Chapter V
 

Again I wakened with a feeling of intense cold. I was frozen with it, and curiously enough it was an inner cold. It seemed to have nothing to do with the surface of my body. I have no explanation to make of these phenomena. Like the occurrences at the seance, they were, and that was all.

But on Thursday night of that week my wife came into my bedroom, and stated flatly that there were burglars in the house.

Now it has been my contention always that if a burglar gains entrance, he should be allowed to take what he wants. Silver can be replaced, but as I said to my wife then, Horace Johnson could not. But she had recently acquired a tea set formerly belonging to her great-grandmother, and apprehension regarding it made her, for the nonce, less solicitous for me than usual.

"Either you go or I go," she said. "Where's your revolver?"

I got out of bed at that, and went down the stairs. But I must confess that I felt, the moment darkness surrounded me, considerably less trepidation concerning the possible burglar than I felt as to the darkness itself. Mrs. Johnson had locked herself in my bedroom, and there was something horrible in the black depths of the lower hall.

We are old-fashioned people, and have not yet adopted electric light. I carried a box of matches, but at the foot of the stairs the one I had lighted went out. I was terrified. I tried to light another match, but there was a draft from somewhere, and it too was extinguished before I had had time to glance about. I was immediately conscious of a sort of soft movement around me, as of shadowy shapes that passed and repassed. Once it seemed to me that a hand was laid on my shoulder and was not lifted, but instead dissolved into the other shadows around. The sudden striking of the clock on the stair landing completed my demoralization. I turned and fled upstairs, pursued, to my agonized nerves, by ghostly hands that came toward me from between the spindles of the stair-rail.

At dawn I went downstairs again, heartily ashamed of myself. I found that a door to the basement had been left open, and that the soft movement had probably been my overcoat, swaying in the draft.

Probably. I was not certain. Indeed, I was certain of nothing during those strange days. I had built up for myself a universe upheld by certain laws, of day and night, of food and sleep and movement, of three dimensions of space. And now, it seemed to me, I had stood all my life but on the threshold, and, for an hour or so, the door had opened.

Sperry had, I believe, told Herbert Robinson of what we had discovered, but nothing had been said to the women. I knew through my wife that they were wildly curious, and the night of the second seance Mrs. Dane drew me aside and I saw that she suspected, without knowing, that we had been endeavoring to check up our revelations with the facts.

"I want you to promise me one thing," she said. "I'll not bother you now. But I'm an old woman, with not much more of life to be influenced by any disclosures. When this thing is over, and you have come to a conclusion - I'll not put it that way: you may not come to a conclusion - but when it is over, I want you to tell me the whole story. Will you?"

I promised that I would.

Miss Jeremy did not come to dinner. She never ate before a seance. And although we tried to keep the conversational ball floating airily, there was not the usual effervescence of the Neighborhood Club dinners. One and all, we were waiting, we knew not for what.

I am sorry to record that there were no physical phenomena of any sort at this second seance. The room was arranged as it had been at the first sitting, except that a table with a candle and a chair had been placed behind a screen for Mrs. Dane's secretary.

There was one other change. Sperry had brought the walking-stick he had taken from Arthur Wells's room, and after the medium was in trance he placed it on the table before her.

The first questions were disappointing in results. Asked about the stick, there was only silence. When, however, Sperry went back to the sitting of the week before, and referred to questions and answers at that time, the medium seemed uneasy. Her hand, held under mine, made an effort to free itself and, released, touched the cane. She lifted it, and struck the table a hard blow with it.

"Do you know to whom that stick belongs?"

A silence. Then: "Yes."

"Will you tell us what you know about it?"

"It is writing."

"Writing?"

"It was writing, but the water washed it away."

Then, instantly and with great rapidity, followed a wild torrent of words and incomplete sentences. It is inarticulate, and the secretary made no record of it. As I recall, however, it was about water, children, and the words "ten o'clock" repeated several times.

"Do you mean that something happened at ten o'clock?"

"No. Certainly not. No, indeed. The water washed it away. All of it. Not a trace."

"Where did all this happen?"

She named, without hesitation, a seaside resort about fifty miles from our city. There was not one of us, I dare say, who did not know that the Wellses had spent the preceding summer there and that Charlie Ellingham had been there, also.

"Do you know that Arthur Wells is dead?"

"Yes. He is dead."

"Did he kill himself?"

"You can't catch me on that. I don't know."

Here the medium laughed. It was horrible. And the laughter made the whole thing absurd. But it died away quickly.

"If only the pocketbook was not lost," she said. "There were so many things in it. Especially car-tickets. Walking is a nuisance."

Mrs. Dane's secretary suddenly spoke. "Do you want me to take things like that?" she asked.

"Take everything, please," was the answer.

"Car-tickets and letters. It will be terrible if the letters are found."

"Where was the pocketbook lost?" Sperry asked.

"If that were known, it could be found," was the reply, rather sharply given. "Hawkins may have it. He was always hanging around. The curtain was much safer."

"What curtain?"

"Nobody would have thought of the curtain. First ideas are best."

She repeated this, following it, as once before, with rhymes for the final word, best, rest, chest, pest.

"Pest!" she said. "That's Hawkins!" And again the laughter.

"Did one of the bullets strike the ceiling?"

"Yes. But you'll never find it. It is holding well. That part's safe enough - unless it made a hole in the floor above."

"But there was only one empty chamber in the revolver. How could two shots have been fired?"

There was no answer at all to this. And Sperry, after waiting, went on to his next question: "Who occupied the room overhead?"

But here we received the reply to the previous question: "There was a box of cartridges in the table-drawer. That's easy."

>From that point, however, the interest lapsed. Either there was no answer to questions, or we got the absurdity that we had encountered before, about the drawing-room furniture. But, unsatisfactory in many ways as the seance had been, the effect on Miss Jeremy was profound - she was longer in coming out, and greatly exhausted when it was all over.

She refused to take the supper Mrs. Dane had prepared for her, and at eleven o'clock Sperry took her home in his car.

I remember that Mrs. Dane inquired, after she had gone.

"Does any one know the name of the Wellses' butler? Is it Hawkins?"

I said nothing, and as Sperry was the only one likely to know and he had gone, the inquiry went no further. Looking back, I realize that Herbert, while less cynical, was still skeptical, that his sister was non-committal, but for some reason watching me, and that Mrs. Dane was in a state or delightful anticipation.

My wife, however, had taken a dislike to Miss Jeremy, and said that the whole thing bored her.

"The men like it, of course," she said, "Horace fairly simpers with pleasure while he sits and holds her hand. But a woman doesn't impose on other women so easily. It's silly."

"My dear," Mrs. Dane said, reaching over and patting my wife's hand, "people talked that way about Columbus and Galileo. And if it is nonsense it is such thrilling nonsense!"