The Mysterious Card





CLEVELAND MOFFETT



Courtesy of the Author.







I





Richard Burwell, of New York, will never cease to regret that the French

language was not made a part of his education.



This is why:



On the second evening after Burwell arrived in Paris, feeling lonely

without his wife and daughter, who were still visiting a friend in

London, his mind naturally turned to the theatre. So, after consulting

the daily amusement calendar, he decided to visit the Folies Bergere,

which he had heard of as one of the notable sights. During an

intermission he went into the beautiful garden, where gay crowds were

strolling among the flowers, and lights, and fountains. He had just

seated himself at a little three-legged table, with a view to enjoying

the novel scene, when his attention was attracted by a lovely woman,

gowned strikingly, though in perfect taste, who passed near him, leaning

on the arm of a gentleman. The only thing that he noticed about this

gentleman was that he wore eye-glasses.



Now Burwell had never posed as a captivator of the fair sex, and could

scarcely credit his eyes when the lady left the side of her escort and,

turning back as if she had forgotten something, passed close by him, and

deftly placed a card on his table. The card bore some French words

written in purple ink, but, not knowing that language, he was unable to

make out their meaning. The lady paid no further heed to him, but,

rejoining the gentleman with the eye-glasses, swept out of the place

with the grace and dignity of a princess. Burwell remained staring at

the card.



Needless to say, he thought no more of the performance or of the other

attractions about him. Everything seemed flat and tawdry compared with

the radiant vision that had appeared and disappeared so mysteriously.

His one desire now was to discover the meaning of the words written on

the card.



Calling a fiacre, he drove to the Hotel Continental, where he was

staying. Proceeding directly to the office and taking the manager aside,

Burwell asked if he would be kind enough to translate a few words of

French into English. There were no more than twenty words in all.



"Why, certainly," said the manager, with French politeness, and cast his

eyes over the card. As he read, his face grew rigid with astonishment,

and, looking at his questioner sharply, he exclaimed: "Where did you get

this, monsieur?"



Burwell started to explain, but was interrupted by: "That will do, that

will do. You must leave the hotel."



"What do you mean?" asked the man from New York, in amazement.



"You must leave the hotel now--to-night--without fail," commanded the

manager excitedly.



Now it was Burwell's turn to grow angry, and he declared heatedly that

if he wasn't wanted in this hotel there were plenty of others in Paris

where he would be welcome. And, with an assumption of dignity, but

piqued at heart, he settled his bill, sent for his belongings, and drove

up the Rue de la Paix to the Hotel Bellevue, where he spent the night.



The next morning he met the proprietor, who seemed to be a good fellow,

and, being inclined now to view the incident of the previous evening

from its ridiculous side, Burwell explained what had befallen him, and

was pleased to find a sympathetic listener.



"Why, the man was a fool," declared the proprietor. "Let me see the

card; I will tell you what it means." But as he read, his face and

manner changed instantly.



"This is a serious matter," he said sternly. "Now I understand why my

confrere refused to entertain you. I regret, monsieur, but I shall be

obliged to do as he did."



"What do you mean?"



"Simply that you cannot remain here."



With that he turned on his heel, and the indignant guest could not

prevail upon him to give any explanation.



"We'll see about this," said Burwell, thoroughly angered.



It was now nearly noon, and the New Yorker remembered an engagement to

lunch with a friend from Boston, who, with his family, was stopping at

the Hotel de l'Alma. With his luggage on the carriage, he ordered the

cocher to drive directly there, determined to take counsel with his

countryman before selecting new quarters. His friend was highly

indignant when he heard the story--a fact that gave Burwell no little

comfort, knowing, as he did, that the man was accustomed to foreign ways

from long residence abroad.



"It is some silly mistake, my dear fellow; I wouldn't pay any attention

to it. Just have your luggage taken down and stay here. It is a nice,

homelike place, and it will be very jolly, all being together. But,

first, let me prepare a little 'nerve settler' for you."



After the two had lingered a moment over their Manhattan cocktails,

Burwell's friend excused himself to call the ladies. He had proceeded

only two or three steps when he turned, and said: "Let's see that

mysterious card that has raised all this row."



He had scarcely withdrawn it from Burwell's hand when he started back,

and exclaimed:--



"Great God, man! Do you mean to say--this is simply--"



Then, with a sudden movement of his hand to his head, he left the room.



He was gone perhaps five minutes, and when he returned his face was

white.



"I am awfully sorry," he said nervously; "but the ladies tell me

they--that is, my wife--she has a frightful headache. You will have to

excuse us from the lunch."



Instantly realizing that this was only a flimsy pretense, and deeply

hurt by his friend's behaviour, the mystified man arose at once and left

without another word. He was now determined to solve this mystery at any

cost. What could be the meaning of the words on that infernal piece of

pasteboard?



Profiting by his humiliating experiences, he took good care not to show

the card to any one at the hotel where he now established himself,--a

comfortable little place near the Grand Opera House.



All through the afternoon he thought of nothing but the card, and turned

over in his mind various ways of learning its meaning without getting

himself into further trouble. That evening he went again to the Folies

Bergere in the hope of finding the mysterious woman, for he was now

more than ever anxious to discover who she was. It even occurred to him

that she might be one of those beautiful Nihilist conspirators, or,

perhaps, a Russian spy, such as he had read of in novels. But he failed

to find her, either then or on the three subsequent evenings which he

passed in the same place. Meanwhile the card was burning in his pocket

like a hot coal. He dreaded the thought of meeting anyone that he knew,

while this horrible cloud hung over him. He bought a French-English

dictionary and tried to pick out the meaning word by word, but failed.

It was all Greek to him. For the first time in his life, Burwell

regretted that he had not studied French at college.



After various vain attempts to either solve or forget the torturing

riddle, he saw no other course than to lay the problem before a

detective agency. He accordingly put his case in the hands of an agent

de la surete who was recommended as a competent and trustworthy man.

They had a talk together in a private room, and, of course, Burwell

showed the card. To his relief, his adviser at least showed no sign of

taking offence. Only he did not and would not explain what the words

meant.



"It is better," he said, "that monsieur should not know the nature of

this document for the present. I will do myself the honour to call upon

monsieur to-morrow at his hotel, and then monsieur shall know

everything."



"Then it is really serious?" asked the unfortunate man.



"Very serious," was the answer.



The next twenty-four hours Burwell passed in a fever of anxiety. As his

mind conjured up one fearful possibility after another he deeply

regretted that he had not torn up the miserable card at the start. He

even seized it,--prepared to strip it into fragments, and so end the

whole affair. And then his Yankee stubbornness again asserted itself,

and he determined to see the thing out, come what might.



"After all," he reasoned, "it is no crime for a man to pick up a card

that a lady drops on his table."



Crime or no crime, however, it looked very much as if he had committed

some grave offence when, the next day, his detective drove up in a

carriage, accompanied by a uniformed official, and requested the

astounded American to accompany them to the police headquarters.



"What for?" he asked.



"It is only a formality," said the detective; and when Burwell still

protested the man in uniform remarked: "You'd better come quietly,

monsieur; you will have to come, anyway."



An hour later, after severe cross-examination by another official, who

demanded many facts about the New Yorker's age, place of birth,

residence, occupation, etc., the bewildered man found himself in the

Conciergerie prison. Why he was there or what was about to befall him

Burwell had no means of knowing; but before the day was over he

succeeded in having a message sent to the American Legation, where he

demanded immediate protection as a citizen of the United States. It was

not until evening, however, that the Secretary of Legation, a

consequential person, called at the prison. There followed a stormy

interview, in which the prisoner used some strong language, the French

officers gesticulated violently and talked very fast, and the Secretary

calmly listened to both sides, said little, and smoked a good cigar.



"I will lay your case before the American minister," he said as he rose

to go, "and let you know the result to-morrow."



"But this is an outrage. Do you mean to say--" Before he could finish,

however, the Secretary, with a strangely suspicious glance, turned and

left the room.



That night Burwell slept in a cell.



The next morning he received another visit from the non-committal

Secretary, who informed him that matters had been arranged, and that he

would be set at liberty forthwith.



"I must tell you, though," he said, "that I have had great difficulty in

accomplishing this, and your liberty is granted only on condition that

you leave the country within twenty-four hours, and never under any

conditions return."



Burwell stormed, raged, and pleaded; but it availed nothing. The

Secretary was inexorable, and yet he positively refused to throw any

light upon the causes of this monstrous injustice.



"Here is your card," he said, handing him a large envelope closed with

the seal of Legation. "I advise you to burn it and never refer to the

matter again."



That night the ill-fated man took the train for London, his heart

consumed by hatred for the whole French nation, together with a burning

desire for vengeance. He wired his wife to meet him at the station, and

for a long time debated with himself whether he should at once tell her

the sickening truth. In the end he decided that it was better to keep

silent. No sooner, however, had she seen him than her woman's instinct

told her that he was labouring under some mental strain. And he saw in a

moment that to withhold from her his burning secret was impossible,

especially when she began to talk of the trip they had planned through

France. Of course no trivial reason would satisfy her for his refusal to

make this trip, since they had been looking forward to it for years; and

yet it was impossible now for him to set foot on French soil.



So he finally told her the whole story, she laughing and weeping in

turn. To her, as to him, it seemed incredible that such overwhelming

disasters could have grown out of so small a cause, and, being a fluent

French scholar, she demanded a sight of the fatal piece of pasteboard.

In vain her husband tried to divert her by proposing a trip through

Italy. She would consent to nothing until she had seen the mysterious

card which Burwell was now convinced he ought long ago to have

destroyed. After refusing for awhile to let her see it, he finally

yielded. But, although he had learned to dread the consequences of

showing that cursed card, he was little prepared for what followed. She

read it turned pale, gasped for breath, and nearly fell to the floor.



"I told you not to read it," he said; and then, growing tender at the

sight of her distress, he took her hand in his and begged her to be

calm. "At least tell me what the thing means," he said. "We can bear it

together; you surely can trust me."



But she, as if stung by rage, pushed him from her and declared, in a

tone such as he had never heard from her before, that never, never again

would she live with him. "You are a monster!" she exclaimed. And those

were the last words he heard from her lips.



Failing utterly in all efforts at reconciliation, the half-crazed man

took the first steamer for New York, having suffered in scarcely a

fortnight more than in all his previous life. His whole pleasure trip

had been ruined, he had failed to consummate important business

arrangements, and now he saw his home broken up and his happiness

ruined. During the voyage he scarcely left his stateroom, but lay there

prostrated with agony. In this black despondency the one thing that

sustained him was the thought of meeting his partner, Jack Evelyth, the

friend of his boyhood, the sharer of his success, the bravest, most

loyal fellow in the world. In the face of even the most damning

circumstances, he felt that Evelyth's rugged common sense would evolve

some way of escape from this hideous nightmare. Upon landing at New York

he hardly waited for the gang-plank to be lowered before he rushed on

shore and grasped the hand of his partner, who was waiting on the wharf.



"Jack," was his first word, "I am in dreadful trouble, and you are the

only man in the world who can help me."



An hour later Burwell sat at his friend's dinner table, talking over the

situation.



Evelyth was all kindness, and several times as he listened to Burwell's

story his eyes filled with tears.



"It does not seem possible, Richard," he said, "that such things can be;

but I will stand by you; we will fight it out together. But we cannot

strike in the dark. Let me see this card."



"There is the damned thing," Burwell said, throwing it on the table.



Evelyth opened the envelope, took out the card, and fixed his eyes on

the sprawling purple characters.



"Can you read it?" Burwell asked excitedly.



"Perfectly," his partner said. The next moment he turned pale, and his

voice broke. Then he clasped the tortured man's hand in his with a

strong grip. "Richard," he said slowly, "if my only child had been

brought here dead it would not have caused me more sorrow than this

does. You have brought me the worst news one man could bring another."



His agitation and genuine suffering affected Burwell like a death

sentence.



"Speak, man," he cried; "do not spare me. I can bear anything rather

than this awful uncertainty. Tell me what the card means."



Evelyth took a swallow of brandy and sat with head bent on his clasped

hands.



"No, I can't do it; there are some things a man must not do."



Then he was silent again, his brows knitted. Finally he said solemnly:--



"No, I can't see any other way out of it. We have been true to each

other all our lives; we have worked together and looked forward to never

separating. I would rather fail and die than see this happen. But we

have got to separate, old friend; we have got to separate."



They sat there talking until late into the night. But nothing that

Burwell could do or say availed against his friend's decision. There was

nothing for it but that Evelyth should buy his partner's share of the

business or that Burwell buy out the other. The man was more than fair

in the financial proposition he made; he was generous, as he always had

been, but his determination was inflexible; the two must separate. And

they did.



With his old partner's desertion, it seemed to Burwell that the world

was leagued against him. It was only three weeks from the day on which

he had received the mysterious card; yet in that time he had lost all

that he valued in the world,--wife, friends, and business. What next to

do with the fatal card was the sickening problem that now possessed him.



He dared not show it; yet he dared not destroy it. He loathed it; yet he

could not let it go from his possession. Upon returning to his house he

locked the accursed thing away in his safe as if it had been a package

of dynamite or a bottle of deadly poison. Yet not a day passed that he

did not open the drawer where the thing was kept and scan with loathing

the mysterious purple scrawl.



In desperation he finally made up his mind to take up the study of the

language in which the hateful thing was written. And still he dreaded

the approach of the day when he should decipher its awful meaning.



One afternoon, less than a week after his arrival in New York, as he was

crossing Twenty-third Street on the way to his French teacher, he saw a

carriage rolling up Broadway. In the carriage was a face that caught his

attention like a flash. As he looked again he recognized the woman who

had been the cause of his undoing. Instantly he sprang into another cab

and ordered the driver to follow after. He found the house where she was

living. He called there several times; but always received the same

reply, that she was too much engaged to see anyone. Next he was told

that she was ill, and on the following day the servant said she was much

worse. Three physicians had been summoned in consultation. He sought out

one of these and told him it was a matter of life or death that he see

this woman. The doctor was a kindly man and promised to assist him.

Through his influence, it came about that on that very night Burwell

stood by the bedside of this mysterious woman. She was beautiful still,

though her face was worn with illness.



"Do you recognize me?" he asked tremblingly, as he leaned over the bed,

clutching in one hand an envelope containing the mysterious card. "Do

you remember seeing me at the Folies Bergere a month ago?"



"Yes," she murmured, after a moment's study of his face; and he noted

with relief that she spoke English.



"Then, for God's sake, tell me, what does it all mean?" he gasped,

quivering with excitement.



"I gave you the card because I wanted you to--to--"



Here a terrible spasm of coughing shook her whole body, and she fell

back exhausted.



An agonizing despair tugged at Burwell's heart. Frantically snatching

the card from its envelope, he held it close to the woman's face.



"Tell me! Tell me!"



With a supreme effort, the pale figure slowly raised itself on the

pillow, its fingers clutching at the counterpane.



Then the sunken eyes fluttered--forced themselves open--and stared in

stony amazement upon the fatal card, while the trembling lips moved

noiselessly, as if in an attempt to speak. As Burwell, choking with

eagerness, bent his head slowly to hers, a suggestion of a smile

flickered across the woman's face. Again the mouth quivered, the man's

head bent nearer and nearer to hers, his eyes riveted upon the lips.

Then, as if to aid her in deciphering the mystery, he turned his eyes to

the card.



With a cry of horror he sprang to his feet, his eyeballs starting from

their sockets. Almost at the same moment the woman fell heavily upon the

pillow.



Every vestige of the writing had faded! The card was blank!



The woman lay there dead.









II



The Card Unveiled





No physician was ever more scrupulous than I have been, during my thirty

years of practice, in observing the code of professional secrecy; and it

is only for grave reasons, partly in the interests of medical science,

largely as a warning to intelligent people, that I place upon record the

following statements.



One morning a gentleman called at my offices to consult me about some

nervous trouble. From the moment I saw him, the man made a deep

impression on me, not so much by the pallor and worn look of his face as

by a certain intense sadness in his eyes, as if all hope had gone out of

his life. I wrote a prescription for him, and advised him to try the

benefits of an ocean voyage. He seemed to shiver at the idea, and said

that he had been abroad too much, already.



As he handed me my fee, my eye fell upon the palm of his hand, and I saw

there, plainly marked on the Mount of Saturn, a cross surrounded by two

circles. I should explain that for the greater part of my life I have

been a constant and enthusiastic student of palmistry. During my travels

in the Orient, after taking my degree, I spent months studying this

fascinating art at the best sources of information in the world. I have

read everything published on palmistry in every known language, and my

library on the subject is perhaps the most complete in existence. In my

time I have examined at least fourteen thousand palms, and taken casts

of many of the more interesting of them. But I had never seen such a

palm as this; at least, never but once, and the horror of the case was

so great that I shudder even now when I call it to mind.



"Pardon me," I said, keeping the patient's hand in mine, "would you let

me look at your palm?"



I tried to speak indifferently, as if the matter were of small

consequence, and for some moments I bent over the hand in silence. Then,

taking a magnifying glass from my desk, I looked at it still more

closely. I was not mistaken; here was indeed the sinister double circle

on Saturn's mount, with the cross inside,--a marking so rare as to

portend some stupendous destiny of good or evil, more probably the

latter.



I saw that the man was uneasy under my scrutiny, and, presently, with

some hesitation, as if mustering courage, he asked: "Is there anything

remarkable about my hand?"



"Yes," I said, "there is. Tell me, did not something very unusual,

something very horrible, happen to you about ten or eleven years ago?"



I saw by the way the man started that I had struck near the mark, and,

studying the stream of fine lines that crossed his lifeline from the

Mount of Venus, I added: "Were you not in some foreign country at that

time?"



The man's face blanched, but he only looked at me steadily out of those

mournful eyes. Now I took his other hand, and compared the two, line by

line, mount by mount, noting the short square fingers, the heavy thumb,

with amazing willpower in its upper joint, and gazing again and again at

that ominous sign on Saturn.



"Your life has been strangely unhappy, your years have been clouded by

some evil influence."



"My God," he said weakly, sinking into a chair, "how can you know these

things?"



"It is easy to know what one sees," I said, and tried to draw him out

about his past, but the words seemed to stick in his throat.



"I will come back and talk to you again," he said, and he went away

without giving me his name or any revelation of his life.



Several times he called during subsequent weeks, and gradually seemed to

take on a measure of confidence in my presence. He would talk freely of

his physical condition, which seemed to cause him much anxiety. He even

insisted upon my making the most careful examination of all his organs,

especially of his eyes, which, he said, had troubled him at various

times. Upon making the usual tests, I found that he was suffering from a

most uncommon form of colour blindness, that seemed to vary in its

manifestations, and to be connected with certain hallucinations or

abnormal mental states which recurred periodically, and about which I

had great difficulty in persuading him to speak. At each visit I took

occasion to study his hand anew, and each reading of the palm gave me

stronger conviction that here was a life mystery that would abundantly

repay any pains taken in unravelling it.



While I was in this state of mind, consumed with a desire to know more

of my unhappy acquaintance and yet not daring to press him with

questions, there came a tragic happening that revealed to me with

startling suddenness the secret I was bent on knowing. One night, very

late,--in fact it was about four o'clock in the morning,--I received an

urgent summons to the bedside of a man who had been shot. As I bent over

him I saw that it was my friend, and for the first time I realized that

he was a man of wealth and position, for he lived in a beautifully

furnished house filled with art treasures and looked after by a retinue

of servants. From one of these I learned that he was Richard Burwell,

one of New York's most respected citizens--in fact, one of her

best-known philanthropists, a man who for years had devoted his life and

fortune to good works among the poor.



But what most excited my surprise was the presence in the house of two

officers, who informed me that Mr. Burwell was under arrest, charged

with murder. The officers assured me that it was only out of deference

to his well-known standing in the community that the prisoner had been

allowed the privilege of receiving medical treatment in his own home;

their orders were peremptory to keep him under close surveillance.



Giving no time to further questionings, I at once proceeded to examine

the injured man, and found that he was suffering from a bullet wound in

the back at about the height of the fifth rib. On probing for the

bullet, I found that it had lodged near the heart, and decided that it

would be exceedingly dangerous to try to remove it immediately. So I

contented myself with administering a sleeping potion.



As soon as I was free to leave Burwell's bedside I returned to the

officers and obtained from them details of what had happened. A woman's

body had been found a few hours before, shockingly mutilated, on Water

Street, one of the dark ways in the swarming region along the river

front. It had been found at about two o'clock in the morning by some

printers from the office of the Courier des Etats Unis, who, in coming

from their work, had heard cries of distress and hurried to the rescue.

As they drew near they saw a man spring away from something huddled on

the sidewalk, and plunge into the shadows of the night, running from

them at full speed.



Suspecting at once that here was the mysterious assassin so long vainly

sought for many similar crimes, they dashed after the fleeing man, who

darted right and left through the maze of dark streets, giving out

little cries like a squirrel as he ran. Seeing that they were losing

ground, one of the printers fired at the fleeing shadow, his shot being

followed by a scream of pain, and hurrying up they found a man writhing

on the ground. The man was Richard Burwell.



The news that my sad-faced friend had been implicated in such a

revolting occurrence shocked me inexpressibly, and I was greatly

relieved the next day to learn from the papers that a most unfortunate

mistake had been made. The evidence given before the coroner's jury was

such as to abundantly exonerate Burwell from all shadow of guilt. The

man's own testimony, taken at his bedside, was in itself almost

conclusive in his favour. When asked to explain his presence so late at

night in such a part of the city, Burwell stated that he had spent the

evening at the Florence Mission, where he had made an address to some

unfortunates gathered there, and that later he had gone with a young

missionary worker to visit a woman living on Frankfort Street, who was

dying of consumption. This statement was borne out by the missionary

worker himself, who testified that Burwell had been most tender in his

ministrations to the poor woman and had not left her until death had

relieved her sufferings.



Another point which made it plain that the printers had mistaken their

man in the darkness, was the statement made by all of them that, as they

came running up, they had overheard some words spoken by the murderer,

and that these words were in their own language, French. Now it was

shown conclusively that Burwell did not know the French language, that

indeed he had not even an elementary knowledge of it.



Another point in his favour was a discovery made at the spot where the

body was found. Some profane and ribald words, also in French, had been

scrawled in chalk on the door and doorsill, being in the nature of a

coarse defiance to the police to find the assassin, and experts in

handwriting who were called testified unanimously that Burwell, who

wrote a refined, scholarly hand, could never have formed those misshapen

words.



Furthermore, at the time of his arrest no evidence was found on the

clothes or person of Burwell, nothing in the nature of bruises or

bloodstains that would tend to implicate him in the crime. The outcome

of the matter was that he was honourably discharged by the coroner's

jury, who were unanimous in declaring him innocent, and who brought in a

verdict that the unfortunate woman had come to her death at the hand of

some person or persons unknown.



On visiting my patient late on the afternoon of the second day I saw

that his case was very grave, and I at once instructed the nurses and

attendants to prepare for an operation. The man's life depended upon my

being able to extract the bullet, and the chance of doing this was very

small. Mr. Burwell realized that his condition was critical, and,

beckoning me to him, told me that he wished to make a statement he felt

might be his last. He spoke with agitation which was increased by an

unforeseen happening. For just then a servant entered the room and

whispered to me that there was a gentleman downstairs who insisted upon

seeing me, and who urged business of great importance. This message the

sick man overheard, and lifting himself with an effort, he said

excitedly: "Tell me, is he a tall man with glasses?"



The servant hesitated.



"I knew it; you cannot deceive me; that man will haunt me to my grave.

Send him away, doctor; I beg of you not to see him."



Humouring my patient, I sent word to the stranger that I could not see

him, but, in an undertone, instructed the servant to say that the man

might call at my office the next morning. Then, turning to Burwell, I

begged him to compose himself and save his strength for the ordeal

awaiting him.



"No, no," he said, "I need my strength now to tell you what you must

know to find the truth. You are the only man who has understood that

there has been some terrible influence at work in my life. You are the

only man competent to study out what that influence is, and I have made

provision in my will that you shall do so after I am gone. I know that

you will heed my wishes?"



The intense sadness of his eyes made my heart sink; I could only grip

his hand and remain silent.



"Thank you; I was sure I might count on your devotion. Now, tell me,

doctor, you have examined me carefully, have you not?"



I nodded.



"In every way known to medical science?"



I nodded again.



"And have you found anything wrong with me,--I mean, besides this

bullet, anything abnormal?"



"As I have told you, your eyesight is defective; I should like to

examine your eyes more thoroughly when you are better."



"I shall never be better; besides it isn't my eyes; I mean myself, my

soul,--you haven't found anything wrong there?"



"Certainly not; the whole city knows the beauty of your character and

your life."



"Tut, tut; the city knows nothing. For ten years I have lived so much

with the poor that people have almost forgotten my previous active life

when I was busy with money-making and happy in my home. But there is a

man out West, whose head is white and whose heart is heavy, who has not

forgotten, and there is a woman in London, a silent, lonely woman, who

has not forgotten. The man was my partner, poor Jack Evelyth; the woman

was my wife. How can a man be so cursed, doctor, that his love and

friendship bring only misery to those who share it? How can it be that

one who has in his heart only good thoughts can be constantly under the

shadow of evil? This charge of murder is only one of several cases in my

life where, through no fault of mine, the shadow of guilt has been cast

upon me.



"Years ago, when my wife and I were perfectly happy, a child was born to

us, and a few months later, when it was only a tender, helpless little

thing that its mother loved with all her heart, it was strangled in its

cradle, and we never knew who strangled it, for the deed was done one

night when there was absolutely no one in the house but my wife and

myself. There was no doubt about the crime, for there on the tiny neck

were the finger marks where some cruel hand had closed until life went.



"Then a few years later, when my partner and I were on the eve of

fortune, our advance was set back by the robbery of our safe. Some one

opened it in the night, someone who knew the combination, for it was the

work of no burglar, and yet there were only two persons in the world who

knew that combination, my partner and myself. I tried to be brave when

these things happened, but as my life went on it seemed more and more as

if some curse were on me.



"Eleven years ago I went abroad with my wife and daughter. Business took

me to Paris, and I left the ladies in London, expecting to have them

join me in a few days. But they never did join me, for the curse was on

me still, and before I had been forty-eight hours in the French capital

something happened that completed the wreck of my life. It doesn't seem

possible, does it, that a simple white card with some words scrawled on

it in purple ink could effect a man's undoing? And yet that was my fate.

The card was given me by a beautiful woman with eyes like stars. She is

dead long ago, and why she wished to harm me I never knew. You must find

that out.



"You see I did not know the language of the country, and, wishing to

have the words translated,--surely that was natural enough,--I showed

the card to others. But no one would tell me what it meant. And, worse

than that, wherever I showed it, and to whatever person, there evil came

upon me quickly. I was driven from one hotel after another; an old

acquaintance turned his back on me; I was arrested and thrown into

prison; I was ordered to leave the country."



The sick man paused for a moment in his weakness, but with an effort

forced himself to continue:--



"When I went back to London, sure of comfort in the love of my wife, she

too, on seeing the card, drove me from her with cruel words. And when

finally, in deepest despair, I returned to New York, dear old Jack, the

friend of a life-time, broke with me when I showed him what was written.

What the words were I do not know, and suppose no one will ever know,

for the ink has faded these many years. You will find the card in my

safe with other papers. But I want you, when I am gone, to find out the

mystery of my life; and--and--about my fortune, that must be held until

you have decided. There is no one who needs my money as much as the poor

in this city, and I have bequeathed it to them unless--"



In an agony of mind, Mr. Burwell struggled to go on, I soothing and

encouraging him.



"Unless you find what I am afraid to think, but--but--yes, I must say

it,--that I have not been a good man, as the world thinks, but have--O

doctor, if you find that I have unknowingly harmed any human being, I

want that person, or these persons, to have my fortune. Promise that."



Seeing the wild light in Burwell's eyes, and the fever that was burning

him, I gave the promise asked of me, and the sick man sank back calmer.



A little later, the nurse and attendants came for the operation. As they

were about to administer the ether, Burwell pushed them from him, and

insisted on having brought to his bedside an iron box from the safe.



"The card is here," he said, laying his trembling hand upon the box,

"you will remember your promise!"



Those were his last words, for he did not survive the operation.



Early the next morning I received this message: "The stranger of

yesterday begs to see you"; and presently a gentleman of fine presence

and strength of face, a tall, dark-complexioned man wearing glasses, was

shown into the room.



"Mr. Burwell is dead, is he not?" were his first words.



"Who told you?"



"No one told me, but I know it, and I thank God for it."



There was something in the stranger's intense earnestness that convinced

me of his right to speak thus, and I listened attentively.



"That you may have confidence in the statement I am about to make, I

will first tell you who I am"; and he handed me a card that caused me to

lift my eyes in wonder, for it bore a very great name, that of one of

Europe's most famous savants.



"You have done me much honour, sir," I said with respectful inclination.



"On the contrary you will oblige me by considering me in your debt, and

by never revealing my connection with this wretched man. I am moved to

speak partly from considerations of human justice, largely in the

interest of medical science. It is right for me to tell you, doctor,

that your patient was beyond question the Water Street assassin."



"Impossible!" I cried.



"You will not say so when I have finished my story, which takes me back

to Paris, to the time, eleven years ago, when this man was making his

first visit to the French capital."



"The mysterious card!" I exclaimed.



"Ah, he has told you of his experience, but not of what befell the night

before, when he first met my sister."



"Your sister?"



"Yes, it was she who gave him the card, and, in trying to befriend him,

made him suffer. She was in ill health at the time, so much so that we

had left our native India for extended journeyings. Alas! we delayed too

long, for my sister died in New York, only a few weeks later, and I

honestly believe her taking off was hastened by anxiety inspired by this

man."



"Strange," I murmured, "how the life of a simple New York merchant could

become entangled with that of a great lady of the East."



"Yet so it was. You must know that my sister's condition was due mainly

to an over fondness for certain occult investigations, from which I had

vainly tried to dissuade her. She had once befriended some adepts, who,

in return, had taught her things about the soul she had better have left

unlearned. At various times while with her I had seen strange things

happen, but I never realized what unearthly powers were in her until

that night in Paris. We were returning from a drive in the Bois; it was

about ten o'clock, and the city lay beautiful around us as Paris looks

on a perfect summer's night. Suddenly my sister gave a cry of pain and

put her hand to her heart. Then, changing from French to the language of

our country, she explained to me quickly that something frightful was

taking place there, where she pointed her finger across the river, that

we must go to the place at once--the driver must lash his horses--every

second was precious.



"So affected was I by her intense conviction, and such confidence had I

in my sister's wisdom, that I did not oppose her, but told the man to

drive as she directed. The carriage fairly flew across the bridge, down

the Boulevard St. Germain, then to the left, threading its way through

the narrow streets that lie along the Seine. This way and that, straight

ahead here, a turn there, she directing our course, never hesitating, as

if drawn by some unseen power, and always urging the driver on to

greater speed. Finally, we came to a black-mouthed, evil-looking alley,

so narrow and roughly paved that the carriage could scarcely advance.



"'Come on!' my sister cried, springing to the ground; 'we will go on

foot, we are nearly there. Thank God, we may yet be in time.'



"No one was in sight as we hurried along the dark alley, and scarcely a

light was visible, but presently a smothered scream broke the silence,

and, touching my arm, my sister exclaimed:--



"'There, draw your weapon, quick, and take the man at any cost!'



"So swiftly did everything happen after that that I hardly know my

actions, but a few minutes later I held pinioned in my arms a man whose

blows and writhings had been all in vain; for you must know that much

exercise in the jungle had made me strong of limb. As soon as I had made

the fellow fast I looked down and found moaning on the ground a poor

woman, who explained with tears and broken words that the man had been

in the very act of strangling her. Searching him I found a long-bladed

knife of curious shape, and keen as a razor, which had been brought for

what horrible purpose you may perhaps divine.



"Imagine my surprise, on dragging the man back to the carriage, to find,

instead of the ruffianly assassin I expected, a gentleman as far as

could be judged from face and manner. Fine eyes, white hands, careful

speech, all the signs of refinement and the dress of a man of means.



"'How can this be?' I said to my sister in our own tongue as we drove

away, I holding my prisoner on the opposite seat where he sat silent.



"'It is a kulos-man,' she said, shivering, 'it is a fiend-soul. There

are a few such in the whole world, perhaps two or three in all.'



"'But he has a good face.'



"'You have not seen his real face yet; I will show it to you,

presently.'



"In the strangeness of these happenings and the still greater

strangeness of my sister's words, I had all but lost the power of

wonder. So we sat without further word until the carriage stopped at the

little chateau we had taken near the Parc Monteau.



"I could never properly describe what happened that night; my knowledge

of these things is too limited. I simply obeyed my sister in all that

she directed, and kept my eyes on this man as no hawk ever watched its

prey. She began by questioning him, speaking in a kindly tone which I

could ill understand. He seemed embarrassed, dazed, and professed to

have no knowledge of what had occurred, or how he had come where we

found him. To all my inquiries as to the woman or the crime he shook his

head blankly, and thus aroused my wrath.



"'Be not angry with him, brother; he is not lying, it is the other

soul.'



"She asked him about his name and country, and he replied without

hesitation that he was Richard Burwell, a merchant from New York, just

arrived in Paris, travelling for pleasure in Europe with his wife and

daughter. This seemed reasonable, for the man spoke English, and,

strangely enough, seemed to have no knowledge of French, although we

both remember hearing him speak French to the woman.



"'There is no doubt,' my sister said, 'It is indeed a kulos-man; It

knows that I am here, that I am Its master. Look, look!' she cried

sharply, at the same time putting her eyes so close to the man's face

that their fierce light seemed to burn into him. What power she

exercised I do not know, nor whether some words she spoke,

unintelligible to me, had to do with what followed, but instantly there

came over this man, this pleasant-looking, respectable American citizen,

such a change as is not made by death worms gnawing in a grave. Now

there was a fiend grovelling at her feet, a foul, sin-stained fiend.



"'Now you see the demon-soul,' said my sister. 'Watch It writhe and

struggle; it has served me well, brother, sayest thou not so, the lore I

gained from our wise men?'



"The horror of what followed chilled my blood; nor would I trust my

memory were it not that there remained and still remains plain proof of

all that I affirm. This hideous creature, dwarfed, crouching, devoid of

all resemblance to the man we had but now beheld, chattering to us in

curious old-time French, poured out such horrid blasphemy as would have

blanched the cheek of Satan, and made recital of such evil deeds as

never mortal ear gave heed to. And as she willed my sister checked It or

allowed It to go on. What it all meant was more than I could tell. To me

it seemed as if these tales of wickedness had no connection with our

modern life, or with the world around us, and so I judged presently from

what my sister said.



"'Speak of the later time, since thou wast in this clay.'



"Then I perceived that the creature came to things of which I knew: It

spoke of New York, of a wife, a child, a friend. It told of strangling

the child, of robbing the friend; and was going on to tell God knows

what other horrid deeds when my sister stopped It.



"'Stand as thou didst in killing the little babe, stand, stand!' and

once more she spoke some words unknown to me. Instantly the demon sprang

forward, and, bending Its clawlike hands, clutched them around some

little throat that was not there,--but I could see it in my mind. And

the look on its face was a blackest glimpse of hell.



"'And now stand as thou didst in robbing the friend, stand, stand'; and

again came the unknown words, and again the fiend obeyed.



"'These we will take for future use,' said my sister. And bidding me

watch the creature carefully until she should return, she left the room,

and, after none too short an absence, returned bearing a black box that

was an apparatus for photography, and something more besides,--some

newer, stranger kind of photography that she had learned. Then, on a

strangely fashioned card, a transparent white card, composed of many

layers of finest Oriental paper, she took the pictures of the creature

in those two creeping poses. And when it all was done, the card seemed

as white as before, and empty of all meaning until one held it up and

examined it intently. Then the pictures showed.



And between the two there was a third picture, which somehow seemed to

show, at the same time, two faces in one, two souls, my sister said, the

kindly visaged man we first had seen, and then the fiend.



"Now my sister asked for pen and ink and I gave her my pocket pen which

was filled with purple ink. Handing this to the kulos-man she bade him

write under the first picture: 'Thus I killed my babe.' And under the

second picture: 'Thus I robbed my friend.' And under the third, the one

that was between the other two: 'This is the soul of Richard Burwell.'

An odd thing about this writing was that it was in the same old French

the creature had used in speech, and yet Burwell knew no French.



"My sister was about to finish with the creature when a new idea took

her, and she said, looking at It as before:--'Of all thy crimes which

one is the worst? Speak, I command thee!'



"Then the fiend told how once It had killed every soul in a house of

holy women and buried the bodies in a cellar under a heavy door.



"Where was the house?'



"'At No. 19 Rue Picpus, next to the old graveyard.'



"'And when was this?'



"Here the fiend seemed to break into fierce rebellion, writhing on the

floor with hideous contortions, and pouring forth words that meant

nothing to me, but seemed to reach my sister's understanding, for she

interrupted from time to time, with quick, stern words that finally

brought It to subjection.



"'Enough,' she said, 'I know all,' and then she spoke some words again,

her eyes fixed as before, and the reverse change came. Before us stood

once more the honest-looking, fine-appearing gentleman, Richard Burwell,

of New York.



"'Excuse me, madame,' he said, awkwardly, but with deference; 'I must

have dosed a little. I am not myself to-night.'



"'No,' said my sister, 'you have not been yourself to-night.'



"A little later I accompanied the man to the Continental Hotel, where he

was stopping, and, returning to my sister, I talked with her until late

into the night. I was alarmed to see that she was wrought to a nervous

tension that augured ill for her health. I urged her to sleep, but she

would not.



"'No,' she said, 'think of the awful responsibility that rests upon me.'

And then she went on with her strange theories and explanations, of

which I understood only that here was a power for evil more terrible

than a pestilence, menacing all humanity.



"'Once in many cycles it happens,' she said, 'that a kulos-soul pushes

itself within the body of a new-born child, when the pure soul waiting

to enter is delayed. Then the two live together through that life, and

this hideous principle of evil has a chance upon the earth. It is my

will, as I feel it my duty, to see this poor man again. The chances are

that he will never know us, for the shock of this night to his normal

soul is so great as to wipe out memory.'



"The next evening, about the same hour, my sister insisted that I should

go with her to the Folies Bergere, a concert garden, none too well

frequented, and when I remonstrated, she said: 'I must go,--It is

there,' and the words sent a shiver through me.



"We drove to this place, and passing into the garden, presently

discovered Richard Burwell seated at a little table, enjoying the scene

of pleasure, which was plainly new to him. My sister hesitated a moment

what to do, and then, leaving my arm, she advanced to the table and

dropped before Burwell's eyes the card she had prepared. A moment later,

with a look of pity on her beautiful face, she rejoined me and we went

away. It was plain he did not know us."



To so much of the savant's strange recital I had listened with absorbed

interest, though without a word, but now I burst in with questions.



"What was your sister's idea in giving Burwell the card?" I asked.



"It was in the hope that she might make the man understand his terrible

condition, that is, teach the pure soul to know its loathsome

companion."



"And did her effort succeed?"



"Alas! it did not; my sister's purpose was defeated by the man's

inability to see the pictures that were plain to every other eye. It is

impossible for the kulos-man to know his own degradation."



"And yet this man has for years been leading a most exemplary life?"



My visitor shook his head. "I grant you there has been improvement, due

largely to experiments I have conducted upon him according to my

sister's wishes. But the fiend soul was never driven out. It grieves me

to tell you, doctor, that not only was this man the Water Street

assassin, but he was the mysterious murderer, the long-sought-for

mutilator of women, whose red crimes have baffled the police of Europe

and America for the past ten years."



"You know this," said I, starting up, "and yet did not denounce him?"



"It would have been impossible to prove such a charge, and besides, I

had made oath to my sister that I would use the man only for these

soul-experiments. What are his crimes compared with the great secret of

knowledge I am now able to give the world?"



"A secret of knowledge?"



"Yes," said the savant, with intense earnestness, "I may tell you now,

doctor, what the whole world will know, ere long, that it is possible to

compel every living person to reveal the innermost secrets of his or her

life, so long as memory remains, for memory is only the power of

producing in the brain material pictures that may be projected

externally by the thought rays and made to impress themselves upon the

photographic plate, precisely as ordinary pictures do."



"You mean," I exclaimed, "that you can photograph the two principles of

good and evil that exist in us?"



"Exactly that. The great truth of a dual soul existence, that was dimly

apprehended by one of your Western novelists, has been demonstrated by

me in the laboratory with my camera. It is my purpose, at the proper

time, to entrust this precious knowledge to a chosen few who will

perpetuate it and use it worthily."



"Wonderful, wonderful!" I cried, "and now tell me, if you will, about

the house on the Rue Picpus. Did you ever visit the place?"



"We did, and found that no buildings had stood there for fifty years, so

we did not pursue the search."[1]



[Footnote 1: Years later, some workmen in Paris, making excavations in

the Rue Picpus, came upon a heavy door buried under a mass of debris,

under an old cemetery. On lifting the door they found a vault-like

chamber in which were a number of female skeletons, and graven on the

walls were blasphemous words written in French, which experts declared

dated from fully two hundred years before. They also declared this

handwriting identical with that found on the door at the Water Street

murder in New York. Thus we may deduce a theory of fiend reincarnation;

for it would seem clear, almost to the point of demonstration, that this

murder of the seventeenth century was the work of the same evil soul

that killed the poor woman on Water Street towards the end of the

nineteenth century.]



"And the writing on the card, have you any memory of it, for Burwell

told me that the words have faded?"



"I have something better than that; I have a photograph of both card and

writing, which my sister was careful to take. I had a notion that the

ink in my pocket pen would fade, for it was a poor affair. This

photograph I will bring you to-morrow."



"Bring it to Burwell's house," I said.



* * * * *



The next morning the stranger called as agreed upon.



"Here is the photograph of the card," he said.



"And here is the original card," I answered, breaking the seal of the

envelope I had taken from Burwell's iron box. "I have waited for your

arrival to look at it. Yes, the writing has indeed vanished; the card

seems quite blank."



"Not when you hold it this way," said the stranger, and as he tipped the

card I saw such a horrid revelation as I can never forget. In an instant

I realized how the shock of seeing that card had been too great for the

soul of wife or friend to bear. In these pictures was the secret of a

cursed life. The resemblance to Burwell was unmistakable, the proof

against him was overwhelming. In looking upon that piece of pasteboard

the wife had seen a crime which the mother could never forgive, the

partner had seen a crime which the friend could never forgive. Think of

a loved face suddenly melting before your eyes into a grinning skull,

then into a mass of putrefaction, then into the ugliest fiend of hell,

leering at you, distorted with all the marks of vice and shame. That is

what I saw, that is what they had seen!



"Let us lay these two cards in the coffin," said my companion

impressively, "we have done what we could."



Eager to be rid of the hateful piece of pasteboard (for who could say

that the curse was not still clinging about it?), I took the strange

man's arm, and together we advanced into the adjoining room where the

body lay. I had seen Burwell as he breathed his last, and knew that

there had been a peaceful look on his face as he died. But now, as we

laid the two white cards on the still, breast, the savant suddenly

touched my arm, and pointing to the dead man's face, now frightfully

distorted, whispered:--"See, even in death It followed him. Let us close

the coffin quickly."





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