Sample L22 from S. L. M. Barlow, "Monologue of Murder," The Saint Mystery Magazine, 15: 2 (December, 1961), 121-125. A part of the XML version of the Brown Corpus1,999 words 33 (1.7%) quotesL22

Used by permission of The Saint Mystery Magazine. 0010-1640

S. L. M. Barlow, "Monologue of Murder," The Saint Mystery Magazine, 15: 2 (December, 1961), 121-125.

Arbitrary Hyphen: free-holders [1210]Typographical Error: buccolic [1350]

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In good time I shall get to the distressing actuality , to Red McIver and Handley Walker , to murder and sudden death . But you realize , I am sure , how much old deeds incite to new ones , and you must forgive me if I tell you first of the old ones .

It was in 1814 that Abraham Wharf and his sister sat by a meager fire in their house on Dogtown Common , a desolate place even then . He was sharpening his razor . `` Sister '' , said he `` do you think people who commit suicide go to heaven '' ? ? And she answered , `` I don't know , but I hope you'll never do such a thing '' . Without a tremor , `` God forbid '' ! ! He said , and went out and cut his throat in the cave near Granny Day's swamp .

What has this to do with the present ? ? Much , I assure you . You must know what gets into people , even such as Red and Handley , before you can tell what comes out of them . They had learned , both of them , about Abraham Wharf . That's why I beg you not to forget him . His ghost is not laid . Red and Handley , God help them , knew the old Dogtown lore ; ; and I knew they knew it , for I'd told them a lot of it . And isn't it true that you get a deeper perception about a man and his motives when you know what it is he knows ? ?

Yes , gentlemen , I am getting to the point , to my point . You know the facts ; ; they are set forth in your own newspapers . You want from me the story , but a story is about ' why ' and then , perhaps , about how . The ' when ' you know ; ; yesterday morning . So what I am trying to tell you is the ' why ' -- that is my point -- and that concerns the spirit of the matter . There is an inwardness and a luster to old furniture ( look at that mahogany highboy behind you ) which has a provocative emanation , if I may say so . Places , too , have their haunting qualities . Even people . And my point in this sad story is the spirit of the matter . When you hold the spirit of a thing , then somehow you know the truth -- you know a fake antique from the real thing . And the truth is what you've come for , is it not ? ?

Now , Dogtown is one of those places that creeps into the marrow as worms get into old wood , under the veneer . In fact , all the folk who lived on the back of Cape Ann , they are not just like others . There's a different hall-mark on them . There were no witch burnings here because everyone had a witch in the family . Just think of old Granther Stannard who pulled the teeth of Dark Younger ( her real name was Dorcas ) , and because he bungled the job and left two protruding tusks she put such a hex on him that he thought his legs were made of glass . After that he was never known to run or even walk fast . Today Dogtown is the only deserted village in all New England that I know of . There it sits , a small highland , with towns like Gloucester near by ; ; but now it's the most lost and tortured place in the world . Those who lived in that desolation of rocky deformity took on some of the moraine's stony character . Scientists say it is the last spewings of a great glacier , but one rather feels that only a malevolent giant could have piled up those crouching monsters of granite which still seem to preserve a sort of suspended , ominous life in them .

We'll walk up there later . It's perhaps a mile from here where we sit . And not one single dwelling left there , though once , in the early eighteenth century , there were close to a hundred houses . ( I myself have identified about sixty sites , from the old maps and registers . A fascinating pursuit , I assure you . ) Even I can remember nothing but ruined cellars and tumbled pillars , and nobody has lived there in the memory of any living man . It is now a sweep of boulders and ledges , with oak , walnut and sumac creeping across the common , and everywhere the ruins and the long , long shadows .

That's your setting , and a sinister one . Please get that in your reports . It accounts for so many things . Both Red McIver and Handley Walker lived nearby , almost as near as I do . Red lived at Lanesville , and from his house he could be up on the Common in a half hour's brisk walk ; ; Handley lived further on , at Pigeon Cove . I'd often find one or other of them up around Dogtown sketching . They were both painters , ( They were ? ? They are ? ? What should one say ? ? ) Well , anyhow , Dogtown Common is so much off the beaten track nowadays that only Sunday picnickers still stray up there , from time to time . Sea-road , railroad , lack of water , killed Dogtown . Dead , dead as a brass door nail , and I sometimes feel like the Sexton , for I'm about the last to be even interested .

I knew Red and Handley well . As I said , they were both painters . They'd come , separately , to Gloucester some twenty years ago -- there's always been an artists' colony somewhere on Cape Ann -- and each married here . They married cousins , Anta and Freya Norberg . There are a lot of Scandinavians in this neck of the woods , and many still make painted furniture and take steam-baths . Pretty girls among them , with blonde hair and pert faces . Handley married Freya and Red , of the red beard , married Anta . And it was because of an old Norberg inheritance that I got to understand them all so well . The quarrel ended in a ridiculous draw , but I must tell you about it . Oh , yes , I'm quite sure it's important , because of the Beech Pasture . What's that ? ? Why , that's what gave me the feeling , gave me as-it-were the spirit , the demoniac , evil spirit of this whole affair .

You see , besides being custodian of antiquities , I am also registrar . No , I don't hold with those who live entirely among dead things . I know as well as the next man that a ship is called from the rigging she carries , where the live wind blows , and not from the hull . But you've got to know both . What's below the water-line interests me also . As I was saying , I've known all about the old records , including the old Norberg deed . Some ten years ago that page was torn out , I don't know by whom . About five years ago , Handley came to ask me if he could see the tattered register . He was courteous and casual about it , as though it were of no consequence . He's always like that , in spite of being a big man . ( When you see him , you'll notice his habit of fingering , I might almost say , stroking a large mole with black hairs on it , by his right temple . ) A sensual man , but very courteous , some would say slick . Like his glossy black hair . Too many outside manners , to my taste . He is the sort who , with an appraising eye , would cross the street to help a strange woman on to a bus and then pinch her . A real gentleman , I feel , would do neither . He's always worn a broad-brimmed hat , and I've noticed , in my small study at the Society , that he rather smells of cosmetics . The next week , cousin Red wandered in as casually , but curt and untidy . Red was small and fine-boned , like ivory-inlay . He too asked to see the same page . When I told him someone had torn it out , he shouted . `` By God , it's that damn Handley , the sneak '' ! ! And later in the same week they both came together to examine the register . Fortunately we were alone in the building -- so few people nowadays are interested even in their own past or in the lovely craft of other days -- for they began to abuse each other in the foulest language . Red thrusting out his tawny beard , Handley glowering under his suddenly rumpled black hair . They actually bristled . Le rouge et le noir . Violent men both . Red always was morose , yet that day the dapper Handley was the louder of the two . But for my presence , they would have been at each others' throats .

During the quarrel I learned what the trouble was , from the accusations each hurled at the other . The Beech Pasture had suddenly become valuable . There's a fine granite quarry there , and granite's coming back for public buildings . Both men knew it was in the Norberg family holdings , but to which of the cousins did it belong , Anta or Freya ? ? Fortunately , I knew almost exactly what the will had said . It began with a preamble , of course . This explained that the judge of probate of Essex County , 1785 or 1786 , appointed three free-holders of Gloucester to divide and establish the Norberg estate . After the usual Honorable Sirs , it went on to say that there had been set off to the widow one full third part of the real estate of the deceased Salu Norberg , one lower room , on the Western side , privileges to the well and bake-oven and to one third of the cellar ( I can show you the cellar when we go up ) , also one Cow Right , and lastly they set off to the widow her own land that she brought with her as dower , namely the Beech Pasture . And I remember that the whole of the privileges , not counting the Beech Pasture , was valued at twenty pounds . I wish you could have seen the crests fall on these two sparring coxcombs when I told them that obviously the pasture belonged to their wives jointly .

That battle scene , ridiculous as it was , remained in my mind . A disturbing picture of bad blood , to be further heightened with illicit if buccolic colors , for on a subsequent day I saw Handley escorting Anta , Red's wife , up on Dogtown Common . I felt it would be inopportune to disclose my presence . Not that I intentionally go unperceived , but the boulders up there are very high and I am a small woman .

One other cause of jealousy between them I must tell you . Paint ! ! Gloomy and unkempt as Red McIver was , he was much the better painter . I suppose Handley knew it . If Red had a show at Gloucester , Handley would hurry to hang his pictures in Rockport . You may say this has little pertinence , but , gentlemen , remember that all this prepared my mind , alerted my intelligence . By such touches the pattern takes shape . You would call these the motives of crime . I would call them the patterns of life , perhaps even the designs of destiny . Yet with all this knowledge I had nothing of substance to unravel our case , as you would call it , till yesterday .

One month ago , on the 20th of October , was the opening of the gunning season in Massachusetts . Not much to shoot , but there are a few pheasant . Rabbits , too , if you care for them , which most of the folk around here haven't the sense to appreciate . Any more than they have the sense to eat mussels . That was the day Red was said to have gone away . Oh yes , he'd talked about doing so . In fact , he often disappeared , from time to time , -- off to paint the sea , aboard a dragger out from Gloucester . Anta , his wife , never seemed to mind . I suppose these absences gave her more clearance for her embraces with Cousin Handley . Anyhow , I wasn't surprised , early that morning , to see Handley himself crossing from Dogtown Common Road to the Back Road . No , he didn't have his gun , which he should have . It would have been a good excuse for his being there at all . I myself had been up there by seven o'clock , after mushrooms , since there'd been a week of rain which had stopped early that morning and the day was as clear as Sandwich glass .