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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, 1947

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 wrap herself.

'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 worse.'

'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 think.'

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 over'.

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 out, too.

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, quite easily.'

'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 room.

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 concern.

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 coyly.

'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: 'Wait.'

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 familiar phrase.

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 language?'

'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 interposed:

'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 tell us?'

'Gabriel Letoumeau.'

'Would you translate your epitaph?'

'Blessed is he who understands the poor and has pity on the unfortunate.'

'What were you?'

'Many things.'

'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 me.'

'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.

'What rules?'

'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 voice.

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 present situation?'

'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 records.

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 shrewd blandness.

'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 got.'

'He always boasts so,' complained Mr Maple, 'and particularly about his grave.'

'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 personality.'

'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!'

'Oh, Helen!'

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--what, Ada?'

'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 uneasily.

'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 obsession.

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.'

'I can't.'

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:

Madame, 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,
Sceaux (Seine).

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 Letourneau.

'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 free.'

'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 out.'

'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 thing!'

'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 revealed...'

'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 epitaph.'

'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 top. 'Lies--'

'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 profoundly moved.

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 spirits--evil influences--'

'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 confusion.

'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 smiling.

'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...'


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