The bandit's hollow, toneless, unreal chuckle sounded in the gruesome lurid green of the control room.
"I think that surprised them!"
The tiny silver shape of the baffled local patrol-ship faded behind us as we flew northward over heavy, fantastic crags; far above the tiny twinkling lights of the village of Nareda—out over the sullen dark surface of the Nares Sea.
The Flight to the Bandit Stronghold
During this flight of some six hours—north, and then, I think, northeast—to the remote Lowland fastness where De Boer's base was located, I had no opportunity to learn much of the operation of this invisible flyer. But it was the one which had been lost. Wrecked, no doubt, and the small crew aboard it all killed. The vessel, however, was not greatly damaged: the crew were killed doubtless by escaping poisonous gases when the flyer struck.
How long it lay unfound, I cannot say. Perhaps, for days, it still maintained its invisibility, while the frantic planes of the U. S. Anti-War Department tried in vain to locate it. And then, with its magnetic batteries exhausting themselves, it must have become visible. Perona, making a solo flight upon Nareda business to Great London, came upon it. Perona, Spawn and De Boer were then in the midst of their smuggling activities. They salvaged the vessel secretly. De Boer, with an incongruous flair for mechanical science, was enabled in his bandit camp, to recondition the flyer—building a workshop for the purpose, with money which Perona freely supplied.
Some of this I learned from De Boer, some is surmise: but I am sure it is close to the facts.
* * * * *
I have since had an opportunity—through my connection with this adventure which I am recording—of going aboard one of the X-flyers of the Anti-War Department, and seeing it in operation with its technical details explained to me. But since it is so important a Government secret, I cannot set it down here. The principles involved are complex: the postulates employed, and the mathematical formulae developing them in theory, are far too intricate for my understanding. Yet the practical workings are simple indeed. Some of them were understood as far back as 1920 and '30, when that pioneer of modern astrophysics, Albert Einstein, first proved that a ray of light is deflected from its normal straight path when passing through a magnetic field.
I am sorry that I cannot give here more than this vague hint of the workings of the fantastic invisible flyers which to-day are so often the subject of speculation by the general public which never has seen them, and perhaps never will. But I think, too, that a lengthy pedantic discourse here would be out of place. And tiring. After all, I am trying to tell only what happened to me in this adventure. And to little Jetta.
A very strangely capable fellow, this young De Boer. A modern pirate: no other age could have produced him. He did not spare Perona's money, that was obvious. From his hidden camp he must have made frequent visits to the great Highland centers, purchasing scientific equipment: until now, when his path crossed mine. I found him surrounded by most of the every-day devices of our modern world. The village of Nareda was primitive: backward. Save for its modern lights, a few local audiphones and image-finders, and its official etheric connections with other world capitals, it might have been a primitive Latin American village of a hundred years ago.
* * * * *
But not so De Boer's camp, which presently I was to see. Nor this, his flyer, with which his smuggling activities had puzzled Hanley's Office for so many months. There was nothing primitive here.
De Boer himself was a swaggering villain. I saw him now with his cloak discarded, in the normal tube-lights of the control room when, after a time, the mechanism of invisibility of the flyer was shut off. A fellow of six feet and a half at the very least, this De Boer. Heavy, yet with his great height and strength, lean and graceful. He wore a fabric shirt, with a wide-rolled collar. A wide belt of tanned hide, with lighters, a little electron drink-cooler and other nick-nackeries hanging from tasseled cords—and a naked, ugly-looking knife blade clipped beside a holster which held an old-fashioned exploding projector of leaden steel-tipped bullets.
His trousers were of leather, wide-flaring, ending at his brawny bare knees, with wide-cut, limp leather boots flapping about his calves in ancient piratical fashion. They had flaring soles, these shoes, for walking upon the Lowland caked ooze. The uppers were useless: I rather think he wore them because they were picturesque. He was a handsome fellow, with rough-hewn features. A wide mouth, and very white, even teeth. A cruel mouth, when it went grim. But the smile was intriguing: I should think particularly so to women.
He had a way with him, this devil-may-care bandit. Strange mixture of a pirate of old and an outlaw of our modern world. With a sash at his waist, a red handkerchief about his forehead, and a bloody knife between his teeth. I could have fancied him a fabled pirate of the Spanish Main. A few hundred years ago when these dry Lowlands held the tossing seas. But I had seen him, so far, largely seated quietly in his chair at his instrument table, a cigarette dangling from his lips, and, instead of a red bandanna about his forehead, merely the elastic band holding the lens of his image-finder. It caught in the locks of his curly black hair. He pushed it askew; and then, since he did not need it now, discarded it altogether.
* * * * *
Where we went I could not surmise, except that we flew low over the sullen black waters of the Nares Sea and then headed northeast. We kept well below the zero-height, with the dark crags of the Lowlands passing under us.
The night grew darker. Storm clouds obscured the moon; and it was then that De Boer shut off the mechanism of invisibility. The control room, with only the watchful Gutierrez now in it—besides De Boer, Jetta and myself—was silent and orderly. But there were sounds of roistering from down the ship's corridor. The bandits, with this treasure of the radiumized quicksilver ingots aboard, were already triumphantly celebrating.
I sat whispering with Jetta. De Boer, busy with charts and navigational instruments, ignored us, and Gutierrez, so long as we did not move, seemed not to object to our whispers.
The night slowly passed. De Boer served us food, calling to one of his men to shove a slide before us. For himself, he merely drank his coffee and an alcoholic drink at his instrument table, while absorbed in his charts.
The roistering of the men grew louder. De Boer leaped to his feet, cursed them roundly, then went back to his calculations. He stood once before Jetta, regarding her with a strange, slow smile which made my heart pound. But he turned away in a moment.
The bandits, for all De Boer's admonitions, were now ill-conditioned for handling this flyer. But I saw, through the small grid-opening in the control room ceiling, the pilot in his cubby upon the wing-top. He sat alert and efficient, with his lookout beside him.
* * * * *
The night presently turned really tumultuous, with a great wind overhead, and storm clouds of ink, shot through occasionally by lightning flashes. We flew lower, at minus 2,000 feet, on the average. The heavy air was sultry down here, with only a dim blurred vista of the depths beneath us. I fancied that now we were bending eastward, out over the great basin pit of the mid-Atlantic area. No vessels passed us, or, if they did, I did not sight them.
De Boer had a detector on his table. Occasionally it would buzz with calls: liners or patrols in our general neighborhood. He ignored them with a sardonic smile. Once or twice, when our dim lights might have been sighted, he altered our course sharply. And, when at one period we passed over the lights of some Lowland settlement, he flung us again into invisibility until we were beyond range.
I had, during these hours, ample opportunity to whisper with Jetta. But there was so little for us to say. I knew all of Spawn's and Perona's plot. Both were dead: it was De Boer with whom we were menaced now. And as I saw his huge figure lounging at his table, and his frowning, intent face, the vision of the aged, futile Perona, who had previously been my adversary, seemed inoffensive indeed.
De Boer obviously was pleased with himself. He had stolen half a million dollars of treasure, and was making off with it to his base in the depths. He would smuggle these ingots into the world markets at his convenience; months from now, probably. Meanwhile, what did he intend to do with me? And Jetta? Ransom me? I wondered how he could manage it. And the thought pounded me. What about Jetta? I felt now that she was all the world to me. Her safety, beyond any thought of smugglers or treasure, was all that concerned me. But what was I going to do about it?
* * * * *
I pressed her hand. "Jetta, you're not too frightened, are you?"
Her mind, I think, was constantly on her father, lying dead back there on his garden path. I had not spoken of him, save once. She threatened instant tears, and I stopped.
"Do not be too frightened. We'll get out of this."
"He can't escape. Jetta; he can't hide. Why, in a day or so all the patrols of the United States Lowland Service will be after us!"
But if the patrol-ships assailed De Boer, if he found things going badly—he could so easily kill Jetta and me. He might be caught, but we would never come through it alive.
My thoughts drifted along, arriving nowhere, just circling in the same futile rounds. I was aware of Jetta falling asleep beside me, her face against my shoulder, her fingers clutching mine. She looked like a half grown, slender, ragged boy. But her woman's hair lay thick on my arm, and one of the dark tresses fell to my hand. I turned my fingers in it. This strange little woman. Was my love for her foredoomed to end in tragedy? I swore then that I would not let it be so.
Jetta Takes a Hand
I came from my reverie to find De Boer before me. He was standing with legs planted wide, arms folded across his deep chest, and on his face an ironic smile.
"So tired! My little captives, di mi! You look like babes lost in a wood."
I disengaged myself from Jetta, resting her against a cushion, and she did not awaken. I stood up, fronting De Boer.
"What are you going to do with me?" I demanded.
He held his ironic smile. "Take you to my camp. You'll be well hidden, no one can follow me. My X-flyer's a very handy thing to have, isn't it?"
"So you're the smuggler I was sent after?"
That really amused him. "Er—yes. Those tricksters, Perona and Spawn—we were what you would call partners. He had—the perfumed Perona—what he thought was a clever scheme for us. I was to take all the risk, and he and Spawn get most of the money. Chah! They thought I was imbecile—pretending to attack a treasure and being such a fool that I would not seize it for myself! Not De Boer!" He chuckled. "Well, so very little did they know me. No treasure yet touched De Boer's fingers without lingering!"
* * * * *
He was in a talkative mood, and drew up his chair and slouched in it. I saw that he had been drinking some alcholite beverage, not enough to befuddle him, but enough to take the keen edge off his wits, and make him want to talk.
"Sit down, Grant."
"As you like."
"What are you going to do with me?" I demanded again. "Try to ransom me for a fat price from the United States?"
He smiled sourly. "You need not be sarcastic, young lad. The better for you if I get a ransom."
"Then I hope you get it."
"Perona's idea," he added. "I will admit it looked possible: I did not know then you had Government protection." He went grim. "That was Perona and Spawn's trickery. Well, they paid for it. No one plays De Boer false and lives to tell it. Perona and Spawn wanted to get rid of you—because you annoyed them."
"With the little Jetta, I fancy." His gaze went to the sleeping Jetta and back to me. "Perona was very sensitive where this little woman was concerned. Why not? An oldish fool like him—"
* * * * *
I could agree with that, but I did not say so.
I said, "You'd better cast me loose, Jetta and me. I suppose you realize, De Boer, that you'll have the patrols like a pack of hounds after you. Jetta is a Nareda citizen: the United States will take that up. There's the theft of the treasure. And as you say, I'm a Government agent."
He nodded. "Your Government is over-zealous in protecting its agents. That I know, Grant. I might have left you alone, there in the garden, when I realized it. But that, by damn, was too late! Live men talk. Any way, if I cannot ransom you, to kill you is very easy. And dead men are shut-mouthed."
"I'm still alive, De Boer."
He eyed me. "You talk brave."
This condescending, amused giant!
I retorted. "How are you going to ransom me?"
"That," he said. "I have not yet planned it. A delicate business."
I ventured, "And Jetta?" My heart was beating fast.
"Jetta," he said with a sudden snap, "is none of your business."
Again his gaze went toward her. "I might marry her: why not? I am not wholly a villain. I could marry her legally in Cape Town, with all the trappings of clergy—and be immune from capture under the laws there. If she is seventeen. I have forgotten her age, it's been so long since I knew her. Is she seventeen? She does not look it."
I said shortly. "I don't know how old she is."
"But we can ask her when she awakens, can't we?"
* * * * *
He was amusing himself with me. And yet, looking back on it now, I believe he was more than half serious. From his pouch he drew a small cylinder. "Have a drink, Grant. After all I bear you no ill-will. A man can but follow his trade: you were trying to be a good Government agent."
"And then you may make it possible for me to pick a nice ransom. Here."
"I hope so." I declined the drink.
"Afraid for your wits?"
I said impulsively, "I want all my wits to make sure you handle this ransom properly, De Boer. I'm as interested as you are: in that at least, we are together."
He grinned, tipped the cylinder at his lips for a long drink.
"Quite so—a mutual interest. Let us be friends over it."
His gaze wandered back to Jetta. He added slowly:
"She is very lovely, Grant. A little woodland flower, just ready for plucking." A sentimental tone, but there was in his expression a ribald flippancy that sent a shudder through me. "She has quite overcome you, Grant. Well, why not me as well? I am certainly more of a man than you. We must admit that Perona had a good eye."
* * * * *
My thoughts were wandering. Suppose I could not find an opportunity to escape with Jetta? De Boer might successfully ransom me and take her to Cape Town. Or if he feared that to try for the ransom would be too dangerous, doubtless he would kill me out of hand. An ill outcome indeed! Nor could I forget that there was half a million of treasure involved.
It was obvious to me that Hanley would not permit the patrol-ships to attack De Boer with the lives of Jetta and myself at stake. Hanley knew, or suspected, that De Boer was operating an invisible flyer, but I did not see how that could help Hanley much. Markes, acting for Nareda, would doubtless be willing to ransom Jetta: the United States would ransom me. I must urge the ransom plan, because for all the money in the world I would not endanger Jetta, nor let this bandit carry her off.
Or could I escape with her, and still find some means to save the treasure? It was Jetta's treasure now, two-thirds of it, for it had legally belonged to her father. Could I save it, and her as well?
Not by any move of mine, here now on this flyer. That was impossible. In De Boer's camp, perhaps. But that, too, I doubted. He was too clever a scoundrel to be lax in guarding me.
But in the effecting of a ransom—the exchange of me, and perhaps Jetta, for a sum of money—that would be a delicate transaction, and some little thing could easily go wrong for De Boer. There would be my chance. I would have to make something go wrong! Get in his confidence now so that I would have some say in arranging the details of the ransom. Make him think I was only concerned for my own safety. Appear clever in helping plan the exchange. And then so manipulate the thing that I could escape with Jetta and save the treasure—and the ransom money as well. And capture De Boer, since that was what Hanley had sent me out to accomplish.
* * * * *
Thoughts fly swiftly. All this flashed to me. I had no details as yet. But that I must get into De Boer's confidence stood but clearly.
I said abruptly, "De Boer, since we are to be friends—"
"So you prefer to sit down now?"
"Yes." I had drawn a small settle to face him. "De Boer, do you intend to ask a ransom for Jetta?"
"You insist with that question?"
"That is my way. Then we can understand each other. Do you?"
"No," he said shortly.
I frowned. "I think I could get you a big price."
"I think I should prefer the little Jetta, Grant."
I held myself outwardly unmoved. "I don't blame you. But you will ransom me? It can be worked out. I have some ideas."
"Yes," he agreed. "It can be worked perhaps. I have not thought of details yet. You are much concerned for your safety, Grant? Fear not."
An amused thought evidently struck him. He added. "It occurs to me how easy, if I am going to ransom you, it will be for me to send you back dead. You might, if I send you back alive, tell them a lot of things about me."
"I will not talk."
"Not," he said, "if I close your mouth for good."
* * * * *
I had no retort. There was no answering such logic; and with his murders of Spawn and Perona, and the deaths of some of the police guards at the mine, the murder of me would not put him in much worse a position.
He was laughing ironically. Suddenly he checked himself.
"Well, Jetta! So you have awakened?"
Jetta was sitting erect. How long she had been awake, what she had heard. I could not say. Her gaze went from De Boer to me, and back again.
"Yes, I am awake."
It seemed that the look she flashed me carried a warning. But whatever it was, I had no chance of pondering it, for it was driven from my mind by surprise at her next words.
"Awake, yes! And interested, hearing this Grant bargain with you for his life."
It surprised De Boer as well. But the alcholite had dulled his wits, and Jetta realized this, and presumed upon it.
"Ho!" exclaimed De Boer. "Our little bird is angry!"
"Not angry. It is contempt."
Her look to me now held contempt. It froze me with startled chagrin; but only for an instant, and then the truth swept me. Strange Jetta! I had thought of her only as a child; almost, but not quite a woman. A frightened little woodland fawn.
"Contempt, De Boer. Is he not a contemptuous fellow, this American?"
Again I caught her look and understood it. This was a different Jetta. No longer helplessly frightened, but a woman, fighting. She had heard De Boer calmly saying that he might send me back dead—and she was fighting now for me.
De Boer took another drink, and stared at her. "What is this?"
She turned away. "Nothing. But if you are going to ransom me—"
"I am not, little bird."
* * * * *
She showed no aversion for him, and it went to his head, stronger than the drink. "Never would I ransom you!"
He reached for her, but nimbly she avoided him. Acting, but clever enough not to overdo it. I held myself silent: I had caught again the flash of a warning gaze from her. She had fathomed my purpose. Get his confidence. Beguile him. And woman is so much cleverer than the trickiest man at beguiling!
"Do not touch me, De Boer! He tried that. He held my hand in the moonlight—to woo me with his clever words."
"Hah! Grant, you hear her?"
"And I find him now not a man, but a craven—"
"But you will find me a man, Jetta." De Boer was hugely amused. "See Grant, we are rivals! You and Perona, then you and me. It is well for you that I fear you not, or I would run my knife through you now."
I could not mistake Jetta's shudder. But De Boer did not see it, for she covered it by impulsively putting her hand upon his arm.
"Did you—did you kill my father?" She stumbled over the question. But she asked it with a childlike innocence sufficiently real to convince him.
"I? Why—" He recovered from his surprise. "Why no, little bird. Who told you that I did?"
"No one. I—no one has said anything about it." She added slowly, "I hoped that it was not you, De Boer."
"Me? Oh no: it was an accident." He shot me a menacing glance. "I will explain it all. Jetta. Your father and I were friends for years—"
"Yes. I know. Often he spoke to me of you. Many times I asked him to let me meet you."
* * * * *
They were ignoring me. But Gutierrez, lurking in the door oval, was not: I was well aware of that.
"I remember you from years ago, little Jetta."
"And I remember you."
I understand the rationality of her purpose. She could easily get De Beer's confidence. She had known him when a child. Her father had been his business partner, presumably his friend. And I saw her now cleverly altering her status here. She had been a captive, allied with me. She was changing that. She was now Spawn's daughter, here with her dead father's friend.
She turned a gaze of calm aversion upon me. "Unless you want him here, De Boer. I would rather talk to you—without him."
He leaped to his feet. "Hah! that pleases me, little Jetta! Gutierrez, take this fellow away."
The Spanish-American came slouching forward. "The girl's an old friend, Commander? You never told me that."
"Because it is no business of yours. Take him away. Seal him in D-cubby."
I said sullenly. "I misjudged both of you."
Jetta's gaze avoided me. As Gutierrez shoved me roughly down the corridor, De Boer laughed, and his voice came back: "Do not be afraid. We will find some safe way of ransoming you—dead or alive!"
I was flung on a bunk in one of the corridor cubbies, and the door sealed upon me.
(To be continued.)
An Extra Man
By Jackson Gee
[Sidenote: Sealed and vigilantly guarded was "Drayle's Invention, 1932"——for it was a scientific achievement beyond which man dared not go.]
Rays of the August mid-day sun pouring through the museum's glass roof beat upon the eight soldiers surrounding the central exhibit, which for thirty years has been under constant guard. Even the present sweltering heat failed to lessen the men's careful observation of the visitors who, from time to time, strolled listlessly about the room.
The object of all this solicitude scarcely seemed to require it. A great up-ended rectangle of polished steel some six feet square by ten or a dozen feet in height, standing in the center of Machinery Hall, it suggested nothing sinister or priceless. Two peculiarities, however, marked it as unusual—the concealment of its mechanism and the brevity of its title. For while the remainder of the exhibits located around it varied in the simplicity or complexity of their design, they were alike in the openness of their construction and detailed explanation of plan and purpose. The great steel box, however, bore merely two words and a date: "Drayle's Invention, 1932."
It was, nevertheless, toward this exhibit that a pleasant appearing white-haired old gentleman and a small boy were slowly walking when a change of guard occurred. The new men took their posts without words while the relieved detail turned down a long corridor that for a moment echoed with the clatter of hobnailed boots on stone. Then all was surprisingly still. Even the boy was impressed into reluctant silence as he viewed the uniformed men, though not for long.
* * * * *
"What's that, what's that, what's that?" he demanded presently with shrill imperiousness. "Grandfather, what's that?" An excited arm indicated the exhibit with its soldier guard.
"If you can keep still long enough," replied the old gentleman patiently, "I'll tell you."
And with due regard for rheumatic limbs he slowly settled himself on a bench and folded his hands over the top of an ebony cane preparatory to answering the youngster's question. His inquisitor, however, was, at the moment, being hauled from beneath a brass railing by the sergeant of the watch.
"You'll have to keep an eye on him, sir," said the man reproachfully. "He was going to try his knife on the wood-work when I caught him."
"Thank you, Sergeant. I'll do my best—but the younger generation, you know."
"Sit still, if possible!" he directed the squirming boy. "If not, we'll start home now."
The non-com took a new post within easy reaching distance of the disturber and attempted to glare impressively.
"Go on, grandfather, tell me. What's D-r-a-y-l-e? What's in the box? Can't they open it? What are the soldiers for? Must they stay here? Why?"
"Drayle," said the old man, breaking through the barrage of questions, "was a close friend of mine a good many years ago."
"How many, grandfather? Fifty? As much as fifty? Did father know him? Is father fifty?"
"Forty; no; yes; no," said the harassed relative; and then with amazing ignorance inquired: "Do you really care to hear or do you just ask questions to exercise your tongue?"
"I want to hear the story, grandpa. Tell me the story. Is it a nice story? Has it got bears in it? Polar bears? I saw a polar bear yesterday. He was white. Are polar bears always white? Tell me the story, grandpa."
* * * * *
The old man turned appealing eyes toward the sergeant. Tacitly a sympathetic understanding was established. The warrior also was a father, and off the field of battle he had known defeat.
"Leave me handle him, sir," he suggested. "I've the like of him at home."
"I'd be very much indebted to you if you would."
Thus encouraged, the soldier produced from an inner pocket and offered one of those childhood sweets known as an "all day sucker."
"See if you can choke yourself on that," he challenged.
The clamor ceased immediately.
"It always works, sir," explained the man of resource. "The missus says as how it'll ruin their indigestions, but I'm all for peace even if I am in the army."
Now that his vocal organs were temporarily plugged, the child waved a demanding arm in the direction of the main exhibit to indicate a desire for the resumption of the narrative. But the ancient was not anxious to disturb so soon the benign and acceptable silence. In fact it was not until he observed the sergeant's look of inquiry that he began once more.
"That box," he said slowly, "is both a monument and a milestone on the road to mankind's progress in mechanical invention. It marks the point beyond which Drayle's contemporaries believed it was unsafe to go: for they felt that inventions such as his would add to the complexities of life, and that if a halt were not made our own machines would ultimately destroy us.
"I did not, still do not, believe it. And I know Drayle's spirit broke when the authorities sealed his last work in that box and released him upon parole to abandon his experiments."
As the speaker sighed in regretful reminiscence, the sergeant glanced at his men. Apparently all was well: the only visible menace lolled within easy arm's reach, swinging his short legs and sucking noisily on his candy. Nevertheless the non-com shifted to a slightly better tactical position as he awaited the continuance of the tale.
* * * * *
"Christopher Drayle," said the elderly gentleman, "was the greatest man I have ever known, as well as the finest. Forty years or more ago we were close friends. Our homes on Long Island adjoined and I handled most of his legal affairs. He was about forty-five or six then, but already famous.
"His rediscovery of the ancient process of tempering copper had made him one of the wealthiest men in the land and enabled him to devote his time to scientific research. Electricity and chemistry were his specialties, and at the period of which I speak he was deeply engrossed in problems of radio transmission.
"But he had many interests and not infrequently visited our local country club for an afternoon of golf. Sometimes I played around the course with him and afterward, over a drink, we would talk. His favorite topic was the contribution of science to human welfare. And even though I could not always follow him when he grew enthusiastic about some new theory I was always puzzled.
"It was at such a time, when we had been discussing the new and first successful attempt to send moving pictures by radio, that I mentioned the prophecy of Jackson Gee. Gee was the writer of fantastic, pseudo-scientific tales who had said: 'We shall soon be able to resolve human beings into their constituent elements, transmit them by radio to any desired point and reassemble them at the other end. We shall do this by means of vibrations. We are just beginning to learn that vibrations are the key to the fundamental process of all life.'
* * * * *
"I laughed as I quoted this to Drayle, for it seemed to me the ravings of a lunatic. But Drayle did not smile. 'Jackson Gee,' he said, 'is nearer to the truth than he imagines. We already know the elements that make the human body, and we can put them together in their proper proportions and arrangements: but we have not been able to introduce the vitalizing spark, the key vibrations to start it going. We can reproduce the human machine, but we can not make it move. We can destroy life in the laboratory, and we can prolong it, but so far we have not been able to create it. Yet I tell you in all seriousness that that time will come; that time will come.'
"I was surprised at his earnestness and would have questioned him further. But a boy appeared just then with a message that Drayle was wanted at the telephone.
"Something important, sir," he said. Drayle went off to answer the summons and later he sent word that he had been called away and would not be able to return.
"It was the last I heard from Drayle for months. He shut himself in his laboratory and saw no one but his assistants, Ward of Boston, and Buchannon of Washington. He even slept in the workshop and had his food sent in.
"Ordinarily I would not have been excluded, for I had his confidence to an unusual degree and I had often watched him work. I admired the deft movements of his hands. He had the certain touch and style of a master. But during that period he admitted only his aids.
* * * * *
"Consequently I felt little hope of reaching him one morning when it was necessary to have his signature to some legal documents. Yet the urgency of the case led me to go to his home on the chance that I might be able to get him long enough for the business that concerned us. Luck was with me, for he sent out word that he would see me in a few minutes. I remember seating myself in the office that opened off his laboratory and wondering what was beyond the door that separated us. I had witnessed some incredible performances in the adjoining room.
"At last Drayle came in. He looked worried and careworn. There were new lines in his face and blue half-circles of fatigue beneath his eyes. It was evident that it was long since he had slept. He apologized for having kept me waiting and then, without examining the papers I offered, he signed his name nervously in the proper spaces. When I gathered the sheets together he turned abruptly toward the laboratory, but at the door he paused and smiled.
"'Give my respects to Jackson Gee,' he said."
* * * * *
"Who's Jackson Gee? Does father know him? Has he any polar bears? Aren't you going to tell me about that?"
The tidal wave of questions almost overwhelmed the historian and his auditor. But the military, fortunately, was equal to the emergency. With a tactical turn of his hand he thrust the remnant of the lollypop between the chattering jaws and spoke with sharp rapidity.
"Listen," he commanded, "that there, what you got, is a magic candy, and if you go on exposing it to the air after it is once in your mouth it's likely to disappear, just like that." And the speed of the translation was illustrated by a smart snapping of the fingers.
Doubt shone in the juvenile terror's eyes and the earlier generations waited fearfully while skepticism and greed waged their recurrent conflict. For a time it seemed as if the veteran had blundered; but finally greed triumphed and a temporary peace ensued.
"Where was I?" inquired the interrupted narrator when the issue of battle was settled.
"You was talking about Jackson Gee," answered the guardsman in a cautiously low tone.
"So I was, so I was," the old gentleman agreed somewhat vaguely, nodding his head. He gazed at the sergeant with mingled awe and admiration. "I suppose it's quite useless to mention it," he said rather wistfully, "but if you ever get out of the army and should want a job.... You could name your own salary, you know?" The question ended on an appealing note.
Evidently the soldier understood the digression, for he replied in a tone that would brook no dispute. "No, sir, I couldn't consider it."
"I was afraid so," said the other regretfully, and added, with apparent irrelevance, "I have to live with him, you see."
"Tough luck," commiserated the listener.
Reluctantly summoning his thoughts from the pleasant contemplation of what had seemed to offer a new era of peace, the bard turned to his story.
* * * * *
"A few hours later," he continued, "I had a telephone call from Drayle's wife, and I realized from the fright in her voice that something dreadful had happened. She asked me to come to the house at once. Chris had been hurt. But she disconnected before I could ask for details. I started immediately and I wondered as I drove what disaster had overtaken him. Anything, it seemed to me, might have befallen in that room of miracles. But I was not prepared to find that Drayle had been shot and wounded.
"The police were before me and already questioning the assailant, Mrs. Farrel, a fiery tempered young Irish-woman. When I entered the room she was repeating half-hysterically her explanation that Drayle had killed her husband in the laboratory that morning.
"'Right before my eyes, I seen it,' she shouted. 'Harry was standing on a sort of platform looking at a big machine like, and so help me he didn't have a stitch of clothes on, and I started to say something, but all at once there came a terrible sort of screech and a flash like lightnin' kinda, in front of him. Then Harry turns into a sort of thick smoke and I can see right through him like he was a ghost; and then the smoke gets sucked into a big hole in the machine and I know Harry's dead. And here's this man what done it, just a standin' there, grinnin' horrid. So something comes over me all at once and I points Harry's gun at him and pulls the trigger!'
"Even before the woman had finished I recalled what I seen one afternoon in Drayle's laboratory many months before. I had been there for some time watching him when he placed a small tumbler on a work table and asked me if I had ever seen glass shattered by the vibrations of a violin. I told him that I had, but he went through the demonstration as if to satisfy himself. Of course when he drew a bow across the instrument's strings and produced the proper pitch the goblet cracked into pieces exactly as might have been expected. And I wondered why Drayle concerned himself with so childish an experiment before I noticed that he appeared to have forgotten me completely.
* * * * *
"I endeavored then not to disturb him, and I remember trying to draw myself out of his way and feeling that something momentous was about to take place. Yet actually I believe it would have required a considerable commotion to have distracted his attention, for his ability to concentrate was one of the characteristics of his genius.
"I saw him place another glass on the table and I noticed then that it stood directly in front of a complicated mechanism. At first this gave out a low humming sound, but it soon rose to an unearthly whining shriek. I shrank from it involuntarily and a second later I was amazed at the sight of the glass, seemingly reduced to a thin vapor, being drawn into a funnel-like opening near the top of the device. I was too startled to speak and could only watch as Drayle started the contrivance again. Once more its noise cut through me with physical pain. I cried out. But my voice was overwhelmed by the terrific din of the mysterious machine.
"Then Drayle strode down the long room to another intricate mass of wire coils and plates and lamps. And I saw a dim glow appear in two of the bulbs and heard a noise like the crackling of paper. Drayle made some adjustments, and presently I observed a peculiar shimmering of the air above a horizontal metal grid. It reminded me of heat waves rising from a summer street, until I saw the vibrations were taking a definite pattern; and that the pattern was that of the glass I had seen dissolved into air. At first the image made me think of a picture formed by a series of horizontal lines close together but broken at various points in such fashion as to create the appearance of a line by the very continuity of the fractures. But as I watched, the plasma became substance. The air ceased to quiver and I was appalled to see Drayle pick up the tumbler and carry it to a scale on which he weighed it with infinite exactness. If he had approached me with it at that moment I would have fled in terror.
* * * * *
"Next, Drayle filled the goblet with some liquid which immediately afterward he measured in a beaker. The result seemed to please him, for he smiled happily. At the same instant he became aware of my presence. He looked surprised and then a trifle disconcerted. I could see that he was embarrassed by the knowledge that I had witnessed so much, and after a second or two he asked my silence. I agreed at once, not only because he requested it but because I couldn't believe the evidence myself. He let me out then and locked the door.
"It was this recollection that made me credit the woman's story. But I was sick with dread, for in spite of my faith in Drayle's genius I feared he had gone mad.
"Mrs. Drayle had listened to Mrs. Farrel's account calmly enough, but I could see the fear in her eyes when she signaled a wish to speak to me alone. I followed her into an adjoining room, leaving Mrs. Farrel with the two policemen and the doctor, who was trying to quiet her.
"As soon as the door closed after us Mrs. Drayle seized my hands.
"'Tim,' she whispered, 'I'm horribly afraid that what the woman says is true. Chris has told me of some wonderful things he was planning to do, but I never expected he would experiment on human beings. Can they send him to prison?'
"Of course I said what I could to comfort her and tried to make my voice sound convincing. At the time the legal aspect of the matter did not worry me so much as the fear that the attack on Drayle might prove fatal. For even if it should develop that he was not dangerously hurt, I imagined that the interruption of the experiment at a critical moment might easily have ruined whatever slim chance there had been of success. For us the nerve-wracking part was that we could do nothing until the surgeon who was attending Drayle could tell us how badly he was injured.
* * * * *
"At last word came that the bullet had only grazed Drayle's head and stunned him, but that he might remain unconscious for some time. Mrs. Drayle went in and sat at her husband's side, while I returned to the laboratory and found the police greatly bewildered as to whether they ought to arrest Drayle.
"They had discovered in a closet an outfit of men's clothing that Mrs. Farrel identified as her husband's, and, although they saw no other trace of the missing man, they had a desire to lock up somebody as an evidence of their activity. It took considerable persuasion to prevail upon them to withhold their hands. There was no such difficulty about restraining them in the laboratory. They were afraid to touch any apparatus, and they gave the invention a ludicrously wide berth.
"I never knew exactly how long it was that I paced about the lower floor of Drayle's home before the doctor summoned me and announced that the patient wanted me, but that I must be careful not to excite him. I have often wondered how many physicians would have to abandon their profession if they were deprived of that phrase. 'You must not excite the patient.'
"Drayle was already excited when I entered. In fact, he was furious at the doctor's efforts to restrain him. But I realized that my fear for his reason was groundless. His remarks were lucid and forceful as he raged at the interference with his work. As soon as he saw me he appealed for assistance.
"'Make them let me alone. Tim,' he begged, as his wife and the doctor, partly by force and partly by persuasion, endeavored to hold him in bed. 'I must get back to the laboratory. That woman believes that I've killed her husband, and my assistant will think that we've failed.'
* * * * *
"I was about to argue with him when suddenly he managed to thrust the doctor aside and start toward the door. His seriousness impressed me so that I gave him a supporting arm and together we headed down the hall, with Mrs. Drayle and the doctor following anxiously in the rear. The laboratory was deserted and locked when we arrived. The police evidently felt it was too uncanny an atmosphere for a prolonged wait. Drayle opened the door, went directly to his machine, and examined it minutely.
"'Thank the Lord that woman hit only me!' he said, and sank into a chair. Then he asked for some brandy. Mrs. Drayle rushed off and reappeared in a minute with a decanter and glass. Drayle helped himself to a swallow that brought color to his cheeks and new strength to his limbs. Immediately after he turned again to the machine. I dragged up a chair, assisted him into it, and seated myself close by.
"I knew little enough about mechanics, but I was fascinated by the numerous gauges that faced me on the gleaming instrument board. There were dials with needlelike hands that registered various numbers; spots of color appeared in narrow slots close to a solar spectrum: a stream of graph-paper tape flowed slowly beneath a tracing-pen point and carried away a jiggly thin line of purple ink. In a moment Drayle was oblivious of everything but his records. I watched him copy the indicated figures, surround them with formulas, and solve mysterious problems with a slide-rule.
"His calculations covered a large sheet before he had finished. At last he underscored three intricate combinations of letters and figures and carried the answers to his private radio apparatus. This operated on a wave length far outside the range of all others and insured him against interference. With it he was able to speak at any time with his assistants in Washington or Boston or with both at once. He threw the switch that sent his call into the air. An answer came instantly, and Drayle begin to talk to his distant lieutenants.
* * * * *
"'We've been interrupted, gentlemen,' he said, 'but I think we may continue now. We'll reassemble in the Boston laboratory. Have you arranged the elements? The coefficients are....' And he gave a succession of decimals.
"A voice replied that all was ready. Drayle said 'Excellent,' went back to his invention and twisted a black knob on the board before him.
"With this trifling movement all hell seemed to crash about us. The ghastly cacophony that I had experienced in the same room some months previously was as nothing. These stupendous waves of sound pounded us until it seemed as if we must disintegrate beneath them. Wails and screams engulfed us. Mrs. Drayle dropped to her knees beside her husband. The doctor seized my arm and I saw the knuckles of his hand turn white with the pressure of his grip, yet I felt nothing but the awful vibrations that drummed like riveting machines upon and through my nerves and body. It was not an attack upon the ears alone; it crashed upon the heart, beat upon the chest so that breathing seemed impossible. My brain throbbed under the terrific pulsations. For a while I imagined the human system could not endure the ordeal and that all of us must be annihilated.
"Except for his slow turning of the dials Drayle was motionless before the machine. Below the bandage about his forehead I could see his features drawn with anxiety. He had wagered a human life to test his theory and I think the enormity of it had not struck him until that moment.
"What I knew and hoped enabled me to imagine what was taking place in the Boston laboratory. I seemed to see man's elementary dust and vapors whirled from great containers upward into a stratum of shimmering air and gradually assume the outlines of a human form that became first opaque, then solid, and then a sentient being. At the same instant I was conscious that the appalling pandemonium had ceased and that the voice of Drayle's Boston assistant was on the radio.
* * * * *
"'Congratulations, Chief! His reassemblage is perfect. There's not a flaw anywhere.' "'Splendid,' Drayle answered. 'Bring him here by plane right away; his wife is worried about him.'
"Then Drayle turned to me.
"'You see,' he said, 'Jackson Gee was right. We have resolved man into his constituent elements, transmitted his key vibrations by radio, and reassembled him from a supply of identical elements at the other end. And now, if you will assure that woman that her husband is safe, I will get some sleep. You will have the proof before you in less than three hours.'
"I can't vouch for the doctor's feelings, but as Drayle left us I was satisfied that everything was as it should be, and that I had just witnessed the greatest scientific achievement of all time. I did not foresee, nor did Drayle, the results of an error or deliberate disobedience on the part of one of his assistants.
"We waited, the doctor and I, for the arrival of the man who, we were convinced, had been transported some three hundred miles in a manner that defied belief. The evidence would come, Drayle had said, in a few hours. Long before they had elapsed we were starting at the sound of every passing motor, for we knew that a plane must land some distance from the house and that the travelers would make the last mile or so by car.
"Mrs. Drayle endeavored to convince the imagined widow that her husband was safe and was returning speedily. Later she rejoined us, full of questions that we answered in a comforting blind faith. The time limit was drawing to a close when the sound of an automobile horn was quickly followed by a sharp knock on the laboratory door. At a sign from Mrs. Drayle one of the policemen opened it and we saw two men before us. One, a scholarly appearing, bespectacled youth, I recognized as Drayle's Boston assistant, Ward; the other, a rather burly individual, was a stranger to me. But there was no doubt he was the man we awaited so eagerly, for Mrs. Farrel screamed 'Harry! Harry!' and sped across the room towards him.
* * * * *
"At first she ran her fingers rather timidly over his face, and then pinched his huge shoulders, as if to assure herself of his reality. The sense of touch must have satisfied her, for abruptly she kissed him, flung her arms about him, clung to him, and crooned little endearments. The big man, in turn, patted her cheeks awkwardly and mumbled in a convincingly natural voice, ''Sall right, Mary, old kid! There ain't nothin' to it. Yeah! Sure it's me!'
"Then I was conscious of Drayle's presence. A brown silk dressing gown fell shapelessly about his spare frame and smoke from his cigarette rose in a quivering blue-white stream. Ward spied him at the same moment and stepped forward with quick outstretched hands. I remember the flame of adoring zeal in the youngster's eyes as he tried to speak. At length he managed to stammer some congratulatory phrases while Drayle clapped him affectionately on the back.
"Then Drayle turned to Farrel to ask him how he enjoyed the trip. Farrel grinned and said, 'Fine! It was like a dream, sir! First I'm in one place and then I'm in another and I don't know nothing about how I got there. But I could do with a drink, sir. I ain't used to them airyplanes much.'
"Drayle accepted the hint and suggested that we all celebrate. He gave instructions over a desk telephone and almost immediately a man entered with a small service wagon containing a wide assortment of liquors and glasses. When we had all been served, Ward asked somewhat hesitantly if he might propose a toast. 'To Dr. Drayle, the greatest scientist of all time!'
* * * * *
"We were of course, already somewhat drunk with excitement as we lifted our glasses. But Drayle would not have it.
"'Let me amend that,' he said. 'Let us drink to the future of science.'
"'Sure!' said Farrel, very promptly. I think he was somewhat uncertain about 'toast,' but he clung hopefully to the word 'drink.'
"We had raised our glasses again when Drayle, who was facing the door, dropped his. It struck the floor with a little crash and the liquor spattered my ankles. Drayle whispered 'Great God!' I saw in the doorway another Farrel. He was grimy, disheveled, his clothing was torn, and his expression ugly; but his identity with 'Harry' was unescapable. For an instant I suspected Drayle of trickery, of perpetrating some fiendishly elaborate hoax. And then I heard Mrs. Farrel scream, heard the newcomer cry, 'Mary,' and saw two men staring at each other in bewilderment.
"The explanation burst upon me with a horrible suddenness. Farrel had been reconstructed in each of Drayle's distant laboratories, and there stood before us two identities each equally authentic, each the legal husband of the woman who, a few hours previously, had imagined herself a widow. The situation was fantastic, nightmarish, unbelievable and undeniable. My head reeled with the fearful possibilities.
"Drayle was the first to recover his poise. He opened a door leading into an adjoining room and motioned for us all to enter. That is, all but the police. He left them wisely with their liquor. 'Finish it,' he advised them. 'You see no one has been killed.'
* * * * *
"They were not quite satisfied, but neither were they certain what they ought to do, and for once displayed common sense by doing nothing. When the door closed after us I saw that Buchannon, the Washington laboratory assistant, was with us. He must have arrived with the second Farrel, although I had not observed him during the confusion attending the former's unexpected appearance. But Drayle had noted him and now seized his shoulders. 'Explain!' he demanded.
"Buchannon's face went white and he shrank under the clutch of Drayle's fingers. Beyond them I saw the two twinlike men standing beside Mrs. Farrel, surveying each other with incredulous recognition and distaste.
"'Explain!' roared Drayle, and tightened his grasp.
"'I thought you said Washington, Chief.' His voice was not convincing. I didn't believe him, nor did Drayle.
"'You lie!' he raged, and floored the man with his fist.
"In a way I couldn't help feeling sorry for the chap. It must have been a frightful temptation to participate in the experiment and I suppose he had not forseen the consequences. But I began to have a glimmering of the magnificent possibilities of the invention for purposes far beyond Drayle's intent. For, I asked myself, why, if such a machine could produce two human identities, why not a score, a hundred, a thousand? The best of the race could be multiplied indefinitely and man could make man at last, literally out of the dust of the earth. The virtue of instantaneous transmission which had been Drayle's aim sank into insignificance beside it. I fancied a race of supermen thus created. And I still believe, Sergeant, that the chance for the world's greatest happiness is sealed within that box you guard. But its first fruits were tragic."
The historian shifted his position on the bench so as to escape the sun that was now reflected dazzlingly by the polished steel casket.
* * * * *
"Drayle did not glance again at his disobedient lieutenant. He was concerned with the problem of the extra man, or, I should say, an extra man, for both were equal. Never before in the history of the world had two men been absolutely identical. They were, of course, one in thought, possessions and rights, physical attributes and appearance. Mrs. Farrel, as they were beginning to realize, was the wife of both. And I have an unworthy suspicion that the red-headed young woman, after she recovered from the shock, was not entirely displeased. The two men, however, finding that each had an arm about her waist, were regarding each other in a way that foretold trouble. Both spoke at the same time and in the same words.
"'Take your hands off my wife!'
"And I think they would have attacked each other then if Drayle hadn't intervened. He said, 'Sit down! All of you!' in so peremptory a voice that we obeyed him.
"'Now,' he went on, 'pay attention to me. I think you realize the situation. The question is, what we shall do about it?' He pointed an accusing finger at the Farrel from Washington. 'You were not authorized to exist; properly we should retransmit you, and without reassembling you would simply cease to be.'
"The man addressed looked terrified. 'It would be murder!' he protested.
"'Would it?' Drayle inquired of me.
"I told him that it could not be proved inasmuch as there would be no corpus delicti and hence nothing on which to base a charge.
"But the Washington Farrel seemed to have more than an academic interest in the question and grew obstinate.
"'Nothing doing!' he announced emphatically. 'Here I am and here I stay. I started from this place this morning and now I'm back, and as for that big ape over there I don't know nothing about him—except he'll be dead damn soon if he don't keep away from my wife.'
* * * * *
"The other Drayle-made man leaped up at this, and again I expected violence. But Buchannon flung himself between, and they subsided, muttering.
"'Very well, then,' Drayle continued, when the room was quiet, 'here is another solution. We can, as you realize, duplicate Mrs. Farrel, and I will double your present possessions.'
"This time it was Mrs. Farrel who was dissatisfied. 'You ain't talking to me,' she informed Drayle. 'Me stand naked in front of all them lamps and get turned into smoke? Not me!' A smile spread over her face and her eyes twinkled with deviltry. 'I didn't never think I'd be in one of them triangles like in the movies, and with my own husbands, but seein' I am, I'm all for keeping them both. Then I might know where one of them was some of the time.'
"But neither of the men took to this idea and the problem appeared increasingly complex. I proposed that the survivor be determined by lot, but this suggestion won no support from anyone. Again the two men spoke at the same instant and in the same words. It was like a carefully rehearsed chorus. 'I know my rights, and I ain't going to be gypped out of them!'
"It was at this point that Drayle attempted bribery. He offered fifty thousand dollars to the man who would abandon Mrs. Farrel. But this scheme fell through because both men sought the opportunity and Mrs. Farrel objected volubly.
"So in the end Drayle promised each of them the same amount as a price for silence and left the matter of their relationships to their own settlement.
* * * * *
"I was skeptical of the success of the plan but could offer nothing better. So I drew up a release as legally binding as I knew how to make it in a case without precedent. I remember thinking that if the matter ever came into court the judge would be as much at a loss as I was.
"Our troubles, though, didn't spring from that source. Each of the three parties accepted the arrangement eagerly and Drayle dismissed them with a hand-shake, a wish for luck and a check for fifty thousand dollars each. It's very nice to be wealthy, you know.
"Afterward, we went out and paid off the police. Perhaps that's stating it too bluntly. I mean that Drayle thanked them for their zealous attention to his interests, regretted that they had been unnecessarily inconvenienced and treated that they would not take amiss a small token of his appreciation of their devotion to duty. Then he shook hands with them both and I believe I saw a yellow bill transferred on each occasion. At any rate the officers saluted smartly and left.
"Of course I was impatient to question Drayle, but I could see that he was desperately fatigued. So I departed.
"Next morning I found my worst fears exceeded by the events of the night. The three Farrels who had left us in apparently amiable spirits had proceeded to the home of Mrs. and the original Mr. Farrel. There the argument of who was to leave had been resumed. Both men were, of course, of the same mind. Whether both desired to stay or flee I would not presume to say. But an acrimonious dispute led to physical hostilities, and while Mrs. Farrel, according to accounts, cheered them on, they literally fought to the death. Being equally capable, there was naturally, barring interruption, no other possible outcome. I can well believe they employed the same tactics, swung the same blows, and died at the same instant.
"Mrs. Farrel, after carefully retrieving both of her husbands' checks, told a great deal of the story. As might be expected, nobody believed the yarn except our profound federal law makers. They welcomed an opportunity to investigate an outsider for a change and had all of us before a committee.
"Finally the Congress of these United States of America, plus the sagacious Supreme Court, decided that my client wasn't guilty of anything, but that he mustn't do it again. At least that was the gist of it. I recollect that I offered a defense of psycopathic neuroticism.
"As a result of the obiter dictum and a resolution by both Houses Assembled Drayle's invention was sealed, dated and placed under guard. That's its history, Sergeant."
* * * * *
The white-haired old gentleman picked up the high silk hat that added a final touch of distinction to his tall figure, and looked about him as if trying to recall something. At last the idea came.
"By the way," he inquired suddenly, "didn't I have an extraordinarily obnoxious grandson with me when I came?"
The attentive auditor was vastly startled. He surveyed the great hall rapidly, but reflected before he answered.
"No, sir—I mean he ain't no more'n average! But I reckon we'd better find him, anyhow."
His glance had satisfied the sergeant that at least the object of his charge was safe and his men still vigilant. "I'll be back in a minute," he informed them. "Don't let nothin' happen."
"Bring us something more'n a breath," pleaded the corporal, disrespectfully.
The sergeant had already set off at a brisk pace with the story teller. For several minutes as they rushed from room to room the hunt was unrewarded.
"I think, sir," said the sergeant, "we'd better look in the natural history division. There is stuffed animals in there that the kids is fond of."
"You're probably right," the patriarch gasped as he struggled to maintain the gait set by the younger man. "I might have known he didn't really want to hear the story."
"They never do," answered the other over his shoulder. "I'll bet that's him down there on the next floor."
* * * * *
The two searchers had emerged upon a wide gallery that commanded a clear view of the main entrance where various specimens of American fauna were mounted in intriguing replicas of their native habitat.
The guard pointed an accusing finger at one of these groups and sprang toward the stairs.
The old gentleman's breath and strength were gone. He could only gaze in the direction that had been indicated by the madly running guard; but he had no doubts. A small boy was certainly digging vigorously at the head of a specimen of Ursus Polaris that the curator had represented in the dramatic pose of killing a seal. A protesting wail arose from below as the young naturalist was withdrawn from his field by a capable hand on the slack of his trousers. And presently, chagrined with failure, the culprit was before his grandsire.
"Gee!" he complained, "I was only looking at the polar bear. Are polar bears always white? Are—"
"You'd better take him away, sir," interrupted the sergeant. "He was trying to pry out one of the bear's eyes with the stick of the lollypop I give him. Take him."
The old gentleman extended both hands. His left found a grip in his grandson's coat collar; his right, partly concealing a government engraving, met the guard's with a clasp of gratitude.
"Sergeant," he remarked in a voice tense with feeling, "a half-hour ago I expressed some ridiculous regrets that Drayle's invention had been kept from the world. Now I realize its horrid menace. I shudder to think it might have been responsible for two like him!"
The object of disapproval was shaken indicatively.
"Guard the secret well, Sergeant! Guard it well! The world's peace depends upon you!" The old gentleman's words trembled with conviction.
Then alternately shaking his head and his grandson he marched down the hallway, ebony cane tapping angrily upon the stone.
As the exhausted but happy warrior retraced his steps a high-pitched voice floated after him.
"Grandpa, are polar bears always white?"
* * * * *
The Reader's Corner
A Meeting Place for Readers of
The Invisible X-Flyers
The following is a semi-technical description of the operation of the invisible X-flyers used in "Jetta of the Lowlands" as compiled by Philip Grant in the year 2021 from official records of the Anti-War Department of the United States of North America, and discovered recently by Ray Cummings.
The attainment of mechanical invisibility reached a state of perfection in the year 2000 sufficient to make it practical for many uses. For a century this result had been sought. It came, about the year 2000, not as a single startling discovery, but as the culmination of the patient labor of many men during many years. The popular mind has always considered that science advances by a series of "great scientific discoveries"; "unprecedented"; "revolutionary." That is not so. Each step in the progress of scientific achievement is built most carefully upon the one beneath it. And generally the "revolutionary, unprecedented discovery" has very little of itself that is new; rather it is a new combination of older, perhaps seemingly impractical knowledge. Every scientific theory, every device, is the offspring from a large and varied family tree of many scientific ancestors, each of whom in his day was a remarkable personage.
Thus it is, with the principles of mechanical invisibility. I deal here with the famous X-flyers. The operation of the plane itself is immaterial; its motors; its wing-spread surfaces; its aerial controls. I am concerned only with the scientific principles underlying its power of invisibility.
Three scientific factors are involved: First, the process known as de-electroniration; second, the theories of color absorption; third, the material, inevitable deflection (bending) of light rays when passing through a magnetic field.
I take each of the three in order. The forerunners of de-electroniration were the Martel effects—the experiments of Charles Martel, in Paris, in 1937. A new electric current, of a different character—now called the oscillating current as distinct from the alternating and direct—was developed. Metallic plates were electro-magnetized to produce an enveloping magnetic field of somewhat a different character from any field formerly known.
Dr. Norton Grenfell followed this in 1946 by using the Martel oscillating current to obtain a reverse effect. A similar disturbance of electrode balance. But not a surcharge. An exhaustion. An anti-electrical state, instead of a state of magnetism. A metallic mass so treated—and with a constant flow of oscillating current holding its subnormal electronic balance—was then said to be de-electronired.
Scientific "discoveries" are largely made by the trial and error system. The scientist takes what he finds. Generally he does not know, at first, what it means. Martell took his oscillating current and "discovered" the Martel Magnetic Levitation, whereby gravity was lessened, and then completely nullified. Grenfell, with his de-electroniration, increased the power of gravity. The two were combined by Grenfell and his associates—and the secret of interplanetary flight was at hand.
But there was a host of other workers not interested in space flyers; they probed in other directions. It was found that the subnormal magnetic field surrounding a metallic substance in a state of de-electroniration had two unusual properties: its color absorption was high; and it bent light rays from their normal straight path into a curve abnormally great. Yet, though it absorbed the color of the rays emanating from the de-electronired metal (the metal itself increasing this result), the magnetic field, while bending the rays passing through it from distant objects behind it, nevertheless left their color and all their inherent properties unchanged.
The principles of color absorption are these:—a pigment—a paint, a dye, if you will—is "red" because it absorbs from the light rays of the sun all the other colors and leaves only red to be reflected from it to the eye. Or "violet" because all the rest are absorbed, and the violet is reflected. Or "black" because all are absorbed; and "white" the reverse, all blended and reflected. Color is dependent upon vibratory motion. The solar spectrum—its range of visibility through the primary colors from red to violet—can be likened to a range of radio wave-lengths; vibration frequencies; and when we eliminate them all save the "violet"—that is what we have left, in the radio to hear, in color absorption to see.
Thus, a de-electronired metal was found to produce black. Not black as habitually we meet it—a "shiny" black, a "dull" black; but a true black—a real absence of light-ray reflection—a "nothingness to see"; in effect, an invisibility.
A word of explanation is necessary regarding the other property of the de-electronired field—the bending of distant light rays into a curve, yet leaving their spectrum unchanged. It was Albert Einstein who first made the statement—in the years following the turn of the century at 1900—that it was a normal, natural thing for a ray of light to be slightly deflected from its straight path when passing through a magnetic field. The claim caused world-wide interest, for upon its truth or falsity the whole fabric of the Einstein Theory of Relativity was woven.
An eclipse of the sun in the 1920's established that light is actually bent in the manner Einstein had calculated. A magnetic field surrounds the sun. In those days they did not know that it is a field of subnormal electronic balance—in effect, the result of de-electroniration. It was found, nevertheless, that stars close to the limb of the sun appeared, not in their true positions, but shifted in just the directions and with the amount of shift Einstein predicted. The light rays coming from them to the eye of the observer on Earth were curved in passing so close to the sun. But the color-bands of their spectrums were unaltered.
And some of the stars actually were behind the sun, yet because of the curved path of the light, were visible. I mention this because it is an important aspect of the subject of mechanical invisibility.
With the foregoing factors, the secret of mechanical invisibility is constructed. Gracely, an American—following a long series of world-wide experiments, tests of current strength, frequencies of oscillation, suitable metals, etc., which I cannot detail here—in 1955 was the final developer of the mechanisms subsequently used in the X-flyers.
Gracely produced what he christened "aluminoid-spectrite"—a light-weight alloy which, when carrying an oscillating electronic current of the proper frequency, produced the effects I have described. It absorbed from the light rays coming from the metal, all the colors of the solar spectrum, well beyond the range of the human eye at both ends of the scale. The result was a "visible nothingness."
A moment's thought will make clear that term. A visible nothingness is not invisibility. The fact that something was there but could not be seen was obvious. A black hat with a light on it and placed against an average background is almost as easy to see as a white hat. Gracely's first crude experiments were made with an aluminoid-spectrite cube—a small brick a foot in each dimension. The cube glowed, turned, dark, then black, then was gone. He had it resting on a white table, with a white background. And the fact that the cube was still there, was perfectly obvious. It was as though a hole of nothingness were set against the white table. It outlined the cube; reconstructed it so that for practical purposes the eye saw not a white, aluminoid brick, but a dead black one.
And this is very much what a man sees when he stares at his black hat on a table. The hat occults its background, and thus reconstructs itself.
But when Gracely determined the proper vibrations of his oscillating current to coincide with all the other material factors he was using, the final result was before him-real invisibility. He used a patterned background—a symmetrically checkered surface, most difficult of all. The light rays coming from this background passed through the magnetic field surrounding the invisible colorless cube, and were bent into a curved path. But their own color-spectrum—in actuality the color, shape, all the visible characteristics of the background—was not greatly altered. The observer saw what actually was behind the invisible cube: the checkered background, sometimes slightly distorted, but nevertheless sufficiently clear for its abnormality to escape notice. Thus the cube's outlines were not reconstructed; and, in effect, it had vanished.
In practical workings with the X-flyers, no such difficult test as Gracely's cube and rectangular, symmetrically patterned background is ever met. The varying background behind a plane—at rest or flying, and particularly at night—demands less perfection of background than Gracely's laboratory conditions. I am informed that an X-flyer can vaguely be seen—or sensed, rather—from some angles and under certain and unfavorable conditions of light, and depending on its line of movement relative to the angle of observation, and the type and color-lighting of its background. But under most conditions it represents a very nearly perfect mechanical invisibility.
There is one aspect of the subject with which I may close this brief paper. I give it without technical explanation; it seems to me an amusing angle.
The theory of stereoscopics—the vision of the twin lenses of the human eyes, set a distance apart to give the perception of depth, of the third dimension—is in itself a subject tremendously interesting, and worthy of anyone's study. I have no space for it here, nor would it be strictly relevant. I need only state that a two-eyed man sees partially around an object (by virtue of the different angles from which each of his eyes gaze at it) and thus sees a trifle more of the background than would otherwise be the case. And this—these two viewpoints blended in his brain—gives him his perception of "depth," of "solidity"—the difference between a real scene of three dimensions and a painted scene on a canvas of two dimensions with only the artist's skill in perspective to simulate the third.
And I cannot refrain from mentioning that in Government tests of the Anti-War Department to determine the perfection of the invisibility of the X-flyers, it was a one-eyed man who proved that they were not always totally invisible!—Ray Cummings.
I just want you to know this: I am a reader of your truly named Astounding Stories. I really enjoyed reading the "Spawn of the Stars," also "Brigands of the Moon," and I am very glad to hear that we are going to have another of Charles W. Diffin's stories in the next issue—"The Moon Master."—J. R. Penner, 376 Woodlawn Ave, Buffalo N. Y.
I am only a young girl sixteen years of age but am greatly interested in science. I have no master mind by any means, but have worked out many a difficult problem in school for my science prof.
Your magazine is a wiz. I haven't missed an instalment since it started. Give us more stories like "Monsters of Moyen," and "The Beetle Horde."—Josephine Frankhouser, 4949 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
I received Astounding Stories for May and it is pretty good. The next issue is number six, and I hope it is better than the previous ones. There have been some stories that do not belong in a Science Fiction magazine, such as: "The Cave of Horror," "The Corpse on the Grating," "The Soul Master," and "The Man who was Dead." There is also another story that was printed in the May issue that, so far as I think, does not belong in this magazine: that is, "Murder Madness."
Even all the other stories seem to be fantastic. Weird. Why not try to publish something on the H. G. Wells, E. R. Burroughs type of stories, also Ray Cummings' "The Man who Mastered Time," or "The Time Machine," by Wells?—Louis Wentzler, 1933 Woodbine St., Brooklyn, N. Y.
From Ye Reader
Dear Ye Ed.:
That sounds rather medieval a little for the editor of so novel a magazine, but nevertheless let's forget that and talk about some astounding stories.
First, I would suggest that you eliminate all stories of interplanetary travel (I would be different), as there are already several magazines on the market which deal almost exclusively with such stories. Now, tales like "The Beetle Horde," and those written by Murray Leinster, and those concerning that Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Bird, and those about the deep sea, like "Into the Ocean's Depths,"—such stories are astounding, and good. And once in a while let's have a humorous story. You know: "A bit of humor now and then—"
Well, anyhow, publish any kind of astounding story, just so it is different and does not deal with interplanetary travel.
Now, about the magazine. I think it is a good publication and I like it werra, werra mooch. I bought it on impulse and happened to be lucky enough to get the first issue, and nary an issue have I missed since. Although I possess an abject horror of any kind of insect, I enjoyed "The Beetle Horde" to the fullest extent. But here's hoping nothing like that will really happen.
Another thing I'd like to state is this: Some reader made a remark about not publishing any of Verne's works. I say you should. Why should any such great author be disregarded in so good a magazine? And is it not interesting to note that some of his stories have become actual realizations? Even Poe's should be published. All those dead authors whose stories would be considered good were they living. Why should any person ask not to have such good stories in your magazine? Perhaps there are some people who would enjoy them, but do not have the means nor time to buy these great works in book form. Think it over, ye Ed., think it over.
And now, to finish up, I'll say: are there any readers like me—a girl—or do only men and boys read Astounding Stories?—Gertrude Hemken, 5730 So. Ashland Ave., Chicago, Ill.
Congratulations! Have followed up every issue of Astounding Stories and have found them the best yet. I have one fault to find and that is you do not publish Astounding Stories often enough. Thirty days is too far between.—Bernard Bauer, 235 Holland St., Syracuse, N. Y.
I read Astounding Stories all the time, although I'm just a boy. I think they're O. K. They give me a great "kick."
I think "The Moon Master" was the best story I ever read. Please ask Mr. Diffin to write more like it.
But then all the stories are really peppy.—Jack Hudson, St. Mark's School, Southborough, Massachusetts.
"Undoubtedly the Best"
Your magazine is undoubtedly the best Science Fiction "mag" on the stands. Why? Because of your authors. There is not another Science Fiction book on the stands that has stories by Victor Rousseau, Murray Leinster Ray Cummings, A. T. Locke, A. J. Burks, C. W. Diffin, S. W. Ellis and many others.
Some of your readers want stories by Dr. David H. Keller, Ed Earl Repp and Walter Kately. Well, I just wanted to tell you that I have stopped reading all other Science Fiction "mags" on account of the frequency of these authors in them. So please, please, don't destroy my last stronghold.
Also, I would not be against reprints. There is only one so far who has objected to reprints, while there have been several asking you to reprint A. Merritt's "People of the Pit." It would not only satisfy your present readers, but, because of the great popularity of A. Merritt among the reading circles of to-day, it would gain for you many more readers.
Harl Vincent is an indispensable acquisition to "our" magazine. His stories are not only all excellent but his stories all contain good science. He will bring you many new readers.
May I add my voice to every other reader's in the cry for the reprinting of "People of the Pit," by A. Merritt? Why not give us some stories by him? He's pretty near the best writer living to-day.
I don't care for the Mars stories by Burroughs. He's too much long sword and short sword. A Merritt, however, is the man for you to get and keep.
The schedule for July looks "doggone good" and suggestive to the imagination. You might increase the contents of the book.
The only thing wrong with the stories is that you have too many repetitions. Please get A. Merritt. If you publish stories by him you will see a very noticeable increase in your subscription column. Another author who would repeat A. Merritt's action on your subscription column is Dr. Edward Elmer Smith. Please see about these authors.—Gabriel Kirschner, Box 301, Temple, Texas.
From Young Miss Nightingale
I have been wanting to write to you for a long time but only now am I able to do so. When I first got a copy of your magazine I just grabbed it and started reading it. That magazine had the first installment of "Brigands of the Moon" in it. Now, after one magazine has been read I nearly burst until the next one comes.
As for the writers, I like Ray Cummings, Harl Vincent, Sewell Peaslee Wright, and Murray Leinster best. I like interplanetary stories best. I also like stories of the Fourth Dimension and those of ancient races of people living in uninhabited parts of the earth. So far I have liked especially well "The Ray of Madness," "Cold Light," "From the Ocean Depths" and its sequel "Into the Ocean's Depths," "Brigands of the Moon," and "Murder Madness." Of course, I like the others too. I am only a mere girl (that accounts for this poor typewriting)—only ten years old—but I know my likes and dislikes.—Ellen Laura Nightingale, 223 So. Main St., Fairmont, Minn.
Yessir—H. W. Wessolowski
I have just finished the June issue of Astounding Stories. It contained some very interesting stories, such as "Brigands of the Moon," by Ray Cummings, "The Moon Master," by Charles W. Diffin, "Murder Madness," by Murray Leinster, and "Giants of the Ray," by Tom Curry. Although "Out of the Dreadful Depths," by C. D. Willard, was a good story, it does not belong in a Science Fiction magazine.
One of the best improvements you could make on Astounding Stories right now is to cut all edges smooth. I would like to see at least one full page picture with each story.
Wesso is the only good artist you have. Is Wessolowski his real name?—Jack Darrow, 4225 N. Spaulding Avenue, Chicago, Illinois.
In the July issue of Astounding Stories, a correspondent, Worth K. Bryant, asks some thought-provoking questions about the fascinating subject of reincarnation. Although I have written to Mr. Bryant personally, I would like to present my views on the subject to all your readers.
Mr. Bryant asks: "Could a person remember his own death in a former reincarnation?" Yes, he could—if he could "tune in" on his higher consciousness, or ego. Were that possible, he could see all his past lives from beginning to end. It is only the physical self that dies; the ego, or true self, is immortal and remembers everything that it has experienced in previous incarnations on the physical plane. But since consciousness on this plane is expressed through the material brain, most human beings are unable to recall their former visits to this world; and it is perhaps better so. If there were not loss of memory our minds would now range over the adventures of thousands of years in the past. It would encompass a vast drama with countless loves and hates, of many lives filled with pathos and tragedy. Thus to distract the mind from the present life would retard our progress. There will come a time in human evolution when the average person will be able to recall his past incarnations, and then there will be no need or argument that we have lived here before, because everyone will remember it.
For those who care to pursue this subject more fully, I recommend "Elementary Theosophy," by L. W. Rogers, obtainable at most public libraries.—Allen Glasser, 1610 University Ave., New York, N. Y.
Prefers the Longer Stories
I've been reading your excellent periodical since the first issue, and I feel that I'm entitled to an opportunity to give expression to my reactions to the various issues. Of course, as a whole, the magazines were uniformly good every month, but some of the stories, naturally, were better than others.
In the January issue the best story was "The Beetle Horde" by Victor Rousseau. I expected a lot from this writer, having read his "Draft of Eternity," "The Eye of Balamok" and "The Messiah of the Cylinder." I wasn't disappointed.
The best story in the February issue was "Spawn of the Stars," by Charles Willard Diffin. Diffin is a newcomer as far as I know, but he certainly can write.
"Vandals of the Stars" took the honors in the March issue. A. T. Locke has written some good adventure shorts, but this was his first fantastic story, to the best of my knowledge. Come again, Locke! "Brigands of the Moon," by Ray Cummings was great too.
The best for April was "Monsters of Moyen," by Arthur J. Burks. Clever idea.
Victor Rousseau rang the bell again in the May issue with "The Atom Smasher." Let's have other stories of time-travel—some into the very remote past. Cave man stuff, you know!
"The Moon Master," by Charles Willard Diffin was the best for June. Diffin is one of your best writers.
In the last (July) issue, "The Forgotten Planet," by Sewell Peaslee Wright, I think, takes first place, though hard-pressed by "Earth, the Marauder" and "The Power and the Glory."
Now for a few suggestions. In the first place, let's have less short stories, and more longer ones. In my choice of stories for each issue, with one exception, I picked the novelettes. My reason for so doing is the fact that the authors apparently are not able to do justice to their themes in the shorter lengths. Of course, there are exceptions, like Diffin's "The Power and the Glory."
My second suggestion in this: Why not have a fixed position for your announcement of the stories for the next issue? The last page, for example. This would be more convenient for the readers; besides, those of us who have "our mags" bound into volumes could then cut out the announcement.
Finally, my third suggestion—and the real reason for my writing this letter. Don't you think it would be a good idea to publish in each issue the picture of one of the authors, and a short synopsis of his life? How he started writing, his experiences, etc. I'm certain that I'm not the only reader who's interested in the authors. I hope, if everything else I've said is ignored, you'll at least give the last suggestion serious consideration.
Why not get the opinion of other readers?
Continued and increasing success to Astounding Stories, best of the Science Fiction magazines!—P. A. Lyter, 220 Peffer Street, Harrisburg, Pa.
Mr. Bates Accepts with Pleasure
It is with greatest pleasure I note the addition of Miss Lilith Lorraine to your staff, and her initial effort in your publication. "The Jovian Jest" is but a glimpse of what is to come. The stories which she has written heretofore have been real gems of Science Fiction. May I again congratulate you.
The Science Correspondence Club takes great pleasure in announcing the enrollment of Capt. S. P. Meek and R. F. Starzl as members. These authors are well-known to Astounding Stories readers. Also, we take pleasure in announcing that we have asked Mr. Bates to become an honorary member in recognition of his fine work in furthering Science Fiction.
Our first bulletin has been issued and real progress is started. For those interested, Mr. Raymond A. Palmer at 1431—34th St., Milwaukee, Wisconsin, will handle all inquiries.
In closing, let me say that when a story pleases you readers, or the work of some author impresses you, write to the editor and tell him about it. In this way more and better Science Fiction will appear. Let us all give Astounding Stories a big hand, you readers! Best wishes of the Science Correspondence Club and—Walter L. Dennis, F. P. S., 4653 Addison St., Chicago, Illinois.
I have just finished "The Atom Smasher," in your May issue of Astounding Stories, and liked it very much.
This is the first story that I have read in your magazine, although I have read other magazines for the past three years.
I see where you inquire as to the kind of stories your readers want.
Personally, I think stories of interplanetary travel are the best, and most demanded by readers of Science Fiction. Try and have one in each issue.
In my opinion, I see no criticisms to be made on your magazine. It certainly would be a bargain at several times the price you ask. I am sure I will continue reading it—Louis D. Buchanan, Jr., 711 Monroe Ave., Evansville, Indiana.
No "Flash in the Pan"
When I bought the first issue of Astounding Stories last December, I was impressed by its array of splendid stories and famous authors. I thought, then, that perhaps that first number was just a flash in the pan, and that succeeding issues would sink to the level of other Science Fiction magazines. Happily, I was wrong. Astounding Stories has more than fulfilled the promise of its initial issue. The stories are undoubtedly the finest of their kind, and written by the most prominent Science Fiction authors of the day. I cannot conceive of any possible improvement in the magazine.
I do wish, though, that you would not heed the gratuitous advice of certain earnest but misguided correspondents. For instance, in the June issue, one Warren Williams of Chicago, suggests that you enlarge the magazine and give each story a full-page illustration, like other Science Fiction periodicals. Mr. Williams evidently favors standardization. As one magazine is, so must the rest be. Please ignore this request, and others like it. Astounding Stories is different, unique; just keep it that way, and you will never lack a host of satisfied readers.
Before closing, I must voice my profound admiration for Murray Leinster's brilliant and engrossing story, "Murder Madness." It's the best serial you've printed so far; though I have high anticipation for Arthur J. Burks' latest novel, "Earth, the Marauder."—Mortimer Weisinger, 3550 Rochambeau Ave., Bronx, New York.
"I Mean Increased"
I wish to thank you for your reply to my letter. I did not expect you to give me a personal reply: that was why I asked you to reply to me in "The Readers' Corner." You are the only editor I have ever known of that goes to the trouble to giving personal replies to readers. Other magazines require a nominal fee. That's another score for you!
Your personal letter, as a girl would aptly say, "tickled me all over."
I am sorry I can't get a subscription just yet, but I am "bound" to my newsdealer a little while yet, as I immediately gave him a monthly order for Astounding Stories.
If you are the one who picked the authors, you have the best taste I have ever seen in one person. But couldn't your taste be improved? Pardon me, I mean increased. Namely, please add to your taste: H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard.
If you had different authors, in other words, new, inexperienced authors, I would object to your running more than one serial at a time, but with the marvelous old-timers I have no objections, for they can write long ones far better than they can the shorts. So keep them at work.
The three short stories, "Out of the Dreadful Depths," "The Cavern World" and "Giants of the Ray," were all very good. Ray Cummings was wonderful in the way he handled his "Brigands of the Moon." It was a "wow baby." "Murder Madness" is a great improvement over "Tanks." "Tanks" was the worst I've ever read by Leinster. But he came out of his reverie in "Murder Madness." It's great.
Sewell Peaslee Wright can work wonders with short stories. Keep his "typer" clicking. By the way, may I say a few good words for Sophie Wenzel Ellis? If she can duplicate "Creatures of the Light," maker her repeat.
Victor Rousseau's story, "The Beetle Horde," kept me "all het up" throughout. "The Atom Smasher" was excellent. I also greatly like stories of the mighty Atlantis.
I agree with others of your readers that you should not let Astounding Stories be printed in such a small size. Make it a little larger, and give us smoother paper, and you will prosper greatly.
"The Moon Master" was excellent.—Gabriel Kirschner, Box 301, Temple, Texas.
"Could Kick Myself"
I have just started reading Astounding Stories and could kick myself for not seeing it sooner. In your latest issue, "The Moon Master," by Charles Diffin, is great. He sure knows how to write adventure with science.
I am a member of the Science Corresponding Club and am glad to say it. In later years the club will be known just like other big clubs of to-day, "Nationally and Sciencelly."—John Marcroft, 32 Washington St., Central Falls, R. I.
A Full List
In the January number of Astounding Stories Cummings' "Phantom of Reality" was the best, followed by Rousseau's "Beetle Horde."
February: 1—Diffin's "Spawn of the Stars"; 2—Rousseau's "Beetle Horde"; 3—Ellis' "Creatures of the Light"; 4—Meek's "The Thief of Time."
March: 1—Cummings' "Brigands of the Moon"; 2—Locke's "Vandals of the Stars"; 3—Meek's "Cold Light."
April: 1—Cummings' "Brigands of the Moon"; 2—Burk's "Monsters of Moyen"; 3—Meek's "Ray of Madness"; 4—Pelcher's "Vampires of Venus."
May: 1—Cummings' "Brigands of the Moon"; 2—Leinster's "Murder Madness"; 3—Rousseau's "Atom Smasher."
June: 1—Cummings' "Brigands of the Moon"; 2—Leinster's "Murder Madness"; 3—Diffin's "Moon Master."
Please give us a story by H. P. Lovecraft, if you can get one.—Carl Ballard, 202 N. Main St., Danville, Va.
"Words Cannot Express"
I have read your wonderful magazine since it was first published, and words cannot express what a fine magazine I think it is. All my life, I have hoped that someone would publish a magazine just like Astounding Stories. A magazine just full to the brim with the right kind of stories; thrilling stories of super-science, well written in plain and convincing English by wide awake authors.
I thought that "The Cavern World" was a whiz of a story, and "The Moon Master" was so exciting that I sat up late at night reading it. Let's have more of that kind of science story, that thrills every red-blooded American.
I hope that you print your magazine on better paper.—David Bangs, 190 Marlboro St., Boston, Mass.
I received the latest issue of Astounding Stories, and in looking it through I noticed your comments on reprints. Your argument can easily be shot full of holes, and that's what I intend to do.
First: Those stories being printed now are far inferior to the reprints. Even your best stories, such as "Murder Madness" and "Brigands of the Moon," cannot be compared with such stories as "Station X," "The Moon Pool," "The Metal Monster," or "The Columbus of Space" and "The Second Deluge."
Second: The Saturday Evening Post cannot be compared with our magazine, for all the stories printed in it can be obtained in book form, while the scientific novels are almost all out of print.
Third: There is surely more than one out of a hundred who haven't read the reprints. Just because some have read them is no reason that they don't want them. I know, for I have a large library of reprints and have read, and own, almost every one of them, yet I would gladly see them again.