Story Of The Vanishing Patient
THERE had always been strange
stories about the house, but it
was a sensible, comfortable sort
of a neighborhood, and people
took pains to say to one another that there
was nothing in these tales -- of course not!
Absolutely nothing! How could there be?
It was a matter of common remark, however,
that considering the amount of money the
Nethertons had spent on the place, it was
curious they lived there so little. They were
nearly always away, -- up North in the sum-
mer and down South in the winter, and over
to Paris or London now and then, -- and when
they did come home it was only to entertain
a number of guests from the city. The place
was either plunged in gloom or gayety. The
old gardener who kept house by himself in
the cottage at the back of the yard had things
much his own way by far the greater part of
Dr. Block and his wife lived next door to
the Nethertons, and he and his wife, who
were so absurd as to be very happy in each
other's company, had the benefit of the beau-
tiful yard. They walked there mornings when
the leaves were silvered with dew, and even-
ings they sat beside the lily pond and listened
for the whip-poor-will. The doctor's wife
moved her room over to that side of the
house which commanded a view of the yard,
and thus made the honeysuckles and laurel
and clematis and all the masses of tossing
greenery her own. Sitting there day after
day with her sewing, she speculated about the
mystery which hung impalpably yet undeniably
over the house.
It happened one night when she and her
husband had gone to their room, and were
congratulating themselves on the fact that he
had no very sick patients and was likely to
enjoy a good night's rest, that a ring came at
"If it's any one wanting you to leave
home," warned his wife, "you must tell them
you are all worn out. You've been disturbed
every night this week, and it's too much!"
The young physician went downstairs. At
the door stood a man whom he had never
"My wife is lying very ill next door," said
the stranger, "so ill that I fear she will not
live till morning. Will you please come to
her at once?"
"Next door?" cried the physician. "I
didn't know the Nethertons were home!"
"Please hasten," begged the man. "I must
go back to her. Follow as quickly as you
The doctor went back upstairs to complete
"How absurd," protested his wife when she
heard the story. "There is no one at the
Nethertons'. I sit where I can see the front
door, and no one can enter without my know-
ing it, and I have been sewing by the window
all day. If there were any one in the house,
the gardener would have the porch lantern
lighted. It is some plot. Some one has
designs on you. You must not go."
But he went. As he left the room his wife
placed a revolver in his pocket.
The great porch of the mansion was dark,
but the physician made out that the door was
open, and he entered. A feeble light came
from the bronze lamp at the turn of the stairs,
and by it he found his way, his feet sinking
noiselessly in the rich carpets. At the head
of the stairs the man met him. The doctor
thought himself a tall man, but the stranger
topped him by half a head. He motioned
the physician to follow him, and the two went
down the hall to the front room. The place
was flushed with a rose-colored glow from
several lamps. On a silken couch, in the
midst of pillows, lay a woman dying with
consumption. She was like a lily, white,
shapely, graceful, with feeble yet charming
movements. She looked at the doctor ap-
pealingly, then, seeing in his eyes the in-
voluntary verdict that her hour was at hand,
she turned toward her companion with a
glance of anguish. Dr. Block asked a few
questions. The man answered them, the
woman remaining silent. The physician ad-
ministered something stimulating, and then
wrote a prescription which he placed on the
"The drug store is closed to-night," he
said, "and I fear the druggist has gone home.
You can have the prescription filled the first
thing in the morning, and I will be over
After that, there was no reason why he
should not have gone home. Yet, oddly
enough, he preferred to stay. Nor was it
professional anxiety that prompted this delay.
He longed to watch those mysterious per-
sons, who, almost oblivious of his presence,
were speaking their mortal farewells in their
glances, which were impassioned and of un-
He sat as if fascinated. He watched the
glitter of rings on the woman's long, white
hands, he noted the waving of light hair
about her temples, he observed the details of
her gown of soft white silk which fell about
her in voluminous folds. Now and then the
man gave her of the stimulant which the doc-
tor had provided; sometimes he bathed her
face with water. Once he paced the floor
for a moment till a motion of her hand
After a time, feeling that it would be more
sensible and considerate of him to leave, the
doctor made his way home. His wife was
awake, impatient to hear of his experiences.
She listened to his tale in silence, and when
he had finished she turned her face to the
wall and made no comment.
"You seem to be ill, my dear," he said.
"You have a chill. You are shivering."
"I have no chill," she replied sharply.
"But I -- well, you may leave the light
The next morning before breakfast the doc-
tor crossed the dewy sward to the Netherton
house. The front door was locked, and no
one answered to his repeated ringings. The
old gardener chanced to be cutting the grass
near at hand, and he came running up.
"What you ringin' that door-bell for, doc-
tor?" said he. "The folks ain't come home
yet. There ain't nobody there."
"Yes, there is, Jim. I was called here last
night. A man came for me to attend his
wife. They must both have fallen asleep that
the bell is not answered. I wouldn't be sur-
prised to find her dead, as a matter of fact.
She was a desperately sick woman. Perhaps
she is dead and something has happened to
him. You have the key to the door, Jim.
Let me in."
But the old man was shaking in every limb,
and refused to do as he was bid.
"Don't you never go in there, doctor,"
whispered he, with chattering teeth. "Don't
you go for to 'tend no one. You jus' come
tell me when you sent for that way. No, I
ain't goin' in, doctor, nohow. It ain't part
of my duties to go in. That's been stipulated
by Mr. Netherton. It's my business to look
after the garden."
Argument was useless. Dr. Block took the
bunch of keys from the old man's pocket and
himself unlocked the front door and entered.
He mounted the steps and made his way to
the upper room. There was no evidence of
occupancy. The place was silent, and, so far
as living creature went, vacant. The dust lay
over everything. It covered the delicate
damask of the sofa where he had seen the
dying woman. It rested on the pillows. The
place smelled musty and evil, as if it had not
been used for a long time. The lamps of the
room held not a drop of oil.
But on the mantel-shelf was the prescrip-
tion which the doctor had written the night
before. He read it, folded it, and put it in
As he locked the outside door the old gar-
dener came running to him.
"Don't you never go up there again, will
you?" he pleaded, "not unless you see all the
Nethertons home and I come for you myself.
You won't, doctor?"
"No," said the doctor.
When he told his wife she kissed him, and
"Next time when I tell you to stay at home,
you must stay!"