Part 5 out of 8
"Coming as it did, on the instant, it is difficult to describe.
But I knew it instinctively for what it was: the dot of blue on
the ceiling, and the string of light. Then, a sensation of
falling, like dropping into space itself. It is hard to describe
the horrifying terror of plunging head on from an immense height
to a plain at a vastly lower level.
"And that's all that I remember--from this side." [Footnote:
NOTE.--In justice to Mr. Watson, the present writers have thought
it best at this stage to transpose the story from the first to the
third person. Any narrative, unless it is negative in its
material, is hard to give in the first person; for where the
narrator has played an active, positive part, he must either curb
himself or fall under the slur of braggadocio. Yet, the world
wants the details exactly as they happened; hence the
Watson opened his eyes.
The first thing was light and a sense of great pain. There was a
pressure at the back of the eyeballs, a poignant sensation not
unlike a knife-thrust; that, and a sudden fear of madness, of
The abrupt return of consciousness in such a condition is not easy
to imagine. After all he had gone through, this strange sequel
must have been terribly puzzling to him. He was a man of good
education, well versed in psychology; in the first rush of
consciousness he tried, as best he could, to weigh himself up in
the balance of aberration. And it was this very fact that gave him
his reassurance; for it told him that he could think, could
reason, could count on a mind in full function.
But he could not see. The pain in his eyeballs was blinding. There
was nothing he could distinguish; everything was woven together, a
mere blaze of wonderful, iridescent, blazing coloration.
But if he could not see, he could feel. The pain was excruciating.
He closed his eyes and fell to thinking, curiously enough, that
the experience was similar to what he had gone through when upon
learning to swim, he had first opened his eyes under the water. It
had been under a blazing sun. The pain and the colour--it was much
the same, only intensified.
Then he knew that he was very tired. The mere effort of that one
thought had cost him vitality. He dropped back into
unconsciousness, such as was more insensibility than slumber. He
had strange dreams, of people walking, of women, and of many
voices. It was blurred and indistinct, yet somehow not unreal.
Then, after an unguessable length of time--he awoke.
He was much stronger. The lapse may have been very long; he could
not know. But the pain in his eyes was gone; and he ventured to
open the lids again in the face of the light that had been so
baffling. This time he could see; not distinctly, but still enough
to assure him of reality. By closing his eyes at intervals he was
able to rest them and to accustom them gradually to the new degree
of light. And after a bit he could see plainly.
He was on a cot, and in a room almost totally different from any
that he had ever seen before. The colour of the walls, even, was
dissimilar; likewise the ceiling. It was white, in a way, and yet
unlike it; neither did it resemble any of the various tints; to
give it a name that he afterward learned--alna--implies but
little. It was utterly new to him.
Apparently he was alone. The room was not large; about the size of
an ordinary bedroom. And after the first novelty of the
unplaceable colour had worn off he began to take stock of his own
First, he was covered by the finest of bed clothing, thick but
exceedingly light. There was no counterpane, but two blankets and
two sheets; and none of them corresponded to any colour or
material he had ever known. He only knew that their tints were
light rather than dark.
Next, he moved his hands out from under the coverings, and held
them up before his eyes. He was immensely puzzled. He naturally
expected to see the worn, emaciated hands which had been his on
that dramatic night; but the ones before him were plump, normal,
of a healthy pink. The wrists likewise were in perfect condition,
also his arms. He could not account for this sudden return to
health, of the vigour he had known before he began to wear the
ring. He lay back pondering.
Presently he fell to examining his clothes. There were two
garments made of a silk-like textile, rather heavy as to weight,
but exceedingly soft as to touch. They were slightly darker than
the bed clothing. In a way they were much like pyjamas, except
that both were designed to be merely slipped into place, without
buttons or draw-strings. That is, they were tailored to fit snugly
over the shoulders and waist, while loose enough elsewhere.
Then he noticed the walls of the room. They were after a simple,
symmetrical style; coved--to use an architectural expression--or
curved, where the corner would come with a radius much larger than
common, amounting to four or five feet; so that a person of
ordinary height could not stand close to the wall without
stooping. Where the coved portion flowed into the perpendicular of
the wall there was a broad moulding, like a plate rail, which
acted as a support for the hanging pictures.
Watson counted four of these pictures. Instinctively he felt that
they might give him a valuable clue as to his whereabouts. For,
while his mind had cleared enough for him to feel sure that he had
truly come through the Spot, he knew nothing more. Where was he?
What would the pictures tell?
The first was directly before his eyes. In size perhaps two by
three feet, with its greater length horizontal, it was more of a
landscape than a portrait. And Watson's eagerness for the subject
itself made him forget to note whether the work was mechanically
or manually executed.
For it revealed a girl--about ten or twelve--very slightly draped,
enjoying a wild romp with a most extraordinary creature. It was
this animal that made the picture amazing; there was no subtle
significance in the scene--there was nothing remarkable about the
technique. The whole interest, for Watson, was in the animal.
It was a deer; perfect and beautiful, but cast in a Lilliputian
mould. It stood barely a foot high, the most delicate thing he had
ever looked upon. Mature in every detail of its proportion, the
dainty hoofs, the fragile legs, smooth-coated body, and small,
wide-antlered head--a miniature eight-pointer--made such a vision
as might come to the dreams of a hunter.
Chick rose up in bed, in order to examine it more closely.
Immediately he fell back again slightly dizzy. He closed his eyes.
Shortly he began examining the other pictures. Two of these were
simple flower studies. Watson scarcely knew which puzzled him
most; the blossoms or their containers. For the vases were like
large-sized loving cups, broad as to body, and provided with a
handle on either side. Their colours were unfamiliar. As for the
blossoms--in one study the blooms were a half-dozen in number, and
more like Shasta daisies than anything else. But their colour was
totally unlike, while they possessed wide, striped stamens that
gave the flowers an identity all their own. In the other vase were
several varieties, and every one absolutely unrecognisable.
On the opposite side of the room was something fairly familiar. At
first glance it seemed a simple basket of kittens, done in black
and white--something like crayon, and yet resembling sepia.
Alongside the basket, however, was a spoon, one end resting on the
edge of a saucer. And it was the size of the spoon that commanded
Chick's attention; rather, the size of the kittens, any one of
which could have curled up comfortably in the bowl of the spoon!
Judging relatively, if it were an ordinary tablespoon, then the
kittens were smaller than the smallest of mice.
Chick gave it up. Presently he began speculating about the time.
He decided that, whatever the hour might be, it was still
daylight. In one wall of the room was a large, oval window, of a
material which may as well be called glass, frosted, so as to
permit no view of what might lie outside. But it allowed plenty of
light to enter.
Cut in the opposite wall was a doorway, hung with a curtain
instead of a door. This curtain was a gauzy material, but its
maroonlike shade completely hid all view of whatever lay beyond.
Chick waited and listened. Hitherto he had not heard a sound.
There was not even that subtle, mixed hum from the distance that
we are accustomed to associate with silence. He felt certain that
he was inside the Blind Spot; but as to just where that locality
might lie, he knew as little as before. He knew only that he in a
building of some sort. Where, and what, was the building?
Just then he noticed a cord dangling from the ceiling. It came
down to within six inches of his head. He gave it a pull.
Whereupon he heard a faint, musical jangling in the distance. He
tried to analyse the sound. It was not bell-like; perhaps the word
"tinkling" would serve better. Provisionally, Chick placed the key
at middle D.
A moment later he heard steps outside the curtain. They were very
soft and light and deliberate; and almost at the same instant a
delicate white hand moved the curtain aside.
It was a woman. Chick lay back and wondered. Although not
beautiful she was very good to look at, with large blue eyes of a
deep tenderness and sympathy, even features, and a wonderful fold
of rich brown hair held in place by a satiny net.
She started when she saw Chick's wide open eyes; then smiled, a
motherly smile and compassionate. She was dressed in a manner at
once becoming and odd, to one unaccustomed, in a gown that draped
the entire figure, yet left the right arm and shoulder bare. Chick
noticed that arm especially; it was white as marble, moulded full,
and laced with fine blue veins. He had never seen an arm like
that. Nor such a woman. She might have been forty.
She came over to the bed and placed a hand on Chick's forehead.
Again she smiled, and nodded.
"How do you feel?" she asked.
Now this is a strange thing; Watson could not account for it. For,
although she did not speak English, yet he could understand her
quite well. At the moment it seemed perfectly obvious; afterward,
the fact became amazing.
He answered in the same way, his thoughts directing his lips. And
he found that as long as he made no conscious attempt to select
the words for his thought, he could speak unhesitatingly.
"Where am I?"
She smiled indulgently, but did not answer.
"Is this the--Blind Spot?"
"The Blind Spot! I do not understand."
"Who are you?"
"Your nurse. Perhaps," soothingly, "you would like to talk to the
"Yes. The Rhamda Geos."
The woman left him. For a while Chick reflected upon what she had
said. In full rush of returning vigour his mind was working
clearly and with analytical exactness.
For the first time he noticed a heaviness in the air, overladen,
pregnant. He became aware of a strange, undercurrent of life; of
an exceedingly faint, insistent sound, pulse-like and rhythmical,
like the breathing undertones of multitudes. He was a city man,
and accustomed to the murmuring throbs of a metropolitan heart.
But this was very different.
Presently, amid the strangeness, he could distinguish the tinkle
of elfin bells, almost imperceptible, but musical. The whole air
was laden with a subdued music, lined, as it were, with a golden
vibrancy of tintinnabulary cadence--distant, subdued, hardly more
than a whisper, yet part of the air itself.
It gave him the feeling that he was in a dream. In the realms of
the subconscious he had heard just such sounds--exotic and
unearthly--fleeting and evanescent.
The notion of dreams threw his mind into sudden alertness. In an
instant he was thinking systematically, and in the definite
realisation of his plight.
The woman had spoken of "the Rhamda." True, she had added a
qualifying "Geos," but that did not matter. Whether Geos or Avec,
it was still the Rhamda. By this time Watson was convinced that
the word indicated some sort of title--whether doctor, or lord, or
professor, was not important. What interested Chick was identity.
If he could solve that he could get at the crux of the Blind Spot.
He thought quickly. Apparently, it was Rhamda Avec who had trapped
Dr. Holcomb. Why? What had been the man's motive? Watson could not
say. He only knew the ethics of the deed was shaded with the
subtleness of villainy. That behind it all was a purpose, a
directing force and intelligence that was inexorable and
One other thing he knew; the Rhamda Avec came out of the region in
which he, Watson, now found himself. Rather, he could have come
from nowhere else. And Watson could feel certain that somewhere,
somehow, he would find Dr. Holcomb.
In that moment Watson determined upon his future course of action.
He decided to state nothing, intimate nothing, either by word or
deed, that might in any manner incriminate or endanger the
professor. It was for him to learn everything possible and to do
all he could to gain his points, without giving a particle of
information in return. He must play a lone hand and a cautious
one--until he found Dr. Holcomb.
The fact of his position didn't appall him. Somehow, it had just
the opposite effect. Perhaps it was because his strength had come
back, and had brought with it the buoyancy that is natural to
health. He could sense the vitality that surrounded him, poised,
potential, waiting only the proper attitude on his part to become
an active force. Something tremendous had happened to him, to make
him feel like that. He was ready for anything.
Five minutes passed. Watson was alert and ready when the woman
returned, together with a companion. She smiled kindly, and
"The Rhamda Geos."
At first Chick was startled. There was a resemblance to Rhamda
Avec that ran almost to counterpart. The same refinement and
elegance, the fleeting suggestion of youth, the evident age
mingled with the same athletic ease and grace of carriage. Only he
was somewhat shorter. The eyes were almost identical, with the
peculiar quality of the iris and pupil that suggested, somehow, a
culture inherited out of the centuries. He was dressed in a black
robe, such as would befit a scholar.
He smiled, and held out a hand. Watson noted the firm clasp, and
the cold thrill of magnetism.
"You wish to speak with me?"
The voice was soft and modulated, resonant, of a tone as rich as
"Yes. Where am I--sir?"
"You do not know?"
It seemed to Watson that there was real astonishment in the man's
eyes. As yet it had not come to Chick that he himself might be
just as much a mystery as the other. The only question in his mind
at the moment was locality.
"Is this the Blind Spot?"
"The Blind Spot!"--with the same lack of comprehension that the
woman had shown. "I do not understand you."
"Well, how did I get here?"
"Oh, as to that, you were found in the Temple of the Leaf. You
were lying unconscious on the floor."
"A temple! How did I get there, sir? Do you know?"
"We only know that a moment before there was nothing; next
Watson thought. There was a subconscious sound that still
lingered in his memory; a sound full-toned, flooding, enveloping.
Was there any connection--
"'The Temple of the Leaf,' you call it, sir. I seem to remember
having heard a bell. Is there such a thing in that temple?"
The Rhamda Geos smiled, his eyes brightening. "It is sometimes
called the Temple of the Bell."
"Ah!" A pause, and Watson asked, "Where is this temple? And is
this room a part of the building?"
"No. You are in the Sar-Amenive Hospital, an institution of the
The Rhamdas! So there were several of them. A sort of society,
"In San Francisco?"
"No. San Francisco! Again I fail to understand. This locality is
known as the Mahovisal."
"The Mahovisal!" Watson thought in silence for a moment. He noted
the extremely keen interest of the Rhamda, the ultra-intelligent
flicker of the eyes, the light of query and critical analysis.
"You call this the Mahovisal, sir? What is it: town, world or
The other smiled again. The lines about his sensitive mouth were
susceptible of various interpretations: emotion, or condescension,
or the satisfying feeling that comes from the simple vindication
of some inner conviction. His whole manner was that of interest
and respectful wonder.
"You have never heard of the Mahovisal? Never?"
"Not until this minute," answered Watson.
"You have no knowledge of anything before? Do you know WHO YOU
"I"--Watson hesitated, wondering whether he had best withhold this
information. He decided to chance the truth. "My name is Chick
Watson. I am--an American."
The Rhamda pronounced the word with a roll of the "r" that sounded
more like the Chinese "Mellican" than anything else. It was
evident that the sounds were totally unfamiliar to him. And his
manner was a bit indefinite, doubtful, yet weighted with care, as
he slowly repeated the question:
"An American? Once more I don't understand. I have never heard the
word, my dear sir. You are neither D'Hartian nor Kospian; although
there are some--materialists for the most part--who contend that
you are just as any one else. That is--a man."
"Perhaps I am," returned Watson, utterly confounded. He did not
know what to say. He had never heard of a Kospian or a D'Hartian,
nor of the Mahovisal. It made things difficult; he couldn't get
started. Most of all, he wanted information; and, instead, he was
being questioned. The best he could do was to equivocate.
As for the Rhamda, he frowned. Apparently his eager interest had
been dashed with disappointment. But only slightly, as Watson
could see; the man was of such culture and intellect as to have
perfect control over his emotions. In his balance and poise he was
very like Avec, and he had the same pleasing manner.
"My dear sir," he began, "if you are really a man, then you can
tell me something of great importance."
"I" Chick retorted, "can tell you nothing until you first let me
know just where I stand!"
Certainly there was a lack of common ground. Until one of them
supplied it, there could be no headway. Watson realised that his
whole future might revolve about the axis of his next words.
The Rhamda thought a moment, dubiously, like one who has had a pet
theory damaged, though not shattered. Suddenly he spoke to the
"Open the portal," said he.
She stepped to the oval window, touched a latch, and swung the
pane horizontally upon two pivots. Immediately the room was
flooded with a strange effulgence, amber-like, soft and mellow, as
But it was NOT real sunshine!
The window was set in a rather thick wall, beyond which Watson
could see a royal sapphiric sky, flecked with white and purple and
amethyst-threaded clouds poised above a great amber sleeping sun.
It was the sun that challenged attention. It was so mild, and yet
so utterly beyond what might be expected. In diameter it would
have made six of the one Watson had known; in the blue distance,
touching the rim of the horizon, it looked exactly like a huge
golden plate set edgewise on the end of the earth.
And--he could look straight at it without blinking!
His thoughts ran back to the first account of the Rhamda. The man
had looked straight at the sun and had been blinded. This
accounted for it! The man had been accustomed to this huge, soft-
glowing beauty. An amberous sun, deep yellow, sleeping; could it
be, after all, dreamland?
But there were other things: the myriad tintinnabulations of these
microscopic bells, never ceasing, musically throbbing; and now,
the exotic delight of the softest of perfumes, an air barely
tinted with violet and rose, and the breath of woodland wild
flowers. He could not comprehend it. He looked at the purple
clouds above the lotus sun, hardly believing, and deeply in doubt.
A great white bird dived suddenly out of the heavens and flew into
the focus of his vision. In all the tales of his boyhood, of large
and beautiful rocs and other birds, he had come across nothing
like this. From the perspective it must have measured a full three
hundred feet from tip to tip; it was shaped like a swan and flew
like an eagle, with magnificent, lazy sweeps of the wings; while
its plumage was as white as the snow, new fallen on the mountains.
And right behind it, in pursuit, hurtled a huge black thing, fully
as large and just as swift; a tremendous black crow, so black that
its sides gave off a greenish shimmer.
Just then the woman closed the window. It was as well; Watson was
only human, and he could hide his curiosity just so long and no
longer. He turned to the Rhamda.
The man nodded. "I thought so," said he with satisfaction, as one
might who has proven a pet and previous theory.
Watson tried from another angle.
"Just who do you think I am, sir?"
The other smiled as before. "It is not what I may think," he
replied: "but what I know. You are the proof that was promised us
by the great Rhamda Avec. You are--THE FACT AND THE SUBSTANCE!"
He waited for Watson's answer. Stupefaction delayed it. After a
moment the Rhamda continued:
"Is it not so? Am I not right? You are surely out of the occult,
my dear sir. You are a spirit!"
It took Chick wholly by surprise. He had been ready to deal with
anything--but this. It was unreal, weird, impossible. And yet, why
not? The professor had set out to remove forever the screen that
had hitherto shrouded the shadow: but what had he revealed? What
had the Spot disclosed? Unreality or REALITY? Which is which?
In the inspiration of the moment, Chick saw that he had reached
the crossroads of the occult. There was no time to think; there
was time only for a plunge. And, like all strong men, Watson chose
the deeper water.
He turned to the Rhamda Geos.
"Yes," said he quietly. "I--am a spirit."
UP FOR BREATH
Rhamda Geos, instead of showing the concern and uneasiness that
most men would show in the presence of an avowed ghost, evinced
nothing but a deep and reverent happiness. He took Watson's hand
almost shyly. And while his manner was not effusive, it had the
warmth that comes from the heart of a scholar.
"As a Rhamda," he declared, "I must commend myself for being the
first to speak to you. And I must congratulate you, my dear sir,
on having fallen, not into the hands of Bar Senestro, but into
those of my own kind. It is a proof of the prophecy, and a
vindication of the wisdom of the Ten Thousand.
"I bid you welcome to the Thomahlia, and I offer you my services,
as guide and sponsor."
Chick did not reply at once. The chance he had taken was one of
those rare decisions that come to genius; the whole balance of his
fate might swing upon his sudden impulse. Not that he had any
compunction; but he felt that it tied him down. It restricted him.
Certainly almost any role would be easier than that of a spirit.
He didn't feel like a ghost. He wondered just how a ghost would
act, anyhow. What was more, he could not understand such a queer
assumption on the Rhamda's part. Why had he seemed to WANT Chick a
ghost? Watson was natural, human, embodied, just like the Rhamda.
This was scarcely his idea of a phantom's life. Most certainly,
the two of them were men, nothing else; if one was a wraith, so
was the other. But--how to account for it?
Again he thought of Rhamda Avec. The words of Geos, "The Fact and
the Substance," had been exactly synonymous with what had been
said of Avec by Dr. Holcomb, "The proof of the occult."
Was it indeed possible that these two great ones, from opposite
poles, had actually torn away the veil of the shadow? And was this
the place where he, Watson, must pose as a spirit, if he were to
be accepted as genuine?
The thought was a shock. He must play the same part here that the
Rhamda had played on the other side of the Spot; but he would have
to do it without the guiding wisdom of Avec. Besides, there was
something sinister in the unknown force that had engulfed so
strong a mind as the professor's; for while Watson's fate had been
of his own seeking, that of the doctor smacked too much of
He turned to the Rhamda Geos with a new question:
"This Rhamda Avec--was he a man like yourself?"
The other brightened again, and asked in return:
"Then you have seen him!"
"I--I do not know," answered Watson, caught off his guard. "But
the name is familiar. I don't remember well. My mind is vague and
confused. I recall a world, a wonderful world it was from which
I came, and a great many people. But I can't place myself; I
hardly--let me see--"
The other nodded sympathetic approval.
"I understand. Don't exert yourself. It is hardly to be expected
that one forced out of the occult could come among us with his
faculties unimpaired. We have had many communications with your
world, and have always been frustrated by this one gulf which may
not be crossed. When real thought gets across the border, it is
often indefinite, sometimes mere drivel. Such answers as come from
the void are usually disappointing, no matter how expert our
mediums may be in communicating with the dead."
"The dead! Did you say--the dead?"
"Certainly; the dead. Are you not of the dead?"
Watson shook his head emphatically.
"Absolutely not! Not where I came from. We are all very much
The other watched him curiously, his great eyes glowing with
enthusiasm; the enthusiasm of the born seeker of the truth.
"You don't mean," he asked, "that you have the same passions that
we have here in life?"
"I mean," said Watson, "that we hate, love, swear; we are good and
we are evil; and we play games and go fishing."
Geos rubbed his hands in a dignified sort of glee. What had been
said coincided, apparently, with another of his pet theories.
"It is splendid," he exulted, "splendid! And just in line with my
thesis. You shall tell it before the Council of the Rhamdas. It
will be the greatest day since the speaking of the Jarados!"
Watson wondered just who this Jarados might be; but for the moment
he went back to the previous question.
"This Rhamda Avec: you were about to tell me about him. Let me
have as much as I can understand, sir."
"Ah, yes! The great Rhamda Avec. Perhaps you may recall him when
your mind clears a little more. My dear sir, he is, or was, the
chief of the Rhamdas of all the Thomahlia." "What is the
"The Thomahlia! Why, it is called the world; our name for the
world. It comprises, physically, land, water and air; politically,
it embraces D'Hartia, Kospia and a few minor nations."
"Who are the Rhamdas?"
"They are the heads of--of the Thomahlia; not the nominal nor
political nor religious heads--they are neither judicial,
executive nor legislative; but the real heads, still above. They
might be called the supreme college of wisdom, of science and of
research. Also, they are the keepers of the bell and its temple,
and the interpreters of the Prophecy of the Jarados."
"I see. You are a sort of priesthood."
"No. The priesthood is below us. The priests take what orders we
choose to give, and are purely--"
The Rhamda's eyes snapped, just a trifle.
"Not at all, my dear sir! They are good, sincere men. Only, not
being intellectually adept enough to be admitted to the real
secrets, the real knowledge, they give to all things a provisional
explanation based upon a settled policy. Not being Rhamdas, they
are simply not aware that everything has an exact and absolute
"In other words," put in Watson, "they are scientists; they have
not lifted themselves up to the plane of inquisitive doubt."
Still the Rhamda shook his head.
"Not quite that, either, my dear sir. Those below us are not
ignorant; they are merely nearer to the level of the masses than
we are. In fact, they are the people's rulers; these priests and
other similar classes. But we, the Rhamdas, are the rulers of the
rulers. We differ from them in that we have no material ends to
subserve. Being at the top, with no motive save justice and
advancement, our judgments are never questioned, and for the same
reason, seldom passed.
"But we are far above the plane of doubt that you speak of; we
passed out of it long ago. That is the first stage of true
science; afterwards comes the higher levels where all things have
a reason; ethics, inspiration, thought, emotion--"
"And--the judgment of the Jarados?"
Watson could not have told why he said it. It was impulse, and the
impromptu suggestion of a half-thought. But the effect of his
words upon the Rhamda and the nurse told him that, inadvertently,
he had struck a keynote. Both started, especially the woman.
Watson took note of this in particular, because of the ingrained
acceptance of the feminine in matter of belief.
"What do you know?" was her eager interruption. "You have seen the
As for the Rhamda, he looked at Watson with shrewd, calculating
eyes. But they were still filled with wonder.
"Can you tell us?" he asked. "Try and think!"
Chick knew that he had gained a point. He had been dealt a trump
card; but he was too clever to play it at once. He was on his own
responsibility and was carrying a load that required the finest
"I really do not know," he said. "I--I must have time to think.
Coming across the border that way you must give me time. You were
telling me about the Rhamdas in general; now tell me about Avec in
Geos nodded as though he could understand the fog that beclouded
"The Rhamda Avec is, or was, the wisest of them all; the head and
the chief, and by far the most able. Few beside his own fellows
knew it, however; another than he was the nominal head, and
officiated for him whenever necessary. Avec had little social
intercourse; he was a prodigious student.
"We are a body of learned men, you understand, and we stand at the
peak of all that has been discovered through hundreds upon
hundreds of centuries, so that at the present day we are the
culmination of the combined effort and thought of man since the
beginning of time. Each generation of Rhamdas must be greater than
the one preceding. When I die and pass on to your world I must
leave something new and worth-while to my successor; some thought,
wisdom, or deed that may be of use to mankind. I cannot be a
Rhamda else. We are a set of supreme priests, who serve man at the
shrine of intelligence, not of dogma.
"Of course, we are not to be judged too highly. All research, when
it steps forward must go haltingly; there are many paths into the
unknown that look like the real one. Hence, we have among us
various schools of thought, and each following a different trail.
"I myself am a spiritist. I believe that we can, and often have,
communicated with your world at various times. There are others
who do not grant it; there are Rhamdas who are inclined to lean
more to the materialist's side of things, who rely entirely, when
it comes to questions of this kind, upon their faith in the
teachings of the Jarados. There are some, too, who believe in the
value of speculation, and who contend that only through
contemplation can man lift himself to the full fruits of
realisation. At the head of us all--the Rhamda Avec!"
"What was his belief?"
"Let us say he believed ALL. He was eclectic. He held that we were
all of us a bit right, and each of us a whole lot wrong. It was
his contention, however, that there was not one thing that could
not be proven; that the secret of life, while undoubtedly a secret
in every sense of the word, is still very concrete, it could be
Watson nodded. He remembered hearing another man make just such a
"For years he worked in private," went on Geos. "We never knew
just what he was doing; until, one day, he called us together and
delivered his lecture."
"Rather, his prophecy. For it was all that. Not that he spoke at
great length; it was but a talk. He announced that he believed the
time had come to prove the occult. That it could be done, and done
only through concrete, material means; and that whatever existed,
certainly could be demonstrated. He was going to pull aside the
curtain that had hitherto cut off the shadow.
"'I am going to prove the occult,' he said. 'In three days I shall
return with the fact and the substance. And then I propose to
deliver my greatest lecture, my final thesis, in which my whole
life shall come to a focus. I shall bring the proof for your eyes
and ears, for your fingers to explore and be satisfied. You shall
behold the living truth"
"'And the subject of my lecture--the subject of my lecture will be
The Spot of Life.'"
THROUGH UNKNOWN WATERS
The SPOT of Life! And the subject of Dr. Holcomb's lecture,
promised but never delivered, had been announced as--The Blind
To Watson it was fairly astounding to discover that the two--
Holcomb and Avec--had reached simultaneously for the curtain of
the shadow. The professor had said that it would be "the greatest
day since Columbus." And so it had proven, did the world but know
"And--the Rhamda Avec never returned?" asked Chick.
"But he sent back something within three days?" Watson was
thinking, of course, of the doctor who had disappeared on the day
which, Jerome overheard the Rhamda to say, was the last of his
But Geos did not reply. Why, Chick could not guess. He thought it
best not to press the question; in good time, if he went at it
carefully, he could gain his end with safety. At the moment he
must not arouse suspicion. He chose another query.
"Did Avec go alone?"
"No. The Nervina went with him. Rather, she followed within a few
It was out before Watson could think. The Rhamda looked up
"Then you have seen the Nervina! You know her?"
Chick lied. It was not his intention, just at present, to tie
himself down to anything that might prove compromising or
"The name is--familiar. Who is this Nervina?"
"She is one of the queens. I thought--My dear sir, she is one of
the queens of Thomahlia, half Kospian, half D'Hartian; of the
first royal line running through from the day of the Jarados."
Chick cogitated for a moment. Then, taking an entirely new tack:
"You say the Rhamda and this Nervina, independently, solved the
mystery of the Spot of Life, I believe you call it. And that Spot
leads, apparently, into the occult?"
"Apparently, if not positively. It was the wisdom of Avec, mostly.
He had been in communication with your world by means of his own
discovery and application. It was all in line with the prophecy.
"Since he and the Nervina left, the people of the world have been
in a state of ferment. For it was foretold that in the last days
we would get in communication with the other side; that some would
come and some would go. For example, your own coming was foretold
by the Jarados, almost to the hour and minute."
"Then it was fortuitous," spoke Watson. "It was NOT the wisdom and
science of Avec, in my case."
"Quite so. However, it is proof that the Rhamdas have fulfilled
their duty. We knew of the Spot of Life, all the while; it was to
be closed until we, through the effort of our intellect and
virtues, could lift ourselves up to the plane of the world beyond
us--your world. It could not be opened by ourselves alone,
however. The Rhamda Avec had first to get in touch with your side,
before he could apply the laws he had discovered."
Somehow, Chick admired this Rhamda. Men of his type could form but
one kind of priesthood: exalted, and devoted to the advance of
intelligence. If Rhamda Avec were of the same sort, then he was a
man to be looked up to, not to hate. As for the Jarados--Watson
could not make out who he had been; a prophet or teacher,
seemingly, looming out of the past and reverenced from antiquity.
The Blind Spot became a shade less sinister. Already Watson had
the Temple of the Leaf, or Bell, the Rhamdas and their philosophy,
the great amber sun, the huge birds, the musical cadence of the
perfumed air, and the counter-announcement of Rhamda Avec to weigh
against the work and words of Dr. Holcomb.
The world of the Blind Spot!
As if in reaction from the unaccustomed train of thought, Watson
suddenly became conscious of extreme hunger. He gave an uneasy
glance round, a glance which the Rhamda Geos smilingly
interpreted. At a word the woman left the room and returned with a
crimson garment, like a bath-robe. When Chick had donned it and a
pair of silken slippers, Geos bade him follow.
They stepped out into the corridor.
This was formed and coloured much as the room they had quitted;
and it led to another apartment, much larger--about fifty feet
across--coloured a deep, cool green. Its ceiling, coved like the
other, seemed made of some self-radiating substance from which
came both light and heat. Four or five tables, looking like ebony
work, were arranged along the side walls. When they were seated at
one of these, the Rhamda placed his fingers on some round alna-
white buttons ranged along the edge of the table.
"In your world," he apologised, "our clumsy service would
doubtless amuse you; but it is the best we have been able to
devise so far."
He pressed the button. Instantly, without the slightest sound or
anything else to betray just how the thing had been accomplished,
the table was covered with golden dishes, heaped with food, and
two flagon-like goblets, full to the brim with a dark, greenish
liquid that gave off an aroma almost exhilarating; not alcoholic,
but something just above that. The Rhamda, disregarding or not
noticing Watson's gasp of wonder, lifted his goblet in the manner
of the host in health and welcome.
"You may drink it," he offered, "without fear. It is not liquor--
if I may use a word which I believe to be current in your world. I
may add that it is one of the best things that we shall be able to
offer you while you are with us."
Indeed it wasn't liquor. Watson took a sip; and he made a mental
note that if all things in the Thomahlia were on a par with this,
then he certainly was in a world far above his own. For the one
sip was enough to send a thrill through his veins, a thrill not
unlike the ecstasy of supreme music--a sparkling exuberance,
leaving the mind clear and scintillating, glorified to the quick
thinking of genius.
Later Watson experienced no reaction such as would have come from
drinking alcohol or any other drug.
It was the strangest meal ever eaten by Watson. The food was very
savoury, and perfectly cooked and served. Only one dish reminded
him of meat.
"You have meats?" he asked. "This looks like flesh."
Geos shook his head. "No. Do you have flesh to eat, on the other
side? We make all our food."
MAKE food. Watson thought best simply to answer the question:
"As I remember it, Rhamda Geos, we had a sort of meat called
beef--the flesh of certain animals."
The Rhamda was intensely interested. "Are they large? Some
interpret the Jarados to that effect. Tell me, are they like
this?" And he pulled a silver whistle from his pocket and, placing
it to his lips, blew two short, shrill notes.
Immediately a peculiar patter sounded down the corridor; a ka-
tuck, ka-tuck, ka-tuck, not unlike galloping hoof-beats. Before
Watson could do any surmising a little bundle of shining black,
rounded the entrance to the room and ran up to them. Geos picked
It was a horse. A horse, beautifully formed, perfect as an Arab,
and not more than nine inches high!
Now, Chick had been in the Blind Spot, conscious, but a short
while. He knew that he was in the precise position that Rhamda
Avec had occupied that morning on the ferry-boat. Chick recalled
the pictures of the Lilliputian deer and the miniature kittens;
yet he was immensely surprised.
The little fellow began to neigh, a tiny, ridiculous sound as
compared with the blast of a normal-sized horse, and began to paw
for the edge of the table.
"What does he want?"
"A drink. They will do anything for it." Geos pressed a button,
and in a moment he had another goblet. This he held before the
little stallion, who thrust his head in above his nostrils and
drank as greedily as a Percheron weighing a ton. Watson stroked
his sides; the mane was like spun silk, he felt the legs
symmetrical, perfectly shaped, not as large above the fetlocks as
an ordinary pencil.
"Are they all of this size?"
"Yes; all of them. Why do you ask?"
"Because"--seeing no harm in telling this--"as I remember them, a
horse on the other side would make a thousand of this one. People
The Rhamda nodded.
"So it is told in the books of Jarados. We had such beasts, once,
ourselves. We would have them still, but for the brutality and
stupidity of our ancestors. It is the one great sin of the
Thomahlia. Once we had animals, great and small, and all the
blessings of Nature; we had horses and, I think, what you call
beef; a thousand other creatures that were food and help and
companions to man. And for the good they had done our ancestors
"It was neglect, unthinking and selfish. A time came when our
civilisation made it possible to live without other creatures.
When machinery came into vogue we put aside the animals as
useless; those we had no further use for we denied the right to
reproduce. The game of the forest was hunted down with powerful
weapons of destruction; all went, in a century or two; everything
that could be killed. And with them went the age of our highest
art, that age of domesticated animals.
"Our greatest paintings, our noblest sculpture, came from that
age; all the priceless relics that we call classic. And in its
stead we had the mechanical age. Man likewise became a mechanism,
emotionless, with no taste for Nature. Meat was made
synthetically, and so was milk."
"You don't mean to say they did not preserve cows for the sake of
"No; that kind of milk became old-fashioned; men regarded it as
unsanitary, fit only for the calves. What they wanted was
something chemically pure; they waged war on bacteria, microbes,
and Nature in general; a cow was merely a relic whose product was
always an uncertainty. With no reason for the meat and no use for
the milk, our vegetarians and our purists gradually eliminated
them altogether. It was a strange age; utilitarian, scientific,
selfish; it was then headed straight for destruction."
And he went on to relate how men began to lose the power of
emotion; there were no dependent beasts to leaven his nature with
the salt of kindness; he thought only of his own aggrandisement.
He became like his machine, a fine thing of perfectly correlated
parts, but with no higher nature, no soul, no feeling; he was less
than a brute. The animals disappeared one by one, passing through
the channel of death, into the world beyond the Spot of Life,
leaving behind only these tiny survivors, playthings, kept in
existence longer than all others because of a mere fad.
"Does your spiritism include animals as well as men?"
"Naturally; everything that is endowed with life."
"I see. Let me ask you: why didn't the Rhamdas interfere and put a
stop to this wanton sacrilege against Nature?"
The Rhamda smiled. "You forget," replied he, "that these events
belong far in the past. At that time the Rhamdas were not. It was
even before the coming of the Jarados."
Watson asked no more questions for a while. He wanted to think.
How could this man Rhamda Geos, if indeed he were a man, accept
him, Watson, as a spirit? Solid flesh was not exactly in line with
his idea of the unearthly. How to explain it? He had to go back to
Holcomb again. The doctor had accepted without question Avec's
naturalness, his body, his appetite. Reasonably enough, Geos, with
some smattering of his superior's wisdom, should accept Watson in
the same way.
And then, the Jarados: at every moment his name had cropped up.
Who was he? So far he had heard no word that might be construed as
a clue. The great point, just now, was that the Rhamda Geos
accepted him as a spirit, as the fact and substance promised by
Avec. But--where was the doctor?
Chick ventured this question:
"My coming was foretold by the Rhamda Avec, I understand. Is this
in accord with the words of the Jarados?"
The Rhamda looked up expectantly and spoke with evident anxiety.
"Can you tell me anything about the Jarados?"
"Let us forgo that," side-stepped Watson. "Possibly I can tell you
much that you would like to know. What I want to know is, just how
well prepared you are to receive me?"
"Then you come from the Jarados!"
"What do you know about him?"
"This: someone should have preceded me! The fact and the
substance-you were to have it inside three days! It has been
several hundred times the space allotted! Is it not so?"
The Rhamda's eyes were pin-pointed with eagerness.
"Then it IS true! You are from the Jarados! You know the great
Rhamda Avec--you have seen him!"
"I have," declared Watson.
"In the other world? You can remember?"
"Yes," again committing himself. "I have seen Avec--in another
world. But tell me, before we go on I would have an answer to my
question: did anyone precede me?"
Watson was nonplussed, but he concealed the fact.
"Are you sure?"
"Quite, my dear sir. The Spot of Life was watched continually from
the moment the Rhamda left us."
"You mean, he and the Nervina?"
"Quite so; she followed him after an interval of a few hours."
"I know. But you say that no one came out ahead of me. Who was it
that guarded this--this Spot of Life? The Rhamdas?"
"They and the Bars."
"Ah! And who are the Bars?"
"The military priesthood. They are the Mahovisal, and of the
Temple of the Bell. They are led by the great Bar Senestro."
"And there were times when these Bars, led by this Senestro, held
guard over the Spot of Life?" To this Geos nodded; and Watson went
on: "And who is this great Senestro?"
"He is the chief of the Bars, and a prince of D'Hartia. He is the
affianced of the two queens, the Aradna and the Nervina."
"The TWO of them?"
Whereupon Watson learned something rather peculiar. It seemed that
the princes of D'Hartia had always married the queens. This
Senestro had had a brother, but he died. And in such an event it
was the iron custom that the surviving brother marry both queens.
It had happened only once before in all history; but the precedent
"Then, there is nothing against it?"
"Nothing; except, perhaps the prophecy of the Jarados. We now
know--the whole world knows--that we are fast approaching the Day
"Of course; the Day of Life." Watson decided upon another chance
shot. "It has to do with the marriage of the two queens!"
"You DO know!" cried the Rhamda joyously. "Tell me!"
"No; it is I who am asking the questions."
Watson's mind was working like lightning. Whether it was the
influence of the strange drink, or the equally strange influence
of ordinary inspiration, he was never more self-assured in his
life. It seemed a day for taking long chances.
"Tell me," he inquired, "what has the Day of Life to do with the
two queens and their betrothal?"
The Rhamda throttled his eagerness. "It is one of the obscure
points of the prophecy. There are some scholars who hold that such
a problem as this presages the coming of the end and the advent of
the chosen. But others oppose this interpretation, for reasons
purely material: for if the Bar Senestro should marry both queens
it would make him the sole ruler of the Thomahlia. Only once
before have we had a single ruler; for centuries upon centuries we
have had two queens; one of the D'Hartians, and the other of the
Kospians, enthroned here in the Mahovisal."
Watson would have liked to learn far more. But the time seemed one
for action on his part; bold action, and positive.
"Rhamda Geos--I do not know what is your version of the prophecy.
But you are positive that no one preceded me out of the Spot?"
"I am. Why do you persist?"
"Because"--speaking slowly and with the greatest care--"because
there was one greater than I, who came before me!"
The Rhamda rose excitedly to his feet, and then sank back into his
chair again. In his eyes was nothing save eagerness, wonder and
respect. He leaned forward.
"Who was it? Who was he?"
Watson's voice was steady as stone.
"The great Jarados himself!"
A LONG WAY FROM SHORE
Once more Watson had taken the kind of chance he preferred--a
slender one. He took the chance that these people, however occult
and advanced they might be, were still human enough to build their
prophecy out of an old foundation. If he were right, then the
person of the Jarados would be inviolable. If the professor were
prisoner, held somewhere in secret, and it got noised about that
he was the true prophet returned--it would not only give Holcomb
immense prestige, but at the same time render the position of his
Chick needed no great discernment to see that he had touched a
vital spot. The philosophy of the Rhamdas was firmly bound up with
spiritism; they had gone far in science, and had passed out of
mere belief into the deeper, finer understanding that went behind
the shadow for proof. Certainly Watson inwardly rejoiced to see
Rhamda Geos incredulous, his keen face whitening like that of one
who has just heard sacrilege uttered--to see Geos rise in his
place, grip the table tightly, and hear him exclaim:
"The Jarados! Did you say--the Jarados? He has come amongst us,
and we have not known? You are perfectly sure of this?"
"I am," stated Watson, and met the other's keen scrutiny without
Would the game work? At least it promised action; and now that he
had the old feeling of himself he was anxious to get under way.
Any feeling of fear was gone now. He calmly nodded his head.
"Yes, it is so. But sit down. I have still a bit more to tell
The Rhamda resumed his seat. Clearly, his reverence had been
greatly augmented in the past few seconds. From that time on there
was a marked difference in his manner; and his speech, when he
addressed Chick, contained the expression "my lord"--an expression
that Watson found it easy enough to become accustomed to.
"Did you doubt, Rhamda Geos, that I came from the Jarados?"
"We did not doubt. We were certain."
"I see. You were not expecting the Jarados."
"Not yet, my lord. The coming of the Jarados shall be close to the
Day of the Judgment. But it could not be so soon; there were to be
signs and portents. We were to solve the problem first; we were to
know the reason of the shadow and the why of the spirit. The
wisdom of the Rhamda Avec told that the day approaches; he had
opened the Spot of Life and gone through it; but he had NOT sent
the fact and the substance." Watson smiled. There was just enough
superstition, it seemed, beneath all the Rhamda's wisdom to make
him tractable. However, Chick asked:
"Tell me: as a learned man, as a Rhamda, do you believe in the
"Yes, my lord. I am a spiritist; and if spiritism is truth, then
the Jarados was genuine, and his prophecy is true. After all, my
lord, it is not a case of legend, but of history. The Jarados came
at a time of high civilisation, when men would see and understand
him; he gave us his teaching in records, and imposed his laws upon
the Thomahlia. Then he departed--through the Spot of Life."
And the Rhamda Geos went on to say that the teachings of the
Jarados had been moral as well as intellectual. Moreover, after he
had formulated his laws, he wrote out his judgment.
"What was that?"
"An exhortation, my lord, that we were to give proof of our
appreciation of intelligence. We were to use it, and to prove
ourselves worthy of it by lifting ourselves up to the level of the
Spot of Life. In other words, the spot would be opened when, and
only when, we had learned the secrets of the occult, and--had
opened the Spot ourselves!"
Watson thought he understood partly. He asked:
"And that is why you doubt me?"
"You, my lord? Not so! You were found in the Temple of the Bell
and Leaf; not on the Spot itself, to be sure, but on the floor of
the temple. You were, both in your person and in your dress, of
another world; you had been promised by the Rhamda Avec; and, in a
sense, you were a part of the prophecy. We accepted you!"
"But I speak your language. Account for that, Geos."
"It need not be accounted for, my lord. We accept it as fact. The
affinity of spirit would not be bound by the limitation of
artificial speech. That you should talk the Thomahlia language is
no more strange than that Rhamda Avec, when he passed into your
world, should speak your tongue."
"We call our language English," supplied Watson. "It is the tongue
of the Jarados and of myself."
"Tell me of the Jarados, my lord!" with renewed eagerness. "In the
other world--what is he?"
It was Chick's opportunity. By telling the simple truth about Dr.
Holcomb he would enhance himself in the eyes of Rhamda Geas.
"In the other world--we call it America--the Jaradas is a Rhamda
much like yourself, the head and chief of many Rhamdas sitting in
a great institution devoted to intelligence. It is called the
University of California."
"And this California; what is it, my lord?"
"A name," returned Chick. "Immediately on the other side of the
Spot is a region called California."
"The promised land, my lord!"
"The promised land indeed. There are some who call it paradise,
even there." And for good measure he proceeded to tell much of his
own land, of the woods, the rivers, the cities, animals,
mountains, the sky, the moon, and the sun. When he came to the sun
he explained that no man dared to look at it continuously with the
bare eyes. Its great heat and splendour astounded Geos.
Concerning himself he nonchalantly stated that he was the fiance
of Holcomb's daughter; that is, son-in-law-to-be of the prophet
Jarados; that he was sort of Junior Rhamda. He declared that he
had come from the occult Rhamdas, through the other side of the
Spot, in search of the Jarados who had gone before. As to his
blankness up to now, and his perplexity--he was but a Junior; and
the Spot had naturally benumbed his senses. Even now, he
apologised, it was difficult to know and to recall everything
Through it all the Rhamda Geos Listened in something like awe. He
was hearing of wonders never before guessed in the Thomahlia. As
the prospective son-in-law of the Jarados, Watson automatically
lifted himself to a supreme height, so great that, could he only
hold himself up to it, he would have a prestige second only to
that of the prophet himself.
All of a sudden he thought of a question. It gripped him with
dread, the dread of the unknown. The question was one of TIME.
"How long have I been here, Rhamda Geos?"
"Over eleven months, by our system of reckoning. You were found on
the floor of the temple three hundred and fifty-seven days ago;
you were in a lifeless condition; you must have been there some
hours, my lord, before we discovered you."
"Eleven months!" It had seemed but that many minutes. "And I was
"All the time, my lord. Had we caught you immediately upon your
coming, we could have brought you around within three days, but in
the circumstances it was impossible to restore you before we did.
You have been under the care of the greatest specialists in all
Geos himself had been one of these. "The council of Rhamdas went
into special session, my lord, immediately after your
materialisation, and has been sitting almost continually since.
And now that you are revived, they are waiting in person for you
to show yourself.
"They accept you. They do not know who you are, my lord; none of
us has guessed even a part of the truth. The entire council
But Chick wanted more. Besides, he looked at his clothing.
"I would have my own garments, Geos; also, whatever else was found
on my person."
For Watson was thinking of a small but powerful pistol, an
automatic, that he had carried on the night when he fell through
the Blind Spot. This question of materiality was still a puzzle;
if he himself had survived there was a chance that the firearm had
done the same. It might and it might not preclude the occult.
Anyway, he treasured the thought of that automatic; with it in his
possession he would not be bare-handed in case of emergency.
They returned to the room in which Chick had awakened. The Rhamda
left him. A few moments later he came back with a squad of men.
Chick noted their discipline, movement, and uniforms, and classed
them as soldiers. Two men were stationed outside the door--one, a
stout, dark individual in a blue uniform; and the other a lithe,
athletic chap, blond and blue-eyed, wearing a bright crimson
dress. Chick instinctively preferred both man and garb in crimson;
there was a touch of honour, of lightness and strength that just
suited him. The other was dark, heavy and sinister.
Both wore sandals, and upon their heads curious shakos, made of
the finest down, not fur. Both displayed a heavy silken braid
looped from one shoulder. Each carried a spear-like weapon, of
some shining black material, straight-tapered to a needle-point;
but no other arms.
Watson pointed to the two uniforms.
"What is the significance, Geos?"
"One is from the queen, my lord; the other from Bar Senestro. The
blue is the cloth of the Bars; the red, that of the queens. The
Bar and the queen send this bodyguard with their respective
Chick took the bundle that Geos had brought, and proceeded to don
his own clothes, finding deep satisfaction in the fact that they
had arrived as intact as he. He felt carefully in his hip pocket;
the automatic was still there, likewise the extra magazine of
cartridges that he had carried about with him on that night.
In his other pockets he found two packets of cigarettes, a pouch
of tobacco, some papers, a few coins, a little money and two
photographs, one of Bertha and the other of her father. Not a
thing had been disturbed.
He announced himself ready.
The Rhamda conducted him down the corridor, which he found to be
lined with guards; red on one side, blue on the other. These men
fell in behind in two parallel files, one of the one colour and
one of the other.
It was a building of great size. The corridors were long and high,
all with the wide-coved ceiling, and of colours that melted from
one shade to another as they turned, not corners, but curves.
Apparently each colour had its own suggestive reason. Such rooms
as Chick could look into were uniformly large, beautiful, and
The guard moved in silent rhythm; the chief sound was that made by
Watson's leather-heeled shoes, drowning out, for once, the
everlasting tinkling undertone of those unseen fairy-bells; that
running cadence, never ceasing, silver, liquid, like the soul of
Though Watson walked with head erect, he had eyes for every little
thing he passed. He noted the material of the structure and tried
to name it; neither plaster nor stone, the walls were highly
polished and, somehow or other, capable of emitting perfume--light
and wholesome, not heavy and oppressive. And in dark passages the
The corridor widened, and with a graceful curve opened upon a wide
stairway that descended, or rather sank--to use Watson's own words
for the feeling--into the depths of the building. To the right of
one landing was a large window reaching to the floor; its panes
were clear and not frosted as had been the others.
Chick got his first glimpse here of what lay outside--an
iridescent landscape, at first view astonishingly like an ocean of
opals; for it was of many hues, red and purple and milky white,
splashed violantin blue and fluorescence--a maze and shimmer of
dancing, joyful colours, whirring in an uncertainty of
polychromatic harmony. Such was his first fleeting impression.
At the next landing he looked closer. It was not unlike a monster
bowl of bubbles; the same illusion of movement, the same delicacy
and witchery of colour, only here the sensation was not that of
decomposition but of life; of flowers, delicate as the rainbow,
tenuous, sinuous, breathing--weaving in a serpentine maze of
daedalian hues; long tendrils of orchidian beauty, lifting,
weaving, drooping--a vast sea of equatorial bloom; but--no trees.
"This is our landscape," spoke the Rhamda. "According to the
Jarados, it is not like that of the next world--your world, my
lord. After you meet the Rhamdas, I shall take you into the
Mahovisal for a closer view of it all."
They reached the bottom of the stairway. Chick noted the
architecture in the entrance-way at this point; the seeming
solidness of structure, as if the whole had been chiselled, not
built. The vestibule was really a hall, domed and high, large
enough to shelter a hundred. Like the corridor outside Chick's
room, it was lined with a row each of red and blue uniformed
Invariably the one belonged to the blond, lithe, quick-feeling
type, the others heavy, sturdy, formidable. The extremities of the
two lines converged on an oval-topped doorway, very large, having
above it a design conventionalised from the three-leafed clover.
One leaf was scarlet, one blue, the other green.
The door opened. The guards halted. Geos stepped aside with a bow,
and Watson strode forward into the presence of the Council of the
THE BAR SENESTRO
It was a critical moment for Chick. Out of the impulse of his
inner nature he had chosen the odds that he must now uphold
against the combined wisdom of these intellectuals. He was alone,
with no one to guide him save Geos, who undoubtedly was his
friend, but who as undoubtedly would desert him upon the slightest
inkling of imposture.
He found himself in a great, round room, or rather an oval one,
domed at the top but tinted in a far more beautiful colouring--
lazuli blue. The walls were cut by long, narrow windows reaching
far up into the sweep where the side melted into the ceiling. The
material of the windows was of the same translucent substance
already noted, but slightly tinged with green, so that they shed a
soft light, cooled and quiet, over the whole assembly.
On the wall opposite the doorway was a large replica of the
clover-leaf design outside, even more gem-like in brilliance; its
three colours woven into a trinity almost of flame. Whether the
light was artificial or intrinsic, Chick could not say. The floor
of the place accommodated some three hundred tables, of the
library type, and the same number of men bearing the distinguished
stamp of the Rhamda. All were smooth-shaven, comparatively tall,
and possessing the same aesthetic manner which impressed one with
the notion of inherited, inherent culture. The entire hall had the
atmosphere of learning, justice and the supreme tribunal.
For a moment Watson felt weak and uncertain. He could hold up
against Geos and Avec, but in the face of such an array he wasn't
so sure. There was but one thing to encourage him; the faces into
which he looked. All were full of wonder and reverence.
Then he looked about him more carefully. He had come out upon a
wide platform, or rostrum. He now noticed that he was flanked on
either side by thrones--two of them; they seemed made of golden
amber. The one on the right was occupied by a man, the other by a
woman. In the pause that was vouchsafed him Chick took note of
these two, and wondered.
In the first place, the man was not a Rhamda. The jewelled semi-
armour that he wore was more significant than the dignified garb
of the Intellectuals; at the same time, his accoutrements
cheapened him, by contrast. He was executive, princely, with the
bearing that comes of worldly ambitions and attainments; a man
strangely handsome, vital, athletic; curling hair, dark, quick
eyes and even features; except only for the mouth he might have
been taken as a model of the Greek Alexander.
The clothes he wore were classic, as was everything else about
him, even to his sandals, his bare arms and his jewelled
Watson had studied history. He had a quick impression of a
composite--of genius, cruelty and sensuality. Here was one with
three strong natures, a sort of Nero, Caligula and Alexander
combined: the sensuality of the first, the cruelty of the second,
and the instinctive fire and greatness of the immortal Macedonian.
The man was smiling; not an amused smile, but one of interest,
When their eyes met, Chick caught the magnetic current of
personality, the same sense of illusiveness that he and Harry
Wendel had noted in the Nervina; only here it was negative,
resisting instead of aiding. A number of the blue guard surrounded
the throne, their faces dark, strong, and of unconquerable
resolution, though slow to think.
On the other throne was a girl. Chick had heard enough from the
Geos to guess her identity: one of the queens, the Aradna; frail,
delicate, a blue-eyed maiden, with a waving mass of straw-gold
hair hanging loosely about her shoulders. She too was classically
attired, although there were touches of modernity here and there
in the arrangement of ribbons; the garment matched her guards'
crimson, and was draped about her shoulders so as to leave one
bare, together with that arm. Across her forehead was a band of
dark-blue gems, and she wore no other jewels.
She was not more than seventeen or eighteen, with eyes like
bluebells, lips as red as poppies, features that danced with
delight and laughter and all the innocence that one would
associate with elfin royalty. Instinctively Chick compared her
with the Nervina.
The senior queen had the subtle magnetism, the uncountable
fascination, the poise and decision that held and dictated all
things to her fancy.
Not so the Aradna. Hers was the strength of simplicity, the frank,
open delight of the maiden, and at the same time all the charm and
suggestion of coming womanhood. When she caught Watson's eye she
smiled; a smile free and unrestrained, out of an open, happy
heart. She made a remark to one of her guards, who nodded a reply
after the manner of a friend, rather than a courtier.
Watson turned to the Geos, who stood somewhat to one side, and a
little to the rear.
"Yes. The queen of D'Hartia. The man on the other side is the Bar
Whatever feeling Chick entertained for the one was offset by what
he felt for the other. He was between two forces; his instinct
warned him of the Bar, sceptical, powerful, ruthless, a man to be
reckoned with; but his better nature went out to the young queen.
At a motion from Geos, the whole assembly of Rhamdas stood up. The
action was both dignified and reverent. Though Chick was, in their
eyes, a miracle, there was no unseemly staring nor jarring of
curiosity; all was quietness, ease, poise; the only sound was that
of the constant subtle music of those invisible bells.
Rhamda Geos began speaking. At the same time he placed a friendly
hand on Watson's shoulder, a signal for every other Rhamda to
resume his seat.
"The Fact and the Substance, my brothers."
Geos paused as he made use of the ultra-significant phrase. And
then, in a few rapid sentences, he ran over the synopsis of that
affair, beginning with some philosophy and other details that
Watson could only half understand, making frequent allusions to
the Jarados and other writers of prophecy; then he made some
mention of his own particular brand of spiritism and its stand on
materialisation. This he followed with an account of the finding
of Watson in the temple, his long sleep and ultimate reviving. At
greater length he repeated the gist of their conversation.
Not until then was there a stir among the Rhamdas. Chick glanced
over at the Aradna. She was listening eagerly, her chin cupped in
her hand, her blue eyes full of interest and wonder, and natural,
unfeigned, child-like delight.
Then the Bar caught Chick's glance; the newcomer felt the cold
chill of calculation, the cynical weight of the sceptic, and a
queer foreboding of the future; no light glance, but one like fire
and ice and iron. He wondered at the man's beauty and genius, and
at his emotional preponderance manifest even here before the
The Geos went on. His words, now, were simple and direct. Watson
felt himself almost deified by that reverent manner. The Rhamdas
listened with visibly growing interest; the Aradna leaned slightly
forward; even the Bar dropped his interest in Watson to pay closer
attention to the speaker. For Geos had come to the Jarados; he was
an orator as well as a mystic, and he was advancing Chick's words
with all the skill of a master of language, ascending effect--
climax--the Jarados had come among them, and--They had missed him!
For a moment there was silence, then a rustle of general comment.
Chick watched the Rhamdas, leaning over to whisper to each other.
Could he stand up against them?
But none of them spoke. After the first murmur of comment they
lapsed into silence again. It was the Bar Senestro who broke the
"May I ask, Rhamda Geos, why you make such an assertion? What
proof have you, to begin with, that this man," indicating Watson
with a nod, "is not merely one of ourselves: a D'Hartian or a
The Geos replied instantly: "You know the manner of his discovery,
Bar Senestro. Have you not eyes?" Geos seemed to think he had said
the last word.
"Surely," rejoined the Bar good-humouredly. "I have very good
eyes, Rhamda Geos. Likewise I have a mind to reason with; but my
imagination, I fear, is defective. What I behold is just such a
creature as myself; not otherwise. How hold you that this one is
proof out of the occult?"
"You are sceptical," returned the Rhamda, evenly. "Even as you
behold him, you are full of doubt. But do you not recall the words
of the great Avec? Do you not know the Prophecy of the Jarados?"
"Truly, Geos; I remember them both. Especially the writing on the
wall of the temple. Does not the prophet himself say: 'And behold,
in the last days there shall come among ye--the false ones. Them
ye shall slay'?"
"All very true, Bar Senestro. But you well know--we all know--that
the true prophecy was to be fulfilled when the Spot was opened.
Did not the fulfilment begin when the Avec and the Nervina passed
through to the other side?"
"The fulfilment, Geos? Perhaps it was the sign of the coming of
impostors! The end may not be until ALL the conditions are
But at this moment Aradna saw fit to speak.
"Senestro, would you condemn this one without allowing him a word
in his own defence? Is it fair? Besides, he does not look like an
impostor to me. I like his face. Perhaps he is one of the chosen!"
At the last word the Bar frowned. His glance shifted suddenly to
Watson, a swift look of ice-cold calculation.
"Very, very true, O Aradna. I, too, would have him speak in his
own behalf. Let him amuse us with his tongue. What would your
majesty care to hear, O Aradna, from this phantom?"
The words were of biting satire. Chick wheeled upon the Bar. Their
eyes clashed; an encounter not altogether to Watson's credit. He
was a bit unsteady, a trifle uncertain of his power. He had
calculated on the superstition of the Rhamdas to hold him up until
he caught his footing, and this unexpected scepticism was
disconcerting. However, he was no coward; the feeling passed away
almost at once. He strode straight up to the throne of the Bar;
and once more he spoke from sheer impulse:
"The Aradna has spoken true, O Senestro, or sinister, or whatever
you may be called. I demand fair hearing! It is my due; for I have
come from another world. I follow--the Jarados!"
If Watson had supposed that he had taken the Bar's measure, he was
mistaken. The prince's eyes suddenly glinted with a fierce
pleasure. Like a flash his antagonism shifted to something
astonishingly like admiration.
"Well spoken! Incidentally, you are well made and sound looking,
"Passably," replied Watson. "I do not care to discuss my
appearance, however. I am certainly no more ill-favoured than some
"And impertinent," continued the other, quite without malice. "Do
you know anything about the Bar, to whom you speak so saucily?"
"I know that you have intimated that I may be an impostor. You
have done this, after hearing what the learned Rhamda Geos has
said. You know the facts; you know that I have come from the
But it wasn't Watson's words that held the Bar's attention.
Chick's straight, well-knit form, his quick-trained actions,
overbalanced the question of the prophet in the mind of the man on
the throne. His delight was self-evident.
"Truly you are soundly built, stranger; you are made of iron and
whipcord, finely formed, quick and alert." He threw a word to one
of his heavy-faced attendants, then suddenly stood up and
descended from his throne. He came up and stood beside Watson.
Chick straightened. The prince was an inch the taller; his bare
arms long-muscled, lithe, powerful; under the pink skin Chick
could see the delicate, cat-like play of strength and vitality. He
sensed the strength of the man, his quick, eager, instinctive
glance, his panther-like step and certainty of graceful movement.
"Stranger," spoke the Bar, "indeed you ARE an athlete! What is
"Neither Kospian nor D'Hartian; I am an American. True, there are
some who have said that I am built like a man; I pride myself that
I can conduct myself like one."
"And speak impertinently." Still in the best of humour, the prince
coolly reached out and felt Watson's biceps. His eyes became still
brighter. If not an admirer of decorum, he could appreciate firm
flesh. "Sirra! You ARE strong! Answer me--do you know anything
about games of violence?"
"Several. Anything you choose."
But the prince shook his head. "Not so. I claim no unfair
advantage; you are well met, and opportune. Let it be a contest of
your own choosing. The greater honour to myself, the victor!"
But the little queen saw fit to interfere.
"Senestro, is this the code of the Bar? Is not your proposal
unseemly to so great a guest? Restrain your eagerness for strength
and for muscle! You have preferred charges against this man; now
you would hurl your body as well. Remember, I am the queen; I can
command it of you."
The Senestro bowed.
"Your wishes are my law, O Aradna." Then, turning to Watson: "I am
over-eager, stranger. You are the best-built man I have seen for
many a circle. But I shall best you." He paced to his throne and
resumed his seat. "Let him tell us his tale. I repeat, Geos, that
for all his beauty this one is an impostor. When he has spoken I
shall confute him. I ask only that in the end he be turned over to
It was plain that the Thomahlia was blest with odd rulers. If the
Bar Senestro was a priest, he was clearly still more of a soldier.
The fiery challenge of the man struck an answering chord in
Watson; he knew the time must come when he should weigh himself up
against this Alexander, and it was anything but displeasing to
"What must I say and do?" he asked the Rhamda Geos. "What do they
want me to tell them?"
"Just what you have told me: tell them of the Nervina, and of the
Rhamda Avec. The prince is a man of the world, but from the
Rhamdas you will have justice."
Whereat Chick addressed the Intellectuals. They seemed accustomed
to the outbursts of the handsome Bar, and were now waiting
complacently. In a few words Watson described the Nervina and
Avec; their appearance, manners--everything. Fortunately he did
not have to dissemble. When he had finished there was a faint
murmur of approval.
"It is proven," declared the girl queen. "It is truly my cousin,
the Nervina. I knew not the Rhamda, but from your faces it must
have been he, Senestro, what say you to this?"
But the Bar was totally unconvinced.
"All this is childish. Did I not say he is of our world--D'Hartian
or Kospian, or some other? Does not all Thomahlia know of the
Nervina? Few have seen the Rhamda Avec, but what of it? Some have.
What this stranger says proves nothing at all. I say, give him a
"The test?" from Geos, in a hushed tone.
"Just that. There is none who knows the likeness of the Jarados;
none but the absent Avec. None among us has ever seen his image.
It is a secret to all save the High Rhamda. Yet, in cases like
this, well may the Leaf be opened."
Watson, wondering what was meant, listened closely to the prince
as he continued: "It is written that there are times when all may
see. Surely this is such a time.
"Now let this stranger describe the Jarados. He says that he had
seen him; that he is the Prophet's prospective son-in-law. Good!
Let him describe the Jarados to us!
"Then open the Leaf! If he speaks true, we shall know him to be
from the Jarados. If he fail, then I shall claim him for purposes
of my own."
Whatever the motives of the Senestro, he surely had the genius of
quick decision. Watson knew that the moment had come to test his
luck to the uttermost. There was but one thing to do; he did it.
He said to the Rhamda Geos, in a tone of the utmost indifference:
"I am willing."
Geos was distinctively relieved, "It is good, my lord. Tell us in
simple words. Describe the Jarados just as you have seen him, just
as you would have us see him. Afterwards we shall open the Leaf."
And in a lower tone: "If you speak accurately I shall be
vindicated, my lord. I doubt not that you are a better man than
the prince; but place your reliance in the Truth; it will be one
more proof of the occult, and of the Day approaching."
Which is all that Watson told. But first he breathed a prayer to
One who is above all things occult or physical. He did not
understand where he was nor how he had got there; he only knew
that his fate was hanging on a toss of chance.
He faced the Rhamdas without flinching; and half closing his eyes
and speaking very clearly, he searched his memory for what he
recalled of the old professor. He tried to describe him just as he
had appeared that day in the ethics class, when he made the great
announcement; the trim, stubby figure of Professor Holcomb, the
pink, healthy skin, the wise, grey, kindly eyes, and the close-
cropped, pure white beard: all, just as Chick had known him. One
chance in millions; he took it.
"That is the Jarados as I have seen him; a short, elderly, wise,
There was not a breath or a murmur in comment. All hung upon his
words; there was not a sound in the room as he ceased speaking,
only the throb of his own heart and the subtle pounding of caution
in his veins. He had spoken. If only there might be a resemblance!
The Geos stepped forward a pace. "It is well said. If the truth
has been spoken, there shall be room for no dispute. It shall be
known throughout all Thomahlia that the Chosen of the Jarados has
spoken. Let the Leaf be opened!"
Chick never knew just what happened, much less how it was
accomplished. He knew only that a black, opaque wave ran up the
long windows, shutting off the light, so that instantly the
darkness of night enveloped everything, blotting out all that maze
of colour; it was the blackness of the void. Then came a tiny
light, a mere dot of flame, over on the opposite wall; a pin-point
of light it was, seemingly coming out of a vast distance like an
approaching star, growing gradually larger, spreading out into a
screen of radiance that presently was flashing with intrinsic
life. The corruscation grew brighter; little tufts of brilliance
shot out with all the stabbing suddenness of shooting stars. To
Chick it was exactly as though some god were pushing his way
through and out of fire. In the end the flame burst asunder,
diminished into a receding circle and sputtered out.
And in the place of the strange light there appeared the
illuminated figure of a man. Leaning forward, Chick rubbed his
eyes and looked again.
It was the bust of Professor Holcomb.
THE PERFECT IMPOSTOR
Chick gasped. Of all that assemblage--Rhamdas, guards, the
occupants of the two thrones--he himself was the most astounded.
Was the great professor in actual fact the true Jarados? If not,
how explain this miracle? But if he were, how to explain the
duality, the identity? Surely, it could not be sheer chance!
Fortunately for Chick, it was dark. All eyes were fixed on the
trim figure which occupied the space of the clover-leaf on the
rear wall. Except for Chick's strangled gasp, there was only the
hushed silence of reverence, deep and impressive.
Then another dot appeared. From its position, Watson took it to
come from another leaf of the clover; another light approaching
out of the void and cutting through the blackness exactly as the
first had come. It grew and spread until it had filled the whole
leaf; then, again the bursting of the flare, the diminishing of
the light, and its disappearance in a thin rim at the edge. And
this time there was revealed--
A handsome brown-haired DOG.
Watson of course, could not understand. The silence held; he could
feel the Rhamda Geos at his side, and hear him murmur something
which, in itself, was quite unintelligible:
"The four-footed one! The call to humility, sacrifice, and
unselfishness! The four-footed one!"
That was all. It was a shaggy shepherd dog, with a pointed nose
and one ear cocked up and the other down, very wisely inquisitive.
Chick had seen similar dogs many times, but he could not account
for this one; certainly not in such a place. What had it to do
with the Jarados?
Still the darkness. It gave him a chance to think. He wondered,
rapidly, how he could link up such a creature with his description
of the Jarados. What could be the purpose of a canine in occult
philosophy? Or, was the whole thing, after all, mere blundering
This is what bothered Chick. He did not know how to adjust
himself; life, place, sequence, were all out of order. Until he
could gather exact data, he must trust to intuition as before.
The two pictures vanished simultaneously. Down came the black
waves from the windows, gradually, and in a moment the room was
once more flooded with that mellow radiance. The Rhamda Geos
stepped forward as a murmur of awed approval arose from the
assembly. There was no applause. One does not applaud the
miraculous. The Geos took his hand.
"It is proven!" he declared. Then, to the Rhamdas: "Is there any
question, my brothers?"
But no word came from the floor. Seemingly superstition had
triumphed over all else. The men of learning turned none but
reverent faces toward Watson.
He forebore to glance at the Bar Senestro. Despite the triumph he
was apprehensive of the princes's keen genius. An agnostic is
seldom converted by what could be explained away as mere
coincidence. Moreover, as it ultimately appeared, the Bar now had
more than one reason for antagonising the man who claimed to be
the professor's prospective son-in-law.
"Is there any question?" repeated Rhamda Geos.
But to the surprise of Chick, it came from the queen. She was
standing before her throne now. Around her waist a girdle of satin
revealed the tender frailty of her figure. She gave Watson a close
scrutiny, and then addressed the Geos:
"I want to put one question, Rhamda. The stranger seems to be a
goodly young man. He has come from the Jarados. Tell me, is he
truly of the chosen?"
But a clear, derisive laugh from the opposite throne interrupted
the answer. The Bar stood up, his black eyes dancing with mocking
"The chosen, O Aradna? The chosen? Do not allow yourself to be
tricked by a little thing! I myself have been chosen by the
inherited law of the Thomahlia!" Then to Chick: "I see, Sir
Phantom, that our futures are to be intertwined with interest!"
"I don't know what you mean."
"No? Very good; if you are really come out of superstition, then I
shall teach you the value of materiality. You are well made and
handsome, likewise courageous. May the time soon come when you can
put your mettle to the test in a fair conflict!"
"It is your own saying, O Senestro!" warned Geos. "You must abide
by my Lord's reply."
"True; and I shall abide. I know nothing of black magic, or any
other. But I care not. I know only that I cannot accept this
stranger as a spirit. I have felt his muscles, and I know his
strength; they are a man's, and a Thomahlian's."
"Then you do not abide?"
"Yes, I do. That is, I do not claim him. He has won his freedom.
But as for endorsing him--no, not until he has given further
proof. Let him come to the Spot of Life. Let him take the ordeal.
Let him qualify on the Day of the Prophet."
"My lord, do you accept?"
Watson had no idea what the "ordeal" might be, nor what might be
the significance of the day. But he could not very well refuse. He
spoke as lightly as he could.