“That woman—looking for all the world like a creature from some other part of the universe than this earth, her eyes burning like two huge coals, her checks as yellow and clear as so much wax, and her lips blue-white, with a great flaming red tongue sort of laid between them—worked like a slave cleaning the floor, polishing the range, and scrubbing the table. Then she dusted all the chairs, and, producing the missing table-cloth, she laid it snow-white upon the table. In two minutes more the lost china was brought to light out of the flour-barrel, polished off, and set upon the table— enough for twenty people. The dining-room things I had seen her take she arranged as tastefully as any one could want, and then the finest lay-out in the way of salads, cakes, fruits, and other good things I ever saw was brought in from the cellar. To do all this took a marvellously short time. It was five minutes of midnight went she got through, and then she devoted three minutes to looking after herself. She whisked out a small hand-glass and touched up her hair a bit. Then she washed her hands and pinned some roses on her dress, smiled a smile I can never forget in my life, and opened the kitchen door and went out.
“‘She’s going to give a supper!’ whispered Mr. Perkins.
“‘It looks like it,’ said I. ‘And a mighty fine one at that.’
“In a minute she came back with a pail, in which were four bottles of champagne, in her hand. This she took into the cellar, returning to the kitchen as the clock struck twelve.
“Then the queerest part began,” said the detective. “For ten minutes by the clock people were apparently arriving, though, as far as Mr. Perkins or I could see, there wasn’t a soul in the kitchen besides Margaret. She was talking away like one possessed. Every once in a while she’d stop in the middle of a sentence and rush to the door and shake hands with some, to us invisible, arrival. Then she’d walk in with them chatting and laughing. Several times she went through the motion of taking people’s hats, and finally, if we could judge from her actions, she had ’em all seated at the table. She passed salads all around, helping each guest herself. She sent them fruit and cakes, and then she brought out the wine, which she distributed in the same fashion. She also apologized because some ice-cream she had ordered hadn’t come.
“When the invisible guests appeared to have had all they could eat, she began the chatty part again, and never seemed to be disturbed but once, when she requested some one not to sing so loud for fear of disturbing the family.
“Altogether it was the weirdest and rummest thing I’d ever seen in my life. We watched it for one full hour, and then we quit because she did. At one o’clock she apparently bade her guests good-night, after which she gathered up and put away all the eatables there were left—and, of course, everything but what she had eaten herself still remained—cleaned all the dishes, restored them to their proper places in the dining-room pantry, and went back up-stairs to her room.