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"Perhaps," he suggested, "she means that she was a belle."
"No. She says she thinks you know what she means. She says you must think of a colour. What colour?" Again Lopa addressed the unknown, but this time seemed to wait for an answer.
"Perhaps she means the colour of her eyes," said Eugene.
"No. She says her colour is light--it's a light colour and you can see through it."
"Amber?" he said, and was startled, for Mrs. Horner, with her eyes still closed, clapped her hands, and the voice cried out in delight:
"Yes! She says you know who she is from amber. Amber! Amber! That's it!
She says you understand what her name is from a bell and from amber. She is laughing and waving a lace handkerchief at me because she is pleased.
She says I have made you know who it is."
This was the strangest moment of Eugene's life, because, while it lasted, he believed that Isabel Amberson, who was dead, had found means to speak to him. Though within ten minutes he doubted it, he believed it then.
His elbows pressed hard upon the table, and, his head between his hands, he leaned forward, staring at the commonplace figure in the easy-chair.
"What does she wish to say to me?"
"She is happy because you know her. No--she is troubled. Oh--a great trouble! Something she wants to tell you. She wants so much to tell you.
She wants Lopa to tell you. This is a great trouble. She says--oh, yes, she wants you to be--to be kind! That's what she says. That's it. To be kind."
"She wants you to be kind," said the voice. "She nods when I tell you this. Yes; it must be right. She is a very fine lady. Very pretty.
She is so anxious for you to understand. She hopes and hopes you will.
Someone else wants to speak to you. This is a man. He says--"
"I don't want to speak to any one else," said Eugene quickly. "I want--"
"This man who has come says that he is a friend of yours. He says--"
Eugene struck the table with his fist. "I don't want to speak to any one else, I tell you!" he cried pa.s.sionately. "If she is there I--" He caught his breath sharply, checked himself, and sat in amazement. Could his mind so easily accept so stupendous a thing as true? Evidently it could!
Mrs. Horner spoke languidly in her own voice: "Did you get anything satisfactory?" she asked. "I certainly hope it wasn't like that other time when you was cross because they couldn't get anything for you."
"No, no," he said hastily. "This was different It was very interesting."
He paid her, went to his hotel, and thence to his train for home. Never did he so seem to move through a world of dream-stuff: for he knew that he was not more credulous than other men, and, if he could believe what he had believed, though he had believed it for no longer than a moment or two, what hold had he or any other human being on reality?
His credulity vanished (or so he thought) with his recollection that it was he, and not the alleged "Lopa," who had suggested the word "amber."
Going over the mortifying, plain facts of his experience, he found that Mrs. Horner, or the subdivision of Mrs. Horner known as "Lopa," had told him to think of a bell and of a colour, and that being furnished with these scientific data, he had leaped to the conclusion that he spoke with Isabel Amberson!
For a moment he had believed that Isabel was there, believed that she was close to him, entreating him--entreating him "to be kind." But with this recollection a strange agitation came upon him. After all, had she not spoken to him? If his own unknown consciousness had told the "psychic's" unknown consciousness how to make the picture of the pretty brown-haired, brown-eyed lady, hadn't the picture been a true one? And hadn't the true Isabel--oh, indeed her very soul!--called to him out of his own true memory of her?
And as the train roared through the darkened evening he looked out beyond his window, and saw her as he had seen her on his journey, a few days ago--an ethereal figure flying beside the train, but now it seemed to him that she kept her face toward his window with an infinite wistfulness.
"To be kind!" If it had been Isabel, was that what she would have said?
If she were anywhere, and could come to him through the invisible wall, what would be the first thing she would say to him?
Ah, well enough, and perhaps bitterly enough, he knew the answer to that question! "To be kind"--to Georgie!
A red-cap at the station, when he arrived, leaped for his bag, abandoning another which the Pullman porter had handed him. "Yessuh, Mist' Morgan. Yessuh. You' car waitin' front the station fer you, Mist'
And people in the crowd about the gates turned to stare, as he pa.s.sed through, whispering, "That's Morgan."
Outside, the neat chauffeur stood at the door of the touring-car like a soldier in whip-cord.
"I'll not go home now, Harry," said Eugene, when he had got in. "Drive to the City Hospital."
"Yes, sir," the man returned. "Miss Lucy's there. She said she expected you'd come there before you went home."
Eugene stared. "I suppose Mr. Minafer must be pretty bad," he said.
"Yes, sir. I understand he's liable to get well, though, sir." He moved his lever into high speed, and the car went through the heavy traffic like some fast, faithful beast that knew its way about, and knew its master's need of haste. Eugene did not speak again until they reached the hospital.
f.a.n.n.y met him in the upper corridor, and took him to an open door.
He stopped on the threshold, startled; for, from the waxen face on the pillow, almost it seemed the eyes of Isabel herself were looking at him: never before had the resemblance between mother and son been so strong--and Eugene knew that now he had once seen it thus startlingly, he need divest himself of no bitterness "to be kind" to Georgie.
George was startled, too. He lifted a white hand in a queer gesture, half forbidding, half imploring, and then let his arm fall back upon the coverlet. "You must have thought my mother wanted you to come," he said, "so that I could ask you to--to forgive me."
But Lucy, who sat beside him, lifted ineffable eyes from him to her father, and shook her head. "No, just to take his hand--gently!"
She was radiant.
But for Eugene another radiance filled the room. He knew that he had been true at last to his true love, and that through him she had brought her boy under shelter again. Her eyes would look wistful no more.