“Every man leads a double life and some more than that,” Lizzie observed. “I guess it rests them, like it does me to take off my corset.”
Miss Cornelia opened her mouth to rebuke her but just at that moment there, was a clink of ice from the hall, and Billy, the Japanese, entered carrying a tray with a pitcher of water and some glasses on it. Miss Cornelia watched his impassive progress, wondering if the Oriental races ever felt terror—she could not imagine all Lizzie’s banshees and kelpies producing a single shiver from Billy. He set down the tray and was about to go as silently as he had come when Miss Cornelia spoke to him on impulse.
“Billy, what’s all this about the cook’s sister not having twins?” she said in an offhand voice. She had not really discussed the departure of the other servants with Billy before. “Did you happen to know that this interesting event was anticipated?”
Billy drew in his breath with a polite hiss. “Maybe she have twins,” he admitted. “It happen sometime. Mostly not expected.”
“Do you think there was any other reason for her leaving?”
“Maybe,” said Billy blandly.
“Well, what was the reason?”
“All say the same thing—house haunted.” Billy’s reply was prompt as it was calm.
Miss Cornelia gave a slight laugh. “You know better than that, though, don’t you?”
Billy’s Oriental placidity remained unruffled. He neither admitted nor denied. He shrugged his shoulders.
“Funny house,” he said laconically. “Find window open—nobody there. Door slam—nobody there!”
On the heels of his words came a single, startling bang from the kitchen quarters—the bang of a slammed door!
ALOPECIA AND RUBEOLA
Miss Cornelia dropped her newspaper. Lizzie, frankly frightened, gave a little squeal and moved closer to her mistress. Only Billy remained impassive but even he looked sharply in the direction whence the sound had come.
Miss Cornelia was the first of the others to recover her poise.
“Stop that! It was the wind!” she said, a little irritably—the “Stop that!” addressed to Lizzie who seemed on the point of squealing again.
“I think not wind,” said Billy. His very lack of perturbation added weight to the statement. It made Miss Cornelia uneasy. She took out her knitting again.
“How long have you lived in this house, Billy?”
“Since Mr. Fleming built.”
“H’m.” Miss Cornelia pondered. “And this is the first time you have been disturbed?”
“Last two days only.” Billy would have made an ideal witness in a courtroom. He restricted himself so precisely to answering what was asked of him in as few words as possible.
Miss Cornelia ripped out a row in her knitting. She took a deep breath.