Percy Philip Pittingball is a wealthy businessman who made his fortune thanks to the “three cup trick”, and is now dedicated to the most lucrative “green goods scam”, in which people are duped into paying for worthless counterfeit money and they cannot report the crime because purchasing counterfeit money is punished by law. He is what is called a self-made man. He belongs to the select group of “The Four Hundred” and to the despicable gang of “The Old Tom Gin”. He is married to three women but they do not know each other even though they live in the same house. So huge the Fifth Avenue Pittingball Mansion is!
François de La Rochefoucauld (aka Squattedman) has managed to be invited to attend a séance at Pittingball Mansion. The protagonist is one of the most famous mediums of the time, Etta Wriedt, who communicates with the dead through brass instruments that sound in the darkness of the séance room.
Participants are blindfolded before entering the séance room. Each one is accompanied to the table by a footman while the dead welcome them by bugle call. All of them, both the living and the dead, are distributed around the circular table. It is typical that choked giggles are heard while Mr. Pittingball steals the living’s valuable belongings such as gold watches and wallets. Once this process is finished, they are allowed to remove the bandages, but not before the room is completely left in the dark. Then trumpets are distributed among the participants and an interesting conversation based on high-pitched sounds begins where the most diverse topics can be musically treated.
This is the moment that Squattedman chooses to sneak out of the room and go in search of the famous diamond. Previously, Ward McAllister, who knows the house well for having been lost in it for two whole days, has informed him of the itinerary that he must follow so as not to cross any of Mr. Pittingball’s wives and to reach the room where the safe is located. On the way, he intersects with other disturbing characters who like him sneak around, some of them with the appearance of being lost for a long time. Thanks to McAllister’s instructions, Squattedman finds the safe. But it turns out that the safe is an old shoebox. That baffles our hero for a few moments, but then he puts to work. Carefully he opens the lid of the box and, voilà, among a lot of counterfeit money, there it is, the precious jewel, the Pittingball diamond!
Postponing the celebration for later, Squattedman goes back the way he came. But after wandering for half an hour without finding any hole to crawl out of, he becomes nervous and decides to take off his clothes and get dressed in his birthday suit. Then he squats, a blast sounds behind him, and he becomes a human ball that pops off through several ceilings, finally finding an escape route through the roof of the magnificent mansion.
The next day, a news item in “The New York Times” echoes the extraordinary manifestation of a loutish spirit during a séance in Pittingball Mansion.
TO BE CONTINUED