CHAPTER I. The Room of the Bier
CHAPTER II. The Suicide Room
CHAPTER III. Corridor of Darkness
CHAPTER IV. Death Waits Next Door
CHAPTER V. House of Madness
Madness Stalks a House of Doom, Bringing Its Occupants a Savage Urge
to Kill: A Complete Novelette of Weird Slaughter
MARCIA didn't tell me much over the telephoneonly that her father
was dead, had died suddenly, and that she wanted me to drive her out to
their home in Jersey at once. I was astounded. Graham Waite dead! Why,
not three weeks before I had seen and talked with him; he was then in
the best of health, for all his seventy years, sound in mind and body.
He had told me thenit was the night Marcia and I had received his
blessing on our engagementthat he was just beginning to live. Coming
from a man who had knocked about a good deal in his time, from
Singapore to Suez and back again, and had managed to accumulate a
modest fortune through prospecting and trading in those remote places,
that sounded rather oddbut I knew he meant it. He had bought a
comfortable country place in the rolling New Jersey hills; and there he
meant to settle down with his wife to a graceful, quiet life. Now he
The whole thing, mingled though it was with anxiety and sympathy for
Marcia, seemed to form in my mind a faintly sinister pattern. I
couldn't tell why; yet I felt it. Even when, a little later, I was
holding Marcia very close, as she wept and I tried vainly to comfort
her, I still felt it.
The sun was setting over the hills to the westward, and we were less
than an hour's drive from the Waite home, when at last Marcia spoke.
The words came very clearly.
You see, Jerry, she said, father killed himself.
My hands gripped the wheel of the roadster tightly.
What! I burst out. Killedbut Marcia, he couldn't have! He was
happy He had everything to live for.
Yes, she said. I thought so, too. But he shot himself.
It isn't possible! I protested. Unless unless Could anything
have happenedin the past week?
We don't know. Her voice was very low now. I guess we never will.
You see, he was alone. Jim had been away for the past two weeks on a
fishing trip. And mother had gone to visit friends in Connecticut. Dad
had urged her to go. Itit was almost as if the whole thing had been
The servants? I said. Did they notice any change in him?
Theymother said that they
Abruptly, Marcia screamed. I didn't find out what the servants had
At the same time she screamed, I saw what she had seena big blue
car swinging around the curve at a vicious speed and coming straight
The sun-glare blinded me. I tried to swerve our roadster off the
paving. Then something struck me in the face with stunning force, and I
was breathing in choked gasps. We had gotten off the road and had come
to a stop in the shallow ditch. The other car had raced on.
Are you hurt, Jerry? came Marcia's frightened voice.
Not at all, I said. I turned, saw that she was unharmed.
Thethe other car, she said. It looked like father'sthe big
sedan. And I'm sure it was Franklin, the butler, driving. I wonder
She broke off short, gasped.
Darling! she cried. You are hurt. You're bleeding
I felt my face. She was right. When the car stopped, my head had gone
forward into the sunshade, and I had some rather nasty cuts about the
nose and mouth.
I wasn't thinking of them, though, as I started the car. I was
thinking of the strange feeling I'd had as the other car came upon us.
You see, I'd been positive that we couldn't avoid a crash; yet we had
done it. And it seemed as if suddenly we had been picked up from the
road and set in the ditch. Somehow, in that sharp moment, I had seemed
to see Death smiling indulgently at us as he set us to one side
of the onrushing caras if, with grisly humor, he had saved us for
something else he had in mind. . . .
WE were the last to arrive at the Waite home. We had stopped at a
doctor's office on the way and he bandaged my nose and upper lip
thoroughlyso thoroughly that for hours afterward I could smell only
the odor of antiseptic. I cursed those bandages at the time. I couldn't
know that they alone, for a while, saved me from what followed.
Howard, Marcia's oldest brother, met us at the doorhe and Winfield
had driven out from New York, tooand the others were just behind him.
Mother! Marcia said, and then she was in Mrs. Waite's arms.
Marcia's own mother had died at her birthbut the understanding
between these two was perfect. In fact, though Graham Waite's second
wife was truly mother only to eighteen- year-old Jim, all the Waite
children loved her as much as they could have loved their own mother.
The men questioned me about the accident. As always, when seeing them
together, I could not help thinking how distinctly different each was
from the other. Howard, hard-muscled and tall you could tell him for
a man who built roads and spanned rivers. Winfield, Howard's
oppositethe sensitive, artistic type. You'd know before you'd been
told that he was a painter. And blond, blue- eyed Jim, eager,
intelligent, though too young yet for one to know just what he would
make of himself. And last of all, their cousin, Sidney Horton. Sidney
lived nearby, andhis parents being deadwas at the Waites' so often
that I counted him one of them. Dark and slender, yet tall and strongly
built, he was like none of them, yet there seemed to be a great deal of
Waite blood in his veins. It was said that a strain of Polynesian was
in him, too. His father had knocked about the earth a good deal with
Graham Waite, and later had married Graham Waite's sister. Ordinarily
quiet and reserved, Sidney showed genuine alarm now as I finished
telling of the accident.
Then it was Franklin, he said.
Marcia was sure of it, I told him. But where was he heading, going
Young Jim answered.
Wewe don't know, he said. We think last night must have unnerved
him. Just after mother and I got here, we heard a crash in the hall. We
rushed in and it was Franklin; he was white as a ghost and he had
dropped the tea things.
He blurted out that he'd just seenseen father in the dining room.
Then suddenly, he flew into a rage. He cursed the place, said he'd be
damned if he'd work here another minute. He stamped out and took the
big car and drove away.
Wethere was no chance of stopping him. And mother and I were sure
he'd come back.
I couldn't help saying:
If he keeps on driving that way, he won't ever come backalive.
I don't think there is any custom among civilized people more
redolent of barbarism than that of viewing the corpse.
The others went in with us to the flower-banked library where the
coffin lay. I don't know what I expected to see, but tiny shivers of
fear crawled up and down my spine, and because of that, I kept a tight
hold on Marcia's arm. Otherwise, I think she'd have fallen when she saw
her father's body. As it was, she gaspedand I started, took half a
I could hardly believe that it was the body of Graham Waite which lay
there. Only the white hair and beard seemed natural. The bullet hole in
the side of his head was carefully hidden; but that did not help much.
The face was contorted. The smiling, generous mouth that I had known
was twisted with hate.
I had a feeling that behind the closed lids even the eyes must be
shining with that awful fury. I don't know how much the undertaker had
changed the look in that face; but those things must have been beyond
his power to change.
I knew then that when Graham Waite had shot himself, he had been
insanestark, raving mad.
AS there a strain of insanity in the Waite family? I didn't say
anything; I couldn't, for I was certain that others in that room knew
what I was thinking. Marcia must have guessed my thoughts; she tore
away from me, ran again to Mrs. Waite. The brothers, even Jim, stood
I found myself beside Sidney Horton. At that moment, friendly as the
Waites had been to me, I felt like an intruder in this room of death.
For an instant Sidney seemed to feel that way, too.
It may seem a sacrilegious thing to say, he said, but I can't help
thinkinglooking at the old chap's face, you find it not hard to
credit those old beliefs
Beliefs? I said.
In Polynesia, he said, they have a strange feeling toward the
newly dead. They fear them. No matter how kindly the dead one, how much
he loved his family, they believe that for a time after death his ghost
is a hateful, hideous thingthat he comes battering at the doors,
striving to get in to attack and destroy. In Polynesia, after a death,
the women bar the doors and sit the night through in terror.
I looked at the corpse again, and shuddered. I felt suddenly cold.
An odd belief, I said.
A stupid belief. He smiled. But looking at the old chap reminded
me of it. You don't wonder that Franklin got to seeing things.
He spoke lightly, evidently striving to break the tight feeling in
both of us. With me, though, it didn't succeed. I couldn't forget what
he had said and what Franklin thought he had seen; it seemed to tie up
with the growing certainty in my mind that here in this room something
ominous and fearful hoveredsomething apart from the aura of death
occasioned by the body of Graham Waite.
I looked about me now, trying to place the vague thing that troubled
my brain. The room seemed choked with flowers, almost tropical in
abundance. Where they were grouped thickest, the Waites stood, talking
On the instant, the sound of a blow cut sharply through the thick
quiet of that funereal room. Winfieldthe quiet, self-effacing
Winfieldhad struck Howard across the mouth!
I'm damned if I'm taking orders from you! he snarled. I say the
flowers are going! They're barbarousheathen!
He started toward a cluster of flowers as if he meant to fling them
out the window. Howard followed after, seized him roughly by the arm.
You and your bloody artistic sense, he sneered. You seem to forget
that they have a meaning. Leave them there, confound you!
I don't care what they mean! shrilled Winfield. Their odor is
foulI can't stand them!
He brought back his free arm; Howard stepped back to avoid the blow,
his own fists coming up. At that moment Mrs. Waite came between them.
Oddly, she wasn't shocked; she seemed, instead, furious! All her
poise was gone.
I want to hear no more of this! she snapped. The flowers shall
Then I glimpsed Marcia's face. She saw that I was looking at her and
did not speakbut her lips were parted and her face was flushed with
anger. Had it not been for me, she would have entered the quarrel, too.
Over the dead body of their father, I thought, the well-bred Waites
are quarreling like fishwives!
SHOCKED as I was, I yet had the feeling that it was not the Waites
who were quarreling, that it was something arising from the corpse in
that room. I wanted to get them out of there.
Sidney seemed to be thinking the same thoughts. He stepped quietly
over to the little group, took Mrs. Waite's arm.
It is a shattering experience, Aunt Anne, he said. Don't you think
it would be best if we retired to the living room?
Mrs. Waite started at the sound of his quiet voice. She drew her hand
across her eyes.
Yes, she said dazedly. Yes, you are quite right, Sidney.
She led the way from the library into the living room. The rest, even
Winfield and Howard, followed.
We sat down there. That room, too, was heavily banked with flowers. I
realized now that many of them had come from the Waites' own
gardenout there, I supposed, by the faithful Franklin before his
strange defection. Oddly, they oppressed me. It wasn't the odor, for I
could still smell nothing but antiseptic; but nevertheless they gave me
the feeling of wanting to escapeto run screaming from the room, into
the fresh country air outside.
I think I might have done just that, if Wong, the Chinese cook, had
not brought the brandy at that moment.
The Waites seemed to have forgotten their strange actions, the harsh
words they had spoken. Marcia came over and sat beside me, slipped her
hand through my arm. But I could feel her body trembling a little.
Then, as we were talking quietly, Winfield rose from his chair. He
set his brandy down sharply.
If you'll pardon me, he said, I shall go to my room.
He walked out, and I couldn't help staring at him. What had I seen in
his eyes? Was it angeror madness?
Now what the devil is he up to? Howard demanded irritably.
I held my breath. Was it going to break out again, this sinister
battle? I thought Marcia trembled more visibly. Grimly, I held to her
hand. I couldn't let her speakshe couldn't do as the others
Jim got to his feet. I was afraid for the moment that he meant to
follow Winfield, but instead he went to the casement windows and flung
Stuffy as the dickens, he said.
That commonplace act broke the tension. I felt Marcia quieting. The
others sat back, relaxed.
I couldn't relax, though. I kept thinking of what I had seen in
Winfield's eyes, and I wondered what he was up to.
Then I heard something upstairs. It sounded like a crash or like
something falling. Though the noise puzzled me, I breathed easier, just
knowing he was really upstairs.
The sound I heard next, there was no mistaking. Everyone in the room
heard it, and we started to our feet. Muffled by the intervening walls,
it yet came sharply. It sounded from Winfield's room.
It was the death cry of a man in mortal agony.
We men ran out of the room and up the stairs almost together. No one
spoke, but horror showed on every face. I entered Winfield's room
firstand at what I saw I stopped short.
Winfield lay on the floor in a pool of blood. His throat had been
slashed from ear to ear, and the knife which had done it was still
clutched in his hand.
That wasn't all, though. His face was contorted, twisted with
madness. And in the room there were signs of a struggle. A chair had
been smashed to splinters and a vase of flowers overturned; and more
significant than that, two of Winfield's paintings on the walltwo
that he had especially liked and refused to sellhad been slashed to
ribbons. Plainly, they had been slashed by the same knife which
Winfield clutched in his hand.
It was quite evident that Winfield Waite had killed himself, and that
he also had done these other things; yet it nevertheless seemed as if
he had been struggling against something in this room something
invisible, perhaps, but nonetheless hideous and horrible. And whatever
this thing was, I felt then that it was that which had caused the
strange actions of the Waites. Perhaps it had caused Graham Waite's
death, too. I remembered Sidney's strange tale of the fierce ghosts of
the newly dead, and wondered. Was this the way they struck? Was an
epidemic of madness to sweep through this family because of Graham
MarciaGood Lord, would it strike her, too? Down there in the
library she had
AFTER Mrs. Waite learned what had happened, we had to take her
upstairs and to bed. She was more than hysterical; it was plain that if
she weren't quieted, she'd go the way Winfield had gone.
When we were back in the living room again, Howard asked:
Did anyone phone for the doctor?
Jim looked up from the couch, his face frightened.
I tried to, he said. Thethe phone wouldn't work. It was dead.
That's odd, Howard said. It was working this afternoon. We can't
help Win now, but someone should go for the doctor
I'll go, Jim offered quickly.
Howard shook his head, glanced at the rest of us. There was an old
look in his eyes.
On second thought, he said, I think we ought all to remain here.
We'll send Wong; he can drive my car.
We all agreed with him, without voicing the reason. If someone should
attempt to do what Win had done, if someone else should go mad with a
weapon in his hand, we ought all to be there. Yet I didn't like the way
Howard had spoken. There was an ominous tone to his words, almost as if
he were planning something. I looked at him again, but he had turned
I steered Marcia through the doorway that led to the veranda. I
wanted to get her out of that damned house.
She stood there on the lawn, tense, without speaking, till we saw the
car go down the driveway, with the Chinese at the wheel. Then she
turned her white face to mine. I found myself looking at her
intentlythen cursed myself for doing it. What was I looking for in
her eyes? There was nothing wrong with Marciathere couldn't
She gripped my arm tightly.
Jerry! she said, What is it, in there? What is itmore than we
Reassuring words came to my lipsbut they were never uttered. I was
facing the house, Marcia's back was turned toward it. SomethingI
don't know whatcaused my glance to stray toward the darkened window
of the library.
I started, choked back a cry.
There in the library window, faintly luminous in the darkness, was
the face of Graham Waite! The white hair and close-clipped Van
Dykethe face contorted as I had seen it in deathand the mouth now
twisted horribly in a smile. Smiling at us
One instant, I could have sworn I saw it, as clearly as that. The
next, it wasn't there. I was trembling.
Just the same, impulsively, I took Marcia in my arms.
Whatever it is in there, I said wildly, I'm not going to let you
stay and face it any longer. You've got to come away with menow.
Before she could answer, a scream came to our ears. It was a woman's
scream, high-pitched and terrified, and it sounded from upstairs in the
On the instant, every light in the house went out.
WE gained the hallway as I brought a flashlight from my pocket. We
raced up the stairs as the screams, hysterical now, sounded again and
I didn't stop at what my light showed me; I cried out, though, as I
ran faster, trying to make it in time.
There in the hallway, locked in mortal combat, snarling and fighting
like beasts of prey, were Howard Waite and young Jim! They both had
weapons in their handsJim a short iron poker, Howard a club which he
must have brought back from the garage with him. These two, who had
been as close as two brothers could be, were trying to kill each other!
Sidney Horton, a lighted flash in his hand, running toward them from
the other end of the hall, was nearer them than I. But the only one
near enough to come between them was Mrs. Waite. They were almost in
front of the door to her room, and she stood looking on, alternately
screaming and uttering a mad babble of words, utterly unable to move,
Graham! she cried. I saw him just before
While I was still a good twenty feet away, I saw Howard stagger back,
snarling, plainly badly hurt.
Damn you! young Jim shouted. Come at me, will you! And he raised
the poker for a killing blow.
Sidney sprang at Jim to seize the weapon.
He was just too late. The poker came down. I heard the sickening
crunch of metal on bone. Howard sank to the floor and did not move.
Sidney got hold of Jim then, but it didn't seem necessary. Even as
his brother fell, the boy staggered back, horror replacing the madness
in his eyes. The poker fell from his lax fingers.
What have I done? he gasped.
Mrs. Waite was on the floor beside Howard. Now she sprang up, turned
a wild, agitated face toward Jim.
You've killed him! she cried.
Abruptly Jim was struggling in Sidney's arms, as if seized by a fresh
I didn't! he shrieked. He jumped me. He tried to kill me! And
then, I don't give a damn if I did kill him! I hated himI've always
His eyes glared wildly. I thought for a minute that he was going to
break loose from Sidney and pick up the poker and come for the rest of
Sidney held him though, and while Marcia strove futilely to calm her
mother, I examined Howard. The dead face was that of a madman.
They were both madas Winfield had been. Only, unlike the more
sensitive Winfield, who had killed himself, they had set out to kill
The rest of them, I was thinking, when their turn came, would they
creep upon us through the darkened halls with some ugly weapon in their
I caught myself staring intently at Marcia
The three of us finally got Jim and his mother to their rooms,
Howard's body into his.
There were only Sidney and I left, now, to watch over Marcia.
Sidney's story of the angry dead kept ringing through my mind.
WE forced a sleeping potion through Mrs. Waite's lips, then Sidney
and I tied her to the bed. We hated to do it, but she had to be kept in
her room. After she had dozed off, we went out, locking the door of the
After we got Jim to sleep, we tied him down, too, and locked his
room. We left a candle burning in both rooms, for we hadn't been able
to find what was wrong with the lights.
After that, the three of us went downstairs to the living room, and
found enough lamps to make it fairly bright. Sidney walked the floor
nervously, and Marcia sat, stiff and tense. Sidney kept looking at his
watch, and at last I realized what was on his mind. Wong had not
Finally he turned to me.
It's been an hour and a half, he said, since that damned Chinese
went for the doctor. It couldn't have taken him more than half an
He probably got scared and kept on going, I suggested.
I shouldn't wonder. Jerry, we've got to get a doctor. We really
should get the police; but in any case, we need a physician to examine
Aunt Anne and Jimbefore it's too late. One of us has to go.
I looked at Marcia; if I went, I knew she'd insist on staying here
with her mother. Still, it was up to me to go. I told Sidney I would.
He was on the point of agreeing with me, it appearedthen suddenly
he shook his head. He drew me out into the hall, away from Marcia.
Jerry, he said, now that I think of it, I believe I'll go.
Remember, I'm half Waite. Whatever it is that's loose in this house, I
think you're immune. You can stay here, try to help Marcia. Don't think
I'm yellow, Jerry, butlook at my eyes, will you? Do you see anything
odd about them?
I don't think it's hit you, Sidney, I said.
He laughed shortly.
The look in your face belies your words, Jerry, he said. I thought
I was immune, toobut for the past half hour I've been feelingjust a
little strange. The truth is, I don't dare stay herewith Marcia.
You're right, I told him.
Then I'll be going, he said. And I'm not just bringing a
doctorI'm bringing the police, too.
When he had gone, I told Marcia that she had better go to her room
and take a sleeping potion as the others had.
I know, she said bitterly. You want to lock me in. No. I'll stay
up and watch over Jim and mother.
I protested that she couldn't help Jim and her mother now by staying
up. I promised her that I'd be in the room next to hers, and that I
would be awake and dressed.
She broke down then. She rushed into my arms and wept for a long
I carried her in my arms, finally, up the stairs and into her room.
And after a little while, she slept. I blew out the candle I had lit,
and crept softly into the adjoining room.
I didn't undress; I didn't even lie down. For a while I walked the
floor, trying to think through to some answer to the mad thoughts
whirling in my brain. But I stopped short as a fearful new thought
struck me. Supposing I wasn't immune to this fearful madness?
I was sure by now that it wasn't caused by any hereditary taint upon
the Waites; it was something that had to do with this house and the
first death in it. And it had gotten Franklin; why wouldn't it take me
when the right time came? And if it did, was there any reason for
thinking it would make me any less a mad killer than it had the Waites?
I sat down in a chair, shuddering, held my face in my hands while
sweat beaded my brow.
I finally calmed myself. I seemed to be getting drowsy.
I must have dozed off. Then sound dinned in my ears. It came from the
next room. It was Marcia!
Father! she cried shrilly, and then: Jerry!
I BURST in the door and rushed into the hall, calling back to Marcia.
I sensed some movement in the hall. I ran into Marcia's room, flashing
on my light as I did so.
She was standing beside the bed, pale as death, her eyes wide with
Marcia! I said. What was it?
She came toward me.
Jerryit was father! I saw him! I woke up and he was standing over
the bed. But he wasn't like he used to be. Hehe looked hideous.
I tried to calm her.
It couldn't have been, I said. You had a nightmare, Marcia.
She gripped my arm tightly; then she spoke low and tensely.
Jerry, she said, look into my eyes. I'm not mad. I saw father.
There was no madness in her eyes, only terror. In spite of myself I
began to believe that what I had seen in the library window had been no
There was no use of keeping anything from Marcia now. I told her all
I had seen.
I think we'd better go downstairslook in the coffin, I added.
We went downstairs swiftly, keeping the flashlight trained ahead of
us. We had left the lamps in the living room burning, but they didn't
light up the library. It was all I could do to muster courage to step
into that darkened room of death.
I finally did it. We stepped up to the coffin. The body of Graham
Waite was still there.
I started, though, and looked closer. Weren't the arms just a little
moved from their former position?
While I was wondering about that, though, I suddenly went cold all
over. From behind us toward the doorway, a soft step had sounded!
We whirled about. Coming toward us, very quietly, was Jim WaiteJim,
whom we had left bound and locked in his room! In his upraised hand, he
held a meat cleaver, razor-sharp.
He rushed toward us when he realized he had been seen. But as he
leaped, he cried out, high and shrilly, words that at that time seemed
strange even for a madman:
Damn these stinking flowers!
Marcia had leaped to the far side of the room. As I looked wildly
around for a weapon to defend myself, I glimpsed her face. The sight
all but froze me
had gotten her, too.
With a choked sob, I flung the lighted flashlight full into Jim
PARTLY because he was mad, I suppose, the light in Jim's face did the
trick. He struck out at me with the cleaver, once, just as the
flashlight hit him. He missedand on the instant he whirled about.
With a low cry, he rushed from the room.
We followed after him swiftly, side by side. I didn't dare turn to
look at Marcia.
The front door opened and shut before we got there. When we came out
onto the veranda, we could neither see nor hear Jim. It was quite dark,
though, and the trees and scrubs were black clusters of even darker
It's really no use, Jerry, Marcia said. We'll never find himnot
in the night.
The quietness of her tones, the sanity of them, startled mesent a
flood of hope coursing through me. For the first time since we had left
the library, I dared to look her in the face again. All the hate and
the madness I had glimpsed was gone!
No, I said, we'd never find him now. We'll go back into the house,
make sure that your mother hasn't awakened.
But before we went upstairs, we walked out to the garage, making our
way very cautiously. There I reached in the pocket of my car and took
out the gun I always carried there.
We went up then and looked in Mrs. Waite's room. She didn't seem to
have stirred. We crept quietly out, and locked the door again.
Then we went across the hall to Jim's room. He hadn't wriggled loose
and the ropes had not been cut. He had been untied, the door unlocked,
from the outside.
It's no use, Jerry, she said a little wildly. I did see
father! He set Jim loose. No one else could have done it.
Whoever let Jim loose, I said, was a human being. A ghost couldn't
do it, even if there were such a thing. No. It was Jim. He came into
your room, made up like your father. You've got to believe that,
Marcia. You've got to keep on believing it, no matter what happens.
I took the automatic from my pocket, and handed it to her.
There's one danger that you know is human. That's Jim, Marcia. You
must take this gun, and if Jim comes back into the house, you've got to
defend yourself. Don't try just to cripple him.
She took the gun, with a shudder.
And another thing, I said. I want you to change rooms with me this
time. There's a door between that we'd better leave unlocked. The door
to the hall, you must lock from the inside.
I sha'n't sleep, she said.
Perhaps not. But it's safer in there than anywhere else.
All my thoughts were a jumble. Once I even thought of insisting on
making a break for the car with Marcia, leaving this accursed house
behind; but the odd thing was that immediately I tossed all plans of
getting away aside. For the moment I wasn't afraid; I actually
wanted to stay and see the thing through.
WE went into the room where I had stayed before, and Marcia locked
the door leading into the hall. Promising that I'd keep watch, I got
her to lie down on the bed and covered her up. Then I lighted a candle
and went on into the other room, closing the door behind me but not
Once in there, I locked the door which led to the hall. I sat down
beside the bed, leaving the candle burning. There was no sound in all
Stuffy in the room, I thought. My head ached a bit. I got up and
opened the window a little wider. That didn't help much, and I loosened
the bandages around my nose, took a deep breath. I felt better then;
but when I went back and sat down, my head began aching again.
There was a huge vase of flowers beside the bed near where I sat. It
reminded me of the library, and the coffin. I'd a good notion to fling
it out of the window. Then I rememberedWinfield had wanted to do the
same thing. I shuddered.
I looked at my watch, and started. It had been over an hour since
Sidney left! My thoughts blurred. I seemed to hear Marcia stirring in
the next room. It made me wonder.
Come to think of it, it hadn't been such a good plan at thatgiving
Marcia the gun and leaving the door between us unlocked. Already the
madness had started to strike her, more than once.
I almost wanted to lock the door between us. She could sneak in and
finish me with one shot. Then she'd go in and kill her mother, and then
I'd better keep an eye on that door, just in case it should start
Maybe I ought to arm myself. A knife was lying on the bookcase. I
went over and picked it up. I started. Why, it looked like the knife
Winfield had killed himself with! How could it have gotten in here? It
wasn't bloody anymore; somebody must have wiped it off and brought it
Had Marcia done that? Had she figured on using it? On me, perhaps?
Shakily, with the knife still in my hand, I went over and sat down by
the bed. I began watching the door closely, expecting it to move any
It was stuffy. Not so much airlessness, as that there was a strange
odor. The antiseptic on my bandages had begun to wear off, and now that
I had loosened them I caught the odor.
It was a noxious, thick sort of smell. Did those flowers smell that
way? No, they couldn't; they were dahlias; I knew how dahlias smelled.
This was thicker, more exotic.
I bent over, breathed in the odor of the flowers deeply. It did seem
as if the smell came from themyet I still knew it couldn't.
I seemed to be thinking weird thoughts. I thought about the
guillotine, how it must work; I thought about Winfield lying in a pool
of blood. I had a kind of dream of dark-skinned men, a great horde of
them, fighting each other with knives. I seemed to be one of them. I
felt a great joy as I thrust a heavy knife into a man's vitals.
Damn himI finished him then, I said.
I had spoken aloud. It brought me out of the dream. I looked down.
The knife was still clutched in my hand.
Why, damn it, I thought, she had the knife in here so she could come
in and kill me with it! Changing rooms has spoiled Marcia's plan, but
now she has the gun. Why, the she-devil!
I blew out the candle; then I crept over to the door, listened. The
moving had stopped. She had probably come to the other side of the
door, and was waiting to strike.
There's only one way to beat her, I thought. I've got to strike
first. I'll move the door open, slowly, inch by inch.
I wish I could forget the things I thought and did then; but I can't.
I'll remember them until I die.
I FINALLY opened the door. I had expected a shot to greet me, and I
had the knife gripped tightly in my hand, readybut no shot came. She
had blown out the lamp and was waiting for me.
I kept close to the floor and crept forward, trying to accustom my
eyes to the darkness. By the time I was halfway across the room, I
could see fairly well. There was no one lurking in the shadows.
Was it possible that she was in bed and asleep? My heart beat wildly.
I raised up a little to see.
She was! I was sure of it. I could see where the covers were bunched
That made it perfect. She probably didn't even have the gun under her
pillow. I moved forward to the bed. I looked around the room again, to
make certain she wasn't hiding.
Then, suddenly, I leaped up. With a low cry, I plunged the knife into
that rise in the covers. There was no sound, but again and again I
plunged it in, gloatingly.
I sank back at last on the floor by the bed. I was exhausted, gasping
for breath. Then, abruptly, my hair rose on end. I had heard a sound
behind me! The door to the hall was openingalmost noiselessly.
I whirled about, the knife gripped in my hand, ready for the
intruder. And then I screamed.
In the doorway stood the corpse of Graham Waite!
I say corpse, because even if I had not known Graham Waite was dead,
I'd have been certain this was no living man. The face was almost as
white as the hair and beard. The mouth was hideously, hatefully
I didn't even dare to look at the eyes.
When I screamed, he stopped. I thought for a breathless minute that
he was going to wheel about and run. Then he smiled horribly and
started toward me.
A RED rage boiled up in my brain. Ghost or corpse, I didn't care. I
wanted to sink my knife into it. With a bellow, I leaped to my feet,
flung myself toward it with my knife thrust forward.
The knife struck something fleshy, went in. I heard a cry, and came
up against a solid body. I drew my knife back again.
His arm caught my wrist. Then I saw that his other hand held a gun. I
caught the gun hand. We held each other for a moment, struggling. All
at once his gun hand wrenched loose. I twisted, and at the same time, I
heard the click of the trigger. The gun roared.
I felt a burn along my side. The bullet hadn't entered me. I reached
out with my foot, caught him off balance. He staggered back. I drove
the knife in.
He gasped oncethen he fell backward, clutching at empty air. His
grip on me was loosenedyet I went over with him. I stumbled forward,
on top of him. He didn't struggle.
As we hit the floor, I heard the pound of running feet. Lights
flashed in my eyes. People were bending over us. It was Marcia, and
Jimbut they had masks onhandkerchiefs tied over their faces like
white masks. The whole horror of it struck me at once, like a consuming
Send them away, I mumbled. Take me down to hell, and send them
I clutched at the man under meor the corpse. I felt the beard pull
loose. Then everything went black.
I couldn't have been out for more than a half minute. I shuddered. I
looked down and gasped. I had clawed away the face of the corpse.
Beneath it were the features of Sidney Horton!
Marcia and Jim were helping me to my feet. Horton, beneath me, was
babbling wildly. The others were talking too, and I began to
I hadn't killed Marcia. She hadn't been in her bed when I drove the
knife in. She had seen Jim lying out on the lawn, and had crept out
there, hoping she could bring him back to sanity. He already was sane
when she got there, because the fresh air had cleared the madness from
He had begun to guess why it was he had gone madand so when they
came back, they had worn masks, treated with antiseptic. The same kind
of thing that had saved me till just a little while ago.
Some of the other answers to that night's horrors I learned from
Sidney Horton's babblings before he died, some not till much later. One
thing I hadn't known was that Sidney wasn't a Waite, but was a natural
son of the elder Horton, by a Polynesian mother. Graham Waite's sister
had raised him as if he were her own son; but at the same time, the
Waites knew his true ancestry, and he knew it, and it had rankled in
him. He grew to hate them all. He wanted to destroy them.
On top of that, he needed money. In some way or other he had learned
of a diamond mine in South Africa that his father had once owned a half
interest in, but had later sold out entire to Graham Waite. At one time
it had been valueless; Graham Waite had still thought it was when he
died; but Horton had learned that it was going to turn out to be
tremendously valuable, and he wanted it. If he could kill off all the
Waites, it would come back to him.
He found a willing ally in Wong. Wong had been, apparently, a
faithful servant of the Waites for years; but at some time or other,
Graham Waite had unwittingly offended him. In Oriental fashion, Wong
was biding his time for revenge.
HE knew of a strange poison, a perfume that would drive men mad,
drive them into a killing rage. It would act a little differently upon
one man than another, but always, if he got enough of it, if the doses
were repeated, the victim would go mad and try to kill himself or
Wong had managed to sprinkle it in the flowersflowers that, for the
most part, had been grown in the Waites' own garden. The odor had
driven Graham Waite to an insane suicide; it had put the butler,
Franklin, into a mad fury. Then, when the family were all gathered, the
two had attempted to drive the rest of them to madness and to death.
Horton wore respirators in his nose to save himself, and when he
realized that the bandages on me served a like purpose, he decided to
save me. Alive, I would be his most certain proof of innocence. He had
made himself up to look like Graham Waite partly because he thought it
would aggravate the madness with some, but more so that he could safely
go from room to room, adding more of the oil to the flowers.
He had come into Marcia's room, guessing that we had changed rooms,
to do that at the time I met him, and he decided then that he had to
kill me, too. Of course he never went for the police.
He said that Wong had gotten his pay and cleared out, and we'd never
catch him. He was right about that. But we did learn something more
about the poison later, when the police chemist managed to make a crude
analysis of what little was left. He was unable to discover its exact
constituents; but he later showed me a book by H. Ashton-Wolfe, Warped
in the Making, I think it was called, in which the author, describing
his experiences as assistant to Dr. Bertillon in Paris, cites an
instance of the use of a similar drug. The case of Hanoi Shan, in which
this poison was used, is to be found in the records of the Paris
Sureté for 1909. Shan, otherwise known as the Spider, was a madman
killer who had terrorized Paris. At the time of his arrest, the
Sureté analyzed the poison and announced their belief that it was
an extract of the venom of a deadly insect, native to Borneo, probably
of the spider family. Its effect was upon the brain cells, arousing in
the mind exactly the same sort of bloody madness that had overtaken the
Waites. I checked on this later myself, and found that, strange and
hideous as it was, it was true!
That, as I say, came out later.
Now, after Sidney Horton had breathed his last, we went down the hall
and lifted Mrs. Waite gently from her bed. We carried her downstairs,
and out of that poison-infested house of death.
Dawn light was just showing in the east. Marcia and I walked down the
lawn a little way.
I put my arms around her. A little of the dawn light caught her hair.
As if by silent agreement, for a little time we forgot everything else
but just us, there in the morning light. I leaned down and kissed her
Etext from pulpgen.com - 2004 Blackmask Online.