Resurrection Rock (1920)/Chapter 15

CHAPTER XVA FLAMING TORCH

THE house of the medium stood in a section some small distance north of the river, where the rebuilders of the seventies imagined that a fashionable residence district would endure. With the lesson of the great fire bitterly learned, they reared their mansions of brick and stone and tile, with brick foundations and solid interior walls; stone copings distinguished their façades; window and door sills were stone, ponderously laid; their rails were iron, secure against destruction. They built for a century of occupancy and when, after a generation, the owners began to desert for the more fashionable districts farther north and east, they abandoned dwellings altogether too substantial to be torn down or even to be greatly remodeled; so into the residences, bakers and candy makers, dry cleaners, tailors, hairdressers, masseurs and chiropodists came. Many of the old homes became boarding houses; here and there an old family—impoverished or stubborn—clung to its hearth with the result of making the neighborhood more hopelessly nondescript. It was near the middle of one of the most mixed and tawdry of these blocks that the medium Davol practiced her profession in gloomy, mustily furnished rooms where congregated many who sought communication with the world beyond and where—as many believed—souls of the dead visited and spoke.

The place had repelled Ethel; the personality of the medium had offended her, even at the visit which she had made during the afternoon. What an idea, Ethel thought, as she sought out the house from the business places of hairdressers and chiropodists, to suppose that her father would come to speak to her in such a house as he would never have appointed for a meeting place in his life. And how could it be that such an individual as Mrs. Davol was necessary for so sacred and solemn a function as communion between the soul of father and daughter?

It was not that Mrs. Davol was a common and obviously uncultured woman. Ethel had many acquaintances among the so-called common and little educated whom she respected and liked; nor was it that Mrs. Davol was actually unpleasant. She simply was an ordinary, middle-aged woman, a little too fat—an indolent looking person, except for her eyes, which were brown and sparkling and by their activity emphasized the sloth of Mrs. Davol's round body. If Ethel had found her employed in the bakery at the corner or at the shampoo parlors, she would have accepted her without particular consideration as agreeable enough in her place; but as an ambassador to the dead,—well, Ethel had imagined that such duty required quite a different sort of a person.

Yet Ethel's inquiries had brought her assurance that Mrs. Davol was very successful; and the medium herself was calmly confident and matter-of-fact about her abilities.

"I don't guarantee results, dearie," she said. "But I may say I near always get them. Not right off, of course; sometimes it takes time. Eva's a good girl; but she has her ways; and likely she has troubles of her own we can't know about. But she usually gets something."

"Eva," as Mrs. Davol explained, was her "control"; for Mrs. Davol was a medium who preferred to work chiefly through the trance; and in the trance, she became subject to a secondary personality, supposed to be a spirit, who was called in spiritualistic parlance, the "control" or "guide." Eva's duties were not only to take charge of Mrs. Davol's speech during the trance but to summon and lead up the spirits of the people who might be asked for by the sitters at the séance.

Ethel explained this detail of the mechanism of communication while Bennet, Barney and she drove to Mrs. Davol's in Bennet's car. Barney, having attended sittings in England, was of course familiar with the ordinary methods; but Bennet was almost wholly ignorant of the subject. Half with amusement, half with disgust, he observed the deterioration of the neighborhood through which they drove; and when at last he located the number in the illumined transom above Mrs. Davol's door, he locked his car with elaborate care before abandoning it and accompanying his cousin and Loutrelle up the steps.

A colored maid admitted them and led into a large, plainly furnished room on the first floor and at the middle of the house. The windows which faced the street evidently belonged to the room in front which was separated from this by closed doors. The single window of this room, from its position, plainly faced only an airshaft. Its shade and curtains were drawn; the door on the other side of the room was closed, and no sounds were to be heard either from other parts of the house or from the street. The room was softly lighted by two large lamps shaded in red; there were two tables, one an ordinary, large library table, the other three-legged and small and light. A number of chairs were arranged in a rough circle about a big leather, reclining chair with comfortably upholstered arms and back. Evidently this was the séance room.

"Will you all be seated?" the maid invited and departed.

Ethel remained standing, and Barney and her cousin did likewise. She had not seen this room when she had called in the afternoon, and the solemnity of the place affected her more than she had expected. Here in these chairs often had sat serious, grief-stricken mothers and fathers, wives and husbands, sons and daughters, seeking as she had come to seek, some word from their dead. Many other visitors came lightly, perhaps, without any inclination toward belief, but solely to amuse themselves or to condemn and disprove. Bennet illustrated their attitude to her by picking up the three-legged table and tossing it into the air:

"This is for the spooks to kick around, I suppose."

Mrs. Davol entered rather ponderously and spoke to Ethel.

The medium wore a plain, gray, woollen dress which closely fitted the ample lines of her figure. Ethel noticed that Mrs. Davol wore no corset; her sleeves fitted her arms and were tight at the wrist; her hands were ringless. Ethel was conscious of making this examination of the medium's person as though inspecting a prestidigitator before a performance; and Mrs. Davol, conscious of the scrutiny, said agreeably:

"Lookin' for levers and wire-hooks, dearie? Well, I don't use 'em at all. No need to, even when I work with the table or get raps. I do do that," she explained, glancing toward the three-legged table, "but only when the sitter prefers. I like better the straight talk in the trance; do you, Miss Harris?"

"Yes, please," Ethel said.

She had given the name Miss Harris instead of her own when she called in the afternoon; and Mrs. Davol said she was glad of that. She preferred not to know the names of her callers, and so she now desired no introductions to Ethel's companions.

"These your friends?" was all she inquired and, when Ethel replied, Mrs. Davol pointed to seats close together while she herself took the large, leather chair near the center of the room. She had closed the hall door behind her, and the four sat silent in the glow of the pink-shaded lamps.

"Sometimes, just before Eva comes, I'm clairvoyant; I see things pretty clear"; Mrs. Davol volunteered. "When I do, of course, I'll tell you what I see."

Strangely the presence of the medium, instead of intensifying for Ethel the solemnity of the room, had dispelled it; Mrs. Davol, lounging in the shaded red light, appeared only an over-fed, vulgar person, poorly playing a part as her head drooped back and her eyes, half open under their heavy lids, gazed dreamily at Barney and Bennet and Ethel.

"I feel a lot of force here, Miss Harris," the medium said.

"She ought to feel the police force," Bennet whispered derisively to Ethel, who made no reply while she watched Barney who had supplied himself with a pad and pencil, which he now took from his pocket, ready to record what would be said.

"I think sure we'll get something," Mrs. Davol continued. "I see—I see a woman, very beautiful. She is a fine woman, much loved by many; she has helped many. She is no longer young; she is middle-aged; she—now I see water; I see a lot of water and people swimming; she is in the water; she is drowning; she is trying to swim. I see a great ship sinking. I think it is a steamer; it is going down. Yes; it is a steamer. I can see its name painted, but I cannot make out the letters. I see many people in the water; but now I do not see her."

The voice of the medium halted, and Barney filled in, from memory, the gaps of unimportant words when the medium spoke too fast for his pencil to follow.

"I see—I see," Bennet whispered in Ethel's ear, mocking the voice of the medium, "some one shagging you back to Scott Street after your call here this afternoon and then going to the newspapers to get up a few facts on cousin Agnes!"

"Listen!" Ethel begged. "Please!" But her own feelings were almost like his.

"I still see water," continued Mrs. Davol, "but not the same water; this is smooth and blue and very clear. Ice floats in it. I can see down through the clear, cold water to the stones and sand and little fishes swimming. I see trees on the shore and a girl in a cloak walking under the trees. She bears a burden beneath her coat.—Now I see her more clearly—the burden she bears is a child—unborn—she is big with child—lonely, very weak—she stumbles and is afraid—she looks upon the water and seems to think to cast herself in—but now some one appears in a boat—paddling—it is a canoe—"

Again the voice of the medium halted; and now, though the description recalled nothing to Ethel's mind, yet the manner of this recital of vision lessened Ethel's feeling of fraud in the performance and served to keep Bennet silent.

"Does that mean something to any one here?" the clairvoyant asked.

Neither Barney or Bennet replied and, after a moment, Ethel said, "No."

"Maybe you don't know it does," Mrs. Davol objected; and suddenly she thrust herself back in her chair and at her next words, her voice marvellously altered. Indeed, the change in the voice was so great that it seemed less a change in the same voice than a substitution of a strange tone, younger, higher in pitch and far more vigorous than the natural voice of Mrs. Davol.

"There is some one here with much difficulty," this new voice said. "Not well built up; quite old; no figure; only an outline; he has not learnt how to build up as yet," the voice continued, and now the medium sat straighter, and not only her voice, but her attitude and the slightest movements of her hands took on quite another manner. "He has not been over long; a very short time; he is not built up clearly at all; but he tries to speak. He wants very hard to speak. He is with two others, both much younger. Eva has seen one of them before; Eva feels one of them was waiting for him, the old man not well built up. He had a long, troubled life, and when he passed over, required much rest; but he has roused from it to try to meet you; but it is too soon—he wants to say—but cannot—" The voice trailed off into murmurs, unintelligible and then inaudible.

"I suppose," said Bennet, leaning again to Ethel's ear, "this is the trance; she's under her 'control.' Eva has came; little Eva spoke that piece."

"Yes," said Ethel. "Do you know who she means?"

"From that?" Bennet returned in disgust.

"Can you describe the man better now?" Barney inquired of the medium, writing his own question as he had recorded the others.

"He shows me a capital O," the voice of "Eva" continued strongly and distinctly. "Now a J with it; the J is before the O; J O."

"Can you give the next letter now?" Bennet inquired, in imitation of Barney's question.

"There is no next letter," the voice replied. "He builds up no more letters; but he makes the O clearer; it is not an O; it is a Q."

"Q?" Bennet challenged.

The voice did not reply directly. "Eva feels like a blow in the breast; there is gushing from it. He does not know he is giving this. He has not done it on purpose; they have tried to make him forget that; but Eva gets it from him. 'I am happy,' he says. 'It is true, I am happy.' He can say that; but that is all now. He holds up in his hand a torch—a flaming torch. Associated with the torch is the word Galilee. The younger man leads him away." The voice again ceased.

Ethel gazed at Barney who had stopped writing and turned to her but made no comment; Bennet waited silently; and Ethel knew that to both of them the reference to James Quinlan was as clear as to herself; not merely because the letter which he "built up" made his initials, but because of the apparent reference to her letter from London where Quinlan was told he would be happy. Yet, of course, the reference was not clear; and if it were, it might somehow have been gathered only from their own minds; might it not? They all had been thinking James Quinlan here in this room. But they had not been thinking about a flaming torch and "Galilee." At least Ethel had not; nor had Barney, for she now asked him; nor had Bennet.

"Does that 'Galilee' and torch stuff mean anything to you?" Bennet demanded of her.

She shook her head to tell him that it did not as the medium began to speak again.

"Some one stands behind you," she said to Ethel; and Ethel turned about, startled.

The medium was in a trance so true that no longer the fear of conscious fraud distressed Ethel. Mrs. Davol's eyes were open and she sat upright, looking about, and she continued the slight, quick gestures of her hands which had become characteristic since the control took charge. When she informed them that some one stood behind Ethel, it was spoken so calmly and as a matter of obvious determination that Ethel looking about, expected to see some one there.

No one was there, as Bennet too saw by turning about. Barney did not look around but kept his eyes upon the medium.

"He puts his arms out to you," the voice continued. "He came over here suddenly with much undone. He has been watching many people who have come over lately to see what they would do. He steps nearer; his hand is almost upon you."

"Whose?" Ethel cried, bending forward. "Who do you see?"

"One who loved you much; he is tall; middle-aged; he smiles lovingly. He has brown hair; blue eyes; good features. He might be your father. Yes; he nods his head. He says he is your father. His hair is not brown; it is lighter than brown. Eva cannot see his face very clearly. He has been trying to come to you many times before; but there have been difficulties. Once he almost got through to you. It was in a dream, Eva thinks. Yes, he nods. It was in a dream, but when you woke up you forgot. It is arranged so; when one visits so, one does not remember. He has much to say to you—" The voice trailed off and stopped.

"What did he want to say?" Ethel demanded again.

"He says, 'Tell her of my love; tell her it keeps right on. Tell her I know and see and am satisfied. Tell her I am happier now.'"

"What did he want to say?" Ethel demanded again, when this meaningless talk ceased.

"He builds up something; a letter," the voice continued. "The letter L."

"What does that mean?"

"It is his name; no, he shakes his head. It is not his name. The name of some one else; no, again he shakes his head. It is the name of a place; a city where something has happened."

"London?" Ethel put in again.

"Yes; London. He says also it is the name of a person; he wants Eva to correct that; it is the name of a person too."

"What about that person?"

"He says important events will come; he wants to say, they are happening now with L. Observe and have patience; that is the difference from before; things are happening of themselves without interference. Now he is going. I'm off. He can't say good-by. Another is present; some one here has been thinking about him; not consciously; but wishing him all the while underneath. He is a brown-faced man with straight, black hair; an Indian—"

Ethel sat back, relaxed from the tension of the minute before, dulled, baffled and disappointed. She had been told that the spirit of her father had been in the room; she had been told that he had held his hands out to her; that he had almost touched her; but she had undergone no sensation to correspond with such a conception. Expectancy of feeling rather than feeling itself had put the strain upon her; but nothing had suggested her father's presence but a vague, general description of him which any one might have made up from her own experience; there had been, in addition, only the letter L which, besides referring to London—as she had suggested—might refer to Loutrelle or Lucas or to a hundred other names.

"Some one on earth plane asked for him before; he tried to come. He wants Eva to say he did come; but not with Eva."

"Can he give a name?" Barney inquired.

"He makes a cross," said the voice.

"A church cross?"

"No; two marks; he means on earth plane, 'I was an ignorant man. I did not write name. I made cross.' He did not speak except in his own tongue. Now he does not need to speak in tongues."

"Does he still understand Indian?" Barney asked.

"He nods, yes; of course."

Barney put the next question in a strange word, and Ethel, glancing at his pad, saw that he wrote as his question:

"Otchipwem?"

"He nods yes," replied "Eva." "He was a Chippewa."

Again Barney asked something in the strange syllables, writing, "Anindi wendjibaian?"

"He says from many places," said the voice. "When he was on earth plane, he did not stay long anywhere. He wandered; he had a boat; he wants to say, 'I was a humble man; I took fish on hooks and in nets.'"

Barney wrote out his next question before saying it aloud: "Maneto o mikweniman no nossan gaie ningaian?"

"He wants to say," replied the voice, "I have never heard of father."

"Ninga?"

"He says, 'Yes.' He says, 'Mother I knew; mother came to shore bearing child; not born child, he says; she was very sick. I took her in tchi—tchi—"

"What?" Barney asked and held his pencil.

"Tchiman," the voice said, and Barney wrote it. "Canoe, that is. It is thought words he speaks; no language; but he wants Eva to say that to you."

"What did he do then for my mother?"

"He says, 'I took her to my house.'"

"Odenang?"

"Not near any town, he says. Far from any settlement; to a lonely place; he wants Eva again to say his word to you; it is like ajawao—"

"Ajawao," Barney wrote and held his pencil.

"Odjigade," said the voice; and Barney finished the word, "Ajawaodjigade," with unsteady fingers. Ethel heard him catch his breath quickly, and she put out her hand for his pad and pencil.

"Let me do it now," she begged.

"I'd better," he said. "Thank you." Then to the medium, "Where?"

"He says, 'To my house in the lonely place where was woman, my wife.' He says, 'There boy was born; you stayed there.'"

"What happened to my mother?"

"She stayed there too."

"Then what happened?"

No answer.

"Did she die?" Barney asked.

"No," said the voice. "Pauguk did not strike her. She was very sick; but she did not die; she went away. She had to go away, he wants to say."

"When?"

"At the moon of the wild rice gathering."

"When she went away, he means?"

"Yes."

"Then when did she come?"

"In the moon of the breaking snowshoes."

"What year?"

The medium made no direct answer; but after a pause the voice continued: "He says that all summer she fed the baby at her breast till she went sick again. He wants to tell you that she said, when she went away, she surely would return. He says, 'There I lived until water froze again.' He says, 'When she is gone, I bring milk to the child from a cow. A cow was on the shore; at sunset, when I have taken the fish from the nets, I went ashore in my boat and got milk. But no one came back; so I went away.'"

"Where did you go?" Barney cried quickly, as the medium's posture changed; gone from her, as surprisingly as they had come, were the slight motions of her hands, the jerkings and mannerisms which had characterized the presence of the "control." Mrs. Davol slowly sat upright and gazed dully about like an ordinary, over-fed woman making an apparent effort of memory to recognize her callers.

"Well, dearie," she said at last to Ethel. "Did you get satisfied? Was there good results?"

Ethel realized, with a gasp, that the séance was over. "Satisfied?" she repeated to herself, questioning her own sensations. No; she was not satisfied at all in the sense that she had received from her father any such communication as she had hoped for. Indeed, she could not feel that she had heard from her father at all; and what she had gained from the extraordinary recital about J. Q. was almost meaningless. The communication from the Indian spirit meant little to her; but it had given much to Barney. In his emotion, she had almost forgotten about herself; and it was for him she was feeling when she said, "Yes; we got a good deal, Mrs. Davol."

"I'm right glad," Mrs. Davol said, standing up. "I nearly always get good results, though, as I said, I can't guarantee 'em." She gazed at Barney and, evidently satisfied that he had felt the results, she appealed to Bennet. "You're pleased too? You're all pleased?"

"Oh, we'll come again, probably," Bennet assured her, looking about for his coat and hat.

"I don't like to take money except for good satisfaction," Mrs. Davol said placidly; and Ethel opened her handbag. But Barney paid before she could. The amount was twenty dollars, and as Bennet insisted that he had been in on the show, and it was worth the money, he shared the payment.

It was barely half-past nine when they found themselves again in Bennet's car; and Bennet invited both his cousin and her friend to his father's apartment. When Ethel refused, as he expected her to, he hurried them to the Scott Street house and entered with them.

"Not a bad show, when you think it over," he commented, with the slight depreciation expected of a host when referring to an entertainment which he has paid for. "She really did pretty well, didn't she?"

Ethel refrained from replying, and Bennet continued, "She did a fair amount of mind reading. Not as much as you get from a good act at vaudeville where they read what's on the card in your pocket. Ever had 'em do that to you, Loutrelle?"

"No," said Barney.

"Well, that's really good sometimes; much better than anything we got to-night. Of course we all went there loaded with the idea of James Quinlan, and she was clever enough to get the initials of the name from us. Now while that wasn't like a good act, it wasn't bad. Then she pulled some silly stuff like they all do."

"You mean about the torch and Galilee?" Barney said.

"Did that mean anything to you?" Bennet challenged.

"No," Barney admitted.

Bennet turned from him to Ethel. "Then that stuff about your father was pure fake, of course. She got it up. Nothing any one could check. Now how did she really do it, Loutrelle? What was that stuff you asked her?"

"I put some questions in Chippewa."

"Why in Chippewa?"

"The Indians I was raised with were Chippewas."

"I see."

"The questions I asked were," Barney referred to his transcript of the sitting, "'Chippewa?'—'From where did you come?'—'Does the spirit know my mother and father?'—Then after she had replied, 'Have never heard of father,' I asked 'Mother?' and then 'In a town?' The Chippewa words, which were spoken in reply meant, as she said, canoe; the other expression used meant, 'It was carried by boat across water—a short stretch of water, like a river or a channel.'"

"That was all straight?" Bennet returned.

"Straight?" Barney repeated.

Bennet flushed a little. "I meant, you didn't fool yourself? You see, the explanation of most of this stuff is that when people think they get results, they do it themselves; they give something away or take an answer to mean something particular to them when it might apply to almost any one. Of course, her understanding Chippewa words doesn't mean anything. She was using telepathy anyway, reading thoughts instead of words. I've seen an Italian mind-reader work that way. She couldn't speak or read English normally; but she could read the ideas that English people had in their heads. So while it looked impressive, if she got the general idea you put in Chippewa words—and if she got a word or two of Indian from you to sling back—it wasn't anything different."

Bennet seemed to expect his cousin or Barney to dispute him; and evidently he was disappointed when they did not. He realized that what they wanted was to be alone to talk together; but he had no idea of departing yet.

"So I don't see just what you got to-night," Bennet challenged them both. "I certainly don't see where you found anything to back up your charge against grandfather!" he said to his cousin more directly. "Last week you told me that grandfather was mixed up in a murder; to-night you say it again and give me a lot of proof—stuff which you think is proof—that you got mostly from spooks. I told you last week to be careful; and I tell you now," he turned and included Barney in his warning, "you be careful—you be pretty damned careful what you say and do. The family's stood for a good deal already from Ethel because she's in the family, and if she wants to act like a mental case, we'll make allowances for her. But we'll make no allowances for you, Loutrelle!" Bennet was working himself up and getting back at Barney now for his discomfiture earlier in the evening.

Again he stopped, waiting for dispute; but again was disappointed. Barney was standing, as Bennet was also now on his feet.

"You make me sick, both of you," Bennet blurted in disgust, glancing from Barney to his cousin. "You're a fine one, thinking such things and saying such things about grandfather with a stranger; and you don't believe them; you know you don't; and you prove it."

"How does she prove it?" Barney asked.

"Because you don't dare do anything. You say my grandfather's mixed up in a murder,—a first-degree, premeditated, capital crime which Kincheloe committed. If you believed it, you'd get Kincheloe at least, locked up."

"Where is Kincheloe?" Barney returned. "Here in Chicago?"

"Of course he is."

"Where? Have you his address?"

"Wilson Avenue. I don't know exactly where; but he's living up in that district somewhere. I'll get the exact address and send it to you," Bennet defied, "to-morrow morning."

There was nothing for him to do after that but leave; and his cousin went with him to the hall. "So you mean to get in the police. All right; get; and I'll land you in the psychopathic ward!" he threatened.