Resurrection Rock (1920)/Chapter 22
CHAPTER XXIITHE SECRET OF THE TALL TREES
SHORTLY after Lucas Cullen, Senior, had communicated to his family his decision to attend the sitting at Mrs. Stanton-Fielding's, Barney received by special messenger one of those cards which admitted the holder to Mrs. Stanton-Fielding's drawing-room between four-thirty and five-thirty. With the card came a note enjoining him to be present early, to occupy an inconspicuous position and particularly to avoid recognition by the Cullens but to closely observe them.
These directions were not signed, but Barney was sure that his mother had written them. Though he had never seen her writing, these firm, clearly defined characters without the slightest trace of carelessness or tendency toward flourish immediately associated themselves in his mind with the personality of her whom, during these recent, remarkable weeks of her recuperation, he had come to know as mother. She had left the hospital several days before this and had been continuing her convalescence in the seclusion of an apartment upon Division Street far enough west to be wholly out of the paths of her former neighbors and yet within a few minutes' ride of the Drive and of Scott Street.
When Barney had last seen her, which was three days before that upon which he received her note, she had become strong enough to sit up for several hours and even to walk about her room. With so much vitality regained, of course she had become able to converse with him; yet so far she had confided to him almost nothing about her past or about her previous feelings for him. When the time came when she had been at last allowed to see him, and he had dared to clasp her and look into her eyes; when her hands had pressed his face, and his lips kissed her cheek, and she had brought her lips about to his while she gazed at him, that wonderful epoch of brief minutes had been mute but for the breathing of names, endearments and prayers of thankfulness. And their next visit, after a long interval, had been similarly silent.
Barney came to realize that this was not solely because of her hard necessity to spare herself the exhaustion of the great emotion sure to sweep her if she recounted her life; for another and more controlling reason she forbade herself.
"You shall hear all—all," she promised him, when she clasped him, "all in its proper time, my son. If I told you now, I would spend too much—too much of what I've kept within me for twenty years." And he understood that she did not mean solely her strength. "But it is almost time!"
The time, he knew, when at last she could requite the enemy of all her life; and as she felt the approach of her moment, she disciplined herself and him with pitiless sternness. As though she feared that recollection, like a spark, might suddenly fire her into vain and wasted outbursts of passion, she avoided all reference to what had happened and spoke with Barney only of what was to come.
In their future, he was to be her known and honored son and to succeed her, at the right time, in the management of the businesses she owned; for this reason she wished him at once to prepare himself in the School of Commerce; and much of their talk together was about his work there.
Acknowledgment of him was to be after an event which she did not describe but of which she thought constantly. Her concealment, so far maintained, remained an essential of her plans; and as the day of the event approached, she forbade him to return to her and would not be reassured by his promise to take all precautions against being followed.
She had questioned him about many matters relating to Ethel Carew and the Cullens; and he had become aware that, though his mother had determined upon definite action, yet she was waiting not only to regain more strength but for a progress of circumstances which she was observing but could not hasten. To-day Barney read in those clear, concise lines of his mother's handwriting that occurrences at last favored her; she had sufficient strength to play her part and the time—her time and his and Lucas Cullen's—had come.
Barney had received the note during one of his regular hours at the School of Commerce; so, upon leaving the university building, he took precautions to elude any one who might be observing him in Lucas Cullen's interest, and at a few minutes after four o'clock, he proceeded to Mrs. Stanton-Fielding's.
It was a warm, pleasant and sunny afternoon of April, with the dampness from the morning's rain upon the walks and streets. The grass in the parkways and upon the lawns of the Lake Shore Drive was reviving into new green; trees were bursting their buds, and the brown sheaths from the yellowing twigs littered the wet pavements. The last vestige of ice long ago had dissolved into the lake which lay this afternoon almost motionless, rippling light green and deep blue in wide, shifting bands as the white clouds high in the sky let through or obscured the brightness of the declining sun. Several great steamers were in sight, thrusting southward, deep laden with ore from Duluth for Gary or South Chicago; there were passenger vessels, inward and outward bound; a package freighter or two, and ore boats and grain carriers in ballast, bound back to the Straits and the Soo which now had been ice-free for many weeks.
Barney's thoughts followed them; and he pictured the northern shores which he had known in boyhood. The season by the Straits would be a little less advanced, but the trees and brush would be breaking into the hundred-hued yellows and greens of the forest where even the pines would be bright and renewed; warbling and whistling birds would be darting all about at mating and nest building, and the little forest animals, in pairs, stealing like shadows over the silent, wet, humus-heaped ground. Yet there might be patches of snow holding to shaded hollows and trickling little rills down to the roaring brooks.
Up by Resurrection Rock, the day undoubtedly was very like that which the medium Davol had described when she had related to Barney and Ethel and Bennet Cullen the coming of the girl, big with child, to the shore of the lake; for it was again the Moon of the Breaking Snowshoes, a fitting anniversary for something of great significance to occur. As Barney made his way along the lake, he endeavored to keep his expectations within bounds; nevertheless his inward turbulence betrayed that to-day he looked for nothing less than the resolution of all his life's bewilderments. He longed for Ethel with an intensity more poignant than at any hour since she had left him.
To be sure, he had heard from her only that morning and she had written a longer letter than usual, yet had detailed little information about herself. Page after page had consisted only of a statement of the condition, value and prospects of the different properties which had been her father's. She seemed to assume that he must be intimately concerned with them all; of course he was interested in whatever she was doing; but he wanted her; most of all he wanted her here, here with him this afternoon.
Upon reaching Mrs. Stanton-Fielding's mansion, he presented his admission card and was ushered, unchallenged and unannounced, into a large, handsomely furnished drawing-room temporarily transformed into a small arena by the addition of chairs circling the center, where was a large, easy chair not unlike that used by Madame Davol in her séance. Barney observed that thirty or forty people were expected; and four women and two men already were seated in the forward row. Two of the women were in black and were so heavily veiled that Barney could not tell whether he had previously seen them; one of these turned and gazed at him but without sign of recognition. The other two women, who were unveiled and in ordinary street attire, were middle-aged persons of refined and serious demeanor; Barney did not know them nor the men, probably their husbands, who accompanied them.
The windows were to the west and south so that the late afternoon sunshine sufficed to light the room; but the further corner on the right was so dim that Barney felt sure of being unobserved, if he went there; so he took a place in accordance with his instructions and watched the people who entered.
Two women, both wearing mourning veils, and a girl of twenty came in: they seemed uncertain as to the propriety of conversing with an acquaintance whom they met and finally, after a few whispered words, took seats apart from the others and one of the women sank to her knees in prayer. Two well-dressed men of about fifty took seats together, speaking to no one and avoiding encounters; one wore in his buttonhole the tiny rosette of the Legion of Honor; several other men and women, all strangers to Barney, filed in; then a couple of fashionably gowned girls of about Ethel Carew's age, but not at all suggesting her in bearing or manner, found places near Barney and audibly discussed the question of smoking there; they dismissed this idea, amid giggles, and began gossiping in exclamatory whispers about the people appearing in the doorway. Barney overheard the names of men and women, not personally known to him but prominent in the business and social life of the city; thus he soon heard, "Mr. Jaccard!" and saw the thin, dignified and Puritanical-looking figure of Lucas Cullen's lawyer.
Jaccard gazed over the assemblage deliberately before choosing a chair about a dozen feet from Barney's corner. Five minutes later, the girls' voices exclaimed, "Why, there's Bennet—and his mother—and old Mr. Cullen!"
They stood in the doorway, Bennet a little nervous and impatient to be seated; beside him a well-gowned, graciously assured woman of middle age; and next her was the tall dominating figure of Lucas Cullen, Senior. He was gazing critically about the room and objected stubbornly when Bennet tried to lead him; he chose chairs for the three of them near to Jaccard's but separated from his lawyer's by two women who spoke eagerly to Mrs. Lucas Cullen, Junior, and who offered to move; but old Lucas shook his head curtly, commanded "Quiet", and they all sat down. Almost immediately afterwards, the front doors were closed and, in a hush similar to the silence at a church service, Mrs. Stanton-Fielding entered through a door at the farther end of the room, escorting a slight, refined woman of about thirty years, who was dressed in a simple, loosely draped dark gown and whom Barney recognized—without need of Mrs. Stanton-Fielding's words of introduction—as the London psychic, Mrs. Brand.
When she sat in the chair at the center of the circle and glanced about in the relaxation preparatory to her trance, the sight of her powerfully returned Barney's thoughts to that remarkable sitting with her in London half a year before when he first heard facts about himself; and he found himself tingling again with excitement beyond that which, upon that night, had kept him tramping the London streets until daybreak. He had discovered, indeed, that most of those facts given to him at that particular time had been supplied by his mother who then—unknown to him—was in a hospital in London. Now his mother was here in this room. Barney himself could not decide which of the women, veiled from recognition, was his mother; indeed, he had no actual information that she was present; but he felt certain that she was.
"I explain for the benefit of those who otherwise may find confusion," said Mrs. Brand in a quiet, soft voice, "that when in the trance I appear to be generally subject to a 'control' who styles himself Doctor Keppel, whose personality employs my material body for expression. So far as I have been able to learn, he appears to have been a vigorous and cultured man, who died about fifteen years ago and in life here was both a physician and a preacher, having been a medical missionary to India. As he often acts merely as guide to get through to us messages from our friends deceased, he sometimes reports in the third person, sometimes in the first and sometimes speaks for himself.
"The blinds will be drawn and red-shaded lamps used because, while not necessary for communication, the substitution of red illumination seems to facilitate extra-corporeal phenomena."
Thereupon servants drew the window blinds and turned on the lights in the ceiling above Mrs. Brand and in several brackets on the walls, all of which lights had been covered with red silk. This illumination, though dim, was sufficient for clear observation of the medium.
When Barney had attended séances in London with Mrs. Brand, she had entered into the trance without preliminary "twilight" interval of clairvoyance; and this sitting was similar; for after a few minutes of silent waiting, it was evident that some profound transformation influenced Mrs. Brand's posture and her manner of utterance; and, when her lips next moved, her speech indicated the control of a markedly robust, abrupt and masculine seeming personality:
"What a cloud of witnesses are present! So many come here to meet you! There is a spirit here with moustache and small, pointed beard; good forehead; delicate lips; hair grayish and brown—yes, it was brown before it went away; good, pleasant hazel eyes. He is standing beside you in third row next to the end. He is patting you on the shoulder. You can't feel it; but he thinks he is hitting you hard. He touches the rosette on your coat.
"Somebody is laughing. Don't joke—it is serious. He—"
It was the girls near Barney who giggled; the man with the rosette recognized nothing at all to suggest a joke. Barney was able to see his face when, once, he turned about with fixed, wide-open eyes to look up into the good, pleasant, hazel eyes of the brownish gray-haired spirit patting him on the shoulder. Seeing nothing, the man turned back to the medium and sat absolutely still and attentive while the voice went on.
"You ought to be ashamed of yourselves," a woman next to the girls rebuked them into silence; then she whispered to her companion, and Barney was just able to overhear, "That's Mr. William Woolston; she's describing his only brother—the surgeon who died of typhus in Serbia. They were bound up in each other."
Only after recalling his instructions did Barney shift his gaze from the set, serious countenance of the man with the rosette and observe the Cullens. Old Lucas was leaning forward a little, watching with halfsquinted, skeptical eyes the face of Woolston. Barney was sure, from his expression, that Lucas Cullen knew William Woolston and had known also the brother whom the voice described.
"Does he want to say anything to me?" William Woolston asked in a compressed tone.
"He says," reported the Voice, "he does not want you to bother about bringing him back; he lies with brave men. He is satisfied. He wants you to be."
Mrs. Lucas Cullen, Junior, bent to her father-in-law's ear and whispered. Barney could not hear what she said, but he did hear his nearest informant whisper, "Mr. Woolston sent yesterday to have his brother's body brought home!"
If it was this which Lucas Cullen was hearing from his daughter-in-law, he silenced her with an impatient shake of his head which meant, "I know."
The Voice ceased to speak of the spirit beside the man with the rosette; and though its next words stirred to a sobbing cry one of the unveiled women in the first row, old Lucas sat back and relaxed. The woman hysterically attempted to find with her arms a child described before her; but Lucas was little moved, probably because—so Barney thought—he did not know the woman. Similarly the next emotional demonstrations on the part of evident strangers concerned him so little that for a few moments he seemed not to pay attention at all. He glanced toward Jaccard who looked at him and slightly nodded; and Lucas Cullen nudged his daughter-in-law who sat back consciously, evidently preparing herself for some act, when the Voice suddenly said:
"Laura is here!"
"She is there before you!" the voice continued without more definite designation. "She is young and beautiful—a beautiful soul always; beautiful in face, too. She has beautiful, red hair—dark auburn and eyes very blue; and hands white and small and very smooth. There is a least bit of blemish—a scar on the back of her left hand. Yes; she says it is a scar; she shows how a dog, playing with her, bit her too hard. She holds the hand out to you and smiles; you used to kiss that scar, she means to say."
Jaccard had seized the sides of his chair and was staring, with lips wincing. "Laura?" he said, against his will.
"There is some one with her; a girl, young and beautiful, too. You never saw her as she is; she has developed since. You saw her, Laura wants to say, only when a baby; when they both died. She has hair like Laura and—"
Jaccard's breath whistled audibly. He made no other inquiry but sat struggling with himself; what had happened had come as a complete surprise to him and, for the moment at least, was so overwhelming as to drive from him all other thoughts. A moment later, when the Voice ceased to speak of Laura and her child, Jaccard turned and gazed at Lucas Cullen blankly and as if he had forgotten him; and as the client stared at his lawyer, Lucas Cullen's big form quivered.
Throughout the great room, every one sat very still. The lights in one of the wall brackets went out, leaving the left end of the rows of chairs only vaguely illumined by the ruddy glow from the center. A servant tiptoed from the rear of the room to restore the lights, but a whisper halted him and he retired. The whistle of Jaccard's breathing diminished; in the front row, the woman who had groped for the form of her child suddenly sobbed again and then controlled herself. Near Barney, the girls who once had giggled sat looking about with sobered, scared faces.
"That was Mr. Jaccard!" one confided, half frightened. "Mr. Jaccard." It seemed that the fact that Jaccard had been affected was particularly significant to every one; or perhaps it was that now every one in the room had witnessed some close friend in manifest agitation.
At the center of the room the medium sat, open-eyed, in the erect, vigorous posture which had distinguished her since entering the trance; her eyes roved from place to place, sometimes resting upon the sitters but more often gazing between them or before them as though observing presences which to others were invisible; but the Voice did not speak.
"I would like to learn whether communication can be obtained," said a smooth, perfectly assured, feminine voice; and Barney saw, not by any motion of her own but by the attention of those seated about her, that Mrs. Lucas Cullen, Junior, was speaking, "from Mrs. Oliver Cullen—Agnes Cullen—who was lost last September on the Gallantic and presumably is dead."
Barney's sinews seemed of themselves to draw taut. This demand plainly was part of the Cullen plan which his mother was there to counter; or rather, it had been part of Lucas Cullen's scheme. When he had nudged his son's wife a few minutes earlier, undoubtedly he had meant her to put this request; but now he did not want it. Jaccard's disturbance had so affected old Lucas that at first he had forgotten that he had given his daughter-in-law the signal; then he had tried to halt her; but too late. Barney saw him sit back irritably; he saw Jaccard, suddenly remembering his client, glance about sharply. Then Barney gazed at the forward row at the darkened end of the room where he believed his mother to be. But either he was mistaken in supposing her there, or this demand was not the one to draw her from concealment. No one moved, and no one spoke but the Voice which announced:
"All the while a spirit has been beside you; a man; a fine-looking man, middle-aged, with dark hair and brows; strong, blue eyes; looking down, not at you, but beside you on the right. He holds a book in his hand; he holds it up so Doctor Keppel can see. It is the Book of Mormon."
Evidently the Voice was replying to Mrs. Lucas Cullen, Junior. Others in the room took this as answer to her; she so understood it; beyond any doubt, Lucas Cullen at her right thus received it. He stiffened and stared for an instant, somewhat as Jaccard and others had done; then he hunched in his seat and waited.
"He is showing Doctor Keppel an open space outdoors; about it is a big woods. He has cleared away the trees in the space, and he has a little house of boards; new; no paint on it. There is a woman there; very young; he is young too; and very strong. It is long ago. Thirty years ago, Doctor Keppel thinks. No; he shakes his head; it is longer ago than that. It is more than forty years ago; more than that, he says. It is in M. He builds up an M—Mi—Michi—Michi-gan, he says it is. The young woman has a child; a little girl, he says. He kisses both of them. You are there; you come by; you are young, too; tall and very strong. You walk into the shack. He is showing the inside now; it is very plain; no furniture; just a bunk of boards; a table; a bench of boards. On the table is a book; the Book of Mormon; you pick it up; you drop it down and kick it; you kick it out the door. Something happens. Doctor Keppel gets wondering what; it is confused; he cannot see. He feels passion; strong anger; hate. Many men come—"
The "you" described by the Voice no longer was Mrs. Lucas Cullen, Junior. Clearly it was old Lucas Cullen, himself. If any one had doubt, a glance at old Lucas was quite sufficient to find it confessed; he sat, attempting to appear unmoved, indifferent. But Barney saw him grow rigid in his struggle with sensations he was attempting to down. Jaccard, from three seats off, appreciated this; his grandson and his daughter-in-law felt it, and she endeavored to relieve him.
"I asked," she said, her smooth, assured voice as steady as before, "for communication, if possible, with Agnes D. Cullen who—"
Lucas's hand came up with a jerk and thrust against her leg. "Hush!" he whispered to her. "Myra, hush!"
Undoubtedly he meant his aspirate only for her; but he had such poor control of his enunciation, as of the muscles of his thrusting hand, that the rasp of his voice reached over the room. Several of those seated in front turned about and gazed at him; every one at the sides and in the rear watched him. Few of them—if any of them, indeed—could know what dismay connected itself in Lucas Cullen's conscience with a vision of a quarrel in the Michigan woods with a man who possessed a Book of Mormon.
The Voice, which had halted, spoke on.
"Another stands near you. He was there before, He wants to say he has often been beside you; shorter with light hair and gray eyes; energetic looking; a good face. He builds up an L to show to you. He wants you to know without a doubt who he is. L—A-Y, he builds up. Another L— Now he shows a space with trees about; great trees; a forest; men cut some of the trees where is a stream of water and a mill. Doctor Keppel feels a vibrating and buzzing; it is a lumber mill. Over the door is a sign; Doctor Keppel can read it all now. H. L-A-Y-L-O-R. H. Laylor, it says. He nods; yes; that is it. It looks like long ago; everything new there; but many years ago. Now there is a mist like a fog. No; he shakes his head. It must be smoke; yes; he says it is smoke. Now Doctor Keppel feels like heat; flames; and much heat; roaring; great flames; a forest fire approaching the mill. He is there and tries to save the mill; he does not try to get away; not till too late—"
The Voice—full, emphatic, resonant—dominated the silent, darkened room. The Voice, which had all but materialized the presence of the departed loved ones to many others, was endowing—with all but materiality—phantoms of the past for Lucas Cullen. It made little difference in the awe with which others watched him whether they believed that the Voice viewed sights actually spread before the spectral dead or whether the Power which spoke was drawing these visions from the close, secret conscience of Lucas Cullen.
If this were so, it was against his will; they could all see him—at least Barney could see him—attempting by senseless physical constriction of the muscles of his body, of his hands, of his jaw and by the tight pressure of his lips, to prevent more being drawn from him.
"He knows," said the Voice, and every one knew that it had ceased to describe the fire and had returned to contemplation of the present spirit of him who had not got away, "he knows that all your life you wondered how much he suffered. He does not feel that now, he wants to say; at first he did. When he came over long ago, he thought to try to punish; before he died, he swore to; but over here, he did not. He tried to help, instead, the who lived to suffer."
Beside Lucas Cullen, his son's wife sat facing forward, assuming calmness, trying not to notice the panic palsy of the old man; Bennet for a while had attempted the same indifference; but now he abandoned it and, reaching across his mother, he seized his grandfather's arm.
"You're sick," he said. "Come out with me."
"It's queer, he thinks," continued the Voice, "how all your life you wondered about him—how long he suffered and didn't think about the other at all; the other who didn't send the torch. He lived, so he suffered all the time. His wife—the others, he means; and his child; the girl. Grew up too, she did; had a son; and you—"
"Come!" Bennet commanded, almost loudly. He arose and Jaccard arose, too; the word or the disturbance stopped the Voice; and, as they began getting Lucas Cullen on his feet, Barney arose and stepped down the line of chairs.
It was all contrary to his directions; but he knew that what now was occurring had not been foreseen. He realized that this commotion might end the trance; but as the Cullens determined to escape, he determined that they should not. He thrust Jaccard away from Lucas Cullen and, opposing Bennet, he pushed Lucas Cullen back into his seat.
"You're going to stay this out!"
Lucas gaped up at him. "You here?"
Barney caught his breath and glanced toward the medium who was sitting silent in the big chair. "They have been asking," he said distinctly, "for communication with Mrs. Oliver Cullen; can you obtain it for them now?"
The medium did not move; nor did her lips make reply; all about the room people lifted in their seats or stood up; there was a flutter of whispers; these ceased while every one watched to see what Lucas Cullen would do against the stranger who had commanded him; and there was silence again.
"I am here," slowly said a controlled, vibrant voice. "I am Agnes Cullen; I—"
Barney gazed into the face of Lucas Cullen who stared at him with eyes widened, with jaw dropped; the dim, pink light upon his skin lost a tint as the blood went from Lucas Cullen's face; and Barney knew that he had recognized the voice. Now that Barney heard the voice in its full power and energy, he knew that any one who once had heard it would never forget. All about were others who had known Agnes Cullen and now knew the tones speaking in the dark, still room; these, like Lucas Cullen, had believed her dead; and in this place, and at this moment of amazement, they received the voice as not embodied but as from a spirit.
"Direct voice!" some one gasped in awe; and others whispered it. "We're hearing a direct voice!—That's her voice!—I knew her!"
Bennet Cullen had recognized it and dropped down into his seat, astounded; his mother knew the voice; and Jaccard; most certainly of all, Lucas Cullen continued in the conviction that one dead was speaking. He knew why Agnes Cullen, though dead, should break all bonds to speak; he knew that the one who had just called for her was her son; and at this moment if the dead could possibly return, she would. And whatever any one dead could do, he credited Agnes Cullen, dead, with power to perform. Yes, she would come back!
"I am going to tell the account of Lucas Cullen and his family and of myself and my son," said the voice clearly and steadily. "It begins far back; yet is brief enough; and includes that which you have just heard and the effect of which on him you have seen. That, I shall explain. Sit down, every one, and be silent."
So far, even to Barney, the voice seemed to proceed from no located source. He had believed his mother present among the veiled women at the left of the rows where the lights had gone out; but such was the quality of her tone that it seemed not enunciated from one spot but pervasive throughout the room. No one else seemed able to place it; those who attempted looked first here, then there and about. Very probably, by this time, there were some who realized that not a fleshless soul, but a woman was speaking; yet, surely, the woman was Agnes Cullen who, after having vanished for half a year, had returned to deal a blow—whose nature she was about to reveal—to her enemy, Lucas Cullen, and probably to explain the reason for that long-known enmity and some of the secrets of her life.
Every one was silent.
"The beginning," continued the voice, "was when I was a child in the Michigan forest. My father was the man whose spirit just now was here holding the Book of Mormon—whose cabin Lucas Cullen entered to quarrel with him and kick the Book of Mormon from the doorway. My father was named Drane—Richard Drane. He was born in Joseph Smith's colony in Illinois; and when they were driven out, his parents went with the party under King Strang who chose to find refuge, not in flight to Utah, but in the northern woods. For safety from the vigilantes, they went to Beaver Island, just south of the Straits, where they founded Strang's kingdom. But they found no safety; again persecution. Drunken fishermen raided outlying farmhouses and insulted their women; hate and violence fed murder and revenge; my father's people fought back, showing false lights on the lake shores, wrecking boats—men said—stealing cargoes and murdering crews. King Strang enlisted the Indians, and when the government proceeded against him, fortified a small island in a little lake and planted cannon. It was all a miserable business, ending when Gentile settlers invaded Beaver Island, shot Strang, burned the forts and tabernacle of the Kingdom, sacked the settlements and scattered the Believers. Most went west; but my father, then only seventeen, stayed in the State, clinging to the best of the belief in which he had been born but discarding the worst. He cleared a farm in the woods, married a Gentile girl from Big Rapids, and was living an honorable, useful life when he crossed the path of Lucas Cullen who recently had arrived to make his fortune in the forest."
The source of the voice was discovered. It came from that darkened end of the room where Barney had supposed his mother to be; and, as people craned about or stood to see the speaker, she arose and, having cast off her veil and the dark coat she had worn, she stood a little apart, dressed all in white, with the dim glow from the center of the room falling vaguely upon her face and figure, while women and men made recognition.
"Mrs. Cullen!—Agnes!—Mrs. Oliver Cullen!—She's here!—That's she!—Why did she—How changed! How could it be—"
It seemed to Barney that every one must recognize that she was before them in the body; yet so strong had been the spell of the illusion that a few still saw her as a phantom. Lucas Cullen did.
Not only Barney detected this, but Bennet and his mother who now realized the truth.
"It's Agnes, father!" his son's wife shook him. "It's she—come back!"
"Yes," he said. "Yes; I see!" But he understood that his daughter-in-law saw Agnes too as a materialized spirit.
Barney forgot him and watched his mother. This was her moment, he knew, for which all her life she had schooled herself; this was the effort for which, in these last days, she had been preparing and driving herself; now she was to expend that, stored within her, of which even to him she had dared not speak. Probably the séance had not offered the precise opportunity which she had hoped for; undoubtedly Barney's own interference with the departure of the Cullens had been unexpected; but Barney was sure that, on the whole, it was as she had wished. When she spoke on, he recognized that her deliberate, careful words were being recited from rehearsals within herself repeated through years of waiting for such a moment.
"My father," she said, "had abandoned farming to take out lumber, cutting from land he had homesteaded and from surrounding sections which he bought. You could buy timber land cheap in those days—two dollars and a half an acre; the State practically gave it away; but there were men who thought it foolish to pay the government anything at all for the great trees on the State lands. They bought one section and set up a mill and cut over the square miles all around—eight sections or ten or twenty; as long and as broad as they dared. Lucas Cullen was one of these men. He had nothing against my father until my father bought from and paid the government for five hundred acres of standing timber which he found, when he came to it, that Lucas Cullen was cutting. This caused trouble for Cullen when my father asked for a refund on his purchase money; not actually serious trouble; for Cullen had too much influence and too much power of intimidation for that. But it brought Cullen's anger on my father; Cullen couldn't see why the Mormon must be so particular; if he had found five hundred acres of his own being cut, why didn't he say nothing and just cut off a thousand of the State land somewhere else?
"But the Mormon Drane couldn't do that; and the Mormon Drane—whatever lies Cullen told against him—had one wife only. She was my mother. She knew that Richard Drane had been reared a Mormon; but, because of the hatred and fear bred by Strang's Kingdom, he had concealed it from others till Lucas Cullen found it out and spread it about with lies—lies—lies. One of the lies, which proved in the end the most dangerous, was that the Mormon had lust for the wife of another lumberman, Henry Laylor."
As she spoke, Agnes Cullen came forward and showed herself more plainly in the light. No one—not even Lucas Cullen, in his guilt-clouded consciousness—believed her a phantom now. Agnes Drane, his enemy, had returned to stand before him and accuse him to his family and neighbors and intimates and her own. He could reason, if he halted his whirling thoughts, that she had not been away in the realm of the dead; but his brain was not functioning rationally. He knew she was returned in the flesh; yet his alarm endowed her with the advantages of association with the dead of whom she spoke and who, a few minutes before, the Voice had identified as present before him,—Richard Drane, the Mormon, and now Henry Laylor!
Lucas Cullen sat very stiff and still in his chair with his son's wife and his grandson on one side; on the other side, in the seat which Myra's acquaintance had given to Barney Loutrelle, sat the son of Agnes Drane. About them, every one sat or stood very quietly, watching intently Agnes Drane and Lucas Cullen and his daughter-in-law and his grandson and his lawyer and the stranger next him who had prevented his escape and who had asked, the third time, for Mrs. Oliver Cullen. In the very center of the room the medium, Mrs. Brand, had come out of the trance, easily and without demonstration; discovering that some extraordinary event was in progress, she remained seated as an observer.
"Originally Lucas Cullen told the lie about Richard Drane and Laylor's wife only to harm the man who had made him trouble and to injure a rival; for Henry Laylor had built a mill only a few miles from Cullen's near a little place called Galilee; he bid for the same timber and the same gangs to get it out, and for the same bottoms to take the lumber to Chicago. It cost Lucas Cullen; and it cost Henry Laylor; but neither would let the other drive him away; so they fought till the dry summer of the great fires, and Henry Laylor was burned out; and, as you have just heard, he was killed. Perhaps he injured himself and was surrounded by fire; perhaps he stayed too long and smoke overcame him; exactly how he died, no one knew. Lucas Cullen—you have just heard—wondered all his life; Laylor could not tell then; perhaps he could not now. But he was killed in that fire—murdered.
"For Lucas Cullen had that fire set; he met near Galilee a man in his pay—a sawyer named Quinlan—and sent him to light shavings upwind from Laylor's mill. Probably not with intention of killing Laylor; just to burn him out. But when it was known that Laylor was killed, and that a man had been seen setting a torch to the timber, Lucas Cullen moved quickly to save himself; he said that the man who had set the fire was the Mormon Drane who wanted to kill Laylor to get his wife. It was a savage, lustful lie of the sort which excited men like to believe; they went to get the Mormon and lynch him; then Lucas Cullen—partly to save Drane from being murdered, let us think, but partly also to stop suspicion swinging to his guilty self—made a great play for justice and for a trial for the Mormon and stopped the lynching—and perjured Richard Drane into the cell where he died—my father—for a crime which Lucas Cullen and his man Quinlan had done.
"Is it not so, Lucas Cullen? Stand up and deny it, if not so! Stand before these people or sit there and speak and say to the soul of Henry Laylor, who stands before you, that you had no hand in his murder! Say to the spirit of Richard Drane, there before you with the Book of Mormon, that for his own crime—not yours—you sent him to die in prison! Say to the soul of your own servant, James Quinlan—J. Q. with his ever flaming torch—that, when at last he threatened to turn against you and confess his crime, for the sake of going into the next world clean—say that you, through your man Kincheloe, did not kill him a few weeks ago at Resurrection Rock! Say it is not so!"
She stopped and waited for answer; but Lucas Cullen neither stirred nor replied. She had swung the eyes of every one from herself to him; and his eyes, only, moved—his small, keen, crafty eyes darted from left to right and back again, resting nowhere, meeting no one, ceaselessly seeking for void in which to look; and finding all space filled with the eyes of the living or—who knew?—with eyes of the dead.
The room had become a court with Lucas Cullen the prisoner accused and on trial; and as though his son's wife and his grandson realized that, without response, he could not go free, they ceased to pull at him; moreover, Barney Loutrelle sat very close to him. Barney did nothing; but Jaccard gazed at Barney, and Jaccard also refrained from interfering.
And the others now realized that they composed the court before which Mrs. Oliver Cullen was haling Lucas Cullen for murder,—for one murder done long ago but also for another done recently and for which, as they gazed at Lucas Cullen, they saw he could not deny guilt. So the original sensations which had swept over them first when they seemed to hear Agnes Cullen's spirit speak and then when they knew that Agnes Cullen herself had returned as though from the dead, were lost in this new amazement.
"My father did not die for many years," Barney heard his mother say. "My mother worked to support herself and me and for money which constantly she paid to lawyers for pleas to get my father free. She tried too hard; she died when I was a young girl, and I took up the useless attempts. The way to accomplish something, I thought, was to watch the Cullens; Lucas Cullen and his brother John, who knew too much of Lucas's character, already had fallen out. I changed my name and came to Chicago to watch Lucas Cullen; he left Chicago and built his house at St. Florentin; and I went to live near there. I was not sure at first whether or not he knew me when we met.
"That was the summer before his daughter married, when he had her friend, the Marquis de Chenal, as his guest at St. Florentin. So De Chenal happened to meet me one day; he left Lucas Cullen's house several times after that to find me. He attracted me, too. I thought he loved me."
Her voice for a moment failed; and Barney could remain in his seat no longer. While she had held complete mastery of herself, while her will-supported strength had sufficed to keep her controlled, clear in thought and speech and purpose, while she had been arraigning to judgment the enemy of all her life, Barney had made himself obey her. But now, not her will, but the power of her body to obey her will was weakening; and what she was saying no longer contained the tone of direct accusation. For the moment, at least, she was ignoring her charge against her enemy for another purpose not yet fully plain.
"I told De Chenal why I was as I was, how my father was in prison, falsely accused by Lucas Cullen. De Chenal swore to help me; he was hot in my cause," she continued. "He swore to justify my father and punish Lucas Cullen. First, he would marry me. I loved and believed him; perhaps he believed himself in those days; I was very young and he was young and—we went to a priest—"
Barney began to make his way toward her. Now she was stripping her soul before these gaping people, not to punish Lucas Cullen, but to acknowledge him, her son. Barney heard their whispers; they seemed to have forgotten that, at the beginning, she had spoken of her son,—she whom they had known only as childless. But now they remembered; and they reminded one another.
"Lucas Cullen learned of it, but gave out that his guest had gone on a hunting trip," she pressed on. "He followed and finally found us. His money, of course, was an influence; I had nothing; De Chenal owed two million francs. He had forgotten that. Also Lucas Cullen showed that I had lied to him about my father; it was plain that the Mormon had been a murderer. Had not Lucas Cullen, at great risk to himself, fought for a fair trial? How could De Chenal go back to his creditors with a dowerless bride and to his family with the daughter of a convict? Lucas Cullen made his escape easy. I was under age; legal necessities had been ignored. Moreover, was I not the daughter of Drane, the Mormon murderer? He married De Chenal to his daughter, gave him money and packed him off. It was easier than before to make me an outcast. The next spring, my son was born."
"Mother!" Barney cried, forbidding her, as he stepped toward her under the light. From the other side of the room, where she had been, women called her name. But she did not hear them.
"This is my son!" she cried, her hands clasping Barney's. "My son lost to me that summer of his birth because I was made an outcast but now—now restored to me!"
So her son caught her in his arms, as her strength collapsed; with the aid of some woman, unknown to him but who lovingly called her "Agnes" and kissed her cheek, he bore his mother through the door at the back of the room and away from the hubbub behind them to where they could be quiet and alone.