OF two men who were talking one
was a physician.
“I sent for you, Doctor,” said the other, “but I don't think you can do
me any good. Maybe you can recommend a specialist in psychopathy. I fancy
“You look all right,” the physician said.
“You shall judge-I have hallucinations. I wake every night and see in my
room, intently watching me, a big black Newfoundland dog with a white
“You say you wake; are you sure about that? ‘Hallucinations’ are sometimes
“Oh, I wake all right. Sometimes I lie still a long time, looking at the
dog as earnestly as the dog looks at me-I always leave the light going.
When I can't
endure it any longer I sit up in
bed-and nothing is there!
“'M, 'm-what is the beast's expression?”
“It seems to me sinister. Of course I know that, except in art, an animal's
face in repose has always the same expression. But this is not a real animal.
Newfoundland dogs are pretty mild
looking, you know; what's the matter with this one?”
“Really, my diagnosis would have no value: I am not going to treat the
The physician laughed at his own pleasantry, but narrowly watched his patient
from the corner of his eye. Presently he said: “Fleming, your description
the beast fits the dog of the late
Fleming half rose from his chair, sat again and made a visible attempt
at indifference. “I remember Barton,” he said; “I believe he was-it was
wasn't there something suspicious
in his death?”
Looking squarely now into the eyes of his patient, the physician said:
“Three years ago the body of your old enemy, Atwell Barton, was found in
woods near his house and yours.
He had been stabbed to death. There have been no arrests; there was no
clue. Some of us had ‘theories.’ I had one. Have you?”
“I? Why, bless your soul, what could I know about it? You remember that
I left for Europe almost immediately afterward-a considerable time afterward.
In the few weeks since my return
you could not expect me to construct a ‘theory.’ In fact, I have not given
the matter a thought. What about his dog?”
“It was first to find the body. It died of starvation on his grave.”
We do not know the inexorable law underlying coincidences. Staley Fleming
did not, or he would perhaps not have sprung to his feet as the night wind
brought in through the open window
the long wailing howl of a distant dog. He strode several times across
the room in the steadfast gaze of the physician; then,
abruptly confronting him, almost
shouted: “What has all this to do with my trouble, Dr. Halderman? You forget
why you were sent for.” Rising, the physician
laid his hand upon his patient's
arm and said, gently: “Pardon me. I cannot diagnose your disorder offhand-to-morrow,
perhaps. Please go to bed, leaving your
door unlocked; I will pass the
night here with your books. Can you call me without rising?”
“Yes, there is an electric bell.”
“Good. If anything disturbs you push the button without sitting up. Good
Comfortably installed in an arm-chair the man of medicine stared into the
glowing coals and thought deeply and long, but apparently to little purpose,
he frequently rose and opening
a door leading to the staircase, listened intently; then resumed his seat.
Presently, however, he fell asleep, and when he woke it
was past midnight. He stirred the
failing fire, lifted a book from the table at his side and looked at the
title. It was Denneker's Meditations. He opened it at
random and began to read:
“Forasmuch as it is ordained of God that all flesh hath spirit and thereby
taketh on spiritual powers, so, also, the spirit hath powers of the flesh,
it is gone out of the flesh and
liveth as a thing apart, as many a violence performed by wraith and lemure
sheweth. And there be who say that man is not single in
this, but the beasts have the like
evil inducement, and-“
The reading was interrupted by a shaking of the house, as by the fall of
a heavy object. The reader flung down the book, rushed from the room and
mounted the stairs to Fleming's
bed-chamber. He tried the door, but contrary to his instructions it was
locked. He set his shoulder against it with such force that
it gave way. On the floor near
the disordered bed, in his night-clothes, lay Fleming, gasping away his
The physician raised the dying man's head from the floor and observed a
wound in the throat. “I should have thought of this,” he said, believing
When the man was dead an examination disclosed the unmistakable marks of
an animal's fangs deeply sunken into the jugular vein.
But there was no animal.