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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Tyranny Of The Dark - Book 2 - Chapter 8. Kate's Interrogation
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The Tyranny Of The Dark - Book 2 - Chapter 8. Kate's Interrogation Post by :p00kie Category :Long Stories Author :Hamlin Garland Date :May 2012 Read :3437

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The Tyranny Of The Dark - Book 2 - Chapter 8. Kate's Interrogation

BOOK II CHAPTER VIII. KATE'S INTERROGATION

Kate, waiting impatiently in her turn, met him at the door. "Well, did you see her? What did she say?" Her voice rose in excitement, for she perceived unusual gravity in the lines of his face.

"Your 'far country' lies on the borders of hell," he replied, with disconcerting succinctness. "Yes, I saw her--or, rather, the ruin of her."

She recoiled before this tone. "What do you mean?"

He shook himself free of his coat. "She has descended swiftly. She now lends herself to the shallowest, basest trickery."

"I don't believe it. What has happened to make you so bitter?"

"I will tell you presently," he replied, hanging up his hat with aggravating deliberation. "But not here. Come to the library." He led the way and she followed quite meekly, for she perceived in him something new and harsh. She sat quite still while he filled his pipe and lit it, waited until the soothing flow of smoke through its stem had softened his face. He began, sadly: "The girl has gone beyond our interference, Kate; and if she weren't so pretty, if I hadn't seen her when she was wholesome and altogether charming, I would not have wasted this evening on her. To-night's doings were unforgivable."

"Did she give you a sitting?"

"No, but they were in the midst of a _seance_"--he spoke this word with infinite disgust--"and the usher, mistaking me for an invited guest, thrust me into the very centre of the circle."

"How lucky! I wish I had been there."

"Well, that's as you look at it. When I realized what was going on I wanted to leave, and, I repeat, had the chief actress been an old hag or the usual sloven who plays this game, I would have fled; but she was as beautiful as a statue as she lay there, professedly in deep trance."

"You're sure it was Viola?"

"I wish there were a doubt! Yes, she was there, surrounded by a group of Pratt's friends, giving a _performance_." This word, too, expressed his contempt, his pain. "She went the whole length--lent herself to the cheapest kind of jugglery, playing with horrible adroitness upon the emotions of a lot of bereaved men and women. It was revolting, Kate. It shakes one's faith in humanity to see such a girl in such a position--and that nice-appearing old mother sat there serene as a tabby-cat while her daughter bamboozled a dozen open-faced ninnies."

"Tell me exactly what happened; I can't share your horror till I know what the girl actually did."

He approached the details with a grimace.

"First of all, imagine a little half-circle of well-dressed men and women, in a big drawing-room, enclosing a girl lying on a low chair under a single gas-jet, and a man standing beside her speechifying."

"That was Clarke, of course."

"Of course. Then imagine the light turned down, and the usual floating guitar--in the dark, of course--and rappings and whispers and the touch of hands--all in the dark. Then imagine--this will make you laugh--some kind of horn or megaphone of tin, that rambled around invisibly, distributing voices of loved ones here and there like sweetmeats out of a cornucopia--"

"You mean the spirits _spoke through that thing?"

"That's what they all believed."

"But you don't think the girl--"

"Who else? Some of the voices were women's and one or two were children's. Clarke couldn't do the children's voices."

"I can't believe it of her! Clarke must have done them. He's capable of anything, but I don't, I won't believe such baseness of that girl."

"It hurts me to admit it, Kate, but I am forced to believe that she not only sang through that horn to-night, but that she lied to me. She told me once that she had no voice, and yet 'by request' she sang into that horn, and very sweetly, too, the very song to which she played an accompaniment when Clarke and I met for the first time. The effrontery of it was confounding."

"Maybe there was a confederate."

"That doesn't sweeten the mess very much."

"No, and yet it wouldn't be quite so bad. But go on--what else?"

"Then I was invited by the 'controls'--so Clarke said--to come up and sit beside the medium, which I did, very loathly. It gave me a keen pang to look down on that lovely creature pretending to sleep, knowing perfectly well that she was planning some deep deception."

"You _are bitter. What next?"

"I took a seat beside her, determined to see if she really had a hand in the deception. I thought I could prevent anything happening."

"Did you?"

"No. Everything went on quite as briskly as before, and all the while I thought I could see her arms lying limp along her chair--lovely arms they were, too. She isn't poor, you must understand that, Kate; and that really makes the crime worse, for she has not the usual excuse--she is not doing it for her daily bread."

Kate sat like a judge, "Go on. You seized her, of course?"

"Yes; just when the cone was emitting an old man's pompous harangue I laid my hand on her arm. The horn dropped, the circle rose in confusion, and I came away."

"I expected you'd do that. All sceptics do, I believe. But I want to know _all that took place. You're so concise. You say the cone emitted a man's voice. Now, how could--"

"It produced the _impression of a man's voice. It is easy to deceive under such conditions. The cone was passed from her hand to Clarke's at the proper moments, and, as you say, there might have been a child--"

"You must not infer, Mort--my faith in that girl is at stake. Was there nothing in her favor? Nothing that justified her claim?"

He hesitated and Kate leaned forward in excess of interest. "Go on, Morton, be honest."

"Well, now, as I think of it there was one little thing which was rather curious. I don't know how she or Clarke or any one there should know what we used to call Uncle Ben."

"What? Did you get a message from him?"

"A voice from the megaphone asked for me, and when I requested the name of 'the party speaking,' as Clarke says, it replied with an oily chuckle, exactly like the old duffer, '_It's old Loggy._'"

"It did?" Her voice was sharp with surprise. "Well, now, that is as wonderful as my experience. How do you account for _that_? How _do you account for such things?" she repeated, insistently.

"Clarke must have known--"

"Nonsense. No one outside our immediate family knows of that nickname. Besides, how would he know the way 'Loggy' laughed? I'd forgotten it myself."

"So had I. But what would you say? Would you jump to the conclusion--"

"_You are jumping at the conclusion, Mort. If there is one single thing that you can't understand, you must give that girl the benefit of the doubt. What did 'Loggy' say?"

"There you go! You're ready to swallow the whole lump of humbuggery, just because there is one little puzzling plum in it."

Kate was not to be put down. "What did uncle _say_?"

He submitted. "Nothing else. Like most of those dead folk, he was there just to manifest, not to impart wisdom."

Kate leaned back in her chair and grew thoughtful. "Morton, that was wonderful. No one knew you were coming, no one knew you except those people, and they're from, the other end of the earth--and yet _somebody speaks, using a pet name we've both forgotten. Now, I call that a most important thing to dwell upon. How can _you_, a scientist, overlook it?"

"But you must remember all this happened in the house of jugglery. There is no value in a performance of that kind. There was no test applied. Confederates had full opportunity to come and go. To have weight with me these wonders must take place under conditions of my making, not theirs."

"That's what she wants."

"I don't believe it. Pardon me, Kate, but you've been taken in. Whatever this girl was two years ago, she is now a part of Clarke's scheme, which is to secure a tremendous lot of advertising and then--emit a book."

Kate transfixed him with a finger. "Morton Serviss, there is nothing so convincing as a tone. I know that girl is honest--she may be deceived, she may be made a tool of, unconsciously, by Clarke, but she does not wilfully deceive. I will not let you off with this experience; you must see her in private--talk with her as I did."

"I will have nothing further to do with her or hers," he replied, with determined quiet, knocking the ashes from his pipe. "I have other and better business in the world."

"I don't believe it is better business. Now, wait a moment, I have something to tell of my own evening. While you were gone I 'phoned Uncle Harrison and Aunt Nancy about that debt of my great-aunt--who came to me through Viola to-day; they knew nothing about it, but they set to work looking over her old papers, and found that there was a sealed letter addressed to a doctor in Michigan, and in the letter was a check made out to him and which she intended to send him. Now, what do you think of that?"

"I don't see that that has any necessary connection with your experience this afternoon."

"But it does. I'm sure of it. Auntie felt grateful to this young doctor and wanted to reward him. Morton, it was a big check!" She uttered this impressively.

"Was it? How much?"

"Five thousand dollars."

He faced her with a whistle of surprise. "Well, well! that isn't so amusing. Are we to pay it? Is that the idea?"

"If I am sure--if the letter is what they 'phoned it to be, we've got to pay it, I'm her sole legatee, and she was very angry because it hadn't been paid; but that's not the really important part. How did Viola Lambert know of that letter--and that check?"

He was deeply impressed, and did not try to conceal it. "That is very puzzling; but it may be a case of mind-reading, which, I believe, the modern psychologists admit has been proved." He began to muse. "It may be, as Weissmann says, that there is always some basis for a claim such as Clarke makes for this girl. It may be that she has a faculty for reading what lies in the brain of another--"

"Morton Serviss, you shall not condemn that girl unheard. You have taken Britt's word about her, and you've listened to my story, but you must see her yourself and talk with her alone, so that she will be free to tell you just how she feels."

"No. I am going to bed and try to forget the whole disconcerting group."

"That's the way with you scientists. You'll pursue the tail of a comet--or a germ--till you're black in the face, but when something really important to the human race comes under your nose you can't see it."

"You're forceful but not elegant, sis."

"I'm out of all patience with you."

He laughed. "Good-night."

"I hope that girl's face will haunt you," she replied.

It did. From the moment he turned off his light his mind leaped into the most restless activity. Taking up the scroll of the night's events, he read and reread it with minutest care. A voice seemed to present the girl's case, arguing that she had no conscious part in the manifestations. "It is possible for one in deep trance to rise and manipulate horns, bells, and guitars at the suggestion of another precisely as a somnambulist walks without intention of wrong-doing, without conscious knowledge of what is being done. She might have had a veritable hand in to-night's drama and still be innocent. Hypnotism is now pretty thoroughly proven--and to Clarke you must look for the real offender.

"The human brain, which is marvellous enough when in health and singing merrily forward like a cunningly constructed and jewelled time-piece, becomes, in disease, as baffling, as hopeless of solution as the laws of the unfathomable sky. Beyond the utmost sweep of the imagined lies the marvel of fact. The beliefs, the vagaries, the hallucinations of the insane have never been co-ordinated, perhaps they never will be. It is possible that this girl, so normal in appearance, has a rotten strand in her--some weakness inherited from her father. This is the only way in which to account for her glowing physical health and her manifest mental disorder. She has her father's mind in a body drawn from her mother. One-half of her is pure and sweet and girlish, the other is old, decayed, lying, and irresponsible. Can she be reclaimed?

"It is now known that the conscious mind is but a pin's-point of the mind's activity, the conscious state being but one of an infinite number of possible states--that the submerged, unconscious self is a million times more complex than the chain of those conscious states which makes up the normal or orderly life of an individual. May it not be that this girl, by reason of her long practice of submission--induced by others--has dethroned her conscious, higher self, making of her subliminal self a tyrant? This submerged self, holding, as it does, all the experiences of the dark past, all the lusts, deceits, and subterfuges, all the cruelties and shameless potentialities of her animal and semicivilized forebears, and being but a mass of discordant impulses--states almost entirely disassociated from her conscious life--has all but taken possession of her higher self. The restraint of the later-developed, governing, moral self being weakened, the witches and wolves are leaping forth to vex and destroy. Over this fortuitous subversion of her soul's kingdom Clarke now rules like a demon councillor.

"Considered in the light of a study in morbid psychology, her case is enthralling. From the standpoint of human pity this use of her is a diabolical outrage. Suppose Kate to be right--suppose the girl has awakened to a full realization of her danger? Suppose that her cry for succor is real, can I, can any man who hears it, refuse to heed? Would I ever sleep in peace again?"

He went further, he admitted that her beauty was the deciding element. "She is too lovely to be left to a fanatic's designs. She has matured in body, grown more womanly, since we rode the trail together; may it not be that her mind, maturing even more rapidly, has come to perceive the crumbling edge of the abyss before it stands and turns to science as the only rescuer? No matter what her past deceptions have been, is it not my duty to help her?"

His anger and contempt dissolved into compassion. He recalled her youth, her inexperience. "I will at least see her again," he decided, deep in the night. "I will talk with her. I will draw her out. I will study her. All will depend upon her attitude towards me and towards her own soul." And in that softened mood sleep came to him.

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