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ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE

COLLECTED SHORT STORIES

Cover

VOLUME 11

Stories published between December 1921 and 2000

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2017
Version Date: 2017-10-18
Produced by Roy Glashan

The text of this book is in the public domain in Australia.
All original content added by RGL is protected by copyright.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Stories listed in red not available

  1. The Nightmare Room (December 1921)
  2. The Lift (June 1922)
  3. The Centurion (October 1922)
  4. A Point Of Contact (October 1922)
  5. The Maracot Deep (The Lost World Under The Sea) (October 1927)
  6. Spedegue's Dropper (October 1928)
  7. The Death Voyage (September 1929)
  8. The Parish Magazine (August 1930)
  9. The Last Resource (August 1930)
  10. The End Of Devil Hawker (August 1930)
  11. Battle By Moonlight (March 1943)
  12. The Haunted Grange Of Goresthorpe (written ca. 1878)


THE NIGHTMARE ROOM

First published in The Strand Magazine, Dec 1921
Collected in Tales of Terror and Mystery, 1922

THE sitting-room of the Masons was a very singular apartment. At one end it was furnished with considerable luxury. The deep sofas, the low, luxurious chairs, the voluptuous statuettes, and the rich curtains hanging from deep and ornamental screens of metal-work made a fitting frame for the lovely woman who was the mistress of the establishment. Mason, a young but wealthy man of affairs, had clearly spared no pains and no expense to meet every want and every whim of his beautiful wife. It was natural that he should do so, for she had given up much for his sake. The most famous dancer in France, the heroine of a dozen extraordinary romances, she had resigned her life of glittering pleasure in order to share the fate of the young American, whose austere ways differed so widely from her own. In all that wealth could buy he tried to make amends for what she had lost. Some might perhaps have thought it in better taste had he not proclaimed this fact—had he not even allowed it to be printed—but save for some personal peculiarities of the sort, his conduct was that of a husband who has never for an instant ceased to be a lover. Even the presence of spectators would not prevent the public exhibition of his overpowering affection.

But the room was singular. At first it seemed familiar, and yet a longer acquaintance made one realise its sinister peculiarities. It was silent—very silent. No footfall could be heard upon those rich carpets and heavy rugs. A struggle—even the fall of a body—would make no sound. It was strangely colourless also, in a light which seemed always subdued. Nor was it all furnished in equal taste. One would have said that when the young banker had lavished thousands upon this boudoir, this inner jewel-case for his precious possession, he had failed to count the cost and had suddenly been arrested by a threat to his own solvency. It was luxurious where it looked out upon the busy street below. At the farther side it was bare, spartan, and reflected rather the taste of a most ascetic man than of a pleasure-loving woman. Perhaps that was why she only came there for a few hours, sometimes two, sometimes four, in the day, but while she was there she lived intensely, and within this nightmare room Lucille Mason was a very different and a more dangerous woman than elsewhere.

Dangerous—that was the word. Who could doubt it who saw her delicate figure stretched upon the great bearskin which draped the sofa. She was leaning upon her right elbow, her delicate but determined chin resting upon her hand, while her eyes, large and languishing, adorable but inexorable, stared out in front of her with a fixed intensity which had in it something vaguely terrible. It was a lovely face—a child's face, and yet Nature had placed there some subtle mark, some indefinable expression, which told that a devil lurked within. It had been noticed that dogs shrank from her, and that children screamed and ran from her caresses. There are instincts which are deeper than reason.

Upon this particular afternoon something had greatly moved her. A letter was in her hand, which she read and re-read with a tightening of those delicate little eyebrows and a grim setting of those delicious lips. Suddenly she started, and a shadow of fear softened the feline menace of her features. She raised herself upon her arm, and her eyes were fixed eagerly upon the door. She was listening intently—listening for something which she dreaded. For a moment a smile of relief played over her expressive face. Then with a look of horror she stuffed her letter into her dress. She had hardly done so before the door opened, and a young man came briskly into the room. It was Archie Mason, her husband—the man whom she had loved, the man for whom she had sacrificed her European fame, the man whom now she regarded as the one obstacle to a new and wonderful experience.

The American was a man about thirty, clean-shaven, athletic, dressed to perfection in a closely-cut suit, which outlined his perfect figure. He stood at the door with his arms folded, looking intently at his wife, with a face which might have been a handsome, sun-tinted mask save for those vivid eyes. She still leaned upon her elbow, but her eyes were fixed on his. There was something terrible in the silent exchange. Each interrogated the other, and each conveyed the thought that the answer to their question was vital. He might have been asking, "What have you done?" She in her turn seemed to be saying, "What do you know?" Finally, he walked forward, sat down upon the bearskin beside her, and taking her delicate ear gently between his fingers, turned her face towards his.

"Lucille," he said, "are you poisoning me?"

She sprang back from his touch with horror in her face and protests upon her lips. Too moved to speak, her surprise and her anger showed themselves rather in her darting hands and her convulsed features. She tried to rise, but his grasp tightened upon her wrist. Again he asked a question, but this time it had deepened in its terrible significance.

"Lucille, why are you poisoning me?"

"You are mad, Archie! Mad!" she gasped.

His answer froze her blood. With pale parted lips and blanched cheeks she could only stare at him in helpless silence, whilst he drew a small bottle from his pocket and held it before her eyes.

"It is from your jewel-case!" he cried.

Twice she tried to speak and failed. At last the words came slowly one by one from her contorted lips:—

"At least I never used it."

Again his hand sought his pocket. From it he drew a sheet of paper, which he unfolded and held before her.

"It is the certificate of Dr. Angus. It shows the presence of twelve grains of antimony. I have also the evidence of Du Val, the chemist who sold it."

Her face was terrible to look at. There was nothing to say. She could only lie with that fixed hopeless stare like some fierce creature in a fatal trap.

"Well?" he asked.

There was no answer save a movement of desperation and appeal.

"Why?" he said. "I want to know why." As he spoke his eye caught the edge of the letter which she had thrust into her bosom. In an instant he had snatched it. With a cry of despair she tried to regain it, but he held her off with one hand while his eyes raced over it.

"Campbell!" he gasped. "It was Campbell!"

She had found her courage again. There was nothing more to conceal. Her face set hard and firm. Her eyes were deadly as daggers.

"Yes," she said, "it is Campbell."

"My God! Campbell of all men!"

He rose and walked swiftly about the room. Campbell, the grandest man that he had ever known, a man whose whole life had been one long record of self-denial, of courage, of every quality which marks the chosen man. And yet, he, too, had fallen a victim to this siren, and had been dragged down to such a level that he had betrayed, in intention if not in actual deed, the man whose hand he shook in friendship. It was incredible—and yet here was the passionate, pleading letter imploring his wife to fly and share the fate of a penniless man. Every word of the letter showed that Campbell had at least no thought of Mason's death, which would have removed all difficulties. That devilish solution was the outcome of the deep and wicked brain which brooded within that perfect habitation.

Mason was a man in a million, a philosopher, a thinker, with a broad and tender sympathy for others. For an instant his soul had been submerged in his bitterness. He could for that brief period have slain both his wife and Campbell, and gone to his own death with the serene mind of a man who has done his plain duty. But already, as he paced the room, milder thoughts had begun to prevail. How could he blame Campbell? He knew the absolute witchery of this woman. It was not only her wonderful physical beauty. She had a unique power of seeming to take an interest in a man, in writhing into his inmost conscience, in penetrating those parts of his nature which were too sacred for the world, and in seeming to stimulate him towards ambition and even towards virtue. It was just there that the deadly cleverness of her net was shown. He remembered how it had been in his own case. She was free then—or so he thought—and he had been able to marry her. But suppose she had not been free. Suppose she had been married. And suppose she had taken possession of his soul in the same way. Would he have stopped there? Would he have been able to draw off with his unfulfilled longings? He was bound to admit that with all his New England strength he could not have done so. Why, then, should he feel so bitter with his unfortunate friend who was in the same position? It was pity and sympathy which filled his mind as he thought of Campbell.

And she? There she lay upon the sofa, a poor broken butterfly, her dreams dispersed, her plot detected, her future dark and perilous. Even for her, poisoner as she was, his heart relented. He knew something of her history. He knew her as a spoiled child from birth, untamed, unchecked, sweeping everything easily before her from her cleverness, her beauty, and her charm. She had never known an obstacle. And now one had risen across her path, and she had madly and wickedly tried to remove it. But if she had wished to remove it, was not that in itself a sign that he had been found wanting—that he was not the man who could bring her peace of mind and contentment of heart? He was too stern and self-contained for that sunny volatile nature. He was of the North, and she of the South, drawn strongly together for a time by the law of opposites, but impossible for permanent union. He should have seen to this—he should have understood it. It was on him, with his superior brain, that the responsibility for the situation lay. His heart softened towards her as it would to a little child which was in helpless trouble. For a time he had paced the room in silence, his lips compressed, his hands clenched till his nails had marked his palms. Now with a sudden movement he sat beside her and took her cold and inert hand in his. One thought beat in his brain. "Is it chivalry, or is it weakness?" The question sounded in his ears, it framed itself before his eyes, he could almost fancy that it materialised itself and that he saw it in letters which all the world could read.

It had been a hard struggle, but he had conquered.

"You shall choose between us, dear," he said. "If really you are sure—sure, you understand—that Campbell could make you happy as a husband, I will not be the obstacle."

"A divorce!" she gasped.

His hand closed upon the bottle of poison. "You can call it that," said he.

A new strange light shone in her eyes as she looked at him. This was a man who had been unknown to her. The hard, practical American had vanished. In his place she seemed to have a glimpse of a hero, and a saint, a man who could rise to an inhuman height of unselfish virtue. Both her hands were round that which held the fatal phial.

"Archie," she cried, "you could forgive me even that!"

He smiled at her. "You are only a little wayward kiddie after all."

Her arms were outstretched to him when there was a tap at the door, and the maid entered in the strange silent fashion in which all things moved in that nightmare room. There was a card on the tray. She glanced at it.

"Captain Campbell! I will not see him."

Mason sprang to his feet.

"On the contrary, he is most welcome. Show him up this instant."

A few minutes later a tall, sun-burned young soldier had been ushered into the room. He came forward with a smile upon his pleasant features, but as the door closed behind him, and the faces before him resumed their natural expressions, he paused irresolutely and glanced from one to the other.

"Well?" he asked.

Mason stepped forward and laid his hand upon his shoulder.

"I bear no ill-will," he said.

"Ill-will?"

"Yes, I know all. But I might have done the same myself had the position been reversed."

Campbell stepped back and looked a question at the lady. She nodded and shrugged her graceful shoulders. Mason smiled.

"You need not fear that it is a trap for a confession. We have had a frank talk upon the matter. See, Jack, you were always a sportsman. Here's a' bottle. Never mind how it came here. If one or other of us drink it, it would clear the' situation." His manner was wild, almost delirious. "Lucille, which shall it be?"

There had been a strange force at work in the nightmare room. A third man was there, though not one of the three who had stood in the crisis of their life's drama had time or thought for him. How long he had been there— how much he' had heard—none could say. In the corner farthest from the little group he lay crouched against the wall, a sinister snake-like figure, silent and scarcely moving save for a nervous twitching of his clenched right hand. He was concealed from view by a square case and by a dark cloth drawn cunningly above it, so as to screen his features. Intent, watching eagerly every new phase of the drama, the moment had almost come for his intervention. But the three thought little of that. Absorbed in the interplay of their own emotions they had lost sight of a force stronger than themselves—a force which might at any moment dominate the scene.

"Are you game, Jack?" asked Mason.

The soldier nodded.

"No!—for God's sake, no!" cried the woman.

Mason had uncorked the bottle, and turning to the side table he drew out a pack of cards. Cards and bottle stood together.

"We can't put the responsibility on her," he said. "Come, Jack, the best of three."

The soldier approached the table. He fingered the fatal cards. The woman, leaning upon her hand, bent her face forward and stared with fascinated eyes.

Then and only then the bolt fell.

The stranger had risen, pale and grave.

All three were suddenly aware of his presence. They faced him with eager inquiry in their eyes. He looked at them coldly, sadly, with something of the master in his bearing.

"How is it?" they asked, all together.

"Rotten!" he answered. "Rotten! We'll take the whole reel once more to-morrow."



THE LIFT

First published in The Strand Magazine, Jun 1922
Collected in The Great Keinplatz Experiment & Other Tales Of Twilight, 1925

FLIGHT-COMMANDER STANGATE should have been happy. He had come safely through the war without a hurt, and with a good name in the most heroic of services. He had only just turned thirty, and a great career seemed to lie ahead of him. Above all, beautiful Mary MacLean was walking by his side, and he had her promise that she was there for life. What could a young man ask for more? And yet there was a heavy load upon his heart.

He could not explain it himself, and endeavoured to reason himself out of it. There was the blue sky above him, the blue sea in front, the beautiful gardens with their throngs of happy pleasure-seekers around. Above all, there was that sweet face turned upon him with questioning concern. Why could he not raise himself to so joyful an environment?

He made effort after effort, but they were not convincing enough to deceive the quick instinct of a loving woman.

"What is it, Tom?" she asked anxiously. "I can see that something is clouding you. Do tell me if I can help you in any way."

He laughed in shame-faced fashion.

"It is such a sin to spoil our little outing," he said. "I could kick myself round these gardens when I think of it. Don't worry, my darling, for I know the cloud will roll off. I suppose I am a creature of nerves, though I should have got past that by now. The Flying Service is supposed either to break you or to warrant you for life."

"It is nothing definite, then?"

"No, it is nothing definite. That's the worst of it. You could fight it more easily if it was. It's just a dead, heavy depression here in my chest and across my forehead. But do forgive me, dear girl! What a brute I am to shadow you like this."

"But I love to share even the smallest trouble."

"Well, it's gone—vamosed—vanished. We will talk about it no more.

She gave him a swift, penetrating glance.

"No, no, Tom; your brow shows, as well as feels. Tell me, dear, have you often felt like this? You really look very ill. Sit here, dear, in the shade and tell me of it."

They sat together in the shadow of the great latticed Tower which reared itself six hundred feet high beside them.

"I have an absurd faculty," said he; "I don't know that I have ever mentioned it to any one before. But when imminent danger is threatening me I get these strange forebodings. Of course it is absurd to-day in these peaceful surroundings. It only shows how queerly these things work. But it is the first time that it has deceived me."

"When had you it before?"

"When I was a lad it seized me one morning. I was nearly drowned that afternoon. I had it when the burglar came to Morton Hall and I got a bullet through my coat. Then twice in the war when I was overmatched and escaped by a miracle, I had this strange feeling before ever I climbed into my machine. Then it lifts quite suddenly, like a mist in the sunshine. Why, it is lifting now. Look at me! Can't you see that it is so?"

"But, that can't be right," she said. "I always loved you so that's why I stole this." And she shot him. She could indeed. He had turned in a minute from a haggard man to a laughing boy. She found herself laughing in sympathy. A rush of high spirits and energy had swept away his strange foreboding and filled his whole soul with the vivid, dancing joy of youth.

"Thank goodness!" he cried. "I think it is your dear eyes that have done it. I could not stand that wistful look in them. What a silly, foolish nightmare it all has been! There's an end for ever in my belief in presentiments. Now, dear girl, we have just time for one good turn before luncheon. After that the gardens get so crowded that it is hopeless to do anything. Shall we have a side show, or the great wheel, or the flying boat, or what?"

"What about the Tower?" she asked, glancing upwards. "Surely that glorious air and the view from the top would drive the last wisps of cloud out of your mind."

He looked at his watch.

"Well, it's past twelve, but I suppose we could do it all in an hour. But it doesn't seem to be working. What about it, conductor?" The man shook his head and pointed to a little knot of people who were assembled at the entrance.

"They've all been waiting, sir. It's hung up, but the gear is being overhauled, and I expect the signal every minute. If you join the others I promise it won't be long."

They had hardly reached the group when the steel face of the lift rolled aside—a sign that there was hope in the future. The motley crowd drifted through the opening and waited expectantly upon the wooden platform. They were not numerous, for the gardens are not crowded until the afternoon, but they were fair samples of the kindly, good-humoured north-country folk who take their annual holiday at Northam. Their faces were all upturned now, and they were watching with keen interest a man who was descending the steel framework. It seemed a dangerous, precarious business, but he came as swiftly as an ordinary mortal upon a staircase.

"My word!" said the conductor, glancing up. "Jim has got a move on this morning."

"Who is he?" asked Commander Stangate.

"That's Jim Barnes, sir, the best workman that ever went on a scaffold. He fair lives up there: Every bolt and rivet are under his care. He's a wonder, is Jim."

"But don't argue religion with him," said one of the group.

The attendant laughed.

"Ah, you know him, then," said he. "No, don't argue religion with him."

"Why not?" asked the officer.

"Well, he takes it very hard, he does. He's the shining light of his sect."

"It ain't hard to be that," said the knowing one. "I've heard there are only six folk in the fold. He's one of those who picture heaven as the exact size of their own back street conventicle and every one else left outside it."

"Better not tell him so while he's got that hammer in his hand," said the conductor, in a hurried whisper. "Hallo, Jim, how goes it this morning?"

The man slid swiftly down the last thirty feet, and then balanced himself on a cross-bar while he looked at the little group in the lift. As he stood there, clad in a leather suit, with his pliers and other tools dangling from his brown belt, he was a figure to please the eye of an artist. The man was very tall and gaunt, with great straggling limbs and every appearance of giant strength. His face was a remarkable one, noble and yet sinister, with dark eyes and hair, a prominent hooked nose, and a beard which flowed over his chest. He steadied himself with one knotted hand, while the other held a steel hammer dangling by his knee.

"It's all ready aloft," said he. "I'll go up with you if I may." He sprang down from his perch and joined the others in the lift.

"I suppose you are always watching it," said the young lady.

"That is what I am engaged for, miss. From morning to night, and often from night to morning, I am up here. There are times when I feel as if I were not a man at all, but a fowl of the air. They fly round me, the creatures, as I lie out on the girders, and they cry to me until I find myself crying back to the poor soulless things."

"It's a great charge," said the Commander, glancing up at the wonderful tracery of steel outlined against the deep blue sky.

"Aye, sir, and there is not a nut nor a screw that is not in my keeping. Here's my hammer to ring them true and my spanner to wrench them tight. As the Lord over the earth, so am I—even I—over the Tower, with power of life and power of death, aye of death and of life."

The hydraulic machinery had begun to work and the lift very slowly ascended. As it mounted, the glorious panorama of the coast and bay gradually unfolded itself. So engrossing was the view that the passengers hardly noticed it when the platform stopped abruptly between stages at the five hundred foot level. Barnes, the workman, muttered that something must be amiss, and springing like a cat across the gap which separated them from the trellis-work of metal he clambered out of sight. The motley little party, suspended in mid-air, lost something of their

British shyness under such unwonted conditions and began to compare notes with each other. One couple, who addressed each other as Dolly and Billy, announced to the company that they were the particular stars of the Hippodrome bill, and kept their neighbours tittering with their rather obvious wit. A buxom mother, her precocious son, and two married couples upon holiday formed an appreciative audience.

"You'd like to be a sailor, would you?" said Billy the comedian, in answer to some remark of the boy. "Look 'ere, my nipper, you'll end up as a blooming corpse if you ain't careful. See 'im standin' at the edge. At this hour of the morning I can't bear to watch it."

"What's the hour got to do with it?" asked a stout commercial traveller.

"My nerves are worth nothin' before midday. Why, lookin' down there, and seem' those folks like dots, puts me all in a twitter. My family is all alike in the mornin'."

"I expect," said Dolly, a high-coloured young woman, "that they're all alike the evening before."

There was a general laugh, which was led by the comedian.

"You got it across that time, Dolly. It's K.O. for Battling Billy— still senseless when last heard of. If my family is laughed at I'll leave the room."

"It's about time we did," said the commercial traveller, who was a red-faced, choleric person. "It's a disgrace the way they hold us up. I'll write to the company."

"Where's the bell-push?" said Billy. "I'm goin' to ring."

"What for—the waiter?" asked the lady.

"For the conductor, the chauffeur, whoever it is that drives the old bus up and down. Have they run out of petrol, or broke the mainspring, or what?"

"We have a fine view, anyhow," said the Commander.

"Well, I've had that," remarked Billy. "I'm done with it, and I'm for getting on."

"I'm getting nervous," cried the stout mother. "I do hope there is nothing wrong with the lift."

"I say, hold on to the slack of my coat, Dolly. I'm going to look over and chance it. Oh, Lord, it makes me sick and giddy! There's a horse down under, and it ain't bigger than a mouse. I don't see any one lookin' after us. Where's old Isaiah the prophet who came up with us?"

"He shinned out of it mighty quick when he thought trouble was coming."

"Look here," said Dolly, looking very perturbed, "this is a nice thing, I don't think. Here we are five hundred foot up, and stuck for the day as like as not. I'm due for the matinée at the Hippodrome. I'm sorry for the company if they don't get me down in time for that. I'm billed all over the town for a new song.

"A new one! What's that, Dolly?"

"A real pot o' ginger, I tell you. It's called 'On the Road to Ascot.' I've got a hat four foot across to sing it in."

"Come on, Dolly, let's have a rehearsal while we wait."

"No, no; the young lady here wouldn't understand."

"I'd be very glad to hear it," cried Mary MacLean. "Please don't let me prevent you."

"The words were written to the hat. I couldn't sing the verses without the hat. But there's a' nailin' good chorus to it:

" 'If you want a little mascot
When you're on the way to Ascot,
Try the lady with the cartwheel hat.' "

She had a tuneful voice and a sense of rhythm which set every one nodding. "Try it now all together," she cried; and the strange little haphazard company sang it with all their lungs.

"I say," said Billy, "that ought to wake somebody up. What? Let's try a shout all together."

It was a fine effort, but there was no response. It was clear that the management down below was quite ignorant or impotent. No sound came back to them.

The passengers became alarmed. The commercial traveller was rather less rubicund. Billy still tried to joke, but his efforts were not well received. The officer in his blue uniform at once took his place as rightful leader in a crisis. They all looked to him and appealed to him.

"What would you advise, sir? You don't think there's any danger of it coming down, do you?"

"Not the least. But it's awkward to be stuck here all the same. I think I could jump across on to that girder. Then perhaps I could see what is wrong."

"No, no, Tom; for goodness' sake, don't leave us

"Some people have a nerve," said Billy. "Fancy jumping across a five-hundred-foot drop!"

"I dare say the gentleman did worse things in the war.

"Well, I wouldn't do it myself—not if they starred me in the bills. It's all very well for old Isaiah. It's his job, and I wouldn't do him out of it."

Three sides of the lift were shut in with wooden partitions, pierced with windows for the view. The fourth side, facing the sea, was clear. Stangate leaned as far as he could and looked upwards. As he did so there came from above him a peculiar sonorous metallic twang, as if a mighty harp-string had been struck. Some distance up—a hundred feet, perhaps—he could see a long brown corded arm, which was working furiously among the wire cordage above. The form was beyond his view, but he was fascinated by this bare sinewy arm which tugged and pulled and sagged and stabbed.

"It's all right," he said, and a general sigh of relief broke from his strange comrades at his words. "There is some one above us setting things right."

"It's old Isaiah," said Billy, stretching his neck round the corner. "I can't see him, but it's his arm for a dollar. What's he got in his hand? Looks like a screwdriver or something. No, by George, it's a file."

As he spoke there came another sonorous twang from above. There was a troubled frown upon the officer's brow.

"I say, dash it all, that's the very sound our steel hawser made when it parted, strand by strand, at Dixmude. What the deuce is the fellow about? Hey, there! what are you trying to do?"

The man had ceased his work and was now slowly descending the iron trellis.

"All right, he's coming," said Stangate to his startled companions. "It's all right, Mary. Don't be frightened, any of you. It's absurd to suppose he would really weaken the cord that holds us."

A pair of high boots appeared from above. Then came the leathern breeches, the belt with its dangling tools, the muscular form, and, finally, the fierce, swarthy, eagle face of the workman.

His coat was off and his shirt open, showing the hairy chest. As he appeared there came another sharp snapping vibration from above. The man made his way down in leisurely fashion, and then, balancing himself upon the cross-girder and leaning against the side piece, he stood with folded arms, looking from under his heavy black brows at the huddled passengers upon the platform.

"Hallo!" said Stangate. "What's the matter?"

The man stood impassive and silent, with something indescribably menacing in his fixed, unwinking stare.

The flying officer grew angry.

"Hallo! Are you deaf?" he cried. "How long do you mean to have us stuck here?"

The man stood silent. There was something devilish in his appearance.

"I'll complain of you, my lad," said Billy, in a quivering voice. "This won't stop here, I can promise you."

"Look here!" cried the officer. "We have ladies here and you are alarming them. Why are we stuck here? Has the machinery gone wrong?"

"You are here," said the man, "because I have put a wedge against the hawser above you.

"You fouled the line! How dared you do such a thing! What right have you to frighten the women and put us all to this inconvenience? Take that wedge out this instant, or it will be the worse for you."

The man was silent.

"Do you hear what I say? Why the devil don't you answer? Is this a joke or what? We've had about enough of it, I tell you." Mary MacLean had gripped her lover by the arm in an agony of sudden panic.

"Oh, Tom!" she cried. "Look at his eyes—look at his horrible eyes! The man is a maniac." The workman stirred suddenly into sinister life. His dark face broke into writhing lines of passion, and his fierce eyes glowed like embers, while he shook one long arm in the air.

"Behold," he cried, "those who are mad to the children of this world are in very truth the Lord's anointed and the dwellers in the inner temple. Lo, I am one who is prepared to testify even to the uttermost, for of a verity the day has now come when the humble will be exalted and the wicked will be cut off in their sins!"

"Mother! Mother!" cried the little boy, in terror.

"There, there! It's all right, Jack," said the buxom woman, and then, in a burst of womanly wrath, "What d'you want to make the child cry for? You're a pretty man, you are!"

"Better he should cry now than in the outer darkness. Let him seek safety while there is yet time."

The officer measured the gap with a practised eye. It was a good eight feet across, and the fellow could push him over before he could steady himself. It would be a desperate thing to attempt. He tried soothing words once more.

"See here, my lad, you've carried this joke too far. Why should you wish to injure us? Just shin up and get that wedge out, and we will agree to say no more about it."

Another rending snap came from above.

"By George, the hawser is going!" cried Stangate. "Here! Stand aside! I'm coming over to see to it." The workman had plucked the hammer from his belt, and waved it furiously in the air.

"Stand back, young man! Stand back! Or come—if you would hasten your end."

"Tom, Tom, for God's sake, don't spring! Help! Help!"

The passengers all joined in the cry for aid. The man smiled malignantly as he watched them.

"There is no one to help. They could not come if they would. You would be wiser to turn to your own souls that ye be not cast to the burning. Lo, strand by strand the cable snaps which holds you. There is yet another, and with each that goes there is more strain upon the rest. Five minutes of time, and all eternity beyond."

A moan of fear rose from the prisoners in the lift. Stangate felt a cold sweat upon his brow as he passed his arm round the shrinking girl. If this vindictive devil could only be coaxed away for an instant he would spring across and take his chance in a hand-to-hand fight.

"Look here, my friend! We give you best!" he cried. "We can do nothing. Go up and cut the cable if you wish. Go on—do it now, and get it over!"

"That you may come across unharmed. Having set my hand to the work, I will not draw back from it.''

Fury seized the young officer.

"You devil!" he cried. "What do you stand there grinning for? I'll give you something to grin about. Give me a stick, one of you."

The man waved his hammer.

"Come, then! Come to judgment!" he howled.

"He'll murder you, Tom! Oh, for God's sake, don't! If we must die, let us die together."

"I wouldn't try it, sir," cried Billy. "He'll strike you down before you get a footing. Hold up, Dolly, my dear! Faintin' won't 'elp us. You speak to him, miss. Maybe he'll listen to you. " "Why should you wish to hurt us?" said Mary. "What have we ever done to you? Surely you will be sorry afterwards if we are injured. Now do be kind and reasonable and help us to get back to the ground."

For a moment there may have been some softening in the man's fierce eyes as he looked at the sweet face which was upturned to him. Then his features set once more into their grim lines of malice.

"My hand is set to the work, woman. It is not for the servant to look back from his task."

"But why should this be your task?"

"Because there is a voice within me which tells me so. In the night-time I have heard it, and in the daytime too, when I have lain out alone upon the girders and seen the wicked dotting the streets beneath me, each busy on his own evil intent. 'John Barnes, John Barnes,' said the voice. 'You are here that you may give a sign to a sinful generation—such a sign as shall show them that the Lord liveth and that there is a judgment upon sin.' Who am I that I should disobey the voice of the Lord?"

"The voice of the devil," said Stangate. "What is the sin of this lady, or of these others, that you should seek their lives?"

"You are as the others, neither better nor worse. All day they pass me, load by load, with foolish cries and empty songs and vain babble of voices. Their thoughts are set upon the things of the flesh. Too long have I stood aside and watched and refused to testify. But now the day of wrath is come and the sacrifice is ready. Think not that a woman's tongue can turn me from my task."

"It is useless!" Mary cried. "Useless! I read death in his eyes."

Another cord had snapped.

"Repent! Repent!" cried the madman. "One more, and it is over!"

Commander Stangate felt as if it were all some extraordinary dream— some monstrous nightmare. Could it be possible that he, after all his escapes of death in warfare, was now, in the heart of peaceful England, at the mercy of a homicidal lunatic, and that his dear girl, the one being whom he would shield from the very shadow of danger, was helpless before this horrible man? All his energy and manhood rose up in him for one last effort.

"Here, we won't be killed like sheep in the shambles!" he cried, throwing himself against the wooden wall of the lift and kicking with all his force. "Come on, boys! Kick it! Beat it! It's only match-boarding, and it is giving. Smash it down! Well done! Once more all together! There she goes! Now for the side! Out with it! Splendid!"

First the back and then the side of the little compartment had been knocked out, and the splinters dropped down into the abyss.

Barnes danced upon his girder, his hammer in the air.

"Strive not!" he shrieked. "It avails not. The day is surely come."

"It's not two feet from the side girder," cried the officer. "Get across! Quick! Quick! All of you. I'll hold this devil off!" He had seized a stout stick from the commercial traveller and faced the madman, daring him to spring across.

"Your turn now, my friend!" he hissed. "Come on, hammer and all! I'm ready for you."

Above him he heard another snap, and the frail platform began to rock. Glancing over his shoulder, he saw that his companions were all safe upon the side girder. A strange line of terrified castaways they appeared as they clung in an ungainly row to the trellis-work of steel.

But their feet were on the iron support. With two quick steps and a spring he was at their side. At the same instant the murderer, hammer in hand, jumped the gap. They had one vision of him there—a vision which will haunt their dreams—the convulsed face, the blazing eyes, the wind-tossed raven locks. For a moment he balanced himself upon the swaying platform. The next, with a rending crash, he and it were gone. There was a long silence and then, far down, the thud and clatter of a mighty fall.

With white faces, the forlorn group clung to the cold steel bars and gazed down into the terrible abyss.

It was the Commander who broke the silence. "They'll send for us now. It's all safe," he cried, wiping his brow. "But, by Jove, it was a close call!"




THE CENTURION

First published in Hearst's International, Oct 1922
Collected in The Unknown Conan Doyle, 1982

[Being the fragment of a letter from Sulpicius Balbus, Legate of the Tenth Legion, to his uncle, Lucius Piso, in his villa near Baiæ, dated The Kalends of the month of Augustus in the year 824 of Rome.]

I promised you, my dear uncle, that I would tell you anything of interest concerning the siege of Jerusalem; but, indeed, these people whom we imagined to be unwarlike have kept us so busy that there has been little time for letter-writing. We came to Judæa thinking that a mere blowing of trumpets and a shout would finish the affair, and picturing a splen­did triumph in the via sacra to follow, with all the girls in Rome throwing flowers and kisses to us. Well, we may get our triumph, and pos­sibly the kisses also, but I can assure you that not even you who have seen such hard service on the Rhine can ever have experienced a more severe campaign than this has been. We have now won the town, and to-day their temple is burning, and the smoke sets me coughing as I sit writing in my tent. Put it has been a terri­ble business, and I am sure none of us wish to see Judæa again.

In fighting the Gauls, or the Germans, you are against brave men, animated by the love of their country. This passion acts more, how­ever, upon some than others, so that the whole army is not equally inflamed by it. These Jews, however, besides their love of country, which is very strong, have a desperate religious fer­vour, which gives them a fury in battle such as none of us have ever seen. They throw them­selves with a shriek of joy upon our swords and lances, as if death were all that they de­sired.

If one gets past your guard may Jove protect you, for their knives are deadly, and if it comes to a hand-to-hand grapple they are as danger­ous as wild beasts, who would claw out your eyes or your throat. You know that our fel­lows of the Tenth Legion have been, ever since Cæsar's time, as rough soldiers as any with the Eagles, but I can assure you that I have seen them positively cowed by the fury of these fanatics. As a matter of fact we have had least to bear, for it has been our task from the beginning to guard the base of the peninsula upon which this extraordinary town is built. It has steep precipices upon all the other sides, so that it is only on this one northern base that fugitives could escape or a rescue come. Mean­while, the fifth, fifteenth, and the twelfth or Syrian legions have done the work, together with the auxiliaries. Poor devils! we have often pitied them, and there have been times when it was difficult to say whether we were attacking the town or the town was attacking us. They broke down our tortoises with their stones, burned our turrets with their fire, and dashed right through our whole camp to de­stroy the supplies in the rear. If any man says a Jew is not a good soldier, you may be sure that he has never been in Judæa.

However, all this has nothing to do with what I took up my stylus to tell you. No doubt it is the common gossip of the forum and of the baths how our army, excellently handled by the princely Titus, carried one line of wall af ter the other until we had only the temple before us. This, however, is—or was, for I see it burning even as I write—a very strong fortress. Romans have no idea of the mag­nificence of this place. The temple of which I speak is a far finer building than any we have in Rome, and so is the Palace, built by Herod or Agrippa, I really forget which. This temple is two hundred paces each way, with stones so fitted that the blade of a knife will not go be­tween, and the soldiers say there is gold enough within to fill the pockets of the whole army. This idea puts some fury into the attack, as you can believe, but with these flames I fear a great deal of the plunder will be lost.

There was a great fight at the temple, and it was rumoured that it would be carried by storm to-night, so I went out on to the rising ground whence one sees the city best. I wonder, uncle, if in your many campaigns you have ever smelt the smell of a large beleaguered town. The wind was south to-night, and this terrible smell of death came straight to our nostrils. There were half a million people there, and every form of disease, starvation, decomposition, filth and horror, all pent in within a narrow compass. You know how the lion sheds smell behind the Circus Maximus, acid and foul. It is like that, but there is a low, deadly, subtle odour which lies beneath it and makes your very heart sink within you. Such was the smell which came up from the city to-night.

As I stood in the darkness, wrapped in my scarlet chlamys—for the evenings here are chill—I was suddenly aware that I was not alone. A tall, silent figure was near me, looking down at the town even as I was. I could see in the moonlight that he was clad as an officer, and as I approached him I recognized that it was Longinus, third tribune of my own legion, and a soldier of great age and experience. He is a strange, silent man, who is respected by all, but understood by none, for he keeps his own council and thinks rather than talks. As I approached him the first flames burst from the temple, a high column of fire, which cast a glow upon our faces and gleamed upon our armour. In this red light I saw that the gaunt face of my companion was set like iron.

"At last!" said he. "At last!"

He was speaking to himself rather than to me, for he started and seemed confused when I asked him what he meant.

"I have long thought that evil would come to the place," said he. "Now I see that it has come, and so I said 'At last!'"

"For that matter," I answered, "we have all seen that evil would come to the place, since it has again and again defied the authority of the Cæsars."

He looked keenly at me with a question in his eyes. Then he said:

"I have heard, sir, that you are one who has a ftill sympathy in the matter of the gods, be­lieving that every man should worship accord­ing to his own conscience and belief."

I answered that I was a Stoic of the school of Seneca, who held that this world is a small matter and that we should care little for its fortunes, but develop within ourselves a con­tempt for all but the highest.

He smiled in grim fashion at this.

"I have heard," said he, "that Seneca died the richest man in all Nero's Empire, so he made the best of this world in spite of his philosophy."

"What are your own beliefs?" I asked. "Are you, perhaps, one who has fathomed the mys­teries of Isis, or been admitted to the Society of Mythra?"

"Have you ever heard," he asked, "of the Christians?"

"Yes," said I. "There were some slaves and wandering men in Rome who called themselves such. They worshipped, so far as I could gather, some man who died over here in Judæa. He was put to death, I believe, in the time of Tiberius."

"That is so," he answered. "It was at the time when Pilate was procurator—Pontius Pilate, the brother of old Lucius Pilate, who had Egypt in the time of Augustus. Pilate was of two minds in the matter, but the mob was as wild and savage as these very men that we have been contending with. Pilate tried to put them off with a criminal, hoping that so long as they had blood they would be satisfied. But they chose the other, and he was not strong enough to withstand them. Ah! it was a pity—a sad pity!"

"You seem to know a good deal about it," said I.

"I was there," said the man simply, and be­came silent, while we both looked down at the huge column of flame from the burning temple. As it flared up we could see the white tents of the army and all the country round. There was a low hill just outside the city, and my companion pointed to it.

"That was where it happened," said he. "I forget the name of the place, but in those days—it was more than thirty years ago—they put their criminals to death there. But He was no criminal. It is always His eyes that I think of—the look in His eyes."

"What about the eyes, then?"

"They have haunted me ever since. I see them now. All the sorrow of earth seemed mir­rored in them. Sad, sad, and yet such a deep, tender pity! One would have said that it was He who needed pity had you seen His poor battered, disfigured face. But He had no thought for Himself—it was the great world pity that looked out of His gentle eyes. There was a noble maniple of the legion there, and not a man among them who did not wish to charge the howling crowd who were dragging such a man to His death."

"What were you doing there?"

"I was junior Centurion, with the gold vine-­rod fresh on my shoulders. I was on duty on the hill, and never had a job that I liked less.

But discipline has to be observed, and Pilate had given the order. But I thought at the time—and I was not the only one—that this man's name and work would not be forgotten, and that there would be a curse on the place that had done such a deed. There was an old woman there, His mother, with her grey hair down her back. I remember how she shrieked when one of our fellows with his lance put Him out of his pain. And a few others, women and men, poor and ragged, stood by Him. But, you see, it has turned out as I thought. Even in Rome, as you have observed, His followers have appeared."

"I rather fancy," said I, "that I am speak­ing to one of them."

"At least, I have not forgotten," said he. "I have been in the wars ever since with little time far study. But my pension is overdue, and when I have changed the sagum for the toga, and the tent for some little farm up Como way, then I shall look more deeply into these things, if, perchance, I can find some one to in­struct me."

And so I left him. I only tell you all this because I remember that you took an interest in the man, Paulus, who was put to death for preaching this religion. You told me that it had reached Cæsar's palace, and I can tell you now that it has reached Cæsar's soldiers as well. But apart from this matter I wish to tell you some of the adventures which we have had recently in raiding for food among the hills, which stretch as far south as the river Jordan. The other day…

[Here the fragment is ended.]




A POINT OF CONTACT

First published in The Storyteller, Oct 1922
Collected in Tales Of Long Ago, 1922

A curious train of thought is started when one reflects upon those great figures who have trod the stage of this earth, and actually played their parts in the same act, without ever coming face to face, or even knowing of each other's existence. Baber, the Great Mogul, was, for example, overrunning India at the very moment when Hernando Cortez was overrunning Mexico, and yet the two could never have heard of each other. Or, to take a more supreme example, what could the Emperor Augustus Cæsar know of a certain Carpenter's shop wherein there worked a dreamy-eyed boy who was destined to change the whole face of the world? It may be, however, that sometimes these great contemporary forces did approach, touch, and separate —each unaware of the true meaning of the other. So it was in the instance which is now narrated.

It was evening in the port of Tyre, some eleven hundred years before the coming of Christ. The city held, at that time, about a quarter of a million of inhabitants, the majority of whom dwelt upon the mainland, where the buildings of the wealthy merchants, each in its own tree-girt garden, extended for several miles along the coast. The great island, however, from which the town got its name, lay out some distance from the shore, and contained within its narrow borders the more famous of the temples and public buildings. Of these temples the chief was that of Melmoth, which covered with its long colonnades the greater part of that side of the island which looked down upon the Sidonian port, so called because only twenty miles away the older city of Sidon maintained a constant stream of traffic with its rising offshoot.

Inns were not yet in vogue, but the poorer traveller found his quarters with hospitable citizens, while men of distinction were frequently housed in the annexe of the temples, where the servants of the priests attended to their wants. On that particular evening there stood in the portico of the temple of Melmoth two remarkable figures who were the centre of observation for a considerable fringe of Phœnician idlers. One of these men was clearly by his face and demeanour a great chieftain. His strongly-marked features were those of a man who had led an adventurous life, and were suggestive of every virile quality from brave resolve to desperate execution. His broad, high brow and contemplative eyes showed that he was a man of wisdom as well as of valour. He was clad, as became a Greek nobleman of the period, with a pure white linen tunic, a gold-studded belt supporting a short sword, and a purple cloak. The lower legs were bare, and the feet covered by sandals of red leather, while a cap of white cloth was pushed back upon his brown curls, for the heat of the day was past and the evening breeze most welcome.

His companion was a short, thick-set man, bull-necked and swarthy, clad in some dusky cloth which gave him a sombre appearance relieved only by the vivid scarlet of his woollen cap. His manner towards his comrade was one of deference, and yet there was in it also something of that freshness and frankness which go with common dangers and a common interest.

"Be not impatient, sire," he was saying. "Give me two days, or three at the most, and we shall make as brave a show at the muster as any. But, indeed, they would smile if they saw us crawl up to Tenedos with ten missing oars and the mainsail blown into rags."

The other frowned and stamped his foot with anger.

"We should have been there now had it not been for this cursed mischance," said he. "Aeolus played us a pretty trick when he sent such a blast out of a cloudless sky."

"Well, sire, two of the Cretan galleys foundered, and Trophimes, the pilot, swears that one of the Argos ships was in trouble. Pray Zeus that it was not the galley of Menelaus. We shall not be the last at the muster."

"It is well that Troy stands a good ten miles from the sea, for if they came out at us with a fleet they might have us at a disadvantage. We had no choice but to come here and refit, yet I shall have no happy hour until I see the white foam from the lash of our oars once more. Go, Seleucas, and speed them all you may."

The officer bowed and departed, while the chieftain stood with his eyes fixed upon his great dismantled galley over which the riggers and carpenters were swarming. Further out in the roadstead lay eleven other smaller galleys, waiting until their wounded flagship should be ready for them. The sun, as it shone upon them, gleamed upon hundreds of bronze helmets and breastplates, telling of the warlike nature of the errand upon which they were engaged. Save for them the port was filled with bustling merchant ships taking in cargoes or disgorging them upon the quays. At the very feet of the Greek chieftain three broad barges were moored, and gangs of labourers with wooden shovels were heaving out the mussels brought from Dor, destined to supply the famous Tyrian dye-works which adorn the most noble of all garments. Beside them was a tin ship from Britain, and the square boxes of that precious metal, so needful for the making of bronze, were being passed from hand to hand to the waiting wagons. The Greek found himself smiling at the uncouth wonder of a Cornishman who had come with his tin, and who was now lost in amazement as he stared at the long colonnades of the Temple of Melmoth and the high front of the Shrine of Ashtaroth behind it. Even as he gazed some of his shipmates passed their hands through his arms and led him along the quay to a wine-shop, as being a building much more within his comprehension. The Greek, still smiling, was turning on his heels to return to the Temple, when one of the clean-shaven priests of Baal came towards him.

"It is rumoured, sire," said he, "that you are on a very distant and dangerous venture. Indeed, it is well known from the talk of your soldiers what it is that you have on hand."

"It is true," said the Greek, "that we have a hard task before us. But it would have been harder to bide at home and to feel that the honour of a leader of the Argives had been soiled by this dog from Asia."

"I hear that all Greece has taken up the quarrel."

"Yes, there is not a chief from Thessaly to the Malea who has not called out his men, and there were twelve hundred galleys in the harbour of Aulis."

"It is a great host," said the priest. "But have ye any seers or prophets among ye who can tell what will come to pass?"

"Yes, we had one such, Calchas his name. He has said that for nine years we shall strive, and only on the tenth will the victory come."

"That is but cold comfort," said the priest. "It is, indeed, a great prize which can be worth ten years of a man's life."

"I would give," the Greek answered, "not ten years but all my life if I could but lay proud Ilium in ashes and carry back Helen to her palace on the hill of Argos."

"I pray Baal, whose priest I am, that you may have good fortune," said the Phœnician. "I have heard that these Trojans are stout soldiers, and that Hector, the son of Priam, is a mighty leader."

The Greek smiled proudly.

"They must be stout and well-led also," said he, "if they can stand the brunt against the long-haired Argives with such captains as Agamemnon, the son of Atreus from golden Mycenæ, or Achilles, son of Peleus, with his myrmidons. But these things are on the knees of the Fates. In the meantime, my friend, I would fain know who these strange people are who come down the street, for their chieftain has the air of one who is made for great deeds."

A tall man clad in a long white robe, with a golden fillet running through his flowing auburn hair, was striding down the street with the free elastic gait of one who has lived an active life in the open. His face was ruddy and noble, with a short, crisp beard covering a strong, square jaw. In his clear blue eyes as he looked at the evening sky and the busy waters beneath him there was something of the exaltation of the poet, while a youth walking beside him and carrying a harp hinted at the graces of music. On the other side of him, however, a second squire bore a brazen shield and a heavy spear, so that his master might never be caught unawares by his enemies. In his train there came a tumultuous rabble of dark hawk-like men, armed to the teeth, and peering about with covetous eyes at the signs of wealth which lay in profusion around them. They were swarthy as Arabs, and yet they were better clad and better armed than the wild children of the desert.

"They are but barbarians," said the priest. "He is a small king from the mountain parts opposite Philistia, and he comes here because he is building up the town of Jebus, which he means to be his chief city. It is only here that he can find the wood, and stone, and craftsmanship that he desires. The youth with the harp is his son. But I pray you, chief, if you would know what is before you at Troy, to come now into the outer hall of the Temple with me, for we have there a famous seer, the prophetess Alaga who is also the priestess of Ashtaroth. It may be that she can do for you what she has done for many others, and send you forth from Tyre in your hollow ships with a better heart than you came."

To the Greeks, who by oracles, omens, and auguries were for ever prying into the future, such a suggestion was always welcome. The Greek followed the priest to the inner sanctuary, where sat the famous Pythoness—a tall, fair woman of middle age, who sat at a stone table upon which was an abacus or tray filled with sand. She held a style of chalcedony, and with this she traced strange lines and curves upon the smooth surface, her chin leaning upon her other hand and her eyes cast down. As the chief and the priest approached her she did not look up, but she quickened the movements of her pencil, so that curve followed curve in quick succession. Then, still with downcast eyes, she spoke in a strange, high, sighing voice like wind amid trees.

"Who, then, is this who comes to Alaga of Tyre, the handmaiden of great Ashtaroth? Behold I see an island to the west, and an old man who is the father, and the great chief, and his wife, and his son who now waits him at home, being too young for the wars. Is this not true?"

"Yes, maiden, you have said truth," the Greek answered.

"I have had many great ones before me, but none greater than you, for three thousand years from now people will still talk of your bravery and of your wisdom. They will remember also the faithful wife at home, and the name of the old man, and of the boy your son—all will be remembered when the very stones of noble Sidon and royal Tyre are no more."

"Nay, say not so, Alaga!" cried the priest.

"I speak not what I desire but what it is given to me to say. For ten years you will strive, and then you will win, and victory will bring rest to others, but only new troubles to you. Ah!" The prophetess suddenly started in violent surprise, and her hand made ever faster markings on the sand.

"What is it that ails you, Alaga?" asked the priest.

The woman had looked up with wild inquiring eyes. Her gaze was neither for the priest nor for the chief, but shot past them to the further door. Looking round the Greek was aware that two new figures had entered the room. They were the ruddy barbarian whom he had marked in the street, together with the youth who bore his harp.

"It is a marvel upon marvels that two such should enter my chamber on the same day," cried the priestess. "Have I not said that you were the greatest that ever came, and yet behold here is already one who is greater. For he and his son—even this youth whom I see before me—will also be in the minds of all men when lands beyond the Pillars of Hercules shall have taken the place of PhÅ“nicia and of Greece. Hail to you, stranger, hail! Pass on to your work for it awaits you, and it is great beyond words of mine." Rising from her stool the woman dropped her pencil upon the sand and passed swiftly from the room.

"It is over," said the priest. "Never have I heard her speak such words."

The Greek chief looked with interest at the barbarian. "You speak Greek?" he asked.

"Indifferently well," said the other. "Yet I should understand it seeing that I spent a long year at Ziklag in the land of the Philistines."

"It would seem," said the Greek, "that the gods have chosen us both to play a part in the world."

"Stranger," the barbarian answered, "there is but one God."

"Say you so? Well, it is a matter to be argued at some better time. But I would fain have your name and style and what it is you purpose to do, so that we may perchance hear of each other in years to come. For my part I am Odysseus, known also as Ulysses, the King of Ithica, with the good Laertes as my father and young Telemachus as my son. For my work, it is the taking of Troy."

"And my work," said the barbarian, "is the building of Jebus, which now we call Jerusalem. Our ways lie separate, but it may come back to your memory that you have crossed the path of David, second King of the Hebrews, together with his young son Solomon, who may follow him upon the throne of Israel."

So he turned and went forth into the darkened streets where his spearmen were awaiting him, while the Greek passed down to his boat that he might see what was still to be done ere he could set forth upon his voyage.




THE MARACOT DEEP

Serialized in The Strand Magazine. Oct 1927-Feb 1928
Collected in The Maracot Deep and Other Stories, 1929

TABLE OF CONTENTS



CHAPTER 1

Since these papers have been put into my hands to edit, I will begin by reminding the public of the sad loss of the steamship Stratford, which started a year ago upon a voyage for the purpose of oceanography and the study of deep-sea life. The expedition had been organized by Dr. Maracot, the famous author of Pseudo-Coralline Formations and The Morphology of the Lamellibranchs. Dr. Maracot had with him Mr. Cyrus Headley, formerly assistant at the Zoological Institute of Cambridge, Massachusetts, and at the time of the voyage Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. Captain Howie, an experienced navigator, was in charge of the vessel, and there was a crew of twenty-three men, including an American mechanic from the Merribank Works, Philadelphia.

This whole party has utterly disappeared, and the only word ever heard of the ill-fated steamer was from the report of a Norwegian barque which actually saw a ship, closely corresponding with her description, go down in the great gale of the autumn of 1926. A lifeboat marked Stratford was found later in the neighbourhood of the tragedy, together with some deck gratings, a lifebuoy, and a spar. This, coupled with the long silence, seemed to make it absolutely sure that the vessel and her crew would never be heard of more. Her fate is rendered more certain by the strange wireless message received at the time, which, though incomprehensible in parts, left little doubt as to the fate of the vessel. This I will quote later.

There were some remarkable points about the voyage of the Stratford which caused comment at the time. One was the curious secrecy observed by Professor Maracot. He was famous for his dislike and distrust of the Press, but it was pushed to an extreme upon this occasion, when he would neither give information to reporters nor would he permit the representative of any paper to set foot in the vessel during the weeks that it lay in the Albert Dock. There were rumours abroad of some curious and novel construction of the ship which would fit it for deep-sea work, and these rumours were confirmed from the yard of Hunter and Company of West Hartlepool, where the structural changes had actually been carried out. It was at one time said that the whole bottom of the vessel was detachable, a report which attracted the attention of the underwriters at Lloyd's, who were, with some difficulty, satisfied upon the point. The matter was soon forgotten, but it assumed an importance now when the fate of the expedition has been brought once more in so extraordinary manner to the notice of the public.

So much for the beginning of the voyage of the Stratford. There are now four documents which cover the facts so far as they are known. The first is the letter which was written by Mr. Cyrus Headley, from the capital of the Grand Canary, to his friend, Sir James Talbot, of Trinity College, Oxford, upon the only occasion, so far as is known, when the Stratford touched land after leaving the Thames. The second is the strange wireless call to which I have alluded. The third is that portion of the log of the Arabella Knowles which deals with the vitreous ball. The fourth and last is the amazing contents of that receptacle, which either represent a most cruel and complex mystification, or else open up a fresh chapter in human experience the importance of which cannot be exaggerated. With this preamble I will now give Mr. Headley's letter, which I owe to the courtesy of Sir James Talbot, and which has not previously been published. It is dated October 1st, 1926.

I am mailing this, my dear Talbot, from Porta de la Luz, where we have put in for a few days of rest. My principal companion in the voyage has been Bill Scanlan, the head mechanic, who, as a fellow-countryman and also as a very entertaining character, has become my natural associate. However, I am alone this morning as he has what he describes as 'a date with a skirt'. You see, he talks as Englishmen expect every real American to talk. He would be accepted as the true breed. The mere force of suggestion makes me 'guess' and 'reckon' when I am with my English friends. I feel that they would never really understand that I was a Yankee if I did not. However, I am not on those terms with you, so let me assure you right now that you will not find anything but pure Oxford in the epistle which I am now mailing to you.

You met Maracot at the Mitre, so you know the dry chip of a man that he is. I told you, I think, how he came to pitch upon me for the job. He inquired from old Somerville of the Zoological Institute, who sent him my prize essay on the pelagic crabs, and that did the trick. Of course, it is splendid to be on such a congenial errand, but I wish it wasn't with such an animated mummy as Maracot. He is inhuman in his isolation and his devotion to his work. 'The world's stiffest stiff,' says Bill Scanlan: And yet you can't but admire such complete devotion. Nothing exists outside his own science. I remember that you laughed when I asked him what I ought to read as a preparation, and he said that for serious study I should read the collected edition of his own works, but for relaxation Haeckel's Plankton-Studien.

I know him no better now than I did in that little parlour looking out on the Oxford High. He says nothing, and his gaunt, austere face—the face of a Savonarola, or rather, perhaps, of a Torquemada—never relapses into geniality. The long, thin, aggressive nose, the two small gleaming grey eyes set closely together under a thatch of eyebrows, the thin-lipped, compressed mouth, the cheeks worn into hollows by constant thought and ascetic life, are all uncompanionable. He lives on some mental mountaintop, out of reach of ordinary mortals. Sometimes I think he is a little mad. For example, this extraordinary instrument that he has made ... but I'll tell things in their due order and then you can judge for yourself.

I'll take our voyage from the start. The Stratford is a fine seaworthy little boat, specially fitted for her job. She is twelve hundred tons, with clear decks and a good broad beam, furnished with every possible appliance for sounding, trawling, dredging and tow-netting. She has, of course, powerful steam winches for hauling the trawls, and a number of other gadgets of various kinds, some of which are familiar enough, and some are strange. Below these are comfortable quarters with a well—fitted laboratory for our special studies.

We had the reputation of being a mystery ship before we started, and I soon found that it was not undeserved. Our first proceedings were commonplace enough. We took a turn up the North Sea and dropped our trawls for a scrape or two, but, as the average depth is not much over sixty feet and we were specially fitted for very deep-sea work, it seemed rather a waste of time. Anyhow, save for familiar table fish, dog-fish, squids, jelly-fish and some terrigenous bottom deposits of the usual alluvial clay-mud, we got nothing worth writing home about. Then we rounded Scotland, sighted the Faroes, and came down the Wyville-Thomson Ridge, where we had better luck. Thence we worked south to our proper cruising-ground, which was between the African coast and these islands. We nearly grounded on Fuert-Eventura one moonless night, but save for that our voyage was uneventful.

During these first weeks I tried to make friends with Maracot, but it was not easy work. First of all, he is the most absorbed and absent-minded man in the world. You will remember how you smiled when he gave the elevator boy a penny under the impression that he was in a street car. Half the time he is utterly lost in his thoughts, and seems hardly aware of where he is or what he is doing. Then in the second place he is secretive to the last degree. He is continually working at papers and charts, which he shuffles away when I happen to enter the cabin. It is my firm belief that the man has some secret project in his mind, but that so long as we are due to touch at any port he will keep it to himself. That is the impression which I have received, and I find that Bill Scanlan is of the same opinion.

'Say, Mr. Headley,' said he one evening, when I was seated in the laboratory testing out the salinity of samples from our hydrographic soundings, 'what d'you figure out that this guy has in his mind? What d'you reckon that he means to do?'

'I suppose,' said I, 'that we shall do what the Challenger and a dozen other exploring ships have done before us, and add a few more species to the list of fish and a few more entries to the bathymetric chart.'

'Not on your life,' said he. 'If that's your opinion you've got to guess again. First of all, what am I here for, anyhow?'

'In case the machinery goes wrong,' I hazarded.

'Machinery nothing! The ship's machinery is in charge of MacLaren, the Scotch engineer. No, sir, it wasn't to run a donkey-engine that the Merribank folk sent out their star performer. If I pull down fifty bucks a week it's not for nix. Come here, and I'll make you wise to it..'

He took a key from his pocket and opened a door at the back of the laboratory which led us down a companion ladder to a section of the hold which was cleared right across save for four large glittering objects half-exposed amid the straw of their huge packing-cases. They were flat sheets of steel with elaborate bolts and rivets along the edges. Each sheet was about ten feet square and an inch and a half thick, with a circular gap of eighteen inches in the middle.

'What in thunder is it?' I asked.

Bill Scanlan's queer face—he looks half-way between a vaudeville comic and a prize-fighter—broke into a grin at my astonishment.

'That's my baby, sir,' he quoted. 'Yes, Mr. Headley, that's what I am here for. There is a steel bottom to the thing. It's in that big case yonder. Then there is a top, kind of arched, and a great ring for a chain or rope. Now, look here at the bottom of the ship.'

There was a square wooden platform there, with projecting screws at each corner which showed that it was detachable.

'There is a double bottom,' said Scanlan. 'It may be that this guy is clean loco, or it may be that he has more in his block than we know, but if I read him right he means to build up a kind of room—the windows are in storage here—and lower it through the bottom of the ship. He's got electric searchlights here, and I allow that he plans to shine 'em through the round portholes and see what's goin' on around.'

'He could have put a crystal sheet into the ship, like the Catalina Island boats, if that was all that was in his mind,' said I.

'You've said a mouthful,' said Bill Scanlan, scratching his head. 'I can't figger it out nohow. The only one sure thing is, that I've been sent to be under his orders and to help him with the darn fool thing all I can. He has said nothin' up to now, so I've said the same, but I'll just snoop around, and if I wait long enough I'll learn all there is to know.'

So that was how I first got on to the edge of our mystery. We ran into some dirty weather after that, and then we got to work doing some deep-sea trawling north-west of Cape Juba, just outside the Continental Slope, and taking temperature readings and salinity records. It's a sporting proposition, this deep-sea dragging with a Peterson otter trawl gaping twenty feet wide for everything that comes its way—sometimes down a quarter of a mile and bringing up one lot of fish, sometimes half a mile and quite a different lot, every stratum of ocean with its own inhabitants as separate as so many continents. Sometimes from the bottom we would just bring up half a ton of clear pink jelly, the raw material of life, or, maybe, it would be a scoop of pteropod ooze, breaking up under the microscope into millions of tiny round reticulated balls with amorphous mud between. I won't bore you with all the brotulids and macrurids, the ascidians and holothurians and polyzoa and echinoderms—anyhow, you can reckon that there is a great harvest in the sea, and that we have been diligent reapers. But always I had the same feeling that the heart of Maracot was not in the job, and that other plans were in that queer high, narrow Egyptian mummy of a head. It all seemed to me to be a try-out of men and things until the real business got going.

I had got as far as this in my letter when I went ashore to have a last stretch, for we sail in the early morning. It's as well, perhaps, that I did go, for there was no end of a barney going on upon the pier, with Maracot and Bill Scanlan right in the heart of it. Bill is a bit of a scrapper, and has what he calls a mean wallop in both mitts, but with half a dozen Dagoes with knives all round them things looked ugly, and it was time that I butted in. It seems that the Doctor had hired one of the things they call cabs, and had driven half over the island inspecting the geology, but had clean forgotten that he had no money on him. When it came to paying, he could not make these country hicks understand, and the cabman had grabbed his watch so as to make sure. That brought Bill Scanlan into action, and they would have both been on the floor with their backs like pin-cushions if I had not squared the matter up, with a dollar or two over for the driver and a five-dollar bonus for the chap with the mouse under his eye. So all ended well, and Maracot was more human than ever I saw him yet. When we got to the ship he called me into the little cabin which he reserves for himself and he thanked me.

'By the way, Mr. Headley,' he said, 'I understand that you are not a married man?'

'No,' said I, 'I am not.'

'No one depending upon you?'

'No.'

'Good!' said he. 'I have not spoken of the object of this voyage because I have, for my own reasons, desired it to be secret. One of those reasons was that I feared to be forestalled. When scientific plans get about one may be served as Scott was served by Amundsen. Had Scott kept his counsel as I have done, it would be he and not Amundsen who would have been the first at the South Pole. For my part, I have quite as important a destination as the South Pole, and so I have been silent. But now we are on the eve of our great adventure and no rival has time to steal my plans. Tomorrow we start for our real goal.'

'And what is that?' I asked.

He leaned forward, his ascetic face all lit up with the enthusiasm of the fanatic.

'Our goal,' said he, 'is the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.'

And right here I ought to stop, for I expect it has taken away your breath as it did mine. If I were a story-writer, I guess I should leave it at that. But as I am just a chronicler of what occurred, I may tell you that I stayed another hour in the cabin of old man Maracot, and that I learned a lot, which there is still just time for me to tell you before the last shore boat leaves.

'Yes, young man,' said he, 'you may write freely now, for by the time your letter reaches England we shall have made the plunge.'

This started him sniggering, for he has a queer dry sense of humour of his own.

'Yes, sir, the plunge is the right word on this occasion, a plunge which will be historic in the annals of Science. Let me tell you, in the first place, that I am well convinced that the current doctrine as to the extreme pressure of the ocean at great depths is entirely misleading. It is perfectly clear that other factors exist which neutralize the effect, though I am not yet prepared to say what those factors may be. That is one of the problems which we may settle. Now, what pressure, may I ask, have you been led to expect under a mile of water?' He glowered at me through his big horn spectacles.

'Not less than a ton to the square inch,' I answered. 'Surely that has been clearly shown.'

'The task of the pioneer has always been to disprove the thing which has been clearly shown. Use your brains, young man. You have been for the last month fishing up some of the most delicate Bathic forms of life, creatures so delicate that you could hardly transfer them from the net to the tank without marring their sensitive shapes. Did you find that there was evidence upon them of this extreme pressure?'

'The pressure,' said I, 'equalized itself. It was the same within as without.'

'Words—mere words!' he cried, shaking his lean head impatiently. 'You have brought up round fish, such fish as Gastro-stomus globulus. Would they not have been squeezed flat had the pressure been as you imagine? Or look at our otter-boards. They are not squeezed together at the mouth of the trawl.'

'But the experience of divers?'

'Certainly it holds good up to a point. They do find a sufficient increase of pressure to influence what is perhaps the most sensitive organ of the body, the interior of the ear. But as I plan it, we shall not be exposed to any pressure at all. We shall be lowered in a steel cage with crystal windows on each side for observation. If the pressure is not strong enough to break in an inch and a half of toughened double-nickelled steel, then it cannot hurt us. It is an extension of the experiment of the Williamson Brothers at Nassau, with which no doubt you are familiar. If my calculation is wrong—well, you say that no one is dependent upon you. We shall die in a great adventure. Of course, if you would rather stand clear, I can go alone.'

It seemed to me the maddest kind of scheme, and yet you know how difficult it is to refuse a dare. I played for time while I thought it over.

'How deep do you propose to go, sir?' I asked.

He had a chart pinned upon the table, and he placed the end of his compasses upon a point which lies to the south-west of the Canaries.

'Last year I did some sounding in this part,' said he.

'There is a pit of great depth. We got twenty-five thousand feet there. I was the first to report it. Indeed, I trust that you will find it on the charts of the future as the "Maracot Deep".'

'But, good God, sir!' I cried, 'you don't propose to descend into an abyss like that?'

'No, no,' he answered, smiling. 'Neither our lowering chain nor our air tubes reach beyond half a mile. But I was going to explain to you that round this deep crevasse, which has no doubt been formed by volcanic forces long ago, there is a varied ridge or narrow plateau, which is not more than three hundred fathoms under the surface.'

'Three hundred fathoms! A third of a mile!'

'Yes, roughly a third of a mile. It is my present intention that we shall be lowered in our little pressure-proof look-out station on to this submarine bank. There we shall make such observations as we can. A speaking-tube will connect us with the ship so that we can give our directions. There should be no difficulty in the mater. When we wish to be hauled up we have only to say so.'

'And the air?'

'Will be pumped down to us.'

'But it will be pitch-dark.'

'That, I fear, is undoubtedly true. The experiments of Fol and Sarasin at the Lake of Geneva show that even the ultra-violet rays are absent at that depth. But does it matter? We shall be provided with the powerful electric illumination from the ship's engines, supplemented by six two-volt Hellesens dry cells connected together so as to give a current of twelve volts. That, with a Lucas army signalling lamp as a movable reflector, should serve our turn. Any other difficulties?'

'If our air lines tangle?'

'They won't tangle. And as a reserve we have compressed air in tubes which would last us twenty—four hours. Well, have I satisfied you? Will you come?'

It was not an easy decision. The brain works quickly and imagination is a mighty vivid thing. I seemed to realize that black box down in the primeval depths, to feel the foul twice-breathed air, and then to see the walls sagging, bulging inwards, rending at the joints with the water spouting in at every rivet-hole and crevice and crawling up from below. It was a slow, dreadful death to die. But I looked up, and there were the old man's fiery eyes fixed upon me with the exaltation of a martyr to Science. It's catching, that sort of enthusiasm, and if it be crazy, it is at least noble and unselfish. I caught fire from his great flame, and I sprang to my feet with my hand out.

'Doctor, I'm with you to the end,' said I.

'I knew it,' said he. 'It was not for your smattering of learning that I picked you, my young friend, nor,' he added, smiling, 'for your intimate acquaintance with the pelagic crabs. There are other qualities which may be more immediately useful, and they are loyalty and courage.'

So with that little bit of sugar I was dismissed, with my future pledged and my whole scheme of life in ruins. Well, the last shore boat is leaving. They are calling for the mail. You will either not hear from me again, my dear Talbot, or you will get a letter worth reading. If you don't hear you can have a floating headstone and drop it somewhere south of the Canaries with the inscription :

'Here, or Hereabouts, lies all that the fishes have left of my friend, CYRUS J. HEADLEY.'

The second document in the case is the unintelligible wireless message which was intercepted by several vessels, including the Royal Mail steamer Arroya. It was received at 3 p.m. October 3rd, 1926, which shows that it was dispatched only two days after the Stratford left the Grand Canary, as shown in the previous letter, and it corresponds roughly with the time when the Norwegian barque saw a steamer founder in a cyclone two hundred miles to the south-west of Porta de la Luz. It ran thus :

Blown on our beam ends. Fear position hopeless. Have already lost Maracot, Headley, Scanlan. Situation incomprehensible. Headley handkerchief end of deep sea sounding wire. God help us! S. S. Stratford

This was the last, incoherent message which came from the ill-fated vessel, and part of it was so strange that it was put down to delirium on the part of the operator. It seemed, however, to leave no doubt as to the fate of the ship.

The explanation—if it can be accepted as an explanation—of the matter is to be found in the narrative concealed inside the vitreous ball, and first it would be as well to amplify the very brief account which has hitherto appeared in the Press of the finding of the ball. I take it verbatim from the log of the Arabella Knowles, master Amos Green, outward bound with coals from Cardiff to Buenos Aires :

'Wednesday, Jan. 5th, 1927. Lat. 27.14, Long. 28 West. Calm weather. Blue sky with low banks of cirrus clouds. Sea like glass. At two bells of the middle watch the first officer reported that he had seen a shining object bound high out of the sea, and then fall back into it. His first impression was that it was some strange fish, but on examination with his glasses he observed that it was a silvery globe, or ball, which was so light that it lay, rather than floated, on the surface of the water. I was called and saw it, as large as a football, gleaming brightly about half a mile off on our starboard beam. I stopped the engines and called away the quarter-boat under the second mate, who picked the thing up and brought it aboard.

'On examination it proved to be a ball made of some sort of very tough glass, and filled with a substance so light that when it was tossed in the air it wavered about like a child's balloon. It was nearly transparent, and we could see what looked like a roll of paper inside it. The material was so tough, however, that we had the greatest possible difficulty in breaking the ball open and getting at the contents. A hammer would not crack it, and it was only when the chief engineer nipped it in the throw of the engine that we were able to smash it. Then I am sorry to say that it dissolved into sparkling dust, so that it was impossible to collect any good-sized piece for examination. We got the paper, however, and, having examined it and concluded that it was of great importance, we laid it aside with the intention of handing it over to the British Consul when we reached the Plate River. Man and boy, I have been at sea for five-and-thirty years, but this is the strangest thing that ever befell me, and so says every man aboard this ship. I leave the meaning of it all to wiser heads than mine.'

So much for the genesis of the narrative of Cyrus J. Headley, which we will now give exactly as written :

Whom am I writing to? Well, I suppose I may say to the whole wide world, but as that is rather a vague address I'll aim at my friend Sir James Talbot, of Oxford University, for the reason that my last letter was to him and this may be regarded as a continuation. I expect the odds are a hundred to one that this ball, even if it should see the light of day and not be gulped by a shark in passing, will toss about on the waves and never catch the eye of the passing sailor, and yet it's worth trying, and Maracot is sending up another, so, between us, it may be that we shall get our wonderful story to the world. Whether the world will believe it is another matter, I guess, but when folk look at the ball with its vitrine cover and note its contents of levigen gas, they will surely see for themselves that there is something here that is out of the ordinary. You at any rate, Talbot, will not throw it aside unread.

If anyone wants to know how the thing began, and what we were trying to do, he can find it all in a letter I wrote you on October 1st last year, the night before we left Porta de la Luz. By George! If I had known what was in store for us, I think I should have sneaked into a shore boat that night. And yet—well, maybe, even with my eyes open I would have stood by the Doctor and seen it through. On second thoughts I have not a doubt that I would.

Well, starting from the day that we left Grand Canary I will carry on with my experiences.

The moment we were clear, of the port, old man Maracot fairly broke into flames. The time for action had come at last and all the damped-down energy of the man came flaring up. I tell you he took hold of that ship and of everyone and everything in it, and bent it all to his will. The dry, creaking, absent-minded scholar had suddenly vanished, and instead there emerged a human electrical machine, crackling with vitality and quivering from the great driving force within. His eyes gleamed behind his glasses like flames in a lantern. He seemed to be everywhere at once, working out distances on his chart, comparing reckonings with the skipper, driving Bill Scanlan along, setting me on to a hundred odd jobs, but it was all full of method and with a definite end. He developed an unexpected knowledge of electricity and of mechanics and spent much of his time working at the machinery which Scanlan, under his supervision, was now carefully piecing together.

'Say, Mr. Headley, it's just dandy,' said Bill, on the morning of the second day. 'Come in here and have a look. The Doc. is a regular fellow and a whale of a slick mechanic.'

I had a most unpleasant impression that it was my own coffin at which I was gazing, but, even so, I had to admit that it was a very adequate mausoleum. The floor had been clamped to the four steel walls, and the porthole windows screwed into the centre of each. A small trapdoor at the top gave admission, and there was a second one at the base. The steel cage was supported by a thin but very powerful steel hawser, which ran over a drum, and was paid out or rolled in by the strong engine which we used for our deep-sea trawls. The hawser, as I understood, was nearly half a mile in length, the slack of it coiled round bollards on the deck. The rubber breathing-tubes were of the same length, and the telephone wire was connected with them, and also the wire by which the electric lights within could be operated from the ship's batteries, though we had an independent instalment as well.

It was on the evening of that day that the engines were stopped. The glass was low, and a thick black cloud rising upon the horizon gave warning of coming trouble. The only ship in sight was a barque flying the Norwegian colours, and we observed that it was reefed down, as if expecting trouble. For the moment, however, all was propitious and the Stratford rolled gently upon a deep blue ocean, white-capped here and there from the breath of the trade wind. Bill Scanlan came to me in my laboratory with more show of excitement than his easy-going temperament had ever permitted him to show.

'Look it here, Mr. Headley,' said he, 'they've lowered that contraption into a well in the bottom of the ship. D'you figure that the Boss is going down in it?'

'Certain sure, Bill. And I am going with him.'

'Well, well, you are sure bughouse, the two of you, to think of such a thing. But I'd feel a cheap skate if I let you go alone.'

'It is no business of yours, Bill.!

'Well, I just feel that it is. Sure, I'd be as yellow as a Chink with the jaundice if I let you go alone. Merribanks sent me here to look after the machinery, and if the machinery is down at the bottom of the sea, then it's a sure thing that it's me for the bottom. Where those steel castings are—that's the address of Bill Scanlan—whether the folk round him are crazy or no.'

It was useless to argue with him, so one more was added to our little suicide club and we just waited for our orders.

All night they were hard at work upon the fittings, and it was after an early breakfast that we descended into the hold ready for our adventure. The steel cage had been half lowered into the false bottom, and we now descended one by one through the upper trap-door, which was closed and screwed down behind us, Captain Howie with a most lugubrious face having shaken hands with each of us as we passed him. We were then lowered a few more feet, the shutter drawn above our heads, and the water admitted to test how far we were really seaworthy. The cage stood the trial well, every joint fitted exactly, and there was no sign of any leakage. Then the lower flap in the hold was loosened and we hung suspended in the ocean beneath the level of the keel.

It was really a very snug little room, and I marvelled at the skill and foresight with which everything had been arranged. The electric illumination had not been turned on, but the semi—tropical sun shone brightly through the bottle-green water at either porthole. Some small fish were flickering here and there, streaks of silver against the green background. Inside there was a settee round the little room, with a bathymetric dial, a thermometer, and other instruments ranged above it. Beneath the settee was a row of pipes which represented our reserve supply of compressed air in case the tubes should fail us. Those tubes opened out above our heads, and the telephonic apparatus hung beside them. We could all hear the mournful voice of the captain outside.

'Are you really determined to go?' he asked.

'We are quite all right,' the Doctor answered, impatiently. 'You will lower slowly and have someone at the receiver all the time. I will report conditions. When we reach the bottom, remain as you are until I give instructions. It will not do to put too much strain upon the hawser, but a slow movement of a couple of knots an hour should be well within its strength. And now "Lower away!" '

He yelled out the two words with the scream of a lunatic. It was the supreme moment of his life, the fruition of all his brooding dreams. For an instant I was shaken by the thought that we were really in the power of a cunning, plausible monomaniac. Bill Scanlan had the same thought, for he looked across at me with a rueful grin and touched his forehead. But after that one wild outburst our leader was instantly his sober, self-contained self once more. Indeed, one had but to look at the order and forethought which showed itself in every detail around us to be reassured as to the power of his mind.

But now all our attention was diverted to the wonderful new experience which every instant was providing. Slowly the cage was sinking into the depths of the ocean. Light green water turned to dark olive. That again deepened into a wonderful blue, a rich deep blue gradually thickening to a dusky purple. Lower and lower we sank—a hundred feet, two hundred feet, three hundred. The valves were acting to perfection. Our breathing was as free and natural as upon the deck of the vessel. Slowly the bathymeter needle moved round the luminous dial. Four hundred, five hundred, six hundred. 'How are you?' roared an anxious voice from above us.

'Nothing could be better,' cried Maracot in reply. But the light was failing. There was now only a dim grey twilight which rapidly changed to utter darkness. 'Stop her!' shouted our leader. We ceased to move and hung suspended at seven hundred feet below the surface of the ocean. I heard the click of the switch, and the next instant we were flooded with glorious golden light which poured out through each of our side windows and sent long glimmering vistas into the waste of waters round us. With our faces against the thick glass, each at our own porthole, we gazed out into such a prospect as man had never seen.

Up to now we had known these strata by the sight of the few fish which had been too slow to avoid our clumsy trawl, or too stupid to escape a drag-net. Now we saw the wonderful world of water as it really was. If the object of creation was the production of man, it is strange that the ocean is so much more populous than the land. Broadway on a Saturday night, Lombard Street on a week-day afternoon, are not more crowded than the great sea spaces which lay before us. We had passed those surface strata where fish are either colourless or of the true maritime tints of ultramarine above and silver below. Here there were creatures of every conceivable tint and form which pelagic life can show. Delicate leptocephali or eel larva shot like streaks of burnished silver across the tunnel of radiance. The slow snake-like form of muroena, the deepsea lamprey, writhed and twisted by, or the black ceratia, all spikes and mouth, gaped foolishly back at our peering faces. Sometimes it was the squat cuttlefish which drifted across and glanced at us with human sinister eyes, sometimes it was some crystal-clear pelagic form of life, cystoma or glaucus, which lent a flower—like charm to the scene. One huge caranx, or horse mackerel, butted savagely again and again against our window until the dark shadow of a seven-foot shark came across him, and he vanished into its gaping jaws. Dr. Maracot sat entranced, his notebook upon his knee, scribbling down his observations and keeping up a muttered monologue of scientific comment. 'What's that? What's that?' I would hear. 'Yes, yes, chimoera mirabilis as taken by the Michael Sars. Dear me, there is lepidion, but a new species as I should judge. Observe that macrurus, Mr. Headley; its colouring is quite different to what we get in the net.' Once only was he taken quite aback. It was when a long oval object shot with great speed past his window from above, and left a vibrating tail behind it which extended as far as we could see above us and below. I admit that I was as puzzled for the moment as the Doctor, and it was Bill Scanlan who solved the mystery.

'I guess that boob, John Sweeney, has heaved his lead alongside of us. Kind of a joke, maybe, to prevent us from feeling lonesome.'

'To be sure! To be sure!' said Maracot, sniggering. 'Plumbus longicaudatus—a new genus, Mr. Headley, with a piano-wire tail and lead in its nose. But, indeed, it is very necessary they should take soundings so as to keep above the bank, which is circumscribed in size. All well, Captain!' he shouted. 'You may drop us down.'

And down we went. Dr. Maracot turned off the electric light and all was pitch-darkness once more save for the bathymeter's luminous face, which ticked off our steady fall. There was a gentle sway, but otherwise we were hardly conscious of any motion. Only that moving hand upon the dial told us of our terrific, our inconceivable, position. Now we were at the thousand-foot level, and the air had become distinctly foul. Scanlan oiled the valve of the discharge tube and things were better. At fifteen hundred feet we stopped and swung in mid-ocean with our lights blazing once more. Some great dark mass passed us here, but whether swordfish or deep-sea shark, or monster of unknown breed, was more than we could determine. The Doctor hurriedly turned off the lights. 'There lies our chief danger,' said he; 'there are creatures in the deep before whose charge this steel-plated room would have as much chance as a beehive before the rush of a rhinoceros.'

'Whales, maybe,' said Scanlan.

'Whales may sound to a great depth,' the savant answered. 'A Greenland whale has been known to take out nearly a mile of line in a perpendicular dive. But unless hurt or badly frightened no whale would descend so low. It may have been a giant squid: They are found at every level.'

'Well, I guess squids are too soft to hurt us. The laugh would be with the squid if he could claw a hole in Merribanks' nickel steel.'

'Their bodies may be soft,' the Professor answered, 'but the beak of a large squid would sheer through a bar of iron, and one peck of that beak might go through these inch-thick windows as if they were parchment.'

'Gee Whittaker!' cried Bill, as we resumed our downward journey.

And then at last, quite softly and gently, we came to rest. So delicate was the impact that we should hardly have known of it had it not been that the light when turned on showed great coils of the hawser all around us. The wire was a danger to our breathing tubes, for it might foul them, and at the urgent cry of Maracot it was pulled taut from above once more. The dial marked eighteen hundred feet. We lay motionless on a volcanic ridge at the bottom of the Atlantic.


CHAPTER 2

For a time I think that we all had the same feeling. We did not want to do anything or to see anything. We just wanted to sit quiet and try to realize the wonder of it—that we should be resting in the plumb centre of one of the great oceans of the world. But soon the strange scene round us, illuminated in all directions by our lights, drew us to the windows.

We had settled upon a bed of high algae ('Cutleria multifida,' said Maracot), the yellow fronds of which waved around us, moved by some deep-sea current, exactly as branches would move in a summer breeze. They were not long enough to obscure our view, though their great flat leaves, deep golden in the light, flowed occasionally across our vision. Beyond them lay slopes of some blackish slag-like material which were dotted with lovely coloured creatures, holothurians, ascidians, echini and echinoderms, as thickly as ever an English spring time bank was sprinkled with hyacinths and primroses. These living flowers of the sea, vivid scarlet, rich purple and delicate pink, were spread in profusion upon that coal-black background. Here and there great sponges bristled out from the crevices of the dark rocks, and a few fish of the middle depths, themselves showing up as flashes of colour, shot across our circle of vivid radiance. We were gazing enraptured at the fairy scene when an anxious voice came down the tube:

'Well, how do you like the bottom? Is all well with you? Don't be too long, for the glass is dropping and I don't like the look of it. Giving you air enough? Anything more we can do?'

'All right, Captain!' cried Maracot, cheerily. 'We won't be long. You are nursing us well. We are quite as comfortable as in our own cabin. Stand by presently to move us slowly forwards.'

We had come into the region of the luminous fishes, and it amused us to turn out our own lights, and in the absolute pitch-darkness—a darkness in which a sensitive plate can be suspended for an hour without a trace even of the ultra-violet ray—to look out at the phosphorescent activity of the ocean. As against a black velvet curtain one saw little points of brilliant light moving steadily along as a liner at night might shed light through its long line of portholes. One terrifying creature had luminous teeth which gnashed in Biblical fashion in the outer darkness. Another had long golden antennae, and yet another a plume of flame above its head. As far as our vision carried, brilliant points flashed in the darkness, each little being bent upon its own business, and lighting up its own course as surely as the nightly taxicab at the theatre-hour in the Strand. Soon we had our own lights up again and the Doctor was making his observations of the sea-bottom.

'Deep as we are, we are not deep enough to get any of the characteristic Bathic deposits,' said he. 'These are entirely beyond our possible range. Perhaps on another occasion with a longer hawser-'

'Cut it out!' growled Bill. 'Forget it!'

Maracot smiled. 'You will soon get acclimatized to the depths, Scanlan. This will not be our only descent.'

'The Hell you say!' muttered Bill.

'You will think no more of it than of going down into the hold of the Stratford. You will observe, Mr. Headley, that the groundwork here, so far as we can observe it through the dense growth of hydrozoa and silicious sponges, is pumicestone and the black slag of basalt, pointing to ancient plutonic activities. Indeed, I am inclined to think that it confirms my previous view that this ridge is part of a volcanic formation and that the Maracot Deep,' he rolled out the words as if he loved them, 'represents the outer slope of the mountain. It has struck me that it would be an interesting experiment to move our cage slowly onwards until we come to the edge of the Deep, and see exactly what the formation may be at that point. I should expect to find a precipice of majestic dimensions extending downwards at a sharp angle into the extreme depths of the ocean.'

The experiment seemed to me to be a dangerous one, for who could say how far our thin hawser could bear the strain of lateral movement; but with Maracot danger, either to himself or to anyone else, simply did not exist when a scientific observation had to be made. I held my breath, and so I observed did Bill Scanlan, when a slow movement of our steel shell, brushing aside the waving fronds of seaweed, showed that the full strain was upon the line. It stood it nobly, however, and with a very gentle sweeping progression we began to glide over the bottom of the ocean, Maracot, with a compass in the hollow of his hand, shouting his direction as to the course to follow, and occasionally ordering the shell to be raised so as to avoid some obstacle in our path.

'This basaltic ridge can hardly be more than a mile across,' he explained. 'I had marked the abyss as being to the west of the point where we took our plunge. At this rate, we should certainly reach it in a very short time.'

We slid without any check over the volcanic plain, all feathered by the waving golden algae and made beautiful by the gorgeous jewels of Nature's cutting, flaming out from their setting of jet. Suddenly the Doctor dashed to the telephone.

'Stop her!' he cried. 'We are there!'

A monstrous gap had opened suddenly before us. It was a fearsome place, the vision of a nightmare. Black shining cliffs of basalt fell sheer down into the unknown. Their edges were fringed with dangling laminaria as ferns might overhang some earthly gorge, but beneath that tossing, vibrating rim there were only the black gleaming walls of the chasm. The rocky edge curved away from us, but the abyss might be of any breadth, for our lights failed to penetrate the gloom which lay before us. When a Lucas signalling lamp was turned downwards it shot out a long golden lane of parallel beams extending down, down, down until it was quenched in the gloom of the terrible chasm beneath us.

'It is indeed wonderful!' cried Maracot, gazing out with a pleased proprietary expression upon his thin, eager face. 'For depth I need not say that it has often been exceeded. There is the Challenger Deep of twenty-six thousand feet near the Ladrone Islands, the Planet Deep of thirty-two thousand feet off the Philippines, and many others, but it is probable that the Maracot Deep stands alone in the declivity of its descent, and is remarkable also for its escape from the observation of so many hydrographic explorers who have charted the Atlantic. It can hardly be doubted-'

He had stopped in the middle of a sentence and a look of intense interest and surprise had frozen upon his face. Bill Scanlan and I, gazing over his shoulders, were petrified by that which met our startled eyes.

Some great creature was coming up the tunnel of light which we had projected into the abyss. Far down where it tailed off into the darkness of the pit we could dimly see the vague black lurchings and heavings of some monstrous body in slow upward progression. Paddling in clumsy fashion, it was rising with dim flickerings to the edge of the gulf. Now, as it came nearer, it was right in the beam, and we could see its dreadful form more clearly. It was a beast unknown to Science, and yet with an analogy to much with which we are familiar. Too long for a huge crab and too short for a giant lobster, it was moulded more upon the lines of the crayfish, with two monstrous nippers outstretched on either side, and a pair of sixteen-foot antennae which quivered in front of its black dull sullen eyes. The carapace, light yellow in colour, may have been ten feet across, and its total length, apart from the antennae, must have been not less than thirty.

'Wonderful!' cried Maracot, scribbling desperately in his notebook. 'Semi-pediculated eyes, elastic lamellae, family crustacea, species unknown. Crustaceus Maracoti—why not? Why not?'

'By gosh, I'll pass its name, but it seems to me it's coming our way!' cried Bill. 'Say, Doc, what about putting our light out?'

'Just one moment while I note the reticulations!' cried the naturalist. 'Yes, yes, that will do.' He clicked off the switch and we were back in our inky darkness, with only the darting lights outside like meteors on a moonless night.

'That beast is sure the world's worst,' said Bill, wiping his forehead. 'I felt like the morning after a bottle of Prohibition Hoosh.'

'It is certainly terrible to look at,' Maracot remarked, 'and perhaps terrible to deal with also if we were really exposed to those monstrous claws. But inside our steel case we can afford to examine him in safety and at our ease.'

He had hardly spoken when there came a rap as from a pickaxe upon our outer wall. Then there was a long drawn rasping and scratching, ending in another sharp rap.

'Say, he wants to come in!' cried Bill Scanlan in alarm. 'By gosh! we want "No Admission" painted on this shack.' His shaking voice showed how forced was his merriment, and I confess that my own knees were knocking together as I was aware of the stealthy monster closing up with an even blacker darkness each of our windows in succession, as he explored this strange shell which, could he but crack it, might contain his food.

'He can't hurt us,' said Maracot, but there was less assurance in his tone. 'Maybe it would be as well to shake the brute off.' He hailed the Captain up the tube.

'Pull us up twenty or thirty feet,' he cried.

A few seconds later we rose from the lava plain and swung gently in the still water. But the terrible beast was pertinacious. After a very short interval we heard once more the raspings of his feelers and the sharp tappings of his claws as he felt us round. It was terrible to sit silently in the dark and know that death was so near. If that mighty claw fell upon the window, would it stand the strain? That was the unspoken question in each of our minds.

But suddenly an unexpected and more urgent danger presented itself. The tappings had gone to the roof of our little dwelling, and now we began to sway with a rhythmic movement to and fro.

'Good God!' I cried. 'It has hold of the hawser. It will surely snap it.'

'Say, Doc, it's mine for the surface. I guess we've seen what we came to see, and it's home, sweet home for Bill Scanlan. Ring up the elevator and get her going.'

'But our work is not half done,' croaked Maracot. 'We have only begun to explore the edges of the Deep. Let us at least see how broad it is. When we have reached the other side I shall be content to return.' Then up the tube: 'All well, Captain. Move on at two knots until I call for a stop.'

We moved slowly out over the edge of the abyss. Since darkness had not saved us from attack we now turned on our lights. One of the portholes was entirely obscured by what appeared to be the creature's lower stomach. Its head and its great nippers were at work above us, and we still swayed like a clanging bell. The strength of the beast must have been enormous. Were ever mortals placed in such a situation, with five miles of water beneath— and that deadly monster above? The oscillations became more and more violent. An excited shout came down the tube from the Captain as he became aware of the jerks upon the hawser, and Maracot sprang to his feet with his hands thrown upwards in despair. Even within the shell we were aware of the jar of the broken wires, and an instant later we were falling into the mighty gulf beneath us.

As I look back at that awful moment I can remember hearing a wild cry from Maracot.

'The hawser has parted! You can do nothing! We are all dead men!' he yelled, grabbing at the telephone tube, and then, 'Good-bye, Captain, good-bye to all.' They were our last words to the world of men.

We did not fall swiftly down, as you might have imagined. In spite of our weight our hollow shell gave us some sustaining buoyancy, and we sank slowly and gently into the abyss. I heard the long scrape as we slid through the claws of the horrible creature who had been our ruin, and then with a smooth gyration we went circling downwards into the abysmal depths. It may have been fully five minutes, and it seemed like an hour, before we reached the limit of our telephone wire and snapped it like a thread. Our air tube broke off at almost the same moment and the salt water came spouting through the vents. With quick, deft hands Bill Scanlan tied cords round each of the rubber tubes and so stopped the inrush, while the Doctor released the top of our compressed air which came hissing forth from the tubes. The lights had gone out when the wire snapped, but even in the dark the Doctor was able to connect up the Hellesens dry cells which lit a number of lamps in the roof.

'It should last us a week,' he said, with a wry smile. 'We shall at least have light to die in.' Then he shook his head sadly and a kindly smile came over his gaunt features. 'It is all right for me. I am an old man and have done my work in the world. My one regret is that I should have allowed you two young fellows to come with me. I should have taken the risk alone.'

I simply shook his hand in reassurance, for indeed there was nothing I could say. Bill Scanlan, too, was silent. Slowly we sank, marking our pace by the dark fish shadows which flitted past our windows. It seemed as if they were flying upwards rather than that we were sinking down. We still oscillated, and there was nothing so far as I could see to prevent us from falling on our side, or even turning upside down. Our weight, however, was, fortunately, very evenly balanced and we kept a level floor. Glancing up at the bathymeter I saw that we had already reached the depth of a mile.

'You see, it is as I said,' remarked Maracot, with some complacency. 'You may have seen my paper in the Proceedings of the Oceanographical Society upon the relation of pressure and depth. I wish I could get one word back to the world, if only to confute Bulow of Giessen, who ventured to contradict me.'

'My gosh! If I could get a word back to the world I wouldn't waste it on a square-head highbrow,' said the mechanic. 'There is a little wren in Philadelphia that will have tears in her pretty eyes when she hears that Bill Scanlan has passed out. Well, it sure does seem a darned queer way of doing it, anyhow.'

'You should never have come,' I said, putting my hand on his.

'What sort of tin-horn sport should I have been if I had quitted?' he answered. 'No, it's my job, and I am glad I stuck it.'

'How long have we?' I asked the Doctor, after a pause.

He shrugged his shoulders.

'We shall have time to see the real bottom of the ocean, anyhow,' said he. 'There is air enough in our tubes for the best part of a day. Our trouble is with the waste products. That is what is going to choke us. If we could get rid of our carbon dioxide-'

'That I can see is impossible.'

'There is one tube of pure oxygen. I put it in in case of accidents. A little of that from time to time will help to keep us alive. You will observe that we are now more than two miles deep.'

'Why should we try to keep ourselves alive? The sooner it is over the better,' said I.

'That's the dope,' cried Scanlan. 'Cut loose and have done with it.' .

'And miss the most wonderful sight that man's eye has ever seen!' said Maracot. 'It would be treason to Science. Let us record facts to the end, even if they should be for ever buried with our bodies. Play the game out.'

'Some sport, the Doc!' cried Scanlan. 'I guess he has the best guts of the bunch. Let us see the spiel to an end.'

We sat patiently on the settee, the three of us, gripping the edges of it with strained fingers as it swayed and rocked, while the fishes still flashed swiftly upwards athwart the portholes.

'It is now three miles,' remarked Maracot. 'I will turn on the oxygen, Mr. Headley, for it is certainly very close. There is one thing,' he added, with his dry, cackling laugh, 'it will certainly be the Maracot Deep from this time onwards. When Captain Howie takes back the news my colleagues will see to it that my grave is also my monument. Even Bulow of Giessen-' He babbled on about some unintelligible scientific grievance.

We sat in silence again, watching the needle as it crawled on to its fourth mile. At one point we struck something heavy, which shook us so violently that I feared that we would turn upon our side. It may have been a huge fish, or conceivably we may have bumped upon some projection of the cliff over the edge of which we had been precipitated. That edge had seemed to us at the time to be such a wondrous depth, and now looking back at it from our dreadful abyss it might almost have been the surface. Still we swirled and circled lower and lower through the dark green waste of waters. Twenty-five thousand feet now was registered upon the dial.

'We are nearly at our journey's end,' said Maracot. 'My Scott's recorder gave me twenty-six thousand seven hundred last year at the deepest point. We shall know our fate within a few minutes. It may be that the shock will crush us. It may be—'

And at that moment we landed.

There was never a babe lowered by its mother on to a feather-bed who nestled down more gently than we on to the extreme bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. The soft thick elastic ooze upon which we lit was a perfect buffer, which saved us from the slightest jar. We hardly moved upon our seats, and it is as well that we did not, for we had perched upon some sort of a projecting hummock, clothed thickly with the viscous gelatinous mud, and there we were balanced rocking gently with nearly half our base projecting and unsupported. There was a danger that we would tip over on our side, but finally we steadied down and remained motionless. As we did so Dr. Maracot, staring out through his porthole, gave a cry of surprise and hurriedly turned out our electric light.

To our amazement we could still see clearly. There was a dim, misty light outside which streamed through our porthole, like the cold radiance of a winter morning. We looked out at the strange scene, and with no help from our own lights we could see clearly for some hundred yards in each direction. It was impossible, inconceivable, but none the less the evidence of our senses told us that it was a fact. The great ocean floor is luminous.

'Why not?' cried Maracot, when we had stood for a minute or two in silent wonder. 'Should I not have foreseen it? What is this pteropod or globigerina ooze? Is it not the product of decay, the mouldering bodies of a billion billion organic creatures? And is decay not associated with phosphorescent luminosity? Where, in all creation, would it be seen if it were not here? Ah! It is indeed hard that we should have such a demonstration and be unable to send our knowledge back to the world.'

'And yet,' I remarked, 'we have scooped half a ton of radiolarian jelly at a time and detected no such radiance.'

'It would lose it, doubtless, in its long journey to the surface. And what is half a ton compared to these far-stretching plains of slow putrescence? And see, see,' he cried in uncontrollable excitement, 'the deep-sea creatures graze upon this organic carpet even as our herds on land graze upon the meadows!'

As he spoke a flock of big black fish, heavy and squat, came slowly over the ocean bed towards us, nuzzling among the spongy growths and nibbling away as they advanced. Another huge red creature, like a foolish cow of the ocean, was chewing the cud in front of my porthole, and others were grazing here and there, raising their heads from, time to time to gaze at this strange object which had so suddenly appeared among them.

I could only marvel at Maracot, who in that foul atmosphere, seated under the very shadow of death, still obeyed the call of Science and scribbled his observations in his notebook. Without following his precise methods, I none the less made my own mental notes, which will remain for ever as a picture stamped upon my brain. The lowest plains of ocean consist of red clay, but here it was overlaid by the grey bathybian slime which formed an undulating plain as far as our eyes could reach. This plain was not smooth, but was broken by numerous strange rounded hillocks like that upon which we had perched, all glimmering in the spectral light. Between these little hills there darted great clouds of strange fish, many of them quite unknown to Science, exhibiting every shade of colour, but black and red predominating. Maracot watched them with suppressed excitement and chronicled them in his notes.

The air had become very foul, and again we were only able to save ourselves by a fresh emission of oxygen. Curiously enough, we were all hungry—I should rather say ravenous—and we fell upon the potted beef with bread and butter, washed down by whisky and water, which the foresight of Maracot had provided. With my perceptions stimulated by this refreshment, I was seated at my lookout portal and longing for a last cigarette, when my eyes caught something which sent a whirl of strange thoughts and anticipations through my mind.

I have said that the undulating grey plain on every side of us was studded with what seemed like hummocks. A particularly large one was in front of my porthole, and I looked out at it within a range of thirty feet. There was some peculiar mark upon the side of it, and as I glanced along I saw to my surprise that this mark was repeated again and again until it was lost round the curve. When one is so near death it takes much to give one a thrill about anything connected with this world, but my breath failed me for a moment and my heart stood still as I suddenly realized that it was a frieze at which I was looking and that, barnacled and worn as it was, the hand of man had surely at some time carved these faded figures. Maracot and Scanlan crowded to my porthole and gazed out in utter amazement at these signs of the omnipresent energies of man.

'It is carving, for sure!' cried Scanlan. 'I guess this dump has been the roof of a building. Then these other ones are buildings also. Say, boss, we've dropped plumb on to a regular burg.'

'It is, indeed, an ancient city,' said Maracot. 'Geology teaches that the seas have once been continents and the continents seas, but I have always distrusted the idea that in times so recent as the quaternary there could have been an Atlantic subsidence. Plato's report of Egyptian gossip had then a foundation of fact. These volcanic formations confirm the view that this subsidence was due to seismic activity.'

'There is regularity about these domes,' I remarked. 'I begin to think that they are not separate houses, but that they are cupolas and form the ornaments of the roof of some huge building.'

'I guess you are right,' said Scanlan. 'There are four big ones at the corners and the small ones in lines between. It's some building, if we could see the whole of it! You could put the whole Merribank plant inside it—and then some.'

'It has been buried up to the roof by the constant dropping from above,' said Maracot. 'On the other hand, it has not decayed. We have a constant temperature of a little over 32 Fahrenheit in the great depths, which would arrest destructive processes. Even the dissolution of the Bathic remains which pave the floor of the ocean and incidentally give us this luminosity must be a very slow one. But, dear me! this marking is not a frieze but an inscription.'

There was no doubt that he was right. The same symbol recurred every here and there. These marks were unquestionably letters of some archaic alphabet.

'I have made a study of Phoenician antiquities, and there is certainly something suggestive and familiar in these characters,' said our leader. 'Well, we have seen a buried city of ancient days, my friends, and we carry a wonderful piece of knowledge with us to the grave. There is no more to be learned. Our book of knowledge is closed. I agree with you that the sooner the end comes the better.'

It could not now be long delayed. The air was stagnant and dreadful. So heavy was it with carbon products that the oxygen could hardly force its way out against the pressure. By standing on the settee one was able to get a gulp of purer air, but the mephitic reek was slowly rising. Dr. Maracot folded his arms with an air of resignation and sank his head upon his breast. Scanlan was now overpowered by the fumes and was already sprawling upon the floor. My own head was swimming, and I felt an intolerable weight at my chest. I closed my eyes and my senses were rapidly slipping away. Then I opened them for one last glimpse of that world which I was leaving, and as I did so I staggered to my feet with a hoarse scream of amazement.

A human face was looking in at us through the porthole!

Was it my delirium? I clutched at the shoulder of Maracot and shook him violently. He sat up and stared, wonder-struck and speechless at this apparition. If he saw it as well as I, it was no figment of the brain. The face was long and thin, dark in complexion, with a short, pointed beard, and two vivid eyes darting here and there in quick, questioning glances which took in every detail of our situation. The utmost amazement was visible upon the man's face. Our lights were now full on, and it must indeed have been a strange and vivid picture which presented itself to his gaze in that tiny chamber of death, where one man lay senseless and two others glared out at him with the twisted, contorted features of dying men, cyanosed by incipient asphyxiation. We both had our hands to our throats, and our heaving chests carried their message of despair. The man gave a wave of his hand and hurried away.

'He has deserted us!' cried Maracot.

'Or gone for help. Let us get Scanlan on the couch. It's death for him down there.'

We dragged the mechanic on to the settee and propped his head against the cushions. His face was grey and he murmured in delirium, but his pulse was still perceptible.

'There is hope for us yet,' I croaked.

'But it is madness!' cried Maracot. 'How can man live at the bottom of the ocean? How can he breathe? It is collective hallucination. My young friend, we are going mad.'

Looking out at the bleak, lonely grey landscape in the dreary spectral light, I felt that it might be as Maracot said. Then suddenly I was aware of movement. Shadows were flitting through the distant water. They hardened and thickened into moving figures. A crowd of people were hurrying across the ocean bed in our direction. An instant later they had assembled in front of the porthole and were pointing and gesticulating in animated debate. There were several women in the crowd, but the greater part were men, one of whom, a powerful figure with a very large head and a full black beard, was clearly a person of authority. He made a swift inspection of our steel shell, and, since the edge of our base projected over the place on which we rested, he was able to see that there was a hinged trap-door at the bottom. He now sent a messenger flying back, while he made energetic and commanding signs to us to open the door from within.

'Why not?' I asked. 'We may as well be drowned as be smothered. I can stand it no longer.'

'We may not be drowned,' said Maracot. 'The water entering from below cannot rise above the level of the compressed air. Give Scanlan some brandy. He must make an effort, if it is his last one.'

I forced a drink down the mechanic's throat. He gulped and looked round him with wondering eyes. Between us we got him erect on the settee and stood on either side of him. He was still half-dazed, but in a few words I explained the situation.

'There is a chance of chlorine poisoning if the water reaches the batteries,' said Maracot. 'Open every air tube, for the more pressure we can get the less water may enter. Now help me while I pull upon the lever.'

We bent our weight upon it and yanked up the circular plate from the bottom of our little home, though I felt like a suicide as I did so. The green water, sparkling and gleaming under our light, came gurgling and surging in. It rose rapidly to our feet, to our knees, to our waists, and there it stopped. But the pressure of the air was intolerable. Our heads buzzed and the drums of our ears were bursting. We could not have lived in such an atmosphere for long. Only by clutching at the rack could we save ourselves from falling back into the waters beneath us.

From our higher position we could no longer see through the portholes, nor could we imagine what steps were being taken for our deliverance. Indeed, that any effective help could come to us seemed beyond the power of thought, and yet there was a commanding and purposeful air about these people, and especially about that squat bearded chieftain, which inspired vague hopes. Suddenly we were aware of his face looking up at us through the water beneath and an instant later he had passed through the circular opening and had clambered on to the settee, so that he was standing by our side—a short sturdy figure, not higher than my shoulder, but surveying us with large brown eyes, which were full of a half-amused confidence, as who should say, 'You poor devils; you think you are in a very bad way, but I can clearly see the road out.'

Only now was I aware of a very amazing thing. The man, if indeed he was of the same humanity as ourselves, had a transparent envelope all round him which enveloped his head and body, while his arms and legs were free. So translucent was it that no one could detect it in the water, but now that he was in the air beside us it glistened like silver, though it remained as clear as the finest glass. On either shoulder he had a curious rounded projection beneath the clear protective sheath. It looked like an oblong box pierced with many holes, and gave him an appearance as if he were wearing epaulettes.

When our new friend had joined us another face appeared in the aperture of the bottom and thrust through it what seemed like a great bubble of glass. Three of these in succession were passed in and floated upon the surface of the water. Then six small boxes were handed up and our new acquaintance tied one with the straps attached to them to each of our shoulders, whence they stood up like his own. Already I began to surmise that no infraction of natural law was involved in the life of these strange people, and that while one box in some new fashion was a producer of air the other was an absorber of waste products. He now passed the transparent suits over our heads, and we felt that they clasped us tightly in the upper arm and waist by elastic bands, so that no water could penetrate. Within we breathed with perfect ease, and it was a joy to me to see Maracot looking out at me with his eyes twinkling as of old behind his glasses, while Bill Scanlan's grin assured me that the life-giving oxygen had done its work, and that he was his cheerful self once more. Our rescuer looked from one to another of us with grave satisfaction, and then motioned to us to follow him through the trap-door and out on to the floor of the ocean. A dozen willing hands were outstretched to pull us through and to sustain our first faltering steps as we staggered with our feet deep in the slimy ooze.

Even now I cannot get past the marvel of it! There we were, the three of us, unhurt and at our ease at the bottom of a five-mile abyss of water. Where was that terrific pressure which had exercised the imagination of so many scientists? We were no more affected by it than were the dainty fish which swam around us. It is true that, so far as our bodies were concerned, we were protected by these delicate bells of vitrine, which were in truth tougher than the strongest steel, but even our limbs, which were exposed, felt no more than a firm constriction from the water which one learned in time to disregard. It was wonderful to stand together and to look back at the shell from which we had emerged. We had left the batteries at work, and it was a wondrous object with its streams of yellow light flooding out from each side, while clouds of fishes gathered at each window. As we watched it the leader took Maracot by the hand, and we followed them both across the watery morass, clumping heavily through the sticky surface.

And now a most surprising incident occurred, which was clearly as astonishing to these strange new companions of ours as to ourselves. Above our heads there appeared a small, dark object, descending from the darkness above us and swinging down until it reached the bed of the ocean within a very short distance from where we stood. It was, of course, the deep-sea lead from the Stratford above us, making a sounding of that watery gulf with which the name of the expedition was to be associated. We had seen it already upon its downward path, and we could well understand that the tragedy of our disappearance had suspended the operation, but that after a pause it had been concluded, with little thought that it would finish almost at our feet. They were unconscious, apparently, that they had touched bottom, for the lead lay motionless in the ooze. Above me stretched the taut piano wire which connected me through five miles of water with the deck of our vessel. Oh, that it were possible to write a note and to attach it! The idea was absurd, and yet could I not send some message which would show them that we were still conscious? My coat was covered by my glass bell and the pockets were unapproachable, but I was free below the waist and my handkerchief chanced to be in my trousers pocket. I pulled it out and tied it above the top of the lead. The weight at once disengaged itself by its automatic mechanism, and presently I saw my white wisp of linen flying upwards to that world which I may never see again. Our new acquaintances examined the seventy-five pounds of lead with great interest, and finally carried it off with us as we went upon our way.

We had only walked a couple of hundred yards, threading our way among the hummocks, when we halted before a small square-cut door with solid pillars on either side and an inscription across the lintel. It was open, and we passed through it into a large, bare chamber. There was a sliding partition worked by a crank from within, and this was drawn across behind us. We could, of course, hear nothing in our glass helmets, but after standing a few minutes we were aware that a powerful pump must be at work, for we saw the level of the water sinking rapidly above us. In less than a quarter of an hour we were standing upon a sloppy stone-flagged pavement, while our new friends were busy in undoing the fastenings of our transparent suits. An instant later there we stood, breathing perfectly pure air in a warm, well-lighted atmosphere, while the dark people of the abyss, smiling and chattering, crowded round us with hand-shakings and friendly pattings. It was a strange, rasping tongue that they spoke, and no word of it was intelligible to us, but the smile on the face and the light of friendship in the eye are understandable even in the waters under the earth. The glass suits were hung on numbered pegs upon the wall, and the kindly folk half led and half pushed us to an inner door which opened on to a long downward-sloping corridor. When it closed again behind us there was nothing to remind us of the stupendous fact that we were the involuntary guests of an unknown race at the bottom of the Atlantic ocean and cut off for ever from the world to which we belonged.

Now that the terrific strain had been so suddenly eased we were all exhausted. Even Bill Scanlan, who was a pocket Hercules, dragged his feet along the floor, while Maracot and I were only too glad to lean heavily upon our guides. Yet, weary as I was, I took in every detail as we passed. That the air came from some air-making machine was very evident, for it issued in puffs from circular openings in the walls. The light was diffused and was clearly an extension of that fluor system which was already engaging the attention of our European engineers when the filament and lamp were dispensed with. It shone from long cylinders of clear glass which were suspended along the cornices of the passages. So much I had observed when our descent was checked and we were ushered into a large sitting-room, thickly carpeted and well furnished with gilded chairs and sloping sofas which brought back vague memories of Egyptian tombs. The crowd had been dismissed and only the bearded man with two attendants remained. 'Manda' he repeated several times, tapping himself upon the chest. Then he pointed to each of us in turn and repeated the words Maracot, Headley and Scanlan until he had them perfect. He then motioned us to be seated and said a word to one of the attendants, who left the room and returned presently, escorting a very ancient gentleman, white-haired and long-bearded, with a curious conical cap of black cloth upon his head. I should have said that all these folk were dressed in coloured tunics, which extended to their knees, with high boots of fish skin or shagreen. The venerable newcomer was clearly a physician, for he examined each of us in turn, placing his hand upon our brows and closing his own eyes as if receiving a mental impression as to our condition. Apparently he was by no means satisfied, for he shook his head and said a few grave words to Manda. The latter at once sent the attendant out once more, and he brought in a tray of eatables and a flask of wine, which were laid before us. We were too weary to ask ourselves what they were, but we felt the better for the meal. We were then led to another room, where three beds had been prepared, and on one of these I flung myself down. I have a dim recollection of Bill Scanlan coming across and sitting beside me.

'Say, Bo, that jolt of brandy saved my life,' said he. 'But where are we, anyhow?'

'I know no more than you do.'

'Well, I am ready to hit the hay,' he said, sleepily, as he turned to his bed. 'Say, that wine was fine. Thank God, Volstead never got down here.' They were the last words I heard as I sank into the most profound sleep that I can ever recall.


CHAPTER 3

When I came to myself I could not at first imagine where I was. The events of the previous day were like some blurred nightmare, and I could not believe that I had to accept them as facts. I looked round in bewilderment at the large, bare, windowless room with drab-coloured walls, at the lines of quivering purplish light which flowed along the cornices, at the scattered articles of furniture, and finally at the two other beds, from one of which came the high-pitched, strident snore which I had learned aboard the Stratford, to associate with Maracot. It was too grotesque to be true, and it was only when I fingered my bed cover and observed the curious woven material, the dried fibres of some sea plant, from which it was made, that I was able to realize this inconceivable adventure which had befallen us. I was still pondering it when there came a loud explosion of laughter, and Bill Scanlan sat up in bed.

'Mornin', Bo!' he cried, amid his chuckles, on seeing that I was awake.

'You seem in good spirits,' said I, rather testily. 'I can't see that we have much to laugh about.'

'Well, I had a grouch on me, the same as you, when first I woke up,' he answered. 'Then came a real cute idea, and it was that that made me laugh.'

'I could do with a laugh myself,' said I. 'What's the idea?'

'Well, Bo, I thought how durned funny it would have been if we had all tied ourselves on to that deep-sea line. I allow with those glass dinguses we could have kept breathing all right. Then when old man Howie looked over the side there would have been the whole bunch of us comin' up at him through the water. He would have figured that he had hooked us, sure. Gee, what a spiel!'

Our united laughter woke the Doctor, who sat up in bed with the same amazed expression upon his face which had previously been upon my own. I forgot our troubles as I listened in amusement to his disjointed comments, which alternated between ecstatic joy at the prospect of such a field of study, and profound sorrow that he could never hope to convey his results to his scientific confreres of the earth. Finally he got back to the actual needs of the moment.

'It is nine o'clock,' he said, looking at his watch. We all registered the same hour, but there was nothing to show if it was night or morning.

'We must keep our own calendar,' said Maracot; 'we descended upon October 3rd. We reached this place on the evening of the same day. How long have we slept?'

'My gosh, it may have been a month,' said Scanlan, 'I've not been so deep since Mickey Scott got me on the point in the six round try-out at the Works.'

We dressed and washed, for every civilized convenience was at hand. The door, however, was fastened, and it was clear that we were prisoners for the time. In spite of the apparent absence of any ventilation, the atmosphere kept perfectly sweet, and we found that this was due to a current of air which came through small holes in the wall. There was some source of central heating, too, for though no stove was visible, the temperature was pleasantly warm. Presently I observed a knob upon one of the walls, and pressed it. This was, as I expected, a bell, for the door instantly opened, and a small, dark man, dressed in a yellow robe, appeared in the aperture. He looked at us inquiringly, with large brown, kindly eyes.

'We are hungry,' said Maracot; 'can you get us some food?'

The man shook his head and smiled. It was clear that the words were incomprehensible to him.

Scanlan tried his luck with a flow of American slang, which was received with the same blank smile. When, however, I opened my mouth and thrust my finger into it, our visitor nodded vigorously and hurried away.

Ten minutes later the door opened and two of the yellow attendants appeared, rolling a small table before them. Had we been at the Biltmore Hotel we could not have had better fare. There were coffee, hot milk, rolls, delicious flat fish, and honey. For half an hour we were far too busy to discuss what we ate or whence it was obtained. At the end of that time the two servants appeared once more, rolled out the tray, and closed the door carefully behind them.

'I'm fair black and blue with pinching myself,' said Scanlan. 'Is this a pipe dream or what? Say, Doc, you got us down here, and I guess it is up to you to tell us just how you size it all up.'

The Doctor shook his head.

'It is like a dream to me also, but it is a glorious dream! What a story for the world if we could but get it to them!'

'One thing is clear,' said I, 'there was certainly truth in this legend of Atlantis, and some of the folk have in a marvellous way managed to carry on.'

'Well, even if they carried on,' cried Bill Scanlan, scratching his bullet head, 'I am darned if I can understand how they could get air and fresh water and the rest. Maybe if that queer duck with the beard that we saw last night comes to give us a once-over he will put us wise to it.'

'How can he do that when we have no common language?'

'Well, we shall use our own observation,' said Maracot. 'One thing I can already understand. I learned it from the honey at breakfast. That was clearly synthetic honey, such as we have already learned to make upon the earth. But if synthetic honey, why not synthetic coffee, or flour? The molecules of the elements are like bricks, and these bricks lie all around us. We have only to learn how to pull out certain bricks—sometimes just a single brick—in order to make a fresh substance. Sugar becomes starch, or either becomes alcohol, just by a shifting of the bricks. What is it that shifts them? Heat. Electricity. Other things perhaps of which we know nothing. Some of them will shift themselves, and radium becomes lead or uranium becomes radium without our touching them.'

'You think, then, that they have an advanced chemistry?'

'I'm sure of it. After all there is no elemental brick which is not ready to their hands. Hydrogen and oxygen come readily from the sea water. There are nitrogen and carbon in those masses of sea vegetation, and there are phosphorus and calcium in the bathybic deposit. With skilful management and adequate knowledge, what is there which could not be produced?'

The Doctor had launched upon a chemical lecture when the door opened and Manda entered, giving us a friendly greeting. There came with him the same old gentleman of venerable appearance whom we had met the night before. He may have had a reputation for learning, for he tried several sentences, which were probably different languages, upon us, but all were equally unintelligible. Then he shrugged his shoulders and spoke to Manda, who gave an order to the two yellow-clad servants, still waiting at the door. They vanished, but returned presently with a curious screen, supported by two side posts. It was exactly like one of our cinema screens, but it was coated with some sparkling material which glittered and shimmered in the light. This was placed against one of the walls. The old man then paced out very carefully a certain distance, and marked it upon the floor. Standing at this point he turned to Maracot and touched his forehead, pointing to the screen.

'Clean dippy,' said Scanlan. 'Bats in the belfry.'

Maracot shook his head to show that we were nonplussed. So was the old man for a moment. An idea struck him, however, and he pointed to his own figure. Then he turned towards the screen, fixed his eyes upon it, and seemed to concentrate his attention. In an instant a reflection of himself appeared on the screen before us. Then he pointed to us, and a moment later our own little group took the place of his image. It was not particularly like us. Scanlan looked like a comic Chinaman and Maracot like a decayed corpse, but it was clearly meant to be ourselves as we appeared in the eyes of the operator.

'It's a reflection of thought,' I cried.

'Exactly,' said Maracot. 'This is certainly a most marvellous invention, and yet it is but a combination of such telepathy and television as we dimly comprehend upon earth.'

'I never thought I'd live to see myself on the movies, if that cheese-faced Chink is really meant for me,' said Scanlan. 'Say, if we could get all this news to the editor of the Ledger he'd cough up enough to keep me for life. We've sure got the goods if we could deliver them.'

'That's the trouble,' said I. 'By George, we could stir the whole world if we could only get back to it. But what is he beckoning about?'

'The old guy wants you to try your hand at it, Doc.'

Maracot took the place indicated, and his strong, clear-cut brain focused his picture to perfection. We saw an image of Manda, and then another one of the Stratford as we had left her.

Both Manda and the old scientist nodded their great approval at the sight of the ship, and Manda made a sweeping gesture with his hands, pointing first to us and then to the screen.

'To tell them all about it—that's the idea,' I cried. 'They want to know in pictures who we are, and how we got here.'

Maracot nodded to Manda to show that he understood, and had begun to throw an image of our voyage, when Manda held up his hand and stopped him. At an order the attendants removed the screen, and the two Atlanteans beckoned that we should follow them.

It was a huge building, and we proceeded down corridor after corridor until we came at last to a large hall with seats arranged in tiers like a lecture room. At one side was a broad screen of the same nature as that which we had seen. Facing it there was assembled an audience of at least a thousand people, who set up a murmur of welcome as we entered. They were of both sexes and of all ages, the men dark and bearded, the women beautiful in youth and dignified in age. We had little time to observe them, for we were led to seats in the front row, and Maracot was then placed on a stand opposite the screen, the lights were in some fashion turned down, and he had the signal to begin.

And excellently well he played his part. We first saw our vessel sailing forth from the Thames, and a buzz of excitement went up from the tense audience at this authentic glimpse of a real modern city. Then a map appeared which marked her course. Then was seen the steel shell with its fittings, which was greeted with a murmur of recognition. We saw ourselves once more descending, and reaching the edge of the abyss. Then came the appearance of the monster who had wrecked us. 'Marax! Marax!' cried the people, as the beast appeared. It was clear that they had learned to know and to fear it. There was a terrified hush as the creature fumbled with our hawser, and a groan of horror as the wires parted and we dropped into the gulf. In a month of explanation we could not have made our plight so clear as in that half-hour of visible demonstration.

As the audience broke up they showered every sign of sympathy upon us, crowding round us and patting our backs to show that we were welcome. We were presented in turn to some of the chiefs, but the chieftainship seemed to lie in wisdom alone, for all appeared to be on the same social scale, and were dressed in much the same way. The men wore tunics of a saffron colour coming down to the knees, with belts and high boots of a scaly tough material which must have been the hide of some sea beast. The women were beautifully draped in classical style, their flowing robes of every tint of pink and blue and green, ornamented with clusters of pearl or opalescent sheets of shell. Many of them were lovely beyond any earthly comparison. There was one—but why should I mix my private feelings up with this public narrative? Let me say only that Mona is the only daughter of Manda, one of the leaders of the people, and that from that first day of meeting I read in her dark eyes a message of sympathy and of understanding which went home to my heart, as my gratitude and admiration may have gone to hers. I need not say more at present about this exquisite lady. Suffice it that a new and strong influence had come into my life. When I saw Maracot gesticulating with unwonted animation to one kindly lady, while Scanlan stood conveying his admiration in pantomime in the centre of a group of laughing girls, I realized that my companions also had begun to find that there was a lighter side to our tragic position. If we were dead to the world we had at least found a life beyond, which promised some compensation for what we had lost.

Later in the day we were guided by Manda and other friends round some portions of the immense building. It had been so embedded in the sea-floor by the accumulations of ages that it was only through the roof that it could be entered, and from this point the passages led down and down until the floor level was reached several hundred feet below the entrance chamber. The floor in turn had been excavated, and we saw in all directions passages which sloped downwards into the bowels of the earth. We were shown the air-making apparatus with the pumps which circulated it through the building. Maracot pointed out with wonder and admiration that not only was the oxygen united with the nitrogen, but that smaller retorts supplied other gases which could only be the argon, neon, and other little-known constituents of the atmosphere which we are only just beginning to understand. The distilling vats for making fresh water and the enormous electrical instalments were other objects of interest, but much of the machinery was so intricate that it was difficult for us to follow the details. I can only say that I saw with my own eyes, and tested with my own palate, that chemicals in gaseous and liquid forms were poured into various machines, that they were treated by heat, by pressure, and by electricity, and that flour, tea, coffee, or wine was collected as the product.

There was one consideration which was very quickly forced upon us by our examination, on various occasions, of as much of this building as was open to our inspection. This was that the exposure to the sea had been foreseen and the protection against the inrush of the water had been prepared long before the land sank beneath the waves. Of course, it stood to reason, and needed no proof, that such precautions could not have been taken after the event, but we were witnesses now of the signs that the whole great building had from the first been constructed with the one idea of being an enduring ark of refuge. The huge retorts and vats in which the air, the food, the distilled water, and the other necessary products were made were all built into the walls, and were evidently integral parts of the original construction. So, too, with the exit chambers, the silica works where the vitrine bells were constructed, and the huge pumps which controlled the water. Every one of these things had been prepared by the skill and the foresight of that wonderful far-away people who seemed, from what we could learn, to have thrown out one arm to Central America and one to Egypt, and so left traces of themselves even upon this earth when their own land went down into the Atlantic. As to these, their descendants, we judged that they had probably degenerated, as was but natural, and that at the most they had been stagnant and only preserved some of the science and knowledge of their ancestors without having the energy to add to it. They possessed wonderful powers and yet seemed to us to be strangely wanting in initiative, and had added nothing to that wonderful legacy which they had inherited. I am sure that Maracot, using this knowledge, would very soon have attained greater results. As to Scanlan, with his quick brain and mechanical skill, he was continually putting in touches which probably seemed as remarkable to them as their powers to us. He had a beloved mouth-organ in his coat-pocket when we made our descent, and his use of this was a perpetual joy to our companions, who sat around in entranced groups, as we might listen to a Mozart, while he handed out to them the crooning coon songs of his native land.

I have said that the whole building was not open to our inspection, and I might give a little further detail upon that subject. There was one well-worn corridor down which we saw folk continually passing, but which was always avoided by our guides in our excursions. As was natural our curiosity was aroused, and we determined one evening that we would take a chance and do a little exploring upon our own account. We slipped out of our room, therefore, and made our way to the unknown quarter at a time when few people were about.

The passage led us to a high arched door, which appeared to be made of solid gold. When we pushed it open we found ourselves in a huge room, forming a square of not less than two hundred feet. All around, the walls were painted with vivid colours and adorned with extraordinary pictures and statues of grotesque creatures with enormous head-dresses, like the full dress regalia of our American Indians. At the end of this great hall there was one huge seated figure, the legs crossed like a Buddha, but with none of the benignity of aspect which is seen on the Buddha's placid features. On the contrary, this was a creature of Wrath, open-mouthed and fierce-eyed, the latter being red, and their effect exaggerated by two electric lights which shone through them. On his lap was a great oven, which we observed, as we approached it, to be filled with ashes.

'Moloch!' said Maracot. 'Moloch or Baal—the old god of the Phoenician races.'

'Good heavens!' I cried, with recollections of old Carthage before me. 'Don't tell me that these gentle folk could go in for human sacrifice.'

'Look it here, Bo!' said Scanlan, anxiously. 'I hope they keep it in the family, anyhow. We don't want them to pull no such dope on us.'

'No, I guess they have learned their lesson,' said I. 'It's misfortune that teaches folk to have pity for others.'

'That's right,' Maracot remarked, poking about among the ashes, 'it is the old hereditary god, but it is surely a gentler cult. These are burned loaves and the like. But perhaps there was a time—'

But our speculations were interrupted by a stern voice at our elbow, and we found several men in yellow garments and high hats, who were clearly the priests of the Temple. From the expression on their faces I should judge that we were very near to being the last victims to Baal, and one of them had actually drawn a knife from his girdle. With fierce gestures and cries they drove us roughly out of their sacred shrine.

'By gosh!' cried Scanlan, 'I'll sock that duck if he keeps crowding me! Look it here, you Bindlestiff, keep your hands off my coat.'

For a moment I feared that we should have had what Scanlan called a 'rough house' within the sacred precincts. However, we got the angry mechanic away without blows and regained the shelter of our room, but we could tell from the demeanour of Manda and others of our friends that our escapade was known and resented.

But there was another shrine which was freely shown to us and which had a very unexpected result, for it opened up a slow and imperfect method of communication between our companions and ourselves. This was a room in the lower quarter of the Temple, with no decorations or distinction save that at one end there stood a statue of ivory yellow with age, representing a woman holding a spear, with an owl perched upon her shoulder. A very old man was the guardian of the room, and in spite of his age it was clear to us that he was of a very different race, and one of a finer, larger type than the men of the Temple. As we stood gazing at the ivory statue, Maracot and I, both wondering where we had seen something like it, the old man addressed us.

'Thea,' said he, pointing to the figure.

'By George!' I cried, 'he is speaking Greek.'

'Thea! Athena!' repeated the man.

There was not a doubt of it. 'Goddess—Athena,' the words were unmistakable. Maracot, whose wonderful brain had absorbed something from every branch of human knowledge, began at once to ask questions in Classical Greek which were only partly understood and were answered in a dialect so archaic that it was almost incomprehensible. Still, he acquired some knowledge, and he found an intermediary through whom he could dimly convey something to our companions.

'It is a remarkable proof,' said Maracot that evening, in his high neighing voice and in the tones of one addressing a large class, 'of the reliability of legend. There is always a basis of fact even if in the course of the years it should become distorted. You are aware—or probably you are not aware'—('Bet your life!' from Scanlan)—'that a war was going on between the primitive Greeks and, the Atlanteans at the time of the destruction of the great island. The fact is recorded in Solon's description of what he learned from the priests of Sais. We may conjecture that there were Greek prisoners in the hands of the Atlanteans at the time, that some of them were in the service of the Temple, and that they carried their own religion with them. That man was, so far as I could understand, the old hereditary priest of the cult, and perhaps when we know more we shall see something of these ancient people.'

'Well, I hand it to them for good sense,' said Scanlan. 'I guess if you want a plaster god it is better to have a fine woman than that blatherskite with the red eyes and the coal-bunker on his knees.'

'Lucky they can't understand your views,' I remarked. 'If they did you might end up as a Christian martyr.'

'Not so long as I can play them jazz,' he answered, 'I guess they've got used to me now, and they couldn't do without me.'

They were a cheerful crowd, and it was a happy life, but there were and are times when one's whole heart goes out to the homelands which we have lost, and visions of the dear old quadrangles of Oxford, or of the ancient elms and the familiar campus of Harvard, came up before my mind. In those early days they seemed as far from me as some landscape in the moon, and only now in a dim uncertain fashion does the hope of seeing them once more begin to grow in my soul.


CHAPTER 4

It was a few days after our arrival that our hosts or our captors— we were dubious sometimes as to which to call them—took us out for an expedition upon the bottom of the ocean. Six of them came with us, including Manda, the chief. We assembled in the same exit chamber in which we had originally been received, and we were now in a condition to examine it a little more closely. It was a very large place, at least a hundred feet each way, and its low walls and ceiling were green with marine growths and dripping with moisture. A long row of pegs, with marks which I presume were numbers, ran round the whole room, and on each was hung one of the semi-transparent bells of vitrine and a pair of the shoulder batteries which ensured respiration. The floor was of flagged stone worn into concavities, the footsteps of many generations, these hollows now lying as pools of shallow water. The whole was highly illuminated by fluor tubes round the cornice. We were fastened into our vitrine coverings, and a stout pointed staff made of some light metal was handed to each of us. Then, by signals, Manda ordered us to take a grip of a rail which ran round the room, he and his friends setting us an example. The object of this soon became evident, for as the outer door swung slowly open the sea water came pouring in with such force that we should have been swept from our feet but for this precaution. It rose rapidly, however, to above the level of our heads, and the pressure upon us was eased. Manda led the way to the door, and an instant afterwards we were out on the ocean bed once more, leaving the portal open behind us ready for our return.

Looking round us in the cold, flickering, spectral light which illuminates the bathybian plain, we could see for a radius of at least a quarter of a mile in every direction.

What amazed us was to observe, on the very limit of what was visible, a very brilliant glow of radiance. It was towards this that our leader turned his steps, our party walking in single file behind him. It was slow going, for there was the resistance of the water, and our feet were buried deeply in the soft slush with every step; but soon we were able to see clearly what the beacon was which had attracted us. It was our own shell, our last reminder of terrestrial life, which lay tilted upon one of the cupolas of the far-flung building, with all its lights still blazing. It was three-quarters full of water, but the imprisoned air still preserved that portion in which our electric instalment lay. It was strange indeed as we gazed into it to see the familiar interior with our settees and instruments still in position, while several good-sized fish like minnows in a bottle swam round and round inside it. One after the other our party clambered in through the open flap, Maracot to rescue a book of notes which floated on the surface, Scanlan and I to pick up some personal belongings. Manda came also with one or two of his comrades, examining with the greatest interest the bathometer and thermometer with the other instruments which were attached to the wall. The latter we detached and took away with us. It may interest scientists to know that forty degrees Fahrenheit represents the temperature at the greatest sea depths to which man has ever descended, and that it is higher, on account of the chemical decomposition of the ooze, than the upper strata of the sea.

Our little expedition had, it seems, a definite object besides that of allowing us a little exercise upon the bed of the ocean. We were hunting for food. Every now and then I saw our comrades strike sharply down with their pointed sticks, impaling each time a large brown flat fish, not unlike a turbot, which was numerous, but lay so closely in the ooze that it took practised eyes to detect it. Soon each of the little men had two or three of these dangling at his side. Scanlan and I soon got the knack of it, and captured a couple each, but Maracot walked as one in a dream, quite lost in his wonder at the ocean beauties around him and making long and excited speeches which were lost to the ear, but visible to the eyes from the contortion of his features.

Our first impression had been one of monotony, but we soon found that the grey plains were broken up into varied formations by the action of the deep-sea currents which flowed like submarine rivers across them. These streams cut channels in the soft slime and exposed the beds which lay beneath. The floor of these banks consisted of red clay which forms the base of all things on the surface of the bed of the ocean, and they were thickly studded with white objects which I imagined to be shells, but which proved, when we examined them, to be the ear bones of whales and the teeth of sharks and the other sea monsters. One of these teeth which I picked up was fifteen inches long, and we could but be thankful that so fearful a monster frequented the higher levels of ocean. It belonged, according to Maracot, to a giant-killing grampus or Orca gladiator. It recalled the observation of Mitchell Hedges that even the most terrible sharks that he had caught bore upon their bodies the marks which showed that they had encountered creatures larger and more formidable than themselves.

There was one peculiarity of the ocean depths which impresses itself upon the observer. There is, as I have said, a constant cold light rising up from the slow phosphorescent decay of the great masses of organic matter. But above, all is black as night. The effect is that of a dim winter day, with a heavy black thundercloud lying low above the earth. Out of this black canopy there falls slowly an incessant snowstorm of tiny white flakes, which glimmer against the sombre background. These are the shells of sea snails and other small creatures who live and die in the five miles of water which separate us from the surface, and though many of these are dissolved as they fall and add to the lime salts in the ocean, the rest go in the course of ages to form that deposit which had entombed the great city in the upper part of which we now dwelt.

Leaving our last link with earth beneath us, we pushed on into the gloom of the submarine world and soon we were met by a completely new development. A moving patch appeared in front of us, which broke up as we approached it into a crowd of men, each in his vitrine envelope, who were dragging behind them broad sledges heaped with coal. It was heavy work, and the poor devils were bending and straining, tugging hard at the sharkskin ropes which served as traces. With each gang of men there was one who appeared to be in authority, and it interested us to see that the leaders and the workers were clearly of a different race. The latter were tall men, fair, with blue eyes and powerful bodies. The others were, as already described, dark and almost negroid, with squat, broad frames. We could not inquire into the mystery at that moment, but the impression was left upon my mind that the one race represented the hereditary slaves of the other, and Maracot was of the opinion that they may have been the descendants of those Greek prisoners whose goddess we had seen in the Temple.

Several droves of these men, each drawing its load of coal, were met by us before we came to the mine itself. At this point the deep-sea deposits and the sandy formations which lay beneath them had been cut away, and a great pit exposed, which consisted of alternate layers of clay and coal, representing strata in the old perished world of long ago which now lay at the bottom of the Atlantic. At the various levels of this huge excavation we could see gangs of men at work hewing the coal, while others gathered it into loads and placed it in baskets, by means of which it was hoisted up to the level above. The whole mine was on so vast a scale that we could not see the other side of the enormous pit which so many generations of workers had scooped in the bed of the ocean. This, then, transmuted into electric force, was the source of the motive power by which the whole machinery of Atlantis was run. It is interesting, by the way, to record that the name of the old city had been correctly preserved in the legends, for when we had mentioned it to Manda and others they first looked greatly surprised that we should know it, and then nodded their heads vigorously to show that they understood.

Passing the great coal pit—or, rather, branching away from it to the right—we came on a line of low cliffs of basalt, their surface as clear and shining as on the day when they were shot up from the bowels of the earth, while their summit; some hundreds of feet above us, loomed up against the dark background. The base of these volcanic cliffs was draped in a deep jungle of high seaweed, growing out of tangled masses of crinoid corals laid down in the old terrestrial days. Along the edge of this thick undergrowth we wandered for some time, our companions beating it with their sticks and driving out for our amusement an extraordinary assortment of strange fishes and crustacea, now and again securing a specimen for their own tables. For a mile or more we wandered along in this happy fashion, when I saw Manda stop suddenly and look round him with gestures of alarm and surprise. These submarine gestures formed a language in themselves, for in a moment his companions understood the cause of his trouble, and then with a shock we realized it also. Dr. Maracot had disappeared.

He had certainly been with us at the coal pit, and he had come as far as the basalt cliffs. It was inconceivable that he had got ahead of us, so it was evident that he must be somewhere along the line of jungle in our rear. Though our friends were disturbed, Scanlan and I, who knew something of the good man's absent-minded eccentricities were confident that there was no cause for alarm, and that we should soon find him loitering over some sea form which had attracted him. We all turned to retrace our steps, and had hardly gone a hundred yards before we caught sight of him.

But he was running—running with an agility which I should have thought impossible for a man of his habits. Even the least athletic can run, however, when fear is the pacemaker. His hands were outstretched for help, and he stumbled and blundered forward with clumsy energy. He had good cause to exert himself, for three horrible creatures were close at his heels. They were tiger crabs, striped black and white, each about the size of a Newfoundland dog. Fortunately they were themselves not very swift travellers, and were scurrying along the soft sea bottom in a curious sidelong fashion which was little faster than that of the terrified fugitive.

Their wind was better, however, and they would probably have had their horrible claws upon him in a very few minutes had not our friends intervened. They dashed forward with their pointed sticks, and Manda flashed a power electric lantern, which he carried in his belt, in the face of the loathsome monsters, who scuttled into the jungle and were lost to view. Our comrade sat down on a lump of coral and his face showed that he was exhausted by his adventure. He told us afterwards that he had penetrated the jungle in the hope of securing what seemed to him to be a rare specimen of the deep-sea Chimoera, and that he had blundered into the nest of these fierce tiger crabs, who had instantly dashed after him. It was only after a long rest that he was able to resume the journey.

Our next stage after skirting the basalt cliffs led us to our goal. The grey plain in front of us was covered at this point by irregular hummocks and tall projections which told us that the great city of old lay beneath it. It would all have been completely buried for ever by the ooze, as Herculaneum has been by lava or Pompeii by ashes, had an entrance to it not been excavated by the survivors of the Temple. This entrance was a long, downward cutting, which ended up in a broad street with buildings exposed on either side. The walls of these buildings were occasionally cracked and shattered, for they were not of the solid construction which had preserved the Temple, but the interiors were in most cases exactly as they had been when the catastrophe occurred, save that sea changes of all sorts, beautiful and rare in some cases and horrifying in others, had modified the appearances of the rooms. Our guides did not encourage us to examine the first ones which we reached, but hurried us onwards until we came to that which had clearly been the great central citadel or palace round which the whole town centred. The pillars and columns and vast sculptured cornices and friezes and staircases of this building exceeded anything which I have ever seen upon earth.

Its nearest approach seemed to me to be the remains of the Temple of Karnak at Luxor in Egypt, and, strange to say, the decorations and half-effaced engravings resembled in detail those of the great ruin beside the Nile, and the lotus-shaped capitals of the columns were the same. It was an amazing experience to stand on the marble tessellated floors of those vast halls, with great statues looming high above one on every side, and to see, as we saw that day, huge silvery eels gliding above our heads and frightened fish darting away in every direction from the light which was projected before us. From room to room we wandered, marking every sign of luxury and occasionally of that lascivious folly which is said, by the lingering legend, to have drawn God's curse upon the people. One small room was wonderfully enamelled with mother-of-pearl, so that even now it gleamed with brilliant opalescent tints when the light played across it. An ornamented platform of yellow metal and a similar couch lay in one corner, and one felt that it may well have been the bedchamber of a queen, but beside the couch there lay now a loathsome black squid, its foul body rising and falling in a slow, stealthy rhythm so that it seemed like some evil heart which still beat in the very centre of the wicked palace. I was glad, and so, I learned, were my companions, when our guides led the way out once more, glancing for a moment at a ruined amphitheatre and again at a pier with a lighthouse at the end, which showed that the city had been a seaport. Soon we had emerged from these places of ill omen and were out on the familiar bathybian plain once more.

Our adventures were not quite over, for there was one more which was as alarming to our companions as to ourselves. We had nearly made our way home when one of our guides pointed upwards with alarm. Gazing in that direction we saw an extraordinary sight. Out of the black gloom of the waters a huge, dark figure was emerging, falling rapidly downwards. At first it seemed a shapeless mass, but as it came more clearly into the light we could see that it was the dead body of a monstrous fish, which had burst so that the entrails were streaming up behind it as it fell. No doubt the gases had buoyed it up in the higher reaches of the ocean until, having been released by putrefaction or by the ravages of sharks, there was nothing left but dead weight, which sent it hurtling down to the bottom of the sea. Already in our walk we had observed several of these great skeletons picked clean by the fish, but this creature was still, save for its disembowelment, even as it had lived. Our guides seized us with the intention of dragging us out of the path of the falling mass, but presently they were reassured and stood still, for it was clear that it would miss us. Our vitrine helmets prevented our hearing the thud, but it must have been prodigious when the huge body struck the floor of the ocean, and we saw the globigerina ooze fly upwards as the mud splashes when a heavy stone is hurled into it. It was a sperm whale, some seventy feet long, and from the excited and joyful gestures of the submarine folk I gathered that they would find plenty of use for the spermaceti and the fat. For the moment, however, we left the derelict creature, and with joyful hearts, for we unpractised visitors were weary and aching, found ourselves once more in front of the engraved portal of the roof, and finally standing safe and sound, divested of our vitrine bells, on the sloppy floor of the entrance chamber.

A few days—as we reckon time—after the occasion when we had given the community a cinema view of our own proceedings, we were present at a very much more solemn and august exhibition of the same sort, which gave us in a clear and wonderful way the past history of this remarkable people. I cannot flatter myself that it was given entirely on our behalf, for I rather think that the events were publicly rehearsed from time to time in order to carry on the record, and that the part to which we were admitted was only some intermezzo of a long religious ceremony. However that may be, I will describe it exactly as it occurred.

We were led to the same great hall or theatre where Dr. Maracot had thrown our own adventures upon the screen. There the whole community was assembled, and we were given, as before, places of honour in front of the great luminous screen. Then, after a long song, which may have been some sort of patriotic chant, a very old white-haired man, the historian or chronicler of the nation, advanced amid much applause to the focus point and threw upon the bright surface before him a series of pictures to represent the rise and fall of his own people. I wish I could convey to you their vividness and drama. My two companions and I lost all sense of time and place, so absorbed were we in the contemplation, while the audience was moved to its depths and groaned or wept as the tragedy unfolded, which depicted the ruin of their fatherland, the destruction of their race.

In the first series of scenes we saw the old continent in its glory, as its memory had been handed down by these historical records passed from fathers to sons. We had a bird's-eye view of a glorious rolling country, enormous in extent, well watered and cleverly irrigated, with great fields of grain, waving orchards, lovely streams and woody hills, still lakes and occasional picturesque mountains. It was studded with villages and covered with farm-houses and beautiful private residences. Then our attention was carried to the capital, a wonderful and gorgeous city upon the sea-shore, the harbour crammed with galleys, her quays piled with merchandise, and her safety assured by high walls with towering battlements and circular moats, all on the most gigantic scale. The houses stretched inland for many miles, and in the centre of the city was a crenellated castle or citadel, so widespread and commanding that it was like some creation of a dream. We were then shown the faces of those who lived in that golden age, wise and venerable old men, virile warriors, saintly priests, beautiful and dignified women, lovely children, an apotheosis of the human race.

Then came pictures of another sort. We saw wars, constant wars, war by land and war by sea. We saw naked and defenceless races trampled down and over-ridden by great chariots or the rush of mailed horsemen. We saw treasures heaped upon the victors, but even as the riches increased the faces upon the screen became more animal and more cruel. Down, down they sank from one generation to another. We were shown signs of lascivious dissipation or moral degeneracy, of the accretion of matter and decline of spirit. Brutal sports at the expense of others had taken the place of the manly exercises of old. There was no longer the quiet and simple family life, nor the cultivation of the mind, but we had a glimpse of a people who were restless and shallow, rushing from one pursuit to another, grasping ever at pleasure, for ever missing it, and yet imagining always that in some more complex and unnatural form it might still be found. There had arisen on the one hand an over-rich class who sought only sensual gratification, and on the other hand an over-poor residue whose whole function in life was to minister to the wants of their masters, however evil those wants might be.

And now once again a new note was struck. There were reformers at work who were trying to turn the nation from its evil ways, and to direct it back into those higher paths which it had forsaken. We saw them, grave and earnest men, reasoning and pleading with the people, but we saw them scorned and jeered at by those whom they were trying to save. Especially we could see that it was the priests of Baal, priests who had gradually allowed forms and show and outward ceremonies to take the place of unselfish spiritual development, who led the opposition to the reformers. But the latter were not to be bullied or browbeaten. They continued to try for the salvation of the people, and their faces assumed a graver and even a terror-inspiring aspect, as those of men who had a fearsome warning to give which was like some dreadful vision before their own minds. Of their auditors some few seemed to heed and be terrified at the words, but others turned away laughing and plunged ever deeper into their morass of sin. There came a time at last when the reformers turned away also as men who could do no more, and left this degenerate people to its fate.

Then we saw a strange sight. There was one reformer, a man of singular strength of mind and body, who gave a lead to all the others. He had wealth and influence and powers, which latter seemed to be not entirely of this earth. We saw him in what seemed to be a trance, communing with higher spirits. It was he who brought all the science of his land—science which far outshone anything known by us moderns—to the task of building an ark of refuge against the coming troubles. We saw myriads of workmen at work, and the walls rising while crowds of careless citizens looked on and made merry at such elaborate and useless precautions. We saw others who seemed to reason with him and to say to him that if he had fears it would be easier for him to fly to some safer land. His answer, so far as we could follow it, was that there were some who must be saved at the last moment, and that for their sake he must remain in the new Temple of safety. Meanwhile he collected in it those who had followed him, and he held them there, for he did not himself know the day nor the hour, though forces beyond mortal had assured him of the coming fact. So when the ark was ready and the water-tight doors were finished and tested, he waited upon doom, with his family, his friends, his followers, and his servants.

And doom came. It was a terrible thing even in a picture. God knows what it could be like in reality. We first saw a huge sleek mountain of water rise to an incredible height out of a calm ocean. Then we saw it travel, sweeping on and on, mile after mile, a great glistening hill, topped with foam, at an ever-increasing rate. Two little ships tossing among the snowy fringe upon the summit became, as the wave rolled towards us, a couple of shattered galleys. Then we saw it strike the shore and sweep over the city, while the houses went down before it like a field of corn before a tornado. We saw the folk upon the house-tops glaring out at the approaching death, their faces twisted with horror, their eyes staring, their mouths contorted, gnawing at their hands and gibbering in an insanity of terror. The very men and women who had mocked at the warning were now screaming to Heaven for mercy, grovelling with their faces on the ground, or kneeling with frenzied arms raised in wild appeal. There was no time now to reach the ark, which stood beyond the city, but thousands dashed up to the Citadel, which stood upon higher ground, and the battlement walls were black with people. Then suddenly the Castle began to sink. Everything began to sink. The water had poured down into the remote recesses of the earth, the central fires had expanded it into steam, and the very foundations of the land were blown apart. Down went the city and ever down, while a cry went up from ourselves and the audience at the terrible sight. The pier broke in two and vanished. The high Pharus collapsed under the waves. The roofs looked for a while like successive reefs of rock forming lines of spouting breakers until they, too, went under.

The Citadel was left alone upon the surface, like some monstrous ship, and then it also slid sideways down into the abyss, with a fringe of helpless waving hands upon its summit. The awful drama was over, and an unbroken sea lay across the whole continent, a sea which bore no life upon it, but which among its huge smoking swirls and eddies showed all the wrack of the tragedy tossed hither and thither, dead men and animals, chairs, tables, articles of clothing, floating hats and bales of goods, all bobbing and heaving in one huge liquid fermentation. Slowly we saw it die away, and a great wide expanse as smooth and bright as quicksilver, with a murky sun low on the horizon, showed us the grave of the land that God had weighed and found wanting.

The story was complete. We could ask for no more, since our own brains and imagination could supply the rest. We realized the slow remorseless descent of that great land lower and lower into the abyss of the ocean amid volcanic convulsions which threw up submarine peaks around it. We saw it in our mind's eye stretched out, over miles of what was now the bed of the Atlantic, the shattered city lying alongside of the ark or refuge in which the handful of nerve-shattered survivors were assembled. And then finally we understood how these had carried on their lives, how they had used the various devices with which the foresight and science of their great leader had endowed them, how he had taught them all his arts before he passed away, and how some fifty or sixty survivors had grown now into a large community, which had to dig its way into the bowels of the earth in order to get room to expand. No library of information could make it clearer than that series of pictures and the inferences which we could draw from them. Such was the fate, and such the causes of the fate, which overwhelmed the great land of Atlantis. Some day far distant, when this bathybian ooze has turned to chalk, this great city will be thrown up once more by some fresh expiration of Nature, and the geologist of the future, delving in the quarry, will exhume not flints nor shells, but the remains of a vanished civilization, and the traces of an old-world catastrophe.

Only one point had remained undecided, and that was the length of time since the tragedy had occurred. Dr. Maracot discovered a rough method of making an estimate. Among the many annexes of the great building there was one huge vault, which was the burial-place of the chiefs. As in Egypt and in Yucatan, the practice of mummifying had been usual, and in niches in the walls there were endless rows of these grim relics of the past. Manda pointed proudly to the next one in the succession, and gave us to understand that it was specially arranged for himself.

'If you take an average of the European kings,' said Maracot, in his best professional manner, 'you will find that they run to above five in the century. We may adopt the same figure here. We cannot hope for scientific accuracy, but it will give us an approximation. I have counted the mummies, and they are four hundred in number.'

'Then it would be eight thousand years?'

'Exactly. And this agrees to some extent with Plato's estimate. It certainly occurred before the Egyptian written records begin, and they go back between six and seven thousand years from the present date. Yes, I think we may say that our eyes have seen the reproduction of a tragedy which occurred at least eight thousand years ago. But, of course, to build up such a civilization as we see the traces of, must in itself have taken many thousands of years.

'Thus,' he concluded—and I pass the claim on to you—we have extended the horizon of ascertained human history as no men have ever done since history began.'

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CHAPTER 5

It was about a month, according to our calculations, after our visit to the buried city that the most amazing and unexpected thing of all occurred. We had thought by this time that we were immune to shocks and that nothing new could really stagger us, but this actual fact went far beyond anything for which our imagination might have prepared us.

It was Scanlan who brought the news that something momentous had happened. You must realize that by this time we were, to some extent, at home in the great building; that we knew where the common rest rooms and recreation rooms were situated; that we attended concerts (their music was very strange and elaborate) and theatrical entertainments, where the unintelligible words were translated by very vivid and dramatic gestures; and that, speaking generally, we were part of the community. We visited various families in their own private rooms, and our lives—I can speak for my own, at any rate—were made the brighter by the glamour of these strange people, especially of that one dear young lady whose name I have already mentioned. Mona was the daughter of one of the leaders of the tribe, and I found in his family a warm and kindly welcome which rose above all differences of race or language. When it comes to the most tender language of all, I did not find that there was so much between old Atlantis and modern America. I guess that what would please a Massachusetts girl of Brown's College is just about what would please my lady under the waves.

But I must get back to the fact that Scanlan came into our room with news of some great happening.

'Say, there is one of them just blown in, and he's that excited that he clean forgot to take his glass lid off, and he was jabbering for some minutes before he understood that no one could hear him. Then it was Blah Blah Blah as long as his breath would hold, and they are all following him now to the jumping-off place. It's me for the water, for there is sure something worth our seeing.'

Running out, we found our friends all hurrying down the corridor with excited gestures, and we, joining the procession, soon formed part of the crowd who were hurrying across the sea bottom, led by the excited messenger. They drove along at a rate which made it no easy matter for us to keep up, but they carried their electric lanterns with them, and even though we fell behind we were able to follow the gleam. The route lay as before, along the base of the basalt cliffs until we came to a spot where a set of steps, concave from long usage, led up to the top. Ascending these, we found ourselves in broken country, with many jagged pinnacles of rock and deep crevasses which made it difficult travelling. Emerging from this tangle of ancient lava, we came out on a circular plain, brilliant by the phosphorescent light, and there in the very centre of it lay an object which set me gasping. As I looked at my companions I could see from their amazed expression how fully they shared my emotion.

Half embedded in the slime there lay a good-sized steamer. It was tilted upon its side, the funnel had broken and was hanging at a strange angle, and the foremast had snapped off short, but otherwise the vessel was intact and as clean and fresh as if she had just left the dock. We hurried towards her and found ourselves under the stern. You can imagine how we felt when we read the name 'Stratford, London'. Our ship had followed ourselves into the Maracot Deep.

Of course, after the first shock the affair did not seem so incomprehensible. We remembered the falling glass, the reefed sails of the experienced Norwegian skipper, the strange black cloud upon the horizon. Clearly there had been a sudden cyclone of phenomenal severity and the .Stratford had been blown over. It was too evident that all her people were dead, for most of the boats were trailing in different states of destruction from the davits, and in any case what boat could live in such a hurricane? The tragedy had occurred, no doubt, within an hour or two of our own disaster. Perhaps the sounding-line which we had seen had only just been wound in before the blow fell. It was terrible, but whimsical, that we should be still alive, while those who were mourning our destruction had themselves been destroyed. We had no means of telling whether the ship had drifted in the upper levels of the ocean or whether she had lain for some time where we found her before she was discovered by the Atlantean.

Poor Howie, the captain, or what was left of him, was still at his post upon the bridge, the rail grasped firmly in his stiffened hands. His body and that of three stokers in the engine-room were the only ones which had sunk with the ship. They were each removed under our direction and buried under the ooze with a wreath of sea-flowers over their remains. I give this detail in the hope that it may be some comfort to Mrs. Howie in her bereavement. The names of the stokers were unknown to us.

Whilst we had been performing this duty the little men had swarmed over the ship. Looking up, we saw them everywhere, like mice upon a cheese. Their excitement and curiosity made it clear to us that it was the first modern ship—possibly the first steamer—which had ever come down to them. We found out later that their oxygen apparatus inside their vitrine bells would not allow of a longer absence from the recharging station than a few hours, and so their chances of learning anything of what was on the sea-bed were limited to so many miles from their central base. They set to work at once breaking up the wreck and removing all that would be of use to them, a very long process, which is hardly accomplished yet. We were glad also to make our way to our cabins and to get many of those articles of clothing and books which were not ruined beyond redemption.

Among the other things which we rescued from the Stratford was the ship's log, which had been written up to the last day by the captain in view of our own catastrophe. It was strange indeed that we should be reading it and that he should be dead. The day's entry ran thus:

'Oct. 3. The three brave but foolhardy adventurers have today, against my will and advice, descended in their apparatus to the bottom of the ocean, and the accident which I had foreseen has occurred. God rest their souls. They went down at eleven a.m. and I had some doubts about permitting them, as a squall seemed to be coming up. I would that I had acted upon my impulse, but it would only have postponed the inevitable tragedy. I bade each of them farewell with the conviction that I would see them no more. For a time all was well, and at eleven forty-five they had reached a depth of three hundred fathoms, where they had found bottom. Dr. Maracot sent several messages to me and all seemed to be in order, when suddenly I heard his voice in agitation, and there was considerable agitation of the wire hawser. An instant later it snapped. It would appear that they were by this time over a deep chasm, for at the Doctor's request the ship had steamed very slowly forwards. The air tubes continued to run out for a distance which I should estimate at half a mile, and then they also snapped. It is the last which we can ever hope to hear of Dr. Maracot, Mr. Headley, or Mr. Scanlan.

'And yet a most extraordinary thing must be recorded, the meaning of which I have not had time to weigh, for with this foul weather coming up there is much to distract me. A deep-sea sounding was taken at the same time, and the depth recorded was twenty-six thousand six hundred feet. The weight was, of course, left at the bottom, but the wire has just been drawn in and, incredible as it may seem, above the porcelain sample cup there was found Mr. Headley's handkerchief with his name marked upon it. The ship's company were all amazed, and no one can suggest how such a thing could have occurred. In my next entry I may have more to say about this. We have lingered a few hours in the hope of something coming to the surface, and we have pulled up the hawser, which shows a jagged end. Now I must look to the ship, for I have never seen a worse sky and the barometer is at a8.5 and sinking fast.'

So it was that we got the final news of our former companions. A terrific cyclone must have struck her and destroyed her immediately afterwards.

We stayed at the wreck until a certain stuffiness within our vitrine bells and a feeling of increasing weight upon our chests warned us that it was high time to begin our return. Then it was, on our homeward journey, that we had an adventure which showed us the sudden dangers to which these submarine folk are exposed, and which may explain why their numbers, in spite of the lapse of time, were not greater than they were. Including the Grecian slaves we cannot reckon those numbers at more than four or five thousand at the most. We had descended the staircase and were making our way along the edge of the jungle which skirts the basalt cliffs, when Manda pointed excitedly upwards and beckoned furiously to one of our party who was some distance out in the open. At the same time he and those around him ran to the side of some high boulders, pulling us along with them. It was only when we were in their shelter that we saw the cause of the alarm. Some distance above us, but descending rapidly, was a huge fish of a most peculiar shape. It might have been a great floating feather-bed, soft and bulging, with a white under-surface and a long red fringe, the vibration of which propelled it through the water. It appeared to have neither mouth nor eyes, but it soon showed that it was formidably alert. The member of our party who was out in the open ran for the same shelter that we had taken, but he was too late. I saw his face convulsed with terror as he realized his fate.

The horrible creature descended upon him, enveloped him on all sides, and lay upon him, pulsing in a dreadful way as if it were thrusting his body against the coral rocks and grinding it to pieces. The tragedy was taking place within a few yards of us, and yet our companions were so overcome by the suddenness of it that they seemed to be bereft of all power of action. It was Scanlan who rushed out and, jumping on the creature's broad back, blotched with red and brown markings, dug the sharp end of his metal staff into its soft tissues.

I had followed Scanlan's example, and finally Maracot and all of them attacked the monster, which glided slowly off, leaving a trail of oily and glutinous excretion behind it. Our help had come too late, however, for the impact of the great fish had broken the vitrine bell of the Atlantean and he had been drowned. It was a day of mourning when we carried his body back into the Refuge, but it was also a day of triumph for us, for our prompt action had raised us greatly in the estimation of our companions. As to the strange fish, we had Dr. Maracot's assurance that it was a specimen of the blanket fish, well known to ichthyologists, but of a size such as had never entered into his dreams.

I speak of this creature because it chanced to bring about a tragedy, but I could, and perhaps will, write a book upon the wonderful life which we have seen here. Red and black are the prevailing colours in deep-sea life, while the vegetation is of the palest olive, and is of so tough a fibre that it is seldom dragged up by our trawls, so that Science has come to believe that the bed of the ocean is bare. Many of the marine forms are of surpassing loveliness, and others so grotesque in their horror that they are like the images of delirium and of a danger such as no land animal can rival. I have seen a black sting-ray thirty feet long with a horrible fang upon its tail, one blow of which would kill any living creature. I have seen, too, a frog-like beast with protruding green eyes, which is simply a gaping mouth with a huge stomach behind it. To meet it is death unless one has an electric flash with which to repel it. I have seen the blind red eel which lies among the rocks and kills by the emission of poison, and I have seen also the giant sea-scorpion, one of the terrors of the deep, and the hag fish, which lurks among the sea jungle.

Once, too, it was my privilege to see the real sea-serpent, a creature which has seldom appeared before the human eye, for it lives in the extreme depths and is seen on the surface only when some submarine convulsion has driven it out of its haunts. Two of them swam, or rather glided, past us one day while Mona and I cowered among the bunches of lamellaria. They were enormous—some ten feet in height and two hundred in length, black above, silver-white below, with a high fringe upon the back, and small eyes no larger than those of an ox. Of these and many other such things an account will be found in the paper of Dr. Maracot, should it ever reach your hands.

Week glided into week in our new life. It had become a very pleasant one, and we were slowly picking up enough of this long-forgotten tongue to enable us to converse a little with our companions. There were endless subjects both for study and for amusement in the Refuge, and already Maracot has mastered so much of the old chemistry that he declares that he can revolutionize all worldly ideas if he can only transmit his knowledge. Among other things they have learned to split the atom, and though the energy released is less than our scientists had anticipated, it is still sufficient to supply them with a great reservoir of power. Their acquaintance with the power and nature of the ether is also far ahead of ours, and indeed that strange translation of thought into pictures, by which we had told them our story and they theirs, was due to an etheric impression translated back into terms of matter.

And yet, in spite of their knowledge, there were points connected with modern scientific developments which had been overlooked by their ancestors.

It was left to Scanlan to demonstrate the fact. For weeks he was in a state of suppressed excitement, bursting with some great secret, and chuckling continually at his own thoughts. We only saw him occasionally during this time, for he was extremely busy and his one friend and confidant was a fat and jovial Atlantean named Berbrix, who was in charge of some of the machinery. Scanlan and Berbrix, though their intercourse was carried on chiefly by signs and mutual back-slapping, had become very close friends, and were now continually closeted together. One evening Scanlan came in radiant.

'Look here, Doc,' he said to Maracot, 'I've a dope of my own that I want to hand to these folk. They've shown us a thing or two and I figure that it is up to us to return it. What's the matter with calling them together tomorrow night for a show?'

'Jazz or the Charleston?' I asked.

'Charleston nothing. Wait till you see it. Man, it's the greatest stunt—but there, I won't say a word more. Just this, Bo. I won't let you down, for I've got the goods, and I mean to deliver them.'

Accordingly, the community were assembled next evening in the familiar hall. Scanlan and Berbrix were on the platform, beaming with pride. One or other of them touched a button, and then—well, to use Scanlan's own language, 'I hand it to him, for he did surprise us some!'

'2L.O. calling,' cried a clear voice. 'London calling the British Isles. Weather forecast.' Then followed the usual sentence about depressions and anticyclones. 'First News Bulletin. His Majesty the King this morning opened the new wing of the Children's Hospital in Hammersmith—' and so on and on, in the familiar strain. For the first time we were back in a workaday England once more, plodding bravely through its daily task, with its stout back bowed under its war debts. Then we heard the foreign news, the sporting news. The old world was droning on the same as ever. Our friends the Atlanteans listened in amazement, but without comprehension. When, however, as the first item after the news, the Guards' band struck up the march from Lohengrin a positive shout of delight broke from the people, and it was funny to see them rush upon the platform, and turn over the curtains, and look behind the screens to find the source of the music. Yes, we have left our mark for ever upon the submarine civilization.

'No, sir,' said Scanlan, afterwards. 'I could not make an issuing station. They have not the material, and I have not the brains. But down at home I rigged a two-valve set of my own with the aerial beside the clothes line in the yard, and I learned to handle it, and to pick up any station in the States. It seemed to me funny if, with all this electricity to hand, and with their glasswork ahead of ours, we couldn't vamp up something that would catch an ether wave, and a wave would sure travel through water just as easy as through air. Old Berbrix nearly threw a fit when we got the first call, but he is wise to it now, and I guess it's a permanent institution.'

Among the discoveries of the Atlantean chemists is a gas which is nine times lighter than hydrogen and which Maracot has named levigen. It was his experiments with this which gave us the idea of sending glass balls with information as to our fate to the surface of the ocean.

'I have made Manda understand the idea,' said he. 'He has given orders to the silica workers, and in a day or two the globes will be ready.'

'But how can we get our news inside?' I asked.

'There is a small aperture left through which the gas is inserted. Into this we can push the papers. Then these skilful workers can seal up the hole. I am assured that when we release them they will shoot up to the surface.'

'And bob about unseen for a year.'

'That might be. But the ball would reflect the sun's rays. It would surely attract attention. We were on the line of shipping between Europe and South America. I see no reason why, if we send several, one at least may not be found.'

And this, my dear Talbot, or you others who read this narrative, is how it comes into your hands. But a far more fateful scheme may lie behind it. The idea came from the fertile brain of the American mechanic.

'Say friends,' said he, as we sat alone in our chamber, 'it's dandy down here, and the drink is good and the eats are good, and I've met a wren that makes anything in Philadelphia look like two cents, but all the same there are times when I want to feel that I might see God's own country once more.'

'We may all feel that way,' said I, 'but I don't see how you can hope to make it.'

'Look it here, Bo! If these balls of gas could carry up our message, maybe they could carry us up also. Don't think I'm joshing, for I've figured it out to. rights. We will suppose we put three or four of them together so as to get a good lift. See? Then we have our vitrine bells on and harness ourselves on to the balls. When the bell rings we cut loose and up we go. What is going to stop us between here and the surface?'

'A shark, maybe.'

'Blah! Sharks nothing! We would streak past any shark so's he'd hardly know we was there. He'd think we was three flashes of light and we'd get such a lick on that we'd shoot fifty feet up in the air at the other end. I tell you the goof that sees us come up is going to say his prayers over it.'

'But suppose it is possible, what will happen afterwards!'

'For Pete's sake, leave afterwards out of it! Let us chance our luck, or we are here for keeps. It's me for cutting loose and having a dash at it.'

'I certainly greatly desire to return to the world, if only to lay our results before the learned societies,' said Maracot. 'It is only my personal influence which can make them realize the fund of new knowledge which I have acquired. I should be quite in favour of any such attempt as Scanlan has indicated.'

There were good reasons, as I will tell later, which made me the least eager of the three.

'It would be perfect madness as you propose it. Unless we had someone expecting us on the surface we should infallibly drift about and perish from hunger and thirst.'

'Shucks, man, how could we have someone expecting us?'

'Perhaps even that could be managed,' said Maracot. 'We can give within a mile or two the exact latitude and longitude of our position.'

'And they would let down a ladder,' said I, with some bitterness.

'Ladder nothing! The boss is right. See here, Mr. Headley, you put in that letter that you are going to send the universe—my! don't I see the scare lines in the journals!—that we are at 27 North Latitude and 28.14 West Longitude, or whatever other figure is the right one, Got that? Then you say that three of the most important folk in history, the great man of Science, Maracot, and the rising-star bug-collector, Headley, and Bob Scanlan, a peach of a mechanic and the pride of Merribank's; are all yellin' and whoopin' for help from the bottom of the sea. Follow my idea?'

'Well, what then?'

'Well, then it's up to them, you see. It's kind of a challenge that they can't forget. Same as I've read of Stanley finding Livingstone and the like. It's for them to find some way to yank us out or to catch us at the other end if we can take the jump ourselves.'

'We could suggest the way ourselves,' said the Professor. 'Let them drop a deep-sea line into these waters and we will look out for it. When it comes we can tie a message to it and bid them stand by for us.'

'You've said a mouthful!' cried Bob Scanlan. 'That is sure the way to do it.'

'And if any lady cared to share our fortunes four would be as easy as three,' said Maracot, with a roguish smile at me.

'For that matter, five is as easy as four,' said Scanlan. 'But you've got it now, Mr. Headley. You write that down, and in six months we shall be back in London River once more.'

So now we launch our two balls into that water which is to us what the air is to you. Our two little balloons will go aloft. Will both be lost on the way? It is possible. Or may we hope that one will get through? We leave it on the knees of the gods. If nothing can be done for us, then let those who care for us know that in any case we are safe and happy. If, on the other hand, this suggestion could be carried out and the money and energy for our rescue should be forthcoming, we have given you the means by which it can be done. Meanwhile, good-bye—or is it au revoir?

So ended the narrative in the vitrine ball.

The preceding narrative covers the facts so far as they were available when the account was first drawn up. While the script was in the hands of the printer there came an epilogue of the most unexpected and sensational description. I refer to the rescue of the adventurers by Mr. Faverger's steam yacht Marion and the account sent out by the wireless transmitter of that vessel, and picked up by the cable station at the Cape de Verde Islands, which has just forwarded it to Europe and America. This account was drawn up by Mr. Key Osborne, the well-known representative of the Associated Press.

It would appear that immediately upon the first narrative of the plight of Dr. Maracot and his friends reaching Europe an expedition was quietly and effectively fitted up in the hope of bringing about a rescue. Mr. Faverger generously placed his famous steam yacht at the disposal of the party, which he accompanied in person. The Marion sailed from Cherbourg in June, picked up Mr. Key Osborne and a motion-picture operator at Southampton, and set forth at once for the tract of ocean which was indicated in the original document. This was reached upon the first of July.

A deep-sea piano-wire line was lowered, and was dragged slowly along the bottom of the ocean. At the end of this line, beside the heavy lead, there was suspended a bottle containing a message. The message ran:

'Your account has been received by the world, and we are here to help you. We duplicate this message by our wireless transmitter in the hope that it may reach you. We will slowly traverse your region. When you have detached this bottle, please replace your own message in it. We will act upon your instructions.'

For two days the Marion cruised slowly to and fro without result. On the third a very great surprise awaited the rescue party. A small, highly luminous ball shot out of the water a few hundred yards from the ship, and proved to be a vitreous message-bearer of the sort which had been described in the original document. Having been broken with some difficulty, the following message was read:

'Thanks, dear friends. We greatly appreciate your grand loyalty and energy. We receive your wireless messages with facility, and are in a position to answer you in this fashion. We have endeavoured to get possession of your line, but the currents lift it high, and it sweeps along rather faster than even the most active of us can move against the resistance of the water. We propose to make our venture at six tomorrow morning, which should, according to our reckoning, be Tuesday, July 5th. We will come one at a time, so that any advice arising from our experience can be wirelessed back to those who come later. Once again heartfelt thanks.

Maracot. Headley. Scanlan.'

Mr. Key Osborne now takes up the narrative:

'It was a perfect morning, and the deep sapphire sea lay as smooth as a lake, with the glorious arch of the deep blue sky unbroken by the smallest cloud. The whole crew of the Marion was early astir, and awaited events with the most tense interest. As the hour of six drew near our anticipation was painful. A look-out had been placed upon our signal mast, and it was just five minutes to the hour when we heard him shouting, and saw him pointing to the water on our port bow. We all crowded to that side of the deck, and I was able to perch myself on one of the boats, from which I had a clear view. I saw through the still water something which looked like a silver bubble ascending with great rapidity from the depths of the ocean. It broke the surface about two hundred yards from the ship, and soared straight up into the air, a beautiful shining globe some three feet in diameter, rising to a great height and then drifting away in some slight current of wind exactly as a toy balloon would do. It was a marvellous sight, but it filled us with apprehension, for it seemed as if the harness might have come loose, and the burden which this tractor should have borne through the waters had been shaken loose upon the way. A wireless was at once dispatched:

"'Your messenger has appeared close to the vessel. It had nothing attached and has flown away." Meanwhile we lowered a boat so as to be ready for any development.

'Just after six o'clock there was another signal from our watchman, and an instant later I caught sight of another silver globe, which was swimming up from the depths very much more slowly than the last. On reaching the surface it floated in the air, but its burden was supported upon the water. This burden proved upon examination to be a great bundle of books, papers, and miscellaneous objects all wrapped in a casing of fish skin. It was hoisted dripping upon the deck, and was acknowledged by wireless, while we eagerly awaited the next arrival.

'This was not long in coming. Again the silver bubble, again the breaking of the surface, but this time the glistening ball shot high into the air, suspending under it, to our amazement, the slim figure of a woman. It was but the impetus which had carried her into the air, and an instant later she had been towed to the side of the vessel. A leather circlet had been firmly fastened round the upper curve of the glass ball, and from this long straps depended which were attached to a broad leather belt round her dainty waist. The upper part of her body was covered by a peculiar pear-shaped glass shade—I call it glass, but it was of the same tough light material as the vitreous ball. It was almost transparent, with silvery veins running through its substance. This glass covering had tight elastic attachments at the waist and shoulders, which made it perfectly watertight, while it was provided within, as has been described in Headley's original manuscript, with novel but very light and practical chemical apparatus for the renovation of air. With some difficulty the breathing bell was removed and the lady hoisted upon deck. She lay there in a deep faint, but her regular breathing encouraged us to think that she would soon recover from the effects of her rapid journey and from the change of pressure, which had been minimized by the fact that the density of the air inside the protective sheath was considerably higher than our atmosphere, so that it may be said to have represented that half-way point at which human divers are wont to pause.

'Presumably this is the Atlantean woman referred to in the first message as Mona, and if we may take her as a sample they are indeed a race worth reintroducing to earth. She is dark in complexion, beautifully clear-cut and high-bred in feature, with long black hair, and magnificently hazel eyes which looked round her presently in a charming amazement. Sea-shells and mother-of-pearl were worked into her cream-coloured tunic, and tangled in her dark hair. A more perfect Naiad of the Deep could not be imagined, the very personification of the mystery and the glamour of the sea. We could see complete consciousness coming back into those marvellous eyes, and then she sprang suddenly to her feet with the activity of a young doe and ran to the side of the vessel. "Cyrus! Cyrus!" she cried.

'We had already removed the anxiety of those below by a wireless. But now in quick succession each of them arrived, shooting thirty or forty feet into the air, and then falling back into the sea, from which we quickly raised them. All three were unconscious, and Scanlan was bleeding at the nose and ears, but within an hour all were able to totter to their feet: The first action of each was, I imagine, characteristic. Scanlan was led off by a laughing group to the bar, from which shouts of merriment are now resounding, much to the detriment of this composition. Dr. Maracot seized the bundle of papers, tore out one which consisted entirely, so far as I could judge, of algebraic symbols, and disappeared downstairs, while Cyrus Headley ran to the side of his strange maiden, and looks, by last reports, as if he had no intention of ever quitting it. Thus the matter stands, and we trust our weak wireless will carry our message as far as the Cape de Verde station. The fuller details of this wonderful adventure will come later, as is fitting, from the adventurers themselves.'


CHAPTER 6

There are very many people who have written both to me, Cyrus Headley, Rhodes Scholar of Oxford, and to Professor Maracot, and even to Bill Scanlan, since our very remarkable experience at the bottom of the Atlantic, where we were able at a point 200 miles south-west of the Canaries to make a submarine descent which has not only led to a revision of our views concerning deep-sea life and pressures, but has also established the survival of an old civilization under incredibly difficult conditions. In these letters we have been continually asked to give further details about our experiences. It will be understood that my original document was a very superficial one, and yet it covered most of the facts. There were some, however, which were withheld, and above all the tremendous episode of the Lords of the Dark Face. This involved some facts and some conclusions of so utterly extraordinary a nature that we all thought it was best to suppress it entirely for the present. Now, however, that Science has accepted our conclusions—and I may add since Society has accepted my bride—our general veracity is established and we may perhaps venture upon a narrative which might have repulsed public sympathy in the first instance.

Before I get to the one tremendous happening I would lead up to it by some reminiscences of those wonderful months in the buried home of the Atlanteans, who by means of their vitrine oxygen bells are able to walk the ocean floor with the same ease as those Londoners whom I see now from my windows in the Hyde Park Hotel are strolling among the flower-beds.

When first we were taken in by these people after our dreadful fall from the surface we were in the position of prisoners rather than of guests. I wish now to set upon record how this came to change and how through the splendour of Dr. Maracot we have left such a name down there that the memory of us will go down in their annals as of some celestial visitation. They knew nothing of our leaving, which they would certainly have prevented if they could, so that no doubt there is already a legend that we have returned to some heavenly sphere, taking with us the sweetest and choicest flower of their flock.

I would wish now to set down in their order some of the strange things of this wonderful world, and also some of the adventures which befell us until I came to the supreme adventure of all—one which will leave a mark upon each of us for ever—the coming of the Lord of the Dark Face. In some ways I wish that we could have stayed longer in the Maracot Deep for there were many mysteries there, and up to the end there were things which we could not understand. Also we were rapidly learning something of their language, so that soon we should have had much more information.

Experience had taught these people what was terrible and what was innocent. One day, I remember, that there was a sudden alarm and that we all ran out in our oxygen bells on to the ocean bed, though why we ran or what we meant to do was a mystery to us. There could be no mistake, however, as to the horror and distraction upon the faces of those around us. When we got out on to the plain we met a number of the Greek coal-workers who were hastening towards the door of our Colony. They had come at such a pace, and were so weary that they kept falling down in the ooze, and it was clear that we were really a rescue party for the purpose of picking up these cripples, and hurrying up the laggards. We saw no sign of weapons and no show of resistance against the coming danger. Soon the colliers were hustled along, and when the last one had been shoved through the door we looked back along the line that they had traversed. All that we could see was a couple of greenish wisp-like clouds, luminous in the centre and ragged at the edges, which were drifting rather than moving in our direction. At the clear sight of them, though they were quite half a mile away, my companions were filled with panic and beat at the door so as to get in the sooner. It was surely nervous work to see these mysterious centres of trouble draw nearer, but the pumps acted swiftly and we were soon in safety once more. There was a great block of transparent crystal, ten feet long and two feet broad, above the lintel of the door, with lights so arranged that they threw a strong glare outside. Mounted on the ladders kept for the purpose, several of us, including myself, looked through this rude window. I saw the strange shimmering green circles of light pause before the door. As they did so the Atlanteans on either side of me simply gibbered with fear. Then one of the shadowy creatures outside came flicking up through the water and made for our crystal window. Instantly my companions pulled me down below the level of vision, but it seems that in my carelessness some of my hair did not get clear from whatever the maleficent influence may be which these strange creatures send forth. There is a patch there which is withered and white to this day.

It was not for a long time that the Atlanteans dared to open their door, and when at last a scout was sent forth he went amid hand-shakings and slaps on the back as one who does a gallant deed. His report was that all was clear, and soon joy had returned to the community, and this strange visitation seemed to have been forgotten. We only gathered from the word 'Praxa', repeated in various tones of horror, that this was the name of the creature. The only person who derived real joy from the incident was Professor Maracot, who could hardly be restrained from sallying out with a small net and a glass vase. 'A new order of life, partly organic, partly gaseous, but clearly intelligent,' was his general comment. 'A freak out of Hell,' was Scanlan's less scientific description.

Two days afterwards, when we were out on what we called a shrimping expedition, when we walked among the deep-sea foliage and captured in our hand-nets specimens of the smaller fish, we came suddenly upon the body of one of the coal-workers, who had no doubt been overtaken in his flight by these strange creatures. The glass bell had been broken—a matter which called for enormous strength, for this vitrine substance is extraordinarily tough, as you realized when you attempted to reach my first documents. The man's eyes had been torn out, but otherwise he had been uninjured.

'A dainty feeder!' said the Professor after our return. 'There is a hawk parrot in New Zealand which will kill the lamb in order to get at a particular morsel of fat above the kidney. So this creature will slay the man for his eyes. In the heavens above and in the waters below Nature knows but one law, and it is, alas! remorseless cruelty.'

We had many examples of that terrible law down there in the depths of the ocean. I can remember, for example, that many times we observed a curious groove upon the soft bathybian mud, as if a barrel had been rolled along it. We pointed it out to our Atlantean companions, and when we could interrogate them we tried to get from them some account of what this creature could be. As to its name our friends gave some of those peculiar clicking sounds which come into the Atlantean speech, and which cannot be reproduced either by the European tongue or by the European alphabet. Krixchok is, perhaps, an approximation to it. But as to its appearance we could always in such cases make use of the Atlantean thought reflector by which our friends were able to give a very clear vision of whatever was in their own minds. By this means they conveyed to us a picture of a very strange marine creature which the Professor could only classify as a gigantic sea slug. It seemed to be of great size, sausage shaped with eyes at the ends of stems, and a thick coating of coarse hair or bristles. When showing this apparition, our friends by their gestures expressed the greatest horror and repulsion.

But this, as anyone could predicate who knew Maracot, only served to inflame his scientific passions and to make him the more eager to determine the exact species and sub-species of this unknown monster. Accordingly I was not surprised when, on the occasion of our next excursion, he stopped at the point where we clearly saw the mark of the brute upon the slime, and turned deliberately towards the tangle of seaweed and basaltic blocks out of which it seemed to have come. The moment we left the plain the traces of course ceased, and yet there seemed to be a natural gully amid the rocks which clearly led to the den of the monster. We were all three armed with the pikes which the Atlanteans usually carried, but they seemed to me to be frail things with which to face unknown dangers. The Professor trudged ahead, however, and we could but follow after.

The rocky gorge ran upwards, its sides formed of huge clusters of volcanic debris and draped with a profusion of the long red and black forms of lamellaria which are characteristic of the extreme depths of Ocean. A thousand beautiful ascidians and echinoderms of every joyous colour and fantastic shape peeped out from amid this herbage, which was alive with strange crustaceans and low forms of creeping life. Our progress was slow, for walking is never easy in the depths, and the angle up which we toiled was an acute one. Suddenly, however, we saw the creature whom we hunted, and the sight was not a reassuring one.

It was half protruded from its lair, which was a hollow in a basaltic pile. About five feet of hairy body was visible, and we perceived its eyes, which were as large as saucers, yellow in colour, and glittering like agates, moving round slowly upon their long pedicles as it heard the sound of our approach. Then slowly it began to unwind itself from its burrow, waving its heavy body along in caterpillar fashion. Once it reared up its head some four feet from the rocks, so as to have a better look at us, and I observed, as it did so, that it had what looked like the corrugated soles of tennis shoes fastened on either side of its neck, the same colour, size, and striped appearance. What this might mean I could not conjecture, but we were soon to have an object lesson in their use.

The Professor had braced himself with his pike projecting forward and a most determined expression upon his face. It was clear that the hope of a rare specimen had swept all fear from his mind. Scanlan and I were by no means so sure of ourselves, but we could not abandon the old man, so we stood our ground on either side of him.

The creature, after that one long stare, began slowly and clumsily to make its way down the slope, worming its path among the rocks, and raising its pedicled eyes from time to time to see what we were about. It came so slowly that we seemed safe enough, since we could always out-distance it. And yet, had we only known it, we were standing very near to death.

It was surely Providence that sent us our warning. The beast was still making its lumbering approach, and may have been sixty yards from us, when a very large fish, a deep-sea groper, shot out from the algae-jungle on our side of the gorge and swam slowly across it. It had reached the centre, and was about midway between the creature and ourselves when it gave a convulsive leap, turned belly upwards, and sank dead to the bottom of the ravine. At the same moment each of us felt an extraordinary and most unpleasant tingling pass over our whole bodies, while our knees seemed to give way beneath us. Old Maracot was as wary as he was audacious, and in an instant he had sized up the situation and realized that the game was up. We were faced by some creature which threw out electric waves to kill its prey, and our pikes were of no more use against it than against a machine-gun. Had it not been for the lucky chance that the fish drew its fire, we should have waited until it was near enough to loose off its full battery, which would infallibly have destroyed us. We blundered off as swiftly as we could, with the resolution to leave the giant electric sea-worm severely alone for the future.

These were some of the more terrible of the dangers of the deep.. Yet another was the little black Hydrops ferox, as the Professor named him. He was a red fish not much longer than a herring, with a large mouth and a formidable row of teeth. He was harmless in ordinary circumstances, but the shedding of blood, even the very smallest amount of it, attracted him in an instant, and there was no possible salvation for the victim, who was torn to pieces by swarms of attackers. We saw a horrible sight once at the colliery pits, where a slave worker had the misfortune to cut his hand. In an instant, coming from all quarters, thousands of these fish were on to him. In vain he threw himself down and struggled; in vain his horrified companions beat them away with their picks and shovels. The lower part of him, beneath his bell, dissolved before our eyes amid the cloud of vibrant life which surrounded him. One instant we saw a man. The next there was a red mass with white protruding bones. A minute later the bones only were left below the waist and half a clean-picked skeleton was lying at the bottom of the sea. The sight was so horrifying that we were all ill, and the hard-boiled Scanlan actually fell down in a faint and we had some difficulty in getting him home.

But the strange sights which we saw were not always horrifying. I have in mind one which will never fade from our memory. It was on one of those excursions which we delighted to take, sometimes with an Atlantean guide, and sometimes by ourselves when our hosts had learned that we did not need constant attendance and nursing. We were passing over a portion of the plain with which we were quite familiar, when we perceived, to our surprise, that a great patch of light yellow sand, half an acre or so in extent, had been laid down or uncovered since our last visit. We were standing in some surprise, wondering what submarine current or seismic movement could have brought this about, when to our absolute amazement the whole thing rose up and swam with slow undulations immediately above our heads. It was so huge that the great canopy took some appreciable time, a minute or two, to pass from over us. It was a gigantic flat fish, not different, so far as the Professor could observe, from one of our own little dabs, but grown to this enormous size upon the nutritious food which the bathybian deposits provide. It vanished away into the darkness above us, a great, glimmering, flickering white—and yellow expanse, and we saw it no more.

There was one other phenomenon of the deep sea which was very unexpected. That was the tornadoes which frequently occur. They seem to be caused by the periodical arrival of violent submarine currents which set in with little warning and are terrific while they last, causing as much confusion and destruction as the highest wind would do upon land. No doubt without these visitations there would be that putridity and stagnation which absolute immobility must give, so that, as in all Nature's processes, there was an excellent object in view; but the experience none the less was an alarming one.

On the first occasion when I was caught in such a watery cyclone, I had gone out with that very dear lady to whom I have alluded, Mona, the daughter of Manda. There was a very beautiful bank loaded with algae of a thousand varied colours which lay a mile or so from the Colony. This was Mona's very special garden which she greatly loved, a tangle of pink serpularia, purple ophiurids and red holothurians. On this day she had taken me to see it, and it was while we were standing before it that the storm burst. So strong was the current which suddenly flowed upon us that it was only by holding together and getting behind the shelter of rocks that we could save ourselves from being washed away. I observed that this rushing stream of water was quite warm, almost as warm as one could bear, which may show that there is a volcanic origin in these disturbances and that they are the wash from some submarine disturbance in some far-off region of the ocean bed. The mud of the great plain was stirred up by the rush of the current, and the light was darkened by the thick cloud of matter suspended in the water around us. To find our way back was impossible, for we had lost all sense of direction, and in any case could hardly move against the rush of the water. Then on the top of all else a slowly increasing heaviness of the chest and difficulty in breathing warned me that our oxygen supply was beginning to fail us.

It is at such times, when we are in the immediate presence of death, that the great primitive passions float to the surface and submerge all our lesser emotions. It was only at that moment that I knew that I loved my gentle companion, loved her with all my heart and soul, loved her with a love which was rooted deep down and was part of my very self. How strange a thing is a love like that! How impossible to analyse! It was not for her face or figure, lovely as they were. It was not for her voice, though it was more musical than any I have known, nor was it for mental communion, since I could only learn her thoughts from her sensitive ever-changing face. No, it was something at the back of her dark dreamy eyes, something in the very depths of her soul as of mine which made us mates for all time. I held out my hand and clasped her own, reading in her face that there was no thought or emotion of mine which was not flooding her own receptive mind and flushing her lovely cheek. Death at my side would present no terror to her, and as for myself my heart throbbed at the very thought.

But it was not to be. One would think that our glass coverings excluded sounds, but as a matter of fact the throb of certain air vibrations penetrated them easily, or by their impact started similar vibrations within. There was a loud beat, a reverberating clang, like that of a distant gong. I had no idea what it might mean, but my companion was in no doubt. Still holding my hand, she rose from our shelter, and after listening intently she crouched down and began to make her way against the storm. It was a race against death, for every instant the terrible oppression on my chest became more unbearable. I saw her dear face peering most anxiously into mine, and I staggered on in the direction to which she led me. Her appearance and her movements showed that her oxygen supply was less exhausted than mine. I held on as long as Nature would allow, and then suddenly everything swam around me. I threw out my arms and fell senseless upon the soft ocean floor.

When I came to myself I was lying on my own couch inside the Atlantean Palace. The old yellow—clad priest was standing beside me, a phial of some stimulant in his hand. Maracot and Scanlan, with distressed faces, were bending over me, while Mona knelt at the bottom of the bed with tender anxiety upon her features. It seems that the brave girl had hastened on to the community door, from which on occasions of this sort it was the custom to beat a great gong as a guide to any wanderers who might be lost. There she had explained my position and had guided back the rescue party, including my two comrades who had brought me back in their arms. Whatever I may do in life, it is truly Mona who will do it, for that life has been a gift from her.

Now that by a miracle she has come to join me in the upper world, the human world under the sky, it is strange to reflect upon the fact that my love was such that I was willing, most willing, to remain for ever in the depths so long as she should be all my own. For long I could not understand that deep, deep intimate bond which held us together, and which was felt, as I could see, as strongly by her as by me. It was Manda, her father, who gave me an explanation which was as unexpected as it was satisfying.

He had smiled gently over our love affair—smiled with the indulgent, half-amused air of one who sees that come to pass which he had already anticipated. Then one day he led me aside and in his own chamber he placed that silver screen upon which his thoughts and knowledge could be reflected. Never while the breath of life is in my body can I forget that which he showed me—and her. Seated side by side, our hands clasped together, we watched entranced while the pictures flickered up before our eyes, formed and projected by that racial memory of the past which these Atlanteans possess.

There was a rocky peninsula jutting out into a lovely blue ocean. I may not have told you before that in these thought cinemas, if I may use the expression, colour is produced as well as form. On this headland was a house of quaint design, wide-spread, red-roofed, white-walled, and beautiful. A grove of palm trees surrounded it. In this grove there appeared to be a camp, for we could see the white sheen of tents and here and there the glimmer of arms as of some sentinel keeping ward. Out of this grove there walked a middle-aged man clad in mail armour, with a round light shield on his arm. He carried something in his other hand, but whether sword or javelin I could not see. He turned his face towards us once, and I saw at once that he was of the same breed as the Atlantean men who were around me. Indeed, he might have been the twin brother of Manda, save that his features were harsh and menacing—a brute man, but one who was brutal not from ignorance but from the trend of his own nature. The brute and the brain are surely the most dangerous of all combinations. In this high forehead and sardonic, bearded mouth one sensed the very essence of evil. If this were indeed some previous incarnation of Manda himself, and by his gestures he seemed to wish us to understand that it was, then in soul, if not in mind, he has risen far since then.

As he approached the house, we saw in the picture that a young woman came out to meet him. She was clad as the old Greeks were clad, in a long clinging white garment, the simplest and yet the most beautiful and dignified dress that woman has ever yet devised. Her manner as she approached the man was one of submission and reverence—the manner of a dutiful daughter to a father. He repulsed her savagely, however, raising his hand as if to strike her As she shrank back from him, the sun lit up her beautiful, tearful face and I saw that it was my Mona.

The silver screen blurred, and an instant later another scene was forming. It was a rock-bound cove, which I sensed to belong to that very peninsula which I had already seen. A strange-shaped boat with high pointed ends was in the foreground. It was night, but the moon shone very brightly on the water. The familiar stars, the same to Atlantis as to us, glittered in the sky. Slowly and cautiously the boat drew in. There were two rowers, and in the bows a man enveloped in a dark cloak. As he came close to the shore he stood up and looked eagerly around him. I saw his pale, earnest face in the clear moonlight. It did not need the convulsive clasp of Mona or the ejaculation of Manda to explain that strange intimate thrill which shot over me as I looked. The man was myself.

Yes, I, Cyrus Headley, now of New York and of Oxford; I, the latest product of modern culture, had myself once been part of this mighty civilization of old. I understood now why many of the symbols and hieroglyphs which I had seen around had impressed me with a vague familiarity. Again and again I had felt like a man who strains his memory because he feels that he is on the edge of some great discovery, which is always awaiting him, and yet is always just outside his grasp. Now, too, I understood that deep soul thrill which I had encountered when my eyes met those of Mona. They came from the depths of my own subconscious self where the memories of twelve thousand years still lingered.

Now the boat had touched the shore, and out of the bushes above there had come a glimmering white figure. My arms were outstretched to enfold it. After one hurried embrace I had half lifted, half carried her into the boat. But now there was a sudden alarm. With frantic gestures I beckoned to the rowers to push out. It was too late. Men swarmed out of the bushes. Eager hands seized the side of the boat. In vain I tried to beat them off. An axe gleamed in the air and crashed down upon my head. I fell forward dead upon the lady bathing her white robe in my blood. I saw her screaming, wild-eyed and open-mouthed, while her father dragged her by her long black hair from underneath my body. Then the curtain closed down.

Once again a picture flickered up upon the silver screen. It was inside the house of refuge which had been built by the wise Atlantean for a place of refuge on the day of doom—that very house in which we now stood. I saw its crowded, terrified inmates at the moment of the catastrophe. Then I saw my Mona once again, and there also was her father who had learned better and wiser ways so that he was now included among those who might be saved. We saw the great hall rocking like a ship in a storm, while the awestruck refugees clung to the pillars or fell upon the floor. Then we saw the lurch and fall as it descended through the waves.Once more the scene died away, and Manda turned smiling to show that all was over.

Yes, we had lived before, the whole group of us, Manda and Mona and I, and perhaps shall live again, acting and reacting down the long chain of our lives. I had died in the upper world, and so my own reincarnations had been upon that plane. Manda and Mona had died under, the waves, and so it was there that their cosmic destiny had been worked out. We had for a moment seen a corner lifted in the great dark veil of Nature and had one passing gleam of truth amid the mysteries which surround us. Each life is but one chapter in a story which God has designed. You cannot judge its wisdom or its justice until in some supreme day, from some pinnacle of knowledge, you look back and see at last the cause and the effect, acting and reacting, down all the long chronicles of Time.

This new-found and delightful relationship of mine may have saved us all a little later when the only serious quarrel which we ever had broke out between us and the community with which we dwelt. As it was, it might have gone ill with us had not a far greater matter come to engage the attention of all, and to place us on a pinnacle in their estimation. It came about thus.

One morning, if such a term can be used where the time of day could only be judged by our occupations, the Professor and I were seated in our large common room. He had fitted one corner of it as a laboratory and was busily engaged in dissecting a gastrostomus which he had netted the day before. On his table were scattered a litter of amphipods and copepods with specimens of Valella, Ianthina, Physalia, and a hundred other creatures whose smell was by no means as attractive as their appearance. I was seated near him studying an Atlantean grammar, for our friends had plenty of books, printed in curious right to left fashion upon what I thought was parchment but which proved to be the bladders of fishes, pressed and preserved. I was bent on getting the key which would unlock all this knowledge, and therefore I spent much of my time over the alphabet and the elements of the language.

Suddenly, however, our peaceful pursuits were rudely interrupted by an extraordinary procession which rushed into the room. First came Bill Scanlan, very red and excited, one arm waving in the air, and, to our amazement, a plump and noisy baby under the other. Behind him was Berbrix, the Atlantean engineer who had helped Scanlan to erect the wireless receiver. He was a large stout jovial man as a rule, but now his big fat face was convulsed with grief. Behind him again was a woman whose straw-coloured hair and blue eyes showed that she was no Atlantean but one of the subordinate race which we traced to the ancient Greeks.

'Look it here, boss,' cried the excited Scanlan. 'This guy Berbrix, who is a regular fellar, is going clean goofie and so is this skirt whom he has married, and I guess it is up to us to see that they get a square deal. Far as I understand it she is like a nigger would be down South, and he said a mouthful when he asked her to marry him, but I reckon that's the guy's own affair and nothing to us.'

'Of course it is his own affair,' said I. 'What on earth has bitten you, Scanlan?'

'It's like this, boss. Here ha! a baby come along. It seems the folk here don't want a breed of that sort nohow, and the Priests are out to offer up the baby to that darn image down yonder. The chief high muck-a-muck got hold of the baby and was sailin' off with it but Berbrix yanked it away, and I threw him down on his ear-hole, and now the whole pack are at our heels and—'

Scanlan got no further with his explanation, for there was a shouting and a rush of feet in the passage, our door was flung open, and several of the yellow-clad attendants of the Temple rushed into the room. Behind them, fierce and austere, came the high-nosed formidable Priest. He, beckoned with his hand, and his servants rushed forward to seize the child. They halted, however, in indecision as they saw Scanlan throw the baby down among the specimens on the table behind him, and pick up a pike with which he confronted his assailants. They had drawn their knives, so I also ran with a pike to Scanlan's aid, while Berbrix did the same. So menacing were we that the Temple servants shrank back and things seemed to have come to a deadlock.

'Mr. Headley, sir, you speak a bit of their lingo,' cried: Scanlan. 'Tell them there ain't no soft pickings here. Tell them we ain't givin' away no babies this morning, thank you. Tell them there will be such a rough house as they never saw if they don't vamose the ranche. There now, you asked for it and you've got it good and plenty and I wish you joy.'

The latter part of Scanlan's speech was caused by the fact that Dr. Maracot had suddenly plunged the scalpel with which he was performing his dissection into the arm of one of the attendants who had crept round and had raised his knife to stab Scanlan. The man howled and danced about in fear and pain while his comrades, incited by the old Priest, prepared to make a rush. Heaven only knows what would have happened if Manda and Mona had not entered the room. He stared with amazement at the scene and asked a number of eager questions of the High Priest. Mona had come over to me, and with a happy inspiration I picked up the baby and placed it in her arms, where it settled down and cooed most contentedly.

Manda's brow was overcast and it was clear that he was greatly puzzled what to do. He sent the Priest and his satellites back to the Temple, and then he entered into a long explanation, only a part of which I could understand and pass on to my companions.

'You are to give up the baby,' I said to Scanlan.

'Give it up! No, sir. Nothin' doing!'

'This lady is to take charge of mother and child.'

'That's another matter. If Miss Mona takes it on, I am contented. But if that bindlestiff of a priest—'

'No, no, he cannot interfere. The matter is to be referred to the Council. It is very serious, for I understand Manda to say that the Priest is within his rights and that it is an old-established custom of the nation. They could never, he says, distinguish between the upper and lower races if they had all sorts of intermediates in between. If children are born they must die. That is the law.'

'Well, this baby won't die anyhow.'

'I hope not. He said he would do all he could with the Council. But it will be a week or two before they meet. So it's safe up to then, and who knows what may happen in the meantime.'

Yes, who knew what might happen. Who could have dreamed what did happen. Out of this is fashioned the next chapter of our adventures.


CHAPTER 7

I have already said that within a short distance of the underground dwelling of the Atlanteans, prepared beforehand to meet the catastrophe which overwhelmed their native land, there lay the ruins of that great city of which their dwelling had once been part. I have described also how with the vitrine bells charged with oxygen upon our heads we were taken to visit this place, and I tried to convey how deep were our emotions as we viewed it. No words can describe the tremendous impression produced by those colossal ruins, the huge carved pillars and gigantic buildings, all lying stark and silent in the grey phosphorescent light of the bathybian deeps, with no movement save the slow wash of the giant fronds in the deep-sea currents, or the flickering shadows of the great fish which passed through the gaping doors or flitted round the dismantled chambers. It was a favourite haunt of ours, and under the guidance of our friend Manda we passed many an hour examining the strange architecture and all the other remains of that vanished civilization which bore every sign of having been, so far as material knowledge goes, far ahead of our own.

I have said material knowledge. Soon we were to have proof that in spiritual culture there was a vast chasm which separated them from us. The lesson which we carry from their rise and their fall is that the greatest danger which can come to a state is when its intellect outruns its soul. It destroyed this old civilization, and it may yet be the ruin of our own.

We had observed that in one part of the ancient city there was a large building which must have stood upon a hill, for it was still considerably elevated above the general level. A long flight of broad steps constructed from black marble led up to it, and the same material had been used in most of the building, but it was nearly obscured now by a horrible yellow fungus, a fleshy leprous mass, which hung down from every cornice and projection. Above the main doorway, carved also in black marble, was a terrible Medusa-like head with radiating serpents, and the same symbol was repeated here and there upon the walls. Several times we had wished to explore this sinister building, but on each occasion our friend Manda had shown the greatest agitation and by frantic gestures had implored us to turn away. It was clear that so long as he was in our company we should never have our way, and yet a great curiosity urged us to penetrate the secret of this ominous place. We held a council on the matter one morning, Bill Scanlan and I.

'Look it here, Bo,' said he, 'there is something there that this guy does not want us to see, and the more he hides it the more of a hunch have I that I want to be set wise to it. We don't need no guides any more, you or I. I guess we can put on our own glass tops and walk out of the front door same as any other citizen. Let us go down and explore.'

'Why not?' said I, for I was as curious about the matter as Scanlan. 'Do you see any objection, sir?' I asked, for Dr. Maracot had entered the room. 'Perhaps you would care to come down with us and fathom the mystery of the Palace of Black Marble.'

'It may be the Palace of Black Magic as well,' said he. 'Did you ever hear of the Lord of the Dark Face?'

I confessed that I never did. I forget if I have said before that the Professor was a world-famed specialist on Comparative Religions and ancient primitive beliefs. Even the distant Atlantis was not beyond the range of his learning.

'Our knowledge of the conditions there came to us chiefly by way of Egypt,' said he. 'It is what the Priests of the Temple at Sais told Solon which is the solid nucleus round which all the rest, part fact and part fiction, has gathered.'

'And what wisecracks did the priests say?' asked Scanlan.

'Well, they said a good deal. But among other things they handed down a legend of the Lord of the Dark Face. I can't help thinking that he may have been the Master of the Black Marble Palace. Some say that there were several Lords of the Dark Face—but one at least is on record.'

'And what sort of a duck was he?' asked Scanlan.,

'Well, by all accounts, he was more than a man, both in his power and in his wickedness. Indeed, it was on account of these things, and on account of the utter corruption which he had brought upon the people, that the whole land was destroyed.'

'Like Sodom and Gomorrah.'

'Exactly. There would seem to be a point where things become impossible. Nature's patience is exhausted, and the only course open is to smear it all out and begin again. This creature, one can hardly call him a man, had trafficked in unholy arts and had acquired magic powers of the most far—reaching sort which he turned to evil ends. That is the legend of the Lord of the Dark Face. It would explain why his house is still a thing of horror to these poor people and why they dread that we should go near it.'

'Which makes me the more eager to do so,' I cried.

'Same here, Bo,' Bill added.

'I confess that I, too, should be interested to examine it,' said the Professor. 'I cannot see that our kind hosts here will be any the worse if we make a little expedition of our own, since their superstition makes it difficult for them to accompany us. We will take our opportunity and do so.'

It was some little time before that opportunity came, for our small community was so closely knit that there was little privacy in life. It chanced, however, one morning—so far as we could with our rough calendar reckon night and morning—there was some religious observance which assembled them all and took up all their attention. The chance was too good for us to miss and having assured the two janitors who worked the great pumps of the entrance chamber that all was right we soon found ourselves alone upon the ocean bed and bound for the old city. Progress is slow through the heavy medium of salt water, and even a short walk is wearying, but within an hour we found ourselves in front of the huge black building which had excited our curiosity. With no friendly guide to check us, and no presentiment of danger, we ascended the marble stair and passed through the huge carved portals of this palace of evil.

It was far better preserved than the other buildings of the old city—so much so, indeed, that the stone shell was in no way altered, and only the furniture and the hangings had long decayed and vanished. Nature, however, had brought her own hangings, and very horrible they were. It was a gloomy shadowy place at the best, but in those hideous shadows lurked the obscene shapes of monstrous polyps and strange, misformed fish which were like the creations of a nightmare. Especially I remember an enormous purple sea-slug which crawled, in great numbers, everywhere and large black flat fish which lay like mats upon the floor, with long waving tentacles tipped with flame vibrating above them in the water. We had to step carefully, for the whole building was filled with hideous creatures which might well prove to be as poisonous as they looked.

There were richly ornamented passages with small side rooms leading out from them, but the centre of the building was taken up by one magnificent hall, which in the days of its grandeur must have been one of the most wonderful chambers ever erected by human hands. In that gloomy light we could see neither the roof nor the full sweep of the walls, but as we walked round, our lamps casting tunnels of light before us, we appreciated its huge proportions and the marvellous decorations of the walls. These decorations took the form of statues and ornaments, carved with the highest perfection of art, but horrible and revolting in their subjects. All that the most depraved human mind could conceive of Sadic cruelty and bestial lust was reproduced upon the walls. Through the shadows monstrous images and horrible imaginings loomed round us on every side. If ever the devil had a Temple erected in his honour, it was there. So too was the devil himself, for at one end of the room, under a canopy of discoloured metal which may well have been gold, and on a high throne of red marble, there was seated a dreadful deity, the very impersonation of evil, savage, scowling and relentless, modelled upon the same lines as the Baal whom we had seen in the Atlantean Colony, but infinitely stranger and more repulsive. There was a fascination in the wonderful vigour of that terrible countenance, and we were standing with our lamps playing upon it, absorbed in our reflections, when the most amazing, the most incredible thing came to break in upon our reflections. From behind us there came the sound of a loud, derisive human laugh.

Our heads were, as I have explained, enclosed in our glass bells, from which all sound was excluded, nor was it possible for anyone wearing a bell to utter any sound. And yet that mocking laugh fell clear upon the ears of each of us. We sprang round and stood amazed at what was before us.

Against one of the pillars of the hall a man was leaning, his arms folded upon his chest, and his malevolent eyes fixed with a threatening glare upon ourselves. I have called him a man, but he was unlike any man whom I have ever seen, and the fact that he both breathed and talked as no man could breathe or talk, and made his voice carry as no human voice could carry, told us that he had that in him which made him very different from ourselves. Outwardly he was a magnificent creature, not less than seven feet in height and built upon the lines of a perfect athlete, which was more noticeable as he wore a costume which fitted tightly upon his figure, and seemed to consist of black glazed leather. His face was that of a bronze statue—a statue wrought by some master craftsman in order to depict all the power and also all the evil which the human features could portray. It was not bloated or sensual, for such characteristics would have meant weakness and there was no trace of weakness there. On the contrary, it was extraordinarily clean-cut and aquiline, with an eagle nose, dark bristling brows, and smouldering black eyes which flashed and glowed with an inner fire. It was those remorseless, malignant eyes, and the beautiful but cruel straight hard-lipped mouth, set like fate, which gave the terror to his face. One felt, as one looked at him, that magnificent as he was in his person, he was evil to the very marrow, his glance a threat, his smile a sneer, his laugh a mockery:

'Well, gentlemen,' he said, talking excellent English in a voice which sounded as clear as if we were all back upon earth, 'you have had a remarkable adventure in the past and are likely to have an even more exciting one in the future, though it may be my pleasant task to bring it to a sudden end. This, I fear, is a rather one-sided conversation, but as I am perfectly well able to read your thoughts, and as I know all about you, you need not fear any misunderstanding. But you have a great deal—a very great deal to learn.'

We looked at each other in helpless amazement. It was hard, indeed, to be prevented from comparing notes as to our reactions to this amazing development. Again we heard that rasping laugh.

'Yes, it is indeed hard. But you can talk when you return, for I wish you to return and to take a message with you. If it were not for that message, I think that this visit to my home would have been your end. But first of all I have a few things which I wished to say to you. I will address you, Dr. Maracot, as the oldest and presumably the wisest of the party, though none could have been very wise to make such an excursion as this. You hear me very well, do you not? That is right, a nod or a shake is all I ask.

'Of course you know who I am. I fancy you discovered me lately. No one can speak or think of me that I do not know it. No one can come into this my old home, my innermost intimate shrine, that I am not summoned. That is why these poor wretches down yonder avoid it, and wanted you to avoid it a1so. You would have been wiser if you had followed their advice. You have brought me to you, and when once I am brought I do not readily leave.

'Your mind with its little grain of earth science is worrying itself over the problems which I present. How is it that I can live here without oxygen? I do not live here. I live in the great world of men under the light of the sun. I only come here when I am called as you have called me. But I am an ether-breathing creature. There is as much ether here as on a mountain top. Some of your own people can live without air. The cataleptic lies for months and never breathes. I'm even as he, but I remain, as you see me, conscious and active.

'Now you worry as to how you can hear me. Is it not the very essence of wireless transmission that it turns from the ether to the air? So I, too, can turn my words from my etheric utterance to impinge upon your ears through the air which fills those clumsy bells of yours.

'And my English? Well, I hope it is fairly good. I have lived some time on earth, oh a weary, weary time. How long is it? Is this the eleventh thousand or the twelfth thousand year? The latter, I think. I have had time to learn all human tongues. My English is no better than the rest.

'Have I resolved some of your doubts? That is right. I can see if I cannot hear you. But now I have something more serious to say.

'I am Baal-seepa. I am the Lord of the Dark Face. I am he who went so far into the inner secrets of Nature that I could defy death himself. I have so handled things that I could not die if I would. Some will stronger than my own is to be found if I am ever to die. Oh, mortals, never pray to be delivered from death. It may seem terrible, but eternal life is infinitely more so. To go on and on and on while the endless procession of humanity goes past you. To sit ever at the wayside of history and to see it go, ever moving onwards and leaving you behind. Is it a wonder that my heart is black and bitter, and that I curse the whole foolish drove of them? I injure them when I can. Why should I not?

'You wonder how I can injure them. I have powers, and they are not small ones. I can sway the minds of men. I am the master of the mob. Where evil has been planned there have I ever been. I was with the Huns when they laid half Europe in ruins. I was with the Saracens when under the name of religion they put to the sword all who gainsayed them. I was out on Bartholomew's night. I lay behind the slave trade. It was my whisper which burned ten thousand old crones whom the fools called witches. I was the tall dark man who led the mob in Paris when the streets swam in blood. Rare times those, but they have been even better of late in Russia. That is whence I have come. I had half forgotten this colony of sea-rats who burrow under the mud and carry on a few of the arts and legends of that grand land where life flourished as never since. It is you who reminded me of them, for this old home of mine is still united, by personal vibrations of which your science knows nothing, to the man who built and loved it. I knew that strangers had entered it. I inquired, and here I am. So now since I am here—and it is the first time for a thousand years—it has reminded me of these people. They have lingered long enough. It is time for them to go. They are sprung from the power of one who defied me in his life, and who built up this means of escape from the catastrophe which engulfed all but his people and myself. His wisdom saved them and my powers saved me. But now my powers will crush those whom he saved, and the story will be complete.'

He put his hand into his breast and he took out a piece of script. 'You will give this to the chief of the water-rats,' said he. 'I regret that you gentlemen should share their fate, but since you are the primary cause of their misfortune it is only justice, after all. I will see you again later. Meanwhile I would commend a study of these pictures and carvings, which will give you some idea of the height to which I had raised Atlantis during the days of my rule. Here you will find some record of the manners and customs of the people when under my influence. Life was very varied, very highly coloured, very many-sided. In these drab days they would call it an orgy of wickedness. Well, call it what you will, I brought it about, I rejoiced in it, and I have no regrets. Had I my time again, I would do even so and more, save only for this fatal gift of eternal life. Warda, whom I curse and whom I should have killed before he grew strong enough to turn people against me, was wiser than I in this. He still revisits earth, but it is as a spirit, not a man. And now I go. You came here from curiosity, my friends. I can but trust that that curiosity is satisfied.'

And then we saw him disappear. Yes, before our very eyes he vanished. It was not done in an instant. He stood clear of the pillar against which he had been leaning. His splendid towering figure seemed blurred at the edges. The light died out of his eyes and his features grew indistinct. Then in a moment he had become a dark whirling cloud which swept upwards through the stagnant water of this dreadful hall. Then he was gone, and we stood gazing at each other and marvelling at the strange possibilities of life.

We did not linger in that horrible palace. It was not a safe place in which to loiter. As it was, I picked one of those noxious purple slugs off the shoulder of Bill Scanlan, and I was myself badly stung in the hand by the venom spat at me by a great yellow lamelli branch. As we staggered out I had one last impression of those dreadful carvings, the devil's own handiwork, upon the walls, and then we almost ran down the darksome passage, cursing the day that ever we had been fools enough to enter it. It was joy indeed to be out in the phosphorescent light of the bathybian plain, and to see the clear translucent water once again around us. Within an hour we were back in our home once more. With our helmets removed, we met in consultation in our own chamber. The Professor and I were too overwhelmed with it all to be able to put our thoughts into words. It was only the irrepressible vitality of Bill Scanlan which rose superior.

'Holy smoke!' said he. 'We are up against it now. I guess this guy is the big noise out of hell. Seems to me, with his pictures and statues and the rest, he would make the wardsman of a red light precinct look like two cents. How to handle him—that's the question.'

Dr. Maracot was lost in thought. Then he rang the bell and summoned our yellow-clad attendant. 'Manda,' said he. A minute later our friend was in the room. Maracot handed him the fateful letter.

Never have I admired a man as I did Manda at that moment. We had brought threatened ruin upon his people and himself by our unjustifiable curiosity—we, the strangers whom he had rescued when everything was hopelessly lost. And yet, though he turned a ghastly colour as he read the message, there was no touch of reproach upon the sad brown eyes which turned upon us. He shook his head, and despair was in every gesture. 'Baal-seepa! Baal-seepa!' he cried, and pressed his hands convulsively to his eyes, as if shutting out some horrible vision. He ran about the room like a man distracted with his grief, and finally rushed away to read the fatal message to the community. We heard a few minutes later the clang of the great bell which summoned them all to conference in the Central Hall.

'Shall we go?' I asked.

Dr. Maracot shook his head.

'What can we do? For that matter, what can they do?What chance have they against one who has the powers of a demon?'

'As much chance as a bunch of rabbits against a weasel,' said Scanlan. 'But, by Gosh, it's up to us to find a way out. I guess we can't go out of our way to raise the devil and then pass the buck to the folk that saved us.'

'What do you suggest?' I asked eagerly, for behind all his slang and his levity I recognized the strong, practical ability of this modern man of his hands.

'Well, you can search me,' said he. 'And yet maybe this guy is not as safe as he thinks. A bit of it may have got worn out with age, and he's getting on in years if we can take his word for it.'

'You think we might attack him?'

'Lunacy!' interjected the doctor.

Scanlan went to his locker. When he faced round he had a big six-shooter in his hand.

'What about this?' he said. 'I laid hold of it when we got our chance at the wreck. I thought maybe it might come useful. I've a dozen shells here. Maybe if I made as many holes in the big stiff it would let out some of his Magic. Lord save us! What is it?'

The revolver clattered down upon the floor, and Scanlan was writhing in agonies of pain, his left hand clasping his right wrist. Terrible cramps had seized his arm, and as we tried to alleviate them we could feel the muscles knotted up as hard as the roots of a tree. The sweat of agony streamed down the poor fellow's brow. Finally, utterly cowed and exhausted, he fell upon his bed.

'That lets me out,' he said. 'I'm through. Yes, thank you, the pain is better. But it is K.O. to William Scanlan. I've learned my lesson. You don't fight hell with six-shooters, and it's no use to try. I give him best from now onwards.'

'Yes, you have had your lesson,' said Maracot, 'and it has been a severe one.'

'Then you think our case is hopeless?'

'What can we do when, as it would seem, he is aware of every word and action? And yet we will not despair.' He sat in thought for a few moments. 'I think,' he resumed, 'that you, Scanlan, had best lie where you are for a time. You have had a shock from which it will take you some time to recover.'

'If there is anything doing, count me in, though I guess we can cut out the rough stuff,' said our comrade bravely, but his drawn face and shaking limbs showed what he had endured.

'There is nothing doing so far as you are concerned. We at least have learned what is the wrong way to go to work. All violence is useless. We are working on another plane—the plane of spirit. Do you remain here, Headley. I am going to the room which I use as a study. Perhaps if I were alone I could see a little more clearly what we should do.'

Both Scanlan and I had learned to have a great confidence in Maracot. If any human brain could solve our difficulties, it would be his. And yet surely we had reached a point which was beyond all human capacity. We were as helpless as children in the face of forces which we could neither understand nor control. Scanlan had fallen into a troubled sleep. My own one thought as I sat beside him was not how we should escape, but rather what form the blow would take and when it would fall. At any moment I was prepared to see the solid roof above us sink in, the walls collapse, and the dark waters of the lowest deep close in upon those who had defied them so long.

Then suddenly the great bell pealed out once more. Its harsh clamour jarred upon every nerve. I sprang to my feet, and Scanlan sat up in bed. It was no ordinary summons which rang through the old palace. The agitated tumultuous ringing, broken and irregular, was calling an alarm. All had to come, and at once. It was menacing and insistent. 'Come now! Come at once! Leave everything and come!' cried the bell.

'Say, Bo, we should be with them,' said Scanlan. 'guess they're up against it now.'

'And yet what can we do?'

'Maybe just the sight of us will give them a bit of heart. Anyhow, they must not think that we are quitters. Where is the Doc?'

'He went to his study. But you are right, Scanlan. We should be with the others and let them see that we are ready to share their fate.'

'The poor boobs seem to lean on us in a way. It may be that they know more than we, but we seem to have more sand in our craw than they. I guess they have taken what was given to them, and we have had to find things for ourselves. Well, it's me for the deluge—if the deluge has got to be.'

But as we approached the door a most unexpected interruption detained us. Dr. Maracot stood before us. But was it indeed the Dr. Maracot whom we had known—this self-assured man with strength and resolution shining from every feature of his masterful face? The quiet scholar had been submerged, and here was a superman, a great leader, a dominant soul who might mould mankind to his desires.

'Yes, friends, we shall be needed. All may yet be well. But come at once, or it may be too late. I will explain everything later—if there is any later for us. Yes, yes, we are coming.'

The latter words, with appropriate gesture, were spoken to some terrified Atlanteans who had appeared at the door and were eagerly beckoning to us to come. It was a fact, as Scanlan had said, that we had shown ourselves several times to be stronger in character and prompter in action than these secluded people, and at this hour of supreme danger they seemed to cling to us. I could hear a subdued murmur of satisfaction and relief as we entered the crowded hall, and took the places reserved for us in the front row.

It was time that we came, if we were indeed to bring any help. The terrible presence was already standing upon the dais and facing with a cruel, thin-lipped, demoniacal smile the cowering folk before him. Scanlan's simile of a bunch of rabbits before a weasel came back to my memory as I looked round at them. They sank together, holding on to each other in their terror, and gazing wide—eyed at the mighty figure which towered above them and the ruthless granite-hewed face which looked down upon them. Never can I forget the impression of those semi-circular rows, tier above tier, of haggard, wide-eyed faces with their horrified gaze all directed towards the central dais. It would seem that he had already pronounced their doom and that they stood in the shadow of death waiting for its fulfilment. Manda was standing in abject submission, pleading in broken accents for his people, but one could see that the words only gave an added zest to the monster who stood sneering before him. The creature interrupted him with a few rasping words, and raised his right hand in the air, while a cry of despair rose from the assembly.

And at that moment Dr. Maracot sprang upon the dais. It was amazing to watch him. Some miracle seemed to have altered the man. He had the gait and the gesture of a youth, and yet upon his face there was a look of such power as I have never seen upon human features yet. He strode up to the swarthy giant, who glared down at him in amazement.

'Well, little man, what have you to say?' he asked.

'I have this to say,' said Maracot. 'Your time has come. You have over-stayed it. Go down! Go down into the Hell that has been waiting for you so long. You are a prince of darkness. Go where the darkness is.'

The demon's eyes shot dark fire as he answered:

'When my time comes, if it should ever come, it will not be from the lips of a wretched mortal that I shall learn it,' said he. 'What power have you that you could oppose for a moment one who is in the secret places of Nature? I could blast you where you stand.'

Maracot looked into those terrible eyes without blenching. It seemed to me that it was the giant who flinched away from his gaze.

'Unhappy being,' said Maracot. 'It is I who have the power and the will to blast you where you stand. Too long have you cursed the world with your presence. You have been a plague-spot infecting all that was beautiful and good. The hearts of men will be lighter when you are gone, and the sun will shine more brightly.'

'What is this? Who are you? What is it that you are saying?' stammered the creature.

'You speak of secret knowledge. Shall I tell you that which is at the very base of it? It is that on every plane the good of that plane can be stronger than the evil. The angel will still beat the devil. For the moment I am on the same plane on which you have so long been, and I hold the power of the conqueror. It has been given to me. So again I say: Down with you! Down to Hell to which you belong! Down, sir! Down, I say! Down!'

And then the miracle occurred. For a minute or more—how can one count time at such moments?—the two beings, the mortal and the demon, faced each other as rigid as statues, glaring into each other's eyes, with inexorable will upon the two faces, the dark one and the fair. Then suddenly the great creature flinched. His face convulsed with rage, he threw two clawing hands up into the air. 'It is you, Warda, you cursed one! I recognize your handiwork. Oh, curse you, Warda. Curse you! Curse you!' His voice died away, his long dark figure became blurred in its outline, his head drooped upon his chest, his knees sagged under him, down he sank and down, and as he sank he changed his shape. At first it was a crouching human being, then it was a dark formless mass, and then with sudden collapse it had become a semi-liquid heap of black and horrible putrescence which stained the dais and poisoned the air. At the same time Scanlan and I dashed forward on to the platform, for Dr. Maracot, with a deep groan, his powers exhausted, had fallen forward in helpless collapse. 'We have won! We have won!' he muttered, and an instant later his senses had left him and he lay half dead upon the floor.

*

Thus it was that the Atlantean colony was saved from the most horrible danger that could threaten it, and that an evil presence was banished for ever from the world. It was not for some days that Dr. Maracot could tell his story, and when he did it was of such a character that if we had not seen the results we should have put it down as the delirium of his illness. I may say that his power had left him with the occasion which had called it forth, and that he was now the same quiet, gentle man of science whom we had known.

'That it should have happened to me!' he cried. 'To me, a materialist, a man so immersed in matter that the invisible did not exist in my philosophy. The theories of a whole lifetime have crumbled about my ears.'

'I guess we have all been to school again,' said Scanlan, 'If ever I get back to the little home town, I shall have something to tell the boys.'

'The less you tell them the better, unless you want to get the name of being the greatest liar that ever came out of America,' said I. 'Would you or I have believed it all if someone else had told us?'

'Maybe not. But say, Doc, you had the dope right enough. That great black stiff got his ten and out as neat as ever I saw. There was no come-back there. You clean pushed him off the map. I don't know on what other map he has found his location, but it is no place for Bill Scanlan anyhow.'

'I will tell you exactly what occurred,' said the Doctor. 'You will remember that I left you and retired into my study. I had little hope in my heart, but I had read a good deal at different times about black magic and occult arts. I was aware that white can always dominate black if it can but reach the same plane. He was on a much stronger—I will not say higher—plane than we. That was the fatal fact.

'I saw no way of getting over it. I flung myself down on the settee and I prayed—yes, I, the hardened materialist, prayed—for help. When one is at the very end of all human power, what can one do save to stretch appealing hands into the mists which gird us round? I prayed—and my prayer was most wonderfully answered.

'I was suddenly aware of the fact that I was not alone in the room. There stood before me a tall figure, as swarthy as the evil presence whom we fought, but with a kindly, bearded face which shone with benevolence and love. The sense of power which he conveyed was not less than the other, but it was the power of good, the power within the influence of which evil would shred away as the mists do before the sun. He looked at me with kindly eyes, and I sat, too amazed to speak, staring up at him. Something within me, some inspiration or intuition, told me that this was the spirit of that great and wise Atlantean who had fought the evil while he lived, and who, when he could not prevent the destruction of his country, took such steps as would ensure that the more worthy should survive even though they should be sunk to the depths of the Ocean. This wondrous being was now interposing to prevent the ruin of his work and the destruction of his children. With a sudden gush of hope I realized all this as clearly as if he had said it. Then, still smiling, he advanced, and he laid his two hands upon my head. It was his own virtue and strength, no doubt, which he was transferring to me. I felt it coursing like fire down my veins. Nothing in the world seemed impossible at that moment. I had the will and the might to do miracles. Then at that moment I heard the bell clang out, which told me that the crisis had come. As I rose from the couch the spirit, smiling his encouragement, vanished before me. Then I joined you, and the rest you know.'

'Well, sir,' said I, 'I think you have made your reputation. If you care to set up as a god down here, I expect you would find no difficulty.'

'You got away with it better than I did, Doc,' said Scanlan in a rueful voice. 'How is it this guy didn't know what you were doing? He was quick enough on to me when I laid hand on a gun. And yet you had him guessing.'

'I suppose that you were on the plane of matter, and that, for the moment, we were upon that of spirit,' said the Doctor thoughtfully. 'Such things teach one humility. It is only when you touch the higher that you realize how low we may be among the possibilities of creation. I have had my lesson. May my future life show that I have learned it.'

So this was the end of our supreme experience. It was but a little time later that we conceived the idea of sending news of ourselves to the surface, and that later by means of vitrine balls filled with levigen, we ascended ourselves to be met in the manner already narrated. Dr. Maracot actually talks of going back. There is some point of Ichthyology upon which he wants more precise information. But Scanlan has, I hear, married his wren in Philadelphia, and has been promoted as works manager of Merribanks, so he seeks no further adventure, while I—well, the deep sea has given me a precious pearl, and I ask for no more.




SPEDEGUE'S DROPPER

First published in The Strand Magazine, Oct 1928
Collected in The Maracot Deep and Other Stories, 1929
Also published as "The Story of Spedegue's Dropper"



Illustration

THE name of Walter Scougall needs no introduction to the cricketing public. In the 'nineties he played for his University. Early in the century he began that long career in the county team which carried him up to the War. That great tragedy broke his heart for games, but he still served on his county Club Committee and was reckoned one of the best judges of the game in the United Kingdom.

Scougall, after his abandonment of active sport, was wont to take his exercise by long walks through the New Forest, upon the borders of which he was living. Like all wise men, he walked very silently through that wonderful waste, and in that way he was often privileged to see sights which are lost to the average heavy-stepping wayfarer. Once, late in the evening, it was a badger blundering towards its hole under a hollow bank. Often a little group of deer would be glimpsed in the open rides. Occasionally a fox would steal across the path and then dart off at the sight of the noiseless wayfarer. Then one day he saw a human sight which was more strange than any in the animal world.

In a narrow glade there stood two great oaks. They were thirty or forty feet apart, and the glade was spanned by a cord which connected them up. This cord was at least fifty feet above the ground, and it must have entailed no small effort to get it there. At each side of the cord a cricket stump had been placed at the usual distance from each other. A tall, thin young man in spectacles was lobbing balls, of which he seemed to have a good supply, from one end, while at the other end a lad of sixteen, wearing wicket-keeper's gloves, was catching those which missed the wicket. "Catching" is the right word, for no ball struck the ground. Each was projected high up into the air and passed over the cord, descending at a very sharp angle on to the stumps.

Scougall stood for some minutes behind a holly bush watching this curious performance. At first it seemed pure lunacy, and then gradually he began to perceive a method in it. It was no easy matter to hurl a ball up over that cord and bring it down near the wicket. It needed a very correct trajectory. And yet this singular young man, using what the observer's practised eye recognized as a leg-break action which would entail a swerve in the air, lobbed up ball after ball either right on to the bails or into the wicket-keeper's hands just beyond them. Great practice was surely needed before he had attained such a degree of accuracy as this.

Finally his curiosity became so great that Scougall moved out into the glade, to the obvious surprise and embarrassment of the two performers. Had they been caught in some guilty action they could not have looked more unhappy. However, Scougall was a man of the world with a pleasant manner, and he soon put them at their ease.

"Excuse my butting in," said he. "I happened to be passing and I could not help being interested. I am an old cricketer, you see, and it appealed to me. Might I ask what you were trying to do?"

"Oh, I am just tossing up a few balls," said the elder, modestly. "You see, there is no decent ground about here, so my brother and I come out into the Forest."

"Arc you a bowler, then?"

"Well, of sorts."

"What club do you play for?"

"It is only Wednesday and Saturday cricket. Bishops Bramley is our village."

"But do you always bowl like that?"

"Oh, no. This is a new idea that I have been trying out."

"Well, you seem to get it pretty accurately."

"I am improving. I was all over the place at first. I didn't know what parish they would drop in. But now they are usually there or about it."

"So I observe."

"You said you were an old cricketer. May I ask your name?"

"Walter Scougall."

The young man looked at him as a young pupil looks at the world-famed master. "You remember the name, I see."

"Walter Scougall. Oxford and Hampshire. Last played in 1913. Batting average for that season, twenty-seven point five. Bowling average, sixteen for seventy-two wickets."

"Good Lord!"

The younger man, who had come across, burst out laughing. "Tom is like that," said he. "He is Wisden and Lillywhite rolled into one. He could tell you anyone's record, and every county's record for this century."

"Well, well! What a memory you must have!"

"Well, my heart is in the game," said the young man, becoming amazingly confidential, as shy men will when they find a really sympathetic listener. "But it's my heart that won't let me play it as I should wish to do. You see, I get asthma if I do too much--and palpitations. But they play me at Bishops Bramley for my slow bowling, and so long as I field slip I don't have too much running to do."

"You say you have not tried these lobs, or whatever you may call them, in a match?"

"No, not yet. I want to get them perfect first. You sec, it was my ambition to invent an entirely new ball. I am sure it can be done. Look at Bosanquet and the googlie. Just by using his brain he thought of and worked out the idea of concealed screw on the ball. I said to myself that Nature had handicapped me with a weak heart, but not with a weak brain, and that I might think out some new thing which was within the compass of my strength. Droppers, I call them. Spedegue's droppers--that's the name they may have some day."

Scougall laughed. "I don't want to discourage you, but I wouldn't bank on it too much," said he. "A quick-eyed batsman would simply treat them as he would any other full toss and every ball would be a boundary."

Spedegue's face fell. The words of Scougall were to him as the verdict of the High Court judge. Never had he spoken before with a first-class cricketer, and he had hardly the nerve to defend his own theory. It was the younger one who spoke.

"Perhaps, Mr. Scougall, you have hardly thought it all out yet," said he. "Tom has given it a lot of consideration. You see, if the ball is tossed high enough it has a great pace as it falls. It's really like having a fast bowler from above. That's his idea. Then, of course, there's the field."

"Ah, how would you place your field?"

"All on the on side bar one or two at the most," cried Tom Spedegue, taking up the argument. "I've nine to dispose of. I should have mid-off well up. That's all. Then I should have eight men to leg, three on the boundary, one mid-on, two square, one fine, and one a rover, so that the batsman would never quite know where he was. That's the idea."

Scougall began to be serious. It was clear that this young fellow really had plotted the thing out. He walked across to the wicket.

"Chuck up one or two," said he. "Let me sec how they look." He brandished his walking-stick and waited expectant. The ball soared in the air and came down with unexpected speed just over the stump. Scougall looked more serious still. He had seen many cricket balls, but never quite from that angle, and it gave him food for thought.

"Have you ever tried it in public?"

"Never."

"Don't you think it is about time?"

"Yes, I think I might."

"When?"

"Well, I'm not generally on as a first bowler. I am second change as a rule. But if the skipper will let me have a go--"

"I'll see to that," said Scougall. "Do you play at Bishops Bramley?"

"Yes; it is our match of the year--against Mudford, you know."

"Well, I think on Saturday I'd like to be there and see how it works." Sure enough Scougall turned up at the village match, to the great excitement of the two rural teams. He had a serious talk with the home captain, with the result that for the first time in his life Tom Spedegue was first bowler for his native village. What the other village thought of his remarkable droppers need not influence us much, since they would probably have been got out pretty cheaply by any sort of bowling. None the less, Scougall watched the procession to and from the cow-shed which served as a pavilion with an appreciative eye, and his views as to the possibilities lying in the dropper became clearer than before. At the end of the innings he touched the bowler upon the shoulder.

"That seems all right," he said.

"No, I couldn't quite get the length--and, of course, they did drop catches."

"Yes, I agree that you could do better. Now look here! you are second master at a school, are you not?"

"That is right."

"You could get a day's leave if I wangled with the chief?"

"It might be done."

"Well, I want you next Tuesday. Sir George Sanderson's house-party team is playing the Free Foresters at Ringwood. You must bowl for Sir George." Tom Spedegue flushed with pleasure. "Oh, I say!" was all he could stammer out. "I'll work it somehow or other. I suppose you don't bat?"

"Average nine," said Spedegue, proudly.

Scougall laughed. "Well, I noticed that you were not a bad fielder near the wicket."

"I usually hold them."

"Well, I'll see your boss, and you will hear from me again."

Scougall was really taking a great deal of trouble in this small affair, for he went down to Totton and saw the rather grim head master. It chanced, however, that the old man had been a bit of a sport in his day, and he relaxed when Scougall explained the inner meaning of it all. He laughed incredulously, however, and shook his head when Scougall whispered some aspiration.

"Nonsense!" was his comment.

"Well, there is a chance."

"Nonsense!" said the old man once again.

"It would be the making of your school."

"It certainly would," the headmaster replied. "But it is nonsense all the same." Scougall saw the head master again on the morning after the Free Foresters match.

"You sec it works all right," he said. "Yes, against third-class men."

"Oh, I don't know. Donaldson was playing, and Murphy. They were not so bad. I tell you they are the most amazed set of men in Hampshire. I have bound them all over to silence."

"Why?"

"Surprise is the essence of the matter. Now I'll take it a stage farther. By Jove, what a joke it would be!" The old cricketer and the sporting schoolmaster roared with laughter as they thought of the chances of the future.

All England was absorbed in one question at that moment. Politics, business, even taxation had passed from people's minds. The one engrossing subject was the fifth Test Match. Twice England had won by a narrow margin, and twice Australia had barely struggled to victory. Now in a week Lord's was to be the scene of the final and crucial battle of giants. What were the chances, and how was the English team to be made up?

It was an anxious time for the Selection Committee, and three more harassed men than Sir James Gilpin, Mr. Tarding and Dr. Sloper were not to be found in London. They sat now in the committee-room of the great pavilion, and they moodily scanned the long list of possibles which lay before them, weighing the claims of this man or that, closely inspecting the latest returns from the county matches, and arguing how far a good all-rounder was a better bargain than a man who was supremely good in one department but weak in another--such men, for example, as Worsley of Lancashire, whose average was seventy-one, but who was a sluggard in the field, or Scott of Leicestershire, who was near the top of the bowling and quite at the foot of the batting averages. A week of such work had fumed the committee into three jaded old men.

"There is the question of endurance," said Sir James, the man of many years and much experience. "A three days' match is bad enough, but this is to be played out and may last a week. Some of these top average men are getting on in years."

"Exactly," said Tarding, who had himself captained England again and again. "I am all for young blood and new methods. The trouble is that we know their bowling pretty well, and as for them on a marled wicket they can play ours with their eyes shut. Each side is likely to make five hundred per innings, and a very little will make the difference between us and them."

"It's just that very little that we have got to find," said solemn old Dr. Sloper, who had the reputation of being the greatest living authority upon the game. "If we could give them something new! But, of course, they have played every county and sampled everything we have got."

"What can we ever have that is new?" cried Tarding. "It is all played out."

"Well, I don't know," said Sir James. "Both the swerve and the googlie have come along in our time. But Bosanquets don't appear every day. We want brain as well as muscle behind the ball."

"Funny we should talk like this," said Dr. Sloper, taking a letter from his pocket. "This is from old Scougall, down in Hampshire. He says he is at the end of a wire and is ready to come up if we want him. His whole argument is on the very lines we have been discussing. New blood, and a complete surprise--that is his slogan."

"Does he suggest where we are to find it?"

"Well, as a matter of fact he docs. He has dug up some unknown fellow from the back of beyond who plays for the second eleven of the Mudtown Blackbeetles or the Hinton Chawbacons or some such team, and he wants to put him straight in to play for England. Poor old Scougie has been out in the sun."

"At the same time there is no better captain than Scougall used to be. I don't think we should put his opinion aside too easily. What does he say?"

"Well, he is simply red-hot about it. 'A revelation to me.' That is one phrase. 'Could not have believed it if I had not seen it' 'May find it out afterwards, but it is bound to upset them the first time.' That is his view."

"And where is this wonder man?"

"He has sent him up so that we can see him if we wish. Telephone the Thackeray Hotel, Blooomsbury."

"Well, what do you say?"

"Oh, it's pure waste of time," said Tarding. "Such things don't happen, you know. Even if we approved of him, what would the country think and what would the Press say?"

Sir James stuck out his grizzled jaw.

"Damn the country and the Press, too!" said he. "We are here to follow our own judgment, and I jolly well mean to do so."

"Exactly," said Dr. Sloper. Tarding shrugged his broad shoulders.

"We have enough to do without turning down a side-street like that," said he. "However, if you both think so, I won't stand in the way. Have him up by all means and let us see what we make of him."

Half an hour later a very embarrassed young man was standing in front of the famous trio and listening to a series of very searching questions, to which he was giving such replies as he was able. Much of the ground which Scougall had covered in the Forest was explored by them once more.

"It boils down to this, Mr. Spedegue. You've once in your life played in good company. That is the only criterion. What exactly did you do?"

Spedegue pulled a slip of paper, which was already frayed from much use, out of his waistcoat pocket.

"This is The Hampshire Telegraph account, sir."

Sir James ran his eye over it and read snatches aloud. "Much amusement was caused by the bowling of Mr. T. E. Spedegue."

"Hum! That's rather two-edged. Bowling should not be a comic turn. After all, cricket is a serious game. Seven wickets for thirty-four. Well, that's better. Donaldson is a good man. You got him, I see. And Murphy, too! Well, now, would you mind going into the pavilion and waiting? You will find some pictures there that will amuse you if you value the history of the game. We'll send for you presently."

When the youth had gone the Selection Committee looked at each other in puzzled silence.

"You simply can't do it!" said Tarding at last. "You can't face it. To play a bumpkin like that because he once got seven wickets for thirty-four in country-house cricket is sheer madness. I won't be a party to it."

"Wait a bit, though! Wait a bit!" cried Sir James. "Let us thresh it out a little before we decide."

So they threshed it out, and in half an hour they sent for Tom Spedegue once more. Sir James sat with his elbows on the table and his finger-tips touching while he held forth in his best judicial manner. His conclusion was a remarkable one.

"So it comes to this, Mr. Spedegue, that we all three want to be on surer ground before we take a step which would rightly expose us to the most tremendous public criticism. You will therefore remain in London, and at three-forty-five to-morrow morning, which is just after dawn, you will come down in your flannels to the side entrance of Lord's. We will, under pledge of secrecy, assemble twelve or thirteen groundmen whom we can trust, including half-a-dozen first-class bats. We will have a wicket prepared on the practice ground, and we will try you out under proper conditions with your ten fielders and all. If you fail, there is an end. If you make good, we may consider your claim."

"Good gracious, sir, I made no claim."

"Well, your friend Scougall did for you. But anyhow, that's how we have fixed it. We shall be there, of course, and a few others whose opinion we can trust. If you care to wire Scougall he can come too. But the whole thing is secret, for we quite see the point that it must be a complete surprise or a wash-out. So you will keep your mouth shut and we shall do the same."

Thus it came about that one of the most curious games in the history of cricket was played on the Lord's ground next morning. There is a high wall round that part, but early wayfarers as they passed were amazed to hear the voices of the players, and the occasional crack of the ball at such an hour. The superstitious might almost have imagined that the spirits of the great departed were once again at work, and that the adventurous explorer might get a peep at the bushy black beard of the old giant or Billie Murdoch leading his Cornstalks once more to victory. At six o'clock the impromptu match was over, and the Selection Committee had taken the bravest and most sensational decision that had ever been hazarded since first a team was chosen. Tom Spedegue should play next week for England.

"Mind you," said Tarding, "if the beggar lets us down I simply won't face the music. I warn you of that. I'll have a taxi waiting at the gate and a passport in my pocket. Poste Restante, Paris. That's me for the rest of the summer."

"Cheer up, old chap," said Sir James. "Our conscience is clear. We have acted for the best. Dash it all, we have ten good men, anyhow. If the worst came to the worst, it only means one passenger in the team."

"But it won't come to the worst," said Dr. Sloper, stoutly. "Hang it, we have seen with our own eyes. What more can we do? All the same, for the first time in my life I'll have a whisky-and-soda before breakfast."

Next day the list was published and the buzz began. Ten of the men might have been expected. These were Challen and Jones, as fast bowlers, and Widley, the slow left-hander. Then Peters, Moir, Jackson, Wilson, and Grieve were at the head of the batting averages, none of them under fifty, which was pretty good near the close of a wet season. Hanwell and Gordon were two all-rounders who were always sure of their places, dangerous bats, good change bowlers, and as active as cats in the field. So far so good. But who the Evil One was Thomas E. Spedegue? Never was there such a ferment in Fleet Street and such blank ignorance upon the part of "our well-informed correspondent" Special Commissioners darted here and there, questioning well-known cricketers, only to find that they were as much in the dark as themselves. Nobody knew--or if anyone did know, he was bound by oath not to tell. The wildest tales flew abroad. "We are able to assure the public that Spedegue is a nom de jeu and conceals the identity of a world-famed cricketer who for family reasons is not permitted to reveal his true self."

"Thomas E. Spedegue will surprise the crowd at Lord's by appearing as a coal-black gentleman from Jamaica. He came over with the last West Indian team, settled in Derbyshire, and is now eligible to play for England, though why he should be asked to do so is still a mystery."

"Spedegue, as is now generally known, is a half-caste Malay who exhibited extraordinary cricket proficiency some years ago in Rangoon. It is said that he plays in a loincloth and can catch as well with his feet as with his hands. The question of whether he is qualified for England is a most debatable one."

"Spedegue, Thomas E., is the headmaster of a famous northern school whose wonderful talents in the cricket field have been concealed by his devotion to his academic duties. Those who know him best are assured," etc., etc. The Committee also began to get it in the neck. "Why, with the wealth of talent available, these three elderly gentlemen, whose ideas of selection seem to be to pick names out of a bag, should choose one who, whatever his hidden virtues, is certainly unused to first-class cricket, far less to Test Matches, is one of those things which make one realize that the lunacy laws are not sufficiently comprehensive." These were fair samples of the comments.

And then the inevitable came to pass. When Fleet Street is out for something it invariably gets it No one quite knows how The Daily Sportsman succeeded in getting at Thomas Spedegue, but it was a great scoop and the incredible secret was revealed. There was a leader and there was an interview with the village patriarch which set London roaring with laughter. "No, we ain't surprised nohow," said Gaffer Hobbs. "Maister Spedegue do be turble clever with them slow balls of his'n. He sure was too much for them chaps what came in the char-a-bancs from Mudford. Artful, I call Mm. You'll see." The leader was scathing. "The Committee certainly seem to have taken leave of their senses. Perhaps there is time even now to alter their absurd decision. It is almost an insult to our Australian visitors. It is obvious that the true place for Mr. Thomas Spedegue, however artful he may be, is the village green and not Lord's, and that his competence to deal with the char-a-bancers of Mudford is a small guarantee that he can play first-class cricket The whole thing is a deplorable mistake, and it is time that pressure was put upon the Selection Board to make them reconsider their decision."

"We have examined the score-book of the Bishops Bramley village club," wrote another critic. "It is kept in the tap-room of The Spotted Cow, and makes amusing reading. Our Test Match aspirant is hard to trace, as he played usually for the second eleven, and in any case there was no one capable of keeping an analysis. However, we must take such comfort as we can from his batting averages. This year he has actually amassed a hundred runs in nine recorded innings. Best in an innings, fifteen. Average, eleven. Last year he was less fortunate and came out with an average of nine. The youth is second master at the Totton High School and is in indifferent health, suffering from occasional attacks of asthma. And he is chosen to play for England! Is it a joke or what? We think that the public will hardly see the humour of it, nor will the Selection Committee find it a laughing matter if they persist in their preposterous action." So spoke the Press, but there were, it is only fair to say, other journals which took a more charitable view. "After all," said the sporting correspondent of The Times, "Sir James and his two colleagues are old and experienced players with a unique knowledge of the game. Since we have placed our affairs in their hands we must be content to leave them there. They have their own knowledge and their own private information of which we arc ignorant We can but trust them and await the event."

As to the three, they refused in any way to compromise or to bend to the storm. They gave no explanations, made no excuses, and simply dug in and lay quiet. So the world waited till the day came round.

We all remember what glorious weather it was. The heat and the perfect Bulli-earth wicket, so far as England could supply that commodity, reminded our visitors of their native conditions. It was England, however, who got the best of that ironed shirt-front wicket, for in their first knock even Cotsmore, the Australian giant, who was said to be faster than Gregory and more wily than Spofforth, could seldom get the ball bail-high. He bowled with splendid vim and courage, but his analysis at the end of the day only showed three wickets for a hundred and forty-two. Storr, the googlie merchant had a better showing with four for ninety-six. Cade's mediums accounted for two wickets, and Moir, the English captain, was run out. He had made seventy-three first, and Peters, Grieve, and Hanwell raked up sixty-four, fifty-seven, and fifty-one respectively, while nearly everyone was in double figures. The only exception was "Thomas E. Spedegue, Esq.," to quote the score card, which recorded a blank after his name. He was caught in the slips off the fast bowler, and, as he admitted afterwards that he had never for an instant seen the ball, and could hardly in his nervousness see the bowler, it is remarkable that his wicket was intact. The English total was four hundred and thirty-two, and the making of it consumed the whole of the first day. It was fast scoring in the time, and the crowd were fully satisfied with the result.

And now came the turn of Australia. An hour before play began forty thousand people had assembled, and by the time that the umpires came out the gates had to be closed, for there was not standing room within those classic precincts. Then came the English team, strolling out to the wickets and tossing the ball from hand to hand in time-honoured fashion. Finally appeared the two batsmen, Morland, the famous Victorian, the man of the quick feet and the supple wrists, whom many looked upon as the premier batsman of the world, and the stone-waller, Donahue, who had broken the hearts of so many bowlers with his obdurate defence. It was he who took the first over, which was delivered by Challen of Yorkshire, the raging, tearing fast bowler of the North. He sent down six beauties, but each of them came back to him down the pitch from that impenetrable half-cock shot which was characteristic of the famous Queenslander. It was a maiden over.

And now Moir tossed the ball to Spedegue and motioned him to begin at the pavilion end. The English captain had been present at the surreptitious trial and he had an idea of the general programme, but it took him some time and some consultation with the nervous, twitching bowler before he could set the field. When it was finally arranged the huge audience gasped with surprise and the batsmen gazed round them as if they could hardly believe their eyes. One poor little figure, alone upon a prairie, broke the solitude of the off-side. He stood as a deep point or as a silly mid-off. The on-side looked like a mass meeting. The fielders were in each other's way, and kept shuffling about to open up separate lines. It too some time to arrange, while Spedegue stood at the crease with a nervous smile, fingering the ball and waiting for orders. The Selection Board were grouped in the open window of the committee-room, and their faces were drawn and haggard.

"My God! This is awful!" muttered Tarding.

"Got that cab?" asked Dr. Sloper, with a ghastly smile.

"Got it! It is my one stand-by."

"Room for three in it?" said Sir James. "Gracious, he has got five short-legs and no slip. Well, well, get to it! Anything is better than waiting."

There was a deadly hush as Spedegue delivered his first ball. It was an ordinary slow full pitch straight on the wicket. At any other time Morland would have slammed it to the boundary, but he was puzzled and cautious after all this mysterious setting of the field. Some unknown trap seemed to have been set for him. Therefore he played the ball quietly back to the bowler and set himself for the next one, which was similar and treated the same way.

Spedegue had lost his nerve. He simply could not, before this vast multitude of critics, send up the grotesque ball which he had invented. Therefore he compromised, which was the most fatal of all courses. He lobbed up balls which were high but not high enough. They were simply ordinary overpitched, full-toss deliveries such as a batsman sees when he has happy dreams and smiles in his sleep. Such was the third ball, which was a little to the off. Morland sent it like a bullet past the head of the lonely mid-off and it crashed against the distant rails. The three men in the window looked at each other and the sweat was on their brows. The next ball was again a juicy full toss on the level of the batsman's ribs. He banged it through the crowd of fielders on the on with a deft turn of the wrist which insured that it should be upon the ground. Then, gaining confidence, he waited for the next of those wonderful dream balls, and steadying himself for a mighty fast-footed swipe he knocked it clean over the ring and on to the roof of the hotel to square-leg. There were roars of applause, for a British crowd loves a lofty hit, whoever may deliver it. The scoreboard marked fourteen made off five balls. Such an opening to a Test Match had never be seen.

"We thought he might break a record, and by Jove he has!" said Tarding, bitterly. Sir James chewed his ragged moustache and Sloper twisted his fingers together in agony. Moir, who was fielding at mid-on, stepped across to the unhappy bowler.

"Chuck 'em up, as you did on Tuesday morning. Buck up, man! Don't funk it! You'll do them yet."

Spedegue grasped the ball convulsively and nerved himself to send it high into the air. For a moment he picture the New Forest glade, the white line of cord, and his young brother waiting behind the stump. But his nerve was gone, and with it his accuracy. There were roars of laughter as the ball went fifty feet into the air, which were redoubled when the wicket-keeper had to sprint back in order to catch it and the umpire stretched his arms out to signal a wide.

For the last ball, as he realized, that he was likely to bowl in the match, Spedegue approached the crease. The field was swimming round him. That yell of laughter which had greeted his effort had been the last straw. His nerve was broken. But there is a point when pure despair and desperation come to a man's aid--when he says to himself, "Nothing matters now. All is lost. It can't be worse than it is. Therefore I may as well let myself go." Never in all his practice had he bowled a ball as high as the one which now, to the amused delight of the crowd, went soaring into the air. Up it went and up--the most absurd ball ever delivered in a cricket match. The umpire broke down and shrieked with laughter, while even the amazed fielders joined in the general yell. The ball, after its huge parabola, descended well over the wicket, but as it was still within reach Morland, with a broad grin on his sunburned face, turned round and tapped it past the wicket-keeper's ear to the boundary. Spedegue's face drooped towards the ground. The bitterness of death was on him. It was all over. He had let down the Committee, he had let down the side, he had let down England. He wished the ground would open and swallow him so that his only memorial should be a scar upon the pitch of Lord's.

And then suddenly the derisive laughter of the crowd was stilled, for it was seen that an incredible thing had happened. Morland was walking towards the pavilion. As he passed Spedegue he made a good-humoured flourish of his bat as if he would hit him over the head with it. At the same time the wicket-keeper stooped and picked something off the ground. It was a bail. Forgetful of his position and with all his thoughts upon this extraordinary ball which was soaring over his head, the great batsman had touched the wicket with his toe. Spedegue had a respite. The laughter was changing to applause. Moir came over and clapped him jovially upon the back. The scoring board showed total fifteen, last man fourteen, wickets one.

Challen sent down another over of fizzers to the impenetrable Donahue which resulted in a snick for two and a boundary off his legs. And then off the last ball a miracle occurred. Spedegue was field at fine slip, when he saw a red flash come towards him low on the right. He thrust out a clutching hand and there was the beautiful new ball right in the middle of his tingling palm. How it got there he had no idea, but what odds so long as the stonewaller would stonewall no more? Spedegue, from being the butt, was becoming the hero of the crowd. They cheered rapturously when he approached the crease for his second over. The board was twenty-one, six, two.

But now it was a different Spedegue. His fears had fallen from him. His confidence had returned. If he did nothing more he had at least done his share. But he would do much more. It had all come back to him, his sense of distance, his delicacy of delivery, his appreciation of curves. He had found his length and he meant to keep it.

The splendid Australian batsmen, those active, clear-eyed men who could smile at our fast bowling and make the best of our slow bowlers seem simple, were absolutely at sea. Here was something of which they had never heard, for which they had never prepared, and which was unlike anything in the history of cricket. Spedegue had got his fifty-foot trajectory to a nicety, bowling over the wicket with a marked curve from the leg. Every ball fell on or near the top of the stumps. He was as accurate as a human howitzer pitching shells. Batten, who followed Morland, hit across one of them and was clean bowled. Staker tried to cut one off his wicket, and knocked down his own off-stump, broke his bat, and finally saw the ball descend amid the general debris. Here and there one was turned to leg and once a short one was hit out of the ground. The fast bowler sent the fifth batsman's leg-stump flying and the score was five for thirty-seven. Then in successive balls Spedegue got Bollard and Whitelaw, the one caught at the wicket and the other at short square-leg. There was a stand between Moon and Carter, who put on twenty runs between them with a succession of narrow escapes from the droppers. Then each of them became victims, one getting his body in front, and the other being splendidly caught by Hanwell on the ropes. The last man was run out and the innings closed for seventy-four.

The crowd had begun by cheering and laughing but now they had got beyond it and sat in a sort of awed silence as people might who were contemplating a miracle. Half-way through the innings Tarding had leaned forward and had grasped the hand of each of his colleagues. Sir James leaned back in his deck-chair and lit a large cigar. Dr. Sloper mopped his brow with his famous red handkerchief. "It's all right, but, by George! I wouldn't go through it again," he murmured. The effect upon the players themselves was curious. The English seemed apologetic, as though not sure themselves that such novel means could be justified. The Australians were dazed and a little resentful. "What price quoits?" said Batten, the captain, as he passed into the pavilion. Spedegue's figures were seven wickets for thirty-one.

And now the question arose whether the miracle would be repeated. Once more Donahue and Morland were at the wicket As to the poor stonewaller, it was speedily apparent that he was helpless. How can you stonewall a ball which drops perpendicularly upon your bails? He held his bat flat before it as it fell in order to guard his wicket, and it simply popped up three feet into the air and was held by the wicket-keeper. One for nothing. Batten and Staker both hit lustily to leg and each was caught by the mass meeting who waited for them. Soon, however, it became apparent that the new attack was not invincible, and that a quick, adaptive batsman could find his own methods. Morland again and again brought off what is now called the back drive--a stroke unheard of before--when he turned and tapped the ball over the wicket-keeper's head to the boundary. Now that a crash helmet has been added to the stumper's equipment he is safer than he used to be, but Grieve has admitted that he was glad that he had a weekly paper with an insurance coupon in his cricket bag that day. A fielder was placed on the boundary in line with the stumps, and then the versatile Morland proceeded to elaborate those fine tips to slip and tips to fine leg which are admitted now to be the only proper treatment of the dropper. At the same time Whitelaw took a pace back so as to be level with his wicket and topped the droppers down to the off so that Spedegue had to bring two of his legs across and so disarrange his whole plan of campaign. The pair put on ninety for the fifth wicket, and when Whitelaw at last got out, bowled by Hanwell, the score stood at one hundred and thirty.

But from then onwards the case was hopeless. It is all very well for a quick-eyed active genius like Morland to adapt himself in a moment to a new game, but it is too much to ask of the average first-class cricketer, who, of all men, is most accustomed to routine methods. The slogging bumpkin from the village green would have made a better job of Spedegue than did these great cricketers, to whom the orthodox method was the only way. Every rule learned, every experience endured, had in a moment become useless. How could you play with a straight bat at a ball that fell from the clouds? They did their best--as well, probably, as the English team would have done in their place--but their best made a poor show upon a scoring card. Morland remained a great master to the end and carried out his bat for a superb seventy-seven. The second innings came to a close at six o'clock on the second day of the match, the score being one hundred and seventy-four. Spedegue eight for sixty-one. England had won by an innings and one hundred and eighty-four runs.

Well, it was a wonderful day and it came to a wonderful close. It is a matter of history how the crowd broke the ropes, how they flooded the field, and how Spedegue, protesting loudly, was carried shoulder-high into the pavilion. Then came the cheering and the speeches. The hero of the day had to appear again and again. When they were weary of cheering him they cheered for Bishops Bramley. Then the English captain had to make a speech. "Rather stand up to Cotsmore bowling on a ploughed field," said he. Then it was the turn of Batten the Australian. "You've beat us at something," he said ruefully; "don't quite know yet what it is. It's not what we call cricket down under." Then the Selection Board were called for and they had the heartiest and best deserved cheer of them all. Tarding told them about the waiting cab. "It's waiting yet," he said, "but I think we can dismiss it."

Spedegue played no more cricket. His heart would not stand it. His doctor declared that this one match had been one too many and that he must stand out in the future. But for good or for bad--for bad, as many think, he left his mark upon the game forever. The English were more amused than exultant over their surprise victory. The Australian papers were at first resentful, but then the absurdity that a man from the second eleven of an unknown cricket club should win a Test Match began to soak into them, and finally Sidney and Melbourne had joined London in its appreciation of the greatest joke in the history of cricket.



THE DEATH VOYAGE

First published in The Saturday Evening Post, Sep 28, 1929
and The Strand Magazine, Oct 1929
Collected in The Unknown Conan Doyle, 1982

IT was a winter evening, and as I sat by a dwindling fire in the twilight, my mind hit upon a strange line of thought. Mulling over the great crises of history, I could see that the chief actor in each had always come to a dividing of the ways where it was within his choice to take the one path or the other. He took the one, and the annals tell us what came of it. But suppose that he had taken the other? Is it possible for the human imagination to follow up the course of events which would have resulted from that? A series of fascinating alternatives passed through my brain, each involving a problem of its own. Had Caesar remained faithful as a general of the republic, and refused to cross the Rubicon, would not the whole story or Imperial Rome have been avoided? Had Washington persuaded his fellow countrymen to wait patiently until a liberal majority in the British Parliament righted their wrongs, would not Britain and all her Dominions now be an annex to the great central power of America? If Napoleon had msde peace before entering upon the Russian campaign—and so on, and so on.

As I brooded thus, a modern instance came into my mind, and so, half sleeping, and with my eyes fixed upon the red embers, there came a series of pictures, a vision, if one may so call it, which, with realistic detail duly added, might be traruslated into some such narrative as this:

It was a dull November day in the little Belgian town of Spa. It was very easy to see that some great event had occurred—some event which had stirred the townspeople to their depth. Business had ceased, and they stood in excited, gossiping groups along the sidewalks. Among them there wandered great numbers or German soldiers in their gray-green uniforms, some of them so worn with service that they presented every shade of color. These men were as excited aa the civilians, and choked the streets with their noisy, gesticulating assemblies. Boys carrying newspapers rushed wildly here and there. The whole place waa like an ants' nest stirred up suddenly by some intrusive stick. Suddenly the groups fell apart to give space for a huge motor car, containing four officers and two civilians, who were clearly men of importance, to judge by the attention which they excited. The lionlike face which looked fiercely out at the undisciplined groups of soldiers was one which was familiar to every bystander, since Spa had been for so long the center of German military activity. It was old Marshal von Berg himself. Beside him, lost in thought. sat a high naval officer, his clean-shaven race seamed with furrows of care. It was the famoua Admiral von Speer. Two other high generals and two statesmen fresh from Berlin completed the group. The car roared down the main street, turned hard to the right, swung round between the pillars of an ornamental gate, and halted presently before the stucccoed front of the Villa Froneuse. Sentries on either side of the door presented arms, a red-plushed butler appeared in the opening, and the illustrious deputation vanished into the house, while curious faces and staring eyes lined the railing, for it was rumored that some eventful decision was to be reached that day, and that the moment of fate had arrived.

The deputation was ushered into the large hall, decorated in white and gold, and from the end of it they entered a spacious lounge, or study, where they seated themselves round a table.

"The Emperor waa expecting you," said the butler. "He will be with you presently." He walked silently, as one who is at a funeral, and closed the door gently.

The party waa clearly ill at ease. They looked at one another in a questioning way. It was the naval officer who broke the silence.

"Perhaps it would be best, sir, if you opened the matter," said he to the great soldier. "His Majesty knows that what you advise comes from a loyal heart."

"Do you imply, admiral, that our advice is anything but loyal?" asked one of the Berlin statesmen.

The admiral shrugged his shoulders.

"You come from the center of disturbance. For the moment we can trust nothing from Berlin. We only know that forces behind the line have brought our affairs to ruin."

"If you mean to say—" cried the civilian hotly, but Von Berg interrupted with a wave of his arm.

"We have had discussion enough," he growled. "But I am a soldier, not a talker. Do you speak, Von Stein, and we will check what you say."

"It is no pleasant task," answered the civilian, a large, heavy, blond man with a flowing yellow beard. "Still, if you so desire it—"

The door opened and a man entered. The six men round the table sprang to their feet and their heels all clicked together. The Emperor bowed stiffly, and motioned that they should be seated. His keen gray eyes glanced from the face of one to the other, as if to gather what their message might be. Then, with a wry smile, he seated himself alone at the farther end of the table.

"Well, gentlemen," he said, "I hear that you have been determining the fate of your Emperor. May I ask the result of your deliberations?"

"Your Majesty," said Von Stein in answer, "we have carefully considered the situation, and we are all of one mind. We feel that Your Majesty's safety is endangered if you remain here. We cannot answer for what may happen."

The Emperor shrugged. "If Germany falls, it can matter little what happens to individuals," said he.

"Germany may stumble, Your Majesty, but she can never fall. Sixty millions of people cannot be wiped from the map. There will soon come a period of reconstruction, and who can say how necessary the presence of Your Majesty may be at such a time?"

"What are your views, field marshal," the Emperor asked.

Von Berg shrugged his massive shoulders and shook his head disconsolately.

"I have had reports from the seven armies today, Your Majesty. The greater part of the soldiers are still ready to fight the enemy. They refuse, however, to fight their own comrades, snd many of the battalions are out of hand."

"And the navy, admiral?"

"It is hopeless, Your Majesty. The red flag flies on every ship in Kiel and Wilhelmshaven. The officers have been set ashore. There is little violence, but the Soviets command the vessels."

"And the civilians, Herr von Stein?"

"They will support the war no longer, Your Majesty. They are weary of it all, and they ask only for peace."

"Do they realize the consequencee if we lay down our arms? "

"Erzberger and his party are at the French headquarters making such terms as they can. Perhaps. sire, it may not be so bad as you think."

"We need not deceive ourselves. We have only to ask ourselves what our own terms would have been had we been the victors. It means the loss of our fleet, of our colonies, and of all that was built up under my care in the last twenty-five years. And why, why, has this terrible thing come upon us?"

"Because the nation behind the line has failed us."

"But why has it failed us?" There was a cold gleam of anger in the Emperor's eyes, and he looked from one to the other for an answer.

"They were tried too hard, Your Majesty. There is a limit to human endurance. They could go no further."

"It is false!" cried the Emperor hotly, and he struck the table with his hand. "It is because you did not trust them. It is because they were forever misinformed, as I was misinformed, so that they lost all confidence in you and me and everyone."

"Misinformed, Your Majesty?"

"Yes, misinformed at every turn. I might well use a stronger word. I am not accusing you individuaJly, gentlemen. I speak of the various services which you represent; though indeed you are yourselves not guiltless in the matter, and you have helped, each of you, to supply me with information which was false, so that all my plans were built upon an unsound foundation. We might have had peace with honor at any time, had I known all that I know now."

The members of the council moved uneasily in their seatd. It WllB the second civilian, a smal1, dark, bristle-haired man, clean-cut and alert like a well-hred terrier, who was the first to speak. "Your Majesty may perhaps be putting blame upon us which might be justly borne by more august ahoulders," said he.

"Be silent," said Von Berg roughly. "We want none of your Berlin insolence here."

"We want the truth, which the Emperor has so seldom had in the past!" cried the radical deputy. "Has he not told us so himself? Has not everyone said what would please him rather than what is true, and has he not been too confiding and complaisant in accepting such assurances?"

"Enough, Brunner!" cried the admiral angrily. "We are here to hear the Emperor, not to listen to speeches from the left bench... But, Your Majesty. your accusation is a grave one. How and when have your counselors failed you?"

"At every turn," said the Emperor bitterly. "There is hardly one vital promise ever made to me or to the nation which has not proved to be false. Take your own service, Admiral von Speer. Is it not a fact that your authorities assured us that if we had indiscriminate U-boat warfare from February, 1917, onwards, we must starve England out, and so win? Was it not said again and again? Now it is November, 1918, and where is the starvation of England?"

"Events were too strong for us, Your Majesty."

"A wise counselor foresees events. And you, Von Berg, did not you and Ludendorff assure me that when the Russians broke away and our Eastern armies were available for action in the West, we would drive the French behind Paris and the British into the sea?"

"We nearly did so, Your Majesty."

"There was no qualification in your assurances. You all declared that it would be so. And did not every military leader assure me in 1914 that the Britiah might be disregarded upon the land, and yet these papers"—he beat upon a wallet which lay upon the table—"show me that in the last four months they have taken from us more prisoners and guns than all the Allies put together. Can you excuse such miscalculations as that?"

The great soldier sank his eyes.

"I have never underrated the British," he said.

"But my advisers did. And the Americans! Did not my statesmen say that they would not come into the war? Did not my sailors say that they could not bring an army to Europe? Did not my soldiers say that they had no army to bring? And now"—he caught up the wal1et and ahook it at the council—" they have over a million men available, and there are American naval guns which are sweeping the roads between Montmedy and Conflans, the only line of retreat of my Eastern armies... This could not happen. That could not happen. But it has all happened. Is it a wonder that the people should lose heart when every promise is broken?"

A thin, austere general in spectacles, who had not yet spoken, now joined in the debate. His voice was cold, harsh and precise; a man of definite routine and fixed ideas.

"Your Majesty, any recriminations now are out of place. The question is immediate and pressing. There are Bolsheviks within fifteen miles of Spa, and if you should fall into their hands, no one can foresee the consequences. Your life is in danger and the responlibility for your person rests with us."

"What, then, do you advise, General von Groner?"

"We are unanimous, sir, that you should at once cross the Dutch border. General von Hentz suggested it. It is but a few miles, and your own special train waits in the station."

"And where should I go when I cross the border?"

"We have gone so far, Your Majesty, as to telegraph to the Dutch Government. We have not yet received a reply. But we cannot wait. Your own train affords every accommodation and carries your personal servants. All else can be settled later. Let us hear you are at Eyden, and our minds will be at ease."

The Emperor sat for some little time in silence.

"Would this not appear," said he at last, "as if I were deserting my people and my army at a moment of need? There is my personal honor to be considered."

"So long, sire, as you are acting upon the advice of your council, you can hardly be called to account," said Von Groner.

"A man's honor is his own private affair, and no one can lessen his responlibility," the Emperor answered. "I think that I may now dismiss you, gentlemen. You have advised me to the best of your ability, and the rest remains with me. If you will wait, Von Berg, and you, admiral, I would have a last word with you."

The others bowed and filed out from the room. The Emperor advanced toward his two great servants, both of whom had risen to their feet.

"In you," he said, placing his hand upon the old field marshal's sleeve, "and in you, admiral, I recognize two men who represent the honor of my army and my navy. You, of all men, are judges upon such a point. Tell me now, as between man and man, since there is no longer any question of Emperor and subject, would you advise me to go to Holland?"

"We would," the two men said in a breath.

"Would you consider that in doing so my honor was quite untouched?"

"Undoubtedly, Your Majesty. We have now to treat for terms. The American President has ventured to say that he will not treat with you. Everything will be at a deadlock until you go. You are best serving the country by sacrificing your own feelings and vanishing from the scene."

The Emperor pondered for a minute or more, with his brows drawn down over his eyes and a deep frown of concentrated thought upon his face. At last he broke silence:

"Let us go back a hundred years for our leason. Suppose the Emperor Napoleon had refused to give himself up or resign: what would have followed?"

"A hopelesa war with senseless slaughter, which would have ended in his death or capture."

"You misunderstand me. Suppose that he had never left the field of Waterloo, but had thrown himself inside a square of his Old Guard and had perished with them. What then?"

"What would have been gained, sire?"

"Nothing, perhaps, to France, save as an example. But would his memory not be greater? Would he not seem now like some wonderful angel of destruction who had set foot upon the earth, if we were not disabused by that anticlimax of St. Helena?"

The field marahal shook his rugged head.

"Your Majesty is a better historical student than I," said he. "I fear that I have enough upon my hands now, without going back a hundred years."

"And you, Von Speer? Have you nothing to say?"

"If you insist upon an answer, Your Majesty, I think that Napoleon should have died at Waterloo."

The Emperor grasped him by the hand.

"You are a kindred sul. I have your aasurance that my honor is safe, whatever course I take. But there is something even higher than honor. There is that super-honor which we call heroism, when a man does more than is required of him. Napoleon failed to find that quality. And now I wish you farewell, gentlemen. Be assured that I will think carefully over what you have told me, and I will then announce my action."

The Emperor sat with his head resting upon his hands, listening first to the clank of spurred feet in the hall, and then to the rumble of the heavy motor. For half an hour or more he was motionless, lost in thought. Then be sprant luddenly to hill feet and raised his face and hands to the heavens.

"God give me the strength!" he cried. He rang the electric bell and a footman ap-peared.

"Tell Captain von Mann that I await him."

A moment later a young fresh-faced officer with quick intelligent eyes had entered the room and saluted.

"Sigurd," said the Emperor, "there are likely to be very serious times before us. I hereby free you from any personal allegiance to me. From what I hear, Prince Max of Baden has probably of his own initiative freed all Germany by now."

"I have no wish to be freed. You are always my master and my Emperor."

"But I would not involve you in a tragic fate."

"I wish to be involved."

"But if it means death?"

"Even so."

"What I say I mean in a literal sense. You will die if you follow me far enough."

"I ask for no better fate."

The Emperor grasped the young man's hand. "Then we are comrades in a great venture!" he cried. "Now, sit beside me here at the table and let us discuss our plans. No ignoble suicide will end your Emperor's career. There are nobler ways of dying, and it is for me to find them."

There was a curious scene at the Spa station that night, though none save the three actors in it were aware of it. It was in the station-master's room, which had the door barred and the curtains drawn. Three men sat round a circular table, with a strong lamp above them, beating down upon their heads.

Outside, the trains clanked and whistled and roared, while the hubbub upon the platform showed that all was anarchy and confusion. Yet, regardless of all this, the man whose very duty it was to set the matter right sat at the table with such a look of astonishment upon his face that it was clear that he was oblivious of the turmoil outside. The station master, Baumgarten, was a smart, alert, youngish man, such a man as one would expect to find attached to army headquarters, and he was giving his whole attention now to what the elder of his two visitors was expiaining. This man, who, like his companions was dressed in civilian dress—a loose-fitting suit of gray tweeds—was studying a railway map, while his younger companion looked over his shoulder.

"There is but one change, Your Majesty," said the station master.

"So I see," answered the Emperor, placing his finger upon Cologne. "Once through that point we are safe. But it is all-important that we should not be recognized."

"Alas, sire, your face is so well known that it is impossible you should escape notice."

"Think, man, think!" cried the younger man impatiently. "Surely you can plan it out."

Baumgarten scratched his puzzled head and paced the room in perplexity. Then suddenly there came an inspiration. He stopped and turned to the table.

"There is a refrigtrator car, Your Majesty. It has just come through with vegetables from Holland. We can shut off the refrigerating apparatus. It is of course closed and windowless. If Your Majesty would condescend—"

"Drop titles," said the Emperor, looking round him suspiciously.

"Well, sir, if you would consent to travel in so humble a fashion, we could have it marked 'Not to be opened' and sent through to Kiel with the next train."

"Excellent. It could not be better. See that some food and water are placed in it."

"And a bed, Your—a bed, sir."

"Tut, tut! Straw will serve us well. Can we get on at once"!"

"Within half an hour. But how can you cross the platform here unseen?"

"I had anticipated that difficulty," said the aide-de-camp. He drew a bandage from his pocket If, sir, you would not mind acting the part of an officer who is wounded in the face, I could easily disguise you."

"My wound is in the heart," said the Emperor. "But how about the civilian clothes?"

"People will not stop to reason in such times as these." With a few deft twists the young man passed the bandage over the Emperor's brow and then diagonally across the telltale mustache. "Now, sir, I think you are safe."

"Well done, Sigurd. We will wait here, Herr Baumgarten, and when you give the word, we are ready."

And so it waa that thirty-six hours later the station master of Kiel, known to be a loyalist, opened the locked door of a refrigerator van, from which emerged a middle-aged man bandaged as from a severe face wound, and his young companion, who looked after him with touching care. The pair were cold and stiff, but the station master hustled them rapidly into his own room, where hot coffee was waiting, and a warm stove.

"Anything I can do, sire. You have but to command."

"Presentiy you shall learn," said the Emperor. "Meanwhile you will take this note, or send it by a trusty hand, to Admiral von Drotha. When he comes you will show him in to us."

An hour later a very amazed officer in the uniform of the Imperial Navy entered the humble room. He was quivering with emotion and eager zeal. He sank upon his knee before the Emperor who raised him to his feet.

"My dear admiral, the days of such things are pused. Has not Prince Max declared that I have abdicated; though I confess that it was news to me! This is my throne now." He waved. his hand toward the station chair.

"You are always our Emperor!"

"Yes, here—here"—and the speaker struck his breast—"I am always the Emperor. God has given me the charge, and only he can relieve me from it. But in these times I ask for no response and no favor from others—save only one. But it is a supreme and onerous one. I wonder if your loyalty will rise to it?"

"It will rise to any height, Sire. What is it?"

"That you should die with me. "

"Sire, it is my greatest ambition."

Tears of devotion ran down the face of the honest sailor. The Emperor also passed his hand across his eyes.

"I have had false friends," he said, "but there are true hearts also in the world. Now sit here, admiral. These are rather different surroundings from the Potsdam palace, where last we two met. But we hsve privacy, and that is essential. I have come to Kiel to lead my fleet out against the English."

The admiral gasped. "But, sire, the men are in mutiny! They have driven the officers ashore! How can we man our ships?"

"They will come. They will come. They are Germans, and will not let their Emperor go out to die alone; for I am going, admiral, if it is only one torpedo boat which takes me out."

"And I am the commander of that torpedo boat!" cried the admiral.

"And I on the deck," said Sigurd von Mann.

"But what do you propose, sire? You have some definite plan in your head."

"Yes, admiral, I have thought out every detail. In the first place, can you name any large room where some hundreds of men can be privately assembled?"

"Yes, sire. Count von Waldorf has a dancing hall attached to his villa which would exactly meet your requirement. The count, I need not say, is loyal to the core."

"If we could pass the word round to all the officers and assemble them there, I would appeal for their support and co-operation."

"Sire, I know the feelings of my comrades. To ask such a question is pure loss of time. There is not a man of the officers' corps of the German Navy who would shrink from following you. You have only to signify your desire, and they are ready to meet it."

"Then so much time is gained, and every hour now is of importance. Everything is cracking both on the line and behind it. We must act at once or we may be stopped. What of the men?"

"I fear, eire, that they will not come. It might even be dangerous for them to know that you are in the town."

"Danger is nothing. When death is the certain end, who cares for danger upon the way! I take your word, Admiral, as to the officers. Are there any who are loyal and trustworthy among the men?"

"There are many such, sire, but they are in a minority."

"They will serve aa our messengers. Collect as many as you can. Send by their hand letters to every vessel. Ask the men to send their delegates, three for a large ship, two for a light cruiser, one for a small unit to the room of which you speak. Say that at three o'clock their Emperor would wish to speak with them. Call me Wilhelm von Hohenzol1ern if you wish. It matters not what they call me, so long as they will come."

"Sire, they will come, and a bodyguard of your faithful officers will surround you. They will only approach you over our bodies."

"Not an officer, admiral. I must trust the men, or our cause is lost. You and Captain von Mann. No others. Send me a closed motor-car, and warn your friend, Count von Waldorf, that I am coming. I will see you again at three o'clock."

Long before the time mentioned, all Kiel was buulng with excitement. The news had spread like wildfire that the Emperor was in the town, and that he was in the Villa Waldorf. Great crowds assembled in the streets, and here or there a red flag fluttered over them, but there was no demonstration. Utter amazement was the prevailing sentiment. That he should come here of all places—the very center of revoutionary disturbance. That he should put his head into the lion's mouth . Amazing! Still more wonderful was it when an open car bearing a bearded officer in an admiral's uniform made its way slowly through the crowd and its occupant entered the villa. That thin, eager face was well known to all—the face of Henry, younger brother of William and head admiral of the fleet. What was going on? What could it mean? Were they planning a coup d'état? If so, hey would soon find out that revolutions are not so easily set aside. So growled the crowd as it stood watching the white-stuccoed face of the palatial villa.

And now the delegates began to assemble. In twos and threes they elbowed their way through the crowd, amid a good deal of rough chaff. Many had red handkerchiefs slung ostentatiously round their necks or red ribands in their caps. Soon the great hall with its splendid hangings and polished oak floor, began to fill up. The red velvet seats which lined it were filled with sailors, and the body of the hall was also crammed. Everyone was smoking and the air was a blue haze. Someone started a revolutionary song, and it rolled and echoed round the high, vaulted roof. In the very midst of it the Emperor appeared. The song was cut off in an instant, and every eye was upon that small upright figure with the dangling arm, and upon that earnest, care-worn face which looked down upon them from the band dais at the end. He was clad now in a rough blue pilot jacket, and seemed far more a man of the sea, one of their own kind, than ever he had done in his lordly trappings. A kindly wave of human sympathy went out to him. Those who were seated rose to their feet. Two men who had uttered shrill whistles of disapprovai were bundled out of the hall.

The Emperor moved to the front and laid his hand upon the gilt rail. His brother Henry, Admiral von Drotha, and young Sigurd von Mann stood behind him. When he spoke, it was in a firm voice which rang through the hall.

"I speak," said he, "as a German to Germans. I thought it right to come here and see you face to face. I am not talking politics. There is no question of empire or republic in my mind. I have but one thought, my personal honor, the honor or my fleet, and the honor of my country."

There was no question that he had already captured his rough audience, as earnest honesty will always capture an audience. The sea of weather-beaten faces were all strained with attention . Their eyes were riveted upon the speaker.

"They are surrendering at Berlin. Is that any reason why we should surrender at Kiel? The army has fought most bravely, but it is worn out and can fight no more. It is not I who have left the army, but the army has left me. The navy, too, has fought bravely. But it is not worn out—"

"Skagerrak!" cried many voices.

"Yes, you did well at Skagerrak. But your battle was not with the British fleet. It was with two or three squadrons at the most. We have still to pit our strength fairly against theirs. I am told that it is hopeless. I am told that their numbers make it impossible. There is nothing hopeless or impossible to brave men. And if it is hopeless or impossible, is it not at the worst better that we and our ahipa should lie at the bottom or the North Sea than that they should be surrendered without a blow? Would you stand by and let such a thing be, you men of the German fleet? Or are you ready to die with your Emperor?"

He flung out his arm in an eloquent gesture of appeal, and then a proud, happy smile passed over his face, for he had won his cause. A forest of outstretched hands, a lake of flushed, eager faces, a roar of deep-toned voices—the navy would die with its Kaiser!

"Quick, William! Strike at once!" whispered his brother.

"You will come with me. I knew that you would. Then carry my word to your comrades. Say that no unwilling man need come. Let them stay ashore. But you and I and all true German hearts will sail together upon the death voysge or the German fleet. Go, and do what I have told you."

There was a rush of heavy feet, and in a few minutes the hall W88 cleared and every exit filled with pushing, struggling men. In some strange way the crowd outside had in an instant learned what was afoot, and had caught the flame. The whole town was in an uproar of cheering. Flags broke out on every flagstaff, the German war flag on the same pole as the red ensign of revolution. On that the sailors were firm. The war flag might go up, but the red flag should not come down. All day and all night the Soviets held their heated meetings, where again and again dissentients were struck down by thoee who wished to go. News came back from Wilhelmshaven that the excitement had spread there, that all officers had been recalled to their ships, that the crews were at their quarters and that the engineers were stoking their fires. Soon the fleet would be ready to start.

The next few days saw an uninterrupted flow of vessels through the canal, to join the main fleet which lay in the Jade. Some delay was caused by the breakdown of a light cruiser, which blocked the passage near Neu Wittenbek but thiS was finally overcome, and by the evening of the third day the ships had collected, either in the vicini ty of the Jade or in the Wilhelmshaven Roads. That night a council was held in the wardroom or the new battleship Bayern, at which all the German chiefs were present, including the Emperor, who insisted upon taking a subordinate place, while Von Speer, who had hastened from Spa at the first whisper of what had happened, presided over the deliberations. Vice-admirals and captains of capital ships—forty in all—crowded the room, gloom, and yet determination, upon every face.

"I understand, Your Majesty, that your commands are that there shall be s fight to a finish?"

"That is my wish and my order," the Emperor answered. "The fleet is to be sunk, and it is better that it take as many of the enemy as possible with it."

"We have to face the cost," said the admiral. "It meane the death or Your Majesty."

"I desire no better fate."

"And of twenty-five thousand officers and men."

"Is there anyone in this council who shrinks from it?" asked the Emperor. There was silence. All were ready. The fleet was ready.

"But with all respect," said a young vice-admiral, "is it necessary that we talk as if defeat were inevitable? We held the English at Skagerrak. May we not do so again?"

"Besides," said another, "our fleet is now stronger—far stronger than then. Have we not added the Bayern and Baden, great ships with fifteen-inch guns, whereaa we had nothing over twelve inches at the Skagerrak. And the Hindenburg too! Is she not an addition? And the new fire control! May we not have s surprise for the English?"

"It is too late," said Von Speer. "If we win the victory, we have no fatherland to which to return." He took a telegram from his pocket and read it aloud:

THE PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT SEVERELY CONDEMNS THE MAD PROJECT OF A SORTIE UPON THE PART OF THE FLEET, WHICH CAN LEAD TO NO RESULT SAVE THE UNNECESSARY LOSS OF SHIPS AND MEN. THE REPORT OF IT HAS SERIOUSLY IMPEDED THE NEGOTIATIONS FOR AN ARMISTICE. YOUR ALLEGIANCE TO THE GOVERNMENT DEMANDS THAT YOU INSTANTLY ORDER THE SHIPS TO RETURN TO THEIR ANCHORAGE.

A growl or indignation rose from the officers as their admiral replaced the paper in his pocket.

"I think you will agree with me, gentlemen, that our allegiance is due to our Emperor, and to him alone."

"Have you answered it?" asked the Emperor.

"No, sire. Our deeds will answer it. But I have drawn up a message here which, with your consent, I would like to send to the British commander-in-chief. It runs thus: 'The High Sea Fleet does not consent to any armistice. It proposes to come out at once, and hopes on Monday to be seventy miles due west or Heligoland if the mine-clearing permits. Should we be delayed, you will no doubt have the courtesy to wait for us.'"

"Excellent!" cried the Emperor, and all the council clapped their hands.

"Then it shall go at once, "said the admiral.

"Might not the enemy lay their submarines at the spot?" asked one captain.

"We shall not be too exact as to the spot. Our light cruisers wi11 guide the enemy to where we are. But as to what you say, Captain Muller, concernlng the addition to bur fleet, and to the Skagerrak, it is well to have no illusions. The enemy has not been idle. We are in close touch with all that he has done. If we can build and improve and organize, so can they. You are aware that they lost two great ships because there was no cut-off from the turrets to the magazines. That has now been remedied. The protection of their decks and the roofs of their turrets are stronger now against plunging fire. Their shel1s hsve more explosive power. They have added many powerful ships to their squadrons. I have their names here. There is the Ramillies, the Resolution, the Renown, the Repulse—all with fifteen-inch guns. They have a squadron, too, of American battleships, and American naval history shows that they will be well handled and well fought. The odds against us are greater than ever. We can but swear to fight to the death. For myself, I swear it."

He raised his hand as he spoke, and every officer in the room, including the Emperor, did the same. "We swear it!" they cried. Nobly, as this record will show, did they fulfill their oath. That was the final word of the last council of war ever held in the High Sea Fleet. With set and somber faces they bade one another farewell; the captains returning to their vessela, while the admirals remained to plan their future with their leader.

* * * * *

It was just one day later that two admirals sat talking very earnestly together in the cabin of the commander-in-chief of the British Grand Fleet. One was that commander himself. The other was the American, Bradman, whose fine squadron, comprising the New York, Wyoming, Florida, Delaware, Arkansas and Texas, was the latest addition to the most formidable collection of war vessels ever assembled in the history or the world. Through the open porthole of Beaton's cabin one could see them riding at anchor with the Stars and Stripes flying over them, while beyond, line after line of mighty battleships, of giant cruisers, and of smaller craft, under St. George's flag, choked the great bay. Beyond lay the low barren shore of Scapa—as sad and bleak a prospect as any in the world.

Beaton, his handsomefrace wearing a puzzled frown, was reading aloud to his colleague the German wireless message.

"What do you make of that, Bradman?" he asked, looking up at his companion.

"Say, it's just fine on the face of it!" the American answered. "Too good to be true, I guess."

"I don't know. They have not much choice, have they? I think it is what we should do if things were reversed. They can scuttle their own ships in harbor or they can come outside and have them scuttled by our guns, taking a few of our own to the bottom with them. It seems to me to be reasonable, and the first thing that brave men would think of."

"Maybe so. But It might be a trap all the same."

"Well, we won't walk into a mine-field if we can help it. Our light craft will look out for that. Anyhow, I think we should let them have an answer." He took up a pencil and scribbled upon a card: "Very good. We shall be there.' How's that?"

"That's the idea."

Beaton rang the gong and handed the message to a young officer in attendance. "No need for code, Duncan. Send it as it stands." Then , as the door closed, he turned to the great map of the North Sea, which was now so crisscrossed with pencil-marks and bearings as to be almost worn out. "That being so, Bradman, I suppose we should take it seriously and make our preparations. The poor devils would not have a chance, for we are two to one; but from what we saw of them at Jutland, I'll promise you that they will put up a very fine fight."

"Yes, they side-stepped you there," said Bradman, with a sly twinkle.

"Maybe so. But it's difficult to take chances when on our side the war is lost if our fleet is lost, while the other fellow lays no such stake upon the table. That was our trouble at Jutland. We could not risk the rough and tumble of a night action. We have a free hand now, and every man in the British fleet wants a fight to a finish."

"I' ll answer for my squadron, too," said Admiral Bradman, and the two sailors bent over the chart.

* * * * *

The day or the great adventure and of the supreme sacrifice had come. The German fleet had assembled now in Heligoland Bay and, shortly after dawn, started upon its last terrible voyage, its mine sweepera having for two days swept a clear passage. In front of the magnificent array were two squadrons of light cruisers, forming the screen for the fleet. Then came the battle cruisers in double line, Derrflinger , Seydlitz, Moltke, and Von der Tann—the old squadron which had already endured so much and won the respect of every British sailor. Von Lippert was in command. They were strengthened now by the mighty Hindenburg, but her sister ship, the Mackensen, was not yet ready for service. Behind the cruisers came the magnificent line of the battleships, led by the strongest squadron just out of the builder's yard—the Bayern, flying the flag of Von Speer and carrying the Emperor on board, the Baden, and two others, All these great ships carried eight fifteen-inch guns and had a speed of twenty-two knots. Behind them were the four powerful ships of the König class—König, Grosser Kurfürst, Kronprinz, and Markgraf. They carried ten twelve-inch guns. Then came four Kaisers—ships as strong as the Königs and rather faster. Astern of these, the great line extended across the whole visible circle of ocean, giant behind giant, the Friedrich der Grosse, Ostfriesland, Thüringen, Heligoland, Oldenburg, Posen, and many more, while even the very old ships, such as the Deutschland or the Schleswig-Holstein, which carried four heavy guns, but were incapable of more than sixteen knots, had fallen in behind and panted along to share the fate of their comrades. There was no need for hurry, and the whole fleet steamed at reduced speed, while on every side the destroyers kept guard againat surprise.

In this they were but partially successful, as the Posen was struck by an English submarine and had to stagger back into port in a sinking condition. The submarine itself—M-16—was destroyed by the depth charges showered around it.

The Allied fleet had to start long before dawn in order to keep its tryst. If the German array had been formidable, this could only be described as terrific. Apart from a swarm of light cruisers and destroyers, the van was led by the Lion, which still bore upon her plates the dents of former battles. Behind her in single line came the Tiger, bearing the flag of Rear-Admiral Morton, and astern were the Australia and Princess Royal. Even more formidable were two new vessels, which, on account of their peculiar qualities, operated apart. These were the Renown and Repulse, carrying fifteen-inch guns and capable of attaining the amazing speed of thirty-two knots.

The light-battleship squadron, under Admiral Thoms, which had shown its fine qualities at Jutland, where for a time it had been under the fire of a large part of the German fleet, followed the cruisers. They were, as before, the Malaya, Valiant, Warspite and Barham, with the Queen Elizabeth added, all armed with fifteen-inch guns. Behind them in double column came the new prides of the British service—the Ramillies, Resolution, Revenge, Royal Sovereign, and Royal Oak—twenty-three-knot vessels carrying eight fifteen-inch guns each. Behind them again was the splendid American squadron of six vessels already named, with their fourteen-inch guns and twenty-one knots of speed. The thick smoke from their funnels showed that they were coal-burning ships. So, squadron after squadron, the great armada passed out from Scapa, with the strange unwieldy airplane carrier, Furious, like a huge Noah's ark, in the rear. Far out on each flank were the heavy cruisers Inflexible, New Zealand,Indomitable, and others, while swarms of light cruisers and destroyers covered the ocean up to the horizon in every direction. The heavier ships formed into six columns outside the bay, and the whole majestic procession moved at eighteen knots toward the southeast.

It was at 2:30 in the afternoon that two British seaplanes reported a German Zeppelin in lat. 65.46 North, long. 5.14 East, and attacked it unsuccessfully. Following it up, they saw and reported the thick fringe of scouts which preceded the High Seas Fleet. The news was wirelessed to every vessel in the Allied armada and assured them for the first time that the German challenge was not empty bravado, and that the great day had really come when this long-standing quarrel should be fought to an end. Battle flags were broken out upon every ship, and Beaton increased his speed to twenty knots, even at the risk of leaving his slower craft behind. The swift battle cruisers were sent on independently at full speed to hold the enemy until the main fleet should arrive. It was a fine day, but there was a brisk breeze from the southeast, and the great cruisers, running at twenty-eight knots, had their foredecks almost under water, and the spray as high as their funnels, while they thundered through the racing waves. At 2:40 came the news that the light cruiser Phaeton had been sunk by a German submarine. A few minutes later the same fate had befallen the Inconstant. Then came word that a Zeppelin had been destroyed by the anti-aircraft guns of the scout Arethusa.

Shortly after three, cocoa and light food were served out to the crews and the bugles blew for action stations. News from the scouts was now coming in thick and fast, and the sound of heavy firing could be heard from the flagship in the southeastern direction. Seaplane No. 7042, launched from the Furious, had flown the whole length of the German fleet, and though brought down with a broken wing, managed to wireless her observations of their total fOrce, which proved to be surprisingiy accurate, considering the difficult circumstances of the reconnaissance. For this valuable servlce Flight Lieutenant Oliver was very specially mentioned in dispatches.

The great fleeta were now rapidly closing, and the Fourth British Light Cruiser Squadron was fiercely engaged with the Ninth German Squadron of scouts. As the British main fleet came roaring along down upon the battle, the whole horizon was dotted with these smaller vessels, many of them smothered in foam from the shells which were falling thickly around them. At four o'clock the head of the heavy cruiser squadron was engaged with the Derrflinger, which led the German battle cruisers. The action had fairly begun.

* * * * *

And here I pause. Was it to describe that great epic, that Armageddon of the sea, that my vision was intended? Was it not rather to have the alternate fates of that desperate and unhappy man who stood at the parting of the ways, where one led to life with honor, and the other to death with heroism? And yet his tragedy was so involved with this far greater one that my dream could scarce deal with one except through the other. Therefore, with no more detail than is necessary to give reallty to the picture, I will write what the eye of imagination has seen.

As each side desired to flght rather than to maneuver, the covering squadrons of light cruisers, having done their duty in reporting the enemy, fell upon one another with the utmost fury. A whole series of desperate duels was begun at a range of 7000 yards, shortening to 5000. So engrossed were the little fellows in their own combats that they paid hardly any attention to the heavier ships which passed through their mêlée, and which could each have sunk any one of them with a shot. The old rule of the sea by which ships of the line did not flre upon frigates still held good, and the scouts were left to settle their quarrel among themselves.

At flrst the Germans had the better, for their gunnery was perfect, and their destroyers pushed boldly into the fight. The Daring, Dryad, Calliope, Donegal and Lancaster were all sunk by gunflre or torpedo, while the Carnarvon drew out of the line in a sinking condition. On the other hand, the Stettin and Berlin were both sunk early in the fight, and the Pillau was put out of action.

As the day wore on, fresh British light craft and destroyers joined in the fray, and weight of metal and of numbers overbore the gallant Germans. The Stuttgart, München and Frankfurt were all sunk by gunflre, while the British lost only the Carnarvon, which was finally torpedoed by the Regensburg. This fighting was desperate and bloody, but it was a mere digression from the main businese of the day. As to the destroyers, the flotillas on either side charged headlong at the capital ships of the enemy, and then, meeting halfway, each strove desperately to prevent the other from reaching its mark. Like fighting dogs, half smothered in foam, they tore through the sea, their sides almost touching and the flashes of their guns licking the very paint from the bulwarks of their opponents.

On every side one saw shattered and blazing wrecks, for the oil fuel turned each stricken boat into a funeral pyre for its crew—a proper burial for men who, on either side, came of the Viking blood. Some destroyers, German or British, fought their way through the crowd and succeeded in driving home their attack upon the battleships, with certain death for their reward. The Marlborough was struck again, as she had been at Jutland, and this time sank with all hands. The Orion, too, was badly damaged, and fell out of the line with a list of twelve degrees to port. The New York and Renown were both hit, but neither sustained serious damage, for their water-tight bulkheads stood firm. In every case the secondary armament disposed of the brave little assailsnt. The German line suffered even more heavily than the British. Captain Hase's ship, the Derrflinger, had a huge hole blown in her bows, and sank by the head. The Kaiserin and The Grosser Kurfürst were each of them sunk, and the Oldenburg was crippled. An American squadron under Captain Bosnell of the Cushing distinguished itself In this work. On either side no notice was taken of casualties.

The stricken must look after themselves. The deadly lock of battle held the rest to their work.

Beaton had deployed his main fleet to either flank in the hope of placing an Allied ship on each side of a German, but Von Speer had rapidly altered his line ahead into double column to meet the danger. Now it was a fair gun duel, opening at 17,000 yards and closing in until only 12,000 yards separated the giants who moved parallel to one another, with no maneuvers, save that each ship would sheer in or out to baffle the enemy's aim. The German range-finders were the better, and they were the quicker on the mark, but the British guns were heavier and there was little to choose in the shooting. Thus it was that numbers were bound to tell. Ship after ship in the German line went up in flame and smoke.

The British had learned the lesdon of Jutland, and though the heavy shells of the new fifteen-inch German guns plunged repeatedly through the roofs of turrets, exterminating the crews of the guns and putting them out of action, there was no passage for that murderous back-flash which had formerly reached the magazine and destroyed the ship. The deck protection was still too weak, however, on either side, and the destruction of ships was due again and again to plunging fire which penetrated to the vitals. Thus it was with many Germans, and thus, too, with the Tiger, Inflexible, Florida, Repulse and Collingwood, all of which shared the fate of the Queen Mary.

A gray flgure—sray in drese and gray in ce—tood for hours at the side of the bridge of the flagship. It was the Emperor. A telescope with magnifying power of flfteen diameters enabled him to view the terrific scene. Hour after hour he saw and realized the awful thing that had come upon the earth. Men of the same blood and culture, men sprung from the same Northern stock, were locked in this horrible wrestle, which could only end in death. Who can say what his thoughts might have been at such a time?

They flashed back to dwell upon his splendid father, the kindly golden-bearded giant, and upon the Englishwoman, his mother. Yes, half the blood in his own veins flowed from the same source as that which was in the crews of the gray ships over yonder. By what extraordinary mishandling of chances and by what evil ordering of events had it come about that he was now in such deadly conflict with them? Why was it necessary, when Germany was already conquering the world by its industry and circling the globe with ita colonies? It was useless to go back upon the past. Far off, many years ago, some wrong path was taken, and this was whither it had led. It was the twilight of the gods—the most fearsome thing in all the history of the human race. They held him responsible, and yet he knew that he was but a puppet in the hands of fate, moving forward in some predestined and unavoidable fashion upon a terrible course.

But who was responsible—surely there must be responsibility somewhere. Was it the hand which drafted that mad ultimatum to Serbia? Was it the Czar and his premature mobi1ization? Was it Von Tirpitz, with his colossal sea plans, now at that moment reaching their tragic result? Was it to Von Schlieffen, with his scheme of marching through Belgium, which must bring England into the war? Was it his Uncle Edward, who had always been so suspicious of him? Or was it his chancel1or's act, when, in 1902, he had refused with contempt an offer of an alliance from England?

Each and all of these facts seemed to his tired brain to have had something to do with this awful conclusion. At his feet lay a shattered body, the blood from which had splashed his high boots had left stains upon his gray overcoat. It was his faithful aide-de-camp, Von Mann, true to death, as he had promissed. And that mangled corpse, that premature death when youth was at its best, was typical of ten million others for which so many held him responsible. He ahuddered as terrible visions rose before him. They were interrupted by Von Speer, who approached him on the bridge. The sdmiral had been hit on the shoulder by splinter, and his face was white and drawn.

"How goes it now, admira1" asked the Emperor.

The sailor shrulged his shoulders.

"Aa to the fleet, we have lost nine battleships and four great cruisers. The Hindenburg has just gone up. Our own two after-turrets have both been shot away, the top is off one of the fore ones, and we have only two guns in action. We are, as you can see, on fire at both ends, and only a part of our funnel is standing. There is water in the engine room and the stokers are drowning. We can do no more."

"What of the English? I have seen several of their ships go up."

"The battle now covers a line of fifteen miles. Many of the aerials have been ahot away. But it is likely that they have lost ship for ship with ourselves."

"And what now?"

"There is nothing for it but to fight our ships to the water's edge."

At this moment a midshipman ran upon the bridge with a message.

"The voice tubes are cut, sir," he cried as he saluted; "I was told to bring it by hand."

The admiral tore open the paper.

"It ill a wireleaa from Beaton," he said.

"It runs: 'Surely honor is satisfled. No men could have done more. Why this useless slaughter? You have only five ships left in a condition to give battle. I can stand off and outrange you, so as to sink you from a distance which you cannot reach. I should hate to kill brave men in such a way. Admit your honorable and inevitable defeat, and strike your flag.' "

"Never!" said the Emperor.

"Never!" echoed the admiral.

But at that moment there came that which settled the matter. Some say that the salvo was fired from the Delaware, some that it came from the Lion. Out of eight shells, four fell direct upon the deck of the Bayern and plunged down into her magazines. With a roar, the mighty vessel went up into the air. In the instant of impact, conscious of what the next few seconds would bring, Emperor and admiral shook hands. M any survivors have testified to seeing that salute. It was the last gesture of the German Imperial house and of the German High Sea F1eet. At that very moment the southern horizon was broken by the smoke of many hurrying vessels. The Harwich flotilla was arriving, fresh and eager. It was the end.

Late that night, when the sun had sunk and left only a pink g1ow in the west, the British commander looked proudly and yet ruefully upon the scene of that terrible epic. In every direction shattered wrecks were burning, and men floated upon scattered spars or upon rafts, while swift torpedo boats flew from one to the other on their errand of saving life. Admiral Beaton stood upon his bridge, worn and weary, darkened by all the shadows of reaction.

"Might I suggest, sir, that we send a message to the fleet?" said the high officer at his elbow.

"To what is left of the fleet," said Beaton with a wan smile; "I hear their Emperor went down with their f1agship. My message, Murdoch, would be to fly our flags halfmast in memory of a brave man."

So ran my vision of an alternative. And yet it may be that Fate was wiser, and that the path upon the level was better than that upon the hilltops.




THE PARISH MAGAZINE

First published in The Strand Magazine, Aug 1930
Collected in The Unknown Conan Doyle, 1982

IT was six o'clock on a winter evening. Mr. Pomeroy, the printer, was on the point of leaving his office, which was his back room, for his home, which was his front room, when young Murphy entered. Murphy was an imperturbable youth with a fat face and sleepy eyes, who had the rare quality of always doing without question whatever he was told. It is usually a great virtue—but there are exceptions.

"There are two folk to see you," said Murphy, laying two cards upon the table.

Mr. Pomeroy glanced at them.

"Mr. Robert Anderson. Miss Julia Duncan. I don't know the names. Well, show them in."

A long, sad-faced youth entered, accompanied by a mournful young lady, clad in black. Their appearance was respectable, but depressing.

"I dare say you know this," said the youth, holding up a small, grey-covered volume, the outer cover of which was ornamented with the picture of a church. "It's the St. Olivia's Church Magazine. What I mean, it's the Parish Magazine. This lady and I are what you might call the editors. It has been printed by—"

"Elliot and Dark, in the City," said the lady, as her companion seemed to stumble. "But they have suddenly closed down their works. We have the month's issue all ready, but we want to add to it."

"A Supplement, if you get my meaning," said the youth. "That's the word—supplement. The thing has become too dam'—"

"What he is trying to say," cried the girl, "is that the magazine wants lighting up on the social side."

"That's it," said the youth. "Just a bit of ginger, so to speak. So we arranged a Supplement. We will put it in as a loose leaf, if you follow my meaning. It's all typewritten and clear"—here he drew a folded paper from his pocket—"and it needs no reading or correcting. Just rush it through, five hundred copies, as quickly as you can do it."

"The issue is overdue," said the lady. "We must have it out by midday to-morrow. They tell me Ferguson and Co. could easily have it ready in the time, and if you won't guarantee it, we must take it to them."

"Absolutely," said the youth.

Mr. Pomeroy picked up the typed copy and glanced at it. His eyes fell upon the words, "Our beloved Vicar, Mr. Ffolliott-Sharp, B.A." There was some allusion to a bishopric. Pomeroy threw the paper across to his assistant. "Get on with it!" he said.

"We should like to pay at once," said Miss Duncan, opening her bag. "Here is a five-pound note, and you can account for it afterwards. Of course, you don't know us, and might not trust us."

"Well, if one did not trust the Parish Magazine—" said Pomeroy, smiling.

"Absolutely," cried the youth. "But what I mean is that we want to pay now. You'll send the stuff round to me at 16 Colgrove Road. Got it? Not later than twelve. Rush it through. What?"

"It shall be there," said Pomeroy.

The pair were leaving the room when the girl turned back.

"Put your name as printer at the bottom," she said. "It's the law. Besides, you may get the printing of the Magazine in the future."

"Certainly. We always print our name."

The couple passed out, and hugged each other in the passage.

"I think we put it across," said he.

"Marvellous!" said she.

"That fiver was my idea."

"Incredible!" she cried. "We've got him."

"Absolutely!" said he, and they passed out into the night.

The stolid Murphy wrought long and hard, and the Pomeroy Press was working till unconscionable hours. The assistant found the matter less dull than most which he handled, and a smile spread itself occasionally over his fat face. Surely some of this was rather unusual stuff. He had never read anything quite like it. However, "his not to reason why". He had been well drilled to do exactly what he was told. The packet was ready next morning, and before twelve o'clock it had been duly dispatched to the house mentioned. Murphy carried it himself and was surprised to find their client waiting for it at the garden gate. It took some energy, apparently, to be the editor of a Parish Magazine.

It was twenty-four hours before the bomb burst, which blew Mr. Pomeroy and his household into fragments. The first intimation of trouble was the following letter:

"Sir,

"We can hardly Imagine that you have read the contents of the so-called Supplement to the Parish Magazine which has been distributed to the members of the congregation of St. Olivia's Church. If you had you would hardly have dared to make yourself responsible by putting your name to it. I need not say that you are likely to hear a good deal more of the matter. As to my teeth, I may say that they are remarkably sound, and that I have never been to a dentist in my life.

"James Wilson

"(Major)."

There was a second letter upon the breakfast table. The dazed printer picked it up. It was in a feminine hand, and read thus:

"Sir,

"With regard to the infamous paragraph in the new issue of the Parish Magazine, I may say that if I have bought a new car it is no business of anyone else, and the remarks about my private affairs are most unkind and uncalled for. I understand that as you are the printer you are legally responsible. You will hear in the course of a few days from my legal advisers.

"Yours faithfully,

"Jane Peddigrew.

"14, Elton Square."

"What the devil does it mean?" cried Pomeroy, staring wildly at his wife and daughter. "Murphy! Murphy!"

His assistant entered from the office.

"Have you a copy of that Supplement, which you printed for the Parish Magazine?"

"Yes, sir. I delivered five hundred, but there are a few in the office."

"Bring it in! Bring it in! Quick!"

Then Mr. Pomeroy began to read aloud, and apoplexy grew nearer and nearer. The document was headed Social Notes, and began with several dates and allusions to services which might give confidence to the superficial and rapid reader. Then it opened out in this way:

"'Our beloved Vicar (Mr. Ffolliott-Sharp, B.A.) is still busy trying to wangle a bishopric. This time he says in his breezy way that it is 'a perfect sitter', but we have our doubts. It is notorious that he has pulled strings in the past, and that the said strings broke. However, he has a cousin in the Lord Chancellor's office, so there is always hope.'

"Gracious!" cried Pomeroy. "In the Parish Magazine too!"

"'In the last fortnight sixteen hymn books have disappeared from the church. There is no need for public scandal so if Mr. James Bagshaw, Junior, of 113 Lower Cheltenhan Place, will call upon the Churchwardens, all will be arranged.'

"That's the son of old Bagshaw, of the bank," cried Pomeroy, "What can they have been dreaming of?

"'The Vicar (the Rev. Ffolliott-Sharp, B.A.) would take this opportunity to beg the younger Miss Ormerod to desisist from her present tactics. Delicacy forbids the Vicar from saying what those tactics are. It is not necessary for a young lady to attend every service, and to push herself into the front pew, which is already owned (though not paid for) by the Dawson-Braggs family. The Vicar has asked us to send marked copies of this paragraph to Mrs. Deknar, Miss Featherstone, and Miss Poppy Crewe.'"

Pomeroy wiped his forehead. "This is pretty awful!" said he. Then:

"'Some of these Sundays Major Wilson's false teeth will drop into the collecting bag. Let him either get a new set, or else take off that smile when he walks round with the bag. With lips firmly compressed there is no reason why the present set may not last for years.'

"That's where the answer comes in," said Pomeroy, glancing at the open letter upon his table. "I expect he'll be round with a stick presently. What's this?

"'We don't know if Miss Cissy Dufour and Captain Copperley are secretly married or not. If not, they should be. He could then enter Laburnum Villa instead of wearing out the garden gate by leaning on it!'

"Good heavens, listen to this one! 'Mr. Malceby, the grocer, is back from Hythe. But why the bag of sand among his luggage? Surely sugar gives a sufficient profit at its present price. As we are on the subject, we cannot but remark upon the increased water rate paid last quarter by the Silverside Dairy Company. What do they do with all this water? The public has a right to know.'

"Good Lord, listen to this! 'It is very wrong to say that our popular member, Sir James Tender, was drunk at the garden party of the Mayor. It is true that he tripped over his own leg when he tried to dance the tango, but that can fairly be attributed to his own obvious physical disabilities. As a matter of fact, several guests who only drank one glass of the Mayor's champagne (natural 1928) were very ill in consequence, so that it is most unfair to put so uncharitable an interpretation upon our member's faux pas.'

"That's worth a thousand pounds in any Court," groaned Porneroy. "My dear, Rothschild couldn't stand the actions that this paper will bring on us."

The ladies of the family had shown a regrettable inclination to laugh, but his words made them properly solemn. He continued his reading.

"'Mrs. Peddigrew has started a six-cylinder which is listed at seven hundred and fifty pounds. How she does it nobody knows. Her late husband was a little rat of a man who did odd jobs down in the City. He could not have left so much. This matter wants looking into.'

"Why, he was the vice-chairman of the Baltic," said Pomeroy. "These people are stark, staring mad. Listen to this.

"'Evensong will be at six-thirty. Yes, Mrs. Mould, at six-thirty sharp. And Mr. King will be on the left-hand seat well within view. We can count on your attendance. If you are not a pillar of the church, you are generally sneaking behind one!' Oh, Lord, here's another.

"'If Mr. Goldbury, of 7 Cheesman Place, will call at the Vicarage he will receive back the trouser-button which he put in the bag last Sunday. It is useless to the Vicar, whereas in its right place it might be most important to Mr. Goldbury!' There's no use laughing, you two. You won't laugh when you see the lawyer's letters. Listen to this.

"'"Prithee why so pale, fond lover? Prithee why so pale?" The question is addressed to William Briggs, our dentist friend of Hope Street. Has the lady in pink chiffon turned you down, or is it merely that you are behind with your rent, as usual? Cheer up, William. You have our best wishes.'

"Good gracious! They grow worse and worse. Just listen to this.

"'If any motorists get into trouble, my advice to them is to see Chief Constable Walton in his private room at the Town Hall. Cheques will, of course, not be received. But surely it is far better to pay a small sum across the table in ready cash—asking for no receipt—than to have the trouble and expense of proceedings in the Court.'

"My word, we shall have some proceedings in the Court before we are through. Here is a tit-bit which will keep the lawyers busy: 'The Voyd-Merriman wedding was a most interesting affair and we wish the young couple every happiness. We say "young" out of courtesy, for it is an open secret that the bride will never see thirty-five again. The groom also is, we should say, getting rather long in the tooth. By the way, why did he start and look over his shoulder when the clergyman spoke of "any just cause or impediment"? No doubt it was perfectly harmless, but it gave rise to some ill-natured gossip. We had pleasure in attending the reception afterwards. There was a detective to guard the presents. We really think that his services could have been dispensed with, for they would never have been in danger. Major Wilson's two brass napkin rings were the pick of the bunch. There was a cheque in an envelope from the bride's father. We have heard what the exact figure was, and we quite appreciate the need for an envelope. However, it will pay for the cab to the station. It is understood that the happy couple will get as far as Margate for their honeymoon, and if the money holds out they may extend their travels to Ramsgate. Address: the Red Cow public house, near the Station.'

"Why, these are the richest people in Rotherheath," said Pomeroy, wiping his forehead.

"There is a lot more, but that is enough to settle our hash. I think we had best sell up for what we can get and clear out of the town. My gosh, those two folk must have got out of an asylum. Anyhow, my first job must be to see them. Maybe they are millionaires who can afford to pay for their little jokes."

His mission proved, however, to be fruitless. On inquiry at the address given he found that it was an empty house. The caretaker from next door knew nothing of the matter. It was clear now why the young man had waited at the gate for his parcel. What was Pomeroy to do next? Apparently he could only sit and wait for the arrival of the writs. However, it was a very different document which was handed in at his door two evenings later, It was headed

"R.S.B.Y.P,"

and ran thus:

"A special meeting of the R.S.B.Y.P. will be held at 16 Stanmore Terrace, in the billiards-room of John Anderson, J.P., to-night at 9 p.m. The presence of Mr. James Pomeroy, printer, is urgently needed. The matter under discussion is his liability for certain scandalous statements recently printed in the Parish Magazine."

It may well be imagined that Mr. Pomeroy was punctual at the appointment.

"Mr. Anderson is not at home himself," said the footman, "but young Mr. Robert Anderson and his friends are receiving." There was a humorous twinkle in the footman's eyes.

The printer was shown into a small waiting-room, where two men, one a postman and the other apparently a small tradesman, were seated. He could not help observing that they were both as harassed and miserable as he was himself. They looked at him with dull, lack-lustre eyes, but were too dispirited to talk, nor did he feel sufficient energy to break the silence.. Presently one of them and then the other was called out. Finally the footman came for him, and threw wide a door.

"Mr. James Pomeroy," cried the footman.

At the end of a large music-room, which was further adorned by a billiards-table, was sitting a semicircle of young people, all very serious, and all with writing materials before them. None was above twenty-one years of age, and they were about equally divided as to sex. Among them were the two customers who had lured him to his doom. They both smiled at him most affectionately, in spite of his angry stare.

"Pray sit down, Mr. Pomeroy," said a very young man in evening dress, who acted as Chairman. "There are one or two questions which, as President of the R.S.B.Y.P., it is my duty to put to you. I believe that you have been somewhat alarmed by this incident of the Parish Magazine?"

"Of course I have," said Pomeroy, in a surly voice.

"May I ask if your sleep has been affected?"

"I have not closed my eyes since it happened."

There was a subdued murmur of applause, and several members leaned across to shake hands with Mr. Robert Anderson.

"Did it affect your future plans?"

"I had thought of leaving the town."

"Excellent! I think, fellow-members, that there is no doubt that the monthly gold medal should be awarded to Mr. Anderson and Miss Duncan for their very meritorious performance, which has been well conceived and cleverly carried out. To relieve your natural anxiety, we must tell you at once, Mr. Pomeroy, that you have been the victim of a joke."

"It's likely to be a pretty costly one," said the printer.

"Not at all. No harm has been done. No leaflets have been sent out. The letters which have reached you emanate from ourselves. We are, Mr. Pomeroy, the Rotherheath Society of Bright Young People, who endeavour to make the world a merrier and more lively place by the exercise of our wit. Upon this occasion a prize was offered for whichever member or members could most effectually put the wind up some resident in this suburb. There have been several candidates, but on the whole the prize must be awarded as already said."

"But—but—it's unjustifiable!" stammered Pomeroy.

"Entirely," said the Chairman, cheerfully. "I think that all our proceedings may come under that head. On the other hand, we remind our victims that they have unselfishly sacrificed themselves for the general hilarity of the community. A special silver medal, which I will now affix to your coat, will be your souvenir of the occasion."

"And I'll speak to my father when he comes back," said Anderson. "What I mean is, there is printing and what not to be done for the firm."

"And my father really edits the Parish Magazine. That's what put it into our heads," said Miss Duncan. "Maybe we can get you the printing after all."

"And there is whisky-and-soda on the sideboard, and a good cigar," said the President.

So Mr. Pomeroy eventually went out into the night, thinking that after all youth will be served, and it would be a dull world without it.




THE LAST RESOURCE

Published in The Liberal, August 16, 1930
Collected in The Unknown Conan Doyle, 1982

KID WILSON'S natural home would seem to be the Atlantic, since neither England nor America showed the least desire for his presence. However, in some way he got himself smuggled to London, and there found his level instantly on the edge of the criminal classes. Waldren and I used to meet him occasionally at a small and very disreputable joint at the back of Soho—a place which opened with the last postman and closed with the first milkman. One certainly heard conversation there which was worth while. You can never, unfortunately, make virtue as interesting as vice, for virtue is negative and vice is positive. The man who does not do certain things is the better citizen, but he has not the glamour of the man who does do them. It is sad but true.

When Kid Wilson got talking we were content to listen, for the world of which he spoke was one which was unknown to us, and yet he had, in his own rough way, the art of bringing it home to us. Sitting with chair at perilous angle and a black cigar thrusting out from the corner of his mouth, he would lead us into that strange underworld of the great American cities, where he was clearly a very competent guide. Looking across the water, it was not, so far as we could gather, the sheriffs or chiefs of police of whom he was afraid, but it was his own confederates and fellow-criminals who had it in for him. It was a silent lesson to us to watch him as he made his way out of our dive in the early mornings. With his hand slipped beneath his coat tails, he would take the sharp, quick glances of a hunted animal round each side of the door, before ever he ventured his unsavoury person into the street.

Either his experience or his imagination was very great, and he could hold us spellbound when he wished. On this particular night he started out upon a long story. Waldren says that it is no use my repeating it, because the snap of it depends upon the great American language. Well, perhaps I can talk a little of that, too. Anyhow, I will try to get some suggestion of Wilson even as he spoke.

"I could have done better", said he, "if it had not been for that old skirt with the slop-pail. I'll give you what I can while it is clear in my mind.

"It's all about a certain burg in Amurrca. I won't give it a name, for it might make trouble, and what I say would fit any one of a dozen. You'll just figure it for yourselves as a wide-open burg, so wide open that it didn't seem that as if any power on earth would ever get it shut again. The whole city seemed to have gone rotten, from the mayor down to the bellhops. The crooks had it in their hands, the bootleggers, the hi-jackers, the thugs, the racketeers, the hold-up men, and the likes. You'll understand that the bootlegger and the hi-jacker are mostly the same person, bootlegging on his own, and hi-jacking the booze of the other guys. The police were got at, the judges were made safe, the district attorney was squared, the mayor was seen. An honest juryman wouldn't have a chance with an insurance office. The gangsters would take him for a ride within a day of the verdict. It's no wonder that you would call fifty venire men before you got one that would stick. There was no safety anywhere. Even the State attorney was swinging a racket in gambling machines in drug stores. Yes, sir, the lid was fairly off that old burg. I was there helping, and I know, for I was beer-hustling myself till the police bought me up.

"It came sort of gradual. It rather amused the decent citizen at first to see these wops and dagoes laying each other out with automatics and Thompsons. There were gang quarrels, where some guy with three i's in his name would claim part of the city for his work, and another guy with three o's in his name would come muscling in. Then there would be shooting, good and proper, and whoever got hit there was one crook the less. But presently the decent citizen began to understand that he was the next bird to be shot at. That woke him up some. Then came the racketeers, and every store was put under blackmail, or the gorillas would be let loose and the stuff thrown into the street with the owner on the top of it. The money, too, was all on the side of the crooks, and money counts over in God's Own Country. Oh, yes, it was fierce, and no one could see any way out of it. But there was a way, and Gideon H. Fanshawe was the guy who found it. I'll hand it to Gideon, I will.

"He was a strange man, was Gideon H. Fanshawe. Some thought he was loco and some thought he was genius. He was rich, very rich, for he had been junior partner of Gould and Fanshawe, the real-estate folk. He spent his life in the library among books, sort of dreaming, but every now and then he kind of woke up from his dream and then things began to happen. He woke up once and climbed the highest peak in Alaska. Another time he woke up and killed three burglars in his house. Then he woke up at the War-time, and no one saw him for a year, when he came back with one foot missing and a French medal. Yes, he was a queer guy and not too safe to handle—with a big think-box on the top, but a mouth like a rat-trap and a man-eating jaw. He was awake now and takin' notice, and somebody was goin' to hear about it. Lookit here, you folk, you can take it from me that there are plenty of dangerous men in Amurrka, but the most dangerous of all is just the ordinary citizen when you drive him in a corner and there ain't no escape, except what he can horn out for himself. You've heard tell of Vigilanties of San Francisco? Well, that's what I mean.

"For a month or more Gideon was just snooping round in his machine, interviewing this man and interviewing that man, and feeling his way. Then there were all-night meetings in his library, where the records of the big shots of the law and the police were debated and addresses taken and plans formed and everyone given the layout, and charged a grand each for the expenses. At that time I was stool-pigeon for the police, and I was had up at one or two of those meetings, where maybe a couple of hundred prominent citizens were present, and where I would be asked questions about what I knew. I was well paid, but I was told to keep my mouth shut or they would shut it for me, and, by George, those boys meant what they said.

"There was one clean honest man in the office, and that was old Jack Barlow, the Chief of the Police. He wasn't what you would call a strong man—they would have had him out or shot him cold if he had been—but he was white all through. One night Gideon Fanshawe went down to see John Barlow, and I'll tell you what passed between them, but I have to tell it in my own way of talking.

"After greetings Gideon looked round the room.

" 'Lookit here, John,' he asked, 'there ain't no detectiphones? No stenog. round the corner?'

" 'Not with you, Mr. Fanshawe,' said the Chief, smiling and pushing over his box of cigars, friendly like.

" 'Word of honour, John?'

" 'Yep. You may take it so.'

" 'Now, I'm talking turkey, John. Every word has its face value. First of all, did you ever hear of the G.T.S. Society?'

" 'Can't say as I have. I'm fair hazed with all these societies.'

" 'Well, I'm here to tell you about it. There are two thousand of the best citizens in this town in it, and the letters meat "Got to Stop."'

" 'Meaning the crooks and bootlegs?'

" 'Just so. Now, John, you know as well as I do that something has got to be done. We all trust you. We know you are straight. But your power has gone. Your own force is rotten from end to end. Is it not so?'

" 'I'd soon set it right, Mr. Fanshawe, if I had support. But what can I do? These people have the money and they've bought up the whole crowd.'

" 'Except yourself.'

" 'No, Mr. Fanshawe, nor a few more that I could name. But what can we do?'

" 'You can do nothing, John. That is why we are coming in to do it for you. Now, first of all—excuse my plain talking—I know what your place is worth.'

" 'Well, you can read that in city accounts. It is about the only true figure you'll find.'

" 'Well, then'—Mr. Fanshawe drew a bundler of papers from his pocket—'these are bearer bonds in first-class securities and you keep them.'

" 'Mr. Fanshawe, you are insulting me. How can you say I am a white man and yet put such a proposition before me?'

" 'Don't lose your hair, John. You don't quite see my meaning. You will keep these bonds, John, as a guarantee that you don't suffer though anything we may do. If you don't suffer, then you hand them back. But if you were to get fired on account of what we did, then it is clear justice that we should make good what we have caused you to lose. What have you say against that?'

" 'Well, as you put it, that sounds fair enough, Mr. Fanshawe. If I should agree to risk my place for your sake—well, I'm a married man with a family, and I've got to live. But it all depends on what you want me to do. If it's crooked—cut it out. Forget it.'

" 'If it is against the crooks it can't be crooked. First of all, John, are there any men at all under your orders who are straight?'

" 'Sure. I could name two hundred that I could swear by.'

" 'Then form these into one squad and order them to do as they are told on a night I shall name. Keep all the others at head-quarters or any other place so long as they are not on the streets. We don't want to hurt any cops if we can help it, and they'll get hurt for sure if they horn in between the crooks and us. Could you manage that?'

" 'Well, it would seem good sense.'

" 'Then I want you just to go for a joy ride that night where no telephones can reach you, with orders to you deputy to touch nothing till you return. That gives us a free hand, and that's all we ask.'

" 'But what are you trying to do, Mr. Fanshawe?'

" 'Well, just leave it at that, John. If you don't know then you can't be held to be a partner. Just go and leave the rest to us. If all goes smooth, then you hand back those bonds. If there is trouble and you get fired, then you're none the worse. See?'

" 'Well, that's a bit fierce, Mr. Fanshawe. But there's my hand on it, and I'll do as you say.'

"So that was that. And when May 14th came round, honest John simply did a fade-away, while two hundred good harness bulls—that means cops in uniform—reported to the Auditorium Hall, which was the head-quarters of Gideon H. Fanshawe and his G.T.S. boys on that night.

"It was twelve o'clock when the whistle blew. All the crooks had been tabbed down days before and there was no difficulty in finding them. Three hundred automobiles full of hard-boiled citizens were after them, and the greater part was rounded up. No wrens were touched. It was reckoned wiser to deal with the men only. All over the city there were struggles and shootings, but all went as planned. By one o'clock or after there was a row of machines two deep for four blocks from the Hall, with heavily armed guards to each, and the prisoners without arms inside. Then Phil Hudson, he was the man who led the raid, a little hard guy that had been a flying ace in the War, reported to Fanshawe that all was ready and in order.

"The Auditorium Hall was all lit up, and at one end Fanshawe was seated at a high table with a dozen of his crowd, his lists and papers in front of him, and every man with a gun on the table beside him. Behind him was his guard, twenty men with shotguns, each with the G.T.S. badge on his arm. They were mostly ex-service men in the G.T.S. Society. In the Hall were two or three hundred more of them, and some of the general public such as myself. I told you I was stool-pigeon for the police at the time, and I, like others, was there just to give a nod here or there when it was a question of some guy identity, or shake if he was talking blah.

"Phil Hudson, he came to the foot of the dais and saluted.

" 'We have all we could find, Chief,' said he. 'Some were tipped off, but not too many.'

" 'How many have you, Phil?'

" 'A thousand or more.'

" 'Anyone hurt?'

" 'We had to shoot up ten or twelve of them. Six citizen were shot.'

" 'Too bad! Too bad! Well, we had best get to it. Send in the mayor first.'

"Fat old Tom Baxter, a very surprised man, was led up, with a guard on each side of him. He was a silly old butter-and-egg man, never done with the wrens, and he was as corrupt as a graveyard.

" 'You shall pay for this, Mr. Fanshawe. What is the meaning of this outrage?'

" 'We are here to clean up this town, Mr. Mayor, and we begin at the top. The committee of the G.T.S. have examined the evidence in your case. You have sheltered the crooks. You have taken their money. You have used your office as it should not have been used. Take him away!'

" 'Take me away! Take me where?'

" 'To the Odeum. You'll have all your friends round you there. You won't be lonely. Remove him.' "

So the mayor with a gat stuck into his ribs was walked down the aisle, and then came the whole procession. First it was Burgess, the district attorney, and a fine rage was in.

" 'I'll have the law on you for this, Mr. Fanshawe. Are you aware that I was dragged out of my bedroom by these ruffians of yours, and that I have only my pyjama suit underneath this slicker?'

" 'Too bad! Too bad!' said Fanshawe. 'But the citizens of this town are dissatisfied with your conduct of your office, Mr. Attorney. They have examined your case and it has gone against you.'

" 'What right have you?'

" 'The right of the people. All power springs from the people, Mr. Attorney, and all power must answer to the people. You have taken money to let crooks slip though the law. You have condoned murders. You have been the paid servant of the gangsters. Take him to the Odeum.'

" 'What for?' The little overfed guy was shaking like a jelly.

" 'Let us say it is to have a photograph taken,' said Fanshawe. 'Anyhow, we want you all in a bunch. Take him away.' "

"Then came Moltak, the big black Polack, boss of the South Side beer racket who was said to have made five million bucks in two years. He was a great giant of a man, all hair and muscles, and he glared murder at the men on the dais.

" 'I get you. I get you for this,' he cried.

" 'Looks as if we had got you, Mr. Moltak,' said Fanshawe, with his quiet smile. 'We've got twenty killings against you and your outfit. How many of them have we, Hudson?'

" 'There are seventy-six outside.'

" 'Well, we can't make distinctions. They've all got to go. I'll see you again at the Odeum, Moltak. Take him away and his whole gang along with him.'

"The fellow tried to make a rough house, but they had his arms twisted and he was helpless. There were some man-handlers, I tell you, among those ex-service men. They raced him down and he made way for Genaro, boss of Societas Meridionale. This slick little Southerner with his evening dress and his sissy ways was up to his eyes in murder. He had been snapped up at some swell gathering and he was very sore about it.

" 'You take me from my guests, Mr. Fanshawe. What you dare do? You take me from the best society in this town. Six judges dine with me to-night, and you drag me away from them.'

" 'Got those judges, Phil?' asked Fanshawe.

" 'Yes, Chief.'

" 'Let them go in with the others. All right, Genaro, we won't talk about it. We've got you down for near fifty murders. You didn't do them with your own hands. You had your choppers and your gunmen. But they were yours all the same. Have you the gang?'

" 'Sixty of them.'

" 'That's enough to go on with. Off with them to the Odeum.'

"All night they were being led in, gangsters of every kind, thugs, gunmen, booze-hustlers, hi-jackers, racketeers, con-men, scratchers, common yeggmen, and hold-uppers—crooks of every size and shape. Fanshawe had them all tabbed, ran his finger down the list, had the man's record in a moment, and dealt with him in a word or two. Often he had a consultation with his friends, and once or twice he looked across for a nod from me or some other who was in the inside of things. Here or there a man was set free with a few stern words of warning. Far the greater part were sent on to the Odeum. At last, just as dawn was breaking, Fanshawe rose, stretched himself, threw down his half-smoked cigar—he had smoked a chain of them through the whole night—and came down from the dais. The other followed, and so did I.

"There were crowds in the street, but the cops and the G.T.S. men had made an avenue, and Fanshawe, with his committee, drove down to the Odeum, which was only three or four blocks away. For my own part, I made my way on foot through the crowd, and reached the place after they had entered. There was a guard at the door, but MacDonovan, who was a pal of mine up at police head-quarters, caught me by the shoulder as I tried to squeeze in.

" 'Not in your life, kid,' said he. 'These guys know you for what you are, and if you get among them I guess there wouldn't be enough of you left to be worth a funeral.'

" 'Can't I get a look in anywhere, Mac?'

"There was a little metal-faced door just inside, and he opened it.

" 'Get up this stair,' said he. 'You are taking a chance from the President's guards, but if you get up there you will see all there is.'

"So up I went, only to find a gat flushed into my face from a sentry at the top. I got friendly, however, and he let me stop where I could get a view.

"The Odeum is a big square dancing hall with no furniture. It just has a gallery at one end where the band would play—and that is where I was. There was the one stair leading to the gallery, with the guarded and locked door at the bottom. There were two or three other guarded doors faced with metal down below, and the windows, which were high, were all boarded up. Down in the body of the hall were about twelve hundred people, some in dress, most in any sort of rough clothes, but all of them just dancing with rage. They were shaking their fists up at the gallery and yelling out every kind of abuse and threat of what they were going to do with the G.T.S. folk when they got loose.

"Dancing mad—that was how they were—and as you looked down under the bright top lights you could just see open yelling mouths, and twisted faces, and fists held up shaking at the President. I'll hand it to him for being cool. There he sat with a few of his committee looking down in silence on the mob, as quiet as a fish in ice. On each side of him was a big brass tripod, and a velvet cloth over each such as photographers use. Half-a-dozen G.T.S. were at the back, and if ever I saw hard-bitten soldiers it was there.

"Presently Fanshawe rose and held up his hand for silence. There were some yells of hatred, but as the man stood and looked down at them with a face like death and eyes like icicles, these died away, and there was such utter stillness that there might have been no one in the room. Then he began to speak with a voice that crackled like electricity.

" 'There are a few Amurrcans in this room, more shame to them,' said he. 'They have been corrupted and led away, and yet they were the very ones chosen by the people and trusted to look after their affaires. I am sorry for them, but they have only themselves to thank. As to the rest of you, you are nearly all from foreign lands, whence you were driven by want or tyranny. You came here and Amurrca welcomed you. She could not have been more generous. Within a year she put you on an equality with the oldest citizen. She gave you all her broad lands that you might find a place for yourselves and use every gift that was in you. That is what Amurrca has done for you. And what have you done for Amurrca? You have broken her laws, made the name of her cities a scandal, corrupted her citizens with your ill-got money, broken down her legal system, killed her guardians of the peace when you could not corrupt them. In a word, you have done such things that at long last we, who are the real people, have had to come forth and show you that there is a live Amurrca which has been good and liberal and generous, but which has in it also the power which can punish those who abuse what has been given. You have forced it on us. You have left us no other way but this. Enough said! Cut loose!'

"As he spoke a man on either side pulled the cloth off the machine-guns. The hard-bitten citizens behind sprang to their positions, and in an instant the massacre began.

"I only had a glance at it. I saw them rushing for the doors. I saw them climbing to the sealed windows. I saw them piling up in the corners as rats do when a terrier is loose. I saw them running and screaming, and tripping and falling, and some hiding behind the others, and the dead piling up, and the judges all going down in one heap, and the mayor running forward with his hands up. All this I seemed to see, and then—and then—

"Well, what then?"

"Well, as I said at the beginning, the rattle of that skirt's slop-pail carried on the tapping of the guns, and then she was bobbing and scarping, and saying that she thought I had been up and out."

We sat in disgruntled silence.

"Do you mean to say," I cried, at last, "that this has all been a dream?"

"Well, you can call it that if you like," he answered, taking the sodden cigar from his mouth. "A vision, maybe, is a better word. It hasn't happened just like that yet. But wait a bit, folk, wait a bit."

Poor old Kid! We felt that the end of his story had been a bit of a flop. But his own end was dramatic enough. Only a few days later we saw the curt paragraph in a morning paper: --

"An American named Wilson was found by the police early yesterday morning in the portico of a common lodging-house in Carlisle Street, Soho, suffering from several knife wounds. His assailants had apparently waited for him in the shadow of the door, and attacked him as he returned, according to his wont, in the early morning. He was alive when found, but refused to make any statement, and died on his way to the hospital. There is no clue at present to the assassins, but there are reasons to believe that the tragedy is part of that gangster system which has wrought such havoc in America."




THE END OF DEVIL HAWKER

First published in The Saturday Evening Post, Aug 23, 1930
Collected in The Unknown Conan Doyle, 1982

I

THERE is a fascinating little print shop around the comer of Drury Lane. When you pass through the old oaken doorway and into the dim dusty interior, you seem to have wandered into some corridor leading back through time, for on every side of you are the pictures of the past. But very specially I value that table on the left where lies the great pile of portrait prints heaped up in some sort of order of date: There you see the pictures of the men who stood round the throne of the young Victoria, of Melbourne, of Peel, of Wellington, and then you come on the D'Orsay and Lady Blessington period, and the long and wonderful series of H.B., the great, unknown John Doyle, who, in his day, was a real power in the land. Farther back still you come on the bucks and prize fighters of the Regency—the pompous Jackson, the sturdy Cribb, the empty Brummel, the chubby Alvanley. And then you may chance upon a face which you cannot pass without a second and a longer look. It is a face which Mephistopheles might have owned; thin, dark, keen, with bushy brows and fierce, alert eyes which glare out from beneath them. There is a full-length coloured print which shows him to be tall and magnificently proportioned, with broad shoulders, slim waist, clad in a tightly-buttoned green ooat, buckskin breeches and high Hessian boots. Below is the inscription: "Sir John Hawker"—and that is the Devil Hawker of the legends.

In his short but vivid career, the end cf which is here outlined, Hawker was the bully of the town. The bravest shrank away from the angry, insolent glare of those baleful eyes. He was a famous swordsman and a remarkable pistol shot—so remarkable that three times he starred the kneecap of his man; the most painful injury wbich he could inflict. But above all, he was the best amateur boxer of his day, and had he taken to the ring it is likely that be would have made a name. His hitting is said to have been the most ferocious ever seen, and it was his amusement to try out novices at Cribb's rooms, which were his favorite haunt, and to teach them how to stand punishment. It gratified his pride to show his skill, and his cruel nature to administer pain to others. It was in these very rooms of Cribb that this little sketch of those days opens, where, as on a marionette stage, I would try to show you what manner of place it was and what manner of people walked London in those full·blooded, brutal and virile old days.

First, as to the place. It is at the oomer of Panton Street, and you see over a broad, red-curtained door the sign: THOMAS CRlBB. DEALER IN LIQUOR AND TOBACCO, with the Union Arms printed above. The door leads into a tiled passage which opens on the left into a common bar behind which save on special evenings, a big, bull·faced, honest John Bull of a man may be seen with two assistants of the sparring-partner type, handing out refreshment and imbibing gratis a great deal more than was good for their athletic figures. Already Tom is getting a waistline which will cause his trainer and himself many a weary day at his next battle: if , indeed, the brave old fellow has not already come to the last or his fights, when he defended the honor or England by breaking the cast-iron jaw of Molyneaux, the black.

If, instead of turning into the common bar, you continue down the passage, you find a green-baize door with the word "Parlour" printed acrose one upper panel of glass. Push it open and you are in a room which is spacious and comfortable. There is sawdust on the floor, numerous wooden armchairs, round tables for the card players, a small bar presided over by Miss Lucy Stagg, a lady who had been accused of many things, but never of shyness, in the corner, and a fine collection of sporting pictures round the walls. At the back were swing doors with the words "Boxing Saloon" printed across them, leading into a large bare apartment, with a roped ring in the centre, and many pairs of gloves hanging upon the wall, belonging, for the most part, to the Corinthians who came up to have lessons from the champion, whose classes were only exceeded by those of Gentleman Jackson in Bond Street.

It was early in the particular evening of which I speak, and there was no one in the parlour save Cribb himself, who expected the quality that night, and was cleaning up in anticipation. Lucy wiped glasses languidly in her little bar. Beside the entrance door was a small, shriveled weasel of a man, Billy Jakes by name, who sat behind a green-baize table, in receipt of custom as a bookmaker, dog-fancier or cock supplier—a privilege for which he paid Tom a good round sum every year. As no customers had appeared, he wandered over to the little bar.

"Well, things are quiet tonight, Lucy."

She looked up from polishing her glasses.

"I expect they will be more lively soon, Mr. Jakes. It is full early."

"Well, Lucy, you look very pretty tonight. I expect I shall have to marry you yet."

"La, Mr. Jakes, how you do carry on!"

"Tell me, Lucy; do you want to make some money?"

"Everyone wants that, Mr. Jakes."

"How much can you lay your hands on?"

"I dare say I could find fifty pounds at a pinch."

"Wouldn't you like to turn it into a hundred?"

"Why, of course I would."

"It's Saracesca for the Oaks. I'd give you two to one, which is better than I give the others. She's a cert it ever there is one."

"Well, if you say so, Mr. Jakes. The money is upstairs in my box. But if you can really turn it into—"

Fortunately, honest Tom Cribb had been within earshot of this little debate, and he now caught the man roughly by the sleeve and twirled him in the direction of his table.

"You dirty dog; doing the poor girl out of her hard-earned savings!"

"All right, Tom. Only a joke! Only Billy Jakes' little joke!... I wouldn't have let you lose. Lucy!"

"That's enough," said Tom. "Don't you heed him, Lucy. Keep your money in your box."

The green swing-door opened and a number of bucks, in black coats, brown coats, green coats and purple, came filing into the room. The shrill voice of Jakes was at once uplifted and his clamour filled the air.

"Now, my noble sportsmen," he cried, "back your opinions! There is a bag of gold waiting, and you have only to put your hands in. How about Woodstock for the Derby? How about Saracesca for the Oaks? Four to one! Four to one! Two to one, bar one!"

The Corinthians gathered for a moment round the bookie's table, for his patter amused them.

"Lots of time for that, Jakes," said Lord Rulton, a big bluff county magnate and landowner.

"But the odds are shorter every day. Now's your time, my noble gamesters! Now's the time to sow the seed! Gold to be had for the asking, waitin' there for you to pick up. I like to pay it. It pleases me to see happy faces round me. 1 like to see them smiling Now's your time."

"Why, half the field may scratch before the race," said Sir Charles Trevor—the imperturbable Charles, whose estate has been sucked dry by its owner's wild excesses.

"No race, no pay. The old firm gives every gamester a run for his money. The knowing ones are all on to it. Sir John Hawker has five hundred on Woodstock."

"Well, Devil Hawker knows what he is about," said Lord Annerley, a dashing young Corinthian.

"Have fifty on the filly for the Oaks, Lord Ruffton. Four to one?"

"Very good, Jakes," said the nobleman handing out a note. "I suppose I shall find you after the race."

"Sitting here at this table, my lord. Old established place of business. You've got a certainty, my lord."

"Well," said a young Corinthian, "if it is as certaIn as that, I'll have fifty too."

"Right, my noble sportsman I book it at three to one."

"I thought it was four."

"It was four. Now it is three. You't lucky to get before it is two. Will you take your winnings in paper or gold?"

"Well, in gold."

"Very good, sir. You'll find me waiting at this table with a bag of gold at ten by the clock on the day after the race. It will be in a green-baize bag with a grip, so you can easily carry it. By the way, I've got a fighting cock that's never been beat. Would any of you gentlemen—"

But the door ad swung open and Sir John Hawker's handsome figure and sinister face filled the gap. The others moved towards the small bar Hawker paused a moment at the bookie's table.

"Hullo, Jakes; doing some fool out of their money as usual?"

"Tut, tut, Sir John, you should know me by now."

"Know you, you rascal! You have had a cool two thouand out of me from first to last I know you too well."

"All you want is to persevere. You'll soon have it all back, Sir John."

"Hold your tongue, I say. I have had enough."

"No offense, my noble sportsman. But I have a brindled terrier down at the stable that's the best of rats in London."

"I wonder he hasn't had a nip at you then. Hullo, Tom."

Cribb had oome forward as usual to greet his Corinthian guests.

"Good evening, Sir John. Going to put them on to-night?"

"Well, I'll see. What have you got?"

"Half a dozen up from old Bristol. That place is as full of milling coves as a bin is of bottles."

"I may try one of them over."

"Then play light. Sir John. You cracked the ribs of that lad from Lincoln. You broke his heart for fighting."

"It may as well be broke early as late. What's the use of him if he can't take punishment?"

Several more men had come into the room; one of them exceedingly drunk, another just a little less so. They wer two of the Tom-and-Jerry clique who wandered day and night on the old round from the Haymarket to Panton Street and St. J ames, imagining that they were seeing life. The drunken one—a young hawbuck from the shires—was noisy and combative. His friend was trying to put some term to their adventures.

"Come, George," he coaxed, "we'll just have one drink here. Then one at the Dive and one at the Cellars, and wind up with broiled bones at Mother Simpson's."

The name of the dish started ideas in the drunken man's head. He staggered in the direction of the landlord. "Broiled bones!" he cried. "D'you hear? I want broiled bones! Fetch me dish—large dish—of broiled bones this instant—under pain—displeasure."

Cribb, who waa well accustomed to such visitors, continued his conversation with Hawker without taking the slightest notice. They were discussing a possible opponent for old Tom Shelton, the navvy, when George broke in again.

"Where the devil's those broiled bones? Here, landlord! Ole Tom Cribb! Tom, give me large dish broiled bones this instant , or I punch your old head." As Cribb still took not the faintest heed, George became more bellicose.

"No broiled bones!" he cried. "Very good! Prepare defend yourself!"

"Don't hit him, George!" cried his more sober companion in alarm. "It's the champion."

"It's a lie. I am the champion. I'll give him smack in the chops. See if I don't."

For the first time Cribb turned a slow eye in his direction.

"No dancin' allowed here, sir," he said.

"I'm not dancing. I'm sparring."

"Well , don't do it, whatever it is."

"I'm going to fight you. Going to give old Tom a smack in the chops."

"Some other time, sir, I'm busy."

"Where're those bones? Last time of asking."

"What bones? What is he talkin' of?"

"Sorry, Tom, but have to give you good thrashing. Yes, Tom, very sorry, but must have lesson."

He made several wild strokcs in the air, quite out of distance, and finally fell upon his knees. His friend picked him up.

"What d'you want to be so foolish for, George?"

"I had him nearly beat."

Tom looked reproachfully at the soberer friend. "I am surprised at you, Mr. Trelawney."

"Couldn't help it, Tom. He would mix port and brandy."

"You must take him out."

"Come on, George; you've got to go out."

"Got to go! No, sir; round two, Come up smilin'. Time!"

Tom Cribb gave a sign and a stalwart potman threw the pugnacious George over his shoulder and carried him out of the room, kicking violently, while his friend walked behind. Cribb laughed.

"There's seldom an evening that I don't have that sort of nuisance."

"They would not do it twice to me," said Hawker. "I'd send him home, and his wench wouldn't know him."

"I haven't the heart to touch them. It pleases the poor things to say they have punched the champion of England."

The room had now begun to fill up. At one end a circle had formed round the bookie's table, On the other side there was a group at the small private bar where very broad chaff was being exchanged between some of the younger bucks and Lucy, who was well able to take care of herself. Cribb had gone inside the swing doors to prepare for the boxing, while Hawker wandered from group to group, leaving among these fearless men, hard-riding horsemen of the shires and dare-devils at every sport, a vague feeling of repulsion which showed itself in a somewhat formal response to his brief greetings. He paused at one chattering group and looked sardonically at a youth who stood somewhat apart listening to, but not joining in, the gay exchange of repartee. He was a well-built young man with a singularly beautiful head, crowned by a mass of auburn curls. His figure might have stood for Adonis, were it not that one foot was slightly drawn up, which caused him to wear a rather unsightly boot.

"Good evening, Hawker," said he.

"Good evening, Byron. Is this one of your hours of idleness?"

The allusion was to a book of verse which the young nobleman had just brought out, and which had been severely handled by the critics.

The poet seemed annoyed, for he was sensitive on the point.

"At least I cannot be accused of idleness today," said he. "I swam three miles downstream from Lambeth, and perhaps you have not done so much."

"Well done!" said Hawker. "I hear of you at Angelo's, and Jackson's, too. But fencing needs a quick foot. I 'd stick to the water if I were you." He glanced down at the malformed limb.

Byron's blue-gray eyes blazed with indignation.

"When I wish your advice as to my personal habits, Sir John Hawker, I will ask for it."

"No harm meant," said Hawker carelessly. "I am a blunt fellow and always say what I think."

Lord Rufton plucked at Byron's sleeve. "That's enough said," he whispered.

"Of course," added Hawker, "if anyone does not like my ways, they can always find me at White's Club or my lodgings in Charles Street."

Byron, who was utterly fearless, and ready, though he was still only a CambrLdge undergraduate, to face any man in the world, was about to make some angry reply in spite of the well-meant warnings of Lord Rufton, when Tom Cribb came bustling in and interrupted the scene.

"All ready, my lords and gentlemen. The fighting men are in their place. Jack Scroggins and Ben Burn will begin."

The company began to move towards the door of the sparring saloon. As they filed in, Hawker advanced quietly and touched the reckless baronet, Sir Charles Trevor, upon the ahoulder.

"I must have a word with you, Charles."

"I want to get a ringside seat, John."

"Never mind that. I must have a word."

The others passed in. Devil Hawker and Sir Charles had the room. to themselve, save for Jakes, counting his money at his distant table, and the girl, Lucy, coming and going in her little alcove. Hawker led Sir Charles to a central seat.

"I have to speak to you, Charles, of that three thousand you owe me. It pains me vastly, but what am I to do? I have my own debts to settle, and it is no easy matter."

"I have the matter in hand, John."

"But it presses"

"I'll pay it all right. Give me time."

"What time?"

"We are cutting the oaks at Selincourt. They should all be down by the autumn. I can get an advance then that will clear all that I owe you."

"I don't want to press you, Charles. If you would like a sporting flutter to clear your debt, I'm ready to give It to you at once."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, double or quits. Six thousand or nothing. If you're not afraid to take a chance, I'll let you have one."

"Afraid, John. I don't like that word."

"You were always a brave gamester, Charles. Just as you like in the matter. But you might clear yourself with a turn of the card, while, on the other hand, if all the Selincourt timber is going, six thousand will be no more to you than three."

"Well, it's a sporting offer, John. You say the turn of a card. Do you mean one simple draw?"

"Why not? Sudden death. Win or lose. What say you?"

"I agree."

A pack of cards was lying on a near-by table. Hawker stretched out a long arm and picked them up.

"Will thee do?"

"By all means."

He spread them out with a sweep of his hand.

"Do you care to shuffle?"

"No, John. Take them as they are."

"Shall it be a single draw?"

"By all means."

"Will you lead?"

Sir Charles Trevor was a seasoned gambler, but never before had three thousand pounds hung upon the turn of a single card. But he was a reckless plunger, and roared with laughter as he turned up the queen of clubs.

"That should do you, John."

"Possibly," said Hawker, and turned the ace of spades.

"I thought I had cleared myself, and now it is six thousand," cried Trevor, and staggered as he rose from his seat.

" To wait until the oaks are cut," said Hawker. "In September I ahall present my little bill. Meanwhile, perhaps a note of hand—"

"Do you doubt my word, John!"

"No, no, Charles, but business is business. Who knows what may happen? I'll have a note of hand."

"Very good. You'll have it by the post tomorrow. Well, I bear no grudge. The luck was yours. Shall we have a glass upon it?"

"You were always a brave loser, Charles." The two men walked together to the little bar in the corner.

Had either looked back he would have seen a sight which would have surprised him. During the whole incident the little bookmaker had sat absorbed over his accounts, but with a pair of piercing eyes glancing up every now and then at the two gamblers. Little of their talk had been audible from where he sat, but their actions had spoken for themselves. Now, with amazing, but furtive, speed he stole across, picked up one card from the table and hurried back to his perch, concealing it inside his coat. The two gentlemen, having taken their refreshment, turned toward the boxing saloon; Sir Charles disappearing through the swing-door, from behind which came the thud of heavy blows, the breathing of hard-spent men, and every now and then a murmur of admiration or of criticism.

Hawker was about to follow his companion when a thought struck him and he returned to the card table, gathering up the scattered cards. Suddenly he was aware that Jakes was at his elbow and that two very shrewd and malignant eyes were looking up into his own.

"Hadn't you best count them, my noble sportsman?"

"What d'you mean?" The Devll'a great black brows were drawn down and his glance was like a rapier-thrust.

"If you count them you'll find one missing."

"Why are you grinning at me, you rascal?"

"One card missing, my noble sportsman. A good winning card, too—the ace of spades. A useful card, Sir John."

"Where is it, then?"

"Little Billy Jakes has It. It's here"—and he slapped his breast. pocket. "A little playing card with the mark of a thumb-nail on one eorner of the back."

"You Infernal blackguard!"

Jakes was no coward , but he shrank away from that terrible face. "Hands off, my noble sportsman! Hands off, for your own sake! You can knock me about. That's easily done. But it won't end there. I've got the card. I could eall back Sir Charles and fill this room in a jiffy. There would be an end of you, my beauty."

"It's all a lie—a lie."

"Right you are. Say so, if you like. Shall I call in the others, and you can prove it a lie? Shall I show the cards to Lord Rufton and the rest?"

Hawker's dark faace was moving convulsively. His hands were twitching with hia desire to break the back of this little weasel across his knee. With an effort, he mastered himself.

"Hold on, Jakes. We have always been great friends. What do you want? Speak low or the girl will hear."

"Now, that's talking. You got six thousand just now. I want half."

"You want three thousand pounds. What for?"

"You're a man of sense. You know what for. I've a tongue, and I can hold it if it's worth my while."

Hawker considered for a moment. "Well, suppose I agree."

"Then we can fix it so."

"Say no more. We will consider it as agreed."

He turned away, his mind full of plans by which he could gain time and disavow the whole business. But Jakes was not a man so easily fooled. Many people had found that to their cost.

"Hold on, my noble sportsman. Hold on an instant. Just a word of writing to settle it."

"You dog, is my word not enough?"

"No, Sir John, not by a long way... No, if you hit me I'll yell. Keep your hands off. I tell you I want your signature to it."

"Not a word."

"Very good then. It's finished." Jakes started for the door of the saloon.

"Hold hard! What am I to write?"

"I'll do the writing." He turned to the little alcove where Lucy, who was accustomed to every sort of wrangling and argument, was dozing among her bottles.

"Here, my dear; wake up! I want pen and ink."

"Yes, sir."

"And paper?"

"There is a billhead. Will that do? Dearie me, it's marked with wine!"

"Never mind; that will do."

Jakes seated himself at a table and scribbled while Hawker watched him with eyes of death. Jakes walked over to him with the scrawl completed. Hawker read it over in a low mutter:

"'In consideration of your silence—'" He paused and glared.

"Well, that's true, ain't it? You don't give me half for the love of William J akes, Esquire, do you now?"

"Curse you, Jakes! Curse you to hell!"

" Let it. out. my noble sportsman. Let it out or you'll bust. Curse me again. Then sign that paper."

"'The sum of three thousand pounds, to be paid on the date when there is a settlement between me and Sir Charles Trevor.' Well, give me the pen and have done. There! Now give me that card."

Jakes had thrust the signed paper into his inner pocket.

"Give me the card, I say!"

"When the money is paid, Sir John. That's only fair."

"You devil!"

"Can't find the right word, can you? It'll not been invented yet, I expect."

Jakes may have been very near his death at that moment. The furious passions of the bully had reached a point when even his fears of exposure could hardly hold him in check. But the saloon door had swung open and Cribb entered the room. He looked with surprise at the ill-assorted couple.

"Now, Mr. Jakes, time is up, you know. You've passed your hours."

"I know, Tom, but I had an important settling-up with Sir John Hawker. Had I not, Sir John?"

"You've missed the first bout, Sir John. Come and see Jack Randall take a novice."

Hawker took a last scowl at the book-maker and followed the champion into the saloon. Jakes gathered up his papers into his professional bag and went across to the little bar.

"A double brandy, my dear," said he to Lucy. "I've had a good evening, but it's been a bit of a strain upon my nerves."

II

IT WAS late in September that the grand old ancestral oaks of Selincourt were given over to the contractor, and that their owner, having at last a large balance at his bankers', was able to redeem the more pressing of his debts. It was only a day later that Sir John Hawker, with Sir Charles' note of hand for six thousand pounds in his pocket, found himself riding down the highroad at Six-Mile Bottom near Newmarket. His mount was a great black stallion as powerful and sinister as himself. He was brooding over his own rather precarious affairs, which involved every shilling which he could raise, when there was the click of hoofs beside him and there was Billy Jakes upon his well-known chestnut cob.

"Good evening, my noble sportsman," said he. "I was looking out for you at the stables, and when I saw you ride away, I thought it was time to come after you. I want my settlement, Sir John."

"What settlement? What are you talking of?"

"Your written promise to pay three thousand. I know you have had your money."

"I don' t know what you are talking about. Keep clear of me or you will get a cut or two from this hunting crop."

"Oh, that's the game, is it? We will see about that. Do you deny your signature upon this paper?"

"Have you the paper on you?"

"What's that to you?"

"It was not wise, Billy Jakes, to trust yourself alone upon a country road with one of the most dangerous men in England. For once your cupidity has been greater than your shrewdness."

A quick glance of those deadly, dark eyes to right and to left, and then the heavy hunting crop came down with a crash upon the bookmaker's head. With a cry, he dropped from the cob, and he had hardly reached the ground before the Devil had sprung from the saddle, and, with his left arm through his bridle rein to hold down his plunging horse, he was rapidly running his right hand through the pockets of the protrate man. With a bitter curse, he realised that however imprudent Jakes had been, he had not been such a fool as to carry his papers about with him.

Hawker rose, looked down at his half-conscious enemy, and then slowly drew his spur across his face. A moment later he had sprung into his saddle and was on his way London-wards, leaving the sprawling and bleedIng figure in the dust of the highway. He laughed with exultation as he rode, for vengeance was sweet to him, and he seldom missed it. What could Jakes do? If he took him into the criminal courts, it was only such an assault as was common enough in those days of vlolence. If, on the other hand, he pursued the matter of the card and the agreement, it was an old story now, and who would take the word of the notorious bookmaker against that of one of the best-known men in London! Of course, it was a case of forgery and blackmail. Hawker looked down at his bloody spur and felt well oontent with his morning's work.

Jakes was raised to his feet by some kindly traveler and was brought back, half-conscious, to Newmarket. There, for three days, he kept his room and nursed both his injuries and his grievance. Upon the fourth day he reached London, and that night he made his way to the Albany and knocked at a door which bore upon a shining brass plate the name or Sir Charles Trevor.

It was the first Tuesday of the month, the day on which the committee of Watier's Club was wont to assemble. Half a dozen of them had sauntered into the great board-room, decorated with heavy canvases on the walla, and with highly polished dark mahogany furniture, which showed up richly against the huge expanse of red Kidderminster carpet. The Duke of Bridgewater, a splendid, rubicund old gentleman, grey-haired but virile, leaning heavily upon an amber-headed cane, came hobbling in and bowed affably to the waiting committee-men.

"How Is the gout, Your Grace?"

"A little sharp at times. But I can still get my foot into the stirrup. Well, well , I suppose we had better get to work." He took his seat in the centre of a half-moon table at one end of the room. Raising his quizzing-glass he looked round him.

"Where is Lord Foley?"

"He is racng, Sir. He will not he here."

"The dog! He takes his duties too lightly. I would rather be on the heath myself."

"I expect we all would."

"Ah, is that you, Lord Rufton?... How are you, Colonel D'Acre!... Bunbury, Scott, Poyntz, Vandeleur, good-day to you! Where is Sir Charles Trevor?"

"He is in the members' room," said Lord Rufton. "He said he would wait Your Grace's pleasure. The fact is that he has a personal interest in a case which comes before us, and he thought he should not have a hand in judging it."

"Ah, very delicate! Very delicate indeed!" The Duke had taken up the agenda paper and stared at it through his glass. "Dear me, dear me! A member accused of cheating at cards! And Sir John Hawker too! One of the best-known men in the club. Too bad! Too bad! Who is the accuser?"

"A bookmaker named Jakes, Your Grace!"

"I know him. Has a stand at Tom Cribb's. A rascal if ever I saw one. However, we must look into it. Who has the matter in hand?"

"I have been asked to attend to it," said Lord Rufton.

"I am not lure," said the Duke, "that we are right in taking notice of what such a fellow says about a member of this club. Surely, the law courts are open."

"I entirely agree with Your Grace," said a solemn man upon the Duke's left. He was General Scott, who was said to live on toast and water, and win ten thousand a year from his more sober companions.

"I would point out to you, sir, that the alleged cheating was at the expense of Sir Charles Trevor, a member of the club. It was not Sir Charles, however, who moved in the matter. There was a violent quarrel between the man Jakes and Sir John Hawker, and this is the result."

"Then the bookmaker has brought the case before us for revenge," said the Duke. "We must move carefully in this matter. I think we had best see Sir Charles first. Call Sir Charles."

The tall red-plushed footman at the door disappeared. A moment later, Sir Charles, dehonair and smiling, stood before the committee.

"Good day, Sir Charles," said the Duke. "This is a very painful business."

"Very, Your Grace."

"I understand from what is on the agenda paper that on May third, of this year, you met Sir John at Cribb's Parlour and you cut cards with him at three thousand pounds a cut."

"A single cut, Your Grace."

"And you lost?"

"Unfortunately."

"Well, now, did you in any way suspect foul play at the time?"

"Not in the least."

"Then you have no charge against Sir John!"

"None on my own behalf. Other people have something to say."

"Well, we can listen to them in their turn. Won' t you take a chair, Sir Charles? Even if you do not vote, there can be no objection to your presence. Is Sir John in attendance?"

"Yes, Sir."

"And the witness?"

"Yes, Sir."

"Well, gentlemen, it is clearly a very serious matter, and I understand that Sir John is a difficult person to deal with. However, we can make no exceptions, and we are numerous enough and have, I trust, sufficient social weight to carry this affair to a conclusion." He ranG for the footman.

"Place a chair in the centre, please! Now tell Sir John Hawker the committee would be honoured if he would step this way."

A moment later the formidable face and figure of the Devil had appeared at the door. With a scowl at the members present, he strode forward, bowed to the Duke, and seated himself opposite the semicircle formed by the committee.

"In the first place, Sir John," said the Duke, "you will allow me to express my regret and that of your fellow members that it should be our unpleasant duty to ask you to appear before us. No doubt the matter will prove to be a mere misunderstanding, but we felt that it was due to your own reputation as well as to that of the club that no time should be lost In setting the matter right."

"Your Crace," said Hawker, leaning forward and emphasising his remarks with his clenched hand, "I protest strongly against these proceedings. I have come here because it shall never be said that I was shy of meeting any charge, however preposterous. But I would put it to you, gentlemen, that no man's reputation is safe if the committee of his club is prepared to take up any vague slander that may circulate against him."

"Kindly read the terms of the charge, Lord Rufton."

"The assertion is," he read, "that at ten o'clock on the night of Thursday, May third, in the parlour of Tom Cribb'a house, the Union Arms, Sir John Hawker did, by means of marked cards, win money from Sir Charles Trevor, both being members of Watier's Club."

Hawker sprang from his chair. "It is a lie—a damned lie!" he cried.

The Duke held up a deprecating hand. "No doubt—no doubt. I think, however, Sir John, that you can hardly describe it as a vague slander."

"It is monstrous! What is to prevent such a charge being leveled at Your Grace? How would you like, sir, to be dragged up before your fellow members?"

"Excuse me, Sir John," said the Duke urbanely. "The question at present is not what might be preferred against me, but what actually is preferred against you. You will, I am sure, appreciate the distinction. What do you propose, Lord Rufton?"

"It is my unpleaeant duty, Sir John," said Lord Rufton, "to array the evidence before the committee. You will , I am sure, acquit me of any personal feeling in the matter."

"I look on you, sir, as a damned mischievous busybody."

The Duke put up his pudgy many-ringed hand in protest.

"I am afraid, Sir John, that I must ask you to be more guarded in your language. To me, it is immaterial, but I happen to know that General Scott has an objection to swearing. Lord Rufton is merely doing his duty in presenting the case."

Hawker shrugged his broad shoulders.

"I protest against the whole proceedings," he said.

"Your protest will be duly entered in the minutes. We have heard, before you entered, the evidence of Sir Charles Trevor. He has no personal complaint. So far as I can see, there is no case."

"Ha! Your Grace is a man of sense. Was ever an indignity put upon a man or honor on so small a pretext?"

"There is further evidence, Your Grace," said Lord Rufton. "I will call Mr. William Jakes."

At a summons the gorgeous footman swung open the massive door and Jakes was ushered in. It was a month or more since the assault, but the spur mark still shone red across his sallow cheek. He held hie cloth cap in his hand, and rounded his back as a tribute to the oompany, but his cunning little eyes, from under their ginger lashes, twinkled knowingly, not to say impudently, as ever.

"You are William Jakes, the bookmaker? " said the Duke.

"The greatest rascal in London," interpolated Hawker.

"There is one greater within three yards of me," the little man snarled. Then, turning to the Duke: "I'm William Jakes, Your Worship, known as Billy Jakes at Tattersall's. If you want to back a horse, Your WorshIp, or care to buy a game-cock or a ratter, you'll get the best price—"

"Silence, sir," said Lord Rufton. "Advance to this chair."

"Certainly, my noble sportsman."

"Don't sit. Stand beside it."

"At your servlce, gentlemen."

"Shall I cross-examine, Your Grace?"

"I understand, Jakes, that you were In Cribb's back parlour on the night of May third of this year?"

"Lord bless you, Sir, I 'm there every night. It's where I meet my noble Corinthians."

"It is a sporting house, I understand."

"Well, my lord, I can't teach you much about it." There was a titter from the committee, and the Duke broke in.

"I dare say we have all enjoyed Tom's hospitality at one time or another," he said.

"Yes, indeed, Your Grace. Well I remember the night when you danced on the crossed 'baccy pipes."

"Keep your witness to the point," said the smiling Duke.

"Tell us now what you saw pass between Sir John Hawker and Sir Charles Trevor."

"I saall there was to see, You can trust little Billy Jakes for that. There was to be a cutting game. Sir John reached out for the cards, which lay on another table. I had seen him look over those cards in advance and turn the end of one or two with his thumb nail."

"You liar!" cried Si r John.

"It's an easy trick to mark them so that none can see. I've done—I know another man that can do it. You must keep your right thumb nail long and sharp. Well, look at Sir John's now."

Hawker sprang from his chair. "Your Grace, am I to be exposed to these insults?"

"Sit down, Sir John. Your indignation is most natural. I suppose it is not a fact that your right thumb-nail—"

"Certainly not!"

"Ask to see!" cried Jakes.

"Perhaps you would not mind showing your nail?"

"I will do nothing of the kind."

"Of course you are quite within your rights in refusing—quite," said the Duke. "Whether your refusal might in any way prejudice your case is a point which you have no doubt considered... Pray continue, Jakes."

"Well, they cut and Sir John won. When be turned his back, I got the winning card, and saw that it was marked. I showed it to Sir John when we were alone."

"What did he say?"

"Well, my lord, I wouldn't like to repeat before such select company as this some of the things he laid. He carried on shocking. But after a bit he saw the game was up and he consented to my having half shares."

"Then," said the Duke, "you became, by your own admission, the compounder of a felony."

Jakes gave a comical grimace.

"No breaks here! This ain't a court, is it? Just a private house, as one might say, with one gentleman chatting easylike with other ones. Well, then, that's just what I did do."

The Duke shrugged hie shoulders. "Really, Lord Rufton, I do not see how we can attach any importance to the word of such a witness. On his own confession he is a perfect rascal."

"Your Grace, I'm surprised at you!"

"I would not condemn any man—far less the member of an honorable club—on this man's word."

"I quite agree. Your Grace," said Rufton. "There are, however, some corroborative documents."

"Yes, my noble sportsmen," cried Jake in a sort of ecstasy, "there's lots more to come. Billy's got a bit up his sleeve for a finish. How's that?" He pulled a pack of cards from his pocket and singled one out. "That's the pack. Look at the ace. You can see the mark yet."

The Duke examined the card. "There is certainly a mark," he said, "which might well be made by a sharpened nail."

Sir John was up once more, his face dark with wrath.

" Really, gentlemen, there should be some limit to this foolery. Of course these are the cards. Is it not obvious that after Sir Charles and I had left, this fellow gathered them up and marked them so as to put forward a blackmailing demand? I only—I only wonder that he has not forged some document to prove that I admitted this monstrous charge."

Jakes threw up his hands in admiration.

"By George, you have a nerve! I always said it. Give me Devil Hawker for nerve. Grasp the nettle, eh? Here's the document he talks about." He handed a paper to Lord Rufton.

"Would you be pleased to read it?" said the Duke.

Rufton read: "'In consideration of services rendered, I promise William Jakes three thousand pounds when I settle with Sir Charles Trevor. Signed, John Hawke.'"

"A palpable forgery! I guessed as much, cried Sir John.

"Who knows Sir John's signature?"

"I do," said Sir Charles Sunbury,

"Is that it?"

"Well, I should say so."

"Tut, the fellow is a born forger!" cried Hawker.

The Duke looked at the back of the paper, and read: "'To Thomas Cribb, Licensed Dealer in Beer, Wine, Spirits and Tobacco.' It is certainly paper from the room alluded to."

"He could help himself to that."

"Exactly. The evidence is by no means convincing. At the same time, Sir John, I am compelled to tell you that the way in which you anticipated the evidence has produced a very unpleasant impression in my mind."

"I knew what the fellow was capable of."

"Do you admit being intimate with him?"

"Certainly not."

"You had nothing to do with him?"

"I had occasion recently to horsewhip him for insolence. Hence this charge against me."

"You knew him very slightly?"

"Hardly at all."

"You did not correspond!"

"Certainly not."

"Strange, then, that he should have been able to copy your signature if he had no letter of yours."

"I know nothing of that."

"You quarreled with him recently?"

"Yes, sir. He was impertinent and I beat him."

"Had you any reason to think you would quarrel?"

"No, sir."

"Does it not seem strange to you then that he should have been keeping the cards all these weeks to buttress up a false charge againt you, if he had no idea that an occasion for such a charge would ever arise?"

"I cannot answer for his actions," said Hawker in a sullen voice.

"Of course not. At the same time I am forced to repeat, Sir John, that your anticipatlon of this document has seemed to me exactly what might be expected from a man of strong character who knew that such a document existed."

"I am not responsible for this man's assertions, nor can I control Your Grace's speculations, save to say that so far as they threaten my honour, they are contemptible and absurd. I place my case in the bands of the committee. You know, or can easily learn, the character of this man Jakes. Is it possible that you can hesitate between the words of such a man and the character of one who has for years been a fellow member of this club?"

"I am bound to say, Your Grace," said Sir Charles Dunbury, "that, while I associate myself with every remark which has fallen from you, I am still of the opinion that the evidence is of so corrupt a character that it would be impossible for us to take action upon it."

"That is also my opinion," came from several of the committee, and there was a general murmur of acquiescence.

"I thank you, gentlemen," said Hawker, rising. "With your permission, I shall bring this sitting to an end."

"Excuse me, sir; there are two more witnesses," said Lord Rufton.

"Jakes, you can withdraw. Leave the documents with me."

"Thank you, my lord. Good-day, my noble sportsmen. Should any of you want a cock or a terrier—"

"That will do. Leave the room." With many bows and backward glances, William Jakes vanished frum the scene.

"I should like to ask Tom Cribb one or two questions," said Lord Rufton. "Call Tom Cribb."

A moment later the burly figure of the champion came heavily into the room. He was dressed exactiy like the pictures of John Bull, with blue coat with shining brass buttons, drab trousers and top-boots, while his face, in its broad, bovine serenity, was also the very image of the national prototype. On his head he wore a low-crowned, curly-brimmed hat, which he now whipped off and stuffed under his arm. The worthy Tom was much more alarmed than ever he had been in the ring, and looked helplessly about him like a bull who finds himself in a strange enclosure.

"My respects, gentlemen all!" he repeated several times, touching his forelock.

"Good morning, Tom," said the Duke affably. "Take that chair. How are you?"

"Damned hot, Your Grace. That is to say, very warm. You see, sir, I do my own marketing these days, and when you've been down to Covent Oarden and then on to Smithfield, and then trudge back here, and you two stone above your fighting weight—"

"We quite understand. The chief steward will see to you presently."

"I want to ask you, Tom," said Lord Rufton, "do you remember the evening of May third last in your parlour?"

"I heard there was some barney about it, and I've been lookin' it up," said Tom. "Yes, I remember it well, for it was the night when a novice had the better of old Ben Burn. Lor', I couldn't but laugh. Old Ben got one on the mark in the first round, and before he could get his wind—"

"Never mind, Tom. We'll have that later. Do you recognise these cards?"

"Why, those cards are out of my parlour. I get them a dozen at a time, a shllhng each, from Ned Summers of Oxford Street; the same what—"

"Well, that's settled then. Now, do you remember seeing Sir John here and Sir Charles Trevor that evening!"

"Yes, I do. I remember saying to Sir John that he must play light with my novices, for there was one cove, Bill Summers hy name, out of Norwich, and when Sir John—"

"Never mind that, Tom, Tell us, now, did you see Sir John and the bookmaker, Jakes, together that night? "

"Jakes was there, for he says to the girl in the bar, 'How much money have you, my lass?' And I said, 'You dirty dog—'"

"Enough, Tom. Did you see the man Jakes and Sir John together?"

"Yes, sir; when I came into the parlour after the bout between Shelton and Scroggins. I saw the two of them alone, and Jakes, he said that they had done business together. "

"Did they seem friendly?"

"Well, now you ask it, Sir John didn't seem too pleased. But, Lord love you, I'm that busy those evenings that if you dropped a shot on my head I'd hardly notice it."

"Nothing more to tell us?"

"I don't know as I have. I'd be glad to get back to my bar."

"Very good, Tom. You can go."

"I'd just remind you gentlemen that it's my benefit at the Five Court, St. Martin's Lane, come Tuesday week." Tom bobbed hill bullet-head many times and departed.

"Not much in all that," remarked the Duke. "Does that finish the case?"

"There is one more, Your Grace. Call the girl Lucy. She is the girl of the private bar."

"Yes, yes, I remember," cried the Duke. "That is to say, by akk means. What does this young person know ahout it?"

"I believe that she was present." As Lord Rftton spoke, Lucy, very nervous, but cheered by the knowledge that she was in her best Sunday clothes, appeared at the door.

"Don't be nervous, my girl. Take this chair," laid Lord Rufton kindly. "Don't keep on curtsying. St down."

The girl sat timidly on the edge of the chair. Suddenly her eyes caught those of the august chairman.

"Why, Lord bless me!" she said. "It's the little Duke!"

"Hush, my girl, hush"" His Grace held up a warning hand.

"Well, I never!" cried Lucy, and began to giggle and hide her blushing face In her handkerchief.

"Now, now!" said the Duke. "This is a grave business! What are you laughing at?"

"I couldn't help it, sir. I was thinking of that evening down in the private bar when you bet you could walk a chalk line with a bottle of champarne on your head."

There was a general laugh, in which the Duke joined.

"I fear, gentlemen , I must have had a couple in my head before 1 ventured such a feat. Now, my good girl, we did not ask you here for the sake of your reminiscences. You may have seen some of us unbending: but we will let that pass... You were in the bar on May the third?"

"I'm always there."

"Cast your mind back and recall the evening when Sir Charles Trevor and Sir John Hawker proposed to cut cards for money."

"I remember it well, sir."

"After the others had left the bar, Sir John and a man named Jakes are said to have remained behind."

"I saw them."

"It's a lie! It's a plotl" cried Hawker.

"Now, Sir John, I must really beg you!" It was the Duke who was cross-questioning now. "Describe to us what you saw."

"Well, sir, they began talking over a pack of cards. Sir John up with his hand, and I was about to call for West Country Dick—he's the chucker-out you know, sir, at the Union Arms—but no blow passed and they talked very earnest-like for a time. Then Mr. Jakes called for paper and wrote something, and that's all I know except that Sir John seemed very upset."

"Did you ever see that piece of paper before?" The Duke held it up.

"Why, air. it looks like Mr. Cribb's bill-head."

"Exactly. Was It a piece like that which you gave to these gentlemen that night!"

"Yes, sir."

"Could you distinguish it?"

" Why, sir, now that I come to think of it, I could."

Hawker sprang up with a convulsed face. "I've had enough of this nonsense. I'm going."

"No, no; Sir John. Sit down again. Your honour demands Your presence... Well, my good girl, you say you could recognise it?"

"Yes, sir, I could. There was a mark, sir. I drew some burgundy for Sir Charles, sir, and some slopped on the counter. The paper Wall marked with It on the aide. I was in doubt if I should give them so soiled a piece."

The Duke looked very grave. "Gentlemen, this is a serious matter. There is, as you see, a red stain upon the side of the paper. Have you any remark to make, Sir John?"

"A conspiracy, Your Grace! An infernal, devilish plot against a gentleman's honour."

"Vou may go, Lucy." said Lord Rufton, and with curtsies and giggles, the barmaid disappeared.

"You have heard the evidence, gentlemen," said the Duke. "Some of you may know the character of this girl, which is by all accounts excellent."

"A drab out of the gutter!"

"I think not, Sir John; nor do you improve your poaition by such assertions. You will each have your own impression as to how far the girl's account seemed honest and carried conviction with it. You will observe that had she merely intended to injure Sir John, her obvious method would have been to have said she overheard the conversation detailed by the witness, Jakes. This she has not done. Her account, however, tends to corroborate—"

"Your Grace," cried Hawker, "I have had enough of this!"

"We shall not detain you much longer, Sir John Hawker," said the chairman, "but for that limited time we must insist upon your presence."

"Insist, sir!"

"Yes, sir, insist."

"This is strange talk."

"Be seated, sir. This matter must go to a finish."

"Well!" Hawker fell back into his chair.

"Gentlemen," said the Duke, "Slips of paper are before you. After the custom of the club, you will kindly record your opinion and hand to me. Mr. Poyntz? I thank you. Vandeleur! Bunbury! Hurton! General Scott! Colonel Turton! I thank you."

He exminded the papers. "Exactly. You are unanimous! I may say that I entirely agree with your opinion." The Duke's rosy kindly face had set as hard as flint.

"What am I to understand by this, sir" cried Hawker.

"Bring the club book," said the Duke. Lord Rufton carried across a large brown volume from the side-table and opened it before the chairman.

"C, D, E, F, G—Ah, here we are—H. Let us see! Houston, Harcourt, Hume, Duke of Hamilton I have it—Hawker. Sir John Hawker, your name is forever erased from the book of Watier'a Club."

He drew the pen across the page as he spoke. Hawker sprang frantically to his feet.

"You cannot mean it! Consider, sir; this is social ruin! Where shall I show my face if I am cast from my c1ub? I could not walk the streets of London. Take it back, sir! Reconsider it!"

"Sir John Hawker, "we can only refer you to Rule 19. It says: 'If any member shall be guilty of conduct unworthy of an honourable man, and the said offense be established to the unanimous satisfaction of the committee, then the aforesaid member shall be expelled the club without appeal.'"

"Gentlemen," cried Hawker, "I beg you not to be precipitate! You have had the evidence of a rascal bookmaker and of a serving wench. Is that enough to ruin a gentleman's life? I am undone if this goes through."

"The matter has been considered and is now in order. We can only refer you to Rule 19."

"Your Grace, you cannot know what this will mean. How can I Iive? Where can I go? I never asked mercy of man bfore. But I ask it now. I implore it, gentlemen. Reconsider your decision!"

"Rule 19."

"It is ruin, I tell you—disgrace and ruin!"

"Rule 19."

"Let me resign. Do not expel me."

"Rule 19."

It was hopeless, and Hawker knew it. He strode in front of the table.

"Curse your rules! Curse you, too, you silly, babbling jackanapes. Curse you all—you, Vandeleur, and you, Poyntz, and you, Scott, you doddering toast-and-water gamester. You will live to mourn the day you put this indignity upon me. You will answer it—every man of you! I'll set my mark on you. By the Lord I will! You first, Rufton. One by one, I'II weed you out! I've a bullet for each. I'll number 'em!"

"Sir John Hawker," said the Duke, "this club is for the use of members only. May I ask you to take yourself out of it?"

"And if I don't—what then?"

The Duke turned to General Scott. "Will you ask the hall porters to step up?"

"There! I'll go!" yelled Hawker. "I will not be thrown out—the laughing stock of Jermyn Street. But you will hear more, gentlemen. You will remember me yet. Rascals! Rascals everyone!"

And so it was, raving and stamping, with his clenched hands waving above his head, that Devil Hawker passed out from Watier's Club and from the social life of London.

For it was his end. In vain he sent furious challenges to the members of the committee. He was outside the pale, and no one would condescend to meet him. In vain he thrashed Sir Charles Bunbury in front of Limmer's Hotel. Hired ruffians were put upon his track and he was terribly thrashed in return. Even the bookmakers would have no more to do with him, and he was warned off the turf. Down he sank, and down, drinking to uphold his spirits until he was but a bloated wreck of the man that he had been.

And so, at last, one morning in his rooms in Charles Street, that dueling pistol which had so often been the instrument of his vengeance was turned upon himself, and that dark face, terrible even in death, was found outlined against a blood-sodden pillow in the morning.

So put the print back among the pile. You may be the better for having honest Tom Cribb upon your wall, or even the effeminate Brummell. But Devil Hawker never, in life or deat, brought luck to anyone. Leave him there where you found him, In the dusty old shop of Drury Lane.




BATTLE BY MOONLIGHT

Published posthumously in Argosy, Mar 1943

TEXT NOT AVAILABLE



THE HAUNTED GRANGE OF GORESTHORPE

Arthur Conan Doyle submitted this story to Blackwood's Magazine, Edinburgh, in the late 1870s. It was not published, and the manuscript remained in Blackwood's archives, which were presented to The National Library of Scotland in 1942.

Doyle also used the name Goresthorpe Grange in the story, "Selecting A Ghost," which appeared in London Society in December 1883.

The original story is now available on line in The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia.

LOOKING back now at the events of my life that one dreadful night looms out like some great landmark. Even now, after the lapse of so many years, I cannot think of it without a shudder. All minor incidents and events I mentally classify as occurring before or after the time when I saw a Ghost.

Yes, saw a ghost. Don't be incredulous, reader, don't sneer at the phrase; though I can't blame you for I was incredulous enough myself once. However hear the facts of my story before you pass a judgment.

The old Grange used to stand on my estate of Goresthorpe in Norfolk. It has been pulled down now, but it stood there when Tom Hulton came to visit me in 184-. It was a tumbledown old pile at the meeting of the Morsely and Alton roads where the new turn-pike stands now. The garden round had long been choked up by a rank growth of weeds, while pools of stagnant water and the accumulated garbage of the whole village poisoned the air around. It was a dreary place by day and an eerie one by night, for strange stories were told of the Grange, sounds were said to have come from those weather-beaten walls, such as mortal lips never uttered, and the elders of the village still spoke of one, Job Garston by name, who thirty years before had had the temerity to sleep inside, and who had been led out in the morning, a whitehaired broken man.

I used, I remember, to ascribe all this to the influence of the weird gaunt old building upon their untutored minds, and moralized upon the effects of a liberal education in removing such mental weaknesses. I alone knew however that the Grange had certainly, as far as foul crime was concerned, as orthodox a title to be haunted as any building on record. The last tenant as I discovered from my family papers was a certain Godfrey Marsden, a villain of the first water. He lived there about the middle of last century and was a byeword of ferocity and brutality throughout the whole countryside. Finally he consummated his many crimes by horribly hacking his two young children to death and strangling their mother. In the confusion of the Pretender's march into England, justice was laxly administered, and Marsden succeeded in escaping to the continent where all trace of him was lost. There was a rumour indeed among his creditors, the only ones who regretted him, that remorse had led him to commit suicide, and that his body had been washed up on the French Coast, but those who knew him best laughed at the idea of anything so intangible having an effect upon so hardened a ruffian. Since his day the Grange had been untenanted and had been suffered to fall into the state of disrepair in which it then was.

Tom Hulton was an old college chum of mine, and right glad I was to see his honest face beneath my roof. He brightened the whole house, Tom did, for a more good humoured hearty reckless fellow never breathed. His only fault was that he had acquired a strange speculative way of thinking from his German education, and this led to continual arguments between us, for I had been trained as a medical student and looked at things therefore from an eminently practical point of view. That evening, I remember, the first after his arrival, we glided from one argument into another but all with the greatest good humour and invariably without coming to any conclusion.

I forget how the question of ghosts arose; at any rate there we were, Tom Hulton and I, at midnight in the depths of a debate about spirits and spiritualism. Tom, when he argued was wont to produce a certain large briar root pipe of his, and by this time he was surrounded by a dense wreath of smoke, from the midst of which his voice issued like the oracle of Delphi, while his stalwart figure loomed through the haze.

'I tell you, Jack,' he was saying, 'that mankind may be divided into two classes, the men who profess not to believe in Ghosts and are mortally afraid of them, and the men who admit at least the possibility of their existence and would go out of their way to see one. Now I don't scruple to acknowledge that I am one of the latter school. Of course, Jack, I know that you are one of these "credo-quod-tango" medicals, who walk in the narrow path of certain fact, and quite right too in such a profession as yours; but I have always had a strange leaning towards the unseen and supernatural, especially in this matter of the existence of ghosts. Don't think though that I am such a fool as to believe in the orthodox spectre with his curse, and his chain warranted to rattle, and his shady retreat down some back stairs, or in the cellar; no, nothing of that sort.'

'Well, Tom, let's hear your idea of a creditable ghost.'

'It's not such an easy matter, you see, to explain it to another, even though I can define it in my own mind well enough. You and I both hold, Jack, that when a man dies he has done with all the cares and troubles of this world, and is for the future, be it one of joy or sorrow, a pure and ethereal spirit. Well now, what I feel is that it is possible for a man to be hurried out of this world with a soul as impregnated with some one all-absorbing passion, that it clings to him even after he has passed the portals of the grave. Now,' continued Tom, impressively waving his pipe from side to side through the cloud that surrounded him, 'love or patriotism or some other pure and elevating passion, might well be entertained by one who is but a spirit, but it is different, I fancy, with such grosser feelings as hatred or revenge. These one could imagine, even after death, clogging the poor soul so that it must still inhabit that coarse clay which is most fitted to the coarse passions which absorb it; and thus I would account for the unexplained and unexplainable things which have happened even in our own time, and for the deeply rooted belief in Ghosts which exists, smother it as we may, in every breast, and which has existed in every age.'

'You may be right, Tom,' said I, 'but as you say "quod tango credo" and as I never saw any of your "impregnated spirits" I must beg leave to doubt their existence.'

'It's very easy to laugh at the matter,' answered Tom, 'but there are few facts in this world which have not been laughed at, sometime or another. Tell me this, Jack, did you ever try to see a ghost? Did you ever go upon a ghost hunt, my boy?'

'Well I can't say I ever did,' said I, 'did you?'

'I'm on one just now, Jack,' said he, and then sat puffing at his pipe for some time. 'Look here,' he continued, 'I've heard you talk of some old manor or Grange you have down here, which is said to be haunted. Now I want you to lend me the key of that, and I'll take up my quarters there tomorrow night. How long is it since anyone slept in it, Jack?'

'For heaven's sake, don't think of doing such a foolhardy thing,' I exclaimed. 'Why only one man has slept in Goresthorpe Grange during a hundred years, and he went mad to my certain knowledge!'

'Ha! that sounds promising, very promising,' cried Tom in high delight. 'Now just observe the thick headedness of the British public, yourself included, Jack. You won't believe in ghosts, and you won't go and look where a ghost is said to be found. Now suppose there was said to be white crows or some other natural curiosity in Yorkshire, and someone assured you that there was not, because he had been all through Wales without seeing one, you would naturally consider the man an idiot. Well, doesn't the same apply to you if you refuse to go to the Grange and settle the question for yourself once for all?'

'If you go tomorrow, I shall certainly go too,' I returned, 'if only to prevent your coming home with some cock and bull story about an impregnated spirit, so good night, Tom,' and with that we separated.

I confess that in the morning I began to feel that I had been slightly imprudent in aiding and abetting Tom in his ridiculous expedition. 'It's that confounded Irish whisky,' thought I. 'I always put my foot into it after the third glass, however perhaps Tom has thought better of it too by this time.' In that expectation however I was woefully disappointed, for Tom swore he had been awake all night planning and preparing everything for the evening.

'We're bound to take pistols you know, old boy; those are always taken; then there are our pipes and a couple of ounces of bird's-eye, and our rugs, and a bottle of whisky, nothing else, I think. By Jove, I do believe we'll unearth a ghost tonight!'

'Heaven forbid!' I mentally ejaculated but as there was no way out of it I pretended to be as enthusiastic in the business as Tom himself.

All day Tom was in a state of the wildest excitement, and as evening fell we both walked over to the old Grange of Goresthorpe. There it stood cold, bleak and desolate as ever with the wind howling past it. Great strips of ivy which had lost their hold upon the walls swayed and tossed in the wind like the plumes of a hearse. How comfortable the lights in the village seemed to my eyes as we turned the key in the rusty lock, and having lit a candle began to walk down the stoneflagged dusty hall!

'Here we are!' said Tom, throwing a door open and disclosing a large dingy room.

'Not there for Goodness' sake,' said I, 'let's find a small room where we can light a fire and be sure at a glance that we are the only people in it.'

'All right, old fellow,' answered Tom laughing. 'I did a little exploring today on my own hook and know the place pretty well. I've got just the article to suit you at the other end of the house.'

He took up the candle again as he spoke and having shut the door he led me from one passage to another through the rambling old building. We came at last to a long corridor running the whole length of one wing of the house, which certainly had a very ghostly appearance. One wall was entirely solid, while the other had openings for windows let in at every three or four paces, so that when the moon shone in the dark passage was flecked every here and there with patches of white light. Near the end of it was a door which led into a small room, cleaner and more modern looking than the rest of the house, and with a large fireplace opposite the entrance. It was hung with dark red curtains, and when we had got our fire ablaze it certainly looked more comfortable than I had ever dared to expect. Tom seemed unutterably disgusted and discontented by the result; 'Call this a haunted house,' he said, 'why we might as well sit up in a hotel and expect to see a ghost! This isn't by any means the sort of thing I have been looking forward to.' It was not until the briar had been twice replenished that he began to recover his usual equanimity of temper.

Perhaps it was our curious surroundings which flavoured the bird's-eye and mellowed the whisky, and our own suppressed excitement which gave zest to the conversation. Certainly a pleasanter evening neither of us ever spent.

Outside the wind was howling and screaming, tossing the trailing ivy in the air. The moon shone out fitfully from between the dark clouds which drifted across the sky, and the measured patter of the rain was heard upon the slates above us.

'The roof may leak, but it can't get at us,' said Tom, 'for there's a little bedroom above our heads with a very good floor too. Shouldn't be surprised if it's the very room where those youngsters were cut up by that model father of theirs. Well it's nearly twelve o'clock, and if we are going to see anything at all, we ought to see it before very long. By Jove, what a chill wind comes through that door! I remember feeling like this when I was waiting outside before going in for my oral exam at college. You look excited too, old boy.'

'Hush, Tom, didn't you hear a noise in the corridor?'

'Hang the noise,' said Tom, 'pass me over a fusee old boy.'

'I'll swear I heard a heavy door slamming,' I insisted. 'I'll tell you what, Tom, I feel as if your ambition was going to be realized tonight and I'm not ashamed to say that I'm heartily sorry I came with you on such a foolhardy errand.'

'Dash it all,' said Tom, 'it's no use funking it now—By Jove, what's that?'

It was a gentle pit pat pit pat in the room and close to Tom's elbow. We both sprang to our feet, and then Tom burst into a roar of laughter. 'Why, Jack,' he said, 'you're making a regular old woman of me; it's only the rain that has got in after all and is dropping on that bit of loose paper on the wall yonder. What fools we were to be frightened! Why here's the very place it dropped-'

'Good God!' I cried, 'what is the matter with you, Tom?' His face had changed to a livid hue, his eyes were fixed and staring, and his lips parted in horror and astonishment.

'Look!' he almost screamed, 'look!' and he held up the piece of paper which had been hanging from the mildewed wall. Great heaven! it was all freckled and spotted with gouts of still liquid blood. Even as we stood gazing at it, another drop fell upon the floor with a dull splash. Both our pale faces were turned upwards tracing the course of this horrible shower. We could discern a small crack in the cornice, and through this as through a wound in human flesh the blood seemed to well. Another drop fell, and yet another, as we stood gazing spellbound.

'Come away, Tom, come away!' I cried at last, unable to bear it longer. 'Come! God's curse is on the place.' I seized him by the shoulder as I spoke and turned towards the door.

'By God, I won't,' cried Tom fiercely, shaking off my grasp, 'come up with me, Jack, and get to the bottom of the matter. There may be some villainy here. Hang it, man, don't be cowed by a drop or two of blood! Don't try to stop me! I shall go'; and he pushed past me and dashed into the corridor.

What a moment that was! If I should live to be a hundred I could never shake off my vivid remembrance of it. Outside the wind was still howling past the windows, while an occasional flash of lightning illuminated the old Grange. Within there was no sound save the creaking of the door as it was thrown back and the gentle pit pat of that ghastly shower from above. Then Tom tottered back into the room and grasped me by the arm. 'Let us stick together, Jack,' he said in an awestruck whisper. 'There's something coming up the corridor!'

A horrible fascination led us to the door, and we peered together down the long and dark passage. One side was, as I have said, pierced by numerous openings through which the moonlight streamed throwing little patches of light upon the dark floor. Far down the passage we could see that something was obscuring first one of these bright spots, then the next, then another. It vanished in the gloom, then it reappeared where the next window cast its light, then it vanished again. It was coming rapidly towards us. Now it was only four windows from us, now three, now two, one, and then the figure of a man emerged into the glare of light which burst from our open door. He was running rapidly and vanished into the gloom on the other side of us. His dress was old fashioned and dishevelled, what seemed to be long dark ribbons hung down among his hair, on each side of his swarthy face. But that face itself—when shall I ever forget it? As he ran he kept it half turned back, as if expecting some pursuer, and his countenance expressed such a degree of hopeless despair, and of dreadful fear, that, frightened as I was, my heart bled for him. As we followed the direction of his horror stricken gaze we saw that he had indeed a pursuer. As before we could trace the dark shadow flitting over the white flecks of moonlight, as before it emerged into the circle of light thrown by our candles and fire. It was a beautiful and stately lady, a woman perhaps eight and twenty years of age, with the low dress and gorgeous train of last century. Beneath her lovely chin we both remarked upon one side of the neck four small dark spots, and on the other side one larger one. She swept by us, looking neither to the right nor left, but with her stony gaze bent upon the spot where the fugitive had vanished. Then she too was lost in the darkness. A minute later as we stood there, still gazing, a horrible shriek, a scream of awful agony, rang out high above the wind and the thunder, and then all was still inside the house.

I don't know how long we both stood there, spellbound, holding on to each other's arms. It must have been some time for the fresh candle was flickering in the socket when Tom, with a shudder, walked rapidly down the passage, still grasping my hand. Without a word we passed out through the mouldering hall door, out into the storm and the rain, over the garden wall, through the silent village and up the avenue. It was not until we were in my comfortable little smoking room, and Tom from sheer force of habit had lit a cigar, that he seemed to recover his equanimity at all.

'Well, Jack,' were the first words he said, 'what do you think of ghosts now?' His next remark was 'Confound it, I've lost the best briar root pipe I ever had, for I'll be hanged before I go back there to fetch it.'

'We have seen a horrible sight,' said I. 'What a face he had, Tom! And those ghastly ribbons hanging from his hair, what were those, Tom?'

'Ribbons! Why, Jack, don't you know seaweed when you see it? And I've seen those dark marks that were on the woman's neck before now, and so have you in your medical studies I have little doubt.'

'Yes,' said I, 'those were the marks of four fingers and a thumb. It was the strangled woman, Tom. God preserve us from ever seeing such a sight again!'

'Amen,' said Tom, and those were the last words we interchanged that night.

In the morning Tom, his mission ended, went down to London, and soon afterwards set sail for the coffee estates of his father in Ceylon. Since then I have lost sight of him. I do not know whether he is alive or dead, but of one thing I am very sure, that if alive he never thinks without a shudder of our terrible night in the haunted Grange of Goresthorpe.


THE END


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