The Jewel of Seven Stars - Page 6

The Watchers

I was struck by the way the two young women looked at each other. Isuppose I have been so much in the habit of weighing up in my own mindthe personality of witnesses and of forming judgment by theirunconscious action and mode of bearing themselves, that the habitextends to my life outside as well as within the court-house. At thismoment of my life anything that interested Miss Trelawny interested me;and as she had been struck by the newcomer I instinctively weighed herup also. By comparison of the two I seemed somehow to gain a newknowledge of Miss Trelawny. Certainly, the two women made a goodcontrast. Miss Trelawny was of fine figure; dark, straight-featured.She had marvellous eyes; great, wide-open, and as black and soft asvelvet, with a mysterious depth. To look in them was like gazing at ablack mirror such as Doctor Dee used in his wizard rites. I heard anold gentleman at the picnic, a great oriental traveller, describe theeffect of her eyes "as looking at night at the great distant lamps of amosque through the open door." The eyebrows were typical. Finelyarched and rich in long curling hair, they seemed like the properarchitectural environment of the deep, splendid eyes. Her hair wasblack also, but was as fine as silk. Generally black hair is a type ofanimal strength and seems as if some strong expression of the forces ofa strong nature; but in this case there could be no such thought.There were refinement and high breeding; and though there was nosuggestion of weakness, any sense of power there was, was ratherspiritual than animal. The whole harmony of her being seemed complete.Carriage, figure, hair, eyes; the mobile, full mouth, whose scarletlips and white teeth seemed to light up the lower part of the face--asthe eyes did the upper; the wide sweep of the jaw from chin to ear; thelong, fine fingers; the hand which seemed to move from the wrist asthough it had a sentience of its own. All these perfections went tomake up a personality that dominated either by its grace, itssweetness, its beauty, or its charm.

Nurse Kennedy, on the other hand, was rather under than over a woman'saverage height. She was firm and thickset, with full limbs and broad,strong, capable hands. Her colour was in the general effect that of anautumn leaf. The yellow-brown hair was thick and long, and thegolden-brown eyes sparkled from the freckled, sunburnt skin. Her rosycheeks gave a general idea of rich brown. The red lips and white teethdid not alter the colour scheme, but only emphasized it. She had asnub nose--there was no possible doubt about it; but like such noses ingeneral it showed a nature generous, untiring, and full of good-nature.Her broad white forehead, which even the freckles had spared, was fullof forceful thought and reason.

Doctor Winchester had on their journey from the hospital, coached herin the necessary particulars, and without a word she took charge of thepatient and set to work. Having examined the new-made bed and shakenthe pillows, she spoke to the Doctor, who gave instructions; presentlywe all four, stepping together, lifted the unconscious man from thesofa.

Early in the afternoon, when Sergeant Daw had returned, I called at myrooms in Jermyn Street, and sent out such clothes, books and papers asI should be likely to want within a few days. Then I went on to keepmy legal engagements.

The Court sat late that day as an important case was ending; it wasstriking six as I drove in at the gate of the Kensington Palace Road.I found myself installed in a large room close to the sick chamber.

That night we were not yet regularly organised for watching, so thatthe early part of the evening showed an unevenly balanced guard. NurseKennedy, who had been on duty all day, was lying down, as she hadarranged to come on again by twelve o'clock. Doctor Winchester, whowas dining in the house, remained in the room until dinner wasannounced; and went back at once when it was over. During dinner Mrs.Grant remained in the room, and with her Sergeant Daw, who wished tocomplete a minute examination which he had undertaken of everything inthe room and near it. At nine o'clock Miss Trelawny and I went in torelieve the Doctor. She had lain down for a few hours in the afternoonso as to be refreshed for her work at night. She told me that she haddetermined that for this night at least she would sit up and watch. Idid not try to dissuade her, for I knew that her mind was made up.Then and there I made up my mind that I would watch with her--unless,of course, I should see that she really did not wish it. I saidnothing of my intentions for the present. We came in on tiptoe, sosilently that the Doctor, who was bending over the bed, did not hearus, and seemed a little startled when suddenly looking up he saw oureyes upon him. I felt that the mystery of the whole thing was gettingon his nerves, as it had already got on the nerves of some others ofus. He was, I fancied, a little annoyed with himself for having beenso startled, and at once began to talk in a hurried manner as though toget over our idea of his embarrassment:

"I am really and absolutely at my wits' end to find any fit cause forthis stupor. I have made again as accurate an examination as I knowhow, and I am satisfied that there is no injury to the brain, that is,no external injury. Indeed, all his vital organs seem unimpaired. Ihave given him, as you know, food several times and it has manifestlydone him good. His breathing is strong and regular, and his pulse isslower and stronger than it was this morning. I cannot find evidenceof any known drug, and his unconsciousness does not resemble any of themany cases of hypnotic sleep which I saw in the Charcot Hospital inParis. And as to these wounds"--he laid his finger gently on thebandaged wrist which lay outside the coverlet as he spoke, "I do notknow what to make of them. They might have been made by acarding-machine; but that supposition is untenable. It is within thebounds of possibility that they might have been made by a wild animalif it had taken care to sharpen its claws. That too is, I take it,impossible. By the way, have you any strange pets here in the house;anything of an exceptional kind, such as a tiger-cat or anything out ofthe common?" Miss Trelawny smiled a sad smile which made my heart ache,as she made answer:

"Oh no! Father does not like animals about the house, unless they aredead and mummied." This was said with a touch of bitterness--orjealousy, I could hardly tell which. "Even my poor kitten was onlyallowed in the house on sufferance; and though he is the dearest andbest-conducted cat in the world, he is now on a sort of parole, and isnot allowed into this room."

As she was speaking a faint rattling of the door handle was heard.Instantly Miss Trelawny's face brightened. She sprang up and went overto the door, saying as she went:

"There he is! That is my Silvio. He stands on his hind legs andrattles the door handle when he wants to come into a room." She openedthe door, speaking to the cat as though he were a baby: "Did him wanthis movver? Come then; but he must stay with her!" She lifted thecat, and came back with him in her arms. He was certainly amagnificent animal. A chinchilla grey Persian with long silky hair; areally lordly animal with a haughty bearing despite his gentleness; andwith great paws which spread out as he placed them on the ground.Whilst she was fondling him, he suddenly gave a wriggle like an eel andslipped out of her arms. He ran across the room and stood opposite alow table on which stood the mummy of an animal, and began to mew andsnarl. Miss Trelawny was after him in an instant and lifted him in herarms, kicking and struggling and wriggling to get away; but not bitingor scratching, for evidently he loved his beautiful mistress. Heceased to make a noise the moment he was in her arms; in a whisper sheadmonished him:

"O you naughty Silvio! You have broken your parole that mother gavefor you. Now, say goodnight to the gentlemen, and come away tomother's room!" As she was speaking she held out the cat's paw to meto shake. As I did so I could not but admire its size and beauty."Why," said I, "his paw seems like a little boxing-glove full ofclaws." She smiled:

"So it ought to. Don't you notice that my Silvio has seven toes, see!"she opened the paw; and surely enough there were seven separate claws,each of them sheathed in a delicate, fine, shell-like case. As Igently stroked the foot the claws emerged and one of themaccidentally--there was no anger now and the cat was purring--stuckinto my hand. Instinctively I said as I drew back:

"Why, his claws

are like razors!"

Doctor Winchester had come close to us and was bending over looking atthe cat's claws; as I spoke he said in a quick, sharp way:

"Eh!" I could hear the quick intake of his breath. Whilst I wasstroking the now quiescent cat, the Doctor went to the table and toreoff a piece of blotting-paper from the writing-pad and came back. Helaid the paper on his palm and, with a simple "pardon me!" to MissTrelawny, placed the cat's paw on it and pressed it down with his otherhand. The haughty cat seemed to resent somewhat the familiarity, andtried to draw its foot away. This was plainly what the Doctor wanted,for in the act the cat opened the sheaths of its claws and and madeseveral reefs in the soft paper. Then Miss Trelawny took her pet away.She returned in a couple of minutes; as she came in she said:

"It is most odd about that mummy! When Silvio came into the roomfirst--indeed I took him in as a kitten to show to Father--he went onjust the same way. He jumped up on the table, and tried to scratch andbite the mummy. That was what made Father so angry, and brought thedecree of banishment on poor Silvio. Only his parole, given throughme, kept him in the house."

Whilst she had been gone, Doctor Winchester had taken the bandage fromher father's wrist. The wound was now quite clear, as the separatecuts showed out in fierce red lines. The Doctor folded theblotting-paper across the line of punctures made by the cat's claws,and held it down close to the wound. As he did so, he looked uptriumphantly and beckoned us over to him.

The cuts in the paper corresponded with the wounds in the wrist! Noexplanation was needed, as he said:

"It would have been better if master Silvio had not broken his parole!"

We were all silent for a little while. Suddenly Miss Trelawny said:

"But Silvio was not in here last night!"

"Are you sure? Could you prove that if necessary?" She hesitatedbefore replying:

"I am certain of it; but I fear it would be difficult to prove. Silviosleeps in a basket in my room. I certainly put him to bed last night;I remember distinctly laying his little blanket over him, and tuckinghim in. This morning I took him out of the basket myself. I certainlynever noticed him in here; though, of course, that would not mean much,for I was too concerned about poor father, and too much occupied withhim, to notice even Silvio."

The Doctor shook his head as he said with a certain sadness:

"Well, at any rate it is no use trying to prove anything now. Any catin the world would have cleaned blood-marks--did any exist--from hispaws in a hundredth part of the time that has elapsed."

Again we were all silent; and again the silence was broken by MissTrelawny:

"But now that I think of it, it could not have been poor Silvio thatinjured Father. My door was shut when I first heard the sound; andFather's was shut when I listened at it. When I went in, the injuryhad been done; so that it must have been before Silvio could possiblyhave got in." This reasoning commended itself, especially to me as abarrister, for it was proof to satisfy a jury. It gave me a distinctpleasure to have Silvio acquitted of the crime--possibly because he wasMiss Trelawny's cat and was loved by her. Happy cat! Silvio'smistress was manifestly pleased as I said:

"Verdict, 'not guilty!'" Doctor Winchester after a pause observed:

Tags: Bram Stoker Horror
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