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First published by Philip Allan & Co., London, 1921

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"The Purple Sapphire and other Posthumous Papers,"
Philip Allan & Co., London, 1921

The stories in this collection were published in:

The Purple Sapphire and Other Posthumous Papers,
 Philip Allan & Co., London, 1921

The Strange Papers of Dr. Blayre,
 Philip Allan & Co., London, 1932

The Strange Papers of Dr. Blayre,
 Arno Press, New York, 1978

The Collected Strange Papers of Christopher Blayre,
 Tartarus Press, Leyburn, N. Yorkshire, England, 1998

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"The Strange Papers of Dr. Blayre,"
Philip Allan & Co., London, 1932


Three of the papers in this volume were prematurely published in the "Anglo-French Review"—now some thirty years ago—and I obtained the permission of the Editors to reprint them in the event of this selection being ultimately published. —C.B.


THE position to which I was appointed in the early years of the twentieth century—that of Registrar in a great University—is in many respects a peculiar one. The Registrar finds himself not only on terms of friendship and equality with the Professorial Staff, but also to a great extent occupying a fiduciary position which brings him into what is very often intimate touch with his Colleagues. It was in virtue of this relationship that from time to time manuscripts were confided to my care, which by reason of their intimate personal nature, were not destined for publication during the life-time of their Authors, but were confided to me as records of events which appeared at the time to be of too striking and inexplicable a nature to be published by the Recorders. Many years have passed by since I resigned the Registrarship on attaining the age-limit, and I think the time has arrived when I may, without breach of confidence, give a selection of these papers to the public.

Christopher Blayre.

Cosmopoli, January, 1952.


Deposited by the Smithsonian Professor of Mineralogy

Deposited by the Smithsonian Professor of Mineralogy

Deposited by the Regius Professor of History

Deposited by the Professor of Zoology

Deposited by the Professor of Applied Chemistry

Deposited by Myself

Deposited by the Librarian

Deposited by the Clarkian Professor of Chemistry

Deposited by the Professor of Biology

"Our thoughts are free to soar, as far as any legitimate analogy may seem to guide them rightly, in the boundless ocean of unknown Truth." —Sir Richard Owen, 1848

"Physical investigation, more than anything besides, helps to teach us the actual value and right use of the Imagination." —Sir Benjamin Brodie, 1859

"I should like to illustrate, by a few simple instances, the use that scientific men have made of this power of the Imagination, and to indicate some of the further uses that they are likely to make of it." —Sir John Tyndall, 1870


ON the 24th of June, 1920, a few months after my appointment to the Professorship of Mineralogy in the University of Cosmopoli, I received, as a gift to the Museum from the surviving executor of the late Sir Clement Arkwright, under the most dramatic conditions, the Purple Sapphire. The facts attendant upon its arrival were as follows:—

Sir George Amboyne, the Regius Professor of Medicine came into my room and deposited upon my table a small package.

"This is for you," he said, "a gift to the Mineralogical Department, made under most unfortunate circumstances. An elderly man has been run over by a motor-car just outside; he was brought in, very badly damaged, though not, I hope, fatally. As I was in the building I was sent for, and have done what I can pending his removal to Hospital. When he recovered consciousness, he said with some difficulty, 'The packet—where is the packet?' The porter, who had carried him in, produced this parcel, which the man had been carrying when he was run over. When he saw it, he said 'For the Museum—Purple Sapphire—give it to them,' then he lost consciousness again. You see it is addressed 'To the Mineralogist, University of Cosmopoli.' You had better take charge of it."

"Rather an ill-omened way to receive a presentation, isn't it?" I observed.

"Very," replied the Regius Professor. "I suppose we had better open it?"

We did so. Beneath the outermost wrapper was an envelope, addressed "TO MY EXECUTORS." It was unsealed and contained a sheet of note-paper upon which was written:

It is my earnest wish that this packet shall not be opened until seventy-five years after my death. When that time has elapsed, it is to be delivered to my eldest male direct heir. It contains the Purple Sapphire given to me by the younger son of Colonel George Cardew. Whether by that time its power of doing evil to its possessor will have waned or not, I cannot tell, but I earnestly recommend my heir to get rid of it, if he can, at the earliest possible opportunity.—

Clement Arkwright, Bart.

"This is very queer," remarked Sir George; "the poor old man downstairs was evidently on his way to deposit it, whatever it is, here. Let us have a look at it."

The removal of the inner wrapper disclosed a sandalwood box. Inside that, closely fitting, was another; inside that, another. There were seven of them, one inside the other. In the last and smallest, wrapped in a piece of curious fine muslin was the Purple Sapphire.

It was without exception the finest stone I had ever seen, perfectly cut, of the most brilliant deep amethyst-purple, and the size of a flattened bantam's egg. It was set in a sort of cage; two silver snakes, with their tails in their mouths, ran round it above and below the circumferential edge, and these were connected and held together by twelve small silver 'plaques' inscribed with the twelve Signs of the Zodiac. On one side were two silver rings, evidently for suspension, and from these hung, so as to cover and conceal the stone, on one side a circular plaque, evidently of very ancient make, of the kind familiar to students of Occultism and of the rites of the so-called Rosicrucians as the Seal of the Tau—a Greek T, surrounded by a flat band on which were engraved the familiar 'mystic' letters ABRACADABRA. This fell over the flat or 'table' side of the stone. Over the other, the faceted side, hung a pair of amethyst Scarabs, evidently early Egyptian, threaded upon, and held in place by, thick silver wire. Whether it was the circumstances in which it had reached us, or for some other and inexplicable reason, as I held it in my hand I felt an overwhelming sensation of nausea and faintness. I handed it to the Regius Professor without a word. He turned it over in his hand, raised the Tau and the Scarabs, and then put it down on my table.

"What a beastly thing," he observed. We looked at one another for a few moments in silence, but neither of us gave utterance to the thoughts that were in our minds. Probably we could not have done so if we had wanted to. I was the first to break the silence—with an effort of which I felt ashamed. "I think," said I, "we will take it straight up to the Museum."

"Yes," said Sir George, "for God's sake let's get rid of it." He was quite unconsciously reiterating the advice of Sir Clement Arkwright.

Using one of the lids as a tray, we carried the Purple Sapphire up to the Museum, and placed it in the Table-case by the door, destined to contain 'Recent Acquisitions' which had not yet been registered and classified. When we came down again, the elderly gentleman had been removed to the nearest Hospital, and his relations, as indicated by letters and cards in his pocket—his name was also Arkwright—had been notified by telephone.

That afternoon the Mineralogical wing of the University Museum was struck by lightning. The damage done was ghastly. Many priceless exhibits were destroyed, and several weeks elapsed before the room could be opened and used again. The Table-case of 'Recent Acquisitions' was untouched.

* * * * *

IT was perhaps a year after this that a card was brought to me bearing the name Sir Gilbert Arkwright. I had not forgotten the Purple Sapphire, for the romance of its acquisition stuck to it, and students showed it to visitors as 'The Unlucky Stone,' and invented all kinds of fantastic stories about it. The assistants and even the charwomen hated it. One story went that it glowed at night with an unearthly refulgence—I was foolish enough to go up one winter evening when the lights were turned off to see for myself. I saw nothing—but I confess to having experienced a sensation of—to put it mildly—extreme discomfort. I felt like a child afraid of the dark. Idiotic!

One of the charwomen declared that one evening when she was 'cleaning up,' a "naked Heathen—and, what's worse, black," had suddenly looked at her over the top of the case she was dusting, and that she would sooner lose her place than ever enter the Mineralogical room again. Idiotic!

Well,—the card of Sir Gilbert Arkwright preceded the appearance of a charming young man of the regulation British athlete type, in the thirties I should say. In answer to my look of enquiry he said, easily:—

"I think you have here a Purple Sapphire, which my uncle was bringing here the day he was killed in a street accident."

I was shocked to hear this, and all the circumstances recurred at once to my mind. I murmured some conventional phrases, and the young man replied:—

"Oh! that's all right. It was a terrible thing of course, but that was the last of it for us. We were none of us ever allowed to see it, but it was supposed to have been, and was called, 'the Curse of the Cardews' in my father and grandfather's time. I only came to bring you this book which turned up the other day in going over a lot of my poor old uncle's papers—we thought you might like to have it."

He laid on my table a small quarto M.S. note-book of the cheap American cloth-covered type, the first page of which bore—without more—'THE NAGHPUR SAPPHIRE,' and the date 1885. I was rather 'thrilled,' and having suitably thanked my visitor, he left me. That night I took the book home with me, and, after dinner. I sat down to read it. There were only a few pages written upon—as is usual with note-books the story they contained was so uncomfortably weird that I offer no apology for transcribing them in full. The original M.S. is in the library of the Mineralogical Department (M.M.3.b.36).

* * * * *

The M.S. of Sir Clement Arkwright

I HOPE and believe that I have made such arrangements and provisions as shall prevent any of my immediate descendants taking the Naghpúr Sapphire into their custody, possession or control. But as there exists a widely spread impression in my family that it is a Jewel of great value and of exceptional beauty—which is indeed the case—I think that in the future some member of my family may be moved by curiosity or cupidity to claim possession of it. I will therefore write in this book my reasons for not wishing this to happen.

One of my earliest recollections is that of Colonel George Cardew and his wife. They lived in a poor little cottage—how poor I was then too young to appreciate—on the outskirts of the village nearest to my father's place in Shropshire. The Colonel used to give me pennies, and his wife cake, but the latter gifts were discounted by the fact that she was everlastingly advising my mother to give us castor oil, and periodically insisted upon our being taken to see the dentist. We children resented this interference—if interference it really was—in the placid lives of an otherwise very happy family. The Colonel was an invalid and very lame, the result of a wound received in the Indian Mutiny, which continually gave him trouble; his wife was peevish, continually at war with Fate which held from her the position and wealth of a great lady. In fact, as the saying goes, they had seen better times, and were ill-adapted to worse. They had two sons, Richard and George, who were the constant playfellows of my elder brothers. I was too young for them. These two boys, after they left Haileybury School, cut themselves adrift and set out to make their own way in the world by sheer grit and hard work. Richard became a medical student, and as he was a sharp contrast to the lazy, rowdy class which constituted the medical students in those days—the early seventies—he passed his examinations with distinction, and, having no home prospects or capital, joined the Indian Army Medical Service—he was always known as 'Dr. Dick.' George won a cadetship at Sandhurst, and, knowing that he had no one but himself to rely upon, worked hard, did well, and was in due course gazetted to an Indian Regiment, where he rose to be Major and was regarded as a very rising man—he was always known as 'Major George.'

Their sterling merits carried every thing before them. In due course Dr. Dick left the Army Medical Service and became a successful physician in Simla. Major George, promoted to Colonel, became 'Resident' to one of the Indian Native Rajahs, and was regarded as one of the really notable Administrators under the Indian Government. Their rare visits home were hailed with delight not only by their old parents but by all of us, for they brought home wonderful things from India as presents, and would talk—how they talked! Thrilling accounts of their lives out there, of dangers from rebels, from snakes, from wild beasts, from plagues—we were never tired of listening to them.

Then old Colonel Cardew died, and within a year his wife followed him to the grave. Though their later years were much ameliorated by handsome remittances from their sons, they were never happy. The Colonel was a terrible sufferer, and they were really unlucky, in small things as in great. If they saved money and invested it the investments went wrong—people always said that if they had wanted to cultivate weeds, or to encourage rats in their little place, the weeds would have refused to grow, or the rats to be encouraged. It was a sorry business when Dr. Dick came home to wind up his parents' affairs, and he returned to India a distressful man. He told us he was afraid to go back for he felt that his luck was gone. This was quite inexplicable to us, but he was a true prophet, unfortunately. An untoward 'accident' or two in his practice, one fatal one in the treatment of a great Maharajah, dragged him down from his professional eminence, a bank in which his savings were invested—an 'unlimited' concern—failed, and carried with it the whole of his savings, and in the end Dr. Dick, who was fortunately a bachelor, was reduced to living in a suburb of London on an allowance made him by Colonel George. After some ten years of an aimless and unlucky existence he fell out of a railway train and was killed. There were those who did not hesitate to doubt whether his tragic death was accidental.

After his death Fate seemed to turn her malevolent attention to Colonel George. He became unpopular with succeeding Viceroys and lost influence and caste in the Service. Finally, not supported as he should have been by his Government, he came to loggerheads with his Maharajah; an insurrection in his native State was attributed to his management, or mismanagement. He was superseded and sent on a punitive expedition to the borders of Afghanistan. In this affair he failed utterly and unaccountably. The natives, soldiers and civilians alike, seemed to hate him, and of the few faithful Sikhs whom he commanded only one returned with him. The rest had been killed—his other troops had practically deserted him. It was amazing, for until the death of Dr. Dick he was almost worshipped by the natives both civil and military. On his return to Madras he twice escaped assassination by a miracle, and in the end he was 'retired' and came home to live on an inadequate pension, with his wife and two children. The change, I suppose it was, preyed upon his wife, and she went mad. His daughter died—apparently of what was not then recognised as appendicitis, and his son, having gone utterly to the dogs, fortunately emigrated to New Zealand and was never heard of again.

It was then that I came into the story. Colonel George was, as I have indicated, some six or eight years my senior, but this did not count so much when I was thirty and living a rather luxurious bachelor life in London. Colonel George often came to my rooms and we used to talk over old times, and, on occasions, to dissipate mildly together. He was always cheerful, and seemed quite resigned to the ill-luck that pursued him—he said that it did him good to be with me, for my 'good luck' was proverbial. I had health, wealth enough, and a reliance upon my 'lucky star' that never betrayed me—'let me down' is, I believe, the modern expression.

One day when I had made a preposterously lucky 'hit' over a horse-race, we were celebrating the occasion at dinner at the now extinct St. James' Restaurant. I said to him, cheerfully:

"Now, why can't you strike a streak of Fool's Luck like that?"

"Well, Clement, my boy, I've a good mind to tell you. I have often thought of telling it to someone."

I rather quailed. Was my ideal Colonel George going to confess some shady episode of the unknown past that was dogging his footsteps, embittering the present, and making the future ominous?

However, he changed the conversation, and after dinner he asked me to go back with him to his rooms—up near Regent's Park, a wretched place—instead of coming back to mine, and I did.

When our pipes were lit, he sat looking at the empty fireplace for a little while, and then got up and went into his bedroom. When he returned he had in his hand the Naghpúr Sapphire—the most splendid stone I had ever seen. I thought it was an amethyst but he told me no, it was a purple Sapphire—jewellers sometimes call them 'Oriental Amethysts.'

(Here in the M.S. follows a long description of the stone and of its setting, practically as the Professor of Mineralogy has given it above. C.B.)

I said to him "You don't leave this about, do you, in a place like this?"

"Yes; it always lies about on my dressing-table."

"Aren't you afraid of having it stolen?"

"No; it has been stolen three times."

"How did you get it back?"

"I didn't get it back. I didn't want to. It came back. It always comes back."

"What do you mean—you didn't want to?"

"I'd give all I possess (it's not much) to get rid of it. Instead of which, I have given all I possess for keeping it. This is 'the Curse of the Cardews.'"

"My dear George," I said, "you are raving!"

"No, I am not; you asked me at dinner about my bad luck. Well, you hold it in your hand. That stone has ruined my whole family in turn."

I protested. "Such things only happen in books."

"Listen to me. You know what a distinguished servant of 'John Company' my old father was. He looted that stone off a statue—an idol if you like—of Vishnú at Naghpúr, a strong hold of the Mutiny. The whole Shrine was razed to the ground by order; not a trace of it left. Next day he got his wound—one of those mysterious wounds that never heal—his never healed—it tortured him to his dying day. A month later he was on his way home—'Invalided out of the Service' they said at home—but do you know what they said at the Secretariat in Calcutta?"

"No; what?"

"'Cashiered for cowardice in face of the enemy.' It was hushed up, first (I hope) on account of his past services, and then on account of the probable effect upon the loyal native troops. On the way home his skull was fractured by a falling block—he was trephined and got over it, but his brain was never really clear again. You know how we lived down there in the little old house—pretty wretched, wasn't it? But what none of you knew was that my mother loathed the sight of my father—they never saw one another excepting in company. He was weak in the brain, as I said, but his nightmares were awful. I didn't know until afterwards that he was haunted by the phantom of a Hindu Yoga."

As he paused, I put in, uneasily, "Of course sick men do invent such things."

"He didn't invent this one. It was the Attendant of the Shrine at Naghpúr, whom he had cut down himself. And my governor knew that it was after the Purple Sapphire."

"Why didn't he get rid of it?"

George Cardew smiled.

"You have a short memory, Clement," he said. "I told you just now we can't get rid of it. The Governor sent it out by post to a man stationed near Naghpúr and told him to restore it to the Temple, or Shrine, and if he couldn't do that, to sell it. It came back with the notification that there was no trace or record of the Shrine, and the jewellers in the bazaars refused to buy, or even to touch it. My father sent it out again to another man, told him to bury it at Naghpúr; six months later it came back by post—the man had buried it just as he received it with my father's letter—who ever dug it up got his address from that."

"Why didn't he send it out without a letter to an imaginary address?"

"He did. It came back through the Dead Letter Office, straight to our village post office, and of course they knew there."

"I'd have got rid of it somehow."

"Would you? I'd like to see you try."

A brilliant idea occurred to me.

"Give it to me," I said, "and I'll undertake to get rid of it."

"You wait till you've heard the rest of it. When the old man died, and then my mother, it came to Dick. Well, you know what happened to him. I was at the zenith of my career when Dick died.—Good God! Clement, my boy, but I was just on the point of stepping up to goodness knows where. And then I had to take over the Purple Sapphire. On hearing of Dick's death I spent eight pounds on a cablegram telling them to put it away, and on no account to send it out to me. I was too late—it had started. The day after he died—before he was buried—they sent it off. It arrived with his watch and chain and his shirt-studs. The rest of his chattels only just paid for his funeral and a few small bills. Well, you know what happened to me. I had the bright idea to present it to my Maharajah, who had millions worth of gems. He refused it, and he began to mistrust and hate me from that day. I offered it to the Government Collection, but they looked upon it as a sort of attempted bribe to cover the mess I was making of things. I can't tell you what plans I made to get rid of it—scores—but it always came back, and there it is."

He paused, and after lighting his pipe again, he smiled and said:—

"Do you still want to have the damned thing?"

"Rather!" I said. "You know my luck; it's impregnable."

"Don't say that for Heaven's sake; it's an awful thing to say."

"But I mean it," I cried, "I defy ill-luck, and if I can't get the better of a mere stone——."

"Nobody ever will," he interrupted, quite gravely.

We argued the matter for some time, and in the end I persuaded him. I took a cab home in the small hours, delighted with my splendid new toy.

Two years passed during which, personally, I was quite unaffected by any malevolent influence attributable to the Purple Sapphire, but I am bound to confess that there was something about it which passed comprehension and defied investigation.

To record an instance or two:—I was deeply interested, as a hobby, in the elucidation of a curious text, half Persian and half Urdú (but this has nothing to do with the story) and a young Hindu scholar was sent to me by the Professor of Arabic and Persian in the University of Cosmopoli, with a view to the discussion of some obscure points, and to the augmentation of his income (he was a clerk in an Anglo-Indian House in the city), and he arrived one evening about 8-30. He was called Mr. Something Ghose, I remember. I had the books out on my study table, and we had been at them about half an hour, during which I thought Mr. Ghose the most incompetent and absent-minded fraud I had ever met. At the end of that time he rose and said, with a little bow:

"You will excuse. I cannot work. I do not like this house. I go away."

I was very much astonished, and not a little annoyed, and expressed myself with some succinctness. All he said was, as he made for the door:

"I am sorry—very. I did not know. You must excuse. I go."

And he went!

Shortly after this my friend the Professor of Arabic dined with me, always a delightful occasion for me, for he had been for many years Principal of a Muhammadan madrassah in India, and was a delightful talker. As we sat before the fire smoking after dinner, I noticed that he looked all round the room at intervals, uneasily as it seemed to me. I said:

"Are you looking for anything?"

"No," he replied. "No; I don't think so. Tell me though, do you collect Indian curiosities?"

"No; I think them, as a rule, hideous."

"You haven't got a Tirthankar in the house, have you? One of those little squatting alabaster idols one sees in the curiosity shops?"

"No. I've seen hundreds of them and I hate them."

"You are not far wrong," replied the Professor, "they're beastly things,"


"Oh! they are uncanny things to have about," and he changed the conversation. Five minutes afterwards he looked round again, rose suddenly, and looking into the dark end of the room he exclaimed:

"I thought so! I felt it! Kaun hai? Kiyá mangta?*"

* ("Who are you? What do you want?")

"For heaven's sake, what's up?" I said.

"Haven't you seen That before? A Hindu squatting on his heels, naked excepting for a loin-cloth, scrabbling at the carpet—there in the corner?"

"My dear fellow," I observed. "I know you are not drunk, nor are you mad. What is it?"

He did not answer me at once, but extending his hand in the direction in which he was looking, he called sharply:


"(Go away!)"

He sat down again with a short laugh, and re-lit his pipe with a shaky hand.

"I don't wonder you are surprised," he said. "I'm sorry for this exhibition, but I've been so long in India; these things get into one's blood, I think. It's very stupid. You are sure you haven't got any Temple loot about the place? There's a lot of it about."

I thought at once of the Purple Sapphire, and, rising, I took it from the drawer of my writing table and put it into his hand.

"Good Heavens!" he said. "Of course this is it. This is what he is after. It's the pectoral gem of a Hindu God. Where did you get it? And how long have you had it?"

I gave him an outline sketch of the history of the Purple Sapphire—which he had put down on the table by his side—and when I had finished he said:

"Of course that explains it—if anything can be said to explain the inexplicable. My advice to you, my earnest advice, is to get rid of this thing as quickly as you can."


"Because—for goodness sake never tell anyone of this incident or of this conversation—it will hurt you—smash you, sooner or later."

We spent the rest of the evening in a most "gruesely" conversation. The Professor told me a number of stories in point, and if I had been an imaginative or nervous person I should have been very much upset.

But I am not, and I wasn't. That was the last time the Professor dined with me until—afterwards.

There were other such incidents, greater or lesser in degree, but I never saw any Yoga, and suffered no ill effects from being the custodian of the Purple Sapphire, which gradually acquired a romantic and rather fearsome interest among my friends. I pass on to the night when I gave a dinner party which we shall all of us remember to our dying days. We were eight—B. a rising young author; and a charming young actress Miss C., of whom he was the temporary 'enamourite,' to quote Burton (of the Anatomy); his sister (married), and G., a man in the Foreign Office, asked on account of one another; Mrs.—I will call her Smith, as she comes back into the story later on under tragic and unforgettable circumstances; and Mrs A. and her husband (recently married, after a double divorce). Mrs. A. was a queer woman. It might be said that she had not an enemy in the world, but was rather disliked by all her friends. She dabbled in Occultism and led her rather sheepish husband reluctantly to séances. She liked to flatter herself that she was 'a strong Medium.' She interested me, but I always regarded her as a fraud—a semi-unconscious fraud perhaps. But we had a jolly dinner, and afterwards congregated in the library. Mrs. A., as usual, forced the conversation upon the Occult. She talked very well, and was always rather 'thrilling' to people who had not heard it all before.

B. said suddenly: "I say, Arkwright, haven't you got a wonderful jewel or something that evokes spooks, and murders people in their sleep?"

At once there was a chorus of delighted curiosity, and finally I produced the Purple Sapphire, which sparkled with remarkable vividness that night. At that moment one of those things that happen to the electric light happened—it is, I believe, when they change the accumulators or the dynamo at the generating station. At any rate the lights went down to about half their normal candle power. The Purple Sapphire seemed to flame even more brilliantly in the subdued light.

"Oh! do give it to me," exclaimed Miss C. And with a view to making light of the whole thing I tossed it into her lap. She immediately held her hands up and away from it, as if it had been a spider or a mouse, and shrieked to B., who was sitting beside her, "Take it away! Take it away!" B. picked it out of her lap and handed it back to me. After this she sat closer to him for the rest of the evening, holding one of his hands in both of hers.

"Give it to me," said Mrs. A. in her most impressive tone, "I am accustomed to these things." I gave it to her and she laid it, with the cover-flaps open, on her knee. She began to yarn about 'maleficent talismans,' but the evening was spoilt. We were all uneasy. Mrs. Smith alone did not say a word, but sat looking at the Purple Sapphire and at me, in turns. Presently the preliminary murmurs of impending departure arose, and then some amazing things happened. Mrs. A. leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes. Then she cried out:

"Something is coming. Something is here! Everybody except Sir Clement go out of the room."

They all sprang to their feet and scuttled into the hall. Mrs. A. said in a stifled voice "Oh, God!" and fainted. At that moment the disturbance at the main righted itself and the electric lights blazed up again. I went to the door and called A.

"Your wife has fainted," I said; "come in." He came in, and with him Mrs. Smith, uninvited. The rest were whispering together in the hall.

Mrs. A's eyes were now open, and she said, "It fell upon me, it fell through me." With one hand she was still holding the Purple Sapphire on her knee. We comforted and re-assured her as best we could, but she declared that something had fallen into her lap and disappeared. "It went through me," she said, over and over again. We got her on to her feet, and to prove to her that she was mistaken we pushed back the low arm chair in which she had been sitting.

On the floor beneath it lay a small scarlet disc, faintly luminous in the strong light, about two and a half inches in diameter, on which were figured in black, exactly as on the flat flap of the Purple Sapphire, the Sign and Letters of the Tau! We all gazed at it, horror struck. I was the first to pull myself together. I got the tongs from the fireplace, with a confused idea of picking the Thing up, and flinging it into the fire! But even as we four looked at it, it turned white and clear of markings, and appeared to volatilize.

The others came in—and then they went away. As a newspaper report would say "the meeting broke up in confusion." They did not all go away though; Mrs. Smith remained. I may say at once that round this lady for some time all my thoughts had been concentrated. I shall write of her again. We talked, she and I, long into the night. At 2 a.m. a ring came at the front door and I opened it. It was B. He said:

"What am I to do with Marie C.? She won't go home. We have been driving all over London in a hansom. She's there now, outside. She says she dare not go home to her rooms alone. Damn your infernal stone."

I might have remarked that it was he who had insisted on its entry upon the scene. I forbore, however, and in the end Mrs. Smith came out and took Miss C. home to her house to sleep with her. B. walked home, and I went to bed, I confess, rather shaken up. As Mrs. Smith left, she put her hands on my shoulders, and looked into my eyes searchingly. The others had gone outside.

"Didn't you see the Indian Man squatting on the floor behind Mrs. A's chair?"

"No, I didn't."

"I swear to you he was there. Please don't go back and sit in the library. Promise me."

I promised her—indeed, I do not think anything would have induced me to do so. As I say, I went to bed. I was out to lunch next day, and on my return home I found a letter waiting for me, delivered by P.O. Express. It was from A. In it he wrote:—"I feel that I must send you the sequel to last night's extraordinary occurrences. About 3 a.m. my wife woke me, and said that something was burning her where the Jewel had lain upon her knee. I tried to soothe her to sleep but she insisted so strongly that we switched on the light, and turned down the bed clothes. Sure enough, those letters round a capital T were burnt black upon, and through, her night-gown. We cut out the piece and I enclose it herewith—and on her leg, exactly the same thing, bright red, as if done with a hot iron. We dressed it with vaseline, but it is there this morning. We will show it to you when you like."

To avoid returning to this matter I may say that Mrs. A. wears this 'brand' to this day. She makes no bones about showing it to people, and I need hardly say that her account of my dinner party does not lose in the telling. Her enemies say she did it herself with a red hot needle. Her husband says that he always knows, when she puts on her daintiest lingerie, that she is going to tell someone the story of the Purple Sapphire—as far as she knows it.

I now reach the dark and terrible part of my record. I have intimated that I was deeply devoted to Mrs. Smith, who was one of the most beautiful, the cleverest, and by virtue of her husband's wealth, one of the most fastidiously luxurious women in London Society—which was literally (as the saying goes) at her feet—which were exquisite!

We had a vast community of interest, and were as inseparable as a decent regard for conventionality permitted us to be. I do not think I flatter myself when I say that I must have been a relief after her husband. As to that gentleman, I was, and am, no doubt, prejudiced, but he combined in himself the millionaire, the lout, the drunkard, and the fool. I was ultra-careful never to compromise Mrs. Smith in any way, for, as I repeatedly warned her, I would not have trusted her husband out of my sight for a moment, and was always prepared for him to lay some dirty trap or other for her. He encouraged our friendship, however, and threw us together continually. Timeo Danaos!

It made me therefore very uncomfortable and very unhappy when Cecile, at our next meeting after my dinner-party (next day, in point of fact) implored me to give her the Purple Sapphire. Though I had no fear of the thing for myself, I was frankly horror-struck at the idea of its passing into her possession. She argued with me—how she argued!

"You brag about your invariable luck," she said. "Well, look at me, am I not the luckiest woman in London by common consent—in everything but my marriage. Am I not brave? Then why do you want me to be a coward? I thought you were brave. Then why are you a coward now? You do not believe the thing is bewitched. Then why do you behave like this now? I have never asked you for anything since we first met, have I? And now that I do beg a gift of you, you refuse it. Be very sure, my friend, that I shall never under any circumstances ask you for anything again. No, not if I were starving in the gutter."

These words came back to me most bitterly when she was starving in the gutter, and when she did come to me for help. But what was I to do? One is only flesh and blood after all, and in certain circumstances "Ce que femme veut——!" In the end I gave her the Purple Sapphire.

I will pass as quickly as I can over the miserable history which followed. Men and women of my generation have not forgotten the Splendour and decadence of Cecile Smith. In a phrase, everything went wrong with her. Her whole nature changed, she became hard, reckless, unsympathetic. She gambled frenetically and lost vast sums; she got money to pay her debts by every means, fair and foul; she bought fabulous jewels, her transactions with which would have landed her in gaol had not her friends accommodated the situations into which she recklessly flung herself. People whispered of lovers of low degree, of orgies, of drink, of drugs, of all the degenerate horrors of a decadent civilization. And meanwhile Smith was on the watch, to jerk the rope when she had had rope enough to hang a score of women.

This was not the affair of a moment—it took two years. All that time, though we seldom met now, for our paths had widely separated, I was continually imploring her to give me back the Purple Sapphire. I believed in it fundamentally at last. But she would not. She clung to it with a superstitious obstinacy. In a letter from St. Petersburg where she had drifted as partner (?) in a gambling enterprise (which failed of course) she wrote:—

"The Stone is the last thing I had when I was Queen of my Race—and I was a Queen! It is the only thing I ever asked you for. Nothing shall part me from it. P.S.—The Yoga is here all right; thank God he costs nothing for railway fares and hotel expenses."

Once, in reply to a passionate appeal for money from Madrid, I offered her £1,000 for it. Same result.

Time went on. We heard of her occasionally—twice that she was in prison. I was very unhappy about her, worn out indeed, but there was nothing to be done. To distract my thoughts I went an aimless voyage round the world, on which I met the lady who is now my wife. I returned to England in the spring of 18—. Passing through Paris I read to my horror that an unknown woman who had shot herself in a tenement house in La Vilette a few weeks before, had now been identified as the once beautiful and notorious Mrs. Smith of London, Paris, Rome, St. Petersburg—and where not? It was a ghastly shock, and in spite of the light that was breaking on my own horizon, I returned to London a sad and distracted man.

A huge correspondence awaited me that my Secretary had been incompetent to deal with in my absence. Among the heap was an official packet—it was from our Consul in Paris. The letter said:

"The enclosed packet, sealed up and addressed to you, was found among the effects of the late Mrs. Smith who, as you may have heard, died recently in this city, in tragic circumstances. Kindly acknowledge," etc., etc.

It was the Purple Sapphire. Wrapped round it was a slip of paper on which Cecile had written: "It has downed me—take it back. I have tried to sell it, but no one will buy it. Even thieves won't have it. Sayonara. Ave atque vale! Cecile."

And so it came back. A month later when I had settled down, burglars got into my house, and carried off property of great value, including the Purple Sapphire. They left me on the floor of my dining room with a bullet in my neck which all but closed my earthly record.

As soon as I was convalescent—that is to say about six weeks afterwards—I found that the burglars had been apprehended as the result of another burglary, the last of a long series perpetrated by this particular gang, which had hitherto completely baffled the police. Their master-mind had had a serious accident when on a professional tour, and had been arrested; the rest of the gang fell out among themselves, and partly by treachery and partly by mismanagement the burglary for which they were awaiting trial, which had been postponed for my evidence, proved to be their last. It was the only beneficent action which can be laid to the score of the Purple Sapphire.

After these unhappy men had been sentenced, the solicitor in charge of the defence handed me a small packet. I knew, without asking, what it was. He accompanied the restoration with the words:

"My clients instructed me to return this to you. It is the only one of your jewels which they were unable to dispose of. They attribute—you know criminals are notoriously superstitious—solely to it the unfortunate position in which they find themselves to-day. It was, in fact, their unaccountably rash efforts to get rid of it that gave the police the clue they have been seeking for a year past."

And so it came back, and from that moment things began to go wrong all round me. My power to control the Purple Sapphire was gone. My solicitor absconded with a loss to me of several thousands of pounds which he had in his hands for investment. I also broke a leg and a collarbone riding along a simple country path. I spare you the rest of the catalogue of disasters, major and minor. They were many and varied.

I set about the task of getting rid of the Purple Sapphire. I sold it to a second-hand jeweller in Wardour Street, who knew me well, but did not the less on that account offer me the value of a common Scotch amethyst of the same size. A week later he brought it back saying that his wife (who was Scotch) to whom he had given it would not have it in the house; she had a 'scunner' on it. I pawned it for £2. A month later the pawnbroker failed, and his trustee in bankruptcy sent it back to me as the sum for which it had been pledged was obviously inadequate, and he felt it his duty," etc., etc.

Finally I took it to the National Museum of Cosmopoli, and offered it as a gift to the Keeper of Jewels. He turned it over and over, looking at me curiously, as I thought, and then said:

"This is a marvellous jewel—we have nothing like it—and you may think it odd, but I don't think we want it."

"For Heaven's sake, why?" I asked.

"You will think it odd, but I am a firm believer in the malevolence of certain stones which have been the witnesses or causes of tragedies. I am convinced that this is one of them. Why do you want to get rid of it?"

There was no help for it—I was too broken in spirit—I told him.

He listened very attentively and when I had finished, with a suggestion that I should smash it up and scatter the fragments, he said:

"No, don't do that. As it is, you know it, you can recognise it, and can be on your guard; if you smash it, it will come back to you, somehow, in pieces, re-cut, that you will not recognise, and you may unconsciously hurt someone. Now do not think that I am mad—though I admit that my colleagues in the Museum think I am, to say the least of it, eccentric, upon this subject—but you must follow the direction of the old books on Magic and Witchcraft; there is much more in them than most people think, or will admit. You must drop this into a tidal river at the exact moment of dead high water; it is the only thing you can do, and I warn you that even that may fail."

I confess I felt extraordinarily relieved at the suggestion; this surely must be final! We got out a Nautical Almanack and calculated the time of dead high water in the Thames on a particular day, and on that day and at that minute I dropped the Purple Sapphire into the river from the middle of Charing Cross Bridge.

All went well with me for about three months. The happiness I had seen approaching on my world tour seemed well on its way to realization. My nerves regained their equilibrium. Life was once more worth living. Then one day as I was working in my library my parlourmaid announced "A man with a note from Mr. X." This was my jeweller friend in Wardour Street. The note said:

"The bearer has a curious jewel for sale, which was once in your possession. I do not know how he may have come by it, but I send him to you as you may care either to re-purchase the article, of which he does not know the value, or to hand him over to the police."

I looked up, and the man, a common working 'navvy' produced from a wrapping of dirty rag, the Purple Sapphire.

I was stunned. I sat looking stupidly at the accursed Thing, and it seemed to me as if someone else's voice said to the man:

"Where did you get this from?"

He began a whining rigmarole. It had been in his family from father to son for many generations; they had come down in the world. He had come to London to seek work, had got it—good work, highly paid, but he had lost it, luck had turned against him, one of his children had died, his wife was ill, they were starving. At last, with great reluctance they had decided to sell the old 'amethyst'—that's what his father had said it was. Worth lots of money. He had taken it to Mr. X., and Mr. X. had sent him to me as I was a gent who gave good money for curios. My interruption startled him. I sprang to my feet and shouted at him:

"You liar!"

"Come, governor, none of that. Give me back my curio."

"Not till I've got the truth out of you. If you try to get away I give you to the policeman outside. Now then, out with it. How did you get this out of the bed of the Thames?"

He fell into a chair as if he had been shot, stammering.

"Christ! it's witchcraft, that's what it is. Devils and that. It's just bloody witchcraft."

"You see," said I, "I know something. You had better tell me the rest."

It took him several minutes to recover his normal self, and then he told me. It was amazing. The extraordinary network of underground railways—'the Tubes' they came to be called, later—was just then beginning to be constructed. One of them passed under the Thames from Charing Cross to Waterloo Station. This man was employed in the caissons under the river mud, pushing forward foot by foot in compressed air chambers, digging out the river bed and passing the débris back to shore. He had caught the glint of this Thing in one of the scoops as it came home, and watching his opportunity, he (to use his own words) "pinched it—and pouched it."

"I give you my word, governor," the wretch went on, "I've never had a good hour since. It's the first thing ever I pinched, and its got back on me. I've tried to sell it—no one will buy it from the likes of me. I've tried to lose it—it's brought back to me. I believe the police is after me on account of it. For Gawd's sake Mister take it off my hands."

My heart went out to the poor devil.

"I know the stone," I said. "I lost it. I'll take it back. Here's a fiver for you. Go home and good luck to you. You'll get along better now."

His gratitude was pathetic.

"I feel better already, governor," he said. "Gawd knows it'll be a lesson to me."

And so it came back.

I knew now that any effort of mine to get rid of it would be in vain, and I decided that after all it would be better to know where it was, than to dispose of it and feel that any day or hour it might turn up again. So I wrapped it up in the piece of Indian muslin in which George Cardew had given it to me and put it into its nest of boxes. I have forgotten, in writing this, to record that shortly after Colonel George made it over to me, he sent me a "nest" of seven sandal-wood boxes of Indian make, fitting closely inside one another, the smallest and innermost of which exactly held the Purple Sapphire. Whether he, or his father, or Dr. Dick had them made I never knew, or if I did, I have forgotten. I then wrote a note of instruction to the executors of my will directing that the Purple Sapphire should not see the light of day until twenty-five years had elapsed after my death. I little supposed that by that time its power for evil would have, so to speak, evaporated, but at any rate I could make sure that it should not fall into the hands of my children (if I had any) until they were old enough to have read this manuscript and to judge for themselves what was the next thing to be done with it. (The Professor of Mineralogy has transcribed this letter of instructions in the early sheets of his record, so it is not necessary to repeat it here.—C.B.) With a view to enforcing the performance of my wish I set aside by my will a sum of £10,000, the income of which followed my residuary estate, with a provision that, in the event of the parcel having been opened before the prescribed time, the capital sum was to be transferred at once to one of our larger hospitals. I felt that the Governors of that Hospital would keep an eye upon the parcel and see from time to time that it was intact. At the end of the twenty-five years the £10,000 is to fall into residue. I wrapped up and sealed the parcel and took it to my bankers, where I deposited it for safe custody in their vaults. The manager, a charming man and a personal friend of mine, received it in the ordinary way, and I need hardly say that I did not give him any inkling of its contents or of my motives for the deposit. Whether it was a coincidence, or otherwise, I cannot tell, but from that moment the affairs of that branch of my bank went wrong in many ways. One of the cashiers absconded with a large sum of money, loans which the bank had made went wrong, commercial houses which they had financed failed and involved them in heavy losses, and of course the manager got the blame, and he was forced into retirement on a small pension, a broken and disappointed man. I had my own uncomfortable ideas on the subject, but it is obvious that I could not go to the head office and say it was all my fault for having deposited in the vaults a parcel containing the Purple Sapphire. They would rightly have assumed that my brain was softening. And there it lies to this day. I am happily married and I have two charming children, a girl and a boy. I sometimes wonder whether it will be he, or his son, upon whom will devolve the awful responsibility of taking the Purple Sapphire from its resting place.

Clement Arkwright.

31st December, 18—."

* * * * *

THE manuscript of Sir Clement Arkwright stopped here. He lived for many years after the date which he appended. There follows in the note-book a further entry in another hand which reads:

"1st January, 1920. The twenty-five years since the death of my brother expired yesterday, and I went to the bank and claimed the parcel, which we found—the manager and I—dusty but intact. I opened it in his presence and read the letter of instructions, but I did not open the sandal-wood boxes. I am not superstitious, but somehow I—well, at any rate I did not open them. We wrapped up and re-sealed the parcel and left it again where it had lain for over forty years. I must record, by way of postscript to my brother's account, a curious, and to me very ominous, circumstance. During the Great War the staff of the bank, those of military age that is to say, had been largely replaced by women, several of whom are still in the employ of the bank. As the manager was seeing me to the door I said to him:

"'I suppose you will be gradually getting rid of these young ladies?'

"'Yes,' replied he, 'and I shall be very glad when we see the last of them. One can never rely upon their work, their hearts are not in it for they know that it is not their life's work and that they can never rise to the administrative grades in the service. They make the most annoying mistakes, and one has to have their work continually checked by the men. And as a culminating touch, what do you think? There is a mad idea among them that makes them absolutely refuse to go down into the vaults when we want to send for anything. They say the vaults are haunted! Two of them (we have got rid of them) declared that they had seen an apparition of a naked Indian who grinned and gibbered at them down there. Did you ever hear of such hysterical idiocy? Oh! I shall be glad to get rid of them.'

"I said nothing beyond what might be conventionally expected of me, but I drove home feeling very uncomfortable.

"Is this horrible Thing, after lying quiet for forty years, going to wake into renewed activity? I suppose I ought to deliver it to my nephew and god-son Sir Gilbert Arkwright, but frankly I am afraid to do so. Fortunately he is still abroad, in the Army of Occupation in Germany. I shall let matters rest as they are until he comes home.

Gilbert Arkwright."

Following upon this was a further entry in the same hand which reads as follows:

"23rd June, 1920. My nephew Gilbert has returned home, and I have made him read this record in his father's hand. He is a splendid fellow and he laughs, of course, at the whole thing. 'At any rate,' he said, 'let us take it out and have a look at it.' I begged him not to insist upon anything of the kind, and at last, after many long arguments, which I fear have convinced him that I am suffering from senile decay, he has consented to the plan which I have proposed. This is, that I should take the parcel just as it is to the Professor of Mineralogy in the University of Cosmopoli and present it to the University Museum. It may be presumed—or at least hoped—that, placed among a large collection, many specimens in which may possibly have histories no less mysterious than that of the Purple Sapphire, its evil powers may be as it were diluted, if not dissipated. In any case, I take it to the University tomorrow, and there I sincerely trust that, so far as our family is concerned, the history of the Purple Sapphire is at an end.

Gilbert Arkwright."

* * * * *

IT was very late when I had finished reading through the pages of the black note-book. The handwriting of the main record left much to be desired in places, having evidently been written under the influence of strong emotion. And no wonder! I felt that the writer was compelling himself to a violent effort all the time, omitting much, passing lightly over incidents which it must have been very painful for him to record. I pitied him from the bottom of my heart. Next day I went up into the Museum and looked at the Purple Sapphire. There it lay, appropriately labelled: "Sapphire (Purple) Alumina. Corundum. Refraction, 86°4' Hardness, 9. 3.9.—4.16." A bald description of what is perhaps the most remarkable stone in the collection.

There is no reason why any student should ever refer to the little black note book, but I do sometimes wonder whether anyone, browsing among the shelves of the library, will ever take it down and read these records. And then I wonder many things.


THERE is not—or at any rate there should not be—any romance in "Nature." You will observe the italics and the inverted commas, which indicate that I refer to the Journal and not to the Dame. "Nullius in verba" is the inexorable motto of the Royal Society of London, which means that you must not state a fact unless you can table, or screen, the evidence which supports and proves it. It will be difficult, indeed impossible, to observe this rule in recording the story of Aalila, but I will do my best.

Among the "Notes" which supply to the Curious the scientific news of the week in "Nature" of the—well, perhaps it may be better to refer the Curious to his file of that admirable journal for the exact date, for I am writing face to face with the gorgeous panorama of the Pyrennees as seen from the Hotel de France at Pau, and I have only the paragraph—cut out—with me. It reads:

"We regret to announce the death of Professor Alured Markwand, which took place suddenly in his Observatory at Piping Pebworth on the 14th instant. The cause and manner of his death is unknown, the coroner's jury having, as directed, returned an open verdict. It seems probable that Professor Markwand met his death by electrocution, as his body, strangely scarred, was found beside a powerful dynamo which generated the electric current of an arc light in the Observatory. It is well known that he was engaged in researches upon the development of photo-telephony, and his Observatory was fitted with an arc-light apparatus of exceptionally high voltage." Then follow biographical details for which the Curious may be referred to the columns of "Who's Who."

I have given anxious thought to the question whether I should record the manner of his death, or allow the 'open verdict' of the coroner's jury to stand as the only (and official) account of the matter. My own reputation for veracity, for reliability as an observer, for scientific method of record—nay, I may say for sanity itself—is at stake. In any case this record cannot be published in my life-time; my position as Professor of Psychology in the University of Cosmopoli would be seriously compromised, and though, as I believe myself to be, not lacking in physical or moral courage, I should shrink from facing the genial gathering of my colleagues in the tea-room of the Royal Society on Thursday afternoons, and probably feeling that I am relegated to that small coterie of eminent men of science who have flown—and unhappily have published an account of their flights—into the cloudy atmosphere of metaphysical—research? experiment? self-delusion?—call it what you will. Thus much by way of apologia. But I feel myself compelled to record, to enregister, the most amazing and overwhelming experience of my life.

In the reports of the inquest, it will be remembered that it appeared that it was I who gave evidence as to the discovery of Alured Markwand's body. It was stated in those reports, that entering his Observatory at 8 a.m. on the day in question—I had been spending a month with him in Warwickshire—I found his body lying against the dynamo as described. This is not true. I dragged it there—it was the only thing to do—an explanation of some kind had to be forthcoming. I was there when he died.

* * * * *

IT has been noted in "Nature" (ut suprâ) that Markwand was actively engaged in the study of photo-telephony. Those who were privileged to be present at the soirée of the Royal Society in 1919 will remember the demonstration given by Dr. A.O. Rankine of this remarkable method of sound-transmission. The beam of light that extended above the heads of the assembled guests from the Council Chamber to the furthest end of the library, the telephones attached to the mirror which caught the beam, and the delicate apparatus of Selenium cells, which enabled people to hear in the library what Dr. Rankine's assistant spoke into the receiver in the Council Chamber, and how the speech was interrupted when a sheet of card was interposed, cutting off the beam from the receiving mirror, will be within the memory of all who were present. I remember one exquisitely pretty red haired girl who—but, however, she has nothing to do with this record. Markwand was explaining, or trying to explain, it to me—I knew he had an installation of his own—and, intimate as I was with him, as the result of a friendship that dated from boyhood and had persisted through Eton and Trinity until we found ourselves colleagues on the Professorial Staff at the University of Cosmopoli, I was vaguely distressed at the nervous absorption with which he discussed the matter.

"It is extraordinarily interesting," said I.

"Interesting!" he exclaimed, in the tone he might have adopted to the Yankee girl who, on seeing the Falls of Niagara for the first time and by moon light, remarked 'Well—well, ain't that cunning!' "Interesting!" he said. "Good God! it's overwhelming—it's terrible!"

I looked at him in some disquiet; it had not struck me in that light. His face was ashy, and his lips, like his hands, trembled. I knew he had been overworking. I felt very uneasy. I had been trying to persuade him to go down to his cottage and Observatory at Piping Pebworth for a real rest, and he had promised to go as soon as the term was over, on condition that I would go with him. Meanwhile I succeeded in getting him back early that evening to his rooms, where, over a pipe and a whiskey and soda, he made half-confidences. It seemed to me he was on the verge of a serious breakdown, if not of actual insanity. I felt called upon to remonstrate with him, gently, as one would humour a patient suffering from acute neurasthenia.

"Come, Markwand," I said, "what is all this about? You are overstraining the cord. It will snap if you are not careful. A Professor of Astronomy—a mathematician—should, of all people, keep a level head. Remember our motto 'Nullius in verba,' if you didn't seem to be in such deadly earnest I should say you are simply talking tosh."

"I am in deadly earnest," he replied quietly. "This is "Nullius in verba," I know what I'm talking about—and it's too much to know. You think I'm going mad? Well—if I don't talk about it pretty soon to somebody I shall go mad. And I've made up my mind to talk to you."

"Fire ahead."

"Not now. I'm too tired. And there's still something more to be done. I'll tell you all about it when we get down there. Meanwhile, think, man! Try to realise what photo-telephony means—the carrying power of a beam of light; the illimitable spaces of aether, across which beams of light are still reaching us from planets that became extinct thousands of years ago. Think of the lines of light that are connecting us at this moment with the other planets—Mars, Jupiter, Venus. Venus!" he repeated, reaching for his tumbler, and I saw that his hand shook like a contact-breaker. "Think of it! Has it never occurred to you that between talking from one end to the other of the Society's rooms, and talking from here to, say, Venus, is only a question of degree? Why not?" And he looked at me as if challenging me to express an unbelief—as who should say "Can I go on? Are you safe? Do you think it is worthwhile to listen?"

I was extremely uncomfortable. I hated to leave him, wrought up as he was, but on the other hand I was afraid to let him go on—then. I decided rapidly.

"Anyhow, it is frightfully suggestive—extraordinarily interesting—but it's too big a subject to go into now. I'm off home. See you at lunch to-morrow."

And so we parted for that time. Next day, as we smoked in the Common Room after lunch there was no trace visible of his agitation of the night before. Indeed he appeared to be so entirely his normal self that I felt emboldened to revert to Rankine's demonstration.

"Oh, yes," he said. "A delightful entertainment for an evening party. I quite envied Rankine's assistant, fitting the receivers over the prettiest possible ears of the prettiest possible people, and listening to their delighted squeals of astonishment. But you know," and he became graver, "our friend has hardly touched the fringe of the subject. Wait till you get to Piping Pebworth and see what I can do. I'll astonish you! And by the way, do you remember years ago, the talk there was of transmitting designs—drawings, portraits—by wire? There were pictures of it on the back sheet of the "Daily Mail." Well, if by wire, why not by wireless? If by wireless, why not by light? Think it over. I must get back. I've got a lecture. See you later." And he was gone with a jovial nod and a quaint expression as of one who pulls the leg.

Though I saw a good deal of him both in college and out, until the end of term, we never referred to the subject again, and when the University closed for the summer vacation we found ourselves "by divers mesne assignments," as the lawyers say, at his adorable little cottage in Warwickshire, where he had his private observatory and did his own work, uninterrupted by the need of imparting such knowledge as might be necessary to enable his students to proceed to a science degree.

* * * * *

I AM to assume that you, who read this, know all that is necessary to be known about the equipment of a star gazer's observatory. Markwand's observatory was like any other in all essentials. The noticeable feature was an extremely powerful arc-light apparatus, to which the current was supplied by a powerful dynamo. This he used for his experiments in photo-telephony, and I quickly realised that he had made no idle boast when he said the subject was yet in its infancy. From his observatory he could throw a beam of light some four hundred yards into his den at the house, where, caught by the mirror and the Selenium cell apparatus, you could carry on a conversation as comfortably as if the conversant had been in the room. He could "ring up" along his beam before switching in the voice receiver, and by the same means could transmit written words, drawings, and even his own features to the receiving screen. It was positively uncanny to me who am in no sense a Physicist—it was as a Psychologist that the state of exaltation in which Markwand lived interested, and, I am bound to confess, sometimes alarmed me.

He showed me many beautiful experiments and results, but at his own research work he would never allow me to be present. He would laugh and say:

"You are too inquisitive, my dear fellow. You would fidget about and make me nervous. I should always be afraid of your monkeying with the dynamo, or touching a live wire somehow. I don't want to have you on my hands as a horrid little burnt corpse."

And so it went on. I was genuinely resting, but whatever may have been the nature of Markwand's holiday researches, he certainly was not. All that I could get out of him was that he was observing certain phenomena connected with the planet Venus. He would come over from the observatory sometimes in a state of almost wild elation, at others utterly worn out and dejected, but always shrouded in a mantle, as it were, of absorbed introspection. One day when for forty-eight hours he had been more abstracted and "nervy" than usual, he startled me by saying:

"You remember my chaff about you and the dynamo? Look here, if anything of that kind were to happen to me you will know how it happened, if any enquiry should be made. But before anything of that kind happens, and people—executors, all that sort of rot you know—come messing about, take this key off my watch-chain. It opens this writing case. Take the case and pack it up in your luggage, and take it away. You can read the papers yourself afterwards, but not until I am buried."

I was very much shocked, and begged him to relax in his work, to accept my help in so far as it might be of any avail, but he only laughed queerly and said:

"I am only putting a very unlikely and hypothetical case. I'm all right. But a research worker should always be prepared for the most unlikely eventualities. As for help, my work is purely personal, no one can help."

"When shall you publish?"


"Why not?"

He thought for a moment, and then he said "I have gone too far. The world is not yet fit to know what I know. Don't think I am mad, I am not. I'm deadly sane. Some day someone else will happen on the same results, and who knows what may happen then? I won't be responsible. It's too much." By this time he was apparently talking to himself. He had forgotten all about me. By the way, I don't think I have mentioned that Markwand was a bachelor.

* * * * *

I HAD been with him about a fortnight, and every day it had seemed to me that he was becoming more exalted—a stupid word, but I can think of no other. He spent the days as it were in a dream, seldom speaking except upon the most conventional subjects, rather impatient if I referred to our work at the University.

"Don't talk shop for goodness sake, old man. That's our work-a-day world, this is something different. Another world? Hardly, but perhaps the threshold."

I didn't like this. "The Threshold" is one of the cant terms in the Jargon of the Spiritualist, the Esoteric Buddhist, the Rosicrucian, and it turned me cold.

"I say, old fellow," I said, "you know I'm broad minded, and I don't sneer at poor old A, B, and C, who believe in spooks, and commune with those who have 'passed over'; I look upon it as a mental disease, exploited by quacks (who are, I understand, generally charwomen when not doing the Prospero act), just as some physical diseases are exploited by the quacks of a different walk in life. But I do think the result is the same. The incurable is the quarry of the quack. But that you should have any truck with that kind of thing is unthinkable. Threshold of what?" I concluded rather inconsequently.

"Oh, don't be afraid. I'm not disturbing the sainted spirit of my Aunt Jemima. When I said 'threshold,' I meant a real Threshold, like a flight of steps, or a plank. Difficult to find a word. But I can't explain. I'm sorry."

I thought seriously of writing in confidence to Sir George Amboyne, our Regius Professor of Medicine to ask him to invite himself down for a day or two to have a look at Markwand. However I didn't, and I am glad now that I didn't. One night I woke up in his den, where I used to read, and smoke, and wait for him to come over to bed. It was just day-break, and, gadzooks, I was stiff! He hadn't come in, so I risked his displeasure and walked over to the observatory. The east was just reddening, and the plantation was full of the little sounds that animals and birds make when they shake themselves to start the day's work. I could see that the arc-light was burning, and I could hear the purring of the dynamo. Thinking he must be asleep I reached my hand towards the door and was just about to turn the handle when the light went out and a wild cry came from beyond it—a word? A name? An exclamation? What?


Drawn out on the first syllable

"A-a-lila!" I opened the door. Markwand was standing by his telescope, his arms extended over his head, looking straight at me. He blinked like an owl in daytime, though the struggling dawn made light hardly visible. He looked at me stupidly for a moment and then looked at the Sidereal clock.

"Good heavens," he said quite calmly. "I am sorry. It's daylight. I had forgotten the time, and you, and every thing else. I don't wonder either. Haven't you been to bed? I'm a rotten host. Come and have a bath."

And we walked back to the house as if nothing at all had happened. Markwand was in splendid form. We bathed, made coffee, fried bacon and potatoes, and went down to the stream to fish.

"You're overdoing it, Markwand," I said, after a rather long silence.

"Am I?" he replied laughing, and landing a trout. "Do I look like it? I've had a splendid night. Do I look the worn-out scientist?"

He certainly did not.

Later in the day we were lazing in two chairs on the lawn under a tree. I caught Markwand looking at me in the manner which is described by story-writers as "whimsical." I fell to an irresistible temptation.

"What is Aalila?" I said.

"If you only knew!" he replied. "Well, you shall; I'm going to tell you."

Then he plunged into it. Later I verified every detail of his marvellous story, and was able to fill in a mass of others which he left out or slurred over.

* * * * *

"I WAS observing Venus—conscientiously from full-Venus to no-Venus—last year. You will find all the notes in the Observatory Record; all that matter to the star-gazers. I shall communicate them very shortly. The rest is in that writing case. You know the one I mean.

"One night, at about half-Venus, I was lying in the chair, watching and making notes, when on the dark part, near the outer edge, I saw a bright spot. I couldn't make out what it was of course, but as I watched, it flickered, went out. And look here, don't laugh or say a word or I shall dry up. It flashed S.O.S: . . .———. . . Morse, you know. I assumed that I was dreaming, or that my eyes were tired or playing me a trick. It went out, and then it came again. Then it made a lot of letters, all higgledy-piggledy, but I swear to you that every group was a perfect letter. It went on for over an hour, and as each letter was made I wrote it down. You know I was a signaller in the regiment during the war? Then it stopped dead. I tried to make sense of the jumble of letters; of course there was nothing in it, but the last two letters were Vick E: . . .—. The Signaller—don't laugh, I warn you—knew how to end a message anyhow.

"The next night, the same performance over again. I had read a lot of what I regard as tosh about "signalling from Mars"; it's a hardy perennial, but I was as certain as I am that you are sitting there, that Venus was signalling to Earth and signalling in mad hysterical Morse at that. I found that night, and verified by references to the transcript of the night before, that before every pause in the flashes came the regulation full stop Ack-Ack-Ack .—.—.—Lord, man! can you imagine what I felt! I'll tell you what I did. I trained the mirror of my arc-light on to the spot as near as I could make it out, aiming by the telescope, and next night the moment it began—as usual, with S.O.S.—I flashed it back, cutting the ray with a sheet of tin plate. Venus 'went out' for a minute, and then repeated S.O.S. Same reply from me. Then came other letters, in no kind of sequence, but I repeated each one religiously. When this had gone on for an hour, I took the initiative in a pause and flashed 'Vick E.' Venus understood; she flashed it back, and then Ack-Ack-Ack. That was all that night.

"I won't weary you with what followed during months, whenever Venus was observable, but you'll find it all there. I took the initiative again, and flashed the whole alphabet from A to Z, and got every letter back; and at last the whole alphabet came back to me in its proper order. Venus was profiting by its lessons. And then came the climax. I can't think why it had not occurred to me before. I switched in the Selenium cells and put on the receiver. Instantly I heard a noise, sounds, linguals and labials. 'Mu, ma, mu, la, lo, la' and vowel sounds. It was, at least, clear that Venus had a photo-telephone in circuit, ready for me in case we had got so far as that on Earth. After listening for a minute or so I flashed 'Ack-Ack-Ack.' Venus knew that that was a stop, but not the 'very end'—Vick E. I connected the transmitter. I flashed Ack, and said the letter A. It came back—both flash and sound! So on through the alphabet.

"After this I began teaching Venus to spell—like a child with a spelling book—AB—ab, BO—bo, and so on, and after a time—you understand I am condensing weeks into words—the 'conversation,' if you can call it one, always began 'Aa-li-la' and after 'Vick E.' again, always 'Aa-li-la.' Man! I realized that this was the name of the Thing that was signalling. I tell you one thing and that is that Venus, the Thing, was much cleverer than I; it tried to make me understand sounds, but I couldn't make head or tail of one, and meanwhile It was beginning to say English words. And what is more it had an apparatus which repeated perfectly, and improved upon, everything that mine did.

"For nights I tried to get an impression upon a photo-transmission plate, but for at least a week there was no result whatever. Then one night I said 'Aalila' and tried to transmit the letters, in Morse of course, but in dots and dashes on the plate. I only found out later what happened up there—I say 'up' for the sake of definition—but my plate went mad and got covered with scratches in all directions. Aalila had caught on to the idea, and was doing her—I was certain somehow it was 'her'—best, and at last one night after weeks of patient scratching I got Aalila's face. Lord, man! it was lovely. Just imagine to yourself a—but what's the good? She was—she is—indescribable!"

Markwand paused and looked away with that strange exalted air that had puzzled me so often.

"Is?" I queried softly. I was afraid of, as he said, drying him up.

"Yes, is."

"You see her picture then?"

"I see her."

To say that I was flabbergasted is to use a miserably inadequate expression. What was all this about? Was I talking to a madman? But if it was a delusion, as of course it must be, it was the sanest and most deliberately nurtured delusion that ever a man originated.

* * * * *

THAT was all Markwand told me that day. I think his idea was to let me so far into his amazing secret, and to let what he had told me sink in, so as to judge by my manner how I took it, and whether I were worthy of further confidence. But it was evidently a great relief to him to be able to talk at all about it. He often set little traps for me, to see if I would laugh, or doubt, or sneer, but as time went on and I always listened with a keen interest which required no simulation, he arrived at telling me the progress of his adventure, step by step, and as I have said, what he left out then, I could supply from his journal of the affair—afterwards.

It would take far too long; it would indeed fill a volume of no mean size, were I to set down here the gradual "anastomosis" (to borrow a term from the Physiologists) of Markwand and Aalila, how they arrived at the meanings of words, and how, out of the chaos of incomprehensible sounds, they arrived at conversation. It is not enough, but it must be taken as enough, to record that Markwand little by little arrived at knowing all about Aalila, and about life on the planet Venus, where the Physical Sciences had reached a development which would stagger the imagination of a Jules Verne produced to the power of n. What is really most important was the stunning fact that Markwand was in love with Aalila as only a bachelor of his age can be, when he makes his first acquaintance with the grand passion. It will be observed that I have not hitherto touched upon a very important point. You will not unnaturally have been asking yourself how on earth—or rather in Venus—had Aalila learned the Morse Alphabet? As soon as I felt that I could safely ask questions without "drying him up" I put this to Markwand.

"Oh," he replied, "of course I ought to have told you that. She learnt from our Fleet Signallers during the War."


"It takes some believing, doesn't it? The question of interplanetary signalling has always been a burning one up there. They signal to many other planets already, but they had never "picked up" Earth, which, by the way, they call Waluma. Aalila, you will not be surprised to hear, is a great astronomical 'nut' up there, and she has been searching Waluma for a sign for years. In August, 1914, and onwards, she observed that our seas were constantly starred with intermittent flashes—of course their telescopes are to ours what Big Bertha was to a pop-gun—and after puzzling over them for months she found that there was a regular sequence in them, that certain groups of dots and dashes continually recurred, especially 'ringing up' with a series of 'E's,' and that a single 'E' at a short distance always stopped it. She got on to the full stop 'Ack-Ack-Ack,' and the 'Vick E' at the end of a message, almost directly. And from this she gradually worked out all our letters, not in their order of course. One of her first questions when we could talk was to enquire what were 'Toc,' and 'E'—T and E, our commonest letters. She had got a lot of common words pat—'and, the, it' and so on."

"What did she make of it?"

"Why—the inference was obvious to her—we were signalling to Venus!"

"Good heavens!"

"What confused her most were the constant and reiterated 'E's' on land. Those were the flashes of the great guns."

It made one's brain reel. I seldom had to ask questions after that.

And here it becomes very difficult for me to write at all about it. I have been so shocked by the death of Markwand, and all that it meant and conveyed to me, the terrible proof, as it would seem, that this amazing adventure was no delusion at all, but drew to its inevitable and tragic end, irresistibly, that I cannot think with equanimity of anyone even smiling at details which would readily lend themselves to humorous treatment, but which were in themselves the very essence of the tragedy. In the foremost place there stood the fact that Aalila had, conformably with the customs of her planet, seven husbands—a multiple fact that did not in any way appear to militate against her full reciprocation of Markwand's passion. Husbands in Venus appear to be of a singularly easy-going disposition, to our mundane intelligence, but an exception would appear to occur at intervals, and one of these loomed large in Aalila's cosmogony in the shape of an infuriated and jealous male. Highly intellectual as Aalila was, and occupying an exalted position in the scientific world of the planet, this husband, Illuha by name, was to Aalila what an ignorant woman (only one of course) would be to a Regius Professor in one of our own Universities—a woman who sets her own personal gratification and feelings far above the career and the life interests of her husband. And so in her "affair" with Markwand, Aalila had to be very careful—in certain mundane circles her attitude would probably be described as "wily."

It was all very well for Aalila to shut herself up in her observatory and communicate with her Terrestrial Lover. Illuha, who was of course not ignorant of the vast potentiality of Astral physics in Venus, was, it appeared, far from easy in his mind as to the scope and extent of Aalila's researches, and—well, as I have said, Aalila had to be very careful. Very frequently the nightly communion would be intercepted by unreasonably uxorious reproaches, not to mention physical interruptions, which scared Aalila intempestively from the photo-telephone; and it seems from a note of Markwand's that Aalila had in a moment of relaxed vigilance allowed Illuha to catch sight of sundry telephotographs of Markwand, and, to put it perhaps somewhat crudely, Illuha was on the prowl.

All might, however, have been well had it not been for the high quality of Aalila's scientific knowledge, attainments and ambitions. From transmitting very remarkable, and I am bound to say often highly compromising pictures of herself, she soared to the ambition of, and devoted much research to, the accomplishment of transmitting herself; that is to say a replica, an astral body of herself, perfect in every essential detail, and of a bodily consistency adequate to all practical purposes. Of the development and ultimate success of this crowning triumph of Aalila's scientific career I can only gather the broad outlines, for Markwand himself seems to have grown shy of his record in this matter, and the scientific accuracy of his register is marred from this point by a doubtless proper and laudable discretion, which leaves certain details, but not many, to the imagination, and tends therefore to the detriment of scientific knowledge. It must remain enough to say that the semi- but not too-aethereal Aalila came to Earth and visited Markwand in his observatory, whenever she could get away, whilst her physical body remained on guard, as it were, in her observatory in Venus. And it must be recorded to her credit that she never attempted to conceal from Markwand the paramount, the terrible danger of these astral excursions. Though her physical body remained behind, she brought her intellect to earth with her, and this it was that in fullness of time brought her and Markwand to grief. For the physical body, temporarily bereft of its directing mind was not up to controlling the apparatus, and the romance of her interviews with Markwand must have been seriously hampered by the necessity of keeping an eye on the screen, and an ear at the photo-telephone.

Consequently these amazing interviews had to be arranged for occasions when Illuha could be counted upon to be absent from home, or at any rate not likely to come bothering after her at the observatory. From what one could gather, the position of husbands in Venus is—setting aside, of course, their plurality—much the same as that of wives in the so-called civilized portions of the earth, and, perhaps, vice versa.

Markwand was, as I have indicated, reticent as to the details of his interviews with Aalila in conversation with me, and a fortiori recorded in his scientific journal only political, economical, and sometimes ethnological details of life on the planet, and looking over the record, it may be said that the personal equation must have bulked largely in their communion, for lengthy meetings with Aalila frequently furnished but a few lines in either his private or scientific journals. He tried to explain to me, however, the nature of the risks they ran, but the explanation was largely beyond my powers of comprehension—Hertzian waves—Potential—Amperage, and other technical terms bristled in his exposition, and I gave up trying to become an expert in the matter. I only knew that the physical Aalila left behind had mechanical control of the projection apparatus, and if disturbed, or damaged, might work irretrievable disaster. It was clear that the interference of any unauthorized or inexperienced person in the observatory might, and probably would, divert the full force of Aalila's generating plant along the communicating beam. Upon what would happen in that event Markwand did not care to speculate.

The physical Aalila," he said, "would almost certainly be destroyed, and what would happen here it is difficult to conjecture. I should imagine some form of instantaneous annihilation—volatilization——I don't know. But we take all necessary and possible precautions."

I hazarded a question.

"Is the replica-Aalila of sufficient substance to suffer physical hurt?"

He thought for a moment—and I am not sure that he did not blush a little. Then he replied:

"Oh, yes. There is little doubt about that."

"Take another postulate," I said. "Supposing some unauthorized person" (we seldom or never mentioned Illuha by name, from motives of delicacy no doubt) "were to get at the apparatus in her replica-absence, and supposing that person found himself—or herself" (I hastily added), "projected along the ray in some way? What then?"

Markwand, I am sorry to say, shrugged his shoulders and laughed; yes, he positively laughed, and instead of answering he turned away, chanting under his breath a line of an old plantation song which ran:

"The congregation all stand up, and sing—Hallelujah!"

* * * * *

MY stay with Markwand was drawing to its close, but I lingered on, obsessed with a vague feeling of apprehension. Though in no way regarding myself in any degree in the light of a chaperon, I did not think it quite safe, or quite proper, to leave him alone with Aalila. I hinted at a visit elsewhere, accompanied by him; I would have liked to see him safely back to town, but he would not hear of it. Markwand was lovelorn. And he was very happy. I grew more and more apprehensive, and, I will admit it, more and more curious. I endeavoured to convey to him that I would like to be present at one of their interviews, and then it was Markwand's turn to be shocked. I felt at once that I had been guilty of a most indelicate indiscretion, so there was nothing for it but to wait, on the chance of being of some use should an emergency arise.

We come therefore to the night, or rather the early morning of the 14th. For some days Markwand had been preoccupied, nervy, and I gathered that things were not going as pleasantly as they might. In a word, Illuha was giving trouble, and it became an increasing strain to keep in touch, so to speak, with the observatory in Venus, whilst occupied in the researches and instructive discourse which should, from their point of view, have exclusively occupied their periods of companionship.

"It's rather difficult sometimes," he admitted, "to keep the necessary amount of attention fixed upon what is going on up there. For instance, only the other day——" then he broke off, and I never knew (nor was there any record among his private memoranda) what had disturbed the primrose path of scientific research on this occasion.

I was sitting in the den waiting for Markwand as usual. I never liked to go to bed till he returned and I knew that Aalila had been safely packed off "home," and I had been to sleep, also as usual.

Suddenly the beam from the observatory swung into the den, and the gong sounded furiously. I snatched up the receiver but nothing came excepting confused sounds and a violent crackling like that of a radiogram transmitter. I flung it down and rushed over to the observatory and burst in. It was full of a brilliant violet light, independently of the arc-light, and a smell of burning.

Markwand was standing as I entered, and whether my over-wrought senses deceived me or not I cannot tell now, but it seemed to me that a female form—overwhelmingly comely, I must admit—was kneeling on the floor at his feet, her arms encircling his waist, and her head turned towards the complicated mirrors and cells which constituted Markwand's end of the apparatus. Terror was in the beautiful dark face, and she seemed to be trying to shield him, to protect him from something invisible to me. But the whole vision only lasted a second or two. Then a sort of seismic cataclysm took place; all the lights went out and the observatory was in pitch darkness, save that on the floor appeared a circle about a yard in diameter, not exactly luminous, but scintillating. I fumbled for the lighting switch. I got no light, but I got a shock that I shall remember to my dying day. It made me violently sick. After a delay, which seemed to me to be like an age in length, I got at my matches and struck a light and lit a couple of candles which always stood on the table in case of the current failing at any time.

The photo-telephone apparatus was wrecked, it looked like the debris of a spring mattress in a marine storekeeper's back yard. The telescope was twisted off its massive base and was hanging nearly to the floor; there was a rent in the dome beside the observation slit. I was vividly aware of an uncanny silence, and then I saw that the Sidereal clock and the Heliostat had both stopped—their sonorous tick would have been such a comfort.

I was alone with Markwand.

He was lying on the floor, where I had seen him standing, quite motionless, and quite normal, save that his lips were drawn back showing both rows of teeth in a ghastly grin.

Recollection of "first-aid" classes came to me. Electric shock, artificial respiration, and so on. I loosened his waistcoat, trousers-band, and shirt-collar, and began to apply my inadequate knowledge. There was a sickening smell as I gradually got him undressed. Then I knew he was dead. I made a violent effort to retain my presence of mind, my sanity, to think. There would be doctors, an inquest, people prying about, viewing the body. Horrible! I felt that at all hazards I must view it first. I undressed Markwand very carefully. The instantaneous blanching of death had made his fair skin look whiter, and he was physically uninjured, externally at any rate.

But round his waist, where I had seen the arms of Aalila, was a deep brown and blistered band. He had been girt in a zone of fire, fire which had burnt deeply beyond the skin into his body, but his clothes were not even singed. A detail: in the small of his back was the burnt impress of a small right hand, deepest at the finger tips. All I could think about was "I wonder where her other hand was?"

I sat and looked at Markwand, I don't know how long, but suddenly through the rent in the dome I saw it was dawn. I dressed him carefully. I wonder if you have any idea of how difficult it is to dress a dead body? He was also growing stiff.

I made myself think with a mighty effort. How did he die? The newspapers, the obituary notices, the coroner. Of course—the dynamo! I dragged Markwand over to the dynamo which was apparently wrecked too. I forced up his stiff arm so that the hand rested on the commutator. I took the key off his watch-chain.

Where I had seen the scintillating circle in the darkness lay a ring of pale grey dust. This struck me, and taking a small ordinary collector's corked tube from Markwand's laboratory bench I filled it with the dust and put it into my waistcoat pocket.

Then I crept back, like a murderer, to the study, found the writing-case, and put it into my portmanteau.

Then I roused the house.


"WHILKS!" The Merchant hardly raised his voice. It was only when a passer-by slackened his pace before the Establishment, and looked in the direction of the Stock-in-trade with an expression of interest (which expression the Merchant had learned by long experience to gauge with surprising accuracy) that he ejaculated on a note of interrogation his everlasting monosyllable: "Whilks?"

The Establishment occupied by prescriptive right some eight feet of the roadway against the kerb. It was of semi-nocturnal habit, arriving at its post—known as its "pitch"—late in the afternoons. At each corner sooty flames struggled through greasy lamp chimneys to irradiate the Stock-in-trade. A few yards away a constant procession of omnibuses punctuated the throbbing life of the Edgware Road. The Stock-in-trade, piled high against the back of the barrow, a pale yellow heap of shells, diffused a marine aroma which fought for supremacy with the more pungent perfume that spurted continuously from a little pipe projecting from the façade of the Sausage and Mashed Emporium on the landward side of the pavement. The roadway below the barrow was strewn with empty whelk-shells, the lately-evicted inhabitants of which lay coiled in small circular plates of doubtful cleanliness, disposed along the front of the Establishment.

"Two penn'orth, Daddy, and fat ones, ladies for choice," said Albert. Albert was a wag, and also a regular customer. Daddy looked up in nervous greeting—he knew Albert and prayed to Neptune that he might be in his good mood. Albert's bad mood was recognisable by a tendency to critical sarcasm that had been known to blight trade for half an hour at a time.

"Pick 'em out where you like, Albert, you're a judge." Thus Daddy, slavishly obsequious. "Whilks!" The word formed a full stop to his every utterance. His lips once unsealed by the necessities of commerce, it seemed a pity not to include his trade-announcement, as a recurrent termination. "Whilks!"

The Professor was returning home, dog-tired after a day of research culminating in a lecture. With the semi-unconscious habit of the Systematic Zoologist, he murmured to himself as he reached the Establishment, "Buccinum undatum." He paused and cast a rapid glance over the heaped-up shells. The Whelk Barrow, like its aristocratic rival the Oyster Stall, is often a happy hunting-ground for the Professor. At both Establishments an infinite world of marine life may be found encrusting the shells—Polyzoa—Ascidians—Annelids—you never know what you may find. He paused.

"Whilks?" said Daddy. A new customer perhaps. A cut above his usual clientèle no doubt—but who knows what strange cravings may suddenly develop even in a Toff whose normal tastes would lead him to Whitstable natives and Champagne wine? Daddy had once sold a plate of "Whilks" to one whom he identified from the picture-postcards as a Cabinet Minister.

The Merchant kept an anxious eye upon Albert. This patron, the small plate poised upon his left finger tips, was detaining the vinegar which he grasped in his right hand. A Lady wanted it, and was on the verge of becoming articulate. Daddy trembled. Albert's small eyes were fixed in what Daddy could not but realise was a baleful glare upon the Stock-in-trade. Bad luck! Albert was evidently in his bad mood. Slowly he replaced the plate upon the barrow and handed the vinegar to the Lady, with the deadly observation, "You be careful what you're eating, Marm!" A ripple of disquiet visibly ran over the clientèle. It was, I believe, Dr. Johnson who observed that the only requisite for the perfect enjoyment of Sausages is implicit confidence. It is the same with Shell-fish. They share with the Egg, and Caesar's wife, the imperative necessity of being above suspicion.

"Now then, Albert, what's wrong with you? Over-eaten yourself at the oysters?" Thus Daddy anxiously, and with ill-concealed alarm, hoping to carry the war into the enemy's country with a rapid thrust of wit. But Albert was not to be disarmed. He had facts to go upon. The Storm broke.

"'Ere! what yer givin' us? Whilks! I don't think. What's this?—and this?—and this?" With unerring eyes and dirty fingers he rapidly picked from the heap three smaller univalves, thicker in texture, whiter in colour, which he exhibited to the clientèle in the palm of his hand. From one of them as it rolled over, a small stream of yellowish purple fluid oozed.

"'Strewth!" cried the Patron as he dropped the shells among the plates already decked with the red and white blobs which had once inhabited the discarded shells, "they're poisonous—and that's the poison." The stricken business came to a standstill, but the crowd immediately increased in density. Daddy became active and vocal in distress. "They're all right," he said loudly, "they're only Dog-whilks—a smaller size—just as good, but I don't serve them, not never—'cause why? Not that they're bad, mind you, but because they're small, and I always give my customers good measure—full portions—you know that, Albert"—this despairingly, in a last effort to propitiate the foe.

"Oh, yes! we know all about that—don't we?"

The Lady chimed in: "My sister's 'usband 'ad a niece what ate a wrong whilk. She 'ad spots—orful—and she doied."

The crowd became murmurous. Half a dozen hideous reminiscences sprang to the lips of the bolder cognoscenti. The Professor picked up the damning evidence. "Purpura lapillus," he observed, the habit of a lifetime overmastering appreciation of his audience.

"There! the gentleman says they're poisonous—'e knows." Thus Albert springing to greet a heaven-sent witness for the prosecution.

"Not at all," said the Professor. Then, catching sight of the agony depicted on Daddy's features, he went on: "They are only a smaller whelk, but as the man says, they are not eaten, for the dye in them makes them unattractive." The Merchant threw him a glance which was a Benediction, and the Professor had an inspiration.

"I will take these," said he. "Have you any more?" In the manner of nervous conspirators he and Daddy picked out another three from the heap. "I am glad to have them." And with a look of infinite comprehension he put sixpence into Daddy's hand—ostentatiously—and disappeared into the Edgware Road.

"'E's dotty," said Albert. The crowd was confused by the multitude of testimony, and dissolved, divided between admiration of the knowledgeable Albert's heroic defence of the public, and sympathy for the mad Toff who was doubtless on his way home to commit suicide.

Business did not recover that evening. The "windy crowd" were not allowed to forget that a great and learned Toff had convicted Daddy of selling a poisonous winkle called "Purple bilious" as whelks. The Office of this Propaganda was the Establishment of the Oyster Merchant a little farther down the street.

* * * * *

AFTER his solitary meal the Professor returned to his study to put in a few hours' work on his Monograph of the British Mollusca. He was, as previously recorded, dog-tired. On his blotting-pad lay the half-dozen Dog-whelks which he had put down when he came in. Where they lay, the white paper had absorbed a patch of the fluid which, upon exposure to light, becomes a deep purple stain. The Professor looked at it with weary eyes. "Purpura lapillus," he murmured again, "and this is Tyrian Purple."

It seemed such an anachronism. The animal that yielded its marvellous colour to the dyers of Tyre and Tarsus, fifteen hundred years before the Augustan age, to become later the distinguishing mark of the Officials and Nobility of the Roman Empire, sold on a barrow in a side street, and the subject of a costermonger's quarrel with a 24-carat cad! And then an echo of his early schooling came down the dream-vista of Time—"for no man buyeth their merchandise any more, the merchandise of gold . . . of purple"—and he smiled wanly over the later Revelation. And again, "the soldiers put on Him a purple robe, and said Hail! King of the Jews." A world of thoughts crowded in upon him.

The Professor stretched himself and stared at the ceiling. Evidently he was in no mood for Systematic Zoology. His eyes fell upon the purple patch again—he wondered whether it was not exactly the breadth of the purple border of the toga praetexta; as a professor he would have come under the ius togae praetextae habendae. He would have been indistinguishable in the Forum from the Consuls, the Praetors, the Augurs, the Aediles, so far as his apparel went. Perhaps as an Augur he would have worn his purple in stripes on the trabea in the Dawn of Science. And—as the picture became clearer, the scene more actual—the Professor rose, drew his toga more closely round him, gathered the flowing end over his left arm, and stepped forth from his house to join the groups converging upon the Coliseum.

It was a première—he must hurry, for the application for seats from the would-be "first-nighters" had been overwhelming. Titus had completed the Monument which his father, Vespasian, had not lived to see perfected. The widowed Domitilla, and her daughter and namesake, would be there. A new denarius had been struck with the Coliseum on its reverse as a souvenir of the occasion for the tourists who bad flocked to Rome from all parts of the Empire. His seat was in the podium, level with the Emperor and the Senators. Beyond him the Vestal Virgins were early comers, and their views upon the fashions prevailing at court and their speculations upon the coming show forced a treble note upon the great chord of sounds that filled the air imprisoned under the velarium. The gradus had been filled to overflowing since the night before, especially the popularia—which reeked to heaven.

Strangely enough the experience was almost a new one to the Professor. He had once been taken to a contest at the National Sporting Club, and it had made him feel sick; this, and a rat-hunt at Oxford, constituted the limits of his experience of circenses. The afternoon wore on. He looked anxiously towards the seats of the Vestal Virgins when the Star-Retiarius disembowelled a really most deserving Secutor—but no one fainted. Then he pulled himself together, reflecting that the Virgins seldom or never faint in the Operating Theatres of our Hospitals. The two spectacles had much in common.

The chariot-races appealed most vividly to his London-bred senses. Some of the observations and epigrams exchanged between the competitors reached his ears with startling distinctness. A shocked memory of the current vernacular of competing omnibus drivers in the Edgware Road came over him like the echo of a song. At first he did not like to look at the Empress Marcia and her ladies, but when at last a constant repetition and unlimited application of the same word had dulled its primary significance he looked towards the imperial Box. The ladies were much amused.

It seemed a terrible thing to the Professor that the Keepers should have allowed the Council of the Zoological Society to sacrifice no less than four magnificent African lions, merely to make this opening performance a success. He was on the Council himself, and could not remember the matter ever having been brought before them—clearly the Secretary and Curator were taking too much upon themselves—but then he reflected suddenly that Africa is much nearer to Rome than to Regent's Park, and that the settlement of strikes among the Transport Workers was conducted in the Imperial City with a hatchet. He felt indeed a certain shamefaced satisfaction when the last lion successfully ate most of a rival Professor of Zoology before he could be induced (with red-hot irons) to return to his cage beneath the podium. The rival Professor owed his unfortunate experience to a rash suggestion that man—including the Emperor—was derived from the apes. He so far forgot himself as to shout Bravo Toro!"

Nevertheless he had a sick headache when he walked home with the Professor of Applied Mathematics in the evening. A dreary dog this Professor. He had lately been allowing himself a relaxation in Pure Mathematics, and had, after four months' assiduous work, proved that there was no possible solution to a problem which he had himself invented. He had talked of nothing else for four months and the mood was still on him. The Professor shook him off in the vestibulum of his house. He would have liked to come in and cadge a drink—the Professor's Falernian was justly celebrated—and go on talking. But the Professor was firm. At the ostium he picked up his letters and reached the atrium dog-tired—still.

Seated at his desk, his head fell forward on to his blotting-pad from very weariness. A sharply pointed object dented his forehead and he raised himself again to a sitting position with a start. The six Dog-whelks were still there—fishermen call them "Stinkers." It occurred to the Professor that like many phrases in common use among seafaring folk the name was amply justified. He was clearly in no mood for Systematic Zoology.

He went to bed.


TO the Zoologists of twenty-five years ago the name of Augustine Black—Austin Black he called himself—was uncomfortably familiar. He was a patient and keen observer of animal life, and his photographs of beasts and birds made under all kinds of critical conditions were greatly and justly admired. But there was another and an extraordinary side to the man. He was a semi-professional spiritualist, and reaped a rich harvest, it was said, from that curiously constituted segment of humanity whose vanity leads them to seek for evidence of a personal life after death, who 'sit' with obscurely disreputable 'mediums' in lower middle-class parlours in doubtful neighbourhoods, and accept the suggestions of the managers of such séances that the raucous cacklings of uneducated persons through tubes of brown paper are 'communications' from their dear ones who, in the cant phrase of the profession, 'have passed over.' They even welcome the futile familiarities of 'John King,' whose Arab face glowers over the 'circle'—and incidentally may be bought for a few shillings from any reputable purveyor of conjurers' accessories.

Austin Black's success in this branch of industry resulted from the fact that he ran his séances in his studio at Tulse Hill on more highly sophisticated lines. He had an admirable chamber-organ and employed a professional string-quartet to play behind impermeable curtains, what time 'materializations' took place, of High Church Dignitaries whose Latin would disgrace a fourth form schoolboy, and of eminent Scientists whose scientific observations were startling in their puerility and ignorance.

At the same time it must be confessed that there were occasions upon which the phenomena exhibited in return for the guineas of his 'sitters' (for his were not the normal five-shilling entertainments) were, though futile, quite inexplicable to an ordinary observer—and a new patron had to be introduced by a convinced dupe, and the keen scrutiny of Austin Black, and his few well-chosen remarks and questions to the new-comer, made it clear that none but ordinary observers were privileged to get their money's worth. If Black was not satisfied as to gullibility, or suspected a plot to expose the modus operandi, the spirits 'lay doggo' and would not perform. He would explain that there was 'an inimical Influence' present, and when the séance was given up the habitués regarded and treated the stranger in such a manner as to convey to him that they considered that he had not only spoilt their evening, but had meanly swindled, them out of the fees for that séance—and that stranger was never introduced again.

I frequently met Austin Black at the scientific meetings of the Zoological Society, and in spite of his over-florid courtesy he was to me as Dr. Fell of pious memory. It was therefore with mixed feelings that I yielded to my friend Mark Shelton's pressing invitation to assist at one of Black's séances in company with him and his friend George Carver.

"No doubt he does help out his séances with tricks," explained Mark, "but things do happen there that I cannot explain in any way whatever. I do wish you would come, once at least."

"What sort of things?" I asked.

"Oh! little things—generally of no importance, which have little or nothing to do with the 'show.' But at least twice there has been a sort of snarling in the room, and when this happens Black stops the séance—says the Controls are getting angry, or out of hand; and then, when the lights go up, he is a sight to see. Horrible! He seems to have worked himself up to such a pitch that he is white and sweating with terror. He bundles us all out as quickly as he can." I confess that this interested me. Shelton was an extraordinarily prosaic and clear-minded man, an idle man-about-town, with ample means and a beautiful apartment in the Albany. He did not believe in 'spiritualism' as such, but confessed that the manifestations interested and, on occasion, thrilled him. He never missed a good conjuring show at a Variety Theatre, and admitted that he loved to be taken in, and to see tricks and 'phenomena' that passed his comprehension.

Well—I went. Black had small piercing dark eyes and a little waxed moustache, and I found him a very different person from the obsequious Black I had avoided becoming accustomed to. He put me through a short but highly efficient cross-examination as to my experience of séances, and my object in assisting at this one; but I managed to convey an impression of imbecility, and to place in his hands my guilty secret that, in spite of my position as Professor of Zoology in the University of Cosmopoli, I was a dabbler in metaphysics, and prepared to admit the existence of super-physical forces which I did not understand but viewed with respect.

The solidity of my introduction, however, it was, that secured my admission to the 'Circle'; but Black was obviously on his guard, and nothing called for astonishment or remark in the performance—unless it was a 'materialization' of Pope Innocent the Third, who welcomed and blessed us in a mixture of elementary school Latin and atrocious modern Italian. A Cardinal was in attendance upon him who wore a long beard. I commented, foolishly, upon this, and Black quickly explained that he was a Franciscan Cardinal, which entirely satisfied the 'Circle' but put our ecclesiastical visitors to flight.

"What did you think of it?" asked Shelton as we walked down to the main road.

"I didn't think of it," I replied. "But I can't help thinking of Black—poor chap."

"Why 'poor chap?'"

"Don't you see how it has got hold of him? He is clearly a charlatan, but he is afraid of himself. Have you never seen a child who is afraid of the dark experimenting with mock-bravery? Going into a dark cupboard of which he controls the door handle—he is not really in the dark. Black's tricks are the dark cupboard of which he holds the door handle. I'll bet you he doesn't hold séances by himself."

"I wonder!" replied Shelton. He was curiously silent all the way back to town.

A few weeks later I noticed casually in the Daily Telegraph the announcement of the death of Augustine Black, F.Z.S., at his house on Tulse Hill.

* * * * *

IT was about three weeks or a month after this that Mark Shelton rang me up on the telephone. The telephone was not then the universal blessing (or curse) that it is now, and installations were few and far between, a sort of scientific toy for the chosen few, and I could have counted on my fingers the friends who had them in their houses. Shelton's voice sounded grave and subdued, in answer to my cheery greeting.

"I want you to dine with me tonight," he said. Can't possibly—I am dining out."

"Oh! but you must," he answered; "I want you particularly. It's most important."

"But I tell you I can't. Who else is coming?"

"No one—I want you, and you must come. Put your other party off. Tell them it's a matter of life and death."

"But, I say—"

"Don't say anything," he interrupted. "I'm telling you the truth. I've got something to tell you, which must be told here; and it is a matter of life and death. If you don't come, I shall not be alive in the morning."

By this time his voice was quivering, and I realized that something very serious was the matter. So I answered curtly:

"Oh! all right. I'll come, but don't talk bosh; and buck up. What have you been doing with yourself?"

"Nothing. I haven't left my rooms for three weeks."

"All right," I replied; "I'll come and dig you out."

I got to the Albany at half-past seven, and was let in by his man, the imperturbable Bates.

"How is Mr. Shelton?" I asked him casually, as I put down my hat and coat.

"I don't know, sir," replied Bates; "I can't make him out. Seems to be brooding all the time. Never goes out, and doesn't eat anything to speak of."

"I went into Shelton's sitting-room, which was stiflingly hot. Though it was a fine May day he had a large fire, and all the curtains were closely drawn. Mark was sitting before the fire in his day clothes, doing nothing.

"Good heavens!" I said. "What an atmosphere! No wonder you are nervy. Got any windows open?"

"No—and don't open them. I've a reason. Is the air very beastly?"

"Not beastly," I said; "but intolerably hot."

"Not foul and stuffy?"


"Don't you notice a queer smell?"

"No—what sort of smell?"

"Well"—he hesitated a moment, and then said—"like the Small Cat House at the Zoo."

"Not in the least," I replied. "Whatever is the matter with you?"

"I don't know. I want you to tell me."

"I looked at him critically. Was he—the sane and athletic Shelton—going mad? The phrase 'olfactory delusions' came into my mind.

"Tell me all you can about it," I said.

"Presently," he replied, "after dinner." So with that, for the moment, I had to be content. We went in to dinner. As usual it was exquisite. Shelton could, and did, afford a perfect cook, and on this occasion she had surpassed herself. Shelton tasted everything and sent his plate away practically untouched. At every dish he said:

"Pah! beastly. Don't you notice a filthy taste in this?"

"No—it's excellent. What kind of taste?"

"Well"—and again the hesitation—"like the Small Cat House at the Zoo."

It seemed to be a mania. I told him he should consult X. the great nose and ear specialist. He only shook his head wearily.

After dinner he consented to have a window open, and to let the fire die down. He told me he had 'got up a frowst' so that I should get It in all its force—but he accepted, doubtfully, my assurance that the air was perfectly clean.

He brought me a volume of Japanese engravings he wanted me to see, and as he leaned over me, he said:

"Don't you mind my leaning over you?" and he looked searchingly into my eyes.

"Not in the least. Why on earth should I?"

"Good God, man! don't you notice that I stink?"

"Not at all. What do you imagine you stink of? The Small Cat House again?"

"Yes—that's it. It's ghastly. I can never get away from it."

"Tell me," I said quietly. "When and how did this begin?"

And he told me a most amazing and horrible story.

"You remember Austin Black—the Spiritualist Zoologist? Yes, we took you, Carver and I, to one of his séances. You may have seen that he is dead. Carver and I were there when he died; there was no inquest, for his domestic G.P. certified the ever-ready heart disease of long standing.

"There was a séance, only four of us and Black and his Medium. Black was awfully strung up that night—he told us the conditions could not be more favourable. It wasn't a 'show night,' and there was no music and no tricks—but queer, uncomfortable things happened. A spreading light over the table—and a leg of my chair suddenly snapped off. We turned up the lights—it seemed to have been bitten through. I wanted to stop, but Black, though he looked ghastly, wouldn't hear of it. He said: "I want to see this thing through—I want to 'down' it"—and we started the séance again. Almost immediately I heard that snarling I told you about, and Black, who was on my right, got up in the dark and left the table. We heard a sort of scuffling, and then a choking noise in the corner of the room. We switched on the light and saw Black lying on his back by the wall, his tongue out, and blue in the face, struggling violently with nothing. We rushed at him and tried to pick him up. There was Something that we could not see, between us and him, pinning him down. We could feel it though—it was soft and pulpy, with a surface not furry, but like a mouse or a mole—and huge! And it stank like the Small Cat House at the Zoo. We could not free him of it, and we saw him die; choked before our eyes, whilst we clawed at that soft pulpy Nothing. We could not move it. When he was quite still, the Thing got up of its own accord. Carver and I were crouched close together, and the Thing forced its way between us, and so away. How it stank! It seemed to leave a greasy smear of smell all over us. We called his wife—a queer woman—she did not seem badly shocked, or to care much. Carver said afterwards that she seemed to him to he intensely relieved at something. All she said was: "I expected this—it has happened before"—she evidently did not realize that he was dead—"please go away at once. I will send for his doctor—he is close by." We went. The other two—strangers—and the Medium had bolted directly we turned up the lights. As Carver and I walked down the hill he said: "It's awful—it's awful. How it stank! and I can't get rid of the stink." No more could I. Carver and I parted at Vauxhall. I never saw him again. I enquired a day or two later and heard he was ill; a week later I heard he had had a stroke, and was in a private mad-house. I had baths—Turkish baths—I changed my clothes half a dozen times a day—I always smelt of that Thing—I do still—I can't bear it. I shall go mad like Carver. Everything I touch smells of it, everything I try to eat tastes of it. I've tried to get over it and I can't. That's why at last I sent for you, and closed up everything and lit a fire, to give you the fullest chance.

"Now I know that I can't do anything. It's in me and part of me—I shall never be free of it. That Thing is here with me! It's prowling round all the time, but only I can smell it. God help me!"

To say that I was horrified is to use a miserably inadequate term; but before I left Mark Shelton that night I had arranged with him to go in three days to Norway, fishing. We settled everything—when to start, where to go, and what to take. I left him, still rather dazed, but much easier in my mind.

That night at about 1 a.m. Mark Shelton blew out his brains.


DORA was responsible—the Dora who punctuated her name after the manner of the plural of Mouse as affected by Civil Engineers. D.O.R.A. Primarily responsible that is to say; for this is a story of one of the very few instances of that Ersatz, which devastated Germany during the Late Unpleasantness, but of which our more favoured Nation suffered but few aggressions.

From another point of view perhaps the responsibility lies with Itha and Armorel. They are the imperious nieces of the Professor of Applied Chemistry in the University of Cosmopoli. Itha was twelve at the time, and Armorel eight, but, having no wife to rule him with a rod of iron, the Professor had, by the dire progression of a process for which he was unable to account, gradually become as a slave beneath their ferule, and in the most meagre days of Dora's sumptuary regulations Itha and Armorel had demanded Bananas.

Well, Bananas were at that moment as Snakes in Iceland—apparently, and many a rebuff did the Professor endure from 'proud young Porters' at Stores whence of old he had been accustomed to supply his nieces' demands.

Of course the Professor ought to have been married. So ought Pamela, but the youth of the Professor had been spent, not only in consuming the midnight oil and other illuminants, but in abstract researches into their nature, composition, and adaptations. He was an acknowledged authority on Coal-tar Products, Inverted Sugars, and their derivatives commercial and prophylactic. Pamela had waited; and she had waited too long. By the time the Professor had become a Member of Council of the Chemical, and a Fellow of the Royal Societies he was a confirmed bachelor, and Pamela had reached the age which used to be labelled in their series of photographs of Celebrities (female) by the Strand Magazine as 'Present Day.' They corresponded at long, and met at longer, intervals, when Pamela, growing fragrant with the fire of forgotten suns, like a Winter Pear, came up from Wiltshire in a spirit of revolt against the limitations of the Provincial Milliner.

In the meagre days above referred to, Pamela was in town, and the Professor, rather grudging the expenditure of time involved, had bidden her to lunch with him at the Imperial. A visit to Kingsway, in search of chemical glass, had the result that his way back to the Imperial lay through Covent Garden Market, at that time a dreary vista of empty windows and derelict packing cases, where erstwhile the fruits of distant lands had been wont to overflow in poly-chromatic luxuriance. But in one of the windows lay a small bunch—a 'hand' they call it—of home-sick and weary Bananas, and the Professor remembered the grey reproachful eyes of Itha and Armorel, who could never believe that he could possibly fail them if he really made an effort.

He went in. An adolescent representative of an Ancient Race—who had escaped conscription—received him with scarcely inquisitive apathy.

"Are those the only Bananas you have?" asked the Professor:

"And all we are likely to," replied the Merchant elliptically.

"I am in trouble," said the Professor. "I have a little niece who is eagerly desirous of Bananas—and she is very delicate," he added as a mendacious afterthought, blushing as he thought of Itha in a dilapidated Scout uniform perched in the highest branches of a tree, or careering along the sands 'bare back' on a repatriated Army remount. "Do you think you could help me?"

The Adolescent Oriental looked him over with a scrutiny which became, in the end, sympathetic. Perhaps he had a niece—or something—and understood.


A subterranean noise as though the dirty floor were in labour, and from a square hole in the planks at their feet half a human being emerged. This was evidently part of Bill—a sinister figure, mid-way between Phil Squod and Quilp. A vision of strabismus and a fustian cap.

"Could you find this gentleman a hand or two of Bananas out of that case?—you know."

Disappearance of the upper half of Bill, a sound of rending timbers, and presently his reappearance with two 'hands'—beautiful golden Bananas, and the nether portion of his person.

"Beauties," remarked Bill, "come yesterday."

"How much?" inquired the Professor.

When he recovered he saw himself, mentally, a poorer, but a better man. The Merchant was delivering a lecture upon the economics of War, and the iniquities of Dora. And as he turned the 'hand' over, that its excellence might act as an anaesthetic to the operation of extraction, there ran out upon the counter the Blue Cockroach.

Unconsciously the Professor—like the Poet in the Den of the Scarabee—recoiled, but no Scarabee was there to murmur without emotion 'Blatta.' But Bill was there.

"Ah!" said he, "I've seen him before—queer things we get sometimes in the cases—lizards—snakes—and what not. Once I found a Monkey. Jolly little beggar—he was all right, lived on the fruit. We used to take them to the live-beast place at the end. Shut up now."

"Don't you ever get bitten—or stung?"

"No—we're careful. This fellow's harmless."

It was a most lovely beast. In shape and size identical with the cockroaches which stray among one's brushes on board ship, and architecturally indistinguishable from the larger members of the Kitchen family, the Blue Cockroach was clad in a pure, pale azure, as if a cunning artificer in enamels had fashioned it, and had given to its surface a texture of the finest smooth velvet. Its long antennae waved inquiringly back and forth, its tiny eyes sparkled black with crimson points, and then it began to run. The Professor caught it in his hand as it toppled from the edge of the counter.

It bit him.

A curious sickening little puncture like the nip of an earwig. A sensation of heat, and then of cold that ran all over him, and Bill and the Merchant grew nebulous—and waved about. The Professor had never fainted in his life, but he said to himself 'This is how they must feel.' In a moment it was over. He had shaken off the insect, and true to the scientific instinct he took out of his pocket one of the corked tubes he had just acquired, and drove the Blue Cockroach into it.

"One of the fellows at the Museum may like to have it," he said. The Merchant shrugged his shoulders. A boot-heel, not a corked tube, seemed to him to be the appropriate climax to the Odyssey of the Blue Cockroach. For some inexplicable reason, however, he reduced the price he had quoted from the limits of Chimaera to within the bounds of Extravagance, and the Professor went upon his way, the Bananas in his hand and the Blue Cockroach in his pocket.

A tiny point on his right palm showed where the insect had attacked him, but beyond that the incident was closed.

As he proceeded along Coventry Street, the Professor became aware of a great calm—an undefined happiness. He had regarded his appointment with Pamela more in the light of a kindly duty than as an occasion for pleasurable anticipation, but now he suddenly found himself looking forward to their meeting with a keen sense of curiosity and satisfaction. It was too long since they met last. He felt sure she would have come to town sooner had he expressed a wish in that direction in his letters. What a handsome creature she had been when he was a student! What a shame it was that she had never married. The Professor found himself quietly wondering why—if—whether?

"I am fifty-four," said he to himself. But he smiled frowningly—or frowned smilingly.

* * * * *

'SHE's a wonderful woman!' was his first thought as she rose to greet him from the big chair in the vestibule. Indeed Pamela seemed younger than he remembered her to have looked a year ago. She seemed to radiate that impression of delicate strength and ultra-feminine self-reliance which constitutes the undefinable charm of many middle-aged spinsters.

Their lunch was delightful. Pamela seemed as though she were starting fresh. The Professor seemed to have shed his professorial armour, and to have become once more a human being. He entertained her with descriptions of his war activities, no longer as of yore skimming over the subject, but letting her into the secret chamber of his ambitions, his aspirations, his work. When a man of the Professor's intellectual eminence exerts himself to charm, the charm is dangerously subtle. An element of flattery pervades the exercise, which is—or should be—irresistible. Pamela did not resist—she had never been called upon to resist, and was not going to begin now. Thirty years fell away, as time wasted in sleep. It is not a disagreeable admission—indeed there is a curious emotional joy predominant, when two people who should have been lovers find themselves saying in their hearts 'What fools we have been!'

By the time that the arrival of coffee and cigarettes had cleared away the last barriers which had erected themselves upon their voyage of re-discovery, the Professor was virtually identifying Pamela with his life-work.

"It is not all explosives and bacteriology," he confided to her. "I have been at work upon substitutes for sugar, and I have found one which will be a god-send to the people who properly detest saccharine. I have brought here a little tube of my finished article. It has all the sweetening properties of the finest cane sugar. Will you try it?"

Of course she would. If it had been a dangerous poison she would have gladly offered herself as a martyr to Science—his Science.

"You need not be afraid of it. It is not only a wonderful sweetener—it is also a powerful prophylactic. It acts like an atoxyl that would kill with extraordinary rapidity any pathogenic organisms in the system. I look forward to trying it as a remedy for Sleeping Sickness, Yellow Fever—any of the tropical diseases carried by insects which inject death-dealing bacteria—trypanosomes—into our blood by their bites. My dear"—she quivered—"I believe I hold here one of the greatest discoveries that has ever been made in prophylactic medicine!"

They sweetened their coffee each with a tiny pellucid crystal.

"It is just like real sugar," she said dreamily, "not harsh like saccharine. My dear"—his eyes grew narrower—"I do believe you are right. I am so proud of you." She ended with a little contented sigh which was half a laugh, and looked round the restaurant, which was by this time gradually becoming empty, and wondered whether anyone else there looked out upon their worlds with so supreme a sensation of satisfaction and fulfilment as she. What fools they had been!

* * * * *

THE Professor also finished his coffee and leaned back in his chair, looking round the room with a sudden sensation of discomfort. He had just thought again of the Blue Cockroach—the reason he had thought of it was that he had suddenly experienced, as it were, a return of the sensation which came over him at the moment it bit him. It was, however, only momentary, though, casually glancing at his hand, it seemed as if the little puncture were more visible than it had been.

And then a remarkable thing happened. He turned again to Pamela and saw her with new—or rather with old—eyes. He found her eyes fastened upon him with a mingled expression of apprehension and curiosity—and as he returned her gaze—she blushed vividly. He felt strangely uncomfortable, and without any conscious volition on his part he found himself going rapidly over in his mind their conversation of the previous hour. It was surely waste of time to orate for an hour to this dull but worthy person, upon a subject which could have no interest for her and of which she could not possibly understand a single word. He was dissatisfied with himself, and naturally blamed her vaguely for his dissatisfaction and discomfort.

"Well!" he said, "it has been very pleasant seeing you again, Pamela. We must—Dr—not let it be so long again—before——" His stereotyped phrases lost themselves in embarrassed silence.

He asked for the bill. It seemed to him rather excessive. However, just for once . . .

Pamela had not ceased looking at him. She was puzzled; it seemed to her as if a newly opened door had been quietly but relentlessly shut in her face. The Professor certainly had aged a good deal since she saw him last; she had not noticed it before. An uncomfortable sensation crept over her that she had been expansive beyond warrantable limits with this grave grey man, and she felt a little hot under an impression that she had allowed the conversation to stray beyond what was quite seemly and decorous—at her age. She was rather relieved that he seemed in a hurry to get away. She had all an intelligent woman's horror of an anti-climax.

An hour later she was in the train. At that moment the Professor laid down his pen in his study and looked before him out of the window. The same thought struck both of them simultaneously.

"What fools we were!"

* * * * *

'NOW whether there be truth or no in that which the native Priests do aver, I know not, nor may I make more curious enquiry, but if it be indeed the fact that the sting of divers of their Flyes do engender Passions as of Love, Hate, and the like, then the matter is curious and worthy of enquiry, but such as I did make enquiry of did postpone me with shrewd cunning and avoiding answer, nor would they be come at to speak further upon it at that or any other time.'*

*The True Accompt of the Travels into Distant Lands of the learned Doctor Franzelius Bott, wherein many curious Customs and Wisdom of the Inhabitants are truly set down.' (Leyden: 1614; p. 117.)


Dr-r-r-r-r! Dr-r-r-r-r! and so on.

"Bless the Telephone!" said the Regius Professor of Medicine.

I make use of a conventional euphuism—it was not a blessing that the Regius Professor invoked in favour of the National Telephone Company, the mention of which dates the events which I am about to relate—it was before a Paternal Government had assumed that Control, which enabled it to provide the last straw, which gave the hump to that patient animal, the British Public.

Dr-r-r-r-r! Dr-r-r-r-r!

"Yes—Yes—Hullo!—Hullo!" Sir George Amboyne was in the middle of writing an important paragraph in an important paper, and he felt as if some one had suddenly thrust a marling-spike between the spokes of the fly-wheel of his mind, and had brought the machinery of thought to a crashing and dislocating stop. It was a law, both written and unwritten, that he was not to be 'rung up' by his friends during the working hours of the morning. He was prepared to be nasty.

"Is that you, Reggie?"

A guttural laugh rattled the microphone.

"Who do you want?" asked the Professor, with that lapse from grammar which is universal in the circumstances. A contralto voice replied "I want Sir George Amboyne, Bart., F.R.S., etcetera. Don't you know me, Reggie? It's me, Cynthia." Again the grammar of telephonic speech.

A wave of disgust and disquiet surged over the Professor. 'Reggie!' There was only one person in the world—the most unexpected person in the world—who had, on the last occasion on which he had seen her, suggested that this would be a humorous and affectionate name for him, an echo—or contraction—of his title 'Regius Professor of Medicine.' It had made him shudder with disgust, the more so as the authoress of this solecism had been for long years his most dainty, refined and delicate friend—Cynthia Carlyon. He had hoped that the manner in which he had received the suggestion had made the occasion unique—a 'joke' never to be repeated.

"I am George Amboyne," he replied, with as much severity as one can assume over the telephone wire.

"That's all right, Reggie dear. I know you don't like it but you've got to put up with it."

"I don't like it, Cynthia. What do you want? I am very much occupied."

"I know you are—that's why I thought it would be fun to ring you up." Again the guttural laugh. It seemed a pity that the laugher could not see his face as he heard it.

"Will you please tell me what you want?"

"I'm feeling dissipated and devilish—I want you to come and play with me. You might take me out to lunch."

"I am sorry, but it is quite impossible."

"Oh! damn!"

"Please—please, Cynthia—don't. It's horrible. If you want to see me particularly I will come to you after four."

"No good to-day, old chap, I've got a bran new Johnnie coming to tea, and I want him all to myself."

He went back to his desk and sat down, but he could not go on with his work. He sat staring out of the window. It was horrible. That this vulgar, slangy creature could possibly be Cynthia, absolutely stunned his senses. The most dainty—the most delicate—the flower-like. He gave it up, and leaning his forehead upon his hands, he groaned aloud.

* * * * *

SOME years—less than a decade before the date of this unpleasant incident—Cynthia Carlyon occupied the position of Queen of a Cult. She stood out in the literary, the artistic, and the scientific society of Cosmopoli, as it were, an object of reverent and affectionate worship. She was beautiful in the manner of a Titian Madonna, a reddish-gold woman of infinite grace and perfect taste. A poetess, an essayist, a musician, a painter, she met the men of literature, science and art on their own ground. As a bachelor-girl (to use a phrase which was invented, I think, long afterwards) of independent means, she had a real "Salon," where one met everybody worth meeting from an intellectual point of view. She was popularly supposed to have refused to marry every man who had ever come under the spell of her curious crooked smile—it was the probationary stage through which he who would join her charmed and charming circle had to pass. This formality satisfactorily accomplished, and the period of convalescence—or quarantine—safely negotiated, you settled down into your place in her studio. No one ever resumed the Quest of Cynthia—he merely adopted the Cult.

And then, to the horror of all of us, she came back from Florence one fatal spring day, married to Max Carlyon.

Carlyon was a blackguard; he was an adventurer of the subtle type, not the flamboyant—he had tried that and it had proved a miss. He also drank. And—as Herodotus would put it—this is all that we shall say about Max Carlyon; excepting that he curdled the côterie, and Cynthia's salon was reduced to the faithful few who put up with him when he was present, rejoiced when he was absent, and melted away when he came home drunk.

Among these Sir George Amboyne (who was appointed to the Regius Professorship of Medicine in the University of Cosmopoli about two years later) was one of the most faithful. In the events which followed he was also the last. But this is to anticipate.

* * * * *

ABOUT two years after her disastrous marriage Cynthia faded; indeed she obviously became very ill. Her condition became so alarming that Amboyne insisted that he should merge the friend in the surgeon, and he, with a no less eminent colleague, after a careful and heart-breaking examination, pronounced upon Cynthia Carlyon sentence of death—humanly speaking. She underwent a terrible operation, and took up her abode in a charming nursing home, a little way outside the town. And so we waited for the end.

But whether by reason of some hidden force of vitality, or of her determination not to give up, the end did not come. A year passed, and "The Death-bed of Cynthia" became an institution—indeed it may be said to have become a social function. Her friends rallied round her, and each of them had his or her appointed hour, when they met round the bed, where she lay like a bright and cheerful Madonna, told her the news, brought her their books and pictures, played to her (she had a "baby grand" in her room), and by degrees, a new and highly selective Salon gathered again by her bed-side.

During the second year of this strange existence, the disease woke up again. Since that time the scourge of cancer has surrendered to the besieging forces of Science, and now we know what to do to eradicate it, but in those days, the cure, persistently sought, had eluded the vigilance of its untiring pursuers. I walked away from her bed-side one day with George Amboyne, through the as yet undesecrated lanes of Bromley, and I asked him:

"Is this the end?"

"Humanly speaking," he replied, "yes. Unless a miracle were to happen. And miracles do not happen in the clinics of cancer."

"How long will she live?"

"Perhaps a month—possibly longer—but I hope not."

Two days after this I was astonished to receive a note from the Matron of the nursing home, couched in the following terms:

"Sir,—I am instructed by Mrs. Carlyon's medical attendant to request you to discontinue your visits until further notice. He hopes that in a week or two you will be able to resume them."

Mrs. Carlyon's medical attendant—George Amboyne!—what the! I jumped into a hansom cab and was at Amboyne's house in less than a quarter of an hour. I found him at breakfast. I had not breakfasted.

"What is the meaning of this?" I said, putting the Matron's letter before him.

"What it says," he replied.

"But you——?"

"I am no longer 'Mrs. Carlyon's medical attendant.'"

"For heaven's sake, explain!" said I.

"Carlyon called upon me yesterday morning——."

"Was he sober?"

"Partially. He asked me what hope I had of his wife's life. I told him none. He said: 'Then you will not be surprised if I call in another opinion.' I said 'Not at all—I shall be happy to meet any other medical man that you may call in.' He smiled his beastly unctuous smile and said 'I don't think you will be troubled.' And so he left me."

"Well—what next?"

Amboyne handed me a letter which had been lying open by his plate. It read:

Dear Dr. Amboyne,

Mr. Carlyon's visit to you will have prepared you to hear that at his request I have taken over the treatment of his wife. I shall be happy to meet you on the case, if you can time your visit to coincide with mine.

Yours faithfully,

Erasmus Quayle.'


"Erasmus Quayle is a quack. He advertises in provincial and clerical papers 'Cancer cured by an infallible treatment. Payment by results. No cure, no charge.'"

"Good God! and are you going to meet him?"

"On a first impulse, no—of course not. And yet, Cynthia! I don't know what to do—I don't know what to say."

"He'll kill her."

"No—that is predestined—but this man—(he is an Honorary M.D. of some Middle West American Institution which sells Degrees)—keeps his patients alive for a bit by some preparation of his own—sometimes for months. He announces a cure, gets paid—enormously—and then clears out. The patient then dies."

"What's to be done?"

"I don't know. Excuse me; there's the telephone."

In a few minutes he returned, very pale and obviously very much distressed.

"Well—that settles it," he said quietly. "Carlyon on the telephone. He says that Dr. (Doctor!) Quayle thinks it unnecessary to trouble me, and that his wife would rather I did not call until I hear from her."

"There's only one gleam of light in the murk," I said. "I hear that the Matron exercises her authority, and does not let Carlyon see his wife when he is too drunk."

"Yes—that's something," replied Amboyne.

* * * * *

TWO years passed by. Three weeks after the conversation I have recorded with George (now Sir George) Amboyne, I, in common with others of her intimates, received a letter from Cynthia asking me to come and see her. I went, of course, at once. Frankly, I was amazed.

"Come in, dear man," she called out, as I opened the door. "Come in! what do you think of me? I am cured!"

I cannot describe what I felt. The room seemed to spin round me. All I could say was "Thank God, dear Cynthia."

"And Dr. Quayle," replied she, rather wistfully, "I know I must not say too much about him to you people. Fortunately he refuses to meet any of my friends. But look at the result!"

I could only murmur commonplaces. The foundations of my belief in medical science were being shaken. But there it was. Cynthia seemed to be quite her old self. Amboyne came in whilst I was there. It was not a very comfortable meeting—indeed we were both relieved when Cynthia told us that for a few weeks she must cut her interviews shorter than she would like; and we left her.

We went into the Matron's sanctum, and after the ordinary greetings, Amboyne said to her:

"This is very remarkable, Matron. What does it all mean?"

"I don't know," she replied, with an air of visible distress. "It passes everyone 's comprehension. This Mr. Quayle——."

"Yes?" said Amboyne, encouragingly; "can you tell me?"

"No," she replied, "it's all mysterious. He cooks things in a little pot behind a screen—he brings the materials, and takes them away again. We merely give his medicines as he directs. It is most extraordinary—and unsatisfactory."

And with that we left her. Amboyne was silent all the way back to town. Like the parrot of folk-lore.

And then the two years went by. Cynthia received her friends as before Carlyon kept in the background, but I gathered indirectly from the Matron that at intervals he made scenes about money. Cynthia spoke of moving to a less expensive room. I remembered grimly the legend in gold on some of the fancy mugs at Schwalbach 'Mann, ärgere deine Frau nicht; die Kur kostet viel Geld.'

At the end of the two years, I went one day to the home for my bi-weekly visit, and met Amboyne in the hall. "You can't go in," he said. "Cynthia is dying."


"Yes—Quayle has given up the case—made all he can, I suppose. Says she grew over-confident and disobeyed orders. I was sent for this morning. She is quite unconscious—she will not regain consciousness. It is the end."

We came away. Outside, Carlyon, speechlessly drunk, was being led firmly away by a policeman.

* * * * *

BUT Cynthia did not die. I called next morning and the Matron told me that after being dead as they all supposed for two hours, her eyelids suddenly flickered and she regained consciousness. In the morning she seemed much stronger and asked for food.

"You had better not see her," said the good woman; "she is very fretful, and uneasy. So unlike herself—quite disagreeable. I am very worried over it all. I rang up Mr. Quayle and he refused to come—so this morning I sent for Sir George Amboyne. He seemed very shocked."

For several weeks there was no fresh development in this astonishing case. I had a note from Cynthia merely saying 'Don't come till I let you know. I'm growing stronger every day.'

I saw Amboyne. He could give me no news, beyond that she seemed to gain strength every day, according to the report of the nurses—he had not seen her since the first day. He had received the same note as I had. He hesitated a moment and then said:

"I am afraid that you will experience—and so shall I—a shock, when we see her again. From what the Matron tells me she is woefully changed—for the worse. They say she is 'a trying patient' and they will be glad to get rid of her."

"Get rid of her?"

"Yes—she talks of leaving the home in about a fortnight."

"Leaving the home?"

He shrugged his shoulders. "Yes—that's it. All we can do is to wait."

* * * * *

WE waited three weeks, and then, on the morning of an unforgettable day, I received a letter from Cynthia, dated from a second-rate hotel in the S.W. district, asking me to call upon her! She told me not to call till the afternoon 'as I am going on a jamboree to a music hall to-night, and don't get up very early anyhow. I've been here ten days, but didn't tell any of you good, serious old fogies. I wanted to have a fling around before I encounter your solemn mugs, and high-flown ideas, and have to become serious and respectable again, after all these wasted years.'

I took the note round to Harley Street, and thence to the University where Amboyne was lecturing, and I waited for him. I showed him the note, and for all reply he took another from his pocket and handed it to me. It said:

"Here I am, you see, in spite of your determination to kill me. What price 'Infallibility' for the Mortuary Stakes? But come along and see your little Cynthia and make up for a lot of lost time. You have become no end of a swell since I 'took ill' as the servants say. 'Regius Professor'—I bow! But what a mouthful! I think I shall call you 'Reggie' in future."

I handed it back and looked at him, speechless.

"Isn't it horrible?" he said in a low tone. "What do you make of it?"

"Let us go and see," I replied.

We went that afternoon, and were shown into a tawdry sitting room, which smelt of dust and patchouli. Cynthia was lolling on a green 'rep' sofa—smoking a cigarette. Carlyon was sitting by her side, and got up sheepishly as we entered.

"Well, so long, old girl," he said huskily; "I'll leave you with your intellectual friends." He gave a short laugh as he turned to us and said, "You'll find the old girl a bit different to what she was, and a jolly good thing too. She's woken up—fine!"

We sat down and for a moment we simply could not utter a sound. Was this Cynthia. Yes—it was the same willowy figure, the brown eyes, the fine long hands and feet—but her hair! In place of her red-gold aureole was a short thick crop of black curly stubble. The expression in her eyes was that of an animal gathering itself together to spring. She was the first to break the silence.

"Good Lord, how glum you both look. You look as if you had never seen me before. Have a cigarette, or a drink—or both—and let's be jolly."

"Are you sure," said Amboyne, "that you are not overtaxing your strength? I should hardly——."

"Oh! for heavens' sake, don't preach at me, Reggie——."

"I beg your pardon!"

"Yes—Reggie—don't you think it's rather nice for a Regius Professor? Much nicer than George—a dull, solemn name. But don't be dull and solemn with me, I've kicked free and I'm going to have a good time. Be jolly—or stop away. If you are going to look at me like that, I prefer Max—he's a sportsman."

The interview was a short one. To this day I don't know how we got through it. She was dreadful—when we got up to go she did not try to detain us, nor did she ask when we would come again. We got into the street somehow.

I found that I could hardly speak above a whisper. But I said:

"What is it?"

"I don't know—I don't know—but I think it is a Demon."

"Amboyne!—pull yourself together."

"Do it yourself!—you are shaking all over—it's difficult. But"—and he stopped dead and looked straight at me—"didn't you see IT lurking behind the eyes that used to be Cynthia's, watching us to see whether we recognised It?"

"Yes—I did." (But I was glad that the Regius Professor of Medicine had mentioned it first.)

* * * * *

AND this brings us to the morning with which I opened this record, when Cynthia Carlyon rang up the Regius Professor—for fun.

He got through the routine of the day—consultations, a lecture at the University, a committee at the Royal Society, and arrived home exhausted with work which had been made painful and difficult by a suppressed emotion of horror. He was just sitting down to the simulacrum of dinner when the telephone rang again. A woman's voice, in a flutter of excitement.

"Is that Dr. Reginald Burgoyne?"

"Amboyne is my name, Sir George Amboyne."

"Beg pardon, I didn't know whether to say George or Reginald. You are the doctor?"


"Please come at once to the Hotel. A lady, Mrs. Carlyon is calling out for you something awful."

"What has happened?"

"I don't know, sir, I'm the manageress. The lady had a gent to tea, and when he had gone I heard a screech and went in to her. She was in a fit seemingly. Screaming something awful. I got her to bed and called in the doctor. She keeps calling for you, he says. I thought he said name of Burgoyne. She called out 'Reggie' and 'George.' Will you come, sir? Please do, the doctor says so."

"At once," replied Amboyne.

In the tawdry sitting room he met a harassed looking young practitioner, obviously paralyzed at finding himself face to face with the world-renowned Regius Professor.

"Epilepsy, I suppose, sir—with submission—but I don't know. I never saw anything like it before. And her language, it is frightful. Like sometimes—in puerperal fever. Will you see her?"

They went in. Cynthia—the old placid Cynthia, save for the short black hair, was lying in bed, as the woman of the house had left her. The old tender half-humorous eyes were open, and as Amboyne leaned over her she said softly "It was good of you to come, George. Don't let them take me away again."

"Of course not, dear. I'll look after you."

"Can you, do you think? I have been in Hell."

But as she spoke the Demon flashed into her eyes, and she sprang to a sitting position with a wild cry—like an animal in pain.

The Regius Professor put his arm round her, and she clawed at his face. But only for a moment. Then she sank in his arm, and he laid her gently back upon the bed.

That was all.


I HAPPENED to be in our Registrar's room one day, and quite unconsciously I produced "an effect." I had some letters in my hand, and when I had finished with Blayre, I referred casually to one of them. I said:

"Do you know anything of a man called Max Carlyon?"

He sprang to his feet and almost shouted:

"Do I?—what do you know about him?—ask Amboyne! Where is he?"

To this singularly confused address I had no direct answer to make. What I said was:

"I don't know anything about him? Preserve your capillary decoration against the time when age shall commit indiscretions regarding your bumps. There is a letter from him—he appears to have dropped very unexpectedly into a Baronetcy and some books. Whatever may be his views about the Baronetcy, it is clear he does not care a hang about the books. He wants to sell them, so as to repair his house, which would appear to be mouldy. That's all. Now you tell me about him."

The Registrar had re-seated himself, and looked rather ashamed of his demonstration. He said rather wearily:

"Oh! nothing in particular—but what a small place the world is! Amboyne and I came across Max Carlyon years ago, under very painful and unpleasant circumstances. Fancy him a Baronet! I thought he must have died of alcoholic poisoning by now. I hope he hasn't got any children."

"Sir," said I, "you interest and excite me. Shall I ask him to call? You might gather up the threads of what appears to have been a very pleasant acquaintance."

"Don't play the fool—it isn't a matter to laugh about. What are you going to do about it?"

"Well—I shall put the matter before the Council, and then—I hope—I shall go and see the books. He says there are hundreds of volumes of early Medicine and Science—especially Occult Science. It sounds like a very interesting lot."

"Whatever you do, don't have him here, I couldn't stand the sight of him," thus the Registrar, uneasily.

To pass over the preliminary and intermediate stages, I went in due course to Clough-Iveagh in the North of Ireland, where I met the new Baronet. I have never learned what were his relations with our Registrar and the Regius Professor of Medicine, but I agreed with every word they had not said. He was an appalling Beast. Fortunately for me, after the day of my arrival I saw no more of him. The house was empty save for the books, and was in wrack and ruin. Sir Max Carlyon left next morning for an unknown destination, and I put up at the village Inn, which was unpretentious and comfortable. Still more fortunately for me I found that the pastor of the parish was an old college friend, Fergus MacDermott, of whom I had lost sight for years. I spent my evenings with him, and he told me—in sections—the amazing story which I am going to write down.

The Library, which was kept partially clean by an old Irishman and his wife who lived in the Lodge, was a Bookman's Paradise. The books were wonderful. I found the editiones principes of all the rarest works of 16th and 17th Century Science and Medicine, but what made my inspection lengthy and tedious was the remarkable fact that, though they were all in contemporary bindings, they were all lettered on the backs as Theological Works, Lives of the Saints, Commentaries, Biblical Exegesis and the like, and every volume had to be taken down and examined separately. It puzzled me extremely until I heard the 'story' from MacDermott.

I asked him if he knew anything about the Beast.

"Divil a word," he replied, "and don't want to, but his great-uncle married my great-aunt. You know"—of course I didn't—"my father and grand-father were parsons here before me—that's how it is I'm here."

Mac did not appear to be much impressed by the advantages of his hereditary cure of souls—but he had a friendly parish, an efficient stable, and an excellent cellar.

"You know," said he—of course I didn't—"this man is an unexpected arrival from Heaven knows where. He wasn't on speaking terms with any of the family—that's why he has only got the place, strictly entailed. The Carlyon title seems never to pass direct from father to son; it spurts about like a firework cracker, you never know whom it will hit next. By the way, you ought to spend the night in that library——."

"Not for the wealth of the Indies!"

"Don't interrupt—in that library on the 13th of August. You'd see the Family Ghost, and, with luck, might have your brains bashed out."

"Thanks—no. But tell me about it."

And he told me. The following is the gist of it, extracted from Mac under the influence of much tobacco and the generous wine of the country. I seldom had to interrupt him, excepting for the verification of genealogical details, which in his discourse had a tendency to become confused.

"Way back in the early 19th century the then Sir Willoughby Carlyon died without male heirs, and it was ascertained that his brother Chariton had died in Rio de Janeiro, years before, leaving a son, Erule, who was a briefless barrister in London, and than whom no one was more surprised at his unexpected accession to the title and estate. His father had never addressed speech or letter to his elder brother since, as a lad, he had betaken himself to Brazil; but even if he had remained in England it is probable that the surviving Carlyon would have been equally isolated from the rest of his family.

"This condition of affairs requires some explanation, and the explanation is as follows:—When His Majesty King James the First instituted the perpetuity of Knighthood by conferring the new title of Baronet upon such gentlemen as were willing to aid him in his Irish 'reforms,' one of the first to assume the dignity of the new Order was Mr. Carlyon of Clough-Iveagh. The Carlyons of Clough-Iveagh were said to be the oldest, proudest, and wealthiest of the Catholic families in the north of Ireland—that they were old, and proud, and wealthy, there is no doubt, but whether they were entitled to the superlative is a question upon which Milesian genealogists have been divided.

"Anyhow, the Carlyons who succeeded one another had one fetish which was embodied in the emblazonment of the family escutcheon; to wit: 'On a field argent, a crucifix proper, supported dexter and sinister by a hand gules, bearing a sword,' with the motto 'To the Faith, faithful.' From this it may be gathered that the Carlyons were Catholic to the backbone, and every tradition of the family was in some way connected with, or the outcome of, their devotion to the Church. Two of the Carlyons had been Cardinals, and the family tree positively bristled with Priors, Monsignores and Bishops of the Holy See—more than once the family had been threatened with extinction by the celibacy of these holy men, and had the baronetcy been conferred upon Mr. Carlyon of Clough-Iveagh in fee-tail it would have become extinct in the third generation. As it was, the succession was unhampered, and fell from generation to generation upon the nearest living male heir of the late baronet. It was thus that one morning Erule Carlyon woke in his chambers in Lincoln's Inn to find himself entitled to the Red Hand of Ulster upon his armorial bearings, and, what was of more importance to a briefless barrister, to the house and estate of Clough-Iveagh.

"It was a complete surprise to him, for, from the day he was born in Rio de Janeiro, he had never held any communication with, and had never seen, his uncle, Sir Willoughby, and for this—to them—all-sufficient reason. His father whilst a lad at Oxford had fallen in love with a Protestant maiden, the daughter of the Dean of his College, and had announced to his brother his intention of marrying the lady. The elder brother had promptly, with the traditional bigotry of the Carlyons, informed his younger brother that, should he disgrace the family by union with 'the heretic woman,' he would be disowned on the spot by all other members of the family; and moreover he was warned that the lady would never be recognised by them, or by the Church, as his wife. Deeply wounded, and boiling with fury, young Carlyon formally cut himself adrift from his brother, who, in turn, ruled a crimson line through his name on the pedigree that was preserved at Clough-Iveagh.

"Married to his 'sweet heretic,' and, in due course, father of a baby boy, the image of his mother, it is hardly surprising that Carlyon embraced the Protestant faith; and young Erule was duly baptized a Protestant, in defiance of a last strenuous effort on the part of his uncle and sundry ecclesiastical 'collaterals' to save his young soul from inevitable hell-fire. The breach had been complete, and Erule Carlyon had grown to man's estate, and had been called to the Bar, conscious indeed of the fact that he was the nephew of Sir Willoughby Carlyon of Clough-Iveagh, but beyond that knowing nothing of his family, save in the remembrance of his mother who had died when he was a child, and of his father who had followed her some ten years later to the grave.

"One warm spring afternoon, therefore, in the year of grace 18—Sir Erule Carlyon arrived, a stranger, and, in the eyes of his tenantry, a heretic, at Clough-Iveagh, the first avowed Protestant Carlyon who had trodden the ancestral halls. I say the first 'avowed Protestant,' for there dwelt in the memory of Sir Ernie a story that had been told him, years ago, by his father, of a great-grand-uncle Spencer, who had been regarded by the family as having heretical tendencies, and as having in some mysterious way come to a bad end in consequence. So far as he could gather the details of the story were as follows:

"Sir Spencer Carlyon had been a student. He lived at Clough-Iveagh a solitary life, unbroken by any companionships save that of his chaplain-confessor, a young priest, distantly connected with the family, and noted in the Roman Catholic Church, despite his youth, for his exemplary piety and fanatic austerity. It was not without an object that His Eminence Cardinal Willoughby Carlyon, principal of the Benedictine confraternity at Monte Cassino, had appointed Monsignore Whiston to the Chaplaincy of Clough-Iveagh. Rumours had reached him in Rome to the effect that the devotion of Sir Spencer Carlyon to the interests of his Church left much to be desired, and he hoped that the propinquity and example of Monsignore Whiston would effectually check the tendency that, according to rumour, Sir Spencer betrayed to dabble in the Occult Sciences, Mediaeval Magic, and other studies forbidden to her children by the Church of Rome. It was even whispered that he had leanings towards the doctrines of Luther and Calvin! Accordingly the young priest had been installed at Clough-Iveagh as the custodian of Sir Spencer's orthodoxy, and, two years later, the winter sun shone in upon a ghastly scene in the Library.

"The first servant to enter in the morning was greeted by the spectacle of his master sitting in his accustomed chair, his head lying on the table before him, his brains beaten out. A window behind him was wide open, the shrubs outside were torn and trampled, beneath the casement a blood-bespattered paper-weight was found, which had evidently been the instrument of Sir Spencer's murder, and from that day Monsignore Whiston had never been seen or heard of.

"Sir Spencer having died a bachelor, the baronetcy descended to his younger brother Chariton, who consequently relinquished his purpose of entering the Church.

"Of all his ancestors 'the heretic Sir Spencer' was the one whose history interested most deeply the young Sir Erule on his accession to the title. That his great-grand-uncle had been murdered in a fit of fanatic frenzy by his Chaplain, he never for one moment doubted. He deeply regretted that he had never been able to discover, indirectly or otherwise, the nature of the studies that had been brought to a close by his ancestor's death. That he had been engrossed in study at the moment of his murder there seemed no doubt, but whatever had been the books or papers that had cumbered the desk at which the corpse was found, either they had been taken away with him by the murderer, or had been destroyed. The library consisted almost entirely of Theological Works, and no folio, quarto, octavo, duodecimo or pamphlet on the shelves seemed in any way to savour of the forbidden studies which had led to his ancestor's destruction. Often, late at night, whilst Sir Ernie sat in that same chair at that same desk, immersed in his literary work, he would lean back, lost in thought on this subject, his eyes fastened upon the darkness before him, which his single working lamp was powerless to pierce.

"It was on one of these occasions, a few months after his arrival at Clough-Iveagh, that he was made the victim of a terrifying and wholly inexplicable incident.

"Quite suddenly, without the slightest shadow of warning, he was seized with a sensation of deathly sickness and apprehension. He was overwhelmed with a conviction that Something stood behind his chair, but, paralyzed with terror, he seemed unable to move. At last, by a strong effort of will, he turned in his chair, and, as he did so, it seemed to him that he caught a momentary glimpse of a tall figure, robed in the black cassock of a Benedictine Monk, standing behind his chair. The face of the Apparition was deathly white, the eyes, like flaming jet, stood out against its pallor. The right arm was raised above its head in a menacing gesture. That was all he could catch, as the Figure faded in the shadows of the heavily curtained window behind his desk.

"To put it mildly he was severely shaken up, and turning back to the desk he became aware of a spot of pale light in a far corner of the Library. As he watched it, fascinated, and frankly terrified, it moved, and appeared to wander up and down the book-cases and along the shelves. He pulled himself together with a violent effort and advanced towards the wandering light. He reached it.

"There—within a few feet of him, suspended in the air and sharply outlined against the surrounding gloom—was the Spectre of a Human Hand, bearing a taper. The taper was alight, but the whole hand and the taper seemed to be, of themselves, luminous, as they wandered from shelf to shelf as when one searches for a volume in the dark.

"His brain reeled. It was dawn when he found himself awaking from unconsciousness in one of the deep chairs of the Library, and crept away to bed.

* * * * *

"SIR ERNIE CARLYON was eight and twenty, sound in mind and limb, and of exemplary habits of life. The idea of his being frightened by a ghost was preposterous to his daylight senses—yet, the impression of the preceding night had been too startlingly vivid for him to pass it by without a further thought. Naturally his mind reverted to the fate of 'the heretic Sir Spencer,' and on the following afternoon he sought the Chapel of Clough-Iveagh and found the tablet commemorative of Sir Spencer's death. It read simply:—

Sacred to the Memory of


who departed this life on the 13th August, 1787.


"He started as he read: it was now the 14th August. The preceding night had been the anniversary of his great- grand-uncle's murder!

"That night, and on many nights after, he watched in the Library for the reappearance of the Apparition and of the Searching Hand. In vain. No supernatural happening disturbed his work, and as days formed weeks, and weeks grew into months, the incident became blurred amid later impressions. More completely was it obliterated by the fact that Sir Erule was on the eve of taking to himself a wife, the daughter of the Protestant rector of the neighbouring village. ('My grand-aunt,' commented Mac, as he paused to refill his pipe—and eke his glass, 'that was the foundation of the 'Protestant succession' at Clough-Iveagh.)"

After a moment or two Mac went on.

"They were married on the 15th of August that year. On the 13th Carlyon was sitting, reading, in the Library, not thinking at all about the Ghost, as you may suppose, when suddenly he felt creeping over him the same sensation that had terrified him a year ago. The date flashed into his mind, and in an instant the whole thing came back to him, and he sprang from his chair, turning as he did so.

"There, as in the year gone by, stood the Apparition—the spectral form of a Romish Priest, whose coal-black eyes seemed to burn into his own. Mastering himself with a supreme effort, he sprang forward as the Spectre raised his arm. Then he saw that the hand held one of the square leaden paper-weights that our fore-fathers were accustomed to use. As he sprang into the space occupied by the Apparition, a sensation of icy coldness and faintness gripped his whole body—in another second he had recovered from the shock—and he was alone.

"Quickly he turned towards the point where he had seen the Hand on the former occasion: there it was—wandering from shelf to shelf. He came close and watched it as it roamed over the bookcases.

"The books that became visible in turn as the luminosity of the Severed Hand reached them, were all of the most orthodox kind. Carlyon noted some of the titles lettered on the backs. There were the Rationale Divinorum Officiorum of Gulielmus Durandus, printed at Venice in 1559; Ducange's Glossarium; the complete works of the Abbé Fleury in the edition of 1739; the Life of the Arch-Romanist Julien de la Rovère, Pope Julius I., who paved the way for Leo X.; the Amsterdam, 1755, edition of the Testament of Richelieu. All these details he noted as the ghostly taper passed the volumes, and then, suddenly—even as he looked—a great folio edition of the Commentaries of Origen disappeared before his eyes! As the volume vanished, the hand holding the taper also disappeared, and Sir Erule, bathed in a cold perspiration, was left in absolute darkness in the corner of the Library.

"He had watched too long to be content to abandon his investigation there. He returned to his former place, and, bringing his chair and the lamp into the corner, he deposited the latter upon a stool and seated himself to watch the empty space in the shelf whence the Origen had been rapt by an unseen hand. For an hour he kept his eyes fastened upon the gap, and then, hypnotised by the fixity of his gaze, and worn out by the reaction of his nerves, he fell fast asleep.

* * * * *

"WHEN he awoke it was broad day. The lamp had gone out, and—the Origen was back in its place!

"With a stifled exclamation he drew it from the shelves and carried it to the table. There he opened it. It was Origen only as to its outer cover. Enclosed in the binding that might once have contained the early Christian Commentary, was the Parva Naturalia of Albertus Magnus, the corner-stone of Mediæval Magic.

"This must have been the work in which Sir Spencer Carlyon had been engrossed when the blow, treacherously delivered from behind, had hurried his unshriven soul into the presence of his Maker. Feverishly he turned its leaves to find whether any papers or notes were concealed within. About half-way through, two leaves were stuck together: cautiously he began to separate them; they adhered to one another with a clotted, sticky, brown substance, now dried and hardened by the lapse of time.

"Sir Erule started back. This had been the page at which his ancestor's studies had been brought to a termination. His brains and blood served the purpose of a ghastly book-marker to identify the place!

"Shuddering, the Master of Clough-Iveagh restored the volume—the silent witness of Sir Spencer's murder—to its place in the dark corner of the Library, and stood there wrapped in thought.

* * * * *

"WELL," concluded Mac, "he married my great-aunt the following day, and my father says she wondered for years why he seemed so grave and grey on that important occasion.

"But he never told her of his vigil in the Library; and to the day of her death she never knew why, at night-fall on the 13th of August in every year, the Library was locked up by her husband, who kept the key himself until he re-opened it on the morning of the 14th."

We bought the books. I did not think it essential to point out in my report that the majority of them would require to have the backs re-lettered. There was an awful row over the expense of this.

(Note.—Reading over this Record after the lapse of many years, I think it proper to add here that Sir Max Carlyon died some years after the sale of the Library at Clough-Iveagh, childless, and as there appeared to be no living representative of the family, the property, in a shameful condition of decay, escheated to the Crown.—C.B.)


MANY years ago Mr. Kipling related a remarkable incident in the lives of certain journalists who had what is known in the newspaper world as a 'scoop.' They were present at the capture of a sea serpent. And, having written an account of the capture—each according to his lights and personal idiosyncrasies—they agreed that the 'story' was too overwhelming for publication, and, by common consent, suppressed their narrations and wrote nothing at all. I have found myself in the same position, but I am impelled, after a considerable lapse of time, to set down the following account of the matter. It may be that the time will arrive when what I have to say may be rescued from the scattered archives of dead records and brought to life as an anticipation—like Roger Bacon's and Leonardo da Vinci's adumbration and invention of the aeroplane.

There are those still living and at work who will remember the account given by the Professor of Psychology—not the present occupant of the chair, but his predecessor, Chalmers—of the death of Alured Markwand, and of his commerce with Aalila, which account may see the light contemporaneously with that upon which I am now embarking. It will be remembered that he recorded, without laying any particular stress upon the matter, that on the spot where he caught his momentary glimpse of Aalila there was a circle of scintillating dust, a small quantity of which he collected and preserved in a tube which be carried away in his pocket.

The scientific instinct which led him to preserve this specimen was the cause of his death—a horrible death. A short time after the incidents which he related, much in the spirit of the present record, he found himself to be suffering from a painful blister on the right breast. As it refused to yield to ordinary treatment, and, enlarging, became deeper and more malignant, in point of fact a rodent ulcer, he confided the trouble to his friend the Regius Professor of Medicine.

The Regius Professor took a very grave view of the matter.

"Are you sure," said he, "that you have not been exposed to the direct action of radium?"

"Not that I am aware of," replied the patient. "Why?"

"Because if I know anything about it, this took its origin in a radium burn."

My late colleague knew enough to realise the gravity of this pronouncement.

"Then this flaky, corn-like, granulation of the sore and of the skin round it, you think may be——" and he hesitated.

"Yes—I am afraid so," replied the Professor of Medicine.

The early history of the discovery of radium is punctuated with the names of its victims, martyrs to science, who, in the dawn of knowledge of this terrible element, and before the methods of protection and their vital necessity were understood, paid with their lives for the knowledge which they gave to the scientific world. Visitors to the gruesome galleries of the Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons in London have been appalled by the exhibits illustrating the progress and results of that unconquerable scourge Exfoliative Dermatitis—the gradual and irresistible flaking away of the tissues, which precedes a lingering and irresistible death.

The Professor of Psychology was a brave man, but the verdict of the Regius Professor was one to make the bravest man on earth quail. It was sentence of death.

It was not till some weeks afterwards, when the disease had reached its maximum force, that my colleague suddenly remembered the tube of scintillating dust which he had tucked into his upper right-hand waistcoat pocket, and had carried there until his return to town, when he transferred it with other relics of Markwand to the case containing his private journal and papers. It was then that I came into the story, for he sent the tube to me with a request that I should give him my views on the contents.

It was only recently that I had been appointed Professor of Chemistry in the University of Cosmopoli, and to tell the truth I had not yet quite settled into the position and got "my bearings," either among my colleagues, or with the students, and I confess to a feeling of satisfaction which I experienced when this ordinary 'collector's tube' was brought to me by the Regius Professor of Medicine, with my dying colleague's message, to which he added his own earnest instance. He brought it to me wrapped in a piece of lead foil out of a tea-chest, late in the short afternoon of a dull December day. After his short explanation of the circumstances—he made no allusion to the death of Professor Markwand—we took the tube into the dark room of the laboratory, and there unwrapped it. The display of scintillations was staggering. Imagine a Super-Spinthariscope! I hastily wrapped up the tube again, and placed it in the 'safe' where our microscopic store of bromide of radium was kept, and we returned to my study.

"How long," said I, "has this deadly thing been in existence—and where has it been kept?"

"Chalmers has had it for months, in a writing case, which he has kept in an iron safe in his cellar. But for two days he carried it about, naked, in his waist coat pocket."

"Good God!—and Chalmers?"

"He is doomed—rodent ulcer, and exfoliative dermatitis."

* * * * *

AND thus it came about that the Chemical Laboratory of the University of Cosmopoli possesses the largest and purest specimen of the element radium in the world.

Whether the dust, which consisted of quite fifty per cent. of pure radium, was shed upon the floor of Markwand's observatory in a scintillating circle from the draperies of Aalila, or whether it arrived independently of her during many weeks, by radiation pressure, remains an open question. We shall return to this later on. Let me attempt, at least, to marshal the facts as they unfolded themselves in the months that followed—though, like the journalists to whom I referred at the commencement of this record, I can never—nor can the colleagues who took part in their unfolding—publish them. All I can do is to transcribe them from my laboratory note-books, and leave them for the information of later research-workers.

* * * * *

AFTER we had, with infinite care and taking every possible—every known—and some new, precautions against radium burns, separated out the pure elements, we had left remaining about three cubic centimetres of a pale grey dust. I divided this into four parts, one of which I confided to the Professor of Botany, one to the Professor of Zoology, one I retained for myself, and the fourth remains as it reached me, in the cabinet of the Chemical Laboratory. My successors, if they think fit, may repeat our observations.

It resisted all known methods of chemical analysis; all that I could show was that it was largely organic—that is to say, I proved by negative methods that it contained no inorganic element, excepting perhaps a trace of iron, and of the mineral olivine. The work of my colleagues, however, was rewarded by results that, even now, I feel a considerable hesitancy in setting down.

The Professors of Botany and of Zoology conducted their researches together and concurrently—the methods they employed are familiar in the text books, and to these were added some blind and empiric processes of which, no doubt, they have preserved records. It is only the results with which I am at this moment concerned. It was after the lapse of some six months that I was sent for to the Botanical Laboratory, where I found my two colleagues in a state as nearly approaching excitement as is permitted to a University Professor. The dust had yielded no results under ordinary conditions of atmosphere and temperature, and the final cultivation had been made in slightly saline water at a temperature of 100° centigrade—in fact boiling point. They laid great stress upon this.

"May one ask why?" I said. They looked at one another, and then one of them—I forget which—laughed nervously, and said:

"That would appear to be the temperature on this planet, within a very few years of the consolidation of its crust—the consistentior status.

I was startled. The reply seemed to open up illimitable fields of conjecture. I stammered:

"But—the Cambrian Period—azoic rocks?"

"Why azoic?" replied the Professor of Zoology. "But you are thinking of the Archaean series—Pre-Cambrian. With the earliest sedimentary rocks we get life without question—perhaps before."

"My good man," said the Professor of Botany, watching for my recovery, "we are going to show you some things so entirely inexplicable, that the mind flies at once to the only possible explanation—which is an impossible one."

"That is rather confusing," I suggested.

"Yes—confusion worse confounded, beyond the dreams of Milton. In this pressure chamber you see the culture of your dust, actively proceeding. Here are some mounted microscope slides—in balsam you have Protozoa, Algae, Mosses, Bacteria—in dry cells you have microscopic shells, baby Lamellibranchs."

"And they came?" I was almost afraid to ask.

"From the material you submitted to us."

"Then you think?"

"We don't think. We dare not think. Here is a tiny thing—we dare not give it a name—but we know it."

They showed me their preparations. To the Botanist I said:

"What are they?"

He replied: "These things do not inhabit the earth to-day—excepting in that boiling tank."

To the Zoologist I said:

"What are they?"

He replied: "These things do not inhabit the earth to-day—unless represented by one little bivalve shell—excepting in that boiling tank."

My brain reeled. "What are you going to do next?"

The Professor of Zoology replied:

"We are going to call in the Professor of Geology and Palaeontology."

We made an appointment with him for the following day.

* * * * *

MY esteemed colleague the Professor of Geology was one of the most remarkable men of his time—or of any other. He presented, to the astonished student of human nature, the almost unheard-of combination of a distinguished man of science and a prig. In the earlier days of his career it had been confidently asserted by Cosmogonists—on the metaphysical side—that in the beginning the Almighty created the Professor of Geology, and that having rested awhile after this stupendous effort, He set about the creation of a World which might, in some respects at least, be a place worthy to be the habitation of the Professor of Geology. The latter, it may be said at once, was far from convinced that the second effort of the Almighty had been altogether a success. He inspired a wholesome fear and respect not unmingled with dislike.

He duly attended the conference in the Botanical Laboratory, explaining that the utmost limit of time he could spare was twenty minutes. He remained two hours, at the end of which he was visibly annoyed. For the first time in his professional life he was unable to annihilate his colleagues with a few disagreeably-worded ex-cathedral sentences of doom.

"I may assume," said he, "that you are not seeking to make me the victim of some futile practical joke, but if you are, I am free to confess that the means you have adopted to that end are utterly beyond me. You tell me that these organisms have been cultivated—bred—from a few cubic centimetres of dust, found on the floor of Markwand's observatory, after freeing it from a notable proportion of the element radium."

"That is so," replied Cantrell, the Zoologist.

"That is so," replied Warham, the Botanist.

"Well, all I can say is that I—I, Peterson—tell you that we are looking at immature living specimens of Upper and Lower Cambrian flora and fauna. This Lamellibranch is Lingulella, indistinguishable from the specimens found in the Lingula flags of Dolgelly, but this is fully represented by a living species. Similarly these micro-organisms are the same Foraminifera as have been identified by Chapman in the Upper Cambrian beds of Malvern, Lagena, Nodosaria, Cristellaria, Spirillina, but these genera are represented almost unaltered in modern seas. If it went no farther I should be inclined to revert to the practical joke theory, but," and he paused for a moment before he went on, "here are juvenile Trilobites, Paradoxides, Aynostus Sao; here, burrowing in the mud is the worm Histioderma; here is the Alga Oldhamia of Edward Forbes. In any other circumstances I should say that my brain was affected, but if I know anything at all of Cambrian Palaeontology, this minute thing swimming about in practically boiling water is the Phyllopod crustacean—the Shrimp Hymenocaris."

He stopped abruptly, and in the dead silence which followed we all looked at one another, and from one another to the tanks, and the slides which lay strewn around the microscope.

Cantrell was the first to speak.

"Then you think," said he, "that the material under examination is——."

"I don't think," replied Peterson, explosively, "I can't think—I dare not think—but if I allow myself to think anything, I think the material is Cosmic Dust."

Cosmic Dust! Moved by one impulse we all leapt to our feet and crowded once more together at the laboratory bench—but none of us said a word. All our minds, I undertake to swear, reverted on the spot to a memorable meeting of the Geological Society, at which Professor Peterson had risen to his greatest height, pulverising the Planetesimal Theory of Svante Arrhenius. The whole frantic and interminable controversy between the mechanists and the vitalists, almost the dead issue between the catastrophists and the uniformitarians, sprang into our thoughts. That Peterson—Peterson of all men in the world—should admit the introduction into a scientific discussion (though he had done practically all the talking—as usual) of the mere phrase 'Cosmic Dust!' It was as if Cantrell had suddenly taken up his parable in defence of the discredited Bathybius!

"We will not carry the matter further now," said Peterson, in his best lecture theatre manner. "I will look in from time to time and watch the development of these observations. You will all of you please meet in my room, after four, this day week."

And with that he left us—leaving the door open.

* * * * *

TRUE to his word Peterson haunted the Botanical Laboratory all that week, and obedient to his summons, we met in his room on the appointed day. We sat round like good little first-year students whilst he lectured us.

"I will not go back to the theory of Nordenskiôld that by the fall of meteorites and cosmic dust the weight of the earth is annually increased by at least ten million tons. I shall advance no new theory of my own. I have here Svante Arrhenius' book Worlds in the Making—I will merely refer to some passages which I marked for criticism on an occasion which you doubtless all remember."

We shared between us the flicker of a faint smile—which seemed to accentuate the portentous gravity of Peterson.

"I have heard incomplete accounts of the phenomena alleged to have taken place prior to the death of Markwand. I have supposed, pardonably, that Chalmers was temporarily insane. I have reconsidered that opinion. The presence—the person, if you will—which he has recorded, apparently arrived upon this planet from Venus by radiation pressure. The mean temperature of Venus has been calculated at 40° centigrade, a temperature clearly favourable to organic life-the same may be said of Mars. But the time required for particles to reach here from Venus—forty days as calculated by Arrhenius—is clearly open to revision. Upon the theory of the organic nature of these particles much has been written—the theory of panspermia suggested by de Montlivaut, by Richter, by Flammarion—others. I have come to look with respect upon Kelvin's remarkable views on this subject expressed in his presidential address before the British Association in 1871. I will read you Arrhenius's statement of the theory, which is as follows: 'It is probable that there are organisms so small that the radiation pressure of a sun would push them out into space, where they might give rise to life on planets, provided they met with favourable conditions for their development.' I recall your minds to the culture processes you have severally adopted."

He continued to read extracts from the work of Arrhenius.

"Who shall say that such germs are not continually being carried away from this earth? Most of these spores thus carried away, will no doubt meet death in the cold infinite space of the Universe, about -220° C, Yet a small number of spores will fall upon some other world and may thus be able to spread life if the conditions are suitable. You will remember that at the Jenner Institute, in London, micro-organisms have lived for twenty-four hours in liquid hydrogen at a temperature of 252° C. It may take one million, or several millions of years from the age at which a planet could possibly begin to sustain life to the time when the first seed falls upon it and germinates, and when organic life is thus originated. This period is of little significance in comparison with the time during which life will afterwards flourish on the planet.

"It may be objected that the powerful light from the sun during transit would kill these germs—the experiments of Roux have shown us that spores that are readily killed by light when the air has access, remain alive when the air is excluded—no one can assert with certainty that spores would be killed by the light rays in wandering through infinite space. The germs are propelled by the radiation pressure, attached to grains of dust which serve both as carriers and protectors.

"Why have the experiments you have made not been made before? Arrhenius terminates his book with the answer: 'The number of germs which reach us from other worlds will be extremely limited—not more perhaps than a few within a year all over the earth's surface.' The dust precipitated in Markwand's observatory was a concentrated precipitation. Nothing like it has ever been suggested—much less demonstrated—before. Therefore, gentlemen, I am of the opinion—and I express it with a full sense of the responsibility which I incur in expressing it—that the material under consideration is Cosmic Dust—similar to that which was falling in Cambrian times—a thousand million years ago, which germinated when the conditions became favourable, and produced the Cambrian Fauna and Flora—exactly as you have produced them in Warham's laboratory."

Peterson sat down, and dried his forehead with his handkerchief. I was the first to break the silence, and my voice was husky.

"What shall we do about it—publish?"

"No! A thousand times no," cried Peterson. "What is the use? We should be laughed to scorn in every Scientific Society of the world. We should go down to posterity as hoaxed—or mad. There is only one thing to be done—we must destroy all traces of the cultures—and we must hold our tongues."

And upon that we parted.


[The Publishers regret that they are unable to print this M.S.]


According to the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDB), it was intended to publish this story seperately as a chapbook in an edition of only 20 copies. It is thought that more copies were printed. Although Herron-Allen asserted that this edition was issued without his permission, most of the chapbooks were inscribed by the author. It appeared with the cover shown below.

The website of the Heron-Allen Society contains the following description of this work:

"Heron-Allen's recent literary reputation, however, is based on the sale of a very slim volume, The Cheetah Girl, at Sotheby's a couple of years ago. For the collector the book is almost too good to be true. Written under the pseudonym of Christopher Blayre, it is supposed to have been suppressed in the 1920s because it dealt with various sexual taboos. Only twenty copies were printed—just enough that one surfaces for sale every decade. The contents had been hinted at in reference books, but as very few had ever read the story then they would not have known that various forms of unconventional sexuality were dealt with, including prostitution, lesbianism, bestiality and pederasty."

— Roy Glashan, 21 April 2021.



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