Miss Mollie Madison was dressed in a cream-coloured frock. It was decidedly daring with her emeralds and her blazing hair. But it satisfied the eye of Simon Iff, and that was the great point at issue.
For a terrible disaster had befallen him. His colleague, Captain Lascelles of the British Navy, had fallen sick, and there was nothing to be done in the way of regular work till he recovered. He had therefore the option of going into a trance, or of finding some amusement. The words "Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to do," had come into his mind, and he, taking this as an inspiration, and reflecting that no mischief could be so mischievous as Miss Mollie Madison, had asked her to come round.
"Tell me anything but the Old Old Story," he exclaimed, "I'm bored to tears; don't you know any old thing like that Pasquaney Puzzle?"
She went to fetch her vanity bag, and proceeded to extract a letter.
"Dolores wrote me this the other day," she said, and began to read.
I must just jot down this while I think of it. Dearest, don't, don't, don't make any mistake. They're all alike. It bores them--you know what I mean--now don't be angry, because it's true. So prepare yourself, darling, for the very worst. What you must do is to work up all the unsolved mysteries in the papers--the real ones, of course--and if you ever see signs, bring one out, and tide him over.
Your loving Dolores."
"The infernal genius of this cat!" cried Simon. "How dare you flaunt your very trickery in my face? I must be a lost soul."
She shook her finger, the one with the great cabochon emerald, at him.
"Do you wonder we're not truthful, when you talk like that when we are?"
"I admit that when a man understands a woman, he tries to put an ocean or two between them. However, you had better 'tide me over'. Qualis artifex pereor!"
"Listen to the tale of A. B. Smith of Potter's Place, Massachusetts. Four years ago, June 23, 1907, at precisely 8 o'clock on a Sunday evening, came the climax. One week earlier, A. B. Smith had reached the fifty third year of his age. During all that period nothing had ever happened to him, or to his. His parents were farmers, decent people in moderate circumstances, his uncle an Episcopalian minister. Potter's Place is a cross-road, of no importance or interest to anybody beyond the local worthies. There is a railway station, where the less fortunate or skilful trains occasionally stop.
"A. B. Smith inherited his father's farm, and his uncle's library. He had a good education in Boston, and took a mild interest in butterflies. He married Matilda, the only daughter of Farmer Jones across the valley, when he was 20 and she 21. Their union was blessed by two children, a son William and a daughter Mary. The birth of Mary had been a serious risk for the mother; she lay ill for months. Two operations were necessary to save her life, and she was never her own woman again, but sank rapidly into age and infirmity.
"With advancing years A. B. Smith became a substantial man. He had no energy or ambition; he just drifted into prosperity with the rest of the country; he became more absorbed in reading and in entomology; and, leaving the farm in William's very capable hands, built himself a house on the side of a hill, a mile from the next dwelling. It is situated on a grassy slope, with hardly any trees. It is a substantial building, but not very large; Mary and her mother tended it without assistance. They moved to this house in 1899.
"William, assisted by a capable manager, lived on in the old farmhouse. He was 30 years of age in 1907; Mary was a year younger. Neither of the children had any more imagination than the parents. They had not even fallen in love, though William was supposed to be 'getting acquainted' with the innkeeper's daughter. That is, he called on her most evenings, and said nothing particular. On Sundays, meeting his family at church, he would invariably return to the new house for dinner. He would pass the afternoon in relating the news of the week, for his father rarely left the garden, which he was very fond of tending in an amateur way, and after an evening collation, walk home to the farm to bed. In fine weather his family would walk part of the way with him.
"A. B. Smith had suffered slightly from rheumatism, and now and then (though by no means always) walked with a stick.
"On June 23, 1907, this placid ritual had reached the point where they were all leaving the house. The evening was fine, warm, and windless. They left the door open behind them.
"A. B. Smith, walking on his daughter's arm behind his wife and son, was just thirty two yards from the door when he said, 'I think I'll get my cane, Mame,' and went back. The others waited. They saw him enter the house. He never came out again; from that day to this there has been absolutely no clue or trace of him of any kind."
"Is that all?" said Simon, seeing her fold up the paper.
"Very uninteresting. You don't tell me a single pertinent fact. Where was the stick he went to get, in the first place? What about other exits to the house, for the second? Then--oh, there are fifty points I want to know!"
"I don't know about the stick. I saw the house, though. There is only the one entrance; the back door merely leads to the woodpile. It is a long one-story building, cut into the hillside for shelter. It would take a very fine climber to get up the perpendicular shale behind the house, and nobody could possibly do it unobserved. The family naturally enough had turned to watch at once for the father's return; the old lady called out only a minute or so after he had entered, impatient of delay; and she sent Mary to look almost immediately afterwards, as he did not reply. She could not have taken a minute to fail to find him, in that small house; and she came out, with awe and wonder already upon her, to raise the alarm, within five minutes--I feel sure--of his passing within the door. There is no question of any distraction of their attention; they were all looking at him, from the very moment of his leaving them, and watching for his return. It was like a Vanishing Lady trick on the stage."
"There is certainly very little to take hold of in the case. There are of course millions of other facts quite as unimportant as those you have told me, and any of these might supply the missing key. But, on the facts as you state them, the main line of our solution is quite obvious. Tell me some more though."
"We went through the old man's affairs very carefully. There was no change in the routine of his business, had not been for years. He had very few visitors, and these were casual gossips. Mary was a plain flat-chested colourless woman, and had never had an affair of any kind or an offer of marriage, though she was a good match, for the district. There had been no quarrel in the family, barring the usual petty jarrings and scoldings from which I suppose no family is free. After the event they settled down into a new routine, undistrubed at least up to last week when I put through an inquiry. You see, there's no incident to take hold of, no motive..."
"Ah, but that is just where you fall down, my fairy skater! Cities afford us few of these inexplicable crimes, so called. In cities, people are always in touch with the external world, with 'reality'. They need money, or they desire something connected with others, and by finding out their circumstances we find out them. But in the country where 'nothing ever happens' the individual is thrown back upon himself. He learns to live in the 'imaginary' world created by his own 'psyche'. He discovers (in and through symbolic form) the realm of the 'unconscious', as Professor Jung calls it, and his actions are determined by fantastic motives based on hereditary peculiarities, or in the accidents--so-called--of his physical and psychical constitution. Thus--I am perfectly serious--a man might murder a perfectly inoffensive stranger because of something that happened, quite unknown to him, two thousand years ago. This world of the unconscious is so vast, so unexplored, that its laws are hardly guessed. The little that we have discovered is in great part not yet accepted. In fact, we who accept it at all are still quarrelling about many fundamental principles, and attract the scorn of the pedant. However, we are proving our case--such as it is--in the good old way of science, by our ability to predict the future. Our present purpose, though, seems to be to explain the past, which is nearly as useful, and I am sure that a dark tailor-made suit will be less conspicuous than that adorable cream frock--in Massachusetts."
Miss Mollie Madison was used by this time to unexpected terminations to the psychoanalyst's little sermons; so she rose quietly, and, remarking that she would be back in an hour with her travelling bag, waved an airy farewell.
"Good," nodded the mystic, "and tell Dobson to be round with the Napier."
Dobson was an English peasant from Simon Iff's place in Yorkshire. He possessed all the impenetrable stupidity of the type, with its equally empenetrable subtlety. He was one of those people who after a course of being swindled for several months by a particularly smart and unscrupulous Jew, would leave his oppressor wondering at exactly what stage of the transaction he had lost all his money! Before the age of the motor, he had been a groom dealing a little in horses as a side line; and what he had once done to some inhabitants of Aberdeen is not a safe topic in the city. In particular, he had the art of drawing people out by the simple process of pretending to fail to understand them. They felt they had to prove it to him. In about an hour's conversation, he would extract the story of his life from the most taciturn of mortals, and leave his victim with the impression that he had told nothing, and been neither comprehended nor believed. Simon Iff often used him to pump people with whom he himself could not be seen talking without arousing comment. He was also useful to his master when it was necessary to do something that looked like an accident. On this particular adventure, it was his clumsiness with the car that was to blame for the breakdown at Potter's Place, and the determination of Iff, as a surly old grouch, calling himself Dr. Hodgson, to spend the night at the Inn. Miss Mollie Madison was well remembered by the local yokels, but that couldn't be helped; for Simon needed her as a link between topographical and historical knowledge. She asked with just the desired degree of disinterested interest if any more had been heard of A. B. Smith.
Nothing could have been more unsatisfactory. The disappearance had left no more effect of any kind than a natural death could have done. Mary and her mother had indeed left the house on the hill, and gone to live with William on his farm; also, there was a rumour that the new minister was 'getting acquainted' with Mary, and he being an impetuous youth from Chicago, it was thought that a marriage might result in six or seven years. William himself was to marry the innkeeper's daughter in the fall.
Mary's age being mentioned, Simon Iff ventured to remark that it was strange that she had not been married earlier. It appeared that she had "never been of any account." She was quite a regular girl in every way, only without personality. She had the "old maid's" temperament, even as a child. She had never given any trouble, or taken active part in any other person's affairs. She was considered a comfort to her parents, obedient, careful, and agreeable. She had been a capital scholar, and was clever at reciting Longfellow and Whittier. Her prudence was the most notable thing about her; and though without love affairs of her own, the young men and maidens sometimes came for advice in their own perplexities. But the disappearance of her father might be called the first thing that had ever really happened to her.
William was her equivalent in terms of masculinity; but he was more popular than his sister. He had been a good deal in Boston; he was a 'mixer', in a mild way. He had the name of swallowing more whiskey and showing less of its effects than any man in Potter's Place. He had been soused properly, once, long ago, a debauch which ended in a fight; and his shame had taught him to manage his liquor.
So much that the innkeeper was able to contribute to the problem before Miss Mollie Madison retired to her room. Simon Iff went to smoke his pipe along the street, and was joined at the corner by Dobson. The latter had picked out a youth with a wicked eye, and struck what he considered a rich oilfield. His few boastful words about the naughtiness of New York had led the native to disclose that Potter's Place was the true Modern Babylon. Dobson didn't believe him. The youth went into details about sundry periodical excursions to Boston; and--oh, indeed, he could prove it--he had no less a partner in infamy than the respected William Smith. He wouldn't have told any inhabitant of Potter's Place, but this New Yorker had to be shewn. Oh no! William Smith wasn't wasting his money; any fool could be wicked in Boston with a fat wad; but he and William were the Original Mephisto Troupe; the girls fell for them, sure thing, mister.
Simon Iff appeared more than gratified by this discourse, and he gave Dobson his heartiest good-night. But it was a sad and sleepless night for himself. He knew it would be useless to go to bed; so he determined to walk to the house on the hill, now untenanted and fallen into disrepair. He explored the ruin with the aid of an electric torch. Everything confirmed the tale as he had heard it. He walked slowly back, smoking pipe after pipe; and even when he threw himself without undressing upon the bed, he continued that sedative occupation.
At breakfast he was silent, save to propose a walk to Miss Mollie Madison. She knew his mood better than to do more than nod. When they got clear of the village, he threw off his gloom with a wide gesture, as if it had been an actual cloak, and said: "Mollie, my dear, I am going to have a very dull day. I almost envy you your exciting task of kidnapping the parson."
"What on earth do you mean?"
"Yours, my poor child, is a long and sad story. Bereft of both parents at an early age, you became the ward of a wicked uncle, my detested self, and all your millions come to me if you remain unmarried at the age of 25. For your parents, unhappy orphan, were conscientious Eugenists, and deplored Race Suicide. Your uncle has therefore cruelly kept you from the sight of men, and, in despair, you are about to marry Dobson if you can find a minister. Will this impetuous young parson from Chicago do the trick? It occurs to me, dear child, that he may be reluctant. He is a climber, or he would hardly be after plain Mary Smith. It may occur to him that millions instead of thousands, and beauty instead of plainness, and social elegance instead of bumpkin crudeness, may lie within a bold man's grasp. At this point you sigh, and say, aside, you only wish it were not Dobson.
"Child, he will fall for it; for he too is a simple soul, or he would never have got to such a Place as Potter's.
"Pillowed upon his manly breast, you proceed to point out the difficulties. You will prompt him to explain to Dobson that there is some hitch about the law in this particular state, so that the only way to do it is to steal the car, and make a regular elopement of it. Suggest Scots Law in Canada, possibly. Off you go, then, anywhere, anywhere out of Potter's Place. Dobson will find a way to put the Lord's humble servant out of the way of telegraph offices and such for one week, which is the extent of my little bet with myself, and you rejoin me this evening at the Copley Plaza. Register as Miss Carmichael. Selah."
"The programme pleases. But what do I get?"
"The right to open the letter which I have mailed this morning to your New York address, seven days from now, at high noon, by the pale light of the full moon, aha!"
"I suppose you have found out about A. B. Smith, then?"
"Well, not altogether. The case is old; I have only one hope of explaining the past; this is a little prediction about the future."
"What is it?"
"Innocent, innocent child!"
She could have bitten her tongue off for the indiscretion.
"I shall fall asleep shortly," he went on; "that will be your chance to escape."
She nodded, all on fire with the idea of her inexplicable adventure. Half-an-hour later, in the parlour of the hotel, Simon Iff's pipe fell from his lips to the floor. She picked it up. He did not stir. "Hush!" said she to the innkeeper, who could see into the room from his place at the bar, "don't disturb him. If he wants me, I've gone for a little walk."
With much obvious stealth, calculated to the diplomatic atmosphere of Potter's Place, she found Dobson in the garage. Prey to a thousand fears, registered with all the exaggeration of a moving picture, they got out the car, and drove out to the parson's house.
Miss Mollie Madison had a very easy job of it. Her dazzling beauty with its frank yet delicate voluptuousness, her jewels, her distinction, would have turned the head of any man. She was not a girl to play any game half-heartedly; she swept him clear off his feet, told him that she loved him at first sight, proved it with a kiss and a hug that could hardly have been matched in Buda-Pesth, and had him safely in the car within half-an-hour. Dobson made fifty-eight miles an hour through the main street of Potter's Place, the awakened 'uncle' standing in front of the hotel, and swearing like a Mississippi pilot. He got no sympathy from the romantic villagers. He rushed to the telegraph office, and dispatched frantic messages to the police of all the towns in the neighbourhood, except those on Dobson's route. Ultimately, after a very fine imitation of an apoplectic fit, he boarded the train for Boston, and screamed his wrongs aloud to everybody in the car.
At the Copley Plaza he was Simon Iff again, and slept till he was informed on the telephone that a Miss Carmichael wished to see him.
It was dinner-time; the evening papers devoted comic columns to the escapade. But Simon Iff was in his most serious mood. He talked of Life and Death, of Responsibility and of Justice. His theme was mainly that all actions bear in themselves their retribution for good or ill, but only in seed, so to speak. It was circumstance that made that seed increase, and bring forth fruit. Consequently, it was no crime to bring about the flowering of such seed. He recalled to her the case of the Marsden Murders, how he had put into the mind of the guilty lawyer the thought that would drive him mad with fear, the case of Phineas Burns, and that of Aminadab Spratt.
"Should I reproach myself?" he ended. "Where the law cannot reach a criminal, I have no right to take that law into my own hands. But have I not the right to let loose the latent Justice in that criminal's own soul?"
Mollie agreed easily, not comprehending any importance in his speech.
He suddenly flared out at her with two sharp words, and a flung-forth finger.
But she did not remember it. He came down the next morning to find her at the breakfast-table, a newspaper open before her, her face white and drawn, her big eyes dreadful with black rims, and the tears dried at their source with the excess of her affliction.
"Blame me!" he said, and shook her by the shoulder roughly, so that she winced. A dry sob answered him.
He did not need to look at the newspaper. "That," said he, "was the purport of the letter I mailed yesterday." Her wonder momentarily overcame her anguish.
"How did you know?" she cried, and covered her face. "No! no! I don't want to know; but why, why, why did you make me do it?"
He sat down at her side. "There are people about. Command yourself. Oh, but I am a fool. I should have known you would never understand the connexion."
"Pull yourself together! Can't you see that this is merely the sequel to the A. B. Smith mystery?"
"I can only see that I have played a mad jest, and brought a woman to her death."
"There's hope yet. I've been thinking it out, and I'm morally sure she hasn't burnt it."
"Burnt it? Burnt what?"
"The story of the Mysterious Disappearance of A. B. Smith. Come now; I'll get the coroner on long-distance, and tell him to look for it. What does her note to him say, by the way?"
He picked up the paper.
"Ah, here it is. 'Sir, I beg you to pardon a most unhappy woman for the trouble to which she is about to put you. Respectfully, Mamie Smith.' Oh, this is more to the point. To her brother. 'Dearest William, in my will I have left to you all my share in the property. But I ask you to get the best publisher you can find in Boston to bring out my poems, in the manuscript volume in the cupboard over my bed. The keys are round my neck. Forgive me for this act, but I could not bear life any more. Kiss mother for me. Your loving but broken-hearted sister, Mame.' Hum! nothing about any diary--oho! methinks I smell powder. We must read those poems, you and I, Mollie. I have an idea. I will ask friend Mullins, who is most certainly all that is desirable in a publisher of belles lettres, to let me run up to Potter's Place on his behalf. Come, let us telephone; no matter for breakfast; we will catch the morning train."
"I am bringing you into the next act," said Simon, "contrary to tact, to prudence, to good sense. There will be all kinds of a row when you appear, especially without our friendly parson, who, by the way, Dobson informs me, is quite reconciled to his sad fate. He has a nice little wad to console him, and, anyhow, he can hardly return to his flock, can he? Abduction is his Scylla, and laughter his Charybdis, if he goes back. So we eliminate him. But then why bring you up there? Why print a duodecimo edition of Hell, with plates, half morocco, when it isn't in the lease necessary? Because, o blue-eyed babe, I want all those naturally silent parties to go up in the air about it. I want excitement, and gossip, and the rest of it. We are still far from the solution of the problem of A. B. Smith. At least, we've got to prove our case to the hilt; otherwise, we're in a rather critical postion. We've done--apparently--a lot of moral, and possibly a little bit of legal, wrong. We must do a good deal more than put up the argument which the enemies of the Jesuits falsely attribute to them; that the end justifies the means. Well, here's Potter's Place; for I perceive the noble Dobson at the wheel, amidst a crowd who are not quite sure whether to lynch him. How perfectly jolly!"
Dobson himself was as indifferent to the gesticulating people as if he had been blind and deaf. His aplomb, aided by that of the magician and the maiden, was triumphant. Nothing happened. A pleasant time was had by all.
Twenty minutes later the Napier drew up at the door of the farm of William Smith. Simon Iff rapidly explained his business, in the most formal terms.
The coroner was with Smith, who had spent the hour or so previous in abusing Mollie, whom he perceived dimly as the cause of the catastrophe. At the sight of her he broke out into a string of curses. Iff stopped him with a commanding gesture. "Curse me, if you will," said he; "this lady acted at my request."
Smith was not a person of marked perspecuity; but he saw, even in his anger, that he had come suddenly upon an unintelligible motive; and his wrath fell instantly. "What's the big idea?" he said, almost with indifference.
"Mr. Smith," said Simon, "I am come to clear up the mystery of your father's disappearance." Something in his manner prevented the obvious retort of incredulity. This strange man, who had come so violently into his placid life, not only might, but must know something. Else, why should he have come? The pretext of publishing dropped out of sight without causing surprise or suspicion.
The magician was pleased; the reaction was better than he had expected.
"Come then," he continued, "let us get this famous manuscript. I will most particularly ask Dr. Upton here to take note of what I shall have to say during the reading."
The coroner nodded. "Pleased, I'm sure." They went into the dead woman's bedroom. The body still lay where life had left it. "She knew her anatomy," said the doctor; "a wound with a pair of common scissors, but as straight to the heart as the Mayos could have done. Never saw a neater job."
He took three keys from the dead throat. The cupboard, (in that distant simple place!) had a Yale lock. Within was a safe. Within the safe they found a second iron box, and again the key was of elaborate and expensive make. Everybody began to understand that such precautions must have been taken to guard something held of incalculable value.
But the second box, lined with cedar wood, contained only a heavy sheet of rose-coloured silk, which was wrapped about a small book of the kind that very fashionable stationers sell to rich women for memoranda. The binding was of deep blue polished morocco, the paper hand-made.
Simon Iff took the volume in his hands with a certain reverence.
"Before I open this," he said, "I will prove my right to be here. We know that this book contains poems, and that Miss Smith valued them most highly. We know no more; but I will say more, for the satisfaction of Mr. Smith." He turned to the brother. "Your sister was careless and clumsy with the pen?"
"Yes, sir, she never liked the trouble of writing."
"These poems will be found to be in the most careful and delicate caligraphy. She was a prosaic, matter-of-fact woman, very patient and humble, inclined to avoid notice?"
"Quite right, mister."
"These poems will be found high-flown, passionate, romantic, and above all proud. Now then to the proof."
He opened the book. The first page was his vindication. It was written with a crow quill, ornamented with flourishes which wandered, like strange vines, over the page, in such a fashion that the contour of the design was as it were a symbolic representation of the title itself. Simon read it out.
"'The Book of the Heart's Blood of the Lily of God.' Do you understand?" he asked.
"I was never one for this highbrow stuff."
"Well," said Iff, "it means that she regarded herself as a being divinely pure, perhaps even uniquely pure, and that she had pressed out her sorrow, like rich wine, into this book. Let us go on."
The second page bore the author's name, and a date: May, 1891. Beneath this, in brackets, 'My first poem'. Then the title 'The Angel of the Sun.' Simon proceeded to read it.
'I am he the soul that dwelleth
In the Sun mine habitation.
I must cloke myself with glory,
Clouds of burning flame and
Lest the people of the planets
See my face and die of terror,
Hear my voice and die of terror,
O be silent! O be silent!
Such a little slip might slay them,
Just a glimpse or just a whisper.
For I am the soul that dwelleth
In the Sun mine habitation.'
"Now what is the meaning of this poem? Why does a girl of twelve or thirteen occupy herself with such ideas? She uses the first person, yet who is speaking? The most glorious being possible to imagine, so glorious that the photosphere of the Sun himself is a thick mask upon his face. Yet this being is afraid! He fears that mortals might see or hear him, and die of terror.
"Now what does this really mean? Here is a child of unusual plainness, rather despised, feeling herself already an inferior person..."
"Why yes, she was never of any account."
"So, being sensitive, she created a psychic compensation. She deliberately retired from reality, and identified herself with what is really little less than God. Probably she would have made it God but that the idea of Him was bound up too closely with the minds of the people whom she hated, and so had become repellent. It was God, too, who had made her weak, plain, feminine; so she had to invent a 'Saviour' of her own. She had to be very careful, too, not to let out this secret life of hers; so she invents a reason for her own shyness and reticence and fear of others. If those who tortured her guessed for one second Who She Really Was, they would fall dead with terror. Thus her social weakness is pictured as the virtue--she was taught to consider it as such--of compassion. Let us turn over."
The next poem was entitled 'Knut Olaf' with a date two years later. It was in ballad form, quatrains, and began by describing the power of this great Norseman, how he slew the Dragon of the Sea, and made war on giants and kings. At last he comes to America; the Red Man resists him in vain. But he meets his Waterloo in the end. "Now, listen to this particularly," said Simon, who had been reading out only a few lines here and there to give the general idea.
"'Spare me', the father cried, 'and I
Will give thee for thy bride
My daughter, the White Butterfly,
That is my country's pride.'
'Nay, I will take her 'gainst thy will,
For she is beautiful.'
Knut Olaf swung his axe with skill,
And split the father's skull.
But then came forth White Butterfly
Dressed in her silk attire;
Knut Olaf laughed 'Come here, and I
Will tell thee my desire.'
She came, but oh! to end my tale!
Never a word she said.
She simply lifted her white veil.
The Viking fell down dead."
"Exactly the same idea as in the first poem; but we have a touch of the sex-symbol, as she is now of age to use it. Here is the incarnation of all might and violence, the world-conqueror, slain in an instant by the mere lifting of White Butterfly's veil. Kindly note the complete absence of any sense of humour in this passage! Note too, please, that there is a distinct feeling of satisfaction in allowing Olaf to split her father's skull. Let us go on."
The third poem in the book was entitled 'A Dream.' It began, shamelessly enough:
"Here, where the forest primeval once sheltered the tent
of the redman."
and continued, less obviously,
"We may be thankful to see nice farms and churches
Yet, in the night there may come, to those who are
fitted to see them,
People pure in the heart, like the moon, some dreams.
And I dreamt one,
And I cannot imagine at all why it seemed so exceedingly
It was in the fall of the year, and the trees
were losing their verdure.
I went through the woods, and the leaves on the
ground were all of them corpses.
Then I came to the town where my father was
selling a diamond,
But nobody wanted to buy it; but then came a
squab, and he took it
Away in his beak to the woods, and buried it
under the corpses
And sat on it all through the winter, and then,
when I wanted to know most
Of all what would happen, I woke, and I found
that the pillow was moistened
With tears. Ah, what did it mean? It was really
"I want only to call attention to the fact that in the first scene she is the one live being in a world of corpses; in the next, her father is trying to sell a diamond, a clean and precious jewel, unvalued except by a squab (or dove; connected in her mind, of course, with the Holy Ghost). She herself has really disappeared in this scene; in truth, she has become the diamond. And though she is sure that some glorious fortune is in store for her, the feeling of doubt enters, and prevents a triumphant conclusion to the dream, which therefore makes her cry.
"Hullo, here's prose. August 1895.
"'Diarfa saw eh LLA fo em debbor sah rehtaf ym niatrec si ti
llik ot hguone gnorts eb dluohs yeht tsel syob owt evah ot
eht meeder ot nesohc ma I live lla si nam suht mih
deyortsed eb lliw nam snaem siht yb ytinigriv yb dlrow'*
"She may have thought that a sentence with the words written backwards was undecipherable. Poe is unknown in America as yet. Now what is the next lyric? 'The Waterfall.'
"'I loathe thy ceaseless clamour in my ears,
O waterfall! I would thy noisome flood
That speaks to me of evil and of fears
Were turned, as Moses turned the Nile, to blood.
Nay, I would rather have thee turned to glassy steel,
So to beat back the Sun in proud disdain;
For in thy motion and thy noise I feel
Only the threat of everlasting pain.'
"In a dream or a phantasy water usually means maternity. That idea is to her the climax of horror. Birth is the device by which nature perpetuates suffering--for to her the world now appears wholly evil. Of course, she did not know what she was writing. She thought of it only as a 'poem'. But to us who have the key the reference to Moses is highly significant. The blood is the safeguard. Yet there is still danger from which the subconscious mind shrinks. Nothing can really alleviate its anxiety but the cessation of the water altogether, its transformation into a glassy steel, which shall repel the assault even of the sun, the greatest of creative forces. It is a symbolic confirmation of the cipher, at least of part of it. Here's another lyric, same month: 'The Sun'.
"'O father of all woe, I will not deign
To plead with thee for universal pain.
I will remind thee only that thy face,
Red robber, is no match for icy space.
The time is coming when thy race so rash
Is run, and thou a crust of cinder ash.'
"Same story; the father had robbed her; she hates his energy, his superiority, his power; and she delights to think that he will die. And what is it that will overcome him? Empty space, cold, formless, infinite. She is no longer merely the angel of the sun, who wishes only to avoid striking men dead. She is space itself. She will strike the sun himself dead, and she rejoices in it.
"This change is brought about by her experience of the world. As a child she was still hopeful of acquiring superiority in the world of reality. Now she knows that it is hopeless. Her vanity-phantasy is not strong enough to compensate; she hates her torturers, and begins to concentrate that hatred upon her father, who robbed her, by one of those mysterious sex-magic tricks, of her right to be a boy."
"But this is rubbish," broke in Smith. "Mamie was very fond of her father. And she didn't want to be a boy; she was always boasting of her womanhood."
"I said so. Men were all evil to her. Yet she did want to be a boy before she invented these phantasies. Think now. Go back to your earliest memories."
"That's so, by Gosh. I remember it all now. And then one day she shut up like a clam, and got furious when I teased her."
"And she only developed the hate of her father when she was old enough to have all this subconscious stuff thoroughly suppressed. She would have been horrified if you had told her what those poems meant. And yet the cipher is plain enough. It was dictated by the neurotic's need of confession, and put in cipher by his parallel need of secrecy. Cheer up! I know it sounds mysterious and contradictory, and not a little unlike humbug; but I've a hunch that we'll come out to a Fact with a capital F before we're through this book. Come along; let's skip a little--suppose we find something about nineteen five or six. What's this? The title-poem! 'The Lily of God.'
"'There is a lake--'tis everlasting space,
And on its windless calm a lily flowers
Alone, no sunlight to insult her face,
No Time to violate her with his hours.
Ages and ages ere she was a bud
God made her, then she could not well be less
Than he, and so she sucked away his blood,
And bleached it for the dye of her own dress.
Then she pressed out that purity to still
Her soul, for music also is a curse.
She wrote the triumph of her virgin will
Over the ruins of the universe.'
"In this poem the phantasy has fulfilled itself. She has destroyed God, and remains sole and supreme; she even pretended to despise the record of her victory. Note also how definite is the conception; we shall find, perhaps, that in this year (1904 it is) she is more independent in reality. Possibly her father was actually sick."
"Well, this is sure some stunt. Funny stuff, I call it. Dad had the grip that winter, and laid up for a month. Never quite the same man, to my way of thinking."
"Let us go on. Whew! here's Buddhism!"
"Why yes, 'bout that time she was plumb crazy on Nirvany or some such heathen god."
"This is her 'Ode to Nirvana'.
"'O vast abyss! Engulf all seeming form
Within thine amphitheatre of ice!
Shield me from Life's inhospitable storm,
And slay me Mara's dazzling cockatrice!
O Nirvana! blest Nirvana!
Save me from the woes of Prana!'
"Verse Two!" announced Simon Iff, with a savage look at Miss Mollie Madison, who was making things excessively difficult for his self-control, though (as she subsequently swore by all red-headed gods) she was doing her utmost to preserve propriety.
"'O bliss of nothingness! Thy silence great
Hath swallowed moon and planet, star and
With the inexorable Urge of Fate,
Thy Virgin Nought hath mastered Father One.
O Nirvana! blest Nirvana!
Shila! Kshanti! Virya! Dana!'
"There's a lot more, but we have enough here. It's the same thought, in a jargon of misunderstood Theosophy, and a great show of sham learning introduced to give her the sensation of superiority of knowledge or scholarship: more psychic compensation. But the main idea is this vast formless negative icy sphere--she's compelled to the formula she hates, poor girl!--which swallows up the fire and energy of the father, not by construction but by annihilation. Observe, she is no longer content to have his skull split; she wants him to disappear without leaving the minutest trace. Oh we're getting near nineteen seven, be sure!"
William Smith had become strangely excited. He trembled continusouly, and the sweat ran over his face.
Simon Iff turned the pages. The poems were more confident and positive as he proceeded. There was one that ended:"The Curse, the Everlasting
Swept beyond the Universe."
Another was on sympathetic magic, as if she had been reading "The Golden Bough". One verse read:"Every boy that fills a cup
Winds eternal mischief up,
And every girl that breaks a rod
Throws his malice back to God."
"Something of Black in that, somehow, eh? Never mind; it shows she was thinking of doing a magic ceremony. Just as you can raise a wind by blowing in some ceremonial fashion, so you could blot out the infinite evil if you could blot out some person whom you took to symbolize the cause of evil.  In this case, the father. Now--come to the critical year--hullo! This s great. Words no longer seem adequate to the conception. So we find a symbolic picture."
It was a very simple drawing, entirely crude and untutored, but with a curious fascination of evil such as one often sees in 'automatic' or 'spirit' pictures. The whole page was covered with stars, and the Milky Way ran through it like a snake. Part of this group was thickened into the likeness of a shark, on whose head was set the crescent moon. With open jaw it was rushing upon the sun, to whom the artist had given not only features, but thin arms and legs. In one arm he was brandishing a stick. The picture was full of movement; a most skillful artist might have been less successful in this respect than this untrained woman.
At the bottom of the page appeared the earth, a hilly landscape with clouds masking the sky. There was a house upon a hill-side, and between the house and the hill a rude bridge of planks. Under the bridge was a small black circle, and in the air above it a broken stick.
Simon Iff did not take long to read the message.
"Here," said he, "we see an attempt to picture the relations between heaven and earth. The shark Nirvana, with the Chaste Moon for the crest, is going to swallow the Sun with his symbol of authority and paternity. The corresponding facts on earth concern this house on the hill. Mr. Smith, was there a plank gangway to the back door of the house?"
"Why yes, Mr. Iff. There was a shallow cave in the shale where things were kept for coolness. The planks saved one from walking over the rough shale, which was pretty wet, too, most times, from a spring somewhere."
"Then if you will get into my car, I will take you to the grave of your father."
Smith, like a man in a trance, followed, with Miss Mollie Madison and the coroner to bring up the rear. He had a new shock of terror when Dobson produced pick and shovel from beneath his seat. He perceived that all had been understood and foreseen.
The planks of the gangway were already rotted. They broke at once under Dobson's vigorous blows.
"Dig a six-inch channel," said the magician, "it won't be very deep."
He was right. The loose shale flew high as Dobson shovelled. Less than a foot beneath the surface he struck a hard smooth surface. It was cement. A few strokes disclosed a circular plate of this material. The chauffeur took the pick, and broke it. He stopped, and flung the loose pieces to one side. A broken stick, all rotten, lay upon the skeleton of a man.
It dawned suddenly upon William Smith that this whole operation had been designed to trap him. He trembled. He read something akin to his own apprehension in the eye of the coroner, who was regarding him askance.
"I swear by God," he cried solemnly, "that I had not art nor part in this."
"My dear man," returned Simon, "I never supposed for one moment that you had. Your alibi is perfect."
"Alibi!" stammered Smith, more alarmed than ever. "I don't know what you mean. I was here."
"A moral alibi, friend Smith! Your mind was not on sharks and suns; you were cantering away to Boston, having a glorious time with the girls. You had conquered reality; you did not need any psychic compensation for a sense of inferiority." He extended his hand; Smith took it, with tears in his eyes.
"Understand, please," said the magician, "that I knew this whole story, all but the location of the body, before I had been three hours in Potter's Place.
"It was certain that your father had met with foul play; his psychology was all against a voluntary disappearance. And how could he have avoided the family? And why should he not have disappeared in some simple way, by going off to Boston, and crossing the Atlantic, for instance? Besides, he had touched no money for such a journey. It was then clear that one of the family was responsible; perhaps two, or even all three. But the active agent must have been Mamie; it was she who followed her father into the house, and was alone with him for five minutes or so. She could easily arrange the details: a place of concealment for the body, possibly a temporary affair like her trunk. Anything would serve, since no one would think to look for a hidden corpse, but only for a living man. She had then merely to hide his stick, so as to detain him in the house, and give her an excuse to go back and do the murder. More likely still, she may have hidden the stick as a symbolic gesture--and simply seen and taken the opportunity--despite her conscious will--when it presented itself. Some casual word of the old man may have fired the hidden train of gunpowder.
"But why should she take so extraordinary a means to cope with her secret anguish? One could only see an answer by invoking the Psychology of the Unconscious. I began to probe the persons concerned. Mrs. Smith was clearly guiltless. She had not the physical strength or adroitness; besides, she was not there. Unless all three were lying, Mamie was alone with her father. Andall three were not lying, if they had been, they would have invented some commonplace story of accident.
"So we contemplate Mamie, the plain, flat-chested unconsidered nullity, not wanted save for household drudgery. It was she, surely, who, if she became neurotic, as she was almost certain to do, might accentuate her compensating fiction to the point of attacking the social condition which oppressed her in the person of its representative, the 'Father-Governor'. He, too, was personally responsible for most of her misery, since he had begotten her female and not male, or (as she put it in that cipher) had robbed her of manhood. Also, he was--in the eyes of her Unconscious self--'the Man', that is, she was as an infant unconsciously in love with him. The incest-barrier (as we call it) baulked her here; and as, when she came to the experience of sex-need, she was not able to obtain other men to represent the Father, she threw back on him the responsibility for her emptiness.
"Now then, was William Smith her accomplice? At first sight--or rather hearing, for I got all this, so far, in New York from this lady's account--it seemed probable, for material, if not psychological, reasons. But when I discovered that he was expressing himself freely and fully as the 'superior male', capable, ambitious, enjoying himself without restraint in Boston, I absolved him. Morals are the cause of madness. Unmoral people never go mad, except in the case where insanity is a symptom of some disease like tuberculosis. Madness is caused by a conflict in the will. Immoral, as opposed to unmoral, people often go mad; for their 'conscience' reproaches them--Satan divided against Satan. And moral people go mad too, for their suppressed desires reproach them; and this is worse than conscience, because conscience is a factitious thing, an Intruder on Nature. Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. The penalty of disobedience is insanity.
"So this book of poems, which the writer herself never properly understood, fully and wholly, leads us to this grave. Here is the stick, the symbol of authority, broken by the blow which shattered the skull of its living parallel, the Father. Now we are ready to continue our reading.
"The next few poems are short and joyous. The magic has succeeded. But look here! Nineteen nine, April. Isn't this strange? 'The Pipes of Pan'. Last verse."'O Syrinx, we were glad indeed
To hear thee, changed into a
Thine, losing Pan, was all the
Thou female Jesus on the Cross!'
"Still no sense of humour! But are not these strange words from the Chosen Virgin? No; for her father's murder has been successful. She feels that she has conquered reality; so she faces it at last. The murder is only a substituted satisfaction of her real need; but it has given her confidence. The idea comes into her mind: 'I may be able to fulfill myself sexually after all.' Now watch is idea grow. Here are poems passionate, even sensual, one after another. 'The Night is Short,' 'My Dove,' 'Abelard', and so on. She still wants to triumph over man, but now it is in the normal way. All this means that she sees a chance to marry. But with this comes the note of doubt, of lack of confidence in herself. In the world of her psychic compensation she had conquered completely; but in this real life she was still unproven. We are near the end now--ah look!"
The poems had all been fair copies in her superbly delicate caligraphy; but this last page was a hurried scrawl, with blots. It was as if she wished to symbolize, even by means of external form, the sudden ruin of her life. The poem was entitled 'Red'."'O flame of hell! how I have hated thee,
Thou God, thou Father, thou creative curse,
Red robber, red smutch on virginity,
Red energy of this vile universe.
I conquered thee, I blotted thee quite out,
Abolishing thy presence like a dream,
But when I came to thy my triumph out,
Again I found the accursed red supreme.
O vile! O serpent! I had crushed thee firm
When I destroyed, annihilated Man,
But thou, disguised, o execrable worm,
Hast by a prostitute upset my plan.
Thou art the Sun, thou God and Father, thou
Red-Headed Harlot, scarlet Babylon
That took my triumph. O, I see thee now
And him thy red mouth, harlot, fixes on.
I see thee pass me in a flash of light,
The chariot of the Sun. Then what's to do?
I will die virgin, for my soul is white,
Spilling the red in me, my fault all through!'"
Simon Iff hesitated a moment, as if puzzled.
"Excuse me, Sir," said Dobson, "but I can explain one bit of that. She was in the village as we raced through. Miss Madison didn't see her because (begging your pardon, Miss) she was all over the parson, kissing him, with her hair down."
"I have never been accused of lack of thoroughness," cried Mollie, her shame taking refuge in pert affrontery.
"I think it's all clear now," said Simon Iff, very sadly. "At the last moment Reality defeats her by that very symbol of Red which she thought she had destroyed. Then the true horror was revealed to her as by an angel; the Red was in herself all the time. the 'Virgin' compensation was a fraud, after all; the red blood was in her heart. Ah well, that could easily be cured."
He closed the book, and put it into the hands of William Smith.
Then he locked his hands behind his back, and went with bowed head out of the house.
They followed him. He ignored the car, and went slowly towards Potter's Place, none daring to speak to him.
Smith and the coroner, walking some fifty yards behind with Miss Mollie Madison, saw that she was crying. Smith tried a stammering word of consolation. "Oh! Oh!" she said trembling, "there was never a man like Simon Iff. His soul is one fierce flame of love for humanity, and he--he--sees--too--much."
*"it is certain my father has robbed me of ALL he was afraiD to have two boys lest they should be strong enough to kill him thus man is all evil I am chosen to redeem the world by virginity by this means man will be destroyed" - Editor
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