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Ghosts I have Met and Some Others


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Author Topic: Ghosts I have Met and Some Others  (Read 1132 times)
Keeper of the Seven Keys
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« Reply #120 on: November 03, 2009, 02:28:30 am »

III


When Barker and I parted that day it was for a longer period than
either of us dreamed, for upon my arrival at my lodgings I found
there a cable message from New York, calling me back to my labors.
Three days later I sailed for home, and five years elapsed before I
was so fortunate as to renew my acquaintance with foreign climes.
Occasionally through these years Parton and I discussed Barker, and
at no time did my companion show anything but an increased animosity
towards our strange Keswick acquaintance. The mention of his name
was sufficient to drive Parton from the height of exuberance to a
state of abject depression.

"I shall not feel easy while that man lives," he said. "I think he
is a minion of Satan. There is nothing earthly about him."

"Nonsense," said I. "Just because a man has a bad face is no reason
for supposing him a villain or a supernatural creature."

"No," Parton answered; "but when a man's veins hold blood that
saturates and leaves no stain, what are we to think?"

I confessed that this was a point beyond me, and, by mutual consent,
we dropped the subject.

One night Parton came to my rooms white as a sheet, and so agitated
that for a few minutes he could not speak. He dropped, shaking like
a leaf, into my reading-chair and buried his face in his hands. His
attitude was that of one frightened to the very core of his being.
When I questioned him first he did not respond. He simply groaned. I
resumed my reading for a few moments, and then looking up observed
that Parton had recovered somewhat and was now gazing abstractedly
into the fire.

"Well," I said, "feeling better?"

"Yes," he answered, slowly. "But it was a shock."

"What was?" I asked. "You've told me nothing as yet."

"I've seen Barker."

"No!" I cried. "Where?"

"In a back alley down-town, where I had to go on a hospital call.
There was a row in a gambling-hell in Hester Street. Two men were
cut and I had to go with the ambulance. Both men will probably die,
and no one can find any trace of the murderer; but I know who he is.
He was Carleton Barker and no one else. I passed him in the alley on
the way in, and I saw him in the crowd when I came out."

"Was he alone in the alley?" I asked. Parton groaned again.

"That's the worst of it," said he. "He was not alone. He was with
Carleton Barker."

"You speak in riddles," said I.

"I saw in riddles," said Parton; "for as truly as I sit here there
were two of them, and they stood side by side as I passed through,
alike as two peas, and crime written on the pallid face of each."

"Did Barker recognize you?"

"I think so, for as I passed he gasped--both of them gasped, and as
I stopped to speak to the one I had first recognized he had vanished
as completely as though he had never been, and as I turned to
address the other he was shambling off into the darkness as fast as
his legs could carry him."

I was stunned. Barker had been mysterious enough in London. In New
York with his double, and again connected with an atrocity, he
became even more so, and I began to feel somewhat towards him as had
Parton from the first. The papers next morning were not very
explicit on the subject of the Hester Street trouble, but they
confirmed Parton's suspicions in his and my own mind as to whom the
assassins were. The accounts published simply stated that the
wounded men, one of whom had died in the night and the other of whom
would doubtless not live through the day, had been set upon and
stabbed by two unknown Englishmen who had charged them with cheating
at cards; that the assailants had disappeared, and that the police
had no clew as to their whereabouts.

Time passed and nothing further came to light concerning the
Barkers, and gradually Parton and I came to forget them. The
following summer I went abroad again, and then came the climax to
the Barker episode, as we called it. I can best tell the story of
that climax by printing here a letter written by myself to Parton.
It was penned within an hour of the supreme moment, and while it
evidences my own mental perturbation in its lack of coherence, it is
none the less an absolutely truthful account of what happened. The
letter is as follows:
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