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By John Martiv
ftUTSIDE, Ken Ravenal could hear the
' New Orleans throbted like a plucked
violjii" the subtle yet vibrant strains of the
Mardi Gras running through its veins like
an electric shock.
Ravenal walked to the window of his
father's old mansion, drew the curtains.
Twilight had fallen; the moon was high and
beyond the grounds the town twinkleti with
the first flash of merriment.
Thei. he frowned.
Tonight was a night for happiness and re-
velry; yet, tonight, he was chained to the
ashes of a dead love. For he knew, now, that
his love for Marcia Vernil was dead. It was
not his fault that she had fallen ill and lay
dying. Marcia had changed; no longer was
she the sweet, vibrant image of loveliness
\e had known. Her cheeks were drawn with
wasting, her eyes feverish . . .
The -phone rang, Ravenai's face crisped.
He knew too well who it might be. Tht
knowledge wasn't pleasant. .
he began, picking up the re-
"Ken?" It was Marcia's father. "She's
asking for you. Ken. You you'll come?"
"I'll come." He put the receiver down,
t)is face sullen. What did past vowa mean
in the face of death?
Smiling thinly. Ravenal went upstairs.
Weeks ago he had ordered his Mardi Gras
costume. U wa.s a gay, handsome Cavalier
outfit, a costume for gallantry. And it had
hung in his closet, waiting.
Putting it on before a full-tength mirror,
he smiled again, hia lips narrowing. After
all, he decided, to part from Marcia was
good sense. Not only was she mortally ill —
and of no use to him, therefore — but he'd
.heard rumors. Before she had been taken
ill there had been faint whispers, whispers
he'd paid no attention to. But now ... the
whispers had grown louder. The Vernils.
they paid, weren't all grace and tradition
and grand old family. There had been darker
things in their remote past, things done in
bayous and in the »*>uttering depths of the
great swamps to the acct>mpaniment of
babbled witch-voices, of spells and strange
chants. He didn't believe these things, still, .
^INUTBS later, the barSuche he'd called
by phone drew up in front of the hou.'^e.
Stepping into it with arrogance, he gave
Marcia's address in the Vieux Carre, the Old
Quarter of New Orleans, and was whirled
The house was old; it had been in the
hands of the Vernils for two hundred year.'*.
When the barouche swept down the ancient
winding lanes and stopped before it. Ravenal
got out.-Around him, the Mardi Gras merri-
ment crowded thickly. Sighing, he knocked at
the door. Mr. Vernil opened it. Ravenal came
in without a word, swaggering, wearing a
The old man looked at him and trembled
"That costume." he began, fuming.
"Hardly a thing to put on at such a time.
Ravenal! You seem to forget that Marcia's
deathly ill — or . . ." His face contracted in
suspicion. ". . . do you?"
"I haid'V think Marcia would want me
to miss the Mardi Gra.t, my dear Mr. Vernil,
It would scarcely he sporting!"
Both men turned as the thin, wailing
cry came from upstairs. The old mart's face
^'She — ahe'.s in pafn, Ravenal! She knows
you're here. Surely — surely you'll .see her?"
Ravenal drew back.
"I — I can't," he began, hesitant.
"You must!" Suddenly Vernil'-'^ hawk-
like eyes were turned on him. "You owe her
that, Ravenal." even if— if you're dressed as
Ravenal still hesitated. Then he nodded.
"Very well." he said, agreeing.
They went up the stairs.
Ravenal walked into the roQm, Jauntily.
"Oh— Ken!" The dying girl on the bed
gasped. Hwr eyes widened as she saw hia
Sray costume. \ I'm dying, and — and
you're ..." & y. irs welled in h^r eyes.
Her father rouglily pulled Ravenal out
into the corridor.
"You swine!" he .«aid hoarsely. His eyes
flamed. "You have broken her heart!" Then
they narrowed into pinpoints of intense
hatred.. "True, she is dying, Ravenal. But so
The grim, cold note in Vernil's voice
shook Ravenal for a, moment; he shuddered.
The bJood ran cold in his veins. Then he
managed to laugh. .
"All men die in their time," he said. "I
am still a young man !" He stood there, listen-
ing, and then the faint, gasping breath from
the other room ceased. Without another
word he turned, ran downstairs, his heart
pounding. He had to get away from that
house of death, into the streets, into life and
color and merriment.
One last glance and the house of death,
of loneliness, was left behind. He dropped
into a quaint old drinking house, fortified
' himself with a bottle of wine, emerged again
into the old, winding streets, ^
DA VENAL heaved a sigh of relief. The
millstone of his obligations to Marcia
had fallen from his neck with one bold
stroke: he felt free as the wind. The wine
■made everything glow.
He wandered down one lane after
another, the sounds of the Mardi Gras grow-
ing fainter and farther away. Suddenly he
bumped into a figure, booted, cloaked, a
sword dangling from its belt, not wearing
"Pardon," he said.
"Bien, Monsieur!" the other said, with
a courtly bow. "Bon soir!"
Ravenal stood and watched the man fade
out of .'light. Strange, he thought; his
costume was cheap and patched and old, not
like his at all. It was as though — as
It was then he saw the girl. She'Iingered
in the doorway of a house coming off an
old lane. She was dressed in velvet and
silks and on her face was a fetching domino
mask. Ravenal .smiled. She seemed to be
watching him, waiting for him to speak. He
approached, gazing appreciatively at her
plump arms, shapely figure.
She winked and, with a tinkle of laughter.
A fsw steps bo-ond him aniJ she wtk
lost in the mists. But he could hear her foot-
steps pattering down the cobbleatonea and
now and again an engaging, contralto laugh
with just a touch of come-hither appeal to xt/
She fled on, down this lane and that,
leading him on until he lost his way. The
lights in the streets grew duller, but the
■ further she led him, the hotter his blood
grew and the faster his pulses beat
Then he saw her going into a house. She
cast one long, backward glance of invitation
and vanished inside. He knocked boldly at
the door which swung open suddenly. A
heavily-masked figure appeared, sword \n
"Draw!" it commanded, thrusting him
back. Its blade came flashing up as .Ravenal,
struggling to get out his rented costume
sword, fell back. With a screech of steel on
steel, Ravenal's blade went flying. Then his
arms flew up and out; he fell, transfixed,
coughing up blood, his head swiinming, a
cauldron of agony. It was madness, he knew.
The Mardi Gras was a time for happiness,
He heard a tinkle of laughter. Looking
up, as he lay dying, he saw a window thrown
open in the house; in the aperture sat the
girl he had followed. Something about her
made the whole house seem familiar and his
wavering,, glance swung to the date on thi
door. 1752, He had seen that date often, he '
rememhered. It had been carved over the:
ancient house of the Vernils. But that house
had been old, and this-^this house was new!;
He knew what had happened now; knew
how some evil, foul magfc of revenge had
cast him back far into the past of New
Orleans, there to die, marooned from his
own time. That was the meaning of the date
on the h6use, of its newness, of the dim-lit
streets, of the man he had stumbled against
in the lane, wearing patched, oW clothes of
an ancient cut, not because of the Mardi
Gras, but because he wore them every day!
The girl , took off her domino. RavenaJ
gasped. It was Marcia!
"My father said ^vou would die, KSn.*"
she whispered softly. "And you did; 'at the
hand of the guardian of the House of
From somewhere ■ a church-bell chimed
mid nigh t—unmasking time. Through dim-
ming eyes, Ravenal saw his grim, ariggd
murderer take off its mask to reveal yet
another—the bonv. grinning Mask M
mmiWePTKOADTHe/iEiS A STRANGE
EmB^AL^0C ESSf 0^2.
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vnii'i/is . ^ - - -.^ - ~y .
NOBOPy HA? THIS iTEMETERy FOR.
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