Page:Weird Tales volume 36 number 01.djvu/71

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sional—played jazz, but she played it like a concert artist. Her maiden name was Alicia Castle. That's the name she played under—"

"I knew, of course, who Alicia Castle had been—who doesn't?—and I thought immediately that I had the whole story. Loving husband—wife, fine pianist, dies—husband can no longer bear to hear piano music as he had heard it so many times in his home, soft and loud, fragmentary bits, practising, the human side of music that's somehow missing on a record or over the radio. 'Poor devil,' I thought

"I felt sympathetic, all right. The feeling of intimacy the drinks had built up—and then this confession Pierce had made, that had so dramatically and poignantly explained his peculiar phobia. I tried to be as delicate as possible in my sympathy. I looked down at my hands and murmured, 'She was a wonderful pianist wasn't she? I remember; she always played Dancing in the Wind at the start and finish of her radio programs. And she was your wife—!'

"He didn't seem to be listening. He just sat there across from me, right where you're sitting now, and, like me, he kept looking down at his hands. Only his hands were trembling violently. After a moment he muttered, and his voice was so savage that I almost jumped, 'Dancing in the Wind! God, how I loathe that piece!'

"I didn't say anything; I was afraid to. And in a minute or two he started up again, and the words just poured out of him.

"'Hell, Chambers!' he babbled, with the most peculiar, pitiful eagerness, 'ghosts don't exist! They just don't exist, and that's all there is to it. Especially ghosts that don't do anything but just play piano!'

"He reached for the bottle of Scotch, poured himself a good six ounces, tossed it off in one sobbing gulp that didn't even jar him. He went on talking—raving maybe's the better word.

"'It's been like that ever since the night she died. Piano playing. Her piano playing. I can't mistake it; I know her touch, her style of playing, the licks she used that nobody else can imitate, like I know my own face. It's her playing. Nobody else. It's unmistakable, unmistakable, I tell you! And it's been going on ever since the night she died. Whenever I get near a piano, sooner or later I hear her playing. Not all the time; sometimes she plays only one piece, or just part of a piece, and then stops, as though she's been—called away. Dancing in the Wind, she plays a lot. She had a special arrangement of it. And—nobody else can hear her. Nobody else can hear her playing. Only me.

"'It can't be. Such a thing can't be. There aren't ghosts. There can't be ghosts. But when I get near a piano, sooner or later I hear her ghost playing. The night she died I heard her first, playing on the big grand downstairs in the living room. I went down—but before I got downstairs the music stopped. The room was empty—nobody there. But Lucas—he was our butler then—was outside, in the foyer. I asked him who'd been playing the piano in the living room, and he said, "Nobody, Mr. Pierce. I haven't heard a sound from the living room all evening." So I went upstairs again. Twice more that night I heard it—the sound of her playing—and both times nobody else heard it—nobody but me. I asked; I know. The servants were beginning to look at me as though they thought I was queer; I knew they were beginning to talk among themselves. So I shut up—just watched them, watched the people in the house, the friends and relatives who were dropping in all the time to pay their condolences.

"'Three or four times the next day I heard her playing. Each time I was in the living room—and each time other