flowers and those whose stamens
bend down and shake their pollen upon the entering
bee in order that he may fertilize their distant
mates. But observe this. In an open spot in my
garden I planted a climbing vine. When it was barely
above the surface I set a stake into the soil a yard
away. The vine at once made for it, but as it was
about to reach it after several days I removed it
a few feet. The vine at once altered its course, making
an acute angle, and again made for the stake.
This manoeuvre was repeated several times, but
finally, as if discouraged, the vine abandoned the
pursuit and ignoring further attempts to divert it,
travelled to a small tree, farther away, which it
'Roots of the eucalyptus will prolong themselves
incredibly in search of moisture. A well-known horticulturist
relates that one entered an old drain-pipe
and followed it until it came to a break, where a
section of the pipe had been removed to make way
for a stone wall that had been built across its course.
The root left the drain and followed the wall until
it found an opening where a stone had fallen out. It
crept through and following the other side of the
wall back to the drain, entered the unexplored part
and resumed its journey.'
'And all this?'
'Can you miss the significance of it? It shows the
consciousness of plants. It proves that they think.'
'Even if it did--what then? We were speaking,
not of plants, but of machines. They may be composed
partly of wood--wood that has no longer vitality
--or wholly of metal. Is thought an attribute
also of the mineral kingdom?'
'How else do you explain the phenomena, for
example, of crystallization?'
'I do not explain them.'
'Because you cannot without affirming what you
wish to deny, namely, intelligent co-operation, among
the constituent elements of the crystals. When soldiers
form lines, or hollow squares, you call it reason.
When wild geese in flight take the form of a letter
V you say instinct. When the homogeneous atoms of
a mineral, moving freely in solution, arrange themselves
into shapes mathematically perfect, or particles
of frozen moisture into the symmetrical and
beautiful forms of snowflakes, you have nothing to
say. You have not even invented a name to conceal
your heroic unreason.'
Moxon was speaking with unusual animation and
earnestness. As he paused I heard in an adjoining
room known to me as his 'machine-shop,' which no
one but himself was permitted to enter, a singular
thumping sound, as of someone pounding upon a
table with an open hand. Moxon heard it at the same
moment and, visibly agitated, rose and hurriedly
passed into the room whence it came. I thought it
odd that anyone else should be in there, and my
interest in my friend--with doubtless a touch of
unwarrantable curiosity--led me to listen intently,
though, I am happy to say, not at the keyhole. There
were confused sounds, as of a struggle or scuffle;
the floor shook. I distinctly heard hard breathing and
a hoarse whisper which said 'Damn you!' Then
all was silent, and presently Moxon reappeared and
said, with a rather sorry smile:
'Pardon me for leaving you so abruptly. I have a
machine in there that lost its temper and cut up
Fixing my eyes steadily upon his left cheek, which
was traversed by four parallel excoriations showing
blood, I said:
'How would it do to trim its nails?'
I could have spared myself the jest; he gave it no
attention, but seated himself in the chair that he had
left and resumed the interrupted monologue as if
nothing had occurred:
'Doubtless you do not hold with those (I need not
name them to a man of your reading) who have
taught that all matter is sentient, that every atom
is a living, feeling, conscious being. I do. There is no
such thing as dead, inert matter: it is all alive; all
instinct with force, actual and potential; all sensitive
to the same forces in its environment and susceptible
to the contagion of higher and subtler ones residing
in such superior organisms as it may be brought into
relation with, as those of man when he is fashioning
it into an instrument of his will. It absorbs something
of his intelligence and purpose--more of them
in proportion to the complexity of the resulting machine
and that of its work.
'Do you happen to recall Herbert Spencer's definition
of "Life"? I read it thirty years ago. He may
have altered it afterward, for anything I know, but
in all that time I have been unable to think of a
single word that could profitably be changed or
added or removed. It seems to me not only the best
definition, but the only possible one.
'"Life," he says, "is a definite combination of
heterogeneous changes, both simultaneous and successive,
in correspondence with external coexistences
'That defines the phenomenon,' I said, 'but gives
no hint of its cause.'
'That,' he replied, 'is all that any definition can
do. As Mill points out, we know nothing of cause
except as an antecedent--nothing of effect except as
a consequent. Of certain phenomena, one never occurs
without another, which is dissimilar: the first in
point of time we call cause, the second, effect. One
who had many times seen a rabbit pursued by a dog,
and had never seen rabbits and dogs otherwise,
would think the rabbit the cause of the dog.
'But I fear,' he added, laughing naturally enough,
'that my rabbit is leading me a long way from the
track of my legitimate quarry: I'm indulging in the
pleasure of the chase for its own sake. What I want
you to observe is that in Herbert Spencer's definition
of "life" the activity of a machine is included
--there is nothing in the definition that is not applicable
to it. According to this sharpest of observers
and deepest of thinkers, if a man during his period
of activity is alive, so is a machine when in operation.
As an inventor and constructor of machines I
know that to be true.'
Moxon was silent for a long time, gazing absently
into the fire. It was growing late and I thought it
time to be going, but somehow I did not like the
notion of leaving him in that isolated house, all alone
except for the presence of some person of whose
nature my conjectures could go no further than that
it was unfriendly, perhaps malign. Leaning toward
him and looking earnestly into his eyes while making
a motion with my hand through the door of his
workshop, I said:
'Moxon, whom have you in there?'
Somewhat to my surprise he laughed lightly and
answered without hesitation:
'Nobody; the incident that you have in mind was
caused by my folly in leaving a machine in action
with nothing to act upon, while I undertook the interminable
task of enlightening your understanding.
Do you happen to know that Consciousness is the
creature of Rhythm?'
'O bother them both!' I replied, rising and laying
hold of my overcoat. 'I'm going to wish you good
night; and I'll add the hope that the machine which
you inadvertently left in action will have her gloves
on the next time you think it needful to stop her.'
Without waiting to observe the effect of my shot I
left the house.
Rain was falling, and the darkness was intense. In
the sky beyond the crest of a hill toward which I
groped my way along precarious plank sidewalks
and across miry, unpaved streets I could see the
faint glow of the city's lights, but behind me nothing
was visible but a single window of Moxon's house.
It glowed with what seemed to me a mysterious and
fateful meaning. I knew it was an uncurtained aperture
in my friend's 'machine-shop,' and I had little
doubt that he had resumed the studies interrupted
by his duties as my instructor in mechanical consciousness
and the fatherhood of Rhythm. Odd, and in some degree humorous, as his convictions seemed
to me at that time, I could not wholly divest myself
of the feeling that they had some tragic relation to
his life and character--perhaps to his destiny--although
I no longer entertained the notion that they
were the vagaries of a disordered mind. Whatever
might be thought of his views, his exposition of them
was too logical for that. Over and over, his last words
came back to me: 'Consciousness is the creature of
Rhythm.' Bald and terse as the statement was, I now
found it infinitely alluring. At each recurrence it
broadened in meaning and deepened in suggestion.
Why, here (I thought) is something upon which to
found a philosophy. If Consciousness is the product
of Rhythm all things are conscious, for all have motion,
and all motion is rhythmic. I wondered if
Moxon knew the significance and breadth of his
thought--the scope of this momentous generalization;
or had he arrived at his philosophic faith by
the tortuous and uncertain road of observation?
That faith was then new to me, and all Moxon's
expounding had failed to make me a convert; but
now it seemed as if a great light shone about me, like
that which fell upon Saul of Tarsus; and out there in
the storm and darkness and solitude I experienced
what Lewes calls 'The endless variety and excitement
of philosophic thought.' I exulted in a new
sense of knowledge, a new pride of reason. My feet
seemed hardly to touch the earth; it was as if I were
uplifted and borne through the air by invisible
Yielding to an impulse to seek further light from
him whom I now recognized as my master and guide,
I had unconsciously turned about, and almost before
I was aware of having done so found myself again
at Moxon's door. I was drenched with rain, but felt
no discomfort. Unable in my excitement to find the
doorbell I instinctively tried the knob. It turned and,
entering, I mounted the stairs to the room that I had
so recently left. All was dark and silent; Moxon, as
I had supposed, was in the adjoining room--the
'machine-shop.' Groping along the wall until
found the communicating door I knocked loudly
several times, but got no response, which I attributed
to the uproar outside, for the wind was blowing a
gale and dashing the rain against the thin walls in
sheets. The drumming upon the shingle roof spanning
the unceiled room was loud and incessant.
I had never been invited into the machine-shop--
had, indeed, been denied admittance, as had all
others, with one exception, a skilled metal worker,
of whom no one knew anything except that his name
was Haley and his habit silence. But in my spiritual
exaltation, discretion and civility were alike forgotten,
and I opened the door. What I saw took all philosophical speculation out of me in short
Moxon sat facing me at the farther side of a small
table upon which a single candle made all the light
that was in the room. Opposite him, his back toward
me, sat another person. On the table between the two
was a chess-board; the men were playing. I knew
little of chess, but as only a few pieces were on the
board it was obvious that the game was near its
close. Moxon was intensely interested--not so
much, it seemed to me, in the game as in his antagonist,
upon whom he had fixed so intent a look that,
standing though I did directly in the line of his
vision, I was altogether unobserved. His face was
ghastly white, and his eyes glittered like diamonds.
Of his antagonist I had only a back view, but that
was sufficient; I should not have cared to see his
He was apparently not more than five feet in
height, with proportions suggesting those of a gorilla
--a tremendous breadth of shoulders, thick,
short neck and broad, squat head, which had a
tangled growth of black hair and was topped with
a crimson fez. A tunic of the same colour, belted
tightly to the waist, reached the seat--apparently a
box--upon which he sat; his legs and feet were not
seen. His left forearm appeared to rest in his lap;
he moved his pieces with his right hand, which
seemed disproportionately long.
I had shrunk back and now stood a little to one
side of the doorway and in shadow. If Moxon had
looked farther than the face of his opponent he
could have observed nothing now, except that the
door was open. Something forbade me either to
enter or to retire, a feeling--I know not how it
came--that I was in the presence of an imminent
tragedy and might serve my friend by remaining.
With a scarcely conscious rebellion against the indelicacy
of the act I remained.
The play was rapid. Moxon hardly glanced at the
board before making his moves, and to my unskilled
eye seemed to move the piece most convenient to his hand, his motions in doing so being
quick, nervous and lacking in precision. The response
of his antagonist, while equally prompt in the inception,
was made with a slow, uniform, mechanical and,
I thought, somewhat theatrical movement of the
arm, that was a sore trial to my patience. There
was something unearthly about it all, and I caught
myself shuddering. But I was wet and cold.
Two or three times after moving a piece the
stranger slightly inclined his head, and each time I
observed that Moxon shifted his king. All at once
the thought came to me that the man was dumb.
And then that he was a machine--an automaton
chess-player! Then I remembered that Moxon had
once spoken to me of having invented such a piece
of mechanism, though I did not understand that it
had actually been constructed. Was all his talk about
the consciousness and intelligence of machines
merely a prelude to eventual exhibition of this device
--only a trick to intensify the effect of its
mechanical action upon me in my ignorance of its
A fine end, this, of all my intellectual transports
--my 'endless variety and excitement of philosophic
thought'! I was about to retire in disgust
when something occurred to hold my curiosity. I
observed a shrug of the thing's great shoulders, as
if it were irritated: and so natural was this--so
entirely human--that in my new view of the matter
it startled me. Nor was that all, for a moment later
it struck the table sharply with its clenched hand.
At that gesture Moxon seemed even more startled
than I: he pushed his chair a little backward, as in
Presently Moxon, whose play it was, raised his
hand high above the board, pounced upon one of his
pieces like a sparrow-hawk and with the exclamation
'check-mate!' rose quickly to his feet and
stepped behind his chair. The automaton sat motionless.
The wind had now gone down, but I heard, at
lessening intervals and progressively louder, the
rumble and roll of thunder. In the pauses between
I now became conscious of a low humming or buzzing
which, like the thunder, grew momentarily
louder and more distinct. It seemed to come from
the body of the automaton, and was unmistakably
a whirring of wheels. It gave me the impression of
a disordered mechanism which had escaped the repressive
and regulating action of some controlling
part--an effect such as might be expected if a
pawl should be jostled from the teeth of a ratchetwheel.
But before I had time for much conjecture
as to its nature my attention was taken by the
strange motions of the automaton itself. A slight but
continuous convulsion appeared to have possession
of it. In body and head it shook like a man with palsy
or an ague chill, and the motion augmented every
moment until the entire figure was in violent agitation.
Suddenly it sprang to its feet and with a movement
almost too quick for the eye to follow shot
forward across table and chair, with both arms
thrust forth to their full length--the posture and
lunge of a diver. Moxon tried to throw himself backward
out of reach, but he was too late: I saw the
horrible thing's hand close upon his throat, his own
clutch its wrists. Then the table was overturned,
and candle thrown to the floor and extinguished, and
all was black dark. But the noise of the struggle was
dreadfully distinct, and most terrible of all were the
raucous, squawking sounds made by the strangled
man's efforts to breathe. Guided by the infernal hubbub,
I sprang to the rescue of my friend, but had
hardly taken a stride in the darkness when the whole
room blazed with a blinding white light that burned
into my brain and heart and memory a vivid picture
of the combatants on the floor, Moxon underneath,
his throat still in the clutch of those iron
hands, his head forced backward, his eyes protruding,
his mouth wide open and his tongue thrust out;
and--horrible contrast!--upon the painted face
of his assassin an expression of tranquil and profound
thought, as in the solution of a problem in
chess! This I observed, then all was blackness and
Three days later I recovered consciousness in a
hospital. As the memory of that tragic night slowly
evolved in my ailing brain I recognized in my attendant
Moxon's confidential workman, Haley. Responding
to a look he approached, smiling.
'Tell me about it,' I managed to say, faintly--
'all about it.'
'Certainly,' he said; 'you were carried unconscious
from a burning house--Moxon's. Nobody knows how you came to be there. You may have to
do a little explaining. The origin of the fire is a bit
mysterious, too. My own notion is that the house
was struck by lightning.'
'Buried yesterday--what was left of him.'
Apparently this reticent person could unfold himself
on occasion. When imparting shocking intelligence
to the sick he was affable enough. After some
moments of the keenest mental suffering I ventured
to ask another question:
'Who rescued me?'
'Well, if that interests you--I did.'
'Thank you, Mr. Haley, and may God bless you
for it. Did you rescue, also, that charming product
of your skill, the automaton chess-player that murdered
The man was silent a long time, looking away
from me. Presently he turned and gravely said:
'Do you know that?'
'I do,' I replied; 'I saw it done.'
That was many years ago. If asked to-day I
should answer less confidently.
A TOUGH TUSSLE
ONE night in the autumn of 1861 a man sat alone
in the heart of a forest in western Virginia. The
region was one of the wildest on the continent--the
Cheat Mountain country. There was no lack of
people close at hand, however; within a mile of
where the man sat was the now silent camp of a
whole Federal brigade. Somewhere about--it might
be still nearer--was a force of the enemy, the numbers
unknown. It was this uncertainty as to its
numbers and position that accounted for the man's
presence in that lonely spot; he was a young officer
of a Federal infantry regiment and his business
there was to guard his sleeping comrades in the
camp against a surprise. He was in command of a
detachment of men constituting a picket-guard.
These men he had stationed just at nightfall in an
irregular line, determined by the nature of the
ground, several hundred yards in front of where
he now sat. The line ran through the forest, among
the rocks and laurel thickets, the men fifteen or
twenty paces apart, all in concealment and under
injunction of strict silence and unremitting vigilance.
In four hours, if nothing occurred, they would be
relieved by a fresh detachment from the reserve now
resting in care of its captain some distance away to
the left and rear. Before stationing his men the
young officer of whom we are writing had pointed out
to his two sergeants the spot at which he would be
found if it should be necessary to consult him, or if
his presence at the front line should be required.
It was a quiet enough spot--the fork of an old
wood-road, on the two branches of which, prolonging
themselves deviously forward in the dim moonlight,
the sergeants were themselves stationed, a
few paces in rear of the line. If driven sharply back
by a sudden onset of the enemy--the pickets are
not expected to make a stand after firing--the men
would come into the converging roads and naturally
following them to their point of intersection could be
rallied and 'formed.' In his small way the author
of these dispositions was something of a strategist;
if Napoleon had planned as intelligently at Waterloo
he would have won that memorable battle and
been overthrown later.
Second-Lieutenant Brainerd Byring was a brave
and efficient officer, young and comparatively inexperienced
as he was in the business of killing his
fellow-men. He had enlisted in the very first days
of the war as a private, with no military knowledge
whatever, had been made first-sergeant of his company
on account of his education and engaging
manner, and had been lucky enough to lose his captain
by a Confederate bullet; in the resulting promotions
he had gained a commission. He had been in
several engagements, such as they were--at Philippi,
Rich Mountain, Carrick's Ford and Greenbrier
--and had borne himself with such gallantry
as not to attract the attention of his superior officers.
The exhilaration of battle was agreeable to
him, but the sight of the dead, with their clay faces,
blank eyes and stiff bodies, which when not unnaturally
shrunken were unnaturally swollen, had
always intolerably affected him. He felt toward them
a kind of reasonless antipathy that was something
more than the physical and spiritual repugnance
common to us all. Doubtless this feeling was due to
his unusually acute sensibilities--his keen sense of
the beautiful, which these hideous things outraged.
Whatever may have been the cause, he could not
look upon a dead body without a loathing which had
in it an element of resentment. What others have respected
as the dignity of death had to him no existence
--was altogether unthinkable. Death was a
thing to be hated. It was not picturesque, it had no
tender and solemn side--a dismal thing, hideous in
all its manifestations and suggestions. Lieutenant
Byring was a braver man than anybody knew, for
nobody knew his horror of that which he was ever
ready to incur.
Having posted his men, instructed his sergeants
and retired to his station, he seated himself on a log,
and with senses all alert began his vigil. For greater
ease he loosened his sword-belt and taking his heavy
revolver from his holster laid it on the log beside
him. He felt very comfortable, though he hardly
gave the fact a thought, so intently did he listen for
any sound from the front which might have a menacing
significance--a shout, a shot, or the footfall of
one of his sergeants coming to apprise him of something
worth knowing. From the vast, invisible ocean
of moonlight overhead fell, here and there, a slender,
broken stream that seemed to plash against the intercepting
branches and trickle to earth, forming
small white pools among the clumps of laurel. But
these leaks were few and served only to accentuate
the blackness of his environment, which his imagination
found it easy to people with all manner of unfamiliar
shapes, menacing, uncanny, or merely grotesque.
He to whom the portentous conspiracy of night
and solitude and silence in the heart of a great forest
is not an unknown experience needs not to be told
what another world it all is--how even the most
commonplace and familiar objects take on another
character. The trees group themselves differently;
they draw closer together, as if in fear. The very
silence has another quality than the silence of the
day. And it is full of half-heard whispers--whispers
that startle--ghosts of sounds long dead. There are
living sounds, too, such as are never heard under
other conditions: notes of strange night-birds, the
cries of small animals in sudden encounters with
stealthy foes or in their dreams, a rustling in the
dead leaves--it may be the leap of a wood-rat, it
may be the footfall of a panther. What caused the
breaking of that twig?--what the low, alarmed
twittering in that bushful of birds? There are sounds
without a name, forms without substance, translations
in space of objects which have not been seen
to move, movements wherein nothing is observed to
change its place. Ah, children of the sunlight and
the gaslight, how little you know of the world in
which you live!
Surrounded at a little distance by armed and
watchful friends, Byring felt utterly alone. Yielding
himself to the solemn and mysterious spirit of the
time and place, he had forgotten the nature of his
connection with the visible and audible aspects and
phases of the night. The forest was boundless; men
and the habitations of men did not exist. The universe
was one primeval mystery of darkness, without
form and void, himself the sole, dumb questioner
of its eternal secret. Absorbed in thoughts born of
this mood, he suffered the time to slip away unnoted.
Meantime the infrequent patches of white light lying
amongst the tree-trunks had undergone changes of
size, form and place. In one of them near by, just
at the roadside, his eye fell upon an object that he
had not previously observed. It was almost before
his face as he sat; he could have sworn that it had
not before been there. It was partly covered in
shadow, but he could see that it was a human figure.
Instinctively he adjusted the clasp of his swordbelt
and laid hold of his pistol--again he was in a world
of war, by occupation an assassin.
The figure did not move. Rising, pistol in hand, he
approached. The figure lay upon its back, its upper
part in shadow, but standing above it and looking
down upon the face, he saw that it was a dead body.
He shuddered and turned from it with a feeling of
sickness and disgust, resumed his seat upon the log,
and forgetting military prudence struck a match and
lit a cigar. In the sudden blackness that followed the
extinction of the flame he felt a sense of relief; he
could no longer see the object of his aversion. Nevertheless,
he kept his eyes in that direction until it
appeared again with growing distinctness. It seemed
to have moved a trifle nearer.
'Damn the thing!' he muttered. 'What does it
It did not appear to be in need of anything but a
Byring turned away his eyes and began humming
a tune, but he broke off in the middle of a bar and
looked at the dead body. Its presence annoyed him,
though he could hardly have had a quieter neighbour.
He was conscious, too, of a vague, indefinable
feeling that was new to him. It was not fear, but
rather a sense of the supernatural--in which he did
not at all believe.
'I have inherited it,' he said to himself. 'I suppose
it will require a thousand ages--perhaps ten
thousand--for humanity to outgrow this feeling.
Where and when did it originate? Away back, probably,
in what is called the cradle of the human race
--the plains of Central Asia. What we inherit as a
superstition our barbarous ancestors must have held
as a reasonable conviction. Doubtless they believed
themselves justified by facts whose nature we cannot
even conjecture in thinking a dead body a malign
thing endowed with some strange power of mischief,
with perhaps a will and a purpose to exert it.
Possibly they had some awful form of religion of
which that was one of the chief doctrines, sedulously
taught by their priesthood, as ours teach the immortality
of the soul. As the Aryans moved slowly
on, to and through the Caucasus passes, and spread
over Europe, new conditions of life must have resulted
in the formulation of new religions. The old
belief in the malevolence of the dead body was lost
from the creeds and even perished from tradition
but it left its heritage of terror, which is transmitted
from generation to generation--is as much a part
of us as are our blood and bones.'
In following out his thought he had forgotten that
which suggested it; but now his eye fell again upon
the corpse. The shadow had now altogether uncovered
it. He saw the sharp profile, the chin in the
air, the whole face, ghastly white in the moonlight.
The clothing was grey, the uniform of a Confederate
soldier. The coat and waistcoat, unbuttoned, had
fallen away on each side, exposing the white shirt.
The chest seemed unnaturally prominent, but the
abdomen had sunk in, leaving a sharp projection at
the line of the lower ribs. The arms were extended,
the left knee was thrust upward. The whole posture
impressed Byring as having been studied with a view
to the horrible.
'Bah!' he exclaimed; 'he was an actor--he
knows how to be dead.'
He drew away his eyes, directing them resolutely
along one of the roads leading to the front, and resumed
his philosophizing where he had left off.
'It may be that our Central Asian ancestors had
not the custom of burial. In that case it is easy to
understand their fear of the dead, who really were a
menace and an evil. They bred pestilences. Children
were taught to avoid the places where they lay, and
to run away if by inadvertence they came near a
corpse. I think, indeed, I'd better go away from this
He half rose to do so, then remembered that he
had told his men in front and the officer in the rear
who was to relieve him that he could at any time be
found at that spot. It was a matter of pride, too.
If he abandoned his post he feared they would think
he feared the corpse. He was no coward and he was
unwilling to incur anybody's ridicule. So he again
seated himself, and to prove his courage looked
boldly at the body. The right arm--the one farthest
from him--was now in shadow. He could hardly
see the hand which, he had before observed, lay at
the root of a clump of laurel. There had been no
change, a fact which gave him a certain comfort, he
could not have said why. He did not at once remove
his eyes; that which we do not wish to see has a
strange fascination, sometimes irresistible. Of the
woman who covers her eyes with her hands and looks
between the fingers let it be said that the wits have
dealt with her not altogether justly.
Byring suddenly became conscious of a pain in his
right hand. He withdrew his eyes from his enemy and
looked at it. He was grasping the hilt of his drawn
sword so tightly that it hurt him. He observed, too,
that he was leaning forward in a strained attitude--
crouching like a gladiator ready to spring at the
throat of an antagonist. His teeth were clenched and
he was breathing hard. This matter was soon set
right, and as his muscles relaxed and he drew a long
breath he felt keenly enough the ludicrousness of the
incident. It affected him to laughter. Heavens! what
sound was that? what mindless devil was uttering
an unholy glee in mockery of human merriment? He
sprang to his feet and looked about him, not recognizing
his own laugh.
He could no longer conceal from himself the horrible
fact of his cowardice; he was thoroughly
frightened! He would have run from the spot, but
his legs refused their office; they gave way beneath
him and he sat again upon the log, violently trembling.
His face was wet, his whole body bathed in
a chill perspiration. He could not even cry out.
Distinctly he heard behind him a stealthy tread, as
of some wild animal, and dared not look over his
shoulder. Had the soulless living joined forces with
the soulless dead?--was it an animal? Ah, if he
could but be assured of that! But by no effort of
will could he now unfix his gaze from the face of the
I repeat that Lieutenant Byring was a brave and
intelligent man. But what would you have? Shall a
man cope, single-handed, with so monstrous an
alliance as that of night and solitude and silence and
the dead--while an incalculable host of his own ancestors
shriek into the ear of his spirit their coward
counsel, sing their doleful death-songs in his heart,
and disarm his very blood of all its iron? The odds
are too great--courage was not made for so rough
use as that.
One sole conviction now had the man in possession:
that the body had moved. It lay nearer to the
edge of its plot of light--there could be no doubt of
it. It had also moved its arms, for, look, they are
both in the shadow! A breath of cold air struck Byring
full in the face; the boughs of trees above him
stirred and moaned. A strongly defined shadow
passed across the face of the dead, left it luminous,
passed back upon it and left it half obscured. The
horrible thing was visibly moving! At that moment a
single shot rang out upon the picket-line--a lonelier
and louder, though more distant, shot than
ever had been heard by mortal ear! It broke the
spell of that enchanted man; it slew the silence and
the solitude, dispersed the hindering host from
Central Asia and released his modern manhood.
With a cry like that of some great bird pouncing
upon its prey he sprang forward, hot-hearted for
Shot after shot now came from the front. There
were shoutings and confusion, hoof-beats and desultory
cheers. Away to the rear, in the sleeping camp,
were a singing of bugles and grumble of drums.
Pushing through the thickets on either side the roads
came the Federal pickets, in full retreat, firing backward
at random as they ran. A straggling group that
had followed back one of the roads, as instructed,
suddenly sprang away into the bushes as half a
hundred horsemen thundered by them, striking
wildly with their sabres as they passed. At headlong
speed these mounted madmen shot past the spot
where Byring had sat, and vanished round an angle
of the road, shouting and firing their pistols. A
moment later there was a roar of musketry, followed
by dropping shots--they had encountered the
reserve-guard in line; and back they came in dire
confusion, with here and there an empty saddle and
many a maddened horse, bullet-stung, snorting and
plunging with pain. It was all over--'an affair of
The line was re-established with fresh men, the
roll called, the stragglers were re-formed. The Federal
commander, with a part of his staff, imperfectly
clad, appeared upon the scene, asked a few questions,
looked exceedingly wise and retired. After
standing at arms for an hour the brigade in camp
'swore a prayer or two' and went to bed.
Early the next morning a fatigue-party, commanded
by a captain and accompanied by a surgeon,
searched the ground for dead and wounded. At the
fork of the road, a little to one side, they found two
bodies lying close together--that of a Federal officer
and that of a Confederate private. The officer
had died of a sword-thrust through the heart, but
not, apparently, until he had inflicted upon his
enemy no fewer than five dreadful wounds. The dead
officer lay on his face in a pool of blood, the weapon
still in his heart. They turned him on his back and
the surgeon removed it.
'Gad!' said the captain--'It is Byring!'--adding,
with a glance at the other, 'They had a tough
The surgeon was examining the sword. It was that
of a line officer of Federal infantry--exactly like the
one worn by the captain. It was, in fact, Byring's
own. The only other weapon discovered was an undischarged
revolver in the dead officer's belt.
The surgeon laid down the sword and approached
the other body. It was frightfully gashed and
stabbed, but there was no blood. He took hold of the
left foot and tried to straighten the leg. In the effort
the body was displaced. The dead do not wish to be
moved--it protested with a faint, sickening odour.
Where it had lain were a few maggots, manifesting
an imbecile activity.
The surgeon looked at the captain. The captain
looked at the surgeon.
ONE OF TWINS
A Letter found among the Papers of the late
YOU ask me if in my experience as one of a pair of
twins I ever observed anything unaccountable by the
natural laws with which we have acquaintance. As to
that you shall judge; perhaps we have not all acquaintance
with the same natural laws. You may know some that I do not, and what is to me unaccountable
may be very clear to you.
You knew my brother John--that is, you knew
him when you knew that I was not present; but
neither you nor, I believe, any human being could
distinguish between him and me if we chose to seem
alike. Our parents could not; ours is the only instance
of which I have any knowledge of so close
resemblance as that. I speak of my brother John, but
I am not at all sure that his name was not Henry and
mine John. We were regularly christened, but afterward,
in the very act of tattooing us with small distinguishing
marks, the operator lost his reckoning;
and although I bear upon my forearm a small 'H'
and he bore a 'J,' it is by no means certain that the
letters ought not to have been transposed. During
our boyhood our parents tried to distinguish us more
obviously by our clothing and other simple devices,
but we would so frequently exchange suits and otherwise
circumvent the enemy that they abandoned all
such ineffectual attempts, and during all the years
that we lived together at home everybody recognized
the difficulty of the situation and made the best of it
by calling us both 'Jehnry.' I have often wondered
at my father's forbearance in not branding
us conspicuously upon our unworthy brows, but as
we were tolerably good boys and used our power of
embarrassment and annoyance with commendable
moderation, we escaped the iron. My father was, in
fact, a singularly good-natured man, and I think
quietly enjoyed Nature's practical joke.
Soon after we had come to California, and settled
at San Jose (where the only good fortune that
awaited us was our meeting with so kind a friend as
you), the family, as you know, was broken up by the
death of both my parents in the same week. My
father died insolvent, and the homestead was sacrificed
to pay his debts. My sisters returned to relatives
in the East, but owing to your kindness John
and I, then twenty-two years of age, obtained employment
in San Francisco, in different quarters of
the town. Circumstances did not permit us to live
together, and we saw each other infrequently, sometimes
not oftener than once a week. As we had few
acquaintances in common, the fact of our extraordinary
likeness was little known. I come now to the
matter of your inquiry.
One day soon after we had come to this city I was
walking down Market Street late in the afternoon,
when I was accosted by a well-dressed man of middle
age, who after greeting me cordially said: 'Stevens,
I know, of course, that you do not go out
much, but I have told my wife about you, and she
would be glad to see you at the house. I have a notion,
too, that my girls are worth knowing. Suppose
you come out to-morrow at six and dine with us, en
famille; and then if the ladies can't amuse you afterward
I'll stand in with a few games of billiards.'
This was said with so bright a smile and so engaging
a manner that I had not the heart to refuse,
and although I had never seen the man in my life
I promptly replied: 'You are very good, sir, and it
will give me great pleasure to accept the invitation.
Please present my compliments to Mrs. Margovan
and ask her to expect me.'
With a shake of the hand and a pleasant parting
word the man passed on. That he had mistaken me
for my brother was plain enough. That was an error
to which I was accustomed and which it was not my
habit to rectify unless the matter seemed important.
But how had I known that this man's name was
Margovan? It certainly is not a name that one would
apply to a man at random, with a probability that it
would be right. In point of fact, the name was as
strange to me as the man.
The next morning I hastened to where my brother
was employed and met him coming out of the office
with a number of bills that he was to collect. I told
him how I had 'committed' him and added that if
he didn't care to keep the engagement I should be
delighted to continue the impersonation.
'That's queer,' he said thoughtfully. 'Margovan
is the only man in the office here whom I know well
and like. When he came in this morning and we had
passed the usual greetings some singular impulse
prompted me to say: "Oh, I beg your pardon, Mr.
Margovan, but I neglected to ask your address." I
got the address, but what under the sun I was to do
with it, I did not know until now. It's good of you to
offer to take the consequence of your impudence, but
I'll eat that dinner myself, if you please.'
He ate a number of dinners at the same place--
more than were good for him, I may add without
disparaging their quality; for he fell in love with
Miss Margovan, proposed marriage to her and was
Several weeks after I had been informed of the
engagement, but before it had been convenient for
me to make the acquaintance of the young woman
and her family, I met one day on Kearney Street
a handsome but somewhat dissipated-looking man
whom something prompted me to follow and watch,
which I did without any scruple whatever. He turned
up Geary Street and followed it until he came to
Union Square. There he looked at his watch, then
entered the square. He loitered about the paths for
some time, evidently waiting for some one. Presently
he was joined by a fashionably dressed and beautiful
young woman and the two walked away up
Stockton Street, I following. I now felt the necessity
of extreme caution, for although the girl was a
stranger it seemed to me that she would recognize
me at a glance. They made several turns from one
street to another and finally, after both had taken
a hasty look all about--which I narrowly evaded by
stepping into a doorway--they entered a house of
which I do not care to state the location. Its location
was better than its character.
I protest that my action in playing the spy upon
these two strangers was without assignable motive.
It was one of which I might or might not be
ashamed, according to my estimate of the character
of the person finding it out. As an essential part of
a narrative educed by your question it is related here
without hesitancy or shame.
A week later John took me to the house of his
prospective father-in-law, and in Miss Margovan, as
you have already surmised, but to my profound astonishment,
I recognized the heroine of that discreditable
adventure. A gloriously beautiful heroine of
a discreditable adventure I must in justice admit
that she was; but that fact has only this importance:
her beauty was such a surprise to me that it cast a
doubt upon her identity with the young woman I
had seen before; how could the marvellous fascination
of her face have failed to strike me at that
time? But no--there was no possibility of error; the
difference was due to costume, light and general
John and I passed the evening at the house, enduring,
with the fortitude of long experience, such delicate
enough banter as our likeness naturally suggested.
When the young lady and I were left alone
for a few minutes I looked her squarely in the face
and said with sudden gravity:
'You, too, Miss Margovan, have a double: I saw
her last Tuesday afternoon in Union Square.'
She trained her great grey eyes upon me for a
moment, but her glance was a trifle less steady than
my own and she withdrew it, fixing it on the tip of
'Was she very like me?' she asked, with an indifference
which I thought a little overdone.
'So like,' said I, 'that I greatly admired her, and
being unwilling to lose sight of her I confess that I
followed her until--Miss Margovan, are you sure
that you understand?'
She was now pale, but entirely calm. She again
raised her eyes to mine, with a look that did not
'What do you wish me to do?' she asked. 'You
need not fear to name your terms. I accept them.'
It was plain, even in the brief time given me for
reflection, that in dealing with this girl ordinary
methods would not do, and ordinary exactions were
'Miss Margovan,' I said, doubtless with something
of the compassion in my voice that I had in my
heart,' it is impossible not to think you the victim
of some horrible compulsion. Rather than impose
new embarrassments upon you I would prefer to
aid you to regain your freedom.'
She shook her head, sadly and hopelessly, and I
continued, with agitation:
'Your beauty unnerves me. I am disarmed by
your frankness and your distress. If you are free to
act upon conscience you will, I believe, do what you
conceive to be best; if you are not--well, Heaven
help us all! You have nothing to fear from me but
such opposition to this marriage as I can try to
justify on--on other grounds.'
These were not my exact words, but that was the
sense of them, as nearly as my sudden and conflicting
emotions permitted me to express it. I rose and
left her without another look at her, met the others
as they re-entered the room and said, as calmly as
I could: 'I have been bidding Miss Margovan good
evening; it is later than I thought.'
John decided to go with me. In the street he
asked if I had observed anything singular in Julia's
'I thought her ill,' I replied; 'that is why I left.'
Nothing more was said.
The next evening I came late to my lodgings. The
events of the previous evening had made me nervous
and ill; I had tried to cure myself and attain to clear
thinking by walking in the open air, but I was oppressed
with a horrible presentiment of evil--a presentiment
which I could not formulate. It was a chill,
foggy night; my clothing and hair were damp and I
shook with cold. In my dressing-gown and slippers
before a blazing grate of coals I was even more uncomfortable.
I no longer shivered but shuddered--there is a difference. The dread of some impending
calamity was so strong and dispiriting that I tried
to drive it away by inviting a real sorrow--tried to
dispel the conception of a terrible future by substituting
the memory of a painful past. I recalled the
death of my parents and endeavoured to fix my
mind upon the last sad scenes at their bedsides and
their graves. It all seemed vague and unreal, as having
occurred ages ago and to another person. Suddenly,
striking through my thought and parting it
as a tense cord is parted by the stroke of steel--I
can think of no other comparison--I heard a sharp
cry as of one in mortal agony! The voice was that of
my brother and seemed to come from the street outside
my window. I sprang to the window and threw
it open. A street lamp directly opposite threw a
wan and ghastly light upon the wet pavement and
the fronts of the houses. A single policeman, with
upturned collar, was leaning against a gatepost,
quietly smoking a cigar. No one else was in sight.
I closed the window and pulled down the shade,
seated myself before the fire and tried to fix my mind
upon my surroundings. By way of assisting, by performance
of some familiar act, I looked at my watch;
it marked half-past eleven. Again I heard that awful
cry! It seemed in the room--at my side. I was
frightened and for some moments had not the power
to move. A few minutes later--I have no recollection
of the intermediate time--I found myself hurrying
along an unfamiliar street as fast as I could
walk. I did not know where I was, nor whither I was
going, but presently sprang up the steps of a house
before which were two or three carriages and in
which were moving lights and a subdued confusion
of voices. It was the house of Mr. Margovan.
You know, good friend, what had occurred there.
In one chamber lay Julia Margovan, hours dead by
poison; in another John Stevens, bleeding from a
pistol wound in the chest, inflicted by his own hand.
As I burst into the room; pushed aside the physicians
and laid my hand upon his forehead he unclosed
his eyes, stared blankly, closed them slowly
and died without a sign.
I knew no more until six weeks afterwards, when
I had been nursed back to life by your own saintly
wife in your own beautiful home. All of that you
know, but what you do not know is this--which,
however, has no bearing upon the subject of your
psychological researches--at least not upon that
branch of them in which, with a delicacy and consideration
all your own, you have asked for less assistance
than I think I have given you:
One moonlight night several years afterward I
was passing through Union Square. The hour was
late and the square deserted. Certain memories of
the past naturally came into my mind as I came to
the spot where I had once witnessed that fateful
assignation, and with that unaccountable perversity
which prompts us to dwell upon thoughts of the most
painful character I seated myself upon one of the
benches to indulge them. A man entered the square
and came along the walk toward me. His hands were
clasped behind him, his head was bowed; he seemed
to observe nothing. As he approached the shadow
in which I sat I recognized him as the man whom I
had seen meet Julia Margovan years before at that
spot. But he was terribly altered--grey, worn and
haggard. Dissipation and vice were in evidence in
every look; illness was no less apparent. His clothing
was in disorder, his hair fell across his forehead
in a derangement which was at once uncanny, and
picturesque. He looked fitter for restraint than liberty
--the restraint of a hospital.
With no defined purpose I rose and confronted
him. He raised his head and looked me full in the
face. I have no words to describe the ghastly change
that came over his own; it was a look of unspeakable
terror--he thought himself eye to eye with a ghost.
But he was a courageous man. 'Damn you, John
Stevens!' he cried, and lifting his trembling arm he
dashed his fist feebly at my face and fell headlong
upon the gravel as I walked away.
Somebody found him there, stone-dead. Nothing
more is known of him, not even his name. To know
of a man that he is dead should be enough.
THE HAUNTED VALLEY
- How Trees Are Felled in China
A HALF-MILE north from Jo. Dunfer's, on the road
from Hutton's to Mexican Hill, the highway dips
into a sunless ravine which opens out on either hand
in a half-confidential manner, as if it had a secret to
impart at some more convenient season. I never used
to ride through it without looking first to the one
side and then to the other, to see if the time had arrived
for the revelation. If I saw nothing--and I
never did see anything--there was no feeling of
disappointment, for I knew the disclosure was
merely withheld temporarily for some good reason
which I had no right to question. That I should one
day be taken into full confidence I no more doubted
than I doubted the existence of Jo. Dunfer himself,
through whose premises the ravine ran.
It was said that Jo. had once undertaken to erect
a cabin in some remote part of it, but for some reason
had abandoned the enterprise and constructed
his present hermaphrodite habitation, half residence
and half groggery, at the roadside, upon an extreme
corner of his estate; as far away as possible, as if on
purpose to show how radically he had changed his
This Jo. Dunfer--or, as he was familiarly known
in the neighbourhood, Whisky Jo.--was a very important
personage in those parts. He was apparently
about forty years of age, a long, shock-headed
fellow, with a corded face, a gnarled arm and a
knotty hand like a bunch of prison-keys. He was
a hairy man, with a stoop in his walk, like that
of one who is about to spring upon something and
Next to the peculiarity to which he owed his local
appellation, Mr. Dunfer's most obvious characteristic
was a deep-seated antipathy to the Chinese. I
saw him once in a towering rage because one of his
herdsmen had permitted a travel-heated Asian to
slake his thirst at the horse-trough in front of the
saloon end of Jo.'s establishment. I ventured faintly
to remonstrate with Jo. for his unchristian spirit,
but he merely explained that there was nothing
about Chinamen in the New Testament, and strode
away to wreak his displeasure upon his dog, which
also, I suppose, the inspired scribes had overlooked.
Some days afterward, finding him sitting alone
in his bar-room, I cautiously approached the subject,
when, greatly to my relief, the habitual austerity
of his expression visibly softened into something
that I took for condescension.
'You young Easterners,' he said, 'are a mile-anda
-half too good for this country, and you don't
catch on to our play. People who don't know a
Chileno from a Kanaka can afford to hang out
liberal ideas about Chinese immigration, but a fellow
that has to fight for his bone with a lot of mongrel
coolies hasn't any time for foolishness.'
This long consumer, who had probably never
done an honest day's work in his life, sprung the
lid of a Chinese tobacco-box and with thumb and
forefinger forked out a wad like a small haycock.
Holding this reinforcement within supporting distance
he fired away with renewed confidence.
'They're a flight of devouring locusts, and they're
going for everything green in this God blest land, if
you want to know.'
Here he pushed his reserve into the breach and
when his gabble-gear was again disengaged resumed
his uplifting discourse.
'I had one of them on this ranch five years ago,
and I'll tell you about it, so that you can see the
nub of this whole question. I didn't pan out particularly
well those days--drank more whisky than
was prescribed for me and didn't seem to care for my
duty as a patriotic American citizen; so I took that
pagan in, as a kind of cook. But when I got religion
over at the Hill and they talked of running me for
the Legislature it was given to me to see the light.
But what was I to do? If I gave him the go somebody
else would take him, and mightn't treat him white.
What was I to do? What would any good Christian
do, especially one new to the trade and full to the
neck with the brotherhood of Man and the fatherhood
Jo. paused for a reply, with an expression of unstable
satisfaction, as of one who has solved a problem
by a distrusted method. Presently he rose and
swallowed a glass of whisky from a full bottle on
the counter, then resumed his story.
'Besides, he didn't count for much--didn't know
anything and gave himself airs. They all do that. I
said him nay, but he muled it through on that line
while he lasted; but after turning the other cheek
seventy and seven times I doctored the dice so that
he didn't last for ever. And I'm almighty glad I had
the sand to do it.'
Jo.'s gladness, which somehow did not impress
me, was duly and ostentatiously celebrated at the
'About five years ago I started in to stick up a
shack. That was before this one was built, and I put
it in another place. I set Ah Wee and a little cuss
named Gopher to cutting the timber. Of course I
didn't expect Ah Wee to help much, for he had a face
like a day in June and big black eyes--I guess
maybe they were the damn'dest eyes in this neck o'
While delivering this trenchant thrust at common
sense Mr. Dunfer absently regarded a knot-hole in
the thin board partition separating the bar from the
living-room, as if that were one of the eyes whose size
and colour had incapacitated his servant for good
'Now you Eastern galoots won't believe anything
against the yellow devils,' he suddenly flamed out
with an appearance of earnestness not altogether
convincing,' but I tell you that Chink was the perversest
scoundrel outside San Francisco. The miserable
pig-tail Mongolian went to hewing away at the
saplings all round the stems, like a worm o' the dust
gnawing a radish. I pointed out his error as patiently
as I knew how, and showed him how to cut
them on two sides, so as to make them fall right;
but no sooner would I turn my back on him, like
this'--and he turned it on me, amplifying the illustration
by taking some more liquor--'than he was at it again. It was just this way: while I looked
at him so'--regarding me rather unsteadily and
with evident complexity of vision--' he was all
right; but when I looked away, so'--taking a long
pull at the bottle--' he defied me. Then I'd gaze at
him reproachfully, so, and butter wouldn't have
melted in his mouth.'
Doubtless Mr. Dunfer honestly intended the look
that he fixed upon me to be merely reproachful, but
it was singularly fit to arouse the gravest apprehension
in any unarmed person incurring it; and as I had
lost all interest in his pointless and interminable narrative,
I rose to go. Before I had fairly risen, he had
again turned to the counter, and with a barely
audible 'so,' had emptied the bottle at a gulp.
Heavens! what a yell! It was like a Titan in his
last, strong agony. Jo. staggered back after emitting
it, as a cannon recoils from its own thunder, and
then dropped into his chair, as if he had been
'knocked in the head' like a beef--his eyes drawn
sidewise toward the wall, with a stare of terror.
Looking in the same direction, I saw that the knothole
in the wall had indeed become a human eye--
a full, black eye, that glared into my own with an
entire lack of expression more awful than the most
devilish glitter. I think I must have covered my face
with my hands to shut out the horrible illusion, if
such it was, and Jo.'s little white man-of-all-work
coming into the room broke the spell, and I walked
out of the house with a sort of dazed fear that
delirium tremens might be infectious. My horse was
hitched at the watering-trough, and untying him I
mounted and gave him his head, too much troubled
in mind to note whither he took me.
I did not know what to think of all this, and like
everyone who does not know what to think I thought
a great deal, and to little purpose. The only reflection
that seemed at all satisfactory was, that on the morrow
I should be some miles away, with a strong
probability of never returning.
A sudden coolness brought me out of my abstraction,
and looking up I found myself entering the deep
shadows of the ravine. The day was stifling; and
this transition from the pitiless, visible heat of the
parched fields to the cool gloom, heavy with pungency
of cedars and vocal with twittering of the
birds that had been driven to its leafy asylum, was
exquisitely refreshing. I looked for my mystery,
as usual, but not finding the ravine in a communicative
mood, dismounted, led my sweating animal into
the undergrowth, tied him securely to a tree and sat
down upon a rock to meditate.
I began bravely by analysing my pet superstition
about the place. Having resolved it into its constituent
elements I arranged them in convenient troops
and squadrons, and collecting all the forces of my
logic bore down upon them from impregnable premises
with the thunder of irresistible conclusions and
a great noise of chariots and general intellectual
shouting. Then, when my big mental guns had overturned
all opposition, and were growling almost
inaudibly away on the horizon of pure speculation,
the routed enemy straggled in upon their rear,
massed silently into a solid phalanx, and captured
me, bag and baggage. An indefinable dread came
upon me. I rose to shake it off, and began threading
the narrow dell by an old, grass-grown cow-path that
seemed to flow along the bottom, as a substitute for
the brook that Nature had neglected to provide.
The trees among which the path straggled were
ordinary, well-behaved plants, a trifle perverted as
to trunk and eccentric as to bough, but with nothing
unearthly in their general aspect. A few loose
boulders, which had detached themselves from the
sides of the depression to set up an independent
existence at the bottom, had dammed up the pathway,
here and there, but their stony repose had nothing
in it of the stillness of death. There was a kind
of death-chamber hush in the valley, it is true, and a
mysterious whisper above: the wind was just fingering
the tops of the trees--that was all.
I had not thought of connecting Jo. Dunfer's
drunken narrative with what I now sought, and only
when I came into a clear space and stumbled over
the level trunks of some small trees did I have the
revelation. This was the site of the abandoned
'shack.' The discovery was verified by noting that
some of the rotting stumps were hacked all round,
in a most unwoodmanlike way, while others were
cut straight across, and the butt ends of the corresponding
trunks had the blunt wedge-form given by the axe of a master.
The opening among the trees was not more than
thirty paces across. At one side was a little knoll--
a natural hillock, bare of shrubbery but covered
with wild grass, and on this, standing out of the
grass, the headstone of a grave!
I do not remember that I felt anything like surprise
at this discovery. I viewed that lonely grave
with something of the feeling that Columbus must
have had when he saw the hills and headlands of the
new world. Before approaching it I leisurely completed
my survey of the surroundings. I was even
guilty of the affectation of winding my watch at that
unusual hour, and with needless care and deliberation.
Then I approached my mystery.
The grave--a rather short one--was in somewhat
better repair than was consistent with its
obvious age and isolation, and my eyes, I dare say,
widened a trifle at a clump of unmistakable garden
flowers showing evidence of recent watering. The
stone had clearly enough done duty once as a doorstep.
In its front was carved, or rather dug, an inscription.
It read thus:
Age unknown. Worked for Jo. Dunfer.
This monument is erected by him to keep the Chink's
memory green. Likewise as a warning to Celestials
not to take on airs. Devil take 'em!
She Was a Good Egg.
I cannot adequately relate my astonishment at
this uncommon inscription! The meagre but sufficient
identification of the deceased; the impudent
candour of confession; the brutal anathema; the
ludicrous change of sex and sentiment--all marked
this record as the work of one who must have been
at least as much demented as bereaved. I felt that
any further disclosure would be a paltry anti-climax,
and with an unconscious regard for dramatic effect
turned squarely about and walked away. Nor did
I return to that part of the county for four years.
2: Who Drives Sane Oxen Should Himself be Sane
'Gee-up, there, old Fuddy-Duddy!'
This unique adjuration came from the lips of a
queer little man perched upon a wagonful of firewood,
behind a brace of oxen that were hauling it
easily along with a simulation of mighty effort which
had evidently not imposed on their lord and master.
As that gentleman happened at the moment to be
staring me squarely in the face as I stood by the
roadside it was not altogether clear whether he was
addressing me or his beasts; nor could I say if they
were named Fuddy and Duddy and were both subjects
of the imperative mood 'to gee-up.' Anyhow
the command produced no effect on us, and the
queer little man removed his eyes from mine long
enough to spear Fuddy and Duddy alternately with
a long pole, remarking, quietly but with feeling:
'Dern your skin,' as if they enjoyed that integument
in common. Observing that my request for
a ride took no attention, and finding myself falling
slowly astern, I placed one foot upon the inner
circumference of a hind wheel and was slowly elevated
to the level of the hub, whence I boarded
the concern, sans ceremonie, and scrambling forward
seated myself beside the driver--who took no
notice of me until he had administered another indiscriminate
castigation to his cattle, accompanied
with the advice to 'buckle down, you derned Incapable
!' Then, the master of the outfit (or rather
the former master, for I could not suppress a whimsical
feeling that the entire establishment was my
lawful prize) trained his big, black eyes upon me
with an expression strangely, and somewhat unpleasantly,
familiar, laid down his rod--which
neither blossomed nor turned into a serpent, as I
half expected--folded his arms, and gravely demanded,
'W'at did you do to W'isky?'
My natural reply would have been that I drank
it, but there was something about the query that
suggested a hidden significance, and something
about the man that did not invite a shallow jest.
And so, having no other answer ready, I merely
held my tongue, but felt as if I were resting under
an imputation of guilt, and that my silence was being
construed into a confession.
Just then a cold shadow fell upon my cheek, and
caused me to look up. We were descending into
my ravine! I cannot describe the sensation that
came upon me: I had not seen it since it unbosomed
itself four years before, and now I felt like one to
whom a friend has made some sorrowing confession
of crime long past, and who has basely deserted him
in consequence. The old memories of Jo. Dunfer,
his fragmentary revelation, and the unsatisfying
explanatory note by the headstone, came back
with singular distinctness. I wondered what had
become of Jo., and--I turned sharply round and
asked my prisoner. He was intently watching his
cattle, and without withdrawing his eyes replied:
'Gee-up, old Terrapin! He lies aside of Ah Wee
up the gulch. Like to see it? They always come back
to the spot--I've been expectin' you. H-woa!'
At the enunciation of the aspirate, Fuddy-Duddy,
the incapable terrapin, came to a dead halt, and
before the vowel had died away up the ravine had
folded up all his eight legs and lain down in the
dusty road, regardless of the effect upon his derned
skin. The queer little man slid off his seat to the
ground and started up the dell without deigning to
look back to see if I was following. But I was.
It was about the same season of the year, and
at near the same hour of the day, of my last visit.
The jays clamoured loudly, and the trees whispered
darkly, as before; and I somehow traced in the two
sounds a fanciful analogy to the open boastfulness
of Mr. Jo. Dunfer's mouth and the mysterious reticence
of his manner, and to the mingled hardihood
and tenderness of his sole literary production--the
epitaph. All things in the valley seemed unchanged,
excepting the cow-path, which was almost wholly
overgrown with weeds. When we came out into the
'clearing,' however, there was change enough. Among
the stumps and trunks of the fallen saplings, those
that had been hacked 'China fashion' were no
longer distinguishable from those that were cut
''Melican way.' It was as if the Old-World barbarism
and the New-World civilization had reconciled
their differences by the arbitration of an impartial
decay--as is the way of civilizations. The knoll was
there, but the Hunnish brambles had overrun and
all but obliterated its effete grasses; and the patrician
garden-violet had capitulated to his plebeian brother
--perhaps had merely reverted to his original type.
Another grave--a long, robust mound--had been
made beside the first, which seemed to shrink from
the comparison; and in the shadow of a new headstone
the old one lay prostrate, with its marvellous
inscription illegible by accumulation of leaves and
soil. In point of literary merit the new was inferior
to the old--was even repulsive in its terse and savage
JO. DUNFER. DONE FOR
I turned from it with indifference, and brushing
away the leaves from the tablet of the dead pagan
restored to light the mocking words which, fresh
from their long neglect, seemed to have a certain
pathos. My guide, too, appeared to take on an added
seriousness as he read it, and I fancied that I could
detect beneath his whimsical manner something of
manliness, almost of dignity. But while I looked
at him his former aspect, so subtly unhuman, so
tantalizingly familiar, crept back into his big eyes,
repellent and attractive. I resolved to make an end
of the mystery if possible.
'My friend,' I said, pointing to the smaller grave,
'did Jo. Dunfer murder that Chinaman?'
He was leaning against a tree and looking across
the open space into the top of another, or into the
blue sky beyond. He neither withdrew his eyes, nor
altered his posture as he slowly replied:
'No, sir; he justifiably homicided him.'
'Then he really did kill him.'
'Kill 'im? I should say he did, rather. Doesn't
everybody know that? Didn't he stan' up before the
coroner's jury and confess it? And didn't they find
a verdict of "Came to 'is death by a wholesome
Christian sentiment workin' in the Caucasian
breast"? An' didn't the church at the Hill turn
W'isky down for it? And didn't the sovereign people
elect him Justice of the Peace to get even on the
gospellers? I don't know where you were brought up.'
'But did Jo. do that because the Chinaman did
not, or would not, learn to cut down trees like a
white man ? '
'Sure!--it stan's so on the record, which makes
it true an' legal. My knowin' better doesn't make
any difference with legal truth; it wasn't my funeral
and I wasn't invited to deliver an oration. But the
fact is, W'isky was jealous o' me'--and the little
wretch actually swelled out like a turkeycock and
made a pretence of adjusting an imaginary neck-tie,
noting the effect in the palm of his hand, held up
before him to represent a mirror.
'Jealous of you!' I repeated with ill-mannered
'That's what I said. Why not?--don't I look all
He assumed a mocking attitude of studied grace,
and twitched the wrinkles out of his threadbare
waistcoat. Then, suddenly dropping his voice to a
low pitch of singular sweetness, he continued:
'W'isky thought a lot o' that Chink; nobody but
me knew how 'e doted on 'im. Couldn't bear 'im
out of 'is sight, the derned protoplasm! And w'en
'e came down to this clearin' one day an' found
'im an' me neglectin' our work--'im asleep an' me
grapplin' a tarantula out of 'is sleeve--W'isky laid
hold of my axe and let us have it, good an' hard!
I dodged just then, for the spider bit me, but Ah
Wee got it bad in the side an' tumbled about like
anything. W'isky was just weighin' me out one
w'en 'e saw the spider fastened on my finger; then
'e knew 'e'd make a jackass of 'imself. 'E threw
away the axe and got down on 'is knees alongside of
Ah Wee, who gave a last little kick and opened
'is eyes--'e had eyes like mine--an' puttin' up
'is hands drew down W'isky's ugly head and held
it there w'ile 'e stayed. That wasn't long, for a
tremblin' ran through 'im and 'e gave a bit of a
moan an' beat the game.'
During the progress of the story the narrator had
become transfigured. The comic, or rather, the sardonic
element was all out of him, and as he painted
that strange scene it was with difficulty that I kept
my composure. And this consummate actor had
somehow so managed me that the sympathy due
to his dramatis personae was given to himself. I
stepped forward to grasp his hand, when suddenly
a broad grin danced across his face and with a light,
mocking laugh he continued:
'W'en W'isky got 'is nut out o' that 'e was a sight
to see! All 'is fine clothes--'e dressed mighty blindin'
those days--were spoiled everlastin'! 'Is hair was
tousled and 'is face--what I could see of it--was
whiter than the ace of lilies. 'E stared once at me,
and looked away as if I didn't count; an' then there
were shootin' pains chasin' one another from my
bitten finger into my head, and it was Gopher to the
dark. That's why I wasn't at the inquest.'
'But why did you hold your tongue afterward?'
'It's that kind of tongue,' he replied, and not
another word would he say about it.
'After that W'isky took to drinkin' harder an'
harder, and was rabider an' rabider anti-coolie, but
I don't think 'e was ever particularly glad that 'e
dispelled Ah Wee. 'E didn't put on so much dog
about it w'en we were alone as w'en 'e had the ear
of a derned Spectacular Extravaganza like you.
'E put up that headstone and gouged the inscription
accordin' to 'is varyin' moods. It took 'im three
weeks, workin' between drinks. I gouged 'is in one
'When did Jo. die?' I asked rather absently. The
answer took my breath:
'Pretty soon after I looked at 'im through that
knot-hole, w'en you had put something in 'is w'isky,
you derned Borgia!'
Recovering somewhat from my surprise at this
astounding charge, I was half-minded to throttle the
audacious accuser, but was restrained by a sudden
conviction that came to me in the light of a
revelation. I fixed a grave look upon him and
asked, as calmly as I could: 'And when did you go
'Nine years ago!' he shrieked, throwing out his
clenched hands--'nine years ago, w'en that big
brute killed the woman who loved him better than
she did me!--me who had followed 'er from San
Francisco, where 'e won 'er at draw poker!--me
who had watched over 'er for years w'en the scoundrel
she belonged to was ashamed to acknowledge
'er and treat 'er white!--me who for her sake kept
'is cussed secret till it ate 'im up!--me who w'en
you poisoned the beast fulfilled 'is last request to
lay 'im alongside 'er and give 'im a stone to the
head of 'im! And I've never since seen 'er grave till
now, for I didn't want to meet 'im here.'
'Meet him? Why, Gopher, my poor fellow, he is
'That's why I'm afraid of 'im.'
I followed the little wretch back to his wagon and
wrung his hand at parting. It was now nightfall,
and as I stood there at the roadside in the deepening
gloom, watching the blank outlines of the receding
wagon, a sound was borne to me on the evening
wind--a sound as of a series of vigorous thumps
--and a voice came out of the night:
'Gee-up, there, you derned old Geranium.'
A JUG OF SYRUP
THIS narrative begins with the death of its hero.
Silas Deemer died on the I6th day of July, 1863;
and two days later his remains were buried. As he
had been personally known to every man, woman
and well-grown child in the village, the funeral, as
the local newspaper phrased it, 'was largely attended.'
In accordance with a custom of the time
and place, the coffin was opened at the graveside and
the entire assembly of friends and neighbours filed
past, taking a last look at the face of the dead.
And then, before the eyes of all, Silas Deemer was
put into the ground. Some of the eyes were a trifle
dim, but in a general way it may be said that at that
interment where was lack of neither observance nor
observation; Silas was indubitably dead, and none
could have pointed out any ritual delinquency that
would have justified him in coming back from the
grave. Yet if human testimony is good for anything
(and certainly it once put an end to witchcraft
in and about Salem) he came back.
I forgot to state that the death and burial of Silas
Deemer occurred in the little village of Hillbrook,
where he had lived for thirty-one years. He had been
what is known in some parts of the Union (which
is admittedly a free country) as a 'merchant'; that
is to say, he kept a retail shop for the sale of such
things as are commonly sold in shops of that character.
His honesty had never been questioned, so
far as is known, and he was held in high esteem by
all. The only thing that could be urged against him
by the most censorious was a too close attention to
business. It was not urged against him, though many
another, who manifested it in no greater degree,
was less leniently judged. The business to which
Silas was devoted was mostly his own--that, possibly,
may have made a difference.
At the time of Deemer's death nobody could recollect
a single day, Sundays excepted, that he had
not passed in his 'store,' since he had opened it more
than a quarter-century before. His health having
been perfect during all that time, he had been
unable to discern any validity in whatever may or
might have been urged to lure him astray from his
counter; and it is related that once when he was
summoned to the county seat as a witness in an
important law case and did not attend, the lawyer
who had the hardihood to move that he be 'admonished'
was solemnly informed that the Court
regarded the proposal with 'surprise.' Judicial surprise
being an emotion that attorneys are not commonly
ambitious to arouse, the motion was hastily
withdrawn and an agreement with the other side
effected as to what Mr. Deemer would have said
if he had been there--the other side pushing its
advantage to the extreme and making the supposititious
testimony distinctly damaging to the interests
of its proponents. In brief, it was the general feeling
in all that region that Silas Deemer was the one
immobile verity of Hillbrook, and that his translation
in space would precipitate some dismal public
ill or strenuous calamity.
Mrs. Deemer and two grown daughters occupied
the upper rooms of the building, but Silas had never
been known to sleep elsewhere than on a cot behind
the counter of the store. And there, quite by accident,
he was found one night, dying, and passed
away just before the time for taking down the shutters.
Though speechless, he appeared conscious, and
it was thought by those who knew him best that if the
end had unfortunately been delayed beyond the
usual hour for opening the store the effect upon him
would have been deplorable.
Such had been Silas Deemer--such the fixity and
invariety of his life and habit, that the village humorist
(who had once attended college) was moved to
bestow upon him the sobriquet of 'Old Ibidem,'
and, in the first issue of the local newspaper after
the death, to explain without offence that Silas had
taken 'a day off.' It was more than a day, but from
the record it appears that well within a month Mr.
Deemer made it plain that he had not the leisure
to be dead.
One of Hillbrook's most respected citizens was
Alvan Creede, a banker. He lived in the finest house
in town, kept a carriage and was a most estimable
man variously. He knew something of the advantages
of travel, too, having been frequently in Boston,
and once, it was thought, in New York, though he
modestly disclaimed that glittering distinction. The
matter is mentioned here merely as a contribution
to an understanding of Mr. Creede's worth, for
either way it is creditable to him--to his intelligence
if he had put himself, even temporarily, into
contact with metropolitan culture; to his candour
if he had not.
One pleasant summer evening at about the hour
of ten Mr. Creede, entering at his garden gate,
passed up the gravel walk, which looked very white
in the moonlight, mounted the stone steps of his fine
house and pausing a moment inserted his latchkey
in the door. As he pushed this open he met his wife,
who was crossing the passage from the parlour to the
library. She greeted him pleasantly and pulling the
door farther back held it for him to enter. Instead,
he turned and, looking about his feet in front of the
threshold, uttered an exclamation of surprise.
'Why!--what the devil,' he said, 'has become
of that jug?'
'What jug, Alvan?' his wife inquired, not very
'A jug of maple syrup--I brought it along from
the store and set it down here to open the door.
'There, there, Alvan, please don't swear again,'
said the lady, interrupting. Hillbrook, by the way,
is not the only place in Christendom where a vestigal
polytheism forbids the taking in vain of the Evil
The jug of maple syrup which the easy ways of
village life had permitted Hillbrook's foremost citizen
to carry home from the store was not there.
'Are you quite sure, Alvan?'
'My dear, do you suppose a man does not know
when he is carrying a jug? I bought that syrup at
Deemer's as I was passing. Deemer himself drew it
and lent me the jug, and I--'
The sentence remains to this day unfinished. Mr.
Creede staggered into the house, entered the parlour
and dropped into an arm-chair, trembling in every
limb. He had suddenly remembered that Silas
Deemer was three weeks dead.
Mrs. Creede stood by her husband, regarding
him with surprise and anxiety.
'For Heaven's sake,' she said, 'what ails you?'
Mr. Creede's ailment having no obvious relation
to the interests of the better land he did not apparently
deem it necessary to expound it on that demand;
he said nothing--merely stared. There were
long moments of silence broken by nothing but the
measured ticking of the clock, which seemed somewhat
slower than usual, as if it were civilly granting
them an extension of time in which to recover their
'Jane, I have gone mad--that is it.' He spoke
thickly and hurriedly. 'You should have told me;
you must have observed my symptoms before they
became so pronounced that I have observed them
myself. I thought I was passing Deemer's store; it
was open and lit up--that is what I thought; of
course it is never open now. Silas Deemer stood at
his desk behind the counter. My God, Jane, I saw
him as distinctly as I see you. Remembering that
you had said you wanted some maple syrup, I went
in and bought some--that is all--I bought two
quarts of maple syrup from Silas Deemer, who is
dead and underground, but nevertheless drew that
syrup from a cask and handed it to me in a jug. He
talked with me, too, rather gravely, I remember,
even more so than was his way, but not a word of
what he said can I now recall. But I saw him--
good Lord, I saw and talked with him--and he
is dead So I thought, but I'm mad, Jane, I'm
as crazy as a beetle; and you have kept it from
This monologue gave the woman time to collect
what faculties she had.
'Alvan,' she said, 'you have given no evidence of
insanity, believe me. This was undoubtedly an illusion
--how should it be anything else? That would
be too terrible! But there is no insanity; you are
working too hard at the bank. You should not have
attended the meeting of directors this evening; anyone
could see that you were ill; I knew something
It may have seemed to him that the prophecy
had lagged a bit, awaiting the event, but he said
nothing of that, being concerned with his own condition.
He was calm now, and could think coherently.
'Doubtless the phenomenon was subjective,' he
said, with a somewhat ludicrous transition to the
slang of science. 'Granting the possibility of spiritual
apparition and even materialization, yet the apparition
and materialization of a half-gallon brown clay
jug--a piece of coarse, heavy pottery evolved from
nothing--that is hardly thinkable.'
As he finished speaking, a child ran into the room
--his little daughter. She was clad in a bedgown.
Hastening to her father she threw her arms about
his neck, saying: 'You naughty papa, you forgot
to come in and kiss me. We heard you open the
gate and got up and looked out. And, papa dear,
Eddy says mayn't he have the little jug when it is
As the full import of that revelation imparted itself
to Alvan Creede's understanding he visibly
shuddered. For the child could not have heard a
word of the conversation.
The estate of Silas Deemer being in the hands of
an administrator who had thought it best to dispose
of the 'business,' the store had been closed ever
since the owner's death, the goods having been
removed by another 'merchant' who had purchased
them en bloc. The rooms above were vacant as well,
for the widow and daughters had gone to another
On the evening immediately after Alvan Creede's
adventure (which had somehow 'got out') a crowd
of men, women and children thronged the sidewalk
opposite the store. That the place was haunted by
the spirit of the late Silas Deemer was now well
known to every resident of Hillbrook, though many
affected disbelief. Of these the hardiest, and in a
general way the youngest, threw stones against the
front of the building, the only part accessible, but
carefully missed the unshuttered windows. Incredulity
had not grown to malice. A few venturesome
souls crossed the street and rattled the door in its
frame; struck matches and held them near the window;
attempted to view the black interior. Some of
the spectators invited attention to their wit by
shouting and groaning and challenging the ghost
to a foot-race.
After a considerable time had elapsed without
any manifestation, and many of the crowd had gone
away, all those remaining began to observe that the
interior of the store was suffused with a dim, yellow
light. At this all demonstrations ceased; the intrepid
souls about the door and windows fell back to the
opposite side of the street and were merged in the
crowd; the small boys ceased throwing stones. Nobody
spoke above his breath; all whispered excitedly
and pointed to the now steadily growing
light. How long a time had passed since the first
faint glow had been observed none could have
guessed, but eventually the illumination was bright
enough to reveal the whole interior of the store; and
there, standing at his desk behind the counter Silas
Deemer was distinctly visible!
The effect upon the crowd was marvellous. It began
rapidly to melt away at both flanks, as the
timid left the place. Many ran as fast as their legs
would let them; others moved off with greater dignity,
turning occasionally to look backward over
the shoulder. At last a score or more, mostly men,
remained where they were, speechless, staring,
excited. The apparition inside gave them no attention;
it was apparently occupied with a book of
Presently three men left the crowd on the sidewalk
as if by a common impulse and crossed the
street. One of them, a heavy man, was about to set
his shoulder against the door when it opened, apparently
without human agency, and the courageous
investigators passed in. No sooner had they crossed
the threshold than they were seen by the awed
observers outside to be acting in the most unaccountable
way. They thrust out their hands before them,
pursued devious courses, came into violent collision
with the counter, with boxes and barrels on the floor,
and with one another. They turned awkwardly
hither and thither and seemed trying to escape, but
unable to retrace their steps. Their voices were heard
in exclamations and curses. But in no way did the
apparition of Silas Deemer manifest an interest in
what was going on.
By what impulse the crowd was moved none ever
recollected, but the entire mass--men, women,
children, dogs--made a simultaneous and tumultuous
rush for the entrance. They congested the
doorway, pushing for precedence--resolving themselves
at length into a line and moving up step
by step. By some subtle spiritual or physical
alchemy observation had been transmuted into
action--the sightseers had become participants
in the spectacle--the audience had usurped the
To the only spectator remaining on the other
side of the street--Alvan Creede, the banker--
the interior of the store with its inpouring crowd
continued in full illumination; all the strange things
going on there were clearly visible. To those inside
all was black darkness. It was as if each person as he
was thrust in at the door had been stricken blind,
and was maddened by the mischance. They groped
with aimless imprecision, tried to force their way
out against the current, pushed and elbowed, struck
at random, fell and were trampled, rose and trampled
in their turn. They seized one another by the garments,
the hair, the beard--fought like animals,
cursed, shouted, called one another opprobrious and
obscene names. When, finally, Alvan Creede
had seen the last person of the line pass into that
awful tumult the light that had illuminated it was
suddenly quenched and all was as black to him
as to those within. He turned away and left the
In the early morning a curious crowd had gathered
about 'Deemer's.' It was composed partly of
those who had run away the night before, but now
had the courage of sunshine, partly of honest folk
going to their daily toil. The door of the store stood
open; the place was vacant, but on the walls, the
floor, the furniture, were shreds of clothing and tangles
of hair. Hillbrook militant had managed somehow
to pull itself out and had gone home to medicine
its hurts and swear that it had been all night in
bed. On the dusty desk, behind the counter, was the
sales book. The entries in it, in Deemer's handwriting,
had ceased on the 16th day of July, the last of
his life. There was no record of a later sale to Alvan
That is the entire story--except that men's passions
having subsided and reason having resumed
its immemorial sway, it was confessed in Hillbrook
that, considering the harmless and honourable character
of his first commercial transaction under the
new conditions, Silas Deemer, deceased, might
properly have been suffered to resume business at
the old stand without mobbing. In that judgment
the local historian from whose unpublished work
these facts are compiled had the thoughtfulness to
signify his concurrence.
STALEY FLEMING'S HALLUCINATION
OF two men who were talking one was a physician.
'I sent for you, Doctor,' said the other, 'but I
don't think you can do me any good. Maybe you
can recommend a specialist in psychopathy. I fancy
I'm a bit loony.'
'You look all right,' the physician said.
'You shall judge--I have hallucinations. I wake
every night and see in my room, intently watching
me, a big black Newfoundland dog with a white
'You say you wake; are you sure about that?
"Hallucinations" are sometimes only dreams.'
'Oh, I wake all right. Sometimes I lie still a long
time, looking at the dog as earnestly as the dog
looks at me--I always leave the light going. When
I can't endure it any longer I sit up in bed--and
nothing is there!
''M, 'm--what is the beast's expression?'
'It seems to me sinister. Of course I know that,
except in art, an animal's face in repose has always
the same expression. But this is not a real animal.
Newfoundland dogs are pretty mild looking, you
know; what's the matter with this one?"
'Really, my diagnosis would have no value: I am
not going to treat the dog.'
The physician laughed at his own pleasantry, but
narrowly watched his patient from the corner of his
eye. Presently he said: 'Fleming, your description
of the beast fits the dog of the late Atwell Barton.'
Fleming half rose from his chair, sat again and
made a visible attempt at indifference. 'I remember
Barton,' he said; 'I believe he was--it was reported
that--wasn't there something suspicious in
Looking squarely now into the eyes of his patient,
the physician said: 'Three years ago the body of
your old enemy, Atwell Barton, was found in the
woods near his house and yours. He had been
stabbed to death. There have been no arrests; there
was no clue. Some of us had "theories." I had one.
'I? Why, bless your soul, what could I know
about it? You remember that I left for Europe almost
immediately afterward--a considerable time afterward.
In the few weeks since my return you could
not expect me to construct a "theory." In fact, I have
not given the matter a thought. What about his
'It was first to find the body. It died of starvation
on his grave.'
We do not know the inexorable law underlying
coincidences. Staley Fleming did not, or he would
perhaps not have sprung to his feet as the night
wind brought in through the open window the long
wailing howl of a distant dog. He strode several
times across the room in the steadfast gaze of the
physician; then, abruptly confronting him, almost
shouted: 'What has all this to do with my trouble,
Dr. Halderman? You forget why you were sent for.'
Rising, the physician laid his hand upon his patient'
s arm and said, gently: 'Pardon me. I cannot
diagnose your disorder offhand--to-morrow, perhaps.
Please go to bed, leaving your door unlocked;
I will pass the night here with your books. Can you
call me without rising?"
'Yes, there is an electric bell.'
'Good. If anything disturbs you push the button
without sitting up. Good night.'
Comfortably installed in an arm-chair the man of
medicine stared into the glowing coals and thought
deeply and long, but apparently to little purpose,
for he frequently rose and opening a door leading to
the staircase, listened intently; then resumed his
seat. Presently, however, he fell asleep, and when
he woke it was past midnight. He stirred the failing
fire, lifted a book from the table at his side and
looked at the title. It was Denneker's Meditations.
He opened it at random and began to read:
'Forasmuch as it is ordained of God that all flesh
hath spirit and thereby taketh on spiritual powers,
so, also, the spirit hath powers of the flesh, even
when it is gone out of the flesh and liveth as a thing
apart, as many a violence performed by wraith and
lemure sheweth. And there be who say that man is
not single in this, but the beasts have the like evil
The reading was interrupted by a shaking of the
house, as by the fall of a heavy object. The reader
flung down the book, rushed from the room and
mounted the stairs to Fleming's bed-chamber. He
tried the door, but contrary to his instructions it was
locked. He set his shoulder against it with such
force that it gave way. On the floor near the disordered
bed, in his night-clothes, lay Fleming, gasping
away his life.
The physician raised the dying man's head from
the floor and observed a wound in the throat. 'I
should have thought of this,' he said, believing it
When the man was dead an examination disclosed
the unmistakable marks of an animal's fangs deeply
sunken into the jugular vein.
But there was no animal.
A RESUMED IDENTITY
- The Review as a Form of Welcome
ONE summer night a man stood on a low hill overlooking
a wide expanse of forest and field. By the
full moon hanging low in the west he knew what
he might not have known otherwise: that it was
near the hour of dawn. A light mist lay along the
earth, partly veiling the lower features of the landscape,
but above it the taller trees showed in welldefined
masses against a clear sky. Two or three
farmhouses were visible through the haze, but in
none of them, naturally, was a light. Nowhere, indeed,
was any sign or suggestion of life except the
barking of a distant dog, which, repeated with mechanical
iteration, served rather to accentuate than
dispel the loneliness of the scene.
The man looked curiously about him on all sides,
as one who among familiar surroundings is unable
to determine his exact place and part in the scheme
of things. It is so, perhaps, that we shall act when,
risen from the dead, we await the call to judgment.
A hundred yards away was a straight road, showing
white in the moonlight. Endeavouring to orient
himself, as a surveyor or navigator might say, the
man moved his eyes slowly along its visible length
and at a distance of a quarter-mile to the south of
his station saw, dim and grey in the haze, a group
of horsemen riding to the north. Behind them were
men afoot, marching in column, with dimly gleaming
rifles aslant above their shoulders. They moved
slowly and in silence. Another group of horsemen,
another regiment of infantry, another and another
--all in unceasing motion toward the man's point
of view, past it, and beyond. A battery of artillery
followed, the cannoneers riding with folded arms
on limber and caisson. And still the interminable
procession came out of the obscurity to south and
passed into the obscurity to north, with never a
sound of voice, nor hoof, nor wheel.
The man could not rightly understand: he thought
himself deaf; said so, and heard his own voice, although
it had an unfamiliar quality that almost
alarmed him; it disappointed his ear's expectancy in
the matter of timbre and resonance. But he was not
deaf, and that for the moment sufficed.
Then he remembered that there are natural phenomena
to which some one has given the name
'acoustic shadows.' If you stand in an acoustic
shadow there is one direction from which you will
hear nothing. At the battle of Gaines's Mill, one of
the fiercest conflicts of the Civil War, with a
hundred guns in play, spectators a mile and a half
away on the opposite side of the Chickahominy Valley
heard nothing of what they clearly saw. The
bombardment of Port Royal, heard and felt at St.
Augustine, a hundred and fifty miles to the south,
was inaudible two miles to the north in a still atmosphere.
A few days before the surrender at Appomattox
a thunderous engagement between the
commands of Sheridan and Pickett was unknown to
the latter commander, a mile in the rear of his own
These instances were not known to the man of
whom we write, but less striking ones of the same
character had not escaped his observation. He was
profoundly disquieted, but for another reason than
the uncanny silence of that moonlight march.
'Good Lord! ' he said to himself--and again it
was as if another had spoken his thought--'if those
people are what I take them to be we have lost the
battle and they are moving on Nashville!'
Then came a thought of self--an apprehension
--a strong sense of personal peril, such as in another
we call fear. He stepped quickly into the
shadow of a tree. And still the silent battalions
moved slowly forward in the haze.
The chill of a sudden breeze upon the back of
his neck drew his attention to the quarter whence
it came, and turning to the east he saw a faint grey
light along the horizon--the first sign of returning
day. This increased his apprehension.
'I must get away from here,' he thought, 'or I
shall be discovered and taken.'
He moved out of the shadow, walking rapidly
toward the greying east. From the safer seclusion of
a clump of cedars he looked back. The entire column
had passed out of sight: the straight white road lay
bare and desolate in the moonlight!
Puzzled before, he was now inexpressibly astonished.
So swift a passing of so slow an army!--he
could not comprehend it. Minute after minute
passed unnoted; he had lost his sense of time. He
sought with a terrible earnestness a solution of the
mystery, but sought in vain. When at last he roused
himself from his abstraction the sun's rim was visible
above the hills, but in the new conditions he
found no other light than that of day; his understanding
was involved as darkly in doubt as before.
On every side lay cultivated fields showing no
sign of war and war's ravages. From the chimneys
of the farmhouses thin ascensions of blue smoke
signalled preparations for a day's peaceful toil. Having
stilled its immemorial allocution to the moon, the
watch-dog was assisting a negro who, prefixing a
team of mules to the plough, was flatting and sharping
contentedly at his task. The hero of this tale
stared stupidly at the pastoral picture as if he had
never seen such a thing in all his life; then he put his
hand to his head, passed it through his hair and,
withdrawing it, attentively considered the palm--a
singular thing to do. Apparently reassured by the
act, he walked confidently toward the road.
2: When You have Lost Your Life Consult a Physician
Dr. Stilling Malson, of Murfreesboro, having visited
a patient six or seven miles away, on the Nashville
road, had remained with him all night. At daybreak
he set out for home on horseback, as was the
custom of doctors of the time and region. He had
passed into the neighbourhood of Stone's River battlefield
when a man approached him from the roadside
and saluted in the military fashion, with a
movement of the right hand to the hat-brim. But the
hat was not a military hat, the man was not in uniform
and had not a martial bearing. The doctor
nodded civilly, half thinking that the stranger's uncommon
greeting was perhaps in deference to the
historic surroundings. As the stranger evidently desired
speech with him he courteously reined in his
horse and waited.
'Sir,' said the stranger, 'although a civilian, you
are perhaps an enemy.'
'I am a physician,' was the non-committal reply.
'Thank you,' said the other. 'I am a lieutenant,
of the staff of General Hazen.' He paused a moment
and looked sharply at the person whom he was
addressing, then added, 'Of the Federal army.'
The physician merely nodded.
'Kindly tell me,' continued the other, 'what has
happened here. Where are the armies? Which has
won the battle?'
The physician regarded his questioner curiously
with half-shut eyes. After a professional scrutiny,
prolonged to the limit of politeness, 'Pardon
me,' he said; 'one asking information should be
willing to impart it. Are you wounded?' he added,
'Not seriously--it seems.'
The man removed the unmilitary hat, put his
hand to his head, passed it through his hair and,
withdrawing it, attentively considered the palm.
'I was struck by a bullet and have been unconscious.
It must have been a light, glancing blow: I
find no blood and feel no pain. I will not trouble you
for treatment, but will you kindly direct me to my
command--to any part of the Federal army--if
Again the doctor did not immediately reply: he
was recalling much that is recorded in the books of
his profession--something about lost identity and
the effect of familiar scenes in restoring it. At length
he looked the man in the face, smiled, and said:
'Lieutenant, you are not wearing the uniform of
your rank and service.'
At this the man glanced down at his civilian attire,
lifted his eyes, and said with hesitation:
'That is true. I--I don't quite understand.'
Still regarding him sharply but not unsympathetically,
the man of science bluntly inquired:
'How old are you?'
'Twenty-three--if that has anything to do
'You don't look it; I should hardly have guessed
you to be just that.'
The man was growing impatient. 'We need not
discuss that,' he said: 'I want to know about the
army. Not two hours ago I saw a column of troops
moving northward on this road. You must have met
them. Be good enough to tell me the colour of their
clothing, which I was unable to make out, and I'll
trouble you no more.'
'You are quite sure that you saw them?'
'Sure? My God, sir, I could have counted them!'
'Why, really,' said the physician, with an amusing
consciousness of his own resemblance to the loquacious
barber of the Arabian Nights, 'this is very interesting.
I met no troops.'
The man looked at him coldly, as if he had himself
observed the likeness to the barber. 'It is plain,' he
said, 'that you do not care to assist me. Sir, you
may go to the devil!'
He turned and strode away, very much at random,
across the dewy fields, his half-penitent tormentor
quietly watching him from his point of vantage
in the saddle till he disappeared beyond an
array of trees.
3: The Danger of Looking into a Pool of Water
After leaving the road the man slackened his pace,
and now went forward, rather deviously, with a distinct
feeling of fatigue. He could not account for
this, though truly the interminable loquacity of that
country doctor offered itself in explanation. Seating
himself upon a rock, he laid one hand upon his
knee, back upward, and casually looked at it. It was
lean and withered. He lifted both hands to his face.
It was seamed and furrowed; he could trace the lines
with the tips of his fingers. How strange!--a mere
bullet-stroke and a brief unconsciousness should not
make one a physical wreck.
'I must have been a long time in hospital,' he
said aloud. 'Why, what a fool I am! The battle was
in December, and it is now summer!' He laughed.
'No wonder that fellow thought me an escaped lunatic.
He was wrong: I am only an escaped patient.'
At a little distance a small plot of ground enclosed
by a stone wall caught his attention. With no very
definite intent he rose and went to it. In the centre
was a square, solid monument of hewn stone. It
was brown with age, weather-worn at the angles,
spotted with moss and lichen. Between the massive
blocks were strips of grass the leverage of whose roots
had pushed them apart. In answer to the challenge of
this ambitious structure Time had laid his destroying
hand upon it, and it would soon be 'one with
Nineveh and Tyre.' In an inscription on one side
his eye caught a familiar name. Shaking with excitement,
he craned his body across the wall and
The Memory of Its Soldiers
who fell at
Stone River, Dec. 31, 1862.
The man fell back from the wall, faint and sick.
Almost within an arm's length was a little depression
in the earth; it had been filled by a recent rain--a
pool of clear water. He crept to it to revive himself,
lifted the upper part of his body on his trembling
arms, thrust forward his head and saw the reflection
of his face, as in a mirror. He uttered a terrible cry.
His arms gave way; he fell, face downward, into
the pool and yielded up the life that had spanned
A BABY TRAMP
IF YOU had seen little Jo standing at the street corner
in the rain, you would hardly have admired him. It
was apparently an ordinary autumn rainstorm, but
the water which fell upon Jo (who was hardly old
enough to be either just or unjust, and so perhaps
did not come under the law of impartial distribution)
appeared to have some property peculiar to
itself: one would have said it was dark and adhesive
--sticky. But that could hardly be so, even in Blackburg,
where things certainly did occur that were a
good deal out of the common.
For example, ten or twelve years before, a shower
of small frogs had fallen, as is credibly attested by a
contemporaneous chronicle, the record concluding
with a somewhat obscure statement to the effect that
the chronicler considered it good growing-weather for
Some years later Blackburg had a fall of crimson
snow; it is cold in Blackburg when winter is on, and
the snows are frequent and deep. There can be no
doubt of it--the snow in this instance was of the
colour of blood and melted into water of the same
hue, if water it was, not blood. The phenomenon
had attracted wide attention, and science had as
many explanations as there were scientists who knew
nothing about it. But the men of Blackburg--men
who for many years had lived right there where the
red snow fell, and might be supposed to know a
good deal about the matter--shook their heads and
said something would come of it.
And something did, for the next summer was
made memorable by the prevalence of a mysterious
disease--epidemic, endemic, or the Lord knows
what, though the physicians didn't--which carried
away a full half of the population. Most of the other
half carried themselves away and were slow to return,
but finally came back, and were now increasing
and multiplying as before, but Blackburg had not
since been altogether the same.
Of quite another kind, though equally 'out of the
common,' was the incident of Hetty Parlow's ghost.
Hetty Parlow's maiden name had been Brownon,
and in Blackburg that meant more than one would
The Brownons had from time immemorial--from
the very earliest of the old colonial days--been the
leading family of the town. It was the richest and it
was the best, and Blackburg would have shed the
last drop of its plebeian blood in defence of the
Brownon fair fame. As few of the family's members
had ever been known to live permanently
away from Blackburg, although most of them were
educated elsewhere and nearly all had travelled, there
was quite a number of them. The men held most of
the public offices, and the women were foremost in
all good works. Of these latter, Hetty was most beloved
by reason of the sweetness of her disposition,
the purity of her character and her singular personal
beauty. She married in Boston a young scapegrace
named Parlow, and like a good Brownon
brought him to Blackburg forthwith and made a
man and a town councillor of him. They had a child
which they named Joseph and dearly loved, as was
then the fashion among parents in all that region.
Then they died of the mysterious disorder already
mentioned, and at the age of one whole year Joseph
set up as an orphan.
Unfortunately for Joseph the disease which had
cut off his parents did not stop at that; it went on
and extirpated nearly the whole Brownon contingent
and its allies by marriage; and those who fled did
not return. The tradition was broken, the Brownon
estates passed into alien hands, and the only
Brownons remaining in that place were underground
in Oak Hill Cemetery, where, indeed, was a colony
of them powerful enough to resist the encroachment
of surrounding tribes and hold the best part of the
grounds. But about the ghost:
One night, about three years after the death of
Hetty Parlow, a number of the young people of
Blackburg were passing Oak Hill Cemetery in a
wagon--if you have been there you will remember
that the road to Greenton runs alongside it on the
south. They had been attending a May Day festival
at Greenton; and that serves to fix the date. Altogether
there may have been a dozen, and a jolly
party they were, considering the legacy of gloom left
by the town's recent sombre experiences. As they
passed the cemetery the man driving suddenly reined
in his team with an exclamation of surprise. It was
sufficiently surprising, no doubt, for just ahead, and
almost at the roadside, though inside the cemetery,
stood the ghost of Hetty Parlow. There could be
no doubt of it, for she had been personally known
to every youth and maiden in the party. That established
the thing's identity; its character as ghost
was signified by all the customary signs--the
shroud, the long, undone hair, the 'far-away look'
--everything. This disquieting apparition was
stretching out its arms toward the west, as if in
supplication for the evening star, which, certainly,
was an alluring object, though obviously out of
reach. As they all sat silent (so the story goes) every
member of that party of merrymakers--they had
merrymade on coffee and lemonade only--distinctly
heard that ghost call the name 'Joey, Joey!' A moment
later nothing was there. Of course one does not
have to believe all that.
Now, at that moment, as was afterward ascertained,
Joey was wandering about in the sagebrush
on the opposite side of the continent, near Winnemucca,
in the State of Nevada. He had been taken
to that town by some good persons distantly related
to his dead father, and by them adopted and tenderly
cared for. But on that evening the poor child
had strayed from home and was lost in the desert.
His after history is involved in obscurity and has
gaps which conjecture alone can fill. It is known that
he was found by a family of Piute Indians, who kept
the little wretch with them for a time and then sold
him--actually sold him for money to a woman on
one of the east-bound trains, at a station a long
way from Winnemucca. The woman professed to
have made all manner of inquiries, but all in vain:
so, being childless and a widow, she adopted him
herself. At this point of his career Jo seemed to be
getting a long way from the condition of orphanage;
the interposition of a multitude of parents between
himself and that woeful state promised him a long
immunity from its disadvantages.
Mrs. Darnell, his newest mother, lived in Cleveland,
Ohio. But her adopted son did not long remain
with her. He was seen one afternoon by a policeman,
new to that beat, deliberately toddling away
from her house, and being questioned answered that
he was 'a doin' home.' He must have travelled by
rail, somehow, for three days later he was in the
town of Whiteville, which, as you know, is a long
way from Blackburg. His clothing was in pretty fair
condition, but he was sinfully dirty. Unable to give
any account of himself he was arrested as a vagrant
and sentenced to imprisonment in the Infants' Sheltering
Home--where he was washed.
Jo ran away from the Infants' Sheltering Home
at Whiteville--just took to the woods one day,
and the Home knew him no more for ever.
We find him next, or rather get back to him, standing
forlorn in the cold autumn rain at a suburban
street corner in Blackburg; and it seems right to
explain now that the raindrops falling upon him
there were really not dark and gummy; they only
failed to make his face and hands less so. Jo was
indeed fearfully and wonderfully besmirched, as by
the hand of an artist. And the forlorn little tramp
had no shoes; his feet were bare, red, and swollen,
and when he walked he limped with both legs. As
to clothing--ah, you would hardly have had the
skill to name any single garment that he wore, or
say by what magic he kept it upon him. That he
was cold all over and all through did not admit of a
doubt; he knew it himself. Anyone would have been
cold there that evening; but, for that reason, no one
else was there. How Jo came to be there himself, he
could not for the flickering little life of him have
told, even if gifted with a vocabulary exceeding a
hundred words. From the way he stared about him
one could have seen that he had not the faintest notion
of where (nor why) he was.
Yet he was not altogether a fool in his day and
generation; being cold and hungry, and still able to
walk a little by bending his knees very much indeed
and putting his feet down toes first, he decided to
enter one of the houses which flanked the street at
long intervals and looked so bright and warm. But
when he attempted to act upon that very sensible decision
a burly dog came browsing out and disputed
his right. Inexpressibly frightened, and believing,
no doubt (with some reason, too), that brutes without
meant brutality within, he hobbled away from
all the houses, and with grey, wet fields to right of
him and grey, wet fields to left of him--with the
rain half blinding him and the night coming in mist
and darkness, held his way along the road that
leads to Greenton. That is to say, the road leads
those to Greenton who succeed in passing the Oak
Hill Cemetery. A considerable number every year
Jo did not.
They found him there the next morning, very wet,
very cold, but no longer hungry. He had apparently
entered the cemetery gate--hoping, perhaps, that it
led to a house where there was no dog--and gone
blundering about in the darkness, falling over many
a grave, no doubt, until he had tired of it all and
given up. The little body lay upon one side, with one
soiled cheek upon one soiled hand, the other hand
tucked away among the rags to make it warm, the
other cheek washed clean and white at last, as for
a kiss from one of God's great angels. It was observed
--though nothing was thought of it at the
time, the body being as yet unidentified--that the
little fellow was lying upon the grave of Hetty Parlow.
The grave, however, had not opened to receive
him. That is a circumstance which, without
actual irreverence, one may wish had been ordered
THE NIGHT-DOINGS AT 'DEADMAN'S'
A Story that is Untrue
IT was a singularly sharp night, and clear as the
heart of a diamond. Clear nights have a trick of being
keen. In darkness you may be cold and not
know it; when you see, you suffer. This night was
bright enough to bite like a serpent. The moon was
moving mysteriously along behind the giant pines
crowning the South Mountain, striking a cold
sparkle from the crusted snow, and bringing out
against the black west and ghostly outlines of the
Coast Range, beyond which lay the invisible Pacific.
The snow had piled itself, in the open spaces
along the bottom of the gulch, into long ridges that
seemed to heave, and into hills that appeared to
toss and scatter spray. The spray was sunlight, twice
reflected: dashed once from the moon, once from the
In this snow many of the shanties of the abandoned
mining camp were obliterated (a sailor might
have said they had gone down), and at irregular intervals
it had overtopped the tall trestles which had
once supported a river called a flume; for, of course,
'flume' is flumen. Among the advantages of which
the mountains cannot deprive the gold-hunter is the
privilege of speaking Latin. He says of his dead
neighbour, 'He has gone up the flume.' This is not
a bad way to say, 'His life has returned to the
Fountain of Life.'
While putting on its armour against the assaults of
the wind, this snow had neglected no coign of vantage.
Snow pursued by the wind is not wholly unlike
a retreating army. In the open field it ranges itself
in ranks and battalions; where it can get a foothold
it makes a stand; where it can take cover it does
so. You may see whole platoons of snow cowering
behind a bit of broken wall. The devious old road,
hewn out of the mountainside, was full of it. Squadron
upon squadron had struggled to escape by this
line, when suddenly pursuit had ceased. A more
desolate and dreary spot than Deadman's Gulch in
a winter midnight it is impossible to imagine. Yet
Mr. Hiram Beeson elected to live there, the sole
Away up the side of the North Mountain his little
pine-log shanty projected from its single pane of
glass a long, thin beam of light, and looked not
altogether unlike a black beetle fastened to the
hillside with a bright new pin. Within it sat Mr.
Beeson himself, before a roaring fire, staring into
its hot heart as if he had never before seen such a
thing in all his life. He was not a comely man. He
was grey; he was ragged and slovenly in his attire;
his face was wan and haggard; his eyes were too
bright. As to his age, if one had attempted to guess
it, one might have said forty-seven, then corrected
himself and said seventy-four. He was really twentyeight.
Emaciated he was; as much, perhaps, as he
dared be, with a needy undertaker at Bentley's Flat
and a new and enterprising coroner at Sonora. Poverty
and zeal are an upper and a nether millstone.
It is dangerous to make a third in that kind of
As Mr. Beeson sat there, with his ragged elbows
on his ragged knees, his lean jaws buried in his
lean hands, and with no apparent intention of going
to bed, he looked as if the slightest movement would
tumble him to pieces. Yet during the last hour he had
winked no fewer than three times.
There was a sharp rapping at the door. A rap at
that time of night and in that weather might have
surprised an ordinary mortal who had dwelt two
years in the gulch without seeing a human face, and
could not fail to know that the country was impassable;
but Mr. Beeson did not so much as pull his
eyes out of the coals. And even when the door was
pushed open he only shrugged a little more closely
into himself, as one does who is expecting something
that he would rather not see. You may observe
this movement in women when, in a mortuary chapel,
the coffin is borne up the aisle behind them.
But when a long old man in a blanket overcoat,
his head tied up in a handkerchief and nearly his
entire face in a muffler, wearing green goggles and
with a complexion of glittering whiteness where it
could be seen, strode silently into the room, laying a
hard, gloved hand on Mr. Beeson's shoulder, the latter
so far forgot himself as to look up with an appearance
of no small astonishment; whomever he
may have been expecting, he had evidently not
counted on meeting anyone like this. Nevertheless,
the sight of this unexpected guest produced in Mr.
Beeson the following sequence: a feeling of astonishment;
a sense of gratification; a sentiment of profound
good will. Rising from his seat, he took the
knotty hand from his shoulder, and shook it up and
down with a fervour quite unaccountable; for in
the old man's aspect was nothing to attract, much to
repel. However, attraction is too general a property
for repulsion to be without it. The most attractive
object in the world is the face we instinctively cover
with a cloth. When it becomes still more attractive
--fascinating--we put seven feet of earth above it.
'Sir,' said Mr. Beeson, releasing the old man's
hand, which fell passively against his thigh with a
quiet clack, 'it is an extremely disagreeable night.
Pray be seated; I am very glad to see you.'
Mr. Beeson spoke with an easy good breeding
that one would hardly have expected, considering
all things. Indeed, the contrast between his appearance
and his manner was sufficiently surprising to be
one of the commonest of social phenomena in the
mines. The old man advanced a step toward the
fire, glowing cavernously in the green goggles. Mr.
'You bet your life I am!'
Mr. Beeson's elegance was not too refined; it had
made reasonable concessions to local taste. He
paused a moment, letting his eyes drop from the
muffled head of his guest, down along the row of
mouldy buttons confining the blanket overcoat, to
the greenish cowhide boots powdered with snow,
which had begun to melt and run along the floor in
little rills. He took an inventory of his guest, and appeared
satisfied. Who would not have been? Then he
'The cheer I can offer you is, unfortunately, in
keeping with my surroundings; but I shall esteem
myself highly favoured if it is your pleasure to
partake of it, rather than seek better at Bentley's
With a singular refinement of hospitable humility
Mr. Beeson spoke as if a sojourn in his warm
cabin on such a night, as compared with walking fourteen
miles up to the throat in snow with a cutting
crust, would be an intolerable hardship. By way of
reply, his guest unbuttoned the blanket overcoat.
The host laid fresh fuel on the fire, swept the hearth
with the tail of a wolf, and added:
'But I think you'd better skedaddle.'
The old man took a seat by the fire, spreading his
broad soles to the heat without removing his hat. In
the mines the hat is seldom removed except when
the boots are. Without further remark Mr. Beeson
also seated himself in a chair which had been a barrel,
and which, retaining much of its original character,
seemed to have been designed with a view
to preserving his dust if it should please him to
crumble. For a moment there was silence; then, from
somewhere among the pines, came the snarling yelp
of a coyote; and simultaneously the door rattled in
its frame. There was no other connection between
the two incidents than that the coyote has an aversion
to storms, and the wind was rising; yet there
seemed somehow a kind of supernatural conspiracy
between the two, and Mr. Beeson shuddered with a
vague sense of terror. He recovered himself in a
moment and again addressed his guest.
'There are strange doings here. I will tell you
everything, and then if you decide to go I shall hope
to accompany you over the worst of the way; as far
as where Baldy Peterson shot Ben Hike--I dare
say you know the place.'
The old man nodded emphatically, as intimating
not merely that he did, but that he did indeed.
'Two years ago,' began Mr. Beeson, 'I, with two
companions, occupied this house; but when the rush
to the Flat occurred we left, along with the rest.
In ten hours the gulch was deserted. That evening,
however, I discovered I had left behind me a valuable
pistol (that is it) and returned for it, passing
the night here alone, as I have passed every night
since. I must explain that a few days before we left,
our Chinese domestic had the misfortune to die
while the ground was frozen so hard that it was impossible
to dig a grave in the usual way. So, on the
day of our hasty departure, we cut through the floor
there, and gave him such burial as we could. But
before putting him down I had the extremely bad
taste to cut off his pigtail and spike it to that beam
above his grave, where you may see it at this moment,
or, preferably, when warmth has given you
leisure for observation.
'I stated, did I not, that the Chinaman came to
his death from natural causes? I had, of course, nothing
to do with that, and returned through no irresistible
attraction, or morbid fascination, but only because
I had forgotten a pistol. That is clear to you,
is it not, sir?'
The visitor nodded gravely. He appeared to be a
man of few words, if any. Mr. Beeson continued:
'According to the Chinese faith, a man is like a
kite: he cannot go to heaven without a tail. Well, to
shorten this tedious story--which, however, I
thought it my duty to relate--on that night, while
I was here alone and thinking of anything but him,
that Chinaman came back for his pigtail.
'He did not get it.'
At this point Mr. Beeson relapsed into blank silence.
Perhaps he was fatigued by the unwonted
exercise of speaking; perhaps he had conjured up a
memory that demanded his undivided attention. The
wind was now fairly abroad, and the pines along
the mountainside sang with singular distinctness.
The narrator continued:
'You say you do not see much in that, and I must
confess I do not myself.
'But he keeps coming!'
There was another long silence, during which both
stared into the fire without the movement of a limb.
Then Mr. Beeson broke out, almost fiercely, fixing
his eyes on what he could see of the impassive face of
'Give it him? Sir, in this matter I have no intention
of troubling anyone for advice. You will pardon
me, I am sure'--here he became singularly
persuasive--'but I have ventured to nail that pigtail
fast, and have assumed that somewhat onerous
obligation of guarding it. So it is quite impossible to
act on your considerate suggestion.
'Do you play me for a Modoc?'
Nothing could exceed the sudden ferocity with
which he thrust this indignant remonstrance into
the ear of his guest. It was as if he had struck him on
the side of the head with a steel gauntlet. It was a
protest, but it was a challenge. To be mistaken for
a coward--to be played for a Modoc: these two expressions
are one. Sometimes it is a Chinaman.
Do you play me for a Chinaman? is a question
frequently addressed to the ear of the suddenly
Mr. Beeson's buffet produced no effect, and after
a moment's pause, during which the wind thundered
in the chimney like the sound of clods upon a coffin,
'But, as you say, it is wearing me out. I feel
that the life of the last two years has been a mistake
--a mistake that corrects itself; you see how.
The grave! No; there is no one to dig it. The ground
is frozen, too. But you are very welcome. You may
say at Bentley's--but that is not important. It
was very tough to cut; they braid silk into their pigtails.
Mr. Beeson was speaking with his eyes shut, and
he wandered. His last word was a snore. A moment
later he drew a long breath, opened his eyes with
an effort, made a single remark, and fell into a deep
sleep. What he said was this:
'They are swiping my dust!'
Then the aged stranger, who had not uttered one
word since his arrival, arose from his seat and deliberately
laid off his outer clothing, looking as
angular in his flannels as the late Signorina Festorazzi,
an Irish woman, six feet in height, and weighing
fifty-six pounds, who used to exhibit herself in
her chemise to the people of San Francisco. He then
crept into one of the 'bunks,' having first placed a
revolver in easy reach, according to the custom of
the country. This revolver he took from a shelf, and
it was the one which Mr. Beeson had mentioned as
that for which he had returned to the gulch two
In a few moments Mr. Beeson awoke, and seeing
that his guest had retired he did likewise. But before
doing so he approached the long, plaited wisp
of pagan hair and gave it a powerful tug, to assure
himself that it was fast and firm. The two beds--
mere shelves covered with blankets not overclean--
faced each other from opposite sides of the room,
the little square trap-door that had given access to
the Chinaman's grave being midway between. This,
by the way, was crossed by a double row of spikeheads.
In his resistance to the supernatural, Mr.
Beeson had not disdained the use of material
The fire was now low, the flames burning bluely
and petulantly, with occasional flashes, projecting
spectral shadows on the walls--shadows that
moved mysteriously about, now dividing, now uniting.
The shadow of the pendent queue, however, kept
moodily apart, near the roof at the farther end of
the room, looking like a note of admiration. The
song of the pines outside had now risen to the dignity
of a triumphal hymn. In the pauses the silence was
It was during one of these intervals that the trap
in the floor began to lift. Slowly and steadily it rose,
and slowly and steadily rose the swaddled head of
the old man in the bunk to observe it. Then, with a
clap that shook the house to its foundation, it was
thrown clean back, where it lay with its unsightly
spikes pointing threateningly upward. Mr. Beeson
awoke, and without rising, pressed his fingers into
his eyes. He shuddered; his teeth chattered. His
guest was now reclining on one elbow, watching the
proceedings with the goggles that glowed like lamps.
Suddenly a howling gust of wind swooped down
the chimney, scattering ashes and smoke in all directions,
for a moment obscuring everything. When
the fire-light again illuminated the room there was
seen, sitting gingerly on the edge of a stool by the
hearth-side, a swarthy little man of prepossessing
appearance and dressed with faultless taste, nodding
to the old man with a friendly and engaging smile.
'From San Francisco, evidently,' thought Mr. Beeson,
who having somewhat recovered from his fright
was groping his way to a solution of the evening's
But now another actor appeared upon the scene.
Out of the square black hole in the middle of the
floor protruded the head of the departed Chinaman,
his glassy eyes turned upward in their angular slits
and fastened on the dangling queue above with a
look of yearning unspeakable. Mr. Beeson groaned,
and again spread his hands upon his face. A mild
odour of opium pervaded the place. The phantom,
clad only in a short blue tunic quilted and silken but
covered with grave-mould, rose slowly, as if pushed
by a weak spiral spring. Its knees were at the level
of the floor, when with a quick upward impulse like
the silent leaping of a flame it grasped the queue
with both hands, drew up its body and took the tip
in its horrible yellow teeth. To this it clung in a
seeming frenzy, grimacing ghastly, surging and
plunging from side to side in its efforts to disengage
its property from the beam, but uttering no sound.
It was like a corpse artificially convulsed by means
of a galvanic battery. The contrast between its superhuman
activity and its silence was no less than
Mr. Beeson cowered in his bed. The swarthy little
gentleman uncrossed his legs, beat an impatient
tattoo with the toe of his boot and consulted a heavy
gold watch. The old man sat erect and quietly laid
hold of the revolver.
Like a body cut from the gallows the Chinaman
plumped into the black hole below, carrying his tail
in his teeth. The trap-door turned over, shutting
down with a snap. The swarthy little gentleman
from San Francisco sprang nimbly from his perch,
caught something in the air with his hat, as a boy
catches a butterfly, and vanished into the chimney as
if drawn up by suction.
From away somewhere in the outer darkness
floated in through the open door a faint, far cry--a
long, sobbing wail, as of a child death-strangled in
the desert, or a lost soul borne away by the Adversary.
It may have been the coyote.
In the early days of the following spring a party
of miners on their way to new diggings passed along
the gulch, and straying through the deserted shanties
found in one of them the body of Hiram Beeson,
stretched upon a bunk, with a bullet hole through
the heart. The ball had evidently been fired from
the opposite side of the room, for in one of the oaken
beams overhead was a shallow blue dint, where it
had struck a knot and been deflected downward to
the breast of its victim. Strongly attached to the same
beam was what appeared to be an end of a rope of
braided horsehair, which had been cut by the bullet
in its passage to the knot. Nothing else of interest
was noted, excepting a suit of mouldy and incongruous
clothing, several articles of which were afterward
identified by respectable witnesses as those in
which certain deceased citizen's of Deadman's had
been buried years before. But it is not easy to understand
how that could be, unless, indeed, the garments
had been worn as a disguise by Death himself
--which is hardly credible.
BEYOND THE WALL
MANY years ago, on my way from Hong-Kong to
New York, I passed a week in San Francisco. A long
time had gone by since I had been in that city, during
which my ventures in the Orient had prospered
beyond my hope; I was rich and could afford to revisit
my own country to renew my friendship with
such of the companions of my youth as still lived
and remembered me with the old affection. Chief of
these, I hoped, was Mohun Dampier, an old school
mate with whom I had held a desultory correspondence
which had long ceased, as is the way of correspondence
between men. You may have observed
that the indisposition to write a merely social letter
is in the ratio of the square of the distance between
you and your correspondent. It is a law.
I remembered Dampier as a handsome, strong
young fellow of scholarly tastes, with an aversion to
work and a marked indifference to many of the things
that the world cares for, including wealth, of which,
however, he had inherited enough to put him beyond
the reach of want. In his family, one of the oldest and
most aristocratic in the country, it was, I think, a
matter of pride that no member of it had ever been
in trade nor politics, nor suffered any kind of distinction.
Mohun was a trifle sentimental, and had in
him a singular element of superstition, which led him
to the study of all manner of occult subjects, although
his sane mental health safeguarded him
against fantastic and perilous faiths. He made daring
incursions into the realm of the unreal without renouncing
his residence in the partly surveyed and
uncharted region of what we are pleased to call
The night of my visit to him was stormy. The
Californian winter was on, and the incessant rain
plashed in the deserted streets, or, lifted by irregular
gusts of wind, was hurled against the houses with
incredible fury. With no small difficulty my cabman
found the right place, away out toward the ocean
beach, in a sparsely populated suburb. The dwelling,
a rather ugly one, apparently, stood in the centre
of its grounds, which as nearly as I could make out
in the gloom were destitute of either flowers or grass.
Three or four trees, writhing and moaning in the
torment of the tempest, appeared to be trying to
escape from their dismal environment and take the
chance of finding a better one out at sea. The house
was a two-story brick structure with a tower, a story
higher, at one corner. In a window of that was the
only visible light. Something in the appearance of
the place made me shudder, a performance that
may have been assisted by a rill of rain-water down
my back as I scuttled to cover in the doorway.
In answer to my note apprising him of my wish
to call, Dampier had written, 'Don't ring--open the
door and come up.' I did so. The staircase was dimly
lighted by a single gas-jet at the top of the second
flight. I managed to reach the landing without disaster
and entered by an open door into the lighted
square room of the tower. Dampier came forward
in gown and slippers to receive me, giving me the
greeting that I wished, and if I had held a thought
that it might more fitly have been accorded me at
the front door the first look at him dispelled any
sense of his inhospitality.
He was not the same. Hardly past middle age, he
had gone grey and had acquired a pronounced stoop.
His figure was thin and angular, his face deeply
lined, his complexion dead-white, without a touch
of colour. His eyes, unnaturally large, glowed with
a fire that was almost uncanny.
He seated me, proffered a cigar, and with grave
and obvious sincerity assured me of the pleasure
that it gave him to meet me. Some unimportant
conversation followed, but all the while I was dominated
by a melancholy sense of the great change
in him. This he must have perceived, for he suddenly
said with a bright enough smile, 'You are
disappointed in me--non sum qualis eram.'
I hardly knew what to reply, but managed to
say: 'Why, really, I don't know: your Latin is about
He brightened again. 'No,' he said, 'being a dead
language, it grows in appropriateness. But please
have the patience to wait: where I am going there
is perhaps a better tongue. Will you care to have a
message in it?'
The smile faded as he spoke, and as he concluded
he was looking into my eyes with a gravity that
distressed me. Yet I would not surrender myself to
his mood, nor permit him to see how deeply his
prescience of death affected me.
'I fancy that it will be long,' I said, 'before human
speech will cease to serve our need; and then
the need, with its possibilities of service, will have
He made no reply, and I too was silent, for the
talk had taken a dispiriting turn, yet I knew not
how to give it a more agreeable character. Suddenly,
in a pause of the storm, when the dead silence was
almost startling by contrast with the previous uproar,
I heard a gentle tapping, which appeared to
come from the wall behind my chair. The sound was
such as might have been made by a human hand,
not as upon a door by one asking admittance, but
rather, I thought, as an agreed signal, an assurance
of some one's presence in an adjoining room; most
of us, I fancy, have had more experience of such
communications than we should care to relate. I
glanced at Dampier. If possibly there was something
of amusement in the look he did not observe it.
He appeared to have forgotten my presence, and
was staring at the wall behind me with an expression
in his eyes that I am unable to name, although my
memory of it is as vivid to-day as was my sense of
it then. The situation was embarrassing; I rose to
take my leave. At this he seemed to recover himself.
'Please be seated,' he said; 'it is nothing--no
one is there.'
But the tapping was repeated, and with the same
gentle, slow insistence as before.
'Pardon me,' I said, 'it is late. May I call tomorrow
He smiled--a little mechanically, I thought. 'It
is very delicate of you,' said he, 'but quite needless.
Really, this is the only room in the tower, and
no one is there. At least--' He left the sentence
incomplete, rose, and threw up a window, the only
opening in the wall from which the sound seemed to
Not clearly knowing what else to do I followed
him to the window and looked out. A street-lamp
some little distance away gave enough light through
the murk of the rain that was again falling in torrents
to make it entirely plain that 'no one was
there.' In truth there was nothing but the sheer
blank wall of the tower.
Dampier closed the window and signing me to
my seat resumed his own.
The incident was not in itself particularly mysterious;
any one of a dozen explanations was possible
(though none has occurred to me), yet it impressed
me strangely, the more, perhaps, from my
friend's effort to reassure me, which seemed to dignify
it with a certain significance and importance.
He had proved that no one was there, but in that fact
lay all the interest; and he proffered no explanation.
His silence was irritating and made me
'My good friend,' I said, somewhat ironically, I
fear, 'I am not disposed to question your right to
harbour as many spooks as you find agreeable to
your taste and consistent with your notions of companionship;
that is no business of mine. But being
just a plain man of affairs, mostly of this world, I
find spooks needless to my peace and comfort. I am
going to my hotel, where my fellow-guests are still
in the flesh.'
It was not a very civil speech, but he manifested
no feeling about it. 'Kindly remain,' he said. 'I am
grateful for your presence here. What you have
heard to-night I believe myself to have heard twice
before. Now I know it was no illusion. That is much
to me--more than you know. Have a fresh cigar
and a good stock of patience while I tell you the
The rain was now falling more steadily, with a
low, monotonous susurration, interrupted at long
intervals by the sudden slashing of the boughs of
the trees as the wind rose and failed. The night was
well advanced, but both sympathy and curiosity held
me a willing listener to my friend's monologue,
which I did not interrupt by a single word from beginning
'Ten years ago,' he said, 'I occupied a groundfloor
apartment in one of a row of houses, all alike,
away at the other end of the town, on what we call
Rincon Hill. This had been the best quarter of San
Francisco, but had fallen into neglect and decay,
partly because the primitive character of its domestic
architecture no longer suited the maturing tastes
of our wealthy citizens, partly because certain public
improvements had made a wreck of it. The row
of dwellings in one of which I lived stood a little
way back from the street, each having a miniature
garden, separated from its neighbours by low iron
fences and bisected with mathematical precision by
a box-bordered gravel walk from gate to door.
'One morning as I was leaving my lodging I observed
a young girl entering the adjoining garden
on the left. It was a warm day in June, and she was
lightly gowned in white. From her shoulders hung
a broad straw hat profusely decorated with flowers
and wonderfully beribboned in the fashion of the
time. My attention was not long held by the exquisite
simplicity of her costume, for no one could look
at her face and think of anything earthly. Do not
fear; I shall not profane it by description; it was
beautiful exceedingly. All that I had ever seen or
dreamed of loveliness was in that matchless living
picture by the hand of the Divine Artist. So deeply
did it move me that, without a thought of the impropriety
of the act, I unconsciously bared my head,
as a devout Catholic or well-bred Protestant uncovers
before an image of the Blessed Virgin. The
maiden showed no displeasure; she merely turned
her glorious dark eyes upon me with a look that
made me catch my breath, and without other recognition
of my act passed into the house. For a
moment I stood motionless, hat in hand, painfully
conscious of my rudeness, yet so dominated by the
emotion inspired by that vision of incomparable
beauty that my penitence was less poignant than it
should have been. Then I went my way, leaving my
heart behind. In the natural course of things I should
probably have remained away until nightfall, but by
the middle of the afternoon I was back in the little
garden, affecting an interest in the few foolish
flowers that I had never before observed. My hope
was vain; she did not appear.
'To a night of unrest succeeded a day of expectation
and disappointment, but on the day after, as
I wandered aimlessly about the neighbourhood, I
met her. Of course I did not repeat my folly of uncovering,
nor venture by even so much as too long
a look to manifest an interest in her; yet my heart
was beating audibly. I trembled and consciously
coloured as she turned her big black eyes upon me
with a look of obvious recognition entirely devoid of
boldness or coquetry.
'I will not weary you with particulars; many
times afterward I met the maiden, yet never either
addressed her or sought to fix her attention. Nor did
I take any action toward making her acquaintance.
Perhaps my forbearance, requiring so supreme an
effort of self-denial, will not be entirely clear to you.
That I was heels over head in love is true, but who
can overcome his habit of thought, or reconstruct his
'I was what some foolish persons are pleased to
call, and others, more foolish, are pleased to be
called--an aristocrat; and despite her beauty, her
charms and grace, the girl was not of my class. I
had learned her name--which it is needless to
speak--and something of her family. She was an
orphan, a dependent niece of the impossible elderly
fat woman in whose lodging-house she lived. My income
was small and I lacked the talent for marrying;
it is perhaps a gift. An alliance with that family
would condemn me to its manner of life, part
me from my books and studies, and in a social sense
reduce me to the ranks. It is easy to deprecate such
considerations as these and I have not retained myself
for the defence. Let judgment be entered against
me, but in strict justice all my ancestors for generations
should be made co-defendants and I be permitted
to plead in mitigation of punishment the
imperious mandate of heredity. To a mesalliance of
that kind every globule of my ancestral blood spoke
in opposition. In brief, my tastes, habits, instinct,
with whatever of reason my love had left me--all
fought against it. Moreover, I was an irreclaimable
sentimentalist, and found a subtle charm in an impersonal
and spiritual relation which acquaintance
might vulgarize and marriage would certainly dispel.
No woman, I argued, is what this lovely creature
seems. Love is a delicious dream; why should I
bring about my own awakening?
'The course dictated by all this sense and sentiment
was obvious. Honour, pride, prudence, preservation
of my ideals--all commanded me to go
away, but for that I was too weak. The utmost that
I could do by a mighty effort of will was to cease
meeting the girl, and that I did. I even avoided the
chance encounters of the garden, leaving my lodging
only when I knew that she had gone to her music
lessons, and returning after nightfall. Yet all the
while I was as one in a trance, indulging the most
fascinating fancies and ordering my entire intellectual
life in accordance with my dream. Ah, my
friend, as one whose actions have a traceable relation
to reason, you cannot know the fool's paradise
in which I lived.
'One evening the devil put it into my head to be
an unspeakable idiot. By apparently careless and
purposeless questioning I learned from my gossipy
landlady that the young woman's bedroom adjoined
my own, a party-wall between. Yielding to a sudden
and coarse impulse I gently rapped on the wall.
There was no response, naturally, but I was in no
mood to accept a rebuke. A madness was upon me
and I repeated the folly, the offence, but again ineffectually,
and I had the decency to desist.
'An hour later, while absorbed in some of my infernal
studies, I heard, or thought I heard, my signal
answered. Flinging down my books I sprang to the
wall and as steadily as my beating heart would permit
gave three slow taps upon it. This time the response
was distinct, unmistakable: one, two, three
--an exact repetition of my signal. That was all I
could elicit, but it was enough--too much.
'The next evening, and for many evenings afterward,
that folly went on, I always having "the last
word." During the whole period I was deliriously
happy, but with the perversity of my nature I persevered
in my resolution not to see her. Then, as I
should have expected, I got no further answers.
"She is disgusted," I said to myself, "with what
she thinks my timidity in making no more definite
advances"; and I resolved to seek her and make her
acquaintance and--what? I did not know, nor do
I now know, what might have come of it. I know
only that I passed days and days trying to meet
her, and all in vain; she was invisible as well as inaudible.
I haunted the streets where we had met,
but she did not come. From my window I watched
the garden in front of her house, but she passed
neither in nor out. I fell into the deepest dejection,
believing that she had gone away, yet took no steps
to resolve my doubt by inquiry of my landlady, to
whom, indeed, I had taken an unconquerable aversion
from her having once spoken of the girl with
less of reverence than I thought befitting.
'There came a fateful night. Worn out with emotion,
irresolution and despondency, I had retired
early and fallen into such sleep as was still possible
to me. In the middle of the night something--some
malign power bent upon the wrecking of my peace
for ever--caused me to open my eyes and sit up,
wide awake and listening intently for I knew not
what. Then I thought I heard a faint tapping on the
wall--the mere ghost of the familiar signal. In a
few moments it was repeated: one, two, three--no
louder than before, but addressing a sense alert and
strained to receive it. I was about to reply when the
Adversary of Peace again intervened in my affairs
with a rascally suggestion of retaliation. She had
long and cruelly ignored me; now I would ignore
her. Incredible fatuity--may God forgive it ! All
the rest of the night I lay awake, fortifying
my obstinacy with shameless justifications and--
'Late the next morning, as I was leaving the
house, I met my landlady, entering.
'"Good morning, Mr. Dampier," she said. "Have
you heard the news?"
'I replied in words that I had heard no news; in
manner, that I did not care to hear any. The manner
escaped her observation.
'"About the sick young lady next door," she
babbled on. "What! you did not know? Why, she
has been ill for weeks. And now--"
'I almost sprang upon her. "And now," I cried,
'"She is dead."
'That is not the whole story. In the middle of the
night, as I learned later, the patient, awakening
from a long stupor after a week of delirium, had
asked--it was her last utterance--that her bed be
moved to the opposite side of the room. Those in
attendance had thought the request a vagary of her
delirium, but had complied. And there the poor passing
soul had exerted its failing will to restore a
broken connection--a golden thread of sentiment
between its innocence and a monstrous baseness
owning a blind, brutal allegiance to the Law of
'What reparation could I make? Are there masses
that can be said for the repose of souls that are
abroad such nights as this--spirits "blown about
by the viewless winds"--coming in the storm and
darkness with signs and portents, hints of memory
and presages of doom?
'This is the third visitation. On the first occasion
I was too sceptical to do more than verify by natural
methods the character of the incident; on the second,
I responded to the signal after it had been
several times repeated, but without result. To-night's
recurrence completes the "fatal triad" expounded
by Parapelius Necromantius. There is no more to
When Dampier had finished his story I could
think of nothing relevant that I cared to say, and
to question him would have been a hideous impertinence.
I rose and bade him good night in a way to
convey to him a sense of my sympathy, which he
silently acknowledged by a pressure of the hand.
That night, alone with his sorrow and remorse, he
passed into the Unknown.
A PSYCHOLOGICAL SHIPWRECK
IN the summer of 1874 I was in Liverpool, whither
I had gone on business for the mercantile house of
Bronson & Jarrett, New York. I am William Jarrett;
my partner was Zenas Bronson. The firm failed last
year, and unable to endure the fall from affluence to
poverty he died.
Having finished my business, and feeling the lassitude
and exhaustion incident to its dispatch, I felt
that a protracted sea voyage would be both agreeable
and beneficial, so instead of embarking for my
return on one of the many fine passenger steamers
I booked for New York on the sailing vessel Morrow,
upon which I had shipped a large and valuable
invoice of the goods I had bought. The Morrow was
an English ship with, of course, but little accommodation
for passengers, of whom there were only
myself, a young woman and her servant, who was
a middle-aged negress. I thought it singular that a
travelling English girl should be so attended, but
she afterward explained to me that the woman had
been left with her family by a man and his wife
from South Carolina, both of whom had died on
the same day at the house of the young lady's father
in Devonshire--a circumstance in itself sufficiently
uncommon to remain rather distinctly in my memory,
even had it not afterward transpired in conversation
with the young lady that the name of the
man was William Jarrett, the same as my own. I
knew that a branch of my family had settled in
South Carolina, but of them and their history I was
The Morrow sailed from the mouth of the Mersey
on the 15th of June, and for several weeks we had
fair breezes and unclouded skies. The skipper, an
admirable seaman but nothing more, favoured us
with very little of his society, except at his table; and
the young woman, Miss Janette Harford, and I became
very well acquainted. We were, in truth, nearly
always together, and being of an introspective turn
of mind I often endeavoured to analyse and define
the novel feeling with which she inspired me--a
secret, subtle, but powerful attraction which constantly
impelled me to seek her; but the attempt was
hopeless. I could only be sure that at least it was
not love. Having assured myself of this and being
certain that she was quite as whole-hearted, I ventured
one evening (I remember it was on the 3rd
of July) as we sat on deck to ask her, laughingly,
if she could assist me to resolve my psychological
For a moment she was silent, with averted face,
and I began to fear I had been extremely rude and
indelicate; then she fixed her eyes gravely on my
own. In an instant my mind was dominated by as
strange a fancy as ever entered human consciousness
It seemed as if she were looking at me, not
with, but through, those eyes--from an immeasurable
distance behind them--and that a number
of other persons, men, women and children, upon
whose faces I caught strangely familiar evanescent
expressions, clustered about her, struggling with gentle
eagerness to look at me through the same orbs.
Ship, ocean, sky--all had vanished. I was conscious
of nothing but the figures in this extraordinary and
fantastic scene. Then all at once darkness fell upon
me, and anon from out of it, as to one who grows
accustomed by degrees to a dimmer light, my former
surroundings of deck and mast and cordage slowly
resolved themselves. Miss Harford had closed her
eyes and was leaning back in her chair, apparently
asleep, the book she had been reading open in her
lap. Impelled by surely I cannot say what motive,
I glanced at the top of the page; it was a copy of
that rare and curious work, Denneker's Meditations,
and the lady's index finger rested on this passage:
'To sundry it is given to be drawn away, and to
be apart from the body for a season; for, as concerning
rills which would flow across each other the
weaker is borne along by the stronger, so there be
certain of kin whose paths intersecting, their souls
do bear company, the while their bodies go foreappointed
Miss Harford arose, shuddering; the sun had
sunk below the horizon, but it was not cold. There
was not a breath of wind; there were no clouds in the
sky, yet not a star was visible. A hurried tramping
sounded on the deck; the captain, summoned
from below, joined the first officer, who stood looking
at the barometer. 'Good God!' I heard him
An hour later the form of Janette Harford, invisible
in the darkness and spray, was torn from my
grasp by the cruel vortex of the sinking ship, and I
fainted in the cordage of the floating mast to which
I had lashed myself.
It was by lamplight that I awoke. I lay in a berth
amid the familiar surroundings of the state-room of
a steamer. On a couch opposite sat a man, half undressed
for bed, reading a book. I recognized the
face of my friend Gordon Doyle, whom I had met
in Liverpool on the day of my embarkation, when he
was himself about to sail on the steamer City of
Prague, on which he had urged me to accompany
After some moments I now spoke his name. He
simply said, 'Well,' and turned a leaf in his book
without removing his eyes from the page.
'Doyle,' I repeated, 'did they save her? '
He now deigned to look at me and smiled as if
amused. He evidently thought me but half awake.
'Her? Whom do you mean?'
His amusement turned to amazement; he stared
at me fixedly, saying nothing.
'You will tell me after awhile,' I continued; 'I
suppose you will tell me after awhile.'
A moment later I asked: 'What ship is this? '
Doyle stared again. 'The steamer City of Prague,
bound from Liverpool to New York, three weeks out
with a broken shaft. Principal passenger, Mr. Gordon
Doyle; ditto lunatic, Mr. William Jarrett. These
two distinguished travellers embarked together,
but they are about to part, it being the resolute
intention of the former to pitch the latter overboard.'
I sat bolt upright. 'Do you mean to say that I
have been for three weeks a passenger on this
'Yes, pretty nearly; this is the 3rd of July.'
'Have I been ill? '
'Right as a trivet all the time, and punctual at
'My God! Doyle, there is some mystery here; do
have the goodness to be serious. Was I not rescued
from the wreck of the ship Morrow?'
Doyle changed colour, and approaching me, laid
his fingers on my wrist. A moment later, 'What do
you know of Janette Harford?' he asked very
'First tell me what you know of her?'
Mr. Doyle gazed at me for some moments as if
thinking what to do, then seating himself again on
the couch, said:
'Why should I not? I am engaged to marry
Janette Harford, whom I met a year ago in London.
Her family, one of the wealthiest in Devonshire, cut
up rough about it, and we eloped--are eloping
rather, for on the day that you and I walked to the
landing stage to go aboard this steamer she and her
faithful servant, a negress, passed us, driving to the
ship Morrow. She would not consent to go in the
same vessel with me, and it had been deemed best
that she take a sailing vessel in order to avoid observation
and lessen the risk of detection. I am now
alarmed lest this cursed breaking of our machinery
may detain us so long that the Morrow will get to
New York before us, and the poor girl will not know
where to go.'
I lay still in my berth--so still I hardly breathed.
But the subject was evidently not displeasing to
Doyle, and after a short pause he resumed:
'By the way, she is only an adopted daughter of
the Harfords. Her mother was killed at their place
by being thrown from a horse while hunting, and her
father, mad with grief, made away with himself the
same day. No one ever claimed the child, and after
a reasonable time they adopted her. She has grown
up in the belief that she is their daughter.'
'Doyle, what book are you reading? '
'Oh, it's called Denneker's Meditations. It's a rum
lot, Janette gave it to me; she happened to have
two copies. Want to see it?'
He tossed me the volume, which opened as it fell.
On one of the exposed pages was a marked passage:
'To sundry it is given to be drawn away, and to
be apart from the body for a season; for, as concerning
rills which would flow across each other the
weaker is borne along by the stronger, so there be
certain of kin whose paths intersecting, their souls do
bear company, the while their bodies go foreappointed
'She had--she has--a singular taste in reading,'
I managed to say, mastering my agitation.
'Yes. And now perhaps you will have the kindness
to explain how you knew her name and that of
the ship she sailed in.'
'You talked of her in your sleep,' I said.
A week later we were towed into the port of New
York. But the Morrow was never heard from.
THE MIDDLE TOE OF THE RIGHT FOOT
IT is well known that the old Manton house is
haunted. In all the rural district near about, and
even in the town of Marshall, a mile away, not one
person of unbiased mind entertains a doubt of it;
incredulity is confined to those opinionated persons
who will be called 'cranks' as soon as the useful
word shall have penetrated the intellectual demesne
of the Marshall Advance. The evidence that the
house is haunted is of two kinds: the testimony of
disinterested witnesses who have had ocular proof,
and that of the house itself. The former may be
disregarded and ruled out on any of the various
grounds of objection which may be urged against it
by the ingenious; but facts within the observation of
all are material and controlling.
In the first place, the Manton house has been unoccupied
by mortals for more than ten years, and
with its outbuildings is slowly falling into decay--
a circumstance which in itself the judicious will
hardly venture to ignore. It stands a little way off the
loneliest reach of the Marshall and Harriston road,
in an opening which was once a farm and is still disfigured
with strips of rotting fence and half covered
with brambles overrunning a stony and sterile soil
long unacquainted with the plough. The house itself
is in tolerably good condition, though badly
weather-stained and in dire need of attention from
the glazier, the smaller male population of the
region having attested in the manner of its kind its
disapproval of dwelling without dwellers. It is two
stories in height, nearly square, its front pierced by
a single doorway flanked on each side by a window
boarded up to the very top. Corresponding windows
above, not protected, serve to admit light and rain
to the rooms of the upper floor. Grass and weeds
grow pretty rankly all about, and a few shade trees,
somewhat the worse for wind, and leaning all in one
direction, seem to be making a concerted effort to
run away. In short, as the Marshall town humorist
explained in the columns of the Advance, 'the proposition
that the Manton house is badly haunted is
the only logical conclusion from the premises.' The
fact that in this dwelling Mr. Manton thought it
expedient one night some ten years ago to rise and
cut the throats of his wife and two small children,
removing at once to another part of the country, has
no doubt done its share in directing public attention
to the fitness of the place for supernatural phenomena.
To this house, one summer evening, came four
men in a wagon. Three of them promptly alighted,
and the one who had been driving hitched the team
to the only remaining post of what had been a fence.
The fourth remained seated in the wagon. 'Come,'
said one of his companions, approaching him, while
the others moved away in the direction of the dwelling
--'this is the place.'
The man addressed did not move. 'By God!' he
said harshly, 'this is a trick, and it looks to me as
if you were in it.'
'Perhaps I am,' the other said, looking him
straight in the face and speaking in a tone which had
something of contempt in it. 'You will remember,
however, that the choice of place was with your own
assent left to the other side. Of course if you are
afraid of spooks--'
'I am afraid of nothing,' the man interrupted with
another oath, and sprang to the ground. The two
then joined the others at the door, which one of
them had already opened with some difficulty, caused
by rust of lock and hinge. All entered. Inside it was
dark, but the man who had unlocked the door produced
a candle and matches and made a light. He
then unlocked a door on their right as they stood in
the passage. This gave them entrance to a large,
square room that the candle but dimly lighted. The
floor had a thick carpeting of dust, which partly muffled
their footfalls. Cobwebs were in the angles of
the walls and depended from the ceiling like strips
of rotting lace, making undulatory movements in the
disturbed air. The room had two windows in adjoining
sides, but from neither could anything be seen
except the rough inner surfaces of boards a few
inches from the glass. There was no fireplace, no
furniture; there was nothing: besides the cobwebs
and the dust, the four men were the only objects
there which were not a part of the structure.
Strange enough they looked in the yellow light
of the candle. The one who had so reluctantly
alighted was especially spectacular--he might have
been called sensational. He was of middle age,
heavily built, deep-chested and broad-shouldered.
Looking at his figure, one would have said that he
had a giant's strength; at his features, that he
would use it like a giant. He was clean-shaven, his
hair rather closely cropped and grey. His low forehead
was seamed with wrinkles above the eyes, and
over the nose these became vertical. The heavy black
brows followed the same law, saved from meeting
only by an upward turn at what would otherwise
have been the point of contact. Deeply sunken beneath
these glowed in the obscure light a pair of
eyes of uncertain colour, but obviously enough too
small. There was something forbidding in their expression,
which was not bettered by the cruel mouth
and wide jaw. The nose was well enough, as noses
go; one does not expect much of noses. All that was
sinister in the man's face seemed accentuated by an
unnatural pallor--he appeared altogether bloodless.
The appearance of the other men was sufficiently
commonplace: they were such persons as one meets
and forgets that he met. All were younger than
the man described, between whom and the eldest
of the others, who stood apart, there was apparently
no kindly feeling. They avoided looking at each
'Gentlemen,' said the man holding the candle and
keys,' I believe everything is right. Are you ready,
The man standing apart from the group bowed
'And you, Mr. Grossmith?'
The heavy man bowed and scowled.
'You will be pleased to remove your outer
Their hats, coats, waistcoats and neckwear were
soon removed and thrown outside the door, in the
passage. The man with the candle now nodded, and
the fourth man--he who had urged Grossmith to
leave the wagon--produced from the pocket of
his overcoat two long, murderous-looking bowieknives,
which he drew now from their leather
'They are exactly alike,' he said, presenting one
to each of the two principals--for by this time
the dullest observer would have understood the
nature of this meeting. It was to be a duel to the
Each combatant took a knife, examined it critically
near the candle and tested the strength of
blade and handle across his lifted knee. Their persons
were then searched in turn, each by the second
of the other.
'If it is agreeable to you, Mr. Grossmith,' said the
man holding the light,' you will place yourself in
He indicated the angle of the room farthest from
the door, whither Grossmith retired, his second parting
from him with a grasp of the hand which had
nothing of cordiality in it. In the angle nearest the
door Mr. Rosser stationed himself, and after a
whispered consultation his second left him, joining
the other near the door. At that moment the candle
was suddenly extinguished, leaving all in profound
darkness. This may have been done by the draught
from the opened door; whatever the cause, the effect
'Gentlemen,' said a voice which sounded strangely
unfamiliar in the altered condition affecting the
relations of the senses--'gentlemen, you will not
move until you hear the closing of the outer door.'
A sound of trampling ensued, then the closing
of the inner door; and finally the outer one closed
with a concussion which shook the entire building.
A few minutes afterward a belated farmer's boy
met a light wagon which was being driven furiously
toward the town of Marshall. He declared that behind
the two figures on the front seat stood a third,
with its hands upon the bowed shoulders of the
others, who appeared to struggle vainly to free
themselves from its grasp. This figure, unlike the
others, was clad in white, and had undoubtedly
boarded the wagon as it passed the haunted house.
As the lad could boast a considerable former experience
with the supernatural thereabouts his word
had the weight justly due to the testimony of an
expert. The story (in connection with the next day's
events) eventually appeared in the Advance, with
some slight literary embellishments and a concluding
intimation that the gentlemen referred to would be
allowed the use of the paper's columns for their
version of the night's adventure. But the privilege
remained without a claimant.
The events that led up to this 'duel in the dark'
were simple enough. One evening three young men
of the town of Marshall were sitting in a quiet corner
of the porch of the village hotel, smoking and discussing
such matters as three educated young men
of a Southern village would naturally find interesting.
Their names were King, Sancher and Rosser. At a
little distance, within easy hearing, but taking no
part in the conversation, sat a fourth. He was a
stranger to the others. They merely knew that on his
arrival by the stage-coach that afternoon he had
written in the hotel register the name Robert
Grossmith. He had not been observed to speak to
anyone except the hotel clerk. He seemed, indeed,
singularly fond of his own company--or, as the
personnel of the Advance expressed it, 'grossly addicted
to evil associations.' But then it should be
said in justice to the stranger that the personnel
was himself of a too convivial disposition fairly
to judge one differently gifted, and had, moreover,
experienced a slight rebuff in an effort at an
'I hate any kind of deformity in a woman,' said
King, 'whether natural or--acquired. I have a
theory that any physical defect has its correlative
mental and moral defect.'
'I infer, then,' said Rosser gravely, 'that a
lady lacking the moral advantage of a nose would
find the struggle to become Mrs. King an arduous
'Of course you may put it that way,' was the reply;
'but, seriously, I once threw over a most
charming girl on learning quite accidentally that
she had suffered amputation of a toe. My conduct
was brutal if you like, but if I had married that girl
I should have been miserable for life and should
have made her so.'
'Whereas,' said Sancher, with a light laugh, 'by
marrying a gentleman of more liberal views she
escaped with a parted throat.'
'Ah, you know to whom I refer. Yes, she married
Manton, but I don't know about his liberality; I'm
not sure but he cut her throat because he discovered
that she lacked that excellent thing in woman, the
middle toe of the right foot.'
'Look at that chap!' said Rosser in a low voice,
his eyes fixed upon the stranger.
'That chap' was obviously listening intently to
'Damn his impudence!' muttered King--' what
ought we to do?'
'That's an easy one,' Rosser replied, rising. 'Sir,'
he continued, addressing the stranger, 'I think it
would be better if you would remove your chair to
the other end of the veranda. The presence of gentlemen
is evidently an unfamiliar situation to you.'
The man sprang to his feet and strode forward
with clenched hands, his face white with rage. All
were now standing. Sancher stepped between the
'You are hasty and unjust,' he said to Rosser;
'this gentleman has done nothing to deserve such
But Rosser would not withdraw a word. By the
custom of the country and the time there could be
but one outcome to the quarrel.
'I demand the satisfaction due to a gentleman,'
said the stranger, who had become more calm. 'I
have not an acquaintance in this region. Perhaps
you, sir,' bowing to Sancher, 'will be kind enough
to represent me in this matter.'
Sancher accepted the trust--somewhat reluctantly
it must be confessed, for the man's appearance
and manner were not at all to his liking. King,
who during the colloquy had hardly removed his
eyes from the stranger's face and had not spoken
a word, consented with a nod to act for Rosser, and
the upshot of it was that, the principals having
retired, a meeting was arranged for the next evening.
The nature of the arrangements has been already
disclosed. The duel with knives in a dark room
was once a commoner feature of south-western
life than it is likely to be again. How thin a veneering
of 'chivalry' covered the essential brutality of the
code under which such encounters were possible we
In the blaze of a midsummer noonday the old
Manton house was hardly true to its traditions. It
was of the earth, earthy. The sunshine caressed it
warmly and affectionately, with evident disregard
of its bad reputation. The grass greening all the
expanse in its front seemed to grow, not rankly, but
with a natural and joyous exuberance, and the weeds
blossomed quite like plants. Full of charming lights
and shadows and populous with pleasant-voiced
birds, the neglected shade trees no longer struggled
to run away, but bent reverently beneath their burden
of sun and song. Even in the glassless upper
windows was an expression of peace and contentment,
due to the light within. Over the stony fields
the visible heat danced with a lively tremor incompatible
with the gravity which is an attribute of the
Such was the aspect under which the place presented
itself to Sheriff Adams and two other men
who had come out from Marshall to look at it. One
of these men was Mr. King, the sheriff's deputy;
the other, whose name was Brewer, was a brother
of the late Mrs. Manton. Under a beneficent law of
the State relating to property which had been for
a certain period abandoned by an owner whose
residence cannot be ascertained, the sheriff was legal
custodian of the Manton farm and appurtenances
thereunto belonging. His present visit was in mere
perfunctory compliance with some order of a court
in which Mr. Brewer had an action to get possession
of the property as heir to his deceased sister. By a
mere coincidence, the visit was made on the day
after the night that Deputy King had unlocked the
house for another and very different purpose. His
presence now was not of his own choosing: he
had been ordered to accompany his superior, and
at the moment could think of nothing more prudent
than simulated alacrity in obedience to the
Carelessly opening the front door, which to his
surprise was not locked, the sheriff was amazed to
see, lying on the floor of the passage into which it
opened, a confused heap of men's apparel. Examination
showed it to consist of two hats, and the
same number of coats, waistcoats and scarves, all
in a remarkably good state of preservation, albeit
somewhat defiled by the dust in which they lay.
Mr. Brewer was equally astonished, but Mr. King's
emotion is not on record. With a new and lively
interest in his own actions the sheriff now unlatched
and pushed open the door on the right, and the three
entered. The room was apparently vacant--no;
as their eyes became accustomed to the dimmer
light something was visible in the farthest angle of
the wall. It was a human figure--that of a man
crouching close in the corner. Something in the attitude
made the intruders halt when they had barely
passed the threshold. The figure more and more
clearly defined itself. The man was upon one knee,
his back in the angle of the wall, his shoulders
elevated to the level of his ears, his hands before his
face, palms outward, the fingers spread and crooked
like claws; the white face turned upward on the
retracted neck had an expression of unutterable
fright, the mouth half open, the eyes incredibly
expanded. He was stone dead. Yet, with the exception
of a bowie-knife, which had evidently fallen
from his own hand, not another object was in the
In thick dust that covered the floor were some
confused footprints near the door and along the
wall through which it opened. Along one of the adjoining
walls, too, past the boarded-up windows,
was the trail made by the man himself in reaching
his corner. Instinctively in approaching the body the
three men followed that trail. The sheriff grasped
one of the out-thrown arms; it was as rigid as iron,
and the application of a gentle force rocked the entire
body without altering the relation of its parts.
Brewer, pale with excitement, gazed intently into
the distorted face. 'God of mercy!' he suddenly
cried, 'it is Manton! '
'You are right,' said King, with an evident attempt
at calmness: 'I knew Manton. He then wore
a full beard and his hair long, but this is he.'
He might have added: 'I recognized him when
he challenged Rosser. I told Rosser and Sancher
who he was before we played him this horrible trick.
When Rosser left this dark room at our heels, forgetting
his outer clothing in the excitement, and
driving away with us in his shirt sleeves--all
through the discreditable proceedings we knew
whom we were dealing with, murderer and coward
that he was!'
But nothing of this did Mr. King say. With his
better light he was trying to penetrate the mystery
of the man's death. That he had not once moved from
the corner where he had been stationed; that his
posture was that of neither attack nor defence; that
he had dropped his weapon; that he had obviously
perished of sheer horror of something that he saw
--these were circumstances which Mr. King's disturbed
intelligence could not rightly comprehend.
Groping in intellectual darkness for a clue to his
maze of doubt, his gaze, directed mechanically downward
in the way of one who ponders momentous
matters, fell upon something which, there, in the
light of day and in the presence of living companions,
affected him with terror. In the dust of years that
lay thick upon the floor--leading from the door
by which they had entered, straight across the room
to within a yard of Manton's crouching corpse--
were three parallel lines of footprints--light but
definite impressions of bare feet, the outer ones
those of small children, the inner a woman's. From
the point at which they ended they did not return;
they pointed all one way. Brewer, who had observed
them at the same moment, was leaning forward in
an attitude of rapt attention, horribly pale.
'Look at that!' he cried, pointing with both hands
at the nearest print of the woman's right foot, where
she had apparently stopped and stood. 'The middle
toe is missing--it was Gertrude!'
Gertrude was the late Mrs. Manton, sister of Mr.
JOHN MORTONSON'S FUNERAL
JOHN MORTONSON was dead: his lines in 'the tragedy
"Man"' had all been spoken and he had left the
The body rested in a fine mahogany coffin fitted
with a plate of glass. All arrangements for the funeral
had been so well attended to that had the deceased
known he would doubtless have approved. The face,
as it showed under the glass, was not disagreeable to
look upon: it bore a faint smile, and as the death
had been painless, had not been distorted beyond the
repairing power of the undertaker. At two o'clock
of the afternoon the friends were to assemble to
pay their last tribute of respect to one who had
no further need of friends and respect. The surviving
members of the family came severally every
few minutes to the casket and wept above the placid
features beneath the glass. This did them no good;
it did no good to John Mortonson; but in the presence
of death reason and philosophy are silent.
As the hour of two approached the friends began
to arrive and after offering such consolation to the
stricken relatives as the proprieties of the occasion
required, solemnly seated themselves about the
room with an augmented consciousness of their importance
in the scheme funereal. Then the minister
came, and in that overshadowing presence the lesser
lights went into eclipse. His entrance was followed
by that of the widow, whose lamentations filled the
room. She approached the casket and after leaning
her face against the cold glass for a moment was
gently led to a seat near her daughter. Mournfully
and low the man of God began his eulogy of the
dead, and his doleful voice, mingled with the sobbing
which it was its purpose to stimulate and sustain,
rose and fell, seemed to come and go, like the sound
of a sullen sea. The gloomy day grew darker as he
spoke; a curtain of cloud underspread the sky and
a few drops of rain fell audibly. It seemed as if all
nature were weeping for John Mortonson.
When the minister had finished his eulogy with
prayer a hymn was sung and the pall-bearers took
their places beside the bier. As the last notes of the
hymn died away the widow ran to the coffin, cast
herself upon it and sobbed hysterically. Gradually,
however, she yielded to dissuasion, becoming more
composed; and as the minister was in the act of
leading her away her eyes sought the face of the
dead beneath the glass. She threw up her arms and
with a shriek fell backward insensible.
The mourners sprang forward to the coffin, the
friends followed, and as the clock on the mantel
solemnly struck three all were staring down upon
the face of John Mortonson, deceased.
They turned away, sick and faint. One man, trying
in his terror to escape the awful sight, stumbled
against the coffin so heavily as to knock away one
of its frail supports. The coffin fell to the floor, the
glass was shattered to bits by the concussion.
From the opening crawled John Mortonson's cat,
which lazily leapt to the floor, sat up, tranquilly
wiped its crimson muzzle with a forepaw, then
walked with dignity from the room.
THE REALM OF THE UNREAL
FOR a part of the distance between Auburn and
Newcastle the road--first on one side of a creek and
then on the other--occupies the whole bottom of
the ravine, being partly cut out of the steep hillside,
and partly built up with boulders removed from the
creek-bed by the miners. The hills are wooded, the
course of the ravine is sinuous. In a dark night careful
driving is required in order not to go off into the
water. The night that I have in memory was dark,
the creek a torrent, swollen by a recent storm. I had
driven up from Newcastle and was within about a
mile of Auburn in the darkest and narrowest part
of the ravine, looking intently ahead of my horse
for the roadway. Suddenly I saw a man almost under
the animal's nose, and reined in with a jerk that
came near setting the creature upon its haunches.
'I beg your pardon,' I said; 'I did not see
'You could hardly be expected to see me,' the
man replied civilly, approaching the side of the
vehicle; 'and the noise of the creek prevented my
I at once recognized the voice, although five years
had passed since I had heard it. I was not particularly
well pleased to hear it now.
'You are Dr. Dorrimore, I think,' said I.
'Yes; and you are my good friend Mr. Manrich.
I am more than glad to see you--the excess,' he
added, with a light laugh, 'being due to the fact
that I am going your way, and naturally expect an
invitation to ride with you.'
'Which I extend with all my heart.'
That was not altogether true.
Dr. Dorrimore thanked me as he seated himself
beside me, and I drove cautiously forward, as before.
Doubtless it is fancy, but it seems to me now that the
remaining distance was made in a chill fog; that
I was uncomfortably cold; that the way was longer
than ever before, and the town, when we reached
it, cheerless, forbidding, and desolate. It must have
been early in the evening, yet I do not recollect a light
in any of the houses nor a living thing in the streets.
Dorrimore explained at some length how he happened
to be there, and where he had been during
the years that had elapsed since I had seen him.
I recall the fact of the narrative, but none of the
facts narrated. He had been in foreign countries and
had returned--this is all that my memory retains,
and this I already knew. As to myself I cannot
remember that I spoke a word, though doubtless
Of one thing I am distinctly conscious: the man's
presence at my side was strangely distasteful and
disquieting--so much so that when I at last pulled
up under the lights of the Putnam House I experienced
a sense of having escaped some spiritual peril
of a nature peculiarly forbidding. This sense of
relief was somewhat modified by the discovery that
Dr. Dorrimore was living at the same hotel.
In partial explanation of my feelings regarding
Dr. Dorrimore I will relate briefly the circumstances
under which I had met him some years before. One
evening a half-dozen men of whom I was one were
sitting in the library of the Bohemian Club in San
Francisco. The conversation had turned to the subject
of sleight-of-hand and the feats of the prestidigitateurs,
one of whom was then exhibiting at a local
'These fellows are pretenders in a double sense,'
said one of the party; 'they can do nothing which
it is worth one's while to be made a dupe by. The
humblest wayside juggler in India could mystify
them to the verge of lunacy.'
'For example, how?' asked another, lighting a
'For example, by all their common and familiar
performances--throwing large objects into the air
which never come down; causing plants to sprout,
grow visibly and blossom, in bare ground chosen by
spectators; putting a man into a wicker basket,
piercing him through and through with a sword
while he shrieks and bleeds, and then--the basket
being opened nothing is there; tossing the free end
of a silken ladder into the air, mounting it and
'Nonsense!' I said, rather uncivilly, I fear. 'You
surely do not believe such things?'
'Certainly not: I have seen them too often.'
'But I do,' said a journalist of considerable local
fame as a picturesque reporter. 'I have so frequently
related them that nothing but observation could
shake my conviction. Why, gentlemen, I have my
own word for it.'
Nobody laughed--all were looking at something
behind me. Turning in my seat I saw a man in
evening dress who had just entered the room. He was
exceedingly dark, almost swarthy, with a thin face,
black-bearded to the lips, an abundance of coarse
black hair in some disorder, a high nose and eyes
that glittered with as soulless an expression as those
of a cobra. One of the group rose and introduced
him as Dr. Dorrimore, of Calcutta. As each of us
was presented in turn he acknowledged the fact with
a profound bow in the Oriental manner, but with
nothing of Oriental gravity. His smile impressed me
as cynical and a trifle contemptuous. His whole
demeanour I can describe only as disagreeably
His presence led the conversation into other channels.
He said little--I do not recall anything of what
he did say. I thought his voice singularly rich and
melodious, but it affected me in the same way as his
eyes and smile. In a few minutes I rose to go. He
also rose and put on his overcoat.
'Mr. Manrich,' he said, 'I am going your way.'
'The devil you are!' I thought. 'How do you
know which way I am going?' Then I said, 'I shall
be pleased to have your company.'
We left the building together. No cabs were in
sight, the street cars had gone to bed, there was a
full moon and the cool night air was delightful; we
walked up the California Street Hill. I took that
direction thinking he would naturally wish to take
another, toward one of the hotels.
'You do not believe what is told of the Hindu
jugglers,' he said abruptly.
'How do you know that?' I asked.
Without replying he laid his hand lightly upon
my arm and with the other pointed to the stone sidewalk
directly in front. There, almost at our feet, lay
the dead body of a man, the face upturned and
white in the moonlight! A sword whose hilt sparkled
with gems stood fixed and upright in the breast;
a pool of blood had collected on the stones of the
I was startled and terrified--not only by what
I saw, but by the circumstances under which I saw
it. Repeatedly during our ascent of the hill my eyes,
I thought, had traversed the whole reach of that
sidewalk, from street to street. How could they have
been insensible to this dreadful object now so conspicuous
in the white moonlight.
As my dazed faculties cleared I observed that
the body was in evening dress; the overcoat thrown
wide open revealed the dress-coat, the white tie, the
broad expanse of shirt front pierced by the sword.
And--horrible revelation!--the face, except for
its pallor, was that of my companion! It was to the
minutest detail of dress and feature Dr. Dorrimore
himself. Bewildered and horrified, I turned
to look for the living man. He was nowhere visible,
and with an added terror I retired from the place,
down the hill in the direction whence I had come.
I had taken but a few strides when a strong grasp
upon my shoulder arrested me. I came near crying
out with terror: the dead man, the sword still fixed
in his breast, stood beside me! Pulling out the sword
with his disengaged hand, he flung it from him, the
moonlight glinting upon the jewels of its hilt and the
unsullied steel of its blade. It fell with a clang upon
the sidewalk ahead and--vanished! The man,
swarthy as before, relaxed his grasp upon my shoulder
and looked at me with the same cynical regard
that I had observed on first meeting him. The dead
have not that look--it partly restored me, and turning
my head backward, I saw the smooth white
expanse of sidewalk, unbroken from street to street.
'What is all this nonsense, you devil?' I demanded,
fiercely enough, though weak and trembling
in every limb.
'It is what some are pleased to call jugglery,' he
answered, with a light, hard laugh.
He turned down Dupont Street and I saw him
no more until we met in the Auburn ravine.
On the day after my second meeting with Dr.
Dorrimore I did not see him: the clerk in the Putnam
House explained that a slight illness confined
him to his rooms. That afternoon at the railway
station I was surprised and made happy by the
unexpected arrival of Miss Margaret Corray and
her mother, from Oakland.
This is not a love story. I am no story-teller, and
love as it is cannot be portrayed in a literature dominated
and enthralled by the debasing tyranny which
'sentences letters' in the name of the Young Girl.
Under the Young Girl's blighting reign--or rather
under the rule of those false Ministers of the Censure
who have appointed themselves to the custody of
Love veils her sacred fires,
And, unaware, Morality expires,
famished upon the sifted meal and distilled water
of a prudish purveyance.
Let it suffice that Miss Corray and I were engaged
in marriage. She and her mother went to the hotel
at which I lived, and for two weeks I saw her daily.
That I was happy needs hardly be said; the only
bar to my perfect enjoyment of those golden days
was the presence of Dr. Dorrimore, whom I had
felt compelled to introduce to the ladies.
By them he was evidently held in favour. What
could I say? I knew absolutely nothing to his discredit.
His manners were those of a cultivated and
considerate gentleman; and to women a man's manner
is the man. On one or two occasions when I saw
Miss Corray walking with him I was furious, and
once had the indiscretion to protest. Asked for reasons,
I had none to give, and fancied I saw in her
expression a shade of contempt for the vagaries of
a jealous mind. In time I grew morose and consciously
disagreeable, and resolved in my madness
to return to San Francisco the next day. Of this,
however, I said nothing.
There was at Auburn an old, abandoned cemetery.
It was nearly in the heart of the town, yet by night
it was as gruesome a place as the most dismal of
human moods could crave. The railings about the
plots were prostrate, decayed, or altogether gone.
Many of the graves were sunken, from others grew
sturdy pines, whose roots had committed unspeakable
sin. The headstones were fallen and broken
across; brambles overran the ground; the fence was
mostly gone, and cows and pigs wandered there at
will; the place was a dishonour to the living, a
calumny on the dead, a blasphemy against God.
The evening of the day on which I had taken my
madman's resolution to depart in anger from all
that was dear to me found me in that congenial
spot. The light of the half moon fell ghostly through
the foliage of trees in spots and patches, revealing
much that was unsightly, and the black shadows
seemed conspiracies withholding to the proper time
revelations of darker import. Passing along what
had been a gravel path, I saw emerging from shadow
the figure of Dr. Dorrimore. I was myself in shadow,
and stood still with clenched hands and set teeth,
trying to control the impulse to leap upon and strangle
him. A moment later a second figure joined him
and clung to his arm. It was Margaret Corray!
I cannot rightly relate what occurred. I know
that I sprang forward, bent upon murder; I know
that I was found in the grey of the morning, bruised
and bloody, with finger marks upon my throat. I
was taken to the Putnam House, where for days
I lay in a delirium. All this I know, for I have been
told. And of my own knowledge I know that when
consciousness returned with convalescence I sent
for the clerk of the hotel.
'Are Mrs. Corray and her daughter still here?' I
'What name did you say?'
'Nobody of that name has been here.'
'I beg you will not trifle with me,' I said petulantly.
'You see that I am all right now; tell me
'I give you my word,' he replied with evident sincerity,
'we have had no guests of that name.'
His words stupefied me. I lay for a few moments
in silence; then I asked: 'Where is Dr. Dorrimore?'
'He left on the morning of your fight and has
not been heard of since. It was a rough deal he
Such are the facts of this case. Margaret Corray
is now my wife. She has never seen Auburn, and during
the weeks whose history as it shaped itself in
my brain I have endeavoured to relate, was living
at her home in Oakland, wondering where her lover
was and why he did not write. The other day I saw
in the Baltimore Sun the following paragraph:
'Professor Valentine Dorrimore, the hypnotist,
had a large audience last night. The lecturer, who
has lived most of his life in India, gave some marvellous
exhibitions of his power, hypnotizing anyone
who chose to submit himself to the experiment, by
merely looking at him. In fact, he twice hypnotized
the entire audience (reporters alone exempted),
making all entertain the most extraordinary illusions.
The most valuable feature of the lecture was the
disclosure of the methods of the Hindu jugglers in
their famous performances, familiar in the mouths
of travellers. The professor declares that these
thaumaturgists have acquired such skill in the art
which he learned at their feet that they perform
their miracles by simply throwing the "spectators"
into a state of hypnosis and telling them what to see
and hear. His assertion that a peculiarly susceptible
subject may be kept in the realm of the unreal for
weeks, months, and even years, dominated by whatever
delusions and hallucinations the operator may
from time to time suggest, is a trifle disquieting.'
JOHN BARTINE'S WATCH
A Story by a Physician
'THE exact time? Good God! my friend, why do you
insist? One would think--but what does it matter;
it is easily bedtime--isn't that near enough? But,
here, if you must set your watch, take mine and see
With that he detached his watch--a tremendously
heavy, old-fashioned one--from the chain,
and handed it to me; then turned away, and walking
across the room to a shelf of books, began an examination
of their backs. His agitation and evident
distress surprised me; they appeared reasonless.
Having set my watch by his I stepped over to where
he stood and said, 'Thank you.'
As he took his timepiece and reattached it to the
guard I observed that his hands were unsteady.
With a tact upon which I greatly prided myself,
I sauntered carelessly to the sideboard and took
some brandy and water; then, begging his pardon
for my thoughtlessness, asked him to have some
and went back to my seat by the fire, leaving him
to help himself, as was our custom. He did so and
presently joined me at the hearth, as tranquil as
This odd little incident occurred in my apartment,
where John Bartine was passing an evening. We had
dined together at the club, had come home in a cab
and--in short, everything had been done in the
most prosaic way; and why John Bartine should
break in upon the natural and established order of
things to make himself spectacular with a display
of emotion, apparently for his own entertainment,
I could nowise understand. The more I thought
of it, while his brilliant conversational gifts were
commending themselves to my inattention, the more
curious I grew, and of course had no difficulty in
persuading myself that my curiosity was friendly
solicitude. That is the disguise that curiosity usually
assumes to evade resentment. So I ruined one of
the finest sentences of his disregarded monologue by
cutting it short without ceremony.
'John Bartine,' I said, 'you must try to forgive
me if I am wrong, but with the light that I have
at present I cannot concede your right to go all to
pieces when asked the time o' night. I cannot admit
that it is proper to experience a mysterious reluctance
to look your own watch in the face and to
cherish in my presence, without explanation, painful
emotions which are denied to me, and which are
none of my business.'
To this ridiculous speech Bartine made no immediate
reply, but sat looking gravely into the fire.
Fearing that I had offended I was about to apologize
and beg him to think no more about the matter,
when looking me calmly in the eyes he said:
'My dear fellow, the levity of your manner
does not at all disguise the hideous impudence
of your demand; but happily I had already decided
to tell you what you wish to know, and no
manifestation of your unworthiness to hear it
shall alter my decision. Be good enough to give me
your attention and you shall hear all about the
'This watch,' he said, 'had been in my family for
three generations before it fell to me. Its original
owner, for whom it was made, was my great-grandfather,
Bramwell Olcott Bartine, a wealthy planter
of Colonial Virginia, and as staunch a Tory as ever
lay awake nights contriving new kinds of maledictions
for the head of Mr. Washington, and new
methods of aiding and abetting good King George.
One day this worthy gentleman had the deep misfortune
to perform for his cause a service of capital importance
which was not recognized as legitimate by
those who suffered its disadvantages. It does not matter
what it was, but among its minor consequences
was my excellent ancestor's arrest one night in his
own house by a party of Mr. Washington's rebels. He
was permitted to say farewell to his weeping family,
and was then marched away into the darkness which
swallowed him up for ever. Not the slenderest clue
to his fate was ever found. After the war the most
diligent inquiry and the offer of large rewards failed
to turn up any of his captors or any fact concerning
his disappearance. He had disappeared, and that
Something in Bartine's manner that was not in
his words--I hardly knew what it was--prompted
me to ask:
'What is your view of the matter--of the justice
'My view of it,' he flamed out, bringing his
clenched hand down upon the table as if he had been
in a public house dicing with blackguards--'my
view of it is that it was a characteristically dastardly
assassination by that damned traitor, Washington,
and his ragamuffin rebels!'
For some minutes nothing was said: Bartine was
recovering his temper, and I waited. Then I said:
'Was that all?'
'No--there was something else. A few weeks
after my great-grandfather's arrest his watch was
found lying on the porch at the front door of his
dwelling. It was wrapped in a sheet of letter-paper
bearing the name of Rupert Bartine, his only son,
my grandfather. I am wearing that watch.'
Bartine paused. His usually restless black eyes
were staring fixedly into the grate, a point of red
light in each, reflected from the glowing coals. He
seemed to have forgotten me. A sudden threshing
of the branches of a tree outside one of the windows,
and almost at the same instant a rattle of rain
against the glass, recalled him to a sense of his surroundings.
A storm had risen, heralded by a single
gust of wind, and in a few moments the steady
plash of the water on the pavement was distinctly
heard. I hardly know why I relate this incident; it
seemed somehow to have a certain significance and
relevancy which I am unable now to discern. It at
least added an element of seriousness, almost solemnity.
'I have a singular feeling toward this watch--a
kind of affection for it; I like to have it about me,
though partly from its weight, and partly for a reason
I shall now explain, I seldom carry it. The
reason is this: Every evening when I have it with
me I feel an unaccountable desire to open and consult
it, even if I can think of no reason for wishing
to know the time. But if I yield to it, the moment
my eyes rest upon the dial I am filled with a mysterious
apprehension--a sense of imminent calamity.
And this is the more insupportable the nearer it is
to eleven o'clock--by this watch, no matter what
the actual hour may be. After the hands have registered
eleven the desire to look is gone; I am entirely
indifferent. Then I can consult the thing as often
as I like, with no more emotion than you feel in
looking at your own. Naturally I have trained myself
not to look at that watch in the evening before
eleven; nothing could induce me. Your insistence
this evening upset me a trifle. I felt very much as I
suppose an opium-eater might feel if his yearning
for his special and particular kind of hell were reinforced
by opportunity and advice.
'Now that is my story, and I have told it in the
interest of your trumpery science; but if on any
evening hereafter you observe me wearing this
damnable watch, and you have the thoughtfulness
to ask me the hour, I shall beg leave to put you to
the inconvenience of being knocked down.'
His humour did not amuse me. I could see that
in relating his delusion he was again somewhat disturbed.
His concluding smile was positively ghastly,
and his eyes had resumed something more than their
old restlessness; they shifted hither and thither about
the room with apparent aimlessness and I fancied
had taken on a wild expression, such as is sometimes
observed in cases of dementia. Perhaps this was
my own imagination, but at any rate I was now
persuaded that my friend was afflicted with a most
singular and interesting monomania. Without, I
trust, any abatement of my affectionate solicitude
for him as a friend, I began to regard him as a patient,
rich in possibilities of profitable study. Why
not? Had he not described his delusion in the interest
of science? Ah, poor fellow, he was doing more
for science than he knew: not only his story but
himself was in evidence. I should cure him if I could,
of course, but first I should make a little experiment
in psychology--nay, the experiment itself might
be a step in his restoration.
'That is very frank and friendly of you, Bartine,'
I said cordially, 'and I'm rather proud of your confidence.
It is all very odd, certainly. Do you mind
showing me the watch?'
He detached it from his waistcoat, chain and all,
and passed it to me without a word. The case was
of gold, very thick and strong, and singularly engraved.
After closely examining the dial and observing
that it was nearly twelve o'clock, I opened it at
the back and was interested to observe an inner case
of ivory, upon which was painted a miniature portrait
in that exquisite and delicate manner which
was in vogue during the eighteenth century.
'Why, bless my soul!' I exclaimed, feeling a sharp
artistic delight--'how under the sun did you get
that done? I thought miniature painting on ivory was
a lost art.'
'That,' he replied, gravely smiling, 'is not I;
it is my excellent great-grandfather, the late Bramwell
Olcott Bartine, Esquire, of Virginia. He was
younger then than later--about my age, in fact.
It is said to resemble me; do you think so?'
'Resemble you? I should say so! Barring the
costume, which I supposed you to have assumed
out of compliment to the art--or for vraisemblance,
so to say--and the no moustache, that portrait is
you in every feature, line, and expression.'
No more was said at that time. Bartine took a
book from the table and began reading. I heard
outside the incessant plash of the rain in the street.
There were occasional hurried footfalls on the sidewalks;
and once a slower, heavier tread seemed to
cease at my door--a policeman, I thought, seeking
shelter in the doorway. The boughs of the trees
tapped significantly on the window panes, as if asking
for admittance. I remember it all through these
years and years of a wiser, graver life.
Seeing myself unobserved, I took the old-fashioned
key that dangled from the chain and quickly turned
back the hands of the watch a full hour; then, closing
the case, I handed Bartine his property and saw
him replace it on his person.
'I think you said,' I began, with assumed carelessness,
'that after eleven the sight of the dial no
longer affects you. As it is now nearly twelve'--
looking at my own timepiece--'perhaps, if you
don't resent my pursuit of proof, you will look at it
He smiled good-humouredly, pulled out the watch
again, opened it, and instantly sprang to his feet
with a cry that Heaven has not had the mercy to
permit me to forget! His eyes, their blackness strikingly
intensified by the pallor of his face, were fixed
upon the watch, which he clutched in both hands.
For some time he remained in that attitude without
uttering another sound; then, in a voice that I should
not have recognized as his, he said:
'Damn you! it is two minutes to eleven!'
I was not unprepared for some such outbreak, and
without rising replied, calmly enough:
'I beg your pardon; I must have misread your
watch in setting my own by it.'
He shut the case with a sharp snap and put the
watch in his pocket. He looked at me and made
an attempt to smile, but his lower lip quivered and
he seemed unable to close his mouth. His hands,
also, were shaking, and he thrust them, clenched,
into the pockets of his sackcoat. The courageous
spirit was manifestly endeavouring to subdue the
coward body. The effort was too great; he began to
sway from side to side, as from vertigo, and before
I could spring from my chair to support him his
knees gave way and he pitched awkwardly forward
and fell upon his face. I sprang to assist him to rise;
but when John Bartine rises we shall all rise.
The post-mortem examination disclosed nothing;
every organ was normal and sound. But when the
body had been prepared for burial a faint dark circle
was seen to have developed around the neck;
at least I was so assured by several persons who said
they saw it, but of my own knowledge I cannot say
if that was true.
Nor can I set limitations to the law of heredity.
I do not know that in the spiritual world a sentiment
or emotion may not survive the heart that held it,
and seek expression in a kindred life, ages removed.
Surely, if I were to guess at the fate of Bramwell
Olcott Bartine, I should guess that he was hanged
at eleven o'clock in the evening, and that he had
been allowed several hours in which to prepare for
As to John Bartine, my friend, my patient for five
minutes, and--Heaven forgive me!--my victim
for eternity, there is no more to say. He is buried,
and his watch with him--I saw to that. May God
rest his soul in Paradise, and the soul of his Virginian
ancestor, if, indeed, they are two souls.
THE DAMNED THING
- One Does Not Always Eat What is on the Table
BY the light of a tallow candle which had been placed
on one end of a rough table a man was reading something
written in a book. It was an old account book,
greatly worn; and the writing was not, apparently,
very legible, for the man sometimes held the page
close to the flame of the candle to get a stronger light
on it. The shadow of the book would then throw
into obscurity a half of the room, darkening a number
of faces and figures; for besides the reader, eight
other men were present. Seven of them sat against
the rough log walls, silent, motionless, and the room
being small, not very far from the table. By extending
an arm anyone of them could have touched the
eighth man, who lay on the table, face upward,
partly covered by a sheet, his arms at his sides. He
The man with the book was not reading aloud,
and no one spoke; all seemed to be waiting for something
to occur; the dead man only was without expectation.
From the blank darkness outside came
in, through the aperture that served for a window,
all the ever unfamiliar noises of night in the wilderness
--the long nameless note of a distant coyote;
the stilly pulsing thrill of tireless insects in trees;
strange cries of night birds, so different from those
of the birds of day; the drone of great blundering
beetles, and all that mysterious chorus of small
sounds that seem always to have been but half
heard when they have suddenly ceased, as if conscious
of an indiscretion. But nothing of all this
was noted in that company; its members were not
overmuch addicted to idle interest in matters of no
practical importance; that was obvious in every
line of their rugged faces--obvious even in the
dim light of the single candle. They were evidently
men of the vicinity--farmers and woodsmen.
The person reading was a trifle different; one
would have said of him that he was of the world,
worldly, albeit there was that in his attire which
attested a certain fellowship with the organisms of
his environment. His coat would hardly have passed
muster in San Francisco; his foot-gear was not of
urban origin, and the hat that lay by him on the
floor (he was the only one uncovered) was such
that if one had considered it as an article of mere
personal adornment he would have missed its meaning.
In countenance the man was rather prepossessing,
with just a hint of sternness; though that
he may have assumed or cultivated, as appropriate
to one in authority. For he was a coroner. It was by
virtue of his office that he had possession of the
book in which he was reading; it had been found
among the dead man's effects--in his cabin, where
the inquest was now taking place.
When the coroner had finished reading he put
the book into his breast pocket. At that moment the
door was pushed open and a young man entered.
He, clearly, was not of mountain birth and breeding:
he was clad as those who dwell in cities. His clothing
was dusty, however, as from travel. He had, in fact,
been riding hard to attend the inquest.
The coroner nodded; no one else greeted him.
'We have waited for you,' said the coroner.' It
is necessary to have done with this business to-night.'
The young man smiled. 'I am sorry to have kept
you,' he said. 'I went away, not to evade your
summons, but to post to my newspaper an account
of what I suppose I am called back to relate.'
The coroner smiled.
'The account that you posted to your newspaper,'
he said, 'differs, probably, from that which you
will give here under oath.'
'That,' replied the other, rather hotly and with
a visible flush, 'is as you please. I used manifold
paper and have a copy of what I sent. It was not
written as news, for it is incredible, but as fiction.
It may go as a part of my testimony under oath.'
'But you say it is incredible.'
'That is nothing to you, sir, if I also swear that
it is true.'
The coroner was silent for a time, his eyes upon
the floor. The men about the sides of the cabin talked
in whispers, but seldom withdrew their gaze from
the face of the corpse. Presently the coroner lifted
his eyes and said: 'We will resume the inquest.'
The men removed their hats. The witness was
'What is your name? ' the coroner asked.
'You knew the deceased, Hugh Morgan?'
'You were with him when he died?'
'How did that happen--your presence, I mean ? '
'I was visiting him at this place to shoot and fish.
A part of my purpose, however, was to study him
and his odd, solitary way of life. He seemed a good
model for a character in fiction. I sometimes write
'I sometimes read them.'
'Stories in general--not yours.'
Some of the jurors laughed. Against a sombre
background humour shows high lights. Soldiers in
the intervals of battle laugh easily, and a jest in the
death chamber conquers by surprise.
'Relate the circumstances of this man's death,'
said the coroner. 'You may use any notes or memoranda
that you please.'
The witness understood. Pulling a manuscript
from his breast pocket he held it near the candle and
turning the leaves until he found the passage that
he wanted began to read.
2: What may Happen in a Field of Wild Oats
'. . . The sun had hardly risen when we left the
house. We were looking for quail, each with a shotgun,
but we had only one dog. Morgan said that
our best ground was beyond a certain ridge that
he pointed out, and we crossed it by a trail through
the chaparral. On the other side was comparatively
level ground, thickly covered with wild oats. As we
emerged from the chaparral Morgan was but a few
yards in advance. Suddenly we heard, at a little
distance to our right and partly in front, a noise as of
some animal thrashing about in the bushes, which
we could see were violently agitated.
'"We've started a deer," I said. "I wish we had
brought a rifle."
'Morgan, who had stopped and was intently
watching the agitated chaparral, said nothing, but
had cocked both barrels of his gun and was holding
it in readiness to aim. I thought him a trifle excited,
which surprised me, for be had a reputation for exceptional
coolness, even in moments of sudden and
'"Oh, come," I said. "You are not going to fill
up a deer with quail-shot, are you?"
'Still he did not reply; but catching a sight of his
face as he turned it slightly toward me I was struck
by the intensity of his look. Then I understood that
we had serious business in hand, and my first conjecture
was that we had "jumped" a grizzly. I advanced
to Morgan's side, cocking my piece as I
'The bushes were now quiet and the sounds had
ceased, but Morgan was as attentive to the place as
'"What is it? What the devil is it?" I asked.
'"That Damned Thing!" he replied, without
turning his head. His voice was husky and unnatural.
He trembled visibly.
'I was about to speak further, when I observed
the wild oats near the place of the disturbance moving
in the most inexplicable way. I can hardly describe
it. It seemed as if stirred by a streak of wind,
which not only bent it, but pressed it down--
crushed it so that it did not rise; and this movement
was slowly prolonging itself directly toward us.
'Nothing that I had ever seen had affected me so
strangely as this unfamiliar and unaccountable phenomenon,
yet I am unable to recall any sense of
fear. I remember--and tell it here because, singularly
enough, I recollected it then--that once in
looking carelessly out of an open window I momentarily
mistook a small tree close at hand for one of
a group of larger trees at a little distance away.
It looked the same size as the others, but being more
distinctly and sharply defined in mass and detail
seemed out of harmony with them. It was a mere
falsification of the law of aerial perspective, but it
startled, almost terrified me. We so rely upon the
orderly operation of familiar natural laws that any
seeming suspension of them is noted as a menace
to our safety, a warning of unthinkable calamity. So
now the apparently causeless movement of the
herbage and the slow, undeviating approach of the
line of disturbance were distinctly disquieting. My
companion appeared actually frightened, and I could
hardly credit my senses when I saw him suddenly
throw his gun to his shoulder and fire both barrels
at the agitated grain! Before the smoke of the discharge
had cleared away I heard a loud savage cry
--a scream like that of a wild animal--and flinging
his gun upon the ground Morgan sprang away and
ran swiftly from the spot. At the same instant I was
thrown violently to the ground by the impact of
something unseen in the smoke--some soft, heavy
substance that seemed thrown against me with
'Before I could get upon my feet and recover my
gun, which seemed to have been struck from my
hands, I heard Morgan crying out as if in mortal
agony, and mingling with his cries were such hoarse,
savage sounds as one hears from fighting dogs.
Inexpressibly terrified, I struggled to my feet and
looked in the direction of Morgan's retreat; and may
Heaven in mercy spare me from another sight like
that! At a distance of less than thirty yards was
my friend, down upon one knee, his head thrown
back at a frightful angle, hatless, his long hair in
disorder and his whole body in violent movement
from side to side, backward and forward. His right
arm was lifted and seemed to lack the hand--at
least, I could see none. The other arm was invisible.
At times, as my memory now reports this extraordinary
scene, I could discern but a part of his body;
it was as if he had been partly blotted out--I cannot
otherwise express it--then a shifting of his
position would bring it all into view again.
'All this must have occurred within a few seconds,
yet in that time Morgan assumed all the postures
of a determined wrestler vanquished by superior
weight and strength. I saw nothing but him,
and him not always distinctly. During the entire
incident his shouts and curses were heard, as if
through an enveloping uproar of such sounds of
rage and fury as I had never heard from the throat
of man or brute!
'For a moment only I stood irresolute, then throwing
down my gun I ran forward to my friend's assistance.
I had a vague belief that he was suffering
from a fit, or some form of convulsion. Before I could
reach his side he was down and quiet. All sounds had
ceased, but with a feeling of such terror as even these
awful events had not inspired I now saw again the
mysterious movement of the wild oats, prolonging
itself from the trampled area about the prostrate
man toward the edge of a wood. It was only when
it had reached the wood that I was able to withdraw
my eyes and look at my companion. He was dead.'
3: A Man though Naked may be in Rags
The coroner rose from his seat and stood beside
the dead man. Lifting an edge of the sheet he pulled
it away, exposing the entire body, altogether naked
and showing in the candle-light a clay-like yellow.
It had, however, broad maculations of bluish black,
obviously caused by extravasated blood from contusions.
The chest and sides looked as if they had
been beaten with a bludgeon. There were dreadful
lacerations; the skin was torn in strips and shreds.
The coroner moved round to the end of the table
and undid a silk handkerchief which had been passed
under the chin and knotted on the top of the head.
When the handkerchief was drawn away it exposed
what had been the throat. Some of the jurors who
had risen to get a better view repented their curiosity
and turned away their faces. Witness Harker went
to the open window and leaned out across the sill,
faint and sick. Dropping the handkerchief upon the
dead man's neck the coroner stepped to an angle of
the room and from a pile of clothing produced one
garment after another, each of which he held up a
moment for inspection. All were torn, and stiff with
blood. The jurors did not make a closer inspection.
They seemed rather uninterested. They had, in
truth, seen all this before; the only thing that was
new to them being Harker's testimony.
'Gentlemen,' the coroner said, 'we have no more
evidence, I think. Your duty has been already explained
to you; if there is nothing you wish to ask
you may go outside and consider your verdict.'
The foreman rose--a tall, bearded man of sixty,
'I should like to ask one question, Mr. Coroner,'
he said. 'What asylum did this yer last witness
'Mr. Harker,' said the coroner gravely and tranquilly,
'from what asylum did you last escape? '
Harker flushed crimson again, but said nothing,
and the seven jurors rose and solemnly filed out of
'If you have done insulting me, sir,' said Harker,
as soon as he and the officer were left alone with
the dead man, 'I suppose I am at liberty to go?'
Harker started to leave, but paused, with his hand
on the door latch. The habit of his profession was
strong in him--stronger than his sense of personal
dignity. He turned about and said:
'The book that you have there--I recognize it as
Morgan's diary. You seemed greatly interested in
it; you read in it while I was testifying. May I see
it? The public would like--'
'The book will cut no figure in this matter,' replied
the official, slipping it into his coat pocket;
'all the entries in it were made before the writer's
As Harker passed out of the house the jury reentered
and stood about the table, on which the now
covered corpse showed under the sheet with sharp
definition. The foreman seated himself near the candle,
produced from his breast pocket a pencil and
scrap of paper and wrote rather laboriously the
following verdict, which with various degrees of
effort all signed:
'We, the jury, do find that the remains come to
their death at the hands of a mountain lion, but
some of us thinks, all the same, they had fits.'
4: An Explanation from the Tomb
In the diary of the late Hugh Morgan are certain
interesting entries having, possibly, a scientific value
as suggestions. At the inquest upon his body the
book was not put in evidence; possibly the coroner
thought it not worth while to confuse the jury. The
date of the first of the entries mentioned cannot be
ascertained; the upper part of the leaf is torn away;
the part of the entry remaining follows:
'. . . would run in a half-circle, keeping his head
turned always toward the centre, and again he would
stand still, barking furiously. At last he ran away
into the brush as fast as he could go. I thought at
first that he had gone mad, but on returning to the
house found no other alteration in his manner than
what was obviously due to fear of punishment.
'Can a dog see with his nose? Do odours impress
some cerebral centre with images of the thing that
emitted them? . . .
'Sept. 2.--Looking at the stars last night as they
rose above the crest of the ridge east of the house,
I observed them successively disappear--from left
to right. Each was eclipsed but an instant, and only
a few at the same time, but along the entire length
of the ridge all that were within a degree or two of
the crest were blotted out. It was as if something
had passed along between me and them; but I could
not see it, and the stars were not thick enough to
define its outline. Ugh! don't like this.' . . .
Several weeks' entries are missing, three leaves
being torn from the book.
'Sept. 27.--It has been about here again--I
find evidences of its presence every day. I watched
again all last night in the same cover, gun in hand,
double-charged with buckshot. In the morning the
fresh footprints were there, as before. Yet I would
have sworn that I did not sleep--indeed, I hardly
sleep at all. It is terrible, insupportable! If these
amazing experiences are real I shall go mad; if they
are fanciful I am mad already.
'Oct. 3.--I shall not go--it shall not drive me
away. No, this is my house, my land. God hates a
'Oct. 5.--I can stand it no longer; I have invited
Harker to pass a few weeks with me--he has a
level head. I can judge from his manner if he thinks
'Oct. 7.--I have the solution of the mystery;
it came to me last night--suddenly, as by revelation.
How simple--how terribly simple!
'There are sounds that we cannot hear. At either
end of the scale are notes that stir no chord of that
imperfect instrument, the human ear. They are too
high or too grave. I have observed a flock of blackbirds
occupying an entire tree-top--the tops of several
trees--and all in full song. Suddenly--in a
moment--at absolutely the same instant--all
spring into the air and fly away. How? They could
not all see one another--whole tree-tops intervened.
At no point could a leader have been visible to all.
There must have been a signal of warning or command,
high and shrill above the din, but by me
unheard. I have observed, too, the same simultaneous
flight when all were silent, among not only
blackbirds, but other birds--quail, for example,
widely separated by bushes--even on opposite
sides of a hill.
'It is known to seamen that a school of whales
basking or sporting on the surface of the ocean,
miles apart, with the convexity of the earth between,
will sometimes dive at the same instant--all gone
out of sight in a moment. The signal has been
sounded--too grave for the ear of the sailor at
the masthead and his comrades on the deck--who
nevertheless feel its vibrations in the ship as the
stones of a cathedral are stirred by the bass of the
'As with sounds, so with colours. At each end of
the solar spectrum the chemist can detect the presence
of what are known as "actinic" rays. They
represent colours--integral colours in the composition
of light--which we are unable to discern. The
human eye is an imperfect instrument; its range is
but a few octaves of the real "chromatic scale." I am
not mad; there are colours that we cannot see.
'And, God help me! the Damned Thing is of
such a colour!'
HAITA THE SHEPHERD
IN the heart of Haita the illusions of youth had not
been supplanted by those of age and experience.
His thoughts were pure and pleasant, for his life
was simple and his soul devoid of ambition. He rose
with the sun and went forth to pray at the shrine
of Hastur, the god of shepherds, who heard and was
pleased. After performance of this pious rite Haita
unbarred the gate of the fold and with a cheerful
mind drove his flock afield, eating his morning meal
of curds and oat cake as he went, occasionally pausing
to add a few berries, cold with dew, or to drink
of the waters that came away from the hills to join
the stream in the middle of the valley and be borne
along with it, he knew not whither.
During the long summer day, as his sheep cropped
the good grass which the gods had made to grow for
them, or lay with their forelegs doubled under their
breasts and chewed the cud, Haita, reclining in the
shadow of a tree, or sitting upon a rock, played so
sweet music upon his reed pipe that sometimes from
the corner of his eye he got accidental glimpses of
the minor sylvan deities, leaning forward out of the
copse to hear; but if he looked at them directly they
vanished. From this--for he must be thinking if he
would not turn into one of his own sheep--he drew
the solemn inference that happiness may come if not
sought, but if looked for will never be seen; for next
to the favour of Hastur, who never disclosed himself,
Haita most valued the friendly interest of his neighbours,
the shy immortals of the wood and stream.
At nightfall he drove his flock back to the fold, saw
that the gate was secure and retired to his cave for
refreshment and for dreams.
So passed his life, one day like another, save when
the storms uttered the wrath of an offended god.
Then Haita cowered in his cave, his face hidden in
his hands, and prayed that he alone might be punished
for his sins and the world saved from destruction.
Sometimes when there was a great rain, and
the stream came out of its banks, compelling him to
urge his terrified flock to the uplands, he interceded
for the people in the cities which he had been told lay
in the plain beyond the two blue hills forming the
gateway of his valley.
'It is kind of thee, O Hastur,' so he prayed, 'to
give me mountains so near to my dwelling and my
fold that I and my sheep can escape the angry torrents;
but the rest of the world thou must thyself
deliver in some way that I know not of, or I will
no longer worship thee.'
And Hastur, knowing that Haita was a youth
who kept his word, spared the cities and turned the
waters into the sea.
So he had lived since he could remember. He could
not rightly conceive any other mode of existence.
The holy hermit who dwelt at the head of the valley,
a full hour's journey away, from whom he had
heard the tale of the great cities where dwelt
people--poor souls!--who had no sheep, gave him
no knowledge of that early time, when, so he
reasoned, he must have been small and helpless like
It was through thinking on these mysteries and
marvels, and on that horrible change to silence and
decay which he felt sure must sometime come to
him, as he had seen it come to so many of his flock
--as it came to all living things except the birds
--that Haita first became conscious how miserable
and hopeless was his lot.
'It is necessary,' he said, 'that I know whence and
how I came; for how can one perform his duties
unless able to judge what they are by the way in
which he was entrusted with them? And what contentment
can I have when I know not how long it is
going to last? Perhaps before another sun I may
be changed, and then what will become of the sheep?
What, indeed, will have become of me?'
Pondering these things Haita became melancholy
and morose. He no longer spoke cheerfully to his
flock, nor ran with alacrity to the shrine of Hastur.
In every breeze he heard whispers of malign deities
whose existence he now first observed. Every cloud
was a portent signifying disaster, and the darkness
was full of terrors. His reed pipe when applied to his
lips gave out no melody, but a dismal wail; the
sylvan and riparian intelligences no longer thronged
the thicket-side to listen, but fled from the sound,
as he knew by the stirred leaves and bent flowers.
He relaxed his vigilance and many of his sheep
strayed away into the hills and were lost. Those that
remained became lean and ill for lack of good pasturage,
for he would not seek it for them, but conducted
them day after day to the same spot, through
mere abstraction, while puzzling about life and
death--of immortality he knew not.
One day while indulging in the gloomiest reflections
he suddenly sprang from the rock upon which
he sat, and with a determined gesture of the right
hand exclaimed: 'I will no longer be a suppliant for
knowledge which the gods withhold. Let them look
to it that they do me no wrong. I will do my duty
as best I can and if I err upon their own heads
Suddenly, as he spoke, a great brightness fell
about him, causing him to look upward, thinking
the sun had burst through a rift in the clouds; but
there were no clouds. No more than an arm's length
away stood a beautiful maiden. So beautiful she was
that the flowers about her feet folded their petals in
despair and bent their heads in token of submission;
so sweet her look that the humming-birds thronged
her eyes, thrusting their thirsty bills almost into
them, and the wild bees were about her lips. And
such was her brightness that the shadows of all objects
lay divergent from her feet, turning as she
Haita was entranced. Rising, he knelt before her
in adoration, and she laid her hand upon his head.
'Come,' she said in a voice that had the music of
all the bells of his flock--'come, thou art not to
worship me, who am no goddess, but if thou art
truthful and dutiful I will abide with thee.'
Haita seized her hand, and stammering his joy
and gratitude arose, and hand in hand they stood
and smiled into each other's eyes. He gazed on her
with reverence and rapture. He said: 'I pray thee,
lovely maid, tell me thy name and whence and why
At this she laid a warning finger on her lip and
began to withdraw. Her beauty underwent a visible
alteration that made him shudder, he knew not why,
for still she was beautiful. The landscape was darkened
by a giant shadow sweeping across the valley
with the speed of a vulture. In the obscurity the
maiden's figure grew dim and indistinct and her
voice seemed to come from a distance, as she said,
in a tone of sorrowful reproach: 'Presumptuous and
ungrateful youth! must I then so soon leave thee?
Would nothing do but thou must at once break the
Inexpressibly grieved, Haita fell upon his knees
and implored her to remain--rose and sought her
in the deepening darkness--ran in circles, calling
to her aloud, but all in vain. She was no longer
visible, but out of the gloom he heard her voice
saying: 'Nay, thou shalt not have me by seeking.
Go to thy duty, faithless shepherd, or we shall never
Night had fallen; the wolves were howling in
the hills and the terrified sheep crowding about
Haita's feet. In the demands of the hour he forgot
his disappointment, drove his sheep to the fold
and repairing to the place of worship poured out
his heart in gratitude to Hastur for permitting
him to save his flock, then retired to his cave and
When Haita awoke the sun was high and shone
in at the cave, illuminating it with a great glory. And
there, beside him, sat the maiden. She smiled upon
him with a smile that seemed the visible music of
his pipe of reeds. He dared not speak, fearing to
offend her as before, for he knew not what he could
venture to say.
'Because,' she said, 'thou didst thy duty by the
flock, and didst not forget to thank Hastur for staying
the wolves of the night, I am come to thee again.
Wilt thou have me for a companion?'
'Who would not have thee for ever?' replied
Haita. 'Oh! never again leave me until--until I--
change and become silent and motionless.'
Haita had no word for death.
'I wish, indeed,' he continued, 'that thou wert of
my own sex, that we might wrestle and run races and
so never tire of being together.'
At these words the maiden arose and passed out
of the cave, and Haita, springing from his couch of
fragrant boughs to overtake and detain her, observed
to his astonishment that the rain was falling and
the stream in the middle of the valley had come out
of its banks. The sheep were bleating in terror, for
the rising waters had invaded their fold. And there
was danger for the unknown cities of the distant
It was many days before Haita saw the maiden
again. One day he was returning from the head of the
valley, where he had gone with ewe's milk and oat
cake and berries for the holy hermit, who was too
old and feeble to provide himself with food.
'Poor old man!' he said aloud, as he trudged
along homeward. 'I will return to-morrow and bear
him on my back to my own dwelling, where I can
care for him. Doubtless it is for this that Hastur has
reared me all these many years, and gives me health
As he spoke, the maiden, clad in glittering garments,
met him in the path with a smile that took
away his breath.
'I am come again,' she said, 'to dwell with thee
if thou wilt now have me, for none else will. Thou
mayest have learned wisdom, and art willing to take
me as I am, nor care to know.'
Haita threw himself at her feet. 'Beautiful being,'
he cried, 'if thou wilt but deign to accept all the devotion
of my heart and soul--after Hastur be
served--it is thine for ever. But, alas! thou art
capricious and wayward. Before to-morrow's sun
I may lose thee again. Promise, I beseech thee, that
however in my ignorance I may offend, thou wilt
forgive and remain always with me.'
Scarcely had he finished speaking when a troop
of bears came out of the hills, racing toward him
with crimson mouths and fiery eyes. The maiden
again vanished, and he turned and fled for his life.
Nor did he stop until he was in the cot of the holy
hermit, whence he had set out. Hastily barring the
door against the bears he cast himself upon the
ground and wept.
'My son,' said the hermit from his couch of straw,
freshly gathered that morning by Haita's hands, 'it
is not like thee to weep for bears--tell me what
sorrow hath befallen thee, that age may minister to
the hurts of youth with such balms as it hath of its
Haita told him all: how thrice he had met the
radiant maid and thrice she had left him forlorn.
He related minutely all that had passed between
them, omitting no word of what had been said.
When he had ended, the holy hermit was a moment
silent, then said: 'My son, I have attended to
thy story, and I know the maiden. I have myself
seen her, as have many. Know, then, that her name,
which she would not even permit thee to inquire, is
Happiness. Thou saidst the truth to her, that she
is capricious, for she imposeth conditions that man
cannot fulfil, and delinquency is punished by desertion.
She cometh only when unsought, and will
not be questioned. One manifestation of curiosity,
one sign of doubt, one expression of misgiving, and
she is away! How long didst thou have her at any
time before she fled?'
'Only a single instant,' answered Haita, blushing
with shame at the confession. 'Each time I drove
her away in one moment.'
'Unfortunate youth!' said the holy hermit, 'but
for thine indiscretion thou mightst have had her for
AN INHABITANT OF CARCOSA
For there be divers sorts of death--some wherein
the body remaineth; and in some it vanisheth quite
away with the spirit. This commonly occurreth only
in solitude (such is God's will) and, none seeing the
end, we say the man is lost, or gone on a long journey
--which indeed he hath; but sometimes it hath
happened in sight of many, as abundant testimony
showeth. In one kind of death the spirit also dieth,
and this it hath been known to do while yet the
body was in vigour for many years. Sometimes, as
is veritably attested, it dieth with the body, but after
a season is raised up again in that place where the
body did decay.
Pondering these words of Hali (whom God rest)
and questioning their full meaning, as one who,
having an intimation, yet doubts if there be not something
behind, other than that which he has discerned,
I noted not whither I had strayed until a
sudden chill wind striking my face revived in me
a sense of my surroundings. I observed with astonishment
that everything seemed unfamiliar. On
every side of me stretched a bleak and desolate expanse
of plain, covered with a tall overgrowth of
sere grass, which rustled and whistled in the autumn
wind with Heaven knows what mysterious and
disquieting suggestion. Protruded at long intervals
above it, stood strangely shaped and sombrecoloured
rocks, which seemed to have an understanding
with one another and to exchange looks of
uncomfortable significance, as if they had reared
their heads to watch the issue of some foreseen event.
A few blasted trees here and there appeared as
leaders in this malevolent conspiracy of silent
The day, I thought, must be far advanced, though
the sun was invisible; and although sensible that the
air was raw and chill my consciousness of that fact
was rather mental than physical--I had no feeling
of discomfort. Over all the dismal landscape a canopy
of low, lead-coloured clouds hung like a visible curse.
In all this there was a menace and a portent--a
hint of evil, an intimation of doom. Bird, beast, or
insect there was none. The wind sighed in the bare
branches of the dead trees and the grey grass bent
to whisper its dread secret to the earth; but no other
sound nor motion broke the awful repose of that
I observed in the herbage a number of weatherworn
stones, evidently shaped with tools. They were
broken, covered with moss and half sunken in the
earth. Some lay prostrate, some leaned at various
angles, none was vertical. They were obviously
headstones of graves, though the graves themselves
no longer existed as either mounds or depressions;
the years had levelled all. Scattered here and there,
more massive blocks showed where some pompous
tomb or ambitious monument had once flung its
feeble defiance at oblivion. So old seemed these
relics, these vestiges of vanity and memorials of
affection and piety, so battered and worn and stained
--so neglected, deserted, forgotten the place, that I
could not help thinking myself the discoverer of the
burial-ground of a prehistoric race of men whose very
name was long extinct.
Filled with these reflections, I was for some time
heedless of the sequence of my own experiences, but
soon I thought, 'How came I hither?' A moment's
reflection seemed to make this all clear and explain
at the same time, though in a disquieting way, the
singular character with which my fancy had invested
all that I saw or heard. I was ill. I remembered now
that I had been prostrated by a sudden fever,
and that my family had told me that in my periods
of delirium I had constantly cried out for liberty
and air, and had been held in bed to prevent
my escape out-of-doors. Now I had eluded the vigilance
of my attendants and had wandered hither
to--to where? I could not conjecture. Clearly I
was at a considerable distance from the city
where I dwelt--the ancient and famous city of
No signs of human life were anywhere visible
nor audible; no rising smoke, no watch-dog's bark,
no lowing of cattle, no shouts of children at play--
nothing but that dismal burial-place, with its air
of mystery and dread, due to my own disordered
brain. Was I not becoming again delirious, there
beyond human aid? Was it not indeed all an illusion
of my madness? I called aloud the names of my
wives and sons, reached out my hands in search of
theirs, even as I walked among the crumbling stones
and in the withered grass.
A noise behind me caused me to turn about. A
wild animal--a lynx--was approaching. The
thought came to me: if I break down here in the
desert--if the fever return and I fail, this beast
will be at my throat. I sprang toward it, shouting.
It trotted tranquilly by within a hand's-breadth of
me and disappeared behind a rock.
A moment later a man's head appeared to rise
out of the ground a short distance away. He was
ascending the farther slope of a low hill whose crest
was hardly to be distinguished from the general
level. His whole figure soon came into view against
the background of grey cloud. He was half naked,
half clad in skins. His hair was unkempt, his beard
long and ragged. In one hand he carried a bow and
arrow; the other held a blazing torch with a long
trail of black smoke. He walked slowly and with
caution, as if he feared falling into some open grave
concealed by the tall grass. This strange apparition
surprised but did not alarm, and taking such a course
as to intercept him I met him almost face to face,
accosting him with the familiar salutation, 'God
He gave no heed, nor did he arrest his pace.
'Good stranger,' I continued, 'I am ill and lost.
Direct me, I beseech you, to Carcosa.'
The man broke into a barbarous chant in an unknown
tongue, passing on and away.
An owl on the branch of a decayed tree hooted
dismally and was answered by another in the distance.
Looking upward, I saw through a sudden rift
in the clouds Aldebaran and the Hyades! In all this
there was a hint of night--the lynx, the man with
the torch, the owl. Yet I saw--I saw even the stars
in absence of the darkness. I saw, but was apparently
not seen nor heard. Under what awful spell did
I seated myself at the root of a great tree, seriously
to consider what it were best to do. That I was
mad I could no longer doubt, yet recognized a ground
of doubt in the conviction. Of fever I had no trace.
I had, withal, a sense of exhilaration and vigour
altogether unknown to me--a feeling of mental
and physical exaltation. My senses seemed all alert;
I could feel the air as a ponderous substance; I could
hear the silence.
A great root of the giant tree against whose trunk
I leaned as I sat held enclosed in its grasp a slab of
stone, a part of which protruded into a recess formed
by another root. The stone was thus partly protected
from the weather, though greatly decomposed. Its
edges were worn round, its corners eaten away, its
surface deeply furrowed and scaled. Glittering particles
of mica were visible in the earth about it--
vestiges of its decomposition. This stone had apparently
marked the grave out of which the tree
had sprung ages ago. The tree's exacting roots had
robbed the grave and made the stone a prisoner.
A sudden wind pushed some dry leaves and twigs
from the uppermost face of the stone; I saw the lowrelief
letters of an inscription and bent to read it.
God in heaven! my name in full!--the date of my
birth!--the date of my death!
A level shaft of light illuminated the whole side
of the tree as I sprang to my feet in terror. The sun
was rising in the rosy east. I stood between the tree
and his broad red disk--no shadow darkened the
A chorus of howling wolves saluted the dawn. I
saw them sitting on their haunches, singly and in
groups, on the summits of irregular mounds and
tumuli filling a half of my desert prospect and extending
to the horizon. And then I knew that
these were ruins of the ancient and famous city of
Such are the facts imparted to the medium Bayrolles
by the spirit Hoseib Alar Robardin.
A MAN stepped out of the darkness into the little
illuminated circle about our failing camp-fire and
seated himself upon a rock.
'You are not the first to explore this region,' he
Nobody controverted his statement; he was himself
proof of its truth, for he was not of our party and
must have been somewhere near when we camped.
Moreover, he must have companions not far away;
it was not a place where one would be living or travelling
alone. For more than a week we had seen, besides
ourselves and our animals, only such living
things as rattlesnakes and horned toads. In an Arizona
desert one does not long coexist with only such
creatures as these: one must have pack animals, supplies,
arms--'an outfit.' And all these imply comrades.
It was perhaps a doubt as to what manner
of men this unceremonious stranger's comrades
might be, together with something in his words interpretable
as a challenge that caused every man
of our half-dozen 'gentlemen adventurers' to rise
to a sitting posture and lay his hand upon a weapon
--an act signifying, in that time and place, a policy
of expectation. The stranger gave the matter no
attention and began again to speak in the same
deliberate, uninflected monotone in which he had
delivered his first sentence:
'Thirty years ago Ramon Gallegos, William Shaw,
George W. Kent, and Berry Davis, all of Tucson,
crossed the Santa Catalina mountains and travelled
due west, as nearly as the configuration of the country
permitted. We were prospecting and it was our
intention, if we found nothing, to push through to the
Gila river at some point near Big Bend, where we
understood there was a settlement. We had a good
outfit, but no guide--just Ramon Gallegos, William
Shaw, George W. Kent, and Berry Davis.'
The man repeated the names slowly and distinctly,
as if to fix them in the memories of his audience,
every member of which was now attentively observing
him, but with a slackened apprehension regarding
his possible companions somewhere in the darkness
that seemed to enclose us like a black wall; in
the manner of this volunteer historian was no suggestion
of an unfriendly purpose. His act was rather
that of a harmless lunatic than an enemy. We were
not so new to the country as not to know that the
solitary life of many a plainsman had a tendency
to develop eccentricities of conduct and character
not always easily distinguishable from mental aberration.
A man is like a tree: in a forest of his fellows
he will grow as straight as his generic and individual
nature permits; alone in the open, he yields to the
deforming stresses and tortions that environ him.
Some such thoughts were in my mind as I watched
the man from the shadow of my hat, pulled low to
shut out the firelight. A witless fellow, no doubt, but
what could he be doing there in the heart of a
Having undertaken to tell this story, I wish that
I could describe the man's appearance; that would
be a natural thing to do. Unfortunately, and somewhat
strangely, I find myself unable to do so with
any degree of confidence, for afterward no two of
us agreed as to what he wore and how he looked;
and when I try to set down my own impressions they
elude me. Anyone can tell some kind of story;
narration is one of the elemental powers of the race.
But the talent for description is a gift.
Nobody having broken silence the visitor went on
'This country was not then what it is now. There
was not a ranch between the Gila and the Gulf.
There was a little game here and there in the mountains,
and near the infrequent water-holes grass
enough to keep our animals from starvation. If we
should be so fortunate as to encounter no Indians we
might get through. But within a week the purpose of
the expedition had altered from discovery of wealth
to preservation of life. We had gone too far to go
back, for what was ahead could be no worse than
what was behind; so we pushed on, riding by night
to avoid Indians and the intolerable heat, and concealing
ourselves by day as best we could. Sometimes,
having exhausted our supply of wild meat
and emptied our casks, we were days without food
or drink; then a water-hole or a shallow pool in
the bottom of an arroyo so restored our strength
and sanity that we were able to shoot some of the
wild animals that sought it also. Sometimes it was
a bear, sometimes an antelope, a coyote, a cougar--
that was as God pleased; all were food.
'One morning as we skirted a mountain range,
seeking a practicable pass, we were attacked by a
band of Apaches who had followed our trail up a
gulch--it is not far from here. Knowing that they
outnumbered us ten to one, they took none of their
usual cowardly precautions, but dashed upon us
at a gallop, firing and yelling. Fighting was out of
the question: we urged our feeble animals up the
gulch as far as there was footing for a hoof, then
threw ourselves out of our saddles and took to the
chaparral on one of the slopes, abandoning our entire
outfit to the enemy. But we retained our rifles,
every man--Ramon Gallegos, William Shaw,
George W. Kent, and Berry Davis.'
'Same old crowd,' said the humorist of our party.
He was an Eastern man, unfamiliar with the decent
observances of social intercourse. A gesture of disapproval
from our leader silenced him, and the
stranger proceeded with his tale:
'The savages dismounted also, and some of them
ran up the gulch beyond the point at which we had
left it, cutting off further retreat in that direction and
forcing us on up the side. Unfortunately the chaparral
extended only a short distance up the slope, and
as we came into the open ground above we took
the fire of a dozen rifles; but Apaches shoot badly
when in a hurry, and God so willed it that none of us
fell. Twenty yards up the slope, beyond the edge
of the brush, were vertical cliffs, in which, directly
in front of us, was a narrow opening. Into that we
ran, finding ourselves in a cavern about as large
as an ordinary room in a house. Here for a time we
were safe: a single man with a repeating rifle could
defend the entrance against all the Apaches in
the land. But against hunger and thirst we had
no defence. Courage we still had, but hope was a
'Not one of those Indians did we afterward see,
but by the smoke and glare of their fires in the gulch
we knew that by day and by night they watched
with ready rifles in the edge of the bush--knew that
if we made a sortie not a man of us would live to
take three steps into the open. For three days, watching
in turn, we held out before our suffering became
insupportable. Then--It was the morning of the
fourth day--Ramon Gallegos said:
'"Senores, I know not well of the good God and
what please Him. I have live without religion, and
I am not acquaint with that of you. Pardon, senores,
if I shock you, but for me the time is come to beat
the game of the Apache."
'He knelt upon the rock floor of the cave and
pressed his pistol against his temple. "Madre de
Dios," he said, "comes now the soul of Ramon
'And so he left us--William Shaw, George W.
Kent, and Berry Davis.
'I was the leader: it was for me to speak.
'"He was a brave man," I said--"he knew
when to die, and how. It is foolish to go mad from
thirst and fall by Apache bullets, or be skinned
alive--it is in bad taste. Let us join Ramon
'"That is right," said William Shaw.
'"That is right," said George W. Kent.
'I straightened the limbs of Ramon Gallegos and
put a handkerchief over his face. Then William
Shaw said: "I should like to look like that--a little
'And George W. Kent said that he felt that way,
'"It shall be so," I said: "the red devils will
wait a week. William Shaw and George W. Kent,
draw and kneel."
'They did so and I stood before them.
'" Almighty God, our Father," said I.
'"Almighty God, our Father," said William
'"Almighty God, our Father," said George W.
'"Forgive us our sins," said I.
'"Forgive us our sins," said they.
'"And receive our souls."
'"And receive our souls."
'I laid them beside Ramon Gallegos and covered
There was a quick commotion on the opposite
side of the camp-fire: one of our party had sprung
to his feet, pistol in hand.
'And you!' he shouted--'you dared to escape?
--you dare to be alive? You cowardly hound, I'll
send you to join them if I hang for it!'
But with the leap of a panther the captain was
upon him, grasping his wrist. 'Hold it in, Sam
Yountsey, hold it in!'
We were now all upon our feet--except the
stranger, who sat motionless and apparently inattentive.
Some one seized Yountsey's other arm.
'Captain,' I said, 'there is something wrong here.
This fellow is either a lunatic or merely a liar--just
a plain, everyday liar whom Yountsey has no call
to kill. If this man was of that party it had five
members, one of whom--probably himself--he
has not named.'
'Yes,' said the captain, releasing the insurgent,
who sat down, 'there is something--unusual.
Years ago four dead bodies of white men, scalped
and shamefully mutilated, were found about the
mouth of that cave. They are buried there; I
have seen the graves--we shall all see them tomorrow.'
The stranger rose, standing tall in the light of the
expiring fire, which in our breathless attention to
his story we had neglected to keep going.
'There were four,' he said--'Ramon Gallegos,
William Shaw, George W. Kent, and Berry Davis.'
With this reiterated roll-call of the dead he
walked into the darkness and we saw him no more.
At that moment one of our party, who had been
on guard, strode in among us, rifle in hand and
'Captain,' he said, 'for the last half-hour three
men have been standing out there on the mesa.'
He pointed in the direction taken by the stranger.
'I could see them distinctly, for the moon is up,
but as they had no guns and I had them covered
with mine I thought it was their move. They have
made none, but damn it! they have got on to my
'Go back to your post, and stay till you see them
again,' said the captain. 'The rest of you lie down
again, or I'll kick you all into the fire.'
The sentinel obediently withdrew, swearing, and
did not return. As we were arranging our blankets
the fiery Yountsey said: 'I beg your pardon, Captain,
but who the devil do you take them to be? '
'Ramon Gallegos, William Shaw, and George W.
'But how about Berry Davis? I ought to have shot
'Quite needless; you couldn't have made him any
deader. Go to sleep.'