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'An hour later, while absorbed in some of my infernal studies, I heard, or thought I heard, my signal answered. Flinging down my books I sprang to the wall and as steadily as my beating heart would permit gave three slow taps upon it. This time the response was distinct, unmistakable: one, two, three -- an exact repetition of my signal. That was all I could elicit, but it was enough -- too much.
'The next evening, and for many evenings afterward, that folly went on, I always having "the last word." During the whole period I was deliriously happy, but with the perversity of my nature I persevered in my resolution not to see her. Then, as I should have expected, I got no further answers. "She is disgusted," I said to myself, "with what she thinks my timidity in making no more definite advances"; and I resolved to seek her and make her acquaintance and -- what? I did not know, nor do I now know, what might have come of it. I know only that I passed days and days trying to meet her, and all in vain; she was invisible as well as inaudible. I haunted the streets where we had met, but she did not come. From my window I watched the garden in front of her house, but she passed neither in nor out. I fell into the deepest dejection, believing that she had gone away, yet took no steps to resolve my doubt by inquiry of my landlady, to whom, indeed, I had taken an unconquerable aversion from her having once spoken of the girl with less of reverence than I thought befitting.
'There came a fateful night. Worn out with emotion, irresolution and despondency, I had retired early and fallen into such sleep as was still possible to me. In the middle of the night something -- some malign power bent upon the wrecking of my peace for ever -- caused me to open my eyes and sit up, wide awake and listening intently for I knew not what. Then I thought I heard a faint tapping on the wall -- the mere ghost of the familiar signal. In a few moments it was repeated: one, two, three -- no louder than before, but addressing a sense alert and strained to receive it. I was about to reply when the Adversary of Peace again intervened in my affairs with a rascally suggestion of retaliation. She had long and cruelly ignored me; now I would ignore her. Incredible fatuity -- may God forgive it ! All the rest of the night I lay awake, fortifying my obstinacy with shameless justifications and -- listening.
'Late the next morning, as I was leaving the house, I met my landlady, entering.
' "Good morning, Mr. Dampier," she said. "Have you heard the news?"
'I replied in words that I had heard no news; in manner, that I did not care to hear any. The manner escaped her observation.
' "About the sick young lady next door," she babbled on. "What! you did not know? Why, she has been ill for weeks. And now -- "
'I almost sprang upon her. "And now," I cried, "now what?"
' "She is dead."
'That is not the whole story. In the middle of the night, as I learned later, the patient, awakening from a long stupor after a week of delirium, had asked -- it was her last utterance -- that her bed be moved to the opposite side of the room. Those in attendance had thought the request a vagary of her delirium, but had complied. And there the poor passing soul had exerted its failing will to restore a broken connection -- a golden thread of sentiment between its innocence and a monstrous baseness owning a blind, brutal allegiance to the Law of Self.
'What reparation could I make? Are there masses that can be said for the repose of souls that are abroad such nights as this -- spirits "blown about by the viewless winds" -- coming in the storm and darkness with signs and portents, hints of memory and presages of doom?
'This is the third visitation. On the first occasion I was too sceptical to do more than verify by natural methods the character of the incident; on the second, I responded to the signal after it had been several times repeated, but without result. To-night's recurrence completes the "fatal triad" expounded by Parapelius Necromantius. There is no more to tell.'
When Dampier had finished his story I could think of nothing relevant that I cared to say, and to question him would have been a hideous impertinence. I rose and bade him good night in a way to convey to him a sense of my sympathy, which he silently acknowledged by a pressure of the hand. That night, alone with his sorrow and remorse, he passed into the Unknown.
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Short Stories -- by Bierce