The Maker of Moons

by Robert W. Chambers



Have you ever drawn a picture of a corpse?" inquired Jamison next morning as I walked into his private room with a sketch of the proposed full page of the Zoo. 

"No, and I don't want to," I replied, sullenly. 

"Let me see your Central Park page," said Jamison in his gentle voice, and I displayed it. It was about worthless as an artistic production, but it pleased Jamison, as I knew it would. 

"Can you finish it by this afternoon?" he asked, looking up at me with persuasive eyes. 

"Oh, I suppose so," I said, wearily; "anything else, Mr. Jamison?" 

"The corpse," he replied, "I want a sketch by to-morrow—finished." 

"What corpse?" I demanded, controlling my indignation as I met Jamison's soft eyes. 

There was a mute duel of glances. Jamison passed his hand across his forehead with a slight lifting of the eyebrows. 

"I shall want it as soon as possible," he said in his caressing voice. 

What I thought was, "Damned purring pussy-cat!" What I said was, "Where is this corpse?" 

"In the Morgue—have you read the morning papers? No? Ah,—as you very rightly observe you are too busy to read the morning papers. Young men must learn industry first, of course, of course. What you are to do is this: the San Francisco police have sent out an alarm regarding the disappearance of a Miss Tufft—the millionaire's daughter, you know. To-day a body was brought to the Morgue here in New York, and it has been identified as the missing young lady,— by a diamond ring. Now I am convinced that it isn't, and I'll show you why, Mr. Hilton." 

He picked up a pen and made a sketch of a ring on a margin of that morning's Tribune. 

"That is the description of her ring as sent on from San Francisco. You notice the diamond is set in the centre of the ring where the two gold serpents' tails cross! 

"Now the ring on the finger of the woman in the Morgue is like this," and he rapidly sketched another ring where the diamond rested in the fangs of the two gold serpents. 

"That is the difference," he said in his pleasant, even voice. 

"Rings like that are not uncommon," said I, remembering that I had seen such a ring on the finger of the white-faced girl in the Park the evening before. Then a sudden thought took shape—perhaps that was the girl whose body lay in the Morgue! 

"Well," said Jamison, looking up at me, "what are you thinking about?" 

"Nothing," I answered, but the whole scene was before my eyes, the vultures brooding among the rocks, the shabby black dress, and the pallid face,—and the ring, glittering on that slim white hand! 

"Nothing," I repeated, "when shall I go, Mr. Jamison? Do you want a portrait—or what?" 

"Portrait,—careful drawing of the ring, and,—er—a centre piece of the Morgue at night. Might as well give people the horrors while we're about it." 

"But," said I, "the policy of this paper—" 

"Never mind, Mr. Hilton," purred Jamison, "I am able to direct the policy of this paper." 

"I don't doubt you are," I said angrily. 

"I am," he repeated, undisturbed and smiling; "you see this Tufft case interests society. I am— er—also interested." 

He held out to me a morning paper and pointed to a heading. 

I read: "Miss Tufft Dead! Her Fiancé was Mr. Jamison, the well known Editor." 

"What!" I cried in horrified amazement. But Jamison had left the room, and I heard him chatting and laughing softly with some visitors in the press-room outside. 

I flung down the paper and walked out. 

"The cold-blooded toad!" I exclaimed again and again;—"making capitral out of his fiancé's disappearance! Well, I—I'm d—nd! I knew he was a bloodless, heartless grip-penny, but I never thought—I never imagined—" Words failed me. 

Scarcely conscious of what I did I drew a Herald from my pocket and saw the column entitled: 

"Miss Tufft Found! Identified by a Ring. Wild Grief of Mr. Jamison, her Fiancé." 

That was enough. I went out into the street and sat down in City Hall Park. And, as I sat there, a terrible resolution came to me; I would draw that dead girl's face in such a way that it would chill Jamison's sluggish blood, I would crowd the black shadows of the Morgue with forms and ghastly faces, and every face should bear something in it of Jamison. Oh, I'd rouse him from his cold snaky apathy! I'd confront him with Death in such an awful form, that, passionless, base, inhuman as he was, he'd shrink from it as he would from a dagger thrust. Of course I'd lose my place, but that did not bother me, for I had decided to resign anyway, not having a taste for the society of human reptiles. And, as I sat there in the sunny park, furious, trying to plan a picture whose sombre horror should leave in his mind an ineffaceable scar, I suddenly thought of the pale black-robed girl in Central Park. Could it be her poor slender body that lay among the shadows of the grim Morgue! If ever brooding despair was stamped on any face, I had seen its print on hers when she spoke to me in the Park and gave me the letters. The letters! I had not thought of them since, but now I drew them from my pocket and looked at the addresses. 

"Curious," I thought, "the letters are still damp; they smell of salt water too." 

I looked at the address again, written in the long fine hand of an educated woman who had been bred in a French convent. Both letters bore the same address, in French: 

"Captain d'Yniol. 

(Kindness of a Stranger.)" 

"Captain d'Yniol," I repeated aloud—"confound it, I've heard that name! Now, where the deuce—where in the name of all that's queer—" Somebody who had sat down on the bench beside me placed a heavy hand on my shoulder. 

It was the Frenchman, "Soger Charlie." 

"You spoke my name," he said in apathetic tones. 

"Your name!" 

"Captain d'Yniol," he repeated; "it is my name." 

I recognized him in spite of the black goggles he was wearing, and, at the same moment, it flashed into my mind that d'Yniol was the name of the traitor who had escaped. Ah, I remembered now! 

"I am Captain d'Yniol," he said again, and I saw his fingers closing on my coat sleeve. 

It may have been my involuntary movement of recoil,—I don't know,—bur the fellow dropped my coat and sat straight up on the bench. 

"I am Captain d'Yniol." he said for the third rime, "charged with treason and under sentence of death." 

"And innocent!" I muttered, before I was even conscious of having spoken. What was it that wrung those involuntary words from my lips, I shall never know, perhaps—but it was I, not he, who trembled, seized with a strange agitation, and it was I, not he, whose hand was stretched forth impulsively, touching his. 

Without a tremor he took my hand, pressed it almost imperceptibly, and dropped it. Then I held both letters toward him, and, as he neither looked at them nor at me, I placed them in his hand. Then he started. 

"Read them," I said, "they are for you." 

"Letters!" he gasped in a voice that sounded like nothing human. 

"Yes, they are for you,—I know it now— Letters !—letters directed to me?" 

"Can you not see?" I cried. 

Then he raised one frail hand and drew the goggles from his eyes, and, as I looked, I saw two tiny white specks exactly in the centre of both pupils. 

"Blind!" I faltered. 

"I have been unable to read for two years," he said. 

After a moment he placed the tip of one finger on the letters. 

"They are wet," I said; "shall—would you like to have me read them?" For a long time he sat silently in the sunshine, fumbling with his cane, and I watched him without speaking. At last he said, "Read, Monsieur," and I rook the letters and broke the seals. 

The first letter contained a sheet of paper, damp and discoloured, on which a few lines were written: 

"My darling, I knew you were innocent—" Here the writing ended, but, in the blur beneath, I read: "Paris shall know—France shall know, for at last I have the proofs and I am coming to find you, my soldier, and to place them in your own dear brave hands. 

They know, now, at the War Ministry—they have a copy of the traitor's confession— but they dare not make it public—they dare not withstand the popular astonishment and rage. 

Therefore I sail on Monday from Cherbourg by the Green Cross Line, to bring you back to your own again, where you will stand before all the world, without fear, without reproach." 


"This—this is terrible!" I stammered; "can God live and see such things done!" 

But with his thin hand he gripped my arm again, bidding me read the other letter; and I shuddered at the menace in his voice. 

Then, with his sightless eyes on me, I drew the other letter from the wet, stained envelope. And before I was aware—before I understood the purport of what I saw, I had read aloud these half effaced lines: 

"The Lorient is sinking—an iceberg—mid-ocean—goodbye you are innocent—I love—" 

"The Lorient!" I cried; "it was the French steamer that was never heard from—the Lorient of the Green Cross Line! I had forgotten—I—" 

The loud crash of a revolver stunned me; my ears rang and ached with it as I shrank back from a ragged dusty figure that collapsed on the bench beside me, shuddered a moment, and tumbled to the asphalt at my feet. 

The trampling of the eager hard-eyed crowd, the dust and taint of powder in the hot air, the harsh alarm of the ambulance clattering up Mail Street,—these I remember, as I knelt there, helplessly holding the dead man's hands in mine. 

"Soger Charlie," mused the sparrow policeman, "shot his-self, didn't he, Mr. Hilton? You seen him, sir,—blowed the top of his head off, didn't he, Mr. Hilton?" 

"Soger Charlie," they repeated, "a French dago what shot his-self;" and the words echoed in my ears long after the ambulance rattled away, and the increasing throng dispersed, sullenly, as a couple of policemen cleared a space around the pool of thick blood on the asphalt. 

They wanted me as a witness, and I gave my card to one of the policemen who knew me. The rabble transferred its fascinated stare to me, and I turned away and pushed a path between frightened shop girls and ill-smelling loafers, until I lost myself in the human torrent of Broadway. 

The torrent took me with it where it flowed—East? West?—I did not notice nor care, but I passed on through the throng, listless, deadly weary of attempting so solve God's justice— striving to understand His purpose—His laws—His judgments which are "true and righteous altogether." 

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