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her in its simplest, most obvious form. If he told her what
he believed to be true, she assumed it was true. Now,
though in a painfully ignorant fashion, she had begun to


weigh and balance. And not this evidence alone: the
mere human quality of it hurtled at her, hit her with a
tremendous impact and left her trembling before life it-
self and its shifting values. Up to the day when she had
come on the picture of Philip Harvey in the library, she
had thought as a child. Facts were facts, always com-
prehensible if you chose to prove them. You might look
at them from one angle or you might measure them on all
sides to see how, in this strange fluid medium called life,
they were made to fit the truth that is more than fact.
But always they did fit. And now the sense of life it-
self, that obscure, multi-colored complexity, was upon her,
and she had an overpowering desire to understand her
father, to see how the facts he had distorted fitted the
truth within him.

" Father," said she, " it's true, isn't it, there's nothing
on this earth you want so much as to establish communi-
cation between this world and another?'

He answered gravely.

" Yes. I'd give everything I have, if I had anything
left to give. I'd give my life, your life, everybody's life.
It's the next link in the chain. We can speak from one
continent to another. We're going to speak from one
planet to another. And that wireless will be known by
my name."

The subterfuge of his short cut was forgotten. She
gloried in him. When he said he would sacrifice her, she
gloried the more. And it was not alone because he was
ready to enter the noble army of martyrs who have laid
down their lives for the truth. In the heightened ecstacy
of her love for a dead lover, she saw him not only as the
martyr pioneer striving for the common good, but himself
the constant lover, love itself.

" Father," she ventured, for they had not talked of her


mother for a long time, " do you suppose she knows? Do
you think she's trying on the other side of the door to get
at you as you are trying to get at her? '

He looked at her in complete wonder and then asked
her the astonishing question in one word:

" Who? "

" Why," said she, hardly believing she had heard him,
" mother. That's what you're doing it for, of course,
to talk to mother. And after all these years."

He sat perfectly still and looked before him. She
waited and her heart beat hard. It had begun to be
frightened, her heart, it had met so many scarcely compre-
hended things this day.

" Andrea," said he, at last, " I am not trying to com-
municate with your mother."

She could not answer. Her throat grew dry and she
hated the picture her mind was conjuring up. He was,
that cruel insight told her, recalling, and with difficulty,
the vision of her mother, sleeping now for years. He be-
gan as if he, under the mandate of inexorable truth, were
painfully collating evidence. " I suppose," he said, " it
was so at first. Yes, I know it was. I felt as a man
does when he loses his wife. I wanted to know. I had to
know. But afterward ' he seemed to gain in actual
physical presence and towered with the growth of his
waxing egotism " afterward I just wanted to throw the
line across. Anybody might answer. It might be your
mother, it might be a man or woman that died a thousand
years ago. Only I'd got to throw the line."

A woman understands a man when he speaks in terms
of her own realities. But when he mounts his horse of
endeavor to ride out against the dragons of ignorance
and superstition that have kept even her own hearth-
stone dark, she may understand him or she may not. She


may glory in that wild ride, or even spring up behind and
brave the darkness too. But for the instant she feels the
lonesomeness of seeing him off upon strange quests, hallo-
ing to the silence in a language not by inheritance her


ANDREA, seeing her father as she never had before, a
man insanely bent upon his task for no reward beyond
the laurels that adorn illustrious names, felt dulled and
cold. Through all the years when he had been growing
more irascible, more outwardly remote from her, she had
felt the inner heart of him beating on in unchanged con-
stancy. Of late, especially since she had met her lover
from the skies, she had thriven on the belief that here at
her hand was love itself. Other homes might be set to
the tune of a sweet daily intercourse, but on her father's
hearth lived the consecrated flame: the unflagging devo-
tion of a man to his desire of speaking once more with
his dead wife. His present purpose might be greater, his
trembling grasp upon the unfading laurels, his desire to
assure immortal certainties to a world of men bereft; but
it was colder, and before the frigid greatness of it she was
shivering. He saw that and felt he had lost her, or at
least her old belief in him; and he felt, by contrast, how
heartening it had been, that unquestioning belief where
he had warmed himself as a man hovers over the fire on
the hearth without thought of the faithful hands that
built it there. He was himself suddenly bereft. He de-
spaired of her. What argument was here to bind her to
him again?

" Wouldn't you," she hesitated, " if they brought a
scientific man here, wouldn't you show him what you
called your mechanical toy? '



He shook his head.

" But," he qualified, " if they'll give me a chance I can
show them something better than a mechanical toy."

" When? " she asked fearfully.


He looked back over the years behind him, months of
dark discouragement, an hour of unbelievable happiness
when mysterious things had happened in this fumbling
after the secrets nature was guarding with a cruelty so in-
exorable that it seemed personal to him alone and he had
the dark solace of feeling himself under the ban of the
gods. Yet through the obscurity of that time ran a
golden thread: his belief that communication was possible,
his resolve, stronger than past love or present despair, to
find it. And now he broke down in a perfectly honest
misery of beseeching. As she thought, in her compas-
sionate mind, he went all to pieces.

" Andrea," said he, " I know it is possible for this earth
to communicate with the rest of the universe if there is
life enough in the universe to answer us. And I believe
there is. Whether it has anything to do with this planet
I don't know. But communication will come, and it
won't come through half-baked mediums and fakers. It
will come exactly like every other advance on this earth,
through science. Some slave of his own insight and his
own determination will open the door."

She was looking at him reflectively and he turned his
eyes away. She was musing over him, he saw, she was
reasoning and, like her, he felt himself grow cold. An-
drea was telling herself that he had two parallel lines of
argument. But did they, at any point, meet? He as-
serted that interplanetary communication was possible
and declared himself the man to establish it. He asserted
that he had discovered olympium and that olympium did



inexplicable things. Therefore and here she balked
the things it did were in the line of his theory of com-
munication. Was he clear-headed there? was this logic,
defective to her only because she was unpractised in its
art? Once it would have been impossible to set up her
poor reason in opposition to his trained intelligence. Now
she was hot upon penetrating the maze of probabilities.

" Father," she said, " I don't understand. You say
olympium makes the dots and dashes. But you say, when
you tried to get the dots and dashes to convince the Har-
veys, you played a trick."

" I don't always," said he, " get my dots and dashes
when I expect them. I had to have them at that particu-
lar minute because the Harveys were here and the Har-
veys wanted them. So I helped them."

" But how? " said she, in despair. " If you don't un-
derstand how they come, how could you help them? You
said the working of your mechanical toy was outside your
control. How could it have been in your control this
morning? '

" Simply," said he, " because I didn't do it by the use
of my mechanical toy."

And now he looked so sly that she believed him. And
the perfidy of that was so sickening upon her that she
was about to tell him she repudiated the whole thing both
from the Harveys' standpoint and her own, when he faced
about mentally and made a last assault upon her loyalty.

" Andrea, you don't understand these things. I tell
you something, and you think I'm a fraud. I'm not.
I'm only taking one of the short cuts to what I've got to
do. You must leave all that right here. You couldn't
judge me justly to save your life. You haven't the knowl-
edge. Those Harveys couldn't. They haven't the knowl-
edge either. I've just one thing for you to do."


" What is it, father? ' she asked him, as he paused,
evidently to whip his arguments into line.

" If I don't make my discovery before I die, you've
got to make it for me."

She was greatly startled.

" But, father," she said, " how could I? You say your-
self I've not the knowledge, not the training "

" You don't need them. You may work better from
your ignorance. It'll keep you passive. Do you see? If
I die and sometimes I think I sha'n't live long my
heart's not strong if I die, I shall be at the other end
of the line. Wherever they go spirits I shall be
there. I shall work through you. Don't let your mind
wander," he cried peremptorily. " Listen to me. In that
room, in the upper right hand drawer of the desk, is a set
of directions, very short. They tell you where to find it
olympium, I mean."

" Isn't it in the case? " she asked.

They had taken great precautions to keep it packed
when it was not in use, so that in emergency they could
lay their hands on it. He looked shrewdly at her, as if
he wished to seem inscrutable.

" It is now," he said. " If I made up my mind to take
myself off the planet I might put it somewhere else. It's
too easy to snatch up the case anybody coming in
here "

He was wandering off now, and she recalled him.

" But nobody does come when we're not here."

" My directions," he said, waking again to this last
imagined crisis, " will tell you what to do. It's a simple
formula. You won't understand, but do it. When I die,
don't leave me for an instant. Stay in that room there,
follow the written directions and wait till I communicate.
For I can communicate. I can! I will! "


His voice rose from the level of reasonable speech into
the shrill staccato that always terrified her ; it meant that
he was as she always explained it to herself, " too tired."

" But father," she began, " there must be something for
me to learn '

" Nothing," he cried, in a child's passion, " nothing but
the Morse code. You shall learn that to-day. Then all
you need to do is to sit down and wait for news from me.
I'll write out the message you are to expect and seal it
with my seal and lock it up in the top drawer on the left.
But they wouldn't believe you," he added, dropping into
an apathy of discouragement. " They'd say it was a
put-up job."

" We mustn't plan such things," she said, adding that
old futility of tenderness, " You're not going to die."

This he did not notice. He had roused again.

" You will take the message," he said. " You will
write it down. And you'll send for Peter Harvey. He
must have the key of the drawer. Ah, but how are you
going to send? " he cried, in great irritation. " After it
happens you're not to leave me. He must have the key
now. He must have a latch key, too, so you needn't even
let him in. Aha! I know. We'll put in a telephone.
Then you can summon him. He will let himself in, he'll
unlock the drawer and take away the message and yours
with it, and he will break the seal in the presence of wit-


It occurred to her that, after all, it would come back to
her own good faith, since he might be supposed to have
told her what the message was. But this she would not
say: he was too tired. Instead, she assured him gently:

" Daddy, you're not going to die."

" I don't know," he answered. " It might be the last
sacrifice. If I felt sure I should work better from that
end of the line "


Here he paused, and she cried out:

"0 father, no! you wouldn't do that. You muitn't
even think it."

" What else can I do? " he demanded angrily. " This
man puts on me a condition I can't fulfil."

" Can't? " she repeated, with a sinking heart. " You
said you must."

" It isn't possible," he declared, again out of deepest
gloom. " I must work in my own way or not at all. As
for these people, give them up. I've no use for a man
who's so infernally particular about seeing where his
money goes."

" But," said Andrea, " I don't want to give them up."

She was bringing her own poor little desires into this
drama between worlds, simply, she knew, because she
ached with loneliness.

" You know," she said, " I told you it was their son who
came down and talked with me that day on the way to
Long Beach."

" What day? "

He was looking at her in absolute lack of understand-
ing. He had forgotten, and the stab of it stung her to
cry out:

' father, I told you. He is the only one I ever cared
about, and he was their son."

" Then tell them so," he threw back at her, " and get
something out of them. Get Harvey to say he'll stake
me for three months, a year, without driving any sort of
Shylock bargain with me."

She was aghast at the effrontery of it.

" But I can't," she said. " I've no claim on them.
You talk as if we'd been engaged and even then I
couldn't or married to him."

" You should have married him," he said, impervious to


possibilities, ignoring them, thrusting them out of the way,
and dashing on to his own ends. " Then you could have
demanded something of them and they wouldn't have had
the face to refuse you."

" Do you mean - ' she began, and stopped.

" I mean," said he, " if you were so selfish as to let a
rich man's son make love to you and leave you when we're
on this awful road, this briery path you said it yourself
never once telling him he could save us, you'd better
sacrifice your pride and save us now yourself. Tell them
he was in love with you. He was, wasn't he? Tell them
he married ,you. Tell them anything. Only, for God's
sake, get the money, or you'll force me into making my
last sacrifice. Yes, as God's my witness, I swear I'll kill

She stood staring at him and he stared back at her and
then, enraged at her silence, he went into his room and
shut the door.


MADAM BROOKE was by the fire in her daughter's sit-
ting-room, her chair turned at an angle to command the
room. Miss Bixby, the noiselessly competent secretary,
who came in to gather up some papers from the table,
gave her a respectful glance, but brief as it was, it enabled
her to snatch a complete volume of enlightenment from the
old lady's attitude, her head bent slightly as she addressed
herself to the morning paper. Madam Brooke stayed in
her own room, Miss Bixby knew, unless the family gov-
ernment was in some sort of agitation, and then she came
down and seated herself nearer the centre of things. This
discovery had dawned on Miss Bixby only since Philip's
death and the wave of automatic writing that had en-
gulfed the house, and she was the more alive to its sig-
nificance because she herself ruled these psychic waves.
The old lady made Miss Bixby uneasy. Her glance, sa-
tirical on occasion, pitilessly sharp, threw the wrong light
upon the vague outlines Miss Bixby saw growing under
her pencil as it sketched another world conformable to
the dreams of mourning mortals. Mrs. Harvey, too, felt
the power of that glance, Miss Bixby knew, and had sent
her now to fetch their ghostly tools to the room below, on
the transparent pretext that it was warmer there. The
instant she had gone, Madam Brooke confirmed her diag-
nosis. She let her paper slide to the floor, rose and, with
her stiff sprightliness, something like a bird's movement
on the ground, went to the table, pushed the electric but-



ton beside it, and had just returned to her chair when Su-
sanne answered it.

" Is Mr. Harvey in the library? ' asked Madam

Susanne was sure of it. She had just taken him the

" Ask him to come here/' said Madam Brooke. " Tell
him to read his letters first, if he wants to. I may keep
him some time."

It seemed Mr. Harvey did not want to read his letters,
for he appeared at once, cast a glance toward the table
in the window recess and then came on to Madam

" Draw up," said she. " You were afraid Isabel wanted
you." She too glanced at the table in the alcove, one
eyebrow lifted and a half developed smile. " I'll war-
rant you're never asked to enter this room now without
wondering if it's a message through that woman that'll
cost you half your income."

Harvey also smiled, but in a rueful way. Although it
was the morning he looked tired, and now he passed his
hand over his forehead to mitigate the feeling of the lines
there that would never be actually smoothed out.

" Oh," he said, " I'm pretty well prepared for anything
that's likely to happen on the score of Again, by
a glance, he indicated the table, but he didn't like to re-
fer to its uses with the emphasis he felt. They were un-
holy to him. It was a banal form of meddling, but after
all it meant Philip and if he flouted it he seemed to be
flouting Philip also. The old lady put out her hand ana
touched his with one finger.

" Peter," said she, " you ought to turn that Bixby out
of the house."

" Well/' said he, " what can I do? "


" After all," she remarked, " you're the head of the
house. You needn't be afraid of Isabel. She's gentle as
a lamb. That is, she is by nature. Isabel's not quite
the same since she's taken up planetary communication.
Still, I fancy she'd do anything you say."

" But," said he, " she gets some comfort out of it."

"So she would out of a drug," returned the old lady
bluntly. " But she'd have to pay for it in the end. And
if she wants to drug herself, let her go out of the house
to do it, or have in somebody, somebody that's square, if
any of them are. She isn't square, Peter, that Bixby
isn't. You can tell it by her eye."

" No," he said reflectively, " I shouldn't say she was.
But she might be any kind of a crook and yet do a per-
fectly square stunt of automatic writing."

" Is anybody square," she challenged him, " when
they've let themselves loose in all creation? '

" Oh, yes," said he, " I'm perfectly sure of that, dozens
and dozens, hundreds even."

" You don't mean to tell me," she countered, " you be-
lieve there's anything in it."

" Yes," he said, " I'm inclined to think there may be

" Do you believe my husband is writing all that stuff
about spheres and meeting Philip and warning you to look
out the malicious spirits don't cut in do you believe
that? "

" No," said he, as if it gave him hearty relief to repu-
diate something, " not for a moment."

" Then, if it isn't spooks, what is it? "

" I haven't the least idea."

1 Do you think Bixby may be possessed by some power
she doesn't understand, or do you believe she's fraud right
through? "


" I should say," he answered, smiling at her because he
knew he was about to give her the special pleasure of cor-
roboration, " if I'm to trust the evidence of my senses
that sort of mental nose we have for smelling out the kind
of person a person is I should say the hated Bixby is
pretty well tinctured with fraud."

" There!" cried the old lady, in high triumph.
" There! and yet you won't get rid of her."

" I won't give Isabel the shock of doing it at present,
not till she's a little less broken over Phil. I have an
idea Brooke's coming home will make some difference
about that, talking with him, seeing him round the
house, you know. It'll occupy her mind more and more,
and she'll gradually give up her drug."

" And yet," said the old lady ruthlessly, " she's so taken
up with it that she's almost indifferent to Brooke's com-
ing home."

This he knew, and yet he winced under it.

" She may seem so," he said, " but that's partly because
she's so determined to have news of Phil to give him when
he comes. That takes in both the boys, you see."

She reflected for a moment.

" So," she said, " it seems you do see through Bixby."

" Well, at least I fancy I do. I suppose I could be con-
vinced I'd done her an injustice. But that Miss Dove
now, you couldn't convince me I don't understand her."

" What," said the old lady, her belief in his perspicacity
scattering, " you don't mean to tell me you distrust Miss
Dove? "

" Distrust her? Heavens, no! I believe in her down
to the ground. If she told me she'd had a message from
my first wife I should swallow it implicitly."

" Why," said Madam Brooke, " you never had a first
wife. That is I mean "


" Precisely," said he. " But if Miss Dove brought me
a message from my first wife I should take it and say
1 Thank you.' "

" It's the way her eyebrows act," said Madam Brooke
conclusively. " I feel just the same. Don't mention her
in the same day with the Bixby woman. That's quite
another pair of sleeves. Peter, if you actually caught
Bixby at her tricks, would you dismiss her then? '

" I fancy so. Yes, I would. I'd send her packing, on
the spot."

" Well," said Madam Brooke, " I've got a plan."

He loved her plans, they seemed to put such energy of
youth into her. He had had moments, in these last weeks,
of wishing Isabel were growing a little more like her
mother, that there was a spark more intellect and fun in
her soft adhesiveness.

" I thought it out last night," she said, " when I was
saying my prayers."

" Do you say your prayers? " he inquired.

She was so uncompromising that he expected her to
demand proof of the heavenly powers before she recog-
nized them.

" Silly ! ' ' said she. " Of course I say my prayers. I
pray for my dead, too. Not many of you do that, I bet a
dollar. Well, last night just as I finished you all up
here, you know, you and Isabel and Brooke and Bee
and got to Philip it came into my head what I could do
and I laughed right out. Isabel's door was open and she
called: ' Mother, was that you? ' "

1 1 heard her," said Harvey. " You didn't answer."

1 Of course I didn't. I was saying my prayers, wasn't
I? But this was what I thought. That woman sits in
the alcove there by the hour, addressing notes, doing ac-
counts, all sorts of things when she isn't at her automatic


writing. She flits in and out like a shadow. She doesn't
like me very well. She knows I'm onto her."

Peter laughed out. It was at the last excellent phrase
and she, too, smiled at it.

" Oh, I can't help it," said she. " I got it from the boys.
Well, the next time I hear her coming I'll doze in my
chair. You'll see her going by the library door, and you
run up here, pass her without speaking and you and I'll
fall into talk. And I'll tell you a yarn about my brother
who died "

" Your brother," said Peter, " is as hypothetical as my
first wife."

' Of course he is. Do you s'pose I'd meddle with the
dead? No! but I'll tell you what he used to say to me,
and I'll bet Aunt Clarissa's snuff box against your gold
pencil that baggage'll write it out as a message within a

" Done," said Peter. " She couldn't. It's too child-
ish. She's not more than half dishonest. She may give
the pencil the least little push, but she doesn't make up
whole histories. I don't believe that of her."

" Very well," said Madam Brooke, " we shall see.
You'd better be in the library. Isabel's going out at
eleven and she'll send her up here to work at that table.
I'll fall asleep in my chair."

Harvey went down to the library smiling at her ancient
guile and not greatly interested in the outcome. But it
happened as she had foretold. Busy over his papers, he
heard a step along the hall, looked up and saw Miss
Bixby's trig black figure pass his door. He laid his papers
on one side and, still smiling at the persistent gamesome-
ness of his old friend, went up to his wife's sitting-room.

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Online LibraryAlice BrownThe wind between the worlds → online text (page 6 of 17)