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Title: Collected Stories
Author: May Sinclair
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Language: English
Date first posted: August 2006
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Collected Stories
May Sinclair



TABLE OF CONTENTS

The Nature of the Evidence
The Token



THE NATURE OF THE EVIDENCE


THIS is the story Marston told me. He didn't want to tell it. I had to
tear it from him bit by bit. I've pieced the bits together in their
time order, and explained things here and there, but the facts are the
facts he gave me. There's nothing that I didn't get out of him
somehow.

 Out of him--you'll admit my source is unimpeachable. Edward Marston,
the great K.C., and the author of an admirable work on "The Logic of
Evidence." You should have read the chapters on "What Evidence Is and
What It Is Not." You may say he lied; but if you knew Marston you'd
know he wouldn't lie, for the simple reason that he's incapable of
inventing anything. So that, if you ask me whether I believe this
tale, all I can say is, I believe the things happened, because he said
they happened and because they happened to him. As for what they
were--well, I don't pretend to explain it, neither would he.

 You know he was married twice. He adored his first wife, Rosamund,
and Rosamund adored him. I suppose they were completely happy. She was
fifteen years younger than he, and beautiful. I wish I could make you
see how beautiful. Her eyes and mouth had the same sort of bow, full
and wide-sweeping, and they stared out of her face with the same
grave, contemplative innocence. Her mouth was finished off at each
corner with the loveliest little moulding, rounded like the pistil of
a flower. She wore her hair in a solid gold fringe over her forehead,
like a child's, and a big coil at the back. When it was let down it
hung in a heavy cable to her waist. Marston used to tease her about
it. She had a trick of tossing back the rope in the night when it was
hot under her, and it would fall smack across his face and hurt him.

 There was a pathos about her that I can't describe--a curious, pure,
sweet beauty, like a child's; perfect, and perfectly immature; so
immature that you couldn't conceive its lasting--like that--any more
than childhood lasts. Marston used to say it made him nervous. He was
afraid of waking up in the morning and finding that it had changed in
the night. And her beauty was so much a part of herself that you
couldn't think of her without it. Somehow you felt that if it went she
must go too.

 Well, she went first.

 For a year afterwards Marston existed dangerously, always on the edge
of a break-down. If he didn't go over altogether it was because his
work saved him. He had no consoling theories. He was one of those
bigoted materialists of the nineteenth century type who believe that
consciousness is a Purely physiological function, and that when your
body's dead, you're dead. He saw no reason to, suppose the contrary.
"When you consider," he used to say, "the nature of the evidence!"

 It's as well to bear this in mind, so as to realize that he hadn't
any bias or anticipation. Rosamund survived for him only in his
memory. And in his memory he was still in love with her. At the same
time he used to discuss quite cynically the chances of his marrying
again.

 It seems that in their honeymoon they had gone into that. Rosamund
said she hated to think of his being lonely and miserable, supposing
she died before he did. She would like him to marry again. If, she
stipulated, he married the right woman.

 He had put it to her: "And if I marry the wrong one?"

 And she had said, That would be different. She couldn't bear that.

 He remembered all this afterwards; but there was nothing in it to
make him suppose, at the time, that she would take action.

 We talked it over, he and I, one night.

 "I suppose," he said, "I shall have to marry again. It's a physical
necessity. But it won't be anything more. I shan't marry the sort of
woman who'll expect anything more. I won't put another woman in
Rosamund's place. There'll be no unfaithfulness about it."

 And there wasn't. Soon after that first year he married Pauline
Silver.

 She was a daughter of old Justice Parker, who was a friend of
Marston's people. He hadn't seen the girl till she came home from
India after her divorce.

 Yes, there'd been a divorce. Silver had behaved very decently. He'd
let her bring it against him, to save her. But there were some queer
stories going about. They didn't get round to Marston, because he was
so mixed up with her people; and if they had he wouldn't have believed
them. He'd made up his mind he'd marry Pauline the first minute he'd
seen her. She was handsome; the hard, black, white and vermilion kind,
with a little aristocratic nose and a lascivious mouth.

 It was, as he had meant it to be, nothing but physical infatuation on
both sides. No question of Pauline's taking Rosamund's place.

 Marston had a big case on at the time.

 They were in such a hurry that they couldn't wait till it was over;
and as it kept him in London they agreed to put off their honeymoon
till the autumn; and he took her straight to his own house in Curzon
Street.

 This, he admitted afterwards, was the part he hated. The Curzon
Street house was associated with Rosamund; especially their bedroom--
Rosamund's bedroom--and his library. The library was the room Rosamund
liked best, because it was his room. She had her place in the corner
by the hearth, and they were always alone there together in the
evenings when his work was done, and when it wasn't done she would
still sit with him, keeping quiet in her corner with a book.

 Luckily for Marston, at the first sight of the library Pauline took a
dislike to it.

 I can hear her. "Br-rr-rh! There's something beastly about this room,
Edward. I can't think how you can sit in it."

 And Edward, a little caustic:

 "You needn't, if you don't like it."

 "I certainly shan't."

 She stood there--I can see her--on the hearthrug by Rosamund's chair,
looking uncommonly handsome and lascivious. He was going to take her
in his arms and kiss her vermilion mouth, when, he said, something
stopped him. Stopped him clean, as if it had risen up and stepped
between them. He supposed it was the memory of Rosamund, vivid in the
place that had been hers.

 You see it was just that place, of silent, intimate communion, that
Pauline would never take. And the rich, coarse, contented creature
didn't even want to take it. He saw that he would be left alone there,
all right, with his memory.

 But the bedroom was another matter. That, Pauline had made it
understood from the beginning, she would have to have. Indeed, there
was no other he could well have offered her. The drawing-room covered
the whole of the first floor. The bedrooms above were cramped, and
this one had been formed by throwing the two front rooms into one. It
looked south, and the bathroom opened out of it at the back. Marston's
small northern room had a door on the narrow landing at right angles
to his wife's door. He could hardly expect her to sleep there, still
less in any of the tight boxes on the top floor. He said he wished he
had sold the Curzon Street house.

 But Pauline was enchanted with the wide, three-windowed piece that
was to be hers. It had been exquisitely furnished for poor little
Rosamund; all seventeenth century walnut wood, Bokhara rugs, thick
silk curtains, deep blue with purple linings, and a big, rich bed
covered with a purple counterpane embroidered in blue.

 One thing Marston insisted on: that he should sleep on Rosamund's
side of the bed, and Pauline in his own old place. He didn't want to
see Pauline's body where Rosamund's had been. Of course he had to lie
about it and pretend he had always slept on the side next the window.

 I can, see Pauline going about in that room, looking at everything;
looking at herself, her black, white and vermilion, in the glass that
had held Rosamund's pure rose and gold; opening the wardrobe where
Rosamund's dresses used to hang, sniffing up the delicate, flower
scent of Rosamund, not caring, covering it with her own thick trail.

 And Marston (who cared abominably)--I can see him getting more
miserable and at the same time more excited as the wedding evening
went on. He took her to the play to fill up the time, or perhaps to
get her out of Rosamund's rooms; God knows. I can see them sitting in
the stalls, bored and restless, starting up and going out before the
thing was half over, and coming back to that house in Curzon Street
before eleven o'clock.

 It wasn't much past eleven when he went to her room.

 I told you her door was at right angles to his, and the landing was
narrow, so that anybody standing by Pauline's door must have been seen
the minute he opened his. He hadn't even to cross the landing to get
to her.

 Well, Marston swears that there was nothing there when he opened his
own door; but when he came to Pauline's he saw Rosamund standing up
before it; and, he said, "She wouldn't let me in."

 Her arms were stretched out, barring the passage. Oh yes, he saw her
face, Rosamund's face; I gathered that it was utterly sweet, and
utterly inexorable. He couldn't pass her.

 So he turned into his own room, backing, he says, so that he could
keep looking at her. And when he stood on the threshold of his own
door she wasn't there.

 No, he wasn't frightened. He couldn't tell me what he felt; but he
left his door open all night because he couldn't bear to shut it on
her. And he made no other attempt to go in to Pauline; he was so
convinced that the phantasm of Rosamund would come again and stop him.

 I don't know what sort of excuse he made to Pauline the next morning.
He said she was very stiff and sulky all day; and no wonder. He was
still infatuated with her, and I don't think that the phantasm of
Rosamund had put him off Pauline in the least. In fact, he persuaded
himself that the thing was nothing but a hallucination, due, no doubt,
to his excitement.

 Anyhow, he didn't expect to see it at the door again the next night.

 Yes. It was there. Only, this time, he said, it drew aside to let him
pass. It smiled at him, as if it were saying, "Go in, if you must;
you'll see what'll happen."

 He had no sense that it had followed him into the room; he felt
certain that, this time, it would let him be.

 It was when he approached Pauline's bed, which had been Rosamund's
bed, that she appeared again, standing between it and him, and
stretching out her arms to keep him back.

 All that Pauline could see was her bridegroom backing and backing,
then standing there, fixed, and the look on his face. That in itself
was enough to frighten her.

 She said, "What's the matter with you, Edward?"

 He didn't move.

 "What are you standing there for? Why don't you come to bed?"

 Then Marston seems to have lost his head and blurted it out:

 "I can't. I can't."

 "Can't what?" said Pauline from the bed.

 "Can't sleep with you. She won't let me."

 "She?"

 "Rosamund. My wife. She's there."

 "What on earth are you talking about?"

 "She's there, I tell you. She won't let me. She's pushing me back."

 He says Pauline must have thought he was drunk or something.
Remember, she saw nothing but Edward, his face, and his mysterious
attitude. He must have, looked very drunk.

 She sat up in bed, with her hard,' black eyes blazing away at him,
and told him to leave the room that minute. Which he did.

 The next day she had it out with him. I gathered that she kept on
talking about the "state" he was in.

 "You came to my room, Edward, in a disgraceful state."

 I suppose Marston said he was sorry; but he couldn't help it; he
wasn't drunk. He stuck to it that Rosamund was there. He had seen her.
And Pauline said, if he wasn't drunk then he must be mad, and he said
meekly, "Perhaps I am mad."

 That set her off, and she broke out in a fury. He was no more mad
than she was; but he didn't care for her; he was making ridiculous
excuses; shamming, to put her off. There was some other woman.

 Marston asked her what on earth she supposed he'd married her for.
Then she burst out crying and said she didn't know.

 Then he seems to have made it up with Pauline. He managed to make her
believe he wasn't lying, that he really had seen something, and
between them they arrived at a rational explanation of the appearance.
He had been overworking Rosamund's phantasm was nothing but a
hallucination of his exhausted brain.

 This theory carried him on till bed-time. Then, he says, he began to
wonder what would happen, what Rosamund's phantasm would do next. Each
morning his passion for Pauline had come back again, increased by
frustration, and it worked itself up crescendo, towards night.
Supposing he had seen Rosamund. He might see her again. He had become
suddenly subject to hallucinations. But as long as you knew you were
hallucinated you were all right.

 So what they agreed to do that night was by way of precaution, in
case the thing came again. It might even be sufficient in itself to
prevent his seeing anything.

 Instead of going in to Pauline he was to get into the room before she
did, and she was to come to him there. That, they said, would break
the spell. To make him feel even safer he meant to be in bed before
Pauline came.

 Well, he got into the room all right.

 It was when he tried to get into bed that--he saw her (I mean
Rosamund).

 She was lying there, in his place next the window, her own place,
lying in her immature childlike beauty and sleeping, the firm full bow
of her mouth softened by sleep. She was perfect in every detail, the
lashes of her shut eyelids golden on her white cheeks, the solid gold
of her square fringe shining, and the great braided golden rope of her
hair flung back on the pillow.

 He knelt down by the bed and pressed his forehead into the
bedclothes, close to her side. He declared he could feel her breathe.

 He stayed there for the twenty minutes Pauline took to undress and
come to him. He says the minutes stretched out like hours. Pauline
found him still kneeling with his face pressed into the bedclothes.
When he got up he staggered.

 She asked him what he was doing and why he wasn't in bed. And he
said, "It's no use. I can't. I can't."

 But somehow he couldn't tell her that Rosamund was there. Rosamund
was too sacred; he couldn't talk about her. He only said:

 "You'd better sleep in my room to-night."

 He was staring down at the place in the bed where he still saw
Rosamund. Pauline couldn't have seen anything but the bedclothes, the
sheet smoothed above an invisible breast, and the hollow in the
pillow. She said she'd do nothing of the sort. She wasn't going to be
frightened out of her own room. He could do as he liked.

 He couldn't leave them there; he couldn't leave Pauline with
Rosamund, and he couldn't leave Rosamund with Pauline. So he sat up in
a chair with his back turned to the bed. No. He didn't make any
attempt to go back. He says he knew she was still lying there,
guarding his place, which was her place. The odd thing is that he
wasn't in the least disturbed or frightened or surprised. He took the
whole thing as a matter of course. And presently he dozed off into a
sleep.

 A scream woke him and the sound of a violent body leaping out of the
bed and thudding on to its feet. He switched on the light and saw the
bedclothes flung back and Pauline standing on the floor with her mouth
open.

 He went to her and held her. She was cold to the touch and shaking
with terror, and her jaws dropped as if she was palsied.

 She said, "Edward, there's something in the bed."

 He glanced again at the bed. It was empty.

 "There isn't," he said. "Look."

 He stripped the bed to the foot-rail, so that she could see.

 "There was something."

 "Do you see it?"

 "No. I felt it."

 She told him. First something had come swinging, smack across her
face. A thick, heavy rope of woman's hair. It had waked her. Then she
had put out her hands and felt the body. A woman's body, soft and
horrible; her fingers had sunk in the shallow breasts. Then she had
screamed and jumped.

 And she couldn't stay in the room. The room, she said, was "beastly."

 She slept in Marston's room, in his small single bed, and he sat up
with her all night, on a chair.

 She believed now that he had really seen something, and she
remembered that the library was beastly, too. Haunted by something.
She supposed that was what she had felt. Very well. Two rooms in the
house were haunted; their bedroom and the library. They would just
have to avoid those two rooms. She had made up her mind, you see, that
it was nothing but a case of an ordinary haunted house; the sort of
thing you're always hearing about and never believe in till it happens
to yourself. Marston didn't like to point out to her that the house
hadn't been haunted till she came into it.

 The following night, the fourth night, she was to sleep in the spare
room on the top floor, next to the servants, and Marston in his own
room.

 But Marston didn't sleep. He kept on wondering whether he would or
would not go up to Pauline's room. That made him horribly restless,
and instead of undressing and going to bed, he sat up on a chair with
a book. He wasn't nervous; but he had a queer feeling that something
was going to happen, and that he must be ready for it, and that he'd
better be dressed.

 It must have been soon after midnight when he heard the door-knob
turning very slowly and softly. The door opened behind him and Pauline
came in, moving without a sound, and stood before him. It gave him a
shock; for he had been thinking of Rosamund, and when he heard the
door-knob turn it was the phantasm of Rosamund that he expected to see
coming in. He says, for the first minute, it was this appearance of
Pauline that struck him as the uncanny and unnatural thing.

 She had nothing, absolutely nothing on but a transparent white
chiffony sort of dressing-gown. She was trying to undo it. He could
see her hands shaking as her fingers fumbled with the fastenings.

 He got up suddenly, and they just stood there before each other,
saying nothing, staring at each other. He was fascinated by her, by
the sheer glamour of her body, gleaming white through the thin stuff,
and by the movement of her fingers. I think I've said she was a
beautiful woman, and her beauty at that moment was overpowering.

 And still he stared at her without saying anything. It sounds as if
their silence lasted quite a long time, but in reality it couldn't
have been more than some fraction of a second.

 Then she began. "Oh, Edward, for God's sake say something. Oughtn't I
to have come?"

 And she went on without waiting for an answer. "Are you thinking of
her? Because, if--if you are, I'm not going to let her drive you away
from me... I'm not going to... She'll keep on coming as long as we
don't---Can't you see that this is the way to stop it...? When you
take me in your arms."

 She slipped off the loose sleeves of the chiffon thing and it fell to
her feet. Marston says he heard a queer sound, something between a
groan and a grunt, and was amazed to find that it came from himself.

 He hadn't touched her yet--mind you, it went quicker than it takes to
tell, it was still an affair of the fraction of a second--they were
holding out their arms to each other, when the door opened again
without a sound, and, without visible passage, the phantasm was there.
It came incredibly fast, and thin at first, like a shaft of light
sliding between them. It didn't do anything; there was no beating of
hands, only, as it took on its full form, its perfect likeness of
flesh and blood, it made its presence felt like a push, a force,
driving them asunder.

 Pauline hadn't seen it yet. She thought it was Marston who was
beating her back. She cried out: "Oh, don't, don't push me away!" She
stooped below the phantasm's guard and clung to his knees, writhing
and crying. For a moment it was a struggle between her moving flesh
and that still, supernatural being.

 And in that moment Marston realized that he hated Pauline. She was
fighting Rosamund with her gross flesh and blood, taking a mean
advantage of her embodied state to beat down the heavenly, discarnate
thing.

 He called to her to let go.

 "It's not I," he shouted. "Can't you see her?"

 Then, suddenly, she saw, and let go, and dropped, crouching on the
floor and trying to cover herself. This time she had given no cry.

 The phantasm gave way; it moved slowly towards the door, and as it
went it looked back over its shoulder at Marston, it trailed a hand,
signalling to him to come.

 He went out after it, hardly aware of Pauline's naked body that still
writhed there, clutching at his feet as they passed, and drew itself
after him, likea worm, like a beast, along the floor.

 She must have got up at once and followed them out on to the landing;
for, as he went down the stairs behind the phantasm, he could see
Pauline's face, distorted with lust and terror, peering at them above
the stairhead. She saw them descend the last flight, and cross the
hall at the bottom and go into the library. The door shut behind them.

 Something happened in there. Marston never told me precisely what it
was, and I didn't ask him. Anyhow, that finished it.

 The next day Pauline ran away to her own people. She couldn't stay in
Marston's house because it was haunted by Rosamund, and he wouldn't
leave it for the same reason.

 And she never came back; for she was not only afraid of Rosamund, she
was afraid of Marston. And if she had come it wouldn't have been any
good. Marston was convinced that, as often as he attempted to get to
Pauline, something would stop him. Pauline certainly felt that, if
Rosamund were pushed to it, she might show herself in some still more
sinister and terrifying form. She knew when she was beaten.

 And there was more in it than that. I believe he tried to explain it
to her; said he had married her on the assumption that Rosamund was
dead, but that now he knew she was alive; she was, as he put it,
"there." He tried to make her see that if he had Rosamund he couldn't
have her. Rosamund's presence in the world annulled their contract.

 You see I'm convinced that something did happen that night in the
library. I say, he never told me precisely what it was, but he once
let something out. We were discussing one of Pauline's love-affairs
(after the separation she gave him endless grounds for divorce).

 "Poor Pauline," he said, "she thinks she's so passionate."

 "Well," I said, "wasn't she?"

 Then he burst out. "No. She doesn't know what passion is. None of you
know. You haven't the faintest conception. You'd have to get rid of
your bodies first. I didn't know until--"

 He stopped himself. I think he was going to say, "until Rosamund came
back and showed me." For he leaned forward and whispered: "It isn't a
localized affair at all. If you only knew--"

 So I don't think it was just faithfulness to a revived memory. I take
it there had been, behind that shut door, some experience, some
terrible and exquisite contact. More penetrating than sight or touch.
More--more extensive: passion at all points of being.

 Perhaps the supreme moment of it, the ecstasy, only came when her
phantasm had disappeared.

 He couldn't go back to Pauline after that.




THE TOKEN



Chapter I



I have only known one absolutely adorable woman, and that was my
brother's wife, Cicely Dunbar.

Sisters-in-law do not, I think, invariably adore each other, and I am
aware that my chief merit in Cicely's eyes was that I am Donald's
sister; but for me there was no question of extraneous quality--it was
all pure Cicely.

And how Donald--But then, like all the Dunbars, Donald suffers from
being Scottish, so that, if he has a feeling, he makes it a point of
honour to pretend he hasn't it. I daresay he let himself go a bit
during his courtship, when he was not, strictly speaking, himself; but
after he had once married her I think he would have died rather than
have told Cicely in so many words that he loved her. And Cicely wanted
to be told. You say she ought to have known without telling? You don't
know Donald. You can't conceive the perverse ingenuity he could put
into hiding his affection. He has that peculiar temper--I think it's
Scottish--that delights in snubbing and fault-finding and defeating
expectation. If he knows you want him to do a thing, that alone is
reason enough with Donald for not doing it. And my sister, who was as
transparent as white crystal, was never able to conceal a want. So
that Donald could, as we said, 'have' her at every turn.

And, then, I don't think my brother really knew how ill she was. He
didn't want to know.

Besides, he was so wrapt up in trying to finish his 'Development of
Social Economics' (which, by the way, he hasn't finished yet) that he
had no eyes to see what we all saw: that, the way her poor little
heart was going, Cicely couldn't have very long to live.

Of course he understood that this was why, in those last months, they
had to have separate rooms. And this in the first year of their
marriage when he was still violently in love with her. I keep those
two facts firmly in my mind when I try to excuse Donald; for it was
the main cause of that unkindness and perversity which I find it so
hard to forgive. Even now, when I think how he used to discharge it on
the poor little thing, as if it had been her fault, I have to remind
myself that the lamb's innocence made her a little trying.

She couldn't understand why Donald didn't want to have her with him in
his library any more while he read or wrote. It seemed to her sheer
cruelty to shut her out now when she was ill, seeing that, before she
was ill, she had always had her chair by the fireplace, where she
would sit over her book or her embroidery for hours without speaking,
hardly daring to breathe lest she should interrupt him. Now was the
time, she thought, when she might expect a little indulgence.

Do you suppose that Donald would give his feelings as an explanation?
Not he. They were his feelings, and he wouldn't talk about them; and
he never explained anything you didn't understand.

That--her wanting to sit with him in the library--was what they had
the awful quarrel about, the day before she died; that and the paper-
weight, the precious paper-weight that he wouldn't let anybody touch
because George Meredith had given it him. It was a brass block,
surmounted by a white alabaster Buddha painted and gilt. And it had an
inscription: To Donald Dunbar, from George Meredith. In Affectionate
Regard.

My brother was extremely attached to this paper-weight, partly, I'm
afraid, because it proclaimed his intimacy with the great man. For
this reason it was known in the family ironically as the Token.

It stood on Donald's writing-table at his elbow, so near the ink-pot
that the white Buddha had received a splash or two. And this evening
Cicely had come in to us in the library, and had annoyed Donald by
staying in it when he wanted her to go. She had taken up the Token,
and was cleaning it to give herself a pretext.

She died after the quarrel they had then.

It began by Donald shouting at her.

'What are you doing with that paper-weight?'

'Only getting the ink off.'

I can see her now, the darling. She had wetted the corner of her
handkerchief with her little pink tongue and was rubbing the Buddha.
Her hands had begun to tremble when he shouted.

'Put it down, can't you? I've told you not to touch my things.'

'You inked him,' she said. She was giving one last rub as he rose,
threatening.

'Put---it--down.'

And, poor child, she did put it down. Indeed, she dropped it at his
feet.

'Oh!' she cried out, and stooped quickly and picked it up. Her large
tear-glassed eyes glanced at him, frightened.

'He isn't broken.'

'No thanks to you,' he growled.

'You beast! You know I'd die rather than break anything you care
about.'

'It will be broken some day, if you will come meddling.'

I couldn't bear it. I said, 'You mustn't yell at her like that. You
know she can't stand it. You'll make her ill again.'

That sobered him for a moment.

'I'm sorry,' he said; but he made it sound as if he wasn't.

'If you're sorry,' she persisted, 'you might let me stay with you.
I'll be as quiet as a mouse.'

'No; I don't want you--I can't work with you in the room.'

'You can work with Helen.'

'You're not Helen.'

'He only means he's not in love with me, dear.'

'He means I'm no use to him. I know I'm not. I can't even sit on his
manuscripts and keep them down. He cares more for that damned paper-
weight than he does for me.'

'Well--George Meredith gave it me.'

'And nobody gave you me. I gave myself.'

That worked up his devil again. He had to torment her.

'It can't have cost you much,' he said. 'And I may remind you that the
paper-weight has some intrinsic value.'

With that he left her.

'What's he gone out for?' she asked me.

'Because he's ashamed of himself; I suppose,' I said. 'Oh, Cicely, why
will you answer him?

You know what he is.'

'No!' she said passionately--'that's what I don't know. I never have
known.'

'At least you know he's in love with you.'

'He has a queer way of showing it, then. He never does anything but
stamp and shout and find fault with me--all about an old paper-
weight!'

She was caressing it as she spoke, stroking the alabaster Buddha as if
it had been a live thing.

'His poor Buddha. Do you think it'll break if I stroke it? Better not.
Honestly, Helen, I'd rather die than hurt anything he really cared
for. Yet look how he hurts me.'

'Some men must hurt the things they care for.'

'I wouldn't mind his hurting, if only I knew he cared. Helen I'd give
anything to know.'

'I think you might know.' 'I don't! I don't!' 'Well, you'll know some
day.' 'Never! He won't tell me.'

'He's Scotch, my dear. It would kill him to tell you.'

'Then how'm I to know! If I died to-morrow I should die not knowing.'

And that night, not knowing, she died.

She died because she had never really known.



Chapter II



We never talked about her. It was not my brother's way. Words hurt
him, to speak or to hear them.

He had become more morose than ever, but less irritable, the source of
his irritation being gone. Though he plunged into work as another man
might have plunged into dissipation, to drown the thought of her, you
could see that he had no longer any interest in it; he no longer loved
it. He attacked it with a fury that had more hate in it than love. He
would spend the greater part of the day and long evenings at nights
shut up in his library, only going out for a short walk an hour before
dinner. You could see that soon all spontaneous impulses would be
checked in him and he would become the creature of habit and routine.

I tried to rouse him, to shake him up out of his deadly groove; but it
was no use. The first effort--for he did make efforts--exhausted him,
and he sank back into it again.

But he liked to have me with him, arid all the time that I could spare
from my housekeeping and gardening I spent in the library. I think he
didn't like to be left alone there in the place where they had the
quarrel that killed her; and I noticed that the cause of it, the
Token, had disappeared from his table.

And all her things, everything that could remind him of her, had been
put away. It was the dead burying its dead.

Only the chair she had loved remained in its place by the side of the
hearth--her chair, if you could call it hers when she wasn't allowed
to sit in it. It was always empty, for by tacit consent we both
avoided it.

We would sit there for hours at a time without speaking, while he
worked and I read or sewed.

I never dared to ask him whether he sometimes had, as I had, the sense
of Cicely's presence there, in that room which she had so longed to
enter, from which she had been so cruelly shut out. You couldn't tell
what he felt or didn't feel. My brother's face was a heavy, sombre
mask; his back, bent over the writing-table, a wall behind which he
hid himself.

You must know that twice in my life I have more than felt these
presences; I have seen them.

This may be because I am on both sides a Highland Celt, and my mother
had the same uncanny gift. I had never spoken of these appearances to
Donald because he would have put it all down to what he calls my
hysterical fancy. And I am sure that if he ever felt or saw anything
himself he would never own it.

I ought to explain that each time the vision was premonitory of a
death (in Cicely's case I had no such warning), and each time it only
lasted for a second; also that, though I am certain I was wide awake
each time, it is open to anybody to say I was asleep and dreamed it.
The queer thing was that I was neither frightened nor surprised.

And so I was neither surprised nor frightened now, the first evening
that I saw her.

It was in the early autumn twilight, about six o'clock. I was sitting
in my place in front of the fireplace; Donald was in his armchair on
my left, smoking a pipe, as usual, before the lamplight drove him out
of doors into the dark.

I had had so strong a sense of Cicely's being there in the room that I
felt nothing but a sudden sacred pang that was half joy when I looked
up and saw her sitting in her chair on my right.

The phantasm was perfect and vivid, as if it had been flesh and blood.
I should have thought that it was Cicely herself if I hadn't known
that she was dead. She wasn't looking at me; her face was turned to
Donald with that longing, wondering look it used to have, searching
his face for the secret that he kept from her.

I looked at Donald. His chin was sunk a little, the pipe drooping from
the corner of his mouth.

He was heavy, absorbed in his smoking. It was clear that he did not
see what I saw.

And whereas those other phantasms that I told you about disappeared at
once, this lasted some little time, and always with its eyes fixed on
Donald. It even lasted while Donald stirred, while he stooped forward,
knocking the ashes out of his pipe against the hob, while he sighed,
stretched himself, turned, and left the room. Then, as the door shut
behind him, the whole figure went out suddenly--not flickering, but
like a light you switch off.

I saw it again the next evening and the next, at the same time and in
the same place, and with the same look turned towards Donald. And
again I was sure that he did not see it. But I thought, from his
uneasy sighing and stretching, that he had some sense of something
there.

No; I was not frightened. I was glad. You see, I loved Cicely. I
remember thinking, 'At last, at last, you poor darling, you've got in.
And you can stay as long as you like now. He can't turn you away.'

The first few times I saw her just as I have said. I would look up and
find the phantasm there, sitting in her chair. And it would disappear
suddenly when Donald left the room. Then I knew I was alone.

But as I grew used to its presence, or perhaps as it grew used to mine
and found out that I was not afraid of it, that indeed I loved to have
it there, it came, I think, to trust me, so that I was made aware of
all its movements. I would see it coming across the room from the
doorway, making straight for its desired place, and settling in a
little curled-up posture of satisfaction, appeased, as if it had
expected opposition that it no longer found. Yet that it was not
happy, I could still see by its look at Donald. That never changed. It
was as uncertain of him now as she had been in her lifetime.

Up till now, the sixth or seventh time I had seen it, I had no clue to
the secret of its appearance; and its movements seemed to me
mysterious and without purpose. Only two things were clear: it was
Donald that it came for---the instant he went it disappeared; and I
never once saw it when I was alone. And always it chose this room and
this hour before the lights came, when he sat doing nothing. It was
clear also that he never saw it.

But that it was there with him sometimes when I was not I knew; for,
more than once, things on Donald's writing-table, books or papers,
would be moved out of their places, though never beyond reach; and he
would ask me whether I had touched them.

'Either you lie,' he would say, 'or I'm mistaken. I could have sworn I
put those notes on the left-hand side; and they aren't there now.'.And
once--that was wonderful--I saw, yes, I saw her come and push the lost
thing under his hand. And all he said was, 'Well, I'm--I could have
sworn---'

For whether it had gained a sense of security, or whether its purpose
was now finally fixed, it began to move regularly about the room, and
its movements had evidently a reason and an aim.

It was looking for something.

One evening we were all there in our places, Donald silent in his
chair and I in mine, and it seated in its attitude of wonder and of
waiting, when suddenly I saw Donald looking at me.

'Helen,' he said, 'what are you staring for like that?'

I started. I had forgotten that the direction of my eyes would be
bound, sooner or later, to betray me.

I heard myself stammer, 'W--w--was I staring?'

'Yes. I wish you wouldn't.'

I knew what he meant. He didn't want me to keep on looking at that
chair; he didn't want to know that I was thinking of her. I bent my
head closer over my sewing, so that I no longer had the phantasm in
sight.

It was then I was aware that it had risen and was crossing the
hearthrug. It stopped at Donald's knees, and stood there, gazing at
him with a look so intent and fixed that I could not doubt that this
had some significance. I saw it put out its hand and touch him; and,
though Donald sighed and shifted his position, I could tell that he
had neither seen nor felt anything.

It turned to me then--and this was the first time it had given any
sign that it was conscious of my presence--it turned on me a look of
supplication, such supplication as I had seen on my sister's face in
her lifetime, when she could do nothing with him and implored me to
intercede.

At the same time three words formed themselves in my brain with a
sudden, quick impulsion, as if I had heard them cried.

'Speak to him--speak to him!'

I knew now what it wanted. It was trying to make itself seen by him,
to make itself felt, and it was in anguish at finding that it could
not. It knew then that I saw it, and the idea had come to it that it
could make use of me to get through to him. I think I must have
guessed even then what it had come for.

I said, 'You asked me what I was staring at, and I lied. I was looking
at Cicely's chair.'

I saw him wince at the name.

'Because,' I went on, 'I don't know how you feel, but I always feel as
if she were there.'

He said nothing; but he got up, as though to shake off the oppression
of the memory I had evoked, and stood leaning on the chimney-piece
with his back to me.

The phantasm retreated to its place, where it kept its eyes fixed on
him as before.

I was determined to break down his defences, to make him say something
it might hear, give some sign that it would understand.

'Donald, do you think it's a good thing, a kind thing, never to talk
about her?'

'Kind? Kind to whom?'

'To yourself, first of all.'

'You can leave me out of it.'

'To me, then.'

'What's it got to do with you?' His voice was as hard and cutting as
he could make it.

'Everything,' I said. 'You forget, I loved her.' He was silent. He did
at least respect my love for her. 'But that wasn't what she wanted.'

That hurt him. I could feel him stiffen under it.

'You see, Donald,' I persisted, 'I like thinking about her.' It was
cruel of me; but I had to break him.

'You can think as much as you like,' he said, 'provided you stop
talking.'

'All the same, it's as bad for you,' I said, 'as it is for me, not
talking.'

'I don't care if it is bad for me. I can't talk about her, Helen. I
don't want to.'

'How do you know,' I said, 'it isn't bad for her?'

'For her?'

I could see I had roused him.

'Yes. If she really is there, all the time.'

'How d'you mean, there?'

'Here--in this room. I tell you I can't get over that feeling that
she's here.'

'Oh, feel, feel,' he said; 'but don't talk to me about it!'

And he left the room, flinging himself out in anger. And instantly her
flame went out.

I thought, 'How he must have hurt her!' It was the old thing over
again: I trying to break him down, to make him show her; he beating us
both off, punishing us both. You see, I knew now what she had come
back for: she had come back to find out whether he loved her. With a
longing unquenched by death, she had come back for certainty. And now,
as always, my clumsy interference had only made him more hard, more
obstinate. I thought, 'If only he could see her!

But as long as he beats her off he never will.'

Still, if I could once get him to believe that she was there--I made
up my mind that the next time I saw the phantasm I would tell him.

The next evening and the next its chair was empty, and I judged that
it was keeping away, hurt by what it had heard the last time.

But the third evening we were hardly seated before I saw it.

It was sitting up, alert and observant, not staring at Donald as it
used to, but looking round the room, as if searching for something
that it missed.

'Donald,' I said, 'if I told you that Cicely is in the room now, I
suppose you wouldn't believe me?'

'Is it likely?'

'No. All the same, I see her as plainly as I see you.'

The phantasm rose and moved to his side.

'She's standing close beside you.'

And now it moved and went to the writing-table. I turned and followed
its movements. It slid its open hands over the table, touching
everything, unmistakably feeling for something it believed to be
there.

I went on. 'She's at the writing-table now. She's looking for
something.'

It stood back, baffled and distressed. Then suddenly it began opening
and shutting the drawers, without a sound, searching each one in turn.

I said, 'Oh, she's trying the drawers now!'

Donald stood up. He was not looking at the place where it was. He was
looking hard at me, in anxiety and a sort of fright. I suppose that
was why he remained unaware of the opening and shutting of the
drawers.

It continued its desperate searching.

The bottom drawer stuck fast. I saw it pull and shake it, and stand
back again, baffled.

'It's locked,' I said.

'What's locked?'

'That bottom drawer.'

'Nonsense! It's nothing of the kind.'

'It is, I tell you. Give me the key. Oh, Donald, give it me!'

He shrugged his shoulders; but all the same he felt in his pockets for
the key, which he gave me with a little teasing gesture, as if he
humoured a child.

I unlocked the drawer, pulled it out to its full length, and there,
thrust away at the back, out of sight, I found the Token.

I had not seen it since the day of Cicely's death.

'Who put it there?' I asked.

'I did.'

'Well, that's what she was looking for,' I said.

I held out the Token to him on the palm of my hand, as if it were the
proof that I had seen her.

'Helen,' he said gravely, 'I think you must be ill.'

'You think so? I'm not so ill that I don't know what you put it away
for,' I said. 'It was because she thought you cared for it more than
you did for her.'

'You can remind me of that? There must be something very badly wrong
with you, Helen,' he said.

'Perhaps. Perhaps I only want to know what she wanted...You did care
for her, Donald?'

I couldn't see the phantasm now, but I could feel it, close, close,
vibrating, palpitating, as I drove him.

'Care?' he cried. 'I was mad with caring for her! And she knew it.'

'She didn't. She wouldn't be here now if she knew.'

At that he turned from me to his station by the chimney-piece. I
followed him there.

'What are you going to do about it?' I said.

'Do about it?'

'What are you going to do with this?'

I thrust the Token close towards him. He drew back, staring at it with
a look of concentrated hate and loathing.

'Do with it?' he said. 'The damned thing killed her! This is what I'm
going to do with it---'

He snatched it from my hand and hurled it with all his force against
the bars of the grate. The Buddha fell, broken to bits, among the
ashes.

Then I heard him give a short, groaning cry. He stepped forward,
opening his arms, and I saw the phantasm slide between them. For a
second it stood there, folded to his breast; then suddenly, before our
eyes, it collapsed in a shining heap, a flicker of light on the floor,
at his feet.

Then that went out too.



Chapter III



I never saw it again.

Neither did my brother. But I didn't know this till some time
afterwards; for, somehow, we hadn't cared to speak about it. And in
the end it was he who spoke first.

We were sitting together in that room, one evening in November, when
he said, suddenly and irrelevantly:

'Helen--do you never see her now?'

'No,' I said--'Never!'

'Do you think, then, she doesn't come?'

'Why should she?' I said. 'She found what she came for. She knows what
she wanted to know.'

'And that--was what?'

'Why, that you loved her.'

His eyes had a queer, submissive, wistful look.

'You think that was why she came back?' he said.



THE END



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