A Rival From The Grave can be found in




ISFDB.org Magazine Entry



Weird Tales

JANUARY, 1936


• Jules de Graodin la without doubt the most lovable and fascinating detective in fiction. Occultist, scientist and ghost-breaker, he Is not a detective in the ordinary sense, for he uses his keen mind and quick wit agalust supernatural wrong-doing as well as against crimas attributable to natural agencies. Vain, boastful, mercurial, a dreaded foe and a loyal friend, de Grandin has been the hero of more than fifty stories In WEIRD TALES, and hts popularity with the readers Is increasing with each new tale. We recommend to you this story of his latest exploit: "A Rival from the Grave."


A Rival From the Grave

By SEABURY QUINN

A tale of creeping honor that rises to a climax of sheer terrora story of Jules de Grandin

"HOW many lobster sandwiches is that?" I demanded.

Jules de Grandin knit his brows in an effort at calculation. "Sixteen, no, eighteen, unless I have lost count," he answered.

"And how many glasses of champagne?"

"Only ten."

"By George, you're hopeless," I reproved. "You're an unconscionable glutton and wine-bibber."

"Eh bien, others who considered themselves as righteous as you once said the same of one more eminent than I," he assured with a grin as he stuffed the last remaining canapé homard into his mouth and washed it down with a gulp of Roederer. "Come, my friend, forget to take your pleasures sadly for a while. Is it not a wedding feast?"

"It is," I conceded, "but——"

"And am I not on fire with curiosity?" he broke in. "Is it a custom of America to hold the celebration in the bridegroom's home?"

"No, it's decidedly unusual, but in this case the bride had only a tiny apartment and the groom this big house, so——"

"One understands," he nodded, finding resting-space for his sandwich plate and glass, "and a most impressive house it is. Shall we seek a place to smoke?"

We jostled through the throng of merrymakers, passed along the softly carpeted hall and made our way to Frazier Taviton's study. Book-cases lined the walls, a pair of Lawson sofas ranged each side the fireplace invited us to rest, a humidor of Gener cigars, silver caddies of Virginia, Russian and Egyptian cigarettes and an array of cloisonne ash-trays offered us the opportunity to indulge our craving for tobacco.

"Exquise, superbe, parfait!" the little Frenchman commented as he ignored our host's expensive cigarettes and selected a vile-smelling Maryland from his case; "this room was made expressly to offer us asylum from those noisy ones out there. I think—que diable! Who is that?" He nodded toward the life-size portrait in its golded frame which hung above the mantel-shelf.

"H'm," I commented, glancing up. "Queer Frazier left that hanging. I suppose he'll be taking it down, though——"

"Ten thousand pestilential mosquitoes, do not sit there muttering like an elderly spinster with the vapors!" he commanded. "Tell me who she is, my friend."

"It's Elaine. She is—she was, rather—the first Mrs. Taviton. Lovely, isn't she?"

"U'm?" he murmured, rising and studying the picture with what I thought unnecessary care. "Non, my friend, she is not lovely. Beautiful? But yes, assuredly. Lovely? No, not at all."

The artist had done justice to Elaine Taviton. From the canvas she looked forth exactly as I'd seen her scores of times. Her heavy hair, red as molten copper, with vital, flame-like lights in it, was drawn back from her forehead and parted in the center, and a thick, three-stranded plait was looped across her brow in a kind of Grecian coronal. Her complexion had that strange transparency one sometimes but not often finds in red-haired women. A tremulous green light played in her narrow eyes, and her slim, bright-red lips were slightly parted in a faintly mocking smile to show small, opalescent teeth. It was, as Jules de Grandin had declared, a fascinating face, beautiful but unlovely, for in those small features, cut with lapidarian regularity, there was half concealed, but just as certainly revealed, the frighteningly fierce fire of an almost inhuman sensuality. The sea-green gown she wore was low-cut to die point of daring, and revealed an expanse of lucent shoulders, throat and bosom with the frankness characterizing the portraiture of the Restoration. Scarcely whiter or more gleaming than the skin they graced, a heavy string of perfectly matched pearls lay round her throat, while emerald ear-studs worth at least a grand duke's ransom caught up and accentuated the virid luster of her jade-toned eyes.

"Morbleu, she is Circe, la Pompadour and Helen of Tyre, all in one," de Grandin murmured. "Many men, I make no doubt, have told her, 'I worship you,' and many others whispered they adored her, but I do not think that any ever truthfully said, T love you.'"

He was silent a moment, then; "They were divorced?"

"No, she died a year or so ago," I answered. "It happened in New York, so I only know the gossip of it, but I understand that she committed suicide——"

"One can well believe it," he responded as I paused, somewhat ashamed of myself for retailing rumor. "She was vivid, that one, cold as ice toward others, hot as flame where her desires were concerned. Self-inflicted death would doubtless have seemed preferable to enduring thwarted longing. Yes."

A CHORUS of shrill squeals of feminine delight, mingled with the heavier undertone of masculine voices, drew our attention to the hall. As we hurried from the study we saw Agnes Taviton upon the stairs, gray eyes agleam, her lips drawn back in laughter, about to fling her bouquet down. The bridesmaids and the wedding guests were clustered in the hall below, white-gloved arms stretched up to catch the longed-for talisman, anticipation and friendly rivalry engraved upon their smiling faces. Towering above the other girls, nearly six feet tall, but with a delicacy of shape which marked her purely feminine, was Betty Decker, twice winner of the women's singles out at Albemarle and runner-up for swimming honors at the Crescent Pool events. The bride swung out the heavy bunch of lilies-of-the-valley and white violets, poised it for a moment, then dropped it into Betty's waiting hands.

But Betty failed to catch it. A scant four feet the bouquet had to fall to touch her outstretched fingers, but in the tiny interval of time required for the drop Betty seemed to stumble sideways, as though she had been jostled, and missed her catch by inches. The bridal nosegay hurtled past her clutching hands, and seemed to pause a moment in midair, as though another pair of hands had grasped it; then it seemed to flutter, rather than to fall, until it rested on the polished floor at Betty's feet.

"Rotten catch, old gal," commiserated Doris Castleman. "You're off your form; I could 'a' sworn you had it in the bag."

"I didn't muff it," Betty answered hotly. "I was pushed."

"No alibis," the other laughed. "I was right behind you, and I'll take my Bible oath that no one touched you. You were in the dear, old dear; too much champagne, perhaps."

De Grandin's small blue eyes were narrowed thoughtfully as he listened to the girls' quick thrust-and-parry. "The petite mademoiselle has right," he told me in a whisper. "No one touched the so unfortunate young lady who let her hope of early matrimony slip."

"But she certainly staggered just before she missed her catch," I countered. "Everybody can't absorb such quantities of champagne as you can stow away and still maintain his equilibrium. It's a case of too much spirits, I'm afraid."

The little Frenchman turned a wide-eyed stare on me, then answered in a level, almost toneless voice: "Prie Dieu you speak in jest, my friend, and your fears have no foundation."

"THERE'S a gentleman to see yez, sors," Nora McGinnis announced apologetically. "I tol' 'im it wuz afther office hours, an' that ye're mos' partic'lar fer to give yerselves some time to digest yer dinners, but he sez as how it's mos' important, an' wud yez plase be afther seein' 'im, if only fer a minute?"

"Tiens, it is the crowning sorrow of a doctor's life that privacy is not included in his dictionary," answered Jules de Grandin with a sigh. "Show him in, petite"—Nora, who tipped the scales at something like two hundred pounds, never failed to glow with inward satisfaction when he used that term to her— "show him in all quickly, for the sooner we have talked with him the sooner we shall see his back."

The change which three short months had made in Frazier Taviton was nothing less than shocking. Barely forty years of age, tall, hound-lean, but well set up, his prematurely graying hair and martial carriage had given him distinction in appearance, and with it an appearance of such youth and strength as most men fifteen years his junior lacked. Now he seemed stooped and shrunken, the gray lights in his hair seemed due to age instead of accidental lack of pigment, and in the deep lines of his face and the furtive, frightened glance which looked out from his eyes, he saw the symptoms of a man who has been overtaken by a rapid and progressive malady.

"Step into the consulting-room," I said as we concluded shaking hands; "we can look you over better there," but:

"I'm not in need of going over, Doctor," Frazier answered with a weary smile; "you can leave the stethoscope and sphygmotonometer in place. This consultation's more in Doctor de Grandin's line."

"Très bien, I am wholly at your service, Monsieur," the Frenchman told him. "Will you smoke or have a drink? It sometimes helps one to unburden himself."

Taviton's hand shook so he could hardly hold the flame to his cigar tip, and when he finally succeeded in setting it alight he paused, looking from one to the other of us as though his tongue could not find words to frame his crowding thoughts. Abruptly:

"You know I've always been in love with Agnes, Doctor?" he asked me almost challengingly.

"Well," I temporized, "I knew your families were close friends, and you were a devoted swain in high school, but——"

"Before that!" he cut in decisively. "Agnes Pemberton and I were sweethearts almost from the cradle!"

Turning to de Grandin he explained; "Our family homes adjoined, and from the time her nursemaid brought her out in her perambulator I used to love to look at Agnes. I was two years her senior, and for that reason always something of a hero to her. When she grew old enough to toddle she'd slip her baby fist in mine, and we'd walk together all around the yard. If her nurse attempted to interfere she'd storm and raise the very devil till they let her walk with me again. And the queer part was I liked it. You don't often find a three-year-old boy who'd rather walk around with a year-old girl than play with his toys, but I would. I'd leave my trains or picture books any time when I heard Agnes call, 'Frazee, Frazee, here's Agnes!' and when we both grew older it was just the same. I remember once I had to fight half a dozen fellows because they called me sissy for preferring to help Agnes stage a party for her dolls to going swimming with them.

"We spent our summers in the Poconos, and were as inseparable there as we were in town. Naturally, I did the heavy work—climbed the trees to shake the apples down and carried home the sacks— but Agnes did her s...

This is only a preview of this story. The site administrator is evaluating methods to bring it to you.