Monday, November 5, 2007


The Moon Pool

The Moon Pool
The publication of the following narrative of Dr. Walter
T. Goodwin has been authorized by the Executive Council
of the International Association of Science.
To end officially what is beginning to be called the
Throckmartin Mystery and to kill the innuendo and scandalous
suspicions which have threatened to stain the reputations
of Dr. David Throckmartin, his youthful wife, and
equally youthful associate Dr. Charles Stanton ever since
a tardy despatch from Melbourne, Australia, reported the
disappearance of the first from a ship sailing to that port,
and the subsequent reports of the disappearance of his wife
and associate from the camp of their expedition in the
Caroline Islands.
Because the Executive Council have concluded that Dr.
Goodwin's experiences in his wholly heroic effort to save
the three, and the lessons and warnings within those experiences,
are too important to humanity as a whole to be
hidden away in scientific papers understandable only to
the technically educated; or to be presented through the
newspaper press in the abridged and fragmentary form
which the space limitations of that vehicle make necessary.
For these reasons the Executive Council commissioned
Mr. A. Merritt to transcribe into form to be readily understood
by the layman the stenographic notes of Dr. Goodwin's
own report to the Council, supplemented by further
oral reminiscences and comments by Dr. Goodwin; this
transcription, edited and censored by the Executive Council
of the Association, forms the contents of this book.
Himself a member of the Council, Dr. Walter T. Goodwin,
Ph.D., F.R.G.S. etc., is without cavil the foremost of
American botanists, an observer of international reputation
and the author of several epochal treaties upon his
chosen branch of science. His story, amazing in the best
sense of that word as it may be, is fully supported by
proofs brought forward by him and accepted by the organization
of which I have the honor to be president. What
matter has been elided from this popular presentation--
because of the excessively menacing potentialities it contains,
which unrestricted dissemination might develop--will
be dealt with in purely scientific pamphlets of carefully
guarded circulation.
Per J. B. K., President
The Thing on the Moon Path
FOR two months I had been on the d'Entrecasteaux Islands
gathering data for the concluding chapters of my book
upon the flora of the volcanic islands of the South Pacific.
The day before I had reached Port Moresby and had seen
my specimens safely stored on board the Southern Queen.
As I sat on the upper deck I thought, with homesick mind,
of the long leagues between me and Melbourne, and the
longer ones between Melbourne and New York.
It was one of Papua's yellow mornings when she shows
herself in her sombrest, most baleful mood. The sky was
smouldering ochre. Over the island brooded a spirit sullen,
alien, implacable, filled with the threat of latent, malefic
forces waiting to be unleashed. It seemed an emanation out
of the untamed, sinister heart of Papua herself--sinister even
when she smiles. And now and then, on the wind, came a
breath from virgin jungles, laden with unfamiliar odours,
mysterious and menacing.
It is on such mornings that Papua whispers to you of her
immemorial ancientness and of her power. And, as every
white man must, I fought against her spell. While I struggled
I saw a tall figure striding down the pier; a Kapa-Kapa boy
followed swinging a new valise. There was something
familiar about the tall man. As he reached the gangplank he
looked up straight into my eyes, stared for a moment, then
waved his hand.
And now I knew him. It was Dr. David Throckmartin--
"Throck" he was to me always, one of my oldest friends
and, as well, a mind of the first water whose power and
achievements were for me a constant inspiration as they
were, I know, for scores other.
Coincidentally with my recognition came a shock of surprise,
definitely--unpleasant. It was Throckmartin--but
about him was something disturbingly unlike the man I
had known long so well and to whom and to whose little
party I had bidden farewell less than a month before I
myself had sailed for these seas. He had married only a
few weeks before, Edith, the daughter of Professor William
Frazier, younger by at least a decade than he but at one
with him in his ideals and as much in love, if it were possible,
as Throckmartin. By virtue of her father's training
a wonderful assistant, by virtue of her own sweet, sound
heart a--I use the word in its olden sense--lover. With his
equally youthful associate Dr. Charles Stanton and a Swedish
woman, Thora Halversen, who had been Edith Throckmartin's
nurse from babyhood, they had set forth for the
Nan-Matal, that extraordinary group of island ruins clustered
along the eastern shore of Ponape in the Carolines.
I knew that he had planned to spend at least a year
among these ruins, not only of Ponape but of Lele--twin
centres of a colossal riddle of humanity, a weird flower of
civilization that blossomed ages before the seeds of Egypt
were sown; of whose arts we know little enough and of
whose science nothing. He had carried with him unusually
complete equipment for the work he had expected to do
and which, he hoped, would be his monument.
What then had brought Throckmartin to Port Moresby,
and what was that change I had sensed in him?
Hurrying down to the lower deck I found him with the
purser. As I spoke he turned, thrust out to me an eager
hand--and then I saw what was that difference that had so
moved me. He knew, of course by my silence and involuntary
shrinking the shock my closer look had given me. His
eyes filled; he turned brusquely from the purser, hesitated
--then hurried off to his stateroom.
"'E looks rather queer--eh?" said the purser. "Know 'im
well, sir? Seems to 'ave given you quite a start."
I made some reply and went slowly up to my chair. There
I sat, composed my mind and tried to define what it was
that had shaken me so. Now it came to me. The old
Throckmartin was on the eve of his venture just turned
forty, lithe, erect, muscular; his controlling expression one
of enthusiasm, of intellectual keenness, of--what shall I say
--expectant search. His always questioning brain had
stamped its vigor upon his face.
But the Throckmartin I had seen below was one who had
borne some scaring shock of mingled rapture and horror;
some soul cataclysm that in its climax had remoulded,
deep from within, his face, setting on it seal of wedded
ecstasy and despair; as though indeed these two had come
to him hand in hand, taken possession of him and departing
left behind, ineradicably, their linked shadows!
Yes--it was that which appalled. For how could rapture
and horror, Heaven and Hell mix, clasp hands--kiss?
Yet these were what in closest embrace lay on Throckmartin's
Deep in thought, subconsciously with relief, I watched
the shore line sink behind; welcomed the touch of the wind
of the free seas. I had hoped, and within the hope was an
inexplicable shrinking that I would meet Throckmartin at
lunch. He did not come down, and I was sensible of deliverance
within my disappointment. All that afternoon I
lounged about uneasily but still he kept to his cabin--and
within me was no strength to summon him. Nor did he
appear at dinner.
Dusk and night fell swiftly. I was warm and went back to
my deck-chair. The Southern Queen was rolling to a disquieting
swell and I had the place to myself.
Over the heavens was a canopy of cloud, glowing faintly
and testifying to the moon riding behind it. There was much
phosphorescence. Fitfully before the ship and at her sides
arose those stranger little swirls of mist that swirl up from
the Southern Ocean like breath of sea monsters, whirl for an
instant and disappear.
Suddenly the deck door opened and through it came
Throckmartin. He paused uncertainly, looked up at the sky
with a curiously eager, intent gaze, hesitated, then closed
the door behind him.
"Throck," I called. "Come! It's Goodwin."
He made his way to me.
"Throck," I said, wasting no time in preliminaries.
"What's wrong? Can I help you?"
I felt his body grow tense.
"I'm going to Melbourne, Goodwin," he answered. "I
need a few things--need them urgently. And more men--
white men--"
He stopped abruptly; rose from his chair, gazed intently
toward the north. I followed his gaze. Far, far away the
moon had broken through the clouds. Almost on the horizon,
you could see the faint luminescence of it upon the
smooth sea. The distant patch of light quivered and shook.
The clouds thickened again and it was gone. The ship raced
on southward, swiftly.
Throckmartin dropped into his chair. He lighted a cigarette
with a hand that trembled; then turned to me with
abrupt resolution.
"Goodwin," he said. "I do need help. If ever man needed
it, I do. Goodwin--can you imagine yourself in another
world, alien, unfamiliar, a world of terror, whose unknown
joy is its greatest terror of all; you all alone there, a
stranger! As such a man would need help, so I need--"
He paused abruptly and arose; the cigarette dropped from
his fingers. The moon had again broken through the clouds,
and this time much nearer. Not a mile away was the patch
of light that it threw upon the waves. Back of it, to the rim
of the sea was a lane of moonlight; a gigantic gleaming serpent
racing over the edge of the world straight and surely
toward the ship.
Throckmartin stiffened to it as a pointer does to a hidden
covey. To me from him pulsed a thrill of horror--but
horror tinged with an unfamiliar, an infernal joy. It came
to me and passed away--leaving me trembling with its
shock of bitter sweet.
He bent forward, all his soul in his eyes. The moon path
swept closer, closer still. It was now less than half a mile
away. From it the ship fled--almost as though pursued.
Down upon it, swift and straight, a radiant torrent cleaving
the waves, raced the moon stream.
"Good God!" breathed Throckmartin, and if ever the
words were a prayer and an invocation they were.
And then, for the first time--I saw--IT!
The moon path stretched to the horizon and was bordered
by darkness. It was as though the clouds above had
been parted to form a lane-drawn aside like curtains or as
the waters of the Red Sea were held back to let the hosts
of Israel through. On each side of the stream was the black
shadow cast by the folds of the high canopies And straight
as a road between the opaque walls gleamed, shimmered,
and danced the shining, racing, rapids of the moonlight
Far, it seemed immeasurably far, along this stream of
silver fire I sensed, rather than saw, something coming. It
drew first into sight as a deeper glow within the light. On
and on it swept toward us--an opalescent mistiness that
sped with the suggestion of some winged creature in
arrowed flight. Dimly there crept into my mind memory of
the Dyak legend of the winged messenger of Buddha--
the Akla bird whose feathers are woven of the moon rays,
whose heart is a living opal, whose wings in flight echo the
crystal clear music of the white stars--but whose beak is
of frozen flame and shreds the souls of unbelievers.
Closer it drew and now there came to me sweet, insistent
tinklings--like pizzicati on violins of glass; crystal clear;
diamonds melting into sounds!
Now the Thing was close to the end of the white path;
close up to the barrier of darkness still between the ship
and the sparkling head of the moon stream. Now it beat up
against that barrier as a bird against the bars of its cage. It
whirled with shimmering plumes, with swirls of lacy light,
with spirals of living vapour. It held within it odd, unfamiliar
gleams as of shifting mother-of-pearl. Coruscations
and glittering atoms drifted through it as though it drew
them from the rays that bathed it.
Nearer and nearer it came, borne on the sparkling waves,
and ever thinner shrank the protecting wall of shadow between
it and us. Within the mistiness was a core, a nucleus
of intenser light--veined, opaline, effulgent, intensely alive.
And above it, tangled in the plumes and spirals that
throbbed and whirled were seven glowing lights.
Through all the incessant but strangely ordered movement
of the--THING--these lights held firm and steady. They
were seven--like seven little moons. One was of a pearly
pink, one of a delicate nacreous blue, one of lambent
saffron, one of the emerald you see in the shallow waters
of tropic isles; a deathly white; a ghostly amethyst; and
one of the silver that is seen only when the flying fish leap
beneath the moon.
The tinkling music was louder still. It pierced the ears
with a shower of tiny lances; it made the heart beat jubilantly--
and checked it dolorously. It closed the throat with
a throb of rapture and gripped it tight with the hand of
infinite sorrow!
Came to me now a murmuring cry, stilling the crystal
notes. It was articulate--but as though from something
utterly foreign to this world. The ear took the cry and translated
with conscious labour into the sounds of earth. And
even as it compassed, the brain shrank from it irresistibly,
and simultaneously it seemed reached toward it with irresistible
Throckmartin strode toward the front of the deck,
straight toward the vision, now but a few yards away from
the stern. His face had lost all human semblance. Utter
agony and utter ecstasy--there they were side by side, not
resisting each other; unholy inhuman companions blending
into a look that none of God's creatures should wear--
and deep, deep as his soul! A devil and a God dwelling
harmoniously side by side! So must Satan, newly fallen,
still divine, seeing heaven and contemplating hell, have
And then--swiftly the moon path faded! The clouds
swept over the sky as though a hand had drawn them together.
Up from the south came a roaring squall. As the
moon vanished what I had seen vanished with it--blotted
out as an image on a magic lantern; the tinkling ceased
abruptly--leaving a silence like that which follows an
abrupt thunder clap. There was nothing about us but silence
and blackness!
Through me passed a trembling as one who has stood on
the very verge of the gulf wherein the men of the Louisades
says lurks the fisher of the souls of men, and has been
plucked back by sheerest chance.
Throckmartin passed an arm around me.
"It is as I thought," he said. In his voice was a new note;
the calm certainty that has swept aside a waiting terror of
the unknown. "Now I know! Come with me to my cabin,
old friend. For now that you too have seen I can tell you"--
he hesitated--"what it was you saw," he ended.
As we passed through the door we met the ship's first
officer. Throckmartin composed his face into at least a semblance
of normality.
"Going to have much of a storm?" he asked.
"Yes," said the mate. "Probably all the way to Melbourne."
Throckmartin straightened as though with a new thought.
He gripped the officer's sleeve eagerly.
"You mean at least cloudy weather--for"--he hesitated
--"for the next three nights, say?"
"And for three more," replied the mate.
"Thank God!" cried Throckmartin, and I think I never
heard such relief and hope as was in his voice.
The sailor stood amazed. "Thank God?" he repeated.
"Thank--what d'ye mean?"
But Throckmartin was moving onward to his cabin. I
started to follow. The first officer stopped me.
"Your friend," he said, "is he ill?"
"The sea!" I answered hurriedly. "He's not used to it. I
am going to look after him."
Doubt and disbelief were plain in the seaman's eyes but
I hurried on. For I knew now that Throckmartin was ill
indeed--but with a sickness the ship's doctor nor any other
could heal.
"Dead! All Dead!"
HE WAS SITTING, face in hands, on the side of his berth
as I entered. He had taken off his coat.
"Throck," I cried. "What was it? What are you flying
from, man? Where is your wife--and Stanton?"
"Dead!" he replied monotonously. "Dead! All dead!"
Then as I recoiled from him--"All dead. Edith, Stanton,
Thora--dead--or worse. And Edith in the Moon Pool--
with them--drawn by what you saw on the moon path--
that has put its brand upon me--and follows me!"
He ripped open his shirt.
"Look at this," he said. Around his chest, above his
heart, the skin was white as pearl. This whiteness was
sharply defined against the healthy tint of the body. It
circled him with an even cincture about two inches wide.
"Burn it!" he said, and offered me his cigarette. I drew
back. He gestured--peremptorily. I pressed the glowing
end of the cigarette into the ribbon of white flesh. He did
not flinch nor was there odour of burning nor, as I drew
the little cylinder away, any mark upon the whiteness.
"Feel it!" he commanded again. I placed my fingers upon
the band. It was cold--like frozen marble.
He drew his shirt around him.
"Two things you have seen," he said. "IT--and its mark.
Seeing, you must believe my story. Goodwin, I tell you
again that my wife is dead--or worse--I do not know; the
prey of--what you saw; so, too, is Stanton; so Thora.
Tears rolled down the seared face.
"Why did God let it conquer us? Why did He let it take
my Edith?" he cried in utter bitterness. "Are there things
stronger than God, do you think, Walter?"
I hesitated.
"Are there? Are there?" His wild eyes searched me.
"I do not know just how you define God," I managed at
last through my astonishment to make answer. "If you
mean the will to know, working through science--"
He waved me aside impatiently.
"Science," he said. "What is our science against--that?
Or against the science of whatever devils that made it--or
made the way for it to enter this world of ours?"
With an effort he regained control.
"Goodwin," he said, "do you know at all of the ruins on
the Carolines; the cyclopean, megalithic cities and harbours
of Ponape and Lele, of Kusaie, of Ruk and Hogolu, and a
score of other islets there? Particularly, do you know of
the Nan-Matal and the Metalanim?"
"Of the Metalanim I have heard and seen photographs,"
I said. "They call it, don't they, the Lost Venice of the
"Look at this map," said Throckmartin. "That," he went
on, "is Christian's chart of Metalanim harbour and the Nan-
Matal. Do you see the rectangles marked Nan-Tauach?"
"Yes," I said.
"There," he said, "under those walls is the Moon Pool
and the seven gleaming lights that raise the Dweller in the
Pool, and the altar and shrine of the Dweller. And there in
the Moon Pool with it lie Edith and Stanton and Thora."
"The Dweller in the Moon Pool?" I repeated halfincredulously.
"The Thing you saw," said Throckmartin solemnly.
A solid sheet of rain swept the ports, and the Southern
Queen began to roll on the rising swells. Throckmartin
drew another deep breath of relief, and drawing aside a
curtain peered out into the night. Its blackness seemed to
reassure him. At any rate, when he sat again he was entirely
"There are no more wonderful ruins in the world," he
began almost casually. "They take in some fifty islets and
cover with their intersecting canals and lagoons about
twelve square miles. Who built them? None knows. When
were they built? Ages before the memory of present man,
that is sure. Ten thousand, twenty thousand, a hundred
thousand years ago--the last more likely.
"All these islets, Walter, are squared, and their shores are
frowning seawalls of gigantic basalt blocks hewn and put in
place by the hands of ancient man. Each inner water-front
is faced with a terrace of those basalt blocks which stand
out six feet above the shallow canals that meander between
them. On the islets behind these walls are time-shattered
fortresses, palaces, terraces, pyramids; immense courtyards
strewn with ruins--and all so old that they seem to wither
the eyes of those who look on them.
"There has been a great subsidence. You can stand out of
Metalanim harbour for three miles and look down upon
the tops of similar monolithic structures and walls twenty
feet below you in the water.
"And all about, strung on their canals, are the bulwarked
islets with their enigmatic walls peering through the dense
growths of mangroves--dead, deserted for incalculable
ages; shunned by those who live near.
"You as a botanist are familiar with the evidence that a
vast shadowy continent existed in the Pacific--a continent
that was not rent asunder by volcanic forces as was that
legendary one of Atlantis in the Eastern Ocean.*1 My work
in Java, in Papua, and in the Ladrones had set my mind
upon this Pacific lost land. Just as the Azores are believed
to be the last high peaks of Atlantis, so hints came to me
steadily that Ponape and Lele and their basalt bulwarked
islets were the last points of the slowly sunken western land
clinging still to the sunlight, and had been the last refuge
and sacred places of the rulers of that race which had lost
their immemorial home under the rising waters of the
*1 For more detailed observations on these points refer to G. Volkens,
Uber die Karolinen Insel Yap, in Verhandlungen Gesellschaft Erdkunde
Berlin, xxvii (1901); J. S. Kubary, Ethnographische Beitrage
zur Kentniss des Karolinen Archipel (Leiden, 1889-1892); De Abrade
Historia del Conflicto de las Carolinas, etc. (Madrid, 1886).--W. T. G.
"I believed that under these ruins I might find the evidence
that I sought.
"My--my wife and I had talked before we were married
of making this our great work. After the honeymoon we
prepared for the expedition. Stanton was as enthusiastic as
ourselves. We sailed, as you know, last May for fulfilment
of my dreams.
"At Ponape we selected, not without difficulty, workmen
to help us--diggers. I had to make extraordinary inducements
before I could get together my force. Their beliefs are
gloomy, these Ponapeans. They people their swamps, their
forests, their mountains, and shores, with malignant spirits--
ani they call them. And they are afraid--bitterly afraid of
the isles of ruins and what they think the ruins hide. I do not
"When they were told where they were to go, and how
long we expected to stay, they murmured. Those who, at last,
were tempted made what I thought then merely a superstitious
proviso that they were to be allowed to go away on
the three nights of the full moon. Would to God we had
heeded them and gone too!"
"We passed into Metalanim harbour. Off to our left--a
mile away arose a massive quadrangle. Its walls were all of
forty feet high and hundreds of feet on each side. As we drew
by, our natives grew very silent; watched it furtively, fearfully.
I knew it for the ruins that are called Nan-Tauach, the
'place of frowning walls.' And at the silence of my men I
recalled what Christian had written of this place; of how he
had come upon its 'ancient platforms and tetragonal enclosures
of stonework; its wonder of tortuous alleyways and
labyrinth of shallow canals; grim masses of stonework peering
out from behind verdant screens; cyclopean barricades,'
and of how, when he had turned 'into its ghostly shadows,
straight-way the merriment of guides was hushed and conversation
died down to whispers.'
He was silent for a little time.
"Of course I wanted to pitch our camp there," he went on
again quietly, "but I soon gave up that idea. The natives were
panic-stricken--threatened to turn back. 'No,' they said, 'too
great ani there. We go to any other place--but not there.'
"We finally picked for our base the islet called Uschen-
Tau. It was close to the isle of desire, but far enough away
from it to satisfy our men. There was an excellent campingplace
and a spring of fresh water. We pitched our tents, and
in a couple of days the work was in full swing."
The Moon Rock
"I DO not intend to tell you now," Throckmartin continued,
"the results of the next two weeks, nor of what we found.
Later--if I am allowed, I will lay all that before you. It is
sufficient to say that at the end of those two weeks I had
found confirmation for many of my theories.
"The place, for all its decay and desolation, had not infected
us with any touch of morbidity--that is not Edith,
Stanton, or myself. But Thora was very unhappy. She was a
Swede, as you know, and in her blood ran the beliefs and superstitions
of the Northland--some of them so strangely akin
to those of this far southern land; beliefs of spirits of mountain
and forest and water werewolves and beings malign.
From the first she showed a curious sensitivity to what, I
suppose, may be called the 'influences' of the place. She said
it 'smelled' of ghosts and warlocks.
"I laughed at her then--
"Two weeks slipped by, and at their end the spokesman for
our natives came to us. The next night was the full of the
moon, he said. He reminded me of my promise. They would
go back to their village in the morning; they would return
after the third night, when the moon had begun to wane.
They left us sundry charms for our 'protection,' and solemnly
cautioned us to keep as far away as possible from Nan-
Tauach during their absence. Half-exasperated, half-amused
I watched them go.
"No work could be done without them, of course, so we
decided to spend the days of their absence junketing about
the southern islets of the group. We marked down several
spots for subsequent exploration, and on the morning of the
third day set forth along the east face of the breakwater for
our camp on Uschen-Tau, planning to have everything in
readiness for the return of our men the next day.
"We landed just before dusk, tired and ready for our cots.
It was only a little after ten o'clock that Edith awakened me.
"'Listen!' she said. 'Lean over with your ear close to the
"I did so, and seemed to hear, far, far below, as though
coming up from great distances, a faint chanting. It gathered
strength, died down, ended; began, gathered volume, faded
away into silence.
"'It's the waves rolling on rocks somewhere,' I said. 'We're
probably over some ledge of rock that carries the sound.'
"'It's the first time I've heard it,' replied my wife doubtfully.
We listened again. Then through the dim rhythms,
deep beneath us, another sound came. It drifted across the
lagoon that lay between us and Nan-Tauach in little tinkling
waves. It was music--of a sort; I won't describe the strange
effect it had upon me. You've felt it--"
"You mean on the deck?" I asked. Throckmartin nodded.
"I went to the flap of the tent," he continued, "and peered
out. As I did so Stanton lifted his flap and walked out into the
moonlight, looking over to the other islet and listening. I
called to him.
"'That's the queerest sound!' he said. He listened again.
'Crystalline! Like little notes of translucent glass. Like the
bells of crystal on the sistrums of Isis at Dendarah Temple,'
he added half-dreamily. We gazed intently at the island.
Suddenly, on the sea-wall, moving slowly, rhythmically, we
saw a little group of lights. Stanton laughed.
"'The beggars!' he exclaimed. 'That's why they wanted to
get away, is it? Don't you see, Dave, it's some sort of a festival--
rites of some kind that they hold during the full moon!
That's why they were so eager to have us KEEP away, too.'
"The explanation seemed good. I felt a curious sense of relief,
although I had not been sensible of any oppression.
"'Let's slip over,' suggested Stanton--but I would not.
"'They're a difficult lot as it is,' I said. 'If we break into one
of their religious ceremonies they'll probably never forgive
us. Let's keep out of any family party where we haven't been
"'That's so,' agreed Stanton.
"The strange tinkling rose and fell, rose and fell--
"'There's something--something very unsettling about it,'
said Edith at last soberly. 'I wonder what they make those
sounds with. They frighten me half to death, and, at the same
time. they make me feel as though some enormous rapture
were just around the corner.'
"'It's devilish uncanny!' broke in Stanton.
"And as he spoke the flap of Thora's tent was raised and
out into the moonlight strode the old Swede. She was the
great Norse type--tall, deep-breasted, moulded on the old
Viking lines. Her sixty years had slipped from her. She
looked like some ancient priestess of Odin.
"She stood there, her eyes wide, brilliant, staring. She
thrust her head forward toward Nan-Tauach, regarding the
moving lights; she listened. Suddenly she raised her arms
and made a curious gesture to the moon. It was--an archaic
--movement; she seemed to drag it from remote antiquity--
yet in it was a strange suggestion of power, Twice she repeated
this gesture and--the tinklings died away! She turned
to us.
"'Go!' she said, and her voice seemed to come from far
distances. 'Go from here--and quickly! Go while you may.
It has called--' She pointed to the islet. 'It knows you are
here. It waits!' she wailed. 'It beckons--the--the--"
"She fell at Edith's feet, and over the lagoon came again
the tinklings, now with a quicker note of jubilance--almost
of triumph.
"We watched beside her throughout the night. The sounds
from Nan-Tauach continued until about an hour before
moon-set. In the morning Thora awoke, none the worse, apparently.
She had had bad dreams, she said. She could not
remember what they were--except that they had warned her
of danger. She was oddly sullen, and throughout the morning
her gaze returned again and again half-fascinatedly, halfwonderingly
to the neighbouring isle.
"That afternoon the natives returned. And that night on
Nan-Tauach the silence was unbroken nor were there lights
nor sign of life.
"You will understand, Goodwin, how the occurrences I
have related would excite the scientific curiosity. We rejected
immediately, of course, any explanation admitting the supernatural.
"Our--symptoms let me call them--could all very easily
be accounted for. It is unquestionable that the vibrations
created by certain musical instruments have definite and
sometimes extraordinary effect upon the nervous system. We
accepted this as the explanation of the reactions we had experienced,
hearing the unfamiliar sounds. Thora's nervousness,
her superstitious apprehensions, had wrought her up to
a condition of semi-somnambulistic hysteria. Science could
readily explain her part in the night's scene.
"We came to the conclusion that there must be a passageway
between Ponape and Nan-Tauach known to the natives
--and used by them during their rites. We decided that on
the next departure of our labourers we would set forth immediately
to Nan-Tauach. We would investigate during the
day, and at evening my wife and Thora would go back to
camp, leaving Stanton and me to spend the night on the
island, observing from some safe hiding-place what might
"The moon waned; appeared crescent in the west; waxed
slowly toward the full. Before the men left us they literally
prayed us to accompany them. Their importunities only made
us more eager to see what it was that, we were now convinced,
they wanted to conceal from us. At least that was
true of Stanton and myself. It was not true of Edith. She was
thoughtful, abstracted--reluctant.
"When the men were out of sight around the turn of the
harbour, we took our boat and made straight for Nan-
Tauach. Soon its mighty sea-wall towered above us. We
passed through the water-gate with its gigantic hewn prisms
of basalt and landed beside a half-submerged pier. In front
of us stretched a series of giant steps leading into a vast court
strewn with fragments of fallen pillars. In the centre of the
court, beyond the shattered pillars, rose another terrace of
basalt blocks, concealing, I knew, still another enclosure.
"And now, Walter, for the better understanding of what
follows--and--and--" he hesitated. "Should you decide
later to return with me or, if I am taken, to--to--follow us--
listen carefully to my description of this place: Nan-Tauach
is literally three rectangles. The first rectangle is the sea-wall,
built up of monoliths--hewn and squared, twenty feet wide
at the top. To get to the gateway in the sea-wall you pass
along the canal marked on the map between Nan-Tauach
and the islet named Tau. The entrance to the canal is bidden
by dense thickets of mangroves; once through these the way
is clear. The steps lead up from the landing of the sea-gate
through the entrance to the courtyard.
"This courtyard is surrounded by another basalt wall, rectangular,
following with mathematical exactness the march
of the outer barricades. The sea-wall is from thirty to forty
feet high--originally it must have been much higher, but
there has been subsidence in parts. The wall of the first enclosure
is fifteen feet across the top and its height varies from
twenty to fifty feet--here, too, the gradual sinking of the land
has caused portions of it to fall.
"Within this courtyard is the second enclosure. Its terrace,
of the same basalt as the outer walls, is about twenty feet
high. Entrance is gained to it by many breaches which time
has made in its stonework. This is the inner court, the heart
of Nan-Tauach! There lies the great central vault with which
is associated the one name of living being that has come to us
out of the mists of the past. The natives say it was the treasure-
house of Chau-te-leur, a mighty king who reigned long
'before their fathers.' As Chan is the ancient Ponapean word
both for sun and king, the name means, without doubt, 'place
of the sun king.' It is a memory of a dynastic name of the
race that ruled the Pacific continent, now vanished--just as
the rulers of ancient Crete took the name of Minos and the
rulers of Egypt the name of Pharaoh.
"And opposite this place of the sun king is the moon rock
that hides the Moon Pool.
"It was Stanton who discovered the moon rock. We had
been inspecting the inner courtyard; Edith and Thora were
getting together our lunch. I came out of the vault of Chaute-
leur to find Stanton before a part of the terrace studying
it wonderingly.
"'What do you make of this?' he asked me as I came up.
He pointed to the wall. I followed his finger and saw a slab of
stone about fifteen feet high and ten wide. At first all I noticed
was the exquisite nicety with which its edges joined the
blocks about it. Then I realized that its colour was subtly different--
tinged with grey and of a smooth, peculiar--deadness.
"'Looks more like calcite than basalt,' I said. I touched it
and withdrew my hand quickly for at the contact every nerve
in my arm tingled as though a shock of frozen electricity had
passed through it. It was not cold as we know cold. It was a
chill force--the phrase I have used--frozen electricity--describes
it better than anything else. Stanton looked at me
"'So you felt it too,' he said. 'I was wondering whether I
was developing hallucinations like Thora. Notice, by the way,
that the blocks beside it are quite warm beneath the sun.'
"We examined the slab eagerly. Its edges were cut as
though by an engraver of jewels. They fitted against the
neighbouring blocks in almost a hair-line. Its base was
slightly curved, and fitted as closely as top and sides upon the
huge stones on which it rested. And then we noted that these
stones had been hollowed to follow the line of the grey stone's
foot. There was a semicircular depression running from one
side of the slab to the other. It was as though the grey rock
stood in the centre of a shallow cup--revealing half, covering
half. Something about this hollow attracted me. I reached
down and felt it. Goodwin, although the balance of the stones
that formed it, like all the stones of the courtyard, were
rough and age-worn--this was as smooth, as even surfaced as
though it had just left the hands of the polisher.
"'It's a door!' exclaimed Stanton. 'It swings around in that
little cup. That's what makes the hollow so smooth.'
"'Maybe you're right,' I replied. 'But how the devil can we
open it?'
"We went over the slab again--pressing upon its edges,
thrusting against its sides. During one of those efforts I happened
to look up--and cried out. A foot above and on each
side of the corner of the grey rock's lintel was a slight convexity,
visible only from the angle at which my gaze struck it.
"We carried with us a small scaling-ladder and up this I
went. The bosses were apparently nothing more than chiseled
curvatures in the stone. I laid my hand on the one I was
examining, and drew it back sharply. In my palm, at the base
of my thumb, I had felt the same shock that I had in touching
the slab below. I put my hand back. The impression came
from a spot not more than an inch wide. I went carefully
over the entire convexity, and six times more the chill ran
through my arm. There were seven circles an inch wide in
the curved place, each of which communicated the precise
sensation I have described. The convexity on the opposite
side of the slab gave exactly the same results. But no amount
of touching or of pressing these spots singly or in any combination
gave the slightest promise of motion to the slab
"'And yet--they're what open it,' said Stanton positively.
"'Why do you say that?' I asked.
"'I--don't know,' he answered hesitatingly. 'But something
tells me so. Throck,' he went on half earnestly, half
laughingly, 'the purely scientific part of me is fighting the
purely human part of me. The scientific part is urging me to
find some way to get that slab either down or open. The human
part is just as strongly urging me to do nothing of the
sort and get away while I can!'
"He laughed again--shamefacedly.
"'Which shall it be?' he asked--and I thought that in his
tone the human side of him was ascendant.
"'It will probably stay as it is--unless we blow it to bits,'
I said.
"'I thought of that,' he answered, 'and I wouldn't dare,'
he added soberly enough. And even as I had spoken there
came to me the same feeling that he had expressed. It was as
though something passed out of the grey rock that struck my
heart as a hand strikes an impious lip. We turned away--uneasily,
and faced Thora coming through a breach on the terrace.
'Miss Edith wants you quick,' she began--and stopped.
Her eyes went past me to the grey rock. Her body grew rigid;
she took a few stiff steps forward and then ran straight to it.
She cast herself upon its breast, hands and face pressed
against it; we heard her scream as though her very soul were
being drawn from her--and watched her fall at its foot. As
we picked her up I saw steal from her face the look I had observed
when first we heard the crystal music of Nan-Tauach
--that unhuman mingling of opposites!"
The First Vanishings
"WE CARRIED Thora back, down to where Edith was waiting.
We told her what had happened and what we had found.
She listened gravely, and as we finished Thora sighed and
opened her eyes.
"'I would like to see the stone,' she said. 'Charles, you stay
here with Thora.' We passed through the outer court silently
--and stood before the rock. She touched it, drew back her
hand as I had; thrust it forward again resolutely and held it
there. She seemed to be listening. Then she turned to me.
"'David,' said my wife, and the wistfulness in her voice
hurt me--'David, would you be very, very disappointed if we
went from here--without trying to find out any more about
it--would you?'
"Walter, I never wanted anything so much in my life as I
wanted to learn what that rock concealed. Nevertheless, I
tried to master my desire, and I answered--'Edith, not a bit
if you want us to do it.'
"She read my struggle in my eyes. She turned back toward
the grey rock. I saw a shiver pass through her. I felt a tinge
of remorse and pity!
"'Edith,' I exclaimed, 'we'll go!'
"She looked at me again. 'Science is a jealous mistress,' she
quoted. 'No, after all it may be just fancy. At any rate, you
can't run away. No! But, Dave, I'm going to stay too!'
"And there was no changing her decision. As we neared
the others she laid a hand on my arm.
"'Dave,' she said, 'if there should be something--well--
inexplicable tonight--something that seems--too dangerous
--will you promise to go back to our own islet tomorrow, if
we can--and wait until the natives return?'
"I promised eagerly--the desire to stay and see what came
with the night was like a fire within me.
"We picked a place about five hundred feet away from the
steps leading into the outer court.
"The spot we had selected was well hidden. We could not
be seen, and yet we had a clear view of the stairs and the
gateway. We settled down just before dusk to wait for whatever
might come. I was nearest the giant steps; next me
Edith; then Thora, and last Stanton.
"Night fell. After a time the eastern sky began to lighten,
and we knew that the moon was rising; grew lighter still, and
the orb peeped over the sea; swam into full sight. I glanced
at Edith and then at Thora. My wife was intently listening.
Thora sat, as she had since we had placed ourselves, elbows
on knees, her hands covering her face.
"And then from the moonlight flooding us there dripped
down on me a great drowsiness. Sleep seemed to seep from
the rays and fall upon my eyes, closing them--closing them
inexorably. Edith's hand in mine relaxed. Stanton's head fell
upon his breast and his body swayed drunkenly. I tried to
rise--to fight against the profound desire for slumber that
pressed on me.
"And as I fought, Thora raised her head as though listening;
and turned toward the gateway. There was infinite despair
in her face--and expectancy. I tried again to rise--and a
surge of sleep rushed over me. Dimly, as I sank within it, I
heard a crystalline chiming; raised my lids once more with a
supreme effort.
"Thora, bathed in light, was standing at the top of the
"Sleep took me for its very own--swept me into the heart
of oblivion!
"Dawn was breaking when I wakened. Recollection rushed
back; I thrust a panic-stricken hand out toward Edith;
touched her and my heart gave a great leap of thankfulness.
She stirred, sat up, rubbing dazed eyes. Stanton lay on his
side, back toward us, head in arms.
"Edith looked at me laughingly. 'Heavens! What sleep!'
she said. Memory came to her.
"'What happened?' she whispered. 'What made us sleep
like that?'
"Stanton awoke.
"'What's the matter!' he exclaimed. 'You look as though
you've been seeing ghosts.'
"Edith caught my hands.
"'Where's Thora?' she cried. Before I could answer she
had run out into the open, calling.
"'Thora was taken,' was all I could say to Stanton, 'together
we went to my wife, now standing beside the great
stone steps, looking up fearfully at the gateway into the terraces.
There I told them what I had seen before sleep had
drowned me. And together then we ran up the stairs, through
the court and to the grey rock.
"The slab was closed as it had been the day before, nor was
there trace of its having opened. No trace? Even as I thought
this Edith dropped to her knees before it and reached toward
something lying at its foot. It was a little piece of gay silk. I
knew it for part of the kerchief Thora wore about her hair.
She lifted the fragment. It had been cut from the kerchief as
though by a razor-edge; a few threads ran from it--down toward
the base of the slab; ran on to the base of the grey rock
and--under it!
"The grey rock was a door! And it had opened and Thora
had passed through it!
"I think that for the next few minutes we all were a little
insane. We beat upon that portal with our hands, with stones
and sticks. At last reason came back to us.
"Goodwin, during the next two hours we tried every way
in our power to force entrance through the slab. The rock resisted
our drills. We tried explosions at the base with charges
covered by rock. They made not the slightest impression on
the surface, expending their force, of course, upon the
slighter resistance of their coverings.
"Afternoon found us hopeless. Night was coming on and
we would have to decide our course of action. I wanted to go
to Ponape for help. But Edith objected that this would take
hours and after we had reached there it would be impossible
to persuade our men to return with us that night, if at all.
What then was left? Clearly only one of two choices: to go
back to our camp, wait for our men, and on their return try
to persuade them to go with us to Nan-Tauach. But this
would mean the abandonment of Thora for at least two days.
We could not do it; it would have been too cowardly.
"The other choice was to wait where we were for night to
come; to wait for the rock to open as it had the night before,
and to make a sortie through it for Thora before it could
close again.
"Our path lay clear before us. We had to spend that night
on Nan-Tauach!
"We had, of course, discussed the sleep phenomena very
fully. If our theory that lights, sounds, and Thora's disappearance
were linked with secret religious rites of the natives,
the logical inference was that the slumber had been
produced by them, perhaps by vapours--you know as well as
I, what extraordinary knowledge these Pacific peoples have
of such things. Or the sleep might have been simply a coincidence
and produced by emanations either gaseous or from
plants, natural causes which had happened to coincide in
their effects with the other manifestations. We made some
rough and ready but effective respirators.
"As dusk fell we looked over our weapons. Edith was an
excellent shot with both rifle and pistol. We had decided that
my wife was to remain in the hiding-place. Stanton would
take up a station on the far side of the stairway and I would
place myself opposite him on the side near Edith. The place
I picked out was less than two hundred feet from her, and I
could reassure myself now and then as to her safety as it
looked down upon the hollow wherein she crouched. From
our respective stations Stanton and I could command the
gateway entrance. His position gave him also a glimpse of
the outer courtyard.
"A faint glow in the sky heralded the moon. Stanton and I
took our places. The moon dawn increased rapidly; the disk
swam up, and in a moment it was shining in full radiance
upon ruins and sea.
"As it rose there came a curious little sighing sound from
the inner terrace. Stanton straightened up and stared intently
through the gateway, rifle ready.
"'Stanton, what do you see?' I called cautiously. He waved
a silencing hand. I turned my head to look at Edith. A shock
ran through me. She lay upon her side. Her face, grotesque
with its nose and mouth covered by the respirator, was
turned full toward the moon. She was again in deepest sleep!
"As I turned again to call to Stanton, my eyes swept the
head of the steps and stopped, fascinated. For the moonlight
had thickened. It seemed to be--curdled--there; and
through it ran little gleams and veins of shimmering white
fire. A languor passed through me. It was not the ineffable
drowsiness of the preceding night. It was a sapping of all will
to move. I tried to cry out to Stanton. I had not even the will
to move my lips. Goodwin--I could not even move my eyes!
"Stanton was in the range of my fixed vision. I watched
him leap up the steps and move toward the gateway. The
curdled radiance seemed to await him. He stepped into it--
and was lost to my sight.
"For a dozen heart beats there was silence. Then a rain of
tinklings that set the pulses racing with joy and at once
checked them with tiny fingers of ice--and ringing through
them Stanton's voice from the courtyard--a great cry--a
scream--filled with ecstasy insupportable and horror unimaginable!
And once more there was silence. I strove to
burst the bonds that held me. I could not. Even my eyelids
were fixed. Within them my eyes, dry and aching, burned.
"Then Goodwin--I first saw the--inexplicable! The crystalline
music swelled. Where I sat I could take in the gateway
and its basalt portals, rough and broken, rising to the
top of the wall forty feet above, shattered, ruined portals--
unclimbable. From this gateway an intenser light began to
flow. It grew, it gushed, and out of it walked Stanton.
"Stanton! But--God! What a vision!"
A deep tremor shook him. I waited--waited.
Into the Moon Pool
"GOODWIN," Throckmartin went on at last, "I can describe
him only as a thing of living light. He radiated light; was
filled with light; overflowed with it. A shining cloud whirled
through and around him in radiant swirls, shimmering tentacles,
luminescent, coruscating spirals.
"His face shone with a rapture too great to be borne by
living man, and was shadowed with insuperable misery. It
was as though it had been remoulded by the hand of God and
the hand of Satan, working together and in harmony. You
have seen that seal upon my own. But you have never seen
it in the degree that Stanton bore it. The eyes were wide
open and fixed, as though upon some inward vision of hell
and heaven!
"The light that filled and surrounded him had a nucleus, a
core--something shiftingly human shaped--that dissolved
and changed, gathered itself, whirled through and beyond
him and back again. And as its shining nucleus passed
through him Stanton's whole body pulsed radiance. As the
luminescence moved, there moved above it, still and serene
always, seven tiny globes of seven colors, like seven little
"Then swiftly Stanton was lifted--levitated--up the unscalable
wall and to its top. The glow faded from the moonlight,
the tinkling music grew fainter. I tried again to move.
The tears were running down now from my rigid lids and
they brought relief to my tortured eyes.
"I have said my gaze was fixed. It was. But from the side,
peripherally, it took in a part of the far wall of the outer enclosure.
Ages seemed to pass and a radiance stole along it.
Soon drifted into sight the figure that was Stanton. Far away
he was--on the gigantic wall. But still I could see the shining
spirals whirling jubilantly around and through him; felt
rather than saw his tranced face beneath the seven moons.
A swirl of crystal notes, and he had passed. And all the time,
as though from some opened well of light, the courtyard
gleamed and sent out silver fires that dimmed the moonrays,
yet seemed strangely to be a part of them.
"At last the moon neared the horizon. There came a louder
burst of sound; the second, and last, cry of Stanton, like an
echo of his first! Again the soft sighing from the inner terrace.
Then--utter silence!
"The light faded; the moon was setting and with a rush
life and power to move returned to me. I made a leap for the
steps, rushed up them, through the gateway and straight to
the grey rock. It was closed--as I knew it would be. But did
I dream it or did I bear, echoing through it as though from
vast distances a triumphant shouting?
"I ran back to Edith. At my touch she wakened; looked
at me wanderingly; raised herself on a hand.
"'Dave!' she said, 'I slept--after all.' She saw the despair
on my face and leaped to her feet. 'Dave!' she cried. 'What
is it? Where's Charles?'
"I lighted a fire before I spoke. Then I told her. And for
the balance of that night we sat before the flames, arms
around each other--like two frightened children."
Abruptly Throckmartin held his hands out to me appealingly.
Walter, old friend!" he cried. "Don't look at me as though
I were mad. It's truth, absolute truth. Wait--" I comforted
him as well as I could. After a little time he took up his story.
"Never," he said, "did man welcome the sun as we did
that morning. A soon as it had risen we went back to the
courtyard. The walls whereon I had seen Stanton were black
and silent. The terraces were as they had been. The grey
slab was in its place. In the shallow hollow at its base was--
nothing. Nothing--nothing was there anywhere on the islet
of Stanton--not a trace.
"What were we to do? Precisely the same arguments that
had kept us there the night before held good now--and
doubly good. We could not abandon these two; could not go
as long as there was the faintest hope of finding them--and
yet for love of each other how could we remain? I loved my
wife,--how much I never knew until that day; and she loved
me as deeply.
'It takes only one each night,' she pleaded. 'Beloved, let
it take me.'
"I wept, Walter. We both wept.
"'We will meet it together,' she said. And it was thus at
last that we arranged it."
"That took great courage indeed, Throckmartin," I interrupted.
He looked at me eagerly.
"You do believe then?" he exclaimed.
"I believe," I said. He pressed my hand with a grip that
nearly crushed it.
"Now," he told me. "I do not fear. If I--fail, you will follow
with help?"
I promised.
"We talked it over carefully," he went on, "bringing to
bear all our power of analysis and habit of calm, scientific
thought. We considered minutely the time element in the
phenomena. Although the deep chanting began at the very
moment of moonrise, fully five minutes had passed between
its full lifting and the strange sighing sound from the inner
terrace. I went back in memory over the happenings of the
night before. At least ten minutes had intervened between
the first heralding sigh and the intensification of the moonlight
in the courtyard. And this glow grew for at least ten
minutes more before the first burst of the crystal notes. Indeed,
more than half an hour must have elapsed, I calculated,
between the moment the moon showed above the horizon
and the first delicate onslaught of the tinklings.
"'Edith!' I cried. 'I think I have it! The grey rock opens
five minutes after upon the moonrise. But whoever or whatever
it is that comes through it must wait until the moon has
risen higher, or else it must come from a distance. The thing
to do is not to wait for it, but to surprise it before it passes
out the door. We will go into the inner court early. You will
take your rifle and pistol and hide yourself where you can
command the opening--if the slab does open. The instant it
opens I will enter. It's our best chance, Edith. I think it's our
only one.'
"My wife demurred strongly. She wanted to go with me.
But I convinced her that it was better for her to stand guard
without, prepared to help me if I were forced again into the
open by what lay behind the rock.
"At the half-hour before moonrise we went into the inner
court. I took my place at the side of the grey rock. Edith
crouched behind a broken pillar twenty feet away; slipped
her rifle-barrel over it so that it would cover the opening.
"The minutes crept by. The darkness lessened and through
the breaches of the terrace I watched the far sky softly
lighten. With the first pale flush the silence of the place
intensified. It deepened; became unbearably--expectant. The
moon rose, showed the quarter, the half, then swam up into
full sight like a great bubble.
"Its rays fell upon the wall before me and suddenly upon
the convexities I have described seven little circles of light
sprang out. They gleamed, glimmered, grew brighter--shone.
The gigantic slab before me glowed with them, silver wavelets
of phosphorescence pulsed over its surface and then--
it turned as though on a pivot, sighing softly as it moved!
"With a word to Edith I flung myself through the opening.
A tunnel stretched before me. It glowed with the same faint
silvery radiance. Down it I raced. The passage turned abruptly,
passed parallel to the walls of the outer courtyard
and then once more led downward.
"The passage ended. Before me was a high vaulted arch.
It seemed to open into space; a space filled with lambent,
coruscating, many-coloured mist whose brightness grew even
as I watched. I passed through the arch and stopped in sheer
"In front of me was a pool. It was circular, perhaps twenty
feet wide. Around it ran a low, softly curved lip of glimmering
silvery stone. Its water was palest blue. The pool with its
silvery rim was like a great blue eye staring upward.
"Upon it streamed seven shafts of radiance. They poured
down upon the blue eye like cylindrical torrents; they were
like shining pillars of light rising from a sapphire floor.
"One was the tender pink of the pearl; one of the aurora's
green; a third a deathly white; the fourth the blue in motherof-
pearl; a shimmering column of pale amber; a beam of
amethyst; a shaft of molten silver. Such are the colours of
the seven lights that stream upon the Moon Pool. I drew
closer, awestricken. The shafts did not illumine the depths.
They played upon the surface and seemed there to diffuse,
to melt into it. The Pool drank them?
"Through the water tiny gleams of phosphorescence began
to dart, sparkles and coruscations of pale incandescence.
And far, far below I sensed a movement, a shifting glow as
of a radiant body slowly rising.
"I looked upward, following the radiant pillars to their
source. Far above were seven shining globes, and it was from
these that the rays poured. Even as I watched their brightness
grew. They were like seven moons set high in some
caverned heaven. Slowly their splendour increased, and with
it the splendour of the seven beams streaming from them.
"I tore my gaze away and stared at the Pool. It had grown
milky, opalescent. The rays gushing into it seemed to be
filling it; it was alive with sparklings, scintillations, glimmerings.
And the luminescence I had seen rising from its depths
was larger, nearer!
"A swirl of mist floated up from its surface. It drifted
within the embrace of the rosy beam and hung there for a
moment. The beam seemed to embrace it, sending through
it little shining corpuscles, tiny rosy spiralings. The mist
absorbed the rays, was strengthened by them, gained substance.
Another swirl sprang into the amber shaft, clung and
fed there, moved swiftly toward the first and mingled with
it. And now other swirls arose, here and there, too fast to
be counted; hung poised in the embrace of the light streams;
flashed and pulsed into each other.
"Thicker and thicker still they arose until over the surface
of the Pool was a pulsating pillar of opalescent mist steadily
growing stronger; drawing within it life from the seven
beams falling upon it; drawing to it from below the darting,
incandescent atoms of the Pool. Into its centre was passing
the luminescence rising from the far depths. And the pillar
glowed, throbbed--began to send out questing swirls and
"There forming before me was That which had walked
with Stanton, which had taken Thora--the thing I had come
to find!
"My brain sprang into action. My hand threw up the pistol
and I fired shot after shot into the shining core.
"As I fired, it swayed and shook; gathered again. I slipped
a second clip into the automatic and another idea coming
to me took careful aim at one of the globes in the roof. From
thence I knew came the force that shaped this Dweller in
the Pool--from the pouring rays came its strength. If I could
destroy them I could check its forming. I fired again and
again. If I hit the globes I did no damage. The little motes
in their beams danced with the motes in the mist, troubled.
That was all.
"But up from the Pool like little bells, like tiny bursting
bubbles of glass, swarmed the tinkling sounds--their pitch
higher, all their sweetness lost, angry.
"And out from the Inexplicable swept a shining spiral.
"It caught me above the heart; wrapped itself around me.
There rushed through me a mingled ecstasy and horror.
Every atom of me quivered with delight and shrank with
despair. There was nothing loathsome in it. But it was as
though the icy soul of evil and the fiery soul of good had
stepped together within me. The pistol dropped from my
"So I stood while the Pool gleamed and sparkled; the
streams of light grew more intense and the radiant Thing
that held me gleamed and strengthened. Its shining core had
shape--but a shape that my eyes and brain could not define.
It was as though a being of another sphere should assume
what it might of human semblance, but was not able to conceal
that what human eyes saw was but a part of it. It was
neither man nor woman; it was unearthly and androgynous.
Even as I found its human semblance it changed. And still
the mingled rapture and terror held me. Only in a little corner
of my brain dwelt something untouched; something that held
itself apart and watched. Was it the soul? I have never believed--
and yet--
"Over the head of the misty body there sprang suddenly
out seven little lights. Each was the colour of the beam beneath
which it rested. I knew now that the Dweller was--
"I heard a scream. It was Edith's voice. It came to me
that she had heard the shots and followed me. I felt every
faculty concentrate into a mighty effort. I wrenched myself
free from the gripping tentacle and it swept back. I turned
to catch Edith, and as I did so slipped--fell.
"The radiant shape above the Pool leaped swiftly--and
straight into it raced Edith, arms outstretched to shield me
from it! God!
"She threw herself squarely within its splendour," he
whispered. "It wrapped its shining self around her. The crystal
tinklings burst forth jubilantly. The light filled her, ran
through and around her as it had with Stanton; and dropped
down upon her face--the look!
"But her rush had taken her to the very verge of the
Moon Pool. She tottered; she fell--with the radiance still
holding her, still swirling and winding around and through
her--into the Moon Pool! She sank, and with her went--the
"I dragged myself to the brink. Far down was a shining,
many-coloured nebulous cloud descending; out of it peered
Edith's face, disappearing; her eyes stared up at me--and
she vanished!
"'Edith!' I cried again. 'Edith, come back to me!'
"And then a darkness fell upon me. I remember running
back through the shimmering corridors and out into the
courtyard. Reason had left me. When it returned I was far
out at sea in our boat wholly estranged from civilization. A
day later I was picked up by the schooner in which I came to
Port Moresby.
"I have formed a plan; you must bear it, Goodwin--" He
fell upon his berth. I bent over him. Exhaustion and the relief
of telling his story had been too much for him. He slept
like the dead.
All that night I watched over him. When dawn broke I
went to my room to get a little sleep myself. But my slumber
was haunted.
The next day the storm was unabated. Throckmartin came
to me at lunch. He had regained much of his old alertness.
"Come to my cabin," he said. There, he stripped his shirt
from him. "Something is happening," he said. "The mark is
smaller." It was as he said.
"I'm escaping," he whispered jubilantly, "Just let me get
to Melbourne safely, and then we'll see who'll win! For,
Walter, I'm not at all sure that Edith is dead--as we know
death--nor that the others are. There is something outside
experience there--some great mystery."
And all that day he talked to me of his plans.
"There's a natural explanation, of course," he said. "My
theory is that the moon rock is of some composition sensitive
to the action of moon rays; somewhat as the metal selenium
is to sun rays. The little circles over the top are, without
doubt, its operating agency. When the light strikes them
they release the mechanism that opens the slab, just as you
can open doors with sun or electric light by an ingenious arrangement
of selenium-cells. Apparently it takes the strength
of the full moon both to do this and to summon the Dweller
in the Pool. We will first try a concentration of the rays of
the waning moon upon these circles to see whether that will
open the rock. If it does we will be able to investigate the
Pool without interruption from--from--what emanates.
"Look, here on the chart are their locations. I have made
this in duplicate for you in the event--of something happening--
to me. And if I lose--you'll come after us, Goodwin,
with help--won't you?"
And again I promised.
A little later he complained of increasing sleepiness.
"But it's just weariness," he said. "Not at all like that other
drowsiness. It's an hour till moonrise still," he yawned at
last. "Wake me up a good fifteen minutes before."
He lay upon the berth. I sat thinking. I came to myself
with a guilty start. I had completely lost myself in my deep
preoccupation. What time was it? I looked at my watch and
jumped to the port-hole. It was full moonlight; the orb had
been up for fully half an hour. I strode over to Throckmartin
and shook him by the shoulder.
"Up, quick, man!" I cried. He rose sleepily. His shirt fell
open at the neck and I looked, in amazement, at the white
band around his chest. Even under the electric light it shone
softly, as though little flecks of light were in it.
Throckmartin seemed only half-awake. He looked down
at his breast, saw the glowing cincture, and smiled.
"Yes," he said drowsily, "it's coming--to take me back to
Edith! Well, I'm glad."
"Throckmartin!" I cried. "Wake up! Fight!"
"Fight!" he said. "No use; come after us!"
He went to the port and sleepily drew aside the curtain.
The moon traced a broad path of light straight to the ship.
Under its rays the band around his chest gleamed brighter
and brighter; shot forth little rays; seemed to writhe.
The lights went out in the cabin; evidently also throughout
the ship, for I heard shoutings above.
Throckmartin still stood at the open port. Over his shoulder
I saw a gleaming pillar racing along the moon path toward
us. Through the window cascaded a blinding radiance.
It gathered Throckmartin to it, clothed him in a robe of
living opalescence. Light pulsed through and from him. The
cabin filled with murmurings--
A wave of weakness swept over me, buried me in blackness.
When consciousness came back, the lights were again
burning brightly.
But of Throckmartin there was no trace!
"The Shining Devil Took Them!"
MY COLLEAGUES of the Association, and you others who
may read this my narrative, for what I did and did not when
full realization returned I must offer here, briefly as I can,
an explanation; a defense--if you will.
My first act was to spring to the open port. The coma had
lasted hours, for the moon was now low in the west! I ran
to the door to sound the alarm. It resisted under my frantic
hands; would not open. Something fell tinkling to the floor.
It was the key and I remembered then that Throckmartin
had turned it before we began our vigil. With memory a
hope died that I had not known was in me, the hope that
he had escaped from the cabin, found refuge elsewhere on
the ship.
And as I stooped, fumbling with shaking fingers for the
key, a thought came to me that drove again the blood from
my heart, held me rigid. I could sound no alarm on the
Southern Queen for Throckmartin!
Conviction of my appalling helplessness was complete.
The ensemble of the vessel from captain to cabin boy was,
to put it conservatively, average. None, I knew, save Throckmartin
and myself had seen the first apparition of the
Dweller. Had they witnessed the second? I did not know,
nor could I risk speaking, not knowing. And not seeing, how
could they believe? They would have thought me insane--
or worse; even, it might be, his murderer.
I snapped off the electrics; waited and listened; opened the
door with infinite caution and slipped, unseen, into my own
stateroom. The hours until the dawn were eternities of waking
nightmare. Reason, resuming sway at last, steadied me.
Even had I spoken and been believed where in these wastes
after all the hours could we search for Throckmartin? Certainly
the captain would not turn back to Port Moresby. And
even if he did, of what use for me to set forth for the Nan-
Matal without the equipment which Throckmartin himself
had decided was necessary if one hoped to cope with the
mystery that lurked there?
There was but one thing to do--follow his instructions;
get the paraphernalia in Melbourne or Sydney if it were
possible; if not sail to America as swiftly as might be, secure
it there and as swiftly return to Ponape. And this I determined
to do.
Calmness came back to me after I had made this decision.
And when I went up on deck I knew that I had been right.
They had not seen the Dweller. They were still discussing
the darkening of the ship, talking of dynamos burned out,
wires short circuited, a half dozen explanations of the extinguishment.
Not until noon was Throckmartin's absence
discovered. I told the captain that I had left him early in the
evening; that, indeed, I knew him but slightly, after all. It
occurred to none to doubt me, or to question me minutely.
Why should it have? His strangeness had been noted, commented
upon; all who had met him had thought him half
mad. I did little to discourage the impression. And so it came
naturally that on the log it was entered that he had fallen
or leaped from the vessel some time during the night.
A report to this effect was made when we entered Melbourne.
I slipped quietly ashore and in the press of the war
news Throckmartin's supposed fate won only a few lines in
the newspapers; my own presence on the ship and in the
city passed unnoticed.
I was fortunate in securing at Melbourne everything I
needed except a set of Becquerel ray condensers--but these
were the very keystone of my equipment. Pursuing my
search to Sydney I was doubly fortunate in finding a firm
who were expecting these very articles in a consignment due
them from the States within a fortnight. I settled down in
strictest seclusion to await their arrival.
And now it will occur to you to ask why I did not cable,
during this period of waiting, to the Association; demand
aid from it. Or why I did not call upon members of the University
staffs of either Melbourne or Sydney for assistance.
At the least, why I did not gather, as Throckmartin had
hoped to do, a little force of strong men to go with me to the
To the first two questions I answer frankly--I did not dare.
And this reluctance, this inhibition, every man jealous of his
scientific reputation will understand. The story of Throckmartin,
the happenings I had myself witnessed, were incredible,
abnormal, outside the facts of all known science. I
shrank from the inevitable disbelief, perhaps ridicule--nay,
perhaps even the graver suspicion that had caused me to
seal my lips while on the ship. Why I myself could only half
believe! How then could I hope to convince others?
And as for the third question--I could not take men into
the range of such a peril without first warning them of what
they might encounter; and if I did warn them--
It was checkmate! If it also was cowardice--well, I have
atoned for it. But I do not hold it so; my conscience is clear.
That fortnight and the greater part of another passed before
the ship I awaited steamed into port. By that time, between
my straining anxiety to be after Throckmartin, the
despairing thought that every moment of delay might be
vital to him and his, and my intensely eager desire to know
whether that shining, glorious horror on the moon path did
exist or had been hallucination, I was worn almost to the
edge of madness.
At last the condensers were in my hands. It was more than
a week later, however, before I could secure passage back
to Port Moresby and it was another week still before I
started north on the Suwarna, a swift little sloop with a fiftyhorsepower
auxiliary, heading straight for Ponape and the
We sighted the Brunhilda some five hundred miles south
of the Carolines. The wind had fallen soon after Papua had
dropped astern. The Suwarna's ability to make her twelve
knots an hour without it had made me very fully forgive
her for not being as fragrant as the Javan flower for which
she was named. Da Costa, her captain, was a garrulous
Portuguese; his mate was a Canton man with all the marks
of long and able service on some pirate junk; his engineer
was a half-breed China-Malay who had picked up his knowledge
of power plants, Heaven alone knew where, and, I had
reason to believe, had transferred all his religious impulses
to the American built deity of mechanism he so faithfully
served. The crew was made up of six huge, chattering Tonga
The Suwarna had cut through Finschafen Huon Gulf to
the protection of the Bismarcks. She had threaded the maze
of the archipelago tranquilly, and we were then rolling over
the thousand-mile stretch of open ocean with New Hanover
far behind us and our boat's bow pointed straight toward
Nukuor of the Monte Verdes. After we had rounded Nukuor
we should, barring accident, reach Ponape in not more than
sixty hours.
It was late afternoon, and on the demure little breeze that
marched behind us came far-flung sighs of spice-trees and
nutmeg flowers. The slow prodigious swells of the Pacific
lifted us in gentle, giant hands and sent us as gently down
the long, blue wave slopes to the next broad, upward slope.
There was a spell of peace over the ocean, stilling even the
Portuguese captain who stood dreamily at the wheel, slowly
swaying to the rhythmic lift and fall of the sloop.
There came a whining hail from the Tonga boy lookout
draped lazily over the bow.
"Sail he b'long port side!"
Da Costa straightened and gazed while I raised my glass.
The vessel was a scant mile away, and must have been visible
long before the sleepy watcher had seen her. She was a
sloop about the size of the Suwarna, without power. All
sails set, even to a spinnaker she carried, she was making
the best of the little breeze. I tried to read her name, but
the vessel jibed sharply as though the hands of the man at
the wheel had suddenly dropped the helm--and then with
equal abruptness swung back to her course. The stern came
in sight, and on it I read Brunhilda.
I shifted my glasses to the man at wheel. He was crouching
down over the spokes in a helpless, huddled sort of way,
and even as I looked the vessel veered again, abruptly as
before. I saw the helmsman straighten up and bring the
wheel about with a vicious jerk.
He stood so for a moment, looking straight ahead, entirely
oblivious of us, and then seemed again to sink down within
himself. It came to me that his was the action of a man striving
vainly against a weariness unutterable. I swept the deck
with my glasses. There was no other sign of life. I turned to
find the Portuguese staring intently and with puzzled air at
the sloop, now separated from us by a scant half mile.
"Something veree wrong I think there, sair," he said in
his curious English. "The man on deck I know. He is captain
and owner of the Br-rwun'ild. His name Olaf Huldricksson,
what you say--Norwegian. He is eithair veree sick or
veree tired--but I do not undweerstand where is the crew
and the starb'd boat is gone--"
He shouted an order to the engineer and as he did so the
faint breeze failed and the sails of the Brunhilda flapped
down inert. We were now nearly abreast and a scant hundred
yards away. The engine of the Suwarna died and the
Tonga boys leaped to one of the boats.
"You Olaf Huldricksson!" shouted Da Costa. "What's a
matter wit' you?"
The man at the wheel turned toward us. He was a giant;
his shoulders enormous, thick chested, strength in every line
of him, he towered like a viking of old at the rudder bar of
his shark ship.
I raised the glass again; his face sprang into the lens and
never have I seen a visage lined and marked as though by
ages of unsleeping misery as was that of Olaf Huldricksson!
The Tonga boys had the boat alongside and were waiting
at the oars. The little captain was dropping into it.
"Wait!" I cried. I ran into my cabin, grasped my emergency
medical kit and climbed down the rope ladder. The
Tonga boys bent to the oars. We reached the side and Da
Costa and I each seized a lanyard dangling from the stays
and swung ourselves on board. Da Costa approached Huldricksson
"What's the matter, Olaf?" he began--and then was silent,
looking down at the wheel. The hands of Huldricksson were
lashed fast to the spokes by thongs of thin, strong cord; they
were swollen and black and the thongs had bitten into the
sinewy wrists till they were hidden in the outraged flesh,
cutting so deeply that blood fell, slow drop by drop, at his
feet! We sprang toward him, reaching out hands to his fetters
to loose them. Even as we touched them, Huldricksson
aimed a vicious kick at me and then another at Da Costa
which sent the Portuguese tumbling into the scuppers.
"Let be!" croaked Huldricksson; his voice was thick and
lifeless as though forced from a dead throat; his lips were
cracked and dry and his parched tongue was black. "Let be!
Go! Let be!"
The Portuguese had picked himself up, whimpering with
rage and knife in hand, but as Huldricksson's voice reached
him he stopped. Amazement crept into his eyes and as he
thrust the blade back into his belt they softened with pity.
"Something veree wrong wit' Olaf," he murmured to me.
"I think he crazee!" And then Olaf Huldricksson began to
curse us. He did not speak--he howled from that hideously
dry mouth his imprecations. And all the time his red eyes
roamed the seas and his hands, clenched and rigid on the
wheel, dropped blood.
"I go below," said Da Costa nervously. "His wife, his
daughter--" he darted down the companionway and was
Huldricksson, silent once more, had slumped down over
the wheel.
Da Costa's head appeared at the top of the companion
"There is nobody, nobody," he paused--then--"nobody
--nowhere!" His hands flew out in a gesture of hopeless incomprehension.
"I do not understan'."
Then Olaf Huldricksson opened his dry lips and as he
spoke a chill ran through me, checking my heart.
"The sparkling devil took them!" croaked Olaf Huldricksson,
"the sparkling devil took them! Took my Helma and my
little Freda! The sparkling devil came down from the moon
and took them!"
He swayed; tears dripped down his cheeks. Da Costa
moved toward him again and again Huldricksson watched
him, alertly, wickedly, from his bloodshot eyes.
I took a hypodermic from my case and filled it with morphine.
I drew Da Costa to me.
"Get to the side of him," I whispered, "talk to him." He
moved over toward the wheel.
"Where is your Helma and Freda, Olaf?" he said.
Huldricksson turned his head toward him. "The shining
devil took them," he croaked. "The moon devil that
A yell broke from him. I had thrust the needle into his
arm just above one swollen wrist and had quickly shot the
drug through. He struggled to release himself and then began
to rock drunkenly. The morphine, taking him in his
weakness, worked quickly. Soon over his face a peace
dropped. The pupils of the staring eyes contracted. Once,
twice, he swayed and then, his bleeding, prisoned hands held
high and still gripping the wheel, he crumpled to the deck.
With utmost difficulty we loosed the thongs, but at last it
was done. We rigged a little swing and the Tonga boys slung
the great inert body over the side into the dory. Soon we had
Huldricksson in my bunk. Da Costa sent half his crew over
to the sloop in charge of the Cantonese. They took in all sail,
stripping Huldricksson's boat to the masts and then with
the Brunhilda nosing quietly along after us at the end of a
long hawser, one of the Tonga boys at her wheel, we resumed
the way so enigmatically interrupted.
I cleansed and bandaged the Norseman's lacerated wrists
and sponged the blackened, parched mouth with warm water
and a mild antiseptic.
Suddenly I was aware of Da Costa's presence and turned.
His unease was manifest and held, it seemed to me, a queer,
furtive anxiety.
"What you think of Olaf, sair?" he asked. I shrugged my
shoulders. "You think he killed his woman and his babee?"
He went on. "You think he crazee and killed all?"
"Nonsense, Da Costa," I answered. "You saw the boat
was gone. Most probably his crew mutinied and to torture
him tied him up the way you saw. They did the same thing
with Hilton of the Coral Lady; you'll remember."
"No," he said. "No. The crew did not. Nobody there on
board when Olaf was tied."
"What!" I cried, startled. "What do you mean?"
"I mean," he said slowly, "that Olaf tie himself!"
"Wait!" he went on at my incredulous gesture of dissent.
"Wait, I show you." He had been standing with hands behind
his back and now I saw that he held in them the cut thongs
that had bound Huldricksson. They were blood-stained and
each ended in a broad leather tip skilfully spliced into the
cord. "Look," he said, pointing to these leather ends. I
looked and saw in them deep indentations of teeth. I snatched
one of the thongs and opened the mouth of the unconscious
man on the bunk. Carefully I placed the leather within it and
gently forced the jaws shut on it. It was true. Those marks
were where Olaf Huldricksson's jaws had gripped.
"Wait!" Da Costa repeated, "I show you." He took other
cords and rested his hands on the supports of a chair back.
Rapidly he twisted one of the thongs around his left hand,
drew a loose knot, shifted the cord up toward his elbow.
This left wrist and hand still free and with them he twisted
the other cord around the right wrist; drew a similar knot.
His hands were now in the exact position that Huldricksson's
had been on the Brunhilda but with cords and knots
hanging loose. Then Da Costa reached down his head, took
a leather end in his teeth and with a jerk drew the thong
that noosed his left hand tight; similarly he drew tight the
He strained at his fetters. There before my eyes he had
pinioned himself so that without aid he could not release
himself. And he was exactly as Huldricksson had been!
"You will have to cut me loose, sair," he said. "I cannot
move them. It is an old trick on these seas. Sometimes it is
necessary that a man stand at the wheel many hours without
help, and he does this so that if he sleep the wheel wake
him, yes, sair."
I looked from him to the man on the bed.
"But why, sair," said Da Costa slowly, "did Olaf have to
tie his hands?"
I looked at him, uneasily.
"I don't know," I answered. "Do you?"
He fidgeted, avoided my eyes, and then rapidly, almost
surreptitiously crossed himself.
"No," he replied. "I know nothing. Some things I have
heard--but they tell many tales on these seas."
He started for the door. Before he reached it he turned.
"But this I do know," he half whispered, "I am damned glad
there is no full moon tonight." And passed out, leaving me
staring after him in amazement. What did the Portuguese
I bent over the sleeper. On his face was no trace of that
unholy mingling of opposites the Dweller stamped upon its
And yet--what was it the Norseman had said?
"The sparkling devil took them!" Nay, he had been even
more explicit--"The sparkling devil that came down from
the moon!"
Could it be that the Dweller had swept upon the Brunhilda,
drawing down the moon path Olaf Huldricksson's
wife and babe even as it had drawn Throckmartin?
As I sat thinking the cabin grew suddenly dark and from
above came a shouting and patter of feet. Down upon us
swept one of the abrupt, violent squalls that are met with in
those latitudes. I lashed Huldricksson fast in the berth and
ran up on deck.
The long, peaceful swells had changed into angry, choppy
waves from the tops of which the spindrift streamed in long
stinging lashes.
A half-hour passed; the squall died as quickly as it had
arisen. The sea quieted. Over in the west, from beneath the
tattered, flying edge of the storm, dropped the red globe of
the setting sun; dropped slowly until it touched the sea rim.
I watched it--and rubbed my eyes and stared again. For
over its flaming portal something huge and black moved,
like a gigantic beckoning finger!
Da Costa had seen it, too, and he turned the Suwarna
straight toward the descending orb and its strange shadow.
As we approached we saw it was a little mass of wreckage
and that the beckoning finger was a wing of canvas, sticking
up and swaying with the motion of the waves. On the highest
point of the wreckage sat a tall figure calmly smoking a
We brought the Suwarna to, dropped a boat, and with myself
as coxswain pulled toward a wrecked hydroairplane. Its
occupant took a long puff at his cigarette, waved a cheerful
hand, shouted a greeting. And just as he did so a great wave
raised itself up behind him, took the wreckage, tossed it high
in a swelter of foam, and passed on. When we had steadied
our boat, where wreck and man had been was--nothing.
There came a tug at the side--, two muscular brown
hands gripped it close to my left, and a sleek, black, wet head
showed its top between them. Two bright, blue eyes that
held deep within them a laughing deviltry looked into mine,
and a long, lithe body drew itself gently over the thwart and
seated its dripping self at my feet.
"Much obliged," said this man from the sea. "I knew
somebody was sure to come along when the O'Keefe banshee
didn't show up."
"The what?" I asked in amazement.
"The O'Keefe banshee--I'm Larry O'Keefe. It's a far
way from Ireland, but not too far for the O'Keefe banshee
to travel if the O'Keefe was going to click in."
I looked again at my astonishing rescue. He seemed perfectly
"Have you a cigarette? Mine went out," he said with a
grin, as he reached a moist hand out for the little cylinder,
took it, lighted it.
I saw a lean, intelligent face whose fighting jaw was softened
by the wistfulness of the clean-cut lips and the honesty
that lay side by side with the deviltry in the laughing blue
eyes; nose of a thoroughbred with the suspicion of a tilt;
long, well-knit, slender figure that I knew must have all the
strength of fine steel; the uniform of a lieutenant in the
Royal Flying Corps of Britain's navy.
He laughed, stretched out a firm hand, and gripped mine.
"Thank you really ever so much, old man," he said.
I liked Larry O'Keefe from the beginning--but I did not
dream as the Tonga boys pulled us back to the Suwarna bow
that liking was to be forged into man's strong love for man
by fires which souls such as his and mine--and yours who
read this--could never dream.
Larry! Larry O'Keefe, where are you now with your
leprechauns and banshee, your heart of a child, your laughing
blue eyes, and your fearless soul? Shall I ever see you
again, Larry O'Keefe, dear to me as some best beloved
younger brother? Larry!
Larry O'Keefe
PRESSING BACK the questions I longed to ask, I introduced
myself. Oddly enough, I found that he knew me, or rather
my work. He had bought, it appeared, my volume upon the
peculiar vegetation whose habitat is disintegrating lava rock
and volcanic ash, that I had entitled, somewhat loosely, I
could now perceive, Flora of the Craters. For he explained
naively that he had picked it up, thinking it an entirely
different sort of a book, a novel in fact--something like
Meredith's Diana of the Crossways, which he liked greatly.
He had hardly finished this explanation when we touched
the side of the Suwarna, and I was forced to curb my curiosity
until we reached the deck.
"That thing you saw me sitting on," he said, after he had
thanked the bowing little skipper for his rescue, "was all
that was left of one of his Majesty's best little hydroairplanes
after that cyclone threw it off as excess baggage. And by the
way, about where are we?"
Da Costa gave him our approximate position from the
noon reckoning.
O'Keefe whistled. "A good three hundred miles from
where I left the H.M.S. Dolphin about four hours ago," he
said. "That squall I rode in on was some whizzer!
"The Dolphin," he went on, calmly divesting himself of
his soaked uniform, "was on her way to Melbourne. I'd been
yearning for a joy ride and went up for an alleged scouting
trip. Then that blow shot out of nowhere, picked me up, and
insisted that I go with it.
"About an hour ago I thought I saw a chance to zoom up
and out of it, I turned, and BLICK went my right wing, and
down I dropped."
"I don't know how we can notify your ship, Lieutenant
O'Keefe," I said. "We have no wireless."
"Doctair Goodwin," said Da Costa, "we could change our
course, sair--perhaps--"
"Thanks--but not a bit of it," broke in O'Keefe. "Lord
alone knows where the Dolphin is now. Fancy she'll be nosing
around looking for me. Anyway, she's just as apt to run
into you as you into her. Maybe we'll strike something with
a wireless, and I'll trouble you to put me aboard." He hesitated.
"Where are you bound, by the way?" he asked.
"For Ponape," I answered.
"No wireless there," mused O'Keefe. "Beastly hole.
Stopped a week ago for fruit. Natives seemed scared to death
at us--or something. What are you going there for?"
Da Costa darted a furtive glance at me. It troubled me.
O'Keefe noted my hesitation.
"Oh, I beg your pardon," he said. "Maybe I oughn't to
have asked that?"
"It's no secret, Lieutenant," I replied. "I'm about to undertake
some exploration work--a little digging among the
ruins on the Nan-Matal."
I looked at the Portuguese sharply as I named the place.
A pallor crept beneath his skin and again he made swiftly
the sign of the cross, glancing as he did so fearfully to the
north. I made up my mind then to question him when opportunity
came. He turned from his quick scrutiny of the
sea and addressed O'Keefe.
"There's nothing on board to fit you, Lieutenant."
"Oh, just give me a sheet to throw around me, Captain,"
said O'Keefe and followed him. Darkness had fallen, and as
the two disappeared into Da Costa's cabin I softly opened
the door of my own and listened. Huldricksson was breathing
deeply and regularly.
I drew my electric-flash, and shielding its rays from my
face, looked at him. His sleep was changing from the heavy
stupor of the drug into one that was at least on the borderland
of the normal. The tongue had lost its arid blackness
and the mouth secretions had resumed action. Satisfied as to
his condition I returned to deck.
O'Keefe was there, looking like a spectre in the cotton
sheet he had wrapped about him. A deck table had been
cleated down and one of the Tonga boys was setting it for
our dinner. Soon the very creditable larder of the Suwarna
dressed the board, and O'Keefe, Da Costa, and I attacked it.
The night had grown close and oppressive. Behind us the
forward light of the Brunhilda glided and the binnacle lamp
threw up a faint glow in which her black helmsman's face
stood out mistily. O'Keefe had looked curiously a number
of times at our tow, but had asked no questions.
"You're not the only passenger we picked up today," I
told him. "We found the captain of that sloop, lashed to his
wheel, nearly dead with exhaustion, and his boat deserted by
everyone except himself."
"What was the matter?" asked O'Keefe in astonishment.
"We don't know," I answered. "He fought us, and I had
to drug him before we could get him loose from his lashings.
He's sleeping down in my berth now. His wife and little girl
ought to have been on board, the captain here says, but--
they weren't."
"Wife and child gone!" exclaimed O'Keefe.
"From the condition of his mouth he must have been
alone at the wheel and without water at least two days and
nights before we found him," I replied. "And as for looking
for anyone on these waters after such a time--it's hopeless."
"That's true," said O'Keefe. "But his wife and baby! Poor,
poor devil!"
He was silent for a time, and then, at my solicitation, began
to tell us more of himself. He had been little more than
twenty when he had won his wings and entered the war. He
had been seriously wounded at Ypres during the third year
of the struggle, and when he recovered the war was over.
Shortly after that his mother had died. Lonely and restless,
he had re-entered the Air Service, and had remained in it
ever since.
"And though the war's long over, I get homesick for the
lark's land with the German planes playing tunes on their
machine guns and their Archies tickling the soles of my
feet," he sighed. "If you're in love, love to the limit; and if
you hate, why hate like the devil and if it's a fight you're in,
get where it's hottest and fight like hell--if you don't life's
not worth the living," sighed he.
I watched him as he talked, feeling my liking for him
steadily increasing. If I could but have a man like this beside
me on the path of unknown peril upon which I had set
my feet I thought, wistfully. We sat and smoked a bit, sipping
the strong coffee the Portuguese made so well.
Da Costa at last relieved the Cantonese at the wheel.
O'Keefe and I drew chairs up to the rail. The brighter stars
shone out dimly through a hazy sky; gleams of phosphorescence
tipped the crests of the waves and sparkled with an
almost angry brilliance as the bow of the Suwarna tossed
them aside. O'Keefe pulled contentedly at a cigarette. The
glowing spark lighted the keen, boyish face and the blue
eyes, now black and brooding under the spell of the tropic
"Are you American or Irish, O'Keefe?" I asked suddenly.
"Why?" he laughed.
"Because," I answered, "from your name and your service
I would suppose you Irish--but your command of pure
Americanese makes me doubtful."
He grinned amiably.
"I'll tell you how that is," he said. "My mother was an
American--a Grace, of Virginia. My father was the
O'Keefe, of Coleraine. And these two loved each other so
well that the heart they gave me is half Irish and half
American. My father died when I was sixteen. I used to go
to the States with my mother every other year for a month
or two. But after my father died we used to go to Ireland
every other year. And there you are--I'm as much American
as I am Irish.
"When I'm in love, or excited, or dreaming, or mad I
have the brogue. But for the everyday purpose of life I like
the United States talk, and I know Broadway as well as I do
Binevenagh Lane, and the Sound as well as St. Patrick's
Channel; educated a bit at Eton, a bit at Harvard; always
too much money to have to make any; in love lots of times,
and never a heartache after that wasn't a pleasant one, and
never a real purpose in life until I took the king's shilling
and earned my wings; something over thirty--and that's me
--Larry O'Keefe."
"But it was the Irish O'Keefe who sat out there waiting
for the banshee," I laughed.
"It was that," he said somberly, and I heard the brogue
creep over his voice like velvet and his eyes grew brooding
again. "There's never an O'Keefe for these thousand years
that has passed without his warning. An' twice have I heard
the banshee calling--once it was when my younger brother
died an' once when my father lay waiting to be carried out
on the ebb tide."
He mused a moment, then went on: "An' once I saw an
Annir Choille, a girl of the green people, flit like a shade of
green fire through Carntogher woods, an' once at Dunchraig
I slept where the ashes of the Dun of Cormac Mac-
Concobar are mixed with those of Cormac an' Eilidh the
Fair, all burned in the nine flames that sprang from the harping
of Cravetheen, an' I heard the echo of his dead harpings--"
He paused again and then, softly, with that curiously
sweet, high voice that only the Irish seem to have, he sang:
Woman of the white breasts, Eilidh;
Woman of the gold-brown hair, and lips of the red, red rowan,
Where is the swan that is whiter, with breast more soft,
Or the wave on the sea that moves as thou movest, Eilidh.
Olaf's Story
THERE was a little silence. I looked upon him with wonder.
Clearly he was in deepest earnest. I know the psychology
of the Gael is a curious one and that deep in all their hearts
their ancient traditions and beliefs have strong and living
roots. And I was both amused and touched.
Here was this soldier, who had faced war and its ugly
realities open-eyed and fearless, picking, indeed, the most
dangerous branch of service for his own, a modern if ever
there was one, appreciative of most unmystical Broadway,
and yet soberly and earnestly attesting to his belief in banshee,
in shadowy people of the woods, and phantom harpers!
I wondered what he would think if he could see the Dweller
and then, with a pang, that perhaps his superstitions might
make him an easy prey.
He shook his head half impatiently and ran a hand over
his eyes; turned to me and grinned:
"Don't think I'm cracked, Professor," he said. "I'm not.
But it takes me that way now and then. It's the Irish in me.
And, believe it or not, I'm telling you the truth."
I looked eastward where the moon, now nearly a week
past the full, was mounting.
"You can't make me see what you've seen, Lieutenant," I
laughed. "But you can make me hear. I've always wondered
what kind of a noise a disembodied spirit could make without
any vocal cords or breath or any other earthly soundproducing
mechanism. How does the banshee sound?"
O'Keefe looked at me seriously.
"All right," he said. "I'll show you." From deep down in
his throat came first a low, weird sobbing that mounted
steadily into a keening whose mournfulness made my skin
creep. And then his hand shot out and gripped my shoulder,
and I stiffened like stone in my chair--for from behind us,
like an echo, and then taking up the cry, swelled a wail that
seemed to hold within it a sublimation of the sorrows of
centuries! It gathered itself into one heartbroken, sobbing
note and died away! O'Keefe's grip loosened, and he rose
swiftly to his feet.
"It's all right, Professor," he said. "It's for me. It found
me--all this way from Ireland."
Again the silence was rent by the cry. But now I had located
it. It came from my room, and it could mean only one
thing--Huldricksson had wakened.
"Forget your banshee!" I gasped, and made a jump for the
Out of the corner of my eye I noted a look of half-sheepish
relief flit over O'Keefe's face, and then he was beside me.
Da Costa shouted an order from the wheel, the Cantonese
ran up and took it from his hands and the little Portuguese
pattered down toward us. My hand on the door, ready to
throw it open, I stopped. What if the Dweller were within--
what if we had been wrong and it was not dependent for its
power upon that full flood of moon ray which Throckmartin
had thought essential to draw it from the blue pool!
From within, the sobbing wail began once more to rise.
O'Keefe pushed me aside, threw open the door and crouched
low within it. I saw an automatic flash dully in his hand; saw
it cover the cabin from side to side, following the swift sweep
of his eyes around it. Then he straightened and his face,
turned toward the berth, was filled with wondering pity.
Through the window streamed a shaft of the moonlight.
It fell upon Huldricksson's staring eyes; in them great tears
slowly gathered and rolled down his cheeks; from his opened
mouth came the woe-laden wailing. I ran to the port and
drew the curtains. Da Costa snapped the lights.
The Norseman's dolorous crying stopped as abruptly as
though cut. His gaze rolled toward us. And at one bound
he broke through the leashes I had buckled round him and
faced us, his eyes glaring, his yellow hair almost erect with
the force of the rage visibly surging through him. Da Costa
shrunk behind me. O'Keefe, coolly watchful, took a quick
step that brought him in front of me.
"Where do you take me?" said Huldricksson, and his
voice was like the growl of a beast. "Where is my boat?"
I touched O'Keefe gently and stood before the giant.
"Listen, Olaf Huldricksson," I said. "We take you to
where the sparkling devil took your Helma and your Freda.
We follow the sparkling devil that came down from the
moon. Do you hear me?" I spoke slowly, distinctly, striving
to pierce the mists that I knew swirled around the strained
brain. And the words did pierce.
He thrust out a shaking hand.
"You say you follow?" he asked falteringly. "You know
where to follow? Where it took my Helma and my little
"Just that, Olaf Huldricksson," I answered. "Just that! I
pledge you my life that I know."
Da Costa stepped forward. "He speaks true, Olaf. You go
faster on the Suwarna than on the Br-rw-un'ilda, Olaf, yes."
The giant Norseman, still gripping my hand, looked at
him. "I know you, Da Costa," he muttered. "You are all
right. Ja! You are a fair man. Where is the Brunhilda?"
"She follow be'ind on a big rope, Olaf," soothed the Portuguese.
"Soon you see her. But now lie down an' tell us, if
you can, why you tie yourself to your wheel an' what it is
that happen, Olaf."
"If you'll tell us how the sparkling devil came it will help
us all when we get to where it is, Huldricksson," I said.
On O'Keefe's face there was an expression of well-nigh ludicrous
doubt and amazement. He glanced from one to the
other. The giant shifted his own tense look from me to the
Irishman. A gleam of approval lighted in his eyes. He loosed
me, and gripped O'Keefe's arm. "Staerk!" he said. "Ja--
strong, and with a strong heart. A man--ja! He comes too--
we shall need him--ja!"
"I tell," he muttered, and seated himself on the side of the
bunk. "It was four nights ago. My Freda"--his voice shook
--"Mine Yndling! She loved the moonlight. I was at the
wheel and my Freda and my Helma they were behind me.
The moon was behind us and the Brunhilda was like a swanboat
sailing down with the moonlight sending her, ja.
"I heard my Freda say: 'I see a nisse coming down the
track of the moon.' And I hear her mother laugh, low, like a
mother does when her Yndling dreams. I was happy--that
night--with my Helma and my Freda, and the Brunhilda
sailing like a swan-boat, ja. I heard the child say, 'The nisse
comes fast!' And then I heard a scream from my Helma, a
great scream--like a mare when her foal is torn from her. I
spun around fast, ja! I dropped the wheel and spun fast! I
saw--" He covered his eyes with his hands.
The Portuguese had crept close to me, and I heard him
panting like a frightened dog.
"I saw a white fire spring over the rail," whispered Olaf
Huldricksson. "It whirled round and round, and it shone like
--like stars in a whirlwind mist. There was a noise in my
ears. It sounded like bells--little bells, ja! Like the music
you make when you run your finger round goblets. It made
me sick and dizzy--the hell noise.
"My Helma was--indeholde--what you say--in the middle
of the white fire. She turned her face to me and she
turned it on the child, and my Helma's face burned into my
heart. Because it was full of fear, and it was full of happiness--
of glaede. I tell you that the fear in my Helma's face
made me ice here"--he beat his breast with clenched hand--
"but the happiness in it burned on me like fire. And I could
not move--I could not move.
"I said in here"--he touched his head--"I said, 'It is Loki
come out of Helvede. But he cannot take my Helma, for
Christ lives and Loki has no power to hurt my Helma or my
Freda! Christ lives! Christ lives!' I said. But the sparkling
devil did not let my Helma go. It drew her to the rail; half
over it. I saw her eyes upon the child and a little she broke
away and reached to it. And my Freda jumped into her
arms. And the fire wrapped them both and they were gone! A
little I saw them whirling on the moon track behind the
Brunhilda--and they were gone!
"The sparkling devil took them! Loki was loosed, and he
had power. I turned the Brunhilda, and I followed where
my Helma and mine Yndling had gone. My boys crept up
and asked me to turn again. But I would not. They dropped
a boat and left me. I steered straight on the path. I lashed
my hands to the wheel that sleep might not loose them. I
steered on and on and on--
"Where was the God I prayed when my wife and child
were taken?" cried Olaf Huldricksson--and it was as though
I heard Throckmartin asking that same bitter question. "I
have left Him as He left me, ja! I pray now to Thor and to
Odin, who can fetter Loki." He sank back, covering again
his eyes.
"Olaf," I said, "what you have called the sparkling devil
has taken ones dear to me. I, too, was following it when we
found you. You shall go with me to its home, and there we
will try to take from it your wife and your child and my
friends as well. But now that you may be strong for what is
before us, you must sleep again."
Olaf Huldricksson looked upon me and in his eyes was
that something which souls must see in the eyes of Him the
old Egyptians called the Searcher of Hearts in the Judgment
Hall of Osiris.
"You speak truth!" he said at last slowly. "I will do what
you say!"
He stretched out an arm at my bidding. I gave him a second
injection. He lay back and soon he was sleeping. I turned
toward Da Costa. His face was livid and sweating, and he
was trembling pitiably. O'Keefe stirred.
"You did that mighty well, Dr. Goodwin," he said. "So
well that I almost believed you myself."
"What did you think of his story, Mr. O'Keefe?" I asked.
His answer was almost painfully brief and colloquial.
"Nuts!" he said. I was a little shocked, I admit. "I think
he's crazy, Dr. Goodwin," he corrected himself, quickly.
"What else could I think?"
I turned to the little Portuguese without answering.
"There's no need for any anxiety tonight, Captain," I said.
"Take my word for it. You need some rest yourself. Shall I
give you a sleeping draft?"
"I do wish you would, Dr. Goodwin, sair," he answered
gratefully. "Tomorrow, when I feel bettair--I would have a
talk with you."
I nodded. He did know something then! I mixed him an
opiate of considerable strength. He took it and went to his
own cabin.
I locked the door behind him and then, sitting beside the
sleeping Norseman, I told O'Keefe my story from end to end.
He asked few questions as I spoke. But after I had finished
he cross-examined me rather minutely upon my recollections
of the radiant phases upon each appearance, checking
these with Throckmartin's observations of the same phenomena
in the Chamber of the Moon Pool.
"And now what do you think of it all?" I asked.
He sat silent for a while, looking at Huldricksson.
"Not what you seem to think, Dr. Goodwin," he answered
at last, gravely. "Let me sleep over it. One thing of course
is certain--you and your friend Throckmartin and this man
here saw--something. But--" he was silent again and then
continued with a kindness that I found vaguely irritating--
"but I've noticed that when a scientist gets superstitious it--
er--takes very hard!
"Here's a few things I can tell you now though," he went
on while I struggled to speak--"I pray in my heart that we'll
meet neither the Dolphin nor anything with wireless on
board going up. Because, Dr. Goodwin, I'd dearly love to
take a crack at your Dweller.
"And another thing," said O'Keefe. "After this--cut out
the trimmings, Doc, and call me plain Larry, for whether I
think you're crazy or whether I don't, you're there with the
nerve, Professor, and I'm for YOU.
"Good night!" said Larry and took himself out to the deck
hammock he had insisted upon having slung for him, refusing
the captain's importunities to use his own cabin.
And it was with extremely mixed emotions as to his compliment
that I watched him go. Superstitious. I, whose pride
was my scientific devotion to fact and fact alone! Superstitious--
and this from a man who believed in banshees and
ghostly harpers and Irish wood nymphs and no doubt in
leprechauns and all their tribe!
Half laughing, half irritated, and wholly happy in even
the part promise of Larry O'Keefe's comradeship on my venture,
I arranged a couple of pillows, stretched myself out on
two chairs and took up my vigil beside Olaf Huldricksson.
A Lost Page of Earth
WHEN I awakened the sun was streaming through the cabin
porthole. Outside a fresh voice lilted. I lay on my two chairs
and listened. The song was one with the wholesome sunshine
and the breeze blowing stiffly and whipping the curtains. It
was Larry O'Keefe at his matins:
The little red lark is shaking his wings,
Straight from the breast of his love he springs
Larry's voice soared.
His wings and his feathers are sunrise red,
He hails the sun and his golden head,
Good morning, Doc, you are long abed.
This last was a most irreverent interpolation, I well knew.
I opened my door. O'Keefe stood outside laughing. The
Suwarna, her engines silent, was making fine headway under
all sail, the Brunhilda skipping in her wake cheerfully with
half her canvas up.
The sea was crisping and dimpling under the wind. Blue
and white was the world as far as the eye could reach.
Schools of little silvery green flying fish broke through the
water rushing on each side of us; flashed for an instant and
were gone. Behind us gulls hovered and dipped. The shadow
of mystery had retreated far over the rim of this wide awake
and beautiful world and if, subconsciously, I knew that somewhere
it was brooding and waiting, for a little while at least
I was consciously free of its oppression.
"How's the patient?" asked O'Keefe.
He was answered by Huldricksson himself, who must have
risen just as I left the cabin. The Norseman had slipped on a
pair of pajamas and, giant torso naked under the sun, he
strode out upon us. We all of us looked at him a trifle anxiously.
But Olaf's madness had left him. In his eyes was
much sorrow, but the berserk rage was gone.
He spoke straight to me: "You said last night we follow?"
I nodded.
"It is where?" he asked again.
"We go first to Ponape and from there to Metalanim Harbour--
to the Nan-Matal. You know the place?"
Huldricksson bowed--a white gleam as of ice showing in
his blue eyes.
"It is there?" he asked.
"It is there that we must first search," I answered.
"Good!" said Olaf Huldricksson. "It is good!"
He looked at Da Costa inquiringly and the little Portuguese,
following his thought, answered his unspoken question.
"We should be at Ponape tomorrow morning early, Olaf."
"Good!" repeated the Norseman. He looked away, his eyes
A restraint fell upon us; the embarrassment all men experience
when they feel a great sympathy and a great pity,
to neither of which they quite know how to give expression.
By silent consent we discussed at breakfast only the most
casual topics.
When the meal was over Huldricksson expressed a desire
to go aboard the Brunhilda.
The Suwarna hove to and Da Costa and he dropped into
the small boat. When they reached the Brunhilda's deck I
saw Olaf take the wheel and the two fall into earnest talk. I
beckoned to O'Keefe and we stretched ourselves out on the
bow hatch under cover of the foresail. He lighted a cigarette,
took a couple of leisurely puffs, and looked at me expectantly.
"Well?" I asked.
"Well," said O'Keefe, "suppose you tell me what you
think--and then I'll proceed to point out your scientific
errors." His eyes twinkled mischievously.
"Larry," I replied, somewhat severely, "you may not know
that I have a scientific reputation which, putting aside all
modesty, I may say is an enviable one. You used a word last
night to which I must interpose serious objection. You more
than hinted that I hid--superstitions. Let me inform you,
Larry O'Keefe, that I am solely a seeker, observer, analyst,
and synthesist of facts. I am not"--and I tried to make my
tone as pointed as my words--"I am not a believer in phantoms
or spooks, leprechauns, banshees, or ghostly harpers."
O'Keefe leaned back and shouted with laughter.
"Forgive me, Goodwin," he gasped. "But if you could
have seen yourself solemnly disclaiming the banshee"--
another twinkle showed in his eyes--"and then with all this
sunshine and this wide-open world"--he shrugged his
shoulders--"it's hard to visualize anything such as you and
Huldricksson have described."
"I know how hard it is, Larry," I answered. "And don't
think I have any idea that the phenomenon is supernatural
in the sense spiritualists and table turners have given that
word. I do think it is supernormal; energized by a force unknown
to modern science--but that doesn't mean I think it
outside the radius of science."
"Tell me your theory, Goodwin," he said. I hesitated--
for not yet had I been able to put into form to satisfy myself
any explanation of the Dweller.
"I think," I hazarded finally, "it is possible that some
members of that race peopling the ancient continent which
we know existed here in the Pacific, have survived. We know
that many of these islands are honeycombed with caverns
and vast subterranean spaces, literally underground lands
running in some cases far out beneath the ocean floor. It is
possible that for some reason survivors of this race sought
refuge in the abysmal spaces, one of whose entrances is on
the islet where Throckmartin's party met its end.
"As for their persistence in these caverns--we know they
possessed a high science. They may have gone far in the
mastery of certain universal forms of energy--especially
that we call light. They may have developed a civilization
and a science far more advanced than ours. What I call the
Dweller may be one of the results of this science. Larry--it
may well be that this lost race is planning to emerge again
upon earth's surface!"
"And is sending out your Dweller as a messenger, a scientific
dove from their Ark?" I chose to overlook the banter
in his question.
"Did you ever hear of the Chamats?" I asked him. He
shook his head.
"In Papua," I explained, "there is a wide-spread and immeasurably
old tradition that 'imprisoned under the hills' is
a race of giants who once ruled this region 'when it stretched
from sun to sun before the moon god drew the waters over
it'--I quote from the legend. Not only in Papua but throughout
Malaysia you find this story. And, so the tradition runs,
these people--the Chamats--will one day break through the
hills and rule the world; 'make over the world' is the literal
translation of the constant phrase in the tale. It was Herbert
Spencer who pointed out that there is a basis of fact in every
myth and legend of man. It is possible that these survivors I
am discussing form Spencer's fact basis for the Malaysian legend.1
*1William Beebe, the famous American naturalist and ornithologist,
recently fighting in France with America's air force, called attention
to this remarkable belief in an article printed not long ago in the
Atlantic Monthly. Still more significant was it that he noted a persistent
rumour that the breaking out of the buried race was close.--
W.J. B., Pres. I. A. of S.
"This much is sure--the moon door, which is clearly
operated by the action of moon rays upon some unknown
element or combination and the crystals through which the
moon rays pour down upon the pool their prismatic columns,
are humanly made mechanisms. So long as they are humanly
made, and so long as it IS this flood of moonlight from which
the Dweller draws its power of materialization, the Dweller
itself, if not the product of the human mind, is at least dependent
upon the product of the human mind for its appearance."
"Wait a minute, Goodwin," interrupted O'Keefe. "Do
you mean to say you think that this thing is made of--well
--of moonshine?"
"Moonlight," I replied, "is, of course, reflected sunlight.
But the rays which pass back to earth after their impact on
the moon's surface are profoundly changed. The spectroscope
shows that they lose practically all the slower vibrations
we call red and infra-red, while the extremely rapid
vibrations we call the violet and ultra-violet are accelerated
and altered. Many scientists hold that there is an unknown
element in the moon--perhaps that which makes the gigantic
luminous trails that radiate in all directions from the lunar
crater Tycho--whose energies are absorbed by and carried
on the moon rays.
"At any rate, whether by the loss of the vibrations of the
red or by the addition of this mysterious force, the light of
the moon becomes something entirely different from mere
modified sunlight--just as the addition or subtraction of one
other chemical in a compound of several makes the product
a substance with entirely different energies and potentialities.
"Now these rays, Larry, are given perhaps still another
mysterious activity by the globes through which Throckmartin
said they passed in the Chamber of the Moon Pool.
The result is the necessary factor in the formation of the
Dweller. There would be nothing scientifically improbable
in such a process. Kubalski, the great Russian physicist, produced
crystalline forms exhibiting every faculty that we call
vital by subjecting certain combinations of chemicals to the
action of highly concentrated rays of various colours. Something
in light and nothing else produced their pseudo-vitality.
We do not begin to know how to harness the potentialities of
that magnetic vibration of the ether we call light."
"Listen, Doc," said Larry earnestly, "I'll take everything
you say about this lost continent, the people who used to live
on it, and their caverns, for granted. But by the sword of
Brian Boru, you'll never get me to fall for the idea that a
bunch of moonshine can handle a big woman such as you
say Throckmartin's Thora was, nor a two-fisted man such as
you say Throckmartin was, nor Huldricksson's wife--and
I'll bet she was one of those strapping big northern women
too--you'll never get me to believe that any bunch of concentrated
moonshine could handle them and take them
waltzing off along a moonbeam back to wherever it goes.
No, Doc, not on your life, even Tennessee moonshine
couldn't do that--nix!"
"All right, O'Keefe," I answered, now very much irritated
indeed. "What's your theory?" And I could not resist adding:
"Professor," he grinned, "if that Thing's a fairy it's Irish
and when it sees me it'll be so glad there'll be nothing to it.
'I was lost, strayed, or stolen, Larry avick,' it'll say, 'an' I
was so homesick for the old sod I was desp'rit,' it'll say, an'
'take me back quick before I do any more har-rm!' it'll tell
me--an' that's the truth.
"Now don't get me wrong. I believe you all saw something
all right. But what I think you saw was some kind of gas.
All this region is volcanic and islands and things are constantly
poking up from the sea. It's probably gas; a volcanic
emanation; something new to us and that drives you crazy
--lots of kinds of gas do that. It hit the Throckmartin party
on that island and they probably were all more or less delirious
all the time; thought they saw things; talked it over
and--collective hallucination--just like the Angels of Mons
and other miracles of the war. Somebody sees something
that looks like something else. He points it out to the man
next him. 'Do you see it?' asks he. 'Sure I see it,' says the
other. And there you are--collective hallucination.
"When your friends got it bad they most likely jumped
overboard one by one. Huldricksson sails into a place where
it is and it hits his wife. She grabs the child and jumps over.
Maybe the moon rays make it luminous! I've seen gas on the
front under the moon that looked like a thousand whirling
dervish devils. Yes, and you could see the devil's faces in it.
And if it got into your lungs nothing could ever make you
think you hadn't seen real devils."
For a time I was silent.
"Larry," I said at last, "whether you are right or I am
right, I must go to the Nan-Matal. Will you go with me,
"Goodwin," he replied, "I surely will. I'm as interested as
you are. If we don't run across the Dolphin I'll stick. I'll
leave word at Ponape, to tell them where I am should they
come along. If they report me dead for a while there's nobody
to care. So that's all right. Only old man, be reasonable.
You've thought over this so long, you're going bug, honestly
you are."
And again, the gladness that I might have Larry O'Keefe
with me, was so great that I forgot to be angry.
The Moon Pool
DA COSTA, who had come aboard unnoticed by either of us,
now tapped me on the arm.
"Doctair Goodwin," he said, "can I see you in my cabin,
At last, then, he was going to speak. I followed him.
"Doctair," he said, when we had entered, "this is a veree
strange thing that has happened to Olaf. Veree strange. An'
the natives of Ponape, they have been very much excite'
"Of what they fear I know nothing, nothing!" Again that
quick, furtive crossing of himself. "But this I have to tell
you. There came to me from Ranaloa last month a man, a
Russian, a doctair, like you. His name it was Marakinoff. I
take him to Ponape an' the natives there they will not take
him to the Nan-Matal where he wish to go--no! So I take
him. We leave in a boat, wit' much instrument carefully tied
up. I leave him there wit' the boat an' the food. He tell me
to tell no one an' pay me not to. But you are a friend an'
Olaf he depend much upon you an' so I tell you, sair."
"You know nothing more than this, Da Costa?" I asked.
"Nothing of another expedition?"
"No," he shook his head vehemently. "Nothing more."
"Hear the name Throckmartin while you were there?"
I persisted.
"No," his eyes were steady as he answered but the pallor
had crept again into his face.
I was not so sure. But if he knew more than he had told
me why was he afraid to speak? My anxiety deepened and
later I sought relief from it by repeating the conversation to
"A Russian, eh," he said. "Well, they can be damned nice,
or damned--otherwise. Considering what you did for me, I
hope I can look him over before the Dolphin shows up."
Next morning we raised Ponape, without further incident,
and before noon the Suwarna and the Brunhilda had dropped
anchor in the harbour. Upon the excitement and manifest
dread of the natives, when we sought among them for carriers
and workmen to accompany us, I will not dwell. It is
enough to say that no payment we offered could induce a
single one of them to go to the Nan-Matal. Nor would they
say why.
Finally it was agreed that the Brunhilda should be left in
charge of a half-breed Chinaman, whom both Da Costa and
Huldricksson knew and trusted. We piled her long-boat up
with my instruments and food and camping equipment. The
Suwarna took us around to Metalanim Harbour, and there,
with the tops of ancient sea walls deep in the blue water beneath
us, and the ruins looming up out of the mangroves, a
scant mile from us, left us.
Then with Huldricksson manipulating our small sail, and
Larry at the rudder, we rounded the titanic wall that swept
down into the depths, and turned at last into the canal that
Throckmartin, on his map, had marked as that which, running
between frowning Nan-Tauach and its satellite islet,
Tau, led straight to the gate of the place of ancient mysteries.
And as we entered that channel we were enveloped by a
silence; a silence so intense, so--weighted that it seemed to
have substance; an alien silence that clung and stifled and
still stood aloof from us--the living. It was a stillness, such
as might follow the long tramping of millions into the grave;
it was--paradoxical as it may be--filled with the withdrawal
of life.
Standing down in the chambered depths of the Great
Pyramid I had known something of such silence--but never
such intensity as this. Larry felt it and I saw him look at me
askance. If Olaf, sitting in the bow, felt it, too, he gave no
sign; his blue eyes, with again the glint of ice within them,
watched the channel before us.
As we passed, there arose upon our left sheer walls of
black basalt blocks, cyclopean, towering fifty feet or more,
broken here and there by the sinking of their deep foundations.
In front of us the mangroves widened out and filled the
acanal. On our right the lesser walls of Tau, sombre blocks
smoothed and squared and set with a cold, mathematical
nicety that filled me with vague awe, slipped by. Through
breaks I caught glimpses of dark ruins and of great fallen
stones that seemed to crouch and menace us, as we passed.
Somewhere there, hidden, were the seven globes that poured
the moon fire down upon the Moon Pool.
Now we were among the mangroves and, sail down, the
three of us pushed and pulled the boat through their tangled
roots and branches. The noise of our passing split the silence
like a profanation, and from the ancient bastions came murmurs--
forbidding, strangely sinister. And now we were
through, floating on a little open space of shadow-filled
water. Before us lifted the gateway of Nan-Tauach, gigantic,
broken, incredibly old; shattered portals through which had
passed men and women of earth's dawn; old with a weight
of years that pressed leadenly upon the eyes that looked
upon it, and yet was in some curious indefinable way--menacingly
Beyond the gate, back from the portals, stretched a flight
of enormous basalt slabs, a giant's stairway indeed; and
from each side of it marched the high walls that were the
Dweller's pathway. None of us spoke as we grounded the
boat and dragged it upon a half-submerged pier. And when
we did speak it was in whispers.
"What next?" asked Larry.
"I think we ought to take a look around," I replied in the
same low tones. "We'll climb the wall here and take a flash
about. The whole place ought to be plain as day from that
Huldricksson, his blue eyes alert, nodded. With the greatest
difficulty we clambered up the broken blocks.
To the east and south of us, set like children's blocks in
the midst of the sapphire sea, lay dozens of islets, none of
them covering more than two square miles of surface; each
of them a perfect square or oblong within its protecting
On none was there sign of life, save for a few great birds
that hovered here and there, and gulls dipping in the blue
waves beyond.
We turned our gaze down upon the island on which we
stood. It was, I estimated, about three-quarters of a mile
square. The sea wall enclosed it. it was really an enormous
basalt-sided open cube, and within it two other open cubes.
The enclosure between the first and second wall was stone
paved, with here and there a broken pillar and long stone
benches. The hibiscus, the aloe tree, and a number of small
shrubs had found place, but seemed only to intensify its stark
"Wonder where the Russian can be?" asked Larry.
I shook my head. There was no sign of life here. Had
Marakinoff gone--or had the Dweller taken him, too? Whatever
had happened, there was no trace of him below us or
on any of the islets within our range of vision. We scrambled
down the side of the gateway. Olaf looked at me wistfully.
"We start the search now, Olaf," I said. "And first,
O'Keefe, let us see whether the grey stone is really here.
After that we will set up camp, and while I unpack, you and
Olaf search the island. It won't take long."
Larry gave a look at his service automatic and grinned.
"Lead on, Macduff," he said. We made our way up the steps,
through the outer enclosures and into the central square, I
confess to a fire of scientific curiosity and eagerness tinged
with a dread that O'Keefe's analysis might be true. Would
we find the moving slab and, if so, would it be as Throckmartin
had described? If so, then even Larry would have to
admit that here was something that theories of gases and
luminous emanations would not explain; and the first test of
the whole amazing story would be passed. But if not--
And there before us, the faintest tinge of grey setting it
apart from its neighbouring blocks of basalt, was the moon
There was no mistaking it. This was, in very deed, the
portal through which Throckmartin had seen pass that gloriously
dreadful apparition he called the Dweller. At its base
was the curious, seemingly polished cup-like depression
within which, my lost friend had told me, the opening door
What was that portal--more enigmatic than was ever
sphinx? And what lay beyond it? What did that smooth
stone, whose wan deadness whispered of ages-old corridors
of time opening out into alien, unimaginable vistas, hide? It
had cost the world of science Throckmartin's great brain--
as it had cost Throckmartin those he loved. It had drawn me
to it in search of Throckmartin--and its shadow had fallen
upon the soul of Olaf the Norseman; and upon what thousands
upon thousands more I wondered, since the brains
that had conceived it had vanished with their secret knowledge?
What lay beyond it?
I stretched out a shaking hand and touched the surface of
the slab. A faint thrill passed through my hand and arm,
oddly unfamiliar and as oddly unpleasant; as of electric contact
holding the very essence of cold. O'Keefe, watching,
imitated my action. As his fingers rested on the stone his face
filled with astonishment.
"It's the door?" he asked. I nodded. There was a low
whistle from him and he pointed up toward the top of the
grey stone. I followed the gesture and saw, above the moon
door and on each side of it, two gently curving bosses of
rock, perhaps a foot in diameter.
"The moon door's keys," I said.
"It begins to look so," answered Larry. "If we can find
them," he added.
"There's nothing we can do till moonrise," I replied. "And
we've none too much time to prepare as it is. Come!"
A little later we were beside our boat. We lightered it,
set up the tent, and as it was now but a short hour to sundown
I bade them leave me and make their search. They
went off together, and I busied myself with opening some of
the paraphernalia I had brought with me.
First of all I took out the two Becquerel ray-condensers
that I had bought in Sydney. Their lenses would collect and
intensify to the fullest extent any light directed upon them.
I had found them most useful in making spectroscopic
analysis of luminous vapours, and I knew that at Yerkes Observatory
splendid results had been obtained from them in
collecting the diffused radiance of the nebulae for the same
If my theory of the grey slab's mechanism were correct,
it was practically certain that with the satellite only a few
nights past the full we could concentrate enough light on
the bosses to open the rock. And as the ray streams through
the seven globes described by Throckmartin would be too
weak to energize the Pool, we could enter the chamber free
from any fear of encountering its tenant, make our preliminary
observations and go forth before the moon had dropped
so far that the concentration in the condensers would fall
below that necessary to keep the portal from closing.
I took out also a small spectroscope, and a few other instruments
for the analysis of certain light manifestations and
the testing of metal and liquid. Finally, I put aside my
emergency medical kit.
I had hardly finished examining and adjusting these before
O'Keefe and Huldricksson returned. They reported
signs of a camp at least ten days old beside the northern
wall of the outer court, but beyond that no evidence of others
beyond ourselves on Nan-Tauach.
We prepared supper, ate and talked a little, but for the
most part were silent. Even Larry's high spirits were not in
evidence; half a dozen times I saw him take out his automatic
and look it over. He was more thoughtful than I had
ever seen him. Once he went into the tent, rummaged about
a bit and brought out another revolver which, he said, he
had got from Da Costa, and a half-dozen clips of cartridges.
He passed the gun over to Olaf.
At last a glow in the southeast heralded the rising moon.
I picked up my instruments and the medical kit; Larry and
Olaf shouldered each a short ladder that was part of my
equipment, and, with our electric flashes pointing the way,
walked up the great stairs, through the enclosures, and
straight to the grey stone.
By this time the moon had risen and its clipped light shone
full upon the slab. I saw faint gleams pass over it as of fleeting
phosphorescence--but so faint were they that I could
not be sure of the truth of my observation.
We set the ladders in place. Olaf I assigned to stand before
the door and watch for the first signs of its opening--
if open it should. The Becquerels were set within three-inch
tripods, whose feet I had equipped with vacuum rings to
enable them to hold fast to the rock.
I scaled one ladder and fastened a condenser over the boss;
descended; sent Larry up to watch it, and, ascending the
second ladder, rapidly fixed the other in its place. Then, with
O'Keefe watchful on his perch, I on mine, and Olaf's eyes
fixed upon the moon door, we began our vigil. Suddenly
there was an exclamation from Larry.
"Seven little lights are beginning to glow on this stone!"
he cried.
But I had already seen those beneath my lens begin to
gleam out with a silvery lustre. Swiftly the rays within the
condenser began to thicken and increase, and as they did so
the seven small circles waxed like stars growing out of the
dusk, and with a queer--curdled is the best word I can find
to define it--radiance entirely strange to me.
Beneath me I heard a faint, sighing murmur and then the
voice of Huldricksson:
"It opens--the stone turns--"
I began to climb down the ladder. Again came Olaf's
"The stone--it is open--" And then a shriek, a wail of
blended anguish and pity, of rage and despair--and the
sound of swift footsteps racing through the wall beneath me!
I dropped to the ground. The moon door was wide open,
and through it I caught a glimpse of a corridor filled with a
faint, pearly vaporous light like earliest misty dawn. But of
Olaf I could see--nothing! And even as I stood, gaping, from
behind me came the sharp crack of a rifle; the glass of the
condenser at Larry's side flew into fragments; he dropped
swiftly to the ground, the automatic in his hand flashed once,
twice, into the darkness.
And the moon door began to pivot slowly, slowly back
into its place!
I rushed toward the turning stone with the wild idea of
holding it open. As I thrust my hands against it there came
at my back a snarl and an oath and Larry staggered under
the impact of a body that had flung itself straight at his
throat. He reeled at the lip of the shallow cup at the base
of the slab, slipped upon its polished curve, fell and rolled
with that which had attacked him, kicking and writhing,
straight through the narrowing portal into the passage!
Forgetting all else, I sprang to his aid. As I leaped I felt the
closing edge of the moon door graze my side. Then, as Larry
raised a fist, brought it down upon the temple of the man
who had grappled with him and rose from the twitching
body unsteadily to his feet, I heard shuddering past me a
mournful whisper; spun about as though some giant's hand
had whirled me--
The end of the corridor no longer opened out into the
moonlit square of ruined Nan-Tauach. It was barred by a
solid mass of glimmering stone. The moon door had closed!
O'Keefe took a stumbling step toward the barrier behind
us. There was no mark of juncture with the shining walls;
the slab fitted into the sides as closely as a mosaic.
"It's shut all right," said Larry. "But if there's a way in,
there's a way out. Anyway, Doc, we're right in the pew we've
been heading for--so why worry?" He grinned at me cheerfully.
The man on the floor groaned, and he dropped to his
knees beside him.
"Marakinoff!" he cried.
At my exclamation he moved aside, turning the face so I
could see it. It was clearly Russian, and just as clearly its
possessor was one of unusual force and intellect.
The strong, massive brow with orbital ridge unusually developed,
the dominant, high-bridged nose, the straight lips
with their more than suggestion of latent cruelty, and the
strong lines of the jaw beneath a black, pointed beard all
gave evidence that here was a personality beyond the ordinary.
"Couldn't be anybody else," said Larry, breaking in on
my thoughts. "He must have been watching us over there
from Chau-ta-leur's vault all the time."
Swiftly he ran practised hands over his body; then stood
erect, holding out to me two wicked-looking magazine pistols
and a knife. "He got one of my bullets through his right
forearm, too," he said. "Just a flesh wound, but it made him
drop his rifle. Some arsenal, our little Russian scientist,
I opened my medical kit. The wound was a slight one,
and Larry stood looking on as I bandaged it.
"Got another one of those condensers?" he asked, suddenly.
"And do you suppose Olaf will know enough to use
"Larry," I answered, "Olaf's not outside! He's in here
His jaw dropped.
"The hell you say!" he whispered.
"Didn't you hear him shriek when the stone opened?" I
"I heard him yell, yes," he said. "But I didn't know what
was the matter. And then this wildcat jumped me--" He
paused and his eyes widened. "Which way did he go?" he
asked swiftly. I pointed down the faintly glowing passage.
"There's only one way," I said.
"Watch that bird close," hissed O'Keefe, pointing to Marakinoff--
and pistol in hand stretched his long legs and raced
away. I looked down at the Russian. His eyes were open,
and he reached out a hand to me. I lifted him to his feet.
"I have heard," he said. "We follow, quick. If you will take
my arm, please, I am shaken yet, yes--" I gripped his
shoulder without a word, and the two of us set off down the
corridor after O'Keefe. Marakinoff was gasping, and his
weight pressed upon me heavily, but he moved with all the
will and strength that were in him.
As we ran I took hasty note of the tunnel. Its sides were
smooth and polished, and the light seemed to come not from
their surfaces, but from far within them--giving to the walls
an illusive aspect of distance and depth; rendering them in a
peculiarly weird way--spacious. The passage turned,
twisted, ran down, turned again. It came to me that the light
that illumined the tunnel was given out by tiny points deep
within the stone, sprang from the points ripplingly and
spread upon their polished faces.
There was a cry from Larry far ahead.
I gripped Marakinoff's arm closer and we sped on. Now
we were coming fast to the end of the passage. Before us
was a high arch, and through it I glimpsed a dim, shifting
luminosity as of mist filled with rainbows. We reached the
portal and I looked into a chamber that might have been
transported from that enchanted palace of the Jinn King
that rises beyond the magic mountains of Kaf.
Before me stood O'Keefe and a dozen feet in front of him,
Huldricksson, with something clasped tightly in his arms.
The Norseman's feet were at the verge of a shining, silvery
lip of stone within whose oval lay a blue pool. And down
upon this pool staring upward like a gigantic eye, fell seven
pillars of phantom light--one of them amethyst, one of rose,
another of white, a fourth of blue, and three of emerald, of
silver, and of amber. They fell each upon the azure surface,
and I knew that these were the seven streams of radiance,
within which the Dweller took shape--now but pale ghosts
of their brilliancy when the full energy of the moon stream
raced through them.
Huldricksson bent and placed on the shining silver lip of
the Pool that which he held--and I saw that it was the body
of a child! He set it there so gently, bent over the side and
thrust a hand down into the water. And as he did so he
moaned and lurched against the little body that lay before
him. Instantly the form moved--and slipped over the verge
into the blue. Huldricksson threw his body over the stone,
hands clutching, arms thrust deep down--and from his lips
issued a long-drawn, heart-shrivelling wail of pain and of
anguish that held in it nothing human!
Close on its wake came a cry from Marakinoff.
"Catch him!" shouted the Russian. "Drag him back!
He leaped forward, but before he could half clear the distance,
O'Keefe had leaped too, had caught the Norseman by
the shoulders and toppled him backward, where he lay
whimpering and sobbing. And as I rushed behind Marakinoff
I saw Larry lean over the lip of the Pool and cover his eyes
with a shaking hand; saw the Russian peer into it with real
pity in his cold eyes.
Then I stared down myself into the Moon Pool, and there,
sinking, was a little maid whose dead face and fixed, terrorfilled
eyes looked straight into mine; and ever sinking
slowly, slowly--vanished! And I knew that this was Olaf's
Freda, his beloved yndling!
But where was the mother, and where had Olaf found his
The Russian was first to speak.
"You have nitroglycerin there, yes?" he asked, pointing
toward my medical kit that I had gripped unconsciously and
carried with me during the mad rush down the passage. I
nodded and drew it out.
"Hypodermic," he ordered next, curtly; took the syringe,
filled it accurately with its one one-hundredth of a grain
dosage, and leaned over Huldricksson. He rolled up the
sailor's sleeves half-way to the shoulder. The arms were
white with somewhat of that weird semitranslucence that I
had seen on Throckmartin's breast where a tendril of the
Dweller had touched him; and his hands were of the same
whiteness--like a baroque pearl. Above the line of white,
Marakinoff thrust the needle.
"He will need all his heart can do," he said to me.
Then he reached down into a belt about his waist and drew
from it a small, flat flask of what seemed to be lead. He
opened it and let a few drops of its contents fall on each arm
of the Norwegian. The liquid sparkled and instantly began
to spread over the skin much as oil or gasoline dropped on
water does--only far more rapidly. And as it spread it drew
a sparkling film over the marbled flesh and little wisps of
vapour rose from it. The Norseman's mighty chest heaved
with agony. His hands clenched. The Russian gave a grunt
of satisfaction at this, dropped a little more of the liquid, and
then, watching closely, grunted again and leaned back. Huldricksson's
laboured breathing ceased, his head dropped
upon Larry's knee, and from his arms and hands the whiteness
swiftly withdrew.
Marakinoff arose and contemplated us--almost benevolently.
"He will all right be in five minutes," he said. "I know. I
do it to pay for that shot of mine, and also because we will
need him. Yes." He turned to Larry. "You have a poonch like
a mule kick, my young friend," he said. "Some time you pay
me for that, too, eh?" He smiled; and the quality of the
grimace was not exactly reassuring. Larry looked him over
"You're Marakinoff, of course," he said. The Russian
nodded, betraying no surprise at the recognition.
"And you?" he asked.
"Lieutenant O'Keefe of the Royal Flying Corps," replied
Larry, saluting. "And this gentleman is Dr. Walter T. Goodwin."
Marakinoff's face brightened.
"The American botanist?" he queried. I nodded.
"Ah," cried Marakinoff eagerly, "but this is fortunate.
Long I have desired to meet you. Your work, for an American,
is most excellent; surprising. But you are wrong in
your theory of the development of the Angiospermae from
Cycadeoidea dacotensis. Da--all wrong--"
I was interrupting him with considerable heat, for my
conclusions from the fossil Cycadeoidea I knew to be my
greatest triumph, when Larry broke in upon me rudely.
"Say," he spluttered, "am I crazy or are you? What in
damnation kind of a place and time is this to start an argument
like that?
"Angiospermae, is it?" exclaimed Larry. "HELL!"
Marakinoff again regarded him with that irritating air of
"You have not the scientific mind, young friend," he said.
"The poonch, yes! But so has the mule. You must learn that
only the fact is important--not you, not me, not this"--he
pointed to Huldricksson--"or its sorrows. Only the fact,
whatever it is, is real, yes. But"--he turned to me--"another
Huldricksson interrupted him. The big seaman had risen
stiffly to his feet and stood with Larry's arm supporting him.
He stretched out his hands to me.
"I saw her," he whispered. "I saw mine Freda when the
stone swung. She lay there--just at my feet. I picked her up
and I saw that mine Freda was dead. But I hoped--and I
thought maybe mine Helma was somewhere here, too, So I
ran with mine yndling--here--" His voice broke. "I thought
maybe she was NOT dead," he went on. "And I saw that"--
he pointed to the Moon Pool-- "and I thought I would
bathe her face and she might live again. And when I dipped
my hands within--the life left them, and cold, deadly cold,
ran up through them into my heart. And mine Freda--she
fell--" he covered his eyes, and dropping his head on
O'Keefe's shoulder, stood, racked by sobs that seemed to
tear at his very soul.
The Flame-Tipped Shadows
MARAKINOFF nodded his head solemnly as Olaf finished.
"Da!" he said. "That which comes from here took them
both--the woman and the child. Da! They came clasped
within it and the stone shut upon them. But why it left the
child behind I do not understand."
"How do you know that?" I cried in amazement.
"Because I saw it," answered Marakinoff simply. "Not
only did I see it, but hardly had I time to make escape
through the entrance before it passed whirling and murmuring
and its bell sounds all joyous. Da! It was what you call
the squeak close, that."
"Wait a moment," I said--stilling Larry with a gesture.
"Do I understand you to say that you were within this
Marakinoff actually beamed upon me.
"Da, Dr. Goodwin," he said, "I went in when that which
comes from it went out!"
I gaped at him, stricken dumb; into Larry's bellicose attitude
crept a suggestion of grudging respect; Olaf, trembling,
watched silently.
"Dr. Goodwin and my impetuous young friend, you,"
went on Marakinoff after a moment's silence and I wondered
vaguely why he did not include Huldricksson in his
address--"it is time that we have an understanding. I have
a proposal to make to you also. It is this; we are what you
call a bad boat, and all of us are in it. Da! We need all
hands, is it not so? Let us put together our knowledge and
our brains and resources--and even a poonch of a mule is a
resource," he looked wickedly at O'Keefe, "and pull our
boat into quiet waters again. After that--"
"All very well, Marakinoff," interjected Larry, "but I don't
feel very safe in any boat with somebody capable of shooting
me through the back."
Marakinoff waved a deprecatory hand.
"It was natural that," he said, "logical, da! Here is a very
great secret, perhaps many secrets to my country invaluable--"
He paused, shaken by some overpowering emotion;
the veins in his forehead grew congested, the cold eyes
blazed and the guttural voice harshened.
"I do not apologize and I do not explain," rasped Marakinoff.
"But I will tell you, da! Here is my country sweating
blood in an experiment to liberate the world. And here are
the other nations ringing us like wolves and waiting to
spring at our throats at the least sign of weakness. And here
are you, Lieutenant O'Keefe of the English wolves, and you
Dr. Goodwin of the Yankee pack--and here in this place
may be that will enable my country to win its war for the
worker. What are the lives of you two and this sailor to that?
Less than the flies I crush with my hand, less than midges
in the sunbeam!"
He suddenly gripped himself.
"But that is not now the important thing," he resumed,
almost coldly. "Not that nor my shooting. Let us squarely the
situation face. My proposal is so: that we join interests, and
what you call see it through together; find our way through
this place and those secrets learn of which I have spoken,
if we can. And when that is done we will go our ways, to his
own land each, to make use of them for our lands as each of
us may. On my part, I offer my knowledge--and it is very
valuable, Dr. Goodwin--and my training. You and Lieutenant
O'Keefe do the same, and this man Olaf, what he
can of his strength, for I do not think his usefulness lies in
his brains, no."
"In effect, Goodwin," broke in Larry as I hesitated, "the
professor's proposition is this: he wants to know what's going
on here but he begins to realize it's no one man's job
and besides we have the drop on him. We're three to his one,
and we have all his hardware and cutlery. But also we can
do better with him than without him--just as he can do
better with us than without us. It's an even break--for a
while. But once he gets that information he's looking for,
then look out. You and Olaf and I are the wolves and the
flies and the midges again--and the strafing will be about
due. Nevertheless, with three to one against him, if he can
get away with it he deserves to. I'm for taking him up, if you
There was almost a twinkle in Marakinoff's eyes.
"It is not just as I would have put it, perhaps," he said,
"but in its skeleton he has right. Nor will I turn my hand
against you while we are still in danger here. I pledge you
my honor on this."
Larry laughed.
"All right, Professor," he grinned. "I believe you mean
every word you say. Nevertheless, I'll just keep the guns."
Marakinoff bowed, imperturbably.
"And now," he said, "I will tell you what I know. I found
the secret of the door mechanism even as you did, Dr. Goodwin.
But by carelessness, my condensers were broken. I was
forced to wait while I sent for others--and the waiting might
be for months. I took certain precautions, and on the first
night of this full moon I hid myself within the vault of
An involuntary thrill of admiration for the man went
through me at the manifest heroism of this leap in the dark.
I could see it reflected in Larry's face.
"I hid in the vault," continued Marakinoff, "and I saw
that which comes from here come out. I waited--long hours.
At last, when the moon was low, it returned--ecstatically--
with a man, a native, in embrace enfolded. It passed through
the door, and soon then the moon became low and the door
"The next night more confidence was mine, yes. And after
that which comes had gone, I looked through its open door.
I said, "It will not return for three hours. While it is away,
why shall I not into its home go through the door it has left
open?' So I went--even to here. I looked at the pillars of
light and I tested the liquid of the Pool on which they fell.
That liquid, Dr. Goodwin, is not water, and it is not any
fluid known on earth." He handed me a small vial, its neck
held in a long thong.
"Take this," he said, "and see."
Wonderingly, I took the bottle; dipped it down into the
Pool. The liquid was extraordinarily light; seemed, in fact,
to give the vial buoyancy. I held it to the light. It was striated,
streaked, as though little living, pulsing veins ran through it.
And its blueness, even in the vial, held an intensity of luminousness.
"Radioactive," said Marakinoff. "Some liquid that is intensely
radioactive; but what it is I know not at all. Upon the
living skin it acts like radium raised to the nth power and
with an element most mysterious added. The solution with
which I treated him," he pointed to Huldricksson, "I had
prepared before I came here, from certain information I
had. It is largely salts of radium and its base is Loeb's
formula for the neutralization of radium and X-ray burns.
Taking this man at once, before the degeneration had become
really active, I could negative it. But after two hours
I could have done nothing."
He paused a moment.
"Next I studied the nature of these luminous walls. I
concluded that whoever had made them, knew the secret of
the Almighty's manufacture of light from the ether itself!
Colossal! Da! But the substance of these blocks confines an
atomic--how would you say--atomic manipulation, a
conscious arrangement of electrons, light-emitting and perhaps
indefinitely so. These blocks are lamps in which oil and
wick are electrons drawing light waves from ether itself! A
Prometheus, indeed, this discoverer! I looked at my watch
and that little guardian warned me that it was time to go.
I went. That which comes forth returned--this time emptyhanded.
"And the next night I did the same thing. Engrossed in
research, I let the moments go by to the danger point, and
scarcely was I replaced within the vault when the shining
thing raced over the walls, and in its grip the woman and
"Then you came--and that is all. And now--what is it
you know?"
Very briefly I went over my story. His eyes gleamed now
and then, but he did not interrupt me.
"A great secret! A colossal secret!" he muttered, when I
had ended. "We cannot leave it hidden."
"The first thing to do is to try the door," said Larry, matter
of fact.
"There is no use, my young friend," assured Marakinoff
"Nevertheless we'll try," said Larry. We retraced our
way through the winding tunnel to the end, but soon even
O'Keefe saw that any idea of moving the slab from within
was hopeless. We returned to the Chamber of the Pool. The
pillars of light were fainter, and we knew that the moon was
sinking. On the world outside before long dawn would be
breaking. I began to feel thirst--and the blue semblance of
water within the silvery rim seemed to glint mockingly as
my eyes rested on it.
"Da!" it was Marakinoff, reading my thoughts uncannily.
"Da! We will be thirsty. And it will be very bad for him of
us who loses control and drinks of that, my friend. Da!"
Larry threw back his shoulders as though shaking a burden
from them.
"This place would give an angel of joy the willies," he
said. "I suggest that we look around and find something that
will take us somewhere. You can bet the people that built it
had more ways of getting in than that once-a-month family
entrance. Doc, you and Olaf take the left wall; the professor
and I will take the right."
He loosened one of his automatics with a suggestive movement.
"After you, Professor," he bowed, politely, to the Russian.
We parted and set forth.
The chamber widened out from the portal in what seemed
to be the arc of an immense circle. The shining walls held a
perceptible curve, and from this curvature I estimated that
the roof was fully three hundred feet above us.
The floor was of smooth, mosaic-fitted blocks of a faintly
yellow tinge. They were not light-emitting like the blocks
that formed the walls. The radiance from these latter, I
noted, had the peculiar quality of THICKENING a few yards
from its source, and it was this that produced the effect of
misty, veiled distances. As we walked, the seven columns of
rays streaming down from the crystalline globes high above
us waned steadily; the glow within the chamber lost its prismatic
shimmer and became an even grey tone somewhat like
moonlight in a thin cloud.
Now before us, out from the wall, jutted a low terrace. It
was all of a pearly rose-coloured stone, slender, graceful pillars
of the same hue. The face of the terrace was about ten
feet high, and all over it ran a bas-relief of what looked like
short-trailing vines, surmounted by five stalks, on the tip of
each of which was a flower.
We passed along the terrace. It turned in an abrupt curve.
I heard a hail, and there, fifty feet away, at the curving end
of a wall identical with that where we stood, were Larry and
Marakinoff. Obviously the left side of the chamber was a
duplicate of that we had explored. We joined. In front of us
the columned barriers ran back a hundred feet, forming an
alcove. The end of this alcove was another wall of the same
rose stone, but upon it the design of vines was much heavier.
We took a step forward--there was a gasp of awe from
the Norseman, a guttural exclamation from Marakinoff. For
on, or rather within, the wall before us, a great oval began to
glow, waxed almost to a flame and then shone steadily out as
though from behind it a light was streaming through the
stone itself!
And within the roseate oval two flame-tipped shadows
appeared, stood for a moment, and then seemed to float out
upon its surface. The shadows wavered; the tips of flame that
nimbused them with flickering points of vermilion pulsed
outward, drew back, darted forth again, and once more
withdrew themselves--and as they did so the shadows thickened--
and suddenly there before us stood two figures!
One was a girl--a girl whose great eyes were golden as the
fabled lilies of Kwan-Yung that were born of the kiss of the
sun upon the amber goddess the demons of Lao-Tz'e carved
for him; whose softly curved lips were red as the royal coral,
and whose golden-brown hair reached to her knees!
And the second was a gigantic frog--A WOMAN frog, head
helmeted with carapace of shell around which a fillet of brilliant
yellow jewels shone; enormous round eyes of blue
circled with a broad iris of green; monstrous body of banded
orange and white girdled with strand upon strand of the
flashing yellow gems; six feet high if an inch, and with one
webbed paw of its short, powerfully muscled forelegs resting
upon the white shoulder of the golden-eyed girl!
Moments must have passed as we stood in stark amazement,
gazing at that incredible apparition. The two figures,
although as real as any of those who stood beside me, unphantomlike
as it is possible to be, had a distinct suggestion
They were there before us--golden-eyed girl and grotesque
frog-woman--complete in every line and curve; and
still it was as though their bodies passed back through distances;
as though, to try to express the wellnigh inexpressible,
the two shapes we were looking upon were the end of an
infinite number stretching in fine linked chain far away, of
which the eyes saw only the nearest, while in the brain some
faculty higher than sight recognized and registered the unseen
The gigantic eyes of the frog-woman took us all in--
unwinkingly. Little glints of phosphorescence shone out
within the metallic green of the outer iris ring. She stood
upright, her great legs bowed; the monstrous slit of a mouth
slightly open, revealing a row of white teeth sharp and
pointed as lancets; the paw resting on the girl's shoulder, half
covering its silken surface, and from its five webbed digits
long yellow claws of polished horn glistened against the
delicate texture of the flesh.
But if the frog-woman regarded us all, not so did the
maiden of the rosy wall. Her eyes were fastened upon Larry,
drinking him in with extraordinary intentness. She was tall,
far over the average of women, almost as tall, indeed, as
O'Keefe himself; not more than twenty years old, if that,
I thought. Abruptly she leaned forward, the golden eyes
softened and grew tender; the red lips moved as though she
were speaking.
Larry took a quick step, and his face was that of one who
after countless births comes at last upon the twin soul lost to
him for ages. The frog-woman turned her eyes upon the girl;
her huge lips moved, and I knew that she was talking! The
girl held out a warning hand to O'Keefe, and then raised it,
resting each finger upon one of the five flowers of the carved
vine close beside her. Once, twice, three times, she pressed
upon the flower centres, and I noted that her hand was curiously
long and slender, the digits like those wonderful tapering
ones the painters we call the primitive gave to their Virgins.
Three times she pressed the flowers, and then looked intently
at Larry once more. A slow, sweet smile curved the
crimson lips. She stretched both hands out toward him again
eagerly; a burning blush rose swiftly over white breasts and
flowerlike face.
Like the clicking out of a cinematograph, the pulsing oval
faded and golden-eyed girl and frog-woman were gone!
And thus it was that Lakla, the handmaiden of the Silent
Ones, and Larry O'Keefe first looked into each other's
Larry stood rapt, gazing at the stone.
"Eilidh," I heard him whisper; "Eilidh of the lips like the
red, red rowan and the golden-brown hair!"
"Clearly of the Ranadae," said Marakinoff, "a development
of the fossil Labyrinthodonts: you saw her teeth, da?"
"Ranadae, yes," I answered. "But from the Stegocephalia;
of the order Ecaudata--"
Never such a complete indignation as was in O'Keefe's
voice as he interrupted.
"What do you mean--fossils and Stego whatever it is?"
he asked. "She was a girl, a wonder girl--a real girl, and
Irish, or I'm not an O'Keefe!"
"We were talking about the frog-woman, Larry," I said,
His eyes were wild as he regarded us.
"Say," he said, "if you two had been in the Garden of
Eden when Eve took the apple, you wouldn't have had time
to give her a look for counting the scales on the snake!"
He strode swiftly over to the wall. We followed. Larry
paused, stretched his hand up to the flowers on which the
tapering fingers of the golden-eyed girl had rested.
"It was here she put up her hand," he murmured. He
pressed caressingly the carved calyxes, once, twice, a third
time even as she had--and silently and softly the wall began
to split; on each side a great stone pivoted slowly, and before
us a portal stood, opening into a narrow corridor glowing
with the same rosy lustre that had gleamed around the
flame-tipped shadows!
"Have your gun ready, Olaf!" said Larry. "We follow
Golden Eyes," he said to me.
"Follow?" I echoed stupidly.
"Follow!" he said. "She came to show us the way! Follow?
I'd follow her through a thousand hells!"
And with Olaf at one end, O'Keefe at the other, both of
them with automatics in hand, and Marakinoff and I between
them, we stepped over the threshold.
At our right, a few feet away, the passage ended abruptly
in a square of polished stone, from which came faint rose
radiance. The roof of the place was less than two feet over
O'Keefe's head.
A yard at left of us lifted a four-foot high, gently curved
barricade, stretching from wall to wall--and beyond it was
blackness; an utter and appalling blackness that seemed to
gather itself from infinite depths. The rose-glow in which
we stood was cut off by the blackness as though it had substance;
it shimmered out to meet it, and was checked as
though by a blow; indeed, so strong was the suggestion of
sinister, straining force within the rayless opacity that I
shrank back, and Marakinoff with me. Not so O'Keefe. Olaf
beside him, he strode to the wall and peered over. He beckoned
"Flash your pocket-light down there," be said to me, pointing
into the thick darkness below us. The little electric circle
quivered down as though afraid, and came to rest upon a
surface that resembled nothing so much as clear, black ice. I
ran the light across--here and there. The floor of the corridor
was of a substance so smooth, so polished, that no man could
have walked upon it; it sloped downward at a slowly increasing
"We'd have to have non-skid chains and brakes on our
feet to tackle that," mused Larry. Abstractedly be ran his
hands over the edge on which he was leaning. Suddenly they
hesitated and then gripped tightly.
"That's a queer one!" he exclaimed. His right palm was
resting upon a rounded protuberance, on the side of which
were three small circular indentations.
"A queer one--" he repeated--and pressed his fingers
upon the circles.
There was a sharp click; the slabs that had opened to let
us through swung swiftly together; a curiously rapid vibration
thrilled through us, a wind arose and passed over our
heads--a wind that grew and grew until it became a whistling
shriek, then a roar and then a mighty humming, to which
every atom in our bodies pulsed in rhythm painful almost
to disintegration!
The rosy wall dwindled in a flash to a point of light and
Wrapped in the clinging, impenetrable blackness we were
racing, dropping, hurling at a frightful speed--where?
And ever that awful humming of the rushing wind and
the lightning cleaving of the tangible dark--so, it came to
me oddly, must the newly released soul race through the
sheer blackness of outer space up to that Throne of Justice,
where God sits high above all suns!
I felt Marakinoff creep close to me; gripped my nerve and
flashed my pocket-light; saw Larry standing, peering, peering
ahead, and Huldricksson, one strong arm around his
shoulders, bracing him. And then the speed began to slacken.
Millions of miles, it seemed, below the sound of the unearthly
hurricane I heard Larry's voice, thin and ghostlike,
beneath its clamour.
"Got it!" shrilled the voice. "Got it! Don't worry!"
The wind died down to the roar, passed back into the
whistling shriek and diminished to a steady whisper. In the
comparative quiet O'Keefe's tones now came in normal
"Some little shoot-the-chutes, what?" he shouted. "Say--
if they had this at Coney Island or the Crystal Palace! Press
all the way in these holes and she goes top-high. Diminish
pressure--diminish speed. The curve of this--dashboard--
here sends the wind shooting up over our heads--like a
windshield. What's behind you?"
I flashed the light back. The mechanism on which we
were ended in another wall exactly similar to that over which
O'Keefe crouched.
"Well, we can't fall out, anyway," he laughed. "Wish to
hell I knew where the brakes were! Look out!"
We dropped dizzily down an abrupt, seemingly endless
slope; fell--fell as into an abyss--then shot abruptly out of
the blackness into a throbbing green radiance. O'Keefe's
fingers must have pressed down upon the controls, for we
leaped forward almost with the speed of light. I caught a
glimpse of luminous immensities on the verge of which we
flew; of depths inconceivable, and flitting through the incredible
spaces--gigantic shadows as of the wings of Israfel,
which are so wide, say the Arabs, the world can cower
under them like a nestling--and then--again the living
"What was that?" This from Larry, with the nearest approach
to awe that he had yet shown.
"Trolldom!" croaked the voice of Olaf.
"Chert!" This from Marakinoff. "What a space!"
"Have you considered, Dr. Goodwin," be went on after a
pause, "a curious thing? We know, or, at least, is it not that
nine out of ten astronomers believe, that the moon was
hurled out of this same region we now call the Pacific when
the earth was yet like molasses; almost molten, I should say.
And is it not curious that that which comes from the Moon
Chamber needs the moon-rays to bring it forth; is it not?
And is it not significant again that the stone depends upon
the moon for operating? Da! And last--such a space in
mother earth as we just glimpsed, how else could it have been
torn but by some gigantic birth--like that of the moon? Da!
I do not put forward these as statements of fact--no! But as
I started; there was so much that this might explain--an
unknown element that responded to the moon-rays in opening
the moon door; the blue Pool with its weird radioactivity,
and the force within it that reacted to the same light
It was not inconceivable that a film had drawn over the
world wound, a film of earth-flesh which drew itself over
that colossal abyss after our planet had borne its satellite--
that world womb did not close when her shining child sprang
forth--it was possible; and all that we know of earth depth
is four miles of her eight thousand.
What is there at the heart of earth? What of that radiant
unknown element upon the moon mount Tycho? What of
that element unknown to us as part of earth which is seen
only in the corona of the sun at eclipse that we call coronium?
Yet the earth is child of the sun as the moon is earth's
daughter. And what of that other unknown element we find
glowing green in the far-flung nebulae--green as that we had
just passed through--and that we call nebulium? Yet the sun
is child of the nebulae as the earth is child of the sun and
the moon is child of the earth.
And what miracles are there in coronium and nebulium
which, as the child of nebula and sun, we inherit? Yes--and
in Tycho's enigma which came from earth heart?
We were flashing down to earth heart! And what miracles
were hidden there?
The End of the Journey
"SAY DOC!" It was Larry's voice flung back at me. "I was
thinking about that frog. I think it was her pet. Damn me
if I see any difference between a frog and a snake, and one
of the nicest women I ever knew had two pet pythons that
followed her around like kittens. Not such a devilish lot of
choice between a frog and a snake--except on the side of
the frog? What? Anyway, any pet that girl wants is hers,
I don't care if it's a leaping twelve-toed lobster or a whalebodied
scorpion. Get me?"
By which I knew that our remarks upon the frog woman
were still bothering O'Keefe.
"He thinks of foolish nothings like the foolish sailor!"
grunted Marakinoff, acid contempt in his words. "What are
their women to--this?" He swept out a hand and as though
at a signal the car poised itself for an instant, then dipped,
literally dipped down into sheer space; skimmed forward in
what was clearly curved flight, rose as upon a sweeping upgrade
and then began swiftly to slacken its fearful speed.
Far ahead a point of light showed; grew steadily; we were
within it--and softly all movement ceased. How acute had
been the strain of our journey I did not realize until I tried
to stand--and sank back, leg-muscles too shaky to bear my
weight. The car rested in a slit in the centre of a smooth
walled chamber perhaps twenty feet square. The wall facing
us was pierced by a low doorway through which we could
see a flight of steps leading downward.
The light streamed through a small opening, the base of
which was twice a tall man's height from the floor. A curving
flight of broad, low steps led up to it. And now it came to my
steadying brain that there was something puzzling, peculiar,
strangely unfamiliar about this light. It was silvery, shaded
faintly with a delicate blue and flushed lightly with a nacreous
rose; but a rose that differed from that of the terraces of
the Pool Chamber as the rose within the opal differs from
that within the pearl. In it were tiny, gleaming points like
the motes in a sunbeam, but sparkling white like the dust of
diamonds, and with a quality of vibrant vitality; they were
as though they were alive. The light cast no shadows!
A little breeze came through the oval and played about us.
It was laden with what seemed the mingled breath of spice
flowers and pines. It was curiously vivifying, and in it the
diamonded atoms of light shook and danced.
I stepped out of the car, the Russian following, and began
to ascend the curved steps toward the opening, at the top of
which O'Keefe and Olaf already stood. As they looked out I
saw both their faces change--Olaf's with awe, O'Keefe's
with incredulous amaze. I hurried to their side.
At first all that I could see was space--a space filled with
the same coruscating effulgence that pulsed about me. I
glanced upward, obeying that instinctive impulse of earth
folk that bids them seek within the sky for sources of light.
There was no sky--at least no sky such as we know--all
was a sparkling nebulosity rising into infinite distances as the
azure above the day-world seems to fill all the heavens--
through it ran pulsing waves and flashing javelin rays that
were like shining shadows of the aurora; echoes, octaves
lower, of those brilliant arpeggios and chords that play about
the poles. My eyes fell beneath its splendour; I stared outward.
Miles away, gigantic luminous cliffs sprang sheer from
the limits of a lake whose waters were of milky opalescence.
It was from these cliffs that the spangled radiance came,
shimmering out from all their lustrous surfaces. To left and
to right, as far as the eye could see, they stretched--and
they vanished in the auroral nebulosity on high!
"Look at that!" exclaimed Larry. I followed his pointing
finger. On the face of the shining wall, stretched between two
colossal columns, hung an incredible veil; prismatic, gleaming
with all the colours of the spectrum. It was like a web
of rainbows woven by the fingers of the daughters of the
Jinn. In front of it and a little at each side was a semi-circular
pier, or, better, a plaza of what appeared to be glistening,
pale-yellow ivory. At each end of its half-circle clustered a
few low-walled, rose-stone structures, each of them surmounted
by a number of high, slender pinnacles.
We looked at each other, I think, a bit helplessly--and
back again through the opening. We were standing, as I have
said, at its base. The wall in which it was set was at least ten
feet thick, and so, of course, all that we could see of that
which was without were the distances that revealed themselves
above the outer ledge of the oval.
"Let's take a look at what's under us," said Larry.
He crept out upon the ledge and peered down, the rest of
us following. A hundred yards beneath us stretched gardens
that must have been like those of many-columned Iram,
which the ancient Addite King had built for his pleasure ages
before the deluge, and which Allah, so the Arab legend tells,
took and hid from man, within the Sahara, beyond all hope of
finding--jealous because they were more beautiful than his
in paradise. Within them flowers and groves of laced, fernlike
trees, pillared pavilions nestled.
The trunks of the trees were of emerald, of vermilion, and
of azure-blue, and the blossoms, whose fragrance was borne
to us, shone like jewels. The graceful pillars were tinted
delicately. I noted that the pavilions were double--in a way,
two-storied--and that they were oddly splotched with circles,
with squares, and with oblongs of--opacity; noted too that
over many this opacity stretched like a roof; yet it did not
seem material; rather was it--impenetrable shadow!
Down through this city of gardens ran a broad shining
green thoroughfare, glistening like glass and spanned at regular
intervals with graceful, arched bridges. The road flashed
to a wide square, where rose, from a base of that same silvery
stone that formed the lip of the Moon Pool, a titanic structure
of seven terraces; and along it flitted objects that bore
a curious resemblance to the shell of the Nautilus. Within
them were--human figures! And upon tree-bordered promenades
on each side walked others!
Far to the right we caught the glint of another emeraldpaved
And between the two the gardens grew sweetly down to
the hither side of that opalescent water across which were
the radiant cliffs and the curtain of mystery.
Thus it was that we first saw the city of the Dweller;
blessed and accursed as no place on earth, or under or above
earth has ever been--or, that force willing which some call
God, ever again shall be!
"Chert!" whispered Marakinoff. "Incredible!"
"Trolldom!" gasped Olaf Huldricksson. "It is Trolldom!"
"Listen, Olaf!" said Larry. "Cut out that Trolldom stuff!
There's no Trolldom, or fairies, outside Ireland. Get that!
And this isn't Ireland. And, buck up, Professor!" This to
Marakinoff. "What you see down there are people--JUST PLAIN
PEOPLE. And wherever there's people is where I live. Get me?
"There's no way in but in--and no way out but out," said
O'Keefe. "And there's the stairway. Eggs are eggs no matter
how they're cooked--and people are just people, fellow
travellers, no matter what dish they are in," he concluded.
"Come on!"
With the three of us close behind him, he marched toward
the entrance.
Yolara, Priestess of the Shining One
"YOU'D better have this handy, Doc." O'Keefe paused at the
head of the stairway and handed me one of the automatics
he had taken from Marakinoff.
"Shall I not have one also?" rather anxiously asked the
"When you need it you'll get it," answered O'Keefe. "I'll
tell you frankly, though, Professor, that you'll have to show
me before I trust you with a gun. You shoot too straight--
from cover."
The flash of anger in the Russian's eyes turned to a cold
"You say always just what is in your mind, Lieutenant
O'Keefe," he mused. "Da--that I shall remember!" Later I
was to recall this odd observation--and Marakinoff was to
remember indeed.
In single file, O'Keefe at the head and Olaf bringing up
the rear, we passed through the portal. Before us dropped a
circular shaft, into which the light from the chamber of the
oval streamed liquidly; set in its sides the steps spiralled, and
down them we went, cautiously. The stairway ended in a
circular well; silent--with no trace of exit! The rounded
stones joined each other evenly--hermetically. Carved on
one of the slabs was one of the five flowered vines. I pressed
my fingers upon the calyxes, even as Larry had within the
Moon Chamber.
A crack--horizontal, four feet wide--appeared on the
wall; widened, and as the sinking slab that made it dropped
to the level of our eyes, we looked through a hundred-feetlong
rift in the living rock! The stone fell steadily--and we
saw that it was a Cyclopean wedge set within the slit of the
passageway. It reached the level of our feet and stopped. At
the far end of this tunnel, whose floor was the polished rock
that had, a moment before, fitted hermetically into its roof,
was a low, narrow triangular opening through which light
"Nowhere to go but out!" grinned Larry. "And I'll bet
Golden Eyes is waiting for us with a taxi!" He stepped forward.
We followed, slipping, sliding along the glassy surface;
and I, for one, had a lively apprehension of what our fate
would be should that enormous mass rise before we had
emerged! We reached the end; crept out of the narrow triangle
that was its exit.
We stood upon a wide ledge carpeted with a thick yellow
moss. I looked behind--and clutched O'Keefe's arm. The
door through which we had come had vanished! There was
only a precipice of pale rock, on whose surfaces great patches
of the amber moss hung; around whose base our ledge ran,
and whose summits, if summits it had, were hidden, like the
luminous cliffs, in the radiance above us.
"Nowhere to go but ahead--and Golden Eyes hasn't kept
her date!" laughed O'Keefe--but somewhat grimly.
We walked a few yards along the ledge and, rounding a
corner, faced the end of one of the slender bridges. From this
vantage point the oddly shaped vehicles were plain, and we
could see they were, indeed, like the shell of the Nautilus and
elfinly beautiful. Their drivers sat high upon the forward
whorl. Their bodies were piled high with cushions, upon
which lay women half-swathed in gay silken webs. From
the pavilioned gardens smaller channels of glistening green
ran into the broad way, much as automobile runways do on
earth; and in and out of them flashed the fairy shells.
There came a shout from one. Its occupants had glimpsed
us. They pointed; others stopped and stared; one shell turned
and sped up a runway--and quickly over the other side of
the bridge came a score of men. They were dwarfed--none
of them more than five feet high, prodigiously broad of
shoulder, clearly enormously powerful.
"Trolde!" muttered Olaf, stepping beside O'Keefe, pistol
swinging free in his hand.
But at the middle of the bridge the leader stopped, waved
back his men, and came toward us alone, palms outstretched
in the immemorial, universal gesture of truce. He paused,
scanning us with manifest wonder; we returned the scrutiny
with interest. The dwarf's face was as white as Olaf's--far
whiter than those of the other three of us; the features cleancut
and noble, almost classical; the wide set eyes of a curious
greenish grey and the black hair curling over his head like
that on some old Greek statue.
Dwarfed though he was, there was no suggestion of deformity
about him. The gigantic shoulders were covered with
a loose green tunic that looked like fine linen. It was caught
in at the waist by a broad girdle studded with what seemed
to be amazonites. In it was thrust a long curved poniard
resembling the Malaysian kris. His legs were swathed in the
same green cloth as the upper garment. His feet were
My gaze returned to his face, and in it I found something
subtly disturbing; an expression of half-malicious gaiety that
underlay the wholly prepossessing features like a vague
threat; a mocking deviltry that hinted at entire callousness
to suffering or sorrow; something of the spirit that was
vaguely alien and disquieting.
He spoke--and, to my surprise, enough of the words were
familiar to enable me clearly to catch the meaning of the
whole. They were Polynesian, the Polynesian of the Samoans
which is its most ancient form, but in some indefinable way--
archaic. Later I was to know that the tongue bore the same
relation to the Polynesian of today as does NOT that of
Chaucer, but of the Venerable Bede, to modern English. Nor
was this to be so astonishing, when with the knowledge came
the certainty that it was from it the language we call Polynesian
"From whence do you come, strangers--and how found
you your way here?" said the green dwarf.
I waved my hand toward the cliff behind us. His eyes narrowed
incredulously; he glanced at its drop, upon which
even a mountain goat could not have made its way, and
"We came through the rock," I answered his thought.
"And we come in peace," I added.
"And may peace walk with you," he said half-derisively--
"if the Shining One wills it!"
He considered us again.
"Show me, strangers, where you came through the rock,"
he commanded. We led the way to where we had emerged
from the well of the stairway.
"It was here," I said, tapping the cliff.
"But I see no opening," he said suavely.
"It closed behind us," I answered; and then, for the first
time, realized how incredible the explanation sounded. The
derisive gleam passed through his eyes again. But he drew
his poniard and gravely sounded the rock.
"You give a strange turn to our speech," he said. "It
sounds strangely, indeed--as strange as your answers." He
looked at us quizzically. "I wonder where you learned it!
Well, all that you can explain to the Afyo Maie." His head
bowed and his arms swept out in a wide salaam. "Be pleased
to come with me!" he ended abruptly.
"In peace?" I asked.
"In peace," he replied--then slowly--"with me at least."
"Oh, come on, Doc!" cried Larry. "As long as we're here
let's see the sights. Allons mon vieux!" he called gaily to the
green dwarf. The latter, understanding the spirit, if not the
words, looked at O'Keefe with a twinkle of approval; turned
then to the great Norseman and scanned him with admiration;
reached out and squeezed one of the immense biceps.
"Lugur will welcome you, at least," he murmured as
though to himself. He stood aside and waved a hand courteously,
inviting us to pass. We crossed. At the base of the
span one of the elfin shells was waiting.
Beyond, scores had gathered, their occupants evidently
discussing us in much excitement. The green dwarf waved
us to the piles of cushions and then threw himself beside us.
The vehicle started off smoothly, the now silent throng making
way, and swept down the green roadway at a terrific pace
and wholly without vibration, toward the seven-terraced
As we flew along I tried to discover the source of the
power, but I could not--then. There was no sign of mechanism,
but that the shell responded to some form of energy was
certain--the driver grasping a small lever which seemed to
control not only our speed, but our direction.
We turned abruptly and swept up a runway through one
of the gardens, and stopped softly before a pillared pavilion.
I saw now that these were much larger than I had thought.
The structure to which we had been carried covered, I estimated,
fully an acre. Oblong, with its slender, vari-coloured
columns spaced regularly, its walls were like the sliding
screens of the Japanese--shoji.
The green dwarf hurried us up a flight of broad steps
flanked by great carved serpents, winged and scaled. He
stamped twice upon mosaicked stones between two of the
pillars, and a screen rolled aside, revealing an immense hall
scattered about with low divans on which lolled a dozen or
more of the dwarfish men, dressed identically as he.
They sauntered up to us leisurely; the surprised interest
in their faces tempered by the same inhumanly gay malice
that seemed to be characteristic of all these people we had
as yet seen.
"The Afyo Maie awaits them, Rador," said one.
The green dwarf nodded, beckoned us, and led the way
through the great hall and into a smaller chamber whose far
side was covered with the opacity I had noted from the aerie
of the cliff. I examined the--blackness--with lively interest.
It had neither substance nor texture; it was not matter--
and yet it suggested solidity; an entire cessation, a complete
absorption of light; an ebon veil at once immaterial and palpable.
I stretched, involuntarily, my hand out toward it, and
felt it quickly drawn back.
"Do you seek your end so soon?" whispered Rador. "But
I forget--you do not know," he added. "On your life touch
not the blackness, ever. It--"
He stopped, for abruptly in the density a portal appeared;
swinging out of the shadow like a picture thrown by a lantern
upon a screen. Through it was revealed a chamber filled
with a soft rosy glow. Rising from cushioned couches, a
woman and a man regarded us, half leaning over a long,
low table of what seemed polished jet, laden with flowers
and unfamiliar fruits.
About the room--that part of it, at least, that I could see--
were a few oddly shaped chairs of the same substance. On
high, silvery tripods three immense globes stood, and it was
from them that the rose glow emanated. At the side of the
woman was a smaller globe whose roseate gleam was tempered
by quivering waves of blue.
"Enter Rador with the strangers!" a clear, sweet voice
Rador bowed deeply and stood aside, motioning us to
pass. We entered, the green dwarf behind us, and out of the
corner of my eye I saw the doorway fade as abruptly as it
had appeared and again the dense shadow fill its place.
"Come closer, strangers. Be not afraid!" commanded the
bell-toned voice.
We approached.
The woman, sober scientist that I am, made the breath
catch in my throat. Never had I seen a woman so beautiful
as was Yolara of the Dweller's city--and none of so perilous
a beauty. Her hair was of the colour of the young tassels of
the corn and coiled in a regal crown above her broad, white
brows; her wide eyes were of grey that could change to a
cornflower blue and in anger deepen to purple; grey or blue,
they had little laughing devils within them, but when the
storm of anger darkened them--they were not laughing, no!
The silken webs that half covered, half revealed her did not
hide the ivory whiteness of her flesh nor the sweet curve of
shoulders and breasts. But for all her amazing beauty, she
was--sinister! There was cruelty about the curving mouth,
and in the music of her voice--not conscious cruelty, but
the more terrifying, careless cruelty of nature itself.
The girl of the rose wall had been beautiful, yes! But her
beauty was human, understandable. You could imagine her
with a babe in her arms--but you could not so imagine this
woman. About her loveliness hovered something unearthly.
A sweet feminine echo of the Dweller was Yolara, the Dweller's
priestess--and as gloriously, terrifyingly evil!
The Justice of Lora
AS I LOOKED at her the man arose and made his way round
the table toward us. For the first time my eyes took in
Lugur. A few inches taller than the green dwarf, he was far
broader, more filled with the suggestion of appalling strength.
The tremendous shoulders were four feet wide if an inch,
tapering down to mighty thewed thighs. The muscles of his
chest stood out beneath his tunic of red. Around his forehead
shone a chaplet of bright-blue stones, sparkling among the
thick curls of his silver-ash hair.
Upon his face pride and ambition were written large--
and power still larger. All the mockery, the malice, the hint
of callous indifference that I had noted in the other dwarfish
men were there, too--but intensified, touched with the
The woman spoke again.
"Who are you strangers, and how came you here?" She
turned to Rador. "Or is it that they do not understand our
"One understands and speaks it--but very badly, O
Yolara," answered the green dwarf.
"Speak, then, that one of you," she commanded.
But it was Marakinoff who found his voice first, and I
marvelled at the fluency, so much greater than mine, with
which he spoke.
"We came for different purposes. I to seek knowledge of a
kind; he"--pointing to me "of another. This man"--he
looked at Olaf--"to find a wife and child."
The grey-blue eyes had been regarding O'Keefe steadily
and with plainly increasing interest.
"And why did YOU come?" she asked him. "Nay--I would
have him speak for himself, if he can," she stilled Marakinoff
When Larry spoke it was haltingly, in the tongue that was
strange to him, searching for the proper words.
"I came to help these men--and because something I
could not then understand called me, O lady, whose eyes are
like forest pools at dawn," he answered; and even in the unfamiliar
words there was a touch of the Irish brogue, and
little merry lights danced in the eyes Larry had so apostrophized.
"I could find fault with your speech, but none with its
burden," she said. "What forest pools are I know not, and the
dawn has not shone upon the people of Lora these many
sais of laya.1 But I sense what you mean!"
*1 Later I was to find that Murian reckoning rested upon the extraordinary
increased luminosity of the cliffs at the time of full moon
on earth--this action, to my mind, being linked either with the effect
of the light streaming globes upon the Moon Pool, whose source was
in the shining cliffs, or else upon some mysterious affinity of their
radiant element with the flood of moonlight on earth--the latter, most
probably, because even when the moon must have been clouded above,
it made no difference in the phenomenon. Thirteen of these shinings
forth constituted a laya, one of them a lat. Ten was sa; ten times ten
times ten a said, or thousand; ten times a thousand was a sais. A sais
of laya was then literally ten thousand years. What we would call an
hour was by them called a va. The whole time system was, of course,
a mingling of time as it had been known to their remote, surfacedwelling
ancestors, and the peculiar determining factors in the vast cavern.
The eyes deepened to blue as she regarded him. She smiled.
"Are there many like you in the world from which you come?"
she asked softly. "Well, we soon shall--"
Lugur interrupted her almost rudely and glowering.
"Best we should know how they came hence," he growled.
She darted a quick look at him, and again the little devils
danced in her wondrous eyes.
Unquestionably there is a subtle difference between time as we know
it and time in this subterranean land--its progress there being slower.
This, however, is only in accord with the well-known doctrine of relativity,
which predicates both space and time as necessary inventions of
the human mind to orient itself to the conditions under which it finds
itself. I tried often to measure this difference, but could never do so
to my entire satisfaction. The closest I can come to it is to say that
an hour of our time is the equivalent of an hour and five-eighths in
Muria. For further information upon this matter of relativity the
reader may consult any of the numerous books upon the subject.--
W. T. G.
"Yes, that is true," she said. "How came you here?"
Again it was Marakinoff who answered--slowly, considering
every word.
"In the world above," he said, "there are ruins of cities
not built by any of those who now dwell there. To us these
places called, and we sought for knowledge of the wise ones
who made them. We found a passageway. The way led us
downward to a door in yonder cliff, and through it we came
"Then have you found what you sought?" spoke she. "For
we are of those who built the cities. But this gateway in the
rock--where is it?"
"After we passed, it closed upon us; nor could we after
find trace of it," answered Marakinoff.
The incredulity that had shown upon the face of the green
dwarf fell upon theirs; on Lugur's it was clouded with furious
He turned to Rador.
"I could find no opening, lord," said the green dwarf
And there was so fierce a fire in the eyes of Lugur as he
swung back upon us that O'Keefe's hand slipped stealthily
down toward his pistol.
"Best it is to speak truth to Yolara, priestess of the Shining
One, and to Lugur, the Voice," he cried menacingly.
"It is the truth," I interposed. "We came down the passage.
At its end was a carved vine, a vine of five flowers"--the
fire died from the red dwarf's eyes, and I could have sworn
to a swift pallor. "I rested a hand upon these flowers, and a
door opened. But when we had gone through it and turned,
behind us was nothing but unbroken cliff. The door had
I had taken my cue from Marakinoff. If he had eliminated
the episode of car and Moon Pool, he had good reason, I had
no doubt; and I would be as cautious. And deep within me
something cautioned me to say nothing of my quest; to stifle
all thought of Throckmartin--something that warned, peremptorily,
finally, as though it were a message from Throckmartin
"A vine with five flowers!" exclaimed the red dwarf. "Was
it like this, say?"
He thrust forward a long arm. Upon the thumb of the
hand was an immense ring, set with a dull-blue stone.
Graven on the face of the jewel was the symbol of the rosy
walls of the Moon Chamber that had opened to us their two
portals. But cut over the vine were seven circles, one about
each of the flowers and two larger ones covering, intersecting
"This is the same," I said; "but these were not there"--
I indicated the circles.
The woman drew a deep breath and looked deep into
Lugur's eyes.
"The sign of the Silent Ones!" he half whispered.
It was the woman who first recovered herself.
"The strangers are weary, Lugur," she said. "When they
are rested they shall show where the rocks opened."
I sensed a subtle change in their attitude toward us; a new
intentness; a doubt plainly tinged with apprehension. What
was it they feared? Why had the symbol of the vine wrought
the change? And who or what were the Silent Ones?
Yolara's eyes turned to Olaf, hardened, and grew cold
grey. Subconsciously I had noticed that from the first the
Norseman had been absorbed in his regard of the pair; had,
indeed, never taken his gaze from them; had noticed, too,
the priestess dart swift glances toward him.
He returned her scrutiny fearlessly, a touch of contempt in
the clear eyes--like a child watching a snake which he did
not dread, but whose danger be well knew.
Under that look Yolara stirred impatiently, sensing, I
know, its meaning.
"Why do you look at me so?" she cried.
An expression of bewilderment passed over Olaf's face.
"I do not understand," he said in English.
I caught a quickly repressed gleam in O'Keefe's eyes. He
knew, as I knew, that Olaf must have understood. But did
Apparently he did not. But why was Olaf feigning ignorance?
"This man is a sailor from what we call the North," thus
Larry haltingly. "He is crazed, I think. He tells a strange tale
of a something of cold fire that took his wife and babe.
We found him wandering where we were. And because he is
strong we brought him with us. That is all, O lady, whose
voice is sweeter than the honey of the wild bees!"
"A shape of cold fire?" she repeated.
"A shape of cold fire that whirled beneath the moon, with
the sound of little bells," answered Larry, watching her intently.
She looked at Lugur and laughed.
"Then he, too, is fortunate," she said. "For he has come
to the place of his something of cold fire--and tell him that
he shall join his wife and child, in time; that I promise him."
Upon the Norseman's face there was no hint of comprehension,
and at that moment I formed an entirely new opinion
of Olaf's intelligence; for certainly it must have been a
prodigious effort of the will, indeed, that enabled him, understanding,
to control himself.
"What does she say?" he asked.
Larry repeated.
"Good!" said Olaf. "Good!"
He looked at Yolara with well-assumed gratitude. Lugur,
who had been scanning his bulk, drew close. He felt the giant
muscles which Huldricksson accommodatingly flexed for
"But he shall meet Valdor and Tahola before he sees those
kin of his," he laughed mockingly. "And if he bests them--
for reward--his wife and babe!"
A shudder, quickly repressed, shook the seaman's frame.
The woman bent her supremely beautiful head.
"These two," she said, pointing to the Russian and to me,
"seem to be men of learning. They may be useful. As for this
man,"--she smiled at Larry--"I would have him explain to
me some things." She hesitated. "What 'hon-ey of 'e wild
bees-s' is." Larry had spoken the words in English, and she
was trying to repeat them. "As for this man, the sailor, do
as you please with him, Lugur; always remembering that I
have given my word that he shall join that wife and babe of
his!" She laughed sweetly, sinisterly. "And now--take them,
Rador--give them food and drink and let them rest till we
shall call them again."
She stretched out a hand toward O'Keefe. The Irishman
bowed low over it, raised it softly to his lips. There was a
vicious hiss from Lugur; but Yolara regarded Larry with
eyes now all tender blue.
"You please me," she whispered.
And the face of Lugur grew darker.
We turned to go. The rosy, azure-shot globe at her side
suddenly dulled. From it came a faint bell sound as of chimes
far away. She bent over it. It vibrated, and then its surface
ran with little waves of dull colour; from it came a whispering
so low that I could not distinguish the words--if words
they were.
She spoke to the red dwarf.
"They have brought the three who blasphemed the Shining
One," she said slowly. "Now it is in my mind to show
these strangers the justice of Lora. What say you, Lugur?"
The red dwarf nodded, his eyes sparkling with a malicious
The woman spoke again to the globe. "Bring them here!"
And again it ran swiftly with its film of colours, darkened,
and shone rosy once more. From without there came a rustle
of many feet upon the rugs. Yolara pressed a slender hand
upon the base of the pedestal of the globe beside her.
Abruptly the light faded from all, and on the same instant
the four walls of blackness vanished, revealing on two sides
the lovely, unfamiliar garden through the guarding rows of
pillars; at our backs soft draperies hid what lay beyond;
before us, flanked by flowered screens, was the corridor
through which we had entered, crowded now by the green
dwarfs of the great hall.
The dwarfs advanced. Each, I now noted, had the same
clustering black hair of Rador. They separated, and from
them stepped three figures--a youth of not more than twenty,
short, but with the great shoulders of all the males we had
seen of this race; a girl of seventeen, I judged, white-faced,
a head taller than the boy, her long, black hair dishevelled;
and behind these two a stunted, gnarled shape whose head
was sunk deep between the enormous shoulders, whose white
beard fell like that of some ancient gnome down to his waist,
and whose eyes were a white flame of hate. The girl cast herself
weeping at the feet of the priestess; the youth regarded
her curiously.
"You are Songar of the Lower Waters?" murmured Yolara
almost caressingly. "And this is your daughter and her
The gnome nodded, the flame in his eyes leaping higher.
"It has come to me that you three have dared blaspheme
the Shining One, its priestess, and its Voice," went on Yolara
smoothly. "Also that you have called out to the three
Silent Ones. Is it true?"
"Your spies have spoken--and have you not already
judged us?" The voice of the old dwarf was bitter.
A flicker shot through the eyes of Yolara, again cold grey.
The girl reached a trembling hand out to the hem of the
priestess's veils.
"Tell us why you did these things, Songar," she said. "Why
you did them, knowing full well what your--reward--would be."
The dwarf stiffened; he raised his withered arms, and his
eyes blazed.
"Because evil are your thoughts and evil are your deeds,"
he cried. "Yours and your lover's, there"--he levelled a
finger at Lugur. "Because of the Shining One you have made
evil, too, and the greater wickedness you contemplate--
you and he with the Shining One. But I tell you that your
measure of iniquity is full; the tale of your sin near ended!
Yea--the Silent Ones have been patient, but soon they will
speak." He pointed at us. "A sign are THEY--a warning--
harlot!" He spat the word.
In Yolara's eyes, grown black, the devils leaped unrestrained.
"Is it even so, Songar?" her voice caressed. "Now ask the
Silent Ones to help you! They sit afar--but surely they will
hear you." The sweet voice was mocking. "As for these two,
they shall pray to the Shining One for forgiveness--and
surely the Shining One will take them to its bosom! As for
you--you have lived long enough, Songar! Pray to the Silent
Ones, Songar, and pass out into the nothingness--you!"
She dipped down into her bosom and drew forth something
that resembled a small cone of tarnished silver. She
levelled it, a covering clicked from its base, and out of it
darted a slender ray of intense green light.
It struck the old dwarf squarely over the heart, and spread
swift as light itself, covering him with a gleaming, pale film.
She clenched her hand upon the cone, and the ray disappeared.
She thrust the cone back into her breast and leaned
forward expectantly; so Lugur and so the other dwarfs.
From the girl came a low wail of anguish; the boy dropped
upon his knees, covering his face.
For the moment the white beard stood rigid; then the
robe that had covered him seemed to melt away, revealing
all the knotted, monstrous body. And in that body a vibration
began, increasing to incredible rapidity. It wavered before
us like a reflection in a still pond stirred by a sudden
wind. It grew and grew--to a rhythm whose rapidity was
intolerable to watch and that still chained the eyes.
The figure grew indistinct, misty. Tiny sparks in infinite
numbers leaped from it--like, I thought, the radiant shower
of particles hurled out by radium when seen under the
microscope. Mistier still it grew--there trembled before us
for a moment a faintly luminous shadow which held, here
and there, tiny sparkling atoms like those that pulsed in the
light about us! The glowing shadow vanished, the sparkling
atoms were still for a moment--and shot away, joining those
dancing others.
Where the gnomelike form had been but a few seconds
before--there was nothing!
O'Keefe drew a long breath, and I was sensible of a prickling
along my scalp.
Yolara leaned toward us.
"You have seen," she said. Her eyes lingered tigerishly
upon Olaf's pallid face. "Heed!" she whispered. She turned
to the men in green, who were laughing softly among themselves.
"Take these two, and go!" she commanded.
"The justice of Lora," said the red dwarf. "The justice of
Lora and the Shining One under Thanaroa!"
Upon the utterance of the last word I saw Marakinoff start
violently. The hand at his side made a swift, surreptitious
gesture, so fleeting that I hardly caught it. The red dwarf
stared at the Russian, and there was amazement upon his
Swiftly as Marakinoff, he returned it.
"Yolara," the red dwarf spoke, "it would please me to
take this man of wisdom to my own place for a time. The
giant I would have, too."
The woman awoke from her brooding; nodded.
"As you will, Lugur," she said.
And as, shaken to the core, we passed out into the garden
into the full throbbing of the light, I wondered if all the tiny
sparkling diamond points that shook about us had once been
men like Songar of the Lower Waters--and felt my very soul
grow sick!
The Angry, Whispering Globe
OUR WAY led along a winding path between banked masses
of softly radiant blooms, groups of feathery ferns whose
plumes were starred with fragrant white and blue flowerets,
slender creepers swinging from the branches of the strangely
trunked trees, bearing along their threads orchid-like blossoms
both delicately frail and gorgeously flamboyant.
The path we trod was an exquisite mosaic--pastel greens
and pinks upon a soft grey base, garlands of nimbused forms
like the flaming rose of the Rosicrucians held in the mouths
of the flying serpents. A smaller pavilion arose before us,
single-storied, front wide open.
Upon its threshold Rador paused, bowed deeply, and motioned
us within. The chamber we entered was large, closed
on two sides by screens of grey; at the back gay, concealing
curtains. The low table of blue stone, dressed with fine white
cloths, stretched at one side flanked by the cushioned divans.
At the left was a high tripod bearing one of the rosy globes
we had seen in the house of Yolara; at the head of the table
a smaller globe similar to the whispering one. Rador pressed
upon its base, and two other screens slid into place across
the entrance, shutting in the room.
He clapped his hands; the curtains parted, and two girls
came through them. Tall and willow lithe, their bluish-black
hair falling in ringlets just below their white shoulders, their
clear eyes of forget-me-not blue, and skins of extraordinary
fineness and purity--they were singularly attractive. Each
was clad in an extremely scanty bodice of silken blue, girdled
above a kirtle that came barely to their very pretty knees.
"Food and drink," ordered Rador.
They dropped back through the curtains.
"Do you like them?" he asked us.
"Some chickens!" said Larry. "They delight the heart," he
translated for Rador.
The green dwarf's next remark made me gasp.
"They are yours," he said.
Before I could question him further upon this extraordinary
statement the pair re-entered, bearing a great platter on
which were small loaves, strange fruits, and three immense
flagons of rock crystal--two filled with a slightly sparkling
yellow liquid and the third with a purplish drink. I became
acutely sensible that it had been hours since I had either
eaten or drunk. The yellow flagons were set before Larry and
me, the purple at Rador's hand.
The girls, at his signal, again withdrew. I raised my glass
to my lips and took a deep draft. The taste was unfamiliar
but delightful.
Almost at once my fatigue disappeared. I realized a clarity
of mind, an interesting exhilaration and sense of irresponsibility,
of freedom from care, that were oddly enjoyable.
Larry became immediately his old gay self.
The green dwarf regarded us whimsically, sipping from
his great flagon of rock crystal.
"Much do I desire to know of that world you came from,"
he said at last--"through the rocks," he added, slyly.
"And much do we desire to know of this world of yours,
O Rador," I answered.
Should I ask him of the Dweller; seek from him a clue to
Throckmartin? Again, clearly as a spoken command, came
the warning to forbear, to wait. And once more I obeyed.
"Let us learn, then, from each other." The dwarf was
laughing. "And first--are all above like you--drawn out"--
he made an expressive gesture--"and are there many of
"There are--" I hesitated, and at last spoke the Polynesian
that means tens upon tens multiplied indefinitely--"there
are as many as the drops of water in the lake we saw from
the ledge where you found us," I continued; "many as the
leaves on the trees without. And they are all like us--
He considered skeptically, I could see, my remark upon
our numbers.
"In Muria," he said at last, "the men are like me or like
Lugur. Our women are as you see them--like Yolara or
those two who served you." He hesitated. "And there is a
third; but only one."
Larry leaned forward eagerly.
"Brown-haired with glints of ruddy bronze, golden-eyed,
and lovely as a dream, with long, slender, beautiful hands?"
he cried.
"Where saw you HER?" interrupted the dwarf, starting to
his feet.
"Saw her?" Larry recovered himself. "Nay, Rador, perhaps,
I only dreamed that there was such a woman."
"See to it, then, that you tell not your dream to Yolara,"
said the dwarf grimly. "For her I meant and her you have
pictured is Lakla, the hand-maiden to the Silent Ones, and
neither Yolara nor Lugur, nay, nor the Shining One, love
her overmuch, stranger."
"Does she dwell here?" Larry's face was alight.
The dwarf hesitated, glanced about him anxiously.
"Nay," he answered, "ask me no more of her." He was
silent for a space. "And what do you who are as leaves or
drops of water do in that world of yours?" he said, plainly
bent on turning the subject.
"Keep off the golden-eyed girl, Larry," I interjected. "Wait
till we find out why she's tabu."
"Love and battle, strive and accomplish and die; or fail and
die," answered Larry--to Rador--giving me a quick nod of
acquiescence to my warning in English.
"In that at least your world and mine differ little," said the
"How great is this world of yours, Rador?" I spoke.
He considered me gravely.
"How great indeed I do not know," he said frankly at last.
"The land where we dwell with the Shining One stretches
along the white waters for--" He used a phrase of which I
could make nothing. "Beyond this city of the Shining One
and on the hither shores of the white waters dwell the mayia
ladala--the common ones." He took a deep draft from his
flagon. "There are, first, the fair-haired ones, the children
of the ancient rulers," he continued. "There are, second, we
the soldiers; and last, the mayia ladala, who dig and till and
weave and toil and give our rulers and us their daughters,
and dance with the Shining One!" he added.
"Who rules?" I asked.
"The fair-haired, under the Council of Nine, who are
under Yolara, the Priestess and Lugur, the Voice," he
answered, "who are in turn beneath the Shining One!" There
was a ring of bitter satire in the last.
"And those three who were judged?"--this from Larry.
"They were of the mayia ladala," he replied, "like those
two I gave you. But they grow restless. They do not like to
dance with the Shining One--the blasphemers!" He raised
his voice in a sudden great shout of mocking laughter.
In his words I caught a fleeting picture of the race--an
ancient, luxurious, close-bred oligarchy clustered about some
mysterious deity; a soldier class that supported them; and
underneath all the toiling, oppressed hordes.
"And is that all?" asked Larry.
"No," he answered. "There is the Sea of Crimson
Without warning the globe beside us sent out a vicious
note, Rador turned toward it, his face paling. Its surface
crawled with whisperings--angry, peremptory!
"I hear!" he croaked, gripping the table. "I obey!"
He turned to us a face devoid for once of its malice.
"Ask me no more questions, strangers," he said. "And
now, if you are done, I will show you where you may sleep
and bathe."
He arose abruptly. We followed him through the hangings,
passed through a corridor and into another smaller
chamber, roofless, the sides walled with screens of dark grey.
Two cushioned couches were there and a curtained door
leading into an open, outer enclosure in which a fountain
played within a wide pool.
"Your bath," said Rador. He dropped the curtain and
came back into the room. He touched a carved flower at one
side. There was a tiny sighing from overhead and instantly
across the top spread a veil of blackness, impenetrable to
light but certainly not to air, for through it pulsed little
breaths of the garden fragrances. The room filled with a cool
twilight, refreshing, sleep-inducing. The green dwarf pointed
to the couches.
"Sleep!" he said. "Sleep and fear nothing. My men are on
guard outside." He came closer to us, the old mocking
gaiety sparkling in his eyes.
"But I spoke too quickly," he whispered. "Whether it is
because the Afyo Maie fears their tongues--or--" he
laughed at Larry. "The maids are NOT yours!" Still laughing
he vanished through the curtains of the room of the fountain
before I could ask him the meaning of his curious gift,
its withdrawal, and his most enigmatic closing remarks.
"Back in the great old days of Ireland," thus Larry breaking
into my thoughts raptly, the brogue thick, "there was
Cairill mac Cairill--Cairill Swiftspear. An' Cairill wronged
Keevan of Emhain Abhlach, of the blood of Angus of the
great people when he was sleeping in the likeness of a pale
reed. Then Keevan put this penance on Cairill--that for a
year Cairill should wear his body in Emhain Abhlach, which
is the Land of Faery and for that year Keevan should wear
the body of Cairill. And it was done.
"In that year Cairill met Emar of the Birds that are one
white, one red, and one black--and they loved, and from that
love sprang Ailill their son. And when Ailill was born he
took a reed flute and first he played slumber on Cairill, and
then he played old age so that Cairill grew white and withered;
then Ailill played again and Cairill became a shadow--
then a shadow of a shadow--then a breath; and the breath
went out upon the wind!" He shivered. "Like the old
gnome," he whispered, "that they called Songar of the
Lower Waters!"
He shook his head as though he cast a dream from him.
Then, all alert--
"But that was in Iceland ages agone. And there's nothing
like that here, Doc!" He laughed. "It doesn't scare me one
little bit, old boy. The pretty devil lady's got the wrong slant.
When you've had a pal standing beside you one moment--
full of life, and joy, and power, and potentialities, telling
what he's going to do to make the world hum when he gets
through the slaughter, just running over with zip and pep of
life, Doc--and the next instant, right in the middle of a
laugh--a piece of damned shell takes off half his head and
with it joy and power and all the rest of it"--his face
twitched--"well, old man, in the face of THAT mystery a
disappearing act such as the devil lady treated us to doesn't
make much of a dent. Not on me. But by the brogans of
Brian Boru--if we could have had some of that stuff to turn
on during the war--oh, boy!"
He was silent, evidently contemplating the idea with vast
pleasure. And as for me, at that moment my last doubt of
Larry O'Keefe vanished, I saw that he did believe, really
believed, in his banshees, his leprechauns and all the old
dreams of the Gael--but only within the limits of Ireland.
In one drawer of his mind was packed all his superstition,
his mysticism, and what of weakness it might carry. But face
him with any peril or problem and the drawer closed instantaneously
leaving a mind that was utterly fearless, incredulous,
and ingenious; swept clean of all cobwebs by as
fine a skeptic broom as ever brushed a brain.
"Some stuff!" Deepest admiration was in his voice. "If
we'd only had it when the war was on--imagine half a dozen
of us scooting over the enemy batteries and the gunners
underneath all at once beginning to shake themselves to
pieces! Wow!" His tone was rapturous.
"It's easy enough to explain, Larry," I said. "The effect,
that is--for what the green ray is made of I don't know, of
course. But what it does, clearly, is stimulate atomic vibration
to such a pitch that the cohesion between the particles of
matter is broken and the body flies to bits--just as a flywheel
does when its speed gets so great that the particles
of which IT is made can't hold together."
"Shake themselves to pieces is right, then!" he exclaimed.
"Absolutely right," I nodded. "Everything in Nature vibrates.
And all matter--whether man or beast or stone or
metal or vegetable--is made up of vibrating molecules,
which are made up of vibrating atoms which are made up
of truly infinitely small particles of electricity called electrons,
and electrons, the base of all matter, are themselves
perhaps only a vibration of the mysterious ether.
"If a magnifying glass of sufficient size and strength could
be placed over us we could see ourselves as sieves--our
space lattice, as it is called. And all that is necessary to break
down the lattice, to shake us into nothingness, is some agent
that will set our atoms vibrating at such a rate that at last
they escape the unseen cords and fly off.
"The green ray of Yolara is such an agent. It set up in the
dwarf that incredibly rapid rhythm that you saw and--
shook him not to atoms--but to electrons!"
"They had a gun on the West Front--a seventy-five," said
O'Keefe, "that broke the eardrums of everybody who fired
it, no matter what protection they used. It looked like all
the other seventy-fives--but there was something about its
sound that did it. They had to recast it."
"It's practically the same thing," I replied. "By some freak
its vibratory qualities had that effect. The deep whistle of
the sunken Lusitania would, for instance, make the Singer
Building shake to its foundations; while the Olympic did not
affect the Singer at all but made the Woolworth shiver all
through. In each case they stimulated the atomic vibration
of the particular building--"
I paused, aware all at once of an intense drowsiness.
O'Keefe, yawning, reached down to unfasten his puttees.
"Lord, I'm sleepy!" he exclaimed. "Can't understand it--
what you say--most--interesting--Lord!" he yawned again;
straightened. "What made Reddy take such a shine to the
Russian?" he asked.
"Thanaroa," I answered, fighting to keep my eyes open.
"When Lugur spoke that name I saw Marakinoff signal
him. Thanaroa is, I suspect, the original form of the name
of Tangaroa, the greatest god of the Polynesians. There's a
secret cult to him in the islands. Marakinoff may belong to
it--he knows it anyway. Lugur recognized the signal and
despite his surprise answered it."
"So he gave him the high sign, eh?" mused Larry. "How
could they both know it?"
"The cult is a very ancient one. Undoubtedly it had its
origin in the dim beginnings before these people migrated
here," I replied. "It's a link--one--of the few links between
up there and the lost past--"
"Trouble then," mumbled Larry. "Hell brewing! I smell it
--Say, Doc, is this sleepiness natural? Wonder where my--
gas mask--is--" he added, half incoherently.
But I myself was struggling desperately against the
drugged slumber pressing down upon me.
"Lakla!" I heard O'Keefe murmur. "Lakla of the golden
eyes--no Eilidh--the Fair!" He made an immense effort,
half raised himself, grinned faintly.
"Thought this was paradise when I first saw it, Doc," he
sighed. "But I know now, if it is, No-Man's Land was the
greatest place on earth for a honeymoon. They--they've got
us, Doc--" He sank back. "Good luck, old boy, wherever
you're going." His hand waved feebly. "Glad--knew--you.
His voice trailed into silence. Fighting, fighting with every
fibre of brain and nerve against the sleep, I felt myself being
steadily overcome. Yet before oblivion rushed down upon
me I seemed to see upon the grey-screened wall nearest the
Irishman an oval of rosy light begin to glow; watched, as my
falling lids inexorably fell, a flame-tipped shadow waver
on it; thicken; condense--and there looking down upon
Larry, her eyes great golden stars in which intensest curiosity
and shy tenderness struggled, sweet mouth half smiling,
was the girl of the Moon Pool's Chamber, the girl whom the
green dwarf had named--Lakla: the vision Larry had invoked
before that sleep which I could no longer deny had
claimed him--
Closer she came--closer---the eyes were over us.
Then oblivion indeed!
Yolara of Muria vs. the O'Keefe
I AWAKENED with all the familiar, homely sensation of a
shade having been pulled up in a darkened room. I thrilled
with a wonderful sense of deep rest and restored resiliency.
The ebon shadow had vanished from above and down into
the room was pouring the silvery light. From the fountain
pool came a mighty splashing and shouts of laughter. I
jumped and drew the curtain. O'Keefe and Rador were swimming
a wild race; the dwarf like an otter, out-distancing and
playing around the Irishman at will.
Had that overpowering sleep--and now I confess that my
struggle against it had been largely inspired by fear that it
was the abnormal slumber which Throckmartin had described
as having heralded the approach of the Dweller before
it had carried away Thora and Stanton--had that sleep
been after all nothing but natural reaction of tired nerves
and brains?
And that last vision of the golden-eyed girl bending over
Larry? Had that also been a delusion of an overstressed
mind? Well, it might have been, I could not tell. At any rate,
I decided, I would speak about it to O'Keefe once we were
alone again--and then giving myself up to the urge of buoyant
well-being I shouted like a boy, stripped and joined the
two in the pool. The water was warm and I felt the unwonted
tingling of life in every vein increase; something from it
seemed to pulse through the skin, carrying a clean vigorous
vitality that toned every fibre. Tiring at last, we swam to the
edge and drew ourselves out. The green dwarf quickly
clothed himself and Larry rather carefully donned his uniform.
"The Afyo Maie has summoned us, Doc," he said. "We're
to--well--I suppose you'd call it breakfast with her. After
that, Rador tells me, we're to have a session with the Council
of Nine. I suppose Yolara is as curious as any lady of--the
upper world, as you might put it--and just naturally can't
wait," he added.
He gave himself a last shake, patted the automatic hidden
under his left arm, whistled cheerfully,
"After you, my dear Alphonse," he said to Rador, with a
low bow. The dwarf laughed, bent in an absurd imitation of
Larry's mocking courtesy and started ahead of us to the
house of the priestess. When he had gone a little way on the
orchid-walled path I whispered to O'Keefe:
"Larry, when you were falling off to sleep--did you think
you saw anything?"
"See anything!" he grinned. "Doc, sleep hit me like a Hun
shell. I thought they were pulling the gas on us. I--I had
some intention of bidding you tender farewells," he continued,
half sheepishly. "I think I did start 'em, didn't I?"
I nodded.
"But wait a minute--" he hesitated. "I had a queer sort of
'What was it?" I asked eagerly,
"Well," he answered slowly, "I suppose it was because I'd
been thinking of--Golden Eyes. Anyway, I thought she
came through the wall and leaned over me--yes, and put
one of those long white hands of hers on my head--I
couldn't raise my lids--but in some queer way I could see
her. Then it got real dreamish. Why do you ask?"
Rador turned back toward us,
"Later," I answered, "Not now. When we're alone."
But through me went a little glow of reassurance. Whatever
the maze through which we were moving; whatever of
menacing evil lurking there--the Golden Girl was clearly
watching over us; watching with whatever unknown powers
she could muster.
We passed the pillared entrance; went through a long
bowered corridor and stopped before a door that seemed
to be sliced from a monolith of pale jade--high, narrow,
set in a wall of opal.
Rador stamped twice and the same supernally sweet, silver
bell tones of--yesterday, I must call it, although in that place
of eternal day the term is meaningless--bade us enter. The
door slipped aside. The chamber was small, the opal walls
screening it on three sides, the black opacity covering it, the
fourth side opening out into a delicious little walled garden
--a mass of the fragrant, luminous blooms and delicately
colored fruit. Facing it was a small table of reddish wood
and from the omnipresent cushions heaped around it arose to
greet us--Yolara.
Larry drew in his breath with an involuntary gasp of
admiration and bowed low. My own admiration was as frank
--and the priestess was well pleased with our homage.
She was swathed in the filmy, half-revelant webs, now of
palest blue. The corn-silk hair was caught within a widemeshed
golden net in which sparkled tiny brilliants, like
blended sapphires and diamonds. Her own azure eyes
sparkled as brightly as they, and I noted again in their clear
depths the half-eager approval as they rested upon O'Keefe's
lithe, well-knit figure and his keen, clean-cut face. The higharched,
slender feet rested upon soft sandals whose gauzy
withes laced the exquisitely formed leg to just below the
dimpled knee.
"Some giddy wonder!" exclaimed Larry, looking at me
and placing a hand over his heart. "Put her on a New York
roof and she'd empty Broadway. Take the cue from me,
He turned to Yolara, whose face was somewhat puzzled.
"I said, O lady whose shining hair is a web for hearts, that
in our world your beauty would dazzle the sight of men as
would a little woman sun!" he said, in the florid imagery to
which the tongue lends itself so well.
A flush stole up through the translucent skin. The blue
eyes softened and she waved us toward the cushions. Blackhaired
maids stole in, placing before us the fruits, the little
loaves and a steaming drink somewhat the colour and odor
of chocolate. I was conscious of outrageous hunger.
"What are you named, strangers?" she asked.
"This man is named Goodwin," said O'Keefe. "As for me,
call me Larry."
"Nothing like getting acquainted quick," he said to me--
but kept his eyes upon Yolara as though he were voicing
another honeyed phrase. And so she took it, for: "You must
teach me your tongue," she murmured.
"Then shall I have two words where now I have one to
tell you of your loveliness," he answered.
"And also that'll take time," he spoke to me. "Essential
occupation out of which we can't be drafted to make these
fun-loving folk any Roman holiday. Get me!"
"Larree," mused Yolara. "I like the sound. It is sweet--"
and indeed it was as she spoke it.
"And what is your land named, Larree?" she continued.
"And Goodwin's?" She caught the sound perfectly.
"My land, O lady of loveliness, is two--Ireland and
America; his but one--America."
She repeated the two names--slowly, over and over. We
seized the opportunity to attack the food; halting half guiltily
as she spoke again.
"Oh, but you are hungry!" she cried. "Eat then." She
leaned her chin upon her hands and regarded us, whole
fountains of questions brimming up in her eyes.
"How is it, Larree, that you have two countries and Goodwin
but one?" she asked, at last unable to keep silent longer.
"I was born in Ireland; he in America. But I have dwelt
long in his land and my heart loves each," he said.
She nodded, understandingly.
"Are all the men of Ireland like you, Larree? As all the
men here are like Lugur or Rador? I like to look at you,"
she went on, with naive frankness. "I am tired of men like
Lugur and Rador. But they are strong," she added, swiftly.
"Lugur can hold up ten in his two arms and raise six with
but one hand."
We could not understand her numerals and she raised
white fingers to illustrate.
"That is little, O lady, to the men of Ireland," replied
O'Keefe. "Lo, I have seen one of my race hold up ten times
ten of our--what call you that swift thing in which Rador
brought us here?"
"Corial," said she.
"Hold up ten times twenty of our corials with but two
fingers--and these corials of ours--"
"Coria," said she.
"And these coria of ours are each greater in weight than
ten of yours. Yes, and I have seen another with but one blow
of his hand raise hell!
"And so I have," he murmured to me. "And both at Fortysecond
and Fifth Avenue, N. Y.--U. S. A."
Yolara considered all this with manifest doubt.
"Hell?" she inquired at last. "I know not the word."
"Well," answered O'Keefe. "Say Muria then. In many
ways they are, I gather, O heart's delight, one and the same."
Now the doubt in the blue eyes was strong indeed. She
shook her head.
"None of our men can do THAT!" she answered, at length.
"Nor do I think you could, Larree."
"Oh, no," said Larry easily. "I never tried to be that
strong. I fly," he added, casually.
The priestess rose to her feet, gazing at him with startled eyes.
"Fly!" she repeated incredulously. "Like a _Zitia_? A bird?"
Larry nodded--and then seeing the dawning command in
her eyes, went on hastily.
"Not with my own wings, Yolara. In a--a corial that
moves through--what's the word for air, Doc--well,
through this--" He made a wide gesture up toward the
nebulous haze above us. He took a pencil and on a white
cloth made a hasty sketch of an airplane. "In a--a corial
like this--" She regarded the sketch gravely, thrust a hand
down into her girdle and brought forth a keen-bladed
poniard; cut Larry's markings out and placed the fragment
carefully aside.
"That I can understand," she said.
"Remarkably intelligent young woman," muttered
O'Keefe. "Hope I'm not giving anything away--but she had
"But what are your women like, Larree? Are they like
me? And how many have loved you?" she whispered.
"In all Ireland and America there is none like you, Yolara,"
he answered. "And take that any way you please," he
muttered in English. She took it, it was evident, as it most
pleased her.
"Do you have goddesses?" she asked.
"Every woman in Ireland and America, is a goddess";
thus Larry.
"Now that I do not believe." There was both anger and
mockery in her eyes. "I know women, Larree--and if that
were so there would be no peace for men."
"There isn't!" replied he. The anger died out and she
laughed, sweetly, understandingly.
"And which goddess do you worship, Larree?"
"You!" said Larry O'Keefe boldly.
"Larry! Larry!" I whispered. "Be careful. It's high explosive."
But the priestess was laughing--little trills of sweet bell
notes; and pleasure was in each note.
"You are indeed bold, Larree," she said, "to offer me your
worship. Yet am I pleased by your boldness. Still--Lugur is
strong; and you are not of those who--what did you say--
have tried. And your wings are not here--Larree!"
Again her laughter rang out. The Irishman flushed; it was
touche for Yolara!
"Fear not for me with Lugur," he said, grimly. "Rather
fear for him!"
The laughter died; she looked at him searchingly; a little
enigmatic smile about her mouth--so sweet and so cruel.
"Well--we shall see," she murmured. "You say you battle
in your world. With what?"
"Oh, with this and with that," answered Larry, airily.
"We manage--"
"Have you the Keth--I mean that with which I sent
Songar into the nothingness?" she asked swiftly.
"See what she's driving at?" O'Keefe spoke to me, swiftly.
"Well I do! But here's where the O'Keefe lands.
"I said," he turned to her, "O voice of silver fire, that your
spirit is high even as your beauty--and searches out men's
souls as does your loveliness their hearts. And now listen,
Yolara, for what I speak is truth"--into his eyes came the
far-away gaze; into his voice the Irish softness--"Lo, in my
land of Ireland, this many of your life's length agone--see"
--he raised his ten fingers, clenched and unclenched them
times twenty--"the mighty men of my race, the Taitha-da-
Dainn, could send men out into the nothingness even as do
you with the Keth. And this they did by their harpings, and
by words spoken--words of power, O Yolara, that have their
power still--and by pipings and by slaying sounds.
"There was Cravetheen who played swift flames from his
harp, flying flames that ate those they were sent against. And
there was Dalua, of Hy Brasil, whose pipes played away
from man and beast and all living things their shadows--
and at last played them to shadows too, so that wherever
Dalua went his shadows that had been men and beast followed
like a storm of little rustling leaves; yea, and Bel the
Harper, who could make women's hearts run like wax and
men's hearts flame to ashes and whose harpings could shatter
strong cliffs and bow great trees to the sod--"
His eyes were bright, dream-filled; she shrank a little
from him, faint pallor under the perfect skin.
"I say to you, Yolara, that these things were and are--
in Ireland." His voice rang strong. "And I have seen men as
many as those that are in your great chamber this many
times over"--he clenched his hands once more, perhaps a
dozen times--"blasted into nothingness before your Keth
could even have touched them. Yea--and rocks as mighty
as those through which we came lifted up and shattered
before the lids could fall over your blue eyes. And this is
truth, Yolara--all truth! Stay--have you that little cone of
the Keth with which you destroyed Songar?"
She nodded, gazing at him, fascinated, fear and puzzlement
"Then use it." He took a vase of crystal from the table,
placed it on the threshold that led into the garden. "Use it
on this--and I will show you."
"I will use it upon one of the ladala--" she began eagerly.
The exaltation dropped from him; there was a touch of
horror in the eyes he turned to her; her own dropped before
"It shall be as you say," she said hurriedly. She drew the
shining cone from her breast; levelled it at the vase. The
green ray leaped forth, spread over the crystal, but before
its action could even be begun, a flash of light shot from
O'Keefe's hand, his automatic spat and the trembling vase
flew into fragments. As quickly as he had drawn it, he
thrust the pistol back into place and stood there empty
handed, looking at her sternly. From the anteroom came
shouting, a rush of feet.
Yolara's face was white, her eyes strained--but her voice
was unshaken as she called to the clamouring guards:
"It is nothing--go to your places!"
But when the sound of their return had ceased she stared
tensely at the Irishman--then looked again at the shattered
"It is true!" she cried, "but see, the Keth is--alive!"
I followed her pointing finger. Each broken bit of the
crystal was vibrating, shaking its particles out into space.
Broken it the bullet of Larry's had--but not released it from
the grip of the disintegrating force. The priestess's face was
"But what matters it, O shining urn of beauty--what matters
it to the vase that is broken what happens to its fragments?"
asked Larry, gravely--and pointedly.
The triumph died from her face and for a space she was
silent; brooding.
"Next," whispered O'Keefe to me. "Lots of surprises in
the little box; keep your eye on the opening and see what
comes out."
We had not long to wait. There was a sparkle of anger
about Yolara, something too of injured pride. She clapped
her hands; whispered to the maid who answered her summons,
and then sat back regarding us, maliciously.
"You have answered me as to your strength--but you
have not proved it; but the Keth you have answered. Now
answer this!" she said.
She pointed out into the garden. I saw a flowering branch
bend and snap as though a hand had broken it--but no hand
was there! Saw then another and another bend and break,
a little tree sway and fall--and closer and closer to us came
the trail of snapping boughs while down into the garden
poured the silvery light revealing--nothing! Now a great
ewer beside a pillar rose swiftly in air and hurled itself
crashing at my feet. Cushions close to us swirled about as
though in the vortex of a whirlwind.
And unseen hands held my arms in a mighty clutch fast
to my sides, another gripped my throat and I felt a needlesharp
poniard point pierce my shirt, touch the skin just over
my heart!
"Larry!" I cried, despairingly. I twisted my head; saw that
he too was caught in this grip of the invisible. But his face
was calm, even amused.
"Keep cool, Doc!" he said. "Remember--she wants to
learn the language!"
Now from Yolara burst chime upon chime of mocking
laughter. She gave a command--the hands loosened, the
poniard withdrew from my heart; suddenly as I had been
caught I was free--and unpleasantly weak and shaky.
"Have you THAT in Ireland, Larree!" cried the priestess--
and once more trembled with laughter.
"A good play, Yolara." His voice was as calm as his face.
"But they did that in Ireland even before Dalua piped away
his first man's shadow. And in Goodwin's land they make
ships--coria that go on water--so you can pass by them and
see only sea and sky; and those water coria are each of them
many times greater than this whole palace of yours."
But the priestess laughed on.
"It did get me a little," whispered Larry. "That wasn't
quite up to my mark. But God! If we could find that trick
out and take it back with us!"
"Not so, Larree!" Yolara gasped, through her laughter.
"Not so! Goodwin's cry betrayed you!"
Her good humour had entirely returned; she was like a
mischievous child pleased over some successful trick; and
like a child she cried--"I'll show you!"--signalled again;
whispered to the maid who, quickly returning, laid before
her a long metal case. Yolara took from her girdle something
that looked like a small pencil, pressed it and shot a thin
stream of light for all the world like an electric flash, upon
its hasp. The lid flew open. Out of it she drew three flat, oval
crystals, faint rose in hue. She handed one to O'Keefe and
one to me.
"Look!" she commanded, placing the third before her own
eyes. I peered through the stone and instantly there leaped
into sight, out of thin air--six grinning dwarfs! Each was
covered from top of head to soles of feet in a web so tenuous
that through it their bodies were plain. The gauzy stuff
seemed to vibrate--its strands to run together like quicksilver.
I snatched the crystal from my eyes and--the chamber
was empty! Put it back--and there were the grinning six!
Yolara gave another sign and they disappeared, even from
the crystals.
"It is what they wear, Larree," explained Yolara, graciously.
"It is something that came to us from--the Ancient
Ones. But we have so few"--she sighed.
"Such treasures must be two-edged swords, Yolara,"
commented O'Keefe. "For how know you that one within
them creeps not to you with hand eager to strike?"
"There is no danger," she said indifferently. "I am the
keeper of them."
She mused for a space, then abruptly:
"And now no more. You two are to appear before the
Council at a certain time--but fear nothing. You, Goodwin,
go with Rador about our city and increase your wisdom.
But you, Larree, await me here in my garden--" she smiled
at him, provocatively--maliciously, too. "For shall not one
who has resisted a world of goddesses be given all chance to
worship when at last he finds his own?"
She laughed--whole-heartedly and was gone. And at that
moment I liked Yolara better than ever I had before and--
alas--better than ever I was to in the future.
I noted Rador standing outside the open jade door and
started to go, but O'Keefe caught me by the arm.
"Wait a minute," he urged. "About Golden Eyes--you
were going to tell me something--it's been on my mind all
through that little sparring match."
I told him of the vision that had passed through my closing
lids. He listened gravely and then laughed.
"Hell of a lot of privacy in this place!" he grinned. "Ladies
who can walk through walls and others with regular invisible
cloaks to let 'em flit wherever they please. Oh, well,
don't let it get on your nerves, Doc. Remember--everything's
natural! That robe stuff is just camouflage of course.
But Lord, if we could only get a piece of it!"
"The material simply admits all light-vibrations, or perhaps
curves them, just as the opacities cut them off," I
answered. "A man under the X-ray is partly invisible; this
makes him wholly so. He doesn't register, as the people of
the motion-picture profession say."
"Camouflage," repeated Larry. "And as for the Shining
One--Say!" he snorted. "I'd like to set the O'Keefe banshee
up against it. I'll bet that old resourceful Irish body would
give it the first three bites and a strangle hold and wallop
it before it knew it had 'em. Oh! Wow! Boy Howdy!"
I heard him still chuckling gleefully over this vision as I
passed along the opal wall with the green dwarf.
A shell was awaiting us. I paused before entering it to
examine the polished surface of runway and great road. It
was obsidian--volcanic glass of pale emerald, unflawed,
translucent, with no sign of block or juncture. I examined
the shell.
"What makes it go?" I asked Rador. At a word from him
the driver touched a concealed spring and an aperture appeared
beneath the control-lever, of which I have spoken
in a preceding chapter. Within was a small cube of black
crystal, through whose sides I saw, dimly, a rapidly revolving,
glowing ball, not more than two inches in diameter.
Beneath the cube was a curiously shaped, slender cylinder
winding down into the lower body of the Nautilus whorl.
"Watch!" said Rador. He motioned me into the vehicle
and took a place beside me. The driver touched the lever; a
stream of coruscations flew from the ball down into the
cylinder. The shell started smoothly, and as the tiny torrent
of shining particles increased it gathered speed.
"The corial does not touch the road," explained Rador.
"It is lifted so far"--he held his forefinger and thumb less
than a sixteenth of an inch apart--"above it."
And perhaps here is the best place to explain the activation
of the shells or coria. The force utilized was atomic
energy. Passing from the whirling ball the ions darted
through the cylinder to two bands of a peculiar metal affixed
to the base of the vehicles somewhat like skids of a sled.
Impinging upon these they produced a partial negation of
gravity, lifting the shell slightly, and at the same time creating
a powerful repulsive force or thrust that could be directed
backward, forward, or sidewise at the will of the
driver. The creation of this energy and the mechanism of its
utilization were, briefly, as follows:
[Dr. Goodwin's lucid and exceedingly comprehensive
description of this extraordinary mechanism has been
deleted by the Executive Council of the International
Association of Science as too dangerously suggestive to
scientists of the Central European Powers with which
we were so recently at war. It is allowable, however, to
state that his observations are in the possession of experts
in this country, who are, unfortunately, hampered
in their research not only by the scarcity of the radioactive
elements that we know, but also by the lack of the
element or elements unknown to us that entered into the
formation of the fiery ball within the cube of black
crystal. Nevertheless, as the principle is so clear, it is
believed that these difficulties will ultimately be overcome."--
J. B. K., President, I. A. of S.]
The wide, glistening road was gay with the coria. They
darted in and out of the gardens; within them the fair-haired,
extraordinarily beautiful women on their cushions were like
princesses of Elfland, caught in gorgeous fairy webs, resting
within the hearts of flowers. In some shells were flaxenhaired
dwarfish men of Lugur's type; sometimes black-polled
brother officers of Rador; often raven-tressed girls, plainly
hand-maidens of the women; and now and then beauties of
the lower folk went by with one of the blond dwarfs.
We swept around the turn that made of the jewel-like
roadway an enormous horseshoe and, speedily, upon our
right the cliffs through which we had come in our journey
from the Moon Pool began to march forward beneath their
mantles of moss. They formed a gigantic abutment, a titanic
salient. It had been from the very front of this salient's invading
angle that we had emerged; on each side of it the
precipices, faintly glowing, drew back and vanished into
The slender, graceful bridges under which we skimmed
ended at openings in the upflung, far walls of verdure. Each
had its little garrison of soldiers. Through some of the openings
a rivulet of the green obsidian river passed. These were
roadways to the farther country, to the land of the ladala,
Rador told me; adding that none of the lesser folk could
cross into the pavilioned city unless summoned or with pass.
We turned the bend of the road and flew down that farther
emerald ribbon we had seen from the great oval. Before us
rose the shining cliffs and the lake. A half-mile, perhaps,
from these the last of the bridges flung itself. It was more
massive and about it hovered a spirit of ancientness lacking
in the other spans; also its garrison was larger and at its
base the tangent way was guarded by two massive structures,
somewhat like blockhouses, between which it ran.
Something about it aroused in me an intense curiosity.
"Where does that road lead, Rador?" I asked.
"To the one place above all of which I may not tell you,
Goodwin," he answered. And again I wondered.
We skimmed slowly out upon the great pier. Far to the
left was the prismatic, rainbow curtain between the Cyclopean
pillars. On the white waters graceful shells--lacustrian
replicas of the Elf chariots--swam, but none was near that
distant web of wonder.
"Rador--what is that?" I asked.
"It is the Veil of the Shining One!" he answered slowly.
Was the Shining One that which we named the Dweller?
"What is the Shining One?" I cried, eagerly. Again he was
silent. Nor did he speak until we had turned on our homeward
And lively as my interest, my scientific curiosity, were--
I was conscious suddenly of acute depression. Beautiful,
wondrously beautiful this place was--and yet in its wonder
dwelt a keen edge of menace, of unease--of inexplicable,
inhuman woe; as though in a secret garden of God a soul
should sense upon it the gaze of some lurking spirit of evil
which some way, somehow, had crept into the sanctuary and
only bided its time to spring.
The Leprechaun
THE SHELL carried us straight back to the house of Yolara.
Larry was awaiting me. We stood again before the tenebrous
wall where first we had faced the priestess and the Voice.
And as we stood, again the portal appeared with all its disconcerting,
magical abruptness.
But now the scene was changed. Around the jet table were
grouped a number of figures--Lugur, Yolara beside him;
seven others-all of them fair-haired and all men save one
who sat at the left of the priestess--an old, old woman, how
old I could not tell, her face bearing traces of beauty that
must once have been as great as Yolara's own, but now
ravaged, in some way awesome; through its ruins the fearful,
malicious gaiety shining out like a spirit of joy held
within a corpse!
Began then our examination, for such it was. And as it
progressed I was more and more struck by the change in the
O'Keefe. All flippancy was gone, rarely did his sense of
humour reveal itself in any of his answers. He was like a
cautious swordsman, fencing, guarding, studying his opponent;
or rather, like a chess-player who keeps sensing
some far-reaching purpose in the game: alert, contained,
watchful. Always he stressed the power of our surface races,
their multitudes, their solidarity.
Their questions were myriad. What were our occupations?
Our system of government? How great were the waters? The
land? Intensely interested were they in the World War,
querying minutely into its causes, its effects. In our weapons
their interest was avid. And they were exceedingly minute in
their examination of us as to the ruins which had excited
our curiosity; their position and surroundings--and if others
than ourselves might be expected to find and pass through
their entrance!
At this I shot a glance at Lugur. He did not seem unduly
interested. I wondered if the Russian had told him as yet of
the girl of the rosy wall of the Moon Pool Chamber and the
real reasons for our search. Then I answered as briefly as
possible--omitting all reference to these things. The red
dwarf watched me with unmistakable amusement--and I
knew Marakinoff had told him. But clearly Lugur had kept
his information even from Yolara; and as clearly she had
spoken to none of that episode when O'Keefe's automatic
had shattered the Keth-smitten vase. Again I felt that sense
of deep bewilderment--of helpless search for clue to all the
For two hours we were questioned and then the priestess
called Rador and let us go.
Larry was sombre as we returned. He walked about the
room uneasily.
"Hell's brewing here all right," he said at last, stopping
before me. "I can't make out just the particular brand--
that's all that bothers me. We're going to have a stiff fight,
that's sure. What I want to do quick is to find the Golden
Girl, Doc. Haven't seen her on the wall lately, have you?"
he queried, hopefully fantastic.
"Laugh if you want to," he went on. "But she's our best
bet. It's going to be a race between her and the O'Keefe
banshee--but I put my money on her. I had a queer experience
while I was in that garden, after you'd left." His voice
grew solemn. "Did you ever see a leprechaun, Doc?" I shook
my head again, as solemnly. "He's a little man in green,"
said Larry. "Oh, about as high as your knee. I saw one once
--in Carntogher Woods. And as I sat there, half asleep, in
Yolara's garden, the living spit of him stepped out from one
of those bushes, twirling a little shillalah.
"'It's a tight box ye're gettin' in, Larry avick,' said he,
'but don't ye be downhearted, lad.'
"'I'm carrying on,' said I, 'but you're a long way from
Ireland,' I said, or thought I did.
"'Ye've a lot o' friends there,' he answered. 'An' where
the heart rests the feet are swift to follow. Not that I'm
sayin' I'd like to live here, Larry,' said he.
"'I know where my heart is now,' I told him. 'It rests on
a girl with golden eyes and the hair and swan-white breast
of Eilidh the Fair--but me feet don't seem to get me to her,'
I said."
The brogue thickened.
"An' the little man in green nodded his head an' whirled
his shillalah.
"'It's what I came to tell ye,' says he. 'Don't ye fall for
the Bhean-Nimher, the serpent woman wit' the blue eyes;
she's a daughter of Ivor, lad--an' don't ye do nothin' to make
the brown-haired coleen ashamed o' ye, Larry O'Keefe. I
knew yer great, great grandfather an' his before him, aroon,'
says he, 'an' wan o' the O'Keefe failin's is to think their
hearts big enough to hold all the wimmen o' the world. A
heart's built to hold only wan permanently, Larry,' he says,
'an' I'm warnin' ye a nice girl don't like to move into a place
all cluttered up wid another's washin' an' mendin' an'
cookin' an' other things pertainin' to general wife work. Not
that I think the blue-eyed wan is keen for mendin' an'
cookin'!' says he.
"'You don't have to be comin' all this way to tell me
that,' I answer.
"'Well, I'm just a tellin' you,' he says. 'Ye've got some
rough knocks comin', Larry. In fact, ye're in for a devil of a
time. But, remember that ye're the O'Keefe,' says he. 'An'
while the bhoys are all wid ye, avick, ye've got to be on the
job yourself.'
"'I hope,' I tell him, 'that the O'Keefe banshee can find
her way here in time--that is, if it's necessary, which I hope
it won't be.'
"'Don't ye worry about that,' says he. 'Not that she's
keen on leavin' the ould sod, Larry. The good ould soul's in
quite a state o' mind about ye, aroon. I don't mind tellin' ye,
lad, that she's mobilizing all the clan an' if she HAS to come
for ye, avick, they'll be wid her an' they'll sweep this joint
clean before ye go. What they'll do to it'll make the Big Wind
look like a summer breeze on Lough Lene! An' that's about
all, Larry. We thought a voice from the Green Isle would
cheer ye. Don't fergit that ye're the O'Keefe an' I say it
again--all the bhoys are wid ye. But we want t' kape bein'
proud o' ye, lad!'
"An' I looked again and there was only a bush waving."
There wasn't a smile in my heart--or if there was it was
a very tender one.
"I'm going to bed," he said abruptly. "Keep an eye on the
wall, Doc!"
Between the seven sleeps that followed, Larry and I saw
but little of each other. Yolara sought him more and more.
Thrice we were called before the Council; once we were at a
great feast, whose splendours and surprises I can never forget.
Largely I was in the company of Rador. Together we
two passed the green barriers into the dwelling--place of the
They seemed provided with everything needful for life.
But everywhere was an oppressiveness, a gathering together
of hate, that was spiritual rather than material--as tangible
as the latter and far, far more menacing!
"They do not like to dance with the Shining One," was
Rador's constant and only reply to my efforts to find the
Once I had concrete evidence of the mood. Glancing behind
me, I saw a white, vengeful face peer from behind a
tree-trunk, a hand lift, a shining dart speed from it straight
toward Rador's back. Instinctively I thrust him aside. He
turned upon me angrily. I pointed to where the little missile
lay, still quivering, on the ground. He gripped my hand.
"That, some day I will repay!" he said. I looked again at
the thing. At its end was a tiny cone covered with a glistening,
gelatinous substance.
Rador pulled from a tree beside us a fruit somewhat like
an apple.
"Look!" he said. He dropped it upon the dart--and at
once, before my eyes, in less than ten seconds, the fruit had
rotted away!
"That's what would have happened to Rador but for you,
friend!" he said.
Come now between this and the prelude to the latter half
of the drama whose history this narrative is--only scattering
and necessarily fragmentary observations.
First--the nature of the ebon opacities, blocking out the
spaces between the pavilion-pillars or covering their tops like
roofs, These were magnetic fields, light absorbers, negativing
the vibrations of radiance; literally screens of electric
force which formed as impervious a barrier to light as would
have screens of steel.
They instantaneously made night appear in a place where
no night was. But they interposed no obstacle to air or to
sound. They were extremely simple in their inception--no
more miraculous than is glass, which, inversely, admits the
vibrations of light, but shuts out those coarser ones we call
air--and, partly, those others which produce upon our auditory
nerves the effects we call sound.
Briefly their mechanism was this:
[For the same reason that Dr. Goodwin's exposition
of the mechanism of the atomic engines was deleted,
his description of the light-destroying screens has been
deleted by the Executive Council.--J. B. F., President,
I. A. of S.]
There were two favoured classes of the ladala--the
soldiers and the dream-makers. The dream-makers were the
most astonishing social phenomena, I think, of all. Denied
by their circumscribed environment the wider experiences of
us of the outer world, the Murians had perfected an amazing
system of escape through the imagination.
They were, too, intensely musical. Their favourite instruments
were double flutes; immensely complex pipe-organs;
harps, great and small. They had another remarkable instrument
made up of a double octave of small drums which
gave forth percussions remarkably disturbing to the emotional
It was this love of music that gave rise to one of the few
truly humorous incidents of our caverned life. Larry came
to me--it was just after our fourth sleep, I remember.
"Come on to a concert," he said.
We skimmed off to one of the bridge garrisons. Rador
called the two-score guards to attention; and then, to my
utter stupefaction, the whole company, O'Keefe leading
them, roared out the anthem, "God Save the King." They
sang--in a closer approach to the English than might have
been expected scores of miles below England's level. "Send
him victorious! Happy and glorious!" they bellowed.
He quivered with suppressed mirth at my paralysis of
"Taught 'em that for Marakinoff's benefit!" he gasped.
"Wait till that Red hears it. He'll blow up.
"Just wait until you hear Yolara lisp a pretty little thing I
taught her," said Larry as we set back for what we now
called home. There was an impish twinkle in his eyes.
And I did hear. For it was not many minutes later that the
priestess condescended to command me to come to her with
"Show Goodwin how much you have learned of our
speech, O lady of the lips of honeyed flame!" murmured
She hesitated; smiled at him, and then from that perfect
mouth, out of the exquisite throat, in the voice that was like
the chiming of little silver bells, she trilled a melody familiar
to me indeed:
"She's only a bird in a gilded cage,
A bee-yu-tiful sight to see--"
And so on to the bitter end.
"She thinks it's a love-song," said Larry when we had left.
"It's only part of a repertoire I'm teaching her. Honestly,
Doc, it's the only way I can keep my mind clear when I'm
with her," he went on earnestly. "She's a devil-ess from hell
--but a wonder. Whenever I find myself going I get her to
sing that, or Take Back Your Gold! or some other ancient
lay, and I'm back again--pronto--with the right perspective!
POP goes all the mystery! 'Hell!' I say, 'she's only a woman!'"
The Amphitheatre of Jet
FOR HOURs the black-haired folk had been streaming across
the bridges, flowing along the promenade by scores and by
hundreds, drifting down toward the gigantic seven-terraced
temple whose interior I had never as yet seen, and from
whose towering exterior, indeed, I had always been kept far
enough away--unobtrusively, but none the less decisively
--to prevent any real observation. The structure, I had estimated,
nevertheless, could not reach less than a thousand
feet above its silvery base, and the diameter of its circular
foundation was about the same.
I wondered what was bringing the _ladala_ into Lora, and
where they were vanishing. All of them were flower-crowned
with the luminous, lovely blooms--old and young, slender,
mocking-eyed girls, dwarfed youths, mothers with their
babes, gnomed oldsters--on they poured, silent for the most
part and sullen--a sullenness that held acid bitterness even
as their subtle, half-sinister, half-gay malice seemed tempered
into little keen-edged flames, oddly, menacingly defiant.
There were many of the green-clad soldiers along the way,
and the garrison of the only bridge span I could see had certainly
been doubled.
Wondering still, I turned from my point of observation
and made my way back to our pavilion, hoping that Larry,
who had been with Yolara for the past two hours, had returned.
Hardly had I reached it before Rador came hurrying
up, in his manner a curious exultance mingled with what in
anyone else I would have called a decided nervousness.
"Come!" he commanded before I could speak. "The Council
has made decision--and _Larree_ is awaiting you."
"What has been decided?" I panted as we sped along the
mosaic path that led to the house of Yolara. "And why is
Larry awaiting me?"
And at his answer I felt my heart pause in its beat and
through me race a wave of mingled panic and eagerness.
"The Shining One dances!" had answered the green dwarf.
"And you are to worship!"
What was this dancing of the Shining One, of which so
often he had spoken?
Whatever my forebodings, Larry evidently had none.
"Great stuff!" he cried, when we had met in the great antechamber
now empty of the dwarfs. "Hope it will be worth
seeing--have to be something damned good, though, to
catch me, after what I've seen of shows at the front," he
And remembering, with a little shock of apprehension,
that he had no knowledge of the Dweller beyond my poor
description of it--for there are no words actually to describe
what that miracle of interwoven glory and horror was--I
wondered what Larry O'Keefe would say and do when he
did behold it!
Rador began to show impatience.
"Come!" he urged. "There is much to be done--and the
time grows short!"
He led us to a tiny fountain room in whose miniature pool
the white waters were concentrated, pearl-like and opalescent
in their circling rim.
"Bathe!" he commanded; and set the example by stripping
himself and plunging within. Only a minute or two did
the green dwarf allow us, and he checked us as we were
about to don our clothing.
Then, to my intense embarrassment, without warning, two
of the black-haired girls entered, bearing robes of a peculiar
dull-blue hue. At our manifest discomfort Rador's laughter
roared out. He took the garments from the pair, motioned
them to leave us, and, still laughing, threw one around me.
Its texture was soft, but decidedly metallic--like some blue
metal spun to the fineness of a spider's thread. The garment
buckled tightly at the throat, was girdled at the waist, and,
below this cincture, fell to the floor, its folds being held together
by a half-dozen looped cords; from the shoulders a
hood resembling a monk's cowl.
Rador cast this over my head; it completely covered my
face, but was of so transparent a texture that I could see,
though somewhat mistily, through it. Finally he handed us
both a pair of long gloves of the same material and high
stockings, the feet of which were gloved--five-toed.
And again his laughter rang out at our manifest surprise.
"The priestess of the Shining One does not altogether
trust the Shining One's Voice," he said at last. "And these
are to guard against any sudden--errors. And fear not,
Goodwin," he went on kindly. "Not for the Shining One
itself would Yolara see harm come to _Larree_ here--nor,
because of him, to you. But I would not stake much on the
great white one. And for him I am sorry, for him I do like
"Is he to be with us?" asked Larry eagerly.
"He is to be where we go," replied the dwarf soberly.
Grimly Larry reached down and drew from his uniform his
automatic. He popped a fresh clip into the pocket fold of his
girdle. The pistol he slung high up beneath his arm-pit.
The green dwarf looked at the weapon curiously. O'Keefe
tapped it.
"This," said Larry, "slays quicker than the _Keth_--I take
it so no harm shall come to the blue-eyed one whose name is
Olaf. If I should raise it--be you not in its way, Rador!" he
added significantly.
The dwarf nodded again, his eyes sparkling. He thrust a
hand out to both of us.
"A change comes," he said. "What it is I know not, nor
how it will fall. But this remember--Rador is more friend
to you than you yet can know. And now let us go!" he ended
He led us, not through the entrance, but into a sloping
passage ending in a blind wall; touched a symbol graven
there, and it opened, precisely as had the rosy barrier of the
Moon Pool Chamber. And, just as there, but far smaller,
was a passage end, a low curved wall facing a shaft not black
as had been that abode of living darkness, but faintly luminescent.
Rador leaned over the wall. The mechanism clicked
and started; the door swung shut; the sides of the car slipped
into place, and we swept swiftly down the passage; overhead
the wind whistled. In a few moments the moving platform
began to slow down. It stopped in a closed chamber no
larger than itself.
Rador drew his poniard and struck twice upon the wall
with its hilt. Immediately a panel moved away, revealing a
space filled with faint, misty blue radiance. And at each side
of the open portal stood four of the dwarfish men, greyheaded,
old, clad in flowing garments of white, each pointing
toward us a short silver rod.
Rador drew from his girdle a ring and held it out to the
first dwarf. He examined it, handed it to the one beside him,
and not until each had inspected the ring did they lower their
curious weapons; containers of that terrific energy they
called the _Keth_, I thought; and later was to know that I had
been right.
We stepped out; the doors closed behind us. The place
was weird enough. Its pave was a greenish-blue stone resembling
lapis lazuli. On each side were high pedestals holding
carved figures of the same material. There were perhaps
a score of these, but in the mistiness I could not make out
their outlines. A droning, rushing roar beat upon our ears;
filled the whole cavern.
"I smell the sea," said Larry suddenly.
The roaring became deep-toned, clamorous, and close in
front of us a rift opened. Twenty feet in width, it cut the
cavern floor and vanished into the blue mist on each side.
The cleft was spanned by one solid slab of rock not more
than two yards wide. It had neither railing nor other protection.
The four leading priests marched out upon it one by one,
and we followed. In the middle of the span they knelt. Ten
feet beneath us was a torrent of blue sea-water racing with
prodigious speed between polished walls. It gave the impression
of vast depth. It roared as it sped by, and far to the right
was a low arch through which it disappeared. It was so swift
that its surface shone like polished blue steel, and from it
came the blessed, OUR WORLDLY, familiar ocean breath that
strengthened my soul amazingly and made me realize how
earth-sick I was.
Whence came the stream, I marvelled, forgetting for the
moment, as we passed on again, all else. Were we closer to
the surface of earth than I had thought, or was this some
mighty flood falling through an opening in sea floor, Heaven
alone knew how many miles above us, losing itself in deeper
abysses beyond these? How near and how far this was from
the truth I was to learn--and never did truth come to man
in more dreadful guise!
The roaring fell away, the blue haze lessened. In front of
us stretched a wide flight of steps, huge as those which had
led us into the courtyard of Nan-Tauach through the ruined
sea-gate. We scaled it; it narrowed; from above light poured
through a still narrower opening. Side by side Larry and I
passed out of it.
We had emerged upon an enormous platform of what
seemed to be glistening ivory. It stretched before us for a
hundred yards or more and then shelved gently into the
white waters. Opposite--not a mile away--was that prodigious
web of woven rainbows Rador had called the Veil of
the Shining One. There it shone in all its unearthly grandeur,
on each side of the Cyclopean pillars, as though a mountain
should stretch up arms raising between them a fairy banner
of auroral glories. Beneath it was the curved, scimitar sweep
of the pier with its clustered, gleaming temples.
Before that brief, fascinated glance was done, there
dropped upon my soul a sensation as of brooding weight intolerable;
a spiritual oppression as though some vastness was
falling, pressing, stifling me, I turned--and Larry caught me
as I reeled.
"Steady! Steady, old man!" he whispered.
At first all that my staggering consciousness could realize
was an immensity, an immeasurable uprearing that brought
with it the same throat-gripping vertigo as comes from gazing
downward from some great height--then a blur of white
faces--intolerable shinings of hundreds upon thousands of
eyes. Huge, incredibly huge, a colossal amphitheatre of jet,
a stupendous semi-circle, held within its mighty arc the ivory
platform on which I stood.
It reared itself almost perpendicularly hundreds of feet up
into the sparkling heavens, and thrust down on each side its
ebon bulwarks--like monstrous paws. Now, the giddiness
from its sheer greatness passing, I saw that it was indeed an
amphitheatre sloping slightly backward tier after tier, and
that the white blur of faces against its blackness, the gleaming
of countless eyes were those of myriads of the people who
sat silent, flower-garlanded, their gaze focused upon the rainbow
curtain and sweeping over me like a torrent--tangible,
Five hundred feet beyond, the smooth, high retaining wall
of the amphitheatre raised itself--above it the first terrace
of the seats, and above this, dividing the tiers for another half
a thousand feet upward, set within them like a panel, was a
dead-black surface in which shone faintly with a bluish radiance
a gigantic disk; above it and around it a cluster of innumerable
smaller ones.
On each side of me, bordering the platform, were scores
of small pillared alcoves, a low wall stretching across their
fronts; delicate, fretted grills shielding them, save where in
each lattice an opening stared--it came to me that they were
like those stalls in ancient Gothic cathedrals wherein for
centuries had kneeled paladins and people of my own race
on earth's fair face. And within these alcoves were gathered,
score upon score, the elfin beauties, the dwarfish men of the
fair-haired folk. At my right, a few feet from the opening
through which we had come, a passageway led back between
the fretted stalls. Half-way between us and the massive base
of the amphitheatre a dais rose. Up the platform to it a wide
ramp ascended; and on ramp and dais and along the centre
of the gleaming platform down to where it kissed the white
waters, a broad ribbon of the radiant flowers lay like a fairy
On one side of this dais, meshed in a silken web that hid
no line or curve of her sweet body, white flesh gleaming
through its folds, stood Yolara; and opposite her, crowned
with a circlet of flashing blue stones, his mighty body stark
bare, was Lugur!
O'Keefe drew a long breath; Rador touched my arm and,
still dazed, I let myself be drawn into the aisle and through
a corridor that ran behind the alcoves. At the back of one of
these the green dwarf paused, opened a door, and motioned
us within.
Entering, I found that we were exactly opposite where the
ramp ran up to the dais--and that Yolara was not more than
fifty feet away. She glanced at O'Keefe and smiled. Her eyes
were ablaze with little dancing points of light; her body
seemed to palpitate, the rounded delicate muscles beneath
the translucent skin to run with joyful little eager waves!
Larry whistled softly.
"There's Marakinoff!" he said.
I looked where he pointed. Opposite us sat the Russian,
clothed as we were, leaning forward, his eyes eager behind
his glasses; but if he saw us he gave no sign.
"And there's Olaf!" said O'Keefe.
Beneath the carved stall in which sat the Russian was an
aperture and within it was Huldricksson. Unprotected by
pillars or by grills, opening clear upon the platform, near him
stretched the trail of flowers up to the great dais which Lugur
and Yolara the priestess guarded. He sat alone, and my heart
went out to him.
O'Keefe's face softened.
"Bring him here," he said to Rador.
The green dwarf was looking at the Norseman, too, a
shade of pity upon his mocking face. He shook his head.
"Wait!" he said. "You can do nothing now--and it may
be there will be no need to do anything," he added; but I
could feel that there was little of conviction in his words.
The Madness of Olaf
YOLARA threw her white arms high. From the mountainous
tiers came a mighty sigh; a rippling ran through them. And
upon the moment, before Yolara's arms fell, there issued,
apparently from the air around us, a peal of sound that
might have been the shouting of some playful god hurling
great suns through the net of stars. It was like the deepest
notes of all the organs in the world combined in one; summoning,
majestic, cosmic!
It held within it the thunder of the spheres rolling through
the infinite, the birth-song of suns made manifest in the
womb of space; echoes of creation's supernal chord! It shook
the body like a pulse from the heart of the universe--pulsed
--and died away.
On its death came a blaring as of all the trumpets of conquering
hosts since the first Pharaoh led his swarms--
triumphal, compelling! Alexander's clamouring hosts,
brazen-throated wolf-horns of Caesar's legions, blare of
trumpets of Genghis Khan and his golden horde, clangor of
the locust levies of Tamerlane, bugles of Napoleon's armies
--war-shout of all earth's conquerors! And it died!
Fast upon it, a throbbing, muffled tumult of harp sounds,
mellownesses of myriads of wood horns, the subdued sweet
shrilling of multitudes of flutes, Pandean pipings--inviting,
carrying with them the calling of waterfalls in the hidden
places, rushing brooks and murmuring forest winds--calling,
calling, languorous, lulling, dripping into the brain like
the very honeyed essence of sound.
And after them a silence in which the memory of the
music seemed to beat, to beat ever more faintly, through
every quivering nerve.
From me all fear, all apprehension, had fled. In their
place was nothing but joyous anticipation, a supernal freedom
from even the shadow of the shadow of care or sorrow;
not now did anything matter--Olaf or his haunted, hatefilled
eyes; Throckmartin or his fate--nothing of pain, nothing
of agony, nothing of striving nor endeavour nor despair
in that wide outer world that had turned suddenly to a
troubled dream.
Once more the first great note pealed out! Once more it
died and from the clustered spheres a kaleidoscopic blaze
shot as though drawn from the majestic sound itself. The
many-coloured rays darted across the white waters and
sought the face of the irised Veil. As they touched, it sparkled,
flamed, wavered, and shook with fountains of prismatic
The light increased--and in its intensity the silver air
darkened. Faded into shadow that white mosaic of flowercrowned
faces set in the amphitheatre of jet, and vast shadows
dropped upon the high-flung tiers and shrouded them.
But on the skirts of the rays the fretted stalls in which we
sat with the fair-haired ones blazed out, iridescent, like
I was sensible of an acceleration of every pulse; a wild
stimulation of every nerve. I felt myself being lifted above
the world--close to the threshold of the high gods--soon
their essence and their power would stream out into me! I
glanced at Larry. His eyes were--wild--with life!
I looked at Olaf--and in his face was none of this--only
hate, and hate, and hate.
The peacock waves streamed out over the waters, cleaving
the seeming darkness, a rainbow path of glory. And the Veil
flashed as though all the rainbows that had ever shone were
burning within it. Again the mighty sound pealed.
Into the centre of the Veil the light drew itself, grew into
an intolerable brightness--and with a storm of tinklings, a
tempest of crystalline notes, a tumult of tiny chimings,
through it sped--the Shining One!
Straight down that radiant path, its high-flung plumes of
feathery flame shimmering, its coruscating spirals whirling,
its seven globes of seven colours shining above its glowing
core, it raced toward us. The hurricane of bells of diamond
glass were jubilant, joyous. I felt O'Keefe grip my arm;
Yolara threw her white arms out in a welcoming gesture; I
heard from the tier a sigh of rapture--and in it a poignant,
wailing under-tone of agony!
Over the waters, down the light stream, to the end of the
ivory pier, flew the Shining One. Through its crystal _pizzicati_
drifted inarticulate murmurings--deadly sweet, stilling the
heart and setting it leaping madly.
For a moment it paused, poised itself, and then came
whirling down the flower path to its priestess, slowly, ever
more slowly. It hovered for a moment between the woman
and the dwarf, as though contemplating them; turned to her
with its storm of tinklings softened, its murmurings infinitely
caressing. Bent toward it, Yolara seemed to gather within
herself pulsing waves of power; she was terrifying; gloriously,
maddeningly evil; and as gloriously, maddeningly
heavenly! Aphrodite and the Virgin! Tanith of the
Carthaginians and St. Bride of the Isles! A queen of hell
and a princess of heaven--in one!
Only for a moment did that which we had called the
Dweller and which these named the Shining One, pause. It
swept up the ramp to the dais, rested there, slowly turning,
plumes and spirals lacing and unlacing, throbbing, pulsing.
Now its nucleus grew plainer, stronger--human in a fashion,
and all inhuman; neither man nor woman; neither god nor
devil; subtly partaking of all. Nor could I doubt that whatever
it was, within that shining nucleus was something sentient;
something that had will and energy, and in some awful,
supernormal fashion--intelligence!
Another trumpeting--a sound of stones opening--a long,
low wail of utter anguish--something moved shadowy in the
river of light, and slowly at first, then ever more rapidly,
shapes swam through it. There were half a score of them--
girls and youths, women and men. The Shining One poised
itself, regarded them. They drew closer, and in the eyes of
each and in their faces was the bud of that awful intermingling
of emotions, of joy and sorrow, ecstasy and terror,
that I had seen in full blossom on Throckmartin's.
The Thing began again its murmurings--now infinitely
caressing, coaxing--like the song of a siren from some
witched star! And the bell-sounds rang out--compellingly,
I saw Olaf lean far out of his place; saw, half-consciously,
at Lugur's signal, three of the dwarfs creep in and take
places, unnoticed, behind him.
Now the first of the figures rushed upon the dais--and
paused. It was the girl who had been brought before Yolara
when the gnome named Songar was driven into the nothingness!
With all the quickness of light a spiral of the Shining
One stretched out and encircled her.
At its touch there was an infinitely dreadful shrinking
and, it seemed, a simultaneous hurling of herself into its
radiance. As it wrapped its swirls around her, permeated her
--the crystal chorus burst forth--tumultuously; through and
through her the radiance pulsed. Began then that infinitely
dreadful, but infinitely glorious, rhythm they called the dance
of the Shining One. And as the girl swirled within its sparkling
mists another and another flew into its embrace, until,
at last, the dais was an incredible vision; a mad star's
Witches' Sabbath; an altar of white faces and bodies gleaming
through living flame; transfused with rapture insupportable
and horror that was hellish--and ever, radiant plumes
and spirals expanding, the core of the Shining One waxed--
growing greater--as it consumed, as it drew into and through
itself the life-force of these lost ones!
So they spun, interlaced--and there began to pulse from
them life, vitality, as though the very essence of nature was
filling us. Dimly I recognized that what I was beholding was
vampirism inconceivable! The banked tiers chanted. The
mighty sounds pealed forth!
It was a Saturnalia of demigods!
Then, whirling, bell-notes storming, the Shining One withdrew
slowly from the dais down the ramp, still embracing,
still interwoven with those who had thrown themselves into
its spirals. They drifted with it as though half-carried in
dreadful dance; white faces sealed--forever--into that semblance
of those who held within linked God and devil--I
covered my eyes!
I heard a gasp from O'Keefe; opened my eyes and sought
his; saw the wildness vanish from them as he strained forward.
Olaf had leaned far out, and as he did so the dwarfs
beside him caught him, and whether by design or through his
own swift, involuntary movement, thrust him half into the
Dweller's path. The Dweller paused in its gyrations--seemed
to watch him. The Norseman's face was crimson, his eyes
blazing. He threw himself back and, with one defiant shout,
gripped one of the dwarfs about the middle and sent him
hurtling through the air, straight at the radiant Thing! A
whirling mass of legs and arms, the dwarf flew--then in midflight
stopped as though some gigantic invisible hand had
caught him, and--was dashed down upon the platform not a
yard from the Shining One!
Like a broken spider he moved--feebly--once, twice.
From the Dweller shot a shimmering tentacle--touched him
--recoiled. Its crystal tinklings changed into an angry chiming.
From all about--jewelled stalls and jet peak--came a
sigh of incredulous horror.
Lugur leaped forward. On the instant Larry was over the
low barrier between the pillars, rushing to the Norseman's
side. And even as they ran there was another wild shout from
Olaf, and he hurled himself out, straight at the throat of the
But before he could touch the Shining One, now motionless--
and never was the thing more horrible than then, with
the purely human suggestion of surprise plain in its poise--
Larry had struck him aside.
I tried to follow--and was held by Rador. He was trembling--
but not with fear. In his face was incredulous hope,
inexplicable eagerness.
"Wait!" he said. "Wait!"
The Shining One stretched out a slow spiral, and as it did
so I saw the bravest thing man has ever witnessed. Instantly
O'Keefe thrust himself between it and Olaf, pistol out. The
tentacle touched him, and the dull blue of his robe flashed
out into blinding, intense azure light. From the automatic in
his gloved hand came three quick bursts of flame straight
into the Thing. The Dweller drew back; the bell-sounds
Lugur paused, his hand darted up, and in it was one of
the silver _Keth_ cones. But before he could flash it upon the
Norseman, Larry had unlooped his robe, thrown its fold
over Olaf, and, holding him with one hand away from the
Shining One, thrust with the other his pistol into the dwarf's
stomach. His lips moved, but I could not hear what he said.
But Lugur understood, for his hand dropped.
Now Yolara was there--all this had taken barely more
than five seconds. She thrust herself between the three men
and the Dweller. She spoke to it--and the wild buzzing died
down; the gay crystal tinklings burst forth again. The Thing
murmured to her--began to whirl--faster, faster--passed
down the ivory pier, out upon the waters, bearing with it,
meshed in its light, the sacrifices--swept on ever more
swiftly, triumphantly and turning, turning, with its ghastly
crew, vanished through the Veil!
Abruptly the polychromatic path snapped out. The silver
light poured in upon us. From all the amphitheatre arose a
clamour, a shouting. Marakinoff, his eyes staring, was leaning
out, listening. Unrestrained now by Rador, I vaulted the
wall and rushed forward. But not before I had heard the
green dwarf murmur:
"There is something stronger than the Shining One! Two
things--yea--a strong heart--and hate!"
Olaf, panting, eyes glazed, trembling, shrank beneath my
"The devil that took my Helma!" I heard him whisper.
"The Shining Devil!"
"Both these men," Lugur was raging, "they shall dance
with the Shining one. And this one, too." He pointed at me
"This man is mine," said the priestess, and her voice was
menacing. She rested her hand on Larry's shoulder. "He
shall not dance. No--nor his friend. I have told you I dare
not for this one!" She pointed to Olaf.
"Neither this man, nor this," said Larry, "shall be harmed.
This is my word, Yolara!"
"Even so," she answered quietly, "my lord!"
I saw Marakinoff stare at O'Keefe with a new and curiously
speculative interest. Lugur's eyes grew hellish; he
raised his arms as though to strike her. Larry's pistol
prodded him rudely enough.
"No rough stuff now, kid!" said O'Keefe in English. The
red dwarf quivered, turned--caught a robe from a priest
standing by, and threw it over himself. The _ladala_, shouting,
gesticulating, fighting with the soldiers, were jostling down
from the tiers of jet.
"Come!" commanded Yolara--her eyes rested upon
Larry. "Your heart is great, indeed--my lord!" she murmured;
and her voice was very sweet. "Come!"
"This man comes with us, Yolara," said O'Keefe pointing
to Olaf.
"Bring him," she said. "Bring him--only tell him to look
no more upon me as before!" she added fiercely.
Beside her the three of us passed along the stalls, where
sat the fair-haired, now silent, at gaze, as though in the grip
of some great doubt. Silently Olaf strode beside me. Rador
had disappeared. Down the stairway, through the hall of
turquoise mist, over the rushing sea-stream we went and
stood beside the wall through which we had entered. The
white-robed ones had gone.
Yolara pressed; the portal opened. We stepped upon the
car; she took the lever; we raced through the faintly luminous
corridor to the house of the priestess.
And one thing now I knew sick at heart and soul the truth
had come to me--no more need to search for Throckmartin.
Behind that Veil, in the lair of the Dweller, dead-alive like
those we had just seen swim in its shining train was he, and
Edith, Stanton and Thora and Olaf Huldricksson's wife!
The car came to rest; the portal opened; Yolara leaped
out lightly, beckoned and flitted up the corridor. She paused
before an ebon screen. At a touch it vanished, revealing an
entrance to a small blue chamber, glowing as though cut
from the heart of some gigantic sapphire; bare, save that in
its centre, upon a low pedestal, stood a great globe fashioned
from milky rock-crystal; upon its surface were faint tracings
as of seas and continents, but, if so, either of some other
world or of this world in immemorial past, for in no way
did they resemble the mapped coastlines of our earth.
Poised upon the globe, rising from it out into space, locked
in each other's arms, lips to lips, were two figures, a woman
and a man, so exquisite, so lifelike, that for the moment I
failed to realize that they, too, were carved of the crystal.
And before this shrine--for nothing else could it be, I knew
--three slender cones raised themselves: one of purest white
flame, one of opalescent water, and the third of--moonlight!
There was no mistaking them, the height of a tall man
each stood--but how water, flame and light were held so
evenly, so steadily in their spire-shapes, I could not tell.
Yolara bowed lowly--once, twice, thrice. She turned to
O'Keefe, nor by slightest look or gesture betrayed she knew
others were there than he. The blue eyes wide, searching,
unfathomable, she drew close; put white hands on his shoulders,
looked down into his very soul.
"My lord," she murmured. "Now listen well for I, Yolara,
give you three things--myself, and the Shining One, and the
power that is the Shining One's--yea, and still a fourth thing
that is all three--power over all upon that world from
whence you came! These, my lord, ye shall have. I swear it"
--she turned toward the altar--uplifted her arms--"by Siya
and by Siyana, and by the flame, by the water, and by the
*1 I have no space here even to outline the eschatology of this people,
nor to catalogue their pantheon. Siya and Siyana typified worldly love.
Their ritual was, however, singularly free from those degrading elements
usually found in love-cults. Priests and priestesses of all cults
dwelt in the immense seven-terraced structure, of which the jet amphitheatre
was the water side. The symbol, icon, representation, of Siya
and Siyana--the globe and the up-striving figures--typified earthly
love, feet bound to earth, but eyes among the stars. Hell or heaven I
never heard formulated, nor their equivalents; unless that existence
in the Shining One's domain could serve for either. Over all this was
Thanaroa, remote; unheeding, but still maker and ruler of all--an
absentee First Cause personified! Thanaroa seemed to be the one
article of belief in the creed of the soldiers--Rador, with his reverence
for the Ancient Ones, was an exception. Whatever there was, indeed,
of high, truly religious impulse among the Murians, this far, High
God had. I found this exceedingly interesting, because it had long been
my theory--to put the matter in the shape of a geometrical formula--
that the real attractiveness of gods to man increases uniformly according
to the square of their distance--W. T. G.
Her eyes grew purple dark.
"Let none dare to take you from me! Nor ye go from me
unbidden!" she whispered fiercely.
Then swiftly, still ignoring us, she threw her arms about
O'Keefe, pressed her white body to his breast, lips raised,
eyes closed, seeking his. O'Keefe's arms tightened around
her, his head dropped lips seeking, finding hers--passionately!
From Olaf came a deep indrawn breath that was almost
a groan. But not in my heart could I find blame for the
The priestess opened eyes now all misty blue, thrust him
back, stood regarding him. O'Keefe, dead-white, raised a
trembling hand to his face.
"And thus have I sealed my oath, O my lord!" she whispered.
For the first time she seemed to recognize our presence,
stared at us a moment, then through us, and turned to
"Go, now!" she said. "Soon Rador shall come for you.
Then--well, after that let happen what will!"
She smiled once more at him--so sweetly; turned toward
the figures upon the great globe; sank upon her knees before
them. Quietly we crept away; still silent, made our way to
the little pavilion. But as we passed we heard a tumult from
the green roadway; shouts of men, now and then a woman's
scream. Through a rift in the garden I glimpsed a jostling
crowd on one of the bridges: green dwarfs struggling with
the _ladala_--and all about droned a humming as of a giant
hive disturbed!
Larry threw himself down upon one of the divans, covered
his face with his hands, dropped them to catch in Olaf's
eyes troubled reproach, looked at me.
"_I_ couldn't help it," he said, half defiantly--half-miserably.
"God, what a woman! I COULDN'T help it!"
"Larry," I asked. "Why didn't you tell her you didn't love
He gazed at me--the old twinkle back in his eye.
"Spoken like a scientist, Doc!" he exclaimed. "I suppose
if a burning angel struck you out of nowhere and threw itself
about you, you would most dignifiedly tell it you didn't
want to be burned. For God's sake, don't talk nonsense,
Goodwin!" he ended, almost peevishly.
"Evil! Evil!" The Norseman's voice was deep, nearly a
chant. "All here is of evil: Trolldom and Helvede it is, Ja!
And that she _djaevelsk_ of beauty--what is she but harlot of
that shining devil they worship. I, Olaf Huldricksson, know
what she meant when she held out to you power over all the
world, _Ja!_--as if the world had not devils enough in it now!"
"What?" The cry came from both O'Keefe and myself at
Olaf made a gesture of caution, relapsed into sullen
silence. There were footsteps on the path, and into sight
came Rador--but a Rador changed. Gone was every vestige
of his mockery; curiously solemn, he saluted O'Keefe and
Olaf with that salute which, before this, I had seen given
only to Yolara and to Lugur. There came a swift quickening
of the tumult--died away. He shrugged mighty shoulders.
"The _ladala_ are awake!" he said. "So much for what two
brave men can do!" He paused thoughtfully. "Bones and dust
jostle not each other for place against the grave wall!" he
added oddly. "But if bones and dust have revealed to them
that they still--live--"
He stopped abruptly, eyes seeking the globe that bore and
sent forth speech.1
*1 I find that I have neglected to explain the working of these interesting
mechanisms that were telephonic, dictaphonic, telegraphic in
one. I must assume that my readers are familiar with the receiving
apparatus of wireless telegraphy, which must be "tuned" by the operator
until its own vibratory quality is in exact harmony with the
vibrations--the extremely rapid impacts--of those short electric wavelengths
we call Hertzian, and which carry the wireless messages. I
must assume also that they are familiar with the elementary fact of
physics that the vibrations of light and sound are interchangeable.
The hearing-talking globes utilize both these principles, and with consummate
simplicity. The light with which they shone was produced
by an atomic "motor" within their base, similar to that which activated
the merely illuminating globes. The composition of the phonic spheres
gave their surfaces an acute sensitivity and resonance. In conjunction
with its energizing power, the metal set up what is called a "field of
force," which linked it with every particle of its kind no matter how
distant. When vibrations of speech impinged upon the resonant surface
its rhythmic light-vibrations were broken, just as a telephone transmitter
breaks an electric current. Simultaneously these light-vibrations
were changed into sound--on the surfaces of all spheres tuned to that
particular instrument. The "crawling" colours which showed themselves
at these times were literally the voice of the speaker in its spectrum
equivalent. While usually the sounds produced required considerable
familiarity with the apparatus to be understood quickly, they
could, on occasion, be made startlingly loud and clear--as I was soon
to realize--W. T. G.
"The _Afyo Maie_ has sent me to watch over you till she
summons you," he announced clearly. "There is to be a--
feast. You, _Larree_, you Goodwin, are to come. I remain here
"No harm to him!" broke in O'Keefe sharply. Rador
touched his heart, his eyes.
"By the Ancient Ones, and by my love for you, and by
what you twain did before the Shining One--I swear it!" he
Rador clapped palms; a soldier came round the path, in his
grip a long flat box of polished wood. The green dwarf took
it, dismissed him, threw open the lid.
"Here is your apparel for the feast, _Larree_," he said, pointing
to the contents.
O'Keefe stared, reached down and drew out a white, shimmering,
softly metallic, long-sleeved tunic, a broad, silvery
girdle, leg swathings of the same argent material, and sandals
that seemed to be cut out from silver. He made a quick
gesture of angry dissent.
"Nay, _Larree_!" muttered the dwarf. "Wear them--I counsel
it--I pray it--ask me not why," he went on swiftly, looking
again at the globe.
O'Keefe, as I, was impressed by his earnestness. The
dwarf made a curiously expressive pleading gesture. O'Keefe
abruptly took the garments; passed into the room of the fountain.
"The Shining One dances not again?" I asked.
"No," he said. "No"--he hesitate--"it is the usual feast
that follows the sacrament! Lugur--and Double Tongue,
who came with you, will be there," he added slowly.
"Lugur--" I gasped in astonishment. "After what happened--
he will be there?"
"Perhaps because of what happened, Goodwin, my
friend," he answered--his eyes again full of malice; "and
there will be others--friends of Yolara--friends of Lugur--
and perhaps another"--his voice was almost inaudible--
"one whom they have not called--" He halted, half-fearfully,
glancing at the globe; put finger to lips and spread
himself out upon one of the couches.
"Strike up the band"--came O'Keefe's voice--"here
comes the hero!"
He strode into the room. I am bound to say that the admiration
in Rador's eyes was reflected in my own, and even,
if involuntarily, in Olaf's.
"A son of Siyana!" whispered Rador.
He knelt, took from his girdle-pouch a silk-wrapped
something, unwound it--and, still kneeling, drew out a slender
poniard of gleaming white metal, hilted with the blue
stones; he thrust it into O'Keefe's girdle; then gave him
again the rare salute.
"Come," he ordered and took us to the head of the pathway.
"Now," he said grimly, "let the Silent Ones show their
power--if they still have it!"
And with this strange benediction, be turned back.
"For God's sake, Larry," I urged as we approached the
house of the priestess, "you'll be careful!"
He nodded--but I saw with a little deadly pang of apprehension
in my heart a puzzled, lurking doubt within his
As we ascended the serpent steps Marakinoff appeared.
He gave a signal to our guards--and I wondered what influence
the Russian had attained, for promptly, without
question, they drew aside. At me he smiled amiably.
"Have you found your friends yet?" he went on--and now
I sensed something deeply sinister in him. "No! It is too
bad! Well, don't give up hope." He turned to O'Keefe.
"Lieutenant, I would like to speak to you--alone!"
"I've no secrets from Goodwin," answered O'Keefe.
"So?" queried Marakinoff, suavely. He bent, whispered to
The Irishman started, eyed him with a certain shocked incredulity,
then turned to me.
"Just a minute, Doc!" he said, and I caught the suspicion
of a wink. They drew aside, out of ear-shot. The Russian
talked rapidly. Larry was all attention. Marakinoff's earnestness
became intense; O'Keefe interrupted--appeared to
question. Marakinoff glanced at me and as his gaze shifted
from O'Keefe, I saw a flame of rage and horror blaze up in
the latter's eyes. At last the Irishman appeared to consider
gravely; nodded as though he had arrived at some decision,
and Marakinoff thrust his hand to him.
And only I could have noticed Larry's shrinking, his
microscopic hesitation before he took it, and his involuntary
movement, as though to shake off something unclean, when
the clasp had ended.
Marakinoff, without another look at me, turned and went
quickly within. The guards took their places. I looked at
Larry inquiringly.
"Don't ask a thing now, Doc!" he said tensely. "Wait till
we get home. But we've got to get damned busy and quick
--I'll tell you that now--"
The Tempting of Larry
WE PAUSED before thick curtains, through which came the
faint murmur of many voices. They parted; out came two--
ushers, I suppose, they were--in cuirasses and kilts that reminded
me somewhat of chain-mail--the first armour of
any kind here that I had seen. They held open the folds.
The chamber, on whose threshold we stood, was far larger
than either anteroom or hall of audience. Not less than three
hundred feet long and half that in depth, from end to end of
it ran two huge semi-circular tables, paralleling each other,
divided by a wide aisle, and heaped with flowers, with fruits,
with viands unknown to me, and glittering with crystal
flagons, beakers, goblets of as many hues as the blooms. On
the gay-cushioned couches that flanked the tables, lounging
luxuriously, were scores of the fair-haired ruling class and
there rose a little buzz of admiration, oddly mixed with a
half-startled amaze, as their gaze fell upon O'Keefe in all
his silvery magnificence. Everywhere the light-giving globes
sent their roseate radiance.
The cuirassed dwarfs led us through the aisle. Within the
arc of the inner half--circle was another glittering board, an
oval. But of those seated there, facing us--I had eyes for
only one--Yolara! She swayed up to greet O'Keefe--and
she was like one of those white lily maids, whose beauty
Hoang-Ku, the sage, says made the Gobi first a paradise,
and whose lusts later the burned-out desert that it is. She held
out hands to Larry, and on her face was passion--unashamed,
She was Circe--but Circe conquered. Webs of filmiest
white clung to the rose-leaf body. Twisted through the cornsilk
hair a threaded circlet of pale sapphires shone; but they
were pale beside Yolara's eyes. O'Keefe bent, kissed her
hands, something more than mere admiration flaming from
him. She saw--and, smiling, drew him down beside her.
It came to me that of all, only these two, Yolara and
O'Keefe, were in white--and I wondered; then with a tightening
of nerves ceased to wonder as there entered--Lugur!
He was all in scarlet, and as he strode forward a silence fell
a tense, strained silence.
His gaze turned upon Yolara, rested upon O'Keefe, and
instantly his face grew--dreadful--there is no other word
than that for it. Marakinoff leaned forward from the centre
of the table, near whose end I sat, touched and whispered to
him swiftly. With appalling effort the red dwarf controlled
himself; he saluted the priestess ironically, I thought; took his
place at the further end of the oval. And now I noted that the
figures between were the seven of that Council of which the
Shining One's priestess and Voice were the heads. The tension
relaxed, but did not pass--as though a storm-cloud
should turn away, but still lurk, threatening.
My gaze ran back. This end of the room was draped with
the exquisitely coloured, graceful curtains looped with gorgeous
garlands. Between curtains and table, where sat Larry
and the nine, a circular platform, perhaps ten yards in diameter,
raised itself a few feet above the floor, its gleaming surface
half-covered with the luminous petals, fragrant, delicate.
On each side below it, were low carven stools. The curtains
parted and softly entered girls bearing their flutes, their
harps, the curiously emotion-exciting, octaved drums. They
sank into their places. They touched their instruments; a
faint, languorous measure throbbed through the rosy air.
The stage was set! What was to be the play?
Now about the tables passed other dusky-haired maids,
fair bosoms bare, their scanty kirtles looped high, pouring
out the wines for the feasters.
My eyes sought O'Keefe. Whatever it had been that Marakinoff
had said, clearly it now filled his mind--even to the
exclusion of the wondrous woman beside him. His eyes were
stern, cold--and now and then, as be turned them toward
the Russian, filled with a curious speculation. Yolara
watched him, frowned, gave a low order to the Hebe behind
The girl disappeared, entered again with a ewer that
seemed cut of amber. The priestess poured from it into
Larry's glass a clear liquid that shook with tiny sparkles of
light. She raised the glass to her lips, handed it to him. Halfsmiling,
half-abstractedly, he took it, touched his own lips
where hers had kissed; drained it. A nod from Yolara and
the maid refilled his goblet.
At once there was a swift transformation in the Irishman.
His abstraction vanished; the sternness fled; his eyes sparkled.
He leaned caressingly toward Yolara; whispered. Her
blue eyes flashed triumphantly; her chiming laughter rang.
She raised her own glass--but within it was not that clear
drink that filled Larry's! And again he drained his own; and,
lifting it, full once more, caught the baleful eyes of Lugur,
and held it toward him mockingly. Yolara swayed close--
alluring, tempting. He arose, face all reckless gaiety; rollicking
"A toast!" he cried in English, "to the Shining One--and
may the hell where it belongs soon claim it!"
He had used their own word for their god--all else had
been in his own tongue, and so, fortunately, they did not
understand. But the contempt in his action they did recognize--
and a dead, a fearful silence fell upon them all. Lugur's
eyes blazed, little sparks of crimson in their green. The
priestess reached up, caught at O'Keefe. He seized the soft
hand; caressed it; his gaze grew far away, sombre.
"The Shining One." He spoke low. "An' now again I see
the faces of those who dance with it. It is the Fires of Mora
--come, God alone knows how--from Erin--to this place.
The Fires of Mora!" He contemplated the hushed folk before
him; and then from his lips came that weirdest, most
haunting of the lyric legends of Erin--the Curse of Mora:
"The fretted fires of Mora blew o'er him in the night;
He thrills no more to loving, nor weeps for past delight.
For when those flames have bitten, both grief and joy take flight--"
Again Yolara tried to draw him down beside her; and
once more he gripped her hand. His eyes grew fixed--he
"And through the sleeping silence his feet must track the tune,
When the world is barred and speckled with silver of the moon--"
He stood, swaying, for a moment, and then, laughing, let
the priestess have her way; drained again the glass.
And now my heart was cold, indeed--for what hope
was there left with Larry mad, wild drunk!
The silence was unbroken--elfin women and dwarfs
glancing furtively at each other. But now Yolara arose, face
set, eyes flashing grey.
"Hear you, the Council, and you, Lugur--and all who are
here!" she cried. "Now I, the priestess of the Shining One,
take, as is my right, my mate. And this is he!" She pointed
down upon Larry. He glanced up at her.
"Can't quite make out what you say, Yolara," he muttered
thickly. "But say anything--you like--I love your
I turned sick with dread. Yolara's hand stole softly upon
the Irishman's curls caressingly.
"You know the law, Yolara." Lugur's voice was flat,
deadly, "You may not mate with other than your own kind.
And this man is a stranger--a barbarian--food for the Shining
One!" Literally, he spat the phrase.
"No, not of our kind--Lugur--higher!" Yolara answered
serenely. "Lo, a son of Siya and of Siyana!"
"A lie!" roared the red dwarf. "A lie!"
"The Shining One revealed it to me!" said Yolara sweetly.
"And if ye believe not, Lugur--go ask of the Shining One
if it be not truth!"
There was bitter, nameless menace in those last words--
and whatever their hidden message to Lugur, it was potent.
He stood, choking, face hell-shadowed--Marakinoff leaned
out again, whispered. The red dwarf bowed, now wholly
ironically; resumed his place and his silence. And again I
wondered, icy-hearted, what was the power the Russian had
so to sway Lugur.
"What says the Council?" Yolara demanded, turning to
Only for a moment they consulted among themselves.
Then the woman, whose face was a ravaged shrine of beauty,
"The will of the priestess is the will of the Council!" she
Defiance died from Yolara's face; she looked down at
Larry tenderly. He sat swaying, crooning.
"Bid the priests come," she commanded, then turned to
the silent room. "By the rites of Siya and Siyana, Yolara
takes their son for her mate!" And again her hand stole
down possessingly, serpent soft, to the drunken head of the
The curtains parted widely. Through them filed, two by
two, twelve hooded figures clad in flowing robes of the green
one sees in forest vistas of opening buds of dawning spring.
Of each pair one bore clasped to breast a globe of that milky
crystal in the sapphire shrine-room; the other a harp, small,
shaped somewhat like the ancient clarsach of the Druids.
Two by two they stepped upon the raised platform, placed
gently upon it each their globe; and two by two crouched
behind them. They formed now a star of six points about
the petalled dais, and, simultaneously, they drew from their
faces the covering cowls.
I half-rose--youths and maidens these of the fair-haired;
and youths and maids more beautiful than any of those I had
yet seen--for upon their faces was little of that disturbing
mockery to which I have been forced so often, because of the
deep impression it made upon me, to refer. The ashen-gold
of the maiden priestesses' hair was wound about their brows
in shining coronals. The pale locks of the youths were clustered
within circlets of translucent, glimmering gems like
moonstones. And then, crystal globe alternately before and
harp alternately held by youth and maid, they began to sing.
What was that song, I do not know--nor ever shall.
Archaic, ancient beyond thought, it seemed--not with the
ancientness of things that for uncounted ages have been but
wind-driven dust. Rather was it the ancientness of the
golden youth of the world, love lilts of earth younglings,
with light of new-born suns drenching them, chorals of
young stars mating in space; murmurings of April gods and
goddesses. A languor stole through me. The rosy lights upon
the tripods began to die away, and as they faded the milky
globes gleamed forth brighter, ever brighter. Yolara rose,
stretched a hand to Larry, led him through the sextuple
groups, and stood face to face with him in the centre of their
The rose-light died; all that immense chamber was black,
save for the circle of the glowing spheres. Within this their
milky radiance grew brighter--brighter. The song whispered
away. A throbbing arpeggio dripped from the harps, and as
the notes pulsed out, up from the globes, as though striving
to follow, pulsed with them tips of moon-fire cones, such as
I had seen before Yolara's altar. Weirdly, caressingly, compellingly
the harp notes throbbed in repeated, re-repeated
theme, holding within itself the same archaic golden quality
I had noted in the singing. And over the moon flame pinnacles
rose higher!
Yolara lifted her arms; within her hands were clasped
O'Keefe's. She raised them above their two heads and slowly,
slowly drew him with her into a circling, graceful step, tendrillings
delicate as the slow spirallings of twilight mist upon
some still stream.
As they swayed the rippling arpeggios grew louder, and
suddenly the slender pinnacles of moon fire bent, dipped,
flowed to the floor, crept in a shining ring around those two
--and began to rise, a gleaming, glimmering, enchanted
barrier--rising, ever rising--hiding them!
With one swift movement Yolara unbound her circlet of
pale sapphires, shook loose the waves of her silken hair. It
fell, a rippling, wondrous cascade, veiling both her and
O'Keefe to their girdles--and now the shining coils of moon
fire had crept to their knees--was circling higher--higher.
And ever despair grew deeper in my soul!
What was that! I started to my feet, and all around me in
the darkness I heard startled motion. From without came a
blaring of trumpets, the sound of running men, loud murmurings.
The tumult drew closer. I heard cries of "Lakla!
Lakla!" Now it was at the very threshold and within it,
oddly, as though--punctuating--the clamour, a deep-toned,
almost abysmal, booming sound--thunderously bass and reverberant.
Abruptly the harpings ceased; the moon fires shuddered,
fell, and began to sweep back into the crystal globes; Yolara's
swaying form grew rigid, every atom of it listening.
She threw aside the veiling cloud of hair, and in the gleam
of the last retreating spirals her face glared out like some
old Greek mask of tragedy.
The sweet lips that even at their sweetest could never lose
their delicate cruelty, had no sweetness now. They were
drawn into a square--inhuman as that of the Medusa; in her
eyes were the fires of the pit, and her hair seemed to writhe
like the serpent locks of that Gorgon whose mouth she had
borrowed; all her beauty was transformed into a nameless
thing--hideous, inhuman, blasting! If this was the true soul
of Yolara springing to her face, then, I thought, God help
us in very deed!
I wrested my gaze away to O'Keefe. All drunkenness gone,
himself again, he was staring down at her, and in his eyes
were loathing and horror unutterable. So they stood--and
the light fled.
Only for a moment did the darkness hold. With lightning
swiftness the blackness that was the chamber's other wall
vanished. Through a portal open between grey screens, the
silver sparkling radiance poured.
And through the portal marched, two by two, incredible,
nightmare figures--frog-men, giants, taller by nearly a yard
than even tall O'Keefe! Their enormous saucer eyes were
irised by wide bands of green-flecked red, in which the
phosphorescence flickered. Their long muzzles, lips halfopen
in monstrous grin, held rows of glistening, slender,
lancet sharp fangs. Over the glaring eyes arose a horny helmet,
a carapace of black and orange scales, studded with
foot-long lance-headed horns.
They lined themselves like soldiers on each side of the
wide table aisle, and now I could see that their horny armour
covered shoulders and backs, ran across the chest in a
knobbed cuirass, and at wrists and heels jutted out into
curved, murderous spurs. The webbed hands and feet ended
in yellow, spade-shaped claws.
They carried spears, ten feet, at least, in length, the heads
of which were pointed cones, glistening with that same covering,
from whose touch of swift decay I had so narrowly
saved Rador.
They were grotesque, yes--more grotesque than anything
I had ever seen or dreamed, and they were--terrible!
And then, quietly, through their ranks came--a girl! Behind
her, enormous pouch at his throat swelling in and out
menacingly, in one paw a treelike, spike-studded mace, a
frog-man, huger than any of the others, guarding. But of
him I caught but a fleeting, involuntary impression--all my
gaze was for her.
For it was she who had pointed out to us the way from
the peril of the Dweller's lair on Nan-Tauach. And as I
looked at her, I marvelled that ever could I have thought the
priestess more beautiful. Into the eyes of O'Keefe rushed joy
and an utter abasement of shame.
And from all about came murmurs--edged with anger,
half-incredulous, tinged with fear:
"The handmaiden!"
She halted close beside me. From firm little chin to dainty
buskined feet she was swathed in the soft robes of dull,
almost coppery hue. The left arm was hidden, the right free
and gloved. Wound tight about it was one of the vines of the
sculptured wall and of Lugur's circled signet-ring. Thick, a
vivid green, its five tendrils ran between her fingers, stretching
out five flowered heads that gleamed like blossoms cut
from gigantic, glowing rubies.
So she stood contemplating Yolara. Then drawn perhaps
by my gaze, she dropped her eyes upon me; golden, translucent,
with tiny flecks of amber in their aureate irises, the
soul that looked through them was as far removed from that
flaming out of the priestess as zenith is above nadir.
I noted the low, broad brow, the proud little nose, the
tender mouth, and the soft--sunlight--glow that seemed to
transfuse the delicate skin. And suddenly in the eyes dawned
a smile--sweet, friendly, a touch of roguishness, profoundly
reassuring in its all humanness. I felt my heart expand as
though freed from fetters, a recrudescence of confidence in
the essential reality of things--as though in nightmare the
struggling consciousness should glimpse some familiar face
and know the terrors with which it strove were but dreams.
And involuntarily I smiled back at her.
She raised her head and looked again at Yolara, contempt
and a certain curiosity in her gaze; at O'Keefe--and through
the softened eyes drifted swiftly a shadow of sorrow, and on
its fleeting wings deepest interest, and hovering over that a
naive approval as reassuringly human as had been her smile.
She spoke, and her voice, deep-timbred, liquid gold as
was Yolara's all silver, was subtly the synthesis of all the
golden glowing beauty of her.
"The Silent Ones have sent me, O Yolara," she said. "And
this is their command to you--that you deliver to me to
bring before them three of the four strangers who have
found their way here. For him there who plots with Lugur"
--she pointed at Marakinoff, and I saw Yolara start--"they
have no need. Into his heart the Silent Ones have looked;
and Lugur and you may keep him, Yolara!"
There was honeyed venom in the last words.
Yolara was herself now; only the edge of shrillness on her
voice revealed her wrath as she answered.
"And whence have the Silent Ones gained power to command,
This last, I knew, was a very vulgar word; I had heard
Rador use it in a moment of anger to one of the serving
maids, and it meant, approximately, "kitchen girl," "scullion."
Beneath the insult and the acid disdain, the blood
rushed up under Lakla's ambered ivory skin.
"Yolara"--her voice was low--"of no use is it to question
me. I am but the messenger of the Silent Ones. And one
thing only am I bidden to ask you--do you deliver to me
the three strangers?"
Lugur was on his feet; eagerness, sardonic delight, sinister
anticipation thrilling from him--and my same glance
showed Marakinoff, crouched, biting his finger-nails, glaring
at the Golden Girl.
"No!" Yolara spat the word. "No! Now by Thanaroa and
by the Shining One, no!" Her eyes blazed, her nostrils were
wide, in her fair throat a little pulse beat angrily. "You,
Lakla--take you my message to the Silent Ones. Say to them
that I keep this man"--she pointed to Larry--"because he
is mine. Say to them that I keep the yellow-haired one and
him"--she pointed to me--"because it pleases me.
"Tell them that upon their mouths I place my foot, so!"
--she stamped upon the dais viciously--"and that in their
faces I spit!"--and her action was hideously snakelike. "And
say last to them, you handmaiden, that if YOU they dare send
to Yolara again, she will feed YOU to the Shining One! Now
The handmaiden's face was white.
"Not unforeseen by the three was this, Yolara," she replied.
"And did you speak as you have spoken then was I
bidden to say this to you." Her voice deepened. "Three _tal_
have you to take counsel, Yolara. And at the end of that
time these things must you have determined--either to do
or not to do: first, send the strangers to the Silent Ones;
second, give up, you and Lugur and all of you, that dream
you have of conquest of the world without; and, third, forswear
the Shining One! And if you do not one and all these
things, then are you done, your cup of life broken, your
wine of life spilled. Yea, Yolara, for you and the Shining
One, Lugur and the Nine and all those here and their kind
shall pass! This say the Silent Ones, 'Surely shall all of ye
pass and be as though never had ye been!' "
Now a gasp of rage and fear arose from all those around
me--but the priestess threw back her head and laughed loud
and long. Into the silver sweet chiming of her laughter
clashed that of Lugur--and after a little the nobles took it
up, till the whole chamber echoed with their mirth. O'Keefe,
lips tightening, moved toward the Handmaiden, and almost
imperceptibly, but peremptorily, she waved him back.
"Those ARE great words--great words indeed, _choya_,"
shrilled Yolara at last; and again Lakla winced beneath the
word. "Lo, for _laya_ upon _laya_, the Shining One has been
freed from the Three; and for _laya_ upon _laya_ they have sat
helpless, rotting. Now I ask you again--whence comes their
power to lay their will upon me, and whence comes their
strength to wrestle with the Shining One and the beloved of
the Shining One?"
And again she laughed--and again Lugur and all the fairhaired
joined in her laughter.
Into the eyes of Lakla I saw creep a doubt, a wavering; as
though deep within her the foundations of her own belief
were none too firm.
She hesitated, turning upon O'Keefe gaze in which rested
more than suggestion of appeal! And Yolara saw, too, for
she flushed with triumph, stretched a finger toward the handmaiden.
"Look!" she cried. "Look! Why, even SHE does not believe!"
Her voice grew silk of silver--merciless, cruel. "Now am
I minded to send another answer to the Silent Ones.
Yea! But not by YOU, Lakla; by these"--she pointed to the
frog-men, and, swift as light, her hand darted into her
bosom, bringing forth the little shining cone of death.
But before she could level it the Golden Girl had released
that hidden left arm and thrown over her face a fold of the
metallic swathings. Swifter than Yolara, she raised the arm
that held the vine--and now I knew this was no inert blossoming
It was alive!
It writhed down her arm, and its five rubescent flower
heads thrust out toward the priestess--vibrating, quivering,
held in leash only by the light touch of the handmaiden at its
very end.
From the swelling throat pouch of the monster behind her
came a succession of the reverberant boomings. The frogmen
wheeled, raised their lances, levelled them at the
throng. Around the reaching ruby flowers a faint red mist
swiftly grew.
The silver cone dropped from Yolara's rigid fingers; her
eyes grew stark with horror; all her unearthly loveliness fled
from her; she stood pale-lipped. The Handmaiden dropped
the protecting veil--and now it was she who laughed.
"It would seem, then, Yolara, that there IS a thing of the
Silent Ones ye fear!" she said. "Well--the kiss of the _Yekta_
I promise you in return for the embrace of your Shining
She looked at Larry, long, searchingly, and suddenly
again with all that effect of sunlight bursting into dark places,
her smile shone upon him. She nodded, half gaily; looked
down upon me, the little merry light dancing in her eyes;
waved her hand to me.
She spoke to the giant frog-man. He wheeled behind her
as she turned, facing the priestess, club upraised, fangs glistening.
His troop moved not a jot, spears held high. Lakla
began to pass slowly--almost, I thought, tauntingly--and as
she reached the portal Larry leaped from the dais.
"ALANNA!" he cried. "You'll not be leavin' me just when
I've found you!"
In his excitement he spoke in his own tongue, the velvet
brogue appealing. Lakla turned, contemplated O'Keefe, hesitant,
unquestionably longingly, irresistibly like a child making
up her mind whether she dared or dared not take a
delectable something offered her.
"I go with you," said O'Keefe, this time in her own
speech. "Come on, Doc!" He reached out a hand to me.
But now Yolara spoke. Life and beauty had flowed back
into her face, and in the purple eyes all her hosts of devils
were gathered.
"Do you forget what I promised you before Siya and
Siyana? And do you think that you can leave me--me--
as though I were a _choya_--like HER." She pointed to Lakla.
Do you--"
"Now, listen, Yolara," Larry interrupted almost plaintively.
"No promise has passed from me to you--and why
would you hold me?" He passed unconsciously into English.
"Be a good sport, Yolara," he urged, 'You HAVE got a very
devil of a temper, you know, and so have I; and we'd be
really awfully uncomfortable together. And why don't you
get rid of that devilish pet of yours, and be good!"
She looked at him, puzzled, Marakinoff leaned over, translated
to Lugur. The red dwarf smiled maliciously, drew near
the priestess; whispered to her what was without doubt as
near as he could come in the Murian to Larry's own very
colloquial phrases.
Yolara's lips writhed.
"Hear me, Lakla!" she cried. "Now would I not let you
take this man from me were I to dwell ten thousand _laya_
in the agony of the _Yekta's_ kiss. This I swear to you--by
Thanaroa, by my heart, and by my strength--and may my
strength wither, my heart rot in my breast, and Thanaroa
forget me if I do!"
"Listen, Yolara"--began O'Keefe again.
"Be silent, you!" It was almost a shriek. And her hand
again sought in her breast for the cone of rhythmic death.
Lugur touched her arm, whispered again, The glint of
guile shone in her eyes; she laughed softly, relaxed.
"The Silent Ones, Lakla, bade you say that they--allowed
--me three _tal_ to decide," she said suavely. "Go now in
peace, Lakla, and say that Yolara has heard, and that for
the three _tal_ they--allow--her she will take council." The
handmaiden hesitated.
"The Silent Ones have said it," she answered at last. "Stay
you here, strangers"---the long lashes drooped as her eyes
met O'Keefe's and a hint of blush was in her cheeks--"stay
you here, strangers, till then. But, Yolara, see you on that
heart and strength you have sworn by that they come to no
harm--else that which you have invoked shall come upon
you swiftly indeed--and that I promise you," she added.
Their eyes met, clashed, burned into each other--black
flame from Abaddon and golden flame from Paradise.
"Remember!" said Lakla, and passed through the portal.
The gigantic frog-man boomed a thunderous note of command,
his grotesque guards turned and slowly followed their
mistress; and last of all passed out the monster with the
Larry's Defiance
A CLAMOUR arose from all the chambers; stilled in an instant
by a motion of Yolara's hand. She stood silent, regarding
O'Keefe with something other now than blind wrath;
something half regretful, half beseeching. But the Irishman's
control was gone.
"Yolara,"--his voice shook with rage, and he threw caution
to the wind--"now hear ME. I go where I will and when
I will. Here shall we stay until the time she named is come.
And then we follow her, whether you will or not. And if
any should have thought to stop us--tell them of that flame
that shattered the vase," he added grimly.
The wistfulness died out of her eyes, leaving them cold.
But no answer made she to him.
"What Lakla has said, the Council must consider, and at
once." The priestess was facing the nobles. "Now, friends of
mine, and friends of Lugur, must all feud, all rancour, between
us end." She glanced swiftly at Lugur. "The _ladala_
are stirring, and the Silent Ones threaten. Yet fear not--for
are we not strong under the Shining One? And now--leave
Her hand dropped to the table, and she gave, evidently,
a signal, for in marched a dozen or more of the green dwarfs.
"Take these two to their place," she commanded, pointing
to us.
The green dwarfs clustered about us. Without another
look at the priestess O'Keefe marched beside me, between
them, from the chamber. And it was not until we had reached
the pillared entrance that Larry spoke.
"I hate to talk like that to a woman, Doc," he said, "and
a pretty woman, at that. But first she played me with a
marked deck, and then not only pinched all the chips, but
drew a gun on me. What the hell!she nearly had me--
MARRIED--to her. I don't know what the stuff was she gave
me; but, take it from me, if I had the recipe for that brew
I could sell it for a thousand dollars a jolt at Forty-second
and Broadway.
"One jigger of it, and you forget there is a trouble in the
world; three of them, and you forget there is a world. No
excuse for it, Doc; and I don't care what you say or what
Lakla may say--it wasn't my fault, and I don't hold it up
against myself for a damn."
"I must admit that I'm a bit uneasy about her threats," I
said, ignoring all this. He stopped abruptly.
"What're you afraid of?"
"Mostly," I answered dryly, "I have no desire to dance
with the Shining One!"
"Listen to me, Goodwin," He took up his walk impatiently.
"I've all the love and admiration for you in the
world; but this place has got your nerve. Hereafter one
Larry O'Keefe, of Ireland and the little old U. S. A., leads
this party. Nix on the tremolo stop, nix on the superstition!
I'm the works. Get me?"
"Yes, I get you!" I exclaimed testily enough. "But to use
your own phrase, kindly can the repeated references to
"Why should I?" He was almost wrathful. "You scientific
people build up whole philosophies on the basis of things
you never saw, and you scoff at people who believe in other
things that you think THEY never saw and that don't come
under what you label scientific. You talk about paradoxes--
why, your scientist, who thinks he is the most skeptical, the
most materialistic aggregation of atoms ever gathered at the
exact mathematical centre of Missouri, has more blind faith
than a dervish, and more credulity, more superstition, than
a cross-eyed smoke beating it past a country graveyard in
the dark of the moon!"
"Larry!" I cried, dazed.
"Olaf's no better," he said. "But I can make allowances for
him. He's a sailor. No, sir. What this expedition needs is a
man without superstition. And remember this. The leprechaun
promised that I'd have full warning before anything
happened. And if we do have to go out, we'll see that banshee
bunch clean up before we do, and pass in a blaze of glory.
And don't forget it. Hereafter--I'm--in--charge!"
By this time we were before our pavilion; and neither of
us in a very amiable mood I'm afraid. Rador was awaiting us
with a score of his men.
"Let none pass in here without authority--and let none
pass out unless I accompany them," he ordered bruskly.
"Summon one of the swiftest of the _coria_ and have it wait in
readiness," he added, as though by afterthought.
But when we had entered and the screens were drawn
together his manner changed; all eagerness he questioned
us. Briefly we told him of the happenings at the feast, of
Lakla's dramatic interruption, and of what had followed.
"Three _tal_," he said musingly; "three _tal_ the Silent Ones
have allowed--and Yolara agreed." He sank back, silent and
1 A _tal_ in Muria is the equivalent of thirty hours of earth surface
time.--W. T. G.
_"Ja!" It was Olaf. "_Ja!_ I told you the Shining Devil's mistress
was all evil. _Ja!_ Now I begin again that tale I started
when he came"--he glanced toward the preoccupied Rador.
"And tell him not what I say should he ask. For I trust none
here in Trolldom, save the _Jomfrau_--the White Virgin!
"After the oldster was _adsprede_"--Olaf once more used
that expressive Norwegian word for the dissolving of Songar
--"I knew that it was a time for cunning. I said to myself,
'If they think I have no ears to hear, they will speak; and
it may be I will find a way to save my Helma and Dr. Goodwin's
friends, too.' _Ja_, and they did speak.
"The red _Trolde_ asked the Russian how came it he was a
worshipper of Thanaroa." I could not resist a swift glance of
triumph toward O'Keefe. "And the Russian," rumbled Olaf,
"said that all his people worshipped Thanaroa and had
fought against the other nations that denied him.
"And then we had come to Lugur's palace. They put me
in rooms, and there came to me men who rubbed and oiled
me and loosened my muscles. The next day I wrestled with
a great dwarf they called Valdor. He was a mighty man, and
long we struggled, and at last I broke his back. And Lugur
was pleased, so that I sat with him at feast and with the
Russian, too. And again, not knowing that I understood
them, they talked.
"The Russian had gone fast and far. They talked of Lugur
as emperor of all Europe, and Marakinoff under him. They
spoke of the green light that shook life from the oldster; and
Lugur said that the secret of it had been the Ancient Ones'
and that the Council had not too much of it. But the Russian
said that among his race were many wise men who could
make more once they had studied it.
"And the next day I wrestled with a great dwarf named
Tahola, mightier far than Valdor. Him I threw after a long,
long time, and his back also I broke. Again Lugur was
pleased. And again we sat at table, he and the Russian and I.
This time they spoke of something these _Trolde_ have which
opens up a _Svaelc_--abysses into which all in its range drops
up into the sky!"
"What!" I exclaimed.
"I know about them," said Larry. "Wait!"
"Lugur had drunk much," went on Olaf. "He was boastful.
The Russian pressed him to show this thing. After a
while the red one went out and came back with a little golden
box. He and the Russian went into the garden. I followed
them. There was a _lille Hoj_--a mound--of stones in that
garden on which grew flowers and trees.
"Lugur pressed upon the box, and a spark no bigger than
a sand grain leaped out and fell beside the stones. Lugur
pressed again, and a blue light shot from the box and lighted
on the spark. The spark that had been no bigger than a grain
of sand grew and grew as the blue struck it. And then there
was a sighing, a wind blew--and the stones and the flowers
and the trees were not. They were _forsvinde_--vanished!
"Then Lugur, who had been laughing, grew quickly sober;
for he thrust the Russian back--far back. And soon down
into the garden came tumbling the stones and the trees, but
broken and shattered, and falling as though from a great
height. And Lugur said that of THIS something they had
much, for its making was a secret handed down by their own
forefathers and not by the Ancient Ones.
"They feared to use it, he said, for a spark thrice as large
as that he had used would have sent all that garden falling
upward and might have opened a way to the outside before
--he said just this--'BEFORE WE ARE READY TO GO OUT INTO IT!'
"The Russian questioned much, but Lugur sent for more
drink and grew merrier and threatened him, and the Russian
was silent through fear. Thereafter I listened when I could,
and little more I learned, but that little enough. _Ja!_ Lugur
is hot for conquest; so Yolara and so the Council. They tire
of it here and the Silent Ones make their minds not too easy,
no, even though they jeer at them! And this they plan--
to rule our world with their Shining Devil."
The Norseman was silent for a moment; then voice deep,
"Trolldom is awake; Helvede crouches at Earth Gate
whining to be loosed into a world already devil ridden! And
we are but three!"
I felt the blood drive out of my heart. But Larry's was the
fighting face of the O'Keefes of a thousand years. Rador
glanced at him, arose, stepped through the curtains; returned
swiftly with the Irishman's uniform.
"Put it on," he said, bruskly; again fell back into his
silence and whatever O'Keefe had been about to say was submerged
in his wild and joyful whoop. He ripped from him
glittering tunic and leg swathings.
"Richard is himself again!" he shouted; and each garment
as he donned it, fanned his old devil-may-care confidence
to a higher flame. The last scrap of it on, he drew himself up
before us.
"Bow down, ye divils!" he cried. "Bang your heads on the
floor and do homage to Larry the First, Emperor of Great
Britain, Autocrat of all Ireland, Scotland, England, and
Wales, and adjacent waters and islands! Kneel, ye scuts,
"Larry," I cried, "are you going crazy?"
"Not a bit of it," he said. "I'm that and more if Comrade
Marakinoff is on the level. Whoop! Bring forth the royal
jewels an' put a whole new bunch of golden strings in Tara's
harp an' down with the Sassenach forever! Whoop!"
He did a wild jig.
"Lord how good the old togs feel," he grinned. "The
touch of 'em has gone to my head. But it's straight stuff I'm
telling you about my empire."
He sobered.
"Not that it's not serious enough at that. A lot that Olaf's
told us I've surmised from hints dropped by Yolara. But I got
the full key to it from the Red himself when he stopped me
just before--before"--he reddened--"well, just before I acquired
that brand-new brand of souse.
"Maybe he had a hint--maybe he just surmised that I
knew a lot more than I did. And he thought Yolara and
I were going to be loving little turtle doves. Also he figured
that Yolara had a lot more influence with the Unholy Fireworks
than Lugur. Also that being a woman she could be
more easily handled. All this being so, what was the logical
thing for himself to do? Sure, you get me, Steve! Throw
down Lugur and make an alliance with me! So HE calmly
offered to ditch the red dwarf if I would deliver Yolara.
My reward from Russia was to be said emperorship!
Can you beat it? Good Lord!"
He went off into a perfect storm of laughter. But not to
me in the light of what Russia has done and has proved herself
capable, did this thing seem at all absurd; rather in it I
sensed the dawn of catastrophe colossal.
"And yet," he was quiet enough now, "I'm a bit scared.
They've got the _Keth_ ray and those gravity-destroying
"Gravity-destroying bombs!" I gasped.
"Sure," he said. "The little fairy that sent the trees and
stones kiting up from Lugur's garden. Marakinoff licked his
lips over them. They cut off gravity, just about as the shadow
screens cut off light--and consequently whatever's in their
range goes shooting just naturally up to the moon--
"They get my goat, why deny it?" went on Larry. "With
them and the _Keth_ and gentle invisible soldiers walking
around assassinating at will--well, the worst Bolsheviki are
only puling babes, eh, Doc?
"I don't mind the Shining One," said O'Keefe, "one splash
of a downtown New York high-pressure fire hose would do
for it! But the others--are the goods! Believe me!"
But for once O'Keefe's confidence found no echo within
me. Not lightly, as he, did I hold that dread mystery, the
Dweller--and a vision passed before me, a vision of an
Apocalypse undreamed by the Evangelist.
A vision of the Shining One swirling into our world, a
monstrous, glorious flaming pillar of incarnate, eternal Evil
--of peoples passing through its radiant embrace into that
hideous, unearthly life-in-death which I had seen enfold the
sacrifices--of armies trembling into dancing atoms of diamond
dust beneath the green ray's rhythmic death--of cities
rushing out into space upon the wings of that other demoniac
force which Olaf had watched at work--of a haunted world
through which the assassins of the Dweller's court stole invisible,
carrying with them every passion of hell--of the
rallying to the Thing of every sinister soul and of the weak
and the unbalanced, mystics and carnivores of humanity
alike; for well I knew that, once loosed, not any nation could
hold this devil-god for long and that swiftly its blight would
And then a world that was all colossal reek of cruelty and
terror; a welter of lusts, of hatreds and of torment; a chaos
of horror in which the Dweller waxing ever stronger, the
ghastly hordes of those it had consumed growing ever
greater, wreaked its inhuman will!
At the last a ruined planet, a cosmic plague, spinning
through the shuddering heavens; its verdant plains, its murmuring
forests, its meadows and its mountains manned only
by a countless crew of soulless, mindless dead-alive, their
shells illumined with the Dweller's infernal glory--and flaming
over this vampirized earth like a flare from some hell
far, infinitely far, beyond the reach of man's farthest flung
imagining--the Dweller!
Rador jumped to his feet; walked to the whispering globe.
He bent over its base; did something with its mechanism;
beckoned to us. The globe swam rapidly, faster than ever I
had seen it before. A low humming arose, changed into a
murmur, and then from it I heard Lugur's voice clearly.
"It is to be war then?"
There was a chorus of assent--from the Council, I
"I will take the tall one named--_Larree_." It was the priestess's
voice. "After the three _tal_, you may have him, Lugur,
to do with as you will."
"No!" it was Lugur's voice again, but with a rasp of anger.
"All must die."
"He shall die," again Yolara. "But I would that first he
see Lakla pass--and that she know what is to happen to
"No!" I started--for this was Marakinoff. "Now is no
time, Yolara, for one's own desires. This is my counsel. At
the end of the three _tal_ Lakla will come for our answer. Your
men will be in ambush and they will slay her and her escort
quickly with the _Keth_. But not till that is done must the
three be slain--and then quickly. With Lakla dead we shall
go forth to the Silent Ones--and I promise you that I will
find the way to destroy them!"
"It is well!" It was Lugur.
"It IS well, Yolara." It was a woman's voice, and I knew
it for that old one of ravaged beauty. "Cast from your mind
whatever is in it for this stranger--either of love or hatred.
In this the Council is with Lugur and the man of wisdom."
There was a silence. Then came the priestess's voice, sullen
"It is well!"
"Let the three be taken now by Rador to the temple and
given to the High Priest Sator"--thus Lugur--"until what
we have planned comes to pass."
Rador gripped the base of the globe; abruptly it ceased
its spinning. He turned to us as though to speak and even as
he did so its bell note sounded peremptorily and on it the
colour films began to creep at their accustomed pace.
"I hear," the green dwarf whispered. "They shall be taken
there at once." The globe grew silent. He stepped toward
"You have heard," he turned to us.
"Not on your life, Rador," said Larry. "Nothing doing!"
And then in the Murian's own tongue. "We follow Lakla,
Rador. And YOU lead the way." He thrust the pistol close
to the green dwarf's side.
Rador did not move.
"Of what use, _Larree_?" he said, quietly. "Me you can slay
--but in the end you will be taken. Life is not held so dear
in Muria that my men out there or those others who can
come quickly will let you by--even though you slay many.
And in the end they will overpower you."
There was a trace of irresolution in O'Keefe's face.
"And," added Rador, "if I let you go I dance with the
Shining One--or worse!"
O'Keefe's pistol hand dropped.
"You're a good sport, Rador, and far be it from me to get
you in bad," he said. "Take us to the temple--when we get
there--well, your responsibility ends, doesn't it?"
The green dwarf nodded; on his face a curious expression--
was it relief? Or was it emotion higher than this?
He turned curtly.
"Follow," he said. We passed out of that gay little pavilion
that had come to be home to us even in this alien place. The
guards stood at attention.
"You, Sattoya, stand by the globe," he ordered one of
them. "Should the _Afyo Maie_ ask, say that I am on my way
with the strangers even as she has commanded."
We passed through the lines to the _corial_ standing like a
great shell at the end of the runway leading into the green
"Wait you here," he said curtly to the driver. The green
dwarf ascended to his seat, sought the lever and we swept
on--on and out upon the glistening obsidian.
Then Rador faced us and laughed.
"_Larree_," he cried, "I love you for that spirit of yours!
And did you think that Rador would carry to the temple
prison a man who would take the chances of torment upon
his own shoulders to save him? Or you, Goodwin, who saved
him from the rotting death? For what did I take the _corial_
or lift the veil of silence that I might hear what threatened
He swept the _corial_ to the left, away from the temple approach.
"I am done with Lugur and with Yolara and the Shining
One!" cried Rador. "My hand is for you three and for Lakla
and those to whom she is handmaiden!"
The shell leaped forward; seemed to fly.
The Casting of the Shadow
NOW we were racing down toward that last span whose
ancientness had set it apart from all the other soaring arches.
The shell's speed slackened; we approached warily.
"We pass there?" asked O'Keefe.
The green dwarf nodded, pointing to the right where the
bridge ended in a broad platform held high upon two gigantic
piers, between which ran a spur from the glistening road.
Platform and bridge were swarming with men-at-arms; they
crowded the parapets, looking down upon us curiously but
with no evidence of hostility. Rador drew a deep breath of
"We don't have to break our way through, then?" There
was disappointment in the Irishman's voice.
"No use, _Larree_!" Smiling, Rador stopped the _corial_ just
beneath the arch and beside one of the piers. "Now, listen
well. They have had no warning, hence does Yolara still
think us on the way to the temple. This is the gateway of the
Portal--and the gateway is closed by the Shadow. Once I
commanded here and I know its laws. This must I do--
by craft persuade Serku, the keeper of the gateway, to lift the
Shadow; or raise it myself. And that will be hard and it may
well be that in the struggle life will be stripped of us all.
Yet is it better to die fighting than to dance with the Shining
He swept the shell around the pier. Opened a wide plaza
paved with the volcanic glass, but black as that down which
we had sped from the chamber of the Moon Pool. It shone
like a mirrored lakelet of jet; on each side of it arose what
at first glance seemed towering bulwarks of the same ebon
obsidian; at second, revealed themselves as structures hewn
and set in place by men; polished faces pierced by dozens
of high, narrow windows.
Down each facade a stairway fell, broken by small landings
on which a door opened; they dropped to a broad ledge
of greyish stone edging the lip of this midnight pool and
upon it also fell two wide flights from either side of the
bridge platform. Along all four stairways the guards were
ranged; and here and there against the ledge stood the shells
--in a curiously comforting resemblance to parked motors in
our own world.
The sombre walls bulked high; curved and ended in two
obelisked pillars from which, like a tremendous curtain,
stretched a barrier of that tenebrous gloom which, though
weightless as shadow itself, I now knew to be as impenetrable
as the veil between life and death. In this murk, unlike
all others I had seen, I sensed movement, a quivering, a
tremor constant and rhythmic; not to be seen, yet caught by
some subtle sense; as though through it beat a swift pulse of
--black light.
The green dwarf turned the _corial_ slowly to the edge at
the right; crept cautiously on toward where, not more than
a hundred feet from the barrier, a low, wide entrance opened
in the fort. Guarding its threshold stood two guards, armed
with broadswords, double-handed, terminating in a wide
lunette mouthed with murderous fangs. These they raised in
salute and through the portal strode a dwarf huge as Rador,
dressed as he and carrying only the poniard that was the
badge of office of Muria's captainry.
The green dwarf swept the shell expertly against the
ledge; leaped out.
"Greeting, Serku!" he answered. "I was but looking for
the _coria_ of Lakla."
"Lakla!" exclaimed Serku. "Why, the handmaiden passed
with her _Akka_ nigh a _va_ ago!"
"Passed!" The astonishment of the green dwarf was so real
that half was I myself deceived. "You let her PASS?"
"Certainly I let her pass--" But under the green dwarf's
stern gaze the truculence of the guardian faded. "Why
should I not?" he asked, apprehensively.
"Because Yolara commanded otherwise," answered
Rador, coldly.
"There came no command to me." Little beads of sweat
stood out on Serku's forehead.
"Serku," interrupted the green dwarf swiftly, "truly is my
heart wrung for you. This is a matter of Yolara and of Lugur
and the Council; yes, even of the Shining One! And the
message was sent--and the fate, mayhap, of all Muria rested
upon your obedience and the return of Lakla with these
strangers to the Council. Now truly is my heart wrung, for
there are few I would less like to see dance with the Shining
One than you, Serku," he ended, softly.
Livid now was the gateway's guardian, his great frame
"Come with me and speak to Yolara," he pleaded. "There
came no message--tell her--"
"Wait, Serku!" There was a thrill as of inspiration in
Rador's voice. "This _corial_ is of the swiftest--Lakla's are of
the slowest. With Lakla scarce a _va_ ahead we can reach her
before she enters the Portal. Lift you the Shadow--we will
bring her back, and this will I do for you, Serku."
Doubt tempered Serku's panic.
"Why not go alone, Rador, leaving the strangers here
with me?" he asked--and I thought not unreasonably.
"Nay, then." The green dwarf was brusk. "Lakla will not
return unless I carry to her these men as evidence of our
good faith. Come--we will speak to Yolara and she shall
judge you--" He started away--but Serku caught his arm.
"No, Rador, no!" he whispered, again panic-stricken. "Go
you--as you will. But bring her back! Speed, Rador!" He
sprang toward the entrance. "I lift the Shadow--"
Into the green dwarf's poise crept a curious, almost a
listening, alertness. He leaped to Serku's side.
"I go with you," I heard. "Some little I can tell you--"
They were gone.
"Fine work!" muttered Larry. "Nominated for a citizen of
Ireland when we get out of this, one Rador of--"
The Shadow trembled--shuddered into nothingness; the
obelisked outposts that had held it framed a ribbon of roadway,
high banked with verdure, vanishing in green distances.
And then from the portal sped a shriek, a death cry! It cut
through the silence of the ebon pit like a whimpering arrow.
Before it had died, down the stairways came pouring the
guards. Those at the threshold raised their swords and peered
within. Abruptly Rador was between them. One dropped his
hilt and gripped him--the green dwarf's poniard flashed
and was buried in his throat. Down upon Rador's head
swept the second blade. A flame leaped from O'Keefe's hand
and the sword seemed to fling itself from its wielder's grasp
--another flash and the soldier crumpled. Rador threw himself
into the shell, darted to the high seat--and straight between
the pillars of the Shadow we flew!
There came a crackling, a darkness of vast wings flinging
down upon us. The _corial's_ flight was checked as by a giant's
hand. The shell swerved sickeningly; there was an oddly
metallic splintering; it quivered; shot ahead. Dizzily I picked
myself up and looked behind.
The Shadow had fallen--but too late, a bare instant too
late. And shrinking as we fled from it, still it seemed to
strain like some fettered Afrit from Eblis, throbbing with
wrath, seeking with every malign power it possessed to break
its bonds and pursue. Not until long after were we to know
that it had been the dying hand of Serku, groping out of
oblivion, that had cast it after us as a fowler upon an escaping
"Snappy work, Rador!" It was Larry speaking. "But they
cut the end off your bus all right!"
A full quarter of the hindward whorl was gone, sliced off
cleanly. Rador noted it with anxious eyes.
"That is bad," he said, "but not too bad perhaps. All
depends upon how closely Lugur and his men can follow
He raised a hand to O'Keefe in salute.
"But to you, _Larree_, I owe my life--not even the _Keth_
could have been as swift to save me as that death flame of
The Irishman waved an airy hand.
"Serku"--the green dwarf drew from his girdle the bloodstained
poniard--"Serku I was forced to slay. Even as he
raised the Shadow the globe gave the alarm. Lugur follows
with twice ten times ten of his best--" He hesitated. "Though
we have escaped the Shadow it has taken toll of our swiftness.
May we reach the Portal before it closes upon Lakla--
but if we do not--" He paused again. "Well--I know a way
--but it is not one I am gay to follow--no!"
He snapped open the aperture that held the ball flaming
within the dark crystal; peered at it anxiously. I crept to the
torn end of the _corial_. The edges were crumbling, disintegrated.
They powdered in my fingers like dust. Mystified
still, I crept back where Larry, sheer happiness pouring from
him, was whistling softly and polishing up his automatic.
His gaze fell upon Olaf's grim, sad face and softened.
"Buck up, Olaf!" he said. "We've got a good fighting
chance. Once we link up with Lakla and her crowd I'm
betting that we get your wife--never doubt it! The baby--"
he hesitated awkwardly. The Norseman's eyes filled; he
stretched a hand to the O'Keefe.
"The _Yndling_--she is of the _de Dode_," he half whispered,
"of the blessed dead. For her I have no fear and for her
vengeance will be given me. _Ja!_ But my Helma--she is of
the dead-alive--like those we saw whirling like leaves in the
light of the Shining Devil--and I would that she too were
of _de Dode_--and at rest. I do not know how to fight the
Shining Devil--no!"
His bitter despair welled up in his voice.
"Olaf," Larry's voice was gentle. "We'll come out on top
--I know it. Remember one thing. All this stuff that seems so
strange and--and, well, sort of supernatural, is just a lot of
tricks we're not hep to as yet. Why, Olaf, suppose you took
a Fijian when the war was on and set him suddenly down in
London with autos rushing past, sirens blowing, Archies
popping, a dozen enemy planes dropping bombs, and the
searchlights shooting all over the sky--wouldn't he think he
was among thirty-third degree devils in some exclusive circle
of hell? Sure he would! And yet everything he saw would
be natural--just as natural as all this is, once we get the
answer to it. Not that we're Fijians, of course, but the principle
is the same."
The Norseman considered this; nodded gravely.
"_Ja!_" he answered at last. "And at least we can fight. That
is why I have turned to Thor of the battles, _Ja!_ And ONE
have I hope in for mine Helma--the white maiden. Since I
have turned to the old gods it has been made clear to me that
I shall slay Lugur and that the _Heks_, the evil witch Yolara,
shall also die. But I would talk with the white maiden."
"All right," said Larry, "but just don't be afraid of what
you don't understand. There's another thing"--he hesitated,
nervously--"there's another thing that may startle you a bit
when we meet up with Lakla--her--er--frogs!"
"Like the frog-woman we saw on the wall?" asked Olaf.
"Yes," went on Larry, rapidly. "It's this way--I figure that
the frogs grow rather large where she lives, and they're a bit
different too. Well, Lakla's got a lot of 'em trained. Carry
spears and clubs and all that junk--just like trained seals or
monkeys or so on in the circus. Probably a custom of the
place. Nothing queer about that, Olaf. Why people have all
kinds of pets--armadillos and snakes and rabbits, kangaroos
and elephants and tigers."
Remembering how the frog-woman had stuck in Larry's
mind from the outset, I wondered whether all this was not
more to convince himself than Olaf.
"Why, I remember a nice girl in Paris who had four pet
pythons--" he went on.
But I listened no more, for now I was sure of my surmise.
The road had begun to thrust itself through high-flung,
sharply pinnacled masses and rounded outcroppings of rock
on which clung patches of the amber moss.
The trees had utterly vanished, and studding the mosscarpeted
plains were only clumps of a willowy shrub from
which hung, like grapes, clusters of white waxen blooms.
The light too had changed; gone were the dancing, sparkling
atoms and the silver had faded to a soft, almost ashen greyness.
Ahead of us marched a rampart of coppery cliffs rising,
like all these mountainous walls we had seen, into the immensities
of haze. Something long drifting in my subconsciousness
turned to startled realization. The speed of the
shell was slackening! The aperture containing the ionizing
mechanism was still open; I glanced within, The whirling ball
of fire was not dimmed, but its coruscations, instead of pouring
down through the cylinder, swirled and eddied and shot
back as though trying to re-enter their source. Rador nodded
"The Shadow takes its toll," he said.
We topped a rise--Larry gripped my arm.
"Look!" he cried, and pointed. Far, far behind us, so far
that the road was but a glistening thread, a score of shining
points came speeding.
"Lugur and his men," said Rador.
"Can't you step on her?" asked Larry.
"Step on her?" repeated the green dwarf, puzzled.
"Give her more speed; push her," explained O'Keefe.
Rador looked about him. The coppery ramparts were
close, not more than three or four miles distant; in front of
us the plain lifted in a long rolling swell, and up this the
_corial_ essayed to go--with a terrifying lessening of speed.
Faintly behind us came shootings, and we knew that Lugur
drew close. Nor anywhere was there sign of Lakla nor her
Now we were half-way to the crest; the shell barely
crawled and from beneath it came a faint hissing; it quivered,
and I knew that its base was no longer held above the
glassy surface but rested on it.
"One last chance!" exclaimed Rador. He pressed upon the
control lever and wrenched it from its socket. Instantly the
sparkling ball expanded, whirling with prodigious rapidity
and sending a cascade of coruscations into the cylinder. The
shell rose; leaped through the air; the dark crystal split
into fragments; the fiery ball dulled; died--but upon the
impetus of that last thrust we reached the crest. Poised there
for a moment, I caught a glimpse of the road dropping down
the side of an enormous moss-covered, bowl-shaped valley
whose sharply curved sides ended abruptly at the base of
the towering barrier.
Then down the steep, powerless to guide or to check the
shell, we plunged in a meteor rush straight for the annihilating
adamantine breasts of the cliffs!
Now the quick thinking of Larry's air training came to our
aid. As the rampart reared close he threw himself upon
Rador; hurled him and himself against the side of the flying
whorl. Under the shock the finely balanced machine swerved
from its course. It struck the soft, low bank of the road, shot
high in air, bounded on through the thick carpeting, whirled
like a dervish and fell upon its side. Shot from it, we rolled
for yards, but the moss saved broken bones or serious bruise.
"Quick!" cried the green dwarf. He seized an arm, dragged
me to my feet, began running to the cliff base not a hundred
feet away. Beside us raced O'Keefe and Olaf. At our left was
the black road. It stopped abruptly--was cut off by a slab
of polished crimson stone a hundred feet high, and as wide,
set within the coppery face of the barrier. On each side of it
stood pillars, cut from the living rock and immense, almost,
as those which held the rainbow veil of the Dweller. Across
its face weaved unnameable carvings--but I had no time for
more than a glance. The green dwarf gripped my arm again.
"Quick!" he cried again. "The handmaiden has passed!"
At the right of the Portal ran a low wall of shattered rock.
Over this we raced like rabbits. Hidden behind it was a
narrow path. Crouching, Rador in the lead, we sped along
it; three hundred, four hundred yards we raced--and the
path ended in a _cul de sac_! To our ears was borne a louder
The first of the pursuing shells had swept over the lip of
the great bowl, poised for a moment as we had and then
began a cautious descent. Within it, scanning the slopes, I
saw Lugur.
"A little closer and I'll get him!" whispered Larry
viciously. He raised his pistol.
His hand was caught in a mighty grip; Rador, eyes blazing,
stood beside him.
"No!" rasped the green dwarf. He heaved a shoulder
against one of the boulders that formed the pocket. It rocked
aside, revealing a slit.
"In!" ordered he, straining against the weight of the stone.
O'Keefe slipped through. Olaf at his back, I following. With
a lightning leap the dwarf was beside me, the huge rock
missing him by a hair breadth as it swung into place!
We were in Cimmerian darkness. I felt for my pocket-flash
and recalled with distress that I had left it behind with my
medicine kit when we fled from the gardens. But Rador
seemed to need no light.
"Grip hands!" he ordered. We crept, single file, holding
to each other like children, through the black. At last the
green dwarf paused.
"Await me here," he whispered. "Do not move. And for
your lives--be silent!"
And he was gone.
Dragon Worm and Moss Death
FOR a small eternity--to me at least--we waited. Then as
silent as ever the green dwarf returned. "It is well," he
said, some of the strain gone from his voice. "Grip hands
again, and follow."
"Wait a bit, Rador," this was Larry. "Does Lugur know
this side entrance? If he does, why not let Olaf and me go
back to the opening and pick them off as they come in? We
could hold the lot--and in the meantime you and Goodwin
could go after Lakla for help."
"Lugur knows the secret of the Portal--if he dare use it,"
answered the captain, with a curious indirection. "And now
that they have challenged the Silent Ones I think he WILL
dare. Also, he will find our tracks--and it may be that he
knows this hidden way."
"Well, for God's sake!" O'Keefe's appalled bewilderment
was almost ludicrous. "If HE knows all that, and YOU knew
all that, why didn't you let me click him when I had the chance?"
"_Larree_," the green dwarf was oddly humble. "It seemed
good to me, too--at first. And then I heard a command,
heard it clearly, to stop you--that Lugur die not now, lest a
greater vengeance fail!"
"Command? From whom?" The Irishman's voice distilled
out of the blackness the very essence of bewilderment.
"I thought," Rador was whispering--"I thought it came
from the Silent Ones!"
"Superstition!" groaned O'Keefe in utter exasperation.
"Always superstition! What can you do against it!
"Never mind, Rador." His sense of humour came to his
aid. "It's too late now, anyway. Where do we go from here,
old dear?" he laughed.
"We tread the path of one I am not fain to meet," answered
Rador. "But if meet we must, point the death tubes at the
pale shield he bears upon his throat and send the flame into
the flower of cold fire that is its centre--nor look into his
Again Larry gasped, and I with him.
"It's getting too deep for me, Doc," he muttered dejectedly.
"Can you make head or tail of it?"
"No," I answered, shortly enough, "but Rador fears something
and that's his description of it."
"Sure," he replied, "only it's a code I don't understand."
I could feel his grin. "All right for the flower of cold fire,
Rador, and I won't look into his eyes," he went on cheerfully.
"But hadn't we better be moving?"
"Come!" said the soldier; again hand in hand we went
blindly on.
O'Keefe was muttering to himself.
"Flower of cold fire! Don't look into his eyes! Some joint!
Damned superstition." Then he chuckled and carolled, softly:
"Oh, mama, pin a cold rose on me;
Two young frog-men are in love with me;
Shut my eyes so I can't see."
"Sh!" Rador was warning; he began whispering. "For half
a _va_ we go along a way of death. From its peril we pass into
another against whose dangers I can guard you. But in part
this is in view of the roadway and it may be that Lugur will
see us. If so, we must fight as best we can. If we pass these
two roads safely, then is the way to the Crimson Sea clear,
nor need we fear Lugur nor any. And there is another thing
--that Lugur does not know--when he opens the Portal the
Silent Ones will hear and Lakla and the _Akka_ will be swift
to greet its opener."
"Rador," I asked, "how know YOU all this?"
"The handmaiden is my own sister's child," he answered quietly.
O'Keefe drew a long breath.
"Uncle," he remarked casually in English, "meet the man
who's going to be your nephew!"
cept by the avuncular title, which Rador, humorously
enough, apparently conceived to be one of respectful endearment.
For me a light broke. Plain now was the reason for his
foreknowledge of Lakla's appearance at the feast where
Larry had so narrowly escaped Yolara's spells; plain the
determining factor that had cast his lot with ours, and my
confidence, despite his discourse of mysterious perils, experienced
a remarkable quickening.
Speculation as to the marked differences in pigmentation
and appearance of niece and uncle was dissipated by my
consciousness that we were now moving in a dim half-light.
We were in a fairly wide tunnel. Not far ahead the gleam
filtered, pale yellow like sunlight sifting through the leaves
of autumn poplars. And as we drove closer to its source I
saw that it did indeed pass through a leafy screen hanging
over the passage end. This Rador drew aside cautiously,
beckoned us and we stepped through.
It appeared to be a tunnel cut through soft green mould.
Its base was a flat strip of pathway a yard wide from which
the walls curved out in perfect cylindrical form, smoothed
and evened with utmost nicety. Thirty feet wide they were at
their widest, then drew toward each other with no break in
their symmetry; they did not close. Above was, roughly, a
ten-foot rift, ragged edged, through which poured light like
that in the heart of pale amber, a buttercup light shot
through with curiously evanescent bronze shadows.
"Quick!" commanded Rador, uneasily, and set off at a
sharp pace.
Now, my eyes accustomed to the strange light, I saw that
the tunnel's walls were of moss. In them I could trace fringe
leaf and curly leaf, pressings of enormous bladder caps
(Physcomitrium), immense splashes of what seemed to be
the scarlet-crested Cladonia, traceries of huge moss veils,
crushings of teeth (peristome) gigantic; spore cases brown
and white, saffron and ivory, hot vermilions and cerulean
blues, pressed into an astounding mosaic by some titanic
"Hurry!" It was Rador calling. I had lagged behind.
He quickened the pace to a half-run; we were climbing;
panting. The amber light grew stronger; the rift above us
wider. The tunnel curved; on the left a narrow cleft appeared.
The green dwarf leaped toward it, thrust us within,
pushed us ahead of him up a steep rocky fissure--well-nigh,
indeed, a chimney. Up and up this we scrambled until my
lungs were bursting and I thought I could climb no more.
The crevice ended; we crawled out and sank, even Rador,
upon a little leaf-carpeted clearing circled by lacy tree ferns.
Gasping, legs aching, we lay prone, relaxed, drawing back
strength and breath. Rador was first to rise. Thrice he bent
low as in homage, then--
"Give thanks to the Silent Ones--for their power has been
over us!" he exclaimed.
Dimly I wondered what he meant. Something about the
fern leaf at which I had been staring aroused me. I leaped to
my feet and ran to its base. This was no fern, no! It was fern
MOSS! The largest of its species I had ever found in tropic
jungles had not been more than two inches high, and this
was--twenty feet! The scientific fire I had experienced in the
tunnel returned uncontrollable. I parted the fronds, gazed out--
My outlook commanded a vista of miles--and that vista!
A _Fata Morgana_ of plantdom! A land of flowered sorcery!
Forests of tree-high mosses spangled over with blooms of
every conceivable shape and colour; cataracts and clusters,
avalanches and nets of blossoms in pastels, in dulled metallics,
in gorgeous flamboyant hues; some of them phosphorescent
and shining like living jewels; some sparkling as
though with dust of opals, of sapphires, of rubies and topazes
and emeralds; thickets of convolvuli like the trumpets of the
seven archangels of Mara, king of illusion, which are shaped
from the bows of splendours arching his highest heaven!
And moss veils like banners of a marching host of Titans;
pennons and bannerets of the sunset; gonfalons of the Jinn;
webs of faery; oriflammes of elfland!
Springing up through that polychromatic flood myriads of
pedicles--slender and straight as spears, or soaring in spirals,
or curving with undulations gracile as the white serpents of
Tanit in ancient Carthaginian groves--and all surmounted
by a fantasy of spore cases in shapes of minaret and turret,
domes and spires and cones, caps of Phrygia and bishops'
mitres, shapes grotesque and unnameable--shapes delicate
and lovely!
They hung high poised, nodding and swaying--like goblins
hovering over _Titania's_ court; cacophony of Cathay accenting
the _Flower Maiden_ music of "Parsifal"; _bizarrerie_
of the angled, fantastic beings that people the Javan pantheon
watching a bacchanal of houris in Mohammed's paradise!
Down upon it all poured the amber light; dimmed in the
distances by huge, drifting darkenings lurid as the flying
mantles of the hurricane.
And through the light, like showers of jewels, myriads of
birds, darting, dipping, soaring, and still other myriads of
gigantic, shimmering butterflies.
A sound came to us, reaching out like the first faint susurrus
of the incoming tide; sighing, sighing, growing stronger
--now its mournful whispering quivered all about us, shook
us--then passing like a Presence, died away in far distances.
"The Portal!" said Rador. "Lugur has entered!"
He, too, parted the fronds and peered back along our
path. Peering with him we saw the barrier through which we
had come stretching verdure-covered walls for miles three or
more away. Like a mole burrow in a garden stretched the
trail of the tunnel; here and there we could look down
within the rift at its top; far off in it I thought I saw the glint
of spears.
"They come!" whispered Rador. "Quick! We must not
meet them here!"
And then--
"Holy St. Brigid!" gasped Larry.
From the rift in the tunnel's continuation, nigh a mile
beyond the cleft through which we had fled, lifted a crown
of horns--of tentacles--erect, alert, of mottled gold and
crimson; lifted higher--and from a monstrous scarlet head
beneath them blazed two enormous, obloid eyes, their depths
wells of purplish phosphorescence; higher still--noseless,
earless, chinless; a livid, worm mouth from which a slender
scarlet tongue leaped like playing flames! Slowly it rose--
its mighty neck cuirassed with gold and scarlet scales from
whose polished surfaces the amber light glinted like flakes
of fire; and under this neck shimmered something like a
palely luminous silvery shield, guarding it. The head of horror
mounted--and in the shield's centre, full ten feet across,
glowing, flickering, shining out--coldly, was a rose of white
flame, a "flower of cold fire" even as Rador had said.
Now swiftly the Thing upreared, standing like a scaled
tower a hundred feet above the rift, its eyes scanning that
movement I had seen along the course of its lair. There was
a hissing; the crown of horns fell, whipped and writhed like
the tentacles of an octopus; the towering length dropped
"Quick!" gasped Rador and through the fern moss, along
the path and down the other side of the steep we raced.
Behind us for an instant there was a rushing as of a torrent;
a far-away, faint, agonized screaming--silence!
"No fear NOW from those who followed," whispered the
green dwarf, pausing.
"Sainted St. Patrick!" O'Keefe gazed ruminatively at his
automatic. "An' he expected me to kill THAT with this. Well,
as Fergus O'Connor said when they sent him out to slaughter
a wild bull with a potato knife: 'Ye'll niver rayilize how
I appreciate the confidence ye show in me!'
"What was it, Doc?" he asked.
"The dragon worm!" Rador said.
"It was Helvede Orm--the hell worm!" groaned Olaf.
"There you go again--" blazed Larry; but the green dwarf
was hurrying down the path and swiftly we followed, Larry
muttering, Olaf mumbling, behind me.
The green dwarf was signalling us for caution. He pointed
through a break in a grove of fifty-foot cedar mosses--we
were skirting the glassy road! Scanning it we found no trace
of Lugur and wondered whether he too had seen the worm
and had fled. Quickly we passed on; drew away from the
_coria_ path. The mosses began to thin; less and less they grew,
giving way to low clumps that barely offered us shelter.
Unexpectedly another screen of fern moss stretched before
us. Slowly Rador made his way through it and stood hesitating.
The scene in front of us was oddly weird and depressing;
in some indefinable way--dreadful. Why, I could not tell,
but the impression was plain; I shrank from it. Then, selfanalyzing,
I wondered whether it could be the uncanny resemblance
the heaps of curious mossy fungi scattered about
had to beast and bird--yes, and to man--that was the cause
of it. Our path ran between a few of them. To the left they
were thick. They were viridescent, almost metallic hued--
verd-antique. Curiously indeed were they like distorted
images of dog and deerlike forms, of birds--of DWARFS and
here and there the simulacra of the giant frogs! Spore cases,
yellowish green, as large as mitres and much resembling them
in shape protruded from the heaps. My repulsion grew into
a distinct nausea.
Rador turned to us a face whiter far than that with which
he had looked upon the dragon worm.
"Now for your lives," he whispered, "tread softly here as
I do--and speak not at all!"
He stepped forward on tiptoe, slowly with utmost caution.
We crept after him; passed the heaps beside the path--and
as I passed my skin crept and I shrank and saw the others
shrink too with that unnameable loathing; nor did the green
dwarf pause until he had reached the brow of a small hillock
a hundred yards beyond. And he was trembling.
"Now what are we up against?" grumbled O'Keefe.
The green dwarf stretched a hand; stiffened; gazed over
to the left of us beyond a lower hillock upon whose broad
crest lay a file of the moss shapes. They fringed it, their
mitres having a grotesque appearance of watching what lay
below. The glistening road lay there--and from it came a
shout. A dozen of the _coria_ clustered, filled with Lugur's
men and in one of them Lugur himself, laughing wickedly!
There was a rush of soldiers and up the low hillock raced
a score of them toward us.
"Run!" shouted Rador.
"Not much!" grunted Larry--and took swift aim at Lugur.
The automatic spat: Olaf's echoed. Both bullets went wild,
for Lugur, still laughing, threw himself into the protection of
the body of his shell. But following the shots, from the file
of moss heaps on the crest, came a series of muffled explosions.
Under the pistol's concussions the mitred caps had
burst and instantly all about the running soldiers grew a
cloud of tiny, glistening white spores--like a little cloud of
puff-ball dust many times magnified. Through this cloud I
glimpsed their faces, stricken with agony.
Some turned to fly, but before they could take a second
step stood rigid.
The spore cloud drifted and eddied about them; rained
down on their heads and half bare breasts, covered their
garments--and swiftly they began to change! Their features
grew indistinct--merged! The glistening white spores that
covered them turned to a pale yellow, grew greenish, spread
and swelled, darkened. The eyes of one of the soldiers glinted
for a moment--and then were covered by the swift growth!
Where but a few moments before had been men were only
grotesque heaps, swiftly melting, swiftly rounding into the
the semblance of the mounds that lay behind us--and already
beginning to take on their gleam of ancient viridescence!
The Irishman was gripping my arm fiercely; the pain
brought me back to my senses.
"Olaf's right," he gasped. "This IS hell! I'm sick." And he
was, frankly and without restraint. Lugur and his others
awakened from their nightmare; piled into the _coria_,
wheeled, raced away.
"On!" said Rador thickly. Two perils have we passed--
the Silent Ones watch over us!"
Soon we were again among the familiar and so unfamiliar
moss giants. I knew what I had seen and this time Larry
could not call me--superstitious. In the jungles of Borneo I
had examined that other swiftly developing fungus which
wreaks the vengeance of some of the hill tribes upon those
who steal their women; gripping with its microscopic hooks
into the flesh; sending quick, tiny rootlets through the skin
down into the capillaries, sucking life and thriving and never
to be torn away until the living thing it clings to has been
sapped dry. Here was but another of the species in which
the development's rate was incredibly accelerated. Some of
this I tried to explain to O'Keefe as we sped along, reassuring
"But they turned to moss before our eyes!" he said.
Again I explained, patiently. But he seemed to derive no
comfort at all from my assurances that the phenomena were
entirely natural and, aside from their more terrifying aspect,
of peculiar interest to the botanist.
"I know," was all he would say. "But suppose one of those
things had burst while we were going through--God!"
I was wondering how I could with comparative safety
study the fungus when Rador stopped; in front of us was
again the road ribbon.
"Now is all danger passed," he said. "The way lies open
and Lugur has fled--"
There was a flash from the road. It passed me like a little
lariat of light. It struck Larry squarely between the eyes,
spread over his face and drew itself within!
"Down!" cried Rador, and hurled me to the ground. My
head struck sharply; I felt myself grow faint; Olaf fell beside
me; I saw the green dwarf draw down the O'Keefe; he collapsed
limply, face still, eyes staring. A shout--and from the
roadway poured a host of Lugur's men; I could hear Lugur
There came a rush of little feet; soft, fragrant draperies
brushed my face; dimly I watched Lakla bend over the Irishman.
She straightened--her arms swept out and the writhing
vine, with its tendrilled heads of ruby bloom, five flames of
misty incandescence, leaped into the faces of the soldiers
now close upon us. It darted at their throats, striking, coiling,
and striking again; coiling and uncoiling with incredible
rapidity and flying from leverage points of throats, of faces,
of breasts like a spring endowed with consciousness, volition
and hatred--and those it struck stood rigid as stone with
faces masks of inhuman fear and anguish; and those still
unstricken fled.
Another rush of feet--and down upon Lugur's forces
poured the frog-men, their booming giant leading, thrusting
with their lances, tearing and rending with talons and fangs
and spurs.
Against that onslaught the dwarfs could not stand. They
raced for the shells; I heard Lugur shouting, menacingly--
and then Lakla's voice, pealing like a golden bugle of wrath.
"Go, Lugur!" she cried. "Go--that you and Yolara and
your Shining One may die together! Death for you, Lugur--
death for you all! Remember Lugur--death!"
There was a great noise within my head--no matter,
Lakla was here--Lakla here--but too late--Lugur had outplayed
us; moss death nor dragon worm had frightened him
away--he had crept back to trap us--Lakla had come too
late--Larry was dead--Larry! But I had heard no banshee
wailing--and Larry had said he could not die without that
warning--no, Larry was not dead. So ran the turbulent current
of my mind.
A horny arm lifted me; two enormous, oddly gentle saucer
eyes were staring into mine; my head rolled; I caught a
glimpse of the Golden Girl kneeling beside the O'Keefe.
The noise in my head grew thunderous--was carrying me
away on its thunder--swept me into soft, blind darkness.
The Crimson Sea
I WAS in the heart of a rose pearl, swinging, swinging; no,
I was in a rosy dawn cloud, pendulous in space. Consciousness
flooded me, in reality I was in the arms of one of the
man frogs, carrying me as though I were a babe, and we
were passing through some place suffused with glow enough
like heart of pearl or dawn cloud to justify my awakening
Just ahead walked Lakla in earnest talk with Rador, and
content enough was I for a time to watch her. She had
thrown off the metallic robes; her thick braids of golden
brown hair with their flame glints of bronze were twined in
a high coronal meshed in silken net of green; little clustering
curls escaped from it, clinging to the nape of the proud white
neck, shyly kissing it. From her shoulders fell a loose, sleeveless
garment of shimmering green belted with a high golden
girdle; skirt folds dropping barely below the knees.
She had cast aside her buskins, too, and the slender, higharched
feet were sandalled. Between the buckled edges of
her kirtle I caught gleams of translucent ivory as exquisitely
moulded, as delectably rounded, as those revealed so naively
beneath the hem.
Something was knocking at the doors of my consciousness
--some tragic thing. What was it? Larry! Where was Larry?
I remembered; raised my head abruptly; saw at my side another
frog-man carrying O'Keefe, and behind him, Olaf, step
instinct with grief, following like some faithful, wistful dog
who has lost a loved master. Upon my movement the
monster bearing me halted, looked down inquiringly, uttered
a deep, booming note that held the quality of interrogation.
Lakla turned; the clear, golden eyes were sorrowful, the
sweet mouth drooping; but her loveliness, her gentleness,
that undefinable synthesis of all her tender self that seemed
always to circle her with an atmosphere of lucid normality,
lulled my panic.
"Drink this," she commanded, holding a small vial to my
Its contents were aromatic, unfamiliar but astonishingly
effective, for as soon as they passed my lips I felt a surge of
strength; consciousness was restored.
"Larry!" I cried. "Is he dead?"
Lakla shook her head; her eyes were troubled.
"No," she said; "but he is like one dead--and yet
"Put me down," I demanded of my bearer.
He tightened his hold; round eyes upon the Golden Girl.
She spoke--in sonorous, reverberating monosyllables--and
I was set upon my feet; I leaped to the side of the Irishman.
He lay limp, with a disquieting, abnormal sequacity, as
though every muscle were utterly flaccid; the antithesis of
the _rigor mortis_, thank God, but terrifyingly toward the other
end of its arc; a syncope I had never known. The flesh was
stone cold; the pulse barely perceptible, long intervalled;
the respiration undiscoverable; the pupils of the eyes were
enormously dilated; it was as though life had been drawn
from every nerve.
"A light flashed from the road. It struck his face and
seemed to sink in," I said.
"I saw," answered Rador; "but what it was I know not;
and I thought I knew all the weapons of our rulers." He
glanced at me curiously. "Some talk there has been that the
stranger who came with you, Double Tongue, was making
new death tools for Lugur," he ended.
Marakinoff! The Russian at work already in this storehouse
of devastating energies, fashioning the weapons for
his plots! The Apocalyptic vision swept back upon me--
"He is not dead." Lakla's voice was poignant. "He is not
dead; and the Three have wondrous healing. They can restore
him if they will--and they will, they WILL!" For a
moment she was silent. "Now their gods help Lugur and
Yolara," she whispered; "for come what may, whether the
Silent Ones be strong or weak, if he dies, surely shall I fall
upon them and I will slay those two--yea, though I, too
"Yolara and Lugur shall both die." Olaf's eyes were burning.
"But Lugur is mine to slay."
That pity I had seen before in Lakla's eyes when she
looked upon the Norseman banished the white wrath from
them. She turned, half hurriedly, as though to escape his
"Walk with us," she said to me, "unless you are still
I shook my head, gave a last look at O'Keefe; there was
nothing I could do; I stepped beside her. She thrust a white
arm into mine protectingly, the wonderfully moulded hand
with its long, tapering fingers catching about my wrist; my
heart glowed toward her.
"Your medicine is potent, handmaiden," I answered. "And
the touch of your hand would give me strength enough, even
had I not drunk it," I added in Larry's best manner.
Her eyes danced, trouble flying.
"Now, that was well spoken for such a man of wisdom
as Rador tells me you are," she laughed; and a little pang
shot through me. Could not a lover of science present a compliment
without it always seeming to be as unusual as plucking
a damask rose from a cabinet of fossils?
Mustering my philosophy, I smiled back at her. Again I
noted that broad, classic brow, with the little tendrils of
shining bronze caressing it, the tilted, delicate, nut-brown
brows that gave a curious touch of innocent _diablerie_ to
the lovely face--flowerlike, pure, high-bred, a touch of roguishness,
subtly alluring, sparkling over the maiden Madonnaness
that lay ever like a delicate, luminous suggestion
beneath it; the long, black, curling lashes--the tender,
rounded, bare left breast--
"I have always liked you," she murmured naively, "since
first I saw you in that place where the Shining One goes
forth into your world. And I am glad you like my medicine
as well as that you carry in the black box that you left behind,"
she added swiftly.
"How know you of that, Lakla?" I gasped.
"Oft and oft I came to him there, and to you, while you
lay sleeping. How call you HIM?" She paused.
"Larry!" I said.
"Larry!" she repeated it excellently. "And you?"
"Goodwin," said Rador.
I bowed quite as though I were being introduced to some
charming young lady met in that old life now seemingly
aeons removed.
"Yes--Goodwin." she said. "Oft and oft I came. Sometimes
I thought you saw me. And HE--did he not dream of
me sometime--?" she asked wistfully.
"He did." I said, "and watched for you." Then amazement
grew vocal. "But how came you?" I asked.
"By a strange road," she whispered, "to see that all was
well with HIM--and to look into his heart; for I feared Yolara
and her beauty. But I saw that she was not in his heart." A
blush burned over her, turning even the little bare breast
rosy. "It is a strange road," she went on hurriedly. "Many
times have I followed it and watched the Shining One bear
back its prey to the blue pool; seen the woman HE seeks"--
she made a quick gesture toward Olaf--"and a babe cast
from her arms in the last pang of her mother love; seen
another woman throw herself into the Shining One's embrace
to save a man she loved; and I could not help!" Her
voice grew deep, thrilled. "The friend, it comes to me, who
drew you here, Goodwin!"
She was silent, walking as one who sees visions and listens
to voices unheard by others, Rador made a warning gesture;
I crowded back my questions, glanced about me. We were
passing over a smooth strand, hard packed as some beach of
long-thrust-back ocean. It was like crushed garnets, each
grain stained deep red, faintly sparkling. On each side were
distances, the floor stretching away into them bare of vegetation--
stretching on and on into infinitudes of rosy mist,
even as did the space above.
Flanking and behind us marched the giant batrachians,
fivescore of them at least, black scale and crimson scale lustrous
and gleaming in the rosaceous radiance; saucer eyes
shining circles of phosphorescence green, purple, red; spurs
clicking as they crouched along with a gait at once grotesque
and formidable.
Ahead the mist deepened into a ruddier glow; through it
a long, dark line began to appear--the mouth I thought of
the caverned space through which we were going; it was
just before us; over us--we stood bathed in a flood of rubescence!
A sea stretched before us--a crimson sea, gleaming like
that lost lacquer of royal coral and the Flame Dragon's
blood which Fu S'cze set upon the bower he built for his
stolen sun maiden--that going toward it she might think it
the sun itself rising over the summer seas. Unmoved by wave
or ripple, it was placid as some deep woodland pool when
night rushes up over the world.
It seemed molten--or as though some hand great enough
to rock earth had distilled here from conflagrations of autumn
sunsets their flaming essences.
A fish broke through, large as a shark, blunt-headed, flashing
bronze, ridged and mailed as though with serrate plates
of armour. It leaped high, shaking from it a sparkling spray
of rubies; dropped and shot up a geyser of fiery gems.
Across my line of vision, moving stately over the sea,
floated a half globe, luminous, diaphanous, its iridescence
melting into turquoise, thence to amethyst, to orange, to
scarlet shot with rose, to vermilion, a translucent green,
thence back into the iridescence; behind it four others, and
the least of them ten feet in diameter, and the largest no less
than thirty. They drifted past like bubbles blown from froth
of rainbows by pipes in mouths of Titans' young. Then from
the base of one arose a tangle of shimmering strands, long,
slender whiplashes that played about and sank slowly again
beneath the crimson surface.
I gasped--for the fish had been a _ganoid_--that ancient,
armoured form that was perhaps the most intelligent of all
life on our planet during the Devonian era, but which for
age upon age had vanished, save for its fossils held in the
embrace of the stone that once was their soft bottom beds;
and the half-globes were _Medusae_, jelly-fish--but of a size,
luminosity, and colour unheard of.
Now Lakla cupped her mouth with pink palms and sent a
clarion note ringing out. The ledge on which we stood continued
a few hundred feet before us, falling abruptly, though
from no great height to the Crimson Sea; at right and left
it extended in a long semicircle. Turning to the right whence
she had sent her call, I saw rising a mile or more away,
veiled lightly by the haze, a rainbow, a gigantic prismatic
arch, flattened, I thought, by some quality of the strange
atmosphere. It sprang from the ruddy strand, leaped the
crimson tide, and dropped three miles away upon a precipitous,
jagged upthrust of rock frowning black from the lacquered
And surmounting a higher ledge beyond this upthrust a
huge dome of dull gold, Cyclopean, striking eyes and mind
with something unhumanly alien, baffling; sending the mind
groping, as though across the deserts of space, from some
far-flung star, should fall upon us linked sounds, coherent
certainly, meaningful surely, vaguely familiar--yet never
to be translated into any symbol or thought of our own
particular planet.
The sea of crimson lacquer, with its floating moons of
luminous colour--this bow of prismed stone leaping to the
weird isle crowned by the anomalous, aureate excrescence
--the half human batrachians-the elfland through which
we had passed, with all its hidden wonders and terrors--
I felt the foundations of my cherished knowledge shaking.
Was this all a dream? Was this body of mine lying somewhere,
fighting a fevered death, and all these but images
floating through the breaking chambers of my brain? My
knees shook; involuntarily I groaned.
Lakla turned, looked at me anxiously, slipped a soft arm
behind me, held me till the vertigo passed.
"Patience," she said. "The bearers come. Soon you shall
I looked; down toward us from the bow's end were leaping
swiftly another score of the frog-men. Some bore litters,
high, handled, not unlike palanquins--
"Asgard!" Olaf stood beside me, eyes burning, pointing
to the arch. "Bifrost Bridge, sharp as sword edge, over which
souls go to Valhalla. And SHE--she is a Valkyr--a sword
maiden, _Ja!_"
I gripped the Norseman's hand. It was hot, and a pang of
remorse shot through me. If this place had so shaken me,
how must it have shaken Olaf? It was with relief that I
watched him, at Lakla's gentle command, drop into one of
the litters and lie back, eyes closed, as two of the monsters
raised its yoke to their scaled shoulders. Nor was it without
further relief that I myself lay back on the soft velvety
cushions of another.
The cavalcade began to move. Lakla had ordered O'Keefe
placed beside her, and she sat, knees crossed Orient fashion,
leaning over the pale head on her lap, the white, tapering
fingers straying fondly through his hair.
Presently I saw her reach up, slowly unwind the coronal
of her tresses, shake them loose, and let them fall like a veil
over her and him.
Her head bent low; I heard a soft sobbing--I turned away
my gaze, lorn enough in my own heart, God knew!
The Three Silent Ones
THE ARCH was closer--and in my awe I forgot for the
moment Larry and aught else. For this was no rainbow,
no thing born of light and mist, no Bifrost Bridge of myth
--no! It was a flying arch of stone, stained with flares of
Tyrian purples, of royal scarlets, of blues dark as the Gulf
Stream's ribbon, sapphires soft as midday May skies,
splashes of chromes and greens--a palette of giantry, a
bridge of wizardry; a hundred, nay, a thousand, times
greater than that of Utah which the Navaho call Nonnegozche
and worship, as well they may, as a god, and
which is itself a rainbow in eternal rock.
It sprang from the ledge and winged its prodigious length
in one low arc over the sea's crimson breast, as though in
some ancient paroxysm of earth it had been hurled molten,
crystallizing into that stupendous span and still flaming with
the fires that had moulded it.
Closer we came and closer, while I watched spellbound;
now we were at its head, and the litter-bearers swept upon
it. All of five hundred feet wide it was, surface smooth as a
city road, sides low walled, curving inward as though in the
jetting-out of its making the edges of the plastic rock had
On and on we sped; the high thrusting precipices upon
which the bridge's far end rested, frowned close; the enigmatic,
dully shining dome loomed ever greater. Now we had
reached that end; were passing over a smooth plaza whose
level floor was enclosed, save for a rift in front of us, by
the fanged tops of the black cliff's.
From this rift stretched another span, half a mile long,
perhaps, widening at its centre into a broad platform, continuing
straight to two massive gates set within the face of
the second cliff wall like panels, and of the same dull gold
as the dome rising high beyond. And this smaller arch leaped
a pit, an abyss, of which the outer precipices were the rim
holding back from the pit the red flood.
We were rapidly approaching; now upon the platform; my
bearers were striding closely along the side; I leaned far out
--a giddiness seized me! I gazed down into depth upon vertiginous
depth; an abyss indeed--an abyss dropping to
world's base like that in which the Babylonians believed
writhed Talaat, the serpent mother of Chaos; a pit that
struck down into earth's heart itself,
Now, what was that--distance upon unfathomable distance
below? A stupendous glowing like the green fire of life
itself. What was it like? I had it! It was like the corona of the
sun in eclipse--that burgeoning that makes of our luminary
when moon veils it an incredible blossoming of splendours
in the black heavens.
And strangely, strangely, it was like the Dweller's beauty
when with its dazzling spirallings and writhings it raced
amid its storm of crystal bell sounds!
The abyss was behind us; we had paused at the golden
portals; they swung inward. A wide corridor filled with soft
light was before us, and on its threshold stood--bizarre,
yellow gems gleaming, huge muzzle wide in what was evidently
meant for a smile of welcome--the woman frog of
the Moon Pool wall.
Lakla raised her head; swept back the silken tent of her
hair and gazed at me with eyes misty from weeping. The
frog-woman crept to her side; gazed down upon Larry; spoke
--SPOKE--to the Golden Girl in a swift stream of the sonorous,
reverberant monosyllables; and Lakla answered her in
kind. The webbed digits swept over O'Keefe's face, felt at
his heart; she shook her head and moved ahead of us up the
Still borne in the litters we went on, winding, ascending
until at last they were set down in a great hall carpeted
with soft fragrant rushes and into which from high narrow
slits streamed the crimson light from without.
I jumped over to Larry, there had been no change in his
condition; still the terrifying limpness, the slow, infrequent
pulsation. Rador and Olaf--and the fever now seemed to be
gone from him--came and stood beside me, silent.
"I go to the Three," said Lakla. "Wait you here." She
passed through a curtaining; then as swiftly as she had gone
she returned through the hangings, tresses braided, a swathing
of golden gauze about her.
"Rador," she said, "bear you Larry--for into your heart
the Silent Ones would look. And fear nothing," she added at
the green dwarfs disconcerted, almost fearful start.
Rador bowed, was thrust aside by Olaf.
"No," said the Norseman; "I will carry him."
He lifted Larry like a child against his broad breast. The
dwarf glanced quickly at Lakla; she nodded.
"Come!" she commanded, and held aside the folds.
Of that journey I have few memories. I only know that
we went through corridor upon corridor; successions of vast
halls and chambers, some carpeted with the rushes, others
with rugs into which the feet sank as into deep, soft meadows;
spaces illumined by the rubrous light, and spaces in
which softer lights held sway.
We paused before a slab of the same crimson stone as that
the green dwarf had called the portal, and upon its polished
surface weaved the same unnameable symbols. The Golden
Girl pressed upon its side; it slipped softly back; a torrent of
opalescence gushed out of the opening--and as one in a
dream I entered.
We were, I knew, just under the dome; but for the moment,
caught in the flood of radiance, I could see nothing. It
was like being held within a fire opal--so brilliant, so flashing,
was it. I closed my eyes, opened them; the lambency
cascaded from the vast curves of the globular walls; in front
of me was a long, narrow opening in them, through which,
far away, I could see the end of the wizards' bridge and the
ledged mouth of the cavern through which we had come;
against the light from within beat the crimson light from
without--and was checked as though by a barrier.
I felt Lakla's touch; turned.
A hundred paces away was a dais, its rim raised a yard
above the floor. From the edge of this rim streamed upward
a steady, coruscating mist of the opalescence, veined even as
was that of the Dweller's shining core and shot with milky
shadows like curdled moonlight; up it stretched like a wall.
Over it, from it, down upon me, gazed three faces--two
clearly male, one a woman's. At the first I thought them
statues, and then the eyes of them gave the lie to me; for
the eyes were alive, terribly, and if I could admit the word
They were thrice the size of the human eye and triangular,
the apex of the angle upward; black as jet, pupilless, filled
with tiny, leaping red flames,
Over them were foreheads, not as ours--high and broad
and visored; their sides drawn forward into a vertical ridge,
a prominence, an upright wedge, somewhat like the visored
heads of a few of the great lizards--and the heads, long,
narrowing at the back, were fully twice the size of mankind's!
Upon the brows were caps--and with a fearful certainty
I knew that they were NOT caps--long, thick strands of
gleaming yellow, feathered scales thin as sequins! Sharp,
curving noses like the beaks of the giant condors; mouths
thin, austere; long, powerful, pointed chins; the--FLESH--
of the faces white as the whitest marble; and wreathing up to
them, covering all their bodies, the shimmering, curdled,
misty fires of opalescence!
Olaf stood rigid; my own heart leaped wildly. What--
what were these beings?
I forced myself to look again--and from their gaze
streamed a current of reassurance, of good will--nay, of
intense spiritual strength. I saw that they were not fierce,
not ruthless, not inhuman, despite their strangeness; no,
they were kindly; in some unmistakable way, benign and
sorrowful--so sorrowful! I straightened, gazed back at them
fearlessly. Olaf drew a deep breath, gazed steadily too, the
hardness, the despair wiped from his face.
Now Lakla drew closer to the dais; the three pairs of eyes
searched hers, the woman's with an ineffable tenderness;
some message seemed to pass between the Three and the
Golden Girl. She bowed low, turned to the Norseman.
"Place Larry there," she said softly--"there at the feet of
the Silent Ones."
She pointed into the radiant mist; Olaf started, hesitated,
stared from Lakla to the Three, searched for a moment their
eyes--and something like a smile drifted through them. He
stepped forward, lifted O'Keefe, set him squarely within the
covering light. It wavered, rolled upward, swirled about the
body, steadied again--and within it there was no sign of
Again the mist wavered, shook, and seemed to climb
higher, hiding the chins, the beaked noses, the brows of that
incredible Trinity--but before it ceased to climb, I thought
the yellow feathered heads bent; sensed a movement as
though they lifted something.
The mist fell; the eyes gleamed out again, inscrutable.
And groping out of the radiance, pausing at the verge of
the dais, leaping down from it, came Larry, laughing, filled
with life, blinking as one who draws from darkness into sunshine.
He saw Lakla, sprang to her, gripped her in his arms.
"Lakla!" he cried. "Mavourneen!" She slipped from his
embrace, blushing, glancing at the Three shyly, half-fearfully.
And again I saw the tenderness creep into the inky,
flame-shot orbs of the woman being; and a tenderness in the
others too--as though they regarded some well-beloved
"You lay in the arms of Death, Larry," she said. "And the
Silent Ones drew you from him. Do homage to the Silent
Ones, Larry, for they are good and they are mighty!"
She turned his head with one of the long, white hands--
and he looked into the faces of the Three; looked long, was
shaken even as had been Olaf and myself; was swept by that
same wave of power and of--of--what can I call it?--HOLINESS
that streamed from them.
Then for the first time I saw real awe mount into his face.
Another moment he stared--and dropped upon one knee
and bowed his head before them as would a worshipper before
the shrine of his saint. And--I am not ashamed to tell it
--I joined him; and with us knelt Lakla and Olaf and Rador.
The mist of fiery opal swirled up about the Three; hid
And with a long, deep, joyous sigh Lakla took Larry's
hand, drew him to his feet, and silently we followed them
out of that hall of wonder.
But why, in going, did the thought come to me that from
where the Three sat throned they ever watched the cavern
mouth that was the door into their abode; and looked down
ever into the unfathomable depth in which glowed and
pulsed that mystic flower, colossal, awesome, of green flame
that had seemed to me fire of life itself?
The Wooing of Lakla
I HAD SLEPT soundly and dreamlessly; I wakened quietly in
the great chamber into which Rador had ushered O'Keefe
and myself after that culminating experience of crowded,
nerve-racking hours--the facing of the Three.
Now, lying gazing upward at the high-vaulted ceiling, I
heard Larry's voice:
"They look like birds." Evidently he was thinking of the
Three; a silence--then: "Yes, they look like BIRDS--and they
look, and it's meaning no disrespect to them I am at all, they
look like LIZARDS"--and another silence--"they look like
some sort of gods, and, by the good sword-arm of Brian
Boru, they look human, too! And it's NONE of them they are
either, so what--what the--what the sainted St. Bridget are
they?" Another short silence, and then in a tone of awed
and absolute conviction: "That's it, sure! That's what they
are--it all hangs in--they couldn't be anything else--"
He gave a whoop; a pillow shot over and caught me across
the head.
"Wake up!" shouted Larry. "Wake up, ye seething caldron
of fossilized superstitions! Wake up, ye bogy-haunted man
of scientific unwisdom!"
Under pillow and insults I bounced to my feet, filled for a
moment with quite real wrath; he lay back, roaring with
laughter, and my anger was swept away.
"Doc," he said, very seriously, after this, "I know who the
Three are!"
"Yes?" I queried, with studied sarcasm.
"Yes?" he mimicked. "Yes! Ye--ye" He paused under
the menace of my look, grinned. "Yes, I know," he continued.
"They're of the Tuatha De, the old ones, the great
people of Ireland, THAT'S who they are!"
I knew, of course, of the Tuatha De Danann, the tribes of
the god Danu, the half-legendary, half-historical clan who
found their home in Erin some four thousand years before
the Christian era, and who have left so deep an impress upon
the Celtic mind and its myths.
"Yes," said Larry again, "the Tuatha De--the Ancient
Ones who had spells that could compel Mananan, who is the
spirit of all the seas, an' Keithor, who is the god of all green
living things, an' even Hesus, the unseen god, whose pulse is
the pulse of all the firmament; yes, an' Orchil too, who sits
within the earth an' weaves with the shuttle of mystery and
her three looms of birth an' life an' death--even Orchil
would weave as they commanded!"
He was silent--then:
"They are of them--the mighty ones--why else would I
have bent my knee to them as I would have to the spirit of
my dead mother? Why else would Lakla, whose gold-brown
hair is the hair of Eilidh the Fair, whose mouth is the sweet
mouth of Deirdre, an' whose soul walked with mine ages
agone among the fragrant green myrtle of Erin, serve them?"
he whispered, eyes full of dream.
"Have you any idea how they got here?" I asked, not
"I haven't thought about that," he replied somewhat testily.
"But at once, me excellent man o' wisdom, a number
occur to me. One of them is that this little party of three
might have stopped here on their way to Ireland, an' for good
reasons of their own decided to stay a while; an' another is
that they might have come here afterward, havin' got wind
of what those rats out there were contemplatin', and have
stayed on the job till the time was ripe to save Ireland from
'em; the rest of the world, too, of course," he added magnanimously,
"but Ireland in particular. And do any of those
reasons appeal to ye?"
I shook my head.
"Well, what do you think?" he asked wearily.
"I think," I said cautiously, "that we face an evolution of
highly intelligent beings from ancestral sources radically removed
from those through which mankind ascended. These
half-human, highly developed batrachians they call the _Akka_
prove that evolution in these caverned spaces has certainly
pursued one different path than on earth. The Englishman,
Wells, wrote an imaginative and very entertaining book concerning
an invasion of earth by Martians, and he made his
Martians enormously specialized cuttlefish. There was nothing
inherently improbable in Wells' choice. Man is the ruling
animal of earth today solely by reason of a series of accidents;
under another series spiders or ants, or even elephants,
could have become the dominant race.
"I think," I said, even more cautiously, "that the race to
which the Three belong never appeared on earth's surface;
that their development took place here, unhindered through
aeons. And if this be true, the structure of their brains, and
therefore all their reactions, must be different from ours.
Hence their knowledge and command of energies unfamiliar
to us--and hence also the question whether they may not
have an entirely different sense of values, of justice--and
that is rather terrifying," I concluded.
Larry shook his head.
"That last sort of knocks your argument, Doc," he said.
"They had sense of justice enough to help ME out--and certainly
they know love--for I saw the way they looked at
Lakla; and sorrow--for there was no mistaking that in their
"No," he went on. "I hold to my own idea. They're of the
Old People. The little leprechaun knew his way here, an'
I'll bet it was they who sent the word. An' if the O'Keefe banshee
comes here--which save the mark!--I'll bet she'll drop
in on the Silent Ones for a social visit before she an' her clan
get busy. Well, it'll make her feel more at home, the good old
body. No, Doc, no," he concluded, "I'm right; it all fits in too
well to be wrong."
I made a last despairing attempt.
"Is there anything anywhere in Ireland that would indicate
that the Tuatha De ever looked like the Three?" I asked--
and again I had spoken most unfortunately.
"Is there?" he shouted. "Is there? By the kilt of Cormack
MacCormack, I'm glad ye reminded me. It was worryin' me
a little meself. There was Daghda, who could put on the
head of a great boar an' the body of a giant fish and cleave
the waves an' tear to pieces the birlins of any who came
against Erin; an' there was Rinn--"
How many more of the metamorphoses of the Old People
I might have heard, I do not know, for the curtains parted
and in walked Rador.
"You have rested well," he smiled, "I can see. The handmaiden
bade me call you. You are to eat with her in her
Down long corridors we trod and out upon a gardened
terrace as beautiful as any of those of Yolara's city; bowered,
blossoming, fragrant, set high upon the cliffs beside the
domed castle. A table, as of milky jade, was spread at one
corner, but the Golden Girl was not there. A little path ran
on and up, hemmed in by the mass of verdure. I looked at
it longingly; Rador saw the glance, interpreted it, and led me
up the stepped sharp slope into a rock embrasure.
Here I was above the foliage, and everywhere the view
was clear. Below me stretched the incredible bridge, with the
frog people hurrying back and forth upon it. A pinnacle at
my side hid the abyss. My eyes followed the cavern ledge.
Above it the rock rose bare, but at the ends of the semicircular
strand a luxuriant vegetation began, stretching from
the crimson shores back into far distances. Of browns and
reds and yellows, like an autumn forest, was the foliage,
with here and there patches of dark-green, as of conifers.
Five miles or more, on each side, the forests swept, and then
were lost to sight in the haze.
I turned and faced an immensity of crimson waters, unbroken,
a true sea, if ever there was one. A breeze blew--
the first real wind I had encountered in the hidden places;
under it the surface, that had been as molten lacquer, rippled
and dimpled. Little waves broke with a spray of rose-pearls
and rubies. The giant Medusae drifted--stately, luminous
kaleidoscopic elfin moons.
Far down, peeping around a jutting tower of the cliff, I saw
dipping with the motion of the waves a floating garden. The
flowers, too, were luminous--indeed sparkling--gleaming
brilliants of scarlet and vermilions lighter than the flood on
which they lay, mauves and odd shades of reddish-blue.
They gleamed and shone like a little lake of jewels.
Rador broke in upon my musings.
"Lakla comes! Let us go down."
It was a shy Lakla who came slowly around the end of the
path and, blushing furiously, held her hands out to Larry.
And the Irishman took them, placed them over his heart,
kissed them with a tenderness that had been lacking in the
half-mocking, half-fierce caresses he had given the priestess.
She blushed deeper, holding out the tapering fingers--then
pressed them to her own heart.
"I like the touch of your lips, Larry," she whispered.
"They warm me here"--she pressed her heart again--"and
they send little sparkles of light through me." Her brows
tilted perplexedly, accenting the nuance of diablerie, delicate
and fascinating, that they cast upon the flower face.
"Do you?" whispered the O'Keefe fervently. "Do you,
Lakla?" He bent toward her. She caught the amused glance
of Rador; drew herself aside half-haughtily.
"Rador," she said, "is it not time that you and the strong
one, Olaf, were setting forth?"
"Truly it is, handmaiden," he answered respectfully
enough--yet with a current of laughter under his words.
"But as you know the strong one, Olaf, wished to see his
friends here before we were gone--and he comes even now,"
he added, glancing down the pathway, along which came
striding the Norseman.
As he faced us I saw that a transformation had been
wrought in him. Gone was the pitiful seeking, and gone too
the just as pitiful hope. The set face softened as he looked at
the Golden Girl and bowed low to her. He thrust a hand to
O'Keefe and to me.
"There is to be battle," he said. "I go with Rador to call
the armies of these frog people. As for me--Lakla has
spoken. There is no hope for--for mine Helma in life, but
there is hope that we destroy the Shining Devil and give
_mine_ Helma peace. And with that I am well content, _ja!_ Well
content!" He gripped our hands again. "We will fight!" he
muttered. "_Ja!_ And I will have vengeance!" The sternness
returned; and with a salute Rador and he were gone.
Two great tears rolled from the golden eyes of Lakla.
"Not even the Silent Ones can heal those the Shining One
has taken," she said. "He asked me--and it was better that
I tell him. It is part of the Three's--PUNISHMENT--but of that
you will soon learn," she went on hurriedly. "Ask me no
questions now of the Silent Ones. I thought it better for Olaf
to go with Rador, to busy himself, to give his mind other
than sorrow upon which to feed."
Up the path came five of the frog-women, bearing platters
and ewers. Their bracelets and anklets of jewels were
tinkling; their middles covered with short kirtles of woven
cloth studded with the sparkling ornaments.
And here let me say that if I have given the impression
that the _Akka_ are simply magnified frogs, I regret it. Froglike
they are, and hence my phrase for them--but as unlike
the frog, as we know it, as man is unlike the chimpanzee.
Springing, I hazard, from the stegocephalia, the ancestor of
the frogs, these batrachians followed a different line of evolution
and acquired the upright position just as man did his
from the four-footed folk.
The great staring eyes, the shape of the muzzle were froglike,
but the highly developed brain had set upon the head
and shape of it vital differences. The forehead, for instance,
was not low, flat, and retreating--its frontal arch was well
defined. The head was, in a sense, shapely, and with the
females the great horny carapace that stood over it like a
fantastic helmet was much modified, as were the spurs that
were so formidable in the male; colouration was different
also. The torso was upright; the legs a little bent, giving them
their crouching gait--but I wander from my subject.1
*1 The _Akka_ are viviparous. The female produces progeny at fiveyear
intervals, never more than two at a time. They are monogamous,
like certain of our own _Ranidae_. Pending my monograph upon what
little I had time to learn of their interesting habits and customs, the
curious will find instruction and entertainment in Brandes and Schvenichen's
_Brutpfleige der Schwanzlosen Bat rachier_, p. 395; and Lilian V.
Sampson's _Unusual Modes of Breeding among Anura_, Amer. Nat.
xxxiv., 1900.--W. T. G.
They set their burdens down. Larry looked at them with
"You surely have those things well trained, Lakla," he
"Things!" The handmaiden arose, eyes flashing with indignation.
"You call my _Akka_ things!"
"Well," said Larry, a bit taken aback, "what do you call them?"
"My _Akka are a PEOPLE," she retorted. "As much a people
as your race or mine. They are good and loyal, and they have
speech and arts, and they slay not, save for food or to protect
themselves. And I think them beautiful, Larry, BEAUTIFUL!"
She stamped her foot. "And you call them--THINGS!"
Beautiful! These? Yet, after all, they were, in their grotesque
fashion. And to Lakla, surrounded by them, from
babyhood, they were not strange, at all. Why shouldn't she
think them beautiful? The same thought must have struck
O'Keefe, for he flushed guiltily.
"I think them beautiful, too, Lakla," he said remorsefully.
"It's my not knowing your tongue too well that traps me.
TRULY, I think them beautiful--I'd tell them so, if I knew
their talk."
Lakla dimpled, laughed--spoke to the attendants in that
strange speech that was unquestionably a language; they
bridled, looked at O'Keefe with fantastic coquetry, cracked
and boomed softly among themselves.
"They say they like YOU better than the men of Muria,"
laughed Lakla.
"Did I ever think I'd be swapping compliments with lady
frogs!" he murmured to me. "Buck up, Larry--keep your
eyes on the captive Irish princess!" he muttered to himself.
"Rador goes to meet one of the _ladala_ who is slipping
through with news," said the Golden Girl as we addressed
ourselves to the food. "Then, with Nak, he and Olaf go to
muster the _Akka_--for there will be battle, and we must prepare.
Nak," she added, "is he who went before me when you
were dancing with Yolara, Larry." She stole a swift, mischievous
glance at him. "He is headman of all the _Akka_."
"Just what forces can we muster against them when they
come, darlin'?" said Larry.
"Darlin'?"--the Golden Girl had caught the caress of the
word--"what's that?"
"It's a little word that means Lakla," he answered. "It
does--that is, when I say it; when you say it, then it means
"I like that word," mused Lakla.
"You can even say Larry darlin'!" suggested O'Keefe.
"Larry darlin'!" said Lakla. "When they come we shall
have first of all my _Akka_--"
"Can they fight, _mavourneen_?" interrupted Larry.
"Can they fight! My _Akka_!" Again her eyes flashed. "They
will fight to the last of them--with the spears that give the
swift rotting, covered, as they are, with the jelly of those
_Saddu_ there--" She pointed through a rift in the foliage
across which, on the surface of the sea, was floating one of
the moon globes--and now I know why Rador had warned
Larry against a plunge there. "With spears and clubs and
with teeth and nails and spurs--they are a strong and brave
people, Larry--darlin', and though they hurl the _Keth_ at
them, it is slow to work upon them, and they slay even while
they are passing into the nothingness!"
"And have we none of the _Keth_?" he asked.
"No"--she shook her head--"none of their weapons have
we here, although it was--it was the Ancient Ones who
shaped them."
"But the Three are of the Ancient Ones?" I cried. "Surely
they can tell--"
"No," she said slowly. "No--there is something you must
know--and soon; and then the Silent Ones say you will understand.
You, especially, Goodwin, who worship wisdom."
"Then," said Larry, "we have the _Akka_; and we have the
four men of us, and among us three guns and about a hundred
cartridges--an'--an' the power of the Three--but what
about the Shining One, Fireworks--"
"I do not know." Again the indecision that had been in
her eyes when Yolara had launched her defiance crept back.
"The Shining One is strong--and he has his--slaves!"
"Well, we'd better get busy good and quick!" the O'Keefe's
voice rang. But Lakla, for some reason of her own, would
pursue the matter no further. The trouble fled from her eyes
--they danced.
"Larry darlin'?" she murmured. "I like the touch of your
"You do?" he whispered, all thought flying of anything
but the beautiful, provocative face so close to his. "Then,
_acushla_, you're goin' to get acquainted with 'em! Turn your
head, Doc!" he said.
And I turned it. There was quite a long silence, broken by
an interested, soft outburst of gentle boomings from the
serving frog-maids. I stole a glance behind me. Lakla's head
lay on the Irishman's shoulder, the golden eyes misty sunpools
of love and adoration; and the O'Keefe, a new look of
power and strength upon his clear-cut features, was gazing
down into them with that look which rises only from the
heart touched for the first time with that true, all-powerful
love, which is the pulse of the universe itself, the real music
of the spheres of which Plato dreamed, the love that is
stronger than death itself, immortal as the high gods and the
true soul of all that mystery we call life.
Then Lakla raised her hands, pressed down Larry's head,
kissed him between the eyes, drew herself with a trembling
little laugh from his embrace.
"The future Mrs. Larry O'Keefe, Goodwin," said Larry to
me a little unsteadily.
I took their hands--and Lakla kissed me!
She turned to the booming--smiling--frog-maids; gave
them some command, for they filed away down the path.
Suddenly I felt, well, a little superfluous.
"If you don't mind," I said, "I think I'll go up the path
there again and look about."
But they were so engrossed with each other that they did
not even hear me--so I walked away, up to the embrasure
where Rador had taken me. The movement of the batrachians
over the bridge had ceased. Dimly at the far end I
could see the cluster of the garrison. My thoughts flew back
to Lakla and to Larry.
What was to be the end?
If we won, if we were able to pass from this place, could
she live in our world? A product of these caverns with their
atmosphere and light that seemed in some subtle way to be
both food and drink--how would she react to the unfamiliar
foods and air and light of outer earth? Further, here so far
as I was able to discover, there were no malignant bacilli--
what immunity could Lakla have then to those microscopic
evils without, which only long ages of sickness and death
have bought for us a modicum of protection? I began to be
oppressed. Surely they bad been long enough by themselves.
I went down the path.
I heard Larry.
"It's a green land, _mavourneen_. And the sea rocks and
dimples around it--blue as the heavens, green as the isle
itself, and foam horses toss their white manes, and the great
clean winds blow over it, and the sun shines down on it like
your eyes, _acushla_--"
"And are you a king of Ireland, Larry darlin'?" Thus
But enough!
At last we turned to go--and around the corner of the path
I caught another glimpse of what I have called the lake of
jewels. I pointed to it.
"Those are lovely flowers, Lakla," I said. "I have never
seen anything like them in the place from whence we come."
She followed my pointing finger--laughed.
"Come," she said, "let me show you them."
She ran down an intersecting way, we following; came out
of it upon a little ledge close to the brink, three feet or more
I suppose about it. The Golden Girl's voice rang out in a
high-pitched, tremulous, throbbing call.
The lake of jewels stirred as though a breeze had passed
over it; stirred, shook, and then began to move swiftly, a
shimmering torrent of shining flowers down upon us! She
called again, the movement became more rapid; the gem
blooms streamed closer--closer, wavering, shifting, winding
--at our very feet. Above them hovered a little radiant mist.
The Golden Girl leaned over; called softly, and up from the
sparkling mass shot a green vine whose heads were five
flowers of flaming ruby--shot up, flew into her hand and
coiled about the white arm, its quintette of lambent blossoms--
regarding us!
It was the thing Lakla had called the _Yekta_; that with
which she had threatened the priestess; the thing that carried
the dreadful death--and the Golden Girl was handling it
like a rose!
Larry swore--I looked at the thing more closely. It was a
hydroid, a development of that strange animal-vegetable
that, sometimes almost microscopic, waves in the sea depths
like a cluster of flowers paralyzing its prey with the mysterious
force that dwells in its blossom heads!1
*1 The _Yekta_ of the Crimson Sea, are as extraordinary developments
of hydroid forms as the giant _Medusae_, of which, of course, they are
not too remote cousins. The closest resemblances to them in outer
water forms are among the _Gymnoblastic Hydroids_, notably _Clavetella
prolifera_, a most interesting ambulatory form of six tentacles. Almost
every bather in Southern waters, Northern too, knows the pain that
contact with certain "jelly fish" produces. The _Yekta's_ development
was prodigious and, to us, monstrous. It secretes in its five heads an
almost incredibly swiftly acting poison which I suspect, for I had no
chance to verify the theory, destroys the entire nervous system to the
accompaniment of truly infernal agony; carrying at the same time the
illusion that the torment stretches through infinities of time. Both ether
and nitrous oxide gas produce in the majority this sensation of time
extension, without of course the pain symptom. What Lakla called
the _Yekta_ kiss is I imagine about as close to the orthodox idea of Hell
as can be conceived. The secret of her control over them I had no
opportunity of learning in the rush of events that followed. Knowledge
of the appalling effects of their touch came, she told me, from those
few "who had been kissed so lightly" that they recovered. Certainly
nothing, not even the Shining One, was dreaded by the Murians as
these were--W. T. G.
"Put it down, Lakla," the distress in O'Keefe's voice was
deep. Lakla laughed mischievously, caught the real fear for
her in his eyes; opened her hand, gave another faint call--
and back it flew to its fellows.
"Why, it wouldn't hurt me, Larry!" she expostulated.
"They know me!"
"Put it down!" he repeated hoarsely.
She sighed, gave another sweet, prolonged call. The lake
of gems--rubies and amethysts, mauves and scarlet-tinged
blues--wavered and shook even as it had before--and swept
swiftly back to that place whence she had drawn them!
Then, with Larry and Lakla walking ahead, white arm
about his brown neck; the O'Keefe still expostulating, the
handmaiden laughing merrily, we passed through her bower
to the domed castle.
Glancing through a cleft I caught sight again of the far end
of the bridge; noted among the clustered figures of its garrison
of the frog-men a movement, a flashing of green fire
like marshlights on spear tips; wondered idly what it was,
and then, other thoughts crowding in, followed along, head
bent, behind the pair who had found in what was Olaf's hell,
their true paradise.
The Coming of Yolara
"NEVER was there such a girl!" Thus Larry, dreamily, leaning
head in hand on one of the wide divans of the chamber
where Lakla had left us, pleading service to the Silent Ones.
"An', by the faith and the honour of the O'Keefes, an' by
my dead mother's soul may God do with me as I do by her!"
he whispered fervently.
He relapsed into open-eyed dreaming.
I walked about the room, examining it--the first opportunity
I had gained to inspect carefully any of the rooms in
the abode of the Three. It was octagonal, carpeted with the
thick rugs that seemed almost as though woven of soft mineral
wool, faintly shimmering, palest blue. I paced its diagonal;
it was fifty yards; the ceiling was arched, and either of
pale rose metal or metallic covering; it collected the light
from the high, slitted windows, and shed it, diffused, through
the room.
Around the octagon ran a low gallery not two feet from
the floor, balustraded with slender pillars, close set; broken
at opposite curtained entrances over which hung thick, dullgold
curtainings giving the same suggestion of metallic or
mineral substance as the rugs. Set within each of the eight
sides, above the balcony, were colossal slabs of lapis lazuli,
inset with graceful but unplaceable designs in scarlet and
sapphire blue.
There was the great divan on which mused Larry; two
smaller ones, half a dozen low seats and chairs carved apparently
of ivory and of dull soft gold.
Most curious were tripods, strong, pikelike legs of golden
metal four feet high, holding small circles of the lapis with
intaglios of one curious symbol somewhat resembling the
ideographs of the Chinese.
There was no dust--nowhere in these caverned spaces had
I found this constant companion of ours in the world overhead.
My eyes caught a sparkle from a corner. Pursuing it I
found upon one of the low seats a flat, clear crystal oval,
remarkably like a lens. I took it and stepped up on the
balcony. Standing on tiptoe I found I commanded from the
bottom of a window slit a view of the bridge approach.
Scanning it I could see no trace of the garrison there, nor of
the green spear flashes. I placed the crystal to my eyes--and
with a disconcerting abruptness the cavern mouth leaped
before me, apparently not a hundred feet away; decidedly
the crystal was a very excellent lens--but where were the
I peered closely. Nothing! But now against the aperture I
saw a score or more of tiny, dancing sparks. An optical illusion,
I thought, and turned the crystal in another direction.
There were no sparklings there. I turned it back again--
and there they were. And what were they like? Realization
came to me--they were like the little, dancing, radiant atoms
that had played for a time about the emptiness where had
stood Sorgar of the Lower Waters before he bad been shaken
into the nothingness! And that green light I had noticed--
the _Keth_!
A cry on my lips, I turned to Larry--and the cry died as
the heavy curtainings at the entrance on my right undulated,
parted as though a body had slipped through, shook and
parted again and again--with the dreadful passing of unseen
"Larry!" I cried. "Here! Quick!"
He leaped to his feet, gazed about wildly--and disappeared!
Yes--vanished from my sight like the snuffed flame
of a candle or as though something moving with the speed of
light itself had snatched him away!
Then from the divan came the sounds of struggle, the
hissing of straining breaths, the noise of Larry cursing. I
leaped over the balustrade, drawing my own pistol--was
caught in a pair of mighty arms, my elbows crushed to my
sides, drawn down until my face pressed close to a broad,
hairy breast--and through that obstacle--formless, shadowless,
transparent as air itself--I could still see the battle on
the divan!
Now there were two sharp reports; the struggle abruptly
ceased. From a point not a foot over the great couch, as
though oozing from the air itself, blood began to drop, faster
and ever faster, pouring out of nothingness.
And out of that same air, now a dozen feet away, leaped
the face of Larry--bodyless, poised six feet above the floor,
blazing with rage--floating weirdly, uncannily to a hideous
degree, in vacancy.
His hands flashed out--armless; they wavered, appearing,
disappearing--swiftly tearing something from him. Then
there, feet hidden, stiff on legs that vanished at the ankles,
striking out into vision with all the dizzy abruptness with
which he had been stricken from sight was the O'Keefe, a
smoking pistol in hand.
And ever that red stream trickled out of vacancy and
spread over the couch, dripping to the floor.
I made a mighty movement to escape; was held more
firmly--and then close to the face of Larry, flashing out with
that terrifying instantaneousness even as had his, was the
head of Yolara, as devilishly mocking as I had ever seen it,
the cruelty shining through it like delicate white flames from
hell--and beautiful!
"Stir not! Strike not--until I command!" She flung the
words beyond her, addressed to the invisible ones who had
accompanied her; whose presences I sensed filling the chamber.
The floating, beautiful head, crowned high with corn-silk
hair, darted toward the Irishman. He took a swift step backward.
The eyes of the priestess deepened toward purple;
sparkled with malice.
"So," she said. "So, _Larree_--you thought you could go
from me so easily!" She laughed softly. "In my hidden hand
I hold the _Keth_ cone," she murmured. "Before you can raise
the death tube I can smite you--and will. And consider,
_Larree_, if the handmaiden, the _choya_ comes, I can vanish--
so"--the mocking head disappeared, burst forth again--
"and slay her with the _Keth_--or bid my people seize her
and bear her to the Shining One!"
Tiny beads of sweat stood out on O'Keefe's forehead, and
I knew he was thinking not of himself, but of Lakla.
"What do you want with me, Yolara?" he asked hoarsely.
"Nay," came the mocking voice. "Not Yolara to you,
_Larree_--call me by those sweet names you taught me--
Honey of the Wild Bee-e-s, Net of Hearts--" Again her
laughter tinkled.
"What do you want with me?" his voice was strained, the
lips rigid.
"Ah, you are afraid, _Larree_." There was diabolic jubilation
in the words. "What should I want but that you return
with me? Why else did I creep through the lair of the dragon
worm and pass the path of perils but to ask you that? And
the _choya_ guards you not well." Again she laughed. "We
came to the cavern's end and, there were her _Akka_. And the
_Akka_ can see us--as shadows. But it was my desire to surprise
you with my coming, Larree," the voice was silken.
"And I feared that they would hasten to be first to bring you
that message to delight in your joy. And so, _Larree_, I loosed
the _Keth_ upon them--and gave them peace and rest within
the nothingness. And the portal below was open--almost in
Once more the malignant, silver pealing of her laughter.
"What do you want with me?" There was wrath in his
eyes, and plainly he strove for control.
"Want!" the silver voice hissed, grew calm. "Do not Siya
and Siyana grieve that the rite I pledged them is but half
done--and do they not desire it finished? And am I not
beautiful? More beautiful than your _choya_?"
The fiendishness died from the eyes; they grew blue,
wondrous; the veil of invisibility slipped down from the
neck, the shoulders, half revealing the gleaming breasts. And
weird, weird beyond all telling was that exquisite head and
bust floating there in air--and beautiful, sinisterly beautiful
beyond all telling, too. So even might Lilith, the serpent
woman, have shown herself tempting Adam!
"And perhaps," she said, "perhaps I want you because I
hate you; perhaps because I love you--or perhaps for Lugur
or perhaps for the Shining One."
"And if I go with you?" He said it quietly.
"Then shall I spare the handmaiden--and--who knows?
--take back my armies that even now gather at the portal
and let the Silent Ones rot in peace in their abode--from
which they had no power to keep me," she added venomously.
"You will swear that, Yolara; swear to go without harming
the handmaiden?" he asked eagerly. The little devils danced
in her eyes. I wrenched my face from the smothering contact.
"Don't trust her, Larry!" I cried--and again the grip
choked me.
"Is that devil in front of you or behind you, old man?"
he asked quietly, eyes never leaving the priestess. "If he's in
front I'll take a chance and wing him--and then you scoot
and warn Lakla."
But I could not answer; nor, remembering Yolara's threat,
would I, had I been able.
"Decide quickly!" There was cold threat in her voice.
The curtains toward which O'Keefe had slowly, step by
step, drawn close, opened. They framed the handmaiden!
The face of Yolara changed to that gorgon mask that had
transformed it once before at sight of the Golden Girl. In
her blind rage she forgot to cast the occulting veil. Her hand
darted like a snake out of the folds; poising itself with the
little silver cone aimed at Lakla.
But before it was wholly poised, before the priestess could
loose its force, the handmaiden was upon her. Swift as the
lithe white wolf hound she leaped, and one slender hand
gripped Yolara's throat, the other the wrist that lifted the
quivering death; white limbs wrapped about the hidden ones,
I saw the golden head bend, the hand that held the _Keth_
swept up with a vicious jerk; saw Lakla's teeth sink into the
wrist--the blood spurt forth and heard the priestess shriek.
The cone fell, bounded toward me; with all my strength I
wrenched free the hand that held my pistol, thrust it against
the pressing breast and fired,
The clasp upon me relaxed; a red rain stained me; at my
feet a little pillar of blood jetted; a hand thrust itself from
nothingness, clawed--and was still.
Now Yolara was down, Lakla meshed in her writhings and
fighting like some wild mother whose babes are serpent
menaced. Over the two of them, astride, stood the O'Keefe, a
pike from one of the high tripods in his hand--thrusting,
parrying, beating on every side as with a broadsword against
poniard-clutching hands that thrust themselves out of vacancy
striving to strike him; stepping here and there, always
covering, protecting Lakla with his own body even as a caveman
of old who does battle with his mate for their lives.
The sword-club struck--and on the floor lay the half body
of a dwarf, writhing with vanishments and reappearings of
legs and arms. Beside him was the shattered tripod from
which Larry had wrenched his weapon. I flung myself upon
it, dashed it down to break loose one of the remaining supports,
struck in midfall one of the unseen even as his dagger
darted toward me! The seat splintered, leaving in my clutch
a golden bar. I jumped to Larry's side, guarding his back,
whirling it like a staff; felt it crunch once--twice--through
unseen bone and muscle.
At the door was a booming. Into the chamber rushed a
dozen of the frog-men. While some guarded the entrances,
others leaped straight to us, and forming a circle about us
began to strike with talons and spurs at unseen things that
screamed and sought to escape. Now here and there about
the blue rugs great stains of blood appeared; heads of dwarfs,
torn arms and gashed bodies, half occulted, half revealed.
And at last the priestess lay silent, vanquished, white body
gleaming with that uncanny--fragmentariness--from her
torn robes. Then O'Keefe reached down, drew Lakla from
her. Shakily, Yolara rose to her feet. The handmaiden, face
still blazing with wrath, stepped before her; with difficulty
she steadied her voice.
"Yolara," she said, "you have defied the Silent Ones, you
have desecrated their abode, you came to slay these men who
are the guests of the Silent Ones and me, who am their handmaiden--
why did you do these things?"
"I came for him!" gasped the priestess; she pointed to
"Why?" asked Lakla.
"Because he is pledged to me," replied Yolara, all the
devils that were hers in her face. "Because he wooed me!
Because he is mine!"
"That is a lie!" The handmaiden's voice shook with rage.
"It is a lie! But here and now he shall choose, Yolara. And
if you he choose, you and he shall go forth from here unmolested--
for Yolara, it is his happiness that I most desire,
and if you are that happiness--you shall go together. And
now, Larry, choose!"
Swiftly she stepped beside the priestess; swiftly wrenched
the last shreds of the hiding robes from her.
There they stood--Yolara with but the filmiest net of
gauze about her wonderful body; gleaming flesh shining
through it; serpent woman---and wonderful, too, beyond the
dreams even of Phidias--and hell-fire glowing from the purple
And Lakla, like a girl of the Vikings, like one of those
warrior maids who stood and fought for dun and babes at the
side of those old heroes of Larry's own green isle; translucent
ivory lambent through the rents of her torn draperies,
and in the wide, golden eyes flaming wrath, indeed--not the
diabolic flames of the priestess but the righteous wrath of
some soul that looking out of paradise sees vile wrong in the
"Lakla," the O'Keefe's voice was subdued, hurt, "there IS
no choice. I love you and only you--and have from the moment
I saw you. It's not easy--this. God, Goodwin, I feel
like an utter cad," he flashed at me. "There is no choice,
Lakla," he ended, eyes steady upon hers.
The priestess's face grew deadlier still.
"What will you do with me?" she asked.
"Keep you," I said, "as hostage."
O'Keefe was silent; the Golden Girl shook her head.
"Well would I like to," her face grew dreaming; "but the
Silent Ones say--NO; they bid me let you go, Yolara--"
"The Silent Ones," the priestess laughed. "YOU, Lakla!
You fear, perhaps, to let me tarry here too close!"
Storm gathered again in the handmaiden's eyes; she forced
it back.
"No," she answered, the Silent Ones so command--and
for their own purposes. Yet do I think, Yolara, that you will
have little time to feed your wickedness--tell that to Lugur
--and to your Shining One!" she added slowly.
Mockery and disbelief rode high in the priestess's pose.
"Am I to return alone--like this?" she asked.
"Nay, Yolara, nay; you shall be accompanied," said Lakla;
"and by those who will guard--and WATCH--you well. They are
here even now."
The hangings parted, and into the chamber came Olaf
and Rador.
The priestess met the fierce hatred and contempt in the
eyes of the Norseman--and for the first time lost her bravado.
"Let not HIM go with me," she gasped--her eyes searched
the floor frantically.
"He goes with you," said Lakla, and threw about Yolara
a swathing that covered the exquisite, alluring body. "And
you shall pass through the Portal, not skulk along the path
of the worm!"
She bent to Rador, whispered to him; he nodded; she had
told him, I supposed, the secret of its opening.
"Come," he said, and with the ice-eyed giant behind her,
Yolara, head bent, passed out of those hangings through
which, but a little before, unseen, triumph in her grasp,
she had slipped.
Then Lakla came to the unhappy O'Keefe, rested her
hands on his shoulders, looked deep into his eyes.
"DID you woo her, even as she said?" she asked.
The Irishman flushed miserably.
"I did not," he said. "I was pleasant to her, of course,
because I thought it would bring me quicker to you, darlin'."
She looked at him doubtfully; then--
"I think you must have been VERY--pleasant!" was all she
said--and leaning, kissed him forgivingly straight on the lips.
An extremely direct maiden was Lakla, with a truly sovereign
contempt for anything she might consider non-essentials;
and at this moment I decided she was wiser even than
I had thought her.
He stumbled, feet vanishing; reached down and picked up
something that in the grasping turned his hand to air.
"One of the invisible cloaks," he said to me. "There must
be quite a lot of them about--I guess Yolara brought her
full staff of murderers. They're a bit shopworn, probably--
but we're considerably better off with 'em in our hands than
in hers. And they may come in handy--who knows?"
There was a choking rattle at my feet; half the head of a
dwarf raised out of vacancy; beat twice upon the floor in
death throes; fell back. Lakla shivered; gave a command.
The frog-men moved about; peering here and there; lifting
unseen folds revealing in stark rigidity torn form after form
of the priestess's men.
Lakla had been right--her _Akka_ were thorough fighters!
She called, and to her came the frog-woman who was her
attendant. To her the handmaiden spoke, pointing to the
batrachians who stood, paws and forearms melted beneath
the robes they had gathered. She took them and passed out
--more grotesque than ever, shattering into streaks of vacancies,
reappearing with flickers of shining scale and yellow
gems as the tattered pennants of invisibility fluttered about
The frog-men reached down, swung each a dead dwarf in
his arms, and filed, booming triumphantly away
And then I remembered the cone of the _Keth_ which had
slipped from Yolara's hand; knew it had been that for which
her wild eyes searched. But look as closely as we might,
search in every nook and corner as we did, we could not find
it. Had the dying hand of one of her men clutched it and had
it been borne away with them? With the thought Larry and
I raced after the scaled warriors, searched every body they
carried. It was not there. Perhaps the priestess had found it,
retrieved it swiftly without our seeing.
Whatever was true--the cone was gone. And what a
weapon that one little holder of the shaking death would
have been for us!
In the Lair of the Dweller
IT IS WITH marked hesitation that I begin this chapter, because
in it I must deal with an experience so contrary to
every known law of physics as to seem impossible. Until
this time, barring, of course, the mystery of the Dweller, I
had encountered nothing that was not susceptible of naturalistic
explanation; nothing, in a word, outside the domain of
science itself; nothing that I would have felt hesitancy in
reciting to my colleagues of the International Association of
Science. Amazing, unfamiliar--ADVANCED--as many of the
phenomena were, still they lay well within the limits of what
we have mapped as the possible; in regions, it is true, still
virgin to the mind of man, but toward which that mind is
steadily advancing.
But this--well, I confess that I have a theory that is naturalistic;
but so abstruse, so difficult to make clear within the
short confines of the space I have to give it, so dependent
upon conceptions that even the highest-trained scientific
brains find difficult to grasp, that I despair.
I can only say that the thing occurred; that it took place
in precisely the manner I am about to narrate, and that I
experienced it.
Yet, in justice to myself, I must open up some paths of
preliminary approach toward the heart of the perplexity.
And the first path is the realization that our world WHATEVER
it is, is certainly NOT the world as we see it! Regarding this I
shall refer to a discourse upon "Gravitation and the Principle
of Relativity," by the distinguished English physicist, Dr. A.
S. Eddington, which I had the pleasure of hearing him deliver
before the Royal Institution.1
*1 Reprinted in full in _Nature_, in which those sufficiently interested
may peruse it.--W. T. G.
I realize, of course, that it is not true logic to argue--
"The world is not as we think it is--therefore everything we
think impossible is possible in it." Even if it BE different, it
is governed by LAW. The truly impossible is that which is outside
law, and as nothing CAN be outside law, the impossible
CANNOT exist.
The crux of the matter then becomes our determination
whether what we think is impossible may or may not be
possible under laws still beyond our knowledge.
I hope that you will pardon me for this somewhat academic
digression, but I felt it was necessary, and it has, at
least, put me more at ease. And now to resume.
We had watched, Larry and I, the frog-men throw the
bodies of Yolara's assassins into the crimson waters. As vultures
swoop down upon the dying, there came sailing swiftly
to where the dead men floated, dozens of the luminous
globes. Their slender, varicoloured tentacles whipped out;
the giant iridescent bubbles CLIMBED over the cadavers. And
as they touched them there was the swift dissolution, the
melting away into putrescence of flesh and bone that I had
witnessed when the dart touched fruit that time I had saved
Rador--and upon this the Medusae gorged; pulsing lambently;
their wondrous colours shifting, changing, glowing
stronger; elfin moons now indeed, but satellites whose glimmering
beauty was fed by death; alembics of enchantment
whose glorious hues were sucked from horror.
Sick, I turned away--O'Keefe as pale as I; passed back
into the corridor that had opened on the ledge from which
we had watched; met Lakla hurrying toward us. Before she
could speak there throbbed faintly about us a vast sighing.
It grew into a murmur, a whispering, shook us--then passing
like a presence, died away in far distance.
"The Portal has opened," said the handmaiden. A fainter
sighing, like an echo of the other, mourned about us. "Yolara
is gone," she said, "the Portal is closed. Now must we hasten
--for the Three have commanded that you, Goodwin, and
Larry and I tread that strange road of which I have spoken,
and which Olaf may not take lest his heart break--and we
must return ere he and Rador cross the bridge."
Her hand sought Larry's.
"Come!" said Lakla, and we walked on; down and down
through hall after hall, flight upon flight of stairways. Deep,
deep indeed, we must be beneath the domed castle--Lakla
paused before a curved, smooth breast of the crimson stone
rounding gently into the passage. She pressed its side; it
revolved; we entered; it closed behind us.
The room, the--hollow--in which we stood was faceted
like a diamond; and like a cut brilliant its sides glistened--
though dully. Its shape was a deep oval, and our path
dropped down to a circular polished base, roughly two yards
in diameter. Glancing behind me I saw that in the closing of
the entrance there had been left no trace of it save the steps
that led from where that entrance had been--and as I looked
these steps TURNED, leaving us isolated upon the circle, only
the faceted walls about us--and in each of the gleaming
faces the three of us reflected--dimly. It was as though we
were within a diamond egg whose graven angles bad been
turned INWARD.
But the oval was not perfect; at my right a screen cut it--
a screen that gleamed with fugitive, fleeting luminescences
--stretching from the side of our standing place up to the
tip of the chamber; slightly convex and crisscrossed by millions
of fine lines like those upon a spectroscopic plate, but
with this difference--that within each line I sensed the presence
of multitudes of finer lines, dwindling into infinitude,
ultramicroscopic, traced by some instrument compared to
whose delicacy our finest tool would be as a crowbar to the
needle of a micrometer.
A foot or two from it stood something like the standee of a
compass, bearing, like it a cradled dial under whose crystal
ran concentric rings of prisoned, lambent vapours, faintly
blue. From the edge of the dial jutted a little shelf of crystal,
a keyboard, in which were cut eight small cups.
Within these cups the handmaiden placed her tapering
fingers. She gazed down upon the disk; pressed a digit--and
the screen behind us slipped noiselessly into another angle.
"Put your arm around my waist, Larry, darlin', and stand
close," she murmured. "You, Goodwin, place your arm over
my shoulder."
Wondering, I did as she bade; she pressed other fingers
upon the shelf's indentations--three of the rings of vapour
spun into intense light, raced around each other; from the
screen behind us grew a radiance that held within itself all
spectrums--not only those seen, but those UNSEEN by man's
eyes. It waxed brilliant and ever more brilliant, all suffusing,
passing through me as day streams through a window pane!
The enclosing facets burst into a blaze of coruscations, and
in each sparkling panel I saw our images, shaken and torn
like pennants in a whirlwind. I turned to look--was stopped
by the handmaiden's swift command: "Turn not--on your
The radiance behind me grew; was a rushing tempest of
light in which I was but the shadow of a shadow. I heard, but
not with my ears--nay with MIND itself--a vast roaring; an
ORDERED tumult of sound that came hurling from the outposts
of space; approaching--rushing--hurricane out of the heart
of the cosmos--closer, closer. It wrapped itself about us with
unearthly mighty arms.
And brilliant, ever more brilliant, streamed the radiance
through us.
The faceted walls dimmed; in front of me they melted,
diaphanously, like a gelatinous wall in a blast of flame;
through their vanishing, under the torrent of driving light,
the unthinkable, impalpable tornado, I began to move, slowly
--then ever more swiftly!
Still the roaring grew; the radiance streamed--ever faster
we went. Cutting down through the length, the EXTENSION
of me, dropped a wall of rock, foreshortened, clenched close;
I caught a glimpse of the elfin gardens; they whirled, contracted,
into a thin--slice--of colour that was a part of me;
another wall of rock shrinking into a thin wedge through
which I flew, and that at once took its place within me like a
card slipped beside those others!
Flashing around me, and from Lakla and O'Keefe, were
nimbuses of flickering scarlet flames. And always the steady
hurling forward--appallingly mechanical.
Another barrier of rock--a gleam of white waters incorporating
themselves into my--DRAWING OUT--even as were
the flowered moss lands, the slicing, rocky walls--still
another rampart of cliff, dwindling instantly into the vertical
plane of those others. Our flight checked; we seemed to hover
within, then to sway onward--slowly, cautiously.
A mist danced ahead of me--a mist that grew steadily
thinner. We stopped, wavered--the mist cleared.
I looked out into translucent, green distances; shot with
swift prismatic gleamings; waves and pulsings of luminosity
like midday sun glow through green, tropic waters: dancing,
scintillating veils of sparkling atoms that flew, hither and
yon, through depths of nebulous splendour!
And Lakla and Larry and I were, I saw, like shadow
shapes upon a smooth breast of stone twenty feet or more
above the surface of this place--a surface spangled with tiny
white blossoms gleaming wanly through creeping veils of
phosphorescence like smoke of moon fire. We were shadows
--and yet we had substance; we were incorporated with, a
part of, the rock--and yet we were living flesh and blood; we
stretched--nor will I qualify this--we STRETCHED through
mile upon mile of space that weirdly enough gave at one
and the same time an absolute certainty of immense horizontal
lengths and a vertical concentration that contained nothing
of length, nothing of space whatever; we stood THERE
upon the face of the stone--and still we were HERE within
the faceted oval before the screen of radiance!
"Steady!" It was Lakla's voice--and not beside me THERE,
but at my ear close before the screen. "Steady, Goodwin!
The sparkling haze cleared. Enormous reaches stretched
before me. Shimmering up through them, and as though
growing in some medium thicker than air, was mass upon
mass of verdure--fruiting trees and trees laden with pale
blossoms, arbours and bowers of pallid blooms, like that sea
fruit of oblivion--grapes of Lethe--that cling to the tideswept
walls of the caverns of the Hebrides.
Through them, beyond them, around and about them,
drifted and eddied a horde--great as that with which Tamerlane
swept down upon Rome, vast as the myriads which
Genghis Khan rolled upon the califs--men and women and
children--clothed in tatters, half nude and wholly naked;
slant-eyed Chinese, sloe-eyed Malays, islanders black and
brown and yellow, fierce-faced warriors of the Solomons
with grizzled locks fantastically bedizened; Papuans, feline
Javans, Dyaks of hill and shore; hook-nosed Phoenicians,
Romans, straight-browed Greeks, and Vikings centuries BEYOND
their lives: scores of the black-haired Murians; white
faces of our own Westerners--men and women and children
--drifting, eddying--each stamped with that mingled horror
and rapture, eyes filled with ecstasy and terror entwined,
marked by God and devil in embrace--the seal of the Shining
One--the dead-alive; the lost ones!
The loot of the Dweller!
Soul-sick, I gazed. They lifted to us visages of dread; they
swept down toward us, glaring upward--a bank against
which other and still other waves of faces rolled, were
checked, paused; until as far as I could see, like billows
piled upon an ever-growing barrier, they stretched beneath
Now there was a movement--far, far away; a concentrating
of the lambency; the dead-alive swayed, oscillated, separated--
forming a long lane against whose outskirts they
crowded with avid, hungry insistence.
First only a luminous cloud, then a whirling pillar of
splendours through the lane came--the Shining One. As it
passed, the dead-alive swirled in its wake like leaves behind
a whirlwind, eddying, twisting; and as the Dweller raced by
them, brushing them with its spirallings and tentacles, they
shone forth with unearthly, awesome gleamings--like vessels
of alabaster in which wicks flare suddenly. And when it
had passed they closed behind it, staring up at us once more.
The Dweller paused beneath us.
Out of the drifting ruck swam the body of Throckmartin!
Throckmartin, my friend, to find whom I had gone to the
pallid moon door; my friend whose call I had so laggardly
followed. On his face was the Dweller's dreadful stamp; the
lips were bloodless; the eyes were wide, lucent, something
like pale, phosphorescence gleaming within them--and soulless.
He stared straight up at me, unwinking, unrecognizing.
Pressing against his side was a woman, young and gentle,
and lovely--lovely even through the mask that lay upon
her face. And her wide eyes, like Throckmartin's, glowed
with the lurking, unholy fires. She pressed against him
closely; though the hordes kept up the faint churning, these
two kept ever together, as though bound by unseen fetters.
And I knew the girl for Edith, his wife, who in vain effort
to save him had cast herself into the Dweller's embrace!
"Throckmartin!" I cried. "Throckmartin! I'm here!"
Did he hear? I know now, of course, he could not.
But then I waited--hope striving to break through the
nightmare hands that gripped my heart.
Their wide eyes never left me. There was another movement
about them, others pushed past them; they drifted
back, swaying, eddying--and still staring were lost in the
awful throng.
Vainly I strained my gaze to find them again, to force
some sign of recognition, some awakening of the clean life
we know. But they were gone. Try as I would I could not see
them--nor Stanton and the northern woman named Thora
who had been the first of that tragic party to be taken by
the Dweller.
"Throckmartin!" I cried again, despairingly. My tears
blinded me.
I felt Lakla's light touch.
"Steady," she commanded, pitifully. "Steady, Goodwin.
You cannot help them--now! Steady and--watch!"
Below us the Shining One had paused--spiralling, swirling,
vibrant with all its transcendent, devilish beauty; had
paused and was contemplating us. Now I could see clearly
that nucleus, that core shot through with flashing veins of
radiance, that ever-shifting shape of glory through the
shroudings of shimmering, misty plumes, throbbing lacy
opalescences, vaporous spirallings of prismatic phantom
fires. Steady over it hung the seven little moons of amethyst,
of saffron, of emerald and azure and silver, of rose of life
and moon white. They poised themselves like a diadem--
calm, serene, immobile--and down from them into the Dweller,
piercing plumes and swirls and spirals, ran countless
tiny strands, radiations, finer than the finest spun thread of
spider's web, gleaming filaments through which seemed to
run--POWER--from the seven globes; like--yes, that was it
--miniatures of the seven torrents of moon flame that poured
through the septichromatic, high crystals in the Moon Pool's
chamber roof.
Swam out of the coruscating haze the--face!
Both of man and of woman it was--like some ancient,
androgynous deity of Etruscan fanes long dust, and yet
neither woman nor man; human and unhuman, seraphic and
sinister, benign and malefic--and still no more of these four
than is flame, which is beautiful whether it warms or devours,
or wind whether it feathers the trees or shatters them, or
the wave which is wondrous whether it caresses or kills.
Subtly, undefinably it was of our world and of one not
ours. Its lineaments flowed from another sphere, took fleeting
familiar form--and as swiftly withdrew whence they had
come; something amorphous, unearthly--as of unknown unheeding,
unseen gods rushing through the depths of starhung
space; and still of our own earth, with the very soul of
earth peering out from it, caught within it--and in some--
unholy--way debased.
It had eyes--eyes that were now only shadows darkening
within its luminosity like veils falling, and falling, OPENING
windows into the unknowable; deepening into softly glowing
blue pools, blue as the Moon Pool itself; then flashing
out, and this only when the--face--bore its most human
resemblance, into twin stars large almost as the crown of little
moons; and with that same baffling suggestion of peepholes
into a world untrodden, alien, perilous to man!
"Steady!" came Lakla's voice, her body leaned against
I gripped myself, my brain steadied, I looked again. And
I saw that of body, at least body as we know it, the Shining
One had none--nothing but the throbbing, pulsing core
streaked with lightning veins of rainbows; and around this,
never still, sheathing it, the swirling, glorious veilings of its
hell and heaven born radiance.
So the Dweller stood--and gazed.
Then up toward us swept a reaching, questing spiral!
Under my hand Lakla's shoulder quivered; Dead-Alive
and their master vanished--I danced, flickered, WITHIN the
rock; felt a swift sense of shrinking, of withdrawal; slice
upon slice the carded walls of stone, of silvery waters, of
elfin gardens slipped from me as cards are withdrawn from
a pack, one by one--slipped, wheeled, flattened, and lengthened
out as I passed through them and they passed from me.
Gasping, shaken, weak, I stood within the faceted oval
chamber; arm still about the handmaiden's white shoulder;
Larry's hand still clutching her girdle.
The roaring, impalpable gale from the cosmos was retreating
to the outposts of space--was still; the intense, streaming,
flooding radiance lessened--died.
"Now have you beheld," said Lakla, "and well you trod
the road. And now shall you hear, even as the Silent Ones
have commanded, what the Shining One is--and how it
came to be."
The steps flashed back; the doorway into the chamber
Larry as silent as I--we followed her through it.
The Shaping of the Shining One
WE REACHED what I knew to be Lakla's own boudoir, if I
may so call it. Smaller than any of the other chambers of the
domed castle in which we had been, its intimacy was revealed
not only by its faint fragrance but by its high mirrors
of polished silver and various oddly wrought articles
of the feminine toilet that lay here and there; things I afterward
knew to be the work of the artisans of the _Akka_--
and no mean metal workers were they. One of the window
slits dropped almost to the floor, and at its base was a wide,
comfortably cushioned seat commanding a view of the
bridge and of the cavern ledge. To this the handmaiden
beckoned us; sank upon it, drew Larry down beside her and
motioned me to sit close to him.
"Now this," she said, "is what the Silent Ones have commanded
me to tell you two: To you Larry, that knowing you
may weigh all things in your mind and answer as your spirit
bids you a question that the Three will ask--and what that
is I know not," she murmured, "and I, they say, must answer,
too--and it--frightens me!"
The great golden eyes widened; darkened with dread; she
sighed, shook her head impatiently.
"Not like us, and never like us," she spoke low, wonderingly,
"the Silent Ones say were they. Nor were those from
which they sprang like those from which we have come.
Ancient, ancient beyond thought are the _Taithu_, the race of
the Silent Ones. Far, far below this place where now we sit,
close to earth heart itself were they born; and there they
dwelt for time upon time, _laya_ upon _laya_ upon _laya_--with
others, not like them, some of which have vanished time
upon time agone, others that still dwell--below--in their--
"It is hard"--she hesitated--"hard to tell this--that slips
through my mind--because I know so little that even as the
Three told it to me it passed from me for lack of place to
stand upon," she went on, quaintly. "Something there was
of time when earth and sun were but cold mists in the--
the heavens--something of these mists drawing together,
whirling, whirling, faster and faster--drawing as they
whirled more and more of the mists--growing larger, growing
warm--forming at last into the globes they are, with
others spinning around the sun--something of regions within
this globe where vast fire was prisoned and bursting forth
tore and rent the young orb--of one such bursting forth that
sent what you call moon flying out to company us and left
behind those spaces whence we now dwell--and of--of life
particles that here and there below grew into the race of
the Silent Ones, and those others--but not the _Akka_ which,
like you, they say came from above--and all this I do not
understand--do you, Goodwin?" she appealed to me.
I nodded--for what she had related so fragmentarily was
in reality an excellent approach to the Chamberlain-Moulton
theory of a coalescing nebula contracting into the sun and
its planets.
Astonishing was the recognition of this theory. Even more
so was the reference to the life particles, the idea of Arrhenius,
the great Swede, of life starting on earth through the
dropping of minute, life SPORES, propelled through space by
the driving power of light and, encountering favourable
environment here, developing through the vast ages into
man and every other living thing we know.1
*1 Professor Svante August Arrhenius, in his _Worlds in the Making_--
the conception that life is universally diffused, constantly emitted from
all habitable worlds in the form of spores which traverse space for
years and ages, the majority being ultimately destroyed by the heat of
some blazing star, but some few finding a resting-place on globes
which have reached the habitable stage.--W. T. G.
Nor was it incredible that in the ancient nebula that was
the matrix of our solar system similar, or rather DISSIMILAR,
particles in all but the subtle essence we call life, might have
become entangled and, resisting every cataclysm as they had
resisted the absolute zero of outer space, found in these
caverned spaces their proper environment to develop into the
race of the Silent Ones and--only THEY could tell what else!
"They say," the handmaiden's voice was surer, "they say
that in their--cradle--near earth's heart they grew; grew
untroubled by the turmoil and disorder which flayed the
surface of this globe. And they say it was a place of light
and that strength came to them from earth heart--strength
greater than you and those from which you sprang ever derived
from sun.
"At last, ancient, ancient beyond all thought, they say
again, was this time--they began to know, to--to--realize--
themselves. And wisdom came ever more swiftly. Up from
their cradle, because they did not wish to dwell longer with
those--others--they came and found this place.
"When all the face of earth was covered with waters in
which lived only tiny, hungry things that knew naught save
hunger and its satisfaction, THEY had attained wisdom that
enabled them to make paths such as we have just travelled
and to look out upon those waters! And _laya_ upon _laya_
thereafter, time upon time, they went upon the paths and
watched the flood recede; saw great bare flats of steaming
ooze appear on which crawled and splashed larger things
which had grown from the tiny hungry ones; watched the
flats rise higher and higher and green life begin to clothe
them; saw mountains uplift and vanish.
"Ever the green life waxed and the things which crept
and crawled grew greater and took ever different forms;
until at last came a time when the steaming mists lightened
and the things which had begun as little more than tiny
hungry mouths were huge and monstrous, so huge that the
tallest of my _Akka_ would not have reached the knee of the
smallest of them.
"But in none of these, in NONE, was there--realization--
of themselves, say the Three; naught but hunger driving, always
driving them to still its crying.
"So for time upon time the race of the Silent Ones took
the paths no more, placing aside the half-thought that they
had of making their way to earth face even as they had made
their way from beside earth heart. They turned wholly to the
seeking of wisdom--and after other time on time they attained
that which killed even the faintest shadow of the
half-thought. For they crept far within the mysteries of life
and death, they mastered the illusion of space, they lifted
the veils of creation and of its twin destruction, and they
stripped the covering from the flaming jewel of truth--but
when they had crept within those mysteries they bid me tell
YOU, Goodwin, they found ever other mysteries veiling the
way; and after they had uncovered the jewel of truth they
found it to be a gem of infinite facets and therefore not
wholly to be read before eternity's unthinkable end!
"And for this they were glad--because now throughout
eternity might they and theirs pursue knowledge over ways
"They conquered light--light that sprang at their bidding
from the nothingness that gives birth to all things and in
which lie all things that are, have been and shall be; light
that streamed through their bodies cleansing them of all
dross; light that was food and drink; light that carried their
vision afar or bore to them images out of space opening
many windows through which they gazed down upon life
on thousands upon thousands of the rushing worlds; light
that was the flame of life itself and in which they bathed,
ever renewing their own. They set radiant lamps within the
stones, and of black light they wove the sheltering shadows
and the shadows that slay.
"Arose from this people those Three--the Silent Ones.
They led them all in wisdom so that in the Three grew--
pride. And the Three built them this place in which we sit
and set the Portal in its place and withdrew from their kind
to go alone into the mysteries and to map alone the facets of
Truth Jewel.
"Then there came the ancestors of the--_Akka_; not as they
are now, and glowing but faintly within them the spark of
--self-realization. And the _Taithu_ seeing this spark did not
slay them. But they took the ancient, long untrodden paths
and looked forth once more upon earth face. Now on the
land were vast forests and a chaos of green life. On the
shores things scaled and fanged, fought and devoured each
other, and in the green life moved bodies great and small
that slew and ran from those that would slay.
"They searched for the passage through which the _Akka_
had come and closed it. Then the Three took them and
brought them here; and taught them and blew upon the
spark until it burned ever stronger and in time they became
much as they are now--my _Akka_.
"The Three took counsel after this and said--'We have
strengthened life in these until it has become articulate; shall
we not CREATE life?'" Again she hesitated, her eyes rapt,
dreaming. "The Three are speaking," she murmured. "They
have my tongue--"
And certainly, with an ease and rapidity as though she
were but a voice through which minds far more facile, more
powerful poured their thoughts, she spoke.
"Yea," the golden voice was vibrant. "We said that what
we would create should be of the spirit of life itself, speaking
to us with the tongues of the far-flung stars, of the winds,
of the waters, and of all upon and within these. Upon that
universal matrix of matter, that mother of all things that
you name the ether, we laboured. Think not that her wondrous
fertility is limited by what ye see on earth or what has
been on earth from its beginning. Infinite, infinite are the
forms the mother bears and countless are the energies that
are part of her.
"By our wisdom we had fashioned many windows out of
our abode and through them we stared into the faces of
myriads of worlds, and upon them all were the children of
ether even as the worlds themselves were her children.
"Watching we learned, and learning we formed that ye
term the Dweller, which those without name--the Shining
One. Within the Universal Mother we shaped it, to be a voice
to tell us her secrets, a lamp to go before us lighting the
mysteries. Out of the ether we fashioned it, giving it the
soul of light that still ye know not nor perhaps ever may
know, and with the essence of life that ye saw blossoming
deep in the abyss and that is the pulse of earth heart we
filled it. And we wrought with pain and with love, with
yearning and with scorching pride and from our travail came
the Shining One--our child!
"There is an energy beyond and above ether, a purposeful,
sentient force that laps like an ocean the furthest-flung
star, that transfuses all that ether bears, that sees and speaks
and feels in us and in you, that is incorporate in beast and
bird and reptile, in tree and grass and all living things, that
sleeps in rock and stone, that finds sparkling tongue in jewel
and star and in all dwellers within the firmament. And this
ye call consciousness!
"We crowned the Shining One with the seven orbs of light
which are the channels between it and the sentience we
sought to make articulate, the portals through which flow
its currents and so flowing, become choate, vocal, selfrealizant
within our child.
"But as we shaped, there passed some of the essence of
our pride; in giving will we had given power, perforce, to
exercise that will for good or for evil, to speak or to be silent,
to tell us what we wished of that which poured into it
through the seven orbs or to withhold that knowledge itself;
and in forging it from the immortal energies we had endowed
it with their indifference; open to all consciousness it
held within it the pole of utter joy and the pole of utter woe
with all the arc that lies between; all the ecstasies of the
countless worlds and suns and all their sorrows; all that ye
symbolize as gods and all ye symbolize as devils--not negativing
each other, for there is no such thing as negation, but
holding them together, balancing them, encompassing them,
pole upon pole!"
So THIS was the explanation of the entwined emotions of
joy and terror that had changed so appallingly Throckmartin's
face and the faces of all the Dweller's slaves!
The handmaiden's eyes grew bright, alert, again; the
brooding passed from her face; the golden voice that had
been so deep found its own familiar pitch.
"I listened while the Three spoke to you," she said. "Now
the shaping of the Shining One had been a long, long travail
and time had flown over the outer world _laya_ upon _laya_. For
a space the Shining One was content to dwell here; to be
fed with the foods of light: to open the eyes of the Three
to mystery upon mystery and to read for them facet after
facet of the gem of truth. Yet as the tides of consciousness
flowed through it they left behind shadowings and echoes of
their burdens; and the Shining One grew stronger, always
stronger of ITSELF WITHIN ITSELF. Its will strengthened and now
not always was it the will of the Three; and the pride that
was woven in the making of it waxed, while the love for them
that its creators had set within it waned.
"Not ignorant were the _Taithu_ of the work of the Three.
First there were a few, then more and more who coveted the
Shining One and who would have had the Three share with
them the knowledge it drew in for them. But the Silent Ones
in their pride, would not.
"There came a time when its will was now ALL its own, and
it rebelled, turning its gaze to the wider spaces beyond the
Portal, offering itself to the many there who would serve it;
tiring of the Three, their control and their abode.
"Now the Shining One has its limitations, even as we. Over
water it can pass, through air and through fire; but pass it
cannot, through rock or metal. So it sent a message--how I
know not--to the _Taithu_ who desired it, whispering to them
the secret of the Portal. And when the time was ripe they
opened the Portal and the Shining One passed through it to
them; nor would it return to the Three though they commanded,
and when they would have forced it they found
that it had hived and hidden a knowledge that they could not
"Yet by their arts the Three could have shattered the
seven shining orbs; but they would not because--they loved,
"Those to whom it had gone built for it that place I have
shown you, and they bowed to it and drew wisdom from it.
And ever they turned more and more from the ways in which
the _Taithu_ had walked--for it seemed that which came to
the Shining One through the seven orbs had less and less of
good and more and more of the power you call evil. Knowledge
it gave and understanding, yes; but not that which, clear
and serene, lights the paths of right wisdom; rather were
they flares pointing the dark roads that lead to--to the
ultimate evil!
"Not all of the race of the Three followed the counsel of
the Shining One. There were many, many, who would have
none of it nor of its power. So were the _Taithu_ split; and to
this place where there had been none, came hatred, fear and
suspicion. Those who pursued the ancient ways went to the
Three and pleaded with them to destroy their work--and
they would not, for still they loved it.
"Stronger grew the Dweller and less and less did it lay
before its worshippers--for now so they had become--the
fruits of its knowledge; and it grew--restless--turning its
gaze upon earth face even as it had turned it from the Three.
It whispered to the _Taithu_ to take again the paths and look
out upon the world. Lo! above them was a great fertile land
on which dwelt an unfamiliar race, skilled in arts, seeking
and finding wisdom--mankind! Mighty builders were they;
vast were their cities and huge their temples of stone.
"They called their lands Muria and they worshipped a
god Thanaroa whom they imagined to be the maker of all
things, dwelling far away. They worshipped as closer gods,
not indifferent but to be prayed to and to be propitiated, the
moon and the sun. Two kings they had, each with his council
and his court. One was high priest to the moon and the
other high priest to the sun.
"The mass of this people were black-haired, but the sun
king and his nobles were ruddy with hair like mine; and
the moon king and his followers were like Yolara--or
Lugur. And this, the Three say, Goodwin, came about because
for time upon time the law had been that whenever a
ruddy-haired or ashen-tressed child was born of the blackhaired
it became dedicated at once to either sun god or moon
god, later wedding and bearing children only to their own
kind. Until at last from the black-haired came no more of the
light-locked ones, but the ruddy ones, being stronger, still
arose from them."
The Building of the Moon Pool
SHE PAUSED, running her long fingers through her own
bronze-flecked ringlets. Selective breeding this, with a vengeance,
I thought; an ancient experiment in heredity which
of course would in time result in the stamping out of the
tendency to depart from type that lies in all organisms; resulting,
obviously, at last, in three fixed forms of black-haired,
ruddy-haired, and silver-haired--but this, with a shock of
realization it came to me, was also an accurate description
of the dark-polled _ladala_, their fair-haired rulers and of the
golden-brown tressed Lakla!
How--questions began to stream through my mind; silenced
by the handmaiden's voice.
"Above, far, far above the abode of the Shining One,"
she said, "was their greatest temple, holding the shrines both
of sun and moon. All about it were other temples hidden
behind mighty walls, each enclosing its own space and
squared and ruled and standing within a shallow lake; the
sacred city, the city of the gods of this land--"
"It is the Nan-Matal that she is describing," I thought.
"Out upon all this looked the _Taithu_ who were now but
the servants of the Shining One as it had been the messenger
of the Three," she went on. "When they returned the Shining
One spoke to them, promising them dominion over all
that they had seen, yea, UNDER IT dominion of all earth itself
and later perhaps of other earths!
"In the Shining One had grown craft, cunning; knowledge
to gain that which it desired. Therefore it told its _Taithu_--
and mayhap told them truth--that not yet was it time for
THEM to go forth; that slowly must they pass into that outer
world, for they had sprung from heart of earth and even it
lacked power to swirl unaided into and through the above.
Then it counselled them, instructing them what to do. They
hollowed the chamber wherein first I saw you, cutting their
way to it that path down which from it you sped.
"It revealed to them that the force that is within moon
flame is kin to the force that is within it, for the chamber of
its birth was the chamber too of moon birth and into it went
the subtle essence and powers that flow in that earth child:
and it taught them how to make that which fills what you call
the Moon Pool whose opening is close behind its Veil hanging
upon the gleaming cliffs.
"When this was done it taught them how to make and how
to place the seven lights through which moon flame streams
into Moon Pool--the seven lights that are kin to its own
seven orbs even as its fires are kin to moon fires--and which
would open for it a path that it could tread. And all this the
_Taithu_ did, working so secretly that neither those of their
race whose faces were set against the Shining One nor the
busy men above know aught of it.
"When it was done they moved up the path, clustering
within the Moon Pool Chamber. Moon flame streamed
through the seven globes, poured down upon the pool; they
saw mists arise, embrace, and become one with the moon
flame--and then up through Moon Pool, shaping itself within
the mists of light, whirling, radiant--the Shining One!
"Almost free, almost loosed upon the world it coveted!
"Again it counselled them, and they pierced the passage
whose portal you found first; set the fires within its stones,
and revealing themselves to the moon king and his priests
spake to them even as the Shining One had instructed.
"Now was the moon king filled with fear when he looked
upon the _Taithu_, shrouded with protecting mists of light in
Moon Pool Chamber, and heard their words. Yet, being
crafty, he thought of the power that would be his if he
heeded and how quickly the strength of the sun king would
dwindle. So he and his made a pact with the Shining One's
"When next the moon was round and poured its flames
down upon Moon Pool, the _Taithu_ gathered there again,
watched the child of the Three take shape within the pillars,
speed away--and out! They heard a mighty shouting, a
tumult of terror, of awe and of worship; a silence; a vast
sighing--and they waited, wrapped in their mists of light,
for they feared to follow nor were they near the paths that
would have enabled them to look without.
"Another tumult--and back came the Shining One, murmuring
with joy, pulsing, triumphant, and clasped within its
vapours a man and woman, ruddy-haired, golden-eyed, in
whose faces rapture and horror lay side by side--gloriously,
hideously. And still holding them it danced above the Moon
Pool and--sank!
"Now must I be brief. _Lat_ after _lat_ the Shining One went
forth, returning with its sacrifices. And stronger after each
it grew--and gayer and more cruel. Ever when it passed
with its prey toward the pool, the _Taithu_ who watched felt
a swift, strong intoxication, a drunkenness of spirit, streaming
from it to them. And the Shining One forgot what it had
promised them of dominion--and in this new evil delight
they too forgot.
"The outer land was torn with hatred and open strife.
The moon king and his kind, through the guidance of the
evil _Taithu_ and the favour of the Shining One, had become
powerful and the sun king and his were darkened. And the
moon priests preached that the child of the Three was the
moon god itself come to dwell with them.
"Now vast tides arose and when they withdrew they took
with them great portions of this country. And the land itself
began to sink. Then said the moon king that the moon had
called to ocean to destroy because wroth that another than
he was worshipped. The people believed and there was
slaughter. When it was over there was no more a sun king
nor any of the ruddy-haired folk; slain were they, slain down
to the babe at breast.
"But still the tides swept higher; still dwindled the land!
"As it shrank multitudes of the fleeing people were led
through Moon Pool Chamber and carried here. They were
what now are called the _ladala_, and they were given place
and set to work; and they thrived. Came many of the fairhaired;
and they were given dwellings. They sat beside the
evil _Taithu_; they became drunk even as they with the dancing
of the Shining One; they learned--not all; only a little
part but little enough--of their arts. And ever the Shining
One danced more gaily out there within the black amphitheatre;
grew ever stronger--and ever the hordes of its
slaves behind the Veil increased.
"Nor did the _Taithu_ who clung to the old ways check this
--they could not. By the sinking of the land above, their
own spaces were imperilled. All of their strength and all of
their wisdom it took to keep this land from perishing; nor
had they help from those others mad for the poison of the
Shining One; and they had no time to deal with them nor
the earth race with whom they had foregathered.
"At last came a slow, vast flood. It rolled even to the
bases of the walled islets of the city of the gods--and within
these now were all that were left of my people on earth face.
"I am of those people," she paused, looking at me proudly,
"one of the daughters of the sun king whose seed is still alive
in the _ladala_!"
As Larry opened his mouth to speak she waved a silencing hand.
"This tide did not recede," she went on. "And after a time
the remnant, the moon king leading them, joined those who
had already fled below. The rocks became still, the quakings
ceased, and now those Ancient Ones who had been labouring
could take breath. And anger grew within them as they
looked upon the work of their evil kin. Again they sought
the Three--and the Three now knew what they had done and
their pride was humbled. They would not slay the Shining
One themselves, for still they loved it; but they instructed
these others how to undo their work; how also they might
destroy the evil _Taithu_ were it necessary.
"Armed with the wisdom of the Three they went forth--
but now the Shining One was strong indeed. They could not
slay it!
"Nay, it knew and was prepared; they could not even pass
beyond its Veil nor seal its abode. Ah, strong, strong, mighty
of will, full of craft and cunning had the Shining One become.
So they turned upon their kind who had gone astray
and made them perish, to the last. The Shining One came
not to the aid of its servants--though they called; for within
its will was the thought that they were of no further use to it;
that it would rest awhile and dance with them--who had so
little of the power and wisdom of its _Taithu_ and therefore
no reins upon it. And while this was happening black-haired
and fair-haired ran and hid and were but shaking vessels of
"The Ancient Ones took counsel. This was their decision;
that they would go from the gardens before the Silver Waters
--leaving, since they could not kill it, the Shining One with
its worshippers. They sealed the mouth of the passage that
leads to the Moon Pool Chamber and they changed the face
of the cliff so that none might tell where it had been. But
the passage itself they left open--having foreknowledge I
think, of a thing that was to come to pass in the far future--
perhaps it was your journey here, my Larry and Goodwin
--verily I think so. And they destroyed all the ways save that
which we three trod to the Dweller's abode.
"For the last time they went to the Three--to pass sentence
upon them. This was the doom--that here they should
remain, alone, among the _Akka_, served by them, until that
time dawned when they would have will to destroy the evil
they had created--and even now--loved; nor might they
seek death, nor follow their judges until this had come to
pass. This was the doom they put upon the Three for the
wickedness that had sprung from their pride, and they
strengthened it with their arts that it might not be broken.
"Then they passed--to a far land they had chosen where
the Shining One could not go, beyond the Black Precipices
of Doul, a green land--"
"Ireland!" interrupted Larry, with conviction, "I knew it."
"Since then time upon time had passed," she went on,
unheeding. "The people called this place Muria after their
sunken land and soon they forgot where had been the
passage the _Taithu_ had sealed. The moon king became the
Voice of the Dweller and always with the Voice is a woman
of the moon king's kin who is its priestess.
"And many have been the journeys upward of the Shining
One, through the Moon Pool--returning with still others in
its coils.
"And now again has it grown restless, longing for the
wider spaces. It has spoken to Yolara and to Lugur even as
it did to the dead _Taithu_, promising them dominion. And it
has grown stronger, drawing to itself power to go far on the
moon stream where it will. Thus was it able to seize your
friend, Goodwin, and Olaf's wife and babe--and many
more. Yolara and Lugur plan to open way to earth face; to
depart with their court and under the Shining One grasp the
"And this is the tale the Silent Ones bade me tell you--
and it is done."
Breathlessly I had listened to the stupendous epic of a
long-lost world. Now I found speech to voice the question
ever with me, the thing that lay as close to my heart as did
the welfare of Larry, indeed the whole object of my quest--
the fate of Throckmartin and those who had passed with
him into the Dweller's lair; yes, and of Olaf's wife, too.
"Lakla," I said, "the friend who drew me here and those
he loved who went before him--can we not save them?"
"The Three say no, Goodwin." There was again in her
eyes the pity with which she had looked upon Olaf. "The
Shining One--FEEDS--upon the flame of life itself, setting in
its place its own fires and its own will. Its slaves are only
shells through which it gleams. Death, say the Three, is the
best that can come to them; yet will that be a boon great indeed."
"But they have souls, _mavourneen_," Larry said to her.
"And they're alive still--in a way. Anyhow, their souls have
not gone from them."
I caught a hope from his words--sceptic though I am--
holding that the existence of soul has never been proved by
dependable laboratory methods--for they recalled to me that
when I had seen Throckmartin, Edith had been close beside
"It was days after his wife was taken, that the Dweller
seized Throckmartin," I cried. "How, if their wills, their life,
were indeed gone, how did they find each other mid all that
horde? How did they come together in the Dweller's lair?"
"I do not know," she answered, slowly. "You say they
loved--and it is true that love is stronger even than death!"
"One thing I DON'T understand"--this was Larry again--
"is why a girl like you keeps coming out of the black-haired
crowd; so frequently and one might say, so regularly, Lakla.
Aren't there ever any red-headed boys--and if they are what
becomes of them?"
"That, Larry, I cannot answer," she said, very frankly.
"There was a pact of some kind; how made or by whom I
know not. But for long the Murians feared the return of the
_Taithu_ and greatly they feared the Three. Even the Shining
One feared those who had created it--for a time; and not
even now is it eager to face them--THAT I know. Nor are
Yolara and Lugur so SURE. It may be that the Three commanded
it: but how or why I know not. I only know that it
is true--for here am I and from where else would I have
"From Ireland," said Larry O'Keefe, promptly. "And
that's where you're going. For 'tis no place for a girl like you
to have been brought up--Lakla; what with people like
frogs, and a half-god three quarters devil, and red oceans,
an' the only Irish things yourself and the Silent Ones up
there, bless their hearts. It's no place for ye, and by the soul
of St. Patrick, it's out of it soon ye'll be gettin'!"
Larry! Larry! If it had but been true--and I could see
Lakla and you beside me now!
Larry and the Frog-Men
LONG had been her tale in the telling, and too long, perhaps,
have I been in the repeating--but not every day are the
mists rolled away to reveal undreamed secrets of earthyouth.
And I have set it down here, adding nothing, taking
nothing from it; translating liberally, it is true, but constantly
striving, while putting it into idea-forms and phraseology
to be readily understood by my readers, to keep accurately to
the spirit. And this, I must repeat, I have done throughout
my narrative, wherever it has been necessary to record conversation
with the Murians.
Rising, I found I was painfully stiff--as muscle-bound as
though I had actually trudged many miles. Larry, imitating
me, gave an involuntary groan.
"Faith, _mavourneen_," he said to Lakla, relapsing unconsciously
into English, "your roads would never wear out
shoe-leather, but they've got their kick, just the same!"
She understood our plight, if not his words; gave a soft
little cry of mingled pity and self-reproach; forced us back
upon the cushions.
"Oh, but I'm sorry!" mourned Lakla, leaning over us. "I
had forgotten--for those new to it the way is a weary one,
She ran to the doorway, whistled a clear high note down
the passage. Through the hangings came two of the frog-men.
She spoke to them rapidly. They crouched toward us, what
certainly was meant for an amiable grin wrinkling the grotesque
muzzles, baring the glistening rows of needle-teeth.
And while I watched them with the fascination that they
never lost for me, the monsters calmly swung one arm
around our knees, lifted us up like babies--and as calmly
started to walk away with us!
"Put me down! Put me down, I say!" The O'Keefe's voice
was both outraged and angry; squinting around I saw him
struggling violently to get to his feet. The _Akka_ only held
him tighter, booming comfortingly, peering down into his
flushed face inquiringly.
"But, Larry--darlin'!" --Lakla's tones were--well, maternally
surprised--"you're stiff and sore, and Kra can carry
you quite easily."
"I WON'T be carried!" sputtered the O'Keefe. "Damn it,
Goodwin, there are such things as the unities even here, an'
for a lieutenant of the Royal Air Force to be picked up an'
carted around like a--like a bundle of rags--it's not discipline!
Put me down, ye _omadhaun_, or I'll poke ye in the
snout!" he shouted to his bearer--who only boomed gently,
and stared at the handmaiden, plainly for further instructions.
"But, Larry--dear!"--Lakla was plainly distressed--"it
will HURT you to walk; and I don't WANT you to hurt, Larry--
"Holy shade of St. Patrick!" moaned Larry; again he made
a mighty effort to tear himself from the frog-man's grip;
gave up with a groan. "Listen, _alanna_!" he said plaintively.
"When we get to Ireland, you and I, we won't have anybody
to pick us up and carry us about every time we get a bit tired.
And it's getting me in bad habits you are!"
"Oh, YES, we will, Larry!" cried the handmaiden,
"because many, oh, many, of my _Akka_ will go with us!"
"Will you tell this--BOOB!--to put me down!" gritted the
now thoroughly aroused O'Keefe. I couldn't help laughing;
he glared at me.
"Bo-oo-ob?" exclaimed Lakla.
"Yes, boo-oo-ob!" said O'Keefe, "an' I have no desire to
explain the word in my present position, light of my soul!"
The handmaiden sighed, plainly dejected. But she spoke
again to the _Akka_, who gently lowered the O'Keefe to the
"I don't understand," she said hopelessly, "if you want to
walk, why, of course, you shall, Larry." She turned to me.
"Do you?" she asked.
"I do not," I said firmly.
"Well, then," murmured Lakla, "go you, Larry and Goodwin,
with Kra and Gulk, and let them minister to you. After,
sleep a little--for not soon will Rador and Olaf return. And
let me feel your lips before you go, Larry--darlin'!" She
covered his eyes caressingly with her soft little palms; pushed
him away.
"Now go," said Lakla, "and rest!"
Unashamed I lay back against the horny chest of Gulk;
and with a smile noticed that Larry, even if he had rebelled
at being carried, did not disdain the support of Kra's shining,
black-scaled arm which, slipping around his waist, halflifted
him along.
They parted a hanging and dropped us softly down beside
a little pool, sparkling with the clear water that had heretofore
been brought us in the wide basins. Then they began
to undress us. And at this point the O'Keefe gave up.
"Whatever they're going to do we can't stop 'em, Doc!"
he moaned. "Anyway, I feel as though I've been pulled
through a knot-hole, and I don't care--I don't care--as the
song says."
When we were stripped we were lowered gently into the
water. But not long did the _Akka_ let us splash about the
shallow basin. They lifted us out, and from jars began deftly
to anoint and rub us with aromatic unguents.
I think that in all the medley of grotesque, of tragic, of
baffling, strange and perilous experiences in that underground
world none was more bizarre than this--valeting.
I began to laugh, Larry joined me, and then Kra and Gulk
joined in our merriment with deep batrachian cachinnations
and gruntings. Then, having finished apparelling us and still
chuckling, the two touched our arms and led us out, into a
room whose circular sides were ringed with soft divans. Still
smiling, I sank at once into sleep.
How long I slumbered I do not know. A low and thunderous
booming coming through the deep window slit, reverberated
through the room and awakened me. Larry yawned;
arose briskly.
"Sounds as though the bass drums of every jazz band in
New York were serenading us!" he observed. Simultaneously
we sprang to the window; peered through.
We were a little above the level of the bridge, and its full
length was plain before us. Thousands upon thousands of
the _Akka_ were crowding upon it, and far away other hordes
filled like a glittering thicket both sides of the cavern ledge's
crescent strand. On black scale and orange scale the crimson
light fell, picking them off in little flickering points.
Upon the platform from which sprang the smaller span
over the abyss were Lakla, Olaf, and Rador; the handmaiden
clearly acting as interpreter between them and the giant she
had called Nak, the Frog King.
"Come on!" shouted Larry.
Out of the open portal we ran; over the World Heart
Bridge--and straight into the group.
"Oh!" cried Lakla, "I didn't want you to wake up so soon,
"See here, _mavourneen_!" Indignation thrilled in the Irishman's
voice. "I'm not going to be done up with baby-ribbons
and laid away in a cradle for safe-keeping while a fight
is on; don't think it. Why didn't you call me?"
"You needed rest!" There was indomitable determination
in the handmaiden's tones, the eternal maternal shining defiant
from her eyes. "You were tired and you hurt! You
shouldn't have got up!"
"Needed the rest!" groaned Larry. "Look here, Lakla,
what do you think I am?"
"You're all I have," said that maiden firmly, "and I'm going
to take care of you, Larry--darlin'! Don't you ever think
anything else."
"Well, pulse of my heart, considering my delicate health
and general fragility, would it hurt me, do you think, to be
told what's going on?" he asked.
"Not at all, Larry!" answered the handmaiden serenely.
"Yolara went through the Portal. She was very, VERY angry--"
"She was all the devil's woman that she is!" rumbled Olaf.
"Rador met the messenger," went on the Golden Girl
calmly. "The _ladala_ are ready to rise when Lugur and Yolara
lead their hosts against us. They will strike at those left
behind. And in the meantime we shall have disposed my
_Akka_ to meet Yolara's men. And on that disposal we must
all take counsel, you, Larry, and Rador, Olaf and Goodwin
and Nak, the ruler of the _Akka_."
"Did the messenger give any idea when Yolara expects
to make her little call?" asked Larry.
"Yes," she answered. "They prepare, and we may expect
them in--" She gave the equivalent of about thirty-six hours
of our time.
"But, Lakla," I said, the doubt that I had long been holding
finding voice, "should the Shining One come--with its
slaves--are the Three strong enough to cope with it?"
There was troubled doubt in her own eyes.
"I do not know," she said at last, frankly. "You have
heard their story. What they promise is that they will help.
I do not know--any more than do you, Goodwin!"
I looked up at the dome beneath which I knew the dread
Trinity stared forth; even down upon us. And despite the
awe, the assurance, I had felt when I stood before them I,
too, doubted.
"Well," said Larry, "you and I, uncle," he turned to
Rador, "and Olaf here had better decide just what part of the
battle we'll lead--"
"Lead!" the handmaiden was appalled. "YOU lead, Larry?
Why you are to stay with Goodwin and with me--up there,
there we can watch."
"Heart's beloved," O'Keefe was stern indeed. "A thousand
times I've looked Death straight in the face, peered into his
eyes. Yes, and with ten thousand feet of space under me an'
bursting shells tickling the ribs of the boat I was in. An'
d'ye think I'll sit now on the grandstand an' watch while a
game like this is being pulled? Ye don't know your future
husband, soul of my delight!"
And so we started toward the golden opening, squads of
the frog-men following us soldierly and disappearing about
the huge structure. Nor did we stop until we came to the
handmaiden's boudoir. There we seated ourselves.
"Now," said Larry, "two things I want to know. First--
how many can Yolara muster against us; second, how many
of these _Akka_ have we to meet them?"
Rador gave our equivalent for eighty thousand men as the
force Yolara could muster without stripping her city. Against
this force, it appeared, we could count, roughly, upon two
hundred thousand of the _Akka_.
"And they're some fighters!" exclaimed Larry. "Hell, with
odds like that what're you worrying about? It's over before
it's begun."
"But, _Larree_," objected Rador to this, "you forget that the
nobles will have the _Keth_--and other things; also that the
soldiers have fought against the _Akka_ before and will be
shielded very well from their spears and clubs--and that
their blades and javelins can bite through the scales of Nak's
warriors. They have many things--"
"Uncle," interjected O'Keefe, "one thing they have is your
nerve. Why, we're more than two to one. And take it from
Without warning dropped the tragedy!
"Your Love; Your Lives; Your Souls!"
LAKLA had taken no part in the talk since we had reached
her bower. She had seated herself close to the O'Keefe.
Glancing at her I had seen steal over her face that brooding,
listening look that was hers whenever in that mysterious
communion with the Three. It vanished; swiftly she arose;
interrupted the Irishman without ceremony.
"Larry darlin'," said the handmaiden. "The Silent Ones
summon us!"
"When do we go?" I asked; Larry's face grew bright with
"The time is now," she said--and hesitated. "Larry dear,
put your arms about me," she faltered, "for there is something
cold that catches at my heart--and I am afraid."
At his exclamation she gathered herself together; gave a
shaky little laugh.
"It's because I love you so that fear has power to plague
me," she told him.
Without another word he bent and kissed her; in silence
we passed on, his arm still about her girdled waist, golden
head and black close together. Soon we stood before the
crimson slab that was the door to the sanctuary of the Silent
Ones. She poised uncertainly before it; then with a defiant
arching of the proud little head that sent all the bronzeflecked
curls flying, she pressed. It slipped aside and once
more the opalescence gushed out, flooding all about us.
Dazzled as before, I followed through the lambent cascades
pouring from the high, carved walls; paused, and my
eyes clearing, looked up--straight into the faces of the
Three. The angled orbs centred upon the handmaiden; softened
as I had seen them do when first we had faced them.
She smiled up; seemed to listen.
"Come closer," she commanded, "close to the feet of the
Silent Ones."
We moved, pausing at the very base of the dais. The
sparkling mists thinned; the great heads bent slightly over us;
through the veils I caught a glimpse of huge columnar necks,
enormous shoulders covered with draperies as of pale-blue
I came back to attention with a start, for Lakla was
answering a question only heard by her, and, answering it
aloud, I perceived for our benefit; for whatever was the mode
of communication between those whose handmaiden she
was, and her, it was clearly independent of speech.
"He has been told," she said, "even as you commanded."
Did I see a shadow of pain flit across the flickering eyes?
Wondering, I glanced at Lakla's face and there was a dawn
of foreboding and bewilderment. For a little she held her
listening attitude; then the gaze of the Three left her;
focused upon the O'Keefe.
"Thus speak the Silent Ones--through Lakla, their handmaiden,"
the golden voice was like low trumpet notes. "At
the threshold of doom is that world of yours above. Yea,
even the doom, Goodwin, that ye dreamed and the shadow
of which, looking into your mind they see, say the Three.
For not upon earth and never upon earth can man find means
to destroy the Shining One."
She listened again--and the foreboding deepened to an
amazed fear.
"They say, the Silent Ones," she went on, "that they know
not whether even they have power to destroy. Energies we
know nothing of entered into its shaping and are part of it;
and still other energies it has gathered to itself"--she
paused; a shadow of puzzlement crept into her voice "and
other energies still, forces that ye DO know and symbolize
by certain names--hatred and pride and lust and many
others which are forces real as that hidden in the _Keth_; and
among them--fear, which weakens all those others--" Again
she paused.
"But within it is nothing of that greatest of all, that which
can make powerless all the evil others, that which we call--
love," she ended softly.
"I'd like to be the one to put a little more FEAR in the
beast," whispered Larry to me, grimly in our own English.
The three weird heads bent, ever so slightly--and I gasped,
and Larry grew a little white as Lakla nodded--
"They say, Larry," she said, "that there you touch one
side of the heart of the matter--for it is through the way of
fear the Silent Ones hope to strike at the very life of the
Shining One!"
The visage Larry turned to me was eloquent of wonder;
and mine reflected it--for what REALLY were this Three to
whom our minds were but open pages, so easily read? Not
long could we conjecture; Lakla broke the little silence.
"This, they say, is what is to happen. First will come upon
us Lugur and Yolara with all their host. Because of fear the
Shining One will lurk behind within its lair; for despite all,
the Dweller DOES dread the Three, and only them. With this
host the Voice and the priestess will strive to conquer. And
if they do, then will they be strong enough, too, to destroy
us all. For if they take the abode they banish from the
Dweller all fear and sound the end of the Three.
"Then will the Shining One be all free indeed; free to go
out into the world, free to do there as it wills!
"But if they do not conquer--and the Shining One comes
not to their aid, abandoning them even as it abandoned its
own _Taithu_--then will the Three be loosed from a part of
their doom, and they will go through the Portal, seek the
Shining One beyond the Veil, and, piercing it through fear's
opening, destroy it."
"That's quite clear," murmured the O'Keefe in my ear.
"Weaken the morale--then smash. I've seen it happen a
dozen times in Europe. While they've got their nerve there's
not a thing you can do; get their nerve--and not a thing can
they do. And yet in both cases they're the same men."
Lakla had been listening again. She turned, thrust out
hands to Larry, a wild hope in her eyes--and yet a hope half
"They say," she cried, "that they give us choice. Remembering
that your world doom hangs in the balance, we have
choice--choice to stay and help fight Yolara's armies--and
they say they look not lightly on that help. Or choice to go--
and if so be you choose the latter, then will they show another
way that leads into your world!"
A flush had crept over the O'Keefe's face as she was
speaking. He took her hands and looked long into the golden
eyes; glancing up I saw the Trinity were watching them intently--
"What do you say, _mavourneen_?" asked Larry gently. The
handmaiden hung her head; trembled.
"Your words shall be mine, O one I love," she whispered.
"So going or staying, I am beside you."
"And you, Goodwin?" he turned to me. I shrugged my
shoulders--after all I had no one to care.
"lt's up to you, Larry," I remarked, deliberately choosing
his own phraseology.
The O'Keefe straightened, squared his shoulders, gazed
straight into the flame-flickering eyes.
"We stick!" he said briefly.
Shamefacedly I recall now that at the time I thought this
colloquialism not only irreverent, but in somewhat bad taste.
I am glad to say I was alone in that bit of weakness. The face
that Lakla turned to Larry was radiant with love, and although
the shamed hope had vanished from the sweet eyes,
they were shining with adoring pride. And the marble visages
of the Three softened, and the little flames died down.
"Wait," said Lakla, "there is one other thing they say we
must answer before they will hold us to that promise--
She listened, and then her face grew white--white as those
of the Three themselves; the glorious eyes widened, stark
terror filling them; the whole lithe body of her shook like a
reed in the wind.
"Not that!" she cried out to the Three. "Oh, not that! Not
Larry--let me go even as you will--but not him!" She threw
up frantic hands to the woman-being of the Trinity. "Let
ME bear it alone," she wailed. "Alone--mother! Mother!"
The Three bent their heads toward her, their faces pitiful,
and from the eyes of the woman One rolled--tears! Larry
leaped to Lakla's side.
_"Mavourneen!"_ he cried. "Sweetheart, what have they
said to you?"
He glared up at the Silent Ones, his hand twitching toward
the high-hung pistol holster.
The handmaiden swung to him; threw white arms around
his neck; held her head upon his heart until her sobbing
"This they--say--the Silent Ones," she gasped and then all
the courage of her came back. "O heart of mine!" she whispered
to Larry, gazing deep into his eyes, his anxious face
cupped between her white palms. "This they say--that
should the Shining One come to succour Yolara and Lugur,
should it conquer its fear--and--do this--then is there but
one way left to destroy it--and to save your world."
She swayed; he gripped her tightly.
"But one way--you and I must go--together--into its
embrace! Yea, we must pass within it--loving each other,
loving the world, realizing to the full all that we sacrifice and
sacrificing all, our love, our lives, perhaps even that you call
soul, O loved one; must give ourselves ALL to the Shining One
--gladly, freely, our love for each other flaming high within
us--that this curse shall pass away! For if we do this, pledge
the Three, then shall that power of love we carry into it
weaken for a time all that evil which the Shining One has
become--and in that time the Three can strike and slay!"
The blood rushed from my heart; scientist that I am, essentially,
my reason rejected any such solution as this of
the activities of the Dweller. Was it not, the thought flashed,
a propitiation by the Three out of their own weakness--
and as it flashed I looked up to see their eyes, full of sorrow,
on mine--and knew they read the thought. Then into the
whirling vortex of my mind came steadying reflections--of
history changed by the power of hate, of passion, of ambition,
and most of all, by love. Was there not actual dynamic
energy in these things--was there not a Son of Man
who hung upon a cross on Calvary?
"Dear love o' mine," said the O'Keefe quietly, "is it in your
heart to say YES to this?"
"Larry," she spoke low, "what is in your heart is in mine;
but I did so want to go with you, to live with you--to--to
bear you children, Larry--and to see the sun."
My eyes were wet; dimly through them I saw his gaze
on me.
"If the world IS at stake," he whispered, "why of course
there's only one thing to do. God knows I never was afraid
when I was fighting up there--and many a better man than
me has gone West with shell and bullet for the same idea;
but these things aren't shell and bullet--but I hadn't Lakla
then--and it's the damned DOUBT I have behind it all."
He turned to the Three--and did I in their poise sense a
rigidity, an anxiety that sat upon them as alienly as would
divinity upon men?
"Tell me this, Silent Ones," he cried. "If we do this, Lakla
and I, is it SURE you are that you can slay the--Thing, and
save my world? Is it SURE you are?"
For the first and the last time, I heard the voice of the
Silent Ones. It was the man-being at the right who spoke.
"We are sure," the tones rolled out like deepest organ
notes, shaking, vibrating, assailing the ears as strangely as
their appearance struck the eyes. Another moment the
O'Keefe stared at them. Once more he squared his shoulders;
lifted Lakla's chin and smiled into her eyes.
"We stick!" he said again, nodding to the Three.
Over the visages of the Trinity fell benignity that was--
awesome; the tiny flames in the jet orbs vanished, leaving
them wells in which brimmed serenity, hope--an extraordinary
joyfulness. The woman sat upright, tender gaze fixed
upon the man and girl. Her great shoulders raised as though
she had lifted her arms and had drawn to her those others.
The three faces pressed together for a fleeting moment;
raised again. The woman bent forward--and as she did so,
Lakla and Larry, as though drawn by some outer force, were
swept upon the dais.
Out from the sparkling mist stretched two hands, enormously
long, six-fingered, thumbless, a faint tracery of
golden scales upon their white backs, utterly unhuman and
still in some strange way beautiful, radiating power and--
all womanly!
They stretched forth; they touched the bent heads of Lakla
and the O'Keefe; caressed them, drew them together, softly
stroked them--lovingly, with more than a touch of benediction.
And withdrew!
The sparkling mists rolled up once more, hiding the Silent
Ones. As silently as once before we had gone we passed out
of the place of light, beyond the crimson stone, back to the
handmaiden's chamber.
Only once on our way did Larry speak.
"Cheer up, darlin'," he said to her, "it's a long way yet
before the finish. An' are you thinking that Lugur and Yolara
are going to pull this thing off? Are you?"
The handmaiden only looked at him, eyes love and sorrow
"They are!" said Larry. "They are! Like HELL they are!"
The Meeting of Titans
IT IS NOT my intention, nor is it possible no matter how interesting
to me, to set down _ad seriatim_ the happenings of
the next twelve hours. But a few will not be denied recital.
O'Keefe regained cheerfulness.
"After all, Doc," be said to me, "it's a beautiful scrap
we're going to have. At the worst the worst is no more than
the leprechaun warned about. I would have told the Taitha
De about the banshee raid he promised me; but I was a bit
taken off my feet at the time. The old girl an' all the clan'll
be along, said the little green man, an' I bet the Three will
be damned glad of it, take it from me."
Lakla, shining-eyed and half fearful too:
"I have other tidings that I am afraid will please you little,
Larry--darlin'. The Silent Ones say that you must not go
into battle yourself. You must stay here with me, and with
Goodwin--for if--if--the Shining One does come, then
must we be here to meet it. And you might not be, you know,
Larry, if you fight," she said, looking shyly up at him from
under the long lashes.
The O'Keefe's jaw dropped.
"That's about the hardest yet," he answered slowly. "Still
--I see their point; the lamb corralled for the altar has no
right to stray out among the lions," he added grimly. "Don't
worry, sweet," he told her. "As long as I've sat in the game
I'll stick to the rules."
Olaf took fierce joy in the coming fray.
"The Norns spin close to the end of this web," he rumbled.
"_Ja!_ And the threads of Lugur and the Heks woman
are between their fingers for the breaking! Thor will be with
me, and I have fashioned me a hammer in glory of Thor." In
his hand was an enormous mace of black metal, fully five
feet long, crowned with a massive head.
I pass to the twelve hours' closing.
At the end of the _coria_ road where the giant fernland met
the edge of the cavern's ruby floor, hundreds of the _Akka_
were stationed in ambush, armed with their spears tipped
with the rotting death and their nail-studded, metal-headed
clubs. These were to attack when the Murians debauched
from the _corials_. We had little hope of doing more here than
effect some attrition of Yolara's hosts, for at this place the
captains of the Shining One could wield the _Keth_ and their
other uncanny weapons freely. We had learned, too, that
every forge and artisan had been put to work to make an
armour Marakinoff had devised to withstand the natural
battle equipment of the frog-people--and both Larry and I
had a disquieting faith in the Russian's ingenuity.
At any rate the numbers against us would be lessened.
Next, under the direction of the frog-king, levies commanded
by subsidiary chieftains had completed rows of
rough walls along the probable route of the Murians through
the cavern. These afforded the _Akka_ a fair protection behind
which they could hurl their darts and spears--curiously
enough they had never developed the bow as a weapon.
At the opening of the cavern a strong barricade stretched
almost to the two ends of the crescent strand; almost, I say,
because there had not been time to build it entirely across
the mouth.
And from edge to edge of the titanic bridge, from where
it sprang outward at the shore of the Crimson Sea to a
hundred feet away from the golden door of the abode, barrier
after barrier was piled.
Behind the wall defending the mouth of the cavern, waited
other thousands of the _Akka_. At each end of the unfinished
barricade they were mustered thickly, and at right and left
of the crescent where their forest began, more legions were
assembled to make way up to the ledge as opportunity offered.
Rank upon rank they manned the bridge barriers; they
swarmed over the pinnacles and in the hollows of the
island's ragged outer lip; the domed castle was a hive of
them, if I may mix my metaphors--and the rocks and
gardens that surrounded the abode glittered with them.
"Now," said the handmaiden, "there's nothing else we can
do--save wait."
She led us out through her bower and up the little path
that ran to the embrasure.
Through the quiet came a sound, a sighing, a half-mournful
whispering that beat about us and fled away.
"They come!" cried Lakla, the light of battle in her eyes.
Larry drew her to him, raised her in his arms, kissed her.
"A woman!" acclaimed the O'Keefe. "A real woman--
and mine!"
With the cry of the Portal there was movement among
the _Akka_, the glint of moving spears, flash of metal-tipped
clubs, rattle of horny spurs, rumblings of battle-cries.
And we waited--waited it seemed interminably, gaze fastened
upon the low wall across the cavern mouth. Suddenly
I remembered the crystal through which I had peered when
the hidden assassins had crept upon us. Mentioning it to
Lakla, she gave a little cry of vexation, a command to her
attendant; and not long that faithful if unusual lady had
returned with a tray of the glasses. Raising mine, I saw the
lines furthest away leap into sudden activity. Spurred warrior
after warrior leaped upon the barricade and over it.
Flashes of intense, green light, mingled with gleams like
lightning strokes of concentrated moon rays, sprang from
behind the wall--sprang and struck and burned upon the
scales of the batrachians.
"They come!" whispered Lakla.
At the far ends of the crescent a terrific milling had begun.
Here it was plain the _Akka_ were holding. Faintly, for the
distance was great, I could see fresh force upon force rush up
and take the places of those who had fallen.
Over each of these ends, and along the whole line of the
barricade a mist of dancing, diamonded atoms began to rise;
sparking, coruscating points of diamond dust that darted
and danced.
What had once been Lakla's guardians--dancing now in
the nothingness!
"God, but it's hard to stay here like this!" groaned the
O'Keefe; Olaf's teeth were bared, the lips drawn back in
such a fighting grin as his ancestors berserk on their raven
ships must have borne; Rador was livid with rage; the handmaiden's
nostrils flaring wide, all her wrathful soul in her
Suddenly, while we looked, the rocky wall which the _Akka_
had built at the cavern mouth--was not! It vanished, as
though an unseen, unbelievably gigantic hand had with the
lightning's speed swept it away. And with it vanished, too,
long lines of the great amphibians close behind it.
Then down upon the ledge, dropping into the Crimson
Sea, sending up geysers of ruby spray, dashing on the bridge,
crushing the frog-men, fell a shower of stone, mingled with
distorted shapes and fragments whose scales still flashed
meteoric as they hurled from above.
"That which makes things fall upward," hissed Olaf.
"That which I saw in the garden of Lugur!"
The fiendish agency of destruction which Marakinoff had
revealed to Larry; the force that cut off gravitation and sent
all things within its range racing outward into space!
And now over the debris upon the ledge, striking with long
sword and daggers, here and there a captain flashing the
green ray, moving on in ordered squares, came the soldiers
of the Shining One. Nearer and nearer the verge of the ledge
they pushed Nak's warriors. Leaping upon the dwarfs, smiting
them with spear and club, with teeth and spur, the _Akka_
fought like devils. Quivering under the ray, they leaped and
dragged down and slew.
Now there was but one long line of the frog-men at the
very edge of the cliff.
And ever the clouds of dancing, diamonded atoms grew
thicker over them all!
That last thin line of the _Akka_ was going; yet they fought
to the last, and none toppled over the lip without at least
one of the armoured Murians in his arms.
My gaze dropped to the foot of the cliffs. Stretched along
their length was a wide ribbon of beauty--a shimmering
multitude of gleaming, pulsing, prismatic moons; glowing,
glowing ever brighter, ever more wondrous--the gigantic
Medusae globes feasting on dwarf and frog-man alike!
Across the waters, faintly, came a triumphant shouting
from Lugur's and Yolara's men!
Was the ruddy light of the place lessening, growing paler,
changing to a faint rose? There was an exclamation from
Larry; something like hope relaxed the drawn muscles of
his face. He pointed to the aureate dome wherein sat the
Three--and then I saw!
Out of it, through the long transverse slit through which
the Silent Ones kept their watch on cavern, bridge, and
abyss, a torrent of the opalescent light was pouring. It cascaded
like a waterfall, and as it flowed it spread whirling
out, in columns and eddies, clouds and wisps of misty,
curdled coruscations. It hung like a veil over all the islands,
filtering everywhere, driving back the crimson light as though
possessed of impenetrable substance--and still it cast not the
faintest shadowing upon our vision.
"Good God!" breathed Larry. "Look!"
The radiance was marching--MARCHING--down the colossal bridge.
It moved swiftly, in some unthinkable way INTELLIGENTLY.
It swathed the _Akka_, and closer, ever closer it
swept toward the approach upon which Yolara's men had
now gained foothold.
From their ranks came flash after flash of the green ray
--aimed at the abode! But as the light sped and struck the
opalescence it was blotted out! The shimmering mists seemed
to enfold, to dissipate it.
Lakla drew a deep breath.
"The Silent Ones forgive me for doubting them," she
whispered; and again hope blossomed on her face even as it
did on Larry's.
The frog-men were gaining. Clothed in the armour of that
mist, they pressed back from the bridge-head the invaders.
There was another prodigious movement at the ends of the
crescent, and racing up, pressing against the dwarfs, came
other legions of Nak's warriors. And re-enforcing those out
on the prodigious arch, the frog-men stationed in the gardens
below us poured back to the castle and out through the
open Portal.
"They're licked!" shouted Larry. "They're--"
So quickly I could not follow the movement his automatic
leaped to his hand--spoke, once and again and again. Rador
leaped to the head of the little path, sword in hand; Olaf,
shouting and whirling his mace, followed. I strove to get my
own gun quickly.
For up that path were running twoscore of Lugur's men,
while from below Lugur's own voice roared.
"Quick! Slay not the handmaiden or her lover! Carry them
down. Quick! But slay the others!"
The handmaiden raced toward Larry, stopped, whistled
shrilly--again and again. Larry's pistol was empty, but as
the dwarfs rushed upon him I dropped two of them with
mine. It jammed--I could not use it; I sprang to his side.
Rador was down, struggling in a heap of Lugur's men. Olaf,
a Viking of old, was whirling his great hammer, and striking,
striking through armour, flesh, and bone.
Larry was down, Lakla flew to him. But the Norseman,
now streaming blood from a dozen wounds, caught a glimpse
of her coming, turned, thrust out a mighty hand, sent her
reeling back, and then with his hammer cracked the skulls
of those trying to drag the O'Keefe down the path.
A cry from Lakla--the dwarfs had seized her, had lifted
her despite her struggles, were carrying her away. One I
dropped with the butt of my useless pistol, and then went
down myself under the rush of another.
Through the clamour I heard a booming of the _Akka_,
closer, closer; then through it the bellow of Lugur. I made
a mighty effort, swung a hand up, and sunk my fingers in
the throat of the soldier striving to kill me. Writhing over
him, my fingers touched a poniard; I thrust it deep, staggered
to my feet.
The O'Keefe, shielding Lakla, was battling with a long
sword against a half dozen of the soldiers. I started toward
him, was struck, and under the impact hurled to the ground.
Dizzily I raised myself--and leaning upon my elbow, stared
and moved no more. For the dwarfs lay dead, and Larry,
holding Lakla tightly, was staring even as I, and ranged at
the head of the path were the _Akka_, whose booming advance
in obedience to the handmaiden's call I had heard.
And at what we all stared was Olaf, crimson with his
wounds, and Lugur, in blood-red armour, locked in each
other's grip, struggling, smiting, tearing, kicking, and swaying
about the little space before the embrasure. I crawled
over toward the O'Keefe. He raised his pistol, dropped it.
"Can't hit him without hitting Olaf," he whispered. Lakla
signalled the frog-men; they advanced toward the two--but
Olaf saw them, broke the red dwarf's hold, sent Lugur reeling
a dozen feet away.
"No!" shouted the Norseman, the ice of his pale-blue eyes
glinting like frozen flames, blood streaming down his face
and dripping from his hands. "No! Lugur is mine! None but
me slays him! Ho, you Lugur--" and cursed him and Yolara
and the Dweller hideously--I cannot set those curses
down here.
They spurred Lugur. Mad now as the Norseman, the red
dwarf sprang. Olaf struck a blow that would have killed an
ordinary man, but Lugur only grunted, swept in, and seized
him about the waist; one mighty arm began to creep up
toward Huldricksson's throat.
"'Ware, Olaf!" cried O'Keefe; but Olaf did not answer.
He waited until the red dwarf's hand was close to his
shoulder; and then, with an incredibly rapid movement--
once before had I seen something like it in a wrestling match
between Papuans--he had twisted Lugur around; twisted
him so that Olaf's right arm lay across the tremendous breast,
the left behind the neck, and Olaf's left leg held the Voice's
armoured thighs viselike against his right knee while over
that knee lay the small of the red dwarf's back.
For a second or two the Norseman looked down upon his
enemy, motionless in that paralyzing grip. And then--slowly
--he began to break him!
Lakla gave a little cry; made a motion toward the two.
But Larry drew her head down against his breast, hiding her
eyes; then fastened his own upon the pair, white-faced, stern.
Slowly, ever so slowly, proceeded Olaf. Twice Lugur
moaned. At the end he screamed--horribly. There was a
cracking sound, as of a stout stick snapped.
Huldricksson stooped, silently. He picked up the limp
body of the Voice, not yet dead, for the eyes rolled, the lips
strove to speak; lifted it, walked to the parapet, swung it
twice over his head, and cast it down to the red waters!
The Coming of the Shining One
THE NORSEMAN turned toward us. There was now no madness
in his eyes; only a great weariness. And there was
peace on the once tortured face.
"Helma," he whispered, "I go a little before! Soon you
will come to me--to me and the Yndling who will await you
--Helma, _mine liebe!_"
Blood gushed from his mouth; he swayed, fell. And thus
died Olaf Huldricksson.
We looked down upon him; nor did Lakla, nor Larry, nor
I try to hide our tears. And as we stood the _Akka_ brought
to us that other mighty fighter, Rador; but in him there was
life, and we attended to him there as best we could.
Then Lakla spoke.
"We will bear him into the castle where we may give him
greater care," she said. "For, lo! the hosts of Yolara have
been beaten back; and on the bridge comes Nak with tidings."
We looked over the parapet. It was even as she had said.
Neither on ledge nor bridge was there trace of living men of
Muria--only heaps of slain that lay everywhere--and thick
against the cavern mouth still danced the flashing atoms of
those the green ray had destroyed.
"Over!" exclaimed Larry incredulously. "We live then--
heart of mine!"
"The Silent Ones recall their veils," she said, pointing to
the dome. Back through the slitted opening the radiance was
streaming; withdrawing from sea and island; marching back
over the bridge with that same ordered, intelligent motion.
Behind it the red light pressed, like skirmishers on the heels
of a retreating army.
"And yet--" faltered the handmaiden as we passed into
her chamber, and doubtful were the eyes she turned upon the
"I don't believe," he said, "there's a kick left in them--"
What was that sound beating into the chamber faintly, so
faintly? My heart gave a great throb and seemed to stop for
an eternity. What was it--coming nearer, ever nearer? Now
Lakla and O'Keefe heard it, life ebbing from lips and cheeks.
Nearer, nearer--a music as of myriads of tiny crystal bells,
tinkling, tinkling--a storm of pizzicati upon violins of glass!
Nearer, nearer--not sweetly now, nor luring; no--raging,
wrathful, sinister beyond words; sweeping on; nearer--
The Dweller! The Shining One!
We leaped to the narrow window; peered out, aghast. The
bell notes swept through and about us, a hurricane. The
crescent strand was once more a ferment. Back, back were
the _Akka_ being swept, as though by brooms, tottering on the
edge of the ledge, falling into the waters. Swiftly they were
finished; and where they had fought was an eddying throng
clothed in tatters or naked, swaying, drifting, arms tossing
--like marionettes of Satan.
The dead-alive! The slaves of the Dweller!
They swayed and tossed, and then, like water racing
through an opened dam, they swept upon the bridge-head.
On and on they pushed, like the bore of a mighty tide. The
frog-men strove against them, clubbing, spearing, tearing
them. But even those worst smitten seemed not to fall. On
they pushed, driving forward, irresistible--a battering ram
of flesh and bone. They clove the masses of the _Akka_, pressing
them to the sides of the bridge and over. Through the
open gates they forced them--for there was no room for the
frog-men to stand against that implacable tide.
Then those of the _Akka_ who were left turned their backs
and ran. We heard the clang of the golden wings of the portal,
and none too soon to keep out the first of the Dweller's
dreadful hordes.
Now upon the cavern ]edge and over the whole length
of the bridge there were none but the dead-alive, men and
women, black-polled _ladala_, sloe-eyed Malays, slant-eyed
Chinese, men of every race that sailed the seas--milling,
turning, swaying, like leaves caught in a sluggish current.
The bell notes became sharper, more insistent. At the cavern
mouth a radiance began to grow--a gleaming from
which the atoms of diamond dust seemed to try to flee. As
the radiance grew and the crystal notes rang nearer, every
head of that hideous multitude turned stiffly, slowly toward
the right, looking toward the far bridge end; their eyes fixed
and glaring; every face an inhuman mask of rapture and of
A movement shook them. Those in the centre began to
stream back, faster and ever faster, leaving motionless deep
ranks on each side. Back they flowed until from golden
doors to cavern mouth a wide lane stretched, walled on each
side by the dead-alive.
The far radiance became brighter; it gathered itself at the
end of the dreadful lane; it was shot with sparklings and with
pulsings of polychromatic light. The crystal storm was intolerable,
piercing the ears with countless tiny lances;
brighter still the radiance
From the cavern swirled the Shining One!
The Dweller paused, seemed to scan the island of the
Silent Ones half doubtfully; then slowly, stately, it drifted
out upon the bridge. Closer it drew; behind it glided Yolara
at the head of a company of her dwarfs, and at her side was
the hag of the Council whose face was the withered, shattered
echo of her own.
Slower grew the Dweller's pace as it drew nearer. Did I
sense in it a doubt, an uncertainty? The crystal-tongued,
unseen choristers that accompanied it subtly seemed to reflect
the doubt; their notes were not sure, no longer insistent;
rather was there in them an undertone of hesitancy, of warning!
Yet on came the Shining One until it stood plain beneath
us, searching with those eyes that thrust from and
withdrew into unknown spheres, the golden gateway, the
cliff face, the castle's rounded bulk--and more intently than
any of these, the dome wherein sat the Three.
Behind it each face of the dead-alive turned toward it, and
those beside it throbbed and gleamed with its luminescence.
Yolara crept close, just beyond the reach of its spirals.
She murmured--and the Dweller bent toward her, its seven
globes steady in their shining mists, as though listening. It
drew erect once more, resumed its doubtful scrutiny. Yolara's
face darkened; she turned abruptly, spoke to a captain
of her guards. A dwarf raced back between the palisades of
Now the priestess cried out, her voice ringing like a silver
"Ye are done, ye Three! The Shining One stands at your
door, demanding entrance. Your beasts are slain and your
power is gone. Who are ye, says the Shining One, to deny
it entrance to the place of its birth?"
"Ye do not answer," she cried again, "yet know we that
ye hear! The Shining One offers these terms: Send forth your
handmaiden and that lying stranger she stole; send them
forth to us--and perhaps ye may live. But if ye send them
not forth, then shall ye too die--and soon!"
We waited, silent, even as did Yolara--and again there
was no answer from the Three.
The priestess laughed; the blue eyes flashed.
"It is ended!" she cried. "If you will not open, needs must
we open for you!"
Over the bridge was marching a long double file of the
dwarfs. They bore a smoothed and handled tree-trunk whose
head was knobbed with a huge hall of metal. Past the priestess,
past the Shining One, they carried it; fifty of them to
each side of the ram; and behind them stepped--Marakinoff!
Larry awoke to life.
"Now, thank God," he rasped, "I can get that devil, anyway!"
He drew his pistol, took careful aim. Even as he pressed
the trigger there rang through the abode a tremendous
clanging. The ram was battering at the gates. O'Keefe's bullet
went wild. The Russian must have heard the shot; perhaps
the missile was closer than we knew. He made a swift
leap behind the guards; was lost to sight.
Once more the thunderous clanging rang through the
Lakla drew herself erect; down upon her dropped the
listening aloofness. Gravely she bowed her head.
"It is time, O love of mine." She turned to O'Keefe. "The
Silent Ones say that the way of fear is closed, but the way
of love is open. They call upon us to redeem our promise!"
For a hundred heart-beats they clung to each other, breast
to breast and lip to lip. Below, the clangour was increasing,
the great trunk swinging harder and faster upon the metal
gates. Now Lakla gently loosed the arms of the O'Keefe, and
for another instant those two looked into each other's souls.
The handmaiden smiled tremulously.
"I would it might have been otherwise, Larry darlin',"
she whispered. "But at least--we pass together, dearest of
She leaped to the window.
"Yolara!" the golden voice rang out sweetly. The clanging
ceased. "Draw back your men. We open the Portal and
come forth to you and the Shining One--Larry and I."
The priestess's silver chimes of laughter rang out, cruel,
"Come, then, quickly," she jeered. "For surely both the
Shining One and I yearn for you!" Her malice-laden laughter
chimed high once more. "Keep us not lonely long!" the
priestess mocked.
Larry drew a deep breath, stretched both hands out to me.
"It's good-by, I guess, Doc." His voice was strained.
"Good-by and good luck, old boy. If you get out, and you
WILL, let the old _Dolphin_ know I'm gone. And carry on, pal
--and always remember the O'Keefe loved you like a
I squeezed his hands desperately. Then out of my balanceshaking
woe a strange comfort was born.
"Maybe it's not good-by, Larry!" I cried. "The banshee has
not cried!"
A flash of hope passed over his face; the old reckless grin
shone forth.
"It's so!" he said. "By the Lord, it's so!"
Then Lakla bent toward me, and for the second time--
kissed me.
"Come!" she said to Larry. Hand in hand they moved
away, into the corridor that led to the door outside of which
waited the Shining One and its priestess.
And unseen by them, wrapped as they were within their
love and sacrifice, I crept softly behind. For I had determined
that if enter the Dweller's embrace they must, they
should not go alone.
They paused before the Golden Portals; the handmaiden
pressed its opening lever; the massive leaves rolled back.
Heads high, proudly, serenely, they passed through and
out upon the hither span. I followed.
On each side of us stood the Dweller's slaves, faces turned
rigidly toward their master. A hundred feet away the Shining
One pulsed and spiralled in its evilly glorious lambency
of sparkling plumes.
Unhesitating, always with that same high serenity, Lakla
and the O'Keefe, hands clasped like little children, drew
closer to that wondrous shape. I could not see their faces,
but I saw awe fall upon those of the watching dwarfs, and
into the burning eyes of Yolara crept a doubt. Closer they
drew to the Dweller, and closer, I following them step by
step. The Shining One's whirling lessened; its tinklings were
faint, almost stilled. It seemed to watch them apprehensively.
A silence fell upon us all, a thick silence, brooding, ominous,
palpable. Now the pair were face to face with the child of
the Three--so near that with one of its misty tentacles it
could have enfolded them.
And the Shining One drew back!
Yes, drew back--and back with it stepped Yolara, the
doubt in her eyes deepening. Onward paced the handmaiden
and the O'Keefe--and step by step, as they advanced, the
Dweller withdrew; its bell notes chiming out, puzzled questioning--
half fearful!
And back it drew, and back until it had reached the very
centre of that platform over the abyss in whose depths pulsed
the green fires of earth heart. And there Yolara gripped herself;
the hell that seethed within her soul leaped out of her
eyes, a cry, a shriek of rage, tore from her lips.
As at a signal, the Shining One flamed high; its spirals and
eddying mists swirled madly, the pulsing core of it blazed
radiance. A score of coruscating tentacles swept straight
upon the pair who stood intrepid, unresisting, awaiting its
embrace. And upon me, lurking behind them.
Through me swept a mighty exaltation. It was the end
then--and I was to meet it with them.
Something drew us back, back with an incredible swiftness,
and yet as gently as a summer breeze sweeps a bit of
thistle-down! Drew us back from those darting misty arms
even as they were a hair-breadth from us! I heard the Dweller's
bell notes burst out ragingly! I heard Yolara scream.
What was that?
Between the three of us and them was a ring of curdled
moon flames, swirling about the Shining One and its priestess,
pressing in upon them, enfolding them!
And within it I glimpsed the faces of the Three--implacable,
sorrowful, filled with a supernal power!
Sparks and flashes of white flame darted from the ring,
penetrating the radiant swathings of the Dweller, striking
through its pulsing nucleus, piercing its seven crowning orbs.
Now the Shining One's radiance began to dim, the seven
orbs to dull; the tiny sparkling filaments that ran from them
down into the Dweller's body snapped, vanished! Through
the battling nebulosities Yolara's face swam forth--horrorfilled,
distorted, inhuman!
The ranks of the dead-alive quivered, moved, writhed, as
though each felt the torment of the Thing that had enslaved
them. The radiance that the Three wielded grew more intense,
thicker, seemed to expand. Within it, suddenly, were
scores of flaming triangles--scores of eyes like those of the
Silent Ones!
And the Shining One's seven little moons of amber, of
silver, of blue and amethyst and green, of rose and white,
split, shattered, were gone! Abruptly the tortured crystal
chimings ceased.
Dulled, all its soul-shaking beauty dead, blotched and
shadowed squalidly, its gleaming plumes tarnished, its dancing
spirals stripped from it, that which had been the Shining
One wrapped itself about Yolara--wrapped and drew
her into itself; writhed, swayed, and hurled itself over the
edge of the bridge--down, down into the green fires of the
unfathomable abyss--with its priestess still enfolded in its
From the dwarfs who had watched that terror came
screams of panic fear. They turned and ran, racing frantically
over the bridge toward the cavern mouth.
The serried ranks of the dead-alive trembled, shook. Then
from their faces tied the horror of wedded ecstasy and anguish.
Peace, utter peace, followed in its wake.
And as fields of wheat are bent and fall beneath the wind,
they fell. No longer dead-alive, now all of the blessed dead,
freed from their dreadful slavery!
Abruptly from the sparkling mists the cloud of eyes was
gone. Faintly revealed in them were only the heads of the
Silent Ones. And they drew before us; were before us! No
flames now in their ebon eyes--for the flickering fires were
quenched in great tears, streaming down the marble white
faces. They bent toward us, over us; their radiance enfolded
us. My eyes darkened. I could not see. I felt a tender hand
upon my head--and panic and frozen dread and nightmare
web that held me fled.
Then they, too, were gone.
Upon Larry's breast the handmaiden was sobbing--sobbing
out her heart--but this time with the joy of one who is
swept up from the very threshold of hell into paradise.
"MY HEART, Larry--" It was the handmaiden's murmur.
"My heart feels like a bird that is flying from a nest of
We were pacing down the length of the bridge, guards of
the _Akka_ beside us, others following with those companies of
_ladala_ that had rushed to aid us; in front of us the bandaged
Rador swung gently within a litter; beside him, in another,
lay Nak, the frog-king--much less of him than there had
been before the battle began, but living.
Hours had passed since the terror I have just related. My
first task had been to search for Throckmartin and his wife
among the fallen multitudes strewn thick as autumn leaves
along the flying arch of stone, over the cavern ledge, and
back, back as far as the eye could reach.
At last, Lakla and Larry helping, we found them. They
lay close to the bridge-end, not parted--locked tight in each
other's arms, pallid face to face, her hair streaming over his
breast! As though when that unearthly life the Dweller had
set within them passed away, their own had come back for
one fleeting instant--and they had known each other, and
clasped before kindly death had taken them.
"Love is stronger than all things." The handmaiden was
weeping softly. "Love never left them. Love was stronger
than the Shining One. And when its evil fled, love went with
them--wherever souls go."
Of Stanton and Thora there was no trace; nor, after our
discovery of those other two, did I care to look more. They
were dead--and they were free.
We buried Throckmartin and Edith beside Olaf in Lakla's
bower. But before the body of my old friend was placed
within the grave I gave it a careful and sorrowful examination.
The skin was firm and smooth, but cold; not the cold of
death, but with a chill that set my touching fingers tingling
unpleasantly. The body was bloodless; the course of veins
and arteries marked by faintly indented white furrows, as
though their walls had long collapsed. Lips, mouth, even the
tongue, was paper white. There was no sign of dissolution as
we know it; no shadow or stain upon the marble surface.
Whatever the force that, streaming from the Dweller or impregnating
its lair, had energized the dead-alive, it was barrier
against putrescence of any kind; that at least was certain.
But it was not barrier against the poison of the Medusae,
for, our sad task done, and looking down upon the waters, I
saw the pale forms of the Dweller's hordes dissolving, vanishing
into the shifting glories of the gigantic moons sailing
down upon them from every quarter of the Sea of Crimson.
While the frog-men, those late levies from the farthest forests,
were clearing bridge and ledge of cavern of the litter of
the dead, we listened to a leader of the _ladala_. They had risen,
even as the messenger had promised Rador. Fierce had been
the struggle in the gardened city by the silver waters with
those Lugur and Yolara bad left behind to garrison it. Deadly
had been the slaughter of the fair-haired, reaping the harvest
of hatred they had been sowing so long. Not without
a pang of regret did I think of the beautiful, gaily malicious
elfin women destroyed--evil though they may have been.
The ancient city of Lara was a charnel. Of all the rulers
not twoscore had escaped, and these into regions of peril
which to describe as sanctuary would be mockery. Nor had
the _ladala_ fared so well. Of all the men and women, for
women as well as men had taken their part in the swift war,
not more than a tenth remained alive.
And the dancing motes of light in the silver air were
thick, thick--they whispered.
They told us of the Shining One rushing through the Veil,
cometlike, its hosts streaming behind it, raging with it, in
ranks that seemed interminable!
Of the massacre of the priests and priestesses in the Cyclopean
temple; of the flashing forth of the summoning lights by
unseen hands--followed by the tearing of the rainbow curtain,
by colossal shatterings of the radiant cliffs; the vanishing
behind their debris of all trace of entrance to the haunted
place wherein the hordes of the Shining One had slaved--
the sealing of the lair!
Then, when the tempest of hate had ended in seething
Lara, how, thrilled with victory, armed with the weapons of
those they had slain, they had lifted the Shadow, passed
through the Portal, met and slaughtered the fleeing remnants
of Yolara's men--only to find the tempest stilled here, too.
But of Marakinoff they had seen nothing! Had the Russian
escaped, I wondered, or was he lying out there among the
But now the _ladala_ were calling upon Lakla to come with
them, to govern them.
"I don't want to, Larry darlin'," she told him. "I want to
go out with you to Ireland. But for a time--I think the Three
would have us remain and set that place in order."
The O'Keefe was bothered about something else than the
government of Muria.
"If they've killed off all the priests, who's to marry us,
heart of mine?" he worried. "None of those Siya and Siyana
rites, no matter what," he added hastily.
"Marry!" cried the handmaiden incredulously. "Marry us?
Why, Larry dear, we ARE married!"
The O'Keefe's astonishment was complete; his jaw
dropped; collapse seemed imminent.
"We are?" he gasped. "When?" he stammered fatuously.
"Why, when the Mother drew us together before her;
when she put her hands on our heads after we had made the
promise! Didn't you understand that?" asked the handmaiden
He looked at her, into the purity of the clear golden eyes,
into the purity of the soul that gazed out of them; all his
own great love transfiguring his keen face.
"An' is that enough for you, _mavourneen_?" he whispered
"Enough?" The handmaiden's puzzlement was complete,
profound. "Enough? Larry darlin', what MORE could we ask?"
He drew a deep breath, clasped her close.
"Kiss the bride, Doc!" cried the O'Keefe. And for the
third and, soul's sorrow! the last time, Lakla dimpling and
blushing, I thrilled to the touch of her soft, sweet lips.
Quickly were our preparations for departure made. Rador,
conscious, his immense vitality conquering fast his wounds,
was to be borne ahead of us. And when all was done, Lakla,
Larry, and I made our way up to the scarlet stone that was
the doorway to the chamber of the Three. We knew, of
course, that they had gone, following, no doubt, those whose
eyes I had seen in the curdled mists, and who, coming to the
aid of the Three at last from whatever mysterious place that
was their home, had thrown their strength with them against
the Shining One. Nor were we wrong. When the great slab
rolled away, no torrents of opalescence came rushing out
upon us. The vast dome was dim, tenantless; its curved walls
that had cascaded Light shone now but faintly; the dais was
empty; its wall of moon-flame radiance gone.
A little time we stood, heads bent, reverent, our hearts
filled with gratitude and love--yes, and with pity for that
strange trinity so alien to us and yet so near; children even
as we, though so unlike us, of our same Mother Earth.
And what I wondered had been the secret of that promise
they had wrung from their handmaiden and from Larry. And
whence, if what the Three had said had been all true--
whence had come their power to avert the sacrifice at the
very verge of its consummation?
"Love is stronger than all things!" had said Lakla.
Was it that they had needed, must have, the force which
dwells within love, within willing sacrifice, to strengthen
their own power and to enable them to destroy the evil,
glorious Thing so long shielded by their own love? Did the
thought of sacrifice, the will toward abnegation, have to be
as strong as the eternals, unshaken by faintest thrill of hope,
before the Three could make of it their key to unlock the
Dweller's guard and strike through at its life?
Here was a mystery--a mystery indeed! Lakla softly
closed the crimson stone. The mystery of the red dwarf's
appearance was explained when we discovered a half-dozen
of the water _coria_ moored in a small cove not far from
where the _Sekta_ flashed their heads of living bloom. The
dwarfs had borne the shallops with them, and from somewhere
beyond the cavern ledge had launched them unperceived;
stealing up to the farther side of the island and risking
all in one bold stroke. Well, Lugur, no matter what he
held of wickedness, held also high courage.
The cavern was paved with the dead-alive, the _Akka_ carrying
them out by the hundreds, casting them into the waters.
Through the lane down which the Dweller had passed we
went as quickly as we could, coming at last to the space
where the _coria_ waited. And not long after we swung past
where the shadow had hung and hovered over the shining
depths of the Midnight Pool.
Upon Lakla's insistence we passed on to the palace of
Lugur, not to Yolara's--I do not know why, but go there
then she would not. And within one of its columned rooms,
maidens of the black-haired folks, the wistfulness, the fear,
all gone from their sparkling eyes, served us.
There came to me a huge desire to see the destruction
they had told us of the Dweller's lair; to observe for myself
whether it was not possible to make a way of entrance and
to study its mysteries.
I spoke of this, and to my surprise both the handmaiden
and the O'Keefe showed an almost embarrassed haste to
acquiesce in my hesitant suggestion.
"Sure," cried Larry, "there's lots of time before night!"
He caught himself sheepishly; cast a glance at Lakla.
"I keep forgettin' there's no night here," he mumbled.
"What did you say, Larry?" asked she.
"I said I wish we were sitting in our home in Ireland,
watching the sun go down," he whispered to her. Vaguely I
wondered why she blushed.
But now I must hasten. We went to the temple, and here
at least the ghastly litter of the dead had been cleaned away.
We passed through the blue-caverned space, crossed the
narrow arch that spanned the rushing sea stream, and, ascending,
stood again upon the ivoried pave at the foot of the
frowning, towering amphitheatre of jet.
Across the Silver Waters there was sign of neither Web of
Rainbows nor colossal pillars nor the templed lips that I had
seen curving out beneath the Veil when the Shining One
had swirled out to greet its priestess and its voice and to
dance with the sacrifices. There was but a broken and rent
mass of the radiant cliffs against whose base the lake lapped.
Long I looked--and turned away saddened. Knowing even
as I did what the irised curtain had hidden, still it was as
though some thing of supernal beauty and wonder had been
swept away, never to be replaced; a glamour gone for ever;
a work of the high gods destroyed.
"Let's go back," said Larry abruptly.
I dropped a little behind them to examine a bit of carving
--and, after all, they did not want me. I watched them pacing
slowly ahead, his arm around her, black hair close to bronzegold
ringlets. Then I followed. Half were they over the
bridge when through the roar of the imprisoned stream I
heard my name called softly.
"Goodwin! Dr. Goodwin!"
Amazed, I turned. From behind the pedestal of a carved
group slunk--Marakinoff! My premonition had been right.
Some way he had escaped, slipped through to here. He held
his hands high, came forward cautiously.
"I am finished," he whispered--"Done! I don't care what
THEY'LL do to me." He nodded toward the handmaiden and
Larry, now at the end of the bridge and passing on, oblivious
of all save each other. He drew closer. His eyes were sunken,
burning, mad; his face etched with deep lines, as though a
graver's tool had cut down through it. I took a step backward.
A grin, like the grimace of a fiend, blasted the Russian's
visage. He threw himself upon me, his hands clenching at
my throat!
"Larry!" I yelled--and as I spun around under the shock
of his onslaught, saw the two turn, stand paralyzed, then race
toward me.
"But YOU'LL carry nothing out of here!" shrieked Marakinoff. "No!"
My foot, darting out behind me, touched vacancy. The
roaring of the racing stream deafened me. I felt its mists
about me; threw myself forward.
I was falling--falling--with the Russian's hand strangling
me. I struck water, sank; the hands that gripped my throat
relaxed for a moment their clutch. I strove to writhe loose;
felt that I was being hurled with dreadful speed on--full
realization came--on the breast of that racing torrent dropping
from some far ocean cleft and rushing--where? A little
time, a few breathless instants, I struggled with the devil who
clutched me--inflexibly, indomitably.
Then a shrieking as of all the pent winds of the universe
in my ears--blackness!
Consciousness returned slowly, agonizedly.
"Larry!" I groaned. "Lakla!"
A brilliant light was glowing through my closed lids. It
hurt. I opened my eyes, closed them with swords and needles
of dazzling pain shooting through them. Again I opened
them cautiously. It was the sun!
I staggered to my feet. Behind me was a shattered wall of
basalt monoliths, hewn and squared. Before me was the Pacific,
smooth and blue and smiling.
And not far away, cast up on the strand even as I had
been, was--Marakinoff!
He lay there, broken and dead indeed. Yet all the waters
through which we had passed--not even the waters of death
themselves--could wash from his face the grin of triumph.
With the last of my strength I dragged the body from the
strand and pushed it out into the waves. A little billow ran
up, coiled about it, and carried it away, ducking and bending.
Another seized it, and another, playing with it. It floated
from my sight--that which had been Marakinoff, with all his
schemes to turn our fair world into an undreamed-of-hell.
My strength began to come back to me. I found a thicket
and slept; slept it must have been for many hours, for when
I again awakened the dawn was rosing the east. I will not tell
my sufferings. Suffice it to say that I found a spring and some
fruit, and just before dusk had recovered enough to writhe
up to the top of the wall and discover where I was.
The place was one of the farther islets of the Nan-Matal.
To the north I caught the shadows of the ruins of Nan-
Tauach, where was the moon door, black against the sky.
Where was the moon door--which, someway, somehow, I
must reach, and quickly.
At dawn of the next day I got together driftwood and
bound it together in shape of a rough raft with fallen creepers.
Then, with a makeshift paddle, I set forth for Nan-
Tauach. Slowly, painfully, I crept up to it. It was late afternoon
before I grounded my shaky craft on the little beach
between the ruined sea-gates and, creeping up the giant steps,
made my way to the inner enclosure.
And at its opening I stopped, and the tears ran streaming
down my cheeks while I wept aloud with sorrow and with
disappointment and with weariness.
For the great wall in which had been set the pale slab
whose threshold we had crossed to the land of the Shining
One lay shattered and broken. The monoliths were heaped
about; the wall had fallen, and about them shone a film of
water, half covering them.
There was no moon door!
Dazed and weeping, I drew closer, climbed upon their outlying
fragments. I looked out only upon the sea. There had
been a great subsidence, an earth shock, perhaps, tilting
downward all that side--the echo, little doubt, of that cataclysm
which had blasted the Dweller's lair!
The little squared islet called Tau, in which were hidden
the seven globes, had entirely disappeared. Upon the waters
there was no trace of it.
The moon door was gone; the passage to the Moon Pool
was closed to me--its chamber covered by the sea!
There was no road to Larry--nor to Lakla!
And there, for me, the world ended.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?