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The Second Deluge by Garrett P. Serviss

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Garrett P. Serviss


[Illustration: "THEY MEANT TO CARRY THE ARK WITH A RUSH" [Page 106] ]


What is here set down is the fruit of long and careful research among
disjointed records left by survivors of the terrible events described.
The writer wishes frankly to say that, in some instances, he has
followed the course which all historians are compelled to take by using
his imagination to round out the picture. But he is able conscientiously
to declare that in the substance of his narrative, as well as in every
detail which is specifically described, he has followed faithfully the
accounts of eyewitnesses, or of those who were in a position to know the
truth of what they related.





































An undersized, lean, wizen-faced man, with an immense bald head, as
round and smooth and shining as a giant soap-bubble, and a pair of beady
black eyes, set close together, so that he resembled a gnome of amazing
brain capacity and prodigious power of concentration, sat bent over a
writing desk with a huge sheet of cardboard before him, on which he was
swiftly drawing geometrical and trigonometrical figures. Compasses,
T-squares, rulers, protractors, and ellipsographs obeyed the touch of
his fingers as if inspired with life.

The room around him was a jungle of terrestrial and celestial globes,
chemists' retorts, tubes, pipes, and all the indescribable apparatus
that modern science has invented, and which, to the uninitiated, seems
as incomprehensible as the ancient paraphernalia of alchemists and
astrologers. The walls were lined with book shelves, and adorned along
the upper portions with the most extraordinary photographs and drawings.
Even the ceiling was covered with charts, some representing the sky,
while many others were geological and topographical pictures of the face
of the earth.

Beside the drawing-board lay a pad of paper, and occasionally the little
man nervously turned to this, and, grasping a long pencil, made
elaborate calculations, covering the paper with a sprinkling of
mathematical symbols that looked like magnified animalcula. While he
worked, under a high light from a single window placed well up near the
ceiling, his forehead contracted into a hundred wrinkles, his cheeks
became feverous, his piercing eyes glowed with inner fire, and drops of
perspiration ran down in front of his ears. One would have thought that
he was laboring to save his very soul and had but a few seconds of
respite left.

Presently he threw down the pencil, and with astonishing agility let
himself rapidly, but carefully, off the stool on which he had been
sitting, keeping the palms of his hands on the seat beside his hips
until he felt his feet touch the floor. Then he darted at a book-shelf,
pulled down a ponderous tome, flapped it open in a clear space on the
floor, and dropped on his knees to consult it.

After turning a leaf or two he found what he was after, read down the
page, keeping a finger on the lines, and, having finished his reading,
jumped to his feet and hurried back to the stool, on which he mounted so
quickly that it was impossible to see how he managed it--without an
upset. Instantly he made a new diagram, and then fell to figuring
furiously on the pad, making his pencil gyrate so fast that its upper
end vibrated like the wing of a dragon-fly.

At last he threw down the pencil, and, encircling his knees with his
clasped arms, sank in a heap on the stool. The lids dropped over his
shining eyes, and he became buried in thought.

When he reopened his eyes and unbent his brows, his gaze happened to be
directed toward a row of curious big photographs which ran like a
pictured frieze round the upper side of the wall of the room. A casual
observer might have thought that the little man had been amusing himself
by photographing the explosions of fireworks on a Fourth of July night;
but it was evident by his expression that these singular pictures had no
connection with civic pyrotechnics, but must represent something of
incomparably greater importance, and, in fact, of stupendous import.

The little man's face took on a rapt look, in which wonder and fear
seemed to be blended. With a sweep of his hand he included the whole
series of photographs in a comprehensive glance, and then, settling his
gaze upon a particularly bizarre object in the center, he began to speak
aloud, although there was nobody to listen to him.

"My God!" he said. "That's it! That Lick photograph of the Lord Rosse
Nebula is its very image, except that there's no electric fire in it.
The same great whirl of outer spirals, and then comes the awful central
mass--and we're going to plunge straight into it. Then quintillions of
tons of water will condense on the earth and cover it like a universal
cloudburst. And then good-by to the human race--unless--unless--I, Cosmo
Versal, inspired by science, can save a remnant to repeople the planet
after the catastrophe."

Again, for a moment, he closed his eyes, and puckered his hemispherical
brow, while, with drawn-up knees, he seemed perilously balanced on the
high stool. Several times he slowly shook his head, like a dreaming owl,
and when his eyes reopened their fire was gone, and a reflective film
covered them. He began to speak, more deliberately than before, and in a
musing tone:

"What can I do? I don't believe there is a mountain on the face of the
globe lofty enough to lift its head above that flood. Hum, hum! It's no
use thinking about mountains! The flood will be six miles deep--six
miles from the present sea-level; my last calculation proves it beyond
all question. And that's only a minimum--it may be miles deeper, for no
mortal man can tell exactly what'll happen when the earth plunges into a

"We'll have to float; that's the thing. I'll have to build an ark. I'll
be a second Noah. But I'll advise the whole world to build arks.

"Millions might save themselves that way, for the flood is not going to
last forever. We'll get through the nebula in a few months, and then the
waters will gradually recede, and the high lands will emerge again.
It'll be an awful long time, though; I doubt if the earth will ever be
just as it was before. There won't be much room, except for fish--but
there won't be many inhabitants for what dry land there is."

Once more he fell into silent meditation, and while he mused there came
a knock at the door. The little man started up on his seat, alert as a
squirrel, and turned his eyes over his shoulder, listening intently. The
knock was repeated--three quick sharp raps. Evidently he at once
recognized them.

"All right," he called out, and, letting himself down, ran swiftly to
the door and opened it.

A tall, thin man, with bushy black hair, heavy eyebrows, a high, narrow
forehead, and a wide, clean shaven mouth, wearing a solemn kind of
smile, entered and grasped the little man by both hands.

"Cosmo," he said, without wasting any time on preliminaries, "have you
worked it out?"

"I have just finished."

"And you find the worst?"

"Yes, worse than I ever dreamed it would be. The waters will be six
miles deep."

"Phew!" exclaimed the other, his smile fading. "That is indeed serious.
And when does it begin?"

"Inside of a year. We're within three hundred million miles of the
watery nebula now, and you know that the earth travels more than that
distance in twelve months."

"Have you seen it?"

"How could I see it--haven't I told you it is invisible? If it could be
seen all these stupid astronomers would have spotted it long ago. But
I'll tell you what I have seen."

Cosmo Versal's voice sank into a whisper, and he shuddered slightly as
he went on:

"Only last night I was sweeping the sky with the telescope when I
noticed, in Hercules and Lyra, and all that part of the heavens, a
dimming of some of the fainter stars. It was like the shadow of the
shroud of a ghost. Nobody else would have noticed it, and I wouldn't if
I had not been looking for it. It's knowledge that clarifies the eyes
and breeds knowledge, Joseph Smith. It was not truly visible, and yet I
could see that it was there. I tried to make out the shape of the
thing--but it was too indefinite. But I know very well what it is. See
here"--he suddenly broke off--"Look at that photograph." (He was
pointing at the Lord Rosse Nebula on the wall). "It's like that, only
it's coming edgewise toward us. We may miss some of the outer spirals,
but we're going smash into the center."

With fallen jaw, and black brows contracted, Joseph Smith stared at the

"It doesn't shine like that," he said at last.

The little man snorted contemptuously.

"What have I told you about its invisibility?" he demanded.

"But how, then, do you know that it is of a watery nature?"

Cosmo Versal threw up his hands and waved them in an agony of
impatience. He climbed upon his stool to get nearer the level of the
other's eyes, and fixing him with his gaze, exclaimed:

"You know very well how I know it. I know it because I have demonstrated
with my new spectroscope, which analyzes extra-visual rays, that all
those dark nebulae that were photographed in the Milky Way years ago are
composed of watery vapor. They are far off, on the limits of the
universe. This one is one right at hand. It's a little one compared with
them--but it's enough, yes, it's enough! You know that more than two
years ago I began to correspond with astronomers all over the world
about this thing, and not one of them would listen to me. Well, they'll
listen when it's too late perhaps.

"They'll listen when the flood-gates are opened and the inundation
begins. It's not the first time that this thing has happened. I haven't
a doubt that the flood of Noah, that everybody pretends to laugh at now,
was caused by the earth passing through a watery nebula. But this will
be worse than that; there weren't two thousand million people to be
drowned then."

For five minutes neither spoke. Cosmo Versal swung on the stool, and
played with an ellipsograph; Joseph Smith dropped his chin on his breast
and nervously fingered the pockets of his long vest. At last he raised
his head and asked, in a low voice:

"What are you going to do, Cosmo?"

"I'm going to get ready," was the short reply.


"Build an ark."

"But will you give no warning to others?"

"I'll do my best. I'll telephone to all the officials, scientific and
otherwise, in America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia. I'll write
in every language to all the newspapers and magazines. I'll send out
circulars. I'll counsel everybody to drop every other occupation and
begin to build arks--but nobody will heed me. You'll see. My ark will be
the only one, but I'll save as many in it as I can. And I depend upon
you, Joseph, to help me. From all appearances, it's the only chance that
the human race has of survival.

"If I hadn't made this discovery they would all have been wiped out like
miners in a flooded pit. We may persuade a few to be saved--but what an
awful thing it is that when the truth is thrust into their very faces
people won't believe, won't listen, won't see, won't be helped, but will
die like dogs in their obstinate ignorance and blindness."

"But they will, they must, listen to you," said Joseph Smith eagerly.

"They _won't_, but I must _make_ them," replied Cosmo Versal.
"Anyhow, I must make a few of the best of them hear me. The fate of a
whole race is at stake. If we can save a handful of the best blood and
brain of mankind, the world will have a new chance, and perhaps a better
and higher race will be the result. Since I can't save them all, I'll
pick and choose. I'll have the flower of humanity in my ark. I'll at
least snatch that much from the jaws of destruction."

The little man was growing very earnest and his eyes were aglow with the
fire of enthusiastic purpose. As he dropped his head on one side, it
looked too heavy for the stemlike neck, but it conveyed an impression of
immense intellectual power. Its imposing contour lent force to his

"The flower of humanity," he continued after a slight pause. "Who
composes it? I must decide that question. Is it the billionaires? Is it
the kings and rulers? Is it the men of science? Is it the society
leaders? Bah! I'll have to think on that. I can't take them all, but
I'll give them all a chance to save themselves--though I know they won't
act on the advice."

Here he paused.

"Won't the existing ships do--especially if more are built?" Joseph
Smith suddenly asked, interrupting Cosmo's train of thought.

"Not at all," was the reply. "They're not suited to the kind of
navigation that will be demanded. They're not buoyant enough, nor
manageable enough, and they haven't enough carrying capacity for power
and provisions. They'll be swamped at the wharves, or if they should get
away they'd be sent to the bottom inside a few hours. Nothing but
specially constructed arks will serve. And _there's_ more trouble
for me--I must devise a new form of vessel. Heavens, how short the time
is! Why couldn't I have found this out ten years ago? It's only to-day
that I have myself learned the full truth, though I have worked on it so

"How many will you be able to carry in your ark?" asked Smith.

"I can't tell yet. That's another question to be carefully considered. I
shall build the vessel of this new metal, levium, half as heavy as
aluminum and twice as strong as steel. I ought to find room without the
slightest difficulty for a round thousand in it."

"Surely many more than that!" exclaimed Joseph Smith. "Why, there are
ocean-liners that carry several times as many."

"You forget," replied Cosmo Versal, "that we must have provisions enough
to last for a long time, because we cannot count on the immediate
re-emergence of any land, even the most mountainous, and the most
compressed food takes space when a great quantity is needed. It won't do
to overcrowd the vessel, and invite sickness. Then, too, I must take
many animals along."

"Animals," returned Smith. "I hadn't thought of that. But is it

"Absolutely. Would you have less foresight than Noah? I shall not
imitate him by taking male and female of every species, but I must at
least provide for restocking such land as eventually appears above the
waters with the animals most useful to man. Then, too, animals are
essential to the life of the earth. Any agricultural chemist would tell
you that. They play an indispensable part in the vital cycle of the
soil. I must also take certain species of insects and birds. I'll
telephone Professor Hergeschmitberger at Berlin to learn precisely what
are the capitally important species of the animal kingdom."

"And when will you begin the construction of the ark?"

"Instantly. There's not a moment to lose. And it's equally important to
send out warnings broadcast immediately. There you can help me. You know
what I want to say. Write it out at once; put it as strong as you can;
send it everywhere; put it in the shape of posters; hurry it to the
newspaper offices. Telephone, in my name, to the Carnegie Institution,
to the Smithsonian Institution, to the Royal Society, to the French,
Russian, Italian, German, and all the other Academies and Associations
of Science to be found anywhere on earth.

"Don't neglect the slightest means of publicity. Thank Heaven, the money
to pay for all this is not lacking. If my good father, when he piled up
his fortune from the profits of the Transcontinental Aerian Company,
could have foreseen the use to which his son would put it for the
benefit--what do I say, for the benefit? nay, for the _salvation_--of
mankind, he would have rejoiced in his work."

"Ah, that reminds me," exclaimed Joseph Smith. "I was about to ask, a
few minutes ago, why airships would not do for this business. Couldn't
people save themselves from the flood by taking refuge in the

Cosmo Versal looked at his questioner with an ironical smile.

"Do you know," he asked, "how long a dirigible can be kept afloat? Do
you know for how long a voyage the best aeroplane types can be
provisioned with power? There's not an air-ship of any kind that can go
more than two weeks at the very uttermost without touching solid earth,
and then it must be mighty sparing of its power. If we can save mankind
now, and give it another chance, perhaps the time will come when power
can be drawn out of the ether of space, and men can float in the air as
long as they choose.

"But as things are now, we must go back to Noah's plan, and trust to the
buoyant power of water. I fully expect that when the deluge begins
people will flock to the high-lands and the mountains in air-ships--but
alas! that won't save them. Remember what I have told you--this flood is
going to be six miles deep!"

The second morning after the conversation between Cosmo Versal and
Joseph Smith, New York was startled by seeing, in huge red letters, on
every blank wall, on the bare flanks of towering sky-scrapers, on the
lofty stations of aeroplane lines, on bill-boards, fences,
advertising-boards along suburban roads, in the Subway stations, and
fluttering from strings of kites over the city, the following


Save Yourselves While It Is Yet Time!
Drop Your Business: It Is of No Consequence!
Build Arks: It Is Your Only Salvation!
The Earth Is Going To Plunge into a Watery
Nebula: There Is No Escape!
Hundreds of Millions Will Be Drowned: You Have
Only a Few Months To Get Ready!
For Particulars Address: Cosmo Versal,
3000 Fifth Avenue.



When New York recovered from its first astonishment over the
extraordinary posters, it indulged in a loud laugh. Everybody knew who
Cosmo Versal was. His eccentricities had filled many readable columns in
the newspapers. Yet there was a certain respect for him, too. This was
due to his extraordinary intellectual ability and unquestionable
scientific knowledge. But his imagination was as free as the winds, and
it often led him upon excursions in which nobody could follow him, and
which caused the more steady-going scientific brethren to shake their
heads. They called him able but flighty. The public considered him
brilliant and amusing.

His father, who had sprung from some unknown source in southeastern
Europe, and, beginning as a newsboy in New York, had made his way to the
front in the financial world, had left his entire fortune to Cosmo. The
latter had no taste for finance or business, but a devouring appetite
for science, to which, in his own way, he devoted all his powers, all
his time, and all his money. He never married, was never seen in
society, and had very few intimates--but he was known by sight, or
reputation, to everybody. There was not a scientific body or association
of any consequence in the world of which he was not a member. Those
which looked askance at his bizarre ideas were glad to accept pecuniary
aid from him.

The notion that the world was to be drowned had taken possession of him
about three years before the opening scene of this narrative. To work
out the idea, he built an observatory, set up a laboratory, invented
instruments, including his strange spectroscope, which was scoffed at by
the scientific world.

Finally, submitting the results of his observations to mathematical
treatment, he proved, to his own satisfaction, the absolute correctness
of his thesis that the well-known "proper motion of the solar system"
was about to result in an encounter between the earth and an invisible
watery nebula, which would have the effect of inundating the globe. As
this startling idea gradually took shape, he communicated it to
scientific men in all lands, but failed to find a single disciple,
except his friend Joseph Smith, who, without being able to follow all
his reasonings, accepted on trust the conclusions of Cosmo's more
powerful mind. Accordingly, at the end of his investigation, he enlisted
Smith as secretary, propagandist, and publicity agent.

New York laughed a whole day and night at the warning red letters. They
were the talk of the town. People joked about them in cafes, clubs, at
home, in the streets, in the offices, in the exchanges, in the
street-cars, on the Elevated, in the Subways. Crowds gathered on corners
to watch the flapping posters aloft on the kite lines. The afternoon
newspapers issued specials which were all about the coming flood, and
everywhere one heard the cry of the newsboys: _"Extra-a-a! Drowning of
a Thousand Million people! Cosmo Versal predicts the End of the
World!"_ On their editorial pages the papers were careful to discount
the scare lines, and terrific pictures, that covered the front sheets,
with humorous jibes at the author of the formidable prediction.

_The Owl,_ which was the only paper that put the news in half a
column of ordinary type, took a judicial attitude, called upon the city
authorities to tear down the posters, and hinted that "this absurd
person, Cosmo Versal, who disgraces a once honored name with his
childish attempt to create a sensation that may cause untold harm among
the ignorant masses," had laid himself open to criminal prosecution.

In their latest editions, several of the papers printed an interview
with Cosmo Versal, in which he gave figures and calculations that, on
their face, seemed to offer mathematical proof of the correctness of his
forecast. In impassioned language, he implored the public to believe
that he would not mislead them, spoke of the instant necessity of
constructing arks of safety, and averred that the presence of the
terrible nebula that was so soon to drown the world was already manifest
in the heavens.

Some readers of these confident statements began to waver, especially
when confronted with mathematics which they could not understand. But
still, in general, the laugh went on. It broke into boisterousness in
one of the largest theaters where a bright-witted "artist," who always
made a point of hitting off the very latest sensation, got himself up in
a lifelike imitation of the well-known figure of Cosmo Versal, topped
with a bald head as big as a bushel, and sailed away into the flies with
a pretty member of the ballet, whom he had gallantly snatched from a
tumbling ocean of green baize, singing at the top of his voice until
they disappeared behind the proscenium arch:

"Oh, th' Nebula is coming
To drown the wicked earth,
With all his spirals humming
'S he waltzes in his mirth.

"Don't hesitate a second,
Get ready to embark,
And skip away to safety
With Cosmo and his ark.

"Th' Nebula is a direful bird
'S he skims the ether blue!
He's angry over what he's heard,
'N's got his eye on you.

"Don't hesitate a second, etc.

"When Nebulas begin to pipe
The bloomin' O.H.[subscript]2
Y'bet yer life the time is ripe
To think what you will do.

"Don't hesitate a second, etc.

"He'll tip th' Atlantic o'er its brim,
And swamp the mountains tall;
He'll let the broad Pacific in,
And leave no land at all.

"Don't hesitate a second, etc.

"He's got an option on the spheres;
He's leased the Milky Way;
He's caught the planets in arrears,
'N's bound to make 'em pay.

"Don't hesitate a second, etc."

The roars of laughter and applause with which this effusion of
vaudeville genius was greeted, showed the cheerful spirit in which the
public took the affair. No harm seemed to have come to the "ignorant
masses" yet.

But the next morning there was a suspicious change in the popular mind.
People were surprised to see new posters in place of the old ones, more
lurid in letters and language than the original. The morning papers had
columns of description and comment, and some of them seemed disposed to
treat the prophet and his prediction with a certain degree of

The savants who had been interviewed overnight, did not talk very
convincingly, and made the mistake of flinging contempt on both Cosmo
and "the gullible public."

Naturally, the public wouldn't stand for that, and the pendulum of
opinion began to swing the other way. Cosmo helped his cause by sending
to every newspaper a carefully prepared statement of his observations
and calculations, in which he spoke with such force of conviction that
few could read his words without feeling a thrill of apprehensive
uncertainty. This was strengthened by published dispatches which showed
that he had forwarded his warnings to all the well-known scientific
bodies of the world, which, while decrying them, made no effective

And then came a note of positive alarm in a double-leaded bulletin from
the new observatory at Mount McKinley, which affirmed that during the
preceding night _a singular obscurity_ had been suspected in the
northern sky, seeming to veil many stars below the twelfth magnitude. It
was added that the phenomenon was unprecedented, but that the
observation was both difficult and uncertain.

Nowhere was the atmosphere of doubt and mystery, which now began to hang
over the public, so remarkable as in Wall Street. The sensitive currents
there responded like electric waves to the new influence, and, to the
dismay of hard-headed observers, the market dropped as if it had been
hit with a sledge-hammer. Stocks went down five, ten, in some cases
twenty points in as many minutes.

The speculative issues slid down like wheat into a bin when the chutes
are opened. Nobody could trace the exact origin of the movement, but
selling-orders came tumbling in until there was a veritable panic.

From London, Paris, Berlin, Vienna, St. Petersburg, flashed dispatches
announcing that the same unreasonable slump had manifested itself there,
and all united in holding Cosmo Versal solely responsible for the
foolish break in prices. Leaders of finance rushed to the exchanges
trying by arguments and expostulations to arrest the downfall, but in

In the afternoon, however, reason partially resumed its sway; then a
quick recovery was felt, and many who had rushed to sell all they had,
found cause to regret their precipitancy. The next day all was on the
mend, as far as the stock market was concerned, but among the people at
large the poison of awakened credulity continued to spread, nourished by
fresh announcements from the fountain head.

Cosmo issued another statement to the effect that he had perfected plans
for an ark of safety, which he would begin at once to construct in the
neighborhood of New York, and he not only offered freely to give his
plans to any who wished to commence construction on their own account,
but he urged them, in the name of Heaven, to lose no time. This produced
a prodigious effect, and multitudes began to be infected with a nameless

Meanwhile an extraordinary scene occurred, behind closed doors, at the
headquarters of the Carnegie Institution in Washington. Joseph Smith,
acting under Cosmo Versal's direction, had forwarded an elaborate
_precis_ of the latter's argument, accompanied with full
mathematical details, to the head of the institution. The character of
this document was such that it could not be ignored. Moreover, the
savants composing the council of the most important scientific
association in the world were aware of the state of the public mind, and
felt that it was incumbent upon them to do something to allay the alarm.
Of late years a sort of supervisory control over scientific news of all
kinds had been accorded to them, and they appreciated the fact that a
duty now rested upon their shoulders.

Accordingly, a special meeting was called to consider the communication
from Cosmo Versal. It was the general belief that a little critical
examination would result in complete proof of the fallacy of all his
work, proof which could be put in a form that the most uninstructed
would understand.

But the papers, diagrams, and mathematical formulae had no sooner been
spread upon the table under the knowing eyes of the learned members of
the council, than a chill of conscious impuissance ran through them.
They saw that Cosmo's mathematics were unimpeachable. His formulae were
accurately deduced, and his operations absolutely correct.

They could do nothing but attack his fundamental data, based on the
alleged revelations of his new form of spectroscope, and on telescopic
observations which were described in so much detail that the only way to
combat them was by the general assertion that they were illusory. This
was felt to be a very unsatisfactory method of procedure, as far as the
public was concerned, because it amounted to no more than attacking the
credibility of a witness who pretended to describe only what he himself
had seen--and there is nothing so hard as to prove a negative.

Then, Cosmo had on his side the whole force of that curious tendency of
the human mind which habitually gravitates toward whatever is
extraordinary, revolutionary, and mysterious.

But a yet greater difficulty arose. Mention has been made of the strange
bulletin from the Mount McKinley observatory. That had been incautiously
sent out to the public by a thoughtless observer, who was more intent
upon describing a singular phenomenon than upon considering its possible
effect on the popular imagination. He had immediately received an
expostulatory dispatch from headquarters which henceforth shut his
mouth--but he had told the simple truth, and how embarrassing that was
became evident when, on the very table around which the savants were now
assembled, three dispatches were laid in quick succession from the great
observatories of Mount Hekla, Iceland, the North Cape, and Kamchatka,
all corroborating the statement of the Mount McKinley observer, that an
inexplicable veiling of faint stars had manifested itself in the boreal
quarter of the sky.

When the president read these dispatches--which the senders had taken
the precaution to mark "confidential"--the members of the council looked
at one another with no little dismay. Here was the most unprejudiced
corroboration of Cosmo Versal's assertion that the great nebula was
already within the range of observation. How could they dispute such
testimony, and what were they to make of it?

Two or three of the members began to be shaken in their convictions.

"Upon my word," exclaimed Professor Alexander Jones, "but this is very
curious! And suppose the fellow should be right, after all?"

"Right!" cried the president, Professor Pludder, disdainfully. "Who ever
heard of a watery nebula? The thing's absurd!"

"I don't see that it's absurd," replied Professor Jones. "There's plenty
of proof of the existence of hydrogen in some of the nebulae."

"So there is," chimed in Professor Abel Able, "and if there's hydrogen
there may be oxygen, and there you have all that's necessary. It's not
the idea that a nebula may consist of watery vapor that's absurd, but it
is that a watery nebula, large enough to drown the earth by condensation
upon it could have approached so near as this one must now be without
sooner betraying its presence."

"How so?" demanded a voice.

"By its attraction. Cosmo Versal says it is already less than three
hundred million miles away. If it is massive enough to drown the earth,
it ought long ago to have been discovered by its disturbance of the
planetary orbits."

"Not at all," exclaimed Professor Jeremiah Moses. "If you stick to that
argument you'll be drowned sure. Just look at these facts. The earth
weighs six and a half sextillions of tons, and the ocean one and a half
quintillions. The average depth of the oceans is two and one-fifth
miles. Now--if the level of the oceans were raised only about 1,600
feet, practically all the inhabited parts of the world would be flooded.
To cause that increase in the level of the oceans only about one-eighth
part would have to be added to their total mass, or, say, one-seventh
part, allowing for the greater surface to be covered. That would be one
thirty-thousandth of the weight of the globe, and if you suppose that
only one-hundredth of the entire nebula were condensed on the earth, the
whole mass of the nebula would not need to exceed one three-hundredth of
the weight of the earth, or a quarter that of the moon--and nobody here
will be bold enough to say that the approach of a mass no greater than
that would be likely to be discovered through its attraction when it was
three hundred million miles away."

Several of the astronomers present shook their heads at this, and
Professor Pludder irritably declared that it was absurd.

"The attraction would be noticeable when it was a thousand millions of
miles away," he continued.

"Yes, 'noticeable' I admit," replied Professor Moses, "but all the same
you wouldn't notice it, because you wouldn't be looking for it unless
the nebula were visible first, and even then it would require months of
observation to detect the effects. And how are you going to get around
those bulletins? The thing is beginning to be visible now, and I'll bet
that if, from this time on, you study carefully the planetary motions,
you will find evidence of the disturbance becoming stronger and
stronger. Versal has pointed out that very thing, and calculated the
perturbations. This thing has come like a thief in the night."

"You'd better hurry up and secure a place in the ark," said Professor
Pludder sarcastically.

"I don't know but I shall, if I can get one," returned Professor Moses.
"You may not think this is such a laughing matter a few months hence."

"I'm surprised," pursued the president, "that a man of your scientific
standing should stultify himself by taking seriously such balderdash as
this. I tell you the thing is absurd."

"And I tell you, _you_ are absurd to say so!" retorted Professor
Moses, losing his temper. "You've got four of the biggest telescopes in
the world under your control; why don't you order your observers to look
for this thing?"

Professor Pludder, who was a very big man, reared up his rotund form,
and, bringing his fist down upon the table with a resounding whack,

"I'll do nothing so ridiculous! These bulletins have undoubtedly been
influenced by the popular excitement. There has possibly been a little
obscurity in the atmosphere--cirrus clouds, or something--and the
observers have imagined the rest. I'm not going to insult science by
encouraging the proceedings of a mountebank like Cosmo Versal. What
we've got to do is to prepare a dispatch for the press reassuring the
populace and throwing the weight of this institution on the side of
common sense and public tranquillity. Let the secretary indite such a
dispatch, and then we'll edit it and send it out."

Professor Pludder, naturally dictatorial, was sometimes a little
overbearing, but being a man of great ability, and universally respected
for his high rank in the scientific world, his colleagues usually bowed
to his decisions. On this occasion his force of character sufficed to
silence the doubters, and when the statement intended for the press had
received its final touches it contained no hint of the seeds of discord
that Cosmo Versal had sown among America's foremost savants. The next
morning it appeared in all the newspapers as follows:

_Official Statement from the Carnegie Institution_

In consequence of the popular excitement caused by the
sensational utterance of a notorious pretender to scientific
knowledge in New York, the council of this institution
authorizes the statement that it has examined the alleged
grounds on which the prediction of a great flood, to be caused
by a nebula encountering the earth, is based, and finds, as all
real men of science knew beforehand, that the entire matter is
simply a canard.

The nebulae are not composed of water; if they were composed of
water they could not cause a flood on the earth; the report that
some strange, misty object is visible in the starry heavens is
based on a misapprehension; and finally, the so-called
calculations of the author of this inexcusable hoax are baseless
and totally devoid of validity.

The public is earnestly advised to pay no further attention to
the matter. If there were any danger to the earth--and such a
thing is not to be seriously considered--astronomers would know
it long in advance, and would give due and official warning.

Unfortunately for the popular effect of this pronouncement, on the very
morning when it appeared in print, thirty thousand people were crowded
around the old aviation field at Mineola, excitedly watching Cosmo
Versal, with five hundred workmen, laying the foundations of a huge
platform, while about the field were stretched sheets of canvas
displaying the words:

Earnest Inspection Invited by All
Attendants will Furnish Gratis Plans for Similar
Small Arks Can Be Built for Families
Act While There Is Yet Time

The multitude saw at a glance that here was a work that would cost
millions, and the spectacle of this immense expenditure, the evidence
that Cosmo was backing his words with his money, furnished a silent
argument which was irresistible. In the midst of all, flying about among
his men, was Cosmo, impressing every beholder with the feeling that
intellect was in charge.

Like the gray coat of Napoleon on a battlefield, the sight of that
mighty brow bred confidence.



The utterance of the Carnegie Institution indeed fell flat, and Cosmo
Versal's star reigned in the ascendent. He pushed his preparations with
amazing speed, and not only politics, but even the war that had just
broken out in South America was swallowed up in the newspapers by
endless descriptions of the mysterious proceedings at Mineola. Cosmo
still found time every day to write articles and to give out interviews;
and Joseph Smith was kept constantly on the jump, running for
street-cars or trains, or leaping, with his long coat flapping, into and
out of elevators on ceaseless missions to the papers, the scientific
societies, and the meetings of learned or unlearned bodies which had
been persuaded to investigate the subject of the coming flood. Between
the work of preparation and that of proselytism it is difficult to see
how Cosmo found time to sleep.

Day by day the Ark of Safety rose higher upon its great platform, its
huge metallic ribs and broad, bulging sides glinting strangely in the
unbroken sunshine--for, as if imitating the ominous quiet before an
earthquake, the July sky had stripped itself of all clouds. No
thunder-storms broke the serenity of the long days, and never had the
overarching heavens seemed so spotless and motionless in their cerulean

All over the world, as the news dispatches showed, the same strange calm
prevailed. Cosmo did not fail to call attention to this unparalleled
repose of nature as a sure prognostic of the awful event in preparation.

The heat became tremendous. Hundreds were stricken down in the blazing
streets. Multitudes fled to the seashore, and lay panting under
umbrellas on the burning sands, or vainly sought relief by plunging into
the heated water, which, rolling lazily in with the tide, felt as if it
had come from over a boiler.

Still, perspiring crowds constantly watched the workmen, who struggled
with the overpowering heat, although Cosmo had erected canvas screens
for them and installed a hundred immense electric fans to create a

Beginning with five hundred men, he had, in less than a month, increased
his force to nearer five thousand, many of whom, not engaged in the
actual construction, were preparing the materials and bringing them
together. The ark was being made of pure levium, the wonderful new metal
which, although already employed in the construction of aeroplanes and
the framework of dirigible balloons, had not before been used for
shipbuilding, except in the case of a few small boats, and these used
only in the navy.

For mere raw material Cosmo must have expended an enormous sum, and his
expenses were quadrupled by the fact that he was compelled, in order to
save time, practically to lease several of the largest steel plants in
the country. Fortunately levium was easily rolled into plates, and the
supply was sufficient, owing to the discovery two years before of an
expeditious process of producing the metal from its ores.

The wireless telegraph and telephone offices were besieged by
correspondents eager to send inland, and all over Europe and Asia, the
latest particulars of the construction of the great ark. Nobody followed
Cosmo's advice or example, but everybody was intensely interested and

At last the government officials found themselves forced to take
cognizance of the affair. They could no longer ignore it after they
discovered that it was seriously interfering with the conduct of public
business. Cosmo Versal's pressing orders, accompanied by cash, displaced
or delayed orders of the government commanding materials for the navy
and the air fleet. In consequence, about the middle of July he received
a summons to visit the President of the United States. Cosmo hurried to
Washington on the given date, and presented his card at the White House.
He was shown immediately into the President's reception-room, where he
found the entire Cabinet in presence. As he entered he was the focus of
a formidable battery of curious and not too friendly eyes.

President Samson was a large, heavy man, more than six feet tall. Every
member of his Cabinet was above the average in avoirdupois, and the
heavyweight president of the Carnegie Institution, Professor Pludder,
who had been specially invited, added by his presence to the air of
ponderosity that characterized the assemblage. All seemed magnified by
the thin white garments which they wore on account of the oppressive
heat. Many of them had come in haste from various summer resorts, and
were plainly annoyed by the necessity of attending at the President's

Cosmo Versal was the only cool man there, and his diminutive form
presented a striking contrast to the others. But he looked as if he
carried more brains than all of them put together.

He was not in the least overawed by the hostile glances of the
statesmen. On the contrary, his lips perceptibly curled, in a
half-disdainful smile, as he took the big hand which the President
extended to him. As soon as Cosmo Versal had sunk into the embrace of a
large easy chair, the President opened the subject.

"I have directed you to come," he said in a majestic tone, "in order the
sooner to dispel the effects of your unjustifiable predictions and
extraordinary proceedings on the public mind--and, I may add, on public
affairs. Are you aware that you have interfered with the measures of
this government for the defense of the country? You have stepped in
front of the government, and delayed the beginning of four battleships
which Congress has authorized in urgent haste on account of the
threatening aspect of affairs in the East? I need hardly say to you that
we shall, if necessary, find means to set aside the private agreements
under which you are proceeding, as inimical to public interests, but you
have already struck a serious blow at the security of your country."

The President pronounced the last sentence with oratorical unction, and
Cosmo was conscious of an approving movement of big official shoulders
around him. The disdain deepened on his lips.

After a moment's pause the President continued:

"Before proceeding to extremities I have wished to see you personally,
in order, in the first place, to assure myself that you are mentally
responsible, and then to appeal to your patriotism, which should lead
you to withdraw at once an obstruction so dangerous to the nation. Do
you know the position in which you have placed yourself?"

Cosmo Versal got upon his feet and advanced to the center of the room
like a little David. Every eye was fixed upon him. His voice was steady,
but intense with suppressed nervousness.

"Mr. President," he said, "you have accused me of obstructing the
measures of the government for the defense of the country. Sir, I am
trying to save the whole human race from a danger in comparison with
which that of war is infinitesimal--a danger which is rushing down upon
us with appalling speed, and which will strike every land on the globe
simultaneously. Within seven months not a warship or any other existing
vessel will remain afloat."

The listeners smiled, and nodded significantly to one another, but the
speaker only grew more earnest.

"You think I am insane," he said, "but the truth is you are hoodwinked
by official stupidity. That man," pointing at Professor Pludder, "who
knows me well, and who has had all my proofs laid before him, is either
too thick-headed to understand a demonstration or too pig-headed to
confess his own error."

"Come, come," interrupted the President sternly, while Professor Pludder
flushed very red, "this will not do! Indulge in no personalities here. I
have, strained a point in offering to listen to you at all, and I have
invited the head of the greatest of our scientific societies to be
present, with the hope that here before us all he might convince you of
your folly, and thus bring the whole unfortunate affair promptly to an

"_He_ convince _me_ !" cried Cosmo Versal disdainfully. "He is
incapable of understanding the A, B, C of my work. But let me tell you
this, Mr. President--there are men in his own council who are not so
blind. I know what occurred at the recent meeting of that council, and I
know that the ridiculous announcement put forth in its name to deceive
the public was whipped into shape by him, and does not express the real
opinion of many of the members."

Professor Pludder's face grew redder than ever.

"Name one!" he thundered.

"Ah," said Cosmo sneeringly, "that hits hard, doesn't it? You want me to
name _one_; well, I'll name _three_. What did Professor
Alexander Jones and Professor Abel Able say about the existence of
watery nebula, and what was the opinion expressed by Professor Jeremiah
Moses about the actual approach of one out of the northern sky, and what
it could do if it hit the earth? What was the unanimous opinion of the
entire council about the correctness of my mathematical work? And what,"
he continued, approaching Professor Pludder and shaking his finger up at
him--"_what have you done with those three dispatches from Iceland,
the North Cape, and Kamchatka, which absolutely confirmed my
announcement that the nebula was already visible?_"

Professor Pludder began stammeringly:

"Some spy--"

"Ah," cried Cosmo, catching him up, "_a spy_, hey? Then, you admit
it! Mr. President, I beg you to notice that he admits it. Sir, this is a
conspiracy to conceal the truth. Great Heaven, the world is on the point
of being drowned, and yet the pride of officialism is so strong in this
plodder--Pludder--and others of his ilk that they'd sooner take the
chance of letting the human race be destroyed than recognize the truth!"

Cosmo Versal spoke with such tremendous concentration of mental energy,
and with such evident sincerity of conviction, and he had so plainly put
Professor Pludder to rout, that the President, no less than the other
listening statesmen, was thrown into a quandary.

There was a creaking of heavily burdened chairs, a ponderous stir all
round the circle, while a look of perplexity became visible on every
face. Professor Pludder's conduct helped to produce the change of moral
atmosphere. He had been so completely surprised by Cosmo's accusation,
based on facts which he had supposed were known only to himself and the
council, that he was unable for a minute to speak at all, and before he
could align his faculties his triumphant little opponent renewed the

"Mr. President," he said, laying his hand on the arm of Mr. Samson's big
chair, which was nearly on a level with his breast, and speaking with
persuasive earnestness, "you are the executive head of a mighty
nation--the nation that sets the pace for the world. It is in your power
to do a vast, an incalculable, service to humanity. One official word
from you would save millions upon millions of lives. I implore you,
instead of interfering with my work, to give instant order for the
construction of as many arks, based upon the plans I have perfected, as
the navy yard can possibly turn out. Issue a proclamation to the people,
warning them that this is their only chance of escape."

By a curious operation of the human mind, this speech cost Cosmo nearly
all the advantage that he had previously gained. His ominous suggestion
of a great nebula rushing out of the heavens to overwhelm the earth had
immensely impressed the imagination of his hearers, and his
uncontradicted accusation that Professor Pludder was concealing the
facts had almost convinced them that he was right. But when he mentioned
"arks," the strain was relieved, and a smile broke out on the broad face
of the President. He shook his head, and was about to speak, when Cosmo,
perceiving that he had lost ground, changed his tactics.

"Still you are incredulous!" he exclaimed. "But the proof is before you!
Look at the blazing heavens! The annals of meteorology do not record
another such summer as this. The vanguard of the fatal nebula is already
upon us. The signs of disaster are in the sky. But, note what I
say--this is only the _first_ sign. There is another following on
its heels which may be here at any moment. To heat will succeed cold,
and as we rush through the tenuous outer spirals the earth will
alternately be whipped with tempests of snow and sleet, and scorched by
fierce outbursts of solar fire. For three weeks the atmosphere has been
heated by the inrush of invisible vapor--but look out, I warn you, for
the change that is impending!"

These extraordinary words, pronounced with the wild air of a prophet,
completed the growing conviction of the listeners that they really had a
madman to deal with, and Professor Pludder, having recovered his
self--command, rose to his feet.

"Mr. President," he began, "the evidence which we have just seen of an
unbalanced mind--"

He got no further. A pall of darkness suddenly dropped upon the room. An
inky curtain seemed to have fallen from the sky. At the same time the
windows were shaken by tremendous blasts of wind, and, as the electric
lights were hastily turned on, huge snowflakes, intermingled with
rattling hailstones, were seen careering outside. In a few seconds
several large panes of glass were broken, and the chilling wind,
sweeping round the apartment, made the teeth of the thinly clad
statesmen chatter, while the noise of the storm became deafening. The
sky lightened, but at the same moment dreadful thunderpeals shook the
building. Two or three trees in the White House grounds were struck by
the bolts, and their broken branches were driven through the air and
carried high above the ground by the whirling winds, and one of them was
thrown against the building with such force that for a moment it seemed
as if the wall had been shattered.

After the first stunning effect of this outbreak of the elements had
passed, everybody rushed to the windows to look out--everybody except
Cosmo Versal, who remained standing in the center of the room.

"I told you!" he said; but nobody listened to him. What they saw outside
absorbed every faculty. The noise was so stunning that they could not
have heard him.

We have said that the air lightened after the passage of the first pall
of darkness, but it was not the reappearance of the sun that caused the
brightening. It was an awful light, which seemed to be born out of the
air itself. It had a menacing, coppery hue, continually changing in
character. The whole upper atmosphere was choked with dense clouds,
which swirled and tumbled, and twisted themselves into great vortical
rolls, spinning like gigantic millshafts. Once, one of these vortexes
shot downward, with projectile speed, rapidly assuming the terrible form
of the trombe of a tornado, and where it struck the ground it tore
everything to pieces--trees, houses, the very earth itself were ground
to powder and then whirled aloft by the resistless suction.

Occasionally the darkness returned for a few minutes, as if a cover had
been clapped upon the sky, and then, again, the murk would roll off, and
the reddish gleam would reappear. These swift alternations of
impenetrable gloom and unearthly light shook the hearts of the
dumfounded statesmen even more than the roar and rush of the storm.

A cry of horror broke from the onlookers when a man and a woman suddenly
appeared trying to cross the White House grounds to reach a place of
comparative safety, and were caught up by the wind, clinging desperately
to each other, and hurled against a wall, at whose base they fell in a

Then came another outburst of lightning, and a vicious bolt descended
upon the Washington Monument, and, twisting round it, seemed to envelop
the great shaft in a pulsating corkscrew of blinding fire. The report
that instantly followed made the White House dance upon its foundations,
and, as if that had been a signal, the flood-gates of the sky
immediately opened, and rain so dense that it looked like a solid
cataract of water poured down upon the earth. The raging water burst
into the basement of the building, and ran off in a shoreless river
toward the Potomac.

The streaming rain, still driven by the wind, poured through the broken
windows, driving the President and the others to the middle of the room,
where they soon stood in rills of water soaking the thick carpet.

They were all as pale as death. Their eyes sought one another's faces in
dumb amazement. Cosmo Versal alone retained perfect self-command. In
spite of his slight stature he looked their master. Raising his voice to
the highest pitch, in order to be heard, he shouted:

"These are the first drops of the Deluge! Will you believe now?"



The tempest of hail, snow, lightning, and rain, which burst so
unexpectedly over Washington, was not a local phenomenon. It leveled the
antennae of the wireless telegraph systems all over the world, cutting
off communication everywhere. Only the submarine telephone cables
remained unaffected, and by them was transmitted the most astonishing
news of the ravages of the storm. Rivers had careered over their banks,
low-lying towns were flooded, the swollen sewers of cities exploded and
inundated the streets, and gradually news came in from country districts
showing that vast areas of land had been submerged, and hundreds

The downfall of rain far exceeded everything that the meteorological
bureaus had ever recorded.

The vagaries of the lightning, and the frightful power that it
exhibited, were especially terrifying.

In London the Victoria Tower was partly dismantled by a bolt.

In Moscow the ancient and beautiful Church of St. Basil was nearly

The celebrated Leaning Tower of Pisa, the wonder of centuries, was flung
to the ground.

The vast dome of St. Peter's at Rome was said to have been encased
during three whole minutes with a blinding armor of electric fire,
though the only harm done was the throwing down of a statue in one of
the chapels.

But, strangest freak of all, in New York a tremendous bolt, which seems
to have entered the Pennsylvania tunnel on the Jersey side, followed the
rails under the river, throwing two trains from the track, and, emerging
in the great station in the heart of the city, expanded into a
rose-colored sphere, which exploded with an awful report, and blew the
great roof to pieces. And yet, although the fragments were scattered a
dozen blocks away, hundreds of persons who were in the stations suffered
no other injury than such as resulted from being flung violently to the
floor, or against the walls.

Cosmo Versal's great ark seemed charmed. Not a single discharge of
lightning occurred in its vicinity, a fact which he attributed to the
dielectric properties of levium. Nevertheless, the wind carried away all
his screens and electric fans.

If this storm had continued the predicted deluge would unquestionably
have occurred at once, and even its prophet would have perished through
having begun his preparations too late. But the disturbed elements sank
into repose as suddenly as they had broken out with fury. The rain did
not last, in most places, more than twenty-four hours, although the
atmosphere continued to be filled with troubled clouds for a week. At
the end of that time the sun reappeared, as hot as before, and a
spotless dome once more over-arched the earth; but from this time the
sky never resumed its former brilliant azure--there was always a strange
coppery tinge, the sight of which was appalling, although it gradually
lost its first effect through familiarity.

The indifference and derision with which Cosmo's predictions and
elaborate preparations had hitherto been regarded now vanished, and the
world, in spite of itself, shivered with vague apprehension. No
reassurances from those savants who still refused to admit the validity
of Cosmo Versal's calculations and deductions had any permanent effect
upon the public mind.

With amusing inconsequence people sold stocks again, until all the
exchanges were once more swept with panic--and then put the money in
their strong boxes, as if they thought that the mere possession of the
lucre could protect them. They hugged the money and remained deaf to
Cosmo's reiterated advice to build arks with it.

After all, they were only terrified, not convinced, and they felt that,
somehow, everything would come out right, now that they had their
possessions well in hand.

For, in spite of the scare, nobody really believed that an actual deluge
was coming. There might be great floods, and great suffering and loss,
but the world was not going to be drowned! Such things only occurred in
early and dark ages.

Some nervous persons found comfort in the fact that when the skies
cleared after the sudden downpour brilliant rainbows were seen. Their
hearts bounded with joy.

"The 'Bow of Promise!'" they cried. "Behold the unvarying assurance that
the world shall never again be drowned."

Then a great revival movement was set on foot, starting in the
Mississippi valley under the leadership of an eloquent exhorter, who
declared that, although a false prophet had arisen, whose delusive
prediction was contrary to Scripture, yet it was true that the world was
about to be punished in unexpected ways for its many iniquities.

This movement rapidly spread all over the country, and was taken up in
England and throughout Protestant Europe, and soon prayers were offered
in thousands of churches to avert the wrath of Heaven. Multitudes thus
found their fears turned into a new direction, and by a strange
reaction, Cosmo Versal came to be regarded as a kind of Antichrist who
was seeking to mislead mankind.

Just at this juncture, to add to the dismay and uncertainty, a grand and
fearful comet suddenly appeared. It came up unexpectedly from the south,
blazed brightly close beside the sun, even at noonday, and a few nights
later was visible after sunset with an immense fiery head and a broad
curved tail that seemed to pulsate from end to end. It was so bright
that it cast shadows at night, as distinct as those made by the moon. No
such cometary monster had ever before been seen. People shuddered when
they looked at it. It moved with amazing speed, sweeping across the
firmament like a besom of destruction. Calculation showed that it was
not more than 3,000,000 miles from the earth.

But one night the wonder and dread awakened by the comet were magnified
a hundredfold by an occurrence so unexpected and extraordinary that the
spectators gasped in amazement.

The writer happens to have before him an entry in a diary, which is,
probably, the sole contemporary record of this event. It was written in
the city of Washington by no less a person than Professor Jeremiah
Moses, of the Council of the Carnegie Institution. Let it tell its own

"A marvelous thing happened this night. I walked out into the park near
my house with the intention of viewing the great comet. The park on my
side (the west), is bordered with a dense screen of tall trees, and I
advanced toward the open place in the center in order to have an
unobstructed sight of the flaming stranger. As I passed across the edge
of the shadow of the trees--the ground ahead being brilliantly
illuminated by the light of the comet--I suddenly noticed, with an
involuntary start, that I was being preceded by a _double shadow_,
with a black center, which forked away from my feet.

"I cast my eyes behind me to find the cause of the phenomenon, and saw,
to my inexpressible amazement, that _the comet had divided into
two_. There were two distinct heads, already widely separated, but
each, it seemed to me, as brilliant as the original one had been, and
each supplied with a vast plume of fire a hundred degrees in length, and
consequently stretching far past the zenith. The cause of the double
shadow was evident at once--but what can have produced this sudden
disruption of the comet? It must have occurred since last evening, and
already, if the calculated distance of the comet is correct, the parts
of the severed head are 300,000 miles asunder!"

Underneath this entry was scribbled:

"Can this have anything to do with Cosmo Versal's flood?"

Whether it had anything to do with the flood or not, at any rate the
public believed that it had. People went about with fear written on
their faces.

The double shadows had a surprising effect. The phantasm was pointed
out, and stared at with superstitious terror by thousands every night.
The fact that there was nothing really mysterious about it made no
difference. Even those who knew well that it was an inevitable optical
result of the division of the bright comet were thrilled with
instinctive dread when they saw that forked umbra, mimicking their every
movement. There is nothing that so upsets the mind as a sudden change in
the aspect of familiar things.

The astronomers now took their turn. Those who were absolutely
incredulous about Cosmo's prediction, and genuinely desirous of allaying
the popular alarm, issued statements in which, with a disingenuousness
that may have been unintentional, they tried to sidetrack his arguments.

Professor Pludder led the way with a pronunciamento declaring that "the
absurd vaporings of the modern Nostradamus of New York" had now
demonstrated their own emptiness.

"A comet," said Professor Pludder, with reassuring seriousness, "cannot
drown the earth. It is composed of rare gases, which, as the experience
of Halley's comet many years ago showed, are unable to penetrate the
atmosphere even when an actual encounter occurs. In this case there
cannot even be an encounter; the comet is now moving away. Its division
is not an unprecedented occurrence, for many previous comets have met
with similar accidents. This comet happened to be of unusual size, and
the partition of the head occurred when it was relatively nearby--whence
the startling phenomena observed. There is nothing to be feared."

It will be remarked that Professor Pludder entirely avoided the real
issue. Cosmo Versal had never said that the comet would drown the earth.
In fact, he had been as much surprised by its appearance as everybody
else. But when he read Professor Pludder's statement, followed by others
of similar import, he took up the cudgels with a vengeance. All over the
world, translated into a dozen languages, he scattered his reply, and
the effect was startling.

"My fellow-citizens of the world in all lands, and of every race," he
began, "you are face to face with destruction! And yet, while its
heralds are plainly signaling from the sky, and shaking the earth with
lightning to awaken it, blind leaders of blind try to deceive you!

"They are defying science itself!

"They say that the comet cannot touch the earth. That is true. It is
passing away. I myself did not foresee its coming. It arrived by
accident, _but every step that it has made through the silent depths
of space has been a proclamation of the presence of the nebula_,
which is the real agent of the perdition of the world!

"Why that ominous redness which overcasts the heavens? You have all
noticed it. Why that blinding brightness which the comet has displayed,
exceeding all that has ever been beheld in such visitors. The
explanation is plain: the comet has been feeding on the substance of the
nebula, which is rare yet because we have only encountered some of its
outlying spirals.

"But it is coming on with terrible speed. In a few short months we shall
be plunged into its awful center, and then the oceans will swell to the
mountaintops, and the continents will become the bottoms of angry seas.

"When the flood begins it will be too late to save yourselves. You have
already lost too much precious time. I tell you solemnly that not one in
a million can now be saved. Throw away every other consideration, and
try, try desperately, to be of the little company of those who escape!

"Remember that your only chance is in building arks--arks of levium, the
metal that floats. I have sent broadcast plans for such arks. They can
be made of any size, but the larger the better. In my own ark I can take
only a selected number, and when the complement is made up not another
soul will be admitted.

"I have established all my facts by mathematical proofs. The most expert
mathematicians of the world have been unable to detect any error in my
calculations. They try to dispute the data, but the data are already
before you for your own judgment. The heavens are so obscured that only
the brightest stars can now be seen." (This was a fact which had caused
bewilderment in the observatories.) "The recent outburst of storms and
floods was the second sign of the approaching end, and the third sign
will not be long delayed--and after that the deluge!"

It is futile to try to describe the haunting fear and horror which
seized upon the majority of the millions who read these words. Business
was paralyzed, for men found it impossible to concentrate their minds
upon ordinary affairs. Every night the twin comets, still very bright,
although they were fast retreating, brandished their fiery scimitars in
the sky--more fearful to the imagination now, since Cosmo Versal had
declared that it was the nebula that stimulated their energies. And by
day the sky was watched with anxious eyes striving to detect signs of a
deepening of the menacing hue, which, to an excited fancy, suggested a
tinge of blood.

Now, at last, Cosmo's warnings and entreaties bore practical fruit. Men
began to inquire about places in his ark, and to make preparations for
building arks of their own.

He had not been interfered with after his memorable interview with the
President of the United States, and had pushed his work at Mineola with
redoubled energy, employing night gangs of workmen so that progress was
continuous throughout the twenty-four hours.

Standing on its platform, the ark, whose hull was approaching
completion, rose a hundred feet into the air. It was 800 feet long and
250 broad--proportions which practical ship-builders ridiculed, but
Cosmo, as original in this as in everything else, declared that, taking
into account the buoyancy of levium, no other form would answer as well.
He estimated that when its great engines were in place, its immense
stores of material for producing power, its ballast, and its supplies of
food stowed away, and its cargo of men and animals taken aboard, it
would not draw more than twenty feet of water.

Hardly a day passed now without somebody coming to Cosmo to inquire
about the best method of constructing arks. He gave the required
information, in all possible detail, with the utmost willingness. He
drew plans and sketches, made all kinds of practical suggestions, and
never failed to urge the utmost haste. He inspired every visitor at the
same time with alarm and a resolution to go to work at once.

Some did go to work. But their progress was slow, and as days passed,
and the comets gradually faded out of sight, and then the dome of the
sky showed a tendency to resume its natural blueness, the enthusiasm of
Cosmo's imitators weakened, together with their confidence in his
prophetic powers.

They concluded to postpone their operations until the need of arks
should become more evident.

As to those who had sent inquiries about places in Cosmo's ark, now that
the danger seemed to be blowing away, they did not even take the trouble
to answer the very kind responses that he had made.

It is a singular circumstance that not one of these anxious inquirers
seemed to have paid particular attention to a very significant sentence
in his reply. If they had given it a little thought, it would probably
have set them pondering, although they might have been more puzzled than
edified. The sentence ran as follows:

"While assuring you that my ark has been built for the benefit of my
fellow men, I am bound to tell you that I reserve absolutely the right
to determine who are truly representative of _homo sapiens_."

The fact was that Cosmo had been turning over in his mind the great
fundamental question which he had asked himself when the idea of trying
to save the human race from annihilation had first occurred to him, and
apparently he had fixed upon certain principles that were to guide him.

Since, when the mind is under great strain through fear, the slightest
relaxation, caused by an apparently favorable change, produces a rebound
of hope, as unreasoning as the preceding terror, so, on this occasion,
the vanishing of the comets, and the fading of the disquieting color of
the sky, had a wonderful effect in restoring public confidence in the
orderly procession of nature.

Cosmo Versal's vogue as a prophet of disaster was soon gone, and once
more everybody began to laugh at him. People turned again to their
neglected affairs with the general remark that they "guessed the world
would manage to wade through."

Those who had begun preparations to build arks looked very sheepish when
their friends guyed them about their childish credulity.

Then a feeling of angry resentment arose, and one day Cosmo Versal was
mobbed in the street, and the gamins threw stones at him.

People forgot the extraordinary storm of lightning and rain, the split
comet, and all the other circumstances which, a little time before, had
filled them with terror.

But they were making a fearful mistake!

With eyes blindfolded they were walking straight into the jaws of

Without warning, and as suddenly almost as an explosion, the _third
sign_ appeared, and on its heels came a veritable Reign of Terror!



In the middle of the night, at New York, hundreds of thousands
simultaneously awoke with a feeling of suffocation.

They struggled for breath as if they had suddenly been plunged into a
steam bath.

The air was hot, heavy, and terribly oppressive.

The throwing open of windows brought no relief. The outer air was as
stifling as that within.

It was so dark that, on looking out, one could not see his own
doorsteps. The arc-lamps in the street flickered with an ineffective
blue gleam which shed no illumination round about.

House lights, when turned on, looked like tiny candles inclosed in thick
blue globes.

Frightened men and women stumbled around in the gloom of their chambers
trying to dress themselves.

Cries and exclamations rang from room to room; children wailed;
hysterical mothers ran wildly hither and thither, seeking their little
ones. Many fainted, partly through terror and partly from the difficulty
of breathing. Sick persons, seized with a terrible oppression of the
chest, gasped, and never rose from their beds.

At every window, and in every doorway, throughout the vast city,
invisible heads and forms were crowded, making their presence known by
their voices--distracted householders striving to peer through the
strange darkness, and to find out the cause of these terrifying

Some managed to get a faint glimpse of their watches by holding them
close against lamps, and thus noted the time. It was two o'clock in the

Neighbors, unseen, called to one another, but got little comfort from
the replies.

"What is it? In God's name, what has happened?"

"I don't know. I can hardly breathe."

"It is awful! We shall all be suffocated."

"Is it a fire?"

"No! No! It cannot be a fire."

"The air is full of steam. The stones and the window-panes are streaming
with moisture."

"Great Heavens, how stifling it is!"

Then, into thousands of minds at once leaped the thought of _the

The memory of Cosmo Versal's reiterated warnings came back with
overwhelming force. It must be the _third sign_ that he had
foretold. _It had really come!_

Those fateful words--"the flood" and "Cosmo Versal"--ran from lip to
lip, and the hearts of those who spoke, and those who heard, sank like
lead in their bosoms.

He would be a bold man, more confident in his powers of description than
the present writer, who should attempt to picture the scenes in New York
on that fearful night.

The gasping and terror-stricken millions waited and longed for the hour
of sunrise, hoping that then the stygian darkness would be dissipated,
so that people might, at least, see where to go and what to do. Many,
oppressed by the almost unbreathable air, gave up in despair, and no
longer even hoped for morning to come.

In the midst of it all a collision occurred directly over Central Park
between two aero-expresses, one coming from Boston and the other from
Albany. (The use of small aeroplanes within the city limits had, for
some time, been prohibited on account of the constant danger of
collisions, but the long-distance lines were permitted to enter the
metropolitan district, making their landings and departures on specially
constructed towers.) These two, crowded with passengers, had, as it
afterward appeared, completely lost their bearings--the strongest
electric lights being invisible a few hundred feet away, while the
wireless signals were confusing--and, before the danger was apprehended,
they crashed together.

The collision occurred at a height of a thousand feet, on the Fifth
Avenue side of the park. Both of the airships had their aeroplanes
smashed and their decks crumpled up, and the unfortunate crews and
passengers were hurled through the impenetrable darkness to the ground.

Only four or five, who were lucky enough to be entangled with the
lighter parts of the wreckage, escaped with their lives. But they were
too much injured to get upon their feet, and there they lay, their
sufferings made tenfold worse by the stifling air, and the horror of
their inexplicable situation, until they were found and humanely
relieved, more than ten hours after their fall.

The noise of the collision had been heard in Fifth Avenue, and its
meaning was understood; but amid the universal terror no one thought of
trying to aid the victims. Everybody was absorbed in wondering what
would become of himself.

When the long attended hour of sunrise approached, the watchers were
appalled by the absence of even the slightest indication of the
reappearance of the orb of day. There was no lightening of the dense
cloak of darkness, and the great city seemed dead.

For the first time in its history it failed to awake after its regular
period of repose, and to send forth its myriad voices. It could not be
seen; it could not be heard; it made no sign. As far as any outward
indication of its existence was concerned the mighty capital had ceased
to be.

It was this frightful silence of the streets, and of all the outer
world, that terrified the people, cooped up in their houses, and their
rooms, by the walls of darkness, more than almost any other
circumstance; it gave such an overwhelming sense of the universality of
the disaster, whatever that disaster might be. Except where the voices
of neighbors could be heard, one could not be sure that the whole
population, outside his own family, had not perished.

As the hours passed, and yet no light appeared, another intimidating
circumstance manifested itself. From the start everybody had noticed the
excessive humidity of the dense air. Every solid object that the hands
came in contact with in the darkness was wet, as if a thick fog had
condensed upon it. This supersaturation of the air (a principal cause of
the difficulty experienced in breathing) led to a result which would
quickly have been foreseen if people could have had the use of their
eyes, but which, coming on invisibly, produced a panic fear when at last
its presence was strikingly forced upon the attention.

The moisture collected on all exposed surfaces--on the roofs, the walls,
the pavements--until its quantity became sufficient to form little
rills, which sought the gutters, and there gathered force and volume.
Presently the streams became large enough to create a noise of flowing
water that attracted the attention of the anxious watchers at the open
windows. Then cries of dismay arose. If the water had been visible it
would not have been terrible.

But, to the overstrained imagination, the bubbling and splashing sound
that came out of the darkness was magnified into the rush of a torrent.
It seemed to grow louder every moment. What was but a murmur on the
ear-drum became a roar in the excited brain-cells.

Once more were heard the ominous words, "The flood!"

They spread from room to room, and from house to house. The wild scenes
that had attended the first awakening were tame in comparison with what
now occurred. Self-control, reason--everything--gave way to panic.

If they could only have _seen_ what they were about!

But then they would not have been about it. Then their reason would not
have been dethroned.

Darkness is the microscope of the imagination, and it magnifies a
million times!

Some timorously descended their doorsteps, and feeling a current of
water in the gutter, recoiled with cries of horror, as if they had
slipped down the bank of a flooded river. As they retreated they
believed that the water was rising at their heels!

Others made their way to the roofs, persuaded that the flood was already
inundating the basements and the lower stories of their dwellings.

Women wrung their hands and wept, and children cried, and men pushed and
stumbled about, and shouted, and would have done something if only they
could have seen what to do. That was the pity of it! It was as if the
world had been stricken blind, and then the trump of an archangel had
sounded, crying:

"Fly! Fly! for the Avenger is on your heels!"

How could they fly?

This awful strain could not have lasted. It would have needed no deluge
to finish New York if that maddening pall of darkness had remained
unbroken a few hours longer. But, just when thousands had given up in
despair, there came a rapid change.

At the hour of noon light suddenly broke overhead. Beginning in a round
patch inclosed in an iridescent halo, it spread swiftly, seeming to melt
its way down through the thick, dark mass that choked the air, and in
less than fifteen minutes New York and all its surroundings emerged into
the golden light of noonday.

People who had expected at any moment to feel the water pitilessly
rising about them looked out of their windows, and were astonished to
see only tiny rivulets which were already shriveling out of sight in the
gutters. In a few minutes there was no running water left, although the
dampness on the walls and walks showed how great the humidity of the air
had been.

At the same time the oppression was lifted from the respiratory
apparatus, and everybody breathed freely once more, and felt courage
returning with each respiration.

The whole great city seemed to utter a vast sigh of relief.

And then its voice was heard, as it had never been heard before, rising
higher and louder every moment. It was the first time that morning had
ever broken at midday.

The streets became filled, with magical quickness, by hundreds of
thousands, who chattered, and shouted, and laughed, and shook hands, and
asked questions, and told their experiences, and demanded if anybody had
ever heard of such a thing before, and wondered what it could have been,
and what it meant, and whether it would come back again.

Telephones of all kinds were kept constantly busy. Women called up their
friends, and talked hysterically; men called up their associates and
partners, and tried to talk business.

There was a rush for the Elevated, for the Subways, for the street
auto-cars. The great arteries of traffic became jammed, and the noise
rose louder and louder.

Belated aero-expresses arrived at the towers from East and West, and
their passengers hurried down to join the excited multitudes below.

In an incredibly brief time the newsboys were out with extras. Then
everybody read with the utmost avidity what everybody knew already.

But before many hours passed there was real news, come by wireless, and
by submarine telephone and telegraph, telling how the whole world had
been swept by the marvelous cloak of darkness.

In Europe it had arrived during the morning hours; in Asia during the

The phenomena had varied in different places. In some the darkness had
not been complete, but everywhere it was accompanied by extraordinary
humidity, and occasionally by brief but torrential rains. The terror had
been universal, and all believed that it was the _third sign_
predicted by Cosmo Versal.

Of course, the latter was interviewed, and he gave out a characteristic

"One of the outlying spirals of the nebula has struck the earth," he
said. "But do not be deceived. It is nothing in comparison with what is
coming. _And it is the LAST WARNING that will be given!_ You have
obstinately shut your eyes to the truth, _and you have thrown away
your lives!_"

This, together with the recent awful experience, produced a great
effect. Those who had begun to lay foundations for arks thought of
resuming the work. Those who had before sought places with Cosmo called
him up by telephone. But only the voice of Joseph Smith answered, and
his words were not reassuring.

"Mr. Versal," he said, "directs me to say that at present he will allot
no places. He is considering whom he will take."

The recipients of this reply looked very blank. But at least one of
them, a well-known broker in Wall Street, was more angered than

"Let him go to the deuce!" he growled; "him and his flood together!"

Then he resolutely set out to bull the market.

It seems incredible--but such is human nature--that a few days of bright
sunshine should once more have driven off the clouds of fear that had
settled so densely over the popular mind. Of course, not everybody
forgot the terrors of the _third sign_--they had struck too deep,
but gradually the strain was relaxed, and people in general accepted the
renewed assurances of the savants of the Pludder type that nothing that
had occurred was inexplicable by the ordinary laws of nature. The great
darkness, they averred, differed from previous occurrences of the kind
only in degree, and it was to be ascribed to nothing more serious than
atmospheric vagaries, such as that which produced the historic Dark Day
in New England in the year 1780.

But more nervous persons noticed, with certain misgivings, that Cosmo
Versal pushed on his operations, if possible more energetically than
before. And there was a stir of renewed interest when the announcement
came out one day that the ark was finished. Then thousands hurried to
Mineola to look upon the completed work.

The extraordinary massiveness of the ark was imposing. Towering
ominously on its platform, which was so arranged that when the waters
came they should lift the structure from its cradle and set it afloat
without any other launching, it seemed in itself a prophecy of impending

Overhead it was roofed with an oblong dome of levium, through which rose
four great metallic chimneys, placed above the mighty engines. The roof
sloped down to the vertical sides, to afford protection from in-bursting
waves. Rows of portholes, covered with thick, stout glass, indicated the
location of the superposed decks. On each side four gangways gave access
to the interior, and long, sloping approaches offered means of entry
from the ground.

Cosmo had a force of trained guards on hand, but everybody who wished
was permitted to enter and inspect the ark. Curious multitudes
constantly mounted and descended the long approaches, being kept moving
by the guards.

Inside they wandered about astonished by what they saw.

The three lower decks were devoted to the storage of food and of fuel
for the electric generators which Cosmo Versal had been accumulating for

Above these were two decks, which the visitors were informed would be
occupied by animals, and by boxes of seeds and prepared roots of plants,
with which it was intended to restore the vegetable life of the planet
after the water should have sufficiently receded.

The five remaining decks were for human beings. There were roomy
quarters for the commander and his officers, others for the crew,
several large saloons, and five hundred sets of apartments of various
sizes to be occupied by the passengers whom Cosmo should choose to
accompany him. They had all the convenience of the most luxurious
staterooms of the trans-oceanic liners. Many joking remarks were
exchanged by the visitors as they inspected these rooms.

Cosmo ran about among his guests, explaining everything, showing great
pride in his work, pointing out a thousand particulars in which his
foresight had been displayed--but, to everybody's astonishment, he
uttered no more warnings, and made no appeals. On the contrary, as some
observant persons noticed, he seemed to avoid any reference to the fate
of those who should not be included in his ship's company.

Some sensitive souls were disturbed by detecting in his eyes a look that
seemed to express deep pity and regret. Occasionally he would draw
apart, and gaze at the passing crowds with a compassionate expression,
and then, slowly turning his back, while his fingers worked nervously,
would disappear, with downcast head, in his private room.

The comparatively few who particularly noticed this conduct of Cosmo's
were deeply moved--more than they had been by all the enigmatic events
of the past months. One man, Amos Blank, a rich manufacturer, who was
notorious for the merciless methods that he had pursued in eliminating
his weaker competitors, was so much disturbed by Cosmo Versal's change
of manner that he sought an opportunity to speak to him privately. Cosmo
received him with a reluctance that he could not but notice, and which,
somehow, increased his anxiety.

"I--I--thought," said the billionaire hesitatingly, "that I ought--that
is to say, that I might, perhaps, inquire--might inform myself--under
what conditions one could, supposing the necessity to arise, obtain a
passage in your--in your ark. Of course the question of cost does not
enter in the matter--not with me."

Cosmo gazed at the man coldly, and all the compassion that had recently
softened his steely eyes disappeared. For a moment he did not speak.
Then he said, measuring his words and speaking with an emphasis that
chilled the heart of his listener:

"Mr. Blank, the necessity has arisen."

"So you say--so you say--" began Mr. Blank.

"So I say," interrupted Cosmo sternly, "and I say further that this ark
has been constructed to save those who are worthy of salvation, in order
that all that is good and admirable in humanity may not perish from the

"Exactly, exactly," responded the other, smiling, and rubbing his hands.
"You are quite right to make a proper choice. If your flood is going to
cause a general destruction of mankind, of course you are bound to
select the best, the most advanced, those who have pushed to the front,
those who have means, those with the strongest resources. The masses,
who possess none of these qualifications and claims--"

Again Cosmo Versal interrupted him, more coldly than before:

"It costs nothing to be a passenger in this ark. Ten million dollars, a
hundred millions, would not purchase a place in it! Did you ever hear
the parable of the camel and the needle's eye? The price of a ticket
here is an irreproachable record!"

With these astonishing words Cosmo turned his back upon his visitor and
shut the door in his face.

The billionaire staggered back, rubbed his head, and then went off

"An idiot! A plain idiot! There will be no flood."



After a day or two, during which the ark was left open for inspection,
and was visited by many thousands, Cosmo Versal announced that no more
visitors would be admitted. He placed sentinels at all entrances, and
began the construction of a shallow ditch, entirely inclosing the
grounds. Public curiosity was intensely excited by this singular
proceeding, especially when it became known that the workmen were
stringing copper wires the whole length of the ditch.

"What the deuce is he up to now?" was the question on everybody's lips.

But Cosmo and his employees gave evasive replies to all inquiries. A
great change had come about in Cosmo's treatment of the public. No one
was any longer encouraged to watch the operations.

When the wires were all placed and the ditch was finished, it was
covered up so that it made a broad flat-topped wall, encircling the

Speculation was rife for several days concerning the purpose of the
mysterious ditch and its wires, but no universally satisfactory
explanation was found.

One enterprising reporter worked out an elaborate scheme, which he
ascribed to Cosmo Versal, according to which the wired ditch was to
serve as a cumulator of electricity, which would, at the proper moment,
launch the ark upon the waters, thus avoiding all danger of a fatal
detention in case the flood should rise too rapidly.

This seemed so absurd on its face that it went far to quiet apprehension
by reawakening doubts of Cosmo's sanity--the more especially since he
made no attempt to contradict the assertion that the scheme was his.

Nobody guessed what his real intention was; if people had guessed, it
might have been bad for their peace of mind.

The next move of Cosmo Versal was taken without any knowledge or
suspicion on the part of the public. He had now established himself in
his apartments in the ark, and was never seen in the city.

One evening, when all was quiet about the ark, night work being now
unnecessary, Cosmo and Joseph Smith sat facing one another at a square
table lighted by a shaded lamp. Smith had a pile of writing paper before
him, and was evidently prepared to take copious notes.

Cosmo's great brow was contracted with thought, and he leaned his cheek
upon his hand. It was clear that his meditations were troublesome. For
at least ten minutes he did not open his lips, and Smith watched him
anxiously. At last he said, speaking slowly:

"Joseph, this is the most trying problem that I have had to solve. The
success of all my work depends upon my not making a mistake now.

"The burden of responsibility that rests on my shoulders is such as no
mortal has ever borne. It is too great for human capacity--and yet how
can I cast it off?

"I am to decide who shall be saved! _I_, _I_ alone, _I_,
Cosmo Versal, hold in my hands the fate of a race numbering two thousand
million souls!--the fate of a planet which, without my intervention,
would become simply a vast tomb. It is for _me_ to say whether the
_genus homo_ shall be perpetuated, and in what form it shall be
perpetuated. Joseph, this is terrible! These are the functions of deity,
not of man."

Joseph Smith seemed no longer to breathe, so intense was his attention.
His eyes glowed under the dark brows, and his pencil trembled in his
fingers. After a slight pause Cosmo Versal went on:

"If I felt any doubt that Providence had foreordained me to do this
work, and given me extraordinary faculties, and extraordinary knowledge,
to enable me to perform it, I would, this instant, blow out my brains."

Again he was silent, the secretary, after fidgeting about, bending and
unbending his brows, and tapping nervously upon the table, at last said

"Cosmo, you _are_ ordained; you must _do the work._"

"I must," returned Cosmo Versal, "I know that; and yet the sense of my
responsibility sometimes covers me with a cloud of despair. The other
day, when the ark was crowded with curiosity seekers, the thought that
not one of all those tens of thousands could escape, and that hundreds
of millions of others must also be lost, overwhelmed me. Then I began to
reproach myself for not having been a more effective agent in warning my
fellows of their peril. Joseph, I have miserably failed. I ought to have
produced universal conviction that I was right, and I have not done it."

"It is not your fault, Cosmo," said Joseph Smith, reaching out his long
arm to touch his leader's hand. "It is an unbelieving generation. They
have rejected even the signs in the heavens. The voice of an archangel
would not have convinced them."

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