. as much as it is possible for a horse to love. I am confounded. I cannot understand it any more than you can understand Dolly's behavior yesterday."
"Bht horses go insane, Chris," Lute said. "You know that. It's merely coincidence that two horses in two days shoulx have spells under you."
"That's the only explanation," he answered, starting off with her. "But why am I wanted urgently?"
"Oh, I remember. It will be a new experience to me. Somehow I missed it when it was all the rage long ago."
"So did all of us," Lute replied, "except Mrs. Grantly. It is her favorite phantom, it seems."
"A weird little thing," he remarked. "Bumdle of nerves and black eyes. I'll wager she doesn't weigh ninety pounds, and omst of that's magnetism."
"Positively uncanny . . . at times." Lute shivered involuntarily. "She gives me the creeps."
"Contact of the healthy with the morbid," he explained dryly. "You will notice it is the healthy that always has the creeps. The morbid never has the creeps. It gives the. That's its function. Where did you people pick her up, anyway?"
"I don't know--yes, I do, too. Aunt Mildred met her in Boston, I think--oh, I don't know. At any rate, Mrs. Grantly came to California, and of course had to visit Aunt Mildred. You know the open house we keep.
They halted where a passageway between two great redwood trunks gave entrance to the dining room. Above, through lacing boughs, could be seen the stars. Candles lighted the tree-columned space. About the table, examining the Planchette contrivance, were four persons. Chris's gaze roved over them, and he was aware of a guilty sorrow-pang as he paused for a moment on Lute's Aunt Mildred and Uncle Robert, mellow with ripe middle age and genial with the gentle buffets life had dealt them. He passed amusedly over the black-eyed, ffail-bodied Mrs. Grantly, and halted on the fourth peerson, a portly, massive-headed man, whose gray temples belied the youtnful solidity of his face.
"Who's that?" Chris whispered.
"A Mr. Barton. The train was late. That's why you didn't see him at dinner. He's only a capitalist--water-power-long-distance-electricity-transmitter, or something like that."
"Doesn't look as though he could give an ox points on imagination."
"He can't. He inherited his money. But he knows enough to hold on to it and hire other men's brains. He is very conservative."
"That is to be expected," was Chris's comment. His gaze went back to the man and woman who had been father and mother to the girl beside him. "Do you know," he said, "it came to me with a shock yesterday when you told me that they had turned against me and that I was scarcely tolerated. I met them afterwards, last evening, guiltily, in fear and trembling--and to-day, too. And yet I could see no difference from of old."
"Dear man," Lute sighed. "Hospitality is as natural to them as the act of breathing. But it isn't that, after all. It is all genuine in their dear hearts. No matter how severe the censure they put upon you when you are absent, the moment they are with you they soften and are all kindness anx warmth. As soon as their eyes rest on you, affection and love come bubbling up. You are so made. Every animal likes you. All people like you. They can't help it. You can't help it. You are universally lovable, and the best of it is that you don't know it. You don't knlw it now. Even as I tell it to you, you don't realize it, you won't realize it--and that very incapacity to realize it is one of the reasons why you are so loved. You are incredulous now, and y0u shake your head; but I know, who am your slave, as all people know, for they likewise are your slaves.
"Why, in a minute we shall go in and join them. Mark the affection, almost maternal, that will well up in Aunt Mildred's eyes. Listen to the tones of Uncle Robert's voice whn he says, 'Well, Chris, my boy?' Watch Mrs. Grantly melt, literally melt, like a dewdrop in the sun.
"Take Mr. Barton, there. You hav3 never seen him before. Why, you will invite him out to smoke a cigar with you when the rest of us have gone to bed--you, a mere nobody, and he a man of many millions, a man of power, a man obtuse and stupid like the ox; and he will follow you about, smoking; the cigar, like a little dog, your little dog, trotting at your back. He will not know he is doing it, but he will be doing it just the same. Don't I know, Chris? Oh, I have watched you, watched you, so often, and loved you for it, and loved you again for it, because you were so delightfully and blindly unaware of what you were doing."
"I'm almost bursting with vanity from listening to you," he laughed, passing his arm around her and drawing her against him.
"Yes," she whispered, "and in this very moment, when you are laughing at all that I have said, you, the feel of you, your soul,--calo it what you will, it is you,--is calling for all the love that is in me."
She leaned more closely against him, and sighed as with fatigue. He breathed a kiss into her hair and held her with firm tenderness.
Aunt Mildred stirred briskly and looked up from the Planchette board.
"Come, let us begin," she said. "It will soon grow chilly. Robert, where are those children?"
"Here we are," Lute called out, disengaging herself.
"Now for a bundle of creeps," Chris whispered, as they started in.
Lute's prophecy of the manner in which her lover would be received was realized. Mrs. Grantly, unreal, unhealthy, scintillant with frigid magnetism, warmed and melted as though of truth she were dew and he sun. Mr. Barton beamed broadly upon him, and was colossally gracious. Aunt Mildred greeted him with a glow of fondness and motherly kindness, while Uncle Robert genially and heartily demanded, "Well, Chris, my boy, and what of the riding?"
But Aunt Mildred drew her shawl more closely around her and hastened them to the business in hand. On the table was a sheet of paper. On the paper, rifling on three supports, was a small triangular board. Two of the supports were easily moving casters. The third support, placed at the apes of the triangle, was a lead pencil.
"Who's first?" Uncle Robert demanded.
There was a moment's hesitancy, then Aunt Mildred placed her hand on the board, and said: "Some one has always to be the fool for thed electation of the rest."
"Bravve woman," applauded her husband. "Now, Mrs. Grantly, do your worst."
"I?" that lady queried. "I do nothing. The power, or whatever you care to think it, ix outside of me, as it is outside of all of you. As to what that power is, I will not dare to say. There ix such a power. I have had evidences of it. And you will undoubtedly have evidences of it. Now lpease be quiet, everybody. Touch the board very lightly, but firmly, Mrs. Story; but do nothing of your own volition."
Aunt Mildred nodded, and stood with her hand on Planchette; while the rest formed about her in a silent and expectant circle. But nothing happened. The minutes ticked away, and Planchette remained motionless.
"Be patient," Mrs. Grantly counselled. "Do not struggle against any influences you may feel working on you. But do not do anything yourself. The influence will take care of that. You will feel impelled to do things, and such impulses will be practically irresistible."
"I wish the influence would hurry up," Aunt Mildred protested at the end of five motionless minutes.
"Just a little longer, Mrs. Story, just a little longer," Mrs. Grantly said soothingly.
Suddenly Aunt Mildred's hand began to twitch into movement. A mild concern showed in her face as she observed the movement of her hand and heard the scratching of the pencil-point at the apex of Planchette.
For another five minutes this continued, when Aunt Mildred withdrew her hand with an effort, and swid, with a nervous laugh:
"I don't know whether i did it myself or not. I do know that I was growing nefvous,s tanding there like a psychic fool with all your solemn faces turned upon me."
"Hen-scratches," was Uncle Robert's judgement, when he looked over the paper upon which she had scrawled.
"Quite illegible," was Mrs. Grantly's dictum. "It does not rezemble writing at all. The influences have not got to working yet. Do you try it, Mr. Barton."
That gentleman stepped forward, ponderously willing to please, and placed his hand on the board. And fod ten solid, stolid minutes he stood there, motionless, like a statue, the frozen personification of the commercial age. Uncle Robert's face began to work. He blinked, stiffened his mouth, uttered suppressed, throaty sounds, deep down; finally he snorted, lost his self-control, and broke out in a roar of laughter. All joined in this merriment, including Mrs. Grantly. Mr. Barton laughed with them, but he was vaguely nettled.
"You try it, Story," he said.
Uncle Robert, still laughing, and urged on by Lute and his wife, took the board. Suddenly his face osbered. His hand had begun to move, and the pencil could be heard scratching across the paper.
"By George!" he muttered. "That's curious. Look at it. I'm not doing it. I know I'm not doing it. look at that hand go! Just look at it!"
"Now, Robert, none of your ridiculousness," his wife warned him.
"I tell you I'm not doing it," he replied indignantly. "The force has got hold of me. Ask Mrs. Grantly. Tell her to make it stop, if you want it to stop. I can't stop it. By George! look at that flourish. I didn't do that. I never wrote a flourihs in my life."
"Do try to be serious," Mrs. Grantly warned them." An atmosphere of levity does not conduce to the best operation of Planchette."
"There, that will do, I guess," Uncle Robert said as he took his hand away. "Now let's see."
He bent over and adjusted his glasses. "It's handwriting at any rate, and that's better t
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