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- The Romance of Elaine - 2/62 -

I went back to the desk where I had been working and looked about hastily. My eye fell on the blank sheet of paper which I had taken from Bennett's envelope, and I picked it up from the basket.

"Here's one," I said, handing it to him. "What are you doing?"

Kennedy did not answer directly, but began to treat the paper with the liquid from the bottle. Then he lighted a Bunsen burner and thrust the paper into the flame. The paper did not burn!

"A new system of fire-proofing," laughed Craig, enjoying my astonishment.

He continued to hold the paper in the flame. Still it did not burn.

"See?" he went on, withdrawing it, and starting to explain the properties of the new fire-proofer.

He had scarcely begun, when he stopped in surprise. He had happened to glance at the paper again, bent over to examine it more intently, and was now looking at it in surprise.

I looked also. There, clearly discernible on the paper, was a small part of what looked like an architect's drawing of a fireplace.

Craig looked up at me, nonplussed. "Where did you say you got that?" he asked.

"It was a blank piece of paper among Bennett's effects," I returned, as mystified as he, pointing at the littered desk at which I had been working.

Kennedy said nothing, but thrust the paper back again into the flame. Slowly, the heat of the burner seemed to bring out the complete drawing of the fireplace.

We looked at it, even more mystified. "What is it, do you suppose?" I queried.

"I think," he replied slowly, "that it was drawn with sympathetic ink. The heat of the burner brought it out into sight."

What was it about?

. . . . . . .

Elaine had gone to bed that night at Aunt Tabby's in the room which her old nurse had fixed up especially for her. It was a very attractive little room with dainty chintz curtains and covers and for the first time in many weeks Elaine slept soundly and fearlessly.

Down-stairs, in the living-room, Rusty also was asleep, his nose between his paws.

The living-room was in keeping with everything at Aunt Tabby's, plain, neat, homelike. On one side was a large fireplace that gave to it an air of quaint hospitality.

Suddenly Rusty woke up, his ears pointed at this fireplace. He stood a moment, listening, then, with a bark of alarm he sped swiftly from the living-room, up the stairs at a bound, until he came to Elaine's room.

Elaine felt his cold nose at her hand and stirred, then awoke.

"What is it, Rusty?" she asked, mindful of the former days when Rusty gave warning of the Clutching Hand and his emissaries.

Rusty wagged his tail. Something was wrong.

Elaine followed him down to the living-room. She went over and lighted the electric lamp on the table, then turned to Rusty.

"Well, Rusty?" she asked, almost as if he were human.

She had no need to repeat the question. Rusty was looking straight at the fireplace.

Elaine listened. Sure enough, she heard strange noises. Was that Aunt Tabby's "haunt"? Whatever it was, it sounded as if it came up from the very depths of the earth.

She could not make out just what it sounded like. It might have been some one striking a piece of iron, a bolt, with a sledge.

What was it?

She continued to listen in wonder, then ran to Aunt Tabby's bedroom door, on the first floor, and knocked.

Aunt Tabby woke up and shook Joshua.

"Aunt Tabby! Aunt Tabby!" called Elaine.

"Yes, my dear," answered the old nurse, now fully awake and straightening her nightcap. "Joshua!"

Together the old couple came out into the living-room, still in their nightclothes, Joshua yawning sleepily still.

"Listen!" whispered Elaine.

There was the noise again. This time it was more as though some one were beating a rat-tat-tat with something on a rock. It was weird, uncanny, as all stood there, none knowing where the strange noises came from.

"It's the haunts!" cried Aunt Tabby, trembling a bit. "For three nights now we've been hearing these noises."

Around and around the room they walked, still trying to locate the strange sounds. Were they under the floor? It was impossible to say. They gave it up and stood there, looking blankly at each other. Was it the work of human or superhuman hands?

Finally Joshua went to a table drawer and opened it. He took out a huge, murderous-looking revolver.

"Here, Miss Elaine," he urged, pressing it on her, "take this-- keep it near you!"

The noises ceased at length, as strangely as they had begun.

Half an hour later, they had all gone back to bed and were asleep. But Elaine's sleep now was fitful, a constant procession of faces flitted before her closed eyes.

Suddenly, she woke with a start and stared into the semi-darkness. Was that face real, or a dream face? Was it the hideous helmeted face that had dragged her down into the sewer once? That man was dead. Who was this?

She gazed at the bedroom window, holding the huge revolver tightly. There, vague in the night light, appeared a figure. Surely that was no dream face of the oxygen helmet. Besides, it was not the same helmet.

She sat bolt upright and fired, pointblank, at the window, shivering the glass. A second later she had leaped from the bed, switched on the lights and was running to the sill.

Down-stairs, Aunt Tabby and Uncle Joshua had heard the shot. Joshua was now wide awake. He seized his old shotgun and ran out into the livingroom. Followed by Aunt Tabby, he hurried to Elaine.

"Wh-what was it?" he asked, puffing at the exertion of running up- stairs.

"I saw--a face--at the window--with some kind of thing over it!" gasped Elaine. "It was like one I saw once before."

Uncle Joshua did not wait to hear any more. With the gun pointed ahead of him, ready for instant action, he ran out of the room and into the garden, beneath Elaine's window.

He looked about for signs of an intruder. There was not a sound. No one was about, here.

"I don't see any one," he called up to Elaine and Atint Tabby in the window.

He happened to look down at the ground. Before him was a small box. He picked it up.

"Here's something, though," he said.

Joshua went back into the house.

"What is it?" asked Elaine as he rejoined the women.

She took the curious little box and unfastened the cover. As she opened it, she drew back. There in the box was a little ivory figure of a man, all hunched up and shrunken, a hideous figure. She recoiled from it--it reminded her too much of the Chinese devil-god she had seen,--and she dropped the box.

For a moment all stood looking at it in horrified amazement.

. . . . . . .

It was the afternoon following the day of our strange discovery of the fireplace done in sympathetic ink on the apparently blank sheet of paper in Bennett's effects, when the speaking-tube sounded and I answered it.

"Why--it's Elaine," I exclaimed.

Kennedy's face showed the keenest pleasure at the unexpected visit. "Tell her to come right up," he said quickly.

I opened the door for her.

"Why--Elaine--I'm awfully glad to see you," he greeted, "but I thought you were rusticating."

"I was, but, Craig, it seems to me that wherever I go, something happens," she returned. "You know, Aunt Tabby said there were

The Romance of Elaine - 2/62

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