Ghost Hunters And Psychic Detectives / Ghost Hunters and Psychic Detectives Part 11

A fortnight later, he dropped us each a card, and you can imagine that I was not late this time. When we arrived, Carnacki took us straight into dinner, and when we had finished, and all made ourselves comfortable, he began again, where he had left off: “Now just listen quietly; for I have got something very queer to tell you. I got back late at night, and I had to walk up to the castle, as I had not warned them that I was coming. It was bright moonlight; so that the walk was rather a pleasure than otherwise. When I got there, the whole place was in darkness, and I thought I would go round outside, to see whether Tassoc or his brother was keeping watch. But I could not find them anywhere, and concluded that they had got tired of it, and gone off to bed.

“As I returned across the lawn that lies below the front of the east wing, I caught the hooning whistling of the room, coming down strangely clear through the stillness of the night. It had a peculiar note in it, I remember a” low and constant, queerly meditative. I looked up at the window, bright in the moonlight, and got a sudden thought to bring a ladder from the stable-yard, and try to get a look into the room, from the outside.

“With this notion, I hunted round at the back of the castle, among the straggle of offices, and presently found a long, fairly light ladder; though it was heavy enough for one, goodness knows! I thought at first that I should never get it reared. I managed at last, and let the ends rest very quietly against the wall, a little below the sill of the larger window. Then, going silently, I went up the ladder. Presently, I had my face above the sill, and was looking in, alone with the moonlight.

“Of course, the queer whistling sounded louder up there; but it still conveyed that peculiar sense of something whistling quietly to itself a” can you understand? Though, for all the meditative lowness of the note, the horrible, gargantuan quality was distinct a” a mighty parody of the human; as if I stood there and listened to the whistling from the lips of a monster with a man’s soul.

“And then, you know, I saw something. The floor in the middle of the huge, empty room was puckered upwards in the centre into a strange, soft-looking mound, parted at the top into an ever-changing hole, that pulsated to that great, gentle hooning. At times, as I watched, I saw the heaving of the indented mound gap across with a queer inward suction, as with the drawing of an enormous breath; then the thing would dilate and pout once more to the incredible melody. And suddenly, as I stared, dumb, it came to me that the thing was living. I was looking at two enormous, blackened lips, blistered and brutal, there in the pale moonlight…

“Abruptly, they bulged out to a vast, pouting mound of force and sound, stiffened and swollen, and hugely massive and clean-cut in the moonbeams. And a great sweat lay heavy on the vast upper lip. In the same moment of time, the whistling had burst into a mad screaming note, that seemed to stun me, even where I stood, outside of the window. And then, the following moment, I was staring blankly at the solid, undisturbed floor of the room a” smooth, polished stone flooring, from wall to wall. And there was an absolute silence.

“You can picture me staring into the quiet room, and knowing what I knew. I felt like a sick, frightened child, and I wanted to slide quietly down the ladder, and run away. But in that very instant, I heard Tassoc’s voice calling to me from within the room, for help, help. My God! but I got such an awful dazed feeling; and I had vague bewildered notion that, after all, it was the Irishmen who had got him in there, and were taking it out of him. And then the call came again, and I burst the window, and jumped in to help him. I had a confused idea that the call had come from within the shadow of the great fireplace and I raced across to it; but there was no one therea”

“‘Tassoc!’ I shouted, and my voice went empty-sounding round the great apartment; and then, in a flash, I knew that Tassoc had never called. I whirled round, sick with fear, towards the window, and as I did so a frightful exultant whistling scream burst through the room. On my left, the end wall had bellied in towards me, in a pair of gargantuan lips, black and utterly monstrous, to within a yard of my face. I fumbled for a mad instant at my revolver; not for it, but myself; for the danger was a thousand times worse than death. And then, suddenly, the Unknown Last Line of the Saaamaaa Ritual was whispered quite audibly in the room. Instantly, the thing happened that I have known once before. There came a sense as of dust falling continually and monotonously, and I knew that my life hung uncertain and suspended for a flash, in a brief reeling vertigo of unseeable things. Then that ended, and I knew that I might live. My soul and body blended again and life and power came to me. I dashed furiously at the window, and hurled myself out head foremost; for I can tell you that I had stopped being afraid of death. I crashed down on to the ladder, and slithered, grabbing and grabbing; and so came some way or other alive to the bottom. And there I sat in the soft, wet grass, with the moonlight all about me; and far above, through the broken window of the room, there was a low whistling.

“That is the chief of it. I was not hurt, and I went round to the front, and knocked Tassoc up. When they let me in, we had a long yarn, over some good whisky a” for I was shaken to pieces a” and I explained things as much as I could. I told Tassoc that the room would have to come down, and every fragment of it be burned in a blast-furnace, erected within a pentacle. He nodded. There was nothing to say. Then I went to bed.

“We turned a small army on to the work, and within ten days, that lovely thing had gone up in smoke, and what was left was calcined and clean.

“It was when the workmen were stripping the panelling, that I got hold of a sound notion of the beginnings of that beastly development. Over the great fireplace, after the great oak panels had been torn down, I found that there was let into the masonry a scrollwork of stone, with on it an old inscription, in ancient Celtic, that here in this room was burned Dian Tiansay, Jester of King Alzof, who made the Song of Foolishness upon King Ernore of the Seventh Castle.

“When I got the translation clear, I gave it to Tassoc. He was tremendously excited; for he knew the old tale, and took me down to the library to look at an old parchment that gave the story in detail. Afterwards, I found that the incident was well known about the countryside; but always regarded more as a legend than as history. And no one: seemed ever to have dreamt that the old east wing of Lastrae Castle was the remains of the ancient Seventh Castle.

“From the old parchment, I gathered that there had been a pretty dirty job done, away back in the years. It seems that King Alzof and King Ernore had been enemies by birthright, as you might say truly; but that nothing more than a little raiding had occurred on either side for years, until Dian Tiansay made the Song of Foolishness upon King Ernore, and sang it before King Alzof; and so greatly was it appreciated that King Alzof gave the jester one of his ladies to wife.

“Presently, all the people of the land had come to know the song, and so it came at last to King Ernore, who was so angered that he made war upon his old enemy, and took and burned him and his castle; but Dian Tiansay, the jester, he brought with him to his own place, and having torn his tongue out because of the song which he had made and sung he imprisoned him in the room in the east wing (which was evidently used for unpleasant purposes), and the jester’s wife he kept for himself, having a fancy for her prettiness.

“But one night Dian Tiansay’s wife was not to be found, and in the morning they discovered her lying dead in her husband’s arms, and he sitting, whistling the Song of Foolishness, for he had no longer the power to sing it.

“Then they roasted Dian Tiansay in the great fireplace a” probably from that selfsame ‘gallows-iron’ which I have already mentioned. And until he died, Dian Tiansay ‘ceased not to whistle’ the Song of Foolishness, which he could no longer sing. But afterwards, ‘in that room’ there was often heard at night the sound of something whistling; and there ‘grew a power in that room’, so that none dared to sleep in it. And presently, it would seem, the King went to another castle; for the whistling troubled him.

“There you have it all. Of course, that is only a rough rendering of the translation from the parchment. It’s a bit quaint! Don’t you think so?”

“Yes,” I said, answering for the lot. “But how did the thing grow to such a tremendous manifestation?”

“One of those cases of continuity of thought producing a positive action upon the immediate surrounding material,” replied Carnacki. “The development must have been going forward through centuries, to have produced such a monstrosity. It was a true instance of Saiitii manifestation, which I can best explain by likening it to a living spiritual fungus, which involves the very structure of the aether-fibre itself, and, of course, in so doing, acquires an essential control over the ‘material-substance’ involved in it. It is impossible to make it plainer in a few words.”

“What broke the seventh hair?” asked Taylor.

But Carnacki did not know. He thought it was probably nothing but being too severely tensioned. He also explained that they found out that the men who had run away had not been up to mischief; but had come over secretly merely to hear the whistling, which, indeed, had suddenly become the talk of the whole countryside.

“One other thing,” said Arkright, “have you any idea what governs the use of the Unknown Last Line of the Saaamaaa Ritual? I know, of course, that it was used by the Ab-human Priests in the Incantation of Raaaee; but what used it on your behalf, and what made it?”

“You had better read Harzam’s Monograph, and my Addenda to it, on ‘Astral and Astarral Co-ordination and Interference’,” said Camacki. “It is an extraordinary subject, and I can only say here that the human vibration may not be insulated from the ‘astarral’ (as is always believed to be the case, in interferences by the Ab-human) without immediate action being taken by those Forces which govern the spinning of the outer circle. In other words, it is being proved, time after time, that there is some inscrutable Protective Force constantly intervening between the human soul (not the body, mind you) and the Outer Monstrosities. Am I clear?”

“Yes, I think so,” I replied. “And you believe that the room had become the material expression of the ancient jester a” that his soul rotted with hatred, had bred into a monster a” eh?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Carnacki, nodding. “I think you’ve put my thought rather neatly. It is a queer coincidence that Miss Donnehue is supposed to be descended (so I have heard since) from the same King Ernore. It makes one think some rather curious thoughts, doesn’t it? The marriage coming on, and the room waking to fresh life. If she had gone into that room, ever … eh? IT had waited a long time. Sins of the fathers. Yes, I’ve thought of that. They’re to be married next week, and I am to be best man, which is a thing I hate. And he won his bets, rather! Just think if ever she had gone into that room. Pretty horrible, eh?”

He nodded his head grimly, and we four nodded back. Then he rose and took us collectively to the door, and presently thrust us forth in friendly fashion on to the Embankment, and into the fresh night air.

“Goodnight,” we all called back, and went to our various homes.

If she had, eh? If she had? That is what I kept thinking.


[Psychic sleuth: Ivan Brodsky, Surgeon of Souls].

Victor Rousseau.

The one condition of Dr. Ivan Brodsky’s Psychical work that he found most burdensome was the constant requests that poured in upon him from innumerable people who had come to hear of him. On all sides he was beset by applications for assistance and advice in the solution of some problem which, while immensely increasing his reputation, left him little time for the prosecution of his investigations. He was forced to refuse many of these applicants, who, in return, denounced him as a charlatan. Brodsky received denunciation and praise with equal indifference.

By this time he had severed his connection with the hospital and devoted his time entirely to private practice among patients suffering from rare mental and nervous disorders. As an attached physician, he felt that the ethics of the profession excluded the use of non-recognized remedies. In private practice he felt free to make use of his knowledge of those spiritual causes which, he claimed, under lay all physical manifestations of disease.

One morning I found him in earnest conversation with a visitor, a young man of agitated-aspect who, on seeing me enter, rose from his chair precipitately and prepared to take his departure.

“Don’t go,” said Dr. Brodsky; “allow me to introduce you to my secretary, who is my confidential assistant in these matters.”

The young man, who was introduced to me as Mr. John Sykes, sat down again. His agitation was still more manifest; he stared around him as one bewildered.

“Now, Mr. Sykes, suppose you repeat your story,” said Dr. Brodsky. “Begin at the beginning and don’t leave out anything, even if it seems to you to be of trivial moment.”

“Well, sir,” said the young man impetuously, “as I said to you at first, I am greatly in doubt whether this is a case for you or for a jury. But I wish to exhaust every possible remedy before taking the law into my own hands. Then, if I become convinced beyond all possibility of doubt that my wife is untrue to me, I shall put a bullet through my brother’s head, and another afterward through my own.”

“Which wouldn’t help either of you in the least,” replied Brodsky suavely. “You would find yourselves immediately transplanted into another not so very different world with your enmity still at boiling point, but without the physical means of allaying it. Suppose you continue.”

“My name, as I have said, is John Sykes,” said the young man more calmly. “My brother Philip and I were the only children of our father, and the inheritors of the Sykes estate. My father cut me out of his will on account of my marriage. My wife is a woman whom no man could feel ashamed of; my offense was that of having married without asking his consent. He was subject to fits of temper and changed his will. Had he lived he would undoubtedly have forgiven me. But unfortunately he died almost immediately afterward, leaving the Sykes mansion and grounds to Philip, while I was forced to continue the owner of a little cottage adjacent which I bought some years ago. Naturally, this caused an estrangement between my brother and me. I, myself, am happy enough in my cottage, and, until a few days ago, when I first doubted my wife’s affection, no happier mortal existed. My wife, however, had always felt a sentimental regard for the old mansion. It would naturally have passed us, Philip receiving an equivalent in cash. The disappointment has greatly affected her.

“Some weeks ago, my brother and I having then been estranged for several months, I surprised my wife one afternoon coming out of the mansion, where he was and still is living. You can imagine my consternation. My brother had already everything that I lacked save only her: was I to be bereft of her through any machinations of his to draw her within the sphere of his interests? I taxed her with visiting him, she admitted it and, weeping, explained that she had gone only to intercede for me. She wanted us to be friends, and, above everything else, she wanted Philip to sell us the mansion upon favorable terms, as he purposed traveling abroad and was not bound to it by any such intense attachment such as she had conceived, Philip had almost yielded to her request. I, however, am not of a temperament easily placated. I suspected that my brother was partly instrumental in the changing of our father’s will. I refused to have any kind of dealings, with him. I scolded her for visiting him, explained the misconstruction that might be put upon such an act by village gossip, and she promised me never to see him again.

“A few weeks ago I learned from servants’ chatter that the Sykes mansion was reputed to be haunted by the spirit of a woman. The butler had told a village crony that the figure of a woman walked through the rooms and passages at night. He had seen it, had taken it for a sleep-walker and essayed to catch it, but it had vanished before his eyes and his hands had grasped only thin air.

“I am something of a student and often sit up alone all night with my books and papers. I am at present engaged in writing a monograph upon our American bats. Sometimes my observations take me away for a day or two, so that my wife and I see a” not too much of one another. Indeed, of late, since the episode I referred to, we seem to have begun to drift apart. I am not a believer in the supernatural, and this foolish gossip of the butler aroused the most terrible suspicions in me. I resolved to discover for myself what truth lay in the rumor.

“Pretending to be about to set off on a two-day journey for the purpose of obtaining specimens, I came back at night and concealed myself in an old building, now unoccupied, but formerly used as a barn by my grandfather, adjoining the mansion. From here I was enabled to obtain a clear view of a large part of the interior, which is built in a rambling way and can in this manner be overlooked. I saw my brother lower the light in his study, and a minute or two later saw the lamp flash out in his bedroom. The lower portion of the house was plunged into darkness.

“It was past midnight. I was about to dismiss my project as a chimera, feeling much ashamed of my suspicions. Then an irresistible impulse impelled me to go to the open window of the darkened study. Actuated by the same instinct which seemed to force me onward against my will, I crept in noiselessly, traversed the room, and emerged into the corridor. From the far end a veiled figure came gliding toward me. For a moment the eeriness of the situation, I confess, rooted me to the spot with horror. It came nearer; and suddenly I found myself looking into what I can swear was the face of my wife. Another moment, and the figure had passed me, with the same noiseless tread, and vanished into the distance.

“I do not know how long I remained there. When I came to my senses I was in my cottage, fumbling with a pistol. I dashed up to my wife’s room and hammered violently upon the door. Suddenly she came out and confronted me. She was robed in a dressing gown and looked up with innocent, frightened eyes, as though just awakened out of sleep. I made no answer to her terrified appeals, but rushed out of the house and came straight to you, knowing that if there could be any supernatural solution of the difficulty you would put me out of my suspense. While the period between our encounter in the mansion and that in my own cottage seems almost too short to have enabled her to return and assume the role she played, I confess that I look upon you as the last possible refuge left me before I commit some act of desperation.”

It was impossible not to be deeply I impressed by the evident sincerity, of the young man and by his deep distress. For my part, I was inclined to believe the worst. But a glance into Brodsky’s impassive face convinced me that he did not share my suspicions. Brodsky’s opinions of women were curiously fine; as I learned afterward, and hope subsequently to be able to tell, his life had been molded by one of the noblest characters, who had died before the day set for their marriage, leaving him to cherish her memory as a continual inspiration.

We determined to start at once for the village, which was some fifteen miles distant, situated in the, heart of a sparsely settled farming country. It was decided, both in view of the young man’s excited condition and in order to enable us to pursue our investigations freely, which conscience would not have permitted had we been the guests of Mrs. Sykes, that we should make our headquarters at the village inn, where Sykes was expecting to meet a man who might throw light upon the problem. We arrived there late in the afternoon and found the place empty of visitors, it being late in the fall. As we were seated in the spacious old-fashioned parlor, an elderly man of consequential demeanor came softly and furtively up the back path. Sykes rose to meet him.

“Gentlemen, this is Jones, my brother’s butler and an old employee of my father’s,” he said, rising dramatically and locking the door. “Now Jones, repeat what you told me yesterday.”

“I’ve more to tell you since I saw you yesterday, Mr. John,” said Jones huskily. He adopted toward the young man that mixture of patronage and servility which indicates, in a menial, the acceptance of some bribe in return for a dereliction of duty. “We saw her last night, sir. I thought I heard a burglar downstairs and dressed myself and went out to see. On the landing I met the master coming out of his room. He had heard the noise too. We went down softlike, and suddenly we saw her, as plain as life, coming along the passage.”

“Who was she?” interrupted Sykes in a voice choking with emotion.

“That I wouldn’t take it upon myself to say, sir,” said the butler with a smirk. “‘Twasn’t anybody I know, leastways, so far as I could tell by the walk, because she wore a veil and was all in white, which is a powerful disguiser for females, sir. So I says to myself: ‘Jones, if the master chooses to have young female ghosts in his house at 2 in the morning, that ain’t no business of yours.’ So I turns to go back, and, while I was looking at her, she disappeared, right under my eyes.

Suddenly Sykes flew at the man like a deerhound and grasped him by the collar, shaking him furiously.

“You rascal, tell me who the woman was,” he cried.

The butler’s face turned purple.

“‘Twasn’t anybody I know, sir,” he gasped, breaking loose and reeling back against the wall. “I’ll swear it wasn’t any human living being, sir. She vanished right before my very eyesa””

Sykes stood off and looked at the man contemptuously.

“Jones,” he said, “you are a dirty, lying hound. You told your cronies here that it was Mrs. Sykes.”

The man began to tremble.

“You know me from old times, Jones,” continued the young man more coldly. “You shall have one chance to prove your statement, and if you can’t I’ll shoot you like a dog.”

“I swear” a” the man began to babble a” “I swear I told nobody. But it was her, Mr. John, and I can’t lie to you. I’m willing to prove it and to stake my life on it.”

“Jones,” said the young man, “these gentlemen are friends of mine. At 10 o’clock tonight, or as soon afterward as the light goes out in your master’s study, we shall be at the side door. You will unlock it and admit us to the empty picture gallery which commands a full view of the corridors. Here!” He took a roll of bills from his pocket and peeled off half a dozen. “Take this for your services. And if ever you say a word in the villagea””

“Yes sir a” yes, Mr. John,” babbled the man, pouching the money with avidity. “I’ll be there on time, sir.” He turned and crept out of the room. Once outside, however, he gradually reassumed his jaunty demeanor.

When he was gone, John Sykes began to pace the floor with long strides. Brodsky and I watched him in silence. Presently he wheeled and came up to us.

“You see my wife’s name has become a byword of village gossip,” he exclaimed angrily. “Evidently in her infatuation she has lost all sense of fear. As likely as not she is even now planning a return trip to the mansion. I have no criticism to make, of her,” he went on brokenly. “It is my brother who has first robbed me of my inheritance and then of the only woman I have loved. May, they be accurseda””

“Stop!” said Brodsky, laying his hand restrainingly upon the young man’s shoulder. “It will be time to accuse her when you know. At present you know nothing.”

John Sykes looked at him incredulously.

“Do you mean a” that there can be any hope?” he whispered hoarsely. “Do you think she is innocent?”

“I believe in all women as long as I can,” said Brodsky simply.

Nevertheless, looking into his face, I read the struggle which he was undergoing against the weight of the evidence. And suddenly the young man collapsed into a chair and buried his face in his hands. He pulled a locket from his breast, opened it, and pressed his lips to the inside. Then he held it up to us.

“Look at it,” he whispered. “Look at her face and say what you can read there.”

It was the miniature of a young woman. She was strikingly beautiful, even in this land of beautiful women; but what held and fascinated the observer was the quality of innocence and purity that seemed to shine through the external features, as a light in a lamp. The artist had done his work surpassingly well. I stole a glance at Brodsky; his brow had cleared.

“I believe in her,” he said again. “And I think before the night has gone your fears and doubts will have been dispelled. Courage, friend. And now let us have supper, for the physical condition has a powerful reaction upon the spirits.”

It was a mournful supper in the deserted inn. Brodsky was at his best. He kept us amused with countless anecdotes of his own life. I had never known how much he had undergone, what he had seen, now tramping through Europe as a penniless student, now taking a leading part in the battle for Polish freedom; anon, imprisoned in the underground dungeon at St. Peter and St. Paul, escaping in a workman’s clothes and working his way to America as a sailor under the noses of the Russian Marine officers. But, though once or twice our companion’s face lit up and he smiled faintly, it was evident that he was almost overwhelmed by the tragedy that had come into his life.

No further reference was made to the engagement of the evening, but we sat there, smoking and talking, and listening to Brodsky, until ten strokes rang out from the old-fashioned clock in the corner. Then, with a deep sigh, the young man rose and led the way out into the darkness of the fall evening. At the end of the street the large bulk of the mansion appeared, cutting off the view beyond with its great mansard roof and outbuildings, of which the Sykes cottage seemed to form a part. Even as we looked, a light went out suddenly in a lower window, to reappear shortly afterward immediately overhead. The master of the mansion had retired to his room.

As we passed silently down the deserted street I caught the faint reflection from the light above the door of the inn as it struck upon some rounded, metallic thing which the young man was fingering. It was a pistol. On the way I contrived to snatch a fleeting word with Brodsky.

“Doctor,” I said, “you are abetting a murder.”

“No,” he answered me, “I am saving a woman’s name and her husband’s happiness.

We halted at a side door and waited. After quite an interval the butler came out and admitted us. He led the way on tiptoe, we following with infinite precautions, along a corridor, up some carpeted stairs, and out upon the dimly lit circle of an old picture gallery, where generations of the Sykes family looked gravely down from their heavily gilded frames. The sight aroused the young man to a frenzy of passion. This was the inheritance of which he had been defrauded! I saw him shake as with an ague, saw his fingers tighten convulsively upon the handle of his pistol; then I saw Brodsky’s restraining arm encircle his shoulders and steady him. The little drama was enacted in, perfect silence. We crouched down at the edge of the platform, below which we could see the passages of the rambling old structure radiating away on the three sides as spokes of a wheel. And we waited, shivering, there, none speaking, only gluing our eyes upon the distant end of the corridor which led toward the wing of the mansion which Philip Sykes occupied. The butler had slipped away, but John had forgotten him.

Eleven o’clock boomed out from a deep-sounding clock; the air grew chilly. I shivered. I looked at Brodsky. He was watching every movement of his patient, his hand, alert and sinuous, seemingly ready to leap forth to restrain him from any deed of rashness. But John was oblivious to both of us also; he fingered his pistol and knelt there watching, watchinga”

Crouching there, we three seemed to have become actors in some horrible drama that was being enacted for the benefit of those rows of silent ghosts, those family ancestors of dead and gone Sykes, looking out, starched and bewigged, from their gold frames, which were so faintly illuminated by the dull light of the low gas jets that the painted figures seemed to stand out as in a stereoscope, to have the verisimilitude of living men. I must have become half-hypnotized by the monotony of watching. My mind slipped away from the work that was at hand. I was living over my life in other places, thinking of the past, of the ambitions and aspirations with which I had started out on my career, of my strange meeting with Brodsky, of a thousand things.

Suddenly I felt Brodsky’s fingers tighten upon my sleeve. I glanced along the distant corridor. My heart bounded in my breast and seemed to stand still. For there, emerging from out of the gloom, clothed in a misty garment, her head covered with a filmy veil, was a woman that glided toward us as no human, waking being moves, the eyes fixed and trancelike. For all the dimness and distance I knew her. It was the woman of the miniature. Brodsky recognized her, too, and the young man.

I saw his figure stiffen; every muscle in his body became as taut as steel. He crouched there, watching her, upon his face an aspect of horror and hatred terrible to witness. The figure approached us; now it was directly under us and had not seemed to notice us. Suddenly his hand shot out; I saw the gleam of the pistol. Then, still more quickly, I saw Brodsky’s arm dart forward, and an instant later the heavy report of the discharge went echoing through the half-empty house, arousing a thousand echoes among the rafters.

I was upon my feet and Brodsky was pulling at my sleeve. “Follow me,” he cried. “To the cottage!”

He dragged me after him, and the young man followed us. I moved as though in a dream, under Brodsky’s compulsion; but, though we ran like the wind, John Sykes easily outstripped us. I knew what passion winged his speed. Overhead we heard noises and movement. Shouts were borne after us.

“This way,” cried the doctor, as I halted, confused, in the middle of the winding galleries. He pulled me toward the door. Another moment and we were outside, pressing the yielding turf beneath our feet. We ran around the house and darted toward the cottage, John Sykes ahead of us, the pistol still clenched in his hand. From the right we heard the sound of a man running. At the very door of the cottage Philip Sykes broke out upon us; and, as Philip drew back in amazement, John leaped at him, bearing him down upon the threshold, striving to free his right arm to gain pistol vantage. Philip perceived the peril and fought desperately for life; John’s hand was upon his throat, his brother’s grasp relaxed; another instant all would have been over. But even at the moment of his triumph he stopped and staggered backward. For the door had opened, and there, confronting us, fully attired, a lantern in her hand, her eyes wide with suspense and terror, was the lady of the miniature. And the three waited motionless as figures carved out of stone, till Brodsky stepped up and broke the silence. He took the pistol from John Sykes’ unresisting hand.

“Let us go in and talk over the matter,” he said.

If tears are akin to laughter, tragedy is surely akin to comedy. For hours, as it seems to me now, the four of them sat in the little cottage parlor, laughing incoherently, listening at first incredulously to the account that Brodsky unfolded. For the merest chance words let drop by John Sykes during their first interview had set him upon the track of his daring hypothesis, which he had courageously verified, even at the risk of murder. Afterward they began to believe, though I am not sure that Philip Sykes believes it yet; as for John, his joy at the restoration of his confidence in the lady drowned all baser emotions of rage or resentment. For, whatever other explanation there might have been, he knew that his wife could not possibly have been inside his brother’s house in person, when she had met him at his own door.

“I was not sure until the end that my hypothesis was correct,” said Brodsky. “But it was your statement of the sentimental regard which Mrs. Sykes felt for the old mansion, and her deep disappointment at the loss of it, that put me upon the track. Do you recollect the tenth commandment, which begins: ‘Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house?’ many people have wondered at the inclusion of so comparatively, as it seems-venial a sin among those of theft and murder.

“Yet, like most things, that commandment exists with very good reason, for undoubtedly the Great Lawgiver was acquainted with the physical results of spiritual things. There was a ghost in the mansion.” He turned to Mrs. Sykes. “Have you not dreamed of it continually?” he asked.

“Often and often,” she answered.

“You were the ghost,” said Brodsky. “It was you, who by the strength of your longing, were nightly transplanted there. You were there in spirit, but not in body, when we watched in the gallery. And had that pistol bullet pierced your ghostly form it would have killed you none the less surely, so intimately associated are the body and that Psychical envelope which men miscall the soul, which is the body of desires and emotions. And unless you can overcome this longing, I confess I fear that you will continue to haunt the mansion.”

“I shall haunt it no more,” replied Mrs. Sykes, laughing. “My brother-in-law was willing long ago to dispose of it to my husband.”

“Indeed, I have been most anxious to do so,” said Philip, “But my brother, who has inherited the Sykes temper, refused all overtures for reconciliation until your happy intervention this evening. But now I shall insist upon his taking the place off my hands upon any terms he will accept, for I confess I am a practical sort of ‘man and don’t want to be troubled by ghosts, even when they, are the personal property of a very, charming and newly-discovered sister-in-law.”


[Psychic sleuth: John Silence].

Algernon Blackwood.

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