Resurrection Rock (1920)/Chapter 13
CHAPTER XIII"TOWARDS GOD AND TOWARDS MAN"
LUCAS CULLEN, Senior, received information of this extraordinary bit of intelligence soon after his arrival at his son's home.
"Arrant nonsense!" he pronounced emphatically, when Lucas, Junior, reported it; and the old man did not let it interrupt his railing at his son for abiding in such quarters as that apartment.
"You'd think we'd not an acre of land in the family to see you coop yourself up on a shelf on top of eight other roosts full of cackling idiots;" so the elder Lucas referred to the lower apartments and to their occupants whose voices he imagined he heard in spite of the vaunted deadening of floors and ceilings. For, having arrived in no very pleasing mood, he welcomed every circumstance which gave him cause for irritation. Unable to relieve himself about the matters actually weighing upon his mind, it was convenient to find annoyances to scold about,—such as the fact that his son had not a double bed in his house and each member of the family was supplied with a separate suite.
"Fads and pretenses! Separate rooms for man and wife!—What was that tomfoolery from Sir—Sir—" he suddenly demanded when he had exhausted the bedroom subject.
"Horace Clebourne," his son supplied the name of their English correspondent.
"Well, what did he say?" Lucas, Senior, challenged again and read through the tomfoolery only to dismiss it once more with contempt. "Imagine Oliver's wife wanting to relieve my mind! Spooks!"
But his omnivorous reading of these last few years had presented to his attention many paragraphs and occasional serious essays and articles having to do with "spooks"; these had angered him so greatly that he had read through several of them and emerged with only greater disdain for the subject than before. However, the subject of "spooks" had never taken a practical bearing before; now it had; and Lucas's mind, for more than seventy years, had been shrewd and pragmatic; so between his scoldings, he began turning over this offensive subject and soon considered something after this fashion:
"Here you are, an old fool not far from fourscore years; you've been waiting for quite a while for something to happen. It happened last September, and for four months you've been trying to prove it. Along comes the first confirmation of it, and you call it tomfoolery."
So Lucas forsook his son's shelf about the middle of the afternoon of that day and startled the chauffeur of Myra's town car, lent for the afternoon, by ordering him to go at once to the public library. There, after some querulous inquiry, Lucas Cullen, Senior, for the first time in his life, found himself in a reference room.
As a consequence, he had another talk with his son that evening when the two were alone in the smoking room overlooking the lake.
"I'm going to see Jaccard to-morrow, Luke," so Lucas suddenly announced.
"Jaccard telephoned to-day," Luke said. "He wanted to know when you'd see him, father. He heard you were in town."
Jaccard was the lawyer who most frequently had appeared for Lucas, Senior, upon the not infrequent occasions when he had required a competent representative in court. A youngercustomarily advised Luke, the son, upon confidential, legal questions.
"How'd Jaccard hear?" Lucas asked.
His son neglected to inform him. "Myra stopped in at Scott Street again this afternoon," Luke said. "Ethel was out."
"She seems to be always out," Lucas complained. "What doing?"
"I don't know," Luke admitted.
"Well, why don't you?"
"Of course, father," Luke defended himself, "I could find out—"
"Then why haven't you?"
"Not what she did to-day but what she'll do to-morrow. The objection is that would involve taking some one else in."
"I don't see that! I don't see that!"
"Kincheloe," Luke said, his bland lips wincing a little; "he called me this afternoon."
Lucas started in spite of himself and then continued the jerk of his arm into a motion to reach into his vest pocket for a cigar which he chewed without lighting.
"What did he want?"
"Me to send some money to his brokers—"
"His brokers!" Lucas grunted in contempt.
"He seems to have acquired some with rather unusual ability to guess the market wrong—even for a broker," Luke said dryly. "He had some margins to protect; he's playing one New York stock and one local—U. S. steel and Union Carbide, I believe." He paused meditatively.
"Well," Lucas questioned after a minute, "what did you do?"
"To his margins? Protected them," Luke informed quietly. "I was thinking—" he began to explain the connection of this topic of Miss Platt's husband with their previous conversation.
"I understand what you were thinking," his father said. Nevertheless the son explained:
"I'd like to be sure that any one we engaged to observe the occupations of my niece did not have brokers. It is quite enough to have Kincheloe call up our office and tell Slawson to protect a margin for him—quick!" Slawson Luke's personal secretary; but Slawson was no Miss Platt, and Luke preferred the man to know as little as possible about his private affairs. "I don't care for it, father," Luke said.
"Damn!" Lucas jerked, standing up. "He said that, did he? Quick?"
"He said that since I was not in the office—I wasn't—that Slawson could find me on the 'phone right away and learn it would be all right."
"Well, did he find you?"
"And you told him it would be all right?"
"Don't do it again!" Lucas brought his first down upon a table top. "Tell him to go to hell—to hell—to hell!" the old man shouted violently. "Tell Slawson to tell him that. Tell everybody! What would he do against you? What would he dare try? Kincheloe! But every one could bluff you! You're afraid—you've been chicken-hearted all your life! You trim and turn. Tell 'em all to go to hell, I say!"
He forgot, in his ferocity, what he had been discussing and required a minute or so before he recalled.
"About Ethel's operations; so you don't know anything?"
"Myra sees her, or attempts to, daily; and Bennet gets in there every day."
"Hump! I'll handle the business of some one knowing what's she's about, if you're so eternally afraid of being held up by anybody." He snapped his chewed cigar into the grate and bit on another. "Quinlan," he said to himself but without taking precaution against his son's hearing. "She knew that the night she got here."
"Bennet said," Luke put in, "that she knew only the name."
"Well, where did she hear that?"
Lucas succeeded in dismissing this problem only by forcing his thought about to the idea which had brought up Jaccard.
"I was down at the public library most of the afternoon, Luke," he announced suddenly.
"Afterwards I dropped in at McClurg's; I bought some of the books. I brought them home." He inclined slightly toward that objectionable, single-bedded room which was his. "Sir Horace Clebourne doesn't seem to be the only idiot who takes to that tomfoolery."
"No," said Luke, "they're all sorts."
"Eh? You've been thinking about it too?"
"A little," Luke admitted.
"But done nothing, I'll warrant. Well, I'm about to do something. If it was here in Chicago now, they'd laugh me out of court; but in England and London—Luke, do you know what sensible men over there are doing? High-ups, brainy men with position; not lunatics and women; big men—or some people are powerful liars."
"What are you considering doing?" his son inquired.
Lucas laughed as he liked to laugh when planning a shrewd and clever coup. "Hale Sir Horace Clebourne into court, of course, to swear for us that Oliver's wife is dead! He's high enough, ain't he? And from what I make out, the judge of the case—or do they call him My Lord High Justice in London—well, he'll just be coming out of a séance. The jury—every man of 'em—will all have spook messages of their own that they believe in; my local London counsel—what do they call him there, Luke?"
"Solicitor," Luke supplied.
"That's it. My solicitor will be bang up in the business; he'll believe in spirits all through; and likely enough solicitor for the other side will be believing on the quiet. We'll get a good old English ruling—a precedent; leave it to Jaccard to get a precedent. No one over there will care; they're English. They'll just be interested in the idea of the precedent and in backing up their own royal brains. Then when we have our English ruling, we'll carry it into our courts on the verity—is that a good, legal-sounding word, Luke?"
"I think it will do," Luke said.
"On the verity of the death of our dear Agnes, as already presumed by the court—but not proved. So we prove it; witness, Agnes herself; testimony taken and sworn to by Sir Horace Clebourne, Doctor of Science, Baronet and the rest; sworn to by the best brains of England. We'll get 'em. I know it's new, son—it's new; but the old man never had to wait for some one else to show how to do a thing."
Luke gazed at his father, uncertain for a minute whether the old man were wholly serious. His father was never more offensive to him than when he chuckled in satisfaction at his own smartness.
"It would not be so entirely new," Luke said tartly. "They've had spirit cases in court in England."
"What? They have? To prove whether or not some one was dead?"
"Not that, so far as I know; but they've tried a case to determine the question of fraud in alleged spirit communication."
"So? How did it come out?"
"I don't know that I saw."
"Jaccard will know or find out," Lucas said confidently. "Of course, if we started the case here, we'd be laughed out of court," he repeated. "But in England, in its state of mind about spirits—"
Luke regarded his father more respectfully. "I wouldn't say about Chicago now," he volunteered after a moment. "Do you know Mrs. Stanton-Fielding?"
"Heard of her, of course," Lucas replied, lighting his cigar and pulling at it. The lady was in one those social circles, he knew, which frequently intersected Myra's, and she was famous for her energies in many directions. "What's she at now?"
"Spirit communication; she went in hard for it this winter. I heard last fall, when different men here were losing their sons, she claimed to be hearing from them."
"The boys, you mean."
"Of course. I didn't pay much attention myself; had no occasion to. But Fred Halley did. His boy, Arthur—a fine fellow, he was; captain of infantry—was killed going over the top. About a month afterwards, Mrs. Stanton-Fielding wrote Fred that she was in communication with Arthur. Fred—well, Fred went to see her. He came over to the club afterwards; pretty shaky. Didn't have any lunch; went right home. Had to see his wife and tell her. I don't think that I ever saw a man more—moved in my life," Luke said thoughtfully. "You couldn't convince him, if you cared to try, that he hadn't been talking with Arthur. I heard the same thing later from George Forth, who lost his son; and Vin Parding."
"Parding?" Lucas exclaimed. He knew Parding; Vin was one of the city's most prominent lawyers and had been a judge.
"After effect of war losses, of course; as abroad," Luke said; but he continued to regard his father with more deference. The early exploits of the Cullens were replete with titles and claims established on contentions which, at the time, must have seemed ridiculous; yet Lucas—and Jaccard—had established them. They were staid, accepted precedents now, printed in law books and frequently quoted in courts. Luke determined to keep an open mind as to the results of his father and Jaccard working together again.
Lucas went to his room, still thinking deeply. He found there his wife and her bed, which she had had brought from her adjoining suite and placed beside his; so the two old people undressed and went to bed as they had for fifty years, talking of little incidents of the day, how their children were looking and feeling and of their own bodily ailments. Lucas's mind was not on his conversation; and Sarah did not expect it to be when he was talking only with her. When he stretched out his long form in bed, one strong, muscular arm reached to her pillow and he held her thin body for a moment.
"Next week Saturday is Cecilia's birthday," she whispered. "We must start off a gift to her by to-morrow."
"Yes, Sarah," he said. "Let's see; she's forty-six? Can she be?"
"It was snowy that night and colder than this, Sarah. I've never forgotten that. Thursday it was; the doctor said there was no need to start to Traverse before Sunday. And Thursday—I sent Quinlan—"
The slight little body suddenly jerked in his arms at mention of the name; but the strong man held steady. "Quinlan," he repeated the name evenly. "I sent him to try to make Traverse for the doctor that night—but the baby came to you and me alone, Sarah, with the lumberjacks outside."
He raised in bed, bent over and kissed her. "Good night, girl," he said. "Good night, boy," she replied.
He rolled back into his own bed and forthwith went to sleep. But Sarah stayed awake. Thoughts of the cabin in the tall trees of the old Michigan forest forty-seven years ago continued in her mind with images of her boy as he had been at that time of the birth of their baby and later, when it had occurred,—that circumstance which neither ever directly mentioned to the other but which had been living with them for the generations of their children and their children's children. There had been months and, indeed, years throughout which memories of it had become less poignant through the interposition of other and all unrelated events; then associations renewed it and made its memory, for Sarah at least, all but unbearable.
Against the weight of his guilt, she had built up a prop of defense which she had spoken in part to Ethel. Her husband—her boy to whom alone with her in the cabin in the winter forest, their baby had come—had done evil; but, in requital, he had wrought much greater good, as men reckoned good. She had realized that from the evil he had done other wrongs had sprung, as she had seen greater advantages grow from the benefits which he had brought to others; but the wrongs had seemed to her to be running out and soon to stop of their own accord. Now instead—
She arose very quietly and, making sure that her boy was so sound asleep that the light would not waken him, she switched on the shaded bulb above his bed and gazed at him.
Repentance; no, nothing in his face, even when softened in sleep, suggested its possibility. His face was dogged, determined as ever. Cruel? No; she could not think that. Gentle he could be; how patient and gentle he had been that night alone with her when Cecilia came! But he had lived his life unrepentant; and so, in the end, he would die.
The light seemed to disturb him so that his jaw set harder, and one hand, which lay above the bed cover, clenched.
"—to hell. Hell—to hell—to hell!" she heard him mutter. "Anybody could bluff you; but not me! Why didn't you send him to me!" Then, in an almost inaudible whisper, "Quinlan—where did she hear that?—Jaccard."
Sarah Cullen switched out the light and slipped into that now bedless room adjoining to find a box of capsules which she frequently took, these days. Lucas knew about them; the doctor called them only aids to circulation; and as Sarah always put the refilled prescription in the old pill box, he had no idea how often the capsules had become necessary. He required nothing whatever of this sort; and Sarah had no fear that he was soon to die; yet it was of him that she was thinking when she turned to that page in the Episcopal prayer book which says:
"Since therefore you are soon to pass into an endless and unchangeable state," she half read, half repeated the familiar passage to herself, "into an endless and unchangeable state, and your future happiness or misery depends upon the few moments which are left you, I require you strictly to examine yourself and your estate both towards God and towards Man; and let no worldly consideration hinder you from making a true and full confession of your sins, and giving all the satisfaction which is in your power to every one whom you have wronged, or injured; that you may find mercy at your heavenly Father's hand, for Christ's sake, and not be condemned in the dreadful day of judgment."
Sarah knew herself to be the one likely not to awaken some morning before so very long; and for herself to die was not a terrible thought; but to leave her boy unrepentant to "appear before the Judge of all flesh who, as he pronounces blessings on the righteous, shall likewise say, with a terrible voice of most just judgment, to the wicked, 'Go ye accursed, into the fire everlasting.'"
She sank down upon her knees in prayer; and when she returned to the other room, it was so silently that Lucas, upon rising in the morning, believed she had slept soundly through the night, as had he. They had breakfast together with Luke and Bennet, while Myra and Julia were still in bed; then Lucas went downtown with his son and grandson; and Jaccard came over to the office.
Jaccard proved to be cognizant of the whereabouts of a private detective who could be depended upon not to sell out to any one else and not to inquire into any private matter further than instructed. So after Lucas completed his business with Jaccard, he himself made an appointment with the "operative" who proved so extremely competent an individual that when Ethel left the house on Scott Street that afternoon she had no idea whatever that she was followed.
"Started work 2:15 p. m. opposite — Scott Street. Grocer, L. P. Sauber, delivered several packages at rear 2:35. No other person passed in or out until young lady in blue cloth coat, toque, tan boots, evidently Miss Ethel Carew, left by front door 2:58." So read that portion of the confidential report which was supplied to Lucas early that evening.
"Followed her to State and Division where she took street car south to—N. State Street where she rang, was admitted at 3:20 and remained until seven minutes to four. Meanwhile three men and five women passed in and out. Inquiry established that number—is establishment of a Mrs. H. J. Davol, a professional psychic medium of apparently high-class practice; no police-court record of arrest or conviction.
"E. C. went to drug store, purchased tooth paste and stamps, returning then by same route to—Scott Street, where entered 4:27. No one went in or out but several times woman, thought to be E. C., appeared at front window as though expecting some one. At 5:12 young man in military cap and overcoat, walking rapidly, stopped before house, evidently recognizing it by number; rang bell and soon was admitted. He was—"
There followed, for Lucas's edification, an excellent and unprejudiced description of Barney Loutrelle; a precise report of his period of stay within the house; the irruption of Bennet Cullen and the time of his stay; the means and manner of departure of Ethel Carew, Barney Loutrelle and Bennet Cullen; their destination and what they did upon that epochal evening.