When Carnes had finished, Dr. Bird sat for a time in concentrated thought.
"You did exactly right in coming to me, Carnes," he said presently. "I don't think that this is a job for a doctor at all—I believe that it needs a physicist and a chemist and possibly a detective to cure him. We'll get busy."
"What do you mean, Doctor?" demanded Carnes. "Do you think that some exterior force is causing the President's disability?"
* * * * *
"I think nothing, Carnes," replied the Doctor grimly, "but I intend to know something before I am through. Don't ask for explanations: this is not the time for talk, it is the time for action. Can you get me into the White House to-night?"
"I doubt it, Doctor, but I'll try. What excuse shall I give? I am not supposed to have told you anything about the President's illness."
"Get Bolton, your chief, on the phone and tell him that you have talked to me when you shouldn't have. He'll blow up, but after he is through exploding, tell him that I smell a rat and that I want him down here at once with carte blanche authority to do as I see fit in the White House. If he makes any fuss about it, remind him of the fact that he has considered me crazy several times in the past when events showed that I was right. If he won't play after that, let me talk to him."
"All right, Doctor," replied Carnes as he picked up the scientist's telephone and gave the number of the home of the Chief of the Secret Service. "I'll try to bully him out of it. He has a good deal of confidence in your ability."
* * * * *
Half an hour later the door of Dr. Bird's laboratory opened suddenly to admit Bolton.
"Hello, Doctor," exclaimed the Chief, "what the dickens have you got on your mind now? I ought to skin Carnes alive for talking out of turn, but if you really have an idea, I'll forgive him. What do you suspect?"
"I suspect several things, Bolton, but I haven't time to tell you what they are. I want to get quietly into the White House as promptly as possible."
"That's easy," replied Bolton, "but first I want to know what the object of the visit is."
"The object is to see what I can find out. My ideas are entirely too nebulous to attempt to lay them out before you just now. You've never worked directly with me on a case before, but Carnes can tell you that I have my own methods of working and that I won't spill my ideas until I have something more definite to go on than I have at present."
"The Doctor is right, Chief," said Carnes. "He has an idea all right, but wild horses won't drag it out of him until he's ready to talk. You'll have to take him on faith, as I always do."
Bolton hesitated a moment and then shrugged his shoulders.
"Have it your own way, Doctor," he said. "Your reputation, both as a scientist and as an unraveller of tangled skeins, is too good for me to boggle about your methods. Tell me what you want and I'll try to get it."
* * * * *
"I want to get into the White House without undue prominence being given to my movements, and listen outside the President's door for a short time. Later I will want to examine his sleeping quarters carefully and to make a few tests. I may be entirely wrong in my assumptions, but I believe that there is something there that requires my attention."
"Come along," said Bolton. "I'll get you in and let you listen, but the rest we'll have to trust to luck on. You may have to wait until morning."
"We'll cross that bridge when we get to it," replied the Doctor. "I'll get a little stuff together that we may need."
In a few moments he had packed some apparatus in a bag and, taking up it and an instrument case, he followed Bolton and Carnes down the stairs and out onto the grounds of the Bureau of Standards.
"It's a beautiful moon, isn't it?" he observed.
Carnes assented absently to the Doctor's remark, but Bolton paid no attention to the luminous disc overhead, which was flooding the landscape with its mellow light.
"My car is waiting," he announced.
"All right, old man, but stop for a moment and admire this moon," protested the Doctor. "Have you ever seen a finer one?"
"Come on and let the moon alone," snorted Bolton.
"My dear man, I absolutely refuse to move a step until you pause in your headlong devotion to duty and pay the homage due to Lady Luna. Don't you realize, you benighted Christian, that you are gazing upon what has been held to be a deity, or at least the visible manifestation of deity, for ages immemorial? Haven't you ever had time to study the history of the moon-worshipping cults? They are as old as mankind, you know. The worship of Isis was really only an exalted type of moon worship. The crescent moon, you may remember, was one of her most sacred emblems."
* * * * *
Bolton paused and looked at the Doctor suspiciously.
"What are you doing—pulling my leg?" he demanded.
"Not at all, my dear fellow. Carnes, doesn't the sight of the glowing orb of night influence you to pious meditation upon the frailty of human life and the insignificance of human ambition?"
"Not to any very great degree," replied Carnes dryly.
"Carnesy, old dear, I fear that you are a crass materialist. I am beginning to despair of ever inculcating in you any respect for the finer and subtler things of life. I must try Bolton. Bolton, have you ever seen a finer moon? Remember that I won't move a step until you have carefully considered the matter and fully answered my question."
Bolton looked first at the Doctor, then at Carnes, and finally he looked reluctantly at the moon.
"It's a fine one," he admitted, "but all full moons look large on clear nights at this time of the year."
"Then you have studied the moon?" cried Dr. Bird with delight. "I was sure—"
* * * * *
He broke off his speech suddenly and listened. From a distance came the mournful howl of a dog. It was answered in a moment by another howl from a different direction. Dog after dog took up the chorus until the air was filled with the melancholy wailing of the animals.
"See, Bolton," remarked the Doctor, "even the dogs feel the chastening influence of the Lady of Night and repent of the sins of their youth and the follies of their manhood, or should one say doghood? Come along. I feel that the call of duty must tear us away from the contemplation of the beauties of nature."
He led the way to Bolton's car and got in without further words. A half-hour later, Bolton led the way into the White House. A word to the secret service operative on guard at the door admitted him and his party, and he led the way to the newly constructed solarium where the President slept. An operative stood outside the door.
"What word, Brady?" asked Bolton in a whisper.
"He seems worse, sir. I doubt if he has slept at all. Admiral Clay has been in several times, but he didn't do much good. There, listen! The President is getting up again."
* * * * *
From behind the closed door which confronted them came sounds of a person rising from a bed and pacing the floor, slowly at first, and then more and more rapidly, until it was almost a run. A series of groans came to the watchers and then a long drawn out howl. Bolton shuddered.
"Poor devil!" he muttered.
Dr. Bird shot a quick glance around.
"Where is Admiral Clay?" he asked.
"He is sleeping upstairs. Shall I call him?"
"No. Take me to his room."
The President's naval physician opened the door in response to Bolton's knock.
"Is he worse?" he demanded anxiously.
"I don't think so, Admiral," replied Bolton. "I want to introduce you to Dr. Bird of the Bureau of Standards. He wants to talk with you about the case."
"I am honored, Doctor," said the physician as he grasped the scientist's outstretched hand. "Come in. Pardon my appearance, but I was startled out of a doze when you knocked. Have a chair and tell me how I can serve you."
Dr. Bird drew a notebook from his pocket.
"I have received certain dates in connection with the President's malady from Operative Carnes," he said, "and I wish you to verify them."
"Pardon me a moment, Doctor," interrupted the Admiral, "but may I ask what is your connection with the matter? I was not aware that you were a physician or surgeon."
* * * * *
"Dr. Bird is here by the authority of the secret service," replied Bolton. "He has no connection with the medical treatment of the President, but permit me to remind you that the secret service is responsible for the safety of the President and so have a right to demand such details about him as are necessary for his proper protection."
"I have no intention in obstructing you in the proper performance of your duties, Mr. Bolton," began the Admiral stiffly.
"Pardon me, Admiral," broke in Dr. Bird, "it seems to me that we are getting started wrong. I suspect that certain exterior forces are more or less concerned in this case and I have communicated my suspicions to Mr. Bolton. He in turn brought me here in order to request from you your cooperation in the matter. We have no idea of demanding anything and are really seeking help which we believe that you can give us."
"Pardon me, Admiral," said Bolton. "I had no intention of angering you."
"I am at your service, gentlemen," replied Admiral Clay. "What information did you wish, Doctor?"
"At first merely a verification of the history of the case as I have it."
* * * * *
Dr. Bird read the notes he had taken down from Carnes and the Admiral nodded agreement.
"Those dates are correct," he said.
"Now, Admiral, there are two further points on which I wish enlightenment. The first is the opthalmia which is troubling the patient."
"It is nothing to be alarmed about as far as symptoms go, Doctor," replied the Admiral. "It is a rather mild case of irritation, somewhat analogous to granuloma, but rather stubborn. He had an attack several weeks ago and while it did not yield to treatment as readily as I could have wished, it did clear up nicely in a couple of weeks and I was quite surprised at this recurrent attack. His sight is in no danger."
"Have you tried to connect this opthalmia with his mental aberrations?"
"Why no, Doctor, there is no connection."
"Are you sure?"
"I am certain. The slight pain which his eyes give him could never have such an effect upon the mind of so able and energetic a man as he is."
"Well, we'll let that pass for the moment. The other question is this: has he any form of skin trouble?"
* * * * *
The Admiral looked up in surprise.
"Yes, he has," he admitted. "I had mentioned it to no one, for it really amounts to nothing, but he has a slight attack of some obscure form of dermatitis which I am treating. It is affecting only his face and hands."
"Please describe it."
"It has taken the form of a brown pigmentation on the hands. On the face it causes a slight itching and subsequent peeling of the affected areas."
"In other words, it is acting like sunburn?"
"Why, yes, somewhat. It is not that, however, for he has been exposed to the sun very little lately, on account of his eyes."
"I notice that he is sleeping in the new solarium which was added last winter to the executive mansion. Can you tell me with what type of glass it is equipped?"
"Yes. It is not equipped with glass at all, but with fused quartz."
"When did he start to sleep there?"
"As soon as it was completed."
"And all the time the windows have been of fused quartz?"
"No. They were glazed at first, but the glass was removed and the fused quartz substituted at my suggestion about two months ago, just before this trouble started."
"Thank you, Admiral. You have given me several things to think about. My ideas are a little too nebulous to share as yet but I think that I can give you one piece of very sound advice. The President is spending a very restless night. If you would remove him from the solarium and get him to lie down in a room which is glazed with ordinary glass, and pull down the shades so that he will be in the dark, I think that he will pass a better night."
* * * * *
Admiral Clay looked keenly into the piercing black eyes of the Doctor.
"I know something of you by reputation, Bird," he said slowly, "and I will follow your advice. Will you tell me why you make this particular suggestion?"
"So that I can work in that solarium to-night without interruption," replied Dr. Bird. "I have some tests which I wish to carry out while it is still dark. If my results are negative, forget what I have told you. If they yield any information, I will be glad to share it with you at the proper time. Now get the President out of that solarium and tell me when the coast is clear."
The Admiral donned a dressing gown and stepped out of the room. He returned in fifteen minutes.
"The solarium is at your disposal, Doctor," he announced. "Shall I accompany you?"
"If you wish," assented Dr. Bird as he picked up his apparatus and strode out of the room.
In the solarium he glanced quickly around, noting the position of each of the articles of furniture.
"I presume that the President always sleeps with his head in this direction?" he remarked, pointing to the pillow on the disturbed bed.
The Admiral nodded assent. Dr. Bird opened the bag which he had packed in his laboratory, took out a sheet of cardboard covered with a metallic looking substance, and placed it on the pillow. He stepped back and donned a pair of smoked glasses, watching it intently. Without a word he took off the glasses and handed them to the Admiral. The Admiral donned them and looked at the pillow. As he did so an exclamation broke from his lips.
"That plate seems to glow," he said in an astonished voice.
* * * * *
Dr. Bird stepped forward and laid his hand on the pillow. He was wearing a wrist watch with a radiolite dial. The substance suddenly increased its luminescence and began to glow fiercely, long luminous streamers seeming to come from the dial. The Doctor took away his hand and substituted a bottle of liquid for the plate on the pillow. Immediately the bottle began to glow with a phosphorescent light.
"What on earth is it?" gasped Carnes.
"Excitation of a radioactive fluid," replied the Doctor. "The question is, what is exciting it. Somebody get a stepladder."
While Bolton was gone after the ladder, the Doctor took from his bag what looked like an ordinary pane of glass.
"Take this, Carnes," he directed, "and start holding it over each of those panes of quartz which you can reach. Stop when I tell you to."
* * * * *
The operative held the glass over each of the panes in succession, but the Doctor, who kept his eyes covered with the smoked glasses and fastened on the plate which he had replaced on the pillow, said nothing. When Bolton arrived with the ladder, the process went on. One end and most of the front of the solarium had been covered before an exclamation from the Doctor halted the work.
"That's the one," he exclaimed. "Hold the glass there for a moment."
Hurriedly he removed the plate from the pillow and replaced the phial of liquid. There was only a very feeble glow.
"Good enough," he cried. "Take away the glass, but mark that pane, and be ready to replace it when I give the word."
From the instrument case he had brought he took out a spectroscope. He turned back the mattress and mounted it on the bedstead.
"Cover that pane," he directed.
Carnes did so, and the Doctor swung the receiving tube of the instrument until it pointed at the covered pane. He glanced into the eyepiece, and then held a tiny flashlight for an instant opposite the third tube.
"Uncover that pane," he said.
Carnes took down the glass plate and the Doctor gazed into the instrument. He made some adjustments.
"Are you familiar with spectroscopy, Admiral?" he asked.
"Take a squint in here and tell me what you see."
* * * * *
The Admiral applied his eye to the instrument and looked long and earnestly.
"There are some lines there, Doctor," he said, "but your instrument is badly out of adjustment. They are in what should be the ultra-violet sector, according to your scale."
"I forgot to tell you that this is a fluoroscopic spectroscope designed for the detection of ultra-violet lines," replied Dr. Bird. "Those lines you see are ultra-violet, made visible to the eye by activation of a radioactive compound whose rays in turn impinge on a zinc blende sheet. Do you recognize the lines?"
"No, I don't."
"Small wonder; I doubt whether there are a dozen people who would. I have never seen them before, although I recognize them from descriptions I have read. Bolton, come here. Sight along this instrument and through that plate of glass which Carnes is holding and tell me what office that window belongs to."
Bolton sighted as directed up at the side of the State, War and Navy Building.
"I can't tell exactly at this time of night, Doctor," he said, "but I'll go into the building and find out."
"Do so. Have you a flashlight?"
"Flash it momentarily out of each of the suspected windows in turn until you get an answering flash from here. When you do, flash it out of each pane of glass in the window until you get another flash from here. Then come back and tell me what office it is. Mark the pane so that we can locate it again in the morning."
* * * * *
"It is the office of the Assistant to the Adjutant General of the Army," reported Bolton ten minutes later.
"What is there in the room?"
"Nothing but the usual desks and chairs."
"I suspected as much. The window is merely a reflector. That is all that we can do for to-night, gentlemen. Admiral, keep your patient quiet and in a room with glass windows, preferably with the shades drawn, until further notice. Bolton, meet me here with Carnes at sunrise. Have a picked detail of ten men standing by where we can get hold of them in a hurry. In the mean time, get the Chief of Air Service out of bed and have him order a plane at Langley Field to be ready to take off at 6 A. M. He is not to take off, however, until I give him orders to do so. Do you understand?"
"Everything will be ready for you, Doctor, but I confess that I don't know what it is all about."
"It's the biggest case you ever tackled, old man, and I hope that we can pull it off successfully. I'd like to go over it with you now, but I'll be busy at the Bureau for the rest of the night. Drop me off there, will you?"
At sunrise the next morning, Bolton met Dr. Bird at the entrance to the White House grounds.
"Where is your detail?" he asked.
"In the State, War and Navy Building."
"Good. I want to go to the solarium, put a light on the place where the President's pillow was last night, and mark that pane of quartz we were looking through. Then we'll join the detail."
* * * * *
Dr. Bird placed the light and walked with Carnes across the White House grounds. Bolton's badge secured admission to the State, War and Navy Building for the party and they made their way to the office of the Assistant to the Adjutant General.
"Did you mark the pane of glass through which you flashed your light last night, Bolton?" asked the Doctor.
The detective touched one of the panes.
"Good," exclaimed the Doctor. "I notice that this window has hooks for a window washer's belt. Get a life belt, will you?"
When the belt was brought, the Doctor turned to Carnes.
"Carnes," he said, "hook on this life saver and climb out on the window ledge. Take this piece of apparatus with you."
He handed Carnes a piece of apparatus which looked like two telescopes fastened to a base, with a screw adjustment for altering the angles of the barrels.
* * * * *
Carnes took it and looked at it inquiringly.
"That is what I was making at the Bureau last night," explained Dr. Bird. "It is a device which will enable me to locate the source of the beam which was reflected from this pane of glass onto the President's pillow. I'll show you how to work it. You know that when light is reflected the angle of reflection always equals the angle of incidence? Well, you place these three feet against the pane of glass, thus putting the base of the instrument in a plane parallel to the pane of glass. By turning these two knobs, one of which gives lateral and the other vertical adjustment, you will manipulate the instrument until the first telescope is pointing directly toward the President's pillow. Now notice that the two telescope barrels are fastened together and are connected to the knobs, so that when the knobs are turned, the scopes are turned in equal and opposite amounts. When one is turned from its present position five degrees to the west, the other automatically turns five degrees to the east. When one is elevated, the other is correspondingly depressed. Thus, when the first tube points toward the pillow, the other will point toward the source of the reflected beam."
"Clever!" ejaculated Bolton.
"It is rather crude and may not be accurate enough to locate the source exactly, but at least it will give us a pretty good idea of where to look. Given time, a much more accurate instrument could have been made, but two telescopic rifle sights and a theodolite base were all the materials I could find to work with. Climb out, Carnesy, and do your stuff."
* * * * *
Carnes climbed out on the window and fastened the hooks of the life saver to the rings set in the window casings. He sat the base of the instrument against the pane of glass and manipulated the telescope knobs as Dr. Bird signalled from the inside. The scientist was hard to please with the adjustment, but at last the cross hairs of the first telescope were centered on the light in the solarium. He changed his position and stared through the second tube.
"The angle is too acute and the distance too great for accuracy," he said with an air of disappointment. "The beam comes from the roof of a house down along Pennsylvania Avenue, but I can't tell from here which one it is. Take a look, Bolton."
The Chief of the Secret Service stared through the telescope.
"I couldn't be sure, Doctor," he replied. "I can see something on the roof of one of the houses, but I can't tell what it is and I couldn't tell the house when I got in front of it."
"It won't do to make a false move," said the Doctor. "Did you arrange for that plane?"
"It is waiting your orders at the field, Doctor."
"Good. I'll go up to the office of the Chief of Air Service and get in touch with the pilot over the Chief's private line. There are some orders that I wish to give him and some signals to be arranged."
* * * * *
Dr. Bird returned in a few minutes.
"The plane is taking off now and will be over the city soon," he announced. "We'll take a stroll down the Avenue until we are in the vicinity of the house, and then wait for the plane. Carnes will take five of your men and go down behind the house and the rest of us will go in front. Which building do you think it is, Bolton?"
"About the fourth from the corner."
"All right, the men going down the back will take station behind the house next to the corner and the rest of us will get in front of the same building. When the plane comes over, watch it. If you receive no signal, go to the next house and wait for him to make a loop and come over you again. Continue this until the pilot throws a white parachute over. That is the signal that we are covering the right house. When you get that signal, Carnes, leave two men outside and break in with the other three. Get that apparatus on the roof and the men who are operating it. Bolton and I will attack the front door at the same time. Does everybody understand?"
Murmurs of assent came from the detail.
"All right, let's go. Carnes, lead out with your men and go half a block ahead so that the two parties will arrive in position at about the same time."
* * * * *
Carnes left the building with five of the operatives. Dr. Bird and Bolton waited for a few minutes and then started down Pennsylvania Avenue, the five men of their squad following at intervals. For three-quarters of a mile they sauntered down the street.
"This should be it, Doctor," said Bolton.
"I think so, and here comes our plane."
They watched the swift scout plane from Langley Field swing down low over the house and then swoop up into the sky again without making a signal. The party walked down the street one house and paused. Again the plane swept over them without sign. As they stopped in front of the next house a white parachute flew from the cockpit of the plane and the aircraft, its mission accomplished, veered off to the south toward its hangar.
"This is the place," cried Bolton. "Haggerty and Johnson, you two cover the street. Bemis, take the lower door. The rest come with me."
* * * * *
Followed closely by Dr. Bird and two operatives, Bolton sprinted across the street and up the steps leading to the main entrance of the house. The door was barred, and he hurled his weight against it without result.
"One side, Bolton," snapped Dr. Bird.
The diminutive Chief drew aside and Dr. Bird's two hundred pounds of bone and muscle crashed against the door. The lock gave and the Doctor barely saved himself from sprawling headlong on the hall floor. A woman's scream rang out, and the Doctor swore under his breath.
"Upstairs! To the roof!" he cried.
Followed by the rest of the party, he sprinted up the stairway which opened before him. Just as he reached the top his way was barred by an Amazonian figure in a green bathrobe.
"Who th' divil arre yer?" demanded an outraged voice.
"Police," snapped Bolton. "One side!"
"Wan side, is it?" demanded the fiery haired Amazon. "The divil a stip ye go until ye till me ye'er bizness. Phwat th' divil arre yer doin' in th' house uv a rayspictable female at this hour uv th' marnin'?"
"One side, I tell you!" cried Bolton as he strove to push past the figure that barred the way.
"Oh, ye wud, wud yer, little mann?" demanded the Irishwoman as she grasped Bolton by the collar and shook him as a terrier does a rat. Dr. Bird stifled his laughter with difficulty and seized her by the arm. With a heave on Bolton's collar she raised him from the ground and swung him against the Doctor, knocking him off his feet.
"Hilp! P'lice! Murther!" she screamed at the top of her voice.
"Damn it, woman, we're on—"
* * * * *
Dr. Bird's voice was cut short by the sound of a pistol shot from the roof, followed by two others. The Irishwoman dropped Bolton and slumped into a sitting position and screamed lustily. Bolton and Dr. Bird, with the two operatives at their heels, raced for the roof. Before they reached it another volley of shots rang out, these sounding from the rear of the building. They made their way to the upper floor and found a ladder running to a skylight in the roof. At the foot of the ladder stood one of Carnes' party.
"What is it, Williams?" demanded Bolton.
"I don't know, Chief. Carnes and the other two went up there, and then I heard shooting. My orders were to let no one come down the ladder."
As he spoke, Carnes' head appeared at the skylight.
"It's the right place, all right, Doctor," he called. "Come on up, the shooting is all over."
* * * * *
Dr. Bird mounted the ladder and stepped out on the roof. Set on one edge was a large piece of apparatus, toward which the scientist eagerly hastened. He bent over it for a few moments and then straightened up.
"Where is the operator?" he asked.
Carnes silently led the way to the edge of the roof and pointed down. Dr. Bird leaned over. At the foot of the fire escape he saw a crumpled dark heap, with a secret service operative bending over it.
"Is he dead, Olmstead?" called Carnes.
"Dead as a mackerel," came the reply. "Richards got him through the head on his first shot."
"Good business," said Dr. Bird. "We probably could never have secured a conviction and the matter is best hushed up anyway. Bolton, have two of your men help me get this apparatus up to the Bureau. I want to examine it a little. Have the body taken to the morgue and shut up the press. Find out which room the chap occupied and search it, and bring all his papers to me. From a criminal standpoint, this case is settled, but I want to look into the scientific end of it a little more."
"I'd like to know what it was all about, Doctor," protested Bolton. "I have followed your lead blindly, and now I have a housebreaking without search-warrant and a killing to explain, and still I am about as much in the dark as I was at the beginning."
"Excuse me, Bolton," said Dr. Bird contritely; "I didn't mean to slight you. Admiral Clay wants to know about it and so does Carnes, although he knows me too well to say so. As soon as I have digested the case I'll let you know and I'll go over the whole thing with you."
* * * * *
A week later Dr. Bird sat in conference with the President in the executive office of the White House. Beside him sat Admiral Clay, Carnes and Bolton.
"I have told the President as much as I know, Doctor," said the Admiral, "and he would like to hear the details from your lips. He has fully recovered from his malady and there is no danger of exciting him."
"I cannot read Russian," said Dr. Bird slowly, "and so was forced to depend on one of my assistants to translate the papers which Mr. Bolton found in Stokowsky's room. There is nothing in them to definitely connect him with the Russian Union of Soviet Republics, but there is little doubt in my mind that he was a Red agent and that Russia supplied the money which he spent. It would be disastrous to Russia's plans to have too close an accord between this country and the British Empire, and I have no doubt that the coming visit of Premier McDougal was the underlying cause of the attempt. So much for the reason.
"As to how I came to suspect what was happening, the explanation is very simple. When Carnes first told me of your malady, Mr. President, I happened to be checking Von Beyer's results in the alleged discovery of a new element, lunium. In the article describing his experiments, Von Beyer mentions that when he tried to observe the spectra, he encountered a mild form of opthalmia which was quite stubborn to treatment. He also mentions a peculiar mental unbalance and intense exhilaration which the rays seemed to cause both in himself and in his assistants. The analogy between his observations and your case struck me at once.
* * * * *
"For ages the moon has been an object of worship by various religious sects, and some of the most obscene orgies of which we have record occurred in the moonlight. The full moon seems to affect dogs to a state of partial hypnosis with consequent howling and evident pain in the eyes. Certain feeble minded persons have been known to be adversely affected by moonlight as well as some cases of complete mental aberration. In other words, while moonlight has no practical effect on the normal human in its usual concentration, it does have an adverse effect on certain types of mentality and, despite the laughter of medical science, there seems to be something in the theory of 'moon madness.' This effect Von Beyer attributed to the emanations of lunium, which element he detected in the spectra of the moon, in the form of a wide band in the ultra-violet region.
* * * * *
"I obtained from Carnes a history of your case, and when I found that your attacks grew violent with the full moon and subsided with the new moon, I was sure that I was on the right track, although I had at that time no way of knowing whether it was from natural or artificial causes that the effect was being produced. I interviewed Admiral Clay and found that you were suffering from a form of dermititis resembling sunburn, and that convinced me that an attack was being made on your sanity, for an excess of ultra-violet light will always tend to produce sunburn. I inquired about the windows of your solarium, for ultra-violet light will not pass through a lead glass. When the Admiral told me that the glass had been replaced with fused quartz, which is quite permeable to ultra-violet and that the change had been almost coincident with the start of your malady, I asked him to get you out of the solarium and let me examine it.
"By means of certain fluorescent substances which I used, I found that your pillow was being bathed in a flood of ultra-violet light, and the fluoro-spectroscope soon told me that lunium emanations were present in large quantities. These rays were not coming to you directly from their source, but one of the windows of the State, War and Navy Building was being used as a reflector. I located the approximate source of the ray by means of an improvised apparatus, and we surrounded the place. Stokowsky was killed while attempting to escape. I guess that is about all there is to it."
"Thank you, Doctor," said the President. "I would be interested in a description of the apparatus which he used to produce this effect."
* * * * *
"The apparatus was quite simple, Sir. It was merely a large collector of moonlight, which was thrown after collection onto a lunium plate. The resultant emanations were turned into a parallel beam by a parabolic reflector and focused, through a rock crystal lens with an extremely long focal length, onto your pillow."
"Then Stokowsky had isolated Von Beyer's new element?" asked the President.
"I am still in doubt whether it is a new element or merely an allotropic modification of the common element, cadmium. The plate which he used has a very peculiar property. When moonlight, or any other reflected light of the same composition falls on it, it acts on the ray much as the button of a Roentgen tube acts on a cathode ray. As the cathode ray is absorbed and an entirely new ray, the X-ray, is given off by the button, just so is the reflected moonlight absorbed and a new ray of ultra-violet given off. This is the ray which Von Beyer detected. I thought that I could catch traces of Von Beyer's lines in my spectroscope, and I think now that it is due to a trace of lunium in the cadmium plating of the barrels. Von Beyer could have easily made the same mistake. Von Beyer's work, together with Stokowsky's opens up an entirely new field of spectroscopic research. I would give a good deal to go over to Baden and go into the matter with Von Beyer and make some plans for the exploitation of the new field, but I'm afraid that my pocketbook wouldn't stand the trip."
"I think that the United States owes you that trip, Dr. Bird," said the Chief Executive with a smile. "Make your plans to go as soon as you get your data together. I think that the Treasury will be able to take care of the expense without raising the income tax next year."
IN THE NEXT ISSUE Murder Madness Beginning an intensely Gripping, Four-Part Novel By MURRAY LEINSTER The Atom Smasher A Thrilling Adventure into Time and Space By VICTOR ROUSSEAU Into the Ocean's Depths A Sequel to "From the Ocean's Depths" By SEWELL PEASLEE WRIGHT Brigands of the Moon Part Three of the Amazing Serial By RAY CUMMINGS And Others!
Three months ago the Clayton Magazines presented to lovers of Science Fiction everywhere a new magazine with a brand-new policy—Astounding Stories—and now it is the Editor's great pleasure to announce to our thousands of friends that this new magazine is enjoying a splendid success.
Within twenty-four hours of the time that Astounding Stories was released for sale, letters of praise began pouring into our office, and—and this is significant—many of them clearly revealed that their writers had grasped the essential difference of the new Science Fiction magazine over the others.
We cannot better state this difference, this improvement, than by quoting what the Reader whose letter appears under the caption, "And Kind to Their Grandmothers," says in his very first paragraph: "And I was still more pleased, and surprised, to find that the Editor seems to know that such stories should have real story interest, besides a scientific idea." It is exactly that. Every story that appears in Astounding Stories not only must contain some of the forecasted scientific achievements of To-morrow, but must be told vividly, excitingly, with all the human interest that goes to make any story enjoyable To-day.
The Editor and staff of Astounding Stories express their sincere thanks to all who have contributed to our splendid start—especially to those who had the kindness to write in with their helpful criticism.
Already one of your common suggestions has been taken up and embodied in our magazine, and so we have this new department, "The Readers' Corner," which from now on will be an informal meeting place for all readers of Astounding Stories. We want you never to forget that a cordial and perpetual invitation is extended to you to write in and talk over with all of us anything of interest you may have to say in connection with our magazine.
If you can toss in a word of praise, that's fine; if only criticism, we'll welcome that just as much, for we may be able to find from it a way to improve our magazine. If you have your own private theory of how airplanes will be run in 2500, or if you think the real Fourth Dimension is different from what it is sometimes described—write in and share your views with all of us.
This department is all yours, and the job of running it and making it interesting is largely up to you. So "come over in 'The Readers' Corner'" and have your share in what everyone will be saying.
"And Kind to Their Grandmothers!"
I received a pleasant surprise a few days ago when I found a new Science Fiction magazine at the newsstand—Astounding Stories. And I was still more pleased, and surprised, to find that the Editor seems to know that such stories should have real story interest, besides a scientific idea.
Of course I took with a grain of salt the invitation to write to the editor and give my preference of the kind of stories I like. I know that every editor, down in his heart, thinks his magazine is perfect "as is." In fact, praise is what they want, not suggestions, judging by the letters they print.
Well, I can conscientiously give you some praise. If Astounding Stories keep up to the standard of the first issue it will be all right. Evidently you can afford to hire the best writers obtainable. Notice you've signed up some of my favorites, Murray Leinster, R. F. Starzl, Ray Cummings. I like their stuff because it has the rare quality rather vaguely described as "distinction," which make the story remembered for a long time.
The story "Tanks," by Murray Leinster, is my idea of what such a story should be. The author does not start out, "Listen, my children, and you shall hear a story so wonderful you won't believe it. Only after the death of Professor Bulging Dome do I dare to make it public to a doubting world." No, he simply proceeds to tell the story. If I were reading it in the Saturday Evening Post or Ladies Home Journal it would be all right to prepare me for the story by explaining that of course the author does not vouch for the story, it having been told to him by a crazy Eurasian in a Cottage Grove black-and-tan speakeasy at 3.30 A. M. In Astounding Stories I expect the story to be unusual, so don't bother telling me it is so. That criticism applies to "Phantoms of Reality," which is a story above the average, though, despite its rather flat title and slow beginning.
Here's another good point about "Tanks." Its characters are human. Some authors of stories of the future make their characters all brains—cold monsters, with no humanity in them. Such a story has neither human interest nor plausibility. The sky's the limit, I say, for mechanical or scientific accomplishments, but human emotions will be the same a thousand years from now. And even supposing that they will be changed, your readers have present day emotions. The magazine can not prosper unless those present-day emotions are aroused and mirrored by thoroughly human characters. The situation may be just as outre as you like—the more unusual the better—but it is the response of normal human emotions to most unusual situations that gives a magazine such as yours its powerful and unique "kick."
The response of the two infantrymen in "Tanks" to the strange and terrifying new warfare of the future exemplifies another point I would like to make—the fact that no matter what marvels the future may bring, the people who will live then will take them in a matter-of-fact way. Their conversation will be cigarettes, "sag-paste," drinks, women. References to the scientific marvels around them will be casual and sketchy. How many million words of an average car owner's conversation would you have to report to give a visitor from 1700 an idea of internal combustion engines? The author, if skillful, can convey that information in other ways. Yet a lot of stories printed have long, stilted conversations in which the author thinks he is conveying in an entertaining way his foundation situation. Personally, I like a lot of physical action—violent action preferred. This is so, probably, because I'm a school teacher and sedentary in my habits. I have never written a story in my life, but I'm the most voracious consumer of stories in Chicago. I like to see the hero get into a devil of a pickle, and to have him smash his way out. I like 'em big, tough, and kind to their grandmothers.
It seems to me that interplanetary stories offer the best vehicle for all the desirable qualities herein enumerated combined. There is absolutely no restraint on the imagination, except a few known astronomical facts—plenty of opportunity for violent and dangerous adventures, strange and terrestrially impossible monsters. The human actors, set down in the midst of such terrifying conditions, which they battle dauntlessly, grinning as they take their blows and returning them with good will, cannot fail to rouse the admiration of the reader. And make him buy the next month's issue.
But spare us, please the stories in which the hero, arriving on some other planet, is admitted to the court of the king of the White race, and leads their battles against the Reds, the Browns, the Greens, and so on, eventually marrying the king's daughter, who is always golden-haired, of milky white complexion, and has large blue eyes. Kindly reject stories of interplanetary travel in which a member of the party turns against the Earth party and allies himself with the wormlike Moon men, or what have you. Stories in which a great inventor gone crazy threatens to hurl the Earth into the Sun leave me cold and despondent, for the simple reason that crazy men are never great inventors. Name a great inventor who wasn't perfectly sane, if you can. The author makes the great inventor insane to make it plausible that he should want to destroy the World. Well, if he is a good author he can find some other motive.
One more thing. I like to smell, feel, hear and even taste the action of a story as well as see it. Some authors only let you see it, and then they don't tell you whether it's in bright or subdued light. The author of "Tanks" fulfills my requirements in this respect, at least partially.—Walter Boyle, c/o Mrs. Anna Treitz, 4751 North Artesian, Chicago, Ill.
A Permanent Reader
I want to thank you for the very entertaining hours I spent perusing your new magazine, Astounding Stories. I read one or two other Science Fiction magazines—it seems that tales of this sort intrigue me. However, I wish to say that the debut number of your magazine contained the best stories I ever read. Again thanking you and assuring you that should the stories continue thus I will be a permanent reader—Irving E. Ettinger, The Seville, Detroit, Mich.
We're Avoiding Reprints
I am well pleased with your new magazine and wish to offer you my congratulations and best wishes. As I am well acquainted with most of the Science Fiction now being written, I am in a good position to criticize your magazine.
First: The cover illustration is good, but the inside drawings could be greatly improved.
Second: Holding the magazine together with two staples is a good idea.
Third: The paper could be improved.
Fourth: The price is right.
Here I classify the stories. Excellent: "The Beetle Horde," and "Tanks." Very Good: "Cave of Horror," "Invisible Death," and "Phantoms of Reality." Medium: "Compensation." Poor: "Stolen Mind."
Please don't reprint any of Poe's, Wells', or Verne's works. My prejudice to Verne, Wells and Poe is that I have read all their works in other magazines.
However, with all my criticizing, I think that your magazine is a good one.—James Nichols, 1509 19th Street, Bakersfield, California.
Thanks, Mr. Marks!
I purchased a copy of "our" new magazine to-day and I think it excellent. I am glad to see most of my old author friends contributing for it, but how about looking up E. R. Burroughs, David H. Keller, M. D., C. P. Wantenbacker and A. Merritt? They are marvelous writers. I see Wesso did your cover and it is very good. I have been a reader of four other Science Fiction monthly magazines and two quarterlies, but I gladly take this one into my fold and I think I speak for every other Science Fiction lover when I say this. Which means, if true, that your publication will have everlasting success. Here's hoping!—P. O. Marks, Jr., 893 York Avenue, S. W., Atlanta, Ga.
A Fine Letter
Having read through the first number of Astounding Stories, my enthusiasm has reached such a pitch that I find it difficult to express myself adequately. A mere letter such as this can give scarcely an inkling of the unbounded enjoyment I derive from the pages of this unique magazine. To use a trite but appropriate phrase, "It fills a long-felt need." True, there are other magazines which specialize in Science Fiction; but, to my mind they are not in a class with Astounding Stories. In most of them the scientific element is so emphasized that it completely overshadows all else. In this magazine, happily, such is not the case. Here we find science subordinated to human interest, which is as it should be. The love element, too, is present and by no means unwelcome.
As for the literary quality of the stories, it could not be improved on. Such craftsmen as Cummings, Leinster and Rousseau never fail to turn out a vivid, well-written tale. If the stories in the succeeding issues are on a par with those in the first, the success of the magazine is assured.
By the way, your editorial explanation of Astounding Stories was a gem. So many of us take our marvelous modern inventions for granted that we never consider how miraculous they would seem to our forebears. As you say, the only real difference between the Astounding and the Commonplace is Time. A magazine such as Astounding Stories enables us to anticipate the wonders of To-morrow. Through its pages we can peer into the vistas of the future and behold the world that is to be. Truly, you have given us a rare treat—Allen Glasser, 931 Forest Ave., New York, N. Y.
The Science Correspondence Club Broadcasts
The other day I came upon Astounding Stories on our local newsstand. I immediately procured a copy because Science Fiction is my favorite pastime, so to speak. I was very much overjoyed that another good Science Fiction magazine should come out, and a Clayton Magazine too, which enhances its splendid value still further. I have read various members of the Clayton family and I found each of them entertaining.
After finishing the first issue, I decided to write in and express my feelings. The stories were all good with the exception of "The Stolen Mind." Just keep printing stories by Cape, Meek, Ray Cummings, Murray Leinster, C. V. Tench, Harl Vincent and R. F. Starzl and I can predict now that your new venture will be a huge success.
The main reason of this letter is to ask your help in putting over Science Fiction Week. This will take place in the early part of February, the week of the 5th or after. We want your co-operation in making this a big success. You can help by running the attached article upon the Science Correspondence Club in your "Readers' Corner." It will be a big aid.
I am sure, because you are the Editor of Astounding Stories, that you will be pleased to help us in this venture. Science Fiction is our common meeting ground and our common ideal.
I hope to have a Big Science Fiction Week with your help.—Conrad H. Ruppert, 113 North Superior Street, Angola, Indiana.
To the Readers of Astounding Stories:
At the present there exists in the United States an organization the purpose of which is to spread the gospel of Science and Science Fiction, the Science Correspondence Club. I am writing this to induce the readers of Astounding Stories to join us. After reading this pick up your pen or take the cover from your typewriter and send in an application for membership to our Secretary, Raymond A. Palmer, 1431-38th St., Milwaukee, Wisconsin, or to our President, Aubrey Clements, 6 South Hillard St., Montgomery, Alabama. They will forward application blanks to you and you will belong to the only organization in the world that is like it.
The Club was formed by twenty young men from all over the U. S. We have a roll of almost 100, all over the world. Its expressed purpose has been to help the cause of Science Fiction, and to increase the knowledge of Science. It also affords the advantage of being able to express your ideas in all fields.
The Preamble of the Constitution which we have worked out reads: "We, the members of this organization, in order to promote the advancement of Science in general among laymen of the world through the use of discussion and the creation and exchange of new ideas, do ordain and establish this organization for the Science Correspondence Club."
Article Two reads: "The institution will remain an organization to establish better co-ordination between the scientifically inclined laymen of the world, regardless of sex, creed, color, or race. There will be no restrictions as to age, providing the member can pass an examination which shall be prepared by the membership committee."
The Club will also publish a monthly bulletin, to which members may contribute. It will also publish clippings, articles, etc., dealing with science.
The membership will have no definite limit and the correspondence will be governed by the wishes of each member.
Need more be said?
I almost forgot to say that we have two of the best Science Fiction authors as active members, and three more who are doing their best, but because of such work they cannot be active.
I hope my appeal bears fruit and that we shall hear from you soon.—Conrad H. Ruppert.
But—Most Everybody Prefers the Smaller Size—and Price!
Last night I was passing a newsstand and saw your magazine. I bought it then and there. I do not read any other stories except the fantastic stories. Astounding Stories looks all right, but may I make a suggestions? Why not increase the size of the magazine to that of Miss 1900 or Forest and Stream? It would certainly look better! You could also raise your price to twenty-five cents. Please print as many stories as possible by the following authors: Ray Cummings, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Murray Leinster, Edmond Hamilton, A. Hyatt Verrill, Stanton A. Coblentz, Ed Earl Repp and Harl Vincent.
My favorite type of story is the interplanetary one. I wish you the best of luck in your new venture.—Stephen Takacs, 303 Eckford Street, Brooklyn, N. Y.
"First Copy Wonderful"
I have read the first copy of Astounding Stories and think it wonderful. I am very much interested in science fiction. I prefer interplanetary stories and would like to see many of them in the new magazine. Your authors are fine. The ones I like particularly are Ray Cummings, Captain S. P. Meek, and Murray Leinster. I wonder if I could subscribe to Astounding Stories? Will you let me know? Good luck to the new magazine.—Donald Sisler, 3111 Adams Mill Road, Washington, D. C.
Allow me to congratulate you upon the starting of your new magazine, Astounding Stories. Have just finished reading the first issue and it is fine. While the class of stories that you publish do not appeal to all, I feel quite sure that there are many like myself who will welcome your publication and wish it all success.—R. E. Norton, P. O. Box 226, Ashtabula, Ohio.