The Green Mouse

Robert W. Chambers




Treating of Certain Scientific Events Succeeding 
the Wedding Journey of William and Ethelinda

Sacharissa took the chair. She knew nothing about parliamentary procedure; neither did her younger, married sister, Ethelinda, nor the recently acquired family brother-in-law, William Augustus Destyn. 
      "The meeting will come to order," said Sacharissa, and her brother-in-law reluctantly relinquished his new wife's hand--all but one finger. 
      "Miss Chairman," he began, rising to his feet. 
      The chair recognized him and bit into a chocolate. 
      "I move that our society be known as The Green Mouse, Limited." 
      "Why limited?" asked Sacharissa. 
      "Why not?" replied her sister, warmly. 
      "Well, what does your young man mean by limited?" 
      "I suppose," said Linda, "that he means it is to be the limit. Don't you, William?" 
      "Certainly," said Destyn, gravely; and the motion was put and carried. 
      "Rissa, dear!" 
      The chair casually recognized her younger sister. 
      "I propose that the object of this society be to make its members very, very wealthy." 
      The motion was carried; Linda picked up a scrap of paper and began to figure up the possibility of a new touring car. 
      Then Destyn arose; the chair nodded to him and leaned back, playing a tattoo with her pencil tip against her snowy teeth. 
      He began in his easy, agreeable voice, looking across at his pretty wife: 
      "You know, dearest--and Sacharissa, over there, is also aware--that, in the course of my economical experiments in connection with your father's Wireless Trust, I have accidentally discovered how to utilize certain brand-new currents of an extraordinary character." 
      Sacharissa's expression became skeptical; Linda watched her husband in unfeigned admiration. 
      "These new and hitherto unsuspected currents," continued Destyn modestly, "are not electrical but psychical. Yet, like wireless currents, their flow eternally encircles the earth. These currents, I believe, have their origin in that great unknown force which, for lack of a better name, we call fate, or predestination. And I am convinced that by intercepting one of these currents it is possible to connect the subconscious personalities of two people of opposite sex who, although ultimately destined for one another since the beginning of things, have, through successive incarnations, hitherto missed the final consummation-- marriage!--which was the purpose of their creation." 
      "Bill, dear," sighed Linda, "how exquisitely you explain the infinite." 
      "Fudge!" said Sacharissa; "go on, William." 
      "That's all," said Destyn. "We agreed to put in a thousand dollars apiece for me to experiment with. I've perfected the instrument--here it is." 
      He drew from his waistcoat pocket a small, flat jeweler's case and took out a delicate machine resembling the complicated interior of a watch. 
      "Now," he said, "with this tiny machine concealed in my waistcoat pocket, I walk up to any man and, by turning a screw like the stem of a watch, open the microscopical receiver. Into the receiver flow all psychical emanations from that unsuspicious citizen. The machine is charged, positively. Then I saunter up to some man, place the instrument on a table--like that--touch a lever. Do you see that hair wire of Rosium uncoil like a tentacle? It is searching, groping for the invisible, negative, psychical current which will carry its message." 
      "To whom?" asked Sacharissa. 
      "To the subconscious personality of the only woman for whom he was created, the only woman on earth whose psychic personality is properly attuned to intercept that wireless greeting and respond to it." 
      "How can you tell whether she responds?" asked Sacharissa, incredulously. He pointed to the hair wire of Rosium: 
      "I watch that. The instant that the psychical current reaches and awakens her, crack!--a minute point of blue incandescence tips the tentacle. It's done; psychical communication is established. And that man and that woman, wherever they may be on earth, surely, inexorably, will be drawn together, even from the uttermost corners of the world, to fulfill that for which they were destined since time began." 
      There was a semirespectful silence; Linda looked at the little jewel-like machine with a slight shudder; Sacharissa shrugged her young shoulders. 
      "How much of this," said she, "is theory and how much is fact?--for, William, you always were something of a poet." 
      "I don't know. A month ago I tried it on your father's footman, and in a week he'd married a perfectly strange parlor maid." 
      "Oh, they do such things, anyway," observed Sacharissa, and added, unconvinced: "Did that tentacle burn blue?" 
      "It certainly did," said Destyn. 
      Linda murmured: "I believe in it. Let's issue stock." 
      "To issue stock is one thing," said Destyn, "to get people to buy it is another. You and I may believe in Green Mouse, Limited, but the rest of the world is always from beyond the Mississippi." 
      "The thing to do," said Linda, "is to prove your theory by practicing on people. They may not like the idea, but they'll be so grateful, when happily and unexpectedly married, that they'll buy stock." 
      "Or give us testimonials," added Sacharissa, "that their bliss was entirely due to a single dose of Green Mouse, Limited." 
      "Don't be flippant," said Linda. "Think what William's invention means to the world! Think of the time it will save young men barking up wrong trees! Think of the trouble saved--no more doubt, no timidity, no hesitation, no speculation, no opposition from parents." 
      "Any of our clients," added Destyn, "can be instantly switched on to a private psychical current which will clinch the only girl in the world. Engagements will be superfluous; those two simply can't get away from each other." 
      "If that were true," observed Sacharissa, "it would be most unpleasant. There would be no fun in it. However," she added, smiling, "I don't believe in your theory or your machine, William. It would take more than that combination to make me marry anybody." 
      "Then we're not going to issue stock?" asked Linda. "I do need so many new and expensive things." 
      "We've got to experiment a little further, first," said Destyn. 
      Sacharissa laughed: "You blindfold me, give me a pencil and lay the Social Register before me. Whatever name I mark you are to experiment with." 
      "Don't mark any of our friends," began Linda. 
      "How can I tell whom I may choose. It's fair for everybody. Come; do you promise to abide by it--you two?" 
      They promised doubtfully. 
      "So do I, then," said Sacharissa. "Hurry up and blindfold me, somebody. The bus will be here in half an hour, and you know how father acts when kept waiting." 
      Linda tied her eyes with a handkerchief, gave her a pencil and seated herself on an arm of the chair watching the pencil hovering over the pages of the Social Register which her sister was turning at hazard. 
      "This page," announced Sacharissa, "and this name!" marking it with a quick stroke. 
      Linda gave a stifled cry and attempted to arrest the pencil; but the moving finger had written. 
      "Whom have I selected?" inquired the girl, whisking the handkerchief from her eyes. "What are you having a fit about, Linda?" 
      And, looking at the page, she saw that she had marked her own name. 
      "We must try it again," said Destyn, hastily. "That doesn't count. Tie her up, Linda." 
      "But--that wouldn't be fair," said Sacharissa, hesitating whether to take it seriously or laugh. "We all promised, you know. I ought to abide by what I've done." 
      "Don't be silly," said Linda, preparing the handkerchief and laying it across her sister's forehead. 
      Sacharissa pushed it away. "I can't break my word, even to myself," she said, laughing. "I'm not afraid of that machine." 
      "Do you mean to say you are willing to take silly chances?" asked Linda, uneasily. "I believe in William's machine whether you do or not. And I don't care to have any of the family experimented with." 
      "If I were willing to try it on others it would be cowardly for me to back out now," said Sacharissa, forcing a smile; for Destyn's and Linda's seriousness was beginning to make her a trifle uncomfortable. 
      "Unless you want to marry somebody pretty soon you'd better not risk it," said Destyn, gravely. 
      "You--you don't particularly care to marry anybody, just now, do you, dear?" asked Linda. "No," replied her sister, scornfully. 
      There was a silence; Sacharissa, uneasy, bit her underlip and sat looking at the uncanny machine. 
      She was a tall girl, prettily formed, one of those girls with long limbs, narrow, delicate feet and ankles. 
      That sort of girl, when she also possesses a mass of chestnut hair, a sweet mouth and gray eyes, is calculated to cause trouble. 
      And there she sat, one knee crossed over the other, slim foot swinging, perplexed brows bent slightly inward. 
      "I can't see any honorable way out of it," she said resolutely. "I said I'd abide by the blindfolded test." 
      "When we promised we weren't thinking of ourselves," insisted Ethelinda. 
      "That doesn't release us," retorted her Puritan sister. 
      "Why?" demanded Linda. "Suppose, for example, your pencil had marked William's name! That would have been im--immoral!" 
      "Would it?" asked Sacharissa, turning her honest, gray eyes on her brother-in-law. 
      "I don't believe it would," he said; "I'd only be switched on to Linda's current again." And he smiled at his wife. 
      Sacharissa sat thoughtful and serious, swinging her foot. 
      "Well," she said, at length, "I might as well face it at once. If there's anything in this instrument we'll all know it pretty soon. Turn on your receiver, Billy." 
      "Oh," cried Linda, tearfully, "don't you do it, William!" 
      "Turn it on," repeated Sacharissa. "I'm not going to be a coward and break faith with myself, and you both know it! If I've got to go through the silliness of love and marriage I might as well know who the bandarlog is to be.... Anyway, I don't really believe in this thing.... I can't believe in it.... Besides, I've a mind and a will of my own, and I fancy it will require more than amateur psychical
experiments to change either. Go on, Billy." 
      "You mean it?" he asked, secretly gratified. 
      "Certainly," with superb affectation of indifference. And she rose and faced the instrument. 
      Destyn looked at his wife. He was dying to try it. 
      "Will!" she exclaimed, "suppose we are not going to like Rissa's possible f--fiance! Suppose father doesn't like him!" 
      "You'll all probably like him as well as I shall," said her sister defiantly. "Willy, stop making frightened eyes at your wife and start your infernal machine!" 
      There was a vicious click, a glitter of shifting clockwork, a snap, and it was done. 
      "Have you now, theoretically, got my psychical current bottled up?" she asked disdainfully. But her lip trembled a little. 
      He nodded, looking very seriously at her. 
      "And now you are going to switch me on to this unknown gentleman's psychical current?" 
      "Don't let him!" begged Linda. "Billy, dear, how can you when nobody has the faintest idea who the creature may turn out to be!" 
      "Go ahead!" interrupted her sister, masking misgiving under a careless smile. 
      Click! Up shot the glittering, quivering tentacle of Rosium, vibrating for a few moments like a thread of silver. Suddenly it was tipped with a blue flash of incandescence. 
      "Oh, dear! Oh, dear! There he is!" cried Linda, excitedly. "Rissy! Rissy, little sister, what have you done?" 
      "Nothing," she said, catching her breath. "I don't believe that flash means anything. I don't feel a bit different--not the least bit. I feel perfectly well and perfectly calm. I don't love anybody and I'm not going to love anybody--until I want to, and that will probably never happen." 
      However, she permitted her sister to take her in her arms and pet her. It was rather curious how exceedingly young and inexperienced she felt. She found it agreeable to be fussed over and comforted and cradled, and for a few moments she suffered Linda's solicitude and misgivings in silence. After a while, however, she became ashamed. 
      "Nothing is going to happen, Linda," she said, looking dreamily up at the ceiling; "don't worry, dear; I shall escape the bandarlog." 
      "If something doesn't happen," observed Destyn, pocketing his instrument, "the Green Mouse, Limited, will go into liquidation with no liabilities and no assets, and there'll be no billions for you or for me or for anybody."
      "William," said his wife, "do you place a low desire for money before your own sister-in-law's spiritual happiness?" 
      "No, darling, of course not." 
      "Then you and I had better pray for the immediate bankruptcy of the Green Mouse." 
      Her husband said, "By all means," without enthusiasm, and looked out of the window. "Still," he added, "I made a happy marriage. I'm for wedding bells every time. Sacharissa will like it, too. I don't know why you and I shouldn't be enthusiastic optimists concerning wedded life; I can't see why we shouldn't pray for Sacharissa's early marriage." 
      "Yes, darling." 
      "You are considering money before my sister's happiness!" 
      "But in her case I don't see why we can't conscientiously consider both." 
      Linda cast one tragic glance at her material husband, pushed her sister aside, arose and fled. After her sped the contrite Destyn; a distant door shut noisily; all the elements had gathered for the happy, first quarrel of the newly wedded. 
      "Fudge," said Sacharissa, walking to the window, slim hands clasped loosely behind her back. 


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