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M ost of the worlS works for a living—^works hard, 
too. But that doesn’t mean you have to. Why 
not play for a living? Do something you like to do, and 
make it pay you big money. Plenty of men and women 
who had a hard '' ' ' ’ 


Hawaiian Guitars. And they didn’t know how 
a single note of music when they came to me. 

America*s Most Popular Music 

The haunting, soft, melodious strumming of the Hawaiian Guitar 
is America's most popular music. Everywhere orchestras are look¬ 
ing for men and women who ean play the Hawaiian Guitar. Every¬ 
where those who have mastered the Hawaiian Guitar are getting 
paid more and more money. Roy Rcikane writes in, “ I have made 
$200 extra money in 6 weeks playing my Hawaiian Guitar.” 
Carlton E. Scarbro recently wrote me, " I have made (1,000 since 
1 took your course.” Granville Smith writes, “ 1 make (8 a night 
an d play only 4 hours.” 

^ Bundreda of aueh letUrs hoe come in. 

. _ -8“* let me tell von about my shortcut to 

1 good time* and big pay—my eimplified 
——' !■ I method of learning to play the Hawaiian 
*■ ■ home in a few weeks. A new 

understand —so much 
fun to learn—that eten a child can pick it 
s; - p-z —=- per, — trp. (We have successfully taught chd- 

Pictures Instead of Words* Teach You 

_ _ _ ifl that you will actually 

play a real melody after the very first lesson. Sounds uncanny, doesn't 
It? Here's how I do It. 

With your lessons I send dosens of photographs showing }ust how to 
plaMyour Ungers, how to strum the strings. My Kno-All and Master 

charts teach you to read notes almost automatically, r*'- -- -•—•- 

learning your A B C's over again. Some of our studenL-- 

musicians the first month, others take a little longer, but they all leam 




Ihb 


dtime to get along six months ago—are 


If I could play tl 
Hawaiian Guitar, .. 
told him I’d only been i 

playing for a few weeks.d 
but he said, “Come alongU 
anyway, and play at the V 
dance. I made out very \ 
well, and was paid $10 for 
my first night’s work. And 
I more opportumties 

_ad.” —RALPH 

PRUTZMAN, Lehigh- 


1 . T.—1 
















Published monthly by the PoDular Fiction Publishing Company, 2467 E. Washington Street, 
Indianapolis, Ind. Entered as second-ciass matter March 20, 1923, at the post office at Indianapolis, 
Ind., imder the act of March 3, 1879. Single copies, 26 cents. Subscription. $2.60 a year in the 
United States, $3.00 a year in Canada. Engiish office: Charles Lavell, 13, Serjeant’s Inn, Fleet 
Street, E. C. 4, London. The publishers are not responsible for the loss of unsolicited manuscripts, 
although every care will be taken of such material while in their possession. The contents of this 
magazine are fully protected by copyright and must not be reproduced either wholly or in part 
without permission from the publishers. 


NOTE —All manuscripts and communications should be addressed to the publishers’ Chicago 
See at 840 North Michigan Avenue', Chicago, III, 

FAENSWOETH WEIGHT, Editor. 


Copyright. 1931, by the Popular Fiction Publishing Company 


Contents for April-May, 1931 

Cover Design_C. C. Senf 

Illustrating a scene from "The Dust of Death" 


The Eyrie_ 292 

A chat with the readers 


The Piper of the Pines-Marjorie Holmes 302 

Verse; decoration by C. C. Senf 


Ten Million Years Ahead___Edmond Hamilton 304 

A startling story of what this world will be like ten million years from now, 
when plants rule instead of men 

[CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE] 


290 


OOFYBIOHTB IN OBBAT BBITAIN 


















[continued from preceding page] 


The Dust of Death_1-Hugh Jefifries 320 

A thrill-tale of giant puffballs and the dread scourge of fungi that threatened 
the United States with destruction 


The Children of the Night-Robert E. Howard 353 

A unique story of atavism and a slithering rate of sub-men who lived in 
England before the coming of the Piets 


Futility_C. A. Livingston 363 

Verse 


A Rendezvous in Averoigne_Clark Ashton Smith 364 

A fascinating vampire tale, as tender and beautiful as "LaMorte Amouteusf* 
of Gautier 


Fungi from Yuggoth: 



10. Alienarion .. 

. . H. P. T.ovecraft 

374 

Verse 


The Dead-Alive___ 

_Nat Schachner and Arthur L. Zagat 

375 

A shivery, goose-flesh story of violated graveyards and cadavers that walked 



in the night 

The Phantom Flight-Arlton Eadie 400 

A vivid and pathetic tide about a fatal turplane flight and a disastrous sur¬ 
gical operation 

The Treasure of Almeria_Marian TTiomton 414 

The Spanish count controlled the will of Don Carlos by hypnotic suggestion, 
but he pushed his mastery too far 


For Advertising Bates in WEIRD TALiBS Apply Direct to 

WEIRD TALES 


Western AdvertisinK Office: 
WARD & DKAVIS, INC., Mgr. 
360 N. Michigan Ave„ 
Chicago, III. 


Eaotem Advertidng Office: 
D. P. BIKER, Mgr. 

303 Fourth Ave., 

New York, N. Y. 


291 
















O UR announcement that Weird Tales would henceforth be published bi¬ 
monthly instead of monthly has evoked a chorus of protest from you, the read¬ 
ers. These range all the way from sorrowful expressions of regret to indignant 
outbursts and even threats. By mail, by telephone and by telegraph these protests 
have poured in, demanding to know whether we have taken leave of our senses, that 
we should even dream of making the readers wait two months between issues. We 
never knew before how many thousands of enthusiastic admirers we have. We yield, 
we capitulate, we surrender to your insistence. Beginning with the next issue, which 
will go on sale June 1, Weird Tales will again be published regularly every month. 
All we ask is that you keep up your loyal interest in the magazine; and we, on our 
part, will continue to publish a unique magazine, filled from cover to cover with 
superb stories of a type that you can not find in any other periodical, a magazine well 
worth your enthusiastic support. 

There is a marvelous feast of fascinating stories for you in forthcoming issues. H. 
P. Lovecraft’s long story. The Whisperer in Darkness, full of eery whispers and 
shadows of cosmic evil from Outside, strikes a new note of weirdness, and will give 
you many a shudder. It will be published soon. Seabury Quinn has depiaed the tem¬ 
peramental little French occultist, Jules de Grandin, in the eeriest of his adventures 
in a powerful long story of bre^-taking interest, involving Black Magic and the 
resurreaion of buried corpses. This story, Satan’s Stepson, will also be published 
soon. A speaacular treat will be provided for you by Otis Adelbert Kline, whose 
novel, Tam, Son of the Tiger, uses the very gods of India as aaors in a thrilling drama 
of utter weirdness. You will be glad to know that Robert E. Howard has written for 
you several new adventures of that striking Puritan figure, Solomon Kane. Clark Ash¬ 
ton Smith has written a number of stories to appear in forthcoming issues, and if you 
have read A Rendezvous in Averoigne in this issue you will eagerly await more of 
Mr. Smith’s inimitable stories. In our next issue Doaor David H. Keller has a story 
of man-eating orchids that contains as dramatic a situation as can be foimd in litera¬ 
ture. 'Those o^ you who like weird-scientific stories will be glad to know that many 
more of Edmond Hamilton’s tales of the interstellar patrol will be printed in this 
magazine. And Everil Worrell has written for you a story that out-Einsteins Einstein 
in the daring of its science— 2 l marvelous tale of a voyage to the limits of our solar 
system and back in an open cur plane! You can not aflFord to miss even a single issue. 
"It is with lachrymal lament that we-readers learn that no more shall Weird Tales 
(Please turn to page 294) 


292 







YOUR 

REAL 

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Unveiled 

Truthfully 



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293 









294 


WEIRD TALES 


{Continued from page 292) 

be issued monthly, but bi-monthly,” writes Robert W. Nelson, of St. Qiarles, Illinois, 
in a letter to the Eyrie, ‘We have the right to expea in each bi-monthly issue a fas¬ 
cinating de Grandin novelette, a smashing, powerful and beautiful novelette by Rob¬ 
ert E. Howard, and a weird-scientific novelette by Edmond Hamilton. Granting that 
Seabury Quinn is one of your best saibes, Robert E. Howard, in my opinion, is the 
foremost. His Kings of the Night was the best story I have read since beginning to 
read Weird Tales, which is about two years ago. Its smashing, powerful, beautiful 
weirdness and dramatic intensity gripped me. We readers wish more stories of this type 
from this distinguished writer. Edmond Hamilton deserves more praise than he is re¬ 
ceiving. His Pigmy Island was one of the best stories I have read in the most unique 
of all magazines, Weird Tales. La’s keep the latter unique and weird, and make all 
efforts to restore its former status—^that of a monthly magazine.” 

Writes Bemie Willbanks, of West Monroe, Louisiana: "I like Robert E. Howard 
best of all your authors, and you have some fine writers. I have never read a story that 
appealed to me like Skull-face. Please give us many more of Mr. Howard’s stories. 
Seabury Quinn is fine, though I should hate to Eve in Harrisonville. I’ll ba the in¬ 
habitants never ga any sleep, but stay awake all the time to scare away the spooks. 
Edmond Hamilton is good, though his stories ail have the same general plot. I have 
a kick about your illustrations. They are mostly sexual, though the stories themselves 
are clean. I am not a reformer, but just wanted to ga that off my mind. Keep on 
printing Howard and Quinn and I will stay with you till the cows come home.” 

A letter from Mrs, Amos Lockard, of Columbia, Pennsylvania, says: "I am send¬ 
ing the sEp telEng the stories I Eke best in the current issue of Weird Tales. It is 
hard to choose the best, as they are all excellent. The only kick I’ve got to make is 
against the two months’ wait between issues. Why, oh why, must you cut it down 
from the monthly issue? It is too long to wait just from one month to another. I’d 
prefer it twice a month. Can’t you do something about it, please?” 

From Penang, in the Straits Settlements, Nim Keng Eok writes to the Eyrie: 
"Your magazine is thoroughly A-1 in my register of English and foreign literature, 
and I’ve been reading it since I don’t know when. The one writer in it who is most 
consistently good is Seabury Quinn. How he can write such ’pakka’ stories every 
time he alone, I suppose, knows. Jules, Trowbridge and Quinn—these are the trio 
that hold me to Weird Tales. Jules is another Sherlock Holmes! Why not perpa- 
uate him by reprinting his adventures in book form? I am sure they would sell like 
hot cakes.” 

A letter from J. E. Roper, of East St. Louis, Illinois, says: "I take this chance 
to tell you that I have been a steady reader of your magazine for the past three years 
and can say truthfully that it is one of the most absorbing and altogether interest¬ 
ing works of its kind on the marka at the present time. Regarding its authors, I 
believe that Lovecraft heads the list, Kline second, and Howard third. I have read 
other works of all three authors and can say only good of them all.” 

"Weird Tales is so interesting that I read and re-read the index like a child,” 
writes Kadra Maysi, "unable to decide which of my favorites I wUl turn to first. I 
(Please turn to page 296) 



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295 







296 


WEIRD TALES 


(Continued from page 294) 

adore stories of other planets when the planets, life upon them, customs, etc., are de¬ 
scribed; because I believe them to be inhabited by organisms adapted to their atmos¬ 
phere (or lack of it), climate, temperature. As I am utterly dumb about machinery, 
I do not always appreciate the interstellar and advanced aviation stories—but I do 
enjoy them. I think my favorites are the Jules de Grandin series and all other stories 
of magic, voodoo, werewolves, and that kind of stuff. Frank B. Long, Jr., shows 
wonderful thought and research in his work. He must be brilliant. Jane Scales’ story 
is both dramatic and well written. I only wish you published semi-monthly instead 
of bi-.” 

Writes Emily Wolff, of Peoria, Illinois: "I want you to know how much my 
brothers and sisters and I liked this February number, and especially the story -called 
The Picture. It seemed so real —^you didn’t need to pretend while you were reading 
it. It was blood-curdling, too, especially where the tramp was conjuring up this ter¬ 
rible devil and then again where the devil comes back and claims his part of the 
bargain. I am glad the man gave up his riches rather than let the woman be tor¬ 
tured. I wish Mr. Flagg would write some more stories like this one.” 

"It seems to me that Seabury Quinn’s Ghost-Helper is a short story of excep¬ 
tional merit,” writes Ralph M. Melster, of Washington, D. C. "I wished to express 
my pleasure in it without undertaking the discrimination involved in your printed 
coupon or ballot. Just a cumulative vote for Quinn and a pat on the back for his dis¬ 
tinguished colleagues in the sanctum and on the staflF of Weird Tales.” 

William P. Brewster, of Houston, Texas, writes: "Along with the rest of your 
correspondents who write to the Eyrie, I will agree that Seabury Quinn is a very good 
writer and I always enjoy his stories (with one exception: The House of the Golden 
Masks). But listen! You receive letters every month from readers, and, according 
to your own statements in the Eyrie, you are arranging and publishing your magazine 
according to the tastes of those whose replies you receive. And the voting coupon! 
Why don’t you attach a two-cent stamp to it and still see how many replies you get? 
Now, yoiu: magazine, or any other magazine (no exceptions), will fail if it depends 
on its 'fanatical’ readers for guidance; and those are the only ones who write you. 
(Please overlook the illogic of this letter; remember this is after at least six years.) 
Remember, you have to cater to the casual reader. Your 'fanatics’ will buy anyway.” 

Ben Belitt, of University, Virginia, writes: "The February issue is replete with 
many really fine pieces of work; there was not one that I did not read with interest 
and a very real suspense. Mr. Whitehead’s The Tree-Man was a bit of craftsman¬ 
like and fascinating writing; Mr. Whitehead is probably the most consistently excel¬ 
lent author appearing in W. T. Mr. Long’s Horror from the Hills would be my 
next vote; he has presented a difficult situation lucidly and powerfully. The Picture 
and The Thing in the Bush both contain much skilful work; and I was particularly 
delighted to renew an old friendship in de Maupassant’s On the River/* 

"Congratulations on the February-March Weird Tales, which is truly a most 
excellent number,” writes Claric Ashton Smith from his home in Auburn, California. 
"The Horror from the Hills is a tremendous thing, and easily deserves first place. 

(Please turn to page 298) 



. * ‘ U fl '; 1.1 


there clawing frantically / 
- was-. . :the THING/ 


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She shook in terror—for she knew only too well what had hap« 

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298 


WEIRD TALES 


(Continued from page 296) 

The Tree-Man and The Picture are both fine work, too. And the new illustrations,^ 
taking them by and large, are the most satisfactory that I have seen in W. T.” 

Writes Mrs. Maude K. Spangler, of Kansas City, Missouri, in a letter to the 
Eyrie: "I do not think I have ever missed a copy of Weird Tales since the first 
issue. Yes: do keep Weird Tales weird. I like good ghost stories and ancient 
superstitions, but not any interplanetary stories; we have so much of those in other 
magazines. I like Seabury Quinn’s stories, but I wish just once the doctor could best 
the old Frendiman. Do not give us so many scientific stories—so many do not un¬ 
derstand science enough to enjoy them. Anyhow, it is a blamed good magazine, and 
I hope never to miss a copy.” 

Readers, what is your favorite story in this issue? The most popular tale in the 
February-March issue, as shown by your votes, was The Tree-Man, by Henry S. 
Whitehead, closely followed by Francis Flagg’s story, The Picture. 

Allan Farwell, of Chicago, writes to the Eyrie: "As a reader of Weird Tales 
for eight years, I hastened to obtain copies of Oriental Stories when I found it was 
published by the same firm that prints Weird Tales. I have read the first three issues, 
and I want to say that it is my favorite of all adventure magazines published today. 
'The stories held me breathless, and each one seemed written by a master of his craft. 
Never have I read a story that took hold of me as strongly as Della Wu, Chinese 
Courtezan, in the current issue of Oriental Stories. My two favorite magazines 
are Weird Tales and Oriental Stories.” 

"I have been reading your magazine for the last four years,” writes H. L. 
Harmon of Buffalo, Oklahoma, "and I have every copy published in that time. I 
think Seabury Quinn is the best writer you have ever published. Why don’t you put 
out a volume of just his works alone? I think it would go over in a big way. But 
why in the name of Gunga Din must you publish it only once in two months? I 
think you should print it twice a month instead of cutting it down. It’s going to be 
a long wait between issues.” 

A letter from J. H. Zichterman, of Chicago, says: "I have just completed read¬ 
ing my first copy of Weird Tales, and am enclosing my vote for the best stories. 
I think that The Horror City, by Edmond Hamilton, is one of the best stories that 
I have ever read anywhere. Jules de Grandin was also very fine.” 

Weird Tales will continue the policy on which its brilliant success has been 
built since it was first published eight years ago. 'That is, we will print the best 
weird fiaion in contemporary literature, stories that Edgar Allan Poe and Fitzjames 
O’Brien would delight to read if they were alive today: Both these writers would 
undoubtedly have been writing for Weird Tales if the magazine had been pub¬ 
lished in their time. In addition to the weird tale proper, we will offer you mar¬ 
velous weird-scientific tales that forecast the science of the future; tales of other plan¬ 
ets, and wars between the worlds; tales of eery surgery; tales of megalomaniacs 
whose brilliant scientific achievements menace the world with destruaion; tales of 
tremendous dooms sweeping upon our world from the depths of stellar space; tales 
(Please turn to page 300) 



toU’LL NEVER KNOW LIFE 

Until You've Read the Greatest 
of All Forbidden Books! 



299 
















30Q 


WEIRD TALES 


(Continued from page 298) 

of the interstellar patrol; astronomical tales that bring to you the most daring prog¬ 
nostications of stellar science. 

The bulk of our stories, however, will be tales of utter weirdness, for it is upon 
these that the splendid reputation of the magazine has been built. Such tales, for in¬ 
stance, as the stories of cosmic horror penned by H. P. Lovecraft, to mention one 
of the most popular writers in this magazine; the eery adventures of Jules de Gran- 
din, as told in Seabury Quinn’s inimitable style; shuddery werewolf stories (you all 
remember The Werewolf of Ponkert, by H. Warner Munn, do you not?); tales of the 
unnatural and abnormal; fantastic and bizarre stories such as Frank Owen’s unfor¬ 
gettable tale. The Wind That Tramps the World; tales, of vampires and witches; 
thrilling stories of devil-worship, of which E. Hoffmann Price is a master narrator; 
occasional ghost stories; tales of strange monsters, such as the ever-to-be-remem¬ 
bered story by Frank Belknap Long, Jr., entitled The Space-Eaters; xhtWX-tdXes of 
mystery and terror; tales of stark horror, but nothing sickening or disgusting. 

We could dwell at length on some of the great stories we have published in the 
past; but we think it better to continue publishing the finest weird fiction in the 
world today, rather than harp on the past glories of the magazine. 

Let us hear from you, for this is your magazine, and your co-operation and 
criticism will help us to choose the kind of stories that you like best. 

Our sister magazine. Oriental Stories, will contain an entirely different type 
of stories from those in Weird Tales. It will be largely devoted to vivid action-ad- 
venture tales, and will also contain burning love stories of the Orient. Many of the 
authors who have given Weird Tales its fame will appear in Oriental Stories. 
Among these are E. Hoffmann Price, Robert E. Howard, Otis Adelbert Kline, Frank 
Owen, and Frank Belknap Long, Jr. If you want thrilling stories expressing the 
glamor and mystery of the East, you will like this magazine, which is printed by the 
publishers of Weird Tales. 


( 1 ) 

( 2 ) 

(3) 


My Favorite Stories in the April-May Weird Tales Are; 

Story Remarks 


I do not like the following stories: 


(1) - Why? 

( 2 ) .--- - 


It will help us to know what kind of stories 
you want in Weird Tales if you will 
fill out this coupon and mail it to The 
Eyrie, Weird Tales, 840 N. Michigan Ave., 
Chicago, Ill. 


I Reader’s name and address: 

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302 


WEIRD TALES 



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In the awful answer 
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Grinning, grimly grinning. 

Lank and loose and lean. . . . 
Oh piper, fling your pipes away. 
Piper, hush! No longer play, 
For I loathe your music shrill— 
Maddened piper on the hill. 


See him peek beneath the trees. 
See him hop about, and then 
Hear him, laughing in the breeze/ 
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303. 











































Ten Million Years Ahead 

By EDMOND HAMILTON 

A startling story of what this world will he like ten million years from now 
when plants rule instead of men 


MEAN just that,” said Norton 
quietly. "Ten million years.” 
Fairley and I stared unbeliev¬ 
ingly at our friend. We three sat in the 
long, roughly furnished living-room of 
an old farmhouse, lit- by shaded electrics. 
The only sound for a moment was that of 
the night breeze outside sighing through 
the branches of the trees. It was Fair- 
ley who at last broke the silence. 

"Ten million years!” he repeated. 
“Norton, you can’t be serious!” 

“I was never more serious in my life,” 
Norton quietly affirmed. 

"But it’s crazy—impossible!” I burst 
out. "All these theories about time are 
all right, but to try to put them into prac¬ 
tise-” 

"Only an insane man would think of 
it,” Fairley finished for me. "Norton, 
you’ve not been working up here on a 
thing like that?” 

"On just that,” Norton replied. "And 
before you and Olcott get so positive 
about it, let me tell you what I’ve done. 

"You both know how interested I be¬ 
came back at the imiversity in the sub- 
jea of time. It was the one thing in 
physical science that fascinated me. I 
spent most of my spare hours working 
out the theories and repeating the obser¬ 
vations of De Sitter and Einstein and the 
rest, and when I left the imiversity four 
years ago I determined that I, Harris Nor¬ 
ton, was going to know more about time 
than any one else on earth. 

"So I came up to this old Conneaicut 
farmhouse I’d inherited and had it fixed 
over with workshop and living-quarters. 
In the four years since then I’ve lived 

304 


alone here and I’ve worked like—^well. 
I’ve worked. In that workshop there 
I’ve carried out experiments that would 
have blasted half the fabric of accepted 
science if I’d made them public. And 
I’ve come at last to know, as I planned, 
more about time than any one else. 

"Time is a dimension, just as length 
and breadth and thickness are dimen¬ 
sions. That is a commonplace of physi¬ 
cal science, nowadays. We know ihat 
matter moves along this time-dimension 
from the past toward the future at an 
unchangeable speed, like a locomotive 
following its track. We can not speed 
up our movement on that track, or re¬ 
verse it, or stop or even slow it, but move 
forward always at the same rate. 

"But suppose that this time-track we 
follow doubled back upon itself so that 
a point really far ahead of us on it would 
be close beside us in reality, just as a rail¬ 
way track or road sometimes doubles 
back upon itself so that a point which 
you will not reach on it for hours is right 
beside you? Then we could short-cut 
across to that point and reach a time ac¬ 
tually millions of years ahead in the 
future! 

"I saw this and determined to find a 
way to double the time-dimension back 
on itself to permit that short-cut into the 
future. Dimensions can be altered by 
force, you know—^Einstein’s space-frames 
and the Fitzgerald contraction show that. 
And after two years of research I found 
a combination of magnetic and elearical 
forces capable of bending the time-di¬ 
mension back in that way, of doubling 
time back upon itself! 

"To utilize that force I built what I’ve 
W. T.—1 


TEN MILUON YEARS AHEAD 


305 



called a time-doubler, a tub-like half- 
cylinder that holds inside it the mechan¬ 
ism that produces the time-bending force, 
and that has room for two or three oc¬ 
cupants. By turning on that force the 
time-dimension along which the doubler 
moves is bent back upon itself, and the 
doubler, if set for a time ten million 
years ahead, is shot into that time, its 
force affeaing only itself and occupants. 
By reversing the force the doubler and 
those in' it can return to this time. 

"Less than a week ago I finished the 
time-doubler and gave it its tests. I re¬ 
solved to cross in it to a time ten million 
years ahead, but then, with all prepara¬ 
tions finished, knew that I could not go 
alone. I remembered you two, Fairley 
and Olcott, always keen for adventure, 
and so had you come here to put it up 
W. T.—2 


to you. The time-doubler is ready in the 
workshop, and in it within the hour I’m 
starting, and want you to start with me, 
to a time ten million years in the future!” 

W E TWO had listened to Norton with 
tense interest, and when he paused 
Fairley asked a quick question. 

"But granting that the thing is possi¬ 
ble, Norton, why go so far in time—why 
take such a tremendous jump into the 
future as that?” 

"Can you ask why? Man, have you 
no desire to know what this world and 
man are going to be like in ten million 
years? Think of the changes and progress 
of the last hundred years, the last thou¬ 
sand years. What colossal changes will 
there not be in the next ten million 
years, then? What colossal heights and 



306 


WEIRD TALES 


powers may humanity not have reached?” 

"Lord!” breathed Fairley. "I see now 
—it is an adventure.” 

"And we’re going!” I exclaimed. "Of 
course we’re going!” 

Fairley and I followed Morton through 
the door into the large workroom that 
took up the remainder of the old house’s 
ground-floor. It had been formed, evi¬ 
dently, by the throwing together of a 
number of smaller rooms, and presented 
an odd, white-lit scene. Great pieces of 
apparatus, Tesla coils and super-sensitive 
ammeter-boards and gleaming elearonic- 
radiation instruments were ranged neatly 
along its walls. 

We two had eyes only for the object 
at the room’s end. That was a tub-like 
thing of polished metal ten feet across 
and four in height. Half its interior 
was occupied by a bulging black metal 
case that shielded mechanisms half- 
glimpsed through perforations in the case. 
On its top were a half-dozen black plugs 
with twice as many openings about tibem. 

“The time-doubler,” Norton said 
quietly. 

"And that thing can aaually take us 
across ten million years of time?” Fair- 
ley asked, half incredulously. 

"Just that. When the mechanisms in 
that case operate they produce the force 
that bends the time-dimension back upon 
itself, shifting the time-doubler and all in 
it aaoss the gap to a point ten million 
years in the future. We won’t change 
position in space at all, of course, but 
will find ourselves in this same spot as it 
will be ten million years from now.” 

"It’s beyond belief,” I said, staring. 

Norton smiled. "I think that you’ll 
believe soon,” he commented. 

Before we two were conscious of the 
nearness of our start, Norton was quickly 
direaing preparations. He had us bring 
from our suitcases the rough clothing and 


pistols we had brought at his request. As 
we donned these, struggling against the 
incredulity that lingered still in our 
minds, Norton was loading into the time- 
doubler an assortment of compact equip¬ 
ment we might need. 

He climbed in after these and lifted 
the case from the central mechanism, in¬ 
specting for a last time its myriad intri¬ 
cate coils and radiation-plates. When he 
replaced the case he shifted two of the 
plugs on its top to other openings, and 
at once a purring came from the mechan¬ 
ism. Norton shifted another plug and 
the purring sank to an almost inaudible 
whisper of soft sound. He looked up 
then at us, smiling whimsically. 

Fairley and I climbed carefully into the 
thing, seating ourselves beside him on the 
time-doubler’s bottom. My pulse was 
racing with excitement despite myself, 
yet I expected at least some moments or 
delay before our start. But Norton aaed 
with a startling abruptness as soon as we 
were beside him. His fiingers snapped 
out and shifted another plug and in¬ 
stantly the low purring sound became for 
a second thimderous and deafening, and 
black unconsciousness crashed upon me. 

O UT of the black depths of uncon¬ 
sciousness I rose with the sensation 
of hands upon my face and excited voices 
in my ears. I was aware in a moment 
that they were the voices of Norton and 
Fairley, and as I opened my eyes I saw 
that I was lying in the time-doubler’s 
bottom with die other two bending excit¬ 
edly over me. 

"We’ve done it!” Norton was crying. 
"Olcott, we’ve done it!” 

"What—^you don’t mean-” I stam¬ 

mered, and then as I staggered to my feet 
was silent, thunderstruck. 

For the time-doubler in which we were 
stood no longer in the white-lit, appara¬ 
tus-filled workroom. It stood in strange, 


TEN MILLION YEARS AHEAD 


307 


thin sunlight, tilted a little awry, upon a 
thick bed of what seemed gray-green 
moss. This was at the bottom of a small 
depression or gully, and on its sides there 
were thick growths of great looming 
lichens, the same gray-green in color. It 
seemed the vegetation of another world, 
the soft moss and great lichen-like 
growths, even though we at the depres¬ 
sion’s bottom could see only its interior. 

I noted dazedly too that the sun 
seemed rather of deep orange in color 
than the familiar golden yellow, and that 
its light was thinner and its apparent 
size much smaller. Also its heat, though 
falling full upon us, was far less than 
might have been experted, the sun’s posi¬ 
tion showing that it was midafternoon. 

*‘We’ve done it!” Norton was still ex¬ 
claiming. "We’ve crossed ten million 
years of time!” 

"But the sun—^these growths-” I 

attempted. 

"Just what we might have expected,” 
Norton said. "Every sun as it grows 
older changes from yellow toward red in 
color, and shrinks in size. And these 
lichen-growths around us only show that 
in this vast stretch of time the plant-life 
of earth has changed completely and 
evolved into wholly new forms.” 

"But let’s get up out of this!” Fairley 
exclaimed. "We can see nothing down 
here.” 

"The doubler-” I began doubt¬ 

fully, but he shook his head impatiently. 

"It will be safe enough—^we’re not go¬ 
ing far from it.” 

Norton nodded, as eager as we to ex¬ 
tend our view; so with a glance at the 
weapons in our belts we turned from the 
time-doubler and began climbing up the 
steep slope of the gully toward its crest. 
The soft moss slipped and gave beneath 
our feet, but in a moment we had 
reached the slope’s top and stood gazing 
in wonder about us. 


It was a great lichen-forest that 
stretched about us. The big gray-green 
growths crowded us in on every side. 
Branchless and leafless, they were them¬ 
selves like erea masses of moss, ten feet 
or more in height. There moved among 
them no birds or small animals, nor did 
we see even inseas. It was the land¬ 
scape of another planet—^the silent forest 
of grotesque growths stretching as far 
about us as the eye could reach. 

We began to thread our way between 
the looming things, heading in a general 
easterly direaion. We were all three 
keyed to a high pitch of suspense—the 
excitement I felt refleaed from the faces 
of Norton and Fairley. What were we 
to find in this strange world that earth 
had become during the ten million slow 
years we had crossed in a flash? What 
mighty works and cities of man might not 
lie near to us, the produa of countless 
cumulated centuries of man’s progress? 

The silence, though, began to tell upon 
my nerves as we went on. Even our 
footsteps were deadened by the soft, 
cushion-like moss that covered the li- 
chened forest’s floor. So complete was 
the silence that it was a shodk to our 
senses, accustomed to the innumerable 
small noises of everyday life. The harsh¬ 
est of sounds would have been welcome. 

I was''about to speak to Norton for no 
other reason than to break the stillness, 
when he abruptly halted and listened. 

There came again the sound that had 
at that moment reached our ears, a dis¬ 
tant thumping as of something striking 
the earth with great force. It repeated, 
multiplied, thump following thump 
swiftly and seeming to become quickly 
louder. We looked at each other, star¬ 
tled and wondering. The thumping was 
so loud by then that a sudden sensation 
of fear invaded me. 

"Whatever it is, it’s coming closer!” 


308 


WEIRD TALES 


I exclaimed. "We’d best get out of here 
until we know what it is.” 

Norton nodded swiftly. "Yes—back 
to the time-doubler!’ he ordered. 

We turned, were running back, when 
Fairley after a few steps glanced back 
over his shoulder and then halted, point¬ 
ing wildly. 

"There they are!” he cried. "My God, 
what are they.?” 

We were all frozen for the moment by 
our amazement as we looked back with 
him. The thumping in that moment had 
become terribly loud, the ground seem¬ 
ing to vibrate beneath it through all the 
forest, and now we saw its source. 

Five giant shapes were striding 
through the lichen-growths not a half- 
mile behind us! They were perhaps 
forty feet in height, huge white metal 
things coming almost in our direaion! 
Each of the things consisted of four huge 
jointed limbs or legs of metal which met 
at their upper end to support a metal cup 
or bowl. 

The things strode forward as a four- 
footed animal does, moving two of the 
great metal legs at a time. Each great 
step thus brought them almost a score of 
feet forward, the metal limbs crashing 
through lichens and moss and striking 
the ground to cause the thumping that 
was loud in our ears. And up in the cup 
of each of the incredible things we 
glimpsed something green and moving! 

"'They’re machines—stalking-machines 
of some kind!” Norton exclaimed. "But 
they can’t have seen us yet—^they-” 

"They have seen us!” Fairley cried. 
"Look—they’re after us!” 

'The five great stalking-machines had, 
in the second before, changed their direc¬ 
tion suddenly and with thundering 
strides were coming with abruptly in¬ 
creased speed straight after us! 

"The time-doubler!” Norton cried 
•gain. “Get back to it and out of here!” 


R unning with all possible speed be- 
. tween the lichens, we headed back 
toward the gully in which we had left the 
time-doubler. But I knew with sicken¬ 
ing sureness as we ran on in the next 
seconds that we could not evade those 
giant shapes whose vast limbs were crash¬ 
ing closer each moment behind us. 

I suppose that that nightmare flight of 
ours through the lichen-forest lasted for 
moments only, though seeming then like 
hours. It ended abruptly. Norton, who 
was running more than a dozen feet be¬ 
hind Fairley and myself, tripped suddenly 
in the soft moss and sprawled headlong. 
I cried to Fairley as I glimpsed it and we 
half-halted to turn back toward him but 
were stayed by his shout. 

"No—^go on—^go on!” he cried. 

"They’ve got me-!” 

For even in that second, as he strug¬ 
gled to regain his feet, the foremost of 
the giant metal shapes was almost upon 
him. From its cup dangled great many- 
jointed metal arms that were reaching 
down toward our friend. 

I had a lightning glimpse of Norton 
grasped by the great arms and raised 
aloft, at the same moment that Fairley 
jerked me sidewise and into a thick clump 
of the lichen-growths beside us. He 
pulled me to the ground with him, the 
two of us crouching deep into the shel¬ 
tering growths. 

"They’ll have us if we run from them 
—^we can’t make the time-doubler now!” 
Fairley was whispering rapidly in my 
ear. "Our only chance is to hide from 
them.” 

"But Norton-” I protested. 

"We can’t help him now,” he an¬ 
swered. "And they’re not harming him 
—look!” 

We could glimpse through the masses 
of growths that sheltered us the scene 
some distance back in the lichens. 

'The stalkihg-machine that had gripped 


TEN MILLION YEARS AHEAD 


309 


Norton in its great arms had raised him 
high in the air to deposit him in the 
great cup at the mechanism’s top. We 
could see green shapes moving in that 
cup around Norton as he was deposited 
among them, and then he vanished from 
our view inside it. 

The other stalking-machines had for 
the moment gathered around that one, 
apparently forgetting us two in the in¬ 
terest of Norton’s capture. But abruptly 
they or their green occupants seemed to 
remember our own existence and came 
forward with huge, crashing strides after 
us. We crouched lower, and scarce dared 
to breathe when the five towering metal 
shapes halted almost beside the thick 
clump of lichens in which we lay. 

They seemed scanning the forest for us, 
as though puzzled by our sudden disap¬ 
pearance. From where we lay all that 
Fairley and I could see of the machines 
then were some of their great limbs, huge 
white metal columns sunk deep into the 
moss and earth with every step. These 
mighty legs began in a moment to lift 
and crash down again all around us, as 
the stalking-machines commenced appar¬ 
ently to beat the growths in search of us. 

We could hear the thumping crash of 
their steps as they moved ponderously 
and deliberately all about us. Crouching 
with Fairley in the thickest portion of the 
clump, I felt all the nightmare unreality 
of the situation. We could hear the 
great jointed arms thrashing through the 
growths and knew that we were being 
hunted as boys might hunt some hiding, 
timid animals. And less than an hour 
before we had been back in Norton’s 
laboratory! Less than an hour in one 
sense—but ten million years, in another. 

I gasped involuntarily as a huge limb 
crashed down into the growths not a 
yard from us. It seemed that the pound¬ 
ing of my pulse must be audible to what¬ 
ever creatures were in the cup of the 


stalking-machine that stood over us. And 
when a big metal arm swept through the 
lichens in which we crouched, I restrained 
myself from crying out only by clench¬ 
ing my fists tightly. The arm’s end, a 
great claw-like thing of metal, moved this 
way and that about us and in its search¬ 
ings aaually passed between Fairley and 
me. Rigid with fear, we could not relax 
until seconds after it had withdrawn. 

'The stalking-machine over us moved 
on with crashing steps to search other 
clumps, and we breathed a little more 
easily. Venmring to peer forth again from 
our crushed sheltering growths, we saw 
the five great shapes moving still in 
search of us through the unearthly forest. 
Once or twice we saw their great jointed 
limbs bending as they stooped down, as 
though to examine something on the 
ground. 

One stooped close beside the growths 
in which we hid, and as we had thus a 
close view of the machine’s cup and its 
occupants we uttered low exclamations, 
amazement making us forget our peril. 

"In the cup!’’ I whispered. "God, 
Fairley—^you see them?” 

"Plants!” he muttered, stunned. "It 
can’t be—^we’re insane, man, such a thing 
can’t be!” 

The thing that we were looking upon 
was, in fart, well-nigh unbelievable. We 
had glimpsed the occupants of the stalk¬ 
ing-machines before only as green mov¬ 
ing shapes high above us. With the un¬ 
conscious anthropomorphism that is so 
strong in all men, we had assumed, I 
think, that these were green-clad or 
green-skinned men or man-like creatures. 
Only men could have built and operated 
such mechanisms, experience assured us. 
But now we could see that the green 
things had not the remotest resemblance 
to men or even to animals of any kind, 
but were plants, great green plants that 


310 


WEIRD TALES 


were occupying and intelligently operat¬ 
ing the huge stalking-nnachines! 

The cup of each of the big machines 
was, we saw, filled with what seemed - 
smooth black soil, though I am inclined 
now to believe that it was not in faa soil 
but a special combination of chemical 
elements. And in this, in each machine’s 
cup, were rooted three or four great 
plants. I had never seen plants like 
them. There was a central dark-green 
trunk or core, about four feet high, from 
the base of which sprang up a number of 
flat, strong arms or tendrils, of lighter 
green. 

But what was most amazing was that 
these arms moved this way and that, con¬ 
sciously and deliberately, over the con¬ 
trols of the stalking-madhine, direaing it 
on its search for us in the lichens! The 
plants rooted there in the black soil of 
the machine’s cup were the great mechan¬ 
ism’s operators, and though they could 
have no more sense of sight or even hear¬ 
ing than any other plant, they were 
searching by some strange sense of their 
own that had told them we were near! 
They were plants, nothing else, but were 
intelligent plants, sentient plants who in 
their machines were hunting us as men 
might hunt rabbits! 

T he stalking-machine that had 

stooped near us to give us that amaz¬ 
ing glimpse now straightened and moved 
on. It left us transfixed, our peril al¬ 
most forgotten in our stunned astonish¬ 
ment. 

"Plants!” Fairley was repeating dazed¬ 
ly beside me. "And the damned things 
are alive—intelligent—searching for us! 
What kind of a hell has earth become in 
these last ten million years, to have 
spawned things like that?” 

"God knows,” I whispered. "Plants 
operating machines—it can’t be real!” 

"Whatever they are, they’ve got Nor¬ 
ton,” he said. "And if they-” 


"Look! They’ve given up the seardi 
—^they’re going, Fairley!” 

The five towering stalking-machines 
had gathered together as though at a com¬ 
mand, and were moving off with their 
great aashing steps toward the west, 
having evidently given up hope of find¬ 
ing us. We ran out from our lichen 
shelter. The five shapes were already al¬ 
most out of sight of us, so quickly did 
th^ stride through the lichen forest. We 
saw the moving green arms of the plants 
in their cups, and I seemed to glimpse in 
the cup of one, too, a dark form that was 
Norton, unmoving. Then they were out 
of sight, bidden from us by the big 
growths around us, the thumping crash 
of their steps diminishing and dying 
away. 

I wcMidered when I. turned toward 
Fairley whether my face was as pale and 
strange as his own. 

The lichen forest about us was as si¬ 
lent now as before, the thin orange light 
of the westering sun slanting over its 
great gray-green expanse. 

Fairley was speaking rapidly. "We 
can’t go back without Norton. We’ve 
got to find him, alive or dead, before we 
return to the time-doubler.” 

"I don’t think they’ll kill him, at least 
immediately,” I said slowly. "Those 
plants—thqr had a good enough chance 
to do that when they took him, if they 
had wanted.” 

He laughed mirthlessly. "Did we ever 
dream, Olcott, that we would be run¬ 
ning from plants—Chiding from plants? 
Are we ten million years in the future or 
are we in nightmare?” 

"It’s not wholly incomprehensible, 
even so, Fairley,” I said. "After all, if 
man evolved to intelligence and power 
from the animal races, why should not 
oae of the plant races have evolved to as 
great or greater intelligence in these 
thousands of centuries?” 


TEN MILLION YEARS AHEAD 


311 


"It may be so—it may be so,” he an¬ 
swered. "There’s a horror to the thing 
that sickens me, though. To aoss time 
into the future—it wasn’t rneant, Olcott, 
I see now. We’ve got to get back.” 

"But first—^Norton,” I said, and he 
nodded, gazed westward with me. "We’ll 
find him,” he told me. "They left trail 
enough for us to follow.” 

Westward frbm us, in fact, there ex¬ 
tended a great path crushed through the 
thick lichen-growths of the forest by the 
passage of the five stalking-machines. We 
set out along this path, first examining 
the pistols whose existence we had for¬ 
gotten, perhaps luckily for ourselves, un¬ 
til then. The stillness of the strange 
forest was again oppressive as we moved 
on, our footsteps muffled as before by the 
crushed lichens and mosses on which we 
trod. 

Fairley’s face was as strange and set as 
I knew my own must be, and we moved 
without conversation. I do not think 
that in either of our heads was there any 
clear idea of what we might do. We 
knew only that somewhere ahead the 
plants were moving on in their stalking- 
machines with Norton, and that we were 
following our friend. 

1 SUPPOSE that we had gone a half-mile 
through the lichen forest along that 
broad crushed path when I became grad¬ 
ually aware that we were being trailed by 
some creature or creatures. From the 
tail of my eye I had glimpsed in the last 
minutes a vague shape or shapes slipping 
through the lichens beside the padi we 
followed. 

In moments more I was sure that I was 
right. I whispered the news to Fairley, 
and showing no suspicion we walked 
steadily on, but alert now and with hands 
upon our pistols. We could clearly dis¬ 
cern shapes moving in the surrounding 
lichens by then, though too vaguely to 


make out what manner of creatures they 
were. The sight of them, though, was 
enough to key our already taut nerves up 
to the breaking-point of tension, and I 
think that in a moment more we would 
have dashed into the lichens to confront 
our stalkers rather than endure such ten¬ 
sion longer. 

But at that moment there was a blood¬ 
curdling whispering cry, and a dozen men 
leaped from the surrounding lichens 
toward us. 

They were photographed on my brain 
in the instant that they sprang, Fairley 
and I jerking our pistols forth. They 
were men of short stature whose skins 
and even whose hair was of an unnatu¬ 
rally bleached white. Their only clothing 
was a short tunic with breast-straps of 
woven moss, and each carried either a 
short metal-pointed spear or a curving 
blade of hammered metal much like a 
simitar. From both sides they rushed on 
us, with incredible swiftness, and before 
I had my own pistol half raised toward 
them it had been knocked from my grasp 
by the impact of their rush and I was 
struggling among them. 

'There was no further fight on my part 
—I was simply overwhelmed and borne 
to the ground. I heard a choking cry 
from Fairley and saw him overpowered 
also before he could fire a shot. 

Instantly the white savages raised us 
from the ground, and with two of their 
number carrying each of us began moving 
rapidly into the lichens of the forest. 
They carried on a whispering conversa¬ 
tion as they went along, their voices so 
low as to be almost inaudible, and I 
thought that many of their words that I 
heard were familiar to my ears, words out 
of my own and a half-dozen other lan¬ 
guages, but distorted and changed in pro¬ 
nunciation. Any chance we might have 
had to try speaking with them was ob¬ 
viated by the faa that those who car- 


312 


WEIRD TALES 


tied us kept a hand tightly across our 
mouths to prevent all possible outcry. 

I could observe them more closely as 
we were borne along, though, and saw 
that despite their unnatural whiteness of 
skin and hair, many of them had intelli¬ 
gent-looking faces. 

A very patent fear was painted on them 
now, though, and they kept glancing 
about and backward constantly as they 
moved through the towering lichens. 
Once, when we came to what I knew was 
the crushed track of another of the great 
stalking-machines, they halted completely 
and did not go forward until one of their 
number had reconnoitered for some min¬ 
utes. It was very evident that they knew 
of the existence of the intelligent plants 
and their huge striding mechanisms, and 
were in mortal fear of meeting them. 

At last they halted with us beside a 
great clump of lichens, and after cau¬ 
tiously looking about, moved into the 
clump’s depths. A round hole about a 
yard across yawned in the earth there and 
into this the foremost of the white sav¬ 
ages crawled, head foremost. 

We saw them disappear down the hole 
and then they motioned for us to do like¬ 
wise, releasing us but menacing us with 
the spears and blades. The dark burrow¬ 
like opening was singularly uninviting 
but there was no choice, and gingerly I 
crawled down into it, Fairley following. 
I found that it widened out into a fairly 
large cavity inside, however, though com¬ 
pletely dark. Our captors, whose eyes 
were evidently more attuned to this dark¬ 
ness than ours, grasped us and hurried us 
into a low mnnel as dark, but in which we 
could walk by bending almost double. 

As we moved through this dark tunnel 
their voices rose from whispering to a 
more normal tone, and they took no pre¬ 
cautions to keep us silent longer. Fair¬ 
ley’s voice came from the darkness be¬ 


hind me, the first time I had heard it 
since the attack and capture. 

"Olcott, you’re all right?” he asked. 
"Do you think we could make a break for 
it now—fight back up?” 

"Are there many of them behind you?” 
I asked in return. 

"A half-dozen, I suppose,” he an¬ 
swered. 

"Too many,” I told him. "They can 
see better than we in this darkness and 
know their way—they’d have us in a mo¬ 
ment with those spears.” 

"Look!” he said suddenly. "Light 
ahead.” 

I had seen it at the same moment. It 
was a circle of pale, misty light so feeble 
as hardly to deserve the name, that 
marked the end of the tunnel we fol¬ 
lowed. In a moment, with our captors 
around us, we emerged from the tunnel 
into a quite large cavern hollowed from 
the earth, and illuminated by that feeble 
bluish glow of light. 'The first thing I 
saw was that the light had its source from 
great phosphorescent lichens growing 
from the cavern’s earth walls. I was 
later to learn that they were seleaed and 
planted there for that purpose, forming 
the only illumination of these burrows 
beneath earth’s surface. 

'This cavity or burrow held more than 
a hundred white-skinned and white- 
haired men and women and children like 
our captors. Most of them occupied the 
large cavern itself, but there were others 
in smaller holes or cavities in its walls, 
the latter being evidently for the accom¬ 
modation of separate families. 

There was no fire in all the cave, nor 
indeed would fire have been possible 
without danger of suffocation by smoke. 
Many of the people in it were eating 
chunks of thick white pulpy stuff that I 
recognized as broken from lichen-stems. 
Some prepared these by rolling and 
kneading it upon rocks, and there were 


TEN MILLION YEARS AHEAD 


313 


some rude vessels of hammered metal 
used to transport and hold water from a 
trickle that gurgled from the great cav¬ 
ern’s wall. 

We stared across this blue-lit cavern in 
amazement, its occupants approaching 
and thronging about us with a fearful 
curiosity. 

"And this is the height mankind has 
reached after ten million years!” Fairley 
exclaimed. "This is the colossal civiliza¬ 
tion we came across time to see!” 

I was as stupefied as he. "Good God! 
To have been bleached white like this, 
they must have lived down in these dim 
burrows for generations!” 

"Plants stalking the earth in great ma¬ 
chines and men hiding from them in bur¬ 
rows as the beasts once hid from men! 
Olcott, are we dreaming it?” 

O UR captors, pushing out of the way 
the curious throng that crowded 
about us, conduaed us to one of the 
smaller cavities hollowed in the main cav¬ 
ern’s side. Lit by the feeble blue glow of 
a few of the phosphorescent lichens, it 
held a half-dozen seated men who sur¬ 
veyed us with astonishment as our guards 
made quick explanations to them of our 
capture. 

Our captors seemed to address them¬ 
selves to a single one of the half-dozen, 
a man much older than the others, with 
that stamped upon his wrinkled face and 
in his steady eyes that marked him as a 
ruler. As he listened he was surveying 
us closely, and when the explanations 
were finished he conunented to the others 
in his deep voice. I was surprized to find 
that we could understand to some extent 
what he was saying. 

His speech, like that of the others, was 
in faa our own language, changed and 
distorted by the tremendous stretch of 
time across which we had come. It held 
many words and phrases quite unknown 


to us, but was understandable, and in what 
follows I give rather the sense of what 
we gathered from their speech than the 
mixture of known and unknown words 
that these people actually employed. 

"Surely these two are from no burrow 
known to me,” he was saying. "I have 
visited many burrows in my time, even 
beyond the lichen-forest, but never saw 
men such as these, dark of hair and 
strange of dress.” 

"It may be that they are not men at all, 
O Gerkel,” suggested one beside him. 

"Aye, men do not walk in open sun¬ 
light as these were walking when our 
hunters captured them,” said a third. 
"Only the great plants and those who 
serve them dare do that.” 

"Yet these are not of the great plants 
but are men,” a clean-featured younger 
man pointed out. "It may be that they 
are from some distant burrow where men 
are different from us.” 

Gerkel nodded. "You say true, Blan— 
they are men. Yet even so they may be 
spies of the plants—such a thing has been 
blown before.” 

Until then we had listened, but now 
Fairley, with a glance at me, spoke to 
them, slowly and clearly. 

"We are men indeed, O Gerkel,” he 
told the older man, "but we are not from 
any burrow, neither are we spies of the 
great plants. We did not know until to¬ 
day that either the plants or your people 
existed. We came with another from'a 
time ages on ages in the past, and that 
other was captured by the plants in great 
machines. We, following to find and res¬ 
cue him, were captured in turn by your 
hunters and brought here.” 

The men before us had followed Fair¬ 
ley’s words intently. Gerkel was the 
first to speak. 

"That is a strange tale—that you come 
from far in the past. Were you like us I 
would say that you lie, yet it is true that 


314 


WEIRD TALES 


there have not been for ages men dark of 
hair and brown of skin as yourselves.” 

"It is the truth,” Fairley said. "Hid¬ 
den in the lichens above is the machine in 
which we came.” 

There was a whisper of wonder among 
the others. "They must be speaking 
truth, indeed,” Blan said, "for had they 
been men like ourselves they would have 
had too great a fear of the plants to walk 
in the open as they did.” 

"Is it true,” Gerkel asked, "that in the 
far past men ruled earth as now the 
plants do.^ I have heard the legends that 
they still tell of how, before the great 
plants rose and mastered the races of men, 
there were no burrows at all and men 
lived upon earth’s surface in day and 
night without fear.” 

"It is true,” I answered. "We come 
ourselves from that time and are amazed 
to find men hiding thus and fleeing from 
plants.” 

Gerkel shook his head sadly. . "You 
know our world not,” he said. 'The great 
plants are mighty and they are merciless. 
Hide from them as we do in our bur¬ 
rows, their great stalking-machines watch 
for us ever in the lichen-forests and cap¬ 
ture all they find to take to their plant- 
cities for slaves. If they have taken your 
friend, abandon hope for him, for no 
man ever escapes the cities of the plants. 
You are free to go, for I see that you are 
really men; yet if you are wise you will 
remain in this burrow, where alone you 
will not need to fear the plants.” 

"No, if our friend lives we will find 
him,” I answered, "Whether in a plant- 
city or not, we are going after him.” 

"And I will go with you!” Blan ex¬ 
claimed excitedly. "For weeks has Julia, 
my brother, been a slave in the plant- 
city to the west, and what you can risk 
for your friend, surely can I for him!” 

Tile others cried out. "Are you mad, 
Blan?” Gerkel asked. "None in all our 


race has ever dared approach the cities 
of the plants!” 

"Yet if these strangers can dare it, I 
can!” Blan answered. "There is one way 
by which we three can enter the plant- 
city, I think, and that is as slaves. You 
must change that strange dress.of yours 
for tunics of moss like mine, and we must 
carry our metal blades with us as weapons. 
Once inside, we should be able to find 
among the slaves my brother and your 
friend.” 

"It’s a chance, Olcott!” Fairley ex¬ 
claimed. "We’ll have to leave our clothes 
and pistols here, but the latter would be 
useless against the plants anyway, I 
think.” 

Swiftly, with those about us still 
smnned by Blan’s plan, we changed into 
the woven moss tunics he brought us, re¬ 
ceiving with them the simitar-like metal 
blades that would be our only weapons. 
Blan then crumbled a porous lichen-stem 
into a white powder that he rubbed quick¬ 
ly through our hair, giving it the same 
bleached white appearance as that of the 
others. Fairley and I hardly recognized 
each other when he had finished. 

Ready then to go, we paused with Blan. 
I shall not soon forget the piaure of that 
scene—the blue-lit cavity with the white- 
haired and white-faced men about us, 
most of them silent in their awe of what 
we were undertaking. I suppose that they 
looked upon us as bent upon sheer suicide 
in even daring approach one of the cities 
of the dreaded plants. 

Gerkel clasped our hands, a gesture 
that had survived a hundred thousand 
centuries. 

"I know that none of you will come 
back ever,” he said, "that you go to death 
or slavery. Yet, I do not know why, I am 
glad to have lived to see this—to see men 
going forth and holding the power of the 
great plants as nothing.” 

Blan and Fairley and I turned then and 


TEN MIUUON YEARS AHEAD 


315 


emerged from the smaller cavity into the 
large main cavern or burrow. The men 
and women in it watdied us in awe as we 
crossed it toward the dark moudi of the 
tunnel leading upward. Some of the men 
called farewells to Blan as though to one 
on the point of death. 

B lan led the way surely up through 
the darkness of , the tunnel, Fairley 
and I linking hands with him as we half 
walked, half crawled after him in it. We 
reached the tunnel’s mouth, and after 
Blan had peered cautiously forth for a 
full five minutes we pulled ourselves up 
into the growth of lichens that masked 
the shaft’s entrance. 

The small orange sun was sinking rap¬ 
idly now toward the western horizon. 
Fairley and I stood for a moment, breath¬ 
ing great limgfuls of the open air, feeling 
an inexpressible relief at being in sunlight 
and open air once more after the dim bur¬ 
rows and tunnels beneath. Blan, though, 
seemed to feel only a marked increase in 
caution upon emerging, his eyes darting 
this way and that keenly in search of dan¬ 
ger. 

He laid a finger significantly upon his 
lips and then pointed westward, starting 
in that direction. Fairley and I followed 
him closely, and in a few minutes saw 
that he was keeping always as much as 
possible within the screening shelter of 
the lichen-growths, skirting each patch of 
open ground as though it represented a 
deadly peril. The degree of his caution 
showed me more than anything else the 
depths of fear in which the monstrous 
plants kept these men of the future. 

The sinking sun was ins our faces as we 
moved on, a small disk of orange-red fire 
that the passing ages had dimmed enough 
to make it possible for one almost to stare 
into it. I strove to get my bearings again 
as we went on, placing the direction of 


the gully that held the time-doubler as 
well as possible. 

Like three white shadows we slipped 
silently westward through the lichen-for¬ 
est. Once Blan relaxed his cautious 
glances enough to point into a clump of 
great growths we were passing, whisper¬ 
ing something I could not catch. I saw in 
the clump, though, a round tunnel-open¬ 
ing like that of the burrow from which 
we had come, and wondered how far be¬ 
neath the ground we trod, in what dim- 
lit cavern, other white-haired and white¬ 
faced men were living. Yes, and in how 
many such burrows beneath the great for¬ 
est, and maybe beneath all earth’s Sur¬ 
face, were men and women being born 
and living out their lives and dying? 
Descendants of those who had been 
earth’s lords living now beneath the shad¬ 
ow of earth’s new lords, the plants! 

The thought, though it shook me, 
passed, for Blan’s carefulness was by then 
increasing so much as to make it evident 
we were nearing our goal. We could see 
nothing unusual, the gray-green sea of the 
vast lichen-forest stretching about us end¬ 
lessly, but in a moment I could see that 
somewhere not far ahead the ground 
sloped downward sharply. We went more 
slowly, at Blan’s warning whisper, and at 
last crouched beneath a small lichen 
thicket on the crest, gazing downward. 

From where we were the ground sloped 
downward, bare save for its moss carpet, 
into a great moss-covered sunken bowl or 
valley. This circular valley, in which were 
no lichoi-growths at all, may have been 
three miles across, its level floor a few 
hundred yards down the slope from us. 
It was lit by the orange sun just touching 
the opposite horizon or crest, and in this 
natural great bowl was the city of plants 
we sou^t, a city without buildings. 

Fairley and I stared, with Blan as fas¬ 
cinated as ourselves. I think that for the 
moment we two had forgotten Norton 


316 


WEIRD TALES 


entirely in the sheer amazement of what 
we saw. 

The city was rovmd, enclosed by a thick 
wall of white metal two-score feet in 
height. Just inside that wall was a circu¬ 
lar row of deep square pits whose pur¬ 
pose in that first glance was not clear to 
us. Inside this circle of pits were circular 
rows of great gleaming machines very 
strange in appearance. They stood in the 
open air upon the smooth black soil that 
formed the city’s floor. Some of them 
were apparently giant mixing-machines, 
that used paddle-like arms to crush up 
masses of various lichens and mosses with 
other materials in sunken tanks. Others 
turned forth linked lengths or great bars 
of the shining white metal. Still others 
were too vague for our eyes to distin¬ 
guish. 

But the most astounding feature was 
that before each of these machines was 
rooted, in the ground one of the great 
green plants, operating and controlling 
its marine with its tendril-arms. 

The sight was incredible—this city of 
plants in which plants worked steadily 
and intelligently, rooted as they were. I 
could see many of the huge stalking-ma- 
chines coming and going across this im- 
earthly plant-metropolis, each with plants 
rooted in the soil of their cups, direaing 
the stalking-machines as we had seen 
them in the forest, carrying enormous 
burdens back and forth with them. The 
plants in the stalking-machines were the 
only ones that moved, however, all the 
others in the city being rooted in the 
ground by whatever machine or spot that 
held their particular task. 

I saw beyond the rows of machines, to¬ 
ward the amazing city’s center, rows of 
smaller plants that had apparently no 
work assigned them, growing in great 
beds and awaiting their full stature be¬ 
fore taking up their part of the city’s 
life. Stalking-machines were transplant¬ 


ing some of the larger of them even as 
we watched, placing them by whatever 
machine or task had been assigned them. 
And in beyond even these I glimpsed at 
the city’s far center a circle of unusually 
large plants at the center of which grew 
one positively huge. The plant-ruler of 
this weird plant-city, growing at its center 
and ruling it by whatever strange senses 
they used for sight and speech! 

And, last and most terrible feature of 
all, there moved through the plant-city 
hundreds — yes, thousands — of human 
slaves, white-haired men and women like 
Blan beside me! Beneath the silent com¬ 
mands of the plants, expressed to them 
telepathically, they labored in this city of 
their masters. Many of them were occu¬ 
pied in feeding materials into the ma¬ 
chines the plants controlled. Others were 
engaged in tending the beds of young 
plants, changing the soil about them and 
turning on Aem fine sprays. Still others 
aided plants in assembling metal seaions 
into new machines. And, one sickened 
with horror to see, it was the plants who 
worked by far the most swiftly and in¬ 
telligently with their tendril-arms, the 
humans seeming clumsy and dull and 
brute-like in comparison with them! 

"Good God!’’ It was Fairley’s excla¬ 
mation, shaken with horror. "That you 
and I should look on such a sight, Olcott 
—^plant masters and human slaves!’’ 

"Norton!” I whispered. "Norton’s 
down there somewhere, Fairley—is one 
of those slaves.” 

It steadied him. "Norton, in that 
hell!” he whispered. "But we’ll have him 
out—how do you plan to enter the city, 
Blan?” 

Blan pointed downward. "See—that 
gate.” 

I N THE city’s metal wall, almost direaly 
down the slope from us, was a gate or 
opening a dozen feet in width. On either 


TEN MILLION YEARS AHEAD 


317 


side of this opening was rooted a great 
plant, and the two of them, with their 
tendril-arms moving slowly and restlessly, 
had all the appearance of sentinels or 
guards, 

"That is the gate we must go through,” 
Blan was saying. "When darkness comes 
all the slaves inside the city, except a few 
left free to care for the beds of small 
plants in the night, will be herded into 
those square pits for the night. And soon 
after night’s coming almost all the plants 
in the city will be sleeping.” 

"Sleeping?” interrupted Fairley incred¬ 
ulously, and Blan nodded. 

"Yes, the plants sleep even as men do 
at night.” 

"Of course!” I exclaimed. "Don’t you 
remember, Fairley, the botanist back in 
our own time who tested plants and found 
they went into torpor or sleep by night?” 

"All the city’s plants will be sleeping,” 
Blan continued, "save those who guard 
the city at night, these being the plants 
rooted at its gates and other plants who 
watch over the city in stalking-machines 
and do not sleep. We will steal down 
through the darkness to that gate you 
see and will try with our blades to slay 
the two plants guarding it before they 
are aware of our presence and can flash a 
telepathic alarm to those in the stalking- 
machines. 

"If we can slay them thus and get in¬ 
side the city we can search the pits of the 
slaves for my brother and your friend, 
and if we find Julia and your Norton, can 
escape back out again, before the alarm 
is raised. Since we resemble slaves our¬ 
selves we will be less noticeable in the 
city if seen, since some, as I said, work 
throughout the night; yet even though 
they think us slaves, the plants would 
slay us if they caught us near the pits. It 
is the only plan that has any chance of 
success; and if it fails we had better die at 


once, since otherwise we will remain as 
slaves of the plants while we live.” 

"In other words, it’s a case of do or 
die,” said Fairley, and Blan grinned, a 
very human grin. 

"With the chances strongly on dying,” 
he added. 

By then the sun was sinking behind 
the opposite crest of the bowl-like valley 
that held the plant-city, and as dusk set¬ 
tled upon it its aaivities began to lessen. 
We saw the plants in the city turning off 
the great machines they controlled. Many 
of the plants operating stalking-machines 
brought these to rest for the night by al¬ 
lowing their great limbs to fold under 
them so that Aey rested with cups but a 
little above the groimd. 

A half-hundred of the many stalking- 
machines still remained aaive, however, 
engaged in herding the masses of white 
slaves from the work that had been theirs 
during the day toward the ring of square 
pits that held them by night. The giant 
white metal machines, the plants direa- 
ing them almost invisible, were like men 
herding sheep as th^ pressed the men 
and women slaves toward the pits. 

Metal flexible ladders like rope-ladders 
were unreeled into the pits and the slaves 
descended these like docile beasts, the lad¬ 
ders being drawn up again when all were 
in the pits. Gintainers of what was evi¬ 
dently food of some kind were lowered 
then into the pits by the stalking- 
machines. 

The dusk was thidcening rapidly and we 
could see that now the city’s plants, ex¬ 
cept those at the gate and those in the 
guarding stalking-machines, were sinking 
into sleep, their tendril-arms folding up 
around their central trunks. Complete 
darkness was almost upon us, relieved by 
the white glimmer of starlight. By it we 
could see that all the plant-city was sleep¬ 
ing indeed. 'The plants rooted beside their 
machines, those rooted in the cups of the 


318 


WEIRD TALES 


resting stalking-machines, the beds of 
smaller plants nearer the dty’s center, and 
no doubt even that huge plant-king we 
had glimpsed at the dty’s heart—all these 
slept with tendrils shut, and there slept 
too now the masses of thdr human slaves 
in the ring of pits. 

The only sound was of the great strides 
of the guarding stalking-machines mov¬ 
ing to and fro in the dty. Yet Blan re¬ 
strained us still. 

We crouched silently, gazing down to¬ 
ward the weird dty that was clear now to 
our eyes in the white light of the stars. 
I looked up toward those stars. They 
blazed in the moonless ni^t with a splen¬ 
dor new to me. All of the constellations 
known to me were gone, I saw, yet the 
skies were more brilliant than ever I had 
seen them. In the ten million years we 
had aossed, the sun had led his family 
of worlds into a part of the universe far 
more thick with stars than had been the 
case in our own time. 

Of all our weird venture that was, I 
think, the weirdest moment — that in 
which Fairley and I crouched with Blan 
above the sleeping plant-dty and beneath 
unfamiliar stars. 

At last Blan rose silently. ”We can 
start now,” he whispered. "I will ap¬ 
proach the gate from the right and you 
from the left—^we will strike together to 
slay the plant-guards on either side.” 

"But will their senses warn them of our 
attack?” I asked. 

"Not if we move swiftly enough,” 
Blan replied. "Thdr strange plant-senses 
serve them as well as sight and hearing 
by day, but at night are not so effective, 
as my people have found. We can slay 
them ^ore they can give a telepathic 
alarm if we are swift enough.” 

W E GRASPED our simhar-like blades 
and crept out of the shelter of the 
lidiens and into die clear starti^t. Down 


the slope we went, our steps as silent as 
those of ghosts in the soft moss. 

Soon we were near enough to die wall 
and gate to see clearly the two great plants 
who guarded the opening. Their slow- 
waving tendrils showed that they were 
still waking and watchful. Blan noise¬ 
lessly left our side, gliding away like a 
white phantom to the right, and then he 
on one side and Fairley and I on the 
other, were creeping toward the gate, 
keeping far enough aside from it to be 
out of range of the strange senses of the 
guarding plants. 

We two reached the metal wall, and 
hugging it began a slow stealthy progress 
along it toward the gate-opening. Reach¬ 
ing that opening we hesitated, our swords 
tight-gripped in our hands. Then we saw 
Blan appear on the gate’s other side, slip¬ 
ping along the wall like ourselves, a glid¬ 
ing white form. He too halted, grasping 
his blade, and then with one hand made a 
silent signal to us. Instantly he and we 
were leaping around the wall’s corner 
onto the two great plants. 

The great plant that Fairley and I 
sprang for loomed before us as a 
dark many-armed objert, whose tendrils 
whipped wildly as our blades slashed 
lighming-Iike through them. 

One of the tendrils, even as it was cut 
through, coiled like a dark plant-snake 
around Fairley, but our slashes had been 
true and had cloven the big plant’s cen¬ 
tral trunk or core through at the base. 
Its movements ceased, and as we turned 
wildly we saw that Blan too had slain 
with a single terrific blow the other of 
the plant-guards. 

We stood silent, breathless, wafting in 
indescribable suspense for the alarm that 
would follow had the plant-guards been 
able to fling a thought-warning into the 
chy in dying. But there came no alarm, 
the stalking-machines in the city striding 
to and fro as before. 


TEN MILLION YEARS AHEAD 


319 


"We are safe for the moment,” Blan 
whispered. "We killed them before they 
could give warning. But we must make 
haste—if they are found dead like this 
by any of the stalking-machines we will 
be trapped inside the city!” 

"The pits!” I exclaimed. "Let’s get at 
our search—the sooner we find Norton 
and Julia the better.” 

We ran silently through the gate and 
between its sprawled dead guards, toward 
the ring of square pits that belted the city 
inside the wall. My heart sank as I vis¬ 
ualized the number of them and the 
thousands of slaves they held, but I knew 
that only by systematic search of them 
could we find the men we sought. 

In moments we were at the edge of the 
nearest of the pits. It was some thirty 
feet square and as deep. Working silently 
but swiftly we located the ladder we had 
seen dropped into it, and after a little 
examination of its simple mechanism un¬ 
wound the flexible ladder again and 
dropped it into the pit. 

Then while Fairley stood watch at the 
ladder’s top, Blan and I climbed quickly 
down into the pit. Its bottom was cov¬ 
ered by a tangled mass of humanity 
sprawled in sleep, white-skinned forms 
in every posture, lying sleeping in the 
clear starlight that penetrated the pit. 

By the starlight we examined their 
faces swiftly, stepping over them with in¬ 
finite care as we did so. Were we to 
awake them it would mean inevitable 
alarm and discovery, for we could not 
hope to rescue any number of them and 
the clamor of those left behind would 
rouse the city. Also, as Blan had told 
us, many of the slaves had become so 
habituated to their servitude that they 
would have betrayed to their plant-mas¬ 
ters any fellow-slave who attempted to 
escape. 

Within minutes we had satisfied our¬ 
selves that none in that pit were those we 


sought, and quickly we climbed the lad¬ 
der and wound it up again, so that none 
of the slaves might wake and find it and 
arouse the plant-guards. 

We raced on to the next pit. Back 
farther in the city the guardian stalking- 
machines were coming and going watch¬ 
fully still, but we paid them almost no 
attention for the moment in the tenseness 
of our search. Our search of the second 
pit was a repetition of that of the first, 
yet in that pit neither were the men for 
whom we searched. And when we 
searched a third pit, and a fourth and a 
fifth, without further results, a despair 
latent in me from the first strengthened 
and would not be banished. How could 
we hope to find in all the city’s pits and 
all its slaves the two we sought, before 
we ourselves were discovered? 

And as Fairley and Blan and I has¬ 
tened on toward the sixth pit, we had 
abrupt warning that discovery was close 
at hand. A stalking-machine, coming 
from ahead, loomed suddenly up in the 
starlight before us! 

As one we flung ourselves aside, into 
the shadow of a looming mixing-machine 
to our right. With crashing strides the 
huge machine stalked toward us, the 
plants high up in its cup visible to us as 
dark many-tendrilled shapes. One of its 
four giant limbs crashed down but a few 
feet from where we lay, and I had a hor¬ 
rible moment in which it seemed that the 
towering shape was halting over us. It 
passed on, though, going along the ring 
of pits in the direaion we had come. 

"It’s going in the direction of the 
gate!” Fairley whispered as we scrambled 
to our feet. "If it finds those dead plants 
there-” 

"The next pit!” Blan exclaimed. 
"We’ve got to keep up the search—if we 
don’t find them soon now, it’s all up with 
all of us!” 

(Please turn to page 426) 



The Dust of Death 

By HUGH JEFFRIES 

Gigantic pu§balls—a scourge of death from fungi—the evil genius of a 
Chinese scientist—and the dread death that menaced America 


O NE man dreamt of empire, and 
half a million Americans died. 
One yellow man aided by the 
stolen brains of a white man of science 
came close to wiping out of existence the 
civilization of North America. One man 
against a hundred and thirty million— 
odds enough—^yet that one man was 
Doaor Tsu Liang, and on his side was 
320 


the fungoid scourge. Fighting for him 
were the puffball and the death that 
turned men into walking vegetables until 
at last it killed them—^half a million. 

It seems strange to write dispassionate¬ 
ly about it now. It is difficult to start from 
the small beginnings to describe the 
growth of that great menace which held 
the United States helpless while cancer* 
W. T.—2 




like it ate further and further into its 
vitals. Yet that is my task and I shall tty 
to fulfil it. 

Out of small beginnings—^yes, things 
start out of small beginnings. An acci¬ 
dent; a careless mechanic at the Miami 
airport saved the United States. For it 
was the result of his negligence that my 
motor conked out, and there I was two 
thousand feet up and no landing-place 
within fifty miles, as far as I could ^ee. 
For I was over the Everglades. And 
below me were mud and water; tall reeds 
and more water, stunted, twisted trees 
standing in water—water—^that is all I 
could see. Certainly no firm land. 

I circled the bus over a mile radius, 
while the wind whistled a sharp dirge 
through the edge of a piece of loose 
isinglass at the cowling. Sdll the water 
W.T.—3 


gleamed through the grass and throu^ 
the trees. And still there was no land. 

“Well,” I said to myself, "here goes 
Greg Morris—may his bones be found by 
other than by alligators.” And I swooped 
down upon an open glade of water- 
covered marsh. 

Flamingoes, a dozen lanky-legged pink 
birds, rose with a burst of flapping 
wings. Blue and white herons squawked 
alarm as I glided down upon them. Ten 
feet from the treacherous surface I 
levelled off. I brought the nose up and 
tried to pancake softly into the mud. 

I remember feeling the ripping tear as 
the undercarriage broke off my Swallow. 
And then my head snapped forward 
against the instrument panel. 

It must have been an hour later when 
I came to. Swarms of mosquitoes had 
settled on my face and on the back of my 
neck. I believe that it was the pain of 
their bites that brought me back to con¬ 
sciousness, for my head was on fire. 

321 






322 


WEIRD TALES 


I brushed them oflF and gingerly felt 
myself, but apart from an aching weal 
right over my eyes found nothing to be 
wrong. My helmet and unbreakable 
glasses had saved me from punishment. 

So far, so good. I unhooked my safety 
belt and put a leg outside the cowling. A 
huge brown buzzard croaked in dismay 
and clumsily flopped away from the wing 
tip where he had been sitting. 

"Not yet, brother,” I called after him. 
"Come again later on.” 

It was not a pretty prospea. For almost 
exactly a hundred yards around me was 
nothing but grass and reeds whose tops 
bore cottony seed pods. Under them was 
ooze, black mud which bubbled every so 
often as something was drowning 
under it. And the gas that came up 
smelled of rotten things. 

I looked over the Swallow and found 
that the right lower wing was broken 
and trailing along one side. The wheels 
and the undercarriage were just back of 
the tail, only a stub of bright red painted 
metal showing where they were sinking 
in the ooze. No, decidedly not a pretty 
prospea. And to make it worse, as I 
reached for my cigarette case, I found 
only two butts left. An ugly outlook. 

And yet within five minutes it changed. 
Distantly I heard a halloo. I looked 
around but saw no one. Then I thought 
of the pistol I always carried in the 
plane, found it, and sent three shots into 
the sky. 

Again came the cry. Then silence for 
a few minutes and again repeated. This 
time it was much nearer. Once more I 
blazed away three cartridges and lit my 
last cigarette. Apparently the Everglades 
were not quite as deserted as I had imag¬ 
ined. Already somebody who had seen 
me descend was coming to the rescue. 

There was a final yoo-hoo—and then a 
red canoe eeled its way through the trees 


on one side. A red canoe, just as if from 
some summer camp. And what’s more 
there was a pretty girl in the canoe; a 
girl whose fair hair shone like a golden 
helmet on her head; a girl whose dress of 
silk was just the same as those of the 
girls I had left behind me at Miami. 

True, with her was a dark-skinned man 
who wielded a paddle. Indian, I decided 
when I saw the long straight hair 
falling to his shoulders. But my eyes 
were on the girl and stayed on her, as 
she smiled impishly and called "Welcome 
to the Everglades,” when the canoe 
bumped gently against the torn right 
wing as if it was a landing-stage. 

I threw up my hands in mock despair. 
"Out of charaaer,” I said, "entirely out 
of charaaer. You should be wearing 
buckskin or—or-” 

"Alligator hide,” she suggested with a 
twinkle. "They tell me it’s fashionable, 
and deer are rather scarce here, you 
know.” 

'That is how I was rescued. The girl 
was Polly Houlton. The Indian was Joe 
Big, a Seminole working for the Houltons 
in the Everglades. Me—I was Greg 
Morris, gentleman of leisure, God save 
the mark, but most at ease in a ’plane, 
though not in one such as the Swallow 
was at that moment. 

2 

C AREFULLY I lifted my club bag out 
of the forward cockpit into the canoe 
and then climbed down myself. The 
wonder of seeing a pretty girl dressed as 
Polly Houlton was in the midst of the 
Everglades had not yet died down. 

"But how can you dress that way— 
bare arms and all?” I voiced the question 
aloud; "By rights you should be all 
bloated with mosquito poison.” 

The girl laughed. And yet was she 


THE DUST OF DEATH 


323 


meriy? The laugh seemed to have a feel¬ 
ing of bitterness in it. 

’Tm afraid that if any ’skeeter bit me 
now he’d just naturally curl up and die. 
I’ve got enough of their virus in me to be 
immune from swelling.” Then with a 
touch of recklessness she added, "You 
can’t live here for two years without get¬ 
ting your system used to mosquitoes.” 

"Two years!” I gasped. "You don’t 
mean to say—^you can’t mean that you’ve 
been buried here for two years?” 

"Buried—^yes, that’s a good word,” she 
said. "And it’s exaaly what I do mean. 
It is two years since I saw any one outside 
our research group or a few occasional 
Indians.” 

"Research group!” The words had a 
strange sound. What kind of research 
could be going on in the Everglades? 
What kind of research that would keep 
a beautiful young woman confined to the 
swamps for two years? 

I asked. And for a moment I thought 
that I’d asked in vain. For the girl stared 
straight ahead and through me, while her 
eyes seemed to fill with horror and loath¬ 
ing. For a minute she was dumb and 
then she dug her paddle into the water 
with furious energy. 

"I hate it. I hate it all,” she burst out. 
"I want to get away from them. I—^I’m 
afraid of Doaor Tsu Liang. You are a 
flyer. Will you take me away when your 
airplane is fixed? Will you take me north 
to New York? I want to see Father 
there.” 

'The request startled me. The rescuer 
wanting to be rescued. But the girl gave 
me no time for a reply. 

"I am sure things are going wrong 
here,” she cried. "I am sure that Dad 
wouldn’t approve. And Tom—^he’s my 
brother—he’s aaing so queerly that I 
think he must have been drugged or 


hypnotized or something by the doaor. I 
want to get away from them.” 

I was stunned. What mess had I fallen 
into? 

And then a new voice broke in. "Yel¬ 
low man he’s devil,” said deep tones 
behind me. "He’s devil. Me—I know! 
All devils.” The canoe leaped forward 
again. 

It was the Indian, Joe Big, who had 
spoken. 

Polly Houlton laughed nervously. 
"Poor Joe doesn’t understand what they 
are doing,” she said. "It is weird enough, 
too, in a way. You see Father had an 
idea that he could turn the Everglades to 
great economic value by growing mush¬ 
rooms here. And then he became inter¬ 
ested in experiments with polarized light 
on fungoid growth and some strange 
chemical which he has made up. 

"He calls it accelerating fungoid de¬ 
velopment, and already he has some puflF- 
balls that are close to four feet in diam¬ 
eter. That is what the Indians can’t 
understand, and then, of course, they 
don’t like Doaor Tsu Liang and his 
servants. 

"Doaor Tsu came to us a year ago 
from the University of South China, 
where he had heard about the work that 
Father was doing. Father, you know, is 
Professor Howard Houlton, who used to 
be at Columbia.” 

"The Professor Houlton?” I asked, for 
even to an idle rich man’s son the fame of 
the noted savant was familiar. 

"Yes, people call him that,” admitted 
Polly Houlton. "But he’s away now and 
has been for the past two months, and 
Doaor Tsu is concentrating with Tom on 
some aeepy experiments with a fungus 
that attacks caterpillars and turns them 
into vegetables. The Chinese eat those 
things,” she said with a shudder. 

I knew. I had seen the delicacy at a 


324 


WEIRD TALES 


Qiinese dinner which I once attended. 
It is an ivory-white caterpillar about five 
inches long. And I remembered even 
then with horror the pale whitish stem 
that rose from immediately behind the 
caterpillar’s head and ended in a little 
club-shaped spore-container. 

Polly Houlton was speaking. "He—I 
—the doaor seems to be concentrating on 
this awful fungus and—I don’t know— 
but I heard him talk with my brother 
once, and they seemed to think that it 
would be good to, what they call 'enlarge 
its scope of aaion,’ whatever that means.’’ 

I shuddered in sympathy with her at 
the foul horror of which she was talk¬ 
ing, and then instinaively ducked to the 
bottom of the canoe. 

Something had splintered the gunwale 
less than an inch from my left hand, and 
then had buzzed venomously into the 
reeds. I knew what it was, althougli 
there was no report from any firearm. It 
was a bullet, a bullet fired from a pistol 
or rifle with a silencer fitted to it. 

3 

P OLLY HOULTON and Joe Big had 
stopped paddling. For a moment the 
canvas canoe hissed on through the reeds 
and grass, and then it lost way. 

"Who shoot.^’’ bellowed the Indian. 
"This Joe Big and Miss Polly.’’ 

His voice seemed to die away in the 
steamy heat, and then I heard a distant 
splashing and the knock of a paddle 
against the side of a canoe. Somebody 
was coming. 

Through a screen of reeds I caught a 
flash of deeper green. The reeds parted 
and a canoe slid into sight; a green canoe, 
and in it was a man wearing whites and 
a solar topee. 

He came closer and I saw a yellow 
face. Black eyes stared at me intently, 
and I felt hostility in that gaze. Then 


an apologetic smile changed the man's 
appearance. 

"I say, Miss Houlton,” he called. 
"Most frightfully sorry. Didn’t know 
you were about at all, and I just took a 
pot shot at a bally alligator. Sorry no 
end if I came near you.” 

Yellow skin and Oxford accent! 
Startling combination. I suppressed a 
smile. 

Polly Houlton indignantly pointed at 
the white scar on the oaken gunwale. 

"You came close to killing our guest. 
Too close for comfort,” she snapped 
angrily. "You were not trying to dis¬ 
courage egret-hunters from coming too 
close to the island again, were you?” 

Again the Oriental apologized. 

"Please don’t be angry,” he said, his 
eyes soft on Miss Houlton. "Awful 
damn’ fool, I admit, to be shooting with¬ 
out making sure of where you were. And 
it won’t happen again, ’Pon my word it 
won’t.” 

And then he swung to me and 
stretched out a brown muscular hand as 
the canoes rubbed sides. 

"I can guess who you are,” he said 
with a smile under his little black mus¬ 
tache. "You must be the aviator whose 
airplane I saw coming down. I hope 
you have not bunged up your machine 
too badly?” 

"It’s done for,” I said bluntly. "I 
don’t see how I can repair the undercar¬ 
riage in this marsh. Anyway, it would 
need pontoons to get out.” 

"So sorry,” . lisped the Chinese. "But 
I fear that Miss Houlton still is angry 
with me. She has forgotten introduc¬ 
tions. I am Doctor Tsu Liang. And 
you?” 

"Gregory Morris,” I said. "Long 
Island. Flying from Miami to Fort 
Myers when my engine died.” 

"Ah, so?” smiled the Chinaman. "Too 


THE DUST OF DEATH 


325 


dashed bad for you, yet, what shall I say? 
—lucky for us that you—ah—dropped in 
on us. We have few visitors, you know, 
and we’ll try to make you comfortable 
at the laboratories. But now we should 
hurry if we wish to be home in time for 
tea.” 

And so the Oriental dipped his paddle 
and drew ahead of us through the cur¬ 
taining reeds. 

Polly Houlton saw my raised eyebrows. 
She laughed. A strained laugh it was. 
"He was educated in England,” she said 
in answer to the question on the tip of 
my tongue. 

Joe Big spat viciously overboard. 
"Red,” he grunted, "red no good for 
color. Boat show up too far. No 
good.” Then he paddled on. 

T hree times in the course of the next 
half-hour our canoe halted at the up¬ 
raised hand of Doaor Tsu Liang. Three 
times we waited while his rifle slowly 
stole up to his shoulder. Each time a 
compressed "thutt” sounded like a muf¬ 
fled sneeze, to be followed at once by an¬ 
gry thrashings among the reeds where 
the Chinese scientist had spied an alliga¬ 
tor. 

"You know. Miss Houlton,” the Orien¬ 
tal once called back over his shoulder, 
"this, in a way, is a revenge I am taking 
for your dog. I am sure poor Prince has 
been killed by one of them. They like 
dogs very well.” 

Polly Houlton turned pale. "Oh, I 
hope not,” she cried. "Prince has been 
here long enough to learn how to avoid 
them. He can scent one a hundred 
yards away. 

"I was looking for Prince when I saw 
your ’plane come down,” she confided to 
me in an aside. "He’s an Irish setter 
of whom I’m very fond, and he’s been 
missing for the last two days. And for 


days before that he seemed dopy and 
strange. I’m afraid he’s crawled away 
somewhere to die.” 

And then, with hardly any warning, I 
saw firm ground on one side. I craned 
around and saw a tree-covered island, no 
higher than four or five feet above the 
marsh at its highest point. 

The canoes were making for a stoutly 
built wooden landing-stage. We climbed 
out and proceeded up a well-worn path 
that led around patches of palmetto and 
bristling stands of cane to the center of 
the island, where I saw a group of build¬ 
ings and the metal skeletons of large and 
complicated pieces of apparatus in an 
open sandy glade. 

A long sprawling building in the 
Spanish style seemed to be our goal, a 
long building crouching under gigantic 
cypress trees and in an ordered wilder¬ 
ness of scarlet poinsettias and flowering 
oleanders. 

'The path wound between clumps of 
bushes and Doaor Tsu Liang preceded 
us by some ten yards. He was out of 
sight for a moment and I heard the 
"thutt” of his rifle. Then we rounded 
a bush and he was in sight once more, his 
rifle lifted and pointed toward the left. 

"Don’t look,” he called to Polly Houl¬ 
ton. "Another one of the slimy brutes 
—right on our grounds here. I see that 
I’ll have to wage a campaign of exter¬ 
mination against them soon.” He took 
her arm and mine and hurried us past 
the bush. 

The next few feet brought us to the 
patio, where Joe Big dropped my bag 
and vanished. Then we were in a cool 
hall furnished with wicket armchairs and 
chaise-longues. 

A clap of the hands and a gigantic 
Chinese clad in black trousers and shirt 
coat shuffled into the room. 

"Hung Lee, my Number One boy,” 


326 


WEIRD TALES 


Doaor Tsu Liang waved his hand grace¬ 
fully. "Anything you want, he will get. 
I am sure Miss Houlton will excuse me 
if I assume the part of host and tell you 
that everything in our poor housdiold is 
at your disposal.” 

"A smoke,” I suggested. "I’ve burned 
my last butt.” 

"Well, ra-ather,” said Tsu Liang. 
"Why didn’t you mention it before.? ” 
His hand held out a golden cigarette 
case. "And how about a cooling drink, 
a most charming drink that I’ve found 
down here— a —a mint julep, what? Two 
of them, Lee, and a lime crush for Miss 
Houlton, what?” 

And so, five minutes later, I was puf¬ 
fing luxuriously and looking with unbe¬ 
lieving eyes at the tall and fragrant glass 
that I held moisture-beaded in my hand. 

So this was the man of whom Polly 
Houlton was so terribly afraid—this man 
who seemed to combine in himself the 
perfea courtesy of two civilizations. 

Half an hour later I was in the room 
to which the doaor had himself con- 
duaed me, and I was looking at the din¬ 
ner jacka which a deft-handed Qiinese 
had taken out of my bag and laid on the 
bed as a hint of what was expeaed for 
the evening meal. 

"Good Lord,” I thought to myself. 
"Formality in the middle of the Ever¬ 
glades!” 

I heard a soft tapping on the door— 
tapping such as somebody drumming his 
fingernails on the wood makes. And 
then, before I could call out, the door si¬ 
lently opened. 

Joe Big stood there, glowering at me. 
From his hand swimg a burlap bag. Si¬ 
lently still he closed the door and bedt- 
oned to me with a swarthy finger. 

"Yellow man shoot ’gator outside 
house,” he said in a husky whisper. "See 
—^look at ’gator.” 


A twitch of his wrist and out rolled 
what was,in the sack. It was a dog, a 
silky-haired brown setter; its head 
squashed by the blow of a blunt-nosed 
bullet, but—the horror will not leave me 
yet—immediately behind its skull rose a 
blood-spattered something. A horn— 
no, it was a stub of pale yellow fungus, 
an inch in diameter and six in height. 

I shrunk from it with a cry of revul¬ 
sion. My stomach protested at the sight. 
It was—there was no doubt about it—it 
was the same horrible fvmgus which at¬ 
tacked the wretched caterpillars thought 
such a delicacy by the Chinese. 

"My God!” I cried. "What does this 
horrible thing mean?” 

My eyes were questioning Joe Big. 

The Indian shrugged his shoulders. 
"Yellow man is devil. I say so before,” 
he whispered. "Look, feel, dog Prince 
still warm. No flies in him. He live 
with that thing growing in him, but he 
die too, just like trees with Spanish moss 
or air plant die.” 

I could not bear to feel the wretched 
body. Yet I knew the Indian to have 
spoken truth. If I remembered correctly 
the explanation of a Chinese friend, at 
the dinner where I first saw the fungoid 
monstrosity, the body of the animal 
should be filled with the mycelium roots, 
the aaual body of the fungus. The pro- 
jeaing spike would only be the spore cap 
—the fruit of the horrible plant. 

"Look;” the Indian was merciless in his 
observations. "See the rope around neck 
of Prince. Dog he tied up some place. 
He chew rope. He break it. He crawl 
to door to see Miss Polly and he get shot. 
See—look.” 

I looked. I saw. The Indian was 
tight. A grim rage against the unclean 
work of the Chinese began to rise in me. 

'The Indian was rolling the body of 
Prince back into the sack. 


THE DUST OF DEATH 


327 


"What are you going to do with it?” 
I cried angrily. 

"Take him back where he killed,” an¬ 
swered Joe Big simply. "Yellow devil 
find him there. Not know that we know. 
Give you time. Got to have time to take 
you and Miss Polly away. Ten other 
men here call /ellow devil chief. I go 
now.” 

Joe Big did not wait for my consent. 
He opened the door and noiselessly 
slipped out. In truth I did not know 
what to say. Ten other Chinese here, all 
servants of Doaor Tsu Liang. No won¬ 
der that Polly Houlton wanted to escape. 
Escape! But how? 

4 

I MET Tom Houlton, Polly’s brother, a 
few minutes after Joe Big had left me. 
It seemed to me that the horror which 
the Indian had brought into my room 
had tainted the air there, and I was driven 
out into the sunny patio, where I walked 
up and down while trying to find an es¬ 
cape for Miss Houlton and myself from 
the island. 

Several turns I made on the scarlet 
tiles, and then I saw a fair-haired young 
man, standing imder the pillars at one 
side. The family resemblance was there, 
and I promptly went over and introduced 
myself. 

Tom "^Houlton showed no curiosity 
about my coming and no interest in plans 
for going. He simply stood there and 
toyed with a cigarette while I tried to 
make conversation and judge whether to 
tell him of his sister’s appeal to me. His 
pale gray eyes, slightly bulging, stared 
dully at me, until I felt a shiver run down 
my spine, for there was something ter¬ 
ribly inhuman about them. 

I talked of this and that, but could 
rouse no interest in him until I asked him 
to explain the nature of the work on 


which he and Doaor Tsu Liang were en¬ 
gaged. 

Then there rose a gleam of vivacity in 
his face and for a few minutes Tom 
Houlton was really animated. 

"Come along with me,” he suggested. 
"I’ll show you our culture sheds where 
we ray the mycelium and the spores, and 
where we use the chemical fungoid stim¬ 
ulator that Dad has discovered.” 

I walked with him aaoss an area of 
sand that was white and powdery and dry 
as.salt and saw that we were under one 
of the frameworks which bore a number 
of disks, now shielded with black cloth. 

"Mirrors,” he said, "catching my won¬ 
dering gaze. "It’s complex to explain to 
a layman, but they are of special material 
and curvature. They catch the polarized 
light of the moon, from which we sep¬ 
arate out certain wave lengths by means 
of color screens and prisms. 

"The wave lengths are the ones we find 
most suitable for our work, and they are 
concentrated on certain beds in whatever 
one of our fungus houses we are work¬ 
ing. 

"Look,” he pointed to the intricate 
branching of the mechanism and to a 
number of chain-drive belts as well as to 
an elearic motor at the base of the cen¬ 
tral column. 

"That’s our clockwork system—elec¬ 
tric, of course—which keeps the mirrors 
following the motion of the moon so that 
we can be sure of our rays as long as 
there is moonlight. It is praaically the 
same as that you will find in any large 
astronomical observatory where the tele¬ 
scope can be mechanically set to follow 
the motion of a celestial ix)dy that has to 
be studied for any length of time.” 

I nodded understanding and Tom 
Houlton continued talking, addressing me 
as if I was a classroom audience and he 
the lecturer. 


328 


WEIRD TALES 


His face shone with interest as he went 
into details of construaion and operation 
—details which I have forgotten. Yet 
even then there was something strange 
about his aaions; something theatrical 
and exaggerated about his gestures. 

"You have doubtless heard old-fash¬ 
ioned beliefs that com and wheat should 
be sown in the full of the moon,” he 
stated. "It is an ancient superstition 
and one spread all over the world. It 
is often found bound up with various re¬ 
ligions, and I am sure that your and my 
ancestors were very careful to observe it. 

"They did rightly in doing so,” he 
cried loudly. "For the moon, fair Luna, 
is more than mistress of the skies. She 
helps, when she chooses, in the germina¬ 
tion of seeds, in the growing of plants, 
and no type of vegetable matter does she 
control more than the fungi. It is by 
making the most of her aid that we suc¬ 
ceed in what we are doing. We have 
analyzed her light, which, as I have said, 
is polarized. That is, all the rays are 
parallel, as they would be when refleaed 
from a mirror, and the moon, of course, 
is the mirror of the sun. We have taken 
out those rays which are valuable—and 
here you see the result.” 

We had reached a low shed, whose 
wooden walls, now down, evidently could 
be lifted like shutters at night to give the 
moon rays access. Tom Houlton threw 
open a door. 

Dim light and musty odor met me, 
also heat as of a bake oven. I entered, 
and, as my eyes accustomed themselves 
to the gloom, I saw a long row of huge 
white balls. 

I knew what they were, for I remem¬ 
bered what Polly Houlton had said. Yet 
even so it seemed incredible that these 
objects, some of them three feet in diam¬ 
eter and others four feet, should be the 
same as the ordinary edible puffballs, the 


latest of whidi grow to but little more 
than ten inches in seaion. 

"These puffballs are eatable, of 
course,” continued Tom Houlton. "They 
are the finest of foods. And we have 
already succeeded in accelerating them to 
such a point that one of the big ones will 
mature in forty-eight hours. They weigh 
about four hundred pounds apiece when 
ripe as these are now, and can undoubt¬ 
edly be made the world’s cheapest food.” 

"What do you mean by 'accelerated'.^” 
I asked. "I thought that your ordinary 
puffball would mature in less than forty- 
eight hours anyway.” 

Tom Houlton smiled as one of my 
teachers used to smile when he saw glim¬ 
merings of intelligence in my class. 

"Quite right, quite right,” he said. 
"But you must remember that the larger 
any vegetable objea is, the longer it took 
to attain that size. That’s a general 
rule, and of course there are exceptions. 
But we had to overcome that condition, 
else insect pests might riddle our puff¬ 
balls before they grew large enough, and 
we believe we have succeeded even to the 
extept of passing on that acceleration to 
several generations of the mushroom.” 

We walked through the shed past rows 
of the puffballs, which to my startled im¬ 
agination seemed to be swelling and 
growing bigger even as I watched them; 
came to the end of it, and walked out 
through another door. 

Listlessly Tom Houlton waved his 
hand toward other and similar buildings 
stretching away on the burning sand from 
under the palm trees. 

"You’ve seen all there is to see,” he 
said in a colorless voice'. "The other 
buildings are all the same. All have 
puffballs in various stages of growth and 
drying. All are due to our silver lady 
of the night.” 

His voice for an instant regained its 


THE DUST OF DEATH 


329 


freshness, and in that moment 1 visioned 
him as the high priest of some pagan 
cult that worshipped Selene, the goddess 
of the moon. Wely in those few sec¬ 
onds he had on his face some of the high 
zeal of the priest. 

But then I thought of something else. 
1 thought of another superstition con- 
neaed with the moon. And rashly 1 put 
it into words. 

"My grandmother used to tell me not 
to sleep with the moonlight shining on 
my face,” I said. "She was certain that 
the moonbeams would steal my wits away 
—and they might have some eflfea too. 
Isn’t the word 'lunatic’ derived from the 
Latin 'luna^, for ’moon’.>” 

I regretted my words a moment after 
I had spoken them. Tom Houlton’s face 
was contorted into a mask of rage. Be¬ 
fore I could guard myself he leaped at 
me and tripped me to the ground. I 
struck heavily and then was fitting for 
my life, for his hands were gripped tight 
around my throat and his thumbs were 
pressing on my windpipe. 

My fall had half dazed me, yet I 
clasped my hands together under those 
of Houlton and with all my strength 
struck out, forcing his hands apart and 
breaking his hold on my throat. 

Deep lungfuls of air I drew with sob¬ 
bing breath and then scrambled to my 
feet again to ward oflF Houlton should he 
resume his mad attack. 

But Houlton was lying on Ae sand. A 
thin trickle of blood came from his nose 
and mouth. Suddenly frightened, I 
stooped over him. I loosened his collar 
and put my hand inside his shirt to feel 
whether his heart was beating. 

And at that precise instant I heard the 
shrill of a whistle and the patter of run¬ 
ning feet. Before I could turn around I 
felt a savage impact of knees in the small 


of my back, and I was flung several feet 
away. 

Hands gripped me and twisted my 
arms painfully behind my back. And 
then I was unceremoniously jerked to my 
feet and turned about. 

Before me stood Doaor Tsu Liang, a 
little golden whistle shaped like a seaion 
of bamboo tod in the fingers of one hand 
and a stubby automatic pistol in the other. 

"Now, now, Mr. Morris,” he purred. 
"How am I to interpret'this unprovoked 
attack of yours upon my colleague? No 
—don’t deny it. I saw it all, and I say 
that it was unprovoked. Allow me to 
hope that poor Tom is not as badly in¬ 
jured as he looks. For if it should hap¬ 
pen that he dies—I may decide that sum¬ 
mary justice here would be better than 
that strange legal farce which you hold in 
the United States in cases of murder.” 

He broke off into a swift flow of Qii- 
nese. I felt the hands of his servants 
pulling out the automatic from my hip 
pocket. And then I was being half 
pushed and half carried toward a back 
entrance of the house. 

Dumb with dismay at the turn of fate 
and the treachery of the Celestial, I al¬ 
lowed myself to be hustled down a flight 
of stairs. And then I was thrown head¬ 
long into a cellar whose thick oaken door 
closed out all light as well as hope of es¬ 
cape when it was slammed and locked. 

5 

H ow many hours I crouched there in 
that coral rock walled cellar I can 
not tell. My wrist-watch had been brok¬ 
en in the struggle and the luminous 
hands were stopped by the jagged glass. 
There was no light. 'There was no win¬ 
dow. Even the door was almost air-tight, 
and after I had sat on the cold floor for 
—it must have been hours only, although 
it seemed like days—I began to fear that 


330 


WEIRD TALES 


die air was becoming vitiated and that F 
would die from lack of oxygen. 

Horrors enough there were on mush¬ 
room island, but this thought—that I 
would choke to death; that like a rat in 
a trap I might be dead before I was 
sought for again—nearly drove me fran¬ 
tic. 

I groped to the door and threw my 
body against it until the bolts that studded 
it bit deeply into my flesh. The door 
was as firm as rock. I shouted for help, 
and my voice filled the cellar with sound. 
Again and again I shouted, and then 
managed to hold myself back from the 
brink of hysteria. 

"I’ve got to stay sane,” I muttered to 
myself. "I’ve got to keep my senses.” 

And so I drew off one shoe, leaned 
against the door and started flailing it 
with the heel. Somebody, surely, would 
hear the noise of my knocking. .Some¬ 
body would come down and open the 
door. That was all I wanted. 

I beat the door, using my right hand 
until it was tired. Then I changed to 
my left. And then back again to the 
right. Nobody came. Then I started 
counting the strokes. My pounding be¬ 
came a grim game. I swore that I would 
knock a thousand times more. I did. 
The number passed and I kept on pound¬ 
ing. My right shoe had split and brok¬ 
en. I pulled off my left and resumed 
the hammering. 'The noise must have 
drowned all others in my ears, for I 
heard no one approach the cellar. Yet 
suddenly a key grated in the lock. Tum¬ 
blers clicked, and the door was flung 
open. I crouched head down, blinded 
by the glare of a high-powered electric 
torch. I tensed myself for a leap. 

"I wouldn’t do it, if I were you,” ad¬ 
vised Doaor Tsu Liang from behind the 
source of radiance. I saw a gleaming pis¬ 


tol barrel moved into the light for an in¬ 
stant, and then withdrawn. 

"You are a bally persistent blighter,” 
he continued. "That confounded knock¬ 
ing of yours got on my nerves, and was 
too hard to explain to Miss Houlton.” 

I caught at the straw. "'Then she 
doesn’t know that you’ve imprisoned me 
here?” I cried. 

A slow chuckle came from behind the 
light. 

"I decided that it would save trouble 
if I said that you had rushed off into the 
swamp after Wiling Tom Houlton.” 

"He-—he is dead!” I faltered. 

"Yes—what does the poem say?—^you 
now see in me the lord of all I survey. 
But then, of course, you really can not see 
me.” 

"But how could I have killed him?” I 
cried. "You know that I only hit him 
once, and that was to save my own life, 
for he was strangling me. How could 
he have died from that?” 

"With your rough temper you spoiled 
a very pretty experiment I was making,” 
said Doaor Tsu Liang. "I’m afraid poor 
Tom was already considerably weakened 
by it, and of course I realize that his 
mental condition may have affeaed the 
course of the experiment. Therefore I 
am, in a way, rather glad that I find in 
you good raw material to take Tom’s 
place. You may consider it a form of ex¬ 
piation, don’t you know, to take Tom 
Houlton’s place.” 

Sickening misgivings were stirring in 
me. Somehow I knew what the answer 
would be to my question. Yet I asked it. 

"What do you mean?” I cried. 

"I heard your conversation with poor 
Tom before the—^the murder.” 'The 
fiend laughed when he saw me wince at 
the term. 

"I heard your remark about the old 
superstition Aat moonlight has an effea 


THE DUST OF DEATH 


m 


(m the mind. Dot of die mouths of 
babes’—yo*i know die context of the 
quotation. You had put your finger on 
die one element which 1 saw was upset¬ 
ting the experiment. Tom Houlton had 
been so zealous in working over his 
father’s bally pufiEballs that he bad ex¬ 
posed himself for many hours at a time 
to our refined rays. 

"And if they affect fungoid generation 
and development why should they not 
also affea the mind.? I am quite satisfied 
riiat they do, and that poor Tcun was well 
oa the way to becoming insane. And 
that, of course, was unfair to my experi¬ 
ment. I thank the spirits of my ancestors 
and my native caution that 1 exposed my¬ 
self as little as possible to the rays. 

"But the experiment? Of course that 
is what you asked me about. I will tell 
you, for doubtless you will have the 
honor of being the first American to 
bring my pet fungus to complete fruition. 
I shall administer certain cultivated spores 
to you, and we will see what will happen. 
I had already done so to Tom—oh no, 
he didn’t suspea it—and I think that he 
died so easily because the fungus had al¬ 
ready sapped his strength to a great 
degree.’’ 

Cold perspiration ran down from my 
forehead, and then with a cry of des¬ 
perate rage I leaped at the mocking voice 
behind the light. I saw a spurt of fire 
and felt a sharp impaa on my face. And 
then I was choking, strangling in the 
acrid fumes of the liquid that spattered 
my chin. I felt a blackness descending 
up<Mi my mind. The torch seemed to re¬ 
cede to a tiny pin-point of light, and far, 
far in the distance I heard the moddng 
laugh of the yellow man. 

6 

T H£ world was red. It swirled into 
whirlpools of blood which attracted 
me. I struggled against them, and yet I 


dived through the center of tme vortex 
after the other. And the blood changed 
to fire; to orange flames whidi licked at 
my body and burned it. 

] screamed widi agony and opened my 
eyes. I was in glaring sunlight. I was 
lying in the hot sand. To either side of 
me I could see one of the long mushroom 
culture sheds. 

My mind was still whirling, and 1 was 
terribly sick with a nausea that I had 
never felt before. I tried to roll over onto 
one side but found that I could not. 1 
was staked spread-eagle fashion on the 
hot sand. 

'Then a shadow fell across my body. It 
was that of Doctor Tsu Liang, who stood 
comfortably at ease in his spotless linen 
and sun helmet, while he regarded me 
with the calm interest of the vivisector 
studying a bound puppy. 

"Ah," he said, "you are awake? That’s 
excellent, Mr. Morris, excellent! It shows 
that you have a robust constitution. Other 
men that I have been forced to shoot 
with my little gas pistol generally take the 
full twenty-four hours to come around. 
You took but twenty. It means diat you 
will provide most excellent material for 
my study.’’ 

My tongue was a piece of sandy 
leather. It rattled against my teeth. Yet 
I managed a ti^t-lipped grin and a few 
words. 

"Hope you'll find a Qiinese hell as hot 
as this,’’ I croaked. 

"Well—really!” Tsu Liang cried om 
in tones of shewed protest. "I tfiought 
that you had resigned yourself to expiate 
your offense. This b no torture, allow me 
to assure you. Warmth, intense warmth 
may help the success of our little experi¬ 
ment, though I doubt if it is absolutely 
necessary. That is why I had you put in 
that position, which, 1 admit, may be a 
trifle irksome.” 


332 


WEIRD TALES 


Painfully and with great effort I began 
to curse. I thought of the vilest names 
that a man could be called, and I used 
them. I cursed Tsu Liang and his father 
and mother. With great detail I described 
what refuse his ancestors had been and 
what kind of offal they were now. I 
stopped only when I had no more breath. 

Tsu Liang was laughing quietly. "How 
childish, how very childish of you!” he 
choked through his merriment. "I sup¬ 
pose you had an idea that I would lose 
my temper and kill you quickly? But you 
do not know me yet. And for your in¬ 
formation, I may as well tell you that 
English is a poor language to swear in. 
You have not the wealth of imagery to be 
effective. I wish that you could live long 
enough to learn Cantonese. You would 
appreciate the difference. 

"Don’t tliink,” he gibed, "that I’m 
merely trying to torture you. I have sent 
one of my boys away to bring me the 
choicest of the accelerated Cordyceps 
fungi I have. It is a fungus which attacks 
caterpillars in my country and it has 
grown to ripeness on a dog which I was 
forced to use. 

"It is its spores which I wish to sow in 
you, although I am doubtful of the exaa 
method to follow. In the case of Tom 
Houlton I fed them directly into the blood 
stream. He cut his finger rather badly 
about a week ago, and was trusting 
enough to let me bandage it.” 

I heard a noise in one of the adjoining 
sheds and tore the skin off both my 
wrists in a wild effort to pull the stakes 
from the sand, for I knew that it must 
be the Celestial’s servant coming with 
the horrible caterpillar* fungus. 

"You might try breathing in the 
spores,” continued the yellow man mus¬ 
ingly. "Though I doubt whether it would 
serve unless you had some lung disease 
or a sore throat bad enough to have 


broken the membranes. Ah—I have it! I 
must burst a ripened puffball before you. 
One of my men nearly choked to death 
last week when he touched one off. The 
spores are very much like snuff, you 
know, and they irritate the throat and 
lungs most mightily. By Jove”—^he was 
rapt in admiration of his new idea— 
"why, that would be absolutely perfea. 
’The puffballs can prepare the way and 
the Cordyceps can follow. It’s per¬ 
fect- 

I heard a rush of feet behind me and 
an exclamation of surprize from the 
Chinese. Somehow I twisted my neck and 
saw—saw Tom Houlton, or his shade, 
charging head down like a bull at Doaor 
Tsu Liang. 

Agile as a toreador the yellow man 
evaded the rush and tripped Houlton 
with an outflung foot. Houlton sprawled 
and fell, but turned even as he was fall¬ 
ing and so received on his coat sleeve the 
charge of liquid gas which had been flung 
at his face from Tsu Liang’s pistol. He 
seemed to bound like a rubber ball from 
the ground and once more came hurtling 
at the Celestial, this time butting him on 
the chest and falling to the sand on top 
of him. 

One hand, I saw, was gripping the yel¬ 
low man’s little pistol, while the poison 
saturated sleeve was pressed against the 
Chinese savant’s mouth. 

There followed a brief struggle and 
then I saw Doaor Tsu Liang’s body go 
limp, and, tied as I was, I could not help 
chuckling at the poetic justice of his cap¬ 
ture with the very poison which he him¬ 
self had discharged. 

But the next instant my fears were 
once more aroused, for I knew the potency 
of the strange liquid used by the Oriental. 
And Houlton was scrambling to his feet 
much too slowly. 

"Houlton,” I husked. "Houlton! Throw 


THE DUST OF DEATH 


333 


oflF your coat. Take it off. It’s got poison 
gas liquid on it. Quick, man, before it 
gets you. Quick!” 

Tom Houlton turned his face to mine, 
and I saw that he understood. He wavered 
to his feet and drew oflF his coat, dropped 
it near Doaor Tsu Liang, and then leaned 
against one of the sheds while his chest 
heaved convulsively. 

"I heard. I was in the next shed,” he 
gasped. "I heard what that dog had done 
to me. I know what that means. I—I am 
a walking dead man.” 

Madness and sanity too, and the knowl¬ 
edge of his awful doom were tragically 
visible in Houlton’s eyes. 

G radually he breathed easier and 
came over to me. He cut the cords 
that bound me to the stakes, and then 
stared intently at me, as if he was trying 
to remember who I was. 

"My head!” He cried suddenly and 
lifted both hands to his temples. "My head 
aches. But I know you. You are the flyer 
who disappeared yesterday afternoon. 
Polly was looking for you most of the 
night in the marsh. The doctor said you 
had run away because of something— 
something.” 

And then I saw both memory and com¬ 
plete sanity return at once. 

"I remember now,” he said slowly. "I 
hit you. I must have been out of my head. 
Maybe this vile thing that Tsu Liang has 
done to me is already afferting my mind. 

"I hit you. We struggled, and then I 
fainted. I am not as strong as I used to be. 
And you had run away when I woke up. 
You were in the marsh somewhere. And 
this morning we were sure that you had 
been either drowned or killed by the alli¬ 
gators. Now I find you here. I suppose 
that Tsu Lipig had you kept prisoner 
somewhere by his men?” 

"Yes,” I said. "His servants over¬ 
powered me. He said that I had killed 


you and that he was going to make me 
take your place as—as experimental ma¬ 
terial.” 

Tom Houlton paled and swayed. "Yes 
—that’s right. That’s what I heard him 
say,” he half whispered. "It’s true, then. 
It’s true. It isn’t a dream like all those 
other dreams I have been living for the 
past few weeks.” 

Suddenly he gripped my arm. "You 
must escape,” he muttered. "You must 
take Polly away with you; take her north 
to her father. Joe Big, the Indian, will 
help you.” 

"And what about yourself?” I asked. 
"Why not come with us? Maybe there is 
some way of stopping the growth of this 
thing.” 

For a moment I thought that Tom Houl¬ 
ton would agree, but then he shook his 
head resolutely. 

"I know,” he said quietly. "I know 
what is wrong with me. And that can 
never, never be cured. I shall die, any¬ 
way, within the week, and if I came with 
you I would bear the spawn of death be¬ 
hind my head. I would pollute the world 
with millions of spores. No. I know my 
duty. I will attend to it. I shall wipe out 
this devil’s mess which I have helped-” 

A startled yell and a high-pitched gib¬ 
bering in Chinese interrupted him. A 
dungaree-clad Oriental was advancing 
upon us with a gleaming knife in his 
hand. I could hear other falsetto cries an¬ 
swering him. 

Swiftly I scooped up the poison gun 
that lay by Doaor Tsu Liang’s hand, and 
fired at the Chinese. A wet stain splashed 
his blue overalls on the chest, and he col¬ 
lapsed on the sand. 

"To the house,” I ordered Tom Houl¬ 
ton. "Quick to your sister. We have to 
get away from these Chinese.” 

And then began a deadly game of hide- 
and-go-seek between Tom Houlton and 
me on one side and the yellow men who 


334 


WEIRD TALES 


owed allegiance only to Doctor Tsu Liang. 

Time and again we escaped detection 
only by the narrowest of margins as we 
dodged toward the shrubbery that sur¬ 
rounded the house. Once I felled a Chin¬ 
ese before he could give the alarm by bit¬ 
ting him with a huge conch shell that I 
had found. I used it as a knuckle-duster, 
for the pistol was noisy, besides being 
precious. 

At length we were in the shrubbery 
while the Chinese still searched with ex¬ 
cited cries in and around the mushroom 
sheds. We crawled through it, once see¬ 
ing a venomous little coral snake flash 
away from the spot where I was just about 
to pot my hand. And then we were ten 
yards from the patio. 

"Listen, before we go in,” Tom Houl- 
ton grasped my sleeve. "Dtwi’t tell Polly 
about—about what’s the matter with me 
—I don’t want to hurt her. I’ll pretend 
that I’ll go with you—only I won’t.” 

His gray eyes were pleading on mine, 
while a muscle in his left cheek twitched 
with emotion. 

"All right, Houlton,” I said. "You’ve 
got more guts than I have if you intend 
to stay here.” 

"You have forgotten that I am a dead 
man,” said Tom Houlton harshly. "Dead 
—except that I can take revenge before I 
die. It takes no courage now, for I intend 
to kill myself—feed the alligators—bum 
in one of the sheds—anything, rather than 
become a walking vegetable to further the 
ambitions of Tsu Liang.” 

There was nothing of the weakling 
nothing of the muddled mind about Tom 
Houlton now. I could sense a steel-strong 
will as he iontinued in his whisper. 

"I must tell you now, while my head 
is still clear, what I picked up by hints and 
by deduaion from that yellow villain 
while I’ve been helping him with his ex¬ 
periments on the Corcfyceps—the cater¬ 
pillar death. 


"God knows why I did not tell any 
one else before, or kill the treacherous 
dog. I believe he intends to release the 
deadly spores in several cities of the 
United States. I believe he has a great 
plan to wipe out all human life in our 
country and so create new land for colcMi- 
ization by the Chinese. 'That is his scheme 
—and I—God help me—I aided him al¬ 
though I suspeaed what he wanted to 
do.” His voice broke with shame. 

I was dazed by the far-reaching nature 
of the plan; by the devilish cunning of 
Tsu Liang. 

"Promise me,” Tom Houlton whis¬ 
pered insistently, "you’ll take Polly awj^, 
and then you’ll come back with Dad to 
check up on what I’ve done. Every spore 
of that caterpillar fungus must be de¬ 
stroyed, and even the puffballs are dan¬ 
gerous if left to spread unchecked.” 

"I promise,” I whispered. 

Then Tom Houlton had leaped for¬ 
ward and darted across the last patch of 
grass into the house. Ten secwids later 
I had joined him there. 

"Quietl” He breathed, with his finger 
to his lips, and tiptoed through the cool 
living-room. I followed, turned a comer 
into a passage and dashed the conch shell 
into the face of the gigantic Number One 
house boy who soundless on his slippers 
had come through an open door. 

One prong of the heavy shell caught 
him on the temple and I distinaly heard 
the bone crush in. Then he toppled to the 
floor. A moment later Tom Houlton re¬ 
appeared with his sister, who greeted me 
with a cry of surprize. 

"Oh—how did you get here?” She 
chattered delightedly. But Tom Houlton 
stopped her with a broad palm which he 
laid gently over her mouth. 

"Hush up,” he whisperec^ "We must 
find Joe Big and get a canoe. We are es¬ 
caping.” 

"Thank God,” said Polly Houlton. 


THE DUST OF DEATH 


335 


"Thank God you’ve decided at last. I’ll 
find Joe Big. I know where he is.” 

She turned and ran down the passage 
while Tom Houlton and I dragged the 
body of the huge Chinese further into a 
corner whose darkness had hidden it from 
Polly when she met me. 

"I must get some shoes for you, and 
Tsu Liang’s rifle,” panted Tom Houlton. 
"No time to lose.” 

He dashed into a room and emerged 
with the silencer-fitted rifle and a pair of 
shoes which I found to fit me while he was 
breaking open a box of cartridges and 
stuffing the shells into his pockets. 

"Now let ’em all come,” he crowed as 
he stepped to a window of the living-room 
which commanded a view of the mush¬ 
room sheds. The next instant I heard a 
startled oath from him. 

"They’re coming!” he cried. "Four of 
them. 'They’re carrying Tsu Liang to the 
house.” 

Then I heard the muffled sneeze of the 
rifle. Once. Twice. 

"Got one of them anyway,” he gloated 
a moment later. "And I think I hit Tsu 
Liang too, but the others have dragged 
him behind shelter. I guess we’ll have a 
few minutes now to get you into that 
canoe. Where is that Joe Big anyway?” 

A pistol started firing from the mush¬ 
room sheds and two round little holes ap¬ 
peared, as if by magic, in one of the closed 
windows. ’The bullets buried themselves 
in the opposite wall. 

P OLLY, closely followed by Joe Big, ran 
into the room and cried out in relief at 
seeing that nobody was wounded. Houlton 
thrust his rifle at me. 

'Watch out of the window,” he said. 
"I want to talk to Joe Big.” 

I leaned against an embrasure and 
peered cautiously out of the window. 'The 
mushroom sheds swam in heat haze that 


shimmered like flowing water over the 
dazzling sand. But I could see*no one. 

Tom Houlton had taken Joe Big apart 
and was giving him orders. The Indian 
was objeaing to something and Houlton 
was fiercely insistent imtil the Indian 
finally nodded his head. 

Then Houlton called me. "Ready now. 
You three will make a dash down the path 
for the landing-stage; take one of the 
canoes and smash the other, and paddle 
around to the southeast point, where you’ll' 
have a clear view of the eastern sheds.” 

"But what about you?” cried Polly 
Houlton in alarm. 

"You’ll pick me up there. I’ve got 
something to do here after you leave.” 

"Let me help,” I cried impulsively. 
"Two can do it better than one.” 

Tom Houlton grinned at me—a manly 
grin it was—and then put out his hand. 

r’Thanks for the offer,” he said firmly. 
"But you know you have other duties. ^ 
long.” I knew then that I had said good¬ 
bye to Tom Houlton. Good-bye in this 
life. 

He pecked Polly on the cheek, cupped 
her golden head between his palms while 
he stared down into her eyes, and then 
warned her whimsically, "No protests 
now, young lady. There isn’t time. And 
for once you do as you are told.” 

Then he flung off into a side passage 
while Joe Big herded Polly and me swift¬ 
ly out of the house and through the bushes 
to the landing-stage. 

7 

W E cx)T unobserved to the water and 
the Indian viciously drove his heel 
through the canvas bottom of* the red 
canoe until it filled with water and sank 
down into the mud. 

Polly Houlton and I had already scram¬ 
bled into the green one and when Joe Big 
joined us we worked our way through the 


336 


WEIRD TALES 


tall reeds and grass to the southeastern 
tip of the island. Here, behind a screen of 
reeds we sat, watching the long row of 
sheds, Joe Big and I in silence and Polly 
in fidgeting anxiety. 

Presently we saw Tom. He was carry¬ 
ing a five-gallon gasoline can in one hand 
and the rifle in the other. He poured gaso¬ 
line along the baseboard of one long 
building which Polly identified as the 
spore ^ed—the place where ripe puff¬ 
balls were kept in a moistened atmosphere 
so that their thick covers should not split 
and release the clouds of spores with which 
they were filled. 

Joe Big contributed another piece of 
information. 

"Wind from east,” he said. "Fire bum 
up all sheds if it gets started.” 

Tom Houlton had already worked along 
one hundred feet of the narrow shed. He 
was close to the center point. Then we 
heard a yell of discovery and a group of 
blue-clad Chinese appeared a hundred 
yards away from him, rounding the cor¬ 
ner of another building. 

Houlton dropped the can, ran several 
yards toward the yellow men and then 
stooped to fumble with a match at the 
base of the shed. Flame—a long flicker¬ 
ing pale yellow line—^sprang up both be¬ 
fore and behind him. The gasoline can 
exploded with a roar. Black smoke and 
liquid fire showered over the shed. For 
an instant Tom Houlton was hidden from 
us by the smoke, and then Polly screamed 
shrilly. 

"He’s burning—he’s burning!” 

Tom Houlton, his clothes afire in sev¬ 
eral places, was running toward the Chin¬ 
ese. His rifle was spitting death at them, 
and I heard their alarmed yells as they 
tumbled back into safety behind their 
corner. 

Polly Houlton seized her paddle and 
drove the canoe toward shore. 

"Cowards,” she cried bitterly at Joe Big 


and me. ' 'Why don’t you do something to 
help him? Why don’t you save him?” 

Tom Houlton was still running along 
the wall of flame, which now roared 
twenty feet high. I could see that the 
back of his shirt was eaten away. I im¬ 
agined that I caught flashes of his black¬ 
ened skin and flesh. Then Houlton 
stopped. He examined the flame-hidden 
wall of the mushroom shed. He found 
what he was looking for, because bis foot 
swung out and a reaangle of blackness 
appeared in the fire. He had kicked in a 
door. 

For ten seconds, maybe, he stood look¬ 
ing into the shed, and then he turned 
toward us and saw the canoe almost 
touching the white sand of the island. 

"Go back,” he cried. His voice was 
unnaturally shrill over the roaring of the 
flames. "Go back—and say good-bye to 
Dad for me, Polly.” 

The girl in front of me screamed again 
and covered her ^es. 

Tom Houlton had put the muzzle of 
the rifle into his mouth. He was poking 
the trigger with a stick. I saw a gush of 
smoke from the back of his head. The 
rifle fell from his hands, and Tom Houl- 
ton’s body tumbled into the black aper¬ 
ture. He had fallen into the funeral pyre 
which he had lit for himself. 

Polly Houlton’s shoulders were shak¬ 
ing with sobs. 

"Oh why—why did he have tp do 
that?” she cried. "We could have picked 
him up.” 

Tenderly—as kindly as I could, I ex¬ 
plained what was the matter with Tom 
Houlton, and how he had decided to kill 
himself rather than bring pollution upon 
the world. Joe Big grunted corrobora¬ 
tion, for Tom Houlton had told him all 
in orders. 

Her sobs ceased and her tears dried 
up as she listened, and when I had con- 
W. T.—3 


THE DUST OF DEATH 


337 


eluded, the golden head sat proudly on 
her shoulders. 

"It is the sort of thing I would expea 
of the Tom I used to know,” she said 
firmly. "He did right, and Father and I 
will always be proud of him.” 

Vague dull explosions were coming 
from the burning mushroom shed. With 
each strange report a brown cloud gushed 
through the flames and swept westward 
with the wind. 

"They are the dried puffballs explod¬ 
ing—bursting from the heat. Those arc 
the spores,” cried Polly in alarm. "Oh, I 
do hope that Tom’s sacrifice was not in 
.vain. I do hope that everything will be 
destroyed.” 

A group of Chinese, their mouths and 
noses enveloped by wet cloths, appeared 
once more. With them was a directing 
figure in clothes that before the fire had 
evidently been white. It was the evil 
genius of the island—Tsu Liang. 

Whether there was some means of re¬ 
suscitation from his poison gas that was 
known to his servants, or whether he had 
been put to sleep for but half an hour be¬ 
cause he had only breathed the gas from 
Tom Houlton’s sleeve, I can not tell. 

Yet there he was, and evidently he was 
direaing his men in salvaging some of 
the contents of the mushroom sheds. A 
bloody bandage wrapped around one 
forearm advertised where Tom Houlton’s 
shots had found a mark. 

Our canoe was in plain sight on the 
sandy beach. He saw it and instantly 
darted down the side of the flaming shed 
to where the rifle Tom Houlton had used 
lay on the sand. 

"We go now,” said Joe Big, rather 
hurriedly for the Indian. 

He pushed off with his paddle. Four 
strokes and we were again among the 
reeds. A few more and we had changed 
our direaion. 

Bullets snapped through the reeds 
W. T.—4 


where we would have been but for the 
Indian’s change of course. 

"Green,” he observed, "much better 
color for canoe than red.” 

It took eight hours of hard paddle 
work through a maze of channels that 
led through the Everglades to bring us to 
the cement causeway that runs through 
the marsh and bears the name of the 
Tamiami Trail. 

Joe Big refused to come with us when 
Polly and I boarded a bus for Miami. 

"'You come back,” he said bluntly. 
"You come back to kill yellow devil. You 
send telegram to my uncle Jim Blue at 
Fort Myers. He get me and I meet you. 
We go together and kill him.” 

"Then he stepped into the canoe' again 
and a moment later had vanished among 
the reeds. 

8 

P OLLY and I had almost reached the 
end of our journey. One of the swift¬ 
est trains on the continent was bearing us 
through a distria of back yards. Intimate 
snatches of squalid home life through un¬ 
shuttered windows streamed past us like a 
strange film made up of unrelated snap¬ 
shots. We were in New York. Soon we 
would be in the cathedral-like station. 

Polly put the question which had been 
burning in my mind ever since we left 
the island of horror. 

"'What are you going to do, Greg.?” 
Our friendship had progressed far by this 
time. '"Doaor Tsu Liang is still alive. 
He has the island to himself now. I know 
that Tom did his best—but do you hon¬ 
estly believe that Tsu Liang has been 
made harmless—that his horrible plan to 
depopulate the United States is done 
for?” 

I did not like to admit it. Yet I re¬ 
membered the parting words of Joe Big. 
And the Indian had a strange faculty for 


338 


WEIRD TALES 


driving through cloudy arguments and 
thoughts to the core of truth. 

“No!” I exploded. "Tsu Liang will be 
a danger until he is dead. I’m sure that 
his mind, too, is warped by those moon¬ 
beams of your father’s. He will have to 
be dealt with.” 

The train had pulled up in the vaulted 
station, and we swept out with other 
passengers to the red-capped welcomers 
of New York. Barriers passed behind us, 
and then we saw the crowd of those who 
waited for friends and relatives. 

OflF to one side I saw a tall, white- 
haired man, slightly stoop-shouldered as 
one who spent much time over a micro¬ 
scope would be. I nudged Polly and she 
flung herself at him, laughing and crying 
at the same time. 

It was Professor Howard Houlton. I 
recognized his face now, for I had seen 
it in the newspapers almost as often as 
that of the President. 

AflFeaionately he greeted his daughter. 
He patted her glossy head. And then his 
keen eyes sternly examined me. I must 
have passed muster, for at last he smiled 
and thrust out his right hand. 

"I am glad to know you,” he said 
simply. "Your telegram said much, but 
I will want to talk to you at some length. 
You have a residence here?” 

"The Yale Club, sir,” I answered. 

"Good,” he said. "My temporary apart¬ 
ment is small. Can you come to see us for 
dinner? You will find my address in the 
telephone book. At seven o’clock, then.” 

"Very well, sir,” I said. 

A taxi was waiting for Professor Houl¬ 
ton, and I was crowded by a burly man 
as I handed Polly in to her father. 'The 
man stepped on my toes. He was as 
clumsy as a bear. 

"Don’t forget now—seven o’clock at 
our flat,” cried Polly. 

"Dead or alive,” I answered dramat¬ 


ically, concealing my annoyance. "I shall 
be there.” 

The man who had bumped into me was 
standing only a foot or two away. A big 
man he was, hard hat, and dead cigar in 
the comer of his mouth. 

"Stage police detective,” I said to my¬ 
self, and then, as he was obviously star¬ 
ing at me, I spoke to him. 

"Did you want to talk to me?” 

'The fellow flushed and turned away. 
"Naw,” he grunted. Then he was swal¬ 
lowed in the crowd. 

I stared after him, marvelling at his 
insolence, and then summoned a cab for 
myself. 

At the Yale Club I blessed my tailor 
for having sent two suits which I had 
ordered before leaving for my flying trip 
to the south. I wrote a check for Joe Big 
and mailed it to him in care of his uncle 
at Fort Myers, and then had a shower and 
changed into one of the new suits. Doc¬ 
tor Tsu Liang’s little gas pistol I put into 
my coat pocket, for I had a strange feel¬ 
ing of uneasiness. The episode with the 
man at the station worried me a little. 

Yet even so I was fool enough not to 
telephone a warning to Professor Houl¬ 
ton. How different things would have 
been had I done so! Half a million lives 
would have been saved. 

I LEFT for the Houltons’ flat in plenty 
of time. Yet the taxi became en¬ 
tangled in innumerable traffic jams, and 
I was fully ten minutes late when I drove 
up to the modest apartment house in 
which Professor Houlton had established 
his menage while conduaing his re¬ 
searches at the university. 

The latch of the lobby door clicked as 
soon as I had rung the bell under the 
scientist’s name. Carelessly I walked up 
a flight of stairs and knocked at the 
designated door. Then I fell back in sur¬ 
prize. 


THE DUST OF DEATH 


339 


A Qiinese attired in a white steward’s 
coat had opened it. 

"Mist’ Mollis?” he questioned briefly. 
"Plofesso’ Houlton wait inside.” 

Suspicious, and yet scofl&ng at my 
doubts—for why should the scientist not 
employ a Chinese house boyi*—I entered. 
My hat and cane were in the Celestial’s 
hands. He threw open another door. 
And so I walked in, like the fly to the 
spider. 

There, his legs spread apart, and im¬ 
maculate in gray tweed, stood Doaor Tsu 
Liang. His wounded arm was in a sling. 
At once my hand dived to the pistol in 
my coat pocket, but the gesture was halted 
by the feel of a revolver muazle in my 
ribs. The house boy had followed me 
into the room. 

"You are late,” Doaor Tsu Liang 
smiled reprovingly. "Seven o’clock was 
the hour, according to the report of my 
hired investigator. Indeed it must have 
been, for Miss Houlton never doubted 
that it was you when I rang the bell 
shonly before the hour.” 

I glanced wildly around the room. 
There, in a corner, lay the figures of 
Polly and her father. 

A wild cry of rage burst from me and 
I leaped at the Chinese arch fiend, only 
to have him glide eel-like out of my way. 

"Careful now—careful, I say, old 
chap,” he gibed. "They’re not dead. Just 
asleep as you have been and as you will 
be again unless you excite my man and 
get a bullet instead of the gas.” 

I stood still. Tsu Liang wanted to talk. 
It was his failing. He wanted to gloat 
over me, else I would already be uncon¬ 
scious or dead. Perhaps I could learn 
somahing from him, forlorn hope 
though it was. 

"Well,” I said, "what do you want of 
them and me?” 

"Ah — reasonable!” breathed Tsu 


Liang. "That’s a virtue not often found 
among you Nordics in spite of your silly 
faith in your own cool-headedness. Too 
bally often you lose what poor wits you 
have in moments of stress. And so I will 
answer you. 

"The professor can still be useful to 
me. I am forced to admit that he knows 
considerably more about fungi than I do. 
He’s for utility. 

"Now Miss Houlton” — his eyes 
watched me narrowly while his tongue 
licked his thin lips—"Polly—she’s for 
pleasure.” 

God knows how I choked down my 
wrath. 

"As for yourself, my dear Morris, you 
know more now than you did on the 
island, and even then it was dangerous to 
let you go, in view of my plans for the 
future. So I have once more cast you in 
your old role.—What do the Germans 
call it? Ah—er—a 'VersuchskanickeV, a 
rabbit, a guinea-pig to try things out on.” 

"Interesting!” I managed the word 
casually, although I seethed with rage. 
"And how do you propose to get us back 
to the island?” 

"How but by the means we used in 
coming here?” said Tsu Liang. 'We 
flew here in an airplane from Miami, 
after some Indians attraaed by the fire 
had been persuaded to take us out. We 
will fly straight to the island from here. 
I have already rented an airplane—an 
amphibian they call it—together with a 
pilot. Both can be made to disappear 
after they reach the island.” 

I heard an ambulance come clanging 
up the strea. Tsu Liang smiled at the 
sound. He nodded his head approvingly. 
"Ah,” he cried, "here it comes. Your 
lateness almost upsa my working-sched¬ 
ule. This is the means of transportation 
for the Houltons and yourself to Long 
Island Sound, where our ’plane is waiting. 


340 


WEIRD TALES 


What could be less suspicious than an 
ambulance into which to load your 
bodies?” 

Fiercely I whirled and lashed out with 
my left at the receding chin of the 
Chinese behind me. I hit him hard 
enough, but he must have pressed the 
trigger at the very same instant, for I felt 
a heavy blow on the left side of my 
chest—a blow that whirled me around 
and knocked me down. Dimly I saw a 
vision of Tsu Liang’s face; a snarl twist¬ 
ing his lips and a poison gun in his hand. 
And then even this faded. 

9 

V AGUE recollections of white walls 
and yellow sunlight; of a man in a 
white coat who did painful things to me 
—^that is all my memory retains of the 
period that followed. 

Then came a time when I opened my 
eyes and looked about me. I was in a 
hospital room. Nowhere else could the 
walls be so harshly glaring; nowhere else 
that pungent smell of medicines. 

I was alone in the room. Near me was 
a chair on which a magazine and a little 
bell were lying. Evidently my nurse had 
gone out for a while. 

For minutes I lay there, my eyes closed 
against the dazzling brilliance. 

”1 am Greg Morris,” I said to myself. 
"But why am I here—a crack-up?” 

And then a flood of memory engulfed 
me. I had been shot. Tsu Liang had 
kidnapped Professor Houlton and Polly. 
Or had he? Did the shot raise any alarm? 

Stifily, and yet my feeling of fitness 
surprized me, I rolled over for the bell. 
While I still was shaking it a stern-eyed, 
deep-bosomed matron—not the pretty 
nurse of fiaion—entered. 

"Good,” she barked. "Out of it at last. 
And let me tell you, young man, it was 
time you did snap out of it.” 


"Tell me—what happened?” I begged. 

The Amazon needed little urging. She 
made some professional gestures. She 
felt my pulse and stuck a thermometer 
under my tongue. 

"Take it easy,” she said, "and I’ll tell 
you all I know.” 

She consulted the card at the foot of 
my bed. "You were admitted here on 
May 22,” she said. "It is now June 24. 
So you’ve been unconscious for over a 
month, and a mystery, too, what was the 
matter with you besides that bullet 
wound.” 

A month! I groaned. What could not 
have happened in a month? 

"You’re a lucky young man, Mr. Mor¬ 
ris,” continued the nurse. "That bullet 
came within the thickness of a fingernail 
of your heart, and clean out through your 
bade. It was a nasty thing to patch up, 
but the wound is nicely healed now. Yet 
what bothered us was your being uncon¬ 
scious for so long. 

"It wasn’t shock, and your heart 
seemed to be all right, but we were fair 
up a tree until the doaor got curious 
about that dirty little gas gun you carried 
in your pocket. He worked out what the 
gas was and then got what we should do 
to wake you it you’d had a dose of it 
yourself. And that was this morning.” 

I recalled Doaor Tsu Liang’s rage-dis¬ 
torted face hovering over me just before 
I became unconscious, and I knew that it 
was quite possible for him to shoot me 
again, even although he thought that I 
was dying. 

'"That gas idea sort of tallied with the 
story told by Tompkins, the intern, and 
Sutton, the driver of the ambulance,” con¬ 
tinued the nurse. "They said they were 
called to Professor Houlton’s apartment 
and that they were met there by a Chink 
who shot them down. When we sent the 
police to get them because they didn’t 


THE DUST OF DEATH 


341 


come back, they were found with their 
uniform coats off and you were lying in a 
corner. By the mercy of God you hadn’t 
bled to death, and so you were brought 
here in an ambulance. 'That’s all I know.” 

She whipped the thermometer out of 
my mouth and scanned the column of 
mercury. 

"You’ll do,” she said. 

"But what about Professor Houlton 
and his daughter and Tsu Liang.?” I cried 
from the bed. 

"I don’t know anything about them,” 
said the nurse. "There was nobody else 
in the flat. The ambulance was discovered 
next day in Long Island Sound, where 
somebody had driven it into the water.” 

Tsu Liang had succeeded. The yellow 
man had won all the way along. Polly 
and her father were on the island of hor¬ 
ror in the Everglades. I almost wept with 
despair, and then startled the nurse with 
an exclamation. 

"Bring me newspapers,” I cried. "Any 
kind of newspapers. Quick. It’s im¬ 
portant.” 

She looked at me without understand¬ 
ing and then smiled as one who is about 
to humor a sick child. 

"Lie quiet,” she called from the door, 
and then stiffly rustled out of sight, some¬ 
how like a starched sailing-ship. 

I DID not mind what she thought or 
failed to think, as long as I could see 
the news, and grabbed the paper out of 
her hand as she once more came to my 
bedside. 

’There it was. Spread over the front 
page of the tabloid. I groaned again, for 
Tsu Liang had worked well during the 
month I was in hospital. 

"FUNGOID DEATH SCOURGE 
SPREADS.” That was the caption over 
the pictures, which were explained to 
have been taken at great personal risk by 


the sheet’s star camera man. Inside, the 
story was set out in large type: 

ALL FLORIDA QUAILS UNDER DEATH 
DEALING MUSHROOMS 

Miami, Palm Beach, Fort Myers and Tampa are 
cities of the dead. Scourge rides 
air to Jacksonville. 

CATERPILLAR PEST STRIKES THOUSANDS 

Buildings, roads, railways, all crumble under 
attack of giant puflfballs from 
heart of Everglades. 

Then followed the news story. Lurid 
and sensationally written as it was, it 
could do no more than tell me what I 
feared; what I expected: 

Death, horrible death, rides the wind in helpless 
Florida, and is advancing further and further north. 

Twelve thousand have already died from the ter¬ 
rible caterpillar parasite which first attracted at¬ 
tention three weeks ago when cases of it followed 
the appearance of giant pufinjalls in Florida cities. 

Untold other thousands will die too. They har¬ 
bor within them the spores of death. They are 
bringing them north. New York may have the 
caterpillar death in it any day now. 

The president has refused to put a quarantine 
on those leaving Florida. Every refugee, how¬ 
ever, must be medically examined every day to 
make sure of his health. No cure has yet been 
found for the caterpillar death, and where it is 
undoubted, victims must be gassed before they can 
spread spores. 

Scientists warn that the caterpillar death comes 
mostly to those who have their lungs irritated by 
giant puffball spores. Puffball spores are like mus¬ 
tard gas. Police orders are to keep away from 
ripe puffballs. 

Scenes of unparalleled horror were witnessed by 
this paper’s representative on his visit to the de¬ 
serted areas of Florida. 

Hundreds of unburied dead lie on the streets 
of Miami and Palm Beach. From behind their 
heads rise long -mushroom stalks. Spores—the 
seeds of death—blow from them. But the bodies 
do not rot. They stay preserved. Perhaps they 
still are alive! 

Puffballs are growing wherever there is mois¬ 
ture. They have blocked up water mains, and 
stick up through the shattered concrete of the 
roads. Water from the broken mains has seeped 
into the cellars of buildings. Puffballs have grown 
in the foundations, and nig struaures are being 
torn to pieces by them. They ripen within thirty- 
six hours. They burst in the heat of day and the 
wind blows their spores away. 

All southern Florida is deserted now but for 
the government scientists studying the mushrooms. 
They live in rubber clothes and behind gas masks, 
as the writer had to do in making his visit, other¬ 
wise they too would breathe the dust of death! 

'There was more of it, but I had read 


342 


WEIRD TALES 


enough. Tsu Liang was accomplishing 
his fiendish work. But was he.^ The ques¬ 
tion struck me. He had planned to re¬ 
lease the spores in several different cities. 
Yet the newspaper said that Florida only 
was invaded. 

Quickly I glanced through the paper 
again.' I was right. Florida alone was the 
center of the struggle against the fungoid 
cancer. This opened other possibilities. 
Had Tsu Liang altered his plan? Or was 
the outburst in Florida due to accident? 
Perhaps the spore clouds that blew out of 
the mushroom sheds when Tom Houlton 
set them on fire were responsible. 

But then how could Tsu Liang and his 
men, and Polly and her father—how 
could they live on that island of horror 
with the fimgi enclosing them on every 
side? Were they marooned, or—horror 
of horrors—had they themselves fallen 
viaims to the scourge? Had they sup¬ 
plied the culture bodies for the caterpillar 
death? 

My mind reeled at the thought and I 
seized the tabloid to look at the pictures. 

There were houses whose walls were 
bursting asunder from the terrific power 
of the swelling puffballs. There were 
ghastly piaures of bodies lying on the 
streets of Miami—and the date of the 
paper was June 18. It was a week old! 

I flung it on the floor and shouted for 
the nurse. I ordered her to get some of 
that day’s papers. And when she brought 
them I read that the scourge was sweep¬ 
ing northward. Already the death toll 
was over a hundred thousand. The mush¬ 
rooms had crossed the border into Geor¬ 
gia. Atlanta was being evacuated. Prep¬ 
arations to move all the people from New 
Orleans were under way. Government 
statements bluntly said that so far no way 
of stopping the advance of the puffballs 
and the caterpillar death had been dis¬ 
covered. 


Tsu Liang was winning! He was win¬ 
ning! And Polly was in his hands! 

I must still have been a little weak, for 
I fainted then, and later drifted off into a 
nightmare-filled sleep in which I was a 
caterpillar that crawled and squirmed, 
and crawled a thousand miles to get away 
from a nameless fear which rode behind 
its head. 

10 

HE nurse was shaking my shoulder. 
I struck out blindly and then sat up, 
blinking while dazzling sunlight chased 
the dreams out of my mind. 

"There’s a man to see you, Mr. Mor¬ 
ris,’’ cried the nurse. "Some kind of a 
colored man. Will you see him?” 

Dazedly I looked at her. Then I re¬ 
membered. What did anything matter 
now? But a colored man? 

"Is he Chinese?” 

"Lordy, no,” laughed the nurse. "He’s 
got a brown skin, but he doesn’t look like 
a nigger. His name is Joe Big.” 

"Let him in,” I aied. "Let him in at 
once.” 

Joe Big entered the room. He was a 
bewildered Indian. Yet frightened by the 
noise of the city, by the traflSc and by the 
smells of the hospital, he had managed 
to find me. And his natural dignity 
slipped over him like a garment when he 
recognized me in the bed. 

"I come,” he said, "because everybody 
gone or dead in Fort Myers. Uncle dead. 
All Seminole dead. Me—I last of my 
nation.” 

"But how did you find me?” I asked 
in puzzlement. 

"You send me paper for money,” said 
the Indian. "On cover it say Yale Club, 
New York. I come to Yale Club, New 
York, and they tell me you in this hos¬ 
pital. 'They get me taxicab. I come here. 
This still New York?” 

"It still is New York,” I said with a 


THE DUST OF DEATH 


343 


lopsided smile. Then I rolled out of the 
bed. 

"Joe Big,” I declared, "I am going 
back to the Everglades. Tsu Liang has 
caught Professor Houlton and Polly. I go 
to rescue them. Or perhaps avenge them.” 

"You kill yellow devil, too?” asked Joe 
Big. "Six of my nation come when they 
see fire on island. They come to help. 
They take yellow devil in canoe to Miami 
when he follow you. They go back to 
island again to help more, and yellow 
devil catch them when he come back and 
they die the same way Miss Polly dog die. 
Rest of my people die soon, too. Joe Big, 
only he alive because he see yellow devils 
wear wet rag, breathe through wet rag. 
He do same, but all others die. You kill 
•yellow devil?” 

"So help me God,” I swore. "I shall 
kill him.” 

"I come with you,” said Joe Big. 

I felt strong again. Once more life had 
a purpose. 

It took time to free myself from the 
hospital. Doaors and superintendents 
appeared and were horrified at the sug¬ 
gestion that I should get up and go on 
the spur of the moment. Yet they had to 
admit that my wound was healed. There 
was no good reason why I should still 
stay in the institution. 

I can not say that I was entirely sane in 
what I did. Perhaps things could have 
been arranged more sensibly. But I was 
under a terrific mental strain, and the 
thought did not occur to me. I have noth¬ 
ing to be sorry for now. 

My plan was made. It was suddenly 
in my mind when Joe Big entered my 
room in the hospital. The Indian aaed 
as one chemical does on another. The 
scheme was crystallized on the moment of 
contaa. 

Together we two boarded a taxi and 
rushed downtown. One store only did I 


visit—one of those giant emporiums 
whose sales rooms hold the contents of 
the world on their shelves. There I got 
my supplies. 

Four gas masks I bought—^the new 
kind that are really meant to filter smoke 
out of the air and permit the wearer to 
talk and hear with comfort; a collapsible 
canoe and two hunting rifles. Other 
things, too. 

Then on again by taxi to Roosevelt 
Field, where the Mallard Aircraft Com¬ 
pany officials suddenly found a slightly 
crazed man and a somber Indian demand¬ 
ing immediate delivery of one of their 
famous cabin planes that seats six people 
and has wheels recessed in the floats so 
that the machine can settle on both land 
and water. 

Twenty minutes did it take for the pur¬ 
chase, for fueling and all other prepara¬ 
tions; and then Joe Big and I grimly 
hopped off for the south. 

I T WAS early afternoon when we left, 
and by dark the Mallard was swooping 
down upon the airfield of some small 
town in Virginia whose name I never 
troubled to remember. We had burned 
our gasoline almost to the last gallon. 

Here I found trouble and delay. 
Although there was a landing-field, no 
airplane gas was available, and Joe Big 
and I stayed overnight in a small hotel 
while an enterprising garage man under¬ 
took to bring a supply in five-gallon cans 
from the nearest large city. 

Dawn found us on the field, but the 
garage man did not show up. Hours 
passed, and still he did not come. The 
sun was high in the sky when his service 
truck rattled up loaded with the cans and 
a profusely apologetic mechanic who ex¬ 
plained that an accident had delayed him. 

In my mind I cursed the man, yet I 
found him useful, for I entrusted to him 


344 


WEIRD TALES 


the sending of a telegram to an old war¬ 
time friend of mine, Dicky Sharp, at the 
naval base at Colon, which guards the 
entrance to the Panama Canal. 

And then we hopped off again, and 
once more were winging our way south¬ 
ward. 

Within an hour’s flight Joe Big noticed 
the first effeas of the mushroom invasion 
from the south. He touched my shoulder 
and pointed downward through the triple 
glass. 

"People go north,’’ he said. "Look at 
roads.” 

I brought my gaze down and mar¬ 
velled at the sight. Tiny ants marched 
along , broad tracks cut straight through 
fields which adjoined a highway. The 
ribbon of concrete itself was completely 
hidden from sight by a treble stream of 
cars which, hub to hub, and fender rub¬ 
bing fender, rolled northward like an 
endless glistening snake. Outside the 
marching pedestrians was another broad 
lane of traffic that showed brown against 
the fresh green of the fields. 

Cattle had cut that wide brown rut. 
Cattle and horse-drawn wagons loaded 
with the pitiful salvage of humble homes 
were slowly crawling northward. 

I had never seen anything like it 
before. The world has never seen any¬ 
thing like it. For this was the movement 
of a people. This was the migration of 
five million souls; an ordered evacuation 
of the United States to an enemy who 
could not be fought. 

In spots I saw little companies of men 
in olive drab toiling at the tearing-down 
of barriers, at the filling-in or bridging of 
water courses. They were the soldiers 
who could not be used for fighting, but 
could help in the evacuation, could see 
that the migrating millions moved with 
the precision of a machine. 


Then we passed over the great artery 
of traffic and saw it no more. 

It was near Jacksonville, I think, that 
the masses of puffballs first became appar¬ 
ent from the air. It had been a very damp 
spring, and so had provided plenty of 
moisture for them. We were two thou¬ 
sand feet up, and could see below us the 
fields strangely patched in brown and 
white. Along creek beds it seemed almost 
as if great snowdrifts had formed. And 
in other places where the mushrooms had 
ripened more evenly we could see a 
brown fog of spores drifting in the wind. 

Further and further south we drove, 
now over inland Florida, and we swooped 
low over beautiful Orlando to see the 
desolation wrought by the puffballs 
among its buildings. 

Great cracks zigzagged down the brick 
walls of school and college buildings. In 
them puffballs had found root, and, some¬ 
how, were finding nourishment. Perhaps 
we passed just at the right moment, or 
maybe it was the vibration of the motor 
that shook walls already thrust out far 
beyond the point of balance. But we saw 
no less than two whole brick facades dis¬ 
solve into dust and broken rubble as I 
shot over them, only a hundred feet from 
the ground. 

But it was dangerous to fly through 
the death-tainted air, and so we climbed 
again. Yet we had not yet passed over the 
city, when Joe Big once more touched my 
arm. 

"Dead people there-” His brown 

hand pointed. 

I saw a sight of horror. There were 
bodies laid side by side in a street, at 
least a hundred of them. Perhaps they 
had been gathered by some heroic health 
servants who had finally either fled or 
been stricken down themselves. 

Men and women lay there—children, 
too—all horribly prone on their stomachs. 


THE DUST OF DEATH 


345 


for projecting from behind the skull of 
each of them—the point where the cere¬ 
bellum is cradled on the spine—was a 
slender yellow rod. It was a spike, four 
feet long, that ended in a club as big as 
my fist. And from these blew gray 
streamers of taint—the ripened spores of 
the caterpillar death. 

All this my eye had taken in in a frac¬ 
tion of a second. And then I noticed 
something which made my stomach rise. 
Around the bodies sat a long oval of 
gorged and drowsy birds; large brown 
yellow-taloned buzzards—the scavengers 
of Florida. 

I gave the engine all the gas I could 
and we shot up and away from the sight. 
Up and up we climbed until the needle 
of the altimeter showed 10,000 feet. The 
Mallard, I had been told, had a ceiling 
of 15,000 feet, and I continued climbing 
slowly to that height, for I had a use 
for it. 

Florida was a broad belt of green 
mottled with white below us. The white 
was sand—and also puflfballs. On either 
side I could see water; the Atlantic to my 
left and the Mexican gulf far to my right. 

Distantly the tall towers of West Palm 
Beach came into sight, and beyond them 
the buildings of Miami. I held to my 
course, for I knew that the island of hor¬ 
ror was almost in the^center of the Ever¬ 
glades, and almost due west of Miami. 

Joe Big was staring excitedly onto the 
relief map of the Everglades, as it un¬ 
rolled below us. Now and again he called 
out the Seminole name for some familiar 
piece of prairie or lagoon, and then he 
cried: "Ten mile more now—see—there 
is the island." 

I looked ahead and nodded. Some one 
had left uncovered one of the big mir¬ 
rors on Professor Houlton’s moon-ray 
apparatus. The refleaor was a miniature 
sun. Again I gave the motor the gun and 


swooped up as far as I could. I circled 
so that the ’plane was in the setting sun 
to' the eye of any chance observer on the 
island, and then cut off the spark. 

Slowly, slowly the Mallard settled 
while it glided ever nearer to our objec¬ 
tive. I could distinguish the tall cypress 
trees on one side of the island, the black¬ 
ened wreckage of the mushroom sheds on 
the sand beyond, while the silent ’plane 
swooped downward. 

Half a mile from the island, and 
screened from it by a clump of trees on 
firm ground, I saw a three hundred yard 
long lagoon. It was made to order for 
me. I swimg the ’plane very slightly and 
we splashed lightly onto the water. 

11 

A ll my attention had been concen- 
i-trated on the landing, but now I 
glanced outside the cabin window and 
marvelled at the strangeness of the land¬ 
scape. 

Immediately before us was a little 
island behind whose trees the Mallard 
was sheltered from sight. Now I saw, 
that there were many dead trees on the 
islet, and many sagging until their bare 
branches swept the sand. For they bore 
huge and cumbersome fruit. 

Gigantic puffballs had gained footing 
in a place of decay on the stems and were 
weighting them down. The actual puff¬ 
ball, I remembered, was but the fruit of 
the mushroom. I knew that the interior 
of the trees must be a mass of mycelium. 

Many of the puflFballs too were ripe. 
We saw one of them, but fifty yards 
away, explode with a report like that of 
somebody clapping his hands. The outer 
casing split like inch-thick chamoic leather 
and brown smoke gushed out and spread. 

I thought of the underwater ink-screen of 
the cuttlefish. Brown, smoking fuzz, like 
loosely woven felt, was exposed in the 


346 


WEIRD TALES 


gaping puflfball when the wind had 
moved the first gush of spores. 

Joe Big winced at the sight, and then 
he and I started to strip off our clothes 
while still within the almost air-tight 
cabin. 

Every stitch did we take off, and then 
we plastered our bodies liberally with 
vaseline, as if we were long-distance 
swimmers. 

But I was taking no chances with the 
fungi, and I meant to close even the pores 
of our skins lest one of the caterpillar 
death spores should lodge in a trifling 
scratch or a mosquito bite. 

Then we clothed ourselves again, 
slipped the gas masks over our heads and 
opened the cabin door. It took time to 
assemble the canvas boat, and the brief 
dusk was already setting in when we 
started off to the island of horror. 

Strange and grotesque we must have 
looked in our snouted headgear, and 
strange and grotesque was the country we 
traversed. Once during the trip Joe Big 
lifted his hand as a signal. An alligator 
at least fifteen feet long was swimming 
ahead of us in the channel we were fol¬ 
lowing. We waited until the beast had 
branched off, for our canvas canoe was 
not strong enough to risk contact with the 
creature’s thrashing tail. 

Another time both Joe Big and I 
crouched low in the bottom of the boat 
and paddled with our hands because there 
was no room to wield the paddles. Over¬ 
hanging our route were half a dozen 
brown and bulbous mushrooms whicli 
might explode at a touch. And we were 
not anxious to put our gas masks to ex¬ 
treme test at once. 

Dimly, through the trees, I saw a light 
shining. It was from the house on the 
island. I pointed it out to Joe Big, but the 
Indian did not even stop paddling. Prob¬ 
ably he had seen it long minutes before I 


did. Then sand grated under the canvas 
bottom. We had arrived. We were on 
the side of the island nearest the house, 
but some distance from the landing-stage. 

Cautiously we disembarked and took 
out our rifles. Joe Big’s muffled voice 
was near my ear. "Stay here,” he said. 
"I go see that road clear.” He faded 
away like a dark ghost among the bearded 
cypresses. 

I waited. Time dragged. Then I 
jumped to my feet. There had been a 
rifle shot and a gurgling scream of hor¬ 
ror that broke off sharply at its peak. For 
several seconds there was a silence as 
heavy as the darkness under the trees, and 
then a faint splashing. 

I was peering blindly into the dark 
behind me, thinking that Joe Big mast 
have fallen prey to an alligator, when I 
felt his hand on my arm. 

"Bad luck,” he said. "Yellow man 
keep watch. He see me and shoot. I kill 
him with knife. Come to house quick.” 

Silently we stole toward the light. And 
then I crashed against a tree. The light 
had gone out. We heard a gabble of 
voices on the twisting path to the landing- 
stage, and ducked behind the shelter of a 
bush. A bobbing lantern appeared. Four 
men, clad in gas masks and tightly fitting 
suits of gayly flowered oilcloth tan past 
us. Each man had a rifle. 

"Up to the house,” I cried, and jumped 
into the path. 

Swiftly we stole up the track and then 
the black shadow of the house loomed 
before us. Joe Big pulled me to one side. 

"Me—I lead,” he grunted. "We go 
through window in my old room.” . 

We crouched behind other bushes, for 
a man carrying an elearic torch had 
stepped out of the patio, and was coming 
down toward us and the landing-stage, 
his torch swinging wide arcs of light as 
he moved. 


THE DUST OF DEATH 


347 


Silently we crawled through another 
screen of bushes, and then Joe Big lifted 
his rifle to his shoulder. 

"Yellow devil!” he snarled. 

I knocked up the barrel before he could 
Are. 

"First we must find Polly and her 
father,” I cautioned. 

Then, while I still clutched the In¬ 
dian’s sleeve, I did a bit of rapid calcu¬ 
lation. Tsu Liang had been master of 
ten servants when I was last on the 
island. But I had killed his big house 
boy, and Tom Houlton another. Now 
Joe Big had killed one, and four had left 
the house, as well as Tsu Liang. There 
could be no more than three Chinese in 
the place. I explained this to Joe Big, and 
we turned into the patio to try the living- 
room door. 

But as I fumbled for the latch I found 
nothing but smooth steel. The door had 
been changed. I felt all over it, and 
found not a single projeaing point. 
Somehow in my over-anxiety I must have 
grown careless, for my rifle butt knocked 
against the portal. 

At once a sharp voice challenged in 
Chinese from the other side. There was 
a doorkeeper. Probably he alone could 
open the door. Again the voice asked a 
question. We could not get in. But no, 
there was a chance—a slim one. 

"Don’t be silly,” I drawled in affeaed 
tones as near those of Tsu Liang as I 
could make them. "The idiot was fright¬ 
ened by a bally alligator.” 

T he trick worked. I heard the click of 
tumblers, and the drawing of bolts. 
A door squeaked open, but it was not the 
one I touched. It was another beyond it. 
Then again the sounds were repeated. A 
crack of light now gleamed by the jamb. 

Praaically in one motion I put the flat 
of my foot against the slowly opening 


door, thrust hard and plunged forward 
with the butt of my rifle. Something soft 
that groaned stopped it. 

Joe Big and I were inside the house. 
At our feet lay a middle-aged Chinese 
whose hands were clasped to his stomach 
while he writhed in agony. 'There was 
no one else in the big room. 

"Quick,” I cried to Joe Big. "Tie him 
up and gag him. I’ll bar the doors. 'This 
place is a fortress.” 

My glance around the room had shown 
me great changes. -Not only was there a 
double door of heavy teak and steel 
through which we had passed, but the 
windows, too, were similarly shuttered. 
Red rubber showed around the edges, and 
evidently the fastenings were air-tight. 

I locked and barred iboth doors and 
then turned to Joe Big. 'The Indian was 
stating at a still figure on the floor. A 
knife in his hand dripped blood. 

"Better they all die,” he muttered in 
answer to my exclamation, and stooped 
to wipe the blade on the dead man’s 
shirt. 

Joe Big was right. I suppressed my 
squeamishness. The nest of world-poison¬ 
ers must be wiped out. 

'The Indian had taken off his shoes and 
was disappearing soundlessly down a pas¬ 
sage. I followed him as quietly as I could 
and saw him stooping in front of a door. 
Sounds of frying came from the other 
side. It was the kitchen door. 

I saw the Indian’s hand on the knob. 
Slowly the door opened, and then a 
squeal like that of an enraged pig sound¬ 
ed in the passage. 

The red man flung the door wide open 
and jumped into the room. I heard a 
high gibber of Cantonese, and a meat 
cleaver hissed by my head and struck the 
door opposite. Somebody yelled in the 
room and the door burst open. A Chinese 


348 


WEIRD TALES 


holding a gas pistol in one hand and a 
knife in the other bounded out at me. 

My rifle barked from waist level and 
I saw him collapse like a punaured 
balloon, even while he was in midair. 
Blood spattered the eye-glasses of my 
mask as he struck me. But it was Chinese 
blood. The man was already dead. 

"Joe Big,” I yelled, and the Indian was 
at my side. Again he was wiping his 
knife, this time on a cook’s white apron. 

We had won the house. But the shot 
must have alarmed Tsu Liang and his 
party. We must make sure that they 
could not get in. 

Joe Big’s gas helmet was torn on one 
side. Blood was staining the ripped edges. 

"Cook hit me,” he said stolidly in 
answer to my question. "Cut my ear off.” 
He did not even trouble to take off the 
gas mask. 

We heard a door being pounded and 
shaken. Was it Tsu Liang already re¬ 
turned.? No, I heard a voice. It was 
Polly’s voice. 

"Help! Help!” it cried. 

"Coming!” I shouted, and raced down 
the passage. I found the door locked, 
and hurled myself against it. Woodwork 
splintered and snapped. And then I had 
Polly Houlton in my arms. 

Viciously she kicked at my shins and 
beat my shoulders. 

At first I did not understand it, and 
then I laughed. It was the gas helmet. I 
tore off the useless thing, and Polly stag¬ 
gered. She almost fainted, and I had to 
support her. 

"Is it really you, Greg?” she whis¬ 
pered. "Tsu Liang said you had been 
killed.” 

"Too tough to kill,” I boasted happily, 
and then cried out, "But aren’t you glad 
to see me?” 

For Polly Houlton was crying. "Y-yes, 


Greg,” she sobbed. 'Tm crying for 
happiness.” 

Women are strange creatures. Other 
men have said that before. 

Professor Houlton was standing by a 
window whose metal shutters were ajar. 

"I’m glad to see you, boy,” he said 
wanly. "But I heard some men go past 
my window just now. Look to the back 
door.” 

I loosed my hold on Polly. 

"Show me the way,” I said, and she 
dashed before me, continuing down the 
passage and turning an angle. 

A double door under an electric light 
was slowly opening. Evidently the bolts 
could be manipulated from the outside. 
I swept the girl behind the corner and 
knelt down in the passage with my rifle 
to my shoulder. 

A sheen of gun metal appeared in the 
crack. It was a rifle barrel gradually 
being thrust in. Next came an oilcloth- 
covered arm and then a head wearing a 
gas mask. 

Calmly I fired and saw a black spot 
appear where the intruder’s forehead 
would be. The man slumped down like a 
sack of flour between the double door and 
the frame. Somebody started to pull him 
back by the legs, only to be stopped by a 
harsh order in Cantonese. 

'There was silence for a full minute, 
and I had an intuition of what might 
happen. 

"Run,” I whispered to Polly. "Fetch 
my gas mask.” 

Tsu Liang’s voice rose vibrant with 
anger. "I say there,” he called. "Who 
is shooting at us?” 

I made no reply and heard him swear¬ 
ing to himself. 

"Professor Houlton,” he said savagely, 
"if it’s you that’s behind the door, I tell 
you now that I shall kill you, and give 
that brat of yours to my men, if you don’t 


THE DUST OF DEATH 


349 


let me in at once. I will use dynamite 
to blow in the doors and let the spores in. 
There are enough of them coming 
through this part-open door now.” 

Still I made no reply, and Polly Houl- 
ton returned with the gas mask which I 
slipped on. 

"Look in the living-room, dear,” I 
whispered. "You’ll find two more masks 
that I brought for you and your father, 
and try to find another one somewhere in 
the house for Joe Big. His is spoiled. 
Where is he, anyway?” 

"He’s watching by the front door,” 
said Polly, and once more ran away. 

I SPRAWLED on the floor of the corridor. 

My rifle sights were on a black speck 
that had appeared low over the body of 
the dead Chinese. The speck turned 
into the barrel of a pistol and a hand be¬ 
came visible behind it. 

Fire streamed from the pistol and gela¬ 
tine gas bullets blotched the wall waist- 
high behind me with poison gas. Delib¬ 
erately I squeezed the trigger, and the 
hand twitched away as I heard a yell of 
pain from Tsu Liang. I grinned my sat- 
isfaaion as I charged noiselessly at the 
door, snatched in the body on the thresh¬ 
old and slammed the steel portal to. 

’There was a bar which could be low¬ 
ered, and I breathed my thankfulness 
when I had wrenched it down. 

Tsu Liang was a madman. I could 
hear him raving outside. He was shout¬ 
ing orders in English to his men to get 
dynamite. 

'The gas mask I wore was not designed 
to filter out the poison vapor of Tsu 
Liang’s pistol. Yet none of the fragile 
bullets had hit me, and I was twenty feet 
from the walls where the liquid had 
splashed. For a few moments while I 
leaned against the door I felt weak and 


dizzy, but I soon found myself alert once 
more. 

Professor Houlton and Polly, both 
wearing masks, joined me. Joe Big was 
still watching the front door, they told 
me. 

With my ear pressed against the steel 
barrier before me I could faintly distin¬ 
guish furtive movements on the other 
side. They worried me. Yet I could 
not open the door and shoot without mak¬ 
ing so much noise that I would warn die 
Chinese. I would only expose myself to 
their fire. 

Outside there rose a frenzied call. 

"Pro-o-ofessor Houlton!” 

The tall man beside me spoke. 

"Yes.” 

"Professor,” Tsu Liang’s voice chat¬ 
tered. "My wrist is smashed and bleed¬ 
ing. You must have some mercy in you. 
Surely you can’t keep me outside here, 
exposed to the spores, in my condition.” 

Houlton laughed shortly. 

"What mercy have you shown to the 
thousands that are dead?” he demanded. 

"But to a brother scientist,” Tsu Liang 
pleaded. 

"Scoimdrel,” roared Professor Houl¬ 
ton, "you are no scientist. You have 
picked my brains to bring ruin upon my 
country. Besides,” he added, "it is a 
mathematical certainty that some of the 
Cordyceps spores have already found 
lodgment in your wound.” 

Silence followed, and then three shots. 
They sounded like a signal to me and I 
cried, "Back—back behind the corner of 
the passage.” 

We. ran back, and no sooner had we 
done so than we were knocked off our feet 
by a terrific blast of air. Fragments of 
the steel door buried themselves in the 
wall near us. It had been blown in. And 
not only the back door, for another ex¬ 
plosion followed an instant later. I could 


350 


WEIRD TALES 


hear Joe Big shouting a strange ululating 
chant :as his rifle fired shot after shot. 

There was another noise too, a noise 
as of rushing wind—a rising drone that 
grew to the familiar roar of airplane 
engines—many engines. 

I jumped around the corner, my rifle 
flaming lead at two startled Chinese who 
craned their masked heads skyward in¬ 
stead of attacking through the shattered 
masonry that had held the door. 

One of them clutched his chest and 
fell. The other screamed and ran away. 
I followed to the smoking pit by the 
broken stone and caught him with an¬ 
other shot; for the night had become 
brighter than day. Half a do 2 en blinding 
flares drifted slowly to earth on tiny 
parachutes. 

"What—what is it.?” faltered Professor 
Houlton. 

"Help,” I said briefly and ran out into 
the light. 

Tsu Liang was not to be seen on my 
side of the house. Nor was any other 
live Chinese. I walked around to the 
other side. Nobody was in sight there 
either. Cautiously I approached the patio 
and peered in. It was empty. 

"Joe Big,” I called. "Joe Big!” 

Polly Houlton came out of the black 
shadows, picking her way daintily 
through the rubble that strewed the tiles. 

"He is not in the front room,” she 
said. "There is some blood where he was 
lying, but Joe is gone. There is a dead 
Chinese by the door, too.” 

"Is it Doaor Tsu Liang?” I cried. 

“No, just one of his men.” 

12 

O NE ship was still circling over the 
brightly illuminated island. The 
others had gone over, and I could see 
their landing-lights switched on as they 
settled on the water. 


“Tell me, Greg,” asked Polly, "what 
are all these airships?” 

I laughed happily and put my arm 
around her shoulder. Gas masks are a 
nuisance, I then decided. 

"They’re naval boats from Colon 
where the base is to guard the Panama 
Canal,” I said. "I wired to Dicky Sharp, 
a war-time friend of mine at the naval 
air establishment, and told him what 
was going on here. I said that I was com¬ 
ing down to rescue you and wipe the 
place clean. He came and brought some 
friends with him—it’s only six hours’ 
flight away—and thank God that he did 
come.” 

One of the seaplanes was taxying for¬ 
ward in the more or less open water by 
the landing-stage. It advanced slowly 
until its floats touched sand. I saw a 
man climb out of the cockpit and splash 
into knee-deep water. 

With my hands raised in the air, I ran 
to meet him. 

"Dicky Sharp,” I cried, “is that you?” 
For like myself he was wearing a gas 
mask that concealed his face. 

"Greg Morris!” he exclaimed and ad¬ 
vanced with outstretched hand. 

A rifle cracked from some bushes on 
the left and I felt a blow on my foot. 
The leather heel of the left shoe had been 
neatly torn oflF. A yell of fear and a deep 
shout of triumph followed the shot, and 
the bushes waved agitatedly. Out of 
them burst Tsu Liang. He wheeled and 
threw his rifle at Joe Big, who followed* 
him laboriously through the tangle, and 
then the Chinese raced toward us, his 
free hand gripping his shattered wrist. 

"Help,” he cried. "I surrender, prison¬ 
er of war-” 

But Joe Big was faster than he. In 
gigantic bounds the Indian overhauled 
die Chinese. Brown fingers stretched out. 


THE DUST OF DEATH 


351 


caught the yellow man’s gas mask and 
tore it oflf his head. 

Dicky Sharp had brought out a pistol 
and was training it on Joe Big. 

"Don’t do it,” I snapped. "Shoot the 
other one if you must. He is the man 
who spread the caterpillar death.” 

The Chinese dodged toward us through 
the long grass and around a dead tree 
on which a huge brown puffball hung. 
I heard him scream again and trip over 
something. His elbow struck the puffball 
and it exploded into brown dust which 
veiled to us what was happening. 

Joe Big, too, stopped at the edge of 
the cloud and peered intently into it. 
From its center there came a horrible 
choking sound and then another ghastly 
scream. There were sounds as of a strug¬ 
gle; of vicious jaws snapping again and 
again. And then there was silence. Some¬ 
thing long and low and slimy scuttered 
out of the cloud toward the water. It 
hissed like a land torpedo through the 
tall grass and splashed when it reached 
water. Then it was gone. 

"My God!” gasped Dicky Sharp. "It’s 
the grandfather of all alligators. It’s 
twenty feet long!” 

Slowly the brown fog lifted. The 
aviator in the ’plane that roared above us 
dropped more flares and we saw that the 
place where we had last seen Tsu Liang 
was bare. There was the puffball still 
smoking its brown spores. But nowhere 
was there a trace of the Chinese scientist. 

Joe Big was standing, his head in its 
new gas mask, sunk upon his chest. Sud¬ 
denly he swept up an arm and tore the 
proteaing envelope from his head. 

"Joe!” I gasped. "Are you crazy? Put 
that on again quick.” 

"I die,” said the Indian. "Spirit of my 
people kill yellow devil. I die now.” 

Slowly he began to intone the ululating 
chant I had heard before, and then a 


horribly gurgling cough gagged him. 
Blood gushed from Joe Big’s mouth and 
nose, and though I caught him before he 
fell, I sensed that he was dead. A bulla- 
hole in his chest showed why. 

S ILENTLY I folded his arms and wiped 
the blood off his mouth. I could not 
speak—not even to Dicky Sharp or to 
Polly Houlton, who stood beside him 
now. Presently we were joined by the 
professor, and Dicky started to flash a 
message with his elearic torch to one of 
the seaplanes. 

Collapsible boats brought more flyers 
to the shore of the ghastly island, and 
Dicky Sharp clicked to attention as a 
stocisy man came up, whose leather coat 
and gas mask concealed all signs of rank. 

"Commander Bob Bradley,” he intro¬ 
duced him. "He is in charge of the 
squadron.” 

"And so this is where the terrible pest 
was manufactured,” said the stocky officer 
heavily. "You know that it threatens to 
lay waste the whole of the North Ameri¬ 
can continent? No saying even then 
where it will stop. It may cover the 
world.” 

Professor Houlton snorted in his gas 
mask. 

"Nonsense,” he said belligerently. ' 
"Smash those mirrors on that framework 
there so that the lunar rays are no longer 
concentrated on the original culture beds 
and I’ll guarantee that with the exception 
of the few odd ones there will not be a 
single accelerated puffball or Cordyceps 
in the land within a month.” 

"What!” The exclamation burst from 
several lips. 

"Certainly,” said the professor warm¬ 
ly. "I tried to do it myself immediately 
after I was captured, but that Chinese 
fiend caught me at it and had me whipped 
until I could not stand. Me—^Professor 


352 


WEIRD TALES 


Howard Houlton. And ever since, my 
daughter and I have been under guard 
while she nursed me back to health.” 

"But how is that, Professor?” I cried. 
"What effea do these rays have now?” 

"I don't know how familiar you are 
with my subjea,” said the professor 
kindly. "But I know by experiment that 
the rays and the chemicals with which the 
breeding-beds are impregnated give an 
accelerated development to the fungi bred 
there for about ten generations in the 
case of puffballs. I have not experi¬ 
mented with the Cordyceps, but since 
they have not been cultured long I should 
say that there would be only five or six 
generations of acceleration and virulence 
strong enough to give them power to 
attack mammals. 

"Now you may say that an accelerated 
puffball grows, ripens and sends out its 
spores in the maximum space of forty- 
eight hours. The spores may float for 
seconds or for hours according to at¬ 
mospheric conditions. Let us put the 
maximum at twenty-four hours. In that 
time they may travel a foot or many 
miles, depending on the wind. The 
maximum would be about fifty miles. 

"Thus you see the longest generation 
would be three days and the . maximum 
rate of travel fifty miles. 

"In thirty days the furthest puffball 
spores will be five hundred miles from 
this point in the Everglades, and then 
they lose their acceleration and become 
the spores of ordinary puffballs.” 

"But Tsu Liang planned to lay waste 
the whole of the United States with these 
spores,” I ventured to suggest. 


“Quite so, ” agreed the professor. "He 
could have done so if he’d been a man of 
courage. He could have collected newly 
accelerated spores from the original cul¬ 
ture beds, spores of the puffballs and 
also of the Cordyceps from the bodies of 
the poor Indians whom he has lying 
there. 

"He could have released them in New 
York, in Detroit, in Chicago, along the 
Pacific Coast, and he could have wiped 
out the United States; for they would 
have had an active radius of four hundred 
and fifty miles from each point of release. 

"But he was a craven. I heard him 
gloat and boast about his cleverness in im¬ 
prisoning the poor Indians who had come 
here to help him when they saw the place 
was on fire more than a month ago. He 
thought that he was clever because he in¬ 
oculated them with the spores of the 
Cordyceps—the caterpillar death fungus. 

"But he burned his own bridges 
behind him, for when he wanted to leave 
the Everglades to spread his poison, he 
discovered that he could not find his way 
out, and he had killed the only men who 
could guide him. He was imprisoned 
himself and he was afraid to leave because 
he feared that he would be lost in the 
swamp.” 

Commander Bradley gave a brisk order, 
and a group of men advanced upon 
Professor Houlton’s lunar ray projeaor. 

As for me—Polly and I went away 
from there, into the old house where we 
were out of sight of our rescuers. 

And here again I cursed all gas masks 
and the necessity for wearing them. 



W. T.—4 




The Children of the Night 

By ROBERT E. HOWARD 

A tale of atavism, and a race of sub-men who lived in England 
before the coming of the Piets 


T here were, I remember, six of 
us in Conrad’s bizarrely fashioned 
study, with its queer relics from 
all over the world and its long rows of 
books which ranged from the Mandrake 
Press edition of Boccaccio to a Missale 
Romanum, bound in clasped oak boards 
and printed in Venice, 1740. Clemants 
and Professor Kirowan had just engaged 
in a somewhat testy anthropological argu¬ 
ment: Clemants upholding the theory of 
a separate, distina Alpine race, while the 
professor maintained that this so-called 
race was merely a deviation from an 
original Aryan stock—^possibly the result 
W. T.—5 


of an admixture between the southern or 
Mediterranean races and the Nordic 
people. 

"And how,” asked Clemants, "do you 
account for their brachycephalicism? The 
Mediterraneans were as long-headed as 
the Aryans: would admixture between 
these dolichocephalic peoples produce a 
broad-headed intermediate type.^” 

"Special conditions might bring about 
a change in an originally long-headed 
race,” snapped Kirowan. "Boaz has 
demonstrated, for instance, that in the 
case of immigrants to America, skull 
formations often change in one genera- 
353 


354 


WEIRD TALES 


tion. And Flinders Petrie has shown that 
the Lombards changed from a long-head¬ 
ed to a round-headed race in a few 
centuries.” 

"But what caused these changes?” 

"Much is yet unknown to science,” 
answered Kirowan, "and we need not be 
dogmatic. No one knows, as yet, why 
people of British and Irish ancestry tend 
to grow unusually tall in the Darling dis- 
tria of Australia—Cornstalks, as they 
are called—or why people of such descent 
generally have thinner jaw-structures 
after a few generations in New England. 
The universe is full of the unexplainable.” 

"And therefore the uninteresting, ac¬ 
cording to Machen,” laughed Taverel. 

Conrad shook his head. "I must dis¬ 
agree. To me the unknowable is most 
tantalizingly fascinating. 

"Which accoimts, no doubt, for all the 
works on witchcraft and demonology I 
see on your shelves,” said Ketrick, with a 
wave of his hand toward the rows of 
books. 

And let me speak of Ketrick. Each of 
the six of us was of the same breed—that 
is to say, a Briton or an American of 
British descent. By British, I include all 
natural inhabitants of the British Isles. 
We represented various strains of English 
and Celtic blood, but basically, these 
strains are the same after all. But Ket¬ 
rick: to me the man always seemed 
strangely alien. It was in his eyes that 
this difference showed externally. They 
were a sort of amber, almost yellow, and 
slightly oblique. At times, when one 
looked at his face from certain angles, 
they seemed to slant like a Chinaman’s. 

Others than I had noticed this feature, 
so unusual in a man of pure Anglo-Saxon 
descent. The usual myths ascribing his 
slanted eyes to some pre-natal influence 
had been mooted about, and I remember 
Professor Hendrik Brooler once remarked 


that Ketrick was undoubtedly an atavism, 
representing a reversion of type to some 
dim and distant ancestor of Mongolian 
blood—a sort of freak reversion, since 
none of his family showed such traces. 

But Ketrick comes of the Welsh 
branch of the Cetrics of Sussex, and his 
lineage is set down in the Book of Peers. 
There you may read the line of his 
ancestry, which extends unbroken to the 
days of Canute. No slightest trace of 
Mongoloid intermixture appears in die 
genealogy, and how could there have 
been such intermixture in old Saxon 
England? For Ketrick is the modern - 
form of Cedric, and though that branch 
fled into Wales before the invasion of the 
Danes, its male heirs consistently married 
with English families on the border 
marches, and it remains a pure line of the 
powerful Sussex Cetrics—almost pure 
Saxon. As for the man himself, this 
defea of his eyes, if it can be called a 
defect, is his only abnormality, except for 
a slight and occasional lisping of speech. 
He is highly intellectual and a good com¬ 
panion except for a slight aloofness and 
a rather callous indifference which may 
serve to mask an extremely sensitive 
nature. 

Referring to his remark, I said with a 
laugh: "Conrad pursues the obscure and 
mystic as some men pursue romance; his 
shelves throng with delightful nightmares 
of every variety.” 

Our host nodded. "You’ll find there a 
number of deleaable dishes—Machen, 
Poe, Blackwood, Maturin—look, there’s a 
rare feast —Horrid Mysteries, by the 
Marquis of Grosse—the real Eighteenth 
Century edition.” 

Taverel scanned the shelves. "Weird 
fiaion seems to vie with works on witch¬ 
craft, voodoo and dark magic.” 

"True; historians and chroniclers are 
often dull; tale-weavers never—the mas- 


THE CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT 


355 


tets, I mean. A voodoo sacrifice can be 
described in sudi a dull manner as to 
take all the real fantasy out of it, and 
leave it merely a sordid murder. 1 will 
admit that few writers of fiction touch 
the true heights of horror—^most of their 
stuff is too concrete, given too much 
earthly shape and dimensions. But in 
such tales as Poe’s Pall of the House of 
Usher, Machen’s Black Seal and Love- 
craft’s Call of Cthulhu —the three master 
horror-tales, to itty mind—the reader is 
borne into daric and outer realms of imag¬ 
ination. 

'But look there,” he continued, "there, 
sandwiched between that nightmare of 
Huysmans’, and Walpole’s Castle of 
Otranto —Von Junzt’s Nameless Cults. 
There’s a book to keep you awake at 
night!’’ 

"I’ve read it,” said Taverel, "and I’m 
convinced the man is mad. His work is 
like the conversation of a maniac—it 
runs with startling clarity for awhile, 
then suddenly merges into vagueness and 
disconneaed ramblings.” 

Conrad shook his head. "Have you 
ever thought that perhaps it is his very 
sanity that causes him to write in that 
fashion? What if he dares not put on 
paper ail he knows? What if his vague 
suppositions are dark and mysterious 
hints, keys to the puzzle, to those who 
know?’’ 

"Bosh!” 'This from Kirowan. "Are you 
intimating that any of the nightmare 
cults referred to by Von Junzt survive to 
this day—if they ever existed save in the 
hag-ridden brain of a lunatic poet and 
philosopher?” 

"Not he alone used hidden meanings,” 
answered Conrad. "If you will scan 
various worits of certain great poets you 
may find double meanings. Men have 
stumbled on to cosmic secrets in the past 
and given a hint of them to the world 


in cryptic words. Do you remember Von 
Junzt’s hints of 'a city in the waste’? 
What do you think of Flecker’s lines: 

" 'Pass not beneath! Men 887 there blows in stony 
deserts still a rose 

■' 'But with no scarlet to her leaf—and from whose 
heart no perfume flows.’ 

"Men may stumble upon secret things, 
but Von Junzt dipped deep into forbid¬ 
den mysteries. He was one of the few 
men, for instance, who could read the 
Necronomkon in the original Greek 
translation.” 

Taverel shrugged his shoulders, and 
Professor Kirowan, though he snorted 
and puffed vidously at his pipe, made no 
direct reply; for he, as well as Conrad, 
had delved into the Latin version of the 
book, and had found there things not 
even a cold-blooded sdentist could answer 
or refute. 

"Well,” he said presently, "suppose 
we admit the former existence of cults 
revolving about such nameless and ghast¬ 
ly gods and entities as Cthulhu, Yog 
Sothoth, Tsathoggua, Gol-goroth, and 
- the like, I can not find it in my mind to 
believe that survivals of such cults lurk in 
the dark comers of the world today.” 

To our surprize Clemants answered. 
He was a tall, lean man, silent almost to 
the point of tadturnity, and his fierce 
struggles with poverty in his youth had 
lined his face beyond his years. Like 
many another artist, he lived a distinaly 
dual literary life, his swashbuckling 
novels furnishing him a generous income, 
and his editorial position on The Cloven 
Hoof affording him full artistic expres¬ 
sion. The Cloven Hoofvfis a poetry mag¬ 
azine whose bizarre contents had often 
aroused the shocked interest of the con¬ 
servative critics. 

"You remember Von Junzt makes men¬ 
tion of a so-called Bran cult,” said Qem- 
ants, stuffing his pipe-bowl with a pecul¬ 
iarly villainous brand of shag tobacco. "1 


356 


WEIRD TALES 


think I heard you and Taverel discussing 
it once.” 

"As I gather from his hints,” snapped 
Kirowan, "Von Junzt includes this par¬ 
ticular cult among those still in existence. 
Absurd.” 

Agaih Clemants shook his head. 
"When I was a boy working my way 
through a certain university, I had for 
roommate a lad as poor and ambitious as 
I. If I told you his name, it would startle 
you. Though he came of an old Scotch 
line of Galloway, he was obviously of a 
non-Aryan type. 

"This is in striaest confidence, you 
understand. But my roommate talked in 
his sleep. I began to listen and put his 
disjointed mumbling together. And in 
his mutterings I first heard of the ancient 
cult hinted at by Van Jimzt; pf the king 
who ruled the Dark Empire, which was 
a revival of an older, darker empire dat¬ 
ing back into the Stone Age; and of the 
great, nameless cavern where stands the 
Dark Man—the image of Bran Mak 
Morn, carved in his likeness by a master- 
hand while the great king yet lived, and 
to which each worshipper of Bran makes 
a pilgrimage once in his or her lifetime. 
Yes, that cult lives today in the descend¬ 
ants of Bran’s people—a silent, unknown 
current it flows on in the great ocean of 
Efe, waiting for the stone image of the 
great Bran to breathe and move with 
sudden life, and come from the great 
cavern to rebuild their lost empire.” 

"And who were the people of that 
empire?” asked Ketrick. 

"Pias,” answered Taverel, "doubtless 
the people known later as the wild Piets 
of Galloway were predominantly Celtic— 
a mixture of Gaelic, Cymric, aboriginal 
and possibly Teutonic elements. Whether 
they took their name from the older race 
or lent their own name to that race, is a 
matter yet to be decided. But when Von 


Junzt speaks of Piets, he refers specifical¬ 
ly to the small, dark, garlic-eating peo¬ 
ples of Mediterranean blood who brought 
the Neolithic culture into Britain. The 
first settlers of that country, in faa, who 
gave rise to the tales of earth spirits and 
goblins.” 

"I can not agree to that last statement,” 
said Conrad. "These legends ascribe a 
deformity and inhumanness of appear¬ 
ances to the charaaers. There was noth¬ 
ing about the Piets to excite such horror 
and repulsion in the Aryan peoples. I 
believe that the Mediterraneans were pre¬ 
ceded by a Mongoloid type, very low in 
the scale of development, whence these 
tales-” 

"Quite true,” broke in Kirowan, "but 
I hardly think they preceded the Pias, as 
you call them, into Britain. We find troll 
and dwarf legends all over the Con¬ 
tinent, and I am inclined to think that 
both the Mediterranean and Aryan peo¬ 
ples brought these tales with them from 
the Continent. They must have been of 
extremely inhuman aspea, those early 
Mongoloids.” 

"At least,” said Conrad, "here is a 
flint mallet a miner found in the Welsh 
hills and gave to me, which has never 
been fully explained. It is obviously of 
no ordinary Neolithic make. See how 
small it is, compared to most implements 
of that age; almost like a child’s toy; yet 
it is surprizingly heavy and no doubt a 
deadly blow could be dealt with it. I 
fitted the handle to it, myself, and you 
would be surprized to know how diflicult 
it was to carve it into a shape and bal¬ 
ance corresponding with the head.” 

We looked at the thing. It was well 
made, polished somewhat like the other 
remnants of the Neolithic I had seen, yet 
as Conrad said, it was strangely different. 
Its small size was oddly disquieting, for 
it had no appearance of a toy, otherwise. 


THE CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT 


357 


It was as sinister in suggestion as an 
Aztec sacrificial dagger. Conrad had 
fashioned the oaken handle with rare 
skill, and in carving it to fit the head, had 
managed to give it the'same unnatural 
appearance-as the mallet itself had. He 
had even copied the workmanship of 
primal times, fixing the head into the 
cleft of the haft with rawhide. 

"My word!” Taverel made a clumsy 
pass at an imaginary antagonist and near¬ 
ly shattered a costly Shang vase. "The 
balahce of the thing is all off center; I’d 
have to readjust all my mechanics of poise 
and equilibrium to handle it.” 

"Let me see it,” Ketrick took the thing 
and fumbled with it, trying to strike the 
secret of its proper handling. At length, 
somewhat irritated, he swung it up and 
struck a heavy blow at a shield which 
hung on the wall near by. I was stand¬ 
ing near it; I saw the hellish mallet twist 
in his hand like a live serpent, and his 
arm wrenched out of line; I heard a shout 
of alarmed warning—then darkness came 
with the impact of the mallet against my 
head. 

*•##**# 

S LOWLY I drifted back to consciousness. 

First there was dull sensation with 
blindness and total lack of knowledge as 
to where I was or what I was; then vague 
realization of life and being, and a hard 
something pressing into my ribs. Then 
the mists cleared and I came to myself 
completely. 

I lay on my back half beneath some 
underbrush and my head throbbed fierce¬ 
ly. Also my hair was caked and clotted 
with blood, for the scalp had been laid 
open. But my eyes traveled down my 
body and limbs, naked but for a deer¬ 
skin loin-cloth and sandals of the same 
material, and found no other wound. 
That which pressed so imcomfortably into 
my ribs was my ax, on which I had fallen. 


Now an abhorrent babble reached my 
ears and stung me into clear conscious¬ 
ness. 'The noise was faintly like language, 
but not such language as men are ac¬ 
customed to. It sounded much like the 
repeated hissing of many great snakes. 

I stared. I lay in a great, gloomy for¬ 
est. The ^lade was overshadowed, so that 
even in the daytime it was very dark. Aye 
—that forest was dark, cold, silent, 
gigantic and utterly grisly. And I looked 
into the glade. 

I saw a shambles. Five men lay there 
—at least, what had been five men. Now 
as I marked , the abhorrent mutilations 
my soul sickened. And about them clus¬ 
tered the—^Things. Humans they were, 
of a sort, though I did not consider them 
so. They were short and stocky, with 
broad heads too large for their scrawny 
bodies. Their hair was snaky and stringy, 
their faces broad and square, with flat 
noses, hideously slanted eyes, a thin gash 
for a mouth, and pointed ears. They 
wore the skins of beasts, as did I, but 
these hides were but crudely dressed. 
They bore small bows and flint-tipped 
arrows, flint knives and cudgels. And 
they conversed in a speech as hideous as 
themselves, a hissing, reptilian speech 
that filled me with dread and loathing. 

Oh, I hated them as I lay there; my 
brain flamed with white-hot fury. And 
now I remembered. We had hunted, we 
six youths of the Sword People, and had 
wandered far into that grim forest which 
our people generally shunned. Weary of 
the chase, we had paused to rest; to me 
had been given the first watch, for in 
those days, no sleep was safe without a 
sentry. Now shame and revulsion shook 
my whole being. I had slept—I had be¬ 
trayed my comrades. And now they lay 
gashed and mangled—butchered while 
they slept, by vermin who had never 
dared to stand before them on equal 


358 


WEIRD TALES 


terms. I, Aryara, had betrayed my trust. 

Aye—I remembered. I had slept and 
in the midst of a dream of the hunt, fire 
and sparks had exploded in my head and 
I had plunged into a deeper darkness 
where there were no dreams. And now 
the penalty. They who had stolen through 
the dense forest and smitten me senseless, 
had not paused to mutilate me. Thinking 
me dead they had hastened swiftly to their 
grisly work. Now perhaps they had for* 
gotten me for a time. I had sat some¬ 
what apart from the others, and when 
struck, had fallen half under some bushes. 
But soon they would remember me. I 
would hunt no more, dance no more in 
the dances of hunt and love and war, see 
no more the wattle huts of the Sword 
People. 

But I had no wish to escape back to 
my people. Should I slink ba^ with my 
tale of infamy and disgrace? Should I 
hear the words of scorn my tribe would 
fling at me, see the girls point their con¬ 
temptuous fingers at the youth who slept 
and betrayed his comrades to the knives 
of vermin? 

Tears stimg my eyes, and slow hate 
heaved up in my bosom, and my brain. 
I would never bear the sword that 
marked the warrior. I would never 
triumph over worthy foes and die 
gloriously beneath the arrows of the Piets 
or the axes of the Wolf People or the 
River People. would go down to deadi 
beneath a nauseous rabble, whom the 
Piets had long ago driven into forest 
dens like rats. 

And mad rage gripped me and dried 
my tears, giving in their stead a berserk 
blaze of wrath. If such reptiles were to 
bring about my downfall, I would make 
it a fall long remembered—if such beasts 
had memories. 

Moving cautiously, I shifted until my 
band was on the haft of my ax; then 1 


called on Il-marinen and bounded up as 
a tiger springs. And as a tiger springs I 
was among my enemies and smashed a 
flat skull as a man crushes the head of a 
snake. A sudden wild clamor of feat 
broke from my viaims and for an instant 
they closed round me, hacking and stab¬ 
bing. A knife gashed my chest but I gave 
no heed. A red mist waved before my 
eyes, and my body and limbs moved in 
perfect accord with my fighting brain. 
Snarling, hacking and smiting, I was a 
tiger among reptiles. In an instant they 
gave way and fled, leaving me bestriding 
half a dozen stunted bodies. But I was 
not satiated. 

I was close on the heels of the tallest 
one, whose head would perhaps come to 
my shoulder, and who seemed to be their 
chief. He fled down a sort of runway, 
squealing like a monstrous lizard, and 
when I was close at his shoulder, he 
dived, snake-like, into the bushes. But I 
was too swift for him, and I dragged 
him forth and butchered him in a most 
gory fashion. 

And through the bushes I saw the trail 
he was striving to reach—a path winding 
in and out among the trees, almost too 
narrow to allow the traversing of it by a 
man of normal size. I hacked off my 
victim’s hideous head, and carrying it in 
my left hand, went up the serpent-path, 
with my red ax in my right. 

Now as I strode swiftly along the path 
and blood splashed beside my feet at 
every step from the severed jugular of 
my foe, I thought of those I hunted. Aye 
—^we held them in so little esteem, we 
hunted by day in the forest they haimted. 
What they called themselves, we never 
knew; for none of our tribe ever learned 
the accursed hissing sibilances they used 
as speech; but we called them the Qiil- 
dren of the Night. And night-things they 
were indeed, for they slunk in the depths 


THE CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT 


359 


of the dark forests, and in subterraneous 
dwellings, venturing forth into the hills 
only when their conquerors slept. It was 
at night that they did their foul deeds— 
the quick flight of a flint-tipped arrow to 
slay cattle, or perhaps a loitering human, 
the snatching of a child that had wan¬ 
dered from the village. 

But it was for more than this we gave 
them their name; they were, in truth, 
people of night and darkness and the 
ancient horror-ridden shadows of bygone 
ages. For the?e creatures were very old, 
and they represented an outworn age. 
They had once overrun and possessed this 
land, and they had been driven into hid¬ 
ing and obscurity by the dark, fierce little 
Pias with whom we contested now, and 
who hated and loathed them as savagely 
as did we. 

The Pias were different from us in 
general appearance, being shorter of 
stature and dark of hair, eyes and skin, 
whereas we were tall and powerful, with 
yellow hair and light eyes. But they were 
cast in the same mold, for all of that. 
These Children of the Night seemed not 
human to us, with their deformed dwarf¬ 
ish bodies, yellow skin and hideous faces. 
Aye—^they were reptiles—^vermin. 

And my brain was like to burst with 
fury when I thought that it was these 
vermin on whom I was to glut my ax and 
perish. Bah! There is no glory slaying 
snakes or dying from their bites. All this 
rage and fierce disappointment turned on 
the objeas of my hatred, and with the 
old red mist waving in front of me I 
swore by all the gods I knew, to wreak 
such red havoc before I died as to leave a 
dread memory in the minds of the sur¬ 
vivors. 

My people would not honor me, in 
such contempt they held the Children. 
But those Children that I left alive would 
remember me and shudder. So I swore, 
gripping savagely my ax, which was of 


bronze, set in a cleft of the oaken haft 
and fastened securely with rawhide. 

Now I heard ahead a sibilant, abhor¬ 
rent murmur, and a vile stench filtered to 
me . through the trees, human, yet less 
than human. A few moments more and 
I emerged from the deep shadows into a 
wide open space. I had never before seen 
a village of the Children. There was a 
cluster of earthen domes, with low door¬ 
ways sunk ' into the ground; squalid 
dwelling-places, half above and half 
below the earth. And I knew from the 
talk of the old warriors that these dwell¬ 
ing-places were conneaed by under- 
groimd corridors, so the whole village 
was like an ant-bed, or a system of snake 
holes. And I wondered if other tunnels 
did not run off under the ground and 
emerge long distances from the villages. 

Before the domes clustered a vast 
group of the creatures, hissing and jab¬ 
bering at a great rate. 

1 HAD quickened my pace, and now as I 
burst from cover, I was running with 
the fleetness of my race. A wild clamor 
went up from the rabble as they saw the 
avenger, tall, blood-stained and blazing¬ 
eyed leap from the forest, and I cried out 
fiercely, flung the dripping head among 
them and bounded like a wounded tiger 
into the thick of them. 

Oh, there was no escape for them now! 
They might have taken to their tunnels 
but I would have followed, even to the 
guts of hell. They knew they must slay 
me, and they closed around, a hundred 
strong, to do it. 

There was no wild blaze of glory in my 
brain as there had been against worthy 
foes. But the old berserk madness of my 
race was in my blood and the smell of 
blood and destruaion in my nostrils. 

I know not how many I slew. I only 
know that they thronged about me in a 
writhing, slashing mass, like serpents 


360 


WEIRD TALES 


about a wolf, and I smote until the ax- 
edge turned and bent and the ax became 
no more than a bludgeon; and I smashed 
skulls, split heads, splintered bones, scat¬ 
tered blood and brains in one red sac¬ 
rifice to Il-marinen, god of the Sword 
People. 

Bleeding from half a hundred wounds, 
blinded by a slash across the eyes, I felt a 
flint knife sink deep into my groin and at 
the same instant a cudgel laid my scalp 
open. I went to my knees but reeled up 
again, and saw in a thick red fog a ring 
of leering, slant-eyed faces. I lashed out 
as a dying tiger strikes, and the faces 
broke in red ruin. 

And as I sagged, overbalanced by the 
fury of my stroke, a taloned hand clutched 
my throat and a flint blade was driven 
into my ribs and twisted venomously. 
Beneath a shower of blows I went down 
again, but the man with the knife was 
beneath me, and with my left hand I 
found him and broke his heck before he 
could writhe away. 

Life was waning swiftly; through the 
hissing and howling of the Qiildren I 
could hear the voice of Il-marinen. Yet 
once again I rose stubbornly, through a 
very whirlwind of cudgels and spears. I 
could no longer see my foes, even in a 
red mist. But I could, feel their blows 
and knew they surged about me. I braced 
my feet, gripped my slippery ax-haft with, 
both hands, and calling once more on Il- 
marinen 1 heaved up the ax and struck 
one last terrific blow. And I must have 
■ died on my feet, for there was no sensa¬ 
tion of falling; even as I knew, with a 
last thrill of savagery, that I slew, even 
as I felt the splintering of skulls beneath 
.my ax, darkness came with oblivion. 
******* 

I CAME suddenly to myself. I was half 
reclining in a big armchair and Gjn- 
rad was pouring water on me. My head 


ached and a trickle of blood had half 
dried on my face. Kirowan, Taverel and 
Clemants were hovering about, anxious¬ 
ly, while Ketrick stood just in front of 
me, still holding the mallet, his face 
schooled to a polite perturbation which 
his eyes did not show. And at the sight 
of those cursed eyes a red madness surged 
up in me. 

"There,” Conrad was saying, "I told 
you he’d come out of it in a moment; 
just a light crack. He’s taken harder 
than that. All right now, aren’t you, 
O’Donnel.^” 

At that I swept them aside, and with a 
single low snarl of hatred launched my¬ 
self at Ketrick. Taken utterly by surprize 
he had no opportunity to defend him¬ 
self. My hands locked on his throat and 
we crashed together on the ruins of a 
divan. 'The others cried out in amazement 
and horror and sprang to separate us—or 
rather, to tear me from my viaim, for 
already Ketrick’s slant eyes were begin¬ 
ning to start from their sockets. 

"For God’s sake, O’Donnel,” ex¬ 
claimed Conrad, seeking to break my 
grip, "what’s come over you? Ketrick 
didn’t mean to hit you—let go, you 
idiot!” 

A fierce wrath almost overcame me at 
these men who were my friends, men of 
my own tribe, and I swore at them and 
their blindness, as they finally managed 
to tear my strangling fingers from Ket¬ 
rick’s throat. He sat up and choked and 
explored the blue marks my fingers had 
left, while I raged and cursed, nearly de¬ 
feating the combined eflPorts of the four 
to hold me. 

"You fools!” I screamed. "Let me go! 
Let me do my duty as a tribesman! You 
blind fools! I care nothing for the paltry 
blow he dealt me—he and his dealt 
stronger blows than that against me, in 
bygone ages. You fools, he is marked 


THE CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT 


361 


with the. brand of the beast—the reptile 
—the vermin we exterminated centuries 
ago! I must crush him, stamp him out, 
rid the clean earth of his accursed pol¬ 
lution!” 

So I raved and struggled, and Conrad 
gasped to Ketrick over his shoulder: 
"Get out, quick! He’s out of his head! 
His mind is unhinged! Get away from 
him.” 

N ow I look out over the ancient 
dreaming downs and the hills and 
deep forests beyond and I ponder. Some¬ 
how, that blow from that ancient accursed 
mallet knocked me back into another age 
and another life. While I was Aryara I 
had no cognizance of any other life. It 
was no dream; it was a stray bit of reality 
wherein I, John O’Donnel, once lived 
and died, and back into which I was 
snatched across the voids of time and 
space by a chance blow. Time and times 
are but cogwheels, unmatched, grinding 
on oblivious to one another. Occasion¬ 
ally—oh, very rarely!—the cogs lit; the 
pieces of the plot snap together mo¬ 
mentarily and give men faint glimpses 
beyond the veil of this everyday blind¬ 
ness we call reality. 

I am John O’Donnel arid I was Aryara, 
who dreamed dreams of war-glory and 
hunt-glory and feast-glory and who died 
on a red heap of his viaims in some lost 
age. But in what age and where.? 

The last I can answer for you. Moun¬ 
tains and rivers change their contours; the 
landscapes alter; but the downs least of 
all. I look out upon them now and I re¬ 
member them, not only with John O’Don- 
nel’s eyes, but with the eyes of Aryara. 
They are but little changed. Only the 
great forest has shrunk and dwindled 
and in many, many places vanished utter¬ 
ly. But here on these very downs Aryara 
lived and fought and loved and in yon¬ 


der forest he died. Kirowan was wrong. 
The little, fierce, dark Piets were not the 
first men in the Isles. 'There were beings 
before them—aye, the Children of the 
Night. Legends—why, the Children were 
not unknown to us when we came into 
what is now the isle of Britain. We had 
encountered them before, ages before. 
Already we had our myths of them. But 
we found them in Britain. Nor had the 
Pias totally exterminated them. 

Nor had the Pias, as so many believe, 
preceded us by many centuries. We drove 
them before us as we came, in that long 
drift from the East. I, Aryara, knew old 
men who had marched on that century- 
long trek; who had been borne in the 
arms of yellow-haired women over count¬ 
less miles of forest and plain, and who as 
youths had walked in the vanguard of the 
invaders. 

As to the age—that I can not say. But 
I, Aryara, was surely an Aryan and my 
people were Aryans—members of one of 
the thousand unknown and unrecorded 
drifts that scattered yellow-haired, blue¬ 
eyed tribes all over the world. The Celts 
were not the first to come into western 
Europe. I, Aryara, was of the same blood 
and appearance as the men who sacked 
Rome, but mine was a much older strain. 
Of the language I spoke, no echo remains 
in the waking mind of John O’Donnel, 
but I knew that Aryara’s tongue was to 
ancient Celtic what ancient Celtic is to 
modern Gaelic. 

Il-marinen! I remember the god I 
called upon, the ancient, ancient god who 
worked in metals—in bronze then. For 
Il-marinen was one of the base gods of 
the Aryans from whom many gods grew; 
and he was Wieland and Vulcan in the 
ages of iron. But to Aryara he was Il- 
marinen. 

And Aryara—^he was one of many 
tribes and many drifts. Not alone did the 


362 


WEIRD TALES 


Sword People come or dwell in Britain. 
The River People were before us and the 
Wolf People came later. But they were 
Aryans like us, light-eyed and tall and 
blond. We fought them, for the reason 
that the various drifts of Aryans have 
always fought each other, just as the 
Achaeans fought the Dorians, just as the 
Celts and Germans cut each other’s 
throats; aye, just as the Hellenes and the 
Persians, who were once one people and 
of the same drift, split in two different 
ways on the long trek and centuries later 
met and flooded Greece and Asia Minor 
with blood. 

Now understand, all this I did not 
knolw as Aryara. I, Aryara, knew nothing 
of all these world-wide drifts of my race. 
I knew only that my people were con¬ 
querors, that a century ago my ancestors 
had dwelt in the great plains far to the 
east, plains populous with fierce, yellow¬ 
haired, light-eyed people like myself; that 
my ancestors had come westward in a 
great drift; and that in that drift, when 
my tribesmen met tribes of other races, 
they trampled and destroyed them, and 
when th^ met other yellow-haired, light¬ 
eyed people, of older or newer drifts, 
they fought savagely and mercilessly, ac¬ 
cording to the old, illogical custom of 
the Aryan people. This Aryara knew, 
and I, John O’Donnel, who know much 
more and much less than I, Aryara, knew, 
have combined the knowledge of these 
separate selves and have come to con¬ 
clusions that would startle many noted 
scientists and historians. 

Yet this faa is well known: Aryans 
deteriorate swiftly in sedentary and peace¬ 
ful life. Their proper existence is a 
nomadic one; when they settle down to 
an agricultural existence, they pave the 
way for their downfall; and when they 
pen themselves in with city walls, they 
seal their doom. Why, I, Aryara, remem¬ 
ber the tales of the old men—^how the 


Sons of the Sword, on that long drift, 
found villages of white-skinned, yellow¬ 
haired people who had drifted into the 
west centuries before and had quit the 
wandering life to dwell among the dark, 
garlic-eating people and gain their sus¬ 
tenance from the soil. And the old men 
told how soft and weak they were, and 
how easily they fell before the bronze 
blades of the Sword People. 

Look—is not the whole history of the 
Sons of Aryan laid on those lines? Look 
—how swiftly has Persian followed 
Mede; Greek, Persian; Roman, Greek; 
and German, Roman. Aye, and the 
Norsemen followed the Germanic tribes 
when they had grown flabby from a cen¬ 
tury or so of peace and idleness, and de¬ 
spoiled the spoils they had taken in the 
southland. 

But let me speak of Ketrick. Ha—the 
short hairs at the back of my neck bristle 
at the very mention of his name. An 
atavism—aye! A reversion to type—but 
not to the type of some cleanly Chinaman 
or Mongol of recent times. The Danes 
drove his ancestors into the hills of 
Wales; and there, in what mediaeval cen¬ 
tury, and in what foul way did that cursed 
aboriginal taint creep into the clean Saxon 
blood of the Celtic line, there to lie 
dormant so long? The Celtic Welsh never 
mated with the Children any more than 
the Piets did. But there must have been 
survivals—rvermin lurking in those grim 
hills, that had outlasted their time and 
age. In Aryara’s day they were scarcely 
human. What must a thousand years of 
retrogression have done to the breed? 

What foul shape stole into the Ketrick 
casrie on some forgotten night, or rose 
out of the dusk to grip some woman of 
the line, straying in the hills? 

The mind shrinks from such an image. 
But this I know: there must have been 
survivals of that foul, reptilian epoch 
when the Ketricks went into Wales. 


THE CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT 


363 


There still may be. But this changeling, 
this waif of darkness,* this horror who 
bears the noble name of Ketrick, the 
brand of the serpent is upon him, and 
imtil he is destroyed there is no rest for 
me. Now that I know him for what he 
is, he pollutes the clean air and leaves 
the slime of the snake on the green earth. 
The sound of his lisping, hissing voice 
fills me with crawling horror and die 
sight of his slanted eyes inspires me with 
madness. 

For I come of a royal race, and such as 
he is a continual insult and a threat, like 
a serpent under foot. Mine is a regal 
race, though now it is become degraded 
and falls into decay by continual admix¬ 
ture with conquered races. The waves of 
alien blood have washed my hair black 
and my skin dark, but I still have the 
lordly stature and the blue eyes of a 
royal Aryan. 

And as my ancestors—as I, Aryara, 


destroyed the scum that writhed beneath 
our heels, so shall I, John O’Donnel, ex¬ 
terminate the reptilian thing, the mon¬ 
ster bred of the snaky taint that slum¬ 
bered so long unguessed in clean Saxon 
veins, the vestigial serpent-things left to 
taunt the Sons of Aryan. They say the 
blow I received affeaed my mind; I know 
it but opened my eyes. Mine ancient 
enemy walks often on the moors alone, 
attraaed, though he may not know it, by 
ancestral urgings. And on one of these 
lonely walks I shall meet him, and when 
I meet him, I will break his foul nejk 
with my hands, as I, Aryara, broke the 
necks of foul night-things in the long, 
long ago. 

Then they may take me and break my 
neck at the end of a rope if they will. I 
am not blind, if my friends are. And in 
the sight of the old Aryan god, if not in 
the blinded eyes of men, I will have kept 
faith with my tribe. 


FUTILITY 

By C. A. LIVINGSTON 

Foolish mortal: just a spasm 
In a bit of protoplasm. 

Though you squirm and kick about 
Never can you wiggle out. 

Tiny atom: bit of matter— 

Clench your fists and batter, batter! 

’Gainst those walls that hold you tight 
Futile is your feeble fight. 

Hopeless is it: Not a chance; 

Just some little sparks that dance. 

Briefly, vainly, then go out— 

Tell me what it’s all about? 



A RENDEZVOUS IN 
AVEROIGNE 

CLARK ASHTON SMITH 

unusual host was the Sieur du Malinbois—a strange story 
of the Undead 


G erard de l’automne was 

meditating the rimes of a new 
ballade in honor of Fleurette, as 
he followed the leaf-arrassed pathway to¬ 
ward Vyones through the woodland of 
Averoigne. Since he was on his way to 
meet Fleurette, who had promised to 
keep a rendezvous among the oaks and 
beeches like any peasant girl, Gerard him¬ 
self made better progress than the ballade. 
His love was at that stage which, even for 
a professional troubadour, is more pro- 
duaive of distraaion than inspiration; 
and he was recurrently absorbed in a med¬ 
itation upon other than merely verbal 
felicities. 

The grass and trees had assumed the 
fresh enamel of a mediaeval May; the turf 
was figured with little blossoms of azure 
and white and yellow, like an ornate 
broidery; and there was a pebbly stream 
that murmured beside the way, as if the 
voices of undines were parleying de¬ 
liciously beneath its waters. The sun- 
lulled air was laden with a wafture of 
youth and romance; and the longing that 
welled from the heart of Gerard seemed 
to mingle mystically with the balsams of 
the wood. 

Gerard was a trouvhe whose scant 
years and many wanderings had brought 
him a certain renown. After the fashion 
of his kind he had roamed from court to 
court, from chateau to chateau; and he 
was now the guest of the Comte de la 
Frenaie, whose high castle held dominion 
over half the surroimding forest. Visit¬ 
ing one day that quaint cathedral town, 
364 


Vyones, which lies so near to the ancient 
wood of Averoigne, Gerard had seen 
Fleurette, the daughter of a well-to-do 
mercer named Guillaume Cochin; and 
had become more sincerely enamored of 
her blond piquancy than was to be ex- 
peaed from one who had been so fre¬ 
quently susceptible in such matters. He 
had manged to make his feelings known 
to her; and, after a month of billets-doux, 
ballads and stolen interviews contrived 
by the help of a complaisant waiting- 
woman, she had made this woodland 
tryst with him in the absence of her father 
from Vyones. Accompanied by her maid 
and a man-servant, she was to leave the 
town early that afternoon and meet Ge¬ 
rard under a certain beech-tree of enor¬ 
mous age and size. The servants would 
then withdrew discreetly; and the lovers, 
to all intents and purposes, would Be 
alone. It was not likely that they would 
be seen or interrupted; for the gnarled 
and immemorial wood possessed an ill- 
repute among the peasantry. Somewhere 
in this wood there was the ruinous and 
haunted Chauteau des Faussesflammes; 
and, also, there was a double tomb, with¬ 
in which the Sieur Hugh du Malinbois 
and his chatelaine, who were notorious 
for sorcery in their time, had lain uncon¬ 
secrated for more than two hundred 
years. Of these, and their phantoms, 
there were grisly tales; and there were 
stories of loup-garous and goblins, of fays 
and devils and vampires that infested 
Averoigne. But to these tales Gerard had 
given little heed, considering it improb- 


A RENDEZVOUS IN AVEROIGNE 


365 


"He plunged without hesitation 
among the low-hapging boughs 
from which the voice hM seemed 
to emerge," 



able that such creatures would 
abroad in open daylight. The madcap 
Fleurette had professed herself unafraid 
also; but it had been necessary to promise 
the servants a substantial pourboire, since 
they shared fully the local superstitions. 

Gerard had wholly forgotten the leg- 
endry of Averoigne, as he hastened along 
the sun-flecked path. He was nearing the 
appointed beech-tree, which a turn of the 
path would soon reveal; and his pulses 
quickened and became tremulous, as he 
wondered if Fleurette had already reached 
the trysting-place. He abandoned all ef¬ 
fort to continue his ballade, which, in the 
three miles he had walked from La 
Frenaie, had not progressed beyond the 
middle of a tentative first stanza. 

His thoughts were such as would befit 
an ardent and impatient lover. They were 
now interrupted by a shrill scream that 
rose to an imendurable pitch of fear and 
horror, issuing from the green stillness of 
the pines beside the way. Startled, he 
peered at the thick branches; and as the 
sceram fell back to silence, he heard the 
sound of dull and hurrying footfalls, and 
a scuffling as of several bodies. Again 
the scream arose. It was plainly the voice 
of a woman in some distressful peril. 


Loosening his dagger in its sheath, and 
clutching more firmly a long hornbeam 
staff which he had brought with him as a 
proteaion against the vipers which were 
said to lurk in Averoigne, he plunged 
without hesitation or premeditation 
among the low-hanging boughs from 
which the voice had seemed to emerge. 

In a small open space beyond the 
trees, he saw a woman who was strug¬ 
gling with three ruffians of exceptionally 
brutal and evil aspea. Even in the haste 
and vehemence of the moment, Gerard 
realized that he had never before seen 
such men or such a woman. The woman 
was clad in a gown of emerald green that 
matched her eyes; in her face was the 
pallor of dead things, together with a 
faery beauty; and her lips were dyed as 
with the scarlet of newly flowing blood. 
The men were dark as Moors, and their 
eyes were red slits of flame beneath 
oblique brows with animal-like bristles. 


366 


WEIRD TALES 


There was something very peculiar in the 
shape of their feet; but Gerard did not 
realize the exaa nature of the peculiarity 
till long afterward. Then he remembered 
that all of them were seemingly club¬ 
footed, though they were able to move 
with surpassing agility. Somehow, he 
could never recall what sort of clothing 
they had worn. 

The woman turned a beseeching gaze 
upon Gerard as he sprang forth from 
amid the boughs. The men, however, did 
not seem to heed his coming; though one 
of them caught in a hairy clutch the 
hands which the woman sought to reach 
toward her rescuer. 

Lifting his staff, Gerard rushed upon 
the ruffians. He struck a tremendous blow 
at the head of the nearest one—a blow 
that should have leveled the fellow to 
earth. But the staff came down on unre¬ 
sisting air, and Gerard staggered and 
almost fell headlong in trying to recover 
his equilibrium. Dazed and uncompre¬ 
hending, he saw that the knot of strug¬ 
gling figures had vanished utterly. At 
least, the three men had vanished; but 
from the middle branches of a tall pine 
beyond the open space, the death-white 
features of the woman smiled upon him 
for a moment with faint, inscrutable guile 
ere they melted among the needles. 

G erard understood now; and he shiv¬ 
ered as he crossed himself. He had 
been deluded by phantoms or demons, 
doubtless for no good purpose; he had 
been the gull of a questionable enchant- 
mentr Plainly there was something after 
all in the legends he had heard, in the ill- 
renown of the forest of Averoigne. 

He retraced his way toward the path 
he had been following. But when he 
thought to reach again the spot from 
which he had heard that shrill unearthly 
scream, he saw that there was no longer 
a path; nor, indeed, any feature of the 


forest which he could remember or recog¬ 
nize. The foliage about him no longer dis¬ 
played a brilliant verdure; it was sad and 
funereal, and the trees themselves were 
either cypress-like, or were already sere 
with autumn or decay. In lieu of the pur¬ 
ling brook there lay before him a tarn of 
waters that were dark and dull as clotting 
blood, and which gave back no refleaion 
of the brown autumnal sedges that trailed 
therein like the hair of suicides, and the 
skeletons of rotting osiers that writhed 
above them. 

Now, beyond all question, Gerard 
knew that he was the viaim of an evil 
enchantment. In answering that beguile- 
ful cry for succor, he had exposed himself 
to the spell, had been lured within the 
circle of its power. He could not know 
what forces of wizardry or demonty had 
willed to draw him thus; but he knew that 
his situation was fraught with supernat¬ 
ural menace. He gripped the hornbeam 
staff more tightly in his hand, and prayed 
to all the saints he could remember, as he 
peered about for some tangible bodily 
presence of ill. 

- The scene was utterly desolate and life¬ 
less, like a place where cadavers might 
keep their tryst with demons. Nothing 
stirred, not even a dead leaf; and there 
was no whisper of dry grass or foliage, 
no song of birds nor murmuring of bees, 
no sigh nor chuckle of water. The corpse- 
gray heavens above seemed never to have 
held a sun; and the chill, unchanging 
light was without source or destination, 
without beams or shadows. 

Gerard surveyed his environment with 
a cautious eye; and the more he looked 
the less he liked it: for some new and 
disagreeable detail was manifest at every 
glance. There were moving lights in the 
wood that vanished if he eyed them in¬ 
tently; there were drowned faces in the 
tarn that came and went like livid bub¬ 
bles before he could discern their features. 


A RENDEZVOUS IN AVEROIGNE 


367 


And, peering aaoss the lake, he won¬ 
dered why he had not seen the many-tur- 
reted castle of hoary stone whose nearer 
walls were based in the dead waters. It was 
so gray and still and vasty, that it seemed 
to have stood for incomputable ages be¬ 
tween the stagnant tarn and the*^ equally 
stagnant heavens. It was ancienter than the 
world, it was older than the light: it was 
coeval with fear and darkness; and a hor¬ 
ror dwelt upon it and crept unseen but 
palpable along its bastions. 

There was no sign of life about the 
castle; and no banners flew above its tur¬ 
rets or its donjon. But Gerard knew, as 
surely as if a voice had spoken aloud to 
warn him, that here was the fountain¬ 
head of the sorcery by which he had 
been beguiled. A growing panic whis¬ 
pered in his brain, he seemed to hear the 
rustle of malignant plumes, the mutter 
of demonian threats and plottings. He 
turned, and fled among the funereal 
trees. 

Amid his dismay and wilderment, even 
as he fled, he thought of Fleurette and 
wondered if she were awaiting him at 
their place of rendezvous, or if she and 
her companions had also been enticed and 
led astray in a realm of damnable unreal¬ 
ities. He renewed his prayers, and im¬ 
plored the saints for her safety as well 
as his own. 

The forest through which he ran was 
a maze of bafflement and eeriness. There 
were no landmarks, there were no tracks 
of animals or men; and the swart cypress¬ 
es and sere autumnal trees grew thicker 
and thicker as if some malevolent will 
were marshalling them against his prog¬ 
ress. The boughs were like implacable 
arms that strove to retard him; he could 
have sworn that he felt them twine about 
him with the strength and suppleness of 
living things. He fought them, insane¬ 
ly, desperately, and seemed to hear a 
crackling of infernal laughter in their 


twigs as he fought. At last, with a sob 
of relief, he broke through into a sort of 
trail. Along this trail, in the mad hope 
of eventual escape, he ran like one whom 
a fiend pursues; and after a short interval 
he came again to the shores of the tarn, 
above whose motionless waters the high 
and hoary turrets of that time-forgotten 
castle were still dominant. Again he 
turned and fled; and once more, after 
similar wanderings and like struggles; he 
came back to the inevitable tarn. 

With a leaden sinking of his heart, as 
into some ultimate slough of despair and 
terror, he resigned himself and made no 
further effort to escape. His very will 
was benumbed, was crushed down as by 
the incumbence of a superior volition 
that would no longer permit his puny 
recalcitrance. He was unable to resist 
when a strong and hateful compulsion 
4rew his footsteps along the margent of 
the tarn toward the looming castle. 

When he came nearer, he saw that the 
edifice was surrounded by a moat whose 
waters were stagnant as those of the lake, 
and were mantled with the iridescent 
scum of corruption. The drawbridge 
was down and the gates were open, as if 
to receive an expected guest. But still 
there was no sign of human occupancy; 
and the walls of the great gray building 
were silent as those of a sepulcher. And 
more tomb-like even than the rest was 
the square and overtowering bulk of the 
mighty donjon. 

I MPELLED by the same power that had 
drawn him along the lake-shore, Ger¬ 
ard crossed the drawbridge and passed 
beneath the frowning barbican into a va¬ 
cant courtyard. Barred windows looked 
blankly down; and at the opposite end of 
the court a door stood mysteriously open, 
revealing a dark hall. As he approaAed 
the doorway, he saw that a man was 
standing on the threshold; though a mo- 


368 


WEIRD TALES 


ment previous he could have sworn that 
it was untenanted by any visible form. 

Gerard had retained his hornbeam 
staff; and though his reason told him that 
such a weapon was futile against any 
supernatural foe, some obscure instinct 
prompted him to clasp it valiantly as he 
neared the waiting figure on the sill. 

The man was inordinately tall and 
cadaverous, and was dressed in black gar¬ 
ments of a superannuate mode. His lips 
were strangely red, amid his bluish beard 
and the mortuary whiteness of his face. 
They were like the lips of the woman 
who, with her assailants, had disappeared 
in a manner so dubious when Gerard had 
approached them. His eyes were pale 
and luminous as marsh-lights; and Ger¬ 
ard shuddered at his gaze and at the cold, 
ironic smile of his scarlet lips, that 
seemed to reserve a world of secrets all 
too dreadful and hideous to be disclosed. 

"I am the Sieur du Malinbois,” the 
man announced. His tones were both 
imctuous and hollow, and served to in¬ 
crease the repugnance felt by the young 
troubadour. And when his lips parted, 
Gerard had a glimpse of teeth that were 
unnaturally small and were pointed like 
the fangs of some fierce animal. 

"Fortune has willed that you should 
become my guest,” the man went on. 
"The hospitality which I can proffer you 
is rough and inadequate, and it may be 
that you will find my abode a trifle dis¬ 
mal. But at least I can assure you of a 
welcome no less ready than sincere.” 

"I thank you for your kind offer,” said 
Gerard. "But I have an appointment 
with a friend; and I seem in some unac¬ 
countable manner to have lost my way. 
I should be profoundly grateful if you 
would direa me toward Vyones. There 
should be a path not far from here; ^d 
I have been so stupid as to stray from it.” 

The words rang empty and hopeless in 
his own ears even as he uttered them; and 


the name that his strange host had given 
—the Sieur du Malinbois—was haunting 
his mind like the funereal accents of a 
knell; though he could not recall at that 
moment the macabre and spearal ideas 
which the name tended to evoke. 

"Unfortunately, there are no paths 
from my chateau to Vyones,” the stranger 
replied. "As for your rendezvous, it will 
be kept in another manner, at another 
place, than the one appointed. I must 
therefore insist that you accept my hos¬ 
pitality. Enter, I pray; but leave your 
hornbeam staff at the door. You will 
have no need of it any longer.” 

Gerard thought that he made a move 
of distaste and aversion with his over-red 
lips as he spoke the last sentences; and 
that his eyes lingered on the staff with 
an obscure apprehensiveness. And the 
strange emphasis of his words and de¬ 
meanor served to awaken other fantasmal 
and macabre thoughts in Gerard’s brain; 
though he could not formulate them fully 
till afterward. And somehow he was 
prompted to retain the weapon, no matter 
how useless it might be against an enemy 
of spearal or diabolic nature. So he 
said: 

"I must crave your indulgence if I re¬ 
tain the staff. I have made a vow to 
carry it with me, in my right hand or 
never beyond arm’s reach, till I have slain 
two vipers.” 

"That is a queer vow^” rejoined his 
host. "However, bring it with you if 
you like. It is of no matter to me if you 
choose to encumber yourself with a 
wooden stick.” 

He turned abruptly, motioning Gerard 
to follow him. The troubadour obeyed 
unwillingly, with one rearward glance at 
the vacant heavens and the empty court¬ 
yard. He saw with no great surprize 
that a sudden and furtive darkness had 
closed in upon the chateau without moon 
or star, as if it had been merely waiting 
W. T.—5 


A RENDEZVOUS IN AVEROIGNE 


369 


for him to enter before it descended. It 
was thick as the folds of a serecloth, it 
was airless and stifling like the gloom of 
a sepulcher that has been sealed for ages; 
and Gerard was aware of a veriuble op¬ 
pression, a corporeal and psychic difficulty 
in breathing, as he crossed the threshold. 

He saw that cressets were now burning 
in the dim hall to which his host had ad¬ 
mitted him; though he had not perceived 
the time and agency of their lighting. 
The illumination they afforded was sin¬ 
gularly vague and indistina, and the 
thronging shadows of the hall were im- 
explainably numerous, and moved with a 
mysterious disquiet; though the flames 
themselves were still as tapers that burn 
for the dead in a windless vault. 

At the end of the passage, the Sieur du 
Malinbois flung open a heavy door of 
dark and somber wood. Beyond, in what 
was plainly the eating-room of the 
chateau, several people were seated about 
a long table by the light of cressets no 
less dreary and dismal than those in the 
hall. In the strange, uncertain glow, 
their faces were touched with a gloomy 
dubiety, with a lurid distortion; and it 
seemed to Gerard that shadows hardly 
distinguishable from the figures were 
gathered around the board. But never¬ 
theless he recognized the assembled com¬ 
pany at a glance, with an overpowering 
shock of astonishment. 

At one end of the board, there sat the 
woman in emerald green who had van¬ 
ished in so doubtful a fashion amid the 
pines when Gerard answered her call for 
succor. At one side, looking very pale 
and forlorn and frightened, was Fleurette 
Cochin. At the lower end reserved for 
retainers and inferiors, there sat the maid 
and the man-servant who had accom¬ 
panied Fleurette to her rendezvous with 
Gerard. 

The Sieur du Malinbois turned to the 


troubadour with a smile of sardonic 
amusement. 

"I believe you have already met every 
one assembled,” he observed. "But you 
have not* yet been formally presented to 
my wife, Agathe, who is presiding over 
the board. Agathe, I bring to you Ge¬ 
rard de I’Automne, a young troubadour of 
much note and merit,” 

The woman nodded slightly, without 
speaking, and pointed to a chair opposite 
Fleurette. Gerard seated himself, and 
the Sieur du Malinbois assumed accord¬ 
ing to feudal custom a place at the head 
of the table beside his wife. 

Now, for the first time, Gerard no¬ 
ticed that there were servitors who came 
and went in the room, setting upon the 
table various wines and viands. The 
servitors were preternaturally swift and 
noiseless, and somehow it was very dif¬ 
ficult to be sure of their precise featur&s 
or their costumes. They seemed to walk 
in an adumbration of sinister insoluble 
twilight. But the troubadour was dis¬ 
turbed by a feeling that they resembled 
the swart demoniac ruffians who had dis¬ 
appeared together with the woman in 
green when he approached them. 

T he meal that ensued was a weird and 
fimereal affair. A sense of insu¬ 
perable constraint, of smothering horror 
and hideous oppression, was upon 
Gerard; and though he wanted to ask 
Fleurette a hundred questions, and also 
demand an explanation of sundry mat¬ 
ters from his host and hostess, he was 
totally unable to frame the words or to 
utter them. He could only look at 
Fleurette, and read in her eyes a duplica¬ 
tion of his own helpless bewilderment 
and nightmare thralldom. Nothing was 
said by the Sieur du Malinbois and his 
lady, who were exchanging glances of a 
secret and baleful intelligence all through 
the meal; and Fleurette’s maid and man- 


370 


WEIRD TALES 


servant were obviously paralyzed by ter¬ 
ror, like birds beneath the hypnotic gaze 
of deadly serpents. 

The foods were rich and of strange 
savor; and the wines were fabulously old, 
and seemed to retain in their topaz or 
violet depths the unextinguished fire of 
buried centuries. But Gerard and Fleu- 
rette could barely touch them; and they 
saw that the Sieur du Malinbois and his 
lady did not eat or drink at all. The 
gloom of the chamber deepened; the 
servitors became more furtive and spec¬ 
tral in their movements; the stifling air 
was laden with unformulable menace, 
was constrained by the spell of a black 
and lethal necromancy. Above die aro¬ 
mas of the rare foods, the bouquets of the 
antique wines, there crept forth the chok¬ 
ing mustiness of hidden vaults and em¬ 
balmed centurial corruption, together 
with the ghostly spice of a strange per¬ 
fume that seemed to emanate from the 
person of the chatelaine. And now 
Gerard was remembering many tales from 
the legendry of Averoigne, which he had 
heard and disregarded; was recalling the 
story of a Sieur du Malinbois and his 
lady, the last of the name and the most 
evil, who had been buried somewhere in 
this forest hundreds of years ago; and 
whose tomb was shunned % the peasantry 
since they were said to continue their sor¬ 
ceries even in death. He wondered what 
influence had bedrugged his memory, 
that he had not recalled it wholly when 
he had first heard the name. And he 
was remembering other things and other 
stories, all of which confirmed his in- 
stinaive belief regarding the nature of 
the people into whose hands he had 
fallen. Also, he recalled a folklore su¬ 
perstition concerning the use to which 
a wooden stake can be put; and realized 
why the Sieur du Malinbois had shown a 
peculiar interest in the hornbeam staff. 
Gerard had laid the staff beside his chair 


when he sat down; and he was reassured 
to find that it had not vanished. Very 
quietly and unobtrusively, he placed his 
foot upon it. 

The uncanny meal came to an end; 
and the host and his chatelaine arose. 

”I shall now condua you to your 
rooms,” said the Sieur du Malinbois, in¬ 
cluding all of his guests in a dark, in¬ 
scrutable glance. "Each of you can have 
a separate chamber, if you so desire; or 
Fleurette Cochin and her maid Angelique 
can remain together; and the man-servant 
Raoul can sleep in the same room with 
Messire Gerard.” 

A preference for the latter procedure 
was voiced by Fleurette and the trouba¬ 
dour. The bought of uncompanioned 
solitude in that castle of timeless mid¬ 
night and nameless mystery was abhor¬ 
rent to an insupportable degree. 

The four were now led to their re- 
speaive chambers, on opposite sides of a 
hall whose length was but indetermi¬ 
nately revealed by the dismal lights. 
Fleurette and Gerard bade each other a 
dismayed and reluaant good-night be¬ 
neath the constraining eye of their host. 
Their rendezvous was hardly the one 
which they had thought to keep; and 
both were overwhelmed by the super¬ 
natural situation amid whose dubious 
horrors and ineluaable sorceries they had 
somehow become involved. And no 
sooner had Gerard left Fleurette than 
he began to curse himself for a poltroon 
because he had not refused to part from 
her side; and he marvelled at the spell of 
drug-like involition that had bedrowsed 
all his faculties. It seemed that his will 
was not his own, but had been thrust 
down and throttled by an alien power. 

The room assigned to Gerard and 
Raoul was furnished with a couch, and a 
great bed whose curtains were of antique 
fashion and fabric. It was lighted with 
tapers that had a funereal suggestion in 


A RENDEZVOUS IN AVEROIGNE 


371 


tbeif form, and which burned dully in an 
air that was stagnant with the mustiness 
of dead years. 

"May you sleep soundly,” said the Sieur 
du Malinbois. The smile that accom¬ 
panied and followed the words was no 
less unpleasant than the oily and sepul- 
diral tone in which they were uttered. 
The troubadour and the servant were 
conscious of profoimd relief when he 
■ went out and closed the leaden-clanging 
door. And their relief was hardly di¬ 
minished even when they heard the click 
of a key in the lock. 

G erard was now inspeaing the room; 

and he went to Ae one window, 
through whose small and deep-set panes 
he could see only the pressing darkness 
of a night that was veritably solid, as if 
the whole place were buried beneath the 
earth and were closed in by clinging 
mold. Then, with an access of unsmoth¬ 
ered rage at his separation from Fleu- 
rette, he ran to the door and hurled him¬ 
self against it, he beat upon it with his 
clendied fists, but in vain. Realizing his 
folly, and desisting at last, he turned to 
Raoul. 

"Well, Raoul,” he said, "what do you 
think of all this.?” 

Raoul crossed himself before he an¬ 
swered; and his face had assumed the 
vizard of a mortal fear. 

"I think, Messire,” he finally replied, 
"that we have all been decoyed by a 
malefic sorcery; and that you, myself, the 
demoiselle Fleurette, and the maid An- 
gelique, are all in deadly peril of both 
soul and body.” 

"That, also, is my thought,” said 
Gerard. "And I believe it would be well 
that you and I should sleep only by turns; 
and that he who keeps vigil should retain 
in his hands my hornbeam staff, whose 
end I shall now sharpen with my dagger. 
I am sure that you know the manner in 


which it should be employed if there are 
any intruders; for if such should come, 
there would be no doubt as to their char- 
aaer and their intentions. We are in a 
castle which has no legitimate existence, 
as the guests of people who have been 
dead, or supposedly dead, for more than 
two hundred years. And such people, 
when they stir abroad, are prone to habits 
which I need nof specify.” 

"Yes, Messire.” Raoul shuddered; 
but he watched the sharpening of the 
staflF with considerable interest. Gerard 
whittled the hard wood to a lance-like 
point, and hid the shavings carefully. 
He even carved the outline of a little cross 
near the middle of the staff, thinking that 
this might increase its efficacy or save it 
from molestation. Then, with the staff 
in his hand, he sat down upon the bed, 
where he could survey the litten room 
from between the curtains. 

"You can sleep first, Raoul.” He in¬ 
dicated the coudi, which was near the 
door. 

The two conversed in a fitful marmer 
for some minutes. After hearing Raoul’s 
tale of how Fleurette, Angdique and 
himself had been led astray by the sob¬ 
bing of a woman amid the pines, and had 
been unable to ‘ retrace their way, the 
troubadour changed the theme. And 
henceforth he spoke idly and of matters 
remote from his real preoccupations, to 
fight down his torturing concern for the 
safety of Fleurette. Suddenly he became 
aware that Raoul had ceased to reply; and 
saw that the servant had fallen asleep on 
the couch. At the same time an irre¬ 
sistible drowsiness surged upon Gerard 
himself in spite of all his volition, in 
spite of the eldritch terrors and forebod¬ 
ings that still murmured in his brain. He 
heard through his growing hebetude a 
whisper as of shadowy wings in the castle 
halls; he caught the sibilation of ominous 
voices, like those of familiars that re- 


372 


WEIRD TALES 


spend to the summoning of wizards; and 
he seemed to hear, even in the vaults and 
towers and remote chambers, the tread of 
feet that were hurrying on malign and 
secret errands. But oblivion was around 
him like the meshes of a sable net; and it 
closed in relentlessly upon his troubled 
mind, and drowned the alarms of his 
agitated senses. 

W HEN Gerard awoke at length, the 
tapers had burned to their sockets; 
and a sad and sunless daylight was filter¬ 
ing through the window. The staff was 
still in his hand; and though his senses 
were still dull with the strange slumber 
that had drugged them, he felt that he 
was unharmed. But peering between the 
curtains, he saw that Raoul was lying 
mortally pale and lifeless on the couch, 
with the air and look of an exhausted 
moribund. 

He crossed the room, and stooped 
above the servant. There was a small red 
wound on Raoul’s neck; and his pulses 
were slow and feeble, like those of one 
who has lost a great amount of blood. 
His very appearance was withered and 
vein-drawn. And a phantom spice arose 
from the couch—a lingering wraith of 
the perfume worn by the chatelaine 
Agathe. 

Gerard succeeded at last in arousing 
the man; but Raoul was very weak and 
drowsy. He could remember nothing of 
what had happened during the night; and 
his horror was pitiful to behold when he 
realized the truth. 

*'It will be your turn next, Messire,” 
he cried. "These vampires mean to hold 
us here amid their unhallowed necro¬ 
mancies till they have drained us of our 
last drop of blood. Their spells are like 
mandragora or the sleepy sirups of 
Cathay; and no man can keep awake in 
their despite.” 

Gerard was trying the door; and some¬ 


what to his surprize he found it unlocked. 
The departing vampire had been careless, 
in the lethargy of her repletion. The 
castle was very still; and it seemed to 
Gerard that the animating spirit of evil 
was now quiescent; that the shadowy 
wings of horror and malignity, the feet 
that had sped on baleful errands, the 
summoning sorcerers, the responding fa¬ 
miliars, were all lulled in a temporary 
slumber. 

He opened the door, he tiptoed along 
the deserted hall, and knocked at the por¬ 
tal of the chamber allotted to Fleurette 
and her maid. Fleurette, fully dressed, 
answered his knock immediately; and he 
caught her in his arms without a word, 
searching her wan face with a tender 
anxiety. Over her shoulder he could see 
the maid Angelique, who was sitting list¬ 
lessly on the bed with a mark on her 
white neck similar to the wound that had 
been suffered by Raoul. He knew, even 
before Fleurette began to speak, that the 
nocturnal experiences of the demoiselle 
and her maid had been identical with 
those of himself and the man-seryant. 

While he tried to comfort Fleurette 
and reassure her, his thoughts were now 
busy with a rather curious problem. No 
one was abroad in the castle; and it was 
more than probable that the Sieur du Ma- 
linbois and his lady were both asleep 
after the nocturnal feast which they had 
imdoubtedly enjoyed. Gerard pictured 
to himself the place and the fashion of 
their slumber; and he grew even more 
refleaive as certain possibilities occurred 
to him. 

"Be of good cheer, sweetheart,” he 
said to Fleurette. "It is in my mind that 
we may soon escape from this abominable 
mesh of enchantments. But I must leave 
you for a little and speak again with 
Raoul, whose help I shall require in a 
certain matter.” 

He went back to his own chamber. 


A RENDEZVOUS IN AVEROIGNE 


373 


The man-servant was sitting on the couch 
and was crossing himself feebly and mut¬ 
tering prayers with a faint, hollow voice. 

"Raoul,” said the troubadour a little 
sternly, "you must gather all your 
strength and come with me. Amid the 
gloomy walls that surround us, the som¬ 
ber ancient halls, the high towers and the 
heavy bastions, there is but one thing 
that veritably exists; and all the rest is a 
fabric of illusion. We must find the 
reality whereof I speak, and deal with it 
like true and valiant Christians. Come, 
we will now search the castle ere the lord 
and chatelaine shall awaken from their 
vampire lethargy.” 

He led the way along the devious cor¬ 
ridors with a swiftness that betokened 
much forethought. He had reconstruct¬ 
ed in his mind the hoary pile of battle¬ 
ments and turrets as he had seen them 
on the previous day; and he felt that the 
great donjon, being the center and 
stronghold of the edifice, might well be 
the place which he sought. With the 
sharpened staff in his hand, with Raoul 
lagging bloodlessly at his heels, he passed 
the doors of many secret rooms, the many 
windows that gave on the blindness of 
an inner court, and came at last to the 
lower story of the donjon-keep. 

It was a large, bare room, entirely built 
of stone, and illumined only by narrow 
slits high up in the wall, that had been 
designed for the use of archers. The 
place was very dim; but Gerard could see 
the glimmering outlines of an objea not 
ordinarily to be looked for in such a sit¬ 
uation, that arose from the middle of the 
floor. It was a tomb of marble; and 
stepping nearer, he saw that it was 
strangely weather-worn and was blotched 
by lichens of gray and yellow, such as 
flourish only within access of the sun. 
The slab that covered it was doubly broad 
and massive, and would require the full 
strength of two men to lift. 


Raoul was staring stupidly at the tomb. 
"What now, Messire?” he queried. 

"You and I, Raoul, are about to in¬ 
trude upon the bedchamber of our host 
and hostess.” 

At his direction, Raoul seized one end 
of the slab; and he himself took the oth¬ 
er. With a mighty effort that strained 
their bones and sinews to the cracking- 
point, they sought to remove it; but the 
slab hardly stirred. At length, by grasp¬ 
ing the same end in unison, they were 
able to tilt the slab; and it slid away and 
dropped to the floor with a thunderous 
crash. Within, there were two open cof¬ 
fins, one of which contained the Sieur 
Hugh du Malinbois and the other his 
lady Agathe. Both of them appeared to 
be slumbering peacefully as infants; a 
look of tranquil evil, of pacified malig¬ 
nity, was imprinted upon their features; 
and their lips were dyed with a fresher 
scarlet than before. 

Without hesitation or delay, Gerard 
plunged the lance-like end of his staff 
into the bosom of the Sieur du Malinbois. 
The body crumbled as if it were wrought 
of ashes kneaded and painted to a human 
semblance; and a slight odor as of age- 
old corruption arose to the nostrils of 
Gerard. Then the troubadour pierced in 
like manner the bosom of the chatelaine. 
And simultaneously with her dissolution, 
the walls and floor of the donjon seemed 
to dissolve like a sullen vapor, they rolled 
away on every side with a shock as of un¬ 
heard thunder. With a sense of indesaib- 
able vertigo and confusion Gerard and 
Raoul saw that the whole chateau had 
vanished like the towers and battlements 
of a bygone storm; that the dead lake and 
its rotting shores no longer offered their 
malefical illusions to the eye. They were 
standing in a forest-glade, in the full un¬ 
shadowed light of the afternoon sun; and 
all that remained of the dismal castle was 
the lichen-mantled tomb that stood open 


374 


WEIRD TALES 


beside them. Fleurette and her maid 
were a little distance away; and Gerard 
ran to the mercer’s daughter and took her 
in his arms. She was dazed with won* 
derment, like one who emerge from the 
night-long labyrinth of an evil dream, 
and finds that all is well. 


"I think, sweetheart,” said Gerard, 
' that our next rendezvous will not be 
interrupted by the Sieur du Malinbois 
and his chatelaine.” 

But Fleurette was still bemused with 
wonder, and could only answer him with 
a kiss. 





10. ALIENATION 

His solid flesh had never been away. 

For each dawn found him in his usual place. 

But every night his spirit loved to race 
Through gulfs and worlds remote from common day. 
He had seen Yaddith, yet retained his mind, 

And come back safely from the Ghooric zone. 

When one still night across curved space was thrown 
That beckoning piping from the voids behind. 

He waked that morning as an older man, 

And nothing since has looked the same to him, 
Objeas around float nebulous and dim— 

False, phantom trifles of some vaster plan. 

His folk and friends are now an alien throng 
To which he struggles vainly to belong. 




THE DEAD-ALIVE 

By NAT SCHACHNER AND ARTHUR L. ZAGAT 

A shivery, blood-chilling, goose-flesh story of violated graveyards and cadavers 
that walked in the night 


O N- A brilliant, sunshiny day in 
May of 1935, the unspeakable, 
unnamable dime had been com¬ 
mitted! Carelessly, gayly the world 
moved in its accustomed grooves; men 
performed their routine tasks restlessly, 
haunted by visions of deep crystal pools 
overshadowed by rustling birches, the 
graceful arching leap of a speckled trout,, 
the singing whine of line over reel; 
young lovers walked with a certain elate 
springiness, the wine of life flooding 
their veins. Not yet did mankind realize ' 
the import, the vileness of that deed. 
Soon, too soon, would a paU of horror 
overshadow the burgeoning earth. 

On a like brilliant, sunshiny day in 


June of 1935, sat at his desk Hartley— 
to his friends. Buck—Saunders, erstwhile 
idol of football enthusiasts, All-American 
back—^Princeton, 1934; now bond sales¬ 
man for the conservative investment 
house of Clarke, Lambert & Co. But 
there was no spring or summer in his 
soul; he stared through the open window 
at the panorama of river traffic with 
blank, unseeing eyes. What mattered to 
him at this time sunshine and laughter, 
high-pressure salesmanship and the busy 
hum of men? 

Only yesterday—ages ago it seemed— 
he had buried his father, his gentle, un¬ 
derstanding father, stricken suddenly. 
Heart failure, the doaors said. Tragically 
375 







376 


WEIRD TALES 


he had seen the lifeless form to its final 
abode—a cemetery in the Westchester 
hUls. 

By sheer force of will, he came down 
to the oflSce this day, seeking surcease of 
sorrow in humdrum tasks. The staff had 
been properly sympathetic; but once he 
was at his desk, neatly labeled in brass 
with his formal name, the mass of papers 
awaiting him seemed devoid of meaning, 
of any content. So he shoved them 
aside, and stared listlessly into nothing¬ 
ness. 

The telephone jangled. He ignored 
it. It rang louder, more insistently. An¬ 
noyed, Buck removed the receiver and 
placed it to his ear. 

"Mr. Saunders.^” It was the switch¬ 
board operator. 

"Yes, what is it.?” he asked impa¬ 
tiently, 

"I have a call for you. Just a mo¬ 
ment.” 

There was a little delay in making the 
conneaion. He was sorely tempted to 
hang up. Then he heard a brusk mas¬ 
culine voice. 

"Mr. Hartley Saunders.?” it queried. 

"Well, what of it?” Damn these 
fools. Why couldn’t they leave him 
alone! 

"Police Headquarters speaking. Your 
father, John Saunders, was buried yester¬ 
day at Mountville Cemetery?” 

A stab of pain shot through him at the 
matter-of-faa statement. 

"Yes. Why do you ask?” 

"This is Detective Sergeant Riley. We 
have some important information we’d 
like to check up with you. Come down 
here to see me at once.” 

"But what is it all about—can’t you 
tell me now?” 

"Sorry, but that’s impossible. I can’t 
explain over the phone. Will expect 
you in half an hour. Good-bye.” 


Buck started to remonstrate, when he 
discovered that the line was dead. 

Gone now was his apathy. His mind 
was keen and alert as ever. What did 
Police Headquarters know of his father’s 
death and burial, and why this per¬ 
emptory sununons? A hundred hypo¬ 
theses formed and faded in his whirling 
thoughts, and all were rejected as fantastic. 
'There was only one thing to do: follow 
directions and see this Riley, Mechan¬ 
ically he put on his hat, muttered an un¬ 
intelligible explanation to his-chief, and 
fled out of the door. 

A TAXI hurried over at his uplifted fin¬ 
ger, the door slammed behind him, 
and he was speeding downtown. 

The ride seemed interminable, but it 
was only twenty minutes before he was 
deposited in front of the formidable- 
looking building. He gave his name and 
errand to the stout policeman lolling at 
the front desk. Evidently he was ex- 
peaed, for almost immediately he was 
ushered into the presence of Deteaive 
Sergeant Riley. 

The big, strong-jawed Irishman, iron- 
gray at the temples, leaned back in his 
chair and surveyed him thoughtfully a 
while. Buck grew restless under the 
protraaed scrutiny and was about to de¬ 
mand an explanation, when the deteaive 
commenced abruptly. 

“You’re Hartley Saunders. Your fath¬ 
er was buried in Mountville yesterday.” 
He seemed to be ticking off invisible 
points. 

Buck flinched, but nodded assent: 
"This morning,” Riley continued, "his 
grave was found open, the lid of the 
.casket pried off, and his body removed. 
It has vanished without leaving a trace.’* 
Buck jumped to his feet with an ex¬ 
clamation. 

"What! my fadier’s body gone? But 


THE DEAD-ALIVE 


377 


where—what happened-” he gasped 

for words. 

Not unkindly the big deteaive mo¬ 
tioned him back to his seat. 

"That is just what we arc trying to find 
out," he explained. "We have nothing 
to go on as yet. Let me give you the 
facts. Early this morning we received a 
call for assistance from the local police. 
I was assigned to the job. I wasn’t ex¬ 
actly tickled about going—but I went. 
Orders are orders. 

"When I reached the cemetery, I found 
a county deteaive in charge. It was no 
ordinary case of body-snatching, you must 
xmderstand. The freshly made grave 
had been opened, the dirt was scattered 
all over the other graves, not in mounds, 
as you’d expea if dug up by a spade, but 
as if”—^he hesitated for a moment—"as 
if it had come up in handfuls and been 
strewn about. The casket cover was vio¬ 
lently wrenched open; yet we could find 
no marks on the w<x)d, as would surely 
appear if aowbars or any mechanical im¬ 
plements were used to pry it up.” 

Buck Saimders was listening with 
growing horror, yet he remarked the 
queer emphasis the detective placed on 
the word "mechanical”. 

Riley continued his story. "The body 
was removed—clean vanished. There 
was a watchman on the grounds. They 
found him early this morning, walking 
about aimlessly, making queer, unintelli¬ 
gible noises. The police questioned him, 
but it was no use. 'The man was mad, 
stark gibbering mad. Only a few words 
could be imderstood in his moanings. 
Something about corpses that walked— 
gfiosts. He died this noon, still raving!” 

'The big deteaive paused, and looked 
at his visitor strangely. Buck sat strick¬ 
en, unable to speak. His poor father, 
thus to be denied peace even in his 
grave! 

With elaborate casualness the police¬ 


man threw his bombsHelL "And I for¬ 
got to tell you—there were no spade- 
marks down the sides of the grave, but 
we did find the marks of fingers dug deep 
into the earthen walls.” 

Incredulously, Buck grasped the full 
horror of this simple statement. "Do 
you mean that men dug up my father’s 
body, using only their fingers as tools?” 

Gravely the deteaive nodded his head. 
"Impossible as it sounds, that seems the 
only logical conclusion from all the evi¬ 
dence. Yet if the grave-robbers were 
only men, why did the watchman go 
mad? 'There were no marks of violence 
on him—he had not been attacked. And 
what was that cryptic reference to dead 
men who walk? No—something hap¬ 
pened last night—that watchman saw 
something so unbelievably horrible that 
it twisted his brain into madness. What 
it is we don’t know yet, but we’re going 
to find out,” he concluded grimly. 

Buck’s face had grown hard and stem 
during the recital of this weird tale. Grim 
determination showed itself. "And I—I 
am going to run down diese grave-r<A- 
bers, these ghouls, whatever they prove 
themselves to be—men or fiends out of 
Hell!” 

Riley nodded in understanding. 
"There is another thing, Mr. Saunders. 
We have been keeping it under cover— 
the newspapers know nothing about it 
yet, but this is not the only case. Within 
the past two weeks, there have been re¬ 
ports of similar outrages in a dozen 
cemeteries widely scattered over southern 
and eastern New York. In every in¬ 
stance the clues were the same—no spade 
or lever was used, and in each case 
clutching fingers had dug deep into the 
soil.” 

Buck arose; the very marrow in his 
bones seemed frozen; the iron had en¬ 
tered his soul. He extended his hand. 
“Thank you very much for telling me all 


378 


WEIRD TALES 


this. I’ve no doubt you will do your ut¬ 
most to run down these fiends. But I 
shall not rest from this day on, until the 
guilty are brought to justice.” 

The brawny officer took his hand. 
"Never fear, we’ll get them. But you, 
my lad, careful is the word. Don’t try 
anything rash. You're up against some¬ 
thing uncanny—horrible. Look out it 
doesn’t get you. ’ 

"Don’t worry; I can take care of my¬ 
self,” responded Buck grimly. Looking 
at his six feet of brawn and muscle, hard¬ 
ened on many a football field, the steely 
blue eyes and the firm line of his jaw, 
Riley was forced to confess that this con¬ 
fident young man would prove a for¬ 
midable antagonist for any one. 

B ack to the office Buck rode. His 
plans were formulated. A tangled 
excuse and he readily obtained leave of 
absence, his superior shaking his head 
sadly at the retreating figure. Once home 
he equipped himself with flashlight and 
automatic, and took an evening train to 
Mountville. As night fell dark and 
mysterious over the cemetery, white mar¬ 
ble glimmering ghostly, he took his sta¬ 
tion, determined to watch the whole 
night through. 

Morning found him still watching, 
soaked with the gray mists of early dawn, 
cramped with crouching, reeling from 
fatigue—but the vigil was fruitless. 
Mysterious sounds and noises there had 
been a-plenty, but the marauders had 
not returned. 

Night after night Buck kept his lonely 
vigil, but in vain. Whatever it was that 
had ravaged the grave, it had no evident 
intention of returning. 

Qiilled and racked with the weariness 
of tense, sleepless watches, soul steeped 
in bitter anguish, Saunders was forced to 
admit defeat. Reluaantly he returned 
to the city. Perhaps, he thought, the po¬ 


lice had been able to discover something 
in his absence. Eagerly he phoned 
Riley. 

"No, my lad,” boomed the hearty 
Irish voice, "we’re as far from a solution 
as when we started. Farther; for reports 
of body-snatchings are coming in now 
thick and fast, from all over the state. 
Hundreds of them. All the same way. 
Must be a large group working. We’ve 
found out this though: in every single in¬ 
stance the stolen corpse had been freshly 
buried! No decayed bodies are taken. 
We’ve sent out secret instmaions to have 
guards detailed to each cemetery imme¬ 
diately after a funeral. Didn’t see any¬ 
thing, did you? No? Mighty lucky for 
you. I’m thinking. Don’t try it again—■ 
there’s something very horrible about it 
all. It’ll break into the newspapers any 
day now—can’t keep it away from them 
much longer. Good-bye.” 

And sure enough, next morning hor¬ 
ror flaunted and screamed in huge head¬ 
lines across the front page. 

The fashionable Kenesco Cemetery 
was the milieu of a frightful crime. Two 
funeral . processions had converged on 
that famous burial-ground the day before 
—one, that of an internationally famous 
financier; the other, of a beautiful society 
girl, the season’s debutante, carried off 
untimely in the first blush of youth and 
happiness. Everything had gone accord¬ 
ing to schedule. The great concourse of 
friends and mourning relatives, the 
banked masses of floral tributes, the in¬ 
toning of solemn rituals, the careful 
lowering of expensive bronze caskets, the 
tamping down of the all-embracing earth, 
the orderly dispersal of those who had 
gathered in anguish or curiosity. The 
earthly drama was over, 

Alas, not yet! As evening cast its 
lengthening shadows over the wilderness 
of marble, two heavily armed state troop¬ 
ers, picked men, proven in many a des- 


THE DEAD-ALIVE 


379 


peme encounter, took their station in the 
shelter of a huge mausoleum on a knoll 
overlooking the graves. Their instruc¬ 
tions were direa and succina: "If any 
man, or beast, or thing, approaches the 
graves, shoot, and shoot to kill.^’ 

At two in the morning, a belated com¬ 
muter hurrying home along a road past 
the great cemetery heard a shot crash 
through the blackness of the night. As 
he paused, affrighted, three others fol¬ 
lowed in quick succession. Silence. Then 
the sound of terrific struggle, and a pierc¬ 
ing scream split the air. As it rose, it 
choked and strangled into a gurgling 
rattle. The commuter’s blood froze in 
his veins; his feet were rooted to the spot. 
Then came another sound—an imearthly 
moaning, wailing, that rose and fell in a 
gamut of mortal agony. Like the unut¬ 
terable cries of a lost soul in deadly tor¬ 
ment, he described it afterward. 

He paused not in his going. Deadly 
fear gave wings to his speed, nor did he 
slacken till he threw himself into bed, 
fully clothed, there to cower and tremble 
under blankets the balance of the night. 

That morning, the sergeant of the 
troop, making his rounds, came upon a 
frightful scene. The two fresh graves 
were yawning wide, the bodies had dis¬ 
appeared! Near by, on the ground, lay 
the crumpled figure of a trooper. Eyes 
protruding half out of their sockets, 
mouth twisted in a final desperate scream, 
there wa§ that upon his face that caused 
the sergeant, hardened veteran of the 
World War, to shudder and avert his 
gaze. That face, those eyes, had wit¬ 
nessed unutterable, unspeakable horrors. 
Near him lay his heavy service revolver, 
three shells exploded. About his neck 
were the deep red grooves of clawing fin¬ 
gers. 

The other trooper was gone. An hour 
later he was found miles away, running 
and stumbling across a woodland patch. 


gun still clutched -in hand, one cartridge 
fired—^mad, stark mad.. No human 
sounds came from his tortured throat, 
only rasping, frightful screams. He died 
at noon in a strait] acket, still screaming. 

Impressions had been taken of every 
metallic objea on the strangled trooper’s 
uniform for possible finger prints, the ac¬ 
count read. The experts were wor.king 
on them now. 

Buck read along with renewed horror. 
His youthful pleasant face set in hard 
lines of determination. A cold purpose¬ 
ful light steeled his eyes, "By Heaven, 
I shall run this down if it takes my life,” 
he swore to himself. Job, vocation, 
livelihood—all were forgotten. 

T hat afternoon he saw Riley at head¬ 
quarters. The deteaive greeted him 
cordidly. To him Buck stated his de¬ 
termination, and begged to be allowed to 
assist. 

Riley looked at him quizzically; then 
his gaze sobered, "Boy, you don’t know 
what you want to let yourself in for,” he 
said gravely. "I’ve handled many crimes 
in my day, but this is something different. 
'There are forces at work here that I’m 
afraid even to think of. It’s going to be 
d^gerous—damned dangerous,” 

"Are you afraid?” Buck shot at him. 
'The big man stiffened. "No one yet 
has dared say to Tim Riley’s face that 
he’s afraid, and don’t you be the first 
one,” he warned. 

"No offense, sergeant, but I’m not 
afraid either, I think I can help on this 
—and I want to work with you. I can 
handle a gun pretty well, too. What do 
you say?” 

Thoughtfully the policeman surveyed 
the eager figure before him, the stamped 
determination of it, the snapped set of 
the jaws. Then: "It’s a little irregular, 
but I’ll chance it. You’re welcome to 
help.” 


380 


WEIRD TALES 


Silently the two men shok hands. 

"Now,” ^corpmenced Riley, as they re¬ 
sumed their seats, "now that you’re my 
unofficial assistant. I’ll tell you of some¬ 
thing that’s absolutely imbelievable—so 
unbelievable that I don’t credit it myself. 
Listen to this. You must have read in 
the newspapers that impressions were tak¬ 
en for finger prints on the dead body.” 

Buck nodded. 

"Weil,” the deteaive seemed to be 
choosing his words, "our finger print ex¬ 
pert reports that he found a well-defined 
thumb print on the button of the troop¬ 
er’s blouse.” 

Excitedly Buck leaned forward. At 
last something definite, something tangi¬ 
ble to work on. 

"He also reported,” continued Riley 
slowly, "that he checked it on our rec¬ 
ords, and he foimd its mate. It is the 
thumb print of Tony the Mug, gangster, 
thug, murderer. We have his complete 
record on file.” 

An exclamation of joy burst from 
Buck. The mystery was solved. Find 
Tony the Mug, break up his gang, and 
the nightmares would cease. But there 
was no answering look of elation in the 
Irishman’s eye. Instead, a strange pall 
of nameless horror seemed to settle on 
him. 

Unheeding, Buck asked, "You’ve sent 
out orders to search for and arrest him, 
of course.?” 

"No, I have not,” the detective an¬ 
swered slowly. 

"But why not.?” came the surprized 
reply. Then, and then only, did he look 
up and see the strangeness—almost the 
dread—on Riley’s face. 

"Because,” ffie policeman had great 
difficulty in enunciating the words, '’be¬ 
cause—Tony the Mug—was electrocuted 
for murder at Auburn Prison two weeks 
ago!” 

With inaedulous horror Buck jumped 


to his feet. "But—but,” he gasped, his 
heart pounded madly, "that is impossible 
—it can not be—my God, it must not 
be!” 

'The detective agreed, soberly. "Yet 
there are the faas.” 

Buck’s brain whirled with horror. Ve¬ 
hemently he sought an outlet, a solution. 
Yes, yes, he had it! Aloud he sobbed 
his relief from the unutterable implica¬ 
tion of those terrible facts. 

Riley looked at him inquiringly. 

"Of course, it’s obvious,” the words 
came tumbling. "This Tony was not 
killed by the current, only shocked into 
imconsciousness. Then when his rela¬ 
tives took away the 'dead’ body, they were 
able to resuscitate him. ’There have been 
cases like that. And now he is robbing 
graves. 'That’s it.” 'The sweat dried on 
his forehead at his own easy explanation. 

"Yes,” agreed Riley, in a curious, flat 
tone. "I’ve heard of those cases. But 
there is no question that Tony is dead. 
The prison doaor pronounced him so. 
His body lay for a day, and since no one 
claimed it, he was buried in the prison 
cemetery the following day. Besides”— 
he leaned- forward— "Tony the Mu^s 
grave was opened two nights later, and 
his body removed." 

"God,” Buck felt weak, "what are we 
up against?” 

"I don’t know as yet, but I’ll find out 
soon,” was the grim rejoinder. He 
swung around, and spoke abruptly. "Tm 
going out tonight to watch a little 
cemetery I have in mind—Hopeville—it 
hasn’t been disturbed yet. I’ve an idea 
an attempt will be made on it tonight. 
'The larger ones have each a company of 
ten troopers on guard.” 

Buck arose. "I’ll go with you.” 

Riley eyed him keenly. "Very well, 
meet me here at nine-thirty sharp. I’ll 
have the police car waiting and we’ll 
drive out.” 


THE DEAD-ALIVE 


381 


P romptly at nine-thirty Buck present¬ 
ed himself at headquarters. Riley 
was obviously waiting for him. 

’’All right, lad, let’s go. Here, take 
this.” He opened the drawer of his desk, 
and brought out a regulation police au¬ 
tomatic. "Slip this in your pocket—^you 
may need it. And these flashlights, too, 
one for each of us.” 

Buck took the proffered weapon and 
flashlight, and they started for the door. 
"Hold on a minute, my boy, until I get 
something else.” A sudden thought had 
occurred to the deteaive and he turned 
back. He opened a wardrobe, and took 
out—a cavalry saber! 

He met Saunders' surprized question¬ 
ing stare somewhat sheepishly. "Just a 
relic of my cavalry adventures in the 
World War,” he explained. "Had en¬ 
listed in that arm of the service for the 
duration of the war—knew how to han¬ 
dle horses pretty well. They gave me 
this pretty little toy and some spurs, then 
shipped me across. There we were bun¬ 
dled into a troop train —huit chevaux, 
quarante hommes —and rode standing up 
to the front. That sign on the cattle car 
was the only smell of a horse I had. All 
through the war I was a bloody doughboy 
-—unhorsed.” 

Buck laughed. "And you’ve been on 
your legs ever since. But why the para¬ 
phernalia tonight? We’re not attending 
a lodge meeting.” 

The big Irishman was good-humored. 
"All right, my lad, have your little joke. 
But something tells me—just another 
himch—that this old saber may see more 
service tonight than it did in France, 
Remember those troopers up at Kenesco 
fired four shots—and hurt no one. They 
were dead shots, too.” 

Out into the anteroom they walked, 
the detective swinging the heavy weapon 
like a cane. 'The idling policemen stared 
in surprize; then as they moved toward 


the outer door. Buck distinctly heard the 
sound of snickering behind him. He 
stole a glance sideways at his companion 
and was mightily amused to see a brick- 
red slowly suffusing neck and counte¬ 
nance, but no other sign that he too had 
heard. Out they clanked into the street, 
Riley shutting the door behind him with 
a bang. 

Hastily the detective gained the wait¬ 
ing car at the curb, and deposited his un¬ 
gainly weapon with a sigh of relief. Buck 
seated himself at his side. Silently the 
car slipped into gear, and they were off. 
Up Fifth Avenue, through the Concourse, 
left turn to the Bronx River Parkway, on 
to White Plains they sped. 'There they 
turned right, branched off on a dirt road, 
and followed the twisting ribbon through 
the night toward Hopeville. A full two 
hours’ drive. Not much was spoken by 
the two men—they were too busy with 
their own thoughts. 

With scream of brakes and skid of 
tires, the car came to an abrupt halt under 
the pitchy darkness of a huge oak. "Here 
we are,” whispered Riley. He switched 
out the lights. The night was black— 
there was no moon. Buck heard him 
fumbling; then a light leaped into being, 
and a glowing circle stabbed the darkness. 

'They got out somewhat stiffly, the po- 
Eceman taking the cavalry saber. OYer 
on the left glimmered faintly white head¬ 
stones. They were at the cemetery. Two 
circles of light dancing irregularly on the 
broken ground, the two men cautiously 
picked their way through the marble wil¬ 
derness until they reached a slight rise on 
which was built a granite mausoleum, 

"Switch off your light,” Riley whis¬ 
pered, snappiil^ his off; "we park here 
for the night. 'There’s a man buried yes¬ 
terday in the grave in front of us.” 

Buck hastened to obey, and blackness 
unrelieved wrapt them about with an al¬ 
most physical impaa, Saunders glanced 


3S2 


wmm TAI^ 


u has wrist. TJse faSot kmiBesceoce ^ 
Jais raximan wrist wacdi tfcowed eievai- 
tSaifly. 

'*Keep youf gon ready at. haaid, lad, 
biK don't fee in any fearty to dioot, oo 
matter -wfeat you see or feear. Wait tdl I 
give the wc^, and for God's sake, no 
noise.*' He could hear the eac-cavaky- 
man's sword softly deposited on tihe 
^ound. 'Ife^ crouched, waitkig, they 
knew not for what. 

T he minuces dragged fey. Now the 
moon was rising, a huge ferass bowl 
cliirabing up the eastern horizon. A dull 
coppery illumination ringed the grotmd 
and gravestones uncannily—a weird half- 
light almost impenetraMe to mortal eye. 
Nervously, Buck glanced at his watdt 
again. One minute to midnig^! His 
heart was thumping madly; gfeosts of the 
outraged dead clustered and formed 
threateningly; faint glbfeerings and rus¬ 
tlings were conjured up hf his heated 
imagination. 

A hand gripped his wrist. Buck started 
violently, a cry of fear smothered in his 
throat. "Sssh!" came -Ril^s tense whfe- 
per, "do you hear it?" 

Buck strained his ears. Sure enou^, 
.up from the road came the faint tramp, 
tramp of feet. Nearer and neater, louder 
now—the steady ordered thump of feet 
matching mi unison, like soldiers on pa¬ 
rade; mechanical though, slow, spac^ 
lift, eternity ;of waiting, down on the 
gp3und, like a skyw-morion picture of ihe 
old Goman goose-stq). Buck fdt his 
fiesh priddc, and shudders coursed wildly 
up and down his spine. 

Riley was wfatspermg iercely. "Get 
your gun ready, they're oaming. Down 
jkwv, so they can't see us. Don't move till 
I give the word." Saunders heard him 
pick up the sabor. Down they aotKbed, 
waiting. 

Ilhc noise of mardiing moved toward 


them lifloe a wave, nearer, ever neacer. 
God! though Buck, are they oyming for 
us? Panic srized him, human flesh coidd 
not bear that fri^tftd thun^-thump. 
Just as he was on the verge of screammg, 
his fenger dgjMeoed on the trigger in 
s^e of warning, the horrible sound 
ceased. They had stopped, not thirty feet 
away. 

Buck orrined to pierce that weird un¬ 
earthly hgfet. Dimly to be descried were 
five fibres—men, thatdc God!" wavering 
shadows, hardly visible. 'Ihey dustered 
aboia the freely made grave. 

'Then, to Buck’s unutterable horror, the 
shadows stooped suddenly and dawed at 
the ground. Up into the air flew great 
handfuls erf ear^ With incredible speed 
the digging oyntinued, the air was duck 
with flying diit, pdabies fell ratding. Al¬ 
ready the ghosriy figuts were half im¬ 
mersed in ]Ae opening grave. 

Loudly, ftetcely, Riley's voice shattered 
ihe aigfeL "Hands up, you dtCDC, don’t 
move an inch. We’ve got you covared."' 

Up went Buck's pistol, ready to shoot. 
Inctedibly, there was tMJ response. 'Ihe 
silent figures kept on dicing, davring the 
earth, unmindful of the i&teat. it was 
ominous in its implications. 

'The detective's flashlight pierced the 
glocian, the wide drde of ii^bt played on 
those femasi. Even as the glare enfolded 
them, the figures straightened, and as one 
being, slowly turned thek heads toward 
the crouching pair. 

’'hfeidfui Mary, Mother erf Saiias.*** 
burst z hoarse cry from dbe IrishmMi. 
Buck tried to scream, but couldn’t. 
Nevjo:, to his dying day, wonid he forget 
chat ni^tmaxe si^c! 

Ghasdy gray were those faces — the 
corpse-like pallor of those who have 
passed beyond the feoume. Lmk hair that 
lay damp on pallid foreheads. Cheeks 
Tdiat were oddly sunken, gray ddn that 
screeched oopleasaratly over protrud- 


THE DEAD-ALIVE 


383 


ing cheekbones; hands that hung loosely, 
ending in bony daw-fingers that twitched 
incessantly. An indefinable air of decay 
and corruption enveloped them. But most 
horrible of all—their eyes. Great fixed 
pupils that stared unwinking at the daz¬ 
zling beams—stared at the pair, through 
them, and beyond them. The eyes of 
somnambulists, that betrayed no warm 
emotion, no human feeling, only the 
frightful stare of blankness—as though. 
Buck thought in terror, as though there 
were no minds behind them. He could 
see no eyelids, only the fiixed unwinking 
eyes. 

Even as they watched, paralyzed with 
fright, the dread figures galvanized into 
movement. Up went their right legs uni¬ 
formly, down they came together, and 
slowly they advanced—on the crouching 
pair. Buck could hear Riley mumbling 
some old forgotten prayer. The pace 
grew faster—they broke into a trot, still 
the legs rising and falling together. 

"Shoot!” screamed Tim Riley; "shoot 
before these banshees get us!” 

Two pistols cracked simultaneously. 
With not a pause, the nightmares came 
on. Again and again the guns spoke. The 
bullets must have found their marks, but 
steadily, uninterruptedly the figures ad¬ 
vanced. Buck felt his reason giving way 
under the horror. 

"I knew it!” yelled the terrified detec¬ 
tive; "they’re not human, they’re ban¬ 
shees! Run for your life.” Up he caught 
his saber, and commenced to run. Saun¬ 
ders did not hesitate—he was right along¬ 
side, running as he had never run before. 

Gn they sped, stumbling, tripping, 
crashing into gravestones, until their 
breathing came in great whistling sobs, 
Riley holding on to his great sword with 
desperate effort. 

Buck glanced fearfully behind. 'The 
Things were running in unison, but one 
figure had pulled ahead, not twentv yards 


behind. "For God’s sake, drop that 
damned sword, and run. It’s right behind 
us,” he gasped 

Too spent for words, the detective 
could only shake his head violently in the 
negative. Another hundred yards they 
ran, and fell. Again Saunders looked 
over his shoulder. The hideous 'Thing 
was only ten yards behind, and running 
stiffly, mechanically. He drew his gun, 
whirled and shot. Still it came on. Gasp¬ 
ing with sudden fury, Riley turned. 
"Damn you,” he screamed; "man, ghost 
or banshee, I run no farther. Come on if 
you want cold steel.” 

The Gray 'Thing rushed toward him. 
'The big Irishman sidestepped swiftly, and 
swung the saber high. Down it descend¬ 
ed with frightful force, caught the figure 
full on the shoulder. Such was the force 
of the blow that it sheared through shoul¬ 
der and arm, and the arm fell thudding 
to the ground. 'The creature’s momentum 
carried it on a while; then it wheeled and 
started back. 'The moonlight shone 
brightly on the gaping shoulder. 'The 
flesh was pallid gray, and not a drop of 
blood oozed from the wound. Back it 
ran, unmindful of its arm! 

The men stared aghast. With a great 
yell, Riley whirled his sword and threw 
it at the advancing figure with all his 
strength. It caught the 'Thing full on the 
face, and knocked it to the ground. 

'The moment’s respite was enough. 
Like a flash, the two men ran down the 
slope to the road, on wings of terror. 
Even as they gained the car, they saw five 
figures, one without an arm, descending 
the slope after them. 

With trembling fingers Riley turned 
the switch, clashed into high, and the car 
was roaring drunkenly down the road— 
back to humankind and sam'ty. 

OR a week Buck lay delirious — in 
the throes of a violent brain fever. 
When he finally came to, weak but nor- 


384 


WEIRD TALES 


mal in pulse and mind, he found Tim 
Riley sicated at his bedside. 

"Well, lad, I sure am glad to see you 
out of it. You had a rough time, all 
right.” 

"And you, old-timer, how do you 
feel?” 

“O. K. now. Was laid up for two 
days, but snapped out of it. I’m too tough 
to knuckle under long.” 

"What’s been happening, Tim, while 
I’ve been lying here?” inquired Buck 
weakly. 

"Here, you, go back to sleep,” re¬ 
sponded the deteaive gruflSy. "You’re 
not well yet by a long shot. See you in a 
couple of days and tell you all the news.” 
With that Riley left abruptly. 

True to his promise, the deteaive 
called two days later. Buck was up now, 
feeling as strong as ever, and rearing to 
go. Only that fool nurse of his insisted 
on his staying in, and refused steadily to 
get him any papers. 

After the first cordial salutations, they 
sat down comfortably to talk. Only now 
did Buck see the drawn, haggard look on 
the policeman’s face. 

"Tell me what’s been happening,” 
urged Saunders. 

"Hell’s broken loose,” Riley replied, 
slowly. "And when I say Hell, I mean it 
literally. 'Those damned banshees”—^he 
crossed himself devoutly, this son of old 
Erin—"are no longer haunting graves. 
They’re swarming over the whole coun¬ 
tryside. People are scared to death. When 
it comes dark, every one locks himself 
up tight; they don’t dare go out. Last 
Wednesday a child of twelve disappeared 
near Schoharie; she hasn't been found 
ya. 'The next night a woman was found 
dead on the highway, a little out of West 
Point. She was strangled — hideously. 
'Then it spread down through Jersey and 
over into Westchester. Men have been 
frightened out of their wits, meeting one 


of them suddenly on a dark road. They 
have been shot at, but bullets don’t hurt 
them. We know that.” He shuddered, 
"I don’t know where it’s going to end, 
but if diey aren’t shipped back to Hell 
soon-” 'The pause was significant. 

Buck had been listening in rapt atten¬ 
tion. "They nearly did for me, Tim. But 
just wait until I get back on my legs 
again. I’ve got something glimmering in 
my mind.” 

'The deteaive arose. "O. K., lad, just 
you rest up first,” he said soothingly. 
“Then we’ll dope something out together. 
Meanwhile troops are patrolling all the 
main roads. So long, and take good care 
of yourself.” 

B uck watched the burly form disap¬ 
pear through the doorway, then fell 
back exhausted. He was weaker than he 
thought. 

He was dozing off when the door flew 
open and a girl darted into the room. 

"Buck, darling, what has happened to 
you?” she cried. 

"Ruth—^you here!” the sick man sat up 
in astonishment. "Where on earth did 
you come from? I thought you were out 
on the coast with your folks.” 

"I was,” she declared airily, "but I be¬ 
came fed up with the eternal sunshine and 
the Native Sons, so I decided to come 
back East—and here I am,” 

Buck gazed tenderly at his fiancee, 
Ruth Forsythe. Dark, vivacious, blade 
eyes dancing, features finely modelled, 
adorably pursed mouth, she was a sight 
to make any normal male’s heart beat a 
bit faster. There flashed into Saunders’ 
mind the memory of that day, when, 
asked to dioose between himself and Jim 
Carruthers, brilliant dassmate of his at 
college, both desperately in love with 
Ruth, she had imhesitatingly turned to 
him, and kissed him full on the mouth. 
Nor could he forget the distorted features 
W. T.—6 


THE DEAD-ALIVE 


385 


of Jim, as he saw the girl he loved in his 
rival’s arms. Muttering an imprecation, 
he had seized his hat, clapped it violently 
on his head, and departed like a storm 
out of the house — and out of sight. 
From that day on, no one had seen him 
again. That was six months ago. What 
a pity, too! The man was a brilliant biol¬ 
ogist; his professors had envisioned a 
marvelous career for him. 

'Why do you look at me so strangely, 
dearest?” asked Ruth, somewhat startled. 

Buck came to himself with a start. 
"Notliing, darling. Just thinking of old 
times, and so tickled to see you again.” 

"But, darling,” she seated herself at his 
side, all anxiety, "what has happened to 
you? The nurse tells me you staggered 
in early one morning talking incoherently 
and took to bed at once with high fever. 
Tell me all about it.” 

So Buck, one arm comfortably around 
the girl, told her all about it, omitting 
nothing from the desecration of his 
father’s grave to his last desperate adven¬ 
ture. 

As he proceeded, Ruth’s eyes widened 
with the horror of it all, and her arms 
tightened about him. "Oh you poor, poor 
boy,” she crooned, "how glad I am you 
are alive! No wonder you almost went 
mad from it.” She shuddered -at the 
thought. 

"Now you just lie down and rest,” she 
urged; "you’re still Very weak. "I’ll go 
home, unpack, and be here first thing in 
the morning to be with you.” 

"But,” Buck objeaed, "your house is 
closed—there is no one on the place.” 

"I have the keys. And I’m not afraid 
to sleep alone.” 

"No, you must not go—I’m afraid for 
you. It’s country where you are; there are 
no houses close by. Those terrible Things 
are filtering down through Westchester, 
too.” 

Laughingly, Ruth answered his prot- 
W. T.—7 


estations. It was all nonsense! The 
morning paper gave tlie nearest reported 
visimion some thirty miles north, so there 
was nothing to be alarmed about. Be¬ 
sides, it was just for the night, drop some 
clothes, pick up some others, and come 
back to town. 

So Buck was overborne against his will. 
He saw her go, and presentiment of evil 
clamored at his heart. He called after her 
to return, not to go, but it was too late — 
she was gone. 

' Night came. 'The nurse entered, took 
his temperature, counted his pulse, did 
the numerous little things appropriate to 
a sickroom, and withdrew. 

The hall clock struck ten, but Buck 
could not sleep. Anxiety for Ruth tor¬ 
mented him. Why had he let her go? 
The hour of midnight chimed, and still 
he was awake. He was cursing himself 
for a fool. 

Hardly had the last note faded on the 
air, when the sharp ringing of the tele¬ 
phone took up the refrain. Half sick 
with apprehension, Saunders was out of 
bed in a jiffy, snatched up a dressing- 
gown, and ran to answer. 

With hand that trembled, he picked up 
the receiver. "Hulloa!” 

Ruth’s voice came to him, taut, des¬ 
perate in its urgency. 

"Buck, Buck, something’s at my win¬ 
dow. Faces—terrible faces, they’re look¬ 
ing in—they’re breaking the glass. Oh 
my God, Buck, do something! Save me!” 
Her voice rose to a scream! 

Frantically he answered. "Quick, hang 
up, call police at once. I’ll phone too, and 
come right away.” 

At the other end he heard a sob of re¬ 
lief. "Buck—at the other window, I see 
Jim. Jim Carruthers. He’s breaking in. 
He’ll save me—^save me! I’m going to 
him. Good-bye.” 

Buck was almost'crazy with anguish. 
He heard the receiver drop, heard foot- 


386 


WEIRD TALES 


steps, heard a call, then a scream of ter¬ 
ror, a scream that choked and was still. 

In frantic haste he dressed. His heart 
pounded and hammered; his brain reeled. 
"God,” he prayed, "what have they done 
to my darling, my own, my Ruth.? If any¬ 
thing happened. I’ll tear them to pieces 
with my hands. Devils, banshees or 
men!” 

In one minute he was dashing out of 
the darkened silent house. In another 
minute he had run his car out of the ga¬ 
rage, swung about on the road to Tilton 
Heights, where the Forsythes had their 
home; and throttle wide open, he roared 
into the night. 

The speedometer showed fifty miles, 
sixty, sixty-five. "Hurry, hurry!” beat his 
heart. "Faster, faster,” raced the blood in 
his veins. Grimly he held the car to the 
road, as it careened over the lonely con¬ 
crete. It was fifteen miles. "Let me get 
there in time,” he prayed. 

Jim—what was Jim doing out there? 
Hd had disappeared months ago. He had 
loved Ruth once. Why was he breaking 
through one window, and the Things 
through another. Why had Ruth’s call 
turned to a scream? 

A blinding illumination lit up every¬ 
thing in Buck’s mind. That was it! Jim 
Carruthers, Jim—was responsible for it 
all! 'These horrors—they were conneaed 
in some way with Jim. He had abduaed 
Ruth. A fury of rage swept over Buck. 
The damned beast, the cowardly hound! 
He’d make him pay; he’d find that scoun¬ 
drel even if he hid himself in the bowels 
of the earth. 

W ITH screaming brakes the car slith¬ 
ered to a stop. It was the For¬ 
sythe’s house. Before the car stopped 
rolling, Saunders was out of it, flashlight 
in hand, and up the wide stone steps. 
Furiously he pounded on the door. 'There 
was no answer. With all his strength he 


heaved against it, but it was too sturdy to 
break down. Abandoning the front. Buck 
ran around the side of the house, frantic 
with despair. What he saw brought him 
to a dead halt—heartsick. Two of the 
casement windows giving on the living- 
room were shattered, shards of broken 
glass were scattered over the green lawn, 
and the turf under the window was tram¬ 
pled as though with many feet. 

In a moment he was pulling himself 
through the jagged pane, unmindful of 
the sharp edges that lacerated and tore 
his flesh. 'The flashlight lit up a scene of 
destruaion; fragments of shattered vases 
covered the rumpled rugs, the telephone 
dragged on the floor, the receiver off. In 
plain language the room told its story of 
a struggle and abduction. A faint noise 
seemed to emanate from somewhere—a 
buzzing that was ominous in the dead si¬ 
lence of that desolation. Instantly Buck 
was on the alert, gun drawn, and flashing 
wide arcs over the room. Nothing ap¬ 
peared, but the buzz continued. As the 
telephone swam into the circle of light, 
Saunders found the explanation. Central 
was trying to signal that the receiver was 
off the hook. 

Cautiously, thoroughly. Buck searched 
through the house. Ruth was gone. Like 
a vacant shell, bereft of life, of more than 
life—empty, resonant, mourning its lost 
soul, seemed the old mansion. 

Back to the ground imderneath the 
broken windows went the tortured lover. 
He picked up the trail of trampled grass, 
followed it down to the road, where it 
vanished into the stony macadam. Buck 
felt the anguish of utter helplessness 
sweep over him. What could be done 
now?—how discover the whereabouts of 
his beloved? As he thought of Ruth 
struggling in the arms of those foul mon¬ 
sters; of Jim Carruthers, so unaccountably 
entangled in the ravelled skein of events, 
a groan burst from him, that gave way to 


THE DEAD-ALIVE 


587 


the flame of a desperate resolve. Find 
Carruthers, and he would find Ruth. 
Find Carruthers, and the mystery of the 
terrible Things would be solved. He was 
sure of it. But—how find his former 
classmate? 

Once more he returned to the trampled 
areas beneath the windows. Methodical¬ 
ly, painstakingly, he searched the ground, 
foot by foot, in the gleam of the flash¬ 
light. Fruitless—all in vain. He was giv¬ 
ing up—turning away heavy-hearted, 
when the swing of his hand brought an 
outer strip into the area of illumination. 
Ha! what was that? 

The excited searcher pounced upon it. 
A crumpled dirty piece of paper. Care¬ 
fully, tremblingly he smoothed it. A torn 
segment of a map—a map of New York 
State. One of those maps that are given 
away at filling-stations. Buck grew tense; 
on it was blue-pencilled a small circle. 
What did the circle enclose? He strained 
to read the name of the town. Birdkill, 
in the Catskills. A small village, evident¬ 
ly. He had never heard of it before. 

A fierce exultation surged through his 
veins. At last—a definite clue. Evidently 
dropped by one of the ravishers, possibly 
Carruthers, it bespoke only one thing? 
There was the hiding-place; the focus of 
the evil that was invading the land! 

Buck’s features tightened into grim 
hard lines. He was going up there— 
alone, to combat this menace, to rescue 
his loved one. 

A s DUSK was falling, Buck alighted at 
^the little town of Birdkill, high in 
the Catskills. Through some quirk of for¬ 
tune this sleepy little village had escaped 
the annual throng of vacation-seekers 
from the great city. Its ten or fifteen 
frame houses, its Eagle Hotel, its general 
store and post-office, preserved the rural 
atmosphere of a century ago. The whole 
region about partook of diis atmosphere. 


A few well-tended farms, a concrete road 
or two, a dieap automobile and a good 
radio set in every home, these were all of 
modernity to be found in the vicinage. 

Direaed by one of the little group en¬ 
gaged in the nocturnal thrill of seeing the 
train come in. Buck found the village 
hotel. The accommodations offered were 
quite satisfactory, though primitive. In its 
furnishings, the room was immaculately 
clean. Warned by the clangor of a hand- 
wielded bell. Buck took a hurried wash- 
up in the great china bowl, and descend¬ 
ed to “supper.” 

Having disposed of the heaping plat¬ 
ters of plain but ’wdiolesome food set be¬ 
fore him, Saunders accompanied his few 
fellow guests to the "piazza,” and m- 
sconced himself in one of its wooden rock¬ 
ers. He found himself between the vil¬ 
lage postmaster and the station agent, 
bachelors both. Luck favored him. The 
two best sources of information for miles 
around were his neighbors. 

“First trip to Birdkill?” Postmaster 
Simpson essayed the first step in the in¬ 
vestigation undergone by every new¬ 
comer. Buck expected this and had his 
story ready. 

"Why, yes. I’ve been working pretty 
hard on some new radio patents, and de¬ 
cided to take a vacation. Wanted to get 
away from die usual summer resort, with 
its pesky girls and flash sports. Heard 
that you folks up here didn't like any of 
that sort of nonsense, so I came up. 
Looks like just what I wanted. You don’t 
get many strangers around here, do you?” 

"Nope. Two, three drummers; ’sabout 
all. Mostly we keep ourselves to our¬ 
selves. Queer duck came through here 
’bout six months ago", though. Fellow 
’bout your age, tcx). Got off Number 
Four one morning, and had the confound- 
est mess o’ boxes put off the baggage 
car-” 

The station agent interrupted. 'Ten 


388 


WEIRD TALES 


big wood cases, twenty small boxes, three 
big trunks. They was all marked ’fragile,’ 
too. A body’d think they was full of 
eggs, the way he fussed. Wanted to know 
if they’d be safe till next morning. ’Sif 
anybody wanted to touch his old boxes, 
“rhey was danged heavy too. And not a 
crack in ’em anywhere that a body could 
look through.” 

"Didn’t stop here mor’n a half-hour.” 
Simpson took up the tale. "Hired him a 
flivver from Jenkins’ livery stable, hauled 
out a map he had, then shot off up Black 
Mountain. Couldn’t make out what he 
wanted up there. Nothing but woods, 
and the old mill. Nobody lives there. 
Ain’t been anybody up that way since 
Old Man Thompson died and the mill 
at the falls shut down. 

"He came back next day, and got him 
a flivver truck at Jenkins’. Smith here, and 
Tom Durkin’s boy helped him load 
his boxes. But he wouldn’t take any one 
along to help him unload. Ned Durkin 
told him he wouldn’t charge nuthing: 
just wanted the ride. But the stranger 
cussed and swore. Said he didn’t want 
any—any-” 

"Interlopers,” supplied the railroad 
man. 

'"rhat’s the word,” Simpson continued. 
"Didn’t want any o’ them. ’Spose he 
meant he could wrassle them cases him¬ 
self. Waal, anyways, he drove off up to 
Black Mountain again. Brought the truck 
back the next day. Since then no one’s 
seen hide nor hair o’ him.” 

'The station agent could repress him¬ 
self no longer. 'That his brother gossip 
should enjoy the retailing of the most 
thrilling episode in the history of the 
town was imbearable. He burst out—• 
abandoning his usual slow drawl for a 
rapidity of utterance which effectually 
shut Simpson off. 

"Nope. Nobody’s seen him. Couple 
of us took a walk up the mountain Sim- 


day after he got here. Land around the 
falls was posted; 'Private Property. Keep 
off, this means you.’ We didn’t pay no 
’tendon, them signs is usually to scare 
hoboes. We went right on in. Hadn’t 
gone more’n ten feet when we heard a 
shot. John swears he felt the bullet part 
his hair. You kin bet we run. The con¬ 
stable said a man had a right to shoot to 
keep trespassers off’n his land. But that 
gink better not come to town when John’s 
around!” 

Buck could hardly conceal his excite¬ 
ment. Surely this t^e of the mysterious 
stranger confirmed the tattered map that 
had brought him to Birdkill. But he 
dared not give the gossips a hint of his 
suspicions. If the mysterious stranger 
were indeed Jim, Ruth was up there with 
him. Perhaps she was still unharmed. 
The organization of a posse, a mass at¬ 
tack, might precipitate whatever danger 
threatened her. He must move carefully. 

"Certainly a strange story,” he said, as 
indifferently as he could. "But there may 
be some reasonable explanation. Maybe 
the stranger is just some one like me, out 
for a rest away from people. As long as 
he doesn’t bother you. I’d leave him 
alone. How’s radio reception around 
here?” 

"'That’s another funny thing. For 
about three weeks no one around here’s 
been able to get anything but static on 
his set. Before that we could get New 
York, Scheneaady, an’ even distance like 
Chicago clear as a bell. No one kin make 
it out.” 

Another link in the chain of clues! 
"Well, well, you don’t say! 'That’s right 
in my line. I’ll have to look into it while 
Tm up here. Well, I’m for bed. See you 
tomorrow!” 

Once in his room. Buck threw himself 
across the bed. At last he was hot on the 
trail. He must carefully plan his course. 
'This was no ordinary criminal with whom 


THE DEAD-ALIVE 


389 


he had to deal. Weird things were hap¬ 
pening up there on Black Mountain. A 
scientific genius perverting his knowledge 
to evil ends. An unscrupulous monster 
was wielding a mastery of unknown for¬ 
ces. One misstep, and all would be lost. 
For himself, Buck was not perturbed. 
But Ruth, laughing-eyed Ruth, what of 
her? A groan escaped the anguished man. 

This wouldn’t do. He must plan calm¬ 
ly, thoroughly. Well, the first thing to do 
was to'find out just what was going on 
up there. Only way to do that was to go 
and see. By Jove, he’d start right now! 
Buck sprang up, then stopped short. 
Wait a minute. Mustn’t go off at half- 
cock. Suppose he got into trouble up 
there. Was shot, or captured. Who’d 
know all that he’d found out? Must get 
somebody else. Who? None of these 
yokels. He’d have to get Riley! 

"But Riley, in spite of his brains and 
guts, is a policeman. He’d want to bring 
up a mess of police, or state troopers. 
Got to avoid that at all costs.” Buck was 
thinking aloud now. 

"But I can’t trust any one else. I’ll 
chance it. I think I can make him see 
reason. Now to get him. Can’t phone or 
telegraph. Don’t want these hicks spread¬ 
ing tales all over town. Wait, there’s a 
midnight to New York, and a six o’clock 
back. 'That’s it. I’ll run down and be 
back in the morning.” 

F our o’clock. The stertorous snores of 
Deteaive Sergeant Riley shook the 
house. Suddenly the shrill alarm of the 
door-bell cut through his dreams. Instant¬ 
ly he was wide awake. "What the—must 
be a riot call. Those Reds, I guess.” By 
this time his door was opened. "Buck 
Saunders, by all that’s holy! Got some¬ 
thing? Found her? Quick, man!” 

"Nothing definite yet, Tim. But 
plenty’s going to happen in the next 


twenty-four hours or I miss my bet. May 
I come in?” 

"Surest thing you know. Come into the 
kitchen, if you don’t mind. We can talk 
there without disturbing the family. Just 
a minute while I tell the missis there’s 
nothing to get excited about. I get these 
early morning calls once in a while, and 
the old lady’s always thinking I’m being 
called out to be murdered.” 

Riley was gone but a moment. 

"Now spit it out, young fellow. And 
it’d better be good to excuse your getting 
me out of bed at this hour.” 

"It’s good, all right. It’s the break at 
last. Tim, I think I’ve found the head¬ 
quarters of the gang we’re after! I 
haven’t got an awful lot yet, but some¬ 
thing tells me I’m on the right trail at 
last.” 

"Come on, come on! I’m busting with 
curiosity now.” 

"Wait. Before I tell you anything I 
want you to promise me that you’ll let me 
run things, or that you will forget every¬ 
thing I tell you.” 

"I thought you were assisting me. Now 
you want to be boss. That’s what comes 
of letting a civilian in on police work.” 

"Listen, Tim, you know me well 
enough by this time to know that I 
wouldn’t ask this unless there was good 
reason. Do you promise?” 

"All right, all right. I’ll promise.” 

Concisely Saunders told him the entire 
story. Riley listened with growing excite¬ 
ment. 

"By Jove, that does sound like the real 
thing! Your clues are mighty slim, but 
I’ve got the same feeling you have. Well,' 
we’ll get the troopers and surround that 
place on the mountain, then go in and 
find out what’s up!” 

"No, Tim, that’s just what we won’t 
do. If I’m right, Ruth’s in there. Any 
display of force, and Jim will take it out 
on her. I knew that’s what you would 


590 


WEIRD TALES 


want to do; that’s whjr I ocaaed that 
promise from you.” 

"What then?” 

"I’m going in there ^one. I need your 
help. If I lose out, stanebody else must 
cany on. This horror must be stt^ped. 
But Ruth comes first with me! I want 
you to come up there alone with me, and 
then we’ll work it out together.’’ 

"But the regulations- 

"Blast the regulaticMis. Tim, if ywi’re 
the man I think you are, you’ll forget that 
you’re an ofiicer of the law and do what I 
ask. I know I’m asking you to risk your 
job. I’m asking more. I’m asldng you to 
risk your life. What about it? Are you 
man enougfi to do it?” 

No one with a drop of Irish blood in 
him could resist that challenge. Rilq^ 
stretched out his huge paw. 

"You win. Buck. I’m with you.” 

The two shook hands on that. 

"Now, listen,” Saunders spoke, tensely. 
"I’m going right back. But we can’t do 
anything till dark, he’s evidently on 
guard. So you leave on the six p. m. 
Here’s the jdan as far as Tvc gone.” 
Saunders went on for a few moments. 

"Got that? All right. I’ve got to go 
now. See you tonight.*’ 

’The door dosed cm his retreating form. 

B ack at Birdkill, Buck spent the day 
familiarizing himself with the scene 
of the coming expedition. A dirt road, 
meandering westward from the hamlet, 
passed among three or four small farms, 
then plunged into the darkness of a thick 
wood. Almost immediately it began to 
dimb up the steep slope of Black Moun¬ 
tain. Now parallding the road, now wan¬ 
dering far afield, a sizable stream ran rap¬ 
idly on its way to the Hudson and the 
s«u 

Having ventured past the last farm, 
&idc found that the road gave linle sign 
of recent use. True, there weie deep-wom 


cuts, but these were remnants of the days 
when there was a busy flour mill at dx 
falls above. He had learned that this en¬ 
terprise had been abandoned years before. 
Ail diat remained, he was told, was the 
dilapidated structure and an almost de- 
moUdied water-sdteel. 

Saunders’ walk ended when he saw the 
first of the warning signs the mysterious 
stranger had posted. Buck had no desire 
to arouse his quarry’s suspicions, to place 
him on guaad. ’The information he had 
thus far obtained would be sufficient till 
night came to veil his movements. 

'Ihe afternoon of waiting, back in Bird- 
kill, dragged on interminably. Horrible 
thoughts of the weird figures attacking 
the countryside, of the anguish Ruth must 
be undergoing, crawled like maggots 
through Buck’s brain. This idle waiting 
was unbearable. 

At last dark fell. Eight o’dodc, and 
Buck heard the clangor of the arriving 
train. 'Thank God that’s on rime! Let’s 
see, Tim dropped off at North Valley, 
five minutes ba^. Cross-coimtry it should 
cake him tw«ity-five to get here. A quar¬ 
ter of an hour more, then we can get 
busy. 

Fifteen minutes passed by. Buck, wait¬ 
ing impatiently at his open window, heatd 
at last the thump-thump of the heavy- 
footed detective echoing in the deserted 
street. A dark figure paused uncertainly 
below. 

"All ri^t, Tim, be right down,” Saun¬ 
ders called in a low tone. One last look at 
his revolver, then Buck was out in the 
street. 

Here in the sleeping street of the little 
village, ’Tim’s garb, revealed in the dim 
light of a half moon, was incongruous in¬ 
deed. From the heavy-soled shoes of the 
patrolman to the brown derby perched 
precariously on the back of his head, the 
detettive was recfolent of the great city. 


THE DEAD-ALIVE 


391 


In spite of his excitement Saunders 
grinned broadly. 

"Hello, Tim. Glad you’re here at last. 
Let’s get out on the road before we wake 
the hicks!” 

The purlieus of the town were soon 
passed. The two paused. 

"Well, what’s the lay. Buck?” 

"We’re going up that moimtain. The 
old mill is about half-way up. 'Then we’ll 
see what’s next.” 

"Say, what’s the matter with the lights? 
Power-house break down?” 

Saunders laughed. 'Tm afraid they 
don’t light their roads as well as we do 
on Fifth Avenue, Tim. No, we’ll have 
to depend on old Luna up there, and our 
flashlights.” 

"Well, I suppose what’s gotta gotta, 
but I’d sure like to see a couple of lamp 
posts. Got your gat?” 

"Here it is.” 

"Throw out those cartridges and take 
these. I’ve been working at them all day.” 

"What on earth have you got there?” 

"Silver bullets.” "" 

"Silver bullets! What’s the idea?” 

"Can’t kill banshees with lead. 'That’s 
been our trouble all along. Just remem¬ 
bered today what my grandfaAer told me. 
Only thing that’s any good is silver bul¬ 
lets.” 

Saunders smiled covertly. 'The weird 
happenings of the past six months were 
arousing all the old superstitions imbed¬ 
ded deep in hiS companion’s Irish nature. 
But it would be taaless to mock him. 

"All right, if it’ll make you feel any 
better. But let’s get going.” 

The two walked on. Deep silence 
reigned beneath the trees. Only the far- 
off shrilling of the crickets broke the si¬ 
lence. It was very dark here in the woods. 
Barely enough moonlight filtered through 
the ever-arching trees to show the path. 
The peace of nature’s night gave no hint 
of the dread not far oflF. 


"Hush, what’s that?” A sudden whis¬ 
per came from Riley. 

Ahead there was a faint humming 
sound, mingled with the rush of waters. 

"Soimds like a dynamo,” Buck said at 
last. "Shouldn’t wonder. 'The disturb¬ 
ances of the radio sets around here speak 
of some elearical operations at the old 
mill. We’ll see.” 

At long last Saunders spoke again. 
'We’re almost there, Tim. I don’t want 
to go along the road any farther. They’re 
probably watching that. We’ll get over to 
the creek. It’s only twenty feet to the 
right of that dead tree. If we follow the 
stream it will lead us to the mill. That’s 
, safer, I think.” 

'They plunged into the forest. A mo¬ 
ment, and the glint of moonlight on the 
waters showed them the stream. 

"Quiet now. Try to make no sound. 
We’re mighty close.” 

Progress was more difficult now, but at 
last the overpowering hum told Buck and 
Tim they were near their goal. The ad¬ 
venturers were crawling now. Miracu¬ 
lously, no sudden crash resulted from Ri¬ 
ley’s awkward attempts at woodmanship. 

Suddenly, they came to a clearing and 
halted. Clear in the moonlight now they 
could see the looming structure of the 
old mill. The great wheel, repaired, was 
turning rapidly in the stream from which 
a wooden flume rose up the mountainside 
where once the waters fell free. 'The air 
vibrated with the hum of machinery in 
rapid revolution. No light came from the 
building. Far off in the valley a church 
clock struck twelve. 

"What now?” Tim breathed. 

"Wait a few minutes, and watch. Per¬ 
haps we’ll see something.” / 

'They waited. No sign of life about the 
place. Only the eternal turning, of the 
wheel, the roaring of the waters, the hum 
of machinery. 


392 


WEIRD TALES 


S UDDENLY Riley gripped Buck’s arm. 

Tremblingly he pointed to the road, 
where it emerged from the trees. Move¬ 
ment, figures could be perceived there. The 
shadowed forms became more distina. 
Two men, their automatic movements be¬ 
traying their kinship to the ghouls of the 
cemetery at Hopeville. Between them 
they bore a third. No—it was a body. 
'The trailing arms, the lolling head, spoke 
unmistakably of lifelessness. 

A door in the black wall of the mill 
opened. A sword of light cut through the 
darkness, illumined the road, the awesome 
group. No mistake now. These were in¬ 
deed the same terrible figures whose ap¬ 
parition had seared the souls of the two 
who watched from the shadows. The fig¬ 
ures entered the door. It shut. Darkness 
again. 

The tender gentleness of the summer 
night was gone. An ominous horror 
brooded over the scene. God was shut 
out from this place! 

"No doubt now!” Saunders muttered, 
'"rhis is what we’ve been searching for. 
And Ruth—Ruth is in that devil’s den!” 
A sob burst from him. 

"Hush, boy. Don’t lose your head now. 
You’ve done great work so far. Pull 
yourself together. Look!” 

Again the door had opened. In the 
yellow light which streamed forth, one, 
two, three of the dread figures appeared. 
They stood there uncertainly for a mo¬ 
ment. One reeled backward, as if drawn 
by some irresistible force. The others ran 
ou|;, swiftly, but still with that queerly 
mechanical gait. They disappeared among 
the trees. 

'Another form appeared in the oblong 
of light. More human this. He peered 
out into the night. ’Then, with a gesture 
of despair he vanished within. The door 
shut 

Saunders could scarcely contain himself 
for excitement. "That’s Cartuthers, that’s 


Jim Carruthefs. Tim, I’ve got to get in 
there!” 

"Softly, lad, softly. How are you going 
to do it? There isn’t an opening in that 
place as far as I can see. Only that door, 
and that’s sure to be well guarded. Bet¬ 
ter let me get the troopers and we’ll 
smash in.” 

"No, a thousand times no! Can’t you 
get it in your head that Ruth’s in there? 
We can’t risk it. I tell you. I’m going in. 
’There must be some way. Perhaps on the 
other side of the mill. You stay here and 
wait. I’ll prospea around. If I’m not 
back in an hour, go ahead with your plan. 
But don’t follow me in unless you get 
help. If these ghouls get the two of us, 
it’ll be all over.” 

"Well, I’ve promised. So go ahead. 
But for God’s sake take care of yourself, 
boy!” 

"Now remember. Do nothing for an 
hour. If I’m not back by then, you’re 
released from your promise.” 

"Good luck. Buck.” 

S LOWLY, carefully, silently, Saunders 
crept to the base of the House of Hor¬ 
rors. Inch by inch he dragged himself 
along till he had turned the comer. Ah, 
there was a vertical slit of light! A door? 
A window? Perhaps only a crack. But 
at the very least he could peer into this 
lair of evil. 

Even more painstakingly slow were his 
movements now. Only the faint scrape of 
his clothing against the side of the mill 
marked his progress. At last he had 
inched his way to the beckoning streak of 
light. 

Only a forgotten crack between two 
planks! Carefully Budc raised himself 
till he could look within. 

A ^p of horror escaped him. 

On a long metal slab, hung by chains 
of insulators from the ceiling, lay the na¬ 
ked body of a dead man. The glassy eyes. 


THE DEAD-ALIVE 


393 


the gray pallor, the limpness of every 
limb left no doubt that the soul had de¬ 
parted from that form. The breast was 
still. 

Suspended above the slab was a spiral 
copper coil, beneath, another. From one 
to the other, through the body, a cylinder 
of blue flame seemed to ^ow. It vibrated 
with a blinding glare. A strong scent of 
ozone came to the watcher's nostrils. He 
heard the roaring crackle of the electric 
arc. 

Buck could see little else of the room. 
Yes. Just within the field of his vision 
the edge of a large switchboard. A hand, 
grasping the knob of a rheostat, the 
pointer slowly moving. 

Horrible enough was this scene, but 
more terrible what followed; for even as 
Saunders watched, the dead body moved. 
The fingers of the left hand, hanging 
flaccid over the edge of the slab, clenched. 
A leg was drawn up, jerkily. 'The head 
turned from side to side. The cylindrical 
arc grew more intense. Its roar was deaf¬ 
ening. 

'The whole form was now instina with 
movement. It shuddered as if in agony. 
Wave after wave of tremor passed over 
it. A horrible grin distorted its features. 
It sat up! 

The pointer of the rheostat moved 
back, 'rile blue flame lessened. 

The form swung its legs from the slab. 
It rose, but stood motionless. 'The arc was 
gone, but a beam of green light from the 
direaion of the partly seen switdiboard 
gave it a spearal hue. 'The green light 
grew in intensity. Tbe figure walked, with 
the hideous mechanical movements al¬ 
ready so dreadfully familiar. 'The dead 
was alive! 

But no. 'The unseeing eyes still stared 
glassily, unblinkingly. Eyes of a dead 
man, no returning soul looked forth from 
them. This was not a being wrested from 
Nirvana. 'This was still a dead body, in¬ 


vested with a gruesome semblance of life 
by some obscene force! 

As the full horror of what he witnessed 
crashed into Buck's consciousness, he felt 
himself seized from behind. G)ld, clam¬ 
my cold, fingers encircled his throat. 
Bony legs clamped themselves about his. 
He was borne backward to the ground. 
The fingers pressed tighter. He could not 
breathe. He tore at the dead hands grip¬ 
ping him, strove desperately to free him¬ 
self. But the Thing attaddng him had 
superhuman strength. Buck labored for 
breath. Those fingers pressed even tight¬ 
er. His lungs were bursting, an iron 
band constriaed his forehead, great 
globes of light appeared and burst in his 
brain. He knew no more. 

Endless interseaing circles of colored 
light danced through the blackness of 
space. Whirling, ever whirling, they 
reeled dizzily about. Two eyes, two great 
dead eyes stare unblinkingly, one green, 
one blue. The bed is hard, very hard. 
His head hurts so! Buck awoke. 

A candle sputtered beside him. He was 
lying on the floor of a cave. A dark, black 
cave. Water dripped unceasingly from 
the roof. How did he get here.^ 

He remembered. Shudder after shud¬ 
der shook his dhrobbing body. 'This was 
a nightmare, all the dread events of the 
past weeks. Oh why couldn't he awaken.^ 

No, it was real, too real. He was a 
captive. At the mercy of the fiend incar¬ 
nate who had loosed the horrors of Hell 
on the world. And Ruth, he could never 
save her now! 

How his throat hurt, and his head! 
G)uld he escape.? He was alone, perhaps 
unobserved. He sat up. Eagerly he 
looked about. There was the entrance. 
A great stone blocked it. 

Buck rose. He staggered. He was 
weak, very weak. But his strength was re¬ 
turning rapidly. He made his way, pain¬ 
fully, to the hole whidi marked die exit 



394 


WEIRD TALES 


from his rocky prison. With all the force 
he could muster he tried to move the bar¬ 
rier. To no avail. Even were he in full com¬ 
mand of his not inconsiderable strength, 
this would be an impossible task. He 
slumped to the floor again, bowed his 
head on his knees, and groaned in his de¬ 
spair. Fatigue swept over him like a 
flood. He slept. 

Again Saunders awoke. Some one was 
in the cave! He opened his eyes. Jim! Jim 
Carruthers stood there, gazing down at 
him, smiling sardonically. A gleaming 
revolver was held menacingly in his hand. 

"Hello, Buck,” a mocking tone belied 
the welcoming words; "glad you’ve 
dropped in for a little visit. Haven’t seen 
you for ages.” 

B uck sprang to his feet, made as if to 
leap for Carruthers. An ominous 
motion of the weapon halted him. 

"What have you done with Ruth? You 
fiend, you devil!” a stream of vitupera¬ 
tion came from Saunders’ lips. All his 
pent-up agony, all his despair, all his 
helplessness, came forth in lurid denun¬ 
ciation. "If you’ve laid a finger on her 
I’ll tear you limb from limb, and all your 
devil’s tricks won’t save you!” 

'Why, Buck, your language aston¬ 
ishes me. Surely that’s not the way to 
talk to an old friend. As for Ruth, she’s 
safe. A little uncomfortable, perhaps, but 
that can’t be helped. You’re just in time 
to wish us joy, for she has graciously con¬ 
sented to marry me.” 

"You lie, you monster! She’d never 
marry you. Not while I live!” 

"Oh, if that’s the only obstacle, it will 
be removed very soon. You don’t think 
I’m letting you go back with all that 
you’ve found out. You’d be dead now if 
I hadn’t wanted to talk with you first. 
I’ve got a lot of pride in my achievements, 
and it will tickle me to explain them to 
some one who can appreciate their great¬ 


ness. I can tell you my secrets freely— 
you’ll never repeat them. I can use that 
splendid body of yoius too. You’ve really 
done me a favor by walking -in here. 
Thanks, old man! 

"A little while ago you were trying 
hard to get out of this cave. Good thing 
for you, you failed. Come take a look at 
my pets.” 

Carruthers turned. In his free hand 
was an electric torch. Its beam sprang out 
and illumined the cave’s entrance. The 
stone was gone; the opening gaped, black, 
menacing. Saunders, still trembling with 
rage, moved to it, his captor close behind 
him. 

The sound of many people came to his 
ears. A fetid stench assailed his nostrils. 
Something dreadful was out there! Sud¬ 
denly, the beam from Carruthers’ flash¬ 
light sprang out again. It flashed here 
and there about the huge cavern the light 
revealed. Himdreds upon hundreds, nay, 
thousands of the dead-alive were moving 
about in the darkness. 'The natural cavity 
stretched out beyond his vision, yet so 
great was that throng that each could 
move freely for only three paces. Here in 
the bowels of the earth a veritable sea of 
dull gray faces, lusterless eyes. When 
this horde was let loose, what terror 
would stalk the earth! 

"Nice fellows, these creations of 
mine,” Carruthers gloated. 'When I’ve 
perfeaed my process, they’ll be harmless 
enough. But now, you’ve come into con- 
tart with one or two of them already. I 
don’t think you relished the experience. 
What do you think would happen if you 
should walk out there?” 

Saunders turned pale at the thought. 

"I had that stone put there to protect 
you, not to keep you in. Now, you’ve 
been very curious about my proceedings. 
Let’s get back in the cave and I’ll tell you 
all about it. Won’t do you much good, 
but I’ve got to talk to somebody. Ruth 


THE DEAD-ALIVE 


395 


doesn’t know enough about science to 
understand die greatness of mjr achieve¬ 
ment. And I have nobody else, but 
those.” A wave of his hand indicated the 
Things in the outer cavern. "Well, will 
you listen.?” 

Buck, striving hard to maintain his 
equanimity, shrugged his shoulders. "I 
don’t suppose I can help myself.” 

The two went back into the small cave. 
'The candle sputtered. Black shadows 
loomed menacingly on wall and roof. 
From without came the unceasing mur¬ 
mur of the foul creations. Then began the 
weirdest tale ever told. 

"When we were at college together, 
you fellows called me 'the grind’. WTiile 
you were booting the skin of a dead hog 
about, or engaging in other invigorating 
but useless sports, I busied myself in lab¬ 
oratory or library. You were having a 
good time, I was preparing for life. Now, 
while the rest of you are out selling bonds 
to your friends, I am on the way to con¬ 
trol a means of cheap labor that will set 
the world free from toil. One more prob¬ 
lem to solve, only one more, and I shall 
be ready to announce my accomplishment 
to the world. 

"The most expensive item in industry 
is the cost of labor, and its unreliidiility. 
From the smallest farm to the greatest 
faaory this is true. The greatest geniuses 
of our time^ have devoted their ingenuity 
to the devising of metal machines to re¬ 
place human labor. In the meantime the 
best, the most ingenious, the most adapt¬ 
able of machines has. been wastefully dis¬ 
carded—the human body. By the mil¬ 
lions, by the tens of millions we cast this 
perfea machine into the earth to molder 
and decay, while we spend millions to 
produce devices not half as efficient.” 
His tone had become didactic. He was a 
scientist, lecturing to his dass. 

"This error I set out to rectify. All 
that was needed was a means to revivify 


the human body after the vital prindple, 
the so-called soul, had departed. I knew 
that this very revivification would halt 
the process of decay. 

"Long yeaK of work, of hope aroused, 
of terrible disappointment. At last I 
solved the secret. Here is how I did it.* 

"As I have already mentioned, I have 
only one more problem to solve. It has 
been necessary for me to use fresh bod¬ 
ies, in which the processes of decay have 
not yet commenced. Inexplicably, some 
remnant of volition seems to linger in the 
nervous systems. Every now and then 
one of my subjeas rebels, throws off the 
influence of my control devices and 
strikes out for himself. 'The result has 
been the series of so-called outrages 
which have aroused the community. Of 
course I regret these. But incidents such 
as these are the inevitable accompaniment 
of scientific progress.” 

Buck’s soul revolted in protest at this 
callous reference to the horrors which 
had struck terror into the countryside. 
'"Ihe man is mad!” was his first thought. 
But no, those were not a madman’s eyes. 
’This was merely the cold calculation of 
the scientist, brushing aside as insignifi¬ 
cant everything but matters essential to 
his work. 

"My principal perturbation,” Carruth- 
ers wem: on, "over these happenings was 
that they might lead investigation to this 
place. But, luckily, thus far my subjeas 
have broken out only , when at a distance. 
Evidently the power of my control beams 
is weakened by intervening space. To¬ 
night, for the first time, two subjects re- 

♦That no attempt to reproduce Carruthers’ procesa 
may be made, his exposition of it has been expunged 
from the narrative. SufiSce it to say that the mis¬ 
guided genius obtained his startling results by a de- 
vejopment of the well-known phenomenon ot galvan¬ 
isation combined with an ingenious adaptation of 
sinusoidal electric currents of extremdy high voltag^ 
but minute amperage. Remote control was maintained 
by the beam projmtion of short wave vibrations. A 
detailed description of the process, together with blue¬ 
prints of the necessary apparatus, have been deposited 
in the secret archives of the War Department, to be 
utaized only in a aationai emergency of the most dea- 
perate nature.— The Authors. 


396 


WEIRD TALES 


volted in my very laboratory, and ran out 
into the woods. 

"When I shall have solved this last 
problem, I shall publish my results. 
Then I shall be prepared to rent out to 
farmers and to industry laborers who will 
not tire, require no food, demand no 
wages. Can you realize what a Utopia 
the world will become when this hap¬ 
pens?” 

"Utopia—a veritable Hell, you mean!” 
The amazed listener could no longer con¬ 
tain himself. 

"Ah, there speaks the primitive, the 
worshipper of* the human body. I sup¬ 
pose I shall have to contend with a lot of 
that sort of sentimental drivel. But 
when the benefits of my great scheme 
shall be realized, that sort of prating will 
be forgotten. 

"That cavern out there is my ware¬ 
house. The old mill is my faaory, my 
raw material comes from the cemeteries 
of the world. You are witnessing the 
birth of a new industry.” 

Saunders was trembling now with rage. 
The man’s coldly callous attitude toward 
the unspeakable thing he was doing sent 
his hot blood into a boil. If he could 
but catch this fiend unawares, get his 
hands about that throat! He would risk 
it. But no, that menacing' horde out 
there. Ruth at the mercy of those mon¬ 
sters, called from the grave! Craft might 
accomplish what force could not. 

"Truly a great plan,” he said, as calm¬ 
ly as he could, "but of course it takes a 
little while to get used to the idea. But 
I can’t understand why you brought Ruth 
here. What have you in mind?” 

"This work of mine will take years. I 
must have a son to carry it on. Long ago 
I seleaed Ruth as my fit mate. My 
brain, her marvelous body—what a com¬ 
bination that will make! She could not 
understand. She preferred you, a brain¬ 
less playboy. So I took her, as I take the 


bodies I need in my work. She still 
fights me oflF, still dreams that you will 
rescue her. When I show her your dead 
body she will give up that foolish hope, 
and yield to me. Meantime, she is 
locked in the old ofl&ce of the mill, as 
comfortable as she will let me make her. 

"As for you, you have served your pur¬ 
pose now. I needed some partly intelli¬ 
gent individual to tell my story to. Now 
I shall rid myself of your impudent in¬ 
terference in my plans. In a little while 
you shall be dead. And I shall have an¬ 
other unit to store in my warehouse yon¬ 
der.” 

"You’re very pleasant.” 

"Pleasant or no, that’s my last word. 
Don’t fear, your death will be an easy 
one. I want an absolutely uninjured 
corpse for a test I have in mind. Don’t 
try to go out. Only I, and their own 
kind, can pass safely through that cavern. 
Good-bye.” 

A mocking gesture of the revolver in 
his hand, and Carruthers was gone. 

“Tt god! What hope have I now?” 

IVJ. Buck was talking aloud in his 
horror and despair. "That cold scientific 
machine will carry out his threats. Only 
a miracle can save me. Perhaps, perhaps 
God will help me. No one else can.” 

Encompassed by such dread things as 
his reeling brain could only partly con¬ 
ceive, Buck reverted to the simple faith 
of his childhood. He knelt there on the 
damp rock, covered his eyes with his 
hands, and sent his soul out into the in¬ 
finite in prayer. 

A sound .startled him. He looked up. 

Bending over a tank of gas in the cor¬ 
ner was one of the dead-alive. That was 
to be the manner of his demise. Poison 
gas. The gray hand closed about the 
valve, the form straightened. 

A shriek burst from Saunders. 
"Father!” 


THE DEAD-ALIVE 


397 


By some strange twirling of the Wheel 
of Chance it was the body of his own 
father that was to take the agonized lad’s 
life. What climactic irony had brought 
this to pass.^ 

"Father!” Again the agonized shriek 
burst forth. "Ifs I. Hartley! Your 
son! Don’t! Don’t turn on the gas! 
Father!” 

What is this? A gleam as of some 
dim intelligence lights the lack-luster 
eyes. The hand drops from the valve. 
The pale features work convtdsively. 
Two arms go out, as in entreaty. The 
form drops to the ground. Is still! 

By some strange alchemy of nature, the 
revivified body of Buck’s parent had felt 
the call of its own. Kinship had broken 
the strength of the weird power which 
had held this poor corpse in its thrall. 
The crowning aime had defeated its own 
ends. The miracle for which Buck had 
prayed had come to pass! For the pres¬ 
ent, at least, he was saved. 

Trembling, exhausted by the ordeal. 
Buck lay on the hard rock.- He could 
not mourn the father whose body lay so 
close; rather he was glad that that lx)dy 
was at last at rest. His thoughts turned 
again to the dear girl whose agonized cry 
for help had brought him here. 

"How to get through that cavern, 
through that mob of dreadful Things? 
How to get to the mill and Ruth? I 
must think, think fast. Wait a moment. 
What was that he said? 'Only I, and 
their own kind, can pass safely through 
that cavern!’ Perhaps, perhaps I can 
simulate them, fool them. It’s a terrible 
chance, but I must take it." 

Saunders went to the mouth of his cave 
and peered cautiously out. Day must 
have come. Far oflF he could see a faint 
glimmer of daylight. A faint illumina¬ 
tion dimly lit the crowd of dead-alive, 
seething with the noise of many waters. 
He shuddered. 


Back in the cave again, he praaised 
for a moment the flaccid posture, the me¬ 
chanical walk, of Carruthers’ slaves. 
Then, gathering his courage with tre¬ 
mendous effort, he ventured forth. 

Would the subterfuge v/ork? Would 
"he succeed in working his way to that dis¬ 
tant light? Or were these dread Things 
waiting till retreat was impossible before 
they leaped on him? The tension was 
terrific. Hands of iron constriaed his 
heart. Cold beads of moisture stood out 
on his brow. Why not try a desperate 
. dash? No. Before he could run ten 
paces these gray forms would be upon 
him, would overwhelm him, rend him, 
screaming, into little bits. He forced 
himself to down that nigh irresistible im¬ 
pulse, to jerk slowly forward in the very 
gait of the dead-alive. 

Years passed, it seemed. Ever nearer 
grew that patch of light. Ever tenser 
the shuddering fear of the horrors about 
him. Once a cold hand brushed his. He 
stood stock-still. The hair at the base of 
his neck bristled in ancestral fear. But 
the form passed on. 

At last he reached the threshold of the 
door from which the light came—passed 
over it—fell fainting on the floor. He 
was through! 

A MOMENT Buck lay, his senses reeling 
.with unutterable relief. Then he 
pulled himself together. His task was 
but half accomplished. He looked about 
him. 

He was evidently in the basement of 
the old mill, the walls were foundation 
stones. High up on one side a window 
gave entrance to the blessed sunshine. At 
the end was a rickety staircase. From 
somewhere above came the familiar hum 
of machinery. 

"Locked in the old mill office. That’s 
where he said she was. Well, that’s 


398 


WEIRD TALES 


somewhere above. Perhaps near the head 
of those stairs. Here goes.” 

Testing each step. Buck silently crept 
upward—to what new horrors? Scarcely 
a creak of the old wood gave token of his 
passage. At last he reached the top, 
pressed cautiously on the trap-door there. 
It gave at his touch; thanks be it was not 
barred. Slowly, slowly, he raised it, 
listening intently the while. No sound 
came to alarm him. Now the opening 
was large enough to admit his head. He 
peered about. 

Direaly ahead of him was a door. Old 
and faded, he could still decipher the let¬ 
ters, '"Office.” So near was his goal! 
And the key was in the door! Again he 
listened. Only the hum of the genera¬ 
tors somewhere behind. 

Even more cautiously than before he 
raised the trap a little. He could squeeze 
through the opening now. At last, he 
was through. Softly he crept to the of¬ 
fice door, reached up, slowly turned that 
providential key. Slowly, slowly he 
turned the knob, pushed open the door, 
slid into the room, closed the opening 
behind. Then only he dared to breathe, 
to look about. 

The room was dark, the one window 
boarded. But through a chink in the 
boarding one only beam of light streamed 
through the dusty air. Buck’s ^e fol¬ 
lowed it. See, the ray rests on a face, a 
well-remembered face. Ruth lies sleep¬ 
ing there! 

Saunders tiptoed lightly to the rude 
bed on which his sweetheart lay. Gently 
he pressed his palm against those sweet 
lips, swiftly bent and kissed her brow. 
The eyes flew open, stared in fright, then 
lit up with unutterable gladness. 

"Quiet, dear. Not a sound!” Buck 
whispered, then removed his silencing 
hand. 

"Buck, dear, at last you’ve come. Thank 
God, thank God! Oh take me out of 


this terrible place. Kiss me, and take 
me away.” 

Two forms locked in close embrace, 
their danger forgotten in the bliss of re¬ 
union. 

Gently Saunders disengaged himself. 
"Are you all right, dear?” he whispered. 
"Am I in time.?” 

"Yes, he has been gentle enough. But 
take me away. Quickly, dear, quickly!” 

"Only a moment now, dear heart, and 
I’ll have you out of here. 'That win¬ 
dow-” 

"Not so fast, not so fast!” a suave 
voice came like the crack of doom. Buck 
whirled about. 

There in the doorway stood Carruthers, 
revolver in hand, a grim scowl on his 
face. 

"I see my plans have slipped again. 
What happened?” 

"None of your business, you devil!” 
Saunders snapped. 

"Well, no matter. But you didn’t 
think you could get away with it, did 
you? Luckily, after those two subjects 
got away last ni^t I rigged an electric 
eye* across this dcwrway, to warn me if 
one of them should try to enter this room. 
Forgot the key, though. ’The alarm rang 
just now and I hurried down. Didn’t 
expea to find you here. 

"And now, young man. I’ll settle you 
myself. So say good-bye to my future 
wife. When I coimf ten I’ll shoot. One 
—two—^thr—^what’s that!” 

, A tremendous crash had sounded from 
without. Carruthers, startled, turned 
toward it. Before he could look back, 
Saunders had leaped across the floor, 
seized the revolver with one hand and its 

*A contrivance conBistinK of a photo-electric cell 
actuated by a beam of light. The momentary inter¬ 
ruption of the beam by an object pasBing through it 
causes a change in the resistance of the cdl to a 
current passing through it. which change, through a 
system of relays, may be utilized to actuate any dec- 
trical device, in this case on alarm. First utilized 
in 1930, .this invention is now extensivdy used.— 
Thb Authoks. 


THE DEAD-ALIVE 


399 


owner’s throat with the other, and a fierce 
struggle was begun. 

Crash, crash, crash. A gust of cold 
air blew in. Somewhere a door had 
given way. "Buck, Buck, are you here?” 
Riley’s voice came in a great shout. 
"Buck!” 

"Here, Riley, this way!” Saunders, for 
the moment in the ascendant, managed to 
shout. 

The thumping of many feet came from 
across the mill floor. Into the room first 
Riley, behind him four men in green 
uniform, revolvers in one hand, axes in 
the other. Quickly they dragged the 
combatants apart, subdued and hand¬ 
cuffed the cursing Carruthers. 

"Thank God you got here just in 
time!” Buck, disheveled, bleeding, 
gasped. "I’ve never been so glad to see 
anybody. Another few seconds and 
you’d have been too late.” 

"Are you all right, boy? Sure?” 

"O. K., Riley. And here’s Ruth, un¬ 
harmed too!” 

'"rhat’s great! I’d made up my mind 
I’d never see either of you alive again. I 
waited that hour, heard a scuffle once, but 
obeyed orders and stayed where I was. 
When time was up I scouted around, 
couldn’t see any trace of you, then tore 
off for help. I ran down that road, ran 
till my lungs were fair bursting. I’d ar¬ 
ranged to have these boys wait just the 
other side of Birdkill. They had a car, 
but half-way up the mountain, she went 
dead. We ran the rest of the way, just 
got here. Didn’t stop to ask permission, 
but just crashed through the door with 
our axes.” 

"Best thing you ever did in your life. 
Now let’s get busy. Somewhere around 
are the foul contraptions invented by this 
man. Get your axes and we’ll smash 
them.” 

"Wait.” For the first time the pris¬ 
oner spoke. "I’m licked, I see. They’re 


all gone, my dreams. You win, Saun¬ 
ders. The world’s not ready for me yet. 
But, if I can’t do the good I aimed at, I 
don’t want to do more harm. Out in the 
country roundabout are thousands of my 
subjeas, hidden away. If the power is 
cut off suddenly they’ll drop and rot 
where they are, in cellars, hotel rooms, 
hidden caves^ Disease will spread from 
their decaying carcasses. You must get 
them back here.” 

"You’re not trying more tricks, are 
you?” the deteaive questioned. 

"No. I swear by Science, my holiest 
thing. I’m licked and I know it. Take 
me to the switchboard and I’ll tell you 
what to do.” 

"I believe him, Tim,” Buck inter¬ 
posed. "Do what he says. Ruth, you 
stay here and lock the door.” 

"No, my dear. I can not stay here 
alone any longer. Don’t leave me!” 

"Then come with us.” 

The odd procession moved to the room 
first seen by Buck. A mass of elearical 
machinery filled the room. 

"All right, Carruthers, tell us what to 
do. And God help you if you try to put 
over anything.” Riley grimly twirled his 
automatic. 

"Throw the third switch in the top 
row. That will call them all back.” 

Saimders grasped the handle of the 
massive switch, and sent it home. 

A LL over the neighboring states weird 
-tV figures appeared. From cellars, and 
hovels, from caves and deserted farm¬ 
houses they came. The pallor of the 
grave was on their faces, their arms 
swung flaccid by their sides. Unseeing, 
their lusterless eyes were turned toward 
Black Mountain. Thousands upon thou¬ 
sands they marched with their stiff me¬ 
chanical step through the highways and 
the streets, hurrying to their long-denied 
rest. 


400 


WEIRD TALES 


The people looked out on the strange 
speaacle and shrank back affrighted. 
There was something about these strange, 
hastening figures which forbade interfer¬ 
ence. Not all the people, though. Here 
and there some one recognized a brother, 
a parent, a child, buried months before. 
These ran out into the streets and the 
roads <and strove to stay the onrushing 
figures. They wept and implored their 
-lost loved ones to remain. But the forms 
never halted in their swift march. On 
and on, toward the summoning hum of 
the dynamos in the old mill. 

And now the road up the mountain 
was filled with the strange procession, the 
whole mountainside covered with them. 
Swift they came to the door from which 
they had issued forth. In a never-ending 
stream they poured down the staircaM 
and into the dark cavern. All day the group 
in the mill watched Carruthers’ crea¬ 
tion rushing home, till at last the stream 
dwindled, and the last few stragglers had 
disappeared in the depths. 

Then, at last, the switch was pulled 
that let the current through Blake’s 
strange devices, and the hum was stilled. 
Dynamite then, brought during the day 
by one of the troopers, was placed about, 
and the fuses lighted. The little group 


rushed far away, dien paused and looked 
bade. A thunderous crash, a blinding 
flare. Gone was the mill and the mad¬ 
ness it hid, sealed forever the cavern of 
horror. 

Riley turned to his prisoner. "Come 
on now—what’s this?” The man was 
white, a green froth bubbled from his 
lips. 

'Tve fooled you at last,” a weak voice 
gasped. "You’ll never jail me.” A 
dead form himg from the cuffs that 
joined it to the troopers on either side. 

" ’Tis better so.” 

B irdkill is no longer a sleepy moun¬ 
tain village. A great hotel rises 
there, where r^t the hundreds of mourn¬ 
ers who come each day to visit the grave 
of the thousands whose cenotaph Black 
Mountain is. A tall white shaft is rising 
on the summit, common monument to 
those whose bodies were ravished from 
their former resting-places. 

In a little house on Long Island, Ruth 
and Hartley Saunders strive to forget 
those weeks of horror. Mainly they suc¬ 
ceed, but now and then, at midnight, 
Ruth screams in her sleep, and Buck 
wakes, and comforts her. 


The Phantom Flight 

By ARLTON EADIE 

The surgeon’s hand shook, with disastrous results—a vivid and 
pathetic tale about a fatal airplane flight 


I T WAS on the Folkestone-Dover 
road, a few miles beyond the ancient 
cathedral city of Canterbury, that I 
first met the man who called himself 
John Delaney. The encounter was of his 
own seeking, for, as I trudged wearily 


along, my head bent against the aiill 
wind that was sweeping in from the sea, 
I entirely failed to notice his crouching 
figure amid the bracken of the little way- 
side thicket, until his shrill whistle caused 
me to glance round. 


W. T.—7 



THE PHANTOM FLIGHT 





"The phantom plane had made its 
last flight, and living and dead 
were one." 


For a few moments I stood 
hesitating whether to turn back 
or go on. I was not yet suffi¬ 
ciently hardened to the wander¬ 
ing vagabond life into which 
Fate had thrust me to relish the 
companionship of one of the 
more experienced members of 
the tramping fraternity; and 
such I naturally assumed the 
man to be. Yet, as I stood regarding 
him, I was gradually conscious of a sub¬ 
tle diflFerence between him and the home¬ 
less outcasts whom I had hitherto met. 
It was certainly not his clothes which 
gave me that impression, for they were 
even more ragged than my own; more- 
W. T.—8 




over, his face was unwashed, his hair 
long and imkempt, while a beard of 
several weeks’ growth covered his chin. 
But there was a look of refinement 
about his features which the overlying 
grime failed entirely to conceal, and 







402 


WEIRD TALES 


when he spoke his voice was that of an 
educated man. 

’Whither away so fast, brother.?” he 
cried, lifting his battered hat with the 
travesty of a ceremonious bow. "Are 
you hastening to the bedside of a rich 
imcle with a reminder of the fat legacy 
he has promised you? Or is it the less 
ambitious hope of securing accommoda¬ 
tion in the nearest casual ward that quick¬ 
ens your footsteps?” 

High-flown and bantering though the 
greeting seemed, it was uttered with an 
air of such infeaious, daredevil gayety 
that I found myself smiling in response. 

'With regard to the first part of your 
kind inquiry,” I said, adopting his own 
tone, 'Tm sorry to say that all my rich 
relations are at the moment such distant 
ones as to be far below the financial 
horizon. And up to now I’ve been able 
to get along without seeking the hospital¬ 
ity of a casual ward. I prefer to trust to 
luck for my board and lodging.” 

"In that case your supper is likely to be 
light, and your bedroom devilishly well- 
ventilated!” laughed the man. "Still, I’m 
prepared to agree with you—up to a 
point. Sleeping with the grass for a mat¬ 
tress and the stars for your nightlights is 
no bad thing when the weather is as hot 
as it has been lately. But how about when 
it pours with rain—as it’s likely to tonight 
if this wind holds?” 

I glanced at the lowering sky, and felt 
less assured. 

"One can find some sort of shelter, 
somewhere,” I said rather dubiously. 

He shook his head slowly. 

"Speaking from painful experience, I 
can assure you that sometimes one can’t!” 
he said grimly. "Farmers don’t look 
kindly on tramps, and they have a nasty 
habit of leaving their watch-dogs roam¬ 
ing loose at night. However, as it hap¬ 
pens, I know of a splendid place where 


we can spend the night—all the comforts 
of a home without any of the expense or 
responsibility. It’s only a couple of miles 
or so from here—I was only waiting till 
it got dark to take possession. Be my 
guest for tonight—there’s plenty of room 
to spare!” 

The prospea of having my night’s 
shelter thus provided for gave me no 
little satisfaaion; yet there was something 
in the manner of the unknown tramp 
that made me vaguely uneasy. 

"What is this place you speak of?” I 
asked suddenly. 

He rose to his feet and swept his hand 
toward the darkening countryside that lay 
seaward. 

"The deserted aerodrome on the chalk 
downs overlooking the sea,” he said, with 
a strange laugh. "I’ll show you the way. 
Come!” 

I made no move to follow him, but 
stood pondering over his words. Some¬ 
thing within my brain, a mere vague in- 
stina of coming disaster, urged me to de¬ 
cline his oflter and to shift for myself. 
But even as I opened my lips to refuse, a 
sudden spatter of raindrops came on the 
dying wind. Most certainly the night 
would be both wet and cold. 

"All right,” I said briefly, as, falling 
into step with my unknown guide, I 
suffered him to lead me into the gather¬ 
ing dusk. 

T en minutes’ sharp walking brought 
us to a tiny village, a mere sprinkling 
of cottages—mostly belonging to poultry 
farms—^with a square-towered church on 
one side of the road and a small ale-house 
on the other. At the door of this latter 
my companion came to an imexpeaed 
halt. 

"I’m good for a couple of pints,” he 
said, jingling some coins in his trousers 
pocket. "Let’s drink to our better ac- 


THE PHANTOM FLIGHT 


403 


quaintance; that is”—^he added as I de¬ 
murred—"if you’re not too proud.” 

Embarrassed as I was by the offer, I 
could not help admiring the clever man¬ 
ner in which he made a refusal almost 
impossible. 

"Since you put it that way,” I returned 
with a shrug, "I shall be happy to join 
you. It’s certainly good of you to ask 
me.” 

"Not at all,” he laughed, pushing open 
the door of the public bar. "Are we not 
Arcades ambo —fellow-travelers in Ar- 
cady—brethren of the broad highway.^” 

'There were two groups of men—farm 
laborers, apparently, by their clothes—in 
the little low-pitched room as we entered; 
some gathered round the counter, the rest 
interested in a dartboard at the farther 
end. Many curious glances were cast in 
our direaion as we took our seats on an 
old-fashioned oak settle and proceeded 
to consume our modest refreshment. It 
was clear that they recognized us for the 
homeless tramps we were, and the oppor¬ 
tunity for the display of a little rustic wit 
was too good to be missed. 

"I’ve often wunnered wot becum o’ the 
two old scarecrows as used to be in Three- 
acre Field,” said one joker, with a wink 
and a grin. "But I knaws naw!” 

There was a series of loud guffaws at 
this exquisite sally, and when they had 
subsided another spoke; 

"Better lock the doors o’ yer roosts to¬ 
night, mates, or mebbe we’ll find the 
scarecrows ’ave skeered away a few o’ our 
diickens!” 

My companion must have seen the look 
which mounted to my face, for he 
plucked my sleeve as I was about to rise. 

"Sit down and take no notice,” he 
whispered. "We should stand no chance 
in a rough-and-tumble scrap. Best say 
nothing.” 

'That his advice was sensible was 


proved a few seconds later, for the men 
at the bar soon forgot our presence and 
resumed a discussion which, it would 
seem, our entrance had interrupted. , 

"I says it afore and I’ll say it agin— 
those fools up at Eastley dunno wot 
they’re talking about,” said a man with a 
very red face. "I says ’taint nat’ral for 
such a place to be harnted.” 

"Why not.?” asked one of his com¬ 
panions. 

The red-faced man took a long draft 
from his pewter pot and shook his head 
wisely. 

" ’Taint nat’ral, nohow,” he declared 
with even greater vigor than before. "I 
c^ un’erstand ghosts and such-like 
a-harnting graveyards, or ruinated castles, 
or a ’ouse where a murder had been done 
years and years agone. But when folks 
tell o’ harntings going on in a nearly 
brand-new place like that theer hairy- 
drome—^well, I don’t believe a word o’ it, 
and that’s flat!” 

I had been listening to the talk in a 
desultory manner, but as he uttered the 
word "hairydrome” I was conscious of a 
suddenly stimulated interest. Was it pos¬ 
sible that the fool was alluding to the 
deserted aerodrome where we purposed 
to spend the night? 

"Anyway, there be plenty o’ folk up at 
Eastley as have seed it,” declared the man 
they called Garge. 

"Seed wot?” demanded the skeptic 
with the red face. 

"Seed the whole place lit up like a 
theayter in the dead o’ night, with lights 
in every window-” 

"Lights?” interrupted the other in a 
tone of withering contempt. "Wot sig- 
gerfies a few lights? You said place were 
harnted, and now you says lights’. Lights 
baint ghosts, nohow.” 

"Who said they were?” retorted his 
friend. 


404 


WEIRD TALES 


"Any fool could make lights^ mebbe it 
weer a tramp or two as got into the old 
place for a doss. I see wot is it, Garge,” 
he went on, regarding the other with 
drunken gravity as he slowly shook his 
head. "You’ve been the viaim o’ wot 
they calls a hallucillumination. You seed 
somebody a-lighting of his pipe, and you 
thought it weer a ghost. Lights ain’t 
ghosts, nohow.’’ 

"I never said as how I saw it-’’ 

began the indignant Garge. 

"Lights ain’t ghosts, nohow, and all 
the argyment in the world won’t make 
’em so.’’ 

"Look ’ere-’’ 

"Lights ain’t ghosts-’’ 

"You dunno wot you’re talking about,’’ 
said Garge, triumphantly clinching the 
argument. "You be drunk.” 

"Me?” shouted the red-faced man in a 
tone of indignant repudiation. "Just 
coom outside, and I’ll show ’ee if I be 
drunk! It’s you as be drunk, Garge 
Withers, with yer lights and ghosts. For 
two pins I’d knock yer silly ’ead oflF!” 

At this point the red-faced man made 
a sudden dash toward the rash critic of 
his sobriety and hit him accurately on the 
nose. The next instant the little room 
was filled with struggling men. We did 
not wait to see the result of this novel 
trial by battle of the material against the 
supernatural, but quietly finished our 
drinks and came away. 'The last thing I 
heard as we passed through the village 
was the voice of the red-faced man 
triumphantly raised above the uproar as 
he proclaimed to the world at large: 

"Lights baint ghosts, nohow!” 

I NSTEAD of continuing on the main road, 
my companion struck off into a steep 
and narrow lane running by the side of 
the church. For the greater part of a mile 
the lane led steadily uphill, turning and 
twisting after the manner of its kind, and 


when we gained the brow of fhe chalk 
ridge the full force of the ram-laden wind 
met us with all its fury. Here, for the 
first time, I caught sight of the steadily 
winking light which marked the entrance 
to Folkestone Harbor; to the west shone 
the more distant gleam from Dover. 

As we paused to regain our breath 
after the stiff climb, my companion spoke 
for the first time since quitting the inn. 

"Queer yam that fellow has got hold 
of,” he commented thoughtfully. 

"You mean about the haimted aero¬ 
drome?” 

He nodded and turned to resume his 
journey. 

"Strangely enough. I’ve heard some 
rumors before about the same thing,” he 
told me as we tramped along the muddy 
road. "Of course there’s no truth in the 
tale, but it’s curious how these things 
start.” 

This gave me an opportunity of putting 
into words the thought that had been 
simmering in my brain for the past hour. 

"Is this reputedly haunted aerodrome 
the place where you intend to spend the 
night?” 

"Yes.” He peered through the dark¬ 
ness into my face as he added with a 
laugh, "Why, you’re not scared, are you?” 

"Of course not,” I hastened to say. 
"Still, I should be glad to have some idea 
where we’re bound for.” 

"'There is not far to go now; if it 
wasn’t so dark we could see the place 
from here.” 

"Is it a derelia Air Force depot?” I 
asked curiously. 

"No. It was built by a private aviation 
company which came into existence since 
the war. 'The promoters hoped to do 
great things, and when the company was 
formed any amount of influential people 
put their money into it. At first every¬ 
thing went well; they had the finest and 


THE PHANTOM FLIGHT 


405 


most up-to-date machines; they secured 
the first air-mail contraa to the Continent 
that was ever granted to a private com¬ 
pany; in short, it seemed as if the specu¬ 
lators who had come in on the ground 
floor were well on the way to making 
their fortunes. Then came a streak of 
the vilest bad luck. Three bad crashes 
followed each other in the course of as 
many weeks. There was no question of 
foul play, or anything like that; it was 
just bad luck, and nothing else. One 
machine struck a tree in the fog; another 
came down in the Channel; the third 
crashed in flames within a few miles of 
the spot where we stand—and there was 
a heavy death-roll on each occasion—the 
last was the worst, for not a soul was 
saved. It was that disaster that broke the 
company for good.” 

As he spoke the words, something in 
his tone arrested my attention. There was 
a note of bitterness which seemed strange 
in one recounting the tale of an accident 
in which he had no particular concern. 

"You appear to know this company 
very well,” I remarked on a sudden im¬ 
pulse. 

He uttered a short bark of a laugh. 

"Yes, I know it!” Then he added, in 
a voice so low and indistina that he 
might have been muttering to himself: 
"My God! I guess I know it all right!” 

For a long time after that we strode on 
in silence. Although my curiosity had 
been provoked by his words, there was 
something about the man which made me 
refrain from questioning him. I found 
myself wondering if he had been ruined 
by putting his money into the unlucky 
aviation company; or if he were the pilot 
who was in charge when one of the dis¬ 
asters occurred. But presently the object 
of my speculations brought them to an 
end by referring to the matter of his own 
accord. 


"It was only by the merest fluke that 
I was not on board the Paris air-mail 
when it came down in flames that night.” 

"Is that so?” I cried in surpriae. "Then 
)rou were indeed fortunate.” 

"Fortunate?” He repeated the word in 
a voice that made me stare. "Fortunate, 
you say? Well, as to that, you shall judge 
for yourself. . . .” 

He began to speak in a dull, listless 
voice as we battled our way across the 
dark wind-swept moor. And this is the 
story he told: 

T AViNG regard for the position in 
A A. which you now see me, it may re¬ 
quire some little effort for you to believe 
me when I say that two years after the 
war came to an end I was looked upon as 
one of the most brilliant surgeons in 
London. I was still young, it is true, but 
in those days one gained a lot of ex¬ 
perience in a short space of time. When 
I resigned my commission and took over 
my father’s extensive West End praaise, 
I came straight from a sphere of aaion 
where lightning diagnosis and the fear¬ 
less adoption of novel methods were mat¬ 
ters of daily—occasionally hourly—neces¬ 
sity. For, needless to say, there is no 
time for leisurely consultations in a first- 
dressing-station when a big push is on. 

"Plodding praaitioners looked upon 
me with envy, and with good reason. 
Whilst still far short of middle age, I had 
reached a position which many a man has 
striven for in vain for a whole lifetime. 
I was famous, honored, with far more 
money than I needed, and to crown all I 
had won the love of the most adorable 
girl in all the world. The day that I mar¬ 
ried Irene I felt that the cup of my happi¬ 
ness was filled to the brim. True—it was! 
But it was soon to be dashed from my 
lips, before I could quaff a single drop 
of its satisfying draft. 


406 


WEffiD TALES 


"Considering my position, the wed¬ 
ding was a fairly quiet aflfair. We had 
arranged to spend a few days of our 
honeymoon in Paris, on the way to our 
real destination, which was Switzerland, 
and it was more for the novelty of the 
experience than for any desire to save 
time that Irene begged me to cross to the 
French capital by air. At first I was re- 
luaant to agree. Of late Dame Fortune 
had been so lavish with her gifts to me 
that I had a vague and—as it seemed to 
me at the time—a foolishly unreasonable 
dread that the smiles of the fickle god¬ 
dess would give place to frowns. Still it 
was the very first thing that Irene had 
asked of me, and she seemed so disap¬ 
pointed and hurt at my refusal that at 
last I gave way. After the usual recep¬ 
tion, we slipped away and drove down 
through Kent by car, timing our arrival 
at the aerodrome a few minutes before 
the Paris mail was due to take off. 

"I shall always treasure the memory of 
that drive down; it was our first journey 
together as man and wife—and it was 
destined to be our last! The purple-gray 
dusk of evening merged into night as we 
sped along the quiet toads, through busy 
towns and past sleepy villages where the 
cheery beams of lamplight shone beneath 
the thatched eaves; through somber 
woods and bush-grown lanes, across open 
moors lying stark and bare beneath the 
jeweled immensity of the night. . . . 

"Well, we got to the aerodrome in 
good time. The great triple-engined 
plane had already been taken out of its 
hangar, and stood, ready to start, on the 
stretch of level ground. Some of the pas¬ 
sengers had taken their seats in the bril¬ 
liantly illuminated saloon; others were 
chatting gayly to friends who had come 
down to see them off. The pilot, a weird 
figure in his leather flying-suit and gog¬ 
gles, was Standing by the mechanic as he 


tested one of the engines, and at intervals 
the intermittent roar of its tractor filled 
the air. 

"I assisted Irene into the cabin, and 
was about to enter myself, when I felt a 
touch on my arm. Turning, I saw one of 
the officials of the aerodrome. 

" 'Excuse me, sir,’ he said. 'Are you 
Dr. John Delaney.^’ I admitted my iden¬ 
tity, and the man went on: 'This tele¬ 
gram arrived for you a few minutes ago.' 

"I took the orange envelope indifferent¬ 
ly and tore it open. Doubtless, thought 
I, it was yet another message of con¬ 
gratulation and well-wishing, similar to 
the dozens I had already received during 
the day. But as I cast my eye on the 
flimsy sheet inside I saw that this was a 
message of a totally different kind. 

"My feelings must have refleaed them¬ 
selves on my face, for Irene hurried to 
my side. 

" 'What is it, John?’ she asked anxious¬ 
ly. 'Not bad news, I hope?’ 

"I reassured her with a laugh. 

" 'Oh, it’s nothing very terrible,’ I 
said lightly, 'but, at the same time, it is 
news which is not likely to cause rejoic¬ 
ing to a newly married man.’ I drew her 
a little aside and hurriedly explained the 
situation. 

"The telegram had been sent by Sit 
Charles Anstruther, the well-known sur¬ 
geon, who had kindly consented to act as 
my locum tenens during my absence 
from England. One of my patients, a 
prominent public man whose name is— 
or was at that time—almost a household 
word, was lying in a critical condition. 
He was suffering from an obscure organic 
disease of which I had made an exhaus¬ 
tive study, and on which I was an ac¬ 
knowledged authority. An immediate 
operation was vitally necessary—an op¬ 
eration which I alone could perform with 
any chance of its proving successful. He 


THE PHANTOM FLIGHT 


407 


hated to recall me from my honeymoon, 
but felt it his duty to place the facts be¬ 
fore me. Time was precious; would I 
wire an immediate reply? 

"Irene was regarding me wistfully 
when I reached the end of my hurried 
explanation. 

" 'Is it absolutely necessary that you go 
back?’ she asked. 

" 'It is a matter of life and death,’ I 
told her gently. 

’’ 'Then you must not let our great 
happiness keep you from your duty,’ she 
said firmly. 'We will return to London 
together.’ 

"But this I would not hear of. Why 
should she forego the trip that she had 
looked forward to so eagerly, and remain 
alone during the night while I was away 
at the hospital? I would follow her the 
next morning—by special plane if neces¬ 
sary—and then we could carry out our 
plans as arranged. In the end my ar¬ 
guments prevailed, and she returned to 
her seat. Almost immediately the huge 
air-liner took off, and rose with a mag¬ 
nificent sweep in the direction of the 
Channel. Then, without even waiting 
till it had disappeared out of sight, I en¬ 
tered my waiting car and ordered the 
amazed chauffeur to return to town as 
quickly as possible. 

LIGHTLY over an hour later we en- 
►3 tered the suburbs of London, where 
I stopped the car at a telephone call-box 
and rang up Sir Charles, asking him, in 
turn, to apprise two eminent surgeons, 
whom I named, to meet me at the hos¬ 
pital, so that there might be no delay. 
When I reached my house in Harley 
Street he was awaiting my arrival and 
came forward eagerly to greet me. 

" 'You have come, then?’ he cried, 
with more surprize than I felt was called 
for. 'It will be a terrible ordeal for you, 


Delaney. Who would have anticipated 
such a terrible tragedy!’ 

"I stared at him, uncomprehending. 

" 'Why, is the patient worse?’ I asked. 

" 'The patient?’ he repeated. Sudden¬ 
ly his face changed. 'Is it possible that 
you have not heard?’ 

" 'Heard what?’ I demanded roughly. 
'What has happened to make you look at 
me like that?’ 

-'By way of answer he picked up a late 
edition of an evening paper which lay 
upon the table and pointed to a small 
paragraph in the Stop-press News. It 
told, with a brevity that was almost bru¬ 
tal, that the air-liner in which my wife 
had traveled had crashed in flames with¬ 
in a few minutes of leaving the ground, 
and that every one of the passengers and 
crew had perished! 

"I dropped the paper with a smothered 
groan. My mind, in those first stunning 
seconds, seemed benumbed—incapable of 
aaion. I could not speak—could not 
even arrange my thoughts coherently. 
Moving like a man in a dream, I crossed 
to the sideboard, filled a glass from the 
decanter standing upon it, and tossed it 
off as though it had been so much water. 
As the fiery spirit coursed through my 
veins, grief gave place to a burning wave 
of anger against the fate which had 
snatched my loved one from me. I burst 
into a torrent of words, wild, half-intelli- 
gible ravings which made Sir Qiarles 
stare and shake his head. 

" 'Calm yourself, calm yourself,’ he 
said soothingly. 'I can quite luiderstand 
your feelings. Go to your room and lie 
down while I mix you a composing 
draft.’ 

"His words and manner pulled me up 
short. With a tremendous effort of will 
I managed to control my voice. 

*’ 'I am quite all right,’ I told him. 


408 


WEIRD TALES 


’Q>me, they will be waiting for us at the 
hospital.’ 

" 'You’re surely not going to perform 
that operation—now—after what has oc¬ 
curred?’ he cried, staring at me harder 
than ever. 

" 'Why not?’ I answered, with forced 
coolness. 'That is what I returned for.’ 

"Still he hesitated. 'You are quite 
sure that you feel equal to the strain? 
Hadn’t you better take a little rest be¬ 
fore-’ 

"I cut short his remonstrances by mov¬ 
ing to the door, and he followed me, 
shaking his gray head and feebly pro¬ 
testing. Arrived at the hospital, we 
found everything in readiness, and a few 
minutes served for me to wash, don my 
white overalls, gauze mask, and rubber 
gloves. I nodded to the sister, the pa¬ 
tient was wheeled in, the anesthetic ad¬ 
ministered, and the operation commenced. 

"Never had I felt cooler, more confi¬ 
dent, more certain of a successful out¬ 
come. A curious sense of aloofness and 
detachment pervaded me. I could almost 
persuade myself that I was watching 
someone else perform the operation; that 
the hands which were making the pre¬ 
liminary incisions with deft, praaised 
skill had no conneaion with my own 
busy brain, filled as it was with the vision 
of Irene’s parting smile. Instinaively, 
almost I may say unconsciously, yet with 
no hesitation and no mistake, I went on 
with my work; yerall the while I felt that 
I was but witnessing something with 
which I had no particular concern. 

“Afterward the surgeons present bore 
witness that they had never seen a more 
masterly demonstration of surgical skill. 
They watched me, fascinated, entranced, 
as the operation swiftly drew toward its 
dose. It was almost over—another few 
seconds and I would have relinquished 
my post to the dressers—^when of a sud¬ 


den a thick mist appeared to intervene 
between my eyes and the brilliantly lit 
operating-table. I hesitated—fumbled 
—then did a thing which no sane sur¬ 
geon would have done. 

"I heard the horrified exdamations 
from my colleagues and saw Sir Qiarles 
snatch up a swab and dart forward, while 
another hastily called for the oxygen 
cylinder in a vain effort to revive the pa¬ 
tient. My mind reeled as I shrank back, 
gazing with distended eyes at the ruin I 
had wrought. Like a spoken accusation 
the full heinousness of my condua came 
to me— I had undertaken a major opera¬ 
tion whilst my mind was befuddled with 
brandy! Within two minutes the man 
on the operating-table was dead. 

'"There was no open scandal; my col¬ 
leagues, remembering the nerve-racking 
trial I had undergone, gave me every con¬ 
sideration. My aaion was ascribed to a 
sudden mental breakdown—something 
that could not have been avoided. But 
all the same, from that moment my pro¬ 
fessional career was at an end. I was a 
marked man—a ruined man. Gradually 
I sank lower and lower, until, friendless 
and almost penniless, I reached the stage 
where you see me now.’’ 

The voice died away and for a space 
the only sounds were our muffled foot¬ 
steps and the mournful soughing of the 
night wind. I murmured a few words 
of condolence, but what are mere words, 
however heartfelt, in the face of a tragedy 
such as I had just heard? It was mainly 
with the objea of diverting his thoughts 
into another channel that I asked: 

"How long is it since the events you 
have just related took place?” 

"They happened on the thirteenth of 
September, 1920.” 

"That will make it just nine years 
ago,” I said, adding suddenly, "and al¬ 
most to the very minute, too!” 

(Please turn to page 410)^ 



The Dragoman’s Secret 

By OnS ADELBERT KLINE 


T he big Nubian, who had been in¬ 
dustriously plying his bellows dur¬ 
ing the conversation, now pulled 
the pincers from the brazier. Their jaws 
glowed white-hot as he advanced toward 
me with a look of fiendish delight. 

Seizing the point of my jaw with his 
left hand, he pushed it down. I moved 
my head with it, keeping my mouth 
tightly closed, whereupon he held the 
hot pincers beneath the end of my nose, 
causing me to jerk my head bade. My 
mouth flew open, and he inserted the 
pincers between my teeth, holding them 


apart, and searing my lips and tongue. 

"Now, my loud-talking youth,” he said, 
"we’ll have your tongue in a moment.” 

Just at this point something very start¬ 
ling happened. What it was, and what 
became of Hamed the Attar, who tells this 
amazing story, will be one of the features 
of the Spring Issue of Oriental Stories. 
This, and stories by Robert E. Howard, 
James W. Bennett, S. B. H. Hurst, Lieu¬ 
tenant Edgar Gardiner, Solon K. Stewart, 
and others, will appear in this splendid 
issue. On sale April 15th. Printed by the 
publishers of Weird Tales, —Adv. 

409 . 

























410 


WEIRD TALES 


{Continued from page 408) 

"What do you mean?” he asked with 
a puzzled frown. 

"Tonight is the thirteenth of Septem¬ 
ber.” 

He stopped dead in his stride as though 
he had been shot. 

"By heaven, you’re right!” he muttered 
hoarsely. "Strange that I should have 
forgotten that date of all others!” 

A FEW minutes after we had resumed 
our tramp we came into sight of a 
long range of white stone buildings 
which glimmered wanly in the faint star¬ 
light, against their background of rolling 
downs. Here Delaney quitted the road 
and struck off across the grass, making 
for a structure whose general outline bore 
a vague resemblance to a grandstand on 
a race-course. 

Even in the faint light I could see that 
the whole aerodrome had an air of dilapi¬ 
dation and neglea. The paint was peel¬ 
ing from the woodwork of the great 
doors of the hangars as they hung askew 
on their rusted hinges; some of the win¬ 
dows of the waiting-room were boarded 
up; others, with broken panes and shat¬ 
tered frames, allowed the wind to sweep 
unchecked through the bare, dismantled 
rooms within. We made our entry 
through an open door, and the sounds of 
our footsteps echoed hollowly on the un¬ 
carpeted boards. 

Dog-tired by my long tramp, I wasted 
but little time in an examination of my 
somewhat eery sleeping-quarters. Paus¬ 
ing only to collea in the least drafty cor¬ 
ner some pieces of tattered canvas that 
were lying about, I threw myself down 
on them and in a few minutes was sound 
asleep. 

I can not say whether I slept a minute, 
or an hour, or several hours; all I know 
is that I was awakened by a hand grip¬ 


ping my shoulder, and sat up, wondering 
and still half dazed. 

"What’s the matter?” I demanded of 
Delaney, who was bending over me. He 
silenced me with a warning gesture. 

"Hush!” he said in a fierce whisper. 
"Listen!” 

In a moment I was on my feet, fully 
awake now. Outside, in place of the 
former silence and darkness, were the 
glare of many lights, the sounds of voices, 
the noise of busy movements. I gained 
the window at a bound and stared forth, 
incredulous, aghast. Every window of 
the spacious building opposite blazed 
with lights; a little group of people, clad 
in overcoats and wraps, were standing on 
a kind of veranda before the waiting- 
room, watching a giant biplane being 
hauled out of the hangar by a squad of 
overalled mechanics. Officids in uniform 
hurried to and fro; porters were busy un¬ 
loading mail-bags and luggage from a 
covered lorry which seemed to have just 
driven up. 'The derelirt aerodrome had 
awakened to-life! 

Scarcely had I taken in the first gen¬ 
eral impression of the scene before my 
attention was attraaed by a young, slen¬ 
der girl standing a little apart from the 
other passengers. She was pacing rest¬ 
lessly to and fro, her eyes glancing from 
side to side as she scanned each batch of 
new arrivals as though in search of a 
familiar face among them. She seemed 
indifferent to the other passengers; even 
when they had taken their seats in the 
plane she remained below, looking about 
her with ever-increasing anxiety. At last 
she turned her face in our direaion, and 
simultaneously a great cry burst from the 
lips of John Delaney. 

"Merciful God! it’s Irene!” he shouted 
excitedly. "It’s Irene—my wife—and 
she’s waiting for me!” 

Before I could realize the full mean- 



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412 


WEIRD TALES 


ing of his words he had dashed across 
the room, out of the door, and was speed¬ 
ing across the grass toward the waiting 
plane. Scarcely heeding what I did, I 
followed him more slowly. 

I saw him run toward the girl and fold 
her in his arms; then, hand in hand, the 
two moved to the steps which led up to 
the cabin of the air-liner. 

"You have come at last. Jack!” I heard 
her say as I hurried up. “You have come 
to me, and I am glad. I have been wait¬ 
ing for you so long ... so long, darling. 
But I knew that you would be waiting 
here for me sooner or later, to come witli 
me on the journey we planned so long, 
long ago.” 

Delaney made no answer, but his eyes 
were fixed on the beautiful face of the 
girl in a wide-eyed, hypnotized stare. Like 
a man who walks in his sleep, he began 
to mount the steps. With a warning cry 
I lurched forward and grasped his arm. 

"What are you about to do?” I whis¬ 
pered urgently. "Are you mad?” 

He turned on me with a snarl of fury; 

"Hands oflf!” he cried roughly. "Can’t 
you see the plane is ready to start, and 
that my bride is waiting? Hands oflF, I 
say!” 

He tried to break my grip, but the des¬ 
peration cf terror gave me strength to 
hold him fast. 

"You fool!” I aied. "Can’t you real¬ 
ize that the thing you are about to enter 
is a phantom plane, manned by a ghostly 
crew, and carrying the shades of the men 
and women who perished when the Paris 
air-mail crashed in flames? Can’t you 
see that you are being lured to your death? 
Turn back before it is too late!” 

My frenzied appeal seemed to pierce 
his clouded brain. He passed his hand 
dazedly aaoss his forehead and half 


turned away. At the sight, a low wail 
broke from the girl. 

"Will you desert me yet again. Jack? 
I have waited so patiently for you, and I 
want you so, so much! Come with me, 
my love, for I want you so very much in 
my loneliness. Come with me! . . . 
Come!” 

For a moment she stood, her slender 
figure framed in the cabin door, a wistful 
smile upon her lips, her two hands held 
down to him in tender appeal. With the 
strength of a madman, Delaney threw 
off my detaining grasp. When I again 
essayed to seize him he struck me full in 
the face, sending me prone upon the 
ground. 

"I am coming, Irene—my own!” I 
heard him cry, as I lay half stunned. "I 
am here—^here by your side! Kiss me, 
my lost bride whom I have found again. 
Come what may, I am yours this night 
and for ever!” 

I heard the slamming of the cabin door, 
the thunder of the mighty engines, the 
drone of the propellers. I felt the rush 
of the backward wash of wind as the out¬ 
spread wings passed over me, and pressed 
my body against the ground to avoid be¬ 
ing struck; nor did I venture to raise my 
head until the noise had died away in the 
distance. 

When at length I rose unsteadily to my 
feet and looked around, the great aero¬ 
drome was silent, ruinous and deserted, 
as I had first beheld it. 

But seaward, high up in the southern 
sky, a tiny fiery star had burst forth and 
was swerving downward, leaving behind 
it a trail of blazing wreckage, as it 
plunged to its last resting-place beneath 
the waters of the distant Channel. 

The Phantom Plane had made its last 
flight, and the Eving and the dead were 
one. 


WEIRD TALES 


413 


COMING NEXT ISSUE 

AS HE crouched there in the rushes, Tam 
/A gasped in amazement at sight of the won- 
. drous creature that emerged from the 

waving jungle grass. A slender girl, panting and 
swaying as if from exhaustion, ran out on the 
bank. 

Her garments were unlike anything he had ever 
seen or heard of. On her head was a tight-fitting 
golden helmet crowned with a gold disk above a 
silver crescent, set on a urasus with eyes that were 
smoldering rubies. Wisps of her dark-brown hair 
peeped from beneath the magnificent head-piece’ 
and in her hazel eyes was the look of one who has 
just escaped some unspeakable horror. Her shapely limbs and torso were en¬ 
cased in light, golden chain mail, reinforced by sliding shoulder plates, cir¬ 
cular breast plates, and a jointed girdle with a skirt of taces, and adorned 
with glittering jewels set in strange designs. From her belt of scarlet leather 
hung a dagger sheath and sword scabbard, both empty. 

Fascinated, Tam stared in breathless wonder and admiration. But the slight 
hint of a movement in the tall grass behind the girl drew his jungle-trained 
eyes. Something was stalking her! Then he saw the striped tip of a long tail 
lashing above the grass, and he knew! 

He leaped up, a cry of warning on his lips, but at that moment the tiger 
sprang! 



TAM, SON OF THE TIGER 

By OTIS ADELBERT KLINE 

Art Exciting Tale of the Burmese Jungle and the Ancient Gods of Asia 


HILL DRUMS 
by Henry S. Whitehead 
How the Blacks of the Danish West Indies drove 
a British consul-general back to Trebizond by 
the weird power of a song. 

THE VENUS OF AZOMBEII 

by Clark Ashton Smith 

A fascinating story of an African amazon, and 
an agonizing poison that shrivels its victims 
before it slays them. 

THE BLOOD VEENS OF THE ROBOT 
by L. Harper Allen 

A grim story of a miser whose mechanical man 
was fed by a stream of golden coins. 


MOTH 

by G. R. Malloch 
A tale of colossal caterpillars seventy-five feet 
long that ate their way through London, spread¬ 
ing disaster and death. 

THE SEEDS OF DEATH 

by David H. Keller 

A powerful sto^ of gorgeous orchids, with their 
roots planted in warm human bodies; a vivid 
mystery-tale of a castle in Spain, and the beauti¬ 
ful tiger-woman who lived there. 

BLACK MAN AND WHITE WITCH 


by Watson Rawkins 

An eery story of an African slave-ship whose 
crew were all blind. 


ALSO — 


June-July WEIRD TALES Out June 1 



The Treasure of Almeria 

By MARIAN THORNTON 

The Spanish count directed the will of Don Carlos by hypnotic 
suggestion, but he pushed his mastery too far 


D on CARLOS, picking a numb way 
through the darkness of the cob¬ 
bled streets of Antequera, did 
not pray. It was useless. He had tried it 
often, so often! And always the Call 
brought him back, dazed as a tranced bird, 
back to the serpent lying in wait. He 
fastened his thought stumblingly on his 
wedding. Tomorrow! He must hold to 
diat! 

It was hard to obey the Call; impossible 
to defy it. It rose in his mind teasing as 
the humming of inseas; it sapped his 
strength; it dragged him in its imdertow. 

For a glorious year now he had been 
free of it, living like any other happy, 
well-to-do Spanish youth of this year 
1600, glorying in the sunshine of a Castil- 
^14 


ian summer and the happiness of love. For 
a year he had tried to forget what had gone 
before: the conde, and his cursed black 
eyes, his thin voice, his oily words. 

For a year he had known peace; and 
now— now, the night before his wedding 
—mrmoil was claiming him again, shack¬ 
ling his soul, dragging him to where his 
guardian, the count, waited in hateful lux¬ 
ury. His guardian? Dios! his jailer 
rather! His persecutor! His torturer! 

If only one could fight the Call, pitting 
his strength against it! Don Carlos clapped 
a hand to the rapier at his side, but the 
Call was too slippery a thing to fight, and 
his hand dropped helplessly. With an ef¬ 
fort, he called to mind a picture of soft 
(Please turn to page 416) 


This Book 
Is Now Given FREE 





















416 


WEIRD TALES 


Continued from page 414) 
eyes and an arch, sweet smile under a 
mantilla. Constance! The sweetness and 
fragrance of a red rose! And it was from 
her that the Call was taking him. 

Drowsily he pondered the idea of turn¬ 
ing and nmning, running, nmning 
through the winding streets. Absurd! One 
did not run from the Call. One hated and 
obeyed it, even as one had in boyhood, on 
that dread day of the plague, when the 
conde had crossed himself and sighed, 
"Ah, they have gone from this world. 
And they have left you to me. Now you 
shall be my son.” 

Night hung heavy in the air, drooping 
into every crack and cranny. He felt a 
need for resistance, but it was easier to let 
his drugged steps go forward, carrying 
the leaden body where they willed. 

Thoughts wavered like drunken moths 
around his mind’s flame, shut in behind 
the blank curtain of his eyes. Dully he 
centered attention on his feet, moving re¬ 
luctantly, resistingly, but in direa line; 
moving toward the black velvet room 
where the conde was waiting, entrenched. 
Was all life a fighting and a surrender? 
He tried to IcKsk up at the white stars of 
Spain, but darkness pressed his eyeballs. 

He felt himself turning, and knew he 
had come to the grilled iron door. His 
stupid feet, obedient to the Call, went up, 
up, up. His hand reached out against 
blackness to push aside folds and folds of 
stuff, soft, clinging, hateful. 

He stood in the black velvet room. For 
an instant all his thoughts spun in a dizzy 
orbit, flaming and hissing through his 
mind; as they crystallized, only a great 
hatred was left. 

The little conde had shrunk since the 
day of their parting, a year before. His 
parchment skin was more mummified, but 
his eyes shone with the same sinister light, 
as though all the life had flowed from the 


shriveled hands, from the yellow body 
with its jet velvet coverings, from the 
strange, immobile face, into those two 
somber pools. They were fixed on Don 
Carlos as, the giddiness passing, the boy 
came to recognize his surroundings. 

With the soft melting of velvet into 
velvet, the conde arose. A green-shaded 
lamp on the ebony table before him, strug¬ 
gling in vain against the monstrous shad¬ 
ows of the apartment, hit at length on 
emeralds lurking in the folds of his suit, 
and struck from them malignant sparks. 

"You are late, Carlos.” Vaguely the 
count’s voice hinted the smooth passage 
of a rapier through human flesh. 

Don Carlos shuddered. "You have 
broken your oath,” he accused. 

'The count raised a yellowed hand. "My 
son,” he protested; "you speak so to one 
who has cared for you as a father? Must 
I remind you of gratitude?” 

"Gratitude!” 'The boy choked back a 
hysterical laugh. "You cared for me be¬ 
cause I was a tool! Would the plague that 
took my father and mother had-” 

"Carlos,” warned the conde suavely, 
"beware the sin of blasphemy!” 

"You swore if I would recover the 
treasure of Teruel to release me forever. 
Yet tonight you have called me, snared me, 
forced me to come!” Carlos’ voice trem¬ 
bled with agonized reproach. 

"My son! I called you, and you would 
not come. Is that the act of a dutiful 
child? I needed you, but it has spent me 
to bring you here.” Unctuously he bowed 
his head. "For that I forgive you.” 

"I ask no forgiveness!” Don Carlos 
stood erea, his eyes tragic against the pal¬ 
lor of his face, but his wine-red velvet a 
gallant note of challenge in the somber 
room. 

The malign eyes opposite him nar¬ 
rowed, the voice took on a slight edge. "I 
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418 


WEIRD TALES 


(Continued from page 416) 
know of a treasure. Will you help me.?” 

The boy clenched his hands for strength 
against the preying glance. "No.” 

"You refuse unalterably?” 

'T refuse.” 

The conde’s thin lips twisted grimly. 
”Let us be frank. Without your consent 
I can not control your mind, for it has 
grown strong in this year. It tired me to 
bring you here tonight, and it would tax 
my utmost resources to use you against 
your will. So much you can not fail to 
recognize. But, Carlos, there are ways of 
forcing your consent.” 

Don Carlos stood immobile, save for a 
quick breath. 

''You will reconsider, perhaps?” sug¬ 
gested the count silkily. 

"I will not.” 

"No? Ah, it is a pity! But a dungeon, 
it may be, will cool Aat hot head. A year 
—^two years—who knows? There is no 
hurry.” The yellow hands rubbed to¬ 
gether in satisfaaion. 

The boy cried out. "You wouldn’t 
dare!” 

"Dare? Ah, my son, my walls are pro- 
teaed by gold. No one would interfere.” 

Carlos faced him with gathering hor¬ 
ror, like storm-clouds, in his eyes. He 
spread his hands. "In the name of the 
Saints,” he implored, "have pity! You 
are taking bade my soul when I have 
only now found it. Let me go, as you 
hope for mercy!” 

"I should dislike disappointing your 
bride on the morrow,” the count mur¬ 
mured sorrowfully. 

Don Carlos clapped a hand to the 
slender dagger in his belt, then quite un- 
expeaedly capitulated, his eyes haunted 
with despair. "I can’t fight it,” he cried. 
"I can’t! I surrender. Do your worst.” 

"Ah, that is better,” purred the old 


man. "That is my good son.” He put out 
a hand, but Carlos drew back sharply. 

"The terms of my surrender,” he said 
coldly, "have not been settled.” 

"Ah?” 

"An agreement, written and signed, 
releasing me, on your Christian honor, 
from any further oppression, the paper 
to be filed with a court of law.” 

The ghost of a thin, malicious smile 
played over the count’s lips. "I shall pre¬ 
pare it,” he agreed. 

"Secondly, your written promise that 
three-fourths of whatever treasure we may 
recover be distributed among the poor as 
•my wedding gift. The fourth part you 
may keep.” 

'The conde assumed a mask of sorrow. 
"Bueno,” he sighed. 

Carlos recognized the mask and was 
darkly troubled. The somber draperies 
seemed closing in on him, stifling him in 
their folds, laughing silently in the evil 
pleasure of their master. The count, 
whose greedy yellow fingers were never 
still, had acceded too easily. 

T he count dipped a quill, and cover¬ 
ing a white sheet with spidery writ¬ 
ing, handed it to Don Carlos, who read 
it swiftly and fastened it within his 
doublet. In the meantime, the count 
brought forward an ebony chair, carved 
in death’s-heads and serpents. Carlos had 
occupied it before, but its sinister lines 
appalled him now with a sense of fore¬ 
boding. 

The conde sat opposite, a living, yel¬ 
lowed death’s-head, against the blackness 
of velvet and ebony. His emeralds spat 
fire as he leaned to take a manuscript 
from the table. 

"I have here,” he began softly, "the 
record of one Juan Castro, a soldier of 
Spain in the capture of Almeria from 
(Please turn to page 420) 


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420 


WEIRD TALES 


(Continued from page 418) 
the Barbary pirates in the year 1589. It 
was a splendid surprize attack, that cap¬ 
ture, and our Senor del Castro comments 
with amazement that although the action 
was so swift that the pirates had barely 
time to fly for their lives to the galleys— 
that although they had no opportunity to 
carry away the rich loot garnered up the 
whole coast from Murcia to Alicante— 
yet not a trace of it was found by the vic¬ 
tors. It is that treasure I want you to 
find.” The count’s voice hissed with 
greed. 

Don Carlos drew a long breath, as a 
swimmer who is about to dive under 
green waters. "Bueno,” he consented, 
and yielded his. mind quite passively. 

At first he felt only the whirling maze 
of thoughts which had come to him when 
he entered the black velvet room. Objeas 
spun giddily out of sight and back again 
in sickening succession. The shrouding 
velvet all about him shut out light until 
he gasped for it as a man under water 
gasps for air. Emeralds, gigantic and 
malignant, flashed before him in dazzling 
array. He saw miles of saffron yellow, 
wrinkled and unreal. 

Then a whirling kaleidoscope of color, 
green, yellow, converged and gained in 
intensity until he wanted to cry out. It 
bore on his heart like a weight of stone. 
Black! A luminous, compelling black, in 
twin pools; dark morasses where his soul 
was drowning. Relief came in a drowsy 
wave, and the morasses grew vaguely 
pleasant with the thought that one might 
sleep in them and forget. He was about 
to plimge into them when a disturbing 
voice came to him. He fought it off, but 
it persisted, shattering his peace. 

"Are you ready?” 

"I am ready, master,” something 
answered, without his having moved his 
lips. 


"It is June of the year 158S>—June the 
fourth. You will go back, please, to that 
year.” The voice was no longer disturb¬ 
ing. It was pleasant now, droning along 
with grateful monotony. Even its 
sibilance was delicious, like the song of 
inseas on a hot afternoon. "You are 
traveling back. Back to 1589. That is 
eleven years ago. Eleven years that you 
must retrace. Are you traveling back?” 

"Yes, master.” 

He was no longer oppressed with 
blackness. Sunshine was covering him 
now with glorious warmth. 

"Eleven years ago,” the voice persisted. 
"Are you there?” 

"I am there.” 

"Bueno. It is the coast of Almerfa, our 
neighbor to the east. The ocean is blue, 
and the sands stretch away to the purple 
uplands. It is a sunny morning, yes?” 

"It is a day of glorious sunshine.” 

"On the beach a band of men are busy 
with great chests of gold. Can you see 
them?” 

"Not yet, master.” 

"It is the beach of Almeria. The ocean 
is blue, and a light wind has come up 
with the early sun. 'The sands are flecfe 
of gold. Do you see it?” 

"A moment. . . . Yes, I can see it.” 

"What else do you see?” 

It was amusing, this telling what he 
saw. He merely stood on the beach and 
watched the great, hardy brown men at 
work. They could not see him, and he 
did not even have to talk. Something 
inside answered all the questions without 
effort on his part. 

"Are they excited?” queried the sooth¬ 
ing voice. 

"No. They sing as they work, loud, 
boastful songs in a strange tongue. They 
are ragged, but beautiful in colors like 
the sunset. Out on the water four galleys 
are rocking at anchor.” 


421 


WEIRD TALES 


"Do you see chests of gold?” 

"Giests, and golden objeas—cru¬ 
cifixes, censers, beads.” A disturbing 
wave of cold swept his sun-warmed mind. 
Crucifixes should not be on a beach! 

His pleasant illusion was shattered for 
a moment, and the voice jarred further, 
for it was higher-pitched, with an edge of 
excitement. He clenched his hands, and 
could not know that only the finger tips 
curled, minutely. 

"Gold,” the voice gloated. "Yes, yes! 
Is anyone coming down from the high¬ 
lands?” 

"No, master.” 

"Wait on the beach. Tell me when 
anything occurs.” 

"Yes, master.” 

The conde sat with mask oflf, his fin¬ 
gers tight-gripped around the carved 
ebony arms, his lips twisted with greed. 
"Is there any movement?” 

"No— yts —^yes! A horseman is com¬ 
ing down to the beach, swiftly. He wears 
the uniform of Spain. He has thrown 
himself from the saddle and he runs to 
the tallest of the brown men. He speaks 
in Spanish to the Barb, calling him 
Sakr-ed-Din. He warns him of an ap¬ 
proaching army. He is gasping for breath. 
There is great excitement. The Barb 
turns black with fury and calls orders in 
a voice of thunder. The men look 
furiously to the uplands.” 

"The gold? The gold?” 

"The gold is on the beach, master. 
Hoards of it, in great heaps, shining in 
the sunlight. They are about to load it in 
boats to take to the galleys, but the 
Spaniard shakes his head. He tells that 
swift vessels of Spain are coming also. 
He motions to the beach, and Sakr-ed-Din 
laughs a great, terrible laugh and calls 
out orders. 

"The big men fall to digging out a 
hole where sand and underbrush meet. 


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422 


WEIRD TALES 


They carry the gold to it, (Ajea by 
objea. They are huge men, but the 
weight tries diem.” 

The count licked his thin lips, 

"They finish the gold; then one ap¬ 
proaches from behind the spy and cuts 
him down with a simitar. Sal«-the-Hawk 
nods approval, and the slayer carries the 
body to a hole. There it is buried with 
the gold, and they set fire to the under¬ 
brush to cover the spot.” 

"The spot!” cried the conde. "Mark 
the spot well!” 

"They are marking it on a chart, mas¬ 
ter. It is near the foot of a crag which 
springs from the beach in the likeness of 
a carved face. One angle of the crag juts 
out beyond the rest, casting a pointed 
shadow. The tip of that shadow at high 
noon is the spot.” 

Feverishly th& count nodded. "They 
never came back,” he muttered. 

"The brown men are in small boats, 
pushing off to the galleys, when the 
soldiers of Spain break over the crest and 
swoop down on them, their horses foam¬ 
ing and black. The battle begins-” 

"You may leave the battle,” the count 
interrupted. His sallow face, in the feeble 
glow of green light, contraaed into a 
grimace of satisfied cupidity, and his fin¬ 
gers stroked the ebony serpents of his 
chair arm. 

“You are in the present,” he said soft¬ 
ly. "It is the year 1600. You are still 
within my control. Within my control.” 

“Yes, master.” 

“In your doublet you have a paper of 
mine. Give it to me.” 

Don Carlos’ lips parted slightly, his 
finger tips bent in a faint, miniature 
gesture of menace. The coimt fixed his 
terrible eyes on him, “You are in my con¬ 
trol,” he repeated distinctly, feeling the 
other’s mind like a living being at war 
with his. 


The boy sat rigid, motionless, almost 
without breath. "Give me the paper,” the 
count insisted grimly. His eyes flamed 
with a destroying light. 

Don Carlos made no move, but his arm 
muscles, under their velvet covering, 
rippled with the effort of restraint. The 
count ipse and crossed to the opposite 
chair. “You are under my control. Under 
my ojntrol.” Monotonously he spoke, 
standing like an angel of ill omen over 
the dark boy. Then smoothly, he stooped, 
unfastened the doublet, and delicately 
extraaed the paper. Don Carlos quivered 
when the hands touched him; quivered 
like an angry war-horse, curbed against 
his passionate will. 

Trembling, the count returned to his 
chair. Too strong. Too strong. How a 
mind could grow in a year! Restively, he 
tore the paper across, time and again. 
Too strong. The dam had broken, and 
who could tell where the flood would 
lead? 

ON CARLOS stirred. The coma was 
ending, trailing out to a fine tenuous 
point which would snap. And what 
then? The withered yellow hand beat 
softly on the ebony chair arm. Something 
to break that will! Something to shatter 
the mind and lay it broken at his feet. To 
shatter the mind? 

With a guttural cry of rejoicing the 
conde sprang to his feet, his crooked 
shadow falling menacingly over Don 
Carlos like an imclean bird. "You are 
mad,” he said quite distinaly, but with 
careful monotony. "Mad. Mad. Mad.” 

In Don Carlos’ mind the words were 
slow drops of oil on the surging waters 
of revolt. Injustice rankled darkly, and 
the need for resistance. But the voice, 
flowing with friendly smoothness, lulled 
him and set at rest all disturbing emotion. 
Resistance? And why? To hear the voice 
droning away to some dim horizon of 


WEIRD TALES 


423 


consciousness, to obey it and drift with 
the swelling tide of drowsiness, that was 
peace. 

Rebellion and hatred raised tiny ham¬ 
mers and beat against the wall of thought. 
He should hate the voice! Desperately he 
caught at the hammer blows trying to 
shatter peace. It was too easy to be a 
friend to sleep. He must fight, fight, 
fight, against sleep. He struck out with 
force that left him sobbing and weak, 
but sleep was too impalpable to battle. 
It flooded him like a wave, drowning 
and fleeing, dragging him in the under¬ 
tow. Or was it sleep.? Was it not more a 
surrender.? 

At least it was a gentle thing, soothing 
to frayed thoughts and bleeding emotions. 
The hammers still beat warningly, but 
sleep, in a vast, calm ocean, stretched 
before him, and with a sobbing breath of 
defeat he hurled himself into it. 

At first the conde scarcely realized that 
die battle was won. His brain was reeling 
with exertion, and his hands, clenched 
about the chair arms, seemed of yellow 
marble, carved in straining veins and 
tendons. He was rocking slightly with 
the monotony of his own voice. "You 
are mad. Your will is crumbling. You 
feel the joy of surrender, the great peace 
of relaxing. You must not struggle. You 
are mad. Mad. Mad.” 

The heavy air of the room, weighted 
with blackness, seemed compressed about 
him by the intensity of his effort. How 
strong a mind could grow in a year! How 
strong! 

But wait! He no longer felt resistance. 
His mind, staggering forward under the 
very momentum of its exertion, was un¬ 
checked. The form before him had lost 
its rigidity, and was drooping. As he 
watched, anxiety drawing bade his lips 
in a ghoulish grin, he saw the gallant 
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424 


WEIRD TALES 


face melt almost imperceptibly into the 
loose contours of insanity. 

He laughed, beating on the chair arms 
in monstrous glee, even while his brain 
spun with exhaustion. "No more!” he 
gloated. "No more. Oh, this will weak¬ 
en that mind of yours! Never fear, my 
boy. A touch of inferno till I choose to 
waken you!” He leaned back, laughing 
weakly, shaking with weariness and 
gratification. "No more!” 

The boy was speaking now, brief, 
broken sentences in a whining voice. "A 
merry comedy! A wedding? I know no 
wedding. The world is a great joke, is it 
not? Trees of black—black velvet. They 
are beating me. I could hate black velvet 
trees.” 

The count intertwined his thin fingers 
and twisted them. 

"My master is—is gold. An image, I 
think. You shall not talk against my 
master. I hate him, but you must not. 
Hush!” 

Cackling with breathless laughter, the 
conde closed his eyes to listen. 

The whining voice answered his laugh¬ 
ter with a mocking, high-pitched counter¬ 
feit. "A joke! My master is gold, yet he 
had blood like any man. And once he 
had a heart. Hush! You must not tell 
him how I love him!” 

T he voice broke off abruptly and a 
great silence fell on the room—a si¬ 
lence as tenuous and melting as black vel¬ 
vet. The conde heard his own labored 
breathing, and with a sudden fear upon 
him opened his eyes. 

Don Carlos stood over him, with a 
dagger poised above his breast. The 
conde loosed a scream and his eyes went 
dull with fear. 

"Hush,” whispered the boy. "Do not 
disturb my master! I love him so I would 
see his blood. So simple!” He motioned 
downward suggestively with the dagger. 


The count huddled in his chair. "You 
must not hurt your master,” he chattered 
shrilly. 

"It will not hurt him,” breathed the 
other gently. "He is of gold, you see.” 
The red velvet arm, poised above, was 
like a streak of blood against the dark¬ 
ness. 

The old man shuddered back. "Stop!” 
he shrieked. "You are not mad! You are 
sane! Sane!” He gasped and beat at the 
air with his hands, then like a hunted 
weasel slipped from tmder the raised arm 
and ran stumbling to the draperies. He 
clawed at them, fumbling for an opening, 
but he felt a hand on his shoulder and 
screamed aloud. • Turning, holding to the 
velvet for support, he faced the expres¬ 
sionless eyes and shining dagger. 

"About here, perhaps?” the boy mused, 
touching the keen point lightly above his 
heart. 

With hysterical laughter bubbling on 
his lips the count summoned all his giddy 
faculties. The blade was rising again, in 
a deliberate arc at the end of a blood- 
red arm. Fascinatedly he followed it, but 
a pounding terror at his heart warned 
him. He tore his eyes from it, fixed them 
in whirling concentration on the de¬ 
mented eyes before him, "You are not 
mad!” he choked. "You—are not—in 
my control.” 

The dagger quivered above him and he 
collapsed against the hangings in a half¬ 
faint, waiting for the blow, his parch¬ 
ment face distorted with horror. 

When an eternity had passed, he 
opened his eyes haggardly. Don Carlos 
stood before him, dagger in belt and the 
clear light of sanity shining in his eyes. 

The conde swayed and choked for 
words, left numb by the brushing of the 
wing of death. 

"You are recovered, senor?” inquired 


WEIRD TALES 


425 


Don Carlos. His face, ghastly white, was- 
lighted by the trace of a glorious smile. 

"You know, I suppose,” he continued 
softly, "that you are wholly in my power? 
Even without the paper which you de¬ 
stroyed—a generous document, senor. A 
thousand pities you destroyed it!—even 
without it I have outstripped your power 
forever. I have found a mind of my own. 
I am free!” His voice was vibrant with 
joy. 

The count found speech. " ’Twas by 
way of experiment that I took the paper, 
my son,” he stumbled placatingly. "I re¬ 
member the wording—an instant and I 

will replace it. Pen—^papers-” He 

started forward nervously. 

Don Carlos motioned him back and he 
relapsed wordlessly against the hangings. 
"The document is useless, senor. ‘Even 
without it I am free, and as to the treas¬ 
ure, the whole is to be delivered to the 
poor to celebrate my wedding. I shall 
not hurt you further, for I think you have 
suffered today.” 

Sweeping a clear glance over the 
other’s haggard face and broken attitude, 
he straightened. 

"I bid you farewell, senor, for the wed¬ 
ding must not be delayed.” He bowed 
ironically, his diamonds catching the evil 
light in a gleam of pure beauty; then he 
turned and strode through the black vel¬ 
vet darkness into the full sunlight of a 
Spanish day. 


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426 


WEIRD TALES 


Ten Million Years Ahead 

(Continued from page 319) 


We leapt out of the mixing-machine’s 
shadow, ran on past a group of stalking- 
machines that rested with folded limbs 
and cups close to the ground, the plants 
in those cups sleeping. We reached the 
sixth pit’s edge and speedily lowered the 
ladder into it. 

Even while the ladder was still lower¬ 
ing, Blan and I were climbing down it. 
We had stepped over only the first of the 
white forms sprawled in sleep at the pit’s 
bottom, when Blan uttered a fierce low 
exclamation, grasped one of the sleeping 
men and with hand close over his mouth 
shook him swiftly to wakefulness. 

"Julia!” he was whispering to the 
awakened and bewildered man. "It is I, 
Blan—we haye come for you!” 

"Blan!” the other choked, strangled 
with amazement. "But if you are not a 
slave too how did you-” 

"Later,” Blan told him. "We have 
another to find, Julia—it is my brother,” 
he added to me, his face working. 

"Look!” Julia hissed to us. "One 
comes!” 

A white form, as though attraaed by 
our voices, had risen frdm the sprawled 
men at the pit’s farther side and was 
coming toward us! 

"If he wakes the others it’s the end!” 
I whispered. "Jump him now before he 
can mike an outcry!” 

Even as I spoke I had leapt, with Blan 
and Julia with me, over the sprawled 
sleepers toward that advancing form. I 
struck the fellow, gripped him, and then 
as he uttered a low cry I swayed back 
from him. 

"Norton!” I cried. "Blan, it’s Nor¬ 
ton!” 

"You, Olcott!” Norton exclaimed. 
"Good God, you here!” 

"We came after you,” I whispered, and 


in a few words told him how Fairley and 
I after his capture had encountered the 
white men, one of whom had come with 
us in our search for his own brother, whom 
we had just foimd. I saw now that Nor¬ 
ton was wearing a moss tunic like ours 
and those of the other slaves, which the 
plants had had him don when he was 
put into the ranks of their slaves. 

'"The others in this pit are all sleep¬ 
ing,” he said. "I could not sleep, as you 
can imagine, and when I saw you climb 
down into the pit could not understand 
what was going on.” 

"Well, up out of it now!” I exclaimed. 
"The sooner out of this hell-spawned city 
the better!” 

B lan and Julia were already on the 
ladder and Norton and I climbed 
swiftly up after them, Fairley gripping 
Norton’s hand excitedly when we reached 
the top. Not stopping to raise the ladder 
this time, we turned from the pit to start 
back toward the gate. 

Across the starlit city we could see two 
stalking-machines moving, apparently to¬ 
gether, near the gate, one of them being 
the one that had almost discovered us 
minutes before. Discover us they might 
yet when we reached the gate, we knew, 
for they were very near it. Keeping as much 
as possible in the shade of machines, our 
little group started at a quick run in the 
gate’s direaion. 

Before we had gone a dozen yards, 
however, we halted as one. The two stalk¬ 
ing-machines ahead had taken up a po¬ 
sition between us and the gate and were 
motionless there, the plants in their 
operating-cups perhaps conversing by 
thought-exchange. It would be impossible 
for us to pass beneath them or reach the 
gate in any way without their sensing us. 


427 


WEIRD TALES 


And at an 7 moment they might themselves 
find the dead plant-guards at the gate. 

“Rush for it!” Fairley whispered. "We 
might get past them and out before they 
were aware of us!” 

Julia shook his head. “They would 
have us with the great arms of those stalk- 
ing-machines before ever we reached the 
gate!” he said. 

“But we can’t stay here!” Fairley ex¬ 
claimed. “Any moment will see the alarm 
given now!” 

“Look!” Norton cried. “There’s our 
way out!” 

He was pointing toward the group of 
resting stalking-machines beside which we 
had halted, stooped, giant shapes with 
limbs folded beneath them and plants 
sleeping in their operating-cups. 

“In one of them we could pass the 
other machines without challenge, per¬ 
haps,” Norton said. 

“But we can’t operate them!” I ob¬ 
jected. 

“I can, I’m sure,” he replied.. "When 
I was captured and brought here in one 
of the stalking-machines I watched their 
way of control and it looked simple 
enough. If we can capture one and get 
out in it, it would be easy to get back into 
the forest, and to our time-doubler!” 

“It’s our best chance!” Blan agreed. 
"We three with weapons will climb up 
first into the cup of this nearest one!” 

At once Fairley and I leapt with Blan 
toward the nearest of the resting stalking- 
machines. Its cup, resting on its folded 
jointed limbs, was three or four times our 
height from the ground. Holding to the 
great folded metal limbs we began to 
clamber upward, our metal blades in our 
grasp. 

It was a short but agonizing climb, our 
weapons hampering us and the smooth 
metal giving us little hold. We reached 
at last the edge of the great operating- 
cup and drew ourselves slowly up onto 


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428 


WEIRD TALES 


it. In the black soil-element that filled 
the cup three great plants were rooted, 
around the central control-levers of the 
great machine. All three were sleeping, 
tendrils closed in torpor about their 
trunks. 

There was the dull sound of three 
heavy blows as our swords flashed out in 
slicing blows that cut the three monsters 
through close to their roots. Thrusting 
their bodies out of the cup, the tendrils 
still closing and unclosing in reflex move¬ 
ments, we helped pull up Norton and 
Julia into the cup. At once Norton fas¬ 
tened upon the control-levers. 

He studied them for a moment, we 
waiting in an agony of suspense, and then 
a little doubtfully pulled one back. There 
was no response, but he jerked another, 
in a different direaion. The next moment 
we were all sprawling upon the soil of 
the operating-cup as the giant limbs be¬ 
neath it imfolded, hoisting the cup high 
into the air upon them as they straight¬ 
ened. 

Norton, confidently now, moved a 
third lever and the giant limbs began 
swinging in huge, regular strides beneath 
us, as the stalking-machine we rode 
started into the city. He changed the 
lever’s position and the direaion of the 
machine’s stride changed, it headed to¬ 
ward the gate. Crouching flat in the op¬ 
erating-cup, we stared ahead and saw that 
the two stalking-machines ahead were 
themselves moving toward the gate. 

'The cup swayed this way and that as 
our machine’s giant steps took it forward, 
and we clung on as best we might. Fair- 
ley and I were peering ahead with Nor¬ 
ton, but Blan and Julia seemed both smit¬ 
ten with terror as they rode thus one of 
the huge mechanisms of the dreaded 
plants. Norton guided our striding ma¬ 
chine a little to the left as one of its steps 
almost took it into one of the slave-pits. 
And as he moved the fourth lever in the 


control-box experimentally, the mighty 
metal arms that dangled from the oper¬ 
ating-cup straightened and moved this 
way and that swiftly. 

Suddenly as we neared the gate we saw 
the two stalking-machines ahead reach the 
opening, stoop down over it for a mo¬ 
ment, then straighten. There was no 
soimd, but in the next instant there came 
a great rustle of movement from across 
the whole plant-city behind us, plants 
waking and unfolding their tendrils, 
scores of stalking-machines rising pon- 
(ierously and striding crashingly over the 
city toward us, converging upon us 
rapidly! 

'”rhe alarm!” cried Blan, all attempt at 
concealment gone now. "They’ve found 
those we slew at the gate—the whole city 
is rousing!” 

"We can’t pass those ahead now, 
then!” Fairley exclaimed. 

"We can pass them!” Norton cried. 
"Hold tight—^we’re going to sniash our 
way through them!” 

T he next moments exist in my memory 
now only as lightning-flashes of in¬ 
credible aaion. Our giant machine was 
striding forward with increased speed 
toward the gate, and the two stalking- 
machines there, as though the plants on 
them had divined that we were those who 
had slain the guards, were striding to 
meet us. 

I saw their huge metal arms upraised 
as we leapt toward them and then saw 
Norton working the fourth control-lever 
madly, our own machine’s arms swinging 
up to meet the other! Full into one of the 
two great shapes we crashed, metal clash¬ 
ing against metal. Its arms shot forth to 
grasp and hold our mechanism but as 
Norton turned the fourth lever our own 
machine’s arms flashed down from their 
upraised position to smash the operating- 
cup and controlling plants of the other 


WEIRD TALES 


429 


into crumpled metal and crushed plant- 
bodies! 

"One of them!” Norton yelled, a mad 
lust of battle surging up in him. 

"Behind us! The other!” I aied. 

The other machine’s arms were reach¬ 
ing forth to grasp us, and though we 
mrned swiftly it had caught a limb of our 
mechanism with one arm and was reach¬ 
ing up with the other to pluck us from 
the cup! I glimpsed the plants in the cup 
of the other working its controls with 
their tendrils swiftly, and then Norton 
had shot up one of our own great arms 
to catch the free arm of the other and 
prevent it from reaching us! Our stalk- 
ing-machine swayed with the other, 
locked in colossal combat as of battling 
giants! 

"The others are coming!” Fairley cried 
hoarsely. "Norton-!” 

The other machine loosed its grip sud¬ 
denly on ours and swept both great arms 
toward us to smash us in our own operat¬ 
ing-cup with a great blow. But it was 
the opening Norton had awaited and he 
sent our mechanism’s arms out in a great 
push that struck the other machine, and 
sent it reeling and falling, to crash down 
full-length among the massed machines 
and plants and slave-pits. 

But the scores of stalking-machines 
rushing with giant strides from across the 
whole city toward us were very near us, 
their own mighty arms upraised. 

"Out—out of the gate!” Blan yelled. 

"Out, Norton—for God’s sake!” 

Norton, his face wild from the battle, 
jammed back the second lever and our 
great mechanism strode toward the nar¬ 
row gate. We reached it, were through 
it, and then we were clinging in the cup 
as it swayed desperately, the machine 
climbing the slope that led to the lichen- 
forest. 

Behind us the plant-city was in turmoil, 
stalking-machines rushing across it, slaves 


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430 


WEIRD TALES 


awakening and shouting, a babel of 
strange sound. And before we had 
reached the crest of the slope, there were 
emerging from the gate after us a score 
of the first of our pursuers, giant gleam¬ 
ing shapes stalking close on our track! 

"The time-doubler!" I cried. "Head 
straight on, Norton—it will bring us to 
the gully where we left the doubler!” 

"But what of Blan and Julia?” he 
asked. 

"The opening of their burrow is not 
far from the doubler!” I told him. "If 
we can reach it before these behind over¬ 
take us, we’ll all have a chance!” 

Our machine had reached the top of 
the slope by then and was crashing 
through the lichen-forest with mighty 
strides. After us came the mighty forms 
of our pursuers, for there could be no 
evasion of them in the clear starlight. 

That starlight alone enabled me to 
guide Norton and our machine in the di- 
reaion in which I knew the time-doubler 
lay. If we could reach it—if it had not 
been found or tampered with—^the two 
thoughts beat monotonously in my brain 
to the rhythm of our great onward strides. 
Within minutes our huge steps had taken 
us half the distance to the time-doubler, I 
estimated, scores of our giant pursuers 
now crashing through the lichen-forest 
after us. We could make it—could make 
it- 

Abruptly the strides of our stalking- 
machine began to lessen, to weaken! 

Norton pulled frantically at its levers. 
"That fight with the other machines—our 
crash—it damaged this one!” he cried. 

Before we could fully comprehend the 
appalling faa, the machine had stopped 
altogether! 

Instantly Norton thrust forward the 
lever that caused its limbs to fold under 
it. And as the cup sank down onto the 
folded limbs, he was leaping with us out 
of it and to the ground. Wordlessly, 


spurred by the crash of pursuit behind, 
we ran forward through the lichen-forest. 

We heard the pursuing machines come 
up to our deserted one, halting about it, 
and then spreading out and coming on 
again in renewed pursuit. So silent were 
our steps on the moss, and so crashing 
their huge strides, that we seemed like 
white ghosts fleeing from giants. And 
they were swiftly overtaking us now! 

Blan and Julia halted suddenly, and I 
saw beside us the clump of lichens that 
hid the entrance to their burrow. 

"Down here with us!” Blan cried. 
"You can hide xmtil their pursuit has 
ended!” 

"No!” Norton exclaimed. "They’ll 
find the time-doubler and with it de¬ 
stroyed our last chance to get back to our 
own time is gone. We’re going on!” 

"Then we go on with you!” cried Blan 
and Julia tog^er. 

For a moment, despite the crashing be¬ 
hind us that told of the nearing pursuit, 
Norton, and Fairley and I with him, 
grasped the hands of the two men. For 
it was only in that wild moment that we 
saw, at last, that despite all the change 
of ten million years, man still was man. 
But in the next instant we had pushed 
them from us, into the lichen-clump. And 
with that wordless farewell, before they 
could follow, we were gone, racing on. 

H eart pounding and lungs seeming 
to breathe flame, I felt myself stag¬ 
gering as we neared the gully where our 
time-doubler lay. For the moment as we 
stumbled into it, the crashing stalking- 
machines but a hundred yards behind us 
now, my heart sank lead-like as I saw no 
sign of the time-doubler. But Norton 
half dragged me forward and then I saw 
it, lying at the gully’s bottom as we had 
left it, tilted a little awry still. 

We reached it, fell and sprawled in¬ 
side it, as a half-dozen stalking-machines 


WEIRD TALES 


431 


burst into the little gully after us. I saw 
Norton weakly pull forth three of the 
plugs on the doubler’s control-case, and 
as he did so the first of the stalking- 
machines reached us, towered over us a 
colossal gleaming shape in the starlight, 
great arms upraised. Then, as the arms 
smashed down toward us in the blow that 
meant annihilation, there was a click as 
Norton replaced the plugs, a purring hum 
that was instantly thunderous, and then a 
blackness that I knew was oblivion. 

From that blackness I emerged as be¬ 
fore, without remembrance at first of my 
surroundings. J was lying sprawled with 
the unconscious other two in the time- 
doubler, but it stood now not in the 
mosses of the gully but in a big white-lit 
room that was for the moment utterly 
strange to my eyes. Then I remembered. 
Norton’s laboratory! I staggered to my 
feet, uttering inarticulate sounds. 

I bent over the other two, shook them 
weakly. They stirred, slowly revived, 
stumbled up and gazed about them with 
the same amazement that had at first been 
mine. And then as Norton and Fairley 
took in the big workroom’s apparatus- 
filled interior, and remembered too, we 
were crying out together, incoherent in 
our first emotions. 

"We did get back!” Fairley was half 
weeping. "Back to our own time—our 
own time!” 

We became aware suddenly of what a 
strange picture we presented, as we stum¬ 
bled out of the time-doubler. The three 
of us standing there in the neat workroom 
seemed grotesque to each other’s eyes. 
Bareheaded and dressed only in the tunics 
of woven moss, with Fairley and me 
clutching still our great metal blades— 
we seemed like three men from another 
world. 

It was some time before we got back to 
any semblance of normality and sanity. 
By the clock, we found, we had been 



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432 


WEIRD TALES 


NEXT ISSUE 

Black Man 
and White Witch 

Rx WATSON RAWKINS 


O N THE slave-ship Flower of Hap¬ 
piness grim death stalked in the 
shape of a gigantic black man who, 
alone of all on board, had his sight. 

A n Eerv situation indeed was this: 

k. every member of the crew affliaed 
with blindness, and the captain’s beau¬ 
tiful white wife at the mercy of a sav¬ 
age from the wilds of Africa who 
sought vengeance for the cruel deaths 
of his friends and relatives. This un¬ 
usual and startling story will be pub¬ 
lished complete in the 

July issue of 

WEIRD TALES 

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<aty_ state 


gone from the laboratory a little mote 
than one minute. This was the time it 
had taken Norton to turn on the time- 
doubler's controls at our start. Our leap 
across a hundred thousand centuries, and 
even the hours we had spent in that wij^ld 
of the far future, had been compressed 
into that minute. 

"One minute in one sense and more 
than ten million years in another,” Nor¬ 
ton said. “One minute—^yet we lived for 
hours during it in the world of ten mil¬ 
lion xears from now.” 

“And almost died in it, too,” Fairley 
added. 

“It will haunt me, what we sa.w in that 
world,” I said somberly. “What we saw 
of earth’s future, and man’s, with all men 
creeping in beast-like fear of monstrous 
plants.” 

Norton shook his head. "Not all were 
so,” he said. “Not Blan and Julia] Spe- 
ues rise and rule and fall again—we have 
seen how in that far day man will have 
fallen and the plants will have risen in 
his place to be lords of earth. But who 
can know what lies beyond even that far 
time we saw.? We three will never know, 
for we know but too well now that to 
move out of one’s own time is a thing 
forbidden, a thing terrible," and only with 
the time-doubler destroyed will we ever 
again feel easy. 

“But we do know that beyond the ten 
million years whose culminated changes 
we saw, there lie other countless centuries 
and other changes. In that farther time 
the plants must fall from their lordship 
of earth as its other lords have fallen, and 
who can tell but that man will rise in 
their place again.? Who can say but that 
we saw only a temporary reverse or set¬ 
back in our race’s progress, soon to be 
overcome, a mere strange episode in 
man’s titanic upward march from did sea- 
slime to the stars?” 


W. T.—9 









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