And as we talked, it seemed to be that she, much more than Eugenia in her former blooming health, was a part of the somber house. There came over me again the impression I had received before that I had read or heard something like this case before.
She did not linger long, but continued her stately way into the room where Eugenia sat. And at once it flashed over me what my impression, indefinable, half formed, was. I could not help thinking, as I saw her pass, of the lady Madeline in “The Fall of the House of Usher.”
THE GERM PLASM
I regarded her with utter astonishment and yet found it impossible to account for such a feeling. I looked at Atherton, but on his face I could see nothing but a sort of questioning fear that only increased my illusion, as if he, too, had only a vague, haunting premonition of something terrible impending. Almost I began to wonder whether the Atherton house might not crumble under the fierceness of a sudden whirlwind, while the two women in this case, one representing the wasted past, the other the blasted future, dragged Atherton down, as the whole scene dissolved into some ghostly tarn. It was only for a moment, and then I saw that the more practical Kennedy had been examining some bottles on the lady’s dresser before which we had paused.
One was a plain bottle of pellets which might have been some homeopathic remedy.
“Whatever it is that is the matter with Eugenia,” remarked Atherton, “it seems to have baffled the doctors so far.”
Kennedy said nothing, but I saw that he had clumsily overturned the bottle and absently set it up again, as though his thoughts were far away. Yet with a cleverness that would have done credit to a professor of legerdemain he had managed to extract two or three of the pellets.
“Yes,” he said, as he moved slowly toward the staircase in the wide hall, “most baffling.”
Atherton was plainly disappointed. Evidently he had expected Kennedy to arrive at the truth and set matters right by some sudden piece of wizardry, and it was with difficulty that he refrained from saying so.
“I should like to meet Burroughs Atherton,” he remarked as we stood in the wide hall on the first floor of the big house. “Is he a frequent visitor?”
“Not frequent,” hastened Quincy Atherton, in a tone that showed some satisfaction in saying it. “However, by a lucky chance he has promised to call to-night—a mere courtesy, I believe, to Edith, since she has come to town on a visit.”
“Good!” exclaimed Kennedy. “Now, I leave it to you, Atherton, to make some plausible excuse for our meeting Burroughs here.”
“I can do that easily.”
“I shall be here early,” pursued Kennedy as we left.
Back again in the laboratory to which Atherton insisted on accompanying us in his car, Kennedy busied himself for a few minutes, crushing up one of the tablets and trying one or two reactions with some of the powder dissolved, while I looked on curiously.