Resurrection Rock (1920)/Chapter 19

CHAPTER XIXLUCAS WALKS BY THE LAKE

HE had intended, earlier in the day, to seek Mrs. Wain again as soon as possible and beg her for more information of his mother; but he realized, later, that now that he knew his mother was Mrs. Oliver Cullen, a great deal of news about her awaited him without asking any one's indulgence. So Barney went from the hospital to the public library where he obtained the newspaper files for September which reported the loss of the Gallantic with Mrs. Oliver Cullen, and which detailed, in long columns, the many interests and activities of her vigorous life.

There were several pictures of her which Barney had not previously seen, reproductions of photographs taken at important social and civic ceremonies. The biographical sketch began with the year when she came to Chicago "from nowhere" and obtained her first position in the office on Wabash Avenue; it related how she went to the Cullen offices and was dismissed; how Oliver Cullen had fallen in love with her and married her; it mentioned discreetly the fact of the Cullen family estrangement, the struggle for the possession of power; the swift and spectacular rise of the Oliver Cullen fortunes following his marriage; the assumption of the control of the family by his wife; her war work and then the circumstances of her sudden "death."

There was some mention of her in the newspapers for many days following the first report of the Gallantic disaster, particularly when Oliver's death caused the publishing of his obituary and extensive review of his wife's activities; and during the following days, the papers had given a good deal of space to the remarkable situation brought about by Oliver's death and the lack of legal proof of the prior death of his wife. If, by any chance, she had happened to survive the wreck and could have been proved to be living five days later—even though afterwards she expired—obviously all the Oliver Cullen properties belonged to her heirs. And who were they? No one knew. There was a list of "the most important properties" in a separate column, and Barney whistled to himself when he read it over and saw the totals, in millions, of their estimated present value. What a stake, he thought, even for a rich man like Lucas Cullen to fight for! What a stake for unknown "heirs" to claim. But it belonged, of course, to that woman who lay, barely breathing, in the hospital bed. His mother! This property then, if she had died, would have been—his?

He had to put down the newspaper file for a moment and walk to the dark window and stare out at the city street to get better possession of his emotions. How much of that, which had seemed hopelessly confused before, was beginning to become plain. Lucas Cullen—Barney thought—had believed his mother dead; but he had known that he, who called himself Barney Loutrelle, was her son. Some one else had known that—James Quinlan—who had gone to meet him at Resurrection Rock. Old Lucas knew that, too. Now if he, Barney, could not find out that he was Agnes Cullen's son, he would give no trouble to Lucas; so the old man tried, first, to draw him away; failing that, old Lucas had Kincheloe silence James Quinlan forever. Old Lucas chose that night to have Quinlan silenced rather than Barney—so Barney was thinking—because Barney would be harmless without Quinlan but Quinlan, besides knowing about Barney, probably knew other inconvenient things also.

Barney returned to the newspapers but only to glance over them in review. The question as to who had sent James Quinlan to Resurrection Rock was beginning to find an answer in Barney's mind. If his mother had been at the bottom of that, might she also have caused those messages to be sent him? Mrs. Wain had said that his mother was on her way to fin him, after having "got track" of him, when she was lost on the Gallantic, which had sunk in English waters. Several different vessels had picked up the survivors from boats and rafts and wreckage and brought the people to England; so Agnes Cullen—concealing her identity for reasons not yet to be known—must have been in England when Barney was there in October. Likely enough, she had been at a London hospital, not far from the house of the medium who amazed Barney by possessing many facts of his boyhood. These were all facts which—as he had said to Ethel, when telling her of it—could have been learned naturally by any one who might have taken the trouble to visit Boyne City and inquire about him; but Barney had not been able to imagine that there could be any one in London who would have gone to that trouble. But he could imagine his mother—Mrs. Oliver Cullen who, after twenty-three years' search, had "got track" of her son—collecting the facts to make certain his identity.

Had she supplied them to the medium? If, so, why had she? If she knew of his presence in London and that he was visiting a certain medium, why had she not sent for him? Or had she sent for him? That is, had she really been the author of those remarkable letters which Huston Adley had dispatched to him and which had summoned him to Resurrection Rock? Might his mother have been the human agent behind much of that which had been to Ethel and to himself inexplicable?

He longed for Ethel to share his marvellous discovery with him. He recollected the admiration and great trust and love which Ethel had held for "Cousin Agnes"; and he thought, if she could only know that Cousin Agnes was his mother, she might feel differently about him. Of course nothing which he had yet learned disclosed the circumstances of his mother's adventure before his birth; those circumstances which remained suggested only by his ring. But it was plain that Resurrection Rock and the neighborhood of St. Florentin was the "nowhere" from which Agnes Dehan had come to Chicago. That being the case, in all likelihood the Cullens had known about her first adventure in love; likely enough it had underlain old John Cullen's dismissal of her from his office; yet his son Oliver—who also would have been told about her—had married her.

Late in the evening as it was, Barney went from the library to Scott Street and presented himself at the house which was his mother's and asked for Mrs. Wain. While waiting for the housekeeper to appear, he went into the room where hung his mother's portrait and stood reverently studying it. She had been beautiful, he repeated to himself; and much more than that: resolute, determined beyond any other woman whom he had known. The artist had caught, too, something haunting her eyes, those eyes which Barney had seen to-day closed but which had looked into his two years ago. Something haunting her—what? The loss of him, her son? That was part of it, perhaps; but not all. Else, now that she had found him, why had she not sent for him? Why—though living—did she let all the world suppose her dead?

The entrance of the housekeeper put an end to his self queries. "Nothing more has happened, Mrs. Wain," Barney said to her at once to quiet the alarm which his appearance at that hour had roused. "She"—he hesitated and then did not name his mother, but repeated—"she was gaining strength when I left. They had more hope. I went from the hospital to the library and read what the newspapers had to say about her last September," he continued. "Of course, I understand much more than I did this morning; but of course I want to know everything—everything you can tell me."

For a moment the housekeeper stared at him, uncertainly, not quite recovered from her shock of alarm; then, realizing his words, she advanced to him suddenly and grasped the lapel of his coat. "Listen, Mr. Dick!" she whispered. "I've broken my given word to her now; but I thought she was going; God gives me testimony to that! Oh, it is all between her and him, don't you see? It's always been between her and him," the housekeeper iterated incoherently, "between her and him—"

"Her and—God?" Barney asked, bewildered.

"God?" the housekeeper repeated and laughed. "The Devil on earth himself; Mr. Lucas Cullen, Senior! Don't you see? She's fought him since she was a child, a little girl, sir, and he downed her; he disgraced her and—and she lost you! Then she came here and beat him—beat him—beat him and his family; all of them; she beat them all. But she couldn't find you and she couldn't—" the housekeeper stopped. "Listen!" she appealed again, steadying herself. "She found you last fall, I told you; then that happened! And they thought she was dead; so she let them think she was dead, to beat them—beat them so they could never down her again. But he did it. He came here the other day; that day Ethel Carew left—remember?"

"I remember," Barney said.

"He thinks he's safe now; for he's beaten you both. But he's not beaten her. He thinks he has; for he thinks she is dead. But she's going to get well and fight him for you and for her. She told them to cure her or kill her that day after he came here; so they took her to the table again. And now I must tell her what I've done; I've brought you to see her. So she'll send for you soon; she'll tell you what she should; trust her and wait!"

The housekeeper stood back from him; and Barney found within him no will to make further demands upon her, except:

"There is one thing I can ask you and you can tell me, I think, without breaking trust, Mrs. Wain. When I was in London last October, was she also there?"

"Yes, Mr. Dick."

"I received, at that time, communication through a medium which told me a good deal about myself; was she concerned in that?"

"Once," said Mrs. Wain. "Once she sent word to you through a medium; she thought she was going to die; she was herself in terrible pain—horrible, Mr. Dick, and constant. She knew you were near; but she would not send for you. She knew you were wounded yourself; you were just recovering; you were to go back in battle; she could not bring you to her as she was. But she had to send word to you; so she did, through a medium."

"I see," said Barney. "But only once, you said."

"Once, she told me. After that, she had nothing to do with the messages to you; whatever you got, or Miss Ethel got from her father, Mrs. Cullen knew nothing about till after they were sent."

The housekeeper, as though distrusting herself, opened the doors which she had secured and slipped away. Barney made no effort to recall her. For many minutes, left alone, he remained in the room before his mother's portrait. "Since she was a little girl, she fought him," he repeated to himself; and his thoughts went to what Ethel had told him of her grandfather's life in the northern woods long ago when James Quinlan—he of the flaming torch—had been a sawyer for Lucas Cullen, and something had happened which had given J. Q. a hold on Cullen which Lucas had not broken until that night Kincheloe went to Resurrection Rock. Barney began more clearly to understand; and what he comprehended was that the matter of his birth and the giving of him to Noah Jo and the loss of him were only incidents in the struggle between his mother and Lucas Cullen which had been going on long before he was born.

For a time, on account of her desperate injuries, his mother had been obliged to relinquish the fight; and in that emergency it seemed—yes, it seemed—that after his mother had sent him a message through the medium in London, somehow the spirits of the dead had endeavored to continue her struggle by summoning him and enlisting Ethel Carew with him in the fight. But now his mother was returning to the combat herself. She alone of the living, besides her lifelong enemy, knew all the elements of that contest; so when, at last, Barney returned to his room, it was with the decision to trust his mother and to wait.

Yet this day had struck from him the paralysis of action which Ethel's departure had caused. He had written to Ethel, in Sheridan, only a purely personal acknowledgment of her farewell to him and assurance that he "understood" and would always "understand" anything she might do; and he would always love her. Now he wrote her that, after doing nothing for several days, he was busy again with the investigation which they had shared together, and he had unexpectedly undergone a remarkable experience, which he did not otherwise describe. The next day he received from Ethel a short letter which had crossed his, which informed him that she had arrived safely in Sheridan and was very well and busy.

He learned through Mrs. Wain that his mother, though still desperately weak, was conscious; and thereafter during the week she continued to slowly gain strength. Mrs. Wain informed him that she had confessed to Mrs. Cullen how she had brought Barney to the hospital; and though his mother continued conscious and was now almost free from pain and was clear in her mind, the physicians forbade her the risk of the tremendous emotional disturbance certain to follow a meeting with her son. Indeed, Mrs. Wain said that Mrs. Cullen clearly comprehended the situation and realized that she could not afford, at this crisis, to exhaust her slight vitality. She had immediate need of all her powers to think and to plan; she had kept herself informed of Barney's movements since he had been in America, but she wished particularly a detailed report upon certain matters which he had observed. Accordingly Barney sat up most of one night writing out replies to his mother's queries; and the next noon he received from her a dictated letter of instruction which sent him, for the first time, to the apartment of Lucas Cullen, Junior, on the outer Drive, where he asked to see Mr. Lucas Cullen, Senior.

Old Lucas proved to be out—"taking a walk, I think, sir," the servant volunteered. Probably he would be back during the afternoon. Barney said he would return at half-past three and he left his name, which Lucas learned when he came back, sometime before three.

"Mr. Loutrelle to see me, eh?" he repeated. "Mr. Loutrelle? Indeed! He'll be back in an hour? Now that's very kind of him. Tell him, if I don't happen to be in precisely at half-past three, that it was very kind of him to call twice to see me in one afternoon." And Lucas passed into the apartment only to refill a pocket with cigars before he went out again to walk along the lake front.

It was a warm afternoon for Chicago in February; the recent snows had thawed away from the ground except in little drip-stained patches shadowed by the tall buildings of "Streeterville." The ice sheath over the breakwater escarpments protecting this invaluable, newly made land also was melting and dripping, and the snow and spray hummocks over the water's edge were breaking up and falling, becoming floes which turned and skewed and sucked and sobbed with the wash of the waves rolling below as the wet wind blew out of the east.

Old Lucas lit a fresh cigar and, puffing at it, he strode vigorously southward beside the water, looking down at the grinding floes. He became absent-minded as he stared at the ice and water, and suddenly, with a jerk of his shoulders, he looked up and all around as though some one, if near by, might have been eavesdropping on his thoughts. But no one was about, except the occupants of hurrying motor cars on the Drive at his right.

He came to the great, imposing jetty of the Municipal Pier, extending out half a mile into the lake, and he crossed to the south walk of the pier, where the sunshine was warmest, and proceeded to the furthermost point, where he stood gazing out at the spray-swept moles forming the harbor defenses, at the lighthouses marking the passages, and at the steamer hurling white spume before it as it approached the city. Turning, Chicago lay before him, its water front cleanly etched in this afternoon of sunshine, with the lake wind blowing the smoke and dust far to the west.

Lucas's keen old eyes rested momentarily upon its river mouth with the Life Saving Station at the flank; he watched critically the progress of a powerful, deepwater tug ploughing, unhindered, through the field of ice cakes which the current was drawing into the river; then, roving as he stared, he considered the great, abrupt row of mighty buildings rising before the water and beyond them the block after block, mile after mile, of the city, too huge to be visible even from such a vantage point as his but hinted at by the aura of haze hanging, opalescent, as far as the eye followed under the western sun.

Lucas gazed at it, mute with unwilling wonder; then he bit his cigar savagely and was turning away when he noticed that a young man in new gray coat and hat had approached.

"Oh, you!" Lucas recognized Barney. "Where's your uniform?" he demanded; but his emotions upon gazing at the city had been so deep that he could not at once transfer his thought even to this young man.

"I've seen that town flat as a burnt pancake, young fellow," he said with boastful reverie. "I steered a ship into that river there—when it was running the right way, not into the Mississippi—when there wasn't a roof between hell and heaven and they were camped like Indians on the ruins. But they had their nerve; they got about rebuilding; so they had to have wood—a city of wood right away. So we brought it to 'em. Some of the fools gave it away; yes, young fellow, those born fools took their ships to Muskegon and Manistee and Frankfort and Big Traverse and East Jordan and loaded up with good, clear white pine, such as you never saw, and sold it for the cost of cutting and carrying; nothing for the lumber at all. But some of us had some sense.—Well, young fellow, you came to call on me this afternoon; what about?"

Barney had not flattered himself with any thought that his appearance would bring the slightest evidence of dismay to Lucas Cullen; nevertheless the more than condescending—indeed casual—manner in which the old man met him disconcerted Barney for a moment. Also, he had not expected to speak to Lucas in such a spot as the end of the pier; yet they were quite alone, and there was no reason for not talking.

"I came to speak to you about Kincheloe," Barney said.

"Eh? Kincheloe?" Lucas repeated, attempting to convey surprise without the slightest concern but not wholly succeeding. "What's he been up to now? Done anything to you?" Lucas essayed raillery.

"We both know perfectly well what he did," Barney replied. "He killed James Quinlan at Resurrection Rock the night I arrived there. For that reason, he must be locked up."

Lucas mouthed his cigar while his squinted eyes studied Barney. He had long been fully aware, from the reports which Bennet had brought him, that this fellow, who had named himself Loutrelle, and Ethel both believed that Kincheloe had killed James Quinlan; yet no one had directly made the charge to Lucas before this. Also there was a quietness of statement of accepted fact about this accusation which made it contrast with Ethel's excited charge against him.

Loutrelle, by his waiting, showed that he expected denial or some comment or ejaculation; but Lucas merely continued to squint.

"Of course," Barney continued then, without encouragement, "he acted with your knowledge. You were with him as accessory to murder as you were when you sent Quinlan from Galilee with his torch for Henry Laylor."

Lucas's cigar dropped from his mouth; the impact of his pulses rat-tatted in his brain, in the bend of his elbows, in his fingers and down to his toes. He remained mute, continuing to stare, not because of choice; he could not have spoken now.

"But I do not mean yet to ask a warrant for you," this young fellow called Loutrelle went on. "You can always be found; but Kincheloe is different. You are having dealings with him and can have him locked up on some technical charge—theft, forgery, anything which will keep him in jail. If you do this, it will not be necessary to swear out charges against him and you in Michigan."

Lucas quivered with impulse suddenly to hurl this fellow into the icy water; indeed, he seemed to betray it; or perhaps only from instinctive caution did Barney move about so that his back was no longer to the lake. Unable to act, Lucas boggled for something adequate to say; but he could not reply forcibly without knowing exactly how much proof this fellow possessed. Loutrelle, however, appeared neither to care for response from him nor to say anything more himself. He merely waited a moment, looking at Lucas, then nodded and took himself off.

Lucas stood squinting at the back of the young fellow while, without once looking around, Loutrelle walked half the length of the pier; he vanished into a doorway, and still Lucas remained staring. He looked down and kicked his cigar into the lake, took another from his pocket and started to chew it.

"Laylor; he said Henry Laylor," Lucas repeated to himself, as though now likely to doubt the evidence of his own ears. "Where in hell did he get that?"

Lucas knew where he had "got" Galilee and the flaming torch; so Henry Laylor evidently came from the same place, which appeared to be a locality of indefinitely expanding information. Yet information obtained from such a source, though admittedly disconcerting when suddenly disclosed, was not actually dangerous,—that is, it would not do much harm on a warrant. Loutrelle knew that, unless he was crazy; so his threat was only a bluff; if the sudden mentioning of Quinlan and Galilee and Laylor all together had not upset Lucas, he would instantly have recognized it. Also Loutrelle was powerless to bring dangerous evidence of recent wrong-doing either by Kincheloe or by himself without Ethel's witness of what she had seen in his house at St. Florentin. Yet the linking up of this affair at the Rock with that of Galilee exposed elements of peril which were new.

Lucas left the pier, calculating these; and strode toward his son's apartment. He had not the slightest idea of locking up Kincheloe; for in the catalogue of Lucas's failings, betrayal of a confederate held no place. But perhaps it would be a good thing to get Kincheloe well out of the way, not alone for Kincheloe's sake but for Lucas's own. For no one knew better than Lucas the weaknesses of Miss Platt's husband and the unlikelihood of his thinking clearly and sanely in an emergency. Suppose this fellow, who called himself Loutrelle, and his attorneys, or whoever else now acted with him got hold of Kincheloe and told him all they knew about Lucas Cullen, Kincheloe undoubtedly would blow up; he would not be capable of discriminating between what they could and could not prove. Kincheloe—lacking any reliable tradition of fidelity to his partner in wrong-doing—was too apt to turn State's evidence to save himself.

Lucas accelerated his pace till he reached a street car which took him downtown where he obtained a considerable sum of money in bank notes. Not knowing precisely where Kincheloe now abode, he telephoned to Kincheloe's lawyer friend, Dougherty, and, obtaining an address, he engaged a taxicab and drove five or six miles north into that extraordinary and wide-spread district of indulgence and light living which is known to many of its inhabitants as "Little Paris" and which was Kincheloe's delight.

The car passed new, gaudy apartment hotels with frequent cafeterias, beauty shops, confectioneries and gay windows already brilliant with electric lights against the dusk of the wintry day; it turned a corner or two and finally halted before an imposing establishment boasting a liveried darky, who hastened to spare Lucas the exertion of opening the cab door. After Lucas had alighted, the doorman looked within the cab as though certain some one must have accompanied the gentleman and then, turning, smirked at Lucas with obvious significance as he inquired, "Who fo', sah?"

Lucas disgustedly elbowed him aside and, entering a glittering, tiled vestibule, he ascended the stairs to the second floor, where he passed along a softly lit, thickly carpeted hallway to the fourth door on the right and rang the bell.

The number of apartments opening into this one hall indicated that this was a building which architecturally was Lucas's pet abomination,—a structure of two-room flats; and the character of the occupants was so plain to Lucas that when, after several moments, a girl opened the door before him, Lucas gazed at her with a disdain which contained no great element of surprise.