Part 7 out of 8
aimlessly, uselessly against the stake. An instant later she had
jerked it from its fastening with a cry of joy. "I'll send it back
when they go for my trunks. What luck!"
Without a second's hesitation she started off briskly into the
woodland road, striding along with the splendid swing of the healthy
Englishwoman who has not been trained to dawdle. Her walking-skirt
gave free play to her limbs; she was far past the well-known "line in
the road" before she paused to take a full breath and to recapitulate.
Her heart beat faster and the sudden glow in her cheek was not from
the exercise. Somehow, out there alone in the world, the most amazing
feeling of tenderness sped on ahead to Randolph Shaw. She tried to
put it from her, but it grew and grew. Then she blushed deep within
herself and her eyes grew sweet with the memory of those stolen,
reprehensible hours along the frontier. Something within her breast
cried out for those shining, gone-by moments, something seemed to
close down on her throat, something flooded her eyes with a softness
that rolled up from her entire being. Their line! Their insurmountable
barrier! An absurd yet ineffable longing to fall down and kiss that
line came over her with compelling force.
Her head grew light with the thought of those moments when their
horses stood with muzzles together as if kissing by proxy--the flush
grew deeper, though her blood went cold and she trembled.
A pitiful confusion seized her, an inexplicable timidity crept into
her heart, replacing the bold assurance that had been recklessly
carrying her on to him. It was as though some one had whispered the
truth into her ear and she was beginning to believe.
From that moment her courage began to fail. The glow from her lantern
was a menace instead of a help. A sweet timorousness enveloped her and
something tingled--she knew not what.
Spattering raindrops whizzed in her face, ominous forerunners from the
inky sky. The wind was whistling with shrill glee in the tree-tops and
the tree-tops tried to flee before it. A mile and a half lay between
her and the big cottage on the hillside--the most arduous part of the
journey by far. She walked and ran as though pursued, scudding over
the road with a swiftness that would have amazed another, but which
seemed the essence of slowness to her. Thoughts of robbers, tramps,
wild beasts, assailed her with intermittent terrors, but all served
to diminish the feeling of shyness that had been interfering with her
Past Renwood's cottage she sped, shuddering as she recognized the
stone steps and path that ran up the hillside to the haunted house.
Ghosts, witches, hobgoblins fell into the procession of pursuers,
cheered on by the shrieking wind that grew more noisome as her feet
carried her higher up the mountain. Now she was on new ground. She had
never before explored so far as this. The hill was steep and the road
had black abysses out beyond its edges....
She was breathless, half dead from fatigue and terror when at last her
feet stumbled up the broad steps leading to his porch. Trembling, she
sank into the rustic bench that stood against the wall. The lantern
clattered to her feet, and the bag with her jewels, her letter of
credit, and her curling irons slid to the floor behind the bench. Here
was his home! What cared she for the storm?
Even as she lay there gasping for breath, her eyes on the shadowy moon
that was breaking its way through the clouds, three men raced from the
stables at Bazelhurst Villa bent on finding the mad young person who
had fled the place. Scarcely knowing what direction he took, Lord
Bazelhurst led the way, followed by the duke and the count, all of
them supplied with carriage lamps, which, at any other time, would
have been sickening in their obtrusiveness. Except for Lady Evelyn,
the rest of the house slept the sleep of ease.
Gradually Penelope recovered from the effects of the mad race up the
hill. The sputtering flame in the lantern called her into action.
Clutching it from the floor of the porch, she softly began a tour of
inspection, first looking at her watch to find that it was the unholy
hour of two! Had some one yelled boo! she would have swooned, so tense
was every nerve. Now that she was here, what was she to do? Her heart
came to her mouth, her hand shook, but not with fear; a nervous smile
tried to wreak disaster to the concern in her eyes.
The house was dark and still. No one was stirring. The porch was
littered with rugs and cushions, while on a small table near the end
stood a decanter, a siphon, and two glasses. Two? He had said he was
alone except for the housekeeper and the servants. A visitor, then.
This was not what she had expected. Her heart sank. It would be hard
to face the master of the house, but--a stranger? Cigarette stubs met
her bewildered, troubled gaze--many of them. Deduction was easy out
there in the lonely night. It was easy to see that Shaw and his
companion sat up so late that the servants had gone to bed.
Distractedly she looked about for means of shelter on the porch until
daylight could abet her in the flight to the village beyond. The storm
was sure to come at no far distant time. She knew and feared the
violence of the mountain rains.
"By all that's holy," came in a man's voice, low-toned and uncertain;
"it _isn't_ a dream, after all!"
She turned like a flash, with a startled exclamation and an
instinctive movement as if to shield herself from unbidden gaze. Her
lips parted and her heart pounded like a hammer. Standing in the
doorway was Randolph Shaw, his figure looming up like a monstrous,
wavering genie in the uncertain light from the shaking lantern. His
right hand was to his brow and his eyes were wide with incredulous
joy. She noticed that the left sleeve of his dinner jacket hung limp,
and that the arm was in a white sling beneath.
"Is it really you?" he cried, his hand going instinctively to his
watch-pocket as if doubting that it was night instead of morning.
"I've--I've run away from them," she stammered. "It's two
o'clock--don't look! Oh, I'm so sorry now--why did I--"
"You ran away?" he exclaimed, coming toward her. "Oh, it can't be a
dream. You are there, aren't you?" She was a pitiable object as she
stood there, powerless to retreat, shaking like a leaf. He took her by
the shoulder. "Yes--it is _you_. Good Lord, what does it mean? What
has happened? How did you come here? Are you alone?"
"Utterly, miserably alone. Oh, Mr. Shaw!" she cried despairingly. "You
_will_ understand, won't you?"
"Never! Never as long as I live. It is beyond comprehension. The
wonderful part of it all is that I was sitting in there dreaming of
you--yes, I was. I heard some one out here, investigated and found
you--_you_, of all people in the world. And I was dreaming that I held
you in my arms. Yes, I was! I was dreaming it--"
"Mr. Shaw! You shouldn't--"
"And I awoke to find you--not in my arms, not in Bazelhurst Villa, but
here--here on my porch."
"Like a thief in the night," she murmured. "What _do_ you think of
"Shall I tell you--really?" he cried. The light in his eyes drove her
back a step or two, panic in her heart.
"N--no, no--not now!" she gasped, but a great wave of exaltation swept
through her being. He turned and walked away, too dazed to speak.
Without knowing it, she followed with hesitating steps. At the edge of
the porch he paused and looked into the darkness.
"By Jove, I _must_ be dreaming," she heard him mutter.
"No, you are not," she declared desperately. "I _am_ here. I ask your
protection for the night. I am going away--to England--to-morrow. I
couldn't stay there--I just couldn't. I'm sorry I came here--I'm--"
"Thank haven, you _did_ come," he exclaimed, turning to her
joyously. "You are like a fairy--the fairy princess come true. It's
unbelievable! But--but what was it you said about England?" he
concluded, suddenly sober.
"I am go--going home. There's no place else. I can't live with her,"
she said, a bit tremulously.
"To England? At once? Your father--will he--"
"My father? I have no father. Oh!" with a sudden start. Her eyes met
his in a helpless stare. "I never thought. My home was at Bazelhurst
Castle--their home. I can't go there. Good heavens, what am I to do?"
A long time afterward she recalled his exultant exclamation, checked
at its outset--recalled it with a perfect sense of understanding. With
rare good taste he subdued whatever it was that might have struggled
for expression and simply extended his right hand to relieve her of
"We never have been enemies, Miss Drake," he said, controlling his
voice admirably. "But had we been so up to this very instant, I am
sure I'd surrender now. I don't know what has happened at the Villa.
It doesn't matter. You are here to ask my protection and my help. I am
at your service, my home is yours, my right hand also. You are tired
and wet and--nervous. Won't you come inside? I'll get a light in a
jiffy and Mrs. Ulrich, my housekeeper, shall be with you as soon as
I can rout her out. Come in, please." She held back doubtfully, a
troubled, uncertain look in her eyes.
"You _will_ understand, won't you?" she asked simply.
"And no questions asked," he said from the doorway. Still she held
back, her gaze going involuntarily to the glasses on the table. He
interpreted the look of inquiry. "There were two of us. The doctor was
here picking out the shot, that's all. He's gone. It's all right. Wait
here and I'll get a light." The flame in her lantern suddenly ended
its feeble life.
She stood inside his doorway and heard him shuffle across the floor in
search of the lamps.
"Dark as Egypt, eh?" he called out from the opposite side of the room.
"Not as dark as the forest, Mr. Shaw."
"Good heavens, what a time you must have had. All alone, were you?"
"Of course. I was not eloping."
"I beg your pardon."
"Where were you sitting when I came up?"
"Here--in the dark. I was waiting for the storm to come and dozed
away, I daresay. I love a storm, don't you?"
"Yes, if I'm indoors. Ah!" He had struck a match and was lighting the
wick of a lamp beside the huge fireplace. "I suppose you think I'm
perfectly crazy. I'm horrid."
"Not at all. Sit down here on the couch, please. More cheerful, eh?
Good Lord, listen to the wind. You got here just in time. Now, if
you'll excuse me, I'll have Mrs. Ulrich down in a minute. She'll take
good care of you. And I'll make you a nice hot drink, too. You need
it." In the door of the big living-room he turned to her, a look of
extreme doubt in his eyes. "By Jove, I bet I _do_ wake up. It can't
be true." She laughed plaintively and shook her head in humble
self-abasement. "Don't be lonesome. I'll he back in a minute."
"Don't hurry," she murmured apologetically. Then she settled back
limply in the wide couch and inspected the room, his footsteps noisily
clattering down the long hallway to the left. She saw, with some
misgiving, that it was purely a man's habitation. Shaw doubtless had
built and furnished the big cottage without woman as a consideration.
The room was large, comfortable, solid; there was not a suggestion of
femininity in it--high or low--except the general air of cleanliness.
The furniture was rough-hewn and built for use, not ornamentation; the
walls were hung with English prints, antlers, mementoes of the hunt
and the field of sport; the floor was covered with skins and great
"carpet rag" rugs. The whole aspect was so distinctly mannish that her
heart fluttered ridiculously in its loneliness. Her cogitations were
running seriously toward riot when he came hurriedly down the hall and
into her presence.
"She'll be down presently. In fact, so will the cook and the
housemaid. Gad, Miss Drake, they were so afraid of the storm that all
of them piled into Mrs. Ulrich's room. I wonder at your courage in
facing the symptoms outdoors. Now, I'll fix you a drink. Take off your
hat--be comfortable. Cigarette? Good! Here's my sideboard. See? It's a
nuisance, this having only one arm in commission; affects my style as
a barkeep. Don't stir; I'll be able--"
"Let me help you. I mean, please don't go to so much trouble. Really
I want nothing but a place to sleep to-night. This couch will
do--honestly. And some one to call me at daybreak, so that I may be
on my way." He looked at her and laughed quizzically. "Oh, I'm in
earnest, Mr. Shaw. I wouldn't have stopped here if it hadn't been for
"Come, now, Miss Drake, you spoil the fairy tale. You _did_ intend to
come here. It was the only place for you to go--and I'm glad of it. My
only regret is that the house isn't filled with chaperons."
"Why?" she demanded with a guilty start.
"Because I could then say to you all the things that are in my
heart--aye, that are almost bursting from my lips. I--I can't say them
now, you know," he said, and she understood his delicacy. For some
minutes she sat in silence watching him as he clumsily mixed the
drinks and put the water over the alcohol blaze. Suddenly he turned
to her with something like alarm in his voice. "By George, you don't
suppose they'll pursue you?"
"Oh, wouldn't that be jolly? It would be like the real story-book--the
fairy and the ogres and all that. But," dubiously, "I'm sorely afraid
they consider me rubbish, Still--" looking up encouragingly--"my
brother would try to find me if he--if he knew that I was gone."
To her surprise, he whistled softly and permitted a frown of anxiety
to creep over his face. "I hadn't thought of that," he observed
reflectively. Then he seemed to throw off the momentary symptoms of
uneasiness, adding, with a laugh: "I daresay nothing will happen. The
storm would put a stop to all idea of pursuit."
"Let them pursue," she said, a stubborn light in her eyes. "I am my
own mistress, Mr. Shaw. They can't take me, willy nilly, as if I were
a child, you know."
"That's quite true. You don't understand," he said slowly, his back to
"You mean the law? Is it different from ours?"
"Not that. The--er--situation. You see, they might think it a trifle
odd if they found you here--with me. Don't you understand?" He turned
to her with a very serious expression. She started and sat bolt
upright to stare at him comprehensively.
"You mean--it--it isn't quite--er--"
"Regular, perhaps," he supplied "Please keep your seat! I'm not the
censor; I'm not even an opinion. Believe me, Miss Drake, my only
thought was and is for your good."
"I see. They would believe evil of me if they knew I had come to you,"
she mused, turning quite cold.
"I know the kind of people your sister-in-law has at her place, Miss
Drake. Their sort can see but one motive in anything--You know them,
too, I daresay."
"Yes, I know them," she said uneasily. "Good heavens, what a fool I've
been," she added, starting to her feet. "I might have known they'll
say all sorts of terrible things. They must not find me here. Mr.
Shaw, I'm--I am so ashamed--I wonder what you are thinking of me." Her
lip trembled and there was such a pleading look in her dark eyes that
he controlled himself with difficulty. It was only by imposing the
severest restraint upon his susceptibilities that he was able to
approach her calmly.
"I can't tell you now--not here--what I am thinking. It isn't the
place. Maybe--maybe you can read my thought, Penel--Miss Drake. Look
up, please. Can't you read--oh, there now--I beg your pardon! You come
to me for protection and I--well, don't be too hard on me just yet.
I'll find the time and place to tell you." He drew away almost as
his hand was ready to clasp hers--all because her sweet eyes met his
trustingly--he could have sworn--lovingly.
"Just now I am a poor little reprobate," she sighed ever so miserably.
"You are very good. I'll not forget."
"I'll not permit you to forget," he said eagerly.
"Isn't the housekeeper a long time in coming?" she asked quickly. He
"We've no reason to worry about her. It's the pursuers from Bazelhurst
that should trouble us. Won't you tell me the whole story?" And she
told him everything, sitting there beside him with a hot drink in her
hand and a growing shame in her heart. It was dawning upon her with
alarming force that she was exposing a hitherto unknown incentive. It
was not a comfortable awakening. "And you champion me to that extent?"
he cried joyously. She nodded bravely and went on.
"So here I am," she said in conclusion. "I really could not have
walked to Ridgely to-night, could I?"
"I should say not."
"And there was really nowhere else to come but here?" dubiously.
"See that light over there--up the mountain?" he asked, leading her
to a window. "Old man Grimes and his wife live up there. They keep a
light burning all night to scare Renwood's ghost away. By Jove, the
storm will be upon us in a minute. I thought it had blown around us."
The roll of thunder came up the valley. "Thank heaven, you're safe
indoors. Let them pursue if they like. I'll hide you if they come, and
the servants are close-mouthed."
"I don't like the way you put it, Mr. Shaw."
"Hullo, hullo--the house," came a shout from the wind-ridden night
outside. Two hearts inside stopped beating for a second or two. She
caught her breath sharply as she clasped his arm.
"They are after me!" she gasped.
"They must not find you here. Really, Miss Drake, I mean it. They
wouldn't understand. Come with me. Go down this hall quickly. It leads
to the garden back of the house. There's a gun-room at the end of the
hall. Go in there, to your right. Here, take this! It's an electric
saddle-lantern. I'll head these fellows off. They shan't find you.
Don't be alarmed."
She sped down the narrow hall and he, taking time to slip into a long
dressing-coat, stepped out upon the porch in response to the now
prolonged and impatient shouts.
"Who's there?" he shouted. The light from the windows revealed several
horsemen in the roadway.
"Friends," came back through the wind. "Let us in out of the storm.
It's a terror."
"I don't know you." There was a shout of laughter and some profanity.
"Oh, yes, you do, Mr. Shaw. Open up and let us in. It's Dave Bank and
Ed Hunter. We can't make the cabin before the rain." Shaw could see
their faces now and then by the flashes of lightning and he recognized
the two woodsmen, who doubtless had been visiting sweethearts up
"Take your horses to the stable, boys, and come in," he called,
laughing heartily. Then he hurried off to the gun-room. He passed Mrs.
Ulrich coming downstairs yawning prodigiously; he called to her to
wait for him in the library.
There was no one in the gun-room; the door leading to the back porch
was open. With an exclamation he leaped outside and looked about him.
"Good heavens!" he cried, staggering back.
Far off in the night, a hundred yards or more up the road, leading
to Grimes' cabin he saw the wobbling, uncertain flicker of a light
wending its way like a will-o'-the-wisp through the night. Without
a moment's hesitation and with something strangely like an oath, he
rushed into the house, almost upsetting the housekeeper in his haste.
"Visitors outside. Make 'em comfortable. Back soon," he jerked out as
he changed his coat with small respect for his injured arm. Then he
clutched a couple of rain-coats from the rack and flew out of the back
door like a man suddenly gone mad.
IN WHICH A GHOST TRESPASSES
The impulse which drove Penelope out for the second time that night
may he readily appreciated. Its foundation was fear; its subordinate
emotions were shame, self-pity and consciousness of her real feeling
toward the man of the house. The true spirit of womanhood revolted
with its usual waywardness.
She was flying down the stony road, some distance from the cottage,
in the very face of the coming tornado, her heart beating like a
trip-hammer, her eyes bent on the little light up the mountain-side,
before it occurred to her that this last flight was not only senseless
but perilous. She even laughed at herself for a fool as she recalled
the tell-tale handbag on the porch and the damning presence of a
Bazelhurst lantern in the hallway.
The storm which had been raging farther down the valley was at
last whirling up to the hill-tops, long delayed as if in gleeful
anticipation of catching her alone and unprotected. The little
electric saddle-lamp that she carried gave out a feeble glow, scarce
opening the way in the darkness more than ten feet ahead. Rough and
irksome was the road, most stubborn the wall of wind. The second
threat of the storm was more terrifying than the first; at any instant
it was likely to break forth in all its slashing fury--and she knew
not whither she went.
Even as she lost heart and was ready to turn wildly back in an effort
to reach Shaw's home before the deluge, the lightning flashes revealed
to her the presence of a dwelling just off the road not two hundred
feet ahead. She stumbled forward, crying like a frightened child.
There were no lights. The house looked dark, bleak, unfriendly.
Farther up the hillside still gleamed the little light that was meant
to keep Renwood's ghost from disturbing the slumbers of old man Grimes
and his wife. She could not reach that light, that much she knew.
Her feet were like hundredweights, her limbs almost devoid of power;
Grimes' hut appeared to be a couple of miles away. With a last,
breathless effort, she turned off the road and floundered through
weeds and brush until she came to what proved to be the rear of the
darkened house. Long, low, rangy it reached off into the shadows,
chilling in its loneliness. There was no time left for her to climb
the flight of steps and pound on the back door. The rain was swishing
in the trees with a hiss that forbade delay.
She threw herself, panting and terror-stricken, into the cave-like
opening under the porch, her knees giving way after the supreme
effort. The great storm broke as she crouched far back against the
wall; her hands over her ears, her eyes tightly closed. She was safe
from wind and rain, but not from the sounds of that awful conflict.
The lantern lay at her feet, sending its ray out into the storm with
the senseless fidelity of a beacon light.
"Penelope!" came a voice through the storm, and a second later a
man plunged into the recess, crashing against the wall beside her.
Something told her who it was, even before he dropped beside her and
threw his strong arm about her shoulders. The sound of the storm died
away as she buried her face on his shoulder and shivered so mightily
that he was alarmed. With her face burning, her blood tingling, she
lay there and wondered if the throbbing of her heart were not about to
He was crying something into her ear--wild, incoherent words
that seemed to have the power to quiet the storm. And she was
responding--she knew that eager words were falling from her lips,
but she never knew what they were--responding with a fervor that was
overwhelming her with joy. Lips met again and again and there was no
thought of the night, of the feud, the escapade, the Renwood ghost--or
of aught save the two warm living human bodies that had found each
The storm, swerving with the capricious mountain winds, suddenly swept
their refuge with sheets of water. Randolph Shaw threw the raincoats
over his companion and both laughed hysterically at their plight,
"We can't stay here," he shouted.
"We can't go out into it," she cried. "Where are we?"
"Renwood's," he called back. Their position was untenable. He was
drenched; the raincoats protected her as she crouched back into the
most remote corner. Looking about he discovered a small door leading
to the cellar. It opened the instant he touched the latch. "Come,
quick," he cried, lifting her to her feet. "In here--stoop! I have the
light. This is the cellar. I'll have to break down a door leading to
the upper part of the house, but that will not be difficult. Here's an
axe or two. Good Lord, I'm soaked!"
"Whe--where are we going?" she gasped, as he drew her across the
"Upstairs. It's comfortable up there." They were at the foot of the
narrow stairway. She held back.
"Never! It's the--the haunted house! I can't--Randolph."
"Pooh! Don't be afraid. I'm with you, dearest."
"I know," she gulped. "But you have only one arm. Oh, I can't!"
"It's all nonsense about ghosts. I've slept here twenty times,
Penelope. People have seen my light and my shadow, that's all. I'm a
pretty substantial ghost."
"Oh, dear! What a disappointment. And there are no spooks? Not even
"Of course she may come back, dear, but you'd hardly expect a
respectable lady spook to visit the place with me stopping here. Even
ghosts have regard for conventionalities. She _couldn't_--"
"How much more respectable than I," Penelope murmured plaintively.
"Forgive me," he implored.
"I would--only you are so wet."
The door above was locked, but Shaw swung the axe so vigorously that
any but a very strong-nerved ghost must have been frightened to death
"It's my house, you know," he explained from the top step. "There we
are! Come up, Penelope. The fort is yours."
She followed him into the hall above. In silence they walked along the
bare floors through empty rooms until at last he opened a door in what
proved to be the left wing. To her surprise, this room was comfortably
furnished. There were ashes in the big fireplace and there were lamps
which had been used recently--for they were filled with oil.
"Here's where I read sometimes," he explained. "I have slept on that
couch. Last winter I came up here to hunt. My cottage wasn't finished,
so I stayed here. I'll confess I've heard strange sounds--now, don't
shiver! Once or twice I've been a bit nervous, but I'm still alive,
you see." He lighted the wicks in the two big lamps while she looked
on with the chills creeping up and down her back. "I'll have a bully
fire in the fireplace in just a minute."
"Let me help you," she suggested, coming quite close to him with
uneasy glances over her shoulders.
Ten minutes later they were sitting before a roaring fire, quite
content even though there was a suggestion of amazed ghosts lurking in
the hallway behind them. No doubt old man Grimes and his wife, if they
awoke in the course of the night, groaned deep prayers in response
to the bright light from the windows of the haunted house. Shaw
and Penelope smiled securely as they listened to the howling storm
"Well, this _is_ trespassing," she said, beaming a happy smile upon
"I shall be obliged to drive you out, alas," he said reflectively. "Do
you recall my vow? As long as you are a Bazelhurst, I must perforce
"Not to-night!" she cried in mock dismay.
"But, as an alternative, you'll not be a Bazelhurst long," he went on
eagerly, suddenly taking her hands into his, forgetful of the wounded
left. "I'm going to try trespassing myself. To-morrow I'm going to see
your brother. It's regular, you know. I'm going to tell the head of
your clan that you are coming over to Shaw, heart and hand."
"Oh!" she exclaimed. "You--you--no, no! You must not do that!"
"But, my dear, you _are_ going to marry me."
"Yes--I--suppose so," she murmured helplessly. "That isn't what I
meant. I mean, it isn't necessary to ask Cecil. Ask me; I'll consent
Half an hour passed. Then he went to the window and looked out into
"You _must_ lie down and get some sleep," he insisted, coming back
to her. "The storm's letting up, but we can't leave here for quite a
while. I'll sit up and watch. I'm too happy to sleep." She protested,
but her heavy eyes were his allies. Soon he sat alone before the fire;
she slept sound on the broad couch in the corner, a steamer rug across
her knees. A contented smile curved his lips as he gazed reflectively
into the flames. He was not thinking of Mrs. Renwood's amiable ghost.
How long she had been asleep, Penelope did not know. She awoke with a
start, her flesh creeping. A nameless dread came over her; she felt
that she was utterly alone and surrounded by horrors. It was a full
minute--a sickening hour, it seemed--before she realized that she was
in the room with the man she loved. Her frightened eyes caught sight
of him lying back in the chair before the dying fire in the chimney
place. The lights were low, the shadows gaunt and chill.
A terrified exclamation started to her lips. Her ears again caught the
sound of some one moving in the house--some alien visitor. There
was no mistaking the sound--the distant, sepulchral laugh and the
shuffling of feet, almost at the edge of the couch it seemed.
"Randolph!" she whispered hoarsely. The man in the chair did not move.
She threw off the blanket and came to a sitting posture on the side of
the couch, her fingers clutching the covering with tense horror. Again
the soft, rumbling laugh and the sound of footsteps on the stairway.
Like a flash she sped across the room and clutched frantically at
Randolph's shoulders. He awoke with an exclamation, staring bewildered
into the horrified face above.
"The--the ghost!" she gasped, her eyes glued upon the hall door. He
leaped to his feet and threw his arms about her.
"You've had a bad dream," he said. "What a beast I was to fall asleep.
Lord, you're frightened half out of your wits. Don't tremble so,
dearest. There's no ghost. Every one knows--"
"Listen--listen!" she whispered. Together they stood motionless,
almost breathless before the fire, the glow from which threw their
shadows across the room to meet the mysterious invader.
"Good Lord," he muttered, unwilling to believe his ears. "There _is_
some one in the house. I've--I've heard sounds here before, but not
like these." Distinctly to their startled ears came the low, subdued
murmur of a human voice and then unmistakable moans from the very
depth of the earth--from the grave, it seemed.
"Do you hear?" she whispered. "Oh, this dreadful place! Take me away,
"Don't be afraid," he said, drawing her close. "There's nothing
supernatural about those sounds. They come from lips as much alive as
ours. I'll investigate." He grabbed the heavy poker from the chimney
corner, and started toward the door. She followed close behind, his
assurance restoring in a measure the courage that had temporarily
In the hallway they paused to look out over the broad porch. The storm
had died away, sighing its own requiem in the misty tree-tops. Dawn
was not far away. A thick fog was rising to meet the first glance of
day. In surprise Shaw looked at his watch, her face at his shoulder.
It was after five o'clock.
"Ghosts turn in at midnight, dear," he said with a cheerful smile.
"They don't keep such hours as these."
"But who can it be? There are no tramps in the mountains," she
protested, glancing over her shoulder apprehensively.
"Listen! By Jove, that voice came from the cellar."
"And the lock is broken," she exclaimed. "But how silly of me! Ghosts
don't stop for locks."
"I'll drop the bolts just the same," he said, as they hurried down
the hallway. At the back stairs they stopped and listened for many
minutes. Not a sound came up to them from below. Softly he closed the
door and lowered two heavy bars into place. "If there's any one down
there they probably think they've heard spooks trotting around up
"Really, it's quite thrilling, isn't it?" she whispered, in her
"In any event, we're obliged to remain under cover until they depart,"
he said thoughtfully. "We can't be seen here dearest."
"No," she murmured, "not even though it is _our_ house."
They returned to the big room as softly as mice and he left her a
moment later to close the heavy window shutters on the porch. When
he returned there was a grim smile on his face and his voice shook a
little as he spoke.
"I've heard the voices again. They came from the laundry I think. The
Renwoods were downright Yankees, Penelope; I will swear that these
voices are amazingly English."
IN WHICH THE AUTHOR TRESPASSES
This narrative has quite as much to do with the Bazelhurst side of the
controversy as it has with Shaw's. It is therefore but fair that the
heroic invasion by Lord Cecil should receive equal consideration from
the historian. Shaw's conquest of one member of the force opposing him
was scarcely the result of bravery; on the other hand Lord Cecil's
dash into the enemy's country was the very acme of intrepidity. Shaw
had victory fairly thrust upon him; Lord Bazelhurst had a thousand
obstacles to overcome before he could even so much as stand face to
face with the enemy. Hence the expedition that started off in the wake
of the deserter deserves more than passing mention.
Down the drive and out into the mountain road clattered the three
horsemen. Lady Bazelhurst, watching at the window casement, almost
swooned with amazement at the sight of them. The capes of their
mackintoshes seemed to flaunt a satirical farewell in her face; their
owners, following the light of the carriage lamps, swept from view
around a bend in the road.
His lordship had met the duke in the hall, some distance from that
nobleman's room, and, without observing Barminster's apparent
confusion, commanded him to join in the pursuit. Barminster explained
that he was going to see how the cook was resting; however, he would
go much farther to be of service to the runaway sister of his host.
"She's broken-hearted," half sobbed the brother.
"Yes," agreed the duke; "and what's a broken leg to a broken heart?
Penelope's heart, at that. Demme, I can't find the cook's room,
"It's in the servants' wing," said Cecil, anxious to be off.
"To be sure. Stupid ass I am. I say, old chap, here's Deveaux's door.
Let's rout him out. We'll need some one to hold the horses if we have
to force our way into Shaw's house."
The count was not thoroughly awake until he found himself in the
saddle some time later; it is certain that he did not know until long
afterward why they were riding off into the storm. He fell so far
behind his companions in the run down the road that he could ask no
questions. Right bravely the trio plunged into the dark territory
over which the enemy ruled. It was the duke who finally brought the
cavalcade to a halt by propounding a most sensible question.
"Are you sure she came this way, Cecil?"
"Certainly. This is Shaw's way, isn't it?"
"Did she say she was going to Shaw's?"
"Don't know. Evelyn told me. Hang it all, Barminster, come along.
We'll never catch up to her."
"Is she riding?"
"No--horses all in."
"Do you know, we may have passed her. Deuce take it, Bazelhurst, if
she's running away from us, you don't imagine she'd be such a silly
fool as to stand in the road and wait for us. If she heard us she'd
hide among the trees."
"But she's had an hour's start of us."
"Where ees she coming to?" asked the count, with an anxious glance
upward just in time to catch a skirmishing raindrop with his eye.
"That's just it. We don't know," said the duke.
"But I must find her," cried Lord Cecil. "Think of that poor girl
alone in this terrible place, storm coming up and all that. Hi,
Penelope!" he shouted in his most vociferous treble. The shrieking
wind replied. Then the three of them shouted her name. "Gad, she may
be lost or dead or--Come on, Barminster. We must scour the whole
demmed valley." They were off again, moving more cautiously while the
duke threw the light from his lamp into the leafy shadows beside
the roadway. The wind was blowing savagely down the slope and
the raindrops were beginning to beat in their faces with ominous
persistency. Some delay was caused by an accident to the rear-guard. A
mighty gust of wind blew the count's hat far back over the travelled
road. He was so much nearer Bazelhurst Villa when they found it that
he would have kept on in that direction for the sake of his warm bed
had not his companions talked so scornfully about cowardice.
"He's like a wildcat to-night," said the duke in an aside to the
little Frenchman, referring to his lordship. "Demme, I'd rather not
cross him. You seem to forget that his sister is out in all this
"Mon Dieu, but I do not forget. I would gif half my life to hold her
in my arms thees eenstan'."
"Dem you, sir, I'd give her the other half if you dared try such a
thing. We didn't fetch you along to hold her. You've got to hold the
horses, that's all."
"Diable! How dare you to speak to--"
"What are you two rowing about?" demanded his lordship. "Come along!
We're, losing time. Sit on your hat, Deveaux."
Away they swept, Penelope's two admirers wrathfully barking at one
another about satisfaction at some future hour.
The storm burst upon them in all its fury--the maddest, wildest storm
they had known in all their lives. Terrified, half drowned, blown
almost from the saddles, the trio finally found shelter in the lee of
a shelving cliff just off the road. While they stood there shivering,
clutching the bits of their well-nigh frantic horses, the glimmer of
lights came down to them from windows farther up the steep. There
was no mistaking the three upright oblongs of light; they were tall
windows in the house, the occupants of which doubtless had been
aroused at this unearthly hour by the fierceness of the storm.
"By Jove," lamented the duke, water running down his neck in floods.
"What a luxury a home is, be it ever so humble, on a night like this."
"Mon Dieu! Mon Dieu!" groaned the count. "How comfortab' zey look. And
here? _Eh bien! Qui fait trembler la terre!_ I am seeck! I die!"
"Penelope is out in all this," moaned his lordship.
"I am not so sure of that. Trust a woman to find a place where she
can't ruin her hat. My word for it, Cecil, she's found a safe roost.
I say, by Jove!" The duke was staring more intently than ever at the
windows far above. "I have it! Isn't it rather odd that a house should
be lighted so brilliantly at this hour of night?"
"Demmed servants forgot to put out the lamps," groaned Bazelhurst
"Nonsense! I tell you what: some one has roused the house and asked
shelter from the storm. Now, who could that be but Penelope?"
"By Jove, you're a ripping clever ass, after all, Barminster--a
regular Sherlock Holmes. That's just it! She's up there where the
windows are. Come on! It's easy sailing now," cried his lordship, but
the duke restrained him.
"Don't rush off like a fool. Whose house is it?"
"How the devil do I know? This is Shaw's land, and he hasn't been
especially cordial about--"
"Aha! See what I mean? Shaw's land, to be sure. Well, hang your
stupidity, don't you know we're looking at Shaw's house this very
instant? He lives there and she's arrived, dem it all. She's up there
with him--dry clothes, hot drinks and all that, and we're out here
catching pneumonia. Fine, isn't it?"
"Gad! You're right! She's with that confounded villain. My God, what's
to become of her?" groaned Lord Cecil, sitting down suddenly and
covering his face with his hands.
"We must rescue her!" shouted the duke. "Brace up, Cecil. Don't be a
baby. We'll storm the place."
"Not in zis rain!" cried the count.
"You stay here in the shade and hold the horses, that's what you do,"
said the duke scornfully.
A council of war was held. From their partially sheltered position the
invaders could see, by the flashes of lightning, that a path and some
steps ascended the hill. The duke was for storming the house at once,
but Lord Cecil argued that it would be foolish to start before the
storm abated. Moreover he explained, it would be the height of folly
to attack the house until they were sure that Penelope was on the
After many minutes there came a break in the violence of the storm and
preparations were at once made for the climb up the hill. Deveaux was
to remain behind in charge of the horses. With their bridle reins in
his hands he cheerfully maintained this position of trust, securely
sheltered from the full force of the elements. Right bravely did the
duke and his lordship venture forth into the spattering rain. They had
gone no more than three rods up the path when they were brought to a
halt by the sounds of a prodigious struggle behind them. There was a
great trampling of horses' hoofs, accompanied by the frantic shouts of
"I cannot hold zem! Mon Dieu! Zey are mad! Ho! Ho! Help!"
He was in truth having a monstrous unpleasant time. His two
friends stumbled to his assistance, but not in time to prevent the
catastrophe. The three horses had taken it into their heads to bolt
for home; they were plunging and pulling in three directions at the
same time, the count manfully clinging to the bridle reins, in great
danger of being suddenly and shockingly dismembered.
"Hold to 'em!" shouted Lord Cecil.
"Help!" shouted the count, at the same moment releasing his grip on
the reins. Away tore the horses, kicking great chunks of mud over him
as he tumbled aimlessly into the underbrush. Down the road clattered
the animals, leaving the trio marooned in the wilderness. Groaning and
half dead, the unfortunate count was dragged from the brush by his
furious companions. What the duke said to him was sufficient without
being repeated, here or elsewhere. The count challenged him as they
all resumed the march up the hill to visit the house with the lighted
"Here is my card, m'sieur," he grated furiously.
"Demme, I know you!" roared the duke. "Keep your card and we'll send
it in to announce our arrival to Shaw."
In due course of time, after many slips and falls, they reached the
front yard of the house on the hillside. It was still raining lightly;
the thunder and lightning were clashing away noisily farther up the
valley. Cautiously they approached through the weeds and brush.
"By Jove!" exclaimed his lordship, coming to a standstill. He turned
the light of his lantern toward the front elevation of the house.
"Every door and window, except these three, are boarded up. It can't
be Shaw's home."
"That's right, old chap. Deuced queer, eh? I say, Deveaux, step up and
pound on the door. You've got a card, you know."
"Que diable!" exclaimed the count, sinking into the back-ground.
"We might reconnoitre a bit," said Bazelhurst. "Have a look at the
rear, you know."
Around the corner of the house they trailed, finally bringing up at
the back steps. The windows were not only dark but boarded up. While
they stood there amazed and uncertain, the rain came down again in
torrents, worse than before if possible. They scampered for cover,
plunging three abreast beneath the same steps that had sheltered
Penelope and Shaw such a short time before.
"Ouch! Get off my foot!" roared the duke.
"Zounds! Who are you punching, demme! Hullo! What's this? A door and
open, as I live." The trio entered the cellar door without ceremony.
"Thank God, we're out of the rain, at least."
It was not until they had explored the basement and found it utterly
without signs of human occupancy that the truth of the situation began
to dawn upon them. Barminster's face was white and his voice shook as
he ventured the horrid speculation:
"The good Lord save us--it's that demmed haunted house Pen was talking
"But ze lights?" queried the count.
"Let's get out of this place," said Lord Bazelhurst, moving toward the
door. "It's that beastly Renwood house. They say he comes back and
murders her every night or so."
"Penelope isn't here. Let's move on," agreed the duke readily. But
even fear of the supernatural was not strong enough to drive them out
into the blinding storm. "I say! Look ahead there. By Harry, _there's_
Peering through the door they saw for the first time the many lights
in Shaw's windows, scarce a quarter of a mile away. For a long time
they stood and gazed at the distant windows. Dejectedly they sat down,
backs to the wall, and waited for the storm to spend its fury. Wet,
cold, and tired, they finally dozed. It was Lord Cecil who first saw
the signs of dawn. The rain storm had come to a mysterious end, but a
heavy fog in its stead loomed up. He aroused his companions and with
many groans of anguish they prepared to venture forth into the white
Just as they were taking a last look about the wretched cellar
something happened that would have brought terror to the stoutest
heart. A wild, appalling shriek came from somewhere above, the cry of
a mortal soul in agony.
The next instant three human forms shot through the narrow door and
out into the fog, hair on end, eyes bulging but sightless, legs
traveling like the wind and as purposeless. It mattered not that the
way was hidden; it mattered less that weeds, brush, and stumps lurked
in ambush for unwary feet. They fled into the foggy dangers without a
thought of what lay before them--only of what stalked behind them.
Upstairs Randolph Shaw lay back against the wall and shook with
laughter. Penelope's convulsed face was glued to the kitchen window,
her eyes peering into the fog beyond. Shadowy figures leaped into the
white mantle; the crash of brush came back to her ears, and then,
like the barking of a dog, there arose from the mystic gray the fast
"Help! Help! Help!" Growing fainter and sharper the cry at last was
lost in the phantom desert.
They stood at the window and watched the fog lift, gray and
forbidding, until the trees and road were discernible. Then, arm in
arm, they set forth across the wet way toward Shaw's cottage. The
mists cleared as they walked along, the sun peeped through the hills
as if afraid to look upon the devastation of the night; all the world
seemed at peace once more.
"Poor Cecil!" she sighed. "It was cruel of you." In the roadway they
found a hat which she at once identified as the count's. Farther on
there was a carriage lamp, and later a mackintosh which had been cast
aside as an impediment. "Oh, it _was_ cruel!" She smiled, however, in
An hour later they stood together on the broad porch, looking out over
the green, glistening hills. The warm fresh air filled their lungs and
happiness was overcrowding their hearts. In every direction were signs
of the storm's fury. Great trees lay blasted, limbs and branches were
scattered over the ground, wide fissures split the roadway across
which the deluge had rushed on its way down the slope.
But Penelope was warm and dry and safe after her thrilling night. A
hot breakfast was being prepared for them; trouble seemed to have gone
its way with the elements.
"If I were only sure that nothing serious had happened to Cecil," she
"I'm sorry, dear, for that screech of mine," he apologized.
Suddenly he started and gazed intently in the direction of the haunted
house. A man--a sorry figure--was slowly, painfully approaching from
the edge of the wood scarce a hundred yards away. In his hand he
carried a stick to which was attached a white cloth--doubtless a
handkerchief. He was hatless and limped perceptibly. The two on the
porch watched his approach in amazed silence.
"It's Cecil!" whispered Penelope in horror-struck tones. "Good heaven,
Randolph, go to him! He is hurt."
It was Lord Bazelhurst. As Shaw hurried down the drive to meet him,
no thought of the feud in mind, two beings even more hopelessly
dilapidated ventured from the wood and hobbled up behind the
truce-bearer, who had now paused to lift his shoulders into a position
of dignity and defiance. Shaw's heart was touched. The spectacle was
enough to melt the prejudice of any adversary. Lord Cecil's knees
trembled; his hand shook as if in a chill. Mud-covered, water-soaked,
and bruised, their clothes rent in many places, their hats gone and
their hair matted, their legs wobbly, the trio certainly inspired
pity, not mirth nor scorn.
"One moment, sir," called his lordship, with a feeble attempt at
severity. His voice was hoarse and shaky. "We do not come as friends,
dem you. Is my sister here?"
"She is, Lord Bazelhurst. We'll talk this over later on," said Shaw in
his friendliest way. "You are worn out and done up, I'm sure--you and
your friends. Come! I'm not as bad as you think. I've changed my
mind since I saw you last. Let's see if we can't come to an amicable
understanding. Miss Drake is waiting up there. Breakfast soon will be
ready--hot coffee and all that. Permit me, gentlemen, to invite you to
partake of what we have. What say you?"
"Confound you, sir, I--I--" but his brave effort failed him. He
staggered and would have fallen had not the duke caught him from
"Thanks, old chap," said Barminster to Shaw. "We will come in for a
moment. I say, perhaps you could give us a dry dud or two. Bazelhurst
is in a bad way and so is the count. It was a devil of a storm."
"_Mon Dieu! c'etait epouvantable_!" groaned the count.
Penelope came down from the porch to meet them. Without a word she
took her brother's arm. He stared at her with growing resentment.
"Dem it all, Pen," he chattered, "you're not at all wet, are you? Look
at me! All on your account, too."
"Dear old Cecil! All on Evelyn's account, you mean," she said softly,
"I shall have an understanding with her when we get home," he said
earnestly. "She sha'n't treat my sister like this again."
"No," said Shaw from the other side; "she sha'n't."
"By Jove, Shaw, are you _with_ me?" demanded his lordship in surprise.
"Depends on whether you are with me," said the other. Penelope flushed
Later on, three chastened but ludicrous objects shuffled into the
breakfast-room, where Shaw and Penelope awaited them. In passing, it
is only necessary to say that Randolph Shaw's clothes did not fit the
gentlemen to whom they were loaned. Bazelhurst was utterly lost in
the folds of a gray tweed, while the count was obliged to roll up the
sleeves and legs of a frock suit which fitted Shaw rather too snugly.
The duke, larger than the others, was passably fair in an old
swallow-tail coat and brown trousers. They were clean, but there was
a strong odor of arnica about them. Each wore, besides, an uncertain,
Hot coffee, chops, griddle cakes, and maple syrup soon put the
contending forces at their ease. Bazelhurst so far forgot himself as
to laugh amiably at his host's jokes. The count responded in his most
piquant dialect, and the duke swore by an ever-useful Lord Harry that
he had never tasted such a breakfast.
"By Jove, Pen," exclaimed her brother, in rare good humor, "it's
almost a sin to take you away from such good cooking as this."
"You're not going to take her away, however," said Shaw. "She has come
There was a stony silence. Coffee-cups hung suspended in the journey
to mouths, and three pairs of eyes stared blankly at the smiling
"What--what the devil do you mean, sir?" demanded Lord Cecil, his
coffee-cup shaking so violently that the contents overflowed.
"She's going over to Plattsburg with me to-day, and when she comes
back she will be Mrs. Randolph Shaw. That's what I mean, your
Three of his listeners choked with amazement and then coughed
painfully. Feebly they set their cups down and gulped as if they had
something to swallow. The duke was the first to find his tongue, and
he was quite at a loss for words.
"B--by Jove," he said blankly, "that's demmed hot coffee!"
"Is this true, Penelope?" gasped his lordship.
"Yes, Cecil. I've promised to marry him."
"Good God! It isn't because you feel that you have no home with me?"
"I love him. It's a much older story than you think," she said simply.
"I say, that hits me hard," said the duke, with a wry face. "Still, I
join in saying God bless you."
"We're trying to end the feud, you see," said Penelope.
Tears came into his lordship's pale eyes. He looked first at one and
then at the other, and then silently extended his hand to Randolph
Shaw. He wrung it vigorously for a long time before speaking. Then, as
if throwing a weight off his mind, he remarked:
"I say, Shaw, I'm sorry about that dog. I've got an English
bull-terrier down there that's taken a ribbon or so. If you don't
mind, I'll send him up to you. He--he knows Penelope."
THE CASE OF MRS. MAGNUS
BY BURTON E. STEVENSON
The position of confidential family adviser is not without its
drawbacks, and it was with a certain reluctance that I told the office
boy to show Mrs. Magnus in. For Mrs. Magnus was that _bete noire_
of the lawyer--a woman recently widowed, utterly without business
experience, and yet with a firm belief in her ability to manage her
husband's estate. If Mrs. Magnus chose to ruin herself there was, of
course, no reason why I should worry, but it is annoying to have a
person constantly asking for advice and as constantly disregarding it.
I never really understood why Mrs. Magnus asked for advice at all.
She was a woman of about fifty, thin and nervous, with a curious habit
of compressing her lips into a tight knot, under the impression, I
suppose, that the result indicated strength of character. Peter
Magnus had married her when he was only an obscure clerk in the great
commission house which he was afterward to own, and she was a school
teacher or governess, or something of that sort. Perhaps she was a
little ahead of him intellectually at the start, but he had broadened
and developed, while she had narrowed and dried up, but she never lost
the illusion of her mental supremacy, nor the idea that she had, in
some dim way, married beneath her.
There were no children, and for the past ten years the old Magnus
house on Twenty-third Street had been for her a kind of hermitage from
which she seldom issued. Great business blocks sprang up on either
side of it, but she would never permit her husband to sell it and move
For Magnus, on the other hand, the house became in time merely a sort
of way station between the busy terminals of his life. I dare say he
grew indifferent to his wife. That however, has nothing to do with
Mrs. Magnus usually entered my office as one intrenched in conscious
strength, but this morning it was evident that something had occurred
to disturb her calm assurance. Her lips seemed more shrunken than
ever; there were little lines of worry about her eyes, and dark
circles under them, and as she dropped into the chair I placed for
her, I saw that her hands were trembling. As I sat down in my own
chair and swung around to face her, the conviction struck through me
that she was badly frightened.
"Mr. Lester," she began, after a moment in which she was visibly
struggling for self-control, "I want fifty thousand dollars in
"Why--why, of course," I stammered, trying to accept the demand as
quite an ordinary one. "When?"
"By eight o'clock to-night."
"Very well," I said. "But I suppose you know that, to secure the money
so quickly, some of your securities will have to be sacrificed. It's a
"I don't care--sacrifice them. Only I must have that sum to-night."
"Very well," I said again. "But I hope you will tell me, if you can,
what the money is for, Mrs. Magnus. Perhaps my advice--"
"No, it won't," she broke in. "This isn't a case for advice. There's
nothing else for me to do. I've been fighting it and fighting
She ended with a little gesture of helplessness and resignation.
"Perhaps we might borrow the money," I suggested, "until a better
"No," she broke in again, "you know I won't borrow. So don't talk
It was one of the fundamental tenets of this woman's financial creed
that on no account was money to be borrowed.
"Very well," I said a third time; "I will get the money. I will look
over the market and decide how it would best be done. Have you any
suggestions to make?"
"No," she answered; "I leave it all to you."
This was almost more astonishing than the demand for the money had
been. Mrs. Magnus was clearly upset.
"I shall probably have to send some papers up to you this afternoon
for your signature," I added.
"I shall be at home. And remember I must have the money without fail."
"I will bring it to you myself. I think you said eight o'clock?"
"Yes--not later than that."
"I will have it there by that time," I assured her.
She started to rise, then sank back in her chair and looked at me.
Yes, she was frightened.
"Mr. Lester," she said, her voice suddenly hoarse and broken, "I think
I will tell you--what I can. I--I have no one else."
For the first time in my life I found myself pitying her. It was
true--she had no one else.
"Don't think that I've been gambling or speculating or anything of
that sort," she went on. "I have hesitated a long time before asking
for this money--I don't enjoy giving away fifty thousand dollars."
"Giving it away?" I repeated. Certainly she was not the woman to enjoy
"Yes--giving it away! But--I must have peace! Another such night as
A sudden pallor spread across her face, and she touched her
handkerchief hastily to lips and eyes.
"My--my husband wishes it," she added, almost in a whisper.
I don't know what there was about that sentence that sent a little
shiver along my spine. Perhaps it was the tense of the verb. Perhaps
it was the voice in which the words were uttered. Perhaps it was the
haggard glance which accompanied them. Whatever the cause, I found
that some of my client's panic was communicating itself to me.
"You mean he indicated his wish before he died?" I asked.
She shook her head.
"Or left a note of it, perhaps?"
"Yes," she said, "he has left a note of it," and she opened the bag
she carried on her arm. "Here it is."
I took the sheet of paper she held out to me. It bore these words,
written in the crabbed and somewhat uncertain hand which had belonged
to Peter Magnus:
MY DEAR WIFE: It is my wish that you leave at once on this desk the
sum of fifty thousand dollars in currency.
"On this desk?" I repeated, reading the words over again.
"On his desk at home," she explained.
"Then what is to become of it?"
"I don't know."
"But surely--" I said, bewildered. "Look here, Mrs. Magnus, you aren't
telling me everything. Where did you find this?"
"On his desk."
"Three nights ago."
"You mean it had been lying there unnoticed ever since his death?"
"No," she answered hoarsely. "It had not been lying there unnoticed.
It was written that night."
I could only stare at her--at her trembling lips, at her bloodshot
eyes, at her livid face.
"Then it's an imposture of some sort," I said at last.
"It is not an imposture," she answered, more hoarsely than ever. "My
husband wrote those words."
"Nonsense!" I retorted impatiently. "Somebody's trying to impose on
you, Mrs. Magnus. Leave this with me, and I'll get to the bottom of
"I tell you," she repeated, rising to her feet in her earnestness, "my
husband wrote those words three nights ago."
"How do you know he did?" I questioned, in some amusement.
"Because I saw him do it!" she answered, and fell back into her chair
again, her hands fumbling feebly at her bag.
She was evidently on the verge of collapse, and I hastened to get her
a glass of water, but when I returned with it, she had her smelling
bottle to her nose and was almost herself again. She waved the glass
"I shall be all right in a moment," she murmured, and I sat down again
and watched her, wondering if there had ever been any insanity in Mrs.
I suppose my thought must have been reflected in my face, for Mrs.
Magnus flushed angrily as she caught my eye.
"No, I'm not mad," she said "though I feared last night that I would
be. What I have told you is perfectly true. I saw my husband write
that note three nights ago--it is not the only one. He can have no
peace until that money is paid--neither can I. You must not fail me."
"I will not," I assured her. "I will bring it to you myself."
"Thank you," she said, and arose to go. "I shall want you to be
"I shall be glad to help you in any way I can."
"Thank you," she said again, and I opened the door for her and watched
her for a moment as she crossed the outer office. Then I closed the
door and went back to my desk.
The note was lying where I had dropped it, and I picked it up and
examined it again. Then I got out some samples of Magnus' writing and
compared them with the note, but so far as I could tell the hands were
the same. Besides, she had said she had seen her husband write it.
This gave me pause. How could she have seen him? How had he appeared
to her? Perhaps she had written it herself, in her sleep, under some
sort of self-hypnosis--but, in that case, would the handwriting have
been her husband's? Or did hypnosis involve that, too? I ended by
turning to the phone and calling for 3100 Spring. That, as you may
know, is for 300 Mulberry Street; and 300 Mulberry Street is the
drab building in which the police system of New York has its
headquarters--or did have until the other day.
"Is Jim Godfrey there?" I asked.
"I'll see; hold the line."
A moment later I heard Godfrey's voice ask: "Hello? What is it?"
"It's Lester, Godfrey," I said. "I wish you would run over to the
office and see me this morning."
"All right," he replied; "I'll be over right away."
I hung up the receiver with a sigh of relief. If anybody could see
through the puzzle, I knew that Godfrey could. I had met him first
in connection with the Holladay case, when he had deserted the force
temporarily to accept a place as star reporter on the yellowest of the
dailies; but he had resigned that position in a moment of pique, and
the department had promptly gobbled him up again.
Fifteen minutes later his card was brought in to me, and I had him
shown in at once.
"How are you, Lester?" he said, and I can't tell you what a tonic
there was in the grip of his hand. "What's wrong this morning?"
"You know Mrs. Magnus?" I asked.
"Widow of Peter? Yes; I've heard of her."
"Somebody's trying to do her out of fifty thousand dollars," I said,
and tossed the note across to him. "What do you make of that?"
"Tell me about it," he said, and studied it carefully, while I
repeated the story Mrs. Magnus had told me.
"And now what do you make of it?" I asked again.
"I think the answer's blackmail," he said quietly.
"But that note?"
"And the story?"
"Also a fake."
"You mean she didn't see him write it?"
"Look here, Lester," demanded Godfrey impatiently, "you don't mean to
say that you believe any such rot?"
"No," I answered; "I don't see how I can believe it--and yet, what did
she tell it for?"
"She had to tell something."
"That's just it," I objected; "she didn't."
"Well, then, she wanted to tell something to throw you off the track.
That was the best thing she could think of."
"Why should she want to throw me off the track?"
"There are some women who would rather have a ghost in the family
than a scandal. I don't suppose you know that Magnus had another wife
living over in Jersey?"
"Oh, of course not a wife really--your Mrs. Magnus has the prior
claim. But I fancy Number Two has asked to be provided for."
I sat silent for a moment, casting this over in my mind.
"It's just like a fool woman," I said at last, "to try to throw dust
in the eyes of the one man who might have helped her. Heaven help
a woman who won't tell the truth to her lawyer! I suppose there's
nothing to do but turn over the money?"
"Of course not. Mrs. Magnus can afford it, and if it will give her
peace of mind, why--"
"All right," I said. "And thank you, Godfrey, for telling me. I was
imagining that either Mrs. Magnus was crazy or that some one was
trying to bunco her. This is different. If she wants to lie to me,
why, let her."
"You'll take it up to her yourself?"
"Yes. I promised to have it at the house at eight o'clock to-night."
I fancied that Godfrey's eyes paused on mine for the merest instant as
though he was about to say something more, but he merely nodded and
said good-by and was off.
And I turned to the task of deciding which of Mrs. Magnus' securities
I should sell in order to get the best out of the market. But more
than once in the course of the afternoon a vague uneasiness seized me.
For, after all, Godfrey's explanation did not account for Mrs. Magnus'
strained and frightened manner. If the story she had told me was a
lie, she was certainly a consummate actress. I had never credited her
with any ability in that direction.
A consummate forger, too!
The thought stung me upright. Of course, if her story was a lie, she
herself had written the note. Had Godfrey thought of that? Or was it
Godfrey who was trying to throw dust in my eyes?
It was raining when I left my apartment at the Marathon that night--a
cold and disagreeable drizzle--and the thought occurred to me as I
turned up my coat collar and stepped into the cab I had summoned, that
it was a somewhat foolhardy thing to be driving about the streets of
New York with fifty thousand dollars in my hand bag. I glanced at the
lights of the Tenderloin police station, just across the street, and
thought for an instant of going over and asking for an escort. Then I
sank back into the seat with a little laugh at my own nervousness.
"One-twenty West Twenty-third," I said, as the cabman slammed the
He nodded, spoke to his horse, and we were off.
The asphalt was gleaming with the rain, and a thin fog was in the air,
which formed a nimbus around the street lamps and drew a veil before
the shop windows. Far away I heard the rattle of the elevated and the
never-ceasing hum of Sixth Avenue and Broadway, but, save for these
reminders of the city's life, the silence of the street was broken
only by the click-clack of our horse's hoofs.
We swung sharply around a corner, and then another. A moment later the
cab drew up at the curb, and the driver sprang from his box.
"Here we are, sir," he said, and as I stepped to the pavement, I saw
the old Magnus house frowning down upon me.
I had never before seen it at night, and for the first time I really
appreciated its gloomy situation. In its day it had been part of
a fashionable residential district, of which it was now the only
survival. It was of brownstone, with a flight of steps mounting
steeply to the door, and stood back from the street at the bottom of a
canon formed by the towering walls of the adjacent office buildings.
Why any woman who could afford to live where she chose should choose
to live here was a riddle past my solving.
Musing over this, I mounted the steps and rang the bell.
"I am Mr. Lester," I said, to the maid who opened the door. "Mrs.
Magnus is expecting me."
She stood aside for me to enter, and as I passed I happened to glance
at her face. It was that of a woman no longer young, and yet scarcely
middle-aged; not a repulsive face; indeed, rather attractive in a
way, except for a certain hardness of expression which told of lost
illusions. And as she took my coat and hat, I noticed that the little
finger of her left hand was missing.
"This way, sir," she said, and motioned me into a room at the right.
"Mrs. Magnus will be down in a minute."
I heard her step recede along the hall, and then somewhere a clock
struck eight. As the sound died away the rustle of skirts came down
the stair, and Mrs. Magnus appeared in the doorway. Her panic of the
morning had passed, and she was perfectly self-controlled.
"Ah, Mr. Lester," she said, "you are prompt. You have the money?" she
added in a lower tone.
"Yes," I answered, and then stopped, for I fancied I heard a stealthy
footstep at the door.
"Let us go up to the study. We will be more comfortable there," and
she led the way out into the hall.
I was close at her heels, and looked quickly to right and left. But
there was no one in sight.
Mrs. Magnus went before me up the stair, turned toward the front of
the house in the hall above, and ushered me into a small room which
seemed to have been fitted up as an office. Its principal piece of
furniture was a massive, roll-top desk. The top was up at the moment,
and disclosed rows of pigeon-holes, some full of papers and some
empty. Below them were the usual small drawers. The desk was one of
the largest I have ever seen, and I wondered how it had been got into
the room. An office chair of the usual swing type stood in front of
Something told me that this was _the_ desk. It stood in one corner of
the room; not closely in the corner, but at an angle to it, its back
touching the wall on either side and leaving a little triangle of
space behind it. The reason of this was evident enough, for, placed
in this way, the person sitting at the desk got the advantage of
the light from the window at his right, and also the heat from the
fireplace at his left.
The thought flashed through my mind that, before I placed the money on
the desk, I would take occasion to glance over into the space back of
"Sit down, Mr. Lester," said Mrs. Magnus, and herself drew up a chair
to one side of the fireplace, where a wood fire crackled cheerily,
throwing out a warmth just strong enough to be grateful on this damp
evening. "The money is in that bag?"
"Yes," I said. "I have it in hundred-dollar bills--five packets of one
hundred each. I thought perhaps you--your husband would prefer it in
She nodded, and sat for a moment staring absently into the fire.
"This was Mr. Magnus' workroom, I suppose?" I said at last.
"Yes; when he was first really succeeding in business, he used always
to bring some work home with him in the evening. But he outgrew
that"--a shade of bitterness crept into her voice--"and during the
last ten years of his life he used the room hardly at all. But he is
using it again now," she added, in another tone. "Every night."
I stared across at her, wondering if she could be in earnest.
Certainly her countenance gave every impression of earnestness.
"He will be here to-night," she went on. "It is a little early yet. He
usually comes at eight-thirty."
"You mean he is here in the spirit," I said, trying to speak lightly.
"In the spirit, of course."
I breathed a sigh of relief. I fancied that I began to understand.
"Many people believe that their dead watch over them," I said.
"Oh, Mr. Magnus isn't watching over me," said my companion quickly.
"There is a certain thing he desires me to do. Once that is done, I
don't believe he will bother me any more. I left his note with you
this morning. Did you bring it with you?"
"Yes," I said, and got it out of my pocket and handed it to her.
"But really, Mrs. Magnus," I continued, "you don't mean to tell me
seriously that you saw him write this?"
"I certainly did. He wrote it under my eyes, sitting at that desk
three nights ago."
Again I looked at her to see if she was speaking seriously.
"I see you do not believe me," she added.
"Pardon me, Mrs. Magnus," I corrected; "of course I believe you--that
is, I believe that you believe. But I cannot but think you are being
imposed upon in some way."
A flush of anger crept into her cheeks.
"Do you think I am a woman easily imposed upon?" she asked. "Let me
tell you the story, Mr. Lester."
"That is what I have been hoping you would do," I said. "I am very
anxious to hear it."
"After my husband's death," she began, "I decided to use this room as
my office or workroom. I went through his desk and cleared it out.
There were no papers of importance there; but I found one thing
which gave me a shock. That was a letter, pushed back and I suppose
forgotten in one of the drawers, which proved to me that my husband
had been unfaithful."
I was not surprised, of course, after what Godfrey had told me, but I
managed to murmur some polite incredulity.
"Oh, it was true," she went on bitterly. "I knew he had grown away
from me, but I never suspected that--that he could be so vulgar!"
That, of course, was the way in which it would appeal to her--as
"It is that which is worrying him now," she added.
"No matter. He shall have the money to-night, and that will be ended.
Let me go on with my story. As I said, I began to use this room. I
kept my papers in the desk yonder, and worked there regularly every
day. But one morning, when I came in, I noticed something unusual--an
odor of tobacco. You know Mr. Magnus was a great smoker."
"Yes," I said.
"You may have noticed that he always smoked a heavy black cigar which
he had made for him especially in Cuba. It had a quite distinctive
"Yes," I said again. I had noticed more than once the sweet, heavy
aroma of Magnus' cigars.
"I recognized the odor at once," went on Mrs. Magnus. "It was from one
of his cigars. When I opened the desk, I found a little heap of ashes
on his ash tray, which I had been using to keep pins in, and the
remnant of the cigar he had been smoking."
"He?" I repeated. "But why should you think--"
"Wait," she interrupted, "till you hear the rest. I cleaned off the
tray and went through my day's work as usual. The next morning I found
the same thing--and something more. Some one had been trying to write
on the pad of paper on the desk."
"_Trying to write_?" I echoed.
"Yes, trying--as though some force were holding him back."
She went over to the desk, unlocked a little drawer, and took out
several sheets of paper.
"Here is what I found that morning," she said, and handed me a sheet
from an ordinary writing pad.
I saw scrawled across it an indecipherable jumble of words. She had
expressed it exactly--it seemed as though some one had been trying to
write with a weight clogging his hand. And there was something about
this scrap of paper--something convincing and authentic--which struck
heavily at my skepticism. Here was what a lawyer would call evidence.
"It kept on from day to day," continued Mrs. Magnus, sitting down
again. "Every morning the little heap of ashes and fragment of cigar,
and a scrawl like that--until finally, one morning, I understood what
was happening in this room, for three words were legible."
She handed me another sheet of paper. At the top were the words, "My
dear wife," and under them again an indecipherable scrawl.
"Did you tell any one of all this?" I asked.
"Not a word to any one. But I decided to investigate."
"By staying in this room at night."
I could guess from her tone what the resolution had cost her.
"And you did?"
"Yes. I came up right after dinner, leaving word that I was not to be
disturbed. I went first to the desk to assure myself that the tray was
empty and that there was no writing on the top sheet of paper. Then I
switched off the light and sat down here by the fire and waited."
"That was brave," I said. "What happened?"
"For an hour, nothing. Then I was suddenly conscious of an odor of
tobacco, as though some one smoking a cigar had entered the room, and
an instant later I heard that chair before the desk creak as though
it had been swung around. I switched on the light at once. The chair
_had_ turned. It had been facing away from the desk, and it was now
faced toward it."
She stopped a moment, and I saw that her excitement of the morning was
returning. Indeed, my own heart was beating with a quickened rhythm
as I glanced around at the desk. I saw that the chair was facing away
"The odor of tobacco grew stronger," went on Mrs. Magnus, "and, even
as I watched, a little mass of ashes fell into the tray."
"Apparently from nowhere, but of course it was from the cigar that he
"Did you see the smoke?"
"No; how could I?"
Really, I didn't know. I wished that I had given more study to the
details of spirit manifestation. I didn't remember that I had ever
heard of a ghost smoking a cigar, but doubtless such cases existed.
The point was this: Why, if the ashes from the ghost's cigar became
visible when knocked off, shouldn't the smoke become visible when
expired? Or did the fact that it had been inside an invisible object
render it permanently invisible? I fancied this was what Mrs. Magnus
had meant by her question. Perhaps she had studied the subject. At any
rate, it was too deep for me.
"A moment later," she went on, "another mass of ashes fell; then
perhaps five minutes passed, and I saw the remnant of the cigar placed
on the tray. I confess that my nerves gave way at that point, and I
fled from the room."
"Locking the door after you?"
"No; but I came back and locked it ten or fifteen minutes later."
"Did you enter the room?"
"Yes; I had left the light burning and entered to turn it off. I found
on the desk another note beginning, 'My dear wife.'"
"And then what?"
"I was here the next night and the next. There was something about it
that fascinated me, and I saw that there was no reason for fear. In
the end it came to seem almost natural--almost as if he were here in
"And always the same things happened?"
"Yes, or nearly so, the writing growing more legible all the time."
"Then, three nights ago, I grew brave enough to go and stand by the
desk, and look over his shoulder, as it were, while he wrote the note
which I showed you this morning."
"You mean that he actually did write it while you were looking over
"I mean that the words formed themselves on the sheet of paper under
my eyes, precisely as they flowed off his pen."
"And there wasn't any pen?"
"There wasn't anything. Only the ashes and the odor of tobacco."
I glanced across at Mrs. Magnus sharply. Could it be possible that she
was inventing all of this incredible tale?
"No," she said, answering my thought; "it happened precisely as I tell
it. I am hoping that you will see for yourself before long. It is
almost time for him to come."
I felt the hair crawling up my scalp as I glanced around again at the
desk. Like everybody else, I had always professed a lively interest in
ghosts and a desire to meet one; but now that it seemed about to be
gratified, the desire weakened perceptibly.
"I didn't at first intend to give him the money," she went on. "I
didn't see why I should. He was dead. It was mine. He had never, in
his life, given me fifty thousand dollars. But when, the next night,
the money wasn't there, he expackets over to Mrs. Magnus.
She nodded and held another sheet of paper out to me. On it, in Peter
Magnus' hand, was written:
MY DEAR WIFE: Do not delay. I must right a great wrong before either
of us can rest in peace.
"And from this you judge that he wants the money to--to--"
"Yes," she said, not waiting for me to finish. "Even then I hesitated.
I did not see that I had any concern in his misdeeds. But last
She stopped, and I saw sweep across her face the sudden, pallor I had
noted in the morning.
"Yes," I encouraged, "last night--"
She was clutching the chair arms convulsively, trying to force her
trembling lips to form the words. What horrible thing was it had
happened last night? What--
And at that instant I was conscious of the odor of tobacco in the air,
and distinctly heard the low grating of the office chair as it swung
I suppose the student of the supernatural always has to fight against
the excitement of the unknown--an excitement which clouds the judgment
and confuses reason. Certainly, as I turned my head and sprang to my
feet, I was very far from being a cool and collected observer; yet,
indisputably, the chair _had_ turned. Indeed, I snapped my head around
in time to see the last of its movement toward the desk. And at the
same instant my nostrils caught more strongly the sweet and heavy odor
of Peter Magnus' cigar. For a moment all was still. Then Mrs. Magnus
rose and beckoned me forward.
"Come," she said, and with an effort I compelled my feet to follow
It was a battle between instinct and reason. Instinct was trying to
hurl me out of the room and out of the house. Reason was telling
me--in a very faint voice, it is true--that there was nothing to be
afraid of. I have always been proud of the fact that I _did_ approach
the desk, instead of making for the door.
And I was even brave enough to glance behind it. One glance was
sufficient. The triangular space between the walls and the back of
the desk was empty. I don't know why that should have afforded me any
relief, but it did.
Then, before my eyes, not three feet away from them, a little gob of
ashes dropped from the empty air into the tray.
I am free to confess that that sight swept away any remnant of doubt I
may have had in the reality of the unreal--if I may use such a term.
Peter Magnus was sitting in that chair. There could be, to my mind, no
question of it.
But if any doubt had existed, it would have been ended by what
For my eye was caught by the pad of paper on the desk, and, even as I
watched it, I saw unfold upon it, one after another, these words:
MY DEAR WIFE: Place the money on this desk and leave me. I shall be at
I wish I could describe to you the sensation which shook me as I
witnessed this miracle. For there the words were, and I had seen them
flow smoothly from an invisible pen--from Peter Magnus' pen, for the
writing was his.
"I have the money," I said, and I caught up my bag from the floor,
unlocked it, and took out the five sealed packets. "There are one
hundred hundred-dollar bills in each," I explained, almost as if he
could hear me--indeed, I was quite sure at the moment that he did hear
me; and I passed the packets over to Mrs. Magnus.
Without a word she placed them on the desk, then turned to me.
"Come," she said. "That is all. Good-by, Peter," she added, and there
was a little sob in her voice. "God bless you."
Was it my fancy, or did something like a sigh come from that unseen
presence in the chair? It was in a sort of maze that I followed Mrs.
Magnus from the room. She switched off the light and then closed the
"Thank God that is over," she said.
I suddenly realized that my face was dripping with perspiration, and I
mopped it feverishly with my handkerchief.
"I would never have believed," I began stammeringly; "I never
thought--why, it's a miracle--it's--"
"Yes, a miracle," repeated Mrs. Magnus. "Though there have been many
instances of the dead returning."
"Have there?" I asked. "Well, of course, I have heard of them, but I
never thought them worthy of belief. But now--"
We had reached the foot of the stairs, and I got my coat down from the
rack and struggled into it. I found that I had mechanically picked up
my bag as I left the room overhead.
"I want to thank you, Mr. Lester," said Mrs. Magnus, facing me, "for
coming here to-night. You have been of the greatest help to me."
"Certainly," I agreed. "Very happy--a great privilege."
I felt that I was talking nonsense, but what, in Heaven's name, is a
man to say who has just been through an experience like that? But Mrs.
Magnus seemed to understand.
"Thank you," she said, and gave me her hand. Then she opened the
street door, and a moment later I found myself groping my way down the
steps. Once down, I paused for a deep breath; then I started up the
street. But I had scarcely taken a dozen steps when a hand fell upon
my arm and drew me into the shadow of a doorway.
For an instant, with the thought of spirits still upon me, I tried to
shake away the hand; then, as I started around at my assailant, I saw
that it was Godfrey.
"Well, Lester," he said, "did you leave the fifty thousand?"
I nodded; I was even yet scarcely capable of connected speech.
Godfrey looked at me curiously.
"You look like you'd seen a ghost," he said.
He laughed amusedly.
"How is the old boy?"
"Look here, Godfrey," I said, "this isn't a thing to speak of in that
tone. There's something sacred about it."
His face sobered as he looked at me. It grew serious enough to suit
even my mood.
"So you were imposed on, too," he said at last.
I didn't like the words, nor the tone in which they were uttered.
"No, I wasn't imposed on," I said tartly. "I must be getting along,
Godfrey. I haven't anything to tell you."
"Not just yet," he said. "Come over here across the street, Lester,
where I can have an eye on the Magnus house. Don't you see--if I was
wrong this morning, then you were right."
"If she told you the truth, some one is trying to do her out of fifty
"She's given it to her husband," I said. "She thinks he's going to use
it as you said."
"Given it to her husband?"