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Corey's Cat


THE ending of my affair with Mrs. Corey was messy enough, but what happened to John Brown, my Scottie, ugly as that was, saved me from a worse conclusion. John Brown, throughout all the deplorable business, showed himself subtler and wiser than his master. Beasts are more aware of some kinds of reality than humans.

John Brown and I both approved highly of the little cottage on the pond's edge; John because the surrounding pines were full of red squirrels that chattered defiantly at him, and I because this quiet place high in the hills seemed to be just the spot I wanted for my six weeks of convalescent loafing. Overwork, breakdown, and a touch of stomach ulcers.

It was dusk when I finished unpacking, and found that the shed containing the generating set was locked and there were no lights. It was a long half mile around the pond to the central lodge where the occupants of the cottages ate their meals, and I didn't feel up to walking that far. A few hundred yards away my nearest neighbor's lights winked softly on, and through the pines John Brown and I walked in search of a phone.

A small man in a dull red lounging jacket answered my tap on the door. I couldn't see his face clearly because he wore a long green eye shade which cast an emerald lambency over his features. I had an impression that under this odd light, his facial muscles were moving nervously like little fish seen far down in water.

"My name is Martin," I said. "I'm your next door neighbor for a few weeks. I'd like to use your phone if you have one."

"Of course," he answered, opening the door. His hands were long for such a small man. He shut the door before John Brown could get in. "Right there. My name's Corey."

I made my call to the central lodge.

"Sit down," said Mr. Corey. "Smoke?"

We chatted as strangers might. Soon, with the directness of one possessed by his subject, he told me of his work. He had written a history of necromancy in America, and he was expecting a batch of proofs in a day or so.

"An odd field," he said with a little self-conscious snigger. "But I come by it honestly. My ancestors came from Salem village." He paused.

I could see I was expected to say something, and I did come up with the right thing. "You're descended from...

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