Vera, The Medium
Vera, The Medium
Richard Harding Davis
Vera, The Medium
Happy in the hope that the news was "exclusive", the Despatch had
thrown the name of Stephen Hallowell, his portrait, a picture of his house,
and the words, "At Point of Death!" across three columns. The
announcement was heavy, lachrymose, bristling with the melancholy selfimportance of the man who "saw the deceased, just two minutes before the
train hit him."
But the effect of the news fell short of the effort. Save that city editors
were irritated that the presidents of certain railroads figured hastily on
slips of paper, the fact that an old man and his millions would soon be
parted, left New York undisturbed.
In the early 80's this would not have been so. Then, in the uplifting of
the far West, Stephen Hallowell was a national figure, in the manoeuvres
of the Eastern stock market an active, alert power. In those days, when a
man with a few millions was still listed as rich, his fortune was considered
A patent coupling-pin, the invention of his brother-in-law, had given
him his start, and, in introducing it, and in his efforts to force it upon the
new railroads of the West, he had obtained a knowledge of their affairs.
From that knowledge came his wealth. That was twenty years ago. Since
then giants had arisen in the land; men whose wealth made the fortune of
Stephen Hallowell appear a comfortable competence, his schemes and
stratagems, which, in their day, had bewildered Wall Street, as simple as
the trading across the counter of a cross-roads store. For years he had been
out of it. He had lost count. Disuse and ill health had rendered his mind
feeble, made him at times suspicious, at times childishly credulous.
Without friends, along with his physician and the butler, who was also his
nurse, he lived in the house that in 76, in a burst of vanity, he had built on
Fifth Avenue. Then the house was a "mansion," and its front of brown
sandstone the outward sign of wealth and fashion. Now, on one side, it
rubbed shoulders with the shop of a man milliner, and across the street the
houses had been torn down and replaced by a department store. Now,
instead of a sombre jail-like facade, his outlook was a row of waxen ladies,
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who, before each change of season, appeared in new and gorgeous raiment,
and, across the avenue, for his approval, smiled continually.
"It is time you moved, Stephen," urged his friend and lawyer, Judge
Henry Gaylor. "I can get you twice as much for this lot as you paid for
both it and the house."
But Mr. Hallowell always shook his head. " Where would I go,
Henry?" he would ask. "What would I do with the money? No, I will live
in this house until I am carried out of it."
With distaste, the irritated city editors "followed up" the three-column
story of the Despatch.
"Find out if there's any truth in that," they commanded. "The old man
won't see you, but get a talk out of Rainey. And see Judge Gaylor. He's
close to Hallowell. Find out from him if that story didn't start as a bear
yarn in Wall Street."
So, when Walsh of the Despatch was conducted by Garrett, the butler
of Mr. Hallowell, upstairs to that gentlemen's library, he found a group of
reporters already entrenched. At the door that opened from the library to
the bedroom, the butler paused. "What paper shall I say?" he asked.
"The Despatch," Walsh told him.
The servant turned quickly and stared at Walsh.
He appeared the typical butler, an Englishman of over forty, heavily
built, soft- moving, with ruddy, smooth-shaven cheeks and prematurely
gray hair. But now from his face the look of perfunctory politeness had
fallen; the subdued voice had changed to a snarl that carried with it the
accents of the Tenderloin.
"So, you're the one, are you?" the man muttered.
For a moment he stood scowling; insolent, almost threatening, and
then, once more, the servant opened the door and noiselessly closed it
The transition had been so abrupt, the revelation so unexpected, that
the men laughed.
"I don't blame him!" said young Irving. "I couldn't find a single fact in
the whole story. How'd your people get it -- pretty straight?"
"Seemed straight to us," said Walsh.
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"Well, you didn't handle it that way," returned the other. "Why didn't
you quote Rainey or Gaylor? It seems to me if a man's on the point of
death" -- he lowered his voice and glanced toward the closed door -- "that
his private doctor and his lawyer might know something about it."
Standing alone with his back to the window was a reporter who had
greeted no one and to whom no one had spoken.
Had he held himself erect he would have been tall, but he stood
slouching lazily, his shoulders bent, his hands in his pockets. When he
spoke his voice was in keeping with the indolence of his bearing. It was
soft, hesitating, carrying with it the courteous deference of the South. Only
his eyes showed that to what was going forward he was alert and attentive.
"Is Dr. Rainey Mr. Hallowell's family doctor?" he asked.
Irving surveyed him in amused superiority.
"He is!" he answered. You been long in New York?" he asked.
Upon the stranger the sarcasm was lost, or he chose to ignore it, for he
answered simply, "No, I'm a New Orleans boy. I've just been taken on the
"Welcome to our city," said Irving. "What do you think of our Main
From the hall a tall portly man entered the room with the assurance of
one much at home here and, with an exclamation, Irving fell upon him.
"Good morning, Judge," he called. He waved at him the clipping from
the Despatch. "Have you seen this?"
Judge Gaylor accepted the slip of paper gingerly, and in turn moved
his fine head pompously toward each of the young men. Most of them
were known to him, but for the moment he preferred to appear too deeply
concerned to greet them. With an expression of shocked indignation, he
recognized only Walsh.
"Yes, I have seen it," he said, "and there is not a word of truth in it! Mr.
Walsh, I am surprised! You, of all people!"
"We got it on very good authority," said the reporter.
"But why not call me up and get the facts?" demanded the Judge. "I
was here until twelve o'clock, and -- "
"Here!" interrupted Irving. "Then he did have a collapse?"
Vera, The Medium
Judge Gaylor swung upon his heel.
"Certainly not," he retorted angrily. "I was here on business, and I have
never known his mind more capable, more alert." He lifted his hands with
an enthusiastic gesture. "I wish you could have seen him!"
"Well," urged Irving, "how about our seeing him now?"
For a moment Judge Gaylor permitted his annoyance to appear, but he
at once recovered and, murmuring cheerfully, "Certainly, certainly; I'll try
to arrange it," turned to the butler who had re-entered the room.
"Garett," he inquired, "is Mr. Hallowell awake yet?" As he asked the
question his eyebrows rose; with an almost imperceptible shake of the
head he signaled for an answer in the negative.
"Well, there you are!" the Judge exclaimed heartily. "I can't wake him,
even to oblige you. In a word, gentlemen, Stephen Hallowell has never
been in better health, mentally and bodily. You can say that from me -- and
that's all there is to say."
"Then, we can say," persisted Irving, "that you say, that Walsh's story
is a fake?"
"You can say it is not true," corrected Gaylor. "That's all, gentlemen."
The audience was at an end. The young men moved toward the hall and
Judge Gaylor turned to the bedroom. As he did so, he found that the new
man on the Republic still held his ground.
"Could I have a word with you, sir?" the stranger asked. The
reporters halted jealously. Again Gaylor showed his impatience.
"About Mr. Hallowell's health?" he demanded. "There's nothing more
"No, it's not about his health," ventured the reporter.
"Well, not now. I am very late this morning." The Judge again moved
to the bedroom and the reporter, as though accepting the verdict, started to
follow the others. As he did so, as though in explanation or as a warning
he added: "You said to always come to you for the facts." The lawyer
halted, hesitated. "What facts do you want?" he asked. The reporter bowed,
and waved his broad felt hat toward the listening men. In polite
embarrassment he explained what he had to say could not be spoken in
Vera, The Medium
Something in the manner of the stranger led Judge Gaylor to pause. He
directed Garrett to accompany the reporters from the room. Then, with
mock politeness, he turned to the one who remained. "I take it, you are a
new comer in New York journalism. What is your name?" he asked.
"My name is Homer Lee," said the Southerner. "I am a New Orleans
boy. I've been only a month in your city. Judge," he began earnestly, but in
a voice which still held the drawl of the South, "I met a man from home
last week on Broadway. He belonged to that spiritualistic school on
Carondelet Street. He knows all that's going on in the spook world, and he
tells me the ghost raisers have got their hooks into the old man pretty deep.
Is that so?"
The bewilderment of Judge Gaylor was complete and, without
"I don't know what you mean," he said.
"My informant tells me," continued the reporter, "that Mr. Hallowell
has embraced -- if that's what you call it -- spiritualism."
Gaylor started forward.
"What!" he roared.
Unmoved, the other regarded the Judge keenly.
"Spiritualism," he repeated, "and that a bunch of these mediums have
got him so hypnotized he can't call his soul his own, or his money, either.
Is that true?"
Judge Gaylor's outburst was overwhelming. That it was genuine Mr.
Lee, observing him closely, was convinced.
"Of all the outrageous, ridiculous" -- the judge halted, gasping for
words -- "and libelous statements!" he went on. "If you print that," he
thundered, "Mr. Hallowell will sue your paper for half a million dollars.
Can't you see the damage you would do? Can't your people see that if the
idea got about that he was unable to direct his own affairs, that he was in
the hands of mediums, it would invalidate everything he does? After his
death, every act of his at this time, every paper he had signed, would be
suspected, and -- and" -- stammered the Judge as his imagination pictured
what might follow -- "they might even attack his will!" He advanced
truculently. "Do you mean to publish this libel?"
Vera, The Medium
Lee moved his shoulders in deprecation. "I'm afraid we must," he said.
"You must!" demanded Gaylor. "After what I've told you? Do you
think I'm lying to you?"
"No," said the reporter; "I don't think you are. Looks more like you
"Not know? I?" Gaylor laughed hysterically. "I am his lawyer. I am his
best friend! Who will you believe?" He stepped to the table and pressed an
electric button, and Garrett appeared in the hall. "Tell Dr. Rainey I want to
see him," Gaylor commanded, "and return with him."
As they waited, Judge Gaylor paced quickly to and fro. "I've had to
deny some pretty silly stories about Mr. Hallowell," he said, "but of all the
absurd, malicious - - There's some enemy back of this; some one in Wall
Street is doing this. But I'll find him -- I'll -- " he was interrupted by the
entrance of the butler and Dr. Rainey, Mr. Hallowell's personal physician.
Rainey was a young man with a weak face, and knowing, shifting eyes
that blinked behind a pair of eyeglasses. To conceal an indecision of
character of which he was quite conscious, he assumed a manner that,
according to whom he addressed, was familiar or condescending. At one
of the big hospitals he had been an ambulance surgeon and resident
physician, later he had started upon a somewhat doubtful career as a
medical "expert." Only two years had passed since the police and the
reporters of the Tenderloin had ceased calling him "Doc." In a celebrated
criminal case in which Gaylor had acted as chief counsel, he had found
Rainey complaisant and apparently totally without the moral sense. And
when in Garrett he had discovered for Mr. Hallowell a model servant, he
had also urged upon his friend, for his resident physician, his protege
Still at white heat, the older man began abruptly: "This gentleman is
from the Republic. He is going to publish a story that Mr. Hallowell has
fallen under the influence of mediums, clairvoyants; that everything he
does is on advice from the spirit world -- " he turned sharply upon Lee. "Is
that right?" The reporter nodded.
"You can see the effect of such a story. It would invalidate every act of
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Dr. Rainey laughed offensively.
"It might," he said, "but who'd believe it?"
"He believes it!" cried Gaylor, "or he pretends to believe it. Tell him!"
he commanded. "He won't believe me. Does Mr. Hallowell associate with
mediums, and spirits -- and spooks?"
Again the young doctor laughed.
"Of course not!" he exclaimed. "It's not worth answering, Judge. You
ought to treat it with silent contempt." From behind his glasses he winked
at the reporter with a jocular, intimate smile. He was adapting himself to
what he imagined was his company. "Where did you pick up that pipe
dream?" he asked.
Without answering, the Southerner regarded him steadily with
inquiring, interested eyes. The doctor coughed nervously and turned to
Judge Gaylor. In the manner of a cross-examination Gaylor called up his
"Garrett, does any one visit Mr. Hallowell without your knowledge?"
he asked. You may not open the door for him, but you know every one
who gets in to see Mr. Hallowell, do you not?"
"Every one, sir."
"Do you admit any mediums, palm-readers, or people of that sort?"
"Certainly not," returned the butler.
"Dr. Rainey," he added, "would not permit it, sir."
Gaylor stamped his foot with impatience.
"Do you admit any one," he demanded, "without Dr. Rainey's
"No, sir!" The reply could not have rung with greater emphasis.
Triumphantly, Gaylor, with a wave of the hand, as though saying, "Take
the witness," turned to Lee. "There you are," he cried. "Now, are you
The reporter moved slowly toward the door. "I am satisfied," he said,
"that the man doesn't admit any one without Dr. Rainey's permission."
Indignantly, as though to intercept him, Judge Gaylor stepped forward.
Both Rainey and himself spoke together.
"What do you mean by that?" Rainey demanded.
Vera, The Medium
"Are you trying to be insolent, sir?" cried the Judge.
Lee smiled pleasantly. "I had no intention of being insolent," he said.
"We have the facts -- I only came to give you a chance to explain them."
Gaylor lost all patience.
"What facts?" he shouted. "What facts? That mediums come here?"
"Yes," said Lee.
"When?" Gaylor cried. "Tell me that! When?"
Lee regarded the older man thoughtfully.
"Well, today is Thursday," he said. "They were here Monday morning,
and Tuesday morning -- and -- the one they call Vera -- will be here in half
Rainey ran across the room, stretching out eager, detaining hands.
"See here!" he begged. "We can fix this!"
"Fix it?" said the reporter. "Not with me, you can't." He turned to the
door and found Garrett barring his exit. He halted, fell back on his heels,
and straightened his shoulders. For the first time they saw how tall he was.
"Get out of my way," he said. The butler hesitated and fell back. Lee
walked into the hall.
"I'll leave you gentlemen to fight it out among you," he said. "It's a
better story than I thought."
As he descended to the floor below, the men remained motionless. The
face of Judge Gaylor seemed to have grown older. When the front door
closed, he turned and searched the countenance of each of his companions.
The butler had dropped into a chair muttering and beating his fist into his
Gaylor's voice was hardly louder than a whisper. "Is this true?" he
Like a cur dog pinned in a corner and forced to fight, Rainey snarled at
him evilly. "Of course it's true," he said.
"You've let these people see him!" cried Gaylor. "After I forbade it?
After I told you what would happen?"
"He would see them," Rainey answered hotly. "Twas better I chose
them than -- "
Gaylor raised his clenched hands and took a sudden step forward. The
Vera, The Medium
Doctor backed hastily against the library table. "Don't you come near me!"
he stammered. "Don't you touch me."
"And you've lied to me!" cried Gaylor. "You've deceived me. You --
you jailbirds -- you idiots." His voice rose hysterically. "And do you
think," he demanded fiercely, "I'll help you now?"
"No!" said the butler.
The word caught the Judge in the full rush of his anger. He turned
stupidly as though he had not heard aright. "What?" he asked. From the
easy chair the butler regarded him with sullen, hostile eyes.
"No!" he repeated. "We don't think you'll help us. You never meant to
help us. You've never thought of any one but yourself."
The face of the older man was filled with reproach.
"Jim!" he protested.
"Don't do that!" commanded the butler sharply. "I've told you not to do
The Judge moved his head slowly in amazement. The tone of reproach
was still in his voice.
"I thought you could understand," he said. "It doesn't matter about him.
But you! You should have seen what I was doing!"
"I saw what you were doing," the butler replied. "Buying stocks,
buying a country place. You didn't wait for him to die. What were we
With returning courage, Rainey nodded vigorously.
"That's right, all right," he protested. "What were we getting?"
"What were you getting?" demanded Gaylor, eagerly. "If you'd only
left him to me, till he signed the new will, you'd have had everything. It
only needs his signature."
"Yes," interrupted Garrett contemptuously; that's all it needs."
"Oh, he'd have signed it!" cried Gaylor. "But what's it worth now!
Nothing! Thanks to you two -- nothing! They'll claim undue influence,
they'll claim he signed it under the influence of mediums -- of ghosts." His
voice shook with anger and distress. "You've ruined me!" he cried.
"You've ruined me."
He turned and paced from them, his fingers interlacing, his teeth biting
Vera, The Medium
upon his lower lip. The two other men glanced at each other
uncomfortably; their silence seemed to assure Gaylor that already they
regretted what they had done. He stood over Garrett, and for an instant
laid his hand upon his shoulder. His voice now was sane and cold.
"I've worked three years for this," he said. "And for you, too, Jim. You
know that. I've worked on his vanity, on his fear of death, on his damn
superstition. When he talked of restitution, of giving the money to his
niece, I asked Why?' I said, Leave it for a great monument to your
memory. Isn't it better that ten million dollars should be spent in good
works in your name than that it should go to a chit of a child to be wasted
by some fortune hunter? And -- then -- I evolved the Hallowell Institute,
university, hospital, library, all under one roof, all under one direction; and
I would have been the director. We should have handled ten millions of
dollars! I'd have made you both so rich," he cried savagely, "that in two
years you'd have drunk yourselves into a mad-house. And you couldn't
trust me! You've filled this house with fakes and palm-readers. And, now,
every one will know just what he is -- a senile, half-witted old man who
was clay in my hands, clay in my hands -- and you've robbed me of him,
you've robbed me of him!" His voice, broken with anger and
disappointment, rose in an hysterical wail. As though to meet it a bell rang
shrilly. Gaylor started and stood with eyes fixed on the door of the
bedroom. The three men eyed each other guiltily.
The butler was the first to recover. With mask-like face he hastened
noiselessly across the room. In his tones of usual authority, Gaylor stopped
"Tell Mr. Hallowell," he directed, "that his niece and District Attorney
Winthrop will be here any moment. Ask him if he wishes me to see them,
or if he will talk to them himself?"
When the faithful servant had entered the bedroom Gaylor turned to
"When do these mediums come today?" he asked.
Rainey stared sulkily at the floor.
"I think they're here now -- downstairs," he answered. Garrett
generally hides them there till you're out of the house."
Vera, The Medium
"Indeed," commented Gaylor dryly. "After Winthrop and Miss Coates
have gone, I want to talk with your friends."
"Now, see here, Judge," whined Rainey; "don't make trouble. It isn't as
bad as you think. The old man's only investigating -- "
"Hush!" commanded the Judge.
From the bedroom, leaning on the butler's arm, Stephen Hallowell
came stumbling toward them and, with a sigh, sank into an invalid's chair
that was placed for him between the fire and the long library table.. He
was a very feeble, very old man, with a white face, and thin, white hair,
but with a mouth and lower jaw as hard and uncompromising as those of a
skull. His eyes, which were strangely brilliant and young-looking, peered
suspiciously from under ragged white eyebrows. But when they fell upon
the doctor, the eyes became suddenly credulous, pleading, filled with selfpity.
"I'm a very sick man, Doctor," said Mr. Hallowell.
Judge Gaylor bustled forward cheerily. "Nonsense, Stephen,
nonsense," he cried; "you look a different man this morning. Doesn't he,
"Sure he does!" assented Rainey. "Little sleep was all he needed." Mr.
Hallowell shook his head petulantly. "Not at all!" he protested. "That was
a very serious attack. This morning my head hurts -- hurts me to think -- "
"Perhaps," said Gaylor, "you'd prefer that I talked to your niece."
"No!" exclaimed the invalid excitedly. "I want to see her myself. I
want to tell her, once and for all -- " He checked himself and frowned at
the Doctor. "You needn't wait," he said. "And Doctor," he added
meaningly, "after these people go, you come back."
With a conscious glance at the Judge, Rainey nodded and left them.
"No," continued the old man; "I want to talk to my niece myself. But I
don't want to talk to Winthrop. He's too clever a young man, Winthrop. In
the merger case, you remember -- had me on the stand for three hours.
Made me talk too." The mind of the old man suddenly veered at a tangent.
"How the devil can Helen retain him?" he demanded peevishly. "She can't
retain him. She hasn't any money. And he's District Attorney too. It's
against the law. Is he doing it as a speculation? Does he want to marry
Vera, The Medium
Judge Gaylor laughed soothingly.
"Heavens, no!" he said. "She's in his office, that's all. When she took
this craze to be independent of you, he gave her a position as secretary, or
as stenographer, or something. She's probably told him her story, her side
of it, and he's helping her out of charity.:" The Judge smiled tolerantly.
"He does that sort of thing, I believe."
The old man struck the library table with his palm. "I wish he'd mind
his own business," he cried. "It's my money. She has no claim to it, never
had any claim --"
The Judge interrupted quickly.
"That's all right, Stephen; that's all right," he said. "Don't excite
yourself. Just get what you're to say straight in your mind and stick to it.
Remember," he went on, as though coaching a child in a task already
learned, "there never was a written agreement.
"No!" muttered Hallowell. "Never was!"
"Repeat this to yourself," commanded the Judge. "The understanding
between you and your brother-in-law was that if you placed his patent on
the market, for the first five years you would share the profits equally.
After the five years, all rights in the patent became yours. It was
unfortunate," commented the Judge dryly, "that your brother-in-law and
your sister died before the five years were up, especially as the patent did
not begin to make money until after five years. Remember -- until after
"Until after five years," echoed Mr. Hallowell. "It was over six years,"
he went on excitedly, "before it made a cent. And, then, it was my money -
- and anything I give my niece is charity. She's not entitled -- "
Garrett appeared at the door. "Miss Coates," he announced, "and Mr.
Winthrop." Judge Gaylor raised a hand for silence, and as Mr. Hallowell
sank back in his chair, Helen Coates, the only child of Catherine Coates,
his sister, and the young District Attorney of New York came into the
library. Miss Coates was a woman of between twenty-five and thirty,
capable, and self- reliant. She had a certain beauty of a severe type, but an
harassed expression about her eyes made her appear to be always
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frowning. At times, in a hardening of the lower part of her face, she
showed a likeness to her uncle. Like him, in speaking, also, her manner
was positive and decided. In age the young man who accompanied her
was ten years her senior, but where her difficulties had made her appear
older than she really was, the enthusiasm with which he had thrown
himself against those of his own life, had left him young.
The rise of Winthrop had been swift and spectacular. Almost as soon
as he graduated from the college in the little "up-state" town where he had
been educated, and his family had always lived, he became the
prosecuting attorney of that town, and later, at Albany, represented the
district in the Assembly. From Albany he entered a law office in New York
City, and in the cause of reform had fought so many good fights that on an
independent ticket, much to his surprise, he had been lifted to the high
position he now held. No more in his manner than in his appearance did
Winthrop suggest the popular conception of his role. He was not
professional, not mysterious. Instead, he was sane, cheerful, tolerant. It
was his philosophy to believe that the world was innocent until it was
He was a bachelor and, except for two sisters who had married men of
prominence in New York and who moved in a world of fashion into which
he had not penetrated, he was alone.
When the visitors entered, Mr. Hallowell, without rising, greeted his
"Ah, Helen! I am glad to see you," he called, and added reproachfully,
"How do you do, sir?" returned Miss Helen stiffly. With marked
disapproval she bowed to Judge Gaylor.
"And our District Attorney," cried Mr. Hallowell. "Pardon my not
rising, won't you? I haven't seen you, sir, since you tried to get the Grand
Jury to indict me." He chucked delightedly. "You didn't succeed," he
Winthrop shook hands with him, smiling, "Don't blame me," he said,
"I did my best. I'm glad to see you in such good spirits, Mr. Hallowell. I
feared, by the Despatch -- "
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"Lies, lies," interrupted Hallowell curtly. "You know Judge Gaylor?"
As he shook hands, Winthrop answered that the Judge and he were old
friends; that they knew each other well.
"Know each other so well!" returned the Judge, "that we ought to be
The younger man nodded appreciatively. "That's true!" he laughed,
"only I didn't think you'd admit it." With light sarcasm Mr. Hallowell
inquired whether Winthrop was with them in his official capacity.
"Oh, don't suggest that!" begged Winthrop; "you'll be having me
indicted next. No sir, I am here without any excuse whatsoever. I am just
interfering as a friend of this young lady."
"Good," commented Hallowell. "I'd be sorry to have my niece array
counsel against me -- especially such distinguished counsel. Sit down,
Miss Coates balanced herself on the edge of a chair and spoke in cool,
business-like tones, "Mr. Hallowell," she began, "I came."
"Mr. Hallowell?" objected her uncle.
"Uncle Stephen," Miss Coates again began, "I wish to be as brief as
possible. I asked you to see me today because I hoped that by talking
things over we might avoid lawsuits and litigation."
Mr. Hallowell nodded his approval. "Yes," he said encouragingly.
"I have told Mr. Winthrop what the trouble is," Miss Coates went on,
"and he agrees with me that I have been very unjustly treated -- "
"By whom?" interrupted Hallowell.
"By you," said his niece.
"Wait, Helen," commanded the old man. "Have you also told Mr.
Winthrop," he demanded, "that I have made a will in your favor? That,
were I to die tonight, you would inherit ten millions of dollars? Is that the
injustice of which you complain?"
Judge Gaylor gave an exclamation of pleasure.
"Good!" he applauded. "Excellent!"
Hallowell turned indignantly to Winthrop. "And did she tell you also,"
he demanded, "that for three years I have urged her to make a home in this
house? That I have offered her an income as large as I would give my own
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daughter, and that she has refused both offers. And what's more" -- in his
excitement his voice rose hysterically -- "by working publicly for her
living she has made me appear mean and uncharitable, and -- "
"That's just it," interrupted Miss Coates. "It isn't a question of charity."
"Will you allow me?" said Winthrop soothingly. "Your niece contends,
sir," he explained, "that this money you offered her is not yours to offer.
She claims it belongs to her. That it's what should have been her father's
share of the profits on the Coates-Hallowell coupling pin. But, as you have
willed your niece so much money, although half of it is hers already, I
advised her not to fight. Going to law is an expensive business. But she
has found out -- and that's what brings me uptown this morning -- that you
intend to make a new will, and leave all her money and your own to
establish the Hallowell Institute. Now," Winthrop continued, with a
propitiating smile, "Miss Coates also would like to be a philanthropist, in
her own way, with her own money. And she wishes to warn you that,
unless you deliver up what is due her, she will proceed against you."
Judge Gaylor was the first to answer.
"Mr. Winthrop," he said impressively, "I give you my word, there is
not one dollar due Miss Coates, except what Mr. Hallowell pleases to give
Miss Coates contradicted him sharply. "That is not so," she said. She
turned to her uncle, "You and my father," she declared, "agreed in writing
you would share the profits always." Mr. Hallowell looked from his niece
to his lawyer. The lawyer, eyeing him apprehensively, nodded. With the
patient voice of one who tried to reason with an unreasonable child, Mr.
Hallowell began. "Helen," he said, "I have told you many times there
never was such an agreement. There was a verbal -- "
"And I repeat, I saw it," said Miss Coates.
"When?" asked Hallowell.
"I saw it first when I was fifteen," answered the young woman steadily,
"and two years later, before mother died, she showed it to me again. It was
with father's papers."
"Miss Coates," asked the Judge, "where is this agreement now?"
For a moment Miss Coates hesitated. Her dislike for Gaylor was so
Vera, The Medium
evident that, to make it less apparent, she lowered her eyes. "My uncle
should be able to tell you," she said evenly. "He was my father's executor.
But, when he returned my father's papers" -- she paused and then,
although her voice fell to almost a whisper, continued defiantly, "the
agreement was not with them."
There was a moment's silence. To assure himself the others had heard
as he did, Mr. Hallowell glanced quickly from Winthrop to Gaylor. He half
rose from his chair and leaned across the table.
"What!" he demanded. His niece looked at him steadily.
"You heard what I said," she answered.
The old man leaned farther forward.
"So!" he cried; "so! I am not only doing you an injustice, but I am a
thief! Mr. Winthrop," he cried appealingly, "do you appreciate the
seriousness of this?"
Winthrop nodded cheerfully. "It's certainly pretty serious," he assented.
"It is so serious," cried Mr. Hallowell, "that I welcome you into this
matter. Now, we will settle it once and forever." He turned to his niece. "I
have tried to be generous," he cried; "I have tried to be kind, and you
insult me in my own house." He pressed the button that summoned the
butler from the floor below. "Gentlemen, this interview is at an end. From
now on this matter is in the hands of my lawyer. We will settle this in the
With an exclamation of pleasure that was an acceptance of his
challenge, Miss Coates rose.
"That is satisfactory to me," she said. Winthrop turned to Mr.
"Could I have a few minutes talk with Judge Gaylor now?" he asked.
"Not as anybody's counsel," he explained; "just as an old enemy of his?"
"Well, not here," protested the old man querulously. "I'm -- I'm
expecting some friends here. Judge, take Mr. Winthrop to the drawing
room downstairs." He turned to Garrett, who had appeared in answer to
his summons, and told him to bring Dr. Rainey to the library. The butler
left the room and, as Gaylor and Winthrop followed, the latter asked Miss
Coates if he might expect to see her at the "Office." She told him that she
Vera, The Medium
was now on her way there. Without acknowledging the presence of her
uncle, she had started to follow the others, when Mr. Hallowell stopped
After they were alone, for a moment he sat staring at her, his eyes
filled with dislike and with a suggestion of childish spite. "I might as well
tell you," he began, "that after what you said this morning, I will never
give you a single dollar of my money."
The tone in which his niece replied to him was no more conciliatory
than his own. "You cannot give it to me," she answered, "because it is not
yours to give." As though to add impressiveness to what she was about to
say, or to prevent his interrupting her, she raised her hand. So interested in
each other were the old man and the girl that neither noticed the
appearance in the door of Dr. Rainey and the butler, who halted, hesitating,
waiting permission to enter.
"That money belongs to me," said Miss Coates slowly, "and as sure as
my mother is in Heaven and her spirit is guiding me, that money will be
In the pause that followed, a swift and singular change came over the
face of Mr. Hallowell. He stared at his niece as though fascinated. His
lower lip dropped in awe. The look of hostility gave way to one of intense
interest. His voice was hardly louder than a whisper.
"What do you mean?" he demanded.
The girl looked at him, uncomprehending. "What do I mean?" she
"When you said," he stammered eagerly, "that the spirit of your mother
was guiding you, what did you mean?"
In the doorway, Rainey and the butler started. Each threw the other a
quick glance of concern.
"Why," exclaimed the girl impatiently, "her influence, her example,
what she taught me."
"Oh!" exclaimed the old man. He leaned back with an air almost of
"When she was alive?" he said.
"Of course," answered the girl.
Vera, The Medium
"Of course," repeated the uncle. "I thought you meant -- " He looked
suspiciously at her and shook his head. "Never mind," he added. "Well,"
he went on cynically, striving to cover up the embarrassment of the
moment, "your mother's spirit will probably feel as deep an interest in her
brother as in her daughter. We shall see, we shall see which of us two she
is going to help." He turned to Garrett and Rainey in the hall. "Take my
niece to the door, Garrett," he directed.
As soon as Miss Coates had disappeared, Hallowell turned to Rainey,
his face lit with pleased and childish anticipation.
"Well," he whispered eagerly, "is she here?"
Rainey nodded and glanced in the direction opposite to the one Miss
Coates had taken. "She's been waiting half an hour. And the Professor
"Bring them at once," commanded Mr. Hallowell excitedly. "And then
shut the door -- and -- and tell the Judge I can't see him -- tell him I'm too
tired to see him. Understand?"
Rainey peered cautiously over the railing of the stairs to the first floor,
and then beckoned to some one who apparently was waiting at the end of
"Miss Vera, sir," he announced, "and Professor Vance."
Although but lately established in New York, the persons Dr. Rainey
introduced had already made themselves comparatively well-known. For
the last six weeks as "headliners" at one of the vaudeville theatres, and as
entertainers at private houses, under the firm name of "The Vances," they
had been giving an exhibition of code and cipher signaling. They called it
mind reading. During the day, at the house of Vance and his wife, the girl,
as "Vera, the Medium," furnished to all comers memories of the past or
news of the future. In their profession, in all of its branches, the man and
the girl were past masters. They knew it from the A, B, C of the dream
book to the post-graduate work of projecting from a cabinet the spirits of
the dead. As the occasion offered and paid best, they were mind readers,
clairvoyants, materializing mediums, test mediums. From them, a pack of
cards, a crystal globe, the lines of the human hand, held no secrets. They
found lost articles, cast horoscopes, gave advice in affairs of the heart, of
Vera, The Medium
business and speculation, uttered warnings of journeys over seas and
against a smooth- shaven stranger. They even stooped to foretell
earthquakes, or caused to drop fluttering from the ceiling a letter straight
from the Himalayas. Among those who are the gypsies of the cities, they
were the aristocrats of their calling, and to them that calling was as
legitimate a business as is, to the roadside gypsy, the swapping of horses.
The fore-parents of each had followed that same calling, and to the
children it was commonplace and matter-of-fact. It held no adventure, no
"Prof." Paul Vance was a young man of under forty years. He looked
like a fox. He had red eyes, alert and cunning, a long, sharp-pointed nose,
a pointed red beard, and red eyebrows that slanted upward. His hair,
standing erect in a pompadour, and his uplifted eyebrows gave him the
watchful look of the fox when he hears suddenly the hound baying in
pursuit. But no one had ever successfully pursued Vance. No one had ever
driven him into a corner from which, either pleasantly, or with raging
indignation, he was not able to free himself. Seven years before he had
disloyally married out of the "profession" and for no other reason than that
he was in love with the woman he married. She had come to seek advice
from the spirit world in regard to taking a second husband. After several
visits the spirit world had advised Vance to advise her to marry Vance.
She did so, and though the man was still in love with his wife, he had
not found her, in his work, the assistance he had hoped she might be. She
still was a "believer"; in the technical vernacular of her husband -- "a
dope." Not even the intimate knowledge she had gained behind the scenes
could persuade her that Paul, her husband, was not in constant
communication with the spirit world, or that, if he wished, he could not
read the thoughts that moved slowly through her pretty head.
At the time of his marriage, the girl Vera, then a child of fourteen, had
written to Vance for help. She was ill, without money, and asked for work.
To him she was known as the last of a long line of people who had always
been professional mediums and spiritualists, and, out of charity and from a
sense of noblesse oblige to one of the elect of the profession, Vance had
made her his assistant. He had never regretted having done so. The bread
Vera, The Medium
cast upon the waters was returned a thousandfold. From the first, the girl
brought in money. And his wife, the older of the two, had welcomed her as
a companion. After a fashion the Vances had adopted her. In the
advertisements she was described as their "ward."
Vera now was twenty-one, tall, wonderfully graceful, and of the most
enchanting loveliness. Her education had been cosmopolitan. In the largest
cities of America she had met persons of every class -- young women, old
women, mothers with married sons and daughters; women of society as it
is exploited in the Sunday supplements; school girls, shop girls, factory
girls -- all had told her their troubles; and men of every condition had
come to scoff and had remained to express, more or less offensively, their
admiration. Some of the younger of these, after a first visit, returned the
day following, and each begged the beautiful priestess of the occult to fly
with him, to live with him, to marry him. When this happened Vera would
touch a button, and "Mannie" Day, who admitted visitors, and later, in the
hall, searched their hats and umbrellas for initials, came on the run and
threw the infatuated one out upon a cold and unfeeling sidewalk.
So Vera had seen both the seamy side of life and, in the drawing rooms
where Vance and she exhibited their mind reading tricks, had been made
much of by great ladies and, for an hour as brief as Cinderella's, had
looked upon a world of kind and well-bred people. Since she was fourteen,
for seven years, this had been her life -- a life as open to the public as the
life of an actress, as easy of access as that of the stenographer in the hotel
lobby. As a result, the girl had encased herself in a defensive armor of
hardness and distrust, a protection which was rendered futile by the
loveliness of her face, by the softness of her voice, by the deep, brooding
eyes, and the fine forehead on which, like a crown, rested the black waves
of her hair.
In her work Vera accepted, without question, the parts to which Vance
assigned her. When in their mummeries they were successful, she neither
enjoyed the credulity of those they had tricked nor was sobered with
remorse. In the world Vance found a certain number of people with money
who demanded to be fooled. It was his business and hers to meet that
demand. If ever the conscience of either stirred restlessly, Vance soothed it
Vera, The Medium
by the easy answer that if they did not take the money some one else
would. It was all in the day's work. It was her profession.
As she entered the library of Mr. Hallowell, which, with Vance, she
already had visited several times, she looked like a child masquerading in
her mother's finery. She suggested an ingenue who had been suddenly sent
on in the role of the Russian adventuress. Her slight girl's figure was
draped in black lace. Her face was shaded by a large picture hat, heavy
with drooping ostrich feathers; around her shoulders was a necklace of
jade, and on her wrists many bracelets of silver gilt. When she moved they
rattled. As the girl advanced, smiling, to greet Mr. Hallowell, she suddenly
stopped, shivered slightly, and threw her right arm across her eyes. Her
left arm she stretched over the table.
"Give me your hand!" she commanded. Dubiously, with a watchful
glance at Vance, Mr. Hallowell leaned forward and took her hand.
"You have been ill," cried the girl; "very ill -- I see you -- I see you in a
kind of faint -- very lately." Her voice rose excitedly. "Yes, last night."
Mr. Hallowell protested with indignation. "You read that in the
morning paper," he said.
Vera lowered her arm from her eyes and turned them reproachfully on
"I don't read the Despatch," she answered.
Mr. Hallowell drew back suspiciously. "I didn't say it was the
Despatch," he returned.
Vance quickly interposed. "You don't have to say it," he explained with
glibness; "you thought it. And Vera read your thoughts. You were thinking
of the Despatch, weren't you? Well, there you are! It's wonderful!"
"Wonderful? Nonsense!" mocked Mr. Hallowell. "She did read it in the
paper or Rainey told her."
The girl shrugged her shoulders patiently. "If you would rather find out
you were ill from the newspapers than from the spirit world," she inquired,
"why do you ask me here?"
"I ask you here, young woman," exclaimed Hallowell, sinking back in
his chair, "because I hoped you would tell me something I can't learn from
the newspapers. But you haven't been able to do it yet. My dear young
Vera, The Medium
lady," exclaimed the old man wistfully, "I want to believe, but I must be
convinced. No tricks with me! I can explain how you might have found
out everything you have told me. Give me a sign!" He beat the flat of his
hand upon the table. "Show me something I can't explain!"
"Mr. Hallowell is quite right, Vera," said Vance. "He is entering what is
to him a new world, full of mysteries, and that caution which in this world
has made him so successful -- "
With an exclamation, Hallowell cut short the patter of the showman.
"Yes, yes," he interrupted petulantly; "I tell you, I want to believe.
Considering the situation with pursed lips and thoughtful eyes, Vera
gazed at the old man, frowning. Finally she asked, "Have you witnessed
out demonstrations of mind reading?"
Mr. Hallowell snorted. "Certainly not," he replied; "it's a trick!"