They Found My Grave by Marjorie Bowen
Published in Orange Blossoms, Heinemann 1938
Also published in
The Fireside Book of Ghost Stories, Bobbs-Merrill Co., Indianapolis,
Ada Trimble was bored with the sittings. She had been persuaded to attend
against her better judgment, and the large dingy Bloomsbury house depressed
and disgusted her; the atmosphere did not seem to her in the least spiritual
and was always tainted with the smell of stale frying.
The medium named herself Astra Destiny. She was a big, loose woman with a
massive face expressing power and cunning. Her garments were made of
upholstery material and round her cropped yellowish curls she wore a tinsel
belt. Her fat feet bulged through the straps of cheap gilt shoes.
She had written a large number of books on subjects she termed 'esoteric'
and talked more nonsense in half an hour than Ada Trimble had heard in a
lifetime. Yet madame gave an impression of shrewd sense and considerable
experience; a formidable and implacable spirit looked through her small grey
eyes and defied anyone to pierce the cloud of humbug in which she chose to
'I think she is detestable,' said Ada Trimble; but Helen Trent, the woman
who had introduced her to the big Bloomsbury Temple insisted that, odious as
the setting was, odd things did happen at the sittings.
'It sounds like hens,' said Miss Trimble, 'but séances are
'Well, it is easy to make jokes. And I know it is pretty repulsive. But
there are unexplained things. They puzzle me. I should like your
opinion on them.'
'I haven't seen anything yet I can't explain, the woman is a charlatan,
making money out of fools. She suspects us and might get unpleasant, I
But Helen Trent insisted: 'Well, if you'd been going as often as I have,
and noticing carefully, like I've been noticing...'
'Helen--why have you been interested in this nonsense?'
The younger woman answered seriously: 'Because I do think there is
something in it.'
Ada Trimble respected her friend's judgment; they were both intelligent,
middle-aged, cheerful and independent in the sense that they had unearned
incomes. Miss Trimble enjoyed every moment of her life and therefore grudged
those spent in going from her Knightsbridge flat to the grubby Bloomsbury
Temple. Not even Helen's persistency could induce Ada to continue the private
sittings that wasted money as well as time. Besides, Miss Trimble really
disliked being shut up in the stuffy, ugly room while Madame Destiny sat in a
trance and the control, a Red Indian called Purple Stream babbled in her
voice and in pidgin English about the New Atlantis, the brotherhood of man
and a few catch phrases that could have been taken from any cheap handbook on
philosophy or the religions of the world.
But Helen persuaded her to join in some experiments in what were termed
typtology and lucidity that were being conducted by Madame Destiny and a
circle of choice friends. These experiments proved to be what Ada Trimble had
called in her youth 'table turning'. Five people were present, besides Ada
and Madame Destiny. The table moved, gave raps, and conversations with
various spirits followed. A code was used, the raps corresponding in number
to the letters of the alphabet, one for 'a' and so on to twenty-six for 'z'.
The method was tedious and nothing, Miss Trimble thought, could have been
more dull. All manner of unlikely spirits appeared, a Fleming of the twelfth
century, a President of a South American Republic, late nineteenth century,
an Englishman who had been clerk to residency at Tonkin, and who had been
killed by a tiger a few years before, a young schoolmaster who had thrown
himself in front of a train in Devonshire, a murderer who announced in
classic phrase that he had 'perished on the scaffold', a factory hand who had
died of drink in Manchester, and a retired schoolmistress recently 'passed
The spirit of a postman and that of a young girl 'badly brought up, who
had learnt to swear', said the medium, also spoke through the rap code. These
people gave short accounts of themselves and of their deaths and some vague
generalizations about their present state. 'I am happy.' 'I am unhappy.' 'It
is wonderful here.' 'God does not die.' 'I remain a Christian.' 'When I first
died it was as if I was stunned. Now I am used to it--' and so on.
They were never asked about the future, who would win the Derby, the
results of the next election or anything of that kind. 'It wouldn't be fair,'
smiled Madame Destiny. 'Besides, they probably don't know.'
The more important spirits were quickly identified by references to the
National Dictionary of Biography for the English celebrities and
Larousse for the foreign. The Temple provided potted editions of each
work. These reliable tomes confirmed all that the spirits said as to their
careers and ends. The obscure spirits if they gave dates and place names were
traced by enquiries of Town Clerks and Registrars. This method always worked
Madame Destiny sometimes showed the letters that proved that the spirits
had once had, as she hideously quoted 'a local habitation and a name'.
'I can't think why you are interested,' said Ada Trimble to Helen Trent as
they drove home together. 'It is such an easy fraud. Clever, of course, but
she has only to keep all the stuff in her head.'
'You mean that she looks up the references first
'Of course.' Ada Trimble was a little surprised that Helen should ask so
simple a question. 'And those postmen and servant girls could be got up, too,
'It would be expensive. And she doesn't charge much.'
'She makes a living out of it,' said Ada Trimble sharply. 'Between the
lectures, the healings, the services, the sittings, the lending library and
those ninepenny teas, I think the Temple of Eastern Psycho-Physiological
Studies does pretty well...' She looked quickly at her companion and in a
changed voice asked: 'You're not getting--drawn in--are you, Helen?'
'Oh no! At least I don't think so, but last year, when you were in France,
I was rather impressed--it was the direct voice. I wish it would happen
again, I should like your opinion--' Helen Trent's voice faltered and
stopped; it was a cold night, she drew her collar and scarf up more closely
round her delicate face. The smart comfortable little car was passing over
the bridge. The two women looked out at the street and ink-blue pattern of
the Serpentine, the bare trees on the banks, the piled buildings beyond,
stuck with vermilion and orange lights. The November wind struck icy across
Ada Trimble's face.
'I don't know why I forgot the window,' she said, rapidly closing it. 'I
suggest that we leave Madame Destiny alone, Helen. I don't believe that sort
of thing is any good, it might easily get on one's nerves.'
'Well,' said Helen irrelevantly, 'what are dreams, anyway?'
Ada remembered how little she knew of the early life of her cultured,
elegant friend and how much she had forgotten of her own youthful experiences
that had once seemed so warm, so important, so terrible.
'Come next Tuesday, at least,' pleaded Helen as she left the car for the
wet pavement. 'She has promised the direct voice.'
'I ought to go, because of Helen,' thought Ada Trimble. 'She is beginning
to be affected by this nonsense. Those rogues know that she has money.'
So on the Tuesday the two charming women in their rich, quiet clothes,
with their tasteful veils, handbags, furs and posies of violets and gardenias
were seated in the upper room in the Bloomsbury Temple with the queer shoddy
folk who made up Madame Destiny's audience.
Ada Trimble settled into her chair; it was comfortable like all the chairs
in the Temple and she amused herself by looking round the room. The Victorian
wallpaper had been covered by dark serge, clumsily pinned up; dusty crimson
chenille curtains concealed the tall windows. Worn linoleum was on the floor,
the table stood in the centre of the room and on it was a small,
old-fashioned gramophone with a horn. By it was a small red lamp; this, and
the light from the cheerful gas fire, was the only illumination in the
A joss stick smouldered in a brass vase on the mantelpiece but this sickly
perfume could not disguise the eternal smell of stew and onions that hung
about the Temple.
'I suppose they live on a permanent hot-pot,' thought Ada Trimble vaguely
as she looked round on the gathered company.
The medium lay sprawled in the largest chair; she appeared to be already
in a trance; her head was sunk on her broad breast and her snorting breath
disturbed the feather edging on her brocade robe. The cheap belt round her
head, the cheap gilt shoes, exasperated Ada Trimble once more. 'For a woman
of sense--', she thought.
Near the medium was a husband, who called himself Lemoine. He was a
turnip-coloured nondescript man, wearing a dirty collar and slippers; his
manner hesitated between the shamefaced and the insolent. He was not very
often seen, but Ada sometimes suspected him of being the leader of the whole
She speculated with a shudder, and not for the first time, on the private
lives of this repulsive couple. What were they like when they were alone
together? What did they say when they dropped the gibberish and the posing?
Were they ever quite sincere or quite clean? She had heard they lived in a
'flat' at the top of the house and had turned a bleak Victorian bathroom into
a kitchen and that they had 'difficulties with servants'.
Beside Mr Lemoine was Essie Clark, a stringy, cheerful woman who was
Madame Destiny's secretary, and as Ada Trimble supposed, maid-of-all-work,
too. She had been 'caught' sweeping the stairs and Ada thought that she mixed
the permanent stew.
Essie's taste had stopped, dead as a smashed clock, in childhood and she
wore straight gowns of faded green that fifty years before had been termed
'artistic' by frustrated suburban spinsters, and bunches of little toys and
posies made of nuts and leather.
The circle was completed by the people well known to Ada: a common
overdressed little woman who called spiritualism her 'hobby' and who was on
intimate terms with the spirit of her late husband, and a damp, depressed
man, Mr Maple, who had very little to say for himself beyond an occasional
admission that he was 'investigating and couldn't be sure'.
The little woman, Mrs Penfleet, said cheerfully: 'I am certain dear Arthur
will come today. I dreamt of him last night,' and she eyed the trumpet
'We don't know who will come, if anyone,' objected Mr Maple gloomily.
'We've got to keep open minds.'
Mr Lemoine begged for silence and Miss Clark put on a disc that played
'Rock of Ages'.
Ada Trimble's mind flashed to the consumptive Calvinist who had written
that hymn; she felt slightly sick and glanced at Helen, dreamy, elegant, sunk
in her black velvet collar.
Ada looked at the trumpet, at the medium, and whispered 'Ventriloquism' as
she bent to drop and pick up her handkerchief, but Helen whispered back:
Essie Clark took off the record and returned to her chair with a smile of
pleased expectancy. It was all in the day's work for her, like cheapening the
food off the barrows in the Portobello Road. Ada Trimble kept her glance from
the fire and the lamp, lest, comfortable and drowsy as she was, she should be
hypnotised with delusions--'Though I don't think it likely here,' she said to
herself, 'in these sordid surroundings.'
There was a pause; the obviously dramatic prelude to the drama. Madame
Destiny appeared to be unconscious. Ada thought: 'There ought to be a doctor
here to make sure.' A humming sound came from the painted horn that had
curled-back petals like a metallic flower. 'Arthur!' came from Mrs Penfleet
and 'Hush!' from Mr Maple. Ada felt dull, a party to a cheap, ignoble fraud.
'How dare they!' she thought indignantly, 'fool with such things--supposing
one of the dead did return.' The gramophone was making incoherent
noises, hummings and sighings.
'The psychic force is manifest,' whispered Mr Lemoine reverently in
There was another pause; Ada Trimble's attention wandered to obtrusive
details, the pattern of the braid encircling Madame Destiny's bent head, a
dull yellow in the lamp's red glow, and the firmness with which her podgy
fingers gripped the pad and pencil, even though she was supposed to be in a
state of trance.
Suddenly a deep masculine voice said:
'Beautus qui intelligit super egenum et pauperem.'
Ada was utterly startled; she felt as if another personality was in the
room, she sat forward and looked around; she felt Helen's cold fingers clutch
hers; she had not more than half understood the Latin; nor, it seemed, had
anyone else. Only Mr Lemoine remained cool, almost indifferent. Leaning
forward he addressed the gramophone:
'That is a proverb or quotation?'
The deep voice replied:
'It is my epitaph.'
'It is, perhaps, on your tomb?' asked Mr Lemoine gently.
'Where is your tomb?'
'I do not choose to disclose.' The voice was speaking with a marked
accent. It now added in French: 'Is there no one here that speaks my
'Yes,' said Ada Trimble, almost without her own volition. French was very
familiar to her and she could not disregard the direct appeal.
'Eh, bien!' the voice which had always an arrogant, scornful tone,
seemed gratified and ran on at once in French. 'I have a very fine tomb--a
monument, I should say, shaded with chestnut trees. Every year, on my
anniversary, it is covered with wreaths.'
'Who are you?' asked Ada Trimble faintly, but Mr Lemoine gently
'As the other members of our circle don't speak French,' he told the
gramophone, 'will you talk in English?'
'Any language is easy to me,' boasted the voice in English, 'but I prefer
my own tongue.'
'Thank you,' said Mr Lemoine. 'The lady asked you who you were--will you
'Would you translate your epitaph?'
'Blessed is he who understands the poor and has pity on the
'What were you?'
'When did you die?'
'A hundred years ago. May 12th, 1837.'
'Will you tell us something more about yourself?'
The voice was harsh and scornful.
'It would take a long time to relate my exploits. I was a professor, a
peer, a philosopher, a man of action. I have left my many works behind
'Please give the titles.' Mr Lemoine, who had always been so effaced and
who looked so incompetent was proving himself cool and skilful at this
question and answer with the voice.
'There are too many.'
'You had pupils?'
'Many famous men.'
'Will you give the names?'
'You continually ask me to break your rules,' scolded the voice.
'The rules spirits have to obey.'
'You are a Christian?'
'I have never been ashamed to call myself so.'
'Where--in the Gospels--is the rule of which you speak?' asked Mr Lemoine
sharply. 'There are special rules for spirits?'
So the dialogue went on, more or less on orthodox lines, but Ada Trimble
was held and fascinated by the quality and accent of the voice. It was rough,
harsh, intensely masculine, with a definite foreign accent. The tone was
boastful and arrogant to an insufferable extent. Ada Trimble detested this
pompous, insistent personality; she felt odd, a little dazed, a little
confused; the orange glow of the gas fire, the red glow of the lamp, the
metallic gleams on the horn fused into a fiery pattern before her eyes. She
felt as if she were being drawn into a void in which nothing existed but the
Even Mr Lemoine's thin tones, faintly questioning, seemed a long way off,
a thread of sound compared to the deep boom of the voice. The conversation
was like a ball being deftly thrown to and fro. Mr Lemoine asked: 'What do
you understand by faith?' And the voice, steadily rising to a roar, replied:
'The Faith as taught by the Gospel.'
'Does not the Gospel contain moral precepts rather than dogma?'
'Why that remark?'
'Because narrow or puerile practices have been built on this basis.'
'A clear conscience sees further than practices.'
'I see that you are a believer,' said Mr Lemoine placidly. 'What is your
'Explain!' shouted the voice.
'Are you in Heaven, Hell or purgatory?' rapped out Mr Lemoine.
'I am in Heaven!'
'How is it that you are in Heaven and here at the same time?'
'You are a fool,' said the voice stridently. 'Visit my grave and you will
understand more about me.'
'Once more, where is your grave?'
The horn gave a groan of derision and was silent; Mr Lemoine repeated his
question, there was no answer; he then wiped his forehead and turned to his
wife who was heaving back to consciousness.
'That is all for today,' he smiled round the little circle; no one save
Ada and Helen seemed affected by the experience; Mr Maple made some gloomy
sceptical remarks; Mrs Penfleet complained because Arthur had not spoken and
Essie Clark indifferently and efficiently put away the gramophone and the
When the red lamp was extinguished and the light switched on, Ada looked
at Madame Destiny who was rubbing her eyes and smiling with an exasperating
'It was Gabriel Letourneau,' her husband told her mildly. 'You remember I
told you he came some months ago?' He glanced at Ada. 'The medium never knows
what spirit speaks.'
Ada glanced at Helen who sat quiet and downcast, then mechanically
gathered up her gloves and handbag.
'Did you find this person in Larousse?' she asked.
'No. We tried other sources too, but never could discover anything. Very
likely he is a liar, quite a number of them are, you know. I always ask him
the same questions, but as you heard, there is no satisfaction to be
'He always boasts so,' complained Mr Maple, 'and particularly about his
'Oh,' smiled Mr Lemoine rising to indicate that the sitting was at an end.
'He is a common type, a snob. When he was alive he boasted about his
distinctions, visits to court and so on; now he is dead he boasts of having
seen God, being in Heaven and the marvels of his grave.'
When they were out in the wind-swept evening Helen clasped Ada's arm.
'Now, what do you make of that? Ventriloquism? It is a
'It is odd, certainly. I was watching the woman. Her lips didn't
move--save just for snorting or groaning now and then.'
'Oh, I dare say it could be done,' said Helen impatiently. 'But I don't
think it is a trick. I can't feel that it is. Can you? That is what I wanted
you to hear. There have been other queer things, but this is the queerest.
What do you think?'
'Oh, Helen, dear, I don't know!' Ada was slightly trembling. 'I never
thought that I could be moved by anything like this.'
'That is it, isn't it?' interrupted Helen, clinging to her as they passed
along the cold street. 'Moved--and what by?'
'Intense dislike--the man is loathsome!'
'There! You said man. It was a voice only!'
They walked in silence to the waiting car and when inside began to talk
again in low tones, pressed together. No, there was no explanation possible,
any attempt at one landed you in a bog of difficulties.
'He spoke to me,' sighed Ada Trimble, 'and, you know I quite forgot that
he wasn't there--I wish that I could have gone on talking to him, I
feel that I should have been sufficiently insistent--'
'To make him say something definite about himself--'
'It's crazy, Ada! It lets loose all kinds of dreadful thoughts. He might
be here now, riding with us.'
'Well, he can't talk without the trumpet.' Then both women laughed
'My dear, we are getting foolish!' said Helen, and Ada answered: 'Yes.
Foolish either way--to talk of it all if we think it was a fraud--and not to
be more serious if we don't think it a fraud.'
But as people usually will when in this kind of dilemma, they compromised;
they discussed the thing and decided to put it to the test once again.
They became frequent visitors to the Bloomsbury Temple and began to pay to
have private sittings with the direct voice.
Busy as they were, Madame Destiny and Mr Lemoine 'fitted in' a good number
of these and the harsh voice that called itself Gabriel Letourneau usually
spoke, though there were annoying occasions when Persian sages, Polish
revolutionaries and feebleminded girls of unknown nationality, insisted on
expounding colourless views.
By the spring the personality of Gabriel Letourneau was complete to Ada
and Helen. They had been able to build him up, partly from details he had
supplied himself and partly out of their own uneasy imaginations. He had
been--or was now, but they dare not speculate upon his present shape--a tall,
dark, gaunt Frenchman, with side whiskers and a blue chin, the kind of brown
eyes known as 'piercing' and a fanatical, grim expression.
Ada had often spoken to him in French but she could never penetrate his
identity. A professor, a peer in the reign of Louis Philippe? It was
impossible for her to attempt to trace so elusive a person. At first she did
not try; she told herself that she had other things to do and she tried to
keep the thing out of her mind, or at least to keep it reduced to proper
proportions. But this soon proved impossible and sensible, charming,
broad-minded Ada Trimble at length found herself in the grip of an
The voice and her hatred of the voice. It was useless for her to tell
herself, as she frequently did, that the voice was only that of the woman who
called herself Astra Destiny and not a personality at all. This was hopeless,
she believed in Gabriel Letourneau. He had, she was sure, a bad effect on her
character and on that of Helen. But opposite effects. Whereas Helen became
limp, distracted, nervous and talked vaguely of being 'Haunted', Ada felt as
if active evil was clouding her soul.
Why should she hate the voice? She had always been afraid of hatred. She
knew that the person who hates, not the person who is hated, is the one who
is destroyed. When she disliked a person or a thing she had always avoided
it, making exceptions only in the cases of cruelty and fanaticism. There she
had allowed hate to impel her to exertions foreign to her reserved nature.
And now there was hatred of Gabriel Letourneau possessing her like a poison.
He hated her, too. When she spoke to him he told her in his rapid French that
Helen could not follow, his scornful opinion of her; he called her an 'aging
woman'; he said she was pretension, facile, a silly little atheist while 'I
am in Heaven.'
He made acid comments on her carefully chosen clothes, on her charmingly
arranged hair, her little armoury of wit and culture, on her delicate
illusions and vague, romantic hopes. She felt stripped and defaced after one
of these dialogues in which she could not hold her own. Sometimes she tried
to shake herself out of 'this nonsense'. She would look sharply at the
entranced medium; Ada had never made the mistake of undervaluing the
intelligence of Astra Destiny and surely the conversation of Gabriel
Letourneau was flavoured with feminine malice?
Out in the street with Helen she would say: 'We really are fools! It is
only an out-of-date gramophone.'
'Is it?' asked Helen bleakly. 'And ventriloquism?' Then she added: 'Where
does she--that awful woman--get that fluent French?'
'Oh, when you begin asking questions!' cried Ada.
She examined the subject from all angles, she went to people who, she
thought, 'ought to know', but she could get no satisfaction; it was a matter
on which the wisest said the least.
'If only he wouldn't keep boasting!' she complained to Helen. 'His
grave--that now--he says it is a marvellous monument and that people keep
putting wreaths on it, that they make pilgrimages to it--and Helen, why
should I mind? I ought to be pleased that he has that satisfaction or--at
least, be indifferent--but I'm not.'
'He's been hateful to you, to us,' said Helen simply. 'I loathe him,
too--let us try to get away from him.'
Helen went; she drifted out of Ada's life with a shivering reluctance to
leave her, but with a definite inability to face the situation created by
Gabriel Letourneau. She wrote from Cairo and presently did not write at all.
Ada, left alone with her obsession, no longer struggled against it; she
pitted herself deliberately against the voice. Sometimes, as she came and
went in the Bloomsbury Temple, she would catch a glint in the dull eyes of Mr
Lemoine or the flinty eyes of Madame Destiny that made her reflect how many
guineas she had paid them. But even these flashes of conviction that she was
being the worst type of fool did not save her; she had reached the point when
she had to give rein to her fortune.
In September she went to France; countless friends helped her to search
archives; there was no member of the Chamber of Peers under Louis Philippe
named Letourneau. She wrote to the keepers of the famous cemeteries, she
visited these repulsive places herself; there were Letourneaus, not a few,
but none with pre-name Gabriel, or with the inscription quoted by the voice.
Nor was there anywhere an imposing monument, covered with wreaths and visited
by pilgrims, to a professor peer who had died in 1837.
'Fraud,' she kept telling herself, 'that wretched couple just practised a
very clever fraud on me. But why? What an odd personality for people like
that to invent! And the deep masculine voice and the idiomatic Frenstory-
clever is hardly the word. I suppose they got the data from Larousse.' The
courteous friends helped her to make enquiries at the Sorbonne. No professors
of that name there, or at any of the other big universities.
Ada Trimble believed that she was relieved from her burden of credulity
and hate; perhaps if she kept away from the Bloomsbury Temple the thing would
pass out of her mind. She was in this mood when she received an answer to a
letter she had written to the keeper of the cemetery at Sceaux. She had
written to so many officials and it had been so long since she had written to
Sceaux and she had such little expectation of any result from her enquiries
that she scarcely took much interest in opening the letter.
It read thus:
In reply to your letter of November 30th, I have the honour to
inform you that I have made a search for the Letourneau tomb which
fortunately I found and I have copied the epitaph cut on the tomb.
Gabriel Letourneau Man of Letters
Died at Sceaux June 10th 1858.
Beatus qui intelligit
Super egenum et pauperem.
This neglected grave was in a miserable condition
covered by weeds; in
order to send you the above information it was necessary to undertake
cleaning that occupied an hour, and this merely on the portion that bears
the inscription. According to the registry this Letourneau was a poor
tutor; his eccentric habits are still remembered in the quarter where he
lived. He has become a legend--and 'he boasts like a Gabriel Letourneau' is
often said of a braggart. He has left no descendants and no one has visited
his grave. He left a small sum of money to pay for the epitaph.
(signed) Robert, Keeper of
the Cemetery at Sceaux.
231 Rue Louis le Grand,
Ada Trimble went at once to Sceaux. She arrived there on a day of chill,
small rain, similar to that on which she had first heard the voice in the
Bloomsbury Temple. There was a large, black cemetery, a row of bare
chestnut-trees overlooking the walls, an ornate gate. The conscientious
keeper, M. Robert, conducted her to the abandoned grave in the comer of the
large graveyard; the rotting, dank rubbish of last year's weeds had been cut
away above the inscription that Ada had first heard in the Bloomsbury Temple
a year ago.
She gazed and went away, full of strange terror. What was the solution of
the miserable problem? There were many ways in which the Lemoine couple might
have chanced to hear of the poor tutor of Sceaux, but how had they come to
know of the epitaph for years concealed behind ivy, bramble and moss? M.
Robert, who was so evidently honest, declared that he never remembered anyone
making enquiries about the Letourneau grave and he had been years in this
post. He doubted, he said, whether even the people to whom the name of the
eccentric was a proverb knew of the existence of his grave. Then, the
shuffling of the dates, 1858 instead of 1837, the lies about the state of the
grave and the position that Letourneau had held while in life.
Ada had a sickly qualm when she reflected how this fitted in with the
character she had been given of a slightly unhinged braggart with ego mania.
A peerage, the Sorbonne, the monument--all lies?
Ada returned to England and asked Madame Destiny to arrange another
sitting for her with the direct voice. She also asked for as large a circle
as possible to be invited, all the people who had ever heard Gabriel
'Oh, that will be a large number,' said Madame Destiny quickly, 'he is one
of the spirits who visits us most frequently.'
'Never mind, the large room, please, and I will pay all expenses. I think
I have found out something about that gentleman.'
'How interesting,' said Madame Destiny, with civil blankness.
'Can she possibly know where I have been?' thought Ada Trimble, but it
seemed absurd to suppose that this hard-up couple, existing by shifts, should
have the means to employ spies and detectives. The meeting was arranged and
as all the seats were free, the room was full.
The gramophone was on a raised platform; it was placed on a table beside
which sat Madame Destiny to the right and her husband to the left. The red
lamp was in place. A dark curtain, badly pinned up, formed the back cloth.
Save for the gas fire, the room--a large Victorian salon--was in darkness.
Ada Trimble sat on one of the Bentwood chairs in the front row. 'He won't
come,' she thought. 'I shall never hear the voice again. And the whole
absurdity will be over.'
But the medium was no sooner twitching in a trance than the voice came
rushing from the tin horn. It spoke directly to Ada Trimble and she felt her
heart heave with horror as she heard the cringing tone.
'Good evening, madame, and how charming you are tonight! Your travels have
improved you--you recall my little jokes, my quips? Only to test your wit,
dear lady, I have always admired you so mustory-'
Ada could not reply, the one thought beat in her mind, half paralysing
her, 'He knows what I found out--he is trying to flatter me so that I don't
give him away.'
The voice's opening remarks had been in French and for this Mr Lemoine
called him to order; the usual verbal duel followed, Lemoine pressing the
spirit to give proof of his identity, the spirit arrogantly defending his
secrets. The audience that had heard this parrying between Lemoine and
Letourneau before so often was not interested and Ada Trimble did not hear
anything, she was fiercely concerned with her own terror and bewilderment.
Then the voice, impatiently breaking off the bitter sparring, addressed her
directly in oily, flattering accents.
'What a pleasure that we meet again, how charming to see you here! The
time has been very long since I saw you last.'
Ada roused herself; she began to speak in a thick voice that she could
scarcely have recognised as her own.
'Yes, one is drawn to what one dislikes as surely as towards what one
hates. I have been too much concerned with you, I hope now that I shall be
'Miss Trimble,' protested Mr Lemoine, 'there are others present, pray
speak in English. I think you said that you had been able to identify this
spirit quite precisely.'
In French the gramophone harshly whispered: 'Take care.'
'Well,' said Mr Lemoine briskly, 'this lady says she found your grave,
what have you to say to that?'
'I beg the lady not to talk of my private affairs'; voice and accent were
alike thick, with agitation, perhaps despair.
'But you have often spoken of your tomb, the wreaths, the pilgrimages, you
have talked of your peerage, your professorship, your pupils. As you would
never give us corroborative details, this lady took the trouble to find them
'Let her give them,' said the voice, 'when we are alone--she and I.'
'What would be the sense of that?' demanded Mr Lemoine. 'All these people
know you well, they are interested--now Miss Trimble.'
'I found the grave in Sceaux cemetery,' began Ada.
The voice interrupted her furiously: 'You are doing a very foolish
'I see,' said Mr Lemoine coolly, 'you are still an earthbound spirit. You
are afraid that something hurtful to your vanity is about to be
'You should be free from this material delusion. We,' added the
turnip-faced man pompously, 'are neither noble nor learned. We shall not
think the less of you if it is true you have boasted.'
'I am not a boaster!' stormed the voice.
'Your grave is in the cemetery at Sceaux,' said Ada Trimble rapidly. 'You
died in 1858, not 1837; you were neither peer nor professor--no one visits
your grave. It is miserable, neglected, covered with weeds. It took the
keeper an hour's work even to cut away the rubbish sufficiently to see your
'Now we know that,' said Mr Lemoine smoothly, 'we can help you to shake
off these earthly chains.'
'These are lies.' The voice rose to a hum like the sound of a spinning
'No,' cried Ada. 'You have lied, you have never seen God, either.'
'You may,' suggested Mr Lemoine, 'have seen a fluid personage in a bright
illumination, but how could you have been sure it was God?'
The humming sound grew louder, then the horn flew over, as if wrenched off
and toppled on to the table, then on to the floor. Mr Lemoine crossed the
platform and switched on the light.
'An evil spirit,' he said in his routine voice, 'now that he has been
exposed I don't suppose that he will trouble us again.' And he congratulated
Ada on her shrewd and careful investigations, though the stare he gave her
through his glasses seemed to express a mild wonder as to why she had taken
so much trouble. The meeting broke up; there was coffee for a few chosen
guests upstairs in the room lined with books on the 'occult'; no one seemed
impressed by the meeting; they talked of other things, only Ada Trimble was
This was the first time she had come to these banal coffee-drinkings.
Hardly knowing what she did she had come upstairs with these queer,
self-possessed people who seemed to own something she had not got. They were
neither obsessed nor afraid. Was she afraid? Had not Gabriel Letourneau
vanished for ever? Had he not broken the means of communication between them?
Undoubtedly she had exorcized him, she would be free now of this miserable,
humiliating and expensive obsession. She tried to feel triumphant, released,
but her spirit would not soar. In the back of her mind surged self-contempt.
'Why did I do it? There was no need. His lies hurt no one. To impress these
people was his one pleasure--perhaps he is in hell, and that was his one
freedom from torment--but I must think sanely.'
This was not easy to do; she seemed to have lost all will-power, all
judgment. 'I wish Helen had not escaped,' she used the last word
unconsciously; her fingers were cold round the thick cup, her face in the
dingy mirror above the fireplace looked blurred and odd. She tried to steady
herself by staring at the complacent features of Astra Destiny, who was being
distantly gracious to a circle of admirers, and then by talking to
commonplace Mr Lemoine whose indifference was certainly soothing. 'Oh, yes,'
he said politely, 'we get a good deal of that sort of thing. Malicious
'Aren't you afraid?' asked Ada faintly.
'Afraid?' asked Mr Lemoine as if he did not know what the word meant. 'Oh,
dear no, we are quite safe--' he added, then said: 'Of course, if one was
afraid, if one didn't quite believe, there might be danger. Any weakness on
one's own part always gives the spirits a certain power over one.'
All this was, Ada knew, merely 'patter'; she had heard it, and similar
talk, often enough and never paid much attention to it; now it seemed to
trickle through her inner consciousness like a flow of icy water. She was
afraid, she didn't quite believe; yet how could she even but think that? Now
she must believe. Astra Destiny could not have 'faked' Gabriel Letourneau.
Well, then, he was a real person--a real spirit? Ada Trimble's mind that once
had been so cool and composed, so neat and tidy, now throbbed in
'Where do they go?' she asked childishly. 'These evil spirits? I
mean--today--will he come again?'
'I don't suppose so, not here. He will try to do all he can elsewhere.
Perhaps he will try to impose on other people. I'm afraid he has wasted a
good deal of our time.'
'How can you say "wasted!"' whispered Ada Trimble bleakly. 'He proves that
the dead return.'
'We don't need such proof,' said Mr Lemoine, meekly confident and palely
'I had better go home now,' said Ada; she longed to escape and yet dreaded
to leave the warmth, the light, the company; perhaps these people were
protected and so were safe from the loathed, prowling, outcast spirit. She
said goodbye to Madame Destiny who was pleasant, as usual, without being
effusive, and then to the others. She could not resist saying to Essie Clark:
'Do you think that I did right?'
'Right?' the overworked woman smiled mechanically, the chipped green
coffee-pot suspended in her hand.
'In exposing--the voice--the spirit?'
'Oh, that! Of course. You couldn't have done anything else, could
you?' And Miss Clark poured her coffee and handed the cup, with a tired
pleasantry, to a tall Indian who was the only elegant looking person present.
Ada Trimble went out on to the landing; the smell of frying, of stew, filled
the gaunt stairway; evidently one of the transient servants was in residence;
through the half-open door behind her, Ada could hear the babble of voices,
then another voice, deep, harsh, that whispered in her ear:
She started forward, missed her foot-hold and fell.
Mr Lemoine, always efficient, was the first to reach the foot of the
stairs. Ada Trimble had broken her neck.
'A pure accident,' said Astra Destiny, pale, but mistress of the
situation. 'Everyone is witness that she was quite alone at the time. She has
been very nervous lately and those high heels...'