The Empty Sleeve
The Gilmer brothers were a couple of fussy and pernickety
old bachelors of a rather retiring, not to say
timid, disposition. There was grey in the pointed beard
of John, the elder, and if any hair had remained to William
it would also certainly have been of the same shade. They
had private means. Their main interest in life was the
collection of violins, for which they had the instinctive
flair of true connoisseurs. Neither John nor William, however,
could play a single note. They could only pluck the
open strings. The production of tone, so necessary before
purchase, was done vicariously for them by another.
The only objection they had to the big building in
which they occupied the roomy top floor was that Morgan,
liftman and caretaker, insisted on wearing a billycock with
his uniform after six o’clock in the evening, with a result
disastrous to the beauty of the universe. For “Mr. Morgan,”
as they called him between themselves, had a round
and pasty face on the top of a round and conical body. In
view, however, of the man’s other rare qualities—including
his devotion to themselves—this objection was not
He had another peculiarity that amused them. On being
found fault with, he explained nothing, but merely
repeated the words of the complaint.
“Water in the bath wasn’t really hot this morning,
“Water in the bath not reely ’ot, wasn’t it, sir?”
Or, from William, who was something of a faddist:
“My jar of sour milk came up late yesterday, Morgan.”
“Your jar sour milk come up late, sir, yesterday?”
Since, however, the statement of a complaint invariably
resulted in its remedy, the brothers had learned to
look for no further explanation. Next morning the bath
was hot, the sour milk was “brortup” punctually. The
uniform and billycock hat, though, remained an eyesore
and source of oppression.
On this particular night John Gilmer, the elder, returning
from a Masonic rehearsal, stepped into the lift and
found Mr. Morgan with his hand ready on the iron rope.
“Fog’s very thick outside,” said Mr. John pleasantly;
and the lift was a third of the way up before Morgan had
completed his customary repetition: “Fog very thick outside,
yes, sir.” And Gilmer then asked casually if his
brother were alone, and received the reply that Mr. Hyman
had called and had not yet gone away.
Now this Mr. Hyman was a Hebrew, and, like themselves,
a connoisseur in violins, but, unlike themselves,
who only kept their specimens to look at, he was a skilful
and exquisite player. He was the only person they ever
permitted to handle their pedigree instruments, to take
them from the glass cases where they reposed in silent
splendour, and to draw the sound out of their wondrous
painted hearts of golden varnish. The brothers loathed
to see his fingers touch them, yet loved to hear their singing
voices in the room, for the latter confirmed their
sound judgment as collectors, and made them certain their
money had been well spent. Hyman, however, made no
attempt to conceal his contempt and hatred for the mere
collector. The atmosphere of the room fairly pulsed with
these opposing forces of silent emotion when Hyman played
and the Gilmers, alternately writhing and admiring, listened.
The occasions, however, were not frequent. The
Hebrew only came by invitation, and both brothers made
a point of being in. It was a very formal proceeding—something
of a sacred rite almost.
John Gilmer, therefore, was considerably surprised by
the information Morgan had supplied. For one thing,
Hyman, he had understood, was away on the Continent.
“Still in there, you say?” he repeated, after a moment’s
“Still in there, Mr. John, sir.” Then, concealing his
surprise from the liftman, he fell back upon his usual mild
habit of complaining about the billycock hat and the uniform.
“You really should try and remember, Morgan,” he
said, though kindly. “That hat does not go well with that
Morgan’s pasty countenance betrayed no vestige of expression.
“’At don’t go well with the yewniform, sir,”
he repeated, hanging up the disreputable bowler and replacing
it with a gold-braided cap from the peg. “No, sir, it
don’t, do it?” he added cryptically, smiling at the transformation
And the lift then halted with an abrupt jerk at the
top floor. By somebody’s carelessness the landing was in
darkness, and, to make things worse, Morgan, clumsily
pulling the iron rope, happened to knock the billycock from
its peg so that his sleeve, as he stooped to catch it, struck
the switch and plunged the scene in a moment’s complete
And it was then, in the act of stepping out before the
light was turned on again, that John Gilmer stumbled
against something that shot along the landing past the
open door. First he thought it must be a child, then a
man, then—an animal. Its movement was rapid yet
stealthy. Starting backwards instinctively to allow it room
to pass, Gilmer collided in the darkness with Morgan, and
Morgan incontinently screamed. There was a moment of
stupid confusion. The heavy framework of the lift shook
a little, as though something had stepped into it and then
as quickly jumped out again. A rushing sound followed
that resembled footsteps, yet at the same time was more
like gliding—someone in soft slippers or stockinged feet,
greatly hurrying. Then came silence again. Morgan
sprang to the landing and turned up the electric light.
Mr. Gilmer, at the same moment, did likewise to the
switch in the lift. Light flooded the scene. Nothing was
“Dog or cat, or something, I suppose, wasn’t it?” exclaimed
Gilmer, following the man out and looking round
with bewildered amazement upon a deserted landing. He
knew quite well, even while he spoke, that the words were
“Dog or cat, yes, sir, or—something,” echoed Morgan,
his eyes narrowed to pin-points, then growing large, but his
“The light should have been on.” Mr. Gilmer spoke
with a touch of severity. The little occurrence had curiously
disturbed his equanimity. He felt annoyed, upset,
For a perceptible pause the liftman made no reply,
and his employer, looking up, saw that, besides being flustered,
he was white about the jaws. His voice, when he
spoke, was without its normal assurance. This time he
did not merely repeat. He explained.
“The light was on, sir, when last I come up!” he said,
with emphasis, obviously speaking the truth. “Only a
moment ago,” he added.
Mr. Gilmer, for some reason, felt disinclined to press
for explanations. He decided to ignore the matter.
Then the lift plunged down again into the depths like
a diving-bell into water; and John Gilmer, pausing a
moment first to reflect, let himself in softly with his latch-key,
and, after hanging up hat and coat in the hall, entered
the big sitting-room he and his brother shared in common.
The December fog that covered London like a dirty
blanket had penetrated, he saw, into the room. The
objects in it were half shrouded in the familiar yellowish
In dressing-gown and slippers, William Gilmer, almost
invisible in his armchair by the gas-stove across the room,
spoke at once. Through the thick atmosphere his face
gleamed, showing an extinguished pipe hanging from his
lips. His tone of voice conveyed emotion, an emotion
he sought to suppress, of a quality, however, not easy to
“Hyman’s been here,” he announced abruptly. “You
must have met him. He’s this very instant gone out.”
It was quite easy to see that something had happened,
for “scenes” leave disturbance behind them in the atmosphere.
But John made no immediate reference to this. He
replied that he had seen no one—which was strictly true—and
his brother thereupon, sitting bolt upright in the
chair, turned quickly and faced him. His skin, in the
foggy air, seemed paler than before.
“That’s odd,” he said nervously.
“What’s odd?” asked John.
“That you didn’t see—anything. You ought to have
run into one another on the doorstep.” His eyes went
peering about the room. He was distinctly ill at ease.
“You’re positive you saw no one? Did Morgan take him
down before you came? Did Morgan see him?” He
asked several questions at once.
“On the contrary, Morgan told me he was still here
with you. Hyman probably walked down, and didn’t take
the lift at all,” he replied. “That accounts for neither of
us seeing him.” He decided to say nothing about the
occurrence in the lift, for his brother’s nerves, he saw
plainly, were on edge.
William then stood up out of his chair, and the skin
of his face changed its hue, for whereas a moment ago it
was merely pale, it had now altered to a tint that lay somewhere
between white and a livid grey. The man was
fighting internal terror. For a moment these two brothers
of middle age looked each other straight in the eye. Then
“What’s wrong, Billy?” he asked quietly. “Something’s
upset you. What brought Hyman in this way—unexpectedly?
I thought he was still in Germany.”
The brothers, affectionate and sympathetic, understood
one another perfectly. They had no secrets. Yet for
several minutes the younger one made no reply. It seemed
difficult to choose his words apparently.
“Hyman played, I suppose—on the fiddles?” John
helped him, wondering uneasily what was coming. He
did not care much for the individual in question, though
his talent was of such great use to them.
The other nodded in the affirmative, then plunged into
rapid speech, talking under his breath as though he feared
someone might overhear. Glancing over his shoulder down
the foggy room, he drew his brother close.
“Hyman came,” he began, “unexpectedly. He hadn’t
written, and I hadn’t asked him. You hadn’t either, I
John shook his head.
“When I came in from the dining-room I found him
in the passage. The servant was taking away the dishes,
and he had let himself in while the front door was ajar.
Pretty cool, wasn’t it?”
“He’s an original,” said John, shrugging his
shoulders. “And you welcomed him?” he asked.
“I asked him in, of course. He explained he had
something glorious for me to hear. Silenski had played
it in the afternoon, and he had bought the music since.
But Silenski’s ‘Strad’ hadn’t the power—it’s thin on the
upper strings, you remember, unequal, patchy—and he
said no instrument in the world could do it justice but our
‘Joseph’-the small Guarnerius, you know, which he swears
is the most perfect in the world.”
“And what was it? Did he play it?” asked John,
growing more uneasy as he grew more interested. With
relief he glanced round and saw the matchless little instrument
lying there safe and sound in its glass case near the
“He played it—divinely: a Zigeuner Lullaby, a fine,
passionate, rushing bit of inspiration, oddly misnamed
‘lullaby.’ And, fancy, the fellow had memorized it already!
He walked about the room on tiptoe while he played it,
complaining of the light——”
“Complaining of the light?”
“Said the thing was crepuscular, and needed dusk for
its full effect. I turned the lights out one by one, till
finally there was only the glow of the gas logs. He
insisted. You know that way he has with him? And
then he got over me in another matter: insisted on using
some special strings he had brought with him, and put
them on, too, himself—thicker than the A and E we use.”
For though neither Gilmer could produce a note, it
was their pride that they kept their precious instruments in
perfect condition for playing, choosing the exact thickness
and quality of strings that suited the temperament of each
violin; and the little Guarnerius in question always “sang”
best, they held, with thin strings.
“Infernal insolence,” exclaimed the listening brother,
wondering what was coming next. “Played it well,
though, didn’t he, this Lullaby thing?” he added, seeing
that William hesitated. As he spoke he went nearer, sitting
down close beside him in a leather chair.
“Magnificent! Pure fire of genius!” was the reply
with enthusiasm, the voice at the same time dropping
lower. “Staccato like a silver hammer; harmonics like
flutes, clear, soft, ringing; and the tone—well, the G string
was a baritone, and the upper registers creamy and mellow
as a boy’s voice. John,” he added, “that Guarnerius
is the very pick of the period and”—again he hesitated—“Hyman
loves it. He’d give his soul to have it.”
The more John heard, the more uncomfortable it made
him. He had always disliked this gifted Hebrew, for in
his secret heart he knew that he had always feared and
distrusted him. Sometimes he had felt half afraid of him;
the man’s very forcible personality was too insistent to be
pleasant. His type was of the dark and sinister kind, and
he possessed a violent will that rarely failed of accomplishing
“Wish I’d heard the fellow play,” he said at length,
ignoring his brother’s last remark, and going on to speak
of the most matter-of-fact details he could think of. “Did
he use the Dodd bow, or the Tourte? That Dodd I picked
up last month, you know, is the most perfectly balanced I
He stopped abruptly, for William had suddenly got
upon his feet and was standing there, searching the room
with his eyes. A chill ran down John’s spine as he watched
“What is it, Billy?” he asked sharply. “Hear anything?”
William continued to peer about him through the thick
“Oh, nothing, probably,” he said, an odd catch in his
voice; “only—— I keep feeling as if there was somebody
listening. Do you think, perhaps”—he glanced over
his shoulder—“there is someone at the door? I wish—I
wish you’d have a look, John.”
John obeyed, though without great eagerness. Crossing
the room slowly, he opened the door, then switched on
the light. The passage leading past the bathroom towards
the bedrooms beyond was empty. The coats hung
motionless from their pegs.
“No one, of course,” he said, as he closed the door
and came back to the stove. He left the light burning in
the passage. It was curious the way both brothers had
this impression that they were not alone, though only
one of them spoke of it.
“Used the Dodd or the Tourte, Billy—which?” continued
John in the most natural voice he could assume.
But at that very same instant the water started to his
eyes. His brother, he saw, was close upon the thing he
really had to tell. But he had stuck fast.
By a great effort John Gilmer composed himself and
remained in his chair. With detailed elaboration he lit a
cigarette, staring hard at his brother over the flaring match
while he did so. There he sat in his dressing-gown and
slippers by the fireplace, eyes downcast, fingers playing
idly with the red tassel. The electric light cast heavy
shadows across the face. In a flash then, since emotion
may sometimes express itself in attitude even better than
in speech, the elder brother understood that Billy was
about to tell him an unutterable thing.
By instinct he moved over to his side so that the same
view of the room confronted him.
“Out with it, old man,” he said, with an effort to be
natural. “Tell me what you saw.”
Billy shuffled slowly round and the two sat side by
side, facing the fog-draped chamber.
“It was like this,” he began softly, “only I was standing
instead of sitting, looking over to that door as you and
I do now. Hyman moved to and fro in the faint glow
of the gas logs against the far wall, playing that ‘crepuscular’
thing in his most inspired sort of way, so that
the music seemed to issue from himself rather than from
the shining bit of wood under his chin, when—I noticed
something coming over me that was”—he hesitated, searching
for words—“that wasn’t all due to the music,” he finished
“His personality put a bit of hypnotism on you, eh?”
William shrugged his shoulders.
“The air was thickish with fog and the light was dim,
cast upwards upon him from the stove,” he continued.
“I admit all that. But there wasn’t light enough to throw
shadows, you see, and——”
“Hyman looked queer?” the other helped him quickly.
Billy nodded his head without turning.
“Changed there before my very eyes”—he whispered
“Animal?” John felt his hair rising.
“That’s the only way I can put it. His face and hands
and body turned otherwise than usual. I lost the sound
of his feet. When the bow-hand or the fingers on the
strings passed into the light, they were”—he uttered a
soft, shuddering little laugh—“furry, oddly divided, the
fingers massed together. And he paced stealthily. I
thought every instant the fiddle would drop with a crash
and he would spring at me across the room.”
“My dear chap——”
“He moved with those big, lithe, striding steps one
sees”—John held his breath in the little pause, listening
keenly—“one sees those big brutes make in the cages when
their desire is aflame for food or escape, or—or fierce, passionate
desire for anything they want with their whole
“The big felines!” John whistled softly.
“And every minute getting nearer and nearer to the
door, as though he meant to make a sudden rush for it
and get out.”
“With the violin! Of course you stopped him?”
“In the end. But for a long time, I swear to you, I
found it difficult to know what to do, even to move. I
couldn’t get my voice for words of any kind; it was like
“It was a spell,” suggested John firmly.
“Then, as he moved, still playing,” continued the
other, “he seemed to grow smaller; to shrink down below
the line of the gas. I thought I should lose sight of him
altogether. I turned the light up suddenly. There he
was over by the door—crouching.”
“Playing on his knees, you mean?”
William closed his eyes in an effort to visualize it
“Crouching,” he repeated, at length, “close to the floor.
At least, I think so. It all happened so quickly, and I
felt so bewildered, it was hard to see straight. But at
first I could have sworn he was half his natural size. I
called to him, I think I swore at him—I forget exactly,
but I know he straightened up at once and stood before me
down there in the light”—he pointed across the room to
the door—“eyes gleaming, face white as chalk, perspiring
like midsummer, and gradually filling out, straightening
up, whatever you like to call it, to his natural size and appearance
again. It was the most horrid thing I’ve ever
“As an—animal, you saw him still?”
“No; human again. Only much smaller.”
“What did he say?”
Billy reflected a moment.
“Nothing that I can remember,” he replied. “You
see, it was all over in a few seconds. In the full light, I
felt so foolish, and nonplussed at first. To see him normal
again baffled me. And, before I could collect myself, he
had let himself out into the passage, and I heard the front
door slam. A minute later—the same second almost, it
seemed—you came in. I only remember grabbing the violin
and getting it back safely under the glass case. The
strings were still vibrating.”
The account was over. John asked no further questions.
Nor did he say a single word about the lift, Morgan,
or the extinguished light on the landing. There fell
a longish silence between the two men; and then, while
they helped themselves to a generous supply of whisky-and-soda
before going to bed, John looked up and spoke:
“If you agree, Billy,” he said quietly, “I think I might
write and suggest to Hyman that we shall no longer have
need for his services.”
And Billy, acquiescing, added a sentence that expressed
something of the singular dread lying but half concealed
in the atmosphere of the room, if not in their minds as
“Putting it, however, in a way that need not offend
“Of course. There’s no need to be rude, is there?”
Accordingly, next morning the letter was written; and
John, saying nothing to his brother, took it round himself
by hand to the Hebrew’s rooms near Euston. The answer
he dreaded was forthcoming:
“Mr. Hyman’s still away abroad,” he was told. “But
we’re forwarding letters; yes. Or I can give you ’is
address if you’ll prefer it.” The letter went, therefore,
to the number in Königstrasse, Munich, thus obtained.
Then, on his way back from the insurance company
where he went to increase the sum that protected the small
Guarnerius from loss by fire, accident, or theft, John
Gilmer called at the offices of certain musical agents and
ascertained that Silenski, the violinist, was performing at
the time in Munich. It was only some days later, though,
by diligent inquiry, he made certain that at a concert on
a certain date the famous virtuoso had played a Zigeuner
Lullaby of his own composition—the very date, it turned
out, on which he himself had been to the Masonic rehearsal
at Mark Masons’ Hall.
John, however, said nothing of these discoveries to
his brother William.
It was about a week later when a reply to the letter
came from Munich—a letter couched in somewhat offensive
terms, though it contained neither words nor phrases that
could actually be found fault with. Isidore Hyman was
hurt and angry. On his return to London a month or so
later, he proposed to call and talk the matter over. The
offensive part of the letter lay, perhaps, in his definite
assumption that he could persuade the brothers to resume
the old relations. John, however, wrote a brief reply to
the effect that they had decided to buy no new fiddles;
their collection being complete, there would be no occasion
for them to invite his services as a performer. This
was final. No answer came, and the matter seemed to
drop. Never for one moment, though, did it leave the
consciousness of John Gilmer. Hyman had said that he
would come, and come assuredly he would. He secretly
gave Morgan instructions that he and his brother for the
future were always “out” when the Hebrew presented himself.
“He must have gone back to Germany, you see, almost
at once after his visit here that night,” observed William—John,
however, making no reply.
One night towards the middle of January the two
brothers came home together from a concert in Queen’s
Hall, and sat up later than usual in their sitting-room
discussing over their whisky and tobacco the merits of the
pieces and performers. It must have been past one o’clock
when they turned out the lights in the passage and retired
to bed. The air was still and frosty; moonlight over the
roofs—one of those sharp and dry winter nights that now
seem to visit London rarely.
“Like the old-fashioned days when we were boys,” remarked
William, pausing a moment by the passage window
and looking out across the miles of silvery, sparkling
“Yes,” added John; “the ponds freezing hard in the
fields, rime on the nursery windows, and the sound of a
horse’s hoofs coming down the road in the distance, eh?”
They smiled at the memory, then said good night, and
separated. Their rooms were at opposite ends of the corridor;
in between were the bathroom, dining-room, and
sitting-room. It was a long, straggling flat. Half an hour
later both brothers were sound asleep, the flat silent, only
a dull murmur rising from the great city outside, and the
moon sinking slowly to the level of the chimneys.
Perhaps two hours passed, perhaps three, when John
Gilmer, sitting up in bed with a start, wide-awake and
frightened, knew that someone was moving about in one
of the three rooms that lay between him and his brother.
He had absolutely no idea why he should have been frightened,
for there was no dream or nightmare-memory that
he brought over from unconsciousness, and yet he realized
plainly that the fear he felt was by no means a foolish and
unreasoning fear. It had a cause and a reason. Also—which
made it worse—it was fully warranted. Something
in his sleep, forgotten in the instant of waking, had happened
that set every nerve in his body on the watch. He
was positive only of two things—first, that it was the
entrance of this person, moving so quietly there in the
flat, that sent the chills down his spine; and, secondly,
that this person was not his brother William.
John Gilmer was a timid man. The sight of a burglar,
his eyes black-masked, suddenly confronting him in the
passage, would most likely have deprived him of all power
of decision—until the burglar had either shot him or
escaped. But on this occasion some instinct told him that
it was no burglar, and that the acute distress he experienced
was not due to any message of ordinary physical
fear. The thing that had gained access to his flat while
he slept had first come—he felt sure of it—into his room,
and had passed very close to his own bed, before going on.
It had then doubtless gone to his brother’s room, visiting
them both stealthily to make sure they slept. And its
mere passage through his room had been enough to wake
him and set these drops of cold perspiration upon his skin.
For it was—he felt it in every fibre of his body—something
The thought that it might at that very moment be in
the room of his brother, however, brought him to his feet
on the cold floor, and set him moving with all the determination
he could summon towards the door. He looked
cautiously down an utterly dark passage; then crept on
tiptoe along it. On the wall were old-fashioned weapons
that had belonged to his father; and feeling a curved,
sheathless sword that had come from some Turkish campaign
of years gone by, his fingers closed tightly round
it, and lifted it silently from the three hooks whereon it
lay. He passed the doors of the bathroom and dining-room,
making instinctively for the big sitting-room where
the violins were kept in their glass cases. The cold nipped
him. His eyes smarted with the effort to see in the darkness.
Outside the closed door he hesitated.
Putting his ear to the crack, he listened. From within
came a faint sound of someone moving. The same instant
there rose the sharp, delicate “ping” of a violin-string
being plucked; and John Gilmer, with nerves that shook
like the vibrations of that very string, opened the door
wide with a fling and turned on the light at the same
moment. The plucked string still echoed faintly in the
The sensation that met him on the threshold was the
well-known one that things had been going on in the
room which his unexpected arrival had that instant put a
stop to. A second earlier and he would have discovered
it all in the act. The atmosphere still held the feeling
of rushing, silent movement with which the things had
raced back to their normal, motionless positions. The
immobility of the furniture was a mere attitude hurriedly
assumed, and the moment his back was turned the whole
business, whatever it might be, would begin again. With
this presentment of the room, however—a purely imaginative
one—came another, swiftly on its heels.
For one of the objects, less swift than the rest, had not
quite regained its “attitude” of repose. It still moved.
Below the window curtains on the right, not far from the
shelf that bore the violins in their glass cases, he made it
out, slowly gliding along the floor. Then, even as his eye
caught it, it came to rest.
And, while the cold perspiration broke out all over
him afresh, he knew that this still moving item was the
cause both of his waking and of his terror. This was
the disturbance whose presence he had divined in the flat
without actual hearing, and whose passage through his
room, while he yet slept, had touched every nerve in his
body as with ice. Clutching his Turkish sword tightly,
he drew back with the utmost caution against the wall
and watched, for the singular impression came to him
that the movement was not that of a human being crouching,
but rather of something that pertained to the animal
world. He remembered, flash-like, the movements of reptiles,
the stealth of the larger felines, the undulating glide
of great snakes. For the moment, however, it did not
move, and they faced one another.
The other side of the room was but dimly lighted,
and the noise he made clicking up another electric lamp
brought the thing flying forward again—towards himself.
At such a moment it seemed absurd to think of so small
a detail, but he remembered his bare feet, and, genuinely
frightened, he leaped upon a chair and swished with his
sword through the air about him. From this better point
of view, with the increased light to aid him, he then saw
two things—first, that the glass case usually covering the
Guarnerius violin had been shifted; and, secondly, that
the moving object was slowly elongating itself into an upright
position. Semi-erect, yet most oddly, too, like a
creature on its hind legs, it was coming swiftly towards
him. It was making for the door—and escape.
The confusion of ghostly fear was somehow upon him
so that he was too bewildered to see clearly, but he had
sufficient self-control, it seemed, to recover a certain power
of action; for the moment the advancing figure was near
enough for him to strike, that curved scimitar flashed
and whirred about him, with such misdirected violence,
however, that he not only failed to strike it even once,
but at the same time lost his balance and fell forward from
the chair whereon he perched—straight into it.
And then came the most curious thing of all, for as
he dropped, the figure also dropped, stooped low down,
crouched, dwindled amazingly in size, and rushed past him
close to the ground like an animal on all fours. John
Gilmer screamed, for he could no longer contain himself.
Stumbling over the chair as he turned to follow, cutting
and slashing wildly with his sword, he saw halfway down
the darkened corridor beyond the scuttling outline of, apparently,
The door into the outer landing was somehow ajar, and
the next second the beast was out, but not before the steel
had fallen with a crashing blow upon the front disappearing
leg, almost severing it from the body.
It was dreadful. Turning up the lights as he went, he
ran after it to the outer landing. But the thing he followed
was already well away, and he heard, on the floor
below him, the same oddly gliding, slithering, stealthy
sound, yet hurrying, that he had heard weeks before when
something had passed him in the lift and Morgan, in his
terror, had likewise cried aloud.
For a time he stood there on that dark landing, listening,
thinking, trembling; then turned into the flat and shut
the door. In the sitting-room he carefully replaced the
glass case over the treasured violin, puzzled to the point of
foolishness, and strangely routed in his mind. For the
violin itself, he saw, had been dragged several inches from
its cushioned bed of plush.
Next morning, however, he made no allusion to the
occurrence of the night. His brother apparently had not
The only thing that called for explanation—an explanation
not fully forthcoming—was the curious aspect of Mr.
Morgan’s countenance. The fact that this individual gave
notice to the owners of the building, and at the end of the
month left for a new post, was, of course, known to both
brothers; whereas the story he told in explanation of his
face was known only to the one who questioned him about
it—John. And John, for reasons best known to himself,
did not pass it on to the other. Also, for reasons best
known to himself, he did not cross-question the liftman
about those singular marks, or report the matter to the
Mr. Morgan’s pasty visage was badly scratched, and
there were red lines running from the cheek into the neck
that had the appearance of having been produced by sharp
points viciously applied—claws. He had been disturbed
by a noise in the hall, he said, about three in the morning,
a scuffle had ensued in the darkness, but the intruder had
got clear away....
“A cat or something of the kind, no doubt,” suggested
John Gilmer at the end of the brief recital. And Morgan
replied in his usual way: “A cat, or something of the kind,
Mr. John, no doubt.”
All the same, he had not cared to risk a second encounter,
but had departed to wear his billycock and uniform
in a building less haunted.
Hyman, meanwhile, made no attempt to call and talk
over his dismissal. The reason for this was only apparent,
however, several months later when, quite by chance, coming
along Piccadilly in an omnibus, the brothers found
themselves seated opposite to a man with a thick black
beard and blue glasses. William Gilmer hastily rang the
bell and got out, saying something half intelligible about
feeling faint. John followed him.
“Did you see who it was?” he whispered to his brother
the moment they were safely on the pavement.
“Hyman, in spectacles. He’s grown a beard, too.”
“Yes, but did you also notice——”
“He had an empty sleeve.”
“An empty sleeve?”
“Yes,” said William; “he’s lost an arm.”
There was a long pause before John spoke. At the
door of their club the elder brother added:
“Poor devil! He’ll never again play on”—then, suddenly
changing the preposition—“with a pedigree violin!”
And that night in the flat, after William had gone to
bed, he looked up a curious old volume he had once picked
up on a second-hand bookstall, and read therein quaint
descriptions of how the “desire-body of a violent man”
may assume animal shape, operate on concrete matter even
at a distance; and, further, how a wound inflicted thereon
can reproduce itself upon its physical counterpart by means
of the mysterious so-called phenomenon of “re-percussion.”