THE mind of the Wise easily shunts to strange speculations before taking
again to the main line of severely controlled thoughts.  Associations of
ideas ___ your name is Harpy.  How you do catch unheralded the mortal
uncautious!  The Wise knows you; he is aware of your jumpy step; he makes
ready; he fights and ... "vae victis!" he yokes you.  But the fool ... !
   However, we digress and progress not.  I ought to be relating a personal
experience.  One night, one sleepless night, I was allowing my eternal
enemies, the harpies to whom I have already referred, the following of
their fancy for a while.  They were poachy enough for me not to fear them.
   Earlier in the evening I and a few friends had been discussing
affinities and mysteries, among other subjects, and as I lay in bed one of
the recent mysteries gave mental food to the harpies.  My thoughts were of
course utterly passive and need no record.  But something which
subsequently happened causes me to mention this.  Let me recall the main
facts of the Brighton murder.
   On the night of the crime there had been a dinner-party at the house of
Mrs. Ridley.  Towards midnight the hostess remained alone with her
servants: a butler, two footmen, a {287} cook and two maids.  Mrs. Ridley's
apartments have a full view of the sea, as has also the room of her maid
Jane Fleming.  The cook and the other maids, as well as the three men,
slept in rooms at the back of the house.
   At the inquest James Dale, the footman, and the butler deposed that they
heard no noise whatever during the night.  Now, Harry Carpenter, the other
man, had been found murdered in the first-floor bathroom.  And it has been
ascertained that he could not possibly leave his room without being heard
by the others, who slept one on each side of him, as neither of them "did"
sleep on that particular night, for some reason or another.  But of course
this is public knowledge,  The police and the papers have received scores
of anonymous letters denouncing Jane Fleming, the butler, and Dale as the
authors of the crime.  They have not been arrested.  Why?
   I am certain that they are entirely innocent; yet the police cannot be
aware of the reasons which lead me to this certainty, and in the absence of
these proofs they ought to be suspected.
   Mrs. Ridley's bed stood with the foot towards the fireplace, a door
being on either side of the head, the window on her left hand.
   When her maid entered the room in the morning she found the body of her
mistress lying at the foot of the bed, the head towards the window.  It was
entirely naked.  Near the body was a shift, and over the neck a white shawl
had been carelessly thrown.  It had upon it in various parts as many as
sixteen wounds, cuts and bruises of various importance.  The most serious
and only mortal one was behind the left ear; the great vessels of the neck
were destroyed and the skull much injured.  The most ugly wound to the
sight was under the {288} nose, which had been so entirely damaged that it
rendered the whole face almost unrecognisable.  Yet there has been, I must
say, no doubt as to the identity.  The wounds had been inflicted with an
instrument edged but blunt, used by a very weak person, possibly a woman.
The bedclothes were not disarranged, and there was some strangeness in the
fact, for the maid swore to having seen her mistress in bed, while after
the discovery of the murder the bed was found made as if no one had either
lain in or even sat on it.  The police took it as a proof that Mrs. Ridley
had some connection with the murderer or murderers, and, after her maid's
departure, had been preparing herself to go out.  She was known to be a
most tidy and cautious lady.  Had she obeyed an instinctive need of leaving
everything in order?
   But let us turn to the bathroom.  There also was a murdered body.
Carpenter, the footman, had been killed with the same or with a similar
instrument.  Not without a severe conflict, however.  How was it that his
left hand held tightly hidden in its grasp a small piece of lace which was
recognised as belonging to Mrs. Ridley?  It had been torn from a
handkerchief belonging to her.  The strangeness of the discovery was all
the more striking because the handkerchief referred to was found later on
by the maid in a drawer between many others, neither on top nor at the
bottom.  The piece of lace found in the hand of Carpenter corresponded
   So much for the victims.  Now for the motive.  Mrs. Ridley was a wealthy
widow, and possessed many valuable pictures.  She had a well-known dislike
for cheque-books; and a firm of London bankers came forward at the inquest,
having written a private letter to the coroner to the effect that {289} the
deceased lady was their client, and deposed that on he morning before the
murder she had received the sum of ?1200 in banknotes and gold, which sum
was to be handed over to Mr. ___, a representative of a well-known firm of
art dealers, in payment for a certain picture.
   Well, the police and the public knew that too; it had leaked out
somehow.  But beyond this they knew little.  That is, they had forgotten.
Because there "were" other facts.  These facts, however, could not help a
detective to realise their importance because they were loose facts ___
events, that is, which were in contradiction with one another.  Yet still
they afforded a clue.  The murderer might be a criminal thief, a temperance
reformer, a madman, a clergyman, a novelist, or a devil-worshipper ___ any
person, in fact, in the whole world whose hand is weak or unsteady.  But
the whole world is comparatively too large to allow of any certainty in
picking out the murderer of Mrs. Ridley.  I say comparatively, because to
the Wise the world is small. ... "Passons!"
   Some time before her sudden death Mrs. Ridley had had a guest in her
house whose unaffected manners had much offended the dignity of the male
servants.  He was said to be a distant relation of the late big-gun maker,
James Ridley.  But he was "not."  The late Ridley had no relations whatever
on earth ___ at least among human beings.  I happen to know that the so-
called relation was a spiritualist.  This sounds bad enough.  Was Mrs.
Ridley in agreement with him or was she not?  It is nothing more than a
question.  Suppress the query, give the mere words another place in the
sentence and you have two affirmations: "She was" or "She was not." How {290}
infinitely clearer is the point!  Any intellectual bloodhound ought to find
out which is "the" affirmation.  That is, if the so-called relation was the
murderer.  I say he is, though I have no human proofs whatever to offer.
The police ___ that is, my friend Inspector Bennet ___ tell me he is not,
but he may know something.  One of our great dailies has (alone) come very
near the truth on the matter.  It was given as an editorial opinion that
the widow of the gun-maker was a little out of her mind and had committed
suicide, with the help of some one, in spite of her footman, who had been
attracted by the noise.  Curious blend of truth and imagination!
   A few hours after I had allowed the furies to play havoc with my brains
I received the following letter; and that is why I know so much.  For the
very reason of its strangeness I felt at once that it could be the work of
no practical joker.  The mysterious part of the adventure can, I believe,
be solved without much difficulty.
   "Dear Sir," it ran, ___ "You do not know me; but I know you.  I have
followed you through the world with the eyes of my spirit.  I once saw in
the window of a Paris photographer a portrait of yours which arrested my
attention, and since that day your personality has been the constant,
though not unpleasant, obsession of my life.  I am perfectly acquainted
with you and your life, your work and moods and ways of living.  I came to
England a few weeks ago and I saw you.  To-day I write.  I am aware that
you are interested in the strange happenings which are to be studied in
this world.  My last adventure will cause you to be interested in the
Brighton murder.  I have been nearer than any one else to be the criminal
author of that murder.  Only, when I arrived {291} it was too late.  Had I
not been already a madman during the years 1897 and 1898, and eventually
cured, this strange adventure would certainly have sent me into a state of
complete insanity.  As it is, I am in a certain way vaccinated against
   "Monsieur, as true as I am a Frenchman born in America of a German
mother by a poor Spanish hidalgo who forgot to give her his address ___ you
see, I am French by naturalization (I wanted to make up for their declining
birth-rate) ___ the footman of Mrs. Ridley has been murdered by that lady
herself because he tried to save her life.  I don't know her past, but I am
certain that she had been a near relation of mine in some former existence,
and that she was much interested in spiritualism.  "Voil? la clef du"
   "Se¤or, you will realise that a crime is composed of a great number of
circumstances extending over a long or short period of time and different
in their importance.  If a woman is seen to stick a stiletto into another
person's breast, that is a stronger circumstance than if she is seen
pulling it out; and this would be stronger than if she were standing over
the dead man with a bloody knife.  Two of the cases at least are compatible
with innocence.  Evidence, you understand it also, is nothing more than
grounds for reasonable guesses, and crimes are collections of circumstances
connected together, the proof of any one of which is a reasonable ground
for guessing that the others existed.  But, "pocos palabras!"
   "Sehr geehrter Herr!"  Nine times out of ten an innocent man does not
know the strength of his own case, and he may, real "Schafskopf," by mere
asinism allow suspicious circumstances to pass unexplained which he could
explain perfectly {292} well.  How much more so, then, when the innocent is
no more among the living ___ or when, being alive, he stands in a blessed
ignorance of the suspicions to which some unexplained circumstances have
given birth!
   "To the point, sir!  One lives again in order to complete, or improve,
an action which in a previous life has been left incomplete or inferior;
and also to make a fresh attempt at mastering, in very similar
circumstances, some powerful original tendency.  It's fierce, but it's
true.  Had you previously been a packer of canned meat, or a guard on the
railroad, or a Wall Street man, there would have been in your life some
incidents, causing certain thoughts in your brains, and eventually actions.
Yes, it would have been so, and you would to-day probably be doing your
best not to improve upon the action which was the resultant of those
thoughts.  I say '"not to improve,"' because we are human, all of us.
   "As it is, you were a Redskin in North America, your name was 'Faim de
loup,' and you are placed in such circumstances that you must find it
difficult not to fall again into your old uncivilised ways.
   "Now, Mrs. Ridley was a spiritualist.  And she was not a widow!  Her
husband was not dead!  He was the great gun-maker whom you know, and whose
obsequies you may remember.  His coffin contained but another man's
remains. ...
   "Love, my dear sir, is a much-mistaken phenomenon, which only perhaps
the most loutish among us could understand because of its very simplicity.
Love belongs to the spiritual world; it is an attraction, based on
affinities.  There were such affinities between Mrs. Ridley and her
husband. {293}
   "Of course, you know something about wireless telegraphy.  A wireless
message can be intercepted by some one for whom it is not meant, even if
that some one had no inclination towards that kind of French game.  He
unwillingly receives the message which is for another, and it may so happen
that he obtains a similar knowledge of the answer.  Such is the case also
in the spiritual world: such was the case of Mrs. Ridley.  Her love-
thoughts went to her husband; her husband's love-thoughts went to her, but
   "Have you ever taken into your field of consideration how many 'buts'
there come into the field of our actions?  I submit to you that every
painful, or sinful, or harmful, or simply unpleasant incident of our lives
is the outcome of the best intentions ___ relatively best, at all events,
"our best" ___ and I am sure that you agree with me.  There were two 'buts'
in the case of Mrs. Ridley.
   "The first was of a personal character.  Mrs. Ridley had nothing more
than love-thoughts to give to her gun-maker husband.  She was deprived of
temperament ___ as the French understand the word ___ and her husband was
like the candle which has never seen itself aflame, and is in consequence
unaware of what it misses through its having had no acquaintance with a
lighted match.  Their love was not of this world, and the Powers which rule
'here-below' resented what they considered to be a contempt of their
Majesty; and no children were sent to the couple.  It was an ethereal love
which they both knew to be somewhat incomplete.  Mr. Ridley had little
experience of the world, and still less conversation.  Apart from his gun-
making business and his spiritual bride, he cared in his own words, not a
shell for anything.  Nevertheless, in {294} his semi-conscious anxiety, he
attempted to devise some alterations in the appearance of his future widow.
Did he see a hat which he thought somewhat suggestive of earthy sentiments,
he would at once buy a similar one for Mrs. Ridley.  Alas! with as without
it his wife looked the ethereal spirituality that she was.  He went to
Paris on business, and, finding himself in that materialistic city, bought
a complete set of befrilled and dainty underlinen; Mrs. Ridley etherealised
even the appearance of that "lingerie de cocotte."
   "We are far from the crime, you think.  "Carajo," I guess not!  We cannot
be any nearer.  Who killed Mrs. Ridley?  I don't know.  I was very near
doing it.
   "Why was she killed?  The murderer did not know.
   "Who killed the footman?  Mrs. Ridley.
   "Why did she kill him?  Because he tried to prevent her from being
   "Here, in a nutshell, my dear sir, you have all the crime and its
explanation.  When I say that I do not know who killed Mrs. Ridley I mean
at the same time that it matters not.  "The murderer is innocent."1  Listen
to what happened to me.
   "I saw a man.  He had the most wonderful eyes I ever saw; they could at
times brighten one's face by merely looking into it; yet they chilled me,
drying my blood and sending a cold shiver all over my bones.  They
reflected the sky as an ape imitates man, in a way inferior, poorly,
servilely.  And a certain uncanny look which never quite left him made that
man an undesirable neighbour to me.  Had I not seen him I would refuse to
admit the reality of his existence. {295}
   "I met him during a journey.  Comfortably seated in a corner of the
railway compartment, I was reading a book of the sixteenth century in
France merely to occupy my mind, so that I should not be tempted to look
through the window at the too commonplace scenery.
   "We had just passed a station, as I knew by the disturbing voice of a
porter; and, on resuming my journey, I felt sorry that no companion of
travel had entered the lonely carriage.  I attempted another perusal of my
book, when, without any opening of the door or of the window, I noticed a
stranger seated in the opposite corner.  His eyes were on me.  He left me
no time for much thinking, speaking almost immediately.
   "'May I beg you to forgive a stranger, sir?' he said, 'but I cannot
endure this temperature.  Will you allow me to open the windows?"
        1  Underlined with red ink in the original letter.
   "I like fresh air myself; but it was so very cold on that day that I had
carefully shut both windows.  Something in his appearance and his look,
intensely heavy on me, led me to refrain from answering.  I merely nodded,
grunted, gathered my rug higher around me, and resumed my reading.
   "He thanked me profusely, opened the windows, both of them, as wide as
they could be, and, without taking any notice of my evident displeasure,
addressed me anew.
   "'Your are wondering, no doubt, sir, as to the way by which I came in.
Well, I do not mind telling you I came through this hole.'
   "He pointed at the ceiling with his hand, and I raised my eyes.  The
only aperture to which he could be referring was a tiny little hole in the
glass which protected the imaginary {296} light provided by the railway
company.  I shrugged my shoulders, grunted again, and plunged back into my
   "'You do not believe me, I see,' he went on, 'yet I speak the truth.  I
came through this broken glass to you ___ to you, sir, on purpose to see
you, to speak to you.  I came from the sky.  Now, do not look at the alarm
bell.  My message is a pleasant one.  You are chosen for a mission.'
   "I thought I had borne enough, and expressed at once the idea that my
strong desire was to be left alone.  The stranger laughed in a queer
manner, and as my eyes met his once more, I felt a peculiar sensation of
mixed sympathy and fear.  It was  then that I noticed how brightening to
any one his eyes could be.  He spoke in a gentler tone.
   "'I am going to explain to you the object of my coming.  You are going
back to Brighton to-morrow night, are you not?'
   "'Yes, I am; but that is no concern of yours.'
   "'Be silent.  Look at me.  All right.  Listen now!'
   "I heard no more his human voice.  As I raised my head a feeling of lost
consciousness overcame me.  I was unable to control my brains, my will, my
movements.  He spoke again and at great length, but I could neither answer
nor interrupt him.  I could not say that I was in a subconscious state, but
neither would I care to say that I was in a normal one.  He took my hands
and held them in his own.  I could not move.
   "'It is necessary that a certain person be freed from the material
envelope which gives apparent shape to her ethereal spirit.  Mrs. Ridley
lives at 34 ____ Street, Brighton.  By the way, my name is Ridley.' {297}
   "Here I tried to speak, but found it impossible.  He went on:
   "'You seem to be surprised.  I thought you would.  But remain in the
state of receptivity!  I am Ridley, the late Ridley, as they say, though I
am very much alive.  Some stories have been told of how I died suddenly,
600 miles away from England.  But I only disappeared.  The wicked spirits
tempted me, and I fell into their trap.  Time passed, and the love messages
which the spirit of my wife sent all over the earth succeeded in reaching
me after a period of burning knowledge.  She claimed death as a right,
though she knew well enough that, dead or alive, I could not help her in
that way.  We must die both at the same time if we are to enjoy in an
after-life the joys of spiritual love, which I found on this earth but too
mild for my burning and anxious curiosity.  I have chosen you for the deed
because you have been at times the recipient of some thought messages which
were addressed to her by me.  Besides, in a former existence you were kin
to my ... to Mrs. Ridley.
   "'To-morrow night you will go to _____ Street, and my wife will await
you as the promised liberator.  Some one else will "do" for me at the same
time, but in another part of the world.  I shall be far by then.  No one is
to see you, and Mrs. Ridley will open the door to you.  KILL HER, man!
Kill her at 9.30 P.M.  When you have done, GO!  Go away; and when a whole
week has passed, REMEMBER!  And now, my dear sir, good-bye for the
   "As he spoke the last words I was again conscious; but my head felt so
heavy that I did not make any motion.  I could not.  It was as if I had
just awakened from a profound sleep. {298}  The stranger disappeared,
seeming through the hole in the glass.
   "When I had collected myself I tried hard to make out whether I had seen
or hear any one.  But I could not remember what had been said to me, save
the few words of preamble about opening the windows and the ironical words
of the parting: 'Good-bye for the present.'
   "I shut the windows, and presently arrived at my destination.  The cold
air on the platform finished waking me up.  I dismissed the conversation as
a dream due to the discomfort of the journey; and set out towards the hotel
where I usually stay when in Bristol.
   "I must here remind you, sir, that I had no other recollection than a
few words, which were so absurd, especially those about coming from the sky
through a hole, that they must have been dreamt by me.  Such were my
thoughts; and I went to sleep thinking no more about my supposed nightmare.
   "On the following morning I attended to my business and started on my
journey back to Brighton, though I was asked by a very dear friend to stay
another day, and though I had no reason whatever to refuse him and myself
such a pleasure as we always derive from our mutual company.
   "The journey passed without incident.  My carriage was never empty; and
I could not in a full compartment indulge in such weird dreams as I had on
the previous day.  On my arrival at Brighton I went to the hotel.  At least
I thought I did.  I am not so sure now.  How is it that I remember to-day
that part of the stranger's discourse which I could not recollect after his
departure?  But I anticipate.
   "I awoke in the morning with a strong headache; and {299} proceeded to
clean my coat; which (I remember) I had soiled on the previous evening
during my meal, while waiting for my train in London.  I was perfectly
certain about that stain; I knew where it was.  I COULD NOT FIND IT.  This
is a trifle, no doubt, and I took it as such, at first.  I do not ... now
... now that I REMEMBER.  I must have washed my clothes according to the
   "Yet I am not the murderer, monsieur.  If you could see me you would
dismiss all doubts.  My eye is a truthful organ.  But of course you cannot;
and there is an end of the matter.
   "Shall we go back to the beginning?  Well, suppose we do.  Who is that
human creature "qui languit sur la paille humide d'un cachot?"  A neighbour!
The very man who ought not to be suspected.  Does ever a neighbour kill a
neighbour in that way, for such a vague reason?  It is sheer madness ...
Madness ... MADNESS!
   "And I will tell you something else.  The man they have arrested has
probably been a witness to the murder.  He may have some secret longing for
a period of suffering.  He may want a cure for his soul; and that may be
the reason why he does not do anything against the mountain of evidence
which is slowly being heaped against him. ..
   "I have just had to leave this letter in order to see that a couple of
nice crisp cabbages do not during their ebullition throw too much water
over the gas-stove.  And as I return to you it occurs to me that you may
know the great masterpiece of Dostoievsky.  I have only read it in the
French.  'Crime et Ch?timent' they call it.  Well, there is a similar case
in that terrible story.  MIKOLKA confesses to the {300} murder of the old
female moneylender and her sister Elizabeth, when the real murderer is
Rodion Romanich Raskolnikoff.  Mikolka is longing for expiation; he wants
to atone for a wasted life; he is neither a madman nor an insane, but a
mystic, a fantast.  You will object that he is a Slav. ... Quite so, but
there might be some Anglo-Saxons with a similar turn of mind.
   "What of the theft?  What if there has been no theft? if Mrs. Ridley had
hidden or destroyed the money? if she had burned the banknotes?  What are
banknotes to a woman who is going to die?
   "The police have made a great point of the fact that Harry Carpenter
could not come out of his room without being heard.  Fools!  Mayhap he did
not enter his room that night.  Maybe he was in love with some lady fair.
Maybe he went out and was killed by Mrs. Ridley when, returning, he had
come to her assistance and struggled with Mr. Ridley's messenger.
   "The dinner-party!  Here we come to the most foolish, silly, ridiculous,
absurd, and preposterous example of the preposterousness, absurdity,
ridiculousness, silliness, and foolishness latent in the brains of your
C.I.D. members.  I believe that all the guests who attended that party have
been shadowed, that their entire families have been watched and followed
about, that their correspondence has been ransacked and their whole past
raked into.  They have of course no connection whatever with the case.
Mrs. Ridley thought of a party as of the thing most likely to "donner le"
"change."  Of course she did not want people to think of anything else but of
an ordinary unforeseen murder. {310}
   "All the rubbish talked about with regard to her lace handkerchief and
the piece in her footman's hand shows still more the folly of all
scientific systems of investigation.  She put it there after having killed
the footman.
   "I have but one incident to mention; and it is once more a personal
recollection.  But as it is the last you will forgive me.  I am sure you
appreciate my goodwill and believe in "Wahlverwandschaften."
   "When, after a week had elapsed and my memory was allowed to resume its
work, I became conscious of the deed which had been commanded to me, I
entered into a state of mixed feelings.  If I would indulge in psychology,
I should now retrace step by step the mental journey which I then took.  I
think I can spare you this; and I now come to the evening which concluded
the ninth day after the murder.
   "For my personal edification I was murmuring the words of the Clavicula
Salomonis; and had just arrived at the invocation, 'Aba, Zarka, Maccaf,
Zofar, Holech, Zegolta, Pazergadol,' when a gentle breeze caressed my
forehead.  I must tell you that I had not placed in my left hand the
hexagonal seal, but held instead at intervals a well-dosed 'rainbow.'  By
the way, have you ever tasted that scientific and picturesque mixture of
   "The breeze spoke.  At least I heard its voice, which recalled somehow
the voice of the late ____ very late now ___ Mr. Ridley.
   "'"We are here."'
   "A buzzing sibilation; "un susurrement."  Then the voice again.  'We have
come together, man, to set your mind at rest, if indeed it is restless.
Your are not the liberator of a longing soul, as you thought.  A nearer of
kin has been {302} found ___ that is, a man whose spirit was in a previous
life the spirit of a dear brother.  He was ordered to kill at 9.20.  But
you came at your own appointed time and went through the ___ er ___
process, unaware that all had been done before.  We chose that man because
he was a nearer parent.  We are now happy ___ happy beyond your actual
comprehension.  Adieu!'
   "That's what I call "laver son linge sale en famille."  And the part I
played in that affair reminds me of that other expression: "enfoncer une"
"porte ouverte."
   "That is all, my dear sir.  You know as much as I do.  And I must return
to my cabbages.
                                        "Your illuminating
                              "PEDRO PIERRE PETER SCAMANDER."

   Is there anything to be added?  For my part I took the word of Mr.
Scamander for the candid expression of real happenings, without trying to
explain any theory.  More curious still is the fact that I heard from
Inspector Bennet.  He said that the evidence against the arrested man was
built on moving sand, utterly impossible and unexistent; and they will have
to release him, in spite of apparent elements of certainty which have for
so long misled the public ___ aye, and even the police.

   From "to-day's" papers:
   "The man arrested in connection with the Brighton murder has confessed.
He will be tried at the next assizes."

   Well! maybe he is a new Mikolka.  But where is the absent relative, the
                                             GEORGE RAFFALOVICH  {303}


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