Those not on the committee crowded close to the chair backs of the circle in order that nothing should escape them. The excitement was tense, and everyone was breathing hard. When all was ready Mr. Behemoth Scott took his place in the circle. Drawing a long breath and grasping his chair for support, he spoke in a hushed and husky voice: “All raidy, now? Ah asks silence from eve’body. Turn out de lights”!
At the fateful words Stygian darkness enveloped the crowded room. The shades had been drawn and not the faintest ray from the dim street lights penetrated the place. It was stifling hot, and the assembled investigators were perspiring freely....
Silence—black, awe-inspired silence! Two hundred pairs of superstitious eyes peered into the horrible gloom—two hundred pairs of ears strained at the tomblike stillness. The suspense was awful, and none dared move. Occasionally some familiar sound came from the world outside: the clang of the Tenth Avenue car or the whistle of a tugboat out in the river, but these sounds were of another existence—they seemed distant and unfamiliar and wholly out of place in the mystery and terror of the Voodoo seance.
The minutes slid by, and nothing happened. The suspense was worse than ever. Something stirred in the circle. Two hundred hearts missed a beat. Then the whining, terror-stricken voice of the mulatto broke the stillness: “Let Travis try,” he whispered hoarsely. “My spirits will not come until ’e ’as tried. Let ‘im try fo’ fifteen minutes, and when ’e ’as failed I will summon the ghost of Bula-Wayo, the king of all the tribes of the Niger. But let Travis try first!” This last almost pleadingly.
A moment more of silence and Ambrose’s deep voice boomed forth in the darkness.
“Ah’s willin’,” he declared. “Anythin’ dat now appears will be mah doin’—ten minits is all Ah asks. Am dat sat’sfact’ry?”
“Yaas,” replied the voice of Behemoth Scott. “Go ahaid wif yo’ sperit-summonin’, Mista Travis.”
“Ah’ll cawncentrate now,” replied Ambrose, “an’ sho’tly you-all will witness ample proof of mah bein’ a genuine Voo-doo. Ah’s stahtin’.”
Silence more terrible than ever fell upon the waiting negroes. Then—horror of horrors! a peculiar grating, rustling sound came from the vicinity of Ambrose—a slight creaking—and again silence. The investigators held hands of neighbours who trembled from sheer panic, whose breath came hard and panting from this awful suspense!
Another creaking, as though Ambrose had shifted his weight in his chair....
Then—baleful—in its green, ghastly glow—a dim, indistinct light shone in the centre of the circle! Moving slowly, like a newly awakened spirit, it waved in the very midst of the gasping committee. Back and forth, up and down, it moved—glowing, vaporous, ghostly. Two hundred pairs of bulging eyes saw the horror—and realized that it was an enormous hand, terribly deformed!