The Three Imposters (or The Transmutations)
An Occult Novel of Horror
Arthur Machen, 1894
Part 1: Prologue
“And Mr. Joseph Walters is going to stay the night?” said the smooth clean-shaven man to his companion, an individual not of the most charming appearance, who had chosen to make his ginger-colored mustache merge into a pair of short chin-whiskers.
The two stood at the hall door, grinning evilly at each other; and presently a girl ran quickly down, the stairs, and joined them. She was quite young, with a quaint and piquant rather than a beautiful face, and her eyes were of a shining hazel. She held a neat paper parcel in one hand, and laughed with her friends.
“Leave the door open,” said the smooth man to the other, as they were going out. “Yes, by——,” he went on with an ugly oath. “We’ll leave the front door on the jar. He may like to see company, you know.”
The other man looked doubtfully about him. “Is it quite prudent do you think, Davies?” he said, pausing with his hand on the mouldering knocker. “I don’t think Lipsius would like it. What do you say, Helen?”
“I agree with Davies. Davies is an artist, and you are commonplace, Richmond, and a bit of a coward. Let the door stand open, of course. But what a pity Lipsius had to go away! He would have enjoyed himself.”
“Yes,” replied the smooth Mr. Davies, “that summons to the west was very hard on the doctor.”
The three passed out, leaving the hall door, cracked and riven with frost and wet, half open, and they stood silent for a moment under the ruinous shelter of the porch.
“Well,” said the girl, “it is done at last. I shall hurry no more on the track of the young man with spectacles.”
“We owe a great deal to you,” said Mr. Davies politely; “the doctor said so before he left. But have we not all three some farewells to make? I, for my part, propose to say good-by, here, before this picturesque but mouldy residence, to my friend Mr. Burton, dealer in the antique and curious,” and the man lifted his hat with an exaggerated bow.
“And I,” said Richmond, “bid adieu to Mr. Wilkins, the private secretary, whose company has, I confess, become a little tedious.”
“Farewell to Miss Lally, and to Miss Leicester also,” said the girl, making as she spoke a delicious courtesy. “Farewell to all occult adventure; the farce is played.”