Part 2 out of 8
It was a strenuous moment, and the most incredible. We all of us
knew the doctor. It was not a photograph, nor a likeness; but the
man himself. It was beyond all reason that he could be in the
jewel; indeed there was only the head visible; one could catch the
expression of life, the movements of the eyelids. Yet how could it
be? What was it? It was Hobart who spoke first.
"Chick," he asked, "what's the meaning? Were it not for my own
eyes I would call it impossible. It's absurd on the face. The
doctor! Yet I can see him--living. Where is he?"
"That's the whole question. Where is he? I know and yet I know
nothing. You are now looking into the Blind Spot. The doctor
sought the secret of life--and found it. He was trapped by his own
For a moment we were silent. The jewel reposed upon the table.
What was the secret of its phenomena? I could think of nothing in
science that would explain it. How had Watson come into its
possession? What was the tale he had to tell? The lean, long
finger that clutched for brandy! What force was this that had
driven him to such a verge? He was resigned; though he was defiant
he had already conceded his surrender. Dr. Hansen spoke.
"Watson," he asked, "what do you know about the Blind Spot?"
We all turned to Chick. Hobart ordered more brandy. The doctor's
eyes went to slits. I could not but wonder.
"Chick," I asked, "who is Rhamda Avec?"
"You saw him a few minutes ago? You saw him with me? Let me ask
"Yes," I answered, "I saw him. Most people did. Is he invisible?
Is he really the phantom they say?"
Somehow the mention of the name made him nervous; he looked
cautiously about the room.
"That I don't know, Harry. It--If I can only get my wits together.
Is he a phantom? Yes, I think so. I can't understand him. At
least, he has the powers we attribute to an apparition. He is
strange and unaccountable. Sometimes you see him, sometimes you
don't. The first known of him was on the day Professor Holcomb was
to deliver his lecture on the Blind Spot. He was tracked, you
know, to the very act. Then came in the Nervina."
"And who is the Nervina?"
Watson looked at me blankly.
"The Nervina?" he asked, "The Nervina--what do you know about the
"Nothing. You mentioned her just now."
His mind seemed to ramble. He looked about the room rather
fearfully. Perhaps he was afraid.
"Did I mention her? I don't know, Harry, my wits are muddled. The
Nervina? She is a goddess. Never was and never will be woman. She
loves; she never hates, and still again she does not love. She is
beautiful; too beautiful for man. I've quit trying."
"Is she Rhamda's wife?"
His eyes lit fire.
"Do you love her?"
He went blank again; but at last he spoke slowly.
"No, I don't love her. What's the use? She's not for me. I did;
but I learned better. I was after the professor--and the Blind
Again that look of haunted pursuit. He glanced about the room.
Whatever had been his experience, it was plain that he had not
given up. He held something and he held it still. What was it?
"You say you didn't find the Blind Spot?"
"No, I did not find it."
"Have you any idea?"
"My dear Harry," he answered, "I am full of ideas. That's the
trouble. I am near it. It's the cause of my present condition. I
don't know just what it is nor where. A condition, or a
combination of phenomena. You remember the lecture that was never
delivered? Had the doctor spoken that morning the world would have
had a great fact. He had made a great discovery. It is a terrible
thing." He turned the ring so we could all see it--beyond all
doubt it was the doctor. "There he is--the professor. If he could
only speak. The secret of the ages. Just think what it means.
Where is he? I have taken that jewel to the greatest lapidaries
and they have one and all been startled. Then they all come to the
same conclusion--trickery--Chinese or Hindu work, they say; most
of them want to cut."
"Have you taken it to the police?"
"I would simply be laughed at."
"Have you ever reported this Rhamda?"
"A score of times. They have come and sought; but every time he
has gone out--like a shadow. It's got to be an old story now. If
you call them up and tell them they laugh."
"How do you account for it?"
"I don't. I--I--I'm just dying."
"And not one member of the force--surely?"
"Oh, yes. There's one. You have heard of Jerome. Jerome followed
the professor and the Rhamda to the house of the Blind Spot, as he
calls it. He's not a man to fool. He had eyes and he saw it. He
will not leave it till he's dead."
"But he did not see the Blind Spot, did he? How about trickery?
Did it ever occur to you that the professor might have been
"Take a look at that, Harry. Does that look like murder? When you
see the man living?"
Watson reached over and turned up the jewel.
Here Hobart came in.
"Just a minute, Chick. My wise friend here is an attorney. He's
always the first into everything, especially conversation. It's
been my job pulling Harry out of trouble. Just one question."
"Didn't you--er--keep company, as they say, with Bertha Holcomb
while at college?"
A kind look came into the man's eyes; he nodded; his whole face
was soft and saddened.
"I see. That naturally brought you to the Blind Spot. You are
after her father. Am I correct?"
"All right. Perhaps Bertha has taken you into some of her father's
secrets. He undoubtedly had data on this Blind Spot. Have you ever
been able to locate it?"
"I see. This Rhamda? Has he ever sought that data?"
"Many, many times."
"Does he know you haven't got it?"
"So. I understand. You hold the whip hand through your ignorance.
Rhamda is your villain--and perhaps this Nervina? Who is she?"
"Oh, yes!" He laughed. "A goddess. Naturally! They all are. There
are about forty in this room at the present moment, my dear
fellow. Watch them dance!"
Now I had picked up the ring. It just fitted the natural finger. I
tried it on and looked into the jewel. The professor was growing
dimmer. The marvellous blue was returning, a hue of fascination;
not the hot flash of the diamond, but the frozen light of the
iceberg. It was frigid, cold, terrible, blue, alluring. To me at
the moment it seemed alive and pulselike. I could not account for
it. I felt the lust for possession. Perhaps there was something in
my face. Watson leaned over and touched me on the arm.
"Harry," he asked, "do you think you can stand up under the
burden? Will you take my place?"
I looked into his eyes; in their black depths was almost entreaty.
How haunting they were, and beseeching.
"Will you take my place?" he begged. "Are you willing to give up
all that God gives to the fortunate? Will you give up your
practice? Will you hold out to the end? Never surrender? Will--"
"You mean will I take this ring?"
"Exactly. But you must know beforehand. It would be murder to give
it to you without the warning. Either your death or that of Dr.
Holcomb. It is not a simple jewel. It defies description. It takes
a man to wear it. It is subtle and of destruction; it eats like a
canker; it destroys the body; it frightens the soul--"
"An ominous piece of finery," I spoke. "Wherein--"
But Watson interrupted. There was appeal in his eyes.
"Harry," he went on, "I am asking. Somebody has got to wear this
ring. He must be a man. He must be fearless; he must taunt the
devil. It is hard work, I assure you. I cannot last much longer.
You loved the old doctor. If we get at this law we have done more
for mankind than either of us may do with his profession. We must
save the old professor. He is living and he is waiting. There are
perils and forces that we do not know of. The doctor went at it
alone and fearless; he succumbed to his own wisdom. I have
followed after, and I have been crushed down--perhaps by my
ignorance. I am not afraid. But I don't want my work to die.
Somebody has got to take it on and you are the man."
They were all of them looking at me. I studied the wonderful blue
and its light. The image of the great professor had dimmed almost
completely. It was a sudden task and a great one. Here was a law;
one of the great secrets of Cosmos. What was it? Somehow the lure
caught into my vitals. I couldn't picture myself ever coming to
the extremity of my companion. Besides, it was a duty. I owed it
to the old doctor. It seemed somehow that he was speaking. Though
Watson did the talking I could feel him calling. Would I be
afraid? Besides, there was the jewel. It was calling; already I
could feel it burning into my spirit. I looked up.
"Do you take it, Harry?"
"I do. God knows I am worthless enough. I'll take it up. It may
give me a chance to engage with this famous Rhamda."
"Be careful of Rhamda, Harry. And above all don't let him have the
"Because. Now listen. I'm not laying this absolutely, understand.
Nevertheless the facts all point in one direction. Hold the ring.
Somewhere in that lustre lies a great secret; it controls the
Blind Spot. The Rhamda himself may not take it off your finger.
You are immune from violence. Only the ring itself may kill you."
"God knows," he spoke, "it has killed me."
It was rather ominous. The mere fact of that cough and his
weakness was enough. One would come to this. He had warned me, and
he had besought me with the same voice as the warning.
"But what is the Blind Spot?"
"Then you take the ring? What is the time? Twelve. Gentlemen--"
Now here comes in one of the strange parts of my story--one that I
cannot account for. Over the shoulder of Dr. Hansen I could watch
the door. Whether it was the ring or not I do not know. At the
time I did not reason. I acted upon impulse. It was an act beyond
good breeding. I had never done such a thing before. I had never
even seen the woman.
The woman? Why do I say it? She was never a woman--she was a girl--
far, far transcendent. It was the first time I had ever seen her--
standing there before the door. I had never beheld such beauty,
such profile, poise--the witching, laughing, night-black of her
eyes; the perfectly bridged nose and the red, red lips that
smiled, it seemed to me, in sadness. She hesitated, and as if
puzzled, lifted a jewelled hand to her raven mass of hair. To this
minute I cannot account for my action, unless, perchance, it was
the ring. Perhaps it was. Anyway I had risen.
How well do I remember.
It seemed to me that I had known her a long, long time. There was
something about her that was not seduction; but far, far above it.
Somewhere I had seen her, had known her. She was looking and she
was waiting for me. There was something about her that was super
feminine. I thought it then, and I say it now.
Just then her glance came my way. She smiled, and nodded; there
was a note of sadness in her voice.
There is no accounting for my action, nor my wonder; she knew me.
Then it was true! I was not mistaken! Somewhere I had seen her. I
felt a vague and dim rush of dreamy recollections. Ah, that was
the answer! She was a girl of dreams and phantoms. Even then I
knew it; she was not a woman; not as we conceive her; she was some
materialisation out of Heaven. Why do I talk so? Ah! this strange
beauty that is woman! From the very first she held me in the
thrall that has no explanation.
"Do we dance?" she asked simply.
The next moment I had her in my arms and we were out among the
dancers. That my actions were queer and entirely out of reason
never occurred to me. There was a call about her beautiful body
and in her eyes that I could not answer. There was a fact between
us, some strange bond that was beyond even passion. I danced, and
in an extreme emotion of happiness. A girl out of the dreams and
the ether--a sprig of life woven out of the moonbeams!
"Do you know me?" she asked as we danced.
"Yes," I answered, "and no. I have seen you; but I do not
remember; you come from the sunshine."
She laughed prettily.
"Do you always talk like this?"
"You are out of my dreams," I answered: "it is sufficient. But who
She held back her pretty head and looked at me; her lips drooped
slightly at the corners, a sad smile, and tender, in the soft
wonderful depths of her eyes--a pity.
"Harry," she asked, "are you going to wear this ring?"
So that was it. The ring and the maiden. What was the bond? There
was weirdness in its colour, almost cabalistic--a call out of the
occult. The strange beauty of the girl, her remarkable presence,
and her concern. Whoever and whatever she was her anxiety was not
personal. In some way she was woven up with this ring and poor
"I think I shall," I answered.
Again the strange querulous pity and hesitation; her eyes grew
darker, almost pleading.
"You won't give it to me?"
How near I came to doing it I shall not tell. It would be hard to
say it. I knew vaguely that she was playing; that I was the
plaything. It is hard for a man to think of himself as being toyed
with. She was certain; she was confident of my weakness. It was
resentment, perhaps, and pride of self that gave the answer.
"I think I shall keep it."
"Do you know the danger, Harry? It is death to wear it. A thousand
"Then I shall keep it. I like peril. You wish for the ring. If I
keep it I may have you. This is the first time I have danced with
the girl out of the moonbeams."
Her eyes snapped, and she stopped dancing. I don't think my words
displeased her. She was still a woman.
"Is this final? You're a fine young man, Mr. Wendel. I know you. I
stepped in to save you. You are playing with something stranger
than the moonbeams. No man may wear that ring and hold to life.
Again, Harry, I ask you; for your own sake."
At this moment we passed Watson. He was watching; as our eyes
glanced he shook his head. Who was this girl? She was as beautiful
as sin and as tender as a virgin. What interest had she in myself?
"That's just the reason," I laughed. "You are too interested. You
are too beautiful to wear it. I am a man; I revel in trouble; you
are a girl. It would not be honourable to allow you to take it. I
shall keep it."
She had overreached herself, and she knew it. She bit her lip. But
she took it gracefully; so much so, in fact, that I thought she
"I'm sorry," she answered slowly. "I had hopes. It is terrible to
look at Watson and then to think of you. It is, really"--a faint
tremor ran through her body; her hand trembled--"it is terrible.
You young men are so unafraid. It's too bad."
Just then the door was opened; outside I could see the bank of
fog; someone passed. She turned a bit pale.
"Excuse me. I must be going. Don't you see I'm sorry--"
She held out her hand--the same sad little smile. On the impulse
of the moment, unmindful of place, I drew it to my lips and kissed
it. She was gone.
I returned to the table. The three men were watching me: Watson
analytically, the doctor with wonder, and Hobart with plain
disgust. Hobart spoke first.
"Nice for sister Charlotte, eh, Harry?"
I had not a word to say. In the full rush of the moment I knew
that he was right. It was all out of reason. I had no excuse
outside of sheer insanity--and dishonour. The doctor said nothing.
It was only in Watson's face that there was a bit of
"Hobart," he said, "I have told you. It is not Harry's fault. It
is the Nervina. No man may resist her. She is beauty incarnate;
she weaves with the hearts of men, and she loves no one. It is the
ring. She, the Rhamda, the Blind Spot, and the ring. I have never
been able to unravel them. Please don't blame Harry. He went to
her even as I. She has but to beckon. But he kept the ring. I
watched them. This is but the beginning."
But Hobart muttered: "She's a beauty all right--a beauty. That's
the rub. I know Harry--I know him as a brother, and I want him so
in fact. But I'd hate to trust that woman."
"Never fear, Hobart, your sister is safe enough. The Nervina is
not a woman. She is not of the flesh."
"Brr," said the doctor, "you give me the creeps."
Watson reached for the brandy; he nodded to the doctor.
"Just a bit more of that stuff if you please. Whatever it is, on
the last night one has no fear of habit. There--Now, gentlemen, if
you will come with me, I shall take you to the house of the Blind
"NOW THERE ARE THREE"
I shall never forget that night. When we stepped to the pavement
the whole world was shrouded. The heavy fog clung like depression;
life was gone out--a foreboding of gloom and disaster. It was
cold, dank, miserable; one shuddered instinctively and battered
against the wall with steaming columns of breath. Just outside the
door we were detained.
Someone stepped beside us.
"A message, sir."
The doctor made a gesture of impatience.
"Bother!" he spoke. "Bother! A message. Nothing in the world would
stop me! I cannot leave."
Nevertheless he stepped back into the light.
"Just a minute, gentlemen."
He tore open the envelope. Then he looked up at the messenger and
then at us. His face was startled--almost frightened.
"Gentlemen," he said, "I am sorry. Not a thing in the world would
detain me but this. I would go with you, but I may not. My duty as
a physician. I had hopes." He came over to me and spoke softly. "I
am going to send you one of the greatest specialists in the city
in my stead. This young man should have attention. Have you the
"288 Chatterton Place," I answered.
"Very well. I am sorry, very much disappointed. However, it is my
daughter, and I cannot do otherwise. Continue the brandy for a
while--and this." He slipped an envelope into my hand. "By that
time Dr. Higgins will be with you."
"You think there is hope?" I asked.
"There's always hope," replied the doctor.
I returned to my companions. They were walking slowly. It was work
for poor Watson. He dragged on, leaning on Hobart's arm. But at
last he gave up.
"No," he said, "I can't make it. I'm too far gone. I had thought--
Oh, what a lapse it has been! I am eighty years of age; one year
ago I was a boy. If only I had some more brandy. I have some at
the house. We must make that. I must show you; there I can give
you the details."
"Hail a cab," I said. "Here's one now."
A few minutes later we were before the House of the Blind Spot. It
was a two storey drab affair, much like a thousand others, old-
fashioned, and might have been built in the early nineties. It had
been outside of the fire limits of 1906, and so had survived the
great disaster. Chatterton Place is really a short street running
lengthwise along the summit of the hill. A flight of stone steps
descended to the pavement.
Watson straightened up with an effort.
"This is the house," he spoke. "I came here a year ago. I go away
tonight. I had hoped to find it. I promised Bertha. I came alone.
I had reasons to believe I had solved it. I found the Rhamda and
the Nervina. I had iron will and courage--also strength. The
Rhamda was never able to control me. My life is gone but not my
will. Now I have left him another. Do not surrender, Harry. It is
a gruesome task; but hold on to the end. Help me up the steps.
There now. Just wait a minute till I fetch a stimulant."
He did not ring for a servant. That I noticed. Instead he groped
about for a key, unlocked the door and stumbled into a room. He
fumbled for a minute among some glasses.
"Will you switch on a light?" he asked.
Hobart struck a match; when he found it he pressed the switch.
The room in which we were standing was a large one, fairly well
furnished, and lined on two sides with bookshelves; in the centre
was an oak table cluttered with papers, a couple of chairs, and on
one of them, a heavy pipe, which, somehow, I did not think of as
Watson's. He noticed my look.
"Jerome's," he explained. "We live here--Jerome, the detective,
and myself. He has been here since the day of the doctor's
disappearance. I came here a year ago. He is in Nevada at present.
That leaves me alone. You will notice the books, mostly occult:
partly mine, partly the detective's. We have gone at it
systematically from the beginning. We have learned almost
everything but what would help us. Mostly sophistry--and
guesswork. Beats all how much ink has been wasted to say nothing.
We were after the Blind Spot."
"But what is it? Is it in this house?"
"I can answer one part of your question," he answered, "but not
the other. It is here somewhere, in some place. Jerome is positive
of that. You remember the old lady? The one who died? Her actions
were rather positive even if feeble. She led Jerome to this next
room." He turned and pointed; the door was open. I could see a
sofa and a few chairs; that was all.
"It was in here. The bell. Jerome never gets tired of telling. A
church bell. In the centre of the room. At first I didn't believe;
but now I accept it all. I know, but what I know is by intuition."
"Sort of sixth sense?'
"Yes. Or foresight."
"You never saw this bell nor found it? Never were able to arrive
at an explanation?"
"How about the Rhamda? The Nervina? Do they come to this house?"
"How do they come in? Through the window?"
He smiled rather sadly. "I don't know. At least they come. You
shall see them yourself. The Rhamda still has something to do with
Dr. Holcomb. Somehow his very concern tells me the doctor is safe.
Undoubtedly the professor made a great discovery. But he was not
alone. He had a co-worker--the Rhamda. For reasons of his own the
Rhamda wishes to control the Blind Spot."
"Then the professor is in this Blind Spot?"
"We think so. At least it is our conjecture. We do not know."
"Then you don't think it trickery?"
"No, hardly. Harry, you know better than that. Can you imagine the
great doctor the dupe of a mere trickster? The professor was a man
of great science and was blessed with an almighty sound head. But
he had one weakness."
Hobart spoke up.
"What is it, Chick? I think I know what you mean. The old boy was
"Exactly. He had been a scholar all his life. He taught ethics. He
believed in right. He practised his creed. When he came to the
crucial experiment he found himself dealing with a rogue. The
Rhamda helped him just so far; but once he had the professor in
his power it was not his purpose to release him until he was
secure of the Blind Spot."
"I see," I spoke. "The man is a villain. I think we can handle
But Watson shook his head.
"That's just it, Harry! The man! If he were a man I could have
handled him in short order. That's what I thought at first. Don't
make any mistake. Don't try violence. That's the whole crux of the
difficulty. If he were only a man! Unfortunately, he is not."
"Not a man!" I exclaimed. "What do you mean? Then, what is he?"
"He is a phantom."
I glanced at Hobart and caught his eye. Hobart believed him! The
poor pallid face of Watson, the athlete; there was nothing left to
him but his soul! I shall not forget Watson as he sat there, his
lean, long fingers grasping the brandy glass, his eyes burning and
his life holding back from the pit through sheer will and courage.
Would I come to this? Would I have the strength to measure up to
Hobart broke the tension.
"Chick's right. There is something in it, Harry. Not all the
secrets of the universe have been unlocked by any means. Now,
Chick, about details. Have you any data--any notes?"
Watson rose. I could see he was grateful.
"You believe me, don't you, Hobart? It is good. I had hoped to
find someone, and I found you two. Harry, remember what I have
told you. Hold the ring. You take my place. Whatever happens,
stick out to the end. You have Hobart here to help you. Now just a
minute. The library is here; you can look over my books. I shall
return in a moment."
He stepped out into the hall; we could hear his weary feet
dragging down the hallway--a hollow sound and a bit uncanny.
Somehow my mind rambled back to that account I had read in the
newspaper--Jerome's story--"Like weary bones dragging slippers."
And the old lady. Who was she? Why was everyone in this house
pulled down to exhaustion--the words of the old lady, I could
almost hear them; the dank air murmuring their recollection. "Now
there are two. Now there are two!"
"What's the matter, Harry?"
Perhaps I was frightened. I do not know. I looked around. The
sound of Watson's footsteps had died away; there was a light in
the back of the building coming toward us.
"Nothing! Only--damn this place, Hobart. Don't you notice it? It's
enough to eat your heart out."
"Rather interesting," said Hobart. It was too interesting for me.
I stepped over to the shelves and looked at the titles. Sanskrit
and Greek; German and French--the Vedas, Sir Oliver Lodge, Besant,
Spinoza, a conglomeration of all ages and tongues; a range of
metaphysics that was as wide as Babel, and about as enlightening.
As Babel? Over my shoulders came the strangest sound of all, weak,
piping, tremulous, fearful--"Now there are two. Now there are
two." My heart gave a fearful leap. "Soon there will be three!
I turned suddenly about. I had a fearful thought. I looked at
Hobart. A strange, insidious fear clutched at me. Was the thought
intrinsic? If not, where had it come from? Three? I strained my
ears to hear Watson's footsteps. He was in the back part of the
building. I must have some air.
"I'm going to open the door, Hobart," I spoke. "The front door,
and look out into the street."
"Don't blame you much. Feel a bit that way myself. About time for
Dr. Higgins. Here comes Chick again. Take a look outside and see
if the doc is coming."
I opened the door and looked out into the dripping fog bank. What
a pair of fools we were! We both knew it, and we were both seeking
an excuse. In the next room through the curtains I could see the
weak form of Watson; he was bearing a light.
Suddenly the light went out.
I was at high tension; the mere fact of the light was nothing, but
it meant a world at that moment--a strange sound--a struggle--then
the words of Watson--Chick Watson's:
"Harry! Harry! Hobart! Harry! Come here! It's the Blind Spot!"
It was in the next room. The despair of that call is
unforgettable, like that of one suddenly falling into space. Then
the light dropped to the floor. I could see the outlines of his
figure and a weird, single string of incandescence. Hobart turned
and I leaped. It was a blur, the form of a man melting into
nothing. I sprang into the room, tearing down the curtains. Hobart
was on top of me. But we were too late. I could feel the vibrancy
of something uncanny as I rushed across the space intervening.
Through my mind darted the thrill of terror. It had come suddenly,
and in climax. It was over before it had commenced. The light had
gone out. Only by the gleam from the other room could we make out
each others' faces. The air was vibrant, magnetic. There was no
Watson. But we could hear his voice. Dim and fearful, coming down
the corridors of time.
"Hold that ring, Harry! Hold that ring!" Then the faint despair
out of the weary distance, faint, but a whole volume:
"The Blind Spot!"
It was over as quickly as that. The whole thing climaxed into an
instant. It is difficult to describe. One cannot always analyse
sensations. Mine, I am afraid, were muddled. A thousand insistent
thoughts clashed through my brain. Horror, wonder, doubt! I have
only one persistent and predominating recollection. The old lady!
I could almost feel her coming out of the shadows. There was
sadness and pity; out of the stillness and the corners. What had
been the dirge of her sorrow?
"NOW THERE ARE THREE!"
MAN OR PHANTOM
It was Hobart who came to first. His voice was good to hear. It
was natural; it was sweet and human, but it was pregnant with
disappointment: "We are fools, Harry; we are fools!"
But I could only stare. I remember saying: "The Blind Spot?"
"Yes," returned Hobart, "the Blind Spot. But what is it? We saw him
go. Did you see it?"
"It gets me," I answered. "He just vanished into space. It--"
Frankly I was afraid.
"It tallies well with the reports. The old lady and Jerome.
"And the bell?" I looked about the room.
"Exactly. Phenomena! Watson was right. I just wonder--but the
bell? Remember the doctor? 'The greatest day since Columbus.' No,
don't cross the room, Harry, I'm a bit leery: A great discovery! I
should say it was. How do you account for it?"
Fenton shook his head.
"By no means! It's the gateway to the universe--into Cosmos." His
eyes sparkled. "My Lord, Harry! Don't you see! Once we control it.
The Blind Spot! What is beyond? We saw Chick Watson go. Before our
eyes. Where did he go to? It beats death itself."
I started across the room, but Hobart caught me with both arms:
"No, no, no, Harry. My Lord! I don't want to lose you. No! You
foolhardly little cuss--stand back!"
He threw me violently against the wall. The impact quite took my
On the instant the old rush of temper surged up in me. From
boyhood we had these moments. Hobart settled himself and awaited
the rush that he knew was coming. In his great, calm, brute
strength there was still a greatness of love.
"Harry," he was saying, "for the love of Heaven, listen to reason!
Have we got to have a knock-down and drag-out on this of all
nights? Have I got to lick you again? Do you want to roll into the
Why did God curse me with such a temper? On such moments as this I
could feel something within me snapping. It was fury and unreason.
How I loved him! And yet we had fought a thousand times over just
such provocation. Over his shoulders I could see the still open
door that led into the street. A heavy form was looming through
the opening; out of the corner of my eye I caught the lines of the
form stepping out of the shadows--it crossed the room and stood
beside Hobart Fenton. It was Rhamda Avec!
I leaped. The fury of a thousand conflicts--and the exultation.
For the glory of such moments it is well worth dying. One minute
flying through the air--the old catapult tackle--and the next a
crashing of bone and sinew. We rolled over, head on, and across
the floor. Curses and execrations; the deep bass voice of Hobart:
"Hold him, Harry! Hold him! That's the way! Hold him! Hold him!"
We went crashing about the room. He was the slipperiest thing I
had ever laid hold of. But he was bone--bone and sinew; he was a
man! I remember the wild thrill of exultation at the discovery. It
was battle! And death! The table went over, we went spinning
against the wall, a crash of falling bookcases, books and broken
glass, a scurry and a flying heap of legs and arms. He was
wonderfully strong and active, like a panther. Each time I held
him he would twist out like a cat, straighten, and throw me out of
hold. I clung on, fighting, striving for a grip, working for the
throat. He was a man--a man! I remembered that he must never get
away. He must account for Watson.
In the first rush I was a madman. The mere force of my onslaught
had borne him down. But in a moment he had recovered and was
fighting systematically. As much as he could he kept over on one
side of me, always forcing me toward the inner room where Watson
had disappeared. In spite of my fury he eluded every effort that I
made for a vital part. We rolled, fought, struck and struggled.
I could hear Hobart's bass thundering: "Over! Over! Under! Look
out! Now you've got him! Harry! Harry! Look out! Hold him, for the
love of Heaven I see his trick. That's his trick. The Blind Spot!"
We were rolled clear over, picked, heaved, shoved against the
front wall. There were three! The great heaving bulk of Fenton;
the fighting tiger between us; and myself! Surely such strength
was not human; we could not pin him; his quickness was uncanny; he
would uncoil, twist himself and throw us loose. Gradually he
worked us away from the front wall and into the centre of the
Could any mere man fight so? Hobart was as good as a ton; I was as
much for action. Slowly, slowly in spite of our efforts, he was
working us towards the Blind Spot. Confident of success, he was
over, around, and in and under. In a spin of a second he went into
the attack. He fairly bore us off our feet. We were on the last
inch of our line; the stake was--
What was it? We all went down. A great volume of sound! We were
inside a bell! My whole head buzzed to music and a roar; the whir
of a thousand vibrations; the inside of sound. I fell face
downwards; the room went black.
What was it? How long I lay there I don't know. A dim light was
burning. I was in a room. The ceiling overhead was worked in a
grotesque pattern; I could not make it out. My clothes were in
tatters and my hand was covered with blood. Something warm was
trickling down my face. What was it? The air was still and sodden.
Who was this man beside me? And what was this smell of roses?
I lay still for a minute, thinking. Ah, yes! It came back.
Watson--Chick Watson! The Blind Spot! The Rhamda and the bell!
Surely it was a dream. How could all this be in one short night?
It was like a nightmare and impossible. I raised up on my elbow
and looked at the form beside me. It was Hobart Fenton. He was
For a moment my mind was whirring; I was too weak and unsteady. I
dropped back and wondered absently at the roses. Roses meant
perfume, and perfume meant a woman. What could--something touched
my face--something soft; it plucked tenderly at my tangled hair
and drew it away from my forehead. It was the hand of a woman!
"You poor, foolish boy! You foolish boy!"
Somewhere I had heard that voice; it held a touch of sadness; it
was familiar; it was soft and silken like music that might have
been woven out of the moonbeams. Who was it that always made me
think of moonbeams? I lay still, thinking.
"He dared; he dared; he dared!" she was saying. "As if there were
not two! He shall pay for this! Am I to be a plaything? You poor
Then I remembered. I looked up. It was the Nervina. She was
stooping over with my head against her. How beautiful her eyes
were! In their depths was a pathos and a tenderness that was past
a woman's, the same slight droop at the corners of the mouth, and
the wistfulness; her features were relaxed like a mother's--a
wondrous sweetness and pity.
"Harry," she asked, "where is Watson? Did he go?"
"Into the Blind Spot?"
"Yes. What is the Blind Spot?"
She ignored the question.
"I am sorry" she answered. "So sorry. I would have saved him. And
the Rhamda; was he here, too?"
I nodded. Her eyes flashed wickedly.
"And--and you--tell me, did you fight with the Rhamda? You--"
"It was Watson," I interrupted. "This Rhamda is behind it all. He
is the villain. He can fight like a tiger; whoever he is he can
She frowned slightly; she shook her head.
"You young men," she said. "You young men! You are all alike! Why
must it be? I am so sorry. And you fought with the Rhamda? You
could not overcome him, of course. But tell me, how could you
resist him? What did you do?"
What did she mean? I had felt his flesh and muscle. He was a man.
Why could he not be conquered--not be resisted?
"I don't understand," I answered. "He is a man. I fought him. He
was here. Let him account for Watson. We fought alone at first,
until he tried to throw me into this Thing. Then Hobart stepped
in. Once I thought we had him, but he was too slippery. He came
near putting us both in. I don't know. Something happened--a
Her hand was on my arm, she clutched it tightly, she swallowed
hard; in her eyes flashed the fire that I had noticed once before,
the softness died out, and their glint was almost terrible.
"He! The bell saved you? He would dare to throw you into the Blind
I lay back. I was terribly weak and uncertain. This beautiful
woman! What was her interest in myself?
"Harry," she spoke, "let me ask you. I am your friend. If you only
knew! I would save you. It must not be. Will you give me the ring?
If I could only tell you! You must not have it. It is death--yes,
worse than death. No man may wear it."
So that was it. Again and so soon I was to be tempted. Was her
concern feigned or real? Why did she call me Harry? Why did I not
resent it? She was wonderful; she was beautiful; she was pure. Was
it merely a subtle act for the Rhamda? I could still hear Watson's
voice ringing out of the Blind Spot; "Hold the ring! Hold the
ring!" I could not be false to my friend.
"Tell me first," I asked. "Who is this Rhamda? What is he? Is he a
Not a man! I remembered Watson's words: "A phantom!" How could it
be? At least I would find out what I could.
"Then tell me, what is he?"
"She smiled faintly; again the elusive tenderness lingered about
her lips, the wistful droop at the corners.
"That I may not tell you, Harry. You couldn't understand. If only
Certainly I couldn't understand her evasion. I studied and watched
her--her wondrous hair, the perfection of her throat, the curve of
"Then he is supernatural."
"No, not that, Harry. That would explain everything. One cannot go
above Nature. He is living just as you are."
I studied a moment.
"Are you a woman?" I asked suddenly.
Perhaps I should not have asked it; she was so sad and beautiful,
somehow I could not doubt her sincerity. There was a burden at the
back of her sadness, some great yearning unsatisfied,
unattainable. She dropped her head. The hand upon my arm quivered
and clutched spasmodically; I caught the least sound of a sob.
When I looked up her eyes were wet and sparkling.
"Oh," she said. "Harry, why do you ask it? A woman! Harry, a
woman! To live and love and to be loved. What must it be? There is
so much of life that is sweet and pure. I love it--I love it! I
can have everything but the most exalted thing of all. I can live,
see, enjoy, think, but I cannot have love. You knew it from the
first. How did you know it? You said--Ah, it is true! I am out of
the moonbeams." She controlled herself suddenly. "Excuse me," she
said simply. "But you can never understand. May I have the ring?"
It was like a dream--her beauty, her voice, everything. But I
could still hear Watson. I was to be tempted, cajoled, flattered.
What was this story out of the moonbeams? Certainly she was the
most beautiful girl I had ever seen. Why had I asked such a
"I shall keep the ring," I answered.
She sighed. A strange weakness came over me; I was drowsy; I
lapsed again into unconsciousness; just as I was fading away I
heard her speaking: "I am so sorry!"
Was it a dream? The next I knew somebody was dousing water down my
neck. It was Hobart Fenton. "Lord," he was saying, "I thought you
were never coming to. What hit us? You are pretty well cut up.
That was some fight. This Rhamda, who is he? Can you figure him
out? Did you hear that bell? What was it?"
I sat up. "Where is the Nervina?" I asked. "The who?" He was
bewildered. "Oh, down at the cafe, I suppose. Thought you had
forgotten her. Wasn't her mate enough? It might be healthy to
forget his Nervina."
He was a fine sight; his clothes were in ribbons; his plump figure
was breaking out at the seams. He regarded me critically.
"What d'you think of the Blind Spot?" he asked. "Who is the
Rhamda? He put us out pretty easily."
"But the girl?" I interrupted. "The girl? Confound it, the girl?"
It was sometime before I could make him understand; even then he
refused to believe me.
"It was all a dream," he said; "all a dream."
But I was certain.
Fenton began prodding about the room. I do not believe any
apartment was ever so thoroughly ransacked. We even tore up the
carpet. When we were through he sat in the midst of the debris and
wiped his forehead.
"It's no use, Harry--no use. We might have known better. It can't
be done. Yet you say you saw a string of incandescence."
"A single string; the form of Watson; a blur--then nothing," I
He thought. He quoted the professor:
"'Out of the occult I shall bring you the proof and the substance.
It will be concrete--within the reach of your senses.' Isn't that
what the doctor said?"
"Then you believe Professor Holcomb?"
"Why not? Didn't we see it? I know a deal of material science; but
nothing like this. I always had faith in Dr. Holcomb. After all,
it's not impossible. First we must go over the house thoroughly."
We did. Most of all, we were interested in that bell. We did not
think, either of us, that so much noise could come out of nothing.
It was too material. The other we could credit to the occult; but
not the sound. It had drowned our consciousness; perhaps it had
saved us from the Rhamda. But we found nothing. We went over the
house systematically. It was much as it had been previously
described, only now a bit more furnished. The same dank, musty
smell and the same suggestive silence. We returned to the lower
floor and the library. It was a sorry sight. We straightened up
the shelves and returned the books to their places.
It was getting along toward morning. Hobart sailed at nine
o'clock. We must have new clothing and some coffee; likewise we
must collect our wits. I had the ring, and had given my pledge to
Watson. I was muddled. We must get down to sane action. First of
all we must return to our rooms.
The fog had grown thicker; one could almost taste it. I couldn't
suppress a shudder. It was cold, dank, repressive. Neither of us
spoke a word on our way downtown. Hobart opened the door to our
apartment; he turned on the lights.
In a few moments we had hot, steaming cups of coffee. Still we did
not speak. Hobart sat in his chair, his elbows on the table and
his head between his hands. My thoughts ran back to that day in
college when he said "I was just thinking, Harry, if I had one
hundred thousand dollars, I would solve the Blind Spot."
That was long ago. We had neither of us thought that we would come
to the fact.
"Well," I spoke, "have you got that hundred thousand dollars? You
had an idea once."
He looked up. "I've got it yet. I am not certain. It is merely a
theory. But it's not impossible."
"Well, what is it?"
He took another drink of coffee and settled back in his chair.
"It is energy, Harry--force. Nothing but energy--and Nature."
"Then it's not occult?" I asked.
"Certainly it is. I didn't say that. It is what the professor
promised. Something concrete for our senses. If the occult is, it
can certainly be proven. The professor was right. It is energy,
force, vibration. It has a law. The old doctor was caught somehow.
We must watch our step and see that we aren't swallowed up also.
Perhaps we shall go the way of Watson."
"I hope not. But explain. You speak in volumes. Come back to
"That's easy, Harry. I can give you my theory in a few short
words. You've studied physiology, haven't you? Well, that's where
you can get your proof--or rather let me say my theory. What is
the Blind Spot?"
"We'll forgo that," he answered. "I refer to this one."
I thought for a moment.
"Well," I said, "I don't know. It was something I couldn't see.
Watson went out before our eyes. He was lost."
"Exactly. Do you get the point?"
"It is this. What you see is merely energy. Your eye is merely a
machine. It catches certain colours. Which in turn are merely
rates of vibration. There is nothing to matter but force, Harry;
if we could get down deep enough and know a few laws, we could
"What has it to do with the occult?" "Merely a fact. The eye
machine catches only certain vibration speeds of energy. There are
undoubtedly any number of speeds; the eye cannot see them."
"Then this would account for the Blind Spot?"
"Exactly. A localised spot, a condition, a combination of
phenomena, anything entering it becomes invisible."
"Where does it go to?"
"That's it. Where? It's one of the things that man has been
guessing at down the ages. The professor is the first philosopher
with sound sense. He went after it. It's a pity he was trapped."
"By the Rhamda?"
"Who is he?"
"How do I know? Where did he come from? If we knew that, we would
know everything. 'A phantom,' so Watson says. If so, it only
strengthens our theory. It would make a man and matter only a part
of creation. Certainly it would clear up a lot of doubts."
"And the ring?"
"It controls the Blind Spot."
"In what way?"
"That's for us to find out."
"And Watson? He is in this land of doubt?"
"At least he is in the Blind Spot. Let me try the ring."
He struck a match.
It was much as it had been in the restaurant, only a bit more
startling. Then the blue faded, the colour went out, and it became
transparent. For a moment. There was an effect of space and
distance that I had not noted before, almost marvellous. If I
could describe it at all, I would say a crystal corridor of a
vastness that can scarcely be imagined. It made one dizzy, even in
that bit of jewel: one lost proportion, it was height, distance,
space immeasurable. For an instant. Then the whole thing blurred
and clouded. Something passed across the face; the transparency
turned to opaqueness, and then--two men. It was as sudden as a
flash--the materialisation. There was no question. They were
alive. Watson was with the professor.
It was a strange moment. Only an hour before one of them had been
with us. It was Watson, beyond a doubt. He was alive; one could
almost believe him in the jewel. We had heard his story: "The
screen of the occult; the curtain of shadow." We had seen him go.
There was an element of horror in the thing, and of fascination.
The great professor! The faithful Watson! Where had they gone?
It was not until the colour had come back and the blue had
regained its lustre that either of us looked up. Could such a
thing be unravelled? Fenton turned the stone over thoughtfully. He
shook his head.
"In that jewel, Harry, lies the secret. I wish I knew a bit more
about physics, light, force, energy, vibration. We have got to
"It still holds good."
"Let me get it clear, Hobart. You say that we catch only certain
"That's it. Our eyes are instruments, nothing else. We can see
light, but we cannot hear it. We hear sound, but we cannot see it.
Of course they are not exactly parallel. But it serves the point.
Let's go a bit further. The eye picks up certain vibrations. Light
is nothing but energy vibrating at a tremendous speed. It has to
be just so high for the eye to pick it up. A great deal we do not
get. For instance, we can only catch one-twelfth of the solar
spectrum. Until recently we have believed only what we could see.
Science has pulled us out of the rut. It may pull us through the
Hobart held up his hands.
"It is almost too much to believe. We have made a discovery. We
must watch our step. We must not lose. The work of Dr. Holcomb
shall not go for nothing."
"And the ring?"
He consulted his watch.
"We have only a short time left. We must map our action. We have
three things to work on--the ring, the house, Bertha Holcomb. It's
all up to you, Harry. Find out all that is possible; but go slow.
Trace down that ring; find out everything that you can. Go and see
Bertha Holcomb. Perhaps she can give you some data. Watson said
no; but perhaps you may uncover it. Take the ring to a lapidary;
but don't let him cut it. Last of all, and most important, buy the
house of the Blind Spot. Draw on me. Let me pay half, anyway."
"I shall move into it," I answered.
He hesitated a bit.
"I am afraid of that," he answered. "Well, if you wish. Only be
careful. Remember I shall return just as soon as I can get loose.
If you feel yourself slipping or anything happens, send me a
The hours passed all too quickly. When day came we had our
breakfast and hurried down to the pier. It was hard to have him
go. His last words were like Hobart Fenton. He repeated the
"Watch your step, Harry; watch your step. Take things easy; be
cautious. Get the house. Trace down the ring. Be sure of yourself.
Keep me informed. If you need me, cable. I'll come if I have to
His last words; and not a year ago. It seems now like a lifetime.
As I stood upon the pier and watched the ship slipping into the
water, I felt it coming upon me. It had grown steadily, a gloom
and oppression not to be thwarted; it is silent and subtle and
past defining--like shadow. The grey, heavy heave of the water;
the great hull of the steamer backing into the bay; the gloom of
the fog bank. A few uncertain lines, the shrill of the siren, the
mist settling; I was alone. It was isolation.
I had been warned by Watson. But I had not guessed. At the moment
I sensed it. It was the beginning. Out of my heart I could feel
In the great and populous city I was to be alone, in all its
teeming life I was to be a stranger. It has been almost a year--a
year! It has been a lifetime. A breaking down of life!
I have waited and fought and sought to conquer. One cannot fight
against shadow. It is merciless and inexorable. There are secrets
that may be locked forever. It was my duty, my pledge to Watson,
what I owed to the professor. I have hung on grimly; what the end
will be I do not know. I have cabled for Fenton.
A DEAL IN PROPERTY
But to return. There was work that I should do--much work if I was
going after the solution. In the first place, there was the house.
I turned my back to the waterfront and entered the city. The
streets were packed, the commerce of man jostled and threaded
along the highways; there was life and action, hope, ambition. It
was what I had loved so well. Yet now it was different.
I realised it vaguely, and wondered. This feeling of aloofness? It
was intrinsic, coming from within, like the withering of one's
marrow. I laughed at my foreboding; it was not natural; I tried to
shake myself together.
I had no difficulty with the records. In less than an hour I
traced out the owners, "an estate," and had located the agent. It
just so happened that he was a man with whom I had some
acquaintance. We were not long in coming to business.
"The house at No. 288 Chatterton Place?"
I noticed that he was startled; there was a bit of wonder in his
look--a quizzical alertness. He motioned me to a chair and closed
"Sit down, Mr. Wendel; sit down. H-m! The house at No. 288
Chatterton Place? Did I hear you right?"
Again I noted the wonder; his manner was cautious and curious. I
"Want to buy it or just lease it? Pardon me, but you are sort of a
friend. I would not like to lose your friendship for the sake of a
mere sale. What is your--"
"Just for a residence," I insisted. "A place to live in."
"I see. Know anything about this place?"
He fumbled with some papers. For an agent he did not strike me as
being very solicitous for a commission.
"Well," he said, "in a way, yes. A whole lot more than I'd like
to. It all depends. One gets much from hearsay. What I know is
mostly rumour." He began marking with a pencil. "Of course I don't
believe it. Nevertheless I would hardly recommend it to a friend
as a residence."
"And these rumours?"
He looked up; for a moment he studied; then:
"Ever hear of the Blind Spot? Perhaps you remember Dr. Holcomb--in
1905, before the 'quake. It was a murder. The papers were full of
it at the time; since then it has been occasionally featured in
the supplements. I do not believe in the story; but I can trust to
facts. The last seen of Dr. Holcomb was in this house. It is
called the Blind Spot."
"Then you believe in the story?" I asked.
He looked at me.
"Oh, you know it, eh? No, I do not. It's all bunkum; reporters'
work and exaggeration. If you like that kind of stuff, it's weird
and interesting. But it hurts property. The man was undoubtedly
murdered. The tale hangs over the house. It's impossible to
dispose of the place."
"Then why not sell it to me?"
He dropped his pencil; he was a bit nervous.
"A fair question, Mr. Wendel--a very fair question. Well, now, why
don't I? Perhaps I shall. There's no telling. But I'd rather not.
Do you know, a year ago I would have jumped at an offer. Fact is,
I did lease it--the lease ran out yesterday--to a man named
Watson. I don't believe a thing in this nonsense; but what I have
seen during the past year has tested my nerve considerably."
"What about Watson?"
"Watson? A year ago he came to see me in regard to this Chatterton
property. Wanted to lease it. Was interested in the case of Dr.
Holcomb; asked for a year's rental and the privilege of renewal. I
don't know. I gave it to him; but when he drops in again I am
going to fight almighty hard against letting him hold it longer."
"Why? Why, because I don't believe in murder. A year ago he came
to me the healthiest and happiest man I ever saw; today he is a
shadow. I watched that boy go down. Understand, I don't believe a
damn word I'm saying; but I have seen it. It's that cursed house.
I say no, when I reason; but it keeps on my nerves; it's on my
conscience. It is insidious. Every month when he came here I could
see disintegration. It's pitiful to see a young man stripped of
life like that; forlorn, hopeless, gone. He has never told me what
it is; but I have wondered. A battle; some conflict with--there I
go again. It's on my nerves, I tell you, on my nerves. If this
keeps up I'll burn it."
It was a bit foreboding. Already I could feel the tugging at my
heart that had done for Watson. This man had watched my friend
slipping into the shadow; I had come to take his place.
"Watson has gone," I said simply; "and that's why I am here."
He straightened up.
"You know him then. He was not--"
"He went last night; he has left the country. He was in very poor
health. That's why I am here. I know very well the cloud that
hangs over the property; it is my sole reason for purchasing."
"You don't believe in this nonsense?"
I smiled. Certainly the man was perverse in his agnosticism; he
was stubborn in disbelief. It was on his nerves; on his
conscience; he was afraid.
"I believe nothing," I answered; "neither do I disbelieve. I know
all the story that has been told or written. I am a friend of
Watson. You need not scruple in making me out a bill of sale. It's
my own funeral. I abide by the consequences."
He gave a sigh of relief. After all, he was human. He had honour;
but it was after the brand of Pontius Pilate. He wished nothing on
Armed with the keys and the legal title, I took possession. In the
daylight it was much as it had been the night before. Once across
its threshold, one was in dank and furtive suppression; the air
was heavy; a mould of age had streaked the walls and gloomed the
shadows. I put up all the curtains to let in the rush of sunlight,
likewise I opened the windows. If there is anything to beat down
sin, it is the open measure of broad daylight.
The house was well situated; from the front windows one could look
down the street and out at the blue bay beyond the city. The fog
had lifted and the sun was shining upon the water. I could make
out the ferryboats, the islands, and the long piers that lead to
Oakland, and still farther beyond the hills of Berkeley. It was a
long time since those days in college. Under the shadow of those
hills I had first met the old doctor. I was only a boy then.
I turned into the building. Even the sound of my footsteps was
foreign; the whole place was pregnant with stillness and shadow;
life was gone out. It was fearful; I felt the terror clutching
upon me, a grimness that may not be spoken; there was something
breaking within me. I had pledged myself for a year. Frankly I was
But I had given my word. I returned to my apartments and began
that very day the closing down of my practice. In a fortnight I
had completed everything and had moved my things to the room of
Just as soon as possible I hurried over to Berkeley. I went
straight to the bungalow on Dwight Way; I inquired for Miss
Holcomb. She was a woman now in her late twenties, decidedly
pretty, a blonde, and of intelligent bearing.
Coming on such an errand, I was at a loss just how to approach
her. I noted the little lines about the corners of her eyes, the
sad droop of her pretty mouth. Plainly she was worried. As I was
removing my hat she caught sight of the ring upon my finger.
"Oh," she said; "then you come from Mr. Watson. How is Chick?"
"Mr. Watson"--I did not like lying, but I could not but feel for
her; she had already lost her father--"Mr. Watson has gone on a
trip up-country--with Jerome. He was not feeling well. He has left
this ring with me. I have come for a bit of information."
She bit her lips; her mouth quivered.
"Couldn't you get this from Mr. Watson? He knows about the stone.
Didn't he tell you? How did it come into your possession? What has
Her voice was querulous and suspicious. I had endeavoured to
deceive her for her own sake; she had suffered enough already. I
could not but wince at the pain in her eyes. She stood up.
"Please, Mr. Wendel; don't be clumsy. Don't regard me as a mere
baby. Tell me what has happened to Chick. Please--"
She stopped in a flow of emotion. Tears came to her eyes; but she
held control. She sat down.
"Tell me all, Mr. Wendel. It is what I expected." She blinked to
hold back her tears. "It is my fault. You wouldn't have the ring
had nothing happened. Tell me. I can be brave."
And brave she was--splendid. With the tug at my own heart I could
understand her. What uncertainty and dread she must have been
under! I had been in it but a few days; already I could feel the
weight. At no time could I surmount the isolation; there was
something going from me minute by minute. With the girl there
could be no evasion; it were better that she have the truth. I
made a clean breast of the whole affair.
"And he told you no more about the ring?"
"That is all," I answered. "He would have told us much more,
undoubtedly, had he not--"
"You saw him go--you saw this thing?"
"That is just it, Miss Holcomb. We saw nothing. One minute we were
looking at Chick, and the next at nothing. Hobart understood it
better than I. At least he forbade my crossing the room. There is
a danger point, a spot that may not be crossed. He threw me back.
It was then that the Rhamda came upon the scene." She frowned
"Tell me about the Nervina. When Chick spoke of her, I could
always feel jealous. Is she beautiful?"
"Most beautiful, the most wonderful girl I have ever seen, though
I would hardly class her as one to be jealous of. But she wants
the ring. I've promised Watson, and of course I shall keep it. But
I would like its history."
"I think I can give you some information there," she answered.
"The ring, or rather the jewel, was given to father about twenty
years ago by a Mr. Kennedy. He had been a pupil of father's when
father taught at a local school. He came here often to talk over
old times. Father had the jewel set in a ring; but he never wore
"I do not know."
"How did Watson come to link it up with the Blind Spot?"
"That, I think, was an accident. He was in college, you know, at
the time of father's disappearance. In fact, he was in the Ethics
class. He came here often, and during one of his visits I showed
him the ring. That was several years ago."
"Well, about a year ago he was here again, and asked to see the
jewel. We were to be married, you understand; but I had always put
it off because of father. Somehow I felt that he would return. It
was in late summer, about September; it was in the evening; it was
getting dark. I gave Chick the ring, and stepped into the garden
to cut some flowers. I remember that Chick struck a match in the
parlour. When I came back he seemed to be excited."
"Did he ask you for the ring?"
"Yes. He wanted to wear it. And he suddenly began to talk of
father. It was that night that he took it upon himself to find
"I see. Not before that night? Did he take the ring then?"
"Yes. We went to the opera. I remember it well, because that night
was the first time I ever knew Chick to be gloomy."
"Yes. You know how jolly he always was. When we returned that
night he would scarcely say a word. I thought he was sick; but he
said he was not; said he just felt that way."
"I understand. And he kept getting glummer? Did you suspect the
jewel? Did he ever tell you anything?"
She shook her head.
"No. He told me nothing, except that he would find father. Of
course, I became excited and wanted to know. But he insisted that
I couldn't help; that he had a clue, and that it might take time.
From that night I saw very little of him. He leased the house on
Chatterton Place. He seemed to lose interest in myself; when he
did come over he would act queerly. He talked incoherently, and
would often make rambling mention of a beautiful girl called
Nervina. You say it is the ring? Tell me, Mr. Wendel, what is it?
Has it really anything to do with father?"
"I think it has, Miss Holcomb. And I can understand poor Chick. He
is a very brave man. It's a strange jewel and of terrible potency;
that much I know. It devitalises; it destroys. I can feel it
already. It covers life with a fog of decay. The same solitude has
come upon myself. Nevertheless I am certain it has much to do with
the Blind Spot. It is a key of some sort. The very interest of the
Rhamda and the Nervina tells us that. I think it was through this
stone that your father made his discovery."
She thought a moment.
"Hadn't you better return it? While you still have health? If you
keep it, it will be only one more."
"You forget, Miss Holcomb, my promise to Chick. I loved your
father, and I was fond of Watson. It's a great secret and, if the
professor is right, one which man has sought through the ages. I'd
be a coward to forgo my duty. If I fail, I have another to take my
"Oh," she said, "it's horrible. First father; then Chick; now you;
and afterwards it will be Mr. Fenton."
"It is our duty," I returned. "One by one. Though we may fail,
each one of us may pass a bit more on to his successor. In the end
we win. It is the way of man."
I had my way. She turned over all the data and notes that had been
left by the professor; but I never found a thing in them that
could be construed to an advantage. My real quest was to trace
down the jewel. The man Kennedy's full name was, I learned, Budge
Kennedy. He had lived in Oakland. It was late in the afternoon
when I parted with Miss Holcomb and started for the city.
I remember it well because of a little incident that occurred
immediately after our parting. I was just going down the steps
when I looked up one of the side streets. A few students were
loitering here and there. But there was one who was not a student.
I recognised him instantly, and I wondered. It was the Rhamda.
This was enough to make me suspicious. But there was one thing
more. Farther up the street was another figure.
When I came down the steps the Rhamda moved, and his move was
somehow duplicated by the other. In itself this was enough to
clear up some of my doubts concerning the phantom. His actions
were too simple for an apparition. Only a man would act like that,
and a crude one. I didn't know then the nerve of the Rhamda. There
was no doubt that I was being shadowed.
To make certain, I took the by-streets and meandered by a devious
route to the station. There was no question; one and two they
followed. I knew the Rhamda; but who was the other?
At the station we purchased tickets, and when the train pulled in
I boarded a smoker. The other two took another coach--the stranger
was a thick-set individual with a stubby, grey moustache. On the
boat I didn't see them; but at the ferry building I made a test to
see that I was followed. I hailed a taxi and gave specific
instructions to the driver.
"Drive slowly," I told him. "I think we shall be followed."
And I was right; in a few minutes there were two cars dogging our
wheel-tracks. I had no doubt concerning the Rhamda; but I couldn't
understand the other. At No. 288 Chatterton Place we stopped and I
alighted. The Rhamda's car passed, then the other. Neither
stopped. Both disappeared round the corner. I took the numbers;
then I went into the house. In about a half hour a car drew up at
the curb. I stepped to the window. It was the car that had tracked
the Rhamda's. The stubby individual stepped out; without ceremony
he ran up the steps and opened the door. It was a bit
disconcerting, I think, for both. He was plain and blunt--and
"Well," he said, "where's Watson? Who are you? What do you want?"
"That," I answered, "is a question for both of us. Who are you,
and what do you want? Where is Watson?"
Just then his eyes dropped and his glance fell and eyes widened.
"My name is Jerome," he said simply. "Has something happened to
Watson? Who are you?"
We were standing in the library; I made an indication towards the
other room. "In there," I said. "My name is Wendel."
He took off his hat and ran the back of his hand across his
"So that pair got him, too! I was afraid of them all the while.
And I had to be away. Do you know how they did it? What's the
working of their game? It's devilish and certainly clever. They
played that boy for a year; they knew they would get him in the
end. So did I.
"He was a fine lad, a fine lad. I knew this morning when I came
down from Nevada that they had him. Found your duds. A stranger.
House looked queer. But I had hopes he might have gone over to see
his girl. Just thought I'd wander over to Berkeley. Found that
bird Rhamda under a palm tree watching the Holcomb bungalow. It
was the first time I'd seen him since that day things went amiss
with the professor. In about ten minutes you came out. I stayed
with him while he tracked you back here; I followed him back down
town and lost him. Tell me about Watson."
He sat down; during my recital he spoke not a word. He consumed
one cigar after another; when I stopped for a moment he merely
nodded his head and waited until I continued. He was sturdy and
frank, of an iron way and vast common sense. I liked him. When I
had finished he remained silent; his grief was of a solid kind! he
had liked poor Watson.
"I see," he said. "It is as I thought. He told you more than he
ever told me."
"He never told you?"
"Not much. He was a strange lad--about the loneliest one I've ever
seen. There was something about him from the very first that was
not natural; I couldn't make him out. You say it is the ring. He
always wore it. I laid it to this Rhamda. He was always meeting
him. I could never understand it. Try as I would, I could not get
a trace of the phantom."
"Most assuredly. Would you call him human?" His grey eyes were
flecked with light. "Come now, Mr. Wendel, would you?"
"Well," I answered, "I don't know. Not after what I have seen. But
for all that, I have proof of his sinews. I am inclined to blend
the two. There is a law somewhere, a very natural one. The Blind
Spot is undoubtedly a combination of phenomena; it has a control.
We do not know what it is, or where it leads to; neither do we
know the motive of the Rhamda. Who is he? If we knew that, we
would know everything."
"And this ring?"
"I shall wear it."
"Then God help you. I watched Watson. It's plain poison. You have
a year; but you had better count on half a year; the first six
months aren't so bad; but the last--it takes a man! Wendel, it
takes a man! Already you're eating your heart out. Oh, I know--you
have opened the windows; you want sunshine and air. In six months
I shall have to fight to get one open. It gets into the soul; it
is stagnation; you die by inches. Better give me the ring."
"This Budge Kennedy," I evaded, "we must find him. We have time.
One clue may lead us on. Tell me what you know of the Blind Spot."
"Very easy," he answered; "you have it all. I have been here a
number of years. You will remember I fell into the case through
intuition. I never had any definite proof, outside the professor's
disappearance, the old lady, and that bell; unless perhaps it is
the Rhamda. But from the beginning I've been positive.
"Taking that lecture in ethics as a starter, I built up my theory.
All the clues lead to this building. It's something that I cannot
understand. It's out of the occult. It's a bit too much for me. I
moved into the place and waited. I've never forgotten that bell,
nor that old lady. You and Fenton are the only ones who have seen
the Blind Spot."
I had a sudden thought.
"The Rhamda! I have read that he has the manner of inherent
goodness. Is it true? You have conversed with him. I haven't."
"He has. He didn't strike me as a villain. He's intrinsic, noble,
out of self. I have often wondered."
I smiled. "Perhaps we are thinking the same thing. Is this it? The
Blind Spot is a secret that man may not attain to. It is
unknowable and akin to death. The Rhamda knows it. He couldn't
head off the professor. He simply employed Dr. Holcomb's wisdom to
trap him; now that he has him secure, he intends to hold him. It
is for our own good."
"He was very anxious to put you and Fenton into this very Spot."
"That is so. But may it not be that we, too, knew a bit too much?"
He couldn't answer that.
Nevertheless, we were both of us convinced concerning the Rhamda.
It was merely a digression of thought, a conjecture. He might be
good; but we were both positive of his villainy. It was his
motive, of course, that weighed up his character; could we find
that, we would uncover everything.
A NEW ELEMENT
Budge Kennedy was not so easily found. There were many Kennedys.
About two-thirds of Ireland had apparently migrated to San
Francisco under that name and had lodged in the directory. We went
through the lists on both sides of the bay, but found nothing; the
old directories had mostly been destroyed by fire or had been
thrown away as worthless; but at last we unearthed one. In it we
found the name of Budge Kennedy.
He had two sons--Patrick and Henry. One of these, Henry, we ran
down in the Mission. He was a great, red-headed, broad-shouldered
Irishman. He was just eating supper when we called; there were
splotches of white plaster on his trousers.
I came right to the point: "Do you know anything about this?" I
held out the ring.
He took it in his fingers; his eyes popped. "What, that! Well, I
guess I do! Where'd you get it?" He called out to the kitchen:
"Say, Mollie, come here. Here's the old man's jool!" He looked at
me a bit fearfully. "You aren't wearing it?"
"Why not?" I asked.
"Why? Well, I don't know exactly. I wouldn't wear it for a million
dollars. It ain't a jool; it's a piece of the divil. The old man
gave it to Dr. Holcomb--or sold it, I don't know which. He carried
it in his pocket once, and he came near dying."
"Unlucky?" I asked.
"No, it ain't unlucky; it just rips your heart out. It would make
you hate your grandmother. Lonesome! Lonesome! I've often heard
the old man talking."
"He sold it to Dr. Holcomb? Do you know why?"
"Well, yes. 'Twas that the old doc had some scientific work. Dad
told him about his jool. One day he took it over to Berkeley. It
was some kind of thing that the professor just wanted. He kept it.
Dad made him promise not to wear it."
"I see. Did your father ever tell you where he got it?"
"Oh, yes. He often spoke about that. The old man wasn't a
plasterer, you know--just a labourer. He was digging a basement.
It was a funny basement--a sort of blind cellar. There was a stone
wall right across the middle, and then there was a door of wood to
look like stone. You can go down into the back cellar, but not
into the front. If you don't know about the door, you'll never
find it. Dad often spoke about that. He was working in the back
cellar when he found this. 'Twas sticking in some blue clay."
"Where was this place? Do you remember?"
"Sure. 'Twas in Chatterton Place. Pat and I was kids then; we took
the old man's dinner."
"Do you know the number?"
"It didn't have no number; but I know the place. 'Tis a two-story
house, and was built in 'ninety-one."
I nodded. "And afterwards you moved to Oakland?"
"Did your father ever speak of the reason for this partition in
"He never knew of one. It was none of his business. He was merely
a labourer, and did what he was paid for."
"Do you know who built it?"
"Some old guy. He was a cranky cuss with side-whiskers. He used to
wear a stove-pipe hat. I think he was a chemist. Whenever he
showed up he would run us kids out of the building. I think he was
This was all the information he could give, but it was a great
deal. Certainly it was more than I had hoped for. The house had
been built by a chemist; even in the construction there was
mystery. I had never thought of a second cellar; when I had
explored the building I had taken the stone wall for granted. It
was so with Jerome. It was the first definite clue that really
brought us down to earth. What had this chemist to do with the
After all, behind everything was lurking the mind of man.
We hastened back to the house and into the cellar. By merely
sounding along the wall we discovered the door; it was cleverly
constructed and for a time defied our efforts; but Jerome got it
open by means of a jemmy and a pick. The outside was a clever
piece of sham work shaped like stone and smeared over with cement.
In the dim light we had missed it.
We had high expectations. But we were disappointed. The space
contained nothing; it was smeared with cobwebs and hairy mould;
but outside of a few empty bottles and the gloomy darkness there
was nothing. We tapped the walls and floor and ceiling. Beyond all
doubt the place once held a secret; if it held it still, it was
cleverly hidden. After an hour or two of search we returned to the
upper part of the building.
Jerome was not discouraged.
"We're on the right track, Mr. Wendel; if we can only get started.
I have an idea. The chemist--it was in 'ninety-one--that's more
than twenty years."
"What is your idea?"
"The Rhamda. What is the first thing that strikes you? His age.
With everyone that sees him it's the same. At first you take him
for an old man; if you study him long enough, you are positive
that he is in his twenties. May he not be this chemist?"
"What becomes of the doctor and his Blind Spot?"
"The Blind Spot," answered Jerome, "is merely a part of the
Next day I hunted up a jeweller. I was careful to choose one with
whom I was acquainted. I asked for a private consultation. When we
were alone I took the ring from my finger.
"Just an opinion," I asked. "You know gems. Can you tell me
anything about this one?"
He picked it up casually, and turned it over; his mouth puckered.
For a minute he studied.
"That? Well, now." He held it up. "Humph. Wait a minute."
"Is it a gem?"
"I think it is. At first I thought I knew it right off; but now--
wait a minute."
He reached in the drawer for his glass. He held the stone up for
some minutes. His face was a study; queer little wrinkles twisting
from the corners of his eyes told his wonder. He did not speak;
merely turned the stone round and round. At last he removed his
glass and held up the ring. He was quizzical.
"Where did you get this?" he asked.
"That is something I do not care to answer. I wish to know what it
is. Is it a gem? If so, what kind?"
He thought a moment and shook his head.
"I thought I knew every gem on earth. But I don't. This is a new
one. It is beautiful--just a moment." He stepped to the door. In a
moment another man stepped in. The jeweller motioned towards the
ring. The man picked it up and again came the examination. At last
he laid the glass and ring both upon the table.
"What do you make of it, Henry?" asked the jeweller.
"Not me," answered the second one. "I never saw one like it."
It was as Watson had said. No man had ever identified the jewel.
The two men were puzzled; they were interested. The jeweller
turned to me.
"Would you care to leave it with us for a bit; you have no
objection to us taking it out of the ring?"
I had not thought of that. I had business down the street. I
consulted my watch.
"In half an hour I shall be back. Will that be enough time?"
"I think so."
It was an hour before I returned. The assistant was standing at
the door of the office. He spoke something to the one inside and
then made an indication to myself. He seemed excited; when I came
closer I noted that his face was full of wonder.
"We've been waiting," said he. "We didn't examine the stone; it
wasn't necessary. It is truly wonderful." He was a short, squat
man with a massive forehead. "Just step inside."