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The Moon Rock By Arthur J. Rees Characters: 11302

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


Some one stirred within, and a ray of light in the fanlight grew bright as footsteps in the passage drew near. The door opened, and showed the figure of Dr. Ravenshaw holding in his hand a lighted lamp which shone upon Thalassa and the dripping figure in his arms. The doctor looked down from the doorstep in silent surprise, then stepped quickly back from the threshold and opened the surgery door, holding the lamp high to guide Thalassa in.

"There-on the couch," he said, placing the lamp on the table. "What has happened?"

"Miss Sisily fell over the cliffs by the Moon Rock. I found her and carried her up, and brought her straight here."

The doctor's quick glance was a professional tribute to the strength of a frame capable of performing such a feat. He turned his attention to Sisily, bending over her and feeling her pulse. With a sharp exclamation he dropped her wrist and tore open the front of her dress, placing his hand on her heart. With his other hand he took up his stethoscope from the table.

"Bring that lamp closer-quick!" he cried.

Thalassa lifted the lamp from the table and stood beside him. The yellow glow of the lamp enveloped the livid bluish features of Sisily and the stooping form with the stethoscope. The instrument of silver and rubber held miraculous possibilities of life and death to Thalassa. He watched it anxiously-directed the light upon it. The shape on the couch remained motionless.

Thalassa's gaze wandered from the stethoscope to Dr. Ravenshaw. The doctor's bent neck showed white between the top of his shirt and the grey hair above it. He was wearing no collar, so he must have been going to bed-when the knock came. Thalassa's eyes dwelt on the exposed flesh with a steady yet wondering contemplation. The lamp in his hand wavered slightly.

Dr. Ravenshaw rose to his feet, oblivious of the man who was staring at his neck from behind. His downward glance rested on Sisily's face, and his eyes were grave. He turned away and walked out of the room, but returned almost immediately with a small mirror.

"Hold the lamp higher," he said to Thalassa. "I want the light to fall right on her face. Higher still-so."

He fell on his knees by the couch and held the mirrored side of the glass to Sisily's lips. The lamp, held aloft, illumined his face as well as hers. His features were set and rigid.

Thalassa stood still, his eyes brooding on the sharp outline of the bent mask. A vague idea, startling and terrible, was magnifying itself in his mind. Once his glance wandered to Ravenshaw's neck, then returned with growing fixity to his face, seen at closer range than he had ever beheld it. In the vivid light the elemental lines beneath the changes of time took on a strange resemblance to a face he had known in the distant past. A spectral being seemed to rise from the dead and resume life in the kneeling body of Dr. Ravenshaw.

Involuntarily he stepped back, and the likeness vanished in the added distance. The veil of the past was dropped again. He could see nothing now but the commonplace whiskered face of an elderly Cornish doctor bending over the inanimate form on the couch. Again the lamp shook slightly.

"What are you doing with that light?" said Ravenshaw peevishly. "Cannot you hold it steady? Bring it closer, man-closer than that. Now, hold it there."

In the nearer vision the elemental lines of a forgotten face again confronted Thalassa beneath the flabby contours of age. It was like looking at a familiar outline covered by a mask-a transparent mask. He stood stock still with uplifted lamp, like a man in a trance, but his eyes never left Dr. Ravenshaw's face.

Some minutes passed silently before Dr. Ravenshaw withdrew the mirror from Sisily's lips. He turned it over and looked closely at the surface of the glass. The man behind him stared over his shoulder. Their eyes met in the mirror, and held for a moment fascinated. In that brief space of time the revelation and recognition were completed. Dr. Ravenshaw's glance was the first to break away. The hard brown eyes watching him followed the direction of his view to a pair of spectacles resting on the table. Thalassa understood the intention, and harshly forestalled it.

"No use to put on your glasses now," he said. "I recognize ye, and I've seen that damned scar on your neck."

He put the lamp back on the table, and his hand went towards his belt. Ravenshaw understood the motion and checked it with a gesture.

"No need for that, either, Thalassa. There are other things to think about."

Thalassa's hand dropped to his side. "You're right," he muttered. "Get on with your doctoring."

"No-not now," answered Ravenshaw sadly. "It's no use. She is dead."

"Dead!" Thalassa stood overwhelmed. Silently he surveyed the slight recumbent form on the couch, his moving lips seemed to be counting the drops which dripped from her clinging garments on to the carpet. "Dead, did ye say? Why, I carried her here-brought her across the moors to you." His voice trembled. "Can't ye do nothing?"

"No-not now. It is too late."

Thalassa's eyes rested attentively on the other's face. Ravenshaw's complete acquiescence in death as an unalterable fact stung his untutored feelings by its calmness. "Dead!" he repeated fiercely. "Then you've got that to pay for now-Remington."

"Pay? Oh, yes, I'll pay-make payment in full," was the reply, delivered with a bitter look. "But not to you."

"To think I shouldn't a' known ye!" Thalassa spoke like a man in a dream.

"After all these years? After what I suffered alone on that island-through you and Turold? You'd hardly ha

ve known me if you'd met me six months afterwards instead of thirty years. Robert Turold didn't know me. Nobody knew me."

Thalassa's eyes still dwelt upon him with the unwilling look of a man compelled to gaze upon an evocation of the dead.

"Where did you get to-that night?" he quavered. "I could a' sworn-could a' taken Bible oath-"

"That you and that other scoundrel had killed me? I've no doubt. But it so happened that I was saved-miraculously and unfortunately. I fell on to a projecting spur of stone or rock not far down, which caught and held me. By the light of the moon I saw you come along the ridge to look for me. You were almost close enough for me to push you into that infernal sulphur lake where you hoped I had gone. You turned back in time-fortunately for yourself."

Thalassa kept his gaze upon him with the meditating intentness of one trying to learn anew a face so greatly altered by the awful changes of the years. His great brown hands, hanging loosely at his sides, clenched and opened rapidly with a quickness of action which had something vaguely menacing in it.

"I know your eyes now," he mumbled. "With the glasses on, you're different. That's why ye wore them, I suppose. Turold heered ye that night you killed 'un. He knew your footstep-or thought he did. I laughed at him. A' would to God A'mighty I'd hearkened to him, and then I might a' catched you. How did ye get away from the island?"

Ravenshaw raised his head to reply, then stood mute, in a listening attitude. Outside the window the sound of footsteps crunched the gravel walk, and approached the house. Thalassa heard and listened too. The crunching ceased, and there was a knock at the door. Thalassa looked questioningly at Ravenshaw, who nodded in the direction of the door.

"Open it," he said. Thalassa hesitated. His eyes sought the couch. "Yes, in here," said Ravenshaw understandingly. "We shall want witnesses."

Thalassa went to the door and opened it.

A man's voice in the darkness asked for Dr. Ravenshaw, and the owner of the voice stepped quickly inside at Thalassa's invitation. The visitor peered at the tall figure in the unlighted passage. "Is it you, Thalassa?" he said hesitatingly, and Thalassa recognized the voice of Austin Turold. The voice went on: "Tell me-"

"In there." Thalassa jerked his head towards the gleam falling through the partly open surgery door. "He wants you." He walked ahead and pushed the door open. Austin Turold followed, but started back as he looked within. Then he entered, his eyes dwelling on the shadowy outline on the couch in the corner.

"What has happened at Flint House, Ravenshaw? Now-to-night, I mean." He spoke shakily. "There's a story abroad of Thalassa having been seen carrying a figure through the churchtown and entering your house. Has somebody fallen off the cliffs-been drowned? Is that it?" He stepped quickly across to the couch, and, looking down, as swiftly recoiled. "What does this mean?" he hoarsely cried.

Ravenshaw did not speak.

"Miss Sisily fell over the cliffs by the Moon Rock," said Thalassa. "I went down for her, but it was too late. She was drowned."

Austin's look sought Ravenshaw's, who nodded in confirmation.

"More horror-more misery," whispered Austin. A shudder ran through him. "I do not understand," he said simply. "Thalassa?"

"It's not for me to explain," said Thalassa quickly.

"You then, Ravenshaw."

Ravenshaw spoke slowly.

"They have been looking for the man who killed Robert Turold-your brother. Well, I am he."

"You!" gasped Austin, in a choking voice. "What do you mean? I do not understand you. My son has been arrested."

"He has been arrested wrongly, then. It is I-I alone am responsible."

Austin groped for his glasses like a man suddenly enveloped in darkness. His fingers closed on them and adjusted them on the bridge of his nose. Through them he surveyed the man before him with close attention.

"Ravenshaw," he said gravely, "either you are mad or I am. Did not my sister call here to see you on the night my brother was killed, and did you not go with her to Flint House and break into my brother's room? How, then, could you have killed Robert? Besides, I saw my son at Penzance to-day. He tells me he is innocent, and that the murderer is a man whom Robert and Thalassa robbed and wounded on a lonely island thirty years ago, and left there for dead, as they thought. What does it all mean?"

"These things can all be explained," replied Ravenshaw. "It is a long story. Sit down, and I will tell it to you."

"Not here-not here!" replied Austin unsteadily. His glance went to the corner of the room and the tranquil figure on the couch. He hid his face for a moment in his hands, then said: "Let us go to another room."

Ravenshaw made a sad gesture of acquiescence. "Come," he said quietly, lifting the lamp from the table. The other two followed him, and Thalassa closed the surgery door gently behind them. The doctor led them into a sitting-room opposite, where they seated themselves. After a moment's silence Ravenshaw began to speak in low controlled tones which gave no indication of the state of his feelings.

"You know all about this island part of the story," he said, inquiringly, "how your brother and Remington, seeking their fortune together, came to be there?"

Austin Turold nodded.

"I am Remington," pursued the other. "I will take up the story from that point-it will save time."

Again Austin Turold assented with a nod. There was neither anger nor resentment in his glance. The look which rested on the speaker was one of unmixed amazement.

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