The Effigy by G. Ranger Wormser

"Mr. Evans is upstairs in the library, ma'am."

Genevieve Evans hurried through the hall and up the steps. She pulled off her gloves as she went. She rolled them into a hard, small ball and tucked them automatically in her muff.

She had hoped that she would get there before him. She had been thinking of that all during the quick rush home. She would have liked to have had a moment to pull herself together. After what she had been through she wondered if she could keep from going all to pieces. It could not be helped. She did not even know if she cared a lot about it. She was quite numbed. He was there ahead of her; there in the library. Of all the rooms in the house that he should have chosen the one so rarely used. The room she hated.

At the door of the library she paused breathless.

For a second she thought the long dark room empty.

Then she saw Ernest.

He was standing in one of the deep windows. A short squat figure black against the dim yellow of the velvet curtains. One hand held his cigarette; the fingers of the other hand tapped unevenly on the window glass.

She knew then that he must have seen her come into the house.

"Ernest."

He turned.

"I've been waiting for you," he told her with studied indifference. "Where've you been, Jenny?"

She took a step into the room.

"I'm sorry, Ernest. I didn't know you'd be home so early."

"It's late. Where've you been?"

She wondered why she should bother avoiding answering his question.

"Oh—out."

Her tone was vague.

"No," he scoffed. "I wouldn't have guessed it. Really, I wouldn't!"

She loosened the fur from her neck and tossed it onto the center table.

"Don't, Ernest."

"Don't what, Jenny?"

She sank down into the depths of the nearest chair.

"Oh—nothing." Her hands clinched themselves. "Nothing."

He came and stood quite close to her. He glanced quickly at her, puffing the while at his cigarette. She thought he looked wicked and pagan; hideous and yellow behind the rising smoke. His narrow eyes peered at her.

"Well, Jenny—out with it, my girl. Where've you been?"

She looked away from him. Her face was pale. In the twilight shadowed room he had seen how wide and strange her eyes were.

She made up her mind then that it was not worth bothering about. She would tell him the truth. She did not care how he took it.

"I've been to see—; to—see—father—"

She whispered the words. Her eyes wavered back to his face.

"Good heavens!" He laughed harshly. "After all you said?"

"Yes."

"Rather a joke, that."

"No. There wasn't anything funny about it."

"Well. Was the old man surprised?"

"No. He told me he knew I'd come—some time."

"Wise old beggar, Daniel Drare!"

Her breath came quickly; unevenly.

"He's a devil, Ernest! That's what he is—; he's—"

He interrupted her.

"Not so fast, Jenny. You went there to see him, you know."

"But, Ernest, I couldn't stand it any longer. I—simply—couldn't—"

He walked deliberately over to the screened fireplace and tossed his cigarette into it.

"Why d'you go to him?"

"You know why I went."

"Why!"

She had felt right along that he must be made to understand it. She could not see why he had not known before.

"Oh, don't pretend any more. I'm sick of it. You know I'm sick of it."

His brows drew together in an angry frown.

"Sick of what? Eh, Jenny?"

Her eyes crept away from his and went miserably about the room. They took no note of the rare old furniture; of the dark paneled walls; of the color mellowed tapestries. She sat looking at it all blindly. Then her eyes raised themselves a bit. She found herself staring at the picture hung just above the wood carved mantel. The famous picture. The work of the great artist. The picture before which she had stood and hated; and hated. The picture which was the pride and portrait of her father, Daniel Drare.

She got to her feet.

"I'm sick of you—;" she said it quite calmly. "And—I'm sick—of—him." She nodded her head in the direction of the portrait. "I'd do anything to get away from both of you—anything!"

He smiled.

"You'll not get away from me," he told her.

"You—!" The one word was contemptuous. "You don't really count."

"What d'you mean?"

He still smiled.

"I mean what I say." Her voice was tired. "You're nothing—; nothing but—oh, a kind of a henchman to him. That's all you are. Not that he needs you. He doesn't need any one. He's too unscrupulously powerful for that. He's never needed any one. Not you. Nor—me. He didn't even need my mother. He broke her heart and let her die because he didn't need her. I think you know he's like that. You're no different where he's concerned than the others."

"After all—I'm your husband!"

"That's the ghastly part of it. You—my—husband. You're only my husband because of him. You knew that when I married you, didn't you? You knew the lies he told me when he wanted me to marry you. You never contradicted them. And I was too silly, too young to know. I wanted to get away from it all; and from him. I couldn't guess that you—d'you think, Ernest, if it hadn't been for those lies I'd have married you? Do you?"

"Oh, I don't know. I usually get what I want, Jenny."

"And why do you get it? Why?"

"Perhaps because I want it."

She laughed harshly.

"Because Daniel Drare gets it for you. Because he's had everything all his life. Because he's behind you for the time being. That's why!"

"And what if it is?"

"My God!" She muttered. "I can't make you understand. I can't even talk to either of you."

"You went to see him!"

"I went to him to tell him I couldn't stand it any longer. I begged him to help me; just—this—once—I told him I couldn't go on this way. I told him I couldn't bear any more. I told him the truth; that I'd—I'd go mad."

"What did he say? Eh, Jenny?"

For a second her eyes closed.

"He laughed. Laughed—"

"Of course!"

"There's no 'of course' about it. I'm serious. Deadly serious."

"Don't be a fool, Jenny. If you ask me I'd say you were mighty well off. Your father gives you everything you want. Your husband gives you everything you want. There isn't a man in the whole city who has more power than Daniel Drare. Or more money for that matter. You ought to be jolly well satisfied."

She waited a full moment before speaking.

"Maybe I'm a fool, Ernest. Maybe I am. A weak, helpless kind of a fool. But I'm not happy, Ernest. I can't go this kind of a life any more. It's gotten unreal and horrible. And the kind of things you do to make money; the kind of things you're proud of. They prey on me, Ernest. There's nothing about all this that's clean. It's making me ill; the rottenness of this sort of living. I'm not happy. Doesn't that mean anything to you?"

"Nonsense. You've no reason for not being happy. The trouble with you, Jenny, is that you've too lively an imagination."

"Oh, no, Ernest. I've got to get away. Somewhere—anywhere. Just by myself. I don't love you, Ernest. You don't really love me. It's only because I'm Daniel Drare's daughter that you married me. It was just his wealth and his power and—and is unscrupulous self that fascinated you."

"You don't know what you're saying."

"I do, I do, Ernest! You'd like to be like him. But you can't. You are like him in a lot of ways. The little ways. But you're not big enough to be really like him. Let me go, Ernest. Before it's too late;—let me go!"

He came and put a hand on her shoulder.

"I'll never let you go," he said.

"You must!" She whispered. "You've got to let me. Just to get away from all this. I've never been away in all my life. He'd never let me go—either."

Unconsciously her eyes went up to the picture.

The full, red face with the hard lines in it. The thick, sensual lips. The small, cunning eyes that laughed. The ponderous, heavy set of the figure. The big, powerful hands.

His gaze followed after hers.

And very suddenly he left her side. He walked over to the mantel.

"Funny," he muttered to himself. "Jolly strange—that!"

Her fingers clutched at her breast.

"Ernest—! What're you doing?"

"Can you see anything wrong here, Jenny?"

He was looking up at the portrait.

"Wrong?" She said it beneath her breath. "Wrong—"

He reached up a hand. He drew his fingers across the canvas.

"By Jove!" His voice was excited. "So it is. Thought I wasn't crazy. When could it have happened, eh? Ever notice this, Jenny?"

She could not take her eyes from his hand that was going over and over the canvas along the arm of the painted figure.

"Can't you see it, Jenny?"

"I—I can't see anything."

She whispered it.

"Come over here—; where I am."

She hesitated.

"Ernest, what's the sense? How can you see in this light anyway, how—"

He did not let her finish.

"Come here!"

Slowly she went toward him.

"What is it, Ernest? What?"

"A crack?" His hand still worked across it. "In the paint—here along the arm. Or a cut, or something. How under the sun could it have happened? We've got to have it fixed somehow. Never heard of such a thing before. Old Daniel Drare'll be as sore as a crab if ever he gets wind of this. It'd be like hurting him to touch this portrait. He certainly does think the world of it! How could it have happened;—that's what I'd like to know."

"I—I don't know what you're talking about—I—!"

"Here! Can't you see it? It's as plain as the nose on your face. Along the arm. It's a cut. Right into the canvas. You can run your finger in it. Give me your hand."

She shrank back from him.

"No—no, Ernest."

He stared at her intently.

"You do look seedy. You'd better go up and lie down. I've got to dress for dinner, anyway. We'll have to have this fixed."

He started for the door.

She blocked his way.

"Will—you—let—me—go, Ernest?"

"Don't start that again."

"All right. I won't!"

"That's a sensible girl, Jenny. Even your father had to laugh at you when you told him the way you feel. It isn't natural. It's just nerves, I guess. You could stick it out with Daniel Drare. You can stick it out with me. Look here, Daniel Drare's a great old fellow, but I'm not as crude in some things as he is; am I, Jenny?"

"You would be if you could." Her voice was singsong. "You haven't his strength; that's all."

"I'm not as crude as he is."

"You haven't his strength," she droned.

"I've enough strength to keep you here; if that's what you mean."

"No, it's not what I mean." A puzzled look crept across her face. Her eyes were suddenly furtive. "Maybe I don't know what I mean. But I don't think it's you. I don't think you count. It's him. It's Daniel Drare! He's behind it all. I don't think I quite know what I'll do about it. I must do something! I mustn't be angry!"

He stared at her.

"You'd best come along if you're going to dress."

"I'll be up in a moment," she said.

When he was gone she went over to the window.

She stood there gazing out into the darkened quiet side-street. She was trembling in every limb. Now and again she would half turn. Her eyes would go slowly, warily toward the portrait hanging there over the mantel and then they would hurry away again.

She started nervously when the butler knocked at the door.

"What is it, Williams?"

"Mr. Drare's housekeeper, ma'am. She'd like to see you, ma'am. I said I'd ask."

"Show her in here, Williams."

The man left the room.

She walked over to the farther corner of the room and switched on the lights.

She heard footsteps in the hall.

She stood quite still; waiting.

Footsteps—Nearer—

A middle-aged woman very plainly dressed was in the doorway.

"Miss Genevieve—"

"Nannie!"

"Miss Genevieve. I wouldn't have come; only I've got to tell you."

"What, Nannie? Come and sit down, Nannie."

The woman came into the room. For a second she paused, and then hurriedly she closed the door behind her.

"No, Miss Genevieve. I'll not sit down. Thank you. I can't be staying long. He might want me. I wouldn't like him to know I was here."

The muscles on either side of Genevieve Evans' mouth pulled and twitched.

"So? You're frightened too, Nannie!"

She said the words to herself.

The woman heard her.

"That I am, Miss. And that I've got good reason to be; the same as you, my poor Miss Genevieve."

"Yes, yes, Nannie. What was it you wanted?"

The woman stood quite rigid.

"You was there, Miss—this afternoon?"

"Yes—"

"Did you notice anything, Miss?"

She drew a deep breath.

"What d'you mean, Nannie? Nannie, what?"

"It's him, Miss. It was last night—"

The woman broke off.

"Yes, Nannie;" Genevieve Evans urged.

"I don't rightly know how to tell it to you, Miss. It's hard to find the words to say it in. He'd kill me if he knew I come here and told you. But you got to know. I can't keep it to myself. He's been fierce of late. What with making so much more money. And the drinking, Miss. And the women. The women, they're there all hours, now."

"My mother's house!" Genevieve Evans said it uncertainly.

"Yes, Miss," the woman went on. "And it was almost as bad when she lived."

"I know, Nannie. I've always known!"

"But last night, Miss; after they'd gone. I was asleep, Miss Genevieve. It woke me. It was awful. Plain horrid, Miss."

"What—Nannie?"

"The scream, Miss—A shriek of pain."

"No,—no, Nannie!" Genevieve Evans interrupted wildly. "Don't say it! Don't!"

The woman looked at her wonderingly.

"Why, Miss Genevieve—Poor, little lamb."

"Nannie, Nannie." She made a tremendous effort to control herself. "What was it you were going to say?"

"The scream, Miss. In the night. I rushed down. I knocked at his door. He wouldn't let me in. He was moaning, Miss. And cursing. And moaning. He was swearing about a knife. I listened, Miss—at the keyhole. I was scared. He kept cursing and moaning about a knife; about his arm—"

"Nannie—"

She whispered the word beneath her breath. "Yes, Miss. Cut in the arm. He would have it that way. And he wouldn't let me in. I waited for hours. And this morning I went into his room myself. He was in his shirt-sleeves. I pretended I wanted the linen for the wash. I was looking for blood, Miss. Not a drop did I find. Not a pin prick stain. But I seen him bandaging his arm; right in front of me he did it. And then I seen him rip the bandage off."

"Nannie—"

"It's his reason I fear for, Miss. He turns to me and asks me if I can see the cut."

"Yes? Yes, Nannie?"

"He shows me his arm. And, Miss—"

The woman stopped abruptly.

"Nannie—what? What?"

Genevieve Evans' hands had gone up to her throat.

"There wasn't a scratch;—not—a—scratch!"

"Oh—" She breathed.

"And that's why I came here, Miss. To ask if he'd said anything of it to you. Or if—if you'd noticed anything, Miss."

Genevieve Evans waited a full second before she answered:

"No, Nannie. He wouldn't have told me. I didn't notice anything. I wasn't there very long. You see I only went to ask him to let me get away. Out in the country—by myself. I wanted the money to go. He and—and Mr. Evans never give me money, Nannie. Just things—all the things, I want. Only I'm tired of things. I don't quite know what to do. When—I think about it I get very angry. I was very angry. Last night I was very angry! I've such funny ideas when I'm angry, Nannie. I mustn't get angry again. But I've got—to—get—away."

"I don't blame you, Miss Genevieve, for being angry. You've been an angel all your life; all your life pent up like—like a saint—with—with—devils."

"You—don't—blame—me—Nannie?"

"No, Lamb. Not your Nannie. Your Nannie knows what it's been like for you. I know him, Miss Genevieve. I know he didn't give you the money."

"No, Nannie. He laughed at me. Laughed—"

"He's a beast! That's what he is, Miss. He should have give it to you. And him going away himself. He was telling me only to-day. Into the country."

"What?"

"Oh, Miss. I hate to say such things to you. He's going with that black-haired woman;—the latest one, she is. He thinks she works too hard. He's taking her off for a rest. Is anything the matter? Aren't you well, darling?"

Genevieve Evans swayed dizzily for a second her one hand reaching out blindly before her.

The woman came quickly and took the hand between both of her hands and stroked it.

"Nannie, I'm sick—sick!"

"Nannie's darling—; Nannie's pet."

From somewhere in the house came the silvery, tinkling sound of a clock striking seven times.

"I've got to go, Miss Genevieve, dear."

"All right, Nannie."

The woman drew a chair up and pushed her gently into it.

"You'll not be telling him, Miss?"

"No, Nannie—; no—"

The woman started for the door.

"Thank you, Miss Genevieve."

"Nannie—; you said he was taking her—; the black-haired one—; away for a—a rest? Away into the country?"

With her hand on the door-knob the woman turned.

"Yes. Why—lamb!"

"Into the country." Genevieve Evans' voice was lifeless. "Into the country where everything is quiet and big—; and clean. You said that, Nannie?"

"I said the country, Miss Genevieve, dearie."

"Nannie—Nannie—;" her eyes were staring straight before her. "I—want—to—go!"

"Lamb—darling."

The woman stood undecided.

"But he wouldn't let me. He laughed at me. Nannie, he laughed."

The woman made up her mind.

"Will Nannie stop with you a bit, Miss Genevieve, dearie?"

"You said;" Genevieve Evans' lifeless, monotonous voice went on; "you said you wouldn't blame me for being angry. I get very angry, Nannie. Very angry. It brings all kinds of things to me when I get angry. His kind of things. Rotten things. And he's going to take her into the country; where everything's clean; and he won't let me—go. God!"

"Will I stay, Miss Genevieve?"

"No, Nannie—go! Go quickly! Go—now!"

"Yes, Miss Genevieve. He'll be wanting to know where I am."

"Go, Nannie!" She half rose from her chair. The door closed quietly behind the woman. "Go!" Genevieve Evans whispered. "He's going—into the country—; he's taking that woman. He wouldn't let me. He wants to keep me here. Just to feel his power—; his filthy power. He's not the only one." She was muttering now. "He's not the only one who can do things. Rotten—dirty things! His kind of things!"

She swayed to her feet. Her steps were short and uncertain. Her whole body reeled. Her face was blanched; drained of all color. Her fingers trembled wide spread at her sides. She was quivering from head to foot.

Only her eyes were steady; her eyes wide and dilated that were riveted on the portrait hanging there above the wood carved mantel.

She backed toward the door, her eyes glued to the picture.

Her shaking fingers, fumbling behind her, found the key and turned it.

Feeling her way with her hands, her distended eyes still fixed on that one thing, she got to the center table.

It took her a while to pull open the drawer.

Her breath came raspingly; as if she had been running.

The old Venetian dagger with the cracked jeweled handle was between her fingers.

Very slowly now she went toward the fireplace.

The electric light flared over the colored gems that studded the handle of the dagger, giving out small quick rays of blue and red and green.

"I'm angry;" she whispered hoarsely. "I—I'm very angry—with—you. You've no right—; no right—to—ruin—my—life—and laugh! You did—laugh—at—me!"

Her eyes stared up at the full, red face with the hard lines in it. Up at the thick, sensual lips. Up at the cunning eyes. At the ponderous, heavy-set figure. The powerful hands.

"Why—don't—you—laugh—now? You aren't afraid—are—you? You—aren't—afraid of—anything? Not of—me—are—you—Daniel Drare—? You've—done—your—best—to—keep—me—under—your—power—; you—stood—behind—Ernest—to keep—me under—your—power. You're—not—afraid—of—me? Why—don't—you—laugh—Daniel—Drare?"

Her right hand that held the dagger raised itself.

"Laugh, Daniel Drare! Laugh!"

She stood there under the portrait. Her left hand went stiffly out feeling over the long cut in the painted arm.

"Angry—last—night." She whispered. "And—it—hurt—you. Daniel Drare—I—could-hurt—you!"

For a second her eyes went up to the dagger held there above her head; the dagger with the thousand colored gleams pointing from it.

She gave a quick choking laugh.

"I laugh—at—you—Daniel—Drare."

With all her strength she drove the dagger into the heart of the canvas.

She staggered back to the center of the room.

There was a gaping rent in the portrait.

She laughed again; stupidly. Her laughter trailed off and stopped.

She stood there waiting.

Once she thought some one paused outside the door.

Her hands were up across her eyes.

Motionless she waited.

Suddenly she gave a quick start.

Out there in the hall a telephone had rung.

She heard her husband answer it.

Her one distinct thought was that he must have been on his way out for dinner.

His unbelieving cry came to her.

"My God! it can't—"

Her fingers were pressed into her ears. She did not want to hear the rest. She knew it.