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   Chapter 9 I TAKE BOB INTO MY CONFIDENCE.

The Last Tenant By B. L. Farjeon Characters: 6526

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


"A sensible woman," said Bob, gazing after my wife; and then, in a more serious tone, "Ned, is it all true?"

"Every word of it."

"About the phantom of the girl?"

"Yes, about the phantom of the girl. Frightfully, horribly true!"

"You saw it?"

"I did; and I would swear it was no trick of imagination."

"And the door opened, as your wife has described?"

"It did, and I will swear that that was no trick of the imagination."

We had moved our chairs and were sitting by the open window, from which stretched the bright prospect of the flowers in my garden; there was a space of some three feet between our chairs as we sat facing each other, and on this space lay the skeleton cat.

"There is something more," I said. "Look down here." I pointed to the cat.

"Well? I am looking."

"What do you see?"

"Nothing."

"Absolutely nothing?"

"Nothing, except the carpet."

"Bob, would you judge me to be a man possessed of a fair amount of common sense?"

"Certainly."

"Not likely to give way to fads and fancies?"

"Certainly."

"Caring, as a rule, more for the prosaic than the romantic side of things?"

"I should say that, without doubt."

"And you would say what is true of me, up to the present moment. I prefer the plain bread-and-butter side of life, and though I hope I have a proper sympathy for my fellow-creatures, I am not given to extravagant sentiment. I am putting this description of myself in very plain words, because I really want you to understand me as I am."

"I think I do understand you, Ned."

"I have never had a nightmare," I continued, "and, as a rule, my sleep is dreamless. It is true that my rest has been a little disturbed lately by my wife's wish to move, but the few restless nights I have passed from this reason are quite an exception. To sum myself up briefly and concisely, I claim to be considered a healthy human being in mind and body."

"It is not I, Ned, who would dispute that claim."

"I have told you that the spectral figure of the girl appeared to me. A doctor would at once declare it to be a delusion of the senses. If my wife informed the doctor that she also saw it, he would reply that she also was suffering under a delusion, and he would attempt to explain it away on the ground of sympathy between us. But the opening of the door could be no delusion; it was tight shut, and the key was incontestibly turned in the lock; and yet it opened to admit the specter. The doctor would smile at this, and ask incredulously, 'Is it necessary for the entrance of an apparition, that a door should be open, when it possesses the power of passing through material obstacles?' It does possess such a power, Bob; I have tested and proved it. Now, what I have been coming to is this. My wife saw one apparition; I saw two."

"Two?" exclaimed Bob, regarding me more intently.

"Yes, two. One, the girl, vanished; the other, the cat, remained."

"In Heaven's name what are you talking about?"

"I am relating an absolute fact. By the side of the girl appeared the apparition of a skeleton cat, which accompanied me from the house, which glided along the streets at my side, which entered my own house with me, and which now lies here, on this little space of carpe

t between us, on which you see--nothing. Now, Bob, tell me at once that I am mad."

"I shall tell you nothing of the kind; I must have a little time to consider. What kind of reading do you indulge in? Sensation stories?"

"I chiefly read the newspapers."

"Digestion good, Ned?"

"In perfect condition; for the last ten years I have not had a day's bad health."

"All that is in your favor."

"Thank you. I see that you are taking a medical view of my case."

"Indeed, I am not; I only want to think it out for myself. You can actually see the cat?"

"There it lies, its yellow eyes fixed on my face."

"Touch it."

I stretched forth my hand and passed it over and through the apparition.

"Does it reply by any sign?"

"By none."

"And yet it moves?"

"When I move. Otherwise it remains motionless, in a state of expectation, as it appears to me.

"I don't quite understand, Ned."

"It is difficult to understand, but it seems to be waiting for something in the near or distant future. It relieves me to unburden my mind to you, Bob. I do not intend to confide in my wife; it would frighten her out of her life, and in the kindness of her heart she would try to make me disbelieve the evidence of my own senses. Therefore not a word about this to her. I hear her singing; she is coming back to us, and she is singing to make me cheerful. Why, Maria," I said, as she entered the room, "what have you got your hat on for? Are you going out for a walk?"

"I am," she replied briskly, "and you two gentlemen are coming with me. It is now half-past seven, and if you will be so good as not to raise any objection I propose to treat you to the theater."

"A good idea," said Bob Millet, in a tone as lively as her own.

"No tragedies," she continued, "a play that we can have a good laugh over; we have had enough of tragedies to-day, and I don't intend they shall get the best of me. We will go to the Criterion, where you always get a proper return for your money, and I hope you won't object to the pit, Mr. Millet?"

"I assure you," said Bob, with grave humor, "that when I sit in the pit I shall consider myself one of the aristocracy. Your wife is a capital doctor, Ned."

Very willingly I fell in with the thoughtful proposition, and as Maria insisted upon paying all the expenses out of her private purse I allowed her to do so, knowing that it would give her pleasure.

We arrived at the Criterion before the raising of the curtain and we saw a laughable comedy most admirably acted, which afforded us great enjoyment. I may say that the circumstance of the skeleton cat not accompanying us was the mainspring of my enjoyment. Could it have been, after all, an illusion? Was it really possible that the apparitions I had seen were the creations of my fancy? Bob whispered to me once:

"Has it accompanied us?"

"No," I whispered back, "I see nothing of it."

When we were outside the theater, and were ready to depart our separate ways, Bob said:

"Will you come and spend an hour with me to-morrow evening, Ned?"

"Yes, he will," said my wife; "it will do him good. It does not do, Mr. Millet, for a man to mope too much at home."

So I consented, and we shook hands, and wished each other good-night.

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