HORACE ANNESLEY VACHELL
II. "The Case of Colin Rossiter"
COM r I. E T E l N T II / S / S S’ U E
WENDOVER, AS he dressed for dinner, wondered what his second case would be like. It occurred to him that he was not entirely “done” with the first Having rescued young Kingslade, he could not contemplate "shaking” him. The boy would regard him as a sort of godfather. Many ladies had entreated Wendover to stand sponsor to their children, but he had edged away from such importunitv. Now. oddlv
enough, he felt slightly ashamed of himself, seeing youth with happier eyes. Despite his vigils, he was conscious of a delightful physical
alertness, and frankly admitted that he was really hungry. Before leaving his fiat, he made out a cheque for a hundred pounds, which he handed with a complacent smile to Babbington-Raikes on arrival. Sir Arthur beamed at him.
"And how is my partner?” he asked.
Wendover dared not dissemble.
"I’ll own up.” he replied, with a laugh. “Lady Di Travers is right.
You can work miracles.”
“So can you. apparently. We all can. if we give our minds to it.”
At dinner Wendover reported fully, but he ended on a dismal note:
”1 can trust that boy. He’ll pull himself together. He’s sound at core. I wish I was as sure of myself.
The pal! of boredom has lifted, but it may blot me out yet.”
"Our next rase will be more interesting. You can trust me to make cumulative demands upon your energy and resource.”
However, of that case Sir Arthur refused to speak till they had left his snug dining-room. Alone with his guest in the consulting-room, he spoke with professional brevity:
"Do you know Julian Vail?”
"Julian Vail? I seem to have heard of Julian Vail.”
"The accomplished author of 'Cosmic Currents.’ ”
“The man and his book convey nothing to me.”
"Um! I should have thought that Vail would have had a shot at Lucky Wendover.”
"A shot at m»? Why?”
DABBINGTON-RAIKES hesitated. The lines about his mouth became slightly whimsical, his tone, when he spoke. was deprecating, almost apologetic.
“We doctors are jealous, Wendover, and perhaps we use the odious word ‘quack’ too readily, with or without justification. I believe Vail to be a quack. Certainly he is trespassing in what, rightly or wrongly, I regard to be my particular domain. He is clever enough not to label himself as a faith healer or a Christian scientist, but he exercises singular powers of healing, and apparently charges no fee. He may be honest. Unquestionably he has charm and personality. He, too, works miracles. But at the moment he is driving a patient of mine to drink.”
He paused. Wendover remarked lightly:
“I am vaguely interested in Mr. Julian Vail.” “Pigeon-hole him for a moment. I want to present Colonel Rossiter.”
“No other. He is my friend and patient. He came to me a few weeks ago and complained of increasing insomnia, which I believed at first to be caused by overwork. During the war he was overworked. But then, so he assured me, he slept well. Under my advice he stopped working, and the insomnia grew worse. I was driven to hunt for another cause, and with great difficulty I found it. Admittedly, this war has had a
queer effect on women, but I don’t propose to bore you with my views on that theme. Anyway, what sufficed them five years ago does not suffice them to-day. Some have risen to the heights; others have fallen. Infidelity, as you know, is raging like a pestilence. Just before the war Colonel Rossiter married a pretty girl—a love match on both sides. Everybody knows that he invented one of our high explosives. He had to work on that secretly, away from his wife. I suppose the trouble began then. It is now acute. She has come under the influence of this fellow Vail. Rossiter is a proud, very reserved man, quite incapable of dealing with a delicate situation. Brooding over it, realising his own impotence, has brought him to a sorry pass. He believes that he has lost his wife. But she is worth finding again. I can assure you of that, although you will form your own opinion.”
“What am I to do?”
“Bring two nice people together.”
The Second of a Series of Five Stories
Wendover shrugged his shoulders.
“Once,” he said, “I saw a man punching his wife. I interfered. When I came to my senses, I was in the receiving ward of a hospital, perhaps more frightened than seriously hurt, but it served as an object lesson.”
“Of how not to do it. In this case I suggest that you concentrate on Vail. Find out what he’s up to; try him out. I leave it at that. As an experiment, the trying-out process will be interesting and, quite possibly, dangerous.”
“How you hate the man!”
“Isn’t it more charitable to assume that 1 love the Rossiters?”
“I sit corrected, Sir Arthur. Vail may be too clever for me, but I’ll take him on.”
“I thought you would. Shall 1 ask the Rossiters here to meet you?”
“Thanks—no. I’ll manage all that on my own. Suppose you talk to me of the queer effects of the war on women.”
“Certainly. By the way, before you tackle Vail, read his book."
WENDOVER expected to be bored with "Cosmic Currents,” but he wasn’t. The cleverness of it astonished him. Apparently the author was juggling with vibrations even as the amazing Cinquevalli juggled with feathers and cannon balls. The book fascinated, because it was impossible to decide whether or not the author was sincere. Upon every page lay the gloss of sincerity, and the altruistic spirit, and without using medical terminology Vail managed to convey to the reader the conviction that he was treating his theme scientifically. Possibly this assumption—if it were an assumption—of highly specialized knowledge irritated the famous neurologist, and provoked the word “trespassing." Indeed, reading and re-reading certain passages concerning suggestion and auto-suggestion. Wendover asked himself if he might not have consulted Vail instead of Babbington-Raikes had he read this alluring volume first. He noted that it had passed through several editions.
To meet Vail was easy. To meet him at the Rossiters’ or with the Rossiters might tax ingenuity. Ultimately he decided that the first direct advances ought to come from Vail. To bring this about, he walked next day into the office of Vail’s publishers.
“Have you ‘Cosmic Currents’?” he asked.
A clerk replied superciliously:
“It can be bought at any bookseller’s.” “But I want a hundred copies."
“But I want a hundred copies." The clerk became civil. “Certainly. Where shall I send them, sir?” Wendover gave name and address. The clerk became obsequious. He had recognized Lucky Wendover.
“If I wanted a thousand copies could I have them?” “Within a week or two, sir. A new edition is at press. The book interests you. 1 presume?”
“You know the author?"
“I have not that happy privilege. Good morning.” He went out, cocking his chin. “Will he rise to my fly?” he thought. “I must fish fine for Mr. Julian Vail.
I wonder whether he would take a spoon bait? Has he
palate for port?”
T THE club he found a man who knew Colin Rossiter. Wendover was soon told that he ought to meet the inventor. Money and brains. What a combination! Would Wendover meet Rossiter at luncheon? Oysters. Chablis and a bird. The speaker offered to ’phone
Rossiter at once. No sooner said than done. Wendover said to himself: “I am sliding into this too easily. I shall be bored stiff before I know where I am.”
He met Rossiter, a rather quiet, self-absorbed man, and took an instant fancy to him. But fancies were now recognised by Wendover as his bane. Fancy, the queen-jade, had a habit of flitting away. So often people didn’t improve on acquaintance; they had an axe to be ground by a rich man, they wanted to “use” him. And then, immediately, Wendover would be disgusted and feel like Timon of Athens. However, to further his ends, he was so agreeable to Rossiter that the inventor asked him to his house.
“This is simply shelling peas, so far,” thought Wendover.
Before he met Mrs. Rossiter, he heard, as he expected, from Vail. The letter might mean anything or nothing. It was carefully worded upon thick plain paper, and the calligraphy might have been that of a scholar.
“My publishers tell me” (wrote Vail) “that you have ordered a number of copies of my book, and that, at the time, you asked if a much larger number could be supplied. You would do me a favour if you could tell me whether it is your intention to order these extra copies, as in that case the edition now at press would, designedly, be increased. Naturally 1 am much interested in the rather remarkable fact that you are buying my book en gros. It would be a pleasure to meet you if you cared to meet me.”
They met, of course, within a few hours. Outwardly the author of “Cosmic Currents” betrayed no sign of the charlatan. He was well groomed, handsome, courteously eager to please and be pleased. Wendover thought that he detected a slight aggressiveness, both physical and mental. Vail impressed him as standing securely upon a pinnacle, surveying the world^as his oyster.
“I AM giving away the copies of your remarkable book,” said Wendover after the first greeting. This was perfectly true. He added: “For the moment I shall not want any more.
It interested me more than [ can say.”
Vail smiled. Wendover went on pleasantly:
“You soar above me, but I carry an open mind. Your psychic experiences have been remarkable. You are spoken of, even by doctors, as a miracle-worker.”
“Miracle-workers! What is wonderful to one generation is accepted as a commonplace by the next. We are now on the threshold of the temple. The world is almost ready for the truth.
Tell me, in your considered judgment, what constitutes a miracle?”
Wendover, with no offence whatever in his voice, said quietly:
“After reading your book 1 asked myself that question and answered it. Have you sufficient faith in your amazing powers to allow a cobra to bite you?”
“Well, no. My faith in the ultimate triumph of mind over matter is strong; it grows stronger each day, but I should not submit to such a test.”
“Let me put the case differently. If you had been bitten accidentally by a cobra or a krait, would you summon your faith or the nearest doctor?”
Vail became serious.
Lines appeared upon his smooth forehead. He seemed to be honestly wrestling with the question.
“You press me hard, Mr.
Wendover. I venture to affirm that I should not summon a doctor.”
“You are a brave man,
but I take it such an exciting incident has never happened to you?”
Designedly, Wendover changed the subject, applying very tentatively, another test:
“I am going to have a glass of wine and a biscuit. Will you join me?”
Wendover’s servant brought in a decanter and a couple of glasses.
“If you like port, Mr. Vail, you will find no fault with this.”
Vail sipped his wine.
“Cockburn’s, I think?”
“Quite right. Can you place the vintage?”
“The wine is old, but not too old. Is ’90 wide of the mark?”
“My congratulations. You must dine with me, and share a better bottle.”
“I shall be delighted.”
NOTHING more passed at this first interview.
Unwarned by Babbington-Raikes, Wendover would have pronounced Vail an agreeable fellow, and probably quite honest. No glimpse was vouchsafed of an axe to be ground.
Next day he met Mrs. Rossiter, who received him in a drawing-room of black and orange, a colour scheme —as Wendover learned presently—designed by Julian Vail. “Cosmic Currents,” bound in white vellum, had the place of honour upon a lacquer table. Mrs. Rossiter was pretty and intelligent, but slightly restless.
Not knowing the facts, any acute observer would have divined tension somewhere. Indirectly, the lady admitted it, when she explained to her visitor the colour scheme.
“In a room like this, Mr. Wendover, one can drift from the red vibrations of emotion into the orange current of peace.”
This was “patter” out of Vail’s book. Rossiter, who
happened to be present, looked cross. Wendover. remembering his talk with Babbington-Raikes, spoke lightly of the effect of the war upon women. Mrs. Rossiter rose at once.
“We demand more, and why not? Is a woman a chattel, to be kissed and fussed over when she makes a man comfy, to be scolded w'hen the cook is at fault, and then to be kissed into smiles again because an unhappy wife is such a nuisance?”
And then sensible, perhaps, that she had been tart, became sweet, talking naturally in a soft, alluring voice. Immediately Rossiter’s face brightened. He seemed to be saying to Wendover: “This is really my
wife—herself. Isn’t she a darling?”
Wendover lingered in such pleasant company for more than an hour. By that time his belief in the Sage —as, mentally, he termed Babbington-Raikes—became further fortified. This pair ought to be happy together. Left alone, the one obviously the complement of the other, they would be happy. Vail stood between them. Recalling that gentleman’s allusion to the temple, Wendover said to himself: “This Vail must be rent in twain.”
FURTHER intercourse confirmed this conviction.
From the moment when he declared himself a lonely bachelor Kitty Rossiter flapped the wings of the ministering angel. Quite simply and sincerely she proffered friendship. Her husband, in his quiet way, smiled approval.
“They are the right sort,” Wendover decided. “Why,” he asked himself, “was Vail butting in? What could be his motive? Was he in love with Kitty Rossiter? Why couldn’t he practise what he preached in his book—peace and good-will?”
A few days slipped by. Wendover became engrossed in the case. Suddenly a motive that might account for the “butting in” flashed into view. From R.ossiter Wendover learned that Kitty had money of her own
a considerable fortune.
Vail, he discovered, lived handsomely, not in Grub Street. But discreet enquiries failed to determine whether or not he possessed independent means.
Soon it came about naturally' that he met Vail at the Rossiters’ house, where an object lesson in Vail’s curative powers took place. Wendover was suffering from a violent headache, so excruciating that he was constrained to plead indisposition as an excuse for breaking up a four at bridge.
“Mr. Vail will take that away7,” said Kitty.
Wendover smiled sourly, but Kitty insisted, adding ingenuously': “He takes
away my headaches.”
“Let me try',” suggested Vail.
Wendover, consenting, was placed in an armchair and invited to close his ey'es. Vail’s cool fingers touched the lids and then his forehead. Kitty opened the piano and began to play softly a prelude of Chopin. Before Wendover shut his ey'es he caught a glimpse of Rossiter scowling contempt. His own' feeling was incredulous, hostile. He winced inwardly at first touch. But within a minute or less he seemed to be whirled, as it were, out of a roaring thoroughfare into some enchanting suburb of slumber. He was acutely conscious of pleasure instead of pain.
" \ RE you better'.’” asked V Vail.
V' en dover sat up. in every sense of the word. He stared at Vail. For his life he could not have said positively how much time had passed.
“I am free from pain,” Wendover acknowledged. “Frankly, I am astonished.”
Continued on page 39
Continued from page 23
"Thatwas nothing,” said Vail modestly., A further exhibition of his power took place later on in the evening. The talk turned presently upon telepathy and spiritualism. Throughout the evening Rossiter, ordinarily the most courteous of hosts, had displayed a certain derisive indifference which had annoyed his pretty wife and slightly exasperated Wendover. Vail, however, seemed to be blandly amused. Wendover told himself that the unhappy husband, temperamentally, was obviously unable to deal with the situation, unable to use his keen brains to win back a wife worth the winning. Finally, Vail asked his host: "Have you ever investigated the more remarkable phenomena of spiritualism?” “Oh, yes,” replied Rossiter, “more than once. Upon the last occasion I had a long talk with a departed spirit who affirmed himself to be my father.”
“You were impressed?” asked Vail lightly.
“Very much so. My father, Sir Andrew Rossiter, was a clever man.”
“The civilized world knows that,” commented Vail.
“But from such talk as I had with him 1 was driven to the disconcerting conviction—”
“That since he had ‘passed over’ he had turned into a damned fool!”
“Colin!” exclaimed the outraged Kitty. “My dearest, Mr. Vail, like myself, is an earnest seeker after truth.”
Vail riposted swiftly:
“Ah, well, some malicious spirit, not your father, seized an opportunity to play pranks.”
“Possibly. But, I repeat, my own investigations have been very unsatisfactory—unconvincing. That’s all.”
“It is not quite all, Rossiter,” Vail went on imperturbably. “Truth emerges from her well when, perhaps, we least expect her. For example—” He paused smiling.
“Pray go on.”
“At this moment my psychic powers, such as they are, tell me something about you.”
“Yes; will you let me hold your hand for a moment?”
Rossiter laughed, holding out his hand. Vail took it, and laughed in his turn.
“You have a strong grip, Rossiter.” “And so have you.”
Vail closed his eyes. After a slight pause he said incisively:
“You have had a triumph lately—a personal triumph.”
Rossiter expressed surprise.
“Have you, Colin?” asked Kitty.
Kitty, not Vail, expressed triumph.
“I have been willing a triumph for you, Colin. Through me you were immersed in the blue cosmic current which brings fame and fortune.”
A WISER man would have kissed her eager face. Rossiter said drily:
“I am much obliged to you, Kitty.” Immediately afterwards Vail took leave of them. Wendover lingered for a few minutes. He was not astonished when Rossiter proposed to accompany him part of the way home, saying carelessly:
“I find fresh air, before turning in, a rare soporific.”
Alone with Wendover, the inventor exhibited some excitement.
“Damn this fellow Vail!” he exclaimed. “Do you like him, Wendover?”
“I am suspending judgment. Certainly he has powers.”
For the moment Rossiter ignored this. In an irritable voice he went on:
“I have noticed that the persons— particularly women—who allow themselves to drift, as my poor wife is drifting, into spiritualism and all that includes, lose touch with their own flesh and blood. They cut loose from domestic ties; they neglect their homes, their children, their old friends. Do you agree with me?” “Emphatically—yes!”
Rossiter continued in a pleasanter voice:
“You are a sympathetic chap, Wendover.”
“I feel that I can trust you. I do trust you.”
“Tell me—what is this fellow up to?” “Frankly—I don’t know. He took away a raging headache from me.”
“He astounded me. I have had a great triumph. Nobody knows about it. I have been working with hematite ores, the more refractory specimens. Within the past week, after months of hard work, I have discovered an improved process which may mean fame and fortune to me.”
“I congratulate you with all my heart.” “How did Vail get at this?”
“I haven’t the remotest notion.”
“Is he making love to my wife?”
“Again—I don’t know.”
“Anyway, he stands between Kitty and me.”
After a silence, Wendover spoke curtly:
“V/’OUR confidence touches me, RosI siter. Believe me, that I want to help both of you if I can. But—are you tackling this problem with your head or your heart? I back your brains against Vail’s. Are you using them?”
Rossiter swore under his breath. When he regained articulate speech, he said uneasily:
“You hit me hard, Wendover. Somehow, my temper gets the upper hand of my wits, because my heart is so deeply affected. I love my wife; she used to love me. Ours was a love match. I trust her still. I could have a row with this fellow, forbid him the house, but it happens to be Kitty’s house, you understand. She has money of her own, and plenty of spirit. I admit to you that I am a much-worried man.”
Wendover pressed his arm.
“Vail would tell you not to worry. Be nice to your wife. Go slow with her. And—”
“Give me a free hand.”
Wendover gripped his arm more firmly. “Yes—me. For reasons of my own I wish to deal with Vail faithfully. I suppose we are all seekers after truth. I am interested in Vail. Leave this to me for a little while.”
They shook hands warmly and parted.
WITHIN ten days Wendover invited the Rossiters and Vail to dine at his flat, and it was understood that, after dinner, Vail would attempt a further manifestation of his uncanny powers. The dinner passed without incident. After dinner, coffee, cigars and old brandy were brought into the sittingroom. Immediately, Vail took one of the empty glasses and placed it upon a polished table. Kitty, watching him, said eagerly:
“Now,Colin, we may expect something. I have an extraordinary prickly sensation.” ,
Rossiter said gravely:
“I often have it. I attribute it to uric acid.”
Vail said suavely:
“With me this prickly sensation indicates psychical activity. I have a box of ivory letters in my pocket. If these letters of the alphabet be arranged in a circle upon the polished surface of such a table as this, and if the fingers of a psychic be lightly placed upon a wineglass in the centre of the table, the glass may move towards the letters in turn and spell out some message from the Other Side.”
“Julian is simply wonderful at this,” said Kitty.
“Of whom do you ask your questions?” demanded Wendover.
Vail replied quietly: “Of any spirit
who may happen to be present.”
“I am certain that George Prosser is here,” declared Kitty.
George Prosser, as Vail explained, was a farrier who had lived at Pudcombe Regis in Devon in the eighteenth century and apparently a familiar spirit at seances both in England and America.
Rossiter asked derisively:
“Can a departed spirit be present simultaneously both in England and America?”
“You will drive away helpful spirits if you sneer at them,” said Kitty, reproachfully. “Please be quiet, Colin. We must have silence.” Then, as Vail was arranging the ivory letters, she went on in a thrilling whisper: “Are you here, Uncle?”
“Uncle?” repeated Rossiter.
“He likes to be called Uncle. Shush-h-h! Are you with us, Uncle?”
Silence answered the question. Vail said slowly: “If you are here, George
Prosser, indicate your presence by three tap's.”
AFTER another silence, Rossiter remarked curtly: “Uncle is not with
Hardly had he spoken, when three unmistakable taps were heard.
“What question shall I ask?” demanded Vail.
“Ask him,” suggested Wendover, “if anything really remarkable is going to happen here tonight?”
Vail put the question with his fingers barely touching the glass. It travelled slowly to a “Y” and an “E” and an “S.” “You saw, Colin?” asked Kitty.
“I saw,” replied her husband.
Wendover suggested another question: “If we are to witness a triumph to-night, can you tell us anything as to its nature?” The wineglass remained still for a moment. Then, as slowly as before, and apparently without propulsion from Vail, it slid from an “S” to a “T,” an “A and an “R.”
“A ‘star’ triumph,” exclaimed Kitty excitedly.
“If you read that word backwards, Kitty, it happens to spell ‘Rats!’ ”
“You are hopelessly material, Colin.” “I am intensely interested,” declared Wendover, “but, as your host, Vail, let me fill your glass. Triumph, a star triumph, awaits you if you can satisfy an interesting test of my own.”
“I’ll do my best,” said Vail.
The men drank their chasse, and lit cigars. Wendover remained standing. Kitty lit a cigarette. Vail lay back in his comfortable chair enjoying a magnificent Corona. Wendover went to a small cabinet, unlocked it, and took from it two phials.
“I have here,” he said, “one of the most powerful and subtle poisons known to toxicologists.”
He held up one of the phials with a red label.
“And this”—he displayed the second phial— “is its antidote. Both are vegetable alkaloids. Is that cigar drawing properly, Vail?”
"Perfectly, thank you.”
THE toxic effects of the poison are remarkable. It is, as you see,”—he held it against the soft electric light— —“colourless. It is also tasteless and extremely volatile. If I emptied this phial upon the carpet, in less than five minutes there would be no trace of it.” Vail asked quietly: “Why do you tell us this?”
“Bear with me a moment. Rossiter, ââ an experimental chemist, will confirm what I say, There are several deadly alkaloids familiar to him of a similar character to this.”
“Yes,” replied Rossiter.
“I continue. If I swallowed a teaspoonful of this mixed, let us say, with a liquer glass of old brandy, I should feel no unpleasant effects—I avoid medical terminology—for ten minutes. At the end of ten minutes there would be a slight failing of the pulse and a marked intermittence."
As he spoke he placed the two phials on the polished table and looked at his watch.
“Why do you look at your watch?” asked Vail.
“Yes: why do you, Mr. Wendover?” repeated Kitty, now feverishly excited.
“Simply because time is the essence of this test.”
“Do I understand that your test has begun?”
“It began nearly ten minutes ago."
Vail betrayed slight uneasiness. Wendover smiled, as he went on: “Nine and a
half minutes ago I administered in brandy a teaspoonful of what is in this phial” he picked up the red-labelled phial "to—
"To —yourself,” muttered Vail.
"My dear fellow—” protested Rossiter.
" Why not? My faith in the antidote is quite as strong, let us say, as Vail’s faith in his powers. Now, 1 ask him, is his faith in his powers so great that he will undertake to treat my case to a successful issue without my taking the antidote?”
As he spoke, still smiling, he laid his finger upon his pulse, adding quietly:
“My pulse is failing."
He glanced keenly at Vail, who exhibited embarrassment. Kitty was leaning forward in her chair, quivering with excitement. Vail answered:
"I should hesitate to undertake such a responsibility."
"I am disappointed,” replied Wendover. with a second glance at his watch.
"Take the antidote at once. Mr. Wendover,” entreated Kitty.
“Please be calm, Mrs. Rossiter." He turned again to Vail. "A ou refuse to exercise your psychic powers on my behalf?” '
“Most emphatically,” replied Vail. “And why? Because I doubt your powers, Wendover, not my own. If—if I had taken the poison I might, I—I should try to fight matter with mind, not antidotes
“ VOU are sure of that?”
Wendover closed his watch with snap, saying sharply: “Good. When took a dose of what is in that phial administered the same dose to you.” Vail jumped up, aflame with anger. "What?”
“I warn you, Vail, that any excitement on your part will accelerate the action of the alkaloid. How is your pulse?”
“This is an outrage, Wendover, an outrage!”
“Yes,” exclaimed Kitty.
A tincture of contempt could be detected in Wendover’sVoice as he addressed Vail, now confronting him with twitching
“If you are the sort of man that assuredly I don't take you to be, here is the antidote.” He held out the second phial. “Down it, but you down yourself.”
Vail sat down, ignoring the outstretched phial.
“As man to man,” continued Wendover calmly, “let us compare our symptoms. We can share the antidote presently. My pulse is failing rapidly. Is yours normal?”
Vail felt his pulse.
“It’s not normal,” he admitted.
“In thirty seconds we ought to break out in perspiration. You finished your brandy after I finished mine. You are half a minute behind me. I am uncomfortably warm. So are you, I think?”
Vail nodded sullenly.
“Surely your powers, so active a moment ago, are not failing you? My heart is now palpitating violently. I—I—”
He broke off with a gasp, sinking into a chair, and pointing at the antidote. Rossiter seized it.
“How much, Wendover?”
Hastily, Rossiter poured half the antidote into a glass and held it to Wendover’s lips.
“Give the other half to Julian,” urged Kitty.
\ ^AIL lifted his hand. Obviously he V intended to test his own powers. He lay back, closing his eyes, as Wendover struggled back to conscioiigftess.
“Are you all right, Wendover?" asked Rossiter, bending over him.
“Who is speaking?”
“Rossiter. Are you better?”
“Your voice seemed to come from Mfi immense distance.” He sat up, staring éct Vail, now pale and rigid. Kitty’s voice broke shrilly upon the silence:
“Julian may be dying, and you do nothing.”
"Do you doubt his powers?” asked Wendover. “You—his disciple. And at such a moment do you care to disturb him when he is fighting the weaknesses of the flesh with all the concentrated force of the spirit?”
“I don't doubt his powers.”
“Then, please, in his interests, control
Vail opened his eyes, and put his hand to a steaming forehead.
“My—my powers have failed me.” he
Wendover rose feebly, emptied what was left of the antidote into a glass, approached Vail, tottered and fell, upsetting the glass.
“You’ve killed him!” shrieked Kitty. “My God!” muttered Rossiter, still on his knees and staring at the empty glass. “Not a drop left!”
WENDOVER poured brandy upon his handkerchief and held it to Vail's nostrils, saying eagerly:
"You’re all right, Vail. Do you hear me?”
Vail answered him in his own words: “Your voice seems to float from an immense distance.”
“I tell you, you’re all right. Don’t you feel stronger?”
“Life is coming back to me,” murmured Vail.
“Thank God!” cried Kitty.
“What a triumph!” Wendover almost shouted. “What a star triumph!”
Vail heard him and pulled himself together, saying feebly:
“ Y ou—you upset the antidote?”
“I did, I did. Man; you have performed a miracle. My heartiest congratulations.”
Vail grasped the situation. He spoke, quietly, clearly, modestly, almost with an air of sanctity.
“I triumphed and 1 thought that I had failed.”
“Your wonderful mind took complete control of your body.”
“Yes,” said Kitty.”
“Are you yourself again?”
“Then the fight can go on.”
“The fight?” repeated Vail.
“Surely, with your powers, you have ! divined that this is a fight, a fight to a finish.”
AS HE spoke Wendover picked up the red-labelled phial, poured a little from it into a glass, and turned to Rossiter.
“As an experimental chemist, Rossiter,
I ask you to taste this and tell me what you think it is. Just put your tongue to it.”
Rossiter took the glass and obeyed.
“It tastes,” he said, “like water.”
“It is—water,” replied Wendover. He took back the glass and drained it. “Water?” ejaculated Kitty.
“Water?” repeated Vail.
“Just water. I filled both phials with water before dinner.” He turned politely
to Mrs. Rossiter. “I hope that I have proved to you that the power of mind over matter works backwards as well aB forwards. It can induce disease as easily as it alleviates it. My mind, influencing Mr. Vail’s mind, provoked an intermittent pulse palpitation of the heart, a profuse perspiration, and collapse. My mind, still at work, inflated Mr. Vail after deflating him. What the power of mind might accomplish if devoted to sinister purposes I leave to your intelligence and imagination.”
He bowed politely.
“What do you mean?” blustered Vail.
Wendover shrugged his shoulders. Rossiter thrust himself between them.
“I will answer that question,” he said incisively. He looked keenly at his wife, his voice quavered with emotion.
“Wendover is a true friend, Kitty. Vail is not. He has tried to steal you from me. Let him deny it, if he can, here and now.”
Vail faced him fiercely.
“I don’t deny it. I can give her what you can’t—sympathy, understanding, tenderness. I’ve failed to-night. A clever trick defeated me. But I have powers, and they are at her service.”
“Well crowed!” said Rossiter. “I admit your powers, Vail. They might raise a woman to heaven or drag her down to hell. Now, Kitty, do you want him or me?”
He gazed at her tenderly, and she may have read in his eyes all that he had suffered and repressed. Without a word she crossed to him. Vail, not without dignity, left the room.
“How could you doubt me?” . murmured Kitty, regaïcîlêss Cf Wendover.
“I doubted myself, my power to hold you against such a magnet.”
■ Then Wendover laughed.
“Your magnet bluffed it bravely. Between our three selves I have reason to believe, Rossiter, that Vail was after your new process. I discovered only a week ago that his remarkable powers are placed gratuitously at the service of ladies whose husbands, like yourself, possess something which in the world’s open market fetches even a higher price than hearts. Vail makes a capital living by supplying information to those who can make use of it. That’s that.”
After the Rossiters had gone, Wendover rang up Babbington-Raikes.
“You have lost another patient,” he told the Sage.
The third of the Wendover series will appear in an early issue.