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DAVID WRIGHT O'BRIEN
(WRITING AS DUNCAN FARNSWORTH)

THE GODDESS OF LOVE

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RGL e-Book Cover

First published in Fantastic Adventures, October 1941

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2019
Version Date: 2021-07-04

Produced by Paul Sandery, Matthias Kaether and Roy Glashan

All original content added by RGL is protected by copyright.

Click here for more books by this author



Cover Image

Fantastic Adventures, October 1941, with "The Goddess of Love"


Illustration

Sarndoff watched tensely as the elixir flowed into the girl's body.



"VERY nice!"

Sarndoff laid the newspaper carelessly on the floor beside his comfortable lounge chair and turned his attention back to the clipping he had torn from its pages.


SOCIETY GIRL IN FATAL AUTO CRASH


For a moment Sarndoff's eyes lingered on this headline, relishing its every word. Then they swept on to the news account that followed.


"Marsha Hunter, prominent Westhaven society girl, was killed early this morning when the sports roadster she was driving went out of control on dangerous Black Curve in the Harrow Mountains, five miles from here, and hurtled two hundred feet off the cliff.

"Miss Hunter was returning alone from her father's mountain lodge at approximately 3:30 A.M. when the tragedy occurred. Scarcely fifteen minutes after this, a motorist driving along the same road noticed the shattered guard rail at the cliff edge of the treacherous curve. He immediately informed—"


Sarndoff smiled. He knew the rest of the account almost by heart. Carefully, he folded the clipping and placed it in the breast pocket of his smoking jacket. Then, knocking out the ashes in his pipe, he looked at his watch.

It was almost noon. Yaeng should have been back by now. Irritably, Sarndoff rose and walked over to the window. He stood there, looking down at the gravel roadway leading up to his estate, while his strong slim fingers tattooed impatiently on the window pane.

Sarndoff was a big man, solid and heavy shouldered. His features had a Slavic, almost Mongolian, cast to them. Yet the pince-nez fixed to his hawklike nose, the tailoring of his very expensive clothing, and the aroma of his fine tobacco made a sharp contrast to the rugged brutality of his physique.

Sarndoff was thinking of his all consuming passion for Marsha Hunter—a desire that had inflamed his very soul from the first moment he had set eyes on her over a year ago. And with these thoughts there returned to him the maddening frustration of her coldness toward him. His features hardened, and his eyes narrowed as he recalled that evening a month ago at the Hunt Club when she'd told him of her love for another, and younger, man.

It wasn't part of Sarndoff's ruthless nature to accept this twist of fate. Another man might have shrugged, smiled as best he could, and made the best of it. But Sarndoff, as he faced Marsha there on the veranda of the Hunt Club, had suddenly gone a little insane with the jealousy and rage that engulfed him. He'd stepped forward and grabbed Marsha's slim shoulders cruelly.

"I'll have you, do you understand? I'll have you even if it's in hell!" His eyes blazed madly, and the girl, shocked and terrified at this sudden unmasking of the man, had torn herself from his arms and backed away white-faced.

A sudden loathing had been in her eyes.

"Until this moment—" the girl had begun, "I thought you were—" again she had choked off, and finally blurted. "I loath you, I hate you, do you understand?"

She had been sobbing as she dashed off into the garden. Sarndoff hadn't tried to follow her.

A long black limousine appeared at the entrance to the gravel driveway below him. Sarndoff smiled. Yaeng was back.


MINUTES later, Sarndoff once again reclined in his easy-chair while a short, thin, yellow-skinned man, dressed in the black uniform of a chauffeur, stood before him.

"You accomplished your task very creditably, Yaeng," Sarndoff said. There was the slightest lisp of accent in his voice.

Yaeng smiled, exposing a row of jagged, dirty-brown teeth. He made a slight, obsequious bow.

"Did you encounter any difficulty on your mission?" Sarndoff asked.

"It was very easy for anyone of mechanical ability," Yaeng answered. His tone was totally without inflection. High and almost metallic. "An adjustment in the steering mechanism, an equally simple operation on the brakes, and the result was made certain."

"It is already in the newspapers," Sarndoff said. "Doubtless you have seen them?"

Yaeng nodded, rubbing a claw-like hand over his bald head.

"I observed as much."

Sarndoff reached for his tobacco humidor and began to fill his pipe.

"Our most important work lies ahead of us, however," he reminded the little yellow man. "And we must wait a week until we can safely begin that."

Yaeng smiled dirty-brown again.

"I am eager to begin."

Sarndoff struck a match and applied it to his pipe. Between puffs, he said:

"You may go, now. And, incidentally, I think it only fitting that we send a telegram of condolence to Miss Hunter's bereaved parents."

Yaeng's dirty-brown grin widened.

"I shall see that it is done," he promised. He bowed once more, turned, and left the room. Sarndoff sat there smiling. A week should be sufficient time. The funeral would be over by then, and there would, of course, be no suspicion.


THE ground was rather hard, and the shovel with which Yaeng toiled clicked metallically as it struck occasional bits of rock.

"Careful, you fool," Sarndoff hissed. He stood behind one of the two cloth-swathed lanterns at the head of the grave. "Do you want to have the caretaker down on us?"

Yaeng, waist deep in the grave pit, wiped the sweat from his yellow skull and wordlessly resumed his digging. Sarndoff drummed his slim, sinewy fingers on the edge of the large marble headstone, his thick lips pressing hard together in impatience. Now and then he peered nervously through the gloomy darkness of the cemetery.

Many minutes later Sarndoff whispered irritably:

"Hurry with that. The moon will not hide behind clouds indefinitely."

And Yaeng's shovel, at that instant, clacked hard against a solid substance. He looked up, grinning wearily.

"I have reached her," he hissed.

Hurriedly, Sarndoff began to remove his topcoat.

"Hold, and I will assist you with the rest of it," he said.

Half an hour after that, a small truck purred swiftly away from the high gray wall of an isolated section of the cemetery. Yaeng was at the wheel. Sarndoff sat beside him. In the back, firmly secured against the jouncing of the rutted roadways, was a metal casket.


IT was two days after their nocturnal visit to the cemetery that Sarndoff faced Yaeng in the library of his home. The little yellow man was clad in a somber black suit and carried a black homburg hat in his taloned fingers.

"It will be good to get back," Yaeng said tonelessly. "I have been away for so long." His thin mouth split in a stained grin.

"I have taken care of our passports and arranged that Miss Hunter's casket, under the guise of archaeological implements, be shipped on the same boat. You will travel, of course, as my valet." Sarndoff spoke nervously. He was wearing gray tweeds and carrying a topcoat across his arm. "Are the rest of the bags packed?"

Yaeng nodded.

"And the instruments from the laboratory?" Sarndoff demanded.

Again Yaeng shook his head affirmatively.

"They are."

"Very well then," Sarndoff said, still nervously. "We may as well get started. Our boat sails at five o'clock. We've but three hours to get to the pier."

Sarndoff waved his hand, dismissing the little yellow man. And when Yaeng had left the room, he began pacing back and forth across the room, pulling on his pipe and contemplating the thick nap of the rug. It was hard to keep a faint tremble from his hands, or an irregular tattoo of excitement from his heart.

"Within a month, now," Sarndoff muttered to himself. "Within a month I will have her in my arms." And at the words his heart stepped up its drumming.


THEY were three days out, and Sarndoff sat alone in the luxurious quarters of his deluxe suite on the majestic liner Pacific. He was in his dressing-robe, and sat behind the small mahogany desk of the living-room.

In his hand was a pen, and before him the small yellow morocco-bound volume that provided Sarndoff's most curiously contrasting indulgence—a diary.

Sarndoff wrote in a large, flowing hand, pausing occasionally to look through the porthole directly across the room from him. A soft breeze gently stirred the curtains of the window, and coming faintly through it to Sarndoff were the muted strains of a dance band playing on the deck below.


"There are but five more days before we stop at Motopau Island," Sarndoff wrote. "My impatience increases daily, almost feverishly. It is hard to wait for our arrival, and harder yet in face of the fact that Marsha is here on board with me. It is difficult not to go below for an opportunity to look but once at her. However, that would be foolish, extremely so, and would only arouse suspicions."


Sarndoff paused again, looking at the open porthole as though trying to catch the melody of the music that floated faintly in the air. Then he returned to his writing.


"I have been able to pass much of the time," he continued, "in going over the charts and formulae, my own, and the ancient papers belonging to Yaeng. There is little doubt of succeeding. Everything checks perfectly. Modern science, combined with the wisdom of the ancients, assures us of success."


Sarndoff paused again, smiling faintly, then resumed.


"It is most amusing to watch Yaeng's increasing restlessness. The little fool is a veritable flea's nest of superstition, most of it derived from the extraneous hodge-podge in those ancient papers. He is quite convinced that his people on the island will have a goddess from the past, once the experiments have been concluded. It is just as well, of course, for otherwise he would not fall in with my plans nearly as eagerly. The passages in the ancient papers pertaining to the Goddess of Love are obvious to all but a fool like Yaeng."


Looking up again, Sarndoff rested his eyes momentarily, then went on with his writing.


"Obviously those passages mean exactly what I am certain they do. Through this ancient alchemy, Marsha, when brought back to life, will be forever my slave—utterly all loving. And being all loving, she will give to me such utter devotion, such encompassing affection as no man has ever known before."


Sarndoff put down his pen long enough to knock the ashes from his pipe. When he began again, he wrote:


"Again and again the tremendous irony of it all occurs to me. To be utterly, completely loved by a woman who would once have none of my affection, who despised me, is almost more than I can bear anticipating. It is certain that Yaeng's island people will not have a goddess of love to worship, but I will have one to worship me!"


THERE was a sound on the deck immediately outside Sarndoff's stateroom, and quickly he snapped shut his diary, slipping it into the pocket of his dressing gown as Yaeng entered.

Yaeng wore the same plain black suit, but his manner, as he faced Sarndoff, was different from that of four days ago. His eyes had a burning intensity to them, and the muscles at the corners of his thin mouth twitched sporadically as he spoke in his toneless, metallic tenor.

"The Goddess is growing restless," Yaeng said. "I feel it deep inside me. I find it hard to wait for our arrival."

Sarndoff rubbed his hand irritably along his jaw line. Yaeng, for the past two days, had insisted upon calling her the Goddess. This was science, the old combined with the new, and the yellow man's insistence on aligning it with a weird witchery was becoming vexing to Sarndoff.

"Time will pass quickly enough," Sarndoff snapped. "Keep yourself busy in your role of valet and it will hasten itself."

Yaeng nodded respectfully.

"Excuse my impatience."

But Sarndoff could see his taloned fingers twitching nervously.

"None of your people expect our arrival, or know of what we plan to do?" Sarndoff suddenly found himself saying. He could have bitten his tongue, in the next instant, for the clumsy way in which he'd phrased the question.

But Yaeng, apparently, was too keyed up to notice.

"Of course not. And I shall not tell them until we have given life to the Goddess."

Sarndoff smiled, forcing himself to do so.

"It is better that way. We'll not be bothered with interference from any others. Our plans must be kept in strictest secrecy until we're certain of success." He yawned elaborately, then: "I am fatigued. The strain also tells on me. I shall retire. Good night."

Yaeng watched Sarndoff leave the room, a curious expression on his features. The curtain on the open porthole was flapping in a sudden flurry of wind. Rain drops spattered against the door of the stateroom and on the deck, increasingly louder, increasingly faster. Yaeng looked down at the floor, as if mentally piercing through many more such metal floors—all the way to the hold—where a metal casket was crated.

Yaeng looked up again.

"Even the Goddess is restless," he muttered. Then he walked over to the porthole and shut it against the sudden squall that broke forth.


THE breathless heat of the bright Pacific morning pressed in through the open portholes of the stateroom, five days later, as Sarndoff—wearing a white linen suit and with a pith helmet at his elbow—sat before the mahogany writing-desk. His diary was before him, and quickly his hand moved again and again across the page as he wrote.


"At last we are here" Sarndoff's flowing penmanship was now somewhat sloppy in his haste, "and I am more than grateful. The series of squalls that followed us from the third day on were bad enough, but Yaeng's idiotic interpretation of them was worse. He insisted, when he woke me this morning, that this first tranquil day was due to nothing less than the fact that the Goddess—I mean Marsha—realized we had finally arrived at Motopau Island.

"His inane superstitions are beginning to wear on my nerves, and I shall be exceedingly glad when our resurrection, so to speak, has been accomplished. I am certain that he has kept our secret from his people here on the island. And from his description of the house he selected for us, I am quite satisfied. It is far enough away from things to permit seclusion, yet modern enough to allow for our laboratory equipment being properly installed.

"We are docked, now, and ready to disembark. I shall have to superintend the unloading of Marsha and our equipment personally. I couldn't trust the task even to Yaeng. From the glimpse I had of Motopau Island, it is a stinking little hole. But of course, it was essential to come here in order to work with the ancient materials of science right at hand."


There was a sudden knock on the stateroom door. Sarndoff shut his diary and looked up.

"Come in," he said.

A steward poked his head into the stateroom.

"Inspection is over, Professor Sarndoff," he said. "It's all right to go ashore now."

"Thank you," Sarndoff replied. He stood up, stuffing his tiny morocco-bound volume in his inside coat pocket. Then, picking up his pith helmet, he moved to the door.


IN the east wing of their sprawling tropical quarters, two weeks later, Sarndoff and Yaeng stood feverishly over a series of bubbling vials that lined the wall of the room they'd converted into a laboratory.

On a small table before Sarndoff there were charts, figures, and formulae on crisp, white paper. And beside these lay yellowed, time-cracked sheets of ancient parchment. There were chemical tubes in a rack to his right. And on a table to his left, there was an array of strangely-scented, curiously-shaped herbs and roots.

"I think the solutions I compounded from the herbs are correct this time," Sarndoff said breathlessly. "The color seems precisely right." He looked at the roots and herbs to his left. "You can take those away. It won't be necessary to make any more solutions from them. We've hit it, I believe."

Yaeng's toneless metallic speech was filled with tense excitement as he picked them up and asked:

"Then it is almost ready?"

Sarndoff looked up from the tube.

"Wha—er, oh, yes. Of course. We are almost ready." There was a blazing intensity in his eyes. He steadied one hand with another as he took the bubbling tube directly in front of him from the burner on which it had been heating.

Yaeng was back beside him in another instant.

"I have her ready," he said. His face was almost ashen beneath the yellow parchment of his skin.

Sarndoff looked up from a chart. He swallowed hard.

"Roll the apparatus in," he ordered.

Yaeng disappeared, and came back a moment later pushing a large, cart-like machine atop which—under a battery of empty tubes—lay the half-clad body of a girl. Her eyes were closed, tightly shut in death, and her arms lay rigidly beside her. On either side, streaming down from the slight platform on which she lay, were beautiful strands of golden hair.

"Marsha," Sarndoff muttered hoarsely. "Soon, my loved one—"

"The Goddess is ready," Yaeng broke in. His hands on the side of the cart-like machine now shook as if palsied. There was a look closely akin to terror in his slant eyes.


FROM each of the tubes arranged over the lifeless form of the blonde girl, there were tiny, siphon-like hoses. To the end of each of these was attached a hypodermic needle of thicker than usual proportions. Now, working with swift frenzy, Sarndoff inserted the needle ends of the tube-siphons into the sides of the girl. Three on her left side, two on her right.

The tubes behind him now—those filled with the various colored liquids—were bubbling. Swiftly, eyes fastened to the charts before him, Sarndoff began mixing the liquids into a larger glass graduate. As each operation was completed, Sarndoff poured a measure of the resultant chemical into one of the tubes above the girl's body.

Slowly, down through the siphon-like hoses, through the thick hypo needles, and into the girl's veins, these liquids bubbled. Sarndoff, upon filling all the tubes, shut the burners off automatically and stood watching the girl. His face seemed frozen in the rigidity of suspense.

Swiftly, now, Sarndoff moved from one needle to another, removing them from the girl's body. He reached to his side, found a larger hypodermic needle, and quickly plunged the point into her body directly below the heart. Then, breathing heavily through his thick nostrils, Sarndoff stepped back, face white, taut, watching.

Yaeng had completely lost composure. He was on his knees now, opposite Sarndoff, mumbling incoherently in a strange tribal dialect.

And then, faintly at first, the girl stirred!

Sarndoff had time to fight against the breath that seemed choking in his lungs. The girl was now obviously breathing.

Yaeng moaned audibly, and for the first time, Sarndoff remembered his presence. Eyes still on the girl, Sarndoff's hand went to his smock pocket, found the small automatic he'd put there.

Sarndoff turned away from the girl merely an instant. Yaeng's head was bent, providing an excellent target. Sarndoff squeezed the trigger twice; two blasts rang forth. Yaeng pitched face forward to the floor.

"You were no longer useful, superstitious clod," Sarndoff grated. Then, eyes blazing in triumph, he turned back to the miracle he'd wrought. Marsha Hunter, eyes dazed and uncomprehending, was sitting upright.

"Marsha," the word came chokingly from Sarndoff. "Marsha!"

The girl looked down at him. The dazed expression left her blue eyes. She smiled, and Sarndoff had never had such rapture as that smile. Her arms reached out to him, and insane with his exultation, Sarndoff helped her down from the platform, put his arms around her, and felt the answering ardor of her embrace.

The maddening, overwhelming, sweeping passion Sarndoff had felt for the girl before was now increased a thousandfold by the reciprocation of his love. The look in her eyes was more than he had dreamed could come to one man. It swept him to her, and held him there, and bound him forever to her.

The room wheeled giddily for Sarndoff, ecstatically, blazingly. At the feet of Marsha Hunter sprawled the bloody body of Yaeng, who had knelt in adoration to the Goddess of Love.


IT was safe for Sarndoff, after another week had passed, to take the resurrected Marsha Hunter aboard an out-going steamer from Motopau. And in that week he forged necessary papers and identifications, even to bribing a local consular official to arrange passports for the girl. He booked passage on a small liner that would take them to Shanghai, and keeping the girl in closest seclusion, brought her aboard the vessel in the guise of an invalid.

And Marsha Hunter, who had once despised him, was now all-loving. There was no mistaking her boundless affection, and Sarndoff, drunk with wild, triumphant exultation, didn't notice any changes in the girl. He was intoxicated with her beauty, her love. And he was further delighted in the fact that she recalled nothing of her former life.

They were two days away from Shanghai when Sarndoff walked the promenade deck for the first time with Marsha Hunter. He felt the eyes of all they passed fix in fascination on the incredible beauty of the girl. And for the first hour this filled him with a fierce pride. Marsha, holding fast to his arm, seemed not to notice the fact that there were any other passengers in existence, so rapt was her attention to him.

But then they were stopped by a junior officer, who saluted, eyes fixed in astonishment on Marsha, and said:

"Good morning, Professor Sarndoff."

Sarndoff turned smilingly down to Marsha, and then his eyes blazed in sudden maddening jealousy. The girl was gazing at the handsome young junior officer with a look that—

No, it was ridiculously impossible. Sarndoff told himself this, as he took the girl hastily back to the cabin.

But once inside, he slammed the stateroom door shut and turned to face Marsha Hunter.

"You love me," Sarndoff said desperately. "You love me, don't you?" He grabbed her by the shoulders, feeling an inexplicable wave of wild rage flooding him.

Marsha Hunter looked into his eyes with childish naivety and brimming affection.

"I do," she said, puzzled. "Of course I do." And she threw her arms around him, while Sarndoff felt his jealous rage leaving, her perfume strong in his nostrils.

And that evening, at the ship's dance, Sarndoff had to take her away once more. He could have sworn that on five occasions, with as many men, he caught the same look in Marsha Hunter's eyes as she had given the junior officer that afternoon.

In the cabin this time he raged.

"You cannot love me. I know you lie! How can you love me and look at those others as you do?"

That puzzled, childishly naive expression crept over her face again, and she answered:

"But I love you. I do love you. Of course I do!"

Sarndoff felt his temples throbbing unbearably. He had a wild, jealous desire to put his hands around that lovely young throat and squeeze until there was no more pulse beating there. Instead, he screamed:

"Yet to each of the men this evening, and to that junior officer this afternoon, you acted as if you loved them! You could not look at them that way, and love me!"

The girl who was Marsha Hunter looked perplexed. An unbearably sweet smile stole over her lovely lips as she replied:

"I do love them. Each of them, so very much. And of course, I love you—so very much!"

Sarndoff felt as if he were going stark raving mad. His face was ashen, his massive shoulders shaking in ungovernable rage. A red, screaming, awakening jealousy was turning his heart into a blot of wrenching anguish.

The girl moved toward him, her arms reaching for him.

Sarndoff backed away.

"No!" he shrieked. "You're driving me mad, I tell you. Stay back! I can't stand this. Stay back!"

He found himself against a wall desk, and his hand went automatically to the drawer. There was a gun there. The same gun with which he'd blown Yaeng's brains out. Now it was in his hand, and though he had no recollection of wishing it so, he had it pointed at the girl's heart.

"I love them, of course," she was saying, moving toward him, "but I love you, of course."

"All-loving," Sarndoff babbled, "all-loving. I know what that damnable yellowed script meant now. But it's too late. I can't stand it any more!" His eyes blazed, lips twisted.

"Please," the girl said, red lips half parted invitingly. "I have told you how I love you." She stretched out her arms to him.

Sarndoff was conscious of the automatic in his hand kicking hard against the rigid line of his wrist. Smoke was filling the room, and before the blurred haze of madness that screened his eyes, he saw the girl—the center of her dress splashed crimson—sinking to the floor while dazed, uncomprehending agony flooded her eyes.

He was muttering thickly as he turned the gun to his own temple.

"Yaeng was right, right. She was not Marsha Hunter, but a Goddess; the Goddess of Love. All-loving. All-loving."

Then Sarndoff squeezed the trigger and the last shot blasted the silence.


THE END


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
Go to Home Page
This work is out of copyright in countries with a copyright
period of 70 years or less, after the year of the author's death.
If it is under copyright in your country of residence,
do not download or redistribute this file.
Original content added by RGL (e.g., introductions, notes,
RGL covers) is proprietary and protected by copyright.